I had ONE job

So many nights end like this, when I was supposed to run one stinking errand that I ultimately forgot. Sometimes it’s picking up Dwight’s psycho doggie meds, sometimes it’s a forgotten loaf of bread or gallon of milk, and then there’s nights like this — when my choices have predestined me to yet another night of angst and no sleep.

We have one boy who sleeps in underpants. Another who still needs the pull-up. And last night I used the very last pull-up, which meant I had to make a run to the store for more today while I was work. Which, of course, I forgot to do.

Chris Farley is El Nino

Chris Farley is El Nino

By the time I got everyone home and fed, the skies opened up and a horribly misplaced February thunderstorm rolled in. The boys whimpered. Then they cried. Then they clung to me with the force of mutant spider monkeys armed with duct tape. And I realized that there wasn’t a single pull-up in the entire house.

I peeled the boys off me at bedtime with lots of snuggles and promises that I’d be right outside the door. I bribed my way out of there by turning on an extra night light and letting them sleep in the same bed.

Think of me at 3:30am, when one of them will absolutely have peed on the other. I will be cleaning and consoling little boys, changing sheets, and cursing El Nino for bringing a February thunderstorm that made a forgotten trip to the store that much worse.

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Suspiciously Nice

I know this week everyone’s preoccupied with Powerball and the State of the Union and the Rams moving to L.A., but I want to pause for a minute and pose this important question:  Has anyone else noticed a freaky amount of kindness from strangers lately?

At first I thought it was just me, but then the evidence mounted at an alarming speed. Consider the following —

Watching fish drift by until and hour later, when panic sets in...

Watching fish drift by, until and hour later, when panic sets in…

Event #1: A few weeks ago, I took the boys to the aquarium’s dolphin show. At some point, my cell phone fell out of my back pocket and we walked out of the amphitheater without it. Ten minutes later I realized what had happened, and I drug the poor boys on a frantic mission to see if it was still there (although I was 100% sure it was gone forever). In my rush through the cafeteria, a man stopped me.

“Did you lose your phone?” he asked.

Is this man psychic? Stalking me? How did he even know that’s why I was blindly rushing through a crowded cafeteria, two frazzled toddlers in tow? Because he had my phone, and had seen the pics of the boys on my lock screen, and was hoping to find the phone’s owner by spotting the boys in the picture. And he did NOT demand ransom for my phone – he gave it back gladly, almost as relieved as I was to have it back. Good sir, you restored my faith in humanity.

Event #2: Random family comes over to me at Bob Evans (don’t judge — it was pancakes for dinner night) to tell me how cute and well-behaved the boys are.

Event #3: Target employee sees me with a full cart and antsy boys in the super long line and opens up a new lane just for me!

I realized when I was pregnant that people tended to be nicer – they’d smile at my bump, offer to lift things for me, and all of the other thoughtful things people do for women who are already carrying an obvious load. That spilled over into my time with babies–because who doesn’t love babies? So again, the general populace was generally kinder to me than if I was average gal on the street.

Now that time has passed. I get the occasional extra niceness because I have two adorable kids with me, but that’s usually from a fellow mother who recognizes the struggle in another mom’s bad day. Overall, I have returned to normal gal on the street. Cut me off in traffic, walk past me as I’m picking up dropped and scattered groceries, butt in line ahead of me, don’t-hold-the-door general jerkiness.

But now, people are freaking me out. They ACTIVELY SEARCH FOR A PHONE’S OWNER. They cross a room to say something kind. They see someone having a rough day and reach out to make it a little better. At first I was suspicious. Then I realized that maybe people are nicer than I’ve given them credit for. Could that be true? Could it?

Thank you, strangers, for making my last few weeks a little bit better. I’ll keep paying it forward in the hopes that I can creep someone else out with unsuspected kindness.

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All the ‘burgs

BlacksmithI’m just coming off twelve glorious days of vacation home with the boys. We made crafts, we visited the aquarium, and we went to the trampoline place – a LOT. I got a whole new appreciation for my parents, who do much of the childcare while I’m at work. Keeping little boys entertained for two straight weeks is no picnic.


It made me think about how my parents used to spend weekends with me when I was a kid. We didn’t have a ton of money, so whenever my parents needed to kill a day, we hopped in the car and drove towards history. There’s no shortage of notable sites in the Mid-Atlantic, so we set out to see “the ‘Burgs.” You know, Gettysburg, Williamsburg…

Many of my weekends were spent eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of a tote bag, bare legs swinging under a weather-beaten picnic table perched on a Civil War battlefield. Or steeped in the sweat-lodge of a blacksmithy on a 100-degree day, watching a man in pantaloons hammer a glob of molten iron into a horseshoe. Which is how I’m sure all pre-adolescent girls spent their Saturdays.

Know how many times I've run this maze in Williamsburg? 50 billion.

Know how many times I’ve run this maze in Williamsburg? 50 billion.

Occasionally I’d get to bring a friend. This was a rare treat for me, because it meant I could talk about girl stuff instead of being forced to admire the craftsmanship of the Amish, who made amazingly sturdy barns without power tools. Or rugged pants without modern technology, like buttons.

Sometimes, not realizing that these trips had seeped into my DNA, I’d make offhand comments like, “This is a really impressive quilt display,” or “We should come back for the glass-blowing demonstration,” and my cover would be blown. I secretly DID find this crap interesting, and I had unwittingly coerced my pal into an educational excursion with my parents. I could tell which of my friends really liked me, because they were the ones who came back for a second trip.


Here I am at the Grand Canyon, where I made my cousin stop to read every single plaque and info tidbit at the Visitor’s Center. If we weren’t related, she might have tossed me over that fence.

Through the years I started to welcome the smell of kerosene lamps and the sound of foot-pedal sewing machines like old friends. When I was an adult, I kept the tradition alive by dragging unwitting friends into the ‘Burgs with me. We’d slow down for a few hours and just LOOK. Saunter. Amble. Stroll. Talk about our surroundings. Such a lovely change from the usual day-to-day, isn’t it? And if you learn something new along the way, even better.

I have many friends now who call me Cliff Clavin, and with good reason. I am a wealth of useless knowledge, amassed largely because of these day trips with my parents. I have every intention of doing this to my kids, too, because it gives them context around the world we live in. If you can appreciate where we’ve come from, and why, then the present is infinitely more explainable. Or at least, some parts are. That’s a pretty helpful gift to give your kids, no?

There’s a woman somewhere nearby, giving demonstrations with a butter churner. Let’s go find her, kids!


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