And So It Begins, Part 2 (How It Really Began)

Babyman started his new Pre-K the first Monday after our two-week family vacation in Tahoe.

Babyman is not fond of change or shake-ups to his routine.  He is, however, tremendously fond of family vacations in Tahoe.  It follows that shaking up his routine just as our Tahoe vacation came to an end was something less than popular.

We dedicated the ride home to hyper-enthusiastic Pre-K prep as only nervous parents can.  We stopped along the way to get a back-to-school outfit and, most importantly, a snazzy Cars 2 lunchbox.  The lunchbox, its utter coolness, its “I can’t wait to show the dudes” factor, would be enough to get Babyman psyched for Pre-K.  Yeah!

The new school means we now drop the kids off at two different locations, which means that there isn’t enough time for my husband to do both, as he always has on his way to work, which means that I now need to leave the house a full 20 minutes earlier each morning in order to get Babyman to school.

(If you have kids — or maybe even if you don’t — you know how easy it is to magically summon an extra 20 minutes in the morning.  Which is to say, it’s not remotely easy at all.)

So there we were, suffering from vacation’s-over blues, stampeding through that first Monday morning at a breakneck pace.  You would think, if I were an organized sort of mom (and I do try to be), that I might have done some lunch prep the night before to at least defray some of the stress.  But I didn’t.  Instead I relished the last hours of our vacation, watched the Olympics, and went to bed.  Monday can wait.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I went to pack the lunches and found that none of Babyman’s lunchbox containers, and none of his milk cups, fit in the lunchbox.  The lunchbox is too small.

It’s amazing, when I step back and think about it, the things I choose to totally freak out over.  I mean, I have a pretty big job (albeit at a fairly small organization), not to mention the wars and elections and the reality that someday my children will get on Facebook.

Even with all of these options before me, I chose the lunchbox.  First, I tried jamming it shut around the various milk cups.  I then woefully conceded I would have to use baggies — plastic bags!  landfill!  in a San Francisco lunchbox! — for most of the food.

But the milk!  What about the milk?

“Houston, we have a totally stressful problem!” I hollered at my husband as I hauled the kids back to their room to get dressed for the day.

“What is it?”

I am quite sure my response surprised him.  But he knows me well, so maybe not.

Me (desperate):  “The milk cups don’t fit.  I can’t send milk in the new lunchbox today.”
Him (reasonable):  “Well, he should have milk.  Can’t you just send the cup separately?”
Me (true):  “Everything has to be in the lunchbox.  That’s the policy.  No loosey-goosey bits.”
Him (reasonable):  “Then don’t use the new lunchbox.”


Me:  “Don’t use the lunchbox?!?!  Are you CRAZY?  It’s the New Pre-K Lunchbox.  It has the cast of Cars 2 on it!  Our other lunchboxes suck!  The lunchbox is the whole point!

Beep!  Beep!  Let’s back it up for a moment while I acknowledge, one week later, that obviously the lunchbox is not the point.  The lunchbox, in fact, is very much beside the point.  But as the clock ticked ever closer to 8am, and I continued to stand, paralyzed and unshowered, in front of the great lunchbox puzzle (my husband having wisely taken leave of the kitchen and his hysterical wife for the moment), I felt my grip on things slipping away.

Our vacation was over.  Babygirl had a sniffle and two teeth coming in and I’m scared to death of acetaminophen ever since the Tylenol recall and there was no way either of us could take time off during our first week back at work.  I had to leave the house 20 minutes earlier in the morning.  My commute home, incorporating the bus, two pick-ups, and the walk back to our apartment, would take no less than two hours.  Babyman was starting Pre-K, where he would most certainly nap and therefore stop falling asleep at night, and he’s turning four in two weeks and I still haven’t planned the party, and then he’s going to grow up even more.  And then someday my children will get on Facebook.

Oh my God, how am I going to pull this off?

It seems fitting that the lightbulb that went off in my brain at that moment was to check our emergency supplies.  Digging through the long-neglected earthquake kit in our hall closet (note to self: check expiration dates on canned beans and peanut butter), I located some mini water bottles.  Eureka.  I emptied the water from one, filled it with milk, and to my great relief tucked it into the lunchbox with a sparkly twisty straw.  I then gazed down at my work.

One bright-colored container, three baggies, a twisty straw and a year-old, slightly dented, Safeway-brand water bottle filled with milk.

There is a photograph on my phone from that first day, Babyman sitting on a wall in front of the new school, hand proudly resting on his Cars 2 lunchbox.  A rare smile for the camera.

Sometimes you do what works.  As a friend and fellow blogger once said: “I am your mother, and I am flawed.”

Don’t ask me what I’m wearing these days, because I got dressed 30 seconds flat after packing four lunchboxes.  And thank goodness for my new haircut, because I will clearly never have time to blow-dry again.

But we put on our shoes, and we push the elevator button and we go.  Lunchboxes in hand.



  1. Here's to flawed motherhood. At some point, maybe both children will attend the same school and maybe even be able to get themselves there on their own on the bus (because you live in a place with public transport). And I think Babyman's school should provide cold milk.

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