Thomas, Hannah, Jane, and Theo are gone - safely and happily settled in their new home. It is so very quiet here now. I have more or less made the tour of the house and taken care of cleaning all the little elf tracks from the windows and walls. The bits and pieces are once again back where they live. And it is quiet. I miss the joyful greetings first thing in the morning. Or indeed whenever I was greeted. Kids are wonderful that way - they aren't shy about letting you know they love you. I even miss the inevitable sibling squabbles. The noise and the mess - that is what we make a home to contain and that is what makes a house more than a showpiece. Really living together. It isn't like the movies - neither the good nor the bad. It is just real and really wonderful. Sometimes everything is in its place and things look beautiful. Other times stuff is all over the place and life is simply beautiful - because we are together. As I clean and sort - in the quiet - I am grateful that there are sweet little people that come to my home and are happy and comfortable here. Comfortable enough to make a mess, to ask for snacks, to make a clubhouse out of my pantry, to invite the kids next door over to play, to climb on my lap and read a book with me, to stay and be loved. What a sad house it would be if it was always clean and quiet.