You know, I have no idea how or when it happened, but at some point in the last few years I crested out of the “herd of very tiny kids” phase. I was very definitely in it for years – and as I look at Liz right now, I very clearly and vividly remember being in the thick of that phase. But somehow I’m not in it anymore. The moments of coming up the stairs to find the entire second floor under a heavy dusting of baby powder, or coming downstairs to find the sofa slicked down with hand lotion and cinnamon have drifted into the past. In fact, at this very moment I have told the kids they need to pick up – and, wonder of wonders, they’re actually doing it!
Seven years ago, almost to this very day, I was enormously pregnant with baby number four. And I had a one-year old, a two-year old, and a four-year old (each with more than his or her legal share of ingenuity) who spent all their free moments teaming up and egging each other on to commit evil deeds.
On one particular Friday in late December we had a Christmas party to attend, and Ben was giving finals until about 6:30. So I got the three kids all decked out in their new Christmas dresses and ties and so forth, made the hors d’oeuvres to take, and got myself ready to head out as soon as Daddy showed up. No doubt I had had to launch that project at about 1:45 in the afternoon, because I was so hugely pregnant that I couldn’t bend over, and getting three small children looking presentable and everyone in clean diapers all at the same time is a radically time consuming job.
But I did it. I got it done. And Ben still wasn’t home yet. So I lay down on the couch to wait, which, as I’m sure all you mothers can tell from a mile away, was the dumbest idea I could have possibly come up with. Because as everyone knows, at eight months pregnant with baby number four, you cannot lie down upon the couch and expect to remain conscious for longer than 12 seconds. I didn’t even remotely intend to fall asleep, but you know how it goes.
I couldn’t have been out for longer than maybe six minutes . . . but of course six minutes is far more than enough time for three toddlers to raze the house to the ground and sow salt upon the foundations. I was awakened by the sound of the Christmas tree. Yes, I realize that Christmas trees don’t usually wake people up, but ours was rattling. I popped up and swiveled around to look at it. It was swaying back and forth in an ominous manner, and the ornaments were clinking around.
After ruling out an earthquake, I lumbered across the room and peered behind the tree. There were all three of my offspring, crouched in the corner behind the tree . . . and the one-year old was unrecognizable, being covered head to toe with some sort of white substance. I drug them out, and they all stared up at me with that look on their faces. You know the look. They were trying to look suitably shocked at this terrible occurrence, and their fat little faces were all as guilty as the day is long.
Upon further inspection, the white stuff turned out to be powdered sugar. The two elder children had completely sugared their little sister, getting most of it worked nicely into her hair that I had just washed and curled. But her entire outfit was also sugared . . . she was a sort of walking powdered doughnut. And better yet, they had also dusted down the kitchen, several throw pillows, and then filled the dishwasher soap dispenser with the remainder.
As I was discovering the kitchen floor, Ben walked in. The poor man was greeted by a wife who was not yet seeing the humor of the moment, a completely sticky white kitchen, and a dry bathtub containing three dressily-clad children who were awaiting justice with that solemn look still on their faces. Number three was entirely white – but the older two were definitely not unscathed by their endeavors. They didn’t actually have cups of the stuff in their hair, but that was about all you could say for them.
I don’t quite remember why they were in the bathtub – I think I stuck them in there so they would stop tracking it everywhere while I steamed around and tried to get my attitude right before I went in to handle it. Ben of course was deluxe. He rolled up his sleeves and bathed everyone while I scrubbed the kitchen floor (which was sticky for days) and we all still actually made it to the party . . . the kids with wet hair, and wearing their pajamas.