Okay, so yesterday I woke up early, groggily whipped out a “Wednesday in the Word” post (which is a terrible name, by the way, but shows just how uncreative I am when it comes to the pressure of titles) while fielding the complaints of two fever-ridden kids and watching Daniel Tiger. That was oh, 6:30 a.m. And no, I didn’t publish the post.
By the end of writing, I was so hungry and cranky that my own words had stopped making sense to me so I closed the computer and fried potatoes. And purchased that thing on Amazon I’d forgotten. And burned the eggs. And wiped a bunch of bottoms and bathed a bunch of kids.
At 10 a.m. my nieces were dropped off 2 hours earlier than I’d been expecting them. Because my phone had broken the day before and now just makes a “cluck cluck cluck” sound when I try to make calls and simply doesn’t pick up when you try to call me, I never did find out if the error in timing is indicative of the state of my own brain…or the brain of my SIL. Between the two of us we can be quite a pair.
But anyway, they were two hours early and I looked at them as they exuberantly rushed in full of Christmas cheer, and felt this premonition:
“buck up, Harmony. You’re only on step two of a very long staircase of a day. Get yourself in gear.”
So what I’m saying is that at 4 o’clock when another niece and nephew joined the mix – because this is a Christmas School Day (which at 4 days before Christmas is meaning Christmas-y free play) – and there were ten kids under 12 in my house, with four of them 4 years old and under, I was only on about stair step number 5. In other words, the day was far from over.
My mom stopped by after dark, and we huddled on the front porch (because she can’t come indoors around kids, leukemia: be gone), talking through scarves while watching the mayhem happen through the window. 3 preschoolers and the six year old were on the other side, building elaborate Christmas cakes out of plastic peg boards. It had been necessary to dump out all the toy bins in order to find decorations for the cakes, so half the room was filled with toys while the other half of the room was filled with clean laundry that somehow looked as if rain boots had stamped them into shape.
Just beyond the small-kid mayhem, two big kids stood over the table rolling Russian Teacakes into balls and dusting everything with powdered sugar. Another child hung upside down from a rocking chair, three more played in the bushes behind us, and every minute or so someone opened the door or mouthed through the window that the child in the bathtub wanted out.
My dad pulled into the driveway. “Turn your Christmas lights on!” he bellowed. “Scrooge!”
And it’s like this: I have two pots of mac and cheese going, I have every surface of the kitchen, dining room, living room, bathroom, school room covered, just covered in stuff. Baking pans and fry pans and lunch dishes and drawings and toys and gloves and markers and red and green paper chains in various stages of completion. The floor is coated with powdered sugar and oven mitts and stray shoes. And then: “Mom, um, there’s not time to feed everybody. We have to go.” So says the middle schooler who Can’t Wait To Go To Youth Group.
We start searching for shoes and coats. We pull all the chairs away from the table so the dog doesn’t eat the cookies when we’re gone. We pile in the van, 11 of us, and one girl in particular is very put out about everything because Everybody Everywhere Is Always and Forever Trying To Hurt Her and Nobody Ever Anywhere Will Ever Understand. I call this girl back into the house and shove a fat spoon of mac and cheese at her, saying, “eat and you’ll feel better and please stop yelling at people” while I grab a camera and start taking these pictures. Because this is a moment. This is a season. Someday I’ll look back.
We drop off the middle schooler. We drop off a guitar at David’s work. We come home to eat. We eat. We watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas and I ignore the kitchen to work a couple of rows on the blanket I’ve been knitting forever. I sit down. Linus tells me the meaning of it all.
Another trip out of the house to pick up the middle schooler. Bedtime. Emails between Etsy merchants over orders gone awry. A notification from Amazon that my Christmas gift delivery date has changed from December 24th to December 27th. And this iconic moment, when my 2 year old goes potty all over the kitchen floor while the dog nabs a cookie from her hand, while the eleven of us are crowded into a single corner of the house, while the noodles are boiling over and the mac and cheese powder is spilling and someone is shouting about another child bleeding (a scab had been picked), and Ella Fitzgerald is shouting about her fantastical sleigh ride – this moment where I turn and look at them and say aloud, “I think we’re in a movie. We’re Cheaper by the Dozen, and I’m the mom.”
Late that night, 9:45 pm, to be exact, I remember my blog post. Maybe I will finish it before bed. Go through and edit. I try to decide if my brain can manage that type of work. We are still cleaning the kitchen, the big kids and I, when there is a voice. A tone. You know what I’m saying? “Um, Mama? I need you.”
I know, you think it’s somebody puking. That’s usually how my stories like this go. But it isn’t puke. It is the kitchen drain. So here’s how 10 pm looked in the Moore home:
Awesome Award, to me.
And I totally fixed it, you guys. Took all those pipes apart and dug out the stuck potato peels and caught the flood of unclogged drain just in time.
Now I’m looking at this post which is really just my next-day therapy, and thinking, there’s no way to convey what I’m trying to convey, if I’m trying to convey anything at all. A parent absolutely cannot capture the hilarity, insanity, disparity, of any given parenting moment. It’s never just one thing. It’s not the feverish child weeping in the tub or the energetic big girls cutting up snowflakes or the three year old hiking her head up as she prances about in her princess garb or the four kids asking for food – again- or the Christmas Pageant rehearsal taking place in every room of the house (with costumes! and lines!) or the mom really needing to pee but trying to finish this one last thing and find her coffee before she removes herself from the fray (because of course she’s going to lock the door and sip that coffee in peace) or the timer beeping for the oven while the phone rings and the neighbor kids press their faces to the window – it’s all of this, all of this, and more, and other things, all happening at the same moment.
It’s the girl in your arms weeping out her heartbreak and the son in your ear telling you a Far Side joke and the preteen showing you his latest Lego creation and all of them gathering hands at dinner for prayer, with a holy hush falling that’s only broken by a four year old’s stifled giggle. It’s your niece’s heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving and hope, and the humming of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by all of them while they work quietly on gifts, and the snuggles and the kisses and someone saying, “I’m so glad we’re family.” And someone else saying, “yeah, but I’m so glad we’re only brothers and sisters three times a week,” meaning, it’s like we’re brothers and sisters when we’re all here… and I can take that. I can take it. I can take it.
I can take it all in, and treasure it all in my heart.