Real House

When I was young, my favorite thing to do was play House—a general label for a game that meant nothing more than pretending to be grown up.  It was all I ever wanted—to be older and have a house and babies and do mom-ish things like change diapers and make dinner and throw a purse over my shoulder while I said something very adult-ish like, “Hey everybody, I’m going to the store!” I loved playing House so much that I hid it well past the approved age when one should admit they play House. In fact, I’m pretty sure I smoked my first two cigarettes under the bleachers at a Montrose High School football game when I was the visiting homeschooled sixth grader who went home to play House later that evening.

It’s kind of weird to be living the life I played for so long. And to think that I considered patting a doll to sleep,  hauling my purse to the store and saying “Oh, honey” a lot pretty much covered being a mom. I certainly left out the hard parts. And, by doing so, left out the most beautiful.

There are lots of days when I still feel like I’m playing house. Moments where—don’t blink!—everything lines up and we are that family I pretended to be. Kids going to ballet and babies smiling in photos and “Hi honey, I’m home” blurted from the laundry room and “Hey everybody, I’m going to the store!” uttered from the kitchen and all those things I thought would make me a grown-up played out just like I planned. Paying with coupons and giving my kids baths and cutting fresh herbs and kissing my husband before he walks out the door and having in-laws and planning birthday parties and checking the mail to find things that prove I’m a real life mom who’s playing real life House—like voter’s registration forms and mattress sales and bills from the pediatric dentist.

But here we are and life is so much more complicated and beautiful and richer and challenging and rewarding and gut-wrenching than I could have ever imagined it would be when I was swaddling that doll daughter named Lexi or pretending to make an appointment for her parent teacher conference or even writing dream baby names down in notebooks after I kissed House goodbye and at least balanced my someday life with realistic efforts like college classes and a part time job that didn’t involve babysitting.

We went out to eat last night, and it went very unlike the episodes I played out in old House days. We forgot the big U.S. vs. Portugal World Cup game was going on and consequently drove up to a few parking lots, ran in to check booth availability and left defeated. We ended up finding a fun sports bar, dragged the kids in and smiled through the first thirty minutes because we were so awesome at playing House. Reality kicked in and by the end of the night we were consoling toddlers rattled by all the noisy cheering, cleaning cracker crumbs from the booth and laughing at how much work a night out ended up entailing.

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We came home with leftover boxes and transferred sleeping babies still in their clothes to cribs and beds.

I never worried about the dolls I carried while playing House as a kid. I never prayed for them or contemplated my choices about them. I never kissed the bridges of their noses or whispered in their ear about how much I loved them after they were asleep. I never cried over my House family.

Tonight, I put three kids to sleep, saying separate prayers for each. I listened to them breathe for a minute, watched their chest rise up and down, whispered things in their ears. I straightened all my week’s priorities out and finally retreated to my desk. Above it, the B & K metal  letters are a little knocked off their nails so that they’re crooked. But they’re hanging in there, and there’s a sturdy wall behind them.

This is what a game of real House looks like. Many exhausted, ironic, beautiful moments

I like real House.


Weekend enjoying:

Our grown-up girl.
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Pier Dates 
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Watching her proudly do her own hair every day.
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The new obsession in our home: mice cat toys
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I mean, the little dinner table and the real cheese. The mice are playing House!
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Afternoon sunlight through dirty windows and the Dora watering can.
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Happy Monday.


This week, I’m over at eHow talking about Sanity-Saving Ways to Survive the Witching Hour. Dude. Every day: “Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little crazy and one mess away from snapping, I actually let myself snap–appropriately. Kid of like a ‘controlled burn’ that forest rangers initiate to keep the whole forest from going up in flames.”


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  1. How did Dash grow up so quickly?! I definitely blinked and missed that one!

  2. I was so very much like that, with house as my favorite pastime, dreaming of the day my babies would be real. We’re camping out in a hotel room tonight, the first time for all 5 of us, and Isla – who finally fell asleep on my chest a few minutes ago – is snuggled up close while I finish some work and I’ve been thinking the same thing – I like real house, too.

  3. What a lovely post! You really capture the messy sweetness of family life.

    It is funny how many experiences I’ve had as a mom that I could never have anticipated as a kid playing house (mostly the trips to the ER and the late-night vomits). But yes … some of them I did anticipate, and they’re even better in reality.

  4. Right? Who knew? Grown up, real life, real house is awesome. The older I get, the more decisions I get to make, the people I’m responsibe for taking care of, the messes, the frustrations, the heartaches, the stresses are all balanced by the absolute awesomeness of it all. I like real house too.

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  6. I resonate so strongly with this! I also used to stuff with socks and a kickball to pretend I was pregnant. I was 12 years old and still asking for a doll for Christmas. I wanted to become a mom so badly I feared I wouldn’t be able to…but I am…and nothing compares. The biggest challenge, the thing that stretches me/changes me most, something I would never change. Grateful, am I!

  7. I was just like you (and 52 Weeks to a More Likeable Me! who posted above — stuffing my shirt to pretend I was pregnant, asking for dolls until long past the age when it was “okay,” babysat for a living… I didn’t have a “real” job until I worked in a daycare while in nursing school). Now I’m a 24 year old pediatric oncology nurse who just got married last summer (and yes, is still tempted to go find some families to babysit for). My husband was just diagnosed with testicular cancer in April and we are officially completely sterile. It’s not that I’m against adoption — I know it will be a beautiful gift when we are ready to pursue that — but it’s just not the way I pictured it. At all. I love reading your blog, watching your littles grow up, and I applaud your courage when you thought that your world had fallen apart. Most days I do okay, but today (as my husband is puking & I’m talking with the nurses about whether or not he needs to be admitted to the hospital), I’m angry about this life that I’ve been handed. I’m just praying that my story ends up as happy as yours did. Thank you for your example, Kelle.

  8. So true that “grown up life” is never like you imagine it to be. But you’re right, it’s so much better! The challenges, the joy, all of it adds up to make the real thing that much better. What a beautiful post!

  9. I loved your article Kelle! Great advice!! Thank you!

  10. What pier do you go to? We will be in Naples starting Saturday and this looks different then the pier off of 5th.

  11. Beautiful kelle, just what I needed and feel the same.

  12. I love the “I <3 NY” hat Nella has on! Go NY state!!

  13. This is beautiful! Love the photos and description of dirty windows to seeing Lainey’s little house! Real house is hard and you share it all beautifully!

  14. Dash with his hands-free bottle is sooooo good. love this post, mama.

  15. I was wondering the same thing about the pier. Which one it was. So beautiful.

  16. Kelle….
    I, too, played House long past the “age-appropriate” timeline of nurturing dolls with plush bodies and hollow plastic heads!! But I never hid it. And I wonder why people made fun of me?! Hee, hee, hee…. ;-D
    That first picture of Dash!! It looks as though he is preaching a church sermon, or something!! 😉
    Love you later, Raelyn

  17. I was also OBSESSED with playing House! I didn’t stop until I was entering the 9th grade!!

    Nella’s swimsuit is adorable! And I love the sunshine pouring through the window!

  18. My daughter just turned 7 months this week, and I still find myself regularly having moments where I sit and ask “is this real life?” because I am still in so much awe that I have a real live daughter! I remember growing up and wondering what my life would look like in the future, what would my husband be like, what would my children be like, etc. And I have to say, while my little girl is really nothing like what I envisioned (really, how does she have dark brown hair!?), she more amazing than any dream child I ever imagined.

  19. Captain tony, Ernest Hemingway, and my hubby! Talk about a fun tea!

  20. she is so darling. love how you’ve captured this! XO

  21. Kelle… So many times I read something and think, “Wow, that sounds like me.” But this? This was me to a T. I wish that my Mom and Dad had taken pics of me playing House. I seriously played through Middle School, and maybe even my Freshman year. I like Real House, too. Amidst the crazy, it’s so much better! Happy week!!

  22. Wow Kelle, Dash has grown so much!! I love that photo of him trotting through the water, hes gorgeous! They’re all gorgeous in fact :-).
    This looks like such a beautiful part of the world. Very lucky :-)

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