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.
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.”
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.”
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!”
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.”
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.