You won’t find a mermaid in this lagoon.

Life with many children is filled with wonderful moments. It is also filled with difficult ones. The problem is, you never know which moment you will get.

Quick as a wink, my day can fall completely to pieces. I can be swimming along peacefully, backstroking through a thick fog of tranquility, and the very next instant all hell can break loose. I’m not sure why that happens so swiftly, but I do know this: it catches me off guard every single time.

Take yesterday for example.

Mr. Diaz loaded up our giant van and hauled our oldest children down to the car wash. He didn’t do this because he’s a super awesome dad who wants to spend a few extra moments with our dear offspring. Nor did he do this because our children like sitting in an enclosed space while giant soapy brushes slap and lick the sides of a vehicle that’s roughly the size of a barge.

Nah.

He took them to the car wash because he needed bodies to hold towels over the windows in the back of the van where there are leaks. I can’t blame him for this. What did we have children for anyway if not to do mundane, Red-nex-ican tasks like that one?

Meanwhile, I was back in my kitchen loading the dishwasher and the other five children were occupied and quiet.  Every parent knows “Occupied and Quiet” is a summons for disaster. Sure enough, Squidgy baby began to cry, flailing and wailing while flopping in the jump-a-roo.

Suddenly, a scream pierced the stillness and I immediately knew it was my 2 year old, Chatterbox Toddler. I scurried down the hallway to the playroom and he ran up to my legs and clutched them as tightly as a modish purse snatcher holds onto a Kate Spade.

“Owwww,” he sobbed through his big tears, “Head owwwwwy,” 

Chatterbox Toddler was wet. He had a blossoming red welt where he had conked his noggin. He held onto me and screeched his dysphoria -a cacophony now mixed with the sounds of a wailing baby back in the living room.

I noticed my wood floors were wet too, as if a preschooler spilled a gallon of water and attempted to mop it up by using the least absorbent material on the planet, which in this case was an old baby quilt. Instead of the spill being soaked up, it spread the liquid from one side of the floor clear to the other.

A slight movement from the back of the room caught my eye.

Our resident preschooler, Humdinger, stood there stark naked and frozen in place; one leg lifted up in the air and ready to go into a pair of underwear. He had been quickly trying to change into dry clothes. It didn’t take long to figure out what had happened. Humdinger had masterfully created his very own ‘Slip-n-Slide’. From his pee. And his brother had involuntarily taken the first ride.

I can’t really say what coursed through my mind in the next few moments.

I bear vague memories of solemn, sincere prayers to Jesus Christ and perhaps the thoughts of mild profanity. Three kids were vociferously bawling; the very angry baby back in the living room, the naked preschooler holding one leg up through a pair of faded Batman underpants (who then did a perfect swan dive into a naked flop-tantrum across the cold floor). And, of course, the still-screaming toddler who had just been the first contestant on his brother’s low budget version of “Wipe Out.”

The real tragedy for the toddler was not the loss of dignity after a brief glide in his brother’s tinkle. No. What really upset him was the tragic loss of a beloved banana he had mashed into the floor with his legs as he fell.

Moving quickly, I abandoned the semi-creamed banana, left it bobbing in Urine Lagoon and hauled the toddler up to the bath for a quick rinse.

As is normal in my house, a tranquil afternoon had unraveled in a matter of moments.

A protesting Humdinger was forced against his will to get fully dressed in clean, dry clothing. The baby was forced against her will to wait out her bounteous troubles inside a jumpy manufactured to look like an absurd rain-forest. The toddler was forced against his will to abandon his favorite fruit. And I was rudely forced against my will to get down on tired hands and knees and mop the entire floor before other children ran into the room exclaiming “Hey! A free banana! That looks delicious!”  

45 minutes later, the baby was wiped, changed and dozing peacefully. The preschooler was occupied with a giant floor puzzle that still magically retained all the pieces, and the toddler had been awarded the consolation prize of a few crackers to snack on. With the crisis handled, the chaos of the afternoon slowly faded back down into a lull.

Mr. Diaz returned shortly with several children, wet towels, and a sparkling clean van that had been washed on the inside as well as the outside.

A kid, who heard the van pull up, sprinted into the house from the backyard where he’d been playing. He kicked off his muddy boots, threw down his dirty coat and peed right there on the floor.

It shouldn’t be surprising.

Around here, windows aren’t the only things that leak.

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The Emperor has no airplanes!

So here’s how it went down:

It was my Mother-in-law’s idea. “Let’s sit at the airfield and watch all the airplanes.”

We were totally alone as we laid out our bedraggled kept-in-the-trunk-blankets and sat down to observe…uh…whatever we thought was going to happen. When you spontaneously unload seven children out of the van to sit at an airfield, you expect something spectacular. Or at least mildly amusing. I’m sad to inform you that it was neither.

Oh, there were plenty of large jet planes to look at. They just happened to be completely stationary. Unmoving. A grand total of two small planes landed and took off. And if I’m honest, I’m pretty sure it was the exact same plane twice. Nevertheless, the kids waved and yelled and jumped around and clapped their sticky hands, and hollered out their love to the sky. 

Then it happened. 

Because we are a huge (ahem, and loud) group, and because our dear children insist on creating chaotic amounts of fun wherever we go, other people driving by thought something spectacular was happening at the airport. 

And so they pulled over. 

And got out of their cars. 

And walked up the hill and stood eagerly with tripod cameras ready to snap up pictures of something FABULOUS.

Mr. Diaz mumbled “Oh good, we aren’t the only idiots out here.” 

I have to point out that he said this while draped in a blue Aztec patterned towel, which the adults and older children were wearing across their shoulders like shawls because none of us thought to bring coats or jackets. That’s how we roll. We make DO when our spontaneity overrules our common sense.

Several car-loads of expectant onlookers came. 

While our children paraded around laughing and pointing at imaginary flying machines, hopeful observers parked and walked up the hill toward us to watch all the airplanes. “Do you see the emperor’s new clothes?!” they asked one another.

Eventually, someone yelled “The emperor has no clothes!” and half an hour later people clued in that there were NO airplanes either landing or taking off, and with disappointed looks, they sauntered back to their cars with empty cameras and sad hearts. 

As for us, we just kept sitting, (because that’s what you do when you’re old and tired) watching our kids roll down the grassy hills until they smacked face-first into the chain-link fences, and running and jumping and laughing in the fresh air. We stayed until we could safely say all children were exhausted. Then we loaded up the party bus and headed home. 

We brought home all the towels-turned-coats, some memories, and several gnarly grass stains. Thank God for Resolve Stain Remover.

I’m sure we will find ourselves back at the airfield again one day soon. If you ever want to join us, feel free. Just don’t show us up by coming with actual coats. Because if you’re ever in the mood to join our Red-nex-ican ho-down, you’d better arrive as ill-prepared as the rest of us.

I’ll throw several more hideous towels into the back of the van, just for you to wear on such an occasion.

You’re welcome.