Once, when I was in seventh grade, my mother and I went on vacation to the beach over Spring Break. It was March. I didn't think the sun was so intense that time of year that a full day in the sun with minimal sunscreen coverage, would land me with skin so burned it would literally blister all over my body.
I also didn't think that it was possible to be so sick from over exposure, that a person couldn't step foot in to the sun without long sleeve pants and shirts - and a wide brim hat - for the next two weeks or else they'd suffer from extreme nausea.
Twenty three years ago, I had a bad case of sunstroke.
Today, I had a bad case of kid stroke.
The symptoms of nausea, extreme sensitivity and exhaustion are almost identical.
The children had swimming lessons this morning.
It took me thirty minutes longer than it should have to leave the house because I am dealing with three COMPLETELY irrational human beings. They wanted to wear their pajamas UNDER their bathing suits. They wanted to wear their plastic high heel shoes that they can hardly walk in. They wanted to stand on the PINK step stool in the bathroom, even though it was in the other bathroom, unless I got it, they wouldn't go potty. Or, they would go potty on the floor - and then point and tell me about it.
Not once, but twice.
Once we arrived at the pool, they all LOUDLY protested about getting in to the pool because they didn't want to be cold. They didn't want to get wet. They didn't want, didn't want, didn't want. I, however did want thirty minutes of quiet, so I walked with them in the door, spotted the teacher, told them "Look!! There's something shiny!!" and then ran the opposite way, before they could chase me out.
Taking a blessed 20-minute reprieve from constant whining and bickering, I went to sign the kids up for the next month of swimming lessons. When I went back to the pool to check on them, they SAW me. Their smiles disappeared and they were instantly MISERABLE. They started crying, shivering, and in the two seconds it took me to realize that I needed to RUN AND HIDE their lips turned blue. So, I did what any responsible parent would do upon seeing their desperately cold child. I spun my baby around in his stroller and shoving elderly people out of my path, BOLTED the other way.
Standing behind a pillar where I was out of sight, I watched the 30 senior citizens that were in the same pool as my children, stop their exercises and whip their white heads around to see what all the fuss was about in the shallow end.
Thinking back to my days of teaching swimming lessons, I remembered that it is always better for the teacher if the parent is out of sight. So, I laid low until one of the lifeguards hunted me down, with my three screaming children behind her ... seven minutes before the rest of the class was dismissed.
The doors leading to the outside pool are completely sound proof. But once she opened the door and my children's screams echoed through the building, it was like hearing the cry of the Mandrake. I actually touched my hand to my ears to make sure they weren't bleeding.
Ushering my three screaming and shaking children in to the locker room - I gave them a quick rinse in the handicap shower stall, where they all proceeded to fight over whose turn it was to hold the shower head. When I relinquished our shower space to a woman in a wheelchair with blue legs that was recovering from a stroke and had an oxygen tank, she felt compelled to tell me that she thought she had a rough life until she saw me.
Then she laughed, a bright and gleeful laugh.
I tried to get the children dressed as quickly as possible because we had a meeting with the Montessori school, where I was scheduled to sign over a large sum of money for enrollment. But the kids sensed that we had someplace to be, so they rummaged through the duffel bag I had carefully packed when I was occupied getting their sibling dressed ... and hid various clothing items in various lockers. One shoe here. One shoe there. One sock here. One sock there. Underwear over here. Shorts over there.
We arrive 10 minutes late at the Montessori school. Unloading the car, Carolyn trips and falls and skins her elbow. It is bleeding and gets all over my shirt. William informs me that he has to go pee-pee. Henry is extremely fussy because THE CHILD WILL NOT SLEEP and skipped his morning nap. Elizabeth is doing something annoying but for the life of me, I can't remember what, now. I do remember, however, that she is insistent that she takes her TWO bunnies with her. She must have TWO bunnies at all times.
I herd them in to the school. I try to keep three three-year-olds and a nine-month-old quiet for me to quickly skim through the registration packet, talk to the director about important dates and doctor records, and drop off a check for enrollment that is large enough to cover a round trip vacation for our family to Europe. Then, I question if I am doing the right thing.
Dear God, am I doing the right thing??
I load the kids up and drive home.
Everyone falls asleep in the 20 minutes it takes to get back to our house.
Everyone wakes up crying when I pull in to the driveway.
Walking in the house, Carolyn is still crying over her elbow. Henry is crawling around, crying, hungry, tired, eating something off the floor that we didn't get around to sweeping last night. William is playing with a toy that Elizabeth had claimed as HERS the night before. Elizabeth goes to get the toy back, William does a straight arm shove and knocks her down so hard that she smacks her head on the tile floor and lays stunned for a solid five seconds before erupting in to screams.
Whirlwind of feeding - eat - eat - eat - GO TO BED - pleading that they PLEASE take a nap. Henry falls asleep for five minutes while nursing. I put him in his crib, he is awake five minutes later, crying. The remnants of lunch are still on the counter. The floor is still unswept. There are piles of laundry. Nothing has been accomplished except me, continuing to question if I made the right choice to register them for school in the fall.
Soon, all the kids are up. I take them outside. We go on a treasure hunt. They have great fun finding the treasure rocks that Jody, a blog reader from Florida, sent to them. (Thanks again, Jody!!) Elizabeth is finding more rocks than William and Carolyn. A lot more rocks. She has found almost all of them, William and Carolyn have each found one. While pointing out butterflies, I redistribute the rocks so everyone has the same number in their bucket.
They sit down to open the rocks and I go to hide the gold coins that Jody also sent. I hear a SMACK and Elizabeth crying. I look up to see that William has smacked her, as hard as he could, with his bucket full of rocks.
Fury sets in.
This is the second time in a day that he has really hurt her. I launch over to him, launch him in to the house, scoop up Elizabeth and hold her while pushing Henry on the baby swing. Carolyn is climbing on the fort and goes to come down, but falls face first down the ladder. Even though I've told them fifty times if I've said it once that they need to go down the ladder backwards, I might as well be telling them to calculate the wing speed velocity of an African, no EUROPEAN (!!), swallow.
I put down a crying Elizabeth and pick up a crying Carolyn.
I look down at Henry and he has slipped in his swing so that the lap belt is tight beneath his neck. I put down a crying Carolyn and pick up a gasping Henry. William is still in the house screaming. I later find out that the reason William whacked his sister with a bucket is because a FLY landed on her. A fly. My response to what was intended to be, chivalrous behavior, was completely over the top. Not at all unlike William smacking tomorrow out of his sister with a bucket full of rocks because she had a FLY on her. Elizabeth has now cracked open the treasure rocks and is trying to stuff the gems in to her ears.
The rest of the afternoon is a blur of more crying and fighting. I call Charlie, who is shopping for a magnifying glass so the children can look at bugs up close, and ask that he please come home. When he arrives, I'm holding William who is still sobbing because I launched him in to the house. Henry is crawling around my feet. Elizabeth and Carolyn are yelling "That's MY mommy." "NO! THAT'S MY MOMMY!!!" Followed by the chorus of "NOOOOOOOOOOOO!"
Charlie arrives home. He prepares dinner. We sit down to dinner. The kids will NOT stop touching us. Carolyn knocks over two glasses of milk. Elizabeth is tossing her spaghetti with her hands and then wiping her hands in her hair. William is doing something annoying but for the life of me, I can't remember what, now. Elizabeth leans over and gently touches the blood on my shirt from Carolyn earlier in the day, and Carolyn erupts in to screams of "NO!! That's MY blood!!" This outcry makes Elizabeth want to touch it more. It makes William want to see what Carolyn is hollering about and makes him want to touch it, too.
Best of all, it wakes Henry up from what I had hoped would be a 12-hour sleep.
I tell my husband that if I have to hear ONE MORE CHILD utter ONE MORE SOUND so help me, I am going to stuff them in to rocket launchers and shoot them to the moon.
Usually once I tuck the kids in bed, I can reflect on the day and think "Oh, that really wasn't so bad." But tonight, I've decided it would be more pleasant to stick my head in a toilet and flush it sixty times in an hour, then repeat the kind of day I had, today.
And to think, I have reservations about returning to work on Thursday.