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Count your blessings

I've been following this story about a 2-year-old boy who went missing in Bellevue on Sunday after his mother reportedly left him alone sleeping in an unlocked car. She told police she had run out of gas and walked with her 4-year-old daughter to a Chevron station. She claims that her son was missing when she returned to the car an hour later .

And here's the kicker: She was arrested two years ago for leaving the same child -- a newborn then -- unattended in a car while she and her then-husband went shopping at Target. Who knows where the boy is -- whether or not his mother has anything to do with his disappearance.

Hearing these stories sets off  my crazy-mommy instinct to grab my kids and hug them til their eyes nearly pop from their sockets. We're all guilty at some point of taking our children for granted. It's especially hard when I come home from work and Jerod says, "I'm sick. Here's the kids. I'm going to bed."

Ashlyn is climbing the book case like a monkey and throwing stuff at her sister, who's crying because "The Real Mother Goose" nearly took out her eye. And I yell at Ashlyn that that's a bad thing to do, and she hurls herself on the floor from four shelves up screaming in Ashlyn speak that I hurt her feelings.

The chicken nuggets I made the girls for dinner are all over the floor, along with crayons and pencils, loose paper, chewy bits of unidentifiable something and cat food. There's Play Doh flying through the air and a psycho kitten leaping after the marble-sized clumps until the Play Doh containers are empty and next are the Skittles.

"Mommy," Lily starts. "Ashlyn made this mess all over the floor."

So I ask her: "Did you see her make this mess all over the floor."

"Yes," she answers.

"So why'd you just stand there and watch her?" I ask. "Couldn't you have said something before she made the mess all over the floor."

And now Lily's crying again, because she always gets in trouble for stuff that her sister does -- the baby hand prints on the mirror, because Lily forgot to close the door to the bathroom; the Halloween candy that's spread all over the counter, because Lily taught Ashlyn to use a chair as footstool; and so on.

Lily never cried much before her sister was born. She spent her first two hours of life contemplating the world around her in complete silence -- a sort of "put me back where I came from" look on her face. She refused to cry for the nurses who smacked her, poked her, undressed her and dressed her, then smacked her poked her and undressed her again. It never occurred to them that she didn't want to cry. They were convinced that something was wrong because all babies -- even the sweetest, smartest, best behaved babies in the world -- cry when they're born. Lily did not -- "that's just how I roll," she tells me now like it all happened yesterday. 

She's quiet and cautious. She clings to my legs at parties, and she never talks to strangers -- even the strangers I introduce as my friends. 

I sensed that about her when I was pregnant. Days would pass in my eighth and ninth months without a movement from her -- not so much as a flutter, and I would grab hold of my enormous pregnant stomach and shake it and yell down at her to wake up. I called the doctor's office so many times that the nurse would greet me with "drink a big glass of ice water," which always did the trick. The point is, I wasn't surprised that she never cried. Just like I wasn't surprised that she had red hair and brown eyes -- I knew her.

I ask her why she's shy and she stares at me for a long time like she's searching for the right thing to say and eventually shrugs, "I don't know." She has this expression that comes over her face when she's feeling particularly nervous -- people call it the "stink eye," because she seems to glare at everyone like she has a million better places to be and no one in the room is part of her very important plans. But she's honestly the sweetest kid on the planet -- just shy.

Then there's Ashlyn -- a devil like her mother. I knew that she would be. I predicted her disposition along with her blond hair and blue eyes. She squirmed all through my pregnancy -- especially when I was trying to sleep -- and she came out so fast that my epidural was pointless. She wears this mischievous grin on her face and pokes around the house like a cat burglar. But for all the havoc she wreaks there is something quite endearing about her precociousness. It's impossible to get truly angry with her, because her cry face exceeds adorable. 

She follows Lily like a little puppy dog and copies everything she does, but only when Lily's back is turned. She won't let on for a second that Lily's her Idol. Instead she kicks her in the face and punches her in the stomach.

I love my girls and I'm thankful they'll be waiting for me at the end of the day -- tantrums, messes, boo-boos and all.


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