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Things Our Mothers Taught Us: 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

I found this in a magazine and my boys thought it reminded them of someone….and let me quickly add that my mother never said any of these, so I don’t know who they would be talking about…. 

Things Our Mothers Taught Us (Anonymous)

1.  My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE. “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.”
2.  My mother taught me RELIGION. “You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”
3.  My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL. “If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week.”
4.  My mother taught me LOGIC. “Because I said so, that’s why.”
5.  My mother taught me MORE LOGIC. “If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you’re not going to the store with me.”
6.  My mother taught me FORESIGHT. “Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident.”
7.  My mother taught me IRONY. “Keep crying and I’ll give you something to cry about.”
8.  My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS. “Shut your moth and eat your supper.”
9.  My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM. “Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!”
10. My mother taught me about STAMINA. “You’ll sit there until all that spinach is gone.”
11. My mother taught me about WEATHER. “This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it.”
12. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION.  “JUST WAIT TIL WE GET HOME.”
13. My mother taught me about RECEIVING.  “You are going to get it when you get home.”
14. My mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE. “If you don’t stop crossing your eyes, they are going to stay like that.”
15. My mother taught me ESP. “Put your sweater on; don’t you think I know when you are cold.”
16. My mother taught me HUMOR.  “When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don’t come running to me.”
17. My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT. “If you don’t eat your vegetables, you’ll never grow up.”
18. My mother taught me GENETICS. “You’re just like your father.”
19. My mother taught me about my ROOTS. “Shut the door behind you. Do you think you were born in a barn?”
20. My mother taught me WISDOM.  “When you get to be my age, you’ll understand.”
21. My mother taught me about JUSTICE. “One day you’ll have kids and I hope they turn out just like you!”

My boys say that they should write a book of my sayings….maybe it would go something like this:

Things My Mother Tried to Teach Us About Consequences

1.  My mother taught me HORTICULTURE. “You reap what you sow, unless the rabbits, gophers, cows and horses, dogs and boys’ feet, bikes, bats and balls get it first.” Josiah (15) who is in charge of the garden, with the help of Jonas (11) and James (7), can attest to those obstacles. But they did reap beets, beans, tomatoes, and squash this year. Reaping what you sow, in addition to patience, a bigger fence, a better trap….

2.  My mother taught me DUTY. We acquired guardianship of our niece’s one year old son Michael in February. None of the other family members were up to the demands of his young care. Our boys experience daily how the actions of one can directly affect another. Every day I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” Michael has progressed from ignoring us completely and living in his own little world, to responding with laughter and sometimes obedience.  Consequences of doing one’s duty: knowing in your heart that you have done what is right with no regrets.

3.  My mother taught me METEOROLOGY.  Joey wanted us to go snow camping. How do you keep water from freezing at night? Put it in your sleeping bag with you at night along with anything else that shouldn’t freeze. Would eggs burst when frozen?  I didn’t try it nor did I put one in my sleeping bag. Most of the boys built snow ‘caves’ in which to sleep. Joey instructed us not to get anything wet. We were settled in our sleeping bags for oh, 3 minutes before Michael needed a bottle. Without using a light, I put the lid on crooked and dumped the milk all over Jonas and Michael. In the morning, those of us in the tent had puddles of milk under our sleeping bags, which explains why we were wet and well, cold. Consequences of not obeying rule number 1---keep dry.

4.  My mother taught me about GRAVITY. “Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and keep on walking.” But Joey showed them what to do if they weren’t on the ground. Joey has been jumping out of planes for the army for several years now. He has to ‘practice’ monthly. One time, we went to watch Joey float to the ground as an experienced jumper.  Some of the boys were ready to leap into the unknown (it doesn’t take much). Reaping careful planning (and much prayer) brings a safe and completed mission.

5.  My mother taught me more about GRAVITY.  I found a bike in the thrift store for Joshua (4). Within three days, he was showing me how he could do wheelies. He would flip his little pink bike out from under him and wing it into the air with much enthusiasm, or jump over low mounds of dirt ramps. Isn’t staying on the ground a better alternative? Not when he can be air borne. (Wonder where he got that one?) One of these days, the consequences of gravity will hit---and hard.

6.  My mother taught me PHOTOGRAPHY. If Joey John (17) doesn’t have his camera in front of his eye, he is checking his pictures on the computer. We went to the Fresno Zoo specifically for him to take pictures to enter a photo contest. When we visited friends in IL, they took pictures like Joey John; he spent the rest of the year consolidating them and making a slide presentation. Joey and I just provide him with the tools; he does the rest. Memories reaped of good friends and good times.

7.  My mother taught me DOMESTIC MANAGEMENT.  People ask me about our grocery bill….To give you an idea of what a family of ten with eight boys (three teenagers) can consume, I will give you a small glimpse. When asked for a snack, I will tell the boys “Eat a pickle.” They will; and a gallon jar of pickles will disappear in a half hour. I buy 10 lbs. of apples; they will be consumed in half the time it takes to drive home. I can give two boxes of oatmeal for breakfast, a jar of jam and three loaves of bread for part of a lunch, or twenty ears of corn plus 2 lbs. of spaghetti with sauce for dinner. I can see twelve gallons of milk drank in a week. For a given month, I purchase 100 lbs. of potatoes, 50 lbs. of flour, 25 lbs. of sugar, 10 lbs. of cheese, 5-10 dozen eggs and 8 lbs. of butter. We butchered two pigs, 220 lbs each.  They didn’t last more than four months. Someone asked me about left-overs. “What’s that?” Sometimes after a meal, I feel the boys’ gaze at the empty dishes on the table. Josiah will say, “Don’t worry, Mom, we’ll just eat cereal.” That doesn’t count the dog, cow, horse and pig food that they have eaten between meals. Have teenagers—will eat much. Have toddlers—will eat constantly. Consequences of both result in no food in the house and so much for domestic management.

8. My mother taught me CONSERVATION OF ENERGY. This year was the year of appliances. Our water heater and dish washer had to be replaced after 20 some years. I used an apartment sized refrigerator (the kind meant for half a person who doesn’t eat at home) for over half a year (try to fit 12 gallons of milk in that), before Joey thought it was time to get a new one. Our second ice maker broke—couldn’t keep up with the demands. Joey bought me another vacuum cleaner after going without for awhile. We oohed and ahhhed over its ability to pick up dirt until like all cleaning devices, it too broke. We live out the Second Law of Thermodynamics (everything goes from order to disorder if no energy is put into it) ---without much effort.  Somehow, I think the consequences of disorder come a whole lot faster than what it should at our house.

9. My mother taught me DOMESTIC RESPONSIBILIY.  We have two bathrooms. I have designated one as ‘the boys’ bathroom’—where I don’t venture inside unless absolutely necessary. I have even put up a reminder, “Changing the toilet paper roll does not cause brain damage.” I have requested, demanded and insisted that the second bathroom be ‘mine’---so I don’t have to touch, smell or see any repulsive thing where I try to get clean. One day, Josh was talking about the ‘men’s bathroom’. I said, “Wait a minute, where is this ‘men’s bathroom’?”  “Oh, Mom, it’s right there.” He said as he pointed to the ‘boy’s bathroom’. “What men are using that?” I wondered. An image of the future reaped in the ever present now.

10.  My mother introduced me to FEMININE INFLUENCE. We had Destiny (8) and Alexis (6), Michael’s half-sisters, stay with us for a week. What a different set of dynamics to have pink and frills mixed with all the sweat and dirt. The whirlwind kept them all playing before sun-up to sun-down. The influence of girls in your life results in something very different and unpredictable.

11. My mother chauffeured us into ATHLETIC COMPETITION. Jacob (9) played the coach’s helper---standing on the pitcher’s mound, poised and ready for any action. Jonas and Jonathan (13) were on the older baseball team. Jonathan played pitcher and catcher. During several games, Jonas caught the ball in the out field and threw it to Jonathan for an out. Joey John worked with the coach and kept records. Joey umpired several games. The rest of us ran after Michael and made sure that all the boys had water and snacks. Buy them a ball, expect them to play; results of playing, you better win.

12. My mother taught me HORSEMANSHIP. (Laugh now, I was on their horse once, and I thought the ground never felt so good---goes back to “gravity is good and keep your feet on the ground and keep walking.”)  The boys’ trainer gave us a horse for Jonas.  Sometimes as I watch Jonas, I think that he’s not so much training, as just having fun on his horse. In his first horse showing, he placed fourth place. When the trainer asked the judge about it, his response was, “He was so little, and looked as green as grass that I gave it to him.” A boy and his horse reap rich rewards.

Jonathan, after watching Josiah and Jonas ride, thought that he would like to learn. After his first lesson with Josiah, he commented, “It’s harder than it looks.” 

This summer, Josiah spent some weeks working for his instructor on some ‘green horses.’ The rewards of practice, practice, practice fulfilled.

We visited the largest Civil War Re-enactment this side of the Mississippi. We saw a battle re-played, complete with cannons, and even a horse running away wild. They demonstrated how the cavalry would test their ability and skill. They used sword, dagger, rifle and pistol to shoot targets on and off their horses as they maneuvered through a tight obstacle course. The rewards of practice, practice, practice….perfection.

13. My mother taught me about POULTRY. Josiah, after hand raising a brood of parakeets, allowed his cockatiels to raise a brood. We were also given several ducks for our pond. We have two good egg layers. James gets up around 5:30 AM to get the eggs before the crows do (They sit on the fence post above the ducks, waiting for them to move.) He will announce to the neighborhood, “An egg, an egg, I have an egg.” Have ducks, will lay—but no guarantee that you’ll get the golden egg. The crows reap more than we do. I’m just waiting for the proverb to come true for those black birds, “he who pursues evil goes to his death.” (Proverbs 11:19)

14. My mother taught me CONSTRUCTION WORK.  Joey worked with the boys this summer laying cement for a bigger deck and foundation for a barn addition. While Joey was gone for three weeks, they built the addition to the barn. Jonas was put in charge of painting the barn. He soon realized that work is, well, work. Jonathan enjoyed getting on the roof to fix holes. Well, maybe he didn’t like fixing holes, but he enjoyed throwing his Frisbee farther than anyone else, because he was allowed on the roof to throw it. He did comment that he definitely didn’t want to be a construction worker. That’s okay; just finish the job anyway….
     
Joey John worked for a well-driller and dirt mover this summer. He would be gone by 5 AM and return after 11:30 PM. He learned to drive stick shift, a water truck, and big earth moving dozers. When he would come home, he’d be covered in dirt, but wear a smile on his face. Reaping the joy of a job that you like. 

15. My mother taught me The VALUE OF WORK.  Jonathan and Josiah spent several months weed-wacking neighbors’ properties. Jonathan would like to expand the business opportunity next year. Their hot, sweaty work makes a difference. Work reaps a desired end.

16. My mother taught me HISTORY.  We traveled back to Indy where some of my family lives. We visited a Historical park that allowed the children to touch and to try everything. The boys tried their hand at tomahawk throwing, candle making, and water pumping. The people dressed and spoke the part of two villages in 1836 and 1886. We learned where the ‘necessary room’ was. It was better than a year’s worth of explaining life in those times. Learning by doing; sowing deeply.

17. My mother taught me SENSITIVITY. On our plane ride home, Josh was sitting by himself. An intoxicated man came to sit beside him. The man asked Josh loudly to stop talking for just a moment. The woman beside me commented that it was awful for him to be ‘like that’ so early in the morning. I thought that he was afraid of flying. When the plane took off, Josh kept telling the man to ‘watch out the window,’ ‘wasn’t it great how the plane did the wheelie” and to “look how high the plane was going.” Shortly after we reached proper elevation, the stewardess encouraged the man to move to another seat--- not before Josh had left his impression on the man. Reaping a different perspective on adventure.

18. My mother taught me The VALUE OF SILENCE. James is my little ‘amen’ corner. I will say something, and he will be in the background saying, “Yes, yes, that is what we will do….” Sometimes, he surprises me with his responses. I’ll ask, “Does anyone have any more songs to sing?” He’ll quickly say, “No, no, we’re done singing. Thank goodness.” Of course we have to sing another song after that. Consequences of expressing oneself too quickly can bring a demand for silence.

19. My mother taught me SHARING. Joshua has struggled to adjust with Michael. The riot between the two starts as soon as both are awake. Michael came biting—not once, but at least fifteen times a day. Joshua was usually the victim. We still have an occasional attack—but Michael sure looks at me after he does it and cries…. Of course, so does his victim. Learning consequences for one’s actions is a hard lesson…for all of us.

20. My mother gave me The WISH FOR SOLITUDE. Jacob entered the realm of school on the computer, a big step toward helping me. He loves his little area where he can have no one bother him. Finding a little space to call his own is an ever present problem in a house that could never be big enough for eight boys all trying to flex their wings. (Makes me wish that I could just live on the roof.) Jacob likes to be active, doing something—but not always with someone. I have told him to find somewhere on the five acres away from everyone.  He reminds me that Michael will find anyone, anywhere if he is doing something remotely interesting. The consequences of making something look interesting—you get an audience.

21. My mother taught me PRODUCTIVITY. Our dairy cow, after many years of good service, couldn’t be bred any more. We had to take her to an auction. If you can’t produce, you can’t eat the hay….sorry.

22. My mother taught me SKINNING and TANNING. Jacob tanned a squirrel this year after shooting him. He also had several chances to skin and tan rattlesnakes. We killed at least six 3-4 1/2 foot rattlesnakes (not counting babies) this year. Consequences of living on our property---you might get shot and skinned if you’re not wanted. [Joey John reminds me that even if you are wanted (i.e. pigs and cows), you might get shot.]

23. My mother neglected to teach me REPTILIAN EDUCATION. Josiah went out to turn off his water for his garden one night. On the way out the front door, he stepped on “something that felt like a snake.” On his return to the door, he wanted to be sure to step over the snake, ‘because it felt like a big one.’ He stepped on it again. When he turned on the light and checked, he found a three foot racer snake—relief with the creeps.  

We found two snakes (not rattlesnakes) in the house this year. Joey John did the honors of removing them from my bath room and mud room, but not until he held them up to show everyone—except me. They probably followed the great mice population that we have in the house. If I knew how they got in—I’d sure give them some consequences.
 
24. My mother taught me INSECT STATISTICS. When our mud room window was broken, and the boys would each kill 100 flies/day. I would say, “Shut the mud room door, do you want all the flies in the world in here?” It also helped when we replaced the front door, so the dog couldn’t just sit against it and open it. Now we actually have one that locks!  Open the door, let in flies, shut the door—keeps in flies. Consequences of…..having such a hospitable house???

Joshua seems to have a different perspective on life. One night as he was going to sleep, he said, “Too bad we can’t dream God.”  I told him that if we could, then He wouldn’t be God—He’d be lowered to what we could imagine and conceive—something that we made up. Because He was indeed God, He is beyond our comprehension.

As I thought more about dreaming God, it probably wouldn’t be too bad. We might think twice about what we did or said, if God seemed visually right there. Our sowing may be more in tune with His wishes. “Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life….” (Galatians 6:7-8)

But God—Who knows we could never stop reaping wrong by ourselves, no matter how hard we try, sent His Son to take our consequences. He ‘offered for all time one sacrifice for sins….He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool, because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:12-13) He paid our debt, took our consequences and gave those who believe a different future, one without eternal damnation, one with hope and forgiveness. The future reflects Who we know, not what we have done. The Christ, Who came at Christmas, came not to give us Christmas, but to give us eternal life, freedom from our own consequences, peace for the future. It’s not that consequences are swept away. They are already paid by the blood of Christ for those who believe. At this Christmastime, may you come to know the power of Christ’s blood and the peace that follows, knowing the consequences of a lifetime are paid in full.

May your choices for your lifetime reflect God’s peace in your heart this Christmas,

The Contreras’s
Joey, Sonya, Joey John, Josiah, Jonathan, Jonas, Jacob, James Joshua and Michael



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Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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