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For the past almost six days, the geek has been yukking it up with museum people in Denver.

He returns tonight.

While it’s been sort of nice, as an experience with a definite end point, to be the sole caregiver, the only lap, the lone tickler, I’m exhausted.

During the second shift of baths last night, I was covered in bubbles, still recovering from the previous night’s bout of food poisioning when it occurred to me: I couldn’t do this on my own. Not forever.

So today, I tip my hat to the millions of moms who do it every day, by themselves, with no partner to relieve them. You are my heroes.

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Fits over shoes: 3

Tantrums involving coats: 2

Ear-piercing screeches responding to God-knows what: 12

Rampages ending with vomit on the carpet (Of course on the carpet! No one can ever puke on the hardwood.): 1

Moms ready for a drink: 1

Shortly after I wrote the previous post, I put Simon down for his nap. He insisted on taking to bed a regulation-size Packer helmet. I let him. Here’s the conversation Ed and I had when I got home from work last night:

Me: He’s been talking like crazy lately! I put him down for his nap and he spent at least 30 minutes talking to the helmet he took to bed.

Ed: Yeah, well, he ripped all the lining out of it.

Me: He did? He was talking to it so nicely!

Ed: Yep, talking to it sweetly while tearing its guts out. Just like a serial killer.

In the interest of letting the Internet know Simon does bring me joy sometimes, here’s my list:

1. He eats ANYTHING. Today for lunch, in addition to the mac n cheese and peas the other kids were eating, he chowed some of our asparagus and shitake risotto and was introduced to (and ate with a spoon) hummus. Most of the time, if you put it in front of him, he’ll eat it.

2. Kid knows how to sleep. He slept until 10 a.m. today, at which point I woke him up. He’s not afraid he’s gonna miss something by sleeping in. This is the kind of thinking I jibe with.

3. His voice. When he’s not using it to scream, the sweetest, high-pitched tone comes from his mouth. I love listening to him call out every object as we drive by: Car! Tree! Bus (that one comes with a delicious lisp)! Truck!

4. He’s fearless. Yes, that’s part of what exhausts me, but it’s fascinating watching a being who doesn’t throw caution to the wind — he just doesn’t have any. If you’re doing something, by god, he can do it too! And he’ll shove you out of the way to do it. He’ll dig in the dirt, jump off a step, balance on a ledge. If he falls, usually he shakes his head and keeps moving.

5. Hugs. He gives them. Often. Just now, he pushed my shoulder away from the keyboard and climbed on my lap to squeeze me. And he doles out an occasional kiss, too.

We’re going to Ireland. For two weeks. All of us. Yes, we’re crazy. But then, you already knew that. Here are a few of the most insane things I’ve stumbled across preparing for this trip:

1. Travel tip: Bring Tupperware in which to pack up your leftovers from restaurant meals. Not all countries understand the meaning of the word doggy bag! You have GOT to be kidding. Who’s nuking leftovers when they’re traveling? And wasting precious suitcase space on Tupperware? Then lugging it with them to a restaurant?

2. Used travel potty seat on Amazon. Need I say more?

3. Take lipstick and a small mirror in your hand luggage – if you’re having a bad time, take two minutes to put on some lipstick and give yourself a pep talk in the mirror. Um, yeah. LIPSTICK is going to fix what ails me. Maybe if it’s laced with Xanax …

4. Wear spunky clothes and dark glasses so that other passengers think you are someone famous enjoying quality time with your kids. Because famous people always sit in coach and fly overseas without a nanny.

Clare is potty trained. Sort of.

She wears pullups at night, which I think is pretty normal. She also refuses to use a public toilet. Ever. She will hold her pee indefinitely, and by that I mean many hours, until we get home to her comfort throne. She’ll whine, beg and plead to go home. Her twisted face and writhing torso make me uncomfortable. Usually, by the time we pull into the driveway, it’s hard for me not to shove her out of the way to relieve myself first.

Today, as usual, she was dancing in place when I arrived at preschool to pick her up. I asked, as I do every day, if she had to go potty. She said no. Until, as is the case every day, we got to the car. When, predictably, she started whining, “Mooommmmm, I have to go potty reaaaallly bad!”

I decided to try a different approach to the usual, “WHY don’t you just GO when you have to?!?!?”

“Clare,” I said, “I’ll take you to get a happy meal if you use the potty in school.”

Yes, I used fast food as a bribe. No, I’m not proud of it. But guess what? It worked!

She went inside, promptly kicked me out of the potty room (“I want you to shut the DOOORRR!!!”), and emptied her poor, stressed bladder.

The preschool has these adorable, tiny flushable toilets, so I only count this as a half-step. But I’ll take it.

I put my kid on a leash. Like a dog. And I pulled back when he was going the wrong way.

And we had the best public outing ever.

So all you holier-than-thou mothers who gave me the stink-eye at the zoo, suck it. You don’t have a kid like Simon, and if you ever do, I hope you discover the leash.

I could tell which parents had dealt with the likes of my two-year-old, because they’d look at the device with amazement, checking out how the little devil skittered from place to place unfettered but for a quite relaxed mom following his lead. One dad asked if they make double versions. I told him to just get two! Just like walking two dogs!

If you asked me two years ago if I’d buy a leash for a kid of mine, I would have given an enthusiastic “No!” But that was before I met Simon. He hates the stroller, and I used to spend half of every outing fighting with him as he arched his back and screamed. If he wasn’t strapped in, he’d run. Usually straight for the nearest car.

Before, I secretly thought that kids like Simon were that way because of how they were raised. And I still think that’s true to some extent. But I have raised him the same as my other kids (except I’m stretched pretty thin these days), and he turned out LIKE THIS. Which is always moving, often throwing fits, sometimes biting, usually hilarious and occasionally really super cuddly. Which is nice, and why I’ll keep him around.

Even if I have collar the little sucker.

Before I had kids, and even while I was pregnant, I had ideas. Fuzzy, warm notions about how I would feed my family.

I love to cook. It’s as simple as that, right?

Wrong.

Life, especially my life, gets in the way.

I don’t want to whine anymore about how I work nights and how hard it is to go without sleep and basically be a single parent during the week and blah blah blah. Those things are all true, but it’s starting to bore even me to complain.

So I’m going to dream. Dream about the day I can make a meal, no matter how quickly, for my family. Where we can sit down together more than once a week and eat something I’ve prepared. I can think of no better way to show my love for people than to serve them a steaming plate of something delicious. And my poor kids hardly ever get that. It’s definitely not what I had in mind when I thought of what my family would be like.

I suppose I could do what my mother is always suggesting, and make dinner for them during the day. But what fun is that? Honestly, half the fun of cooking is watching people eat the result. Partaking with them. Besides that, I barely have time to throw in a load of laundry or make a sandwich.

Someday, and hopefully someday soon, I am going to broaden their picky little palates. They’ll eat seafood. They’ll eat curry. They’ll eat roasted chicken.

And I’m sure at first they’re going to hate me for it. Enjoy your PB&J’s while you can, kids! Roast root vegetables will be filling your plate before you know it.

tvblog2.jpg 

Unless you count the blaring cartoons, and I SO TOTALLY don’t.

TV, you are the BEST. The BEST.

My wedding ring is lost. Correction, my grandmother‘s wedding ring, which I have been wearing in lieu of having my own wedding ring for the past 8½ years, is lost.

I was slow to get out of bed this morning. Ed was getting ready for work, and I could hear the kids making a ruckus, but I was tired. I’ve been suffering from a little insomnia lately.

I was distracted last night before bed and left my rings on the bathroom counter, something I’m usually careful not to do because of Simon.

This morning, as I was wrestling with him to get his shoes on, Clare said, “Mommy! Here’s your ring!” My heart instantly sank. I remembered where I had left them.

It wasn’t the wedding ring. It was another ring I was wearing yesterday, and it was all covered in suspiciously Simon-like goo.

I have searched everywhere I can think of. No sign of the ring.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he ate it. I guess I’ll poke around in his diapers, just in case. Do I have to tell the nanny to dig through his poo?

Damn.