Planned parenthood

With the first kid, you learn to schedule. With the second, you get scheduling down to an art.

When the Phillips family has to leave the house, planning ideally begins the night before. Before I hit the sheets, I must calculate how many things we need to do before we get out the door, how long it takes to do them and how much “cushion time” we will need in case of such unanticipated emergencies as poop explosions and oatmeal hairdos. Because I like sleep, I will rack my brain to see if there are ways I can multitask and save time. For instance, if I pack the diaper bag and feed the baby while Maddi is in her high chair, that saves half an hour — but only if I time it perfectly, since James needs to be fed at least every three hours.

Conversely, if I do Maddi’s hair before the last minute, I will spend an extra 10 minutes fixing it at the last minute anyway when she gets bored and destroys her carefully constructed ponytails. Very much like a football coach outlining moves on a whiteboard, I have a finely-tuned game plan in my head hours or even days ahead of almost any outing. Amazingly, we have never been late to a pediatrician’s appointment, and I credit it all to planning.

When James was seven weeks old, my planning and multitasking skills were sorely tested when I decided to hit the fabric store and perhaps the mall — with both kids and no husband, on the spur of the moment.

Having just fed James, I figured we had a good three hours — an hour for travel and two for shopping. As we don’t have a double stroller yet, I planned to wheel Maddi in the stroller while carrying James in the sling. I even planned the order in which I would remove them from and return them to the vehicle. However, I failed to calculate the extra time it would take to load and unload two children from the car. Somehow, I managed to not just double but triple the time of entry and egress. I should have remembered that not only would I need to unbuckle James (doubling my time right there), but I would also need to don my sling, tuck him in (not an easy task as he is a wiggly worm!) and cover him with a blanket to protect against the weather (below 0 on that particular night).

Needless to say, rather than being the smooth, well-oiled travel machine we should have been, the Phillips mom-and-babies team faltered that night. I had planned on putting Maddi in the stroller and then tucking James in the sling, but Chris pointed out that the sling is tricky and Maddi would be spending a fair amount of time in the cold. Unfortunately, I failed to realize that if James was in the sling while I was getting Maddi out of her seat and strapped into the stroller, he would be spending an equal amount of time in the cold, but with a lot less fat protecting him. So we entered the fabric store with Maddi (as usual) grabbing everything in sight and dragging it into the stroller, James screaming and struggling in the sling, and me about to lose it. Needless to say, James was the first kid back in the car.

By the time I had navigated the fabric store’s narrow aisles with a gigantic stroller and a frontful of wriggling baby, made my purchases and then wrestled two freaking-out, tired kids back into their carseats, I was ready to skip the mall and call it a day. We’d left the house about 4:30 and somehow, we’d made it to 5:45 with only one thing accomplished. But since James’ last feeding had been at 4 and he eats every two hours toward evening as the big build-up for bedtime, he was fading fast. The cold air put my hungry boy over the edge and he began screaming at the top of his lungs as soon as we were settled in the car. The screaming upset Maddi and she thrust her germ-laden hands in his face to “help” with his pacifier, which made him scream even harder. We were definitely not going to make the 30-minute drive home.

So we stopped at the mall instead, where it somehow took 15 minutes to unload the kids and make it to the parenting room. (Part of that 15 minutes, I must confess, consisted of me dialing 411 to find the number for the fabric store in whose parking lot I thought I’d dropped my sling — only to discover that I’d never actually taken it off.) I miraculously managed, in the span of 30 minutes, to feed both kids, burp and diaper James, and let Maddi work off some of her energy playing with toys and jumping off chairs. I tried to visit a kids’ store that was having a 70 percent-off sale, but with Maddi pulling clothes off hangers and tantruming, I did the unthinkable and left the mall, the enticing sale racks left unplundered. With the kids (relatively) happy and fed, we headed home. Since loading the stroller is more involved than unloading, it took 20 minutes to get everything in the car. And I didn’t even bother locking the stroller’s wheels properly, because I was that ready to be done with my shopping trip.

Needless to say, I’ve put a moratorium on shopping alone with the kids until such time as I have a double stroller and more than two hours’ sleep in a row.

And here they are, James’ seven-week and eight-week pictures, respectively:

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