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Losing my temper: Utah's Young Mother of the Year confesses all

By Michelle Lehnardt

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, July 16 2013 4:40 p.m. MDT

Stefan, Michelle, Mary and Gabriel Lehnardt.

Michelle Lehnardt

When I refused to read my little daughter the most boring book on her shelf last night, she scoffed, "And you're supposed to be mother of the year?!"

I'm in for it this year — oh, I'm in for it.

And not just because I forgot soccer treats or sent my kid to school with a lousy science poster, but because I, too, pictured someone much more spiffy and pulled together for Utah's Young Mother of the Year.

Let's make this clear — my closets and pantry are a mess, I hardly ever volunteer at school, and cereal and bananas stand in for dinner more often than I'd like to admit.

But I love my children with every particle of my soul and I passionately believe motherhood matters. I devote the best of my time, creativity, intelligence and energy to my family and I believe the rewards are greater than any career, award or accolades.

I am no better than the thousands of other young mothers in Utah — but I am proud to represent them this year. With the honor (chosen by American Mothers, Inc.) comes the obligation to open my mouth — to build up other mothers — and I think I can do that best by sharing my most embarrassing moment: The Corn Story.

For years, this tale carried a $2 (per person) penalty for the telling. And since my kids earn about $10 a year, the threat was enough to keep my ignominious corn story under wraps.

But I no longer find it shameful or humiliating. Time to come clean. And, no, I’m not paying $2 to each of you.

The summer after my fourth child was born, I was completely overwhelmed. With three little boys racing through the house, one little needy baby in my arms and my husband traveling nearly every week, I was a frazzled wreck. And I got into the habit of yelling. Too much. Too often. Out of control.

Even as a little girl, I knew I had a fiery temper. I remember watching the extraordinarily sweet singing leader at church and knowing I had a different set of DNA. Sweetness did not come easily to me. Courage and smarts, yes. But not sweetness. I envied and emulated my mild-tempered friends. My teachers taught kindness and I listened and did my best.

My best was enough for a long time. Until that summer.

Friday night: my husband gone on business, baby Xander crying and dinner on the stove. I was shucking corn in the kitchen, watching the boys on the back porch, while using my toe to bounce Xander’s little baby seat. My arms were full of corn to rinse in the sink when the boys began banging on the glass kitchen door. The door wasn’t locked, but their arms were full (of what? I forgot) as were mine. As their pounding increased, I feared the door would break and in a burst of anger I yelled and threw the corn on the counter. Hard. Seven or eight ears.

Do you know what fresh corn does when you slam it against a hard surface? You probably don’t because you’ve never lost it like I did that night. It explodes. The same force you see when kernels pop over heat, but wet and slimy and all over my kitchen.

Every surface was covered with sticky yellow bits of corn — counter, walls, stovetop, oven, floor, my arms and clothing, even poor baby Xander’s chubby tear-stained cheeks. I stared in horror at what I’d done, began to cry and called my best friend.

For hours we scrubbed the kitchen. Cornstarch serves as a substitute for glue in all kinds of fun crafts — and all that smashed corn was glued to my kitchen. We gave the kids cereal for dinner, laughed and cried and scrubbed and finally gave up, deciding I’d just have to tackle the job a bit at a time.

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