Homemade pepperoni pizza. Grilled cheese and canned soup. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My supper plans steadily decreased in ambition as Monday evening advanced. I’d been measuring sugar and salt for pizza dough when my two-month-old, Rowen, began stirring in the bassinet I’d pulled into the kitchen next to me. He grunted, and his eyelids began to flutter like a zombie bite victim awakening from a temporary stationary death. I knew I only had a matter of seconds before my baby’s eyes snapped open and he suddenly turned into a gnashing, thrashing mini monster, rooting desperately, blindly, for something to clomp his chomping jaws onto.
“Rats!” I thought, gripping the empty teaspoon. I looked at the glowing green numbers on the microwave clock, measuring time as I filled the teaspoon once more. It would take a good 25-30 minutes to feed and change Rowen, then another 10 to finish making the pizza dough, plus another hour to let the dough rise, and even more time to make the pizza and bake it. I knew I’d be cutting it close, but maybe, just maybe, I’d be able to get the pizza baked, sliced, and slapped on our supper plates by the time my husband returned from work—that was, if my two-year-old, Alice, woke up on the right side of her crib (she was napping) and Rowen stopped wanting to eat practically every hour.
Shhhhh. The tiny white granules rained like pixy dust from my teaspoon and onto the muddy yeast-water as I absent-mindedly emptied the spoon into the mixing bowl. My eyes darted from the topless canister to the open metal spout of the cardboard cylinder in front of me. Had I just poured in sugar or salt?
And with that, I turned the bowl upside-down into the sink. The mixture splashed against stainless steel as I scooped up my thrashing baby.
Fast-forward 90 minutes. I’m back in the kitchen with the bassinet beside me, hastily smothering one side of a square of bread with butter to the sound of Rowen breathing rapidly (a precursor to his hunger cry). Alice marches into the kitchen behind us, disheveled from her recent nap, with wisps of blonde hair falling down over her hazel kewpie doll eyes. “Mama,” she starts in a sweet, raspy voice, “I want anotho cwacko.”
“Not right now,” I say, blocking the cabinet below the stove with my legs as I smack the bread butter-side down into a cold frying pan. I throw a circle of deli cheese on top. “Supper will be ready soon.”
A fake cry erupts from her pouting mouth in a series of ear-grating barks as I snatch another slice of bread from the long open bag. I take a deep breath, try to remain calm.
“I’m hungwy, Mama!”
Zombie Baby echoes her sentiments, the whites of his eyes standing out starkly against his reddened face as he cries out for milk.
Ding! In a moment of clarity, my brain suddenly cooks up a third supper option, microwave style. I snatch the cheese off the bread and hold it out in front of Alice’s blubbering lips. “Here sweetie, have this for a snack.” I bend down, swing wide the cabinet doors, and reach for the first of two magic ingredients to settle this afternoon full of false starts—the peanut butter.
While shopping for home décor recently, I came across a wall plaque that, though simple in appearance, really stood out to me. Written over its cream-colored surface in thin, black letters were the words, “Life is about how you handle Plan B.”
A week or so later, while watching the movie, Heartbreak Ridge with my husband on Netflix, a similar line caught my attention. It came from Clint Eastwood’s character, a Sergeant in the Marines, who kept growling at his platoon members, “You’re Marines now. You improvise, you adapt, you overcome.”
Though I didn’t make the connection at the time, I think his words really stuck in my mind because I’ve found myself needing to do the exact same thing in this current life-season. Before Rowen was born, I wasn’t sure how life would be having two small children, but now that I’ve gotten to experience two and a half months of it, one of the best ways I can think of to describe it is to say that I always have to keep my plans fluid and flexible—to be ready to drop my current course of action and reconfigure at the drop of a hat (or the sound of a cry).
Though it can be extremely frustrating, it can also be really exciting. It keeps me hopping on my toes, ducking and twisting, dodging obstacles left and right, always on the lookout for an alternative route, like some kind of slick mommy ninja.
My cell phone rings as I’m drafting my shopping list at the kitchen table, attempting to match available coupons with advertised sales while feeding the little ones. I’m sporting a quarter of my make-up, frumpy clothes, and a good-enough-for-this-morning messy bun that tops off my sloppy appearance like a giant cherry making its way down the side of a melting sundae, but I don’t care, because I’ve got my eyes on the prize and I’m heck-bent on getting the grocery shopping done. As soon as tummies are full, teeth are brushed, and diapers are changed, it’s out the door and into the minivan we go. Bada bing, bada boom.
But babysitting duty calls and, without warning, I’m being asked to incorporate a third child into my little three-ring circus of a day. Though I love the child in question dearly, her arrival will completely derail my plans. But on this particular occasion, it doesn’t feel right to say “no,” and so, with a grimace, I put on my cheeriest voice and say, “Bring her on over.” I grumble as I crumple up my shopping list and slash a line through the center of the first item on my mental to-do list.
The day’s agenda dismantles in seconds and all of its pieces start flying around in my head like dollar bills in a wind machine as I sit there reeling, feeling rather zombie-like myself as I stare into space, only half-hearing Alice’s sippy cup thud to the floor as she wails to get “out, out, out” of her high chair. I’m on the brink of mental panic.
But then, suddenly, the voice of Clint Eastwood crashes into my thunderstorm of thoughts: “Quit being such a weenie, Loni! You’re a mother of two now! You adapt, you improvise, you overcome!”
Yes! Yes, I am. I snap out of it, straighten up, and, after smoothing out my shopping list, I coolly slide it into a kitchen drawer. Groceries can wait until tomorrow. I force myself to focus on the positives in order to formulate Plan B.
Kids need food, and I don’t have any food. But that’s OK, because no food = no cooking = McDonald’s!
And Happy Meals = happy feels, or something like that. Just the thought of the ready-made red-and-yellow meal boxes puts an immediate smile on my face, anyway.
The rest of the day’s activities quickly fall into place in my mind after that one key decision, and just like that, I’m back on track and ready to move forward with my revamped agenda.
Though I may try to map out each day’s events to a “T”, I’ve found that I always need to be prepared to not only face, but embrace Plan B, especially since Plan A seems to have become the exception rather than the rule these days, even in the smallest of enterprises. From replacing morning tooth brushing with a stick of breath-freshening gum to putting off the kids’ baths in favor of scrub-downs with baby wipes, Plan B prevails under this roof.
Even this post is an example of bending to Plan B…about a billion times over. I can’t even count the number of times I sat down to chisel away at this composition only to find that I was too sleepy to concentrate, or to be cut off by the wailing of a waking child, or to realize that I should probably take some time to tackle that stack of dishes cluttering the counter.
Even though Plan B oftentimes feels like a monkey wrench that likes to throw itself into my well-oiled machine of a schedule, whooping and scratching its stinky armpits and wreaking general havoc the way monkeys do, I appreciate that it reminds me that, as much as I’d like to think it sometimes, I am not in control of my life. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
And not being in control is actually a very comforting thought, because I know that God’s ways are higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:9) and “that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, emphasis added). And though the verse that says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’” (Jeremiah 29:11) is not addressed directly to me, I still believe it applies directly to my life. So when I find myself crying over the spilled milk of a messed-up agenda, it helps me to remember that this reckless, sometimes second grade-feeling, oftentimes stress-inducing, and even inconvenient Plan B…
…has really been Plan A all along.