I don't know why I try to keep up the appearance that everything is going well in my life. Or if not swimmingly exactly, that at least I can keep my sense of humor about this life with six kids, two of whom happen to be two years old. Most days aren't so bad, as long as you have a high capacity for disorder (I don't), nakedness (I do), poop (I can handle that too), and being hit by your daughter at least a hundred times a day.
I keep thinking about how many people I know who have big families. Here in Mormon central, it's not at all uncommon to have six kids or more. There are half a dozen families in my church congregation who fill their pew to bursting. My in-laws were both seventh children. My mom grew up in a house of six. I also have lots of friends with multiples, which is, for all intents and purposes, how I'm raising Rose and Eli. I have two friends who each had two sets of twins less than two years apart, and another friend with triplets. One of my mom's best friends has grandkids who are quintuplets. The other families on my adoption boards seem to have it all together, and that sometimes makes me wonder what the heck is wrong with me? It's not like I haven't done hard things in my life. In high school I juggled early morning seminary, AP classes, dance, swim team, work, and the school play one semester. I worked my way through college, taking 21 credits some semesters (and getting straight As). I finished one MA program while working full-time and carrying my first child. I did my MFA while juggling the schedules of four kids. I've had horrible bosses and heinous jobs. I've run marathons and ultra marathons. Why is this so hard?
Let's take tonight as a case in point. Today was a pretty normal day. I spent the morning running errands, and probably pushed it too far with the kids, buckling them in and out of their car seats too many times, expecting them to be good in stores and shopping carts for too long. Then I came home and fed them and basically ignored them while I rushed around getting ready for a little get-together I held while they were napping. It was so nice to see two of my old running buddies. We ran together for what I see now as a golden time in my life. Now one is retired due to a back injury and the other is 38 weeks pregnant with her fifth child (which is why we were getting together), and our lunch made me realize how much I benefited from their wisdom and their awesomeness, and how much I miss having them as a part of my life most mornings. Running is a lifeline for me, and a lot of times I feel like it's what's keeping my fingernails holding onto the edge of sanity, but it was so much better back in the days when I could look forward to an hour of adult conversation most mornings.
Anyway, back to tonight. The kids come home from school, unload their backpacks and their day's reports on me, and rush off to piano lessons. I know I should sit and read to the babies, or play with them at the very least, but since I've spent the last two hours talking with friends, instead of putting the sheets I washed back on four beds, or staring at the wall to recuperate from my morning, or taking a nap myself (I haven't been blogging very much because I NEED that nap time to decompress, and blogging, though fun, is not as rejuvenating as blissing out with a book, or my comfy blankie). So I did the sheets, whining at the babies the whole way for getting into the LEGOs in the boys room, and getting into the makeup in Annie's room (I don't go anywhere without them following me), and pulling the damn pillows off my couch for the eighteenth time today in my room. Then I had to iron my duvet, because part of keeping up the appearance that I'm keeping it all together is doing things like ironing duvet covers. I did this with the babies playing at my feet, running under the ironing board, and doing tricks in the laundry baskets. And then, because there were a dozen or so other things that needed to be ironed, and I really didn't feel like reading to the babies, who were annoying the hell out of me, I did that ironing too, and got progressively more annoyed as they worked harder and harder to get my attention.
Then the older kids got home, and they had an agenda-- we were going to carve their pumpkins. So instead of playing with Rose and Eli, like they usually do at this time of day, they all started to draw complicated designs on their pumpkins. Annie wanted eyes with pupils. Isaac wanted enormous antler horns. And Maren wanted her monogram until I got 2/3 of the way through it and she decided that she didn't like how it looked with the C for Camilla all the way off to the right side and started crying. Meanwhile, Rose and Eli kept climbing up onto the island. Every time someone would lift one of them off, the other would climb on, and when we managed to get them both down on the floor, they'd start moving the bar stools, scraping them all over the floor, so they could get themselves a better view, preferably one within reach of the knives.
By this time, it was 5:30, and I got a text from Ed saying that he wouldn't be home until 8, because he'd forgotten about a mandatory meeting at work. I'd already ditched plans to make a real dinner, and was in the process of doing Mac and Cheese and leftovers. The doorbell rang, and UPS delivered something I've been waiting for with great expectations-- a tool to change the lightbulbs in my staircase, which were all burned out. So I plopped the kids in their high chairs and stools, plunked out the Mac and Cheese (no sides, just a clamshell of raspberries tossed on the table) and got to work on the lightbulbs. After a few tries, a major screaming fit at the two kids who could both do their homework easily yet felt the need to whine to me about it, and one lightbulb that went sailing down half a flight of stairs, I finally met with great success (yay!) and now have light in my stairwell, but I came back to find that Eli had spilled his drink all over Annie's homework, and Rose had freed herself from her high chair and her clothes, and was smashing raspberries with her toes all over the floor. Instead of sitting with the babies, reading to them, and giving them a bath, I knew that it would be impossible to rest until I'd done the dishes, so I started the dishes.
In the process, I climbed under the bar to get a plate off the floor, and fill it with discarded Mac and Cheese and smashed berries. I misjudged when standing up and smacked my head on the corner of our marble bar, and suddenly, I was crying hot tears, heaving, sighing. I don't cry-- I can't indulge in tears-- I just have to push through. But now I couldn't stop. Until.... I looked up and saw that Rose and Eli were now both naked, and dancing in the windows. I grabbed them, and took a second to rub the rapidly forming egg on my head, during which time Rose came over and proceeded to hit me, when Isaac pointed to the window. "What is that?" he said. I knew before I even looked. Of course it was poop. Back when I had one, two, or three kids, I would have disinfected the entire family room, but I just took a paper towel, grabbed the poop, squirted down the streak with antibacterial spray, and called it good.
The night went on like this-- babies doing their best to escape when it was time to dress them for bed, begging to watch Elmo for the millionth time in the car when I took Bryce to his clarinet lesson and crying when I said no, and so on. But then tonight, Rose gave me a kiss and a hug at bedtime and went right to sleep, and Eli gave me a million kisses and said "love you" and "night night." And I think it was worth the hell that was the rest of the afternoon. Or almost worth it, at least. And I know that in the long run, it will be worth it. Even if it's the hardest thing I've ever done. Even if I'm not up to the challenge. Even if it takes me another six months to learn to sit and be still and let them play instead of trotting them out to do a million errands every morning. Even if my kids mock me about writing a post in which I whine about my day. Even if I never develop the kind of stiff upper lip I might need to do this job I've signed up for. Even if it never gets easier.
So that was long and depressing and self-indulgent. And there's still laundry to fold and kids to tuck in and a husband to say hi to for the first time all day. But there are also clean sheets and tomorrow and the next day to look forward to. And the book reviews? I'll get to them, eventually.