Our Beautiful Chaos


Beautiful Chaos is a term I started using years ago. When I married the first time, I married young. It was part of the plan, remember? I also began to have children young. In July of 2011, I became the mommy of twin girls! Thirteen months later, my son was born. Nineteen months later, I had another daughter. When I got home from the hospital after my youngest was born, I looked around and realized: I had four children UNDER three (the twins were two years old at the time), I had four children in diapers/pull-ups, let’s face it-I basically had four babies. I had four little baby faces that saw their mommy when they looked at me and loved me, and needed me. It was chaos, and it was beautiful.

Travel with me 6 months ahead and the beautiful chaos became a little less beautiful (from my point of view), and a lot more chaotic. Very suddenly to me, I became a single mom of four children now three years old and under. Inside my mind was chaotic, situations around me were chaotic, my days were chaotic, and I lost sight of the beauty for a while.

Meanwhile (yes that’s right, at the same time), my now-groom-to-be was living in a chaos of his own. He also abruptly became a single dad of three girls who were at that time 11, 7, and 9 months. He also struggled to see the beauty in the reality around him.

Time passed, and the beauty returned. Single parenting is not easy. Scratch that – parenting is not easy! But the honor of raising children, little people entrusted to me, is a beautiful thing. I was hand picked and equipped to be their mom and none of the ugly that went on around us changed that fact. There were times that I was convinced I couldn’t do it. There were times I wanted to give up. There were times that I locked myself in the bathroom for a few minutes to cry, then pick myself up, take a deep breath, and re-enter the chaos. There is an infamous picture of my three oldest children standing in the dumped contents of an entire 5 pound bag of flour and an entire 5 pound bag of sugar next to our Christmas tree one month after everything changed-chaos. On the flip side, there were times when I thought my heart would explode from how much love I felt for my four little blessings. There were cuddle fests, and dance parties, and so many “I wuv you mommy”s. I started using the term Beautiful Chaos often. A reminder to myself that there was so much beauty to be seen in where life had taken me if I kept my heart focused on God and what He was doing (both seen and unseen).

While I was learning to refocus my gaze on the beauty in my life more than the chaos, my kids and I had to move out of our home. It was the only home my kids had ever known and held so many memories of their firsts. It also now held memories that I needed to separate from, so when we were told we had to go, I began looking for a new place. The 30 day timeline to get out by added a super appreciated level of excitement to the whole thing! The first thing I learned while looking was that I could not afford any apartments in a 20 mile radius. I also learned that I stink at accepting help. The thought of imposing myself and 4 young children on anyone else was hard to swallow. My grandmother had a home that was now empty because she had remarried and moved in with her new husband. She is from a generation that didn’t get rid of things, and fortunately for me, that included her house. You are probably wondering why her house wasn’t my first choice. I had some safety concerns (two story house and young children) and there was also an element of just plain weird. The house I grew up in is three doors down from my grandmother’s house. My mom still lives there. As a kid, I spent half my time at my house and half my time at my grandparent’s. My mom was a single mom with a story similar to my now story and I had to wrap my head around my life going so full circle that I would end up back where I began life and my kids would be walking down the same street to see their grandma (we call that a Mawmaw around here). And then, then I stopped to refocus again. There was beauty in that. In August of 2015, I and my 4 children moved into my grandmother’s house, a house I pretty much grew up in, and pressed on. While I was very thankful to have a place I could afford and be close to family, I vowed the day I moved in that I would move out by December of 2016. This wasn’t because I thought I was better than this place or because I wanted to be farther from family-not at all! I just saw this house as a transition phase and that was the time I picked to start moving out of my transition phase of life.

In June of last year, I met a man. I will save the story of how we met and the fun of, what I have dubbed, SPLDD (Single Parent Long Distance Dating), and just fast forward to the new beautiful chaos. David, who you must know is good man and fantastic choice for a husband, proposed to me in December….December of 2016. Call us crazy (I probably shouldn’t use this term because you will in fact call us crazy), but SPLDD was hard enough and we did not want to attempt a single-parent-long-distance-engagement. It was time for us to be in the same place. We are planning ahead to a wedding and a life that required a decent amount of saving up, and as we looked at options, pretty much all of them landed us both in the negative. We began to run out of ideas, until a crazy thought hit.

Let it be known I live in an odd house. May I paint you a picture? My Mawmaw’s house that I am renting is a two story house, only it’s not really a two story house. It’s a one story house, on the second floor. Confused yet? Let me try again. On the bottom floor, there is a two car garage, a one car garage, a small room cooled by a window AC unit that used to be used as an office, and a bathroom/laundry room combo that is not connected to that one cooled room. The access to the upstairs is by an outdoor staircase so the two floors are not connected on the inside at all. On the top floor is a two bedroom, one bathroom house. Naturally, this stayed off of our radar as an option at first, not just because of size, but also because living together wasn’t an option. That was something I wanted to save for when we were married. It hit us one day that this oddly designed home could be the answer. We could pay one rent instead of two, David could have a place to live separated from the rest of the house, the kids could spend time growing together, and (since I was having to leave my full time job for unrelated reasons anyway) I could cut our childcare costs out and give us the option to start saving. On top of all of those reasons, there is a nice sized lot we are sitting on here and a house that has the bones of a two story house. David has experience in home renovation so the answer to not only our current situation, but also the future, could be right here. December of 2016 came and we were actually talking about staying here permanently! We prayed together and talked to our families and a plan began to form. I use this term “plan” lightly though these days as I am very aware of the fact that my plans are most definitely not always the best plans. I think that is becoming clear to you too. We prayed and we planned and we discussed and we planned and we hit road blocks and we regrouped and we discussed more and we prayed more and for now I think we have it!

So it is simple really-David moves in downstairs, his three girls join my four kids and share the bedrooms upstairs, I get a “bedroom” in the living room, we plan a wedding, buy a house, completely renovate a house, and start becoming blended now. Welcome to our beautiful chaos!

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Ashley Karaffa

Ashley is mother to a blended family of 10 and appreciating the beautiful chaos of it all. She enjoys creating systems - because how can you survive a family with 8 kids without systems - and spending time celebrating her family.

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