Moments

“Mommy, why don’t we ever go on an airplane?”

I had been waiting for this. Dreading it, really.

“Do you need to go somewhere that involves an airplane?” I asked casually, tossing a pair of butterfly pj’s onto the clean clothes pile.

“No. But all my friends went on airplanes this summer. We didn’t. Why don’t we ever go anywhere in an airplane, Mommy?”

“Well…we will, eventually. Maybe soon,” I answered vaguely, nervously folding, unfolding and re-folding a tiny dinosaur sock that, let’s face it, was just going to end up in a ball at the bottom of his underwear drawer.

And with that, Vince beamed a carefree smile in my direction, settled into the recliner to watch his favorite tv show, and that was it.

Except that wasn’t “it” for me.

I sat there sorting Captain America shirts and Frozen bath towels and biting my tongue. Why? Because it wouldn’t really be appropriate to blurt out to a five-year old how our innocent four- sentence converstation had just sent me into a tailspin.

How little questions like these pinch my soul like his sister sometimes pinches him when he’s not paying attention to her.

How it was slightly more embarrassing every time someone said, “Oohhhh, well that’s nice too,” after I had clarified that our summer vacation had been to Portland, Maine, not Portland, Oregon (for the record, Maine is one of my favorite places in the world, although I’m sure Oregon is equally lovely).

How I have to plaster a smile onto my face whenever I get stuck having a conversation with someone who tells me just how important it is for me to travel with my children so they don’t miss out on life experiences.

During these conversations there’s also a healthy dose of, “Oh, we’ll travel eventually, but we aren’t taking any trips that involve a flight until they’re old enough to carry their own bags.”

I mean, that is part of it. I really don’t have any desire to drag 4 suitcases, 2 carry-ons, 1 Minnie Mouse backpack, 1 Spiderman backpack, 2 blankets, 9 “please quiet down” snacks, and 2 squirmy kids that are taking turns having to pee, through a security checkpoint.

But the rest of it is…well…flights for 4 people are expensive.

When I was little we didn’t even ask about “big” trips. Our vacations involved either a beach in New Jersey or my uncle’s condo in Vermont. There were no exceptions. And you know what? My sister and I looked forward to that one week in Wildwood or Killington so much that you would think our parents were taking us to Europe for six months.

We couldn’t wait to play Go Fish on top of the big red cooler that was squished between us in the backseat of our 1979 Thunderbird. We giggled uncontrollably when we finally got the golf ball in the alligator’s mouth on the little “course” next to the hotel parking lot in Wildwood. We patiently walked through each Vermont maple syrup tour to get our well-deserved leaf- shaped candies in the gift shop.

I have so many memories of our “adventures”. But perhaps my favorite is from one particular evening when we arrived at my uncle’s condo. It was just around midnight when I saw the soft glow from the “Wintergreen” sign coming up in the distance. My father parked our big old boat of a car, then gingerly lifted me out of the backseat and wrapped me in his arms. I sleepily inhaled the scent of spruce trees and fireplaces and listened to the soft crunch of gravel and pine needles under his feet as he carried me up the stairs and through the front door. On particularly stressful days I sometimes close my eyes and return to the scent of those spruce trees, the soft bounce of his steps, and the gentle crunch of the pine needles under his shoes.

I don’t really recall any of what was said during the maple syrup tours, or how many times we played miniature golf on that faded, sandy course. But I do remember the way that candy melted in my mouth, and the sound of the ball plunking itself into the little plastic cup as I jumped up and down victoriously. I remember the steam dancing out of my father’s coffee mug as he sat on the deck of the condo in Vermont reading the morning paper. I remember my mother carefully brushing my long, wild hair and slipping a little bag of quarters into my hand before we stepped into the bright lights and booming music of the boardwalk.

It’s funny what we remember, isn’t it?

And that got me thinking (Me? Overthinking? Shocking, really)… I started to wonder what moments he’ll close his eyes to revisit.

Maybe it will be that moment when the little gasp escaped his lips as we made it to the top of our waterfall hike in Hallowell, Maine, and he declared, “You can see the whole world from up here!”

Maybe he’ll close his eyes and smell the sea air that breezed around our table at the Portland Lobster Company (Portland Maine, just to be clear) as his calamari was set down in front of him and he decided it was “the most fish rings I’ve ever seen in my life!”

Maybe it will be those 30 seconds that we were suspended on our stomachs, side-by-side, as the Kite Flight ride at Dutch Wonderland slowed down, and he looked at me and said, “This was an amazing day, Mommy.”

Or maybe he’ll want to go back to the first time he dared to jump into the pool all by himself at the hotel in Scarborough…or that night in Boston when Pat brought Gracie up to bed and I let him sit with me in the Jacuzzi “like a big kid,” or when he stood by the water in Portsmouth, watching the ships go by and giggling as Grace yelled, “I see butts! Vincent look! Big, big butts!”

I stopped mentally calculating how much overtime Pat would have to work for us to get to Disney in the next 6 months, and started laughing.

“What?” Vince asked.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I was just thinking of that day in New Hampshire when Gracie was yelling about the big butts. Do you remember that?”

“Oh yeah! That was such a fun day! We went to the beach that day too, and the sand was all smushy in my toes, and I found that huuuuuge shell that’s in my room now, and me and you ate that really gooey brownie with the coconut and the chocolate chips at the coffee place, and….”

As he rambled on, it became pretty clear that even if we can’t give him Paris (Hell, we can’t even give him Portland, Oregon), I guess we’re still giving him plenty of moments to remember.

 

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Sometimes

As I stood in the checkout line I snuck a furtive glance at the items in front of mine. Organic fruit. Icelandic yogurt. Yeah, that guy was judging me.

I couldn’t believe I was doing this.

Hot dogs.

And not just any hot dogs. Warmed over, rubbery, “God knows how long they’ve been sitting under that weird orange light,” hot dogs.

One of my favorite shows, “Life in Pieces,” refers to the ones that have been under the lights for an unknown amount of time as “wizard fingers.”

I was about to feed my children wizard fingers.

The guilt poured over me as I tried not to lock eyes with Mr. Icelandic yogurt.

Don’t get me wrong. My kids don’t have “perfect” diets by any stretch of the imagination. And I never- let me stress this here- NEVER judge other parents, unless, you know, they don’t feed their kids at all. But we all try our best, and these- these wrinkled mystery meat wands enveloped in soggy buns- were clearly not my best.

I guess I should stop here and come clean.

Hi, I’m Cathy, and I’m a nutrition fanatic.

I get a strange tingling feeling when I order a pizza that’s both vegan AND gluten-free.

You won’t find a single hydrogenated oil or artificial color in my cabinets.

No glass of wine gives me as much warmth as a sale on coconut milk ice cream.

I’m a health nut. Probiotics and raw sugar and paraben-free shampoo make me happy.

Now you know.

So standing in line at the grocery store with four hot dogs that were neither filled with organic turkey nor nitrate-free was making me feel less than stellar. Especially as Mr. Icelandic yogurt started to peer curiously at them.

But you know what made me feel kinda stellar? What happened next.

After I had paid the cashier, driven to school, dragged myself into their classrooms, gathered their bags, took their hands, walked them to the car, strapped them in, turned on the engine, rubbed my eyes, and lamented the fact that I still had to sit in an hour of traffic before I could reunite with my couch…I heard this.

“WHOA! Hot Dogs?! We never get the ones in the cool wrappers! This is the best day ever!!!!”

I looked in the rearview mirror and saw them inhaling those wizard fingers like it was Christmas morning and they had gotten a trip to Disneyland.

My first thought was “Ok, so maybe I need to show them a donut or some fried chicken from time to time.”

My second thought? Sometimes they can eat wrinkly re-warmed hot dogs. It’s fine.

Sometimes I make macaroni and cheese from scratch. Sometimes it’s out of a box.

Sometimes their “on the way home” car snack is a little container of organic fruit, some multigrain crackers with almond butter, and reduced-sugar coconut milk.

Sometimes it’s a bag of chips and a juice box.

Sometimes I snuggle in bed with my son, read him four books, kiss his little forehead, tuck him in, and think about how blessed I am to have created such an amazingly sweet little person.

Sometimes I shriek, “GET BACK IN BED!” after that sweet little person wanders out of his bedroom for the 87th time asking for “just a bit more blanket on my shoulders.”

Sometimes I cradle my daughter in my arms and gaze into her eyes with pure love and adoration.

Sometimes I hand her to her father and hide in the bathroom.

Sometimes I cruise into work, leave on time, and have hours to make a nutritious meal, play educational board games, give warm bubble baths, and wander out of their rooms whispering, “I love you allll the way to the moon and back,” as I gently switch off the light.

Sometimes I work so late that I know we’ll never make it home in time for dinner, and I have to grab whatever small, handheld food I can find at the store next to the daycare center, because it’s either that or passing an entire rotisserie chicken into the back seat of my truck.

It’s never perfect. It’s not meant to be. But amidst all the rush and the chaos and the stress, there are usually these little people looking up at you….and somehow, they’re so happy. They’re happy with organic strawberries and they’re happy with tortilla chips. They’re happy with seven books and they’re happy with one book. They’re happy with an hour-long bubble bath and they’re happy with the occasional washcloth wipe-down because there’s just no time left in the day (you’re laughing because you’ve done it.  Don’t pretend you’re above the wipe-down).

Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad and sometimes it’s completely insane….and sometimes it’s four wizard dogs and one curious glance from the guy in front of you.

But you know what it usually is? Just fine. It’s usually juuuust fine.

 

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The Balancing Act

November 7, 2012

“I wish I didn’t have to go back to the office.  I’m going to miss Vince so much. I hope I can balance career and motherhood. Maybe I can sneak out at lunch and visit him for a few minutes. I just can’t imagine spending a second without him!”

November 2, 2015

“Woo-Hoo!! Back to the office today! I can’t wait to sit at my desk and drink a nice, hot cup of tea without anyone trying to stick their fingers in it. I am really looking forward to wearing nice clothes again; having adult conversations; really getting to focus on my career during the day; and spending hours of quality time with both kids each night. Ah, and I finally get to visit the bathroom alone!!!”

August 17, 2017

Soaked and scrubbed a sippy cup that resurfaced on the floor of my car after a still-unknown amount of time spent congealing under the driver’s seat.

Requested permission to use the office laundry room to clean my daughter’s bed set, which was covered in the waterfall of pee that was cascading from her diaper when I walked into her bedroom 37 seconds too late.

Picked at my dress to remove breakfast remnants that my daughter hugged onto me when I dropped her off at daycare.

Picked at the heel of my shoe to remove a dinosaur sticker.

Coaxed sticky chocolate granola bar bits out of a Cabbage Patch Doll’s mouth, because, according to the explanation I received, Dolly gets hungry in the car and we can’t just let her be hungry, can we? Well, can we? Of course we can’t.

Threw out my tea, because by the time I was done juggling my actual job responsibilities with the Cabbage Patch dental surgery, it was no longer even lukewarm.

Talked about my son not once, not twice, but three times during my morning meeting.

Discussed my children’s dairy allergies with a coworker.

Met with a client, who promptly asked about my children, which led to a 5-minute discussion about…you guessed it…my children.

Wondered if there was any plausible way to hire a sitter tonight just so we can put away the 18 loads of laundry my husband washed last night.

Used my lunch hour to window-shop new car seats and stock up on healthy snacks that contain neither granola nor chocolate.

Brought my phone into the bathroom with me to prevent missing any calls from the daycare or the preschool.

Ah, there’s nothing like alone-time.

Working Mom

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When Life Was Still Magical

I sat at the kitchen table, glancing from two very gnarled necklace chains to your very anxious face. How the two chains had become knotted will forever remain a mystery, because you, my dear Vincent, would NEVER knot any of my jewelry, especially when I specifically told you to “Please be careful with these, Honey. They knot very easily.” Your eager, curious fingers would NEVER twist the chains, tug on the pendants, or swing the necklaces around like sterling silver lassos. If I would just let you wear them for a few minutes (cue the pleading expression and side-to-side sway) you would guard them with your little life.

And so, as you stood there with a dark cloud veiling your blue eyes, guiltily holding out the mangled jewelry, I kissed your nose and pretended to believe you when you whispered, “I broke them Mommy. I don’t know how. I’m so very sorry.”

I sent you off to build a Lego tower while I set to work, two fingers on one hand gently massaging the knots to loosen them while I started dinner with the other hand. Stir the sauce, twist the chain….stir the sauce, twist the chain…stir the chain, twist the sauce…

“Mommy?” You were standing next to me like a little boy waiting to hear the fate of his puppy with a broken paw. “Did you fix them?” you asked hopefully.

“Not yet, Baby, but almost.” I was lying. They looked like that imaginary puppy had chewed them up and spit them out.

Undaunted, I grabbed a toothpick from the cabinet and set to work with the first tiny knot. While I pulled, prodded, squeezed and sweet-talked it, I remembered learning this “trick” from my father, many, many years ago.

“Just have patience, Monkey. No knot is too hard to unknot. You just have to take one tiny piece at a time.”

“Wow, you fixed it!” 4-year old me would exclaim giddily as he transformed a rat’s nest back into a necklace.

“Of course I did,” he would say with his Jolly Green Giant voice and beaming smile.

Pull, prod, turn- one knot gone.

“Could you fix the toaster?”

“Of course, Monkey!”

Squeeze, twist, toothpick…two knots gone.

“What if the coffee pot broke, Daddy?”

“I could fix that too. No problem.”

Squeeze, twist, pull…

I closed my eyes and saw myself standing in my Little Mermaid nightgown, watching intently as his thumb and forefinger started to work the knot.  He had big, strong hands that were built to fix big, heavy things. His powerful forearms turned wrenches, lifted tires and popped hoods from dawn til dusk every day.  But after all those hours spent coaxing enormous, ailing machines back to life, Dad was never too tired to fix a doll’s leg, re-spool a cassette tape (we can talk about what they are later), or re-glue the one eye that kept popping off one of my teddy bears.

I loved to watch him work. He reminded me of Santa Claus, (except much, much cooler). Santa had those dainty white gloves and that fluffy coat, but MY dad had big, strong, cracked, motor oil-stained fingers and a blue work shirt that said “John” in the corner. That impeccably- starched work shirt told the story of his entire day- every stain and spill told a tale of someone’s only mode of transportation, their only way to get to the store or pick up the kids- and MY dad was in charge of fixing them all. People nervously handed him the keys to one of their most important possessions because they trusted that he could make those big, old machines live a little longer. My dad was magical.

I always beamed with pride when I saw him sitting patiently at the kitchen table, replacing batteries, strengthening chair legs, untangling phone cords (phones used to have cords and be attached to walls…we’ll go over that when we go over cassette tapes)- you name it, my dad could do it.

“Mommy?”

You were shuffling nervously next to my chair, your eyes searching the necklace for imperfections. I pulled my mind back from 1987 and triumphantly showed you the two fully-restored necklaces. You beamed at me with all the joy your little cheeks could hold.

“Mommy you did it! You’re the best! You can fix anything!”

I wandered back to the little girl in her mermaid nightgown for a second.

“Daddy, you can really fix anything?”

“Yup, Monkey. Anything.”

“What if the Statue of Liberty broke? Could you fix that?”

“Yup.”

It was my turn. I was magical to someone now.

The way I could wiggle my fingers and say “turn green!” and somehow, the traffic light would inexplicably turn from red to green- that drove you wild.

That amazing talent I had for putting a tiny plastic card in the big machine at the bank and making money appear? That one still had you stumped.

I could cool off soup by pushing the ice cube button on the fridge; fix broken racecars; and mend all of your boo-boos with a healing kiss and a tousle of your hair. I was absolutely invincible in your eyes. Suddenly I knew how my dad must have felt as I quietly orbited around him in my ruffled socks, watching him change a clock battery like he was performing brain surgery.

I wished I could go back, just for a second. But I guess you never really can.

Then again…as I sat at a traffic light this morning, I heard you whispering from the backseat. I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw you wiggling your fingers and commanding, “Whooosh….whoooosh…light, turn green!!!”

And it turned green.

“Mommy, I’m magical too!” you exclaimed proudly.

Well…maybe if I can’t go back myself, I’ll enjoy the ride with you, my little Monkey.

The Game Plan

What She Said

Night night, Mommy.

What She Meant

Ok, here’s the game plan. You watch a rerun of Suits and go to bed at 9:30, feeling really proud that you’re going to bed early to finally get a full night’s sleep. While you’re entertaining that delusion, I’ll power nap from 8:30-12:30 and then start whining and moaning to warm up my vocal chords.

At 1am I’ll scream for a bottle. Daddy will give it to me because he has to get up early for work and he wants at least 2 straight hours of sleep. That will lead to 2am, when I pee through my diaper. You’ll pick me up and I’ll just keeping letting loose on both you and the floor. You’ll be way too tired to care.

You’ll change me on your bed (still wearing your peed-on tank top, and still not caring- which, if we’re being honest, is kinda gross), thinking that being in bed with you will put me to sleep. Obviously that won’t work at all.

I’ll pretend to sleep for roughly 6 minutes, but just as you start to doze off I’ll poke you in the eye. Then the other eye. Then I’ll ask to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on your phone. When you say no I’ll try for another bottle. When I get denied again, I’ll start playing with your hair and singing in a soft, slightly maniacal tone that causes you to be too afraid to fall asleep.

At 2:30- and pay attention because I don’t want you losing any teeth- at 2:30 I’m going to kick you in the mouth. Hard. Nothing personal. While you’re checking your jaw I’ll jump off the bed and head for the dog, because by this time Rocco will want to know what’s going on and I’ll feel obligated to tell him.

Once you wrestle me away from the dog and settle him down, you’ll angrily bring me back to my room, still checking your jaw. It’ll be fine- let it go already. You talk a big game about raising a strong woman, but you can’t even handle a size 5 to the face? Get it together, lady.

You’ll put me in my crib and tell me I need to cry it out this time. Then you’ll bump into Daddy, who went to sleep on the couch an hour ago. You’ll look at each other with that sleep-deprived “if she was the first, she’d be the only child” expression and wander helplessly back to your separate beds.

Are you still with me? Ok, great. Moving right along.

From 3am-5:30am I’m going to do this routine I’ve been practicing. It’s like a whine/scream combo with one leg over the crib, plus a twist of my hips and one arm in the air- nevermind, it’s so much more effective in person. The description doesn’t really do it justice.  Just watch the monitor; you should be able to see it pretty clearly. I’ve been working on it for a few weeks and I’m really proud of it- but feel free to let me know if I should tweak anything.

So a little after 5:30 I’ll start cooling down a bit, and I’ll finally fall asleep about 10 minutes before your alarm is set to go off- not that you’ll need it. You’ll be wide awake.

Finally, I’ll refuse to get up until 7:20 and then spend the next 20 minutes wandering around the house in my underwear and mumbling incoherently, while you follow me around begging me to put my pants on. You’ll finally give up and drive me to school half-dressed, but it’s cool because you’ve done that plenty of times, am I right?? Am I right, Cathy? I’m right.

Now, I know we were 40 minutes late to work today but I’m telling you, if we play our cards right we can make it a solid hour tomorrow. Are you ready? Are you feeling it?! That’s my girl! Let’s do this!

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The Lives We Leave Behind

Very few places are as completely intoxicating to me as an old book store, and this one did not disappoint. The aromas of the printed page and freshly-brewed dark roast enveloped my senses as soon as I opened the door; the massive collections of literature and carefully-arranged bistro sets beckoned the patrons to sit back and get lost in a new world; the china cabinets tucked away in the cellar, packed top to bottom with beautifully-preserved hard cover copies of Goethe, Dickens and Milton…

“Mommy, I pooped. I pooped, Mommy!”

Grace was banging on the door of my happy place…and trying to tear off her diaper in the nonfiction aisle. I quickly set James Baldwin back on his shelf and hurried to the restroom to prevent a poo-tastrophe. Sitting on the floor and wrestling her into a clean Pull-Up while she tried to kick open the door, I started to wander towards that dark place that sometimes persuades me to visit. I tried to ignore it, but by the time Pat had whisked Grace out of the store and I was waiting at the checkout, it was too late. I had entered the dark place, pulled up a chair, and put Joni Mitchell on the record player.

I glanced over at the 20-somethings who were peacefully sipping their chai while immersing themselves in poetry, and the professors who were taking in volumes about politics and religion. I used to live one of those lives. Before I was nursery rhymes, Legos and chocolate milk, I was Dickenson, sculptures and maple spice lattes. As I glanced from the happy readers to Vince, who was trying to swing from the counter, I began to mourn the loss of that girl.

And so, I paid for a book about puppy police officers (which was surprisingly witty) and a Faulkner novel that I’d probably be too tired to read until the kids were in college, and headed to the car to get lost in traffic and my own misery.

As I drove, I thought of all the directions my life could have taken. All the lives I could have led.

There were the five years that I ran a Holistic medical practice, gave talks on healthy living at my Chiropractor’s office, did clean living consultations at the dining room table in our apartment, and pursued a Graduate degree in Nutrition.

There were the five years that I explored figure and comic book modeling, attended gallery openings, sipped wine and mused about life with people whose talent and intelligence left me in awe.

There was the year I spent researching kitchen rentals to start an allergy-friendly baked goods delivery business.

Then there were the rejected opportunities to study Shakespearean literature in England; to read my poetry to a conference in Florida; and, randomly enough, to do a photo shoot for Bob Mackie (we all know that one wouldn’t have actually happened- three things I have zero patience for are makeup, heels and people telling me not to eat so much).

Could I have been any of the people I had dreamt of becoming? Could I have been a published author? A professor of Shakespearean tragedies? A Nutritionist? A baker with animated vegan cupcakes dancing around on her traveling food truck? As I’m writing this I’m chowing down on a giant bowl of chicken and rice, so let’s just forget I even told you about the Bob Mackie thing.

Grace’s voice interrupted my pity party.

“Vincent here! Popcorn! We share!”

From the rearview mirror I saw Vince gratefully reaching for a plastic Minnie Mouse cup that was stretched as far as it could go in the chubby little hand that clutched it.

That simple exchange awoke many feelings in me- sorrow was definitely not one of them.

And with that I got up, stretched my legs, and strolled out of my dark place, switching off Joni as I closed the door behind me.

Sure, I could have chosen a different life.

But I was too queasy to read my BioChemistry textbook during that dizzying first trimester with Vince…so the Nutrition degree got tossed onto the back burner.

I was tired of getting home at 11pm and missing story time…so modeling was put on hold.

I barely have enough time to prepare lunches… so the bakery business went out the window.

And I’m ok with that.

Because in choosing to veer off those paths, I set my feet firmly in this one.

Literature and lattes and gallery openings are nice. But the life I chose has The Story of Ferdinand, lukewarm coffee, and the premiere of the new Sofia the First.

The life I chose is early bedtimes, morning cuddles, and gliding around a hotel pool in Lancaster during our annual “Birthday Adventure” Weekend, with two giggly kids clinging to me.

The life I chose is baking brownies from a box, birthday parties with Spiderman balloons, and sipping (relatively cheap) wine out of a plastic cup in the backyard, so if anyone’s toy (or head, or foot) crashes into me I don’t have to worry about broken glass.

The life I chose is frantic public diaper changes, finding Cheerios in my bra, and apologizing to the neighbors when the dog pees at their feet while we’re chatting about landscaping and taxes.

The life I chose is eating tacos and watching Discovery documentaries with my husband, ballet flats from Payless, and never having time to straighten my wild, frizzy hair.

Of course, maybe there will be time to explore those other lives one day.

Maybe one day I’ll walk into an old book store, not to browse the shelves, but because I’m about to read an excerpt from my newest book to a group of eager 20-somethings.

Maybe not.

Maybe one day my gluten-free double fudge brownies will be on the shelves at Whole Foods.

Maybe not.

Maybe one day I’ll have the time and patience to learn how to wear makeup and walk in heels- HA, no definitely not that one.

But see, here’s the thing.

Of all the different lives I’ve explored…I wouldn’t trade this one for all the hot coffee in the world.

 

 

Spider Spray

I often joke that the cornerstone of good parenting is the ability to tell a convincing lie.

Let the “she’s an awful parent” anger flow through you. Now purse your lips. Let a little judgmental gasp escape.  There you go.

Now think about it.

“I can see you even though I’m in the other room, you know!”

“If you keep behaving this way, I’m afraid Santa might not come this year.”

“Here, let me kiss that scrape- it’ll heal faster.”

See? I’m not so crazy after all.

Sadly, I’m the worst liar on the planet. Even a little white lie sends me into fits of giggles, blushing (which is so painfully obvious on the milk-white cheeks of a Ginger), and the sudden inability to lift my eyelids. Creepy, I know. So if I’m ever speaking to you and spontaneously slip into a strange “I just met my celebrity crush and also I’m drunk” behavior pattern, you know I’m making something up.

I also feel the need to express that I HATE lying. It just feels so…wrong.  I’m truthful to a fault, especially with my kids. I don’t ever want them to think they can’t trust me.

And yet….as soon as my son was born I developed this strangely intoxicating Super Power. I can spin the tallest of tales to him on a whim, in any situation. I’m not one for threatening and I try to leave Santa and the Bunny out of it (it just seems like they have pretty full plates already), so I’ve reserved this uncanny ability for emergencies only.

Take the other night, for example. Vince had been rambling on for hours (no, really – HOURS) about a spider in his bedroom. We live in a rural area; this is nothing new. Nonetheless, he rattled on from dinnertime through bath time and right into story time.

According to his testimony, the suspect had leapt out of the toy box that houses his car collection and viciously chased him out of his bedroom. It was huge. It was furry. It was angry.

It was also nowhere to be found.

I displayed the appropriate amount of reverence for his tale, searched the premises, and assured him that the 17-foot beast with wild fur and an anger management problem must have snuck out the open window. I thought it was over.

I was wrong.

As soon as we entered his bedroom Vince’s whole body tensed up, his eyes filled with tears, and he crumbled like a gluten-free cookie (all you Celiacs know what I’m talking about) into my arms.

“Mommy, it’s REAL! The spider is real! I saw it! It has 5 legs and it’s mad! It’s not outside! I can’t stay in here! Please!”

He really was terrified. I had to do something. My Spidey senses started tingling….and the web began to weave itself before my eyes.

“Well, ok then. You know what this means, right? It means we have to get the spider spray.”

“The spider spray?”

“Yup. There’s a spray- it’s very hard to get but I managed to find a bottle awhile back- and it sprays a scent that spiders hate so much that you only need a little spritz in each corner, and one good spray across the threshold of the door. No spider will come near this place for at least 48 hours.”

“Really?” His eyes were so wide and hopeful that I suddenly felt like I was looking at Cindy Lou Who on Christmas Eve, and I was about to push her tree up the chimney.

I hated being dishonest but it was too late to turn back, so I walked purposefully to the kitchen and returned with a bottle of Febreze Pet Odor Eliminator.

“Here it is,” I said solemnly. He reached out to touch it.

“No! It’s a very concentrated formula- highly dangerous. Only someone trained in spider spraying can use it.”

I began spritzing the corners of his bedroom while he watched nervously.

“Spray across the window sill, too, Mommy, just in case he wants to get in that way….and the rug over there, that’s where he ran away….and I think you should spray all the walls-“

“No, no this is enough,” I insisted. I wanted to deter the fake spider, not send my child into an asthmatic fit.

“I’m also going to put the air conditioner on.”

“But I’m not hot.”

“Ahhh, but spiders hate the cold. They have tiny, thin legs, and when they get cold their legs shake so much that they can’t hold themselves up and they collapse onto the ground. They just sit there wiggling around and they can’t get up. It drives them crazy. If this guy hears the air conditioner and smells the spider spray, he’s not coming anywhere near this room. He may even walk all the way down the street.”

Who was I?!

“Are you sure this is going to work, Mommy?”

“Bud, you’re good. I promise.”

I tucked him in, kissed his forehead, and smiled reassuringly. Then I ran the Hell out of there to pray that no spiders would wander into his room, lest he either a.) Never trust me again or b.) Think I’m totally inept. I’m on thin ice after the whole “of course I can fix the hole in the pool” fiasco.

The next morning I woke up feeling pretty darn crafty. There was no toddler in or under (yes, he does that) my bed, which meant one thing- no spider nightmares or imaginary sightings.

“Well,” I thought smugly as I sauntered into the living room, “sometimes you have to do a bad thing to achieve good results.”

“Hi Mommy.”

I halted mid-saunter. The tone in his voice was grave.

“Well, Mommy, I’ve got some bad news. Your spray didn’t work.”

“It…didn’t?” My cheeks were suddenly very warm and my eyelids were starting to twitch.

“Nope. I woke up in the middle of the night and checked under my bed, and SUDDENLY there it was. It was even madder and bigger. And instead of 5 legs, it only had 3 this time. It had crawled under my bed to hide from the air conditioner, so its legs weren’t cold and could still stand up. And from under the bed it couldn’t smell the spider spray, so it was just fine, Mommy. It didn’t go gone, Mommy. It didn’t go gone.”

John Wayne sighed, shook his head, and settled onto the couch to watch Teen Titans and have himself a shot of chocolate almond milk, and I let the cold, hard truth wash over me. He had used my powers against me!

Moral of the story, folks: you can only lie to your kids until they’re better at it than you are.

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