Well, we've just completed the first full week of March. And I am dang tired.
Steven has had late work stuff every day this week. He got to come home and eat dinner with us tonight, but then had to head straight back out for a church meeting.
Sometimes these nights make me laugh. We kiss Steven goodbye and I look around me and it is truly a war zone. Food everywhere, dishes everywhere, four children needing all that I have, at once. Do you want to know how to do it? Because you might be reading this and thinking that sounds like your personal hell.
But I love these nights. I didn't used to - back when it was just Gage and Kjel and Steven was gone all the time for training is when I started to learn to love my independent evenings.
(My most favorite of all are the evenings when Steven is home. Of course.)
So how do you love being outnumbered by a bunch of children who have no end to their needs, who are tired and stinky and are stretching you in four different directions?
You just laugh! And then they laugh. And then you say to your oldest, "You are my helper. Here are the things I need you to do."
He gets the diapers and wipes and the jammies for the little ones.
To your independent children, you say: I'm going to time you. It's going to be so fun. Go see how long it takes you to put on your jammies and brush your teeth (sing the ABC's in your head 3 times while you're brushing), and then come back down to me with the book you want for tonight.
And while they're up there, you try to get your constipated baby to find some relief by giving her a tummy massage and lifting her toes to her nose and back to the floor a few times.
The kitchen is still a mess, the dining room still looks like a crime scene: but everyone is happy and helping.
You read books and let your oldest go have some time alone with Harry Potter in mom and dad's bed (his favorite place to read).
And you tell your independent teeth brushers that they have just broken the world record for being the fastest kids ever!!!!!
And your baby finally poops and you all celebrate with a hip-hip-hooray!
And the kitchen is still a mess. And the dining room is even worse because the half-chewed broccoli and sautéed peppers that were on the floor have now been ground into floor and tracked through the house. And you still haven't packed lunches or put away laundry. Or sent some important tax documents to your accountant.
But you read "Goodnight Moom" and sing "Raindrops on Roses" and get a glass of water (not a water bottle... never a water bottle... he only drinks from "gwass cups") for your luscious 2-year-old. And he promises to stay in bed. He doesn't understand what it means to promise yet. But that's okay.
And you find an extra white blanket for your finicky four-year-old, because earlier in the evening your 2-year-old dumped potting soil onto her white comforter and it's still in the washing machine (speaking of - you still need to switch that over tonight). And she can't sleep unless it's a white blanket that she's snuggled up in.
And you sing her "Hush little KJELLIE" because she can't sleep without that song. And you plug in her nightlight and turn up her white noise and kiss her nose. Because she can't fall asleep without her nightlight, white noise, and that last little nose kiss. She falls asleep fast tonight.
And you nurse your baby in the old, creaky chair, and she keeps sticking her fingernail in your eye. She isn't interested in sleeping, but you are intent on teaching her how to go to bed on time. So you rock and rock and rock until she starts to snuggle in. You really need to clip her nails soon.
You tuck her favorite blanket around her and wait outside of her room for a minute.
And then you go back to your two-year-old and lie with him for a while, singing and humming, until he's still.
You give your big boy ten more minutes so that you can go quickly write down your evening thoughts --- like that transition?
My kitchen is still a mess. My dining room is --- well, it's pretty bad. My laundry room is overflowing from the Great Post-Florida Laundry Back-Up of 2017. And I need to go spend a few minutes with Gage before he goes to bed.
But I just want you - and my kids who will read this someday - to know that this evening is the same evening I have lived hundreds and hundreds of days over the last eight years. And I still love it. I love it more now than ever - every year I love this fun, crazy, mundane, gross, beautiful ordinariness more than before.
Time has been so good to me.
I would not trade a hundred banana peel gifts on my nightstand (that is where the kids like to leave them) for a peaceful evening, taking a bath and drinking hot chocolate, if it meant I had to give away all of the sweet night-time whispers of "love you, mom"; the sight of thick eyelashes drooping onto rosy, sleepy cheeks; the warm, pink little hands of my princesses, resting on my hands as they fall away into dreamland.
Motherhood is my dream come true.
And it is never more real or raw or delightful, than on these independent evenings.