In life, just like in battle, reinforcements can mean everything.
This has been a month of necessary reinforcement. The girls gave up sleeping through the night about five weeks ago (funny correlation – how long has it been since I posted?)
It’s been rough going.
The reason, best we can tell, is teeth. Yep. Teeth at four and half months. Gabby cut her first two last week, and Lucy is not far behind her. And the little buggers must hurt, because once in a while the girls will let out blood-curdling screams that scare the crap out of me at 2:30 in the morning. The only thing I can do is nurse them back to sleep.
This happens once, if not twice, each night. So it’s back to sleeping in two to four hour increments for us. Sigh. The funny part is, we can function like this. Not well, obviously, but it’s possible. And so that’s what we’ve been doing.
Despite our lack of sleep, it’s been a busy month.
We decided to do a “friendsgiving” the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Jason bought a turkey, I told everyone to bring a side dish (and it didn’t matter if it was leftover or re-purposed from actual Thanksgiving), and we made a big pot of macaroni for the kids. It was not going to be clean or trendy or perfect, and none of those things were the point.
It was chaos of the very best sort. Nine kids to eight adults. Foot traffic everywhere, crumbs and beverages on every surface, baby gates and diaper bags and sweet little hands tugging on whatever pant leg happened to be in reach.
When the meal was over, Jason built up the bonfire in the front yard. The guys went on kid/dish duty so the girls could get outside and have uninterrupted conversation. I snuck out first, face and hands tingling in the cold night air. I watched the kids jumping and chasing one another. There was commotion in the mudroom – hats, coats, boots being zipped. But for a clear, star-filled minute, I was alone in my yard.
I love moments like this. It’s like taking a nap in the living room when someone’s in the kitchen and the gentle activity of the house is a reassuring hum. Observation is rest, is beauty, is worship in its own right.
So I let my head fall backwards. I unrolled my fists in my pockets and let the muscles in my face go slack. Two days after Thanksgiving, I finally I let gratitude wash me, and I shivered at its overwhelming force.
I know the cardinal rule of holidays is being present and mindful. But holidays with babies take that to a new level. Being present means counting the hours since the babies last ate. Being mindful means double checking the diaper bag to make sure every possible scenario is prepared for.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the rush and bustle, the flurry of arms that greet me at family and friend gatherings. But that night, when everything stopped for a collection of star-studded seconds, it was exactly what I needed.
Okay, so throwing a party probably seems a little more like functioning. I get that. But compared to my days filled with diapers and crayons, discipline and feedings, planning a gathering seems so wonderfully normal.
Cooking becomes my creative outlet. Eating together becomes a celebration, and even the humblest of meals becomes festive when shared. And as a bonus, having people in my home also means one important thing.
Help. Help on so many levels. (And someone else holding a baby.)
So we keep opening our doors, practicing hospitality even when the floors aren’t clean and the babies are crying. We love collecting the people in our lives around our old Formica table.
We love eating good food (particularly Scottum’s dulce de leche ice cream – not pictured because it was devoured way too quickly.) We love sprawling out around the fire, tripping on toys, and holding our little ones.
We love the waves and hugs at the end of the night, each one like pressing a seal on our time together.
Sometimes raising my girls feels like I’m setting out to paint a gigantic church with an old, frayed paintbrush. But then someone comes along with a piece of scaffolding. And another. And another.
We paint together for a while, and it gets easier.
A few weeks back, a friend watched all three of my girls while I went grocery shopping. Another friend helped me coral my girls at open gymnastics. Another accompanied me to Target so I could have an extra cart and a playmate for Ellis.
Friends and family have helped me shop, taken me out, come to my home and watched my girls, leaned on the counter, drank coffee, called, texted, and even Skyped.
My mom went so far as to clear her schedule last week to help with my teething terrors, and Jason’s parents have been amazing overnight babysitters.
Scaffolding, all of it.
And we are, as always, grateful.