Dean’s been gone to a professional conference since Friday morning and gets back tomorrow morning. I’m (as you may have already figured out) pregnant, and also it was my turn to conduct the meeting in Relief Society yesterday, and I’m also in charge of the Relief Society PFHE dinner tomorrow night, and also overseeing the installation of a new furnace and air conditioner in our house today and tomorrow, and . . . probably a bunch of other stuff I’m forgetting or ignoring. (For instance, the fact that I have four young children to care for. Thank goodness for PBSKids TV and fast food.)
When Dean’s out of town I try not to mention that fact on my blog, because I don’t want big bad guys to find out I’m alone and come to my house, and get ripped apart by our pit bulls and blown to bits with the Uzi I keep in the front hall closet. (Consider yourself warned, bad guys.) (I totally stole the formula for that joke from *mary*, the funniest person I (virtually) know.) But anyway, I only have to get through a few hours before Dean gets back, so I think the odds are in my favor of not having to kill anyone tonight.
Sunday I was determined to find a way not to repeat my last experience taking the kids to Sacrament Meeting as a single parent. That experience included chasing both Rose and Henry around the back of the cultural hall during the Sacrament hymn, with Rose shrieking and laughing, and Henry clomping loudly until, looking over his shoulder to laugh at me, he ran head first into a brick wall, after which he was screaming with pain. I did get Ike to help me with the chasing, but my pregnant, be-heeled chasing was pretty ineffectual, and by the time Isaac and I had captured both kids, the hymn had ended, and then Rose needed to go potty, and I left Henry in Mabel and Ike’s care, and, when I came back with Rose, I heard that things hadn’t gone too well with Henry while I was away. And that was just the beginning of the meeting — the rest is a blur, although I do remember about twenty minutes I spent sitting on a folding chair in an empty classroom with Rose on my lap, trying not to get too badly bruised as she kicked and screamed.
So, this time I was determined there must be some way not to repeat all that. I planned to be a few minutes early, so, well ahead of time, I made sure everyone had both shoes, everyone had their hair combed, all our necessities were packed, everyone was fed, and I even made sure Rose and Henry got a mid-morning nap. All my preparations paid off, and we did arrive a few minutes early, got a bench near the front (risky, but I was hoping my kids would feel more confined than in the cultural hall,) and I was able to ask kind neighbors to take over with my other kids should I have to carry any one of the kids out of the meeting. Things started out pretty calm, and then escalated some: Henry grabbed an entire handful of Sacrament bread, Rose escaped from me to go potty a few more times than could have been physically necessary, (but I just let her go — yeah, I know, it cost me credibility with Rose, but also made less of a scene,) and Henry got a blood smear on his forehead that turned out to come from his slight bloody nose, and when a lady behind us proffered a Band-Aid, he ripped the wrapper off, dropping all the paper bits on the bench and floor, and applied the Band-Aid to his ankle. Also, during one of Rose’s escape attempts, someone across the aisle managed to capture her (I vigorously nodded my assent to this assistance,) and throughout the meeting Henry put on multiple applications of lotion and hand sanitizer.
So, overall, I thought our Sacrament Meeting attendance adventure went pretty well. I was exhausted afterwards, but I still considered it a great success compared to last time.
This evening, I was hoping the kids would forget about Family Home Evening. No such luck. Then I tried to convince them that going to Grandpa’s house last night counted, but they weren’t buying it. Then I told them I really needed to go to Target after they were in bed so I could buy diapers for Henry, and if we did Family Home Evening they’d surely be late getting to bed and I’d miss my chance to go to Target.
Of course they talked me into taking them to Target with me for our Family Home Evening. Henry was already in pajamas, but Ike said he’d get Henry dressed, and he and Mabel helped Henry and Rose get coats and shoes on. We made a plan that the kids would look at toys while I shopped, with Mabel supervising Rose, and Isaac supervising Henry.
Once we were at Target and the kids had headed to the toy department, I remembered I might have some Target coupons in my purse, so I sat down on a bench by the pharmacy to look for them. I started weeding out the many expired coupons in my purse. The helpful young lady pharmacist asked me, “Can I help you with anything?” “No. I’m just sitting here.” A few seconds passed, and she asked again, “If you needed –” Slightly irritated, I interrupted her, “No, I don’t need anything, I’m just sorting out some old coupons.” She said, “It’s just that if you were looking for a pharmacy coupon I have one you can use.” “Oh. That’s for new or transferred prescriptions, right?” She: “Yes.” Me: “Yeah, I don’t have any prescriptions to transfer.” There’s another pause while I finish my coupon-weeding. Then I look up and say, “Actually — I think I might need a prescription re-filled.” She asks for my name and birth date, and the name of the medication, and confirms that, yes, it’s ready to be filled, and, yes, I can come pick it up in a few minutes. I add, “Um, is there another one there?” She still has my information up, and quickly confirms that there is indeed another prescription “being held for you.” Me: “Oh.” Pause. “Is that from mid-October? I think I might have filled that before I went on vacation and then forgot to pick it up.”
So I finish my shopping and go to collect my children. I find Mabel and Rose holding hands in the doll aisle, and Isaac and Henry enjoying the action figures, where Ike also shows me a Nerf gun his friend recommended, which he’s saved enough money to buy for himself. My beautiful children are the vision of calm, contented childhood. But, as they wait for me to pay for my prescriptions, the image starts to fray. By the time we make it to the front of the store, they’ve morphed into the image of unruly, ill-behaved rapscallions. While I’m checking out, Mabel, Rose, and I go into this well-rehearsed routine:
Rose: Misbehaves, runs away, etc.
Mabel: Corrects Rose by grabbing her arm, threatening time-outs, saying she won’t be Rose’s friend anymore nor let Rose play with her toys ever again, etc.
Rose: Tries to break free of Mabel; shrieks at air-siren pitch.
Me: Shouts at Mabel (the only way for her to hear me over Rose’s shrieking) to leave Rose alone, reminds Mabel that I’m the parent, that she should tell me if Rose is doing something she shouldn’t do, and should let me do the disciplining.
We go through our routine three or four times while the cashier rings up my stuff. We head for the car — and I realize I forgot to use my coupons, so, while I get back in line for my $1.50, we do the routine a few more times. On the way out of the store, Henry breaks free from Ike and runs at top speed, stopping just short of the road as, at the top of our lungs, Mabel and I shout for him to stop. Mabel chastises Ike for letting Henry get away from him, and I tell her Ike was doing his best and to leave him alone.
In the car on the way home, Mabel threatens Rose some more, I scold Mabel some more, they both call each other names, and I make them both say they’re sorry. I repeat to Mabel that, except for when I’ve specifically put her in charge of watching Rose (I had released her from that duty after I picked the kids up from the toy area,) that unless Rose is doing something dangerous she should just tell me about it, and let me take care of it. She says, “She was doing something dangerous! She was going to run out of the store!” Me: “I don’t think she would have gotten very far before you had time to tell me what she was doing.” Mabel: “Yes she would! She would have gotten all the way to The Little Gym before you heard me. FINE! Next time I’ll just let her go to The Little Gym!” With wrenching agony, she adds, “I’ve only gotten to see Rose get in trouble about THREE times in my whole life!”
I’m glad it’s dark out so Mabel can’t see me stifling laughter.
So we make it home and it only takes about an hour, and a whole lot of cajoling and negotiating, for them to get in their pajamas and get to bed (I made things take longer, too, by catching them up on several weeks back-allowance and helping them figure out what goes into tithing and savings.)
And now they’re sleeping like the little angels they are, and I’m getting my motherhood pay-off by telling tales.
Oh, I totally forgot the best part of Sunday’s meeting. A recently-returned missionary visiting our ward, who’d served in Argentina, talked about how much he’d loved his mission — how the church members were so poor, but would provide such abundant lunches that, as they served him and his mission companion second helpings unasked, they would think “Crap!” about having to eat all that. And then, as he ended his talk, he said that he was one of 14 children, and that his mother “birthed every one of them,” and that she hardly ever yelled at her kids and was one of the greatest people he knew, and that he was especially grateful she’d had all 14 kids “because I’m the very last one.” I loved that. (Even if I was privately wondering if she’d started out yelling more and just run out of steam by the time she got to the end. But that’s totally not fair; I’m sure there are some much quieter mothers than me out there.)
AND I forgot to say that, after church, a sister in my ward asked me “Can I help you?” and when I said, “With what?” she said, “With whatever you need. For a long time I’ve been feeling like I should offer to help you out — I’m great at scrubbing toilets — or I could get to know your little ones and maybe be like another Grandma to them. Whatever you need.” I was surprised, and a little embarassed that I’m so obviously needy, but mostly touched and grateful — and I WILL find a way to take her up on her offer.