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Kerry Lyons Headshot

A Working Mom's Twist on Chicken Soup for the Soul

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There's a whole series of books devoted to Chicken Soup for the Soul. I've never read them but I buy wholeheartedly into the hearty goodness of chicken soup. My grandfather delivered a vat of it when our triplets were born, assuring me that it would not only "wet my whistle" but fill my tummy too. My husband fetched it for me when I had strep throat last year and it was like the elixir of the Gods. The warm steam from the broth alone seems to have healing powers, conjuring up feelings of comfort and joy. These are the feelings I want to create for my family when I make chicken soup. Comfort and joy.

We really need it. It's been a rough few weeks. Our triplets just started kindergarten and have been separated for the first time. Our daughter just started second grade and has been reduced to tears over her math homework. Our oldest, a fourth grader, started a new school and is feeling the pressure. In the midst of it all, I've been traveling for work, working long hours when I'm home, and struggling with the back to school onslaught of folders and paperwork. We need comfort and joy. We need chicken soup.

And so it was that last Sunday, we decided to roast two chickens. One for dinner, one for soup. As my husband was prepping the birds, he asked if we should "toss in the giblets" for the broth. We've made soup a dozen times but never with giblets. Recalling that my grandfather used giblets for his famously good soup, I responded "Sure, toss them in the pot!" And he did. As we cleaned up after dinner, I added the bones and other remains, filled that pot with water and put it on a slow simmer. I turned it off before going to bed that night, leaving it on the stove and deciding to finish up the soup on Monday. Which turned to Tuesday, and then to Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, I got up at 5:30 to make that darn soup before the kids woke up. Before I left for another long day at work. I wanted them to come home to comfort and joy because I knew they wouldn't be coming home to me. This soup was my replacement, my warm hug, my nourishing embrace. It was my way of saying I love you, I miss you, I care.

I turned that pot on to simmer and chopped carrots, parsnips and celery, pausing to wake the kids, pack their lunches and see them off on the bus. I got out the rice, diced the chicken and shared the plan with our sitter. "Let it simmer until about lunchtime. Around 4:00, add the chicken and the rice. By the time the kids get home, it will smell great in here!"

Look at me, I thought as I went upstairs to get ready for work. I can do this! I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan! Or something like that. As my husband went by, I caught a whif of something unpleasant. "Did you fart?!" I asked. He responded without a missing a beat "whoever smelt it dealt it." Cute, right?

Then the dog went by. "Did you walk Finn?" I asked, adding "Something stinks in here. Did he roll in something?" "Yes I walked him, no he didn't roll in anything," my non-farting husband replied. Huh. Ok, I guess I'm just smelling things, I thought as I got in the shower.

When I got out, the stench was stronger. I looked in the toilet; was there a poop a tot forgot to flush? Nope. I looked in the trashcan; was there a PullUp with a fecal surprise in it? Nope. I'd just gotten out of the shower but could it be me?! In a panic, I sniffed my pits; I even sniffed my crotch! Thankfully, it wasn't me. As I got dressed, the smell persevered. Was it my shirt? The one that spent months in cardboard box after we moved? Nope. That wasn't it either.

Completely befuddled and now running late to work, I ran down the stairs to check the soup before sashaying out the door. The stench from the kitchen stopped me in my tracks. My expression of love was boiling over like a witch's cauldron -- a foamy horror show of chicken carcass and giblets. So much for comfort and joy; I had created a pot of stinking rot. It brought tears to my eyes -- and not just because it smelled so bad; not just because our entire house now reeked like a dead animal; but because my plan was ruined. All I could think of was the Soup Nazi; in my absence that evening he might as well greet my kids while yelling "No soup for you!" And then it struck me.

Faster than a speeding light I ran to the basement and emerged with my own brand of kryptonite: a case of chicken broth from Costco. "This is Plan B!" I announced to my confused sitter who was doing her best not to gag from the noxious fumes. As I dumped the nasty brew down the drain I told her once again, "Let it simmer until about lunchtime. Around 4:00, add the chicken and the rice. By the time the kids get home, it will smell great in here!" And then I went to work, confident that comfort and joy would indeed prevail but open to the possibility that perhaps the next time, I should just stick to bringing home the proverbial bacon and let someone else fry it up in a pan!