The large light-weight clear plastic bag sat upon the kitchen table bunched up all sack-like with no threat whatsoever of toppling over. The split oval shapes within were too numerous to count.

You got your money’s worth, that’s for sure. The cardboard tasteless cereal fed all six of us kids waiting not so eagerly for breakfast.

Upon the morning table the bag was plopped and the bowl of floaters was devoured as best could be once the final pieces found their way onto the spoon with the last drops of milk from our bowls. Rice Puffs was an affordable cereal chosen by for such a time as this.

Reminiscing with my sister, we recalled well that those little floaters would not sink. Try as we might to get them to absorb the liquid in which they sat, they remained floatation devices until swallowed. Only then did those air-filled puffs miraculously manage to stay down.

When you have many mouths to feed, you feed em what you can afford. When you are one of six, you eat what’s presented to you or you don’t eat at all. Never do I remember a remark made for what we had or what we did not have…nor did we dare wish aloud what we hoped to have. To complain would have smacked of disrespect.

However, grandma’s house — now that was a different story. The farmhouse kitchen table presented breakfast with boxes of cereal. I recall, at times, there were as many as three boxes standing like friends in wait all hunkered close together. And next to the boxes stood one jar of golden honey.

When it was time to head back home, it was not grandma and grandpa to the rescue. No it was not. They did not chase us down in order to equip us with jars of honey nor did they pack up their boxes of cereal to replace our rice puffs.

No, grandma and grandpa both gave much more than that and intentional it was. Deep they went by not enabling and giving us what was not ours to have. They allowed us to appreciate the difference in households knowing full well we were cared for just fine.

What did they offer? Sacks of fresh apples handpicked from the orchard along with garden fresh strawberries we helped gather were brought home. Mom would then be able to make jam for our own table of grace.

Chickens we butchered were ours for the taking, but filling the gap by merely giving handouts without our hands involved was never the disrespect shown to us.

In her wisdom, grandma let us eat rice puffs. Mom purchased them so as not to overspend. By not overspending she had enough to buy bread for her own homemade jam from grandma’s garden.

And the chicken? Once cooked it was bragged up as we ate up because we knew the effort it took to present itself upon our table. And with that chicken before us, we felt close to the hearts of the farm from whence it came.

Psalm 128:2 reminds us that “When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, You will be happy and it will be well with you.” And so grandma taught — as did grandpa, as did my mom, as did dad.

May the roots grow deep as the generations continue to teach. Amen.

Kathleen Kjolhaug lives on the family homestead outside of Clearbrook with her husband Pete. She enjoys writing about family life and brings humor into the sacred moments of everyday living.

Theology in the Trenches appears in several local newspapers throughout Minnesota. Kathleen can be reached by e-mail at


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