It's funny how I can forget something that, even if it might not be all that dramatically important, WAS something that I specifically had thought was cool when I first knew it. Anyway, I was reminded that the official name of Tots is "Tots and Co", to make it clear that it's not just for moms!
A friend of mine commented that when that invisible wall goes up when people hear that I have more than 1.3 children, when they're so sure that I couldn't possibly understand them being frustrated with just one or two children, I could perhaps emphasize some of the more difficult moments. The problem there, though, is that IF they believe me (and they usually don't), it's not like they develop any sympathy--they just make it clear that as far as they're concerned, if I was foolish enough to have six children, then what did I expect?
So...today. My husband is home many more waking hours than most fathers, is very involved in the children's lives and in the household. That happens to be one BIG part of the answer as to "how I manage." I don't: we do. I know a lot of single moms out there doing a great job and I admire them greatly and I don't know how they do it. One mommyblogger I've read regularly for the last three or four years recently posted about how tired she gets of hearing that. She manages because she has to. The options aren't thinkable, so they don't get thought.
My husband is completely in charge of the kitchen when he's home, which is generally about 12 of the 14 lunches and dinners that happen each week. (He's not home for lunch on Tuesday or on Sunday in a normal week. And every Sunday he prepares something to take to the house church shared meal.) For the last 15 months I've been baking bread regularly, and for the last six months I've done a lot more dishes than I used to, but that's pretty much the extent of my contribution. Even if I set the table, it's usually because my husband asked me to while he's finishing up the meal preparation. If I help clear it, it's while he's washing dishes or (as of a few weeks ago) loading the dishwasher. He also does 99% of the grocery shopping. (The other 1% is usually a child running to the bakery on a holiday or Sunday for milk or eggs, or occasionally even bread if I forgot to bake some. Maybe one out of 20 of those times, I'm the one who does it.) The children are getting better and better at various parts of these duties, the older three all able to completely prepare potatoes and slice vegetables, Jacob often preparing the meat, but it's still Jörn who made the decisions about whether we'll have potatoes or rice and how much meat to buy and so on.
Sometimes, however, he's not here, and I have to keep house just like a grown-up. He was working with a seminar from Thursday evening until tonight, which meant that on Thursday he left right after dinner and got home long after the children were in bed, and on Friday and today left before most of the children were up and got home after most of them were in bed.
Yesterday I did bake bread and put a load of laundry in the washing machine (oh, how I love having a washing machine! After two months of hand-washing everything for six of us in Thailand in 2006, I will forever be grateful for a washing machine!), and everybody got fed, and everybody eventually went to bed. At 8:00 a.m. we got a phone call inviting Jacob to go sailing, so that cancelled thoughts of schoolwork and I texted another homeschooling family to ask if they were in holiday mode. So after I dropped Jacob off at the marina, the four younger children and I spent the morning at a friend's house. Then mid-afternoon Marie left for youth group, and after dinner I took Jacob to meet someone who could give him a ride to the YWAM worship evening. Getting the four younger ones into bed wasn't so easy without Marie OR Jacob OR Jörn around, and I did wonder vaguely how I had managed it when I only did have four children.
This morning as Jörn was getting ready to leave he said I'd probably want the camera--which is how I got reminded of a birthday party this afternoon. So much for today's thoughts of calling a friend and going to the playground. At 8:10 Marie's violin teacher called to ask if Marie was coming--turns out that her lessons are going to be at 8:00 again every week, which we hadn't understood. I did wake Marie, but agreed with her that there was no point in trying to wake up enough to rush there for a half a lesson, so she went back to sleep. Elisabeth is working hard on her second tooth and was very vocal about it all morning, so I made a new batch of granola mostly one-handed, while carrying Elisabeth around, and I also finally hung up the load of laundry I had washed yesterday. It wasn't until 11:30 that I finally had the four younger children in the car to go birthday gift shopping for twin six-year-old boys. Once they were all buckled in, I ran and picked a couple of grapefruit to take to Sue. Yes, she wanted some, but my ulterior motive was that I got to leave the children in the car for about three minutes while I took the grapefruit up to Sue's house!
And then we went Shopping. My favorite thing to do. Yuck. The children had been raving about Jumbo, and several of my friends and acquaintances have raved about Jumbo, and everyone is just so glad that there's finally a Jumbo in Larnaka and they don't have to drive to Nikosia. Not having any good ideas about what to get anyway, and with Lukas and Katie begging to go to Jumbo (and even Helen telling me that she got me my duck in a waterball at Jumbo and suggesting that we get Willem and Julius ducks, too), I finally opted to go to Jumbo. Yay. It smells of plastic. And then clothes. By the time we finally got to the toys section, I had a headache and my eyes were watering and my nose was itching. The children were amazingly well-behaved, and since nobody was volunteering to help pay, I got to pick out paper and pencils and stickers and a small bowling set, and everyone was happy. It was so wonderful to get out of there. There: I have now been to Jumbo.
On the way home we stopped at Orphanides Express, a small (but not over-priced) supermarket, where I left all four children in the car (Marie and Jacob had stayed home) and ran in to get milk and eggs. That was fast and easy and didn't make my nose itch.
Once home I cut up and fried some chicken and made a casserole with left-over rice, left-over tomato and vegetable sauce, eggs, and the chicken. It was very good, but wasn't ready until 2:00. (And I only used two of the eight chicken breasts that Jörn probably meant to be one meal. I couldn't stand to touch it for any longer than that.) Marie left at 1:50 as she wasn't sure if she had orchestra practice or not--she called when she arrived to say that no, she didn't have orchestra practice, but was going to have her lesson, so that was cool. We gulped down lunch and Jacob buckled Katie and Elisabeth into the car while I got Helen in the car and texted the friends in Limassol that we would be late.
The drive to Limassol went well, helped by the fact that Katie was sitting by herself in the very back seat, and Elisabeth slept the whole way. The party was fine (something like 15 children from the age of 9 months to 10 years), pretty loud, but in a big house with a big outside area, so the noise was distributed and it was nice to chat with the other parents. Yes, I took some photos, but they all have other children in them, and I won't post photos of children without their parents' permission, so no photos here.
The drive home wasn't so great. Elisabeth screamed almost the entire time, and Helen sang at the top of her lungs until about 10 minutes before we got home, when she suddenly fell asleep. I put her in bed, texted Sue and Richard to come for a game, and then read to Lukas and Katie and had them in bed by not much past 7:30. (Daylight Savings Time starts tonight in Europe, so I figured that half an hour early was a fair compromise.) Sue and Richard arrived and we played a five-person game of Settlers of Catan, with Marie and Jacob, as well. Helen wasn't sleeping all that well and Jacob, Marie, and Sue all took turns comforting her. She woke up yet again just as Sue and Richard left, but by that time, Elisabeth was asleep, so I went to Helen that time. She was asleep within about five minutes, and when I came out, Jörn was home.
And now the clock reads 23:18, which 24 hours from now will be 00.18, so I should declare it bedtime and head for bed. I'm leaving at 8:00 tomorrow to pick up someone at the airport, and Katie and Helen have already put in their bids for a trip to the playground tomorrow, but those are the only plans I have. Oops--I just remembered that I have to finish making the bed for the lady that I'm picking up tomorrow. After traveling all night, she's probably going to want to have a nap...