Is it odd to have a three and a half month update? Probably, but the planets have aligned temporarily that have given me a reprieve from mommying, making it possible to type without “help” from little hands. We will soon mark four months since our Forever Family Day with Caston, and in just under two weeks, we will celebrate four months home. It has been both the fastest and slowest four months we’ve ever experienced. I looked at Kevin the other day and said, “I don’t recall the last time I didn’t feel exhausted. Is this what 41 is like?” He replied, “This is 41 with five kids. Most people aren’t up at 6:45 on a Saturday morning and going all day long.” It is true. Our lives are engulfed with baseball games, football games, school open houses, cheer practice, doctors appointments, church activities…the list goes on and on. Non-calendar things are equal time sucks…diaper changes, cleaning the house, trying to navigate the world of middle and high school, reading board books, bathing kids, homework, putting people to bed, waking them up, and laundry. Oh my heavens, the laundry for a family of seven. Was there really a time in our life together that I did laundry once every week or two for Kevin and myself? The mountain of laundry can only be outdone by the volume of dishes in the sink. The poor dishwasher. I can only guess that her days are numbered. She gives us her all, usually two to three times per day. There is always another round of dishes piled up in the sink waiting to go next. I’ve heard of these “systems” of assigning each family member a cup for the day. After you use the cup, you rinse it and put it in a little dock of sorts with your name on it. This way, you don’t use eleventy seven cups before noon each day. The problem with this system is that it requires training and monitoring, neither of which we have a hot second to do right now.
So, yes, with this much chaos right now, the non-busy minutes are scarce, and they are sacred. We took advantage of a no school/no work day Friday and checked out the county fair. The older three had a blast riding all the “big kid” rides with either Kevin or me while the littles hung out with the other parent. Caleb is still too little to ride kiddie rides alone. He rode a couple of things, but he is far more reserved than the other kids in this sense. He wasn’t even a fan of the carousel. We didn’t attempt any rides with Caston. It would have completely sent him over the edge. I was super proud of him for tolerating the very loud rides and all the commotion. This is something he simply couldn’t have handled even a month ago. That day, both boys were pretty content in the safety of the Red Rover (our double stroller) singing songs and people watching.
We ended the night by convening in the basement to watch reruns of The Goldbergs together. I’m pretty sure Kevin and I ruined the experiencing by pausing the show every two minutes to give the children a brief history of the eighties. (But seriously, they can’t even appreciate the show without knowing about the relevance of scrunchies and jams, or why buying twelve cassette tapes for a penny never works out in your favor.) For me at least, it was a fabulous family day, although, I think our teen and tween were ready to go into hiding at some point. I do have a few Bev Goldberg tendencies, even if I just play them off as a joke.
Life as a family of seven is beginning to feel a little more normal now. We are beginning to embrace the fact that we are a spectacle everywhere we go. Or maybe we are just accepting of it now.
Here are seven observations I’ve made as we have become a family of seven:
1) We take up a copious amount of space everywhere we go. When debating on two single strollers vs Red Rover for the fair, I made the call of, “Let’s take Red Rover. If it’s crowded, people will take notice of Red Rover and they will part, you know like, Moses and the sea.”
2) We take an absurd amount of stuff with us everywhere we go. When we left for the fair, Braden said, “Umm, did you forget to unload groceries, Mom?” when he looked in the way back of the vehicle. “No, honey, this is just the amount of crap we need to survive between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm,” I told him. I’m sure most families don’t require a double stroller, a backpack for changing supplies and entertainment options, a Thirty One bag full of baby food and bottles, and two grocery bags full of water bottles and snacks. No matter how short our trip is, we could easily survive if we run off into a ravine for at least a couple of days just with the amount of food we take for drop off at cheer twenty minutes away.
3) When preparing to leave the house for anything, be it church, the grocery store, or a friend’s house, I need a minimum of two hours to get out the door. There is no more throwing kids in the car and leaving. If there is a zombie apocalypse, the Phillips family name will die with us because we simply cannot get out of the house fast enough. Even if we were prepared well in advance, someone would poop at the last second, and we’d be goners.
4) I have absolutely no idea how single parents do this. Or how families with both parents working do this. Tell me. Do you have a cloning service? Do you operate on a different time/space continuum? What is the secret? I am doing something every second of the day, and it all never gets done. And what do you do about debate club that has no firm ending time? It could be 3:00 pm or 5:12 pm. How do you even NOT LET YOUR HEAD EXPLODE when this happens?
5) Divide and Conquer is just a way of life with five kids. It involves massive planning and Google mapping and switching of cars in parking lots. Can we all just give Apple a round of applause for the iPhone calendar? I swore I’d never leave my paper calendar, but alas, it is shoved in a cabinet somewhere because I cannot function without my calendar at my fingertips every second of the day. “Mom, on Tuesday can I…” I stop a child with the hand and say, “We for sure have cheer at 5:00. Let me consult before you finish that question. *pause* Ok, we are leaving for cheer at no later than 4:40 pm. No, wait, make that 4:25 because of road construction. After I drop off at cheer, I’m dropping off at baseball. I will pick up from cheer to go to open house, and Dad will pick up from baseball and go to orientation. Whatever you’re asking, I am free at 4 or 7 pm, whichever works.”
6) The word “clean” is a relative term. Perhaps we should differentiate between “clean” (not messy) and “clean” (sanitary). Because before all these kids, they meant the same thing. Is the family room clean (not messy)? That would be a resounding “NO” most days. Will we risk disease or death by having coffee in this room? Likely not. Therefore, I have deemed it “clean.” In any case, our house is generally a mix between “Just Been Robbed” and “Just Finished an All Night Rave.”
7) All of my fears to date have been unfounded. The house is full, and so are our hearts. Some days I fear that the pieces of the Mommy Pie have become too small. At what can only be considered God’s perfect (reassuring) timing, our six year old starts bragging about Caston’s accomplishments. (For those who don’t know, when we brought Caston home at 16.5 months of age, his developmental assessment put him at around the level of an 8 month old. Although he was 50% delayed at the time of his adoption, he has made huge progress, and he continues to amaze us every day!) Waverly frequently says, “MOM! He is doing such a good job. Most babies his age can’t even do that.” Bless her! There are times when Annalise walks in from school, tired and stressed, and says, “I just need to hug a baby.” Braden writes papers for school about our adoptions and the impact his trip to China has made on him. And Caleb and Caston? Buddies. Caleb melts my heart when he pats Caston and says, “Casty. Brudder.” Love is not divided. It is multiplied exponentially.
I wouldn’t change a thing.