The other day I stopped at Sheetz to get gas on my way home from picking Alec up from preschool. In an attempt to ignore the number that was rising way too high on the pump's price read-out, my mind wandered to my college and early marriage years when Sheetz was at least a weekly stop for me. Stopping at Sheetz used to be a quick all-in-one trip for gas and lunch. But now if I want to get something to eat there, it ends up being a 45-minute outing:
Fuel the minivan: 5 minutes
Lug kids out of van and into Sheetz: 5 minutes
Make our way to the MTO screens and begin to order: 2 minutes
Pause order to pick up chips that Alec has knocked onto the ground: 2 minutes
Restart order because screen reset: 2 minutes
Cancel order and start over again because Chase has touched the screen and ordered me 17 ham subs: 2 minutes
Explain to Alec that he can choose one snack and that he has to put the other 14 things down: 1 minute
Pick up the 11 things that Alec dropped on the floor and put them back: 2 minutes
Explain to him that he still needs to put three things back: 1 minute
Force Alec to pick up the 3 things he threw on the floor in protest: 5 minutes, including a tantrum
What was I ordering again? Restart order: 2 minutes
Where did Alec go? Brief search for toddler: 1 minute
Find him dangerously close to the self-serve soda, which he can now reach; run faster than I ever have before: 2 minutes
Pick up the items that Chase knocked over in my hurry to prevent the Coke flood of 2011: 2 minutes
Back to ordering: 2 minutes
Detach Chase from the customer's shirt that he has decided to start teething on: 1 minute
Screen reset again; opt for something in the take-out case, which I should have done to begin with: 1 minute
Wait in line to pay and hold my breath that Alec doesn't make a run for the soda again: 5 minutes
Lug kids back to van and into car seats: 5 minutes
Actually that's 48 minutes for anyone counting. And this is why I haven't had any food from Sheetz in almost a year. I never thought I would consider a meal from Sheetz to be a luxury. But this is just one of the things I took for granted before having children. Here are some more examples:
Then: Saturday night involved a date with Chad at a nice restaurant or a show or hanging out with some friends at a bar.
Now: Chad & I frantically try to get the kids to bed early so that we can watch a 90-minute movie before passing out from exhaustion at 10pm.
Then: I could make a quick stop at the mall to grab a birthday present for a friend and try on a few shirts that I know I won't buy.
Now: After moving plans around, I finally find a rare evening with nothing going on that Chad can stay home with the kids so I can fit in 6 months worth of shopping into 2 hours (or I drag the kids along with me and speed shop, but this tends to turn into a Sheetz incident too).
Then: I could occasionally sleep in on Saturday morning and lazily stay in bed until lunch time.
Now: I pretend I'm still asleep at 7:15 on a Saturday morning so that Chad will get up with the first child; then I guiltily drag myself out of bed at 7:25 to help with the second child who was woken up by the first child (and yes, those extra 10 minutes were luxurious and worth any guilt I have).
Then: I could take a day off from work to go on vacation or recoup from being sick.
Now: A day off? What's that?
Then: Remember the "Disney Store" game? That's the game we used to play to see if we could get to the back of the Disney Store and back out without being attacked by a sales clerk. It took an average of 30 seconds, and we only succeeded about half the time.
Now: The "Potty" game. I see if I can take 30 seconds to use the bathroom before my bladder explodes without a child spilling something, falling off of something, falling into something, breaking something or stuffing something somewhere it doesn't belong. I still only succeed about half the time.
Then: Dinner was at 7pm and included some nice conversation that didn't include the words "poop", "time-out", "play date" or "don't push back in your seat".
Now: Dinner is at 5:30pm and includes some shouted conversation between me and Chad (over the flinging of sweet potatoes and singing of "Wheels on the Bus") that usually includes all of the above-mentioned words.
Then: My car CD-player was filled with some Dave Matthews, Josh Groban, Broadway favorites, Billy Joel and whatever my current favorite CD happened to be.
Now: Ok, some things I don't compromise on... car music is still my music, with an occasional kid's CD thrown in for long car trips. My kids will just have to learn to appreciate (or deal with) my taste in music!
The list could go on and on, but those are just a few of the things that I really took for granted before having children. I knew my life would change when I had kids... I just didn't think about all the little things that seemed so easy when I didn't have children. But of course that makes me look at my life now, and I realize that there are just as many things that I could be taking for granted right now.
Then: My life was full of very loving family and friends.
Now: My life is still full of very loving family and friends, but now I have two extra people who tell me and show me they love me every day - through messy scribbles that are "pictures" of me with my kids, flowers (dandelions) picked just for me, someone crawling into my lap to lay their head on my shoulder and snuggle.
Then: I watched friends' children and thought "look how cute they are."
Now: I see the joy in my own kids' faces when they are having fun learning something new or playing with a friend. I have so much pride watching them and knowing that I am playing such a huge role in how they are growing up.
Then: Work involved long hours at a desk or computer screen (often staring out the window, wishing I could be taking advantage of the gorgeous weather outside), professional clothes and meetings.
Now: Work involves singing silly songs, having animal birthday parties, playing games, play dates and unlimited time outside, all while staying in sweat pants if I feel like it.
Then: "Mommy" was the word I used to refer to my own mother or someone else's mother.
Now: The word "Mommy" has a whole new meaning. I wait months to hear one of my children say "mama" for the first time, knowing it means me and only me. I could pick out Alec calling "Mommy" from 100 kids. From hearing this one simple word, I can tell if my child is hurt, excited, scared, happy or just plain bored.
So yes, my life is very different now than it was five years ago. And while I took little things for granted then, I am trying my hardest not to do the same thing now. Because five years from now I will be able to make a quick stop at Sheetz for gas and food, but I won't be able to hold my sleeping 1-year-old or have animal birthday parties with my 3-year-old.