Not What I Imagined – My Messy, Beautiful Life

Thursday, April 17, 2014

average day in the backyard

I am living my dream. Ever since forever I wanted this, what I have in front of me – my four closely spaced kids, my husband who loves us more than we could ask, and I am able to choose to stay home with this little army of ours.

My little dream has had more than a few surprises. I never imagined that the bone aching exhaustion would be a near constant theme through 7 years of constant pregnancy and/or nursing littles ones. I now count it as a real and true blessing to make it through another day and be able to curl up with a book or more likely fall asleep watching some ridiculous show on my iPad in my bed by 8pm.


I never imagined that sleep could be so allusive. My prayer has evolved from “Please God, let the baby sleep through the night,” to something more like “Please God, don’t let more than one child wake up at the same time tonight. If it has to be more than one, please, I beg you, not more than two children, because there are only two adults here. Two sleep deprived adults.” Without experiencing the daze of night feedings, nightmares, accidents, or kids waking me up just to let me know their water cup is empty or that blankie got lost in their bed, we wouldn’t know the true gift it is on the occasion when all four children sleep through the night.

I never imagined it could take me 45 minutes to leave the house, every single day. Its as if we have never left the house before, and no one knows how to make it happen. Recently I was desperately trying to get to the pharmacy to pick up ANOTHER round of antibiotics for the eternal cycle of pink eye that plagued our family for over a month. I was rushing everyone out the door, but my 3 year old was refusing to be hurried. The harder I pushed, the more she resisted. Finally I managed to get her down the front steps. I put the baby in the car. She stood at the bottom of the steps and fussed quite loudly but not actually saying anything. She pointed to her feet. Her bare feet. Standing in a melting pile of snow.


I never imagined the constant mess. I imagined life would be messy, but was not prepared for the constant undoing of everything that I had done. That our home would be so far from perfect so much of the time. That I would call our home good enough for company so long as I had managed to scrape all the squished raisins off the floor because I’m personally convinced there is little worse than getting a foreign unidentifiable substance stuck to your socks. I didn’t realize the joy I would find as I learn to relax and open my imperfect home – with its pile of dishes, yes, even the missed raisin – to my kids, to our friends, to our community, and that our imperfect home would be a space for the imperfect people who wander in and out of it to build trust and connection with others.

I never imagined that everything would take so long. Nothing happens quickly. My get it done personality has to surrender one hundred times a day to the toddler who wants to do it herself, or to the kindergartener who wants to “help.” A simple clean up of the playroom inspires my children to take out every single toy they own. A task like making dinner takes 3 times longer than it should because I’m settling fights or helping someone in the bathroom or inventing suitable jobs for my enthusiastic helpers.


Its all wonderful. I wouldn’t trade the laughter we share together. I wouldn’t trade the joy of teaching these little people to be kind and loving big people, even after I’ve walked them through apologies and forgiveness 20 times a day.

Its all hard. I struggle through the daily ordinary reality of my life. Somedays I want to fight against all the crazy or maybe I just want to run and hide. Occassionally I want to scream back in the face of the 3 year old who is throwing her fourth tantrum today, when my migraine just can’t take any more. But, I wouldn’t want to trade any of the hard. Because without the hardship, how would I know and appreciate the good, the beautiful, the wonderful? I might miss the miracle of a child who finally settled after a tantrum, who apologized for the first time on her own. The same child, who moments later, asked me to help her find her favorite leotard and when we did find it together, she exclaimed “You are the very best helper, Mommy! I love you!” My life is messy, but the beautiful is in the people I’m living it with, and living it for.


For my Lucy, who is an awesome big sister and second mother to her 3 – soon to be 4 siblings. She feels emotion deeply, and seeks justice in her world for herself and those around her.


For my Fable, the observer, who notices and appreciates the smallest details in life – like when I’ve given her a different brand of string cheese.

Emmie in snow

For my Emmeline, our comic relief, who enjoys making us laugh, and dances her way through life.


For my Penelope, who balances her self advocacy with true empathy and compassion for others – as best any one year old can.


And of course my Bob, with whom I created this crazy life. I could not imagine a better pairing for our life together.

DSC_9782 copy

This is my messy, beautiful, ordinary, extraordinary life in which I can do hard things. In our family, with our four little people who interrupt and distract and wake us up in the middle of the night, and spill, and create messes, where everything takes 10 times longer than it should. I like to remind myself, “I can do hard things, but I must do them slowly.”

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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  • Mechelle Coppock

    Such an eloquent reminder to appreciate unexpected gifts.

  • coffeemugsandsippycups

    Loved this! I feel like I could’ve written something very similar! 🙂 It really is a beautiful mess!!

  • Nicole

    Love this & love you all. what mess? i just see creativity.

  • Jay Powers

    Beautifully written piece Suzy. When I first started being a dad, I had no idea how my life would change so much. It isn’t easy but it is worth it. Also, parenthood has the amazing ability to grow you up and keep you young at the same time. Be blessed!

  • Dana

    Beautiful Suzy…i teared up reading. it is hard. and I whine A lot about it…i’m glad and refreshed to hear your positive spin on it!

  • Justine

    I really, really enjoyed this! Such a great read, and I appreciate your honesty in how difficult the hardest job on earth is with how thankful you are for it! Thank you! Justine (

  • Emily O'Connor

    You took the words right out of my heart. Love it!

  • Heather

    Loved this post!

  • Carol Luckett

    It seems counter intuitive that the job most critical to get right starts out with the reality of messy. God’s sense of humor here in that only the mature will allow for messy carries a sense of irony, right. You have illustrated for us so well how we must give up the way we would like to have “things” now for the most important. Seriously, a my life for yours household.

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