Monday, August 12, 2013

Beauty and Chaos

Last night, after Elise had returned from her photo shoot, she asked me how everyone was. I responded, "It was equal parts beautiful and chaotic."

First of all, let me start by apologizing in advance if I unintentionally invert the normal placement of words in a sentence. I am two-thirds of the way through an intense thirty-week Tamil class. In Tamil, though every sentence begins with a subject, it ends with a verb. The English sentence, "After class, I went to the store." Would be, "Class after, I store to went." in Tamil. I only make this important distinction, because I almost started this blog by writing, "Yesterday at night, Elise's photo shoot after, she to me everyone how asked."

Elise's working hours generally fall outside of the normal Monday through Friday nine to five as immortalized by Dolly Parton in the song and movie of the same name. She works when her clients don't, which means most of her shoots are on the weekends.

This works well, and I secretly enjoy the role reversal and the challenge of feeding three children, getting them into and out of baths and into bed solo. Generally, dinner is not on the table when she returns home, steam curlycueing from the plate. And last night was, unfortunately, no exception, though I was able to throw together a salad hearty enough to serve as a meal. Add a bottle of Franciscan merlot and a loaf of kalamata olive bread from the bakery, and dinner was salvaged. The question as to everyone's status came after the first crucial, revitalizing sips of red wine and before we settled in to watch the finale of "The Next Food Network Star".

The few evenings I spend solo parenting often oscillate between moments of pure, unadulterated joy and complete and utter chaos.

For example, as I am cleaning the kitchen of dinner preparations and bowls and spoons covered with brownie batter, I glance up to see all three kids reading to each other on the couch.

This idyllic scene was preceded only moments before by the two boys trying to pee on each other in the bath tub. 

You get the picture. 

I sat with the kids as they ate their dinner. We said blessing, and I asked them what their favorite parts of the weekend were. Sam and Pete invariable answered the movie "Planes" that we had seen that morning. Then, everyone started rattling off their favorite quotes from the movie. Clem and I cheered sippy cups. That is to say, she cheered my beer bottle with her sippy cup. 

After a few minutes, I walked into the kitchen to get more noodles for Sam. When I glanced over at Clementine she looked back at me, and for the briefest instant I could see the beautiful girl she was going to grow up to be. The sun was casting long, almost fall-like afternoon shadows through the vertical blinds. She smiled and a lump came to my throat. 

A few minutes later, Peter dropped his entire plate of green peas and chicken on the floor (chaos) as he was clearing his plate (beauty). Though everyone immediately stooped to help clean up the mess (beauty) (well, everyone, that is, except Peter, the main perpetrator), their efforts did more to spread what then seemed like a quantity of peas numbering in the tens of thousands (chaos). 

The moment each of our three kids were born was filled with equal parts beauty and chaos, and every day since had achieved an equal balance. I don't foresee that magical formula changing as we move into the future, though undoubtedly some days will be filled with more chaos than beauty and vice versa, but also undoubtedly, no day will be all chaos or all beauty. What makes each morning interesting is not knowing what mixture each day will bring. 

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