Last summer I decided that, childbirth having taken its toll, I needed to get into shape. The program that follows is the one I used when I took up exercise walking, It can be adapted to suit the needs of any mother-of-many just change the names and other variables as appropriate.
1) Children need exercise, too, so bring yours along — all eight of them. Before venturing out on your first walk, however, make sure that the baby is properly shielded from the sun. The quarter-hour that you spend searching for her bonnet, and retrieving it from the bread box, are minutes well spent.
2)While in the bread box, grab a few slices to feed to the pigeons at the park. Then, grab a slice for Dominic, who has just decided that he needs a snack. Get one for Helen, too, but make sure that Leo tears Helen's slice into bite-size pieces. Reward Leo for his services by spreading jelly on his slice.
3) Now that each of the children has eaten a slice of jelly bread, it's time to set out! Instruct each of the older children to hold hands with a younger sibling. Even if their hands are sticky with jelly. Have the children walk two abreast, so that they aren't hogging the sidewalk. Walk slowly at first, then gradually pick up the pace.
4) Have Clare help Rose to get up from the sidewalk. While splashing Rose's scraped knee with water from the baby's bottle, ask her to please stop screaming. Instruct the children not to stare at the elderly gentleman who is squinting at them from his front porch. Be sure to point out that the pretty lawn with the “No Trespassing” marker also belongs to the elderly gentleman.
5) Remove Vincent from the pretty lawn. Continue walking, but at a slower pace, so that Rose-of-the-injured-knee can keep up. While strolling, encourage your children to take note of the lovely flowers.
6) Call to the children to run away from the bumblebee who was disturbed as they were taking note of the lovely flowers. Seize Clare, who is allergic to bee stings, and dash to the next corner. Try not to glare at the lithe young mother effortlessly propelling a jogging stroller.
7) Once the young stragglers have caught up, it's time to regroup. Have Grace carry Helen, who is tired of walking. Insist that Ben hold Dominic's hand, even if Ben's friends are across the street, and might see him. Order Leo to stop frightening Clare with buzzy bee sounds. Tell Rose that she will have to recover without the aid of an ice cream cone. You don't have to say or do anything to Vincent, since he is not there anymore.
8) Locate and remove Vincent from the site of an excavated ant hill. Flick the ants off Vincent. Flick the ants off your walking shoes. Resume walking. Stop. Flick the ants off the hysterical Dominic, who has just learned from Ben about fire ants. Shush Leo the Nature Lover, who is loudly denouncing Vincent for destroying the ants' home.
9) Mention to Leo that Nature includes the border of zinnias which, in his agitation, he has squashed underfoot. Initiate a brisk marching game; it will give your thigh muscles a good workout, and will hopefully put distance between your group and the limp zinnias before their owner suspects anything.
10) Time for some family fun! Have a contest to see which child can pick the most dandelions from the sidewalk cracks.
11) Thank Vincent for the dandelion bouquet. Assure Rose that her bouquet is every bit as pretty as Vincent's. Assure Leo that, yes, dandelions gone to seed count, too. Even if Ben has blown away their seed heads. And knotted their stems. Suggest to Grace that she pick a dandelion for Helen, who is tired of both walking and riding. Fish out a tissue from your pocketbook for Clare, who is allergic to pollen. Fish out a bread slice from your carryall to calm Dominic, whose dandelion was found to have an ant on it. Fish out yellow petal shreds from Helen's mouth.
12) Time to practice the relaxation technique which is essential to optimal wellness! Breathe from the diaphragm. Inhale, exhale. Inhale. Cough up the gnat that got sucked in through your nostril.
13) Turn and head for home. Ignore Grace's remark about some old gray mare not being what she used to be.
14) Once home, put into a vase the two dandelion bouquets and the headless bunch of knotted stems. Hang the baby's bonnet on the clothes rack. Throw the bread slices to the dog. Apply a bandage to Rose's knee. Give Clare a fresh tissue. Reprimand Ben for having teased Dominic and Leo. Reprimand Leo for having teased Clare. Reprimand Grace for the implication in her “old gray mare” remark. Find the receipt for the walking shoes, and put it and them into a shopping bag.
15) Call and order two pizzas. With the works.
16) Lie down.
Celeste Behe is a homeschooling mother of nine who likes a few glasses of wine with her loaded pizza.” She and her husband Michael live in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.