I freely acknowledge that I am not a vision of marital bliss by the time Adam arrives home most nights. He’ll walk in the door, announcing his exhaustion, and I’ll stare at him with something bordering on wrath. Carrot peels from dinner prep stuck to my face, driveway chalk crusted under my nails, a laundry basket wedged under one arm, I begin my oft-repeated litany on how he has NO IDEA WHAT TIRED REALLY IS.

Since both giving and receiving this speech can become dull after a while, I work diligently to mix it up a bit, peppering the diatribe with comments like I HAVE NEVER WORKED SO HARD IN MY LIFE and YOU TRY ENTERTAINING A THREE-YEAR-OLD ALL DAY and—my current favorite—YOU WOULDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT A VACUUM IS IF IT HIT YOU IN THE FACE. (I find that this last one has a certain 1950s fishwife je ne sais quoi.)

Adam stands at the counter patiently, removing his shoes and mixing a cocktail as I continue to remind him of how lucky he is. On his train ride to and from work, he can read the news, relax along with some music. At work, he can participate in intelligent conversation, make critical decisions, brainstorm with peers. The socialization! The lunch options! The utter and complete lack of Curious George and twisted car-seat buckles and bunny-shaped macaroni and cheese!

Yes, I like to suggest regularly that his job is easier than mine. But on days like today, days of sandcastle villages and sunblock-scented salt air and drippy plastic cups of watermelon slush and a little girl who roars with joy every time a wave splashes her, I remember something else: I would never, ever say his job is better.

Three months or so after Easter, I have a Good Friday confession to make: I hit a bunny. With my car. On Good Friday.

I’m still not sure how it happened, except that I was driving and then there was a bunny in front of the car, and then…then there was no more bunny. It was as if it just suddenly materialized inches in front of me, in the dark. I’d make a reference to Bunnicula (oh, Bunnicula, how innocent you seem in these days of sparkly vampires and shirtless werewolves), but that seems a little disrespectful.

Anyway, I hit it and it was dead and the entire thing was beyond awful. (And, yes. I turned around on a nearby side street and drove back to check and it looked dead. Then when I went back two minutes later to check once again, this time to make sure it was a bunny and not a house cat that I should report to Animal Control, it was gone, which means it wasn’t dead but close to it, having dragged its little body, fur tacky with blood, into some nearby bushes ohgod ohgod ohgod.)

I’m telling you, you hit a bunny two days before Easter and it is factually impossible not to take it as a bad omen. It’s like plowing into Santa’s sleigh an icy week before Christmas, or accidentally smothering the Tooth Fairy with a pillow.

Plus, hitting a bunny is so much worse than hitting most anything else. For God’s sake, bunnies look like THIS:

The bad news: Unlike with Peter, one dose of chamomile tea at bedtime was not going to cure what ailed this bunny. The good news: Also unlike Peter, this bunny was not wearing a small blue jacket with brass buttons. If there had been one single brass button in sight, I would have driven to the nearest bridge and promptly jumped off it. A dead bunny I could survive. A nattily dressed dead bunny? I’m not so sure.

But back to the omens. While hell has not quite yet raineth down, someone on high has been screwing with me. Since that night, I have had four, FOUR, bunnies run across the road in front of me. Happily, I managed to not hit any of them. Such effort often requires Evel Knievel-type feats of driving,  involving much jostling of Aura in her carseat and much screaming from pedestrians. But for now, those four bunnies run unscathed, free to dart merrily in front of other unsuspecting cars.

Therefore and In Conclusion, given that I am putting such effort into not killing bunnies forevermore, I feel that it is only fair to ask the shortest person living in this house to STOP REMINDING ME.

Because, honestly? That green one with the bow tie is starting to freak me out.

I admit: I haven’t been the brightest ray of sunshine around the old homestead as of late. There are probably all kinds of small and inconsequential reasons for this, although I think much of my mood stems from the fact that Aura has been battling one small illness after another these past two months. She always gets better, thankfully, but I can’t help but feel that the two of us have spent more time in doctors’ offices than playgrounds recently.

I know that the getting-better is the important thing. And of course I know that a healthy-happy-Aura is the essential part. Yet sometimes I get so…tired. At the risk of repeating about 500,000 other momblog posts out there, this staying-at-home thing is often (for me, at least) bone-numbingly tired. I have edited entire teacher-edition textbooks, stayed up until all hours of the night planning conferences and writing sixth-grader-friendly recaps of the American Revolution. But nothing compares. Nothing.

And sometimes the exhaustion translates into times when I allow myself to wallow in self-pity, in these absolutely disgusting woe-is-me moments where I dwell on the time, the energy, the dedication required to raise a child all day, every day—and to do it the Correct Way. I listen to other mothers talk about how they can leave their children with nearby relatives, and I envy. I hear about husbands who never travel for work, and I sigh. I read magazine articles about children who can play by themselves for a full hour (happily! while dressed in designer corduroys!), and I rub my eyes out of sheer frustration.

Yesterday, that familiar overwhelming feeling of OhGodItNeverStops started to slither through me again. I was on the phone with Adam, who was regaling me with tales of the highbrow cocktail bars and restaurants he’s been sampling while down in New Orleans for a conference. As he was describing what he had ordered for dinner the night before, I was trying to get the vomit out of Aura’s sheets, since a coughing fit had triggered her delicate (read: pain-in-the-ass) gag reflex the night before.

While I balanced the phone between my ear and loaded the detergent into the washer, I found myself tearing up. I interrupted Adam. “This is not the life I pictured for myself,” I said. Adam paused, then said he understood. He said we’d work on making it easier. I sighed, said to ignore me, and wished him good luck in the talk he was about to deliver.

I left shortly after that to retrieve Aura from her two-and-a-half hours at preschool, making a quick detour to the Chamber of Commerce to pick up an end-of-year gift card for her teacher. I had to park a couple of blocks away, and as I was making my way to the office building, my shoulders hunched and head drooped, an enormous gust of wind came out of nowhere. I looked up in surprise, and at that moment a very large, mercifully empty Dunkin’ Donuts cup came flying at me, clunking into the side of my head with admirable velocity and commendable force.

Then the wind died down. The cup rolled to a stop at my feet. As I bent to pick it up and toss it into a nearby trash can, I heard myself laughing. I chuckled a little more when I got back into the car, snickered as I drove to Aura’s school, and mustered up a fully genuine chortle as I parked. And when I walked into her classroom, on the last day of school in what was her first-ever year of preschool, I smiled again.

Because as Aura, completely healthy and completely happy, reached out her still-small arms for a hug, it struck me: Maybe all anyone needs is to be hit in the head once in a while. I tell you, it snaps you right out of it.

As we were lying in bed with Aura the other night, reading her some princess story or another, I couldn’t help but snort with derision. “Seriously?” I muttered to Adam. “Am I going to have to burn my bra before someone finally calls Gloria Steinem?” He shushed me and continued the tale, which, if I’m remembering correctly, involved frog kissing and Machiavellian family members and eventually a wedding attended by a variety of exceedingly friendly wildlife.  

That princess book was pretty much the only princess book Aura has ever chosen from the library. THANK GOD.     

This is how I feel about THAT ONE.

 Wait. It’s not just me, is it? There are others out there who hear princess stories and gag on the offensiveness and tiresomeness of it all, right? I mean, COME ON. Sure, pickings were slim in the Women’s Lifestyle Changes Department centuries ago, when most of these fairy tales were first penned.  But marrying well cannot possibly still count as true ambition, at least not in this day and age. You don’t find the quest for royal marriage in most of Disney’s “boy stories,” do you? Nope. In those stories,  talking cars win championship races and save floundering towns. I have yet to see one championship in a princess story, other than the breathless battle to get home by midnight without losing your other glass slipper. 

A GLASS SLIPPER, PEOPLE. Cinderella runs around in shoes made of GLASS. As in glass that SHATTERS and CUTS and MAIMS. Yet I’m the one going to jail if Aura rides her tricycle on the driveway without a helmet.    

ALSO. Real feet are not as small as a royal messenger's hand. I don't think. (I'm a size 9. So.)

Oddly, the princesses-are-always-beautful thing doesn’t really bother me. Of course I don’t think little girls should be obsessed with their appearance. But I enjoy an eyebrow wax and pedicure as much as the next girl, and I don’t think the unending global search for physical perfection is going to, well, end. (To clarify: I don’t actually enjoy waxing. As a matter of fact, I can think of approximately 472,000 things I’d rather do than have my eyebrows waxed. However, THIS IS WHAT SNOW WHITE TAUGHT ME.)   

There is no way those suckers got that way through simple plucking.

I guess all I’m saying is that when we’re auditioning for role models, maybe princesses shouldn’t be first in line. At least not until they bulk up their resumes. I for one am going to need something besides First twenty years of life: Scrubbed and cleaned; locked in room by evil stepmother/witch/absentee father; escaped through help of magic/woodland creatures/plot hole; found salvation in figurehead royalty. For pete’s sake, Rapunzel spent eons locked in that tower, doing nothing but growing hair. Couldn’t she have once thought, “Hey! You know what I’m doing when I get out of here? I’M GOING TO GET MY FREAKIN’ M.B.A.!”  

Perhaps I'm aiming a bit high in this case. If not the M.B.A., then at least a cosmetology license.

Recently, as we were running late for an appointment, Aura lingered in the hallway, trying to zip her jacket. “No, Mommy!” she cried out when I tried to help her, swatting my hands away. “I want to do it by myself!”

It was all I could do not to keep rushing her or tell her to forget zipping up altogether. Instead, for once, I forced myself to simply stand and wait. And after a couple of minutes, she did zip the jacket.

“Look, Mommy!” she exclaimed happily. “I did it all by myself!”

That? That right there is the only kind of princess story she needs. 

 

In retrospect, I really should have known better.

Aura has inherited a great many things from her father, including a love of coffee-flavored foodstuffs and an inclination to snicker at me when I am at my most threatening. She also shares his tendency to become completely and utterly submerged in the lyrics of a song. New songs, songs that especially strike their fancy, songs with an unusual tempo—one note and both Adam and Aura are goners, listening and memorizing with a fierceness last witnessed in certain Nordic warriors. Their posture goes slack, their mouths gape a bit, and conversation (at least on their end) screeches to a halt.

Honestly, the trance can be a bit startling the first time you witness it. But once you get used to it, you find yourself almost impressed by such pure, unadulterated absorption. Seriously: I’ve mentioned rogue rocket ships and flying cows and free milkshakes, with zero response.  I did once snare Adam’s attention by yelling, “Look! Megan Fox is driving the car next to us, NAKED AND HANDING OUT BEER!” but later efforts proved that was a one-trick pony.

Given all of this, I really have no excuse for what happened a few days ago. In  my limited defense, it was a beautiful day and I had just picked up Aura from preschool and we had the car windows down, encouraging the spring breezes to mess up our hair. When a hip-hoppy R&B song came on, I just left it, and we car-danced, or at least I did. I knew the song wasn’t going to be age-appropriate, but she was distracted and we were happy and there might have even been a rainbow and some frolicking elves. It was that nice of an afternoon.

Then we parked. As I was releasing my seatbelt, Aura piped up, “Mommy, what does sex mean?” For a second, the whole thing was a bit like a paper cut, when the shock of the unexpected pain makes the world go momentarily silent. Still in the driver’s seat, I swooned as images of second-grade navel piercings and a prepubescent subscription to Cosmo flooded my brain.

Then I recovered, for that is what GOOD PARENTS DO.

After a few unsuccessful starts, I found an explanation that satisfied us both, at least temporarily. “Oh! Sex? Sex is just a silly way some people say the number six. Isn’t that SILLY?” Once I started, it was like I couldn’t stop. “Just like some people say foove for five! One, two, three, four, foove, sex! IT’S SO SILLY, ISN’T IT?”

Days later, I don’t know what scenario scares me most: that Aura sees through the deception and asks again, or that she presents her newfound counting schema at school. As much as the resulting preschool progress report will pain me, I’m rooting for scenario #2. So what if she gets an Unsatisfactory in the Number Identification category? Screw ’em. When she gets homes that day, I’m so going to give her a high foove.

Inspired by what has become a swath of unseasonably warm weather, Aura and I headed over to Harvard Square today for a little exploring. As we were tooling around the area, I decided to formally introduce Aura to Harvard itself. “Maybe you’ll want to go here someday!” I chirped sunnily to Aura, ducking through one of the many arched gates that dot Harvard Yard.

A minute or so into our tour, Aura had already stopped listening to my speech on the importance of higher education, preferring instead to climb staircases and run on the lawns. I was soon reduced to talking to myself, raising my voice during the important parts to regain Aura’s attention. “Schools like Harvard are certainly a possibility IF YOU BUCKLE DOWN,” I yelled. “Never forget that MERIT SCHOLARSHIPS can be yours!”

It was somewhere around the time I was explaining college’s potential for “LIFELONG FRIENDSHIPS!” and “SELF DISCOVERY!” that I first noticed the many flyers dotting the campus. The more of them I read, the softer my diatribe became.

By the time I finished reading these, I was starting to change my tune. “But there is certainly nothing wrong with smaller, lesser known schools!” I called to Aura as she whipped back and forth in front of the famed Widener Library. “Many state schools produce a DIZZYING array of successful graduates!” I cried out,  pulling Aura back toward one of the campus gates. Every time a passing student smiled at Aura, I glared in return, muttering things like “Sexual deviant!” under my breath.

Then I saw this flyer.

It wasn’t until Aura started tugging on my hand that I realized I had been standing in front of this particular flyer for an unnecessarily long time. But…vajazzled? In a legendary place of higher learning? The editor in me took offense with the j in place of a g, the proofreader in me bemoaned the underline in place of italics, the music lover in me reared back in horror by the bastardization of jazz.

And the mother in me? “FORGET WHAT I SAID,” I announced to Aura, scooping her up and racing for an exit as fast as my legs could carry us. “THIS IS NOT THE SCHOOL FOR YOU.”

Another day, another $48,868 per year saved. And Aura will never touch a stick-on jewel again.

Media outlets reported this week that the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending that the hot dog be redesigned. Apparently, 17 percent of children 10 and under who die of choking do so while eating a hot dog. According to one doctor, a hot dog is pretty much the “perfect plug for a child’s airway.” 

(Great. Freakin’ fantastic. Now I used the word plug in a post. As if using jailbait and mom porn wasn’t bad enough. With plug, it shall be like the Trifecta of Filthy Search Terms. Oh, THE LENGTHS I GO TO FOR THIS BLOG.)

Now I just don’t know. Without diminishing in any way the tragedy of families who have lost a child to a choking accident, I’m not convinced that a redesign is really necessary here. Some chopping into bite-size pieces? Sure. Some careful observation of your child when eating? Of course. But a redesign? Maybe for Toyota accelerators, yes, but not the hot dog.

I’m not sure if today’s parents have actually lost their common sense or if manufacturers, government officials, and the medical community just think we have. For instance, this is Aura’s current favorite toy.

Yep, it’s slime. Yep, it’s gross. And yep, it makes the most terrifically awesome disgusting sound when you slap it. But despite what you probably might not think, you are NOT supposed to eat it. See? The bottle says so.

Perhaps some warnings are a little too much, even possibly weakening the value of warnings that are really needed. Also, where are those other labels, the ones parents themselves would write? Where, I ask you, is the BEWARE! DANGER! sticker on parking lots, where Aura has now fallen once for every month of her life with forehead gravel-imprint marks to prove it? Door hinges, tile floors, wheels on shopping carts, the occasionally sharp-edged, lawsuit-worthy Lego block…hell. I’m going out tonight and getting me a label maker.

And if anything needs a stern cautionary sentence or two, it’s these kids themselves. Something like “CAUTION. THIS SMALL PERSON HAS COME IN CONTACT WITH APPROXIMATELY ONE MILLION BILLION OTHER SMALL PEOPLE. IT IS GUARANTEED HE OR SHE WILL GET SICK, GET YOU SICK, AND GENERALLY SERVE AS AN EXAMPLE OF WALKING PLAGUE.”  That would work nicely, I think.

In the meantime, I’m so capitalizing on the hot-dog fear. I hear that the first person to come up with a plausible redesign wins a lifetime supply of foam wall coverings. You know, because walls hurt you if you run into them.