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Carpe salmon or Why I’m getting stares this week

March 8th, 2006 · 4 Comments

I have five children this week. No, I’m not announcing a pregnancy of twins or progeny from a previous life (rest assured that neither of these scenarios exist). A friend of mine needed a place for her younger two kids to stay this week somewhere close to Olympia. She’s a good friend, a bit ahead of me in life, enough to have encouraged me and given me a bit of wisdom and direction I needed while I was wandering in college in Rhode Island years ago. (Friends and family at our wedding may remember that her husband helped marry us.) So I was quite happy to help her. In my care the past three days I’ve had her 11 year old son and her 8 year old daughter. I confess last week I had my moments out of fear and stress when I wondered why I had agreed to watch these children whom I’d barely met. I used to babysit their older sisters, but that was eleven years ago, before we moved away from Rhode Island.

However, we all are getting along well, to the point that when I told the kids we might visit our friends this summer (they now live in the Pacific Northwest), my kids cheered and begged to go (hope that is okay with you, my husband-who-is-at-eTech).

I’ve gotten some looks this week as I’ve wandered around with five kids in tow. Friends and even some fellow islanders who are familiar with our family can tell which ones are mine. But when we walked around downtown Seattle, I received some stares. A small crowd of five kids in a family is an unusual sight. And it’s possible that they could all be mine, except for the fact that two of them are only seven months apart. Yes, people have asked questions, people from the woman who scooped up sundaes at Cold Stone Creamery to strangers on the street of downtown Seattle.

“For today, they are mine,” I reply with a smile. Sure, taking care of two more kids is costing me a good amount of time and energy this week. But isn’t it worth it? Isn’t this what life should be about? Shouldn’t this be something that happens all the time, normal and not worth a stare?

Tuesday was the one day we had freedom in our schedule, so I took the girls kids (I’m learning a lot about boys!) to downtown Seattle. We walked onto the ferry where we ate lunch. The two visitors wanted to stand out on the deck and feel the wind blow against them. Then we stopped by Ye Old Curiousity Shop on the way to the Aquarium. After an hour or so of watching fishes and sea otters, we hiked three blocks of stairs up through Pike Place Market to Cold Stone Creamery where I got each kid whatever he or she requested, no matter how large. Then back through the Market and to the boat, picking up plates of Ivar’s fish and chips for the ride home (our friends said they had never had fish and chips).

That morning I had heard of Dana Reeve’s death on the radio. Between Elena and Dana, Joey’s dad, and other sorrows in news and blogs (or even posts like this one), I want to seize each day. It cost in a number of ways to take that trip to Seattle with five kids. But I wanted to take the opportunity to let the kids touch a sea star and watch a shark swim. I wanted to let them laugh at the sea otter pup and let them gasp at the wonder of wolf eels and octopus eggs. I wanted them to taste chocolate and mint, fish and fries, to savor the sunset over the mountains, the salt of the sea and the wind in their faces. I wanted to take the day and all it had to give and give it to these children, three of mine and two friends.

As we walked past the fish market at PIke Place I told the kids how the employees throw the salmon when someone purchases one. Carpe salmon came to mind. Of course as a play on carpe diem, seize the day. But I see two aspects of carpe salmon. One image is of abundance: I’ve read that the first people who lived in the Northwest could grab salmon out of the streams whenever they were hungry. That’s how rich this region was. And of course, the original carpe diem – seize the day,or to quote from the Wikipedia page, first Robin Williams (I have a little Dead Poets Society story too) make your lives extraordinary. or make every moment meaningful. Catch whatever comes to you. Take the opportunities.

I want to take every opportunity I have to love others, to pour abundance into them. I only have today. And two more kids to enjoy in it.

Tags: friends

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Katherine // Mar 9, 2006 at 4:38 am

    Wonderful post. So glad you made such a great day of it. Sounds like a lot of fun for everyone.

  • 2 timbu // Mar 10, 2006 at 7:17 am

    When I went to Disney World last month we spent four days with friends — in large part so each couple could have one day alone sans children. We garnered a lot of attention traipsing around Epcot with five well mannered children, ages 4.5 – 7, all in matching blue polo shirts. (I guess the shirts didn’t match perfectly — each had their own unique food stains.) I was really surprised how people pointed and stared. More than one person asked if they were all ours. It felt strange to get so much attention for such a small thing.

    Sounds like you had a great day living large.

  • 3 jennyonthespot // Mar 25, 2006 at 11:43 am

    Your post reminded me of the time recently I watch my friend’s 3 kids (6, 8 &10) and I only had Joel and Lucy (Olivia was at preschool). So I had 5 too! I had to take the baby to the doctor – and my new children for the morning had to come along. The gals in the doctor’s office recognized which were “mine”, but many in the office couldn’t stop looking – either smiling or jaws on the floor. The thing is – all of my friend’s children almost look like my kids – eye colors, light hair…

    The funny thing, though the visit was a bit more busy, I found myself loving having all those children.

  • 4 Karen Provost Riegert // Aug 9, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    Hi Julie!
    With my four, any extra is quite the crowd. Thankfully, in this very family-friendly area (Monument, CO), it takes more than a handful of kids to receive “the look.”
    When my husband and I go out with ours, with a single mom friend of ours and her six boys, now that’s a different sory!

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