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Down the Rabbit Hole

The title of this post is where I’ve been for the past few weeks. See, when I was asked to helm fundraising for my kid’s school this year, I came up with this great idea. A wine tasting, I told the board. It’ll be fun, and we should make a decent amount of money, I told the board. And no one will have to buy or sell wrapping paper, I told the board.  

And then the board said go, my child, and make it happen. 

And then I realized how much work it was going to be. And I gave thanks for my hastily assembled committee, who stepped forward in playrooms and parking lots, with full-time jobs and eight months pregnant with Number Three. Volunteers, like me. Moms, like me. All willing to spend hours cold-calling for donations, like me. I don’t know if they’re losing sleep over it like I am, though. I want it to be a great event. I want to be able to put it on my resume and talk about it with pride. 

Now, a mere month after I sold the board on my idea, we have a decent number of auction items. We have strategized while sitting on the benches outside our amazing little school.  We’ve sold half the tickets. We have parents who are excited about coming out to sip (and hopefully spend). We selected the wines yesterday, and they are dee-licious. It’s all pretty cool. And none of it would have happened without the efforts of my committee. 

My friends, countless schools, places of worship, hospitals, libraries, and golly knows what else are supported by the efforts of (mostly) women like us. We may be delaying getting back to the workforce to help out, or we may be volunteering on top of working and momming. Either way, we are donating our time and energy and smarts and earning potential. We are donating ourselves.

Go, my children, and thank a volunteer today. Better yet, become one. 

Sleepless in St. Louis


A few nights ago we had a hellacious storm roll through at 3 a.m., a grand finale to three days of pouring rain that brought cooler temperatures and skyrocketing mold levels. It is exceedingly rare that the Boo wakes up during a storm, but this time the thunder shook the house and he emerged from his room, agitated and wide awake. 
I crawled into his bed with him and once the thunder subsided, kissed him and left. All was well until the next line of storms came through about half an hour later. He did try to go back to sleep on his own, but the continuing light show and his anticipation of more thunder was too much. Also, he suddenly became pregnant with two small bears, and who can sleep in that last trimester, right? And then he got hungry – a syndrome I understand, having eaten more than a few bowls of 4 a.m. cereal during my own sleepless nights. 

And so down we went, Cheerios for him, Honey Nut Cheerios for me, nearly silent, bathed in the glow of the dimmest light in the kitchen as the rain beat on the windows. It was peaceful and simple, and as much as I wanted to be sleeping, I looked over at my boy, planted a kiss on his head and thought, “Remember this. This is a Moment.” Days later, I realized why: the light, feeding him, the wee hours all took me back to his newborn days. Four-ish years ago, and four nights ago, the simple acts of cuddling him and feeding him brought deep contentment and satisfaction. 

We finished our cereal and the Boo fell asleep about an hour later, shortly after declaring, “I can’t rest because there’s nothing for me to do.” We were both a mess the next day, but that sweet kitchen moment kept swimming up to soften the rough edges.

You are four and a half years old. 

You asked, very casually, about the box below, “Why does it say ‘go’ on there?” 

You are in heaven when your Daddy takes apart something electronic for you. Usually this happens on weekends. 

You enjoyed summer camp, though you declined to go in the sprinkler even on super-hot days. 

You inherited a floaty from a good friend, and now you are plunging into the pool, intentionally dunking yourself, asking Mama to dunk you, and opening your eyes underwater. These are new developments in your swimming career.

You have recently discovered U2 (Daddy), Green Day (Mama), Blondie (Mama again), and Fleetwood Mac (the car USB on shuffle).

You started having bad dreams, or at least started talking about them (but only a bit because you believe talking about them will make them come back). The most recent one involved a bad car, a house alarm, and the inability to run or talk.

You are newly afraid of the dark, and require your chair to be draped and your closet closed at bedtime. 

You sleep through fireworks and thunderstorms. 

You clipped your own toenails last week — and did a very decent job, without drawing blood. 

You still wear a diaper at night, and have told Mama that you pee in it as soon as you wake up. 

You have expanded your diet a tiny bit and are now willing to eat cantaloupe, green beans and nutritional yeast, which Mama plans to use as a gateway to cheese. The big shocker was your request to try a fish stick, which you didn’t like, but agreed to try another day with lemon. 

You have lost your zest for scrubbing toilets, but you still enjoy helping Mama vacuum and view working with cleanser as a privilege. 

You are continuing your love affair with My Little Pony, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Peg + Cat. Justin Time and Ready Jet Go are new discoveries, and you’ve circled back to Word World and Octonauts. Most days, you still watch less than two hours of TV.

You traded your long-neglected easel for a “science table” which tends to be heaped with whatever you’re fiddling with. Right now, it’s egg cartons, scissors, a screwdriver, two rolls of blue painter’s tape, empty water bottles completely wrapped in painter’s tape, paint stir sticks intermittently wrapped in painter’s tape, and bits of string and drinking straws you decided to cut into very short pieces. Mama’s just happy you’re using the space and enjoying yourself. 

You are trying out stronger ways of asking for what you want, e.g., “Mama you have to get me a snack NOW!” Mama never tires of finding new ways to say, “Would you like to rephrase that?” Her hands-down favorite is the raised eyebrow. 

You recently visited a farm, where your favorite thing was turning the electric water pump on so you could test all the sprinklers. Your second favorite thing was the robotic vacuum cleaner, or maybe the waffles the lady of the house made.

You are four and a half years old, and you are still very snuggly, just with pointier elbows. 

Big mistake. Huge.

So there we were. We had sailed through the Boo’s follow-up eye appointment, which he was anxious about because they had surprised us with dilation drops last time. But he was on my lap, pleased about getting an eye chart with letters like I get instead of pictures that little kids get. Meanwhile, I was pleased that the technician had much a better kidside manner this time. 

And then she leaned over and whispered, “How old was he when you got him?”

I was confused, and I must have looked it, because she repeated her question. But what she was asking didn’t register until she pointed to his chart. There it was, in all caps: ADOPTED

I stammered, trying to find something to say that would set her straight without getting on my kid’s radar. He’s four, he has amazing antennae, and this was not the time to answer the 8,000 questions I knew he would have: what’s adopted, am I adopted, are you adopted, why do people adopt kids, why can’t I have ice cream for breakfast (he’s smart, but he is Very Four.)

“Um, that’s not accurate. My husband is from India.”

Now it was the technician’s turn to look confused. She said something about not knowing how the word got in there, then asked whether glaucoma runs in our families, crossed the word out and led us to a waiting area, saying the doctor would be with us soon.

I had a few minutes to collect myself and think back on our first visit, three months ago. I asked myself questions like, “Did anyone ask if my son was adopted?” and “Did I talk to anyone about how awesome adoption is?” and “Could I possibly have misunderstood a question about my kid being adopted, maybe when they were asking about family medical history?” No, nope, and almost certainly not. 

It’s not as if this is the first time someone has assumed my child is adopted because his skin tone is different than mine. And admittedly, it always hits a raw nerve because I fought like hell to have a baby. But this time it hit a new nerve, because it was in writing. That made it feel more official, and threw other people’s perceptions of my family into harsh focus. I started thinking about how many people make that assumption on a daily basis, and whether I should make a T-shirt made that says, “HE CAME OUT OF ME!” Maybe one for every day of the week for August, when we will be attached at the hip during the hiatus between Summer Camp and school? 

Okay, maybe not. Maybe I’ll just write the practice a polite letter explaining why we won’t be back: If they got that wrong, how many other mistakes are they making?

Father’s Day 2016

We picked out a card we knew Daddy would enjoy — it referenced heavy metal and made lots of buzzy noise. He loved it. 

We went to take care of Grammie’s yard before it got too hot. You loved it. 

We went to the grocery store to pick up a few of daddy’s favorite treats, and you picked out his favorite juice. He loved that.

You woke Daddy up with a sweet “good mornin’ Daddy!” right after Mama asked you to quietly blow him a kiss. He loved it. 

You helped Mama make Besitos de Coco, and you stuck with it long past the point where you usually wander away (right after you taste all the sweet ingredients). Mama loved that, mostly. She’s a Virgo. She has issues with messes. She’s getting better. 

You filled up (and popped) a bunch of water balloons with Daddy. You loved it, Daddy loved it but got a bit overheated. 

You smashed your face into the only hard part of the couch during a game of “keep the balloon off the floor”. Nobody loved that. 

Your front left tooth (the same one that needed a root canal a few years ago, of course) was bloody and wiggly. Nobody loved that. 

Your dentist called Mama roughly three minutes after she left a message with his weekend service. She loved that. 

Your dentist said the tooth was probably okay but to call the office first thing Monday to schedule an X-ray. Nobody loved that. 

You decided you still wanted to help Mama make Daddy’s favorite cakes (yes, plural — warm caramel cakes) even though your tooth was bugging you and you were worried about the X-ray appointment. Mama loved that. 

Daddy didn’t realize we were making his favorite cakes until after his Father’s Day nap. We all loved that. 

Your dentist’s scheduler called Mama 15 minutes before the office opened on Monday, and said we could come in later that morning. Mama loved that. You did not love that, but felt better about it once Mama explained there would only be an X-ray and a quick exam.

Your hygienist told Mama you did great and kept asking what was next. She loved that, and told you there was nothing more for you to worry about. 

Your dentist told us your tooth is going to be just fine as long as you don’t chomp down on anything hard for about a week. We all loved that. 

Your dentist’s cashier told Mama that insurance will cover everything. Mama and Daddy loved that. 

You helped Mama with the weekly Target run, and she got you several treats (nothing sugary!) to celebrate the good news. You loved that. 

The night before the Boo’s last day of school, as I was leaving the house for book/wine/kvetching club, the hubs asked me, “Why is the ice cream so soft?” In a rush and already mentally out the door, I said, “I don’t know, it’s been in there since this morning.”

By the next morning, it was clear that is was time to call Ye Olde Sears Repair Service. They gave us the first available appointment. For the next day. So I spent days throwing food in the trash. Food I had just bought, food I had forgotten about, food I wasn’t crazy about but had kept anyway because, get this, I hate throwing food away. It makes me feel like a wasteful, overprivileged bourgeoisie. 

I was in such a black hole of a mood I snapped at a friend who asked if we wanted to join her at a super fun play place. 

And then we dusted off the coolers and bought a few perishables and ice, none of which is my idea of fun. It was, however, the Boo’s idea of fun. Ice! Bags and bags of it with no end! Coolers to use as a personal fridge, as step stools, as fun new chairs. It helped, somewhat, seeing him so entertained.

It also helped to remember a saying a friend had taught me: A problem that can be solved with money is not a big problem. I tried to lean on that thought as we plunked down a shocking amount of money for a basic fridge. A fridge that would be delivered in a week, because there is apparently no such thing as next-day fridge delivery (note to big-box stores: GOLD MINE!).

Faced with the prospect of a week of daily ice runs and cooler-draining, I put an appeal for a dorm fridge on Facebook, not really expecting much. But several friends said we were welcome to borrow one. And one friend offered to bring hers over. SOLD! 

So now, hours away from the arrival of the new fridge, we are plotting happier things, like what kind of cookies to make as a thank-you to the friends who brought us their mini fridge-freezer. 


Last week as an old work buddy was doing me the tremendous favor of cutting apart the Boo’s school photos (seriously I would pay an extra five bucks for that because I canNOT cut a straight line) I said something misty about how much my kid has changed since September. My friend said something really smart in response: We all change all the time, but we don’t think we do. Well, that was the spirit of it. I don’t recall the precise words because Baby Ate My Brain. 

Anyway, it’s gotten me thinking about the changes I’ve undergone this school year, right along with my kid. 

He’s grown taller and gotten heavier, while I have grown wider. (Seriously, Mother Nature?!)

He’s gained confidence in his physical abilities by exploring the creek behind his school and pushing the playground to its limits. I’ve done the same by trying wacky fitness classes in order to write about them. 

He’s acquired a taste for Rush, ACDC and Ozzy Osbourne, and I’ve learned to tolerate them. 

He’s gained more sophisticated debate skills, and I’ve developed new parrying techniques that (mostly) don’t piss him off. 

He’s discovered the joys of extended day, and I’ve discovered I can get professional, paid writing done during those glorious additional kid-free hours. Or catch up on Call the Midwife (it takes hours for the Ugly Cry Face to dissipate).

He’s moved into the “I can do it/I know how/Let me try” phase, and I’ve learned to sit on my hands/say yes/not react to the appearance of a mess on the floor I JUST cleaned.

He’s learned how to write his name, and I’ve learned to decode his scrawl.

He’s made great strides in negotiating relationships with his peers, and I’ve learned how to negotiate Facebook troll attacks.

He started wearing glasses a few weeks after I started wearing stronger bifocals. 

You get the idea, but I’ve saved the best for last: At the beginning of the year, the Boo reported in horrified Junior Narc tones that some of his classmates used potty talk. Last week he told me, eyes a-twinkle, “I do potty talk at school now Mama!” Then he waited for a reaction. All I gave him was a bored, “Oh really?”

See, even a Mama-Come-Lately can learn new tricks. Happy Summer, everyone!

I'm over 40. I'm at home with a preschooler. Hear me roar.

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