Ella and I are already having battles over clothes. She wants to wear pajamas as an essential part of her everyday style. But not a matching set; that would be boring. No, she wants to wear tight Strawberry Shortcake pajama bottoms with a pink poofy Blues Clues shirt. Yesterday, she opted for red snowmen long johns inherited from big sister. Oh, I know. It isn't time for singing Winter Wonderland or anything, but I pulled them out while she can still wear them. And she decided to wear them, alright - to walk in and get her big brother and sister from school.
She got lots of attention, mainly from teachers who thought she was so cute walking around in seventy-five degree weather in winter-bedtime wear.
"Ella, check out your awesome PJs," exclaimed one kindergarten teacher. "High five!"
Ella smiled and jumped up to smack palms.
"How sweet! That is priceless," said another teacher, and I tried not to roll my eyes when I replied, "She wanted to wear it, so...."
I might have added, what's a mama to do? It's my general policy that parents should let their children commit grave fashion faux paus while people still think it's cute. Such as wearing pink high-tops with their fancy white church dress, for instance. Ella got a lot of attention for that, too-compliments, mind you. And she didn't need the encouragement.
After collecting Berto and Ana from their classes and strutting her stuff(chest out, hands on hips) in front of the teachers who kept applauding her adorableness, Ella Belle exited the school gate and then took off running top speed through the dirt away from me, curls bobbing.
""Berto, get her!" I called as I did my best to jog after her, Daniel bouncing in the sling as if it were a baby amusement ride.
Berto tried to snag her clothes to slow her down, but its not easy to catch someone wearing button-down long johns; there's just nothing to grab on to. She turned the corner onto the sidewalk of a busy street, a blur of big Dora sneakers and smiling snowmen.
A friend of mine passed us in the school's carline and waved at me with a serious look on her face as three of my kids blazed ahead of me, and I struggled to keep up.
Meanwhile, Ana ran after Ella like Phoebe from Friends, arms and legs seemingly moving in entirely different directions-looking as if at any moment they might propel the top half of her into the dirt with only her legs left flaying in the air. But she was laughing as if it was tons of fun, and Ella and her snowmen finally ran out of steam, so I lassoed the whole bunch and stuffed them into the minivan.
On the drive home, I remembered that we had to pick up supper. I could just go to the grocery store, but going to Walmart was the multi-tasker's way to go; we still hadn't found Ana's costume, after all, and Berto needed face paint.
At this point I had pretty much forgotten about what Ella was wearing. That happens quite often to me now-forgetting important details like that. Besides, I now had a whole bunch of stuff to worry about, because a small traveling circus had come to Walmart. And by that I mean us.
We were already attracting attention in the parking lot. A woman reading in her car, waiting for a shopper, stared blatantly at us while Berto hung from the van hatch, Ella fussed about whether her personal carriage should be the stroller or a shopping cart, and Ana flitted about like a butterfly. Meanwhile, my head was spinning trying to make sure no one wandered off across the parking lot and nobody got hit by a car, so I was yelling at them to stop or come back or just stinkin' wait.
Of course once I realized we had an audience, my tone went from, "You dern kids-get yourselves together for cryin out loud!" to, "Alright, my sweet babies, just calm down now. Calm down, little angels. Don't we want to go into the store eventually? Today even?"
Thirty minutes later when we had actually made it inside the store, we found the costume and face paint and headed over to the food where Berto began whining to know where there might be a water fountain, but I wasn't fooled.
"Berto, don't whine," I said. "Just ask me what you need to ask me."
"Well, I am thirsty. And...I need to use the restroom."
Yep, there it was. A small pause and....
"Me, too," said Ana.
Please don't say it. Don't say it, I thought as we moved to the front of the store.
"Potty?" says Ella. "I need to go potty!"
"Of course you do," I said with a sigh.
Berto went first, and then he stood outside the turn to the women's restroom while I went in with the girls. As soon as Ella exited the stroller, I put Daniel in it.
"Hey!" she said.
"Oh well, you have to go potty, remember?" Then I said to Ana, "Watch Daniel while I help Ella, okay?"
Only in that tiny cell with my preschooler did I realize we had a big problem.
"Oh, Ella! The long johns!" I moaned in true parent anguish. I knew I shouldn't have let her wear those things.
They buttoned down the length of one leg, but it still had an ankle band, and the other leg didn't have buttons at all. It was like a regular pajama pant leg. I was going to have to remove her shoes. Then I was going to have to wrangle her out of the pajamas without letting her socked feet touch the bathroom floor which, it is commonly believed among moms, has at least fifty varieties of gross germs that have yet to be discovered and named by scientists.
It wasn't an option to unbutton the pajamas from the top. There's no way they would not touch the toilet as they dangled from her legs. I slipped her shoes off and tried to make her stand on top of them, but she couldn't maintain her balance and tried to lean on the potty for support. No, no, no! There was only one thing to do. I turned her upside down on my lap with legs in the air and pulled off first the ankle band from one leg and then attempted to pull the other leg out of the pajamas, but there was no way it was coming out unless I folded her up like a piece of origami. It was about the time that I was pulling her right leg up to her chin in order to wrest it from the long johns that our situation caught up with me, and I began to giggle involuntarily.
My mirth only abated briefly in irritation when after a few seconds of sitting on the potty, with me suspending the long johns above her head, she said, "No pee-pee!"
As the wrangling of the long johns began in reverse, Ana asked in concern from outside the stall, "Mama, are you okay? Why are you laughing like that?"
"Just laughing at my circumstances, Ana," I responded in near hysteria as Ella giggled along, the blood rushing to her face as I held her upside down again to stuff the long johns back on her legs. We were on the home stretch a few moments later when I began to button the pajamas back down and jammed her shoes on her feet.
Afterwards, I sped through the store, throwing turkey burgers, buns and coleslaw in the cart. There was no way I was going to wait around until Ella actually did need to go pee-pee. And I've vowed never to let a certain curly-headed clown wear long johns in public again.