The Worst Way to Wake Up

I have woken up over the years to all kinds of sights and sounds, friends.

I have woken up to spread butt cheeks and an anus inches from my nose. “MOM! My butthole hurts REALLY BAD. Do I have a rash?”

I have woken up with a dog on my face.

I have woken up to the smoke alarm when a teenager put cookies in the oven and then went to a movie and forgot.

I have woken up to projectile vomit projecting onto me.

I have woken up after someone else has peed my bed.

I have woken up to a preschool penis and its proud owner. “CHECK THIS THING OUT, MOM. It is hard and HUGE. Isn’t it, Mom? Isn’t it hard and HUGE? It did that all by hisself, Mom, while I was sleeping! And when I push it down – WATCH, Mom, WATCH – it springs back up. ALL BY HISSELF, Mom. I sure like this thing. Do you feel sad you don’t have a penis, Mom? Mom? Mom, why is your pillow over your head? Mom? MOM? CAN YOU HEAR ME, MOM? I AM TALKING TO YOU ABOUT MY PENIS, MOM.”

I have, in other words, awakened to all kinds of terror over the years, but nothing quite compares to the sudden gasp and instant something-is-wrong – SOMETHING IS REALLY, REALLY WRONG — middle-of-the-night awakening. It’s sound sleep to FULL GO in 0.6 seconds. Terror. True, deep, abiding dread. And it doesn’t matter that the rational person who lives in my brain is saying, “It’s nothing. It’s probably just a dream you can’t remember,” I get up anyway to make sure the children are still breathing. I get up anyway, even though my husband always sides with Rational Brain. I get up anyway because I know – I KNOW – Rational Brain and Husband are Incredibly Stupid and Not To Be Trusted in the middle of the night. They know NOTHING. NOTHING, I tell you, and so I make the rounds, just to be sure, and, when all’s well again (only because I checked, of course; if I hadn’t checked, something would’ve been wrong), and Rational Brain and Husband say, “I told you so,” I do NOT punch them in the throat because a) I am a paragon of virtue, and b) being punched in the throat is only temporary suffering and they deserve much, much worse.

The other night, I woke up that way. Sudden gasp. Sound sleep to FULL GO. Deep, abiding dread.

So I rose from my bed, as I do in these circumstances, to check on my children.

I rounded the bed and made for the door, feeling my way, mostly, but also aided by the tiniest sliver of moonlight seeping through the window.

My heart thumped in complete fight-or-flight panic mode, and Mama Heart overrode Rational Brain. “If there is an intruder in this house, I WILL BRAIN THAT F*CKER,” I thought. Mama Heart doesn’t always use her nice words, and sometimes she forgets she’s married to a nice Christian pacifist. Also, Mama Heart’s not the one you want against you in a knife fight because SHE WILL CUT YOU.

Heart thumping, I quietly slid my feet along the floor, careful to push Legos and discarded kid undies out of my way before planting my feet because I AM EXPERIENCED, and I know what I’m doing, and I passed the dog crate which has stood empty for months now that the dog has graduated to sleeping on the kids’ faces.

I passed the dog crate, and I glanced down at it as I passed.

IMG_2922I glanced down at it as I passed, and it was not empty.

I glanced down at it as I passed, and it was not empty like it should be.

There were EYEBALLS in there, looking at me.

Eyeballs that did not belong to a dog or to a child, which I briefly considered, because, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t put it past my nutjobs to sneak into my room in the middle of the night, curl up in the dog crate, and FREAK ME THE HELL OUT.

But no.

There were eyeballs that did not belong to a dog or to a child, and THEY WERE WIDE OPEN LOOKING AT ME.

They were wide open looking at me, and they belonged to something – some Chucky-like, non-living, but TOTALLY ALIVE AND MENACING thing – trapped in the dog crate.

Here’s what happened next:

I screamed inside my brain, high and LONG, I backed away from the dog crate, I scrambled backwards into my bed, I pulled all the covers over my head, and I hoped we weren’t all about to be slaughtered in our sleep by that thing.

I did not check on my children.

I did not make sure anyone was breathing.

I did not Fight.

Nope; I Flew.

Turns out, when Fight or Flight are my options, I’m a flyer, y’all. A gigantic freaked out bird hightailing it out of the danger zome.

GOOD GRIEF.

Mama Heart talks big, friends. She’s a braggy bragger who brags, and she swears like a sailor while she does it, but when Rational Brain yelled, “RUN! EVERY WOMAN FOR HERSELF. GO, GO, GO! SAVE YOURSELF,” she was all, “Yep! You betcha. I’ll just be right here in my bed under my titanium covers where huge, Chucky-like, middle-of-the-night eyeballs can’t get me. You go ahead and take the children, Eyeballs. Do what you gotta do.”

And then, because I always put my children’s welfare above my own, I went back to sleep. I mean, I felt guilty, but I went back to sleep.

In the morning I discovered this:

IMG_2916

Tickle Me Elmo, whom I have always despised, mocking me from the dog crate.

I have known for a long time that Tickle Me Elmo is evil.

Now I have proof.

Unfortunately, I also have proof I’m a pansy who will scream and run and save herself.

Let’s just keep that last bit to ourselves, though, OK? No reason to tell the kids.

With love (and no dignity left at all),

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
15 comments
  1. O. M. G. I about died laughing, because in our house we call Elmo, “Evil Elmo, Eater of Souls.” I cannot tell you how hard that title is to explain to other parents, parents who apparently let Evil Elmo run free in their houses. Right up until my kids ask their kids why Evil Elmo is in their house and don’t they know that he eats souls?

  2. […] I might need pliers, screwdriver, bottle opener, or a very sharp knife (if you haven’t read this post from 5 Kids is a lot of Kids, please, please do. Her words about a Mama’s Heart will have you […]

  3. I laughed so hard my stomach hurts. Thank you for sharing your crazy real life with us. You have such a talent with storytelling.

  4. This story is exactly me too!! Thank you for the laugh today!

  5. Honestly u make me belly laugh. U r Bethenny Frankel funny – who I love!!!
    Thank u for keeping up this blog!!

  6. Oh my gosh I laughed so hard I made my husband pause the TV so I could read this too him!! I am so glad I came across this, you are a funny funny lady!

  7. Thank you for the snorty big laughs! I remember, at university, someone in my hall of residence (dorm) was having a party and asked if she could store some things in my room. One of them was an enormous, scary teddy bear – the sort that probably came alive at night and ate people. I stuffed it into a high cupboard, behind lots of other things and helpfully carried everything back to her room for her once the party was cleared up. Cuddly toys gone bad….

  8. Something amazing, AMAZING!, I tell you, happened today! I took my crew of 6,4,2, and infant to Costco today and a (well intentioned?) Woman loudly pointed out that my 4 year old was wearing his slippers. Now, his birthday was yesterday and he is very proud of these slippers. On a normal day, I would have been completely deflated by such a comment (and by the stares that followed said loud comment), but I’m the one who has been looking at the sky for Re-lent. So, all week, I’ve been practicing taking a moment. So here is the awesome part: I decided to have a moment right then and there and I looked up and said, ‘But he is not barefoot. Go Mom!’ And, like the crazy person I am, I threw my hands up in the air and cheered for myself. The lady looked at me and cocked her head and said ‘yeah, you are right!’ The others laughed and went on their way down the frozen food section. But! (And not the kind you once woke up to for rash inspection). But, there was one frazzled mom in the corner, though, who looked like she was ready to cry. Probably from embarrassment, pity, or… just maybe…. because she realized that she could cheer for herself too. I walked out of that store feeling like I AM Beth Woolsey!:D

  9. Thank you. Thank you for taking the time to write and share. I needed this so much – a huge blessing to laugh and to relate.

  10. Your covers are titanium, too?!?!

    High Five to flight-ers who prepare enough to buy titanium covers.

  11. STOP!

    My computer screen simply can not take one more splurge of caffeinated lol- spittle. I wouldn’t even mention the cramping that is tearing through my sides except that I’m uncertain whether my tears are from the computer crashing, the pain from my teeny tiny laugh muscles or actual laugh-til-you-cry tears – you know, the ones you get when you start giggling but end up in that hysterical slumped on the desk teary-eyed mess when you haven’t laughed so hard in ages.

    And that was even before I got to the punchline.

    Elmo.

    Freakin-Deakin Elmo.

    Yes you ran. But you returned, with the advantage of daylight, and faced that just-about-as-scary-as-Felix-the-Cat-but-way-more-sinister hairy goblin.

    You rock Mama Heart.

  12. Oh my dear lord… The penis thing had me absolutely losing it. Boys are awesome. LOL But the tickle-me-elmo… Oh honey that thing is made of devil kisses. LOL

    We missed out on the TME, simply because it was the year that EVERYONE MUST HAVE the stupid thing and we couldn’t get one. (thankfully). My nemesis was a Big Bird that would say “peek a boo” if you covered its eyes for a moment. In a creepy, demonically childish voice.

    So, I fully empathize with your experience, because I was the one who needed to be peeled off the ceiling in the middle of the night when I walked through the house, inadvertently casting a shadow over the eyes, and causing it to coo “Peek a boo!” in the empty entry hall.

    I swear that thing took 10 years off my life. For the remainder of it’s brief time in our house, it resided in the attic, stuffed into the deepest box I could find. With salt. Because I hear that’s how you get rid of demons. O_o

  13. ab.so.lute HILARITY!!

  14. This story is awesome. But how did you go back to sleep without flipping on all the lights? With a thing with eyeballs where it didn’t belong???

  15. Hahaha… I knwo this so well. The waking up horrified. I sometimes even wake up because in my sleep I hear my kids screaming MOMMYYYY!!! And as I think their live must be in danger I get up and run down the stairs to their rooms only to find them deep asleep. So, explain this to me: That I, as a mother, am running around like a maniac although I was deep asleep only a nanosecond ago, is now backed up by your own experience about exactly the same phenomenon. But how comes a kid screams like hell out for me and is immediately afterwards deep asleep? To bring up a heartrate from 60 to 300 is easy. But how you get it back from 300 to 60 as a kid?
    Life is mysterious.
    And even more with a lot of kids.

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