At the end of January I had a business meeting in Orlando. I left on Monday morning and returned Thursday night. Prior to my leaving, Christi was somewhat overwhelmed with the prospect of taking care of the kids alone for several days. To help cheer her up, I suggested that she plan a girls only weekend sometime after I returned. She decided to go up to Rexburg, ID and surprise her sister Becky for Becky's birthday. Since it was such a long drive, she would stay two nights. Of course it would be even better if their other sister, Leslie, could go to. Leslie's husband is a firefighter, and wasn't able to be home the weekend they were going. So I volunteered to watch her three boys as well. So, yes. You have added that up correctly. Last weekend, I stayed home and single-handedly took care of eleven children for 48 hours...and they were all alive when Christi came home! The ages were: 12,11,10,7,6,6,5,5,4,3,2. And believe it or not, I actually had a lot of fun.
It's not really fair to say I did it single-handedly. Grace, Taylor and Parker were absolutely incredible. They helped make meals and get kids to bed and change diapers and clean up. They even let me sleep in Saturday morning until after 9am! They are truly amazing kids. And in spite of all of the work we had to do to keep the 12 of us going, we still managed to have a good time. Taylor and Parker both came up to me independently and commented on how impressed they were that we were able to do everything we needed to do, without mom to help us, and still have fun. Leslie's three boys played a LOT of Wii. We were blessed with temperatures in the low 60's (record highs for this time of year) and so we were able to get outside and ride bikes and throw the football a few times. Sophi was the hit of the neighborhood in her walker. (The walker is another post for another day, but she is SO CUTE in it:)
Prior to the trip, Christi asked me what I was planning to do for church. I told her I would try to go. She thought I was crazy. In fact, she mentioned it to her mom, and her mom thought I was crazy, too, and should just stay home. (How often do you get permission from your mother-in-law to skip church?) But I really was going to try to go. HOWEVER...Friday morning dawned and Christi and I were both quite sick. I was really worried. I was barely convinced I could take care of all those kids if I was perfectly healthy. What was I going to do if I was under the weather??? But she left me anyway. By Saturday, Lexi, Elli and Sophi all had runny noses as well. That evening I told the three oldest kids that I would not be going to church, but that if any of them would like to, I would be happy to drop them off.
Sunday dawned, and there are few mornings that could be better characterized by Dicken's famous line: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times!"
Best: I was awakened by Taylor saying, "Dad, can you take me to church?" I cracked one sleepy eye and saw the Taylor had woken up on his own and gotten completely ready to go. Handsome as could be in his suit and tie, he wanted to go and worship. I was so proud. I jumped up and off we went.
Worst: I returned home and decided to say a prayer before I faced the day. I was on my knees and just starting to pray when Graci opened my bedroom door. She looked at me kneeling and said, "Oh, sorry. But it is kind of emergency!" I looked up at her and she said, "Elli took off her diaper and pooped on the bed. And she's eating it." OK. I can handle this. I am a grown man. I have had 38 years of life and 12 years of parenting to develop patience and unconditional love. I will not leave this for Christi to take care of when she gets home. I am a man. I want my mommy!!!
I went downstairs, and sure enough, there was Elli. The one small bright spot in all of this was that she had remained on the bed, which meant the mess was mostly confined to the bed. Elli had grabbed handfuls of the stuff and had basically made a foul snow angel on the sheets. She had indeed tried a mouthful. She had combined said mouthful with enough saliva to make a thin paste out of it, which she had then managed to spread over her face and throat. She looked like she had a mud mask on, minus the cucumbers. She had chunks of it in her hair. She had tried the "spaghetti test" with some of it. You know, where you throw spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks? It stuck. I found it on three of the four walls.
Somehow, I managed to stay calm. In fact, my overriding emotion was sorrow and empathy for my little girl, that she would have to deal with things like this. I showered her off, washed the sheets and walls. I even gave her some ponytails when I was done. Ah, the joys of parenthood.
Really, though, overall we had a great time. And I have great kids!