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

The Tortoise and the Hair

B&B: “Oh we’re doing it.”

Me: “We don’t have time.”

B&B: “We DO have time”

Me: “We have to leave in,” I glance at the clock, “8 minutes!”

B&B: Eyebrows raised, “It’ll only take 5.”

No it won’t.

But his mind is made up, so it’s pointless to argue.

Me: Sighing: “Fine.”

B&B removes his shirt, smacks my unsuspecting behind, and hollers, “Kenyan! Outside! Quickly!”

The Kenyan stops running his circular pattern in the family room long enough to mutter, “Huh?”

B&B: Calling down the steps, “Come on, we don’t have much time!”

The Kenyan bounds the steps into the kitchen two at a time. Looks at me, looks at B&B, looks back at me. “Is it time to go?”

B&B has a wild look in his eye: “Almost. First I’m going to cut your hair.”

Kenyan: Covering his head protectively, “Oh, no. Never again. You’re not cutting MY hair.”

B&B: Exasperated, “Come on, Kenyan!”

Our son backs away, hands still protectively clasped over his overgrown hair. He shakes his head, “No. Nope. No thank you, and no way.”

B&B looks at me for assistance.

Oh, no, leave me out of this!

B&B: “Mommy, doesn’t he need his hair cut?”

Apparently, after almost 18 years together, B&B still cannot read my mind.

Me: Clearing my throat, “Ahem. Yes. He does.”

B&B, Looking at the Kenyan, “See? Mommy agrees with me.”

Kenyan: “She agrees I need a haircut. You’re not touching my hair.”

At least one of them can read my mind. Well done, Kenyan.

B&B, looking once again to me for assistance, “Mommy, doesn’t he need his hair cut right now? Before his first race of the season?”

Nope. It’s a fakakta idea. There’s no time. Oh, and there’s that small detail I’ll leave for last…but certainly not least…that you butchered him the last time you cut his hair.

B&B: With a note of hysteria, “Mommy?! Doesn’t he need it now?!” Eyebrows raised, palms skyward, promise of serious spousal dispute in front of child if I disagree.

Me: “Um,” I look at the Kenyan, wrinkle my nose, squint one eye, shrug the opposite shoulder, “Kenyan, I bet he’ll do a better job this time.” Hoping my voice, which is 3 octaves higher than usual, doesn’t illuminate my lack of confidence in B&B’s clipping skills.

The Kenyan looks at me, narrows his eyes. Removes his hands from his head and they fall to his sides. “Ugh! Fine! Not as short as last time though!”

B&B’s face illuminates. He claps his hands and shouts, “Woohoo!” then hastily disappears from the room to gather his equipment before the Kenyan and I can change our minds.

I put my arm around the Kenyan. “I’m proud of you, buddy. Trusting Dad to do this means alot to him.”

Kenyan: Grudgingly, “Yeah, well it better come out better than last time.”

Word.

Me: “It will.”

I glance at the clock,  “B&B, you have 5 minutes.”

He escorts the Kenyan to the back patio, where the scalping cutting commences. I shake my head, filling water bottles and packing fruit while I wait.

I don’t have to wait long…

“What?! Oh! Nooooo!” come the Kenyan’s cries from outside.

Oh dear.

Kenyan: “I look…I look TERRIBLE! You did it again!”

Oh, crap.

Kenyan: “I’m never letting you cut my hair again!” Sob, sob, sob, sob.

Aw, shit.

I knew it. Terrible idea.

I hear B&B quietly coaxing the Kenyan, “You look great. It’s only hair. Think of how fast you’ll be. It’s not nearly as short as last time.”

Once the Kenyan commits to a feeling, he cannot be coaxed into un-feeling it. So, B&B has his work cut out for him. And so do I if I’m going to get him to track on time.

Kenyan: “No! NO! I shouldn’t have let you! I knew it! You’re never cutting my hair again! I’m not going anywhere! I look…I look WEIRD!” sob, sob, sob

I wait inside. Clearly, I’m tasked with supporting this ridiculous decision to shave the Kenyan’s head. To compound that, I will undoubtedly be recruited to step in for moral support. I’ll wait right here until the time is right.

B&B: “Kenyan, it’s only hair, this is absurd behavior, it’s time you man up…”

And, that’s my cue.

I step onto the patio,  “Hey, what’s all the fuss about out here?”

The Kenyan is the palest of our offspring. He is bright white in August, after spending the entire summer with his skin exposed to the strong summer sun. Shaving his hair down to his scalp, which hasn’t seen the light of day in a solid 5 years…well, it’s a dazzling effect to say the least. His head is glowing. Like a beacon in the ocean at night, he stands like a lighthouse, the glare of his almost bald head illuminating the way for ships in peril.

Except there are no ships in peril on our back patio. Just a 9 year old little boy, who is now running late for his first track meet, devastated about his new haircut.

And, yowza, I could cry too. It’s too short. By next week it will be just right. But, today, and for the next 6 days…too short. I’m careful to hide this from my face as he looks at me with tears running down his face. And I’m extra careful not to make eye contact with his father, whom I could murder.

I reach out and rub the peach fuzz for good luck.

Me: Smiling, “Buddy, it’s short, but that face is so handsome, you don’t even need hair!”

Nothing.

Me: “You look great!”

Nothing.

Me: “It’ll grow quickly.”

Nothing.

Me: “You’ll run faster!”

Nothing.

I break into an interpretive dance…to no music…just to make him laugh.

And…nothing.

B&B: “Kenyan, I appreciate your agreeing to this so last minute. So I will buy you the Lego set of your choice to reward your behavior.”

Something. A chink in his armor.

Kenyan: Hiccup, “A small set?” Hiccup, “or a big set?”

B&B: “Well, look at all of that hair on the ground! I’ve seen dogs with less hair. That much hair deserves a big Lego set.”

The chink breaks into a giant crack…quickly fracturing the anger and despair that’s shrouded him for the past 5 minutes.

When all else fails…bribery. Funny, the experts always leave that chapter out of their parenting books. It’s the cold, hard reality of getting things done with children. Bribery.  When I write my parenting book, that will be my title…Getting it done: The Art of Bribery.

The Kenyan is on board. B&B whisks him up to the bathroom to rinse the hair off his neck. I wait in the car, muttering a slew of curses at the time on the clock and at the current state of my child’s head.  And I know we’re out 100 big ones for the promised Lego set.

Jesus Christ Almighty and the donkey he rode in on.

tortoiseandhair

What a start to my Saturday.

B&B and the Kenyan emerge from the house. B&B, sensing my anger, race walking to the car. The Kenyan, who has not exhibited urgency a moment in his short life, lollygagging his way to the car.

B&B: “Good luck, Kenyan!” To me, “I’ll call you.”

I have many things to say, but none of them can be uttered in front of our child.

I peek in the rearview mirror at the Kenyan. Holy cow, his hair is short. Really, really short. I look at the clock…we have 17 minutes to arrive at our destination, which mapquest predicts is 34 minutes away. Goddamn it. B&B’s timing is as impeccable as his trimming skills.

I breathe deeply, but quietly, in an attempt to calm down. Futile. I need to start practicing yoga. I turn on the radio, hoping a song can lighten my mood.

“can be addicted to a certain kind of sadness. Like resignation to the end, always the end.” The Kenyan begins singing along. Somebody That I Used to Know is an enormous hit in our house.

I smile, listening to his singing. My mind wanders…

He has a great singing voice. And he is unabashed in his singing. I bet he makes Boy Choir just like Waldorf. Waldorf sang in the chorus of the Wizard of Oz last night. I was so proud of him, standing in front of the audience, singing with his friends. He had a ball! I wish I had gotten his hair cut before the show, but he still…

Oh. Dear. God.

I pull over immediately. Turn down the radio. Click on my hazards. Grab my phone and, with shaking hands, text B&B the words…

“Please DO NOT cut anyone else’s hair without my permission. Or, at the very least, until I get back home.”

He immediately texts back, “Wait….why?”

Good grief.

I reply, “Just don’t. Please.”

Put down my phone. Turn off the hazards. Turn up the radio. And continue driving.

Miraculously, we arrive at the venue a mere 2 minutes late.

Me: “OK, Kenyan, here we are! Your first competition. After 2 months of practice, you’re ready for this! I want you to remember what Coach told you. And do your best. And have fun!”

He nods his almost bald head, which I slather with sunscreen on this beautiful May morning.

Kenyan: “Let’s do it, Mommy.”

Love. I run for more reasons than I can count. The fact that the Kenyan loves to run…well, it gives me one of my biggest reasons to continue lacing up my sneakers.

The first parent we recognize from our group takes one look at the Kenyan and, before I have the chance to give her my warning eyes, asks him, “What happened to your head?!”

Oof.

Me: In a voice much higher than usual, “He’s aerodynamic! His Daddy cut it this morning, just in time for his race!”

The Kenyan rolls his eyes. But he smiles a little bit too. I direct him to join his teammates for his warmup laps.

While he jogs, I talk to a few other parents, warning them not to make a fuss over his new haircut.

We grab a spot by the fence and wait for our kids’ races. And wait. And wait. And wait. By my calculations, 90% of the females 10 years and under in the tri-state area compete in track. And every one of them showed up today. The Kenyan splits his time equally between asking me “how many more girls are going to run?” and scraping deep enough into a pine tree that his hands are sticky with sap.  He’s on the cusp of rigging a spout to tap the syrup…and smelling suspiciously of Christmas…when his race is called.

Me: Clapping, “Woohoo! Kenyan! Get to it, big guy!”

The first heat runs. He’s not in that group. The second heat runs. He’s not in that group. The third heat runs. This is his group. I even took video…

I lean against the fence, asking the Dad of a fellow teammate…the same Dad I had just blasphemed to, “How long do you think until he runs? I thought he was in the 3rd heat.”

As I’m asking, the pale little boy who’s crossed the finish line waves at me and smiles. What a friendly kid, he must recognize me from practice. I raise my arm to return the wave and realize that this pale child is indeed the same one I gave birth to 9 years ago.

Mother of the year.

Me: Whispering to the parents around me, “Holy shit, it WAS his race! I stopped recording! His first race ever, and I didn’t even see him cross the finish line! Goddamn that haircut, I didn’t even recognize my own child!”

I clap and yell, “Great job, Kenyan!”

I grab the arm of the man next to me. I ask, “Who won? The boy in the white shirt?”

He nods his head, “Yes, the pale kid won first place.”

Mother humper. I will KILL B&B.

The Kenyan won. HE WON HIS FIRST RACE!!! Our little boy won his first race ever, and I didn’t even recognize him. Because of this stupid haircut.

I clap again, yelling, “First place, Kenyan! Way to go, buddy!!” He smiles, and gives me a thumbs up.

I text B&B immediately, “The Kenyan placed first in his heat!”

He replies, “Yes!!!! Tell him it was the haircut!”

I shake my head. Figures B&B would credit the stupid haircut.

I look up to see my son heading my way. The shorts of his track uniform are shorter than he’s accustomed to wearing. Behind the safety of my sunglasses, I’m able to drink in every inch of him as he approaches. When did he get so tall? And his legs, have they always been so strong and sinewy?

I want to jump up and down, cheering like a fool, but I won’t make a scene for fear it will embarrass him. Instead, I smile, open my arms, and he rushes into them. With one arm around me and the other clutching his blue ribbon, he buries his head against me.

Kenyan: “That. Was. Awesome.”

So are you, my love.

Me: “First place, Kenyan. FIRST PLACE! I’m so happy for you! You’ve worked hard all season, and you earned that ribbon. I’m so proud of you!”

Kenyan: “It was really close. That other guy almost beat me.”

I smile and nod, implying that I’d actually seen him finish. Bad Mommy.

Kenyan: “You know why I won?”

Hard work? Determination? Improved stride? Months of practice?

Me: Smiling, “Why?”

He reaches up and rubs his head. “It was the new haircut. I didn’t have all that hair slowing me down.” He looks down off into the distance, smiling, “Daddy was right. This haircut helped me run faster.”

First place…because of that haircut?!

The haircut that made him cry?

The haircut that cost us the price of a big Lego set?

The haircut that contributed to my blowing the speed limit to get here on time?

The haircut that elevated my blood pressure before 7:30AM?

Me: “That Daddy. He sure knows what he’s doing.”

I look at my boy…clutching his first place ribbon in one hand, absentmindedly rubbing his buzzed head with his other hand. Smiling as he mentally places his Daddy high up on the pedestal where he belongs.

All parents should be so lucky to be such giants in the eyes of their children.

Life is good. The Kenyan won his first race. My blood pressure is down. And the haircut debacle has resolved itself brilliantly.

I will be purchasing sunscreen in bulk for the next few months though. To keep that beacon the pearly white it belongs.

Costco, here I come…

 

 

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.

Get Them to the Greeks

I don’t remember much from the days before B&B and I had kids. Perhaps my faulty memory is my body’s way of protecting itself from recollecting how enjoyable life was for us then.

I do remember that we went out to dinner regularly. We kicked off our weekends with Friday happy hour, then hit a steakhouse or a seafood restaurant for a mouth watering meal.

We even went out to dinner during the week. Can you imagine? It’ll be 15 years before we can pull off a coup like that again.

There was a little spot around the corner from our apartment that we loved. The Greeks. A local bar. It’s still there, and it’s still loved by the locals. We’d stroll over on a Thursday night for Quizzo. I would sweep the entertainment and music categories. B&B would dominate all remaining categories.

Me: “Sheena Easton! Sheena Easton sang backup for Prince on that song!”

The Mom playing Quizzo at the table next to us high 5’s me. I smile proudly. The smile quickly fades. I wish I still had that record.

Quizzo Mom: Animated, “I loved her! Did you love her?”

Me: Nodding, “I totally loved her.”

B&B: “I loved her too. I don’t remember her voice, but she was HOT.”

Men are indeed visual creatures. And B&B is no exception.

Quizzo Mom: “This Quizzo is fun! This is our first time here. We’re so lucky we can bring the kids.”

She motions her hand across the table. I follow her gesture to see the tops of two miniature heads. But only the tops. I can’t see their faces because they’re glued to their handheld electronic devices.

Me: “Hi, kids!”

Quizzo Mom: Nervous, “Shh. you don’t want to disturb them.”

Me: Perplexed, “I don’t?”

Quizzo Mom: “NO! Then we’ll” she motions between her and her husband, “have to entertain them!” She laughs and shakes her head. Her husband joins in her laughter.

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha!”

I am in 6th grade again. Watching two people laugh over a shared secret, to which I’m not privy.

I smile politely.

Then guess what I did? I wish I could write it in small print because I’m so ashamed…

I judged her.

I DID!

I turned around to B&B and, because texting wasn’t available at the time, I wrote on my napkin, “Remind me to tell you about HER when we get home.”

When we arrived home, wreaking of smoke from the bar…ahh, the ‘90’s…I asked B&B, “So, did you see that display at the table next to us?”

B&B: “The Mom who liked Sheena Easton?”

Me: “Yes!”

B&B: “What display?”

Seriously?

Me: “Did you not see her kids on their handheld devices?! They’re school-age children! They’re away from her all day!”

Oh yes I did. And I wasn’t finished…

“…and then she takes them out to a restaurant, hands them a machine and lets them act like zombies over their meals? So she can play Quizzo?! What happened to a family dinner? How about connecting with your kids?”

B&B: Shrugging, “I don’t know. Maybe the kids are annoying. We don’t have kids yet. Maybe they are all happier going to Quizzo on Thursday night. Did you like going to dinner with your parents when you were that age?”

I have a vision…

**

We are in a restaurant. Mid 1980’s. While Mom and Dad converse, Big Brother, Little Sister, and I stealthily pass an open packet of sugar back and forth among the 3 of us. Then another. Then a third.

We do it quietly, so as not to arouse suspicion from Mom and Dad. At the end of dinner, Dad rewards our sugar high with a, “Well, you kids certainly made me proud with your behavior at the dinner table.” as Mom flags down our waiter, “Pardon me, may I please have some sugar for my coffee? We don’t have any at the table.” She turns to Dad, “Why do they always sit us at the table with no sugar?”

**

Me: “Of course I enjoyed going to dinner with my parents as a kid. We didn’t have handheld electronics. And I survived.”

He smiles, “Did your parents let you talk?”

Another flashback…

**

I’m writing in my strawberry shortcake diary, “Dear Diary, I ordered prime rib for dinner. I almost ordered chicken parm. I’m STARVING. And we’ve already eaten all 17 sugar packets. Nothing left but the dangerous pink ones. Dad’s telling Mom about work, and we’re not allowed to interrupt. This is SO boring.”

**

Me: “I wrote in my diary when we went out to eat.”

B&B rewards me with a laugh. “Wow, you were really super geek, weren’t you?”

Guilty.

Me: “The point is that when we have kids, we’re not taking them to dinner and handing out electronics. It’s a waste of money. And it reflects poorly on the parents.”

I will now stop typing and smack my head against the desk because I deserve a beating. 

B&B plays Devil’s Advocate. Which, in this case, is the voice of reason, “I think, until we have kids of our own, we’re in no position to judge.”

Me: Appearing to concede, “You’re right.”

Fine. I’ll judge quietly.

**

It’s not easy to slip out for dinner the way we did before becoming parents. We’re tired. And it’s expensive. We have to pay for a sitter, pay for our date, plus tack on the $14.99 for a new shirt from Marshall’s that I’ll need for our big night out. It adds up…

So a few months ago, B&B and I were way overdue for an evening away from the house. We booked a sitter, I hit Marshall’s, and we told the kids…

Me: “Guys, Mom and Dad are going out for dinner tonight. The babysitter is coming at 7:30. Interrogator and Verb, you’ll be in bed already. Kenyan and Waldorf, you can stay up until 9:00.”

Interrogator: “Who is it, Mom? Who’s coming to babysit? Can we come downstairs and say hi? Oh! Or, can she come up and say hi to us when we’re in our beds?”

Me: “She will come up to see you, Interrogator,” to the older two, “and guys, you can watch a movie or play the Wii.”

We watch as their shoulders droop a little.

Waldorf: Complaining, “How come you never take us out to dinner?”

Kenyan: Upset, “Yeah, how come we never get to go anywhere? My friends get to go to dinner with their parents!”

Interrogator: “Oh, can we go, Mom? I want to go to dinner! I’ll be good, Mom, I promise. I’ll go to dinner, and I’ll be good.” He snaps his fingers, one at a time, over and over to an imaginary beat. The Verb, ever his faithful sidekick, begins swaying his hips to the beat of the snapping. The Interrogator adds words to his snapping, “We’re going to dinner, oh yeah, oh yeah, and we’re gonna behave, oh yeah, oh yeah, and we’re gonna get dessert, oh, yeah, oh yeah.”

I should have a camera mounted on my head to capture these moments, which truly are indescribably hilarious.

Me: “Interrogator, you’re welcome to come to dinner with us. Do you want pork for dinner tonight? Or do you want fish?”

The snapping comes to an immediate halt. He scrunches his nose in distaste. “I don’t like pork, Mom. Or fish, Mom. You’re not gonna make me eat it, Mom, are you?”

Me: Shrugging, “Sorry, buddy, that’s all they have.” I give him my widest eyes, “And they MAKE you eat your vegatables at the restaurant. You’re not allowed to leave until you do.”

Interrogator: Appalled, “I don’t want to go there to that restaur-not, Mom. Don’t make me go!”

Me: Soothing him, “OK, if you’re sure, I won’t make you go. You can stay here instead with the babysitter.”

Interrogator: “I want to stay with the babysitter. Don’t you Verb? Let’s stay here with the babysitter.” Cue the snapping accompanied by the Verb’s hip swaying, “We’re staying home, oh yeah, oh yeah, with the babysitter, oh, yeah, oh, yeah. I don’t like pork, oh yeah, oh yeah, I don’t like fish, oh yeah, oh yeah.”

Neither the Kenyan nor Waldorf is fooled by my vegetable bit.

Waldorf: Making his argument, “We’ve been to a restaurant before…remember, that really nice one with all the guitars? And they didn’t make us eat our vegetables. Why can’t we go? You can take us to the guitar restaurant again.”

Kenyan: “Yeah, that was like, the nicest restaurant in Philadelphia!”

Voted Best in Philly. By Waldorf and the Kenyan.

B&B and I exchange a look. And some mental telepathy.

The older two are easy. What the heck, let’s take them with us.

B&B: “Kenyan and Waldorf, you guys can join us.”

Waldorf: “Yes! Can I bring my DS?!”

Kenyan: “Me too! Can I bring mine?!”

B&B begins nodding his head yes, as I swiftly bring down the hammer with my, “Absolutely not.”

He looks at me, a question in his eyes.

Me: “We are going to dinner to spend time together. Not so you boys can zone out with Mario and Luigi.”

They head upstairs to change clothes.

B&B: “What was that all about?”

Me: “Don’t you remember? Quizzo? At The Greeks? The kids with the handheld electronics? I told you we’d never allow that as parents. I meant it.”

B&B: Rolls his eyes, exhales, and smiles, “You realize we’re going to have to talk to them, right?”

Me: “That’s the point, isn’t it?”

B&B: Shrugging, “You’re the boss.”

The Kenyan emerges with a Star Wars book. I’m on the verge of telling him to leave it at home when B&B says, “Good idea, Kenyan. You haven’t read much Star Wars recently.”

Oh, fine.

We choose my favorite local pub. Best quesadillas ever. We arrive to discover a 45 minute wait. The Flyers are playing…no wonder. I look at Waldorf and the Kenyan. They’re already hungry. And there are no sugar packets here.

Plan B is in walking distance. Delicious adult beverages. This place has a 40 minute wait. Not sure about sugar packets.

Plan C is also in walking distance. It’s a new hotspot. Amazing nachos.

Me: “How long a wait for 4 of us?”

Hostess: “15 minutes.”

Sold.

We order a shirley temple for the Kenyan and a lemonade for Waldorf. The Kenyan mounts a bar stool, cracks open his book, and devours the words on the page.

Me: “Kenyan. Kenyan. KENYAN!”

He finally looks at me, eyes cloudy.  He hasn’t transitioned completely from Tattoine back to Pennsylvania.

Me: “This isn’t the library, big guy.”

Kenyan: Finally lucid, “Oh. Right.”

He returns to his book. And accompanies his reading with sound effects.

“Choo choo choo choo choo choo choo.” Gun.

“Zhooo zzzzhhooo zzzzhhhhhooooo.” Lightsaber.

“Da da da daaaa, da da da DA da, da da da DA da, da da da daaaaa.” And…Star Wars theme.

I look at B&B. He looks at me. We both look at Waldorf. He looks at us. All 3 of us grin and shake our heads simultaneously.

Not exactly what I meant.

We get a table. The Kenyan positions his book around his plate so that his head is not visible to Waldorf or B&B, who sit across from us. He reads the entire meal. And hums. And chooses carefully from his extensive armamentarium of sound effects.  We enjoy a delicious meal. We field minimal complaints. We catch up with Waldorf on all things 4th grade while the human beatbox provides the score from Episode III.

getthemtothegreeks

Waldorf is a pig in shit. While he holds court, we notice inflection in his voice that isn’t always there. His eyes twinkle, and he smiles easily as he experiences a phenomenon that occurs with the frequency of Haley’s Comet….uninterrupted, undivided attention. From both parents.

I drink him in. My first baby. He’s soft spoken. And tall. And skinny. And a math wiz. His feet are the same size as mine…which may change by tomorrow. He’s tough. And he’s tender. But he likes to keep that tender part hidden. Right now, he’s as animated as we’ve ever seen him.

He still wants to be with us. I’m so glad we brought them with us tonight.

Unfortunately, B&B and I have zero time to reconnect. And we need to reconnect. We reside in a small house.  We share it with four little boys who are navigating the world. And they’re as dependent on the love and attention of their parents as they are on oxygen. It’s overwhelming. Every day.

So B&B and I…we miss each other.

His thoughts must mirror mine. As we confiscate the Kenyan’s book for the short walk to our car, B&B whispers in my ear.

“I’m glad we brought them. But I miss you.”

I nod in agreement.

He continues, whispering, “I vote next time they bring their electronics.”

I smile.

I know the perfect spot.

Me: “Hey, guys, the next time we go out to dinner, we’ll take you to one of our favorite old spots.”

B&B: Chiming in, “It was right around the corner from our first apartment.”

Waldorf: Curious, “What’s it called?”

In unison, B&B and I, smiling, tell them, “The Greeks.”

Happy Trails

“Listen up! We’re going 5 to 6 today! We’ll stay off the trails because it’s muddy! But, you guys need to get comfortable with distance!”

5 to 6 MILES?! Lay off the crack pipe, lady.

I peer down at the Kenyan, standing next to me in the rain. He’s whistling and kicking stones with his brand spankin’ new sneakers.

Between the steady pounding of the rain and the whistling…my child hasn’t heard a word his track coach just said.

“Alright, everybody ready? We have under an hour, let’s get moving!”

I sidle up alongside his coach.

Me: “Um, hi. I’m the Kenyan’s Mom. Did you mean 5 to 6 miles cumulatively? Or individually?”

Coach: “Individually.”

We both look at the Kenyan. He’s still whistling.

Coach: “How old is your son?”

Me: “He’s 8.”

Coach: “And what’s he up to?”

Me: “Pounds?” No freakin’ clue. “I don’t really know what he weighs off hand, I have 4 kids, so”

Coach: Cutting me off, “Miles. What’s he up to in miles?”

Oh, nuts. This kid has only ever run circles around our couch. How do I calculate that distance? Well, let’s see…he runs while he watches one commercial-free cartoon. Which is approximately 23 minutes.

Me: “He’s up to 2 miles. 2 ½ if he’s well rested.”

2 ½ miles if none of his brothers launches off the couch to tackle the Kenyan mid-run. Which is an epidemic in our family room.

Coach: “He’ll be fine. You running with him?”

I try to suppress a giggle. Am I hearing this right? I’m attending one of my kids’ sports practices, and I get to exercise? I’m actually encouraged to accompany him?

Track. Practice. Rocks.

Me: “Happy to.”

She turns her back to me, then quickly turns around again.

Coach: Smiles, “I don’t know what my kids weigh either. I have 5.”

Well, well, well. Look who speaks my language.

“And I homeschool them.”

OOOF! Well, that’s been settled. The homeschooling mom always wins.

happytrails

Me: “Come on, Kenyan, let’s get moving!”

This kid loves to run. He’s been running since he could walk. He’s SUPER high energy, and the running settles him down. Everybody knows this about the Kenyan. And he knows it about himself. When the Kenyan gets antsy in school, his teacher instructs him to do laps in the hallway.  When he gets home from school, I set the timer, and he runs for 8 gloriously uninterrupted minutes before starting his homework. It’s unorthodox, but it works for him.

A 1/4 mile in, I glance over and smile at my male clone.

Kenyan: “Mommy, seriously, why are we running in the rain?”

Me: Winking, “Because we’re hardcore, buddy.”

Kenyan: “No, Mommy, you and Daddy are hardcore. I could run in the family room and not get wet.”

Don’t think I hadn’t already considered that.

Me: “Ah, indeed you could, Kenyan, but here you are part of something. You are a member of a team. Dedicated to improving. This is the only place we need to be. Not many Moms and sons get to do this together on a rainy Saturday morning. I think we’re pretty lucky, huh?”

Kenyan: “Freezing cold rainy Saturday morning.”

Word.

We swap gloves because his, like the rest of him, are already soaked.

This promises to be a long 5-6.

I. Love. To. Run.

Love.

Back when I was a kid, and I hadn’t a clue what stress was, I hated running. Fast forward to one husband, one mortgage, two car payments, two kids under two years old, and one father diagnosed with cancer…and a runner was born.

Am I setting a healthy example for my kids? Yes. Can I still run faster and farther than all of my sons? You bet your ass. But Waldorf is catching up in speed, and the Kenyan is gaining on me in distance. Do I like what running does for my body? Uh, hell yeah. But these aren’t the reasons I run. They are the icing on the proverbial cake. I run because I like what it does for my mind. A run always brings me balance…even a bad run. It is the great equalizer in my life.

And if ever a girl needed some peace, it’s me.

One mile down and the Kenyan is hanging tough. The elements haven’t done him in yet. They haven’t done me in yet either, but I’m thinking the silence may get me soon.

I open my mouth to say something, but quickly catch myself…

Typically I bitch about B&B when I run. And the kids. Can’t go there, can I?  Let’s see…

Me: “So, Kenyan, would you consider yourself more a math guy or a language arts guy?”

Weakest conversation starter ever.

Kenyan: “Language arts.”

Me: “Me too!”

End of conversation.

We trudge on in silence. He slows to a walk.

Mile 2. Probably his first two consecutive miles of his life.

Me: Taking off my hat to wring the rain from the brim, “I’m so proud of how hard you’re working.”

Take that, Nurture Shock. 

Coach pulls alongside us in her golf cart somewhere in the 3rd mile.

Coach: Looking at me, “Don’t make him go the whole 5 to 6. He may be too young still.”

Master of the obvious.

Kenyan: “Mom, I think I’m gonna puke.”

Me: “You’re not gonna puke. You may vomit, but you won’t puke.”

He looks at me and smiles. He’s not gonna puke.

Kenyan: “I’ll toss my cookies.”

Me: “You’ll boot.”

Kenyan: “I’ll regurgitate.”

Smartypants.

Me: “You’ll hurl.”

We repeat this cycle…run, walk, wring out hat, positively reinforce wet 8 year old, scour our brains for synonyms for vomit…for 1 ½ more miles.

What the hell are we doing here? Is he enjoying this at all?

After practice, we drive home. The Kenyan complains his legs are tired, but it doesn’t stop him from resuming his circular running pattern around the family room almost immediately.

B&B: Quietly, “How was it?”

Me: “I think it was a disaster. But he didn’t complain too much. So I can’t be sure.”

The Kenyan talked earliest. Full goddamn sentences at 11 months. He leaned against me one day while he was watching Sesame Street. Reached out, patted my leg, and asked me, “Got crumbs, Mommy?” Nope. Mommy just needs to shave her legs, my little Baby Einstein. If he is at all displeased with something, he is very vocal about it.

B&B: “You know he would whine like an old lady if he didn’t like it.”

Me: “No doubt. I just hope he’s not doing it because we are runners, and he doesn’t want to disappoint us.”

B&B: Nodding, “See how he feels at the next practice.”

We drive to the next practice. No rain. Slightly chilly evening. I’m nervous, but trying to hide it.

Me: “Kenyan, I’m excited we get to run together again. And no rain this time!”

Crickets.

Me: “Kenyan? Are you OK?”

Kenyan: “Huh? Oh, sorry, Mom, I was just reading.”

He thinks I didn’t catch it, but my 2nd grader smuggled The Hunger Games into the car in between some Geronimo Stilton books. I remember hiding Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret between some Beverly Cleary books when I was his age.

Naturally, he’s my favorite today. Hey, I know it’s over his head, but it’s not like he’s unsupervised on YouTube.

We arrive. He does his warm-up laps. Then he does his stretching. Finally, Coach sends us out for a 3 mile trail run.

I suspect she just hammered the nails into the track coffin.

The first mile I’m sprinting to catch him. I don’t even need to look at my watch to know he’s running trails WAY faster than I do.

I hope my 8 year old doesn’t smoke me this entire run.

When I finally catch up, I’m winded. And he’s smiling brilliantly.

Kenyan: “What’s the matter, old lady? Can’t catch me?”

Game on, little man.

Me: “You’re fast tonight, Kenyan. Let’s see if you can run the entire time…no walking. Try your best. If you can’t, that’s OK. It’s something to work towards next time. But, if you can, I may hear Dairy Queen calling your name.”

Kenyan: Cupping his hand around his ear, “What’s that you say, banana split? You’re calling my name?”

Yes. I use rewards. And sometimes they contain calories. Guess what? It works.

He doesn’t stop once.

Well, except for the run-in with the “puppy”.

The Kenyan is deathly afraid of dogs. I don’t know why. He hasn’t had a traumatic experience with a dog. He’s just totally freaked by them. And I love dogs. But I think a healthy fear of a dog is a good thing for a kid. He keeps his distance, and he reduces the risk of a dog biting him square on the mug.

So, we’re cruising along…we have ½ mile left. The Kenyan hasn’t slowed a bit. He’s picking out ice cream flavors…

Kenyan: “3 scoops, right? I think I’ll get strawberry…no, no, no…cookies and cream, moose tracks, and….”

I keep running, smiling, thinking he’s alongside me. He’s not.

I turn around to find him standing as still as a statue with a look of panic in his eyes. His lips are moving, but barely a whisper escapes, “I’m afraid of dogs, I’m afraid of dogs, I’m afraid of dogs.”

I follow his line of sight and see a dog the size of a small bear running around in a field to our right. His owner’s attempting to train him, but he is headed straight for my Kenyan.

Shit.

I change course and sprint at the oncoming dog.

We collide 10 feet before he reaches my son, who is now wheezing with fear.

And then the damn dog mounts me and attempts to impregnate me.

Come on, not in front of my kid!

His owner finally catches up to us and attempts to remove his gigantic animal from my violated body.

Owner: “Sorry, he’s a puppy. He’s still so excited.”

I gathered that.

I have hay in my hair and paw prints on my running gear. But we’ve got a run to finish.

Me: “Kenyan, you were saying? Cookies and cream, moose tracks, and what?”

Kenyan: “Oh, oh, yeah, maybe cake batter.”

We finally finish, and I have to turn away from him and act like I’m catching my breath.

Truly, I’m hiding my tears.

I couldn’t be prouder of my 2nd son. The baby who smiled when the breeze blew. The one year old who took his first steps and then ran. The toddler who worshipped his older brother. The little boy who began drawing and wouldn’t stop until each detail was perfect. The boy whose younger brothers always want to sit alongside. The child who has more imagination in his little finger than I have in my entire body.

He didn’t think he could do it. I didn’t think he could do it. I know it’s “just practice”, but the Kenyan buried it. And I couldn’t be prouder.

So, we head straight to DQ. I call my Little Sister out on the West Coast to fill her in on our evening.

Me: “I love track! It’s so much fun! And today Coach had us do a trail run…my favorite!”

Little Sister: “Wait, are YOU running track or is the Kenyan running track?”

Me: I glance over my shoulder at him and whisper, “We’re running it together.”

Kenyan: “I can hear you, Mom. I AM RUNNING TRACK! NOT MOMMY! Now tell her about the ferocious beast that attacked you.”

We get home and B&B looks at us expectantly.

B&B: Reaches over and removes straw from my hair, “Well?”

Me: Smiling, “He killed it. KILLED it. ½ mile warm up, 3 mile trail run, ½ mile cool down. Without stopping.”

Kenyan: “Except for the puppy incident.”

Me: Shaking my head, “Please, Kenyan, it makes me feel dirty. Let’s not talk about it.”

B&B: Smiling and high fiving the Kenyan, “We’re really proud of you, Kenyan. Way to turn it around!”

Kenyan: “Mom, did I run 4 miles tonight?”

Me: “You sure did, buddy.”

Kenyan: Smiling, “Only 1 more until I’m at 5 miles…just where Coach wants me to be!”

He runs up the stairs to shower. And I shake my head.

I stand corrected. Son of a bitch WAS listening.

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

“Mommy, why are you sweating?”

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

Think of something to say….quickly!

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

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

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

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

The barber continues cutting the Kenyan’s hair.

Kenyan: “What could happen?”

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

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

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

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

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

Me: “Balls. Cojones are balls.”

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

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

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

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

adultswim

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

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

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

Proud of yourself? 

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

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

He stops smiling and whispers, “Touché.”

He resumes his clipping and I resume my counting.

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

Ding!

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

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

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

I reply to B&B:

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

He replies:

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

I reply:

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

He replies:

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

Blah, blah, and blah.

I’m still counting. And sweating.

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

You bet your ass you will.

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

“In pockets or on the stroller handles.”

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

Me: “Good. Let’s do it.”

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

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

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

Oh, great.

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

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

He doesn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 20 something kid in line behind me chimes in…

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

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

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

Me: “It’s a rubber glove.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother of GOD, the lungs on this kid.

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

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

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

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

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

The Kenyan ties the balloon, and we continue shopping.

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

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

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

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

I assume wrong.

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

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

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

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

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

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

Kenyan: “What’s that?”

Me: “It’s a thermometer.”

Waldorf: “Who’s sick?”

I am. Sick of answering these incessant questions.

Me: “Hopefully nobody is sick.”

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

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

Ray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Whispering, “Thanks, Ray.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I smile, overcome with relief.

I text B&B:

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

He replies:

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

I reply:

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

He replies:

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

I shake my head. Incorrigible.

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

I smile and reply:

“My uterus and I happily accept.”

 

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

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

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

Especially by you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asshole.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First I will cut out his tongue.

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

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

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

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

Next I will make him eat his tongue.

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

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

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

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

WTF?

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

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

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

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

Then I will cut off his index and middle fingers.

Husband of lady behind me: “See?”

I glare at him through the crack between the seats.

Then I will make this clown eat the fingers.

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B&B: “Smart move.”

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

He guffaws in response.

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

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

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

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

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

Rule breaking fool.

Guffaw, guffaw.

Now I’ll never get to sleep.

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

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

Tick tock

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

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

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

Tick tock, tick tock

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

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

Waldorf: “Mommy, have you seen Severus?”

Too late.

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

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

Guffaw.

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

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

5:08 AM.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock

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

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

But even I have my limits.

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

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

Tick tock. Tickety tick tock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Smiling, “OK, thanks. Wait…why?”

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

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

Me: “Boys, earmuffs, please.”

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

I turn to B&B.

Me: “I am going to fucking kill you.”

The airline employee looks quizzically between the two of us.

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

I shake my head in response.

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

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

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

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

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

Tick tock, to the tickety tock.

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

6:20 AM

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

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

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

Tick tock, tickety tickety tock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hate when people call me ma’am.

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

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

Tickety tick to the mutha fuckin tock.

Me: “Shit. OK.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

disney2

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

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

Foiled. Shit. And shit. And SHIT. 

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

That’s the plan, lady.

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

Me and my suntan lotion screw up.

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

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

WHAT????

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

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

Shampoo on an airplane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Not slowing down, “Yes!”

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

Me: Yelling,“Thank you!”

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

We collapse into our seats.

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

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

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

Me: “That depends.”

B&B: “On what?”

Me: “On how you answer my question.”

B&B: “By all means, please ask it.”

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

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

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

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

The flight attendant catches my eye and smiles.

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

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

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

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

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

Moron.

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

And so begins our vacation…

The Shit Show that is Disneyworld. Part I

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

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

disney1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re my favorite today.

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

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

Duh.

Snap! Picture taken.

B&B: “Are we allowed to go now?”

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

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

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

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

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

She looks right at me as she makes her announcement.

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

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

We stare at each other, eyes smoldering.

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

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

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

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

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

Waldorf: Excited, “Here comes the bus!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, Mommy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh for the love of God.

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

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

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

Oh dear God.

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

Oh no.

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

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

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

Jesus Christ Almighty.

At this point, I am waving people past us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I sigh audibly.

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

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

B&B: “I guess he can’t hear you.”

Mom: “Aw, shoot!”

Dad: “That’s a real shame.”

Yes, that must be it…

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

1, 2, 3 and 4. Phew.

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

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

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

True dat.

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

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

Dad: “Are they giving something away here?”

Me: “In bulk?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fascinating choice. Altogether fascinating.

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

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

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

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

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

Wow. I mean…WOW.

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

Catwoman: Puzzled, “What is?”

Me: Nodding, “Exactly.”

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

1, 2, 3,4…got em all.

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

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

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

Oh, a little mind fuck never hurt anyone.

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

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

Serves me right.

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

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

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

The Interrogator climbs immediately onto my lap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother Humper. Never fails.

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

At least it’s the end of the month.