The Maw

The Maw

It was a clear, cool Saturday. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and my kids were napping. Bliss. Until my husband turned to me and said these terrifying words: “Have you seen the keys?”

For you see…I had not seen the keys. I had not seen the keys since I had come home from work the day before. I might have possibly heard the keys as they were thrown around the room by one of my toddlers, but no visual contact had been made.

This is a common problem in my household – between two kids who like to steal keys and two adults who are too lazy to stop their kids from stealing keys, we often find ourselves dropping our important activities (read: Netflix) and searching the house for the keys. Inevitably, we find them underneath a toy, or in a drawer, or any other location that only tiny people would think of.

But this day…oh, this day. This day was different. This day, the keys were not in any of our usual places. They were, in fact, nowhere to be found. We asked our two-year-old, fresh from his nap, where Mommy’s keys were, and he giggled and said, “Poo-poo.”

I looked at my husband. He nodded. “It’s time,” he said. “We need to enter The Maw.”

And I swear scary music played from somewhere overhead.

You see, our couch, which looks comfy and fluffy from the outside, is actually home to a deadly monster: The Maw.

You know of The Maw, too, don’t you? The Maw lives in homes across the world. It is a giant, terrible hole, deep inside the couch, where all happiness and lost items go to die. Your kids feed it Cheerios. Your dog feeds it socks. Your in-laws offer to vacuum it out, but you know better. You know better. The Maw must never be empty. If you don’t lose enough things in a week, The Maw grows angry, and you are forced to throw Cheeze-Its at it in order to pacify its desire for more fodder. If a wandering child brings a toy to the couch that is not at least the size of a cinder block, you know it must be sacrificed, lest we all be consumed.

When The Maw is happy, we never speak of it. We never speak to it. And we certainly don’t stick our hands down it and search for things.

But, alas, on this day, we knew what we had to do: We had to enter The Maw.

I gathered the kids around me. “Be brave, children,” I whispered as my husband approached the couch in the same way someone would approach a sensitive bomb or Britney Spears. He looked back at us one last time. Then he moved the couch cushions, took a deep breath, and plunged his hand into the gaping hole in our couch.

At first, nothing seemed to happen. Then the full power of The Maw was known.

“Are these…chocolate Goldfish crackers?” my husband asked, a horrified look in his eyes, buried up to his elbow in the couch. “Or…is it…poop?”

We decided it was crackers.

More and more things came flying out of The Maw. Cheerios, shoes, seven single socks with no mates, dignity, and substances of unknown origin were all there, mocking us with our inability to defeat The Maw. My husband persevered, bravely hiding his fear to show his children that they, too, could be brave, when The Maw inevitably ate us and they were left to raise it alone. Tears were shed as so many hair ties were rescued. More tears were shed when the hair ties were removed from the room and put into a cabinet. School papers, old photographs, tags from a million different articles of new clothing, Legos (we don’t even own Legos) – The Maw had taken them all. With no remorse or sorrow The Maw had slowly sucked our entire lives into its tan, stretchy fabric.

Finally, after what seemed like days, the search ended. The Maw had not claimed our keys. Or perhaps the mysterious substances were some sort of digestive fluid that had dissolved our keys into nothingness.

Slowly, hauntingly, my husband covered up The Maw with the couch cushions. He fed The Maw some trash and old pizza crusts. Then he sat next to me and drew the children close to us, and we all sat together in silence, contemplating our place in the universe and how many more crackers The Maw would consume before the year was over. Nothing seemed the same. We weren’t the same. The Maw had changed us all. For better or for worse…well, that remains to be seen.

The car keys were in the kitchen, by the way. My bad.

Dear Target and Wal-mart: An Open Letter

Dear Target and Wal-mart: An Open Letter

Dear Target and Wal-mart: 

Hello, again. It’s me, Kristen. You both know me well enough by now, as I come to you both for such important things: Wal-mart, for your all-encompassing empire of every item I need, from groceries to home goods, at low, low prices; Target, for your almost supernatural ability to put me into a trance and to fill my cart with all sorts of crap I don’t need. We are all such good friends, aren’t we? 

However, lately I happened to notice that you were both lacking something that I very much need. I would even call it essential to my shopping experience. You have probably guessed it by now: Shopping carts with seats/space for more than one child. 

You see, I happen to have two children. And while one is technically capable of walking, he often finds himself unable to use his legs while he is lying facedown on the cold tile floor, sniffling pitifully after mourning the opportunity to throw his mother’s keys down for the eighth time. And so I find myself in need of a space for my second child. Well, actually, he is my first child, but he is the second one in the cart because I let him walk at first. See the previous sentences for further explanation. ANYway, this child needs a space, but, much like Jesus on Christmas Day, he finds himself with no room. So I allow him to sit in the larger part of the cart, where the groceries (also) go. While I am aware that this is highly frowned upon, as demonstrated by the creative stick figures drawn on the front of your carts, I don’t see a lot of other options. 

Except for one: Child-friendly carts. This is the kind of cart that allows you to secure your children far enough from the groceries as to not “accidentally” open every fruit squeeze they see, but close enough that you can see the children and the groceries and your purse and all is well. You have been slacking in the child-friendly cart department, Wal-mart and Target. 

Until recently. Recently I noticed that you both have joined America in celebrating multiple children and have employed carts that will allow two children to be strapped in at once! And while I want to be satisfied…well, I just can’t be until I point out a few minor design flaws. I know I sound picky, but let me explain: 

First of the all, look at the sheer size of this thing:

I have no idea what crystalandcomp dot com is. I just googled and found this picture. You’re welcome for the free plug, Crystal.

There are fully-grown sharks that are smaller than this. Turning this behemoth into an aisle would require a seven-point turn and a rearview mirror. And, if I did finally manage to turn it into an aisle, I imagine it would put me so close to the edge of the shelf that I, being without rocket-powered brakes, would find myself running full-force into a shelf of glassware (Wal-mart, you do have everything), which would then trigger a cartoon-like effect of all the shelves being knocked down in turn. 

If I do somehow manage to make it into a cart without reenacting a scene from The Mummy, I can only guess how long it would take me to reach the end of the cart to get the item I needed and get back to the front to rejoin my kids. What were left as two toddlers, waving goodbye as their mother disappears into the mist on a search for Diet Coke and pretzels, would likely be in middle school by the time I was able to finish my miles-long trek back to where my journey began. 

And while we’re on the subject, let’s discuss the size of the space between the children’s seats and the shopping cart itself. I’m no mathematician, but I would estimate that distance to be exactly the length required for an emergency room visit if a child fell out of the seat and towards the cart. “But we have seat belts attached,” you say. Oh, Wal-mart. Oh, Target. You dear, dear little lambs. Do you really think a mere seat belt can contain my children? My daughter, who I once caught gnawing ferociously on an empty rib bone, impeded by fabric? My son, who has used only the steely glare from his eyes and sheer force of his will to bring down grandmas and grandpas around the world, stopped by shoulder straps? Oh, no, no, Target. Think again, Wal-mart. My children specialize in escaping confinement. My son is so skinny he can fit underneath a door. My daughter’s fine motor skills are unparalleled in the tri-state area. They will escape. And when they do, they will get the pleasure of either smacking their little heads on the plastic bar of the cart, or, a fan favorite, the comfy metal grating of the cart. 

Sure, sure, I should be watching them. But I’m still on the Never-Ending Journey down the aisle, remember? I won’t be back for years. 

My final complaint is this: Lack of entertainment. Right, I know –  kids these days with their entertainment and their lack of ability to sit and think about stuff. And there is no way in my right mind I would give my kids a phone or tablet to play with while I shop (not because I am against it… it’s because I can’t afford to replace a phone or tablet every time I shop). However, at other stores with kid-friendly carts, the carts are a bit more, shall we say, whimsical. My kids can be police car drivers, or firefighters, or hot pink taxi car…I’m not totally sure what that one is, but you get my point. They turn the fake wheels and honk the fake horns and everyone leaves with a smile on his or her face. 

Without these things, my kids have only one thing left to turn on: Each other. (DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN) I might get to about the third item on my list before the hand-slapping begins. Item seven will bring pterodactyl screeches and “NO, BABY. BE NICE.” Soon, shortly before item 15, they will each begin to emit a low whine that will rise steadily in pitch until only dogs can hear them. And me. Somehow I can always hear them. 

So you see, Target and Wal-mart, some elements of your new carts require some modifications, just as soon as you’re feeling up to it. But, speaking as the mother who is trying to convince her two-year-old that the big part of the cart is “totally super cool,”…please hurry.