Category Archives: Everyday Life

If You Give a Housewife a Vacuum…

My grown stepdaughter and boyfriend fly into Austin tonight.

In preparation, Mister and I watched Meet the Parents.  We took notes of what not to do.

Mister’s not going to talk about snakes or milking cats.  I’m avoiding the word “pooh-poohs”, which is rather difficult considering I have two toddlers in the house.

I prepared for their arrival in other ways, as well.  I cleaned both high chairs, washed the bathrooms, made cookies, bought snacks, wrote a message on the fridge using Bunder’s alphabet letters, rewrote the message after Mister chastised me, made the beds, hid some toys, etc.  I reserved my final task for naptime today – SCRUB THE KITCHEN FLOOR.  I thought globs of dried yogurt might gross out our guests.

Right after I lay both kids down in their separate rooms for naps, I eagerly attack the kitchen telling myself, “Your cup of tea and quiet time will be a delightful reward for cleaning the kitchen floor”.  (I know that sounds a little pathetic, but I hope you other SAHM’s can relate).

Before I can wash the floor, I have to find it underneath the assorted crayons, colored pencils, stickers, toys, and dog bowls.  Therefore, I pick everything up and carry a few chairs into the living room.

Afterward, I drag out the vacuum and alternate vacuuming with the hard-floor nozzle on the main areas and the straight nozzle in the corners and edges.  When I make my way to the fridge, I notice the vent at the bottom is loaded with dust.  I attempt to vacuum the dust, but it doesn’t budge.  I kneel next to the vent, and try to remove it.  It seems stuck.  I lie on the floor looking for a release latch placing my face uncomfortably close to the dust and dirt.  Nothing.  I kneel again and give a few tugs.  “Mister will kill me if I break this vent,” I half-heartedly worry as I yank harder.

The vent pops off and I place it in the sink to wash later.  With the vent removed, I clearly see how inept I am at house cleaning.  I start to vacuum the dust, dirt, Cheerios, and M&M’s at the front of the fridge only to discover a boatload of kids’ magnets.  “Ah-ha!  I’ve found the missing magnets!”

The vacuum nozzle doesn’t fit under the fridge, so I can’t easily rescue the magnets.  I go searching the house for something thin enough to use under the fridge.  Ideally, I’m looking for a thin yardstick, but all I can find is a yardstick in the shape of a rectangular prism (I’m showing off my third grade geometry skills).

Instead, I grab a piece of plywood from the garage.  I wrestle it around the kitchen island and onto the floor.  Too big!  What’s thinner than plywood?

In desperation, I grab a flyswatter from under the kitchen sink.  Sweet success!  It’s working.  I sweep the flyswatter from the far left of the fridge to the far right pushing out countless magnets covered in dust.  The flyswatter isn’t quite long enough, so I grab the part used for swatting flies to extend the handle as far back as possible.  I gag a little to be touching fly guts, but remind myself that I’m already nose deep in under-fridge gunk.

I vacuum the dust from the magnets before placing them in the sink with the fridge vent.  Then, I vacuum the area surrounding the fridge where the dirty magnets previously lay.  I crouch on the floor once more to survey the situation.

Yuck!  Thick dirt mats the floor under the fridge.

I hear Kiki cry.  Naptime’s over.  The kitchen sink is full of magnets and one large vent.

I didn’t even start scrubbing the floor.

What's under the fridge?

Just Write. 


Here Comes Peter Cottontail

Because traumatizing poor Kiki with Santa Claus isn’t sufficient, I took her to see the Easter Bunny.  I thought it’d be a good test of her tolerance of adults wearing large, ominous costumes.  See her reaction below.

See Bunder's cheesy grin

Prior to placing her on the Easter Bunny’s lap, I asked her, “Kiki, will you sit on the Easter Bunny?”

She clung to me, shook her head no, and verbalized a very distinct negative.  I asked, “Will you stand next to the Easter Bunny?”

She shook her head vehemently and again answered, “NO!”

Therefore, I did what every other cold-hearted, holiday loving, picture craving mother does.  I ripped her from my arms, placed her kicking and screaming on the bunny’s lap, and danced behind the photographer cheering, “SMILE!”

I know I’m not winning any mother-of-the-year awards.  However, I think she’ll thank me when she’s older and has a funny picture to show her boyfriend.

Linking up with Just Write


Best Laid Plans of Mice and Moms

I remember teaching my third grade students to think like writers – to live like writers.  I encouraged them to see their lives through the eyes of a storyteller.  Oh, how I loved teaching writing.

I miss those students.  Some days I think teaching a class of twenty-two children belonging to other people is easier than managing a day with two children belonging to me.  I digress…

Just as I taught my students, a continual narration runs through my head regularly.  As I experience a long drive in the car with my kids, I imagine the parts I would tell you.  Certainly, I’d include this conversation:

“Mommy!  Mommy!  Open your eyes!  Mommy!  Mommy!  Open your eyes!”

“Bunder, I know you have lots to tell me, but Mommy really needs a nap.  Will you please be quiet while I sleep?  Watch your movie or color with your crayons.”

“Okay Mommy.  I’ll be quiet so you can sleep.”

“Thank you, Pumpkin.”

Ten seconds pass.

“Mommy!  Mommy!  Are you asleep?  Mommy!  Are you asleep?”

*********************************************************************

Sometimes, I’m so caught up in watching the story unfold, narrating it in my mind that I forget to react.  I forget to parent.  I know!  I’m that lady- the one sitting back all calm and reflectively watching my children wreak havoc on innocent bystanders.  Such was the case earlier this week.

All day Sunday and most of Monday morning, I built anticipation with my children to visit the Butterfly House.  “Oh, I can’t wait to see the butterflies!  I can’t believe the blue Morphos are back!  I wonder if one will land on me again this year.”

Why do I do this?  I’m not certain.  Is it to extend the fifteen-minute trip into a grander excursion than it really is?  Is it to encourage cooperative and obedient behavior prior to the journey?  Or is it my own twisted masochistic tendency?  I think the latter.  Surely, after this many years as a stepparent and parent, I should know better.  All too often circumstances outside of my control ruin my schemes.   Ah, the best laid plans of mice and moms.

Truly, I blame myself for Monday’s calamity.  After all, I stoked the fire of excitement for Bunder and Kiki.  I built the Butterfly House up so high, not even Godzilla could climb it.

I thought these thoughts as I watched my offspring kick and pound on the doors of the Butterfly House Monday morning.  Over their shrieks and cries, I attempted to read the sign to them, “Closed on Mondays.”

They didn’t hear me.  I stepped back and observed.  Dreadful to admit, I wished for a video camera to record their tantrums.  No video camera existed, so I pressed record in my mind – narrating the story as I watched.

Seconds, (okay maybe minutes later), I snapped out of my trance as other parents tried to console my kin.  I tried not to laugh (okay, I did laugh, but I tried not to – shouldn’t that count for something).

For the benefit of the bystanders, I said all the things a parent should say in such a situation, “Oh, I know you’re upset.  I’m upset, too.  I feel frustrated that the Butterfly House isn’t open today.  See the doors are locked.  We can’t go inside.   Don’t worry.  We’ll come back tomorrow.  Blah, blah, blah.”

I said all this while I half carried, half-dragged Bunder and Kiki toward the car.  This was not an easy task with a 25-pound toddler, 35-pound toddler, and 10-pound diaper bag.  But of course, I deserved it.  I was the nitwit who set up this disaster.

At least, we made it through the doors on Tuesday.


unBEARably Crabby

I lay Kiki down for her usual mid-morning nap, even though she doesn’t seem tired.  I shower while I listen to her babble in her room.  I think, “How will I ever shower once she gives up her morning nap for good?”

Her talking fades, quiet ensues, and I linger through the process of dressing.  Ten to fifteen minutes later, I hear a shriek, then another, then a “MAAAAAAAA-MEEEEEEEEEEEE!  MAAAAAAAA-MEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

I wait a few minutes, knowing she had not and will not nap this morning.  Ahh, the all too familiar dance – two naps are too many- one nap’s too few.

Our day continues, and I notice her heavy eyes before lunch.  I rush through the meal and attempt an earlier naptime for Bunder and her.  Alas, I’m the only one sensing this urgency.  Bunder and Kiki conspire against me.

Can’t you just see them – whispering in the corner?  Bunder saying something like, “Hey, Kiki!  You know what would make Mom really crazy?  Let’s run around acting wild, screaming from room to room, and when she calls us or asks us to do something, let’s ignore her.  When we sense she’s finally had enough and she picks us up to put us in bed, let’s kick and scream some more and flail our arms accidentally hitting her in the face.”

I can see Kiki listening to her big brother’s words, nodding her little head, and solemnly agreeing to the plan.

All right, maybe my imagination has the best of me, but haven’t you ever thought your children were hatching a secret plot to destroy your last shred of sanity?

By the time I place Kiki in her bed, she shows all the warning signs of being overtired.  She fusses a lot before falling asleep, sleeps for only an hour, and wakes like a big, Mama Grizzly, unBEARably crabby.  (Stupid pun – I couldn’t resist – too much Dr. Seuss these days).

Nothing makes her happy: no binky, no cup of milk, no lovey, no dancing on my hip.  She cries and cries.  I take her temperature.  She cries some more because I won’t let her eat the thermometer.  I begin to dread the clock.  “How am I going to make it the rest of the day?”  I think.

I wake Bunder a little early, usher him to the bathroom, dress him, shoe them both amid protests, and head outside for a walk.

Instantly, everyone’s running and laughing.  Mother Nature is one of my favorite besties.   Spring is pretty awesome, too.  Thank God for sunshine and warm weather and flowers!


Grocery Shopping Hell

“To err is human; to forgive, divine,” Alexander Pope once said.

As a mother, I’m no stranger to errors.  I make mistakes ALL the time.  I lose my patience and raise my voice when I don’t need to.  I squander my time in e-mail and find Bunder, Kiki, and my expensive Italian Paisley duvet covered in Vick’s Vapor Rub.  I give in to tantrums in public (sometimes – I’m trying hard not to).

I make mistakes as a wife, a stepmother, a sister, and a friend.  I make mistakes all over the place, but some mistakes cost a lot more than others.  Last Saturday’s mistake scores an eleven on a ten point scale of painful.  Horrible, no good, awful mistake.

I’m telling you this story in hopes you can learn from my mistakes.  (Cliché – I know.  Deal with it.)

Typically, I prepare menus and a grocery list for the upcoming week on Friday.  Then, on Saturday morning, after my long run, I grocery shop – by myself.

Well, this past week, I didn’t go for a long run – in fact, I didn’t run at all, because I was recovering from the marathon.  Since I wasn’t running, everything was out of sync.  I didn’t prepare a grocery list, and I didn’t make plans to go to the store without the kids.  Before I knew it, it was late Saturday afternoon, we had no fruit, no milk, no cheese, nothing for dinner, basically nothing at all, and it was my turn to watch the kids.

“No biggie,” I thought.  The kids have enjoyed riding in the racecar shopping cart the last few trips to the store, so this’ll be fine.  Mister offered to take the kids, but I declined.

Lesson #1

When husband offers to watch the children, NEVER – I mean NEVER say no.  Furthermore, if possible, do not take children to the grocery store.  Make every attempt to leave all or one at home. 

The parking lot is full – I mean jammed full of cars and people and dogs and cats and monkeys and gorillas…

So full, I drive around looking for a spot to park.  As I drive, I notice the absence of the racecar shopping carts.  Lord, help us, if we don’t find a racecar shopping cart!

I’m in luck!  I spot one, lone, red racecar.  Quickly, I pull into a spot (far from the store), jump out, lock the kids in the car, and run two rows over to snag the last racecar cart.  Swiftly, I push it back to the car, disinfect the seats, handles, and steering wheels with Clorox wipes.  I load both kids, strap them in, hand them snacks and drinks, and race to the store.

Except the racecar cart isn’t racing.  “What the heck?” I wonder.  I have to use all my might to keep it moving in a straight path toward the store.  It doesn’t want to move forward.  It keeps pulling to the side.

The cart is broken.  Do I switch out the kids to a regular shopping cart amid screams and protests or do I make myself suffer?

“It’ll be a nice workout,” I decide hurrying into the produce section.

Lesson #2

Don’t settle for a broken shopping cart.  What seems like a nuisance in the produce section will be an all out nightmare in the milk and eggs. 

Inside the store, I carefully evade the numerous shoppers and pause to fumble for my impromptu shopping list.  While I’m digging to China in my huge diaper bag, Bunder pulls an apple off the shelf and starts eating it.

“Oh, no!  Don’t eat it!  It hasn’t been washed!”  I yell pulling the apple out of Bunder’s hands.

He screams for the apple and Kiki screams for her own apple calling it a ball.  I try to distract them with their snacks.

The saga continues throughout the store.  Bunder screams for something he sees.  Kiki follows suit.  I run into not one but THREE people with my broken cart, because it’s next to impossible to turn and the store is SOOO crowded which brings me to

Lesson #3

Grocery shop during the week – preferably early in the morning or late at night to avoid crowds. 

Literally, an hour later and halfway through the store, Kiki starts shrieking and crying inconsolably.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out what’s wrong.  “Is she hurt?  Did she bite her tongue?  Did Bunder poke her in the eye?”

I read the stares of the countless people in my same aisle, “What’s WRONG with that lady?  Why can’t she comfort her kid?”

I give up, unstrap her, and pull her out of the cart.  – BIG, SUPER BIG mistake!  She’s happy as a clam; which makes me realize she just wanted out of the cart but now…

Lesson #4

Never take your child out of the shopping cart unless you plan to keep them out of the shopping cart the remainder of your visit. 

She won’t go back in the cart.  Every time I start to set her down in the cart, she arches her back and screams bloody-murder.  I give up and settle her onto my left hip.

Picture this, I’m now holding my toddler in one hand, attempting to maneuver a broken racecar shopping cart with the other hand, and a two year old screaming for watermelon and cantaloupe and other ridiculous things.  Welcome to grocery shopping hell!

Lesson #5

To make your grocery shopping more efficient, write out a list according to the store’s sections. 

I started sweating.  The baby was slipping off my hip with every push of the cart.  I couldn’t find my list, but I knew what I wanted to do with it – and it wasn’t cross off another item.   I headed straight toward the checkout.

Upon checking out, the bagger couldn’t find a place to put my 12 pack of Diet Coke on the broken down racecar shopping cart.  I guess all the yelling, sweating, and whining (plus the commotion coming from the kids) distracted him, so he precariously balanced it on top of the rest of the groceries.
Still holding Kiki, still listening to Bunder whine about something, I push the broken cart through the crosswalk toward the parking lot and think, “What else could possibly go wrong?”

Halfway across the main drag, in the middle of traffic with cars lined up waiting for me to cross with my entourage of screaming children, the twelve pack of soda falls off the cart.  Soda cans roll down the street in every direction.

Lesson #6

Boycott supermarkets.  Eat out instead. 


That which we manifest is before us

It’s the day after the marathon, and I’m tired.  Not just any tired, but third trimester with a ten-pound baby tired.  A dense fog has taken up residence in my head, and my once agile body feels as if it’s an old beater at the end of a demolition derby.

I lie on the bed listening to Kiki cry, “Mommy, Mommy,” from her crib.  Of all days, today’s the day she naps less than forty-five minutes.  Murphy’s law or is it mother’s law?

I take a deep breath and drag my body off the bed wincing at the pain in my legs.  Feebly, I pick up Kiki from her crib and settle into the rocker for stories.  Bunder cries.

“Seriously?”  I say aloud.

I struggle to stand holding the baby and meet Bunder in the living room.  I offer to read him stories on the couch with Kiki.  He throws himself on the floor, “No Kiki!  No Kiki!”

He protests the presence of his sister; he doesn’t want to share my lap.

Kiki notices his intent and starts to cry and scream in my arms, “No!  No!”

With one child screaming on the floor and another screaming in my arms, I slouch to the couch and try to keep the thoughts of self-pity out of my head.

“That which we manifest is before us,” I think of this quote from Garth Stein’s book.

Time to manifest something different, I decide.

Through tears from all three of us, I manage to load the kids, the bike, the stroller, and the dog into the car.  I hobble back inside for the kids’ snacks and drinks.

Minutes later, we arrive at the dinosaur park, a county park with fake rock formations to climb on, large dinosaur eggs to crawl through, and dinosaur fossils to dig out of a giant sand pit.

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.

Total bliss.

I only wish Bunder would keep his hands out of his pants.


Smashing Bubble Guns on Valentine’s

Usually I buy books as presents.  I love books – especially new ones.  (Reading “Dump Trucks and Diggers” one more time will definitely test the limits of my sanity).  However, this Valentine’s day, I bought bubble guns instead.

The inspiration came from a recent Superbowl party, where the kids had the best time with the family’s bubble gun.  I shopped our local Target and couldn’t believe what I found – an entire aisle devoted to bubbles, bubble blowers, bubble guns, and bubble machines.

I took a stab at comparing styles and prices, but Kiki kept spilling her popcorn on the floor (on purpose) and Bunder kept screaming, “MOMMY!  Kiki spilt her popcorn!  LOOK, MOMMY!  Kiki made a mess!”

Of course, this made Kiki laugh and repeat the procedure, which in turn made Bunder yell louder and with more intensity.

I grabbed the $4 guns, thinking, “Can the $8 guns really be that much better?”  All the packages read something similar – spill proof, drip proof, extreme bubble fun, etc.

The night of February 13th, I laid out what was left of the kids Valentine’s gifts: bubble guns and miniature tin hearts.  (Kiki found the big stuffed dogs in the back of our walk-in closet a week ago).  I double-checked the seal on the tin hearts to make certain the dog couldn’t open them and eat the chocolates like she did the chocolate bunnies out of the Easter baskets.

At 5:30 the next morning, the kids squealed with delight at the sight of the new presents on the living room floor.  The squeals turned to screams when they couldn’t open the packages.  I tried to tear open the bubble guns, but had to race into the kitchen for scissors.  Back in the living room, I opened the packages causing two AA batteries to fall out – choking hazards for Kiki. Quickly, I whisked the bubble guns and batteries back to the kitchen with two whining toddlers following me.  I searched the cabinet for the miniature screwdriver I use to install batteries but couldn’t find it.  Luckily, I found it in the second place I checked, Mister’s desk drawer.  Carefully, so as not to lose the tiny screws, I unscrewed the back of the bubble guns and fitted the batteries.  I waited to attach the bottles of bubbles.

Bunder seemed content to blow things with the bubble gun as it produced a soft fanning of air.  Kiki couldn’t care less about the bubble gun; she wanted chocolate.  I promised as soon as the sun came up, we’d test out their bubble guns in the backyard with the bubbles.  Oh joy!

An hour later, I began changing the kids into warmer clothes (it was barely 40 degrees out).  I found their coats, hats, mittens, socks, and shoes and attempted to dress them.  Kiki cried and tried to escape.  Bunder threw fits not wanting to wear his coat, hat, or gloves.  “It’s not cold out, Mommy!  It’s hot out!”  He yelled.

Finally with much sweat and tears, we made it outside.  Kiki wandered off to play in the sandbox.  Bunder and I attempted to use the bubble guns.  “Attempted” is the key word.

I don’t know what kind of crack head created the descriptions on the package, but my idea of “extreme bubble fun” is not waving around the bubble toy, shaking it, rinsing it under water, blowing on it, and feeling cold bubble fluid drip down my arm and pool near my elbow.

Drawn by the outrageous Mommy dances and the wild screams of Bunder, Kiki ran over to whimper at my feet and watch the action.  I felt crazy inside – how could a sweet Valentine’s present turn into such a nightmare?  I imagined smashing the bubble guns on the concrete patio, stomping on them, breaking the cheap, stupid plastic toys into a billion bits, all while shrieking like a banshee and waving my arms like a monkey.  I wonder where Bunder gets his temper?

After much trial and error, I was able to get one bubble gun to blow a few intermittent bubbles out by pulsing the trigger and holding it at a distinct 45-degree angle to the ground.  Much to Bunder’s dismay, he couldn’t repeat the process exactly, so he never did get to blow bubbles with his gun.

Next year, I’m buying books.


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