Thursday, February 9, 2012

Maid of the Mist

The flooding of the Flower Mound UPS store was caused by my toddler's consumption of a Vita Top muffin, a chocolate confection magically injected with nine grams of fiber and thus sold as health food.
I gave one to Charlotte, now age 2, for breakfast only because I had my girlfriend, Michelle, on the phone from North Carolina. Her husband is recovering from actual brain surgery, which is why I couldn't be distracted even by pouring cereal.
"Give her that and she's going to poop big," warned Michelle.
I was willing to take my chances.
Charlotte squealed with delight upon seeing me rip open the package and, three hours later, she gave me one of her own.
We were at UPS--the one on 2499 in Flower Mound--mailing a box to our cousins.
Charlotte peeked out from behind the rotating greeting card display, pretending to sort Valentine's cards. I knew darn well what she was doing.
I paid for my package to be sent first class--they'll take pity on me and allow me to use the bathroom if I paid full freight, I figured.
I took Charlotte's little hand in mine. We wound our way back behind the counter, past the boxes and the Styrofoam injector machine to the potty.
Remember now, Charlotte is my third child.
This means that I am full of useful information and good parenting strategies, yet I mostly ignore all I know in the name of time constraints and disorganization.
And while I happened to have one spare diaper stuffed into the bottom of my purse, I had no baby wipes to clean up the mess. I was even out of Old Navy receipts.
Moreover, there was no trash can. (And, of course, no Koala Kare changing pad--who changes a poopy diaper during the 32 seconds it takes to mail a package?)
Thus, I found myself simultaneously holding up Charlotte's multi-layered dress, removing overflowing output and trying to clean up her rump while holding the diaper.
Meanwhile, Charlotte had found the store's water cooler.
Strangely, it was placed right next to the toilet.
(This should be the subject of another blog post entirely. For while I will hold poop in my hand and even catch vomit in my purse, I will never, ever endorse placing drinking water within 150 feet of a flushing toilet. That's just asking for cholera.)
Anyhow, Charlotte's wiggling around as I balanced the colossal poop in my palm. She grabbed the water cooler taps and pulled down, spraying frigid purified water into the drain.
"Cold!" she screeches with delight.
The water cooler provided a perfect spot for Charlotte to begin washing her hands. It was, after all, right at eye level.
"Wash-wash-wash-your-hands-wash-them-together!" she sang, spraying water on herself, on me, all over the floor.
I would have to tell Miranda Howland--Charlotte's preschool teacher--that this was a very effective usage of a simple song.
Now, a less seasoned mother would have turned off the tap, but no, I am a veteran mom. I know distraction is my ally; I could easily clean up the floor after I re-diapered the baby and deposited the poop. This running water would provided me with ample opportunity to get my work done.
That idea would have been perfect had I not forgotten that water cooler drains fill up quickly--and overflow.
The puddle at Charlotte's feet began to grow into a pond.
The water cooler was like Niagara Falls.
Gallons of combined hydrogen and oxygen molecules surged through the little plastic taps.
Soon, a man wearing only a barrel would zoom through the roaring foam.
I wondered if barrels were even allowed anymore at Niagara Falls.
Maybe modern-day thrill seekers go cloaked in wet suits?
They used to let you take a boat right under the falls and you got to wear a poncho.
I seem to recall taking a seafaring vessel called "The Maid of the Mist" when I was maybe eight years old...
Charlotte was laughing like a hyena, gleefully sopped.
There was more water on the floor of the UPS store than in my backyard swimming pool.
Miraculously, the baby was diapered, the toilet was flushed and I was no longer holding a poopy diaper, but how those things happened I do not know.
I jammed the water cooler taps closed.
"Swim!" said Charlotte.
The thoughtful clerk who had placed the water cooler next to the toilet had also supplied a year's worth of paper towels atop a coat rack, for which I was grateful.
I sopped up the mess using several rolls.
"Let's go," I said, placing Charlotte on a hip, the wad of soggy trash under my armpit.
"Bye-bye," Charlotte said, waving to the clerks as we stomped through the shop.
Next time, I would know to wear a poncho when I fed my baby breakfast.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Behind the Wheel

Teenagers get a lot of sass from insurance companies about being the worst drivers on the road. They gab on the phone. They text. They drink alcohol. Mostly they’re just way too excited and inexperienced.
They’re subsequently punished with high insurance rates and frequent stops from the authorities.
There’s probably a lot of truth to all that, but I’d argue there might be an equally menacing threat out there few notice: The 38-year-old suburban mom.
These moms are, by most accounts, boringly safe.
They make their kids were bike helmets, sunscreen, retainers.
But get them behind the wheel of an SUV in a McDonald’s drive-thru with a clutch of 7-year-old soccer players buckled up in back and watch out.
It all starts with French fries.
Mom pays for the promised treat with one hand while changing the CD with the other. She passes the fries back to the third row, head swiveled in the direction of the hungry second graders while warning them to use napkins, the SUV inching forward as her toddler thumps her back from an oversized car seat behind her.
The toddler requests—no, demands—Sesame Street’s “C is for Cookie.”
That’s track 5.
No, wait, track 9.
Oops, wrong CD.
Mom pulls out of the parking lot with two hands shuffling through the seat pocket in the opposite seat behind her, a feat Cirque du Soleil, acrobats would envy.
Boys launch French fries.
Sisters squeal.
There is a great unbuckling and swashbuckling.
Mom’s eyes are riveted on the shenanigans in the rear view mirror. She is making demands, thinking of punishments, wondering where she has gone wrong.
The toddler pelts a sippy cup into the front seat then, suddenly hysterical, requests a lovey from the passenger seat. The lovey slips between the cracks and Mom contorts herself to find it, sunglasses rocking from hair to neck obscuring her vision for an instant.
The cell phone rings.
It might be an emergency, Mom figures, so she picks up.
Soccer practice has been moved to another field across town.
Mom speeds up, makes an illegal u-turn, punches the gas.
The SUV lurches forward.
“I spilled my milk!” squeals a defender.
Mom opens the glove compartment—there is nothing worse than the smell of milk rotting on a triple-digit day—and pilfers a half-empty envelope of baby wipes, two crumpled tissues and a receipt from JCPenney to mop up the mess. She catapults it into the third row while making a left turn.
There is a loud discussion over whose turn it is to clean up the mess.
Mom thinks about the breakfast mess and the dinner mess before that and who it was that left a wet swimsuit undiscovered in a plastic bag for a week. She does not remember and is accused of not paying attention.
Singing breaks out.
The song is Lady Gaga.
Mom joins in because she is actually fun, darn it all.
The kids are singing, opening all the windows, waving at construction workers, at dogs whose tongues wag wet, at serious bikers whose Spanx make them giggle.
The toddler chimes in with “Wheels on the Bus.”
She is louder than all the second graders put together.
She throws up French fries and milk.
Mom prays silently that there are no library books on the floor of the car where the splayed vomit now seeps into the car’s carpet.
Mom roars into the soccer field parking lot, pitches the SUV into park and begins the rescue mission, second graders evacuating like fire ants put upon with poison.
I know all this because I am likely the 38-year-old suburban mom behind the wheel.
Watch for my SUV: I am more dangerous than a teenager.