a new leash on life
2016 ended the way it began: hellishly. I think it was determined to kill me off while it still had the chance. I woke up NYE to Gracie uncharacteristically screaming in her crib while James showered because he had to work a full day. The screaming and crying continued all day, because teething is wreaking havoc on our lives, and also because she's been in full toddler mode lately. I asked her if she was hungry for dinner the other night, and before I knew it she was on the floor kicking and screaming and yelling "NO!" It is beyond me how a child with my DNA could have that sort of reaction to the offer of food, but the poor girl was having a rough week. Not to mention, the cat pooped all over the floor, my glasses broke, I sliced my finger open, knocked a bin of ornaments over while taking the tree down and broke them, spilled yogurt all over my laptop, and so on. And that was just before lunch. Gracie wasn't the only one crying on Saturday.
This wouldn't have been as much of a disaster if I hadn't just had a string of similar days.
As sad as I was to leave Iowa, I was really looking forward to coming home and putting the Christmas decorations away, cleaning, doing a little redecorating, and organizing Gracie's toys. I was craving cleanliness and a breath of fresh air. I had grand plans and plenty of Christmas candy to fuel me on. We went to Walmart on Wednesday to buy diapers, and I decided to check out the Christmas clearance. Every year I tell myself I'm going to stock up on wrapping paper when it's dirt cheap, but for some reason it never happens. This year, I was determined to be proactive since I used up most of my wrapping paper stash. I bought 5 rolls for a grand total of $3. I also found a candle on clearance that smelled of sugared maple leaves (is that a thing?) and evergreen. Despite the strange name, it smelled heavenly. I put it in my cart.
If only I had known.
It was a cheap candle, but it rang up at full price, even though it was supposed to be 50% off. If Gracie hadn't been on the verge of a lunchtime meltdown, I would've talked to someone about it, but it smelled so good I didn't care. When we got home, I opened the trunk to pull the wrapping paper out. Instead, the candle went crashing down on the asphalt and rolled through the parking lot, leaving a trail of glass shards. I picked it up, brought it inside, and figured it was still usable. I set it on a plate to catch any stray wax, and I lit it that evening.
I went to blow it out, and it did something no other candle of mine has ever done. As I blew on it, a giant pool of hot wax sprayed all over the white wall, the furniture, and the floor. Everything in sight was covered in dark green wax. I spent the rest of the evening scraping up wax with a spatula and put that demonic candle where it belonged: the trash can.
On Friday, I ran into Target with a list of things I needed. I decided I would treat myself to a coffee, and I waited 20 minutes for the rude barista to make my latte. Gracie was over the cart by the time I got my coffee and wanted to walk. I let her walk and hold my hand, awkwardly trying to push the cart with one hand while trying not to knock over my coffee haphazardly held in place by a white tabletop Christmas tree marked down to $2 (glory). She gave up on walking after three minutes and wanted to be held. I held her until I could hold her no longer, and that's when all hell broke loose.
I suddenly became THAT mom at Target with the tantruming toddler. The mom people write flowery articles about and open letters to. That was me. She went ramrod straight every time I tried to put her in the cart. My arms were aching and I couldn't hold her any longer. She refused to walk. She threw herself on the floor screaming and flailing. She had never been this unruly in public before. It happens to every mom, but this was the first time for me My face was burning and I was drenched in nervous sweat. I hauled her to the checkout counter to buy that Christmas tree and nothing that was on my list of needs. She was momentarily appeased by the sticker the cashier gave her, but when I went to put her coat on, it started all over again. I found myself near the doors, trying to force a coat on my wailing daughter, and since my emotions were already on thin ice, I gave in and burst into tears too. An older mom walked up to me and told me to hang in there and that she was on my team. I felt like I was living one of those articles on the internet, and it made me cry even harder because it sucked, but also because I really loved that woman for encouraging me when I needed it most.
We walked out to the car, past the giant red Target balls, to which Gracie screamed "blue balls! blue balls!" The tantrums started again when I wouldn't let her climb on them. The last thing we needed was more germs, especially after the girl in the Starbucks line looked like she had chicken pox. On the way to the car, I realized I couldn't find the keys. I searched for 10 minutes in the whipping 20 degree wind with tears rolling down my face while trying to keep Gracie from walking into the street. I finally found them in the pocket of the coat I had been too distracted to put on. Once we got home, I spilled what was left of my coffee in the parking lot.
I swore right then and there to never leave the house with her again.
But back to New Year's Eve. There had been a small glimmer of hope that James might get off work early. Not only did he not get off early, but he called me 15 minutes after he got off to tell me that he was stranded with a flat tire. Not only did he have a flat tire, but it was raining, and his jack broke.
We rescued him, and once Gracie was in bed, we drowned our bad day sorrows in tortilla roll ups, hot artichoke dip, homemade chex mix, chocolate chip cookies, a roaring fire, and How I Met Your Mother. It was perfect. After too many NYEs gone wrong in high school and college, I vowed to forever stay home in my pajamas and eat good food instead of going to a party. So far, I have yet to be disappointed.
The only downside was when I went to take my 2016 calendar off the wall. It wound up falling and scraping my nose. Last year literally and figuratively attacked me.
New Years Day was warm and glorious. After calling roadside assistance to help with the flat tire, we took our toddler who refused to nap to the mall to continue our tradition of browsing the sales. We got iced coffees, bought a pair of llama socks, and Gracie had the time of her life toddling all over the place, her little Pooh Bear swinging in her hand. She finally realized how much freedom she has now that she can walk, and she didn't want to be held, sit in the stroller, or hold our hands. She has a new lease on life, my friends, and she cannot and will not be stopped. My three miles on the treadmill that morning were no match against chasing her through a huge, crowded mall. The hours of walking and lack of nap caught up with her, and our trip to Target suddenly seemed so easy and silly. It was bad, it was so bad. James was with me, so at least I was able to laugh instead of cry as we ran to the car as fast as we could with everyone in a 5 mile radius staring at us. It's one of those stories she'll be hearing about the rest of her life, just like my mom still tells me about my public tantrums.
New year, new phase of life.
So far, 2017 has been lightyears better than 2016, tantrums and all. I feel so liberated. Nothing changed, but no longer being under the yoke of 2016 feels incredible, and we had a good day as a family after a string of very hard ones. I hope that's indicative of the year to come. I love watching Gracie thrive and flourish into a little girl. But if this day was any indication, we're both going to need a lot of naps.
And maybe a toddler leash. They used to horrify me, but you guys, I get it now.
Toddlers are a lot like that candle smelling of sugared maple leaves--they're cute and charming at first, but if not properly contained, they leave trails of destruction.