I went to the mall today. Now, under former circumstances (that is pre chiildren) such a visit rarely caused me anything more than mild consternation. Maybe I got a little annoyed when it was crowded after Thanksgiving, but otherwise, a trip to the mall was accomplished with a minimum of fuss and I generally got out with what I'd intended to purchase.
Well, this trip was a little different. First of all, it was unplanned. Oh, stop yelling at me. Yes, the spontaneity is mostly gone. Yes, I always have been anal. Yes, that tendency may have been reinforced in the military. Granted, being married to a type A+ personality has rubbed off on me slightly. But trips with my three boys are usually planned with precision and with a flush bank account. This one was necessitated by the failure of Josh's car to start when it was supposed to this morning. Hubby went off to work in my car (no problem), but I was stranded at home during summer vacation (serious problem). And yes, there was an errand I HAD to do today. I had to pick up the stupid chickens. But that's another story, so I won't digress.
Got the car jump started by a dude called "Buddy" (I'm not kidding), who pulled his tow truck into our driveway with what I can only describe as finesse. The boys, still in pajamas, were entranced. Andrew said to me with an almost reverential tone, "Mommy, there's a TRUCK at our house". Buddy, himself a father (2 boys, 1 girl) gleefully alowed them to climb all over the hulking thing, while watching me hyperventilate as they swung back and forth on the hook. Fortunately the battery had enough juice to start, and three sad faces sadly waved goodbye as the tow truck left with a smiling Buddy.
So, off to Sears we went. Getting in the car isn't as insane as it used to be, now that eveyone can wipe their own hiney and get their own clothes on. But the Sears here in Huntsville, AL is unfortunately attached to a mall. My efforts to conceal our actual destination were a complete failure. I think some of my military intelligence genes passed through the uterus. I went in through an entrance towards the back, thinking I might get away with camouflaging our location. Nothing doing. The minute we entered the garage they knew precisely where we were.
While waiting in line (there's always a line when I have my kids with me) to converse with a mechanic I firmly stated to my children, in the following order:
#1: stay here
#2: do NOT touch the towers of tires that apparently pass for decor at a Sears auto center.
#3: do not yell
#4: do not TOUCH your brother
The other patrons in line stared at me (the men) while the grandma looking lady winked at me. When my turn came to speak with a mechanic, all three boys took advantage of my inattention to not follow my instructions. Any of them. Andrew made a dash for the tower of tires he'd been eyeing, Luke took off to explore the view in the waiting room, and Matthew, ostensibly to return Luke to me, broke instructions #1, #2, and #4.
I ordered my offspring back to my side in a tone which broked no argument, peppered with German words, and my evil eye look. I separated them, Matthew too my left, Andrew on my right side, with Luke 2 feet behind me. When I turned back to the service dude, a young man barely out of automotive school, he was openly grinning. After reaching an agreement on what precisely I wanted done, he smiled and said, "I think I better call my mother today and thank her. I have two brothers." The grandma lady in the waiting room snorted and merely said, "God bless you". I don't know why. I hadn't sneezed or anything. Error #1
Due to my swift action in getting to Sears, I arrived too early. That is to say, the mall part wasn't open yet. I had another 10 minutes to keep my children occupied in a small room filled with adults containing no books, no crayons, and the Today show playing on the television. Andrew, like an angel, amused himself looking through the glass wall at the fascinating scene of cars and trucks being worked on by the aforementioned mechanics. Matthew sat next to me and every 30 seconds groaned at the inanity on the Today show (I couldn't blame him) and loudly whispering if he could change the channel. Luke, unable to bear the thought of Andrew involved in something that didn't involve him, sidled up next to his big brother and proceeded to bother him. This invoked recollections of my own childhood, where I would be minding my own business when my bored brother proceeded to annoy me, simply for lack of anything better to do.
Chidlhood memories aside, I remembered that my beloved husband had recently gifted me with a new phone (that romantic fool). The phone had email access and a screen. I quickly went to you tube and called up "The Cat in the Hat" video. Luke quickly left off annoying his brother and was entranced for the remaining 9 minues and 30 seconds we had to wait. Error #2
. Now Luke knows that Mommy's phone plays this video. I can't go anywhere anymore without him asking "Mommy, can I watch your phone?". Matthew instantly became incensed, demanding to know why he couldn't play with my phone. I gave him my special LOOK OF IMMINENT DEATH and he sulkily retreated back into his chair, muttering under his breath.
The mall finally opened, and we went through the Sears store, amused at the elderly people waiting for the garage door to open up so they could pounce on the latest sales.
Now, I don't know about you guys, but we have a definite pattern at the mall. First, we go to the play area. Andrew and Luke amuse themselves jumping around, Matthew begs for money for the neighboring arcade, and I sit down on a nearby bench. On a good day, I can make this stretch for an hour. This was not a good day. There was a playgroup of some kind that were there that morning. My two youngest children were surrounded by small babies and toddlers in the play area. It got boring dodging around the babies after 15 minutes, so we collected Matthew and decided to find some other amusement.
Second, we rode the escalators. A lot. I ignored the evil looks I got for permitting my children a dozen rides up and down the escalator. Hey, they weren't pushing, shoving, or yelling, so what is it that possesses a complete stranger to approach me and lecture me on the dangers of escalators? She was there with . . . you guessed it... two little girls. After delivering her message, she sat back, expectantly waiting for me to fall to my knees, clasp her about the ankles and thank her for her words of wisdom. I literally gave her the cold shoulder and replied, "they're fine" and ignored her until she flounced away. I got even with the little priss at the jumping place, where my kids did flips while her two little princesses gingerly bounced up and down, careful not to mess up their pinafores. A kindly gentleman added fuel to the fire when he said, "those are some fine boys you have there" as he and his silver haired spouse continued their lap around the mall. I could have kissed him.
After the jumping place, we discovered something new. In what had been the old Disney store, an enterprising woman had placed 5 inflatables, complete with a ball pit. Considering that it had been an hour and the car still wasn't done, I figured that it was well worth the cost to let the boys jump around for a bit. The proprietor was an 80 year old woman from India who spent the entire time telling me about her far flung relations around the globe. While the boys were having fun throwing brightly colored balls at one another, I heard about her 8 brothers and 3 sisters, her husband's 9 brothers and 2 sisters, her 6 sons, and the shortcomings of all her daughters in law. Luckily the timer went off announcing the end of our session before I could hear about the educational accomplishments of her 19 grandchildren. What really freaked me out is that this woman was more limber than I was. She walked around the place, scooping balls up and bending down with more energy than I can ever remember having. I want to go back sometime without the boys and ask what her secret is.
Well, now that we were back on routine, our next stop was the cookie store. I informed Matthew that no, he couldn't have the double cookie with the frosting between that would send him into a diabetic coma, and then helped Andrew and Luke make their selections. Do you have any idea how much three lousy cookies cost at the mall? My cell phone rang, and it was Sears, telling me that something was due and the belt was in bad shape and that it would cost $1900 to replace it. I felt my blood pressure rise, but managed to politely ask the man to just replace the battery, thank you very much. He tried to convince me otherwise, and I answered with " It's been two hours and I have three kids in the mall. Do you really think I want to have the $% belt replaced? Just give me a new battery." After a pause, he chuckled and told me he'd have my car ready in 10 minutes.
The bad part was, we had to go back up an escalator (Matthew nagged me to let him go up the elevator) and past a toy store to get back to Sears. Did I mention that Luke had broken his arm 4 days ago? He picked up a soft and cuddly Sponge Bob, gave me a devastating look, and called, "Mommy, look! Sponge Bob will make my arm feel better." A lesser woman would have caved, seeing those blue eyes and the bright yellow cast, but Germans are made of stermer stuff. I gently took it out of his hands and reminded him that he already had a sponge bob at home. He argued, but I got away with scooping him up in my arms and load of guilt on my shoulders. I barked a "no" at Matthew and Andrew and we were on our way.
When we got home everyone went to their own room to chill out. The car had a new battery, I had a headache from listening to Madonna mall music, and my wallet was $45 lighter. And I didn't even flinch when, 1 hour later, Matthew asked me, "Mommy, can we do something fun today?"
Labels: boys, car trouble, fatherhood, kids, motherhood, parenthood, summer vacation