Charlie is ripping a cocktail napkin to shreds. Julia is pointing to the map in the back of the airline magazine. "Let's see, I've been to Cleveland, Eloisus, Lavinia, New Zealand, New Anthony, Florida, Fluteland, America, The New England states, and Ala Jesus."
Charlie tears the page out of the magazine and tries to eat it.
We play the passport stamping game.
"Passport, please!" I command.
Julia hands me her pretend passport, which I peruse with my fake eyeglasses perched on the tip of my nose. Charlie looks at us quizzically.
"Stamp!" I announce, and press my fist into Julia's upturned palm.
Gypsy Julia wanders the world: China. Stamp. Fluteland. Stamp. Lavinia. Stamp. Stamp. Stamp.
When we run out of places to go, we play "Guess this picture" on the etch-a-sketch. I draw something that looks like the Chernobyl explosion and hold it up for Julia to see.
"It's a tree!" she shouts. "My turn." She takes the etch-a-sketch and scribbles intently all over the screen, then passes it back to me.
"Umm... is it...ahh...spaghetti?"
"I'll give you a hint, mama -- it starts with a C..." she teases.
"Is it... a...cloud?" I wonder.
"It's a crazy slide!" she yells at the top of her voice.
I make Julia close her eyes—Quiet! No peeking!—while I take an extra, extra long time drawing...a balloon.
Julia guesses it easily. Her turn. A crazy swing. Then, a crazy spider. Then, a crazy slide. Then, a crazy... mother?
I look at my watch. Surely the flight must be landing any second now?
Ten minutes have passed since we reached our cruising altitude and Julia had asked: "Mama, what's alnitude?"
I shift my weight in my seat, trying to hold onto a squirming Charlie. I think his ears are hurting him a little, so I try to nurse him, but he's not interested. I pull out the bottle of formula I packed, just in case. No dice. I give him his pacifier, hoping it will help relieve the pressure in his ears. He takes it out of his mouth and throws it down at our feet. I lean my head down to look for it and watch it roll under a seat three aisles back.
"Mama, I have to go to the potty!" Julia cries, in a voice that tells me to get a move on. I hand Charlie over to a friend of a friend whom we'd luckily met earlier, then squeeze into the tiny airplane bathroom with Julia.
"Oh! What's this, mama?" Julia asks, reaching out to touch the blue button mounted on the wall to flush the toilet.
"No! Don't touch, Juje. It's dirty," I say, as she starts pulling Kleenex out of the dispenser. I hear Charlie screaming from the cabin. "Come on, Juje. We have to hurry. Charlie's having a hard time," I say, as I try to toilet paper the seat. I reach over to help Julia undo the button on her pants. "No, Mama! I can do it myself!" she insists, backing up and sending the toilet paper spilling into the toilet. I hold her over the toilet instead, and we emerge from the bathroom to find our good samaritan walking the aisles with a screaming, red-faced Charlie, patting his back. I take him from her with a sheepish "Thank you" and we slink back to our seats.
The flight attendant comes by to take our drink order. "Can we have a Diet Coke, and a cranberry juice filled just halfway up, so it doesn't spill?" I ask. And as I'm leaning over to help Julia lower her tray table, the flight attendant puts a full cup of Diet Coke on my own tray. Before I even see it, Charlie has grabbed it and dumped it into my lap.
I look over at Julia's stuffed lamb and sigh. Lambie has been sitting on the empty seat next to me, with a stunned expression on his face. His eyebrows fell off years ago, and we'd stitched him a new set which have left him permanently looking as if he's just seen a ghost. I think of Lambie riding through security in his grey plastic bin, slowly making his way toward the X-ray machine, apparently afraid for what's about to happen, but powerless to stop it, as I loaded bin after bin with our shoes and coats and hats, our diaper bag, my laptop, the laptop bag, trying to collapse our stroller, which of course has jammed, while I balance Charlie on the conveyer belt and attempt to keep track of Julia amidst all the jostling of people in line behind us.
Lambie and I share a moment.
I lean back in my chair and look longingly toward the woman two rows up, quietly reading her book. I can't help but laugh when I notice that the woman in front of us is blowing up a pink U-shaped pillow to take a little snooze.
Julia's ears are hurting her now. She's crying. I reach into my purse and make a big deal of giving her her first-ever piece of gum. She's so happy about the gum, she's forgotten about the pain in her ears before the gum even hits her tongue. She chomp, chomp, chomps on it and then announces, like some seasoned gum-chewer—like some sage Elder of the Trident Tribe: "Mama, do you know why I like to chew gum? Because sometimes I just like to chew something and not swallow it. You know? Sometimes it's nice to just chew."
I'm so focused on making sure Julia doesn't choke on the gum that I hardly even notice the plane hitting the ground.
Will greets us in front of Baggage Claim holding a pink Red Sox hat for Julia, which goes right on her head and immediately transforms her into an official gum-chewing, baseball-cap-wearing Kid.
Charlie claps his hands and squeals when he sees Will, taking the words right out of my mouth.
Join FitPregnancy.com's Managing Editor Dana Rousmaniere each week as she chronicles life with a new baby.
Read the next entry: 11.19.07: Under the Tuscan Sun