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large family, five under five,Once upon a time there was a mother with five lively children. The children were ages six, four, three, two and one. The mother was pregnant and tired, but she loved her children with all of her heart.

One bright, sunny summer morning she decided to take her five children on a hike through their property to pick blackberries.  This young mother had dreams of being just like Laura Ingalls. The mother and her five children marched past the plum trees and past the chickens pecking about in their coop. The nearby creek bubbled happily. They walked through the tall grass with buckets and bowls in search of plump, juicy berries.

The children picked the berries, gorging themselves with the delicious fruit. No matter that more ended up in their mouths than in their  containers. The sun was shining, the fruit was plentiful and life was good.

Back they hiked to the house, tired but happy. Just as they placed their overflowing bowls of blackberries on the table the phone rang. The mother answered the phone and found it was her mother….The young mother walked into the living room away from her happy, noisy children so she could talk to for a few moments.

Minutes passed and the mother smiled contentedly, taking note of how quiet her children were being. “They are finally learning!” she thought. “All those lessons and lectures about being quiet while Mama is on the phone is paying off. I am so proud of my children“.

The young mother finished her conversation and went into the dining room to congratulate her children on their fine behavior and tell them how proud they were.

Nothing could have prepared the young mother for the scene that met her eyes. Blackberries. Everywhere. On the walls, dripping down like a fruity crime scene. Purple-black foot prints from one end of the dining room to the other. Hand prints on the walls, the tables, their faces. Even their montessori-themed prepared environment was covered with dripping, pulpy fruit.

Without a word the young mother washed up five purple-stained children and sent them to their rooms. The children, knowing they had just tested their mother to very limit of her sanity, marched off quietly and sat on their beds.

The young mother surveyed the mess slowly. She was tired. It had already been a long day of meals and dishes, diapers and discipline and now she had at least an hour of hard labor and scrubbing ahead of her. As her eyes took in the scene, they fell upon her espresso machine.

The young mother walked over and made herself a rich, creamy mocha. She tiptoed her way around clumps of congealing blackberries into her living room where the purple carnage was out-of-sight. She flicked on the radio and sat down with her hot drink, taking the time to nurture her soul and refuel herself. When she had swallowed the last sweet sip, she sighed and got up.

Refreshed, if not exactly re-engergized, she tackled the mess. She scrubbed and mopped and added a huge mound of purple laundry to the already immense pile awaiting her attention. She threw out gallons of fresh  blackberries, now mixed with dirt.

When the mess was cleaned up, she gather her children, told them never to do that again, and read them a story.

Several spots of blackberry remained on the wall as long as they lived in that house, a tangible reminder of a very bad day when the young mother made at least one good decision. The decision not to yell at her children, but to clean up the mess and move on.

That, my friends, is a true story.




  1. Angel

    SOOOO my life! And sometimes I do make that right decision – but, sadly, sometimes I don’t. Then I have to apologize to my beautiful children for yelling. I love when I stop, breathe, be, and remember to see the humor AT the moment. We have so much more fun in life when we laugh, clean it up, and move on.

  2. Kimberly

    I love this! Reminds me of that hand print art/writing project that kids do in school:
    “Sometimes you may get discouraged
    because I am so small
    and always leave my fingerprints
    on furniture and walls.
    But every day I’m growing
    I’ll be grown up someday
    and all those tiny fingerprints
    will surely fade away.
    So here’s a final handprint
    just so you can recall
    exactly how my fingers looked
    when I was very small.”

    Despite the fact that I winced for you when I imagined that purple mess, this story still makes me want more kids. Mine all just had birthdays- they’re 4, 3, and 1. 🙁 I hope to someday be blessed with a full house like yours!

  3. Samantha

    Yesterday, battling a cold, I was so grateful for a few moments of quiet with my 20 month old. She was playing in the next room, chattering with her stuffed toy friends. I sighed at how lovely that sounded. The playful, joyful chatter. I could read a few sentences in that book about “Positive Discipline”. Until I kept seeing flashes of light…and went to investigate.

    She was telling her friends about rainbows and light. And just how wonderfully light refracts off of Mommy’s giant sewing shears. Oh, and these needles. And buttons. And spools of thread. And so we practiced “cleaning up.” And I found a new home for the sewing box that we thought “Kestrel can’t open.”

  4. kimberly

    I wish I had your patience. I had something similar happen when I only had 2 kids years ago, they were almost 2 and 4. they opened 4 quarts of paint early in the morning while I was sleeping and painted my house. I didn’t take the time to calm down like you did. I wish I had. The couple pictures I took after the mess was cleaned up are treasured memories. the kids creativity was wonderful, I just wish it hadn’t been on my furniture, walls, floors,etc. Its wonderful to read when another mother has been through a frustrating time and still kept calm, thank you.

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Well, this is one vignette from 17 years of parenting. I have lost it plenty of times but chose to tell a story of a time I didn’t.

  5. Jodee

    I think I remember this story. Or maybe something similar happened to me? Except it was powdered Kool-aid packets in various colors. And it was only one child. And the young mother in my story didn’t think to grab a cup of coffee and take a deep breath first. o.O

  6. inga

    Just last week, I was alone with 5 small children. I separated them into different rooms so I could spend 10 minutes alone in the bathroom. I then loaded them all in the car. As I was buckling the last car seat, I noticed a police car pull up in my driveway. The officer asked if this was my house, and if we were all ok. It seems my 3 yo grand-daughter had called 9-1-1! When asked what her emergency was, she said, “I got electrocuted, and there was blue fire, and I have an owie finger.: All of this had happened- 5 DAYS EARLIER. My 11 yr old had tried to say everything was ok, but they neglected to put Mama on the phone- hence, the police car! Fortunately, the officer was a mother of young children, and she was very understanding. I also promised to take the phone to the bathroom from now on!

    • bakersdozenandapolloxiv

      Oh wow. I never blogged about it, much more serious things were going on, but when Apollo had his first heart surgery, Adalia was home alone one evening with just Mordecai and Avi and one of them dialed 911. The dispatcher called back and talked to Adalia who was out of breath because she had just ran up, then back down the driveway grabbing the mail. The dispatcher was quite concerned because of how her voice sounded, but finally convinced them all was well…it was not our finest moment.

      • Inga

        Is it bad that I got a chuckle and a sense of relief out of that story? I sometimes feel that I’m the only mom that has weird stuff happen! I’m glad Adalia was able to convince the dispatcher not to send anyone out.

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