caroline holzberger

Keepin' it real about motherhood, Jesus, life, and everything in between.


Brussels sprouts.

Just the sound of it makes me want to throw up a little in my mouth shudder. That particular vegetable was the bane of my existence as a child. I have vivid nightmares memories of that vegetable from my obviously scarred childhood. I can literally still envision them on my plate at dinner. And after dinner. At bedtime. And yes, the next morning for breakfast, too. Maybe that’s why I can still picture them so clearly on my plate, is because they stayed there for a very looong time.

I hated them.

I often tell my kids not to use the word hate because it is such a strong word. But, I’m a grown up, dangit. So I can look you square in the eye and say confidently, that I super-duper, royally, 110%, with every fiber of my being, hated them. And because I was somewhat (ahem.) of a strong-willed child, I often tried to call my parents’ bluff with their whole “Ok, the brussels sprouts be waiting for you for breakfast” warning.

There’s one thing I can tell you with absolute certainty about my parents…they weren’t the bluffin’ kind.

The only thing worse than Brussels sprouts for dinner, my friend, was Brussels sprouts for breakfast. I don’t care what time of day though, I mean, seriously, what child actually likes Brussels sprouts?

Oh ya, my perfect big brother.

He liked spinach and reading too. Kiss up.

And while I’m not convinced sure my mother made him eat vegetables he didn’t like, I sure don’t remember him choking them down for breakfast.

Before I was in even in kindergarten, I made a vow to myself – I will never, I repeat, never force my children to eat anything they don’t like.

Rule # 1 in parenting: Never say never.

‘Cause you will dine on those words quicker than you did your supper on joyful spaghetti nights.

Obviously, I’ve gone back on that promise. In fact, there have been many, many times I’ve forced my children to eat something they didn’t want to. Usually because they asked for it and then changed their minds. I despise wastefulness. They asked for Cheerios, they can eat Cheerios. Yes, even if they discover a box of Fruit Loops they didn’t know we had. Don’t be wasteful. Period. The way I see it, I did the birthing, so I make the rules. And my husband can make a few too, of course. Fair is fair.

So. I had to cut myself a little slack with my inner vow. Actually, I just revamped it. I will never, and I really do mean never, force my children to eat Brussels sprouts, ever!

What was that parenting rule #1 again? Shoot! My kids sucked all my brain power from me…how am I supposed to remember that kind of stuff.

Well, now I remember, dangit.

And this moment has a familiar bitter taste. Like…um…oh ya, Brussels sprouts.

The thing is…I joined a co-op recently. No, not a convent. Not a commune. But a co-op. As in ‘co-op’-eration with each other in selling food. Ok, so I just made that up. But it makes sense. Anyway. I joined this fruit and vegetable co-op in my area, and seriously, it rocks my world. For only $16.50, I get to go pick up a huge basket F-U-L-L of fruit and veggies. Super neighbor told me about it and it really did sound fun. Each week is different, so you never know what you’ll get. I gotta tell ya, this was my favorite part. I love-love-love a good surprise. Birthdays. Christmas. Engagements. And now, apparently fruit and veggies.

I used to think only weirdoes joined co-ops. Now I’m convinced only weirdoes don’t.

Seriously. I was so excited to check out my first basket of goodies. Super neighbor and I were giddy about planning our family’s meals for the weeks around these healthy foods. The cost is so small, and just look at all I got my first week.

That’s right… 6 tangeloes, 12 apples, 5 kiwi, 4 lemons, 3 summer squash, 4 zucchini, 2 pints of Brussels sprouts, 2 sweet onions, 9 bananas, 2 heads romaine lettuce, 4 green bell peppers, 6 red pears and a partridge in a pear treeeee.

ALL for $16.50! I mean, c’mon, people. You have to admit that’s pretty impressive.

But, did you notice anything familiar in on that list?

That’s right, friend. My very first week in the fun co-op world…and there’s not one, but two stinkin’ bags full of Brussels sprouts. I swear my Mom called those people.

So, I pitched a fit calmly voiced my dislike for them to Super neighbor. She was able to calm me down and bit, assuring me she would find a way to prepare them in a way I could tolerate.

God bless her. She tried.

She added butter and bacon and other things to make me feel better. And yes, I can say that I pretty much tolerated them. Sort of. Ok, I swallowed the serving on my plate before it was breakfast time, which I count as a win for me. (Me: 1, Brussels sprouts: 342)

I tried to pick the pieces of bacon out in huge bites and then just tell myself, It’s just itty bitty lettuce. It’s just itty bitty lettuce. It’s just itty bitty lettuce. – quickly followed by a huge gulp of milk. I did ok, all things considered.

Week two.

This time, Super neighbor and I went to pick up the baskets ourselves instead of sending the husbandfolk.

We arrived.

Anxiously waited in line, like we were nutso Black Friday people ready to get the newest version of Elmo doing something ridiculous.

We waited patiently. Well, Super neighbor waited patiently. I just waited. It was early on a Saturday morning and I was standing in a line for flippin’ fruit and veggies, y’all. I had my basket on my head just for fun. Those people should be happy I wasn’t snoring and drooling on them.

So, we eventually got to the front of the line…where they pointed us to the direction of our baskets…

Ooooh, our baskets!?! The anticipation was building…

We got to our baskets…began to unload them…and low and behold…another-freaking-bag-of-Brussels-sprouts was waiting right there on top.

I may or may not have exclaimed “Noooo! Not stinkin’ Brussels sprouts again!’ out loud for all to hear. And people around me may or may not have looked around, expecting to see a five-year-old, only to find a sloppy, sleepy, thirty-vnxoalish year old woman pitching a fit.

These people were pretty much all wearing “Life is good.” t-shirts and Tevas made out of wheat-grass germ or something.

I looked like a fool.

Then a delusional sweet woman offered some support, “Oh no, honey! Honestly, if you just roast them, sprinkle on some salt, pepper and a little olive oil, they really are soooo much better.”

What I said – “Oh thank you, ma’am! It’s worth a try!”

What I thought – Ya, uh- huh, lady. And then I’ll ride my unicorn to the end of the rainbow and eat cotton candy all day with the Easter Bunny. Sure.

I needed an ally. Super neighbor was way too upbeat about another stinking helping of Brussels sprouts. I was all alone.

So, I reached out to Snarky friend, who I used to trust and I’ll be darned if she didn’t say the exact same thing.  “No really, just roast them with a little salt and pepper and olive oil. I promise, they aren’t bad.”

She promised. She loves Jesus. And she knows that I know she loves Jesus. She has to keep her promise to me.

(No she doesn’t. Promise, my foot. She was a big, fat liar. I should have known. She uses agave to sweeten her coffee and she snacks on pomegranates, for goodness sakes. Traitor.)

Deep breaths. Regroup. Ok, I can do this.

My sweet Mom was visiting for the weekend, so I got the great idea to recruit her in this endeavor. I figured, if there was anyone on the planet who’d be invested in my conversion to Brussels sprout lover, it’d be her.

She even volunteered to do the roasting. Such a nice Mom, that one.

So, two days later, after she’d left and we were back into the swing of things in our normal weekly routine, I saw the bag o’ B.s (I’m tired of typing those words, Brussels sprouts. But do take note of the acronym. Coincidence? I think not.) in the far back of my fridge.

I began to pump myself up.

I can do this. I am a grown up now. I can do hard things! I am bigger than this B.s.

I was still on some type of high that came from making The-Best-Squash-Casserole-Ever. (which my kids devoured by the way) Voted on by me who’s never had it before, but it still convinced this recipe is the best. I can’t help it if my maiden voyage rocked it. Don’t hate.

That, along with my new love for grilled asparagus combined with my new addiction no kidding, I’m hooked! to The-Best-Zucchini-Bread-On-The-Planet …I was kind of on a healthy food high.

I had all I needed to rock this B.s. once and for all.

I served up some ‘red chicken’ as my kids call it. Their absolute favorite. Yes, I planned this. Give them the meat they love and it will help the B.s. go down easier.


I plated it all up…took a deep breath…and turned on my ‘happy-go-lucky’ Mama voice, ready to sing the praises of B.s.

I even had a moment of brilliance as I remembered what yet another delusional sweet woman at the co-op place called out to me as we walked away, baskets full o’ B.s. – “Oh, and if you sprinkle some parmesan cheese on at the last minute of roasting, it’ll be even better!”

I didn’t sprinkle the parmesan cheese, my friend. I dumped it. See? I do love my children.

Then, I braced myself for what I knew was coming.

“Mama, what is that?”

“Do I have to eat that?”

“I no like that thing, Mama!”

They get their whining from their father. (Ahem.) Moving on.

Then, I gave what may be the finest mother-speech of my entire life. It went a little something like this…

“Kids, you know Mama loves you. Because I love you, I try my best to take good care of you. I do all I can to keep your sweet bodies fed with good growin’ food and not junk, because I want you to be healthy and grow up big and strong. (I can always capture the boys interest by alluding to their potential big and strong-ness. Abigail was picking her nose.) I understand why you may not want to eat this. In fact, did you know that when Mama was a little girl, she really didn’t like Brussels sprouts at all? They were my very last favorite veggie. Even, now, as a grown-up, I don’t love them. But, I know they are good for me and yes, even grown-ups have to do things sometimes they don’t want to do. And I know God wants me to take care of my body (ya. I went there) so I am going to eat them. We are going to eat them together. We can do it! Remember, we can do hard things!”

We were all so pumped up, I think I could have served them veal and shrimp ka-bobs and been ok.

We all counted down 5-4-3-2-1…take a bite!

And we all did.

It was at that very moment, my mind flashed back to my childhood. I could see the shag carpet, the 1984 Tv trays, the look on my mother’s face as I sat defiant in front of my B.s.

That taste in my mouth was back with such force, I literally had to put my hand over my mouth to keep from spitting the B.s. out and nailing my middle child in the head.

Oh no! What do I do?! I can’t spit it out. Not after that speech.

Maybe I can sneak it into the trash when they aren’t looking. How!?! They are staring at me with disgusted looks on their faces.

Why the heck did I put five of them on my plate? Five? What was I thinking!?! Abigail only has to eat two. That’s not fair.

Oh no! Benjamin’s gagging!

What do I do!?! I’ll be a horrible mother if I go back on my word to them.

But there is no way I can swallow this.

Oh God! Benjamin’s gonna hurl!

Abort! Abort! Abort!

(Muffled through a full mouth of B.s.) “Nevermind kids, hurry! Get to the trash can!

With a swiftness I’ve never seen, they all obeyed. And there, as a family, we all spit out our B.s.

My kids looked longingly at me like I was their hero. I can relate. I was my hero right then too.

Thank the Lord above that my health-nut husband was not home. He would have tried to make me stick to my guns and set a good example. Darn his integrity. But, I would have thrown up. Guaranteed.

I did not set a good example for my kids that day, my friend.

I told them one thing and then did another. I blew it.

That was not my finest Mama moment, that’s for sure. And the more I thought about it, the more I stressed out about ‘passing down’ this hatred for Brussels sprouts.

It is going to be my fault these kids don’t like Brussels sprouts! And fish! And Chinese food! Oh no!

That didn’t last too long, because seriously, if that’s the worst baggage I give them, they’ll be fine.

But, it did get me thinking…what else am I passing down to them?

What baggage am I heaping onto them because I haven’t let God deal with it?

I would imagine (this may be a stretch) that if I’d been cooking Brussels sprouts all their lives in various ways with various flavors, they’d have no problem with them at all.

But, because I hated them and never fixed them, they too now hate them and won’t eat them.

Because I live fearfully and not faithfully, they too live in fear and doubt their faith.

Because I choose worldliness over holiness, they too choose to befriend this world and its ways.

Because I judge a person by their skin, they too will carry predispositions about people they’ve never met.

Because I don’t submit well to my husband, my boys may get walked all over by their wives and my daughter may never understand the blessing of serving her husband.

Because I act in anger and impatience, they too can’t control their anger and feel entitled.

The parent’s list could go on and on.

But, the bitter taste in my mouth stays the same.

Being a parent is the hardest job ever. I take that back. Being a good parent is the hardest job ever. You are a teacher every single minute of every single day, like it or not. Those little eyes are watching every move you make. Every TV show you record. Every snide remark you say in traffic. Every obsession you make about the way you look, or the way others look. They are soaking it up and forming habits that help shape how they see this world – and themselves.

(Gee, Caroline, no pressure.)

Friend, I can’t help it where God speaks to me.

Trust me, I’d just assume He’d leave Brussels sprouts alone. But, He didn’t. Since that night, I’ve been thinking a lot about the baggage I am giving my kids. And this goes much deeper than a distain for Brussels sprouts.

I’m talking about –


Lack of discipline.


Pleasing others.





Those alone would fill a baggage cart and cost a fortune when priced per carry on.

That’s just the thing. I’ve been visualizing all of this baggage and it’s making me more sick to my stomach that Brussels sprouts. And that’s saying a lot.

Thankfully, my precious friend, we can throw that junk down at the foot of the cross. Jesus died for our baggage. He wants to carry our baggage. He can transform our baggage. Believe it or not, He can use our baggage for our good and His glory.

But, friend, we gotta lay it down. We’ve gotta be aware of it – be resolved against it – and be strengthened by the only One who can handle carrying it in the first place.

So, let’s release this B.s. Let’s be humble and admit we can’t do this thing on our own. Let’s let Jesus take charge and lead us to raise up a generation that shines brighter than any before. A generation with less baggage and a more firm foundation.

I know if I let God truly deal with the baggage I have, then I won’t feel nearly as bad keeping our home a ‘Brussels sprout free’ zone…forever.

Besides, I’m fairly convinced they won’t be serving Brussels sprouts in heaven. Well, maybe they will. But, there…they must be good!

And I leave you with the happiest  not clean plates I’ve ever seen. 🙂

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