The bad thing about having a bunch of kids is that you can't always control the calendar. This was particularly true this week, when - of all the luck - Allie-15's departure to Africa coincided with Annie-now-8's birthday.
Everything was going fine yesterday morning - I was up, showered, and making my toast at 9:15 when I realized I didn't know what time to meet up with the group at the airport for a 2:45 p.m. departure. Mentally I was calculating 12:45, which would mean we'd need to leave our house at about 11:30.
Neal-14 was still asleep, but he was quick, Allie was in the shower, and everyone else was at least moving. We're doing good. We still had over two hours to leisurely double check everything in Allie's suitcase, get everyone fed and dressed, and even make a stop for headbands, the one item we'd forgotten on our multiple trips to the store this week, and the one necessary beauty item for a soon-to-be-hair-dryer-less teen.
I called our group leader. "Didn't you get my email? [of all the ones I overlooked, why would it have to be that one?]. We are going to be there at 11:15, but everyone else will be there at 11:45." A bit of quick math told me I now had not two but ONE hour to get everyone out the door! ACK!!
About that time Annie strolled into the kitchen. "Can you get donuts for breakfast, since it's my birthday?"
I tried to act like I had all the time in the world for Annie - who was pulling out the crepe paper and balloons and asking if she could open her presents now, "you know, while Allie is still here," (Open them? I haven't even wrapped them!) - all the while rattling off items on our checklist to Allie, running back and forth through the house with this and that, trying to get the kids to finish their letters to Allie (while Annie said, "Did you get me a card this year? You never get me a card!"), and delegating what I could, such as Ruthie-5's hair to Libby-11 ("Mom, I can't do her hair!").
I was apparently (ya think?) not doing a good job of it. At one point, Annie ran out of the room crying. "This is the worst birthday ever! Why did Allie have to go to Africa on my birthday??"
I knew she did not want to hear, "Because traveling on this day made the ticket cheaper."
She was gone a little while, and then I went to look for her. About that time Neal-14 came walking through the kitchen. "She's doing okay now. I talked to her."
Did I ever tell you I love that boy?
The rest of the morning went off better, now that most of the crying had ceased (there were still a few meltdowns), and things were loaded up in the truck for the trip to the airport. We even had time for the headband stop.
We got to the airport, kept the conversation to chit-chat level, and said goodbye to a very tentative Allie (shown here at the airport with our group leaders' and very dear friends' daughter, who will thankfully be going on the trip with her). More on that next week...
The rest of the day was Annie's. She got to pick out the dinner menu (mac n cheese and quesadillas) and make her cake (coconut cake with marshmallows on top).
When we took our "tradition" picture of all the kids gathered around the birthday child (with my phone - Allie has my camera!), Annie said proudly, "When we see this picture without Allie in it, we will never forget that she went to Africa on my birthday!"
After cake and presents, and riding - yes, through the house - on her new scooter, Daddy took the kids to buy some sparklers, a nice benefit of having your birthday close to the Fourth of July.
When I tucked Annie in bed last night, we talked about her day. She smiled contentedly. "This was my best birthday ever!"
I had just gotten a text message from Allie saying that they had boarded their plane for Johannesburg.
Oh, Annie. It was a good day, wasn't it?