A novel about modern-day motherhood, memes, and getting your worst moment plastered across the internet.
coming March 17th, 2020!
The Mommy Meltdown seen around the world!
When Quinn Barrett’s son refuses to wear his hand-crafted costume to the Little Wonders Preschool Happy Halloween Parade and Dance Party she loses it -- complete with stomping, screaming, and costume-destruction galore. Not her best day. And caught on viral video. Yep, “Halloween Mom” is now internet famous.
The posting culprit: tattooed, blue-haired, west-coast transplant Daisy McGulch, out of place in the posh New England town and unable to blend with the other perfect mommies of Little Wonders Preschool.
While she couldn’t care less about organic snacks (paleo-preferred) or the winter quarters of the Little Wonders chickens, she’s not about to admit she’s the one who accidently brought Quinn’s worst moment to the entire world—she’d be kicked out of town!
But when Quinn and Daisy find themselves unlikely cohorts in the fight for Little Wonders Parents Association supremacy, they also discover they have more in common than they expected…but the internet is forever. Can Quinn live down her new reputation? And how far will Daisy go to keep the truth from coming to light?
Hilarious, clever, and unforgettable, Little Wonders offers a glimpse into the high-pressure world of modern momming, with natural toys, scrutinized playdates, PTA politics, and social media gone amok.
In dark moments, when Quinn Barrett looked back and analyzed what caused the destruction of her entire life, she should have known that it would happen at the Little Wonders Preschool Happy Halloween Costume Parade (and Dance Party).
Not that the Little Wonders Preschool Happy Halloween Costume Parade (and Dance Party) was in any way apocalyptic. No, it had been a perfectly executed Quinn Barrett production from start to finish.
But, if she was being honest with herself—and in those dark moments of wine-fueled reflection, Quinn could be nothing but honest—the entire day had been full of hiccups that stacked one on top of the other until she’d felt like she had when she was six and she’d drunk five root beers at McDonald’s and everything exploded out of her, into the playspace ball pit.
The day had begun as usual. Her internal alarm—once she started using the Parcel Method she no longer needed an external one—went off precisely at 5:45 am. Dividing her day into Parcels —basically fifteen-minute segments—had been an organizational godsend that allowed her to “take the reins” of her day—or at least that’s what the motivational book she’d adopted it from claimed. Her first fifteen-minute block was delegated for either 1. a solid mile and a half on the treadmill, 2. frothing some coconut milk for a decent cappuccino, or 3. a shower *with* shaving legs. Since she would be running around all day at work at the Beacon Hill house followed by the Halloween parade setup, she could skip the treadmill. And since she had gotten a full five hours of sleep last night, she didn’t need the caffeine shot. Thus she could indulge in smooth legs.
So, shower. One of complete luxury and solitude. She was even contemplating a decadent exfoliating scrub, when the first hiccup occurred. She heard the fast, hard footfalls that heralded the arrival of one sleepy, grumpy three-year-old boy. Who was awake six minutes ahead of schedule.
“Mommy, I’m all wet,” her son Hamilton said, and sat down on the bathroom floor in his pee-covered pajamas.
Her heart broke even as she sucked in a steadying breath. She should have opted for coffee. “Oh, sweetie, again?” Quinn said, as she quickly rinsed the soap out of her hair (no time for conditioner, and shaved legs were laughable at this point). Ham had been using the potty—really, he was!—for several months now. But he still had problems at night with wetting the bed. ( . . . And, there were those times during the day that the teachers would find him crouching behind a chair and pooping in his pants.) But Quinn insisted he was completely potty trained. Because he knew how to do it. He just . . . didn’t. And now, she had less than five minutes to get their morning back on track before the next Parcel started.
“Okay, hop in,” she said. Stepping out of the shower, Quinn efficiently stripped him out of his wet pajamas, and got him in the shower to wash off. She ignored Ham’s screams of having to be under the water (really, you’d think he was melting like the Wicked Witch of the West). Then she got him out (naturally, after thirty seconds in the water, now he didn’t want to leave), dried him off, and used the remaining four minutes of her Parcel to strip the sheets off Ham’s twin bed and replace them.
Even with the plastic mattress protector a vague pee scent permeated his room. She would have to leave Alba a note to see if she could do anything about that.
By the time she dug out that one pair of summer slacks that sort of worked for fall, she was running seven minutes into her next fifteen-minute Parcel. Time to pick up the pace.
“Yaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy!!!! Mommy, chase me!” Hamilton cried, running away, toward the master bedroom, for no apparent reason other than he was three years old and didn’t need the coffee that Quinn dearly wished she had made.
“Ham—Hamilton, come back here!” she hissed, but never underestimate the speed and slipperiness of a wet three-year-old.
There was a dive, and a crash, and then a wailing cry.
“I. STUBBED. MY. TOE!!!!”
As she rushed over to console the victim, another grumpy voice, one she’d hoped to avoid rousing, sounded through the master suite.
“Aw come on,” the voice whined, in a state of cranky stupor. “Ham, I need my sleep.”
“Hey, honey,” Quinn said soothingly, to both Ham on the floor and to the rumpled pile of sheets that was groaning in the bed. “Sorry, but Ham wet the bed and then stubbed his toe and—”
“I was in surgery until midnight, Quinn,” her husband, Stuart, groaned, not even opening his eyes. “And I have to be back in the OR again today. I need my sleep.”
“Right. Sorry. Come on, sweetie,” she said in a hush to Hamilton. “Let’s let Daddy sleep.”
She managed to scoop Ham up and tiptoe out of the room, shutting the door behind her. By now, the stubbed toe was forgotten, and she ushered him to his room where she began to ruthlessly dry him off and get his clothes on.
Stuart was a wonderful dad, like she told everyone—but God, was he grumpy when he woke up.
Like father, like son, she supposed. Not everyone was a morning person. By biology, or necessity.
“Come on, Ham,” Quinn said as she wrestled her son into clothes, rooting around in her mind desperately for something to motivate him into cooperating. “You have to get dressed so . . . you can be my special helper today!”
She was now nine minutes into her next Parcel, and it looked like the whole morning was going to be shot if she didn’t do something to get things back on track.
“I’m Miss Rosie’s helper this week—I get to feed Nemo.”
Ham was immensely proud of the responsibility of feeding Nemo, the class goldfish. Not to be confused with the goldfish in the other classes, all named, like all preschool fish, Nemo. To hear Ham tell it, he had a special bond with his Nemo—maybe this was the beginning of Ham being responsible enough for a pet? A dog—ugh, but Stuart would say no. That conversation wasn’t even worth starting. Especially not in the morning.
“Yes, but I need you to be my helper, too.”
“Because it’s a very special day! It’s Halloween!” Rather, it was the Friday before Halloween, but when you’re in preschool, Halloween was more of a weeklong spectacle than any one event. “And we have lots to do before the parade, so we have to hurry hurry hurry to get to school. Got it, buddy?”
“Halloween? My costume!” Ham’s little eyes lit up and Quinn felt the warm glow of a three-year-old’s joy. And no small amount of pride at what she had been doing until one in the morning the night before.
Ham thundered down the stairs. Where, in the center of the impeccably decorated living room, by the vintage gray tufted couch she’d agonized over, sat . . .
“That’s your costume, sweetie! Your spaceship!” Not just any spaceship. It was hand-crafted papier mâché and shaped corrugated cardboard, with vinyl sheeting for windows and actual working LED lights. It was a feat of engineering and silver chrome spray paint. And it was what Ham had said he wanted to be for Halloween—not a space man, not an astronaut, but a spaceship—for the last month.
And Quinn Barrett did not disappoint. Especially not her son.
“It doesn’t look like a spaceship,” Ham said, dubiously. All of the good feelings Quinn had crashed down around her.
Hiccup Number Two.
“Sure it does!” she said, and she was about to give him the rundown of all the amazing things the spaceship could do (Lights! Sounds! A smoke effect that she wasn’t allowed to use in the parade but would be employed on Halloween night!) when her watch went off, reminding her that the latest Parcel was up, and she NEEDED to get breakfast ready.
“Okay, honey, time for you to go use the potty and get your clothes on, while I make mini-quiches!”
Ham was left eyeing the spaceship dubiously, while she trotted off to the kitchen.
A healthy breakfast was the best way to start the day, and luckily, she had made the egg white, spinach, and mushroom quiche cups in advance and frozen them; all she had to do was pop them in the toaster oven. (Microwaves were not allowed in her household since she’d read that study on developing brain waves and concentration.)
The steaming quiche cups came out of the toaster oven, delicious and tempting, and—
“I’M A FIREMAN!!!!”
—and they hit the floor, as one of Ham’s toy fire trucks hit her ankle.
Damn. Damn damn damn damn. That was the last of the mini-quiches.
“Too loud!” came the grumbly voice from above stairs.
“Sorry, Mommy,” Ham said, contrite. Whether he was contrite about the fire truck to the ankle or about again waking his father, she didn’t know, but she didn’t have time to guess, she had to plan B a healthy breakfast, pronto.
“Got a sorry for Daddy, too?” Stuart said, as he plodded down the stairs, looking rumpled and gorgeous with a morning beard. He came up to Ham, and they did their usual greeting. Tiger claws and growls.
“Grr!” Ham said.
“Grr!” Stu said back; he cocked an eyebrow at the spaceship. “What’s this thing?”
“It’s my fire truck!”
“It’s a spaceship, buddy. You wanted to be a spaceship.”
Stu’s eyebrow remained cocked. “You made that? When?”
“Here and there. It wasn’t hard.” She aimed for breezy, but her fractiousness at the loss of the mini-quiches was showing through. It was too early in the morning for her to entertain a fractious moment, she thought as she rummaged in the cabinets for what to sub in for breakfast. They were low on almost everything. She would have to leave Alba a list.
“Muesli mix!” she said triumphantly, finding some in the back. It was usually reserved for the weekends (high-carb breakfasts on weekdays were generally a no-no, but when needs must) and with Ham comfortably ensconced at the kitchen’s marble island, chomping away, she could rush upstairs and finish getting herself dressed.
She threw on the dress shirt she had thankfully had Alba iron yesterday, her favorite high-heeled ankle boots, and was so grateful for the tousled, chin-length cut she’d had her stylist implement. Sure, Stuart bemoaned the loss of her midback tresses, but if she could save herself one Parcel of time in the morning on hair care, then all the better. Secretly, she loved the way the cut framed her face and brought out her eyes. But she didn’t tell Stuart that. She told him that she’d grow it back out once life got a little less hectic.
Plus, for special occasions, she could put in some extensions.
She trotted back downstairs, tucking her shirt in as she went.
“Mommy, I want green juice.” On the one hand she was thankful he was into his vegetables this morning, on the other, she was already a full Parcel behind. And their fridge was desperately empty.
Also, Stuart’s fancy blender defied her.
“I’m sorry, Ham. Alba isn’t here, so she can’t make you a green juice. Go on, time to go get dressed.”
She shot pleading eyes at Stuart—Go help him get dressed!—but . . . well, it might have been too early for Stuart to get such complex signals.
“Go on, Hamilton,” Stuart said, not looking up from his own bowl of muesli.
Ham hopped down off his stool and went to his room. Quinn shook her head. The chances of a three-year-old actually getting dressed by himself were approximately the same as a shark marrying a nubile young skinny-dipper, but Stuart didn’t seem to understand that.
“What?” Stuart said. “What’s that look?”
“Nothing!” Quinn replied, letting her eyes fall to her watch (vintage Cartier, her push present from Stuart). “Where is Alba? She’s not usually this late.”
Alba had been Ham’s nanny since he was born, but now that he was at Little Wonders, she had transitioned to being their housekeeper, and general all-around lifesaver. Alba proved the adage that behind every woman who has it all is a middle-aged domestic helper making everything work.
“She’s in Puerto Rico,” Stuart said, filling his mouth with muesli as he spoke.
Hiccup Number Three.
“WHAT?” Quinn couldn’t help but let out. This time, she couldn’t help but let her fractiousness show.
Stuart kindly swallowed before he replied. “She’s in Puerto Rico. For her daughter’s wedding?”
“When did that happen?”
“She called my office a couple of weeks ago, asking for the time off.” Stuart shrugged. “I told Charlene to email you.”
“That’s not something you have your scheduler email your wife about! That’s something you put on the family calendar! That is something you—”
That is something you tell me, and we discuss it, and we figure out what our game plan is going to be.
“Oh, now, don’t give me that look,” Stuart said, a sly half grin on his face, looking up from beneath his lashes. He got up from his stool and came over to her. “I’m sorry, okay? I was running from one OR to another when Alba called, that’s why I asked Charlene to email.”
“You didn’t think to mention it to me when you got home?” Quinn tried her damnedest to maintain her justifiably pissed-off face, but Stuart slipped his hands to her hips in that way that he did, and well . . .
“Honestly, it completely slipped my mind until now.” He gave her a grin that romance novelists would describe as “saucy,” but that Quinn could only describe as “trying to get away with it and succeeding.” His lips lightly grazed her neck. “It’s just for the weekend. Is it really that big a problem?”
Was it really that big a problem? Alba only made it so their household functioned. Beyond the grocery shopping, the cleaning, the green juices she somehow convinced Ham to love—she was Quinn’s backup and life support. She was supposed to come help with the Halloween parade today. She was supposed to come help hand out candy (and help with Quinn’s visiting mother) on Halloween night tomorrow.
Alba never asked for time off. She worked whenever Quinn had an emergency, or she and Stuart needed a night out in the city. Now Quinn was left without a backup for the madness of dealing with a three-year-old’s Halloween weekend . . . And for her to leave without telling Quinn—purposely calling Stuart’s office instead—it just about cracked Quinn’s psyche in half. What did it say about how Alba viewed her?
But there wasn’t time for a cracked psyche, not today. She could handle this. She was Quinn Barrett—she got shit done.
“No, it’s fine,” she said, sighing. “You and I will just handle my mother on our own tomorrow.”
Stu let out a groan, and pulled away, back to his muesli mix. “You really know how to kill a mood. And to think, I was all ready to show you my gratitude for the snack when I got home last night.”
Quinn’s brow furrowed. When did he think she had time to enjoy his “gratitude”? Did he think she took a shower with half-shaved legs that morning for his benefit, and not the benefit of the hundred people she had to interact with that day?
But no, she was getting irked. She couldn’t get irked. Or fractious. Or have a cracked psyche. Not today.
“What snack?” she asked instead.
“The one in the green Tupperware,” Stuart said into his cereal.
A shiver of annoyance ran down her spine. “You mean Ham’s lunch?”
Stuart didn’t have time to reply, or to give her a romance novel saucy grin and save himself. Because at that moment, Stuart was saved when his son bounded down the stairs, wearing a fireman’s hat, one sock, and nothing else.
Her alarm beeped. Another Parcel gone.
“Fireman!!!!!!” Ham yelled as he zoomed around the room. “Let’s go to schooooooool!!!”