On Waiting. Or WHERE’S MY MARSHMALLOW?

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After Gbot and I stopped at the third home-improvement store in two days, in search of proper track lighting, proper bulbs, an adequate fan, and a dimmer switch in the right size plate in the right color (the less off- of two off-whites), I was waiting in line at the Starbucks.  I deserved, I thought, something I had not made myself. I was pleased to see there were four cars ahead of me, because of the new gift I’m giving myself, the time to read. I reached across to the passenger seat where my copy of Pamela Druckerman‘s Bringing Up Bebe was optimistically waiting.

Last night, I got to the part in the book about waiting. That is, making your child wait. Not too long. Just long enough to begin to teach him how to deal with small frustrations. The theory is, if he learns to self-distract, if he learns patience, he will be happier and more successful in dealing with the old frustrting world which certainly, on a daily basis, makes you wait. Having a child wait also has the happy effect of keeping the constant requests that ricochet off a mother’s skull fourteen hours a day from actually penetrating bone and causing the gray matter to dribble out onto your blouse. “Attend,” the French mothers simply say. “Wait.” And, astoundingly, the demand is met, according to Druckerman, with actual waiting.

I thought I’d been effectively saying Wait. But in the past few days, we’ve been practicing more. I have said it twenty times today, in situations ranging from “I want a drink of water” to “I need a pencil.”

Needless to say, in the past sixty “waits,” I’ve become acutely aware of how immediately my children want things, all the time.

As I was waiting in the drive-through, reading as fast as I could, I remembered the famous marshmallow test of the sixties–and then, several paragraphs down, Druckerman brought it up. She not only discusses it, but she goes to the source–one reason I am enjoying this book so much. She meets the man behind the marshmallows, Walter Mischel who invented the famous marshmallow test.

The marshmallow test isn’t a way to choose the best filling for your s’more–it was a longterm study on how the ability to delay gratification in childhood relates directly to an adult’s longterm success in school and a career.

Briefly, the marshmallow test involved watching on hidden cameras a child left alone in a room at a table with a single marshmallow on it. The child has been told that if he doesn’t eat the marshmallow right away, he’ll get another soon (in fifteen minutes). Then the child is left alone in the room. Just he and his impulses and the marshmallow. Seventy percent of the time, the results were the same as when Walter the Farting Dog (not, apparently, named after Walter Mischel), was left in the cruise ship’s hold with the cheese. (Walter the Farting Dog Goes on a Cruise.) (Walter eats the whole cheese.) The children who didn’t eat the marshmallow–who waited and got two–proved to be more successful in school, have significantly higher SAT scores, and feel more fulfilled in their careers later in life.

The marshmallow test revealed not only that the children with self control would learn to fare better in the world, but how they did it. They weren’t just better at being patient–merely sitting quietly with their hands folded–but at–lo and behold–distracting themselves while they waited.

After waiting in the drive-through for nearly ten minutes, I got my coffee, and I got a reading fix. (I was distracting myself from waiting for my coffee by reading.) Gbot and I returned home with our bounty of electrical gadgets, and the electrician announced we would have to wait ’til Monday for him to finish the job. No lights in the bedrooms for four days. Waiting. It’s for everyone.

But I have too many things to do to let lightless bedrooms faze me. And–not married until thirty-nine–I’ve got a lot of years of practice under my belt.

For the bots, this waiting thing hasn’t been easy. As I type, Mbot is slouched in a chair looking at The Tortoise and the Jackrabbit, by Susan Lowell. He doesn’t want to be looking at the book, or sitting in the chair. Husbot has told him that it’s time to sit quietly in the chair with a book. The moment Husbot leaves the room, Mbot slides off the chair, his feet touching the ground, and makes eye contact with me over the edge of the book. He points to the sofa. His mouth quivers. Tears begin to fall. “Mama,” he wails.

Husbot returns. “You’re old enough to practice sitting in the chair,” he says. Tears. More “Mamas.” It is uncomfortable being me right now because my heart has migrated across the room and is in that chair while the rest of my body perches, feeling heartless, on my own chair. “I’m just waiting and wating,” wails Mbot. “I really just wanted to hug Mama…”

I know this is best. I know he must learn to distract himself. I know it is harder for Mbot to learn this than for many children–Gbot, for example. I don’t trust myself that I know the best way to teach him this. But surely practice cannot hurt.

“I want to get out of this place.” Pause. “Mama.” Pause. Big gulp of air with the hint of a yawn. “Mommy, mommy.”

He never calls me Mommy.

“Malcolm, that’s enough,” says Husbot, striding in. “I want you to sit still and read your book.”

“I don’t want to read my book….” Wail, wail, wail, sniffle, bawl, gulp, cry. How many sounds there are for self-pity. The wind chimes clong and gong from outside the screen door. The wailing stops. The soothing tones have changed the subject, at least for several seconds.

“No, I wanted to hug Mama. I’ve been sitting here for these many minutes…I want to go…”

I remember again the clock my sister recently bought for her twins. Not just any clock: the Time Timer:

This model is suggested for children with autism or ADHD. A list of various models can be found on Friendship Circle Blog.

I order it. Husbot leaves the room. Mbot sits quietly for several minutes. “Can I come out now?” he asks.

Husbot lets him, telling him he’s been a good bear, telling him he’s old enough to learn to read quietly for thirty minutes while Mom works.

And I’m thinking this is working only because Husbot and I are working together and Gbot’s got the croup and is in the bedroom lying down. I have found it impossible to enforce a quiet reading time while running interference between the bots.

But it is rewarding to see that Mbot can do it–can sit in a chair with a book for thirty minutes, even if it’s thirty whining, wailing minutes. It’s a start. We will work on it. I will wait.

Liar, Liar, Lance on Fire: A Hero in Hell–or, What the Hell’s a Hero?

While the Bots and I were making the transition from Idaho to Arizona, cool to warm, play days to preschool, Lance Armstrong was making a transition from winner to loser–at least loser of his seven Tour de France victories after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a 200-page document implicating the cancer-survivor-cycling-hero as a key player in what the press is calling the most systematic and sophisticated doping system in the history of professional cycling. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that he will lose out on an estimated $200 million in speaking fees over the next ten years. He’s not quite the hero he was thought to be.

It made me stop and think about heroes.

I found that, although I take my blog’s name from them, I know little about heroes as a group, except that the fictional ones appear on a lot of underpants, and that my children love them. Loving them is the point, right? Aspiring to be like them–the perfect, moral, strong-of-heart, body, and mind-betighted beings–is what it’s all about, right? But when heroes disappoint, time and again, it’s time to dig deeper into our need for them, our expectations of them, and our expectations of ourselves.

So, what, exactly, IS a hero, these days, anyway?

In an article called The Seven Paradoxes of Heroism, Scott T. Allison and George R. Goethals, psychology professors at the University of Richmond, list some interesting findings from studies they did that asked people about their ideas of heros. Here they are:

  1. The truest heroes are fictional heroes (fictional heroes exemplify heroic characteristics to a greater degree than real-life heroes who are prone, to, well, the weanesses of humanity.)
  2. We all agree what a hero is, but we disagree who heroes are.
  3. The most abundant heroes are also the most invisible. (policemen, teachers, mothers)
  4. The worst of human nature brings out the best of human nature. (Tragedies spawn acts of heroism.)
  5. We don’t choose our heroes; they choose us. (We are cognitively “programmed” to find heroes in certain kinds of people, ie, athletes.)
  6. We love to build up our heroes and we also love to destroy them. (I think this one speaks for itself.)
  7. We love heroes the most when they’re gone. (The  most successful president is, well, a dead one.)

This was all very interesting. But the article that pulled it all together for me was written by Scott LaBarge, a philospher and professor of philosophy at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, in California. In his article, On Heroism: Why Heroes Are Important.

LaBarge writes, “We largely define our ideals by the heroes we choose, and our ideals — things like courage, honor, and justice — largely define us. Our heroes are symbols for us of all the qualities we would like to possess and all the ambitions we would like to satisfy….And because the ideals to which we aspire do so much to determine the ways in which we behave, we all have a vested interest in each person having heroes, and in the choice of heroes each of us makes….”

He goes on to say that many kids today haven’t even heard of the likes of Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Susan B. Anthony. And so their choices fall to baseball players, rap musicians, movie stars, and professional cyclists. Which is detrimental largely because when these heroes fall, it leads to “pervasive and corrosive cynicism and skepticism.”

Is there a fix for such cynacism? Yes, and it turns out it’s an important lesson in how to view–and treat–our heroes.

“The best antidote to this cynicism is realism about the limits of human nature,” writes LaBarge. “…We need to separate out the things that make our heroes noteworthy, and forgive the shortcomings that blemish their heroic perfection.”

I agree. I’m not arguing for forgetting Lance’s vast deception. But I am a proponent of continuing to appreciate all the good things he’s done.

LaBarge points out that while the “frailties of heroic people make them more like us…that they seem to reduce the heroes’ stature,” but, paradoxically, this might give us hope that we, in all our own weakness, might to accomplish “deeds of triumphant beauty.”

The biggest problem I have with Armstrong’s deception is that it perhaps robbed others of the opportunity to accomplish “deeds of triumphant beauty.” But isn’t simply finishing a 3,500-mile bike ride over twenty-something mountain passes in twenty-three days that has resulted over the last ninety-nine years in sixteen deaths (wwww.letour.fr) in itself a deed of triumphant beauty?

We don’t have to forgive Armstrong for cheating, or for deceiving us. But we can still admire his Live Strong campaign, his althleticism, her perseverence, and his work ethic. And we should admire our own ability to seek heroism in others and in ourselves.

My greatest concern is how to teach the Bots this stuff. LaBarge maintains that it’s pretty easy. “Heroic lives have their appeal built in, all we need to do is make an effort to tell the stories….Tell your students what a difference people of courage and nobility and genius have made to the world. Just tell the stories!”

Katy Abel, in her article, From Spiderman to Mom: How Kids Choose Heroes, writes of a teacher who does tell the stories. Her students spend over a month each school year studying the Odyssey. They learn that “ancient heroes, unlike modern ones, were warriors who also cried and made mistakes.”

But Abel contends that “if students are asked to write about a hero, but aren’t expected to emulate the hero through good deeds of their own, then the effect is minimal….”

“Start by going home tonight and listing your five most important heroes,” advises LaBarge. And so what will I do? Beyond my own parents, my in-laws, strong women in general, peacekeepers in general, scientists in general, brave artist/writers, and the best teachers I’ve had, and the be-tighted guys on the booties of the Bots, I find I come up short when it comes to knowing much about many heroic figures in history. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to the library. I’m going to the children’s section. I’m going to check out biographies. The Bots and I will read them together. We’ll learn about heroes. And we’ll talk about how we can be heroes, too.

So I thank you, Lance, even while Nike is cursing you, for expanding my sense of possibility about how I might teach the Bots about heroes, and about how to be their own heroes.

Yesterday’s Mystery Post, Take Two

Sorry it’s so dark. But it IS a cave. Mbot is modeling the giant bat ears that demonstrate how well bats can hear. So here he is hearing the story of the unlucky sloth, told over and over again, really really loudly.

For those of you who read yesterday’s cryptic post before I discovered that most of it was missing, I apologize. Now, in today’s few bot-free minutes, I will try to recreate it:

11,000 years ago, a sloth fell through a crack. It fell into a cave. It couldn’t get out. It died in the cave.

The kind docent in the Shasta Ground Sloth cave at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum told us this story on Sunday when we were admiring the fossilized skeleton and the ancient sloth poop that I managed to not delete in yesterday’s post.

The bots listened with great concern and then baraged the docent with questions. “Why did he fall through the crack?” (I was going to answer, ‘because it didn’t come when it’s mother called it’ but she beat me with ‘Sloths don’t have very big brains.’) “Why could he not get out?” (There was no door.) “Why did he die?” (Because he couldn’t get out of the cave.) While Mbot tried on a giant pair of bat ears which magnified all the cave sounds, Gbot stood rooted in place beside the docent, craning his neck upward to look at her and repeating the questions. Perhaps hoping for different, better answers. But the answers didn’t change.

On the way home, he retold the story many times.

Gbot: “The three-tailed ground sloth fell through the crack. He fell into the cave. He couldn’t get out and” (voice lowering sadly) “he died in the cave.”

Over the next few days, the story was told over and over again. To Daddy, to Aunt Susan, to Grandma, to Nanny over the phone, to Miss Mary the music teacher. It was obviously sad and disturbing. How was I to know it was going to turn into a story of rescue and redemption?

On Wednesday, from the backseat, Gbot told the story again. “But Mama,” he said, “we could use Bob the Builder’s tools!”

“You’re right!” I exclaimed. “A jackhammer can cut through concrete and rock.”

Gbot: “Yeah, and we could make a door and he would say, ‘What a wonderful door you made, Mama and Gbot,’ and he would go through the door in the cave and he would go home to his mommy. And we would go home and talk about how the sloth fell into the cave and got out the door. And the sloth would say, ‘Thank you for making my door in the cave.'”

I praised his creative solution to the sloth’s big problem. Now, perhaps, we could stop hearing about the sloth in the cave. Although it was awfully cute.

But of course, as all answers do, this one led to another question. After a brief pause from the back seat, Gbot asked, concern edging his voice again,

“What if we were sloths, Mama?”

“We would be careful sloths, Spice Bear,” I said. “And we would always carry jackhammers, just in case.”

More about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum later this week. There were many moments to savor. Today’s recommendation, which would have been yesterday’s recommendation if my post hadn’t fallen through a crack, is: Go there!

 

A Letter to the Survivors

I just read my friend, Nancy Sharp’s, blog, Vivid Living. The post was entitled, A Dark Night For Parents. I didn’t know what it referred to. I feel like an idiot. I have been so out of touch, ushering a toddler and a preschooler through airport security, home to Phoenix, into naptime, and around the block, that I hadn’t heard the news. That everyone but I had heard. I even used the word “dead” in my blog post title. So much for keeping current.

My husband is, at the moment, in the bots’ bedroom reading to them while I sit, blindsided by the news I just learned on Nancy’s blog. Her son, a college sophomore, was at a Batman premiere last night. In Denver. Different theater. I have other friends in the area. One I just emailed a “you’re all right, right?” note; the other had left two phone messages that she was okay–but I hadn’t checked my messages.

And here I was this morning on a plane from the beach back home, looking past the face of my two year-old to the mountains ten thousand feet below afraid vaguely of engine trouble, having to use those ridiculous oxygen masks (a hand on my shoulder, “You first, then them,” and I, wondering if I could do that). Not knowing. Husbot didn’t mention it on the drive home. The talk was all about no naps and fleas. I am angry at him, probably undeservedly, for not mentioning it. If I had known, it would have been the first thing I’d have said. Did you hear. Do you know any more…I would have called Nancy.

Instead I wrote about Gbot’s indignant rebellion against wearing his bear suit. Which is the stuff of an easy grin, and it’s real life at its best, at its very, very best.

But this death is real life. This death that springs from shadows in the places we feel safest. And Husbot is calling me to read to the bots. He is tired and fleabitten. My family needs me. But they are safe–I think–for the next five minutes. And I need to share this grief.

Husbot and I have spent the last two weeks taking the weebots to the theater, trying to help Mbot feel more comfortable with the dark, with the noise, with the crowd. They are so young–we will not need to mention the death of twelve people, the injuries of fity-eight more, to them. But I do not think I am overstating when I write that the whisking away of this safe haven will be with us forever.

I cannot help but wonder how many rounds are fired in the actual movie. I am not blaming the film, or the director. Or the gun. All that is the subject for another day.

Today, I extend my deepest sympathies to the loved ones of those who perished in Aurora this morning. Your grief is not mine. It cannot be. But I harbor grief of my own. I do not know your names. But I am crying for you.

The Girl Pocket: Why Don’t I Listen To My Own Derned Self?

Last Saturday evening, twenty minutes before leaving for a family graduation celebration, as I bent over to retrieve the bots’ sandals after a frolic under the hose, my phone fell out of my bra and bounced through the grate into the gutter, landing softly on a bed of leaves and probably spiders below.

As I rushed to get the bots (not to mention myself) ready for the evening, Husbot, already in his dress clothes, disappeared outside and reappeared five minutes later, with my phone (announcing, “I wish I could do this sort of thing for a living,” to which I replied he probably could). I don’t know how he did it, something to do with a coat hanger and duct tape.

But the moral of the story is, I Was Right. About not carrying my phone around in my bra. it would have served me well to have recently reread The Girl Pocket, and so I am reposting it today. (You will notice that the reason I note for not carrying the phone in my bra is not that it might fall into a gutter minutes before an important family gathering, but still. I Was Right.)

The Girl Pocket

Fisher-Price Trio helicopter. The Trio: better than Legos for the three-and-under set. And with rounded edges, easier on the girls.

As I was getting ready for bed a few nights ago, the eyeball in this picture fell out of my bra. For those of you familiar with Fall Apart Chubby (posted 9/13/11), you already know that I consider my best, most convenient pockets to be the two in which my breasts also happen to reside. If men can carry a Man Purse, why can’t women have Girl Pockets?

A miniature Batman figure fell out alongside the eyeball. The night before, it was a paperclip and a twist tie. Talk about the Great Pacific Garbage Vortex (You Can’t Shoot the Toy Fairy, posted 9/24/11). This happens every night, except the detritus doesn’t usually stare back at me like, “It’s not my fault women don’t have pockets.”

Of course that is not entirely true: women do have pockets. And we could use them. But stuffing chest pockets is unfashionable (witness the Pocket Protector); using hip pockets is uncomfortable; and using back pockets is unthinkable if not impossible.

But the bra? Now there’s a pocket—two, actually—in which only a few of us feel like we’re carrying enough. And, thanks to the forgiving physiology of the bra’s chief inhabitants, it seems like there’s always room for more. For years, even before giving birth, I found it a convenient repository for many of life’s necessities: credit cards. Driver’s licenses. Boarding passes. Lipstick. And now: milk bottles (for short periods, between car and house, for example). Diving sticks (or anything that you don’t want to forget to bring with you as you whiz around the house late to swimming lessons). Car keys.

The bra is not recommended for everything. A few examples spring to mind: sewing pins. Nail clippers. Half a cracker. Cell phones. (You sweat. They die.)

I am, admittedly, a slow learner. I attended a women’s college twenty years ago and didn’t become a feminist until I became a mother. I am not going to rant about the need in the western world for pregnant lady parking spaces and drive-through grocery stores, but is a pocket really too much to ask?

Aside from the cargo pant, whose pockets were never meant to carry cargo, not really, or athletic pants with a zip pocket big enough for a tampon and a ten dollar bill, women’s fashion is devoid of useful pockets. There is no sexy mommy equivalent of the safari vest. It’s not anyone’s fault; we can’t blame Dolce and Gabbana. It’s just a matter of evolutionary biology. A sexy woman is one who can snap her fingers and get what she wants. She doesn’t have to actually lug it around on her person. A woman with bulging pockets sends out one of several messages: 1. I am homeless. 2. I am desperate. Neither of these things signals a good target for childbearing. Thus: the human male has no biological imperative to find her sexy.

The Girl Pocket is my secret weapon. Now that I am the mother of two toddlers, though, the secret’s out, and not just at bedtime. At the grocery counter yesterday I looked down to find my keys dangling out the neck of my t-shirt. It’s a shiny, jingly clump, so maybe other shoppers just thought it was a brooch. Lady Gaga would go there.

The road to a world where useable pockets are socially acceptable for women is a steep and uphill grade. When I flew alone with Mbot, when he was first learning to crawl (read: he did not want to fly, or be held, or sit), I wore a thin, black wool cycling jersey. It looked  normal from the front, and even lint-free, thanks to Husbot’s lint roller, but those behind me witnessed three kangaroo pockets bulging across the back. Perfect for two milk bottles, a wallet, some tissues, and two binkies (a fresh one and the one that had met the floor, in separate pockets, of course). Look ma, no hands!

“You look funny,” said my brother-in-law as we came through security.

“Smart,” I said. “I know you meant to say, ‘smart.’”

“No,” he said. “You look funny.”

But the eyeball in my bra says otherwise.

Where do you keep your stuff??

The Quobots Are Coming

Quobot (noun) a quote from a bot, marvelous in any of many ways.  Can be a single word (ie, “discoverment, the cross between an experiment and a discovery), a phrase, or a conversation.

I’ve started a new page called Quobots, and I’m looking for contributions! Let’s put the best quotes from our bots here for admiration and amusement.  Please submit yours to me at betsy@betsyandrews.com. Contributors will of course retain full copyrights and get full recognition, links, and all the schwag that goes along with a good quobot (which isn’t, um, at this point, much. But a link is always good!)

I’ll start, and I’ll post this here on my main page, too, because I’m still figuring out how these different pages work.

http://www.islandhopper.hubpages.com

Yesterday:

Mbot: “Mom! There’s a bug on the bathroom floor!”

Me: “Thanks, Mbot. I’m coming to kill it.”

Mbot: “But it’s a living thing!”

Me: “Yes, but he shouldn’t be living inside.”

Mbot: “He might crawl up you and bit [sic] you, thinking you’re a tomato!”

Pause.

Mbot: “OR, it might be okay cuz he’d climb up and think,” (both hands raised here and shoulders shrugged emphatically) “‘Oh yeah. It’s just you, Mom.’”

And the Oscar for Least Cooperative While Dressing for a Photo Shoot Goes To…

These guys didn't want to get dressed, either. (www.iwatchstuff.com)

Gbot.

He was the favorite for it, and indeed, he carried it away last night. In his speech, that went something like this: “Noooooooo!”, he did not thank his mother.

Coincidentally, our photo shoot was planned for Oscars night. I’ve been wanting to have professional photos taken of the Bots but put it off and put it off and finally realized that if I put it off much longer, we’d have to Photoshop out the acne. Then I met a professional photographer, and the rest is history. Very, very recent history.

We had two choices on meeting times: 7:00 a.m., which is a good time for light but not particularly for toddlers, or 5:30 p.m., which is a good time for light but not particularly for toddlers. We chose the latter. I packed snacks, and two Cookies of Bribery.

At 4:00, I completed wardrobe preparations. I had found three alternative outfits for Gbot, who, as students of history know, isn’t fond of sweaters, despises anything that zips or buttons up the front, and prefers nudity above all else.

My first choice consisted of matching wool sweaters that Nanny had knit–that the Bots have worn many times before (before Gbot developed his sweater allergy), and red wide-wale corduroy overalls for Gbot. The overalls were half way on when the wailing began. “Noooo! I want to be Diego! These are not my Diego overalls!” For those of you not on intimate terms with children’s television, Diego is the star of the animated show, “Go, Diego, Go.” In each episode, he and Baby Jaguar save a different baby animal from some terrible fate. First they hear the baby animal shriek. If Diego had been listening to us, he would have swung immediately through the jungle and across the desert to rescue Gbot from his mother’s fashion choice.

Gbot’s rebellion was fortuitous, however, because although I was willing it to be sweater weather, the temperature was hovering at close to seventy.

I moved on to Choice #2: cute jeans and the aqua t-shirt with the cardigan sweater Nanny knit two years ago, the one with the cables and the bears on it. Mbot wore it probably forty times and would wear it again but it no longer fits him. I got Gbot into the jeans and t-shirt. I got the sweater on over his head. As I secured the last button, the wailing began. “Noooooo! I do not want to wear a sweater!” And he actually removed it himself–at least he pulled it back over his head so that he was stuck with his arms still in it and most of the sweater behind his neck.

I was not wearing a sweater but at this point, I had started to sweat. The clock was ticking. The sun was moving inexorably across the sky. Meanwhile, Mbot was lounging on the sofa in his Captain America underpants, completely deaf to my repeated requests that he add to his ensemble from the pile I had laid out neatly (the third pile, the pile that would coordinate with Gbot’s third pile).

Gbot’s third pile included a striped long-sleeved t-shirt. The coordinating shoes, however, were apparently unappealing and he insisted on wearing boots. Since I am all about having photographs of children whose faces are not puffy and red from crying, I stifled a sigh, tied the laces and called him ready for the red carpet.

I helped Mbot into his striped terry hoodie, which looks good in evening sun, and stifled another sigh when he pulled on his dusty Batman crocs.

At last they were strapped into the back seat. I shifted into “drive.”

“Nooooooo!” This time it was Mbot. “Where’s Thomas! I only ever wanted my picture taken with Thomas!”

That would be Thomas the Tank Engine. He never, ever plays with Thomas. But he had, for five minutes before he got into the Midget Mobile. I circled the car back to the curb (see the paragraph about being all about photographs of children without tear-streaked faces). The sun was slipping down the sky. Thomas remained in hiding. I returned to the car with the news that we would just have to make due with Junepbear and Spruce Bear.

Once at the park, Mbot stripped off the crocs, along with his socks, to run barefoot in the grass. It turns out that bare feet are very photogenic when they are three years old.

Gbot got chocolate from the Cookie of Bribery on his shirt. It turns out that you can Photoshop out chocolate.

After the shoot, which I’m sure went as smoothly as these kind of things usually go, I opened the car doors and chatted a few minutes with the photographer. The Bots scrambled into the front seat. I had the keys. What could go wrong? When I turned to buckle them in, I found that, in true Oscars style, they were both wearing my lipstick. Mbot on his mouth, kind of, and Gbot on both cheeks.

When I look at these photos, on the day the Bots go to college, will I remember the chocolate stain from The Cookie of Bribery? Will I remember the mad rush for Thomas? The lipstick? Or will my memory Photoshop these things out? I kind of hope they’re just gently pixelated, like JLo’s nipple.

How will you remember the 84th Oscars?

Whoops….Ten More Tips I Forgot to Tell You About Traveling With Toddlers.

This handy plug-in will automatically call five contacts in case of emergency, then go to hands-free mode. Sadly, cell phones must be turned off in flight, making them useless for mothers who forgot a sandwich. (www.androidzoomcom)

If you remember my last post, I was dispensing invaluable advice on how to survive air travel accompanied by a person younger than a cheap Merlot. I was doing this because a good friend was scheduled to board a plane today and I said boldly, “Oh, I can help. I know all about that.”

Well, according to the texts my friend began sending me from seat 14C, I have forgotten more than most people have ever known.

TEXT #1: …”Rear seat pockets are a f**king joke. They hold NOTHING!”

Er, right.

Forgotten Tip #1: Here’s what you do: You make sure that everything you KNOW you will need during the flight (raisins, goldfish, drinks (for both of you), antibacterial wipes, pipe cleaners (Forgotten Tip #2: didn’t I mention bring pipe cleaners? Just a handful can provide what could be the crucial ten minutes of distraction) is in just one half of the diaper bag: the half that’s most easily accessible by bending down over your toddler with your face crammed against the tray table in its up and locked position. Because the only other place to store things is….

TEXT #2: “I’m keeping all the flat stuff behind me. I’m a genius. :-)”

Forgotten Tip #3: Airplane seats are funny this way: Although they don’t have enough room for a normal-sized human to sit comfortably for even three minutes, there appears to be vast quantities of useable airspace behind the small of one’s back. This is caused by the concave profile of the seats, which were apparently designed by an ergonomics professor on a planet inhabited by hundred-pound avocados. I have stored not only my own zip-up hoodie (see FT #10), but also a 34 inch-tall stuffed bear, two milk bottles, and a Richard Scarry book behind the small of my back, resulting in no less discomfort and better lumbar support than actually having the seat to myself.

TEXT #3: “Add to your list to make sure that the mother eats well before leaving for the airport. I’m starving! I haven’t eaten since the cookies I had for breakfast.”

Forgotten Tip #4: Eat. More than cookies. Before you go. If you (understandably) don’t have time, while you are packing raisins and goldfish, make yourself a pb&j sandwich. Pack a few granola bars. A bag of nuts. An apple. A piece of chocolate. And extra plastic baggies, to make sure you have a place to put cores/used wipies/used tissues. You can do this the night before. Don’t have room in the carry-on? See Forgotten Tip #5.

Forgotten Tip #5: To make room in the diaper bag, remove the copy of The Help you’d packed just in case. I mean, really. Time to read? What do you think this is, prison?

TEXT #4: “Just now taking off. Only 80 minutes late.”

Forgotten Tip #6:  Prepare yourself for delays. This means two more diapers, an inch more of wipies, and at least one extra bottle of breastmilk or 9-ounce baggie of formula powder, and one more change of clothes for the Bot than you at first packed.

Forgotten Tip #7: Add infant or childen’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen to your quart-sized plastic bag of liquids and gels. This way, you will not only have them onboard if necessary, you will have them at your destination in the event that your luggage goes to Melbourne, Australia instead of Melbourne Beach, Florida, and your Bot is teething painfully (and loudly) through the first night of your “vacation.”*

Forgotten Tip #8: If your bot is over two, buy a Magnadoodle the week before the trip and let him or her yearn for it but not touch it. Allow contact only after you have successfully arrived in the waiting area. If your child already owns a Magnadoodle, substitute some other inexpensive, preferably flat (see FT#3) toy whose novelty will provide distraction for short but guaranteed intervals throughout the in-air experience.

Forgotten Tip #9: Hydrate extensively for forty-eight hours before you go, but stop drinking a few hours before you leave for the airport. Because, while airplane seats were designed for a population of hundred-pound avocados, airplane lavatories were designed for use by no one, certainly not by a team.**

Forgotten Tip #10: Count. Not only children, but major carry-ons, including bears and hoodies. Do not leave the plane until you are touching as many things as you boarded the plane with.***

Forgotten Tip #11 (because this, too, is a Baker’s Ten): The day after traveling, your Bot will behave beautifully. He or she will sleep in, take a long nap, and be generally charmed by his or her surroundings. Do not get overconfident. The Greek Chorus (see the previous post) is waiting in tomorrow.

*All of the anecdotes related here are based on actual events

**You don’t hear about people boasting about belonging to the Mommy and Me Mile High Club

***Someone flying from Boise to Detroit is now in possession of a cherished sky blue Marmot zip-up hoodie that once belonged to the pregnant mother of an eight month-old. If you are reading this, step away from the hoodie. It’s mine, bitch.

It’s Not Flying. It’s Falling, With Style: Ten Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

Willy Wonka had his Greek Chorus. Mine's located just beyond the TSA. (image via http://www.nydailynews.com)

In a few days, a friend of mine will fly with her fifteen month-old daughter from Washington, D.C. to Melbourne Beach, Florida, a distance of just over 750 air miles, two hours flying time, and what will most likely be as much time at the airport beforehand and what will seem like at least a solid thirty miles from the Departure door to her seat.

If I sound like I know what I’m talking about, it’s because I do. As a survivor of ten such trips, either with just Mbot, with Mbot and with Gbot under my belt (literally) (this is a good time for Tip #1, Do Not Wear A Belt), or with both Mbot and Gbot under the ages of 3 1/2, I have become intimately acquainted with the quirks of the TSA. Yet still, I manage to learn something new with each take-off. Just when you think you’re an expert, the game changes–not because of the TSA, but because of your children. A few months in the life of a Bot means monumental shifts in behavior. And then there’s the danger of becoming overconfident. Even if the TSA can’t take your uberprepared mommy-ass down, hubris can every time. Don’t let it happen to you. The Greek chorus is waiting just beyond security.

I have a list over thirty items long of how to make it through security with infants, toddlers, strollers, and hormonal imbalance, but, having recently flown, I only have the energy to write down ten of them. Consider them a gift from the Greek Chorus. And ignore them at your own risk.

1. Channel Eli Manning. (for those of you who were breastfeeding or rinsing out poopy underpants during the Super Bowl, Eli happens to be the quarterback of the 2012 NFL champions (that would be the New York Giants–don’t sweat it, I had to Google it).

The key to successful flying with Bots is visualization: In the week prior to a voyage, I imagine it, move for move, like a quarterback going into the Super Bowl. This ensures that I have enough hands at each strategic point along the way. Once, this resulted in eleventh hour fashioning of a baby sling from six yards of checked cotton and then watching a YouTube video on how to use it, five hours before take-off. And then searching the internet for references as to whether or not one can wear it, even empty, through security. (No.)

2. Leave the Laboutins at Home. Or at least check them. It is difficult enough when you and your Bot are wearing slip-ons, and you’re removing not only your own shoes but the monster slippers of the two-year old and the dragon slippers of the one-year old, while the single woman behind you with the briefcase and headset tightens her lips impatiently. Am I really misinformed here, or was Al Queda and the Taliban known for its recruitment and inclusion of women? Especially middle-aged white women lugging teddy bears?

3. Utilize The Girl Pocket. Longtime readers will be familiar with The Girl Pocket, those go-to spaces in the bra handy for boarding passes, personal IDs, and binkies (only clean ones; dirty ones can go anywhere). If this is inconvenient, consider wearing a biking jersey, with three handy pockets across the back.

4. Breathe Deeply. This comes in handy as you are unscrewing the second bottle of breast milk for a TSA employee to hold scraps of paper over to ensure that one bottle isn’t nitrogen tetroxide and the other monomethyl hydrazine, while you are also replacing the laptop and re-constructing the stroller and shoving three boarding passes and the cell phone back into your bra while replacing the shoes of a toddler and an infant while holding their hands while checking that your drivers license isn’t back on the conveyor belt.

5. Don’t Flatter Yourself by thinking that you can carry on anything that will be as captivating as the safety manual in the seat pocket in front of you, the latch on the tray table in its locked and upright position, or the buckle of the seatbelt pulled firmly across your lap. So don’t waste valuable diaper bag space with Woody and Buzz Lightyear, when it could be filled with raisins and goldfish and a second pair of extra pants.

6. Embrace the Sound of Silence. If you bring a DVD player, leave the headset at home. The under forty-month set is captivated by the pictures. For at least ten minutes. I use the DVD player mainly in the waiting area.

7. Embrace Your Local Starbucks. Even if you’re not a fan, you need to drink, and so does your Bot. Leave enough time to buy a bottle of water before you get on the plane, or fill your own empty bottle at a water fountain. Buy yourself a latte. I know it’s one extra thing to carry, but you will find a way.

8. Check the Nutrition Nazi at the Gate. There is a time for shameless application of goldfish, raisins, graham crackers, and peanuts. This is that time.

9. DD. It no longer means a enviable bra size. Now it stands for Double Diaper.

10. Gettin’ Around on the Ground: If your Bot is crawling, stuff into the diaper bag a rolled-up twin sheet or other thin piece of fabric that can be spread out in the waiting area, and then on the floor under your seat. Even if they’re already walking, this provides a good play area in the airport, and then on the plane, you can just let ’em take a nap under your feet without worrying that they’ll be snacking on the dropped pretzels of the last person who sat in your seat.

11. (It’s a Baker’s Ten) Don’t Bring Anything New (Or Really, Really Old): Flight Number Nine, where hubris caught up with me: So there I was in the middle of Idaho accompanied only by a twenty-two month-old, a thirty-eight month-old, an antique, diabetic carry-on cat, a diaper bag, a computer bag, a Spiderman rollie bag, two stuffed bears as big as the Bots, and a stroller provided by my mother, that hadn’t been in service since it had carried my younger brother’s diapered ass in 1971. Diabetes of course means that a lot of peeing can be expected. A collapsible metal stroller thirty-five years old means that, in spite of extensive testing in the garage, where it actually seemed cool, it might collapse with the twenty-two month-old in it, in front of a long line of strangers at the security gate. Whoops.

*   *   *

The only good thing about flying with small children is that you eventually get where you are going, and you do not have to spend fourteen hours wishing you had a sound-proof divider between the driver seat and the back. The only other good thing is that strangers, reminded of how grateful they are not to be you, often offer to help. They carry bags. They attempt to re-construct the stroller. Except when it was built before the first Arab oil embargo and collapses with your child in it. Then they cease making eye contact, no doubt fearing potential liability and also suspecting that you are actually, really, in fact, insane.

And keep this in mind: It will soon be over. You will soon be on vacation. In a strange place without baby gates in the right places or familiar beds or blankets; with knives in unchildproofed drawers at eye-level.

And remember, even for the completely prepared ultramommy, it’s still–in the immortal words of Woody and Buzz: not really flying. It’s falling, with style. Or without.