Just like any challenging expedition, it started innocently enough. A relatively easy activity that might buy me thirty minutes with another adult, one that I especially liked. Plus, a park, so the kids would have something to tell Daddy about. My girlfriend, E, was also facing a Sunday with the kids by herself. We talked briefly while I nursed BabyN about meeting for a morning walk at 10:00. The mid thirties degree drizzly weather and wet ground weren't deal breakers. And while I still needed to dress, diaper and feed all the kids, an hour and twenty minutes seemed like plenty of time. It wasn't. As always happens in the mornings, the time that stretches like Hubba Bubba gum around and around and around the dinner hour, shrunk into nothing. Suddenly, it was ten minutes to ten and Dee and T had yet to belly up to the yogurt and Rice Krispies knock off bar.
We eventually made it out to the garage and the double stroller I had elected to use (this mind is like a salad spinner, capable of spinnage, but usually stored in the basement). My efforts to get to the garage were hindered by the bundling process. Both Dee and T needed long underwear, snow boots for puddle jumping, their fleece coats, their "big" coats (Dee complains this constrains her freedom of movement), and the all important mittens. T refused to wear his mittens and promptly pulled them off and squirreled them away somewhere in the living room. Saving them for the winter, I guess. I looked, for a second, but then my anxiety over lateness took over. Toddler knows best.
I planned to carry BabyN close to the chest. I couldn't find the Baby Bjorn, touted for its ease of use, if not a killer on the shoulders. Crunched for time, and really getting frantic, I opted for the cumbersome Moby wrap. Like an anaconda, long and lean, the Moby can extend itself twenty feet and then wrap itself tightly around your body. While great for an afternoon of housework with the babe (a practice I don't believe in), the Moby does not lend itself to transitions. Once the baby's in, she's in. You wanna nurse or scoot down the slide, you're in for a process. Despite these well known facts, I wrapped BabyN in the Moby, facing out, and hurried one mittened kitten and one non mittened kitten out the door for stroller loading.
Once I pulled the summer plastic play equipment out of the stroller, I discovered a flat tire. No stranger to a little set back, I located the bicycle pump, attached it to the tire valve and began my only cardio exercise of the week. BabyN and I were both sweaty by the end of it, if not a little dizzy. BabyN cleared her head by promptly vomiting on the garage floor. It looked like a clean stream. No residue on the baby or me. Dee confirmed my observations.
So I proceeded to place the kids in the stroller. After much fiddling to expand the "summer sized" straps, we were ready to roll. I unpacked the diaper pad and wipes from the backpack, threw the snacks in the double wide, and called it good. Then I looked at the tires. The tire I had just pumped up was flat AGAIN, as well as the front tire. The sucker was damaged, sand burr damaged. This was the first time during the morning that I wanted to cry. Cry because it was already 10:07 and I couldn't reach E to tell her we were late. Cry because I was ridiculously frantic over the tedium of my life that keeps me from meeting my scarce and self imposed deadlines - on a Sunday morning, for God's sake!
I pulled myself together enough to yank the kids out of the double and put T in the single. I managed to move the diaper pad to the new stroller because diaper rash from a poop at the park is a lesson not worth repeating. I also got Dee running along beside me, stiffy coat and all. By the time we turned the corner toward the park, T was complaining about his cold hands. My girlfriend, E, was already three blocks from her home and headed up the sidewalk toward me, her daughter out front, with all the speed of a twenty two month old.
We began the actual walk toward the park, when another girlfriend called. Like a good little moocher, I talked her into driving for coffee and then meeting us in the drizzle. But by the time she arrived at the park, T had already interrupted every breath of my TMZ style story about John Edwards' love child. Something about red and chafed hands. He screamed for mittens. Adult gloves were inferior. He wanted a snack. I searched, but found nothing in my back up stroller. Finally, I bundled him in E's stroller and fed him E's snack, all while drinking the coffee provided by my other dearheart.
Dee, working from T's playbook and noting the benefits of the continuous cry, began to whine with abandon. She'd stubbed her toe on the playground mulch. Waaaaa! Her bangs were in her eyes. WaaAAA! T had half a strip of fruit leather. Beyond words. All the while, BabyN was revving up. I tried, per usual, to ignore her early mumblings. But by the time Dee hit full throttle, BabyN could no longer indulge me. Loath to do so, I begrudgingly plodded over to the wet park bench, removed my jacket and uncoiled the Moby. Ugg. I pulled BabyN, stiff like a starfish in her snowsuit, out of the jaws of the wrap, and sat down with a squish to nurse her. We nursed. My other little dingbats screamed. Like the short cycle on the dishwasher thrity minutes before guests arrive, I didn't have time for a two boob feed. So E held BabyN's foot on the bench while she rocked her own crying twenty two month old, who was mourning the stroller seat occupied by my twenty some month old. Once the proper kids were placed in the proper strollers and the snake was wrapped safely around my most unsatisfied babe, we began our departure.
My girlfriends yelled bon voyage and offers of help over the super white noise called my children. We walked for a bit away from the park and Dee and BabyN began to settle down. I was dying to fart, out of the earshot of non-relatives. I did, but was immediately greeted by a dad with a stroller about eighteen inches behind me. He said, "Wow, you've got a kid coming out of every...." Then he trailed off. I swear, he meant to say "orifice."
LOOSELY inspired by "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte," 1884, by Georges Seurat: