Show Down

Christmas threw our carefully coordinated shopping plan off.  I wound up having to take all three children with me, just me, to a Kroger in the middle of a re-model, to re-stock our pantry.  Before we got started, I remembered to get food on the way, so that everybody would be busy eating while I shop, and I snagged a car cart, basically a regular basket cart with a child’s play car bolted to the front.

An early bathroom break threw off the rhythm.  Simon now wants to walk.  He’s four.  He has the attention span and impulse control of a fruit fly.  But I’m feeling saucy,  and I’d rather give it a try than listen to him whine and wail about the unfairness of it all through the rest of the store.  And so we continue our trip, with Simon trying to maintain all the rules of society and grocery store shopping, walking beside me and the cart, in a calm and controlled manner.

With each aisle, he gets antsier, excited by all the people he can get to talk to him, by all the packages on the shelves.  The aisles are getting narrower and narrower, and more and more crowded.  We’re half way through when Simon hits his wall.  He is not staying out of the way of others.  He is touching things he shouldn’t be touching.  And he is wandering further and further away.  Other shoppers are beginning to get wall-eyed watching him, and I can’t get anything done.  I can barely reach him, hopping around the cart.  There’s just enough room for a second cart to squeeze past us, as long as everybody is brushing the shelves on their own sides.  I grab him from the wrong side of the aisle, and try to shove him into the car, smooth and quick.  He resists, and those carts are evil.  Only one set of the three sets of wheels touches the ground, so that when even the most cooperative child tries to get into the front, the car spins away from him, and the cart blocks the entire aisle.  Without Simon’s cooperation, putting him in the car is not a maneuver I can manage with any dignity.

And thus it begins.  The closest shoppers are staring, and moving out of our way.  Ennio Morricone is playing in my head.  It’s a showdown at high noon.  I’ve brought a six shot revolver to the fight.  Simon’s got an uzi under his duster.  The slightest flinch from me, and he could take down the entire town.  Gently, calmly, quickly, I pull him behind the cart, out of the way and into what little privacy I can get.  “Simon.  You are not managing this right now.  You have two choices.  Get in the car cart, or we are leaving the cart right here, and you are going into your car seat.”  He’s fingering the trigger, and not looking me in the eye.    A grandmother nearby attempts to help, “Boy!  You better listen to your mama!”  Quietly, firmly, I repeat, “Get in the car cart, or we leave, and you get in your car seat.”  He  makes his choice.

Docile, cheerful even, he comes around the basket and slides into the car.  Bright and chipper, I lean in, “Don’t forget your seat belt!” and snap it closed.  I duck my head and shove off into a quieter aisle, where I can catch my breath and recover.   Everybody lived.


Fall Color

Our first fall with a yard, and no maintenance team.  It’s been an experience.  Rakes are apparently very much a “seasonal item” which translates into “perpetually out of stock.”  With every leaf off the three trees in the back yard, I finally got a rake and a dry day to use it together at the same time.  No luck on a bag holder yet.

So I made do with Samantha’s help.

“Oh, sorry.  I dropped it.”

“Oh, sorry.  My nose itched.”


“Oh.  My stomach hurts.”

I had to ask, “Do you think you’ve got motion sickness from trying to stand still for so long?”

She had no idea what I might mean.  “Nevermind, darling.  Go play.”

I roped Simon into helping next.  “Simon, hold it up. ”

“Simon.  Hold it up.”

“Simon.  HOLD THE BAG UP!”


“SIMON! Where are you going?”

Off chasing squirrels with Samantha.  I think I was right about her stomach.

Five bags bagged and stacked.  One quarter of the backyard done.  It’s going to be a long week.


Seth is fussing in his car seat.  I hear his fuss turn to scream, but I can’t see him in the dark, with his car seat rear facing.

“Samantha, what happened to Seth?”

“He bit his tongue!”

Josh and I are instantly alert.  “What?”

“Seth bit his tongue.  I saw him!”

I spin around in my seat.  Samantha’s got that look, the guilty look.  I tell her calmly, sternly, “I need to know right now what you did to Seth.”

It takes her a minute.  And then a few more minutes as we walk through the thought process that brought her to pinching the baby’s nose, the results it got her, and just how well she thought that had turned out.

Simon listens the whole long while.  Finally, he reaches over to possessively grab Samantha’s hand, turning his sternest gaze on me.  “MAMA!  You be nice to Samantha!  She’s my sister!”  He leans forward to see Samantha around the edge of his car seat.  “And Samantha, you be nice to Seth! He’s my baby brother!”

Suitably, simply chastised, Samantha and I both turn back around in our seats, and get quiet.


Samantha is in the other room, plinking out her first rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  It is our duty as her parents to listen avidly, even though we’re busy in another room.

We are enthusiastic supporters!   “WOOT WOOT!  Play it! Play it!  WOOT!  WOOT!  Play it!  Play it!”

Samantha starts playing, but her Daddy and I might be getting a little carried away.  “WOOT WOOT!  Play it! Play it!  WOOT!  WOOT!  Play it!  Play it!”

Her beautiful little five year old voice lilts from the piano room, “I would be HAPPY if you STOP!”

Ready! Or not.

We’re getting ready for a walk.  We have to run through a pre-walk checklist, like a pilot’s pre-flight checklist.  All three children are present, conscious and accounted for?  Check.  All three children have on shirts?  Hmm.  One moment.  I’m digging up play shirts from drawers when Simon comes bounding in, and lands on the bed behind me, jumping gleefully.  “I’m ready!  I’m ready!”

I know he’s not ready.  He hates getting ready, and we’ve only been getting ready for about ten seconds.  So I turn around, just to see what “ready” is in Simon’s book.

He’s stark naked, except for his shoes.  Dear boy.  He found his shoes and put them on!  He is jumping up and down, up and down, in his shoes, stark naked, on the bed, watching himself in the dresser mirror.

Wrestling shoes off sheets, and shirts on torsos.  The sacred work of raising children is utterly mundane.


We have a lot of bug drama in this house.  Cave crickets.  Spiders.  Ants.  Mosquitoes.  They all set off whirlwinds of panic and screaming, among the young, and not so young.

It’s a late summer evening, and we’re out for a walk.  I’m pushing the boys in a stroller, and Samantha is on foot.  Ahead, I sense danger.  There’s a black cloud, a swarm of dragonflies, directly blocking our path.

Dragonflies.  Vicious and alien looking bugs.  Giant bugs.  Flying bugs.  I just pray that none of them touch one of the boys, and wonder how Simon will cope, tied down as he is in the stroller, unable to run.

Samantha catches sight of the swarm.  “Mama, what are those?”  We’re nearly among them now.

I answer as passively, as matter of fact, as I can.  “They’re dragonflies, darling.”

Both Samantha and Simon gasp, “DRAGONFLIES!”  We’re walking through them now.  They’re huge, and glinting in the last light of the setting sun.

All three children watch in rapt wonder as we slowly march through the floating dragonflies.

Simon sighs happily as we come out the other side.  “Dragonflies!”