The girls were companionably munching on grapes and extra sharp cheddar, Ave with a screwdriver in her hand, Briar a Barbie. They were watching a DVD of Lady & The Tramp on our computer. I was playing with Fin who was deciding it was time to tackle crawling. I was, in a word, overwrought—my last baby, sprouting teeth and blazing past milestones as if there were no tomorrow. Gasp.

“S’not workin’, mama!” Avery said somewhat incredulously. Briar was indifferent and Finley was on the move. I tucked my upper lip in as my chin took the lead and I huffed my hair out of my eyes, mostly to swallow the profanity dancing on the tip of my tongue as I caught sight of the frozen, pixelated screen. I panicked that it was liquid on the keyboard and another Mac shot.

Briar and Avery took off chirping that they’d keep Fin “from being so lonely.” I rattled the mouse and slapped the keyboard. The hard drive sputtered and a window flashed, “The DVD has suffered an error from which it cannot recover. Please restart.” I hit eject and the monitor went black. After ten seconds the screen came to life in a blaze of orange, pink and black.


My knees buckled. Foreign Contaminant? Grape squirts? Cheese? Spit? WTF?!

“Ooh, mommy, we watch Wall•E?” They squealed and moved in a blur to the seat in front of the computer.

FOREIGN CONTAMINANT, toddler viewing delight, the salvation of mama’s fried nerves.