Lessons from the quiet

Before I got pregnant with Eleanor, Eric and I had planned a trip to the Northwest. Neither of us had been back in the six years since we'd left for North Carolina, and it had been two years since we'd seen Eric's parents. Plus, it was Eric's fifteenth high school reunion. (Who goes to their fifteenth high school reunion? I could care less about mine, to be honest. But apparently when you go to a crunchy granola school in Portland with 40 kids in your class, you care. And apparently Eric was one of three who didn't show up at the tenth, so he needed to redeem himself.)

Soon after we planned the trip, I found out that June 2011 would not be a good month for me to fly across the country, as I would have a new tiny friend in tow. (Actually, let me be honest: my tiny friend would have been fine. I'm a terrible sport about traveling in the best of circumstances, and with all that post-partum sweating and hair loss going on? I didn't even want to think about it.) I also didn't want to think about being left home alone with a toddler and a baby, so I told Eric that if he still wanted to go, he had to take the boys and Marley with him. He agreed, and that's the story of how Eleanor and I found ourselves alone together for the past seven days.

I took naps everyday. I cleaned the house and it miraculously stayed clean. I had dinner with friends, ran errands, wrote thank-you notes, watched The Food Revolution and folded laundry. I remembered to take the trash out to the curb. I threw away old toys. I kept the house at 80 degrees. I took up the entire bed. I snuggled my baby. It was kind of amazing.

Except at night, when I would call to get the day's report from Oregon and remember the chubby cheeks I wasn't kissing, and the crazy comments I wasn't laughing at, and the little backs I wasn't scratching. That's when I would remember that those things are my real life, and this is just a brief vacation- a chance to catch my breath and gather my strength for a summer full of noise, mess and fun.

Still though- I've learned some things in the quiet moments of the past week:

1. No matter how many kids you have, they all need periodic time alone with you. And YOU need it! This time with Ellie has been incredible. I really, really need to do this with all my kids.

2. What I do each day is hard. Wow is it easy to keep a house clean with one immobile child. And to keep everyone fed when one of us takes all her meals in powdered form. And to run errands with no hands to hold as I cross the parking lot. The absence of children has helped me appreciate the very real burden that each one is. I need to remember that and give myself credit for invisible work I do each day.

3. I need breaks. I'm not holding my breath for another week-long hiatus like the one I've just had, but I think I've just figured out the solution to the fact that everyone in my family likes camping except me.

4. I love my family. Without them, my life is quiet, calm, and kind of empty. Real happiness comes from the bonds that form through service and sacrifice......and folding laundry.

Their flight lands in an hour. The floors are clean, the beds are made, the fridge is stocked, and every article of clothing has been folded and put away. I give it until ten tomorrow morning before every bit of it is undone.

And for once, I'll be glad:).


I remember...

...your earliest days as a father. Racing home on your bike in between classes, you would take your infant son from me. Breathing hard from your ride, your cheeks red from the cold, you would plead "open your eyes...open you eyes...".

Can you believe that newborn is nine years old now? And that you stare into the eyes of a different newborn?

Thank you for nine years of holding, feeding, singing, playing, protecting, teaching and giving your whole heart to these four children of ours.