Annual Quandary

My Lovely Bride turned 40 this summer, and it’s my turn soon. Throw in my children’s imminent return to school plus my having been an at-home dad for eight years – and you get my annual “What Am I Doing With My Life?” quandary. Whoopieeee!

Am I wasting my expensive education by not working for pay? Would full-time work wreak havoc on my family? It’s been a coupla years… could I hack it? Do I even want to be a reporter, or maybe I’m a better editor instead? Or should I turn my back on journalism and the industry’s unending, gut-wrenching change? Carla’s kindergarten teacher inspired me every time I volunteered last year, and every interaction with Eddie’s 3rd grade teacher convinced me I could do better. Maybe I should try teaching?

Sigh.

My Lovely Bride is always the one who puts it into perspective. This is the woman who wanted to write international peace treaties and interned one summer for Madeleine Albright. Now she’s a fundraiser for a hospital-university. She likes coaching a team of seven people as she matches up philanthropists with scientists to fund groundbreaking medical research.

Is it what she set out to do?

Absolutely not.

But one morning she said she’s figured out that three things about a job are important:

  1. It gives her a paycheck.
  2. It does more good than evil.
  3. It keeps her brain happy.

So, what about teaching, then? It would work with my children’s schedule, and I wouldn’t have to load them up with nonstop camps in summer and babysitters during the school year. But there’s more to it than calendar convenience.

I just love Ms. G. Not only does she don a mask in a museum for the benefit of her class, she hams it up like the star she is.

As I volunteered in Carla’s class twice a month. Ms. G ran me ragged. Two and a half hours of cutting and stapling and folding and collating and opening snacks and leading craft activities. But every single time, Ms. G’s enthusiasm and skill made me want to be a teacher. Maybe a kindergarten teacher – another place to break the gender barrier, like being an at-home dad – or maybe at another grade level.

And last summer, I came up with Fun Camp. In an attempt to thwart boredom during the last week of summer vacation, I invited a dozen neighborhood kids to come over for two hours in that dead of the afternoon when there’s simply nothing to do. One day I borrowed a half-dozen computers and had Laptop Lane, where kids drew out a hat to choose websites from a school-approved list.

Fun Camp Day 1: Laptop Lane

Another day we did science experiments, including making a geyser out of Mentos and Diet Coke. Build-Things-With-Sticks Day flopped, but we righted things the next day by scrapping my plans and going to a one-roller-coaster amusement park.

After that, my friend Sandra rubbed her hands together and said, “You know, we oughtta get you certified!”

“But then,” I retorted, “I just might be certifiable.”

Sooo… should I enroll in a midcareer transition-to-teacher program? Maybe I ought to try substitute teaching first? Sub jokes aside, I figure getting dropped into a strange class on a moment’s notice would be a really quick way to see if I really want to teach.

I’m such a perfectionist-defeatist, however, that I talk myself out of it before I even try.

Part of me wonders how I would ever keep my patience with a bunch of other people’s kids when I almost never manage it with my own. And I feel guilty for yelling at my own kids when they do stupid things (i.e., simultaneously age-appropriate and irritating), which I’ve reminded them a thousand times to do or not to do.

As for journalism, once upon a time I realized that I just might be a better editor than a reporter. When I reminded a writer that a compound sentence must be separated by a comma AND a conjunction, he told me “You sound just like my eighth-grade English teacher.”

I took it as a complement.

But there’s no glory in copy editing. Really, can you name a single famous editor? Maybe Anna Wintour or Tina Brown. Or E.B. White, whom you probably know better for “Charlotte’s Web” than for one of my favorite books, Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style.”

I’m not sure The Baltimore Sun would take me as a full-time reporter or editor – one editor I’ve written for is only about 30 and has more full-time experience than I do, as does any 28-year-old who’s been at a smaller paper since finishing college. Another Sun editor told me over lunch that I’d probably need to log a year or more at a small paper an hour away. (I didn’t like what she told me, but I know she was right.) The commute would kill me. And forget about feeding healthy food to my children or getting them to sports practices and doctor’s appointments without logistical headaches. I know dual-working-parent households pull this off all the time, but it strikes me as utter drudgery.

I’ve been thinking about calling up my local weekly and offering my services as a copy editor. It’s actually a decent paper, but tell me what community newspaper couldn’t use a little help on the editing desk. Any weekly seems to have the lede (that’s not misspelled, for you non-journo-types) buried in the sixth graf about half the time. I can fix that. Plus, I like doing layout, and I’m good at it.

I have moments of thinking I’m throwing my life away. And my education, too – I went to Columbia Journalism School! My former classmates are writing books and reporting from West Africa for The New York Times. I think a couple of them have even won Pulitzer Prizes by now.

I once got a job offer from The Philadelphia Inquirer!

The Philadelphia Inquirer!

This for the guy who was rejected for reporter jobs at The News-Record of Harrisonburg, Va. (circulation 29,000), The Winchester Star (circ. 23,000) and even my hometown newspaper, The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va. (circ. 46,000), which wanted a minority candidate. I’m all for that, though it does cross me off the list.

The Inky offer came when I was finishing journalism school and trying to figure out how my wife would keep her job in New York and I would work in Philly. I took the train to the midpoint and wondered whether we could endure the commute. I concluded one thing: I cannot live in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Every now and then, for fantasy reading, I troll the website journalismjobs.com. I imagine myself as a fulltime reporter or an editor, except the jobs are an hour away and advertise hours from 9-6. Or night editor jobs from 3-11, which means I’d never see my children. And I’d be tired all the time.

I’ve been mulling all this for months, ever since my last paid article.

In February.

That was the month I got really fired up when I attended my first journalism conference since the Clinton administration. I worked up a couple story ideas and pitched them to no avail. (No, we don’t want your exposé about nursing home violations, one magazine told me. We get a lot of advertising from nursing homes. Journalists everywhere gagging in unison.) Maybe the weekly newspaper copy editing would lead somewhere. Or maybe it would just fit into my schedule needs (being available for the children outside school time) and commit occasional journalistic good.

Or maybe I should try teaching…

Or maybe I should revel in my at-home-dadness and spend September on the backyard renovation and luxuriate in house projects for a month…

Or maybe I should get off my duff and gin up some more freelancing…

Or actually put in some effort at becoming a better father

Or figure out how to make a buck off this blog…

Or maybe…

Choose Your Own Adventure vs. Spanish Inquisition

Is this what Eddie’s Lego stop-action movie looks like? Wouldn’t YOU like to know! So would I.

If I could think of a way to get my 9-year-old son to actually open a window into his brain and share some of what’s inside with the rest of the world, or, say, the people who love him, or even those of us who happen to live in the same house, I would bottle that process and sell it and make a zillion dollars.

So far, that miracle method has eluded me, so I pepper him with questions.

“How was your day?” gets nothing.

“Good,” he mumbles.

Even if the school cafeteria served star-shaped chicken nuggets (ick, but his favorite), they had a 3-hour recess and the Ravens quarterback signed autographs while the school gym burned down, I’d get the same response.

“Good.”

At some point, I barked, “‘Good’ is no longer an acceptable answer!”

It’s like what it took all of second grade to pound into Eddie’s head: give a topic sentence and then some supporting details. It’s not like every conversation needs to come in the form of a short essay, but ya gotta corral your thoughts and share them in some way that connects you to the rest of the world.

Open-ended questions elicited blank stares, and yes-or-no questions somehow got an answer of “Good.”

I developed a cross between the Spanish Inquisition and a choose-your-own adventure novel.

“Did you have art today or music?”

“Did you sit next to Peter or Luke?”

“Was your teacher in a good mood or grouchy?”

My hope was that it would eventually trigger release of some whisker of a detail, which might lead to an actual conversation. There’s a new kid in the class, I don’t like what we’re reading, we’re starting bowling or ping-pong in gym class. Whatever. Anything! Just give me a hint! Usually whatever comment I would elicit would have to do with something that happened three days ago. Or last year. And usually having to do with some stupid video game.

I know that brain of his is working, just not on my timetable.

Sigh.

When my Lovely Bride’s coworkers when they went out for drinks recently, one woman I met has two teenage sons. I latched on to this woman like white on rice. Eddie and I had been battling that day, and I unloaded it all on her and made her my therapist. Her boys fix their own lunches and do their own laundry. Her mission as their mother, she said, was to equip them with life skills. That and a sense of embarrassment and horror at the prospect of moving back in with mom after they finish college. Right on, sister!

Finally she asked me, why all the questions? How about for three days not asking him anything at all? Maybe he’ll start talking.

I told her I’m not sure I could do that.

I’m such a perfectionist/defeatist that I immediately put up obstacles in the form of even more questions.

Does that mean I don’t ask him if he wants to invite a friend over to play? Does he know where his shoes are? Did he make his bed? Take a bath or shower? Want to go to the library or pool? Prefer peas or green beans?

This week, Eddie is going to a half-day “Lego Stop-Action Moviemaking” camp at the local community college, and I’ve decided to apply the silent treatment to this one thing. He seemed pretty fired up when I dropped him off on the first day, so you’d think something that exciting would trigger some type of voluntary comment.

You’d be wrong.

I want to ask, who’s your partner? What’s your movie about? Do you need to bring a video camera? What’s your counselor like? Is it fun? How many kids are in the class? Is the room hot or cold?

But I’m not.

And it’s killing me.

P.S. He did volunteer that he got a cinnamon roll for morning snack with the dollar I gave him.

Well, super.

Me Time Mayhem

I recently got a clue that a little husbandly communication would have gone a long way in my Lovely Bride’s and my dealings with our little litigator, as Eddie continues to test out when he can and can’t negotiate. We’re learning that we need to be specific in the extreme. And even then, our 9-year-old will look for a loophole. Especially when he disagrees with the fiat du jour. Or when he forgets, which happens a lot.

The latest tussle came after I had horse-traded for a couple hours to myself. My swim trunks predate the Obama presidency, and my sunglasses just broke again, so it was time for Daddy to go shopping. I sweetened the offer by offering to schlep the dog to the kennel before we leave for the beach.

After a surgical strike, I’m feeling pretty good. I swing by the house to fetch the dog and am met by my dripping wet, fully clothed 6-year-old daughter trailing wet footprints from the back door to the front. Eddie has just shot up the back of the house – and half the kitchen – with the garden hose set on turbo. And the moment my wife comes downstairs from packing, our daughter starts to cry.

We both wonder: what the hell?!

I’m alone with our children all the time, so I know what they’re capable of. They can wreck a place in an instant. A sandbox sojourn can turn into sand on the scalp the minute you turn your back. Having been away from the little darlings for not quite two hours – aaaah, perspective – I can actually see the humor in the mess.

If only I had told my Lovely Bride about the new rule with the hose. I skirt the kitchen puddle and bellow out a soaked back door to Eddie:

“Children are not allowed to touch the garden hose!”

“They’re not?” he asks.

“No! I told you this the other day!”

“But Da-aaaad, you said we could put water in the sandbox to make drip castles.”

“That’s right, but let me clarify: Children are not allowed to touch the garden hose under any circumstances. Whatsoever.”

 That ought to cover it, right?

“Now get up here on the back porch and sit until I decide what to do with you.”

Then I turn to Carla, still dripping wet by the front door. It seems that she had told her brother he could squirt her. Turns out she didn’t like getting squirted in the head.

I can see how squirting turbo into the sand might be fun. Squirting your sister in the eyes might not. But who’s to say?

Lovely Bride gives Carla a dog towel and tells her to start wiping up. But Carla falls to pieces because of the Catch-22: in wiping up the footprints, she’ll get the floor even wetter. Ugh, details. I peel her down to undies and tell her for the thirty-seventh time: get on hands and knees and start wiping.

As for the hose: a neighbor kid unrolled it at least three times the other day, and then he and Eddie took turns blasting it into the sandbox. Who doesn’t love a roiling river of sand flowing down our sidewalk, but I thought that I was pretty clear that day about kiddos not using the hose. Forcing the kids to use the rainwater barrel would slow things down and give them a limited supply. But either Eddie disagreed on the hose business or he just plain forgot. Because he disagreed.

I realized I was in trouble on two points.

  1. The Rainwater Barrel Edict had not yet been tested on the Mud Pit, which is our tiny, parentally sanctioned patch of muddy summer goodness. I firmly believe that kids need mud. But I’m also a control freak, so they only can have mud in the designated zone. Until now, however, nobody had used the Mud Pit yet this year.
  2. I had failed to mention the new Hose Rule to my Lovely Bride.

Now onto the punishment phase. I keep reading that punishments should be relevant and timely. My wife was so hacked off with the kiddos, I thought she was going to rip their heads off.

“Early bedtime for you, Eddie!” Lovely said. “7:30!”

“But Carla told me to squirt her!” he whined.

Ugh. Sometimes I just want to knock their two little heads together. I chivalrously offered to drag Eddie and Carla along on the 30-mile drive to the kennel, hoping it would buy me time to think of a suitable punishment.

Then it hit me:

“Eddie, you have to wipe down the back door, too,” I told him. “And when we get back from the kennel, you have to wash all the downstairs windows. For free.”

We live in a rowhouse, so we have two windows in the front and two in the back, plus one in the kitchen. Not the worst punishment ever, but at least it fits the crime. Window washing is one of Eddie’s optional paid jobs, so I figured we’d hit him where it hurts: the wallet.

Timely and relevant.

No more calls please, we have a WINNER!

Summer Fun? Or, I’m Done!

One reason I’m an at-home dad is so I can give my children the summers that my parents gave me. Until I was a teenager, that meant a whole lot of nothing. Not a lot of camps and classes and scheduled activity. The more I think back, however, the more I recall being really bored as a kid and whining about it a lot.

Loudly.

This year, we go to the beach for 10 days. Then Eddie has two half-day camps: a week of design-your-own-video-game camp at the local community college plus a week of football skills camp that started today. (My average-sized, bespectacled 9-year-old’s puppy-like enthusiasm for football is worth of an entirely separate blog post.) I’ve signed both kids up for swim team for the first time – cross your fingers on that. As for Carla, all she gets is Camp Backyard Sandbox and assorted playdates. She’s 6, and she can knock out an hour by herself with a box of sidewalk chalk. She doesn’t need lots of plans.

Then school starts Aug. 26. Poof! Only eleven short weeks of summer, right?

I guess I’ve gotten spoiled with having both children in school all day, finally. And I’m realizing that I’m not going to have four whole seconds alone for the next three months.

I feel like I’m walking into a trap.

Part of me can’t wait for summer. The kids and I are going to turn our pergola into a playhouse. We’re going to explore museums – they still talk about a D.C. museum day we did in September. And there are county parks we’ve never visited.

We’re going to hang with the local at-home-dads group so I can gab with my brothers-in-arms while kids run amok on a playground. We’re going to reorganize Carla’s tiny room from dollbaby dumping ground into photo-shoot-ready sanctuary of organization. (Really, all I want is to be able to say, “Put away your crayons or hair clips or doll clothes” and she actually knows where the spot is.)

Doing all this, however, takes planning and organization on my part. It’s much less work just to neglect the children and ignore their bored cries. (Dear Children’s and Family Services Department, just kidding!)

Tell me my 6-year-old is not a practicing Wiccan.

In contradiction to all this busyness, however, I set as my goal that my children will achieve boredom. That they won’t be so loaded up with schlepping and activities that summer doesn’t actually feel like a break. That they have the time to make their own play and to make it independently, like when Eddie works on his “box structure,” which grows in his room with the aid of duct tape and glue and looks like a high-rise shanty for the Keebler elves. Or when Carla spends an hour arranging her legion of stuffed animals and headbands for what I’m sure is not a séance but is more like story time at the library.

Ah, the fabled living room fort. Nothing but executive functiony, bored summertimey goodness.

Or for the two kids to have time to build a living-room sized fort out of king-sized sheets from my dead grandmother and exercise mats I found on the street.

Of course all Eddie wants is more screen time, while for him I want less. My Lovely Bride and I set a one-hour-a-day limit for Wii, computer and screens of all types. With more than that, and Eddie curls into a ball and gets really grouchy. Okay, that only really happens with more than three hours of Wii, but this is a power struggle that I intend to win.

And what I want is to have cheerful children who willingly clean up after themselves and don’t undo my work – laundry, picking up, cooking, straightening the electronics/batteries drawer  – within minutes of its completion. Or just not to descend into the Land of Idawanna.

As in: “Eddie, if you finish moving your box structure to that new table I got you, you’ll have more space in your room.”

Eddie: “But Da-aaaad, Idawanna. And are you done with the computer yet?”

I can dream, can’t I?

Working Father

Just look how happy these two kiddos are. You Working Mothers want a few tips?

Dear Working Mother magazine,

Men are not stupid.

Your current issue’s “10 Lessons from Working Dads” touts many benefits of parenting like a dad, which doesn’t mean things automatically devolve into “Lord of the Flies.” But your “Still, Moms Rule” list further perpetuates the myth of men as incompetent caregivers.

You go for the cheap laugh when you assume men can’t remember to put lunchmeat in their kids’ lunches. And that we don’t know how to do housework, set up a playdate or put anything away. And if you think we would rather check sports scores than hear our kids talk about how their day went, you’re dead wrong.

Nearly 30 years ago in “Mr. Mom,” Michael Keaton learned how to operate a vacuum cleaner and get supper on the table. He even thwarted an oversexed Ann Jillian. In my eight years as an at-home dad, even I – once dubbed Captain Clueless by my Lovely Bride of 14 years – have figured a few things out.

Give us dads a little credit.

* A trip to the park involves logistics. That must be why it took me an hour and a half when I had an infant and toddler to get out the door to the park that’s three minutes away. It was probably because I was diapering and feeding and packing a bag with 18 changes of clothes. Seems like small potatoes compared with packing myself, my children and sometimes even my wife for a family vacation. Would you like to see my one-page checklist?

* Shirts and pants need to match. The nice ladies at the post office think they’re being helpful when they point out that my daughter’s shoes are on the wrong feet. Did they ask if she put them on all by herself? And I choose my battles with my 9-year-old son. Just today, I forced his favorite shirt into retirement when he couldn’t see that it has nine stains on it and isn’t suitable to wear to school. Most other days, however, if it’s clean and he’s dressed in time for school, we all win.

* Enter it in the family calendar. A year-at-a-glance wall calendar, which brings me calm but makes my wife twitch, keeps it all in line in our family. Sleepover on Friday? Check. Haircut on the 4th? Got it. And now that we use the online family calendar Cozi, I know when my wife is working late, and she knows that swim class in on Mondays.

* Mom is the reason our family stays organized. Unless Dad is an organization freak. I’m the one who alphabetized our spice rack, cleaned out the basement closet and is devising a room-sized storage solution for the jelly-bean-colored explosion that is our daughter’s not-quite 8-by-10 bedroom.

* A leftover hot dog bun and beef jerky are not a real lunch. Have you seen what passes as food in the school cafeteria these days? Better to pack your own. Throw in a piece of fruit, some milk and a picky child, and that bun-and-jerky sandwich just might avert malnutrition and protective services at the same time.

*That work meeting is way less important than chaperoning the field trip. This must be why my wife loves going on our kids’ field trips.

* A clean house is sexy. This you got right. Now I’ve got to go clean mine before my Lovely Bride gets home.

So Weird: Business Trip

ST. LOUIS—I listed which kid was playing when with which friend after school. I loaded the dishwasher, finished the laundry, prepped menus and set meat out to thaw. I set the rice maker and walked the dog. Then I grabbed my suitcase and headed to the airport for my first business trip since the Clinton administration.

It feels really really weird.

I’m at the annual conference of the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, a k a NICAR, and I’m away from home for five days. I flew on a plane by myself and didn’t have to take anyone else to the bathroom or retrieve impossible-to-reach dropped crayons off the airplane floor. My Lovely Bride has all the info on where I am, but really, nobody knows where I am.

It’s starting to make me twitchy.

When I was a newspaper reporter in New Jersey in the late 90s, there was a woman who would swoop in a couple times a year with some big story that would mobilize the whole newsroom and make the rest of us drop our work to help with hers. She would glean these A1 Sunday prizewinners from public records and spreadsheets that no one else knew how to handle. I remember puzzling over why she couldn’t come to work each day like the rest of us, and why she wasn’t working on a story for today, tomorrow and Sunday.

“What is her problem?” I wondered.

I realized years later that she was doing two things: making herself invaluable (on her own schedule) and probably raising a family at the same time.

I no longer misunderstood her. I wanted to be her.

I figured out that she used computer-assisted reporting to massage piles of data to find big stories – stuff that daily reporters don’t usually have time for. When she found that whitebread Morris County, N.J., was a serious heroin destination, our paper explored how it got there (I visited Newark Airport and wrote about drug mules) and profiled all the county residents who overdosed.

I knew this NICAR conference was the way to learn how to get started, so I shelled out for the plane ticket, the hotel and the conference.

My Lovely Bride has been hugely supportive of the whole thing. No, she said, I don’t have to pay for it out of my savings. Her lawyerly training worked in my favor when she invoked what she calls the “but-for test.” But for this professional training, I wouldn’t incur these expenses. In my mind, I justified paying for the conference with my November USA Today piece and last month’s article in The Baltimore Sun. (Dear Tribune Co., Now’s a good time to send the check for that one.)

One presenter talked about how he used public records to investigate a grass-roots group that supported a local utility’s new power line in its Southwestern Virginia community. (The reporter actually stood under the line and held up a light bulb – it lit up from the random electricity floating through the air. Yikes.) He found that, ironically, the local Sierra Club president also led the grass-roots power-line group. And that his PR firm worked for the utility that put up the power line. And that the power company actually set up the fake grass-roots group.

Gotcha! They were all in bed together!

That’s the kind of reporting that makes me twitch, but in a good way. I want to commit acts of journalism to help right wrongs and shed light in dark corners. But it took the reporter months and months to put it all together. And I don’t have months and months. I have laundry to fold. Things to do.

My jealous-o-meter started to go crazy as the guy told how he had reported this story in the late 90s at the Roanoke, Va., paper that had rejected me for an internship. He went on to The Star-Tribune in Minneapolis and then The New York Times’ Washington bureau.

I could have done that, too! What have I been doing for the past eight years?

Oh right, raising my children.

I decided long ago that being married was more important to me than being a great reporter. I just had to remember that. I figure the power line reporter spends way less time with his kiddos, if he has any, than I do with mine. I love good journalism, but not at the expense of my family. I guess I’m not that ambitious after all.

I started to react the same way you might during an internship or summer job that makes you realize you actually don’t want to do that kind of work. The amount of information at this conference is overwhelming. Maybe this isn’t for me.

But one presenter said to start with a stupid story, like what’s the most popular dog breed in your city, which you can find by nagging for a database of pet-license records. And you can find all the owners’ names and phone numbers in the licensing data so you can call them up. Reporters hate pet stories, but readers Eat. That. Stuff. Up. And you can run cute dog pictures.

Or you can get the electronic records from when judges swipe passes to enter and exit the court parking garage and find out how many hours they actually work. Confirm or dispel the perception that they don’t even work bankers’ hours.

So maybe it’s a while until I use federal workplace injury data to show that (made-up example) inadequate safety inspections are contributing to deaths among Baltimore emergency room employees and utility line workers.

But ya gotta start somewhere.

I can go up the Gateway Arch Whenever. I. Want. To.

In the meantime, I get to sit in a room with a bunch of reporters and soak up all their smarty reporter energy. Plus, I get to enjoy a few days where somebody else makes the bed. I can read a book uninterrupted, and I can take the tram up the trademark Gateway Arch whenever I want to.

P.S. Heartfelt thanks to the Gideons of St. Louis for helping me enjoy a beer without using a bottlecap opener by resting it against the door lock and giving it a few swift whacks with a Bible, which happens to be a good read.

Mount *%^$^& Washmore

Sometimes it’s a good thing that doing the laundry is the crowning achievement of my day.

Like today when I spent the bulk of the day procrastinating looking for my $&*@*!^% debit card, which I haven’t seen for four days. Ditto the credit card.

Poof! Gone.

It’s unlikely it was stolen. I last used it (according to my bank) Friday morning before the men’s Bible study I attend each week when I bought a $1.99 tub of dried dates for a make-ahead oatmeal recipe at the Giant across the parking lot from the Panera where the Bible study meets. Or maybe the last time I used it was when I made this month’s charitable donation to the Maryland Food Bank. (We’re trying to give x per month over the whole year to spread out the financial hit that comes from writing a bunch of checks at the end of the year.) I looked all over the my desk, where I spent the past two weeks on some paid work. Twice.

I’ve stood on my head to look all over the car, but maybe looking at night isn’t the best approach, so I looked all through the stupid glove box and under the seats and in the console. I looked in every one of my coat pockets, twice, and threw them on the floor in anger. I cleaned off my bureau and nightstand and went through my catch-all basket. I even pulled up the sofa cushions and looked there. I went thru all the reusable shopping bags in the back of my car in case I dropped it down in one of them.

Can I mention how I capital-h Hate looking for things? And that I have to put on such a front when I tell the children things like, “Sometimes you have to look more than once” when they can’t find things that are within arm’s reach. Even if you already looked there.

Meanwhile, I procrastinated by decommissioning my compost bin and stuffing steel wool down the holes that I think rats have made and then breaking up up and mashing down the soil as recommended by a friend at the end of the neighborhood that really has a rat problem I cut a piece of leftover basement shower wall to go in the kitchen cabinet shelf where the flour and shortening and honey have made the shelf sticky (to make for easier wiping and to prevent damage to the shelf from leaks) and I’ve put away socks and laundry and cleaned up the kitchen. I’ve gone through all the Christmas cards on the back of the piano and made a big stack for Lovely Bride’s approval to toss, storing the rest in the Christmas boxes and updated the bulletin board by the back door where we put all the holiday card photos.

I even made pie crust for scratch to use up some leftover ham in a quiche.

This is some serious procrastination.

Then I prayed to my Lovely Bride:

O Dear and Loving SuperFinder, Please use your powers from afar and tell me where I’ve stashed these fool cards!!!

I finally gave up and accepted my lot in life of being capable only of arranging playdates and doing laundry. Felt something squarish in the back pocket of jeans I wore a week ago. Well, look! @&($&%& debit card!

Now I have 90 minutes to return overdue library books and do the week’s grocery shopping.

And there goes my whole freaking day.