It was horrifying.
My heart stopped beating for the entire 60 seconds I could not find Scarlett. She was snuggled into her big brother's three-sizes-too-big snowsuit, ensconced in her car seat and placed in a shopping cart at Fiesta Farms, a grocery store I frequent - and feel safe in - in the city's west end.
I pulled up alongside a patch of fresh basil in the produce isle, parked the cart an arms-length away - maybe less - then turned around to stuff some herbs into a plastic bag. It wasn't even 10 seconds before I turned back, instinctively reaching out for the cart's handle.
It wasn't there.
What? I swiveled around.
"Where's my baby?" I said, quietly, at first trying to remember how many steps I'd taken since I last saw the cart. Where did I leave it?
It's not in front of me. It's not behind me. It's not down the next aisle. "Where's my baby?" I said louder.
"Where's my baby?" I screamed, scrambling down the aisles, then running through them. "Where's my baby?"
The entire store - other moms shopping, employees unloading produce - stopped and stared at me.
"Where's my baby?" I screamed again, making eye contact with everyone who came into my line of sight.
My chest felt empty.
"Here's your baby," I heard a woman say meekly.
"I. Am. So. Sorry.," she said. "Here she is. I have her."
The lady - a nice lady - wheeled around to meet me stumbling down an aisle with organic mushrooms. She was also buying herbs and didn't notice that she'd wandered off with the wrong cart. She seemed almost as scared as me.
I'm so tired these days I could have wandered off with someone else's cart too.
"I'm so sorry," she said again. "When I heard you screaming for your baby I looked down and realized I had the wrong cart."
It's okay. "It's okay," I said. The anxiety bubbled into my head and pushed against my tear ducts as I took hold of the cart and looked at Scarlett, who was still sleeping - through the whole thing.
It was the second worst moment of my life. The first was last spring at the zoo. Ted and I each thought the other parent was watching Hudson when he wandered off. For about three minutes we couldn't find him. I was pregnant with Scarlett and running down a stretch of pavement on one of the zoo's paths when I spotted his little yellow t-shirt and grabbed him.
I was never going to let anything like that happen again. I won't ever again.
"That was the most horrible thing I've ever seen," a woman I didn't know said to me a few minutes after Scarlett and I were reunited today. Her hand was at her heart. "Can I give you a hug?
"Okay," I said, stunned. "Thank you. I... thank you."
Call it mother's intuition.
Hudson hadn't napped all day, so when his grandmother came to pick him up for a New Year's Eve sleepover I just knew that my little boy, in the throes of an overtired tantrum (wailing, flailing and punching), would be back to "help" us celebrate the occasion later that same evening.
"We should just put him to bed now," I said to Ted and his mother. "This is not going to go well."
My caution met polite stares while the two of them eagerly stuffed the kid into his jacket, so I turned my thoughts to the tasty lobsters clawing through a plastic bag in the fridge. Hey, I could be wrong, right?
Ted and I decided to ring in 2012 "alone" (despite friends' and relatives' pity invites) even though it gave me the distinct feeling it would bring me ever closer to becoming my parents.
"We're gonna get trashed tonight! Weeeeoooo!" Ted shrieked when only me, him and Scarlett remained in the house.
"Ya know," he said, his mood swinging from crazed-university-student to fatherly reflection as he stood quietly for a moment under the light in our front hall, which illuminated the caked spit-up on his shoulder and three day-old dad stubble creeping up his cheeks.
"I think I might be able to stay up until midnight."
"Hmmm," I said. An interesting thought.
By 8:30 p.m., (after several failed attempts to get Scarlett to sleep and a quick trip to the liquor store - I forgot to buy alcohol. What? I'm tired. Sue me) the three of us were pooped. We finished eating the lobsters on the kitchen floor near Scarlett's play-mat because she refused to sit placidly in a bouncy chair at the foot of the table.
Each time one of us put a glass of wine to our lips she balled (it must be her selfish instinct at work.. she knows intuitively that drinking could lead to a younger sibling...).
I was just about to finish my first half glass of white when the phone rang.
"We have to get Hudson," Ted said when he hung up.
"I'll go," Ted said.
"No,'" I said. "Don't be silly. I'll go. Besides, you've been drinking."
"I've had one beer," he said. "You're drunk."
"I wish," I said. "I'll go. I sort of want to get out of the house."
I leapt up, grabbed the keys, and, like my parents did many many times when I was young, left the house to retrieve my kid in sweatpants.
Isn't there some saying about self fulfilling prophecies or foreshadowing or being able to tell the future? Whatever. At any rate, Hudson was home by 9:30 p.m. and we were all fast asleep by 10 p.m.
Happy (very belated) New Year!
P.S. I've been offline for so long because Raccoons ate my internet. I am not joking. The critters stole into my home like drunken bandits and chewed through all the wires, scrambling signals and making our lives annoying and technology-less for three weeks.
His lower lip started to quiver even before I said: "we have to go home now."
I got his shoes on, but as I tried to thread reluctant arms through his ski jacket sleeves, Hudson swatted at my head and threw himself backward onto the ground.
Every time he leaves his grandparents he melts down.
"My poor Hudson!" one of them inevitably exclaims. They console him, sending me nasty glances as if shielding this defenseless little creature from an unfortunate, obviously awful, tyrannical mother, who will - gasp! - put him to bed or do some other unspeakably horrible things to him, like feed him food that isn't chocolate.
(My parents didn't think I needed a lot of sugar as a kid, but seem to believe Hudson's diet is dangerously low in the Elf food groups: "candy, candy cane, candy corn and syrup.")
I get it re: grandparents. They want our children's love and to be associated with fun! and generosity! And candy, which is emblematic of fun and generosity. But, is it necessary to school them in hedonism and slothfulness as well?
Hudson clung to my mother's legs, tears flooding his cheeks Monday night. I kept him home from nursery school that day because he seemed a teeny bit sick, but mostly because of grandparent-induced guilt that he had a hectic weekend (he'd been in New York with his dad for a family function) and I shouldn't just "shove him off" to school right away.
Instead of frolicking in a positive, civilized space filled with rules and multigrains and nap-times, my son spent the day channeling his inner gluttonous, ancient Grecian monarch.
I let it happen because he looked so cute and happy. Everyone deserves to be pampered sometimes, right?
"What can I get you my sweetheart?" my mother regularly implored of Hudson who was:
- in front of the TV
- sucking on his pacifier (which I don't let him have during daylight hours)
- eating in bed
And, as always,
- lavished with some or all of the following presents:
A new tractor! A tool bench! Another train set! Blinky phone! etcetera etcetera!
And Chanukah and Christmas are still two weeks away!
After a painful separation from his grandparents and a difficult night it was finally time to go back to nursery school (or risk losing what is left of my sanity) the next morning.
My good, sweet little boy seemed back to normal after the great binge. All smiles, he walked into his classroom and straight over to a little girl holding a toy on a string.
He grabbed it.
"Oh god," I said, my heart flooding with guilt. "I'm raising a brat."
"Don't be silly," a nice nursery teacher said. "He's two!"
Right. He's two. There's still time...
When I told a friend Ted was taking Hudson on a three day trip this weekend, leaving me home alone with Scarlett, she responded with "woohoo" for me and bid my husband "bonne chance."
He needs the luck!
Below, a brilliantly written e mail from Ted to me, after he and Hudson landed in New York this morning, where they're visiting family.
Here's what you need to know before you read:
I stayed home because I'm tired and wanted a "free" (only one kid, the easier kid!!) weekend.
Ted's mom Elaine is accompanying my boys on the trip.
We forgot - until minutes before Ted and Hudson left this morning - that we need a notarized letter from me permitting Ted to take Hudson out of the country. So, I wrote one by hand on a sheet of scrap paper.
Ted forgot to bring along a pacifier (yes, my son is addicted to his paci. A lot more on this in a soon-to-be-written post) and, panicking, bought a sub par sub when he got to the airport. "Oh my god, we don't have a paci," Ted said over the phone, about 10 minutes after his car pulled away from our house this morning. "Good luck!" I said.
Grandpa Louis, is Ted's beloved, deceased Grandpa Louis.
This e mail is in response to one I wrote asking: Are you guys there yet? How was the flight?
Time was I viewed my car as a mode of transportation.
Now, our only vehicle - a very family un-friendly (family hostile, in fact) Mazda 3 - has become a nursing station, diaper change pad, tropical sleeping pod, where I sometimes crank the heat to coax Scarlett to drowsiness, and, of course, the only place where I get a break from holding my kids.
"Keep driving," I instructed Ted with a hostage-taking tone last Sunday around 9 p.m. when I looked into the backseat and saw two sleeping children. We were on our way home from dinner at my parents' where we bathed Hudson and popped him in pajamas.
"This is my only time off," I said. "I want to keep it going for as long as I can."
"That's pathetic," Ted said. "A bit disconcerting and worrying, actually."
This is my life!
Scarlett likes to be held. Make that, insists on being held. All the time. If I get to put her down, my hands are full of Hudson.
My beautiful, demanding little boy wants to be carried or needs "a drink," bath, for me to "use the crane so we can play construction site." Or, my hands are busy grabbing at his shirt mid run so I can wrestle him into his jacket and shoes.
Night affords me even less time off.
"What's that?" I say into the dark, usually around 3:30 a.m. The sound of tiny, accelerating feet slapping against the hardwood floor intensifies outside my bedroom.
"Mummmeeee!" I hear as he arrives at the doorway.
And so begins our almost-nightly routine:
"Ted," I whisper, clutching Hudson, who feels like 50 kilograms of gravel. "There's no room for you here. Go sleep somewhere else."
My husband, feigning upset, whips off the covers and pops off the mattress. For him being turfed means sprawling out by himself instead of getting lost in a stew of tiny limbs. For me, it means being kicked in the head by a kid who sleeps horizontally across the mattress.
Seconds, mere seconds, after Hudson settles into my matrimonial bed, Scarlett wakes up.
Oh hell, I mutter to myself while I feed her, then ever so gingerly place her on the mattress as far from Hudson as possible (yes, even though I swore up and down, down and up that I would never give into "co-sleeping" turns out I was lying. More on this later).
Then, as I do most nights now, I curl up at the foot of the bed. Inevitably that's when the worst happens (and funnily enough I'm brought back to motor vehicles): Thomas the Tank Engine invades my head and won't stop playing his theme song...
"They're two, they're four, they're six they're eight.."
Maybe I should just get in my car. Alone.
As punishment for gaining so much weight during pregnancy I wear a hideous, dirty green zip up sweatshirt during most of my workouts.
Public ridicule makes me work harder.
Check out my really gross shirt and some workout moves on the Star's site today. I wrote an article about losing the baby weight... something I'm obsessed with and will blog about frequently!
When I dropped off Hudson at nursery school yesterday there were two little girls sitting on a bench with swaddled doll babies at their chests.
"We're giving them milk!" one excited girl said. "From our boobs!"
This struck me as weird (and not only because a toddler looked me in the eye and said "boobs").The girls seemed too young to "get" motherhood and be free of the inhibitions that might stop me, but don't anymore, from nursing in public.
This got me thinking: how many people find me "weird" when I nurse in public?
I mean, it's politically incorrect to stare, acknowledge or giggle these days. And, if someone looked at me askance I'd throw them a nasty death stare and swear as they walked by... but still.
There is still something odd about public nipples.
I whip out boobs (now, to me, orbs linked more closely to plastic containers than bulbous appendages once used to attract cute guys) in the strangest places.
When Hudson was nursing, I bared my boobs in London, England's Westminster Abby (to the horrified gawking of onlookers), but now it's at the butcher, for instance.
"Mind if I feed her here?" I asked one of the owners of Vince Gasparro's - a butcher shop on Bloor St. at Shaw St. around 3:30 p.m. yesterday as Scarlett let out panicked yelps for food. We had spent the day out, grocery shopping, running errands and getting home wasn't an option. In fact, I rarely nurse at home these days, or in a comfortable chair.
"Ah, sure," the butcher said, slinging two soup chickens I ordered onto the counter.
I plunked myself on one of two foldout chairs across from the blood-soaked butchers block where I've witnessed many a cow gutted - this day the block was strewn with stray chicken livers - undid a few sweater buttons and cradled Scarlett like the toddlers did their baby dolls in Hudson's class.
One elderly butcher tried to keep his eyes on his meat. Patrons paid me no mind, except for one woman.
"Good for you!" she said. "Assert your right!"
More than weird looks, I get a lot of encouragement from random people, especially when I feed at grocery stores, which I do often, on the floor, any floor I can find, in professional, government and doctor's offices, the gym, the car, my boss's front hallway during a recent dinner party.
In that last scenario, I nursed in projectile-spitting distance of colleagues, including male colleagues my age who I might not be eager to get undressed around. You know, it's so unprofessional!
One colleague, a friend, strode past me crouched at the foot of the home's staircase.
I'm not trying to get a look or anything, he said, cheekily, completely joking (and I paraphrase because I can't remember his exact words.).
"Ha," I said. "There's nothing good to look at anyway!"
Well, that's not entirely true. There is Scarlett. She's pretty cute.
Putting Scarlett to sleep is like playing "Whack-a-mole" with a particularly wacky mole.
By "wacky" I mean sadistic.
I have put her to sleep - rocked, shushed, strolled, nursed, driven, slung, bjorned, lulled - no fewer than 14 times in the last two hours only to achieve success - or so I think because her lids close and breathing slows - and then see her blue eyes pop open three minutes later.. or less.
"She's broken," I wrote to Ted in an e mail because the poor guy is working late. "I'm serious. It's not cool. It's weird and freaky."
Now she's lying beside me in bed staring at me with those wide open eyes. She's mocking me.
It's not nice to mock your mother!
Like Catholics, Jews are endowed with a healthy (gulf-sized) amount of guilt.
That sinking feeling in the pit of my Jewish gut doesn't seem to stop me from doing bad/stupid things. However, transgressing does make me thirsty, er, feel horrible.
Herewith, a short list of this week's sins in an attempt to alleviate some of my pain:
1) Ignoring my kid
"You're fine, sweetheart," I kept insisting when Hudson complained, his face grimaced and red, that the wetsuit I just stuffed him into was hurting around the collar. He was late for swimming and needed to get into the stroller (so we could run him there) immediately. There was no time to change.
"But mummy, it's too itchy," he whined.
"You're fine," I said authoritatively.
"But mummy," he said, fingering the wetsuit collar.
"You're fine," I said, more authoritatively.
Hudson developed a red, splotchy rash ringing his neck. It lasted for three days.
2) Ignoring my kid
Hudson was trudging lethargically around his playroom Saturday afternoon and, even though he wasn't demanding a nap, clearly needed one.
"One moment, sweetheart," I said, when he asked me for a peanut butter sandwich, a clear sign he was tired because he rarely - if ever - asks to eat. I was two pages away from finishing a chapter in a great book.
"Mommy, I'm hungry," he said again, just as my cellphone rang.... 15 minutes later I remembered that he wanted something to eat. I went back to his playroom to see if he was still interested and.... he was lying like a forgotten drunk on the floor, fast asleep.
3) Ignoring my kid.
Did I mention I'm reading a great book?
"Just one more TV show, mummy," Hudson said, pleading.
"Sure kid," I said seven separate times Saturday afternoon, leaving Hudson in front of the TV for more than three hours so I could finish my book.
What? Sue me! Some TV sometimes isn't the worst thing ever. Leave me alone! I needed that time... (and I could use a drink...).