I’ll Just Walk

There’s a saying: “bad things happen in threes”, and today I got the whole trifecta. After dropping Molly at school, Andy and I were heading home, when I saw flashing lights in my rearview mirror. “That’s odd,” I thought, and pulled over to let the police car pass. Surely the cop wasn’t pulling ME over, a law abiding, rule following, tax paying citizen! Imagine my surprise when I stopped my minivan, and the squad car stopped too! What had I done wrong? “Morning,” the officer said as I rolled down my window, “you didn’t come to a complete stop at that last stop sign,” he told me. WHAT?? Really? To my horror, he was completely right! I’d only slowed down and rolled through. Gah, could I BE a bigger idiot? I stuttered as I gave him my license and insurance information. What a dismal way to start the day; but, as it turns out, much, MUCH worse things were to come. Talk about foreshadowing, eh?

A blue car driving down the road.

As I sat cursing my existence, the officer returned with more bad news. “Did you know your insurance is expired?” he asked. OH, COME ON, NOW YOU’RE JUST JOKING!. “Oh my gosh, what?? I’m so sorry, I had no idea!” I blurted. “So unfortunately, I can’t let you drive this vehicle anymore. Why don’t you pull into this parking lot, and we’ll figure things out?” the officer instructed. With shaking hands, I crawled forward at the speed of an arthritic turtle and parked. I called my husband Jeremy, who would now have to pick Andy and me up and drive us home. He’ll be thrilled. After a relatively mild string of curses, he said he’d drive home, switch out of his work van, and pick us up in his truck. Ten minutes later, as he pulled up beside me, the officer walked up with even worse news. Turning to Jeremy, he said “so your license is actually expired.” WHAT IN THE BIZARRO WORLD WAS HAPPENING?? Jeremy’s face looked like a smacked mackerel. At this point, the tragedy was too much; we’d passed the point of inconvenience and slammed headfirst into comedy. I started giggling; quietly at first, then louder and louder until I was laughing uncontrollably. “Oh no, it’s just so awful! What’s going on? Was there a full moon last night?” I gasped. It really was just horribly funny. To my eternal relief, the officer smiled! “Here’s what we’re gonna do,” he said, “I’ll write you a ticket for failing to stop, and a warning for not having insurance on the van. You drive your husband’s insured truck straight to the insurance office and renew the papers on the van and your license. Everything’s piling up here, and that’s the best I can do.” Sputtering our thanks, Jeremy and I transferred little Andy and our grumpy dog Teddy from the van into the truck, then, with me behind the wheel, drove to the insurance office. Did I mention it was pouring rain this whole time? So not only was I supremely agitated, but I was also soaked to the skin. Do bad things ever happen on sunny days?

Finally, our terrible morning came to an end. Jeremy got all the paperwork in order, and we were able to LEGALLY drive our vehicles back home. Andy was babbling about how we “got awessted!” and I was in desperate need of a drink. So, what did I learn? Number one: adulting is hard. Number two: keep on top of important dates, and number three: never, EVER, ROLL THROUGH A #$@#^%$# STOP SIGN!

You Do This Every Day?

Seven-year-old Molly has convinced her mother, Sarah, to bring their pet hamster into class for Show and Tell. She walks into the class, and twenty pairs of owl eyes stare at her eagerly. Poor Sarah has no idea what she’s getting into!

April's teachers realize she's going to be a handful.

Sarah: “Hi guys! This is Sprinkles! Does anyone know what type of rodent he is?”

Girl 1: “I know! He’s a gerbil!”

Sarah: “That’s a good guess, but Sprinkles is actually a hamster. Who can tell me –”

Boy 1: “His name’s SPRINKLES? I bet it’s cuz he pees like a sprinkler! HAHAHAHAH!”

Sarah: “Er, okay. So, a cool thing about hamsters is –”

Girl 2: “I had a hamster when I was a baby but my mom said it went to live on a farm with some cows.”

Girl 2a: “No, she said it fell down the vent and the heater was on and it esploded.”

Sarah: “Do you two live together?”

Girl 2 and 2a: “We’re twins.”

Sarah: “………………Okay. So anyways, hamsters are nocturnal. Who knows what that means?”

Boy 8: “It means they sleep in the day and run around at night.”

Sarah: “Good job, that’s right!”

Boy 4: “Like vampires?”

Sarah: “Um, not really.”

Girl 5: “I was a vampire for Halloween. Except I had fairy wings an’ I was a fairy.”

Girl 1: “I was a princess an’ I ate so much candy I barfed!”

Sarah: “Right, so, hamsters—”

Boy 7: “Mom? I mean, missus Molly’s mom?”

Sarah: “Yes?”

Boy 7: “Do um, do hamsters……. Um, do they like….. um…. Do they like hot dogs?”

Sarah: “No, probably not.”

Boy 7: “Do YOU like hot dogs?”

Sarah: “Uh-huh. Anyways, who knows what hamsters like to eat?”

Boy 3: “I saw my hamster eat his own poop!”

Entire class: “EWWWWWWWWWWWW!!”

Molly (horrified): “Mom, does Sprinkles eat his own poop?”

Sarah: (exasperated) “I don’t…… I mean, I haven’t…..”

Girl 7: “I have to go peeeeeee.”

Thankfully, Miss Harris swoops in like an avenging angel.

Miss Harris: “Okay, class, let’s all thank Molly’s mom for bringing in the hamster!”

Everyone: “Thaaaaaaaaaaank youuuuuuuuuuu.”

Sarah grabs the hamster’s cage, and walks to the door, her head spinning.

Sarah: (to Miss Harris) “I don’t know how you do it.”

Miss Harris (smiles): “I often wonder that myself!”

All Hands on Deck!

You’re never prepared when disaster strikes. No matter how much you’ve planned, when catastrophe hits it’s always when you’re elbow deep in cookie dough. Such was the case last month when I got word that Andy’s preschool was shutting down permanently. After 42 years of childcare, the owner decided to retire, and she couldn’t wait another year, or even another month. My son’s school was closing in two weeks. My jaw dropped so fast it popped out of its sockets. Two weeks? How was I supposed to find new childcare in fourteen days? What would this do to my offspring’s psyche? Most importantly, how was I going nap with Andy bouncing off the walls?

April hides behind Elly at the door of her preschool.

Talk about a monkey wrench in the works. Over a dozen families were affected, and the preschool teachers were devastated. The kids had just settled into their routines, only to have the rug yanked from under them like some old-timey pantomime. Poor Andy loved going, as well; he looked forward to “pwaying twucks” every week! (Forget about learning anything – it’s all about vehicles with my boy!) I wanted Andy to socialize with his peers – something he wouldn’t get hanging around with me all day. And I wasn’t gonna let him watch TV eight hours in a row, no matter how much he begged. So, I called every preschool and daycare in town and was met with the same answer: every single one of them was full, with wait lists stretching years into the future. If they weren’t full, they were outrageously expensive. Were they training these toddlers for NASA or something? I lamented how my son would be an anti-social loner because I’d failed to get him into preschool, when a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds. One of the schools that had wait listed Andy had an opening! In a case of perfect timing, my kiddo would now spend a few afternoons a week mingling and learning, instead of asking for snacks every four minutes. What a cinematic ending to this third act!

Andy’s new school is bright and airy, with interactive toys and fairy paths through the forest. The teachers are warm and pleasant, not like the cigarette-stained harridans from my youth. Twice a week he toddles off to class, and I get to use the bathroom in private. When he’s not cavorting with other kids, he’s at home with me, making me laugh with his goofy antics. We’ve baked cookies, cleaned the playroom, and played in the rain. He really is a great kid – which I repeat to myself through clenched teeth when he’s wiped his peanut butter sandwich down his shirt. Good gravy, Andy, where’s your common sense? I’m running out of patience here; let’s hope they teach that at your new school!

You’ve Gotta Be Quick!

She and I spot it at the same time. The treasured item sits on a table, ignored but for the two of us. I want it, and so does she. I see the glimmer in her eyes, the quickening of her step as she moves towards it. “Not this time!” I think to myself, as I speed up, pumping my legs faster. Who will win in this battle of wills? In this valiant life and death fight for…….. the daisy teacup?

Michael and John shop at a yard sale.

“Loretta” (as I’ve dubbed her) is my arch nemesis. I don’t know her real name, but I curse her existence. With her steely gray hair and even steelier gaze, she’s a formidable opponent. She’s a regular shopper at my favorite thrift store and shows up at every garage sale I drag my family to. She can haggle with the best of them, cutting people down to size with her whip-sharp mind and smooth tongue. I once saw her haggle with a priest, almost reducing him to tears (which I’m sure is a mortal sin). I would’ve been scared if I wasn’t so impressed. I’ve watched her leave the second-hand store with her arms full of treasures; ludicrous items that I covet desperately. There, see? She’s taken the ceramic duck that I was sort of thinking of possibly maybe buying next time. I’m tellin’ ya, she’s doing it on purpose!

In all honesty, I’d love to follow in Loretta’s footsteps and be a lady of leisure. Wouldn’t it be great to swan around from store to store, buying frivolous and unnecessary things? My husband, Jeremy, always teases me for my interest in ‘old lady nonsense’, as he calls it. He rolls his eyes at my collection of silver spoons, and my fusty artificial flowers make him wince. But don’t they look charming on the windowsill? Kinda like we’re in a thatched-roof cottage in England, instead of a Lego-filled living room. I can picture it clearly if I ignore the dirty socks stuffed under the couch.

With limited shopping options in our small town, I imagine I’ll keep bumping into Loretta. She snatched that daisy teacup from under me, bargained the price down to fifty cents, and got a lampshade thrown in for free. One of these days, we’re gonna have a good ol’ fashioned standoff over a half broken soap dish, and it ain’t gonna end pretty. I’m as stubborn as a mule and I bet she is, too. If it comes to blows, I’ve got youth, but she’s got stamina. Let’s face it: Loretta’s one tough son-of-a-gun, and my money’s on her.

The “Look”

Back in the Cretaceous period, when I was a child, my mother took me to the grocery store. It was a long and tedious errand, and mom wasn’t letting me do anything fun. I couldn’t eat the grapes (that was stealing), I couldn’t sit in the baby seat of the shopping cart (“you’re too big”), and she didn’t let me pick my favorite cereal (“we have oatmeal at home!”). At the checkout, she said something to me, and, trying to be funny, I stuck my tongue out at her. She turned and gave me………. The Look. It was at this point I knew I’d screwed up.

Every human on earth is familiar with The Look. It’s that silent, threatening glare that means we’re teetering on the edge of serious trouble. “I was just trying to be funny!” I told my mom, as she scolded me in the car. The fear of that look stuck with me, and I dreaded its return (which was often since I was an annoying child). All it takes is one Look, and kids fall into line faster than a greased monkey sliding downhill.

My offspring, seven-year-old Molly, and four-year-old Andy, know the consequences of The Look. It means a reprimand is coming, a loss of privilege, and/or a timeout. It means mommy has reached the very end of her tether, and they’re bungee jumping on her last nerve. I think I use my power sparingly, but it’s probably more than I like to admit. I caught myself in the mirror one day, and I was terrified! Brows furrowed, lips pursed, eyes flinting angrily – darned if it didn’t send chills down my spine. No wonder my kids straighten themselves up so quickly!

If my children only listened to me the FIRST time, the Look wouldn’t be necessary. If they didn’t make such illogical choices, I wouldn’t have to warn them. My forehead is wrinkling faster than a raisin; the furrowed brow of The Look is aging me fast. Basically, if my kids acted like full grown, sensible adults, my stress level would be lower, and they’d make better decisions! Alas, that’ll never be the case. It’s my job to teach them, and that includes them learning about The Look. Hey, take it from me: you never forget what it means. One Look from my mother and I’m back to being a six-year-old kid again, hoping to stay out of trouble!

I’m Doing My Best!

Marriage, from what I can tell, is about reciprocity. Helping your spouse is essential to running a smooth household; even more so when your gremlin offspring make your home look like a Jackson Pollock painting. Jeremy makes sure important things like the furnace and vacuum are working, and I scrape peanut butter off the ceiling fan. Talk about a great team! There are certain things, however, that make me want to rip my nose hair out. It’s not that I don’t like helping my husband; I do. It’s just that all the things he asks me to do are very, very hard. And I don’t just mean they’re annoying (they are) or that I’d rather be napping (I would), but Jeremy’s idea of “helping him” is very different from my own. For example, I might ask him to empty the dishwasher, or fold the laundry. Jeremy, on the other hand, asks me to do things I’m simply not capable of doing. “Babe, can you help me outside for a minute?” he asked the other day. Grumpily, I headed into the yard. “Just grab that end and move it over here,” he said, pointing to a table laden with lumber. FIVE HUNDRED POUNDS of lumber, to be precise. Either he was joking, or he thinks he’s married to Wonder Woman.

“What do you mean, ‘grab the end?’” I asked, “the end of what? My sanity?” Jeremy rolled his eyes, unimpressed. “Just pick up that end and move it over here,” he said, pointing to the other side of the yard. It might as well have been on Mars since it was never gonna happen. “Sweetie, I know I’ve been working out, but you’re asking a bit much of me,” I scolded. Eventually, logic prevailed: we unloaded the lumber, dragged the table over, then plunked the lumber back on top. Yes, it took twice as long, but at least I didn’t pop a hernia in the process.

I’m no spring chicken anymore. Remember the time I blew my back out sneezing the wrong way? I can’t even sit on the floor with my kids without my leg muscles screaming in agony. Yesterday I slept funny and now my ribs hurt; sleeping is my favorite hobby, and now I can’t even enjoy that! How I envy my twenty-year old, pain-free body; why wasn’t I nicer to it? And why didn’t I take more pictures of it? Curse myself for being camera shy!

Unless and until Jeremy realizes my limits, we’re gonna have to take the long way to do things. Even with copious stretching beforehand, there’s no way I can load a dirt bike onto a trailer without struggling mightily. And there’s certainly no way I can push a wheelbarrow loaded with boulders up a hill (“it’s just a small hill!” according to my spouse). Thankfully, I have a back-up plan, but it’s gonna take a while. In just ten short years, the kids will be big enough to help Jeremy instead!

Forever Running

“Are we done yet?” four-year-old Andy whined, his little feet shuffling on the floor. “We just need a few more things,” I replied, pushing my shopping cart down the aisle. My son walked with his head down and limbs dangling, like a condemned prisoner off to the gallows. He’d made it through the recycling depot and the car wash, but the grocery store was gonna finish him off. His energetic mind couldn’t handle the tedium of running errands; either that, or my company was boring him to death. Considering how subtle kids are, I’m sure he would’ve told me that already.

Look, running errands isn’t my favorite thing to do, either. I’d much rather be at home, eating ice cream with my bare hands and watching TV. But NOT running errands has consequences. That chicken I didn’t buy at the grocery store means we don’t have dinner tonight. That glue stick I didn’t grab from the craft store means my daughter can’t finish her science project. And that dry-cleaning I didn’t pick up means I’m wearing pajamas to the next wedding – all of which are unmitigated disasters! (Unless the bride and groom are also pajama lovers, then I’d fit right in).

I’d like to think I’m more exciting than my mother, who would drag me to her favorite store on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, said shop was the YARN STORE – a place so fantastically boring the cashier was usually asleep when we walked in. Shelf after shelf of dull, earth-colored wool swam in front of my eyes as my mom cooed over the latest skeins. Even the air was boring; stale and musty, with a hint of mothballs. One day, after what felt like hours, I started whining. My exasperated mother finally hissed: “do you want to stay in the car?” and was surprised when I retorted “YES! I’d rather wait in the FREEZING COLD CAR than stay in the *^&!@#$) YARN STORE!” I was grounded for a week, but I think I made my point.

So, until someone invents self-driving robot butlers, I have to keep running errands. And, until my son’s old enough to stay home alone and not burn the house down, he’ll have to come with me. Maybe, one day, he’ll look back on our mundane chores and smile, thankful that he spent with his crotchety old mom. He’ll remember when we stopped and had ice cream, or when we played at his favorite playground. There’s one memory he’ll never have, though; I will never, EVER, drag him to the yarn store!

My Kingdom for a Bridge

Life in a small town is often idyllic. The pace is slower, the birds sing more, and even the trash-ravaging bears are friendlier. Since relocating three years ago, our family’s never been happier, and, after a trip down to the big city, my husband Jeremy and I were reminded why. Due to the vast amount of ocean separating our town from the mainland, traveling by ferry is required (unfortunately). Our initial trip down was smooth; the boat was on time, and we made it to the city in one piece. After completing our various bits and bobs and spending the night in an overpriced hotel, it was time to head back. We checked out bright and early, loaded up the caravan, and set off. Had I known then what I know now, I would’ve driven straight off a bridge and saved myself a massive headache.

After a murderous trip through rush hour traffic, we finally made it to the off ramp for the ferry terminal, and that’s where the trouble began. Six lanes of traffic were at a dead stop, turning the highway into a parking lot. We couldn’t even see the ocean; we were so far away. Well, nothing to do but wait. And wait. And wait. TWO HOURS LATER, we finally made it to the toll booth and breathed a sigh of relief. The worst part was over right? RIGHT? The god of mischief himself chuckled, and we inched along the laneway, heading to our doom. We waited again. For another two hours. At this point, we couldn’t even leave the car – there was nowhere to go. The tiny town beside the ferry dock was miles away. We’d been up for six hours and the only food I’d eaten was a dusty mint I’d found in my purse. Did I mention it was ridiculously hot? And that we had our senior dog, Teddy, with us? And that the air conditioning was broken? What had I done in a previous life to deserve this? Jeremy and I eventually left the van and collapsed in a patch of shade. Like a mirage, the “Ferry Café” appeared before me, and I rushed towards it with renewed energy. The tarmac was an oven, sweat dripped from every pore, but salvation was at hand! The bored teenager behind the counter lazily prepared my order, and I was so famished I didn’t blink at the price. One orange juice, two muffins, and a cookie set me back twenty-seven dollars. AND THE JUICE WAS TERRIBLE. Truly, hell on earth is sitting in a hot van with bad food.

Finally, FINALLY, traffic inched forward, and we could walk into the town. Everything was overpriced, but at that point, Jeremy and I didn’t care. We would’ve paid in blood to have a cold drink, and we almost did. FOURTEEN DOLLARS for a glass of soda? I’m swallowing my pride along with my pop, at that price! We found a restaurant patio, tied Teddy beside us, and sat down for our first meal of the day.

The hours drifted by, and the temperature remained high. Teddy cooled off in the town’s fountain while I watched jealously. Eventually, the ferry appeared, and our odyssey was at an end. We’d arrived at the terminal at ten that morning, and we boarded the boat at SIX THAT NIGHT. Even with the patience of a SAINT, you would’ve been ticked off. I am wildly impatient, and I practically ripped my skin off, I was so frustrated. As we pulled away from the mainland and headed home, I had one thought and one thought only: next time we go to the city, I’LL SWIM INSTEAD!

Expanding the Family

I was against it from the start. “Think of the mess!” I cried, “think of the cost, and the noise, and the sleepless nights!” But my protests were in vain, and the Hunter family brought home a tiny bundle of joy. A really, really tiny bundle, weighing less than a soda can, covered in fur, and with round, teddy-bear ears. We’d like to announce the arrival of: Sprinkles, the domestic hamster. Talk about a double take!

Jeremy (my husband) and I had talked about possibly getting a new pet, but I was reluctant. I didn’t want another mess to clean up, even though my kids insisted they’d “take care of it!” Aside from sounding like a vague Sicilian threat, I didn’t believe them. Their abandoned ant farm testified how well they kept their vows! And yet, here we all were, setting up a veritable mansion for the little guy (or girl? How can you tell?) His terrarium is decked out with a hammock, exercise wheel, sand bath, and swing. He’s got shavings deep enough to dig to China and has climbing tubes that stretch to the sky. In terms of hamster houses, this guy is living in Buckingham Palace. His digs are nicer than mine!

My offspring are overjoyed with our new addition, but I’m less impressed. First of all, he doesn’t do anything. He seems to sleep eighteen hours a day (which I’m jealous of) and only stirs when we go to bed. Then he furiously runs in his wheel, sending shavings and poop pellets flying. Every morning I’m greeted with a mosaic of debris on my clean floor. It’s only been two weeks, and this guy is pressing his luck!

Sprinkles also stirred up a long forgotten memory from my childhood. When we were kids, my sister Emma and I had a Guinea pig. She was a pretty creature, with big brown eyes and rumpled brown fur. We kept her downstairs and would play with her under the watchful eyes of our parents. Imagine my surprise when I glanced into her cage one day and saw not one, but three Guinea pigs cuddled up in the corner! Guess who bought the only pregnant rodent in the pet shop? After convincing my disbelieving mother, who greeted the new arrivals with a surprised “what the #@$!%^?” we were faced with a new question: what to do with two extra Guinea pigs? Luckily, some family friends were happy to help, and the two babies were sent off to good homes. Fluffy, the mother, stayed with us for the rest of her (uneventful) life. Sprinkles better not pop out babies; but, if that happened, at least we’d know his gender.

I admit, the little creature is growing on me. Look at his sweet brown eyes, and his cute little hands. Look how he takes a treat and stuffs it into his cheeks; isn’t he adorable? Isn’t he the cutest thing ever? He’s lucky he is, because look at the pile of crap he’s kicked onto my floor. Which brings me to my last question: which one of you kids is cleaning up this $%#&*^# mess??

A Mother’s Intuition

In my pre-offspring days, I luxuriated in sleep. Weekends were spent flopping around in bed like a happy walrus. I wore my pajamas like combat fatigues; twenty-four hours a day and in every season. It was amazing. Imagine waking up refreshed, instead of feeling as though you slept on rocks (which is how I currently sleep). I’m only thirty-eight, but my joints hate me.

However, when you have kids, sleep is elusive and sometimes fraught with worry. My post-baby brain has woken me countless times, snapping me from slumber like a crack of lightning. “Did I lock the back door?” my frantic lizard mind whispers, “is it too cold in Andy’s room? Did I leave my keys in the washing machine again?” Never-ending questions bubble up during the deepest parts of the night, ensuring I’m forever fatigued. And yet, I owe my nervous mind a debt of gratitude for the terror and relief it put me through one night last week.

I woke with a start at four am, utterly confused. What year was it? What country was I in? Where were my keys? Out of pure habit, I rolled over and checked the video monitor for Andy’s room, and, as my vision cleared, an icicle of pure fear stabbed my heart: Andy wasn’t in his bed. All synapses fired at once as I leapt up and raced to my son’s room, terror and adrenaline surging through me. I’ve never gone from zero to one hundred so fast in my life; I was fire and brimstone, Mother Almighty as I burst open the door to Andy’s room. In the dim glow of his nightlight, my heart pounded like a war drum as I stood, every limb quaking. His bed empty, his sheets tossed aside, I was about to raise holy hellfire when a tiny bundle caught my eye. My little boy was curled up fast asleep on the hard floor and out of range of the camera. Relief washed over me so fast my legs trembled. My baby, my son. I’d been holding my breath and started gasping for air, struggling to keep silent, lest I wake my tumble-prone child. Slowly, I bent down and scooped Andy off the cold floor, and as I placed him back in bed, he opened his bleary eyes and mumbled “night night” before fading back to black. “Sleeping like a baby”, indeed!

I closed his door behind me and stumbled to my room. Jeremy, my husband, was snoozing peacefully, unaware that his wife had just been through the seven circles of hell. He wasn’t blessed with my quick-trigger anxiety riddled brain. Sigh. It’s no wonder my chin hair is going grey; my kids scare me half to death on a weekly basis. I will say this, though: being terrified is exhausting. That night I collapsed into bed and slept six hours straight. I haven’t done that in years!