At least I didn't have to hit the eight-foot dumpsters.

The day didn't start out so bad, yesterday. We were driving on one of the loveliest sections of highway in the country, which was made even more beautiful by the fact that the poplars have turned yellow. Bringing the car around curves, I was presented with beauty that soothed all the crazy parts of me. We drove through the dark forest where the sun shot through trees of the brightest yellow and out into vineyards and peace was all around me and the kids chattered in the back seat. The orchards and vineyards in Sonoma were turning as well, and there were soft hills of fiery little trees spreading in every direction.

We're leaving for Canada this week, and I'm hussling to get everything taken care of before we go. Chinua has a flight to Israel from Seattle on Thursday, and we'll be gone a little over two weeks, which means that we need to pack and prepare, STAT. I had some bookkeeping work to take care of, close to the City, so we zipped down and did it yesterday, taking in some psychological trauma as well, just for kicks.

I had the two older kids with me. In trying to configure who would take care of which children when both of us had great swathes of work to cut through, I settled on taking Kai and Kenya, thinking that they'd be the best for the seven hour round trip, while the Leaf baby would be the easiest, relatively, to take care of while working at home. Those big long naps are great. (By relatively, I REALLY mean relatively. It's funny how you get to saying, "Wow, this is so easy, I only have the two kids to take care of today." I imagine in the larger families they say, "Shopping was a cinch- I brought just five of the kids along!")

We just had to make one, brief stop at Target. Can you hear the creepy music?

I don't know why so many of my life events happen in shopping expeditions. I guess it's a comment on the nature of parenthood, the weekly forays into the wilderness of Costco, the way my whole life seems to be reflected in one little shopping trip. I mean, how many times can you walk through Costco without going absolutely freaking insane? Oh, they have their Christmas display up again! Wow, has a whole year passed already? What's that, for Halloween? A MAN-SIZED SCARY FIGURE? Oh, Costco, what will you think of next?

I've also shopped at practically every Target on the West Coast. Living in the woods means that you stock up when you can, so we shop wherever we are, north or south, east or west, this town or that town. Yesterday I was in Novato (a town to which I will now never return) and all I needed to buy was long underwear, socks, pull-ups, (for Kenya, who by the way is now a whiz at the potty) and a Dora the Explorer DVD for the kids to watch while I was working. (They have ONE, which they've watched seven hundred times, and I figured that I was pushing my luck by trying to keep them occupied with it again, while I worked.) I picked it all up in record time, didn't go near the clearance racks, and checked out. We were on a tight schedule.

Then I walked out to the car and realized that I didn't have my key.

A lot of stuff happened after this, including me retracing my steps seventeen times, searching on floors, under displays, in the bathroom, in the bathroom trash, and in the trash at the entrance to the store. I caught some looks, let me tell you, and I realized that people saw my shopping cart with two kids in it and assumed I was looking for food, or cans or something. I started to make little remarks, standing there with my arm shoulder high in trash, messing around with the melting ice cubes in the bottom of the bag, desperate to find my key, like "I really have to find that key!" and "Oh, kids, I hope we find it soon!" to let people know that I wasn't looking for leftover hotdogs. (Seriously. As if I would ever score food from the Target trash cans. The dumpsters behind Whole Foods are a thousand times better.) Unfortunately, my superstar husband thinks that my mutterings probably didn't make a better impression.

I hassled Guest Services until they were ready to throw me out, and called all of the locksmiths I could find in the Yellow Pages. (They were all closed on Sundays, except for one 800 number where the lady told me that new keys started at $120 AND UP, and that they wouldn't be able to tell me how much it would cost me until they got there. I don't want to mention how, but I've had a key made before, and it was $80 and I didn't want to pay any more if I didn't have to. [Okay, it was an incident involving the beach and the vast expanse of sand at the shore as well as shallow pants pockets and my little car key, but that was years ago.])

In between trips to Guest Services, my kids took turns falling apart. I walked around with a worried, stressed out look on my face, with two kids in my cart who were pulling hair and generally losing their minds. It was nap time, for Kenya, and after three hours, my kids weren't even trying to listen. I wasn't holding out to find the key at this point, I just couldn't even LOCATE A LOCKSMITH. I was literally stranded at Target, and at one point I looked at the man at Guest Services and asked him to please show me the way to where they kept all the bathroom trash once they emptied it. They all agreed that they should think about calling security.

As I was calling the police, a last ditch effort to find a local locksmith, an angel in the disguise of a Target team member ran up with my key. I have never seen anything as beautiful as that girl, standing there with her red shirt and khaki pants. We left, in a hurry, since we had been there for OVER THREE HOURS, and we didn't exactly have three hours to spare when we left that morning. We drove the rest of the way, I worked, the kids were delighted with their new DVD, and I was ecstatic that we didn't have to pay money that we didn't have for a new key.

You might think this is the end of the story, but you'd be missing the part where we finally left, hungry and tired, to drive the long drive home. We stopped to get gas and

I couldn't find my wallet. It was gone.

I'll give you some hints. It happened to be in the very same store that my keys had been lost in earlier. The very same boy that I had been hassling about the key handed my wallet to me in a polite and embarrassed-for-me manner. I cracked some joke, tried to get him to believe that this wasn't an everyday occurrence for me, and scratched the Novato Target off my list as a place that I can show my face ever again. The list is getting shorter and shorter.