Today marks the NINTH school day my kids have missed this year due to crappy Midwest weather. Mother Nature and Elsa have teamed up and turned flyover country into an icy, snowy tundra multiple times this year. While I don’t mind a snow day or two, eight of these nine snow days have occurred while my husband has been recovering from a pretty significant Achilles surgery…which means there are 4 people in this house that require me to DO ALL THE THINGS so that no one starves and teeth get brushed and kids get to their activities.
I work from home most of the time for a reason: I don’t like to be around people. Just kidding, mostly. The truth is, working from home ensures that I will be able to perform my responsibilities for my clients relatively distraction free, for 7 hours each day. Snow days with the kids home are exactly like a regular school day…except the direct opposite. Suddenly, my very independent children can’t find anything, can’t think of anything to do, can’t be around each other without hitting/slapping/provoking/wrestling each other in some way.
Add in an extra person in the house who requires 24-hour care right now (love you, Babe!) and I can feel the walls of this house closing in like the Overlook Hotel.
Last week was been particularly overwhelming. Tuesday night I helped my oldest prepare his course list for high school and Wednesday I went to my first high school parent meeting—someone hold me. Thursday was Valentine’s Day, and while those two words alone bring up feelings of dread for the moms who are NOT posting Instagram pics of the Valentine boxes they made—um, their kids made—on Instagram, Valentine’s Day also happens to be my daughter’s and my dad’s birthdays. Gifts must be purchased, halls must be decked, cakes must be baked and parties must be planned. By me.
I’ll admit, I’ve been feeling pretty run down lately and attributed it to a cold or just not getting enough sleep. It’s gone on for about a week and by Thursday of last week I felt like total crap but really didn’t have time for that nonsense, so I pushed through Maryn’s birthday breakfast, meeting her for lunch at school, afternoon cake and presents with my parents, dinner, and another party at her basketball practice. I’m pretty sure that I said exactly zero complete sentences to anyone at basketball practice. I was toast by that point. I would discover later in the week that I had pneumonia, oops.
I spent the night coughing so hard I’m pretty sure I knocked a rib loose, only to be awakened at 5am on Friday morning by the sound of my phone buzzing on my nightstand. Another. Freaking. Snow day.
Jim had a doctor’s appointment that morning at 9, and although we got to the office early the snow was already coming down. The parking lot was full, so I drove Jim to the drop-off circle. Now, I have to restate that we were at orthopedic clinic and people are damaged and obviously have mobility issues. However, this did not phase the 3 cars that decided to park IN THE DROP OFF CIRCLE, turn off their cars and abandon them. Jim hobbled out of the car into the street and after about 5 minutes I joined him inside.
By the time we got out of the appointment, snow had covered the parking lot and at least an inch of my SUV. I swept off the snow, went to pick up Jim—but not in the drop-off lane, because THERE WERE STILL CARS PARKED THERE WITH NO ONE IN THEM. Anyway, we headed to Target to stock the pantry and the fridge before snomageddon rendered us home bound…for the third time in a month.
At Target, I realized that I would not be getting the bananas that were on my list.
I also realized I was having trouble breathing and getting lightheaded, and my cough was putting fear in the eyes of young mothers who happened to walk past me as they scrambled in their giant purses for vials of anti-bac gel.
However, after about an hour I was able to get most of what I needed, pushed the cart out into the snow-filled parking lot, loaded everything into the car and scraped off the ice and snow. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, Jim mentioned that he had called in an order at Chipotle and asked if I could go in and get it. Since I was the one in the car that wasn’t on crutches, I agreed.
Of course, the order had been misplaced and I spent the next 10 minutes trying not to hack up a lung on anyone’s burrito bowl.
After a final run through Freddy’s for the kids—because I knew I no longer had the strength to unload the car, put away the groceries AND fight the kids about lunch, I de-iced the car for the second time and we started home. And if you’re thinking “why didn’t you have your kids unload the car, put away the groceries and make lunch,” and your kids do this without any grumbling or need for supervision and don’t do it all with the speed of a land slug—well, I’ll bet your kids also had the most amazing Valentine’s Day boxes and this probably isn’t the blog post for you.
We made it home, the kids unloaded most of the stuff without breaking it, and I was FINALLY feeling like I might be able to sit for two seconds and maybe my head would stop spinning. Any mom knows that this moment is where, if this were a TV movie, the narrator would step in and say “and all seemed to be going well, until…” and then the ominous music comes on and they cut to commercial.
That’s when Maryn told me her crab was dead.
Let me bring you up to speed on our hermit crab situation.
We went to Gulf Shores over Christmas break with friends, and it was one of the most peaceful, fun vacations of my life. We didn’t venture more than 5 miles or so from our beach house, but on the rare occasions when we hit the “strip,” all the souvenir shops had live hermit crabs that were “FREE” with the purchase of a crappy plastic habitat that was the size of a shoebox with neon sand and a plastic palm tree. Maryn was obsessed with the hermit crabs. When I convinced her that we were not transporting them back 16 hours in the car, she said the words that strike fear and guilt in the hearts of parents everywhere:
“Well, then I’ll just ask for them for my birthday.”
Maryn’s birthday wasn’t far enough away from the trip to fade her desire for yet another exotic pet to add to our current list of 4-foot python, hedgehog, and rescue dog that thinks she’s human. And, honestly, they were kind of cute. So I spent an hour last week at Petco picking out two crabs (who knew they were social animals?) and learning how to be a #crabmom.
The night before her birthday I took the hermit crab palace out of my closet where they had been acclimating to their new surroundings, and set it up in Maryn’s room. The next morning, the crabs that I had been secretly referring to as Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega were renamed Ariel and Sebastian by a very happy and excited 8-year-old. And life was good.
Narrator: “And all seemed to be going well, until…”
I went up to Maryn’s room and found Ariel shell-side down, dead and crusty on top of her former home. I was thinking it was par for the freaking course for the day I’d had so far, and I picked up the crusty crab and shell.
And then I sneezed…and the dead crab goes flying off the shell…and there’s Ariel all cozy inside her shell, now in fresh new exoskeleton. No wonder she hadn’t been as active the past few days—probably felt like me wearing some of my jeans from a few years ago. I had no idea that crabs shed their coverings! Thanks for nothing, dude at Petco who never once mentioned that important detail. So Aerial went back in the crabitat and her old shell went into the trash. Done.
But whatever. The honest truth is that Sweet Jesus, I just couldn’t handle a dead birthday crab today. Nope, not at all.
This is the kind of stuff that no one tells you about when you’re a new parent. That one day you’ll be sick as a dog and spend the morning driving around in a snowstorm so your husband can get well and your kids can eat…just to finally make it home and sneeze the shell off your daughter’s not-dead hermit crab.
Later that night, I was Googling “Molting Hermit Crabs” (we have REALLY exciting Friday nights around here), and I discovered that the crab actually eats its old shell to get the nutrients it needs for the new one.
What fresh hell is this!?!
I dug the shell out of the trash, buried it with Ariel and said a prayer to the crab gods that the bit of barbecue sauce on the shell wouldn’t be fatal if swallowed. And sure enough, three days later…
You’d think that the shock and awe would have faded from our first encounter, but the second crab started molting the next day…and his ENTIRE CLAW FELL OFF!
I’m pretty sure that even in a house with a snake and a hedgehog that the crabs are the most ridiculous addition to our pet situation. I also think that God must have a pretty great sense of humor to create something that eats its own exoskeleton to grow another one. Ewwwww.
Here’s my takeaway from this encounter: choosing to truly love and care for someone, whether it’s a spouse or a child or a good friend, is not for the faint of heart. It is hard and messy and long and never-ending. Most of us are fumbling through circumstances we never thought we would find ourselves in, doing things we never thought we would do, saying things we never thought we would say. We find ourselves at the breaking point, and then we sometimes break wide open and keep going.
But sometimes, as shown by my crabby new friends, if we can look past the outgrown and ill-fitting shell of expectations and the way we thought things would be, we can see the true magic of what is and the beauty of something we didn’t even dream was possible…happening right before our eyes. We can see how the growing pains have actually created something we need to survive the next phase of our lives. And that’s pretty amazing.
I’m just glad we can learn from our growth…and not have to eat it.