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One Year

It’s an old story, stop me if you’ve heard it before.

Two thirty-something moms stop for a drink on their way home from grocery shopping on a winter’s eve. They sit at the bar, at the only available seats, and are chatted up by an elderly gentleman who tells them firstly, that he was happy to be sitting by a couple of good looking chicks.

“Moms, you mean,” they correct him.

His eyes widen.

“Four children each,” they explain.

“Eight kids between you?”

“And we all live in the same house.”

“All in one house, you two and your old men and eight kids?” He shakes his head and taps his fingertips on the table, eyes bouncing back and forth between the two women’s smiling faces. “So, you’re housewives then?”

“Nope. We each own our own businesses, and our husbands run one together, too.”

“No kidding. I’ve got to think of someone I can call to get you on TV. This is a story right here.”

“And we homeschool,” they add, just for fun.

Because, sometimes, moms who live in houses with eight children, running their own businesses and teaching school, and doing creative writing and other projects on the side, like to watch their life story told back to them on the faces of surprised strangers.

“Well, I’d watch that.”

The women finish their drinks and head to the door, unsure how they felt about the prospect of ever being on TV, but fairly convinced that the gentleman wasn’t so wrong in his assertion.

Their lives – the funny moments and the tender moments, the sticky and messy and irritating moments, the bumps, the bruises, the drama and the goofiness, the rare {very rare} moments of silence and the lessons being learned in every breath between – all of it, would make a great a story.

The House Kinaney

…I wrote that back in January, less than six months into this whole experiment in “community” living. At the time we were toying with the idea of doing a combined blog/family page where we would share videos or let the kids have their own space to share what it’s like, living with their best friends.

At the time, it was arctic outside and we’d just survived (most) of the holidays.

Today is the one year anniversary of our two families pulling up with two U-Haul trucks and claiming this old house as our own. That day, and the harsh winter that came shortly after, feels like a lifetime ago – who we were one year ago, or even just six months ago, feels like a lifetime apart from where we are, from who we are, this September morning.

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You see, choosing to live in a house with someone (or in our case, with a family of six someones) will change you. And not even if only because for half of the year, you were able to chat and have in-depth conversations about personality differences and Myers-Briggs tests and navel gaze over coffee (or wine.) No, you change, because as you grow in this place, with these people…you realize that you’re no longer only concerned with your own little corner of the universe, but with theirs, and not because they’re just in your space – they are (part of) your space, in a strange (and much less creepy than I’m making this sound) way. And if you’re with the right people, the best people for you, the change is good.

Friendships grow and change, even under (especially under?) the same roof. Friends you could once drive home from after a long late night of goofing off – become deeper. In many ways, you become a partnership, a give and take, a trust. Hey, I need to run to the store, can I go without taking all of the kids? Can you check and see if we left the door to our floor wide open? Can you watch our dog? We’re cooking out, come eat.

Friends that you live with become the ones you can trust to (gently) tell you like it is –  when you’re dense, but won’t stop talking, when you can’t see the hand in front of your face or you’re just flat-out wrong – and they do so, because they love you and it’s all part of being what you all are, a community, a wacky tribe who’ve chosen to bunker down together.

And so, you learn to bend, you learn to shift, you learn (again, like when you’re first married) to consider others, more often, always, until it simply becomes habit, it becomes…who you are. Not perfect, ever, but pretty unconditionally loved as you stumble through the process.

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In the past year, we’ve all watched our favorite little guy go from an infant to a baby-on-the-verge-of-toddlerhood, walking and babbling and charming anyone who’ll look his way. We’ve listened to (what feels like) a million pounding of children’s footsteps up and down the stairs, we’ve taken turns comforting each other’s children, and we’ve cleaned up each other’s messes (potty training two little girls, plus dogs, plus, well, life. All of it.). We’ve figured out how to move tons of piles of snow and still somehow have room to walk to our cars mid-February. We’ve worked through broken furnaces, broken stoves, leaking dishwashers. And we’ve worked through bigger, harder, turn-your-life-upside-down things. Job changes. Night shifts. Grad school beginnings. Job losses. What-am-I-doing-with-my-life? type things.

And in these snow globe moments…it’s nice to never feel alone.

So, I still stand by what I wrote this winter. All of it – every ugly, nitty-gritty, or boring why-would-anyone-else-*really*-care moment of it – is still a great story.

I’ve been so happy to spend more lazy nights with my best friends, to watch my husband putter around the house with someone he considers to be his brother, fixing whatever needs to be fixed, and to see our kids growing up alongside one another, watching out for one another, always.

I’ve been blessed to have people who care about me on both floors of this old house, and to never, really, feel all that alone, even if we haven’t seen each other in days. I know they’re just as there for my family and I, as we are for them and theirs.

One year of The House Kinaney, done.

(And, done pretty well, if I say so, myself.)

1 Comment so far

  1. Kathy Bailey

    An enriching experience for all of you, and for those of us who get to hear about it.
    The man called you “housewives”? Seriously? Who even uses that word any more?

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