For me, unemployment's really not all that bad. I can easily fill the hours with my many hobbies: recording and watching my soaps, reading romance novels, and, of course, shopping! Well, more like window shopping these days, but I still manage to pick up a few small items here and there. For example, Pamida had a great sale on infants' onesies and sleepers, and I spent less than $10 overall!

Now, don't break out the bubbly just yet, Jeanketeers. There's no bun in the Teasdale oven! I bought them just in case a girlfriend of mine gets pregnant. When you know lots of people of child-rearing age, it's good to have baby gifts on hand for the odd shower or first birthday party and so on.

All right, I admit it: I don't always buy baby stuff for other people. In fact, the last baby shower I attended was in 1995. And, offhand, I can't think of anyone I know who's expecting. It's just that I love baby stuff sooo much! The tiny little clothes and adorable toys are irresistible to me! I even collect baby bottles and pacifiers. Sometimes, when hubby Rick is away, I take the baby stuff out of storage and spread it all around the house. You know, bottles in the sink, baby clothes hanging from doorknobs, blocks scattered on the floor—just to get a sense of what it would be like if the pitter-patter of tiny feet could be heard in our house.

I don't mean to come off as egotistical, but sometimes I think I would make the greatest mother ever. I just love kids sooo much, especially when they're real little. Also, I think I would make a terrific mom because I still look at the world through the innocent and wondering eyes of a child. I swear, I don't think there's a fundamental difference between myself at age 9 and myself at age 39. I can still remember all the joy and pain of childhood.

That's why my heart nearly leaped out of my chest when Miranda, the woman who lives in the apartment next door, asked me to babysit her daughter Hailey. It was totally out of the blue. Apparently, her regular babysitter was sick, and she didn't want to miss her weekly church-choir practice. She said it would only be for three hours, and she would pay me $15. What I didn't say was that I would have done it for free! Hailey is the most absolutely adorable 18-month-old, with curly golden hair, rosy cheeks, and chubby little legs... Who wouldn't want to spend a few hours with that heaven-sent angel?

When I arrived for my babysitting date, I was disappointed to discover that Hailey was already asleep in her crib.

"She had a big day at her great-grandma's birthday party, and she's pretty tuckered out," Miranda said. "Lucky for you, huh? I bet she'll sleep through the night—certainly as long as you're here."

Well, I didn't consider it lucky. I'd been hoping Hailey and I could have some quality time together. When Miranda left, I sneaked into Hailey's room. Yep, sure enough, she was out like a light. For a while, I watched her coverlet gently rise and fall to her breathing. Then I went to the living room, plopped down on the sofa, and turned on the TV. Sheesh! It's just like another evening at home, I thought.

An hour crept by like molasses. I channel-surfed so much, I was practically waterlogged, and all the magazines Miranda and her out-of-town hubby Jim had to read were boring political ones like U.S. News And World Report and National Geographic. Miranda kept a two-way baby monitor in the living room so Hailey's cries and stirrings could be heard, but I didn't hear a single peep. I couldn't stand it! A precious little bundle from God was right in the very next room, and I couldn't do anything about it but sit and be on hand in case she started crying!

I couldn't do anything... or could I?

I went into the bedroom and, sure enough, Hailey was still sound asleep. Because she was lying on her stomach, I could only see one side of her face. I couldn't resist gently turning her over on her back. Her little face was so flawless and pure. She could have been one of those Anne Geddes calendar babies who wear little costumes while sound asleep.

Suddenly, inspiration seized me.

Quick as a flash, I was back in my apartment, rummaging through my special baby box. When I found what I was looking for, I grabbed my Polaroid camera and ducked back next door. (I know, I know, I shouldn't have left Hailey alone, even for a second, but this was major.)

Trying not to wake her, I removed Hailey's one-piece sleeper and slid it out from under her body. My heart skipped a beat when she started squirming and whimpering after a snap caught slightly against her leg, but she soon quieted down again. Whew! I'd have to make this quick. My swift work paid off, and I was pretty proud of myself when I was done. After all, it's no mean trick dressing a sleeping baby in a tiny clown outfit, complete with pointy hat!

Doesn't that sound like the most adorable thing in the world? I'd been saving the getup for my own future daughter's first Halloween, but looking at little Hailey, I couldn't resist giving it a test run. Besides, I thought I could take a couple of Polaroids and put them in the brand-new and unused baby book I kept in my box. You know, kind of pretend that Hailey was my baby.

Well, as I pointed the camera at Hailey, I realized that something was missing. Once again, I dashed back to my apartment and came back with a tube of bright red lipstick and some old white foundation left over from a Halloween clown costume of my own from 15 years ago. I daubed the white makeup on Hailey's face and drew little red circles on her cheeks and nose. I had to be really careful with the mouth area, but I managed to thickly line it with the lipstick. (It had to be perfect, you know!) Finally, I was set to take her picture.

I wonder how Anne Geddes manages to use a flash without waking her babies. That's where she has me trumped, because as soon as my Polaroid's flash went off, Hailey's eyes snapped wide open. For a few seconds, she just looked at me dumbfounded, her eyes still focusing. Then she began screaming. (Maybe I should have aimed the camera farther away from her.)

The sound Hailey made wasn't really crying, like a baby cries. I would say it was more like panicked shrieking. Hailey sat up and rubbed her eyes, which was definitely bad, because she managed to grind in some of the makeup. Tears flowing from her tightly shut eyes, Hailey began thrashing around. I didn't know what to do! I grabbed her and headed to the bathroom to wash off some the makeup.

That's when I heard a knock at the door. I froze, terrified that it might be Miranda coming back early from choir practice.

"Are you in there, Jean? Open the hell up! You can hear that crying up and down the hall!" It was hubby Rick!

Rick had returned from Tacky's Tavern and read my note saying I was next door. When I let him in, Rick, already blotto, absolutely freaked at the sight of little Hailey, still dressed as a clown, her face all pink and smeared. Having had this silly phobia of clowns since childhood, Rick turned almost as white as Hailey's makeup! He stumbled over to the toilet and vomited! (Now I had to deal with two babies!)

I was just getting Rick to his feet when a foul stench filled the air. At first, I thought it was Rick, but the smell was more in Hailey's direction. You guessed it—she pooped in her diaper! Rest assured, Jeanketeers, there was no way I was going to deal with something that smelled as bad as that! (What am I, nuts?)

Well, I don't know how I did it, but in short order I shoved Rick out the door (remembering to hand the camera and photo to him so Miranda wouldn't see it), washed the makeup off Hailey's face, stuffed the clown outfit in my pocket, and got her back into her sleeper before Miranda got home. Her eyes were still red and teary, and her diaper remained soiled, but Miranda completely bought my story that Hailey had been having nightmares and couldn't sleep, and that she had filled her drawers just a few moments before Miranda walked in.

Miranda apologized and even gave me an extra $5 for my trouble. I felt guilty about lying to her, but in a way, I think I deserved that extra five based on Hailey's disturbing behavior. I mean, she just wouldn't quit screaming, even after I fixed everything! Is that normal? Well, at least I have that darling picture.

I still ardently believe that children are our future, but all the same, I think I'll have a little less Hailey in my future!