Life with 8 kids, no. 2

Sunday night.

My two oldest boys are wrestling with their Dad, who “ties them up like shoelaces” every time they attack.  I admit that it’s fun, and I know that it’s healthy but I can only handle so much because it makes me cringe and wonder what will break before we’re done, especially with bodies this size flying around the room.  But they’re laughing.  They’re bonding.  They’re making a memory.

My youngest is sitting next to me on the chair, doing my hair, which really means she’s pulling my hair.  Three of the girls sit at the table calmly and quietly, giving themselves a little lesson in who knows what.  The seven year old just ran into the room and turned off the light mid-match.  Suddenly our five year old son is bouncing happily on the couch, waiting to dive on top of the next pile.

This is my life.  Crazy, noisy, children sitting on the table, laughing, crying, yelling, smiling.  Now seven of the children have combined to attack their Dad and somehow he’s like an octopus with an arm shooting out in time to catch anyone about to get away.  And in the middle of it all he finds a moment to reach out and tickle my feet with a happy smile on his face.  Then he rolls over, lets them all climb on his back, and does a pushup just to show that he can.  He makes their lives so much more fun than I do.  I’m so grateful for him.  At last even our two year old wants in on the action, and he pauses to let her “pin” him.

Our four year old yells, “Dad! Remember the pygmy stuff?” [referring to a wrestling match from Friday with just the little ones]  She runs to the other room and returns with a roll of wrapping paper, her sword of choice.  She bounces a little and looks up with an enormous smile on her face, ready to take him on.

Soon someone will get hurt.  Dad will be done and we’ll read scriptures, pray, and put them to bed.  But for these brief moments we’re all in a jumble, four year-olds and fourteen year-olds in a tangle of screaming bodies.  Vaguely I wonder what someone would think if they stood on our porch right now.  We wouldn’t hear them knock or ring, but I’m sure they’d walk away wondering what kind of crazy people live here.

So, naturally, I’m typing.  Because it helps me stay calm while they howl.  Because all of this craziness is part of being a family – an important part – and THEY. LOVE. IT.

Suddenly the craziness ends, as quickly as it began.  Everyone collapses on the couch to catch their breath.  My oldest daughter helps the baby hide under the nearby desk, behind the chair and the last activity of the night is for Dad to find her.  He looks happily in all the silliest places, in big brother’s shirt, in big sister’s backpack, in big sister’s lunch box.  Then he pulls out the chair she’s hiding behind, turns his back on her, and looks under the chair, all the while yelling “Puddles!  I can’t find her!”  He gets on his knees and grabs the camera bag right next to her to see if she’s in it.  He looks on top of the desk.  And she sits there, calmly, still as a statue, watching him look all around her while the other seven pile up behind him squealing with laughter and delight at the ridiculous nature of the search, the knowledge that we all know where she is, the fun of pretending that we don’t.  All of it happens inches from my elbow and I pause to look at them.  All of them, oldest to youngest, faces plastered with happiness and wonder and LIFE, laughing together.

And I think, THIS is why we had 8 kids.  THIS is what life is all about.

I cannot, I cannot forget THIS.  I sat there, absorbing the joyful faces around me, trying to fix in my memory this moment so I can return to it when the laundry pile seems bigger than I am, or when the homework battles rage, or when I’m just plain tired.

Life with 8 kids is a lot of things.  It’s legos all over the floor, more laundry stacked up than I care to admit, toilets always needing cleaning.  It’s two dishwashers running every night, a pile of toothbrushes and toothpaste smeared all over my counter, books everywhere you look.  It’s a fifteen passenger van, a grocery bill that amazes me, a life fuller than any calendar has room for.  It’s a mother who forgets a lot, but remembers a hundred things for every one thing she forgets, a mother who goes to bed exhausted at the end of the day thinking “I’ll try again tomorrow.”  It’s worries and hopes and fears multiplied.  It’s a father who carries the weight of our needs on his back, giving up time and hobbies to provide financially by day then come home and provide emotionally by night.  It’s planning and teamwork and tears and toil.  But 8 kids is mostly about love.  All those pluses and minuses somehow add up to more love, more laughter, more joy than you can imagine.

And by some incredible twist of fate, it’s my life.  My life with 8 kids.  And I love it.

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