As American as Motherhood and...Lye?

What do you think of first when you think of the word "motherhood?" Kisses and cuddles? Lullabies at bedtime? Bandaids on cuts? Cheers from the crowd after a sports event or performance? Another photo for which to pose? Tangled hair and screams of pain? Homemade chicken soup when fevers run high? Freshly baked, warm apple pie?

I just turned 40 last summer and, still, when I think about my mom, I think first of memories from my young, childhood years, when she was probably in her 30s. I think of berry picking and Christmas tree hunting. I think of long-cooked oatmeal, which we sometimes even ate for dinner. I think of her large-framed glasses, and big, beautiful smile. I think of picnics in the park, remembering that woven, wooden picnic basket with the hinged lid, holding warm fried chicken and cool potato salad. I remember singing "Away in a Manger," in unison, night after night.

Relationships are never perfect, but I think when most of us think of "mom," we conjure up thoughts of love and of care and of compassion. When we are sick, even as adults, we want nothing more than for Mom to wrap us up in the "sick blanket" and bring us a bowl of that magical, healing soup. When we have a bad day, we might still call our mama, and hope for nothing else than to hear her caring voice and words of wisdom on the other end of the line.

Now, as a mom myself, I work for creating such memories for my two girls. But, life is not always easy or picture-perfect. And it is not always as sweet as that slice of apple pie. Sometimes, at least in my home, it is bad attitudes, tired brains, dirty dishes, loads of laundry, homework that no one wants to do, another boring dinner in the works, and a lot of lye.

As I have jumped into this hobby-turned-business-venture, my girls have learned to ask not whether I am making soap, but which type of soap I am currently making. They know all of the scents, and they enjoy giving their own critiques on each type, choosing their favorites, and often hoping to try samples. They know the lye water is dangerous, and they steer clear whenever they see Mommy don the safety glasses, respiration mask, and rubber gloves.

And while they know that when I am in the middle of making batches of soap, I cannot often pause, and most often need not be interrupted, they also seem to understand, even at the ages of seven and ten, that I will always be there for them.

Sometimes I wonder what their treasured memories will be as they blossom into young women and, eventually perhaps, young mothers themselves. And, as a worried, guilt-ridden mom, I must admit that I do hope it's not the times I slip up and yell or rush them in and out of the car or forget to laugh at the hundredth bad knock-knock joke. Hopefully they will remember the hikes in the woods and the birthday cakes and the bedtime stories. Maybe they will remember that their mama made soap, but that she tried really hard to make time for them too.

So, as we approach Mother's Day, let's hear it for all the moms out there! For the new mothers, who are in the trenches, hair in a pile atop their head, sweaty and discombobulated because of severely broken sleep and screaming babies, who might just lose it over one more nursing bra mishap or blown-out diaper. For the moms of preschool-aged children, who might as well be referees or lifeguards, just trying to make sure they keep their little ones from eating mulch or running through a busy parking lot, who are dealing with all the "no's" and all the "why's" all the time. For those with kiddos in the elementary school years, who are starting to realize that time really does only speed up, who are wondering if they savored those sweat-induced, sleep-reduced years as much as they should have, but who don't really have time to think too hard about it, as they taxi around those babies-turning-tweens to every activity known to man. And to the moms of the teenagers and the young adults, who are in a stage that I am currently trying not to acknowledge, who are dealing with boyfriends and girlfriends, latest fashion trends, first dates, first cars, and—gasp!—leaving the nest.

Friends, this motherhood thing is not for the faint of heart. But it also fills the heart beyond measure. For all of the puked-on, pooped-on, yelled-at, stomped-away, eye-rolling moments, there are so many more that are filled with coos and smiles and laughter and hugs and kisses and memories we would not give up for anything.

Let's hear it for the moms! And let's celebrate them to the fullest. Let's lavish them with the kind of care they have shown us, the kind of love we hope to give our own children...and maybe a couple of bars of homemade soap too.