Monday, March 15, 2010

the golden years are at the end of the rainbow

Charlie was out of town this past weekend. He was visiting his Dad, who lives in Arizona, and will turn 82 on St. Patrick's Day. So while my husband was out of town, I thought it would be a fun idea to meet up with our friend, Virginia, and attend the St. Patrick's Day Festival that was being held in San Diego's beautiful Balboa Park.


The parade started at 11:00 and I know from past San Diego parade experiences that you need to get there at least an hour early to secure a parking space within five miles.

The plan was to be out of the house by 9:30. Henry was up at 6:00. But since the triplets slept in until almost 8:30, I had more than two hours of "free" time. By the time everyone was up - I was dressed - had unloaded the dishwasher - started a load of laundry - picked out everyone's clothes - packed a picnic lunch - and had breakfast waiting on the table.

I fed the kids. Helped get those dressed who were moving too slowly. Cleaned up from breakfast. Made beds. Had everyone brush their teeth, wash their face, go potty, put on shoes and socks and sweaters. Then I called Virginia to confirm where we would rendezvous. Since Virginia has been attending this parade for the past 30 years, she knows the best place to be. So when we spoke, she told me, "Park your car as close as you can to Nutmeg and Olive. We'll be sitting on the grass in front of the church."

When she said "Nutmeg and Olive", I assumed she meant an intersection.

By 9:15, I had everyone loaded in the car and we were driving away. On the way to the parade, I made a brief stop at a party supply store and bought some St. Patrick's Day paraphernalia. By the time we were on the freeway, it was 9:30 and I expected it would only take 15 minutes to get there. We were looking good.

I follow my GPS, which had been set to the intersection of "Nutmeg" and "Olive" and was surprised that it wasn't anywhere near Balboa Park. It was, in fact, about 15 miles from the park in a dense residential neighborhood. We pulled over and I called Virginia who hadn't yet left her house. When I told her where we were, she said, "Oh no! That doesn't sound right at all!"

My suspicions were confirmed that I was in the wrong location when I noticed a street sign that read "32nd Ave" and the parade route was on 6th. Slightly flustered and still not fully sure where I was supposed to go, I plugged in 6th Avenue and then swung back toward the freeway, trusting my GPS would lead me to my correct destination.

It didn't.

My GPS had me driving north, then east, then south.

The park is NORTH. And West. Not South. And EAST.

I turned the GPS off and relied on my own sense of direction, which is quite miserable at times and frequently fails, rendering me useless and near tears, especially when I'm supposed to be at a parade that starts in 30 minutes and I have no idea where I'm going and I've got a car full of children who are asking in the backseat, "Are we almost there? Can we eat? Are we going to see the parade? Are we going to see Virginia? Are we lost? HUH MOM?"


Thirty minutes later, I was driving down a street parallel to the parade that had just started. As we came to streets that were perpendicular to the route, we could see and hear the firetrucks, making their procession down 6th Avenue. The kids were staring out the window in amazement as truck after truck went past with the lights and sirens blaring.

I'm driving slowly. Looking for a parking spot. There are none. But I creep along with my eyes peeled for an opening, while calling back to the kids, "Wow, those fire trucks sure are loud aren't they?" And that's when I heard HONK HONK HONK and darting my eyes up to the rear view mirror, see that there is an ambulance directly behind me. Frantically, I pull to the side of the road and the ambulance flies past. Who knows how long I've been blocking their path?

The children and I pray aloud that hopefully, Mommy's state of oblivion doesn't cost anyone their limb or life.

For the next 20 minutes I drove around in circles. Down one street, up the next. Round and round we went because all the roads connecting to the other side of the park, were closed for the parade. When I'd gone down the same exact street for the fourth time, I changed my tactic. I got back on the freeway and tried an alternate route. When I get off the freeway, I see that the traffic on this side of the park is just as bad. The first parking spot that I see, I take. Despite the fact that it's at the bottom of a huge hill and I'll need to walk to who knows where to find Virginia.

I unload the children and set off.

Within minutes, no one can walk. They're too tired. I load all of them on the single stroller and hope it doesn't break. Within another few minutes, Elizabeth sneezes. And I realize that I forgot Kleenex. Which is quite unfortunate since we're all battling the most fierce head cold I can remember in recent history. She wipes her nose on her sleeve and then says, "Mom! LOOK! It's Saint Pradrick's Day GWEEN!"

I gag and wipe sweat from my brow.

Virginia calls me on my cell phone. "HI! I'm here! Where are you?"

Relative to her, I don't know. So she offers directions and I wind my way through the park. Up and over one pedestrian bridge. Past the museums, down the Prado. Over the Cabrillo bridge. We walked and walked and walked. Or rather, I walked. The children rode.


We came to the parade route. I called Virginia again. She told me, we're at Nutmeg and Olive and just as I was about to snap, "There is NO intersection of Nutmeg and Olive on this side of town!" She clarified, "These streets are alphabetical and we are between Nutmeg and Olive."

Ohhh. They're PARALLEL?!

Once we made that critical connection, I walked, looking for our friend. We finally spotted her, among scores of people wearing green, on the opposite side of the street. Convincing the older kids they really could walk if they tried and maybe I'd buy everyone a puppy, I maneuvered the stroller over strangers' blankets, past coolers, off the curb and then, rushed across the street, between marching bands. Total travel time to our destination: 2 hours, 30 minutes. If I'd had more of a clue at the start, it should have taken two hours less than that.

I guess it didn't really matter though. The parade was still going on and the children were happy since clowns were handing out candy.


Virginia will be 80 a week from Wednesday and what I didn't know until this weekend, is that much like a Freshman who heads off to college at the start of their young adult life loves to party, so it is that many elderly who are nearing the end of their adult life, love to party.

Case in point: Several of Virginia's friends were in the parade. Not as part of any organization, per se, but just walking along, cheering in their great big festive hats and blowing bubbles in to the crowd. After the parade, they set up camp across from the beer garden. For the remainder of the afternoon, they slugged back Guinness and listened to bands play festive Celtic songs.


Meanwhile, I took my children to explore the carnival.




And spent every cent I had in my possession.


William nearly gave me a heart attack when he climbed 30 feet to the top of this wall.


And then, expertly rappelled down, while yelling, "I'M FLYING! I'M FLYING!!!"


Neither of his sisters made it more than ten feet.


After mommy's wallet had been sufficiently drained, we returned to our friends and the children befriended every other child within a two-mile-radius. Kids from everywhere were running around playing with branches they'd scrounged off the ground and told me this was the most fun they've EVER had. Which made me mourn the large sum of money I had just spent on carnival rides and evoked feelings of Christmas. You know, that one time of the year, when a parent spends a substantial sum on gifts, only to see that their child is more thrilled with the packaging.

The simplest things are always the best.


By the time we finally got home, it was 7:30. I fed the kids a late dinner (by their standards) and had everyone in bed by 8:30, which is about an hour and a half past their typical bedtime. They were snoring within seconds and I was brimming with glee because I felt like the day had been a wonderful success, and now, they were so thoroughly exhausted, they would surely sleep until 10 AM. I, myself, was in bed by 10:00 PM.

At 3:19, my sleep was interrupted by my subconscious yelling, "GET UP! GET UP! You forgot to put the kids on the potty! They WILL wet the bed!" So I got up. And put my children on the potty. And then to insure that everyone slept until at least 8:00, I turned on their heated mattress pads and tucked them in tightly. Then I went back to bed, certain I'd have another six hours of sleep. Or at a minimum, four.


Henry woke up SCREAMING at 4:05. He came in to my bed and crawled all over me, randomly yelling, "MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! BUZZ WIGHTYEAR!" for the next 45 minutes. No doubt due to all the racket, William joined us us at 5:15.

The dreams I had for a relaxing Sunday vaporized before my eyes.


Henry climbed out of bed and was running through the house, slamming a basket against the wall, and demanding bananas, while intermittently yelling, "MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! BUZZ WIGHTYEAR!" at 5:30.

He was in full on two-year-old mode before the sun had even broken the horizon and as such, he had taken a JACKHAMMER to every nerve of my being. He was in our bathroom, climbing on counters, turning on faucets, flushing the toilets, pulling fruit out of baskets, and demanding that I peel a tangerine. "MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY!"


Before he woke everyone else up, I flew out of bed, grabbed him by his reindeer pajamas and was prepared to catapult him five feet on to the bed before I realized that it wouldn't be setting a good example for his older brother if I flung his younger brother through the air.

So I stopped myself.

Just by the slightest margin.


By the time my eyes were able to focus and we were all ready to leave the house for the day, thanks to LOSING an hour of time (due to the cursed DLS time change), it was almost noon. Still, I was determined to make the MOST of the day, so I took everyone to Walmart to buy flowers for our front yard.

While we were there, I noticed they also had a grocery section. So once I filled up a cart with flowers and two bags of potting soil - instead of checking out, in an effort to be efficient (damn my attempts at efficiency), I grabbed another cart and filled it with groceries. Soon, I was pulling two full grocery carts behind me, through the store.


Although they said they'd help and push, the triplets were hanging off the carts, increasing my tow weight by at least 120 pounds, Henry was screaming, and all I could focus on was the EXIT sign. I might have flipped out once or twice on the way there.

We checked out, and then I had to pull the carts up the gradual sloping parking lot hill, to my van which was parked at the far corner. There was much yelling about "GET OFF THE CARTS AND WALK!!" I almost died. Seriously.

It dawned on me, in the midst of all this, the reason I was so fit when I was home with the kids all day, is because I ran my tail off constantly and hardly ever ate, because whenever I did have food, the children would take it right out of my hands and eat it themselves. I burned more calories in the past two days, than I've burned in the past six months, combined.


Charlie arrived home at 7:00 last night. When he pulled in to the driveway, I had just finished planting a shopping cart full of hyacinth, tulips, daffodils and tomatoes and spreading 60 pounds worth of fertilizing top soil. I went in the house and made dinner. Then, I gave everyone baths. Then, I folded four loads of laundry and went to sleep. Henry woke me up 30 minutes later and kept me up for the next two hours. When I woke up this morning I could hardly move.

See, I've been sick for the past few days. And today, when I woke up and my voice was completely gone and I got dizzy breathing, I decided to go see the doctor. They drew blood, did a chest x-ray and prescribed a strong antibiotic. When I choked up and started to cry in front of the doctor, I thought he was going to also call for a mental health consult. I told him I'm so sick of being sick and I don't understand why I'm so sick all the time, because it's not like I LICK the grocery shopping cart handle and how come my husband never gets sick?!


My doctor told me that I probably needed to rest more. And this confused me.


What EXACTLY does that entail?

Is it possible for a MOTHER to rest?

I really don't understand.

Should we just stay home and watch movies all day? Maybe I should stop doing laundry and eat only frozen pizza? I'm totally perplexed and I only imagine I'm going to be even MORE busy once the children start school. The amount of running around I'll be doing - and germs I'll be exposed to make me weak in the knees.


This afternoon, I spoke to my father and he said that since he has been residing at the Assisted Living Facility, he has put on 24 pounds. He eats three square meals a day and takes a nap every afternoon. Someone changes all of his linens once a week. Someone drives him to his appointments. My sister does his laundry four times a week. He doesn't need to worry about shopping, cleaning, cooking or driving. He's surrounded by friends and there's live entertainment every night. Plus, he can eat ice cream whenever he wants. They NEVER run out.

Now THAT sounds like a restful life.

Once I can teach our children how to fold laundry (so they can come help me), I'm tempted to give up this life and move in with the seniors.


I think my health depends upon it.

And since they really know how to party, that pretty much seals the deal.


  1. Up north we have cold Fx, and if you're done nursing Henry I'll ship you down some. The stuff is gold. Gold.

  2. I'm exhausted just reading about your day. How. Did. Your. Mother. Do. It?


  3. BlackOrchid3/16/10, 7:56 AM

    Okay, first of all I have OFTEN dreamed of joining my grandmother in her wonderful senior-living facility. It's AWESOME. And they have cocktail hour!

    You were right about the directions btw - what she said is standard "intersection" verbiage! I would have done the exact same thing. I am a slave to my GPS!

    Hang in there and I really do hate to tell you but it's actually crazier when they're in elementary school - altho I keep hoping that when they're past 2nd grade it will get easier somehow?

  4. Oh man, I SO GET this post. I'm so sorry. I have no sound advice about rest. I wish I did, because then I'd take my own advice.

    I've been battling a terrible cold since OCTOBER. I'm finally coming around to the end of it, but it's only because when I had the stomach flu, I went to the doctor and he realized it was more. Chest x-rays showed I had pneumonia, not just a cold. On top of the stomach flu. Jokingly (kinda), I asked him if anything was worthy of admitting me to the hospital so I could get at least one good night's rest. He didn't go for it, but the idea of sleeping just one night without an 8 month old and 2 year old waking me multiple times a night just seemed like a slice of heaven!


    I just keep telling myself that this is a phase and things will change soon enough. I've read your blog for several years now and by watching how much your kids have grown, I'm reminded all the time that these early life stages are just sooo fast.

    Thank you for your transparency about trials like makes me feel so not alone. :-)

  5. Whew, what a weekend!

    I have no real answers. I have only half the number of children you do. However, one thing to help you find rest? DON'T FOLD LAUNDRY. Give each child a basket. They can sort their own stuff. A wrinkly-clothed child is better than a sick mama. My two cents.

    Thanks for listening.

  6. Monkey Momma: That's the same thing with me ... I've been sick nonstop since October. This is the first time I've been on an antibiotic, though. I've been convinced this is "viral" but after seeing the doctor yesterday, he told me that sometimes viral infections can turn in to bacterial infections. After two doses, I can already tell a difference so I'm glad I went. ALSO, I loaded up on supplements and Purell. I'm waging WARFARE on germs because I. CAN'T. BE. SICK.

    AM: I have no idea how mom did it. Wait, we had a basement. Maybe she locked us in it?

    BlackOrchid: I sent my father a t-shirt that reads, "Happy Hour" so he could wear it to his cocktail hour every night. Meanwhile, my mom and Jim have cocktail hour every afternoon at 4 PM. Yes indeed. The senior life is for me. And only 11 more years and I qualify for the AARP!

    Sadia: I'm glad to listen. Anytime.

  7. OMG. I am hysterical. I will totally meet you at the old folk's home. That's the life!!!!!

  8. It sounds like you really missed your Hubby this weekend? I am so glad that you took the kids out to the parade and enjoyed it--the getting there was hard, but you could see they loved it.
    It gets much easier when the kids go to school because you have free time to shop and take a deep breath. I hope you cn send this blog to Virginia as she looks great and has so much energy at 80.
    Hope you feel better, Sounds like the antibiotic will help a lot.