Tuesday, July 31, 2007

You gotta wear the shoes to know

Everyone I talk to these days has the same question: What do you think of being a stay-at-home mom?

It’s a trick question. After all, these are seasoned stay-at-home moms doing the asking.

“Oh, it’s everything except what I thought it would be,” I reply to laughter.

“You got those closets cleaned out yet?”


“Read any of those magazines you wanted to catch up on?”


“Catching up on any sleep?”


“You ready to go back to work yet?”

I’d be offended by that last question if I didn’t know the joke behind it: Going back to an office job would be a break. I’d have a routine, adult conversation, fewer dishes to wash. And I’d actually get to go to the bathroom when I had to go, not when Ladybug decided I could.

But my feathers do tend to get a little ruffled when a childless couple asks what I do now with all my free time. There's no hidden joke behind that question; they're serious.

“You must get to watch a lot of television,” they say.

Yeah, only if Baby Einstein counts.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

The joy of motherhood

This weekend I got puked on, and I’m not talking little droplets of formula. I mean the floodgates of Vomitville opened up.

I was holding Ladybug when the entire day’s worth of food decided to come back for a visit. It poured out of Ladybug, down the front of her dress, all over my shirt and onto the carpeted floor. I carried her to her changing table just in time for the second wave. She was sitting in puddles of it.

“Um, honey, I need your help,” I called to my husband. “Can you clean this up while I give her a bath?”

What? You really think I was going to mop it up? It was already bad enough that I was wearing tomatoes and rice.

I know this is part of motherhood, but it’s the part that I still have trouble with. It took me almost two months before I was able to change Ladybug’s poopy diapers. Now I’m able to whip those bad boys off without a second thought.

But puke, that’s a different story.

Ultimately Ladybug was fine once I got her in the bathtub and got her smelling fresh again.

Now if I can just work on that gag reflex.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Wasn't that fun?

I'm tired but I can’t sleep. I down cup after cup of coffee to keep me going through the day, and then I’m up all night. When I finally get to bed, I toss and turn for hours. It would be one thing if Ladybug was a late riser, but at 7 a.m. on the nose she’s awake. That’s not too bad, except that it’s usually 4 a.m. before I finally drift off.

When she woke up this morning, I was so tired I couldn’t even drag myself to the coffee maker. I changed her diaper and fed her a bottle, then I closed the door of the nursery and let her play. I was there with her, mind you. I was just curled up in a ball on the floor, a pile of diapers as my pillow and her baby blanket draped around my shoulders.

I lay like that for three hours while she pulled clothes out of her drawers, stuck blocks in my ears, bopped me on the head with her plastic telephone and played peek-a-boo with my blanket.

I was the ultimate playmate without even trying.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tickets, please

This week I did my first true stay-at-home mom activity: I took Ladybug to Chuck E. Cheese in the middle of a work day. It was great – there was hardly anybody there!

I love Chuck E. Cheese. It reminds me of a similar place my parents used to take my brother and me when we were kids. Rivertown had giant animal puppets on stage, and I seem to remember a rather risqué lady cat in a bustier who worked in what I’m now convinced was a feline brothel.

But that kind of stuff went over my head back then. All I cared about was playing Skee Ball and Whack-A-Mole and winning tickets to redeem for plastic junk.

Chuck E. Cheese has all that same charm. Yeah, their pizza is gross and the mozzarella sticks are always cold in the middle and they have the same two-bit prizes, but there’s something about the sound of tokens dropping in machines and kids climbing through the overhead tunnels that is euphoric.

We celebrated Ladybug’s first birthday at Chuck E. Cheese and have been back a couple times since but always on the weekend when it’s jam-packed. Getting to go when other parents were at work felt kind of naughty, like I was playing hooky.

And it felt good.

Sneak peek

I love spying on Ladybug. (Hold on; it’s not as bad as it sounds.)

Usually when Ladybug wakes up from a nap, she’ll yell “Mama! Mama! Maaaa-maaaa!” until I come from the other room. But every once in a while, she’ll just play in her crib. When that happens I can hear her babbling to Mr. Bee, Baby Neptune and the baby doll my mom gave her on her first birthday that makes kissing noises and says, “I love you.” So I’ll tiptoe to the door, slowly turn the handle, open it just a crack and watch what she does.

One time I caught her running from one end of the crib to the other, waving her arms and throwing her crib companions on the floor. Another time she was sitting up, her eyes half closed, and looking around her room as if she was confused. She then lay back down and fell asleep.

The other night, Ladybug couldn’t sleep even though it was several hours past her bedtime. So I took her out of her crib and let her play. I closed the door of the nursery and listened as she giggled and banged on her xylophone and pulled blocks and stacking pans off her toddler-level shelves.

Then it got quiet. When you’re a mom to a toddler, you know quiet is never good.

So I tiptoed to the door, opened it a crack and peeked in. There she was sitting on the floor, a life-sized stuffed cat my grandmom made laying against her legs. Ladybug was reading. (OK, she was looking at a book upside down.) But it was enough to calm her down and make her ready for sleep and I couldn’t ask for more.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A proud moment

In a last-minute rush to squeeze in doctors appointments before my insurance expires, my husband and I scheduled an appointment at the same clinic at the same time. That meant toting Ladybug along with us.

It was our first time to see this doctor, and I didn’t know what to expect. I just kept my fingers crossed that there wouldn’t be too long of a wait.

Of course there was, but our saving grace was the arrival of another patient with her toddler son. A toddler son who brought a miniature toy motorcycle that revved.

The little boy sat on his mom’s lap and pointed at Ladybug. Ladybug pointed back. Then he handed her the motorcycle.

“Thank you,” Ladybug said.

Thank you! Thank you! My Ladybug said thank you!

She played with the motorcycle for a minute and handed it back to the boy.

“Thank you,” she said again.

“Kids are so polite today,” the boy’s mom commented.

Yes, my Ladybug is polite.

Thank you.

The ultimate humiliation

Our recent return flight from Maryland was awful.

It ranked up there among one of the most humiliating moments of my life, right next to the time I walked in on a bunch of teenage boys dressing for an ice hockey game at the skating rink. I was young and had to pee, and they were in the girl’s bathroom without any warning notice posted on the door. But I couldn’t help feeling like I wanted to disappear.

I felt the same way as I buckled up Ladybug and then went to fasten my own seatbelt.

It wouldn’t close.

Wouldn’t even reach the receiving end.

When had I become so fat?

I’ve known for a long time that I need to lose weight, but I guess I’ve had a warped sense of body image. I mean, I feel thin on the inside.

Having to ask for a lapbelt extension changed that. So did the steward who looked at me with disgust and said, “Just make sure you give it back when we land.” Then there were the two men behind us who said, “Her ass is so big it wouldn’t fit in a Chevy.”

Am I really that big? When did that happen?

It happened when I met a man who didn’t care what I looked like, who loved me for who I was inside. I suppose unconsciously that gave me an excuse to stop exercising and watching what I eat.

Over the years my weight steadily climbed, but my husband kept telling me how beautiful I was. Seems love really is blind.

But that embarrassing moment on the plane opened my eyes. I have to do something about my weight. Not for my physical appearance, not to stop the ugly comments, but for my health. I have a baby girl and husband who need me, and I want to be with them for a long, long time.

So I’m going to do it. I’m going to eat smart, exercise and lose weight the healthy way. And Mr. Steward, you can keep your lapbelt extender.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Stay-in-bed mom

I’ll just say it: I’m exhausted.

I’m on my fourth day now as a stay-at-home mom, and I’m as tired – if not more – as when I was working a full-time job outside of the house.

Part of it may be the wind-down; I had been running on adrenaline and stress for so long that my body is just trying to catch up on the sleep deficit I had racked up over the last two years.

But the other part of it is this is a hard job.

There are no leisurely cups of coffee in the morning to gradually wake myself up. Once Ladybug opens her eyes, it’s full-speed ahead. I have to take care of her whether or not I’m ready.

And most of the time I’m not ready.

As I was preparing to leave work for the last time earlier this week, a colleague said to me, “Remember, stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean stay-in-bed mom.”

I laughed it off then. And I try laugh it off now, too, albeit through my yawns.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fraud alert

It could have been a very costly mistake.

We were selling a $400 item on Amazon.com, something we do quite regularly.
If you aren’t familiar with how this works, here’s a basic rundown: You post your item, interested buyers send an email through Amazon and then if they want to buy the item, they transfer funds to Amazon. Amazon then sends you a confirmation e-mail that the funds have been deposited in your account. The system always worked well in the past for us, and we had become familiar with the routine.

So when we received an email from Amazon that there was a potential buyer for the item we posted, we exchanged emails with the person. The woman said she needed the item immediately for her fiancé’s birthday and that she would transfer the money through Amazon right away. Shortly after that we received an Amazon deposit confirmation email.

At first glance, it looked exactly like an Amazon email. But then we noticed several things that were fishy. First, “deposit” was spelled wrong. The amount transferred was a little more than the selling price, and it didn’t include a shipping price. The buyer refused to give us her address, instead telling us she would send a pre-paid FedEx box for pickup. A little more digging, and we saw that the e-mail didn’t originate from Amazon. And when we checked our Amazon account, there was no money deposited.

We sent an email back to the woman and told her that we could not confirm her sale. That was the last we heard from her.

Then this morning we received another email from someone else. This time, the “buyer” included a shipping address but again said they would send a pre-paid FedEx package.

We called Amazon to report the scam so they could warn consumers. That was a dead end. The customer service representative said consumers should read the “Help” section to know the warning signs of potential fraud. We offered to send Amazon the emails we had received, but the representative said she didn’t have an e-mail we could send them to. (A little ironic for an Internet-based business, huh?)

So then we reported it to the Better Business Bureau. We haven’t heard back from them yet.

Until then, consider yourself warned.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Where, oh where, are you Play-Doh?

One of the first things I did when I came home from work Monday, now a new stay-at-home mom, was to pull out the Play-Doh to celebrate.

Ladybug loves Play-Doh. When she sees me go into the closet to reach up on the top shelf, she knows what it’s for.

“Oh! Wuts dat? Wuts dat? Oh!”

I’ll roll the Play-Doh into little balls while she breaks them into tiny pieces and drops them back into the container. Yesterday we made Play-Doh shoes, Play-Doh jewelry, matching Play-Doh princess crowns.

But when it came time to pack up the Play-Doh, I couldn’t find half a container. How did that happen? We had been sitting in the same spot the entire time, or at least so I thought. I hunted high and low, retraced my steps, looked in Ladybug’s favorite hiding places, and still no sign of the lost Play-Doh. I gave up.

Then this morning as I sat down at my computer with a cup of coffee, Ladybug playing behind me, I heard “Oh! Wuts dat? Wuts dat? Oh!”

And there it was, a pancake flat chunk of brown Play-Doh, mixed in with her tub of plastic cookie cutters. It was a little crusty but still malleable.

Ladybug broke the Play-Doh into tiny pieces but with its container packed away in the closet, ended up dropping the fragments into whatever receptacle happened to be nearby – her play wagon, her mini school bus, the floor. I was picking up brown Play-Doh pellets throughout the house all morning.

At least, that’s what I hope they were.

Monday, July 16, 2007

An early departure

Well, this is it. I’m leaving.

It’s a few days earlier than I expected but there’s no sense postponing the inevitable.

I’ve been spending all morning throwing out documents, notes and junk I’ve accumulated over nine years. I had taken over two large drawers, a rolling file cabinet and three shelves.

And it was all gone within three hours.

Funny thing is, I really don’t have much feeling about leaving. My hands are shaking a little from nervous excitement, but I thought I would have more emotion. I mean, geez, I cried when I quit a job that had me commuting three hours a day to work a midnight shift.

But I didn’t shed a tear today. I don’t expect to shed one tomorrow either.

Maybe it’s because I know what’s waiting for me.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The longest two-week notice

I’ve been feeling a little down the last week or so.

I’ve only got a few days left before I leave work to become a stay-at-home mom.
I’m not blue because I’m ending my career. I’m in the dumps because time … is … dragging … oh … so … slow.

I want these last days to hurry up and be over so I can get on with my new life.
Each night I sigh as I set the alarm clock. Another day of work tomorrow.

For those who know me, this is strange behavior. I mean, I loved my job.

So it was only natural that a colleague would send me an email encouraging me to make the most of my after-work life. Cut the ties and move on, she told me. Don’t worry about what happens at the paper, she said.

Not to fear. I’ve already let go.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A little madness

I have a new goal: Spend no more than $80 a week on groceries and supplies.
So I pored over the weekly flyers hunting for the best deals and found some great bargains in Brookshire’s three-hour Moonlight Madness sale.

Madness it was.

I had never been able to go to one of these before because I was always at work. But I happened to be off on this particular Thursday, and the dollars-off coupons and super bargains were enticing enough to make me give it a try.

Hundreds of other people had the same idea. Women were counseling each other in the aisles on how to make the most of the coupons: “Use the $1 off health care coupon and get the pump soap for 23 cents or get that Lava bar for a nickel.”

A man, out of breath, ran up to a worker and asked where he could find the $5 cases of Coke.

Unsuspecting shoppers were cursing under their breaths. The checkout lines were backed up into the frozen food section.

But it was fun.

I left with a cart full of groceries for $33. I got free carrots, cat food, mozzarella cheese. And yes, I got 23-cent pump soap.

The best vacation ever

I overheard a colleague talking on the phone about her upcoming vacation plans. So did another co-worker.

“Reading in the hotel room? What kind of vacation is that?” he asked.

The perfect kind, I thought.

What I wouldn’t give to be able to sit down and read for several hours straight. I’m still working on the book I took into the hospital with me when Ladybug was born 17 months ago.

I’ve come to love hotel rooms. When my parents are in town visiting, they’ll babysit Ladybug while my husband and I rent a hotel room downtown. We’ll go out to dinner, hit the casinos or just stay in and relax. On our last hotel date, we sat on the couch eating chili cheese Pringles and watching "Deal or No Deal.”

I look forward to those little hotel getaways. They symbolize freedom for us, even if it is only for 18 hours.

Regret, the hard way

When I was a kid, I’d spend a week at my grandmother’s house in the summer. It was my guilty pleasure, if there is such a thing when you’re 10. Surely, unrestricted access to the mini powdered donuts and frozen Ellio’s pizza counts.

But the thing I anticipated most was the time Grandmom and I spent making Barbie clothes. We’d go to the store and shop for patterns, then come back to her house and rifle through her big wicker basket of fabric scraps for just the right piece. Then we’d head to the Singer sewing machine, the old-fashioned kind operated by foot and knee and that tucks back into a self-contained table when you’re done using it.

Grandmom never could see well enough to thread the needle on the sewing machine but that didn’t stop her from spending hours tracing patterns, cutting fabric and transforming strips of flowered and striped linen into Barbie haute couture.

I had dozens of tops, skirts, dresses, even mink stoles. Barbie could go weeks without doing laundry and still never wear the same outfit twice.

Then one day my freshman year in high school, I decided I was too old to be playing with dolls and packed everything up. It all stayed that way for more than a decade, through my graduation from college, my wedding day, two jobs and three moves.

When it was time to move again, I decided to be charitable. There were tons of kids in our neighborhood that needed the Barbie things more than me. Why not share the joy I had experienced with those less fortunate?

As the little girls dove into the boxes and shrieked with excitement, I was happy. And I remained happy at the thought over the years until this week, when Ladybug and I sat down to play Barbies for the first time.

I had a few things left over that I didn’t give away, but the clothes Grandmom and I had made were not one of them. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. Someone else – several someone elses – had my memories. I had nothing to share with Ladybug.

When Grandmom passed away, my parents gave me her sewing machine. It’s in the bedroom that will become Ladybug’s big-girl room once she outgrows the nursery.

I suppose Ladybug and I can always make Barbie clothes together and carry on the tradition that Grandmom started. But somehow, it’s just not the same.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thanks for nothing

This morning I tried a new moisturizer. Well, OK, it wasn’t really a new moisturizer, just a free sample pack as part of my new pinching-pennies strategy.

It was supposed to be an anti-wrinkle, super-firming, non-greasy formula. As I dabbed it around my eyes, I could actually feel it lifting my skin. I was loving this stuff … until now. I just saw my reflection.

I had raccoon eyes, like I’d just rolled a floured pie crust over my face, chunks of it clinging to my crow’s feet.

But what made it worse was I was at work. Ya think someone would have told me?

It’s not like there wasn’t an opportunity. A colleague walked from the parking lot into the building with me. Another commented on the cough I can’t get rid of. Another joked about me leaving. Another was the recipient of a pile of files I had used throughout my reporting days.

“Hey, Michelle, you got crap all over your face” would have worked. I’m not picky. But I am bitter.

That’s OK, ladies. I’ll remember this the next time your skirt is caught in the waistband of your pantyhose.

Counting pennies

With only a few more days of work left – and therefore only one more paycheck – I’ve been re-adjusting our budget to reflect the change. I have one word for it: Ouch!

Anticipating this day, we cancelled the satellite TV and XM Radio months ago. Netflix is set to expire this month. The credit cards will be paid off as soon as I mail the check. We’re down to nothing but the monthly living expenses.

Knowing there won’t be a steady income stream anymore has affected how we view money, or rather, how we spend it. My husband, who I always tease for being a compulsive shopper, actually turned to me this week and said, “Now that you’re not going to be working any more, we have to have a talk about the do’s and don’ts.”

“OK? What do you mean?”

“Do turn the lights off when you’re not in a room,” he replied. “Don’t leave them on.”

Then, a few nights later, he actually got up in the middle of dinner and left the room to turn off the TV.

I can’t say I’m much better. I’ve used up every sample-size shampoo bottle I had collected over our years of hotel stays. And that can of artichokes hearts that has been sitting in my pantry since the beginning of time? Let’s just say it’s the star of an upcoming dish.

All of this reminds me of an editor I once had who had lived through the Depression. He was so marked by the poverty he experienced that from then on he always kept a new pair of shoes and an unopened dress shirt in his closet “just in case.”

I know we’ll be fine. And there’s kind of a thrill surrounding this entry into the financial unknown. But we’ll be reining in our spending and watching each other’s habits anyway.

Just in case.

Monday, July 9, 2007

I'm too old for this stuff

On our downtime, my husband and I like to sit on the deck and talk about the path that brought us to where we are today and hopefully where we’ll be in the future. Sometimes we wonder “what if?”

What if he had stayed in the military? What if I had gone to law school? What if we had a baby while we were in our 20s instead of waiting until our mid-30s?

I had always maintained that I’m glad parenthood didn’t happen until later in our lives. We had time to spend together and still be immature when the mood struck us. After all, we wouldn’t have been able to hop in the car in the middle of the night and drive to New Orleans for a Hand Grenade if we had a baby.

But now that Ladybug is 17-months-old and running all over the place, I sometimes find myself wandering “what if I had had her at 24? Would I have more energy?”

I was struck by this thought on the 30th round of “Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” Ladybug was in her crib watching me do an exaggerated Vaudeville-style performance, huffing and puffing each time I’d bend over. By about the 10th verse of “knees and toes” I was too tired to keep going and ended up just pointing at my extremities. By about the 20th time, I lifted up her arms and guided her hand to her head, shoulders, knees and toes.

To Ladybug, it was just a comical deviation. For me, it was a realization that I like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” much better.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Some risks are worth taking

It’s official.

July 19 is my last day at work.

After nearly nine years as a reporter and editor at The Shreveport Times, I’m leaving to start a new career as a stay-at-home mom.

It wasn’t a hard decision to make. (Read “A Turning Point” entry below.) Sure, I’ll miss the financial ability to shop on a whim. And yes, I’m having just a tad bit of trouble identifying myself as a mom rather than a working woman when people ask what I do for a living. I’ve been identified by my career for so long that it’s hard to let go.

But the way I figure it, the payback will be worth it.

I’ve already started a mental list of things I want to accomplish that I never found the time to do when I was working: clean out the closets, have a yard sale, read my last year’s issues of Parenting magazine.

And the most important: Spend time with Ladybug and my husband.

As a working mom, I never felt as if I had enough time with either of them. My work schedule changed from day to day, and it was difficult to find a family rhythm. Either Ladybug was asleep when I got home, or I was so tired that I’d go to bed and not see my husband until the next evening.

But if there’s one thing having a baby does, it’s putting things in perspective. I can always find another job later, I can always climb my way back up. But turning back time, that’s one thing I’ll never be able to do.

From what I’ve heard from other moms, I’m not alone in those thoughts. If you’ve decided to be a stay-at-home mom, I’d love to hear from you. Click on “Comments” below to share your stories.

Hubba Bubba macaroni and cheese

My mom makes a killer homemade macaroni and cheese.

It’s not that processed glow-in-the-dark kind, but an ooey-gooey concoction that only comes from a mother’s heart.

For some reason this week, I got it in my head that I would try to make it. How hard could it be? It’s a two-ingredient dish – macaroni and cheese – right?

So I cooked a box of rotini (I figured I’d jazz it up a bit) and started melting a pack of shredded cheese in another pan, adding a little butter to keep it from clumping. It didn’t look to be doing the trick so I tried to think back to my college years when limited finances had me eating the boxed variety several nights a week.

What were the other ingredients? Oh, yeah, milk.

So I poured in some milk, and the cheese started to take on a smoother consistency.

Until I stirred it.

It stuck to the wooden spoon like chewing gum on a hot pavement sticks to a shoe. When I added the pasta, the cheese just sat there in the middle of the pan and wobbled back and forth like Flubber.

It didn’t taste as bad as it looked, and my husband actually liked it – which is more than I can say about most of my cooking.

But Mom, if you’re reading this, can you help me out? I’ve got two giant Tupperware containers of leftovers in the freezer that need some fixin’.

A case of the no's

Early on, my husband and I decided we would ban the word “no” from our vocabulary with Ladybug.

If she looks as if she’s getting too close to the stove, we’ll say, “Hot. Ouch.” Or if she’s readying to dump the contents of my purse, I’ll take it and say, “That’s Mommy’s. Here’s yours.”

We thought that strategy would help teach her boundaries while also letting her know that we have reasons for saying no. She may not understand that now, but we’re thinking down the road to the teenage years. Better to instill the habit of communication early.

In any case, the technique was working well until recently when Ladybug developed an obsession for the trashcan. My mother-in-law’s natural reaction the first time Ladybug lifted the lid and reached in was an emphatic “no, no, no!” combined with a waving of her index finger.

It only took one time. Now Ladybug’s favorite expression is “no, no, no” – coupled with a wagging finger and scrunched-up nose, an act she perfected during the week’s stay at my grandfather’s house.

This time it was my fault.

Since there hasn’t been a baby in the extended family for more than a decade, my grandfather’s house was a long way from being ready for a toddler. So we improvised: A card table blocking the stairs. A hassock blocking the TV’s plugs. A serving tray on a cardboard box as a makeshift mini table.

It also meant Ladybug was getting into trouble faster than I could keep up. She had no sooner stuffed a handful of tissues in her mouth than she was off pulling picture frames from the table and heading into the kitchen for the trashcan.

“No, no, no!”

I blurted it out without thinking.

Ladybug was just as surprised as I was. She stopped in her tracks and laughed. Then she wrinkled her nose, waved her finger and repeated it … just before reaching into the trashcan.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Would someone shut that kid up?

Ladybug is a social butterfly. She’ll jabber up a storm with whoever will listen and left a trail of victims during our two-hour wait to board the plane.

I’m always a bit hesitant to let Ladybug babble with strangers. They’re obliging enough, carrying on a conversation with the typical Oh, really? Tell me about it. Uh-huh. What do you see? I stand by Ladybug’s side as she chatters and will sweep her up when she gets too close – setting off an inevitable scene of screams and kicks until I put her down and she heads right back to the last person she was talking to.

I never know how to handle those situations. What’s proper stranger etiquette? I found myself saying, “Let me know if we’re bothering you and I’ll keep her away,” but the people she had targeted said they didn’t mind.

Still, I couldn’t help wondering what was going through their heads. I think back to my pre-mom days and how I’d roll my eyes at the parents who couldn’t control their kids. And I’ve been known to say to my husband in exaggerated whispers, “Can’t they shut that kid up? Wait until we have our own. They won’t behave like that.”

But here I was in an airport, trying to get Ladybug to burn up her extra energy in the hope she’d sleep on the plane, letting her talk to whoever was in her path and run wherever her legs would carry her.

I got some sympathetic glances and a few “I know what you’re going through” comments. But I also saw the travelers who were rolling their eyes and leaning in to whisper something to the person sitting next to them. I could just imagine the criticism we were getting.

But that’s OK, I thought. What goes around comes around. Just wait until you have kids.

Once, twice, three times a parking garage

We’re back from our weeklong trip to Maryland, and I need to return to work just to get some rest. It was the first time we took an extended trip with Ladybug, and it was every bit the hassle I expected – all 16 hours of it.

I had a brief moment of hope that the travel would be smooth sailing. I had our suitcases packed the night before, my husband’s mother had cleaned the house, the cats had a week’s worth of food and water, and we were actually a little ahead of schedule. All I needed to do in the morning was grab my mug of coffee for the drive to Houston, where my mother-in-law was catching her flight to Paris and we were taking ours to Washington.

The four-hour drive to the airport passed without problem, unlike our journey six weeks earlier to pick up my mother-in-law. A train blocking our path and an inconsolable Ladybug combined to turn that trip into an eight-hour one-way ordeal.

So when we got to Houston this time several hours in advance of our scheduled departures, I had another brief moment of hope. Maybe my worries were unfounded after all, I thought.


We went to our terminal first to get our boarding passes and drop off our luggage curbside. That part was easy, but it meant circling the airport again to get back to my mother-in-law’s terminal.

So down the ramp, into the left lane, through the traffic light and back to the international terminal we went.

We dropped off her bags, got her boarding pass and figured we’d park the car there. No such luck. There was no entry into the parking garage.

So down the ramp, into the left lane, through the traffic light and back to the domestic terminal we went.

I saw the sign pointing to the parking garage but it had a low-hanging bar that warned of the low clearance. From a distance the bar looked really, really low and I wasn’t sure we’d be able to pass under it. I just figured that I’d grab the next entrance into the garage … if only there had been one.

So into the left lane, through the traffic light and back around we went again.

This time around, I planned to follow the signs to the parking garage and if the low-hanging bar scraped all the paint off the roof of the car, so be it. The clock was ticking and was beginning to eat into the cushion of extra time we had allowed.

We got into the parking garage, roof intact, and followed the arrows to the parking levels. First level full. Second level full. Third level full. Fourth level 80 spaces. For the next 22 minutes I drove up and down every row and couldn’t find a single parking space. So I figured I’d go up to the next level, only there was no way to go up.

Back down the ramp, through the tollbooth, into the left lane, through the traffic light, back to the domestic terminal, under the low-hanging bar we went.

First level full. Second level full. Third level full. Fourth level 76 spaces – yeah, right -- fifth level 150 spaces.

Another 20 minutes of back and forth and still no sign of an open space. Then miracle of all miracles, an SUV pulled out in front of us.

We pulled all of our gear out of the car – Ladybug’s stroller, her car seat, my backpack full of diapers and munchies and toys for the plane, my purse, my husband’s backpack – and started the long trek to the elevator on the opposite side of the parking garage.

Oh, the fun was just beginning.