Sarah from Canadian band Walk Off the Earth made news this week when a United Airlines flight attendant kicked her pregnant ass off the plane because her toddler was acting like a total toddler.
There are a couple morals of this story:
Know your celebrities so you can save your discrimination for ordinary people who can’t create so much buzz.
And leave your kids at home.
I’m kidding. You can’t always travel kidless, especially when you’re going on a “family vacation.” Without the tiny humans, it’s just called a vacation, and feels way more like a vacation too since vacation entails a certain degree of relaxation, which children annihilate by their very presence.
But that’s how she goes. When the husband and I headed to Florida with the kids a few weeks ago, we knew shit was going to go down. Ironically, we left on Mother’s Day and this was my “card”:
Come on, you can barely get out the door with the kids at home. If you think being in a different location battling sweltering heat, long lineups, jet lag, and sugar overdoses is going to improve the shituation, you’re on drugs. We purposely packed all the things to prevent, catch, clean, and store the inevitable shit — both literal and metaphorical. We’re not idiots. We had done this before. Doing it again was like walking willingly into the monster’s lair with a giant “EAT ME” sign, fully aware that we were about to be limbed. Which does sound rather idiotic, come to think of it. But alas…At least it’d be warm there?
I started listing the mishaps as soon as we got on the plane, because by then a whole bunch of fuckery had already happened. It was barely 8am.
First, things got hairy at the airport. The website said to be there at least one hour early for our flight into the US. Good sense and trusted friends told us to double that time, to be safe. So of course we went by the website, because we are lazy, stupid hillbillies. Why lug around two kids and all that junk at the boring airport for two hours if we didn’t have to? BECAUSE THAT AIN’T HOW IT’LL GO DOWN AND YOU KNOW IT, BITCH SELF. The first half hour of our journey was major sucktown. At one point I actually looked down at my boarding pass and I swear it said destination: Hell.
My husband’s father drove us to the airport in our vehicle (it’s larger than his, with lots of room for luggage and my giant milk jugs). He dropped us off at Departures with all our crap and drove off… WITH THE CAR SEAT BASE STILL IN THE CAR GOD DAMN IT. The car seat base is like a permanent fixture in the backseat, so I knew it could be easily forgotten if I was on autopilot, which of course I was after spending the last 48 hours packing and doing laundry and buying last-minute necessities and shaving all the hair off my body while my husband worried about the Habs and whether they’d survive game 5 so he could go see game 6 in Tampa. If I had tattooed DON’T FORGET THE CAR SEAT BASE on the inside of my eyelids so I could see it every time I blinked, I’d still have forgotten it. We realized what we had done just a few minutes later but we couldn’t call the father-in-law to scoot back with the piece of shit because he didn’t have a cell phone with him. My FIL is all that and a bag of chips but OMFG who doesn’t carry a cell phone with them at all times nowadays? HOMELESS PEOPLE HAVE CELL PHONES. Our flight would soon be boarding so we’d just have to sell the baby at the airport in Orlando since we couldn’t drive anywhere without that mechanism in our rental car. But hold the phone, Andrew had an idea, and thankfully this time it wasn’t a baby spoon that makes choo-choo noises. He called our neighbor (at 7:30 on a Sunday morning – sorry, Rod!) to physically intercept his father on his way back to our house to get his car. It worked. He returned with the car seat base in the knick of time. Too late to check it as cargo though, so we lugged the bulky bugger around as a carryon. But at least we could keep the baby now. We need those spare body parts.
We forgot the GPS too. Damn it, Andrew, you had ONE JOB.
And we forgot the apples I had cut up and placed in the fridge so I could start feeding the snack savage (Max) as soon as the begging began. Why do I even bother?
AND we forgot the kids on the elevator. Let me explain before you call CPS. We grabbed the car seat base and bolted toward security. Max insisted on pushing Rae in the stroller, so Andrew and I lugged the carryon bags. We had to take the elevator, of course, so we piled in at the bottom. And piled off at the top. Except, when Andrew and I got off at the top and moved toward the lineup for security, we heard the elevator doors close behind us… with Max and Rae still on it! OH MY GOD WE HAD GOTTEN OFF WITHOUT OUR CHILDREN. And down the elevator went. Thank god there are only two floors. Andrew poured down the escalator to catch them at the bottom and shower Max with reassurance, but by the time he got there Brother Max and Sister on Wheels were already on their way back up, now with two elderly women on board with them (not social workers, I hoped.) As the doors opened, I saw the tears in Max’s eyes. Which makes sense since he was just TOTALLY ABANDONED by the people who claim to love him most. I wanted to repeatedly slam my head in the elevator doors but we had to get through security STAT, so instead I quickly told him how sorry we were, how stupid we were, and how proud we were that he took good care of his sister during this crisis. His hands were firmly planted on the stroller handlebar the whole time. But from thereon out, he decided to leave the stroller pushing to his responsible, attentive parents.
To complete the morning from Hades, Andrew had woken up in pain. He has degenerative disks in his back (so he is at least partly a degenerate?) and when it acts up it casts a gloom on everything, like living in the shadow of Oscar’s garbage can. Great timing. And totally spontaneous! It had nothing at all to do with the backflips he was doing on the couch when the Habs won game 5 the night before.
As we were going through security, we heard our names being paged at the gate. Panic is a lovely feeling, isn’t it? Oh, but first we had to submit to a random swab-down to see if we were carrying any anthrax in our sippy cups. What luck. Figures though. We had just left our kids on the elevator. We probably looked like those meth head parents from Breaking Bad.
We boarded the plane and spotted our friends, Dave and Steph, and their two boys, Owen and Grady, sitting quietly near the back. We sat directly behind them – for a kickass view of Owen’s epic meltdown when Steph tried to secure his seatbelt. Locked down to a chair? Oh hell no. Owen put ‘er up for a good 20 minutes until his mom’s arms became his seatbelt and the flight attendants turned a blind eye in favour of their ears which were glad the screaming had stopped. Luckily we did not have the same flight attendant who’s making headlines this week after telling the mama from Walk Off the Earth to WALK OFF THE PLANE. (Three-year-old Owen was scared of many things on our journey, especially things meant to keep him safe like seatbelts and sunblock. Somewhere he has most definitely written, with a jumbo, red crayon: TRUST NO ONE.)
And what fresh hell is this? There are NO TELEVISIONS ON THIS FUCKING METAL BIRD. It’s not a catastrophe for Max; he has his iPad. But what about us? Were Andrew and I supposed to TALK? Were we actually expected to LOOK AT EACH OTHER? Where’s that emergency exit?
We arrived in Orlando still married. Rae was a dream on the plane. And Max completed a whole bunch of levels in Angry Birds, the details of which I can’t share because I was nodding my head and smiling and making a shopping list in my head the whole time he was telling me about it.
My world or something.
In Orlando, the rental car place tried to fuck us, as always. But we were prepared for that and got out mostly unscathed. Dave took an extra $100 hit because he didn’t have his insurance policy number with him and obviously couldn’t call to get it (it was Mother’s Day, a Sunday.) Rental car companies are basically Satan.
When we arrived at the villa we had rented for the next nine days, we discovered the rental company hadn’t come through with a second crib for the second baby. Grady needed the crib more than Rae, being a 10-month-old orangutan boy they found in the jungle. So we could either create a fortress of pillows for Rae to sleep in and check on her every 45 seconds to make sure she was still alive which sounds truly relaxing, or we could get our hands on a second crib and a couple boxes of wine for Mommy. We went to Target and bought a playpen. (I returned it the day before we left. It just wasn’t suitable.)
On the way back to the villa from Target, Rae went ape shit. It was a long day for the kids and we were really pushing it now. She cried so hard in the car, we had to pull over so I could gag her with my tit (or breastfeed her, whatever). I have this awesome, beautiful, happy baby WHO HATES IT IN THE CAR. What in the actual fuck. Every baby loves the car. People have clocked thousands of miles driving their kids around in cars to lull them to sleep. The car is every baby’s #1 cradle of choice. Except our baby. She hates the car. There goes my dream of her being a bigshot class action lawyer being driven around in the back of a stretch limo like Glenn Close in Damages. I really wish someone would invent a way to breastfeed while the car is moving. (Andrew, perhaps you could get working on that one right after your choo-choo spoon prototype.)
We spent the first day hanging out by the pool. And I mean HANGING OUT. I breastfed Rae every three minutes. I was worried she’d get dehydrated so every time she fussed for half a second, I slapped a boob in her gob. With the sun and the daughter sucking all the moisture out of me for the next nine days, I slowly transformed into a leatherback turtle. Here’s a pic of me and Max taking a walk:
Look Dad, Mom’s making a run for it.
The next day, Andrew and Dave drove to Tampa to watch the Habs get destroyed by the Lightning. They washed away their sorrows with beer, stayed overnight in a hotel, and drove back the next morning, genuinely excited to go to the outlet mall for the day — if by outlet mall you mean a mall with an outlet where men can escape without their wives noticing. But hey, maybe they’d see the Habs shopping for golf shoes.
The next day, Andrew got his revenge when I started to lose my voice. I think it was caused by the A/C. Or maybe a tiny lizard crawled down my throat while I slept and bit me in the larynx. It hurt to speak. And it pained me big time when I had to repeat myself again and again because my husband and son weren’t listening to me. Which made me want to yell even more. It was a vicious cycle that made me feel stabby.
We spent day three in a vegetative state, except for all the times where we had to tend to our kids which was all the time so forget what I said about the vegetation back there. And then to really nudge Steph into a state of total nirvana, Owen went facedown in the pool. Yup, stumbled over himself and went splat. Apparently lifejackets do NOT keep you face-up in the water. He must have only been facedown for about two and a half seconds, but time seemed to standstill as Steph leaned in and plucked him out while simultaneously having a cardiac arrest. Oddly, while Owen is terrified of seatbelts and sunscreen, almost drowning did not seem to faze him. He wiped the water from his eyes and carried on. Which, to a mother, is actually WAY MORE FUCKING TERRIFYING. At least if he was afraid of the water now, he might avoid falling into again. But nope, Owen was right back at the water’s edge within seconds. And Steph was on edge for the rest of the trip. Great stuff!
Day four was our first Disney excursion. Magic Kingdom. We had all been to Disney before but had never seen the lights and fireworks spectacle they put off every night at Magic Kingdom with the money they make from those giant turkey legs. It was nighttime, so I decided to swap the baby stroller for my new Lenny Lamb carrier so I could keep a close eye on Rae. Or a cheek, whatever.
Carry me home to Birmingham.
When it’s dark and crowded and you’re in the busiest tourist destination in the world, there’s something unsettling about having your baby in an outward-facing stroller where someone could quite easily toss a half-eaten candy apple or a cigarette butt or A BOMB into your baby’s lap. Um no. This kid is the bomb and I’ll wear her like one. Only sucky part was, when I went to snap the carrier around my waist, I couldn’t get it done up. Not without adjusting it first to make room for my juicy muffin top. Jesus, I had only been here four days and I was already puffed up like a Yorkshire pudding. Friggin’ Olive Garden.
By day five, it was about time someone got injured. I mean, it’s not a real vacation until you break out the first aid kid, am I right? Owen had managed to defy death for 48 hours now so it was Max’s turn to bust up his moneymaker. He stumbled on the steps and knocked his face off the side of the pool, puncturing the corner of his mouth with his tooth. Steph and I had been out shopping and she got this text while I was driving us back to the villa: “How can you break it to Vicki that Max might need stitches in his mouth?” Ugh. If I had known this was going to happen, I would have swung by The Face Store to pick up a new one for Max.
When we arrived back to the villa, Max was sitting on the couch holding a facecloth to his mouth, his eyes wet with tears. I think there’s this moment when a child sees his mom after a dramatic incident and the floodgates fully open, like he had been holding back till she arrived, the one who would understand. I put Rae down and went to Max and he started to tell me, without moving his mouth too much, what had happened. I wanted to flip out and blame everybody and hold him and cry a river, but I had to play this smart. I didn’t want him to think it was the end of the world, because it really wasn’t. His brain was intact. His eyes could see. His legs were working. By god, we’d be going to Disney again tomorrow. We decided not to take him for stitches because scars are cool. Max would just have to NOT SMILE the next day. Which shouldn’t be a problem. I mean, we were only going to THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH.
The next day we got up super early and headed to Hollywood Studios. It was the first Star Wars Weekend of the year, and if Max didn’t get in line for Jedi Training when the park opened, he might not get a time slot and I’d have to throw myself on a cactus. DO OR DO NOT, THERE IS NO TRY? In this case, Master Yoda, there was only DO. We stood in line for 40 minutes and got a 1pm time slot, when Max would meet Darth Vader on the stage. Sweet action. At least this had gone right. We had already forgotten all our Star Wars gear back home: my “Don’t Call Me Princess” Leia shirt, Andrew’s Vader shirt, and Max’s light saber. The park was swarming with kids and parents dressed in fancy Jedi robes, traditional Naboo dresses, and humble Tatooine peasant garb. Every black guy was Mace Windu. Every female with long hair had wound it into side buns. LIKE YA WOULD. Except I wouldn’t, because I’m too busy packing the goddamn diaper bag to think about doing something this cool. At least Max was wearing his storm trooper t-shirt – with his Justice League hat and Batman sunglasses. He had a lot going on. Too much. Like maybe he had taken a wrong turn on his way to Sci-Fi On the Rock. But he was content so I didn’t really give an Ewok’s ass. After the previous day’s mishap, I would have let him wear my nursing bra on his head as a hood. Rae had been wearing her “Storm Pooper” onesie but lived up to her name and shat herself in the car, so we stripped her down in the Disney parking lot. Despite my best efforts, she attended Star Wars Weekend in a pink onesie that said “I love summer.” We also left a bag of poop-stained clothes fermenting in the hot car for the next ten hours.
1pm came and Max was ready for his big moment. He stood on the stage with a dozen other kids, all in brown Padawan robes, to receive lightsaber instruction from one of Master Yoda’s Jedi apprentices. As far as Max was concerned, it was Luke Skywalker so let’s just go with that. Max could have called me Dick Smack for the entire day and I would have approved. My heart ached for my little Padawan, his face swollen on one side and looking somber all over, probably because we told him not to smile too widely on account of his mashed-up mouth. LET NOTHING GO WRONG NOW FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. No thunderstorms, please. No falling off the stage or peeing in your pants, pray Jesus. AND NO FAULTY LIGHT SABRE FOR FUCK SAKE. Annnnnnnnd he got handed a faulty light saber. Bloody hell. Maybe it was the user who was faulty (the Neosporin may have penetrated his brain), but either way – Max couldn’t get the damn thing to extend or retract on cue. Andrew and I looked at each other and cringed when we saw that he was struggling. I prayed to the great Jedi master: “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” When Max’s turn came to face Darth Vader, he whipped the light sabre out to extend it – nothing. He tried again, and again – still nothing. Luke Skywalker said, “Here, take my lucky one!” But Max kept trying and trying, and eventually – sweet miracle of life – out it came. A mother has never been so happy to see her son holding a weapon. He fought Vader as instructed and took his spot among the other Padawans. EPIC PHEW.
Take that! And that!
He searched for us in the crowd and we gave him a big smile and thumbs-up. He got his Jedi certificate from Luke and skipped down off the stage to meet us, with one-third of a smile which, today, was the same as a full smile.
Padawan Max Murphy
On the way back to the villa, I got us lost while looking for a Little Caesars where we could get that bacon-wrapped pizza we had seen on the ads back home. Andrew looked like he might wrap me in bacon and toss me off the Tower of Terror. Rae went bonkers in the car again, which really improved the overall stress level in the vehicle. Max was in dreamland in the backseat, his mouth gaping open and threatening to tear open his cut. I took a scarf and wrapped it around his head and jaw like the ghost of Jacob Marley. No I didn’t, but that would have been funny.
The next day, Owen came down with leprosy. Poor little guy has eczema and the sun and the sunscreen and the chlorine in the pool were making matters worse. His tiny frame was covered in red spots from neck to ankles. On the bright side, it would help us spot him in the pool if he went facedown again.
The following day was our last before flying back home. I returned the playpen to Target (it was so very unsuitable), so Rae had to sleep between Andrew and I for our final night, which made our last chance for romance dry up like Betty White’s lady garden, or my lady garden for that matter.
We heard the fog back home in St. John’s was delaying flights all over the place. We could very well get stuck in Newark. Ugh. As close as it is to NYC, there’s an EW in Newark for good reason. But the fog was lifting. Our flight was on time. We headed to the airport bright and early.
On the way, Rae turned on the waterworks. Again. She’s fabulous, but should never be taken on road trips ever in life.
When we arrived at the Orlando airport to check-in, one of our suitcases was overweight so I had to buy a 12-dollar Mickey Mouse bag at the gift shop to stuff with all the heavy stuff: books I didn’t read, formula I didn’t use, hair rollers I brought stupidly thinking I might have five minutes to primp, and shoes that SHUT UP I NEEDED EVERY SINGLE PAIR. The gift shop guy said he sees this every day. That 12-dollar Mickey bag is a top seller among flustered travellers who bought too many hats with ears on them. Idiots.
We boarded the plane. Heading down the aisle, I held Rae in the crook of my right arm and the boarding passes in my left hand. 36D… 36D… I scanned the seat numbers looking for our row, not realizing that my baby goat was chewing on the boarding passes. Shit, the paper was wet and a small piece was missing. I swept her mouth with my finger but found nothing. Yet she continued to chew! This was her first time chewing on anything besides toys, nipples, or her own fist. Her first food was not oatmeal or carrots or peas. It was boarding pass. Excellent. I found our seats and whipped out the chesticles to wash down her first meal. I’m not much of a cook, so I guess it’s just as well she got used to food tasting like cardboard.
Rae’s first solid food: boarding pass.
Oh look, no TVs on the plane again fuck me in the eye. And my seat didn’t recline. Tremendous. The recline button was actually broken off. Gone. How the hell does that even happen? With no movie, I spent most of the flight thinking about the bag of cookies in Max’s backpack and how I wanted to stog all of them in my face at the same time and pick the crumbs out of Rae’s hair later and maybe eat those too and lick her scalp for any trace of chocolate chips I may have missed. By noon the next day I had eaten all the cookies along with my feelings. Returning to our single-digit weather in St. John’s can be difficult.
On the last leg of our journey home, we weren’t long up in the air when Shits McGee let ‘er rip. The poop started to ooze through her sleepers on the back, threatening to soil our clothes as well. But the seatbelt sign was still on, so we had to stand her up on our laps and wait. The plane levelled off nicely, they started serving refreshments, and a few thimble-bladdered passengers started heading to the bathroom. WTF MAN. I asked the flight attendant if I could take my poop machine to be changed. She smiled and said, “I have to inform you that the seatbelt sign is still on…” YOU’RE SERVING HOT TEA, BITCH. We waited. Another gaggle of incontinent assholes lined up outside the lavatory. We asked the flight attendant again. “I have to inform you that the seatbelt sign…” I HAVE TO INFORM YOU THAT I HAVE BEEN HOLDING A HUMAN SHITSICLE FOR THE LAST 20 MINUTES. Rae was crying now. Like ya would after 20 minutes of stewing in your own feces and dangling by your armpits. The pilot finally flicked off the seatbelt sign and I beelined for the magical shitter in the sky.
When we pitched down in St. John’s at 8pm, the flight attendant said “Welcome to NEW BRUNSWICK.” I swear to fucking god, it happened. IT ALL HAPPENED. And it was all good, because it was exactly the shit we expected.