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All I wanted that Friday morning
was a cup of coffee. I wasn't even out of my pajamas yet and was pouring my
first cup when my phone rang. It was 7:30 a.m.. My 12-year-old had just rolled down the driveway on his BMX bike a few minutes earlier, so when I saw his name
on my caller ID, I assumed he had forgotten something for school.
But when I answered the phone, it
was silent on the other end.
"Hello? Are you there?" I asked,
getting a little worried.
"What? Where are you?" I was trying
to keep my voice calm and hide my growing panic. My mind was racing toward all the terrible possibilities, but I reminded myself: He is well enough to
"I got up and walked to the
sidewalk," my son stammered, describing a busy intersection just a block away
from our house. By this time my husband looked up from drinking his coffee—still in pajamas—and I motioned for him to get out the door. I stood dumbly
in the doorway, even though I could have started walking while talking to him
on my cell phone. My younger son was tucked away in his bed, and I decided to
close the front door and leave well enough alone.
"Daddy's on his way. I'm coming
too," I said, running down the sidewalk, not caring that I was wearing fuzzy
leopard pajamas. I sprinted down our street and around the corner, seeing one
of the other seventh-grade bicyclists waiting at the opposite corner,
looking confused. While I waited for the red light, I could see a cluster of
cars pulled over, but I couldn't see my son. Please, please God, let him be OK.
I found my husband already talking
to our son, who was shifting his weight from side to side. Gingerly, I hugged
him. Suddenly, I was afraid to break this skinny boy who was as tall as I am.
He was standing, which was good. His knees were scraped, as if he had just taken
an ordinary spill off his bike.
I surveyed the scene. A middle-aged
man was talking to me, and someone was patting my shoulder. I turned around and
saw a friend who has known my son since our boys were both infants. She was
stopped in her car at the red light and witnessed everything. A few steps away
stood another man, ring in nose and arms covered with tattoos. He was also
wearing pajamas. From what the other guy was telling me, I understood that the
nose-ring guy made a right turn while my son was crossing the street, crashing
into the front tire of his bicycle and knocking him off his bike. Thank God it was not a split-second later.
I shuddered to imagine my son getting knocked off his bike, his head hitting the hard ground. My baby.
The next few minutes was a blur of
sirens, flashing lights and people asking me questions. First the paramedics:
"How old is he? Is he allergic to
Then the police:
"What's his full name? Was he
wearing a helmet?"
I noticed that the authorities
gravitated toward me first. Maybe it was the family resemblance, or perhaps
because frazzled women in leopard pajamas don't usually stand at a busy corner
during morning rush hour. As my son was loaded into the ambulance, I ran home
to change and follow in my car. My husband stayed to finish the police report while a neighbor watched over our younger son.
At the emergency room, people kept
stopping by our little corner.
"It could have been so much worse."
"Good thing you were wearing a helmet."
People offered water bottles, and
the lady sitting next to a man with an oxygen tank looked too long with a kind
smile. My phone is buzzing with texts from friends and the parents of my son's
friends. While we waited for an orthopedic specialist to inspect the x-rays, my
son pointed to a mark on his helmet. "Mom, was this here before?" The mark was
wide and rough, suggesting that the helmet had been scraped along the pavement.
I shuddered to imagine my son getting knocked off his bike, his head hitting
the hard ground. My baby.
Nothing made sense. I tried to
piece together what happened: My son almost all the way across the
intersection, the Toyota coming around the corner.
The kind lady ventured across the
hallway to say, "He reminds me of my grandson. I think it's the smile." She
pulled out her wallet, proudly displaying a school portrait of an olive-skinned
boy grinning for the camera. The doctor finally returns to give us clearance to
leave, as a volunteer gives my 12-year-old a plush kangaroo wearing a T-shirt
with the hospital logo.
A month has passed since the
accident. We've talked about safety and shopped for a new helmet. My son got back
on his bike the next school day and pedaled away to meet his friends. If the
day of the accident was one of the worst days of my life, watching him ride
down the street the next Monday was one of the hardest things I've ever