On the few occasions I escape my house these days, I am always asked "How are you guys doing? How are the toddlers doing with the baby? How are you holding up with the transition?" "How's life with 3 kids?"
And every time I stare back blankly. How are we doing? What toddlers? What baby? Transition?
How do I articulate this? How do I explain this roller coaster ride of 3 small children? One minute gloriously wonderful and exhilarating- a high on love. The next- poop is flying everywhere.
How do I explain that this morning I agonized whether to punish Carter because he snuck up onto the counter and stole a cookie instead of eating the breakfast I laid out for him on the table...or to praise him because before taking his own cookie- he grabbed the biggest piece and handed it to Addison who was waiting down below.
How do I explain not knowing whether to laugh or cry when I walked into the Dining Room after only being gone less than a minute and discovered the baby had his mouth stuffed full of cheerios and a guilty Addison was playing with the rattle that I had left for him. The choking possibility was scary (he didn't choke), and yet Addison conducting a trade was kinda hysterical.
How do I explain the days when I stay on top of everything- the dishes, the laundry, the housework, the meal executing, and feel like a million bucks playing with my well-behaved dolls dressed in clean clothing and shining faces. Only to wake up the next to and have my entire empire collapse with one pin pulled out of my delicately balancing Jenga structure. All it takes is one pin- and all that "million bucks" feeling comes tumbling down and I find myself collapsing onto a pile of clean laundry on the couch at the end of the day because there is no where else to sit and I am tired.
How do I explain the feeling of being homebound for most of the month of March? Carter started out the sickness...passed it to Addison...and now the baby has it. In between there Aaron and I got the stomach flu. (Note: It IS possible to breastfeed a baby while vomiting into a Tupperware resting on the poor baby's body. I could have lived a hundred years without experiencing this joy...but it is possible...this I know.) We have been to the doctor 5, no 4, no 5 times because of course they didn't all get sick at the same time and they didn't all line up with their previously scheduled well-baby visits. Can I slip out after they go to sleep? Nope. Eli still won't take a bottle and he has been waking up just for kicks and giggles a odd times during the evening because he's breaking through his first tooth. (Holy crankiness, batman. Tooth evil has stolen my sweet little boy!)
And yet- how do I explain the intense gratitude that hits me even during this long period of being homebound and sickness? Gratitude for 3 beautiful children, a husband who has bent over backwards to help with this transition, a house in which to be homebound in, and good health as it returns.
Yet sometimes I wonder- is anyone else still out there? Is the world still spinning? Is winter really prolonged another day for every time someone watches Frozen? Because I think we have added on at least another month just on our own.
How do I explain the sweetness of Carter and Addison reaching out to hold hands for family dinner?
How do I explain to joy of being able to breastfeed Eli and not taking a single moment of the experience for granted after the experiences I had with the other two.
How do I explain sometimes having to "sacrifice a room" to the toddlers for a few minutes of peace to get dinner made?
How do I explain that a full, restful night of sleep is only having to get up once or twice and that I'm squinting at them not because sun is in my eyes, but because my eyes are tired.
How do I explain the joy and pride as I see Addison and Carter learning and growing like the big children they are? The times that they so sweetly hold their brother and give him gentle pats when he is upset?
How do I explain opening up the tea kettle to boil some water and finding it stuffed full of bread and knowing that toddlers climbed up onto the counter to do this- did their thing- replaced the lid- and silently returned to me with innocent smiles and I had no idea until that moment when I found the stale bread.
How do I explain them all napping at the same time- for gloriously long hours- me missing them fiercely...and then questioning my sanity when they all wake up and have extra energy to torture the house (and me).
How do I explain the intense love holding my baby boy who is already past the newborn stage and well into babyhood and how I want to grasp every moment and squeeze every last bit out of it. And then I look at Addison and Carter and remember when they were this small and how fast they grew to big toddlers full of words and attitudes. And then I start missing Eli as a baby even before he has grown out of the stage.
These questions all flash through my head. How are we?
But instead of overwhelming the friendly pharmacist with WAY too much information, I smile, nod, and calmly say "Fine. We're just fine. Thanks for asking."