A Morning’s Tale

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This morning, I rose.  Groggy and heavy, I drug myself to the bathroom and tried to convince myself that it was a brilliant day. That I would find something elegant to wear.  That cereal piled high in bowls would suffice. I watched my son curled up next to the indention where my body formally lay.  He had snuck in sometime during the night when I didn’t notice and was soaking up my warmth, his face bearing a similar expression to the moment he was first born.  My heart pulled at the reminder of him rising from my body, shining and screaming.  I was and am ensconced with happiness.

I stepped over the dog and toward my daughter’s room. “Raise your arms, honey,” I whispered. “I’ll help you with your t-shirt.”  I hated to wake her.  This beautiful girl who is growing loves to lounge around on summer mornings reading and staring aimlessly out the window at rabbits and cardinals, poetry in her brain. But it was camp day, and she had just begun the evening before settling into this new experience, singing with wild abandon all the camp songs she’d been taught by happy college kids.  She slumped over and let me dress her, arms dangling with a mass of blond hair in her face.

There are layers of obligations before my day even begins.  Feed the dog, let him out.  Apply make-up, find childrens’ shoes.  I make lunch, look professional, curl hair, take vitamins.  Sometimes I just like to shake it up.  Shampoo last.  Kids eat on the couch.  My hair in a bun. The routine of daily life can drain a soul. But soon things are bagged and packed and the kids are out the door toward the car and I think to myself that I’ve got this. That somehow in the crack of morning I have balanced this precarious rhythm.

But the garage door sticks.  Some stupid light flashes and the button jams so I have to close it from the inside and go through the front.  My children begin bickering in the car so we have a car-time-out despite the fact that my daughter is old enough to know better.  And when I arrive at my son’s day care I remember that it’s water day, and his lunch box is sitting on the kitchen table, and he’s going to be the weird kid wearing a drippy t-shirt in the slip-and-slide.  I bite my lip.  Can’t everyone see that I have already remembered so much since yesterday?  Last night I dreamed of a business deal and contract revisions and woke up afraid I had agreed to a venue clause in Delaware.  We cannot escape our realities.

So I calmly kissed the boy and headed back to the car.  I aimed it back home for a lunch box and bathing suit.  Ten minutes later I loaded up again, but when I turned to talk to my daughter in the car the mug of coffee spilled, drenching my ice-blue pants in medium roast brown.  I had just gotten them out of the cleaner’s bag this morning. I bit my lip again.  I took deep breaths.  And I began the process of negotiating the garage door opener yet again.  Later on the way to work after dropping off my daughter wearing new pants I’m navigating child care for the next week.  Pick-ups and drop offs and swapping weekends and arrangements.  I am wondering what we’ll eat for dinner and breakfast and whether I will have the stamina to make more sandwiches.

I think of how horrible I’ve been as a friend and daughter myself, always taking, never giving. I think somehow this is my selfish season.  There are days I call my mom and just rattle off what’s happening in my life without even stopping to say hello, or wondering what’s happening in her own. And when I call my friends it’s often to just vent about something without reciprocation.  And I’m filled with shame for lacking an even greater capacity to love, until the dings of email remind me that I have more pressing obligations.

It rained on the way to work today, fat pelting drops that gave trucks permission to slow to a turtle crawl.  And I progressed forward in tiny lurches forward toward an office, and a meeting, and executives with agendas.  And when I arrived I made a comment about the traffic, rolled my eyes, and I sat down with a heavy sigh.

Today has finally begun.  It’s a hair past 8:30.  No one really knows the backdrop of a life.

photo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/burningimage/2363258975/sizes/m/in/photolist-4AQjyp-4JjXce-4Krva2-4KF9Dj-4STFMz-4Tbgjc-59S5ba-59ZWf8-5akZxM-5fqg2i-5hK1oz-5r3DoA-5tdngD-5tYQkD-5vJGbr-5JMg5o-5RZqd6-676xCX-683poN-6bMwku-6i14P9-6pybJg-6r99Ud-6rVwNA-6vogim-6yLKJH-6VFTEM-789Mm4-78MLKv-7fzA14-mdXYRC-8aiTpA-9w8eWL-nyTdxB-ajL7uF-hFGSyC-8ey5Wr-mfPuYg-87SwfE-7CfbZ4-agYDbQ-bnBkXw-9Brckz-9rPxcR-9qdw4t-9d2zXu-c4Ttfy-cca2eq-7PAweF-fbY3MF-bMZ5LK/

Odd and Curious Thoughts (about what my kids learned today)

 

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(1) The Alka Seltzer jingle. What fun, the kids running around plopping and fizzing with wild abandon over and over at dinner AND later in the bathtub AND streaking across the house shrieking WHAT A RELIEF IT IS! until finally I’m like “it’s not even a song.  It doesn’t work that well.  Stop it with the plop plop because it’s starting to sound nasty up in here.”   

 

(2) After an episode of Wild Kratts on PBS, my son was talking about lizards and what rhymes with lizards is skizzards (hee hee) and I was like “I can top that, kid, because there’s a band actually called Lynyrd Skynyrd” and his face like was  like “yeah right, and I wasn’t born three years ago” but I showed him how sweet Alabama was on my ipod and he thought everything about that was JUST BRILLIANT.

 

(3) When mommy’s boss calls in the evening, you get pushed into the living room, mom ignores you for about fifteen minutes, and you get to watch a surprise television show. Hooray for bosses!  See also: can I have a piece of candy while you’re on the phone and I know you’re sound asleep but can I just crawl in bed with you because I’m cold.

 

(4) Broccoli Stems are Disgusting. The rule involving eating your broccoli to get dessert does not include the hard stringy stalks on which the delicious parts of vegetables happen to grow.  I’m a pushover on this.

 

(5) If there’s an chance for everyone to sit at the piano wearing plastic crowns singing Christmas songs while children make shaky hand-held music videos on the iphone, regardless of the fact that it’s five minutes past bedtime, such opportunities should always be taken.

 

(6) When mom comes barreling into your school wearing a pencil skirt to read during second-grade library hour and she busts out into song in the middle of a book (because it says in the book that the person was singingwhat else was she supposed to do?) this is not normal and parents really just usually read.  Huh.

 

(7) So joy to the world – my daughter now longs for even more American Girl trinkets like a volkswagon, swiss chalet, hot air balloon, competitive gymnastics set, sailboat, and other first-world playthings that cost more than a mortgage payment because the ELEVEN MILLIONTH CATALOG has finally arrived.  Thank you Mattel.  I hate you.

 

(8) But it was Laura Engles Wilder’s Christmas in the Big Woods and Pa was playing the fiddle and there were lyrics literally written into the text.  It wasn’t like I could just talk that part.

 

(9) If you leave your scooter behind mom’s large vehicle and it gets run over in the morning before school she will show zero sympathy and will tell you to put away your things with disgust and will drink coffee and tweet at red lights like she just don’t care about your little ruined scooter problem.

 

(10) For Christmas, don’t waste your time asking for a new scooter from Santa because without shoes and if you are okay with veering slightly to the left and don’t mind a bit of a wobble, this thing TOTALLY WORKS

 

(11) Mom gets super mad if you say things like “Santa’s not real/ prove it then” when a certain three-year-old brother is in the car and for some reason nonverbal clues like winking, wincing, eyebrow raising, and fake coughing simply don’t work to curtail anything and things similar to “DON’T RUIN THE MAGIC FOR EVERYONE” are screamed out loud.  Geez.

 

(12) Before bed, let’s all talk about the length of a small intestine, that an esophagus carries food from the throat to the stomach, red blood cells, and umbilical cords.  Thanks a lot, Magic School Bus’ traveling circus through the human body, for causing all kinds of late-night discussions on topics too advanced for children.  What happened to Good Night Moon? Why are we talking about bile?

 

(13) Mom’s a total nerd. This won’t fully set in for another few years, but a seed was firmly planted with all the singing, wincing, discussion of umbilical cords, and acceptance of crowns.  Just wait until high school, kids, when your dates come over and I introduce Viking Night whereby we tear into turkey legs without silverware.  You’ll love me to the moon and back. See? I’m glad we did all that reading.

 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/richardnorth/7179301932/sizes/m/in/photolist-bWpNkN-52a1bp-8oAF8d-aiRGqW-aiNTe8-5BHZkL-5BDHxP-9NGwZ7-9GBiW5-6cbJdV-6cfSxL-drTNVb-dCP4Nt-7oLMzh-dngnFt-4FgGAX-7erVcF-7qE4fj-dWRhu5-9EHBc5-8MfV8L-6kNBH-6VKnre-7Giq47-34LtVa-7mrjXa-5bUrFT-bpoUTJ-eUbNJd-bWpMYf-96kavP-bWpN5w-8uKZE4-dqZ92G-a5x4RH-9jVn1q-5bYGrG-88HiXQ-6Qx13M-5bUpcX-bWpNwj-9AtGs6-8Qe7Wc-7vNdYJ-c1BeaQ-78kige-9LSa9V-87qLsN/

heartbroken mondays

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I should be in bed by ten.  I should be at the gym.  I should be more optimistic and use more restraint and quit drinking full-calorie beer.  I have got to cut out the word “I” and perhaps not sit on the floor crying when my three-year-old tells me I’m the worst person ever while sitting in time-out attempting to slam the door closed with his feet. And when I walk out of church because my two kids can’t keep their seats and I glance over to see my daughter humming whilst making a stack of hymnals and my pants don’t fit and I can’t seem to find the energy to even grin and I read about how all these other people are cheerful and in love and snuggling up with hot chocolate and even the television dramas seem saccharine and I’m telling you I want to throw something hard out the window in order to see it shatter.

And then anger bubbles up and the devil whispers in my heart that self-pity’s a salve that will heal, but he’s a damn fool because all he causes is regret in the morning.  So I fire up the stove and stir beef stew because at least meat falls apart with enough pressure. The other day I even burned the cornbread, which is the south’s equivalent to cussing out your mother, because no Texan over the age of twelve burns cornbread, but I just muttered to myself, like well that’s just about right.

But friends, a lot can be done with time and distance.  I know this because a friend once told me that when we have set-backs, we don’t fall as hard and we don’t fall as deep and the coming back is faster.  It’s like our bodies somehow remember before the fall, and are ever striving to return to a peaceful state.

On Thanksgiving, my kids weren’t home.  I lay flat in bed for two hours staring at trees out my bedroom window, letting tears fall.  I begged God to forgive my lack of faith, and my inability to trust in bigger plans.  I regretted my undisciplined, self-centered life.  And yet I rose just the same, and with Nordstrom’s holiday bronzer I made my depression look all sparkly, and I shoved myself into skinny jeans and looped my blond hair around a curling iron and lip glossed my way to brunch with friends.  And it got better.  Mostly because of mimosas and pumpkin pancakes, but let’s not focus on details.

Time and distance.  Self-forgiveness and thankfulness, even when your feelings haven’t caught up.  These things work. So if you find yourself dragging toward Christmas, unsure why you can’t get motivated, feel something lacking in your life, or better yet you’re just flat-out angry, I feel you. Just forgive yourself for today and free up some space to breathe.

This morning, as I was driving my kids to school, I saw the most amazing sunrise.  Clouds swept across the sky like popcorn kernels and the sun spread over them like melted butter.  I pulled over on the side of the road and took my children’s hands.  Poor things – they’re used to this by now.  My daughter just tilts her head to the side, like “Oh how sweet.  Mom’s having a moment.” I told them how much I loved them, and how blessed I was to have them for a short while, and I thanked God for the new dawn.  And then this Presbyterian put her hand up high in the Chevy Tahoe and veered back on the road repeating the name El Shaddai out loud until we reached the carpool line.  My daughter asked if I had some sort of arm-itch issue or whether something was wrong with the rear-view mirror and am I speaking German?  I didn’t even know what the words meant except that I sang it in a childhood song, but the name just exploded from my mouth and was just as obvious as incense in a tomb.  And then my son asked me if God actually speaks, and I told him not in the same language as we do, but he sure can paint, and he nodded.  I watched my kid’s tussled-hair going up and down, up and down, nodding in the car seat and admiring the sky.

So you might need to run.  You might need to sleep more, and eat less.  But I’ll tell you one thing – you really need to quit listening to the lies that your life is stagnant and all hope is gone.  Keep on thanking God, even when you don’t always feel it, because out of nowhere on a Monday on the way to your kid’s school you’ll feel time and distance start to set in, and you’ll crawl slowly back out of the setback hole, stronger than before, and you’ll grin.  Because of the absurdity of non-stop Christmas music (we barely escaped November and I’m only halfway through coffee and nobody cares what Mariah Carey wants for Christmas because she has seventeen pairs of red bedazzled stilettos FOR THE LOVE WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED, WOMAN) and the fact that your daughter thought you were speaking German, and the fact that you bought bronzer with the word “holiday” in the title.  And because we love an amazing, glorious God who never leaves us abandoned.  He throws his might across the sky like a billboard as if to remind us that hope is alive.  Our lives are so worthy.  No worries, girl, if you burn that cornbread again you can always move to Wisconsin, and surely folks there could stand a bit of pep in the winter.

El Shaddai, the sustainer and the destroyer, the One Almighty. Raise your hands and embrace it. Even if it might embarrass your children.  Even if tears run down your face at a sunrise.   Because life’s glorious, my dear friends, even on heartbroken Mondays.

 

Photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/flashcurd/10539675985/sizes/m/in/photolist-h4mAtt-D3QyG-ekqPYs-fLzpRa-7BPWwd-6xiTkG-gBjBqE-gBk64n-cjBY33-gmqbRp-amkT6D-bFjRV-iPhgB-amhDzW-amhLKU-51Pasa-9bQYkg-e8F2vC-8wxFaP-9AE34G-dami2q-73bP1g-7F4vcm-6xeHBv-bngHeu-gW5hDA-c65ws1-d6hYtN-ersgeh-avaoBn-6UH4bS-8uEPsp-8uHSxj-ameTup-amhsQh-ameHuc-amhz9y-amhBQQ-amg7kr-amhHzJ-amhwA1-amhJom-amhH2Q-aQ5dHF-e8VtCm-c5vdbb-wKn4k-a2ZfDg-cKFnM-6LYsq-6pu4h/

 

 

 

 

Odd and Curious Thoughts [on taking your kid to the hospital]

 

  • So I was at the ER today with my son. You parents out there feel me that this is the single most frustrating experience to have as a parent, aside from the stomach flu, peeling legos from the bottom of your foot, scrubbing oatmeal from bowls, pretending to care about football games, and ripping off band aids.

 

  • So the nurse was like “are you still waiting for the doctor?” No.  We just hover in places of extreme sickness and impending death because there wasn’t a Breaking Bad episode on. #obviously #dowelooklikemorons #freecable

 

  • There was no free latte coupon for our wait.  Zero discounted co-pay for the four hours of wasted time.  I swear this place has gone to seed.

 

  • The medical student comes in and is all “your kid’s throat looks fine.”  But what about the puss pockets covering his tonsils that my pediatrician saw just three hours ago?  “Let me look again,” he says.  Smart call, rookie.

 

  • Dad was making a pretend stethoscope out of rolled up paper towels and I was blowing up latex gloves into balloons and my son was running around the room like “Par-tay, mothas!” and the doctor walks in at that exact moment.  We just drop everything, stand up straight, and try to look super serious. Equivalent to hiding booze behind our backs and burping.

 

  • The medical student was having so much fun telling my kid that he had a T-Rex in his ear that I actually had to say “there’s an ear tube stuck in a yellow mass of ear wax in there, dude.  Stop poking around before you push it into his brain.”

 

  • I didn’t actually say that last thing.  I just smiled and went “Oh yay! A T-Rex!”

 

  • The trashcan in the hospital room was covered in sticky stuff, with white dots of some kind.  Like the one place in the city where things need to be clean and sanitary and some infection is yelling “Look at me! I’m streptococcial alien lumps of doom, ya’ll.  Out and proud!”

 

  • The sheet on the bed was green.  Shouldn’t it have been white? Does this mean it gets puked on a lot and the hospital was like “Oh, screw it.  Buy green sheets.” It’s like when company comes and you give them a dark-colored towel to wash their face.  I ignore that usually and go for the white ones, wiping off my black mascara with wild abandon.

 

  • I don’t understand why nobody invites me over anymore. I’ll bring green sheets as to not ruin your bedding.

 

  • Who ever heard of a T-Rex in your ear? Just because it’s a children’s hospital doesn’t mean we can get all unrealistic.

 

  • My son asked when we could go back to the hospital.  There were no shots, uninterrupted time with parents, possible dinosaur sightings, hand balloons, and a graham cracker.  It’s a win/win.

Standing Orders

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I work with doctors, so I’m familiar with the concept of standing orders.  If certain conditions are met, doctors have a pre-authorized order to give a certain medication or initiate a treatment so that nurses or mid-levels don’t always have to run to a physician for permission every single time.  In my house, we also have certain standing orders. For example, consider the following questions:

May I have a peach?                        Yes

May I go to bed early?                    You must be sick.  Dear gracious yes.

May I read another book?            I’m a sucker for this.  Usually yes, even though I’m so freaking tired, because this next book may just determine whether you serve burgers or stitch up hearts and might just unlock the keys to how your brain processes letters and the firing of the neurons is such a sensitive process and if The Big Fish is the book to help aid in your very future, what choice do I have, really?

More cottage cheese?                     Yes.  You’re a weird kid for liking this.

Can I watch a show?                     I’m stirring cornbread mix and I’m on the phone with my best friend debating how much is too much to pay for a birthday cake with a shark bursting out of the top and I’m trying to figure out if the oven is preheated and I think someone from work is calling which must be an emergency at this hour so I just generally nod so you’ll go away.

Can I watch another show?        What? You watched one? When did I say that was okay?

May I have a banana?                   Yes.  Please assume all fruit is okay.

May I have fruit snacks?              That’s not fruit, you sneaky devil.

Can I listen to Adele?                    Always.

May I dance?                                   If you didn’t, I would worry.

May I make up silly songs?         You’re making me stutter with all the yes.

Will you go in time out?                I should, kiddo.  Sometimes I really should.

 

So basically in my house you can always dance, sing, listen to Adele, eat fruit, read, and eat cottage cheese.  It could be worse.  Better with fruit snacks, sure, but maybe you can catch me super busy and squeeze in freebies. And if I’m all alone sitting on the front porch drinking wine, just assume mom’s in a time out and go about your business, eating bananas with wild abandon.

 

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Photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/savannahgrandfather/312427606/sizes/m/in/photolist-tBgQS-dPjTs2-dWPW6q-8md4bx-29ZDp9-75Eu9m-dPqw6W-dfRGCV-dWPWXs-cR3cFJ-7HaSXz-caWn7C-bUcKpH-caeXJC-cbz5T1-caWkr3-cbz5gN-cbz4vw-cbyZKs-cbyZ5o-bUcQe2-bUcNMv-bUcPvt-cbz1qj-bUcQCB-caWBuQ-bUcL5p-cbyWNS-bUcLk8-caeuyG-caeYdL-caeurb-aKhbXe-cyxwEs-cyxzSA-cyxAFG-cyxrBo-cyxsjJ-cyxutW-cyxxAd-cyxt23-cyxtF5-cyxybG-cyxw1w-cyxx97-cyxz5E-4ZTokN-bqRv8e-6YFAkw-5JVKuV-7kHnFq/

Drunk Love

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Having kids changes things.  It forces you to think beyond yourself, beyond coffee, beyond 4:00 pm, beyond dinner, beyond bedtime.  You are planning and praying and cooking and cleaning, and then the next day you just hit repeat with different color t-shirts and different vegetables. 

Sometimes it feels like I’m trapped in a blender, all the toys and dirty clothes and wet swimsuits and snacks all whirling around me and it just meshes together into one big smoothie of midlife. And there are times it gets culture poor, and monotonous, and just flat-out hard.  I yell when I  wish I didn’t and give in when I said I wouldn’t and for goodness sakes pick up your shoes and shut the stupid door and I apologize for saying stupid but I can’t keep being your maid and waitress and clothes changer and bottom wiper and still have my own freaking life.  Now go to bed for the last time before I lose it completely. Some days I wish I just had a day to myself to finally get the house clean.  But then I do, and I sit around wondering when they’re coming home again.

But then there are the drunken moments, when I am simply intoxicated by the flesh of our own flesh, and I can only sit on the porch and bask in the high of them, laughing and throwing their hair back and playing and waving at me with their dirty hands.  “You are the best mommy in the world,” my son calls out, covered in mud, his wet shirt clinging to his chubby little tummy.  I smile, because this is his world, and his happiness, and it’s all so perfect I can’t stand it.  My daughter feels she’s missing out on the love so she shows off and it also makes me laugh and she goes into detail about a box of magical rocks and a house thatched out of limbs and the fact that someday she’ll be famous.  The drug is so addictive that I never want it to end, so I nod and don’t say a word and try to catch glimpses of them in my soul, burning them there so that if I lose my mind I’ll have a tattoo of them on the inside.   

The other night after reading book after book, hours past their bedtime, I just looked at their little sun-bleached heads and sobbed big fat momma tears, because I don’t want them to grow up and shed their baby skin and leave me.  And I realize it’s my own insecurities screaming out loud and clutching my children by the necks, saying to me “You need them.  You feed on their love.  You aren’t worthy alone.”  My daughter just hugged me and my son told me he would never grow up, and I told him that was just fine by me.  And I told that voice to shut up, that I deserved this happiness without all its ugly baggage.

Because the truth is that I squeeze my eyes shut during these precious times people are always chiding me to cherish, because I am really trying to live into these days, and lean toward happiness, but it’s all too tragically good.  I fear the worst, and know it will end, and I can’t seem to just be content with the flowers that my kids pluck from the earth, desiring a juice cup full of water to store them.  I want ten more of this same exact afternoon, and I want to curl up in their messy hair and fat cheeks and precious little words.  I tell them while they are sleeping that they are beloved, and could never disappoint me, and I fear what will happen of me when they leave.  I fear the coming down from this high because it will be a bitter pill, but that’s the devil’s tongue and I see it like a rope around my own throat.   

So I breathe in, and think how much I am loved, and tell myself that I am enough.  If I can feel this way toward my children with the sheer immaturity of human emotion, imagine how much more my Father loves, and desires, and protects.  Yes, yes. I might soon be back at work and won’t have lazy summer afternoons, but I do now, and that’s what counts.  So I let it out, the breath and the fear and the anxiety.  And I bask, and watch them sleep, and just utter thank you over and over until my eyelids fall. 

Despite the drunkenness of love, I don’t wake up with a hangover.  There is no hangman’s rope. I open my eyes to see a delighted three-year-old in my face, proclaiming that it’s morning time, and the sun’s up momma, and what are we having for breakfast? And joy again resumes, and I am reminded that this is a beautiful season in a rich life.  And I tell him the first words that escape my mouth –the only words I can muster. How about oatmeal, kiddo?

A perfect answer.  And the day begins again.  

 

photo:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/27384147@N02/4849189554/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Dirt

It’s so nice to see my children playing with dirt and plants and rocks and sticks.  This what I wanted when I had children – to see them use their little imaginations and explore the world around them. No television for my kids.  Nosiree.  Let ‘em get their hands dirty.

I see my daughter hauling the new Britta pitcher from our kitchen to the front porch to make chocolate smoothies. She’s loading it up with dirt and rocks.  Wait just a minute.

Then my son begins to yank off all the blooms from the plumeria with glee, just ripping and pulling and throwing them all around with wild abandon.  One after another he yanks at them like he’s some sort of flower executioner.  The louder I yell, the more he plucks.

“For the salad! It’s for the salad!” he screams. I can’t do anything about it now, their little heads lying on our front walk like corpses.

I turn around to see my daughter creating salsa with rosemary leaves and sticks, and she somehow weaseled her way past me into the kitchen again for the pottery barn dishes to use as place settings.  How do they do all this so fast?  Do they have superpowers?

“This has gone too far,” I say.  I walk over to remove the plates and I hear my daughter yelling for her brother to stop.  He has turned on the water hose and is spraying her down, trying to aim his hose into the pitcher she’s holding in her hands.  By now my kids are sopping wet and dirty from head to toe and that t-shirt from Janie and Jack is now stained and beyond repair.

I force both of them to the porch and run inside to get the broom, but now that the smoothies are done they most certainly must be tested.  Suddenly they are pouring the goopy mess into little cups, runny mud oozing over the sides and on our front porch to be dried into concrete.  These are so chocolaty, they say.  You simply must have one. I strip them both down and make them take baths before dinner.

After baths, they sit watching Arthur and I’m so thankful for television and quiet and warm bubble baths that make things right again.

It all sounded so good at the time.

 

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.

-Rachel Carson,

kids eat free

I saw it like a beacon of light on my way home from work.  Wednesday Nights.  Kids Eat Free.

I’m not usually one for such marketing schemes, but I was tired of coming up with dinner ideas, and Wednesday is my favorite day of the week, after all, and didn’t I deserve a night off?  I declared it so and announced to my husband to meet me there promptly at 5:30 pm.  I’d enjoy a bowl of soup while my kids munched on chicken quesadillas with pure delight oozing from their grateful little bodies.  It was a good moment, while it lasted in my head.

I pulled into the parking lot at 5:15 and my iphone sent me a meeting update that I had a conference call scheduled at 5:30.  One I absolutely could not miss.  So the moment my husband pulls up, I dumped two kids in his arms while talking on the phone and waved in the air like “well obviously I’m busy right now.  Please take these things off my hands, for goodness sakes.”  He stared at me with I so hate you right now eyes and schlepped the kids inside.

Finally, we are all sitting down and I quiz the waiter about the claim of free kids vittles.  He indicates that upon purchase of an adult entrée at the highest possible price, they’d throw in a tortilla wrapped up with cheese and a soda disguised as a kids meal. Since I just wanted a cup of soup below the required price limit, that meant only one of our kids was eating free.  The only logical choice was for one of our children to simply starve.

After a long wait, the waiter finally decides to tell me that my daughter’s lemonades are costing us three dollars a pop and aren’t included in the free part, so maybe she might like a refill of water? My son then develops an infatuation for drinking straws and decides he needs as many of them as possible to clutch between his tiny fat fingers.  When one drops, he screams “STRAW MAMA!” at the top of his lungs because we just haven’t quite mastered the inside voice and because straws are apparently super fun to just hold for no apparent reason.

Suddenly, my daughter whispers that she must use the restroom immediately, so I rush up to take her.  My departure makes a great impact upon my son, who seems to feel that he’s going to become motherless and abandoned right there in a Mexican restaurant amidst the piñatas and pink tablecloths.  He shrieks out my name and cries in horror, clutching his straws, until I reappear.  My husband just sits there, holding his head in his hands, wishing he was back at work writing a brief or something.  My son’s fake tears dry up the moment I arrive and he simply says “why hello, mama” like nothing ever happened.

We finally get our food, and while my husband is clearing a space for his tacos he knocks over his tea, which lands on my lap, and I’m all “this is so fun!  Let’s all have a good laugh about how kids eat FREE!  Yippee for us!”

At some point my husband makes the “let’s blow this joint” gesture, and he pays while I scoop up all the stray chips that have been flung in a four-foot vicinity of our table.  As he’s taking the kids to the car, it occurs to me that the bill is quite high.  Too high.  It hits me like the smell of bacon.

Our kids did not eat for free.

I marched up to the hostess stand and demanded my $5.95 back.  What kind of two-bit joint is this anyway? The lady just looks at me with mascara smudged on my face and crazy hair and red marks on my arm where my son was bopping me with straws. The credit card machine was busy and my waiter was annoyed and my husband wondered where the heck I was.  But I wasn’t about to walk out now.  Not when I was a sucker for such a stupid marketing ploy.  How long have I been a parent, anyway?  Didn’t I major in such foolish mind-bending communications in college?  Didn’t I know better than to get my two-year-old out in public at that time of day?  I blame it all on myself as I plunked down money for a new (and lower) grand total, putting my hand on my hip and realizing my jeans are still soaked with wet tea.

So, my friends, the next time you see such a claim about kids eating free and with wild abandon, run.  Run far and fast.  Away from said restaurant with straws and distant bathrooms and back toward home, where you can brown some broccoli and heat up some macaroni noodles.  At least life is calm, and lemonades don’t cost three bucks, and no one is screaming.

I noticed that Tuesday is Dollar Taco Night.  Sounds promising.  Maybe we should go for it?

Some people never learn.

double shot

You know those moms who speak loudly and wear wrinkled clothes and are seemingly oblivious to how annoying they are?  Today, I was totally that mom.

My five-year-old daughter had a gift card to Barnes & Noble, so after work, I hauled both kids to the bookstore, stopping first at Starbucks (the one located inside the store that never has good pastries).  I began to question the lady at the register.

“So, in your estimation, how much caffeine is actually in this?”

“Uh, not much,” she said.

“What?  Not much caffeine in a freaking frappuccino?”  I stared at it like it was dead to me.  Like without caffeine, it was just a worthless, swirling mass of nothingness.  “How much compared to an espresso shot?  Do you know the milligrams?  Can you look it up in one of your handy little binders?”

“I really couldn’t say,” she said.  She rolled her eyes and tapped her little fingers on the register.  The lady behind me just gave me dirty looks.

So I gave up and headed for the children’s book section, heaving my one-year-old son forward in the stroller as my daughter went on ahead.  “Look, honey,” I said to my son, absentmindedly. “This one’s a pop up!”  I noticed an employee glaring at my son with disgust, so I rounded the stroller to check out the frontal view.

My daughter had apparently taken the opportunity during my caffeine rant to feed him old expired cookies found in the diaper bag, and now my son was chilling out, his shirt a bit too small and exposing his belly, covered in crumbs, with a book in his mouth.  He looked like a drunk guy eating a bag of chips.  Except creepier because he was eating a book.  With an incomplete set of teeth.

I wiped off the crumbs and re-shelved the books, and I heard my daughter.  “Hey mom!” she yelled.  “I have something to shoooow you!”  Another mom was sitting there reading quietly to her son and looked up – annoyed – to see if I could get this loud kid of mine under control.  When I finally eased the stroller down the aisle, cookie crumbs littering the carpet as I went bumbling by, my daughter showed me a pink box of crayons covered in princesses.

“What about books?” I cried. But it was her gift after all, and she could use it as she saw fit.  So I directed our little party to checkout.

There, some bored kid declared the price and grabbed the card from my daughter’s hand, swiping it before she had the chance.

“Wait!” I said.  “She wanted to do that!”

“Sorry,” he muttered.  “Too late.”

We were short, so at least my daughter was able to hand him an extra dollar.  I made a big deal out of it, handing her the money, instructing her to give it to the nice gentleman, to say thank you, and to ask for a receipt.  I glared at this punk with my alternate evil eye.

They probably all got together after work, the Starbucks lady and the children’s book shelver and the punk kid with braces.

“Did you hear that mom berating me about caffeine?”

“You mean the one who let her kid chew on a book like a rat and let her daughter scream across the store?”

“Yeah,” the punk says.  “She totally needs a life.  And an ironing board.”

The next time I head into Barnes & Noble, I’m not ordering a frappuccino.  I’m getting a double shot.  I’ll pay for it with pennies, dug out of my wrinkled pockets.