You’re Going to Be Fine

Pop.

I grabbed the two slices of multigrain bread from the toaster and plopped them onto a plate.

“No cheese, please.” Grace was leaning across the kitchen counter. “Just salami and mayonnaise.”

“Right.” I pulled a new jar of mayo from the cupboard. Next, I tried to peel back the safety seal, but by golly, the quality control folks at Hellmann’s made sure that piece of plastic was sealed.

I got a knife and jabbed at the plastic. Piff; it broke. I stuck my finger down to pull the seal back. In my morning rush to do so, I embedded most of my finger in the mayo. Ugh.

“Yuck, Mom.” Anna, with some helpful commentary.

“Yep.” I hastened to make Grace’s salami-and-cheese sandwich. I glanced at the clock on the microwave: 8:50. “Ah, Grace, you have to go; here.” I stuffed the sandwich in my older daughter’s lunch box, along with some other items I have now forgotten. (One of them, however, was probably a granola bar.)

Grace stuffed the lunch box into her backpack, and that’s when I noticed her bare feet. “Grace, what the heck—you need socks!”

Grace’s eyes bugged out. “Whoops.”

I groaned. “Why does this always happen?” Why can’t our mornings go more smoothly?

Grace raced to locate socks.

Anna stuck up a foot. “Look, Mom.”

Socks.

It was now 8:53 a.m.—one minute before the bus would arrive down the block. And now Grace was wearing socks. But…

“Mom, where’s my homework board?”

Now my eyes bugged out. “Grace…I don’t know!”

“I don’t know either!”

“…is Grace late?”

This was six minutes last Friday, friends.

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Eventually, Grace ran out of the house with her socks, homework board, everything she needed for the school day. By the time I ran out, though, to make sure she safely boarded the bus (say, 30 seconds later), nobody and nothing was outside: no Grace, no bus.

Rationally, I knew that Grace had probably seen the bus approaching our block, at which point she ran to catch it, and she was safely en route to school. A tiny part of me, though—the part that watches every true-crime Netflix documentary—was concerned.

That part of me called Grace’s school and asked the very kind receptionist to please call me back once they confirmed my daughter had arrived. Moments later, my phone rang. “Yes, she’s here,” I was told.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, I’m so sorry,” I said.

“It’s OK, you can call us anytime,” this wonderful woman said.

I closed my eyes. Exhaled.

“Mom.”

I snapped my eyes open.

“Come on.” Anna gave me a tug. “Or I’ll miss the hello song.”

9:22 a.m.

A tiny part of me, though—the part that watches every true-crime Netflix documentary—was concerned.

Last week, overall, was a little crazy. Both my daughters needed me in different, unexpected ways, which required a couple of sleepless nights and one 7:15 a.m., pajama-clad dash to CVS (that was Thursday). Stanton was traveling for work, so I was flying solo…which is always manageable, until it isn’t.

On Friday morning, after I dropped off Anna, I called my best friend. Kate and I have known each other since we were little kids; we go back more than 30 years. Thus, I felt comfortable telling her, in mini-meltdown mode, “I feel like a failure as a mom! We just had a terrible morning…again! Aaahhh!”

(I’m fairly confident these are my direct quotes.)

Kate replied calmly and compassionately, as any best friend would. Ultimately, she said everything was OK. Still…I was determined that the following week, our family would start having a smoother start to the day.

Later that day, I shared my game plan with the girls. “Starting Monday, we’re not going to rush so much. We’re going to be more organized getting ready for school.”

“But Mom.”

“Yes, Grace?”

“We don’t have school Monday.” She tapped the calendar. “Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Roger that. “Starting Tuesday, then.”

…we go back more than 30 years.

Tuesday morning was super smooth. I made the girls’ lunches minutes after I woke up. Confirmed they had everything they needed in their backpacks. Took such a fast shower, I don’t think I even qualified as clean afterwards. Postponed breakfast (but not coffee, obviously).

At 8:50, I strolled outside with Grace. “We’re early!” I crowed. Two of our neighbors were taking a walk, and I waved. “We’re trying not to rush in the morning, and this is our first morning of doing that. So far, so good!”

Next to me, Grace groaned. “Mom.”

And as you might expect, our neighbors smiled, waved back and kept walking.

Yes, Tuesday morning went beautifully.

And then…Wednesday.

According to Google, it takes more than two months for something to become a habit, or routine. Our family probably still has a ways to go before our morning routine runs more smoothly.

In a moment of clarity this week, I realized there are some things I can do a better job with, for sure…and there also are some things all of us can work on: Stanton, Grace and Anna too. “You do live here too,” I may or may not have said to one or all of these people. Everyone can take some responsibility for starting the day smoothly.

Packing school lunches, though…it can be tough. Grace will eat sandwiches, but most prefers leftovers. Last night’s pasta and meatballs, for example, or chicken tikka masala and rice (for whatever reason, Grace loves chicken tikka masala).

Anna, meanwhile, constantly requests at least one “unhealthy thing” in her lunch box.

“Mom!” Anna opened the bathroom door yesterday morning, as I was showering.

“Honey.” What can I possibly do for you right now?

“Mom, I peeked into my lunch box…”

I rinsed conditioner from my hair. “I asked you not to do that…”

“I know, but I took one little peek…and Mom!” I could picture Anna frowning. “Everything you packed for me is healthy, Mom!”

“Anna…”

“Other kids get Pirate’s Booty, and Gushers, and…” The list went on.

Shhhh. I turned off the water. “You’re going to be fine.”

A sigh. The door closed. Quiet.

I grabbed a towel. Checked the time. Not late, yet.

Yes, you’re going to be fine.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.

I Actually Think We’re Going to Make It

Some days are super busy. Others are legitimately crazy.

And then there’s Monday.

This school year, Grace has her piano lesson on Monday afternoon, after school. Coincidentally, Anna’s soccer practice for the fall season starts 30 minutes after her older sister’s piano lesson ends, on Monday evening. This doubleheader of after-school activities is for eight weeks only, so…manageable, I thought.

Monday No. 1 of this eight-week schedule rolled around. I cooked a semi-homemade dinner of macaroni and cheese. Spooned equal portions into two food storage containers. Packed the girls’ to-go dinners into my brand-new, extra-large, heavy-duty cotton-canvas tote bag (“You can really hurt people with that thing,” Stanton recently observed, after my bag inadvertently knocked off-balance a little boy at Grace’s back-to-school open house). I stuffed some chocolate-chip granola bars in there too, for good measure, along with Grace’s piano books and Anna’s soccer gear.

I thought about pouring the rest of my freshly brewed coffee into a travel mug, but coffee’s a diuretic, and there would only be porta potties once we got to the soccer field. Not my favorite, friends. Not my favorite.

“Mom, they’re Big Tops,” Grace tried to assure me. “Those are, like, the nicest ones. They have real soap.”

As high-end as that sounded…still, no thank you.

…then there’s Monday.

The girls loaded into the car. I hoisted my bag into the trunk, along with folding chairs for the soccer field. Mounds of sand from our weeks-ago beach trip covered the floor of the cargo space, and someone’s pair of socks (probably worn and in need of laundering) were stuffed into a corner. Yuck.

“Girls, I think our car is a biohazard.”

Grace craned her neck around. “What’s a biohazard?”

Anna craned her neck too. “Did you remember my shin guards, Mom?”

Whatever. “Yes, I have the shin guards. Let’s roll.”

We arrived at Grace’s piano lesson a few minutes early. Early. That is such a rare and pleasant state of being in my life.

Another pleasant surprise was that the waiting room in the music studio had a new box of toys, perfect for any younger siblings who happened to have been dragged along. Anna dashed over. Immediately, she pulled out a neon-green tablet.

“Let’s learn the alphabet!” the tablet announced. “A! B! C…”

Wow, that little electronic was loud. And there were other people in the waiting room. I leaned over. “Anna,” I said. “Turn the volume down.”

“I love this, Mom!” D! E! F!

“Yay, I’m so glad. Please turn the volume down.”

At that moment, Grace’s piano teacher ducked his head into the waiting room. He apologized that his other lesson was running behind, so Grace’s would start 10 minutes late. “I’m so sorry,” he said. No worries, I told him.

But I gazed at the clock on the wall, to the right of the black-framed pictures of Beethoven, Mozart and other music legends. Now, leaving 10 minutes later, we would have 20 minutes to get to the soccer field, right in the middle of rush-hour traffic…but… G! H! I! “This should still be manageable,” I said aloud.

A nearby mom started chuckling.

I glanced over at her.

She made eye contact, and chuckled some more.

I smiled slightly. “Um…are you laughing at me?” I had to know.

This lady very kindly replied that she had been in my shoes, many times, with needing to get multiple kids to various places. And it could be tricky, even with loads of preparation and a positive attitude to boot.

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The other mom and I pleasantly passed the time commiserating while Grace went in for her piano lesson, and Anna continued learning the alphabet (on a lower volume). Nothing brings forth good conversation like a little commiseration.

Ten minutes later than planned, then, the girls and I headed over to the soccer field. Amazingly, we had green lights almost the whole way.

“You know,” I said, as we cruised through the intersection at Wemple Road and 9W, “I actually think we’re going to make it.”

Indeed, Anna arrived at soccer practice right on time. Not a minute to spare, but still, right on time.

“Making it” when you think you wouldn’t is a good feeling, across the board. From little things like kids’ soccer practices to higher-stakes circumstances like health diagnoses and job opportunities. Sometimes, making it is such a pleasant surprise that the experience—however low-stakes or fleeting it may be—restores our faith in life.

Nothing brings forth good conversation like a little commiseration.

I’m in a book club that I love. I’m so thankful a friend introduced me to the group, which led to new friendships and, of course, good reads.

As it happened, I offered to host our monthly book club meeting on Monday night. Yes, after Anna’s soccer practice. Stanton was out of town, the girls’ favorite babysitter had other commitments…so if I couldn’t go out and meet up with the book club, I’d bring the book club to me.

Manageable.

“I can’t wait to see Sandy,” Grace said, when we got back home. She and Anna adored the fun-loving lady in my book club. “I emailed her, but I don’t know if she got it.”

I let my enormous tote bag drop. “You don’t have an email address, Grace…do you?”

Grace laughed. “I email people on my tablet, Mom.”

Grace’s tablet had an Internet connection? What the heck. I unlocked the back door.

Funnily enough, Anna’s preschool also was hosting a parents night that day. I couldn’t be in two places at once, but…yeah, I probably could have tried harder to make parents night happen. Like any Millennial mom, I felt guilty about that.

Thus, when I saw Anna’s super-sweet preschool teacher the next morning, I attempted to compensate by volunteering to make homemade play dough for the following week. The recipe is magnet-ed to my fridge now. Luckily, I had almost all the ingredients on hand (one notable exception: cream of tartar). I’ve never made play dough, and I’m not an arts-and-crafts-y type of person, but I’m optimistic (as always) this will be a fun weekend activity for my preschooler and me.

Like any Millennial mom, I felt guilty about that.

The girls and I FaceTimed with Stanton before he got back home on Tuesday evening. They caught him up on all our adventures from the past 24 hours: school, piano, soccer, book club, play dough, the weird smell in the backyard.

“By the way, Dad,” Anna said, holding the phone up close, “where are you?”

I laughed. In fact, I belly-laughed, friends. Because there are times when I have to pause and ask myself that question too.

I really don’t like to overschedule our family calendar. Every now and then, though, everything happens all at once.

And every now and then, with a little dumb luck and mostly green lights the whole way, we actually make it. ❤

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short story, “Backtrack.” An engaging read that’s can’t-put-it-down good.