This morning, I'm relishing the beauty of my crazy life. Two of my nephews just drove away with my sister after spending 4 days and nights rockin' our household while their parents enjoyed a well-deserved vacation, alone. (something we parents need on occasion!) I'm just now sitting down for the first time this morning - to appreciate the fun it was.
Housing four kids, age 7 and under, is rather an amazing feat in a townhouse that's not set up for it. And not only did I have four kids for the last few days, I actually had some extras running around too. Monday, a our little two year old buddy (another girl) was over to play. That night we enjoyed an evening with our four - plus some dear friends (in from out of town!) who brought their three over as well. You can imagine the noise level with 7 kids in a small space. It was mostly happy noise. Tuesday, I packed us all up and headed to a friend's house to watch her 6 and a 4 year old while she headed to work. So, I got to try my hand at 6 kids. Whew! They played pretty well together. Outside play is the key!!
It would probably be easier to gradually build up to having four kids around all the time but I was pleasantly surprised at how fun it was. The biggest challenge was probably food prep. I found myself channeling my mom and my Grandma Verna - who had five and seven children respectively - and who cooked nearly everything from scratch. I remember my mom telling stories about growing up on their family stock-farm. The girls (mom and gram) woke up and started cooking for the boys. The boys would come in from chores, eat breakfast and head back out to the fields. Meanwhile, the girls would clean up the mess from breakfast and start cooking dinner (lunch). After lunch, they'd start all over again for supper! That's pretty much what it felt like for me the last few days!
After the boys left today, I surveyed the small explosions of toys, clothes, laundry and other remains of the experience around the house and decided to walk away and head out to my latest little garden experiment. As I worked on my new compost pile (more on that later!), I found my heart sort of swelling up with a sort of joyous glee.
Not only did I survive four days with four kids under seven - I enjoyed every minute! We laughed when the three and two year old had sweet little conversations with each other and shared their toys. I nearly cried when my oldest nephew fell and took it hard in the knee - and felt pride when he bravely soldiered through the cleaning and bandaging. We fed my nephew's pet tortoise and let him walk around in our yard, marveling at his tiny size and his perfect design. Watching a baby tortoise eat is an amazing thing!
We weathered little arguments and temper tantrums between the youngest and erupted in laughter at the crazy giggles of joy that emerged from the two oldest as they stayed up late to play old school Nintendo with my husband. We ended our visit with a trip to In 'n' Out Burger last night (yes, even Organic Mama breaks down to eat fast food on occasion), and the kids were in heaven, laughing and making up ridiculous jokes while slurping down their hormone-filled chocolate shakes (see, I still think about it!). And...I managed not to freak out when my two year old decided to destroy her sister's tea party set because she liked the sound of porcelain smashing on the tile.
As my nephews drove away, we chatted with a few neighbors and a friend stopped by to bring me some kitchen scraps for my compost. She checked out my small garden and we visited for a few minutes before she left. Then, as I watered my garden after she left and touched a few of my lovely little plants, I thought back on this week and felt an almost overwhelming joy at the way my life is unfolding before me.
My life is nothing like I planned and yet - so much better than I imagined it. I haven't achieved the kind of career I intended. I am not living in the little (single family) house with a big yard I thought I needed. Instead we have a multi-family house with a big yard (more about our house here)! I still count every penny and sometimes worry about how we're going to meet our financial obligations - though we're super frugal and our only debt is our mortgage.
But, in all the ways that count, I think I just might be the richest person I know. The rooms of my small home, two upstairs and two down, echo with the sounds of real life, laughter and tears, fights and making up. The person I admire most in all the world loves me (me!) and thinks I'm beautiful and wonderful. The prettiest, sweetest and smartest little girls I've ever met are my little daughters and think I hang the moon (as long as I'm not telling them to pick up their toys). My four sisters - strong, brilliant, beautiful and opinionated - are amazing women who I'm proud to call family. Some of the most incredible women (and men) I know - call me friend.
Lately, this gratefulness has become a regular thing with me and I believe I know why. I think my near death experience in February, when I said goodbye to the baby I was so longing to meet, served (for me, anyway) a medium that makes the blessings in my life stand our in brilliant relief against the pain. It reminded me - rather dramatically - that life is like a brilliant flash of light that can be extinguished far too easily. And, unlike when my mom, dad and brother died and I first faced my own mortality and responded with a kind of life-paralysis, this is different. While I miss that little baby with physical ache at times, I am grateful for the gift he gave me of living NOW.
Going through pain and loss only makes life's moments of wonder and joy that much more precious. I haven't always felt this way. It is a lesson that I'm still learning - after multiple opportunities. But, I'm determined to be IN LIFE. Messy and loud and crazy as it is (at least in our house!), I'm enjoying every minute. Every visit, every laugh and cry, every stinking diaper that my two year old takes off (yes, still doing that!), every dear friend (or potential new friend!), every challenge and moment of ease, every chance to house 4 kids in my small house - I'm going to take it and have fun doing it!
Funny that this post went a direction I didn't expect today. But, the truth is, it's what I've been thinking about lately. The light I have a chance to be. The light we all can be to those around us.
My flash of light will be something worth seeing. My goal is that I'll blaze so brightly that when I'm gone, those around me still glow with a residual light.
What about you?