The Christmas Competition

frustrationIt’s Christmas evening, and I’m sitting here with a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

No one had a serious meltdown.

No one got hurt.

I didn’t give in and take up drinking as a hobby.

Our day was split up, as it always is- we spent the morning opening presents at home, and then went to Gran and Papa’s house, and opened more presents there. It’s not Jack’s first Christmas, obviously, but it’s his first truly interactive one. He finally understands the concept of unwrapping presents, and I had been looking forward to seeing his reaction to the whole experience and the new-found freedom that is represented by tearing into brightly wrapped packages.

Now, my kids’ autism means that I can usually expect some sensory or behavioural issues to pop up when they are in an environment that is hyper-stimulating. After all, there are blinking lights everywhere, little decorations piping a constant stream of carols, a television on, tons of things with different textures, and a lot of general chatter going on.

Still, I had somewhat rose-tinted expectations. You’d think this was my first rodeo, or something.

In my head, Christmas was going to go something like this:

I’d get the kids out of bed. They wait in their bedroom every morning until I open the door. It’s freakin’ awesome.

I’d sit them at their table, and hand them the usual peanut butter and jam toast, before we all gleefully tore into our presents and stockings.

I expected giggling and happy faces on both kids, lovely mealtimes, and a general sense of wellbeing and accomplishment at the end of it for us parents.

I figured that after we all happily ransacked the space under the tree, I would get them dressed in their good clothing, and we’d bundle them into the van and truck the whole damn family off to Gran and Papa’s house for more presents and dinner.

In my head, it was going to go smoothly and not morph into a game of “Us Against Them.”

For Jill, this was pretty much how it happened. Well, more or less.

For Jack… not so much.

We managed to get them out of the bedroom and fed with no incident.

Parents: 1

Kids: 0

They finished cramming their chipmunk cheeks full of peanut butter and jam toast, flung their thankfully plastic plates onto the dishwasher and then high-tailed it (with cheeks still full) over to the tree, where they gazed raptly… at the blinking lights.

Getting them to sit next to each other on the floor so they could have space to tear open their gifts was a bit like herding cats. We’d get Jill to sit down, while Jack wandered out of the living room. Then, we’d get Jack to the floor, and Jill would stand up to play with one of the ornaments. This went on for a good ten minutes. Every time we managed to talk one of them into sitting down, the other would find some reason to get up and walk off.

Parents: 1

Kids: 1

The thing that worked was a stroke of genius on my partner’s side. He set up his camera. Did I mention he’s a photographer? Jack and Jill saw the camera, and promptly sat down with a big smile and a resounding chorus of “Cheese!” (it’s sort of a reflex). The only problem was, they were facing the camera, and not the tree. It was really half a victory, but hell, I’ll just round up the number. This one’s ours, baby.

Parents: 2

Kids: 1

When I started handing out the presents, Jill did her part with flair.

Jack… not so much.

He took the first present, and gently started to tear off the wrapping paper. I think perhaps one piece of tape was actually pried off.

Then, the wailing started. I figured he was frustrated, so I bent down to show him what to do. Every time I held the present out, he started crying again. Even though I know that he knows how to rip paper, I had to “show him what to do” over and over again until the entire present was unwrapped.

Parents: 2

Kids: 2

It was a couple of colouring books, to go with some crayons that were still wrapped and under the tree.

He fixated on the colouring books, and wouldn’t unwrap any of the other presents that we put in front of him. He accumulated quite a little pile of gifts at his feet, and wouldn’t so much as take his eyes off the colouring books until I took them out of his reach…

Parents: 3

Kids: 2

… and then the crying started again.

Parents: 3

Kids: 3

Jill, for her part, eagerly tore into her gifts, and only had something to say when we went too long without giving her something else to unwrap.

I figured the waterworks would stop when we bundled the kids into the car, and headed to Gran and Papa’s house.

Nah…not so much.

When the gifts came out from under their tree, Jill gleefully went into action. She was in her element! Jack… sat with the first present on his lap, and started crying. This bit kept on, until all the presents were doled out and Jill was happily playing with her new things. It has since dawned on me that I really don’t know what makes my son “tick”; I just got frustrated with all the crying, when the kids should have been happy, and “showed Jack what to do” until all his gifts were unwrapped.

By that time, it was past noon, and I hit upon a brilliant idea: I would stuff his little chipmunk cheeks full of peanut butter and jam sandwiches. It was lunch, after all, and he couldn’t wail if his mouth was full.

Finally, I found something that made the crying stop.

Parents: 4

Kids: 3

The afternoon was blissfully quiet, more or less. Jack and Jill took turns stealing each other’s toys, and then they each took turns being pissed off because the other one stole their toys. Dinner, which was delicious, was pleasant and only marred by the occasional frustrated wail when Jack couldn’t get food in his face fast enough. A lovely dinner was topped off by an equally lovely Christmas pudding.

My kids do love their Christmas pudding. If it had been the sort to be made with alcohol, they would’ve gotten rip-roaring drunk on it.

Thank the gods for small miracles.


A Girl, Lost in the Translation

“You’ve got to find yourself first. Everything else will follow.”
Charles De Lint, Dreams Underfoot

11010281245_d0e6a1c6d9_zWhen I was young, I had it all figured out. I was going to be a cowgirl; there was no doubt in my mind.

I had a favourite pair of rain boots that looked just like a tiny pair of white cowgirl boots. It didn’t matter that they were made of rubber and not leather- I thought they were the genuine thing.

As I grew up, my idea of what I wanted to be changed.

Sometimes, I wanted to be a writer.

Sometimes, I wanted to be an artist.

Sometimes, I wanted to own a shop.

Sometimes, I wanted to own a publishing house.

In high school, grade eleven to be exact, one of my teachers asked her class a simple but very loaded question: where do you see yourself in 5 years?

The time frame would have put me one year after college, but that didn’t matter. I knew beyond a doubt, at that point, that I would be working on getting my second book published, and that I would be married to an awesome man, with 2 kids (a boy and a girl, naturally), and a house of my own.

To say that things didn’t work out according to that plan is a massive understatement. I attended a Fine Arts program in college, and it was roughly then that my font for writing inspiration seemed to dry up. It didn’t matter, though, because I had other creative outlets.

When I graduated, my lack of self-confidence prevented me from applying to arts-related jobs that I should have been perfectly qualified for. So, instead I turned to housekeeping. Perhaps I should say, I turned back to housekeeping, since I had been doing that type of work intermittently since high school, as a way of making some extra cash.

Over the next 15 years, I tried all kinds of other jobs, but when they inevitably fell through I returned to housekeeping- my safety net. I didn’t particularly like the work, but I was good at it and could always find jobs. In that time, I also had a series of bad relationships (including a marriage) that did little but make me feel as though I was being pushed into a neat little box and kept there.

Being so busy trying to be whatever they needed me to be, I lost all sense of who I was as a person. Instead, my sense of identity became wrapped up in who I was with, and what job I was doing. If I didn’t have either, I felt lost.

Eventually, having little time to devote to it, even the font of inspiration for art dried up. A creative person who loses their outlets is like an automaton, going through life without the thing that made them a real person.

I felt hollow, so when I finally decided to let myself be alone for a while, after going through a number of damaging relationships, I filled the empty spaces in my soul with so much work that I had little time to think about myself.

I hated the way I lived.

It wasn’t until I stumbled across a housekeeping client that liked me so much as a person that she started asking me to get together with her on the weekends. We would meet at her house, and make beaded jewellery or paint her bird seed bins, or do something else creative.

It was enough to ignite the spark again, though it still took a long time for the flame to really catch. I stuck to housekeeping, still not feeling like I had a path of my own to walk. I stuck with it for a few more years, in fact, until I was settled in a place across the country, with a family I’d made with a man who wanted nothing more than for me to love myself and be whatever person I wanted to be.

I stuck with it until life kicked me in the ass, and made it virtually impossible for me to work as a housekeeper, by the simple expedient of having me accidentally drop a kettle full of boiling water on my foot. The scarring made it impossible for my foot to flex completely- something that is kind of important in some parts of housekeeping.

The idea of returning to writing had been percolating in the back of my mind, in the months leading up to that accident, but I pushed it back because it seemed risky. Although it hurt like a sonofabitch, both physically and emotionally, I took the accident as a kind of sign. I had to stop playing it safe, to have the freedom to figure out who I am.

I untied the ropes that bound me, and walked into the great blue yonder. I started walking my path, and writing my story.

The Snob

1010338_10153911115360058_1524378486_nI’m not what you would call a coffee connoisseur.

I don’t go into cafes and order a Venti Extra-Hot Sugar-Free Caramel Macchiato with Skim Milk, an Extra Shot of Espresso and Extra Whip Cream, although I did wait behind that guy in line one time. I don’t buy Kopi Luwak, or, for that matter, any other obnoxiously expensive coffee whose seeds were eaten and crapped out by small cat-like animals.

I have never been the girl who rhymes off a laundry list of coffee expectations for the poor confused and annoyed barista.

I have never been the girl who buys the most expensive coffee, as if by doing so, she has asserted her position in some sort of invisible hierarchy that only she is aware of.

I have, however, been the girl who patiently asks for a Caramel Latte, and then just as patiently listens to the old “you know it’s made with milk” reminder when she asks for extra cream in it. I have gritted my teeth, and resisted the urge to lecture the poor barista about how the word “latte” is in fact part of “caffe latte”, an Italian term which literally means “milk coffee”, and that only a complete twit wouldn’t know it was made with milk.

The fact of the matter is, I like the taste of cream in my cup better than milk.

In a sense, maybe I am not so much a coffee connoisseur as a coffee snob. I prefer what I brew at home. I don’t like most of what’s offered in cafés, unless I’m desperate for caffeine.

It’s a bitter mess, like my views on the rampant misuse of apostrophes.

Some pretty nasty potions that have had the gall to call themselves coffee have passed these lips of mine, however. I’ve choked down vile mixtures of instant coffee, powdered whitener and artificial sweetener that were, at worst, “humane” ways of torturing prisoners of war and, at best, suitable test material for sewage treatment plants.

I took one for the team; I choked them down for the good of all, so that no one would die or suffer horrible injuries that day as a result of me not being properly caffeinated.

In the morning, before I have polished off the contents of my mug, I- like Medusa- could petrify mere mortals who so much as looked at me. After one coffee, I’m almost presentable. Not necessarily literate, though- that comes after two cups.

This is why I get up and have my breakfast before even waking anyone else up- because I love my family, and want to keep them alive.

Coffee saves lives, people, at least in my house.

The Art of Embarrassing Mom

Mom-Confessions-Most-Embarrassing-Thing-My-Kid-Has-DoneOne of the more entertaining hallmarks of Autism is the tendency toward random acts of totally inappropriate behaviour. Considering that Jack is only 3 years old, you could also chalk it up to his being a rambunctious youngster. After all, kids have an unnerving ability to say or do the wrong thing at the right time… or maybe, it’s the right thing at the wrong time.

I guess it depends on how you look at it.

Jack has mastered the art of inappropriate behaviour, a task which he seems to regard as his God-given duty.

Read on…

The Moon over Miami

It’s a fun game for Jack to reach into the grocery cart from his perch at the front, and grab the nearest thing he can find. If you’re not quick on the draw, he’ll pitch that item- no matter what it is- out of the cart.

Imagine knowing this, and having no alternative but to place that carton of eggs you just grabbed into your over-stuffed cart right behind his perch, where he can easily grab them. Imagine that you are wearing a comfortable pair of yoga pants that have no belt, and an annoying tendency to ride down your butt any time you bend over.

Grabbing his hands and holding them doesn’t work, no! Jack screams bloody murder, as if by the very the act of holding his hands you are committing a great atrocity that will be the end of his world, right then and there. Life as he knows it is over. Give the boy an Oscar!

There the eggs sit, all pristine and beckoning in their too-fragile cardboard carton, practically begging for a couple of tiny hands attached to a mischievous smile to grab them. Naturally, because his entire existence is centered around getting in trouble (as if the resulting scolding is somehow life-affirming), he waited until my attention was engaged elsewhere, grabbed the egg carton, and hurled it like he was trying out as a pitcher out for the local pro baseball team.

Fortunately, nobody was in the way of that particular projectile. Not so fortunately, the eggs practically exploded as the carton hit the ground. I, in my terribly comfortable yoga pants that have never actually seen the inside of a yoga studio, stooped down to pick up the woefully inadequate (and now yoke-filled) carton, flashing almost my entire ass- minus even my underwear because they, too, went south- to everyone behind me.

Yes indeed, the moon CAN rise in the middle of the day.

I’ll be lucky if my Moon over Miami doesn’t appear on the People of Walmart website because, with my luck, there was probably someone behind me with a cell-phone camera at the ready, and an itchy trigger finger.

The Bait and Tackle

Jack and Jill both attend several different types of therapy for their Autism, all of which take place at a local horse farm. On this farm, there happens to be a small fenced-in play area, and it was here that I placed Jack one fine day while I talked to two of his therapists not a few feet away.

While the adults chatted, Jack played happily. It didn’t take long, however, for one of his therapists to gently interrupt what I was saying by pointing over to my son.

It was a good thing it was a warm summer day because, as I looked over at him, Jack stood by the fence staring at us adults, and calmly dropped his drawers, diaper and all. He stood there with a giant grin on his face, his bait and tackle waving in the breeze, as I stared back and groped for something to say.

His therapists laughed.

“Well, that proves it,” I said, eventually. “He’s definitely his father’s son.”

The Immortal Words

The family cat is kind of a psycho beast. She loves her adult humans, and tolerates the presence of the mini humans. She has been known to be all lovey-dovey one minute, and all hissing and biting the next.

Jack, since one particular incident last year, avoids her like the plague.

My partner was out of town for a week in November, and so I was left to look after the kids by myself. We were between meals with nothing to particular to do that day, so I sat on the couch typing away on my laptop while the kids played with their toys on the living room floor.

Or, so I thought.

One moment, they were both happily engaged, and in the next moment Jack had wandered over to where the cat was laying and grooming herself. He seemed to be just looking at her, but looks can be deceiving- especially where Jack is concerned.

Our cat found out that day that my son is a quick little bugger. In a flash, he lurched forward, his little tongue darting out to lick the cat’s head, from neck to ears.

I uttered words I never thought I would ever hear myself say:

“Jack, don’t lick the cat!”

Yup… life with my family is definitely interesting.

The Poo-Nami

Diaper Loading please waitAh, the Poo-Nami.

In an ideal world, baby poop would come packaged up in neat little pellets that were easy to contain, easy to clean up and smelled like freshly baked cookies or something equally pleasant.

The reality, however, is somewhat different.

Well, O.K, it’s nowhere near the same.

As a new parent, when you have to change your first-ever Poo-Nami (also known as a Blow-Out) diaper, you might still be in the “cutesy” phase parenthood. Everything is still bright and shiny and new, and you have the cutest little baby who makes the cutest little sounds and the cutest little messes. When your little poop machine makes their first giant mess in their teeny-weeny little diaper… and pants… and shirt… and possibly their hair, you may even be the sort of parents who take pictures and post them online.

If you’re that kind of parent… seriously, what the hell’s the matter with you?

You may find yourself leaning over your baby, holding your nose, and saying things like: “Who’s the cutest little poopy pants in the whole world?”

Personally, I was the kind of new parent who held my breath while hosing the baby off in the shower, wondering how in the hell it was possible for so much nastiness to fit into such an adorable little body.

The experience loses whatever charm it had, believe me, and pretty quickly too. Those things aren’t cute. It won’t be long before you go from thinking your baby’s messes are adorable to browsing E-bay for the cheapest gas mask that you can find.

I think I should mention here that babies often have creative ways of “sharing the wealth”, by which I really mean “spreading the poop”.

Babies are creative. They will reach into their diapers and pull the mess out. They will pull off their diapers and butt-scoot across the floor. They may even decorate the walls with it. Out of all those creative ways to drive you to drink just with the contents of their diaper the Jolly Jumper is, in my opinion, the nastiest.

“But the Jolly Jumper keeps my little dude happy!” I hear you protest. “When he’s in the Jolly Jumper, I can get things accomplished!”

Indeed, you can accomplish things when your Mini Me is happily bouncing away, but that little bit of freedom can come with a price.

Now, a regular old Poo-Nami that goes up their front and back, down their legs and into their hair (and all over whatever they are wearing) is one thing. Having your baby in the Jolly Jumper when a Poo-Nami strikes gives the story a whole new twist.

Picture a poop sprinkler and you’ll have the right idea.

The Poo-Nami is one of those many little things that no parent on earth ever tells an expecting parent. I’m pretty sure there’s a good reason for that, but I’m inclined to think it’s because they don’t want you to give up your baby for adoption. It’s one of those things that will make you question your life choices, but you probably won’t hear about it until you have the unspeakable joy of experiencing it for yourself.

Then, they give you a knowing look, a pat on the back, and possibly a bottle of wine before you dissolve into fits of sobbing on their shoulder.

How to Save a Life

I believe that Jill- little 5 years old Jill- has saved a life.

As we waited at the bus stop the other morning, my son in his stroller and Jill sitting on the metal bench, I was sort of keeping one eye on my kids and the other on the passing pedestrians. While Jack happily watched the cars go by and Jill sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” over and over again, I thought about how people tend to view Autism and those who have it.

One of the typical stereotypes that surround Autism is that people who fall on the spectrum tend to be loners, anti-social or just socially awkward. It’s a stereotype with some truth to it, but the fact is it isn’t entirely accurate.
On the one end of the scale, you have people on the Spectrum who are the loners. It’s part and parcel of the difficulties many individuals with A.S.D have with social interaction or appropriate social behaviour, after all. On the other end of the scale are those people you don’t hear as much about: the over-friendly types. They may still have problems with figuring out how to interact with their peers, or what is appropriate social behaviour in any given situation, but they tend to act like everybody is their friend. In these cases, they can be friendly with everyone to the point of being inappropriate or even dangerous.

It’s hard to tell a small child who has no concept of stranger danger that, sometimes, being friendly is not the right thing to do.

My kids fall on the latter scale, and it was that in particular that I was thinking about that morning.
Jill likes to talk to whomever she meets at the bus stop. I let her do it, despite it sometimes being hard to watch her, because I think it’s good for her to socialise with people- under controlled circumstances, anyway.

Besides, I’m not always sure where I should draw the line.

Anyway, back to my story.

It wasn’t long after we got to the bus stop that another woman entered the shelter. Jill, true to her usual self, immediately said hello.

I looked at the lady without saying anything; I just watched her interaction with my daughter. She gave Jill a little tolerant smile and said “hello” back. It was clear on her face, and in her voice, that the lady was struggling with something; she looked to be on the verge of tears, and barely holding it in. Without a second thought, Jill flashed the woman her patented thousand-watt smile and said: “I love you!”

The lady’s smile grew a hundred times brighter.

I wanted to tell Jill, just then, that she shouldn’t say those words to complete strangers.

I wanted to say she shouldn’t just throw those three words around, that she should save them for people she really cared about.

I wanted to tell her it was inappropriate, but I didn’t.lifesaver

I looked at the woman’s brilliantly smiling face, and kept my mouth shut. It was obvious those three words, seemingly said at just the right time by the right person, meant something- at least to that lady.

There is no way, between the sun and the earth, that either of us could have known what the lady was thinking.

There is no way we could know for sure what she was considering doing but maybe, just maybe, a friendly little girl with a bright smile and the right words saved her life.

How to Annoy a Pregnant Woman

As everyone knows, the act of getting yourself pregnant is all fun and games.  It was for me, but that’s a story for another day.

I went into the whole pregnancy thing expecting to have morning sickness for 2 or 3 months, to feel like a beached whale, and to give birth the natural way within a few days of my projected due date.

Boy, was I in for a shock.  I had morning sickness from what seemed like the day I conceived both kids to the day they were born.  With my first pregnancy, everything started off all hunky-dory.  I got the usual morning sickness, all the usual first-trimester symptoms- the stuff I expected to have.  What I didn’t really expect was to start developing issues with different foods and smells.  That is to say, it got to the point where virtually every smell I encountered was enough to make me gag, and the only foods I could eat were pepperoni sticks, Ensure shakes, and rice or potatoes that had been drowned in Hoi Sin sauce. Ggaining weight got to be kind of tricky.

Then, there were the boobs.  Now, I’m not exactly on the small side to begin with, but almost as soon as I got pregnant, those things got freakishly huge.  I felt like I had a pair of balloons stuck on the front of me.  The real problem was, they were also very sore.  I felt like wrapping them each in packing paper, duct-taping a box over my chest and cramming Styrofoam esses in there, just to keep those suckers from moving around, or… you know… even being breathed on.

As soon as I started looking even vaguely pregnant, it was as though I sent out some kind of telepathic cue to every well-meaning belly rubber within a 10,000 km radius.  Suddenly, everybody wanted to rub my belly.  There was no respect for personal space, no sir! It didn’t matter if they were close family, or a complete stranger; it was kind of creepy, really. It was basically like I’d morphed into some kind of good luck Buddha statue, or one of those little troll dolls that were so popular in the ’90s. Every 5 minutes, it seemed like someone wanted to rub my growing bump, or ask me about the baby. I, for the most part, accepted it gracefully.  There were a few times, however, that I really had to restrain myself from going completely hormonal on those people.

05They asked whether I knew the gender yet, if I had any names picked out, what schools I wanted to send the baby to, and what my career plans for it were.  They came out of the woodwork with advice on what to do, what not to do, and how to catapult my child from one end of life to the other.  If I’d listened to everything, I would have either become a paranoid parent, or I would have had the strong urge to punch the next do-gooder who told me that bottle feeding was the root of all evil.

For the first half of each of my pregnancies, I happily answered all those questions, and listened to all that advice, as politely as I could.  I do try to be a nice person, after all.  For the last half of my pregnancies, since I felt bloated, uncomfortable and hormonal, however… I was not so nice.

Downright cruel sometimes, even.

On one particular day, I was about 8 months pregnant with my daughter.  Summer had taken hold, and it was a particularly hot day. I’d just gotten on the bus to go home, having been downtown running some errands that morning.  I was feeling ill, sweaty, uncomfortable, and generally bad-tempered, and I was about an inch away from bringing all that out on the next person unfortunate enough to speak to me.

It happened to be a little old lady. She sat in the empty seat next to me, smiling in that particular way that let me know what was going to come out of her mouth next. She leaned over to me a little, with a polite smile on her face, her floral perfume nearly making me gag.

“How far along are you?” she asked.

I could have just told her I was 8 and half months on, but that would have been the level-headed thing to do. I was feeling anything but level headed.

“I’m not pregnant,” I blurted out. “I’m just overweight.” I even managed to look close to tears. It was a pretty Oscar-worthy performance, actually.

For someone so small and frail-looking, she back-pedaled pretty quickly. A stream of apologies spewed from her mouth, and I’m pretty sure she turned a brighter red than her lipstick. I left her groping for something to say, as I got off the bus.

Normal Me would have smiled indulgently and answered nicely. Pregnant Me, however, figured it was perfectly O.K to behave like I had a particularly nasty case of PMS.

My partner came into the bedroom to ask me what was wrong; after I got home, I slammed the door, and hurled myself onto the bed to bawl my eyes out. I still can’t remember what I managed to choke out between sobs, but he tells me it was something about whales, old ladies, stupid buses, and perfume. Since he didn’t really understand what I was saying, he did what any sane person with a pregnant and hormonal partner would do: he backed away and ran to get the chocolate.

The Stop Button

I have two young kids- a little boy, aged 3, and a little girl who is 5. My partner has threatened to withhold the chocolate if I use their real names, so I’ll call them Jack and Jill for the sake of this blog. Trust me, making sure I have chocolate is really best for everyone.

Besides being kids, and full of all the beans that come with being a small child, Jack and Jill are both high-functioning Autistic. Like many of those on the Autism Spectrum, my kids have things that they are absolutely obsessive about. Jack, for example, is obsessed with buttons- especially those “stop” buttons that you find on the bottoms of those chairs at the front of a public transit bus. You know the ones- they flip up to make space for strollers and wheelchairs.

Some of those buttons practically beg to be pushed. It’s as if they are purposely made brightly coloured and obnoxious enough to make obsessive kids want to push them… constantly. When you’re a little boy with a serious fixation, and your stroller is beside the biggest and brightest stop button that even your Mommy has ever seen, resisting the desire to push it is damned near impossible.

milovanderlinden_Nice_orange_glowy_buttonThe “button” in question is really more like a wall plaque. It’s about half a foot long by 3 inches tall, and is brilliant yellow with blue writing on it. There’s a blue wheelchair symbol on it.

After fighting to get Jack and Jill onto the bus one particular day, I paid my fare and looked around for a decent spot. To my horror, I saw there were buttons everywhere. My son was in his element. I swear I heard him giggle just then.
There was no other option- I pretty much had to take the nearest available spot. It wasn’t ideal; there were buttons everywhere! But, what can one frazzled pre-caffeinated mom do? I pushed the stroller up to the spot, flipped up all the chairs to make space for Jack, and… there it was:

The Stop Button.

It sat there, attached to the underside of the plastic chair, all brilliant yellow and beckoning. Instead of “Push Here to Stop Bus”, the glaring blue print might have read “Push Here to Annoy Mom”.

If ever a button begged to be pushed, it was this one- especially if you are a little boy with a serious fixation, and your stroller comes tantalizingly close to what it possibly the biggest and brightest stop button known to mankind.
I locked the wheels on Jack’s rolling chariot, sat Jill down on a seat that faced her brother, and plunked myself down next to her.

I looked at the button. I looked at Jack. As a mom, there’s a certain expression that my face gets whenever I know my kids are about to wreak havoc on my sanity. Lips tight, single eyebrow raised… you know the one. It’s the look that says:

“Don’t even think about it.”

My son has his own look, which I’m fairly sure he only pulls out when I’m about to tell him off for something. It’s a devilish little smile, with a glint in his big grey eyes, that says:

“Game on.”

With one hand on Jill’s shoulder as she snuggled up to me, and the other hand tightly grasping the first in what would be a long line of coffees that day, I didn’t have enough hands for the little boy whose hands are faster than mine anyway.

There isn’t enough time in the morning, between leaving home and getting to school, for the bus to pull into every single stop because my son just can’t keep his hands to himself. It’s like he’s possessed, whenever a button enters the equation. He can’t help himself. Some way, somehow, he will push that button. I tried grabbing his hand and holding it. I tried grabbing both hands. I tried grabbing both hands AND putting my leg up across my daughter’s lap (while managing to position my ankle in front of The Stop Button).

Jack sneaked his little leg out from under the stroller’s front tray and pressed the damned button with his foot. The look that came over my face when I realised I’d just been outwitted by a 3 year old was this one:

“Well, son of a bitch…”