Mommy Chronicles

A funny look at motherhood and the mayhem it causes.

September 17, 2001

Life is hard — and very good

Yesterday started out with a headache. Adam needed a ride to work, and he had to be there by 8 a.m., which meant we had to be out the door no later than 7.

It used to be I could be out the door 15 minutes after waking up. Those never turned out to be good hair days for me. But when I needed to, I could hustle.

Once you have a baby, leaving the house takes forever — even at top speed. I need an extra 30 minutes to change Lucy, dress Lucy, feed Lucy and pack Lucy’s diaper bag.

And these days, matters are more complicated by our dog’s sore nose. She’s rubbed it raw, and even with the lampshade collar the vet gave her, Misty needs to be watched constantly to stop her from doing more damage. What’s more, she’s no longer allowed to eat scraps under the high chair. So, feeding Lucy on the fly goes like this:

Put Lucy in high chair. Sprinkle Cheerio appetizer on tray so Lucy doesn’t get antsy and scream. Put frozen waffles in toaster. Tuck Misty’s pills into peanut butter and stick them in her mouth. Wash peanut butter and dog slobber off hands. Race outside with Misty while Lucy eats Cheerios, but before she throws them on floor.

Take Lucy out of high chair. Take waffles out of toaster. Burn fingers. Blow on waffles so Lucy doesn’t get burned. Laugh while Lucy blows, too. Eat one waffle.

Go outside. Don’t forget purse and diaper bag. Feel grateful you married a man who’s willing to carry your purse and diaper bag out to car. Call dog. Put Lucy in car seat. Give Lucy waffle. Take Misty’s lampshade off so she can get in car. Tell Lucy not to feed Misty waffle. Kiss Lucy’s head. Pray.

By the time we were all in the car, at 7:06 a.m., my head felt like irritable elves with tiny hammers were making toys in there. We stopped for road coffee, which helped a little. While sipping my coffee on the way to Adam’s office, I realized that the license tabs on the car had expired. For some reason, we’d never gotten a renewal notice in the mail.

Now, in addition to having the elf headache, I also was certain we were minutes away from getting a ticket. I’d been driving with expired tabs for two months, so the paranoia was late in coming. But once it arrived, it stuck like corn in teeth. I was sure there was a police car around every bend in the road, just waiting to throw the book at me. And that was going to hurt. I just knew it. I... I...

But no such thing happened. We made it to Adam’s office with 15 minutes to spare. Imagine the luck!

I decided to go to my parents’ house, so that Lucy and I could get a legal ride to the Department of Licensing. The whole way to Mom and Dad’s, I fretted about the ticket I was sure I would get. But I still didn’t get one. Luck was on my side, once again.

When we got to the Department of Licensing, I realized I didn’t have my checkbook, and they didn’t take credit cards. But once again, I got lucky. I’d forgotten to pay the babysitter the week before, and had a wad of cash that amounted to exactly $2.50 more than the new tabs cost.

Then Mom and I drove to my grandmother’s house, because Mom had to take her to a doctor’s appointment. While a sleeping Lucy and I waited in the car, I fished around for something to read. I found a book in the back seat that began with this very sentence:

“Life is difficult.”

True, true, I thought. But sometimes, you get lucky. Like with the license tabs, the unexpected but handy cash and most of all, with Lucy, who remained sleeping. (She is so beautiful when she sleeps. I have to restrain myself from biting her plump cheeks.)

While Mom and Lucy went to the doctor with Greem, I worked on an outline for a writing project that’s been tormenting me. I procrastinated a bit by checking my voice mail, and discovered that my agent had called.

Did she have news on my book proposal? I was afraid to wonder. But Tanya wasn’t there, so I left a message and waited for Mom and Lucy to get back from the doctor’s. Greem is in fine health, despite her protestations that she’s old. It was good to hear. Lucky us.

Then Lucy and I headed home. Laramie, our babysitter, was meeting us there so I could do a little more work. (Even though I had forgotten to pay her the week before. She’s awfully forgiving. Again, lucky me.)

Traffic was clogged, and I realized I was going to be late.

Argh. This was a problem. Not only was I wasting precious babysitting time, I also had to get Adam’s cat, who has kidney disease, to the vet. I didn’t want to be late for that, and I wasn’t sure how long it was going to take me to get Spot into the carrier. He has all the personality and some of the same eating habits of Hannibal Lecter.

I also realized I’d forgotten to put the new license tabs on the car. And, because Lucy hates traffic, she decided to scream for the 45 minutes it took us to get home, 45 minutes I spent worrying about non-existent police officers, unhappy babies and angry, angry cats.

Is life difficult? It was feeling like it.

By the time we got home, Lucy was both pissed off and hungry, and she wanted to nurse. But I had to get Misty’s lampshade back on before she tore off what’s left of her nose, and the cat had slipped out the door, and I needed to get him in his carrier before the vet’s appointment, which was by now, only 20 minutes away.

So, no milk for Lucy. Not this time, anyway. If she could have, she would have said, “Life is difficult.” And, at that moment, I would have agreed.

Instead, she just screamed while Laramie, who had waited patiently for us, pried her out of my arms. I made Lucy some lunch. Then I fetched Misty and put her lampshade on. Then I coaxed Spot back inside and decided to call my agent.

If I was going to get bad news, it might as well come at a bad time.

“Tanya,” I said, when she answered the phone. “It’s Martha.”

For the last several months, Tanya had been working hard trying to get the Diary of a Pregnancy sold as a book. It wasn’t an easy job. I’m a relatively unknown humor writer, and columns usually don’t get reborn this way. I was almost certainly going to get bad news.

“They made us an offer,” she said.

I had to say goodbye to Tanya to get the cat to the vet on time for his appointment. But this is how I learned that I’d become an author. Mixed in with inconvenience, chaos, neurosis, discomfort and a whole lot of luck.

The Diary of a Pregnancy will be published by Andrews McMeel next fall. This is the same company that has published Calvin & Hobbes, Dilbert, and my favorite, Erma Bombeck.

I guess it’s true what I read: Life is difficult. If it isn’t, I have no other way to explain how frazzled and haggard I look. But life is also deliriously exciting, especially when the best news is tucked into the most challenging days, in much the same way the dog’s pills are tucked into a glob of peanut butter — and much the same way the thrill and beauty of having a child is surrounded by endless chores, stickiness and tears.

Except for Misty's sore nose, I’d like more of the same.


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