Reader essay


Note to self Or what to do when you're bugged By MF Sherman :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

photo courtesy of MF Sherman The author and her three children: John, 14, Nora, 6, and Gabby, 8, are still finding ladybugs.

It's Saturday morning, 7:10 a.m., and my headache is bigger than the bed pillows I purchased last week. (Note to self: Return pillows. They are not "sweet-dream-inducing.")

Must. Have. Coffee. Into the kitchen and a ladybug alights on my nose.


Ayup. The ladybird beetles have escaped, even though I know we correctly assembled their lodge (the ladybug version of an ant farm).


Before I have time to survey the disaster, the kids discover the jailbreak and gallop through the flat like bounty hunters, punctuating each capture with shrill screams that threaten to cleave my skull in two.

When a fraction of the original beetle population has been restored to its habitat (which has been reinforced with half a roll of packing tape), I call the kids to breakfast.


One of them has decided to trim, no, shave his eyebrows. (Note to self: Get the kid some tweezers.)

To avoid injuring a teen's fragile ego, I duck into the pantry. My guffaw is muffled by the sound of Cheerios cascading to the floor. Apparently, the last person to eat them put the box on the shelf upside down.


I mince out of the pantry ("Hey! We can save those!") and nearly lose my footing-my husband forgot to administer the cat's hairball remedy. The chorus of "Eews!" is gasoline on the bonfire that is my headache. I set aside the thought of what is stuck to my foot to pour coffee. Argh! Someone forgot to plug in the pot. No. Worse. No coffee.


The morning includes two more reminders that my husband forgot the hairball remedy. (Note to self: Staple reminder-or a note, anyway-to his pajama shirt.)

My son is strangely silent after breakfast. I think he got a good look at his eyebrows.

Nothing I penned into the planner for Saturday morning gets done, although my two youngest children favor some of the less fortunate ladybugs with an elaborate funeral. Of course, the wails of the professional mourners do nothing to improve my headache. (Note to self: Do not tell Grammy this story. Revised note to self: Do not tell Grammy any stories about this family. Re-revised note to self: Google "fun+family+stories." Crib material for letter to Grammy.)

Slumping into a kitchen chair, I wonder when my husband will quit pretending that there is a "critical network outage" at work and get his bu..., I mean, backpack home. OK. He's really not that sort of husband. And there's no vast computer-geek conspiracy designed to get card-carrying members out of the house on Saturday before chaos erup-, I mean, before the kids get up, right? I know he's at work on a real problem, whatever a "critical network outage" is.

Argh! Another nasty reminder that the cat hasn't been dosed.

"Heh, heh, heh," I cackle madly. "Kids! Wait until your father gets home!"

"Yay!" squeal the girls. "Dad's home! Dad's home!"

My head!

To assuage my guilt over the misunderstanding about Dad (and to close their little, yammering mouths), I rethink our parenting philosophy (subsection: television) because, well, there's nothing like Saturday morning cartoons to stop the family clock, is there? Just as I begin to lose touch with my convictions about the great American campfire....

"Mom!" my son bellows. "Mom! We're out of milk!"

Wince. My head.

"And bread!"

And coffee. I know. Road trip.

At the Jewel, my daughters tug me to the flower aisle. My son maintains a casual distance, checking to see if anyone (i.e., the female of his species, first spotted in aisle 2a) will notice before deigning to join us. Somehow, a leafy oasis among aisles of canned soup and boxed cereal is strangely appealing. My middle child observes, "I think plants can talk. They just can't use words."

And suddenly I realize that my headache is gone. Gone! And I'm falling in love-with the kids, with the Jewel, with the surprised part-time florist I favor with an almost maniacal grin, with life all over again. Giddy with relief, I find myself nodding when my youngest suggests that what our home really needs is more plants. Never mind that a live plant has never made it through a week of Saturdays under our care. More plants it is because my headache is gone! (Note to self: Send husband back to store tonight for stuff on grocery list.)

Our triumphant return home coincides with my husband's ("Dad! Yay, Dad!"). He of the alleged "critical network outage" bears Chinese food and carries in the plants. He's wise enough to ignore his son's eyebrows. (I don't know how he does it.)

And the rest of the day passes with my parenting philosophies intact.

Until another ladybug alights on my nose.

"What?! Not again!"(Note to self: The bugs must go! Revised note to self: And it must seem like an unfortunate accident.)

MF Sherman and the subjects of much of her writing-her husband, their three children and an assortment of small pets-live, learn and laugh loudly on Chicago's North Side.



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