Friday, September 29, 2006

Where Am I?

I'm currently out of town at another business meeting. Since I'm only in Los Angeles, this meeting didn't require air travel. However, because I don't want to drive 5-hours every day, I've opted to spend the week in LA.

This is a big meeting.

There are approximately 250 people in attendance that have flown in from all over the country. I am a keynote speaker presenting seven (7) separate technical presentations - to a group of very technical people who know a lot more about the topics I'm presenting ... than I do.

I drove up to LA on Tuesday night. Before I left, Charlie loaded my boss's triathlon bicycle in to the back of the truck so I could return it. After the 2.5-hour drive to my hotel, I arrived at 10:30 PM, groggy and desperate for a good night sleep. I pulled in to the parking lot, hopped out, and noticed that the bicycle was in the back of the truck. Since I wasn't going to see my boss until the following morning, I decided that I didn't want to run the risk of someone ripping off the $2K bicycle, so I locked the camper shell. As I was depressing the lock, I remembered that I didn't have the key.

I checked in to my room and called Charlie. I told him that I'd inadvertently locked the back of the truck, without having first removed the bicycle, and since I don't have the key ... he needs to mail it to me, or else I'll need to call a blacksmith.

Pause.

"Blacksmith. Isn't that someone who makes horse shoes? Don't you mean locksmith?"

Whatever.

I go to sleep and wake up the following morning. I take a shower and get myself dressed in my fancy business clothes. I'm about to put on my fancy black dress shoes, when I realize that I don't have them. Not only did I forget the key to the camper shell, I forgot to pack my shoes. I have purple and white sneakers that I wore up to LA, but I don't have my dress shoes that go with my business outfit, which I had planned to wear during my technical presentation.

In front of 250 people.

In the next 15 minutes.

A freak out session follows for the next several moments. This is just as bad as the time I had forgotten to pack my makeup when away on an equally important business meeting.

I call the concierge and ask if there is any place I can buy shoes. I'm informed that there's a Wal-Mart at the end of the street that doesn't open for another hour. Infact, this is the same Wal-Mart that just the night before, had been on the news because it was the subject of a crime scene.

I call Charlie and in desperation tell him I forgot my shoes. Is there any way he can include my shoes with the key he is mailing to me??

Pause and then a slow chuckle.

"So, I suppose you do need a kind of blacksmith ... after all."

Yeah. You're funny.

I go to my meeting in my fancy business clothes and my purple and white sneakers. Everyone tells me that I look like a mall walker. You know, the women that speed walk in the mall wearing business attire and sneakers. The only difference is ... I'm not speed walking in a mall. I'm standing in front of 250 people. Giving a technical presentation.

This morning, I wake up early and I take a shower. I'm excited because my shoes are due to arrive via FedEx at 8 AM. For the first time during this business meeting, I stand a chance at looking somewhat presentable. That's great, considering I have to give another technical presentation, today. I was working on my talk until 2:30 AM, so I feel confident and well prepared.

I take a nice hot shower in a dimly lit bathroom because it's early and I don't like all the bright lights, especially since I'm only going off of 4 hours sleep. I use the fancy hotel toiletries. First, I wash my hair and then I reach for the little white bottle that I could have positively sworn thought read Creme Rinse. I wash out my hair and am impressed that it is so silky. I climb out of the shower and reach for the little white bottle of body lotion. As I'm opening the bottle, I catch a glimpse of the label that very clearly reads "Creme Rinse."

Huh? Did the hotel make a mistake and give me two bottles of Creme Rinse? Did they forget my little bottle of body lotion??

I reach back to take a look at the empty bottle in the shower and hold it up for close examination. I blink hard and then hope that maybe I'm still asleep and this is just a really bad dream. I open my eyes and look at the bottle. In my dimly lit bathroom I can see that the bottle reads Body Cream.

Not Creme Rinse.

There's a difference. No wonder why my hair is silky ... I just massaged a 2 ounce bottle of body lotion in to my scalp. Of course there is no shampoo left in my itty bitty hotel bottle, and I am due to give a technical presentation ... in front of 250 people ... in less than 12 minutes.

I call the concierge and my FedEx package has not yet arrived. I get dressed in my fancy business clothes, my purple and white sneakers, and pull my nappy oily hair back in a ponytail. I trek down to my conference. I'm standing at the front of a large room full of people. There is a microphone on my lapel. I pull my presentation up on my laptop computer and it is shot up to 3 separate 15-foot screens strategically placed for optimal viewing by the 250 participants.

I give my introduction. I click to the first slide and it is gone. GONE. My presentation I had been working on until 2:30 in the morning is GONE. There are 250 people looking at me in my purple and white sneakers and my nappy hair, while I'm looking at the three huge screens that are blank because my presentation is GONE. I mutter some choice words, and am instantly reminded - when I hear my choice words echoed around the room - that I am wearing a microphone two inches from my mouth.

I call for a quick break. Fortunately, much of my presentation was still fresh in my mind and with the help of a co-worker, I winged it. Later in the day, I figured out that in the very early hours of the morning ... I mistakenly saved an older version of my presentation OVER the presentation I'd been working on.

Once upon a time - I was highly organized. Now, I fear I'm losing my mind at an alarming rate. My cerebral hard drive is full.

During lunch today, I expressed to one of my co-workers, the concern for my inability to manage simple tasks like I once did. Simple tasks like ... remembering to pack shoes for a business trip and how to wash my hair. My co-worker told me that research shows, a woman's brain shrinks following the birth of a child.

Is that a joke?!?

Once I have a free moment and provided I remember, I seriously intend to research this topic on possible pregnancy and child-birth induced senility. If it is true, it would really help to explain a lot. At this rate, I fear that by next Spring, I'll be able to hide my own Easter eggs.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The boys are back in town...

They were gone for 100 hours, but I was never able to stop myself from pulling out three sippy cups and three sets of pajamas at night. After 23-months with these little people, it's been deeply ingrained that there are always three of everything. Three pairs of socks, three hungry mouths, three diapers, three heads to kiss.

After four days with two toddlers, I was jolted back to reality, today. There really are three of them. THREE TODDLERS. Not one. Not two. But three. God help me. There are three of them.

Throughout the weekend, I would query the girls "Where's Carolyn Grace?" and while Elizabeth would enthusiastically point at her sister, Carolyn would smile brightly. I'd then query Carolyn, "Where's Elizabeth?" and while Carolyn would happily point to her sister - Elizabeth would giggle. When I'd ask "Where's mommy?" they'd point to me. But when I'd ask "Where's daddy and William??" the smiles would disappear and they would run around looking behind the corners, behind the curtains, behind the sofa - any place where their dad or brother might possibly be hiding. They would come back to me looking confused and I'd tell them "They went bye-bye ... but they'll be back soon!"

The reunion at the airport yesterday was awesome. My arrival was perfectly coincided with Charlie and William coming out to the curb. As soon as William saw me, he started to cry ... which hopefully indicated he was brought to tears from seeing his mother again and not due to fear because of some crazy lady running up to him and shouting 'MY BABY!! MY BABY!!'

I unloaded William from his stroller and let him climb in the car to see his sisters. What unfolded in the next 60 seconds was probably the sweetest moment I have ever witnessed in my entire life. The children were so happy to see one another and when William reached out to gently touch Elizabeth's face ... and then leaned in to give her a kiss ... I thought I would melt on the spot. He reached across to touch Carolyn also - but unfortunately, I wasn't able to catch that on film. There is no doubt ... these kids have a bond.

We picked up some pizza on the way home from the airport and after dinner, while the kids ran around and played, Charlie filled me in on his trip. I suppose the most important development is that on Thursday night, after several bottles of wine with his sister Susan and brother-in-law, Jeff ... Charlie made plans to relocate our entire family to New Zealand. I'm not sure where exactly we are going or what we'll do when we get there.

On Saturday, Charlie was out looking at real estate in Sonoma County with his brother Steve and sister-in-law Kathy ... and apparently, he has a potential job opportunity lined up. And to think, I assumed that if we were wrapping our cable, internet and phone service together - we had a long term commitment to San Diego.

Whenever we travel on vacation, we always come home with these illusions of moving to the place we just visited. It always happens. Although, I'm not sure where New Zealand falls in to this picture. I've never been, although Charlie did once spend a semester abroad there.

I can't say how many times we've gone on trips and either met with a real estate agent to show us different properties and/or had job interviews lined up before we went home. It has never happened that we've traveled somewhere and not imagined living there. Everyplace that we visit always seems so much better than where we live ... until we come back to San Diego and are reminded that there is no better weather anywhere in the country ... than right here.

This isn't to say we will never move. Because according to Charlie, if the job in Sonoma County falls through - we'll be someplace in New Zealand by 2008. Besides, being close to family certainly does have it's advantages. Like today, it would have been wonderful to have family nearby...

Within a few minutes of the children waking up this morning, I was reminded of the 1983 made-for-television movie "The Day After". I could probably script my own movie that would rival the horror of World War III. Alright, that might be a stretch ... but ... today was one of the most challenging days I ever remember in my entire parenting career.

Why didn't anybody tell me that the day after a vacation would be so hard???

Today, I had three children that were completely out of control. They were fighting, climbing on everything and everybody, biting, screaming, fighting, screaming, biting, fighting, climbing, screaming, biting, fighting.

What happened to the airport love from yesterday?!

These children were absolutely wreaking havoc in my world. Was it really this crazy before and I just don't remember the chaos?? Is it possible that three toddlers really are THAT much harder than two?? Are these children really mine?? For the record: YES. YES. YES.

After 15-minutes of being left alone with all three kids, I called Charlie to ask if it would be a terribly bad idea for him to rent a house at the end of the street where he would live with one child. I could live at home with the other two, and we'd visit for playdates. Charlie just laughed. I don't know why he never takes me seriously. He said it would help alot if I drank coffee and how would I like it if he brought me home a cappuccino?

Nah, I don't need a cappuccino. I need a padded room and a bottle of vodka.

I'm leaving tomorrow for the next four days on a business trip. Hopefully, Charlie can get this chaos under control before I return ... or else I'll meet him in New Zealand.

(Just as I was about to hit 'post' Charlie informed me that our dishwasher is broken. This is the second time in less than a month it has conked out on us. Taking on a week with no dishwasher and three 23-month old children, by yourself. It's a good thing he drinks coffee.)

***************

Here are some of the pictures from Charlie & William's trip to northern California. I know that they had a wonderful time and I want to thank Sue & Jeff and Steve & Kathy for all of their hospitality and special accommodations they made for having a toddler in their homes. A special thanks must also go to Kathy for the incredible new bibs that you made (really - your bibs are the only ones we use!), for the awesome biscotti (it was so nice of you to remember how much I the children love your baked goods), and we will treasure the handmade family book. Today when I was reading it to William, he kept pointing to Andy and blowing raspberries. He loves his big cousin! Kathy, you are so talented. I bow down in admiration!!! (Say ... how feasible is it to make play clothes from curtains??!) xoxoxox :)


Monday, September 25, 2006

Day 4: Girls Only Weekend

Today was the last day of our Girls Only Weekend and it was perfect. Nobody threw up, the doorbell didn't ring at some ungodly hour, and for the most part - there was peace in the land.

Because we've been running around so much for the past few days, I decided that we needed to have a quiet morning. We enjoyed pancakes and an O'Henry bar breakfast (because that's what women in my family do) and I then worked with the girls on their shapes and colors using the Melissa & Doug toys I bought on Friday. I figured if the Pediatric Dentist didn't approve of chocolate milk - she really wouldn't condone me teaching our children their colors with the aid of M&M's. Although, I may opt to not share that tad-bit of information when I return to the dentist for the children's visit next month.
It was unanimously decided that no "Girls Only Weekend" would be complete without a little pampering, so everyone received a pedicure this morning. Painting a toddler's toenails has got to be one of the hardest things I've ever done. For starters - their little toes are the size of corn niblets and their toenails are smaller than the head on my knitting needles. If that wasn't tricky enough - they curl their piggies and wiggle their legs, and once I finished, they tried to stick their feet in their mouth. Once I got their teeny tiny nails painted ... my next challenge came in the form of taking a picture with thirty bright red toenails, all in one frame.

As the morning wore on, we retreated outside to play in the sand and water our plants. More appropriately, we watered the sand and played in our plants. Ah ... tomato, tomato ... potato, potato. Whenever there is sand and running water, we have happy children. So what if we've gone through more than 500 pounds of sand and a few thousand gallons of water this summer - all for our children's amusement?? It's not like we live in a coastal desert with the constant threat of wildfires, or something. Uh, actually ... we do. I highly doubt that we are at risk for fire because the land surrounding our house is like a marsh. I wouldn't be surprised if the water table is shallower beneath our lot than anywhere else in our neighborhood, simply because of the water run-off from playing in our backyard.

Just before naptime, the girls had a fun time running around and playing with their dolls. Each girl has laid claim to their very own baby doll and very own doll carriage. They tend to get quite territorial about these things. They were adamant that I wrapped each of the dolls up in a blanket, and with their tightly bundled dolls, they had stroller races around the kitchen. When I tucked the girls in for a nap a short while later, I was amused that Elizabeth insisted on being wrapped up tightly, with bunny stuck in the blanket under her chin - just as I had done with her doll. I snapped off some photos of her being wrapped up cuddly, and when I came back two minutes later, she was fast asleep. She didn't move from this swaddled state until she awoke from her nap, two hours later.

When the girls woke up, they were still a bit groggy, so I made them a snack and let them watch "The Princess Diaries" while camped out on our bed. I didn't intend for them to watch this particular show, but, since it held their attention more than anything else on at the time - that's all that mattered for me. Thank goodness it wasn't Montel. They sat contentedly for a good 30 minutes while I vacuumed, mopped and folded laundry. As they grow up - I truly hope that they always have a strong friendship and bond. A majority of the time, like today, they are so loving and sharing with one another that it absolutely melts my heart.

As I finished trying to get the house tidied up for the boys return, I gladly welcomed the assistance of my two little helpers. UNTIL, we got to the bathroom. I turned my back for a split second, and they wasted no time unrolling toilet paper directly in to the commode and then stuck their hands in to stir it up. Fortunately the toilet was clean. However, as I was washing Carolyn's hands, Elizabeth grabbed the toilet brush and before I could stop her - stuck it in her mouth.

That's right. The toilet brush. In her mouth. She licked it like a lollipop. But only once - before I shrieked and grabbed it from her hands. I almost lost my pancake and O'Henry bar breakfast. Heck, I almost lost my dinner just thinking about it, again.

The only reason I am writing this out, is because as Elizabeth grows older ... if she happens to have the vague memory as a small child, of being held on the ground while her mother screamed "ARGH!" and sloshed water on her face and mouth ... this is the reason why.

Charlie and William were due to arrive at 5:30 PM, so once all the evidence of our raging "Girls Only Weekend" was successfully cleaned up ... I loaded the kids up and we took off for the carousel. The girls love going on the merry-go-round. We had a little over an hour before we needed to be at the airport, so I bought 9 tickets and we went 'round and 'round and 'round until we were positively dizzy. Elizabeth's looks of panic slowly gave way to joy ... while Carolyn screamed gleefully the entire time.

In my mind, I kept thinking about the MasterCard commercials. If I had to do my own commercial ... it would go something like this:
  • Eight years of infertility - ovulation predictor kits, home pregnancy tests, endless boxes of Kleenex for wiping away frustrated tears: $4,550.00
  • Surgeries, medications, and more heartbreak: $27,720.00
  • Three rounds of IVF+ICSI: $45,450.00
  • Triplet pregnancy, bedrest and delivery: (~) $150,000.00
  • 6 long weeks for my babies in the NICU: (~) $1,000,000.00 (That's a guesstimate based on talking with the neonatologists. Believe me, if it wasn't for excellent insurance coverage - I'm sure I'd know the exact amount. I didn't see a single bill...)
  • Round trip airline ticket for father and son: $120.00
  • 9 tickets on the Balboa Park merry-go-round: $18.00
  • First ever "Girls Only Weekend" with my two long-awaited miracle daughters: Priceless
  • .
These children are unbelievably amazing. I feel so incredibly blessed that of all the people in the world - they were born to me.

We left the carousel and 5 minutes later ... the savages tribe was reunited. Charlie and William arrived home safely from their "boys weekend away" and I heard some wonderful stories about the places and people that they visited. I have some great pictures of their first ever "father-son adventure" and I caught some awesome pictures of the reunion. But, you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see them.

Before it gets too late, I need to enjoy a bottle glass of wine with my husband.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Day 3: Girls Only Weekend

Tomorrow is our last day of our "Girls Only Weekend" and I need to slow it way down. Tonight, I am completely zapped and for the second night in a row, I didn't tuck the girls in to bed until past 9 PM ... which is way out of line with my principles for a strict bedtime at 7:00 PM, 7:15 PM, 7:30 PM, 7:45 PM 8:00 PM.

This morning, I woke up at 7:00. I laid in bed for a few minutes - reflecting on all the shopping I had completed yesterday and how adorable the kids were going to look in their new clothes.

I stumbled out of bed and walked to the kitchen to pour myself a glass of OJ. As I tiptoed past the nursery, I could tell that the girls were still sleeping. I thought to myself, "Ah, good. I'll let them go until 8:00 and that will give me plenty of time to get dressed, get breakfast ready, and unload the dishwasher."

Anticipating that I have at least an hour to spare before the kids woke up, I tiptoe back in to our bathroom and decide to give myself a green mud facial. I open the tube and smear a handful of mud all over my face. Once it dries, in 20 minutes, I'll wash it off and instantly look 15 years younger. As I'm standing there sipping my juice, waiting for my mask to dry, and savoring the tranquility of a quiet house ... the doorbell rings.

Which, of course wakes the girls up ... and which, of course, sets my heart racing. Who the heck is here so early on a Saturday morning?!

I peek through the blinds and see it's the cableman, here to bundle our television, internet and phone service together. Had this been ANY OTHER PERSON (with the exception of a surprise visit from my mother or Ed McMahon holding a bouquet of balloons), I doubt I would have opened the door. But, I suddenly remembered Charlie had scheduled this service a week ago, and I didn't want my husband thinking I was a monumental flake for not answering the door simply because it was too early for someone to be calling and I looked like hell warmed over.

I open the front door wearing my red flannel snowman pajamas, that I've had for the past 8 years and wore up until I was 6 months pregnant. My hair is pulled up in to a rats nest on top of my head ... a remnant of the ponytail I was wearing yesterday and I have a green mud mask smeared on my face. I look positively lovely. The cableman comes in and doesn't even bat an eye, which makes me think that my appearance is not unusual for stuff he sees during his rounds.

He asks me something about "Where is the cable and phone cord?" Blah, blah, blah. I try helping for a few minutes, but I clearly have no idea what he is looking for and I don't have the brain capacity to understand at that point in time, because the mud mask is now partially dry and my face is itching like mad. I finally shoo him off to the garage to do his own investigation while I get the kids out of their cribs.

When he comes back in a few minutes later, Elizabeth is running around the kitchen. We make small talk about how he has a toddler at home that is on the brink of driving he and his wife insane. Just then, Carolyn comes running in from the opposite direction, wearing Molly's collar around her neck, and the guys jaw drops open. He looks at me and says incredulously, "Oh my God. There's two of them?" I respond "No ... there's actually three of them. But, if all three of them were home right now, I'd look worse than I actually do. This is my vacation day."

This invariably leads to him asking me questions about whether or not triplets run in our family, did I take fertility drugs, and how do we manage? For the record: I'll tell anyone under the sun that Charlie and I went through three cycles of IVF to be blessed with our children. But as I was standing in the kitchen this morning ... in my snowman pajamas - rats nest hairstyle - and green face ... I didn't have it in my heart to tell our cableman the whole story. Yes, we have multiples in our family (that's the truth). The only drugs I took were prenatal vitamins (God, please don't strike me down). We manage because Charlie and I have an outrageous sense of humor.

The cableman leaves and we eat breakfast and then take off to feed ducks in the local pond. Actually, it's a water hazard at the golf course - but ducks live there. I try to get out at least once a week to feed the ducks the heels from our bread or any pieces that are moldy. The kids are starting to get the hang of feeding the ducks - although they'll sometimes eat the pieces that I give them to throw out, which always makes me gag whenever I see our children chomping on a chunk of green fuzzy bread.

I planned to put the girls down for two naps today, because they went to bed late, woke up early and I didn't want them to be overtired ... especially since we had a birthday party to attend this afternoon. But on the way home, Elizabeth started to fall asleep in the stroller.

THIS IS NEVER A GOOD THING, because all it takes is 5 minutes of shut-eye and her little sleep clock is entirely reset (interpretation: you can kiss that 2 hour nap g'bye). I started jogging with the stroller, swerving it all over the sidewalk. I leaned down and rubbed her head and was loudly singing "Stayin Alive". We get home and I quickly unload the girls in to their cribs. I take a quick shower, get dressed, and wrap the birthday present. I peek my head in the nursery and the girls are wide awake. They hadn't slept at all. While they are still in their cribs, I whip up a batch of O'Henry bars - since the person we're scheduled to visit this afternoon (an old neighbor) once ate an entire pan of O'Henry's while at our house. An entire pan. Twenty minutes later, he learned about the laxative effects of Karo Syrup. Despite spending the next 4 hours in the bathroom ... he LOVES O'Henry's and is always asking for a batch.

I get the girls up and feed them lunch. It's was good I waited to get them dressed for the day until after they'd licked the O'Henry topping off the spoons. We load in to the car and as I'm pulling out of the driveway, I remember my cell phone. I retrieve it and start to leave again, when I remember my camera. Leave again, remember the present. And the O'Henry's still cooling in the refrigerator. After running in and out of the house SEVEN times for various odds and ends, we finally leave and drive TWO HOURS to the birthday party. Thankfully the kids slept the whole way, although I never would have gone if I knew it would take so long to get there.

We arrive - the kids play in an un-landscaped yard for a couple hours where they are covered from head to toe in dirt - and then we drive TWO HOURS back home. They didn’t sleep a wink, but rather, laughed hysterically while they watched Baby Beethoven repeat five times. If I ever questioned the usefulness of it - today I was convinced that the DVD player in our van is worth it’s weight in gold.

When I arrived home at 8:30 PM, I open the garage door to pull the van in and immediately realize the door leading to our house has been left open. Molly is no where to be seen. But instead of instantly thinking "Where has the dog gone?!" I pray that no stray rats have scurried in to our house. I walk in to the house and find Molly laying on the floor in our bedroom with tufts of black hair everywhere. Thank goodness she is more mature than she once was. I shudder to think how bad it would have been, to have a labrador retriever puppy with full access to a house for six unsupervised hours. It happened once when we were in grad school. Monty and Molly both got in to the house while Charlie and I were out of town. Two weeks and an untold number of Febreeze bottles later ... our house still stunk to high heaven.

Because the kids were literally rolling around in the dirt backyard at the birthday party - I figured that they needed baths when we got home. To keep it fast and simple, I filled up the kitchen sink and stuck them both in. When it came time to take them out, I dried one off and put on the top part of their pj's, letting them run around diaperless for a couple minutes until I could get the second baby out. Doesn't it figure that both of them, as soon as their little feet touched the ground, took off running to the carpeted part of our house and went pee everywhere. If the dog doesn’t go pee in the house, I suppose they think they should.

Tonight, as I was on my hands and knees cleaning dog hair and pee off the ground, I had to remind myself that it could be worse. If it wasn't for the O'Henry bars and shiny face that looks 15 years younger ... I might not have felt like I was on vacation.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Day 2: Girls Only Weekend

We had a leisurely morning with a healthy breakfast followed by lots of playing.

We then took a walk to our local park where I showed the girls how to do cartwheels, which unlike somersaults, do not put any strain on my neck. At least not that I can tell. Although, my shoulders do feel a little stiff, so if I can't put on deodorant tomorrow, cartwheels in the park today, will be the reason why.

It was really nice having *only* two toddlers to look after. Usually when we're at the park, I'm darting around trying to save one child from falling off the play structure that is designed for 5-12 year olds ... while the second child is running up to a rabid looking dog ... and the third child is obliviously about to walk in front of the 10-year old wearing soccer cleats who is pumping higher and higher on the swing.

Today, no one ran away from me at the park. Instead, my biggest challenge was trying to keep the girls out of the dryer at home.

After lunch, Carolyn and Elizabeth took an almost three hour nap and for the first time ... ever (?) ... I took a nap with them. Rather than cleaning or doing laundry or putting the washed cover back on the carseat from yesterday (note barren looking carseat in picture below), all of which were items on my "To-Do" list ... I closed my eyes for 120 minutes and slept. It was glorious.

I'm not sure why I don't take a nap everyday ... but after today, I'm thinking that this whole napping thing is good. Real good.

When we all woke up from our naps, we did what every red-blooded girl loves to do.

We went shopping.


We headed south to the outlet mall just north of Tijuana, Mexico. I was a bit skeptical driving so close to Mexico, but I'm always up for an adventure. And really, what better adventure is there than hitting a border outlet mall at 4 PM on a Friday ... with two toddlers?

Our first stop was the Carter's outlet ... followed by Osh Gosh B'Gosh ... Stride Rite ... Baby Gap ... and The Children's Place. I now have all of the overalls, dresses, skirts, pants, turtlenecks, tights, onesies, sweatpants, sweatshirts, jackets, socks, pajamas and shoes to get us comfortably though the fall, winter and spring. Not to mention, we picked up a pleothra of new Melissa & Doug wooden toys. The kids love those - and I love them because they don't make noise and don't require a ridiculous number of size D batteries.

It feels really good to know that we have the children's clothing needs completely covered for the next 9-months. Clothing a set of 23-month old triplets for the fall, winter and spring set us back $475.00. Fortunately, I made it to Osh Gosh the last day they were offering the multiples discount. Had I waited until tomorrow to do my shopping, we would be out $645.00. Now I understand why my mother use to look at her seven children whenever we'd go clothes shopping in the fall and say "You need to get a job!" I'm also starting to see the logic in Julie Andrew's making all of the Von Trapp children's play clothes out of curtains.

If only I knew how to sew...

Lately, it's become a real struggle for me to get the kids in to their carseat or stroller. They transform in to contortionists and will do an absolute backbend to get out, all the while kicking and screaming uncontrollably.

The anticipation leading up to me having to get the kids in to the car or carriage is probably the most stress I face during any given day. I've started to wonder if people who witness our loading process ever question whether or not these are actually my children - or - if I'm trying to steal them ... hence the spaz attack. Because I typically don't make eye contact with strangers during these circumstances ... I doubt I'll ever know. But to date, the police haven't been summoned, so I suppose that's a good sign.

Today, during our outing, I decided that I would tether the girls in their harnesses and let them walk with me. I figured that them walking would probably be the lesser of two evils. If they were in their stroller - they would be grabbing whatever they could reach AND screaming to get out ... whereas if they were walking, they'd only be grabbing whatever they could. How's that for logic and forethought?

At our first shop, I made an interesting discovery.

As moronic as it may seem ... just because it's a BABY STORE, doesn't mean that it is BABY PROOFED. At first I was mortified my children were pulling every "sterile" looking newborn toy off the shelves and putting it in their mouths ... but after trying to avert their desire to touch EVERY.SINGLE.THING I came to the conclusion that the sales people at Carters need to be taught a lesson.

This
is what happens when they put toys at toddler eye level.

Even though I tidied up before we left - I'm sure they especially appreciated me standing back to take pictures while my girls pulled every toy off the shelf.

The harnesses worked pretty well. Lucky for me, the majority of the time ... the girls would go in two opposite directions and would severely impair each other's ability to run away.

Although I didn't like seeing Carolyn lay face down on a public floor, the fact that she was an anchor to Elizabeth who was attempting to run out the front door with her arms over her head was a good thing. I did catch a few "looks" from people ... the kind of look that clearly says "What kind of parent would put their child on a leash?!" But it's too bad no one actually asked me that question, because I was prepared with a good response.

I didn't mention it here on my blog ... but two weeks ago, during our trip to Los Angeles, I had one of my scariest parenting moments, yet. Following our picnic, Charlie had taken Elizabeth to drop off the diaper bag in the car ... while I held William and Carolyn by their hands and walked over to see some ponies. A woman came up alongside me and without warning, bent down and scooped Carolyn up.

That's right ... an absolute stranger PICKED UP MY BABY.

Carolyn, a child who has never done too well with strangers, instantly started screaming. I was in disbelief ... and it took me a moment (count - maybe two seconds?) to gather my senses and reach over to take my child back. I don't think the woman spoke english - because she muttered something in spanish when I said "Oh, no thankyou. Neither she nor I do well with strangers."

Holding a crying Carolyn in one arm and holding William by the hand ... this woman darted around to the other side of me, and snatched William up. That's right ... immediately after I took Carolyn from her, SHE PICKED UP WILLIAM.

This time, I was somewhat more prepared and wasted no time reaching over and grabbing my child back. It's hard for me to be unfriendly, but I snapped at the woman "I'm not sure what you're on ... but it's not acceptable to grab small children away from their mothers!!"

Two minutes later, I spotted Charlie and told him what had happened. My heart was beating out of my chest as I relayed the story of an absolute stranger picking up our children. Charlie, normally a level-headed guy, freaked out more than I had. He said "Jen! What if she jumped in a car and drove away?!?" I seriously doubt that would have happened because I know I would have tackled this woman to the ground and beat the living crap out of her but with two babies ... it would definitely be tricky. Not impossible, but tricky.

Suffice to say, I am no longer ashamed of our safety harnesses. Even though I hold the children's hands when they are walking with me, having a strap that I can hold on to, is one added measure of security that I absolutely need with multiple toddlers.

By the time we'd finished with Osh Gosh, the girls were wiped out with their exploring and were trying to climb in to storage boxes to lay down. Seizing the opportunity, with a minimal amount of resistance, I loaded them in to their stroller, where they happily rode out the rest of their mother's shopping spree.

There were a few critical items we needed from the grocery, so our last stop of the day was Costco. We made a quick run through the aisles and because it was late ... I opted to feed the girls dinner in the food court.

Fortunately, they did eat some apples while we shopped (and I had to laugh at Carolyn trying to share her apple with Elmo) and we did have a healthy breakfast ... because I don't know that there is a whole lot of nutritional value in the crust of a cheese pizza and a bowl of vanilla icecream frozen yogurt.

Even though I didn't tuck the girls in until 9:00 PM tonight, today was a wonderful day.

I realized that I can still do cartwheels.

I took an unplanned nap.

I went shopping with my two daughters and bought them their very first pair of rhinestone sunglasses.

We had pizza and icecream frozen yogurt for dinner.

I showered all of my love and attention on my children - and I didn't lose my patience. Not even once. This day will be hard to top ... but tomorrow I'll try.

(Blogger is not cooperating with me, so I have no idea in what order these pictures will appear. Hopefully, they'll follow along with the story, but if not ... oh well. Too bad I'm not more technically savvy, I could probably figure this out. )

Friday, September 22, 2006

Day 1: Girls Only Weekend

And ... they're off.**

We loaded up the car this morning with all the supplies necessary for Charlie's 4-day trip out of town with William, and we all drove to the airport to bid the boys farewell. I sobbed had a tear in my eye as I watched my baby, with his personalized "William" backpack, walk alongside his dad clutching his blankie for his first trip away from his sisters.

I waited by the curb for a long time, snapping off pictures as they got further and further away. It dawned on me at that very moment - our children can never go "away" to college. I don't think I could stand it.

Reciting my millionth little prayer that they would stay safe, I started to make my way out of the airport. I was filled with excitement ... we were about to begin our first ever, Girls Only Weekend. I've been thinking about this for weeks and I had some big plans in store, including a trip to the science museum where we were scheduled to meet with our neighbors in the next 15 minutes.

We don't even make it past the terminal when Carolyn has a conniption fit. Screaming, thrashing, throwing her sippy cup, throwing her Cheez-Its, throwing her blankie to the floor. I couldn't very well turn around to see her, since I am fighting airport traffic, so I reach back and try to console her, when she starts kicking me.

Such a lovely little child when she is having a tantrum.

Driving safely is very difficult to do when you're at the airport dodging cars, looking for an exit, and trying to comfort a child two feet behind you, who is in the midst of a fit. After several minutes, I snapped. I screamed "BE QUIET!!! BE QUIET!!! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD AND ALL THAT IS HOLY WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP YOUR SCREAMING!!!!"

For a moment she did stop. And then she started again. Louder this time.

THIS, is not what I had in mind to kick-off my Girls Only Weekend.

I screamed again, so loudly that it hurt my throat.

She stopped abruptly and looked at me with tears streaming down her face. I instantly felt like the biggest ass in the world to yell at my little girl. What kind of monster must I be??

DEEP BREATH.

I find my exit, pull off, and while I'm waiting at a redlight, I lean back and kiss her. I apologize for being such a crank and ask that she please not scream while I'm driving. Considering I'm trying to rationalize not having tantrums with a 23-month old ... I'd probably have better luck asking her to make me Chicken Cordon Bleu for dinner.

We finally arrive at the museum. I pull in to an over-flowing parking lot and hear Elizabeth start to cough. I look in my rearview mirror just in time to see her throw up. She starts to cry and then throws up again ... so hard it comes out her little nose. I stop the car in the middle of the parking lot and jump out. I run around the side and hop in the back. She is covered from her hair to her toes in what had been her breakfast and mid-morning snack. I pull her out of her carseat and now I, too, am covered from my arms to my knees in what had been Elizabeth's breakfast and mid-morning snack. This isn't a virus ... it's carsickness, probably exacerbated by my horrific screaming at her sister.

DEEP BREATH.

THIS, sure as heck, is not what I had in mind to kick-off my Girls Only Weekend.

Just then, my neighbor walks up alongside the car with her children. Carolyn's face is tear-streaked and she is still gasping ... while Elizabeth and I are both covered in puke. She asks if everything is alright and I inform her that I'm prepared to call Charlie and tell him if the first 20-minutes following his departure is any indication of how this weekend is going to go ... he needs to come back, immediately.

She pulls out a half-dozen chocolate chip cookies and I cheer up. I'm so damn fickle.

Apparently, I got all the bad stuff out of the way - because the rest of Day 1: Girls Only Weekend, was magical. We had a wonderful time at the museum where we explored for two hours. (sidenote: just as we were leaving the museum, Charlie called to tell me that he had arrived safely. William talked babbled with fellow passengers on the plane and completely warmed everyone's heart. By 3 PM, he had not yet napped and was looking like a zombie. When Charlie called me tonight, he said that William was having the time of his life and savoring all the attention that was being showered on him. This makes me so happy.)

I thanked my lucky stars that I had with me, a change of clothes for Elizabeth and a spare carseat for her to ride home in. When we did arrive home, the girls took a two hour nap, while I scrubbed the inside of the car and washed the carseat cover. I then cleaned out our entire garage, something that I've been putting off for weeks. When the girls woke up from their nap, my friend and her two year old triplets came over for a playdate. While the children romped in the sprinkler for the next hour ... she and I had a chance to talk.

And talk. And talk.

I confided about my emotional outburst in the car and how I felt so terrible screaming at my child. I also told her that for the past month or so ... I find that it doesn't take much for me to lose my temper and that inability to bite my tongue really worries me. Up until recently, I never lost my patience with our babies. I could tolerate the crying, the fussing, the fighting. But not so much, anymore. It seems like my patience quota is exceeded rapidly.

Within the past month, directly following breakfast, I have to get out of the house as soon as possible. Otherwise, all hell breaks loose. They scream, they whine, they fight, they do absolutely everything I don't want them to do - and in the process, they are driving me insane.

See, I believe it is important to be honest. So, I'll say it again.

There are some days ... our children are driving me insane in the membrane. Even despite my positive attitude.

I suspect what is happening is that they get bored and need a change of scenery. I suspect that I am getting bored, too. There is only so much of the house and backyard I can take before we need to do something different ... even if that involves going out alone with three toddlers. Since taking them to the park by myself borders on suicidal, I'll try to arrange triplet playdates as often as possible.

During one of our outings last week, as I was cruising down the freeway at 65 miles per hour, I looked back in the rearview mirror and noticed that Elizabeth was almost completely freed from her carseat. The only thing holding her in, was one leg hung up on a strap.

I see this. While I'm barreling down the freeway. At 65 MPH.

It is no exaggeration that I almost lost control of our vehicle and careened in to a swamp. I made an emergency exit and no sooner did I come to a stop, Elizabeth was entirely free from her carseat, and running around the inside of the van. Taking a huge breath and wondering what the hell had happened to my life ... I looked up, hoping to see God in the sky above me. I needed some form of divine intervention at that very moment more than I've ever needed it in my entire life.

When I looked up, I was surprised to see that there was a vaguely familiar looking office building before me. Slowly - it dawned on me. I was in the parking lot of the infertility doctor who had gotten us pregnant two and a half years earlier.

What this a sign? Could it be??

For a moment ... I thought about unloading all three of the kids ... bringing them in to *see* the doctor, and asking if he wouldn't mind taking them back, for just a little while. I would promise to retrieve them when they were potty trained and stopped throwing their food everywhere. And, when they understood the importance of not giving their mother a heart attack by climbing out of their carseat while she is zipping along a southern California 12-lane freeway, during rush hour.

Thinking it was highly unlikely our IVF doctor would take the kids back (even if for a short time), and thinking it was highly likely he would call DSS, I continued on to our playdate. But only after I had clamped Elizabeth into her carseat so tightly she couldn't move.

Today, my girlfriend confided in me that she is going through some of the exact same stuff. At times she feels stressed out. At times she'll yell. And then, whenever she yells she feels like dirt because these are little children that she desperately wanted and desperately loves. But there are times, when she feels like she is desperately at the end of her rope.

What made me feel really good about our confession session, is that all of this was coming from a person who has family in town, that lend a tremendous amount of support. So the fact that Charlie and I are managing this on our own - with no outside help - well. It's no wonder we sometimes feel like we're going a little batty. Especially since I've been inundated at work and with extracurricular volunteer activities.

When my friend left, there was quiet. The girls were merrily playing and there was no fighting. There was no screaming, no biting. There was absolute tranquility, which is literally and figuratively, completely unheard of at 5:00 PM in our house.

I fed the girls dinner and then we took a bath. I filled the tub with Mr. Bubble and we all climbed in. The last time I dared take a bath with the children, it was a disaster that involved floating poop and pee puddles all over the floor. But tonight, it was perfect. For the first time in a long, long time ... I feel completely relaxed.

I suppose this just goes back to my theory on relativity. The vast majority of people might not consider a 4-day weekend, alone with 2-23 month olds to be a vacation ... but I do.

(**Don't mind the date stamp. The reason I didn't get pictures of the coffee explosion the other day, is because our camera battery completely died. Once it was recharged, I noticed the date was wrong. I just haven't fixed it yet.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

My Theory of Relativity

For the past several months, whenever one of us has to go the store - we always take a child with us. We have found that it is much easier shopping with one toddler, as opposed to three ... and the benefit is a two-to-one ratio for the person at home ... and quality one-on-one time for the pair that goes to the store.

So often, I feel terribly guilty that I am not giving my complete attention to one child. What I've noticed is that one child acts a whole lot differently when they are not surrounded by their siblings and jockeying for my attention. For example, they'll do things like ... listen and pay attention. Kinda sorta. Well, not really. I suppose I'm just more capable of chasing down one toddler than I am three.

Although the benefits of having built-in playmates for the children are numerous ... I think it's extremely important that they also have the undivided attention of their parents every so often, too.

I know it's relative ... but in my world, one toddler is a breeze. And two toddlers are a lot easier than three - mainly because I have two hands. Even though particles children are small, they move fast - and when there are multiple children - it's impossible to keep up with them when they start moving in their own direction, at the speed of light.

(Yes, I just tried to apply Einstein's Theory of Relativity to parenting. Wait until you see my discussion on energy. Then you'll really see why Physics was one of my favorite classes in college.)

If you don't count the time I got hung up on the side yard with safety harnesses, the last time I had the whopping realization just how outnumbered I am, is when I took all three children Christmas shopping, by myself.

That would be one of me. Plus (+) 3-14 month old babies.

In. A. Store.

At Christmastime.

I had tried to do as much shopping on-line as I could, but there were a few items I had to go to the store to purchase. Because it was Charlie's day to work, we don't have a babysitter due to my crazy hang-ups and no family within 10-hours ... I brought all the babies with me to REI, one of my favorite outdoor stores of all time.

Within 5-minutes of arriving, Elizabeth threw up, William had a blow-out poop and Carolyn had an absolute meltdown when a stranger looked at her and said "What a gorgeous baby!" I made a quick sweep around the store, eyes rapidly scanning what else I could possibly need, and with a carriage full of clothing (strategically placed to avoid Elizabeth) - I rushed the front register and unloaded everything. I hardly hesitated when my purchases totaled $150.00 more than I expected. The only thing running through my mind was "Must stop the screaming ... must pay - must leave - must get out of here."

The next day as I prepared to wrap my goods, I figured out that the reason I spent $150.00 more than I expected is because I purchased $150.00 worth of stuff I had not intended. Stuff like ... men's slippers in a size 14, an icecream ball, an XS flannel shirt and a book entitled "How To Shit In the Woods".

What I concluded is that as I was walking around the store, the babies were grabbing whatever they could reach and pulling it into the carriage. When I arrived at the checkout, I didn't pay attention to the stuff I was unloading because of my partially crazed mental state. If it was in the carriage, obviously it was stuff I had put there. Clearly this was before the time I was enlightened to the fact that our babies had minds of their own and a desire to defecate in an environmentally sound manner, while making icecream and wearing an XS flannel shirt and pair of size 14 slippers ... in the woods.

Either that, or ... I had three pint-sized kleptomaniacs.

The following day, I went back to the store with only one baby in tow. I loaded Carolyn in to a Kelty backpack and took off to do my returns and pick up the remaining items I still needed. For the next 90 minutes, I perused the aisles and nearly forgot I had a rider. She was perfectly content. When I finally meandered up to the front to check out, the cashier gave me a surprised look and said "WOW! You really have your hands full. Taking a baby Christmas shopping all by yourself? Boy are you brave!"

At first I thought she was joking and kind of chuckled along with her. When I could see that she was serious, I snorted and said "You think my hands are full with ONE baby? Lady, you have no idea. Really, you have NO idea."

Shopping with one baby? Yes ... I suppose that could be tricky. But after shopping with triplets two days earlier, this was like taking a shit-free walk in the woods.

Because I really enjoy one-on-one time, I capitalize on it wherever I can. For instance ... if one of the children wake up from their nap early - I will scoop them up and play quietly while the other two sleep. Most recently, I got a head-start on teaching William his colors with the help of plain M&M's while his sisters continued to snooze. (I need to interject it is FALSE advertising that M&M's don't melt in your hand. They melted all over William's hand. While he sat on our white bedspread. How brilliant am I to teach our 22-month old child colors with the assistance of multi-colored chocolate on a white bedspread, you might ask? Well, this was definitely not something I thought about beforehand ... kind of like the safety harness fiasco. I think my mind is shot.)

So, the point of this ramble ... because, yes - there is a point sometimes it takes me an eternity to get there is that tomorrow morning Charlie and William are taking off for a long weekend together. Just the boys for some quality one-on-one time. They are hopping on a plane at noon and flying to San Francisco to visit with Charlie's sister and two brothers.

Quick pause while I hyperventilate because the only thing worse than me being on a plane ... is my husband taking my baby boy on a plane.

Tonight as I was helping Charlie pack, I could sense his excitement about the upcoming trip. And it made me think... if you were to ask a man what would he like to do for a vacation, I doubt he'd say "I would love to fly somewhere with my 23-month old son ... ALL BY MYSELF! I'd be overjoyed at lugging a stroller and carseat through the airport and I'd jump at the chance to install that carseat into some rented vehicle, and then try to navigate around a strange city I haven't been to in five years. Where, praytell, do I sign up for a trip so grand as this?!"

See, it's all relative. Because I know that this flight will be a lot easier than the last few times Charlie and I have been on a plane with all three kids. More than that - I know Charlie is ecstatic about showing William off to his family and unless he wants to drive 12-hours, a 1.5-hour flight is his best bet.

As for me, I'm really looking forward to some quality time with "just the girls" this weekend. Since they've never been separated before, I think it will be interesting to see how the children do away from each other for the next four days and I'm excited to see how they greet each other on Sunday.

This should be fun provided I let Charlie step foot on the plane tomorrow morning with my baby boy. I'm really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Testing 1, 2, 3...

Several months ago, I touched on the topic of discipline. At the time, I was trying to figure out how to keep our babies off the coffee table ... before I finally decided that the coffee table had to go, because there was no way they were ever going to stop climbing on it.

I experimented with eliminating the word "no" from our vocabulary, but quickly realized that was crazy. "No 'no'?"

I tried spanking, and then recognized that the children quickly forgot what they were corrected for and unless I wanted to be constantly swatting my kids, I needed to come up with something else.

I dabbled with time out, but was dismayed that the kids appeared to enjoy time out more often than not. Whenever I put one in the corner, the other two would go and stand there with the one who I was trying to discipline.

Since I can't knowingly ignore negative behavior, I'm always on alert whenever the children are playing together. Even when I'm down on the floor playing with them, I have to keep my eyes scanning what everyone is up to. It is no exaggeration that I say "Be gentle! Let's try sharing!" more than 300 times a day.

There was once a day - that if our children were being mischievous, all I needed to do was redirect them to something else and they'd play happily. Unfortunately for me, those days didn't last and are now long gone.

These days, when our children have their mind(s) made up about something ... they will not stop until they get it. Or, until I snap, give them a swat and stick them in their crib devoid of toys or blankets. I love them with all my heart ... but they are persistent little buggers.

A partial list of the hot ticket items that they will not give up and which are driving me absolutely insane, include: pulling every single diaper wipe out of the warmer and scattering them across the floor (this really annoys me because the tidy cube of wipes that are automatically fed, is now a pile of wet towels); splashing their little hands in anything that contains water (toilet, dog bowl, puddles) resulting in their clothes getting soaking wet (this usually ONLY happens moments before we are about to walk out the door to something we are already 45 minutes late for); taking off every shred of clothing - including their diapers; climbing on top of the table and/or counters; chewing on electric cords that I thought I had strategically hid behind the couch; and last but not least, fiddling with our electronic equipment and reprogramming my cell phone.

I know that they know when they aren't suppose to do something. They will look at me ... and then very cautiously, do whatever it is that I don't want them to do. Let's say I see them in the act of climbing on the table ... I'll say "We don't climb on furniture ... sit on your bum!" and they will instantly drop to their bottom and give me a coy smile. If I turn my back for a moment ... they'll do it again. And again, and again.

And then usually, the other two will join in - and in no time flat, I'm running around like a loon telling my children "SIT ON YOUR BUM! SIT ON YOUR BUM!! SIT ON YOUR BUM!!!"

The girls are the ringleaders. Not so much the boy. William will follow suit to whatever his sisters are doing. Just this morning, moments after I had finished cleaning (of course), they got a hold of Charlie's ground coffee and decorated the playroom with black dust while I was preparing lunch, less than 10 feet away. I knew something was up when our house started to smell like Starbucks and the kids weren't making much noise. When I turned around and looked at them, they stared at me with coffee dust COVERING THEIR BODIES and with huge eyes they shrugged their little shoulders and said "oh oh."

They're testing me, I know it. They're seeing just how far they can push. But I'm starting to suspect all they want is to see my head burst in to flames again.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Our technically savvy toddlers

I am the most technically incompetent person you might ever come across.

It's the truth.

This blog is the most advanced technical thing I have ever done and even then - I am at a loss for how to do simple things like blogrolling or adding picture links to my sidebar. I have gone through 5 "test blogs" and have irrevocably destroyed all of them. If one day Amazing Trips is gone, chances are - I inadvertently deleted it.

I balk at the idea of getting TiVo, because I doubt my ability to grasp the concept of recording television - when I can't even figure out how to set the clock on our VCR. Speaking of televisions, whenever I get a hold of our remote control - which is linked to our stereo - I have this horrible tendency to start pushing buttons. The more flustered I get - the more buttons I push. It drives Charlie absolutely mental. For the past two months, we've been *enjoying* closed caption subtitles at the bottom of our screen, because neither of us the time to figure out how to get rid of them.

The alarm clock in our bedroom? I'm ashamed to admit that the "off" function completely eludes me. Maybe it's because it's relatively new and I rarely use it ... but on those oddball occasions when I need to wake up before the three alarm clocks I rely on that sleep in the room next to us ... I am jolted out of a deep sleep and frantically yell for Charlie to "PLEASE, MAKE IT STOP!!!" when instead of hitting the snooze button, I crank the volume up to 50.

My mother can attest to the fact that just a few years ago, I wiped out her entire hard drive when she asked me to help *organize* some files. Fortunately, she attends church with a computer guru who was able to recover what I thought had been lost, forever. It only required 2-hours and reinstalling Windows.

I suppose it would help if I just sat down with the instruction manual before I tried "trouble-shooting" stuff on my own, but whenever I open instruction manuals, I immediately fall in to a coma. It's absolutely pathetic.

Today, I was at a very important and somewhat tense business meeting. While I was there, with 10 very important people sitting around a big table, someone's cell phone started to ring. My first thought was "Oh oh ... someone forgot to turn off their phone." But when no one acknowledged the obnoxious ringing, my second thought was "How rude!"

It was just about that time, that my boss leaned over to me and said "Uh, Jen. I think that's your cell phone ringing." I laughed and said "Oh no ... that's not my ring tone." And my boss with urgency in his voice said "Jen, that is your cell phone. It's ringing in your bag at this very moment." Reaching down to show my boss that he was WRONG and I was RIGHT, I pulled out my cell phone and was horrified to see that it was lighting up like a Christmas tree and emitting this horribly high pitched ring.

Profusely apologizing to the group of very important people, I successfully silenced my phone. But before I had the opportunity to turn the darn thing off, I was flabbergasted to hear it start singing "Hey little dolphin, would you like to come and swim with me? Hey, hey, little dolphin, swimming in the deep blue sea!"

While I sat there staring at my phone - and all the important people in the room sat there staring at my phone, I stuttered "I, I, I don't get it. That's the Baby Einstein DVD I let my children watch. How in the world did that get on my phone?"

And just then ... I heard one of my children say "Helwow? Helwow? Zeebelazeedaazzeemee Weeeee!! Oh oh!" followed by a very familiar voice saying "Holy sh*t! How did you get that?!?" There was some fumbling, some crying and the phone went silent. The very important people at the table who moments earlier looked irritated and then befuddled, burst out laughing. It's nice to see that I can bring comic relief to tense situations.

Our children love to play with the telephone. Although we have several little toy phones for them to play with - a real phone is the best prize ever ... topped only by a real cell phone. When we replaced our home phones, we removed the batteries, and gave the kids our old phones to play with. Sometimes, the only way we can corral them in to their strollers, is if we let them "talk on the phone" during our evening walk.

Unless my cell phone is turned off or locked - I don't allow the children to play with a real phone, because I have heard stories of toddlers that in the course of smashing every button (much like how I work our remote control), place a call to 911 and moments later an ambulance, fire engine and three police cars are sitting in the driveway.

My kids know that I don't want them playing with a real phone, because whenever they get their little paws on one ... they run away from me as fast as they can. What my experience today has taught me is that they are apparently getting very sneaky.

It turns out that one, perhaps more, of my 23-month toddlers hijacked my phone. They managed to change the ring tone, and then succeeded in recording a message so whenever I miss a call, I am reminded that I must stop swearing.

I have NO idea how they did this. I couldn't replicate it if I tried. I have absolutely no clue how to get rid of the high-pitched ring tone, nor how to delete the voice recording. Tomorrow, I plan to call Verizon and see if they can walk me through it. And then, I hope that my 23-month old children will show me how to set the clock on the VCR, turn off my alarm, and maybe figure out how to set the date on my digital watch. It's been stuck on "January 1, 2002" for almost 5 years.