Saturday, November 22, 2008

Over the River and Through the Security Line

Millions of Americans this week will stick their hands into the frigid neck hole (or worse) of a cavernous, slippery, naked and butchered bird to retrieve a dismembered neck bone and livery innards. As they silently make a prayer to the Holy Defroster that everything will turn out okay with El Butterball, they'll be thinking that this is one of the more unpleasant aspects of the holiday season.

They'd probably be correct, unless they'll be traveling via airplane with small children during peak traffic times.

Much like stuffing a turkey, there are no holiday warm fuzzies when navigating (a) the holiday season and (b) TSA and (c) anyone who requires you to yell "RED LIGHT" in public.

I'll do whatever it takes to get my kids through the parking lot, ticket counter, security line, and boarding gate without a meltdown. And THEN I can deal with hours of restrained seating in a hurling sardine can full of germy, antsy strangers and my own un-napped and over-stimulated little ones who know that they've completely got me because hey, there's no 'time out chair' on a Boeing 737.

I understand how much I ask of my kids to be cooperative in stressful situations, and travel messes with the holy trinity of sane children: food, sleep, and sanitation. In a world of long lines, loud noises, irritated travelers and over-stimulated and over-restrained toddlers, a mama needs more tricks up her sleeve than Q offers to Her Majesty's secret service.

One of my favorite tricks is the "Airport Nack". This is when I break down all my self-imposed rules and prejudices about fast food, sweets, and overpriced junk offered up as a source of nutrition. It's pure distraction and bribery and I'm completely down wit' it.

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On a trip home from Chicago a few months ago, I bought a very large bag of artery-busting buttery popcorn for our flight. After strapping on our seatbelts and getting our groove on with Bob The Builder in the DVD player, I pulled out the popcorn and put it between me and Sam to share. We collectively munched away, our hands rubbing up against each other in the buttery bag as he happily watched the movie and I ever-so-happily read a magazine. Ah, bliss.

And then it started to smell rather ripe around us. There were several small kids nearby and I remember thinking "Ugh, someone's gotta deal with thaaat", and then naively popped another crunchy kernel and went on reading about Gwenyth and her secret to happiness and beauty and other important nuggets of truth (FYI: eating no white food and hiring a staff of minions will make a girl happy and waifish).

And I should put it out there that Sam does not so much dig the dirty D; he's pretty clear with me when he needs to be changed and seemed to be quietly enjoying his dinner and a movie.

Denial. It's not just a river in Egypt.

After a few sideways glances where I'd seen the little guy happily mesmerized by the wonders of Scoop, Muck and Dizzy, I did a double take and watched as he stuck his hands up through the leg opening of his shorts, into his diaper, retrieved his own scoop of muck, and mechanically wiped the contents of his diaper onto his seat back. And then took another handful of popcorn out of our shared bag.

Yeah, there's a reason they no longer serve food on airplanes and it has nothing to do with cost savings, by the way.

With eternal gratitude to a very helpful and mortified flight attendant, the mess was quickly cleaned up and disinfected, Sam was changed into a new outfit, and I'm pretty sure that a call was made to notify Haz Mat to meet our plane at the gate when we landed. The teenage girl sitting next to us probably is still having poo nightmares or seeking counseling. She never spoke to me again after I saw her covering her mouth in a blanket while making gagging noises at the window. Clearly, there will be no need for a "family planning" talk with this girl. She may never try air travel again, either.

I, however, I am just not that smart.

Earlier this month I got caught in the poo triangle when BOTH boys decided to simultaneously empty their bowels as our aircraft descended. If you've never had the privilege of having to make choices about your children and whose poo is going to get ignored the longest, consider yourself very, very lucky.

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Somehow the snow covered sleigh being pulled by horses who know their way to Grandmother's house seems a whole lot more appealing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Smells Like Toddler Spirit

Our very vocal, social, and earnestly sweet little Sam sometimes struggles with being understood. His words - though loud and vibrant - are difficult to decipher and result in an adorable, albeit frustrating cocktail of conversation. We get about 80% of his words and guess at the rest based upon the pretty predictable pattern that is the world of a preschooler. Time spent with him is like being in a foreign country where I kind of get the gist of what's going on, but the details are fuzzy and imprecise and the language is clearly not working in my favor, but hey, it's fun and new and pour me a glass of wine and I'm just gonna roll with it and act like I know what's going on. Shhh, it's my secret to surviving motherhood.

Sam seems content with his interactions with the world 99% of the time, but then, there's the rest of the time. The times when he wilts into a ball of mucus-y ooze with a wail that could call the Yeti down from the North Country. Oh. My. God. The horror. The screams and tantrums. The flailing, kicking and fetal positioning. But enough about my PMS. This kid really knows how to turn the drama flame up high (I have NO IDEA where he gets it) and demonstrate what a two and half year old who can't find the words to describe his emotions, wants, demands, should look like.

And people, it's not pretty.

Sam has the benefit of a highly skilled interpreter in his brother, who sometimes tells us what Sam wants, "He wants that bran muffin that he shoved under the couch this morning" and other times Max just rolls his eyes, shrugs his shoulders, and mumbles, "Red", referring to his sobbing baby brother as the quick-to-cry, scared-of-his-own-shadow 1960's-era fire truck character from the harbinger of all culture in our home, Pixar's CARS.

And although I KNOW I'm not supposed to EVER compare my two children, because they are both individuals, different spirits, different learning styles, yadahh yaddah yadahh, I am baffled with this sensitive and mysterious lad. Max pretty much came out of the womb ordering a cheese pizza with aged Italian pepperoni with no mushrooms, unless you have fresh morels and then I'll take them, but no tomato chunks and a fine shred on the fresh mozzarella, please.

Sam, he just lays on the floor clutching the Domino's ad and wailing. But is he crying about the pizza ad or the $3 off car wash coupon on the back? I NEVER KNOW!!!!

We've tried lots of tricks, techniques, approaches and well, a lot of wine, too. I know this stage will pass, that he will master language very soon and there will be a day in the very near future when I will be thinking (because I'll never have the chance to actually TALK), that "Ugh, will this little guy EVER stop talking about catalytic converters and fuel gauges and tire treads?"

Until then, we just continue with lots of talking, reading, playing and loving our little guy. Last week, I took the boys over to see their cousins, including the cutest little 3 month old baby boy that you have ever seen. And while saying our goodbyes, Sam knelt down and kissed his baby cousin, wiggled his pudgie fingers in a tiny wave and said, "Bye bye Babee Ashah. Come ovah foh dink suhtime, ok?"

Mama's never been so proud.

Friday, November 7, 2008


I totally saw this one coming...

If you are going to wake the entire house up at 4:30 a.m. while recruiting me to read you a book about the Mesozoic Period, I predict that you won't make it past 6:30 p.m.

Fifteen hours ago I would have predicted that you wouldn't make it past 4 1/2 years old, but lucky for you, I think you're cute.

Now get some sleep and no questions about brachia-whats-his-ass until at least 8 a.m.

Monday, November 3, 2008


The election process just got a whole lot sweeter...Ben & Jerry's ice cream shops are giving out free cones to voters tomorrow! I think some Half Baked, Phish Food and Cherry Garcia are great ways to celebrate the privilege of democracy. We can all agree on that, right?

Free Ice Cream on Election Day