Monday, March 20, 2006

Guest blogger Allie Pleiter

Captain's Log, Stardate 03.20.2006

Today I’m so lucky to have Steeple Hill Café author Allie Pleiter write a guest blog post!

Her latest book is QUEEN ESTHER AND THE SECOND GRADERS OF DOOM (isn’t that just a faboo title?).

Teaching Sunday school at her brother’s church in the Bay area was supposed to help former champion athlete Esther “Essie” Walker understand boys—the better to raise her newborn son as a stellar example of manhood. Fat chance! Enter the eight-year-old male psyche: awful jokes, disrespectful behavior and general mayhem. Essie, the queen of control, finds herself in a brand new world of chaos.

The pressure builds on all fronts—Sunday school class, husband’s job, church dramatic pageant, aging parents, finances—until Queen Esther has one royal meltdown. God, it seems, has makeover plans for Essie’s competitive nature. Her characteristic control is in very short supply as she gains a better understanding of the nature of imperfection, the value of motherhood and the virtues of a messy but connected life.

Without further ado, here’s Allie!

Allie Pleiter’s Blog Column

Esther Walker, the main character in QUEEN ESTHER AND THE SECOND GRADERS OF DOOM, is a champion athlete. As such, I get lots of questions about my own athletic…um…abilities.

I don’t have any. Not a one. I’m not a soccer mom. I don’t play any sports unless you count shopping, and the closest thing I get to sportsmanship is watching my son play little league (does that make me a “baseball mom”?). I don’t even think of myself as competitive—at least not in the way Essie is in QUEEN ESTHER AND THE SECOND GRADERS OF DOOM.

I think.

I think not.

I discovered recently that there’s more of Essie in me than I like to admit. Not on the sports side, but on the slyly competitive field of motherhood, I can evidently turn fierce.

Well, I did create Essie. She must be hiding in me somewhere.

But in my kitchen? Trust me, no one can take one look at the state of my countertops (or range or fridge) and call me domestic. Now, I have never had one inkling to enter the Pilsbury bake off—and my family would break into derisive snickers if I should ever voice such a notion. The Boy Scouts, however, had me cornered. Without any warning whatsoever, my son’s scout cake auction turned me into “Must Be Fabulous” mom. A hideous creature certain to leave disaster in her wake. I didn’t recognize her at first. At first I felt like just another mom trying to do her son proud in a creative fundraiser.

I knew my limitations, so laptop at the ready, my internet search turned up a bathtub cake complete with rubber ducky. Easy and impressive! Just my speed. I shopped (going back once because I’d bought the wrong size box of blue jello to make the jiggler “bathwater”). I baked, feeling smug at the scent of yellow cake filling my kitchen with homey deliciousness. I dreamed of the little photo I downloaded—an adorable, creative, yummy-looking masterpiece appearing well within my skillset. I was headed for success. Or so I thought.

The night of the auction, I began the “simple” process of assembling the cake. Simple my spatula! Within seconds of its assembly, this dastardly little confection slumped into an unrecognizable blob. No mom would admire my skill now. No kid would spend his allowance on this atrocity. Muttering, I thought maybe we could just rename it a ski slope and go find some little Lego men to stick on it. But, no, my son wanted his bathtub (hint: NEVER show the picture to your children—you can only loose in the comparison!). Saying decidedly un-Christianlike things, I hacked off the top, dumped on a pound or two of confectioners sugar, smashed it into a bathtub-ish shape, threw on the duck (the duck that took four stores to find, mind you), and hoped my son wouldn’t cringe. I almost didn’t go to the meeting, ashamed of my “unfabulous” cake.

About now you’re wondering, “Why is she telling me all this?”

I’m telling you because QUEEN ESTHER AND THE SECOND GRADERS OF DOOM is ultimately a story about grace. And, believe it or not, this cake was the strongest lesson in grace God’s given me in a good, long time.

You see, the cake won. “Most Creative.”

My son was beaming ear to ear. What I was ready to ditch for its imperfections, someone else saw as creative. When I think of all I would have lost if I let “must be fabulous Mom” rule my actions, I cringe.

I learned a whopping lesson on grace from boys and cake.

Evidently Essie’s got some company…


Camy here: Thanks so much, Allie!