We Get By With a Little Help

I arrived home late last night from our family vacation.  Just after I climbed into bed, my mom sent me a text that Colton, my four-year-old nephew,  had fallen out of a shopping cart at a store and hit his head earlier in the evening.  I fought tears as the questions spewed from my fingertips.

 

“Is he okay?”

“Was she alone?”

“Did she get help?”

“Is SHE okay?”

Feeling sick about it all, I called my sister, Julie, and asked for every detail.

While shopping with her four children at JC Penney, Colton took a spill out of a shopping cart.  A terrible spill, backwards, that resulted in him landing directly on his head with nothing to cushion the blow.  Julie turned around just in time to see and hear his head hit the floor.  He screamed incessantly and Julie dropped to the floor, scooping up his four-year-old little body in her arms and holding his head, afraid of what she might see.  Amazingly enough, his head was in tact, but as she was trying to get him to calm down and look at her, his eyes, which he could barely keep open, rolled toward the back of his head.  Two of her other three children were sitting with them, both crying, as the third who was scared, looked on.

At this point, no one in the store came over to check on any of them–not even the person standing on the other side of the clothing rack.

Julie grabbed her phone, unsure if she should call 911.  Her terrified fingers dialed her husband first.  He told her to immediately get someone so that they could get ice on Colton’s head.  Julie scanned the store silently begging someone to make eye contact with her and, in her words,

“I quickly realized that nobody was going to come over.”

At this point, I must have stopped her story several times to clarify.  “Wait.  Was the store empty?  Were there just no people around?  Was he still crying?  Was he crying hard?  I mean, someone would have stopped to make sure he was okay!”

The store was not empty.  There were people around.  He was still crying hard (the ‘I’m hurt’ cry, not the ‘tantrum’ cry).  And not one person stopped.  Not even the lady who later told Julie that she HEARD Colton’s head hit the floor from a short distance away.

 

By God’s good graces, Colton is okay and is being monitored closely at home.  But this whole situation has left me sad and disgusted with humanity.

Where were the helpers?

That quote we’ve all heard, “Look for the helpers,” has given me goosebumps time and time again.  I have found myself saying it to my own children over the years as a way to make everyone feel better about a bad situation.

I keep asking myself  where Julie and Colton’s helpers were.  Why on earth no one would have stopped, at the very least to see if he was okay, if there was anything they could do, if they could get someone else to help, make a phone call, comfort Julie, Colt or her other children…

Please.  The next time you see a mother, sitting on a department store floor, cradling her inconsolable four-year-old, ask if she’s okay.  Don’t hide behind a clothing rack, turn away, or tell them later that you knew they needed help but were too busy to give it.

A lot of people love Julie and Colton and a lot of people would have been so grateful for a “helper” at a time when they needed one yesterday.

I am angry that no one came to my sister’s aide (and at the completely inappropriate reaction of the store manager–I’ll save that for another post), however, I am an optimist and will probably love people again sometime soon.  Probably.  Until then, I will do my best to not only look for the helpers, but to be one.

 

Knot Your Average Massage

I got a massage today. It’s the last one I’ll ever get. I’ve had them before but they are so few and far between that I forget. This time I will blog about it. It will be in writing forever. This time, I won’t forget.

This is me, pre-massage. I’m excited. So excited. My husband scheduled it for me, so I have less mom guilt over leaving my children to do something for myself. I walk out the door with a super-smile and extra pep in my step. When I return home, I will feel refreshed and satisfied, my body will feel like jelly, and I won’t have a care in the world. I will feel as if I’ve been spoiled at a fancy resort, minus the inconvenient flight to and fro.   I will have more patience with my children and I will want to embrace my husband for the gift of alone time.

Clearly, I have forgotten.

Massage time. I enter the establishment; the smell of essential oils fills the air. A friendly face in navy blue scrubs greets me. Her voice, gentle and sweet, welcomes me to the second door on the right, where the magic is about to happen. She tells me to undress down to where I “feel comfortable” and get under the sheets on the table, face down. Songs of birds and the pan flute permeate the room and I can almost see Ralph Macchio meditating in the corner.

She leaves and I begin to remember. Familiar, panicked thoughts flood my mind. When was the last time I shaved my legs? I hope my feet don’t stink. Does she massage my feet? Will I feel it through the callouses? Ugh. The callouses. When was the last time I showered? (It’s Winter Break. I am basically hanging out with my three kids who think I smell great no matter what. Don’t judge.)

I frantically undress, fearful that I will be caught in the near-nude before I can get to the blanket fortress on the table. Will she see my underwear? Old, holy, and way too small—I loved them for so long, yet I suddenly hate them.

I dive for the covers, lie face down on the table, and adjust my lady parts. Should I aim them inward and upward, toward my neck and out of the way? Or much more comfortably out to the sides, under my armpits? Armpits win.   I hope she doesn’t massage them by mistake.

A gentle knock on the door and she reenters the room. Should my arms be under the covers or on top? Under. Less exposure=less chance of my lady parts getting massaged by mistake.

My mind is working overtime, especially for something that should be mindless and tranquil.

“What kind of massage would you like?”

“Just average, please. I don’t need anything intense or anything,” I giggle, remembering that my husband of very large stature was nearly brought to tears by the same masseuse just two days before.

I don’t even know why she asked. She had plans of her own.

Where is she going to start? PLEASE don’t let it be my legs. Please don’t let it be my legs. Please, puh-lease don’t let it be my hairy legs.

She lowers the blanket down to the small of my back. Oh, thank goodness. My back. She’s starting on my back. Maybe I’ll fall asleep and I won’t even know when she massages my hairy legs and calloused feet. Then, I’ll wake up massaged and refreshed and the embarrassment will seem to be naught but a dream.  

Her warm, oily hands meet my back and my skin rolls at the mercy of them as they methodically push up, down and to the side. It is magical—but only for a moment. For, near my upper right shoulder blade, her brawny hands discover a knot. A knot–buried way down deep, minding its own business. Naturally, she takes her man thumb and digs into that knot with impressive King Kong strength.

Goodness gracious, that hurt. She’s moving on. Thank goodness. I couldn’t handle her pushing on that again.  

Then, as if she is reading my mind and completely choosing to ignore what I am thinking, she unleashes her inner elbow-gouging beast right there on that knot.

She’s lost her ever loving mind…

But it’s worse than that. Despite my clear request for an “average” massage, she’s gone straight into deep tissue mode and there’s no going back. She discovers more knots, all in my upper back. Her Exacto-elbow finds each and every one and cuts into them over and over again.

I begin to silently cry. Say something. Say something right now. Your massage just began. You have fifty minutes left of this. Fif-ty. You are a grown woman. Speak up, darn it.

But I don’t say a word. That awkward period of time where you have to decide if you will have a social or silent massage had already passed. I chose silence. Then I prayed. Dear God, please PLEASE let her move on to my hairy legs. No such luck.

I pass out from the pain and when I come to, she has finally moved on to my legs. Thirty seconds later, my leg massage is over.

Wait. What?

She quickly moves to my feet, which lasts another half-minute, then she tells me to turn over. She moves up to my arms, and while I’m cautious, I’m beginning to relax.

It’s time for her closing move. She pulls up a chair to my head area and gets cozy. I feel her breath on my forehead. Yessss…neck and shoulders. My favorite.

I haven’t forgotten about the encounter with my back, but I’m ready to forgive and move on. She oils her hands and rubs them together, beginning at my shoulders and moves to the back of my neck, with the weight of my head resting in her palms and her fingers, pointing–

For the love of all that’s holy–…

I’ve had three c-sections. The anesthesia made me ill to the point of vomiting with each one. I was positive, more than once, that my incision had ripped open from the force of the heaving. That was pain. And this is comparable.

But these are knots.  Knots that never did nothin’ to nobody. Knots that deserved to be left alone.  They are a part of me and I a part of them.

Then the only reasonable explanation for all of this hits me. This IS an “average” massage…for a 900-pound bear. She went to massage therapy school at a zoo, where she practiced on bears. I’ve put on some weight since she saw me last and she is confusing me with a bear.

She presses her finger into the marble in my neck once again. I wince and hold my breath and Ralph Macchio shifts from peaceful meditation in the corner to crane kick position behind her back. But before he can come to my aid, nausea consumes me and I’m pretty sure I’m going to vomit right there on her Edward Scissorhands. However, by God’s good graces, I’m able to keep it together.

I’m furious with her, with my husband for making the appointment, with my kids for any potential problems they will cause when I get home or thereafter, and with myself for having selective amnesia. And although I’ve practically been massaged to a pulp, I will walk out of there with dignity and grace and I will never return for a massage.

Except that when I get to my car I actually look like this. No dignity or grace, or knots for that matter. I don’t feel at all like a million bucks, refreshed or satisfied. But I have a story to tell, which makes me laugh (now that I’ve healed).   And a story that makes me remember the experience of the “average” massage.

Operation Haircut

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Tomorrow my husband has brain surgery.

It’s not your typical brain surgery, as he has it about every four weeks. He drives himself to and from the surgery establishment, and it only takes about an hour for the entire procedure.  Some people call it a haircut.

Six years ago we moved into a new home and my husband found another “home” just up the road at the local chain hair salon.  He befriended the tiny Thai woman with broken English working behind the counter (we will call her Jamie).  Her cutting skills were impeccable but what kept him returning time and time again was her exceptional hair washing technique.

Side note:  The man of the house is a s-u-c-k-e-r for being pampered.  I could write an entire blog about his preoccupation with it, but I won’t because I have more important things to write about. Like brain surgery.

Sweet Jamie loves nothing more than to make her clients beautiful and happy.  So when she discovered how much my husband liked the pampering, it gave her purpose and she vowed then and there to give him the best and longest scalp massages he’d ever have:  Pressing the spray hose right against the scalp and letting the hot water cascade down his head; lathering up her hands with expensive, delicious smelling salon shampoo and rotating her long sharp nails all through his hair and massaging massaging massaging forever and a day with her tiny strong hands.

He loved it and he let Jamie know he loved it because, well, we teachers love that whole positive-reinforcement-to-get-what-we-want thing.

But over the past couple of years he’s regretted those extra moans and words of validation. And now, on haircut day, my husband heads out of the house uttering, “I’ll see you after my operation.” It’s sarcasm at its finest and I laugh out loud. See, the love of my life has developed a bit of head acne (we will call it hacne just for fun).  It lines the lower part of his head close to the nape of the neck.  And there’s a lot of it.

Jamie shaves the back of his head with a “one”, right over that hacne, like nobody’s business. Those lumps and bumps are no match for her Norelco, which skims the top of them in preparation for the shampooing. At wash time he makes a shifty dash for the door.  But Jamie catches him in her strong Thai accent, “Ohhh Dougggg.  Ah you ready fo de best paht?” He chuckles nervously and does the walk of trepidation toward the wash bowl.

Once seated, he grips the arms of the chair in anticipation of the upcoming   massage.  In she goes with her nails, scraping, scratching, gouging, working his head like a dirty garment on a washboard, opening that hacne with gusto.  He groans aloud in pain, which Jamie mistakes for pleasure, so in she goes for more.  Tears form in the corners of his eyes, his jaw clenched as he waits for it to be over.  And all the while, Jamie tells stories in her sweet broken Thai, stopping every now and again to throw back her head and laugh at her own story.  My husband musters a laugh then winces as she goes in for round three.

Meanwhile I am at home, busy with the family, pausing often to giggle at what I know is taking place in a nearby salon.  What used to be a lovely little haircutting getaway for my husband is now a torture chamber, run by the kindest and strongest little Thai inquisitor there is.

Afterward, he walks in the door, sore and exhausted.  I can’t hide my grin. “So, how was it?”

He just stares.

“Turn around.  Let me see.” I can barely get the words out through the perma-smile stretched across my face.

He turns, exposing his oozing wounds and shares the experience as I’ve heard it so many times before.
I double over with laughter every time, like it’s the first time.

They say you have to laugh for twelve hours to burn a single pound. I’m pretty sure that I burned a pound just writing this and I certainly burn one every time I see him throw a towel down on the couch precisely where his head will rest.

One of these days he’s going to figure this hacne out and the world will be a less amusing place.  But not tomorrow.

Tomorrow my husband has brain surgery.

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Field Trip Mishaperone

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I cleaned out her third-grade folder, shuffling through the “Return to School” papers. The absence of a field trip permission slip meant I could breathe easy again.  Until tomorrow, anyway.

When my daughter was one and a half, she cursed me for being a working mom. For the next seven years she would remind me of how much I was missing out on and would swear up and down that when she grew up, her children would never have to step foot into a daycare because she would be a stay-at-home mom.

Are ALL strong-willed children early talkers with sizable vocabularies?

Now, yes, I would suffer from mom guilt anyway because it just comes with the territory—but the self-condemnation that had taken place over the better half of a decade was enough to make a perfectly sane mother rip blinds clear off her wall (it wasn’t a proud moment).

Once my daughter started preschool, I was rarely able to attend classroom parties or participate in events during the school day.  I had depleted my sick days every year since having her, and I needed to save them for true emergencies.  Besides, I was busy running a classroom of my own and sub plans are exasperating.  But come spring of second grade, she was ready to disown me if I didn’t do something, anything really, with her at school.

You can imagine that when she brought home a field trip form for the zoo (I love the zoo!! Errr, I used to love the zoo.) I immediately filled out the paperwork, giddily checking the box, “I am interested in chaperoning this field trip”. Then I prayed hard to be picked from the parent pool.

I walked in from work the next day to shrieking: “MOM! YOU WERE CHOSEN FOR THE FIELD TRIP!!!” We jumped and screamed and held each other. I put in for my absence from work immediately and for once, this scatter-brained mom felt ahead of the game.

Scatter. Brained. Mom.

Weeks passed and the field trip was approaching. It was Friday and on my commute home, it hit me like a ton of zoo manure that I had taken Tuesday off for the field trip. Tuesday. The day after Memorial Day.  In my district they take your first-born child if you take the day before or after a holiday break off of work.  And if that was going to happen, I’d have no one to go on the field trip with.  I needed to find a loophole.  I contacted my boss, my teaching partner, my union, to no avail.  I would have to report to work for at least the first half of the day.  I broke the news to her:  “I’ll be late, but I will be there.”

 

She clung to that last statement, asking me repeatedly over the weekend if I promised to show up and take her home afterward for early dismissal because “that’s what allllll the chaperones do.”

Well, darn it, if I couldn’t be a SAHM, I was going to be the best chaperone in the history of second grade chaperones, and if that included taking my daughter home for early dismissal, then so be it.

Tuesday…go time.  I reported to work, all the while watching the clock with a funny stomach. (clue #1)

Noon…forty-five minutes before I could leave due to my late lunch.  I’m typically famished at this point but surprisingly, I didn’t have an appetite. (clue #2)

12:45…I bolted out of that place faster than you could say Deadbeat Mom and began my twenty minute trek to the zoo.

1:05…I pulled up, feeling quite nauseous at this point, parked the car and something happened that we will call “The Unmentionable”.   I still can’t talk about it…so don’t ask.

1:06…In tears, I called my husband, mentioned “The Unmentionable,” and he ordered me to go home immediately.  And I should have.  Instead, I stared straight ahead through the zoo’s large iron fence border which screamed for me to STAY OUT, took a deep breath, and went to find my girl.

1:10…I entered the zoo and called the other chaperone to get their location:  The Polar Bear exhibit, which was coincidentally at the polar opposite end of the zoo.  Awesome.  I walked swiftly in that direction, my stomach lurching and rumbling.

1:11…To my surprise, “The Unmentionable” occurred again.  I pushed on.  Best. Chaperone.  Ever.

1:19…Finally, the heavens shone down upon a statue of Polar Bears.  I had made it!  I entered the walkway, pushing through droves of people, stretching my neck and searching for a familiar red ponytail.

1:24…I was deep in the crowd when the other mom called, “We just came out of the Polar Bear exhibit.  Where are you?”

1:25…I turned back (rumble) and fought the crowds (rumble rumble) heading back toward the entrance (rumble rumble lurch).  And there, at the entrance, her beaming face met mine. Hers, from seeing the chaperone of the year, her mom, standing in front of her.   Mine, from the clenching and the rumbling and the lurching and the sweating.

1:30…We had time for one more exhibit before heading to the entrance to load the bus.  It needs to be outdoors.  Lord, please let the exhibit be outdoors.  Fresh air and outdoor vomiting options were my top priorities in that moment.

1:35…We entered the building for the chimpanzee exhibit. Darn it.  (rumble lurch rumble lurch)

1:45…We exited the exhibit and walked briskly toward the entrance.  (lurch lurch lurch luuuurrrccchhhh) I knew that if I didn’t find a bathroom immediately, I was most certainly going to vomit right there on a second grader’s shoes…

  • Positive:  My daughter would probably never make me feel guilty about my lack of participation in her life outside of home.
  • Negative:  I would be the mom who barfed on the second grade field trip.

1:47…. I spotted a bathroom and called over my shoulder that I’d be right back except that I came to an almost immediate screeching halt because the line was out the door and wrapped around like a snake.  I had no choice but to wait. And wait. And wait. And wait.

image1-21:52..I texted my sister to say my goodbyes.  The waiting was going to kill me.

1:53…Dying on my daughter’s second grade field trip would probably upset her more than me not being a SAHM.  Perseverance was my only option.

1:54…I was close enough to the bathroom door to spot an orange-vested zoo employee directing bathroom traffic as if working a busy concert parking lot, swinging stall doors open, stretching her arm toward the next bathroom patron, beckoning with her fingers to summon them her way, then wildly swinging an arm to guide them to the desired stall.

1:56…None too soon, zoo bathroom traffic lady wiggled her fingers at me and directed me to the stall on my right.  I took a step–one step closer to nausea freedom when another bathroom goer snuck up on my left, cutting me off and going into my stall.  MY STALL. On a normal day, I’d want to scrap with someone who should be so rude and as the lady behind me chirped in my ear about the audacity! and what I should do about it, my eyes remained fixed on the lady with the glowing vest, silently begging her to show me the way to the next open stall.

And she did.  That reflector vest-wearing angel pointed to my left and I scurried in, sweat dripping from my forehead with each frantic step.

I made it inside, mouth watering…yet nothing happened besides the lurching and rumbling and sweating.  I texted my sister again and told her I was clinging to life but that she needed to pray and pray hard.  The bus was scheduled to leave in minutes and we still had a long walk to the entrance.

2:03…Still nothing.  I exited the stall and bustled toward the eager foursome.  My daughter grabbed my hand.  I pulled away and bent down, “Mommy doesn’t feel good.  At all.  Please wash your hands as soon as you get back to school and until then, keep your hands away from your face.”

What on Earth was this devil bug inside of me?  Who gets sick in the middle of the day?!  Stomach viruses are supposed to come on in the middle of the night, in the comfort of your own home, where you can puke in your own Tupperware bowl, chew Saltines and sip on Ginger Ale, then puke in your own Tupperware bowl.  Is that not misery enough?!  

We reached the entrance, I spotted a zoo employee and remembered the sign in the parking lot stating that I would have to pay $7 for parking before leaving the lot.  Shoot.

I went to her and explained that I was a chaperone on my daughter’s field trip and had already paid for the trip through the school but last minute circumstances meant I had to drive myself.  I didn’t have $7.  I didn’t even have $1.  She smiled sympathetically at my concern, or maybe my ailing complexion, and assured me that there is never anyone at that parking lot to check and even if there were, I would just explain.  No worries at all.

I said goodbye to my daughter as she got on her bus and told her I would pick her up at school but to be ready.  I wasn’t sure how much longer my body would cooperate.

I got into my van and breathed a huge sigh of relief.  If I couldn’t be at home on my couch, I would gladly take the privacy of my van as an alternative.  I gathered myself and drove through the parking lot.  Bus after bus after bus filed out, one-by-one, while I trailed behind.

Nearing the exit, and a parking lot’s length closer to home, I could see a zoo employee on the curb smiling hugely and waving her arm over her head like a windshield wiper, “Goodbye!!  Come back and see us again!!”

What a jolly lady.  I’ll just wave and scoot along with these buses.  I was about 40 minutes from home and the nausea was making me so delusional that I was only able to see the good in people in that moment.

Mrs. Hyde stepped off the curb nearly colliding with my van as I mustered my happiest, sick wave.  I applied the brakes and rolled the passenger window down.

“That’ll be seven dollars,” she said with a sort-of smile.  I mean, her lips were sort of turned up at the corners but her eyes were calling me bad names.

“Oh, see, I was supposed to be on that bus right there,” I pointed to the bus in front of me. “It’s a long story but I did pay for this field trip through my daughter’s school.”

“Seven dollars, please,” her brow furrowed, mouth still sort-of smiling.

“Listen, I talked to someone at the front and she said there wouldn’t be anyone here.  Then she said that all I had to do was explain this situation and that I’d be all set!” I neared tears.  Stomach bug things were not going to hold off much longer and a long line of cars had filed in behind me.

“That will be seven dollars.”  If you’ve ever seen “Teen Wolf” where Michael J. Fox tries to buy beer from a crotchety store owner, and his voice goes all deep and scary and werewolfy, that’s pretty much what happened there.

I let my foot off the gas and began to creep forward, “I’m sorry!  I don’t have seven dollars!  I’m sorry!  I’m so sorry!” I began to roll the window up as I crept and she had no choice but to stumble backward to her curb perch, her fake smile fading from her face.  I cried and sped toward the freeway scouring my rearview mirror for the zoo security that was undoubtedly going to hunt me down to collect my debt.

Right then and there, I decided that I hated the zoo with its smelly animals and confusing maps and overpriced Dippin Dots and bathroom line cutters and mean parking attendants.  And over the next thirty minutes I came up with even more reasons than anyone should ever have to never return to the zoo again.  These included, but weren’t limited to:

  • Those annoying maps that you can never get to fold up the same way as when you got them.
  • Heads being a target for bird poop–they don’t care if you are visiting the zoo for the first time with your new baby and that you actually washed, dried and styled your hair for the first time in a month.  Birds don’t discriminate. Especially zoo birds.  Your head is as good as the next person’s.
  • Spoiled kids with their fancy convertible umbrella wagons.
  • Indecent monkeys with their bare red butts hanging out–totally inappropriate.

 

Ten minutes from home, I scoured my car frantically for a bag, a cup, something to get sick into.  Thankfully that morning, my sister put a plastic bag of clothes on my passenger seat.  I flipped the bag, shook the clothes onto the seat and put it in my lap, just in case.  As I reached my exit with nowhere to pull over and little warning, an eruption that would make Mount Vesuvius look like a puny drinking fountain geyser happened right there into the bag, except that the bag was just a temporary vomit blocker, as it was full of holes on the bottom.  To add insult to injury, I had on a shortish skirt, and my phone was under that bag, now submerged.

When the heaving ceased, I debated whether I should pull over or just get home.  Home won.  And then I remembered my daughter, waiting for me for early dismissal.  I picked up the vomit-drenched phone, shook it off as good as I could, and dialed the other chaperone’s phone.  I told her I was sick and to please tell my daughter that I couldn’t pick her up, she would have to take the bus home and that I was a failure as a parent.  I didn’t actually say that last part out loud, but it was implied.

Despite being inseparable from the couch and my Tupperware bowl, I anticipated my daughter’s arrival home from school that day.  How could I explain to her how bad it was?  How, if there was absolutely any way I could have, I would have picked her up as promised.  How I wanted nothing more than to be at the field trip all day and take her home early and be a stay at home mom so I could go on all the field trips and how the years of taking her to daycare and dropping her off crying nearly killed me and how I know I’ll never get that time back and how I hoped she wouldn’t resent me more than she already did.

The door closed and I called to her from the couch, choking back tears, “Honey–”
She dropped her backpack and ran to my side, “Mom.  Mom.  Don’t say a word.  You don’t need to say a word.  I know you’re sick.  It’s okay.  I’m so sorry you don’t feel good.  Please just rest.  It’s okay.  It really is.  It’s okay.”  She rubbed my forehead, I breathed a sigh of relief, then vomited into the bowl, then closed my eyes and slept because I knew it was okay.

image1-3That’s life, isn’t it?  You disappoint someone, try to make it right, everything goes wrong in the process, yet it somehow turns out okay.  She took me by surprise, like many other things, that day.  And while I dread–D-R-E-A-D–going on another field trip, the bright side is that I have nowhere to go but up.  All I have to do is get there on time and not hurl all over myself.  Perhaps the “Best Chaperone” award is in my future after all.

 

Better at the Beach?

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The eight-year-old’s essay on what makes her a “Michigan kid” included our trip to a Lake Huron beach, depicted in the illustration above. At first glance, it’s a lovely illustration, with all of its colors, and adorable looking people. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

To the far left we have the third child, with his floatation device on, wading in rocky, ankle-deep blue water. Then the eldest, the essay writer and illustrator, talking to her friend on the sandy beach while digging for Petoskey stones. Next to the friend, my doting husband, smiling and looking on at the children playing, snapping mental pictures so as to never forget the memories being made right before his eyes. Next to him, the middle one, eating a sub sandwich at a nearby picnic table.

Then allllll the way to the right over there, past the happy children playing and the adoring father, past the striped umbrella with the convenient handbag hook, under the bright yellow sun, lies me–in my Lazy Boy recliner, oblivious to the family bonding taking place nearby. But I’m none the wiser, snoozing peacefully in the sun while Lake Huron’s majestic waves crash in the distance.

Interesting how I recall a much different trip. A closer look…

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We parked and began to set up our beach paraphernalia when “we” decided to move about 40 yards down the beach. That’s me to the left carrying a cooler with 50 pounds of subs through the sand. For those of you who struggle with science, pulling 50 pounds of anything through sand equals certain death. The reason my family was trying to kill me that day remains unknown.

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We arrived at our new beach destination, I was resuscitated, and I began to unload and set up my Pinterest beach fails hacks:

  • baby powder to get the sand off the feet
  • a cork to attach to my keys in case they were hurled into the lake
  • a mesh laundry bag to shake out all the sand toys before departing
  • cooling spray
  • lavender oil
  • sponge leis
  • a plastic peanut butter container
  • cupcake liners
  • kiddie pool (At the beach? Really?)
  • an empty pill bottle
  • Plaster of Paris
  • a bread clip
  • Three French Hens
  • Two Turtle Doves
  • a Partridge in a Pear Tree

And last but not least, the fitted sheet–my favorite– which claims to “keep sand out, keep kids in”. Guffaw guffaw. I pulled one side up, put my purse in one corner (the purse hook on the umbrella was broken, and by broken, I mean imaginary), went to the next side and put the cooler in the corner, my beach bag in the third, and toy bag in the fourth. My heart swelled with pride for about 2.5 seconds. That’s when the two-year-old collapsed the sheet, crying and attempting to get to me with his sandy little feet.

I dove at him brandishing the baby powder. Success! To my surprise, the baby powder worked better than I could have imagined and just as I got the last of the sand off, he was crying and wanting back out of the little playpen.

I set to reconstructing the collapsed sheet, pulled my purse back up to standing (which allowed the sand to settle nicely to the bottom of it–where’s a purse clip attached to an umbrella when you need it?) and admired my work for another millisecond when he came back at me, crying. Repeat above scenario 167 times, one iteration of which resulted in the umbrella, minus the handbag hook, falling over.

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Finally, a chance to sit down. What you can’t see in this illustration is that my arms were pulled into my front like a volleyball player ready to bump. The youngest had lined both arms of my chair with every last rock on that beach and would scream if I laid a body part on any of them. He was going to bring them all home, of course.

As if concentrating on not touching the rocks wasn’t enough, I was fixated on the other children in the water. There were kid counts and mini-strokes aplenty as I tried to keep my eyes on the swimmers.

And this is how our trips to the beach typically go. I’m glad that the eight-year-old remembers a much different scenario. Not a crazy, sweaty, screaming, poser mom with her ridiculous Pinterest beach hacks, but a mom who is relaxed and happy and ready to do it all over again next summer. Until then, I will be a crazy, sweaty, screaming poser mom on the hunt for an umbrella with a handy hook, and will be praying that that eight-year-old somehow concocts those same favorable memories. After all, the best part of memories, is making them up.

Mom, wife, teacher who finds humor in the little things.