Whoever said “Life is what you make it” didn’t have children.

Moms try so hard to create happy, magical family moments.  We run ourselves ragged trying to get all the little things done that will somehow set the stage for an enchanted family co-existence.  The problem is, children don’t make magic.  They make messes.  They make noise.  They make unusual smells.  They make conflict. And, honestly, some days they make me crazy.

For example, the last couple of weeks, I have dreamed up a cozy, lovely Family Home Evenings where we would go together as a family to these inspirational spots where we could look at an art exhibit about Jesus Christ or the lights on Temple Square, talk about what they mean, and of course all have our testimonies grow exponentially while we relished our time together.  (I admit I’m being a little dramatic for effect, but I really did think it would be great.)  On both occasions, Matt and I were considering putting up our children for adoption before we were even halfway to our destinations.  There was so much squawking and bickering and nonsensical noise that we were quite sure that, once again, Satan had crashed our FHE party.  Results:

Week one:  After breathing fire and other threats, we made it to the museum.  Late, of course.  They said they would still honor our tickets, but then all the children had to go to the bathroom.  Fifteen minutes later, and now really late, we made our way into the exhibit.  Repeat the following phrases 46 times and that will be represent the next 30 minutes:  “You can’t run.  Don’t touch the paintings! Stand back.  Use your quiet voices. You can’t just step in front of people.  Please stay by mom and dad.”  Even if you say them in your most calm clenched-teeth whisper, it gets old after a while and you wonder why you even came.

Week two:  The children were being SO loud in the car that we couldn’t stand it any more.  I turned on the Christmas radio station and cranked it up loud enough that it drowned out their noise.  They were only rallied by the competition and started screeching and hollering and making alien noises at the top of their lungs.  Matt turned up the volume even higher and then sang “O Holy Night” in the loudest, most bizarre soprano I’ve ever heard in my life.  I laughed so hard I cried, but when it was over, I think we all had a headache.  At Temple Square, everyone ran in different directions constantly.  I spent 75% of my time “herding sheep.” They fought about who got to throw a coin into the fountain and cried if the results weren’t “fair.” They have no sense of proper crowd navigation and walked right into the path of on-comers over and over again.  That makes me nuts, and I had to apologize on their behalf dozens of times.  Some sister missionaries tried to talk to us in the tabernacle, but half the time our children were running in and out of the benches.  Clark and Natalie kept opening and closing my umbrella.  I think I managed to get out one sentence at a time between barking out child-control commands.   Grant pulled M&Ms out of my purse and spilled them all over the bench.  We moved on.

Does any of this sound familiar?  Please tell me it does.  I know the logical response would be “Don’t go in public with your children.”  But any one who is a stay-at-home mom of young children knows that you simply HAVE to venture out occasionally in hopes that the change of scenery will improve your sanity.  I said “in hopes.”

Now.  You know the purpose of my blog is to seek for the divinity in motherhood, so as I write/purge/dump, I try to pay attention for the “meat” of my experiences, and you know what?  It’s almost always there.  I can see it when I look for it.

Week one:  At some of the paintings, the children sat quietly and stared.  They asked some questions and we got to retell many of the stories from Christ’s life.  They each had a favorite painting, and they will probably remember it.  At one point, I pulled Grant aside and showed him a sketch of Christ and the adulterous woman.  As I retold the story and quoted the Savior saying “Woman, where are these thine accusers? …. “Go thy way and sin no more,” I felt overcome with love from the Savior and tears came to my eyes.  I told Grant it was one of my favorite Bible stories.

Week two:  During the conversation with the sister missionaries, we were able to share some of our life stories and testimonies.  At the missionaries’ request for contacts, the children suggested that we send videos about Christmas to their grandparents.  One sister was from Uruguay and I got to have a conversation with her in Spanish.  She said my spanish was “perfect,” which I know wasn’t true, but it made me feel good anyway.  We walked over to the visitor’s center and climbed the ramp to the Christus statue.  The children all sat next to each other on the floor and stared up at Him.  Grant had his arm around Natalie and I saw him point out to her the nail-marks on the hands and feet.  Clark stood close and craned his neck up to gaze at Him for a brief, quiet pause.  The room was very crowded and not very quiet, so I suggested to Matt that we leave and come back another time.  We called the children and started to leave, but Grant was flustered and said he wasn’t done yet.  Matt told him go back and finish.  As we looked back, we saw him kneeling down in prayer about 10 feet in front of the statue.  His eyes were closed, his head was bowed, his arms folded.  As he got up and ran back to join us, I saw tears in his eyes.  Clark wanted to copy his brother and later sat quietly on a bench and prayed.  When he finished, he smiled and hugged me.  I asked if he could feel how much Heavenly Father loves him and he nodded yes.

I guess the magic happens after all.  It’s just totally different than what we imagine when we try to wave our wands.  And frankly, my life is hardly ever what I try to make it be.  Sometimes it’s better.