Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Slow and Steady My Ass

You’re going to throw up. You’re going to throw up.

I chanted these words to myself, praying that the mere Statement of Fact might somehow alter the inevitable course of events about to transpire as the girls and I walked up the ramp to our very first ride at Storybook Land near Cape May, New Jersey.

We’d driven an hour and a half to get here, filled with the promise of storybook princesses and strange animatronic storybook dwarves that, upon pushing a button, would sing and dance and repeatedly bend over from their strange animatronic storybook waists. What more could we ask for? It was just a tiny, wooded amusement park that catered to kids under six. I assumed there’d be a train, bumper boats, one of those airplane rides you make go up and down by pushing and pulling on a metal bar.

Maybe a carousel.

Maybe a very small Ferris wheel.

But not this.



Not … The Turtle Twister.

I tried to stop the kids, but it was too late. They’d already slid into the deep cove of one of the green cars shaped like a turtle head. They left a space between them for me, my thighs instantly becoming one with the black pleather, which smelled of oil, funnel cake, and the ghosts of vomits past.

“What if we need to stop?” I asked the 16-year-old who, between texting about very important matters like how she wields the awesome power of making people puke on themselves, lowered the bar onto our legs and locked us in.

“Just yell,” she said, and then pressed the big red button.

Immediately, I flashed back: Haggarty Park playground, circa 1977, that metal merry-go-round, that neighbor girl pushing the merry-go-round, those very orange BBQ potato chips. All of it going around. And around. And around.

Compared with The Turtle Twister, that merry-go-round was a Lazy Susan.

“This is sooooo funnnnnn!” I yelled, laughing way too loud as our turtle swished uncontrollably to the left, trying to convince the girls that this was, in fact, fun, and not what happens when people die.

“Yaaaay!” 5-year-old Blair yelled and, because she is her father’s daughter, she meant it. The car, at the time, was in a tail-spin, rotating 14 times, 15 times, 16 times at such speed that the centrifugal force pushed us against the back of the car. I swore my skull had started to expand. I let go of the bar and reached my arms out in a T, bracing my hands flat against the inside of the turtle’s cheeks, as if my arms alone could stop the pain.

“Wheeeeee!” I yelled, thinking about only two things: The very orange BBQ potato chips, and Drew. Because Drew wasn’t not yelling “Yay!” She was not yelling anything. She’d folded in on her little 3-year-old self, crouching into my right side, surely wondering how a mother who claimed to love her could possibly allow The Turtle Twister to exist in what she’d just discovered was a cruel, cruel world.

“Close your eyes,” I whispered to Drew.

“Soooo fuuuun!” I yelled to Blair.

“It’ll be over soon,” I whispered to Drew.

“This is coooooool!” I yelled to Blair, certain that, since we'd been on The Turtle Twister for approximately 37 hours, barf was nigh. I calculated our speed, the spin, the likelihood of splatter.

Then I heard it…the clang of the engine turning off. The speed of the ride slowed. Our turtle did not. It kept twisting. And twisting. And twisting. Even when we came to a stop, the turtle refused to release us, twisting and twisting until the 16-year-old grabbed hold of the edge of its green turtle mouth and forced it to submit.

Blair didn’t want to get off.

I didn’t either, but for entirely different reasons.

Drew didn’t know what she wanted, not until the girl lifted the bar and reached in to grab her hand and help her climb out. Drew did not take the hand, but stared into her eyes, long and hard. She blamed the girl. I could see it. It was wrong to blame the girl. And I might have explained that to Drew, if I wasn't so happy that she was blaming the girl, and not me. Blame that girl! Evil turtles! Evil girl! But blame alone wasn't enough for Drew. She had a message to deliver.

“That," she told evil turtle girl, "was not fun.”

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Scorn on the Fourth of July

It wasn’t clear to me, really, how to prepare a two-year-old for sitting outside, on a blanket, in the dark of night, in a place you’ve never been before, with lots and lots of other people you don’t know sitting all around you, on blankets, waiting for someone or something—you weren’t sure which, exactly—to shoot explosives into the sky.

Poor Drew.

She didn’t understand. She didn’t think she needed to. We were her parents. We wouldn’t put her in harm’s way. We always brought a sweatshirt in case she got cold, a snack-bag filled with Chex Mix, a built-in lap where she could sit, which was where she was, safe and warm on Daddy’s lap, on the blanket, in the dark, in the neighborhood park, when she caught her first glimpse of the end of the world.


How would she know this gigantic noise at a volume she never even knew existed, which caused every person she could see to drop back their heads and stare stonerly into the black sky, was the start of something good?

“Wha dat?” she asked. No one answered. There was no time to explain. Everyone on our blanket—mommy, daddy, two grown-up friends, 4-year-old big-sister Blair—was already calculating a solution to the problem at hand: Enormous four-story-tall sequoia blocking view. Must move.  


Drew covered her ears this time, then looked up at the tree, suddenly back-lit by firecracker light, making it look like a massive alien monster…that was on fire.

“Look there! THERE!” she heard Mommy scream, as I pointed to a small clearing—a clearing I knew that every mother on every blanket in the shadow of the sequoia from hell had spotted, and was strategizing a way to transport her brood to it.

Drew watched as Blair, like a 36-pound bullet in purple monkey jammies, sprinted off in the direction her mother was pointing. Toward the sound. Toward that glowing monster tree. For all Drew knew, she would never see her sister again.
“Go! Go! Go!” She heard her mother yell, as Daddy scooped her up under his arm, his other hand dragging the blanket like a wounded comrade. Mommy cut hard to the left, blocking out a family of five with an unnaturally small dog, then to the right, zipping past an old couple that couldn’t figure out how to fold up their portable golf chairs.
“Follow me! NOW” her mother yelled again. And we all picked up speed, sweaty and desperate, leaving our half-drunk water bottles, our snack bags of Cheese-its, our Bud Light Limes we’d snuck there in Styrofoam cozies, heading toward the clearing, as if running for the last helicopter out of Saigon.  
Then Drew saw Blair, standing in a small patch of grass, looking up to the sky, her mouth hanging open, arms stretching out into a T, as if her tiny wingspan could save enough space for us all.   
Daddy set Drew down, and she grabbed her blankie, which was truly the only thing she could count on in life anymore. She trotted over to her sister, and looked up. And she saw it. She saw it.

Her thumb dropped from her mouth and the word snuck out in a whisper:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Birthdays Are My Weakness

We had our first-ever birthday party for Blair last weekend. Her first real birthday party. At a place. That we paid for. With lots and lots and lots of money.

For the past five years, I’ve been feeling like a turd in a punchbowl, while Blair opened invitation after invitation, year after year, for the capital-B-Birthday Parties my friends were throwing for their kids. The first birthday at Gymboree! The second at Little Gym! Three at The Discovery Museum! Four in the Oval Office for a marbled quarter-sheet with Barack and Joe!

The most exciting thing I’d done? Invited kids to the house to decorate party hats with pipe cleaners. At least I made lunch. (The rainbow Jell-O mold took almost a whole day, but I couldn’t have looked at myself in the mirror if I’d skimped my little Blair out of having both a purple layer and a violet layer.) All along, I told Thad: “Five is a special year. We’ll make five special. We’ll blow it up at five.”

And blow it up we did.

The plan: Fourteen girls. Two hours. A place called Enchanted Dreams—Blair had never been there or even heard about it or even knew such a place existed outside of Orlando—where kids get to dress up in princess costumes, and not those crappy, flammable, dollar-store ones, but satin and silk flower-girl-level gowns with bows and lace and ribbon and sparkles that likely cost more than my wedding dress. Three staff—THREE!—would run the entire party, singing songs, teaching the hula, making a personalized necklace for Blair with beads that all of her friends “made wishes” on.

In the end, it would cost $500. But it would be epic.

When I sent out the evite, my friends wrote back, excitedly:

“Which princess are you getting?” I immediately felt turdlike again. Not only had their daughters been to parties at Enchanted Dreams before, but they’d been to parties where the parents opted to hire someone to dress as a Disney Princess for the low, low additional cost of $119.

“We’re not having a princess,” I said.

“Oh,” they said.

Turd mom. Mom turd. Turdy turdy turdy.

But, then, the day arrived. And Blair walked through the front door of Enchanted Dreams, past the huge sign, surrounded by balloons, that read, “Happy Birthday Blair!” And she put on a pink flowered dress with pink butterfly wings and a pink jeweled tiara. And her friends came and got dressed in ribbons and satin. I tried to help Blair into another dress, but one of the women on the staff said, “No no! You don’t have to do anything! Sit down! Relax!” Just before I walked to the back of the room where the other moms were snacking on cheese doodles, Blair whispered to me: “This is the coolest.”

I thought it was the coolest, too. For about a half hour. Then, as I watched my mother tiptoe around with the video camera, capturing "Blair’s Fifth Birthday Party" across the room, it suddenly seemed to be happening 100 miles away. Blair was over there, doing her thing. We were over here, not a part of it. That’s where our lives were heading. It was inevitable, I knew. It would happen soon. In five years. In three. In two. Sitting on the white lacquered chair, eating a piece of princess cake that I didn’t even cut, I thought to myself, Not yet.

“What was your favorite part?” I asked Blair as we drove home in the minivan.

“The cake!” she said.

“I mean, what was your favorite part of the party,” I asked.

“The presents!”

“What about the party part? The dress-up? The songs?”

“I wish it would have been funner,” she said.

Next year, I thought to myself, it will be. Cake. Presents. Pipe cleaners. The works.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Please Remove Your Child From My Pubic Area

My parents bought us a gift—a night at a ski resort--which was a very thoughtful thing for them to do. The plan was this: they would keep the girls, and Thad and I would drive a whole hour away and drink hot chocolate spiked with Baileys and sleep in a hotel room without a single princess sippy cup in it and then spend the next day skiing.

Strangely, I was far more excited about the hot tub. The resort’s hot tub wasn’t just any old hot tub. It was an indoor/outdoor hot tub. You stepped into it inside, swam through some plastic car-wash flaps, and then were outside, sitting on underwater benches with other resort guests, snow piled around you, stars overhead, your wet hair growing teeny icicles while you held hands under the bubbling water with your husband who you realized you hadn’t exactly looked at since he drove you home from the maternity ward on March 18, 2005.

So we got in. And we swam out. And we scored a cozy spot on the far side right in front of a jet. And we held hands. And we looked at each other lovingly. And Thad started thinking about getting lucky later. And, just as I was about to give him a peck on the lips … there was a human form in my lap. 

“Hahahahaha,” said the human form, who I quickly discovered was a seven-year-old girl. “The water pushed me right into you. I can’t hold on. Hahahahaha!”

The seven-year-old girl was not wrong.  The current in the hot tub was as strong as a category-five hurricane. It took much resolve for Thad and I not to float into the 84-year-old man with the Einstein hair and Speedo sitting to our right. But we did not. Not so for the little girl. Because eight seconds later—boom!—there she was again. Square in my lap. Facing me. Her legs spread and resting on either side of my hips. Her mouth no more than one centimeter from mine.

“Hahahahaha!” she cackled. “Mommy! I can’t hold on to you!”

Only then did I realize that the woman sitting with her back to the little girl was, in fact, the little girl’s mother. The girl’s mother was talking to a man I presumed was the girl’s father. In between them was an empty space that could have accommodated three “Biggest Loser” contestants.        

Okay. So. Maybe I roll with different rules of engagement than mothers who frequent ski resorts with their children and bring them to hot tubs despite the fact that all children under 18, according to the “Hot Tub Rules” sign, were not supposed to even be in said hot tub after 9 o’clock at night. Maybe I’m more sensitive to the fact that I sometimes can’t tolerate my own children clamoring in my lap, much less the child of a complete stranger who is not only invading my personal space, but rubbing her naked, H1N1-infected thighs onto my naked thighs.

But, did the mother move over so that her daughter had more room? No. Did she say, “Get over here, Brittanyjolenerosemary! That nice lady doesn’t want you swimming in her lap! I am soooo sorry, nice lady?” No. The mother didn’t even turn around.

“Hahahahaha!” I heard, again, as Brittanyjolenerosemary circled back around, this time bracing herself by clawing my thigh—my inner thigh.

“Can you please not do that again?” I said, loud, intending to alert her mother to the fact that her child was in danger of being thrown.

“Hahahahaha!” The girl was now grabbing onto my shoulders, attempting to climb up my torso.

“Seriously…sweetie….um…ma’am?” I leaned in the direction of the mother, who didn’t hear me, probably because her daughter’s hair was in my mouth. “Excuse me? Ma’am?”


I picked the girl up, fought the current with all my will, and placed her next to her mother. The father watched me do this. He did nothing. The mother finally turned, clearly realized what had been happening, then turned back around. These people, I thought, should be jailed. Brittanyjolenerosemary latched around mother’s neck in a strangle hold just as Einstein Speedo Man got up. Thad slid over. I slid over.

We are free! I thought. Free!

But, six minutes later, there was a human form in my lap. I was shocked to discover that it was a different child, the child of the man who had squeezed into the space between me and Brittanyjolenerosemary, the child whose back was resting on the father’s forearms, floating on the surface. And into me. Though not into my lap. This human form rubbed right up against my boobs.

Except this child was not a girl.

And he was roughly 18.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The First Monday Morning of 2010

5:05 a.m.--Thad’s alarm goes off. Mommy wakes up. Mommy falls back to sleep.

5:57:--Thad leaves for the airport. Thad is flying to Las Vegas for work. Thad will not be home until Friday night...after bedtime.

7:08--Drew wakes up, yelling, “Mommy, I need you.”

7:15--Blair wakes up, yelling, “Mommymommymommymommymommymommy,” as if she was in her bed, and mommy was on the top of the Empire State Building.

7:16--Mommy turns on Blue Clues.

7:17 to 8:43--Mommy makes breakfast (for 2-year-old Drew, a bowl of rainbow Cheerios; for 4-year-old Blair, half a pancake, three bites of mommy’s peanut-butter-toast, a fruit roll-up, chocolate milk, pink lemonade, and water in her “special snowman cup”); mommy dresses children; mommy writes out enormous check for daycare; mommy packs two lunches (for Drew, chicken nuggets; for Blair, as requested, Lipton cup-o-soup with extra-wide noodles, one white chocolate-covered-mini-pretzel, one brown chocolate-covered-mini pretzel, apple sauce in a cup with a red top, and apple juice “not watered down”).

8:44--Blair runs into the kitchen yelling, “Drew locked herself in the bathroom!” Mommy charges to the bathroom to find that Drew has, in fact, locked herself in the bathroom. Mommy sprints to find a skinny Philip’s head-screwdriver to push through the hole in the doorknob that’s used for unlocking doors in emergencies. The hole in the doorknob that’s used for unlocking doors in emergencies does not work. Drew starts to cry. Mommy whispers through the door, “Drew, honey, turn the knob. Turn the knob until the button pops.” Drew tries. Nothing happens. Mommy remembers that it’s not a push-button lock. Mommy panics. Mommy slams the right side of her body into the door. Drew screams. Blair stares at mommy, clearly thinking, “Mommy, why don’t you just unscrew the doorknob?” Mommy feels silly. Mommy grabs the screwdriver and begins to unscrew the doorknob. Blair sits down on the floor next to mommy’s feet and begins to flip through a pile of photos she found on the nightstand next to mommy’s bed. She looks up and says, "Look at this one, mommy! It's me and you on the bike! Look mommy! It's Drew in her bumblebee costume." Mommy says, "Blair, please be quiet." Blair says, “Mommy! Here we are at Nana’s in the pool!” Mommy, finally, gets the doorknob unscrewed. When mommy pushes inside part of the knob through, Drew starts to scream louder, then picks up the knob and proceeds to push it back into the hole on the door. Mommy yells, “Noooooooooo!” Mommy pushes the knob through the door again. Drew ignores it. The door still will not open. Drew peers at Mommy though the doorknob hole. She is crying so hard that she’s no longer making sound. Blair says, "Look mommy! It's me and Drew on a carousel!" Mommy shouts, “Shuuuuuuuuut uuuuuuup!” Blair starts to cry, then runs to hide on the other side of the bed. Mommy knows she should feel bad, but doesn’t. Mommy shoves the screwdriver into the hole and jams it around until the locking mechanism breaks in half. Mommy opens the door. Drew crawls out as if she has just been released from a concentration camp. Blair calls mommy an “idiot.”

9:01--Mommy takes Drew and Blair to daycare. Mommy leaves them there.

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