Cuz That’s How I Roll

Me: “Who are you taking with you this morning?”

B&B: “What?”

Me: “Who are you taking with you? To your thing?”

B&B: “Um. No one.”

Silence.

Hmmm.

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?”

I answered,

“Um, nothing yet. Why?”

He replied,

“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!”

I replied,

“Cool.”

B&B loves all things landscaping. I applaud the township’s initiative, and I was happy B&B wanted to attend.

He texted,

“Maybe I’ll take Waldorf and the Kenyan to the seminar. It’s about time they start helping me with the yardwork.”

Even better.

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.”

Fat chance.

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.

Alrighty then…

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.

“Um.”

Never fails.

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.

“Where’s B&B?”

There go my eyes again, “Tree pruning seminar.”

Friend: “What?”

Me: “Exactly.”

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?”

That's how i roll

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.”

New chorus…

“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.

Ding.

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.

Idiots.

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?

No.

Do I wait patiently, showing no emotion, until he relaxes…the way the parenting books suggest?

Wrong again.

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…

Have a field day!

Now that spring break is over, we’re approaching the busiest time of the school year. I read my kids’ newsletters, whip out my color coded markers for my calendar, and mutter obscenities under my breath.

Me: “Field trip?…son of a…picnic?…goddamn…concert?….why I oughtta…”

My hat’s off to you if you like to go into your kid’s classroom on a weekly (or even monthly) basis. I love my kids. I love their teachers. I love their school. But, if I want to participate more actively in their education, I’ll either get my teaching degree or homeschool them. And there’s no shot I’m homeschooling. I hope to hear that they’re nice boys and that their behavior is developmentally appropriate. Aside from that, peace out until dismissal.

haveafieldday

There is one day for which I don’t mind breaking my routine. And it happens this week.

Blue and Blue Day.

Greatest. Day. Of. The. School. Year.

The entire school is divided into two teams, based on school colors…light blue and dark blue. Parents attend, dressed in colors representing their son’s team. Older boys paint their faces to display their team’s color. A bagpiper, clad in kilt and blazer, fills the air with emotion-stirring music as he leads the all-school procession to the field.

And the games begin…

B&B and I grew up playing…and loving…sports. Field day has always been our favorite day of the school year. As parents, we’re just as stoked for it. We’re cheering. We’re sweating. We’ve got butterflies, cottonmouths, and sweaty pits…the works.

I’ve mentioned that, in the circus that is my life, I tend to forget things unless I chant them or write them down. Three years ago this week, our excitement was high for field day. At the time, the Interrogator was 3 and the Verb…still breastfeeding…not even a year old. Which means I was carrying around an extra 30 lbs on my 5’5” frame. Most of it in the tatas, which were a cup size H.

Yes, H.  As in: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H.

I’d had a particularly colorful morning, so I sent an email to my good friend Ave chronicling it.

Woohoo, I’ve written it down so now I remember!

Below is my 3 year old email to her…with my current day inner monologue in italics

April, 2009
OK, so tomorrow is Blue & Blue Day at my kids’ school…it is the most anticipated, most competitive day of the year. Waldorf and the Kenyan (and, when they get older, the Interrogator and the Verb) are on the light blue team. In an effort to show my support, I just went to the mall to look for a light blue shirt to fit these enormous cans.

No small feat…

And some capris I can fit over my hips and oversized ass.

Equally challenging…

The Broad Street Run is right around the corner, so I ran a 9 miler early Sunday morning. I’ve had some nursing issues since then, which makes this the 4th time I’ve lost my milk. The Verb doesn’t take formula, and he’s not close enough at 8 1/2 months to drink whole milk. I know he’s my 4th, but I think it’s bad if he has nothing but juice or water…

I know both my pediatrician and his pediatrician wife are reading this and nodding their heads, “Yes, Bethany, it’s bad for your 8 ½ month old son to drink only water and juice”.

…suffice it to say I have HAD it with the nursing. I want my body back! And I don’t want another human being relying on it for life, nourishment, and sustenance.

Allow me to expand that to include “or as a human jungle gym where my breasts play the roles of handles”…

I am so tired of being overweight (for me) and of this enormous, unflattering rack. None of my clothes fit properly, so I constantly feel self conscious. I’m very frustrated that, even training the way I am, still the clothes remain tight….

Oh, cry me a river, I know. But I spent 36 months and 8 days (thank you, Waldorf…who continues to be late for everything…for those 8 extra days) of my late 20’s and early 30’s pregnant. I spent an additional 33 months breastfeeding. I hated being pregnant. It was no picnic morphing into the Nutty Professor 4 times over. And, no offense to La Leche, but I didn’t cherish every minute of breastfeeding either. The price was right, and my kids latched on like champs. I like sex, exercise, and clothes that fit properly. Sue me.  

So, in my effort to keep my milk I have to chug water like a goddamn camel getting ready to cross the Sahara Desert. I’m tanking it down all yesterday and this morning. I tried several times…and failed just as many times…to close my goddamn double stroller so I could pack it into the minivan this morning. So I packed the single stroller. Yes, the Interrogator is 3, and still requires a stroller.

Maybe some of you parents have 3 year old sons who listen to you. My 3 year old sons historically do not.

I arrived at the mall, buckled the Interrogator into the single stroller, then attached the Verb to me in the sling.

Covered in sweat before I’m out of the parking lot. And it wasn’t sweat from the anticipation of field day.

Wearing one child and pushing another, I marched into the department store, grabbed 8 pairs of capris, 2 light blue shirts, and several more articles of activewear…aka running gear. Fatty needs exercise clothes to shed this weight.

Performing everyday tasks with a child strapped to your body, while necessary in some third world countries, is freaking exhausting for a chick from the suburbs of Philly. Performing these tasks outside the comfort of my home while pushing a stroller containing an inquisitive 3 year old with grabby hands and maneuvering clothing racks…it’s as enjoyable as a root canal.

So, I navigated the narrow racks of clothing with my potential purchases and arrived at  the dressing room.

How am I going to pull off this trick? Can’t try on these clothes with the baby strapped to the front of me.

I removed the Verb from the sling and put him into the single stroller. Threw some goldfish at him, then set the Interrogator free in the dressing room. I had low expectations because the Interrogator has been a total asshole since his 3rd birthday. The same thing happened to my older 2, but it still breaks my heart every time it happens. Instant asshole on the day they turn 3.

Currently experiencing that phenomenon with the Verb…

I maintained a running dialogue with the kids while quickly trying on all 8 pairs of capris…none of which worked…and both light blue shirts…swing and a miss times two. On the bright side, the Interrogator behaved well in the confines of the dressing room. And I scored some new workout duds.

Me: Preparing to exit the dressing room with the Interrogator walking, “Please hold onto this stroller with Mommy.”

Interrogator:  “No.”

Dick.

Me: “Fine, I’ll pick you up.”

So, against his will, I picked the Interrogator up…he’s enormous, nearly 40 lbs… and pushed the stroller containing the Verb. And proceeded to roll the stroller over the clothes I’d intended to purchase.

Bonus. New workout clothes bearing tire tracks.

I put the struggling Interrogator down for a moment to pick up the clothes from the floor. His feet hit the ground. And he bolted.

For the most part, I’m calm. But a running 3 year old in a store full of strangers is slightly panic-inducing.

So I screamed his name…

“INTERROGATOR MIDDLE NAME LAST NAME!”

…his FULL name, which means trouble. He laughed and kept running.

So he was a solid 30 yards away from me. And the Verb was chowing on the goldfish. I left him alone in the stroller…with my handbag, naturally…and sprinted after the Interrogator.

I covered the distance between the two of us quickly. Grabbed him. Picked him up. Brought him to my eye level.

Me: “Don’t you EVER RUN AWAY FROM MOMMY, DO YOU HEAR ME? DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED TO NEMO?!”

Son of a bitch laughed again.

Here comes the bad part…

So, like a terrible, TERRIBLE Mom…I pinched his leg.

Don’t judge. It was through his sweatpants! If I knew how to choose a small font in WordPress, I’d use it on the word “pinched” as evidence of the shame I still harbor.

Bad choice, but at the time I was desperate to make an impact. And, don’t forget, I was sleep-deprived! My kids didn’t sleep through the night until I weaned them! Consequently, the pinch made more of an impact than I had anticipated.

Interrogator: Screaming, “OUCH! DON’T PINCH ME, MOMMY! I DON’T WANT TO LOOK AT YOU!”

Silence. Silence accompanied by judgmental stares from strangers.

Me: Using one of Mom’s go-to shopping lines, “Just you WAIT until we get to the car, young man!”

Newsflash: nothing’s going to happen in the car. No more pinching. Certainly no hitting. Not even any yelling. Just more sweating from me and some pleading with the then 3 year old Interrogator to use his listening ears…a conversation which will undoubtedly be over his head but make me feel better.

The Interrogator needed restraining, and I didn’t trust myself not to squeeze the life out of him. So I wrestled his flailing body into the stroller and became the proud new recipient of several bruises in my attempt to protect the Verb, whom I was holding, from his older brother’s windmill-like arms and legs. All the while acting like I wasn’t seething for the benefit of all the strangers whose attention was focused on my shopping excursion.

I paid with a smile that didn’t come close to reaching my eyes.

Clerk: Over the screaming of the Interrogator, “Don’t you just love being a Mom?”

Me: Sighing, “Oh, it has its moments.”

This is clearly not one of them.

We arrived at the car, and I realized my teeth were floating because I had to pee so unbelievably badly. I was doing the dance and talking to myself in the parking lot.

Me: “Please don’t pee, please don’t pee, please don’t pee…”

4 kids=weak bladder.

4 kids + still nursing 1 + chugging water in order to produce enough milk for him=essentially 0 bladder control.

Ironically, this issue has gotten worse with time. Just ask my running partners. Guess I should ramp up my kegels.

So, I put the kids in the car, locked the doors and leapt into the very back of the minivan, where Waldorf and the Kenyan usually sit. I grabbed an empty Gatorade bottle…a staple in the car for a mother of boys…dropped my jeans, took aim, and started peeing.

Now I was really aiming for the bottle opening. But this was the first time I had peed into a wideneck Gatorade since August of ’98 while tailgating at the Pearl Jam concert. I was over a decade out of practice. Had given birth four times since then. And my precision was…well, it was slightly off.

I did manage to hit the bottle opening….sadly, it was only after I had flooded the ENTIRE seat over which I was squatting.

Oops. Sorry, Kenyan.

I filled the whole 20 oz bottle, while listening to the Interrogator.

Interrogator: Panicked, “OH NO! Your pee pee, Mom! OH! It’s on the chair! OH! NO!”

Me: Shamed, “I know, I know, honey, I’ll clean it up, I’m just trying to finish here.”

Interrogator: Horrified, “What? What’s that? You got hair, Mom?!”

Interrogator: Straining his neck, “Can I see your penis, Mom? Where’s your hiney?”

OMFG. Is nothing sacred after giving birth?

As always, Murphy’s law applied, and  a car pulled up next to us while the entire scene  played out. The windows were down, so they heard the entire exchange.

Thank you, makers of my minivan, for the tinted windows so those poor strangers didn’t have to watch it unfold before their eyes as well.

I also managed to pee on my jeans, which had just been washed and already felt two sizes too snug.

Naturally, I gave them away to Purple Heart after that next laundering. No need to wrestle on jeans four sizes too small.

To recap, I returned home with:

  • no light blue shirt
  • no capris
  • $80 in workout clothes bearing tire tracks
  • one toddler with a pinched leg
  • one minivan whose backseat was saturated with urine

And that about sums up my morning.

OK, fine….

and:

  • one Burger King happy meal for me to eat in order to deal with my stress.

But you’d never guess from my smiling face in this picture…

…although I was probably experiencing a winner’s high.

GO LIGHT BLUE!

Happy Trails

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

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

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

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

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

I sidle up alongside his coach.

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

Coach: “Individually.”

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

Coach: “How old is your son?”

Me: “He’s 8.”

Coach: “And what’s he up to?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Track. Practice. Rocks.

Me: “Happy to.”

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

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

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

“And I homeschool them.”

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

happytrails

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kenyan: “Freezing cold rainy Saturday morning.”

Word.

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

This promises to be a long 5-6.

I. Love. To. Run.

Love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weakest conversation starter ever.

Kenyan: “Language arts.”

Me: “Me too!”

End of conversation.

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

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

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

Take that, Nurture Shock. 

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

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

Master of the obvious.

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

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

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

Kenyan: “I’ll toss my cookies.”

Me: “You’ll boot.”

Kenyan: “I’ll regurgitate.”

Smartypants.

Me: “You’ll hurl.”

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

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

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

B&B: Quietly, “How was it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crickets.

Me: “Kenyan? Are you OK?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game on, little man.

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

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

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

He doesn’t stop once.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shit.

I change course and sprint at the oncoming dog.

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

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

Come on, not in front of my kid!

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

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

I gathered that.

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

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

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

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

Truly, I’m hiding my tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kenyan: “Except for the puppy incident.”

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

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

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

Me: “You sure did, buddy.”

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

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

I stand corrected. Son of a bitch WAS listening.

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

“Mommy, why are you sweating?”

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

Think of something to say….quickly!

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

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

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

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

The barber continues cutting the Kenyan’s hair.

Kenyan: “What could happen?”

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

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

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

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

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

Me: “Balls. Cojones are balls.”

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

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

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

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

adultswim

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

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

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

Proud of yourself? 

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

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

He stops smiling and whispers, “Touché.”

He resumes his clipping and I resume my counting.

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

Ding!

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

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

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

I reply to B&B:

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

He replies:

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

I reply:

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

He replies:

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

Blah, blah, and blah.

I’m still counting. And sweating.

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

You bet your ass you will.

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

“In pockets or on the stroller handles.”

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

Me: “Good. Let’s do it.”

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

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

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

Oh, great.

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

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

He doesn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 20 something kid in line behind me chimes in…

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

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

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

Me: “It’s a rubber glove.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mother of GOD, the lungs on this kid.

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

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

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

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

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

The Kenyan ties the balloon, and we continue shopping.

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

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

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

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

I assume wrong.

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

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

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!

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

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

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

Kenyan: “What’s that?”

Me: “It’s a thermometer.”

Waldorf: “Who’s sick?”

I am. Sick of answering these incessant questions.

Me: “Hopefully nobody is sick.”

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

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

Ray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Whispering, “Thanks, Ray.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I smile, overcome with relief.

I text B&B:

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

He replies:

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

I reply:

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

He replies:

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

I shake my head. Incorrigible.

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

I smile and reply:

“My uterus and I happily accept.”

 

The Shit Show that is Disneyworld. Part III. The Agony and the Ecstasy.

I dated the Basketball Player all 4 years of high school. One year, his team made it to the city finals, which were played at the Palestra, University of Pennsylvania’s home court. His team won the semi-final game, but lost the championship game. His picture was featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s sports section…two pictures in fact. One shot of the Basketball Player jumping in celebration with his teammates after the win. And one shot of the Basketball Player with his head in his hands, hiding the tears streaming down his young face, after the loss. The caption read, “The Agony and the Ecstasy”.

When I think about our first trip to Disneyworld, that caption fits. In my mind’s eye, I see the exhilaration on my kids’ faces when we finally arrive and the fun is about to commence. I blink, and that image is replaced by Waldorf’s profile. He’s looking out the window of our rented minivan. And he’s taking deep breaths. Fighting to hold back the tears that threaten to spill. And, no, he’s not crying because it’s time to go home.

*****

I am not a cat lover by nature. We had a dog for a short time when I was growing up, which makes me more a dog kind of gal.

Why did we have a dog only for a short time? Because we kids never participated in taking care of her.

Mom: “If you kids don’t start helping with that goddamn dog, so help me God, I will give her away!”

Older brother: Worried, “Give her away? To whom?”

Mom: Emphatic, “To a farmer, that’s who! That dog is part kangaroo! She jumps all the hell over the place! And she has run a path in the lawn!”

One day, we kids noticed a disturbance in the force…

Little Sister: Curious, “It’s quiet.”

Me: Observant, “Mom’s singing more than usual.”

Older Brother: Panicked, “Where’s the dog?!?!”

True to her word, Mom had given away the family pet. It was a full week before we’d even noticed her absence, so we really weren’t the answer to a lonely pet’s prayers.

Me: Upset, “Mom, you gave the dog away? How could you?”

Mom: “I told you children I would! Not one of you walked her, fed her, or played with her.”

Little Sister: “But she jumped on me when I tried to play with her!”

Mom: “That’s because she’s part kangaroo. She’ll be much happier on that farm where she can run and jump to her heart’s content.”

*And, farm is NOT code for Chinese restaurant. Our dog literally moved to a farm.

Me: Inspired, “Can we get a cat?”

Mom: Eyes narrowed, “Absolutely not.”

Me: “Why?”

Mom: “Because cats are sneaky.”

The Great Oz had spoken. I grew up believing cats are sneaky. Because Mom said so.

disney3

*****

So, I have all of these kids, right? And they’re always asking for pets. Not just your common dog, cat or fish. They want the obscure pets. A rat. A warthog. A scorpion. An owl.

But my Waldorf has only ever wanted one pet. He is a lover of my nemesis, the cat. Waldorf is consistent and relentless. He’s always wanted a cat, and he’s never stopped asking for one.

I try very hard not to put my shit on my kids. By shit I mean my baggage. And I’ve got some fascinating quirks. They deserve a post all their own. But here’s one example. I hate bugs. Like vomit hate. I like to do a dance to illustrate my hatred upon sight of a bug. But, because I’m surrounded by penis-wielding sponges, I refrain from indulging in my bug-hating dance while I’m in their company. My kids spend most of their formative years with me. Chances are, if I hate bugs, they will too. And that would be putting my shit on them. Which I’m trying to avoid.

Me: Swallowing back the bile, “Hey, Kenyan, check it out…it’s one of those stink bugs. Cool, huh?”

Kenyan: “Oh, they are like something right out of the cretaceous period! They closely resemble a smaller version of an ankylosaurus. Without the tail. And the spikes. Well, they don’t really look like an ankylosaurus at all, but they are cool!”

Me: “You really know your dinosaurs, buddy!”

I hate you, bug. Feel my hatred. Oh, I’m acting so cool around my kid, but I want to dance on your dead carcass right now.

I’ve never divulged my “cats are sneaky because my Mom said so” theory to my kids.  Just because I don’t trust felines doesn’t mean my kids should distrust them.

So, my good man Waldorf hit the double digits his last birthday. And we wanted to get him something special.

Waldorf: Excited, “You know what I want most for my birthday?”

Me: Hoping for a practical idea for a present, “What?”

Waldorf: Animated, “A phone!”

So much for practical…

Me: “Negative.”

Waldorf: Pleading, “All of my friends have phones!”

Me: Feigning agreement, “Well, why didn’t you say so?! What color do you want?”

Waldorf: Incredulous, “Seriously?!”

Me: Grinning, “No.”

Waldorf: Excited again, “How about an iTouch?!”

Me: “Nope.”

Waldorf: Borderline whining, “All of my friends have iTouches!”

This is indeed true. But I know my child, and I know his 10 year old brain should not have unsupervised internet access.  Sure, I’ll be whistling a different tune when the Verb hits the double digits; for now, it’s a no go on the iTouch.

Me: Apologetic, “Sorry, big guy. You’ll have to come up with something else.”

One evening I broach the topic of Waldorf’s birthday with B&B…

Me: “Waldorf’s birthday is next month.”

B&B: “Yep.”

Me: “He wants an iTouch or a phone.”

B&B throws his head back in laughter.

Me: “I know. Let’s do something special, but unrelated to electronics.”

B&B: “I’m on board. What are you thinking?”

Me: “Maybe a pet.”

B&B has three populations who are completely enamored with him: 1. Elderly people, 2. Children under the age of 12…this includes infants, 3. all 4 legged creatures. And the 4 legged creatures may be his biggest fans. He is like Snow White and Cesar Milan all in one. Without the dress, the beautiful singing voice, and the Spanish accent.

B&B: Eyebrows raised, “Wow! A pet?”

Me: Nodding, “Maybe a cat.”

B&B: Laughing again, “You hate cats!”

Me: “I do not hate cats. I just don’t understand cats. They seem like good pets though. I don’t have to walk a cat.  Or play frisbee with a cat.”

B&B: “Have you forgotten that the Kenyan is deathly afraid of all 4 legged animals?”

Me: “I have not forgotten. I will run it past him first. And we will only move forward with it if he’s comfortable.”

B&B: Getting excited, “Alright. I’m sold. I had better start thinking about good names.”

Me: “Think of 2 names.”

B&B: Nodding, “Good idea. Then we’ll let the kids choose between the 2 names.”

Me: “Oh, then think of 4 names. If we get one cat, we’re actually getting two cats.”

He looks at me quizzically.

Me: “Isn’t it obvious? Double digit birthday means double present birthday.”

So, I talk to the Kenyan. This child is an enigma. He is a lover of animals. He retains a plethora of obscure facts about animals. Yet he is scared to death of creatures that walk on four legs in the flesh.

When I ask him, his initial reply is “Um, no thanks, Mommy.”

A few days later, he approaches me.

Kenyan: “Mommy? Remember we were talking about the” he looks left, then right, then over his shoulder, then whispers, “the C-A-T?”

I smile and nod.

Kenyan: Looking over his shoulder again, “Well, I was thinking. I think I can do it. Actually, I know I can do it. It’s only a cat. And it’s Waldorf’s 10th birthday. And that’s a big deal. He deserves a special present.”

Me: “Actually, sweetheart, it’s two cats. Does that change things for you?”

Kenyan: “2? Like brothers?”

Or sisters, because I could use some girl power in this house.

Me: “Yes. Like brothers.”

Kenyan: Brightening, “In that case, I definitely want to do it. We can’t separate brothers! Can I help name them?”

My sweet, brave boy. I love the way you love your brother.

Me: “That’s the plan. Watch out, because Dad wants to name them too.”

We take the Kenyan with us to the SPCA. He helps us pick them out. Two adorable kittens. One shy, one outgoing. Brothers. God forbid we have another female in the house.

They are cute. Really cute. Even if they are sneaky, they’re still cute.

While they get their shots, we have time to decide on names. The only names in our lottery are those affiliated with the Harry Potter books.  Waldorf really wants Severus. The Kenyan really wants Fawkes.

*Head’s up for an HP spoiler alert…

B&B: Concerned, “Waldorf, in the book, Severus Snape meets with a tragic ending, buddy. Are you sure you want to choose that name for your cat?”

Waldorf: Unwavering, “Severus Snape is the bravest character in all of the Harry Potter books. And I respect bravery. That’s the name I want.”

B&B: To Waldorf, “Sound logic. Severus it is.” Quietly to me, “Let’s just hope he doesn’t meet with a tragic ending, like his namesake.”

We get the kittens home, and Waldorf is in love. Absolutely smitten. Particularly with Severus, who’s outgoing. He’s the alpha…so is Waldorf in the sibling hierarchy…and he and Waldorf are BFF’s.

The Kenyan takes a few days to come around, but he quickly reaches an understanding with Fawkes, who’s painfully shy. The Kenyan seems to have his Daddy’s way with animals. And he’s the only one whom Fawkes responds to in his first weeks in our home.

And I warm up to both cats. And, not to brag, but they both have a crush on me. Especially Fawkes, the shy guy. He follows me everywhere. And he stares at me all the time. When I look at him, he averts his eyes, like he’s a boy I’ve just caught admiring me. I demonstrate this to B&B as we go upstairs to bed one night.

Me: “Watch this. Fawkes is sleeping by the computer now. But he’s obsessed with me. He’ll leave when I leave.”

B&B: “Bullshit. He’s sound asleep.”

Me: “Puleeeze. That cat is in love with me. He lives to protect me from you. Wants to make sure you don’t deflower his lady love.”

I stand up, walk toward the stairs, and Fawkes immediately awakes and follows me.

She shoots…and she scores.

Me: Smiling, “See? He hearts me.”

B&B: Shaking his head, “That’s so bogus. You don’t even like cats.”

Me: Acting wounded, “Bite your tongue! That was the old Bethany! Now I love cats!”

It’s true. I am now a big fan. They increase the chaos of our household. They fit. Two more boys at which I roll my eyes and shake my head.

Severus turns out to be a wiley little feline. He has claws. And he uses them to climb my curtains.  My custom curtains.

Grrrrrrr.

Severus breaks six ornaments on the Christmas tree this year. And not the crappy ones my kids make at school that make my tree look so junky. The nice ornaments.

Damn that cat.

Cats supposedly hate citrus. So we drop lemon and orange peels all over the counters a few months ago to discourage him from jumping onto them.  Severus eats the orange peels.

Son of a bitch.

Most cats get really sleepy when you give them catnip. Fawkes chills out like he just smoked a giant doobie.  Not Severus. He gets violent. He climbs on high pieces of furniture and sits very still. When I walk past him…not even realizing he’s there…he flies into the air and jumps on me. Then he proceeds to bite my shoulders and claw at my hair.

Freaky little feline.

Cats notoriously hate getting wet. That’s why many people squirt them with a spray bottle in an effort to “train” them. Good luck training a cat. Severus gets in the bathtub with my kids. While they are bathing. He steps right into the bubble filled water.

WTF?

He drinks my coffee on a regular basis.  Recently, I have been on a brownie baking tear. One day, Severus steps on a fresh batch of my homemade brownies.  And he eats half the batch before they have cooled enough to cut.

Me: Furious, “Severus!!! Goddamn you! Your pawprints are all over my brownies!!”

Severus looks at me.  I get up in his grill for a staredown.

I am the alpha. I am the alpha. Blink, you dumb cat. You know you want to blink. I am the alpha. My eyes are getting dry, but I am the alpha. Jesus, how long can you hold a stare? Blink!!!

Verb: Curious, “Huh? Mommy, why are you staring at Severus?”

Me: “Because I’m showing him who’s boss.”

Severus breaks eye contact and flees the scene of the crime.

I’d like to think it’s because I’m the alpha. Sadly, it’s Severus’ survival instincts kicking into high gear.  The Verb is dangerous and unpredictable. And both cats avoid him at all costs.

Waldorf loves every bit of this cat’s quirkiness. He believes Severus is absolutely one of a kind. And we happen to agree with him. Every day, upon his return home from school, Waldorf and Severus make a beeline toward each other.  And every morning before school, Waldorf bids Severus a dramatic farewell.  This puzzling cat happens to be the first love of my 10 year old’s life.

So, when the kids are on spring break, we travel to Florida to get our Disney on for the very first time.  We arrange for our neighbors to feed the cats while we are away.  Right before we leave, Severus darts out the back door into the darkness.

Me: Muttering, “Damn, Severus just ran out.”

B&B: Shrugging it off, “No problem, he’ll be back. He loves being outside.”

Me: Concerned, “I know, but Waldorf will be upset he can’t say goodbye.”

And Waldorf is upset. But he internalizes his feelings.  He walks around our house at 4:30AM for 30 solid minutes the morning we leave.  Searching for his favorite cat.  So that he can say goodbye.

Me: Patient, “Waldorf, sweetheart, we have to leave.  Your buddies will check on him.  I’m sure he’ll come back.  But we’ll miss our flight if we stay longer to search.”

Waldorf: Concerned, “OK. Please leave a note for them to look for Severus.”

Me: Assuring him, “We did, honey.  And we’ll text their Dad to let him know as well.”

So, we leave a note. And we drive away. And we almost miss our flight. But I blame B&B for that. And I text Waldorf’s buddies’ Dad.  And he gets his boys out of bed to look for Severus.  Then he texts me back…

“No cat. But I heard an owl while we were out looking for him.”

I show the text to B&B.

B&B: “I was afraid of that.”

I know 6 different ways to end a toddler’s temper tantrum, but I know nothing about wild animals. Nocturnal, feral, or otherwise.

Me: “What do you think he means?”

B&B: He looks at me like I’m stupid, but doesn’t call me stupid, which is progress, “He means the owl ate Severus, Bethany.”

Sweet Jesus! Say it isn’t so!

I blink back tears after this news.  And realize how much I’ve grown to love that idiotic cat.  Then I swallow down an entirely new wave of sorrow, thinking of Waldorf.

His heart will be broken.

We sit down for lunch in Disney one afternoon. I place the kids’ lunches in front of them on trays.

Me: “Bon appetit, gentlemen.”

B&B sits down with his tray. It contains a meatball parm sandwich, a water, an enormous brownie, an orange, an apple, and a bag of doritos.

Wait a minute, we’re on the meal plan. What’s he doing with 1, 2..3 snacks?!

Waldorf: “So, Severus is back, right?”

Uncomfortable silence.

This is not good. We have no answer for him. And I still have to address B&B’s lunch time gluttony.

Me: “Um, we don’t know, honey. But we’ll send a message to your friends’ Dad and ask him. But he’s working, so he’s really busy.”

B&B: “I’m sure Severus is OK, whether he’s come back or not. He’s a tough little cat. And it’s warm outside. If he’s still out there, he’s probably having a ball!”

That satisfies Waldorf for the time being. B&B and I look at each other with a mix of relief and discomfort.

Me: “Bullet dodged for now.”

B&B: “I have a bad feeling about this.”

Me: “I do too. Ahem, what are you doing with those snacks?”

B&B: Looking at his tray, “I’m going to eat them. I’m hungry.”

Me: “No, you’re stealing from our children. We are on the meal plan. Every person gets two meals and one snack every day. You are either consuming every day’s worth of your own snacks at this lunch table, or you’re forcing our children to go without a popsicle on the last hot afternoon in the park.”

I look at him with obvious attitude.

What do you have to say for yourself?

He replies by opening up the Doritos and placing them, one by one, slowly and deliberately into his mouth while maintaining eye contact with me.

Me: Reaching across the table to take his hand, “I certainly hope you don’t choke. Since I don’t know the Heimlich maneuver. It would be a darn shame if you choked right here at the lunch table. On one of your sons’ snacks that you had to have.”

In response, he picks up the apple, looks at me, and deliberately bites into that.

Choke. Please choke. 

He doesn’t choke. And we don’t hear any news about Severus.

Our neighbors look for Severus.  And my brother, sister-in-law, and nieces look for him. They email more neighbors. Post signs. Leave food outside. It remains untouched.  There’s no sign of him.

Near the end of our trip, Waldorf makes an announcement.

Waldorf: “I’m ready to go home.  I’m ready to see Severus.  I miss him.”

B&B and I exchange a quick glance.  I take a deep breath.  And prepare to deliver the news that will break my first baby’s heart.

Me: Quietly, “Waldorf, Severus hasn’t come back.”

Waldorf: Eyes wide, “WHAT?!”

Me: “Since he ran out. He hasn’t been back.  Your buddies have looked for him. And your cousins have looked for him.  But no one has seen him.”

Waldorf, my private little man, always guarded with his emotions, blinks back tears.  The gravity of the situation sinks into his young brain.

Interrogator: Chiming in, “What?! Somebody STOLE Severus?!”

Verb: Like an angry mob member, “Huh? Stole him?! Well, I’ll get him back! I’ll use my Spinjitzu on that bad guy who stole Severus!”

Interrogator: Quick to join the angry mob, “Yeah, me too! And we’ll rescue Severus from the bad guys!”

All roads lead back to Ninjago with these fools.

Me: “Maybe somebody took Severus in because he’s so friendly.  But there’s no need for Spinjitzu, my little ninjas.  We’ll keep looking for him.”

Trust me, they’ll return Severus as soon as he mounts their curtain rod. Or their Christmas tree. Or eats a birthday cake that’s been set on the counter to cool.

I steal a glance at Waldorf, who’s very quiet and continues to fight back his worried tears. And I do my best to blink back my tears at the sight of his struggling. The Agony.

B&B and I don’t even have to look at each other to know…there is no chance we’re mentioning the piece about the owl.  No way.

So, we return to a home that’s lost a pet.  For the short term or forever…we don’t yet know.  B&B and I feel the weight of the loss of Severus, whose name may in fact be a self fulfilling prophecy.  And, as his parents, we’re tasked with being honest (but not entirely forthcoming) with Waldorf…and with maintaining an optimistic outlook that our cat is simply hiding.  Waiting for his best friend to find him.

I don’t like broken Christmas ornaments. Nor do I appreciate claw marks on my window treatments. And I am not a fan of sharing my morning coffee with anyone. Especially a pet.

But I’ll live with all of it. Chalk it up to the chaos of my household.  If it means that my oldest boy, my private son, is reunited with his first pet. If it means that the worried look on Waldorf’s face whenever Severus’ name is mentioned transforms back into the easygoing smile of a boy whose world is just right again.

I’ll take paw prints in my brownies for Waldorf. After all, I am a cat lover.

Who’da thunk it?

This WAS the end of my story. A real cliffhanger. But we’ve had a very recent development…

Thursday evening I’m getting ready to walk out the door with the Kenyan for his track practice. I receive a text from my brother…

“Am at the pizza place one town over. Could this be your cat???????”. He’d attached a picture of what looked like Severus on a “Found Cat!!!” poster.

Holy crap!!! Severus!!!!!! He’s still alive!!!!!

I creep upstairs and leave a message on the contact person’s voicemail in a loud whisper. I don’t want Waldorf to hear me and get his hopes up unnecessarily.

I show the message to B&B, who walks through the door 2 minutes after I needed to leave, and he is equally excited. And equally hushed.

Me: “We’ll be back soon. Mum’s the word about this to the kids.”

After track is over, the Kenyan and I settle back into the car. I check my phone. There’s a text from B&B.

“We have Severus!” with a picture of Severus on the dashboard of my minivan.

Why take the animal carrier to pick up the traumatized cat when you can give him a spin on the dashboard of the family vehicle?

We arrive home to find Waldorf, standing at the front door, cradling Severus, who looks thin and very much like he’s lost a fight with a pine tree. Waldorf is grinning from ear to ear. And the Ecstasy.

All is right once again in my oldest boy’s world.

Waldorf approaches us before bed that night.

Waldorf: “Mommy? Daddy? I think I owe my Uncle something for being the one who found Severus.”

We smile and wait for him to continue.

Waldorf: “So, I think I should buy him some olives. And I’d like to do it with my own money. Because I wouldn’t have Severus back if it weren’t for him.”

Waldorf and his Uncle have a shared love of this little cocktail tray regular.

B&B: “I think that’s a great idea, Waldorf. We’ll get some olives for him tomorrow. I’m glad your cat is back. Now off to bed you go.”

I walk out of the room as Waldorf does.

B&B: “Where are you headed?”

Me: “I’ll be right back. I’m just going to the kitchen.”

Severus is back. I’d better cover the brownies.

Picture by Waldorf. Severus plans his next escape. I’m totally jealous.

 

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

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

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

Especially by you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asshole.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First I will cut out his tongue.

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

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

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

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

Next I will make him eat his tongue.

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

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

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

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

WTF?

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

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

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

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

Then I will cut off his index and middle fingers.

Husband of lady behind me: “See?”

I glare at him through the crack between the seats.

Then I will make this clown eat the fingers.

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B&B: “Smart move.”

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

He guffaws in response.

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

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

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

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

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

Rule breaking fool.

Guffaw, guffaw.

Now I’ll never get to sleep.

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

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

Tick tock

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

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

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

Tick tock, tick tock

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

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

Waldorf: “Mommy, have you seen Severus?”

Too late.

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

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

Guffaw.

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

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

5:08 AM.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock

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

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

But even I have my limits.

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

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

Tick tock. Tickety tick tock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Smiling, “OK, thanks. Wait…why?”

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

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

Me: “Boys, earmuffs, please.”

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

I turn to B&B.

Me: “I am going to fucking kill you.”

The airline employee looks quizzically between the two of us.

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

I shake my head in response.

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

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

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

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

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

Tick tock, to the tickety tock.

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

6:20 AM

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

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

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

Tick tock, tickety tickety tock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hate when people call me ma’am.

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

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

Tickety tick to the mutha fuckin tock.

Me: “Shit. OK.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

disney2

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

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

Foiled. Shit. And shit. And SHIT. 

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

That’s the plan, lady.

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

Me and my suntan lotion screw up.

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

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

WHAT????

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

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

Shampoo on an airplane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me: Not slowing down, “Yes!”

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

Me: Yelling,“Thank you!”

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

We collapse into our seats.

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

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

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

Me: “That depends.”

B&B: “On what?”

Me: “On how you answer my question.”

B&B: “By all means, please ask it.”

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

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

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

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

The flight attendant catches my eye and smiles.

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

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

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

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

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

Moron.

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

And so begins our vacation…