I glanced at the clock. I had thirty minutes until our guests would be arriving. The chicken was sizzling. No appetizers had been set out. I was unsure where the clean napkins were. I tossed the potatoes in olive oil, and seasoned them well. Just as I was carefully placing them in the hot oven, I heard, “Mom!” echo from upstairs. Tossing my oven mitts on the counter, I jogged upstairs only to find my three-year-old sitting on my son’s friend, unwilling to budge. He was too kind to shove her off and onto the floor; and she found it quite amusing that she could pin a lanky eight-year-old to the ground. I freed the boy from the heavy weight of my daughter and spent the next ten minutes talking about respecting personal space (a talk we will be repeating in the future, no doubt). I peeked my head downstairs into my husband’s home office, where he informed me that he was being pulled into a last-minute call. He apologetically let me know wouldn’t be upstairs until the minute our guests arrived. The doorbell rang. I gathered up my son’s playmate, said hello to his mother and sent him home.
The next ten minutes, I managed to change into clean clothes, settle two fights, and set out appetizers before the doorbell rang for the second time. I welcomed our guests, knowing that dinner wasn’t even half way completed. The kids ran off to play and my friend joined me in the kitchen. I ran around in the kitchen trying to complete 25 different tasks while attempting to keep a conversation. Chris came up to see our guest mixing the drinks and graciously helping me in the kitchen. Once dinner was finally ready to go, the chicken was beautifully done, the potatoes were slightly over cooked, and everyone was starving, as it was forty-five minutes after dinner was expected to be ready. Everyone enthusiastically ate dinner and no one complained that the galette crust was a bit tough ( I was once again distracted and added a bit too much water). Near the end of the evening, I apologized to my friend for the chaos in our house. You see, dinner is almost always planned out and only needs finishing touches when we hear the ring of the doorbell. Places are set, music is on and everyone is relaxed. But life was busy and plans were interrupted that day.
She leaned in and said, “the chaos actually made me feel more welcome.” It was the realization that she wasn’t the only one who has crazy nights from time to time.
We put ourselves together neatly, making sure every detail gives off a certain appearance. We promote the idea that our lives are beautiful and wonderful, making sure to hide those unlovely parts that might not shine as bright. In an effort to always put our best foot forward we often end up isolating ourselves from true community. We compare our flawed selves with other people’s made-up perfected versions of themselves and fall short. We never measure up. When the truth is, it is an unfair comparison. By being honest and allowing others see that our lives are flawed and messy and full of imperfections, it gives them permission to admit that their life isn’t perfect – that they have struggles, fears, worries, and failures. We let them know that it’s okay that the laundry is piled high, or that they didn’t make their son’s birthday cake from scratch. It is here that true friendship and community is born over the fact that we live very messy and often broken lives. We bond over the fact that we were never made to live perfect lives that fold neatly into boxes.
More than messy houses or disastrous dinner parties, when we give our closest friends permission to see the ruined places of our lives, we allow those places to finally heal. And as those once broken pieces begin to slowly mend, they often become the most beautiful parts of our story.
When we were kids, we were free – uninhibited, free to run about, act like a fool, be silly without worrying what others might think. We were more concerned about enjoying the moment and having fun rather than managing perfect images. As a kid, I loved opening up a pudding cup of tapioca pudding; the creamy pudding with chewy pearls always made me smile with delight. Today, I made a more grown-up version, while still keeping the kid in me very happy.
Coconut Tapioca Pudding
1/3 cup of pearled tapioca (I love Bob’s Red Mill Small Pearl Tapioca)
1 1/2 cups of whole milk, separated
1 1/2 cups of coconut milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup of sugar
1 vanilla bean
2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (optional garnish)
Soak the tapioca in 3/4 cup of milk for 1 hour in a heavy-bottomed pan. Whisk the leftover milk, coconut milk, egg yolks, and sugar. Cut open and scrape out the inside of the vanilla bean. Place the opened pod in the mixture (*You can sub in vanilla extract here but add it in once the pudding is fully cooked). Slowly over medium heat, bring the mixture to a simmer, slowly stirring. This will take about 10 minutes. Once it begins to bubble, turn it down to low, continuing to stir to avoid scorching. Stir until the tapioca pearls become translucent and the pudding thickens, 15-20 minutes. Serve warm or cold, garnished with shredded coconut and chocolate.