This is Why I Don’t Leave the House

A few months after we moved to Ave Maria, I was talking with another mother in our neighborhood. She kept asking me if I knew so-and-so, who lived around the corner, or so-and-so, who lived at the end of my street. Finally, she asked if I knew the neighbor directly across the street from me. When I responded in the negative yet again, she shot me a kind of sideways glance and asked, “Do you ever leave your house?”

At the time, I didn’t really know to respond, so I just stammered, “Uh, well, you know, I blog.” No, I don’t really leave my house. Maybe I’ll make a weekly appearance at the Bean or the Oratory, but as far as being out and about in the neighborhood, nah. Not so much.

Lately I’ve been trying to rectify that a little. I’ve made a slight effort to appear at Sienna’s school events (okay, maybe the plural is stretching it), or take Charlotte to ballet and hang out with the boys in the Piazza during the hour-long class. I’ve even tried to be a grown up about my appearance. Makeup, jeans at the very least but sometimes dresses and skirts, children with combed hair and shoes that match. I have this nagging feeling that I should try and act like a mature adult who can have children and be poised at the same time.

But the truth is that I can’t. I just can’t. Like the proverbial klutz who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time (<—also me), I cannot appear in public with children without self-destructing into a spazzy puddle of chaos.

Today I was determined to go to the May Day procession and crowning of Mary. Sienna’s whole school processes over the bridge to the Piazza, around the university campus, and finally into the Oratory for Mass, all while saying the Rosary. The first communicants wear their white and walk directly behind the statue of Mary that a couple of seniors hold aloft at the head of the line. Behind them, the kids walk from youngest to oldest, all carrying a flower to lay at the feet of Mary.

Sienna really wanted me to be there, so I got her off to school and immediately started getting myself and the smaller minions ready. The procession started at 9:30 but I wanted to leave by 9 so I would have time to get her a flower from the store and get to the school in time to give it to her.

Of course everything went to pot, as it always done when I’m making the kids move at a pace infinitesimally quicker than molasses, and we flew out the door at 9:35. I pulled up to the school just in time to see the smallest kids reaching the bridge. Muttering choice and inappropriate words, I swung the car around and drove over to the Piazza.

We managed to park and get out just in time to see Sienna walk by. Some kind soul had given her a flower, thank God, so I didn’t catch her trademarked look of sad, neglected reproach. She just smiled and waved and I caught sight of her still-intact French braid and felt, momentarily, like a capable adult. French braided hair speaks volumes to me. It says, “my mother cares enough about me to get up early and braid my hair so it’s neat and pretty before I go to school.” Usually Sienna’s hair says, “I did this low ponytail myself because by the time my mom had stumbled through making my breakfast and my lunch, she was already asleep again standing up while nursing the baby, and I didn’t want to wake her.” I was so proud of myself. Here I was, standing with the other moms like a real grown-up mom, pushing a stroller with a non-screaming baby in it, holding the hands of a 2 and a 4 year old whose shoes and clothes matched and whose hair was both combed and clean, wearing an actual skirt with an actual non-t-shirt-type-shirt, and watching my daughter walk with her class, the proud bearer of a French braid.

When Sienna had processed inside the Oratory, we turned to drop Charlotte off at ballet and go to the Bean. I got something for Liam and I to eat, then went to sit down on one of the couches beside the kids’ toys.

As I sat down, the top of my very large water bottle popped off and the water bottle, which was inside the diaper bag, turned upside down and drenched the bag, its contents, me, Lincoln, and my stupid skirt.

I tried to set Lincoln down on the couch so I could clean up the puddle we had become and, more importantly, fish my phone out of the diaper bag before it got wet, but wee Linc has panicked at the rush of cold water down his diaper and grabbed the neck of my very stretchy, nursing-friendly shirt with both frantic fists. Just for funsies, he let out an ear-splitting wail as soon as his bottom hit the couch, so everyone in the Bean looked up and realized, at the exact same moment I did, that my son had pulled the neck of my shirt down to the top of my skirt.

Luckily it’s finals week, so all the students were there instead of just some of them.

I spent the next 30 minutes trying to clean up a gazillion ounces of water with coffee-shop napkins and only one arm, while the other tried to contain a very angry, very wet Lincoln. His spare outfit was soaked, along with all the diapers, the nursing cover, my keys, and my wallet. Miraculously, my phone escaped the deluge.

Once everything was no longer dripping, I looked down and saw that water had spilled all over the front and back of my skirt (I’m assuming I actually sat in it) in this awesome between-the-thighs pattern that made it look like I had peed my skirt in defiance of both gravity and biology. Also, my flowy shirt that had been graciously hiding my unwaist was now ungraciously clinging to said convex midline. By this point, Liam was crying because his cookie was inside a bag that I was cruelly not opening, Lincoln was wailing and clawing at me in drenched and hungry despair, trying to simultaneously rip my shirt off and dive down the front of it, and the people around me were eyeing me covertly with that look I’ve become all-too-familiar with. The one that says, “I’d really like to offer to help her, but I’m not sure I have the kind of help she needs.”

I gathered up the kids and bags and food as best I could and tried to make a silent escape, but the squeak-squeak-squeak of my water-logged sandals betrayed me and marked every second of our excruciatingly slow walk of social outing shame.

I found a corner outside to hide in for the duration of Charlotte’s class, during which both boys were perfect angels and nothing catastrophic or even mildly awkward happened.

Lessons learned:

1) Taking the minions on social outings is like pouring water on a gremlin.

2) I will never manage to look polished while I have nursing babies.

3) I will never manage to look polished while I am a spaz and a half.

4) I will never manage to look polished unless I am miraculously gifted with with coordination.

5) I will never manage to look polished.

6) Skirts are devil.

I think I’ll just stay home for a few years.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    It’s Ave Maria. It is supposed to be a community that respects life. THIS IS LIFE. If they can’t respect that- well, then what is the use of having a Catholic planned community to begin with?

    • calahalexander

      Ted, I don’t really think people were not respecting us. It was just a spectacle. I would have stared too, had I not been there, done that. The embarrassment I felt wasn’t brought on by the people around me, it was just brought on by the whole situation.

  • Kate Friend

    I so totally sympathize! And then people comment that “You have your hands full!” No, really, I hadn’t noticed.

    By the way, once upon a time I think it was you who wrote about snarky things to say to people who make inappropriate comments about one’s reproductive life. I’ve stolen one of your lines, and now I say “People keep telling us to get a TV but I really don’t understand what that has to do anything.” Then I enjoy the befuddled and shocked expression of my interlocutor and feel that my kids may be screaming and running amok and I may have oatmeal handprints on my pants and spitup on my shoulder, but at least in this one tiny aspect of this social interaction I have the upper hand. No one has yet been able to come up with a response to that line. So thank you. Best shutter-upper ever.

  • Missi Nussbaum

    Some day, you’ll go out with your kiddos and you will all stay neat and tidy. Of course, that will be about a year and a half before they start moving out of your house. Don’t feel too bad about the inadvertent flashing, everyone’s done it. When my (now 17 year old) son was still a babe-in-arms, I once stood up to sing at church, only to realise that he’d unbuttoned my shirt to the waist, without me noticing. And it wasn’t even pretty underwear, it was a nursing bra. I still shudder at the memory. And of course, when he finally figured out there was food involved in mass, he gave me my most embarrassing moment ever. Picture it- the church is silent, but for the music and the soft shuffle of feet down the aisle, as people line up for the eucharist. And Alex,, not yet two years old… had quite the voice on him. He was quite loud, and very indignant. “Hey! I’m hungry, too!” It was unavoidable, there were people snuffling and snorting and trying NOT to break out in laughter. Then one of them lost it, and then the rest, and the whole congregation was just guffawing away.

  • Mary Gundrum

    First time coming to your blog and I am so glad I did!! You had me laughing so hard, because this is who I am,I think we are kindred spirits! Thank you for sharing! I will come back often!

  • Andrea Mercer

    Oh yeah. I’ve had those moments. There is something about flashing a group of college students that feels worse than just the public at large to me. When Charlie was doing FOCUS, we were in mass once and one of my little ladies decided to lift up the entire back of my skirt with a pew full of college guys sitting behind me. That’s when I learned that I needed to wear something under my skirt and over my can’t-wait-for-sunday-afternoon-alone-with-my-husband undergarments. Sigh. Horrifying.
    I feel for you, Calah. Those are tough days. But, your experience offered you excellent blogging material for commiserating, no? :-)

  • Monica Dix

    Calah, On behalf of the staff of The Bean, I am sorry that our employees didn’t help you. Can I buy you a coffee sometime? I will bring my kids–if you promise to bring yours! :)

    • calahalexander

      Monica, oh my gosh, you are so sweet and I am so grateful, but the staff was slammed (honestly, there was a pretty long line) and my back was to them. I’m absolutely sure that none of the employees saw it. I didn’t mean to complain about the Bean. I love the Bean! It just happened to be the unfortunate setting of another klutzy mama moment. I’d love to get together with you and your kids though! I don’t even think we’ve actually met IRL.

    • Calah Michelle Alexander

      Monica, oh my gosh, you are so sweet and I am so grateful, but the staff
      was slammed (honestly, there was a pretty long line) and my back was to
      them. I’m absolutely sure that none of the employees saw it. I didn’t
      mean to complain about the Bean. I love the Bean! It just happened to be
      the unfortunate setting of another klutzy mama moment. I’d love to get
      together with you and your kids though! I don’t even think we’ve
      actually met IRL.

  • beth turner

    About 6 months ago I decided that leaving the house made me way more stressed out than staying at home and being bored, so most of the time we just stay home, too! :)

  • s_hartwick

    Bahaha! I was reading this, totally relating, and I let my toddler wander off for a few minutes. When I went to check on him he had opened the fridge and was pouring milk all over the kitchen floor. And I only have one child (outside the womb) to deal with. Let’s just say you’re not alone.