“Are all those YOURS?!”

Without wanting to discourage anyone from having kids–because children are a blessing beyond all others–I will say that life in a full house is probably nothing like I could have ever expected. Then again, what can you possibly expect from six kids? Perhaps it was ignorant bliss as we added one, then another, then a third, and then more, more, more to think it would be anything *but* crazy. Truth is, I never stopped to think about it, really. I mean, at one point, we had four children: the youngest was the newest of newborn (as in, he came home from the hospital that day) and the oldest had turned five one short month earlier. No one can really prepare you for that. The best they can do is feebly exclaim, “Grab something heavy and HOLD ON!! You might just make it if you survive the first six weeks!!! GOTTA GO!!!” followed by a hasty exit to their own, quieter house.

I have called that my Midway, my turning point, that newborn period with baby #4. We had found a house we couldn’t walk away from in August, moved in the last week of September, and still had unpacked boxes when baby arrived in early November. I remember feeling such helplessness as I looked at my “living room” (really, there was no living going on in that room; it was the ‘avert eyes and quickly pass by’ room), wondering when that room was going to transform from a warehouse. With the short winter days (in those days, I don’t recall having 60 degree days in December like we do now), I felt like the older kids and I went a little stir crazy being stuck in the house except for those joyous days when I had the car and got to take all four of them grocery shopping, strategically planning to leave the second the baby had been fed, burped, and changed, so that we could actually get through the shopping list before the next feeding rolled around. Oh, the days of dragging–er, accompanying, sorry–four kids (or more!) to the store. I recall if it was shopping day, by the time I got the groceries into the cart, assured one of the boys that they actually wouldn’t die if they didn’t bring home candy that day, took the groceries out of the cart and onto the checkout belt, put the bags of groceries back into the cart, took the full cart and tired kids to the car, emptied the cart and filled up the trunk with the bags, transported aforementioned items and people home, carried the bags out of the car and into the house once we arrived home, and put away the groceries, I was shocked to find that I was pretty much useless the rest of the day. Why? It was only grocery shopping, by the way! HA.

And by most standards, my kids were good shoppers. We practiced role playing before shopping so they would know not to touch everything they saw. “Look with your eyes, not with your hands,” was my go-to phrase to remind them. For a short while, I cut out the pictures of the things we needed and glued them to a shopping list so my non-readers could still help me. We didn’t have meltdowns, although there were times when I wondered if one of them was going to escalate to that point. A loud “NO!” here or there I can handle; it’s the all-out throwing one’s self around and hollering like you’ve lost a limb in Aisle 9 that I just can’t go along with. (Thankfully I think it took having a redhead for us to have one of those. That redhead, she’s pushed a lot of envelopes in her young life. Good thing she’s cute.) Even with the relatively good behavior, it’s just difficult to shop and stay on track when there is almost a constant stream of “Look at that!” or “MOM!! We NEEEEEEED this!” or my favorite: “But it’s on saaaaAAAAaaale!!! You like that, right?!” I’m easily distracted as it is, so even with a list, these little helpers could really set me off track. Amazingly, the shopping got completed and we had food to eat.

And I slept goooood at night.

I distinctly remember one night at dinner, when baby #4 was probably between four and six months old, having a surreal moment where time appeared to stop, all Matrix-style. I looked at Todd and tried really hard to communicate with just my eyes. “I don’t know if I can even consider having any more of these little creatures around our house,” I wanted him to see from my stare. In reality, he glanced over at me and probably said, “Can you pass the salt and pepper?” Is it OK for me to admit that?  I really thought I couldn’t handle even one more thing, let alone another baby.  I’m so glad, though, that it was a passing thought borne out of probable exhaustion and overwhelm. It did not last long.

Then we had #5. And #6. He really didn’t catch the meaning of that glance, huh? HA. Our family was meant for more than four! Despite the detractors and rude comments regarding our burgeoning family size, I am so glad we kept on keeping on.

And with the arrival of #5, I felt we had crossed some unspoken threshold. I’m not sure if there is documentation on the subject, but in our experience, it became the phenomenon of “what’s one more?” in many areas. Laundry is crazy with six people. What’s one more? Cooking for six people requires larger portions. What’s one more? (apparently a lot, as our four boys are g-r-o-w-i-n-g!) By six, I felt a little like the Jim Gaffigan joke that he tells about his parents going slightly crazy after the sixth child. “Our first child was named after a relative….our sixth child was named after a sandwich I liked…” Maybe we’re not crazy yet, but there are days when I feel that it must be right around the corner.

There are many things I have had to give up in order to mother a large family, but they may not be the first things that come to mind. I never felt slighted because I had to give up a potential career–being a homeschooling mom has been the hardest work I’ve ever done and would personally classify as a career (though it’s missing the almighty W-2 to “prove” it). No, the things I’m talking about are….different.  I have had to give up the notion of a Martha Stewart home, and although I’m not sure I would have ever chosen to have that kind of home, not sticking to my kitchen floor every now and again has to be a nice feeling. (I’ve heard it is from others, anyway.)  There is also this constant struggle between my dream and my reality that all blankets will be folded, throw pillows will sit on the couch and not be…well, thrown, and shoes will be put in the shoe basket as soon as they come off of a foot.  NOT HAPPENING.  Blankets seem to unfold and fling themselves upon the ground multiple times a day, as if to mock me.  Don’t get me started on little scraps of paper that magically appear all over the floor and clothes from little (and big!) bodies that remain in the shape that they fell off the wearers’ forms. Those are the things I’ve had to work on adjusting my attitude. There is paint chipped out of the walls in various places, most likely as the result of a Nerf gun war gone awry or wrestling boys who learned the hard way about Newton’s First Law of Motion: “Hey, Mom! The wall was my outside force!! It acted upon me!! And stopped me from moving in a straight line at a constant speed!” (Yeah, they would be my outside force if they ever actually said that. And then I would fall over.)  And, yes, the bathrooms. Oh, the bathrooms. It is truly a dirty little secret that I’m slowly realizing many other moms with boys have. The bathroom. It’s like pee physically canNOT make it to the toilet water at a percentage over .0003 with any consistency. I may just consider it my highest accomplishment if one day, I walk into that bathroom and am not knocked over by the smell. That smell. (For those of you with clean bathrooms, feel free to insert your condescension here. I once felt that I could keep all things clean all the time. Maybe one day in the far future, I will have that clean bathroom again, but it will mean that my boys no longer live here, and that makes my heart hurt.)

Don’t forget the dream of having a clean kitchen floor for more than 2.7 minutes.   I think it takes longer to dry after I clean it than it actually stays clean.

But then again, the things I’ve had to give up are far smaller in comparison to the benefits we have received in our journey so far.  Despite the exasperation of every bedtime feeling like a sleepover in the boys’ room (“PLEASE SETTLE DOWN AND STOP YOUR TOMFOOLERY!!!”  These are the same kids that may have been at each other’s throats up until the moment of bedtime, but as soon as they’re tucked in for the night, they become the best of friends and giggle and cause trouble back there like they haven’t seen each other in years.   Baffling.  Oft times exasperating to the nth degree.),  every bedtime includes hugs times six.  I love you’s times six.

We’ve had the joy of lots of laughter in every room in the house–even if it means the troops are scheming for mischief.   The sound of feet pitter pattering (and galloping and scampering loudly) through the house is almost constant–even if it means those feet just came in from the muddy outside and transported said outside inside and onto my kitchen floor.   Surveying our full dinner table and the memories we’ve created there most nights are ones you can’t buy in a store.  Most nights I try to take mental pictures so I can remember forever.   Watching them grow (one of them taller than me and almost taller than Todd!) and mature from babies to children to teenagers is a humbling experience.   Realizing that they have been chosen for our family is a responsibility that sometimes all but crushes me, and yet I’m so grateful that out of all the possible moms and dads in the history of the world, God saw fit to bless us with these six.   They are amazing.   We have a serious job of doing our very best to raise them to be responsible adults who contribute to society and bring glory to God.   It’s not easy, and we don’t get time off (except that one day in 2009;  I think we took a day off in 2009.  It wasn’t pretty and the memory of the aftermath still lingers…), but it’s a bit like the Peace Corps’ motto:  The toughest job you’ll ever love.

I love these kids, even with their faults.   Lord knows I still have a multitude of them.   But we’re doing this life together, and for that, I’m forever humbled and grateful.

Now….about that bathroom…..



5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie
    Dec 08, 2012 @ 11:48:43

    Amen girl! 3 gets you the same sticky floor and no other Mom can see yours since we don’t look at our own! XOXO


  2. Sarah
    Dec 08, 2012 @ 12:36:54

    Amen! I admire people like you and people like my parents that have sacrificed so much. You are one spectacular mama!


  3. compelledbymel
    Dec 08, 2012 @ 15:43:40

    Great blog! Very humorous and pulled heartstrings. I have 2 boys and we feel called to adopt and I always thought 4 kids was my golden number, but you made me think maybe that’s too low… 🙂


  4. Katherine Riley
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 06:55:50

    Thanks for your honesty, Deb. I’m in that grocery-shopping-with-four stage…and surviving so far!


  5. John Fennell
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 20:34:44

    Words truly spoken from the mouth of a true-blue Mom!!!!

    Janice Fennell


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