Costumes, tricks, and treats

It’s Halloween; it seems that no matter how people celebrate, “What are you dressing up as?” is the big question. I personally love to dress up in costume but this year I’m just not into it. I know, shame on me for not painting my belly like a pumpkin. I’ve seen some very cute displays but I don’t have that kind of talent.  Now that I have to take it easy and stay as still as possible, I’ll only be handing out candy to the neighborhood trick-or-treaters. No clever pregnancy costumes…or so I thought. It has come to my attention that when little ones approach me and look up, they can’t see anything above the belly. These poor kids must think I am the Headless Horseman! (Yet another reason why I shouldn’t paint my belly like a pumpkin! These kids will be scarred for life.) As for the older kids and teens who can see above my orbit- I mean waistline- I am going as free birth control. No need for a scary mask…if  a scary blood-n-guts costume comes to the door while Firstborn is around, I’ll just one-up it with my stretchmarks. I could always not put on make-up and go as a zombie. It turns out, I am more prepared for tonight than I thought.

I have a younger brother who took great delight in trying to scare and terrorize me throughout our youth. It was his prerogative and his job; he excelled at it. Four weeks after Firstborn arrived, the military decided we needed to move from Georgia to Arizona. On the way we stopped in Texas to visit family and get some rest. During this break, my brother revealed a new tattoo, receiving disgruntled eyebrow raises from the grandparents. Suddenly, I had an epiphany. “You know, I got a new marking myself.” His eyes enlarged in disbelief. “No way. You? You’re not an inker. Really? What’d you get?”  The trap was baited, set and I had a nibble. I pulled him into a room and swore him to secrecy in the usual sibling you-can’t-tell-Mom-code  manner. 

After great dramatic suspense and an explanation that becoming a mother was a moment I wanted to cherish with a permanent marking, I lifted my shirt to the ribs and revealed my ‘lightening tattoo’; the still very visible silver marks that came from carrying a 9 lb boy only four weeks before. I would have loved to watch my family members’ reactions as they heard a blood curdling scream ring throughout the house. My poor brother ran to the living room covering his eyes, threw himself onto the floor, and flopped around like a fish.  As the family rushed to his aid, I emerged with a triumphant smile and let out my best sinister laugh. Just a mention of my ‘tattoo’ still makes him shudder. It more than made up for the time he put every article of my clothing into the swimming pool.

Costumes are fun at any age; we can don any identity and partake in any theme. Dressing up kids can be lots of fun, but today I got to help ‘dress’ my mom. She now works at my beloved alma mater. It is a Texas institution where maroon shirts are almost a school uniform and any shade of orange is distasteful, especially the rival school’s color of ‘burnt’ orange. (Burned is a word. Burnt is not.) The only exception is hunting safety gear.  In fact, even the standard orange and white striped roof of the Whataburger has a painted maroon stripe. This causes a problem on an orange and black themed holiday.
 Here’s a glimpse of the early morning conversation.

 Mom: “Today we are able to dress up at the office for Halloween. I was going to wear a pearl snap shirt with broncos, jeans, and boots and go as a cowgirl.”

Me: “Mom, you work at Texas A&M. That’s not considered dressing up.”

Mom: “Oh. You’re right. Well, I was going to find something orange and black, but I don’t have a stitch of orange in my entire closet.”

Me: “Mom, you’re such a good Ag.”

 So today when I’m asked, “What are you going to be for Halloween?” the answer is simple…a mom. It’s as sweet and rewarding as a pillowcase full of candy and more terrifying than a haunted house. Inside this house it is my job to conquer the scary and vanquish the monsters that may crop up. I handle blood, guts, candy rationing, and lighting the way for my kids in a world that can be dark and scary.  As little superheroes, ghosts, and ghouls come to my home tonight, I hope that they will see more than a big-bellied headless horseman. I hope they will see a mom that gets down to their eye-level and gives them sweet things with loving smile.  After all, today is about pretending to be anything you want to be.



“So You Think You Can’t Dance?” Part 2: Happy Dances

There are two sides to every argument; just as there are reasons NOT to dance, there are many reasons to cut a rug…or trip on the rug and unexpectedly create a new dance move, possibly resulting in demonstrating for ER staff. While dancing may be great exercise, enhance flexibility and grace, boost brain function, and be a great bonding activity,  those are not the types of benefits I want to address.

I am in favor of dancing simply because as individuals participating in this team sport called life, we need to celebrate the small victories. I believe one of the best ways is with a full-body laugh and a ‘happy dance’.

Comedian Anita Renfroe defines happy dance as when someone feels so happy about something that you just spontaneously break into a dance. i. e. Wide receivers in the end zone, the last out of the final baseball game in the World Series, or any woman finding a cute pair of shoes in her size on the 75 percent off sales rack. The little things in life make all the difference. I love pulling up to a red light to see a car dance-party. I may have joined in on more than one occasion. The red lights of life can really get you down if you don’t pull out the invisible salt shakers and shake on some seasoning.

Back in the days where “Fearing the Reaper” was more common that fearing Y2K, there was a trend in professional football that impacted our home: the touchdown victory dance. The moves varied widely, but a spiked football, wobbly leg moves, arm waving, and an occasional ‘white man’s overbite’ would us in celebration. Now we live in days of “excessive celebration” penalties and spiking the ball prompts a new move called, “flag on the play”. (I just busted out that dance move at my son who stopped rearranging the Tupperware containers long enough to shake his head at me. Sigh. I am no longer cool.)  Granted, there are times where celebrations can get a little out of hand. I’ve never pulled a Sharpie out of my sock to autograph freshly washed dishes after an awesome Tuesday night dinner but there is something glorious about a 300 lb man doing a combination of the Sprinkler and Lord of the Dance move. There are times where celebrations are necessary—or else the sweet, mundane things of life will pass us by. Imagine the NFL fines that would be slapped on parents during potty-training! Excessive celebration? I think NOT. What may be mundane and ordinary for some may be amazing accomplishments to others. Sometimes a crucial ‘first and ten’ is as exciting as a hail-Mary for the touchdown.

I grew up in a house that firmly endorsed ‘happy dancing.’ “Little victories” were corporately celebrated with cheers, high fives, and move-bustin’. On report card days it was best to keep a leg’s distance away from all other family members, just in case. When Firstborn was barely scooting on a blanket and starting to give his first smiles, my sister put on a VeggieTales sing-a-long he enjoyed and danced to try ease his crankiness. It was epic; she looked like a marionette in a tornado. Hence, she received his first laugh. At this new sound, everyone came running. The joy quickly multiplied until laughter filled the home; celebrating new life will do that.

I am a firm believer that when joy rises up in you, it’s great to let it out. Lately I’ve heard some criticism about over-praising small children at the risk of making them believe they should be perpetually praised and receive a trophy for existing. While there are certainly good points to be made for methodology, I am not about to stop clapping and cheering when Firstborn finally says a new word we’ve been practicing for weeks, sits on the potty chair, or chooses to obey the first time when it’s obviously not his preference. He can think he did a good job without believing he’s perfect.  When he catches a ball for the first time, I will probably do a dance worthy of an NFL end-zone. Wide-receivers make millions for doing the same thing and running it to a certain piece of turf. While I don’t cheer every mundane event, I do believe in treasuring the little things- especially those under 4 feet tall.

For better or worse, we are surrounded by dancing. Especially as a mother of boys, I enjoy pictures of my friends’ pint-sized ballerinas in fluffy tutus, twirling about and enjoying childhood. I am now acutely aware of which animated films have dance party options on the DVD menu. In my world, cartoon lemurs like to move it- move it, penguins have happy feet, and Brazilian birds have coordinated dance moves for Rio’s Carnival. The more ‘animated’ characters in my life remind me that as I try to keep some balance and rhythm in this home, it doesn’t hurt to show my joy. The fantastic can become boring if it isn’t celebrated. Hubby consistently rolls his eyes when I start a load of dirty clothes and then dance to the rhythm of the agitator. In fact, most of my best dance moves come from my to-do list. Wax on, wax off, paint the fence. Wash the windows, turn on the sprinkler, groove while workin’ at the carwash.  Housework Dance party!

So today I will do some celebration dances and let my big old belly wiggle. There are certainly times where it is helpful to “be still” and rest but as long as I have to careen through a busy schedule today, I am determined to press on like I’m headed for an end-zone. I may not be near it yet, but in the meantime there is a lot to celebrate.


“So You Think You Can’t Dance?” Part 1: Why We Don’t Dance


In this second decade of creative reality TV shows it seems competitive singing and dancing shows have the most viewers.  The ‘better you than me’ emotion is alive and well in humanity. One such show is called, “So You Think You Can Dance?” The name alone suggests that there are a lot of would-be-dancers that will soon get a dose of harsh reality before the nation. Ouch.

We have a family wedding coming up and two family members are actually taking dancing lessons as fun couples activity and to make a good showing at the reception. Weddings are often when dancing ability shines; nearly every recorded culture has some sort of dance to celebrate the joyous occasion. At mine, my younger brother (then a teenager) danced with every woman over 50. It was a hoot to watch women who haven’t been dipped in years shakin’ their groove things. They had a blast because my brother wouldn’t take no for an answer. From uncomfortable shoes to not knowing how, there is no end to the excuses as to why people can’t or won’t dance. I’ve seen people miss out on life’s fun and celebrations because of their excuses; I think a few of them need to be addressed.

1. The physical lack of ability. Although the excuse “I can’t dance” usually means “I can’t dance well”, there are many who are physically incapable of certain movements. However, I remember one Army ball where a soldier’s date was his wheelchair-bound daughter. At about age 11, she was dressed in a gown with hair and make-up done for a special night. He wheeled her around the dance floor, spinning her and danced holding her hands. By her smile it was easy to see that despite her physical limitations, she was dancing.

2. Insufficient ability: The “I can’t dance well” excuse. Although there are cute posters that encourage us to ‘dance like no one’s watching’, the fact is that most of the time people are watching. Sometimes the people who are the most confident in their abilities really shouldn’t be.  Maybe that’s why so many songs instruct dance moves. (Two steps to the left, two steps to the right, clap your hands, lean back, dip baby dip, shake it like a Polaroid picture). Society as a whole finds it embarrassing to watch people try to dance unsuccessfully; hence why every few years there is a corporate dance craze that even the most uncoordinated among us can do. (Square dancing? The Twist? YMCA? Stayin’ Alive? Electric slide? The Chicken Dance? Macarena? Gangman Style?) No wonder the Go-Gos were so excited that they ‘got the beat’. Those who have it should not take it for granted… not that a lack of dance prowess should prevent a good boogie. Some of the best moves I’ve ever witnessed were spotted the next car over at a red-light. Missing out on the dance because you may mess up is a good way to build up regrets.

3. Personality/Straight-out refusal  There are some extremely introverted people who just can’t bring themselves to bust a move; dance floors and podiums terrify them. I do know a few people like this and they have other outlets for their joy. For the most part when someone refuses to dance it is an attitude issue. They simply don’t want to dance with the person asking or “don’t dance unless they hear some music”. Yes, the Chicken Dance is really a corporate scheme to incite full submission and Colonel Sanders is our leader. Your pride has saved you from the micro-chipping that comes after the Macarena by sitting it out. Good job.

4. Religion or other convictions Okay, I’ll be the first to roll my eyes at the no-dancing-Baptists. Let’s do it collectively. I believe in finding a healthy balance but after chaperoning a few dances I absolutely was the teacher who tore apart gyrating students and told them to make room for Jesus. They’d separate by about 3 inches, at which point I separated them by two outstretched arms’ length and say, “Jesus died on a cross!” Memories of chaperoning prom still haunt me. A student turned and started freak dancing at me like a demon-possessed Night of the Roxbury. I froze and yelled, “I’m a TEACHER!”

My view may be a bit warped: I was on the dance team at a private Baptist high school (irony?) but I believe that Ecclesiastes (and The Byrds) were right: there is ‘a time to dance’. In high school I encountered a college student who was a victim of “No-dancing-Baptist” upbringing.  He had NEVER danced, had to write a letter for permission to dance with his cousin at her own wedding, and couldn’t clap on a beat to save his life. We tried VERY hard to help him, but it was a real-life Footloose and he more than 6 degrees from Kevin Bacon. When I asked what he did to celebrate when he was happy and he just stared at me blankly. (Yeah, you couldn’t Funky Chicken your way out of and end-zone and I’m the nut? Okay then.) It wasn’t the lack of dancing experience that was tragic–it was the sense that joy had never filled him so fully that he had to shout, sing, dance, or generally share it with the world that was so sad. To each their own conviction, but I’d say we often restrict things that God does not.

5. Others There are certainly times where busting a move is inappropriate, but there are those who simply won’t dance because of embarrassment and the criticism of others. The first episodes of dancing-based reality shows are based on a nation criticizing and laughing at those lacking exceptional dancing skills. This is nothing new; a loved one criticizing dance moves is even the Old Testament with King David. After being so filled with joy that he danced around and did a little Spirit-filled-streaking, his wife was less that pleased. Not that I blame her initial reaction; dancing naked before the Lord is one thing, but dancing naked in front of the neighbors can get you arrested. David refused to contain his joy and thankfulness to his God. David didn’t dance wildly every day, but when God did mighty things that were beyond David’s expectations he demonstrated his thankfulness with all of his might. His wife was worried about people’s opinions; David was concerned with God’s opinion.

6. Being out of touch with your inner happy dancer.  An overflow of joy often draws out ‘happy dances’, joyful jumping, and yelling. I’ve seen “I was accepted into college!” or “We’re having a baby!” dances that could put any NFL receiver to shame. Motivated by hormones and a strong crush, even the shyest middle schooler will un-velcro from the wall and do a Frankenstein-rock to a slow power ballad. Sometimes getting out there and risking looking like a dancing fool is all in the motivation.  If you can’t find something in life to celebrate, something is wrong. There is always something worthy of a happy dance.

So you think you can’t dance? I beg to differ. You may not be Lord of the Dance, but anyone can throw up their hands, jump for joy, and do the ‘white man’s overbite’. Are you missing out on the good things of life because of the celebration? Have you used some of these excuses? My friends, get up and dance.



Pee-Diddly-Squat: Emily Post of the Pooper

The moment has come! I have finally figured out how to make millions. I will write a guide-book so classic that everyone will wonder what we did without it. The trend of society becoming more casual, rude, and impersonal is a common one. Many of you are aware of Emily Post; for the rest, she was the quintessential Miss Manners guide provider for all occasions. Her family members are continuing her legacy with new guidelines for modern situations, to include the realm of technology, emails and cell phone usage. I have become very aware of a new realm that the majority for which society CLEARLY needs guidance: the public no longer gives a pee-diddly-squat about public restroom etiquette. (For that matter, please squat prior to peeing and wipe up any diddlies. Thank you.) I am destined to write the very needed Guide to Public Restroom Etiquette. Don’t roll your eyes…you know this is needed. Just look at what a classic “Everyone Poops” is- someone made millions off of stating the obvious.

Yes, I will be the Emily Post of the public pooper. In fairness, I should probably give some credit and a small monetary percentage to the woman who inspired me today. The introduction will tell our story; the story of a girl who maneuvered her son-filled stroller into the stall of a hospital restroom and proceeded to hear a conversation from the next stall over, which was had on a CELL PHONE during the ‘passing process’ about her recent ‘cleansing’ and the detailed description of each day’s output. Apparently over 60% of Americans have continued a cell-phone conversation while using a public restroom; most do not mute for flushing.  I’ve felt awkward flushing and interrupting conversations in the next stall (although I should feel no guilt and know of others who would have faked total stomach failure for the sake of humor). There is a broad, sweeping rule for that the Throne is not the place for a sit-down-conversation, but there are many societal issues that need guidance.

Potential chapter ideas:

Youth Issues:  Handling Children’s Faux-pas

What to do when your child loudly comments on the smell or the sound of a neighbor’s flatulence? How does one muffle laughter when a stranger’s child exclaims commentary such as, “That was the loudest fart I’ve ever heard!” about your stall-neighbor? This would include mention of a Facebook advisory I recently laughed at, warning fathers accompanying their sons into public restrooms not to make fun of loud pooping noises or to name their sons “Prince Poops-a-lot” as they may soon hear their son exclaim, “That’s not me pooping, Daddy!” and be forced to come face to face with a new ‘heir to the throne’.

Appropriate Sharing and Equipment Issues:  

The ‘Spare a Square’ Dilemma: When venturing a plea to a kind-hearted stall-neighbor, how should one ask? How many squares are appropriate? Guidance: It is appropriate to leave the abundance for the next victim- I mean visitor- to prevent repeated square-sparing requests. It is considered rude, although resourceful, to shove it into a bag and use it for a child’s mummy Halloween costume.

Broken latches: When is it appropriate to ask a stranger to hold the door?  If not, do you opt for the hand-out or leg-up method?

Breaking and Entering: A guideline for appropriate pre-entry stall checks,  appropriate exclamations when discovering unexpected squatters, making apologies, and handling awkwardness if another stall isn’t available before your victim emerges.

International/Cultural Relations: American thrones vs. Squatty Potties:

When one has traveled or lived overseas, cultural differences quickly become evident. In the absence of in-ground ‘squatties’, many foreigners climb on top of the commode and use it thus. Unfortunately, this frequently leaves a major tinkle sprinkle for the next person. Guidance: always do a double feet check. Just because you don’t see feet doesn’t mean it is not occupied. (One college semester it took my roommate and I months to figure out why one bathroom’s 5 stalls were constantly sprinkle-soaked and why the porcelain had weight cracks. Within two years I lived in Korea and she lived in China; overseas education complete.)

Gender issuesFemale “Herding” vs. Male “Lone Wolfing”:

Women travel in packs because 1) wardrobes used to necessitate help to disrobe and use the restroom 2) Many women are juggling kids and performing Olympic gymnastic routines to hold babies/contain children, protect purses, and use the restroom simultaneously.

While a young boy may be very comfortable with ladies having conversations in the restroom, it is essential that he be taught that men do NOT converse with strangers in a public restroom. Men do NOT emerge from the restroom with a new friend, often because their visits usually do not include children or issues that stem from doors, toilet paper, or lines.

*This also includes bathroom design issues: men clearly design most public restrooms. The evidence is the lack of diaper changing stations or the positioning of the station directly in front of a door or sink, ensuring that the mother is hit or in the way. (This also goes for stall width: I smacked my belly into a wall today during an in-stall turn. Please, plan for frequent visits from us Pregopotamuses; 5 point turns shouldn’t be needed.)

Covering Your Backside:

It’s always important to do a mirror check before exiting the restroom, but helping out a stranger is equally vital. The classic issues of toilet paper stuck to a shoe or a skirt tucked into undees are classics because they actually happen. Please gentlemen…check your fly. Twice. It’s awkward to be on a date sitting across from a wide open barn door knowing that as a man NO ONE will tell you. You poor guy. On that note, women aren’t so glamorous when it comes to wardrobe malfunctions. In real life, wardrobe malfunctions end up more like Superbowl fiascoes than iconic representations.

Okay…maybe I won’t be the author of a best-seller. Elmo’s Potty Time, Who Pooped?, and Everybody Poops seem to have the market cornered. Still, there is a market for ‘war stories’ and the public restroom is a place that has seen unspeakable things. Just look at those poor restroom outlets.

In the meantime, safe sprinkling Dear Friends. Courtesy flush, be neat and wipe the seat, and please don’t conference call while you’re doing your business.

Life in Jurassic Park

I used to think the sound of military range fire was soothing. Living on post, it was very frequent that I would be lulled to sleep by the ‘sound of freedom’. It was amusing when non-military guests would wake up jarred, wondering if we were under attack. Now that I live a 15-20 minute driving distance from a range and my toddler’s naps have been interrupted by the range noise for the past 3 days, it is NOT so amusing.

Today I put my sleepy toddler down for a nap, sat down to check e-mail, and suddenly I heard the exact sounds that struck fear into every movie-goer in 1993.  (Yes, it’s been almost 20 years. Yes, we’re old.)

The windows rattled, a deep boom crashed, and then a small child cried out. When your child hasn’t napped in days, the faint cry of a child who is no longer napping sounds a bit more like a roar.

Welcome to Jurassic Park. (Roar!)  It’s a wonderful world of parenting where the unexpected and inexplicable happen every day. I can’t recall how many times Firstborn has done something unexpected, leaving grandparents laughing and Hubby and I looking a bit like this:

Just yesterday as I swept the floor, I watched my son reach up to the garage door, turn the long door handle, pull, and successfully open the door. My son, the raptor. Clever boy. Never mind what the kitchen looks like when he gets done stomping through it.

Sadly, that makes me the t-rex. Today I tried to balance a child on my now non-existent hip while spreading peanut butter. I also have to turn to the side so I can reach the counter without an over-the-belly Frankenstein extension. It makes me feel that my arms are much too short for my body. Yes, Jeff Goldbloom… “Mommy’s very angry.”

Another applicable Jurassic Park lesson:Running top-speed to the bathroom is a sure-fire way to invite unwanted guests to join you. Just an hour ago I rushed to the powder room for a quick potty break.  My son turned the handle, opened the bathroom door, threw a ball into the bathroom, and quickly shut the door as if throwing a grenade. It’s not getting eaten by an extinct predator, but it was still a bit unsettling.

Likewise, my lower half is much larger these days. When I walk into the Labor and Delivery next month I am sure I will be lumbering in tyrannosaurus style, much like Sandra Bullock’s character in Miss Congeniality. Reference Michael Caine: “I haven’t seen a walk like that since Jurassic Park”. Then there’s the lovely last t-rex scene where the ‘living’ dinosaur crashes through its skeletal representation.  I find that to be a fitting representation of “society’s expectation for my appearance” vs. “reality”.  Crashing through too-small depictions of what I might have looked like long ago? Oh yes, sign this t-rex up.

Perhaps I don’t have actual dinosaurs running around the house, but if today has had a theme it is certainly, “Life finds a way”. Any parent who has raised a toddler can confirm this. If once-cool parents who could overcome all obstacles, had sound theories on life, and had it all together are put into a confined area with small children and suddenly our Jurassic Park adventure feels like this:

The impossible happens every day. As Son #2 is stomping on my hip and back nerve, I think I’ll let Jeff Goldbloom wrap this up for me and grab a snack. It’s pretty appropriate for this house full of testosterone and defied odds.

“ Life can not be contained. Life breaks free! It expands to new territories, crashes through barriers- painfully at times, maybe even dangerously  but- well, there it is…life finds a way.” From childbirth to the adventures of the every day, in this house life does find a way. It’s a wonderful once-in-a-lifetime experience that just might kill us all.

A Mommy Monday

Ah, Monday morning; the great supplier of blog material. Today was one of those lovely mornings where I was glad no one was around to see it…so naturally, I’m going to blog about it and expose myself to ridicule for the laughter and entertainment value of all. Mondays are hard for everyone.  When something is going be challenging, it is time to rally and make it a game. Thus, Mondays are my ‘problem solving days’; if I am still standing at 8:00pm and all the members of my family are fed, clothed and relatively clean by bedtime, it counts as a win. The key to successful Monday morning of problem solving is usually all in the preparation. Today I even had back-up. Game time.

Problem 1: My usual Monday morning appointment was moved up to 8:30am.  Small children are not allowed to come to appointments, so Firstborn goes to hourly care during appointments. Hourly care does not accept kids before their appointment time to the minute; the earliest I can drop Firstborn today is 8:30. Meanwhile, I must check in at the hospital by 8:20 or lose the appointment.

Preparation solution: Enlist the help of Hubby to meet me at 8:20 so that I can keep the appointment.

Problem 2: Hourly Care has VERY specific requirements for drop-off. If these are not met, the child is not admitted and there is a cancellation fee.

Preparation solution: Pack the diaper bag ahead of time. Include the required pieces for admittance to daycare: diapers, wipes, socks, closed-toe shoes, and IDs. In an attempt to be helpful and to prevent the need for repeated labeling, use the diaper-bag that has Firstborn’s name on it.

Problem 4: Hubby has never been to the hourly care facility. Any yellow lights that would separate our cars on the drive there now require stopping, potentially slamming on breaks to avoid other crazy drivers and not losing Hubby, as cell phone usage is not allowed on post.

Preparation solution: Hubby will simply follow me to the location and wait until 8:30 for the drop-off, allowing me to be on-time for the appointment.

Monday’s problems were going down…or so I thought. Now remember, all my maneuvering must be pictured with a basketball sized stomach, a penguin waddle, and a frazzled look. Here’s what really happened this Monday Morning:

We left on time with all required items packed. The follow-me-driving method resulted in me braking quickly for a yellow so we wouldn’t be separated; this threw loose items forward and made me involuntarily extend my arm out to be a human seatbelt for a non-existent passenger in the front seat.  As we arrived at Hourly Care with 15 minutes for me to spare, I looked for the diaper-bag so I could put on Firstborn’s required socks and shoes. As I scanned the backseat, I saw NO bag.  (Just reading that sentence should strike horror into every mother’s heart.) As I began a frantic search, Hubby announced to me that Firstborn was also pooping. Lovely. Naturally, the car’s emergency diaper-bag contents had been used the day before and were no longer in the car. Mommy preparation fail. At this point, my blood pressure is rising and my self-esteem is crashing. Now Firstborn can’t be dropped off for care, a cancellation fee will be due, and Hubby will be late for work. To his credit, he was totally calm, urged me to go to my appointment, and promised to handle everything. What a guy.

Quite upset, I switched cars with Hubby and started driving away to the hospital. Suddenly I saw Hubby’s arm swing out of the car, diaper-bag in hand and arm raised in triumph. Oh, happy day!  This conveniently monogrammed bag is also camouflage; the bag had apparently flown off the seat and landed under the seat at my sudden stop. The reason that the camouflage was effective was that it was the dark BDU camo  (old school) and not anything more recent, which only blends in with floral couches.

After breathing a huge sigh of the relief and declaring my husband the ultimate day-saver and master of the universe, I hopped back into my car. I raced to the hospital (going the speed limit, stopping fully at each stop sign and red light) and managed to find an empty spot on the second to last row. Bonus! Not even the last row this time! I hustled into the clinic to check in just in time, opened my wallet to retrieve the ID that is required for my appointment, and realized that it must be on my floorboard thanks to the yellow light right after entering post. Little known fact: at the pace of my 8-months-pregnant-speed walk, it takes 9 minutes to get from the clinic to the second to last row of the car and back.

After showing up 15 minutes early to over 20 appointments, being 9 minutes late warranted a “We wondered where you went off to. It seems like everyone is late today!”  Ouch, my pride. I did my best. (Sob!) Naturally, the little one was uncooperative for the heart scan. As the fluid level was checked, the technician said, “Oh my! You’re having a little contraction aren’t you?” No, I’m just feeling some light pressure that comes with the glory of motherhood and thus must be fully enjoyed at all costs.

Insult to injury…when I picked up Firstborn, I made it all the way out to the car before realizing I had forgotten his diaper-bag inside. (Facepalm!) The rest of the day was filled with the Napless Wonder living up to his title and then returning to the hospital for a quick lancing at the dermatology clinic. Of course, this translates to wrestling down a greased piglet long enough for the Constitution can be tattooed onto its back. It was raining hard for our return to the car, at which point I saw a vacant Expectant Mother parking spot. For a moment I thought a motorcycle occupied the spot; if you can ride a motorcycle, you do NOT need the convenience of an expectant mothers parking spot. In another two minutes I was pushing a stroller with a crying child all over the parking lot, trying to locate my car in a total downpour. Yep, that person with the confused look and the screaming baby who lost a 1 ton piece of metal…that was me. Too bad I wasn’t caught on camera…it was such a proud moment.

So now as I wait for Hubby, Rescuer of Monday Mornings to arrive home, dinner is ready to go into the oven, Firstborn is finally playing happily, the trash is out, and the house is relatively clean. For a Monday, I declare it a win.

Great Expectations

As Hubby and I sat down to dinner the other night, I looked through our kitchen window to see two teenage boys run across my neighbor’s yard. The first, a resident of the home, was a lanky boy carrying a skateboard. He was followed at a short distance by a medium-build friend wearing a bright blue Kool-Aid shirt. (I would have felt an immediate connection with my fellow Kool-Aid endorser, but he lacked my full-pitcher physique. He looked more like a Kool-Aid juice box than the round pitcher look I currently pull off.) My facial expression must have shown surprise in the split-second that my brain processed all this because Hubby asked what on earth was going on behind him. “The neighbor’s kid and the Kool-Aid man just ran across the yard”, I replied. He wheeled around in anticipation, but his expression soon made it obvious that my Beloved was clearly disappointed. “I thought you meant someone literally dressed in the full Kool-Aid pitcher outfit was running across the yard.”

While that would be filed under both “Hilarious Dinner Occurrences” and “Choking Hazards”, this instance will have to rest under “Unusual Beverage Humor” and “Unmet Expectations”.

Expectation is an integral part of life. We are often advised to be flexible with our expectations so that we aren’t disappointed, although I find this to be a bit ridiculous. The hope of something phenomenal is what enables humans to endure all manner of trials.  This is why there are 2 hour waits for 2 minute roller coaster rides, why marathon runners endure months of brutal training, and why warnings of a ‘smaller Christmas’ never deter children from stampeding down the stairs before sunrise.

Particularly as adults, disappointing experiences, fear and unmet expectations can make us bitter and pessimistic. They can also make us disciplined and better planners if we have a good attitudes and back-up plan. This is why people e-mail extra copies of important papers to ourselves, leave extra early to find parking before appointments, keep emergency diaper-bags in the car, and buy shotguns in case of a Zombie Apocalypse.

I had great expectations for today. It was the first time my husband would be able to join me for an in-depth ultra-sound and see the face of his son. I expected that the parking lot would be full, that many of the handicapped parking spots would be filled by people who shouldn’t be in those spots, that the ‘Expectant Mother’ parking spots would be full (yep), and that I would be waiting long past 10 minutes to be seen.  What I did not expect was to be told that the doctor was off today and all appointments had been cancelled without notice. As I tried to book a series of new appointments for the next 6 weeks I heard a cheerful “We expect to see you back on Mondays and Thursdays for the next several weeks!” Yes, I expect you do. My disappointment and frustration might have been lessened if I hadn’t pinned such hope on sharing the joy of seeing my son with his father or if it hadn’t taken hours of driving and nonrefundable childcare reservations to be at the required appointment. Unmet expectations bring out the worst in people.

Let me repeat that: “Unmet expectations bring out the worst in people.” Allow it so sink in so you’re prepared for the ridiculous, passionate reviews of tonight’s VP Debates. The expectations for this debate are unbelievably high; the potential for disappointment is sure to be proportional. When months of anticipating ‘crushing victory’, exposed lies, total blunders, and tongue-tied sputtering by two men lead up to debate watching parties complete with popcorn, I fear that expectations may be out of hand. Let me quote Twain and leave it there: “Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Unmet expectations bring out the worst in people when we believe our expectations are reasonable. When products fail, customer service is deplorable, children embarrass us during important moments, interviews go poorly, marriages erupt, or automatic withdrawals charge twice people get downright ugly. The two locations where I’ve heard the most yelling and cussing from the unsatisfied are airports and cell-phone stores.  On the other hand, surpassed expectations do amazing things for the human spirit. Something in us makes us root for the underdog, cry at stories of overcome obstacles, and cheer wildly when the impossible is proved otherwise. The hope of something beyond our expectations is what keeps some people going.

This week I’ve noticed how much Jesus told his disciples about what to expect. He was a master of changing expectations. The expected Messiah would be a Roman-crushing powerhouse radiating glory; Jesus was a homeless friend of sinners who touched the unclean and hugged little snot-nosed children. As he overlooked Herod’s Temple (now the Dome of the Rock) and the disciples marveled at the architecture of the great building, Jesus told them to expect it to be taken to the ground with each 60 foot stone overturned. “When should we expect this?” the disciples asked. This ‘unbelievable’ event occurred about four decades later in 70 AD.  Jesus repeatedly warned the disciples to expect that he would be turned over to die and of incredible suffering and martyrdom that awaited them. He wanted the disciples to be prepared and have realistic expectations so that the disappointment and bitterness would not set in. Likewise, he filled them with great expectations. He told them he would rise in three days, prepare a place for them, send the Holy Spirit, and anoint them in power. Jesus told them of Heaven’s riches and rewards beyond measure beyond what the human mind can conceive. Jesus outlined reasonable expectations and tried to prepare the disciples, but in the end they had to experience it for themselves to understand all they were told to expect. No amount of advice, warnings, or training can do what experience can. Just ask any mother who read any variation of a  “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” book.

Sometimes the difference between waiting and expecting is perspective. My hope is that I continue to have great expectations regardless of my circumstances. You never know when a giant Kool-Aid man will run through the backyard—and I want to be ready to enjoy it when it happens.