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Tuesday, July 22, 2014


There are few things I hate more than marketing with two children.  I have avoided it like I do public toilets, only relenting in dire circumstances. Today was one of those times.  Target alone is my Zen; Target with children is a prisoner of war camp.  But I was out of everything, my refrigerator was barren and I had resorted to giving TIT old cans of formula for the last two days when I was struck down with a virus and out of milk.  I had no choice.  I readied myself with a cup of black coffee (because I was out of cream) and a mantra chant to provide me strength to survive Superfresh with two kids.

The Commander cannot leave the house these days without dressing in full Star Wars regalia. Clad in his Jedi robe, his lightsaber hanging from his Nike shorts he filled the top of TIT’s stroller with his arsenal of weapons.  “I need my other water gun,” he wailed as I tried to strap a feisty TIT into the stroller.  “I need the blue gun! Zac needs a gun. He needs one too, Mommy!”  I focus on the task at hand, a rather simple on of just getting out of the house with my sanity and two kids in tow and I try to ignore he requests for weaponry and satiate it with an ice pop, one of the only food items in the house. 

I take no list and think surely I can pull it all together when we get there.  Just the basics, I tell myself. Nothing fancy, no crock-pot dinner tonight, we will dine on microwavable delectables.  I am happy these days with hummus on some Triscuits but I was out of that too, so it would have come down to macaroni all around.  The walk to the market was fine and I high-five myself mentally that I have accomplished walking five blocks with one kid in a stroller and one destroying pigeons and squirrels in his wake with an electronic lightsaber.  But all bets are off when the doors to Superfresh swing open and the Commander sees the coveted and all too present vending machines pushing crappy tattoos and plastic balls for a quarter.  “Can I have a ball? I want a green ball.  I can use it to destroy the angry birds. I want that ball,” he says pointing to a swirly green ball deep in the middle of the machine.  And if it was only a quarter for him to shut up, I’d gladly pay the sum and continue on with my marketing while he’d inevitably bounce the ball behind a stack of feminine products which would cause me to search on my hands and knees through Kotex boxes to locate said ball.  But these people who stack these vending machines know better and the ball he wants, the prized swirly ball is not the one, which is going to come out.  With my luck, it would be a pink princess ball, which would send the Commander into fits of hysteria. So I say No to the ball which then sets the tone to the rest of my shopping experience. 

I want this to be quick.  I want to grab a gallon of milk, some cream, a few vegetables and some odds and ends.  I want to be in and out in under 10 minutes without any carnage and without any catastrophes.  But I am sure we all know how this story is going to end. 

I make it to the produce aisle, but not before grabbing TIT a few snacks along the way to buy his silence.  So while he is munching on some dried cherries, I take all of 30 seconds to inspect some blueberries when I hear TIT scream. I turn to find the Commander unloading a full water gun on his brother.  The Commander is laughing his ass off as his brother is being drenched in a water gun filled with Washington Square fountain dysentery-laden water. I am disappointed not because TIT is crying and wet and I should feel bad for him, but more so for that fact that now I definitely need to bathe him after he has been shot up with water that is a bathtub for the city’s homeless.  “PUT THE GUN DOWN,” I scream at the Commander. I scream loudly because I have to be heard over his convulsing giggles.  Every purveyor of fruit drops the melon that they are holding and looks our way and I realize that shouting “put down the gun,” in a crowded supermarket may be just as bad as screaming “fire” in a crowded theater.  With my head hung low, I grab the Commander by his wrist and rip gun from his sticky little fingers and toss it under the stroller. “You cannot shoot your brother. You don’t shoot babies in supermarkets.”  People are staring but I have already, 7 minutes into this journey, reached the “I don’t give a fuck” stage. 

Undeterred the Commander moves on to a different weapon and is a few feet ahead of us making lightsaber swooshes to the pineapple display.  In a pathetic attempt to regain my composure and standing as a decent mother with other shoppers, I ask the Commander what type of fruit he wants in his lunchbox this week. “I don’t want fruit. Fruit sucks. I want fruit gummies.” It is then I realize that the Commander is wearing his shoes on the wrong feet.  I would stop to address, but I fear the looks I would get if anyone caught the stench of his shoes when I removed them from his feet. “Max, your shoes are on wrong,” I say. “Do you want to go and change them?” He looks down at his feet and then up at me.  “Why? This is how I like it.” So I decide it’s not worth it and let him keep wearing them since he seems to be walking just fine. 

I had managed to get through the produce department and was working my way over to dairy when TIT became disenchanted with the dried cherries.  Rather than handing them back to me, he dumps the bag out all over the floor.  I try to pile them up, kicking them into a pile in aisle 2, but the Commander has gotten a few aisles away and is trying to get something on a high shelf.  “Mommy!!! Mommy. Mommy???” he is wailing from afar. I find him in the chips aisle trying to reach for a bag of Lays on the top-shelf. TIT gets in on the action and is yelping and gesturing towards the Pirates Booty that seems to be the better choice.  So I grab a bag, bust it open and dole out to both boys.  The savages are momentarily tamed and I take the opportunity to grab some milk, cream and yogurt. 

I have filled the entire under-carriage of the stroller with a week’s worth of groceries and am ready to check out before I press my luck and try to recall any forgotten items in a final sweep of the market.  But checkout is the hardest part of this journey and I had to time it correctly.  I needed to make sure I wasn’t behind an Extreme Couponing contestant or anyone who was going to need any extra assistance.  Hoping I picked the right line, I bend over to start unloading my haul onto the conveyor belt.  TIT had been relatively peacefully once he was mauling a huge bag or Pirates Booty and the Commander was fighting Battle Droids and Storm Troopers right in front of the cereal aisle.  I begin to place the bagged apples on the belt when I get rammed in the butt with a lightsaber from behind.  Shocked that I am being anally attacked in the checkout line at Superfresh I jump up at lightening speed, hitting my head on the handle of the stroller only to turn and find the Commander in the “force push” position wanting to battle me.  “Let’s fight,” he challenges me. “I lightsabered you, Mommy. You need to fall down and die.” Clearly, I wanted to at that moment but I couldn’t because now TIT had discovered my other favorite part to supermarkets: checkout lane candy.  I look over and he has covered himself in the stroller with M & Ms and Twix Bars and it trying to tear open the wrappers.  “Mommy, Mommy. You need to lie down on the floor and pretend you are dead.  Lie down. Scream, pretend you are bleeding and your guts are coming out.” He is yelling loudly, but not loud enough to drown out TIT’s  “OPEN! OPEN.” 

I chose to do neither; and clean the diabetic shock-inducing buffet off TIT and try to strong arm the lightsaber from the Commander.  “Do you have your loyalty card?” the checker asks oblivious my own personal hell which is happening feet away. TIT goes back for a second swipe at the candy and refuses to take no for an answer.  He has now inched his way forward in his seat and is standing and trying to wiggle free from the harness to get the gum.  He manages to snag a package of Mentos and looks at it quizzically.  “Put it back. I am serious,” I say to him.  He ignores me as he always does and starts making lightsaber noises and slashing the credit card machine to his left.   “Paper or plastic?” the checker asks me again as he is bagging the groceries.  Do I really give a rat’s ass? Plastic, paper, garbage bags? I don’t care. Just bag it fast so I can get the F out of here before all hell breaks loose. 

I make it out of the store and survive the walk a few blocks, as I am repeatedly wacked with a lightsaber.  TIT refuses to stay in his stroller. He is hysterical and has managed to work free from his restraints.  So I stop to adjust and realize that I am going to have no choice but to carry him the remainder of the way.  I reach in to untangle his leg which sends my precariously balanced stroller flying.  TIT was balancing the weight of the groceries hanging off the back and when I removed him the entire stroller tips backwards, dumping out half my groceries on the ground.  No one stops to help as I am trying to catch rolling fruit and contain two toddlers.  “Mommy? Mommy. Can you put Zac down for a minute? Can we have a water gun fight before we go home?” Mommy, can I have one of those? Can you open that box? Open it. Open it.”  Amidst the chaos, the Commander sees a box of Blue Bunny ice cream cones and thinks at this moment on the street; his brother shoeless and wailing and my groceries spread across a cross walk, it is a perfect time for a fucking ice cream cone and water gun battle. 

As I throw every last item I find on the ground into the bin on the stroller, I notice a ball of mozzarella cheese and a wedge of Brie in TIT’s seat. He had managed to pilfer some items from the store and hide it behind himself in the seat. Over the years, my children have managed unwittingly shoplift a large array of odd items in our travels. Anything stroller level is fair game and many times winds up tucked behind a guilty toddler.  I think, for a very brief second, about going back to return the items. It would be the right thing to do and as a good mother who is trying to teach my kids good things, I should take back the cheese. I think this for all of six seconds until the Commander slaps me again with the lightsaber. So I am sorry Superfresh on 5th Street, IOU.  And I do promise to repay you the next time I market peacefully alone without my children.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Final Act: The Flight Home

I get nervous when we roll up to TSA screening.  Nervous because I am worried what they will do when they find the arsenal of weapons in the Commander’s Star Wars backpack which he refuses to put in the check thru.  I am sweating, my ponytail has fallen to the side and my eye make up is running.  I look like I just finished an Olivia Newton John workout circa 1985 and I look guilty of a crime. I wonder if the outline of 3 water pistols and a lightsaber will set off alarms and if the TSA agent will actually deem these items dangerous because the Commander will go all Osama Bin Laden if they try and confiscate them and I may actually be stuck in Disney forever.  I sweat more at this thought.

I begin to disrobe. “Your jacket and shoes, ma’am,” the TSA agent motions for me to put them in the bin while TIT is now loose from the restraints of his stroller and very interested in the conveyer belt which he thinks is just another ride at Disney.  With one shoe off, TIT decides to make a break for it and tries to dart through the metal detector while the person on the other end is getting the wand waved over them.  I try to grab him but I can’t and I don’t want to piss these TSA people off because they have a lot of power when you are trying to smuggle chocolate milk and super soakers on a domestic flight.  “My son,” I say pointing to TIT who is now deciding which way to run while I am in pursuit.  “I need to grab him before he boards a flight for Miami!” One of the TSA guards tries to detain TIT by standing in front of him until I can get through the metal detector.  TIT looks up at his challenger.  Despite the hulking size of the TSA agent and the unfamiliar face, TIT isn’t deterred.  He tries to shake him, spin left and bolt right, but he tumbles into the guy’s knee and falls to the ground.  “Hold him,” I scream to the agent, almost hoping that this guy pins my 19 month old on the ground because I really don’t think he gets the fact that this kid has solid moves and will take off faster than most flights in this airport.

I get the special treatment because TIT’s actions and they test each bottle of milk and each Pediasure for explosives.  The TSA agent rummages through my bag with gloved hands, inspecting every item in it as he removes each piece one by one.  My carry on is cavernous, every pocket filled strategically with items to “Shut them the fuck up” on the plane.  I have goodies, snacks, milk and enough changes of clothing that my kids can depart, arrive and travel in 3 totally separate outfits.  I have bribes, dollar store gizmos, Xanax and Benadryl (for them).  This is Orlando so I am sure he’s seen worse. He gives me a “my thoughts are with you, but I am so fucking glad I am not on your flight” look as his rezips my tote and sends me on my way.

TIT is going through a daddy phase.  I am grateful because it gives me a good excuse to hand him off.  “Oh wow Matt, look how excited he is to see you,” I say as TIT screams Daddy over and over again when Matt walks into a room.  But TIT doesn’t just reserve the bellowing of “Daddy” for just Matt, he is impartial and any male to walk by, TIT will scream “Daddy”.  So as we are getting comfortable in our seats on the plane, TIT is hollering “Daddy” to every man to walk down the aisle.  And he isn’t just saying it, he is screaming at the top of his lungs and now ending the word with a quizzical question mark and pointing.  “Daddy?” “Daddy?”  I try to laugh and say equally as loudly as TIT, “Oh no, ha ha ha, Daddy is right there,” as I point to my husband and assure all the men getting on the plane that TIT is not a product of a sperm bank.  I swear that he gets this and he is just laughing his little balls off inside, because he starts doing it louder and emphasizing the question mark and pointing with exaggerated excitement.

Matt for sure has the easier seat.  We always split up, two and two, because we all know how well man-on-man defense works.  He takes the Commander and pours him some Sprite in a cup and you would think he just cured cancer by how proud he is at this accomplishment.  The Commander is leisurely drinking his Sprite and playing Angry Birds on his iPad when over here in my row, the TIT has taken apart a Wendy’s hamburger and is throwing fries at the seat in front of me.  Matt looks over, smiles and turns the page of his magazine.  But I know that the iPad has only 28% power and I know he is going to be fucked somewhere over Georgia when that shit goes out.  So I smile back at him and hand TIT another fry, which he looks at, and screams “Daddy?” 

It’s a short flight, only 2hours and 15 minutes and we are already about 55 minutes into the flight.  Zac had given up on screaming Daddy somewhere over Georgia and the Commander’s iPad is still working.  Score one for Matt because once the novelty of annoying people with his incessant  “Daddy?” wore off, TIT just made it easy on himself and went with the pirates torturing baboon noises.

“Ayyyyy ugh ayyyyy, RRRRRR!”

At a pitch ten times as loud as the engines roaring, “ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR, EEEEEE AW EEEE AW EEEEEEE AWWW”

“Switch seats with me,” I say to Matt. “No way, why?” he asks as his seatmate, the Commander reclines, arm behind his head and watches at movie on the iPad. “Because it’s only fair. I have been sitting with TIT the whole time. You got the easier kid. He’s driving me nuts.” 

TIT understands the power of torture.  He, even at this young and nubile age, has mastered the art of humiliation and enjoys inflicting pain upon his parents.  In my efforts to shut him the fuck up, I went to song before I attempted dance.  I belted out the alphabet about 100 times. If I lowered my voice below a dull roar, TIT would wail and I’d have to sing it louder again.  But then he grew tired of the alphabet song and I was forced to a low point, to place I didn’t want to go in public. I had nothing left but to reach for the one and only song to soothe him as a baby.

“Put an A upon a slim gold bar take an E a Phi and that is who we are. With our colors that are green and white, AE PHI will be our guiding light…” I sang. I sang very loudly, loud enough that people two rows up turned and looked back at me. I crooned and swayed and sang the entire sorority rush soundtrack for him. TIT was now gleeful at my public humiliation. Downright chipper, TIT is giggling with delight when the Commander’s iPad goes dead. 

I see it happen. The Commander looks forward and turns the iPad over.  He shakes it.  Probably a fix-it move learned from his father.  When he realizes that it’s dead, he gets a panicked look, which most likely matched both his father’s and mine. “It’s dead, Mommy. My iPad is dead.”  I reach for my bag and go to the “emergency compartment, but the Commander has smartened and no way is some crappy dollar store toy going to soothe the beast.  “Do you want to play with some Angry Bird cards?” I ask, reaching over my husband and handing him a pack of unopened cards.

“No.” I see the tears start to well in the bottom of his eyes.  I have seconds, only a few before the eruption into a full-fledge tantrum so I have to act quickly.  I see the man in the row behind us buzz for the stewardess and assume he is either going to ask for another drink or ask for us to be thrown off the plane over Virginia. But then I realize the iPad mini was in my bag and I reach for the last iDevice with any power.  It only had 12% but I was hoping it would last us until the final descent. 

The TIT who had been silent for about 10 minutes got bored. He has saved the energy he could have been using during that respite and come back louder and stronger with these unearthly barking sounds.  He alternates between laughter and hysterics and casually glances over at me to decide which one is more torturous to me.  “Do something!!!” Matt says as he takes another sip of his cocktail and reaches for an alternate publication.  “What the fuck would you like me to do?” I say, curse word and all.  Because really, I had done song and even some dance. I had read some horrible Brown Bear shit. I fed him fry after fry. I was out of tricks.  I am unclear as to what brilliant plan my husband wanted me to apply at 35,000 feet.  But then it dawns on me and I reach in the seat pocket and pull out the barf bag.  I take some crayons in my bag and make a puppet and I am pretty sure I just won mother of the fucking year! I am queen of the mile high mother’s club. I manage to silence TIT and my husband as I act out a full puppet show for him with inked up barf bags. 

The pilot comes over the loud speaker and announces we have begun our initial descent and I breathe a sigh of relief.  I know that in less than 15 minutes we will be back on ground and I am 35 minutes away from being back in my own apartment.  The Commander, going on 4% iPad juice is playing a game peacefully.  I feel the plane begin to inch its way down through the clouds. The sights on the ground become clearer and I gaze out the window enjoying the fleeting moments of quiet when I turn to hear TIT making some new noises.  They were muffled at first, then he got louder with some grunts and groans.  These were new noises and I wasn’t sure if he was trying out some new sounds in the hopes of giving our seat neighbors a parting gift.  Then I see his chest heave in and out, his mouth opens and it’s like a scene from the Exorcist.  A volcanic eruption of chocolate milk and French fries come flying out with seismic force.  I had just used the barf bag for my puppet show, oh how irony loves to bitch slap me and I am down to about 5 wipes in my Huggies container.  I start to try and catch the next bout of vomit with the US Airways magazine but it’s too late and I am covered in chunks of chewed potato pieces.  I reach in my bag to grab the only thing I can find which is absorbent and I start to wipe us both down with a diaper. 

If our neighbors didn’t see the incident, they most definitely smelled it. The vomit had mostly landed on TIT and me and I quickly filled my barf puppets with what I was cleaning up off the floor.  “When we land,” I say to Matt while wiping my vomit covered neck off, “We run. We get off this plane quickly and with purpose. Grab everything – bags, kids, car seat and just go.”

We all ride in silence until the flight lands, even TIT is quiet.  And for the last 10 minutes of this miserable flight, despite the fact I smell like fraternity house and any hint of Xanax has worn off, I find my rare slice of smelly quiet luxurious.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Man on Man vs. Zone Defense

There were plenty of reasons I only wanted two kids: I would never drive a minivan, like EVER; I want my family to fit at a 4-top table and not need to wait for a booth and my doctor won’t prescribe more than 30 Ativan in a month, and lord knows that would not be enough I if I had three kids.  But mainly, the reason for my desire to have only two kids was that I thought it made sense from a defensive standpoint.  Two kids and two parents meant that we could play man on man defense.

I had told Matt this from the get-go and imagined that he was on board for this plan too.  Divide and conquer. There were two of them and two of us. We were bigger, stronger and smarter and if we worked as a team the job would be manageable.

 In the beginning he was game. “Sure, I’ll stay home with TIT while you take Commander to the birthday party. It’s his naptime. I wouldn’t want the little guy to miss a nap,” he said laden with saccharine kindness.  So while baby TIT slept blissfully in a swinging Mama-roo, Matt would read the Wall Street Journal and watch DVR college wrestling while I climbed bounce houses to retrieve the Commander who refused to leave even for cake and pizza. All that was required at that point, was to flip him over occasionally and give him a bottle. Who even needed to change a diaper? It’s not like his nose knew the sniff test like mine and whether honestly or not, he denied ever smelling the stench of a dirty diaper that filled every room of the apartment.

Matt opted to take take TIT as his man. Who would blame him, the job was sedentary and required little more in the infant days than just burping and feeding.  And TIT was an easy baby. But as TIT grew into the beast he is, Matt’s strategy of Man on Man shifted to more of a Zone defense. 

On a recent Saturday morning when both kids decided that it was time to rise and shine long before the sun, Matt managed to sleep through the caucophony of explosions that were occurring in the living room as TIT and the Commander took turns catapulting themselves off the sofa.  “I need Nilla. I’m thirsty. I am soo sooo thirsty. I need it now,” the Commander whines just as TIT plows his Cozy Coupe into the side of the dining room table and gets out to survey the damage.  I avert my eyes from the Commander towards TIT’s accident scene and the Commander goes haywire. “Mommy, Moommmmmmy. I am talking to you. Did you hear me? I need Nilla. Nilla is my morning drink. Mommmmmy, do you think Bobba Fett drinks Nilla. Mommmy, Mommmy?” TIT is crying because he can’t reach the Commander’s Lego X-Wing fighter that I am pretty sure he will either try to consume it or throw and destroy it.  Either of those actions will send the Commander into a mad tantrum, so I go and deal with TIT first which then sends the Commander into tears because his immediate needs were not met with immediate action.  And my husband still continues to sleep.

I save the X-Wing fighter from peril and move it to a high shelf out of the reach of either child and think to myself that I may just be a superhero mommy saving the day. But just as think “problem solved” as I step off the chair and look at the X-Wing fighter that has lived to fight another day, both kids lose their minds simultaneously. “Give me back my X-Wing fighter. I need it! I need it.” The Commander is now trying to move other pieces of furniture to climb up to the kitchen cabinet to go and retrieve it.  He’s balling his eyes out uncontrollably. “You sunk,” he screams at me, his version of “you suck” but somehow has gotten butchered, thankfully, into “You Sunk.”

I am about to go all good parent on his ungrateful ass, “Do not talk to me like that,” I say.  “I need to save it from your brother before he breaks it. Mommy is helping you.” I am attempting to explain this to him, that his X-Wing had to moved to a high up place so that it wouldn’t be destroyed by the Dark Side aka his brother.  He seems to weigh this in his mind and there is a pause in the tears, long enough for TIT to scream at the top of his lungs and make a run for his step stool which he carts around the apartment for purposes just like this.  The howl from TIT reminds the Commander that he’s there and the Commander dashes over to punch his brother and then pinch and twist his skin. Surprisingly, TIT doesn’t cry. He briefly pauses and then resumes carrying his stool to the cabinet. He can only reach high enough to get to the shelf with the sippy cups and kids’ utensils and not reach the X-Wing.  TIT realizes that his plan is flawed and failed, so in anger he tosses a bunch of sippy cups and plastic bowls with monkey faces to the ground causing a huge crash sound.  And my husband still sleeps.

“He threw my bowl!” the Commander screams infuriated. He hadn’t used these bowls which he condemned as “too babyish” in eons, but that doesn’t diffuse his anger.  He runs over and whacks TIT again.  I threaten time out and he makes a run for our bedroom. “Daddddyyyy Dadddy, Daddddy!” the Commander who alternates between tears and screams tries to engage my husband who is still asleep…with ten pillows over his head to muffle the screams.  “Daddy, Daddy. Wake up!! Zac is bothering me and Mommy took my X-Wing fighter away. Can you get me Nilla? Nilla is my morning drink and mommy won’t give it to me. I am so thirsty. Daddy, wake up. WAKE UP!!!” My husband comes out of his cocoon, peeking his eyes up above the covers  and blinking sleep away.  TIT charges the bed too and now both kids are attacking him. I don’t try to save him because, really, I have been dealing with this ALONE for nearly 2 hours now. “I need another five minutes,” he says as both kids use his back as a trampoline and he retreats under the blankets again. “I’ll watch them in here,” he offers. 

So now the bedroom is his “zone”.  He staked out this position a long time ago and usually offers to defensively “cover” this area.  Mistakenly, he thinks putting an episode of Cailou on and burying himself in a cave of fluffy bedding is a good defensive move.  I allow him to foolishly remain in this warped reality because I know what’s coming. “OK,” I say  as I close the bedroom door leaving him with two wild beasts on the loose, “You have both of them.” I leave and go pour myself my eighth cup of coffee.  It takes only five minutes and I hear a crash and then, “CARRIE! CARRIE! HELP ME!!”  I sip the coffee slowly. I don’t rush. 

“What happened?” I ask when I walk into the room to find the Commander had made a lightsaber out of a metal hanger and TIT is walking around with a bottle of Febreeze spraying it at the Commander while making shooting sounds with a microscopic lego piece of the Death Star in his mouth.  I am horrified at this sight and pretty sure that next diaper change, I am going to find some pieces of the Death Star in TIT’s shit. “Matt, seriously, you can’t let them play with these things. Someone is going to get really hurt. It’s a metal fucking hanger? Someone could lose an eye.” I remove the hanger from the Commander’s hand and swipe the Febreeze from TIT, which send both of them into hysterics again. “Give me back my lightsaber. I need it. I need it. It’s mine. I want it back.” He makes a run for the bed to get my husband to take his side. “Daddy, Mommy took my toy. I need it back. I need my lightsaber.” While this is going on, TIT goes into the bathroom and finds a pump of lotion and comes out pumping it and making shooting sounds at the Commander who is now weaponless, pantless and jumping on top of my husband who somehow is still trying to close his eyes during this madness.  “Zac put it down,” I say as I try and wrestle the Neutrogena lotion from him before it’s all over the floor.  I disarm TIT who reacts by going after his brother on the bed.  He surprises him and pushes the Commander down from behind and the Commander lands square on the pile on the covers which is my husband. “Ouch,” he screams, muffled from beneath piles of blankets.  “Can you take them in the other room,” he begs. 

“Nope, this is your zone, my friend,” I say as I leave and close the door and head out to the living room, my zone which for once is quiet and serene.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Perfect Family Sunday in Central Park

I awoke to the sounds of gagging, followed by the telltale body convulsions then, wait for it, wait for it…the full, hot onslaught of warm vomit trickling down my neck.  It wasn’t me who puked, I had done that earlier in the evening, this time it was TIT who doused me in a wakeup shower of warm vomit. Like all families, we believe in the share and share alike philosophy. The TIT who picked up a stomach bug on Friday, shared it with me on Saturday, but decided he wasn’t quite finished and decided to share again early Sunday morning when I brought him into bed with me. 

I had been awake most of the night with chills and stabbing stomach pains, praying that by dawn’s light, I would be healed or dead.  I was neither, but I was a mother and I have no choice but to champion this little stomach plague and fight on.  It was sunny and the expected and much needed warmth of spring was fighting to triumph over the brutal ends of winter.  I couldn’t deny my kids a beautiful day in Central Park. I too need to fight the battle of the day in front of me.

“Coffee. I need coffee,” I said to Matt as I handed him the TIT.  “He’s still sick,” I warned.  I didn’t even bother to shower, that would come later, my first mission was to try and shake this feeling and while I knew coffee was probably not the first or best thing my ailing stomach needed, I knew without it my mind wouldn’t have the strength to go forward.  I head down to the bodega below, chunks of puke on the back of my shirt and my hair smelling anything but fresh.  What did I care? Most likely the unwitting counter attendant at the bodega will assume I was out partying all night and the smell of puke was my badge of honor in a successful evening out.  Little would did they know, the smell of rancid milk and bile was merely my morning badge of motherhood.

By 10:30am, 5 hours after my day started, we were outside in Central Park.  I was praying that both my stomach and TIT’s would stay strong. The Commander wanted to go rock climbing, an activity which sounded both dangerous and unappealing.  “I’ll take him up there,” Matt says as we approached the enormous rock formation that rose upwards towards the pale blue sky like the glistening skyscrapers behind it. I stood below with my father-in-law and TIT as the Commander and my husband hiked up to the top.  If my stomach wasn’t already being torn apart by this foreign mutant virus, than it would be reeling from watching my four year old standing 30 feet up on top of a slippery rock screaming “Cowabunga” as he slid down the face of the giant rock formation.  “Are you fucking crazy?” I ask my husband who assures me that his is perfectly safe as he points out the other asinine morons who are doing the same thing.  “Just because someone jumped off a bridge, would you do it?’ I was about to ask him that question, but I was afraid his answer would be, ‘yes’.

So how do you get an adrenaline junkie four year old away from the very thing that he lives for? Bribery!

“You want an ice cream?” I scream, as he stands poised on top of the rock ready to slide down again. “No, not now. Maybe later,” he hollers down to me. I try one better. “You want to go to FAO Schwarz and get some Angry Bird things?” I shout up to him.  My husband is no help at this point. He is just as eager as my four year old to catapult his body down the face of the rock.  The Commander thinks about my latest offer and weighs the proposition in his mind.  “Okay, when I am done playing on this.” At this point, TIT is unsettled in his stroller.  He is in, he is out, he is crying, he wants to be carried, he wants to be put down, he wants to be picked up all within a span of 45 seconds. I decide he looks thirsty and I give him the water bottle. I want him to stay hydrated, that’s important since he definitely has to be dehydrated from throwing up.  He seems grateful at first and takes a big gulp and then proceeds to dump the water right on his lap.  He looks shocked when the cold water hits, but I don’t understand why he would be shocked since he does this all the time, nor do I understand why I continually give him these water bottles when I know exactly what’s going to happen. So I blot him dry while the Commander comes charging down the rock with my husband behind him.


Central Park is one of those places that keeps you trapped, making it nearly impossible in this dizzying world of trees and paths that loop around hills and valleys, to find your way out to the correct side.  “That way?” I point.  I think over the hill, over yonder is the east side.  I try to use Trump Tower as my beacon and head towards it, but just as we are pushing the double stroller up the enormous hill, TIT spots an enormous Big Bird. Not a BIG bird, like a mutant pigeon on steroids or fat on Dylan’s Candy Bar treats, but the real deal straight off the set of Sesame Street.  He points and the Commander who hasn’t watched Sesame Street since in diapers, charges towards the bird. “Hey Big Bird, hey, hey! You wanna come with me to FAO Schwarz,” the Commander is trying to attach this creature to the rest of our day’s activities.  As we approach the bird, he is not just any Big Bird; he’s carrying a box with other Sesame Street character puppets that he makes come to life as the Commander approaches. Dancing in the box, the creepy red creature “Elmo” which is like kiddie crack to anyone in Huggies pops his head up and TIT is grinning from ear to ear.  I am happy to see TIT so happy since really hasn’t smiled since he started barfing on Friday.  Not only does Big Bird have a stash of puppet friends in the box, he also has a big ole sign, smack on his stomach: $5 per picture.  Really? Really? $5. You need to be that specific? It would kill you to smile for .06 seconds for a mere $2 or however many one dollar bills I can gather? But you put this heavy price on it and I feel insulted and kinda raped.

Big Bird motions towards his sign as the Commander and TIT try to engage him in play.  He’s pointing and silently motioning to us to shove cash in his box while shuffling his feet in dance steps for the laughing Commander. And I am kinda pissed off at this Sesame Street stripper scam Big Bird is running here. I am not paying up.  Now maybe if Big Bird would negotiate his fee down, I’d play, but I feel strongly on principle here that this kind of prostitution should be cracked down on the same way Giuliani took out the Times Square kind.  So I wave off Big Bird and get the Commander and TIT moving fast towards the east when we stumble upon another kid crack magnet.

A man is standing guarding the entrance to the tunnel blowing the biggest bubbles I have ever seen.  We are talking 10-foot long snake bubbles that sail effortlessly 50 feet across the park. Every kid is pinned to this man, their eyes wide with excitement and wonder as they watch him use an enormous wand dipping it into a bucket of frothy suds.  He has attracted a growing crowd of adults and kids alike who are mesmerized by the sight.  “Amazing pictures! That’s gorgeous! Look at that one,” the man, says inciting his spectators to take photos and chase the bubbles.  The Commander is off dancing in a shower of bubbles with glee.  “You have any ones?” I ask Matt, as now TIT wants in on the bubble action.  He pulls out some crinkled dollar bills from his jacket pocket and we toss it into the jar.  Unlike Big Bird, there was no minimum or upcharge for the kiddie champagne room and I wasn’t looking for extras.  I am all for a reasonable charge for park entertainment that gives me a few minutes of quiet and keeps TIT and the Commander smiling.  A few dollars well spent, I think as I collect my kids and start heading east again. 

By this point, the Commander is deciding what he wants to buy at FAO Schwarz.  “Is it like Target?” he asks me. “Better,” I promise assuaging his concern that this is like when mommy called Dollar Tree the “Green Target” which has scarred my son for life.  Before we are able to make it out of the park, the Commander spots a hot dog cart. TIT is leading the charge pointing and wailing, “Eh, eh, eh” as we make our approach.  “I want a hot dog,” the Commander screams.  “And I want an apple juice.” And while the Commander is eating his hot dog, top down horizontally, we are still trying to decipher what “Eh” means.  “We CANNOT give him a hot dog,” I say to my husband.  “He will seriously shit all over the park.” The TIT is now frantically trying to tell us something but I am not sure what. “Eh, eh, eh.” So we point, “Do you want water?” He shakes his head no. “Do you want a pretzel?” He shakes his head no.  I read down the list on the side of the cart to which TIT responds to everything with no. So $15 later, we give him a soft pretzel, a juice and some chips and he wails. 

We were unable to read this list fast enough to distract the Commander from the ice cream man standing feet from the pretzel man.  “I want an ice cream. You promised. You said I could have one.” He tosses the remnants of the hot dog on the ground and beelines to the ice cream cart.  Of course he remembers the bribe. He can’t remember how to wipe his own ass or what he did at school on Wednesday, but the promise of an ice cream is not forgotten.  So Matt buys the Commander the lemon-lime dots but not before TIT has figured out what “Eh” means.  Now TIT is pointing and frantically gesturing to the ice pops that I think is a good because it seems like it would be okay for a bad tummy.  I unwrap the popsicle and he is happy for a minute, satisfied as his face turns a mixture of red and blue from the dyes in the rocket pop. 

We have a good distance to walk to get to FAO Schwarz and I try to steer away from the plethora of vendors pedaling $18 bubble guns and pinwheels.  My goal was to get out of the park without opening my wallet again.  We succeed and make it to FAO Schwarz, which proves to be everything and more than Target to the Commander.  Satisfied with his new angry bird gift from his grandpa, the Commander is playing with his new toy when we contemplate getting food. 

We trudge north again, skirting the side of the park and trying to avoid any other street vendors.  I know saying NO and meaning it, is a part of parenting which I need to get the nerve up to be better at.  But really I am just looking to survive and a $5 junky toy to shut my kid up is way better than a stern NO and hours of hysterics.  And like manna from heaven, the ice pop has worked its magic and TIT is sound asleep in the stroller.  “We can eat,” I say. I certainly wasn’t hungry given my current gastrointestinal situation, but I could always use a cocktail.  So we find a little outdoor French cafĂ© to sit and pull the stroller up to the table where TIT peacefully naps and the Commander plays with his latest Angry Bird acquisition.

 I forewarn the waiter. “We need this to be fast. We have a ticking time bomb.” I motion to TIT in the stroller.  “If he wakes up, things are going to go down hill and fast.”  I think the waiter understands, but either he is not a parent or he is French and hates Americans because we wait a painfully long time for drinks and food. Just long enough that TIT wakes just as they put the food on the table. And he wakes up angry, very angry.  He’s screaming and yelling trying to grab the Commander’s new toy which is like starting WWWIII.  Just when I thought we could enjoy a leisurely Sunday brunch with cocktails, I am clocked in the face with a sippy cup and reminded there is no such thing as brunch with toddlers. 

And because we are masochists, we don’t call it a day after brunch.  “Who wants to go to the Central Park Zoo?” I ask.  Matt rolls his eyes into the back of his head and looks longingly at oncoming traffic.  The Commander is all for it and TIT having no idea what a zoo is, seems happy that his stroller is moving again. We walk back towards Central Park and the Commander, going on adrenaline, lack of sleep and a good dose of sugar, is leading the charge excited to throw a ball to the seals and see the penguins.  But when we get to the zoo, it’s mobbed and my husband’s patience had run out back at the prostituting Big Bird.  “I can’t do it. I am not doing it. The line for tickets is an hour long,” he moans.  “Back me up here,” he says which really means he wants me to be the one to tell our primed and excited 4 year old that his dreams of playing with a seal today will be unceremoniously crushed. I oblige knowing that this will inevitable require his participation as well.  Obviously I don’t tell him the truth, that daddy may stab the polar bear to death if we have to be tortured by another crowded, expensive and annoying endeavor. “Max, we can’t go to the zoo,” I say as we are standing at the front gates for it.  The lies don’t work the way they used to, as he approaches 5 he isn’t as gullible as he once was so when Matt tells him that the zoo is closed for repairs, the Commander will have none of that bullshit.  “It’s open. See Daddy! See! It’s open. See the seals? All the people are in there.” He rushes the gate like an East German when the Berlin wall fell, entering through the exit as we give chase.  

“Do you want an ice cream?” Matt asks. It’s a pathetic and poor attempt to distract the Commander. He just had ice cream and this was going to take a lot more than an ice cream cone to tear him away.  Matt tries the offer of a strawberry float but by now the Commander was screaming and flailing and kicking on the ground.  We are the people who everyone is staring at, the people providing more entertainment than the trained clapping seal.  Matt scoops the Commander up and tries a shoulder ride to draw his attention away.  It’s a colossal failure and he just gets kicked in the face with a pair of light-up Pumas.  I giggle as we drag the Commander kicking and screaming away from the zoo. 

And like a mirage, we see a man making balloon animals.  We move towards him and we move fast. We know that this just may silence the beast.  He’s wearing a giant balloon animal hat and twisting and turning balloons into zoo creatures for the little girl in front of us.  We “oh and ah” and pretend this shit is cooler than a penguin wearing a top hat.  “Wow, holy cow Max, he can make you anything you want our of a BALLOON!!” At this point, if this guy wants to charge me $40 for a Tony the Tiger hat, I will gladly pay.  My feet were killing from walking and I was centimeters away from blowing chunks all over the park. The Commander stops crying for a minute as he watches balloon man finish his creation. The tears dry up and he says, “I want a sword. I want a green sword.”

Fine. Fine! You want a sword, great! He can make you a canon for all I care, just for the love of Christ stop fucking crying. “Can you make two?” I ask the man and motion towards TIT.  Three minutes and $3 later, the clouds had passed and I had the two happiest kids in the world as they wacked each other with balloon swords.  Both boys were both happy, at the same time. No one was crying, they were playing together and the world seemed almost perfect on this beautiful spring day in Central Park. To the other park goers we must have looked like a postcard, Matt holding the Commander on his shoulders and TIT and strutting not far behind....beaming ear to ear in synchronicity!  And then, as we were mere inches from being out of the park, both swords deflate and burst unwinding into nothing more than shredded green plastic.

And the tears begin again. This time, from both, and they lasted all the way to home.