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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re my favorite today.

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

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

Duh.

Snap! Picture taken.

B&B: “Are we allowed to go now?”

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

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

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

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

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

She looks right at me as she makes her announcement.

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

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

We stare at each other, eyes smoldering.

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

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

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

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

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

Waldorf: Excited, “Here comes the bus!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, Mommy.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh for the love of God.

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

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

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

Oh dear God.

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

Oh no.

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

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

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

Jesus Christ Almighty.

At this point, I am waving people past us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I sigh audibly.

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

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

B&B: “I guess he can’t hear you.”

Mom: “Aw, shoot!”

Dad: “That’s a real shame.”

Yes, that must be it…

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

1, 2, 3 and 4. Phew.

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

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

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

True dat.

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

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

Dad: “Are they giving something away here?”

Me: “In bulk?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fascinating choice. Altogether fascinating.

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

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

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

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

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

Wow. I mean…WOW.

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

Catwoman: Puzzled, “What is?”

Me: Nodding, “Exactly.”

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

1, 2, 3,4…got em all.

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

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

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

Oh, a little mind fuck never hurt anyone.

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

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

Serves me right.

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

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

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

The Interrogator climbs immediately onto my lap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother Humper. Never fails.

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

At least it’s the end of the month.

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

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

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

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

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

Maria: “Does he have your number?”

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

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

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

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

Me: Smiling awkwardly, “Um, hi!”

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

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

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

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

Me: “So, how did you find me?”

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

Mysterious indeed. Possibly borderline stalker.

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

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

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

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

And he walks away. No goodbye. Nothing.

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

ciaobella

Maria: “What was that all about?”

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

Maria: “Are you going to go?”

Me: “I guess so.”

Maria: “He’s really cute.”

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

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

Please rev up the time machine and take me back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Smiling, “Guilty.”

Reception girl: “4 boys?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No sooner do I think it than she asks it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I digress…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: “Yes, we did, buddy.”

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

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

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

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

What’s that noise? It sounds like splashing.

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

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

Pssssssss

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

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

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

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

SNAP goes my patience.

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

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

B&B: Perplexed, “Sure. You OK?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This ain’t no Barry Manilow

When I was young, I thought my parents were prudes. Very old-fashioned. Totally overreacting to, what we considered at the time, very cool music.

The first album I ever owned was Sheena Easton’s A Private Heaven. My older brother, lover of music, gave it to me on Christmas morning, 1984.

At that point in my young life, it was one of the greatest gifts I had ever received. Aside from my Monday afternoon piano lessons, it was the first thing musical that was mine.  Which makes it the only thing musical that was mine…clearly the piano lessons didn’t count.  I held it gingerly in my 10 year old hands. Stared at the cover, hoping one day to look remotely as cool and beautiful as Sheena. Removed the record from the jacket carefully. Held it along the edges, as I’d watched my brother do with his New Edition, Cars,  and Michael Jackson albums. Placed it perfectly on the record player. Lifted the needle, eased it onto the record, and turned up the volume…

Me:  Eyes closed, in a moment of pure happiness, “My sugar walls…blood races to your private spots…lets me know there’s a fire…”

Big Brother: Tapping me on the shoulder, “Better put the headphones on before Dad gets mad. You know he would rather listen to Neil Diamond.”

Me: Smiling, “Oh, OK, good idea…”

I listened to that record every day after school. With the headphones on.  Dancing next to the record player. The words were on the jacket of the record,…VERY cutting edge at the time…so I’d sing along while dancing.

One day I came home from school and went to the record player for my daily dose of Sheena. I couldn’t find my new record.

Me: Panicked, “Mom! Where is it? Where is my record?”

Mom: Playing dumb, “What record?”

Me: Impatient, “My new record. My only record. My Sheena Easton record.”

Mom: Muttering, “Oh, dear.”

Me: Nearing hysteria, “Oh dear, what? Did it…DID IT BREAK? Did somebody break it?!”

Mom: Quietly, “Well, I guess you could say it broke.”

Me: Shrieking, “How? It was a present!!! I love that record! Who touched my record?! It’s MY record!”

Mom: Calmly, “Well, your father did, honey.”

Me: Worried, “Did he drop it?”

Mom looked past me. Out the back door of the family room. Beyond the deck. Past the trees. Out by the train tracks.

Mom: Looking back at me, “Yes. He dropped it.”

Me: Furious, “I can’t believe he did that! Why didn’t he leave a note apologizing?! That’s my favorite Christmas present!”

Mom: Finally angry, “Bethany, you’re lucky he didn’t make you eat the broken pieces of it yourself.”

Me: Incredulous, “What?!”

Mom: Making sure we are alone in the room, “Do you know what Sugar Walls are, Bethany?”

Pleasedontstopthemusic

Me: Hands on my 10 year old hips, “I know Sugar Walls is a song on my Sheena Easton record! That Dad broke! But, no, I don’t know what they are. What are they?”

Mom: Quietly, “Sugar walls are another name for a woman’s private parts.”

Holy shit. And Eww.

Mom: Continuing, “Your father saw the name of that song, read the lyrics to it, then took that record straight out to the train tracks as soon as he heard the next train coming.”

Jesus, he placed it out on the train tracks? He listened for a train, walked out the door, across the deck, through the yard, beyond the brush, and laid it on the train tracks? Who does that? Why not just throw it into the trashcan?

Mom: “That record is history, young lady.”

Evidently.

Not long after that, Mom was driving us kids (older brother, younger sister and yours truly) in the car. My sister and I sang along to the Madonna song playing on the radio, “But you made me feel…yeah you made me feel shiny and new…”

Me: “Mom, what’s a virgin?”

“Like a virgin…hey…touched for the very first time…”

Mom: “Is everyone listening, children? A virgin is someone who’s not married.”

Three short years later, Mom was driving little sister, me and a friend. I rode shotgun and had control of the radio.

Me: “Oh I love this song!” Singing along, “I swear I won’t tease you, won’t tell you no lies..”

From the back seat, little sister and friend join in, “I don’t need no bible just look in my eyes, I’ve waited so long baby, now that we’re friends, every man’s got his patience and here’s where mine ends..”

“I WANT YOUR SEX!”

Mom narrowly misses the guard rail.

Mom: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, girls! What in the devil’s name are you singing?!

Me: “It’s SUCH a cool song, Mom.”

Mom: Shaken, “Well I don’t think so at all. I don’t know why he has to use those words. That profanity.”

Little Sister: Laughing, “Come on, Mom, so he says, ‘sex’, so what?!”

Mom: “I don’t know why he can’t just say, ‘I want your science notes’.”

Classic moment in our family’s history. Still, the fact remains…my parents were total musical prudes.

When I got pregnant with Waldorf, I read all of the well-known pregnancy books. I learned that he could hear many of the things that I heard. So, I stopped listening to Howard Stern and started listening to NPR, classical music and Kenny Loggins children songs.

Oh, go right ahead and laugh. Naturally, if I could go back in time and slap my pregnant self, I would. First, I would laugh and point at my ridiculous, know-it-all, pregnant self. Then, I would slap some sense into myself.

When Waldorf was born, our music collection consisted of Sesame Street, Nursery Rhymes, and our Making Music Together CD’s.

The Kenyan was born five minutes after Waldorf, and we expanded our repertoire to include The Wiggles.

And, yes, we saw them in concert.

Once the Interrogator was born, the Sesame Street and Nursery Rhyme CD’s were scratched beyond repair. We kept it fresh with Raffi. And the Backyardigans. And Laurie Berkner, the adorably energetic singer featured on Noggin . Come on, parents, say it with me…”Noggin. It’s like pre-school on TV”.

By the time the Verb was born, my goose was cooked.

The Verb, like his three brothers before him, screamed bloody goddamn murder from the moment we left the hospital until we turned his car seat around to face forward, 4 miserable months later. Pair that with the 7 years of listening to nursery rhymes while driving, and I was hanging by a very thin thread.

Me: Driving, “P-p-p-poker face p-p-poker face..muh muh muh mah p-p-p-poker face.”

Interrogator: “Hey, I want to hear Buzz Buzz Buzz!”

Kenyan: “I want to hear Knees up Mother Brown!”

Me: Raising my voice to be heard over the screaming of the infant Verb, “Nope. No sirree. No more. Never again. Gentleman, there will be no more Laurie Berkner. There will be no more Raffi. There will be only Mommy’s music.”

Waldorf: “What’s Mommy’s music?”

Me: Increasing the radio’s volume,“This is Mommy’s music. Muh muh muh mah. Muh muh muh muh mah.”

A few months ago, I walk through the family room on my way to the laundry room and I stumble upon the Verb singing. His 3 year old voice is scratchy and low. He has a wicked memory, so he’s good with lyrics. Therefore he sings loudly because he’s proud of his ability to recollect the words. I stop chanting “toilet paper, toilet paper, toilet paper” long enough to listen.

Verb: Swaying from side to side,“All eyes on me when I walk in, no question that this girl’s a 10, don’t hate me cuz I’m beautiful, don’t hate me cuz I’m beautiful…”

Me: Feigning sincerity, “Little Keri Hilson today, buddy? Sounds great!”

Verb: Nodding, “Now do the pretty girl rock, rock, rock, do the pretty girl rock, rock, rock…”

The next day, I hear the Kenyan singing to himself while he is doing his homework. He is a child in perpetual motion. Thoughts, words, hands, feet, mind all race from the moment he awakes until he falls asleep each night. So, yes, he sings while he does his homework.

Kenyan: “Ah, girl look at that body, ah, girl look at that body, ah, girl look at that body…I work out..”

What the hell is he singing?

Kenyan: “I got passion in my pants and I ain’t afraid to show it, show it, show it, show it. I’m sexy and I know it..”

LMFAO?! I will destroy the iPod that taught him those lyrics! I will place it on the train tracks behind Mom and Dad’s house, and I will destroy it! Wait a minute…the Kenyan doesn’t own an iPod…

Me: Careful to eliminate hysteria from my tone, “Buddy, where did you learn that song?”

Kenyan: Smiling, “From my friends. At school. I learned this one too…”

He pushes his homework to the side, gets up from the table, stands up and starts shaking his booty.

Kenyan: In perfect cadence, “I like big butts and I cannot lie. You other brothers can’t deny. When a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist and a round thing in your face you get sprung…”

For. The. Love. Of. God. How in God’s name does he know a Sir Mix A Lot tune? If he busts into an NWA song next, I’m going to have to home school him.

Me: “Alrighty. I love the way you gyrate your hips. It’s just super. Now let’s get back to your homework, little man.”

A few days later, as I’m cleaning up from dinner, my iPod kicks out a song. I’m alone in the kitchen doing the dishes, dancing and singing along to it as though I’m on a table top in a club in LA alongside Lindsay Lohan.

Me: “I’m into havin sex, I ain’t into makin love, So come gimme a hug, if you’re into getting rubbed…we gonna party like it’s your birthday..”

Kenyan: “Mom? What song is that?”

They’re sneaking up on me now? Can I ever get a moment’s peace in this house?

Me: “Um, it’s one of Mommy’s songs, bud. From my running mix.”

I reach with soapy hands to fast forward to the next song on my playlist…

Gwen Stefani belts out: “Uh huh, this my shit, all the girls stomp your feet like this…”

Ooopsy-daisy!

I reach my soapy hands out once again to fast forward to the next song on my playlist..

Kenyan: “Mom, your running music sure has a lot of curses in it.”

He’s got me there. The only thing that has more cursing than my music is my writing.

So, in an effort to compromise between Big Bird and 50 Cent, we listen to Kenny Curtis and the Animal Farm on the way to school. It’s a program on Kids Place Live, which is a channel on satellite radio. It takes every ounce of my self-discipline not to listen to Howard Stern, but I realize the children are in the car. And those loudmouth kids will blab to their teachers if I listen to Howard. Even if it’s only in the front speakers.

Plus it’s a Friday, so Howard’s a repeat anyway.

Kenny Curtis: “And this next song goes out to Paige, who turns 7 today! Happy birthday, Paige!”

“I like ‘em big…I like ‘em chunky! I like ‘em big…I like ‘em chunky!”

WTF?!

I glance down at the radio, to make sure I’m dialed in properly..

What station is this? Yep, Kids Place Live.

The Interrogator and the Kenyan sing along: “Chunky, chunky, chunky, Plumpy, plumpy, plumpy..”

Me: Attempting normalcy, “How do you guys know this song?”

Interrogator: Kicking his legs to the beat, “It’s from Madagascar 2, Mom. I love this song…I like ‘em round, with somethin’ something..”

I wrack my brain for a creative play on words to teach them. But I’ve had no coffee, no shower, and no breakfast. And nary a creative thought for a solid decade.

I’m tired. And I’m picking my battles. And, the song is about a goddamn hippo anyway. A real hippo. Plus, it’s a catchy tune…so, in an effort NOT to be old-fashioned, I crank up the volume and jam with my boys…see, Mom, I’m no prude…

 

Let Your Freak Flag Fly

Today’s post is written by my friend, Avé. Avé is married and has two children. And she works “outside the home”. I find Avé hilarious. I hear her voice when I read her stories, and I always bust out laughing. So, I hounded her to guest blog for me. And she graciously accepted my invitation. Enjoy!

 

I was attending a meeting in a conference room, one of multiple conference rooms and offices, whose windows overlook the parking garage and the pedestrian bridge that connects the building to the garage.

I have no idea what was being discussed in that particular meeting, but I do know that it was late in the day, and the meeting was dragging on and was in serious danger of running over time. I draw the line at meetings running over the scheduled time, particularly at the end of the day when I have to leave to go pick up my kids at daycare. I have no problem with daycare, but I strongly oppose being late to pick my kids up and avoid doing so as best I can. They are there long enough all day – they don’t need to stay any later just because some dude in a meeting can’t make his point in the allotted time.

I had also recently finished chugging a large bottle of water. This created an obvious problem. Not only was I irritated and impatient to leave, I also had to pee. But, there I continued to sit, staring out the window. I was watching people cross the pedestrian bridge. There was a man carrying his coat. There was a woman wearing no coat at all with her long hair blowing every which way. Obviously, it was warm AND windy out there. I love a warm day and a good, strong wind! Those people were so lucky – they were leaving on time and they were outside on that gorgeous day.

Fifteen minutes later than scheduled, the meeting finally ended. I raced back to my cubicle and grabbed my purse, coat and lunch-box.  I raced to the Ladies’ Room to take care of urgent business.  I was literally running.  I had a long drive and I didn’t want to be any later than I already was in picking up my kids!  It looked like I would only be 15 minutes late – not TOO bad.  I charged through the restroom door, hastily lined the toilet seat with some paper, did what I needed to do, washed up, and I was off!  I ran down the long hallway leading to the pedestrian bridge, shouting good-byes to a few colleagues as I blazed past.

I burst through the exit door. The day was as gorgeous as it looked from the conference room window.  I was loving it!  I glanced back at the office and conference room windows and thought about the poor saps who were still sitting in there, watching me leave.  But it was no lingering gaze; I was late and I was moving.

I got to my mini-van and tore out of the parking garage.  Just then, I noticed that my gas tank light was on.  Dang!! I had forgotten that it lit up on my way into the office that day. I didn’t stop to get gas that morning so I had no choice but to stop that afternoon.  “OK”, I said to myself, sensibly, “time to stop rushing.  Haste makes waste”. There is no sense in risking running out of gas trying to make it home on fumes just so my kids wouldn’t have to wait an extra fifteen minutes.  Running out of gas, particularly on I-95, would NOT be a pleasant experience. I pulled into the only available gas station prior to getting onto the interstate.  There were a few cars already ahead of me.  Luckily, I got in when I did because another three or four cars pulled in right behind me.  I resigned myself to being 30 minutes late for pick-up.  As I waited my turn, I was hopeful that there would be no traffic on the road.

When it was my turn, I pulled up to the gas tank, got out of the van, and started pumping gas.  The wind was really whipping!  I was greatly enjoying the breeze when something brushed past the backs of my bare arms.  I swiped my hands against my arms to scratch away the tickle-y feeling.  Seconds later, it happened again.  I swiped again.

Tickle, swipe, tickle, swipe.

What WAS that? I looked around assuming there was a fly buzzing around or a strand of hair brushing against me.  Nope, there was nothing.

Tickle, swipe, tickle, swipe.

I turned in a complete circle, looked up and down and left and right.  Still nothing.  I shrugged it off.  When the tank was full, I got back in the car, ready to speed on home.

Suddenly, I heard a knock at my passenger side window. Understandably, I was startled – I don’t normally receive guests at the gas station.  I looked over and saw a woman motioning for me to roll down the window.  I did so, hesitantly. I was thinking, “What the…?” but I asked, politely, “Can I help you?”

The woman proceeds to deliver what can only be described as a chilling message: “I just wanted to let you know – my daughter and I are sitting in the car behind you.  You have a long piece of toilet paper hanging out of your pants.  We could tell you could feel it since you were looking around and rubbing your arms”. Aghast at this revelation, I thanked her meekly and rolled up the window.

Hoping that she was joking or just mistaken in what she saw, I reached behind me to feel around and pulled out a piece of toilet paper.  I tell you, it was 3 feet long if it was an inch!

Dear God!!!

I began having flashbacks:

  • I am pumping gas in front of a dozen cars and their occupants, standing in the great, wide open at a gas station situated in the middle of a busy road, with toilet paper hanging from my waist-band and fluttering in the breeze.
  • I am racing across the pedestrian bridge, mentally mocking those that were watching me leave, assumingly envious of my departure, with a party streamer literally streaming out of my rear-end.
  • I am running down the hall toward the pedestrian bridge, passing multiple colleagues and shouting good-bye to them, with my freak flag unknowingly flying.
  • I am in the Ladies’ Room, lining the seat with toilet paper.

Bingo!  There it was – the cause of this personal crisis.

Curse my constant need for hygiene!! Why did I need to use such a large piece of toilet-paper to line the seat? Does toilet paper really even offer that much protection from seat germs? Probably not! Why did I not do the perfunctory turn-around/butt-check in the mirror after washing my hands? And, curse my friendly albeit impatient nature!! Why did I need to create a scene by literally running through the hall and across the pedestrian bridge, creating even more of a stir by shouting my good-byes to people?

I was mortified.  I went home and confessed what happened to Honey.  His laughing at my predicament did nothing to soothe my injured pride. In my haste to get home, I laid waste to my dignity.

What lesson did I learn? Haste really does make waste.

For more of Avé’s quick wit, read her new blog http://richwomansfam.blogspot.com/

Thanks, Avé!!

 

 

The Jedi Mind Tricks my Kids Play

I don’t know a thing about raising girls. I do have some experience with raising boys.

Whether I’m doing anything right is an entirely different animal.

It has been my experience with boys that they need to move their bodies around. Frequently.  So, we hang at the playground after I pick them up from school every day. Before you go kidding yourself that I’m a great Mom, allow me confess…it’s a selfish move on my part. This playground situation is ideal for me. Because the second that my kids enter my car to drive home from school, the commotion reaches an immediate peak. And it remains there, at that ungodly high level, until they are all finally in bed. That’s 6 solid hours of commotion.

Um, no thanks.

The playground sets me up for a mere 5 solid hours of commotion.

It’s less than ideal, but I’ll take it.

One day last month, we’re at the playground. There are a few regulars, who are there every day, like we are. The groupies. I love these other broads. Some are Moms. Some are nannies. We are different ages, different ethnicities, different backgrounds. So, while my kids shake their sillies out, I enjoy the camaraderie of these women who share their unique stories with me.

Maggie is a groupie. Maggie has one son, Eddie.  Eddie is a good buddy of Waldorf’s. Maggie stays home with her son. And his other Mom, Jaclyn, works full time. We adore this family.

Maggie: Half smiling, “So, Jaclyn and I were talking to Eddie about what were to happen if we both die.”

Me: Eyebrows raised, “Oh, yeah? Serious chat to have with your 10 year old.”

Maggie: Nodding, “Yeah, but you know it’s just the three of us.  So, guess what he said?”

Me: “What?”

Maggie: Big smile, “He says, ‘If you both die, I want to live with Waldorf.’”

Me: Incredulous, “Shut up! He did not!”

Maggie: Nodding, “Yes, he did. He said he wants to live with you guys.”

Me: “Jesus, Maggie, seriously?  It would be a tight squeeze, but we’d be happy to have him.”

I am smiling. Glowing. I stay home with the kids, right? But I am somebody who thrives on setting goals, working toward them, and achieving them. That means I have to derive a great deal of pleasure from cleaning a sink full of dirty dishes.  Because I don’t know whether my raising of these kids will be successful for another 20-30 years. Waldorf’s friend wants to live with us if his parents die? That’s an enormous compliment to me. Positive reinforcement at its finest. And I’m a sucker for positive reinforcement.

We love this boy, and we’d be honored to welcome him into our family if, God forbid, he ever loses these wonderful women.

Why us, I wonder?

I wonder if it’s because he sees how I interact with my own kids.

Fun Mom.

Maybe it’s my brownies. Oh, and the chocolate chip cookie bars! Yes, he loves my baking.

Mom who cooks.

You know what? Eddie’s an only child. I bet he’d love to be a part of our crazy dynamic.

Mom who gives her children siblings.

Oh, wait…how could I overlook this one? It’s B&B! He’d love to have B&B as a father figure!

Mom who is married to virile man.

Maybe it’s the entire package!

I smile, look at Maggie, and she smiles back at me.

Well, how about that…maybe we are doing something right.

Me: Excited, “Did he say anything more? Did he tell you why he’d want to live with us?”

Maggie: Nodding, “Oh, yeah, yeah. We asked him ‘is it because you see how good Waldorf’s Mom is with him and his brothers?’”

I raise my eyebrows expectantly….

This is the greatest day of my life. I am savoring this moment. This one right here. Moment of happiness.

Maggie: “He said, ‘nope.’”

Eyebrows fall…

Oh.

Maggie: “We asked him, ‘is it because Waldorf’s Mom is always bringing those delicious snacks to the playground? Because she always has the good food for Waldorf and his brothers?’”

Eyebrows back up…

The way to a boy’s heart is through his stomach, yes?

Maggie: “He said, ‘nope.’”

Dammit.

Maggie: “We asked him, ‘is it because of B&B? You know, cuz you don’t have a Dad, you just have us women?’”

I raise my eyebrows again…

Sometimes the sheer Leave It to Beaver-ness of our family makes me nauseous, but maybe it’s appealing to a kid whose family is less traditional. And B&B is a stud of a Daddy.

Maggie: “He said, ‘nope.’”

That settles it. Must be all the Gremlins under our roof.

Maggie: “We asked him, ‘is it because they’re such a big family? All those kids to play with? All that fun to be had?’”

My head hurts from all of this eyebrow raising…

Has to be. Doesn’t it?

Me: “And?”

Maggie: Smiling, “He said, ‘it’s not that Waldorf has so many brothers. It’s that he orders them around. And they listen to him. I watch them. They do it here, on the playground. Waldorf tells the younger ones what to do…and they do it. Every time. I want to live with them so I can give the orders and watch the younger boys carry them out.”

Come again?

Me: “Well, Maggie, this has indeed been both an enlightening and a humbling conversation.”

Maggie: Laughing in agreement, “That’s what he says. He wants to live with you so he can order the younger guys around.”

Pfffffffffft. That’s the sound of my bubble bursting.

I pick up what remains of the homemade brownies, along with the pieces of my shattered ego, corral the kids, and head to the car for my 5 consecutive hours of commotion.

The Pecking Order of siblings. It exists indeed. And it is alive and well in our home.

The Interrogator recently celebrated a birthday. I was slightly nervous about his reaction to his presents after our Valentine’s Day debacle. But, he was thrilled with everything…hard to go wrong with all things Ninjago.

The behavior of his brothers, older and younger, during his opening of the presents was especially interesting to watch.

Typically, I am awake and downstairs by 6AM, finishing the packing of the lunches and the snacks for the kids to take to school. I am vigilant about where I place my feet when I walk down the steps. I know which floorboards creak the loudest and avoid them at all costs. A quiet exit from my bedroom and stealthy descent down the stairs will ensure I’m able to listen, even for only a few minutes, to Howard Stern. Or to the beautiful silence of no one asking me for a goddamn thing.

This happens once every 3-4 weeks.

On birthday mornings, everybody gets up extra early, so any plans for solitude are shot.

But, that’s OK, because I am as excited for the kids’ birthday as they are.  

Every morning, the Verb jumps out of bed with the gusto only a 3 year old can possess.

BOOM!

Verb: “MOM! I’M ALL DONE SLEEPING! I HAVE TO GO PEE!”

The loud boom of the Verb’s feet hitting the ground usually wakes the Interrogator, who sleeps in the bunk above his younger brother. If not, the follow up announcement about relieving himself typically does the trick.

The morning of the Interrogator’s birthday, my little Verb is up before 6. The birthday boy awakes then as well. Within 2 minutes, the Kenyan and Waldorf appear in the hallway.

Me: “What’s the special occasion, guys? Everybody’s excited to get to school early?”

Waldorf: Straight faced, “Ha ha.”

Kenyan: Laughing, “Oh, yeah, Mom, let’s go right away!”

Verb: “Huh? Mommy, it’s the Interrogator’s birthday!!”

Interrogator: Smiling shyly and rubbing his tired eyes,“It’s my birthday, Mom. My 6 birthday. Now I’m 6, Mom.”

Love. Complete and unconditional.

I hug and kiss my birthday boy, the baby who, upon his exit, left me feeling as though my uterus was carrying around a bucket of marbles for a solid 6 months post-partum. Heavy marbles. That moved nonstop.

Me: “Happy birthday, sweet boy.”

The kids race down the steps in anticipation of the Interrogator’s opening his presents. The Interrogator, smiling, reaches for the first present. The biggest present. On the bottom of the present pile.

Waldorf: “Wait, hold on! Don’t you want to open THIS present first?”

He hands the Interrogator a different present.

Waldorf always has an agenda. Always.

Interrogator: “Oh, yeah, yeah, this one, right. OK, I do want to open this one!”

He tears open the wrapping paper and immediately smiles.

Interrogator: Grinning, “Oh, a Ninjago skeleton. I just love Ninjago skeletons. This is perfect.”

He struggles to open the packaging. The Kenyan thrusts a different present under his nose.

Kenyan: Excited, “Interrogator, Mommy will open that for you. HERE! Open THIS present!”

Let him open it if he wants to open it. Good God, these kids are pushy.

Interrogator: Easily convinced, “Oh, yeah, here you go, Mom. Can you open it please? I want to open this present.”

He digs into the wrapping paper, uncovering another…different…Ninjago skeleton.

Interrogator: Smiling, “Wow! 2 Ninjago skeletons! For me? This is the best birthday. I love being 6.”

Again, he attempts to extract the skeleton from the packaging. Impatiently, Waldorf shoves a present between the Interrogator and the unopened skeleton.

Waldorf: Curtly, “Here. Open it.”

I catch B&B’s eye. We exchange angry faces at our older kids’ attempt to control the Interrogator’s birthday present opening sequence.

For the love of God, let the kid open the presents in the order he wants.

Me: “Ahem.”

Both Waldorf and the Kenyan look at me.  I silently take my hand and wave it back and forth across my throat. International sign for “cut it out”, right?

Kenyan: “Someone’s dead? Who’s dead?”

Waldorf: “You’re going to chop someone’s head off?”

This is what it’s like to be surrounded by penises. I mean idiots.

Me: “Waldorf and Kenyan, maybe we’ll let the Interrogator choose which presents he’d like to open next. You’ve both done a nice job helping him. Thank you for that. But let’s let him decide. Go ahead, Interrogator, which present do you want to open next?”

The Interrogator looks at me, then at his remaining pile of wrapped presents, then at his two older brothers.

Interrogator: “Um, I don’t know. Which one do you think I should open, Kenyan?”

The Kenyan grabs a present from the pile. Before he has the chance to hand it to the birthday boy, Waldorf puts his hand on the Kenyan’s arm to stop him.

Waldorf: “No. You want to give him THAT one.”

He points to a different present. The Kenyan immediately obeys. Puts down his first choice, picks up Waldorf’s recommendation, and hands it to the Interrogator.

What the hell kind of Jedi mind trick was that?!

The Interrogator rips the wrapping paper off, unveiling the coveted Ninjago blade cycle. A collective gasp is heard.

Interrogator: Nearly screaming in excitement, “Oh! Oh! It’s just what I always wanted! It’s just right! And I knew Santa would bring it for my 6 birthday because I’m a good boy, Mom, right? Right Mom? Santa bringed this blade cycle for me because I’m such a good boy?”

Me: Struggling not to laugh, “You know what, buddy? You are SUCH a good boy. That’s from Mom and Dad and all of your brothers. Santa’s taking a vacation, and we’re celebrating your birthday.”

Waldorf: One eyebrow cocked, “Um, Interrogator, I need to see that box. For JUST a minute. Please.”

The Interrogator has a death grip on the present he desired most for his birthday. He hugs the box to his chest, takes a deep breath, then hands it over to his oldest brother.

Waldorf’s eyes light up. He smiles. He looks at the picture. He whispers to the Kenyan. The Kenyan’s eyes light up. The Kenyan smiles.

What are they up to?

Waldorf: “OK. Interrogator, we’d like to make a deal.”

Look out. The chief negotiator is on the case.

We listen to Waldorf sell a used car to his younger brother. The Kenyan occasionally chimes in for good measure.

The Interrogator is unsure whether he should accept the offer. He is a hoarder. Not in the way Waldorf hoards items, like aluminum foil hotdog wrappers from school, but a hoarder no less. The Interrogator is famous for taking 8 different Lego characters, all wielding weapons, with him to the bathroom. To pee. It takes him longer to set the Legos up on the windowsill than it does to relieve himself and wash his hands. He has a phobia of his brothers stealing his Legos. We have rescued many a Lego from the toilet as a result. And soaked several in bleach before returning them to his little grabby hands.

But his need for his brothers’ approval surpasses his desire even for his most coveted birthday gift.

Interrogator: “OK, Waldorf. I’ll trade my two new guys for your old guy you’ve been hiding in your closet.”

Waldorf and the Kenyan high five. Waldorf runs past us, averting his evil eyes from our disapproving parental glares.

We’ve just witnessed the perfect illustration of why Eddie wants to live with us. The sway the older brothers posses to manipulate their younger brothers. The pecking order at its best.

Or, from a parents’ perspective, the pecking order at its worst.

B&B and I step out of the room to discuss what’s just transpired.

B&B: Angrily whispering, “This is horse shit. I am going to beat those two morons. I am going to hold them down and beat them. And I’m going to enjoy it. The way they took advantage of that sweet, innocent Interrogator. They deserve a beating.”

Me: Agreeing, “They do indeed. But there’s nothing we can do about it.”

B&B: Feeling challenged, “The hell there isn’t. Watch me. Watch me while I beat them.”

*As an aside, B&B never lays a hand on the kids.  I hand out the beatings.

Kidding.

Me: Shaking my head, “It’s the pecking order. You can’t mess with it. Circle of life and all that shit.”

B&B: “It’s bullshit.”

Me: “Yep. But it’s a rite of passage. Nothing you can do about it. You’re the youngest, you should know. Didn’t your sisters dress you up as a girl and put makeup on you?”

B&B: “Maybe. Probably. I know I watched a lot of daytime soap operas. God, I loved Guiding Light.”

This is life with B&B. One minute, he’s preparing to hold the children down and enjoy beating them. The next, he’s fondly reminiscing about daytime soap operas. He is one of a kind, indeed.  

I remember the pecking order in my nuclear family growing up.  My brother is the oldest, therefore he rode shotgun and dictated the music choices in the car. He also capitalized on his status as oldest sibling in order to bamboozle us out of our very favorite candy during our post-trick-or-treat trading fest at the kitchen table.

Big Brother: Straight faced, “Little Sister, I’ll trade you one of my Charleston Chews for 2 of your Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.”

Oh, that’s junk. Nobody wants a Charleston Chew.

peckpeck

Little Sister: Eager to please Big Brother: “YES! YES! It’s a great trade! Actually, take all 5 of my Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.”

Me: Looking cross-eyed at Little Sister,”Have you lost your mind? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are your favorites. And Charleston Chews are junk. That’s the worst trade of the night.”

Little Sister: Beaming, “No, it’s fine. I want him to have them. All of them.”

I look at Big Brother, who’s smiling like the cat who swallowed the canary. He throws a Maryjane at her for good measure. Then he laughs.

That’s just plain evil. But it’s the pecking order.

I was guilty of abusing it as well…

Me: “I notice you didn’t make your bed this morning, Little Sister.”

Little Sister: Tossing her curls over her tiny shoulder, “What? Oh, yeah. I wanted to play with my dolls. Don’t tell Mom I didn’t make my bed.”

Me: Taking advantage of my poor, innocent younger sibling, “Give me a reason not to tell her, and I won’t.”

Little Sister: Pleading, “I’ll buy you a pack of gum if you don’t tell her. Grape Hubba Bubba. I know that’s your favorite. Please don’t tell?”

I consider her offer. Before I have the chance to accept it, she sweetens the pot…

Little Sister: “And a cherry flavored Laffy Taffy! I know you love those too! I’ll buy you both if you don’t tell Mom I didn’t make my bed.”

Me: “Deal.”

The Pecking Order. The Rite of Passage of Siblings. The Survival of the Fittest.

Eddie wants a taste of it? Heck, what’s another boy in this house. Welcome to the jungle, Eddie.

I sure hope you’re not allergic to dust, my boy.

 

*Special thanks to Maggie, Jaclyn, and Eddie, a family of rock stars, for allowing me to include them in this story. Our school, our community, and our families are richer for the friendship, love, and laughter you’ve brought to them. XOXOXO

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verb: Happily, “Mom, mine belly is too full from eating so much rice.”

The Verb holds the prestigious title of “2nd biggest inventor of bedtime stall tactics” under our roof. 1st prize goes to Waldorf.

Nice try, Verb. I handed you that line. Be more creative next time.

Me: “You’re fine. Your belly isn’t hurting you. You’re just tired. Lay down and go to sleep.”

Interrogator: Worried, “What? Is he gonna throw up? Ewww, I don’t like throw up. It’s stinky.”

Me: “No, Interrogator, he’s not going to throw up. He’s just teasing Mommy. Goodnight, boys. Please stay in your beds, close your eyes, close your mouths, and go to sleep.”

Interrogator: Still concerned, “Mom, what about the throw up, Mom?”

Me: Closing the door, “Goodnight, boys.”

Back downstairs with the older two, I am running out of fuel.

Me: “Guys, we can play one game of Uno or we can read quietly. Which would you like to do?”

Don’t say Uno. Please don’t say Uno. I am so tired, please let’s all just read quietly.

Kenyan & Waldorf: “UNO!”

OK. Beats Monopoly.

Mid-game, I hear the duet of voices that should be asleep beckoning me. I head upstairs to investigate.

Me: “This had better be an emergency, boys.”

Interrogator: “Mom, the Verb doesn’t feel good, Mom. He says his belly is too full from eating so much rice.”

Verb: Smiling and dancing from the waist up, “Yeah, Mom! Mine belly is too full.”

Me: Sternly, “Both of you listen to me. Lay down. Right now. And ZIP IT.”

For the love of Pete.

Waldorf, the Kenyan, and I finish our game of Uno soon after.

Me: “OK, Kenyan, please go upstairs, brush your teeth, and put on your pjs. And Waldorf, please go upstairs, put on your pjs, and brush your teeth. Notice the order of those directions, boys.”

It’s essential to separate them as much as possible as bedtime approaches. To reduce their participation in the game my parents have so appropriately labeled, “grab-ass”.

I assure you it is a metaphorical, not a literal, game. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true.

I am putting away the cards when the Kenyan flies back down the stairs.

Kenyan: Urgently, “Mommy! The Verb is sick! I heard a gagging noise coming from his room, so I opened the door and he was PUKING! It’s EVERYWHERE! And it smells DISGUSTING!”   

Son of a bitch. He called my bluff.

Together, we run upstairs. The waft of vomit hits me at the top of the stairs. I enter the bedroom the Verb shares with the Interrogator. I find the Interrogator, holding his nose and dry heaving on the top bunk.  And my sweet little Verb, on the bottom bunk, sitting upright in bed. He appears lost, and his face and hair are covered in vomit.

Verb: Matter-of-factly, “I throwed up on mine face, Mom.”

boywhocriedwolf

No wonder he’s B&B’s current favorite. I. Could. Eat. Him. When he isn’t covered in puke.

Me: Grabbing towels, “Oh, sweetheart, you did. I’m so sorry! My poor boy, let’s get you cleaned up. Waldorf, please start the bath for the Verb.”

On the top bunk, the Interrogator is clearing his throat every 4 seconds, occasionally mixing it up with the insertion of a dramatic dry heave. I look at him, pointing my finger.

Me: “Don’t even think about it. Pull the covers over your head, and close your eyes. You won’t smell it then. Kenyan, please open a window in here. Scratch that, open both windows. Waldorf? I don’t hear the water running! I need your help, buddy! Group effort here!”

Kenyan: “Um, Mommy, I don’t mean to blame you, but I did hear the Verb telling you that his belly was too full. More than once.  So, I think it may actually be your fault that he puked. All over his covers. And his rug. And his hair. And his face.”

Tattletale.

Verb: “And mine ears. I throwed up in mine ears, Mom.”

Poor baby!

Me: “Kenyan, thank you for your unsolicited opinion. And for opening the windows. And for alerting me to the Verb’s unfortunate predicament. March yourself up to your room please. Your night is over. Waldorf! Why don’t I hear the water running?!”

I step into the hallway to find Waldorf, wearing a mask of guilt. And playing with the cat.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=skDQhCYZRvI

Life with boys=constant redirection on my part. Constant. Every waking minute. Redirecting one or more of them. That includes the adult male who resides with us as well. Who happens not to be home during the current vomit crisis.

I fill the tub, bathe the Verb, strip the sheets, make the bed, lay towels on the new sheets, place the trashcan next to his bed, and struggle to keep the impatience out of my voice while the Interrogator hits me with question after question about vomit. Finally, I tuck the barely conscious Verb into bed, for the 2nd time that night.

Me: Whispering, “I’m sorry, sweet angel. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you about your belly. Goodnight to the little boy who did not cry wolf.”

One would think that I had learned my lesson.

Of course I hadn’t….

So, recently, my Interrogator took a tumble on the playground. A little harder than usual. Typically, he can brush it off and get right back up there. But there were screams, tears, and a refusal to continue play after this fall.

Eh, the Verb’s been waking him up earlier than usual. I bet he’s tired. That’s why he’s crying. And, look, already he’s calming down.

That evening, I tell B&B that the Interrogator fell. And that he is favoring his right arm.

B&B: “Are you giving him attention? He probably likes the attention. I’m sure he’s OK.”

Me: “I don’t disagree with you. Sometimes an injury is the only way to get the floor in this house. But look at how he’s holding it. I think he may be hurt.”

B&B: “Come here, Interrogator. Let Daddy take a look at you.”

Interrogator: “My arm hurts, Dad.”

B&B: “Let’s get this shirt off and have a look.”

With a wince, a gasp, and a sharp intake of breath, we maneuver the Interrogator’s shirt over his head. I shoot concerned eyes at B&B. He mouths the word, “drama”.

Boys #2 and 3 tend to be more dramatic than the average male.  

B&B: “Let your arms go limp like a puppet’s arms. I am going to lift them up. You let them drop when I let go. OK?”

The Interrogator glazes over.  This is not uncommon. B&B proceeds gently to lift the Interrogator’s arms up. Just below shoulder height. He lets go of both arms, which remain, where he left them, exactly below shoulder height.

Interrogator: Dropping his arms to his sides, “Oh. See? I did it, Dad. My arm hurts, Dad.”

B&B: “No, no, no. Let’s try this again. I want your arms to be like Kermit the Frog’s arms. OK? You be Kermit, and I will work your arms. When I let them go, they should drop.”

I watch a repeat performance of what I’d just witnessed 30 seconds ago. The Interrogator doesn’t understand the concept.

Or he doesn’t trust B&B. This could also be the case.

Now, B&B is a bright guy. Sometimes with brilliance comes impatience. He is working very hard to keep the impatience out of his tone while speaking to the potentially wounded Interrogator.  I know he’s working hard, because he increases the volume of his voice. Exponentially.

B&B: “NOW, INTERROGATOR, LISTEN TO ME VERY CLEARLY. I AM GOING TO RAISE YOUR ARMS UP. YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE LIMP ARMS. UNDERSTAND? LIMP. ARMS. WHEN I LET THEM GO, THEY SHOULD FALL TO YOUR SIDES.”

The Interrogator blinks excessively in what I gather is an attempt to reduce the volume of his father’s booming voice. I try it too. Because B&B is essentially screaming in an effort to appear patient.

A large bear enters the room. It is almost my height. I recognize it as the birthday present we gave to the Kenyan last year. The Kenyan peers around from behind the bear. He is waving the arm of the enormous bear.

Kenyan: Waving furiously, “Interrogator, watch how I make his arm move! Let Daddy move your arm like this!”

The Verb enters the room, sees the Interrogator shirtless, and immediately removes his own shirt. He leaves the room for an instant, returning with a smaller stuffed bear. He begins waving his bear’s arm at the Kenyan’s bear.

Me: “B&B, do you think this is really effective? What are you hoping to achieve?”

B&B delivers the death stare.

Suit yourself.

Waldorf walks in the back door. He has been outside playing.

Waldorf: “Why don’t the Interrogator and the Verb have their shirts on? It’s freezing. And why is Daddy yelling? I can hear him all the way outside. What’s with all of the bears? ”

B&B: “Waldorf. Come here. I need you to demonstrate something for me. Let your arms go loose like a puppet’s arms. I am going to lift them up, then let them go. When I let them go, they should fall on their own down to your sides. Ready?”

Waldorf nods. B&B raises his arms up slowly. At shoulder height, B&B releases Waldorf’s arms. Which remain at shoulder height.

Me: “I rest my case. Come on, Interrogator, let’s get your pj’s on.”

B&B is miffed. I watch him raise Waldorf’s arms up to shoulder height again. He will keep Waldorf there for the next hour until he gets it right.

Interrogator: “Mom, my arm hurts, Mom.”

Me: “I know, sweetheart. I gave you some medicine, and I bet you’ll feel much better by tomorrow morning.”

Interrogator: “OK, Mom. I love you, Mom.”

Me: “I love you too, sweet boy.”

The Interrogator favors his arm the entire next day, which he spends in school.

No fever, no vomiting, why keep him home? I e-mailed his teacher. The fact that he had a substitute that day is irrelevant. He told the sub about his arm. Numerous times. If there is one thing I know, it is this.

Two days later, when he is still holding it funny, I know it was time to have it looked at.

Hmmm. Maybe I shouldn’t have let him jump on the trampoline last night. That probably didn’t help much.

So, we hit the doctor. The diagnosis? Broken clavicle. Angulated fracture to be exact. I don’t know what that means. Except that it’s worse than B&B’s break was when he sledded into that twig last year.

So, maybe my kids aren’t big, fat liars.

Or, maybe I’m just a lousy Mom who dismisses her kids’ complaints too quickly.

But, I’ve only gotten it wrong with two of my kids. Don’t forget, I have two more kids. Which means I get it right 50% of the time.

Just like Mr. Dreamy predicted.

Well….sorta….kinda…right?

My Husband Lost his Mind Once

Sometimes I get frustrated because B&B can’t read my mind. I don’t truly think he should be able to read my mind. Not the obscure things like my silk sleeveless blouse has been at the cleaner’s for 6 months. But there are certain…more obvious…things I think go without saying.

B&B: “I have to tell you, I am so ffff…I am so angry that I can’t get this MMA event on network TV!”

Me: Attempting to remove the sarcasm from my voice, “Oh, I feel terrible for you…for US, that we can’t stay up until 1AM and watch those cage fights together.”

I keep my eyebrows high, and I smile and nod…not in agreement, but in a congratulatory manner. He just tripped on a curse. And caught himself before using the F word in front of all of our eavesdropping offspring. This is good because school (and most of society) frown on a 3 year old peppering his learning of the ABC’s with f bombs.

Verb: “H, I, J, K, L and M and P. Ah, fuck, I forgot the N. Huh? And the O? Let’s take it from the top, OK?”

This is hypothetical. To my knowledge, it hasn’t happened. Yet. 

We recently had one of those moments. A bad one. A failure to communicate? Doubtful. An unspoken understanding between parents? Probable. B&B feels I should have explicitly communicated my thoughts…and I feel this is a case in which his common sense should have dusted itself off and come out for a cameo.

But maybe I’m overreacting.

B&B is a busy guy. Busy hands, busy thoughts. Relaxing doesn’t come easily to him. There is always some project he has going on around the house, which is good because he likes to stay busy. He mutters around the house on the weekends….“I need to rewire this…I need to replace the valve on that…I need to replace that toilet, I’ve been meaning to do that. I need to get on the picnic table, then get on the ladder to trim those cypresses…I need to track down my sawzall. Do you know who borrowed my sawzall, Beth?” Busy, busy. Meanwhile, I just nod in agreement and stay out of his way.

Oh, and I make sure his life insurance payments are made on time.

This busy-ness is fine with me because he likes his projects. Keeps his mind sharp. This is not fine with the kids because they want B&B to play with them. All weekend long. Particularly Waldorf. That boy loves his Daddy. Pure worship. B&B forgets sometimes that he has 4 little men who watch and imitate his every move. So, when the holidays were approaching, and the time had rolled around for the annual hanging of the lights, I pulled B&B aside…

B&B: Anxious, “What, am I in trouble? What did I do? You’re not going out today, are you? Don’t leave me alone with these idiots. I have things I need to do. And I’m on a roll here, so let me get to it.”

Me: Shaking my head, “No, you’re not in trouble. No, I’m not going anywhere today. I was just going to suggest that you invite Waldorf outside to do the lights with you. He needs some Dad time. I know you could do it faster working alone, but he’ll feel like a superstar if you allow him to help you.”

B&B: Pensive, “What should I have him do?”

B&B likes to give our house the “Boathouse Row” treatment, trimming the entire house in white lights. It’s quite a process. It involves a great deal of climbing, walking on the roof (in B&B’s case, it’s never walking, it’s always upright jogging, all 6’2 of him), hundreds of clips, at least 20 strands of lights, more cursing than I’ve heard since watching Eddie Murphy Raw. And…wait for it…the handmade map. The coveted map. He misplaces the map each year and is forced to make a new one. Every year, after having been on the roof for the better part of 6 hours, he storms back inside, blaming 4 of those hours on rewriting this year’s map. Last year, I had a moment of genius, and stored the map with the indoor holiday decorations. My territory. It took me 90 seconds to bring it down from the attic.

Me: Animated, “You could have him read off the map to you!”

B&B: Excited, “Good call. Waldorf! Hat, coat, gloves, shoes! Daddy needs your help!”

One down, three to entertain. Waldorf will be thrilled, and I’ll make cookies with these guys. I will get to the laundry in a month or so….

Two hours later, cookies are cooling and lunch is sitting on the table, waiting to be eaten. I head outside to let the elves know that it’s lunchtime.

Me: “Waldorf? Lunch time!”

Nothing. I see a ladder. With no 10 year old at the bottom of it. I walk around the house one way. Another ladder. Without a 10 year old at the bottom of it. I walk around the house the other way. Nothing.

Waldorf must be in the bathroom, I just didn’t hear him pass me in the kitchen.

I head back inside, check the bathrooms. No Waldorf.

Me: “Guys? Have you seen Waldorf? Is he in here?”

Kenyan: “I don’t know.”

Interrogator: “What, Mom?”

Verb: “WALDORF!!! He’s not in here, Mom.”

Hmmm.

I close my eyes, listening. I hear two voices. Two sets of feet.

Nope. No way. There is no way.

I head back outside, a little more urgently.

I married a smart man. A man with a genius IQ.

Sounds like the voices are coming from the roof. Along with the footsteps. One heavy pair, one light pair.

I refuse to believe it. Because there’s no way it’s true. 

I look up. Above the door. Above the windows. Above the gutters. All the way up. It hurts my neck to look so high.

My first born son is sitting on the roof, next to B&B, waving to me.

Jesus Christ algoddamnmighty. The father of our child invited our baby up on the roof with him.

This time, I am going to kill him. For real. 

Now if there is one thing I know, it’s the value of NOT giving B&B a come to Jesus in front of the kids. It doesn’t help anyone. They don’t need to see their father emasculated and their Mom’s little bit of crazy rear its ugly head. Of equal importance is telling B&B in very  clear (albeit whispered) words that I am not at all comfortable with his allowing our child on the roof of our house. These are the words I, mistakenly, thought went without saying. The unspoken understanding.

Apparently, with Boathouse Row on the docket, all bets are off.

So I stand directly below them in the event that I have to be a human shield for my falling child.

And I try desperately to make eye contact with B&B, I from the ground, he on the roof.

Me: With my eyes, “I am going to kill you. Can you read my eyes? These are the eyes of the person who is going to kill you. Take a good look at them.”

But his Lasik procedure has gone bad, and he’s not wearing his new glasses. So I know he can’t see my threatening eye signals.

Instead I am forced to use my voice, minus its hysterical pitch, to beckon them from the roof.

Me: “Guys! Lunch is ready! Come down very carefully, please! Today is not a good day to go to the hospital!”

A quick aside, many of my conversations with my children and B&B end with “today is not a good day to go to the hospital!” I toss it around frequently and casually, the way that others remark, “See you tomorrow!” But it’s warranted. Every time.

Waldorf completely ignores the ladder. Hangs from the lowest section of the roof, then lets his hands go, landing squarely on his feet. Which are now the same size as mine. My oldest boy is lit up from the inside out. True happiness. Unadulterated joy at working alongside the man he reveres most on this earth. B&B is equally thrilled. The annual map making-induced stress is nonexistent. He has found a willing helper in our oldest son.

B&B: “I’ll tell you, this guy is a great helper! I’m actually having fun up there this year!”

The two of them are engaged in back slapping, high fiving, butt slapping, chest pounding, farting. The works.

Me: “Waldorf, your soup is inside, go ahead in and eat it. I want to show Daddy something on the side of the house.”

B&B’s face lights up. He has been working hard all morning. Also spending quality time with Waldorf. Papa thinks he’s getting paid.

B&B: “You want to show me something, huh?” Eyebrows raised.

You’ve lost your brilliant mind, big guy.

I level him with my eyes.

B&B: Face falling, “Uh oh. 30 seconds ago, I was 80% sure I was getting lucky. Now I’m 75% sure I’m in trouble. But I don’t know what I did.” (a little homage to Modern Family here..thank you, Phil, for this ridiculous line that we use so frequently now in our home)

minderaser

Me: Speaking quietly, yet venomously,“He was on the roof. With you. And you were aware that he was on the roof. Yet, you did not order him immediately and carefully off the roof. Please explain this to me in language that I can understand.”

I cross my arms.

B&B: “It was your idea that he help me with the map!”

Me: “From. The. Ground.”

Numbskull.

Silence. Arm crossing.

B&B: “I shouldn’t have let him on the roof?”

Now your brain is working.

Silence. More arm crossing.

B&B: “Alright. I probably shouldn’t have let him on the roof.”

Let the common sense wash over you. It’s nice, isn’t it? Push that crazy out. 

Silence. Slightly less arm crossing.

B&B: “You’re right. I shouldn’t have let him on the roof.”

OK, I’ve tortured him enough.

Official end of arm crossing.

Me: “Thank you. Come on inside, your soup is ready too.”

B&B: Relieved he’s been forgiven, “Are you sure you don’t want to show me something on the side of the house?”  Eyebrows raised again.

I smile and shake my head. Confident that this is one of those times my husband cannot read my mind.

Don’t hold your breath. Dumbass.

Safety Dance

I drive my kids to and from school. Every day. They could take the bus. It would pick them up 3 houses away, right at the end of our street. Still…I drive them.

I have eight child-free daylight hours a week. That’s not a lot. Because I’ve been doing this stay-at-home Mom thing for a decade. I’d like some more child-free time than that.  Still…I drive them.

The Kenyan asks regularly to ride the bus. The Interrogator begs frequently to ride the bus. Still…I drive them.

Sometimes their behavior during those car rides to and from school threatens my sanity. And this is a dangerous thing.

For everyone in my house.

Me: Frustrated, venting to Mom, “The kids are making me nuts on the drive to and from school. I mean really nuts. I had to change their seats around in the car like their teachers do in school.”

Mom: Frowning, “I don’t know why you don’t put those boys on the bus. The cost of gas alone should make you put them on the bus.”

Me: “I like to have that time with them. I always hope to connect with them. And, I don’t know if my sweet Interrogator is ready for the bus. Waldorf and the Kenyan may not realize they need to protect him if one of the other kids teases him. And, Mom, there are high school kids on the bus! I don’t want my five year old on the bus with kids who may expose him to things I’m not ready for him to hear yet.”

Mom: “They’ll be fine. It’s not that far a bus ride. I put you kids on the bus.”

Me: Now it’s my turn to frown, “Oh, I remember. And we hated it.”

Mom: “Well, the bunch of you drove me crazy in the car.”

Try four boys in your car instead of one boy. It puts the C in crazy.

Me: Quietly, “At least I can control them in the car. On the bus, I lose all control.”

Mom: Finally agreeing, “Hmm…you make a good point.”

We look at each other and, without a word, understand perfectly what the other is thinking.

The real reason I’m not putting my kids on the bus isn’t because I want more time with them. Christ, I am looking for time away from them. And it isn’t because I am afraid for the Interrogator. He charms everyone he meets. The real reason is the last I mentioned. The control issue.

The real reason I won’t put my kids on the bus?

Derek Bennis.

That’s right. Derek. Bennis.

Growing up, Derek Bennis was my next door neighbor. He and I were in the same class at the same elementary school. They don’t come any cuter than Derek. He was the baby to two older sisters.  A smart kid. A great hockey player. A shameless flirt.

Derek and I. Circa 7th grade. I appear to be mauling him, but I assure you we were only friends.

And when we stepped onto the bus every day, he was a complete madman.

Derek was the embodiment of fun on the bus. A bus driver’s worst nightmare. He headed straight for the back seat. Especially on the big bus. The farthest possible spot from the driver. A bus veteran, he prepared everyone around him for the upcoming hills so that we could catch air. And the bumps? Derek created a signature bounce/jump combo so that his blond hair would brush the ceiling of the bus upon contact with the bump. His seat choice positioned him perfectly to signal the truck drivers behind our bus to blow their horns…and they delivered every time.

On this bus, my brother was the male antithesis of Derek. He was all business. He chose a seat in the middle of the bus. Proudly donning his flourescent orange safety badge over his Member’s Only jacket. Unrolling his aluminum foil pouch with care and precision to extract a cinnamon stick on which to chew. Scanning his head from left to right for any violation of bus safety code. Rising from his seat only to call others on their violations. Using a stern voice and an effective point of his finger to remind them they were under his supervision. The bus cop.

safetydance

*As an aside, I must call the reader’s attention to the importance of birth order at this point. My brother is the only boy in our family. And he is the first born. Derek is also the only boy in his family. But he is the last born. Their behaviors on the bus are, in my opinion, very tied into their places in their nuclear families.

Deep thoughts…from a Food Marketing major.

One day on the bus, I sit close to my sister, discussing pressing topics for 8 and 10 year old girls…

Me: Excited,“I really hope I get a Barbie convertible for my birthday.”

Little Sister: Animated, “Oh, that would be perfect! Then we could drive both our Barbie’s to my Barbie McDonald’s in your Barbie convertible!”

Me: Nodding, “I know. It would be excellent. Please tell Mom I really really want a Barbie convertible.”

Our conversation is interrupted by my older brother’s running past us toward the back of the bus.

Oh dear. He never runs on the bus.

Little Sister: Worried, “Uh oh. He never runs on the bus. That’s a violation of bus safety.”

Me: Nodding, “I know. I wonder what’s going on.”

We turn our heads to see the catalyst for his swift passing…

Older Brother: Pointing his finger furiously and using his sternest voice, “Hey…HEY! What the heck?! Pull your pants up! Right now! Pull your pants up and sit down in your seat!”

Little Sister and I look at each other, eyes wide. We both know immediately.

We whisper in unison: “Derek Bennis.”

The mischievous young Derek had gotten carried away with his back of the bus audience. And he had dropped trough and mooned the car behind our bus.

Harmless. Hilarious. Intended to be funny. In no way intended to hurt or offend anyone else.

But, that’s a big no-no on the bus, even 25 years ago. OK, fine, 28 years ago. So, Derek got into a little bit of trouble with the school, the bus driver, and his parents. I believe there were even some apology letters written to the car behind us included in his punishment.

When I think about putting my kids on the bus for the ride to and from school, I don’t worry about their exposure to a Derek Bennis. No, no, no, it’s much worse than that.

I worry that each and every one of my sons IS Derek Bennis. Which is a wonderful thing. Except when it comes to the school bus.

A little cajoling from the kids in the seats surrounding them, and BOOM, off come the pants. Times four.

My hands are full enough. I don’t need that shit on top of everything else I’m juggling.

So, I drive them to and from school. Every day.

Some days are fun…

Me: Glancing in the rearview mirror, “Waldorf, we need to discuss a solution to a problem I am having.”

Waldorf: “What’s that?”

Me: “Severus Snape is playing with the cords by the computer.”

*Severus Snape is one of our two cats. Fawkes is the other cat. Yes, both names are an ode to the Harry Potter characters.*

Waldorf: “Uh huh. So?”

Me: “So, that’s not good.”

Waldorf: “OK, we’ll figure something out.”

Interrogator: Brow furrowed, “Mom, why’s that not good, Mom?”

Me: “Well, Interrogator, if Severus bites through the cords we could lose all of our important information on our computer. Emails, pictures, everything.”

Kenyan: Eyes wide, “Or, worse, Severus could get electrocuted!”

Me: “That’s right. And I have enough to do already. I don’t really want to clean up fried cat off the carpet.”

3…2…1…and…

Waldorf: Shocked, “Mommy! That’s terrible! Don’t ever speak that way about Severus!”

Kenyan:  Horrified, “Mommy, how could you?! He’s our cat! That’s just mean!”

Verb: Confused, “Huh? Fried what?”

Me: “Fried cat, Verb. An electrocuted cat is a fried cat.”

I know I shouldn’t tease them, but sometimes it’s so fun. 

Interrogator: Worried, “Oh no, Mom! Mom? Is there an…an ELECTRICAL EEL by our computer, Mom? Is he going to electrocute Severus, our cat? Aw, I don’t want an eel to electrocute Severus! I love Severus! I don’t want him to die, Mom!”

Straight face, Bethany.

Me: “No, buddy. No electrical eels are living by the computer wires. Just the computer wires themselves.”

Interrogator: Looking at the Verb, “Phew, that’s a relief. I don’t like electrical eels, Verb. They scare me.”

Verb: Heroically, to the Interrogator: “Don’t worry, I’ll get that bad guy electrical eel in our computer!”

Interrogator: To the Verb, “Thanks, Verb. You’re my best friend.” Then to me, “Mom, when Severus gets electrocuted, I want a hamster. OK, Mom?”

This is a good day to drive my kids home from school.

And, some days are not so fun…

On the drive to school, we listen to Kenny Curtis and Animal Farm on Kids’ Place Live Satellite Radio. It’s palatable for a children’s station. Meaning it doesn’t make my ears bleed.

We are almost at school one morning, and Kenny Curtis is rattling off the birthdays.

Kenny: “And, happy birthday to Martin, who’ll be 4 years old today!”

Verb: “Huh? Martin? I have a Martin at mine school!”

Me: “You do?”

He’s so smart, this little man. He doesn’t miss a trick.

Verb: “Mm hmm. And, Interrogator, sometimes I call Martin…Tartin!”

Oh, that’s not nice.

Me: “Verb, I don’t think you should call Martin Tartin. That’s teasing. You don’t like it when your brothers tease you. Don’t tease Martin please.”

He’s not listening. He and the Interrogator are laughing at Martin Tartin.

Martin, tartin, sartin, lartin, cartin, dartin….uh oh. I know what Martin rhymes with…

I look in the rear view mirror, making eye contact with Waldorf. I make my eyes very wide and begin shaking my head, almost imperceptibly, but enough for him to notice.

Message received.

I look at the Kenyan. I see only the top of his winter hat. He is engrossed in a Diary of a Wimpy Kid book. Which means he’s completely cut off from the conversation, the car ride, and the entire world in general.

Phew. Bullet dodged.

We pull into the school driveway.

Me: “Gentlemen, have a great day! Interrogator, please remember to take your library books out of your back pack and into your classroom, it’s Day 5, so you have library today. Kenyan, good luck on your spelling test. Waldorf, nice work on your science invention. Give me a quick kiss before you get out, guys…”

Kiss from Waldorf and he jumps out. Kiss from the Kenyan and he jumps out. Kiss from the Interrogator and, right before he jumps out, he turns to the Verb.

OMG that sweet boy is going to tell the Verb “I love you.” I love him so much I want to eat him.

Interrogator: Smiling, “Verb, you know what else rhymes with Martin?”

Verb: Smiling back, “What, Interrogator? What rhymes with Martin?”

Oh, crap.

Interrogator: Laughing, “Fartin rhymes with Martin!”

Out he jumps, and off he runs, hysterical laughter trailing behind him.

Verb: “Fartin? Fartin! Ha-ha!! Mommy, Martin Fartin! Martin Fartin! Martin Tartin Fartin!”

Good grief, Charlie Brown.

Now I’m going to have to talk to the Verb’s pre-school teacher. Give her a head’s up about this new nickname for poor, unsuspecting, 3 year old Martin.

So, for the foreseeable future, I will drive my boys to and from school. Every day. And my four little Derek Bennis’ will be stuck with me. And I will be stuck with Kenny Curtis and the Animal Farm.

With some luck, we’ll all stay sane enough to keep our pants on.

 

*A special thank you to my old neighbor, Derek Bennis, for allowing me to use his name and picture in this post. My bus rides home would have been so boring without you, old friend.

 

Step Right Up

I typically post about my life with my own kids. Today’s post isn’t a story about my 4 clowns; but, it is indeed a mother’s story.

I have a close friend, Avé, who is one of the funniest people I know.

Fact: Only very fun people wear fuzzy Viking helmets

And she is a Mom. An extraordinary Mom. And her daughter has cystic fibrosis.  Ave’s daughter is 8 years old. And strong, and sweet, and pretty and happy. And brave. Avé faces her daughter’s CF with dignity and determination.

At the end of the day, it sucks. Because there’s still no cure.

What do you do when your friend needs your help?

You hope. You hope for a cure. You hope that, with all of the brilliant people on this earth today, just one of them is able, in this little girl’s lifetime, to design the right drug. You hope for a happy ending to her story.

And when you feel like hoping isn’t quite enough…what do you do then?

Well…you climb.

This is last year’s account of the 24th Annual Wawa Climb for a Cure in which Avé and I participated. I sent this to my family and friends who generously donated to our climb….it is followed by this year’s account of our climb…

Dear Family and Friends,

This morning was the Climb for Cystic Fibrosis to which you all generously donated.  I wanted to thank you so much for your support in this event. We climbed the 53 floors of the Mellon Bank Center for a grand total of 1,019 steps to raise money for a cure for CF.

It was HARD! Much harder than I realized it would be. Yesterday I went to the track and ran the bleachers to wake my legs up for today’s climb. I ran 200 steps, 2 at a time in under 5 minutes. And I felt great. I came home and told B&B my strategy for the race was to take the steps 2 at a time until my legs could no longer handle it. In my mind, I hoped that would be around step 800.

So, this morning we lined up in the foyer of the Mellon Bank Center, clad in workout gear. And freezing our tails off from the wind coming out of the open stairwell door. We went up one at a time, in 20 second intervals. I was nervous at the start because I was towards the front and did not want to get passed.  Naturally, I threatened my teammates that I would imprint my shoe on their faces if they attempted to pass me on the stairwell.

At 9:21 AM, I got the sign to go. So up I went. I hit the stairs 2 at a time, according to plan. A few times I stretched it to 3 steps at a time. I was flying! My strategy was working! Maybe I would win for my age group!

Until I hit the wall. At floor 5. Of 53.  I kid you not, my legs were shaking like Santa’s belly and I was sucking wind before I hit 100 steps. I literally said aloud in the stairwell, “OK, now I am going to walk.” It was a slight jolt to my confidence after yesterday’s test run on the bleachers. I figured I would walk the steps until I got my breathing under control and my heart rate down a little.  And then I heard the plodding of someone’s feet coming closer! Oh NO! I was going to get passed! AHHHHH! Was it one of my teammates? Would I have to make good on my threat? Was it the guy in the gray bike shorts who should never have worn those bike shorts? Would I see even more of him than I already had? Please tell me it wasn’t the 80 year old shirtless man in the hot pink running shorts?! I willed my legs to go faster, faster, TAKE THE STEPS TWO AT A TIME BEFORE SOMEONE PASSES YOU!!!! But they didn’t listen. Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot. Holding onto the railing for dear life. And asking the young girls in sorority sweatshirts at every 3rd floor, “How many floors is this building?” And trying to ignore the shocked looks on their faces when I let out a slew of expletives every time they answered “53! You’re almost there!”

53 bloody floors. Sweet Jesus Almighty, it was horrific. I said that aloud as well. “This is horrific. This was a horrible idea.” I would like to say I thought of Avé’s daughter, who lives with CF, in order to give me the strength to continue up those steps. I didn’t. I just kept thinking, “Get me off of these godforsaken steps, this is a nightmare.”

So, I didn’t take the steps 2 at a time for 80% of the climb.  And I did indeed get passed by a guy younger than I was, so I was fairly certain he hadn’t given birth 4 times. I almost said that to him, but opted instead to tell him, “Be my guest, you young whipper snapper”. And I was never able to muster up the energy to attack the steps 2 at a time again. Absolutely impossible for me.

But I was able, with the help of all of you, to raise $ for a wonderful cause!!! I am humbled by everyone’s kind words and generosity. Truly.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And now, I am going to sit down and put my tired feet up:>)

XO,

Bethany

 

So that was last year. This year…I got smart.

I am a runner, but my poor feet have been angry at me for the better part of this past year. It could be from the constant, repetitive pounding of my gait. It could be from the cumulative 200+ pounds I’ve gained and lost in 50-60 pound increments in a 7 year time frame. Goddamn kids. Regardless of the reason, I’ve committed to listening to my poor piggy toes. They need to cart my ass around for the next 50 years, and I think I owe them some respect. So I’ve scaled my running miles way back. And gotten jiggy with the strength training.

TRX.

My favorite 3 letters. I fear them. I love them. It’s a suspension system designed by a Navy SEAL. It’s portable. It’s horrific. My friends are tired of hearing me talk about it. I take a TRX class at my local YMCA. My trainer knows everyone’s name in the class but mine. B&B thinks this a game the trainer plays because he secretly thinks I’m cute. I explain to B&B that I smell like a bad hoagie during class, I am not at all cute when I exercise, and my trainer is approximately 12 years old. No game. He really doesn’t know my name. But it’s still nice to be married to a guy who sees me as the 20 year old with the bodacious tatas. Because I am far from 20. And there is no longer anything bodacious about said tatas.

Steprightup

In addition to the mother of all strength training workouts, I’ve cozied up to the good old fashioned stairmaster. I figure a good way to train for climbing stairs is in fact…wait for it…to climb stairs. That particular style of machine is always available. It’s not fun. And few people are training for this horrific climb, this is clear.  

Finally, I’ve added some more bleacher climbs into my training program. No fun. Hard workout, short time period. But effective, I hope, in achieving my goal.

What is my goal? It’s the same goal I have for every race I run. Or in this case, every staircase I climb. It’s a stupid, unrealistic goal, but it’s the same every time.

I want to PR (set a personal record). Preferably without spending the rest of the day on the shitter. Which is typically how my day winds up post-race.

So, here is this year’s account of our stair climb extravaganza…

Dear Friends and Family,

Sunday, I participated in Wawa’s 25th annual Cystic Fibrosis Climb for Life. Thank you all so very much for your support. Every dollar that you donated gives hope to people with CF (and their families) that a cure will be found. Fundraising is not among my favorite activities; but, I found myself humbled by the outpouring of donations and encouragement from this amazing community of people I’m fortunate enough to call friends.

Avé and I have participated in this climb two years in a row. Just like last year, we met halfway between our houses and drove into the city together. During last year’s drive, we laughed, we listened to music, we joked about how fun the climb would be.  This year year’s drive had an entirely different temperature. We sweated. We strategized. We swore. Well, I swore, Avé doesn’t swear.

Avé: “This is very important. Are you listening? No sprinting up the stairs at the start this year.”

Me: “OK. No sprinting. Got it. Do we sprint at all? Save the sprint?”

Avé: “See how you feel. But don’t sprint at the start. You’ll be out of juice for the finish.”

Me: “Right. Is it hot in here? I’m sweating. Are you sweating? It’s hot in here.”

I am going to vomit. Why did I sign up for this stupid climb?!

Avé: “I don’t know why we’re doing this stupid climb. I hate this thing. HATE IT!”

Me: “That makes two of us, sister. But we’re raising money for your girl.”

Avé: “Right. We are. We are raising money for a cure for CF. But we are NOT sprinting at the start.”

Me: “Right. Got it. Yes. No sprinting at the start.”

We arrive in Philly, park in the first garage we find (mistake…it was the wrong garage and they raped us with parking fees), and snap what is now the annual picture of the Mellon Bank Center.

53 floors and 1019 steps of sheer torture

Me: Nervous, “Dammit. The building doesn’t look like it’s shrunk since last year.”

Avé: Agreeing, “Not even half a flight.”

We enter the building and immediately see my brother, who’s there to support his wife (my sister-in-law), who, along with a friend of hers, has joined our fundraising team this year.  Go, Rachel’s Rebels!! My two young nieces are there as well. It’s an early February morning, and we’d all rather be at home in our pajamas. But my brother and his girls have made the trip to support my sister-in-law and her friend in their efforts to raise money and awareness for a cure for this disease.

Hope.

We check in and get our black Velcro bands (our timing devices), which we immediately strap to our wrists. Attaching that band to my wrist brought back poignant memories of last year’s climb. I’ve trained a great deal and raced a decent amount in the past eight years (taking time off while I was pregnant with the last two of my four sons). I’m strong and fit, and some days I’m even fast. But last year’s climb remains the hardest physical thing I’ve ever done.

I am going to vomit. Everywhere. Goddamn these stupid stairs.

We mill around. We stash our bags. We discuss our strategy.

Me: “Are you going for two stairs at a time or one?”

Avé: “Well, I timed myself during training. I am significantly faster when I go two at a time. And by significantly faster, I’m talking 20 seconds faster.”

Me: “Ugh. Two at a time is tough on the quads. I don’t know if I can pull that off.”

Avé: “Yes, but we’re going for time, right? Faster to go two at a time.”

Our strategy session is interrupted by a college student, holding a video camera and a microphone.

College student: “Hi! Do you mind if I interview you for Temple University?”

Avé: “No problem. Who’s going to see this?”

She’s a smart one, Avé is. I would never think to ask who’s going to see it.

College student: “Just my class. What’s your name and how old are you?”

Avé: “My name is Avé. Accent on the E. I am 38 years old.”

College Student: “And what brought you down here today?”

Avé: “My 8 year old daughter has cystic fibrosis. I’m here today to raise money for a cure for this disease.”

I have to turn away. Because it’s going to happen any second…I can feel it.

Don’t cry, Bethany.

The brevity of the cause we’re climbing for snaps me back to reality. I have an 8 year old. He doesn’t have CF. Avé has an 8 year old who does. I am here with my amazing friend who needs support…emotional and financial…to find a cure for CF in her daughter’s lifetime.

Hope.

Stop your moaning, Bethany.  And climb the steps.

It’s getting close to start time. We find a corner and warm up. My sister-in-law and her friend will be climbing on a different stairwell. Ours is a timed climb, theirs is not. We wish one another well, and line up with the rest of the lunatics who’ve opted to race.

It’s cold in the lobby, but we know it gets hot in the stairwell. Yes, from our exertion, but specifically, on level 43 it gets excessively hot. (Building maintenance should look into that. Why is it so hot on floors 43 and higher?)  I wear a tank top and ¾ length running tights. And black gloves. I am well aware that I look like a fool, but there’s a method to my madness. My hands start out cold, but get sweaty quickly. So, I wear running gloves to keep my hands warm. And they have skid-proof palms so that I can make the best use of the railings on either side of the stairs. I have my iPod this year so that I can listen to music while I climb instead of the sound of my own labored breathing. And footsteps.

Behind us, a guy and girl are talking. We turn to smile at them. He climbed last year as well. He tells us his wife has CF.

Avé: “How long have you been married?”

Nice Guy: “5 years.”

Avé: “And how old is your wife?”

Nice Guy: Smiling, “She’s almost 30. We’re going to have a big party for her 30th. It’s a milestone.”

Avé: Smiling too, “Yes, it is.”

30 is a milestone for all of us. But, for someone living with CF, it’s an entirely different milestone.

Hope.

There are at least 20 people in line ahead of us. The man directly in front of me is wearing extremely bright salmon colored shorts. They are very short. He is shirtless. He is also easily 80 years old. We remember him well from last year. Someone from the CF foundation approaches him, thanks him for his many years of support, and takes a picture of him.

Hope.

I put my headphones in. Choose a song that’s five minutes in length, hoping that I’ll be about halfway finished climbing by the song’s end.

I look at Avé. Her lips are moving. I think she’s talking to me. I remove my headphones.

Me: “What’s that?”

Avé: “I said no sprinting at the start. Remember…no sprinting at the start.”

I nod my head as I put my headphones back on. Knowing full well I am going to attack the start. My adrenaline has me poised to explode.

Race day nerves are good for something.

Old man goes up. I’ve got 20 seconds to look at that stairwell before it’s my turn. I hit play on my iPod and let the music get me pumped. Scan my wristband on the timer, hear the beep of the clock starting, and I launch into the stairwell.

“GO, BETHANY!” The only thing I hear over my loud music is the voice of my big brother. I smile.

Three flights up, taking the steps two at a time, I’m on top of the old man with the salmon shorts. As I pass him, I reach out, touch his arm, and smile.

Me: “You’re an inspiration.”

Old man: Smiling, “Thank you, young lady.”

I love when people call me “young lady”. Not so much when they call me “ma’am”.

The first 6 flights I am able to hit every other step while pumping my arms. By flight 7, it’s time to rely on my arms for some assistance. I grab both railings and begin pulling myself, while continuing to take the steps two at a time.

Avé says it’s significantly faster to go two steps at a time. For the love of God, please let those TRX classes have strengthened my quads enough to maintain this pace for the next…how many?…ugh, for the next 47 floors.

Step and pull, step and pull, step and pull, step and pull…

Will you look at that…

Me: “On your left…”

I smile at the 40 something guy as I pass him. He smiles back. We both raise our eyebrows and shake our heads.

This is madness, but we signed up for it.

Step and pull, step and pull, step and pull, step and pull…

Me: “On your left…”

I smile at the 30 something guy as I pass him. He doesn’t smile back.

Yep. I’m a girl. Sorry.

Step and pull, step and pull, step and pull, step and pull…

Me: “On your left…”

I attempt a smile at the 40 something guy as I pass him. But my adrenaline kick is over, and the reality of the remaining 33 floors I’m still facing dampens what remains of my cheery mood. I look at him. He looks at me.

Me: “Wow, this sucks.”

He nods his agreement.

I manage to continue the formula that Avé prescribed…taking two steps at a time. But it gets increasingly difficult as my legs fatigue and my throat feels as if I’ve swallowed a sharp razor blade. Scratch that…a handful of sharp razor blades. The higher we climb, the worse the air quality. The stairwell is dusty. And it adjoins floors whose windows have never once been opened to allow in fresh air.

I am literally gasping for breath.

Level 43.

Jesus God Almighty, who turned the heat on full blast up here?

I see something out of the corner of my eye. Striped shirt coming up the steps with purpose. It’s the chick who was behind Avé at the start. She’s come to hand me my ass. I move to the side to allow her to pass me.

Me: “Awesome job, keep at it.”

Her legs are up to my ears.

I continue to climb higher, trying to maintain my momentum, fighting desperately to ward off the little voice in my head who’s urging me to quit.

It wasn’t this hard last year. I trained for this. I’m stronger. Why does it feel harder this year?

I break stride and take one stairwell one step at a time. I need to give my arms a break so that I can claw at the outside of my throat.

Level 47. Finish this. Two at a time.  

I grab the railings and resume my step and pull, step and pull, step and pull.

Me: Whispering, “On your left.”

No glances. No smiles. I am focused only on my completion of this nightmare.

Level 53.

I look blankly at the random stranger standing at level 53.

I can’t talk. Please tell me I’m finished. Please, please, please, please.

Random stranger: Pointing into the adjoining office space, “You’re done! Great job! Get in there and scan your timer!”

I step out of the stairwell, turn to my left and start walking, holding my left arm up to be scanned.

“WRONG WAY!! TURN THE OTHER WAY!”

I claw at my throat, unable to speak aloud the words over the pain I’m feeling. I turn once, twice, a third time, mouthing, “WHERE?” holding my arm up and pointing at my wrist.

Me:  Barely whispering, “WHERE?!”

“Right here! Quickly! Scan it!”

I cover the 5 yards as quickly as my legs will allow.

BEEP!

And I’m done. I look at the clock and know I’ve beat last year’s time. But I hurt too much to celebrate.

I stand at the top of the stairway, waiting for Avé. I want to yell into the stairwell to encourage her, but I have no voice. I motion to the stranger next to me, signaling that I need a sip of her water. She hands it immediately over. I gulp and immediately gag, spraying water all over myself and the cubicle next to me.

Oops. Sorry, innocent owner of that cube.

I try out my voice…

Me: Clapping, “GO, Avé! Finish it out!”

I see the top of her head. She finishes out the last flight strong. I stand by the doorway, prepared to usher her towards the clock and the official finish. She finds it just fine on her own.

She hasn’t seen me yet. She’s just trying to breathe.

My throat hurts so much. More than last year. I can’t do this again.

I wander down a hallway, searching for water for both of us. Avé sees me, and we both take our waters and look for a quiet spot to recover. It takes a several minutes to get our breathing under control. At which time we address our thirsts.

Me: Shaking my head, “They need to find a cure. This year. It has to be this year. Because I cannot do this horrible event again next year.”

Avé nods her agreement.

The nice guy whose 29 year old wife has CF rounds the corner, sees us, and smiles.

Nice Guy: “I forgot about how much it hurts my throat.”

We silently nod in agreement.

Nice Guy: “I think it hurt worst last year.”

I think you’ve lost your marbles, Nice Guy.

We get in line for the elevator. Just like last year, there is a wait. And, like last year, it’s eerily quiet on the ride back down to the lobby.

We stay for the Survivor Party, eating oranges and resting our legs. Screaming over the loud music to hear each other.

My throat is on fire.

Before we leave, we check the finish times, posted on a wall. I scan for my name….

Bethany Meyer 10:40

Son of a bitch. That Avé is indeed a smart one.

I’d finished exactly 20 seconds faster than last year. Just as Avé had predicted when she recommended I take the steps two at a time.

We walk towards the exit of the Mellon Bank Center.

Avé: “Thank you for doing this with me. For the second year. And I say it now, I WILL NOT DO THIS EVER AGAIN!”

Her voice is loud enough that a young guy turns his head and looks at us both.

Avé: Pointing at the strange guy, “And HE is my witness! I WILL NOT DO THIS! EVER AGAIN!”

I laugh.

I love this wacky broad.

Avé: “Well, I don’t feel like I ever need to do this again. But, check back with me in 6 months.”

Hope.

Just last month, the FDA approved a drug that treats the underlying cause of one strain of cystic fibrosis.

Hope.

One of the parents from our school community who generously donated sent me an email last week. She said her college roommate has CF. And that roommate just celebrated her 41st birthday.

Hope.

I hope for a cure for cystic fibrosis. For Avé’s daughter and for all of those who live with this disease. And who die too soon because of it.

I climb to raise money for research for that cure.

Finally, I thank you for your generosity and support in helping me surpass my fundraising goal. A million times over….thank you.

XO,

Bethany

You will hear from Avé later this month…she has graciously accepted my invitation to guest blog…stay tuned…