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The Tale of the Purple Mary Janes

I’m a practical mom. I believe in the value of Tickle-Me-Elmo, taking long strolls in the park with juice boxes, and in the occasional time-out for screaming toddlers. So when I decided that fateful day to take my three small children to an arts and crafts store to purchase crayons and construction paper, I was out of my element. After all, what’s practical about dragging three kids with you to any type of store?

I pondered this question for a split second, and then decided that I needed the human contact. I’d just had my third baby—another adorable princess—and I was tired of being sequestered in the house with three children and no crayons. I put my anxiety on hold, popped the kids in the mini van, and headed off for our journey together. The baby slept in her carrier, my toddler sang to her favorite Elmo CD, and my big girl asked for the tenth time if she could get a treat. Yes, life was good, I decided, and it could only get better.

Logistically, I’d forgotten the challenge of now having three children and one shopping cart. But despite the protests, I managed to persuade my toddler to ride in the basket after promising her she could buy her own box of crayons. Life was good again.

We perused the aisles quickly as the baby slept. Every so often, I’d hear my big girl ask for something, anything, and I’d briskly tell her to wait until we got to the crayon isle. I figured that if I could just make it to my destination—that glorious, wonderful sanctuary in the land of Crayola—I’d achieve an enormous feat. I’m a practical mom, I reasoned. I can do this.

Suddenly, as I was rounding the corner to the Crayola mecca, I heard something that no practical mother wants to hear. A piercing scream erupted from the inner lair of my basket. It was the kind of scream that instantly reminds moms that chaos can ensue at any moment. And it did. My toddler, once again, had out-smarted me. Somehow, someway, she had gotten hold of a bottle of blue paint, managed to rip off the protective plasic, and spilled it onto her lap—and everywhere else for that matter. Let me just say that this was no ordinary blue paint either. It wasn’t the glorious washable kind. It wasn’t the magnificent spray-and-wash kind. It wasn’t even the it-may-leave-a-small-unnoticeable-stain kind. It was the worst kind. Permanent. And it was in the worst place ... all over her.

She was completely covered from head to toe. Her hair looked like a blueberry muffin, her face streaked with war-paint, her clothing had turned from bright pink to blue, and her shoes—those expensive, not-on-sale, Stride Rite pink Mary Janes—were now coated with a warm hue of blue.

For a brief moment, I stood there in shock. Then reality gave me a harsh slap in the face as my big girl reminded me that the paint was dripping everywhere and my newborn was now screaming from the horror of her sister turned into a blueberry. To top it off, a large number of bystanders had gathered around us just waiting to see if I could remain a practical mom. As I recall there were a lot of four-letter words crashing around in my head—and “practical” wasn’t one of them.

I scooped up my screaming toddler in one arm, plugged my baby with her binkie, and headed for the women’s bathroom, leaving a puzzled big girl and trail of blue paint behind me. Once inside the safe haven of the bathroom, I stripped my toddler of her clothing and blue diaper, calmed my big girl who was now scared that her little sister was forever going to be dyed blue, and tried to collect my sanity. I glanced at myself in the oversized mirror as I held my naked toddler on my hip. My hair was tussled and mangled from the struggle. My brand new designer purse—the only one I’ve ever owned—was now sprinkled with periwinkle. For the first time I noticed that I no longer had my youthful figure. Curves replaced my pre-baby flat stomach. And my mascara was gently, yet gracefully, smeared along the edges of my tired brown eyes. As I stood there pondering how my life had suddenly gotten this out of control, I felt a tug on the painted pocket of my jeans. My eldest looked up at me, in all of my mess and glory, with a small pack of crayons in her hand. “Mommy,” she said in a tiny voice, “I found these. Can we buy them now?”

I looked at her small hands grasping the pack of crayons, holding onto them with all of her might. I felt the weight of my toddler’s naked bottom against my hip. She was calm in my arms and still wearing her favorite pink Mary Janes. I glanced over at my newborn daughter, sucking contently on her pacifier. And suddenly, life was good again.

“Of course,” I answered. “Let’s get outta here.” I smiled at them—my little girls. And then I laughed through my tears at the absurdity of it all. Here I was, with a naked blue toddler, a tiny newborn, and an eager daughter waiting patiently for a box of Crayolas. Really, does life get any better than this?

As we made our way to the register, onlookers took notice. In retrospect, I suppose we looked like aliens all four of us marching like a deep blue ocean wave determined to reach the shore. I plopped my naked toddler on the counter and reached for my wallet. The cashier stared without saying a word. I didn’t feel like explaining. The crayons were purchased—sweet success at last.

As we left the store my toddler glanced up at me, her dried tears gently staining her cheek. “I’m so sorry, Mommy,” she softly said. “But I like my new shoes.” New shoes? I thought. I peered down over my hip at her Mary Janes. “Purple,” she stated as fact. “Purple is my favorite color.” Sure enough. The blue paint mixed with the pink canvas created a beautiful hue of majestic purple. The shoes had turned from ordinary to unique.

“They’re pretty, sweetie,” I said cracking a smile. And very practical.

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