9:37 I find parking right at the front, and look! we're only 7 minutes late! Anything under fifteen minutes is a small victory in my book. Mila and I head in and find an empty spot in an aisle about 1/3 of the way back.
9:39 The little girl in front of us is holding a baby doll. Baaaaabeeeeee! Mila chirps. Baaaaaabeeee! She starts pointing to herself, her way of saying can I pretty please hold it? Sorry plum Wugs.
9:40 We all sit to listen to the readings. I sit Mila down next to me in the pew.
9:41 Silly me, I put her to my right. Immediately next to the pew's opening. Mila decides to make a break for it and I catch her just in time. This time I seat her to my left.
9:42 Aaaaaaand she's up and standing in the pew, already batting eyelashes at the older gentleman behind us. Flirt.
9:44 We're now shaking the car keys--all out shaking and jingling and jangling. While everyone is trying to listen to the first reading.
9:44 I take away the keys and only one, maybe two loud cries of protest escapes Mila's mouth as I quickly place into her hands the almighty sword.....CHEDDAR BUNNIES. Side note: Two years ago I would have been the 20-something scoffing at the helpless parent giving her child snacks in church. Whatevs.
9:47 I hear another toddler in our same pew. Yesssss! Safety in numbers. And Mila will find her entertaining also, I'm sure.
9:49 Mila starts pulling out songbooks and bulletins out from the wooden holders on the back of the pews.
9:53 Mila finds a pencil in the wooden holder and has great fun putting it in the little pencil hole and taking it back out. A promising game and I wistfully hope it entertains her through the homily.
9:56 Mila looks like she's starting to lose interest in both the bunnies and pencil game already so I pull out a book for her to read. It's one of her new ones from the Easter bunny, The Sun Egg.
9:57 Mila could care less about this book but that other baby is now toddling over to us making grabbing motions for it.
9:58 M is a good sharer. Not only is she sharing the book but she's offering the girl some of her cheddar bunnies. Crap.
9:59 Whew! The girl's Dad pulls out an identical snack cup for his daughter, filled with cheerios. Crisis averted.
10:01 The little girl still seems more interested in M's cheddar bunnies and is now trying to feed Mila.
10:02 Of course it is a silent moment in church as the sound of cheddar bunnies dropping to the wooden floor fills the air.
10:04 The little girl finds the pencil and is also keenly interested, until her Dad snatches it away. I guess he didn't see the same entertainment/fine motor skill value I did in it. Or maybe one shouldn't let their toddler play with pointy pencils? Nah, that's not it.
10:05 The little girl is now standing in the pew and grunting loudly. Mila is just staring at her, curious. She gets quite loud until her Dad picks her up and puts her on the other side of the pew. Well, it was good while it lasted, Wugs.
10:07 We're knee-deep in the homily (I have barely heard a word) and as I see Mila getting restless, I decide to pull out my 2nd biggest weapon. MY WALLET.
10:11 It's working! Mila has now pulled out all my credit cards, my TJ Maxx card, my Berkeley public library card, my CPR for Healthcare Providers card, my Blick Art Supply card and is transferring them from wallet to wooden holder to pew and back again. Behind me I can hear people suck in their breath when she starts waving my credit card around.
10:14 The game has taken a thrilling new turn--for Wugs--when she decides it would be more fun to just do a sweeping motion along the pew and scatter the cards onto the floor that way. Goodbye wallet, you were good while it lasted.
10:15 Thankfully now it's the time where everyone kneels. The kneeler coming down distracts Wugs. A new climbing toy/balance beam! I can straddle it! I can place books on it!
10:20 As I'm getting up to go to communion the man behind me taps my shoulder and says, "There's still a card under that pew over there." Whoopsie. And here I was thinking he was going to compliment me on my awesome girl. FYI it was an Anthropologie gift card so I'm forever indebted to that man.
10:23 We're back from Communion and Wugs, it's like she knows! is starting to chant park-a! park-a! in a frustrated way. I ask her to let me say a quick prayer and then we'll go. I whip out the magnetic fish from the bag 'o fun and know we're in the home stretch.
10:25 Mila makes one final do-or-die run for the altar while grinning over her shoulder at me. I catch her just in time. I'm still faster than you, Wugs.
10:27 Their announcements at the end of mass take too damn long. Isn't that what bulletins are for? My kid is not the only getting restless here.
10:31 Final blessing, they're singing the exit song, and Wugs and I nearly run into the cross being carried by the altar boy at the back of the church as we make our beeline to the park-a.
There's not a lot of time for one-on-one meditating with God in my church experiences these days, but I do take great comfort in seeing other families, other parents, try to do the same thing I am. That alone fills me up with grace and humility. I look up and see other mothers allowing their child to wrap and re-wrap their necklaces around their face and hair, Dads pulling out snacks, pulling out dolls, doing whatever it takes--we're all doing what we feel is right by our children in order to try and bring faith into our family life. I get a big sense of community, of the whole we're all in this together sort of thing when I'm there. And ultimately, isn't that one of the biggest pillars of church? It's not easy, my solo Sundays with Wugs--and I can't say that I don't do my fair share of chickening out altogether. But we're keeping at it.