Camp Mom. Week One.

The Interrogator trots past me. I glance up from the chocolate chip pancakes that aren’t quite ready to be flipped. He’s bare chested, and his shorts are on backwards. I smile.

They’re the same shorts he wore to bed last night. The same pair he had on yesterday.

I flip the pancakes. I hear footsteps descending the stairs. It’s the Kenyan. I smell him before I see him.

Me: “Good morning, Kenyan! Please turn yourself around and march back up those stairs for a shower. It’s been…how many days since you’ve showered?”

He touches his fingers while his lips silently mouth the days of the week.  His eyes glaze over as he does the mental math.

Kenyan: “6 days, Mom. I had a shower 6 days ago.”

Yowza.

Me: “That’s kinda gross, buddy.”

Kenyan: “Ooooh! Are those chocolate chip pancakes?”

I nod and point my spatula toward the stairs…which lead to the shower…which is long overdue.

Kenyan: “Oooh, Mom, are we going to the pool today?”

Me: “Probably.”

Kenyan: “No need for a shower. You say it all the time. Swimming in the pool counts as bathing.”

He has me there.

CampMom

Me: “Fair enough.”

I check the pancakes. Almost done. As I walk the syrup to the table, I see the Verb in the corner. His back is to me. He thinks I can’t see him.

Me: “What do you have over there, Verb?”

He gasps…baffled that I’ve discovered him. I hear the crinkling of a plastic bag. He turns around to face me. His mouth is outlined in dark chocolate. He grasps a bag of semi-sweet morsels between his 3 year old hands, also covered in dark chocolate.

Verb: Placing the bag behind his back, “I’m not holding anything behind mine back, Mom,” he tells me with a smile in a sing-song voice.

What age do they start lying? I forget. Is this developmentally appropriate?

He runs past me into the kitchen to return the chocolate chips to their rightful place in the pantry.

Me: “Where’s Waldorf?”

Interrogator: “He’s asleep, Mom. Waldorf’s asleep. I know because I went into his room to get some Legos. And he didn’t yell at me because he was asleep.”

I glance at the clock. 8:47AM.

The Interrogator is wearing yesterday’s clothes. The Kenyan hasn’t bathed in 6 solid days. The Verb is eating chocolate before breakfast. Waldorf is sacked out in his bed. I’m making breakfast that requires more of me than pushing buttons on the microwave.

Summer is here. 4 kids. All of them home. No extracurricular activities.

Camp Mom is in session.

How was week one?

It was an adjustment. Here are some high points…and some not so high points…

I gave birth to 4 kids. Somehow, I manage to accumulate more kids on Tuesday. And it rains. And I am hell bent on going to Costco. I have 5 kids with me at the time. But I time it perfectly so that we zip through that puppy during lunch time. Turns out all of the kids love chicken cutlets. Bonus. I grant them permission to stand next to the sample cart and eat as many free samples of that bird as they can stomach. Yes, I remind them to chew with their mouths closed. I’m not raising cavemen. I hold up the bag, catch the eye of the lady doling out samples, give her a smile, an emphatic nod, a thumbs up, and make sure she watches me place it in my cart…while I abandon 3 kids next to her sample cart housing her bite size pieces. It works out perfectly. (Good news)

By the time we arrive home, I round up 2 more kids. 7 boys. Stupidity factor increases exponentially. Common sense at a dangerous low. We live in a split level house. The Legos are all the way upstairs, the costumes are one level upstairs, the Wii is downstairs. The boys are up the stairs, they are down the stairs. Up, down, up, down, up, down. While I unpack the products I purchased in bulk, I dodge boys rounding the corner down the steps into the kitchen. I sidestep boys rounding the corner up the steps out of the kitchen.

Me: “Guys, no running in the house please.”

Giggle, giggle, dodge, sidestep. Repeat. Giggle, giggle, dodge, sidestep. Repeat.

Me: Louder, “Guys, no running in the house please.”

Giggle, giggle, dodge, sidestep. Repeat. Giggle, giggle, dodge, sidestep. Repeat.

Me: Sigh. “GUYS, NO RUN..”

My 3rd warning is cut off as I am pinned against the piano. By a small child? Negative. By a large bear. Launched from the top of the steps.

I survive a bear attack. Original artwork by the Kenyan.

As I’m pinned under the bear, the guilty party flees the scene. A hit and run in my own home. The guilty party’s identity remains a mystery. (Bad news)

After crawling out from under the bear, I give all 7 boys a come to Jesus a choice:

“Legos upstairs or movie downstairs.”

They spend the remainder of the afternoon quietly playing. I spend it cooking. (Good news) Our indoor cat has a mad crush on me, so he keeps his eyes trained on me as he frolics around in the dining room. When I say frolics, I mean he really frolics. Dancing, prancing, up on his hind legs…I see him out of the corner of my eye while I cook. I assume he, like I, is jammin’ to Adam Levine.

Me: To the cat, “Fawkes, you got the moves like Jagger?”

I finally turn my full attention to him.

He does NOT have the moves like Jagger. He has a petrified chipmunk. On my dining room rug.

Our uninvited dinner guest

He’s been batting that nasty ass vermin around for a full hour while I, none the wiser, have been putting on my own Katy Perry concert in my kitchen. (Bad news)

I immediately perform the running man…double time. Very high knees.

Me: “Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew, WALDORF!”

Waldorf arrives at my rescue within seconds, “WHAT? WHAT’S THE MATTER?!”

He follows my line of sight. Discovers the dead chipmunk. Looks at me. Looks back at the cat.

Waldorf: Smiling, “Yes! Way to go, Fawkes!” to me, “I’ll be right back.”

I continue my high step running man. My chant changes to, “Ew, ew, ew, ew, disease, disease, DISEASE!”

Waldorf returns less than a minute later with all 3 of his brothers. And a camera.

Verb, “Oh, he’s so cutey, cute!”

Interrogator: “Mom, can we keep him, Mom? Can he sleep in my bed, Mom? I can feed him. I’ll feed him. Can we please, please, pretty please keep him? Can I pet him, Mom?”

He reaches out to pet the dead chipmunk.

“NO!!!!” comes the chorus from Waldorf, the Kenyan, and me.

Waldorf: “Interrogator, don’t touch him! You’ll ruin my picture!”

What?!

Kenyan: “Interrogator, don’t touch him! Fawkes will scratch you!”

Huh?!

Me: “Interrogator, don’t touch him! You’ll get a disease!!”

The four of them turn to look at me. I can’t remember a time when 4 faces looked at me so blankly. Wait that’s not true…I see that look on their faces almost daily.

Me: “Everybody head downstairs please. Daddy will take care of this.”

I text B&B:

“Will you be home soon? There is a dead fucking chipmunk on the dining room floor, and I just vomited in my mouth.”

He replies:

“Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”

I text him:

“I didn’t catch your ETA…”

He replies:

“5 minutes.”

I dry heave, shiver, and back into the kitchen. Shake my head. Shiver some more.

So, that was Tuesday.

Wednesday afternoon I have 6 boys again. And I get a long overdue haircut and color in my very own home while they do who the hell knows what sit quietly in the family room. The color is lighter than I usually go.

Me: “Kenyan, tell me the truth. What do you think of my hair?”

Kenyan: “The truth? I think it is the exact color of old person’s hair.” (Bad news)

Don’t ask a question unless you’re prepared to hear the answer.

But, week one of Camp Mom ends on a high note.

On Saturday, we take the kids to a local farm to pick fruit. My guys would eat their weight in fruit if I allowed them to…and the Verb does exactly that in the raspberry fields. It is a gorgeous day…sunny skies, low humidity…and I’m fairly sure the entire tri-state area is at the shore. So we have the place to ourselves.

Looking for strawberries

We return home in a fruit coma.  I’m the only one who suffers sunburn. (Good news)

Sunday is Father’s Day, my Dad’s 75th birthday, and the first time we see Little Sister, Flyboy, and their 3 kids since Thanksgiving. They bring their Arizona noise to the East Coast for most of the summer to avoid the 100+ degree heat of the desert. The grandkids serenade my Dad with You Are My Sunshine, When I’m 64, and You’ve Got a Friend in Me. Absolutely adorable. (Good news)

Monday is kinda cool. I receive an email from The Huffington Post saying they published my Father’s Day piece. (Very good news)  Ari Gold from Entourage right here…“BOOM!”  I am beyond excited that my piece makes the cut. Humbled, flattered, thrilled, stoked. Not to mention, it secures my position as the #1 child in Dad’s eyes (the best of the good news)…and, yes, I mention that to The Huffington Post when I email them to thank them for the opportunity. Oh, I most certainly do.

I spend Monday night with family at the Neil Diamond concert. 71 years old. Still performing. Voice sounds better than it has in a decade. And putting on the show of his life. Really, does it get any better?!

In the span of a week, I am violated by a stuffed animal, unknowingly host a dead chipmunk for cocktail hour, and am called a blue haired old lady by my son.

In the span of that same week, I spend a perfect day outdoors with B&B and the boys, am reunited with Little Sister, am serenaded by Neil Diamond, and am published in The Huffington Post.

Even Steven.

Maybe a little better than Even Steven.

Kinda kick ass all around.

Stay tuned for next week’s installment…

A Sneak Peek

Verb: “I don’t want to wear mine raincoat! I want to take off mine shirt!”

Me: “Yes, you do, and no, you don’t.”

Interrogator: “I’m not going to eat breakfast right now. I’m going to play.”

Me: “Yes, you are, and no, you’re not.”

Kenyan: “My legs hurt. And I don’t like my haircut.”

Me: “No they don’t, and yes, you do.”

Waldorf: “Everything hurts. I can’t walk.”

Me: “No it doesn’t, and yes, you can.”

All this in a span of 3 minutes. While herding them to the car to drive to school.

We walk to the car. I open the doors. They pile in.

Me, with exaggerated calm: “Verb, get into your car seat. Verb, turn around and sit properly in your car seat. Verb, hand me your Legos or I will turn you around in your car seat. And I won’t do it gently. Verb, that’s 1. Verb, that’s 2. Verb, that’s..”

A split second before I drop the hammer, he turns around, sits properly and smiles.

3 year old boys aren’t any easier the 4th time around.

Verb: “I love you Mommy. Forever and ever. Ahhhh-men.”

This is his newest thing. After he tells me he loves me, he adds “forever and ever. Amen.” And he draws out the Amen. Most recently, he’s been hitting me with this gem when he’s on the toilet.  Right after he requests I wipe him.

It’s not so cute anymore.

I pull out of the driveway. Begin our 14 minute drive to school. I’m lost in thought when the Kenyan interrupts my reverie…

Kenyan: “Mommy, Beauregard’s parents aren’t married.”

Me: “I know.”

Kenyan, eyes wide: “They never were married.”

Me, nodding: “I know.”

Kenyan: “Well, how can they have a baby if they were not married?”

Me: “You don’t have to be married to have a baby.”

Waldorf, resident expert on every topic, chimes in: “Yes, you do.”

Me: “No, you don’t.”

Waldorf: “Yes, you do.”

I’m ignoring Waldorf now.

Kenyan: “I’m never getting married. I don’t want all these kids.”

This is not the first time I’ve heard him say this. In contrast to the Verb’s “forever and ever, Amen”, I find it thoroughly amusing. Every time I hear it. I should probably be insulted, but I’m too amused to be insulted.

Me: “You don’t have to have kids if you’re married.”

Waldorf: “But you do have to be married to have a baby.”

Some days I think he was put on this earth to make my life a living hell challenge me at every turn.

Me: “No, you don’t.”

Kenyan: “How does that work?”

I glance in the mirror. Eight blue eyeballs are trained on me.

I haven’t even had my coffee yet.

Me: “It works in a way that not everyone in this car is ready to hear about. It works in a way that I’m happy to explain to you at home.”

Waldorf: “You do have to be married to have kids.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake…

Me: “You DO NOT. Remember that talk Dad and I had with you about how babies are made?!”

I raise my eyebrows and make what I hope is meaningful eye contact with Waldorf in the rearview mirror. Then I swerve the wheel to compensate for the 6 seconds spent focused on the mirror.

Waldorf, suddenly disgusted, looks away: “Ugh, yes, I don’t really want to talk about that.”

Me: “I don’t either, but that’s what I’m referring to.”

Waldorf: “You mean about the no pants?”

Oh, brilliant.

I raise my eyebrows higher, make even more meaningful eye contact, swerve the wheel again.

Me: “Shhhh. Yes.”

Kenyan: “No pants? What the…”

Interrogator: “No pants? Who has no pants?! That’s inappropriate, Mom!”

Me: “Yes, it’s inappropriate.”

Waldorf: “Dad has no pants sometimes.”

sneakpeek

Ever the instigator…

Me: “OK, enough, thank you. That’s good.”

Verb, shrieking with disbelief: “Dad has no pants? Interrogator, YOU had no pants last year! Remember, you go’d pee pee on the potty, then you came outside with no pants?” He kicks his bare feet in sheer joy.

Interrogator, laughing, “I remember, that was fun, wasn’t it, Verb? Except it wasn’t last year, it was yesterday. It was fun and funny. But Mom didn’t like it.”

Me: “I remember that you lost dessert for that stunt, Interrogator. Pants are mandatory outside.”

Waldorf: “But not when making babies.”

Angry Eyes in the rearview mirror.

Swerve.

It promises to be a mind numbing a relaxing 87 Days of Summer

87 Days

T-13 days marks the start of summer vacation.

87 days of summer vacation.

87 days of Camp Mom.

87 days of no alarm clocks.

87 days of wet bathing suits and chlorine soaked towels tossed on my laundry room floor.

87 days of ice cream every day…sometimes twice a day.

87 days of my living room sofa doubling as a fort.

87 days of incessant questions.

87 days of constant negotiating.

87 days of “because I said so, that’s why”.

87 days threatening, through clenched teeth, to take away electronics for the remainder of the 87 days “if you tease your brother one more time”.

87 days of sunscreen.

87 days realizing too late that I should have reapplied.

87 days of math and language arts packets, completed 2 pages per day to avoid B&B and I hastily forging their answers the night before school the Kenyan and Waldorf working feverishly Labor Day weekend.

87 days checking out 10 library books, yet unable, 2 days later, to locate 7 of them.

87 days listening to Mommy’s music and mastering which songs can be sung at home but never in school.

87 days grilling.

87 days of paper plates.

87 days of the A/C running all day and fans in bedroom windows all night.

87 days hoping we’re invited to my parents’ shore house.

87 days praying we’ll be invited back again after the Interrogator shatters their glass-top table 3 minutes after our arrival.

87 days visiting with Little Sister, Fly Boy, and their 3 adorable kids, who annually swap the heat of the Arizona desert for summers on the East Coast.

87 days cooking 40 chicken nuggets at a time to feed her kids and mine.

87 days of sand in their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

87 days sitting at the baby pool. For the 11th consecutive summer.

87 days counting their heads at that pool.

87 days celebrating because 3 of my kids can swim.

87 days of my heart in my throat because 1 of my kids cannot yet swim.

87 days watching my freckles multiply. Exponentially.

87 days watching my skin wrinkle increasingly.

87 days having every intention to set up a playdate, but never following through with my plans.

87 days spent cursing the bra inserts of my bathing suits for their ability to hold that bloody crease right down the center.

87 days angrily removing the bra inserts from my bathing suit only to realize that the creased inserts are far more aesthetically pleasing than the real deal.

87 days vowing that next summer I will look like one of those chicks in the Athleta catalog.

87 days donning a bathing suit with a skirt because this summer I do not look like one of those chicks in the Athleta catalog.

87 days of the tent slowly killing a rectangular patch of grass in our backyard.

87 days cleaning the sticky sugar from the popsicles consumed, against my rules, in that tent.

87 days skipping a bath because chlorine kills everything.

87 days of Dr. Doofenshmirtz.

87days

87 days having no luck finding a babysitter for a concert whose tickets we purchased 4 months ago.

87 days of Acme’s Sizzlin’ Summer Giveaway.

87 days of suicide watch as a result of winning nothing but 22 stinkin’ donuts while participating in Acme’s Sizzlin’ Summer Giveaway.

87 days of “wait your turn to play the iPad”.

87 days of “No, I will not buy you that app”.

87 days of Crocs replacing sneakers whose laces need tying.

87 days spent on the beach reconnecting with cousins visiting from Texas and Georgia…and marveling at our kids’ long limbs and growing friendships.

87 days of “I probably shouldn’t, but it’s summer so what the hell, I’ll have another.”

87 days spent refereeing my kids’ arguments.

87 days of my heart ready to burst as their bonds grow stronger.

87 days allowing Waldorf and the Kenyan the freedom to ride their bikes through the neighborhood.

87 days of apprehension awaiting their safe return home on those bikes.

87 days envying my friends whose kids are attending sleep away camp.

87 days kissing my kids’ sweaty heads, relieved they’re not attending sleep away camp.

87 days dragging 4 kids through the Acme several times a week.

87 days of endless material about which to write.

87 days wondering when exactly I will find the time to write.

87 days interrupted by one glorious girls’ weekend during which I plan to take the Princeton…and Circle Pizza…by storm.

87 days planning what I’ll wear the glorious weekend I take the Princeton…and Circle Pizza…by storm.

87 days teaching my kids to boogie board and body surf.

87 days holding my breath while B&B teaches them, against my better judgment, to flip off the diving board.

87 days driving them to the empty beaches of Strathmere, where I’ll spend yet another summer not sitting and not reading.

87 days playing frisbee, run the bases, and paddleball on those empty beaches of Strathmere. And not giving a rat’s ass that it’s been 11 years since I last sat on the beach and read a book.

87 days digging a 4 foot hole in the sand because the kids asked for a DEEP hole…and because I know it’s the only exercise I’ll get all day, so I’d better make it count if I’m eating ice cream twice today.

87 days collecting stinky hermit crabs in bright yellow buckets.

87 days of stinky hermit crabs dying in bright yellow buckets.

87 days swearing that next year they are ALL going to camp. ALL SUMMER LONG.

87 days knowing that I’ll need to wrap my leg around the stripper pole to afford to send all 4 of them to camp ALL SUMMER LONG.

87 days of noisy summer thunderstorms.

87 days of weeding that I never get around to doing.

87 days timing my Costco trip just right so that the kids consume enough free samples to constitute “dinner”.

87 days of laundry needing folding that can sit one more day if the right episode of Scooby Doo demands my undivided attention.

87 days of Just Dance 3 and Mario Kart.

87 days having my ass handed to my by a 3 year old while playing Just Dance 3. And Mario Kart.

87 days of skinned knees and bruised shins.

87 days of Busch’s She Crab soup available only on Sunday and Tuesday.

87 days bumping into old friends at the shore.

87 days doing shots to celebrate bumping into old friends at the shore.

87 days paying for those celebratory shots the next day on the beach with the kids.

87 days wishing B&B were a teacher.

87 days thanking God B&B is not a teacher after spending 3 consecutive days in his company.

87 days vowing that next school year I’ll be my most organized.

87 days delaying the purchase of school shoes.

87 days of my 3 year old with a head full of damp curls.

87 days promising the kids we’ll accomplish everything on their to do lists.

87 days realizing we haven’t accomplished one item on their to do lists.

87 days living simply in comparison to most of their friends. And most of our friends.

87 days of gratitude that Dad has lived another year cancer free.

87 days until, for the very first time, every one of my kids is in school. Full time.

87 days looking forward to bedtime.

87 days wishing I could freeze time.

87 days to make memories with them that l hope will last a lifetime.

87 days wondering whether someday they’ll want to make those same memories with their children.

87 days of vacation.

Bring it.

And bring with it a very large pitcher of your finest margaritas.

Happy Summer

The Sky is Falling. Or That Time my Husband Fell Through the Ceiling.

It seems like an eternity ago that I was pregnant with the Verb. And, thank God, because I detest being pregnant. Yes, it’s a privilege. Yes, I’m so lucky that B&B can sneeze on the other side of town and somehow, as a result of that sneeze, I find myself pregnant with yet another of his sons.

My last pregnancy was uneventful from a health perspective. I’d hoped that chasing after 3 boys under 7 years old would keep those pesky pounds at bay the fourth go around. Nope. I still managed to gain my obligatory 50 big ones, despite the fact that I ran for the first 24 weeks. And my daily diet consisted of one soft pretzel and a medium cherry slurpee from 7 Eleven.  Oh fine, and a vat of ice cream every night.

While the Verb grew quietly and problem-free within me, my immediate world was a veritable circus act.

I was due with the Verb in August. Perfect way to spend my summer, right? Clammy skin. Chafed thighs. Rash on the underside of my enormous boobs, where they rested on the large ball that had become my stomach. I was a sight to behold.

I’ve mentioned before that B&B is a busy guy. He loves his projects. This is a good thing, because it keeps his mind engaged. It’s also a good thing because, when we bought our house, it was a fixer-upper. So the list of projects was long. B&B is The Man when it comes to home improvements. Dry wall? Got it covered. Plumbing? Piece of cake. Electrical work? Bring it on. Granted, he’s blown himself off a ladder once or twice, but he’s survived to tell the tale.

The December I found myself pregnant for the fourth time, our house had only 3 bedrooms.

Me: “What are we going to do? Where are we going to put this baby?”

B&B: Eyes twinkling, “Easy. I’ll convert the attic into a 4th bedroom.”

Me: Incredulous, “You can do that?”

B&B: Proudly displaying his feathers, “Of course I can do that.”

January, February, March, April, and May roll by.

Me: “So, do you think maybe you should start working on the attic?”

B&B: “It’ll take me no time. Once it’s been cleared out.”

No small task. Remember Monica’s closet on Friends? Her dirty little secret of a closet?

We had the same clutter, but ours filled the entire attic. I spent many sweltering afternoons in the attic, dividing our clutter into piles of trash and piles of treasure. Hence the rash.

While I dehydrated myself and my unborn son in the heat of the attic, B&B decided it was the perfect time to run electricity out to his shed.

Me: Skeptical, “Are you sure you should start another project while the attic still needs converting?”

B&B: Confident, “I’ve got it all covered, don’t you worry about it.”

So, I didn’t worry about the peculiar equipment rental. Ditch Witch? The digging of a 36 inch deep hole that worked its way from our house to his shed…a solid 60 feet in length? That concerned me a tad. That 36 inch deep hole was the equivalent of the Marianas Trench to three mischievous little boys.

My pregnant ass huffed and puffed its way in and out of the house the entire month of June to recover many a lost croc before falling victim to the crevice in the middle of our backyard.

But I eventually completed the attic cleaning, and B&B was ready to get to work. And get to work he did. Every evening, after he got home from his real job.

Waldorf, the Kenyan, the Interrogator, and I stood with our faces pressed against the glass of the front door, eagerly awaiting his arrival home from work every evening.

“Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!”

Me: Relieved, “Oh, thank God you’re home. What a long day. The Interrogator didn’t nap. He stayed awake and asked me questions instead. How can one person have so many questions? I don’t think I can handle another month of all of these questions.”

B&B: Smiling apologetically, “Sorry, babe, but I gotta get up there. Duty calls. That room’s not going to get done unless I do it.”

With tears in our eyes, we watched him ascend the steps to the attic, his big project, to ensure that there would be enough room for the Verb’s August arrival.

B&B spent every night working tirelessly on the attic. The kids were all in bed by 7PM, exhausted from summer days spent at the pool. I missed B&B and our night time ritual of watching TV together. So, to distract myself, I ate a vat of ice cream I spent time on Craigslist. What a wonderful, dangerous phenomenon Craigslist is. Instead of selling our heap of treasures, I convinced myself…and then B&B…that the butter yellow armchair for sale was EXACTLY what we needed for our living room.

I picked up that beautiful armchair on Belmont Avenue in the throes of a monsoon with three kids in the minivan. I used my weight, substantial at the time, to wedge the chair in next to the Interrogator…who then rewarded me with a litany of questions the entire drive home.

“What’s this chair, Mom? Mom, what’s this chair? Why’s it yellow, Mom? Mom, why’s this chair, yellow? Is this for the baby, Mom? Mom, is this the baby’s chair? I love this chair, Mom. Do you love this chair, Mom? I love this chair, Mom.”

I managed to survive the inquisition and arrived home the proud…and worried…new owner of the chair.

Me: “Boys, this chair is a decoration. It’s not a toy. You can build your forts on the sofa, but please don’t build them on this chair.”

“Yes, Mommy.”

That evening, as we stood with our faces pressed against the front window, awaiting B&B’s arrival home from work, I kept sneaking glances at my new chair. I love it. An actual piece of furniture. Not from IKEA. I really feel like a grownup.

When B&B blew in, kissing each of us on his way to the attic, my smile stopped him.

B&B: “Why are you smiling?”

Me: Holding my arms out, “Do you notice anything different?”

B&B: A flicker of panic crossed his eyes, “Um, did you lose a little weight?”

No, fool, I was at the doctor today and gained 6 lbs this week.

Me: Shaking my head, “Not me, the room. Do you notice anything different?”

B&B: Making a quick sweep of the room, “Hey, your chair! Really nice.” His face clouded over, “The kids are going to ruin it, you know.”

He made his way upstairs. And I followed.

Me: “No they won’t,” huff puff, “they need to learn that not everything,” huff puff, “in this house,” huff puff huff puff “is a piece of playground,” huff puff, “equipment.”

B&B: Dismissively, “OK, it’s a beautiful chair. I have to work now.”

Buh-bye.

I saved my new Craigslist chair from the evil clutches of my offspring its first night in my home. I put them to bed, and I sat in the chair, delighting in its ability to support my pregnant frame. A real grownup.

The next day was Saturday. The entire house was up and out of bed by 6:07AM, because that’s what happens to your Saturday mornings after you reproduce. Four people headed down the steps, and one person headed up the steps. B&B, hard at work, went straight up to the attic.

I rubbed my tired eyes and looked at Waldorf. His legs were caked, front and back, with blood.

You first born kids are always biting, scratching, or picking at something.

Me: Sympathetic, “Oh, buddy. You can’t pick those mosquito bites. They’re going to get infected.”

Waldorf: Shrugging, “But they’re itchy.”

Me: “I know, honey, but you’re going to hurt yourself worse by scratching them like that.  And you’re going to have scars. Please try to leave them alone. Now play with your brothers while I make blueberry pancakes.”

The Interrogator sneaked into the kitchen and embraced my swollen legs. I rewarded him with a few blueberries. He’s a hoarder, so he clutched them in his hands and ran off to a secret spot where his brothers wouldn’t find the blueberries and snatch them from him. He chose the linen sofa as his secret spot. He inhaled the fruit and erased all traces of purple from his mouth and little hands. By wiping them directly onto the sofa cushion.

Kenyan: “Interrogator, what are you doing?! Mommy! Interrogator got blueberries all over your beautiful sofa!”

It’s 6:18AM. Already with this?

Me: Sighing, “OK. Thank you for telling me. It’s OK.” That fabric is machine washable. “Interrogator, please eat your food at the table, alright, buddy?”

Waldorf: “Mom, can we build a fort?”

Me: Nodding, “Yes. Waldorf, keep those bloody legs off my sofa please.”

The boys quietly built their fort. The pancakes weren’t ready for flipping yet, so I shuffled over to set the table for breakfast. 5 napkins, 5 plates, 5 forks, 2 knives, syrup, butter. Flipped the pancakes. 2 glasses of water, 3 cups of water. Checked the pancakes, which were almost ready…

Me: “Guys, breakfast will be ready in 1 minute, so can everybody please sit down at…”

Above us, we heard a muffled, “Son of a BIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTCCCCCCCCHHHHHHHHH!”

I peered into the living room…just as the kids all looked up at the ceiling to find B&B’s size 13 work boot crash directly through the living room ceiling and dangle above their heads. Drywall pieces fluttered down like snowflakes to coat their noses and hair.

fallingsky

Interrogator: Delighted, “Hey, there’s Dad! Hi, Dad!”

Kenyan: Curious, “Dad, what are you doing with your foot through the ceiling?”

Waldorf: Weary, “Uh-oh. That’s not good.”

I was still assessing what had transpired when the Interrogator began throwing a ball up at B&B’s shoe.

Interrogator: “Catch, Dad! Let’s play catch. Here, here’s the ball, you catch, then throw it back down to me, I’m ready.”

I looked at the clock. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, 6:21AM. Seriously with this?

I watched the large work boot slowly retract back into the ceiling. A few seconds later, the shoe was replaced by B&B’s head, which dangled through the hole in my living room ceiling.

B&B: Looking at the 3 kids directly below him, “Hi, guys.”

Nonplussed, they returned his salutation, “Hi, Dad.”

B&B: “Is everybody OK?”

“Yes.”

B&B: “That was a close one.” He grinned and looked at me, “Not nearly as bad as the last time I fell through the ceiling, huh, Beth?”

Nope. Not nearly as bad as the time I came home from the Acme while pregnant with Waldorf to find B&B hanging chest down from the attic into the kitchen, yelling, “Oh thank God! I’m stuck! My shoulders are stuck! Thank God you’re home! I’ve been hanging like this for 10 minutes!” I’d fought the urge to turn around, exit the house, and close and lock the door behind me. Instead I’d maneuvered myself through the cluttered attic and helped to heave him and his bloody elbows out of the hole he’d made.

Me: “Not nearly as bad. I’m sure you’ll patch that hole immediately, right?”

B&B: “Right. I didn’t even curse, did I?”

Me: “Well, maybe a little curse. But, I don’t think they noticed.”

I don’t believe I cursed, so kudos to me.

The pancakes haven’t even burned in the time it’s taken B&B to give me cathedral ceilings. The kids sat down to enjoy their breakfast. Each of their little heads still peppered with drywall flakes.

B&B emerged from the attic smiling despite the blood trickling down his leg. He clapped for himself. Loudly.

B&B: “Whoo. I am so glad it was only my foot this time!”

So glad.

B&B: “Quickly before I sit down, Waldorf, come over here and help me with something.”

Waldorf, eager to please his Daddy, abandoned his pancakes and ran to B&B’s side.

B&B grabbed a serrated tool and, with a stabbing motion (and no warning), hacked right through the drywall above the light switches by the front door.

What the hell?

Waldorf: Impressed, “Whoa!”

B&B: “I know! There she is!” He continued sawing until a complete rectangle was missing from my living room wall. And a myriad of electrical cords were exposed.

B&B: Pointing to my brand new butter yellow chair, “OK, now sit on this chair please, and listen to everything I say very closely.”

Me: Panicked, “You’re not going to have him help you with the electricity, are you?”

Waldorf hopped onto my brand new butter yellow chair, pulling his bloody legs up under him.

Me: “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”

My grownup chair. My beautiful butter yellow grownup chair.

He realized his mistake and, instead of suspending his weight off the chair by the handles, he dragged them along every inch of the chair in his desperate attempt to part ways with the delicate fabric. Delicate fabric that is not machine washable.

B&B looked down at the chair, now a dead ringer for the Shroud of Turin. Its pale yellow fabric was streaked with our oldest son’s DNA.

B&B: Eyes wide, “Yikes. It hasn’t even been 24 hours. I told you they would ruin it.”

I looked at the clock. 6:26AM. In the 19 minutes we’ve been awake, there’d been two bleeders and three casualties: the sofa, the ceiling, and my beloved grownup chair.

I sighed and patted my swollen stomach.

Enjoy these last days of quiet, baby. It’s the only peace you’ll have before joining this crowd.

And please be born soon...Mommy misses her grownup grape juice.

Have a field day!

Now that spring break is over, we’re approaching the busiest time of the school year. I read my kids’ newsletters, whip out my color coded markers for my calendar, and mutter obscenities under my breath.

Me: “Field trip?…son of a…picnic?…goddamn…concert?….why I oughtta…”

My hat’s off to you if you like to go into your kid’s classroom on a weekly (or even monthly) basis. I love my kids. I love their teachers. I love their school. But, if I want to participate more actively in their education, I’ll either get my teaching degree or homeschool them. And there’s no shot I’m homeschooling. I hope to hear that they’re nice boys and that their behavior is developmentally appropriate. Aside from that, peace out until dismissal.

haveafieldday

There is one day for which I don’t mind breaking my routine. And it happens this week.

Blue and Blue Day.

Greatest. Day. Of. The. School. Year.

The entire school is divided into two teams, based on school colors…light blue and dark blue. Parents attend, dressed in colors representing their son’s team. Older boys paint their faces to display their team’s color. A bagpiper, clad in kilt and blazer, fills the air with emotion-stirring music as he leads the all-school procession to the field.

And the games begin…

B&B and I grew up playing…and loving…sports. Field day has always been our favorite day of the school year. As parents, we’re just as stoked for it. We’re cheering. We’re sweating. We’ve got butterflies, cottonmouths, and sweaty pits…the works.

I’ve mentioned that, in the circus that is my life, I tend to forget things unless I chant them or write them down. Three years ago this week, our excitement was high for field day. At the time, the Interrogator was 3 and the Verb…still breastfeeding…not even a year old. Which means I was carrying around an extra 30 lbs on my 5’5” frame. Most of it in the tatas, which were a cup size H.

Yes, H.  As in: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H.

I’d had a particularly colorful morning, so I sent an email to my good friend Ave chronicling it.

Woohoo, I’ve written it down so now I remember!

Below is my 3 year old email to her…with my current day inner monologue in italics

April, 2009
OK, so tomorrow is Blue & Blue Day at my kids’ school…it is the most anticipated, most competitive day of the year. Waldorf and the Kenyan (and, when they get older, the Interrogator and the Verb) are on the light blue team. In an effort to show my support, I just went to the mall to look for a light blue shirt to fit these enormous cans.

No small feat…

And some capris I can fit over my hips and oversized ass.

Equally challenging…

The Broad Street Run is right around the corner, so I ran a 9 miler early Sunday morning. I’ve had some nursing issues since then, which makes this the 4th time I’ve lost my milk. The Verb doesn’t take formula, and he’s not close enough at 8 1/2 months to drink whole milk. I know he’s my 4th, but I think it’s bad if he has nothing but juice or water…

I know both my pediatrician and his pediatrician wife are reading this and nodding their heads, “Yes, Bethany, it’s bad for your 8 ½ month old son to drink only water and juice”.

…suffice it to say I have HAD it with the nursing. I want my body back! And I don’t want another human being relying on it for life, nourishment, and sustenance.

Allow me to expand that to include “or as a human jungle gym where my breasts play the roles of handles”…

I am so tired of being overweight (for me) and of this enormous, unflattering rack. None of my clothes fit properly, so I constantly feel self conscious. I’m very frustrated that, even training the way I am, still the clothes remain tight….

Oh, cry me a river, I know. But I spent 36 months and 8 days (thank you, Waldorf…who continues to be late for everything…for those 8 extra days) of my late 20’s and early 30’s pregnant. I spent an additional 33 months breastfeeding. I hated being pregnant. It was no picnic morphing into the Nutty Professor 4 times over. And, no offense to La Leche, but I didn’t cherish every minute of breastfeeding either. The price was right, and my kids latched on like champs. I like sex, exercise, and clothes that fit properly. Sue me.  

So, in my effort to keep my milk I have to chug water like a goddamn camel getting ready to cross the Sahara Desert. I’m tanking it down all yesterday and this morning. I tried several times…and failed just as many times…to close my goddamn double stroller so I could pack it into the minivan this morning. So I packed the single stroller. Yes, the Interrogator is 3, and still requires a stroller.

Maybe some of you parents have 3 year old sons who listen to you. My 3 year old sons historically do not.

I arrived at the mall, buckled the Interrogator into the single stroller, then attached the Verb to me in the sling.

Covered in sweat before I’m out of the parking lot. And it wasn’t sweat from the anticipation of field day.

Wearing one child and pushing another, I marched into the department store, grabbed 8 pairs of capris, 2 light blue shirts, and several more articles of activewear…aka running gear. Fatty needs exercise clothes to shed this weight.

Performing everyday tasks with a child strapped to your body, while necessary in some third world countries, is freaking exhausting for a chick from the suburbs of Philly. Performing these tasks outside the comfort of my home while pushing a stroller containing an inquisitive 3 year old with grabby hands and maneuvering clothing racks…it’s as enjoyable as a root canal.

So, I navigated the narrow racks of clothing with my potential purchases and arrived at  the dressing room.

How am I going to pull off this trick? Can’t try on these clothes with the baby strapped to the front of me.

I removed the Verb from the sling and put him into the single stroller. Threw some goldfish at him, then set the Interrogator free in the dressing room. I had low expectations because the Interrogator has been a total asshole since his 3rd birthday. The same thing happened to my older 2, but it still breaks my heart every time it happens. Instant asshole on the day they turn 3.

Currently experiencing that phenomenon with the Verb…

I maintained a running dialogue with the kids while quickly trying on all 8 pairs of capris…none of which worked…and both light blue shirts…swing and a miss times two. On the bright side, the Interrogator behaved well in the confines of the dressing room. And I scored some new workout duds.

Me: Preparing to exit the dressing room with the Interrogator walking, “Please hold onto this stroller with Mommy.”

Interrogator:  “No.”

Dick.

Me: “Fine, I’ll pick you up.”

So, against his will, I picked the Interrogator up…he’s enormous, nearly 40 lbs… and pushed the stroller containing the Verb. And proceeded to roll the stroller over the clothes I’d intended to purchase.

Bonus. New workout clothes bearing tire tracks.

I put the struggling Interrogator down for a moment to pick up the clothes from the floor. His feet hit the ground. And he bolted.

For the most part, I’m calm. But a running 3 year old in a store full of strangers is slightly panic-inducing.

So I screamed his name…

“INTERROGATOR MIDDLE NAME LAST NAME!”

…his FULL name, which means trouble. He laughed and kept running.

So he was a solid 30 yards away from me. And the Verb was chowing on the goldfish. I left him alone in the stroller…with my handbag, naturally…and sprinted after the Interrogator.

I covered the distance between the two of us quickly. Grabbed him. Picked him up. Brought him to my eye level.

Me: “Don’t you EVER RUN AWAY FROM MOMMY, DO YOU HEAR ME? DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED TO NEMO?!”

Son of a bitch laughed again.

Here comes the bad part…

So, like a terrible, TERRIBLE Mom…I pinched his leg.

Don’t judge. It was through his sweatpants! If I knew how to choose a small font in WordPress, I’d use it on the word “pinched” as evidence of the shame I still harbor.

Bad choice, but at the time I was desperate to make an impact. And, don’t forget, I was sleep-deprived! My kids didn’t sleep through the night until I weaned them! Consequently, the pinch made more of an impact than I had anticipated.

Interrogator: Screaming, “OUCH! DON’T PINCH ME, MOMMY! I DON’T WANT TO LOOK AT YOU!”

Silence. Silence accompanied by judgmental stares from strangers.

Me: Using one of Mom’s go-to shopping lines, “Just you WAIT until we get to the car, young man!”

Newsflash: nothing’s going to happen in the car. No more pinching. Certainly no hitting. Not even any yelling. Just more sweating from me and some pleading with the then 3 year old Interrogator to use his listening ears…a conversation which will undoubtedly be over his head but make me feel better.

The Interrogator needed restraining, and I didn’t trust myself not to squeeze the life out of him. So I wrestled his flailing body into the stroller and became the proud new recipient of several bruises in my attempt to protect the Verb, whom I was holding, from his older brother’s windmill-like arms and legs. All the while acting like I wasn’t seething for the benefit of all the strangers whose attention was focused on my shopping excursion.

I paid with a smile that didn’t come close to reaching my eyes.

Clerk: Over the screaming of the Interrogator, “Don’t you just love being a Mom?”

Me: Sighing, “Oh, it has its moments.”

This is clearly not one of them.

We arrived at the car, and I realized my teeth were floating because I had to pee so unbelievably badly. I was doing the dance and talking to myself in the parking lot.

Me: “Please don’t pee, please don’t pee, please don’t pee…”

4 kids=weak bladder.

4 kids + still nursing 1 + chugging water in order to produce enough milk for him=essentially 0 bladder control.

Ironically, this issue has gotten worse with time. Just ask my running partners. Guess I should ramp up my kegels.

So, I put the kids in the car, locked the doors and leapt into the very back of the minivan, where Waldorf and the Kenyan usually sit. I grabbed an empty Gatorade bottle…a staple in the car for a mother of boys…dropped my jeans, took aim, and started peeing.

Now I was really aiming for the bottle opening. But this was the first time I had peed into a wideneck Gatorade since August of ’98 while tailgating at the Pearl Jam concert. I was over a decade out of practice. Had given birth four times since then. And my precision was…well, it was slightly off.

I did manage to hit the bottle opening….sadly, it was only after I had flooded the ENTIRE seat over which I was squatting.

Oops. Sorry, Kenyan.

I filled the whole 20 oz bottle, while listening to the Interrogator.

Interrogator: Panicked, “OH NO! Your pee pee, Mom! OH! It’s on the chair! OH! NO!”

Me: Shamed, “I know, I know, honey, I’ll clean it up, I’m just trying to finish here.”

Interrogator: Horrified, “What? What’s that? You got hair, Mom?!”

Interrogator: Straining his neck, “Can I see your penis, Mom? Where’s your hiney?”

OMFG. Is nothing sacred after giving birth?

As always, Murphy’s law applied, and  a car pulled up next to us while the entire scene  played out. The windows were down, so they heard the entire exchange.

Thank you, makers of my minivan, for the tinted windows so those poor strangers didn’t have to watch it unfold before their eyes as well.

I also managed to pee on my jeans, which had just been washed and already felt two sizes too snug.

Naturally, I gave them away to Purple Heart after that next laundering. No need to wrestle on jeans four sizes too small.

To recap, I returned home with:

  • no light blue shirt
  • no capris
  • $80 in workout clothes bearing tire tracks
  • one toddler with a pinched leg
  • one minivan whose backseat was saturated with urine

And that about sums up my morning.

OK, fine….

and:

  • one Burger King happy meal for me to eat in order to deal with my stress.

But you’d never guess from my smiling face in this picture…

…although I was probably experiencing a winner’s high.

GO LIGHT BLUE!

And Then There Was the Time I Embraced the Checkout Clerk…

“Mommy, why are you sweating?”

I mop my damp brow with the sleeve of my youngest son’s coat.

Think of something to say….quickly!

Me: “Um, my coffee is making me hot, honey.”

This white lie satisfies the Interrogator. He smiles at me, leans against my arm and looks back down at the book he’s holding.

“I’m telling you, it happens. It happens all the time. It could happen to you and B&B too.”

Please change the subject. Before I start hyperventilating on top of my sweating.

The barber continues cutting the Kenyan’s hair.

Kenyan: “What could happen?”

Barber: He stops cutting and smiles, eyes wide, at my son’s reflection, “Twins could happen.”

Waldorf: Looking at me, “Mommy, I thought you and Daddy said you’re not having any more kids. I thought you said 4 kids is already too many kids.”

Me: “It is too many kids, honey. We’re not having any more kids.”

Barber: Smiling at my reflection in the mirror, “I know couples who thought they were finished. Men who spent a weekend with frozen peas on their cojones. 3 years later…twins.”

Interrogator: Looking up at me again, “Mom, what are cojones?”

Me: “Balls. Cojones are balls.”

Interrogator: “Wait a minute! I have balls.”

Kenyan: “Oh my God! THAT would be cold.”

Verb: Jumps up and points at his jewels, “These are mine balls, Mom! And here is mine penis!”

Waldorf: “Wait, why would a man put frozen peas on his balls?”

adultswim

Me: “Yes, Interrogator, you have balls. Kenyan, gosh, please use gosh. Yes, Verb, those are your balls and penis, very good. Now sit back down. Waldorf, a man puts frozen peas on his balls after he gets hit there with a soccer ball.”

Interrogator: “I don’t want to play soccer, Mom. Don’t make me play.”

I deliver a piercing glare to the barber’s reflection in the mirror.

Proud of yourself? 

He smiles back at my reflection and whispers, “Twins!”

Me: Leafing through Men’s Health because my kids’ barber doesn’t have In Style, “Did you hear Ralph’s is open on Mondays? I’d love to take my kids to get a haircut on a Monday.”

He stops smiling and whispers, “Touché.”

He resumes his clipping and I resume my counting.

How many days has it been? I wrote it on the dry erase board, but B&B leaned up against it and erased it. Damnit. Damnit. Goddammit.

Ding!

I look at my phone. Text from B&B:

“Hey, gorgeous, I know you have all the boys today, but could you please go to the liquor store and pick up a bottle of that wine your Mom likes? I told her I’d get one for her. And I’m swamped.”

I release an enormous sigh. I still have to take these idiots to the grocery store. Now the liquor store too?

I reply to B&B:

“Fine. I’ll get the wine. But the liquor store is my least favorite place to go when I have all four kids. Please file that in your mental rolodex. Also, your sperm better be fucking dead. I am not joking.”

He replies:

“You’re the greatest, thanks. I had my vasectomy 3 years ago. My sperm are fucking dead. Don’t worry.”

I reply:

“Well, you may want to inform your barber. Who is announcing to me and your children that your sperm are not dead, and that I’m in fact going to get pregnant. With twins.”

He replies:

“I know it’s a long day with the boys. I hope it goes by quickly. I appreciate all you do for them. You’re a great Mom. I will be home around 6:30. Then you’ll have the break you deserve. I love you!”

Blah, blah, and blah.

I’m still counting. And sweating.

Next stop is the liquor store. I pull into the parking lot, put the car in park, lock the doors, and turn around to look at all four of my kids. The Verb smiles. The Kenyan makes a silly face. The Interrogator looks at me inquisitively. Waldorf’s the first to speak.

Waldorf: “Uh, Mommy? Is there a reason why you are just staring at us?”

Me: “Yes. I need everyone’s attention. Are you all listening?”

“Yes.”

Me: “Good. We are about to walk into that liquor store. It contains very fragile bottles. I am going to put the Verb into the stroller, “

The Verb cuts me off with a scream, “NO! I want to walk!”

Interrogator: “How come HE always gets to go in the stroller? I’m tired from getting a haircut. I want to go in the stroller. But I don’t want to be buckled, Mom. Only babies are buckled.”

I look at them all again, “I’ll wait. We’ll sit here through lunch. Through dessert. Through your afternoon snack. Through all of your favorite TV shows. Through..”

Verb: “Oh, find, I’ll go in the stroller.” Find=fine.

You bet your ass you will.

Me: “And, I want all hands either in pockets or on the stroller handles. Where do I want hands?”

“In pockets or on the stroller handles.”

I make eye contact with Waldorf who I sense is on the cusp of asking if he can put his hands in the Kenyan’s pockets. I shoot him a look…Mommy ain’t playin’

Me: “Good. Let’s do it.”

I struggle through the liquor store door with my entourage of fools, each of them itching to ditch me and hide from one another behind stacks of expensive bottles containing the nectar of the gods.

We head straight for the red wine. I scan the shelf and attempt to engage the older three, “Boys, look for the word ‘Four’. We need to find a bottle of wine with the name that starts with ‘Four’, OK?”

The Kenyan locates it, uses his elbow to point it out (since his hands remain in his pockets), and I grab it and head with my wingmen to the register.

Oh, great.

I know the guy who is working the register.  I’m not even a regular customer. I stop here maybe five times a year. But this bastard has a steel trap for a memory. I hope he has the common sense not to bring it up in front of my kids.

“Well, look who it is…the lady with the brilliant suggestion!”

He doesn’t.

Me: Smiling, “Hi. Just this today please.”

He takes his time scanning the bottle, looks at the label, nods, then looks at all of my kids.

Liquor guy: To my kids, “You boys helping Mom today?”

My kids look at him. Half of them nod their heads and the other half pick their noses.

Liquor guy: To me, “No wonder you made that suggestion. Four kids?” He whistles.

Me: “It was a valid suggestion. Ingenious really.  I see you haven’t put it in place.”

Liquor guy: “Condoms at the register? I thought you were joking.”

Me: “Does this,” I wave my arms over the group of small boys that form a barrier between me and the register, “look like a joke to you?”

The 20 something kid in line behind me chimes in…

“Condoms at the register? Dude! That would be clutch! Save me a trip.”

Me: Looking at the kid, “Thank you,” Looking at the register guy, “SEE?” Looking back at the kid, “I suggested it TEN YEARS ago. HE thought I was joking. Now look at this mess I’m in.”

Interrogator: “Mommy, what’s a condom?”

Me: “It’s a rubber glove.”

We exit the liquor store with the sound of their laughter trailing behind us.

Selling condoms at the register of the liquor store is a brilliant idea. Because sometimes when you get drunk…you get pregnant.

Next stop…the Acme. We pull into the parking lot. I’m in a full sweat again. Not because I have all the kids with me. Not because I’m mentally drained from the barber shop and the liquor store stops.

I’m sweating because I fear there’s a very real possibility I am pregnant.

We pour out of the minivan and I load the younger two into a mac daddy cart with a fire engine in front.

As soon as we cross the threshold, the Kenyan and Waldorf are sprinting toward the pretzels and donuts. The younger two escape their car and run after their older brothers.

This is a disaster in the making. I should really just leave right now. Collect my kids, turn around, and leave. But I can’t.  I have to get a stupid pregnancy test.  Goddamn B&B and his fucking sperm.

I dole out donuts, hoping they’ll be mistaken for “lunch”. At the very least, their full mouths should make it difficult to speak. Give my ears a little break and allow me to digest this potential nightmare.

Verb: “Mom…MOM! I want that one! That balloon! That one! THAT ONE!”

Mother of GOD, the lungs on this kid.

I grab the balloon at which he points and tie it to his nasty steering wheel.

Me: “We are not buying this balloon. We are borrowing it while we are shopping. Do you understand?”

Verb: “Yes, Mom, oh, goody, goody, goody, I got a balloon, Interrogator.”

Interrogator: “What? How come I don’t get a balloon? How come HE gets a balloon and I don’t get a balloon?”

Me: “Kenyan, can you please get him a balloon and tie it to his steering wheel?”

The Kenyan ties the balloon, and we continue shopping.

Two aisles later, the Interrogator’s balloon floats past my ear and hits the ceiling.

Interrogator: “That’s not fair! I lost my balloon! I don’t like losing my balloon! It’s not fun losing my balloon! It’s not fair and it’s not good and I don’t like it!”

I look at Waldorf, “Buddy, can you help me out here?”

I assume he’ll understand what I’m asking…and that he’ll get another balloon for his brother.

I assume wrong.

He bends down, unties the Verb’s balloon, it floats past my ear, and it hits the ceiling right next to the Interrogator’s balloon.

Waldorf: Pleased with himself, smiles, looks up, places his hands on his hips, “There. Now nobody has a balloon.”

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

If I am pregnant, I will LOSE. MY. SHIT. Which is essentially what I do on my kids. Right there in the soup aisle.

I race through the store, eager to finish before their desire for all things sweet eclipses their fear of another of my episodes.

Last stop is the feminine hygiene aisle. I grab the generic pregnancy test kit.

Kenyan: “What’s that?”

Me: “It’s a thermometer.”

Waldorf: “Who’s sick?”

I am. Sick of answering these incessant questions.

Me: “Hopefully nobody is sick.”

There is not a chance in hell I am going through the self-checkout lane in my condition. Both the Interrogator and the Verb are still crying. Waldorf is playing grab-ass with the Kenyan who, judging from his loud protests of, “Stop it…STOP IT,” isn’t interested in engaging.

I head to the first open lane and gasp when I see who’s behind the register.

Ray.

Ray is like my Dad. Well, not really. Ray is black. And I am white. But he is about my Dad’s age. Although he doesn’t know my name. He calls me “young lady”. But we have a relationship. He’s seen me through every one of my four pregnancies. He’s seen me sleepwalking through checkout with a crying newborn. He’s seen that newborn grow into an infant who’s hanging from the front of me in a Baby Bjorn. He’s seen that infant become a toddler who sits in the cart and throws a temper tantrum. He’s watched that toddler’s spot in the cart handed down to a younger brother because that toddler grew into a boy who is in now elementary school. He knows me. He knows my four boys. He knows my story.

Ray looks at me, and his eyes light up with recognition.

Ray: “Well, young lady, what a nice treat.”

Me: Smiling, swallowing over the lump in my throat, “Hi, Ray.”

I place my items on the conveyor belt, burying the pregnancy test in a corner of the cart.

I can’t buy it. Not today. Not in front of Ray.

Ray: “The boys are getting so big, young lady. Very handsome. Very well behaved.”

Now I’m really going to cry. He’s lying about their behavior just to make me feel better.

Me: Whispering, “Thanks, Ray.”

Kenyan: Urgently, “Mommy, you forgot this! You forgot your thermometer! To see if you’re sick!”

I close my eyes. Release a deep breath. Take the box from the Kenyan and, with a shaking hand, give it to Ray.

Me: Like a crack addict…RIP Whitney…who’s just been busted, I whisper, “It’s not mine.”

Ray: Ringing up the pregnancy test, “Oh, it’s none of my business, young lady. But you’re a wonderful mother. Any baby would be lucky to have you.”

And that’s it. That’s all it takes. I start bawling right there in checkout aisle #6.

Me: Through my tears, “Actually, Ray, it IS mine. And my husband had a vasectomy! And I don’t want to have twins. 4 kids is enough…it’s too many! And 6 kids is ENTIRELY TOO MANY! And I don’t know WHAT I’m going to do. I don’t want, twins, Ray. I CAN’T HANDLE TWINS, RAY!!”

Ray steps out from behind his register, walks around the conveyor belt, and wraps his giant arms around me. And I stand blubbering against his navy blue Acme vest, my barrette catching on his nametag.

Ray: “Young lady, there, there, young lady. I tell my wife about you. For years I’ve been telling her. I say, ‘I don’t know how she does it, but she does it. All those boys. And she’s always smiling. Always friendly. Always patient with all of those boys.’ I tell her you’re a wonderful mother. I tell her how lucky your husband and those boys are to have you. You remember that. You’re a wonderful mother. They are all lucky to have you.”

I wipe my eyes and look at my kids. All four of them, faces covered in chocolate from the donuts, are dumbfounded. Gawking at me. They don’t know what to make of my Acme meltdown.  I look up at Ray and smile.

Me: “Thanks, Ray. We also had four donuts. Sorry, I forgot to tell you.”

Ray: Winking, “Those donuts are on your old friend, Ray. You have a wonderful day, young lady.”

I smile my thanks, knowing I’ll resume crying if I attempt to speak.

We drive home. I put a movie on for the kids. Abandoning the grocery bags on the kitchen floor, I race upstairs to the bathroom with my “thermometer”.

I mop my sweaty brow for the second time that day, waiting for the results…

“Please be negative, please be negative, please be negative, please be negative…”

I smile, overcome with relief.

I text B&B:

“I got the wine. And your sperm are dead.”

He replies:

“I told you they are dead. Thanks for picking up the wine. I’m lucky to have you.”

I reply:

“You’re welcome. And that’s what Ray says too.”

He replies:

“Ray is right. My dead sperm and I would love to take you to dinner tonight.”

I shake my head. Incorrigible.

Could be worse. B&B and his living sperm could want to take me to dinner.

I smile and reply:

“My uterus and I happily accept.”

 

The Shit Show that is Disneyworld. Part II. Getting There.

B&B reaches across the aisle and caresses my ankle in a gesture of affection.

Me: Quietly, from the side of my mouth, “I’m not really in the mood to be touched right now, thank you.”

Especially by you.

B&B: Acting wounded, but attempting to suppress a grin, “OK. But I have two words for you.” He holds up one finger, “Suntan,” he holds up a second finger, “Lotion.”

Me: Leaning into the aisle towards him, “That’s a coincidence because I have two words for you,” I hold up one finger, “F,” I hold up a second finger, “You.”

We are now drawing the attention of our fellow plane passengers, who are watching our whispered across-the-aisle dialogue like a tennis match. And it’s B&B’s serve.

B&B: Brow furrowed, “You have the better memory of the two of us, so can you help me out with something? How many times did security root through our suitcase? Was it once? Or was it twice? I forget. I do remember they had to confiscate the,” he holds up one finger, “Suntan,” he holds up a second finger, “Lotion. But I forget just how many times they searched the actual suitcase. Do you remember? You have SUCH a great memory!”

He places his hands under his chin and flutters his eyelids in an attempt to make me laugh.

I smile. Because I’ve decided how I’m going to kill him.  

Me: “Stop talking to me, please. If I am trapped on this airplane with you, at least don’t remind me that you’re here.”

He pretends to zip his lips closed, then swallows the invisible key. Which is impossible, because if it’s zipped closed, how does he then swallow the stupid key?

Asshole.

It’s day one of our Disneyworld vacation. It’s not even 7AM. And I am seething mad at B&B.  With whom I’ll be spending every second of the next eight days.

Find a happy place. Find a happy place. Find a freakin’ happy place.

I hand out coloring books and crayons to the Verb, who’s next to me, and the Interrogator, who’s next to him in the window seat.

Me: “Here you go, guys. These trays pull down so that you can color like you’re sitting at a desk.  Interrogator, please stop kicking the chair in front of you. Thanks, buddy.”

With the two younger boys momentarily busy, I’m able to relax for a minute with my thoughts.

Goddamn B&B. I told him. I told him, and he laughed in response. Correction, he GUFFAWED in response.

I look over at the Interrogator, who’s wearing his figure 8 and protectively patting his right collarbone.

My sweet injured little boy. Forced to sprint through the airport lugging his backpack filled with Legos and chapter books because B&B had guffawed at me.

The flight attendant walks through the aisle. She stops next to me. She takes a cursory glance at B&B, then leans down and asks me, “It was his fault, wasn’t it? That you nearly missed the flight.”

Before I have the chance to nod my head in agreement, B&B’s face and hand appear at her hip. He points at me.

B&B: “Actually, it was her fault. Security searched our suitcase…how many times, Beth? Because of the,” he holds up one finger, “Suntan,” he holds up a second finger, “Lotion.” His head disappears the instant before I swing at it.

First I will cut out his tongue.

The flight attendant looks at me. She shakes her head and rolls her eyes.

Flight attendant: “Definitely his fault. And I’ll bet you packed for all four of the kids, right?”

Before I have an opportunity to concur, B&B busts into his best impression of the homicidal freak-show Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs.

B&B: “It places the lotion in the basket!”

Next I will make him eat his tongue.

The flight attendant shakes her head and walks past us.  The lady sitting behind me taps my shoulder. I turn to look at her through the crack between my seat and the Verb’s.  She brings her face close to the crack.

Lady behind me: “It was your husband’s fault. I can tell by the look on your face. They almost closed the door to the plane! He cut it too close.”

Again, before I can agree, her face is replaced in the crack between the seats by the face of her husband.

Husband of lady behind me: “I don’t know. He said something about suntan lotion, and you had no defense.”

WTF?

B&B: Channeling Buffalo Bill, this time more loudly, “It places the lotion in the basket!”

Me: Venomously to B&B, “You are embarrassing yourself and your children.”

This is a blatant lie. Nothing embarrasses B&B. He is one of those rare birds who doesn’t care what others think of him. And the kids are busy coloring and playing with handheld electronics. They haven’t a clue what’s transpiring between their parents.

B&B responds by holding up one finger, then another, while deliberately mouthing the words, “Suntan. Lotion.”

Then I will cut off his index and middle fingers.

Husband of lady behind me: “See?”

I glare at him through the crack between the seats.

Then I will make this clown eat the fingers.

*****

B&B is a risk taker. And a rule breaker. He is an adrenaline junkie. He does his best work when his hand is held over an open flame. That’s just how he operates. He loves stress.

I am more of the hurry up and wait variety. It’s much less stressful. I try to avoid stress whenever possible.

All that yin/yang, opposites attract stuff is certainly romantic in theory. Toss a couple kids, a few cars, a mortgage that’s been refinanced more than once and over a decade of marriage into the mix? My yin aches to kick his yang square in the balls. 

Neither of us has done much traveling since before we had kids. Waldorf was born just days after September 11, 2001.

I flop on the sofa that cloud-free, beautiful morning, and will my first baby to be born.

Me: To my painfully swollen stomach, “Please be born today. Please, little boy? Please don’t wait until tomorrow.”

I turn on the TV and struggle to make sense of the two gaping holes in the Twin Towers. After the first tower falls, my sister in law comes running through my front door in tears. After the second tower falls, B&B comes running through my front door in tears. Little Sister is hysterical. She is unable to reach Flyboy, her fiancé, a pilot who is in the air when all planes are grounded on this tragic day in our nation’s history.

Me: To my painfully swollen stomach, “Please don’t be born today. Please, little boy? Please wait until tomorrow.”

Before 9/11, it was perfectly acceptable to arrive 15 minutes before your flight was scheduled for takeoff.

Post 9/11, you have to arrive 90-120 minutes before your flight is scheduled for takeoff. Particularly if you’re traveling with multiple kids. Thanks to my fertile womb and my affinity for a second cocktail, this is our current predicament.

The evening before we fly…with multiple kids…to Disneyworld, the boys are in bed. Asleep in the clothes they’ll wear on the plane. The suitcases are zipped, closed, and weighed. Last minute items are packed. I lay down next to B&B for what I know will be an unrestful sleep.

Me: “It’s $25 to check a bag.  So we’ll only check one bag. I put the suntan lotion in the suitcase we’re checking so that security won’t confiscate it.”

B&B: “Smart move.”

Me: “Our flight is at 6:40AM. We need to be at the airport by 4:40AM. 5AM at the latest.”

He guffaws in response.

Me: Unamused, “That’s what the airline recommends.”

B&B: Shaking his head, “No way. That’s ludicrous. We’d have to leave at 4AM to arrive at that time. We’re not leaving at 4AM. Let the kids sleep a little. There won’t be any traffic. It’s not an international flight. We’ll be fine.”

Me: Unconvinced and beginning to stress, “I disagree. We should aim for 4AM. We can’t expect these idiot kids to run through the airport. Especially if we’re only checking one suitcase. That means we’re carrying four other suitcases.”

B&B: Guffawing, “We won’t be running through the airport.”

Me: Blood pressure rising, “I am telling you, I will seriously kill you if we miss the flight because we don’t leave early enough.”

Rule breaking fool.

Guffaw, guffaw.

Now I’ll never get to sleep.

I wake the kids at 3:40 AM, brush their teeth, and pack their toothbrushes.

Me: “B&B, we’re ready. The kids and I are ready. You haven’t put the suitcases in the minivan yet?”

Tick tock

B&B: “No, but we’re fine. Just relax. I’m going to put all of the bikes into the shed before we leave. Then I’ll pack the suitcases.”

Me: Trying to remain calm, “I thought you were going to do that last night?”

B&B: Slightly defensive, “Well, I didn’t get around to it last night. So I’m going to do it now.”

Tick tock, tick tock

Me: Quietly, “I was hoping to make a quick getaway before Waldorf realizes that Severus ran out into the dark and hasn’t returned yet.”

*Severus Snape is one of our two cats. He and Waldorf are BFF’s.

Waldorf: “Mommy, have you seen Severus?”

Too late.

Me: “Waldorf, Severus ran out very early and hasn’t come back yet. You might not be able to say goodbye to him before we leave. But you can look for him for 5 minutes because that’s when we’re leaving,” I look straight at B&B as I say this, “In 5 minutes, right, Daddy? We sure don’t want to miss our flight.”

Behind Waldorf’s back, I bare my fangs at B&B.

Guffaw.

5 minutes turns into 30+ minutes, and I’m torn between busting out some yoga poses to find my inner zen and managing my mounting stress with a mimosa at 4:30 AM. And I’m leaning heavily toward the mimosa because I’m a runner, so I don’t know any yoga poses.

B&B finally takes the driver’s seat, and we leave the house. I look at the clock in the car.

5:08 AM.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock

B&B: “You realize I’m stopping at Wawa, don’t you?”

I turn at him and hiss. He identifies this behavior, correctly, as one baby step away from my giving him a come to Jesus in front of the kids. Which I typically try to avoid doing in front of the kids.

But even I have my limits.

B&B: “Fine. I’ll get something at the airport.”

We arrive at the airport in record time. Thanks to minimal traffic and B&B’s lead foot. Park in long term parking, unload the suitcases, unload the strollers, schlep the kids with the suitcases and our carry-on bags to the shuttle stop. And wait in the dark.

Tick tock. Tickety tick tock.

I look at my watch, breathe deeply, nearly choke on the fumes from I-95, and refuse to look at or speak to B&B.

Son of a bitch. My blood pressure is through the goddamn roof because he didn’t listen to me.

B&B: “Beth, we’re fine on time. It’s only 6 AM. The plane doesn’t leave until 6:40 AM. Be cool.”

Shut up. And don’t tell me to be cool. Can’t you see I’m ignoring you?

Shuttle arrives. We drag the kids, the luggage, the strollers, and the carry-on bags aboard. 10 minutes later, we arrive at our terminal.

Me: “Hi, we want to check this bag, please?”

Airline Employee: “Sure. I’ll just change your flight information.”

Me: Smiling, “OK, thanks. Wait…why?”

Airline Employee: “Oh, you’re too late to check a bag on this flight. You’ll have to wait until the next available flight to Orlando in order to check this bag.”

The noises of the airport immediately fade…and are replaced by the thumping of my pulse. It’s rapid. And it’s fueled by anger. Borderline mania.

Me: “Boys, earmuffs, please.”

All four of my children cover their ears with their hands.

I turn to B&B.

Me: “I am going to fucking kill you.”

The airline employee looks quizzically between the two of us.

Interrogator: “Mom, can we take our earmuffs off yet?”

I shake my head in response.

Me: To B&B, “I fucking told you. And you didn’t listen.  And now I’m going to fucking kill you.”

Airline Employee: “So, did you want me to book the next available flight or not?”

B&B: Grabbing the suitcase we’d hoped to check, “No, thanks. Do you think we can still make our flight?”

Airline Employee: Looking at the clock and frowning, “You’d better run.”

B&B: “Boys, take off your earmuffs. Are you listening to me? Grab a bag. Follow Mommy. And RUN!”

Tick tock, to the tickety tock.

Up the escalators with all of our bags, all of our carry on items, all of our kids and two strollers. We run towards security. There are at least 100 people in line ahead of us. I look at B&B, tears forming in my eyes. But we catch a break, and they take us in the significantly shorter family line.

6:20 AM

B&B: “We’re fine, Beth. Totally fine. We have 20 minutes.”

Don’t talk to me. I am going to have to kill you in front of all four of our children. And then I’ll have to spend all of your life insurance money on their therapy. Don’t. Talk. To. Me.

Shoes off, belts off, pockets emptied, iPhones in bowls, laptop unpacked, strollers collapsed, carry-on bags and suitcases placed on conveyor belt.

Tick tock, tickety tickety tock.

Me: “Verb and Interrogator, stay close to Mommy. And walk straight toward that nice lady when she tells you to walk through this machine.”

Interrogator: “Mom, what’s this machine, Mom? Is it gonna hurt? Is it an X-ray, Mom?”

Me: “No talking right now, Interrogator. Listening ears only. I’ll tell you about the machine once we get on the plane.” If we get on the plane.

We proceed, single file, through the body scanner. In my state of near hysteria, I forget to suck in my gut as I walk through.

Oops. Sorry to the airline employee who will have that image singed on her brain for the foreseeable future.

We collect our strollers, iPhones, laptop, belts, shoes, carry-on bags, and suitcases from the conveyor belt.

Me: “Boys, get ready to run again. And no questions, please, until we are on the plane.” If we get on the plane.

Airline Employee: “Ma’am, is this your bag?”

I hate when people call me ma’am.

Me: I look at the bag she’s holding and recognize it as one of our suitcases. “That one? Yes. That’s ours.”

Airline Employee: “I’m going to have to search it.”

Tickety tick to the mutha fuckin tock.

Me: “Shit. OK.”

Interrogator, “Mom, you said a bad word. A curse word. You’re not supposed to say that word.”

Me: “Sorry, honey, you’re right. Mommy is just stressed because we’re running late.”

B&B: “Is that the bag we were going to check? Isn’t the suntan lotion in that bag?”

Me: Shaking the suitcase in my hand, “No, THIS is the bag we were going to check. It contains the suntan lotion.”

I immediately turn to the airline employee who’s checking my bag.

Me: “Listen, I don’t know what’s in there. But our flight leaves in,” I look at my watch, “10 minutes. And we have 4 kids. And we’re going to Disneyworld for the first time. Can you please look very quickly and give me my bag back? So that we don’t miss our flight? Because if we miss our flight my kids will be devastated. And I’ll have to kill my husband because it’s his fault we’re late. Then they’ll be devastated about that too.”

disney2

The airline employee locates and extracts the four brand new containers of suntan lotion. WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY DOING IN THERE?! I glance over at B&B. He’s looking in our direction. If he sees that I’ve packed the suntan lotion in the wrong bag, he will razz me about it until I’m too old to remember my own name. I spread my arms wide and stand on my toes in an effort to block his view.

But he’s so tall and I’m so not tall. Plan B, move onto plan B! I decide to mount the table that holds our suitcase in an attempt to block his view. I’ve got one knee up on that bad boy, and I hear clapping. And laughing.

Foiled. Shit. And shit. And SHIT. 

The airline employee looks at me, half smiling, “Sorry, I have to run it through again. But I’d kill him too if he made me miss my flight.”

That’s the plan, lady.

I glance over at B&B. By my calculations, he has maybe 15 minutes left on this earth before I kill him. Yet I’ve never seen him more satisfied. More joyful. Our luggage is scattered around him. And our children…some with shoes, some without…are scaling the bags and jumping from one suitcase to another. He doesn’t bother to correct them. Doesn’t even remember they exist. For him, there’s only me.

Me and my suntan lotion screw up.

She runs our suitcase through the scanner again. I reach out to take it from her.

Airline employee: “Sorry. Something else is showing up in here. I have to search it again.”

WHAT????

B&B bends in half in a fit of laughter. He pulls himself to his full height and wipes his eyes of the tears his laughter has just produced.

B&B: Still laughing, “What else did you put in there? Shampoo?”

Shampoo on an airplane

Me: Frantic, “I don’t know! I don’t remember!”

B&B: Smiling, “How could you not remember? Oh, that’s right, you obviously didn’t remember to pack the suntan lotion in the right suitcase.”

Me: “I packed those suitcases 2 days ago! And I barely slept last night! And I don’t know where Severus is! And we are going to miss our flight because you said we would be fine on time! Stop talking to me!”

The airline employee finds the J&J lavender scented lotion I apply to the Interrogator and the Verb after their baths.

I love the smell of that lotion on them. I could use a whiff of that lavender to relax my shit right about now.

She hands me the suitcase. And we sprint in the direction of our gate.

A US Airways pilot puts his hand on my arm as I run past him.

Pilot: “Are you the family of six headed to Orlando?”

Me: Not slowing down, “Yes!”

Pilot: Shaking his head, “They’re getting ready to close the doors. I’ll call ahead and tell them you’re coming.”

Me: Yelling,“Thank you!”

We reach our gate, run down the ramp, collapse the strollers and step onto the plane. Every eyeball on the plane watches while we struggle with our luggage and our children and head toward our seats. B&B shoves our bags into random overhead compartments throughout the back of the aircraft. Miraculously, they all fit.

We collapse into our seats.

B&B lives to see another day. Just barely.

Two hours later, I’m over it. I’m deliriously tired and excited. We are flying to Florida to meet my parents, whom we haven’t seen in two months. And we’re going to Disneyworld with the kids for the first time.

B&B: Looking at me from across the aisle, “Still mad?”

Me: “That depends.”

B&B: “On what?”

Me: “On how you answer my question.”

B&B: “By all means, please ask it.”

Me: “Our return flight leaves at 7:35PM. What time shall we be at the airport?”

B&B: He hums a few notes of the Jeopardy theme, butchering it, “What is 5:35PM, Mr.Trebek?”

Me: Grinning, “Congratulations. You’ve answered correctly.”

He reaches across the aisle and caresses my ankle.  I reach across the aisle and scratch his back.

The flight attendant catches my eye and smiles.

I hear the muffled voices of the couple who sit behind me.

Lady behind me: “Oh, she’s forgiven him! And much more quickly than I’d have forgiven you.”

Husband of the lady behind me: “Well, she should forgive him. They were late because of the suntan lotion, weren’t you listening? It’s her fault!”

B&B must hear them. Because he leans back, adorns his handsome face with his most innocent look, and points at me.

B&B: “It was definitely her fault, but she has a hard time admitting she’s wrong,” channeling Buffalo Bill for a third and final time, “It places the lotion in the basket!”

Moron.

I take a deep, cleansing breath. The first of what promises to be many with eight consecutive days accompanied by B&B and our four clueless sons.

And so begins our vacation…

The Shit Show that is Disneyworld. Part I

I’m fairly organized. I do not own a label maker, so I wouldn’t classify myself as anal. But I do color code my calendar, which is a dry erase board. Each penis, or son, gets his own color. And then, for good measure, I take a picture of it with my iPhone. In case B&B leans against it, deleting its contents. Which inevitably happens every month. I never move the calendar. It’s nailed to a wall. Yet he manages to lean against it. And always in the beginning of the month.

When it comes time to pack for Disney, I use the same logic when assembling the kids’ outfits. I don’t dress my kids in matching clothes. But we need some bright colors so I’m able to spot their wandering asses during peak season. Vomit green. Fluorescent orange. Tomato red. My children are the palest bunch of kids I know. Even in August. So, none of these colors compliments their dark hair, light eyes and translucent skin. But we are talking survival here, not an episode of Dance Moms.

disney1

Every day, before leaving the hotel for the park, B&B opens the door to let the kids out in single file line. And I subsequently grab the arms of those who’ve already crossed the threshold, drag them back in, and slam the door closed.

B&B: Confused, “What? Your parents are waiting for us.”

Me: “The picture. We need the picture.”

B&B: Even more confused, “What picture?”

Me: “The picture of what the kids are wearing today. In case one of them gets lost.”

B&B mutters under his breath while I assemble the boys into a group.

Me: “Don’t touch him, Kenyan. Kenyan!!! Please do not touch the Interrogator.”

Waldorf: “Why do we need a picture? We haven’t even left yet?”

Me: Pointedly, “Do you remember what happened to Nemo?”

In chorus, “OH GOD! WILL YOU EVER STOP TALKING ABOUT THE NEMO STORY?!”

Verb: “YES! I know what happened to Nemo! He got taken by the bad guy!! Cuz he wasn’t listening to his Dad!”

Me: Winking at him, “Excellent, Verby!”

You’re my favorite today.

B&B: Holding his iPhone, ready to capture their images, “Alright, guys, look at me and smile…Verb, VERB! Look at Daddy, Verb. Now, Kenyan, you look at Daddy. Guys, come on, can you look at me so we can get this picture and go have some fun?!”

Me: Now I’m muttering, “They don’t need to look at you. It’s about the outfits. We need to document what they’re wearing.”

Duh.

Snap! Picture taken.

B&B: “Are we allowed to go now?”

Me: “I’m ignoring your sarcasm…busy saving your kids’ lives, and just Ignoring. Your. Sarcasm.”

We wait, with 20-30 other cattle, for the bus that will deliver us to the park.  Many of them hold small gowns, all of them pressed, some lined with crinolines, all covered in protective plastic. I look down at my full coffee cup. Oh, the nectar of the gods. It has a lid. I’m in good shape.

I really need this coffee. Really really. Goddamn Disney for neglecting to place a Dunkin Donuts right at this bus stop.

A random Mom holding a small princess gown and accompanied by an adorable 4 year old…my spider senses tell me she’s the owner of the dress…eyes my coffee cup.

Random Mom: Loud enough for me to hear, “There’s no drinking on the bus, honey, remember? No food and NO drink. We wouldn’t want anything to spill on your beautiful gown.”

She looks right at me as she makes her announcement.

I look right back at her…and send her this message, telepathically…

Oh, message received, bold broad. But your daughter’s gown is hermetically sealed. And look at this cast of morons who surround me. I’ve got 2 senior citizens, one distracted husband, one 10 year old who walks 15 feet ahead of us, one 8 year old who lags 20 feet behind us, one 6 year old in a stroller with a broken goddamn clavicle wearing a freaking figure 8, and a 3 year old in a stroller hacking up a lung with a virus. If you don’t want me to drink my coffee on that bus, we’re going to have to throw down.

We stare at each other, eyes smoldering.

As if on cue, the Verb breaks into a violent coughing fit.

I raise my left eyebrow and send her one more message, telepathically…

Go ahead and say something about my coffee. I’ll sit Coughy McPhlegm right next to your little Cinderella for the 20 minute bus ride.

She tucks tail and heads to the back of the line to avoid the Verb’s plague. And my coffee.

I wink again at the Verb. Excellent timing, little man. You are indeed my favorite today.

Waldorf: Excited, “Here comes the bus!”

B&B: “Verb, Interrogator, out of the strollers. Let’s do this.”

We collapse the strollers and herd the kids onto the bus.

1, 2, 3, and 4. OK. All here.

We enjoy the short bus ride. The energy is high. The excitement almost tangible. And there are a few other rebels who’ve dared to bring their lidded coffee aboard the Disneymobile. Mom and I chat with a sweet girl from Connecticut, while B&B talks easily with her husband. I’m beginning to feel the magic everyone talks about when they visit Disney. I feel like we’re all on spring break in Cancun together. Except it’s much more expensive. And there’s no tequila. And we’re forced to act responsibly.

So, I guess it’s not really like spring break at all, but I love the energy of the crowd. Well, everyone’s energy but the coffee nazi’s.

We arrive at Magic Kingdom, reassemble the strollers, count the children, take a few more pictures, field several questions from the Interrogator, listen to numerous complaints from the other three boys, and hurry into the park.

As soon as I spot Cinderella’s castle, I look at Waldorf and the Kenyan. They hit each other and point at it…

Waldorf: Lit up, “There it is! That’s the castle! The one we see in all of the Disney movies!”

Kenyan: Nodding, equally excited, “Oh, I recognize it! It’s so awesome! It’s HUGE!”

Ah, this is the good stuff. Big memorable moment of happiness. 1, 2, 3, 4, and they’re all here. Breathe it in…and savor it.

It’s a short moment, because it’s time for Drill Sergeant Mommy to rear her commandeering head.

Me: Barking, “Waldorf, Kenyan, put your hand on a stroller. And do not remove your hand from a stroller without first asking permission. Do you understand me? Tell me ‘yes’ so I know that you understand me.”

“Yes, Mommy.”

Me: “Good. B&B, please make sure the Verb is buckled. Interrogator, I won’t buckle you, but if you get out of that stroller without asking permission, you’ll be buckled back into it. Do you understand?” smiling, “Isn’t this fun? Let’s have some fun!”

B&B: Quietly, smiling, “You sure know how to suck the fun out of Disney, Mommy.”

Me: In return, “I’m ignoring your sarcasm. Busy saving your kids’ lives and just Ignoring. Your. Sarcasm.”

We navigate the park cautiously at first. Dad and Mom look at maps. B&B and Waldorf look at Disney iPhone apps to gauge the wait times of rides. They discuss which rides we should fastpass. And I count heads.

1, 2, 3, and 4. Good. They’re all here.

It’s a great deal of walking. Under a very hot sun. It’s a lot of time spent waiting. In lines hundreds of people long. It’s constant counting of heads.  Amidst a crowd of tens of thousands. It is equal parts stressful and fabulous.

We use a fastpass on the Peter Pan ride, which promises to be kick-ass if the constant wait time is any indication. As we stand in line, waiting our turn, Mom taps B&B on the arm.

Mom: “There’s…oh, what’s his name? From the Phillies!” She reaches for Dad as well.

*I don’t know that I’ve mentioned this, but B&B is a sports nut. Fanatic really. He is a frequent caller to sports radio shows. He takes notes…at times copious…before placing these calls. He feels passionately about his opinion and will gladly participate in a verbal spat with the radio hosts and/or any other caller who dares to question his sports knowledge base. Which is extensive.

B&B: Immediately perking, “Who? Where?”

Mom: Pointing, “There, right there. Wearing the white sunglasses. Outside It’s a Small World.”

Waldorf: Tossing in his two cents, “Oh, that’s the worst ride. No Phillies player would be waiting to go on that.”

1, 2, 3, and 4. All here.

Me: “We need to move forward. The line’s moving forward.”

B&B: “Holy shit, it’s Shane Victorino!”

Mom: Claps her hands together, “Yes! The Flyin’ Hawaiian! I knew it!”

1, 2, 3, and 4. Still all here. Maybe I will just push us forward a little bit.

Waldorf: “Wait, what?! The Flyin’ Hawaiian is here?! Where?”

Dad: “Who? What? Did somebody mention Shane Victorino?”

Sweet Jesus. I’ve lost all of the adults. 1, 2, 3, and 4. Still got the kids. OK.

B&B: Speaking to no one in particular, “What hat am I wearing?” he rips his visor off his head and examines the front of it. He looks at me, “Damnit! Why didn’t I wear my Phillies hat today?!” He opens his arms their full width as he poses this question. And his wingspan is well over 6 feet, so he’s now poking people who immediately surround us.

Probably because we had no way of knowing their outfielder would be standing 20 feet from us.

I look over to see whether or not it’s indeed Shane Victorino. Either it’s Shane or his identical twin. And I’m fairly sure he doesn’t have a twin.

B&B: To my Dad, “Are they playing today? This is a long way from Clearwater.” To me, “Check your phone, see if they’re playing.”

Oh for the love of God.

I pull up our home team’s spring training schedule.

Me: “Nope. Off today. They were on the road yesterday.”

B&B: Quietly, “It has to be him. Let me double check that schedule. I would LOVE to jump out of this line and talk to him about the UFC! He is a huge MMA fan.”

Oh dear God.

Waldorf cups his hands around his mouth, “SHANE!”

Oh no.

Mom: Waving and yelling as well, “Yo, Shane! Go Phils!! Woohoo!”

Oh NO. Her too?! 1, 2, 3, and

My counting is interrupted by a shrill whistle. Dad’s whistle. Like Waldorf, he cups his hands around his mouth, yelling: “Hey, SHANE! GO, PHILLIES!” and follows it up with another shrill whistle for good measure.

Jesus Christ Almighty.

At this point, I am waving people past us.

Me: “Go ahead. Go in front of us. No, we’re OK, thanks, you go right ahead in front of us.”

Interrogator: Frowning with discontent, “Hey, they’re budging! Budging isn’t nice! It’s bad manners!”

1, 2, 3, and 4. All here.

Me: Patiently, “It’s not budging, honey, I’m waving them ahead of us.”

Interrogator: Stomping his feet, “WHY? I don’t want to go last! You’re making me last! I don’t want to go on this ride if you’re making me last! I don’t like being last!” He folds his arms, plants his feet, and refuses to move forward.

The Kenyan and the Verb are heavily involved in a game of fake ninja sparring. But the Verb doesn’t grasp the “fake” concept just yet.

Kenyan: Shrieking, “OW! Verb!! Don’t kick me for REAL! Just PRETEND to kick me!”

I sigh audibly.

I look at Mom, Dad, and Waldorf. Each of them is yelling, whistling, and waving as though they’re stranded on a desert island and have just spotted a rescue boat on the horizon.

I look at Shane Victorino. He has his arms folded. He has what appears to be the slightest hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. And he is doing his very best to look everywhere but at the three gesticulating fools standing right next to me.

B&B: “I guess he can’t hear you.”

Mom: “Aw, shoot!”

Dad: “That’s a real shame.”

Yes, that must be it…

Me: “OK, let’s see what this Peter Pan fuss is all about!”

1, 2, 3 and 4. Phew.

As we walk from one end of the park to the next, Mom and I glance at our fellow parkgoers.

Oh, ladies. Ladies, ladies, ladies. Why do you do it? Just because it comes in your size doesn’t mean you should buy it.

Mom: Quietly, “Now I know how everyone here can afford Disney. These broads are all wearing their daughter’s clothes. Their 12 year old daughter’s clothes.”

True dat.

The park is fun…like a work party is fun. I can enjoy myself somewhat, but have to remain on my best behavior. Because I’m still working. As soon as I catch myself relaxing, I remind myself that I’m still on the clock. There are heads to count and fastpasses to obtain.  Keeping track of 4 boys in Disney over spring break is exhausting work. The strollers are a royal pain in the ass…although I am not as pressured to count the heads that are connected to the bodies that ride in those strollers.

One evening we enjoy a delicious dinner on the water in Downtown Disney. Afterwards, we brave the Lego Store, which is walking distance from the restaurant. And just so happens to be the only place more crowded than the Magic Kingdom.

Dad: “Are they giving something away here?”

Me: “In bulk?”

There are both indoor and outdoor Lego competitions occurring simultaneously. Outside the store is an enormous Lego replica of Maleficent, in her dragon form, fighting the prince. Life size Buzz Lightyear and Woody…both made entirely of Legos…stand inside the store.

So much for a relaxing stroll through the Lego store. Still on the clock. A little more challenging with that margarita pumping through my veins.

B&B: “Buddy up. Every adult take one child. Stay together. We’re going in.”

Mom gets the Kenyan. Dad gets Waldorf. I get the Interrogator. And B&B draws the short straw and buddies up with the Verb.

Although I may have drawn the short straw with the Interrogator. My God that boy can talk.

Interrogator: “Mom, Mom. I need to find the Ninjago’s, Mom. Can you help me find the Ninjago’s, Mom? I need to find them. I need to see if they have the blue ninja, Mom. Cuz blue’s my favorite. It’s your favorite too, right, Mom? I know it’s your favorite and my favorite. We both love blue. So it’s our favorite.”

Me: Nodding, “We both love blue. Lead the way, Interrogator.”

We squeeze our way through the masses to check out their stock of Ninjago sets. Which amounts to three total. One in our price range. Two with price tags big enough that I classify them as Christmas presents. Big Christmas presents.

The Interrogator grabs the box in our price range, hugs it to himself, and smiles.

Interrogator: “Oh, I found it, Mom. It’s just what I need. There’s a snake. And a staff. And it’s not blue, but it’s just what I need. I’m ready to go.”

Me: Smiling, “It’s a smart choice, Interrogator. I like it very much. Let’s keep looking though, because your brothers are still deciding.”

I steer him over to the less crowded area where you can build your own Lego characters. He loves it. Jackpot. He’s matching heads with torsos and legs. Searching intently for weapons, muttering to himself all the while.  I smile and use this opportunity to do some people watching.

Two girls in their mid-20’s sidle up next to the Interrogator. They both have very peculiar hairdos. And, I’m being generous when I say peculiar. Both girls’ heads are almost completely shaved on the left side. Both have very long, unkempt, blond hair on the right side. And both girls have colored the middle sections of their hair, which are the thickest areas, a variety of purple, green, and blue.

Fascinating choice. Altogether fascinating.

They immediately begin building Lego characters. And they are taking their work very seriously.

A voice is at my ear whispering: “Why do they do that to themselves? Don’t they realize how ridiculous they both look? They must really need attention, don’t you agree?”

I’m not so bothered by the hair. Their age coupled with their affinity for building small Lego characters is what’s got me spellbound. 

I turn to identify the owner of the voice. And immediately begin digging my nails into the palms of my hands in order to avoid falling into a heap of laughter on the spot.

The disapproving woman’s face is unidentifiable. Because it’s been painted to look exactly like the face of a cat.

Wow. I mean…WOW.

Me: Grinning, “It’s ironic, isn’t it?”

Catwoman: Puzzled, “What is?”

Me: Nodding, “Exactly.”

I take that opportunity to round up the troops so that we can exit the very colorful premises.

1, 2, 3,4…got em all.

While waiting on a dock for the ferry to take us back to our hotel, all four of my exhausted, slap-happy sons participate in a game of grab-ass. It’s only a matter of time before one or more of them falls into the drink.  I can’t speak for the other three adults, but I’m ready to hear less from the crowd of males ages 10 and under.

Me: Warning, “Boys, I wouldn’t play that game if I were you. We’re over very dangerous water here. This is Florida. Home of the alligator.”

Silence. Followed by a collective gasp. I punctuate my statement with a very serious face and a deliberate raising of my eyebrows.

Oh, a little mind fuck never hurt anyone.

They stand, ramrod straight, until the ferry arrives. They board it and sit, ramrod straight, the entire ride home. In silence. Except for the Interrogator. Who is, naturally, sitting next to me.

Interrogator: “Mom, Mom, I don’t like alligators, Mom. Do alligators think I’m sweet meat, Mom? Bugs do. Bugs think I’m sweet meat. They love to bite me. Will an alligator bite me too? I’m scared, Mom. I’m scared of this boat, and I’m scared of this water, and I’m scared of these alligators in this water coming on this boat who are going to eat me. I don’t want to get eaten, Mom.”

Serves me right.

Me: Like a freight train, I keep coming, “I think alligators prefer swamps to this water. So we may be safe. They don’t like boats. So that’s good. But talking wakes them up, so we should be very quiet. Just in case. Never wake a sleeping alligator. Especially in Disneyworld.”

Interrogator: Eyes huge, whispering, “MOM! You’re not gonna take me to a swamp, are you? I don’t want to ever go to a swamp. Never. Ever.”

Me: Shaking my head, “No, no swamps. Not tonight at least. Maybe at Animal Kingdom though.”

The Interrogator climbs immediately onto my lap.

Makes my job easier. Now I only have to count 3 heads.

The Interrogator falls asleep each night worrying equally about alligators in swamps and his 2nd loose tooth. He awakes each morning firing questions rapidly.

Interrogator: “Oh, did my tooth fall out while I was sleeping? Are we going to a swamp today? I don’t want to go to a swamp today, Mom. I don’t like alligators to eat me. They’re gonna eat me, aren’t they, Mom? Did my tooth fall out or didn’t it?”

We manage, a couple nights, to ditch the Verb and the Interrogator with my parents and head to Magic Kingdom with Waldorf and the Kenyan.

Now THAT is what I’m talking about. 2 kids, baby.

They are game for everything. And we literally run from one end of the park to the other, and back again. Several times. And they are able to keep up with us. We dart in and out of bystanders watching the Electrical Parade. We drop 52 soaked feet down Splash Mountain to watch the first of the fireworks appear in the sky.

 

We get our choice of seats on Space Mountain. I choose wrong. I choose the last car, thinking it will whip me around the most violently. And I am correct. It does whip me around more violently than the other cars. But it also manages to whip one of my boobs right out of my very well padded, heavily underwired, fairly expensive Victoria’s Secret bra.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph!! Where is that fakakta camera?!?!

I spend most of that ride shoving my goods back into their cage and peering accusingly into the darkness for the camera that captures images of the passengers of Space Mountain.

It’s a wonderful trip. Filled with amazing memories. And my four boys get to experience all the magic of Disney with my parents. Which has been a dream of Dad’s since I shared with him, eleven years ago, that he was going be a grandfather for the very first time.

We arrive home happy, fatigued, over-fed, and eager to plan our next trip back.  B&B scrolls through the pictures on his phone, shaking his head.

B&B: “Wow. I’m exhausted. That was such an amazing trip, wasn’t it? I can’t wait to go back.”

He rolls his eyes and turns his phone towards me so that I can see the picture he’s viewing. It’s a shot of the boys in our hotel. One that I insisted he take so we would know what each of them is wearing every day. In case we lose one of them.

B&B: “Am I allowed to delete this picture now? Is it safe? Or are they still in danger?”

Me: “I’m ignoring your sarcasm. And, yes, you may now delete that picture.”

He leans back. Directly against my color coded dry erase board calendar.

Mother Humper. Never fails.

But, I have to admit…he’s making some progress.

At least it’s the end of the month.

Who Skipped a Semester in Italy for 4 months of Houlihan’s Dinners? Asking for a friend…

I met B&B the summer before starting my junior year of college. I pegged him…correctly at the time…as a serious hottie, a great athlete, a smart guy, and an all-around obnoxious individual.  We dated that August, and I returned to school in September, not sure whether he even knew what school that was. Or my last name.

The first night back at school, my roommate, Maria, and I are gussying up to head out to a party.  Cue the Indigo Girls CD.

Maria: “So, what’s up with that guy you were seeing?”

Me: “Um, nothing, I guess.  I don’t know what his deal is. I think he goes to school, but I’m not sure.”

Maria: “Does he have your number?”

Me: “I don’t know. Maybe. I don’t think he’ll call anyway.”

Our conversation is interrupted by a knock on the door. Maria swings it open, expecting to find a fellow college classmate. Negative. All 6’2” of my summer fling are standing in the doorway.

Holy crap, what’s he doing here? How does he know where I go to school? Did I leave something in his car? I bet he’s here to return something I’ve left in his car.

Maria: Stepping to the side, “Beth, I think it’s for you.”

Me: Smiling awkwardly, “Um, hi!”

B&B: Intensely, “Can I talk to you for a minute? Out here in the hallway?”

Hmmm…this is mysterious. Well, I know he’s not going to tell me he’s pregnant, so that’s a relief.

I step out into the hallway, and look at him with expectant eyes.

Yowza. He’s super duper hot. I hope I’m not blushing. Goddamn this Irish skin. I hope he thinks I’m playing it cool. I do not feel like I am playing it cool, but I hope I at least appear to be playing it cool.

Me: “So, how did you find me?”

B&B: Smiling, but not a happy smile, “I have my ways.”

Mysterious indeed. Possibly borderline stalker.

Me: Clearing my throat, “So, why the house call?”

B&B: Defensive, “What, this isn’t a pleasant surprise?”

Me: “No. I mean it is. It’s a surprise. It’s pleasant, yes, but you arrive unannounced and pull me into the hallway; so I’m curious what your agenda is.”

B&B: “OK, I will get straight to the point. I know you considered me a fling. And I’m here to tell you that this right here” he moves his finger back and forth between the two of us, “this is not a fling. I can see that you and your roommate are getting ready to go out. So go out. Have a ball. But this is not a fling. And I will be back. Tomorrow. And we will go out.”

And he walks away. No goodbye. Nothing.

I don’t know whether I should feel flattered or violated.

ciaobella

Maria: “What was that all about?”

Me: “I don’t know. I guess he kinda likes me. He’s an extremely obnoxious person. I think he just ordered me to go out with him tomorrow.”

Maria: “Are you going to go?”

Me: “I guess so.”

Maria: “He’s really cute.”

Me: Agreeing, “Very bossy though. I don’t know how I feel about that.”

A few months later, my feelings about B&B have become clearer. Maria and I planned, with a few other friends, to study abroad for our 2nd semester of junior year. In Italy. Mom and Dad are completely on board. The plans are being made. The excitement is building. Everyone’s excitement. Everyone’s but mine. I am in love with the obnoxious summer fling. And I have no intention of missing 4 consecutive months of Houlihan’s dinners and movies in order to study in Italy. Without B&B.

Please rev up the time machine and take me back.

Clearly, I had no idea that B&B would have stalked me down in Italy, just like he’d done in Philadelphia. He’d have knocked on my European door and announced he was studying there for the semester as well. Or, at the very least, sleeping on the floor of our hostel.

So, Maria studies in Italy. And I stay in Philly. Yes, “Dumbest 20 year old girl on the planet” award goes to me.

When my best friend arrives home, several months later, she brings back a piece of Italy with her. She’d bought me a leather backpack. It is the most beautiful backpack I’ve ever seen, and the softest I’ve ever touched.

I still have that backpack. I missed the trip, but I keep the backpack. Still, almost 2 decades later, it smells like Italy to me. Yes, it smells overwhelmingly like leather. But it also smells like a fabulous loaf of fresh baked crusty bread. With a subtle bouquet of table wine. And a lingering smell of handmade pasta. I use my piece of Italy on special occasions. I’ve taken it to the hospital four times…once for each time I delivered a son.  When I take it out of the attic, I look at it for a minute, and I smile.

I don’t stop to look at much for a minute, so when the Kenyan catches me doing just that, he calls me out.

Kenyan: “Mommy, why are you staring at that backpack and smiling?”

Me: “Because I love this backpack. Maria brought it home from Italy for me. I was supposed to go with her, but I was a fool in love, so I skipped the trip.”

Kenyan: “OK, but there’s not much funny about a backpack. No offense, but you just look kinda weird smiling at a bag for like 10 minutes. I thought we were in a hurry to take the Interrogator to the hospital?”

The Interrogator has broken his clavicle, and we need to hit the hospital for some X-rays. But he’s been walking around with the broken clavicle for 2 days already. An extra minute of my gazing at a bag isn’t going to make much difference.

Me: “Yep. Off we go. Give me your book, and I’ll put it in my backpack.”

Unsure how long we’ll be waiting in radiology, I pack enough that we’ll easily sustain ourselves for a solid week on one of the remote islands on which they dump a new cast of Survivor. All books are placed in my Italy bag. Cooler for drinks and fruit. Earth friendly grocery bags filled with snacks, a vast variety of coloring books, Mad Libs, crayons, sketching pad, and pencils. Electronics are charged. Extra AC adapters go into the bag just in case. And off we go to the local hospital. To wrack up more frequent flier miles.

In the car, I prep the kids about the importance of staying close to me in the hospital. Stranger danger and all of that fun stuff.

Me: “Do you boys remember what happened to Nemo when he swam away from his Dad?”

Waldorf: “Oh, God. How many times are you going to ask us that?”

Kenyan: “Alright, already, with the Nemo story.”

Verb: “YES! The big bad DIVER got Nemo! And he took him! And he put him in the tank!”

Interrogator: “Mom, does an X-ray hurt, Mom? Are they going to hurt me when they take my picture, Mom?”

Me: “Yes, the diver was a stranger who took Nemo from his Dad. Because Nemo wasn’t using his listening ears. Had he stayed close to his Dad, his Dad would have protected him from that bad diver.  I want you to stay close to me, so that I can protect you. So, please use your listening ears. Especially you, Verb. No running ahead. And, no, Interrogator, an x ray doesn’t hurt.”

The Verb is notorious for running ahead. Sprinting, actually. And the Interrogator prefers to take his time. Which leaves me in a bit of a quandary when I’m with both of them. Do I remain with the lagging 6 year old? Or do I bust my ass to catch the 3 year old and sling him over my shoulder, turn back to the Interrogator, and walk with him while receiving concussion-inducing kicks to my head from his younger brother? Who couples the kicks with verbal assaults. I continue to try to work this one out on a daily basis.

Radiology is smooth sailing. They take us almost immediately. The girl at registration is very sweet and chatty.

Reception girl: Incredulous, “Wow, are they all yours?”

Me: Smiling, “Guilty.”

Reception girl: “4 boys?”

Me: Nodding, to her, “4 boys,” looking over my shoulder to the kids, “Waldorf, please let the Verb watch the game you’re playing. He’s strapped into that stroller and I’d prefer he stays there.”

Reception girl: “Did you find out what you were having when you were pregnant with them?”

Me: Nodding, “Yes, with 3 of the 4 of them. I thought my broken clavicle over there was a girl. Turns out he was not, “ looking over my shoulder to the kids, “Kenyan….Kenyan! Listen to me, Kenyan. Look at me with your eyeballs please so that I know that you’re listening. Thank you. Please move over one chair so that the Interrogator can sit there next to you.”

Interrogator: “I don’t want to sit, Mom. My arm hurts. I don’t want to get my picture taken, Mom. I don’t like it here. I don’t like the hospital, Mom. I’m hungry.”

Me: “I’m right here with you, buddy. And I promise it won’t hurt to have your picture taken. Waldorf…Waldorf! Please go into my leather backpack and get out the crackers for the Interrogator. He may have 6 since he’s 6 years old.”

The Verb makes a lunge for the crackers because he was born with a hollow leg. He misses because he’s harnessed into the stroller. Waldorf’s face morphs into the face I recognize as the teasing face.

Me: Hissing, “Waldorf, the Verb did not have a nap today. We all need to have extra patience with him. Please hand him 3 crackers because he’s 3 years old.”

Reception girl: “Can I have your license and insurance cards please?”

Me: Handing them over, “Sure, here they are.”

What a nice treat that she didn’t ask me the question that everyone asks me.

No sooner do I think it than she asks it.

Reception girl: Smiling, “So, are you going to try for a girl?”

Wow, you’re only the 3,249th person to ask me that question.

Me: Attempting, unsuccessfully, to smile, “I’m sufficiently overwhelmed with the 4 healthy boys I have. So, no.”

I am a fairly mouthy chick at times, and on occasion it’s gotten me into a pickle. But it never ceases to amaze me how many people ask me whether I’m going to attempt to get pregnant with a girl or whether I’m upset that none of my sons was born with a vagina. Last I checked, that’s nobody’s business. It reminds me of the time we were at a wedding when I was pregnant with the Interrogator. The kids were invited to the wedding, so we had Waldorf and the Kenyan with us.

Random old broad: “You’re pregnant again? When are you going to stop getting pregnant? 2 kids aren’t enough for you?”

Big, fat, obnoxious pregnant Me: “Nope. The sex is just too good. I can’t help myself.”

F YOU, old broad. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I digress…

Just then, B&B arrives. It is nearing the end of his work day, and he knows I may need Fun Dad to save the day if the hospital proves crowded. He stays with the other 3 boys while I go with the Interrogator to get his X-rays taken. It takes all of 5 minutes. The Interrogator is a rock star.

Before we know it, we’re in the parking garage, prepared to drive home. And so begins the chorus of, “I want to go in Daddy’s car!  No, I get to go in Daddy’s car! Me too! I said it first! You always go in Daddy’s car! It’s mine turn to go in Daddy’s car!” It’s Waldorf’s lucky day…he gets to drive home with Daddy. In a newer, cleaner vehicle that does not smell, at all times, like flatulence. I get three whiners, who are tired from a long day. And one of whom is very sore from carting around a broken bone for the past two days. Finally this poor kid is validated.

We are a block away from the hospital, and I am already tasting the wine that eagerly awaits me at home.

I will have two sips of wine before putting the kids to bed. Then, I will savor the rest of the glass. Because this has been one LONG week.

Verb: Urgently, “I HAVE TO POOP! MOM, I HAVE TO GO POOP! RIGHT NOW, I HAVE TO POOP!”

I pull over immediately. B&B pulls alongside me. We roll down our windows.

Me: “The Verb has to go #2. I have the travel potty in the car. Give us a few minutes.”

I will have 5 sips of wine before putting the kids to bed. Then, I will chug the rest of the glass.

Me: “Alright, Verby, let’s get you unbuckled. Please be very careful that you don’t step on Mommy’s beautiful bag from Italy. And please don’t step on this great big bag of snacks that I packed. Let’s get your pants down and get this show on the road.”

Verb: “NO! I want to pull mine pants down mineself!”

I will have one glass of wine before putting the kids to bed. Then, I will pour myself another glass.

The Verb struggles with his pants. And I crack the windows because he’s gassing up a storm.

Interrogator: “Ew, Mom, ew, I smell gas. I hear gas, and I smell gas. And it smells bad. Verb, your gas smells bad.”

Oh, just wait until he takes a dump in this little potty, my good man. The tears will be streaming down your face once you catch a whiff of that.

The Verb finally gets his pants down. I get him situated on the potty. And he begins his conversation. Because he loves a little chit chat with his bowel movements.

Verb: “Mom, the Interrogator has a broken bone! And we go’d to the hospital for him to get his picture taken!”

Me: “Yes, we did, buddy.”

Verb: “And no bad diver taked me away from you, Mom. Cuz I had mine listening ears on, Mom. I do’d good listening.”

Me: “You certainly did have your listening ears on, big guy.”

Verb: Looking down, “Alright! I winned!! I did the biggest poopy ever! And I winned! And now, I’m gonna go pee.”

Me: “Well done, my boy. Then, we can drive home.”

What’s that noise? It sounds like splashing.

Me: “Interrogator? Did you spill your drink back there?”

Interrogator: “No, Mom. I didn’t spill.”

Pssssssss

Me: “Kenyan, what about you? Did you spill your drink? I hear something. A liquid. A liquid hitting a solid.”

Kenyan: “Nope. I didn’t spill anything.”

Verb: Looking up from the travel potty, “Ooops. That was me, Mom. It was mine pee. It go’d all over your beautiful brown bag.”

Mother of all that is good and pure. My precious bag. My piece of Italy. The one item I’ve managed to keep from the evil clutches of my offspring. And my youngest child just whizzed all over it.

SNAP goes my patience.

I immediately exit the car. I walk straight to B&B’s car. He rolls down the window.

Me: “Please step out of your automobile. And take Waldorf with you. You will be driving my car, for the safety of all of your children, particularly the youngest one.”

B&B: Perplexed, “Sure. You OK?”

Me: Shaking my head, “No. That’s why I need to drive separately. Please.”

He and Waldorf swiftly exit his car. I slip into the driver’s seat, lock the doors and start my temper tantrum.

Me: To an empty car, “I will chug one bottle of wine. Then, I will lay down for a long winter’s nap.”

When we arrive home, B&B, aware of my woe, tends to my bag. Neither of us knows a thing about treating leather, so he blots it with a dry paper towel. And lays it in front of the heating vent to dry.

B&B: Enveloping me in a hug, “I’m sorry about your bag. I know you love that bag. One day we’ll get to Italy. Without these idiots. Just the two of us. And we’ll find you a beautiful bag like this one. And, I promise, no one will take a piss on it.”

Me: Voice muffled against his chest, “That sounds nice. A trip to Italy. Without kids. The bag. And the absence of pee.”

I look up and smile at my obnoxious summer fling. The same guy who arrived unannounced at my door step and mandated that I date him. The man who’s given me four beautiful sons. The one person who rarely makes it easy, but always keeps it interesting.

If ever I get to Italy, I’d be lucky to go with B&B. 

Or George Clooney, but I think I’m too short for his taste.

So I put my piece of Italy, my reminder of the trip I never took…but hope to someday…back into the attic. It still smells like leather. And fresh baked crusty bread.  I still smell the subtle bouquet of Italian red table wine. The fragrance of handmade pasta. And now, the slightest hint of my youngest son’s urine.

Could have been worse. He could have pooped on it.

When They Say They’re Going to Puke…They’re Going to Puke

Mr. Dreamy, head of my kids’ school, has mentioned to parents that the folks at school will believe only half of what our children say occurs at home, if we believe only half of what the children claim happens at school.

Translation…50% of the time, our kids are big, fat liars.

One day last month, the Verb was eating the house down more so than usual.

Me: “Hey, Verby-Verb, you’d better slow down. You’re going to have a belly ache if you keep eating so much tonight.”

Verb: “A  belly ache? Nah! Can I have some more rice, Mom?”

Rice is the devil himself at my dinner table. The cleanup makes me batty.

Me: Sighing, “Sure, Verb. Here’s some more rice.”

An hour later, after I’ve washed the dishes, bathed the younger guys, reminded Waldorf 16 times to start his homework, packed the next day’s snacks and lunches, and picked up 142 grains of rice from the floor, I am tucking the Verb into bed.

Me: Inhaling his 3 year old deliciousness, “Goodnight, my sweet angel boy. Mommy loves you.”

Verb: Words muffled by his thumb sucking, “G-Night, Mommy. I love you, Mommy.”

One down, 3 to go. Then, American Idol, I have a date with you. You and a very large glass of red wine.

Soon after, I tuck the Interrogator into bed, but the Verb is still awake.

Verb: Happily, “Mom, mine belly is too full from eating so much rice.”

The Verb holds the prestigious title of “2nd biggest inventor of bedtime stall tactics” under our roof. 1st prize goes to Waldorf.

Nice try, Verb. I handed you that line. Be more creative next time.

Me: “You’re fine. Your belly isn’t hurting you. You’re just tired. Lay down and go to sleep.”

Interrogator: Worried, “What? Is he gonna throw up? Ewww, I don’t like throw up. It’s stinky.”

Me: “No, Interrogator, he’s not going to throw up. He’s just teasing Mommy. Goodnight, boys. Please stay in your beds, close your eyes, close your mouths, and go to sleep.”

Interrogator: Still concerned, “Mom, what about the throw up, Mom?”

Me: Closing the door, “Goodnight, boys.”

Back downstairs with the older two, I am running out of fuel.

Me: “Guys, we can play one game of Uno or we can read quietly. Which would you like to do?”

Don’t say Uno. Please don’t say Uno. I am so tired, please let’s all just read quietly.

Kenyan & Waldorf: “UNO!”

OK. Beats Monopoly.

Mid-game, I hear the duet of voices that should be asleep beckoning me. I head upstairs to investigate.

Me: “This had better be an emergency, boys.”

Interrogator: “Mom, the Verb doesn’t feel good, Mom. He says his belly is too full from eating so much rice.”

Verb: Smiling and dancing from the waist up, “Yeah, Mom! Mine belly is too full.”

Me: Sternly, “Both of you listen to me. Lay down. Right now. And ZIP IT.”

For the love of Pete.

Waldorf, the Kenyan, and I finish our game of Uno soon after.

Me: “OK, Kenyan, please go upstairs, brush your teeth, and put on your pjs. And Waldorf, please go upstairs, put on your pjs, and brush your teeth. Notice the order of those directions, boys.”

It’s essential to separate them as much as possible as bedtime approaches. To reduce their participation in the game my parents have so appropriately labeled, “grab-ass”.

I assure you it is a metaphorical, not a literal, game. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true.

I am putting away the cards when the Kenyan flies back down the stairs.

Kenyan: Urgently, “Mommy! The Verb is sick! I heard a gagging noise coming from his room, so I opened the door and he was PUKING! It’s EVERYWHERE! And it smells DISGUSTING!”   

Son of a bitch. He called my bluff.

Together, we run upstairs. The waft of vomit hits me at the top of the stairs. I enter the bedroom the Verb shares with the Interrogator. I find the Interrogator, holding his nose and dry heaving on the top bunk.  And my sweet little Verb, on the bottom bunk, sitting upright in bed. He appears lost, and his face and hair are covered in vomit.

Verb: Matter-of-factly, “I throwed up on mine face, Mom.”

boywhocriedwolf

No wonder he’s B&B’s current favorite. I. Could. Eat. Him. When he isn’t covered in puke.

Me: Grabbing towels, “Oh, sweetheart, you did. I’m so sorry! My poor boy, let’s get you cleaned up. Waldorf, please start the bath for the Verb.”

On the top bunk, the Interrogator is clearing his throat every 4 seconds, occasionally mixing it up with the insertion of a dramatic dry heave. I look at him, pointing my finger.

Me: “Don’t even think about it. Pull the covers over your head, and close your eyes. You won’t smell it then. Kenyan, please open a window in here. Scratch that, open both windows. Waldorf? I don’t hear the water running! I need your help, buddy! Group effort here!”

Kenyan: “Um, Mommy, I don’t mean to blame you, but I did hear the Verb telling you that his belly was too full. More than once.  So, I think it may actually be your fault that he puked. All over his covers. And his rug. And his hair. And his face.”

Tattletale.

Verb: “And mine ears. I throwed up in mine ears, Mom.”

Poor baby!

Me: “Kenyan, thank you for your unsolicited opinion. And for opening the windows. And for alerting me to the Verb’s unfortunate predicament. March yourself up to your room please. Your night is over. Waldorf! Why don’t I hear the water running?!”

I step into the hallway to find Waldorf, wearing a mask of guilt. And playing with the cat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=skDQhCYZRvI

Life with boys=constant redirection on my part. Constant. Every waking minute. Redirecting one or more of them. That includes the adult male who resides with us as well. Who happens not to be home during the current vomit crisis.

I fill the tub, bathe the Verb, strip the sheets, make the bed, lay towels on the new sheets, place the trashcan next to his bed, and struggle to keep the impatience out of my voice while the Interrogator hits me with question after question about vomit. Finally, I tuck the barely conscious Verb into bed, for the 2nd time that night.

Me: Whispering, “I’m sorry, sweet angel. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you about your belly. Goodnight to the little boy who did not cry wolf.”

One would think that I had learned my lesson.

Of course I hadn’t….

So, recently, my Interrogator took a tumble on the playground. A little harder than usual. Typically, he can brush it off and get right back up there. But there were screams, tears, and a refusal to continue play after this fall.

Eh, the Verb’s been waking him up earlier than usual. I bet he’s tired. That’s why he’s crying. And, look, already he’s calming down.

That evening, I tell B&B that the Interrogator fell. And that he is favoring his right arm.

B&B: “Are you giving him attention? He probably likes the attention. I’m sure he’s OK.”

Me: “I don’t disagree with you. Sometimes an injury is the only way to get the floor in this house. But look at how he’s holding it. I think he may be hurt.”

B&B: “Come here, Interrogator. Let Daddy take a look at you.”

Interrogator: “My arm hurts, Dad.”

B&B: “Let’s get this shirt off and have a look.”

With a wince, a gasp, and a sharp intake of breath, we maneuver the Interrogator’s shirt over his head. I shoot concerned eyes at B&B. He mouths the word, “drama”.

Boys #2 and 3 tend to be more dramatic than the average male.  

B&B: “Let your arms go limp like a puppet’s arms. I am going to lift them up. You let them drop when I let go. OK?”

The Interrogator glazes over.  This is not uncommon. B&B proceeds gently to lift the Interrogator’s arms up. Just below shoulder height. He lets go of both arms, which remain, where he left them, exactly below shoulder height.

Interrogator: Dropping his arms to his sides, “Oh. See? I did it, Dad. My arm hurts, Dad.”

B&B: “No, no, no. Let’s try this again. I want your arms to be like Kermit the Frog’s arms. OK? You be Kermit, and I will work your arms. When I let them go, they should drop.”

I watch a repeat performance of what I’d just witnessed 30 seconds ago. The Interrogator doesn’t understand the concept.

Or he doesn’t trust B&B. This could also be the case.

Now, B&B is a bright guy. Sometimes with brilliance comes impatience. He is working very hard to keep the impatience out of his tone while speaking to the potentially wounded Interrogator.  I know he’s working hard, because he increases the volume of his voice. Exponentially.

B&B: “NOW, INTERROGATOR, LISTEN TO ME VERY CLEARLY. I AM GOING TO RAISE YOUR ARMS UP. YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE LIMP ARMS. UNDERSTAND? LIMP. ARMS. WHEN I LET THEM GO, THEY SHOULD FALL TO YOUR SIDES.”

The Interrogator blinks excessively in what I gather is an attempt to reduce the volume of his father’s booming voice. I try it too. Because B&B is essentially screaming in an effort to appear patient.

A large bear enters the room. It is almost my height. I recognize it as the birthday present we gave to the Kenyan last year. The Kenyan peers around from behind the bear. He is waving the arm of the enormous bear.

Kenyan: Waving furiously, “Interrogator, watch how I make his arm move! Let Daddy move your arm like this!”

The Verb enters the room, sees the Interrogator shirtless, and immediately removes his own shirt. He leaves the room for an instant, returning with a smaller stuffed bear. He begins waving his bear’s arm at the Kenyan’s bear.

Me: “B&B, do you think this is really effective? What are you hoping to achieve?”

B&B delivers the death stare.

Suit yourself.

Waldorf walks in the back door. He has been outside playing.

Waldorf: “Why don’t the Interrogator and the Verb have their shirts on? It’s freezing. And why is Daddy yelling? I can hear him all the way outside. What’s with all of the bears? ”

B&B: “Waldorf. Come here. I need you to demonstrate something for me. Let your arms go loose like a puppet’s arms. I am going to lift them up, then let them go. When I let them go, they should fall on their own down to your sides. Ready?”

Waldorf nods. B&B raises his arms up slowly. At shoulder height, B&B releases Waldorf’s arms. Which remain at shoulder height.

Me: “I rest my case. Come on, Interrogator, let’s get your pj’s on.”

B&B is miffed. I watch him raise Waldorf’s arms up to shoulder height again. He will keep Waldorf there for the next hour until he gets it right.

Interrogator: “Mom, my arm hurts, Mom.”

Me: “I know, sweetheart. I gave you some medicine, and I bet you’ll feel much better by tomorrow morning.”

Interrogator: “OK, Mom. I love you, Mom.”

Me: “I love you too, sweet boy.”

The Interrogator favors his arm the entire next day, which he spends in school.

No fever, no vomiting, why keep him home? I e-mailed his teacher. The fact that he had a substitute that day is irrelevant. He told the sub about his arm. Numerous times. If there is one thing I know, it is this.

Two days later, when he is still holding it funny, I know it was time to have it looked at.

Hmmm. Maybe I shouldn’t have let him jump on the trampoline last night. That probably didn’t help much.

So, we hit the doctor. The diagnosis? Broken clavicle. Angulated fracture to be exact. I don’t know what that means. Except that it’s worse than B&B’s break was when he sledded into that twig last year.

So, maybe my kids aren’t big, fat liars.

Or, maybe I’m just a lousy Mom who dismisses her kids’ complaints too quickly.

But, I’ve only gotten it wrong with two of my kids. Don’t forget, I have two more kids. Which means I get it right 50% of the time.

Just like Mr. Dreamy predicted.

Well….sorta….kinda…right?