Paper Chase

Sometimes parenting means leaving the roll of toilet paper on the window sil because your toddler ripped the roll mount off the wall while trying to scale Mount Toilet…

…and watching helplessly as, just as you need it most, the roll is snatched from your hands by that same toddler, who then runs away and doesn’t come back.

Happy Monday, y’all.

Crime and iPodishment

Anyone want to burn me a mix CD? Not a mix of mp3 files sent to Dropbox but an actual CD?

Let me ‘splain.

About two weeks ago Moira and I woke up around 7am, as per usual, and I started browsing my emails while taking care of her first feeding. In my email was a message with the subject “Your recovered iPod: contact the [local] police.”

Um…okay. Last I knew my iPod was in its normal spot: the glove compartment of the Fit. Notice I’m not calling it a Nano, or an iPod Touch (by the way, that device is not an iTouch, heathens) or iPhone. No, no. I bought it in 2006. It has a clickwheel. I also had my name engraved on the back–my full married name, just for fun, since I was still living in sin without the benefit of a legitimizing document (unless you count a family cell phone plan, which, for the record, I do) and our wedding was some months away.

The body of the email was brief: my iPod had been recovered and was being held in conjunction with “an incident”. The police officer on the case Googled my full name, came up with my email address, and contacted me. The email was timestamped 6:38am–less than 20 minutes prior to my wakeup. Interesting. I got the girls settled and went out to check the car. Sure enough, all of the doors were ajar and the car had been rifled through. For those of you who are familiar with The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, this had just become a Quadrant 1 Priority Day.

Back to the email. Not only had my property been stolen, but the perpetrator had been arrested, the iPod recovered, and a notification sent to me before I had even known the crime had occurred. 

And they say customer service is dead.

In addition, they sent a “bobby on a bike” (neighborhood bike officer) around to take my details and give me information on going to the station to give a statement. The only issue is that he came around 11:45am, which he could not have known was a terrible time for a Tuesday so it wasn’t his fault, but that’s normally the time I’m trying to cajole Maggie into using the facilities one last time before lunch and preschool at 1pm. Normally this requires stories and shameless begging. I was halfway through shameless begging when the doorbell rang so I left Margaret upstairs while I spoke to the officer.

You know, Maggie has been making wonderful advances with her social development. So much so that she hardly blinked before she came downstairs stark naked and yelled “PANTS OFF DANCE OFF!” to the shocked police officer…and did a little tapdance.

I blinked a few times and pretended it didn’t happen. It’s all part of my “Mother of the Year” campaign.

Everyone got out the door at the prescribed time and Moira and I went off to the station. It is a sin and a shame, but I find that I am constantly waiting for people (pickups for Tom’s work, waiting in the car while he runs errands, etc.) and I never have my spanky new Kindle with me. This was no exception, so I spent 45 minutes reading UK “drink-driving” penalty brochures and waiting for my detective.

The detective came around and had a bag of property obtained from the criminal upon his arrest. She went through the list and I’m sorry to say that aside from a point-and-shoot digital camera, my six-year-old iPod was easily the most valuable item in the haul and because it was engraved with my name, we are thus far the only ones able to press formal charges. I will say that the next most valuable item on the list was a copy of “The Batman Chronicles” and a “faux-leather sunglass holder.” You can’t make this crap up, y’all.

At any rate, I have learned a very important lesson (I, um, forgot to lock the car after my errands so it was wide open; luckily I hadn’t forgotten the diaper bag with my wallet in it) about caring for one’s personal property. Unfortunately my iPod and connector cable (he was kind enough to leave the charger in the plug, which, huh?) are still in the evidence locker until further notice. I really missed it on our road trip to Stonehenge, but such is my punishment.

So…who wants to send me a CD?

A Night With Miss Chippy and Friends

I love self-catering rentals. Instead of staying in a generic, mediocre chain hotel you can rent a little apartment or house with multiple bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living area. Save money by preparing your own meals! Unwind in a home-like environment at the end of the day! And, AND, you don’t have to go to bed at the same time as the kids. When you travel with small kids and you have one hotel room without a balcony (or during chilly times of the year), the family as a whole will go to bed at one of two times: seven-thirty or midnight. There’s no in-between. Either everyone goes to sleep when the first child does or you juggle for five hours trying to get everyone settled and down to bed. Those are your choices. Live with it or get a self-catering rental for your stay.

But sometimes…well. All the website reviews and photos in the world can’t save you.

We reserved a self-catering townhouse about fifteen miles outside of Bath for this past weekend; it was in a perfect location to be used as a base for trips to Bath, Salisbury, and Stonehenge. It looked cozy, rural, and quiet with two bedrooms and a full kitchen. Plain, but homey.

Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to call the owners hoarders…but they were definitely collectors. When we walked in, every available table and shelf and inch of wall space was covered with trinkets and prints. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every figure there in the ten-cent bin at church rummage sales, so we’re not talking high quality. It reminded me of the overly decorated B&B from that one episode of “Gilmore Girls” and shrugged it off, but then I noticed this:

This was my first indication that something was seriously…off. Those aren’t real cats, but boy, I wasn’t sure. Neither Tom nor I have the best eyes, but we stared at them for a while before writing them off as taxidermy. *shudder* I brought Moira upstairs to nurse briefly while Tom got the rest of the tour, and there was one on the bed. I steeled my resolve to touch it to move it…and it was a fake. The legend on the bottom indicated its name was “Van.” The other two cats we located were Simple Simon and Miss Chippy.

Maggie, who gets most of her conversational contributions from memorized book passages, was moved enough for a breakthrough into spontaneous speech: “There are cats everywhere.”

She then went on to find some wooden toy cars, a display of fake Faberge eggs, and a collection of railroad train toys and Tom asked the proprietor if it was okay if she played with anything.

“No.”

NO?!

So let’s recap, here: this self-catering apartment was maybe 600 square feet, packed to bursting with gaudy trinkets, and Maggie can’t touch any of it. I might have audibly gasped. Later I asked “Tom, how are we going to get through the next three days?!”

“I told them not to expect to find anything in its original place. It would all be really high up.”

Smart man. The photo above is all of the things we confiscated from Maggie within a ten-minute time period before we decided it was time to get dinner, but not in time for us to avoid her discovery of the birdhouse that cheeped when it moved (a problem since anyone walking on the floor above where it was hanging made the entire house shake) and the faux squirrel.

SRSLY NOW?!

One of the things that struck me most about the decor was Jesus. The Jesus was a theme. Jesus was this man’s copilot, homeboy, and interior decorator. Crosses everywhere, blessing plaques, a decorative plate with a white Jesus crudely drawn next to the AA serenity prayer (and placed next to a tableaux of a…geisha serving tea? Okay!) and a rather large cross next to the bed.

OH WAIT. What could that be in the lit display case next to the cross on which the Son of God expelled his last breath?!

Daggers. SEXY DAGGERS.

Specifically, twelve decorative daggers, corresponding with the months of the  year, festooned with provocatively dressed and cartoonishly buxom corrupters of the flesh.

I can’t even. If it hadn’t been forty degrees in the bathroom, I would have immediately showered…which brings me to my next point. English homes are cold, and since this one was 300 years old, we expected unsealed windows and drafts. What we did NOT expect was that one of the bedrooms would not have a heating unit. The one that did had a small bed, one that I think was smaller than an American double.

Both girls had minor colds, so we knew that getting them a full night’s sleep was of utmost importance, which they could not get if they were both frozen like wee Monkeysicles. First we tried to divide and conquer: Tom and his majestic beard would sleep with Maggie in the unheated bedroom while Moira and I snuggled in the same bed in the other room. That lasted about 45 minutes until we realized that a) Maggie refused to keep the covers on and b) Tom’s face was aching from the cold. There was frost in his mighty moustache. Since the heater in the sole heated bedroom wasn’t doing jack for the temperature, that left one option:

The girls would have to sleep in the bed with me for body heat, and Tom would sleep on the floor. I was in head-to-toe wool–socks, tights, and shirt–with Maggie firmly pressed into my kidneys and Moira under my armpit. I could only accommodate all of us in the small bed by lying on my side with one arm over my head. And I’m going to judge some of you: those of you who practice family bed sharing in anything less than a California King are out of your minds. It was monstrously uncomfortable. I tried to buck up and remember that this is how the pioneers did it for years, and then I remembered that a lot of them died early and the ones that didn’t made it to California and invented the giant-ass mattress, bless their hearts. As I tried to massage feeling into my back I thought to myself “All we need now is for one of them to vomit, because in these temperatures I’m not going to strip them down to wash them.”

And because our purpose in existing is to entertain God, about ten seconds later Moira gagged on mucus and puked. She received my sympathies and a blotting with a swaddling blanket that for the rest of the trip was designated as her barf-catcher, and no more. Pulling her close a bit later was confirmation that our worrying was not an overreaction: the side of Moira that was not next to me (though still under her blanket) was ice-cold.

As it turns out, there was no need to set our alarms to be on time for the sunrise tour of Stonehenge. We were wide awake by six a.m. and Maggie perched herself by the door as soon as possible and amused herself with the iPad in anticipation of leaving. Tom and I decided the better part of wisdom was to mask any potential body odor with many layers of clothing and skipped showering; neither of us wanted wet heads. The less said about trying to pee in a sub-freezing bathroom, the better. Porcelain retains a mighty chill.

In the end, we bailed on our itinerary and headed to Cheltenham two nights early and were able to extend our hotel stay there. It worked out awesomely because we went to Cardiff the next day instead and got to enjoy a bit of Wales. The kids-stay-free/cheap-WiFi/tulip-prints-on-the-wall chain hotel in Cheltenham was so thoroughly generic and mediocre that it might have been American; it even shared a parking lot with a TGI Friday’s. We availed ourselves of their children’s menu and balloons and in my relief I ordered a cheeseburger topped with fried mozzarella washed down with a Sam Adams and unlimited Diet Coke refills and may have whistled “Yankee Doodle” as I drank it. And I’m not ashamed one little bit, do you hear me? I EARNED that bland, greasy heart attack on a plate.

I’m not sure if we’ll get refunded for those two nights; Tom is working on it now. We’ll absolutely use a self-catering apartment again in the future, and we’re writing it off as a learning experience (not to mention a good story).

God save the Queen. And Miss Chippy.

Wednesday Vignettes

The back-and-forth of getting a toddler up in the mornings is starting to wear on me. I thought we’d have more time before I could buy clothing without Maggie’s input, but here we are; the only clothes that can be worn are ones selected by Maggie and the rest are forcibly rejected. Like most mothers of my age and education and social class, I feel weak and ineffectual. I vacillate between wondering if I should encourage her independence in picking an outfit that pleases her, if it’s building her confidence to do so, and is it wrong to just say “For the love of God, the shirt you want isn’t clean. Wear this.”

I don’t know. Today I don’t care. I just want to get everyone in the car and on the way to the craft store so Moira will sleep through most of the outing and I won’t have to nurse her in the front seat of the car.

*****

Why don’t I know where I’m going? Why is it so hard for me to follow the damn street signs? It’s a clear day, no clouds, minimal traffic, and it’s a straight shot on A61 to the store in Leeds. I’ve been there before; why can’t I remember if this is familiar or not? It’s something that used to drive me crazy about my high school boyfriend. “We’ve gone down this road a hundred times! Why do I have to remind you when to turn?” “I’m sorry! I don’t remember directions! I’m just not wired that way.”

I didn’t used to be that way. Now I am. Whether it’s sleeplessness of having a newborn or simple distraction, I can’t remember how to get to where I want to go. It’s 5am on the East Coast but wish I could call him up. I’m sorry, I’d say. I understand now. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Of course I can’t call, but I hope he’ll feel a little prickle on the back of his neck and know that someone on the other side of the world is wishing him well.

The sun splinters the road before me as I make another u-turn. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

*****

It’s been an hour longer than it should have been. I still can’t find the store. A wrong turn brought me onto a motorway, which I managed to exit but not before I saw a fork that would have rerouted me in the direction of London. We circle Leeds again and again and I expect Chevy Chase’s voice to pop out of my stereo, except instead of “Big Ben. Parliament!” it would be “Royal Armouries! That porn store!” I decide the supplies I had wanted to get–a few things for homeschool crafting and activities–aren’t worth it, but I don’t want my trip to be a waste. The kid room at the Royal Armouries is fun, and free, so we’ll go there.

*****

The kid room is being renovated. Nothing is easy today. I find a sunny corner to feed Moira, who has been more patient than I’d expect, and try to decide how I’m going to salvage the day. I decide on pizza at the little sit-down place around the corner; they have balloons for kids and if nothing else I know Maggie will eat their signature pizza dough balls dipped in butter. Maggie blows me away at lunch. She sits politely and silently, doodling on the kid’s menu and enthusiastically sharing half of my caprese salad before digging into Roman-crust pomodoro pizza. She drinks from an adult glass–the actual shatter-prone kind–with no issues. There’s hardly a mess, save for an errant smudge of sauce. All in all, she is delightful company and it was wonderful dining out with them. On the way out of the parking garage I look to my right to check traffic and see the craft store. If I had looked around a little, if I hadn’t been so focused on trying to follow the path I had picked I would have seen it.

The universe needs to get better writers; a metaphor that heavy-handed would get laughed out of a Writing 101 workshop.

*****

Somehow I manage to settle Maggie for a quick nap at home before heading out to a haircut. I need something sassy and fun; failing that, I’ll get something manageable and short. In the great tradition of postpartum hormone recalibration it’s begun to fall out in huge clogs so the shorter the better. Moira sits on my lap and gazes into the mirror, oblivious to the snips of hair that have begun to coat her back. Maggie hangs back by the cash register. I offer to make an appointment for her but I know better and the look she fixes me with confirms it–there will be no haircuts for this one. She was asked to be a flower girl in a wedding this summer and my first question was “How important to you is it that her hair look nice?” The suggestion that she might like to see everyone else get their hair done and do likewise filled me with hysterical laughter. Literal hysteria, in fact; I’ve given up on even brushing it into a simple ponytail. The idea of an actual stylist is like inviting an unpinned grenade into your home. She doesn’t give a damn if you like her, which is admirable…in its way. For better and for worse, Maggie has her own agenda and to hell with yours. Maybe we can get her a straw hat.

But the moments when her agenda meshes with mine? Divinity with a side of pizza dough balls.

*****

It ends on my side, this long day of errands and busywork. Reading but not processing; thinking idly and drifting. But I’m still working–the hunger of an infant is primal and doesn’t recognize “Wait just a second.” We settle into a rhythm and her eyes bulge as Moira grabs my skin to pull me deeper into her; the fear that the milk might vanish fuels her first few gulps and then she settles. Her body arches into mine and we both doze off, her hot breath on my skin and her warm, sleepy weight grows more solid next to me on the bed. I think she dreams of milk; certainly, with the tiny twitches in her legs and the occasional sighs and shudders, I can be sure she is dreaming of something.

But not me. Tonight, I won’t dream at all.