Me: “Who are you taking with you this morning?”
Me: “Who are you taking with you? To your thing?”
B&B: “Um. No one.”
Me: “So I have everybody? I’ll watch Waldorf’s lacrosse game and make sure the other 3 are entertained while you learn to prune a shrub?”
B&B: “Yes, that’s the plan.”
The plan is junk.
2 months ago, B&B sent me a text,
“What are we doing on the morning of April 27th?”
“Um, nothing yet. Why?”
“Excellent! The township is offering a free seminar on pruning trees. I signed up! They are giving away a free tree to every person who attends!”
B&B loves all things landscaping. I applaud the township’s initiative, and I was happy B&B wanted to attend.
“Maybe I’ll take Waldorf and the Kenyan to the seminar. It’s about time they start helping me with the yardwork.”
But the spring sports season is in high gear. And Waldorf has a two hour lacrosse tournament.
Me: “So, you’re not going to take the Kenyan?”
B&B: “Nah. He can help you with the younger two.”
B&B: “The Verb and the Interrogator are already dressed, so that should help.”
12 minutes before we have to leave the house, I get a good look at the Interrogator and the Verb. Yes, they’re both dressed. In yesterday’s clothes from Blue and Blue Day. With face paint to boot.
I strip them down and scrub their faces while hollering down the stairs to Waldorf and the Kenyan…
Me: “Guys! Do you have your shoes on? Waldorf, do you have your equipment? Can you please fill your water bottle? Kenyan? Can you hear me? Do you have your shoes on? Jackets?”
I head downstairs, chanting, “snacks, water, snacks, water, snacks, water,” so that I remember why I descended the stairs in the first place. I fill a bag with graham crackers, sliced apples, and water.
Ah, what the heck…
I throw in a bag of chocolate chip cookies on impulse. Homemade chocolate chip cookies.
That’s a bagful of calories I don’t need right now, but the boys will be thrilled.
I usher the kids out the door and look down to discover I’m still in pajamas.
While I get dressed, I review my mental checklist:
- Boys, check.
- Lacrosse equipment, check.
- Waldorf’s Water bottle, check.
- Snacks, check.
- Water, check.
- Coats, check.
- Double stroller, check.
- Books, check.
- Stadium blanket, check.
- Suntan lotion, check.
- Folding chairs…
“Folding chairs, folding chairs, folding chairs,” is my mantra on my way out to the shed. I grab two folding chairs, and we’re officially running late.
The field is 5 minutes away. I find a parking spot, throw the car in park and jump out to load up the double stroller with kids, chairs, and bags.
Interrogator: Urgently, “Oh, Mom, Mom, the Verb and I want to jump on the mats! Right, Verb? We want to be on the blue mats and the red mats. OK, Mom? We love jumping on the mats, Mom.”
Me: “Interrogator, there’s no jumping on the mats, buddy. We’re going to be on the lacrosse field, not the track.”
Interrogator: Disappointed, “Why, Mom? Why can’t we be on the mats? I love the mats. The mats are fun. Lacrosse fields aren’t fun. Why can’t we have fun, Mom?”
Me: “Oh, you’ll have lots of fun when we get to the field. Let’s go, boys.”
2 kids in the stroller. 2 chairs on the stroller. The straps of a bag filled with food, extra water, sweatshirts, and sunscreen make an impression on my shoulder. Waldorf walks with his stick and an empty hand. The Kenyan walks, carrying the stadium blanket and an open copy of Catching Fire. He reads while he shuffles along behind us.
Yes, I’m aware it’s too old a book for him.
“Kenyan, close the book please until we get to the field. Waldorf, where’s your water bottle?”
He stares at me through his helmet. He looks at the car. He looks back at me.
I lift my hand and aim the keys at the car. Hit the button to unlock it. The door slides open. He still stands there staring at me.
I can lead him to water…and I do…
I move my hand in a circular motion as my eyes roll back into my head. “Let’s go, Waldorf. Get the water bottle. It frustrates me when you expect me to think for you.”
He gets his water bottle, and we head toward the field. It’s a good ¼ mile walk.
Me: “Waldorf, run ahead to warm up with your team. We’ll be right there.”
Waldorf: Hedging, “Um, I like to walk with you. I’m not sure where to go. So, it’s ok if I’m…uh…a little late because I don’t want to..uh…get lost, you know.”
My eyes roll back in my head again. I breathe deeply.
Tree pruning seminar?
We wind up behind a heavy set guy who occupies most of the path.
Beep beep, come on, dude, I have this rig snapping at your heels. Walk right, pass left, let me by!
Someone grabs my arm and I hear a familiar voice…”HEY!”
I turn to see my one of my best friends smiling at me. She looks concerned, “Are you OK?”
My eyes must still be caught in the back of my head. She takes inventory of me…the double stroller, the oversized bag, the chairs piled on the stroller, the four kids.
There go my eyes again, “Tree pruning seminar.”
She smiles. “Love ya, babe.”
I don’t even bother trying to return the smile.
I turn back to the path and we overtake the big guy. Going uphill.
I’ll choose your lane for you, chief.
There are a dozen teams playing, so we scour the fields to see which Waldorf’s team occupies. I put my hand on his helmet and turn it to face the course he should take.
Mom: “Go, have fun, I love you!”
I roll my kids toward a less populated area of the field.
“Excuse me, pardon me, I’ll just roll to the left, oops, no you’re good, I’ll go this way, thanks. Oh, watch that chair, sorry, Kenyan, close the book, sorry, I’m fine, thanks, no, you sit, I’m good.”
We set up shop in a vacant corner of the field with the woods at our backs.
Me: “Boys, here’s the deal. You may go to the edge of the woods, but you may not step into the woods.”
Interrogator: “Why can’t we go into the woods, Mom? I want to go into the woods, Mom.”
Me: “There are ticks in there.” No reaction. “And snakes.” Stoic. “And poison ivy.” Nothing. “And wolves.” 3 sets of eyes widen. Bingo.
It takes me 90 seconds to lay out the blanket and assemble the chairs. I turn around to find the Interrogator and the Verb with their pants around their ankles peeing into the wind.
Me: “Guys, pee into the woods next time, not out in the open!”
Interrogator: “We don’t want the wolf to bite our penises, Mom! Right, Verb?”
Verb: “Right, no wolf can bite mine penis, Mom.”
I shake my head, looking at my watch. How long does a tree pruning seminar last?
I’m able to half watch most of the first game. One of the Moms comes over to say hello. She’s absolutely lovely, both inside and out. She walks over with her dog, whom the Interrogator and the Verb know and love. The Kenyan spies the dog and heads straight to the woods to take his chances with the wolves.
The Verb and the Interrogator pet the dog and giggle at her friendly licks. We moms talk, we cheer, we clap, we encourage the players.
After a few minutes, I notice the absence of giggling.
I scan the field. Nope. I scan the double stroller and the blanket. Not there either. I look behind me…and see a flash of the Verb’s blue shirt heading into the woods.
Me: “Excuse me..”
I run after him, “Verb, Verb, Verb, Verb Middle Name Last Name, Verb, Verb, Verb, VERB!!!!!”
I reach him. Put my hands on my hips, shoot him the look, “Dude? Out of the woods!”
Splash! Plunk, Splash!
To my left, the Kenyan and the Interrogator are standing over a filthy muck-filled body of still water, launching giant rocks into it one after another.
If I’d had 3 daughters, they’d be sitting on the blanket french braiding one another’s hair. And you know it’s true.
Me: “Move away from the swamp, boys.” I catch the Interrogator’s eye, “You know what lives in swamps, Interrogator, don’t you?”
I watch the light bulb illuminate behind his eyes.
Interrogator: Whispering, “I don’t like alligators, Mom. I don’t want an alligator to eat me, Mom.”
Me: Eyebrows raised, “Then I suggest you stay away from that swamp.”
Works like a charm. The 3 of them come running back to the blanket. The Kenyan grabs his book, maintains a respectable distance between him and the dog, and lays in the grass to read. I throw graham crackers at the other two.
Game one ends, and the players switch fields. I am lucky enough to be able to move the chairs 3 feet to my right. I look at my watch…How long does a tree pruning seminar last?
Kenyan: “I saw chocolate chip cookies in there. Can I have some?”
Verb and Interrogator: “Chocolate chip cookies?! Can we have some? Pleasy pleasy please can we?!”
No way. I’m not playing those cards yet.
Me: “Not yet. You may have some after this second game is over.”
The graham crackers and the threat of the wolves in the woods are not enough to keep the Verb and the Interrogator contained to the blanket for game two. They find a set of bleachers and set out to make as much noise as possible.
Their kettle drum duet arouses the interest of two kids close in age to them. A little boy, about 4, joins them with his little sister, about 2. Cute kids. They are clutching lollipops, which could create a problem. Their Mom joins them. I look over to witness the Interrogator smiling and making himself comfortable next to Lollipop Mom on the bleachers.
Within a minute, he’s grinning from ear to ear, and she’s belly laughing.
He is a charmer, the Interrogator.
Me: “Is he being inappropriate?”
She shakes her head. “Not at all. He’s adorable.”
I walk over to be sure.
Interrogator: “And she’s really nice. And beautiful. And her birthday is in..how many days, Mom?”
The Lollipop Mom smiles at me. “He’s told me your name, how old you are, that you’re nice, and you’re beautiful, and we were just getting around to your birthday.”
Me: “So much for stranger danger, huh?”
Lollipop Mom: “Oh, he started by telling me that I’m a stranger.”
Well at least he can distinguish the people he knows from those he hasn’t met.
Turns out Lollipop Mom has four kids too. 3 boys and a girl. The little girl is adorable. And currently sharing her lollipop with the Verb. Whose nose I’ve wiped 3 times with his shirt since we arrived.
Verb: “Cough, cough.”
Me: To the 2 year old sharing her lollipop, “Ahem. I’m hoping it’s allergies, but it may be a cold. So, you may not want to share your lollipop with him.”
Interrogator: “Hey, I love lollipops too.”
Her older brother, empathetic to the Interrogator, pulls the lollipop from his own mouth and hands it, with a smile, to the Interrogator.
Interrogator: Smiling, “Thanks,” and it disappears between his lips.
Lollipop Mom and I look at each other. We shake our heads and laugh. She pulls one more lollipop from her bag. “I have one more. Can they share it?”
Me: “Fine by me. Don’t bite it, boys. Sit down with it. Take turns. One lick, one lick, two licks, two licks, three licks, three licks.”
They scream at each other immediately, “Me first, ME FIRST, let go, YOU LET GO!” I walk away, casually shrugging and telling them, “Figure it out or the Kenyan gets it.”
That ends the arguing. I check in with the Kenyan. And watch a few minutes of the game. Cheer, encourage, clap, smile.
Lovely Mom, “So the little ones have made friends, huh?”
I look back over to the bleachers.
Aw, come ON!
The Interrogator holds the lollipop, licking it. The Verb licks it simultaneously. My youngest sons are playing tonsil hockey around a pink lollipop.
I rush over and abruptly end their makeout session. Usher them back to the blanket, where they pick small black particles, probably some form of poison, from the astroturf with their sticky hands.
Lovely Mom’s Husband asks me, “Where’s B&B today?”
I smile and attempt to remove the sarcasm from my voice, “Tree pruning seminar.” I smile again because I’ve failed to remove the sarcasm.
He asks, “Is it voluntary?”
End of game 2. And so begins the chorus of…
“COOKIES! COOKIES! COOKIES! COOKIES! COOKIES! COOKIES!”
I look at my watch. How long is a tree pruning seminar?
Me: “Alright, guys, it looks like we have to move our traveling circus to a different field for this last game. If everyone helps, you will all get a cookie once we get settled over there.”
“Yay! I want the biggest cookie! I want the first cookie! I want 2 cookies! I want all the cookies!”
2 kids in the stroller, 2 chairs folded and on top of the stroller. Bag holding food, sweatshirts, sunscreen, coats, and water makes deeper impression on my shoulder. The Kenyan carries the stadium blanket and his open copy of Catching Fire.
Here’s how I roll…
“Excuse me, no, you’re good, I’m oh, I’m going this way, no, this way, oh, yes, thanks, alright, oops…sorry, is your foot OK? I’ll just turn that way a little..guys, hands in the stroller…sorry, guys, feet in the stroller…do you want those…excuse me…cookies?”
Once again, we find a vacant corner of the field. I spread the blanket, drop the bag, assemble the chairs, free my prisoners from the confines of their stroller, distribute water, and open the cookies.
Interrogator: Pointing, “I want this one. This one right here. I want it please, Mom. It’s my favorite, and I want it please.”
I hand the Interrogator his long distance request and dedication. The Verb bears witness to the handoff and proceeds to lose his wig right there on the blanket.
Me: To the Kenyan: “What’s up with him?”
Kenyan: Shrugging, “I think he wanted that cookie.”
I ignore the temper tantrum, which proves difficult because we’re bordered by woods, and the Verb’s screams echo through the foliage. The Verb sits on the blanket. He kicks his feet, his tears mingling with an abundance of snot…that may or may not be allergy-induced…and he screams with all his 3 year old might, “I’M ANGRY AT YOU, MOMMY! I’M ANGRY AT YOU!”
I actually find that statement hilarious, so I try to suppress a giggle.
We’re receiving some judgmental stares from the surrounding spectators.
F U, people. Sympathetic smiles I appreciate. Judgmental stares don’t sit well with me.
So I begin singing, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen….Nobody knows my sorrow…..”
They look away, either out of embarrassment for me or fear of what will transpire next.
I look at my phone, which displays a text from B&B, “I’m on my way. Do you need anything?”
Yes. A vat of wine and a one way ticket to a remote island.
I reply, “No.
The Verb finally calms down. I kiss his sweaty head and offer him a cookie. He wipes the snot from his nose and rubs it on my pant leg.
Thanks for that.
Me: “Boys, you can run down this hill, but you have to stop when you get to the woods. Do you understand? Yes hill. No woods.”
Chorus: “Yes, Mommy.”
They run down the hill, their arms flapping in their attempts to slow down. Their laughter floats back up the hill to me. I smile. They are content. And I have only 5 minutes until reinforcements arrive.
Evidently, a tree pruning seminar lasts 2 hours.
Clap, cheer, encourage. Clap, cheer, encourage.
I turn around to see the Verb and the Interrogator disappear into the woods.
I walk down the hill, collect my children, push them up the hill and deposit them on the blanket. The Verb, laughing, makes a break for it, so I lift him into the stroller in order to restrain him.
Son of a bitch goes rigid. He accompanies his ramrod straight body with screams of, “NO! NO, MOMMY, DON’T DO IT, NO NO NO!”
Do I use my strength to fight him and fold him in half?
Do I wait patiently, showing no emotion, until he relaxes…the way the parenting books suggest?
I open up the bag of chocolate chip cookies, I place my face very close to his, and I proceed to eat them…one enormous bite after another, within an inch of his runny nose.
Verb: Ballistic, “I WANT THOSE COOKIES! DON’T EAT THOSE COOKIES, THEY’RE MINE COOKIES! STOP EATING THEM, MOMMY!”
Bite, crunch, crunch, swallow. Bite, crunch, crunch, swallow.
You know how you’ll find smokers huddled around their cigarettes immediately after exiting a building? We happen to be inhabiting the cell phone equivalent of that area. Every 2 feet along the sidelines stands a man on a cell phone.
The Jackass on the phone closest to us makes eye contact with me while I’m in the midst of my psychotic cookie binge. He points his finger at the Verb, looks at me and makes the “Shh” sign on his lips.
Oh no u didn’t.
I immediately pick up the Verb’s convulsing body and place him directly at the Jackass’ feet.
Me: “Here, Verb, you cannot go into the woods, but you can run circles around this nice man until you’ve finished crying.”
I give the Jackass the happiest smile of my day thus far. Lots of teeth.
I turn my back on that scene and return my attention to the field.
Clap, cheer, encourage.
B&B: “Hey, what’s going on? Why’s the Verb screaming at that jackass on the phone?”
We both turn around to look at the Jackass, who’s trying to step over the Verb, who continues marching around him yelling, “I’M ANGRY AT YOU, MOMMY! I’M ANGRY AT YOU!”
Me: Shrugging, “He’s fine. How was your seminar?”
B&B: “It was good. What’s all over your face? Is that chocolate?”
Me: Wiping the crumbs from my face, “Did you get a tree?”
Him: Nodding, “Yes. A dogwood. A white one because I know you love them.”
Me: Smiling, “I do. Thanks.”
Him: “Sorry it took so long. There were some people who asked me if I could drop their trees off at their houses since I had the truck with me. So I’m glad I could help them.”
I’m so glad you could help those strangers while I scarfed down 10 cookies in an attempt to discipline your son.
Me: “That was very nice of you.”
End of game 3.
I walk away from B&B, empty handed.
B&B: “Where are you going?”
Me: “To the Acme.”
B&B: “Who are you taking with you?”
Me: Giddy, “Um, no one.”
I blow him a kiss and sprint to my car.
Just another day in paradise…