Halloween Fun With A Three-Ager

It was supposed to be fun. Simple. My three-year old daughter talked about being Marshall from Paw Patrol all summer. Her big brother wanted to be Chase. How cute is that? I was giddy imagining my Paw Patrol crew sitting in a pumpkin patch. Maybe they would even sit still for a picture? And both smile at the same time with their eyes open?  Would this finally be the year that I have a Halloween picture worthy of a Facebook post?

Pffffft. Rookie mistake. This is my second time around with a three-ager. I should have known better.

When the costumes hit the stores one month ago, we were the first to arrive. I’ve never shopped for Halloween costumes in September before. After years of scavenging for scraps in sad piles of picked-over costumes at the last minute, it was amazing to go to the rack and see exactly what we wanted in exactly the right size.

The Chase costume was front and center, so I threw it in the cart. When I spotted the Marshall costume IN THE RIGHT SIZE immediately behind it, I gleefully pointed it out to my three-year old daughter. Instead of showering me with gratitude like she should have, this child crossed her arms and scowled at me.

“I DON’T WANNA BE MARSHALL. YOU CAN’T MAKE ME.”

Um, what? I stared at her. She couldn’t be serious. This kid’s been chattering about being Marshall ALL SUMMER LONG. Not a day went by without her asking, “Mommy, can I be Marshall for Halloween? Can I be Marshall? CAN I BE MARSHALL?  I WANNA BE MARSHALL!!! MOMMY, I WANNA BE MARSHALL FOR HALLOWEEN!!!”

Message received. Here’s your freaking Marshall costume, because your Mommy is awesome. So, where’s my thank you? Where’s my “I love you” and “You’re the best Mommy in the world????”

Nothing. There was nothing but an accusing stare. Like I screwed up. I couldn’t help feeling defensive. “But you’ve been talking about being Marshall all summer?”

She shook her head and frowned at me.  “No, I haven’t.”

WHAT? Her certainty made me question my sanity.  Had I imagined all those painful conversations about being Marshall?

Okay. Time to be practical. We’re at the store with all these choices. Just get her something else. “Then who do you want to be for Halloween?”

She pointed to the Mickey Mouse hat on her head. “I want to wear this.”

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? “You want to be Mickey Mouse?”

“No Mommy. I just want to be me.”

Okay, that’s cute and all, but Marshall was going into the cart in case she changed her mind. Unfortunately, she didn’t agree with my contingency plan. Her face turned red as her high-pitched shrieks hit the ceiling.

“I DON’T WANNA BE MARSHALL!! YOU. CAN’T. MAKE. ME!!!”

Then she burst into tears. People in the aisle gawked at the scene. I wilted under the gaze of a judgmental baby and put the Marshall costume back on the rack. I was obviously a shit parent for wanting to buy my child a costume that she wanted ALL SUMMER LONG.  We walked out of the store with one Chase costume and a pile of my shattered pumpkin patch dreams.

Two weeks later, my daughter spotted something else in the costume aisle at the store. “Mommy, look! A MINION! I wanna be a minion!  I WANNA BE A MINION! Can I be a minion??? PLEASE???”

It was the first time since Marshall that she expressed interest in something other than “just being me.” I pictured a Minion next to Chase in the pumpkin patch. That would still be cute. There was only one Minion costume left on the rack.  It was 3T-4T. Her size. This was obviously meant to be.

I bought it, but she refused to try it on until that weekend. The hat didn’t fit. And what should have been a 3T-4T costume looked like it was two sizes smaller. When I returned it, the store was out of Minion costumes.

Gritting my teeth, I accepted that my daughter would “just be her” for Halloween. Until she shrieked with delight and pointed. “Mommy, I want to be a pumpkin!”

There it was. Once again, at the front of the rack. A big, fluffy, orange pumpkin costume in just the right size.

This child HUGGED the pumpkin costume. She HUGGED it and SQUEEZED it and PETTED the orange fur all the way home like it was her long-lost kitten. And she chattered about being a pumpkin like she was excited about it.

Until today. It’s ten days before Halloween. I asked the kids to try on their costumes. The Chase costume fits my son perfectly. And he’s happy with it.

My three-ager took one look at the pumpkin costume and wrinkled her nose.  “Mommy, I don’t want to be a pumpkin. You can’t make me.” She crossed her arms and looked me in the eye.  “I WANNA BE MARSHALL. CAN I BE MARSHALL? PLEASE?????”

#SendVodka

Six Years Later, I Can Finally Smile Again

Six years ago, my mom passed away. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, since she had been disappearing into her illness for over a decade. But it was still a shock when I received the call. My greatest fear finally materialized.

Every year since then, I post something sad about missing her. It’s still true. I still have moments where the pain knocks me to my knees. And while time hasn’t healed all wounds for me, it has offered the gift of distance and clarity. I am grateful that I can look back on memories of her and smile.

One memory in particular made me smile this year. I was close to my son’s age, maybe six or seven years old. My mother, the brave soul, took my toddler sister and me to India without my father, who kept working.

I barely go shopping for one hour and keep it together with my two kids, so I can only imagine the horrors of managing two little kids, plus enough luggage for two months, in the airports and plane bathroom for what feels like a two-day flight. By the time we reached my grandmother’s house, my mother must have reached the limits of her large reservoir of patience.

The day after we arrived in the middle of the night, I remember her sitting in the foyer, with a tired smile plastered across  her face.  She spoke with the flood of guests who “dropped in” to see my grandmother’s “American” daughter. And of course, like any other little kid, I kept interrupting her conversations because I needed my mother’s attention RIGHT NOW.

She lost her shit. My poor mother, who was always kind and patient, grabbed the colorful folds of her sari, jumped up from her chair, and chased me through my grandmother’s house in sandals. I was shocked, but amused. I had the same arrogance as my 6-year old son. “Mom will never catch me. I’m too fast.” So I sprinted down the long hall and she followed me. I ran by the kitchen. So did she. I ran through the dining room. So did she. I ran into our guest bedroom. So did she. I thought I would lose her by running across the bed. So imagine my surprise when she jumped on the bed and kept coming after me. I scurried out the door, into the yard, where I left my mother. I can still picture her, standing in the doorway, holding up her fist and shaking it at me, telling me what she’d do if she caught me interrupting her with a guest again. I hid from her for the rest of the day.

And so today, I’m smiling. For the first time since she died, on the anniversary of her passing, I’m finally smiling when I think of her. I love you, Mom. Thank you for the gift of that memory.

To My Precious Snowflakes: Mommy Loves You

To My Precious Snowflakes,

Mommy loves you very much. You are the organic apples of my eye, the gluten-free sprinkles on my SAHM sundae. I cherish every cup and kick aimed at my head. It all goes so quickly, especially when I duck for cover. My heart swells each time I think of your delightful shenanigans. 

Bless your little hearts for cleaning those brand new books in the bathroom sink yesterday. Dirty Elmo board books have no place in our humble home. Your stealthy teamwork saved us from the scourge of bookstore filth. And siblings who wash books together, play together.   

Little Boy, I admire your curious mind. Not every child would remove a vent cover to drop his LeapPad down the heating duct. Of course you wanted to find out what would happen. Who wouldn’t? Mommy was honored to spend thirty minutes fishing it out of the duct in the name of science. 

Darling Son, your burgeoning artistic abilities amaze me. Especially when you showcase them with permanent markers on the canvas of your face. Unfortunately, I didn’t give you enough paper. So, why should you have to walk across the room to get more? Your baby sister was right there. It made perfect sense to continue your Jackson Pollack scrawls on her.     

Little Girl, your theatrical flair leaves me speechless. No one can knock food to the floor like you can. There is no better way to tell Mommy that you’re all done. And of course, fork color matters. Silver is bad, blue is good. I should have read your mind, but I failed. Poor little thing. You tired yourself out by shrieking bloody murder for forty-five minutes. I gave you the blue fork, but it was too late. That terrible silver fork touched your lunch. Of course you couldn’t eat it. The pasta was ruined.   

Sweet Angel, Mommy can be a monster. It’s cruel for me to give you a red cup when you ask for it. And all those times you asked me to drive you home and I did. What was I thinking? I don’t blame you for screaming during the entire car trip. Who does Mommy think she is, giving you exactly what you wanted?

Driving around town with both of you and listening to the soothing chorus of “WHY, MOMMY, WHY, WHY, WHY?” from the backseat is the highlight of my day. Especially just as I’m about to make a left turn. Why should a delivery truck traveling towards us at fifty miles per hour during rush hour traffic hold my attention? You need to know how to spell “milk” RIGHT NOW. I don’t blame you for yelling at me while I’m mid-turn. Mommy’s heart palpitations aside, nothing trumps the question of a curious child. Nothing. 

Each night, we wrap up our long days with a spirited two-hour discussion before bedtime. Your favorite book is “The Ten Little Monkeys.” We’ve read it SO MANY TIMES that Mommy sees it in her hallucinations. Oh, those crazy monkeys! Look at them jumping on the bed and getting hurt! And how creative of the two of you to act it out EVERY NIGHT RIGHT BEFORE BED! 

Thank goodness you didn’t pick up your toys from the floor like I asked you. You saved your strength. Using the couch like a trampoline takes a lot of energy. And how brilliant of you to add your own spin to the story. You literally spin yourselves dizzy before running towards the fireplace. And what makes running towards sharp edges even better? Doing it with your EYES CLOSED! And almost face-planting on the coffee table! You sure showed Mommy and Daddy how creative you can be! 

Thank you for sharing those howler monkey protests when Mommy and Daddy throw each of you over a shoulder to haul you upstairs. They would follow me into my dreams if I slept at night. But I don’t want to miss a moment with you. So I spend the rest of the night watching my snowflakes breathe.

I love you always,

Your Devoted Mommy

When “Co-Sleeping” Goes Wrong

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I always thought that someday, when I had children, co-sleeping would be one of the highlights of parenthood.  It’s the perfect way to spend quality family time together.  Who wouldn’t want to wake up with a small child nestled in the crook of your arm?  The image is intoxicating.  Dark butterfly lashes resting on chubby baby cheeks.  Little fingers and toes curling up beneath the covers.  Soft sweet breaths on shared fluffy pillows.  Oh, the cuddles!  Oh, the memories!

I was mistaken.

Co-sleeping with little children isn’t for the faint of heart.  I know, because we tried it this morning for ten minutes.  My pulse is still racing six hours later.  I’m not sure how other parents deal with this through an ENTIRE night, unless they drink heavily.  (The parents, not the children.)

Allow me to paint the picture from this morning.  The bedroom was dark.  My husband won my temporary gratitude by getting the kids and letting me lie down.  Both children popped awake at the crack of dawn because it’s the weekend and that’s what they do.  I was enjoying the peace and quiet, when the door cracked open.  A ray of light cut through the darkness and hit me squarely in the face.  There was a figure in the doorway.  It was my husband.  He carried my 2-year old daughter in his arms.  My five-year old son came bounding into the room right after him.

No.  NO.  NO!!!!!!!!!!!!  Panicked, I thought about hiding.  They hadn’t seen me yet.  The room was dark and their eyes were still adjusting.  Unfortunately, before I could slip off the mattress and belly-crawl under the bed, they spotted me.  A chorus of high-pitched “Mommy’s” ensued.

“Mommy, I want to lie down next to Daddy.  I want to lie down next to Daddy.”

“Mommy, I have Pooh!  I want Tigger!  Tigger!  Tigger!  I want Tigger!”

“Mommy, I don’t want to lie down in here.  I want to go downstairs.”

“Mommy, I want Mommy!  I want Mommy!”

Groaning, I rolled over and faced my family.  My son leapt onto the bed and flopped around like a tuna hitting the deck of a fisherman’s boat.  My husband deposited my daughter, AND POOH-BEAR, AND TIGGER, on the bed next to me.  Both of the stuffed animals are about her size, so it was almost like having four kids on the bed with us instead of just two.  Delightful.

My daughter refused to lay down until I moved over to make room for her stuffed friends on my pillow.  The spacious bed suddenly felt like a postage stamp.  I nearly slipped off the edge when she hit me on the head with Tigger and ordered me to wake up.  She had the nerve to look adorable, so I felt myself weaken.  Maybe this would be the morning when the “co-sleeping” magic happened?

Through some miracle, my husband and I coaxed the kids to actually lie down.  The room was silent.  I tightened my arm around my daughter and placed a kiss on her dark head.  Yay!  We were like the commercials on TV!  We were co-sleeping and it was bliss!  Well, maybe not technically co-sleeping, but we were all lying down in the same bed, and it was peaceful.  I reveled in the moment.

That moment lasted for 5.46 seconds.  My son slipped out of my husband’s grasp and did a flip that would make a ninja proud.  It placed him squarely in the opposite direction as the rest of us.  His head lay hear the foot of the bed and his feet were an inch from my husband’s face.

“Nifty Gilifty!”  My son pulled the sheets over his head.  I knew what was coming.  I’m no stranger to Daniel Tiger and his freaking little blue owl friend.  I grabbed my daughter and pulled her onto my pillow before the first scissor kick landed on her face.

While my son pretended to swim, my daughter sat up.  Completely unperturbed by the chaos on her left, she turned and shoved her dainty foot in my face.  “Piggies!  Mommy, I want piggies!”  I gently pulled her toe out of my nose before sneezing.

Suddenly, I smelled something.  Gagging, I gasped out.  “Who passed gas?”

My son laughed uproariously.  A glance at my husband told me that he was trying not to laugh.  “You’re welcome,” my tiny daughter replied, shoving Pooh bear in my face.  “Pooh pooped.”

My son sat up, craning his head from left to right, while doing raspberries.  “Look, Mommy!  I’m a water fountain.”  My daughter giggled and performed raspberries with less finesse.  A spray of saliva landed on my cheek.

“Well, you wanted family time,” my husband grinned at me, as I grabbed a tissue and wiped the moisture from my face.  “This is family time.”

I suppose it is.  Oh, the precious memories.

My Scheduled “Carefree” Mom Moment

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It’s summer time, and in the interest of keeping up with the FB Joneses, my husband and I took our children out of the basement for some fresh Midwestern air today. I scheduled a very “go with the flow” morning of activities. First, day camp for Evan. Next, an outdoor lunch with minimal exposure to the elements. And finally, a visit to a local water fountain (see photo below), with designated water-frolicking time.

After watching the kids shriek with delight at nearly getting splashed by the water jets on the splash pad, I had this crazy idea that I should be playful and carefree too. Shouldn’t my kids remember me as more than a housekeeper, fruit cutter, and Daniel Tiger DVD pusher? Laughing, I grabbed my son’s hand and we ran into the center of fountain. We narrowly missed getting nailed by a water jet. Evan was delighted. Mom is NEVER carefree. Look at all of the water jets that surround us! None of them can hit us in the middle of the splash pad! How exciting!

The fun lasted for all of thirty seconds. My son wanted to get out of the middle, but he didn’t want to get hit in the face by the water jet. I told him I would run with him.

“C’mon, Evan,” I tugged on his arm. “It’ll be fun. We made it to the middle without getting hit. We can make it to the other side too.”

Evan shook his head vigorously. “No.”

Laughing, I wrapped my arms around him. “You’re already wet. Let’s both try to run through the fountain. We’ll just do the same thing again. I’m right here with you.”

Eyes wide, he shivered. “No.”

Frowning because this wasn’t part of my schedule, I said, “Buddy, we can stay here for a little longer. But the only way to get out of the fountain is to run through it to the other side.”

“No.”

We stayed in the center of the fountain for a few minutes. I studied the pattern of the water jets. 4 jets, 3 jets, 5 jets, pause. 1 jet, 2 jets, 5 jets, stop. 5 seconds pass. Repeat pattern. Certain that I had broken the code, I grabbed Evan’s hand. “Okay, buddy, I have the pattern. Let’s count and run through it this time.”

What I failed to consider was one five-year old’s resistance. The pattern repeated itself, just like I expected. For a split second, there was no surge of water. All water jets were dormant.

“Now, Evan! Let’s run NOW!” I yelled and tugged his hand.

He ran two steps and stopped right over the water jet hole. In a few seconds, he was going to get reamed by the water jet.

“Evan, MOVE!!!” I yelled.

“No,” he shook his head, eyes wide.

Knowing my son’s intense dislike of getting water on his face and not wanting it to turn into a full-blown fear, I took two steps and pushed him off the hole. Right then, as I stood directly over the hole, a stream of water emerged.

“Son of a,” I shrieked, as the freezing cold water hit me in the groin like a bidet gone wild.

My husband and toddler daughter both stood safely twenty feet away from the fountain’s reach. I was soaking wet. They laughed at me. Once I made it to the other side, I laughed too.

Evan eventually made his way out of the center of the fountain, WITHOUT MY HELP. Vowing never to sacrifice myself to the fountain bidet gods again, I limped around campus and made it to the car with sopping wet pants.

Well, at least my kids now have one FB worthy moment of their “Carefree” mom. Someday, I may schedule another appearance.

To My Little Boy

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To My Little Boy:

Today you said goodbye, without a worry or a care. You waved and walked away, while your baby sister tried to keep up with you.

Three years. We have been safe and cozy in the nurturing arms of your preschool for three years. Three wonderful years, when I watched you transform from a needy toddler, who cried out for me from behind the window of your classroom, into a confident five-year old, who is so happy to see his friends that he barely acknowledges my existence when I leave the room.

Even though it is forever etched into my memory, your toddlerhood is gone. Those pinchable chubby cheeks have hollowed out into boyhood. The soft pastel colors and gentle farm animals on your clothes have been replaced by graphic tee-shirts and neon superheroes. I already wonder if I should invest in a farm, because even at five-years old, your appetite occasionally surpasses your father’s.

My mother’s heart is breaking, but I am so proud of you. I marvel at the ferocity of your spirit. The path you are paving for your younger sister is strong and true. She already watches you, soaking up every word and gesture like a sponge. You don’t realize what a wonderful teacher you are, but I do.

She will follow your preschool footsteps this fall, as you begin your own new adventures in a new school. As always, I will be there for you. I will be there when you take your first steps into your kindergarten classroom in September. I will be there to cheer you when you fly high on success. I will be there to comfort you when you stumble in defeat. I will be there as we both travel into uncharted territory. No matter what, we will do this together.

Little boy, little boy, little boy. My little boy. I am so proud of you. I love you.

A “Sancti-Mommy” Visits The Mall

Earlier this week, I took my little one to the mall for our daily morning stroll.  As we passed the playground, my gaze fell upon a small girl child.  She was wandering around like an aimless urchin.  Maybe she was an aimless urchin.  I don’t know.  I didn’t have time to dwell on that possibility.  One of her feet was bare and there was a vending machine only ten feet away her.  Before chilled air could wrap flu tentacles around the little tyke’s foot, I rushed towards the playground.

The only adult in the play area was a woman sitting on a bench.  Her eyes were on a book instead of her child.  She looked up as I approached.  “You’re doing it wrong,” I told her kindly when I spotted the missing sock next to her.  I grabbed it and quickly placed it on the small child’s foot.  There was a large diaper bag beside the woman.  I took the initiative to rifle through it and pull out a hat.  I gently placed it on the little girl’s head.  My chest swelled with pride as I walked away.  I could hear the woman’s expletives of gratitude echo across the playground.  After all, a covered child is a happy child.

Buoyed by my random act of kindness, I searched for more opportunities to help strangers with children.  Fortunately, the mall was crawling with unfit parents.  I spotted a pair of them pushing a wailing baby in a neglect buggy.  Happy children do not cry in public places.  Mine never do, so this couple clearly needed my help.  I tightened my arms around my precious guppy, before marching in their direction.

They stopped talking when they saw me.  I knelt down beside the baby and buggy.  “You poor little hugless child,” I murmured in a soothing voice, gently stroking his hair.  “I’m sure someone loves you.” Neither person moved when I unbuckled the little boy and picked him up.  The infant stopped crying and looked at me.  “Perhaps your child would cry less if you carry him,” I suggested, before handing him to his mother.  The couple stared at me.  The woman’s cheeks flushed crimson with embarrassment.  “It’s okay,” I assured her in a confident voice.  It masked how uneasy I felt leaving the hapless mite in their care.  “Now that you know better, you’ll do better.”  The man sputtered something unintelligible as I continued to patrol the mall.

My mind whirled as I scanned my surroundings.  So many people needed my help.  But who would reap the greatest benefit from my intervention?  Suddenly, the stench of cinnamon hit me like a brick wall.  Of course.  The food court.  What weak-willed parent can resist the lure of the nugget?  I pulled my scarf over my nose and headed in that direction.

I wasn’t surprised by what I saw.  Rows of tables littered with trays of garbage.  My stomach sank.  So many parents were shoveling GMO’s into the open mouths of their unsuspecting children.  I walked past a few gluten peddlers before spotting a dire situation.  A helpless adult male sitting beside a shrieking child.  I looked around, but there wasn’t a mother in sight.

My pace quickened.  The man obviously needed help to defuse the tantrum.  The little girl stood next to the table, red-faced, fists clenched, howling at the top of her lungs.  I couldn’t blame her.  She was probably protesting the nuggets.

“Hi Sweetheart,” I said softly, kneeling beside the little girl.  The man looked startled, but then visibly relaxed when I winked at him.  He know that I was there help.  “Why are you sad?”

“No eat,” the little girl stamped her foot and shrieked.  “Me no eat.”

“You’re such a smart little girl,” I cooed, as I tousled her curls.  “You know that your daddy is trying to poison you.”

“What?” The man sputtered, while the little girl stuck one unclean thumb in her mouth.  Her eyes lit up with interest.

“Well, I’m going to help you, sweetheart,” I smiled at her and picked up their trays.  “Let’s put this where it belongs.”  I walked over to the trash can and threw both plates in.  I pulled out my hand sanitizer and squirted some into my palms.  “Garbage belongs in garbage.”

The man gaped at me, while the little girl smiled and clapped her hands.  I grinned back at her.  Sometimes, children know better than their parents do.

Parenting is hard for some people.  It takes a village for these people to raise a child and I am a part of that village.  Because when you know better, you do better.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  This is satire.  It is fiction.  Please do not verbally torpedo me for the actions of a fictional character.  Thank you.

 

 

The Five Reasons That I Love Starbucks

Clearly, I have addictive tendencies, because in addition to my Facebook “issue,” I have another problem.  Starbucks.

I spend way too much money at Starbucks.  It’s ridiculous.  Who pays $4-$5 for a cup of coffee?  What am I getting for the money?  Some steamed milk, espresso shots and flavored liquid sugar.  I mean, syrup.

So, what is it about that place that keeps luring me in?  Why don’t I take all of the money that I spend on caramel macchiatos and buy something to improve the “slobby chic” look that I sport each day?  Here are five reasons:

The Unlimited Supply of Caffeine

I’ll be honest.  I gave up coffee during pregnancy, so for a while, I functioned like a normal human being without it.  But after my daughter was born, I regained my dependency on caffeine.  Once again, I suffer from headaches without coffee.

So why don’t I just stay home and brew my own coffee?  You can’t see me, but I’m making a face.  I spend my days getting food and drinks for other people (a.k.a. the kiddos).  To me, it’s worth looking like a hobo to have someone bring me a drink for a change.

The Smell

I’m a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). I do my best to keep the house clean and fresh.  But in the battle against stink, I’m losing.  Each day, I play two games:  “What’s that smell?” and “Where is it coming from?”  Is it food?  Is it old diapers?  Is it small animals?  I have no idea.  I think the kids are secretly stashing crap under the floor boards.  Why?  Either to get me to take them out of the house or to drive me crazy.

They’re successful on both fronts.  I can stay home with them and remain ensconced in the stench of decomposition.  Or I can go out in to the world, see real adults, and inhale the aroma of freshly ground coffee at Starbucks.  It’s no contest.  Coffee beats decomposition.

The Greeting

My children are adorable.  They really are.  But the way they greet me each morning leaves something to be desired.  My four-year old son growls at me.  I didn’t think I’d have to deal with this for another ten years, but yep.  He’s already a cranky nightmare when I have to wake him up for school.  My one-year old daughter smiles until I place her on the changing table.  Then she winds up to bite, slap or kick me in the face.  For some reason, she prefers to sit in her own filth.

When I go to Starbucks, no one growls at me.  Someone actually smiles without physically assaulting me.  It’s a refreshing change.

The Language

As a SAHM, I don’t get to travel much anymore.  I mean, my kids watch Barney and during the past season, that dopey purple dinosaur has been visiting different countries.  But he still speaks in English, so I don’t consider that foreign language immersion.  When I go to Starbucks, I get to pretend that I’m visiting a foreign country.  And not just any foreign country.  A really snooty foreign country where they treat you like garbage if you don’t speak their language.

For those of you who don’t know, Starbucks has its own language.  It’s called Bux-ese.  I’ve spent the past decade studying it, so I’m fairly fluent.  I can order a grande, nonfat, no foam, extra drizzle, caramel macchiato like a native.  So see, kids.  It pays to stay in school.

The “Crappy to Happy” Hour Shift

The social calendar at our house includes a daily event called “Crappy Hour.” Everyone is invited, but the only people who show up are my son, my daughter and me. It involves a lot of blatant defiance, yelling and tantrums. My husband manages to leave the house right before it starts. His excuse is work, but I have my doubts. I think he’s just going to Starbucks.

Once I manage to drop my son off at school without pulling the hair out of my head, I have thirty precious minutes before I have to rush my daughter back home for the morning nap.  Apparently, I’m not the only one with this window of opportunity. Sometime after nine in the morning, a herd of stroller-pushing SAHM’s descends on the local Starbucks. All of us have the same frazzled look.  We just survived Crappy Hour. It’s time for Happy Hour. Or Happy Half Hour. Whatever it is, we’ll take it.

Post 14: My Moral Dilemma About A Child Left Alone In The Car

To the lady who left her son alone in the car,

I don’t know you. I only know that I was angry when I saw your little boy alone in the blue minivan that was parked next to mine this morning.

At first, I didn’t even realize that he was there. I had just dropped off my four-year old son at summer camp. It’s his third day of camp with a new group of kids and he’s still adjusting. So when I walked back to the parking lot, pushing my daughter in her stroller, all of my thoughts were with my son.

As I carried my daughter from the stroller to the parking lot, I glanced over my shoulder. I saw a pair of large brown eyes peering at me from inside the blue minivan parked next to ours. I didn’t really think about it. This school is populated with helicopter parents. I assumed that there was an adult in the car with him. I buckled my daughter into her car seat, before closing the sliding door and turning around. And that’s when I realized that the little boy was alone in the blue minivan.

Your little boy looks like he’s close to my son’s age. Maybe one year younger. All of the tinted windows in your van were rolled down 2-3 inches. You obviously know that today is going to be a hot summer day. It was after 9 A.M. when I saw your son. I could already feel the sun beating down on me as I stood between our two minivans.

Your boy was also standing up. He poked his nose out the window. Maybe he was hot. I didn’t know how long he had been left alone in the car, so I asked him, “Where are your mommy and daddy?”

He didn’t answer me. I found it ironic that you’ve probably taught your son not to speak with strangers. I tried again. “Are they inside the school?”

He hesitated, and nodded. “My mommy is in there.”

Slightly relieved, but irritated, I asked one more question. “Is she dropping someone off ?”

He said something I couldn’t quite make out, but I was under the impression that you, Fellow Mommy, were there for the same reason I was. To drop off an older child at camp.

I told your little boy that I would be in the car right next to him if he needed something, and he nodded again. Then I slipped into the driver’s seat of my minivan and turned on the air conditioning for my own daughter. Because it was already getting that warm.

I admit it. I was pissed off at you. Who would leave a little kid unattended in the car like that? He wasn’t even buckled into his car seat. He was climbing over the front seats like a jungle gym. My knee-jerk reaction was to call the school’s security office and let them handle it.

Yeah, it’s hard having more than one kid at pick-up and drop-off time. I get it. It would be a lot easier if I could just leave my one-year old daughter in the car by herself for a few minutes while I drop her four-year old brother off at camp. And I admit that I’ve thought about it during milder weather. But I wouldn’t do that. Because even though the likelihood of something bad happening is small, it still exists. And I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to my daughter the one time I took the easy way out.

But that’s my choice. And this morning, you, Fellow Mommy, made yours.

So there I sat, in judgment of what I should do about your choice. And that’s the core of what bothered me. Why did you put me in this position? I didn’t want to judge you, but I did. I thought that you did something incredibly stupid. I thought that you took an unnecessary risk. I get that you’re tired and you want one thing to be easy in your incredibly difficult day. Believe me, I understand. But this isn’t the thing that you should make easier on yourself. Get fast food for lunch today. Turn on the TV a little longer this afternoon. But, for God’s sake, don’t leave your kid in the car unattended.

Fellow Mommy, I was torn. The easy thing for me to do would have been to just call campus security and wash my hands of this whole situation. But I didn’t want to do that to you. Because what if you’re actually a really great mother?  What if you would normally never do this?  What if today you just felt tired and overwhelmed? What if you were so close to the breaking point that you made this incredibly stupid decision? Do you deserve to have your children taken away from you by the CPS for one stupid decision? Because these days, something like that could happen.

After ten minutes of waiting and watching, I didn’t think so. You don’t deserve to lose your children. But you do need a warning. So I picked up the phone and called the front desk of the school. After explaining the situation, I told the front desk assistant that I didn’t want you, Fellow Mommy, to get in trouble with the authorities.  The school should warn you not to do this again.

While I was speaking with the front desk, you, Fellow Mommy, approached your minivan, quickly got in without a glance in my direction and drove away. I didn’t get the chance to talk with you, but I did report what you looked like.

Should I have minded my own business and just left your little boy alone? Some people may think so, but it didn’t feel right to just drive away. Did I do the wrong thing by not calling the police? I hope not. Only time will tell. I hope that when the school contacts you and gives you a warning, you’ll do better next time.

MY COMMENTS:

This piece was rejected by both Scary Mommy (Rejection #7) and The Mid (Rejection #8).  The lady who rejected it at Scary Mommy called it “thought provoking” but said she didn’t have a place for it.  The person at The Mid just rejected it.  I’m not sure where to go from here.

Five Ways Karma Changed Me Since Becoming A Mom

Karma has it in for me.  You may not believe me, but it’s true. Since becoming a mother, I’m doing all sorts of things that I swore I would never do. Here are just a few examples of how Karma smacked me back to humble reality:

I never thought I could forget my purchases at the store.    

Last week, I officially lost my mind. I arrived at this conclusion when I nearly pulled out of the grocery store parking lot without my groceries. The teenager behind the customer service counter looked at me with pity when I rushed back inside the store and explained what happened. “Well, it could be worse,” the girl tried to console me, as she handed me my groceries. “At least you didn’t forget your baby in the store.”

Is this my future? Forgetting my children in public places? As I walked out of the store with my groceries in hand, I double-checked the stroller to make sure my daughter was still in there. Before having children, I never would have been this forgetful. In fact, there was a time when I probably mocked people for being this forgetful.

Naturally, I’ve forgotten who I mocked. But Karma doesn’t forget. And she holds a grudge. Consider yourselves warned.

I never thought I’d use a drive-thru window.

I admit it. Once upon a time, I didn’t understand why people used drive-thru windows. If you’re a healthy person, how hard is it to get out of your car, walk from the parking lot to the counter, and place an order in person? The drive-thru window at a local Starbucks was a special source of irritation to me. I would stand at the counter and watch several drive-thru customers get their coffee before I did. Why were most of the baristas catering to the drive-thru customers? Why was Starbucks rewarding sloth?

Obviously, things have changed. Since I tend to leave things behind when I step out of the car, it’s in my children’s best interest that I use drive-thru windows whenever possible. Karma must laugh her ass off at me since my daily routine includes hitting the same Starbucks drive-thru that I used to complain about. At least I haven’t driven off without my coffee.

I never thought I would drive a minivan. 

Let’s face it. There’s nothing sexy about a minivan. A well-endowed topless woman could drive around town in a minivan without attracting attention. Why? Because a minivan is a womb on wheels. No single guy in his right mind wants a piece of that action. In my “Single Girl looking for Mr. Right” days, there was no way in hell I was going to contaminate myself with this male repellent.

Fast forward fifteen years later to the arrival of child number one. And the bulky car seat. And the stroller.  And all that other baby stuff that new mothers feel compelled to lug around in case of an emergency. I remember driving my minivan for the first time. Disturbing thoughts filtered through my mind. Wow, this thing has a smooth ride. Hey, look! The seats fold flat! Look at all that storage! I could fit a house in here! My late thirty-something, sleep-deprived mom brain fell in love with the minivan and never looked back.  Yep. Cosmic retribution at its finest.

I never thought that I’d burn water in the kitchen.

Back in college, a friend tried to make pasta and ended up burning the water. Water. The girl burned water. Who does that? How is that even possible? As we rushed around her apartment, opening windows to let out the smoke and trying to figure out how to turn off the fire alarm, I wondered how she could have been so careless. How hard is it to pay attention to whatever you’re doing in the kitchen? This is why kitchen accidents happen. Because people don’t pay attention.

Karma smacked me on this one late last year. It was a rare day. The floor wasn’t crunchy and I looked human, so I decided to live dangerously and invite a visitor over to the house. Instead of offering my guest a refreshing cup of air, I put the kettle on for tea. It was all very Downton Abbey-ish. I did NOT set the timer because I didn’t want to look like a moron in front of company. I don’t need a timer, I thought. I’ll hear the charming whistle of the tea kettle when the water is done boiling. How delightful.

Fifty minutes, two tantrums, two dirty diapers and two dirty pull-ups later, I thought I smelled smoke. The fire alarm started beeping as I ran into the kitchen. There was smoke. Amid the chaos of my squawking children, I had forgotten about tea time. The kettle was still sitting on the red hot burner. All of the water had evaporated. The bottom of the kettle had melted and fused to the burner. I turned off the stove top and tried to unsuccessfully pry the kettle from the burner. So much for tea time.

I never thought I could love so many people so much.

This is admittedly sappy, so bear with me. I didn’t realize how much I could love someone until I met my husband. That love grew to amazing proportions when I had my son. But when I was expecting my daughter, I was actually worried. I didn’t think I could love another child as much as I loved my son. Maybe it was the raging hormones, but I had this bizarre notion that love was like a pie. A fixed pie with a limited number of slices. No more slices for you, second child. The pie is baked, the crust is done and I’m all out of love.

Or maybe I was just thinking about pie. I’m not sure. Well, whatever was floating through my mommy brain changed the first time I held my daughter. As I fell head over heels in love with my baby girl, Karma laughed at me. Silly, sleep-deprived mommy. Such a ridiculous thing to worry about. The first time I saw the two of my children together in the same room, my heart swelled with the realization that love grows. All thoughts of limited pie supply vanished. Well, not all thoughts.

Now that I want some pie, I’ll stop here.  This concludes my PSA about Karma.  She still laughs at me, but I’m okay with it.  I just do a headcount and a pie check before we leave the parking lot at the grocery store.

MY COMMENTS:  

Well, I’m not too surprised about this one.  Seven days have passed since I submitted this (my third) article to Scary Mommy and  “all is quiet on the Western Front.”   I’m assuming that since their turnaround time is 7 days and I haven’t heard back from them yet, this article was rejected.

After what happened at the grocery store a few weeks ago, I finally felt compelled to write about some of the major ways having children has changed me.  I’m still amazed that I could have done what I describe in beginning of this essay.  Truthfully, these days, I should be amazed that I still remember what happened.  If time travel were possible, I suspect that “Before Children” Taara would slap “After Children” Taara if she could see some of the stuff I do today.

As always, any constructive feedback is welcome.  Thank you for taking the time to read this!