Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Kind of Normal

Let me give you some examples of what happens when you google images for "normal":

You can thank me for not posting all the venereal disease pictures.  You're welcome.

Our living situation is, by suburban American middle class standards, slightly strange.  I mean, if we were living in a developing nation, the fact that we have three generations living under one roof including extended family members would be completely normal.  Of course, if we were living in a developing nation, it would be strange that we have three bedrooms, indoor plumbing, and a room that solely exists to hold our cars--so strange is relative, I guess.
When I made the decision to come back to OK for a few months, there were several factors:
  1. We were putting our house on the market, and I thought it would be easier to show if there weren’t three people and a dog mucking it up all the time.
  2. We had several events--weddings, fundraising dinners, birthday celebrations, births of children--that I didn’t want to miss, and I didn’t see the point in traveling back and forth several times in a few months.
  3. Due to my husband’s six-month TDY and the stress of our impending (details withheld from us) move, I was going what could accurately be termed “batshit crazy,” and I thought it was best for my sanity and the safety of my children that we be around other people.
So, we packed up most of what we needed (I left all my winter shoes, stupidly thinking we were close enough to summer to need them...oh, how I miss my boots...) and headed west.  We’ve been in OK for a full month now, and I can say wholeheartedly that this was the BESTIDEAEVER.
Our trip coincided with my aunt’s move to OK.  Before I told my parents we were moving in, my parents had gladly welcomed her into their guest bedroom to help her while she transitioned to a new state--you know, to help her get on her feet while she looked for a job and “started over” in a new place.
So, here we are now.  My parents cleaned out closets and shifted furniture.  They made space on the pantry shelves and bought extra laundry detergent.  They are tucked away in the master suite.  Lyn is in the small extra bedroom, and the boys and I (and our three beds) are in the front bedroom.  It’s kind of like living in a sorority house.  Except I can’t really share clothes with anyone else.
Sometimes it feels like this.

Or this.

Or most applicably, like this.
There are, of course, some aches and pains that come with living in a house with six people.  (I know, I know--some of you are like...that’s how many people live in our house...what’s the big deal?  But you have to keep in mind that I am an only child.  The largest number of people I’ve ever lived with is FOUR--and that’s only been since Ben was born 2 1/2 years ago!)  
But I can honestly say the hiccups have been few.  At least for me, I think it helps to have healthy expectations about what it’s like to live in this new kind of normal--I’m probably not going to have as much alone time as I did when I lived in SC.  I have to be okay with sleeping on the couch if I want my own space OR living with the fact that I will end up with one or more children in my bed if I sleep in our bedroom.  I try my best to contribute--cleaning when I can, offering to do someone else’s laundry if I have a small load, and buying groceries often.
The pros of this situation FAR outweigh the cons.  Here are some examples:
  1. When I was in SC, I would put the kids to bed and settle in with DVR’d TV or a good book.  This was great--I had all kinds of me time, something that a lot of moms don’t get.  But now, I have built in babysitters who can sit (or sleep) at the house giving me the option of meeting friends for a late dinner or drinks.  I can catch a Thunder game or play trivia or hang out with a hot chocolate at Barnes and Noble all by myself.  This freedom is something I don’t take for granted because it’s one of those surprising, unexpected gifts that I need to appreciate for this short time.
  2. One of my best friends, Sarah, just gave birth to her third child.  Between us, this makes five kids, and this is the first time that either of us has been able to actually be at the hospital the day of the birth.  It’s a part of our friendship that was missing, and when I walked in and saw her deflating belly and tired eyes, my heart did jumping jacks.  For military families, we miss these moments.  All the time.  We get phone calls, or if we’re really lucky, we might get to Skype.  But most of the time, we miss these moments.  I feel so incredibly blessed.
  3. Will and Ben are starting to get a whole new sense of what family means.  Growing up, I lived in OK, and my extended family lived in MO.  We didn’t live “close” by some standards, but we did A LOT of traveling back and forth.  I really feel like I grew up with my cousins and had good relationships with my aunts and uncles and grandparents because my parents made an effort to be with family as much as possible.  I have tried to do the same, but it’s a lot longer distance from SC to OK/MO, especially when we have been limited by the Air Force on the amount of traveling we could do.  But since we’ve been “home,” we’ve made up for lost time.  Out of curiosity, I had Will draw a picture of our family.  I gave him no instructions beyond: draw a picture of our family.  This is what he came up with:

As he got out the paper and markers, he said, “I’m going to draw a picture of our family at Halloween because I like holidays!”
The first thing I want to note is that Scott is still in the picture.  It sounds stupid, but I worried that he might forget Daddy.  This is one of those irrational fear things--that my children are going to forget their father because we never see him.  But, look!  There he is--front and center.  Dressed like the Hulk.
I am to his left--the one with the starred crown, dressed as Wonder Woman.  Will is to the left of that, dressed like Spiderman.  Ben is under us dressed as Mickey Mouse.
Now, I should say that the very first person he drew is the little pink figure to the right of our immediate family.  That’s Emma, my cousin Misty’s daughter, and she is pink and has a crown because as Will said, “My cuz LOVES Pinkalicious.”  My boys and Emma have only hung out a handful of times in their short lives, but this just proves how superduperawesome it is to have cousins.
Will also included my mom and dad in the far bottom right corner (I don’t know why they are so tiny!) dressed as a “boxing man” and “Mimi in her school suit.”  My uncle, Doug, is the one above my parents.  He was a late addition when Will realized he had forgotten to add “Captain America.”
On the far left, we have my cousins Drew, Hailey, and Claire (whom my boys ADORE in the way you do when you have totallyawesomeandcool older cousins) who are obviously dressed like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and “girls in their swimsuits because they like to go to the beach.”
Last, he drew my aunts, Lisa and Lyn, and my cousin, Misty at the top left all in matching outfits.  When I asked him what their Halloween costumes were, he said, “They’re ballerinas.”  Naturally.
I told Will I was going to write a story about our family, and when he got home from school, he asked if he could read the story.  When I showed him this blog post, he said I got all the parts of the story right except I needed to add that “Hulk was carrying an invisible radio.”  So, that, I guess, is our story for now.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that there is nothing strange about this.  This is good.  Really, really good.


  1. I grew up in a family of 6, with my grandmother's house just 5 minutes away, aunt's house another 5 minutes in the opposite direction and know all about growing up around many cousins, aunts and uncles. I believe I'm better for that. Am glad your kids get to enjoy extended family!

    Love the drawing!

  2. Sometimes it is a great idea for family to live together. My husband and I live with our daughter and her family. We have our own little apartment and I have been able to help her with babysitting and housecleaning for many years. One of her daughters has OCD and cannot be left alone. She is thirteen now.

    Last year my grandson, from another daughter, moved in because he was out of work. He has a great job now and will be moving on some day. I think families should help each other since life can be pretty hard.

  3. @Alison, welcome! I sometimes think it would be great fun to have a big family like the Walkers on Brothers and Sisters. And then I think how great it is the way we have it now. Definitely grateful for the time with family.

    @Belle, so good to hear from you. It feels like it's been forever...but that's my fault because I haven't been posting as much. How nice for you that you get to enjoy your grandkids. I know my parents are LOVING it. :)