04/11/2012 11:25 am ET Updated Jun 11, 2012

Lowering The Bar

6:55 am: As usual, we all wake up ten minutes late and the morning insanity ensues.

Tish hates her outfit and wonders aloud, loud, loud why she doesn't get to "WEAR GLITTER TANK TOPS TO SCHOOL LIKE EVERYOOOOOONE EEEEEELSE," as if she attends kindergarten with the cast of "Showgirls".

Amma walks around pinching people and making them cry. It's what she does.

Chase takes four hundred hours getting ready and still comes downstairs in his pajama bottoms. It's what he does.

I run downstairs to make lunches because although I know it makes more sense to prepare them the night before ... I'm just not there yet. If I take on one more evening duty I will die.

I finish shoving Chase's lunch in his backpack and my eye catches the big whiteboard on our wall that serves as my brain. It says: "WEDNESDAY: KIDS DENTIST: 8:30 AM".

Dammit. It's definitely Wednesday. Yesterday was Tuesday so ... it's undeniable, really.

I yell: HEY GUYS -- NEVER MIND! We've got an hour. You're going to the dentist this morning.

Whoops of joy from some -- tears of terror from others. Not sure what came from whom. I'm just grateful to have another hour to get out the door.

I'm also grateful because I really like taking the kids to the dentist. Strange, since I consider myself a transcendentalist and hardly ever go for me. But with the kids, it's different. We go to a dentist who has discovered that if you turn the office into an amusement park -- with movie screens and air hockey tables and video games -- kids will actually WANT to get cavities and JACKPOT! I'll take it, though. It's like Disneyland minus the walking around, plus a Keurig machine and up-to-date People magazines.

Plus, I feel like such a responsible grown-up at the kids' dentist. What kind of mom remembers to bring all three of her kids to the dentist? An amazing one, that's what kind. And so I walk around that office feeling very fancy and efficient. I always wear a cardigan to the kids' dental appointments. I only own one cardigan, because I'm not really the cardigan type. But on dentist day, I sure am. Nothing says responsible and OBVIOUSLY I'VE NEVER SPENT TIME IN JAIL DON'T BE RIDICULOUS like a cardigan does.

The sugar-free icing on the cake is that Craig is a total dental nerd and he makes our kids brush and floss twice a day, so they always get perfect dental reports. Since I'm the one who takes them to their appointments, the dentist thinks I'm the responsible dental parent and always congratulates me. Hah.

I once took the kids to a hotel without Craig, and at bedtime I had to tell the three of them that I forgot their toothbrushes. They turned WHITE (remember they're Asian brown, usually). These children were horrified. When I went into the bathroom to wash up, Tish found my cell phone, hid in the corner and CALLED CRAIG TO RAT ME OUT. I heard her whispering furtively, "Daddy, mommy said to go to bed without brushing our TEETH. What should we do, daddy?"

I ran out of the bathroom and yelled, "TISH! OH MY GOD" and Tish whispered back into the phone, "I have to go daddy, cause now Mommy's screaming bad words at me." All that is true, swear on my life. The next day when we got home. Craig started to say, "What the...." but I said DON'T EVEN. And he didn't even.

The point is, I'm bad at teeth. I don't floss, or even brush for longer than ten seconds, but I do use tooth whitener religiously. So when I get the kids' glowing teeth reports, I flash the hygienists my glowing smile and nobody's the wiser. In short, I get to be somebody else for a while, a dental nerd in a cardigan with perfectly groomed children and I really enjoy playing that role for an hour or two. On dental mornings I become my own character foil.

Back to this morning.

We pile into the van and I realize a few seconds later that I've forgotten to feed the kids breakfast. Usually, I keep a dozen Clif Bars in the car for moments such as these, but today I look into the glove compartment and realize there's only one bar left. And I'm starving.

Obviously, I tell the kids there are no bars left and Amma is MAD, but what else is new? At the light I turn up the music so they can't hear the wrapper, and I scarf down that bad boy.

We arrive at the Disneyland waiting room and I'm sitting in my comfy seat, reading my People magazine in my cardigan while the kids play air hockey. I try to sit up very straight because I feel like responsible dental people should have good posture. But I can't relax because Amma's being really loud. Too loud. So I call her over and whisper to her sweet little face, "you.must.lower.your.voice."

Amma pulls away from me dramatically and looks me right in the eyes. Her eyes widen and her face looks shocked. She points her chubby little finger right in my face and YELLS:


Then she lies on the floor and cries. She cries like -- I don't know -- like a child who's been betrayed. Like a child who maybe just learned that her mama fell off the wagon. Like a child from that Intervention show. Exactly like that.

The waiting room is very crowded. And all of sudden the noise stops. All the other cardigany moms look up from their parenting magazines and right at me. They cannot look away, although I'm sure they really wish they could.

This is when I remember that I have a one billion ounce transparent water bottle with me, filled to the rim with BEET JUICE. This is the sort of thing one recovering from Lyme Disease has to drink in the morning. But unfortunately, all I can consider now is how much it looks like a 40 ounce Bloody Mary.

What does one do in a moment like this? What? Please tell me.

Briefly, I consider standing up and making an announcement:

AHEM! Listen, you guys. This is just a misunderstanding. This is actually really funny. Funnier than you can even imagine! Ironic, even. Because, you see, I'm NOT drunk this morning, but I actually WAS, for like twenty years! But now I drink BEET JUICE. This is BEET JUICE. And this crying, kicking one -- she's talking about CLIF BARS. I smell like CLIF bars. Isn't that hilarious? I'm not drunk. Swearsies.

No. One can't make an announcement like this. I decide that pretty quickly. It hits me that the best thing I can do is just ACT SOBER.

Now, when you get a chance, I'd like you to try to act sober in a public place. The best way to appear wasted when you are not wasted is to TRY HARD NOT TO ACT WASTED. Go ahead -- try to act sober when you really ARE sober, but also paranoid that people think you're drunk. It's impossible. You end up trying so hard to walk straight that you teeter -- you try so hard to annunciate clearly that you sound like a robotic idiot. In short, the harder you try to look sober the more you forget what sober looks like -- or even feels like -- and the drunker you appear to be. That is what happened to me this morning. I dropped my magazine. I tripped. I spilled my beet juice on my one and only cardigan. Cardigan! Ha! Clearly a sham. Might as well have worn my Motley Crue shirt and yoga pants and called it a day.

We made it through the appointments. I stared in my rear view mirror the whole ride home certain that the dental office had called a police escort. I didn't see any, but still, I made the kids stay silent the whole way home so I could CONCENTRATE ON DRIVING SOBER.

I swerved. I failed to obey the minimum speed and then the maximum. I forgot to use my blinker.

I'm home now. I'm really tired.