Couldn’t Chaperon the Field Trip? Here’s What You Missed…

chaperon

The Interrogator is in kindergarten. With 29 other boys. I volunteered to chaperon their field trip to an apple orchard last week. Below is a list of things we parent chaperones said during the 5 hour excursion…

Sit down. On your bottom.

Sit. Down.

Hands to yourself.

Face forward, guys.

No head butting the seat in front of you.

No punching the seat in front of you.

No kicking the seat in front of you.

We’ve been driving for about 20 minutes. Funny, it feels like hours to me.

Oh, we don’t kiss our friends at school.

We don’t kiss our friends on a field trip either.

Please save the kisses for home.

Don’t lay on him, please. I know you’re not asleep. Because you’re talking to me, that’s how I know.

I wonder if they sell spiked apple cider at this orchard. I hope so.

Put down the hay.

Stop throwing the hay.

Keep. Your. Hands. Out. Of. The. Hay.

Now you have hay in your eyes? Oh, dear. That hurts, doesn’t it. Have you ever heard of karma?

Try to cough into your arm. No, not into my arm. Into your arm.

Here, honey, I have a tissue. You can use it to wipe your…oh, OK. So you wiped it on your shoulder instead. Very good.

You may pick 6 apples.

Nope. You can’t pick 10 apples.

No, you cannot pick 20 apples. Because you can pick 6 apples.

6 apples! Lalalalalalalalalalala! What’s that? I can’t hear you asking for more apples! Lalalalalalalalalala!

Please don’t pick an apple off the tree and then throw it on the ground.

You didn’t “drop it”. I watched you throw it. Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Oh. Yes. I. Did.

Please stop kicking apples.

Ouch! I said please stop kicking apples.

Look at my face. If you kick another apple at me, I’m telling your parents. How do you like them apples?

You have to poop? Awesome.

When I said we’re not going to do face painting today, that didn’t mean you should put your hands into the ash from last night’s bonfire and finger paint your face black.

Please don’t hit him.

Please don’t hit me.

Please don’t zip up someone else’s jacket…see? Now his lips are caught in the zipper.

Please get out from under the seat of the bus. We’re driving on the highway. No, you didn’t “fall off” the seat. Nice try.

Don’t lick the seat.

Don’t lick the boy next to you.

Don’t lick the floor of the bus. Because your tongue may fall off. That’s why.

Put your pants on, boys. Put them on now. This is a school bus. Put your pants on. Actually, it’s not funny.

Kindergarten boys, listen up! Please do not let any part of your body touch any part of anyone else’s body. Got it?

Do I believe in Jesus Christ?  I certainly will if I make it off this bus in one piece.

Whatever they are paying these teachers, it’s not enough. They deserve a raise. Immediately.

*This post appeared in the Parents Section of the Huffington Post on October 18th, 2012.

Sam and Me

samandme

I am a lover of words. I love to speak them. I love to read them. I love to write them.

Words have power. Words…spoken, read, and written…make an impact. The right words possess the power to brighten someone’s day. The wrong words will do the exact opposite.

Finding the right words is my job. When I write, words are my tools to communicate a story. I choose them with care, willing my voice to leap off the page for the reader.

As a parent, I feel the weight of my responsibility to choose my words wisely. My word is law. Even when they become teenagers, much to their dismay. Every conversation becomes a teaching moment. And I don’t always get it right.

Sometimes I model words that aren’t meant for little mouths to repeat…

Me: “Verb, put your sneakers on…we don’t want to be late for school.”

Verb: Struggling, “I’m trying!”

Me: “Do you need help?”

Verb: “Son of a bitch! Yes! I need help!”

Interrogator: “Verb, you don’t say ‘son of a bitch’ when you’re putting on your shoes!”

Verb: “Sorry!”

Interrogator: “You say ‘goddamnit’.”

Verb: “Oh. Thanks.”

Oops.

Sometimes I miss the boat…

Me, speaking to the nice girl at the Acme, who’s bagging my groceries: “Thank you for bagging.”

Nice girl, to me: “You’re welcome,” turning to the Verb, “How old are you?”

Verb: “I’m 3. What’s wrong with your eyes? They’re weird.”

Aw, Christ.

Me: “Uh, her eyes aren’t weird, Verb. She is blind. She can’t see. Tell her you’re sorry.”

Waldorf: “Verb, you don’t call someone’s eyes ‘weird’! You call them ‘interesting’.”

Verb, to the nice girl: “Sorry. Your eyes are…in-ter-es-ting,” proudly to me, “See Mom? Even though her eyes are weird, I told her they were in-ter-es-ting! That was good, right?”

Ooof.

Over the summer, I read an article in The Huffington Post written by Kristen Howerton. Kristen has 4 kids…some biological and others adopted. The title of her article is “Parents, Please Educate Your Kids About Adoption So Mine Don’t Have to”.  Kristen has an interracial family. It’s not uncommon for children she’s never met to ask whether she is her adopted kids’ “real” Mom. In her article, she makes a plea to parents to discuss adoption with their children. Kristen’s point is a valid one. It’s not her job to educate my children about adoption. It’s my job to educate my children about adoption. It’s my responsibility to find the right words to do so…through a book, through a movie, through a conversation at my dinner table.

3 years ago, I took a walk with a friend…

***

I have a mustache of sweat and damp pits, and I struggle to push my double jogging stroller…a Target hand-me-down from another Mom…along the rocks of Forbidden Drive, the trail that borders the Wissahickon. The Interrogator and the Verb are my passengers, and I keep them entertained by throwing goldfish and raisins at them. I silently curse the extra pounds that are hanging on for dear life after my fourth and final pregnancy. It’s going to take months of Weight Watchers and miles of trail runs to get back to my fighting weight once again.

I walk alongside a Mom from school. Her name is Dorothy. She is beautiful, smart, and kind, and she has a smile that illuminates her entire face and every room into which she walks. She pushes her youngest son in the coolest stroller I’ve ever seen. It has this fancy swivel seat so he can face her or face forward. They don’t sell this stroller at Target.

You know when you walk into a meeting and you peruse the audience? When you see that person who loves to hear herself talk. She’s the broad who raises her hand under the guise of posing a question, but takes that opportunity to spout off her resume. You see her and immediately think, “Son of a bitch, now I have to listen to her crap this entire meeting.” Well, Dorothy is the antithesis of her. When I walk into a meeting, I look for Dorothy. She always asks solid questions…she’s not afraid to ask the hard questions…but she does it articulately and always with regard for the feelings of others.

I walk alongside this friend on a cool morning, willing some of the post-baby weight off my thighs.

“So I’ve written a book.”

Her statement interrupts my preoccupation with my chafing thighs.

I turn to look at her, wiping the sweat from my upper lip, “You what?”

She turns to meet my eye and dazzles me with her megawatt smile. I notice there is no sweat on her upper lip. “ I’ve written a book. A children’s book.”

“Seriously? That’s amazing! Wait, don’t you have a real job? When did you find the time to write a book?”

“Well, it was hard to find time, but this was important to me. Really important.”

I already knew Dorothy’s talent. Our oldest sons had been in the same pre-k class, and she’d written and illustrated a book for their class. I smile with the flash of a sweet memory. The memory of sitting on the Kenyan’s bottom bunk while he and Waldorf snuggle on either side of me. I kiss the tops of their heads, intoxicated by the smell of their hair, still wet from the tub, and the lavender scent of their baby lotion. I read Dorothy’s story aloud to them, and they giggle at the words that rhyme and the image of her hand-drawn frog.

“I am so impressed! What’s the book about?”

“We have a friend who has a child on the spectrum, and my son is beginning to ask questions.”

“Wow.”

Totally unexpected.

“I don’t feel like there is anything out there for kids. To talk to them on their level in words they understand. My kids are not on the spectrum. But we know kids who are. And stories are a great way to connect with kids…to get them to open up and ask questions and start a dialogue. So that’s what I hope this book will do.”

She is amazing.

“You are amazing. I’m glad you’re my friend.”

“Oh, stop it. I wrote it. But it hasn’t been published yet.”

***

It’s now 2012, and Dorothy’s book is a reality. It’s titled Sam and Me. And it’s quickly become a favorite in our home.

Sam and Me is the story of a family with two sons, Alex and Sam. Sam has special needs. Alex doesn’t understand why Sam acts certain ways…Sam doesn’t talk much…he wants to play on the swings all the time…sometimes Sam is inconsolable. It’s up to his parents to find the right words to communicate with Alex just what’s going on with his younger brother. And they do it, just as Dorothy does, articulately and with regard for the feelings of others.

Dorothy’s done something very special. She’s written and illustrated a book that meets a need. She recognized the need first in her home…then in our immediate community…and eventually in society at large. In the same way Kristen encourages parents to educate their children about adoption, Dorothy’s book provides a springboard for discussion about children with special needs. She encourages parents to take ownership of educating our children about a subject that’s both prevalent and sensitive. Sam and Me tells a story in words that kids relate to and understand. Words like mad, happy, smiles, falling, sorry, freak out, safe. She doesn’t use labels. You won’t read words like autism, spectrum, sensory issues, or special needs in this book. Her book is a safe starting point for parents to begin a dialogue. She gives us a prompt.

Not all boys and girls think, talk, and act the same. As a parent, it’s my responsibility to teach my kids that everyone is unique, and some families face different challenges than others. Sam and Me helps make that part of my job a little bit easier. And I’m on board with anything that makes my job a little bit easier.

Dorothy is an enormous talent with a great message. She’s put her talent to use. And she is giving back. She is donating her share of profits from the sales of Sam and Me to organizations that support children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families. Yep, she is amazing. Her work on this book…and her dedication to seeing it come to fruition…are a shining example of precisely what we’re striving to teach our kids everyday…both in and out of the classroom…believe in yourself, be kind, capitalize on your talents, find a creative outlet, show resilience, educate yourself, be happy, give back. 

I am a lover of words. Thank you, Dorothy, for choosing yours so brilliantly.

 

For local folks, Dorothy Potash will be reading Sam and Me during an educational forum at Barnes and Noble in Jenkintown, PA, on October 15th at 7PM. She’s scheduled for a reading and signing at O’Doodles in Chestnut Hill, PA, from 1-3PM on October 20th. Sam and Me is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

We Do Not Bite Our Friends’ Butts

I often feel like I’m on an island, surrounded by penises. The island part appeals to me because I dig a nice beach. Unfortunately, there is no island. I’m simply surrounded by penises.

“Verb, stay there while I talk to Mommy.”

Oh, shit.

I approach his teacher with caution, “Oh uh. What did he do?”

She frowns, “He bit someone.”

“He WHAT?!”

“He bit someone.”

Oh, Jesus Christ.

His teacher graciously finds the silver lining, “The boy was fine, and the Verb was honest about it.”

Translation: Congratulations. Your kid is a biter, but not a liar.

Me: “Uh, yeah, but he bit someone.”

She throws me a bone, “I figured he was probably tired?”

Me: “He was exhausted. He was up too late last night because B&B was reading to him past his bedtime. Then he and the Interrogator were carrying on in their beds. Then I moved him into our bed. Then I carried him to his bed when I went to sleep. Then he came wandering into our room at 4:30AM. So, yes, he was tired. I’m sorry, I should have warned you this morning.”

She laughs, “Well, tell B&B it’s his fault that the Verb bit someone.”

Yes, of course it’s his fault. I’m glad she sees it too. How dare he keep our child awake reading to him.

Teacher, “He should make an I’m sorry card for the boy he bit.”

Me: “Absolutely. Who was it?”

She reveals his identity.

His parents are really nice. And he’s not the youngest of 4, so they’re not used to these shenanigans. Son of a bitch.

Teacher, “And the principal will probably call you about it tomorrow.”

“Yep.”

Great.

Teacher shaking hands with the Verb: “OK, Verb, thank you for being honest about what you did today. Don’t forget to make your card for your friend, and tomorrow is a new day!”

I gather my flock, and we migrate to the playground. The Verb extracts his dessert from his lunch bag and sits next to me on the bench.

I turn to him, “DUDE?!”

Verb: “Yes, Mom?”

Me: “Does Daddy bite Mommy?”

Verb: “No.”

Me: “Does Mommy bite Daddy?”

Verb: “No.”

Me: “Do we bite our friends?”

Verb: “No.”

Me: “We do not bite people. Neither do you. You put food in your mouth, and nothing else. Understand?”

Verb: “Yes.”

I kiss his sweaty head: “Now, go play.”

He runs off to join the Interrogator.

Wait until I tell B&B about this. This kid morphs into a beast if he doesn’t get enough sleep.

“Mrs. Meyer, can I have a ride home when you leave?”

I look up from the bench to see one of Waldorf’s friends. “Sure, hon. I’ll drive you home.”

There are 3 of them…Waldorf and two buddies. It’s a sticky day…unseasonably warm and humid…so I’ll drive both friends home if necessary.

I look at his other friend: “I’ll drop you off at home too.”

“Thanks!”

Me: “Guys, come here a minute.”

The three of them gather around me.

“The Verb bit someone in school today.”

Six eyeballs grow wide.

Me, nodding, “And he may bring it up when we’re in the car. So I want you guys to reinforce to him that we do not bite people. We use our teeth for chewing food.”

Waldorf: “And gum.”

Waldorf’s buddy: “And spitting.”

Waldorf’s other buddy, “And sometimes for whistling.”

Jesus Christ Almighty.

Me: “Well, yeah, but let’s just stress that we don’t use our teeth for biting. OK?”

“Sure.”

“Hey, Mrs. Meyer, where did he bite the other kid?”

Me, matter-of-factly: “On the butt.”

They’re gone. Immediately on the ground. Grabbing their guts. High fiving. Kicking their feet.

It’s a chorus of voices: “The butt?! He bit somebody’s butt?! That is AWESOME! That’s HILARIOUS! Wow, I thought the Verb was cool before…but now? The Verb is the MAN!”

Me: “Get it all out now, gentlemen. I expect you to keep straight faces in the car. Otherwise, you’ll both be pounding pavement.”

“Sure, Mrs. Meyer…sure…bit his butt?! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!”

The boys spend the next 45 minutes playing tag, climbing trees, scaling sliding boards and jumping from the swings. We manage to drop both of Waldorf’s friends off before the subject of biting arises in the car.

Interrogator: “I didn’t wike my job today.” (Wike=like. The Interrogator struggles with his L sounds.)

Me: “Oh? What was your job?”

Interrogator: “Sponge duty.”

Me: “What do you do when you have sponge duty?”

Interrogator: “You kween up (clean up) people’s messes. I didn’t wike it.”

Oh, I feel you, Interrogator.

Me: “Verb, what was your job?”

Verb: “Not to hit. Or bite. Or call anyone ‘poopypants’.”

Me: “Did you call someone poopypants too?!”

Verb: “No! My job was NOT to call anyone ‘poopypants’.”

Interrogator: “That’s a potty word.”

Verb: “I KNOW! That’s why it’s my job not to say it. Unless I’m in the bathroom. Then I can say poopypants poopypants poopypants!”

Interrogator: “MOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM! Verb said poopypants 3 times!”

Me: “I heard. Stop with the poopypants, both of you, please.”

Waldorf, unsolicited: “Verb, you know, you shouldn’t bite anyone.”

Oh, joy.

Interrogator: “Huh? Verb, did you bite someone?”

Verb: “Mm hmm. On the butt.”

Interrogator: “What?!”

The Kenyan serenades us from the back seat, “ I’ve got a butt. He’s got a butt. She’s got a butt. We’ve all got butts.”

*Side note…This is a real song. Coincidentally we heard it the very morning of the biting incident. Perhaps the writer of the song bears some of the blame for the Verb’s poor behavior. Just sayin…

Interrogator: “Why would you do that?!”

Verb: “Um, I was tired.”

Interrogator: “But you don’t bite someone on the…”

Waldorf interrupts, “OK, enough, we know, Interrogator!”

The Interrogator yells at Waldorf: “You’re a PU TAO!”

In unison, we ask: “WHAT?”

Interrogator: “I said you’re a PU TAO!”

Waldorf: “Mommy, the Interrogator is calling me something in Chinese.”

Me: “Interrogator, what are you calling him?”

Interrogator: “A grape! Pu tao is grape in Chinese!”

Waldorf: “OK, I am NOT a grape. That’s just ridiculous.”

“PING GUO!”

WTF?

Waldorf: “Oh, God. Enough with the Chinese already!”

Verb: “Yes! I take Chinese too!”

“PING GUO!!!”

Me: “Interrogator, what does Ping guo mean?”

The Interrogator couldn’t be more pleased with himself: “It means apple! In Chinese!”

Waldorf is less than amused: “Yes, we KNOW in Chinese!”

Interrogator, grows serious: “I’ll have to ask my teacher what the word is for ‘butt’ in Chinese. Since the Verb bit someone on his butt.”

Me: “Please refrain from doing that. We do not need to use potty words in Chinese class.”

Interrogator: “Well, he did, Mom. He bit someone’s butt.”

buttout

Kenyan continues serenading, “ I’ve got a butt. You’ve got a butt. He’s got a butt. We’ve all got butts.”

Me: “Enough butt talk. Enough.”

When we finally arrive home, I hide in the powder room and call B&B:

“So, your son bit someone today.”

B&B: “Oh, shit. Which son?”

“The Verb.”

B&B: “Is the other kid OK?”

“Yes.”

B&B: “What happened?”

Me: “Well, he was up too late last night when you were reading to him, remember I told you?”

B&B: “Whoa, wait a minute. You’re not blaming me for this, are you?”

Um…

Me: “No. Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous.”

Shhhhh.

Me: “Anyway, he was overly tired and he made a bad choice.”

“Where did he bite the kid?”

Me: “On the butt.”

B&B erupts into laughter.

Me: “It’s not funny.”

B&B: “Come on, it is kinda funny.”

Me: “When it’s somebody else’s kid, it’s funny. Not when it’s our kid.”

I wait for him to stop laughing. And wait.

Me: “So now the principal will be calling us tomorrow.”

B&B: “Why?”

Me: “It’s protocol. The teachers need to report that stuff to cover their asses.”

B&B: “Cover their asses? They better cover their asses! Before the Verb takes a bite out of theirs too!”

Ba-dom-bom.

Oh, and here is the Kenyan’s contribution.

A short comic strip illustrating the biting incident. Artwork by the Kenyan.

So, here I sit. On my island. Surrounded by penises.

Minus the island.   

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…