Saturday, October 18, 2014

... and then they were ten

Did I read somewhere that life gets busier as children get older?

I'm pretty sure that I did.  

I think I also read that the busier the life of a child gets, the more wiped out the parents feel.  That would certainly explain why Charlie and I have been going to bed by 10:30 every night and when we wake up at 6:30 (or 7:30 when we totally oversleep at least four times a week), we both say that we're so tired it hurts to move. 

This morning as we laid in bed wondering who was going to make the first move and get up, the thought crossed both of our minds that maybe we have mono, or lyme disease. Is it possible that those ailments could strike both of us ... at the same time? 

OK, so relatively speaking, we're not "that" busy. We know families who have something going on every day - including weekends - whereas we've squeezed most of our events in to three days, that only meet once every two weeks. So one week - we're running from one thing to the next, and the next week - we're chasing kids down and having them finish their homework and rid their backpacks of random debris and small organic life forms ... approximately three hours earlier than we do on those days when we have things happening after school.  But Charlie and I do both have careers in progress, and bathroom remodels underway, and random domestic things that keep us occupied and make us feel like we're always two steps behind in life.

All the while, our weekends have been intentionally left open and we've avoided weekend sport teams like the plague.  On those blissful nothing-planned-days we go for bike rides, or apple picking, or jump in leaf piles in the backyard.  But only after we get out of our pajamas at 11 AM and rush out of the house in a frenzy because ACK!  We've missed 1/2 the day! Whose idea was it to sit down and read the newspaper or fold laundry?!

Wait. What was the point of this post, again?

See, I'm so easily distracted. Is that a symptom of mono?

Oh yes... our triplets turned 10 on Tuesday!

Double Digits. One Decade. Two Full Hands.

HUGE MILESTONE worthy of a BIG celebration.  Right?


Except ... big celebrations take time to plan.

And we spent the weekend before their birthday camping with the Cub Scouts.

We spent the day before their birthday, organizing their summer and winter clothes, packing things away and pulling things out while lamenting that clothes from last winter were significantly too small for this winter.  After spending several hours at the mall trying to buy them new clothes, I came home and ordered everything online.

(NOTE TO SELF: Do not take your children to the mall clothes shopping.  Lands End online is your friend. Especially when everything is 30% off as it was on Monday.) 

The evening prior to their birthday, after hours at the mall buying clothes that I'm planning to return next week, and another couple hours shopping online buying clothes that we'll actually keep, Charlie and I organized party favors that we'd bring in to their classes the next day.

As I was preparing for bed, it struck me that I hadn't bought them a single birthday present. So in lieu of a genuine present, I printed out pictures of items that I'd like to get them and put the pictures in a card.  The next morning the kids woke up and excitedly said to me, "Mom, can we just open TWO presents?!" and I said, "Uh, unfortunately no because as of right now, we have zero presents for you to open. Unless you count a card with pictures of things I think you might enjoy...?"

They were surprised by my lack of gift inventory, which surprised me because when do they think that I get things done? Do these children not realize that I fall asleep almost the same time that they do and wake up only a few minutes before them ... except for on those days (which constitute more than half the week) when they wake up before me?

As the kids raced out the door to school, yelling behind them that they really want a HOMEMADE MARBLE birthday cake ... I made plans to race off to the store.

My babies are TEN ... this is a big day!

I must bake a birthday cake for the children!

I must get birthday presents for the children! 

I must resist the temptation to just buy just ANYTHING and instead get them THOUGHTFUL gifts that they will use and enjoy and I will not be tempted to pick up and throw away the very next day! 

And, I have approximately seven hours to get it all done.

At 8:30 AM, this seemed like an eternity, so I ate a leisurely breakfast and read the front page of the newspaper. In that time, 45 minutes are gobbled up.  The next hour and 15 minutes are spent tidying up from breakfast, pushing through laundry, and packing the remaining party favors that I'd need to drop off at school.  I went to school and met Charlie who was volunteering for the day as a WATCH D.O.G.S

When my husband had decided the first week of school to volunteer as a "Dads Of Great Students" on the children's birthday - it sounded like an awesome idea. But when the reality struck that the ying to my yang would be totally out of commission and unavailable to help prepare for our children's 10th birthday celebration,  well ... the feeling was akin to crossing the monkey bars with one arm.

Once at school, together Charlie and I handed out party favors to 90 fourth graders, before Charlie informed me that he'd forgotten to pack his own lunch.  So I raced home and packed my husband a lunch and returned it to school. I then departed the school, flying solo, with only three and a half hours to get everything done.

Suppressing the feeling of PANIC, I raced off to one store and found a few good items. Books, wrapping paper, tape.  I raced off to a second store and found a few more good items.  Hiking shoes and a genuine Swiss Army Knife for William.  I raced off to the third store and picked up some craft kits and ingredients to make a marble cake: chocolate and white cake mix.

As I'm pushing my cart to the front of the store, I see that I have 55 minutes to check out, drive home, unpack the car, wrap the birthday presents, and start baking the cake.  I'd like to text Charlie to tell him to stall the kids and take them to a park - but his battery has died and I'm cast in to the dark ages of life without cell phones and ACK!

Directly in front of me in line is a mother with three small children.  She has two babies in the cart, a three-week-old newborn in a carseat within the basket, and a 22-month old toddler in the seat near the handlebar. The newborn is crying - a hungry cry - and the mother is trying to plug a pacifier in her mouth while she navigates her cart through the line with one hand.  Standing next to the cart is another little one, who stuck up her hand to show me pudgy little fingers illustrating she was four years old.

We made small talk, the mother and me.  I told her that she is blessed to have her beautiful children and as cliche as it may sound, we have to try our best to enjoy the time, because it goes past so ridiculously fast.  I then told her that I had triplets who were celebrating their 10th birthday, that very day, and I was at the store picking up supplies to bake their cake. I held up the box of chocolate and white cake mixes along with the 3 - #10 candles and waved them with a smile to demonstrate that I wasn't some crazy liar.

She distractedly made small talk back with me, oohing and aahing WOW triplets! How did I survive? And I joked that triplets were easy ... their LITTLE BROTHER ... was more work than the other three combined.   She oohed and aahed some more at the mention of four children under the age of three and I suddenly bit my tongue hard because:

1. No one who has their hands full wants to hear from someone who had their hands more full, and

2. No one who has their hands full wants to hear from someone who once had their hands full tell them how they are SO BLESSED and they should ENJOY EVERY MINUTE.

At this point, the mother had moved around to the front of the cart and was pulling it through the line (and likely trying to separate herself from the chatty lady who is reflecting on the absolute wonder that is life with babies!), while her toddler - at the other end of the cart - had climbed out of the seat and was precariously leaning over the wailing newborn in the carseat, trying to help her Momma unload groceries. But at 22-months old, her grip wasn't so strong so when she grabbed a bag of apples by the bottom and they ripped open and one nearly fell on her hungry newborn sister, and a half dozen rolled to the far downward sloping corner of the cart, I stepped in to help before the toddler toppled over the side.  Meanwhile, the four-year-old was trying to pull the milk out from beneath the cart and lift it over her head to put it on the conveyor belt.  But since the milk weighed almost half as much as she did, she stumbled backwards in to the magazine rack.

I couldn't help but smile and gently laugh.

Oh, how I fondly remember those days! 

The three-week postpartum mother was beautifully composed and exuding grace and patience, but when the bag of apples ripped open and the four-year-old stepped in to the magazine rack and nearly fell over, I briefly caught that frazzled look in her eye that said, "I NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE AS FAST AS POSSIBLE."  Things quickly began to unravel and within a span of less than 10 seconds, the toddler had managed to climb out of the cart and was perched on the mother's shoulders, with one knee on her head trying to reach the candy rack, and the newborn had spit out her pacifier and was wailing. 

Ah yes ... these - these moments right here are the ones to savor!

But only if you're heavily medicated.  

Because I was standing in front of my little tiny cart, the easily maneuverable race car version used by people who zoom in to the store to pick up a few items, I helped to quickly unload the rest of the groceries from her gigantic cart that can hold three children and several days worth of groceries, on to the conveyor belt. We had both pushed through the line and were standing side by side in front of the clerk and the debit machine when they rang up her total.

I was feeling a little awkward at my positioning - so close to her and the debit machine (usually there is a cart separating people in the checkout line) - but there I was and in that moment, as she was trying to hold a baby with one hand and pull out her wallet with the other, the Universe whispered to me that I needed to BLESS this mother with a small gift for the BLESSINGS that I received ten years ago, when I gave birth to three perfectly perfect children.

So I quickly swiped my debit card and as I did, I said, "Please, let me get this. Hopefully, you can use what you would have spent on groceries for a few boxes of diapers for those precious babies. They grow up so fast. You really are blessed ... breathe deeply and have fun!" 

The mother was gobsmacked.

The clerk was gobsmacked.

I wiped away a tear of gratitude for my life, and my family, and for loving and exhausted parents the world over.  And then I checked my watch to see that I had 45 minutes remaining.

Once I arrived home, I had only 30 minutes before the kids would come barreling in from school, so I quickly wrapped their presents and immediately set forth to make their cake and after hunting high and low and thinking I'd lost my mind, realized that only the chocolate cake had made it home with me from the store because the white cake had accidentally gone home with the new mother.  And the only reason I knew that was because the clerk had given me her receipt and sure enough, the cake had been scanned right between the apples and the gallon of milk.

That night during dinner, I told the children what had happened to their marble cake and I explained why they were having a chocolate birthday cake, instead.  They loved the story and were thrilled to think of the smile (and hopefully not horror at the thought of derailing my children's birthday cake-making) on the new mother's face when she found the bonus box of white cake mix nestled in one of her bags of groceries.

In the end, the tenth birthday was a success.

The children had presents to open...


And a well lit birthday cake to wish upon.


Another highlight of the day, was a surprise visit from my sister Eileen who flew in from Michigan and called at the exact moment we had lit the birthday cake candles and were just about to start singing Happy Birthday. Eileen started singing with us on the phone, and then WALKED IN THE FRONT DOOR and finished singing with all of us.  Her sudden appearance totally blew the children's minds because ....



Eileen said to us, "Are you kidding?! I love chocolate cake!!" 


We couldn't agree more.