Family gets your best, or no one gets the rest.
~ Crystal Lutton
~ Crystal Lutton
Two of my greatest weaknesses are housekeeping and social activities. Since I believe that God is loving and good, I try to consider my husband's love of parties as an opportunity for growth rather than evidence of a sense of humor far more diabolical than divine. However, regardless of how organized I try to be, having four little ones means that last-minute party prep is inevitable. Sure, I'll mop the floor that morning--doesn't mean that I won't have to do it again 30 minutes before the party.
One of our traditions is that every semester, Carlos invites his students over for food and a movie at our house. Between allergies that have knocked me out this week, my own classes, situations with friends and family, homeschooling and caring for my kidlets and other stuff, I was more behind than usual, and was running at full speed yesterday. I shamelessly turned on both TVs hoping to occupy the little ones while I cleaned, but my two and a half year old refused to take the bait.
She showed remarkable ingenuity and persistence in pestering her older siblings, though. She did everything in her considerable power to irritate them. The fourth or fifth time that my son called for me to come get her I winced inside. On the one hand, I had been working with him to call me rather than retaliating. He was doing exactly what he was supposed to do when she wouldn't honor his boundaries. On the other hand, being interrupted in a task drives me absolutely batty. Could I just consider it natural consequences if he loses his cool and strikes back?, I wondered. With a sigh, I went to move a wriggling, screaming toddler. Perhaps we all needed a break...
Recognizing that the more time we spent out of the house would mean less time for the kidlets to undo any cleaning we had already done, I made plans to meet Carlos for lunch. I buckled the baby into her seat and turned around to pick up Elena. She was grinning. And smeared with mud. No, actually, it was make up, just several shades darker than what I wear. So was the carpet. I don't have any idea where she got the stuff, but it would appear that an entire bottle of liquid makeup in a very dark shade was smeared over the carpet that Carlos had spent two hours shampooing the night before. And did I mention that it was a waterproof makeup?
|That was just yogurt, not makeup. :)|
A couple of years ago, I would have lost it. I am getting better. I did wail NOoooooooooooo! at the top of my lungs when I first saw it, but then I took several deep breaths (I was not hyperventilating. Not really.). I gently took her into the garage and told her to get in her seat while I grabbed the carpet cleaner and got ready to clean up the mess. I also posted on Facebook, receiving some wonderfully calming, perspective-giving advice and empathy from my amazing friends.
25 minutes later, most of the make up was gone or at least faded. I buckled Elena in her seat, thanked the older kids for playing with the baby and keeping her happy, and took off, letting Carlos know we were going to be late. As I stopped before pulling out onto the main road, I looked back in the rear view mirror to make sure that Elena hadn't tried to pull her chest clip down. To my horror, she tumbled halfway down. Her seat straps were fine, but she had apparently unbuckled the belt so that her seat was loose while I was cleaning up the mess. I am a stickler for carseat safety, and check regularly that their seats are secure. I had just been in a hurry...what if...? Shudders.
My mom always ends every conversation with, "I love you. Bye." I asked her about it once when I was little, and she said that even though she wasn't really afraid that we would die while we were gone, just in case, she always wanted our last words to each other to have been, "I love you." I picked up the habit, and while I don't look at it from a morbid fear or anything, I know that there are no guarantees. Right now our dearest friends with a daughter a few days younger than Elena are scheduling her open heart surgery. We believe she will be fine, but it has reminded me that this life is fleeting and every moment matters.
When we finally made it to meet Carlos after making sure her seat was securely installed, she insisted on sitting on my lap the whole time. Afterward, we picked up some last minute items from the store (um, yeah, I hadn't even started cooking yet...). I won't describe in detail the various mishaps that occurred between then and the party, the most spectacular of which involved Elena grabbing a 2 liter of pop and running with it, which then caused it to explode all over the floor. At one point, a repairman was waiting for me to write a check while both little ones were in full meltdown mode and begging for leche (he used every cliche in the book, from "Are they all yours?" to "Boy, your sure have your hands full, don't you?". Bless his heart. To be fair, they probably seemed like more than four at the moment.).
I am just really slow on the uptake sometimes. My little middle child has been a bit lost for quite sometime. Ariana and Joel have an amazing relationship. They are so close to each other that it is easy for them to exclude their little sister. She tries so very hard to keep up with everything that they do, and yet it still isn't always enough. Her baby sister is a baby, and so she often has to wait while I take care of the tiny one. Looking back, it is clear how desperate for attention and belonging she has been.
I turned down the stove, picked her up and snuggled with her. She nursed, all the while patting my arm in relief. We watched her favorite Yo Gabba Gabba episode about babies, and I sang her special little baby song to her. We spent the next hour reconnecting. Yeah, for a few seconds my mind screamed that I didn't have time for that, that I needed to be preparing for the party. But one thing I learned from GCM is that family gets our best. If we can't minister there when it counts, the rest doesn't matter too much. She needed my presence right then, not after the party.
Carlos took the babies out for an hour once he got home, and the older kidlets and I did a whirlwind of cooking and cleaning. I didn't get to dust and there were a couple of clutter spots. On the plus side, however, the chili was the best yet (toasting ancho chiles adds incredible depth of flavor in a short time). The party was a success, judging by the comments, laughter and amount of food consumed by the 40 college kids (who didn't seem to judge my housekeeping skills at all). Parties are great. So are the other activities and obligations we have as parents. But none of them trumps being present with our loved ones. The little moments do matter. They add up to a lifetime of memories.