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Bythelbs presents: Classic Moments in Motherhood

29 Oct

You know those moments in life where you can either laugh or cry?  I have never laughed so hard in my entire life.


While going through DynaGirl’s homework folder, I found this storyboard:








Me:  What was this for?

DynaGirl:  Oh, that’s just a rough rough draft of something.

Yeah, rough.

Rough draft?


15 May

Ambiguphobia—the fear of being misunderstood.  (No, I did not just make that up.  It’s a real thing, people.)  I’ve always known I have it, but I don’t think I realized the depth of my ambiguphobia until yesterday when I discovered how many people had no idea what I meant by the title of my blog and my online handle.  It was…distressing.  I think particularly because I had spent so much time congratulating myself on the clever conception of the name when I started this whole blogging endeavor. 

“Look, lbs like pounds and also like me!  I’m lbs!  And when I write something it’s like By lbs!  And when you buy things, you can buy them by the lb!  (Only there’s an “s” in my initials, so it would be by the lbs, which is even better because that makes the play on words even more obvious!)  Buy things like nuts!  I’m nutty!  Nutty goodness!  By the lbs: nutty goodness in bulk or by the pound!  That’s it!  That’s the name!  The perfect name!”

I’m not sure why it never occurred to me before that this line of reasoning wouldn’t be completely obvious to everyone else, especially given how you all wouldn’t automatically know what my initials even are.  I must have assumed that the bythelbs would be sufficiently odd (I mean, who says “Oh yeah, I buy these by the pounds.”  You don’t buy by the pounds, you buy by the pound.) that one would naturally deduce that “lbs” must also represent something else like, say,  initials.  “Oh, this blog must be written by someone with the initials lbs.  By the lbs.  By the pounds.  Snort.  I get it.  Clever girl.”  I am an idiot.

Now that I think about it, it’s really very unlike me to take this kind of thing for granted.  I am like the queen of over-explaining myself.  Well, at least in my mind I am.  I say something to a friend or type something in a comment on a blog, maybe something I think is witty or clever and then I sit there and wonder if anyone will get it, but when you have to explain a joke it’s not really funny, right?  Particularly with the blogs (because you can’t add all those subtle nuances of voice inflection and delivery that are sometimes vital clues to how a joke is best interpreted or received), I’ll sit there staring at a comment I’ve just written, debating back and forth whether I’ve been sufficiently clear.  Am I clear?  AM  I  CLEAR?!  Dare I submit?  DARE I?!  Sometimes in my lack of confidence I just erase my comment and click away.  Better to say nothing than to have people mistakenly think I’m a dork.

And it’s not just about the joke.  I worry about offending people with a misunderstanding.  When I was walking my girls home from school yesterday, Goose and BigHugs had run out a few yards ahead of me.  They are pretty good about stopping at each corner and waiting for me before crossing the street, but they were approaching this one crosswalk at kind of a jog and I noticed a big truck getting ready to turn through it so I yelled, “Stop!”  And when the girls didn’t immediately stop, I yelled, “Stop!  Stop!  STOP!!!”  And then the truck driver looked at me as he drove past with us all standing on the corner, and I was suddenly worried that perhaps he thought I was yelling at him to stop, so I immediately said in a voice I hoped was loud enough to carry the 20 feet down the street he had already gone, “GIRLS, YOU NEED TO MAKE SURE TO STOP AT THE CORNER AND WAIT FOR ME.  THAT NICE TRUCK WAS TRYING TO TURN.”  But in retrospect, he was most likely giving me the evil eye for letting my young children run wild on the sidewalks.

I’m not one for acknowledging strangers I pass on the street.  As I’m walking, I usually just keep my head down and pretend I’m preoccupied with something.  If I’m with BigHugs I might start talking to her  just as I’m approaching someone so that they can think I am too engrossed in my conversation with my three year old to notice them rather than think that I’m unfriendly.  I would be happy to be friendly.  A “hi” or a head nod or even just a smile is not beyond my capacity for interaction with my fellow human beings, but I’m afraid of the possibility of that being misinterpreted as well.  When I walk to pick up my girls after school, there’s this nice young Asian man sitting at the bus stop on the way.  One day I just happened to look in his direction just as he was looking up from his book and I felt trapped, so I smiled.  He smiled back.  A perfectly lovely random encounter.  Then the next time I walked to school, I made a special point of smiling at him because I figured we had already established this smiling relationship and it would just be rude to go back to ignoring him.  He smiled again.  Then the next time I did this kind of combo smile/quick head nod/staccatoed “Hi” thing and he just kind of looked away.  No smile.  Did he see me?  Did I breech some kind of code of social etiquette progression by moving up to the “Hi” so soon after the smile relationship was established?  Was he beginning to worry that this wacko old lady mom was trying to hit on him?  Did he take my head nod/Hi as a mockery of his Asian culture?  It was a nod, not a bow!  A “hi”, not a “hai!”  (No pick!  No pick!!)  Then last Monday I was driving the kids to piano in the opposite direction that I walk to the school, and I saw my young Asian man friend sitting at a different bus stop on the opposite side of the street.  Did he change bus routes just to avoid me?  Did I make him that uncomfortable?  But then yesterday he was standing up at his regular bus stop, and as I approached him he shot me a big, beaming grin.  So either I had nothing to worry about to begin with, my paranoid delusions getting the best of me yet again,  or my young Asian man friend has thought about it, weighed the pros and cons, and decided to accept my unintentional advances.  I suppose either way, I’m golden.

And now I don’t remember where I thought I was going with this whole thing, but I’m afraid any further attempts to explain myself will only serve to muddy the waters into muddied waters oblvion, so I’ll just say, “Hi.  My name is Bythelbs.  I mean LBS.  I mean my actual initials are L.B.S.  But I go by Bythelbs.  Like by the pounds, as in by the pound, and also by the lbs, as in my actual initials.  And I’m an ambiguphobic.”

Are you?


Classic crazy.

It’s all in my mind

22 Jan

Tuesday Mr. T forgot his PE clothes.  It wasn’t his fault.  We have this arrangement where he makes sure his PE clothes make it out of his backpack and into the laundry, and then I make sure they’re washed and put back in his backpack for school.  After I dropped him off at school, I came home to see his clothes sitting on the washer.  I blame MLK Day.  (I mean, Martin Luther King Jr. Day—the man deserves better than to have his day of honor and remembrance abbreviated.)  The long weekends always throw me off as far as school preparations go.  I hopped in the shower so I’d be looking halfway normal to drop off his PE clothes at school after taking the girls to school.  I don’t like to go to my kids’ schools scummed out.  I just don’t want to be that mom.  I mean, I kind of am that mom, but I don’t really want anyone else to know.

The whole time I was in the shower I could not stop thinking about the last time I took Mr. T’s forgotten PE clothes to school.  I was sure that woman was going to feel the need to make some kind of comment again.  I played out the whole conversation in my head.

TW:  Can I help you?

Me:  I just need to drop off my son’s PE clothes.

TW:  Again?  You know, he’s never going to learn responsibility if you don’t let him face the consequences.

Me:  Well, it was really my fault.  See, we have this arrangement where he makes sure his clothes make it out of his backpack and into the laundry and I make sure they’re washed and put back in his backpack.

TW:  You know, I have a daughter in middle school too, and she washes her own PE clothes.

Me:  Good for her.

TW gives me a look.  She detects a tone.  I probably had a tone.  She’s staring at me.

TW:  Is there something on your mind?

Me:  No.  (I’m totally non-confrontational.)

TW:  What?

Me:  Nothing.  (Feeling brave or just really pissed off.) I just think it’s interesting that the two times I’ve come in here since my son started attending this school, you’ve felt the need to make some kind of comment on my parenting.

TW:  Oh really?  Well you can just forget about your son getting his PE clothes.

Me:  You can’t do that.

TW:  Watch me.

Me:  I want to speak to your supervisor!

That’s as far as I got.  The whole scenario was getting very uncomfortable, even in my imagination.  I shy away from conflict.  I’d rather just let things go.  I don’t get into arguments with strangers.  That’s just not me.  Except in my mind.  In my mind, I do it all the time.  It’s kind of like when you think of the perfect comeback after it’s too late and you keep replaying the incident over in your mind, only this time using your perfect comeback.  Sometimes when you try it out, you realize it doesn’t quite work (even in your head), so you rework it until it’s perfect and then you’re simultaneously kicking yourself that you didn’t come up with that when it was all actually going down and grateful that you had kept your mouth shut. 

Only with me, I play these kind of confrontational scenarios out in my mind before anything has ever happened.  And I would also say the majority of my dreams are me in these kinds of situations.  Is this normal?  What’s wrong with me?

So Tuesday morning I get all ready (because you can’t really be taken seriously in an argument when you look like crap, right?) and take the girls to school.  We were running late because I was getting all ready so that I’d be sure to look nice for my throw down with Mr. T’s school receptionist, so of course the parking lot drop-off was even more nightmarish than usual.  I always try to be there a good 10 minutes early to avoid the rush, and we were just barely getting there on time like everyone else and their dog.  I sat patiently (sort of) in the drop off lane, and of course, some joker bypassed the drop off lane line and cut in front of all of us, pulling in perpendicular to the curb so that she blocked off the exit for everyone behind her.  I was fairly certain it was the same lady as last time.  And I thought to myself, “You know, I’m already trying to mentally prep myself for meeting TW at Mr. T’s school and now I have some other lady totally asking for it.” 

It was fortunate, though, that it happened to be a day when I was already showered and dressed because typically I’m still in my pajamas with just a jacket on top (because it’s cold plus I haven’t bothered to put on essential undergarments yet, which for me aren’t really so much essential except that I just can’t imagine going out in public without them even if nobody would ever know the difference), and like I said, you can’t be taken seriously in an argument if you’re the scummed out loser mom in pajamas with mascara rings around her eyes and her ladies, however discreet, hanging wild and free.  I mean sure, we’re in cars, so theoretically no one would see me all scummed out, but were I to make any kind of gesture or indication of my disgust at her total lack of parking lot etiquette, she might feel the need to exit her vehicle and come over to mine.  And then would I roll down my window?  Would she just verbally abuse me or try to smack or spit at me?  If things escalated like that, no doubt the school office would get involved, and surely I would be forced to exit my vehicle and reveal to the world that I am that mom.  See how these things work?  Situations deteriorate like that.  Like that!

But, of course, I made no gesture or indication of disgust, and went on my way.  As I headed off to Mr. T’s school, I tried to refocus on the task at hand.  I couldn’t have any frickin’ parking lot jerko crazy mother drivers distracting me when I was trying to figure out how I could safely and peaceably drop off my son’s PE clothes.  I got to the school, walked into the office, and had this conversation with that woman receptionist.

TW:  Can I help you?

Me:  I just needed to drop off my son’s PE clothes.

TW:  OK, what’s his name?

Me:  Mr. T.

TW:  OK, I’ll make sure he gets them.  Thanks for bringing them.  Big smile.

Me:  OK, thanks.

No snide remarks or judgemental comments or a tone even.  No smackdown.  I was relieved.  And a little disappointed.

So tell me, what portion of your day do you devote to constructing strategies for winning imaginary confrontations? 

A little flashback fun to distract you from the crazy.

INsane—that’s like more than sane, right?

30 Sep

Last week my phone kept ringing once.  One ring and then nothing.  A few minutes later, one ring and nothing.  Nothing would even pop up on my caller ID.  I picked up the phone and heard crazy-crackling static and no dial tone.  Hmm.  I went through the house, making sure every phone was properly hung up and checked again.  CRAZY static.  And crackling.  No creepy voice informing me they were calling from inside my house.  And no dial tone.  I tried dialing my home phone with my cell phone.  Busy signal.  Seems like the phone would be off the hook, right?  So I checked again.  Everything was properly plugged in and hung up and yet the static remained and the dial tone stayed away.  Darn it all, my phone line was broke!

My next step was to consult my local phone company’s online support center.  The troubleshooting section took me through a series of steps to try and diagnose the source of the problem.  It said I needed to determine if it was a problem with the inside or outside wiring. To do that, I had to go outside, open the phone box thingy and flip open the jack doo-hickey and plug in a phone to see if it functioned properly.  If it didn’t work then it was a problem with the outside wiring and the phone company would fix it at their own cost, and if it did then it was a problem with the inside wiring and I’d have to foot the bill.  I’ll give you five guesses which one it was, and the first one doesn’t count (seeing how there’s only two possible answers, if you need the last three guesses there’s something wrong with you).

I called Chuck, who’s been out of town (of course), to see how I should proceed, and we decided I really had no choice but to suck it up and schedule the service call.  You know what I found most upsetting about this whole thing?  Was it the fact that my phone line was broken and I was without my land line?  No.  Or the fact that I’d be stuck with no doubt a hefty bill for my troubles?  No.  It was the fact that my house was a mess and I had every intention of being a total slacker and completely ignoring it, but now I had the telephone repair guy coming and I would have to clean my house.  I was actually near tears at the thought.  I even briefly considered waiting to schedule the appointment for a day when my house already happened to be clean, but having no earthly idea of when that might actually happen I thought better of it.  I kind of needed the phone.  So I scheduled the appointment and cleaned my house and the guy came out and figured out the problem and now my phone works and my house is presentable for all types of visitors, expected or not.  But will I have any?  Of course not.  Because the house is already clean.  It’s like an unwritten law of the universe.

For the past couple of months, I’ve actually been thinking about this quite a bit.  One night I was sitting on my bed reading when I heard this pop, pop, pop noise that sounded kind of gunfire-ish.  I looked out the window, but as far as I could tell, nothing was amiss.  But it got me thinking, what if it had been gunfire?  What if that pop, pop, pop had pop, pop, popped right through my window and struck me?  Chuck had been out of town then, too, so there would have been no one to drive me to the hospital.  I’d have to call 911.  And depending on the severity of the wound, I might have to wait for them in my bedroom.  My bedroom which was covered bed to floor with laundry in various states of cleanliness.  Would they look around my room in disgust and say, “Pack it up, boys.  This woman does not deserve our help.” and I’d bleed out between the whites and colors?  I’ve never tested the response time of my local emergency personnel.  Would I be able to fold and put away the clean laundry and throw the dirty laundry in the wash before they arrived?  Or before I passed out from the blood loss?  Maybe I could grab a towel from the bathroom and somehow secure it to the wound, so that I could go downstairs to wait for them there?  But with a gunshot wound there would most likely be a mandatory investigation, which would no doubt necessitate the inspection of the scene of the crime, which would mean they would still have to go up to my bedroom, discover that I was indeed a total slob, close the case and move onto solving crimes with victims more deserving of their time and resources.

I concluded that there was just no way I could allow myself to be seriously injured in the squalor of my bedroom.  But what about a minor injury?  After all, that pop, pop, pop noise wasn’t very loud so it couldn’t have come from a high caliber weapon.  More likely it was a BB gun or something.  Getting shot with a BB gun is really no big deal, right?  Probably very little blood, too.  In that case, I could just drive myself to the hospital, tell them I’d been shot in a drive-by or something, and avoid the whole ugly crime scene.  Although, once they really started questioning me they would likely find the holes in my story and trick me into confessing that I had, indeed, been shot in my bedroom and then they’d visit the crime scene and I’d be back to square one. 

I also started to worry about those little BB’s.  What if one got in my bloodstream and traveled to my heart or lungs?  Can you get a pulminary embolism from a BB?  I just wasn’t sure.  It had been a long time since I’d seen ER, and I only watch Grey’s Anatomy for the witty banter.  That could be serious, right?  Life threatening even.  I couldn’t risk this day dreamed scenario.  I decided right then and there that I must never be shot in my bedroom while reading a book.  And the only way to ensure that would never ever happen would be to keep my room neat and tidy at all times.  Because obviously there would be no need for anyone to be there if it was clean.  No one ever just drops in when your house happens to be clean.  Unwritten law.

So you know the old joke about moms asking if you’re wearing clean underwear before you go out, and it’s supposed to be so just in case you’re in a car accident you won’t be embarrassed to have the medical personnel discover your dirty drawers?  Well, that’s not really why moms say that.  They say that because clean underwear is like a talisman of protection.  Cleanliness is actually the only 100% effective prophylactic against bodily harm or other such calamities.  Of course, there is the flipside to these laws of the universe. I’d hazard a guess that an immaculate home is just asking for Hurricane Huey, and clean underwear likely drastically reduces the chances you’ll get lucky.  Plan accordingly.

Update: oh woe is me

15 May

So I had been debating whether or not to call the restaurant.  Maybe this was a prime opportunity to break this vicious cycle of obsessiveness over insignificant lost items and just get a life already?  I could just accept the fact that I had lost a child’s jacket, right?  And anyway, was it worth the risk of getting my hopes up only to have them dashed to pieces on the jagged rocks of reality?

But I took a friend’s advice and called the restaurant.  A lovely woman answered the phone.

Me:  Um, yeah, I was in there the other night with my family and I wondered if maybe I, uh, left behind my daughter’s jacket.  Do you have like a lost and found or something?

Lovely restaurant woman:  I’ll check.  Just a minute.

Four minutes la-tare…

Seriously, I was sitting on the phone forever.  Had we been disconnected?  Were there really that many items in the lost and found?  This is one of our favorite little hole-in-the-wall family type restaurants that rarely has another soul in site when we go to dine—everyone who had ever been there in the last year would had to have left multiple items behind in order to explain the length of time it was taking LRW to check.  My girls were watching TV.  I heard an advertisement for the Indiana Jones sound FX whip in the backgroud with the Da-da-da-da, Da-da-daaaaaaa, Da-da-da-da, Da-da-da-da-daaaaaa and images of warehouses with eternal rows of shelves a la Raiders of the Lost Ark were conjured up in my mind and I began to feel myself slipping into a snake-pit of despair.  Even if we had left the jacket at the restaurant, it would never be seen by human eyes again!!!

Restaurant Man, maybe Jorge—I like Jorge:  Hello?

Me:  Uh, yes, I was calling about a lost jacket?

RM:  OK, I’ll have somebody check.  pause.  What color was it?

Me:  Pink.

RM:  Is it Old Navy?

Me, trying to compose myself long enough to answer without coming off like a total spaz:  Yes!  Uh, yes, I think that’s it.  Um, what are your hours today?

RM:  We’re open until 9:30 pm.

Me:  OK, thanks.

I immediately hung up and then dialed Chuck’s cell.

Me:  Guess what?  It was at the restaurant!

Chuck:  All right!  Good.  See?  Are you feeling better now?

Me:  Yes, except I’m embarrassed about being such a spaz.

Chuck:  So she was wearing a pink jacket with a purple outfit.

Me:  Yes.  That must be why—the color coordination gods must have been sending me some kind of warning.  I won’t make that mistake again.

Chuck:  So did you pick it up?

Me:  No, they’re open until 9:30 tonight.  I can get it anytime.

Chuck:  Maybe you should just take the girls now and go get it.

Me:  There’s no rush.  I know where it is.  Crisis averted.  I think we can move back down to defcon 2.

Chuck:  So I can come home now?

Me:  Yeah, yeah…whatever.  I’ll see you later.  pause.  Thanks, sweetie.

Chuck:  Yep.

I managed to wait 1 hour and 9 minutes before throwing the kids in the car and heading down to the restaurant.  I had a nagging little thought in the back of my mind that there was still a possibility that it wasn’t actually BigHugs’s pink jacket.  I mean obviously from the conversation I had with the Kohl’s lady I should assume that there’s some kind of little girls losing pink jackets epidemic in our area—I should be careful not to count my jackets before they hatch.  But then I walked into the restaurant and Holy hot dog on a stick sweet mother moses, there it was!  I had it in my hot little hands!!!

And *sniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiifff* mmmmm….it smells like fajitas.

Oh woe is me

15 May

You should already know I’m a little wacked by now, but just in case you weren’t completely convinced or have attempted to explain away my last trip to Crazy Town as a one time experience perhaps induced by the consumption of large quantities of frosted circus animals, let me assure you that is not the case.  I feel I owe it to you, faithful reader, to be completely up front with my psychoses—how else are we to maintain our circle of trust if not through total honesty?  Subterfuge has no place among virtual friends.  I reserve that kind of deceit for those who know me in person, who might feel somewhat uneasy about my nutjobbiness.  But you people can feel comfortable and safe on the other side of cyberspace—I don’t even know where most of you live yet.

BigHugs’s pink jacket is lost.

Yesterday as I was getting BigHugs ready to go out for some errands I realized it wasn’t in the coat closet.  She was wearing jeans and a shirt with pink stripes, so naturally I went for the pink jacket rather than the purple because well, you know.  But it wasn’t there.  I looked on our entry bench, but it wasn’t there.  I looked all downstairs and upstairs, but it was nowhere to be found.  Then I thought it must be in the van.  I’m forever leaving random jackets in the van because either the weather’s iffy and I’m bringing them along just in case or because even though it’s chilly enough to need a jacket outside, the van has warmed up sufficiently while we were in the store that BigHugs or some other child of mine is now suffocatingly hot and must relieve themselves of their outerwear before they faint dead away on the car ride home.

I grabbed her purple jacket and headed out the door and didn’t really think anything of it.  Until last night when I finally realized that I didn’t remember seeing that pink jacket in the car afterall.  I went back out to the car.  It wasn’t there.  (I actually went out to check the car four different times, the last time opening the door on the other side of the van hoping that a different perspective would somehow make the jacket miraculously reappear.)  I came back inside and started asking the family if they had seen BigHugs’s pink jacket.  Did they remember the last time she had worn it?  Chuck thought he remembered her having it Monday night when we went out to dinner.

Me:  But she was wearing the purple outfit on Monday.  I remember she got rice all smushed into her pant leg.  I would probably have put the purple jacket on her with the purple outfit.

Chuck:  I was pretty sure I remembered her wearing the pink jacket.  I remember her complaining about her straps being too tight when I put her in her carseat.   But now that you mention the purple outfit, I’m beginning to doubt myself.

Me:  She definitely wore it on Sunday.

Chuck:  What did she wear to church on Sunday?

Me:  She was wearing the brown skirt with the pink top and pink socks and brown shoes.  I obviously would have put the pink jacket on her.  I must have left it at church.

Chuck:  I would have put it in the church bag.  I always put it in the church bag when I take it off.

Me:  But it’s not in the church bag.  I’ve already looked.  Maybe it fell out of the church bag.  Figures.  I spent like 10 minutes after church on Sunday running around returning random stupid belongings to stupid people that had left them behind in the stupid primary room.  We even ran Sarah’s stupid jacket over to her stupid house for crying out loud and I left my own child’s stupid jacket at the stupid church.  Of course.  Of course I did!  But why?  Why would I do that?!

After I yelled at all the kids to brush their teeth and get their pajamas on, Chuck left the room and went upstairs.  I felt bad.  Yesterday was our anniversary (fourteen years!) and here I was all beside myself over a silly lost jacket and driving my poor husband away.  He came downstairs a few moments later.  He had gone upstairs to change out of his pajama pants and into jeans.  It dawned on me as he was putting on his shoes that he was going over to the church to get the jacket.

Me:  You don’t have to go to the church.  It’s no big deal.  I can go tomorrow.

Chuck:  I’m already dressed and it will only take 10 minutes.

Me:  No, really, don’t go.  I’ll stop obsessing over it, I promise.  I’ll just go tomorrow.

Chuck:  I’ll be back in a few minutes.  Where do you I look again?

Me:  I would think it would have to be in the primary room or the chapel overflow.  But seriously, I can look tomorrow.  Really, I can wait. 

Chuck:  OK, see you in a minute.

Me:  Or maybe it’s in the library lost and found?

Chuck called a few minutes later.  My heart raced.  He had found the jacket and was calling to put my sad little crazy mind at ease.  But no.  He couldn’t find the jacket.  Had he checked in the primary room?  Under the table in the primary room where I usually stash all our junk?  On the hooks outside of the primary room?  In the library lost and found?  In the chapel overflow?  On the coat racks down the halls?  Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes.  It wasn’t there.   Oh where could it be?!

He came home and I tried to retrace my steps again.  Maybe she had worn the jacket on Monday.  I had gone to Kohl’s.  Maybe we left it there.  I got out Sunday’s Kohl’s add to check the store hours.  It was open until 10 pm and it was 9:30 pm, so naturally I got out the phone book and called the store.

Me:  Do you have a lost and found?

Kohl’s lady:  Yes, did you lose something?

Me, resisting the urge to say “duh”:  Yes, I was in a few days ago and think I might have lost a little girl’s pink jacket there.

Kohl’s lady:  OK, I’ll go look in the box.  Just a minute.  pause.  OK, I do have a little girl’s pink jacket.  Hallelujah!  It has a crest of somekind…uh…um…could you maybe describe the jacket?

Wait, did she honestly think I was some weirdo stealing person calling up random stores and reporting random missing items in the hopes of getting lucky and scoring myself a little girl’s pink jacket?  Really?

Me, playing along:  This would be just a plain pink sweatshirt type zip up jacket.  I think it’s from Old Navy and it would probably be size 3T.

Kohl’s lady:  Sorry, this one is OshKosh and has a crest on the front.

Me:  Oh, OK, thanks.

My hopes were dashed.  What are the odds that they would have a little girl’s pink jacket when I was looking for a little girl’s pink jacket?  And then have it turn out to not be mine?!  Oh the bitter irony!

It was late and I still hadn’t gotten the kids to bed.  I grilled them one more time.  Had anyone seen the jacket?  Do they remember if she was wearing the pink or the purple jacket when we went to the restaurant?  Mr. T thought she was either wearing the purple jacket or no jacket at all.  Chuck thought maybe she hadn’t been wearing a jacket afterall.  But that didn’t make any sense.  It was cold.  I had been wearing a jacket.  Chuck had been wearing a jacket.  Of course we would have put BigHugs in a jacket.  What kind of parents did he think we were?  Maybe the jacket fell off the booth seat onto the floor while we were at the restaurant.  But why would we have left without putting the jacket on?  It was cold, remember?!

We had family prayers and Mr. T asked God to please bless that BigHugs’s jacket would turn up soon.  And then I said goodnight to all the kids and they each in turn said that they hoped we would find BigHugs’s jacket before heading upstairs with their dad who was tucking them in because mom was still beside herself and obviously in no state for bedtime stories.  I sat on the couch and wondered what on earth was wrong with me.

Chuck came back downstairs and again apologized for the lost jacket and not being able to find it.

Me:  It’s so stupid.  It’s a jacket.  She’ll outgrow it in a few months anyway.  It doesn’t matter.

And here’s where survival mode kicks in, folks.  I can a) try to convince myself that the jacket was indeed too small and virtually unwearable anyways and go out and buy another jacket (it will have to be in a bigger size, of course, to keep up the illusion that this whole scenario is actually plausible) or b) concoct an outrageous story of how the jacket was lost and cannot possibly ever be found and how grateful I should be that we escaped with our lives and that all we lost was a jacket that needed to be replaced anyways because it was getting too small. 

I choose b) a lot.  It’s my coping mechanism of choice and not just for lost items.  For example, whenever I start to feel down about putting on a few pounds I just pretend that I once weighed 500 pounds and have lost like 350 pounds, so of course now I look absolutely fabulous despite the fact I’m carrying an extra 20 pounds around.  Hel-lo, what’s 20 lbs to 350?

So with the jacket, perhaps we were involved in a near fatal car accident.  I lost control of the van after swerving to avoid a family of ducks crossing the road and we flew off the side of an embankment, narrowly escaping the raging river waters below, sending all of the loose articles in our vehicle flying in all directions and out the open windows, including BigHugs’s pink jacket, before miraculously landing to safety on a floating boat dock.

I’m not sure I’m convinced.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a family of ducks around here and I’m fairly certain there are no raging rivers or floating boat docks between here and church or Kohl’s or the restaurant.  And how did we get the van off the floating boat dock?  It’s not quite right yet—the slightest Christopher-Reeve-penny-in-the-pocket off detail and the whole scenario will come crashing down like a house of cards, and I’ll be doomed to a fate of staring blankly out windows until I cease to exist.  Although, perhaps then I could be reunited with the pink jacket.

Help me.  Give me a more plausible story to explain the jacket’s disappearance so I can go on.  You go ahead and work on that while I look up the number to the restaurant.

I fought the Crazy and the Crazy won

2 Apr

So Goose’s BFF’s mother invited us to dine with them at McDonald’s Monday, much to the delight and excitement of Goose who rarely gets to experience such a treat since sometime in the past year or so Mr. T and DynaGirl decided that McDonald’s is the Devil’s diner and no persons in their right minds would ever eat there voluntarily, and consequently in recent months the Bythelbs family’s patronage of the golden arches has dropped off considerably.  But since Goose is in half-day kindergarten and gets out of school a full 3 hours before her other siblings, Mom will sometimes treat her to a drive thru happy meal.  I avoid going in to the Playplace as a general rule because well, it’s a McDonald’s Playplace and it just kind of ooks me out, but I relented on Monday and accepted the invitation to eat inside.

I’ve never quite been able to figure out how the Happy Meal holds such magically enchanting powers over my children.  As soon as we walk in the door, they immediately head to the display of that week’s featured Happy Meal prizes, and then there’s the discussion that inevitably follows about which toy is most desired and how death or at least eternal misery is certain if said toy is not present in the Happy Meal box of wonder, and then Mom must always point out that one does not get to choose the toy–a toy is just chosen and it is completely beyond Mom’s powers to change any child’s Happy Meal toy destiny and no amount of begging and pleading can change this.  Of course the begging and pleading and hoping and pining and crying and whining continue until Mom threatens to leave right then and there with no Happy Meal box of wonder or french fries or chocolate milk or all-white meat pieces of chicken mushed together and molded into random egg and boot shapes. 

Well, Monday was no different, only Goose really was on her best behavior and deserted the begging and pleading for just the hoping and pining for the Disney Princess plastic choker complete with a real live picture of Beauty and the Beast’s Belle on a locket-like pendant filled with perfume balm (it looked like lip balm, but the instructions showed a finger and a wrist and a disembodied nose floating above with some squiggly little lines I took to signify scent).  BigHugs on the other hand was completely enamored of the Pirates of the Caribbean pirate ship (this was one of those gender specific boy/girl toy weeks) and went to full begging-pleading-hoping-pining-crying-whining mode.  I usually try to stand firm on my principles and not ask the lovely McDonald’s workers for specific toys (because I’m just not one of those parents and I believe in teaching my children “you get what you get”), but I saw the pirate ship just sitting there at the Happy Meal box waiting station and on impulse asked if I might have one of those pirate ships.  So BigHugs did get her beloved pirate ship, and I’ll be damned if Goose didn’t get her princess choker!  Success!  And amazingly enough, both BigHugs and Goose ate their meals without trying to sneak off to the little rodent tubes and tunnels before they had finished, and when it was time to go shoes and jackets were happily reapplied and we skipped out the door on our merry, little way.  This was destined to be the best McDonald’s experience ever!

So we got home and Goose was proudly prancing about in her precious plastic perfumed princess pendant and BigHugs wants to know where her pirate ship is.  No problem, I had tucked it safely away in the diaper bag back at the Playplace while we readied ourselves for departure.  And there it was, except when I pulled it out it was missing a mast.  The ship had originally come unassembled with two masts to stick into the deck and stick them I did, but now one was unstuck.  Oh well, I figured it had probably just fallen off into the diaper bag, so I rifled through the bag but didn’t find it.  So I emptied the bag of the wallet and diapers and little wipeys box and cheerios and Dora fruit snacks and first aidy ziploc with the bandaids and benadryl and the snot rag and everything.  No mast.  Hmmm.  Well, on the way home, I had to stop suddenly for the idiot driver who had swerved in front of me and sent all manner of loose articles in my van flying and sliding all over the place.  It probably got knocked out of my bag and slid under the carseat or something.  Whatever–I can check it out later or next time I happen to be in the car.  Or I can check it out now since BigHugs is looking at her ship a little funny like she knows something is not quite right.  I looked under all the carseats and the floor mats and inside the open box of capri suns because hey, it was open and it certainly was not beyond the realm of possibility that a wayward pirate ship mast could have found it’s way inside during a sudden brake-slamming type stop.  Hmph.  No mast.  Anywhere.  It is lost and gone forever.  I went back into the house and told BigHugs I’m sorry, but her mast was lost and gone forever, but it’s OK because her pirate ship still has one mast and is just as wonderful as it ever was.  No biggie.  But BigHugs looked sad.  “The mast is lost?  My pirate ship is broken?  Mama can fix it.”  “No, honey, I’m sorry, but it still works.”  “Oh.”  She left the ship on the table and walked away.  Even better, I thought, because now I have a reason to throw it away now rather than waiting the customary 2-3 weeks before the lame-oid Happy Meal toy “mysteriously” disappears.

Fast-forward an hour.  It was about 4 pm, and I had approximately one hour before Mr. T and DynaGirl’s piano lessons.  The pirate ship was still sitting on the table looking all lonely and sad.  I thought to myself that the little lost mast must have fallen off in the Playplace or maybe the parking lot as we were loading up.  The little crazy wheels in my head started turning.  You know, I thought, McDonald’s is right on the way from the piano teacher’s house.  Perhaps I could just make a quick pass of the parking lot on my way home from dropping off the kids–it would only take a minute.  If the mast wasn’t just sitting in the parking lot, I would just come home.  No biggie.  It’s not like I was going to go in and scour the Playplace or inquire at the counter if they had found any spare pirate ship masts floating around.  But then I thought, that’s so lame–it’s just a cheapo Happy Meal toy that’s going to be forgotten in about 2 seconds.  Drive by the parking lot?  Don’t be ridiculous–you’re not actually considering doing that.  I distracted myself by helping DynaGirl with some last minute practicing and rocking with BigHugs who was begging for a nap.

It was time for piano lessons and BigHugs was asleep, so I loaded the two oldest in the car and left Goose to watch the sleeping Big Hugs with very detailed instructions about not answering the door or unlocking it or even peeping out the window or answering the phone unless she hears Mom or Dad on the answering machine or trying to operate the microwave or any other electrical appliance (except for maybe the tv that she darn well better be parked in front of without making the slightest movement off the couch for the entire duration of my absence), and reminded her to be sure to run right over to the next door neighbor’s if some calamity should befall our house in the 6.2 minutes it will take me to make the roundtrip to drop off the kids at piano.  I drove the kids to piano, thinking all the way about that little plan I had formed earlier in the back of my mind with the quick drive-by perusal of the parking lot, but I quickly dismissed it and decided once and for all that I most definitely would drive directly back home and forget all about it.  But then I got to the stop sign–I could drive straight through and go home or turn right and make that quick hop over to MickeyD’s.  I was at a crossroads, people.  Stay straight and return to the safety of my home, keeping my dignity and sanity in tact or make a right turn towards Crazyville. 

I turned right.  There I was gunning the pedal to the floor, heading straight off the canyon wall into the abyss of insanity, Thelma and Louise style.  And it was strangely exhilarating.  Well, maybe not exhilarating, but my heart was racing and my palms were beginning to feel all tight and sweaty against the steering wheel.  I pulled into the parking lot and there was an open space–the exact space I had pulled out of 3 hours before.  As I pulled into the space my eyes scoured the ground for the tell-tale white mast, and holy cow there it was!  Right there!  Not a foot away from my now parked vehicle!  I wouldn’t even have to turn off the engine and I could be out and in before anyone could know what I was doing!  Just one little problem–there was a car parked in the space next to me and its back tire appeared to be ever so slightly covering the helpless little mast.  As I got out of the car to make my first extraction attempt I noticed there was someone in the driver’s seat.  I would have to be discreet.  I quickly bent down (leaving my car door open for a quick retreat) and tugged at the mast.  It was stuck.  Like totally stuck.  I weighed my options:  I could accept defeat and just leave, wait for the car to leave or politely ask the driver to just back up the tiniest bit to release the mast.  I dismissed the first option immediately.  I mean, however crazy this whole scenario was, the mast was right there–I had come too far to give up now.  The second option didn’t seem very wise, seeing how I had no idea how long that person might be planning to sit in the parking lot and also considering I had two little girls at home waiting for me who had now been alone for 8 minutes instead of the 6.2 I had originally planned on.  I went with the third option.  Sure, the lady might think I was completely nuts, but then again maybe she was a mother and would relate to my wanting to mend my child’s broken heart.  I wouldn’t have to tell her her vehicle was sitting on a piece of a Happy Meal toy, right?  I wouldn’t lie or anything, but I could let her think it was some more valuable possession.  That would be OK, right?

I stood up (because I had been crouching by the back tire trying to recover the mast) and tapped on the passenger side window.  The lady looked up and seemed somewhat alarmed.  She was in the middle of her meal–looked like maybe a quarter pounder with cheese and large fries–and was shaking a bottle of something (ketchup? tobasco sauce?) onto her fries.  I smiled my sweetest, non-crazy smile and signalled for her to roll down the window.  She just stared at me.  I tried to talk to her through the window, but she just pointed at her ear.  I came around to the driver side window and tried to speak to her again.  She just shook her head.  I made another attempt at the roll down the window signal (all the time smiling for reassurance) and she just pointed to her ear and shook her head.  She looked like she was probably of Hispanic decent, so I suppose it was possible that she did not speak English and figured there was no point in trying to talk to me.  Only it didn’t really look to me that she was mouthing any Spanish words.  I’m no professional lip reader, but I can recognize a “No habla ingles” when I see one.  I finally tossed my hands up in the air and returned to my car.  I sat there in the driver’s seat for a moment and weighed my options again.  I thought I should really just leave.  I had now been away from home 10 minutes, and it would take me an additional 4 to get home.  Who knew when this woman was ever going to leave the parking lot.  Maybe she was somebody’s ride and she was waiting for them to end their shift.  Maybe I had frightened her to the point that she was afraid to make any move at all.  And who knew what kind of condition the mast would be in anyway once her tire rolled off of it.  How heavy is a Chrysler Town & Country anyway?  Would the plastic of the mast be able to withstand the pressure of the vehicle pressing it into the asphalt parking lot?  I decided once again that I had come too far to give up now.

I tried to sneak a peak at her out of the corner of my eye.  I didn’t want to full-on stare at her–I mean obviously this was a very paranoid woman if she wouldn’t even roll down the window for a perfectly unmenacing looking woman with no visible weapon of any kind.  (Plus she had to have had a good thirty pounds on me, she should have felt confident that she could take me down if need be.)  Who knew what she would do if I spooked her?  Here is my mind’s play by play of what happened next:  OK, she’s down to her last couple bites of burger.  Oh, now it’s done!  She’s folding up the wrapper and tossing it into her bag.  It should be any time now.  Oh crap, here come the rest of the fries!  Come on, anyone can eat fries and drive at the same time!   OK, the fries are gone.  She’s collapsing the red cardboard and putting it into the bag, too.  Here comes the drink to wash it all down.  Wait, now she’s stopping to make a phone call.  That was fast, there must have been no one there.  Come on, start the engine already.  OK, now she’s cleaning out something from under her nails–must have been the ketchup.  She’s got her phone out again.  And it’s closed.  Here comes the napkin to wipe her face and it goes into the bag, too.  Oh, oh!  She’s reaching back…yes!  She’s got the seatbelt.  The seatbelt is now buckled!  She’s turning the key in the ignition, she’s looking in the rearview mirror, she’s backing up!  And she’s gone!  I dashed out of the car, snatched up the mast, hopped back in and after a quick examination saw that other than a few minor asphalty dents and scratches, it was perfectly fine.  Oh ho ho, victory was mine!

I sped home.  My 6.2 minute round trip ended up being 20 minutes.  Goose was still sitting on the couch watching TV and BigHugs was still asleep.  I washed and dried the little mast and stuck it back where it belonged and then busied myself with dinner preparations.  A few minutes later Goose said, “Hey, you found the mast.”  “Yeah,” I said.  “Where was it?” she asked.  “Oh, around.”  There were no witnesses.  No one ever had to know.  Then after picking up the two oldest from piano I headed back into the kitchen to finish dinner.  Mr. T came in and said, “Hey, the mast is back!  You found it, huh?”  “Yep.”  My heart started pounding a bit.  Don’t ask, don’t ask.  He didn’t probe any further.  Chuck came home from work and BigHugs was awake.  “Oh, my pirate ship.  I found the mast!”  she said.  “You got a pirate ship, BigHugs?” said Dad.  I quickly tried to divert the conversation, “Yeah, we went to McDonald’s today.  Dinner’s almost ready.”  BigHugs was so excited for her resurrected pirate ship that she kept it by her side throughout dinner.  DynaGirl noticed, too.  “Where’d you find the mast?”  It was almost too much for me.  I began hearing a tell-tale Poe-eskian beating, I was feeling a scarlet C (for crazy) burn into my chest.  What was this, the Spanish inquisition?!  But then everyone dropped it.  Deep breath and exhale.  It’s OK.

But is it OK?  When I was younger, living at home with all of my siblings, there were varying degrees of crazy around my house and my oldest sister used to joke that she and I were the only normal ones in the family, and then I would go into my room and write, “Dear Diary, I am the only normal one in the family.”  I’m beginning to think I’ve just been kidding myself all of these years.  I mean, I’ve been able to admit for quite some time now that I’m a tad OCD (OK, maybe more than a tad) when it comes to losing things and having incomplete sets of things and really needing to find that last puzzle piece in order to feel like life would go on in any kind of happy way, but after Monday I’m having a harder time laughing off that little bit of nutjobbiness that I used to rationalize away as a somewhat endearing quality of quirkiness.  I’m beginning to think I’ve left the little dinner cruise ride around quirky harbor and jumped on the transcontinental non-stop flight to Crazy Town.

I can’t even rationalize the whole adventure as a passing whim, a heat of the moment snap decision.  It was full-on pre-meditated crazy complete with the plotting and the covering up–my little crazy wheels spinning in my crazy brain the entire time.  I fear I have no defense, and I’m not sure where this leaves me. 

Or maybe I’m overreacting?  Perhaps, gentle reader, you could offer some reassurance?  What do you make of this little incident?  Is this totally something you would do?  Or maybe not something you would do, but something you would maybe do in your head but not actually ever go through with?  Are you finding amusement in the re-telling of my little adventure?  Or are you starting to fear for my well-being and the well-being of my children and wondering what kind of moral/ethical responsibility you have to somehow intervene now that you’ve heard about it?  Let’s say on a scale of 1 to crazy, you’d give it a …?