Witch Project Was That, Again?

So, just as Chris left on a business trip for eight days, my mom decided it would be a good time to issue me the #monochromechallenge. Some people might have ignored the request. A better, more Pinteresty mom might have obliged with adorable pictures of grandbabies. Me? Nah. It’s my obligation as the “sassy one” to make my mother sorry she ever nominated me. (Yes, I realize I’m a 40-year-old woman. #Sorrynotsorry)

Jokingly, I told my mom my photos would probably be like something out of “The Blair Witch Project.” And then I realized: Hey, “Blair Witch” had crappy camera work. I’m a crappy photographer. “Blair Witch” made the ordinary seem creepy. My ordinary day is creepy (if you’re melodramatic about it, which, hello, I am!). Let’s do this thang.

In the woods with no guide. *I’m so scared.*

Everyone seems to be spoiling for a fight and our journey’s barely started.


Can’t sleep. It feels like there’s someone out there.

Yep. Scary indeed.

Our grocery store map got lost in the creek. We’re heading south, toward the checkout.  My sincere apologies to all the Save-On Foods employees and customers who heard Henry screaming for his “prison buddy” (aka the loaf of bread I removed from the cart basket because he was punching it).

Turned my back for a minute and the campsite’s destroyed. I think somebody — or something — is out there stalking us. There’s a mysterious substance on all our dishes.

What fresh hell is this? (For the record, my perogies were actually mostly not cold in the middle and nobody cried. Much.)

Found me a legit monster. #Caillou

What monster did this? (No trace of the bananas was ever found.)

The map is long gone and the campers are beginning to turn on each other.

What’s this mysterious substance we keep finding all over the campsite?!

The peaches were in bad shape and now they’re missing altogether. I’M SO SCARED. (For the record, it was a delicious cobbler, no matter what my husband who asked me NOT to save him a piece says.)

We keep ending up in the same exact place. Are we walking in circles?

And what is with these weird figures we keep finding hanging in the forest?!

Nothing scarier than a 5-year-old who stayed up ’til 11 bopping downstairs right on schedule at breakfast time. The only explanation is the supernatural.

And now he’s completely vanished! Where could he be?

They won’t stop these games until I’m mentally destroyed.

Whoever finds the canisters, please note the time stamp: wine o’ clock.

Time Machine

In the early hours of Dec. 31, 2011, I rolled into the Labour and Delivery wing of Kelowna General. And here I sit, a mere few hours later, in the final week of 2012.

Oh, sure, I’ve raised a newborn into a cruiser, graduated a child from preschool, supervised class trips and organized teacher gifts, and generally kept four children from killing each other. But in terms of time to breathe and think, it’s been about two hours. And if we’re talking about how long it’s felt since Henry entered the world, there have been both hours that crawled along like months and months that sped by like hours. Motherhood squeezes one through a sort of rift in the time-space continuum in which ordinary measurements of time are utterly meaningless.

Things that take months: Feeding the baby (solids or nursing, it doesn’t matter; Henry cannot be rushed). Getting the regularity-challenged Thomas to sit on the toilet and drop a deuce before it forces its way out in a cataclysmic and embarrassing volcanic event. Supervising homework. Our three trips to and from school each day, with children alternately fighting to the death and whining for Timbits.

Things that take hours: The time between notification of a play or recital and the time I’m supposed to have assembled an entire costume (usually using various articles of white — WHITE?!! — clothing). The period in between the sitting and crawling stages during which a prudent mother would carve out some time to babyproof everything (apparently, I am not a prudent mother). The amount of time between birth and the emergence of teeth and words. The time that elapsed between James’ last letter sound and first independent book. The window between buying pants with “room to grow” and discovering those pants have turned into capris so tight they threaten to sterilize your son.

Owing to the brain damage that happens each and every time one pops out a baby (I reckon between the four, I’ve lost about 50 IQ points), I have no recollection of life before Henry. I simply know that I rise at 6 a.m. every school day to prepare lunches and snacks in those bleary, eerily-silent 30 minutes before six little feet hit the floor and thunder down the stairway, elbows competing for prime banister real estate as they race to be first to the breakfast table (where they then proceed to take literal years to eat three small bowls of Cheerios because they are too busy telling each other how much more quickly they can eat Cheerios than all the others). And I know that it is 9:30 before I fall into bed after having washed the dishes and readied the backpacks and laundered the uniforms and laid out the lunch kits for the morning rush. If it is a good day — meaning a day I can put Henry into his crib while he is in that elusive drowsy-but-alert state which the experts recommend, and which happens perhaps once in a given week — I can get an hour’s reprieve while both of my littlest boys nap. If it is a bad day, I resolve to have a glass of wine and make myself some dessert afterwards, only to collapse in bed with a reality show once my chores are done, too tired to bother with wine or dessert.

This feels like it’s been going on for a century, and yet, when I look at Henry, I wonder where all the time went. When did my sleepy, kitten-size infant become a smiling, clapping baby? And when did that baby begin crawling, cruising and saying cute little words? How is it that he’s eating pasta with meat sauce and trying to use my phone?

And HOW have I not blogged in almost a year?

It can’t be the amount of kids. Lots of moms have a million kids, homeschool them, run a business, do 3,000 picturesque crafts in a day, and document the whole thing in ridiculously professional and prolific blogs. And it can’t be the baby. I’ve had a baby and blogged before. I wish I could say I’ve been busy cooking and cleaning, but I’m pretty sure lighting would strike me dead on the spot if I claimed any such thing. Once dishes and laundry are taken care of, who has the energy for floors? (Homeschooling professional-photographer bloggers with nine children, three of them in diapers, that’s who!)

Anyway, in between feeding and clothing and bum-wiping and chauffeuring all the kids, here are all the things I haven’t managed to properly chronicle: Maddux went to science camp (where she made friends and influenced people); the kids all took up regular swim and karate lessons (James takes them the most seriously); Thomas has NOT been kicked of preschool (yet); Henry has learned to do all one might expect of a nearly-1 baby and is the happiest little guy you’ll ever meet (until he’s not). Maddux — at long last — is in the same class as her “BFF” from kindergarten onward. They have been wisely placed on opposite sides of the classroom. James is now a reader. He has received a love letter and was very nonchalant about the whole thing. (He also punched his best friend at school in the chest for tapping him on the shoulder in the recess line, so it’s not always roses!) Thomas can do basic addition and subtraction, but still refuses to walk down the stairs by himself about 40 percent of the time. Henry is a big fan of high-fives, snuggles and every girl over the age of 5 he has ever met. He says “Mama,” “Dada,” “Up,” “No,” “Good” and a couple other almost-words. He cruises, but if you try to walk him across the floor, he gingerly lowers himself until he’s in crawling mode. His hobbies and interests include peek-a-boo, books, animals and using the power of the mind to will you to look at him, in which event he will smile at you until you return his smile.

As I write this, Henry’s finishing up an afternoon nap — one of those rare ones that happens in a crib rather than my arms. Perhaps as he starts sleeping more on his own, I’ll write more. Or perhaps I’ll step back into the time machine and see you a few hours from now, in January 2014.

Sister and baby sweetness
Best buds

Breaking Bad

Ahhh, spring break! Remember spring break? When we were in college, it was a time to go skiing or party at the beach, or perhaps to take advantage of the underage-drinking loophole in the great state of Louisiana.

Once you have kids, however, they have spring breaks of their own. And if you do go skiing or visit the beach, it is most certainly not a break for Mom and Dad — no matter how many tequila shooters you do. (Just kidding! I didn’t do any tequila shooters, because we have no tequila. Believe me, I checked.)

Because our children don’t travel well, we opted to stay sane home this year.

The week began promisingly enough. The kindergarten’s class mom organized a series of group playdates, with the first at one of our favorite local parks. The kids did a fantastic job of not being complete hooligans, and nobody had to have a time-out in the stroller. I started the next day with a 6 a.m. workout and a coffee, confident that this spring break would be different. It would be exciting! Productive! Or at least somewhat less insane, and I would not spend days on end in my pajamas, binge-eating tortilla chips and counting down the hours.

Right now, James is in a contrary phase. Well, the contrary phase has technically lasted about a year and a half, but right now he’s in a particularly contrary phase. So we’ve been trying to keep him out of the other kids’ hair on difficult days. Our innovative strategy has involved lots of Scooby Doo in Daddy’s office.

However, seeing as how Daddy is the sole wage earner, sometimes James had to mingle with the other children. Occasionally, the mingling involved insisting that everyone watch his favorite episode of Scooby Doo. Other times, it involved throwing a blanket over his head and volunteering for a beatdown (a.k.a. “ghost wrestling”). But this is how several hours of each day went:

James: “You can’t play with my Littlest Pet Shops!”

Maddux: That’s my Littlest Pet Shop, Jamesy! Stooooooooop!”

Me: “The Littlest Pet Shops are in time out now.”

Thomas (fending off James’ grabby hands): “Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeech!”

James: “I want that Percy train!”

Thomas (clubbing James over the head with Percy): “You no take my train!”

Me: “James, get in time out! Thomas, time out!”

Maddux: “Mommy, Jamesy’s not in his time out!”


Mommy: “And Scooby Doo is going off the TV now.”

James: “Mommy, you’re a poo-poo-head robot.”

Thomas (escaping from time-out and dancing in the middle of the room with enormous cheesy grin): “Thomas poo-poo-head robot! AHAHAHHAAAHAAA!”

Me: “Sweet merciful crap. I need so much more coffee.”

And so were great amounts of coffee consumed.

Because a little crazy is never enough, I decided to undertake two spring break projects (three, if you count the Christmas tree, which is stripped of ornaments but still standing). The first undertaking, Thomas’ potty training, was a complete bust — unless letting a 2-year-old pee in Disney Cars underwear instead of Pull-Ups and then feeding him jelly beans for sitting fruitlessly on the potty constitutes success.

The second project was eliminating James’ nap.

I have tried many times to cut out the nap, but James tends to crash hard around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, after which point our adorable child might as well be a wild boar on methamphetamine. But after a nice, refreshing afternoon nap, James was staying up until 9 p.m., or, occasionally, 1:30 a.m., and acting like a meth-crazed wild boar in school.

If my child is going to race about growling and attacking people like some feral animal, I’d rather have it be at home than at school. So we stuck it out through two horrible, irrational days of meth-crazed wild-boar boy, and finally James started going to sleep at a civilized hour and acting human during the day. Success!

Until …

Somehow, a year or so ago, Maddux got it into her head that there is nothing cooler in all the world than — get this — a sleepover.

Raise your hand if you think this is a good idea. No one? Yeah, me neither.

But gut feelings aside, in 2009, on Christmas Eve, I agreed to sleep in Maddux’ room along with her and James. They were very excited, because we have a hard-and-fast rule that people sleep in their own rooms. (You know, so they can sleep.)

Maddux was bright-eyed and giggly at first, but she’s a morning lark rather than a night owl, so by 8:45 she was exhausted. James, however, chattered away nonstop about trains until 12:45 a.m. Maybe longer. I don’t know, because I fell asleep. Then Maddux woke everyone at 6.

I swore it would never happen again.

But somehow, the kids finagled another sleepover during winter break. This time, I was smart enough not to try to sleep in the room with them. Not so smart, however, was Maddi’s decision to wake James at 9 p.m. because he was drooling. Having been completely reinvigorated by his 20-minute nap, James stayed up into the wee hours and the sleepover was aborted. Apparently, though, in my half-asleep delirium, I promised the children that they would get a second chance over spring break.

Let me make it clear that neither do I remember making any such promise nor do I find it plausible that I would have done so. Nevertheless, I let the little ones have another sleepover. (Well, once I found them entrenched under Maddux’ bunk bed at 8:45 p.m. surrounded by everything James has ever owned and looking up at me with their most plaintive saucer eyes, anyway.) They were asleep by 10, but the next day, James was so tired he had a nap. As the kids say, facepalm.

Add to all that a shopping trip on the penultimate day of spring break, which — in addition to the usual mirror-licking, begging for everything in a 5-meter radius by Maddux, rejection of any and all new clothing by James, and throwing of decorative rocks in fancy stores — also included the improper use of the stroller as some sort of MMA fighting cage on wheels.

Corn chips — check.
Pajamas — check.
Tequila shooters — checked. Couldn’t find tequila, settled for Riesling.

The only thing breaking this spring was my sanity.


There was a time when I enjoyed going to the mall. I would push my stroller through miles of air-conditioned, window-dressed bliss. No matter that my stroller didn’t fit in my favorite stores. No, it was treat enough to let my mind wander while my babies slept.

Then the babies got older. Old enough to get out of the stroller. Old enough to need to try on clothes. At risk of repeating myself, I now face a trip to the mall with about the same measure of delight as I might approach a shower at the Bates Motel.

But the kids need clothing every so often, and James generally needs plenty of advance warning before he is willing to wear new things. So, to the mall we went. Chris and I had agreed to go tomorrow, but while he was napping, I suddenly realized that I had plans tomorrow. (Had Chris been awake, sadly, he would have reminded me that these plans were for Thursday. Such is my life.) So, hurrying so as not to awaken Chris, and also because naptime for the children was fast approaching, I loaded the kids in the car and zoomed off to the mall. Leaving, in my garage, that extremely critical component in any trip to the mall: The stroller.

Ten minutes later, as I unloaded the children, I realized my mistake. In the horror movie that will be based on this post, some fictional character who is killed off early will interject, “It’s not too late to go back for the stroller!”

Sadly, there was no one present in real life to point out this fatal error in judgment, so into the mall we headed, the older children following me hand-in-hand, their preternatural cuteness foreshadowing our doom like one of those excessively sunny days on which, laughing and horsing about, ill-fated travelers head into Big Bad Nature in the aforementioned cinematic genre.

The failure to pack our trusty stroller was but the first in a series of ill-advised decisions in this most horrific of all mall debacles. At our particular mall, there are adorable little fire-truck strollers available for rent. However, because They Are Different From Ours, James refuses to ride in them without a screaming, snot-streaming, security-is-being-paged freakout, and therefore I did not opt to rent a mall stroller. Not a double stroller, for both boys, and tragically, not a single one for Thomas. (This is, perhaps, where the second ill-fated short-term character would have suggested that containing an 18-month-old while shopping might have been the smart thing to do.)

So, with my too-sweet big kids holding hands and (gigantic, increasingly heavy) toddler on a hip, I traversed about 50 meters through the mall to The Children’s Place, where thrifty mothers are guaranteed to find affordable navy slacks and white polos pretty much all year ’round. And indeed, there they were. Oh, it was almost too easy!

But I had to do it. I had to screw it all up by having James try things on. The third — and maybe stupidest — mistake of this complete horror show.

Now, if this had been Maddi at 3-and-change, she would have been delighted to strip down and dress up in an entire SERIES of outfits. All by herself, while I played with Thomas. She would then have insisted she try on and then purchase not only the selected articles, but everything else in sight. But James is not Maddi.

“James,” I began, as we headed for the fitting room, “We’re going to go try on your school pants to see whether you’re a 2 or a 3.”

“NO!” James screeched, unobligingly, eying the curtained room with caution.

“We will go into the change room and Mommy will take your jeans and shoes off. I will see how these pants look on you, and then you will get to wear your jeans and shoes again! It will be SO EASY!”

James glared.

“And THEN we will go to the PLAYGROUND!” I squealed in an amalgam of mock excitement and slight desperation.

“I NO WEAR DOZE PANTS!!!!!” James told the entire mall, and flung himself dramatically to the floor. I wanted to sink into the floor only the slightest bit at this point, because this is by no means the first time he has had a psychotic break in public.

“James,” I said faux-calmly, holding a wriggling Thomas in one arm while dragging my other son quickly behind the curtain by his armpits with my other, “This is not optional. You have to try on your pants so you can go to school with Maddux. If you let Mommy put these pants on you, you can go to the playground. Otherwise, you will go right home for a nap.”

“I no wear pants! I no go school! I no nap! I go playground!” James screamed at a volume that approached shattering The Children’s Place’s windows. He flailed and kicked as though he were fighting off an invisible squad of ninjas. I glanced around for bouncers, but apparently The Children’s Place has not found a need for muscle. Yet.

I uttered such helpful advice as “We don’t scream in stores, James. You are hurting people’s ears,” but apparently James had hurt his own ears so severely that he was now deaf, because he just kept thrashing and shrieking at top volume.

At this point, I was finding my weather-appropriate corduroy jacket extremely hot, and Thomas had somehow escaped my grasp, leaving behind a shoe. Where WAS Thomas?

“Thomas!!!” I yelled (as much as one can yell in a store without actually yelling, because James doesn’t need any encouragement in ignoring the “indoor voice” rule).

“He ‘scapeded, Mommy!” Maddux told me, wide-eyed. I noticed that James had somehow managed to crumple the pants and throw them under the curtain. And beyond the bottom of the curtain, Thomas, cackling with glee, had crawled off into the infants’ section and was playing chicken with a double stroller. (Apparently, he found his antics so hilarious that his laughter rendered him completely incapable of walking.) Maddux raced off to carry Thomas back, while I struggled to stuff a simultaneously limp and thrashing 32-pound boy into pants he didn’t want to wear.

(This is where, in the horror movie, the girl would look into the camera, snot dribbling down her face, and intone, “I’m SO SCARED!”)

So, with Maddux playing catch-and-release with the baby, who has gotten a taste of freedom and decided to go Braveheart on us, I played my own game of tug-of-war with James’ legs, stuffing one into a pant leg only to find that the other leg had come out of its pant leg … ad nauseam. James was as hot and red and sweaty and crazy as Jack Nicholson in the last half of “The Shining” at this point, and was losing his voice from his voluble protestations of the offending slacks. Tags were torn. Stickers were removed. Shoes and shirts were thrown. Playground privileges were indefinitely revoked.

Oddly, not only were mall cops not cuffing us and removing us from the premises, but nary a store clerk had intervened. And I suddenly realized that this was a horror movie that moms of boys everywhere could have starred in themselves. And that the salespeople in children’s stores have become completely desensitized to the sweaty, ear-splitting, mucus-producing thrashfest that is dressing a little boy who really doesn’t like new clothes. Oh, the humanity!

Miraculously, after what felt like hours of wrestling and bribing and threatening and playground-revoking and looking around for Thomas, I somehow managed to pull the offending pants up over his bottom.

“Put your feet on the ground, James,” I said, and was answered by more wailing and furious airborne bike-pedaling. No matter. Once he got tired of pedaling the invisible bike, I quickly ascertained that a 3 was way, WAY too big.

So we grabbed a 2. The same size I would have purchased had I not had James along for the fitting, because that is what he currently wears (slightly short though it may be).

Utterly defeated both as a mom and a human being, I scooped up my errant baby, put his shoe back on, smoothed my hair back from my now-drenched forehead, gathered up my precious little duckies and headed to the counter with my head as high as the legendary awfulness of James’ very recent tantrum would allow.

Nobody glared at us, so I’m guessing they had already finished their mental “What a horrible boy! And what a mess that mom was! Here’s what I would have done …” dialogue and now viewed us merely as objects of pity. Or maybe they thought, as I’ve occasionally been lucky enough to have the opportunity to think — when confronted with such rare, egregious misbehavior that it trumps the crimes of my own children — “Better her than me!”

The only comment came from the clerk ringing us up, who glanced at a cherubic Thomas (smiling, no doubt, in recollection of his many glorious games of stroller chicken) and said, “Well, you seem a lot happier now!”

“That was actually the 3-year-old,” I confessed, dying ever so slightly within.

Of course, as soon as he was clad in his familiar clothing and I told him how disappointed I was that he had screamed and yelled in the store, James had said, in a soft voice, “Sorry, Mommy.”

The Scourge of the Mall had been tamed … for now. But as with any horror movie, there’s always room for a sequel.

Whining and Dining

Welcome to Casa de Phillips, an unforgettable experience in family dining.

Our guests are greeted by the restaurant’s signature shirtless performers. Think Chippendales, but shorter and with potbellies and spaghetti-sauce neckties. After they perform a dance inspired by the Russian Army, you will be seated by a hostess, dressed in all the finery of a royal princess. (Please wait to be seated, as all seating is assigned by the hostess.)

You will notice the layer of bananas and chunks of bread that festively covers the floor of our dining room. It is applied using a special apple-juice epoxy and is maintained several times daily by our No. 2 shirtless performer, Thomas. If you notice that an area of floor is running low on decoration, please notify Thomas using our special Casa de Phillips code, “We don’t throw food,” and he will rectify the situation at once. (Similarly, to commence a performance of the renowned Phillips Voice Orchestra, use the code, “We don’t scream at the table.”)

All our meals are served on the finest picnicware in keeping with our way-beyond-casual dining atmosphere. If you prefer drinking from an adult cup or eating with silverware, please alert us ahead of time.

If you are a lunchtime visitor, we offer three delicious entrees: Classic PBJ, all cream cheese, or all strawberry jam. Special orders can be accommodated upon request. Apples, oranges, cheese and Annie’s bunnies can be purchased from our a la carte menu. Once you have thrown your sandwich or your sippy cup, your bill will be brought out and you may no longer order additional items from our menu.

Visitors at dinnertime will enjoy, along with our chef-prepared nightly specials, the musical stylings of Phillips Voice Orchestra. Sit back and allow the otherworldly voices of James and Thomas to transport your senses. Thomas, a mezzo soprano with amazing volume and range, will begin the performance with a series of vocal flourishes. James, also a soprano, is an expert harmonizer. This performing duo is indefatigable and will fill your entire dinner hour with a series of impossibly-pitched crescendos. Their act has been described as the next best thing to sitting in an eagles’ aerie. We think you will agree their music is quite singular. (We do not offer refunds.)

After dinner, Casa de Phillips provides an entertaining grease-wrestling match. Our handler (or handlers) will wash and wipe the greased baby’s hands while the baby tries to escape from his high chair. Who will win? Who will get covered in food? It’s all good, not-so-clean family fun as the baby takes on all comers.

So please, pull up a chair at Casa de Phillips, open from 12:40 – 2 p.m. and 5:30 – 7 p.m. daily, for a dining experience you’ll never forget. (At least not without a lot of therapy.)

Your host, Thomas, diligently replenishes the floor-food.


I’ve always regarded with no modicum of suspicion the term “hot mama.” What exactly separates a hot mama from a regular hot person?

Ah, yes. Now I remember. You can spot the “hot mama” a mile away because she is wearing a mother’s very own type of combat fatigues. Her hair is coiffed in such a way that it is impossible for a toddler to yank. For the first many years, her earrings are never, EVER hoops. If there are multiple kids who are not yet in preschool, 90 percent of her wardrobe will be wash-and-wear fabric. And no matter the ages of the children, the smarter of us hot mamas know to dress in the same color as whatever we’re serving for lunch.

Oh, there are occasions when we might wear white pants or a silk top or a tantalizing, chunky necklace. Those are called dates. As much as “What Not to Wear” might suggest that a mom-on-the-go should opt for a light-colored linen walking short, a fun silk top and some bold jewelry, we don’t see Stacy and Clinton offering to spend hours over our laundry sink with a bottle of Spray ‘N’ Wash, or to take our toddlers to the emergency room when they decide those fun cocktail rings would make delicious appetizers.

Of course, we can’t talk about maternal fashion faux pas without discussing that staple of tastemakers’ ire, the “mom jean.” Now, I’m not saying that our waistbands should touch our ribs. But in the immortal words of Whitney Houston, “Crack is wack.” Low-rise jeans are all fine and well, and I’ve seen moms wearing them. Just not moms that ever bend over to play with their kids, or pick up a diaper bag, or put a kid’s shoes in the bottom cubby at daycare. (Well, at least not after they’ve mooned an entire roomful of other moms their first time out with the baby and immediately thereafter made a trip to the mid-rise jeans section. My apologies, Westbank Public Health Unit.)

And even for those hot mamas of us who spend a lot of time at the gym, motherhood changes us. And by “us” I of course mean our abdominal tone. The skin is only meant to stretch so far, my friends. Even with hundreds of hours of ab-sculpting classes, things never quite snap back. Your abs may return to their pre-baby form, because they’re muscles, and that you can work with. Skin? Not so much.

When you take a balloon out of the package, one side sticks to the other. It’s nice and flat and taut. Now give the balloon a good stretch this way and that way. Then blow it up to capacity. Let it sit around for a good long while. When that balloon deflates, it’s not going to be flat and taut. The sides aren’t going to stick together. It won’t be a pretty new-balloon shape. It’ll be a used-up, stretched-thin, flippity-floppity round thing that only in the vaguest of ways resembles a nice new balloon.

That is exactly what happens to your belly. No matter how much you work out, your skin is just a little bit (or perhaps a lot) thinned out, deflated and droopy. Skintight jeans and a crop top? Not gonna work unless you are a mom who also happens to be 16. Even supermommel Heidi Klum relies on airbrushed abs.

But perhaps the biggest impediments in looking good (not just “good for someone who’s had X kids”) are time and sanity. You see, shopping requires both. And shopping with kids saps both.

Believe me, you may begin your trip to the mall with the goal in mind of finding the perfect jean. (The road to mediocrity is paved with the best intentions.) But a few potty breaks and messy snacks later, and you’re simply hoping to find a really great jean. Your kids peek under enough fitting room doors, and you modify your goal yet again — you just want to find a pair of jeans that fits as well as your old ones that were destroyed by projectile Tylenol (not the clear kind that you buy, but the kind that contains the dye of a thousand red Sharpies and mysteriously appears in the back of your cabinet when you are weak and desperate).

Then the kids begin playing hide-and-seek in the clothing racks and licking mirrors. You notice it is two hours past naptime and that someone — you can’t tell who because there are too many of them and also you have neither slept nor eaten in four years — smells ever so faintly of poop. So you go to The Gap and grab something — anything — in what you think is your size. When you arrive home, you realize it is “reverse fit.” As in the reverse of what anyone should wear, ever.

But after that shopping trip, would you take it back? Would you? Or would you find a way to cover the gigantic butt parachute and the fact that the waist rests at your fourth rib, and rock that almost-mom-jean like the “hot mama” you are?

You see a hot mama. I see a shirt that will camouflage sand, poop, and most food. It’s a winner!

Have keyboard, will blog

“No Riding The Baby” is back. It’s a Christmas miracle!

Thanks to my possessed keyboard, I haven’t been able to type in a month and a half. No typing = no blog. But thanks to some troubleshooting by Chris, my keyboard is working again (for now …) and I leave you with this while I work at chronicling the happenings of November/December.

It is a photo of our lovely and charming kids getting ready to provide in-flight entertainment on the Nashville-to-Vegas route. Merrrrrry Christmas!

The Odyssey (And Other Things Borrowed From Those Masters of Tragedy, The Greeks)

In Greek mythology, a boy named Icarus puts on a pair of wings made of wax and feathers and, ignoring the warnings of his father, flies too close to the sun. Since wax doesn’t hold up terribly well to heat (Daedalus apparently didn’t think his invention through too well), poor Icarus falls into the sea when his wings melt away.

I recently undertook an Icarian journey of my own, but substitute a plane for the sun and my kids for wings. The plane hadn’t even pulled out of the hangar before the meltdowns began.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I was very excited when Chris booked a trip for all five of us to attend my brother’s wedding in Tennessee. But I also threw up a little in my mouth, because none of us (even the most patient and perfect, which I am not!) really looks forward with delight to an international trip spanning four travel days and 6,000 miles round-trip.

My mom suggested that we make a few weeks of it, but I looked into it, and they don’t offer a Round-Trip-With-Padded-Cell-On-Return-Flight special, so I politely declined the offer to spend an extra week being smothered by insane toddlers on a bouncy air mattress.

Our odyssey begins the Wednesday before the wedding weekend. We were supposed to be packed and ready to go by the time Maddux got out of school, but of course we weren’t. When one has three kids, packing up all the “last-minute” things such as toothbrushes and suckies and special toys takes a lot more than your “last minute” between the end of naptime and time to get out the door. Try “last five hours with many interruptions from small children who are hanging, slothlike, from your limbs.” So we got out of the house three hours behind schedule, at 7.

It actually worked out well, because the kids slept on the five-and-a-half-hour drive to Spokane instead of what they usually do in the car, which is fight and whine. Or, maybe not. Once we got to the motel, they were bouncing off the walls. If there is one thing worse than sleeping on a lumpy motel mattress, it’s trying to sleep on a motel mattress while listening to a wide-awake toddler chatter until 1:30 a.m. about diggers and trains and who poops in their pants or doesn’t (turns out, everyone does).

Eventually, I fell asleep wedged — uncomfortable and completely immobile — between a toddler and a hotel-crib-hating baby, while listening to the steady snores of my preschooler (but only until 5:30, when she woke up and decided to gallop around the room. Joy.)

After that refreshing 4-hour repose (and let’s not forget that the previous night was spent packing) it was time to spend nine hours in various planes and airports. Let me just say that while we saved thousands of dollars by driving to the states and taking a flight with a layover, THIS IS NOT THE WAY TO TRAVEL WITH KIDS. Seriously. Can’t emphasize that enough. Quite honestly, any travel time greater than two hours pretty much requires a heaping dose of Valium for everyone involved. It’s impossible for me to adequately describe the horror of a full day of flying after a half-day of car travel. I will try anyway, but much like the battlefield, nothing is quite the same as actually being in the trenches.

So, the day began promisingly enough. After drinking enough coffee to kill Juan Valdez himself, we headed to the airport with kids and bags in tow. Check-in and security were surprisingly uneventful, except for a teensy meltdown when James was asked to remove his shoes. The kids were all very well behaved in the airport. You know, like the calm before the storm.

That all changed once the captain turned on the “fasten seatbelt” light. I leaned over to fasten James’ for him, but apparently I had neglected to inform him that children need to be properly restrained during flight.

“NNNOOOO SEATBELT!!” he shrieked, to the warm smiles dismay of everyone around us. “I DON’T WANNITTTTT!!! NOOOOO, MOMMMMEEE, NOOOOO!”

And to my immense delight, my little treasure of a boy threw himself on the floor in front of his seat and proceeded to have the most adorable screaming fit ever. Everyone applauded. Oh, I mean glared. I threw up a little in my mouth.

Luckily, after we determined that James was now fulfilling the dual role of ticketed passenger AND lap baby, that flight was uneventful.

That flight.

Fast-forward through a disgusting and slimy lunch at the Las Vegas airport’s Sbarro, which was abundant with whining, crying and pizza-throwing by our non-napped baby, and we were on our second flight of the evening, which basically started not long before bedtime (you know about foreshadowing, right? So remember the phrases “non-napped baby” and “not long before bedtime”.)

So, as we are holding our now TWO lap babies pre-flight, we foolishly tell our fellow passengers, “They haven’t had a nap today and it’s bedtime, so with any luck, they will sleep the whole time.”

This is the point in our story where, were it sci-fi, current-day Heather builds a time machine and goes back to strangle two-weeks ago Heather, screaming, “WHY? WHY DID YOU SAY THAT??!”

Naturally, Thomas whined and cried the entire time and did not, in fact, fall asleep until he had entertained the entire plane with his imitation of an angry bald eagle for a good half-hour. We were happy to deplane long after everyone else, so that they would have time to decide NOT to rush us en masse.

By the time we got to the hotel, it was 2:30 a.m. Tennessee time and way past bedtime any way you cut it. The kids, thank goodness, all passed out the instant their heads hit their pillows and slept until a ridiculous hour (which, combined with Thomas eating the longest breakfast in the history of breakfast, probably owing to his hatred of Sbarro pizza, resulted in our being late to the rehearsal). Oh, I forgot to mention — the rehearsal and wedding? A four-hour drive from Nashville, where we landed. The money we saved on airfare might just be spent on psychotherapy.

The three-ish days we spent in Memphis are a blur of wedding awesomeness and kids-in-the-same-bed-as-me awfulness. I will skip over the late-night chatter of James, the early-morning waking of Maddux, and the joys of entertaining a baby in a series of unbabyproofed venues.

Fast-forward to the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I was dreading this night, because no matter how much he may deny it, Dad does wake up at 5 a.m. and make inhuman amounts of maybe-inadvertent-but-maybe-not noise. Every. Living. Day. (Do we know any 4-year-old girls like this? Why yes. We surely do. Wonder where she got that …) So after securing his promise that he would be as quiet as the proverbial mouse (although, having grown up with pet rodents, I can assure you that they are actually very audible), we agreed to crash in the guest room. Thomas had dibs on the Pack ‘N’ Play, Maddux called the little couch, and James and I shared the air mattress.

Ahh, James. He of the never-ending nighttime chatter. On this particular night, I can verify that he was awake and talking until 1:30 a.m. Tennessee time. The rest of the night I spent completely awake, as his weight and my weight rolled us into the middle of the air mattress in a sweaty, kicking, drooly heap.

Sunrise in Tennessee comes around 6 a.m. I can tell you this because my watch said 4-something when I first heard Maddux chattering away to her stuffed animals and realized with horror that there were no blackout curtains. WHY DIDN’T I REMEMBER TO WARN THEM ABOUT BLACKOUT CURTAINS? All of the kids would really benefit from falconers’ hoods, but Maddux more so than her brothers. As soon as there’s a glimmer of light coming into her room, her eyes spring open and she’s ready to go, as if she were a walking, talking solar panel (who, unfortunately, keeps a charge long after the sun has set). Naturally, her morning adventures became louder and louder until I sent her downstairs — the resulting tantrum, of course, being what woke the boys at 6 our time. The saddest part in all of this is that I didn’t hear a single bang or crash from my dad the whole morning. Nope. Just from the kids.

This was going to be the most awesome day of travelling yet. I could tell.

We’ll just fast-forward here through the first flight, which was pretty much the same story as the second flight of the previous trip. James seatbelt tantrum, Thomas wants to nap but instead cries, Mom bounces everyone on knees and sings “Thomas the Tank Engine” theme song until boys fall asleep just as captain announces descent. Deplane in shame after angry business passengers, having ordered record amounts of in-flight adult drinks, rush off plane to consume Juan-Valdez-killing amounts of coffee and schedule vasectomies. Spend an hour on the tram because a) the kids think it’s a Thomas train and b) an hour of riding between two buildings numbly listening to your kids yell “All aboard!” exactly every two minutes beats sitting in chairs having people direct homicidal glares your way.

This brings us to the second flight.

Note to self: Never again schedule a flight after the kids’ normal bedtime. Especially after five days on the road. Especially when it’s your second flight of the day and you have made your Sbarro-hating baby eat (or rather, throw and complain about) Sbarro again because it is the only restaurant in your stupid terminal.

Imagine the previous plane scenarios I’ve described, except with Thomas literally climbing on Chris’ and my heads and James having even more floor tantrums. Imagine Maddux, for whatever reason, pretending she’s at a Jewish wedding — except substitute the glass with some in-flight Chips Ahoy wafer thingies. Imagine me singing the stupid Thomas train song for more than an hour (oh, lucky, LUCKY people in front of me!). Imagine it not really working. Imagine the most high-pitched eagle screech a baby could possibly make, but imagine it being done into a megaphone — seriously, that boy has some pipes. And for a good 30 minutes nonstop, at least. What I imagined was Samuel L. Jackson coming at us with a gun, beads of sweat rolling down his face as he commanded “Get these emm-effing kids off this emm-effing plane!”

I’m pretty sure that even the laid-back coastal mom whose two preschoolish-age kids led the rear of the plane in a rousing rendition of “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” was wishing she hadn’t sat in front of the crazy family with a preschooler, a toddler and an almost-toddler. And at the end of the Flight of Horror, instead of heaving a huge sigh of relief, I ended up carrying not one but TWO sleepy boys along with a diaper bag THROUGH THE AIRPORT because, even though you can get one immediately if you are flying OUT, apparently they do not rent out little baggage carts right at the gate. (The baggage cart wouldn’t have been for the boys, but rather the baggage that Chris was lugging instead of a boy. Although I’m sure they would have enjoyed that.)

We went to the hotel, James chattered and suffocated me in sweaty, drooly toddler snuggles (how DO they simultaneously snuggle and kick?), baby wailed, Maddux rose early with bells on, blah blah blah. I’m sure you know the drill.

AHHHH, Chris and I thought, Five hours and it’s over. (Oh, you poor fools.)

You know how you always forget something on a trip? Well, I remembered everything. Just not enough of everything. Namely, diapers. Also, after four days in a roomy minivan, I forgot how, in the Highlander, our three young and feisty children are all but inches away from each other.

So, with Thomas in a pair of size 5 Diego Easy-Ups, we headed onto the open road to a round of, “Jamesy’s touchin’ me!” “Maggots poops her pants, HAHAHA!” “CAWW! CA-CAWWWW!” “Thomas scratcheded me!” “DON’T DO DAT, MAGGOTS!!” “CAWWWWWWWWW!!!!”

But it was all OK, because hey, there’s the border! Hey, there’s that cute little town we passed in the Kootenays. Hey … what’s that smell?

That smell, my friends, is the smell of despair. Changing a diaper in the front seat of a fully-packed car is no easy task. Changing an oversize pair of Easy-Ups on a baby who has eaten too much Sonic and still thinks of diaper changes as a contact sport, in near-freezing temperatures at a mountain gas station? Worse than all the aforementioned plane trips combined.

Eventually we made it home, although we think our sanity may have been lost in transit. Guess that shows us for aiming too high! I’m pretty certain that if Icarus had been travelling with kids, he would have been pretty happy to plunge into the sea and end it all.

Next time: Why we will never fly Southwest again.

Dia de los Muertos

In Latin American culture, the day after Halloween is called Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead.” (Don’t think zombies, though — think a cross between Halloween and Memorial Day.)

I’m thinking in the future, we will dub Nov. 1 “Day of the Dead” at our house, as well. Not because we plan on memorializing our ancestors with a skeleton cake, but because after the hustle and bustle of celebrating Halloween with a house full of small, active kids, we feel a lot like zombies the following day.

First, there are the endless parties. Maddux, being a 4-year-old girl, was delighted to spend three entire days in full princess regalia. (How does this differ from every other three-day period? Besides going out in public and not getting too many stares, not as much as one might think.)

Then there’s the Halloween candy, which Chris buys a month ahead “so we don’t have to fight the Halloween rush.” Of course, three days later, when we’ve eaten all the candy, we have to repeat this exercise in futility. And three days after that, and three days after that. At some point, the two older kids figure out that there’s candy in the house, at which point the candy replenishing must take place every 36 hours.

And this year, SOMEONE (I won’t tell you who, to protect Chris’ identity) had the fantastic idea of giving the baby an Aero bar.

Now, when you are a not-quite-toddler who is in possession of the world’s most ear-piercing eagle screech, and you have finished your very first fun-size candy bar and see that everyone else is devouring candy from a gigantic box of wonder, what are YOU gonna do? If you’re a smart baby (Thomas happens to be very savvy for a 1-year-old), you will wave your fat little arms about and employ that horrific scream until the giant waves of sound pummel your parents’ brains to jelly and they hand the candy to you with sad, empty zombie eyes.

Therefore, yesterday afternoon, we had to buy YET MORE CANDY for, you know, ACTUAL TRICK-OR-TREATERS. Joy.

So take two parents who have to orchestrate pumpkin carving, school party snacks, costumes and trick-0r-treat plans on top of all the usual parenting stuff; add a trio of already chocolate-addled kids; wrap it all up with a late bedtime and continual pounding (yes, POUNDING!) on the door by horrible pre-teens who don’t even live in the neighborhood, and you have a recipe for our very own Day of the Dead. (Did I mention the pounding? I was so mad after the preteen version of the Spanish Inquisition woke up both boys that I turned out the lights, Chris snuffed out the Jack-o’-lantern, and we found ourselves stuck with a gigantic bowl of candy — to be eaten by our own over-noisy hooligans, no doubt.)

So yeah. Today, we’re zombies. (Luckily for the citizens of our fair town, we’re too tired to lumber out the door and go cruising for brains.)

Thomas was up at 5 a.m. today with an earache (surely this has nothing to do with the fact that sugar lowers one’s immune response!) and naturally, so was Mads. The first thing out of her mouth?

“Mommy, when are we going to have Halloween again?”

Thank You, Helpful Advice Lady

If you’ve had kids and don’t live under a rock, you’ve met her. She’s the mom with the helpful advice. “Helpful” in that it helps you into the psychiatrist’s office or the liquor cabinet.

You will first meet her when you are pregnant and beginning to show.

“Oh, you look like you’re about to pop any day,” she will tell you, when you are, in fact, three and a half months pregnant and still in the throes of morning sickness.

“Get your sleep while you can — you’ll need it,” she’ll say smugly. Perhaps she got super-awesome sleep when she was pregnant, but most of us find it difficult to sleep with a beach ball full of fighting raccoons strapped to our bellies.

Then there’s the doozy she’ll come up with once the baby is finally out.

“It doesn’t get any easier.”

What? WHAT? Are you kidding me? I would take a toddler who sleeps through the night ANY DAY OF THE WEEK before I’d take a brand-new baby (even though I will happily hold your newborn all day long. Give it here!). And I think answering the infinite questions of my preschooler, sassy and obstreperous though she may be, beats cleaning toddler diarrhea off the train table, hands-down. (I did that today. Thanks for that, Thomas.) And you know what? I’m willing to bet that helpful mom probably wouldn’t trade her self-sufficient 10-year-old for my preschooler and all the bottom-wiping, toy destruction and surreptitious baby torturing that goes along with a 4-year-old.

In fact, short of teen-age girls, whose parents I imagine experience the constant dread of their getting pregnant and Mom’s having to Do It All Over Again While Incredibly Old, I’m pretty sure it does get easier. Sure, there are different problems as kids get older — criminal mischief, uncomfortable questions, the constant “You’re ruining my life” accusations — but with every year that passes, it’s less labor-intensive. I can’t imagine that parents of non-disabled teen-agers drop into bed at the end of every day saying “Wow, I don’t think I could have taken another hour of that day.”

Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps, as Future Me is frantically chasing my car-stealing teen-age boys down the street while holding my daughter’s baby under an arm, Helpful Advice Mom will pop out from around some corner with a smug expression on her face and do the “Told Ya So” dance.

But for my sanity’s sake, I am going to assume she’s wrong about kids never getting easier, just as she was wrong about getting your sleep in while you’re pregnant. (For the record, those two comfortable hours of post-baby sleep before you are awakened by frantic squalling beat 12 hours of sleeping with an abdomen full of writhing anacondas. Every time. As blog is my witness, I will never get pregnant again!)