First, make elaborate plans for them.  Choose them lovingly from the grocery store, imagining the slow drizzles of herb-infused oil over them.  Tell yourself that your children will eat them THIS time, because they’ve never tasted the amazing flavors you’re going to cook into them.

At home, shove them under the lettuce in the bottom of the fridge.  Diligently forget about them for a week.

Remember them on Sunday, when you finish the lettuce and see them underneath.  Feel guilty, because you remember your parents telling you one time about starving children in India.

Realize your guilt may be a bit misguided at the moment.  Decide to retain a little bit, just in case.

Bravely open the bag and sniff them.  They smell as good as… brussels sprouts.  But not rotten brussels sprouts.

At 4:30pm, decide to roast the brussels sprouts.  Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees, because you remember under-cooking them last time, and nobody but the teething baby gnawed on them.

Pile the dirty dishes from one side of the sink to the other.

Rinse and chop-in-half the brussels sprouts while stirring the carnitas meat you’re trying to brown in a giant frying pan.

Grab the $7 spice tin you bought at the harvest fair, and the olive oil.  Suddenly remember that olive oil will smoke at so high a temperature, and substitute it for coconut oil.  Congratulate yourself for making conscientious choices in your life.

Toss the brussels sprouts in the oil and spices, and spread them on a cookie sheet.  Carefully turn each half facing upward, because you saw that somewhere on a cooking show.  Place sheet in the oven.  Set timer for 45 minutes.

Stir the carnitas again.  Smile at the bacony smells drifting up from the frying pan.

Change out the laundry load.  Fold your husbands work pants for tomorrow.

Wring your hands about the kids’ lunches that need to be packed.  Peek into the living room to see all of them playing happily, and decide to let them play a while longer.

Greet your husband as he walks into the kitchen, happily sniffing the air, lauding your Sunday night cooking.

Blush and turn away at his compliment, only to catch sight of the monstrous stack of dishes in the sink.  Start shoving them into the dishwasher like you meant to do that all along.  Because you sort-of did.  At times.  Sort-of.

See your youngest toddle into the kitchen, whining for a snack.  Sit him in his high-chair at the table, and set out a platter of cheese and crackers.  Call the others over to the table for a snack.

Five minutes later, hear the indignant squeals of your daughter protesting that the baby ate all the cheese.  Tell her that if she had come to the table on time, there would be some left for her.

Make a mental note to instill time-management skills into your parenting.

Forget mental note as you hear the carnitas sizzle change into pops.  Frown at them because they look like they’re turning into jerky.

Look to your husband as he chats with you.  Melt into adult conversation.  Follow him onto the couch in the next room over.

Remember to turn off the burners before you follow him.  Congratulate yourself for multi-tasking so well in your domestic life.

Sit down with your husband, and have meaningful, heart-felt conversations.

Hear the oven beep, but decide to give it five more minutes.  You remember hearing that the brussels sprouts are a hearty vegetable and can stand up to the heat.

Get interrupted by children running into the room and tackling both of you.

Stand up to dump them off your lap, and saunter over to the oven.

Squeak open the oven door.

Gasp in horror.

Slam the door shut immediately, and turn the oven off.  Walk over to the sink, uncertain why you’re walking to the sink.

Hear your husband squeak open the oven door behind you,saying, “Whoa.”

Feel your head sinking backwards into tunnel vision.  Suddenly be transported to all the failures you have ever committed.  Feel the weight of it all piling onto your chest.

Swallow and say clearly, “Yeah, I burned the brussels sprouts.”  Walk from the stove to the sink a few times, and open up the fridge, just for good measure.

Avoid eye contact.

Hear the kids shrieking and fighting with each other in the living room.

Feel sudden rage bubble out of you as you shout terribly at them in return.

Feel your husband now close to you.  He asks, “What’s wrong?”

Hold his gaze in one brief moment of suspended disbelief.  Wonder how he could not see that your life was a tightly sealed Ziplock bag of failure?!

Crumble.

Ugly cry.

Grab two oven mitts, and take the blackened brussels sprouts straight out the back door.  Set the tray on the big A/C metal box outside to cool.  Lean on the fence.  Look up at the sky.  Breathe.  Compose yourself.

Then collapse into sobs again.

Cry so hard your husband has to steady you.  Cry about everything that you didn’t realize was bothering you.  Talk, and cry, and blow your nose on a stray piece of laundry.

Again try to deep-breathe composure when your oldest walks over.  Show her the charcoal brussels sprouts as the reason for your tears.  They’re as good a prop as any.

Feel her hug your belly and see kindness in her eyes.  Watch her disappear around the corner of the house.  Feel immense pride in her beautiful heart.

Talk more with your husband. Slowly realize there is more time in your life, and in your family, than you realized.

Hear God’s gentleness in his words.

Eventually see your oldest come back over, reporting that she told her younger sister about what happened, and that she cheered out loud at the death of the brussels sprouts.

Smirk, and find your feet to trudge back into the kitchen.  Let your husband hug you for far longer than you expected.  Chop some carrot sticks, and slice pieces off of a loaf of bread.  Spoon carnitas jerky onto plastic plates.

Discover that neither you, nor your husband are hungry.   Feel surprisingly connected to him in this fact.

Set out plates of this weird dinner for the kids.  Gather everyone to the table, but turn on cartoons to distract them from complaining.

Take a sip from a glass of iced mineral water your husband poured for you.  Feel it trickle down your throat, and sting your nose: a reminder that you are alive.  This hot swollen feeling of shame is not what God meant for you.  He meant you for refreshment: for cool, effervescent relief in Him.  Thank Him for sticking it out through your crazy.

Slow down.

Later that night, under cover of darkness, bring the tray of black lumps back into the kitchen.

Peel off the outer layers to find that the insides were still green, soft, and well-seasoned.  Laugh and cry about this.  Try it.  Find them delicious.  Decide to eat the edible ones all yourself.

Tuck yourself into bed.  Hold your husband’s sleeping hand.  Think about how you burned the brussels sprouts.  How you yelled at the kids.  How you forsook yourself, but your family still took you back.

Squeeze your husband’s hand under the covers.  Decide that God is still good, that your heart survived this near-death experience.  And that you *may* be too hard on yourself sometimes.

 

 

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