February 7, 2009

When McDonald's Really Is The Answer

You know it's going to be a rough week when on Tuesday your 10-year-old runs away from school, then tells you he doesn't want to live anymore because life is just too hard.

When that happens, for a mom, there is part of you that just wants to crawl under the covers and sleep for days on end. You want to shut down and shut it all out. But you can't. There's a little person you brought into the world who needs you to be whole so that you can keep him in it. You find a way to find the joy and bring it back to him.

We got him help, and are continuing to get him help. It's had an effect on the whole family, though. The other kids are antsy, whiny, angry and clingy by turns, and he is still a yo-yoing bundle of challenging emotions. I've been working very hard to focus on family - more time spent together at dinner, more time for playing, more time for talking. Curling up in a top bunk having a good heart-to-heart and a hug. You find the joy and focus on it, make everyone else see it too. He's okay, for now. But the scary thought is back there, for both of us I think, and the next time he cycles down - because he will - that thought will jump out like the smog creature in Lost and start wreaking a little havoc.

Friday is our movie night, something I instituted since my husband and I separated as a way to make the kids feel special and give me a break at the end of the week. We spread a blanket on the living room floor, enjoy an indoor picnic, and watch one of the 137 kids movies we have in our collection. Tonight, my oldest was with his dad, meeting a few professional athletes, having KFC (his favorite fast food), and spending the night enjoying some one-on-one male bonding. But the little ones needed a treat, too. So tonight it was Aladdin and McDonald's. Because sometimes a Happy Meal with a cheap plastic toy and a mountain of french fries really is the right answer. Or, in mom's case, a Big Mac and a strawberry shake. Same thing. I'd planned a lovely shrimp dinner with green rice and fresh steamed artichokes. But I gotta say, those two all-beef patties really hit the spot.

I did get to indulge my own passions earlier in the day. On the way home from a meeting, I stopped on impulse at the brand new Safeway the next town over. I'd enjoyed watching them build it - they razed the old building and started from scratch. It opened several months ago, but I've never gone in. I visit two stores in my own town and remain fairly loyal to them. And I do visit both, regularly, because neither has everything I need. I can get cinnamon coffee creamer only at the one; blueberry applesauce only at the other. And a Sara Lee Butter Streusel Coffee Cake only once a year when some distributor accidentally drops it on the shelves.

But this new store - it's stunning! Clean and bright, with a layout that's fun and leads you deeper and deeper in. It's designed for those who browse! And it's a mecca for a wannabe chef. Every variety of everything I could possible want. My area doesn't have a Wegman's or Whole Foods - we are light on gourmet or organic grocery stores. But this one, it's definitely got its own charm. Shelves full of every ingredient I've ever searched for in vain. Fire-roasted everything. Basmati rice and flax meal and three different kinds of barley. Every flavor of applesauce imaginable. And the produce! Jerusalem artichokes, tamarindo, long skinny Asian green beans. And one or two things I didn't recognize. You're inspired to try new things, to get creative and play with your food.

No Sara Lee coffee cake, though. I'm starting to think that it's a regional thing. Maybe Marylanders just don't eat it? Another good reason to move.

The week is over. I know my boy is safe with his dad, but I wish he were here 'cause I miss him.