Monday, February 11, 2008

Wife Rule #13: Stay-At-Home-Moms are Superheroes!

My wife is a stay-at-home-mom. There is so much I could write about this topic--so much of the value it is to our children and how much I appreciate her for choosing to mother this way. But I think the greatest tributes to her are formed in my mind during the times when I "fill in" for her; not the normal together-at-last-in-the-evening routines, but the times when I am home all alone with the kids for an extended period of time (the theme music from "Jaws" starts playing here), while she goes out. Only then do I realized that it takes some type of super-power to retain any semblance of sanity and order in the house or in my head.

In this spirit, I want to share with you the Christmas card greeting we sent out in 2007, which contains a particularly poignant experience I had, which honed my appreciation for the miracle worker my wife really is as a stay-at-home mom. Here it is:

December 13, 2007: It’s 9:30 PM as I begin to compose this Christmas greeting. My plan was to start working on it at 8:30. Actually, my plan was to work on it weeks ago, but you know how plans go at Christmastime. Tonight my wife is at some no-doubt-Christmas-themed ladies' service meeting, which means that I’m the solo zookeeper. I’ve got almost-eight-year-old Dawn, six-year-old Rachel, Scott the dinosaur who is four, and Andrew who is very two (favorite phrases: “No!” and “Right Now!”). In addition, we have three female cousins over, ages six, four, and one, while my brother and sister-in-law go to a Christmas party. The girls outnumber the boys here five to three. There are little princess dress-ups everywhere.

Things started out relatively smoothly. Cooking was basic tonight—milk, bananas, and homemade pancakes. Turns out the cousins had the exact same meal before coming over. That doesn’t stop the one-year-old from eating again here. The other cousins run amok while I try to keep my own brood seated around the table, which is full to the brim with six place settings, two jugs of milk, a pile of pancakes, syrup, tub-o-butter, and a festive Christmas table runner with snow-globe salt and pepper shakers.

Scott is upset that the girl cousins are getting into his Nerf air gun. Rachel and Dawn are having a hard time getting the pancakes down between sprints to the family room where little princess distractions are dancing on the ottoman (forbidden, of course, and provoking many loud reports of the infraction).

Baby cousin drops her banana on the floor. I’m so grateful that Dawn is old enough to fish it out from under the table and wash the lint off in the sink before returning it to its owner so I don’t have to do it (Gross, Dad! It’s got a hair on it!). Andrew has decided he’s had enough of dinner and starts to protest loudly about getting down “Right Now!” Meanwhile, baby cousin reaches too far to the side, and her booster seat slides off the chair and down the whole assembly goes, baby and all. Covered with sticky, I rush her to the sink to wash off her hands and face so that I can get some proper uncle-ish comforting in. No sooner have I dried her tears than Rachel rushes into the kitchen with her hands cupped, gagging and soon regurgitates her dinner into her hands with a disgusted look. After a cleanup trip to the bathroom (don’t shake your hands off on the floor—get to the sink!), Andrew has given up all hope of getting down from the table, and has resorted to full-blown howling.

This, of course, is the cue for the phone to ring. There are dressed-up princesses and alligators and lions (getting married, apparently?) roaming freely. As the sounds of children shrieking while going down our indoor slide resonate through the room to compliment Rachel and Andrew’s wailing and the never-ending Christmas MP3s streaming out of our PC, I try to give advice to my sister-in-law about which board game I would order from my recently-acquired board game retail web site ( Since the order is imperative to be done tonight (if there is to be any hope of getting it by Christmas), it seems too important to delay.

My wife arrives home from her meeting in the midst of all this chaos. Gratefully, I hand her the phone (and Andrew, for good measure), so I can get to work on putting the other six kids down for bed. After a solid 45 minutes of bed-time and re-bed-time, I finally sit down to begin this letter. My four-year-old niece has ascended the stairs for the fourth time in as many minutes to inform us that she needs to go potty. After reassuring her that the first three tries were sufficient, and locking the doors to the bedroom, I settle down to write my second sentence. Just then, my nieces’ parents show up, and with the ensuing shuffling and conversation, it’s 11:00 before I get back to writing the Christmas newsletter.

After taking approximately 20 seconds to reflect on the events of this evening (it is 11:45, after all), I think that this busier-than-normal night kind of sums up the blessings and challenges of our lives right now. We are blessed with amazing family and friends who fill our lives to the brim and beyond with joyful company and conversation. Life, while kind of hectic, is full of humor and love; and I suppose that the precious moments where the stars align and everything falls into place and there is peace and tranquility, however short-lived those moments are, wouldn’t mean nearly as much if life were not so full in the first place. We hope that this Christmas season finds you with such a moment or two, and that you will join with us in contemplating the birth of our Savior, whose life and death make all worthwhile moments meaningful. Among all people who have ever walked this globe, we truly are highly blessed.

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