our crazy [unconventional] family

i love our ugandan family. there are nine of us. three moms and six kids. five of those kids are immobile and none of them have ever known “family” in the conventional sense of the word. i consider it a privilege to be part of their first family, to teach them what it means to be loved and to belong. of course, the most incredible thing about it is that one of them is mine. i’ll write more on that in another post. for now, i’ll just say it’s been an amazing journey so far and i can’t wait to see how the rest of the story unfolds!

many people have commented on our life here as being amazing and wonderful. sure, there are moments of awesomeness where things are under control. [actually, i can’t really remember a day like that since moving in here]. more often than not, it’s slightly chaotic, very loud, and there’s always something going on that doesn’t fit into what we would call a routine.

peace and quiet are relative terms. there’s usually a baby crying or someone who needs to be changed or fed or just held. there are half-empty bottles, pacifiers, dirty diapers and spit-up cloths strewn all over the floor. there are babies crawling outside looking for trouble, and my little 5-year-old is usually scooting across the floor behind them. naptimes are inconsistent and everyone seems to be on a different schedule. we eat on the kitchen floor. we have dance parties on the kitchen floor.

we have turned one of the rooms in the “boys’ quarters” into our one-room schoolhouse. [actually it is also a makeshift art studio and the place we like to sing at night because the acoustics are fantastic.] it helps that it is a little more secluded than the front porch where we used to try to keep the babies away do our schoolwork. still, even in our little concrete box of a classroom, there are usually interruptions…temper tantrums, whining episodes, or other dramatic baby-related events. MM has started to enjoy walking with her walker, so we do laps around the courtyard in between our academics. she chants “tambula, mama, tambula” while we walk. (“walk, mama, walk”). i guess she thinks i need the motivation? she is too much fun. speaking of fun, we are thoroughly taking advantage of the fact that we live in walking distance to a decent swimming pool! MM and LN are learning to swim! it’s the best afternoon activity on scorching hot days.

it is interesting living with mandie and rachel. they are remarkable people, wonderful moms, and great friends! there is always something to talk about and we laugh a lot. a few nights ago, mandie (after watching an episode of the mentalist) felt unsafe and decided she needed to sleep with her mace, computer, ipod, phone, pocketknife, diapers, wipes and a baby bottle, and a devotional. all lined up on her mattress. she said she just wanted to be able to protect us if anything happened. maybe she was worried because the night before, rachel had thrown a wadded up sheet at her in the middle of the night. she was really frustrated in her dream and took out all her anger on her peacefully sleeping roommate. rachel announced the other day that she feels the urge to talk to one of the babies like Roz, the boss lady in monsters inc (with the scratchy voice) because of this particular baby’s little growl. then she started using her growly voice with us in the kitchen and MM thought it was funny so she imitated her. “i am watching you wazowski, always watching.” like i said, things here get crazy fast!

we keep telling each other to stop eating sugar. but with the stress levels high from everything going on, the only diet we can stick to includes crepes for breakfast, lots of coffee, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and american candy. we try to be healthy. really we do our best. we pop flintstone gummy vitamins and gulp down coke like it’s water. and the only fastfood we eat is cooked over charcoal stoves and wrapped in last week’s newspaper.

a few days ago, we decided to add some structure to the craziness in an effort to preserve what little sanity we have left. we now start each day by listening to a podcast (usually Tim Keller)…this really helps set the tone for the day. we also go for evening walks while the sun is setting. we make quite a scene, and i’m surprised we haven’t caused any traffic accidents with the amount of rubbernecking going on. but it is nice.  my favorite part of our day is our family singing time after dinner.  we get out the guitar and violin and some buckets for drums.  it is loud and the kids are wild, but we sing good songs about life and God and thankfulness.  and this helps us end our days on a positive note.

despite all the craziness, i love living here and being part of this family. i feel incredibly blessed and wouldn’t trade it for anything. there is a lot of joy and beauty in the chaos.

“The only people for me are the mad ones. The ones who are mad to love, mad to talk, mad to be saved; the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” -Jack Kerouac

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