I might have mentioned that we have a guinea pig. Harry is the progeny of the class pets at the local elementary school who joined our family when my oldest asked if we could keep her (yes, Harry is a girl…). My husband told Ethan that it was up to me, a mistake he regrets because he really didn’t want a guinea pig, and our very timid and traumatized guinea pig moved from a raucous class of third graders into a family of four kids. She’s still traumatized.
Last week, the thing that I have been dreading happened.
Emily has had an unhealthy fascination with the guinea pig since she could crawl. She also has an unhealthy fascination with my makeup. And when I say unhealthy, let’s just say I don’t know many other people that have to physically lock up their makeup.
I walked into my boys’ room and there was Harry, terrified, and wearing my makeup in the midst of lipstick swirls on the sides of her habitat.
Did you know waterproof mascara is almost impossible to get off a guinea pig and lipstick permanently stains white fur? My son said Harry was looking at her pink fur and purring because she thought it was pretty…
I wish I could say that that was the end of the shenanigans last week. It wasn’t.
I hear all too often that people say that I must be this incredibly organized person to be able to manage all the chaos that comes with four kids. This makes me laugh because there isn’t any containing of chaos here. It just is chaos with four kids and a pink guinea pig.
I think the main thing that God has been working with me on over the past several years is a simple concept that I have yet to master. Control is an illusion and the only thing that we can attempt to truly control is our response to the inevitable chaos.
We are always just one second away from something life-changing. I know the normal response to this is probably fear, but I don’t think it should be. Holding tighter onto what we have simply means that we respond in a negative way instead of embracing what God is using in our lives for good- even when the thing is clearly not good. He is a God who wastes nothing.
This is true even when it doesn’t make sense.
Like when I had taken literally two minutes to talk to one of my kids when he got home from school and turned my back on Emily. Luke came downstairs with a horrified/amused look on his face (it is a strange combo that you learn to pay attention to as a parent).
“Mom, I think you need to look in your bathroom, but I think you are going to scream.”
“That’s comforting,” I thought.
Emily was clearly having one of her sensory days and in those measly two little minutes she used four tubes of lipstick to color on the walls and white grout, finished my tube of waterproof mascara painting the freshly painted cabinets, squeezed out a tube of foundation in a Pollock-like art installment all over the floor, and tossed lavender scented Epsom salt like confetti all over the room. We’re still confused as to how she got the lipstick five feet up on the walls as she is only three-years-old.
Some things don’t make sense, like the mind of a three-year-old in certain circumstances.
These are the things we don’t share on our highlight reel; the things that never make the Facebook cut. It’s easy to feel alone when you are desperately trying to get red lipstick off white grout. The white grout of life is easily stained and I sometimes wonder why we try to pretend that ours is still pristine when it’s not.
These low points aren’t something to be hidden because they are just as valuable in learning to live like we should as the highlights. I keep reminding myself that if I melt down over something as minor as lipstick (okay, lipstick, mascara, lipgloss, foundation, bath salts, lotion, chewed-on chapstick, eyeliner, and pink guinea pigs), I won’t have the patience to deal with things when they really matter. Our responses shape those around us and we never know who is really watching.
I don’t mean this in a legalistic sense because I firmly believe in grace, but rather that our impact is never fully visible in the small window we get to see though. There have been times I have found out something that I thought was insignificant made a huge difference years later and these are just a few times I know about.
One of my sons accepted Christ simply because on of his leaders took the time to say hi to him at church every Sunday. He hated going and everything to do with church until she came into his life. That’s all it took to reach him.
I wish I could say that things are calmer now. They aren’t.
Brian and I had a date night planned for Friday, but my in-laws we sick so I tried to plan something that Brian and I could do to spend time together while with the kids. We went out to eat at a fun burger place and then walked into the bookstore at the mall. Jack was talking to me one moment and the next, I couldn’t find him anywhere. Unfortunately, with Jack, this isn’t unusual because he has the attention span of a squirrel and is a runner so I am used to looking for my five-year-old.
But this time, he wasn’t anywhere, and I was on the verge of panicking when I sent Luke into the men’s restroom on the off chance he had gone there.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more thankful to find out my child had a sudden onset of a stomach bug than I was at that moment. The horrified/amused look on Luke’s face should have warned me about the severity, though.
To spare everyone the horrific and smelly details, we made the fastest exit in the history of exiting with our very stinky little boy who was really mad that we wouldn’t let him wear his shoes on the bookstore carpet.
The poor kid smelled so bad that we drove home with the car windows down. I handed out plastic bags since Luke has reflux and tends to throw up himself in response to other nasty smells (i.e. a little brother who smells like a sewer). Brian made a comment about this probably being the low point of all of our dates with one kid being a drippy, brown mess, and two others literally gagging, and the three-year-old loudly announcing to anyone who would listen that, “Jack is a poo monster!”
And from the front passenger seat, I heard the kids laughing that the open windows made their plastic bags float up like hot air balloons. When the first one got loose, it was funny. The second one floating around the car with the animosity of a U.F.O. and nearly obscuring Brian’s view of the road mandated the “hold onto your bag” rule.
And the kids just laughed more.
Because sometimes low points are funny. Hilarious even.
Except if you are a guinea pig, I suppose. Harry and I are both hoping for some higher points soon. But there’s no controlling that…