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the one about the double wedding weekend

John being the over-achiever that he is, when he takes pictures at a wedding, it's an all day affair. And by "all day," I mean I won't see him for about a WEEK leading up to and following the wedding. You can imagine how I feel about this during the peak of wedding season, when I am only aware of his existence because the kids are still alive when I get home from work on the week days and because I sense a presence in his office when I walk by at the kids' bedtime. By the time the leaves start to change colors and fall off the trees in our yard, I realize something: I have a husband. And he lives here! All hail the end of wedding season!

But alas, in a twisted fluke characteristic of this misfit household, today is day 2 of an unseasonal Double Wedding Weekend for John. Usually such horrific occasions only take place during the summer, when there are potential outdoor activities on my list of What To Do With The Kids To Keep From Gouging Out My Eyeballs With A Spork (or is it a foon?). During the winter, what do I have?

A trip to the mall?

I'm trying NOT to gouge out my eyeballs, though. So that wouldn't work, although the mall near our house recently installed a kid's play area with a psychological half-wall barrier that kids think they can't escape, even though it would take about three seconds to hoist a leg over it and bolt into the nearby JCPenney's (which is paradise for a hiding toddler with all its affordable hanging clothes items). This play area has at its center a house-shaped yellow plastic structure with round holes for climbing or looking through. There is a huge plastic dog-mouse creature sitting on top of the house, with a proud, peaceful smile on its canine-rodent lips, its eyes downturned to the children's space. The first time we walked by this play area, actually I should say, the first time we came within 10 miles of the play area's aura, Bryce loudly demanded to go there, but he had never seen anything as wondrous and utopic as an indoor mall play area, and he didn't know what to call it. He thought the yellow house-like structure with round holes looked like cheese, and the creature on the top looked like a mouse, I guess, because he dubbed the play area "The Cheese Mat," and that's what we call it to this day. In fact, the last time we were at the mall, I was spending entirely too much time deliberating which scent of lotion to buy at Bath and Body Works, and John had the double stroller with the ticking time bombs, aka Bryce and Quinn, threatening to incinerate the newly renovated consumer paradise with the lava that would shortly come spewing from each orifice of their spasming, over-stimulated bodies. Bath and Body Works is apparently part of the Keep Kids Out Of Our Store By Preventing A Path Wide Enough For A Stroller team, and I was too far back into the store for John to get my attention. (Really, I was awash in the confused delight of 12,000 aromatic journeys, and was therefore unreachable.) Always prioritizing efficiency over decorum, John bellowed, interrupting my nasal adventure, and the nasal adventures of my fellow Bath and Body Works patrons, "KRISTEN, WE'RE GOING TO THE CHEESE MAT!!" (If this had been in a movie, before the bellow, I would have been a non-descript member of a large group of people in a store. After the bellow, the camera would have zoomed in directly on me, but not before showing every single person's head swing dramatically to look in my direction.)

No, no Cheese Mat for us today. We were down to a stale bagel and leftover pizza for breakfast this morning, so I figured I should act like I'm responsible and go grocery shopping. I never voluntarily go grocery shopping with both kids, but since John has to be all "professional" and actually "show up on time for his clients," I had to suck it up. Amazingly, Bryce only caused premature deafness in one Wal-Mart employee, and the only part of Quinn that spontaneously combusted was his ankle! Not bad. Not bad at all. And the best part? The grocery shopping seemed to have exhausted them, because THEY ARE BOTH TAKING NAPS! AT THE SAME TIME! [Enter Handel's Hallelujah Chorus]

If I were a really nice mom, I would take them to The Cheese Mat after they wake up from their glorious naps. And I am a nice mom. I am. Sometimes. But today all I can think of is the fact that entering the mall one week before Christmas means that I would be physically overwhelmed and swallowed up by hordes of last minute shoppers whose priorities probably would not include moving the hell out of my way so I can get my exploding kids to The Cheese Mat more quickly.

They're just going to have to get by with the two dozen boxes of shiny, plastic toys in their rooms. Call me cruel.