I came across this post about a day in 2007…the life of me as a young mother.

Oh take me back to those velvety moments with those ragamuffin children of mine for even just a minute.

Sure, sometimes it felt like this:

(Art by Caitlyn Connolly)

But oh, looking back I kind of remember it like this:

I’m so grateful for journals (and this blog) to help me remember the details of one night with all six of us perusing the isles of Petco while Dave was out of town.

So I want to share, because dear young-mothers-in-the-thick-of-it right now,

Some day you’ll miss this.

Even the messy hair and the puppy-dog-eyes begging for a pet.

Here we go. A window into young motherhood.

A night at Petco back in 2007

Tonight I had to laugh at myself as my kids and I wandered in delight the amazing isles of “Petco.”

I smiled to myself because I realized once again that in spite of myself, I sometimes become the mom I vowed I’d never be: the one who takes her kids out of the house looking like ragamuffins with dirty faces and crazy hair when it’s almost past bedtime.

Well, shortly into parenthood I realized my visions of grandeur were maybe just that: kind of idealized visions. Because let’s say your oldest child has a fetish with his favorite Suns basketball jersey he feels he just MUST wear and also has a bad habit of wiping his dirty hands on his shirt no matter how much you try to train him. And your fourth child (with her hair sticking out in every direction from her fourth ponytail re-do of the day) has just leaned over into peanut butter smearing it on her third clean shirt of the day. Your baby is allergic to another mystery something, and has goopy eyes. You have wiped her poor little face so many times it’s starting to chaff. Your third child just went and changed into her pajamas from her swimsuit forgetting that you are going to the pet store for FHE. And as you finish making the last peanut butter sandwiches you’re having for dinner (because your husband missed his flight and is still out of town and you don’t feel like making anything else) you realize if you don’t leave right then the store will close and the hopes of your oldest two children who have been begging (with those sad, pouty “Puss-in-boots-eyes-from-Shrek2) for a pet ever since their Grandfather gave them money to buy one (without asking their parents first) will be dashed if you don’t make it in time.

So what can you do besides load those sticky, straggly-haired kids in the car (aside from your second child who miraculously always looks cute because she does her own hair and loads on lip gloss) and head out to the pet store in all your splendid “good mom” glory?

As we walked those isles I’m sure other customers had the same thoughts my young, single self had many years ago…”wow, those are some raggedy kids!” But I took a deep look at each one of them…unruly hair, pajamas, dirt and all…and loved them even more as I watched them oooo and ahhhhhh over the fish, gerbils, snakes, etc. I swear it was like we were at Disneyland from the pure delight on their faces. We have never been to Petco before…little did I know how I was depriving my children.

As the sales lady handed over a hamster to Max to hold I watched his eyes and face fall head-over-heels in love with “Teddy” the hamster (he already has it named). It was all I could do to make him wait until tomorrow to buy the thing…my heart had it bought for him as soon as I saw that look. But we couldn’t get a hold of Dave for the final ok, and some part of me felt like it would be good for him to wait. (I’m against immediate gratification when these kids get so much of what they want right when they want it.) And he needs to be sure he’s ready to take on the responsibility.

So we checked out with a cage (I had to cut the disappointment of not bringing a pet home tonight somehow!) in anticipation and some very excited kids. Dave called soon after and gave us the green light so we’ll be back tomorrow.

I loved hearing the kids’ conversations on the way home over their Wendy’s frosties. Max: “If someone offered me a Nintendo DS or a hamster there’s no question I’d take the hamster.” Gracie one-upped him: “If someone offered me a room full of candy or a hamster I’d take the hamster.” Now anyone who knows Gracie knows she must REALLY like hamsters to make that kind of statement! Claire piped in that she thought “Golly Joy” would be a good name for a hamster (and she sure had my vote, but didn’t sway the others). Elle has decided she likes the gerbils better and wants to adopt some from Uncle Josh after she can prove she’s responsible enough with pet #1. Man, are we ready for this? I know hamsters can be really stinky, and even eat each other…gross! I could see in the sales lady’s eyes that she was a little worried about our choice and tried to talk us into a rat or a cat instead…ewwww to the first and Dave would certainly veto the second, plus she didn’t see that look on Max’s face that sold me. I’m banking on studies that say having a pet will miraculously whip my children in so super-responsibility mode.

I don’t think there’s any backing out at this point. It looks like we’ll be adding a new family member tomorrow!

(Tune in for part 2 of this Petco adventure back in the 2007 archives. Spoiler alert: unfortunately there is not a rosy ending, which is made up for in the form of a pretty heartfelt memorial.)

Similar Posts


  1. I used to think that too about the dirty faces of babies i wouls see in Walmart in college. Now-totally different feeling. I had finally had enough after my daughter hada cold for two weeks and was in pure misery when I tried to blow her nose. She may have been sporting a few goodies when we went out but at least she was smiling.

  2. Hamsters… YOU are a good woman!!

    And yes, those woman with dirty kids weren’t as good a mom as I was sure to be. But as luck would have it, I’ve learned what a good Mom really is, and it has nothing to do with their appearance.

    Have fun with the new pets. You may hate them but your kids are making some great and funny memories!

  3. Laughing at your blog and I am sure you all looked handsome(Max) and beautiful (you and the girls) even with your ragamuffin hair and dirty clothing. You are brave to get the hamster but at least it’s containable in a cage and it can’t really roam all over the house, right? I hear hamsters aren’t too difficult of a pet to have. Good luck

  4. Hey whatever works right? It is all about surviving the moment! My hubby travels a lot too and somedays all I can muster is mac and cheese. Sometime I wonder what other people must think! I too was one of those gals that would see other moms and say “I will never be one of those moms and let myself go and come looking like that at the store!” What were we thinking??? Thanks for making me laugh today….

  5. I love reading your stories about your kids! I love having 5 of my own and can relate to almost everything your write.
    The best pet? A Turtle. Low maintenance and stays outside… but probably too late now. Good luck with the Hamster, we can’t wait to see pictures.

  6. shawni…i love your comments about days like this. you are so real, and it’s nice to be reminded that we all love our ragamuffins…sometimes they’re cuter that way than when they’re dressed and groomed so perfectly. but, there’s nothing cuter than a kid just out of the bath in his/her jammies. good luck with that hampster.

  7. I am a huge pet lover. It’s been the best thing for our family when we got a cat. Kids need something to love and play with. A pet loves back unconditionally. No judgement, no fighting. Just hangs out. It’s been great. And it does teach responsibility. We’ve had our cat 1 year and I have never had to change the litter yet. My daughter scoops the poop every morning and my husband changes the litter when it needs to be done.

    Oh, I’m such a dirty face mom. I want to have presentable children, but me–I’m always running 5 minutes behind, just lucky to make it out of the house anywhere, and usually don’t notice they’re filthy until we’re there and it’s too late!

  8. Shawni – The blog is looking sweet, good for you.

    I am surprised you didn’t just use the Ericson’s “loaner” hamsters. It worked for us. Lexie finally said, “Let’s get rid of these, they stink.” Good luck with that Dave.

    I am glad you got to slide rock too. Dave told me he was “fixin to be a good Dad and go camping.” I am sorry I wasn’t there to talk him down during the drive. I could read his mind when reading your comments about it.

    Take care. Miss you guys.

  9. what! never before been to petco?! josh calls it the “poor man’s zoo” and we did frequent that place at least once a week while we were in law school.

    as for the ragamuffin looking kids, i never really thought that cause i WAS that! i used to look back at pictures of me sporting this hobo look and wonder who the heck took care of me. well, the answer is probably no one since i am the 9th of 10 children, but even if someone had, i’m quite certain i’d still look the ragamuffin part. my kids sure do!

  10. I’m reading this AFTER the tragedy and am thinking maybe that hamster just didn’t like the looks of those kids and decided to go to heaven! JK!
    What a great mom you are! This entry is a treasure!
    Love you,
    Your mom

  11. When my daughter had a 2+ year old daughter, she told her PetCo was the zoo.
    (No doubt she learned that from me, as I’d had my first 2 kids thinking that homemade yogurt was ice cream until they were 2 and 3 years old)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *