When our good friends Nick and Kami told us that they were moving back to Lincoln, Nebraska so Nick could pursue a doctoral degree, my husband Brandon and I didn’t want to believe it. I’m sure I am not alone when I say that making friends in your 20s-30s is painstaking, although extremely rewarding work. To hear the news of these two leaving Colorado came as quite a shock.
The big change
And so, at the end of June 2018, the Lee’s whisked their adorably squishy nine-month-old and their grand piano out of our lives and back to the Cornhusker state.
Over the next few months, we did our best to fight against the pull of careers, schoolwork, parenting, and all the other excuses we could have made not to keep in touch. We made a point to get together when Brandon and I visited Nebraska for the holidays. Their presence was missed at our group gatherings here in Colorado. However, I’d like to think we all did a pretty darn good job of maintaining a long distance friendship.
That being said, Brandon and I found it relatively easy to say “yes” when they called in late February to give us news that they would be returning to Colorado for the summer. Nick would be doing some work for his former employer and wondered if their little family could live with us so they wouldn’t have to be apart all summer.
Planning all the things
Brandon and I pretended to think about it for a few days. But the answer was always clear, and visions of an incredible summer began to fill our heads. Despite what friends, family, and other random acquaintances may have said upon finding out about our summer-long slumber party, we were beyond excited at the prospect of having them back in our midst and all up in our lives, if only for a month or two.
Kami and I texted plans, big plans, to one another about how we would keep ourselves busy:
“Let’s have a healthy summer. Like really healthy.”
“Yeah. We can do yoga while the kids nap. Let’s plan and cook really healthy meals too.”
We made plans to take the kids to the pool at least once a week. To walk to the farmer’s market every Saturday. To even write and illustrate a children’s book. Yes, it’s a huge task, but we’ve been talking about it for quite some time, so we thought we could at least make a start. We’d take “family walks” under the summer sunset after dinner. And because we all wanted to be realistic, we even planned on getting frustrated with each other. However, we agreed to always talk things through, so as not to forever ruin our friendship.
Let the summer begin!
Our first Monday together dawned. The boys got up early to hike the trail outside our house like THEY had planned. Then, made their way into the office together. Kami sketched a picture of my daughter while her son Graham slept in. I sipped coffee while my kiddos munched their cereal. Sounds dreamy, right? I promise, all of that actually occurred, and we felt like we were off to a solid start.
Eventually, we got all three kids loaded up and headed to the park for the first time.
Five minutes later, everything changed. As I chased my kids around the playground trying to apply sunscreen, I heard Graham let out an alarming wail.
“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, Graham just split his lip and I think he needs stitches.”
I tossed the sunscreen, grabbed a fistful of wipes, and headed toward the screaming. Blood. Everywhere. A round little toddler thrashing his limbs in fear and pain. My five-year-old throwing a fit about leaving the park after just five minutes of playtime. My two-year-old screeching because Graham and sissy were crying.
Kami spent her first summer afternoon back in Colorado in the emergency room, doing her best to calm her firstborn as they sedated him and sewed his sweet little lip back together.
That’s about where our initial fancy-pants plans ended, I suppose.
Doing life together
I was so bummed that Graham got hurt in those first hours of our time together. Those moments are the worst. They just are. But, in an odd way, it made me glad. Glad Kami didn’t have to drive to the emergency room alone with a screaming, bleeding toddler in the backseat. I was glad that we were getting right into it. Doing life together. because really, it was what we would be doing in the weeks to come.
Today, we are nearing the end of our summer as a “family” of seven. We have shared nearly every waking moment together, in some combination. There’s been more blood––although not nearly as much as that first day. We’ve changed a lot of diapers, dealt with quite a few temper tantrums, cleaned up a lot of the same messes. We have seen each other get frustrated and tired and snappy (to say the least) with our kids and spouses.
Some of our big plans have happened––once or twice. Turns out, it’s a lot of work to take three kids to the pool. Or anywhere, for that matter.
The memories I will forever hold closest to my heart are the things we never thought to text to one another. Singing to Graham at night when his mama needed a break. Watching Kami play superheros with my son and copy my daughter’s crazy dance moves. Hearing the kids ask for one another first thing in the morning. Giggling about how much more entertaining it is to mop the kitchen floor with a buddy. The ache in my cheeks after cracking each other up during the “family meetings” we held once the kids were in bed.
Treasuring the journey
I don’t know if we will ever have another summer like this one with the Lee family, or anyone else. I’m not here to suggest that everyone should open up their home to someone for an extended period of time. All I know is that this summer, we did. And despite the drama of that first afternoon, it’s working out pretty well for all of us.