Every evening since the start of summer vacation, after clearing the dinner dishes and getting my family settled in front of the television with snacks, I have retreated to a quiet room on the other side of the house where I attempt to read. I usually make it through at least a couple of paragraphs before I am overcome by a feeling of deep fatigue that forces me to put the book aside and lie there listening to the trickling water of my son’s aquarium, waiting for bedtime, theirs and mine.
I remember my son’s pediatrician once saying, “Tired isn’t sleepy.”
Not exactly. I have come to the conclusion that I am suffering from a condition I can only describe as Pool Tired.
Almost every day since the beginning of summer vacation, I have taken the kids to meet some of our friends and do an activity that more often than not requires me to bring along drinks and snacks, towels, sunscreen, bathing suits and a change of clothing for everyone. Yesterday, we were going to a birthday party, so in addition to the items I just mentioned, I also wanted to bring a gift and some cupcakes.
Now wait, you say, it was someone else’s birthday. You bring the gift; they bring the cupcakes. OK, but my daughter has all these food allergies, so sometimes I like to bring my own egg and dairy-free cupcakes. Yesterday I got up at 6 a.m. and started making chocolate cupcakes from scratch using a special cookbook written for parents of kids with allergies.
I have yet to make icing that tastes better than Betty Crocker’s, and while a jar of store-bought icing contains all sorts of unsavory and unpronounceable ingredients, I can usually find some that does not contain milk or eggs. So yesterday I made the cupcakes and then I ran to the store to buy some icing. I also got a cupcake carrier, a purchase that has been a long-time coming since my son was born eight years ago. I guarantee I will use that cupcake carrier more than I used the recorder I bought last year when I was working as a newspaper reporter.
Finally, it was time to go to the party. The children were dressed and their sunscreen applied. The gift, drinks, towels and extra clothing were in the car. The icing was on the cupcakes.
It was about 90 degrees when we arrived at the park where the party was being held. As I carried my allergen-free cupcakes into the shelter, the lid fell off the carrier and the cupcakes fell on the concrete floor. Icing was displaced, but only one cupcake was truly ruined.
“Five second rule,” said one of the other moms as she scrambled to help me clean up the mess.
As I looked at my beautiful almost-from-scratch cupcakes with their white icing and patriotic red, white, and blue sprinkles, all shaken and sloppy from the fall, I thought briefly about having one of my tantrums, the same kind of tantrum I had a few weeks ago when a teenager working at an ice cream stand told me they had no non-dairy items on the menu. Not one single flavored ice or slushy. “I hate the world,” I declared. The teen stared at me helplessly.
But no, I decided. No tantrum today at my friend’s daughter’s birthday party. I am 36 years old.
The bakery cupcakes came out. The chocolate ice cream came out.
“Mommy, can I have it?” my daughter asked.
“Why not,” I said, thinking, what’s one more allergic flare-up? We’ll just throw back a little Benadryl when we get home. The world is made of dairy products. You thought the moon was made of cheese, but actually, so is Planet Earth.
I ate one of my almost-from-scratch patriotic allergen-free cupcakes and two of the pretty ones. Not surprisingly, the pink bakery cupcakes made with eggs and dairy were much tastier. I had some chocolate ice cream.
A thunderstorm moved in on us. Instead of putting on our bathing suits and wading in the river, the kids took turns beating a piñata under a shelter during the downpour. Then they went out into the rain and got soaked.
If you imagine this scene from a mother’s perspective, you might begin to understand the term Pool Tired. It applies not just to the feeling you get after hours of watching your kids splash around in a pool with their friends, but also after a day of baking and eating cupcakes, pushing kids on a tire swing, and helping to oversee a group of young children hitting a giant papier-mache princess with a baseball bat until she explodes, sending enormous amounts of candy onto a concrete floor and into the mud.
But look at it from a kid’s point-of-view. What could be more fun than eating cupcakes, getting soaked with friends in a spontaneous downpour, and diving for lollipops, Tootsie Rolls and Jolly Ranchers?
My goal today is to make nothing from scratch.
I have a fortune from inside a cookie taped beside my computer. It says, “You are a lover of words someday you will write a book.”
My husband asked if I had noticed the run-on sentence.
“No,” I said. “I noticed one of the kids scribbled all over the paper.”
“Are you saying we ruined your fortune?” my son asked.
“You are my fortune,” I told him.
And it’s true, even in terms of the cookie’s prediction. Much of what I write about these days is inspired by my children.
Even though I am not going to bother making any more allergen-free cupcakes when we’re attending a birthday party, I would still recommend a cupcake carrier as a great gift for any new mom. A cupcake carrier and a supply of baby sunscreen, for sensitive skin.