Women of God Know

This morning as I was trying to get everyone out the door to go to the library to start a project for school, Graham decided that after not sleeping last night or napping this morning, he needed to nurse to sleep. Right that very minute.

When he woke up we all got ready, found the last two books that were due back three weeks ago and made our way to the van where Cooper Gray tripped and fell on the cement. I was wearing Graham, and the big kids were all carrying stacks of books so I had to crouch down and hold both littles to try to comfort Coop, who was wailing loudly at this point. One side of the van to buckle one, the other side to buckle the other. Caught a glimpse of my pale, unwashed, make up free face and greasy hair in the rearview and prayed no one would see us today. And I wondered what the neighbors must think of the circus it is every time we leave the house with all five kids.

As I got out to unload kids one of my beautiful, showered friends pulled in right beside of us. I hit Graham’s head while unbuckling Coop and we walked in together, with a screaming baby, before going our separate ways. I wondered if she ever just looks at me and wonders why I can’t get myself together.

We survived the library, got what we needed and got out. Coop threw a tantrum all the way to the car until he suddenly got quiet beside the car and climbed in without complaint. I was grateful since all of the people trying to tell you who to vote for were sitting out front and watching us. I wondered if they were judging me for having so many kids when I can’t control this one. As we were backing out he started screaming uncontrollably and I look back to see that he had found a tiny bird egg in the parking lot and crushed it, spilling the contents all over his hands and the book in his lap. We drove home with two screaming littles, three stressed out bigs, and me, worrying about what kind of diseases we’d have by the time we got home to wash hands. And when we walked in Graham coughed until he puked all over us, both.

It wasn’t the most pleasant morning. Not the worst, either. But, it was the kind of morning that left me feeling tired and ugly and out of control. And unimportant. I was grateful when I walked back out to the van to unload books and found that my beautiful friend who is also one of the kindest people I know had left before us and put a sticky note on the windshield for me. I stuck it on my water bottle, hoping I’d get to see it again today.

After getting Cooper settled, making the kids lunch, and giving the big kids all their assignments I had to get Graham all cleaned up and since the sink was empty I decided to bathe him there because I love to take pictures of the kids when they get a sink bath.

And while standing there, loving on my perfect little Byrd this quote from Neal A Maxwell came to mind:

“When the real history of mankind is fully disclosed, will it feature the echoes of gunfire or the shaping sound of lullabies? The great armistices made by military men or the peacemaking of women in homes and in neighborhoods? Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses? When the surf of the centuries has made the great pyramids so much sand, the everlasting family will still be standing, because it is a celestial institution, formed outside telestial time. The women of God know this.”(“The Women of God”, found here)

I found so much comfort in being reminded that I chose this life because I knew it was what is most important.

There will never be a moment in the future that I look back and think what a waste it was that I spent my time kissing ouchies, giving hugs, teaching my kids to read and research and count, teaching five people how important it is to be kind, and that I am ALWAYS here for them when other people don’t teach their kids to be kind to us. I will never regret that as imperfect as I am my days were spent teaching five people that Christ loves them and what he sacrificed for them.

I will never regret bathing my baby in the sink.

So, although it’s been ages since I went out in public showered and put together, or had a break to eat or pee or exist, and I can’t remember what it’s like to hold a normal conversation, and as hard as my days can sometimes be… I shouldn’t feel those things now, either. What I’m doing is incredibly important. It matters.

Today, in the midst of my exhaustion and in spite of Monday, I am so grateful for this calling that is so wonderfully mine.

13 years

Dear Jess,

Until this morning you’ve had no free minutes to sit and think about the last thirteen years. Despite the pressure to use special days as a way to share the highlights and paint a perfect picture, you have to admit that year thirteen was in the top three for hardest years in your marriage. Ever the realist. So mamy really hard trials that had to be taken head on. It was hard and humbling and spent mostly in prayer and waiting for the work you and Aarik have put in to start benefiting your family. So, as this day approached, and you’ve been busy fixing leaks, and trying to rearrange your house yet another time to make it feel like seven people can fit here, and dealing with sick babies, you haven’t looked at year thirteen very fondly.

But, then this morning, sitting home with two coughing, yucky nosed little people you could see a little more clearly, the whole picture.

While it’s easy to just look back on the last year, marriage is best viewed as an entire picture. The journey, to date, rather than a mile at a time.

There are some really hard times; miscarriages, job loss, financial issues, extended family trials, losing family members, car trouble, depression, stress, anxiety, leak after leak, stomach bugs, and sleepless nights trying to find solutions to your problems, or your kids’ problems.

All of these things are heavy and can feel like they will break you, or sometimes your marriage. But, when handled together, if equally yoked, they in fact make you stronger. Stronger, together.

At some points in the journey it’s all uphill in mud, and somewhere along the way you look at the person carrying the load beside you and wonder if you even know each other. If you even like each other. You wonder if the other person is pulling as much weight as you; if they care that you’re breaking under the weight of the load you have created, together. They may do things that drive you nuts, or seem thoughtless. Maybe they don’t help when you need it most, or become distant when things are the hardest. Maybe you hate how loudly they eat chips, or how they load the dishwasher.

But, when you get to the top of the mountain you climbed together and look at everything you’ve carried to the top on your backs, you have the sudden realization that you couldn’t have done it by yourself. Or, with anyone else. That maybe God yoked you with someone who carried more of the load and just complained less than you. Maybe they hate the way you eat chips and load the dishwasher, but they hide it better because they don’t want to hurt your feelings, or value peace more than silence and cups on top, only.

As you stand there, looking back, you can catch your breath and see that while climbing that mountain, and the ones before it, you made a lot of beautiful, perfect people and memories that you wouldn’t have had you just been crossing the plains, together. You grew in love with the person you’re with. Not a fleeting, too goo eyed, head over heels thing, but a strong, steady, dependable love. If it had been an easier journey, maybe you wouldn’t have held so tightly to one another. Maybe you would have removed the yoke, because you didn’t really need it.

Turning and looking forward to the rest of your journey and seeing that across the valley there are mountains to be climbed, as far as the eye can see, you can take a moment to realize that you are blessed to have a life that isn’t what you had pictured fifteen or twenty years (and mountains) before. That everything you love, all of your greatest accomplishments, couldn’t exist without this person. And you are so blessed to have been given the gift and privilege to know what it feels like to overflow your home with what is meant to be in a home; love and family. So many people will never know that gift. But you know it, together. And you can throw a bag of chips on top of what you’re already carrying, hide a few more for days you need the quiet, and remember that you’re totally capable of loading the dishwasher, your dang self.

Here’s to thirteen years of learning, building, growing, becoming, forgiving, and loving.

And, thirteen more. And thirteen more.

6 month pictures

Dear Jess,

If you could do nothing besides take pictures of your kids all day, you’d be one happy girl. Apparently, editing them is a little too time consuming and you’re over it at this point.

Graham is 6 months old and has found his voice; just like a little rooster. Hard to believe it’s been half a year with him here.

Five months

Dear Jess,

Graham is five months old today! These last five months have really flown, and little Byrd has really grown.

He loves to be naked.

He’s more curious than ever. Into everything, and you can tell he’ll be excited to eat real food, when the time comes because one of his favorite ninja moves is grabbing your dinner plate and jerking it off the table. His hair is still growing and his fingernails have to be trimmed multiple times a week. He’s just as smiley as ever, but much more demanding, and quicker to let you know if he doesn’t like something. He’s a happy, healthy, typical five month old. You’re blessed and you know it, but, coming out of the fourth trimester has been brutal and your days are all a blurry repeat of the ones before.

Don’t forget that this was the month you finally decided it was ok to go back to run group and his response was to go on a nursing strike which has you both pretty out of sorts and emotional.

He lives in the ring slings you felt guilty spending money on. You literally do not know how you would get anything done, or even survive a day, without them and you’re eyeing another because the brand is called Wild Bird.

No, really.

He is super mommy attached and sleeps well as long as he is on you or beside you, but those are your only two options if you want a happy Byrd.

The big kids adore him (still) and every morning when they wake up they run in to see him. Minus Coop, who’s already in your bed. Try to always remember their fresh sleep eyes, and baby talk voices, and the huge smile he gives them every time. It’s the best kind of morning routine. Don’t forget that without Mckenzie’s constant, sweet help you would shrivel up and die. She fills in all of the spaces where you fall short, at only ten years old.

Aarik enjoys this stage more than anything and melts for the toothless grin just as fast as the rest of the family.

When you look back and remember all of the sweet things, don’t forget how exhausted you and Aarik are right now while he works at least ten hours a day, at least six days a week. What it’s like to have no breaks. How you’re blogging from your phone while you sit in the kids’ bedroom floor with them on a Saturday morning; surrounded by Legos and a screaming two year old, with that fluffy baby on your lap and a diet mountain dew close by. One of two you can have all day without turning Graham into an angry maniac. You’re home alone with the kids during those long hours Aarik works, trying to run your home and keep up with everyone’s school. The house is always a mess and you’re always cleaning. Errands cut into the little family time you get. It’s lonely, and so many days have tears. After four years in this house, you still miss having friends and a close knit church community.

Don’t forget that, because one day you may be given an opportunity to love on and be friends with a mama who needs more than an obligatory smile in passing.

Remember that five months in to life with five kids everything is beautiful. And hard. You’re proud, and happy, and tired. Remember that Graham has brought more joy than you thought possible and you wouldn’t change it for the world.

Don’t Forget When Coop Was Dora

Dear Jess,

Just a quick reminder that at two years and seven months old Cooper Gray has turned into Dora the Explorer.

“What?!”, you may be thinking. What could these two possibly have in common? Well…..

For starters, they have the same haircut. And, they both speak English really well, but every once in a while they throw a word out there that you just don’t recognize.

Both wear the exact same outfit every day. Coop has now been wearing his PJ Masks t-shirt and a diaper for four days. After baths you try to put a different t shirt on him, but, he isn’t having it. Luckily, it’s Winter, he has a weird off and on cough, and you homeschool, so you haven’t had to bring him out in public like this just yet.

Neither Dora nor Cooper will go anywhere without their backpack, which they talk to as if it’s a person and carry around all of the random things in the world in. And chances are that whatever it is you need to finish whatever it is you are doing can be found in that backpack.

Coop had to take his backpack out in the snow. It has to sit in his chair with him at the dinner table. It waits for him on the bathroom floor at bath time. He carries it up and down the stairs all day long while he goes on his adventures, and if he can’t find it on the off chance he put it down and walked away, he will yell, “Where awe you bat pat?!?”, until he finds it. Also, everything is fair game to be put in that thing and Cooper is a climber, so if your stuff is missing you know where to find it.

Now do you see it?

It’s a phase you don’t want to forget.

What Recess Looks Like

Dear Jessica,

Your favorite way to decompress when having a tough day of school, or to get fresh air when everyone has been couped up way too many days in a row is to drive over to the park with the duck pond and the stage the kids love to play on. You have to time it just right with the kids finishing enough school, feeding Graham riggt before you leave, and getting Cooper Gray to let you put his pants on, but, it’s usually worth it.

Today Konnor hesitated, but then ran with them once before coming back to walk with you, and you want to remember what it looked like to see them all hit the clearing and scatter. And, what it felt like to have him just a few inches shorter than you with untamed blonde hair.

And what she looks like while discovering her own style and trying to be “cool”, but still also always being helpful and keeping an eye on her brothers.

How Parker always tries to dress in all green everything. No matter what the result looks like. And, how he’s rarely still long enough for you to get a decent picture of him.

And, although you’ll always remember how hard this kid has been, but you just might forget how insanely adorable and tiny he was while terrorizing your days

How the four of them look while watching fish and turtles

Snow Day

Dear Jessica,

Southern snow days are a real treat-especially when it snows AND it sticks AND you get more than an inch. When you live in an area that gets so little snow you really make the most of the handful of magical days when Winter is more than gray days and sicknesses.

You always take and share way too many pictures and videos when y’all have snow and the kids head outside. Usually you layer up on pants and tall socks and as many sweaters as you can fit under a coat, but this year Target had all of their snowbibs 50% off one day, and with the prediction of more snow than normal you felt justified in buying them for $10 a pop. Just not having four loads of laundry after a day in the snow has been worth it. The snow today was super wet so you didn’t last long but got a few cute pictures of the kids playing.

Cooper Gray had to wear his back pack out to play.

The big kids got in lots of sledding, and you actually got to join in for a few minutes between nursing a baby and dressing and undressing CG as he went in and out.

And Graham enjoyed lounging inside and practicing his modeling.

You had hot chocolate, and cider, and snuggled under blankets after finally coming in. The truck couldn’t get out of the driveway within an hour of being parked, so it looks like Aarik will be home tomorrow, and you’ll get to finish the deep cleaning you started. The brightness of the snow day helped you see some things that desperately needed to be done.

You love being snowed in together, and how it allows y’all to slow down and spend time together, and see the world with a fresh pair of eyes.

Snow days in the south are magic, that way.

“A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky-unbidden- and seems like a thing of wonder.” -Susan Orlean