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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Concentration (07/24/08)

TITLE: Life, Laundry and Chemistry 101
By Glynis Becker


Peering over the mountain of folded laundry that precariously balanced in the crook of one arm, I held out a white index card at arm’s length with another. I was beginning to think that the scent of fabric softener would be my mental trigger for all facts relating to Chemistry 101. Would hiding a dryer sheet in my sleeve during the exam help? Or would the professor accuse me of possession of a cleaning product with intent to cheat?

I’ll worry about that later. Right now I was distributing laundry, tripping over ‘The Foot Book’ (ironic, huh?) and chanting the names of binary acids at the same time. All together now, “Hydrofluoric, hydrochloric, hydrosulfuric…”

“Mommy,” a whiny voice said from underneath the Downy-fragranced towels I was holding. I parted them like the Red Sea and squinted down at a small child, covered in what I hoped was chocolate. “Jenny gots more cookies than me. And den she took mine away and said I shouldn’t say nuffin to you.”

“Okay. I’ll take of her in a minute. Why don’t you go in the bathroom and wash your face and hands, honey? Here.” I handed her the clean white towel (heaven only knows what I was thinking) from the top of the stack and shooed her into the bathroom.

The index card was shoved into a pocket, awaiting some later moment. I continued down the hallway to find the accused (albeit innocent-until-proven-guilty) cookie stealer and was rewarded with a head-butt to the stomach. Jenny was running around the corner like an Olympic sprinter. My best guess (and Mommy’s best guess is usually dead-on right) was that she was attempting to thwart little Janie’s mission to tell on her. Of course, I love my Jenny, but I’ve also known her since The Colicky Days.

“Oof! Jenny, Janie told me that you took her cookies. Did you? And why were you two eating cookies this close to dinner?”

“You said we could. I asked if I could have a snack and you said, ‘Whatever you want.’”

Oh. Yeah. I did say that, but in my defense I was only up to “Hydrogen” in my rendition of “The Elements” (Tom Lehrer-style) and had only been half-listening. If Jenny had asked me if she could get a tattoo and live at the Mall, I probably would have agreed to that too. Note to self: Don’t let on that you’re not listening. Jenny will take advantage. And she’ll give classes to Janie with plenty of extra credit.

“Alright, honey. That one was my fault. But did you take her cookies away? That one’s on you. Go apologize, play a game of CandyLand with her“—Jenny rolled her eyes—“and let me get this work done. I’ll make something for supper soon, so no more snacks!”

Currently, meat was defrosting for spaghetti while the children were playing in a couch-cushion fort and were surprisingly quiet (not yet to that well-known ‘dangerous’ quiet), so I settled myself at the kitchen table and poured a glass of iced tea. I found my Chemistry folder and pulled out another index card. This one was wavy and much of the purple ink I’d written with was smeared. I’d been studying the ternary acids last night while giving Janie a bath. My propensity for doing too many things at once had now left me wondering whether HNO3 was “Nitric acid” or “Nitrous acid”, as my notes simply read “n-i-t-splotch”.

I tossed the unusable card onto the table and laid my head on my arms. God, I truly believe this is where You want me to be. But I never thought it would be so hard! What was I thinking? Or maybe, what were You thinking? I can’t do this! I don’t think I can focus on school and be the wife and mom that I expect myself to be. What am I going to do?

I must have drifted off, because I was startled when a kiss brushed my cheek. The voice I loved most in this world quietly spoke my favorite words: “Sweetheart, just rest for awhile. Forget spaghetti. I’m taking the girls for pizza. I’ll bring you back double cheese, with sausage, no peppers.” He kissed me again. “I don’t know how you do it. You’re amazing, love.”

I smiled and straightened my shoulders. We were in this together. We—my husband, my God and I—could do this!

Well, we could. Just as soon as I find my index cards.

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This article has been read 903 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Holly Westefeld07/31/08
You captured a very realistic family atmosphere in this story, with just the right mix of humor and weariness. Needless to say, her husband is a jewel, and the couch-cushion fort was a terrific touch.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/02/08
You did a great job with the details here, bringing the story wonderfully to life. It's one of my favorites this week.
Laura Anne Harrison08/04/08
Delightful, realistic story! I've been there, and God [together with a loving, helpful husband] does make mom's life better!
Betty Castleberry08/05/08
This is adorable! I really loved it. This cracked me up:
"If Jenny had asked me if she could get a tattoo and live at the Mall, I probably would have agreed to that too." Five stars from me.
Karen Wilber08/05/08
Delightful--and lets hear it for all the moms who balance school and family (and work). I found myself laughing at all the bits only a mom (or a very, very observant person) would know about.
M. R. Davenport08/05/08
Beautifully written. Well organized. I wish I could write this well.
Beckie Stewart08/06/08
I agree that this was well written and wish I too could write this well. Great story and take on the topic.
Loren T. Lowery08/06/08
Really loved this piece, it was fresh yet so real and fun to read. And, isn't it interesting what just a few words of encouragment can do to your outlook on life.
One of my favorite lines is when she asked God "What were you thinking?" : ) Like I said, so real! Great job!!!
Joshua Janoski08/07/08
I love the tone of this. Very true to life with a nice touch of humor added to the mix. I really enjoyed the voice of the MC.

I really hope this one places high, because it is one of my favorites in advanced this week.
Charla Diehl 08/08/08
Fun-filled and realistic writing about this weary mom. Liked that you gave her a loving and understanding hubby. I could relate to this piece. Thanks.
Verna Cole Mitchell 01/03/09
This is still a favorite for me.