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Monday, April 18, 2016

Attack Of The Mud Puddle

I'm sorry, Philippe. I had no idea what a pain in the butt I was being when I decided it would be great fun to spend an African rainy season afternoon playing in mud puddles. When I say "playing," I mean sitting in mud, squishing the mud all over my little self, rolling in it, digging in it, pretending it was playdoh, really really embedding it into every fiber of my clothing.

Sorry. I didn't know what a horrific pain it is to get that much mud out of clothes. But now I do and I hope you'll forgive me.

Philippe was an African man who helped out at our boarding school in Africa. He cleaned, washed floors, did all the laundry for the kids who lived there. Another African man, Jean, was our cook. These two men were a constant presence in my life from the time I was 7 years old until we left Africa for good when I was 13.

I was reminded of my puddle-jumping days recently because of my twins and their shenanigans on a freezing, rainy, muddy day.

The boys had a friend over. When they are with this friend, they do not make particularly great decisions. They asked if they could go to the nearby park and hit some golf balls. I said sure, that's fine. (I didn't know how the baseball field had been turned into a gigantic pit of quick sand because of the rain.) I figured the boys would be close to home, how much trouble could they possibly get into?

The answer to that question should always be: LOTS.

I got a call from Jonah. He asked if I could come and pick him up. I asked why couldn't he just walk home? He said because he was all muddy because he had "accidentally" hit a ball into the baseball field (aka pit of quicksand), thought he could go in and get it, and had fallen in and gotten all muddy. I said fine, I'd come and pick him up. When I pulled up he was pretty dirty. He needed new shoes, new pants, everything was full of mud. I was a little irritated but I immediately had a flashback to walking into the laundry room of my boarding school, CAKED in African mud, looking sheepishly at Philippe who would have to figure out how to get the layers of mud out of my clothes. There weren't any stores there like there are here, so we couldn't just go buy new clothes. My parents shipped barrels out every two years, full of the things our family would need for the next two years. Mom had to calculate how many sizes of shoes and clothes my brother and I would need for two years, what we would want for the next two Christmases and birthdays...it was crazy. So I figured I couldn't be too upset with Jonah since I have also had plenty of mud fun in my life.

I could tell Jonah was terrified that I'd be furious. He was so surprised that I was calm - and not just faking it either. I just said let's go home and get you changed. Don't go in the baseball diamond quicksand anymore please.

Jonah walked back to the park after he got cleaned up.

A little while later, I got a call from the boys' friend. He said Ben couldn't talk, because he was stuck in the mud and couldn't get out. Hm, what now? I asked to talk to Ben. The friend said he really couldn't talk because he was stuck out in the mud. I said put the phone on speaker. So Ben and I yelled back and forth to each other on speaker. Pretty humorous.

Here's what I could understand from my silly, terrified son. A golf ball had, once again, gone into the quicksand. The dirt looked sturdy, like you could stand on it. So Ben had thought he could sneak in and grab the ball and then just pop back to the side of the grass. Wrong.

Ben's boots were stuck in the mud and he couldn't get them out. I kept yelling over speaker phone "Just pull your foot up!!" And he kept yelling that he couldn't!

Finally, I said hold on. I'm coming over. As I drove over to the park to retrieve yet another muddy son, I saw Jonah walking toward me. On this bitter, dreary day, he wasn't wearing his coat! I was getting more and more irritated. Then I saw Ben, wandering hopelessly and forlornly after his brother. Ben didn't have his boots on. In one hand, he was holding a sock that was drenched in wet, squelchy mud. One foot was totally barefoot, probably getting frostbitten. His other foot held his other sock, muddy and sticky, making mud prints with every slow, awkward step. Ben looked absolutely pathetic and broken. He was hobbling down the sidewalk slowly, knowing he was probably going to meet his death when his Mama saw him. I drove over to the side of the road, rolled down the window, and yelled "Jonah! Why isn't your coat on?? And Ben! What the heck?? Where are your boots? Why are you barefoot in the freezing cold??"

The boys came to the car, tears rolling down Ben's frozen cheeks. I felt his sorrow in the depths of my soul. He was so apologetic, and he was so sad that he had made such a bad choice and now his boots were stuck in the quicksand mud puddle of a baseball diamond, and we'd have to buy new ones, and he felt so badly. And he was very worried I was going to be furious. I actually had to stop myself from chuckling. This whole crazy afternoon was just too funny. I was mostly mad that the boys weren't dressed well enough to stay warm and take care of their bodies. They're sick enough as it is, we don't need to send Illness an official invitation to come and have a party!

Jonah said he let Ben wear his coat because Ben was so cold from being barefoot after losing his boots. That made my heart grow three sizes, like the Grinch at the end of the movie. Even when we have crazy disasters and everything is Chaos with a capital 'C', my boys take care of each other.

I told Ben I was taking him home and he was go to get in the shower and warm up immediately. Jonah took his coat back and he and I went to the park. Ben had said there was no way to get his boots back, they'd be stuck there until spring. I said nope. Mama is on the case and I'm not letting those darn boots get stolen so that I'd have to buy new ones, because we need to buy 4 pairs of boots every single winter and that costs a lot of money and I'm not buying you another pair. So we're going to go dig out the boots from the mud.

Jonah and I squished over to the baseball field. I had jumped in the car so fast I hadn't thought about wearing my own boots, so gooey mud was seeping in the holes on the sides of my sneakers. Blegh. We stopped at the side of the baseball diamond. I could see how the boys had thought the mud was hard dirt, and would be fine to walk on, because it did actually appear that way. But once you touched a toe to the dirt, you realized it was going to suck you right in and not let you out. I gingerly stepped into the quicksand, imagining I was wearing light snow shoes that would let me just spring right out of this mud puddle after I retrieved Ben's boots. I squished to where the boots were stuck several inches in the mud. I pulled on one. I wiggled it from side to side. When the mud finally let go and the boot popped to freedom, I fell backwards with the force and almost sat down in the mud. I started to giggle, with muddy childhood memories flooding my brain.

I tried not to laugh, because when I laugh in situations like these, my kids laugh, and then we're all so funny to each other that none of us can stop laughing. So I stifled my chortles. I started pulling on the second boot. I could NOT get that thing out of the mud! I was determined not to have to buy Ben a new pair of boots, so I kept wiggling and pulling side to side. I started chuckling, thinking about poor Philippe, with a pile of muddy missionary kid clothes filling his laundry room. I remember vividly slopping a little blue pail back and forth as I skipped with my friends from one puddle to the next, looking for worms. We'd find the worms in the puddle, scoop the up by the handfuls, and put them in our bucket so we could watch them and wonder what it's like to be a worm.

Jonah heard me start to laugh. He started to laugh too. I yelled "I CANNOT GET THIS BOOT OUT!!!" Especially when I was laughing so hard. Jonah cheered from the sidelines "Just keep PULLING, MOM!!!"

Finally I got the mud to loosen its hold on my boy's boot. I felt like my feet were stuck in the brown goo, and I was laughing so I wasn't feeling very strong and focused, but I finally wiggled out of the sludge. We put Ben's boots in the back of the car and drove home. Jonah asked, in wonder, why I was laughing so much. I told him I just remember the look on Philippe's face when I brought my muddy clothes to him, and here I am, with two boys of my own, full of mud. Karma, baby. It just reminded me of rainy season and puddles and my friends and the boarding school and beautiful Africa. And a ball of slimy gross worms in between my little-girl hands. There's really nothing better than a mud puddle, I still feel that way. I just can't always let my kids see how I feel about things like that because I'd never hear the end of it, AND they would think I was encouraging mud puddle play. Which, if it happens is fine, but I'd still rather not have to scrub mud out of every piece of clothing.

That night, Ben and Jonah kept checking to make sure I wasn't furious with them for their poor choices regarding The Attack Of The Mud Puddle. They were so surprised that they weren't in trouble. I had them clean off their boots and golf clubs, take showers and warm up, and bring their muddy clothes to the laundry room. After that, what's the big deal? I asked them. It's just mud. Yes, it's a hassle to clean up, and it was pretty dramatic- being stuck in that big mud puddle, but it's no big deal. Jonah kept telling the family that "Mama was LAUGHING when she was pulling out Ben's boots! She said she LIKES mud puddles because they're FUN!"

I think it's hilarious when the kids get a glimpse of my fun, childlike side, and realize that sometimes even grownups can be giggly in a mud puddle.

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