Friday, May 12, 2006

The Mother’s Day Card Outing

So I don’t have this whole Mother’s Day thing down yet when it comes to my wife. My own mother appears to be easy in this department. Since I don’t really make a whole lot of crafts anymore, she merely requested pictures of the grandkids so she can hang them up as visual aids when she’s boasting about them to the bridge group that frequents the house its monthly tour around the city. I can do that. In fact, they're printing right now.

This year, I figured if I put Kara’s Mother’s Day card out in the open, she wouldn’t see it and that would be the best place to hide it. Of course, the plan was flawed from the start, because she picked it up the second she saw it. Apparently, I was supposed to take the kids down to the store and have them pick out a card for her, instead of me conveniently doing it while I was in Target the other day. So that’s what we did today and the results were as I predicted: Natalie would pick out a purple card for her and a blue card for Kara (and that’s what happened), but we lucked out to find a card with both blue and purple on it… not to mention dragonflies that looked a lot like butterflies, or at least Gnat thought so.

We grabbed some apple juice (can’t have too much of that in the house), a few cans of dog food and a couple of “sprinkle” cookies… for those back East, “jimmies.” Then we walked up to the park, just at the end of the street from the store, where there’s a play area for kids, and Gnat especially enjoys the swings and the slides.

Wait a minute, Matthew just woke up. Talk amongst yourselves.

Okay, I’m back. Phew, that’s what I get for not insisting on a burp from Matthew after six ounces of milk right before a nap. He was sound asleep when he finished the bottle and I was afraid the pats on the back would wake him up, increasing the difficulty to get him down again. Sure enough, 50 minutes later, he woke up with a vengeance, tummy hard as a rock, like he just ate too much of Grandma’s meatloaf and hominy (that crack’ll put me at the kids’ table next Thanksgiving for sure). The burp had to come out, so we worked on it for a few minutes until finally it burst forth. The horrid stench of an hour-old milk burp is enough to peel off the wallpaper in his room; With eyes watering, I was weak in the knees when that blew by, but he was happy. And surprise, he fell back asleep. Win-win.

Where was I? Oh, yes, my lack of understanding of Mother’s Day husbandry requirements. I mean, really? Didn't I do enough to help her become a mother in the first place? What more is needed from me? I wash baby bottles and stay out of the way and I think that's plenty. Incidentally, the day has been planned for me by the loving mother of my children, in a surprise usurping of any intentions I may have planned for the day already. It was spelled out very clearly, so there would be no mistakes or misunderstandings as what is expected of me. (a trick I am famous for, in order to avoid excessive work. Feigning innocence: “But I thought you said you were going to empty the dishwasher?”)

Here’s how the day will go down, according to the gospel: I am to wake up early, take care of the kids, which will allow for her to sleep in to exactly 9am. At which time, she will go to the gym, return, and expect a lavish picnic either in the backyard or at the park (my only required input), where we will all regale her with stories of her heroism, beauty and sainthood. Each child and I are expected to take part in a five-part musical with choreographed dance routines that acquaints us with her life, from her rise from the small room she rented during college, to where she rescued me from the impoverished servitude of bridge-minding trolls and created a castle and magical kingdom of happiness, riches and strict mindless order for all, culminating into to the denouement of their individual births and subsequent debt to be repaid in annual installments due on Mother's Day for the rest of their lives.

And all I was going to do was a crummy limo, a champagne brunch and a four-piece stringed group overlooking the ocean, where I would feed her caviar and grapes as she lounged in the glow of the setting sun. A picnic in the backyard is good too. I mean, no biggie, either way.

But really… so Gnat picked out the card, essentially the first purple one she saw in the Mother’s Day section and then we went to the park, the whole point of my entry today. I got Matty out of the stroller so he could look around a bit, as the view isn’t too exciting when you’re deep in the bowels of one of those things. The sun was bright and somewhat hot, and I wasn’t going to win any Father of the Year awards if I brought back a sunburned baby, so I made him wear my huge baseball-style cap on his tiny head while I carried him around; it was like a sombrero for him, complete shade. Father MacGuyver prevails again!

Natalie wanted to go on the swings and nothing else. “The slides are too hot,” she says, which was true and she somehow knew it without even touching them. With a little bit of juggling, I was able to hold Matthew in one arm and pick Natalie up into the swing with the other. Getting her into one of those toddler swings, the cradle kind (as opposed to the banana variety), was easy, but I had a little trouble on the way out. I wasn’t expecting her size-five foot to get stuck in a size-four hole.

Here’s the scene: I’m balancing Matthew’s in one arm, and he’s not exactly holding on really well (as infants usually don’t). The huge hat has slipped over his face, and he’s squawking these “What’s going on? Who turned out the lights?” wails—as simultaneously being suffocated and dropped probably tops out on the list of a baby’s biggest fears—while I’m trying to pull Natalie out of the swing with the other arm. She pulled one shoe out of the leg hole but the other one got stuck, the heal got caught under the lip of the hole. She didn’t know to point her toe down and pull her leg up, but that would take an understanding of how you were stuck, and she couldn’t look down, because I was holding onto her.

Meanwhile, she's starting to slip. Her shirt is riding up her back, and I'm losing my grip. Of course, squirming around to free herself was quite counter-productive but how do you explain that to a two-year old. One leg is out and dangling over the side of the swing and the other is falling back into the leg hole of the seat. Matty is being squeezed tighter and tighter, as my left arm is over compensating for the lack of grip on my right, and the whole thing looked like bad group dance, as we are wiggling and jiggling to free the foot. Of course, in the rising alarm, I’m giving Natalie mixed directions (who, really folks, has just learned the language). “Okay, turn your foot down. Point your heel up and twist your shoe counterclockwise while wiggling each of your toes inside your down-turned shoe. Now, put your other foot in and this foot out.”

That wasn’t helping so we just stopped, everyone froze for a few seconds while I could get my bearings and try to figure out how to get her foot unstuck without a trip to the hospital. It would be easy if I could let go of one of them, but it was like holding onto a snake: which hand can let go? Even if I wanted to put Matthew down on the ground, I would have had to let go of Natalie and she would have ended up dangling from the swing by her foot. Incidentally, she would have developed a severe life-crippling case of pendulumphobia (fear of swinging things) and she never would have gone near them again. Not to mention, I couldn’t just lay Matty in the dirt. C’mon, what kind of father do you think I am? Babies should be at least six months old before you put dirt on them. Everyone knows that.

In the end, while I stood there thinking and regrouping for another attack at the problem, Natalie wiggled her foot free and all was saved. Why she didn’t do that three minutes earlier is beyond me.

On our way home, I said to Natalie at the front of the stroller, “From this day on, we will never mention the time daddy almost hung you by your foot from a swing and contemplated laying your little brother in the dirt, okay?” She was disconcertingly quiet, and think this one may cost me a pony sometime in the near future.

All because I didn’t know the right way to get a Mother’s Day card in the first place.

It’s tough to be daddy sometimes. When’s Father’s Day?

7 comments:

Natalie's Mommy said...

Natalie wears a size seven shoe and they both should have been wearing sunblock!

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