Last night I prepared for Valentine's Day, hoping to make it a special holiday for our family.
I wrote love notes for Garry and each of the kids. I filled candy boxes, tying each with a balloon. I set the table for breakfast with heart-shaped paper plates. Love was in the air when I went to sleep.
This morning the kids were thrilled to find their Valentines. We enjoyed a pancake breakfast together -- well, mostly together. Garry was feeling rather icky and opted out of breakfast. He also decided to stay home from church. He helped get the kids ready, a process that included ironing pants for Gavin, locating Zach's shirt in Tyler's closet, making Zach wear an age-appropriate tie, working through several toddler tantrums, and sufficiently packing a diaper bag for Lexi and Gavin. I was exhausted by the time I buckled my seat belt to leave.
As usual, we shared a pew with the ever-helpful Shaha family. I'm not sure I would have survived Sacrament Meeting without them. Gavin and Lexi both wanted me. Tyler and Zachary both wanted the doodle pad. Separating the big boys and juggling the babies was pretty ridiculous. Melanie eventually got Lexi to sleep while I paced the halls with Gavin. Eventually we all landed back on the bench.
Then Tyler whispered, "I have a talk today." What? Tyler insisted that he gave me a slip of paper last Sunday that said he had to give a talk today. I had no recollection of this exchange. Arguing was futile, so I panicked for a minute instead, my mind racing through possible topics and the lack of visual aids. Then I found a pencil and a folded sheet of paper in my purse and wrote a talk for Tyler to give in Primary. He whispered the words as I wrote, then practiced the complete draft once in hushed tones. His CTR ring would be the attention getter.
At the end of the meeting, with our belongings strewn all along and under the center-section bench, Melanie's teenage son took Gavin to nursery. Another friend held Lexi (now awake) so I could clean up and take some of our things to the car. Then I grabbed Lexi and sat on the back row of Primary to watch Tyler give his talk. He spoke with great enthusiasm and expression, showing the CTR ring with a flourish at the appropriate moment, and closed with gusto. What a guy! He left his paper on the podium when he was done, and when I tried to retrieve it, the leader conducting told me she wanted a copy for her file. I needed the paper -- it was a printed receipt for a pediatrician visit that I had to submit for reimbursement. She promised to get it back to me.
I sat in Sunday School for a while with Lexi after that, but her happy babbles were too loud and distracting for the other class members, so we relocated to the Relief Society room. By the time Relief Society started, Lexi was getting cranky. Melanie held her again while I played prelude and the opening song on the piano. She would have gone into the hall, but she was supposed to give the opening prayer. When it was time for the prayer, another lady stood up to hold Lexi so Melanie could pray. Lexi leaned for me when I walked to the back of the room. At "amen," Lexi and I walked out the door.
We went to room 212, where Tyler's Primary class was meeting. His teacher had asked me (right before church started) to talk to the class about preparing for a baby's arrival. I talked for a minute, bouncing Lexi in my arms to postpone her meltdown. I have no idea what I said. I hope it was the right thing.
Then we went to the mother's lounge, where Lexi got what she wanted -- lunch. What I wanted was a few minutes alone in a dark, quiet room. But the other moms in the room were chatty. One was my visiting teaching companion, and as I nursed and she changed a diaper, we had an awkward exchange about the appointment she missed on Thursday. I was anxious to leave.
I returned with Lexi to Relief Society. Lexi spit up all over herself within 30 seconds, but then played happily at my feet for the rest of the meeting. I was so distracted I could barely listen to the teacher. Did I make a comment? Maybe. My brain was unraveling.
I played the closing song and a little postlude, then left Lexi with Melanie so I could collect my boys from their classes. Only Gavin was where he was supposed to be.
The day before I had agreed to take a photo of a couple that was submitting mission papers. We thought after church would be the best time. Suddenly it was after church, and I had four kids running in different directions and my sanity was hanging by a thread. So with the help of Melanie's boys, I herded my boys through the sub-freezing, windy winter weather and into the van. I strapped them in, turned on the heat, and instructed them to wait. I grabbed the camera, went back inside, and took six pictures, hoping and praying that one of them would turn out.
Eventually Lexi and I faced the wind and cold and we got in the van to come home. Gavin fell asleep before we hit a major road, but did not remain sleeping during the transfer to bed. He cuddled with a sick Daddy on the couch. Within ten minutes of our arrival home, a careless Zach dropped a piece of Tyler's brand new Bionicle down the furnace vent. Oh, the drama!
Then all was calm for about an hour. We changed into comfortable clothes, ate lunch, and settled into quiet afternoon activities. Gavin and Lexi napped. I started this blog post. Then I heard a bump, an urgent "Get Mom!" from Garry, and Tyler's feet pounding up the stairs. A few minutes later, Garry whisked Zach off to the ER. Zach had been twirling in his bedroom, lost his balance, and crashed into his dresser. He needed stitches in his lip.
At home, I fretted about the trauma. I reeled in fatigue after such a day. But I knew Zach would be in good hands, and that his Daddy would help him through the hard parts. Garry kept me posted via text. He and Zach breezed through triage but waited a long time in the exam room.
Lexi woke up, and after I fed her, she played on the floor at my feet in the office. I checked the stair gate and bathroom and bedroom doors, since she is prone to wander these days. All were closed. Tyler assembled Lego structures on the desk next to me and I started working on this post. After all, it was a Valentine's Day to remember!
After a while, I heard Lexi crawl out of the room and onto the wood floor in the hall. I didn't worry a bit, since I knew she was protected by the stair gate. But my stomach lurched when I heard the awful sounds of a baby falling down the stairs. I hadn't noticed Tyler slip out of the office to retrieve something from the basement. He had forgotten to lock the gate again.
So Lexi was crying at the bottom of the stairs. In that awful moment I wondered about the possible (horrible) injuries she could have. In a few minutes' time, however, my fears subsided. She was quickly crawling, standing, laughing, and playing. It seemed that disaster had been diverted. Now we're just praying that is actually the case.
Garry and Zachary spent about 2 1/2 hours at the ER. Zachary handled the stitching procedure like a brave little man. What a trooper! He got four stitches and will return to the ER for stitch removal on Friday (so that we don't have to submit another co-pay). He took some Tylenol for pain after an hour at home. Hopefully he's not too uncomfortable during the night.
Now all the kids are in bed. Garry still doesn't feel well, and I'm astonishingly tired. But we're grateful for our blessings -- for lives preserved and limbs intact, for medical insurance and modern medicine. Most of all we're grateful for each other, and for the knowledge that love conquers all, even on the craziest of Valentine's Days.