Auntie in Jersey Season Two: Auntie Arrives

Last Season on Auntie in Jersey: Adella ascended to Auntiedom through trials of Kindle Fire and with the aid of ear plugs. 

This Season: Baseballs will roll, fly and scream! A batty childless woman will wade through a nearly-nine, nearly-three and thoroughly four year old, with her magical sister's miraculous mothering to protect her... most of the time. Adventure beckons and bonding will burble. Will New Joisey every be the same? 

The Auntie Returns to Whence She (Be)Came Auntie in New Jersey

Well, at T minus some minutes and hours, I'm heading to Jersey (practicing my "Joisey") to see my sis, bro-in-law and the boisterous brood of nephews! It's been a mad dash of a morning, having started at work with my inability to step away from a school-project-level analysis of a parenting evaluation. It was difficult to simply step away. I have several more theses to go on this little memo that I commissioned for myself. But I managed a moderately legible something. I also got in a morning run (thirty minutes, baby! I've popped that half-hour cherry-bomb and am fizzing over with the metaphorical champagne of athletic eclat). I am now finishing up my final moments of preparation for departure. 

I just know I'm forgetting stuff. I have packed the equivalent of a small studio apartment in my capacious and fabulous messenger bag (thanks to the bike-and-chain's spontaneous generosity and consistently superlative taste for that one), but I know I'm not toting along the right studio apartment. I'm invariably missing the one true thing I need for my trip, a detail which I'll discover in devastating dribbles over the course of my Odyssean trek. 

 I have decided that for packing purposes, I shall be playing the part of the homeless yoga instructor during my stay there. I cannot convince myself to change out of my hideous lycra running capris. Not even with candy. I say that, but somehow I suspect my legs will get cold before I reach the airline tarmac. 

Instead of gathering my thoughts and figuring out what I'm actually likely missing, I've spent the better part of another bacchanalia making food I'll never eat. It's about the journey, not the destination, right? No really, I've confirmed that PB&J can be frozen (I make no claims that it can also be unfrozen, but frozen is a start). I've thusly prepared lunch for Mr. (W)right all next week, as well as roughly six dinner type meals that are freezing or waiting consumption in the fridge. The rest of the fridge has been scoured for Adella-only type foods, and these have been determinedly consumed and/or frozen. Our freezer is all kinds of awesome at the moment and I'm on some kind of crazy personal organizational high that is taking  a spell to come down from. 

I'll write y'all from the other side of this great nation. Possibly in incomprehensible mutters and grunts, since we've got some imps awaiting Aunt Adella on the other side!

Auntie is in the house and she has not slept in a good 32 hours.

I'm surprised to say that in terms of recent travel experiences United has thoroughly trammeled Virgin in my aviary estimation. Perhaps it's that they feel have more to prove. Maybe it was sheer luck of the flight-draw. Or maybe Virgin keeps its cache entirely in being kind of needlessly hip and fun instead of timely and functional. Not that a half hour delay so a first class oven can be fixed on an overcrowded flight with no leg room and too much crammed in the overhead bins on a turbulent evening can't be made way awesomer by giving out free (otherwise $3) headphones to the first people who show the attendants a picture of their favorite cat... Except it can't. Because what I want from an airline is basically to have such a smooth flight that I don't really remember it.

Anyways, I don't really nap so the rubicund in my eye is erumpent. In solidarity, it appears all of my nephews preemptively woke up at five am this morning and will likely soon be sharing the gleeful vestiges of over exhaustion. A series of school, sports and play dates have forestalled the inevitable blood bath... But can only do so for so long. Incidentally, my sister's social calendar is mad! Yes it's mostly centered around the kids, but she has her own play dates stacked one to several thick. I can barely keep a once weekly exercise date! But the desperate bond of parenthood seems so supply a whole new kind of impetus.

Auntie Wakes in Jersey - Saturday Looming, Break Out the Keurig

The internet flickers in and out at random. I will not be attempting any major back ups. And writing shall all be done with the unattachment of a zen buddhist sand art. Nothing is permanent. Not my nephew's moods. Not the scribbles (inicidentally the name of the preschool here) that attend them. 

Having survived the ongoing flight 'o bleary peepers, I was hastily shuttled to casa Falconer within minutes of landing. Ryan, who also had to work that morning (in New York no less), was ever so graciously there in attendance. Since we hadn't really prearranged anything, I'd at least considered the possibility of locating various taxi services. Apparently I had not planned ahead well enough to have accomplished anything, so it all worked out. 

To assuage my guilt about the 6 a.m. arrival, I was assured that the boys - obviously in anticipation of my magnificent arrival and with full desire to finalize the ceremonial Aunt Adella is Here and We Are So Excited We May Step Away from the Kindle Fire and Youtube for Two Seconds to Greet Her By Tormenting Each Other and Running Around the House Screaming Before Returning To Our Screens Ball. These things take years of planning. Years. All for mere seconds of execution. Clearly there's a lot of tension before the grand show. 

But yesterday went well. Despite a major communcal sleep deficit, there weren't any ear bursters, bloodshed, or trips to the ER. As I mentioned, I'm pretty sure my sister had more social interaction in about four hours than I usually get in a week (and that's not counting all the playdate children coming and going). We were pretty much out of the house most of the daytime in between shuttling boys, going to lunch, walking,and picking up library books for the pre pre-summer 
 pre-kingergarten preparatory advanced homework for parents who are fighting the urge to start their children's Harvard applications in utero. There's this collected guilt geyser herabouts that makes parents both strongly resist "being those parents" while also feeling frothed and frenzied whenever their children are denied any chance at advancement lavished on the other children. It's an arms race reminiscent of the study wars of law school ("grades are curved; the marginal utility of additional studying is steep; if we were all reasonable and agreed to it, we could have a relatively comfortable study schedule; but somebody will break, so we all must break; I see people heading to the library; MUST GO TO LIBRARY; MUST STUDY!!!). "Send your kid to a daycamp that costs more than $4,000? Surely that's ridiculous. But at that kind of price? My poor kids stuck in their swimming pools and day camps and travels missing out on whatever the hell that kind of cash brings in. But really $4.5k? Those parents are so totally overdoing it, except what if..."

Really, it's not that the kids are overscheduled, as much as the moms and dads seem totally overscheduled. None of the various programs seem to overlap conveniently. One kid is out at night in a way that throws off regular meal planning. One program starts stair-stepped 45 minutes before and/or after another program. No two kids ever can be in the same place for more than an hour. All the shuttling means constantly riding in the car to and from various dates while preparing another child for the next event. Downtime is sparse and usually accompanied by a well-delayed meltdown. 

The household schedule/calendar is quite intimidating. Thoroughly booked. I guess that really I have an equally stacked and multi-colored google calendar, but something about seeing those little knotches on a physical calendar seems more rigid. And something about knowing these events are - for instance - two different children's sport events (back to back) followed by a kid's birthday party... well seems a little more of a todo ado than an appointment with a client, my (admittedly rollicking) Wednesday night date night, Andrew's various death-rides, and the occasional dance party or coffee date. 

Having staggered to bed the PST equivalent of 4:00 p.m. (hey all the way back to 7 here), I arose with residual grog around 5:15 EST and lay very still in fear of rousing the entire household of nephews. Once I realized that Sam, the almost three year old was also up and bellowing enough to rouse the dead, I figured bets were generally off. Attempting to be "helpful" I liberated him from his crib after some very pleasant crib time. He came down to the couch with me, but went rogue shortly after that. Inevitably, I aided and abetted his ulterior plans to wake mommy. But, with a sort of flippancy that only a childless woman can have, I took quick advantage of his success to flee downstairs with my ultrabook and ultra-grumbly stomach to go spelunking through a foreign fridge (now that's an Adella form of adventure!) I'm pleased with what I rustled up. The lady here keeps things well stocked, and I had sent her a package of some spices, seeds, and associated recipes for her birthday that I may well use up while I'm here. 

I have also almost mastered the keurig. I usually drink a ton of coffee. Most of it decaf and a decent amount of it instant, because I'm sick like that. Judge, go ahead! I would. I do. But I'm in a keurig household now. I still maintain that keurig coffee is actually on par with instant, and if I really care about the flavor of my coffee (which I occasionally do), it's largely best to go to one of the five bazillion coffee couturiers (hmmm designer dresses made from used coffee filters). Since keurig is complicated and insanely expensive, I'm trying not to bound through fifty cups of decaf a day. I'm also trying to remember that I usually drink half-caf in pretty limited quantities, and a major coffee buzz early in the day is just courting another jet-lagged crash later. Maybe I should make a cup of decaf and switch between the two. 

When you've got double-baseball games and a party, you've got to learn to pace yourself. Although I believe - it being the weekend - there is some mommy, daddy tag-teaming going along to manage the mania... Kind of like tag wrestling, methinks. Without the cage, but definitely some flying chairs and tables. 

Pepto Pink and Baseball Blossom White - Saturday Scenes, Auntie Style

Daddy Ryan snuck off early Saturday morning, much to the momentary chagrin and recusals from Braden (at mommy, who had failed to wake him up in time to hug Daddy, of course). Fortunately, Daddy returned with my first Dunkin' Donuts bag of this trip (aaaaand I am officially back East). The contents were not for me, but the sighting of peppy pepto-bismal patina, and cloying candied strawberry scent definitely afforded sufficient sensory impact. And the boys appeared to enjoy licking that frosting from the fried bread beneath. The donutty carnage once littering the house has mysteriously vanished. This is a common occurrence: boys magically create unfathomable mess. It just as umfathomably vanishes. 

In other words, Rachel has learned some major stealth-ninja cleaning skills. I'll pop out of a tornado-stricken room for two minutes only to return to crisp-cornered state of tidiness. This occurs while she is simultaneously making food appear, conjuring laundry back into various rooms, pruning dead bushes, and tending the necessary bruised bones and hearts between brothers.Never piss off a stay-at-home parent: they universally dabble in the dark arts, and are at least capable of minor teleportation spells.

 I have this odd ethos of guesting that one should leave a neutral to positive impact on the home imposed upon. Since my  presence immediately destabilizes routines, and destablized children are an especial joy, I suspect this requires some above and beyond before returning to neutral. Of course I also suspect that my dalliances in kitchen cleaning and "helping" requires some emphatic shudder-quotes. Creating some internal confusion as I attempt to be the best guest possible without stepping on any tender toes scuttling about underfoot.

Just watching the sis charging about in turbo-triage without any feint at participation seems louche. As is my routine, I set about some minor interference in dishing and parenting just enough to probably add "fixing Adella's assistance" to the overburdened task-load. Which coalesces nicely with the "help" that the nephews are providing by fighting over who gets to spray the entire contents of a swiffer dust mop in a five feet radius.  The one who is not doing this, is likely roller blading over the same area in roller blades while the third is throwing various baseballs at Mommy. Crawling around the downstairs mopping up cleaning spray seems to be a safe approach to guesting.

 At other times, I stand awkwardly by, proffering my best "sympathetic" face. I hope to convey with my sympathetic face that I am indeed unable to ameliorate the situation, but contrary to motherly panic that always seems to suggest there must be impending judgement that the home is not sparkling like a diamond and children are not angelic, I am actually agog that her home seems to remain twice as clean as mine and her children are all in full possession of their limbs and basic cognitive functions.  

The little tsunamis actually are the exception on this trip. I feel almost cheated (but not really), that the kids are on whole mellower and Rachel is back up to full super-powers. I had really thought my last visit wasn't that insane (other than wondering how Rachel managed with three boys by herself... now I see how she handles the "by herself" and it involves dark deals with the devil as specified above) 

After returning with his rosy-fingered sugar bombs, Daddy Ryan was back off for a massage (har har back off). Just in time to ruin the progress later with the baseball game extravaganza, for which Ryan is coach and/or assistant coach for a handful of the fifty leagues on which my nephews are rostered. Braden has T-Ball. Ian has baseball. But not just baseball. He has rec baseball (that was today). He has "travel" baseball, which involves travelling slightly further afield (har har) to play a wider variety of little teams. He will likely have All-Stars Baseball, which overlaps the seasons and requires try-outs. Ryan has T-Ball, Rec Baseball, and Allstars. The behind-the-scenes of children's baseball, incidentally, is far juicier and dicier than your average Shakespeare tragedy, with only slightly less bloodshed. Coaches rise and fall, with assistant coaches nipping at heels. After some dire Machiavellian machinations and much hulaballoo, Ryan is agreeing to assist the All-Stars, only perhaps in furtherance of some grander coup to unseat the much unloved All-Stars Coach. This is after Ryan ascended to the celestial imperial title of Grand Emperor of Rec, due to the league generally disliking the whylom Head Coach (who actually still gets to coach as "Assistant" but with Ryan handling all the administrative stuff he hated... so that one worked out ok). 

. Braden, bee-stung and sobbing, returned home from his T-Ball excursion in time for Ian's turn at the game. I briefly ascended to role of not-actually-babysitter (do not use this term with Sam, as he is anti-baby sitter and gets distressed should mommy don a dress in the evening, which should go over well when I have the boys all day on Friday, I'm sure). 

TV was involved. I have learned how to put on a bandage (there are three special steps, according to the song). Actually, I am not sure I really learned much other than trying to read Nabokov with Disney Junior playing at full blast in the background is both surreal and ultimately futile. Reading People Magazine has a better success rate. I stop short of saying that Ada should have more pictures though, given the blend of abstruse erudition and feverishly frank luridity.I am also learning that virtually everything involves "three special steps" that can be incorporated into a terrifyingly perky song (as sung by a psychotic palm pilot heart head). 

The remainder of the day was squished between the excitement of parties, baseball and "the club," because this is Mountain Lakes, after all. I did get to sit in for the end of Ian's baseball game. I'm horrified to admit that my familial radar was off and I had to ask Ryan which one of the players was Ian. I blame his hat. And the sun. And... uh... Vladimir Putin. I blame him too! Of course, considering that the bulk of "the game" was spent in transition between inning-halves, there wasn't much time to identify him. He did get on base! He didn't necessarily hit the ball, as it took a preemptive strike and went for him first. But ball contact plus base equals a win in my world. The game ended shortly after, followed by another lengthy interlude of "clean up." I assisted by playing "frisbee" over the fence with Ian. 

"The Club" our next stop, is the Mountain Lakes Country Club. It sits aside one of the eponymous lakes, and boasts of a pool, a hot tub, a mini bowling alley, and a grandiose restaurant with some eyebrow raising prices strewn between far more reasonable prices (garden salad is $8, but a "build your own salad" which could virtually replicate a garden salad and/or add such lavish ingredients as "avocado" or "a hard boiled egg," but will cost you $14). There is no golf in view, even of the mini- or micro- assortment. It is requisite for Mountain Lakers to be members here. Not necessarily for social status, but because it has (1) access to the lake, (2) relatively cheap alternatives to a variety of other requisite play places, (3) babysitting for desperate parents while they spend their required monthly meal payments at the restaurant upstairs (i.e. mandatory "date night"), (4) a hotbed for all the best gossip and evil plotting. 

Our arrival heralded the gathering of cantankerous cumulonimbi and a staunch breeze, making the pool portion of Ian and Ryan's arrival somewhat abbreviated and far fuller of whining and protestations of boredom. At some point, while we were waiting for the rest of the family to arrive, Ian was so thoroughly over being at the pool that he hallucinated several hundred swarming yellow jackets stinging or attempting to sting him (having tasted Falconer flesh with his brother earlier, they apparently are now on a mission), but he calmed down once he'd eaten and been properly sedated by a combination of bowling, foozeball and Spongebob (heavier sedative than horse tranquilizers). Braden and Sam had spent a good afternoon at a little girl's birthday party. Apparently, they had fun, but Braden was thoroughly betrayed by mommy when he arrived at the club to discover that his friend Max was no longer there. Mommy is so cruel sometimes. Even after his quite just punishments of punching and kicking. She just never learns. We all know (see above) that mommy is magical, so I kind of understand his point. 

And as yesterday's scenes wrap up in the tick-a-tap, Ian informs me that he's discovered the cause of his morning tummy ache and it was "the biggest poop he's ever had." Which is far superior to the "I don't wanna go to the travel baseball game this afternoon that I already tried to get out of by scheduling an all day play date with one of my friends in the hopes every one would forget about baseball, even though I love baseball but don't like this coach because he doesn't let me play much, hence why every one dislikes him and there have been some major league minor league shakeups and tremors of late over him" stomach ache one might have expected. 

I hear stirring above and afoot. The day is about to explode upon us with another double helping of baseball (provided Ian's stomach remains ameliorated by his super-sized bowel symphony) and another birthday party. Since we are currently out of marshmallow fluff AND apples AND miralax (so many different varieties of disaster all wrapped into a teeny tiny shopping list), we really really ought to make it to the store today.
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