I lay in bed last night thinking through the next day's schedule and realized I had no choice but to take all five tots to the grocery store with me today. The list had filled an entire notebook page, the cupboards were looking bald, and Matt was working three long days in a row. I couldn't leave the kids with him, they would just have to come with me. That was a daunting enough thought, but several hours later as I lay awake feeding Elijah I realized that it was also time to drop by the hospital for Naomi's next 24 hour urine collection kit. Two stops with five kids, wonderful.
It took me all morning just to get everyone dressed, combed, and fed; then organize the shopping list by aisle, and pack the diaper bags (yes, I need two now). After lunch we piled out the door in the usual shifts. Naomi stayed inside with Elijah, rocking his car seat to keep him happy, while I strapped Hannah, Toby, and Emma into the van. Then I strapped in the last two; double checked that I had 5 kids, two diaper bags, a cell phone, a wallet, and a double stroller; and pulled out of the driveway. Halfway to the hospital I realized I'd forgotten the baby carrier. Rats. I'd have to swing back by the house on the way to the grocery store to pick that up, otherwise I'd be sunk if Elijah protested the stroller while I shopped.
At the hospital we piled out in reverse order and loaded Toby and Elijah into the double stroller. We marched in the revolving door (and whoever invented those things did not have in mind a mother with five children and a double stroller fitting through there at the same time), and greeted our favorite registration desk lady who knows most of the kids by name now. After picking up our kit at the lab and visiting the new birds in the aviary, we marched back outside and piled back into the van: Elijah, Hannah, Toby, Emma, Naomi: check, check, check, check, check. I wasn't too thrilled when I hopped in the driver's seat only to have to hop out again because Hannah (in the opposite corner of the van) needed help with her seat belt. But, (don't tell Hannah) I was secretly very glad I had because I discovered the double stroller still parked behind the van! OK, so I need a little more practice at this.
One quick stop home followed, then off to the grocery store we went. After unloading the passengers at the store, we picked up a prescription at the pharmacy, then Naomi pushed the boys in the stroller while I pushed the cart and tried to fill it as quickly as possible because I knew the clock was ticking until Elijah's next feeding. Ten minutes into the trip we had to take an emergency potty break in which we occupied every stall in the women's bathroom. Back out on the floor I began grabbing groceries faster than ever. Toby was extremely restless. He threw his weight back and forth in the stroller, leaned over the side and tried to stick his fingers in the wheels, and lunged for any groceries he could claw off the shelves. Emma had to wrestle a can of tomato paste away from him once. Naomi proved to be an expert stroller driver, and we soon landed in the check-out aisle with an overflowing grocery cart and a baby that was still sleeping. Way to go mom!
Leaving the store was a little more tricky now that our groceries occupied two full carts. I pushed one cart and pulled one cart, behind my carts traipsed Hannah and Emma, and behind them came Naomi with the double stroller. Strangers stopped to stare at our 20 foot train as we headed into a busy parking lot. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as we all pulled up to the van, and for a moment I celebrated the accomplishment...until I lifted Toby from the stroller. Under my son's bottom lay six rolls of Mentos candy! So, after loading 5 kids, two bags, a double stroller, and mountain of groceries back into the van I parked my van illegally in the fire lane, ran into the store, dropped the loot in the hands of the first uniformed lady I could find, and explained, "I think my two-year-old shoplifted these, sorry," before I dashed back out the door to my van. All five kids were still fine and no one had ticketed my van yet, but Elijah was waking up.
I raced home while Elijah made small stirring and fussing noises. Just as I pulled up to my house he began to scream. Out came the crew of five and into the house we flew. I stationed Emma to rock Elijah's car seat and give him a pacifier while Naomi, Hannah, and I dashed back and forth unloading groceries from the van. Elijah emphatically denied my gesture of kindness, and Toby attempted to block our entry to the house with all the skill of a football hero.
Finally the groceries were in, the van was locked, the house was locked, and I collapsed into a comfy seat where I fed Elijah and was served a banana, a string cheese, and a glass of water by my little angel Hannah while Naomi put the groceries away. Next week we will survive without groceries until Matt has an evening at home. I don't think I'll be up to repeating today's display of bravery for a few more weeks.