I've had a package sitting in our living room for the past five weeks that I've been meaning to send to my mother. But I've been putting off mailing it, because to do that, I would need to go to the post office.
When the package for my mother was joined by another package of hand-me down clothes that I needed to mail to my brother, and another package with a gift for a friend who just had a new baby, and another package with a gift for a friend who was recently married, I decided that there was finally enough stuff to be mailed that the major inconvenience of taking all four children to the post office, would be offset by the free space I would gain in our living room.
So, yesterday, I loaded up the children and off we went. It didn't dawn on me until I was unloading the children from the car, that I had never put Carolyn and Elizabeth in diapers. Alas, they were still wearing the underwear they'd had on since they woke up in the morning.
Although I will let the girls stay in their underwear whenever we are at home or in the neighborhood, I would much prefer that we not go out in public with the children out of diapers.
The girls are doing extremely well with their potty training, but I'm just not "there" yet. "There" being that point of dragging a potty chair and change of clothes with me everywhere we go, or - worse yet, venturing in to the realm of public restrooms.
As I started to walk in to the post office - with the triplets in their safety harnesses and Henry in the stroller, with four huge boxes piled high on top - Carolyn informs me that she has to go pee-pee on the potty.
Luckily for me, I have a small potty chair in the back of the van.
I turn the whole fleet around and with kids falling all over themselves, we walk back to the car. I sit Carolyn in the back of the van - perched on the potty chair - and seconds later, she flashes me a big smile.
While she is climbing out of the car, I realize that I have no idea what I am going to do with a potty chair full of pee. Eventually, I plan to get my act together and have plastic grocery bags that I line with paper towels stocked and ready.
But remember, I'm not "there" yet.
I span my surroundings and notice that there are absolutely no planters in which to empty the potty receptacle. The entire parking lot is paved, down to the road. Hoping that no one sees me, I nonchalantly dump the pee underneath the car and immediately start shushing my children when all three of them notice the trickle that is meandering out from beneath the car and yell "Oh MOMMY!! LOOK!! Dare go Twacie's pee-pee, on da gwound!!"
In typical fashion when I'm trying to distract the children from the subject at hand, I begin drilling them with questions, "Hey Guys!! What color is the sky?! Do you hear the wind blowing?? What does it sound like?? What is your name?? What are we having for lunch??"
Walking in to the post office, while my children are shouting out random answers to the questions I posed, Elizabeth informs me that she too, now has to go potty.
I take a deep breath and turn the caravan around a second time. I hoist her in to the car, and repeat the process of nonchalantly dumping the receptacle and doing my absolute best to avoid acknowledging the river of pee that is now streaming across the bone dry parking lot.
After my second child has completed their void, we finally make our way in to the post office. There is a line of at least 10 people in front of me. The kids are on their harnesses, and pulling as hard as they can to try and reach the breakable objects that are located at their eye level in the nearby post office "store".
William pretends that he is a tiger and his harness lead is a plush tail. I am holding on tighter and tighter to the harness leads, afraid that all three of them are going to bust free. William starts yelling at me "You wet GO my bootiful tail!!" while Carolyn and Elizabeth are trying to see how far forward they can lean without falling down.
At one point, a woman standing in front of me, turns around and just stares. After a few minutes of smiling, she pleasantly asks "How old are your twins?"
I've been getting this question a lot, lately. No one thinks that William is the same age as the girls, even though he is the exact same size. When I respond "They're triplets and they just turned three", she swats the woman standing next to her on the arm and says "Mabel. MABEL!! Oh My God. They are TRIPLETS!"
The entire line of post office customers turn around to look at me with my two daughters dangling from their safety harnesses and my son pawing at the air and roaring.
Mabel leans down and with a big smile starts to talk to Henry, who is excitedly kicking his legs in the stroller. William - a child who tends to be very outspoken and unmannerly at times - yells "You NO touch my baby Henwee!!"
My attention is suddenly divided between William who has put himself between the baby and Mabel, and Mabel - who thinks William's show of protection is adorable - and starts rapid firing me with questions regarding how much the children weighed when they were born, how long they were in the hospital, did I - or do I - have much help at home, do I have family in town, how do they sleep, how do they eat, how do they get along, are they potty trained, oh no? how many diapers do I go through in a month.
We finally make our way to the counter and the postal clerk sizes us up and gives me a look that says "I'm tired just looking at you."
After having stood in line for a solid 20 minutes, I want to get out of there. My window of opportunity for being productive with four children in tow is coming to a close. I can sense it is about to slam shut.
Unlike my prior experiences at the post office - before I had three children underfoot and a baby in a stroller - I don't comparatively evaluate which is the cheapest rate to get my four separate packages delivered. I just say "Fine. Fine. Fine. Sounds great. I'll also need 200 self-adhesive holiday stamps."
While I'm waiting for my order to be processed, a man stacks at least eight large boxes marked "FRAGILE" on the adjacent counter. Within seconds of him stepping away - one, two, maybe all three of my kids - try and almost succeed in pushing the boxes across the counter and on to the floor. I grab at their harnesses and pull them back to me. Someone grabs the pen hanging on the chain and starts furiously scribbling on the counter. Someone else is hanging on the back of the baby stroller and I catch it just before it flips completely over. Someone else is frantically pushing all the buttons on the debit machine as I'm trying to enter in my PIN number.
It flashes "ERROR. Invalid Entry. Try Again."
I do, and little fingers - a whole hand - come up from the depths and are trying. To. Get. In. And. Jam. All. The. Buttons. Must. Create. Havoc. Must. Destroy.
I start kicking my legs, not sure who I am going to strike, but hoping that my agitation will cause my troublemakers to pipe down. I'm ALMOST done.
All I need are my stamps.
The clerk is moving slowly. She is talking slowly. I feel like I'm stuck in time.
"Uh. Let's see. We've got Kwanzaa. Hmm.... We've got Hanukkah. Uh... We've got Madonna and Child. Oh yeah, we've got these more contemporary ones, too. Aren't they cute?"
Yeah. Yeah. WHATEVER. I'll take 50 of each. No, I'm not African. Or Jewish. Just give me the damn stamps. I HAVE GOT TO GO. NOW.
The children were standing quietly for a moment, but as the clerk is counting out my packets of stamps, I look down and see all three of them in a dog pile, rolling and laughing hysterically across the floor of the post office. I gather my stamps and when my attempts at getting the children to stand on their feet fail, I drag them out of the post office by their harness straps.
Back outside, Elizabeth tells me that she has to go pee-pee, again. I put her on the plastic throne and when five minutes pass and she still hasn't made a deposit, I tell her it's time to get in to the car. I encouragingly tell her that she can try again when we get home.
I give her another few minutes and feel my patience rapidly dissolve. If there is one thing I don't want to do, it's stand in the 92-degree heat waiting for my lollygagging three-year old to go pee-pee while my other two children are having a scream-off in the car and the baby is wailing to eat.
When I finally go to lift Elizabeth off the potty, she starts screaming and grabs both sides of the chair with her hands. I'm standing in the parking lot with my partially clad daughter that is clenching a potty chair to her rear. I start swinging her from side to side, hoping that she'll release her grip. Finally, she does. As the potty chair falls to the ground, so does a big poop that lands on my foot.
Just then, Mabel walks up.
My fellow post-office customer strides over to the car and shaking her head says "Gosh, I've been thinking that it must have been really hard when your triplets were all babies. How did you ever get through it? "
Bending down to pick up my daughter's poop from the top of my shoe, I smiled and said "Yeah. Thank God things are so much easier for me, now. My life has never been so peaceful. Which reminds me. I think I need to get my prescription refilled."