I very rarely get any time to myself. Right now Scott is in Hawaii and I'm here with the 3 kids. 3 kids and only me = 1 big mess. Seriously. And just when I thought the house couldn't possibly get any messier, that I would never get the Christmas decorations taken down and put away, that no matter how many times I nagged at Maeve to clean her room it would never get done, just when I was about to despair of ever finding a single moment of sanity, I got a phone call. My sister-in-law. And she offered to come down from Pittsburgh for a weekend.
To most, and maybe even to me, this would seem odd. K. is a neonatologist with 5 year-old twin girls. She is currently married to another doctor but is in the beginning of a divorce process. Additionally, she's not working at the moment because she's between contracts while she studies for board certification. In a nutshell, she's a pretty busy woman and we aren't that close that she comes to visit me, or even to visit Scott. But what was even more amazing was her reason for coming: to help me.
I don't take help that readily because I'm so used to people not realizing that I might need it. And after living in Germany for so long where we weren't anywhere near family, I'm pretty used to getting by on my own. I've been through 3 deployments of various lengths and even once while pregnant and then after the baby was born. My motto is pretty much "I can handle it". It's been that way since we came back to the States, too. My mom lives in Maine, my brothers live in Michigan and Nebraska. I have no family here. Well, no family that I'm close to or could call on to ask for help. My father's cousin lives about an hour away and my mother's cousin lives about 35 minutes away. But they're both women in their mid-fifties or so whom I have never met in my life. I wouldn't feel comfortable asking one of them to watch the kids or anything. So I just deal with it. But K. said, "Jen, even Superwoman needs a break."
Anyway, after overcoming my initial shock at her offer, I told her she was welcome to come, though I didn't know what I could have her do. She said it didn't matter, that she was willing to clean or babysit or even take the girls out of the house so I could have some quiet. We picked a date and she arrived this past Friday, full of plans. I'd offered her what guest accommodations we have (futon in the family room) but she told me that she would stay at a hotel because she feels like everybody needs their own space. So she arrived when we were about to eat. She held and fed the baby so I could cook my dinner. She helped get Gwyneth's room cleaned and vacuumed while Gwyn was in the shower and I put Tallon to sleep. She put Gwyn to sleep so I could actually eat my dinner. Then she got Maeve started on cleaning her room. Miraculously, Maeve cleaned it without much fuss! Once it was clean she left and said she'd be back in the morning.
The next day she arrived around 10 am and proceeded to take down my Christmas tree and gather up the decorations to pack while I took a shower and got dressed. She vacuumed the family room. She helped Maeve change the sheets on her bed and bring her dirty laundry to the laundry room. Then she told me her plans for the rest of the day: she wanted to take us to lunch, then go to the mall, since I'd asked her to take the girls shopping for me for my birthday because Scott isn't here. I wouldn't have made a big deal about this but Maeve was upset that Scott wasn't here to do it and she wanted me to have presents on my birthday this coming Sunday. At the mall she wanted to take the girls and Tallon around while I did some shopping on my own. The plan was for me to go to JoAnn Fabrics to use up some of the gift cards I got for Christmas, but it was snowing pretty hard so I didn't think they'd stay open. We ended up going to Cheesecake Factory to eat because I'd never been there. That required braving unplowed roads but we managed to get there in one piece. Then we ventured out again into the snow to the mall. Fortunately I chose a route to the mall that was mostly on the emergency snow route, so it was plowed better. Once we got to the mall, she took charge of the kids and took them off to shop for me and to get the girls' nails painted. I hardly knew what to do with myself and window shopped and got myself the biggest Orange Julius in the world.
We met up when the mall was closing and I retrieved the baby and she took the girls back to the hotel with her to have a 'slumber party'. They had a wonderful time in the hotel pool the next morning and then went shopping at Target and had lunch out before coming back to the house. Gwyneth was quick to show me that she'd gotten both her finger and toe nails painted at the mall, and told me that Maeve opted for toes only. They both had picked purple nail polish. K. announced that she'd bought some organizing things and then showed me the fabric bins that she'd gotten for Gwyn's room and for Maeve's room, plus some colored adhesive hooks for the wall in Maeve's room, plus she'd gotten plastic bins for the shelves in the toy room, where she then headed to clean up.
By the time she left our house Sunday evening, she'd gone over almost every room with the vacuum, organized the girls' rooms and the toy room, taken down my Christmas tree and decorations and taken my kids shopping while I got to relax with no rascals to chase back into bed on Saturday night. She'd done a few other little things, too, but I'm so overwhelmed at the work she did in the toy room that I don't even know what else she did. We even were able to talk to each other in a more genuine, relaxed way than we've ever done before and that was nice. Maybe this is the beginning of a closer relationship than we've had the past 16 years or so. Maybe this was like a vacation for her, too. Her husband had the kids for the weekend, and since he often relies on her to 'rescue' him from daddy situations that he can't handle, it may have been refreshing for her to be able to say "Sorry, you'll have to deal with it. I'm out of town."
So I am touched. And thankful, oh so thankful. I had a weekend that I thoroughly enjoyed (yummy cheesecake!) and my children were remarkably good. And best of all, I got a little time to myself. And continue to get a little time, since I'm not wasting my breath on nagging Maeve about her room or asking Gwyn to put her socks in the hamper. At least, not for a little while. Thank you, K.