Oh *I* See the Problem Now. There’s a Pig in My Shoe.

Last week, we were leaving Tae Kwon Do class, which looks like this:

Mr. Rice demonstrates a punch for Mbot. (Mbot: "Oh, I've punched my brother.")

Mr. Rice demonstrates a punch for Mbot. (Mbot, unimpressed: “Oh, I’ve punched my brother.”)

At the end of class, Mbot sat on the floor to put on his sandals. Kids were coming in and practicing for the next class, and after two full minutes of watching Mbot through the milling crowd, I saw that he was working very hard jamming into the toe of his sandal a keychain, which looks like this:

A gift my brother in Japan gave me long ago finds new admirers in the next generation. (on sale now for $1.50! at getgags.com)

A gift my brother in Japan gave me beellions and beellions of years ago ago finds new admirers in the next generation. (still on sale today, for $1.50! at getgags.com)

Having accomplished this task, he worked for another two minutes to stuff his foot far enough into the shoe to affix the heel strap. “Mbot,” I was urging, “If your shoe is not on by the time I count to three, we will leave without shoes.” The door to the dojo was standing open, desert air flowing inside at 102 degrees, and Gbot, who had just awoken bleary-eyed in my arms, was growing exponentially heavier as the seconds passed.

Finally, Mbot tottered happily out the door and across the grass with his heel hanging off the back of one sandal and the other sandal in his hand. I left him at the curb to climb into the car while I loaded up Sack-o’-Potatobot. Mbot, gaining his seat, crossed his foot over his other knee, considered it without expression, and then said as though totally surprised, “Oh I see the problem now. There’s a pig in my shoe!”

I take a few things away from the pooping pig in the shoe incident, and they look like this:

1. Don’t assume that your goals are the same as the person you are with.

2. When the world is not funny enough,

The world is not funny enough.

The world is not funny enough.

 make your own jokes.

Animal Care Center Helps Mom Most Of All

2013 March 15 animal zoo & boys at park 015

The honeymoon is over.

For at least thirty-six hours after my return home from Boston, the bots were delightful. And then real life set in.

It’s spring break, which is easier in some ways, most markedly in that we don’t have to rush out the door each morning in a flurry of mismatched socks, half-brushed teeth, and cries of “I want to take Junepbear today!”

Yesterday morning while I was attempting to make French toast, the bots were arguing loudly and playing Let’s Kick Each Other at the kitchen table. Nothing good has ever come of that game. And so, over the rising mayhem, I shouted, “I’m doing my work, guys! My work is making breakfast. I think you have work to do, too. What is it?”

Now, my idea was that they would go and try to make their beds which, while it wouldn’t be helpful from a housekeeping point of view, would be helpful from a lowering-my-immediate-stress-level point of view.

“Hey G!” exclaimed Mbot. “Let’s go make an animal care center!”

And so, as I did my work, the merry sounds of the bots doing their work drifted happily in the air, mingling with the aroma of French toast.

2013 March 15 animal zoo & boys at park 007

2013 March 15 animal zoo & boys at park 009

2013 March 15 animal zoo & boys at park 010 2013 March 15 animal zoo & boys at park 011

It was remarkable. I am quite sure the term “miracle” was coined by one of the first mothers upon witnessing just such a cooperative effort. The lesson is not original but it is a good one nonetheless: even a four-year-old is happier when he’s got a job to do.

Boys R Us, or, Getting Back Whatcha Give

Christmas shopping with bots can be as unpredictable as setting out to make marshmallow snowmen with them.

Christmas shopping with bots can be as unpredictable as setting out to make marshmallow snowmen with them.

I experimented this year: I took each bot to the toy store by himself, to buy a present for his brother. I realized that, with a four and a half-year-old and a three-year-old, my optimism might have been slopping over into the idealistic. But I just had to try. I figured Gbot might be fairly easy to persuade into picking out what I thought he should pick out. I thought Mbot might throw a small sputterfuss about one or several things before we settled on a compromise.

Since Gbot had the sniffles and I couldn’t foist him off on anyone, he went first. At the toy store that I hate but that is the only one within about ten miles of us, he bounced from Legos (me: “they’re for bigger boys”) to a FurReal bunny that made chewing noises and moved its hind legs when you rubbed its back (“let’s keep looking”) to bubble machines (“it’s too cold outside for that”) to the toy guns (“no”) to a giant, spherical, plush, hot pink, butt-ugly cat pillow (“let’s look at the other stuffed animals.”)

At long last, he settled, at my urging, on an enormous fluffy stuffed doggie that looks like it could be Junepbear’s half-brother. It was not stitched by a fair-trade artisan out of organic cotton. In fact, it was so affordable that I see much seam-repair in my future. But Mbot, whose favorite word at the age of sixteen months was “fwuffy,” and who continues to seek out fwuffy experiences, will be thrilled.

Gbot lugged the thing, which is as big as he is, up to the front of the store, happily talking nonstop about how Mbot would love his new doggie. It was fun to see him so happy about something for his brother. That was two days ago, and he hasn’t yet spilled the beans, in spite of the fact that this morning, we wrapped it (but only after he ran to get a blanket to spread in the bottom of the box).

Yesterday I took Mbot. As I’d predicted, it was more of a challenge. I hadn’t considered the fact that, after walking in and within fifteen seconds identifying a cool Thomas the Train quarry complete with crank elevator and roundtable, that would have been perfect and was on sale, no less–he could happily spend three days examining every item on every shelf within reach in every aisle of the eight billion acre store. Or that he would want to get his brother the six hundred-dollar four-wheeler (“that’s way too dangerous”) or the fifty-dollar plastic bat-cave that I know would provide a great seven minutes of uninterrupted fun before boredom set in and they never looked at it again. Or the remote control helicopter (“that’s for bigger boys.)”

Gbot might hurt his finger on this, too....

Gbot might hurt his finger on this, too…. (amazon.com)

What I didn’t foresee was how either protective he would be or how eager to assert that Gbot is a baby–every time I’d point to something that looked like a possibility, Mbot would find a health reason to boycott it. “Gbot would choke on those pieces.” “Gbot might break that and hurt himself.” “Gbot might cut his fingers on that part.”

“How about a stuffed animal?” then, I asked, because one of the ways I’d lured Gbot out of the store the day before was to tell him that maybe Mbot would buy him one, too. “Noooo!” howled Mbot. “how about we go back to the fun aisle.” And now of course I must entertain the possibility that he won’t like Junep’s giant half-bro. But distanced from the overwhelming profusion of crap, I’m quite sure he will.

What I also didn’t foresee was how I would hear myself mimicked back to me. Every few minutes, if I was lingering in an aisle with appropriate items, I’d here, “Mah-ah-ahhm. Don’t diddle-dawdle.”

“Okay, I’m coming,” I’d say, in a reversal of roles.

If he’d vanish around a corner and I didn’t follow, he’d backtrack and admonish me to stay close.

And once, as we were perusing the remote control aisle, I must have been lagging, because he suddenly said, “Come-come,” using exactly the same word in exactly the same sing-song tone I use to call the antique cat.

Finally, I enacted a “choose one of these two things,” rule, and a time-limit of two minutes. He chose. The Thomas the Train Quarry won out.

So: success. Except that now Gbot keeps talking about a remote control stuffed doggie and Mbot keeps wondering what toy Gbot got him.

One reason I even let the boys do this, in addition to the “Christmas is about giving” angle, and instead of making something or visiting the dollar store–is that the bots don’t get piles of toys for Christmas. I see them playing more happily with the Trios, or with pipecleaners, or with their small bin of Legos, or their stuffed animals or blankets for forts or plastic bin lids for television screens–than I ever see them play with actual plastic toys.

And it was a good reminder to me, hearing Mbot repeat back to me my own words, that lots of times, you get what you give.

Newsflash: Reading is Relaxing!

Gbot sets out breakfast and an audience, about a year ago. Would I look this stress-free if I read to myself over breakfast?

Overheard at the coffeeshop on Saturday:

“So, have you read Harry Potter?”

“Yeah.”

“What book are you on?”

The conversation wouldn’t have been noteworthy, except that the two conversationalists’ chins barely skimmed the table top as they sipped their hot chocolate. They were four years old–Mbot and his friend Mbug. She’s a bright kid whose mom had told me she wouldn’t sit still to listen to picture books. I loaned her the first Harry Potter. They were on chapter five; she was riveted.

The same day, the news over at the Huffington Post was that reading a good book lowers stress levels. HuffPo editors and bloggers chimed in on their reasons how and why in Turn the Page on Stress. 

The timing was interesting, as a few weeks ago, I picked up a book I’d had on a side table for a month. I was too tired to read, and too tired to sleep. I lay down on the sofa, listening for a bot to call me back for one more hug, and opened the book. I knew that one reason I felt so weary was that I hadn’t gotten–or given myself–a chance to read more than half a New Yorker article in over a month–probably two.

The book wasn’t fiction: recommended by a friend, it was Edward Hallowell and Peter Jensen’s Superparenting for ADD. The title might reveal one of the reasons I’m so tired, but it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. A while back, Mbot was diagnosed with “very low level” Attention Deficit Disorder–a borderline case, a case that’s almost not a case, but I feel it’s something I needed to learn to manage more effectively than I was managing it. I dislike the label because so much ignorance surrounds it and it carries so many negative connotations. In learning more about ADD, I’m learning to change my own behavior, which helps him with his; the result is a happier bot and a happier household. Hallowell’s positive approach to the issue is delightful and his storytelling is instructive and amusing.

An hour after I started reading, I was thirty-eight pages in and feeling a much-missed feeling of lightness and optimism. I recognized I felt better partly because of the contents of the book, but partly due to the simple act of leaving my own drama to witness those of others. I was reminded, through narrative, that obstacles can be overcome for a happy conclusion, and that recognizing the truth and dealing with it is a source of power–and having control over a situation is a way to lower stress levels.

I am of course reminded often of the de-stressing powers of reading, but it is a constant source of amazement to me how thoroughly we can ignore things we know, or forget them. I am reminded of reading’s calming effect by Mbot himself. Every night at bedtime, and usually during the day, I read aloud, in addition to a few picture books, a chapter (usually more) of Harry Potter (we’re on book two), a chapter of Little House on the Prairie (we’re on book two), and a chapter of The Hardy Boys. (We jump around according to whatever’s on the library shelf). Mbot, who has shown little patience with learning the letters of the alphabet, and who is often pushing the boundaries of his environment, is completely absorbed by a long narrative. He often asks the meaning of unfamiliar words, but I am not sure how much he understands of the story arc. Yet he does understand there are characters to be concerned about, and that there is a story arc. He would sit listening until my voice gave out or I collapsed face down, drooling on the Heir of Slytherin.

On Saturday, in addition to coming across HuffPo’s article, I happened to read Flannery O’Connor‘s essay, “The Nature and Aim of Fiction,” in which she writes,

People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them. They don’t take long looks at anything, because they lack the courage. The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience, and the novel, of course, is a way to have experience.

When I came across O’Connor’s observation, I realized I had put off reading (to myself) for that month or those months not simply because I was too tired or didn’t have time–but because I lacked the courage to take a long look at things. I was resisting entering a drama–anyone else’s drama–because I didn’t have enough emotional energy for their’s, too: I am a slow reader, and invest a lot in whatever I’m reading. But in those thirty-eight pages of Hallowell’s book, I was introduced to nearly a dozen people’s dramas, and instead of feeling oppressed by them, I felt uplifted. Since that night, I’ve been making time to read (to myself!) every day, even if it is just for a few minutes in the car before heading inside. In fact, I’m back to my old habit of reading several books at once–like I said, if only a few pages at a time.

And so stress-relief is even closer than the new gym with two hours of child-care per day. It’s as close at hand as my bookshelves. Now all I need to do is remember that.

Great Toy Find: The Stomp Rocket Rocks

…Three…two…one…

It’s been the greatest toy find since last year’s Strider bike (see “Look Ma, No Pedals!”). The rockets DO glow in the dark, as advertised. They DO go really high–it looked like 100 feet to me–as  advertised. And most important, when shot point blank at Mommy’s booty, neither the rocket nor the booty experience damage.

Launch preparation: No knowledge of physics, engineering, or how to make sense of assembly manuals written in poorly translated Mandarin necessary.

The only design flaw is at the point where the three legs of the launch stand fit together. They fit, but easily spring apart. I fixed the problem just as easily by wrapping the juncture with three inches of polka-dotted duct tape.

The Stomp Rocket Junior Glow Kit with four extra rockets, $22.42 on Amazon. Amazing fact: they are as fun as the kids on the box make them look.*                                                                        *This blog is not financially compensated by Stomp Rockets in any way, unfortunately.

The key to their success, I believe, lies in the simplicity of their design. It’s nothing that I couldn’t have made a crude version of myself, out of a whoopee cushion, a length of garden hose, a sawed-off snorkel affixed to four rulers strategically taped together, a few tennis balls with holes cut in them and, of course, the polka dotted duct tape.

In fact, the only improvement I can think of that would make them even more attractive to the bot-aged set is if the air reservoir did make a fart sound when you jumped on it, in addition to sending a rocket flying up into the air.

Keep your eyes open for the new and improved version.

Introducing the Love Child of Picasso, Euclid, and Martha Stewart

Dot-to-Dot: The love child of Picasso, Euclid, and Martha Stewart!

Yes, it’s an old-fashioned connect-the-dots game, brought into the twenty-first century by Husbot with an unmistakeable you-can-do-this-at-home! vibe.

I mentioned to him last night that I’d like to see Mbot trying to focus more on the shapes of numbers and letters, and so this morning he Mbot on his lap and drew some impromptu pictures, just faintly dotted outlines with numbers (in order, of course) at strategic points around the periphery.

And this perhaps is an alphabet-outlined sea-monster (C monster?) that’s been caught on a fishing line. Abdominal spikes added by Mbot.

I thought Husbot, although neither Picasso nor Euclid nor Martha, was pretty ingenius. Husbot asked Mbot to say the numbers or letters aloud as the tip of his colored pencil reached them. And you know, it kind of worked. But the big lesson for me was that customizing a silly connect-the-dots game makes it more interesting for the weebots, which means they actively engage, which means they learn more.

It was perfect for just-turned-four year-old Mbot–not so engaging for Gbot, not yet three. When I drew him a hamster (not shown, in order to retain my dignity), he claimed that hamsters do NOT have whiskers, and when I wrote the number 1 on top of his head, Gbot was so upset that I covered it up with a fire hat. “Let’s pretend he’s a Wonder Pet!” I cried, but it was in vain.

“I do not WANT a hamster in a fire hat!” cried Gbot back.

So, as with everything in parenting, even great ideas, there are potholes, and you will fall into them. But at least we’ll all go down counting.

Buck-toothed shark. Will he get you? It’s a number’s game.

Airplane Tip #28: Traveling With “Help” May Not Be Helpful

If only I could just carry on the whole rental couch, traveling would be SO much easier.

…Unless the help is hired, in which case they should fear being fired and so will respond favorably to a dirty look thrown at them with the force of a grenade. Help in the form of relatives, however, especially older adult relatives, cannot be fired.

I gleaned this tip, which I’m only guessing is #28, on Friday, traveling home from the beach, with Grandma, Uncle Marty, and Uncle Sammy.

When you’ve got a 30-month-old and a 48-month-old, no one travels quite like you. I did not realize this until we stood twelfth, thirtheenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth in the security line at John Wayne International Airport. “It will be so much easier for you, flying with us,” Grandma said.

Now, unless “easier” has been redefined to mean “more stressful and irritating,” she was wrong.

Imagine that I use the word “stood” is the loosest of terms, at least in relation to the bots. They were weaving in and out between legs and wheelie carry-ons and spontaneously squatting to snuggle with bears who were strapped to their wheelie carry-ons. I manage these behaviors. I do not restrict them. Do I like my children collecting cooties on the airport floor? No. Do I like that it takes several seconds to corral the bots for a three-foot move forward? No. That they don’t stand still? No. But you makes makes your choices and you takes your chance and this–accomanied by bots–is how I choose to travel. And it always works. We have not contracted any major life-threatening contagions. We have never missed a flight. We have never been the subjects of a lawsuit or been to jail.

On Friday, I was never so aware of our unique way of traveling, pointed out to me by the three adults who felt it necessary to “help” us.

I appreciate a little help from strangers–someone who pushes my fifth bin along the x-ray belt when my hands are otherwise occupied. Or who makes the bots laugh, and therefore stand still, for twenty seconds while I am shoving our boarding passes back into my bra. But I do not need or appreciate others dictating the speed at which we travel or the directness with which we move from Point A to Point B. I say, get a job with the TSA if you want to do that.

But I also realized how strange our travel has become. I realized, standing in the Starbucks line with a fidgeting Mbot and not minding it at all, that the bots and I have become our own little solar system, two little planets revolving at varying speeds and in erratic orbits (that sometimes intersect) around a sun, with one fluffy, oversized moon orbiting each planet and various interplanetay detritus present, asteroids and meteorites in various shapes and form that wreak their own havoc. It is a young solar system, alive with eruptions and quakes–although the sun is gaining mass as it passes through middle age. The whole shebang migrates on an unpredictable course through space, and woe be unto the force that tries to alter that course or the speed at which it progresses.

I realize that we have evolved this way without my realizing it. The universe is expanding, and the space between us and the single, childless travelers and parents who do not fly with their small children–is widening.

Now if I could only stop the expansion of that solar system’s sun….

Who? Who Bought These Things?

Who needs horror movies? Certainly not mothers, for whom horror is just a bottle of colored, no-stain bubbles away.

Can I blame my mother-in-law? Husbot? Santa Claus?

No.

In a moment of innocence that turned out to be idiocy, optimism that turned to dismay, I purchased colored bubbles. “No-stain colored bubbles!” to be exact.

If you are a child, a fiberglass tub, or a concrete floor, the advertising stands up. They are indeed no-stain colored bubbles.

But if you are, say, a cotton towel that was a beachy Caribbean green, you are now a beachy Caribbean green with splotches of orange and lurid pthalo green.

Two plusses: As you can see, the bots loved them. And they blew really good bubbles.

But I’m just thinking colored no-stain bubbles: one of those inventions that should have never left the drawing board.

Can you think of any more?

Does this lipstick work with my eyes?

Report from Chicago: Writer Mother Writer

View from the Fortress of Solitude

Chicago of course turned out to be not so scary after all. And in spite of myself, I made some friends.

And I did many things as a writer that I couldn’t also do as a practicing mother with Bots in tow. I posted several reports–on the Art Institute, a poetry reading, a blogging panel–for the online creative nonfiction magazine Brevity’s, blog, which meant I stayed up Friday night writing ’til after midnight.

Then Saturday night I slept for eleven hours. I can’t remember the last time I slept for eleven hours uninterrupted .

Then I showered without Gbot swinging the bathroom door in and appearing  through the water-stained glass in his fleece jammies, hair a floofy halo around his terribly wide-awake face, and asking to join me.

I sat down to drink my coffee. Coffee, like wine, is best when taken while seated, but most necessary when there is no time to sit.

I ate while sitting down. I sat for more than thirty-two seconds without hopping up to get something. I sat and I ate and I wrote, all at once.

A look down from The Fortress of Solitude. I did not dine at Harold's Chicken Shack, but if I had, I could have sat through the whole meal without getting up.

I attended a panel called “Barefoot, Pregnant, and at the Writer’s Desk: Managing Motherhood and the Writing Life.” Two panelists were Kate St. Vincent Vogl, author of Lost and Found: a Memoir of Mothers, and Hope Edelman, both NYT best-selling authors; Jill McCorkle, a prolific novelist and short story author, Kate Hopper, author of Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers, and  Katy Read, journalist and author of  the Regrets of a Stay-at-Home Mom on salon.com, where she brings Jane Austen searingly up to date: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of two teenagers must be in want of a steady paycheck and employer-sponsored health insurance.”

These women are funny and successful and all, aside from Katy Read, who laments her decision to quit writing altogether during her sons’ youth, are fiercely protective of both their identity and productivity as writers and the quality of their motherhood.

A man–one of at least thirty in an audience of over two hundred people, raised his hand. When called on during the brief question-and-answer period, he introduced himself as a writer and a full-time dad. “How,” he asked, “do you cope with the pure exhaustion?”

“Sleep when they sleep,” was the panelists’ answer.

The answer seemed as inadequate, unrealistic, and unsatisfying as it had three years ago when I was writing and teaching a college course in Mbot’s first months of life. I had fantasized about a one-handed keyboard, to increase my one-handed typing speed at 3 a.m. while I nursed Mbot, who sipped for hours, fell asleep every time a drop of milk touched his lips, and awoke the moment his head touched his mattress. Sleeping when they sleep is completely impractical. Will the dish fairy appear to clean your kitchen while you sleep? Or better, the book fairy come to write the next chapter of your novel? Peter Dish-Pan Hands? Peter Pen? I raised my hand to join the conversation, but time was up.

After the panel, I fought through the crowd to this man. He was no more than thirty-one or -two. I told him the only helpful thing I could think of: that I’d bought a Netbook, so I could work in the car, while I drove Mbot around willing him to sleep. I would pull over the minute his eyes closed, conscious of my extreme opposition to environmental consciousness, parking, in the 110 degree heat of Arizona, with the air conditioner on, under an orange tree. You have to choose your orange tree according to time of day. Orientation is everything. Sometimes, parked this way, I could write for ninety minutes.

A year later, I drove around both Bots. I was in my final year of my MFA program, and I needed every one of those minutes. If I needed to email a manuscript, I could pull up in front of the Starbucks or the Burger King, pirating their wifi. Making use of the Bots’ daytime sleep in this way, I could allow myself to (kind of) sleep that night when they (kind of) slept.

Having generously dispensed my wisdom to the poor tired man, I saw that he was not impressed, although he allowed that a Netbook was a good idea. In fact, he had one.

“ How many children do you have?” I asked.

“Five,” he replied. Ranging from eight to two.

“I don’t have any more suggestions,” I said.

But I think my answer, completely unqualified, should have been: “Wait.”

In her memoir A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle wrote that she and her husband referred to their thirties, during which they raised their young family and worked and participated in their community, “the tired years.”

She penned the novels she is known for after her children were in school. This isn’t to say she didn’t write during the tired years. She just didn’t push to the deadlines of others. She was, of course, fortunate that her husband had a steady paycheck that kept her kids in Cap’n Crunch.

Hope Edelman, along with reciting a list of things she can do, now that she is a mother as well as a writer, also recited a long list of things she can’t do because she is a mother as well as a writer. Here is an overview:

Spend three months at a writer’s colony

Shower every day

Stay at literary events past 9:15 on a weeknight

Be a foreign correspondent.

On Sunday morning, I added one more thing to her list.

I pulled up the hood of my down parka and faced east, my back to the icy wind on the platform over Roosevelt Street, waiting for the L train to Midway Airport. Beside me stood a mother and two little girls about five years old. I stuffed my gloved hands into the pockets of my parka and hunkered down.

The other mother was laughing and chatting with the girls, gripping one of their mittened hands in each of hers.

There’s another thing mothers can’t do, don’t do, without thinking about it, without the world thinking about it, even if they aren’t also writers: No matter how cold it is, they can’t put their hands in their pockets.

The Bots at home fabricating a Mommy Extraction Device. Funding provided by Husbot.

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.