It’s a Girl!

Our little “she” is here!

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She’s nearly twelve weeks old now, so she’s been here for two months, and what a ride it’s been already.

We had a tidy little C-section scheduled for Feb 5, just like we did when we had Jameson.

Was she born on that date?  She was not!

Let’s begin.

The morning of January 30 held an intense itinerary.  Hunter was to be “Star of the Day” in his preschool class, which means he gets all sorts of special attention and gets to do all the jobs of the day (his favorite part).

He’d waited two years for this day, ever since he witnessed the twins each having their Stars of the Day.  Parents attend these days, but siblings are not invited, so we asked my mama-in-love to watch the twins (who don’t have kindergarten on Thursdays), and Jameson (who doesn’t have school on any days).

Preschool begins at 8:30am, and the morning was compounded by my 10:50am OB appointment, and picking Hunter back up at 11:30. This meant Mike and I had to leave the preschool together, get my car back at the house, he race to work and me race to the appointment, and then race back to preschool to get Hunter.  It was a headache to arrange and a hassle to execute.

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But the effort paid off. Hunter glowed the entire morning as his teacher and classmates celebrated him.  We were delighted to be there and beamed with pride at the little man he’s becoming.

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When I got to my OB appointment, I told my doctor that all was well. I was having contractions but they’d changed just in the last day.  They’d gone from the standard Braxton-Hicks “tightening” contractions, into the kind where I’m certain my cervix is widening because it’s a “tearing” sensation in the netherparts.  He said only to be concerned if they became ten minutes apart.  We were both sure they wouldn’t so I bounced out of that appointment as we called to each other, “See you in a week!”

La di da!

When I got home I spontaneously snapped a picture of my belly, which was unusual because I had only done this a handful of times this pregnancy.

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I picked up Hunter and fed the kids lunch, got Jameson down for a nap, and then the next portion is a little graphic if you’d like to jump ahead.

(the sound you hear is all the men speed-scrolling past)

At 2:30pm I was in the bathroom and my mucus plug came out.  I know!  I know! I can barely type it.  But it’s an important part of the tale because it was the kickoff to the big show.  I called my mom and texted several people who’ve had babies to see if this gnarly occurrence proved labor was imminent, or meant nothing.

Each reply was a variation of “I never even had that happen” to “It was ten days from mucus plug to delivery.”  Well okay then!  We’re fine!

Except my mom, the Oracle.  “You’re having this baby.  Didn’t you say the contractions were different yesterday?  It’s happening.”

My response included every denial possible since the dawn of time.

I opened my contraction-counting app and began timing them.  They were 20 minutes apart, so I wasn’t alarmed.  I looked at the clock and decided that I wouldn’t eat again until this had all passed, just in case it did result in a C-section (you’re not supposed to eat before surgery).

The kids were being fine, but after about a half hour of managing them, a primal instinct kicked in and I couldn’t be around them.  Shoving them into the backyard and closing the door isn’t an unusual thing for me to do, but in this case it wasn’t annoyance, it was essential.  I knew something was happening, but I was still convincing myself that I was overreacting and this would pass.

I called the doctor and left a message with his nurse.  I sat on the couch watching the kids outside until the guilt of denying them their preferred front yard play overwhelmed me (I have to be with them in the front yard because Jameson is too young to be near the road).

When we got out there I stood watching them play from the driveway, but I was very much in my head; I took long, deep breaths when a contraction would hit, and even between them had to breathe to steady myself.

I heard a drum beat in my head saying, “sit down, sit down, sit down” and I kept answering back “I never sit out here, I don’t do that, where would I sit?” until my body was so uncomfortable I went and got a camping chair from the garage.  I positioned it behind our van so people driving by wouldn’t see me in a camping chair on my driveway.

Why did I care?  There are no excuses for my vanity.

I hadn’t been seated two minutes when a car rolled up driven by Cathy, my beloved across-the-street neighbor.  I instantly had a distinct feeling that God brought her at that exact moment to help.  She got out of the car, took one look at me, and knew.  It was a testimony to the friendship we’ve built that she knew.

That, and she knows I wouldn’t be caught dead in a driveway-camping-chair scenario.

“What’s with you?” she said, giving me the classic mom look, meaning, “I know exactly what’s with you, but I will wait for you to tell me.”

This not being a shout-across-the-road conversation, I pushed myself out of my chair so I could go talk to her without alarming the kids.  She crossed the street, I gave her the rundown and she promptly called each of my kids to her yard.  She told me to go lay down on the couch and she would handle the kids.  Normally I’d say, “No, it’s okay, I’ll be fine,” but I knew this was necessary and it was the answer I needed.

I hadn’t called Mike yet because I was still in denial, so I laid on the couch and prayed and waited for the call back from the doctor.  When the nurse finally called back, she said the doctor wanted an update on contractions and I said they were 20 minutes apart.  She said she’d tell him and call me back.

This felt unhelpful.

Around 4PM, Cathy texted me a picture of the kids doing art and told me all was well.  My mom asked for contraction updates.  I played song after song on Alexa to keep calm and try to consider what was potentially happening.

The contractions started to arrive closer together, so at 4:30 I finally called Mike and told him to come home.  I told Cathy Mike was on his way so she could send the kids home and she said, “I won’t leave you alone with them. When he knocks on this door then you can have them, they are perfect.” You don’t mess around with Cathy, God love her.

Once they were all home, Mike started making tacos while I laid on the couch and timed contractions.  My doctor called at 5:30, and by then the contractions were ten minutes apart.  He said to go to the hospital if they were still ten minutes apart by 6pm.

Of course they were, so naturally I chose to keep swimming in the river of denial and said to Mike, “Let’s give it another 30 minutes.”

I texted my friends to pray with me that the Lord would make it abundantly clear whether this was labor or not.  When I checked another message, my friend and neighbor Kelsie had already texted this prayer to me ten minutes before: “Dear Lord God, make your presence KNOWN to Abby right now. Cover her with peace and calm in the midst of what feels like chaos.  Make the next steps clear beyond the shadow of a doubt. We trust your hand in this. AMEN!”

At 6:15, a contraction hit that was a full two minutes long and so intense that when I exhaled, I looked at Mike and said, “We have to go.”

I asked Kelsie to come watch the kids until my sister, Sam, could arrive, and she took a last picture with just four kiddos.

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Mike is out of frame because he’s standing by the door, wide-eyed, keys in hand, saying, “LET’S GO.”

On the drive over, we realized we hadn’t commited to a boy name.  We’d had our girl name for years, but we’d already named our boys every boy name we liked, so this selection was eluding us.  We tried to finalize as we drove, and we hoped our struggle meant we wouldn’t need one.

By the time I was in triage, the monitor said my contractions were two and three minutes apart.  Even then, a big part of me thought, “They’re going to see that I’m overreacting and send me home.”  I voiced this by saying to Mike, “When this is over I can’t wait to get home and eat dinner,” because I hadn’t eaten since 2:30 and it was now almost 7, eternity in the life of a pregnant woman.

The nurse looked over at me and delivered the verdict with an amused smile,  “You’re not going home.”

I looked at Mike in bewilderment.

“Are you sure?” I asked, frantically looking back and forth between them.  “But my doctor isn’t here.  I know he will come if you call him, will you call him?”

“We don’t do that.  We just call the on-call doctor.”

Mike was all placid waters.

“Babe, this is great!  We’re going to meet our baby today!  It’s happening!”

No, no and no.

He was beaming with excitement. “Babe, you need to get over this.  It’s happening.  You need to move past the shock.”

I couldn’t move past the shock.  We were a week away from my C-section date!  I was only 38 weeks!  I never go into labor early!  I was induced with the twins at 39 weeks, I went into labor with Hunter two days before my due date, and Jameson was delivered at 39 weeks scheduled!

I listened as the nurse described my history to the on-call doctor on the phone.

“…four previous live births, three previous c-sections, contractions are two to three minutes apart, she’s 38 weeks 2 days…”

I knew he would say we had to have the baby.  I knew the risks that if I kept contracting my uterus could rupture due to the C-section scar that had already been opened three times.  I knew, but I wasn’t ready.

Then I thought of our baby.  I thought of actually seeing this baby, knowing who he or she would be, holding him or her, and a bright spark of excitement lit inside.

But then the rush of thoughts —

I’m going into surgery now!?  With no warning?!  Like when?  Give it to me in minutes.  What about the kids?  It’s already their bedtime! They won’t be able to come!
There was an arrival schedule!  A visitation plan of all our family. Now it’s not happening!
What is happening?
Is my mom here?  Is Colleen on her way?
My dad is golfing in Vegas!  I can’t have a baby he won’t even meet!
WHAT IS HAPPENING!?

One might think a mother of four would not have such new-mom thoughts, but one would be wrong.

Contraction — breathe, stop all movement, get through it.  Remember why you’re here and why this is necessary.

The OB came to triage to meet us before the surgery, and I could only think of him as “Dr. Not My Doctor.”  I hate to admit to quick judgments, but intense contraction pain erases the abiltiy to think generously.

Dr. Not My Doctor and Mike swapped kid stats, but he made no attempt to connect with me.  I found this off-putting, as it was my insides into which he was about to be elbow-deep.

They helped me into a wheelchair to head to surgery, but all those contractions made it clear I had to pee.  I almost didn’t ask to go because of my “open concept” hospital gown, but the thought of being splayed on the surgical table with a full bladder and a full-term baby on top of it made me reject my dignity and ask for a restroom break.  The nurse followed me in and my husband and mother stood at the door.  Faster than you can say Jack Nicholson in Something’s Gotta Give, I had a full audience.

I looked at the nurse and announced, “I don’t care even a little,” before realizing I was explaining my nudity to the person who gave birth to me and the one who sees me naked all the time.

When we arrived in the surgical wing, Dr. Not My Doctor was down the hallway scrolling on his phone.  This did not win points with me, his vulnerable little patient.  Couldn’t he pace the floor with his finger on his chin like he was rehearsing the exact slices he planned to make?  Could he at least pretend to?

My mom looked up and said, incredibly loudly, “THAT’S your doctor?? He’s a toddler!”

While they prepared to numb me, Mike and my mom put on the full surgical protective regalia.  One would think they were carrying a bomb with the hollering and commotion that ensued when they walked into the room and the surgical team saw Mike had put his baseball cap back on his head — on top of his scrubs.  It was like he’d carried an AK-47 into an airport, so he bolted back out of the room to remove the germ-carrier.

Once they got me numb on the surgical table, they began the surgery and tried to talk to me to distract me.  We talked about our other kids and I asked questions and Mike held my hand.  We told everyone we didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, and the whole room cheered with excitement because they said that never happens anymore.

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And then they said, the head is out!  I couldn’t believe it was already time.

I looked at Mike’s eyes and he looked over the curtain as the baby was lifted high.  His eyes grew wide and he froze from surprise as he took his first look at our baby.

“It’s a GIRL!” he shouted.  “IT’S A GIRL!!”

Then, in stunned disbelief, “IT REALLY IS!  IT REALLY IS!  IT’S A GIRL!!”

Radiating joy exploded from my heart, an unstoppable force of excitement so powerful I still think I’ll never get over it.

A baby girl.  A sister for Arden.  A daughter to cherish for the rest of our lives.  Here was a gift to our family, one I’d prayed for more earnestly than I can describe.

And they cleaned her up, weighed her, and placed her in her father’s arms.

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When Mike brought her to me, he laid her across the top of my chest, right up under my chin, so her little body was right next to my face and I could fall in love with her, head to toe.  I spoke into her tiny ears and felt the ocean of love envelop me, as it never fails to do.  My elation was matchless.

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She would pause her cries to hear the two voices she knew best in the world, and we relished finally meeting the little someone we’d longed to meet.

I called to the nurse nearby, asking if she could get right on the making of her little bow hat.  I was kidding, clearly, as she had important medical work in front of her, but STILL.  The BOW HAT.  Where IS it?

My mom was bursting, “I knew it!  I just knew it!” because she’d been convinced it was a girl all along.  


DSC_0167As she came over with her camera we said, “This is Claire Colleen,” and she squeezed her eyes tight with happiness for my mama-in-love, saying, “She deserves it.”

When we’d been settled in the maternity room, I had a complete change of heart about her arrival.  Here we were, just the three of us, as if she were our first baby and not our last.  Here were our two precious moms, the two who gave birth to us, here to welcome Claire.

One of the finest moments was introducing her to her namesake, Mike’s mother.  We’d wanted to honor her in this way for years and were so thrilled we could now.  Telling her Claire’s name was one of our happiest moments of the day.

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Aren’t they a pair?

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What a gift of time, of closeness, of zero hurry and savoring every second.  God knew I didn’t need a clipboard of a dozen timed arrivals.  He knew I needed a full night of just mama and dada and baby makes three, to get to know this little ember of light who’d joined our family.

You would think the novelty and wonder of a new baby would diminish when it’s your fifth.  For us, it magnified.  We had eyes wide open, taking in her every detail, searing into our memories her fresh baby scent, the cupping of her weight in the crooks of our arms, the impossibly tiny blonde hairs along the ridge of her ears, the chubby dimples on the knuckles of her hands.

My memory of that night will always be the glow of joy we felt for her, for our entire tribe of kiddos we’d been given, by God’s grace.

By the time the kids arrived the next morning to meet her, we were trembling with excitement.  We removed her pink blanket so it wouldn’t give it away the moment they saw her.

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When our four favorite people walked up to the bed, their faces eager with anticipation, we said, “It’s a girl!” and the glow that came over Arden was indescribable.  Hunter smiled his most endearing smile, Jameson reached for her, and Henry almost collapsed on the floor in disappointment.  It was classic.

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While the other three cooed at her and tried out her name, Henry came to the other side of the bed and leaned in close to make his point clear.

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“Mom,” he said, deadly serious, “you need to have more brothers.”

Guess who was a puddle of mush in front of her within the next five minutes?  Same guy.  He hasn’t mentioned more brothers since.

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This picture is proof of the goodness of God.  Nothing in this photo is credited to our account; it’s by His generosity that these five little souls are in our care.

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She was born on a Thursday night; we went home that Sunday.  As we left, the nurse told me to beware the recovery red flags: a headache that won’t go away, heavy bleeding, fever above 100.4, changes in the incision.  I told her I had a slight headache but I’d see how it went; neither of us were concerned.

Three days later I was in triage for a headache so severe I could barely sit upright.

~~

(Part two coming soon)

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A Day in the Life While We are Still Six

I’ve documented the minutia of our lives at various stages of children, and it seems tedious, but I’m so glad I did it because reading back on them now there are so many things I’ve forgotten.  I can distinctly remember how each phase of our family has felt, but it’s much harder to recall how the details of our days actually played out.

Here’s a day in the life while we were:

A family of five

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A family with 18 month old twins

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A family with 12 week old twins

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The last two I’ve written right before adding a new baby to the family, and today is no exception.  I’m set to give birth in a week, so I’m knocking this out before the newborn haze sets in.

School is the main difference between all our previous years’ of routines and now.  In all of my earlier days, we might have somewhere to be of our choosing, but it was flexible and just that — of our choosing.  Now we have two six year olds in kindergarten, and randomly opting out of class is generally frowned upon, so we do the morning hustle.  Lucky for us, we are in a school that offers 3-day a week kindergarten (all day), so we only have to do the hustle a handful of times.  This is glorious.

This sample will be from one of their three days of kindergarten, and for fun, let’s also choose a day that Hunter has morning preschool (he also goes 3 days, but naturally only two of them overlap with Henry and Arden’s days at school.  Such is life).

~Henry and Arden, 6.5, Hunter, 4.5, and Jameson, 2.5~

6:20AM  The alarm goes off and I immediately snooze it for 8 minutes.  I’m not a snoozer by nature, but pregnancy will do this to a person.

6:28AM  The alarm goes off again and I face reality.  With the speed and agility of the Titanic attempting to miss the iceberg, I steer my 9-month-pregnant body out of bed, waddle across the room and begin our day.  Henry is usually peeking from our doorframe, as he has the ninja ability to wake when he needs to based on the day.  I give him the nod, and he bounds silently into our room and into bed to snuggle.

If this were a non-school day, we’d get up at 7:15 and all the kids would be in our bed, snuggled up tight and fighting for the insufficient real estate provided by our queen bed.  Today, I dress and head downstairs to start breakfast while the other three sleep.

6:50AM  I’m making eggs and toast and peeling tangerines while Mike showers, Henry and I chat, and Arden comes into the kitchen.  If Mike and I were disciplined the night before, then praise be!  Their lunches are already packed, and all they need to do is pick out two snacks to fill their little reusable zippered bags (my cousin makes these and I’ve bought at least a dozen. They’re brilliant and we no longer buy ziplock baggies at all. End of aside).

If we were worthless oafs the night before, then we are harassed by the empty mouths of the bento-boxes before us.

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(They don’t get notes every day.  That’s likely why I took a photo, so when I’m old and gray I can reassure myself that I was, occasionally, a decent mother.)

7AM We hear Jameson on the monitor and Henry bolts upstairs to get him.  They are best buddies and it fills my heart to the brim.  Jameson comes in with Henry and says, “I waked up!” and gives everyone hugs and hellos.  Babies in pajamas with huge smiles is the greatest morning joy there could be.  Mike wakes Hunter, the family sleeper, and brings him down holding his Roux puppy.  It is adorable.

7:10AM  Mike is helping everyone get what they need and drinking coffee and pouring a drop of milk in my tea.  It’s all a melee of eating and packing school bags.

7:25AM  We send the twins and Hunter upstairs to dress — twins in their uniforms, Hunter in whatever he wants (so…a dinosaur sweater).  All brush teeth and I hurry Arden so I can do her hair, tell them all to put on shoes and grab coats, and work our way outside.  Mike has started the car so it’s at least tepid by our loading time.

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Clues it’s not a real before-school photo: it’s daylight, and they’re not in uniform

7:40AM After 3/4 kids self-buckle and 1/4 gives us a little grief about it, we pull out of the driveway.  Henry is our timekeeper and always notes the time, along with the number of minutes until the doors of his classroom open (they open at 7:45, and tolerate lateness he does not).  Who can believe their school begins at the eye-watering hour of 8AM?

7:46AM  The twins sail out the door of the van and run into school, and I park further down the way to take the two boys down to the soccer field for a little morning runaround.  Hunter’s school doesn’t open until 8:30, so we have substantial time to fill.

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8:20AM We arrive at Hunter’s school and park, waiting for the doors to open.  When they do, we kiss him goodbye and watch him say good morning to his teacher.  Jameson and I sail off in silence, giving each other a look that says, “We have done ALL of this and it is only 8:30AM.”

8:45AM  Jameson and I do a little cleanup, read some books, have a morning snack, play a little music, stick a load of laundry in, and generally enjoy the tranquility of the house to ourselves.

9:45AM  When I was a little less pregnant, we’d load up the jogging stroller and jog/walk to the library a mile away; drop last week’s books, do any printing for MOPS, pick out new books, and enjoy the fresh air and exercise.

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10:40AM  We’d get back, he’d play in the playroom, I’d take a mighty fast shower, and then I’d dress and get ready to pick up Hunter.

11:30AM  Hunter pickup!  I’m always so happy to see that cherubic face.  I want to ask him thirteen questions, but I usually settle for two or three, since he likes to ride quietly back to the house.  School fills his social cup and he likes to recover without being pecked to death by we chickens next to him, and no one understands that better than his introverted mother.  Jameson, ahem, does not, so I always hear:  “Hunter!  Hunter!  Hunter?” until he replies, “Jameson I don’t feel like talking,” and I say, “You can play with him at home, lovey, he’s just tired,” which placates him enough to put his thumb back in his mouth and gaze happily out the window.

11:50AM  I make lunch, which is fabulously easy for just two littles, and they sit in their stools and chat with me.

12:30PM After they eat, they occupy themselves together in the family room while I clean everything up.  Then I ask Jameson if he’s ready for nap and he always says, “I go night night” and “Hunter get me!” since he wants Hunter to chase him up the stairs.  Hunter always does, since they’re buddies, and they just became roommates, so it’s extra cute.  We tuck Jameson into Hunter’s bed (he loves to nap there because Hunter has dinosaur covers) and he holds his silky blankies and sucks his thumb and says, “nigh-night!” and goes to sleep.

12:45PM  Unless I’m starving, this is Hunter and Mommy time.  We head into the playroom and play Sorry, Hisss, Guess Who, Yeddi Spaghetti, whatever he chooses for the day.  We play two or three games (or two or three of the same game if a certain someone hasn’t won yet…), and then I make my lunch and he reads books.

1:45PM  I do some computer work, email, MOPS work, paying bills, whatever needs doing, and Hunter has a little fruit snack and hangs out with me or does a puzzle.

2:10PM  We wake Jameson, who’s usually okay with this, unless he was right in the middle of a REM cycle, in which case, he’s an angry elf.

2:35PM We’re in the car and headed to pick up Henry and Arden.  Many times Hunter will fall asleep in the five minute ride, and I let him snooze as we wait in the pickup line.

2:50PM  Henry and Arden tumble into the car, jazzed from their day at school and spilling information and questions in equal measure.  Jameson sticks his arms in the air, (often just one arm so the other thumb can remain in his mouth) and he expects each twin to give a big hug as they make their way to the back of the van.  They’re giddy to oblige.

3:05PM  We arrive home and the twins do their after-school routines of emptying backpacks and changing into play clothes.  Then they all head outside to see who’s available to play; it’s the daily neighborhood roundup.  We don’t have much daylight these days, so they rush door-to-door to gather the gang and start football or tree climbing or bikes or basketball.  Jameson and I follow them out and cruise around making sure no one is too close to the street and everyone is being kind.  Sometimes other moms are out, sometimes only one of us will shepherd the herd, but it’s a team effort.

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5PM  Everyone is called inside since it’s basically as dark as night, and I start making dinner.  This is my hairiest time of day, since they all want attention or help with something, or in Jameson’s case, to climb the pantry shelves, just as I’m starting to cook.  This is when I’m calling Mike for an exact ETA, and it’s also when my body most needs to sit down, but can’t.  I try to tell one twin to start piano practice, have the other color, let Hunter play Bey Blades with Jameson… but usually the twin on piano needs help, the other only wants to play indoor football, and Jameson only wants me to put his Bey Blades back together, despite Hunter having a PhD in the subject.

5:30PM  Mike walks in the door and everyone charges him, pummeling him with hugs and love and questions.  I give him a look of exhaustion or desperation or joy or relief, depending on the day, and after a quick change of clothes, he either plays with the kids to keep them occupied or takes over putting dinner on the table so I can sit for a minute.

6PM  We dim the lights, light a candle, and dinner commences.  If a child begins the meal with “What is THIS?” I feel like I might throw my fork straight into the drywall.  But other than that, we say our prayers and dig in.  Dinner is fun and chaotic, all chatter and laughing and a little too loud and sometimes too many buns getting up out of seats (mine included) but it’s also when Mike and I look at each other and our full table and feel like it’s all worth it.

6:30PM  Mike or I do dishes (he is technically always on dish duty since I cooked, but often I’d rather do dishes than play with the kids because my cup is full on that front…see 11:30AM introvert description).

7PM  We all head upstairs where 3/4 of the children get into pajamas and brush their teeth without help (hallelujah) and one child is dressed and brushed by us.  We either read or tell stories, then all go to their own beds while we do-si-do the goodnights and closing of doors and getting of waters.

7:30PM We are in our own jammies and downstairs for parental recovery time, which looks like watching a show and eating food we can’t eat in front of the children.

10PM  We’re in our bed, tired but also still wired, still talking about the kids, still grateful for another day, still in disbelief that soon there will be a baby in the bassinet next to us.  It’s wild, it’s a ton of work, but it’s so exquisitely good.

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When What Happens is What Everyone Assumes Is Always Happening

Last night held one of those moments where I stopped in the middle of the melee and thought, “THIS is what those ladies in Safeway probably mean when they widen their eyes and say, “FOUR kids?  THREE are boys?!  Oh, you are in for it.”  They assume my life is chaos every waking hour.

It’s not, not even close, but when it is, it reeeaaally is.

I was supposed to have dinner with my girlfriends, my beloved gals from college days, who gather monthly to make sure we stay connected through all of life’s changes.  We call ourselves ThirThur, because we meet on the third Thursday of the month.  (Actually that’s not even true anymore, but SecWed just never had the same ring.)

Since it’s set on our calendar, Mike knows I’ll be heading out around 6 to make our 6:30 dinner.  Except this day, his CFO asks for a last-minute 5 – 6PM meeting downtown, and to his credit, he texts me to ask if this is okay.

I text back, “Work comes first so of course — but since it’s downtown could you tell him you need to jet at 5:45?”  He says no problem, and I resign myself to making and feeding the children their dinner, a task I’d hoped to relegate to him for my night out.

One of those girlfriends, Kelly, stopped by to greet the kiddos, since she hadn’t seen them in several months.  They go into an elevated state of energy when we have company they love, so making and serving dinner was loud, overwhelming and chaotic; it was like herding feral puppies just to get everyone seated at the table.

I texted Mike a touch of an SOS:

5:36PM “The kids are driving me insane with their energy.  It’s because Kelly is here but will make it so hard for me to get dressed and ready.  Please hurry.”

He replies:

5:54PM “Left 10 minutes ago!”

I uncharacteristically write, “Bless you my love” because I truly was so grateful he was honoring our deal so I could get out of the house on time.

Kelly takes off so she can get ready for our dinner out, and I clean dishes and wipe the table before heading upstairs to get dressed myself.

I stood in the closet trying to pick a maternity top that made me feel dressy enough to be out to dinner, only to find after putting it on that the first one has a mysterious water-like stain right in the middle of it.

I choose another — and discover a different faint mark in the midsection of this one.  I’m horrified that my clothes have stains I didn’t know about.  Then I realize it’s amusing that I’m shocked by stains on my clothes when I am cooking for and running after four children all day.  There shouldn’t be a surprise factor here.  But what’s to be done?  Wear an apron?  Are rubber gloves and a hairnet far behind?

After donning outfit number three, I start fussing with my hair and makeup.  Arden is hanging out with me in the bathroom, as I always dreamed my daughter would, when Henry walks in, eyebrows high and little palms face-up in a surrender pose.

He says, “Don’t be mad.”

Few words cause me to panic faster.

“What is it?” I ask.

“Jameson did something.  He really did.  But don’t be mad.”

“WHAT is it?”

“Don’t be mad, it’s broken.”

“Henry, it is so, so much worse for me when you draw it out like this.  WHAT is?”

“You know that Christmas train that turns around and makes music and…he broke it.”

“Do you mean the snow globe!?  Is it shattered all over the floor??”

“Yes,” he says, eyebrows higher than ever, hands of supplication still raised.

Henry doesn’t have a dishonest setting, so I know he’s telling the truth, and yet I’m baffled that such a thing could occur without me hearing it.  I’d heard a thud a few minutes prior, but nothing like the sound of an enormous snow globe shattering.

A glimmer of hope flickers in me that perhaps a piece of the train around the snow globe has broken off, and that’s the extent of it.  I don’t give a flying French hen about the globe itself, I just really, really don’t want to deal with the aftermath.

I reach the bottom of the stairs and look down the hall at huge shards of glass cascading up the hallway, a lake of water across the hardwoods, and wet, goopy glitter everywhere.  Jameson and Hunter are frozen in front of it,  and Jameson’s socks are soaked, but he isn’t crying, so I hold my breath that he hasn’t cut himself.  They’re each holding a white trash bag, presumably to clean with, and I notice the rolled-up rug in the adjacent bathroom — trash bags and pushed-back rugs are stunning acts of household preservation from my preschoolers, and perhaps this is what keeps me from completely losing my mind.

At this point one may be thinking, the negligence!  What kind of mother leaves a 2.5, 4.5 and 6 year old downstairs when she is upstairs?

This mother does, every single day, because that’s life.  I cannot stand next to them every moment; there are chores to be done, things to grab upstairs, clothes to change, diapers to attend to — we all can’t be in the same room all day.  Nine times out of ten, nothing happens.

This was not one of the nine.

I tell everyone to sit across the bottom stair so I know they aren’t near glass, and I gather paper towels, rags and a broom.  I begin gingerly picking up glass fragments, hunched over and painfully reminded that I’m eight months pregnant.

I look at the row of boys and say, “Who did this?”

Hunter and Henry: “Jameson!”

Jameson:  “I did!!!!”

His shamelessness is disarmingly endearing, and I salute myself for not having yelled or screamed so far.  It is an achievement that I hope will be recorded in my Book of Life.

After a few minutes of cleanup they get restless on the stairs, and start to tussle.  I am having none of that, so like the genius I am, I send them to another floor away from me.  It worked so well the first time.

“Go up to the playroom so I can clean — go! Go play!”

They run up the stairs and I resume cleaning until it occurs to me to call Mike so he’s forewarned about what he’s walking into.  It’s also now 6:20, so I’m a liiiiiiiitle curious how much longer he’s going to be.

After I describe the fiasco, he says, “I’m five minutes away, you’re doing great, I’ll be there soon,” and I sigh and unroll more paper towels.

I text my girlfriends the situation, and tell them I’m going to be very late, so please, order your wine and begin your evening.  One writes back, “We’ll order you two glasses of wine!”  before remembering I’m pregnant and writing, “I realized it after I wrote it.”

By the time he walks in I’ve got 95% of it cleaned, and I’m eerily calm.  He sends me back upstairs to finish getting ready, Arden joins me and gives me a hug, and then runs back to the playroom.

One minute later she comes back in.

“So how mad are you right now?” she asks.

I sigh and say slowly, “I’m fine; I’m not mad. Didn’t you notice I didn’t yell at all?  I’m fine.”

“So how much madder would you be if something else happened?” she asks tentatively.

I look over at her with my hands frozen in the creation of my topknot.

“What happened?  You can’t be serious.  What happened?” I ask.

“Umm,” she looks at me nervously.  “Don’t be mad.”

Those magic words again.

“I don’t want to tell you.  Let’s just not go look,” she decides.

I turn to walk down the hall to the playroom but notice the twins’ door is closed with the light on inside.  I open it.

Henry is up on his bunk bed, Hunter is sitting on the floor.

“What’s going on?” I ask them.

“I’m grounded,” Henry says sadly.  He’s already meted out his own punishment, which is precious, but makes my anxiety triple.

I start walking toward the playroom but Arden runs ahead of me saying, “Don’t go in!  Don’t look!” I push past her and open the door to find our brand-new light fixture dangling from the ceiling, hanging on by one teensy wire.

I gasp and say, “It’s been ONE MINUTE!  How did this — ” but I see the plush football as Arden says, “They were playing football.”

I return to the boys in their cowed positions and calmly say (where is my award for non-yelling excellence!?), “We will not be playing football in this house.  Is that clear?”

Hunter: “Yes, Mom.”

Henry:  “Yes, ma’am.”

There’s nothing like a “yes, ma’am” to rip my heart out, so I walk over to him and tell him I love him, kiss him on his cheek and rub his hair.  Just then Mike gets wind of what’s happened and his face is a storm, but I say, “I did NOT lose it over THAT down THERE so you are not losing it up here,” and he inhales deeply but doesn’t lose it.

I announce: “I am out of here.  I am gone!  Goodbye, family.  I am now 30 minutes late.”

Arden follows me downstairs, all reassurances, with maturity that makes me adore her to the point of cracking open.

“Mom, you’re just going to have the best time tonight.  It’s going to be so great and you’ll just have the best time at your dinner.”  She grabs me halfway around the waist, because I no longer have one, and kisses the baby belly before racing back up the stairs.

The girls text me not to stress, and for the first time maybe ever, I don’t.  I just drive.  I don’t drive like a bat out of hell, which is what I would normally do when I’m even five minutes late.  I just drive.  I recount to myself what didn’t happen: no one cut themselves.  I didn’t yell.  I didn’t cut myself.  I didn’t shame/blame Mike for being late, or not being there when I had to deal with the mess.  Somehow, grace got through.

In short, it wasn’t a disaster.  It was a broken snow globe.  And this might be the first time those two were not synonymous.  Which, really, makes it a victory.

 

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