We spent Christmas at my sister's. Last Christmas there was terrible. It was worth it to be with my sister and her family, but I had strep, everyone else got a stomach bug (possibly from us), and there is nothing good about six kids and four adults under one roof. Unless you have a huge roof.
This year we stayed at a friend's house (they were on vacation out East, and they also left us tons of homemade spanakopita, and you all know the way to my heart is through my stomach), none of us were sick, and our kids suddenly, magically, are okay with traveling.
Let me tell you something. I love my kids. They bring such heart-rending joy to my life that sometimes I want to cry just looking at their sweet, pudgy faces.
However, when I'm in the grind of day-to-day life, I usually find myself thinking of how much easier life was before they came along. No bedtimes, no naptimes, no squeamishness over "weird" foods. Just me and Jeremy. And Jeremy a grown man, so I didn't have to buckle him into a car seat or find a babysitter every time I need to buy a gallon of milk.
If I did, that would be super weird.
I have been chafing under this yoke since Grace was born more than four years ago. Yes, I know that children are the natural order of things; I know that God gave me these children; I know that they are good for me, for us; I know that they are a blessing. I feel it, even. When they are in bed after a full day, I look back and remember the bright, sweet moments with aching fondness. I sometimes want to wake them up just to cuddle their tiny soft bodies to my own.
But in the middle of a meal, or a long car ride, or a conversation with my husband, I am selfish and angry. All I wish for is peace. Peace and quiet. Rest. A good book or a long bath or a frivolous TV show.
So I was half-dreading this trip. Our kids have always been terrible travelers, from the first trip out to Denver when Grace screamed 15 hours out, 7 nights there, and 15 hours back. The last trip was better, but I had strep, and, like I said, 10 people under one not-humongous roof.
This one was so remarkably different that I was half-convinced something terrible would happen, like we would have to make a payment for how great it was.
My sister and I went for a couple of runs. I love family and Christmas and all that, but this was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I don't know if it was the running or my sister, or both, but it was nice. Keep in mind, I still hated running just a few months ago.
My little nieces and nephews are a lot older already than the last time I saw them. I feel a little (a LOT) awkward around children, especially once they get past my own kids' ages, the ages that I'm familiar with. But they are each great kids in their own way.
The oldest is old enough to be interesting on his own terms, not just as a cute kid. He loves origami and reading and asking annoying questions. He tells jokes, and some of them are hilarious. Jeremy really took to him; I think their brains operate in the same way. The next one is such a boy, all superheroes and dirt and destruction. The older girl is such a girl, all glitter and princesses and cuddles. She and Grace either loved or hated each other at all times. And the baby. Everything she does is adorable. I can't even describe it, she just kills me.
I don't have cousins. I didn't really miss it growing up, but I really hope my kids grow up loving their own. I even enjoy their fighting in a small way because it means they are comfortable enough with their cousins that they can fight. It makes me miss my other siblings and their kids all the more, but I am glad I live so close to my sister.
Grace and Emmy were pleasant all the drive out there. They were mostly pleasant while we were there (as pleasant as two tiny, neurotic sinners can be). And they were pleasant most of the way back.
This is thanks in no small part to the wonderful people who lent us their house, but still, it's amazing what a year will do to improve a couple of small children.
This is so cheesy, but every time we're all together, it's like a new part of my heart opens up that I didn't even know I had before.