Joy, week 47
The house is a flurry of activity today. The stimulation of cousins staying at our home seems to have everyone wound up even though they’re gone. Noise comes from so many directions, from the girls working on a project to the little ones clearing the table, to the teenager broadcasting noise just for the fun of it. While the children are filling the dishwasher my husband grabs me by the hand and we go sit together in the family room. Close enough to monitor but far enough that the noise is a little less intense.
Within 30 seconds our six year old has joined us, or rather, jumped on top of us. He chooses a book and the three of us take turns reading aloud. Then the four year old walks downstairs with a cd player and plugs it in the nearest outlet. “What are you listening to?” I ask. “I’m not telling” comes the reply. It doesn’t take long for the sounds of a Scripture Scouts album to be blasting in the room. Our eight year old picks up a different cd and an argument about what they’re “listening” to ensues. Then the three year old walks through the room holding a stack of about 25 cds. Several of us perk up at that and someone tries to rescue them from her before they’re all destroyed, which of course means that she is screaming. We’re still trying to read a book with our six year old! The cd battle ends with a change, sending the four year old crying to my lap. We now have three children sitting on top of us while we read. All of a sudden our fourteen year old daughter joins the pile. The fifteen year old lays on the floor right next to the cd player so he can hear it more clearly. It seems the volume is more than sufficient for him when he starts shooting a cap gun over and over again at least a hundred times. The almost twelve year old comes out of nowhere and tackles his sister on the couch. As we become uncomfortable under the pile of bodies I look around the room and we wonder aloud if the neighbors can hear any of this, and if so, what might they be thinking? It’s so loud, so ridiculous that I begin laughing. And then I can’t stop. Bodies everywhere, half of them happy and half of them mad, most of them loud, all of them in motion. Family life. An awfully lot of family life going on in one room and on high volume. Another minute or two and my husband slowly moves bodies to one side or the other as he carefully extricates himself from the pile. He calls to our oldest and the two of them escape to the basement, leaving me alone with the noisy seven. Suddenly the three year old has an accident on the couch right next to me and it gets even noisier as she instantly begins sobbing about her clothes and I spring to grab the kitchen towel that happens to be on the family room floor – completely out of place but very fortunately available just then. Thus begins the trip to the bathroom, the cleaning, the finding of new clothes and the decision that it’s most definitely time to start the bedtime routine.
In the end, all of it is harmless. The noise dies as quickly as it rose and soon we’re back to the usual hum of ten people under one roof. Occasionally I feel like I’m just not built for the intensity of this life, but it’s what I chose. Not that I ever thought to myself, “Hmmm, what could I do to make sure my life is incredibly loud for twenty years?” and then decided that eight children was the ticket. I chose the children, and realized later how the sum of them all could occasionally feel like twenty. I know I do a lousy job much of the time, but I can say this: I get out of bed every morning and do my best. The Lord might not be able to count on me for much, but I believe he knows that about me. I will always get up and face it.
My three year old has matured so much in the past two weeks. (A funny thing to write, I realize, after reporting on her accident.) I look at her and listen to her talk and wonder… where did my baby go? In her place is emerging a little girl who is delightful and opinionated and bubbling over with activity. Her transformation – literally before my eyes – reminds me how fleeting life is, how quickly we are all changing, how soon this breathless stage in my life will be over. So I try to grasp it, turn it over in my hands, look at it, savor it, memorize it, and while I’ve grabbed one moment another dozen fly right past, or so it feels.
Sometimes that realization grounds me. Sometimes it panics me. Tonight I stand closer to the edge of panic as I watch it all. I am filled with questions. Am I doing it right? Are they learning what they need to learn? How can I add ____ for so-and-so? What should we do about this child with that problem? Where will I find the time to do it? How much homework is in their backpacks that I haven’t checked since before Thanksgiving? Do we have clean clothes to wear to school tomorrow? What will I pack in their lunches? All of these questions should have been answered on Saturday, but it didn’t happen because we still had company and when they drove away on Saturday night I was just too tired to go to the store or start some laundry.
Our Thanksgiving holiday was great. The meal was delicious and the crowed (forty some of us) was enjoyable. We had a super time with my brother-in-law and his children staying with us. We made memories with cousins, held the sweetest four month old all we could, talked and played and built relationships. My only regret: no photos. I remembered to tuck the camera in my bag every time we went somewhere or set it out on the counter, but not once did I have the presence of mind to pick it up and take the picture! I get swept away in the activity of it all and when I come back up for air it is over and I can’t bring it back.
So the house is a mess and the laundry isn’t done. We’re jumping back into everyday life a little richer in memories but certainly poorer in rest. We have another birthday coming this week and work to do in preparation. I’m still fighting a cold and hoping to beat it soon. I have long lists of things to do and really hope to make things work out. And somehow, while it’s all spinning so fast, I need to carve out of every day a bit of time to focus on what really matters, to find joy in the crazy and calm in the storm. And sleep. I’m in search of sleep, and quickly. 🙂
Wish me luck!