I Have a Yesterday Neck.

This morning I woke up with a stiff neck. Not the kind associated with pride, but the kind that sent stabby knives all through my head, neck and shoulders if I tried to, you know, move.

"I must have slept on it wrong," I said to Wyatt, who was looking at me oddly when I kept grimacing for apparently no reason.

Then as I tried to let our shower's awesomely intense water pressure pound the pain out of me, I concluded that it wasn't a strange sleeping position that compelled my neck to call it quits. It was YESTERDAY.

Yesterday the kids woke up too early. Like they do EVERY morning. According to me. Because even though they might wake up at a totally normal time for small people, to me it's too early if I'm not already awake and showered and feeling in control. If I am wakened from one of my compelling story-dreams to a face two inches from mine screetch-whispering "MOM, CAN I HAVE A GRANOLA BAR/SHOW/SNACK/THING ON A HIGH SHELF," it freaks the living daylights out of me and sorta throws a kink in my groove that's a bit hard to shake in the morning.

I pulled myself out of bed and handed out Trader Joes granola bars. Heck, I thought. Have two! We'll call that 'first breakfast'. Afterward, I wiped little fingers and mouths. I wiped little bums and changed a little diaper. I tugged shirts and pants over wiggly limbs. I got paper and markers, the ipad, etc. down for little explorers. I put the baby down for his morning nap (the sibs always wake him up before he's ready, and he relishes an extra hour or two every morning post-breakfast).

Then I crawled back into bed next to my man and promptly fell back asleep. This time I dreamed of spies in a mountain safehouse.

Needless to say, it took me a while to get going. But we had an errand. We were dangerously low on wipes, and had only one more day's supply of diapers. I wanted to go to Target, anyway, to pick up one last item on a certain Christmas List - and even though the idea of going to a place like Target this close to Christmas, and the idea of trying to stealth purchase items for little gremlins with big eyes made me feel tired inside, I put on the Mantra of living in The City:

No Choice.

The kids were as resistant as I felt. After enduring more than a few crying fits, tugging little socks on to refusing feet (and tugging them on again and again after frustrated hands yanked them off again), getting everyone (including myself) booted and coated up, getting Hank into the stroller, the diaper bag onto my back, Wyatt onto his Scooter, and Nacky into the little make-shift nest rigged beneath the stroller, I was tired, panting, sweaty and really wishing that diapers and wipes were not a complete necessity in my current life.

I checked the clock.

It had taken us 45 minutes just to get out the door.

I'd had worse.

We walked to the 1, walked through the intensely long tunnel (making note of the new graffiti "decorating" the peeling walls), and into the terminal.

We slowly thumped our way down the stairs (I say, "Daph, stairs!" and she grabs her head to protect it from bonking on the frame of the stroller as we jolt down the steps). Half way down, I hear our train arriving. We were right at that sweet-spot of a place where it could go either way for us. If we got down the last of the stairs without incident, we might make the train! If someone freaked out or if legs got caught on an awkward scooter, we'd miss it.

No big deal! New York has been a big lesson on letting things go.

But as we thumped down the last step, hurrying to see if we could make it, an older gentleman called out and motioned to the conductor to hold the train, he stood in the way of the sliding doors, and helped usher me and the kids on board.

This city. I tell yah.

We enjoyed the ride to the Bronx. This far north, the 1 is outside and elevated, so it feels like we're on top of the world, on a bridge that takes us over boated waters. Wyatt and Daphne love to look out the windows and shout out all the cool things they see.

Sometimes it's not received well by our train-car neighbors.

This time, everyone was delighted. The morning was saved, and we all exited the train in moods much improved.

We get off the train one stop too far for Target so we can use the elevator. Then we walk the five blocks down and three blocks over to get there because elevators are beautiful, glorious things when wrangling three small people with a bum shoulder.

The walk down was cold - but I zipped and gloved everyone for as much warmth as we could get in the biting breeze, and we plowed ahead. The nice thing about Daphne's spot beneath the stroller and Wyatt's scooter is that we can clip along at a pretty good pace.

Target was mayhem. The ornery chaos of it chipped slowly away at us, causing melt-downs, disobedience and general sick-of-it-ness. I saved the toy aisle for last to use as leverage. You don't run errands with three unpredictable tinies without learning a few things.

"Mom can I have this?"
"No, Wyatt."
"Mom, can we have dis fwoot hnacks?"
"No, Daph."
"Because we didn't come here for fruit snacks this time."
"Mom, can we get this?"
"Can we get licorice for the train?"
"No, Wyatt."
"Why not, Mom?"
".... Okay, we can get licorice if you can find it in the box."

Occupied children looking for licorice in a box while I sneaked some treats into my canvas non-see-through bag for secret hiding = totally worth a $1 box of red vines.

And I kinda miss the tradition of having licorice on the train.

Finally, the toy aisle.

About two minutes into it, we lost Wyatt. I called him calmly, moving along the outer edge of the aisles. I was patient. I knew he hated to be lost, and would be feeling anxious about it and nervous that I would be angry. I wouldn't be angry. But after two passes and still no Wyatt, my calling was less calm and my moving was quicker. He wasn't in the toy section.

He was genuinely lost!

I told Daphne to keep up, we were going to walk fast. She had to jog, poor thing, as I sped along the iasles nearby. Surely he hadn't gone far, and he'd circle back because he KNEW the rule for getting lost was to stay put and I would come find him. But he wasn't around - which meant that a) he was either freaking out and running around like a crazy, or b) he was in trouble.

I tried not to, but my mind went to places mothers minds go when their child is lost and we can't help but imagine the worst.

Then I saw his scruffy hair bobbing as he ran at the end of the baby aisle I was passing. "WYATT!" I barked in the unmistakably MINE way. He stopped short, his head jerked, his eyes snapped to mine. Relief flooded them as he ran toward me. Then I saw the panic. I knew that feeling - I had been there. He was worried he was going to get it. He knew he did something bad, and now that the danger was over, the consequences of The Mom would begin.

I smiled, trying to ease the torture he must have been feeling. He smiled back, thinly. His eyes were still edged with anxiety.

When he reached me I pulled him into my arms and laughingly said, "Wyatt, you scared me! I was scared!"

He looked up at me, not sure whether to smile or to cry (both fought for position on his face). "I'm sorry, Mom, I didn't mean to get lost."

"I know, buddy - but do you remember what you're supposed to do when you get lost?"

"I'm supposed to stay where I am - but I was scared because I didn't now you had left!"

"I understand, you got worried. But you still stay where you are because then I can find you faster. I was still in the toy section."

He nodded, and I think a valuable learning experience had taken place. Or maybe I should have yelled.

Anyway, we headed to the check-out. I tried to figure out how I'd let the cashier know to keep certain items hidden - Target employees in these parts are notoriously apathetic and decidedly un-helpful. I was hoping my adorable children would disarm the severe expressioned young lady, and that I might be able to joke my way into her cooperative heart.

She rolled her eyes and heaved a big sigh, but deftly moved items from one Trader Joes bag to another. Success.

But now we were all tired and exhausted. The kids begged me for food-court food. Giant pretzels! Popcorn! Blue slushee drink!

I held firm, citing that it wasn't real food, that it was actually disgusting, they just didn't know it, and that we'd go somewhere real for lunch.

They wimpered and whined all the way out to the street, where our now heavy laden stroller and three-kid load prompted several men next to their black cars to call out to us, "Taxi! Taxi!"

I wish.

I decided we'd attempt the Applebees next door. It was no Cafe Rio, but it wasn't McDonalds either.

We should have gone to McDonalds.

The kids' hot dogs were tough and dark on one side, like they had been over-nuked in a microwave. The fries were bland. But it was food, and felt good. The complaining ebbed. We were ready for the long trip home.

We were right by the subway stop - but we walked in the bitter afternoon cold for 20 minutes all the way back to the next stop with the elevator. We pushed the button.

Out of service.

The kids were freezing, tired, and not exactly 100% steady on stairs when they were in the best form. I lifted the back of the stroller, hefting it in my hands to gague my ability to pull it up three flights of narrow subway stairs to the platform above our heads. The 1 train raced by, mockingly.

For a moment, I considered it. But then I looked into the weary faces of my children and realized that it would take all my strength to get the heavy stroller (packed with all the Target loot) up those three flights of stiars - IF I could even lift it that far. I wouldn't be able to help Daphne navigate the stairs, and I knew she would panic and freeze up. Then we'd be stuck. With a very heavy stroller. Perched precariously mid-stairway. With people trying to get around us.

It just wasn't a good idea. It wasn't safe. Tough as I thought I was, I didn't feel it was within the bounds of my capabilities at that point. I just didn't think I could do it.

So we walked. All the way back to the first stop that we passed up in favor of the stupid broken elevator. 7 blocks.

Over the bridge back onto Manhattan. 5 blocks.

Ten more blocks...to the 207th stop, where there was another (working!) elevator that allowed us to ride the remaining 17 blocks to our stop off the A train (Oh, beloved A train! The kind and wise twin to the evil and dastardly 1 train!) - where there would be a glorious ramp and would be NO MORE STAIRS.

In celebration, I gave the children licorice. Even  Hank. A piece all to himself. I didn't even mind the staining red dribbles that began infiltrating his cheeks, chin, hands, coat, and stroller. He deserved it! What was a bath and some extra laundry after the unexpected and exhausting malfunctions of this day?!

We got off the A, and I remembered.

The ramp is on the other side. Northbound, not South.

I looked at those stairs and I screwed up my courage. I gave a pep talk to the kids that would have made even the greatest of sports coaches weep. And I yanked that freaking heavy stroller up those stairs one step after one impossible step.

When we reached the top (thank heavens!), my arm and leg muscles were trembling. I felt as though I had just run a hard five miles. Wile carrying a fifty pound flour sack.

Yes, I am THAT out of shape.

We joyfully (and painfully) walked the A tunnel to our street, and tumbled in an exhausted heap onto the couch of our apartment. We took off shoes and coats and washed hands by sheer force of will. Then I turned on a show and got everyone a snack.

It may have involved marshmallows.

I was pretty impressed with my kids. That was a LONG walk, and aside from the occasional wimper from the weariness or the cold, they accomplished it with the determination of a bunch of pioneer children, trudging along attached by frozen fingers to our bedraggled covered wagon-stroller.

They had adopted my New York Mantra:

No Choice.

And the understood subtext of: so quit complaining and make the most of it.

Then we fed the missionaries pizza, put the kids to bed and Bill and I sprawled upside-down on our bed and talked about how amazing this whole New York thing is for an hour or two.

And so the accumulation of the days events, I'm pretty sure, is why my neck hurts.

Or I may have slept on it wrong.


Diana Larson said...

So happy that another generation will be able to say that they trudged miles in the frozen weather uphill to get home! What an adventure you have had. I never would have thought that going to Target would be so strenuous. Bless you, my dear.

Jen said...

WOW! All for one trip to Target! You deserve the mom of the year award! I'm guessing that you're not really going to miss that part of New York when you move back? Good luck with the trip back and I hope you and your family have a safe and Merry Christmas!

Kristen said...

Okay, that made me tired just reading it.

That was my one complaint with the subway system... just a few elevators?? And I only had one baby in an umbrella stroller... so, um, you're pretty much amazing.