Each time we added another baby to the family there was an adjustment period. Someone needed more attention. Laundry piled higher than I ever thought possible. Logistics of herding little people in the grocery store or other solo parent trips where I was grossly outnumbered proved dodgy the first few times around. I even wondered about the school's expectations of my homework involvement. I hoped my lack of time checking their work wouldn't impair my kids academic success long term.
After Curly arrived there was a new skill I needed to focus on. It seems silly, but at the time I remember chuckling to myself . . . counting to six was a challenge. Accounting for six little heads was somehow a huge leap from five. The targets were always moving. I often held two in my arms, not just one. It was easy to forget to assign numbers to the small bodies I held in my grasp. The first time I realized how different it was to keep tabs on all six was when we were at a children's museum just after Christmas 2007. I believe I ventured there with the crew by myself. Not sure what prompted that little bit of insanity. Perhaps our membership was about to expire. Curly was born December 19th, so maybe we just had cabin fever. Being at a children's museum with so many other small fries and tying to track those that belonged to me was maddening.
That eye opening trip occurred almost eight years ago. I've adjusted to the fact that there are now 6 bodies that belong in my field of vision, or at the very least registered in my mental radar. Nowadays our gang attends birthday parties, friends' houses, high school sports, jobs, band practices, and Irish dancing classes to name a few. I typically have a pretty good handle on where everyone is supposed to be.
A few weeks ago, I planned to head downtown for the afternoon. A college friend was coming in town for a destination bachelorette party and I was meeting part of the group for lunch. At this point, I think it goes without saying that I don't get out much. I intended to work my butt off in two back to back exercise classes, shower at home, choose something hip to wear, and drive downtown. I woke up and decided to investigate hopping on the train. This option would allow me unlimited wine consumption (seriously I'm maxed out after two glasses, so I wasn't anticipating anything wild but always good to be able to kick back). Before I could fully exam this new possibility, I needed to survive the morning. Coach was already at work.
Reggie and Curly raced off to the bus and barely made it. This drill is accomplished with the help of a special skill my children have adapted. They are able to run short distances with their shoes untied. Occasionally homework is clutched to their chest, backpack is unzipped and wide open, and a coat is tucked under their arm. At times Curly is still spitting toothpaste on the driveway. I am trained in quick-Curly-prep. Translation: I can wake this child up at 7:21 and have her fed, dressed, and out the door by 7:35. It isn't pretty, but my success rate is improving. I enforce a no return policy, which means she isn't allowed to return up the stairs once she has descended. Her teeth are brushed in the downstairs bathroom and her clothes are placed on her chair before I go to bed. If there is an idle high schooler nearby, I delegate a duty or two to him. 'Throw me her shoes, shove her lunch box in her backpack.' Of course I have extremely cooperative teens, so this is no trouble at all. Without fail, Reggie calls over his shoulder on his jog to the bus stop that he might starve to death based on the provisions I have placed in his lunch. Unless I have already closed the garage door, I offer my canned response, 'Then pack your own damn lunch.' Growth spurts in 9 year old boys can be ugly.
After a bit of extremely repetitive morning combat with the high school guys, which included the standard: 'wipe that up, put the milk away, why haven't you made your lunch yet, get off your phone, you should've left already, I'll take your keys and you can take the bus tomorrow,' I pulled up the train schedule on line in the study and placed a call to Coach's clinic. Coach's office manager, Rebbecca, assured me it would be no big deal for her to drop me at the nearby train station after my workout. I asked her if she thought she should check with her horrible boss. We chuckled.
So my little downtown excursion was shaping up to be less stressful and more relaxing, which is right up my frazzled alley. A trip downtown with no traffic, no one way streets, and no parking garage searches. I heard Mini and her best friend, Lily, call out a good bye as I returned to the kitchen from the study. Lily gets dropped at our house most mornings so her mom can get to work, and the girls walk to school together. The high schoolers and the bus riders are usually gone by the time Lily arrives, but there was a morning last month when the teenagers had a scheduled late start. Lily witnessed a brother-brawl at our kitchen table when Laddie accused Eddie of wearing his shirt. If she was a bit groggy that morning, the unavoidable energy of our house woke her up. I called after the girls to have a good day, and took a moment to finish my breakfast. That's when I counted. Two on the bus, two driving to high school, one walker to junior high. No one went early to band. Uh oh. Someone was missing.
Tetanka was sound asleep. School starts at 8:45 and it was 8:25. Oops. I flew up the stairs and stood on the bottom bunk so I could shake him awake in the top bunk. It occurred to me at this point that I would need to choose a hip outfit (not always the easiest of tasks for me) and pack a bag to shower at the health club before my train. Yikes. I tried to get T started on breakfast. He wouldn't agree to any of the quick options I offered. Instead he stood rubbing his eyes and asking me what kind of mother forgets she has a kid sleeping? I assumed it was a rhetorical question. This mom was planning out her fun afternoon and lost focus (or at the very least lost count) of the kids. Sue me.
I side stepped the adult size Gumby and Pokey costumes that are housed in my master closet, gathered up an armful of wardrobe possibilities, stuffed them into two bags, selected 5 pairs of shoes, and threw my hair products into a side pocket. I yelled down to T to get into the car and dug around for a different purse and gluten free munchies in case the lunch menu was too limiting. Tetanka's face was a map of creases outlining his recent sleep. I barely slowed down near his school as I begged him to jump out. I refused to sacrifice my workout class for my last minute transportation changes, or for a 12 year old who insists on ignoring bedtime parameters.
Thankfully a friend was available in the locker room to help me select an outfit after my classes. I chatted a bit longer than intended. Shock. Fearing I would miss my train, I jogged to Coach's attached office and called Rebbecca. 'Meet me in the parking lot.' We got to the station with a few minutes to spare. Note to self 'Tell Coach to give Rebbecca a raise.' I did nothing on the train downtown. Nothing. So freeing. The rest of the afternoon was refreshing and enjoyable. My friend, her sister, and her sister in law. Great conversation and lots of laughs. Of course there was delicious wine too. I enjoyed a few glasses. But who was counting? For once, not me.