by Tracey Solomon
I settled into my chair, wrapped my hands around a hot cup of coffee and felt myself start to relax. “Thank you for taking care of us,” I silently prayed. I was surrounded by moms and I knew my kids were enjoying themselves. I looked around me and saw other shoulders starting to relax. I heard Moms laughing and talking and soaked it in, like sunshine. Yesterday started to fade from my mind.
The day before had not started well. As I poured the last drops of Tide into the washing machine I hoped it was enough to get the baby stains out. I went upstairs to make breakfast and found we were out of milk. Before I could take a bite of my toast, I heard noises from the boys’ room. They were awake early.
Toddler smiles and the smell of “pee pee” met me at their door. We had achieved diaper super-saturation. I wasn’t surprised to find only two diapers left in the diaper caddy. I’d been trying to make them last until payday. They hadn’t. As tears welled up in my eyes, I wrapped two clean bottoms in the last two diapers and got the boys dressed. We had to go to the store.
The problem wasn’t being out of diapers; it was being out of money. Still three days until payday, and my checking account was as empty as a Cheerios box dumped on the living room floor. I went back to the laundry room for the change jar, full of coins found in pockets and under the dryer. It was my emergency fund. I emptied it into a zip lock bag. It felt like enough, but I wasn’t sure.
I went over my shopping list in my head: apple juice and animal crackers for 50 children, Tide, milk, diapers and my MOPS fee for the next day. I had to be there – I was the MOPPETS Coordinator and those moms depended on me. “Besides,” I thought to myself, “if I don’t hear someone speak in complete sentences soon, my brain will turn to mush.”
I warned my boys, “We’re just running in for a few things. NO EXTRAS!” as we pulled into the parking lot. A few minutes later, I felt heat rise to my face as the Coinstar machine started its ear-splitting “ca-chink, grind, ca-ching.” The dropping coins rang out like chimes, announcing to the grocery store: “Poor thing, so broke she’s cashing in change!” I was sure everyone was looking to see who the Coinstar Queen was. I wished it wasn’t me.
I wondered if it was worth it. I knew I probably had enough dollar bills in my purse to buy a pack of no-brand diapers, and my laundry could wait. It was the MOPS thing that was tricky. I could tell the Coordinator I was sick. I was starting to feel sick to my stomach. But I wanted to go. I knew I needed to go!
I kept my eyes on the Coinstar screen, willing the numbers higher and higher. “$22.47 ca-chink … $32.67 grind … $44.99 ca-ching...” I dumped in more coins and carefully fed them forward. I heard a rejected coin fall and put it through again. I needed every cent to make it until payday. The numbers slowly crept up. “$46.68 ca-chink … $48.02 grind … $48.74 ca-ching.”
I prayed, “Lord, I just need enough to buy snack, Tide, milk and diapers and to pay for my MOPS meeting. I need to go. I need to be with other moms. I’m lonely and scared. Please help me.”
The machine ground to a stop. When my voucher printed, tears of relief welled up in my eyes. $52.97 – it was enough. I blinked away the tears and rushed through the store. I was so thrilled that I threw a pack of celebratory fruit snacks in the cart at the last minute.
MOPS wasn’t a luxury for me. It was a necessity. Those moms helped me clean up better than Tide and fed me with more than a gallon of milk. They encouraged, grew, and changed me. MOPS was a place to connect and it saved my brain from becoming mush. Most importantly, MOPS was a place where the little bit I could give made a big difference.
Tracey lives and knits in Michigan with a house full of boys - if you want to read more about her life and how she stays sane, visit her blog at www.traceysolomon.wordpress.com