MacDaddy and MoMama recently had a bit of an exciting week, as only parents of small children can. And, I just want to say, life at the MacFamily house is already eventful on a daily basis. You’ll recall there are a number of medical and developmental diagnoses under that one Portland roof, not to mention a handful of cats and one whiny dog.

This week I am letting MoMama, also known as my oldest daughter, tell you about the latest adventure.

— Sheila Hagar

As a stay at home parent, few things inspire existential dread more than the prospect of summer vacation.

Add five major medical diagnoses, 5 year-old twins, and a 7 year old who knows absolutely everything, and you’ve got a recipe for the sort of season that pushes wine o’clock earlier with each passing week. 

I like to make a fun wager with myself on that first heady June day of kid freedom — what will induce a mild psychotic break this year? 

Will it be the $40 spent on organic sunscreen, with nary a bottle to be found when I actually need it? Maybe it will be the piles of grandparent-provided plastic toys strewed across the backyard, or my diabetic son’s blood sugar dropping dangerously after a half-hour romp in the sun. 

I can hardly count out the constant battles over long-sleeved shirts (“Why?!) and the fact that it’s “too light” to go to bed yet. 

I remind myself, with a small sigh of relief, that at least I won’t have to contend with those duskless Alaskan nights of my childhood, the siren song of the trampoline-jumping teenagers two doors down taunting me with what I considered a torturously premature bedtime.

This summer, though, I’d be smarter. 

I’d consult Pinterest and mom friends alike. We’d do our local library reading program, and visit the U-pick berry farm with the free bouncy castle. I had meal plans on the family whiteboard, weekly goals, and a full day for weekly prep. In all my hubris, I even picked up several sheets of poster board, festooned with schedules, boredom busters, and amateur Sharpie illustrations for the non-readers of the MoMama house.

I thought my best stroke of brilliance was the purchase of 15 pounds of pinto beans from the local warehouse store. After all, in a house full of attention-deficit, autism and wild play, a sensory tub was a natural fit, right?

It was brilliant, at the start. The kids filled it up on their own with tiny bulldozers and dump trucks, plastic buckets and sand shovels. The big plastic tub became the site of make-believe collaboration and minimal sibling bickering. The sound of cherubic giggles and creativity was music to this mama’s ears.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one whose ears were drawn to the contents of the sensory tub.

One young Mister Macalicious — age 7 and we’ll see if he makes it to 8 — has sworn his complete innocence in the matter, but somehow a pinto bean found its way into his itty bitty ear canal. 

I wasn’t daunted. Just the month before I’d crouched below my adventurous daughter to tweeze a comically large plastic bead from her nose. It’d taken half an hour of work and lots of gentle reassurance, but we’d escaped a trip to the emergency room. I was confident I could do so again, and took my tweezers to that bean with grim determination.

Fifteen minutes in, it was clear that my trusty tweezers had nothing on this slippery little object, and off to the emergency room we went. Not exactly a favorite way to spend Saturday afternoon.

Three hours later, after one viewing of a full-length Disney movie on the hospital room’s TV, four different retrieval tools, an attempt with some sort of medical balloon and a desperate try with the suction tool, this devil bean would not budge.

The ER doctor referred us to the ear-nose-throat surgeon. He told me we’d be ushered in bright and early Monday morning for bean retrieval and be on our merry way. 

I was fool enough to believe him.

Apparently a spotted legume lodged firmly in my son’s ear is not considered an emergency, and Monday’s receptionist assured me that bringing him in Wednesday afternoon would be just fine. 

Wednesday came and went while the bean remained firmly lodged in Mac’s little blond head. It had swollen, they informed us, after three days of making itself at home.

The bean-burdened lad would need to be knocked out completely while they tussled with the ear blocker. MacDaddy volunteered for the 4:30 a.m. wake up call and the very early surgery. I was there alongside, shoving an obscenely large thermos of coffee into his waiting hand and dressing the patient in clean, comfy pajamas for the day ahead. 

I would hear later the nurse and anesthesiologist made their own bets over the identity of the “foreign body,” the top guesses being a Lego or a seed.

In the end, Bean Boy was wheeled back and the doctor broke up the bean, fishing it out one dastardly piece at a time. 

Our family bean saga has come to an end, but much later than anyone could have predicted.

So far Mac has maintained his innocence, but we’re not going to test him a second time. The pintos have left the building.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers education in the Walla Walla Valley. She also writes a column, Home Place, usually highlighting family life and slices of local life.

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