After the parade she said to me, "I hope it goes down in history the things that we continue to do with all these kids."
Day after day, week after week our van is loaded down.
Two adults in the front.
A toddler and a should-be-toddler in the middle.
Two children in the back.
Redheaded children yell, hit, cry and then repeat.
Toddler cries for a baba which is actually a sippy cup full of milk.
Should-be-toddler sits with her head hung, and tongue out.
Adults question whether should-be-toddler is alive, let alone awake.
Redheaded children confirm both.
Adults crank up music, shifted to the rear and pray for just 2 minutes to speak to one another.
Redheads interrupt 2,658 times in a 4 minute drive.
Adults feel defeated.
Children, toddler and should-be-toddler always win.
But the following day, inevitably, we pack up and we do it all again for some reason that I still can't quite put my finger on. Other than we want to give them memories and we want to build them for ourselves too. We almost always end up hoping that their memories of the event are different and better than ours because ours aren't exactly frame worthy.
But we do it. Every. Time.
And it makes me feel good knowing that I have a partner in crime that will, on the whim if we choose, load up and head out to whatever adventure-turned nightmare pops up during any given day.
We show up. We yell alot. Children disobey. Toddler throws fits. Should-be-toddler hangs across our shoulders. People stare. I get angry/sad/frustrated. She does too, because I am.
And then we take photos. Lots of photos. Hoping that some day when we look back we will pull a memory from the experience that was worth the trip.
Sometimes just one smile, one sentence, one gesture from these kids makes the entire day worth it to me, and I know to her too.
We dress nice and we go all out so that these kids will remember the days where it should feel like winter but looks like beautiful spring. We show excitement and energy even when the children are telling us they don't want to go to a Christmas parade because we know best. We know that when they see the band and rudolph walking down the street, something will trigger their inner happy and childhood memories will be stored away, tucked tightly.
I don't care how hard it is to get them there or how many people stare, point, or comment about should-be-toddler's head hanging, tongue hanging or any other hanging she has going on.
I care about this one shot I have to get it right with ALL of our children.
They are wild and free; just the way I like them and not only will I encourage it, but I will foster it deeply in them.
Before we know it these times will be gone, I reminded her. One day none of these kids will even want to sit in a car with us. They will be busied with their own lives and their own distractions. Right now, we get to choose what we teach them and how we show them this world.
This world that is ugly, cruel, big and mean can also be vibrant, beautiful, sacred and whimsical. And I want them to know that version more than anything.
So with bright pj's on should-be-toddler, bright clothes on toddler, mis-matched clothes on redheaded children, crazy big hair on one adult and no-miss lipstick on the other, we take on this world.
We do it with boldness, confidence, and gusto.
Because they deserve that. They deserve it and so much more. They should absolutely see us at our best; our happiest. They should also see us at our worst; our saddest. But in the torn up pieces of both I hope that they remember the days when we pulled it together long enough to give them an example of how to rock this world-alone or together.
And I pray that they always choose to do so together.
Each day is a gift. It's a gift that we are freely given simply because we have air in our lungs. Just because I carry should-be-toddler on my shoulder all day every day and am faced with her inevitable brain disease does NOT mean that I don't have to check myself.
Every day I have to purpose to still cherish the redheads' every move and giggle. Every day I still have to make sure that I laugh my way through toddler's fits and remember the sound of her little feet kicking the floor because soon it will be gone, and we will forget. Every day I still have to be aware, present and conscious to this life and the most precious things that are in it. It doesn't come easier for me simply because I'm aware that should-be-toddler's days may be limited. It simply forces me to try a little harder to be more grateful for the things that are in front of me that are priceless, perfect, true and lasting.
That's why we load them up time after time. That's why we look like a literal circus when we unload anywhere other than the confines of my garage. When we shuffle in the door and every one of these children is loud and not listening, please know that we are very aware of that.
It's just that I don't care quite as much to make it stop because being loud and not listening means that they are little...
...and I know that they won't stay that way long. I also know that some don't get the chance to run the halls, scream in delight or throw fits. Even those things that are so easily frustrating for all of us are special, delicate gifts.
I believe we will go down in history for doing what we do day after day. At least in their eyes we will. I believe that the redheaded children and even the toddler will look back some day and thank us for doing what we do and for bringing should-be-toddler, our sweet Mabel girl, with us every time. We aren't confined to this home and we make the best of every little thing that we can because truly, we are giving them memories with Mabel that are invaluable. No matter how difficult it is for us, or how much of an irritating challenge it may be, we do it and it goes unsaid between us. I think she knows it, but to me, that is one of the greatest gifts that I could have ever been given-someone to simply take the ride with me.