Start at the beginning.
It’s Friday. The Friday.
We are here. We have arrived and survived people. We have a solid week under our belts and all of the kids have a pulse.
I should know, I just checked.
Charity returns this afternoon and we couldn’t be happier. We only have half a day to get through.
The times are approximate, the feelings are not.
My alarm goes off.
Actually get out of bed. I’m tired this morning.
Kids all wake up. Violet greets us with a sickly cough. Sounds dry and barky.
I’m not sure I have the bandwidth for a sick kid.
Wait…Charity is coming back. Not my problem anymore.
Things are looking up.
Charity calls us. She’s waiting at the Dallas airport for her first flight. All we want to do is reach through the phone and pull her into this house.
I then look at the condition of this house.
Actually, we wouldn’t want to rob her of the miracle of human flight would we? Let’s leave her to her five hour trip.
I get everyone fed.
Violet is in good spirits and just sounds sicker than she is.
I’m able to get some work in.
The girls and I clean like mad. Or maybe more accurate, I keep getting mad at them for not cleaning. We turn on music for motivation.
At one point productivity drops significantly when an extremely popular, yet mildly inappropriate, jam comes on and we all play the greatest rock show on earth with spatula drumsticks.
I put Roman down for a nap.
We finally get done cleaning. The house actually wasn’t in that bad of shape. I pat myself on the back for the daily maintenance I kept up throughout the week. And by “daily maintenance” I mean, daily letting my mom clean while she watched the kids.
She helped out a ton.
While I was trying to keep my kids alive this week, she was trying to keep her kid alive too.
Ah, who are we kidding. She doesn’t care about me, she was trying to keep her grandkids alive as well. I was just a lucky beneficiary.
I start the girls on their school work and I get back to my work-work for a bit.
Charity’s plane arrives at 1:51pm.
I stop working when I realize that I should probably plan when to feed everyone lunch and when to leave for the airport so we can get there before she does.
Things like that sneak up on your day, like ninja assassins. If you’re not careful you’ll catch a throwing star in the neck as 12:45pm rolls around, and a hungry and screaming Roman clings to your pant leg, threatening to call child protective services on you because you didn’t think into lunchtime early enough.
But I’m finally getting the hang of this planning ahead thing. Which is too bad, because after 1:51pm that skill will be rendered unnecessary and I can just delete it from my short-term memory.
Roman has chosen to chat with the ceiling through his entire nap time, instead of wisely choosing sleep like a responsible 14 month old would.
If he’s cranky when Charity gets off the plane, then I’m going to feel really bad when I hand him off to her and sprint for the nearest exit.
Google has informed me that Charity’s plane will be arriving 20 minutes earlier than expected. This will compress the time-table. I really want to get there before she lands. I’m sure she’s expecting me to be running late, with half-dressed kids, smelling like a showerless week of nervous armpit sweat.
I want her to step off the plane and, in slow-motion, see a champion, a victor standing showered, calm and in control, awaiting her return with fed and fully clothed children at his feet.
It’s imperative that we get there before she does.
Earlier I had mentioned to the girls, off-hand, that we will all need to get dressed soon. I just turned around to find the both of them wearing matching gray dresses with leggings. All without me officially asking.
It’s like they instinctively know how important it is for my reputation in their mom’s eyes to look their best this morning.
Most of the time they bring you down, but ever so often your kids really come through for you.
Violet comes around the corner and is now in different clothes. But she looks composed enough to keep my reputation in good standing.
I swing my attention to Nola for further scrutiny. Something looks weird. It’s her dress. Turns out she’s wearing a 4T, meaning the dress is too small for her. Charity would spot that right away.
“Pay attention man! At this late in the game you can’t afford stupid mistakes like that.”
Got that corrected.
Man, we are running late. Charity’s plane is now getting in at 1:21pm. And I have to put lunch in my kids’ stomachs and make the 30 minute drive to the airport.
We were going to eat at Taco Bell, but to drag everyone in and out of the van would burn up way too much time.
So I have an idea. We will get drive thru and eat in the van. The kids get fed while their thousands of buckles and snaps remain untouched.
It’s so simple, it’s so brilliant.
So we order and handful of burritos and a strawberry freeze drink for the girls to share as a treat. I then whip into a parking stall and hop in the back and start tossing food at everyone. This is quite brilliant.
The only snag I see is that Violet ordered a hard shell taco with shredded cheese and salad—what Violet calls lettuce. Since you can really only consume about 70% of a hard shell taco, I ask her to carefully eat over the paper wrapper to catch the falling debris.
We took out one of our van’s middle seats for the winter. This creates an empty area to crouch in, protected from the elements, while everyone gets buckled. I’m in this area now feeding Roman bites of his burrito and keeping the girls focused on getting food into their mouths and nowhere else.
Everything is going well. Violet is keeping her taco fallout mostly contained. Nola has her burrito in one hand and is passing the strawberry freeze drink to Violet with the other. Roman is taking bites of his burrito. I check the time, it’s going to be close but we still might—
A sharp pain slaps my knee like fire and instantly turns to ice.
I look and see strawberry freeze drink sliding down it. The girls had dropped it during a handoff. I quickly snatch up the cup while asking them why they would maliciously try to sabotage my life; using my outside voice of course.
It appears they have stopped coming through for me and are back to bringing me down.
It’s a crime scene in here.
I raid, and empty, the stockpile of extra napkins we had to clean it up. I apologize to my kids for my outburst in the process. Accidents happen. So do idiotic ideas like eating in the van with strawberry freeze drinks while running late for a big reveal that you hope will get you respect points with your wife.
As my pants cling cold to my knee, I look at the strawberry mess and take a moment to ponder if all this rush and haste is worth it or not.
It completely is.
I get the major spots wiped up. Roman’s coat got hit hard, he will just have to go without one. I help him with the last bites of his burrito, tell the girls to finish eating on the way, and hop in the driver’s seat. We are so late.
I pull out of the parking space, punch the gas pedal, the van lurches forward, and I hear a faint thud. Nola then yells from the back that the half eaten burrito she had resting next to her car seat has just slid into the trunk area.
“There’s nothing we can do about it now. That burrito is dead to us.”
We speed—safely—to the airport.
I want, nay, need Charity to see a champion when she walks out of that terminal.
A champion with a pink knee, holding a baby without a winter coat. I’ll get some demerits for that, but I’ll flash an extra killer smile to make up for it.
We fly into the airport parking garage, I stomp on the e-brake, and drift the van into a stall. I unbuckle and unsnap a thousand buckles and snaps.
Since Roman’s coat is now a strawberry freeze canvas, I hold him close and wrap him in mine with me.
“Nothing to see here folks. Not smuggling a baby or anything. Just made some poor decisions in the last hour.”
I may end up on a no-fly list or something for sharing my coat. Not sure. I have no idea what the rules are anymore.
We arrive at the terminal waiting area. Google told me what gate she would be arriving at and I blindly trust it.
Well, we totally beat her. Maybe too much. We are still waiting. Google says her plane landed a while ago. We’ve seen people pour past us in waves.
I’m starting to think I’m at the wrong terminal. There are some monitors I can check but they are too far. I know the moment we step away is when she’ll appear. And all the hustle, the running, the strawberry freeze bath, the baby smuggling, all would have been for nothing. The champion moment ruined.
We’ll just hang here and put our faith in Google.
While trying to keep Roman entertained the dried lunch all over his face catches my eye. “Gaaaaah!” In one fluid motion I dip my hand into the diaper bag, produce a wipe, slap it on his face, and scrub like I’m removing Ebola. I yell at the girls to fall in line. Lunch is all over their faces too.
“You were in such a such a hurry you didn’t check faces?!?! What’s the second thing Charity will see after the all-powerful-man-champion-slow-motion shot? Her kids’ faces fool! Come on Ryan,” I scold myself.
You don’t have a killer smile good enough to balance out that handful of demerits.
Another close one.
A group of people clamour down the walk way. I tell the kids to pay attention and double-check that the scene looks good. I glance back and there is my lovely wife. She got the jump on us. She looks at me, I puff up my chest and I can tell that she thinks I’m—oh, now she’s looking at the kids.
They run to her. She embraces them, no doubt distracted by the vision of her triumphant man a split second ago. She looks at the girls. I can tell it’s hard for her to focus on them while being in such awe of me. She stands up and Roman and I give her a hug.
We are all so happy to have her back. We head to the van.
Throw Charity’s luggage in the back. I find Nola’s burrito back there and just leave it.
It’s dead to me.
We drive away from the airport. Not saying much. We both had a long week and I can tell that she is still in absolute amazement from the sight of her stunningly handsome, brave, and victorious husband back at the terminal.
It’s funny how sometimes “absolute amazement” can look exactly like “complete indifference”.
It takes a keen eye to tell them apart. And I have one.
As I drive I try to remember if there was ever a time that I wasn’t solely in charge of three kids. I don’t think there was. We head home and try to figure out how to start this new life together.
All in all, the whole week was a good experience. We made it. Did we finish strong? Not super strong. But at least I wasn’t headed to the airport, googling, “How to get color back into your kids’ faces in 30 minutes or less while driving.”
During this journey I’ve heard people say, “Man, I could never do that for seven days.” Just know that if I can do it, then anybody…of a similar caliber could probably do it too. I’m pretty awesome.
If you’ve read all the posts this week then you’d know that’s not true.
I’ve always known that my wife does not have an easy job, but now I know the specifics of why. It’s an eye-opening thing to walk in someone else’s shoes for a while. You learn that their shoes fit them way better than they fit you, and then you wonder why you ever decided to trade shoes in the first place, and then you realize that it’s not very sanitary, and then you hand them their shoes back and say, “No thanks. You can keep ’em.”
Minus Charity Week, down.