One week until release day for Unexpectingly Happily Ever After!
I'm about to press the magic PUBLISH YOUR BOOK button - EEK! It's still a thrill, even after eight books! Before I do so, I thought I'd let my favourite readers (YOU!) have a sneak peek. Here's chapter one of my latest, the sequel to Unexpecting.
Stay tuned - next week there will be more snipets and possibly a giveaway to celebrate the release of Unexpectingly Happily Ever After!
"It’s my belief that children should be seen rather than heard."
A Young Woman's Guide to Raising Obedient Children, Dr. Francine Pascal Reid (1943)
“But Momma, we’re going to be late. We have to go to soccer,” Sophie whines. “Now. Right now.”
“Yes, I know,” I say, hanging tight to the patience needed to corral three 6-year-olds into the liquor store. “But Momma needs to pick something up so we need to pop in here a sec.”
Sophie is right to be worried. Punctuality is not one of my virtues, but the LCBO is on the way to the soccer field, and it’s not like they start to play right away. For an hour- long game, the kids maybe play for thirty-five minutes. There are warm-ups and pep talks and some parents insist on plugging their kids full of this super-protein smoothie before the game because they think these drinks are going to make their kid a better soccer player.
They don’t work. I know, because one game I gave in to the pressure and mixed up a batch of this disgusting mess of ricotta, peanut butter, banana, beet, and chia seeds. And dark chocolate, which Lucy was very excited about.
As I sent the kids out onto the field, with full bellies and hyper from too much of the leftover chocolate, I felt like I deserved one of the hard-fought Good Parenting awards. But halfway through the game, Ben was pulled because of an upset tummy, and then Lucy woke me up in the night with a bad case of diarrhea, so we don’t do smoothies anymore.
I do my best to ignore Sophie’s litany of complaints as we maneuver the minefield that is the parking lot.
“Hey!” I shout, grabbing Sophie by the collar to pull her closer as a car swipes by a little too close for my liking. “Jeez! Kids here!”
“Is jeez like cheese?” Ben asks.
“No, jeez is for Jeezer Christ,” Lucy corrects him.
I stare at my daughter who is full of self-importance. “Who is Jeezer Christ? Jee–I think all of you need to go to church!”
“Simon goes to church on the Holy High holidays,” Sophie informs me.
“I think you’re messing up your religions.” Holding Ben by the hand and Sophie by the collar, Lucy is relegated to dangling from my arm. Literally dangling; all fifty-one pounds hanging off my arm.
At least it keeps her away from the cars.
Sometimes I wonder how I got to be here–as a mother of three active, energetic, amazing and extra-lovable kids; Sophie, Lucy, and Ben. They’re mine. I did this.
I had help from J.B., but I did this. They came from me.
Sometimes the realization washes over me, usually at the worst possible moment, and I have to take a breath. WTF.
Being a mother had been my dream since I spent all my time playing with my Rub-a-Dub doll, but I never really considered what it meant to be a momma, especially to triplets. I love my babies more than life itself, but just being around them is exhausting. No one told me how tired I would be, or how, even six years after they were born, I still wouldn’t be able to lose the last twelve pounds of baby weight, or even how my bladder seemed to have developed an incontinent stutter whenever I try to jump on the trampoline that J.B. insisted we buy.
Actually, I think my sister might have told me about the bladder one, but I chose not to believe her.
“Lucy, wait! For once, can you at least try to walk at a normal pace?” I snap as Lucy breaks free and makes a run for the store, darting in front of a woman overloaded with grocery bags. “I’ve had a bitc–a long day, and I’m slow.”
When I’m not corralling these three, I’m a kindergarten teacher. You’d think being responsible for eighteen 5-year-olds would have given me the inside track to dealing with triplets, but no, not really. I found it’s not something you can prepare for.
“But I’m fast because Momma needs her wine!” Lucy sings, pulling open the door and nearly taking out the woman with the bags.
“Sorry,” I apologize to the woman. “Yes, Lucy, Momma always needs her wine.”
Sophie takes my hand. “Is Momma tired?” she asks, surprisingly solicitous for a six-year-old.
“Yes, Momma is always tired, but it’s okay because that’s how Mommas are.”
Lucy stops short at the swinging bar that blocks the entrance into the store, which also halts the woman with the bags.
“Move out of the way, Luce,” I reach around and grab her shoulder so the woman can slide by her. I receive a scowl from both. “Now, push open the bar.”
It’s easy enough to push to get in, but it seems to be a mystery to a four-foot-tall kid.
“I want to push it!” Sophie demands, elbowing her sister aside.
“Wait your turn, Sophie,” I tell her, attempting to use my best patient-mother’s voice, which is only used in public. “Lucy first. Now you. And Benny. Hurry, someone else wants to come in.”
One by one, my three children obediently push their way through the bar allowing them entrance to one of my favourite places. I smile apologetically at the older woman tapping her foot behind us as I follow them in.
Her tight-lipped smile tells me I’m not forgiven.
As the kids explode through the bar, the cashiers stare at us with a collection of expressions.
The Aw, aren’t they cute? smile to the Lady, control your kids grimace.
I’ve seen them all before.
If my kids aren’t already noticeable enough in their bright yellow soccer jerseys, which clash horribly with their curly, red hair, the commotion we cause is just another way of telling the world the Bergen triplets have arrived.
I swear my heart stops beating every time I let the kids loose in a store. What will they break? What kind of chaos will they create? Will I lose them?
When they were younger, it had been the fear of the dreaded temper tantrum. Especially from Sophie. She’s the most energetic and the most affectionate of the three, constantly showering me and her brother and sister with kisses, but she has a temper. Lucy and Ben are more level and calm, but Sophie is like a bouncy ball–up and down, up and down.
Doesn’t make me love her any less.
I used to try and keep them with me, going so far to strap them into the stroller long after they had grown out of it. J.B. had found me the best stroller when I was pregnant, one that actually had four seats, so that I had extra room to put the diaper bag or anything else.
Of course, Sophie couldn’t be trusted to sit alone. I only made that mistake once, after she left a trail of Cheerios, Goldfish crackers, and the contents of my purse behind me through the mall.
“Okay, just over here, guys. No running! Sophie!”
“Momma, I told you that I’m not a guy,” Lucy informed me. “I’m a girl.”
“I’m well aware that you are in fact, a girl.” I trot over to the sparkling wine section, with the three of them following close behind. A man stands idly before the shelves. “But I use guys as a gender-neutral term of endearment, so I mean all three of you when I say it.”
“I’m a girl too!” Sophie cries, skidding to a halt beside the man. “But Ben’s not. He has a penis!”
The man reels back at the word, with an incredulous expression at me.
No sweet nicknames for body parts in our house. And unfortunately, Sophie has an odd love of the word penis.
“Yes, he does,” I agree grimly, with an apologetic glance at the man. “Help me look. I need a bottle of prosecco. It’s black with a yellow label.”
“What’s prosciutto?” Ben asks. I continually wonder how my sweet son survived his time in my womb with his more rambunctious sisters. But Lucy and Sophie adore their brother, treating him with more respect and care than they do each other.
“Prosecco,” I correct. “Prosciutto is that yummy cured ham that Uncle Cooper wraps around asparagus that you like.”
“I don’t like asparagus,” Lucy announces. “It makes my pee smell funny.”
“Yes, it does that.” I glance around but the man has bolted. “Look, here it is. Come with Momma to pay, and let’s go to soccer.”
I can almost taste the dry, fruity taste of the prosecco sliding down my throat but I’ll have to wait for it. The one time I brought wine to the soccer game, it was suggested by the coaches that I take my wine and drink it in the car.
It wasn’t like I had been obvious. My sister Libby had bought me one of those handbags with the spout and the wine pocket, as a Christmas gift. I found it really worked with red Solo cups and a nice Gamay. And the mothers I had shared the bottle with agreed it improved the game as well.
But tonight, the prosecco will have to wait. The plan is for me to take the kids’ to soccer, then race home where I have to snack, bath and bed them in record time, and then get myself over to Morgan’s.
Even after all these years, Morgan, Brit, and I still manage to get together quite often, although not as frequently as before. Now it’s more like every three weeks rather than weekly. Brit gets upset if we go longer than that.
Tonight we’re foregoing our dinner out to meet for dessert at Morgan’s house because her ten-month-old daughter has a cold and Morgan doesn’t want to leave her. A bottle of prosecco will pair nicely with the lemon torte Morgan is providing.
Not making. Morgan, as awesome a friend as she is, is not a good cook.
I head to the cashier. “Are we ready?”
Sophie crouches and begins running in place. I groan, knowing what’s coming and unable to stop it. “Soccer, soccer, soccer!” she chants, throwing up her hands and hitting Lucy on the chin. “Go, North York Blue!”
“Go, Team! Go!” Ben chimes in.
“Momma, Sophie hit me!” With eyes filled with tears, Lucy has a hand clamped to her chin.
I don’t have to look around to know every person in the store is watching us. It’s just how it is when I take the kids out.
“I know, sweetie. She didn’t mean it.” I draw Lucy in for a quick kiss. “She didn’t mean it. She’s just excited about your game. Which we have to get to.”
“Aren’t you excited?” Sophie bubbles.
“No. My chin hurts!” Lucy wails.
“I’m sorry.” Instantly contrite, Sophie throws an arm around her sister. “Feel better?”
“Okay,” Lucy says with a quick wipe of her eyes.
“She’s okay, Momma,” Ben assures me.
“I’m glad.” A quick glance of my Fitbit tells me our extra time before the game has now run out. “Let’s go. Go, team, go!”
“Go Blues!” Ben cheers and nudges Lucy.
“Go, team,” she says weakly.
Note to self–going anywhere before a soccer game is a bad idea.
“Can I carry the bottle?” Sophie asks, for once asking politely rather than demanding. I hand the black bottle to her and grab another two for Lucy and Ben to carry. The Feria brand of sparkling wine is my favourite, so it’s not like it will go to waste.
“Careful,” I warn, but there’s no need. Before owning Thrice with our friend Cooper, J.B. used to manage a bar, so the kids have grown up knowing bottles of alcohol are precious commodities.
Lucy leads the way to the cashier, holding her bottle proudly with two hands. It only takes a few minutes for the customer before us to finish his transaction, allowing the kids to carefully put the bottles on the counter.
“I can’t sell you these,” the cashier says, without a glance at the smiling faces of my children. He’s older with a pinched face and a receding hairline that’s borderline balding.
I’m trying to watch the kids at the same time as root through my oversized purse for my wallet, so it takes a moment for me to realize what he said. “I’m sorry?”
“I can’t sell those bottles to you.”
His face is creased into a frown, making him look extremely bad-tempered. But I smile anyway because working retail had taught me it’s always easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar. “Can I ask why not?”
“Minors aren’t allowed to touch the products,” he barks.
“They’re my kids.”
“We were helping Momma carry her wine,” Sophie says helpfully.
“Her prosciutto,” Lucy adds.
“They’re under the legal age, and it’s illegal for them to touch the products,” the man continues as if the kids hadn’t spoken. “I can’t sell you these bottles with them in the store.”
My smile vanishes. “Are you fu–kidding me?”
“You want me to take them out of the store and come back to pay for these? They’re six! What am I supposed to do with them? Put them on a leash in front of the store?”
“Not my problem. Next in line, please.”
“Not your–Do you have kids?”
“None of your business.”
“I bet you don’t because you’re so bad-tempered that no one would want to have sex with you.”
His expression darkens even more.
“Please, leave the store, ma’am.”
“Are you seriously kidding me? You’re really refusing to sell me these because my kids carried them?” My voice rises dangerously, enough that the kids huddle together, watching me with wide eyes.
“I am. And if you don’t leave the premises, I can have you charged.”
I bark with laughter with that. “What’s your name?”
“His tag says Bert, Momma,” Sophie whispers.
“See how helpful my kids are?” I slap my hand on the counter. “I work hard for that and you just ruined it. Oh, I get it, ‘it’s all illegal,’” I mock, waving my hands. “But I promise you that your manager will hear about how much of an asshole you were to me. Come on, kids.” I march away from the cash, leaving the three bottles on the counter and a lineup of people behind me.
“You called him asshole, Momma,” Ben whispers.
“Unfortunately, I did, Benny, because that’s what he is. Let’s get to soccer.”
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