On Running & Running On

I ran away from home this morning.  


I don't remember the last time I had two hours of daylight all to myself.  I was borderline giddy as I exchanged hugs and high fives with the kids under the doorway dangling pinwheel flowers.  I emptied their cubbies of last week's crafts and smiled wide as I headed for the door clutching the cotton ball snowman and holding the hand printed in water colors.  There were no conference calls on my calendar, no errands to run, no appointments to keep.

The sun edged into the morning sky just high enough to spill silver glitter onto the waves and cast shadows on the sand.  The lowering tide cut a trail smooth, packed, wide and safe for even the weariest of ankles to trod.

This good and perfect gift was mine to unwrap.  Music blared, waves crashed, knees pounded, and arms pumped. In this constant motion I found stillness.  I gave words to my whispering thoughts.  I panted alive and unfettered.  I chased my shadow and felt a sweet kind of lonely.  

I made it to the pier and back again, yet never felt my direction change.  A fleeting hour passed before I cut back through the soft sand, turned the ignition and returned to my responsible agenda.

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I realize I could have saved you a minute or two of your time by just writing: "I went for a long run on the beach.  It was awesome."  But while that would be efficient for you, it wouldn't be any fun for me.  I get a kick out of divulging information the long and twisty way.  

While you're here (big assumption, I know), this might also be a good time to come clean about the blog.  It appears I have taken over and decided that anything goes.  I had purposed from the beginning to write only about the kids.  I wanted to capture and remember the funny, amazing, heart warming things they say and do, and to articulate the incredible impact they have on me. 

But as I write more, I remember I love to write just because, even when there is no point, even when it is about, well, nothing.  Much like a Seinfeld episode, but without the humor.  

And lest you think I just love to write my little melancholy heart out and couldn't care less about whether anyone reads it, let's just clear that one up right now.  The fact that someone might read it--even if it's only my Mom and those genetically predisposed to love me--that is what fuels me.  The more I hear from those of you who read, the more I want to write.  

So, to recap:
1) I went for a run on the beach.  It was awesome.
2) I am tossing out the rules for this blog and writing about "whatever I want, gorrshh!" (Yes, that was a Napoleon Dynamite quote, in arguably poor context.)
3) I like comments. A lot. They keep me running.  They keep me writing.  They keep me writing about running, and yes, it is questionable whether that is a good thing.  What is NOT questionable is that I REALLY like hearing from you.  

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go for a quick run.  Feel free to talk amongst yourselves in the comments section.  Because, did I mention that I really like hearing from you?

 

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Fisher Price Airlines Announces Daily Flights into Walnut Grove!

If he were alive today, Charles Ingalls would shudder in his Lean-to, shake his head and remark, "Caroline, it's best we move west past the prairie.  It's become too crowded in these parts." 

On this fateful morning, Walnut Grove careened headlong into the perils of over-development.  The quintessential Mom and Pop shop, Olsen's General Store, disappeared under the shadows of Geotrax monstrosities.  The fresh clean air that once ruled the prairie skies sunk under the stench of the stinky Sodor diesels.

And what dastardly, earth-ravaging real estate mogul was behind this?  Yep, that's him, right there in the construction orange shirt, skipping across the intersection of the little Lincoln Log cabins and the tiny train tracks.

You must trust me when I say our intentions were much purer than the China-born plastic surrounding the reconstructed Walnut Grove.  We just wanted to stay in our pajamas and out of the car, to give the TV a rest and awaken our imaginations.  And that's just what we did.  

It was the most productive un-productive day I've had in a long time.

If you're wondering why I'm suddenly spewing forth 19th century prairie life references, it might help to know that we recently began reading The Little House on the Prairie.  

We're just far enough into the story to have established that Pet and Patty are horses and Jack is a dog.  Caed was understandably concerned about the little boy he envisioned running behind the wagon and getting lost in the ford.  Why in the blazes wouldn't Pa let the little boy sit in the wagon?  I was tempted to tell him a story about how much easier his life is than it was for little boys back in the olden days, but I came clean and admitted that Jack is a dog. 


I'm surprised by how interested Caed has become in a book so sparsely illustrated, and it excites me to realize we have a whole world of literature awaiting us.  

So tell me, what was your favorite book to read aloud to your children?  Or what book are you reading to them now?  Or what was your favorite book as a child?  What should we read after we finish Little House on the Prairie and The Magician's Nephew?  

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A Trying Season and A Season Trying

This winter waged a lengthy war against color, and even my spirit has surrendered the last of its bright hues to wave a solemn white flag.  


This is my fancy way of telling you that I've met up with my old friend Melancholy.  She's a treasure, that one, but she isn't the best influence on me.  

For instance, today she tried to convince me to stay in my pajamas, write poetry and polish off the rest of the TJ's crispy crunchy chocolate chip cookies.  She didn't have any ideas as to what I should do with the children while I wallowed, so I didn't follow through on her first two suggestions.  

I got dressed.  (Please hold your applause until the end.)  I fed and dressed the children.  We bought milk.  We returned the books and found some new ones.  We got one haircut and two lollipops.  (Now...CLAP!)  Thank you, thank you very much.  

Now that I have met my productivity quota and nap time has commenced, I can sneak in a visit with Melancholy.  She and I went outside in the rain just now, and you won't believe what we found.  It was almost enough to scare my old friend away entirely.  

We saw Spring.  New life.  Color.  Or, as it's lovingly referred to here in Maine, Mud Season. Whatever you call it, we saw a season trying.  And I just couldn't hold my applause until the end.  

A Season Trying

The crocuses send up scouts. 
Up go green periscopes, reporting splotches of lingering snow 
Interspersed with patches of gold tinted grass,
Where the sun stretched down to touch the toes of earth
And ripple warmth across the icy ground.

A sprout peers from under its white blanket,
Shivers and slivers back beneath the covers, 
Hits snooze to sleep a little longer.
It's just the false alarm of a warm afternoon.

The coast is not clear.
The tender petals remain a clinched fist.
They dare not unfold
Lest they be trampled by the bullying frost.

But it will not be long now.
White gives way to brown, and brown to green.
It is a season trying, trying,
And trying again.


Oh Melancholy, see what you made me do? You made me go all Jack Handey with the blog.  You are a mean girl.  Go away.  Spring is here, and I don't need you anymore.  My cabin fever has broken and my color has finally returned.

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I must remind myself to stop talking to myself

Sometimes when the kids say or do something funny, and I don't have a pen nearby to jot it down, I call home and leave a message. I do this because I will quite literally forget if I don't capture it quickly and permanently somewhere other than my overloaded and understaffed brain.


I left myself one such message the other day. As I was pumping gas, I recounted the funny exchange I'd just had with Caed. (I know, I know. I've heard the cell phone at the gas pump is a total fire hazard, but my urge to multi-task far outweighs my fear of spontaneous combustion).

Later, when I replayed the message, pen in hand, I heard myself say, "Okay, that's it. I'll talk to you later!"

Um, did I just tell myself that I'd talk to myself soon?

Why yes, yes I did. So I'm officially talking to myself. REGULARLY.

Given the frequent word exchanges between me, myself and I, coupled with my recent multi-state road trip to the grocery store, I believe I've earned my place as a card carrying member of the Crazy Club. Membership expiration date: Never.

I am SO blaming the children for this.

Please tell me I'm not the only one? (No, of course not, I do it too! Oh wait, we are one and the same. This isn't helping matters, is it?)

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On Speaking Sheridan


It's a language in which the words vitamin and Spiderman sound exactly the same and in which context is your only chance for deciphering whether she needs her daily dose of iron or wishes to enlist the help of a web spinning super hero. 


She has two primary commands, particularly as it relates to gettin' goin'.  She either extends her hand and says "MON!" (Come on!), or swipes you away and says "ZOUT!" (Watch out!).  It is not uncommon for both commands to be used in the same expedition.  Conflicting instructions are quite common in Danilish.  (See reference to "I need he'p" and "I do it myselt".)

Words can also be interchanged at random, such as soup and hairbrush.  For example, I asked her for soup from her play kitchen.  She whisked up a wooden drumstick and then thrust the pretend poultry in my face.  As I feigned a bite, she said, "No, it's for ya haih", and began brushing my hair with the soup disguised as a drumstick which doubles as a hairbrush.  It is possible my hair now tastes like fake chicken.

This morning I woke to hear her chanting, "No more monkeys jumpin' on da bed!" If only she were still on the bed she sang about, but I could tell by the acoustics that she had made her way into the bathroom.  When I caught the first morning glimpse of my girl, she was up on her stool, face practically pressed against the mirror, carrying on a lovely conversation with herself.  She looked at me, grinned, then looked back at her reflection and said, "I SEEEE YOUUUU!"  It must be so refreshing for her to finally find another Danilish speaker in the house.  I know it gets old for her to have to constantly interpret for us.

We'll conclude the vocabulary primer with a few more foundational words and phrases:
  • "Ink ah lahtah": Drink of water.
  • "NO, NO, NOOO": A universal word of non compliance. A single reference to "no" is prohibited in Danilish.  Only a double, triple or quadruple "no" is acceptable.
  • "I sit on Elmo": A request to use the toilet.
  • "I wuv you!": An attempt to get out of time outs.
  • "Cwean up, bebbybody, Cwean up!": A song she likes to sing while everyone around her cleans up.
  • "Mimjatics": Her favorite sport with trampoline and balance beam, in which she thoroughly emphasizes the "ME" in the "Mommy & Me" class. Related words and phrases include "Need He'p", "I do it myselt", "Mon" and "Zout".
  • "See la laytah!": I'm leaving.  Don't try to follow me.
We'll pick up our lessons again next week, in which we'll review the often used Danilish dialects such as Whining and Crying.  Both pronunciation and inflection are dramatically different, so it really does warrant an entire lesson.  So goodbye until next time, and "See la laytah!"
Danielle & L gave Sheridan this cute little pillow.  Apparently they "thought of her" when they found it.  Can't imagine why?

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In Which the Penguins Were Neither Smiling Nor Waving

I have no idea where the kids would have seen a commercial about Sea World, seeing as all we do now that I'm home with them is read and practice our letters, play whimsically in the mud, drink hot cocoa and do fayncee art projects. How they managed to memorize the PBS Kids line-up is beyond me. They probably picked it up at preschool. Ahem.

So, back to the Sea World commercial. Caed described Shamu's digs in detail to me yesterday morning, followed by a strong recommendation that WE GO THERE SOMETIME.

C: "I think that Sea World place is where you need to take me to vacation. Because you can hold penguins!"

Mom: "Um, what? Do you mean starfish? Do you remember when we held the starfish at Sea World when you were Dani's age?"

C: "No, I haven't been to this place before. I would 'member it. They have rides there. And that girl was holding a penguin."

Mom: "Well, I don't think it was a penguin she was holding. Maybe it was a pretend penguin, like a stuffed animal?"

C: "No, I'm SURE it was a penguin. But it did stay really still. It was probably a dead penguin. Or maybe it was a baby whale. No, I think it was a penguin, just a dead one."

I feel I owe it to Sea World to let them know that their marketing is fairly effective at the four year old level. But if you're trying to win the parents over, you might want to clarify the thing about the dead penguins.

Welcome to Sea World: As Real as it Gets. Except for the penguins. We've heard a few of them might be dead.

**********************
So, um, anyone seen the commercial Caed's talking about? Can you solve the mystery of the dead penguin? What is it that the little girl is holding??

We are actually considering a little vacay in May. Sea World (Orlando) is in the running as long as I get confirmation that the penguins will all be up and waddling. Are you planning a vacation anytime soon? Any recommendations for great family vacation spots?

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For the Love of Mighty Bites & Cat Cookies

I don't know what I would do for a Klondike Bar, but I'll tell you what I'd do for some Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered almonds with sea salt.

I'd strap in the little people and drive 79 miles and two states away. Yes, you heard me. That's a smidge shy of three hours of round trip driving, with a four and two year old, to go to the grocery store.

And if that makes me crazy, then I don't wanna be sane. Okay, that's not entirely true. I do want to be sane, and I don't want to be caught one Mighty Bite shy of a full box. I just want my sanity and to eat my Chipotle Hummus too. Is that too much to ask?

So we won't even attempt to answer why I did it, but perhaps you're curious how I did it?

  • First, I tricked the kids into thinking it was an adventure. An "adventure" wherein they sit strapped down for three hours while Lightning McQueen goes haywire in Radiator Springs. It never fails to amaze me what they'll endure for the chance to watch a "whole long, long movie."
  • Next, I packed a lunch and called it "snacks". I'm no marketing expert, but even I know it's all about packaging and branding. I could call marshmallows and malt balls "lunch" and they'd turn up their noses. But call something "snacks" and I hear, "Mawwwm, can I have some more broccoli bites?"
  • Finally, I talked it up. "We're getting your favorite cooook-keeeys! You'll get a bahloo-ooon!" I find the key to talking it up is to add syllables and exaggerated inflection to their favorite words. Although saying "coooookeey" makes you sound a little bit, well, cooky, it's worth it, really. Especially when you glimpse the glazed over look on the girl's face because all she can think about is cat cookies and not how miserable she is on the so-called "adventurous road trip."
I am pleased to report that we accomplished our mission with no permanent damage done, though the return trip was not without its hazards. Let's just say that talking on a cell phone while driving looks like a safety precaution in comparison to these dangers:
  • Back seat balloon wars. (Who knew TJ's was a grocery store and a weapons supplier?) It's just a teeny bit distracting when bumper balloons are batting around in my peripheral vision. I kind of need that component of my eyesight for being mindful of other cars and stuff.
  • Driving while on toddler sleep patrol. Yes, I resorted to some extreme defensive maneuvers against vehicular snoozing, but I just HAD to keep Dani awake so she would nap at home. Really, I did it for her. I realize the rear view mirror should not be used to check every other second whether she is still awake. And I realize that I should not strain to entertain in hopes of distracting her from dozing. And I did try to outsource sleep patrol duty to Caed, but unfortunately, he and Tow-mater were deep in a world of their own.
  • Using the rear view mirror to peer at the children. I know as well as anyone that the rear view mirror is for seeing the cars behind you, not the children. But how else am I going to flash disapproving looks at the boy, or perform routine sleep checks on the girl, or see their ridiculously funny car seat dance moves when Beyonce's song All the Single Ladies comes on?
  • Rolling on the floor laughing while driving. Okay, so I wasn't really rolling on the floor. There isn't that much room on the car floor anyway. But I was laughing so hard that my eyes could barely stay open, which I think we can agree is not compatible with highway safety. Why the uncontrollable laughter, you may ask? Because Caed's interpretation of Beyonce's All the Single Ladies went something like this:
With hands up in the air, waving wildly around, he shouted, "All the single LAKES! All the single LAKES! Put your hands up!! Cuz if you like it then you shoulda put a RAIN on it!"
Great Lakes and Finger lakes need not apply. We only want to see the SINGLE lakes out on the dance floor for this song. And seriously, do you not love how he carried the water theme throughout his erroneous lyrics? Oh, I love that boy.

So what's the craziest thing you've ever done in the name of canned goods? Even better, what's your favorite Trader Joe's treat?

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It Appears My Silent Looks Still Need Work

Tonight as we were winding our way through the bed time routine with the kids, I turned my back to Larry to put away the books about cheeky engines and altruistic trees. Given our history, I should know better than to turn my back when my antagonistic husband is within an arm's reach.
Yes, indeed, Mama got spanked.

Now my children have been known, on occasion, to mimic every last thing they have ever seen us do or say. So you can understand my concern that they might take their father's actions to mean it is acceptable to begin randomly slapping the behinds of innocent bystanders within an arm's length radius.

That's why I shot my best silent "what-are-you-crazy--do-you-not-remember-they-take-copious-notes-of-everything-you-do-with-the-intention-of-repeating-that-word-and-or-behavior-at-the-most-embarrassing-and-inopportune-time-for-me??" look. (Sheesh, if you think that last sentence was hard to read, you should try typing it.)

But apparently my face alone is not as articulate as I would like to think, as no sooner did I shoot the look, he teased, "I didn't do it. It wasn't me!"

At this point Caed chimed in, "He's lying, Mom! He DID do it. I saw it. Daddy, you're not supposed to hit or lie, you know."

Now Larry is a smart man (AND he knows what love is, so pretty talented really, especially in comparison to Forest Gump). He quickly clued in to the very literal perspective of his four year old, and took one for the team, "Daddy was teasing Mommy, but you're right, it isn't okay to lie. I shouldn't have done that."

Caed shook his head in admonishment of his Dad, as he tried on the hand-me-down inflection from this tired old mama, right over top of his chirpy little voice:

"Oh Daddy, WHY do you keep making bad choices!?"

Larry and I exchanged "I-think-I-might-lose-it-that-was-too-funny-but-we-can't-act-like-bad-behavior-is-funny-so-we-better-keep-it-together" looks, and then we pretty much lost it.

My take-away: Brush up on silent communication skills.
Larry's lesson learned: If you're gonna goof off, make sure the kids don't catch you doing so.
Caed's note to self: Look into this double standard thing the grown-ups have going on. There is definitely something worth exploring here, no matter what they say about "context".  Could be a gold mine for getting away with more stuff in the future....

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For more Friday Funnies, there's a pretty little button that you can click. See it? Yep, that's the one.

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A Random Round-up of the Happies

We'll start with the breakfast happy, only because it's first on the timeline, and not because it made me the happiest. You'll just have to believe me that my children make me happier than chocolate. Most of the time.

1) This morning I got chock full on a chocolate chip muffin. And to make matters better, these bad boys are considered legitimate breakfast food. It's all the chocolatey goodness without the guilt, essentially a cup cake without the frosting. But because we attach the term "muffin" to it, we can classify it as a socially acceptable companion to our morning coffee, as opposed to say, decadent, frosting-covered chocolate cake. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, Steph.)


2) Back when my darlings were tiny babies, we began a night and nap time tradition of serenading them with a homemade lullaby called "Sleeping Time." I sang it with Caed until he decided he'd rather have me do really really really long prayers instead. I still sing it with Sheridan. That is, I did until a few days ago, at which time she declared she was going solo. I said fine with me, but trust me, you're gonna want more cowbell.
video

3) The good doctor is back "on service", which means he has disappeared indefinitely into the halls of the hospital. Sure, there will be occasional sightings at the visitors' entrance, where his adoring children will wait expectantly in their car seats for a glimpse of daddy at the "hopsittle", and where yours truly will field the five-second-intervalled questions of "Where is Daddy?", "Why isn't he coming?", "When will he come out here?", and my all-time favorite, "Does he know we are waiting for him?"
By contrast, Larry just completed a cushy clinic rotation, during which we enjoyed abundant daddy time. I downloaded these pictures today, and my happiness meter went haywire.
Caed is his father's boy right down to the expression on his face.

4) And even when Daddy isn't around to start the giggle fest, the children can concoct all kinds of fun on their own. The friendship I see developing between these two just melts my heart. Right after I took this picture (and after they ran instantly over to SEEE ITT, SEEEEE ITTT!), Caed and Dani started to dance holding hands. The dancing quickly deteriorated into a unconventional game of Ring Around the Rosy to the tune of Hey Ya. While our version of that Outkast song is clean, my preschoolers managed to add some questionable lyrics of their own as they shouted, "Asses, Asses, we all fall down!"

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Mom in the Middle

“Hang on a second, I’m in the middle of something.”
Give me a dime for every time I say that to my kids, and we’d be all set with the college fund.

But time isn’t going to hang on, and my little people won’t be little forever.

If motherhood is a game of Keep Away, then I want to stay forever in the middle, lunging and jumping as fleeting, ungrippable moments fly above me.

I purpose to live, laugh, love and bask in the middle moment, not to pine for the moment behind or wish for the moment next.
I will soak up the second I’m in.
I will run in the right now.

If motherhood is a game of Keep Away, then I say, “Game on!”

"The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet."
-- James Oppenheim

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Who says you can't use your beach toys year round?


When you're yearning for the beach, but it's not quite balmy enough to pull out the flip-flops, we've got just the thing: Snow Castles.  Sure, the snow suit is a bit bulkier than the swim suit, but the upside is that you won't be finding sand in random and inconvenient places for the rest of the day.  

And if you're thirsty, just shovel a little extra snow and you're all set.  (Yet another advantage over the sand variety of castle construction.)

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Lions and Tigers and Sea Gulls, Oh My!

This is how the conversation transpired, as Caed and I made our way to Target.

"Mom, what kind of animals eat people?"

"There are no kinds of animals that live near us that eat people."

"What about lions and tigers?  I know FOR SURE that they eat people sometimes.  And do sea gulls eat people?"

I replied with a  long rambling answer, explaining that lions and tigers don't live around here, and sea gulls often eat people's food, like at the Lobster Shack, but not the people themselves.  (And, thank you, Madagascar and Lion King, for bringing to life for my four year old the story lines about animals eating animals, and people eating animals, and animals eating people.  And for thoroughly confusing me about how the heck to explain anything eating anything.  I am longing for the days when it was just about pasta and cheese....)

"Well, do lions and tigers live in 'jinya?"

"No, they don't live in Virginia either."

"Well, then, we should live there again.  Because I need to be able to see Max all the time.  He is my favorite friend, and we really like to play with the Pirate Ship he has."

Minutes later, as we arrived at Target and were greeted by some wicked cold wind, I remarked, "Wow, it's so windy here."

To which my pre-K smarty pants replied in unmistakable I-told-you-so tone, "Mom, it's ALWAYS windy at this Target.  If we were in VIRGINIA, it would not be so windy and cold.  I TOLD you we should move back there." 

I'm not sure I've got it in me to argue his point.  So look out Max and the Pirate Ship.  Ready or not, here we come.  And if Caed has his way, it seems we'll be moving in permanently.

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(Taking Care of) Business As Usual

What do you call it when you get a winter storm (in March) that drops over a foot of snow at your doorstep?  


Just another day in Maine.  

When a foot of snow is normal, you learn to get on with your life, in spite of the warnings by the National Weather Service to stay off the roads except in case of emergency.  We always take what those snow-averse scientists say with a grain (or truckload) of salt because they are headquartered in the Precipitation Panic Capital of the World--the DC Metro area.  

This is the same place where even the prediction of a dusting can lead to rioting in the grocery store among the empty aisles that once housed the TP, rock salt and liquor.  And it doesn't help that the preponderance of SUVs fuming about in Northern Virginia are often manned by severely misguided drivers who honestly believe that four wheel drive equals immunity from ice and ditches.  So my point is, I get why the NWS is a bit overprotective when it comes to unsupervised road trips with snow.

Actually, that's not my point.  My point was to tell you about our day.  Oh Digression, you get me every time.  Much like a ditch to the invincible Northern Virginia SUV.

So we went about our business as usual, which translated into an 8 a.m. departure to pay the car dealer a visit.  As a general rule, I will only go to a car dealer under great duress or when the service is recall-related, and therefore free of charge.  The situation today was the latter.  

Now I have to give some credit to this particular dealer.  The waiting area included a wonderful little spot for the preschool people, complete with a Geotrax empire just itching to be built. Caed and Dani took full advantage of the fact that I had nothing to distract me from whole-hearted participation in the creation of an alternate train universe so spectacular it would probably qualify for funding from the latest stimulus package.
 
Halfway through our construction project, Dani produced some all natural materials not suitable for our railway empire, the likes of which threatened to bring an end to our Fisher Price fiesta.  Normally, this would also be business as usual, but I had left the diaper bag in the car that was being serviced.

Thankfully, the service representative responded quite promptly to my plea to retrieve the diapers from the car, her haste no doubt fueled by the toxic smell engulfing the dealership as each moment passed.

As we opened the door to the family restroom, Caed proclaimed, "Wow, it smells like lollipops in here!"  

Not for long, I thought, feeling sorry for the folks who would use these facilities after we left.

As I changed Dani's diaper, Caed turned up his nose at the mess and began lecturing Dani about being a big girl.  And I quote, "Next time you need to go poopy, you should just tell Mommy.  She will help you get to the potty, and then you won't have to get so messy and it won't be so stinky.  It's all part of being a big girl, Dani."  (There is a reason he has this lecture memorized, but we won't go into that here.)  

I will also spare you of how I managed to clean up the mess, having forgotten the wipes at home.  We were in there a long time, the kind of long time that gets you some judgmental looks from the receptionist.  

Yeah, lady, we wasted a boat load of water in there, and probably de-neutralized your organization's carbon footprint for the entire year with just one diaper change and hand washing ordeal.  Now how bout you turn that stink eye to a blind eye, and pretend it never happened.  And, umm, you might want to avoid going in there for a while.

I don't believe I'm exaggerating when I say that everyone within a mile radius of the waiting room was happy when our car was fixed and ready to roll back on out into the snowstorm. (Which, no thanks to the National Weather Service, turned out to be the most uneventful part of our day!)

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