by Kirsten Cheskey
Anything Less, 7/30/07
the Dark Hallway, 3/06/07
An Experiment in Vegetarianism,
The idea (or The Half
Sunday (or The
Monday (or The Cheating
Tuesday (or The
Wednesday (or The
Thursday (or The
Friday (or The
Saturday (or The
Are We There Yet? 2006, 7/21/06
Prologue - A Million
Little Pieces... of Spree
Part one - The trip starts... kind of
two - Through the cities
three - An open letter to a jackass
four - The rodeo truth
Beautiful Song, 6/26/06
It Used to Be Mine, 5/13/06
The Luck of the German (A St.
Patrick's Day Miracle), 3/17/06
The Eternal, Maternal Sigh, 12/05/05
Are We There Yet
- 2005, 9/03/05
The Magic I
Have Left, 5/29/05
Kindergarten and Cookies, 2/10/05
Fish Tales, 1/15/05
I'm No Snow
I Love Grumps,
Boys Are Scary, 9/03/04
Are We There Yet?, 7/28/04
The Sardine Game, 7/06/04
Dog Killed a Chicken Today...A Poem, 5/26/04
The Bike Thing, 4/20/04
The Princess Diaries...Entry
The Princess Diaries...Entry
The Princess Diaries...Entry
the Risk of Serious Injury..., 2/22/04
The Bath...or why I love showers,
Christmas Time in the City, 12/15/03
Here's what you do...or how to
get a 2-year old to bed, 10/22/03
Pray for Me, 10/13/03
Family Fun Night, 9/05/03
Shots and a Urine Sample, 7/09/03
King of the
Road Rage, 5/05/03
or 20 Questions, 4/03/03
The Peace Sign, 8/25/08
K: How was the first
day of first grade, Julia?
J: Great! You have lots of papers to fill out.
K: Hand 'em over.
J: Also I have a worksheet and a picture.
K: Great. Let me see.
J: I messed up the sixes.
K: Sixes take practice.
J: And here's my picture.
K: Hey! That's really good... OHMYGOSH! JULIA!
K: What's he... um... what's he doing?
J: He's jumping off a stage. He's doing rock and roll.
K: But with his... hands?
J: Well, I tried to do a peace sign but...
J: The hands didn't turn out the right way. Too many fingers.
K: Yes, at least one or two too many!!
J: My teacher liked it.
K: Your teacher saw this??
J: Yes. She said it was very colorful.
K: Oh, it's colorful all right. A peace sign? Really?
J: Or maybe he's pointing at something.
K: Julia! He's pointing with his middle finger!
J: <gasping> That's not his middle finger! That's bad!
K: <counting fingers> Those are middle fingers! You flipped off the
J: Well, it was supposed to be a peace sign.
K: <sighing> It is a good drawing.
J: Good. Can we frame it?
She had a great first day of school.
Anything Less, 7/30/07
He needed to run and today was the
perfect day for it. This man (we’ll call him Carter) woke up knowing
that he’d be going for ten miles. Anything less was unacceptable.
His family at home would be fixing their breakfast now. But he
laughed at breakfast. He scoffed at lazing around and reading the
paper on this most beautiful of mornings.
He was going to run. Some would say that, baby, he was born to run.
Around him blossomed the sounds of nature. Birds called with early
morning chatter and ducks made their way into the water in search of
a morning meal. The river he would run along poured over rocks;
babbling at parts, rushing at others. The gravel underfoot crunched
as he made his way to the path.
Thank God he had his iPod.
And so he ran… and ran… and ran some more. The park was filling now.
He passed bikers, other runners, people walking at a fast clip and
some strolling along with their families. But he paid them no mind.
He was in the zone, focused on the finish. You didn’t acknowledge
other people when you had the sweetness of Snoop Dogg pounding in
your ears, that’s fo shizzle.
Around the eight mile mark, Carter had to stop. His shirt, soaked
with sweat, was weighing him down, slowing him down. He took it off,
wrung it out and dropped it into the cold water of the river. As the
ducks quacked, “Gee, thanks, prick. Our breakfast needed some salt.”
– he wrung out the shirt again and let the chilly water fall over
him, cooling him down for this last leg of his run.
And then he continued, shirt in hand, to the finish. He did it.
He walked a bit further to cool down and now he nodded to
passers-by. Now he took in the sounds of nature. Now he smiled at
the families who were pointing and laughing at the ducks. And if
they gave him strange looks, he figured it was because he was kind
of a mess; shirtless and very wet with steam pumping off him like
fog lifting from the moors.
When his breathing evened out, he walked back to his car. He drove
home feeling a sense of accomplishment, a heady knowledge that he’d
put his body to the test and had come out victorious. By the time he
reached home, his thoughts had turned to breakfast While visions of
eggs over-easy and fifteen grain toast danced in his head, he
emerged from his car.
Then something caught his eye.
And in a flash, Carter’s entire morning was ruined.
She sat at her desk and figured it was a perfect day to write. It
had been months since she (we’ll call her Kirsten) had been moved to
write anything but today, as the sun shone, as the birds called, as
her children played in the backyard, she was sure something would
come to her.
Any time now she would think of something. Anything.
Her husband was out for a run. A long one. Ten freaking miles. She
rolled her eyes at the thought. Running was not her thing though she
tried every now and then on the dusty treadmill downstairs. She just
didn’t get it.
She knew that, were they animals in the wild, her husband would be
the antelope outrunning the predator while she would be the one
saying, “Well, this is just ridiculous. Here… enjoy my pancreas.”
And her husband would leap away while she gave of herself to feed
the hungry pride of lions. “Lazy? Hah! It’s because I’m a giver,”
her antelope self would call after him. .
And really, as many women can tell you, survival of the fittest in
the suburbs has little to do with life or death chases and
everything to do with the ability to make a quiche out of two eggs,
a drop of milk and whatever leftovers you find in the fridge.
Running, Kirsten decided as she opened a game of Solitaire, could be
her husband’s thing. She had more important things to do.
A half hour later, her page was still blank and she’d moved on to
online checkers when her husband appeared at the door. In he came
and she knew immediately that something was amiss. He looked tired
and sweaty as usual but the look of utter bewilderment on his face
was something new.
“Hey. How was the run?” she asked.
“Completely embarrassing,” he said, shaking his head.
“Did you wipe out?”
“I wish. No. I was running and…”
He recapped his run for her and got to the part where he had taken
off his shirt and thrust it into the river.
“Yeah,” she said, because his story
so far hadn’t explained a thing (not unlike this one), “and then
“Well,” he said and he swallowed hard as if something was caught in
his throat. Could have been pride. “Well,” he said again, “you know
how my nipples get?”
Now, to any other person this might seem a strange question but her
only reaction was, “You didn’t.”
He nodded. “You know they chafe when I go for long runs and so…”
“Oh no!” she winced. “You put Band-aids on your nipples?”
“Yes!” He looked horror stricken. “I always do. It’s just a habit
now. I mean, who wants sore nipples?”
She had no answer because at that moment a pebble of understanding
hit her in the forehead. “But when you took off your shirt you… you
took off the Band-aids, right?”
He closed his eyes and shook his head. His devoted wife had to cover
her mouth with her hands in an effort to contain her outpouring of
sympathy which sounded suspiciously like a bark of laughter.
“And I was shirtless for the last two miles and my cool down walk,”
he said with a hint of despair. “But that’s not even the worst
Kirsten frowned now. How could it get worse? This time,
understanding hit her like a brick. Eyes wide, she gasped, “Oh no!”
He held up his hand and stuck to it were two Band-aids. On one was a
smiling picture of Sleeping Beauty and on the other was Princess
Jasmine waving hello.
After long minutes of uncontrollable mirth, his supportive wife
finally managed to say, “Well, they… they’re very pretty.”
Carter looked to the ceiling and pulled on his hair. “I can’t
imagine what the people I passed were thinking.”
Kirsten gulped down a giggle and said matter-of-factly, “Don’t
worry. They will think you have daughters, that’s all.”
“Or that I’m a princess pasty wearing pervert,” he added. “And there
I was… feeling so proud of myself, smiling at the nice families as
they fed the ducks. I’m surprised they didn’t run away screaming.
Why… WHY were we out of Scooby-Doo Band-aids?”
“Scooby-Doo would have been better?”
“He’s a little more manly than Jasmine and Sleeping Beauty, don’t
you think? He solves crimes.”
Instead of arguing that Scooby Doo was nothing more than a snack
craving coward, Kirsten kindly suggested, “How about we buy you some
plain Band-aids to wear the next time you’re at the park?”
“I can never go back there.”
He walked away muttering about princesses overtaking his life and
wondering if anyone he knew saw him.
She called after him; assuring him that no one they knew would have
been at the park that early. No one would ever know that his
sensitive nipples had been saved by those pretty princesses.
Still chuckling, she turned back to her computer. Her blank document
was still open before her. And quite suddenly, her fingers began to
move over the keyboard.
She paused after the first few sentences wondering if it was wrong.
Was it fair that one person’s misfortune was another person’s
inspiration? Especially when those people were married? It was a
dilemma and Kirsten spent minutes (at least two) pondering it.
But then she thought of the untold millions of men and women who
have problems with chafing. Wouldn’t it make them feel, if not
better, perhaps less alone to know that there are others who suffer
from the same complaint? It could (and probably will) be argued that
it would be a disservice to keep this story from seeing the light of
As she tried to control the devilish grin that kept sneaking onto
her face, Kirsten continued to type; convincing herself that her
motives were pure and kind. Selfless. Indeed, within moments she was
certain she had a moral obligation to educate the public by
revealing every embarrassing morsel of her husband’s run in the
Anything less was simply unthinkable.
Down the Dark Hallway, 3/06/07
The wind is howling but it is soft
footsteps that wake me. In the way of many mothers, I am able to
sleep through loud noises outside but the quietest hiccup from one
of my children will have my eyes popping open. I squint through the
darkness now to see our youngest daughter passing our doorway to
head into the bathroom.
I glance at the clock. 4:20 am. The house is cold as the wind rushes
around it, pushing its way into any crack that hasn’t been patched
by my husband, Captain Weather-strip.
I see the light from beneath the bathroom door. I hear the toilet
flush and the water begin to run at the sink. I wonder if I should
get up to walk her back to her bed. She’s only five and the hallway
is dark. The nightlight in her room is the only beacon she has to
follow and that’s not really visible from anywhere but her bed.
I hear the bathroom door open. I’m about to get out of bed when I
hear something. I hear Julia talking. She’s whispering something and
so I lay still and strain my ears to hear this early morning
conversation she’s carrying with herself.
“Don’t spill the water,” she says as she takes some steps out of the
bathroom. “Be careful.”
She’s gotten herself a cup of water and these are words I’ve spoken
to her countless times. She’s forgotten to turn off the bathroom
light. I’ll turn it off after she’s in bed.
“Forgot the light,” she whispers as if she heard my thoughts. I see
her turn, holding her hand over the top of the cup so no water
escapes as she heads back into the bathroom. I can picture her
reaching up to turn off the light, being careful not to spill a
drop. I listen some more. The light goes out. Her small voice
“This is scary,” she gasps as she’s
thrown into the dark. “I’m scared.”
My first instinct is to get up but something holds me back. All is
silent as her eyes adjust. She continues down the hall.
“It’s not far,” she whispers. “I’m not scared.”
More words she’s heard from me, murmured over and over as I’ve
carried her to bed. I can’t stop myself. Hearing my voice will make
her less afraid. I know it. I call out to her in a sleepy voice.
The footsteps stop. She turns around and her head pops into my
doorway. “What?” she whispers.
I sit up in bed. “Are you okay? Do you need help?”
“I just got a drink. I’m going to bed.”
“Oh,” I say. “Okay. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” she replies and she’s off again, whispering still, her
footsteps not so hesitant.
I pull the covers up and close my eyes. The wind continues its
howling. I no longer have to carry a little girl back to her bed. I
no longer have to coax a child back to sleep.
I am glad because the night is cold and the blankets are warm. I am
sad because soothing a child to sleep is a miracle and a memory I
treasure. I am proud because she, my youngest girl, can talk herself
down the dark hallway.
Before I drift back to sleep I pray that she’ll always carry my
words, my voice with her. And I pray they’ll always make her journey
An Experiment in Vegetarianism,
idea (or The Half Assed Vegetarian)
I’m sitting at my desk one day last
week when my daughters, Emma and Olivia, come home from school. They
are full of excitement.
I am immediately apprehensive.
“Mommy,” Emma says. “We had an idea.”
Oh boy. “Really? What’s that?”
“Well,” she says.
“Well,” Olivia says.
“We want to be vegetarians,” Emma announces.
“For a week,” Olivia adds. “Just to see if we like it.”
I look at them. Emma’s eyes are pleading. She’s serious about this.
Olivia is jumping from foot to foot. She is also serious about this…
or she has to pee. I quickly think of our schedule next week to see
if we can fit in new menu items. Looks pretty clear.
“Okay,” I say. “But we’ll do it next week because this is going to
involve some planning. Olivia, go to the bathroom.”
I break the news to Carter the next day.
“Hey, we’re vegetarians next week.”
“Why is that?” he asks.
“Because our children want to explore new things and we encourage
their adventurous spirits?”
“Oh, right. Well, we can eat eggs, right?”
He frowns. “What? Of course we can.”
“Eggs are meat. They come from a chicken.”
“But we can drink milk?”
“Yes,” I say.
He looks triumphant. “Milk comes from a cow. Eggs come from a
I look like I’m married to a doofus. “But the milk will never, under
any circumstances, turn into a cow. An egg could turn into a
“But,” he says thoughtfully, “is an egg that hasn’t been fertilized
“According to the food pyramid, eggs are meat.”
Carter waves that away. “The food
pyramid is based on how many lobbyists the farmers can send to
Washington. Wheat and grain farmers? Lots of lobbyists so they are
at the bottom of the pyramid. ‘Eat lots of bread! Pasta too!’ The
nut farmers get screwed right up to the top of the pyramid. They
have to beg people to put them in cookies just so they have a
chance. The food pyramid is an unreliable source.”
“My point is that eggs are not nuts or grain or vegetables or fruit.
You ask anyone and they will tell you that eggs are considered
“I still think eggs should be allowed.”
I call my neighbor, Ann. She eats tofu. She’ll know the answer. I
tell her our plan to be vegetarians.
She is silent for a moment and then, “You’re eating eggs though,
“NO! We are not eating eggs.” I ignore Carter’s smug look. “Eggs are
meat. We are not going to be half-assed vegetarians. If we’re going
to do this, we’re going to do it the right way.”
“Your kids need protein and lots of it. What about B12? What are you
going to give them?”
“I don’t know. Peanut butter.”
Ann is silent again. I know how she feels about JIF. She thinks if I
were truly a choosy mom, I wouldn’t give my kids peanut butter made
with partially hydrogenated oil. The only response and, luckily, the
one that always wins is, “But JIF tastes gooooooood.”
“Most vegetarians eat eggs,” she tells me.
I tell her Carter’s theory that an unfertilized egg can’t be
“He has a point,” she says. “When did you become pro-life?”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Same argument, really. At what point can the egg be considered a
I hang up and head to the computer where I google vegetarians and
eggs. Hmm. It turns out that most vegetarians in the Western world
do drink milk and eat eggs. They are called lacto-ovo vegetarians.
Seems like cheating to me but maybe I should go along with the crowd
this time. I do love eggs.
“If the girls want to try vegetarianism,” Carter says, “we should
try the most popular branch.”
So the decision is made. For one week, we will be lacto-ovo
“Sounds kind of cool,” Carter says. “Hi, I’m a lacto-ovo
I nod. “But you can just call me a half-assed vegetarian.”
And so it begins…
An Experiment in
Sunday (or The Prepared Vegetarian)
We decide to start our experiment on
Monday. Mostly because I have a ham to cook on Sunday and I’m sick
of looking at it in the freezer. We’ll eat the ham on Sunday night
and on Monday we’ll tell people we don’t eat anything with a face.
On Sunday, Carter and I go for groceries. While we’re there, it
suddenly hits him that he’s giving up meat for a week.
“Why are we doing this again?”
“Kids. Encouraging exploration. Something like that,” I reply.
We pass the lunch meat counter. He sighs. “I really love meat. I’m
happy to be an omnivore.”
“We can do it,” I say as I pat him on the shoulder. “It’ll be fun.”
He is not convinced.
At the store, I buy lots of things I’ve never bought before. Black
beans, barley, vegetable broth. We avoid the meat counter and the
seafood counter. Carter whimpers and asks what I have planned for
“My plan is to buy lots of things and then throw them together so
they become culinary masterpieces.”
“You have no plan.”
I grimace and shake my head. I never have a plan. “Soup. I’m
thinking lots of soup.”
“I can make soup. And salad.”
“What will I have for lunch?” He comes home for lunch most days.
“You expect me to eat soup and salad for every meal, every day?”
“You can have eggs for breakfast,” I remind him.
We buy three dozen eggs.
We continue on and Carter is only cheered when the grocery bill is
far less than normal. Hooray for vegetarianism!
That night, we eat ham and savor our last bit of meat. I ask the
kids what they think we should eat this week.
“Pancakes!” shouts Olivia.
“Cheese!” says Emma.
“Cinnamon Toast Crunch,” says Julia.
“More cheese! Tastykakes!”
“Okay, listen,” I say. “We are not using this week as an excuse to
eat more sugar. You must eat eggs for breakfast every day. You will
pack lunch everyday except pizza day and mac and cheese day. We will
try new foods with lots of vegetables and decide if we like them or
not. This is an experiment. Not sugar and cheese week.”
Some people put the Christ in Christmas. We’re putting the veggies
in vegetarianism. Everyone agrees with the plan.
“But,” Olivia (aka Sugarhead) says. “We’ll still get dessert, right?
If we eat the veggie stuff, we’ll get cake, right?”
Carter pipes up. “I’m afraid chocolate is considered a meat.”
“Is not!” Emma cries. “I know about the food pyramid.”
“Don’t mention the food pyramid to your father, Emma,” I say. “He’s
teasing. Of course, we can have chocolate.”
We are vegetarians, after all, not barbarians.
An Experiment in
Monday (or The Cheating Vegetarian)
Emma is sick. Okay, it’s more
accurate to say that Emma was sick on Sunday night. She is fine by
“Why isn’t she going to school?” Carter asks.
“She threw up last night. It’s a rule of mine. Throw up at night,
stay home the next day.”
He starts making his eggs. “It should be ‘Throw up at night, next
day sit tight’.”
“No, I like it my way.”
He shrugs. “Whatever but sayings are way better if they rhyme.”
This has nothing to do with anything but goes to show you what
mornings are like at the Cheskey house.
Emma wakes up and eats an egg. She’s definitely better. All the
girls have eggs. Olivia and Julia go for soft boiled. Emma’s is
over-easy. I can practically see the protein rushing into their
Carter decides to work from home in the afternoon because I have to
take Julia on a field trip. He tells me he’ll be home after his
“Get a salad,” I tell him.
“You bet,” he says as he leaves.
The day passes. I don’t miss meat at all. I miss heat as I spend the
afternoon at a freezing cold pumpkin patch with Julia but I doubt
extra protein would have warmed me up. I’m starting to think this
vegetarianism is something I could get into. Especially with the
I come home later to find Emma watching television. Carter is typing
away on his lap top.
The phone rings. It’s Ann.
“Do you have any celery?” she asks.
“As a matter of fact, I do. And I never have celery.”
“We don’t like celery.”
“None of you?”
“Why did you buy it?”
“Because we’re lacto-ovo vegetarians and celery seems like something
we should be eating.”
I can actually hear Ann rolling her eyes. “I’m coming over to steal
your celery. I’ll replace it.”
She’s at our house in a few minutes. She asks why Carter is home. I
tell her about not-so-sick Emma.
Ann looks out to the kitchen. “Where was your lunch meeting,
Carter is silent.
“Good question.” I look at Carter. “Where was it?”
Carter looks sheepish. This can’t be good. “Smokey Bones,” he says.
Ann breaks into uncontrollable laughter. My mouth drops to the
floor. “Smokey Bones? What did you have?” I really don’t have to
ask. A place called Smokey Bones doesn’t really cater to the
Carter stops typing. “I had coleslaw.”
I walk towards him. “You had coleslaw and what?”
“Nothing. Just a big plate of coleslaw.”
“You had the pulled pork platter, didn’t you?”
He laughs nervously. “Okay, yes, but
I didn’t pick the place. I couldn’t help it.”
Ann is still laughing.
I glare at him. “You’re a cheater. I can’t believe you didn’t even
make it one day.”
“One day?” Ann gasps. “He didn’t make it five hours.”
She leaves with my celery. Carter gets back to work after I tell him
I am disgusted by his behavior.
Dinner tonight is veggie risotto. I’ve never made risotto before but
I like it. I google vegetarian risotto recipes. I find one that
looks pretty good. I don’t have the exact ingredients but I can
improvise. And I can add cheese. Cheese makes everything better.
I cook vegetable broth and add onions, garlic and the risotto to
some of the broth. I cook it all until the broth is absorbed. Then I
add more broth. It is also absorbed. I add mixed vegetables that I
picked fresh from the frozen section in the grocery store.
Olivia show up to see how it’s going. And is it something we can eat
with chopsticks. About a year ago, Emma decided we should start
eating more meals with chopsticks because we eat slower and get full
quicker. Emma comes up and sees the chopsticks by the plates.
“Are we having Chinese food?”
“No,” I tell her. “We are mixing cultures.”
“Looks like rice,” she says.
“But it’s Italian rice.”
“What’s the difference?” Olivia asks.
“About five dollars a box.”
“Okay, one is called risotto. One is called rice.”
That answer satisfies them.
“Smells good,” Emma says, as if she’s surprised.
“It does,” I say. And I am surprised. My improvisations don’t
usually turn out this well.
I sprinkle it with grated parmesan and we sit down to eat.
Our first vegetarian meal is a success. Sure, I can’t help but think
it would be better with a few strips of chicken but I don’t mention
that. Julia gets herself a fork. And we all get spoons because we
are also having applesauce and it takes too long to eat applesauce
with chopsticks. (Don’t think we didn’t try.)
“So we’re eating Italian food with chopsticks,” Emma says.
“Do you suppose people in China eat risotto with chopsticks?”
“Maybe if they’re in an Italian restaurant,” I say.
Emma looks at me. “Really? Do Italian restaurants in China use
“I…” I glance at Carter who is giving me the ‘don’t look at me’
face. “No, I don’t think so. I doubt it.”
“Hmm,” Emma says. “We could be the only people in the world eating
Italian food with chopsticks.”
I smile. “I suppose.”
“I like being a vegetarian,” Olivia says. “So, is everyone ready for
We are… and we eat it with forks.
An Experiment in
Tuesday (or The Sad Vegetarian)
The day passes without incident.
Carter is home for lunch and eats veggies and a frozen vegetarian
Kashi meal. When he takes the meal out of the microwave, I sniff it
and say, “Mmm. Looks good.”
I am lying. It doesn’t look good. It looks like someone threw up
some black beans, rice and mangoes but he needs something to get him
through this week. So, mmm, good.
He tells me it’s not bad but you can’t trust Carter’s taste. The
cereal he eats tastes like cardboard. He eats protein bars with some
kind of coating that’s supposed to be chocolate but is, in fact, NOT
chocolate. It’s chocolate’s evil twin. Looks the same but you turn
your back and it’ll sleep with your husband. It’s not at all like
Dinner tonight is tomato soup. I make quesadillas from whole wheat
wraps and cheddar cheese. (Two wraps, shredded cheddar, one minute
in the microwave. Voila!) And we have a salad.
Carter comes up to the kitchen while I’m slaving over the one can
soup/one can milk recipe.
“So, how’s the day going?” I ask him. “Doing okay without meat?”
“I’d be doing better if the leftover ham wasn’t sitting in the
fridge begging me to eat it.”
“Oops. Forgot about that. I’ll get rid of it.”
I see a sadness come and go in his eyes. He goes to get the girls
for dinner and comes back holding a beer. Not really odd, but
usually Carter saves beer for parties or football. This is just
“You’re having a beer?” I ask.
“I’m hoping there’s meat in it.”
“Yeah, well, it was the strangest thing… after my run, I was
sprawled out on the kitchen floor and I thought, ‘I want a beer.’ So
I got one.”
I take a swig of his beer and say, “I
don’t think anyone’s ever uttered that sentence before.”
I want to ask why he was on the kitchen floor but I’m afraid he’ll
say he was sniffing the dog food. I drop it.
“I don’t want this soup,” Olivia says. “I want my soup.”
Olivia’s soup is chicken broth with goldfish shaped noodles and
“You can’t have your soup.”
She smiles. “Oh, yeah. Well, I don’t want this soup.”
“Try it,” I say. “We’re all about expanding our tastes this week.
You can take the leap to cream of tomato soup.”
She tries it and gags.
“Okay, don’t eat it. But take more salad.”
Emma eats everything. Julia is not thrilled with the tomato soup.
“Why can’t we have the other soup?” she asks.
“Chicken broth,” Carter says.
“Meatballs,” Olivia says.
“Goldfish,” I say, snickering at myself.
No one else laughs.
“Get it? Goldfish would be meat.” Everyone is staring at me. “But
it’s really a noodle. But if it was really a gold…”
“Just eat your salad, Julia,” Carter says.
I take his beer and drink it down.
Five more days. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
An Experiment in
Wednesday (or The Excited Vegetarian)
The day starts with the sounds of
Olivia being sick in the bathroom. Another one down.
I get breakfast for Emma. I start packing her lunch.
“Wait,” she says. “What’s school serving for lunch?”
“It’s the ham and cheese on a soft pretzel roll.”
Emma’s face falls. “Oh. But…”
“I know,” I tell her. She loves that lunch. It’s ham and cheese
baked between slices of soft pretzel. Quite frankly, this lunch
sounds like heaven. But sacrifices are being made all over the place
this week. This is just one of them.
“When all this is over,” she asks in her most pathetic voice, “do
you… do you think you could try to make ham and cheese on a soft
“I will do my best.” Meanwhile, I’m thinking, Yes! I get to eat
Carter kisses everyone goodbye. “I feel really good today. Maybe
this isn’t such a bad idea.”
I narrow my eyes. “Coming home for lunch today?”
Carter turns around, all innocence, “Oh, no. I have a lunch meeting
Aha!! The anticipation of animal protein is what has him so chipper.
“Oh, do you?”
“I didn’t plan it.”
I gasp. “Lies!! I heard you last night.”
It’s true. I heard him on the phone last night talking with a guy
from work. And I heard Carter saying, “Yeah. Well, we should
probably go over this at breakfast. Or lunch. I’m free for lunch.
Any day. Breakfast. Or lunch. How about we get together for lunch
and go over this. Lunch. Lunch. Please, let’s go to lunch!” (I’m
Sheepish grin from Carter. “Oh that. No, that was me hoping to get
in another lunch meeting this week. Today’s meeting was planned
“Don’t worry,” he says. “I’ll be good. I won’t cheat.”
He leaves. Emma stands beside me as we watch him go. .
“Did Daddy cheat?”
I glance down at her. Put my arm around her. I know it’s hard but
it’s better for her to hear the truth from me. “Yes, he did. But
we’ll work through it and will stay together because of the
“Does this mean I can have the school lunch?”
“Not a chance.”
Our day passes nicely. Olivia begins to feel better. Friends who
know about this experiment send me vegetarian recipes to try. Other
friends tell me what they’ll be having for dinner. And it always
Tonight, I am making black bean soup. I just got the recipe this
morning from my friend, Laura, and I have almost everything I need
to make it. I call Carter at lunch time and ask him to bring home
more black beans and a nice fat loaf of bread.
He does. He also brings home a doggie bag from lunch.
“It’s proof that I didn’t eat meat for lunch.” He was at an Italian
Restaurant today. Your chances of getting a meatless meal there are
better than the barbeque place.
I open the box. “Ooh! White pizza! Looks yum… what is that?”
“That’s meat!” It is meat. There’s a little pile of prosciutto in
the Styrofoam box.
“I know… I was…”
“You cheated again!! I can’t believe…”
“No! I took the meat off and brought it home so you would believe
that I didn’t eat it.”
I look at the meat. I look at him. I relax. “Oh honey, you didn’t
have to do that. I trust you.”
Silly man. Where does he get these ideas?
I start dinner. This is a very easy recipe. It’s ready in no time at
all. I puree it in the food processor. I think and think and then I
remember where the food processor is stored. I pull it out. Dust it
off. (Not kidding.) Assemble it within fifteen minutes. (Not
kidding.) And I pour the soup in.
Here’s the thing… as you may have guessed, I don’t use my food
processor often. Most of the food we eat has been processed to the
fullest. Our chicken is pre-breaded. Our cheese is pre-shredded. Our
bacon is already cooked. Seems a little easier to me, so I go with
it. And as a result, our meals don’t usually take much preparation.
They certainly don’t take extra small appliances. So, as I pour my
soup into the food processor, I suddenly feel as sexy as Jamie
Oliver is in his kitchen. I am Rachel Ray. I am Paula Deen. I am
Okay, not Emeril, but I’m feeling pretty good about myself.
I turn that soup into a… well, it’s not exactly soup when I’m
through with it. In fact, it’s as thick as mashed potatoes. I become
slightly distressed about this but then I taste it.
It’s really good.
Olivia sets the table. She sees me dishing up the soup.
“Um. What’s that?”
“Black bean soup,” I tell her.
“I don’t like that.”
Emma comes to the kitchen. “Um. What’s that?”
“Black bean soup and it’s delicious,” I say.
“I don’t think I like that.”
Julia sits on her stool at the island. “Oh no. What’s that?”
I throw the wooden spoon in the pot and turn on my children. “Listen
to me. This was your idea. Not mine. Not your fathers. Yours.”
“Wasn’t mine,” Olivia says.
“Oh, yes, it was. You both asked. You both wanted to try something
new. This,” I point to the soup. “This is something new. And I used
the food processor. It’s delicious and you WILL eat it. Understand?”
Emma looks at the bowl I set in front of her. She looks at her fork.
She looks at her spoon. Which to choose? I can’t blame her for this.
In all honesty, she could eat this soup with chopsticks. She settles
on the spoon and takes a bite.
“Needs cheese,” she says.
I roll my eyes and give them the bag of shredded cheddar. They all
load it up. Carter and I eat bowls of the soup. We love it.
“This is the best thing we’ve had all week,” Carter says as he
scrapes the last of the soup into his bowl.
“I agree,” I say.
“In fact,” he continues, “it’s the best thing we’ve had in a long
“A really long time. I can’t remember the last time we had something
My smile fades marginally but I let him gush. I made the soup, after
all. Not sure how he managed to choke down all the other meals I’ve
fed him in the past years but I decide to take the compliment.
“Do we have to eat this when veggie week is over?” Emma asks.
“Yes!” Carter says. “This is really…”
“Yes, Emma. I’ll be making this again,” I say.
Olivia’s face falls. “It’s on the permanent menu?”
“’Fraid so,” I tell her. “I love it.”
“Me too,” Carter says. “This is really good.”
“I don’t know if it should be on the permanent menu,” Emma says.
“Oh, it’s on,” I say. “It could be monthly, if not weekly.”
There are groans from the children. But they’ll get over it. Next
time I’ll make it look a little more like soup and a little less
like brown mush.
They eat. And Carter and I start to clean up.
And then things get scary.
“I like this,” he says as he carries plates to the sink. .
“I know. It was good.” Jesus. He’s in love with the soup.
“No,” he says and he looks at me seriously. “I like eating this way.
I know I was giving you a hard time the past few days but I felt
great today. I like eating this way.”
I sigh. “Carter.”
“I know. I know.”
I know too. Carter likes being healthy. He works out regularly. I
work out if I feel like it. He runs. I stroll. He eats healthy
foods. I will eat cotton candy if it’s in front of me. He drinks
green tea. I drink hot chocolate. But even with these differences,
we manage to get along okay.
The scary thing is… Carter gets excited about things. And then
suddenly, it’s a part of his everyday life. He sees something.
Studies it for a bit. Decides it’s good and then BAM! He takes it up
for the rest of his life. And if you think that’s not a description
of our courtship and marriage, you’re wrong.
So I knew it was a risk, this week of new eating styles, but I
didn’t think it would happen so soon. I did not think he would
It was really good soup.
“We’re not getting enough protein,” I remind him. “You’d have to
“I know. I’m not going to give up meat but I think we should maybe
add more of this,” he points to the messy pots and pans, “to our
“No. You know what I mean.”
I do. “We will. I liked it too. It was fun. And it was delicious. I
promise to cook healthier foods once in a while.”
“Right after I make the soft pretzels with ham and cheese.”
And another day is done.
An Experiment in
Thursday (or The Addicted Vegetarian)
I’m a little shaky today. I don’t
mind telling you, the thought of a burger is making me sigh
longingly. I think about my friends coming over later and wonder
what appetizer I’ll make. My first thought is, "Get crabmeat."
My second thought is, “Crap! That’s meat!”
I find I’m a little short tempered with my kids, my husband.
Wouldn’t it be nice, since we’re busy tonight, to just stop at
McDonalds? Chik-fil-a? Anything?
But no. I can not.
I call my mother. She asks how it’s going. I tell her, “Not well.”
She asks what we ate the night before.
“Oh. We had this great soup.”
“Yeah. And I put it in the food processor and…”
“Um, I put it in the food processor.”
“You,” her voice shakes, “Kirsten, you pureed something?”
“Yeah. And it was really good.”
She’s silent for a moment. I imagine she’s dabbing at her eyes with
a hankie. I’ve just made my mother very proud.
“Yes?” I hear the smile in her voice. I don’t think I’ve heard her
this happy since I presented her with grandchildren. The Black and
Decker food processor wields great power.
“What are you having for dinner tonight?” I ask.
“Spinach capellini and meatballs.”
“Ooh! Pasta. I have tortellini. Good idea.”
It is a good idea. I was so hung up on the burger I wanted that I
was forgetting that I had a couple packs of ricotta and spinach
tortellini just sitting in my pantry. Yum.
I cook them up. I’m opening a can of plain tomato sauce, kicking
myself for not taking the time to make my own sauce, when Carter
comes to the kitchen.
“Hey. We should use that jar of sauce I brought home,” he says.
My husband’s job sometimes requires him to tour companies around the
area. If that company happens to process some kind of food, we get
samples. Sometimes, the samples aren’t that great. I’m leery of the
“It has to be good,” he says. “It
costs eight dollars a jar.”
“Oh yeah. More expensive stuff is always better.” I say with a roll
of the eyes.
“I bet it’s better than that can you’re opening.”
Hmm. He’s probably right. I take the jar and open it. Smells pretty
good. I look at the ingredients. No meat. And it’s vodka sauce.
That’s encouraging. I cook it up and put it on the tortellini.
Immediately, we can see why this sauce costs eight dollars a jar.
Though prices have gone down in recent years, heroin still costs a
pretty penny and this sauce is obviously laced with the stuff. My
unsuspecting family have just become addicts.
It’s the only way to explain the wonderfulness of this sauce. It’s
better than any sauce I’ve ever made. It’s better than any sauce
I’ve ever eaten… anywhere. The kids clean their plates. I snap at
them when they beg for more of the ‘yummy sauce’.
“You don’t need that much sauce. I need the sauce. I need it!”
I look at Carter. Normally, I’d be embarrassed to catch him looking
at our meal as if it was a long lost lover come home to rest forever
in his arms but, to be fair, I’m pretty sure I have the same look in
“Do you have anymore meetings at this place?” I ask between bites.
Carter pushes Olivia’s hand away from the bowl of tortellini. “I’ll
do the serving.” He turns to me. “Yes. In November sometime.”
“Get more. Please get more.”
He nods. “I’ll try. My God, I’ll do my best. You know they had a
whole flat full of jars they were sending to the food bank.”
I choke a little. “Really? An entire flat?”
He nods again. “For the food bank.”
An idea takes hold. “Do you… Could we…”
“No,” he says. “No. That would be wrong.”
It would. We gobble up the rest and wait for the sauce rapture to
fade. It doesn’t. We’re all strangely content all evening.
My friends arrive a short time later. They bring snacks which
include Swedish fish, dark chocolate, panetini and Asiago cheese,
fresh salsa and chips, Mango Martinis in a BOX! (We are very classy
girls.) And more!
It occurs to me that I don’t miss meat at all.
But, really, that could be the heroin talking.
An Experiment in
Friday (or The Drunk Vegetarian)
The Halloween party is tonight. The
annual neighborhood Halloween party for which we were instructed to
dress as our favorite television couple and to bring our favorite
“What am I going to make?” I ask Carter. I’m in the parking lot of
the grocery store, calling him while he tries to work. I only
interrupt work for very important things. This is one of them.
“I don’t know,” he helpfully replies.
“Okay,” I say. “How about this? How about a party tray from
Chik-fil-a? Everyone loves those. I love those.”
I do love those. They come with Polynesian sauce. I could drink
“Umm,” Carter says.
I curse and say, “Forget I called. I forgot that chicken is meat.
I’ll think of something.”
Stupid vegetarianism! Not that I've had a bad experience with this
whole thing but I was really in the mood for some delicious white
meat chicken tenders.
I decide to make corn bread with honey butter. It’s really easy and
really good. And a lot of drinking goes on at this party. Bread will
soak up all the nasty shots.
I go home with my ingredients. While my bread is baking, the phone
rings. It’s Ann.
“Hey,” she says, “how much advance notice do you have to give
Chik-fil-a for a party tray?”
I curse again. “You’re taking a party tray?”
“Why? Are you taking one?”
“No, Ann. I can’t. Chicken is meat. Duh.”
“Oh yeah. Sorry, I forgot.”
I sigh. “Yeah. Me too. I almost ordered one an hour ago.”
Ann laughs. “Well, I’m getting one.”
“If you were a good friend…”
“I’m getting one.”
I think about it. “Okay. Well, possibly I’ll get drunk and then I
can eat some. Eating meat while under the influence or something
like that. It’s the alcohol. I can’t be held responsible.”
“Oh yeah. That’s a hell of a defense, Cheskey.” And once again, I
hear Ann rolling her eyes.
We hang up. I burn my corn bread. Carter and I dress as Gomez and
Morticia Addams. The babysitters show up and off we go.
We arrive at the party which is two doors down from ours. My
neighbors, John and Christine, have their house all tricked out for
the party. To get into the house we must pass through a curtain that
says Must See TV. And then the rest is just spooky.
I set up the bar because I am the bartender. Not that I’m that good
at making drinks but I’m really good at getting people to drink. I
think it’s because I’m charming. Carter thinks it’s because I’m
scary. All I know is I have a husband come up and tell me his wife
has been in a really bad mood. Could I please get her to loosen up?
A wife comes from another couple to tell me that her husband has
been stressed out at work. Could I make sure he forgets about work
Luckily, we’ve all walked to the
party so I don’t have to worry about taking keys. I quickly
determine who doesn’t want to drink, who is just saying they don’t
want to drink, and who really, really wants to drink. The pouring
Ann comes in carrying her party tray and holds it over the bar as
she walks by. “Drunk enough, yet?” she asks.
I’m not. Damn it.
Time passes. The party picks up. The music gets turned up and
Skippers are dancing with Gilligans. Kelly is dancing with Regis.
Mel, Flo and Alice are cutting a rug. Homer and Marge Simpson are
sitting in the corner talking. I’ve been drinking a lot but really,
I’m feeling pretty good. Just a little buzzed. Not drunk enough to
Then host John comes by. He says, “Enough work. Go dance.” And he
pushes me out on the dance floor.
Suddenly, I’m not just a little buzzed. Standing behind the bar is
one thing. As soon as I take a step, I reach for Gomez to hold me
"You lost your moustache," I tell him.
"Broke my cigar too," he says. "Your wig is gone. And your shoes."
"Really?" Things are spinning. But a happy spin. Not the “oh my God,
why won’t the room stop spinning” sensation that I’m sure I’ll
I spot Ann. Of course I do. Ann is dressed as Mimi from The Drew
Carey Show. Her husband is Drew. Ann found the most God awful outfit
at Goodwill and has clown-like make up on her face. It's not
possible to miss Ann really. I weave through the crowd.
“It’s time,” I tell her.
“Time for what?” She’s dancing away to Barry White.
“I’m drunk enough. I’m going to have some chicken.”
Ann stops dancing and gives me a pitying look. “Honey. That was gone
an hour ago.”
“What?” Surely she’s mistaken. Have hours really passed? What time
is it? Where’s the party tray? “But I love the party tray,” I tell
She pats my shoulder and I nearly fall over. “Everyone loves the
I make my way to the dining room and see the snack table is mostly
empty. Someone has even swiped all the meat from the seven layer
taco dip. Probably Carter. Nothing is left. Well, there sits my
burned cornbread but who wants to eat that? I shake my head in
All I wanted was a chicken tender. And it's too late.
I turn back to the bar.
And, though details would be lovely, I'll simply tell you that
things just spiral downward from there.
An Experiment in
Saturday (or The Desperate Vegetarian)
Good God. What was I thinking? I am
far too old to have said the words, “Just mix it in a shot glass.
I’m sure it’ll taste good.”
What was I thinking?
My eyes pop open at seven in the morning. I jump a little when I see
Carter staring at me.
“Does your tongue feel like a dried out and splintered two by four?”
I check that out. “Yeth,” I whisper in response.
He nods his head in the direction of my nightstand. I turn, slowly.
There is a glass of water and Tylenol sitting right there. A gift
from my always prepared husband or the hangover fairies. I don't
really care which.
I partake of the blessed water and Tylenol and feel my stomach turn.
Carter turns on the television.
“You know what we need,” he says.
“What?” I mumble.
We generally treat hangovers with fast food. But right now, the
thought of any food, fast or slow, is making me sick.
I shake my head and turn to the TV. There’s a KFC ad on. Someone is
mixing mashed potatoes and corn and topping it with chicken and
gravy and cheese?
“Why? Why would anyone eat that?” I ask as my stomach turns again.
“What is that hellish chicken bowl anyway? Turn it off. Please.”
Olivia and Julia wake up. Emma spent last night at a friend’s house
so we have one less child to parent this morning. Thank God.
Olivia comes into the room and sees the bucket sitting by the bed
(another gift from the hangover fairies).
“Are you sick?” she asks.
I nod regretfully. What’s more shameful than your kids catching you
nursing a hangover the morning after a night of excess?
Olivia looks concerned. “Did you catch what Emma and I had this
I think for a second. And I nod again. Okay, lying to your kids
might be more shameful but I’m in no condition to explain anything
Olivia runs to tell Julia. They both come in looking worried.
“The good news is,” I tell them, “you can do whatever you want to do
today. You can wear a fancy dress. You can eat dry cereal from the
box. You can make a mess knowing that I won’t make you clean it up
This cheers them right up. I barely see them for the rest of the
Eventually I get dressed and go downstairs to attempt to do
something. I hear someone at the door and see Emma has come home.
Her friend’s father has just dropped her off. He helps bring her
sleeping bag inside. We chit chat for a few minutes and then he
I find Carter and tell him that Emma was just dropped off.
“Did you answer the door like that?” he asks.
“Yeah. What? I’m dressed.”
“Look in the mirror, Alice Cooper. Abigail’s father is going to tell
everyone that Emma’s mommy is a meth addict.”
I look in the mirror. My hair is a mess. My face is pale. And the
black eye makeup I was wearing last night, well, it’s still there,
only not where it’s supposed to be. I probably smell like a barroom
I whimper and sit down.
“We need McDonald’s,” Carter says again.
“We’re vegetarians, remember?”
“We’re desperate. And besides, I had some chicken last night,” he
I look at him sharply. The party tray!
He sees my look and backtracks. “Well, only like two pieces, I
think. Yeah. Only two.”
“We’re not going to McDonalds,” I say. I’m not quitting.
The day passes. I nap and drink Coke and am still feeling rather
bad. The kids have been wonderful. They’ve played without fighting
for most of the day. Dinner time approaches.
“So what are we having for dinner?” Carter asks.
I shrug. I still have no appetite. I
can’t even begin to think about what to prepare.
“You know what you need,” he says.
I do. I know it. I need McDonalds. And not just for the hangover
that is not going away. I need it because, I just can’t think of
anything else to eat. I give in.
“Okay, go get McDonald’s. But ask the kids first. If they don’t want
to eat meat, then we’re not eating meat.”
Carter goes to ask the kids but really, are they going to say no?
Happy Meals are kiddie-crack. They can’t say no. We all know this.
“They’re in,” Carter says a few minutes later. “What do you want?”
“Just fries and a Coke,” I say. “I’m still fighting the good fight.”
He is back within minutes. We get everyone set up with their meals.
“Okay, everyone,” I say, before we dig in. “If you eat this, you are
giving up on the…”
Emma takes a bite of her burger.
She smiles. “I’m hungry.”
“Okay, eat, but know that the experiment has failed.” They dig in
and I pick up a fry. It’s good and I start to feel better.
And then sneaky Julia holds up a chicken nugget. “Do you want one of
Last night, I’d have sold Julia for a chicken nugget but I don’t
mention this. She sits there looking at me sweetly, offering her
food to her mother who was sick all day. She holds it closer to me.
I have my fries but… look at that nice golden breading on nugget.
It’s the boot-shape nugget. I like the boot-shape nuggets from
Julia blinks her eyes and smiles and puts the nugget in my hand.
“You can have one of mine, Mommy,” she says.
I can’t say no. Sweet little girls are mommy-crack. I take a bite
Really, it’s not as good as it looked but I eat it anyway. I’ve
“So,” I say as I shove more fries in my face and wonder if Carter
will offer me part of his burger. “What did we learn from our futile
attempt at vegetarianism?”
Olivia says, “We don’t like the brown mush.”
“Oh, thanks for reminding me,” I say. “I’m making that tomorrow.”
“I’m kidding. But we will be eating it again. When you least suspect
it, you will find black bean soup on your plate. Emma? What have you
Emma has eaten her burger in record time. “I’ve learned that I like
“But,” Carter adds, “I think we had some very good meals this week
and we can experiment with more vegetarian meals each week.”
“But not an entire week at a time,” Emma says.
“Deal,” I say as I watch Carter eat the last of his burger.
Later, Carter and I are in bed again, watching football. A
commercial comes on for the KFC chicken bowl. Mashed potatoes, corn,
chicken, cheese and gravy all mixed together.
I am transfixed. “My God, that looks good.”
Carter laughs. “Proof that you’re feeling better.”
“We are no longer vegetarians,” I say. “I can’t believe we failed.”
“It was okay,” he says. “Let’s think of it as a starting place for
“That was medicinal.”
“And,” Carter adds. “There will be other experiments. We won’t fail
I nod and close my eyes. And then open them again, wide with horror.
Dear God, what other experiments?
Are We There Yet?
Prologue - A Million
Little Pieces... of Spree
I must begin this tale by admitting
to something terrible. Something awful. Something that will show you
how an addiction can lead you to do unspeakable things. How it can
make you desperate, frantic. How it can lead you to… murder.
Okay, actually it’s about my search for Spree the night before our
yearly trek to South Dakota but still, bad things happen.
I need Spree for my trip. Everyone knows it. This isn’t the first
travelogue you’ve read and if it is, I suggest you read the other
two. There might be references which would be totally lost on you
otherwise. Like Spree. I need it on long car trips like I need
caffeine. Like I need Ewan McGregor singing to me. Like I need my
husband asking me a million times if I’m okay to drive.
I love it. I need it.
The thing is, I’m out of Spree. Have been for some time now. So I
think of all the places in our area that might stock Spree and I
make a pilgrimage to the suburban Mecca. I journey to Target,
because, come on… it’s Target. They have everything. They always
have Spree and I need to go there anyway for some necessities like
new shirts, three pairs of sandals, and Pringles. It’s for the trip.
Can’t be helped.
I check the candy aisle. You know which one I mean… the BIG candy
aisle. The one with all the colorful boxes of candy stacked so
nicely from top to bottom. The aisle that makes you think of Willy
Wonka and all that’s good in the world. I look through the boxes and
see that they have Good N Plenty. They have Bottle Caps. They have
Charleston Chew, for God’s sake.
What they don’t have is Spree.
I’m offended by this but it’s not enough to have me walking out
without buying my clothing, shoes and potato chips. After all, the
grocery store is down the street and if that trip fails, there’s one
more place I can check.
My grocery store is also Spree-less. I wonder what the hell is wrong
with the world as I pick up some Bit O’Honey as a consolation. And I
realize that I have to hit my regular dealer. It’s off the beaten
path. It’s not in a place so familiar and friendly as a strip mall.
Oh no. For this candy, I’m going to have to travel… about a mile.
It’s a dark night made dangerous by the rain that’s been falling
steadily for days. But my wipers work well as I make my way through
the parking lot, around the corner and get to the road that will
lead me to Spree.
I drive along, obeying the speed limit though some voice is telling
me to hurry. The place might close early. I don’t know the hours. My
hands shake a little but I keep a steady pace because you never know
when a little bunny is going to run out in front of your van and
you’re going to have to run over it.
Good thing too, because right at that
moment a little bunny runs out in front of my van and I have to run
I do try to miss it. I swerve but it’s confused by the headlights
and turns back. I swerve the other way. It runs back the other way.
I run over the bunny while screaming, “Make up your mind, bunny.
Noooo!” I don’t feel a bump though. Hmm. Maybe my tires missed it. I
look in the rearview mirror to see if there’s a little dead lump of
bunny in the road. I’m unable to tell because the headlights from
the car behind me are blinding.
I wince. That bunny may have avoided my tires but no way did he miss
that guy’s too.
I take a moment to mourn the poor bunny and realize if I hadn’t been
on this terrible, well-lit road looking for Spree, I might have
avoided this brutal killing.
Wait a minute, my Spree. God, I hope my place is still open.
I get to the shop. It’s dark, but a single light shines from inside.
There’s a burned out car in the parking lot that upon further
inspection is actually an Oldsmobile Silhouette minivan. Probably
from the early nineties. And it’s not actually burned out. Just
needs a little wash probably. Or maybe it’s just night time and I
can’t see so well.
Anyway…I walk into the store, avoiding the harsh glare from the new
Dunkin Donuts that sits across the street. I nod to the woman behind
“You have Spree?” I ask.
The woman takes a drag from her cigarette and says, “I got Spree.
You got the money?”
“Yeah, I got the money.”
She snorts out a laugh. “Went off to fancy Target, didn’t you? Let
you down, didn’t they? I knew you’d be back. They always come back.”
Then I whip out my switchblade and…
Okay, actually, I nod to the woman who is not smoking behind the
counter and she gives me a nervous smile that all but says, “Please
don’t kill me. I smell the blood of a bunny on you.”
I buy six rolls of Spree, pay and tell her I don’t need a bag. I
leave the convenience store and get back into my van.
Dead bunnies aside, I consider it a successful night. The horrors of
addiction fade from my mind as I make my way home on that wet night.
Like all good junkies I am suddenly content by the fresh stash in my
purse. I have all I need.
I am ready for our trip.
To be continued...
Are We There Yet? 2006
Part one - The trip starts... kind of
We’re going to take our time this
year. That’s the plan.
South Dakota is far away. What’s the rush? Let’s drive during the
day. Take two days instead of one. Spend some time in Wisconsin.
Maybe, maybe hit the Cheese Chalet because… is it made of cheese or
does this chalet merely deal in cheese? Who can say? Maybe we’ll
find out. There will be no stress. No worries. We have our nice
comfy new minivan with lots of lumbar support. Let’s spend more time
in the van. Let’s slow down. There’s no hurry. Let’s enjoy the trip.
Yes. That’s our motto for this year. We’re going to enjoy the trip.
Our families, especially Carter’s mother, are pleased with the
decision to forego the night time driving. For the past few weeks,
we’ve heard about all the dangers of driving at night. Falling
asleep at the wheel, car crashes, night blindness, axe murderer
attacks, surprise tornadoes. All these things happen at night or so
we are told by my mother-in-law.
So the decision is made. We’re leaving Wednesday morning.
But here’s the thing, we are ready to leave Tuesday night.
Everything is packed, ready to go. Kids are anxious. We’re anxious.
So anxious that maybe we’ll leave a little earlier than six in the
morning. Maybe we could get up and go by four. It’ll still be dark.
The kids should still sleep a little bit.
“Remember last year?” I say as I dump my Spree into the snack bag.
“The kids slept all night. Ten hours they were out.”
“Yeah,” Carter says as he dumps his health bars into the bag. “That
was nice. Maybe three am would work.”
“Or maybe we could snooze a little and get going by midnight,” I put
Carter looks at the packed car. He looks at me. I can tell he’s
struggling over the pros and cons of this. While I consider midnight
to be just really early in the morning, let’s face it, it’s night.
Night driving is good in that there is very little traffic and very
little noise from the back of the minivan. It’s bad in that we are
usually kind of twitchy the following day.
“Remember we’re not driving all the way to South Dakota. This would
give us more time at the hotel tomorrow. And we’d have enough time
to tour the University of Wisconsin,” I add.
Carter looks at his watch. It’s almost nine o’clock in the evening.
“Is everyone ready, because if we’re going, we’re going now.”
The decision is made. We are leaving at night. And if Carter’s
mother calls, we’ll just tell her we left a little early. It’ll be
Did I mention it was raining?
It has been raining for about five days straight. Our front yard is
like a sponge when you walk across it. The streets are full of
water. But we pack up and we drive out of town, knowing that
Mobridge, South Dakota is experiencing its worst drought in years.
Heading toward drier pastures seems like a good idea.
We get the kids settled. It’s a little different this year. New
minivan. More room. Our three girls used to be smashed in next to
one another on one bench seat. Now they each have their own seats.
Their own space. Two are in the middle. One is in the back. I know
none of them are going to want the back seat so I make it as
appealing as possible. The back seat sitter gets to have the special
bed seat. Pillow against the window, legs stretched out over the
cooler. It’s the most comfortable spot in the car. Or so I tell
Olivia, also known as “Wake up, Olivia”, decides that seat will be
hers, but I assure her we’ll rotate seats as the trip progresses. I
set up some movies for the kids and we are on our way. This is going
to be great. Our best trip yet.
About fifty miles into our trip, we hit a snag. Well, not so much a
snag, and not a bunny either but well, you’ll see…
We come around a bend on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that is covered
by about six inches of water. Carter sees that it is deeper in the
fast lane so he starts to switch lanes in order to avoid it. And
sometime during that change, our minivan just starts floating away,
rather quickly, toward the guardrail. I am looking back at the kids,
answering some question or other, when I hear him curse. I look out
the front window and there we are, heading for a ditch. Carter turns
the wheel a few times but we are like a bumper car that has been hit
by some jerky kid who gets off on making cars spin out of control.
We veer back and forth across the turnpike. Only seconds tick by but
it feels like much longer. The girls start screaming. I think I say,
“Oh my God” about five thousand times. We keep fish tailing back and
Finally, keeping with the bumper car theme, it becomes obvious that
the only way to stop is to run into something. And the something
this dark, rainy night is the concrete lane divider. Carter tries to
turn us away one last time but it’s no use. I remember thinking,
“We’re going to hit the wall.” This tells you that even in emergency
situations, I can state the obvious with the best of them. In slow
motion, the wall gets closer and closer until we hear the sad crunch
of my brand new Toyota Sienna against the concrete.
The only sound for about five seconds is the rain pelting the car
mercilessly. Then I turn around and say over and over, “Are you
okay? Is everyone okay? Are you okay?”
“What happened?” Emma asks.
“We’ve had a car accident,” I tell her. “But it’s okay. We’re safe.
Emma immediately breaks into the
story about her friend, Anna, who got into a car accident and walked
away without a scratch. How nice that they now have something else
“Hey,” Carter grumbles. “Next time I’m trying to control a
hydroplaning minivan could you not grab my arm?”
I look over. I’m still holding onto his upper arm. Oops. I let go
and tell him it’s my natural protective instinct.
“Grabbing the arm of the guy steering is your natural protective
“I can’t control it.”
Carter realizes that we are sitting across the highway and are
blocking the path of any other cars that might be coming along. So,
he backs up and very slowly takes us to the next exit. On the way
there, I ask again if everyone is all right. Julia nods. Emma says
yes in a quivery voice. Olivia looks up from her movie and says,
She is pretty unconcerned with the whole thing.
As we creep along to the exit, Carter asks, “Did you see your life
flash? Because I did.”
I think about it. “I don’t think so. I was too scared to see all
We pull off the exit and inspect the damage. Part of the front end
is sticking out. The hood is slightly buckled. Part of the bumper is
ripped. All in all, not too much damage. The car is still running
and nothing is in the way of the tires. Carter and I stand in the
rain, in the dark and wonder what to do.
“It could have been worse,” I say, flicking the flashlight from one
damaged part to the next.
“What if a truck had been behind us? We’d be dead,” he says.
“Well, yes. That would fall under the worse heading.”
“What if you’d been up changing a movie for the girls? You were
standing up just minutes before we got there.”
“But I wasn’t standing up when we got there.”
“What if we’d gone in the ditch?”
You can take from this conversation that my husband is not exactly
“I think we can fix this part that’s sticking out,” I say as I start
messing around with it.
I push and lift but can’t get it to snap back into place. Carter
reaches down and does the job for me.
“See? Already it’s better.”
He looks unconvinced.
“Do you want to go home?” I ask him. “We could go home and find a
flight or something.”
He thinks about it. “No, we’ve already started. Let’s keep going.”
I want to mention that we are only fifty miles into a sixteen
hundred mile trip but still, a start is a start.
“Okay,” I say. “Then let’s go.”
I take his hand and feel it shaking the same as mine. I wrap my arms
“I almost killed us,” he murmurs.
“No, you saved us.” I lean back and look him in the eye and say the
words I know he needs to hear. “And if your mother asks, this all
happened in broad daylight on dry land. Do you understand?”
He smiles finally. “I guess it could have been worse.”
“This is nothing. The airbags didn’t even go off. Could have been
Carter nods and grins. “Yeah. You could have been the one driving.
We’d be in the ditch for sure.”
“And I’ve given you something to write about.”
“Thanks for thinking of me but I gave myself something to write
about last night,” I say as we get back in the van.
“Oh yeah? What’s that?”
“I killed a bunny during my frantic search for Spree.”
He looks at me aghast. “You killed a bunny?”
Okay, look, Carter’s as tough as they come but I have to tell you,
he has a thing for bunnies.
I explain what happened.
“So you didn’t see the body?”
“Well, no but if I didn’t get him, I’m sure the car behind me did.”
Carter shakes his head and we start on our way. “I think he made
I laugh a little. “Yeah, okay. Probably.” All the while thinking,
“Ready?” he asks.
“Let’s go,” I say. “Our trip starts now.”
And so it does.
To be continued...
Are We There Yet? 2006
Part two - Through the cities
The next part of our trip is tense.
Turns out there’s not much to think about during the long night
hours besides all the ‘what if’ scenarios. Carter and I keep to
ourselves mostly as the kids snooze behind us. At about midnight, I
really feel like calling my mom and telling her about the crash.
“I feel like I should call my mom,” Carter says.
“Hey. I was just thinking that. Only, my mom, of course,” I say.
Carter smirks. “We could call, wake them up and tell them we’ve been
in this crash but that they shouldn’t worry about us for the rest of
the trip. We’ll be just fine.”
“That would funny. And mean. We can’t do that.”
We switch off driving all through the night. As the sun comes up, so
do our spirits. Everything's better in the daylight. Except the
Since we left later than we normally do and because of the rain
slowing us down, we hit Chicago, not at dawn, but at rush hour. The
kids are wide awake as we come upon the windy city.
“Look girls, there’s Chicago,” I say as I grab the Frank Sinatra CD.
It’s become something of a tradition now.
The girls were sleeping last year when we passed through it. They
look on in wonder at the tall buildings. Carter sighs at the traffic
we’re stopped in.
And then Julia asks, “What’s Chicago?”
I smile. Carter perks up a little. I have My Kind Of Town running
through my head. Carter has the damn Sandburg poem running through
his. This is the answer Julia gets from her parents.
“Chicago is… my kind of town. Chicago is…”
“Stormy, husky, brawling…”
“The Wrigley building. Chicago is…”
“City of the Big Shoulders…”
“The Union Stockyard…”
“They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen
your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys. “
(That’s Carter’s favorite line right there, by the way.)
Emma shakes her head at her goofy parents and says, “It’s a big
You know, it’s a sad day when your kids realize you’re a geek and
want no part of your geekiness.
Anyway, it takes a long time to get through Chicago. There’s a
thunderstorm which causes all sorts of excited screaming from our
children. We’re all getting hungry and would love to get around the
city so we could find a small place to eat.
A train runs by. Emma says, “Hmm.”
“What’s up?” I ask.
“Is that the number nine?”
I look at Carter. He looks at me and shrugs.
“I don’t see a number on it.”
She nods and then says, “Oh. Because I thought it was... Engine,
engine, number nine. Going down Chicago line. See it sparkle. See it
shine. Engine, engine, number nine.”
She says it quickly and then shuts
her mouth when she’s finished as if she’s surprised at herself. Her
eyes are laughing when I turn to look at her with my mouth hanging
open. I look at Carter.
“I think the kid just one-upped us in the poetry department.”
Carter nods. “She did.”
I turn to Emma. “You make us very proud, Emma. That was a very
Cheskey thing to do.”
She looks proud and… mildly horrified.
Yes. Definitely like us.
We get through the city and stop to eat. Then we move onto Madison,
Wisconsin. We usually stay in Madison on our trips home. It’s a nice
city but we never feel too much like exploring. And every year I
hear Carter say, “Maybe this year we’ll get to see the University of
Here’s another thing about Carter. He loves universities. I think
just walking around them makes him feel younger or smarter or
something. And he’s always heard how nice the U of W campus is, so
since we’re only heading to LaCrosse, WI on this day, we can take a
few hours to explore Madison.
We drive into the city.
“This is another city,” Olivia says.
“Yes, it is.”
“It’s like Boston,” she adds.
I look around Madison. Yes, it’s a nice city. I’m not going to deny
that. But it’s really nothing like Boston.
“Not really,” I say to Olivia.
She nods. “Yes, it is.”
I look around again. “No. It’s not.”
“It’s a lot like Boston,” she says again.
I turn in my seat, laughing. “Olivia. We were just in Boston last
year. I remember what it looks like. This is a city, yes. But about
the only thing Boston, Massachusetts and Madison, Wisconsin have in
common is that we have visited both.”
She shrugs and I can tell she doesn’t believe me.
I let it drop. We get out and stretch our legs. We walk all over the
place. It’s a very pretty campus. I’m glad we came. They have
painted cows all over the place. The girls run around counting them,
milking them, picking which are their favorites.
(Just a note: I have since learned that Boston also has these
painted cows standing around the city. I’d appreciate it if no one
mentions this to Olivia.)
After a couple of hours, we pile back into the car. We get to
LaCrosse, Wisconsin and have a nice evening playing mini-golf,
eating a great dinner, and swimming at a pool with a huge water
As we’re settling in to bed that night, I say to Carter, “It feels
like we dreamed the whole accident. Like it was a long time ago.”
Carter mumbles something about having a nightmare of a deductible on
that car but soon we’re all fast asleep.
Tomorrow, after a brief stop in DeSmet to take the girls to the
Little Town on the Prairie, we’ll head to Mobridge. It’s their
Centennial Celebration. Lots of fun things are planned.
We’ll need our rest.
To be continued...
Are We There Yet? 2006
Part three - An open
letter to a jackass
I write this letter in response to the welcome I received upon my
arrival in Mobridge, South Dakota. You are a resident there. I’ve
met you before. My husband knows your family well. It was great to
see you during our first morning in Mobridge.
We were so happy to wander down Main Street, to see all the
improvements that have been made to the store fronts in preparation
for the Centennial Celebration. We were impressed by the trees that
had been planted, by the plaza that had been added, by the pretty
fountain that collected pennies from my children.
When we met you, sir, it was our pleasure to pat you on the back, to
tell you how great the town was looking. It was so nice of you to
ask about our girls, to comment on what beautiful names we’ve given
I’d also like to thank you, sir, for saying, “And it looks like
congratulations are in order again.”
And then after my blank stare, for asking, “Aren’t you pregnant?”
I consider myself a reasonable woman with a fine sense of humor and
your comment certainly brought forth my laughter, hysterical though
it may have been. And, quite frankly, your face after I answered,
“No. I’m just… it’s just… fat”, is a picture I’ll carry with me
I know there are others who've been asked this question by clueless
men around the world. Some would maybe feel bitter about your
comment. Some would say that maybe I should take issue with it and
tell you that no one should ever ask that question . That even if a
woman was in her third trimester and was wearing a Bun In My Oven
shirt... only a jackass would ask that question.
But I don’t. I don’t mind laughing at
myself and the situation. I don’t mind watching you flounder and
apologize and gnaw your foot off at the ankle. I liked to see how
quickly you could find something to keep you busy so you could run
away from the humiliation you just caused.
I also want to thank you because without your comment, I wouldn’t
have heard my husband say, “Honey. Don’t get upset, it’s not good
for the baby.” every time we were having a little tiff. Without the
comment, he wouldn’t have rested his head on my belly at different
times during the week and whispered, “I think I hear the baby’s
Without your comment, I wouldn’t have had to kick my husband’s ass.
Without your sheer idiocy, I might have changed my shirt before
going out that night but no, I felt it necessary to prove to the
world that I liked my shirt, even if it meant I looked as though I
had started marking time by trimesters. And since I wore it that
night, I had it on as I stood all evening with my darling husband
and his ex-girlfriend. The girl he broke up with to date me. The
girl who is very sweet and kind of funny, and who, sadly, must be
suffering from some eating disorder because she’s thinner now than
she was in high school.
But you, sir, made the comment and all of those things happened. So
thanks for that and more.
Are We There Yet? 2006
Part four - The rodeo truth
Rodeos are filled with crazy people.
Okay, there’s more to the story than that but it really occurred to
me this week that participating in rodeos means you might just be a
hair shy of sane. Possibly a full head of hair shy of sane but I’m
sure every sport has different degrees of dedication.
Carter’s father used to ride rodeos when he was younger. Carter’s
sister was a rodeo queen one year. I even have a picture of an eight
year old Carter holding his blue ribbon for sheep riding.
Go ahead. Take a moment. Have some fun with that last sentence.
So I know a thing or two about the rodeo. I’ve been to a few over
the years. The Sitting Bull Stampede takes place every year in
Mobridge over the fourth of July. I’ve seen the broncs whipping
cowboys around. I’ve seen the barrel racing. I’ve seen the calf
roping, the steer wrestling, the bull riding.
But this year I realize, they’re all nuts. The object of the rodeo
seems to be injury. Hey, ride this horse that’s going to throw you
through the air. I know, sit on this bull that wants to kill you.
Of course, my blood-thirsty children love it.
We sit back by the chutes so we can get an up close and personal
look at the men getting kicked. So we can that the dust from the
horses kicked up into our faces. This is where all the old cowboys
stand or sit, hats pushed back to watch the young guys work to
develop the permanent limps they all seem to have.
The girls love the bronc riding. (“Whoa. Did he get hurt?”) The are
upset by the calf roping. (“Oh, that poor baby cow.”) And bewildered
by the steer wrestling. (“Daddy, what’s the difference between a
steer and a bull?”)
I can’t tell you how happy I am that Carter got that question. He
looks at me and I smile wickedly, letting him know that he is on his
own. He looks at Olivia who asked the question.
“Well, bulls could be considered the daddy. And steer are, well…”
“Dinner,” I murmur.
“Steer are…” he says. “Look… is that Whiplash?”
Distraction. A very useful tool in parenting.
Whiplash, it is!!
If you don’t have a Taco John’s near you, chances are, you don’t
know who or what Whiplash is. Whiplash, it turns out, is a monkey
dressed as a cowboy who rides a border collie in the Taco John’s
commercials. Here at the rodeo, he rounds up some goats much to the
delight of all the children. I want to tell them that the dog is the
one doing all the work but does he get any glory? No. My
brother-in-law’s father raises border collies. I’ve seen them round
up a herd of steer. Three goats is nothing.
But I let Whiplash have all the glory a monkey tied to a dog can
Next is the barrel racing. I admit I
like this part. From what I’m told by Carter’s uncle, this is the
part of the rodeo when most people get up to get a snack. It’s too
girlie. What it is, is sensible. It’s a race. Ride around the
barrels without knocking them down and the fastest time wins. Nobody
gets hurt. Though Carter’s sister does show me the scar she has from
when the barrel cut her leg open, the barrels are padded now. There
are no injuries in the barrel races today.
The evening passes and soon it’s time for the bull riding. A smaller
ring is set up within the rodeo grounds and Olivia is all but
quivering in anticipation. She tells me she loves bull riding. The
last time we were at a rodeo, I was pregnant with Olivia. I don’t
know where the love of bull riding comes from. She’s never seen it
The first rider comes out and Olivia says, “Oh, that’s a pretty
bull. Look at his udder.”
Carter and I both look.
I should tell you that I have been told in the past that there’s
such a thing as being too honest with your children. For instance, a
few months ago, Emma came up to me and said, “I know what the F word
is. It’s fidget.”
A smart mother would have said, “Yes, you’re absolutely right.
Fidget is the F word.”
I, of course, said, “Don’t be silly, that’s not the F word, Emma.”
I don’t know why. I just blurt things out without thinking
sometimes. Knowing that, it can come as no surprise to you when you
hear that my response to Olivia’s comment about the udder is, “Whoa.
That’s no udder.”
“Well, what is it?” she asks.
I look at Carter who smiles wickedly, letting me know that I’m on my
own. I turn to Olivia.
“Well, it’s a… it’s a... You know? You’re right, it’s an utter.”
Lies. Another useful tool in parenting.
We watch cowboy after cowboy get thrown off the bulls. One gets his
arm stuck and is tossed around like a rag doll as a loud gasp from
the crowd hits the air. He walks out of the ring to much applause
but his arm is hanging limply at his side.
I look at my father-in-law and try to imagine him getting tossed
around by some mad animal. I lean over to him.
“When you did this sort of thing, did you think it was fun?”
He glances at me, looks back at the rodeo. I see memories come and
go across his face. Then he says in his slow, cowboy way, “Guess I
did.” He looks at me and smiles. “Can’t think why now, though. Seems
Yes. Yes, it does.
But it’s fun to watch crazy every now and then.
To be continued…
The Most Beautiful Song, 6/26/06
Today I heard the most beautiful song but first
there’s a story.
A few months ago, our eight year old daughter, Emma, came home from
her choir practice filled with excitement.
“I’m doing a solo,” she announced.
This news wasn’t met with all that much surprise. She’d had other
solos in the past year. A few lines while the rest of the choir
stood with her. All the kids in the choir had little solos at some
point during the year.
“No,” she said. “All by myself, over the summer. I’m going to be
singing all by myself in front of the church.”
This news was met with a universal “Huh?” Neither Carter nor I could
figure out just why any child of ours would want to stand in front
of people she didn’t know and… sing. But she was excited and happy
and we like our kids to be excited and happy, so we said she could
go for it. Meanwhile, both of us started wringing our hands
wondering how we were going to make it through this.
Her choir director called to make sure we weren’t crazy stage
parents, pressuring our child into something she wasn’t ready for.
“If you knew me better,” I told him, “you’d know I’d be perfectly
happy to have my children shun extracurricular activities. Do you
think an eight year old girl is ready for something like this?”
He and Emma had a lesson. Afterwards, he said he thought she was
more than ready. Her excitement was shining through. So they kept
meeting once a week until he was confident she knew the song.
I wasn’t supposed to know the song she was singing. She told Carter
it was to be a secret and she was going to give her mother the gift
of song one day. Of course, Carter told me right away but during the
next two months, all of Emma’s practicing was done while I was out
of the house. Progress reports were good. A date was set. Emma would
sing her solo on June 25th.
A week ago, the choir director called and asked if Emma would sing
at both church services. He thought it would be a gift to the people
who never get to hear the children sing. I asked Emma. She said she
would do it but suddenly there were nerves in her eyes.
“How many days left?” she’d ask every day.
She started having dreams about singing. None of them good. I found
her a few times sitting in her room, staring out the window.
“Thinking about singing?”
“Nervous,” she told me.
I’d offer encouragement, along with the “you made a commitment”
line. At dinner during the past week, we joked until her nerves
faded away. But all the while, Carter and I were shooting looks back
and forth. Looks that said, “Why is she doing this? We have to go to
church twice? Is she ready for this? Wait… twice in one day?"
Finally, the morning arrived.
Emma woke up at 7:15. She was ready to go by 7:20. We were going out
for breakfast after the first service,
so we didn’t have to worry
about feeding anyone until later. Julia, the four year old, was
perplexed by this but we figured my mom was sure to show up at the
early service. If their stomachs started growling, Grammy always had
Tic-Tacs to hand out.
We were all set to leave when suddenly Carter said a little
frantically, “Oh no. That dress won’t work on Emma. There’s no place
for the microphone battery pack. She needs a belt or something. She
definitely needs a belt. That’s not going to work. She needs…”
“Pockets?” I asked.
Emma showed him the deep pockets in her dress. Carter sighed in
relief and then looked horrified.
“Oh God. I’m a stage father. What just happened? I became one of
those fathers. I don’t want to be that guy.”
“You’re not. Let’s go,” I said. “We’re all a little nervous.”
And it was true. We were trying to laugh off the nerves as we’d been
doing all week but we couldn’t. Emma was quiet. Olivia, our six year
old, kept giving us the ‘thank goodness I’m not getting up there’
look but she didn’t make a sound. The minivan was silent. I may have
kept saying, “It’ll be okay. We can do this.” But, frankly, it’s all
We arrived at the church with plenty of time to spare. Emma got her
cool microphone that clips to her ear and we went in to take our
seats. We opened the bulletin and there it was, right after offering
collection – I’ve Got Oil in my Lamp – Emma Cheskey; soloist.
I leaned over to Olivia and said, “You think you’ll ever do a solo
Olivia looked at me with wide eyes and laughed nervously. “No way!”
I couldn’t help but be relieved by that. Olivia sings in the church
choir but she enjoys having others there to fill in when she just
pretends to sing along.
The church service got underway and seemed to hurry by. I admit to
hearing something in the sermon about the trials of Job but was in
no condition to ponder the significance of God helping him through
the tough times. Tough times? Hah! Did Job ever have to wait for his
little girl to stand in front of strangers and offer up the gift of
song? I don’t think so. Me? I knew a thing or two about trying
The offering was collected. Emma put on her microphone. She shook
out her arms to loosen up. That made me laugh a little. Then she
left us and stood up in front of the church. Her eyes got big when
she looked out over the congregation. I looked at Carter. His hands
were shaking as he held the video camera.
The choir director began to play the piano. Emma began to sing.
She sang one line and froze.
“Wait,” she said. “Oh no.”
She put her hand to her throat, then covered her face. She hurried
down to the choir director and I could hear her saying that her
throat wouldn’t open. She couldn’t sing. He must have given her some
encouraging words, because in a moment, she stood alone again.
Carter and I sent desperate looks to one another, while trying to
send encouraging looks to her. I considered walking up and standing
there with her or just carrying her out of the church but I kept my
seat and watched helplessly.
The music started. Emma opened her mouth… and nothing came out. I
saw panic, then humiliation. And then I saw tears.
She walked down the steps, handed the microphone to the director and
ran to our pew. She threw her arms around me and sobbed. The
congregation stood and sang while I ushered Emma outside, where she
clung to me, crying. I helplessly said things like, “It’s okay. It’s
okay. We’re proud of you. It’s okay.”
“I only wanted to sing,” she cried. “Why couldn’t I do it? I’ll
never sing like I want to. I was awful.”
I told her she wasn’t awful. I told her she was brave. I told her
she was eight years old and that was too young to use the word
And then I asked her what she wanted to do.
She pulled her head back, looked me in the eye and said, “I want to
go home. I want to eat breakfast and I want to pretend it’s a normal
day. I don’t want to sing again.”
There was a huge part of me that was ready to take her hand and lead
her home. A part of me that shared her excitement, her nerves, her
But there was that pesky voice breaking in (it sounds alarmingly
like Carter actually), telling me that she’d regret giving up. So I
gave the answer that all mothers give when they’re being
non-committal. I said, “We’ll see.”
Church finished up and some people came out to offer their support.
They told Emma she was courageous to stand up there. She was braver
than they were. She had no reason to be ashamed. Emma nodded but
didn’t believe them.
Our pastor came to the small room where we stood. He took Emma’s
hands and knelt down in front of her. He told her a story of his
first solo. He told her he’d been terrified. So terrified, in fact,
that he couldn’t do it. He’d made his best friend stand there with
him as he sang. So it hadn’t been a solo at all but he’d sung his
He gave Emma a hug and encouraged her to try again at the next
Carter spoke up then. “What if your sisters were with you?” he
Emma looked at Olivia. Olivia looked at Carter with eyes that
clearly said, “Are you high, Daddy?” Julia wondered aloud just when
we’d be getting breakfast. Seems she’d do whatever we asked as long
as we fed her first.
“Would you sing if they were with you? Would that help?”
Emma thought about it. “Maybe.”
Carter turned to Julia and Olivia. “Would you help Emma sing?”
Julia said yes right away. She doesn’t mind being the center of
attention. In fact, she kind of likes it. Olivia thought it over,
then took a deep breath and said, “Okay. She taught me some of the
We talked to the choir director. He thought it sounded like a great
We went out for breakfast/pep rally. Carter and I kept telling them,
telling ourselves, that they could do it. If they used their powers
for good, together, they could do anything.
We went back to church. Emma collected her microphone. My mother
showed up again. So did two of my brothers and my sister. They sat
behind us. We waited through the service. Emma sipped from a bottle
of water until she was about to float out of the church. I took her
to the bathroom during the reading of the psalm.
While I waited for her, I decided that, though I could never be what
one would call a good Christian, we were in a church and I should
probably offer some kind of biblical advice.
So I said, “Emma. The lesson in church today is about having faith
in God to help you through the tough times.”
She nodded and washed her hands.
I continued. “So maybe if you trust in God, he’ll see you through
She nodded again and looked up at me. “I trust in my sisters,” she
said. “They’ll see me through.”
I’d like the record to show that I tried.
We went back to our seats. It was almost time. I leaned over to Emma
and whispered, “Remember… just keep
singing. Just keep singing.”
I don’t know about your family but the lessons in Finding Nemo have
proved invaluable to ours.
Then it was time. She put on her microphone. She chanted, “Just keep
singing. Just keep singing.” And she and her sisters, the same
sisters she kicks out of her room on a regular basis, walked to the
front of the church.
And there they stood. Emma in the middle, holding their hands.
Holding on, it seemed, for her life, while Olivia rocked back and
forth, chewing on her lip, a shy smile on her face and Julia
grinned, leaning her head against Emma’s arm.
The choir director walked to the piano and started to play. My three
little girls, who fight and argue everyday of their lives, started
to sing. The congregation could only hear Emma’s voice, as she was
the one with the microphone, but it didn’t matter. Emma could hear
her sisters. She knew they sang for her so she could sing for
I smiled through the entire thing. Applause broke out when they
finished and still they held onto one another as if suddenly
realizing the strength they had when they were together. I glanced
at our pastor and saw him look heavenward, maybe thanking someone
Carter and I breathed an easy breath. The first one all day.
By the time evening fell, the bickering between my daughters
resurfaced. I know it will never end. But I noticed they were
gentler with each other. Kinder in their arguments. Maybe it was my
imagination and if not, chances are it won’t last. But something
Today Emma learned that being brave didn’t mean she had to be brave
alone. Today Olivia learned that there were things more important
than her fear. Today Julia learned that when Grammy is out of Tic-Tacs,
Mommy has some in her purse.
They all learned what it means to be a sister.
Today I learned that my daughters are stronger than I thought. Today
I learned that a trio is sometimes more lovely than a solo.
Today I heard the most beautiful song. And I’ve never been more
It Used to Be Mine, 5/13/06
We have this nightgown in our house.
It’s pink, made from a soft cotton flannel with a pattern of angels
flying around collecting holly. It was from a Christmas long ago.
There is a thin strip of lace around the neck and waist. And a
thinner strip of white trim with flowers over that. There is one
button and a loop at the neck in the back. There is a ruffle at the
bottom, pleats at the skirt and the sleeves puff up just a bit at
It used to be mine.
I got it when I was very young. It came with a matching gown for my
doll, which would be reason enough to remember it. But I remember it
because it was made by my grandmother. And it was made just for me.
As the fourth of five children, this meant a lot.
My mother didn’t keep much clothing from my childhood. Things were
used and passed along to other families. But when my first daughter
was nearing three years old, my mom searched her house and found,
packed lovingly away… the angel nightie.
It was soft with age but the angel pattern was clear. The lace had
been pressed so it showed bright against the pink. My mom gave it to
her granddaughter as my grandmother had given it to me. I had Emma
wear it that night and it fit her perfectly.
“Is this mine?” she asked as she held out the skirt.
“My Granma Emma made it. It used to be mine. And Grammy kept it just
for you,” I told her.
It quickly became her favorite thing to wear. She hated to get
changed on days when she woke up in the angel nightie.
She wore it for two years and then it was passed to her sister,
“Was this Emma’s?” Olivia asked me, her wispy hair looking like the
angels on the nightie.
“It used to mine. It used to be Emma’s. But we kept it for you.”
Olivia, who played with dolls the most, found the matching doll
nightie in the toy chest and quickly dressed her doll to match. She,
too, wore the gown for two years and tried in earnest for a third
but the button would no longer close. It was time to pass it along
“Is this mine?” Julia asked me, her eyes lit with wonder. She’d
heard stories of the angel nightie.
“It used to be mine,” I told her, “it
used to belong to your sisters. But now it’s just for you.”
Because Julia is tiny, she was able to wear the gown for three
years. At first, it was too long and she fell over whenever she wore
it. But she loved it anyway and for three winters when I asked what
she wanted to wear to bed, her answer was, “The angel nightie.”
A few weeks ago as I was getting her ready for bed, we had to
struggle with the angel nightie. When it was buttoned, the neck was
too tight, so we left it undone.
My smallest girl had grown. The angel nightie was washed once more.
Today, as I put the winter clothes away to make room for summer
ones, I held it up for inspection.
The pink is faded now. There are places where the gown is worn and
almost threadbare. There are still streaks of black on the skirt
from Emma’s experiment with the permanent marker. The lace is folded
over and wrinkled. The ruffle is fraying from too many little feet
tripping over it.
Part of me wants to throw it on the pile for Goodwill. Or just throw
it in the trash. No one will pay for this.
But then, for some reason, I turn it inside out and I see the
stitches my grandmother sewed for me. I turn it right side out and
see the angels still smiling as they collect their holly. I see
Emma’s hands up waiting for me to slip it on her that first time. I
see Olivia’s toes peeking out of the ruffle as she held the skirt up
to make her way down the steps. I see Julia jumping into my arms for
a good night hug.
I wonder if my mother felt my arms around her when she put the
nightie away for the last time because, as I hold this old piece of
clothing to my cheek, I swear I can feel my babies’ arms come around
I take a moment and laugh at myself for crying over a nightgown.
Then I take it downstairs and press the lace so it stands up bright
against the pink. I fold it more carefully, more lovingly than I
ever have, and I pack it away to keep.
Someday, maybe, I’ll pass the angel nightie to another little girl.
And I’ll tell her about the woman who sewed it for me. I’ll tell her
about the woman who kept it for me. And I’ll tell her about the
little girls who wore it. Loved it.
I’ll tell her it used to mine. It used to be theirs. And I’ve kept
it just for her.
The Luck of the Germans, 3/17/06
A St. Patrick's Day Miracle
First things first… we’re not Irish.
We used to be. Partly. Supposedly my mother’s grandmother, Blanche,
came over by boat from the Emerald Isle but in researching family
history, my uncle found that Blanche had been born in the coal
regions of Pennsylvania. So we don’t talk about Blanche as much as
we used to.
She was the only thing not German in our ancestry. The hurt went
But I’m getting off track… so St. Patrick’s Day was always a big day
in my house. Back when we were hip deep in stories of Blanche, my
mom would make us wear green. We sometimes would eat green food. My
dad would drink beer.
Okay, he did that every day.
But even with Blanche and her lies, we all knew that the Irish in us
was only a wee bit. The day didn’t have all that much meaning for
Times have changed.
When I moved into this neighborhood, I met my next door neighbor,
who is mostly Italian. Her husband is half Irish/half Italian. And
they love the Irish part. St. Patrick’s Day is big in their house.
have a leprechaun that comes every St. Patrick’s Day while the kids
are asleep. He leaves green foot prints trailing through their
house. The dining room furniture is usually turned upside down.
Paintings are hung the wrong way. The kids get Lucky Charms for
milk is green.
And there is a small pot of chocolate gold coins for each of the
Being the kind neighbor that she is… we too would get a small pot of
chocolate gold coins on our front steps every St. Patty’s Day. So my
children grew up thinking that the leprechaun came to our house as
well. He just wasn’t as tricky with them.
Well, this year, I was going to fix that.
I realized late last night that I didn’t have any coins to give. I
hadn’t heard from my neighbor, so wasn’t sure about the appearance
of the pot o’ gold. The only thing I had on hand was the new Harry
Potter movie. I’d been keeping it as a surprise for our Friday night
have been dying to see it.
Inspiration struck like a giant shamrock.
The leprechaun would come. He would leave a trail of clues. At the
end of the trail… would be the movie. They would love it.
So last night I type up the clues. I split the first clue into three
parts and put one part in each of the girls’ shoes that were set by
the front door. (My girls have this idea that the leprechaun leaves
gifts in your shoes. I don’t know why.)
The other clues are hidden in certain places around the house. One
in the fridge. One on the window sill in the blue playroom. One
behind Emma’s light up star. One in Julia’s Bitty Baby. One in
Olivia’s favorite book. I’m doing well until I need to hide the clue
in the Bitty Baby. I can’t find it. I check the playroom downstairs.
I check the playroom upstairs. No baby.
This means only one thing. It’s in their bedroom. Walking through
Olivia and Julia’s bedroom in the daylight is a challenge. You’re
really taking chances if you go in there at night. I curse the night
light that blew out a few weeks ago and I still haven’t replaced.
The hall light is on but it’s very dim in their room. I look around.
I find other babies but no Bitty Baby.
I do find Olivia’s favorite book which is lying on the floor by her
bed. I slip the appropriate clue inside. I soon realize that it’s no
use. There is no way I’m going to find the baby without a light.
I head to Emma’s room. She has this head lamp that my brother got
her for Christmas. She uses it to read in bed. The rest of us use it
when we need a flashlight. I take it in to the messy room (no, I
don’t wear it) and eventually I find the baby doll, under Julia’s
bed. About an inch from where I was blindly feeling around earlier.
Clues are deposited, kids are tucked in and I’m off to bed. I feel
as though I’m the best mother in the world.
Morning breaks and my children awaken. I hear Olivia saying, “Julia,
Julia! It’s time to see what the leprechaun brought for us.”
I hear Julia saying, “Okay. But where are my pants?
Now, I don’t know about you, but when one of my kids wakes up with
no pants, I think they’ve wet their bed. So I run upstairs and
check. No wet sheets. But also no pants. I look among the toys
scattered on the floor. No pants. I find her a new pair and they all
come down to check their lucky shoes.
Emma figures out that it’s a treasure hunt right away. They put the
clues together and this is what it says:
If ye be looking for pots
o’gold, check in the place that keeps things cold.
Okay. I should tell you that whenever Carter or I attempt to do an
Irish accent, we end up sounding like pirates. Apparently, I can’t
even write leprechaun-ish without sounding like Greenbeard the
scourge of the Irish Sea.
But back to the story. The girls head to the fridge. Where they find
the next note:
No gold is here. Tis just a
clue. Your next is by a window blue.
“We don’t have a blue window,” Emma
Olivia and Julia ponder this.
I can’t take the suspense so I say, “Well, we have blue room.”
There are three little gasps and they run upstairs to find the next
clue, which says:
You’ve found this one but
where’s the next? I’ve heard it’s near your mother’s desk.
No problems finding that one. Though I do have two desks, they know
I only use the one with the computer sitting on it. This note says:
Is this the last? I do not
know. You might check Emma’s star that glows.
No words are spoken. No gasps. They are on a mission and they head
right to Emma’s room, where they find the next clue:
No gold is here. Oh, what a
pity! But look inside a babe that’s bitty.
“My Bitty Baby!” Julia exclaims.
Olivia sighs. “We’ll never find that.”
“I know!” Julia yells.
She heads for their room. She looks right under her bed and pulls
out her Bitty Baby. Even Emma is impressed. We may be a messy lot,
but we know where the important things are.
She finds the next clue:
Is treasure found? Too soon
to tell. You might check Livi’s Annabelle.
book!” Olivia shouts. She heads over to the side of her bed and
picks up Tasha Tudor’s A is for Annabelle. She opens it and finds
Now sisters three must link
their hands. And check in with the pots and pans.
“Now sisters tree?” Olivia begins with a frown. “What’s a sister
“Three,” I say. “Sisters three.”
I realize my error too late. I’m standing across the room. How do I
know what it says? Emma sends me a sharp look.
“Umm. I’m assuming,” I say. “Let me see that?”
I read it aloud and the three of them hold hands and head
They open two drawers before they find the one with the pots and
pans. Apparently, I have a lot of pots and pans. You really think
I’d cook more considering.
Finally, FINALLY, they open the drawer that holds the movie (and
bonus Scene It game). Taped to the movie is this note.
A treasure here! And one to
keep. To watch this night before you sleep.
I wait for the exclamations of joy.
I wait some more. The poor dears must be struck silent by all their
excitement. I look over.
I see Olivia pick the movie out of the drawer and look beneath it.
“But where’s the gold?” she asks.
Emma looks at me. Then at her sister. “This is the gold,” she says
with false lightness. “This is our treasure.”
I can’t believe they’re not excited. I can’t believe they don’t like
it. And I really can’t believe I’m being bailed out by my eight year
“The movie?” I say. “Cool. Now I don’t have to go buy it. And we can
watch it tonight. Boy! I sure do love that leprechaun.”
Now Julia is excited. Olivia is perplexed. Emma is glad she gets to
watch the movie tonight.
“But,” Olivia says. “What about the gold?”
“It’s treasure, Olivia. Guess the leprechaun thought you wanted this
Olivia walks to the living room, checking behind pillows and under
furniture. Certain there must be gold somewhere.
Emma looks at me and Carter. “Olivia is not being very
appreciative,” she says.
“She likes gold,” says Carter.
“She likes chocolate,” I mutter.
I head to the door to get the morning paper. Olivia follows me. I
hear a small gasp when I open the door. There on our front steps is
a small pot of chocolate gold coins.
I glance over at our neighbor’s house as Olivia takes the treasure
“He was here,” she shouts. “He really was here.”
The girls spend the next few minutes divvying up their booty. I
spend the next few minutes being thankful for my neighbor.
“He brought us a movie,” Emma says.
“And gold,” Olivia says.
“And he stole my pants,” Julia adds.
Yes, it is truly a St. Patrick’s Day miracle.
The Eternal, Maternal Sigh,
There’s this sigh that mother’s have.
If you have a mother, you’ve probably heard it. If you are a mother,
perhaps you’ve used it. It’s long. It’s sometimes quiet. Sometimes
it’s almost a moan. But it most always conveys something to the
Perhaps it’s disappointment. Maybe it’s a vocal eye roll. Once in a
while, it’s a sigh of pride. In my case, the maternal sigh I get can
be translated into this: Did she learn nothing from me?
It has become my mission to avoid the sigh of my mother. I try to
have the house clean when she comes over. I try not to be late for
things. Often times I fail. But I always try at least a little bit.
On Saturday, all I had to do was get my girls to my mother’s house
by six-thirty in the evening. My mom and my sister were taking them
out to the theater and Carter and I were going to our friends’ house
for dinner. I’d talked to my mom earlier in the day and the window
I’d given her for drop off was between six o’clock and six-thirty.
Normally, this means somewhere before seven, but I hear my mom say
over and over, “Okay. Around six-thirty then?”
“Between six and six-thirty,” I say again.
“Ooookay,” she says. And I can hear the disbelief in her voice.
“Maybe even six-fifteen,” I say a little defensively.
“Oooookay,” she says again. “I’ll be ready.”
In mother speak, I’ll be ready means Don’t be late.
So I am determined to get my three girls ready for a night at the
theater and to my mother’s house on time. This time, I will NOT be
late. There will be no sigh.
day flies by. The kids have things to do. I have fudge to make.
Carter has college football to watch. Oh and he paints the kitchen a
little bit. Before I know it, it’s time to get ready to go.
Yes. It’s four o’clock.
I know what you’re thinking. Four o’clock? That’s a full two and a
half hours before you have to be at your mother's.
That’s true. But I know myself. I know my strengths. I know my
weaknesses. Procrastination is a big weakness. I love to put things
off. Something else I’m not so good at is hair. Anyone who has met
me in person can tell you that I do very little with my hair. I’m
just not good at it and have always felt it would be wise to spend
my time on pursuits that had nothing to do with curling irons or
hair gel or <gulp> braids.
My children have suffered for it. They have great hair but no one to
do it up right.
But today I am going to do it up and hope for the best. I’m not
going to put it off. I’m going to start at four o’clock so we can
all be at Grammy’s house somewhere between six and six-thirty.
Olivia, our six year old, has decided to be first. She walks into my
bathroom with her robe and towel. We’re using my shower because it’s
huge and it allows me to be in there with them without getting
myself wet. We wait until the water is warm and in she goes. I wash
her hair and rinse. I scrub her from head to toe and rinse. When she
is out of the shower, I wrap her up in her robe and, just because
she loves it, I wrap her towel around her hair and pile it all up on
her head. She’s feeling very important. I tell her to go comb out
her hair while I’m washing up her sister.
She raises her eyebrows haughtily and says, “Well, I suppose.” Then
she giggles and says, “Can I get dressed?”
“Not until your hair is done.”
“Pickles,” she mutters and is off to her room.
I turn to find Emma, the seven year old, already in the shower.
“I can do this myself,” she tells me.
“I know. I know. But I’m doing it for you today. I’m quicker.”
“Okay,” she says.
I wash her hair. Emma has thick hair. We wash. We rinse. We
condition. A lot. When she’s all finished. I wrap her in her robe
and put her hair up in her towel and send her to comb out her hair.
“When are we getting dressed?” she asks.
She scampers to her room and I see little, four year old Julia is
now in the bathroom. She looks at me with her darling little face.
“Thampoo?” she asks worriedly.
“Yes. It’ll be fine.”
She nods solemnly. Julia loves baths. She loves showers. She HATES
In she goes. I pull down the shower head and tell her to put her
head back. She does.
“What?” I ask.
“I need a wathcloth.”
hand her a washcloth and she places it over her eyes to prevent her
mother from blinding her with the fruity goodness of L’Oreal Kids
I quickly wash her hair.
“Are you done?” she asks.
“Nope. Head back.”
She puts it back for a rinse. Washcloth still over her eyes. I am so
careful. Not one bit of water hits her eyes, let alone any soap.
I’m about to tell her she’s finished when all of a sudden she starts
“What? What? What is it?” I say frantically feeling the water to see
if I’d just burned her or something. “Why are you screaming?” I ask
after I see that the water is fine.
She pulls the washcloth off her face and shrugs. “I dunno.”
I don’t think she has such a fear of shampoo. I think she just likes
screaming in the shower. Hitchcock would have loved her.
So we finish her up. Doesn’t take too long because Julia’s something
of a shrimp. You could spit on Julia and she’d need a few towels to
dry off. I get her bundled up in her robe and she looks at her
towel. Then she looks at me.
“You want the towel in your hair?”
“You know you don’t have all that much hair,” I remind her.
She just grins and in a few seconds her towel is a towering twist on
her head. I turn to leave the bathroom and check on the girls. I
hear Julia gasp.
I turn and my cat-like reflexes save Julia from being pulled
backward onto the floor by that big old towel on her head.
“How about,” I say as I unwind it, “we just go comb your hair
We walk over to Emma’s room where she and Olivia are combing their
hair out and gazing at each other in the mirror.
“Hey, good job,” I say when I see their hair. “Let’s go dry it.”
“Me first,” Olivia says. “Can I get dressed?”
“After your hair,” I tell her.
She sighs and I think of my mother. I look at the clock. Don’t want
to be late. “Let’s get going,” I say.
I dry her hair and it looks so nice. My kids never get their hair
dried by anything other than the night air. They have,
unfortunately, picked up my hair doesn’t matter attitude. But, oh,
it looks great when it’s blown out.
Olivia has curlier hair than the other two. When I start curling it,
it’s mostly in an effort to control it. And it works. Her curls lay
nicely against her head. She stands so still but that could be
because I told her that hot curling irons could scar you for life if
you weren’t careful.
I curl and curl, all the while biting my lip and guessing that I’m
doing it right. Then I comb it out a little and then I send Olivia
into bliss by putting hairspray over it all. She looks gorgeous.
Emma looks concerned.
“How are you going to do my hair?” she asks.
“How do you want it?” I respond.
“Can’t I leave it straight and do nothing to it?”
She is so my child. “I guess,” I tell her. “But I have all this set
up. Sure you don’t want just a flip at the bottom?”
“Okay,” she says. “Just a flip. A little one.”
Olivia comes back in patting her curls and looking smug. “I picked
my dress,” she says. She looks at Emma with her little flippy hair
and pats her curls again. Really, I expect her to say something like
the annoying girl in the Charlie Brown Christmas special – “Did
innkeeper’s wives have naturally curly hair?”
“I’ll be out in a while, Olivia.”
She shrugs and leaves the bathroom.
“I want curls.”
“What?” I turn back to the mirror.
“Curl it all. I want it curly.”
“The flip looks cute.”
“Give me curls… please,” she says.
I sigh. “Ooookay. Just remember, you and Olivia have very different
hair. It’s not going to look the same.”
“That’s okay,” she assures me.
So I curl and curl and burn her ear a little but I blame her
fidgeting and not the fact that I was gazing at her shimmering
beautiful blond hair and wishing my hair was that color again.
I comb her out a bit and spray her with hairspray. And I look at her
hair. It’s different than Olivia’s but it’s still beautiful. If you
couldn’t tell by now, I’m very proud of myself. I did their hair and
it turned out well. This is a day to remember.
I help them all get dressed and they look even more beautiful. I
check in on Emma and I notice her frowning.
She looks at me and winces. “It’s just…”
“You hate your hair.’
She nods. “Maybe a ponytail…”
I don’t say a word. I may have given a look but I’m not sure. It was
one of those moments when the primal scream I keep inside was so
loud it didn’t allow for anything other than… a sigh. A deep, long,
suffering sigh. Okay, it might have been closer to a growl.
Suddenly Emma’s eyes get wide and she says, “No. No, ponytail. This
will be fine. Looks good. Yup. No ponytail for me.”
“Good answer,” I mutter as I go to get myself ready for the evening.
Wow. The sigh works.
By six-ten we are all putting on our coats. I may not know hair, but
I know dressy outerwear. The girls have
long, beautiful wool coats. Julia even has a beret and muff with
hers. The others pull on their gloves and wrap up in scarves. We all
head outside and I have to tell you, the only thing keeping it from
being a Currier and Ives moment is the mini-van in place of a horse
We get everyone in and buckled up. I sigh again but this time it’s
one of relief. It’s six-fifteen. We’re not late. It took us over two
hours to get ready but it was worth it. We’re all ready. The girls
will get to my mom’s house and we’ll get to our dinner. It’s all
“I can’t believe we’re on time,” I say to Carter as we go on our
“You started pretty early,” he says and I can see the strange wonder
in his eyes. I can’t blame him for being a little confused. He
started getting ready five minutes ago. He doesn’t understand all of
this prep time.
I sit back and look at the clock. I’ll be hearing no sighs from my
mom. We’ll be on time. I can run them into her house and we’ll be
out of there in no time. We might even be on time for our dinner.
That never happens.
We pull up to her house and take the kids inside. My mom ooohs and
ahhs and takes a few pictures. I tell her again that the tickets
will be waiting for her at the box office. The girls take off their
coats until it’s time to go to the show.
Carter puts his hand on my shoulder.
“Okay,” I say. “We’d better get go…”
And then it happens. Emma asks a question that has me stopping
mid-sentence, has me pulling in a surprised breath, has that primal
scream coming out in a distressed little squeak.
She asks, “So when are we going to have dinner?”
I look at her for a frozen second. I glance at Carter, whose eyes
are as wide as mine, whose mouth has fallen open and whose shoulders
are already shrugging as if to say, “Don’t look at me. I was
watching the game.”
And finally, I look at my mother.
"Oh, my God," I say.
She shakes her head. “You forgot to feed your children?” She rolls
her eyes. She chuckles a little.
As I head to the kitchen to quickly whip up some peanut butter
sandwiches, I hear it.
I hate it. I love it. I use it myself. And even though I'm grown, it
seems I still deserve it.
It's the maternal sigh. And on this day, it's a loud one.
Are We There Yet? 2005, 9/03/05
Part 1 of 7 - The Long and Winding Road
Whenever we mention
our trip to South Dakota to friends, we are asked the same question,
“Are you driving again?” When we answer with a yes, the next
question is always, “Are you crazy?”
I can’t blame them for asking. Packing three kids under the age of
seven in a minivan and driving all night to reach our destination
does seem a little nuts. But for some reason, we like it. We’ve
flown with the kids before and we’re always balls of stress
wondering if we’re going to miss a flight. Will the kids be good on
the plane? Will we get dirty looks from other passengers?
In our minivan, we are the only ones giving dirty looks. And who
really cares how the kids are? They’re contained in the back seat
traveling with people who already know how they are.
course, this is coming from the person who often compares our car
trips to the Bataan Death March. Carter and I are the guards and any
complaints from the POWs (aka our children) result in their being
cut down without mercy. It works for us. We know we’re in for the
long haul and well, we’re just not going to put up with any crap.
WE are the ones driving all night. WE are the ones who are losing
sleep so we can arrive in South Dakota quickly. WE are the ones who
are responsible for all of us arriving safe and sound. It is not too
much to ask that the trip pass without complaint.
This is the third year we’re driving to South Dakota from
Pennsylvania and I have to tell you, by this time, we’re a well
oiled machine. The car is ready to go when Carter gets home from
work. The kids have their lunchables all ready to eat. They are
dressed in dresses that are comfortable to sleep in but will also
work for tomorrow’s outfit. And we only have to turn the car around
twice to get a forgotten cd and the shirt I left on the couch. Very
well oiled, indeed.
“How long is this trip anyway? And why aren’t we flying?”
This was from Emma, our seven year old, about three minutes into our
trip. The time is 7:00 pm. I turn around in my seat and immediately
Emma sees she’s made a mistake in asking such a thing.
“WE are the ones driving all night,” I say, my eyes giving her the
crazed look one can achieve after spending the day packing the bags,
packing the car and mentally preparing oneself for a week with ones
in-laws. “WE are the ones who are losing sleep so we can arrive…
She smiles guiltily and says, “Oh.”
Carter has decided to drive first. We get about twenty miles from
home before we make our first stop.
“I can’t wear these shorts,” he says.
“These shorts. They’re not comfortable. How can I drive all night in
“So change them.”
“I think I have to.”
Fine. We stop at a service plaza. Carter heads inside to get some
food for us. I head to the back of the van to get different shorts
for him. I find some by the time he comes out with our food. He
changes and we are once again on our way.
I breathe a sigh of relief. Everyone is comfy. Everyone is eating.
We’re having a good time and isn’t this an excellent mix cd I made?
“What’s going on?” I frown as I look at my cd player. Our mini van
still has the tape player in it and so our cds can only be played
with a walkman hook up. Only the walkman hook up is suddenly not
working at all.
“I think it’s dead,” Carter says.
“It can’t be dead. I made cds just for this trip and they’re good. I
need those cds to make it through.”
“Sorry, babe. It’s radio time for us. We’ll get a new player in
Oh, that's true, I think. We’re meeting my best friend at the Mall
of America for a few hours tomorrow. Surely they’ll have a walkman
somewhere. Then I remember… that’s tomorrow!! I have at least 16
hours of driving to get through before we meet up with Julie. How am
I going to make it with only the radio?
“There’s a WalMart around here I bet,” I say.
“We’re not stopping now. We’re on our way,” says he who stopped to
change his shorts.
I mutter some unflattering things but I’m not going to be blamed for
slowing down this trip. I am ever patient and I’ll just be satisfied
with the radio and with the knowledge that I am NOT driving through
western Pennsylvania. I hate western Pennsylvania. It’s hilly.
There’s always construction and they put up these cement chutes for
you to maneuver through
making it feel like you’re a cow headed to slaughter at seventy
miles per hour.
If I remember right, Carter drove all the way across Pennsylvania
last year. Then I took over in Ohio. That would be great. Yes, I’ll
be fine as long as I…
“Can you drive now? I’m really tired?”
I look at Carter. It’s been two hours. We’re heading into western
Pennsylvania territory. My look tells him as much.
“I know. Just let me take a quick nap and I’ll take over before the
bad part,” he says, looking all pathetic and tired.
I can sigh in a long suffering manner, I’m behind the wheel. My
trusty Spree at my side, my finger on the seek button and a coke
sitting in the cup holder.
I flip the radio once before the kids ask, “Can we watch a movie?”
It is all I can do to
keep my forehead from hitting the steering wheel. This is really not
going so well. The only thing worse than listening to nothing in the
car is listening to a movie. But I am a kind mother and soon I’m
driving to the sounds of Spy Kids and Carter’s light snore.
Finally, the movie ends and I tell the kids to go to sleep. In a
move that makes me both happy and suspicious… they do. They go right
to sleep. I smile and look around. Carter is still resting. For some
reason, the construction isn’t bothering me this year. And then it
hits me. There isn’t construction here. The roads, at places, are as
nice as the Ohio Turnpike and if you know me, you know I LOVE the
Ohio Turnpike. It’s like driving on a smooth, inky black road. Well,
okay, in fact, it IS driving on a smooth, inky black road.
But here I am in western Pennsylvania and I’ve got the cruise
control on. I never use the cruise control in Pennsylvania. This is
wonderful. I’m flipping through the stations and finding some good
songs. We’re nearing midnight and the Pennsylvania/Ohio turnpike and
I’m going strong. Except for that incessant yawning, I’m feeling
“I think we need gas,” Carter says.
“Yeah.” I look to the gage. “I’ll pull over in Ohio.”
“I’ll drive then. You should rest a little. You keep yawning.”
Damn! I knew he was going to say that. He’s totally stealing the
Ohio Turnpike from me!! But I am getting a little sleepy, so I
grumble an agreement.
We get out to pump gas and the kids pop up a little bit when the
lights come on in the car.
“Are we there?” they ask.
I laugh. “No. Go to sleep.”
And they do… again. Hmmm. Who are these children?
I ask Carter if he’d like a snack for the drive.
“Yes. I’m taking the Deadliest Catch approach to driving,” he tells
boy. This’ll be good. Carter has been watching The Deadliest Catch
on the Discovery Channel. It’s about fishermen who stay up for days
pulling in Alaskan crab from the freezing waters of the Bering Sea.
Most of them end up hurt, some die. I’m wondering how this relates
to our trip.
“They eat all the time to stay awake. The fishermen,” he says when I
look at him blankly. “I’m just going to keep eating and I’ll stay
Oh. Sounds reasonable. I open the back of the van and begin
gathering snacks for his shift. Okay, here’s something I have to
mention. We brought apples. That’s not odd. We always bring apples,
but this year I brought along the apple slicer and a small wooden
cutting board. As I hop into the back of the van, I pull my little
apple kit out and set in on the cooler. I tear off some paper towels
and line up the apple. I look around to see if anyone can see me,
but it’s midnight at an Ohio service plaza. It’s not too busy.
The thing is… I’m not an organized person. I’m the least organized
person I know and I am REALLY proud of this little bit of food prep
in the back of my car. I’m like Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club
with her little sushi set. I’m waiting for people to say, “How
clever to be so organized on a family trip?” And then I would say,
“Oh, it’s just a simple apple. Nothing to it really.”
I see some people pull up behind us at the gas pump. I move to the
side so they can see me push the slicer through the apple. I glance
back. They’ve both run to the bathrooms.
Oh well. I’ll just slice this apple for Carter. I’ll be like Ma
Ingalls preparing food in the covered wagon while my three girls
sleep in the back. Pa will surely appreciate the apple.
I wrap the slices up in a paper towel and throw the core into the
trash. I pick up some more food as Carter finishes pumping the gas.
He comes around the back.
“Is that a cutting board?”
“Yes. It’s my apple cutting kit. I’m very organized this year.”
He looks at me strangely. Very much like the way I looked at my kids
when they fell asleep right away. I hand him the apple.
“Wow,” he says, clearly impressed. “Thanks.”
“No trouble,” I say.
We get into the car and head onto the Ohio Turnpike. Carter has all
his food at the ready. Protein bar, water, walnuts and a perfectly
sliced apple. My husband is disgustingly healthy. So healthy, in
fact, that I almost pass out when he pulls out a huge bag of peanut
“The fishermen use peanut M&Ms,” he grins. “They’re a tool really.”
Right. But I don’t say anything more. Who, in their right mind,
complains about the presence of peanut M&Ms?
Here’s the thing about driving long distances with your spouse… you
realize how little you trust the other person to keep you alive.
While I was driving, every turn of the wheel or swerve in the road
would have Carter popping up immediately, saying, “You okay? Too
sleepy? Are we crashing?”
I'd probably be offended if I didn't do the same thing. Let's face
it, when your eyes are closed and you’re reclining in the passenger
seat with a blanket and a pillow, every little turn feels like your
heading into a ravine where the only escape will be through the Jaws
of Life. So I decide then that I will try my best to stay awake in
order to keep him awake, to keep us all alive. The safety of my
family is depending on me and my ability to remain alert.
Sadly, I’m sound asleep before Carter takes his first bite of apple.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Are We There Yet? 2005, 9/03/05
Part 2 of 7 - The Wee Small Hours of the Morning
I doze off and on over the next three
hours. I think I manage about an hour and a half of sleep. Not good
sleep, but sleep. I think I ask, “You okay?” about thirty times
during those three hours. I ask again at around three in the
morning. And this time Carter’s answer is, “No.”
We pull into another rest area. I head to the back and slice up
another apple. Again nobody is around to witness my efficiency. I
grab my snacks, which, as always, are mostly unhealthy and filled
I have a Coke, my Spree, a tube of Pringles. The only bit of
goodness I can muster is the apple and really, I just wanted to use
my apple slicing kit again. Still, it looks pretty good. It’s all
juicy and smells so sweet. I can’t wait to bite into that apple.
The kids are still sleeping. Carter gets all comfortable.
“I’ll drive the next three hours,” I say, as I settle the snacks
around me so they’re easy to grab. I, too, am using the Deadliest
Catch approach to wakefulness. I don’t care if I gain a million
pounds. I am eating… poorly. Except for the apple.
The three am to six am shift of driving is easy in that there are
very few cars to contend with. It’s hard in that the driver is
usually really freaking tired. But I convince myself that I’m
refreshed after my nap and I’m ready to go. I flip the station on
the radio again and off we go. A few minutes pass.
“What are you thinking about?” Carter asks.
I jump in my seat. “I thought you were sleeping.”
“Soon. What do you think about when you’re driving?”
“I don’t know. At the moment, I’m wondering how I’m going to end
that Jamie and Nia story I’m writing. I’m thinking I’m going to be
flipping the damn radio a lot and I’m thinking I should spread out
my apple slices so they last the entire three hours. Why? What do
you think about when you’re driving?”
“I don’t know. Work. The construction on the house.”
“No wonder you’re sleepy.”
soon snoring next to me. Okay, I think. I’ve got to spread out this
apple. I have three hours and eight slices. It takes far longer than
it should for me to figure out that I can have one slice every
twenty-two and a half minutes. It will help me pass the time
anticipating that yummy apple slice. I’ll have my first one now, I
I pull one out of the paper towel I’d wrapped it in and take my
Jesus Christ!! This can’t be right. This apple sucks. I take another
bite. This is… this is awful!! Why, it barely tastes like an apple.
I don’t know what it tastes like, but it’s certainly not the apple I
was expecting. I finish the slice in a bit of a shock. I can’t quite
comprehend that this apple sucks as bad as it does.
I shake my head and grab a Pringle and my Coke to wash the taste out
of my mouth. I’m going to eat the whole damn apple. It’s part of my
plan to stay awake but God, that first slice was very disappointing.
I washed the apples at home before we left. They were packed in
plastic zipped bags. Nothing happened to this apple to make it bad.
It just grew that way.
well, I think with a sigh. At least I have another twenty two and a
half minutes before the next slice. In the meantime, I’ll think
about what I always think about on long trips. Ewan McGregor. With a
sigh, I glance down at my cd holder. The Moulin Rouge Soundtrack is
in there somewhere. Ewan is waiting to sing with me. I do it every
year. It helps me through the long dark night. But I’m stuck with
the radio and northern Indiana in the wee small hours isn’t offering
I look at the clock. Holy crap!! Twenty two minutes have passed.
Here is proof that dread makes time pass more quickly than
anticipation. Slowly, I reach into the paper towel and grab another
This slice is just as bad as the last, but I eat it. By the time
another twenty two minutes pass, I’m nearly weeping. This is really
the worst piece of fruit I’ve ever eaten. I should just stop, but
now it’s become some sort of penance. I don’t know for what, but it
sure did make the last hour speed by.
I am the only person on the road now. Carter is sleeping really
well. He’s not even asking me if I’m okay. I flip around the radio
some more. There’s not all that much to choose from and everything
seems to be slow and sleep inducing. Why can’t I ever find a good
radio station? The yawning starts again.
I’m starting to doubt Carter’s Deadliest Catch method. It occurs to
me that the fishermen eating all the time
have freezing air slashing at them as they work their frost bitten
fingers to the bone pulling in their catch. I’m stuffing my face
with sub-par fruit and various kinds of sugar and salt while sitting
on my ass in a climate controlled minivan. I have nice comfy seats
and freaking Sarah McLachlan on the radio. Quite frankly, I’m amazed
I’ve stayed awake this long.
I’m pissed off and defiant. I will NOT be sleepy. I will NOT pull
over and make Carter drive. I’m going to drive to Chicago and
nothing is going to stop me. You can sing about me finding comfort
in the arms of an angel, Sarah McLachlan, but I will NOT be lulled
to sleep. I listen to the entire song, just to prove I can. I eat my
damn, disgusting apple every twenty two minutes. I eat my Spree,
Pringles and Coke until my tongue is shriveled up and twitching from
the combination of tart, salt and sweet.
When Fame comes on the radio, I smile. Yes! I’m gonna’ live forever!
I’m gonna’ drive forever!! When Barry White comes on, I’ve reached
cross country driving nirvana. Time is passing. The miles are flying
by. We’re coming up on Chicago and I’m pretty sure we’re an hour
ahead of where we were last year. I’m sure last year the sun was
coming up when we passed Chicago. It’s still really dark.
Carter has gotten some good sleep. He wakes up and asks if I want to
“Hell no!” I declare. I’m an expert driver. I’ve beaten back the
sleepiness. I’m good to go the rest of the way. I’ve finally found a
great radio station and am happily listening to the Foo Fighters.
“Hey, wasn’t it lighter when we hit Chicago last year?”
He frowns a little. “Yeah. We are making good time, but it should be
lightening up a little bit.”
My three hours are almost up. I have one slice of apple left. My
Coke is gone. My mouth is completely rejecting any form of candy or
snack. That one bit of apple is all I have left to eat. And my last
twenty two minute break is almost upon me.
“Hey, this isn’t darkness,” Carter says as he looks at the Chicago
skyline. “This is…”
I see the drop on the window immediately. I leave it there. But
another drop falls. And another. And another.
I turn to Carter. “It’s… it’s raining?”
He nods. “And there’s no where to pull over.”
Suddenly I’m in traffic. It’s dark, wet and the other cars are out
to get me. My confidence left with the last purple Spree. I turn off
the radio, grasp the steering wheel and
to get through this mess.
“These are the worst wipers! Jesus! I can’t see a thing. The car’s
going to flip over.”
“You’re fine. You know, I asked if you wanted to switch before we
hit the city.”
“Yes,” I growl. “I remember it all clearly.”
We’re stopped momentarily in traffic. I see I’m overdue for my last
apple slice. I’ll have it quickly before we start moving again. I
frown when the paper towel comes up empty. I reach around
frantically looking for the last apple slice.
“Did you eat my last piece of apple?”
“No. Traffic’s moving again,” Carter says.
I grab the wheel again and try to think. Did I eat the last piece?
Did I do the math wrong? Where did I mess up? Where is that last
piece of apple?
I nearly whimper when we pass an accident on the other side of the
highway. I’d be completely freaking out if I weren’t so occupied
with wondering what happened to the last apple slice.
Eventually we get through the traffic, through/around Chicago and I
pull over to the side of the road as soon as I’m on a road that has
Carter and I switch places. The sun is coming up and of course, the
rain stops as soon as Carter starts the car. I turn around.
“The kids are still sleeping? Are they still breathing?” I check to
make sure they are.
“You made it through Chicago in the rain, babe. Excellent work.”
I begin looking again for the missing apple slice. It’s no where. I
must have eaten it.
“You really liked that apple, huh?” Carter asks.
I think for a minute. “No. It was terrible.”
“Yeah, mine too.”
My mouth drops open. “Why didn’t you say anything? Why did you eat
“You went to all the trouble to slice it up for me…”
I smile at that. “Well. I was just using mine as a timer. I’d eat a
slice every twenty two minutes.”
“What?” I ask.
“I was doing the same thing.”
I laugh then and lean back. I don’t sleep though. This is a really
good radio station. I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss it.
To be continued…
Are We There Yet? 2005, 9/03/05
Part 3 of 7 - Bathrooms, Malls and Funnel Clouds
It’s nearing eight o’clock when I say
to Carter, “Have our children really been asleep from Pennsylvania
He glances back at them. “Yes. And I’m getting hungry. Should we
wake them up?”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“It’s time for breakfast. I think we should stop soon.”
I’m about to argue when we hear stirring in the back seat. The kids
have arisen. Carter mutters a Hallelujah! Our girls slept for ten
hours. They are wonderful. They are angels. They are also hungry and
they have to pee. Happily, Carter takes the next exit and we find a
You know, since I’ve become a mother, I’ve never once thought, “Oh,
I wish we’d had a boy.” Everyone knows I’m happy with my girls.
Everyone knows I’d be lost and scared if a boy suddenly came to live
with us. Everyone knows I breathed a sigh of relief when our third
child came and was not the boy everyone else seemed to be hoping
for. I love having daughters.
But just once I’d like to be the person who gets the table at the
restaurant while the other person takes the kids to the bathroom.
I’d love to be able to walk into a bathroom and not have to say…
“Did you wipe? Oh, thanks, but I’m happy to take your word for it.
Did you flush? Go flush. I know it’s automatic, but it’s obviously
not working. No Olivia, there is nothing to be afraid of. The
flashing light isn’t going to hurt you. Yes, I remember New York.
Yes, I remember the lost hat. That’s not important right… here, I’ll
do it. Emma, did you wash your hands? Don’t waste the soap. No, you
wave your hands under it. It’s not that hot. It’s cleaning your
hands. Julia, let me lift you up so you can reach. Here’s some soap.
Hurry up, now. Emma? Use the automatic dryer. For the towels you
have to press the button, then crank. Yes. Press… then crank. No.
Just use the automatic one. Wave your hands under it! No? Is there a
button? Then press it. No, it’s not a hair dryer. Just for hands.
Let’s go. They’re dry enough. Wipe them on your shirt. Let’s go.”
But I have daughters and therefore, I am bathroom chaperone… always.
We walk out to find the perfectly-happy-without-sons Carter at the
table. We have an excellent breakfast with the best French toast
I’ve ever had. When we’re through, we take a small walk outside and
then we pile back in the car.
It’s my turn to drive again. The morning passes by. The
are occupied by workbooks and Polly Pockets and for a grueling
ninety minutes, The Ninja Turtle Movie. Around noon, we get to
Minneapolis. Carter and I are switching places every so often.
A week earlier, I was talking to my best friend, Julie, who lives in
Las Vegas. She mentioned that she, her husband and her daughter were
heading to Minneapolis for a small family reunion. After a little
scream of excitement, I told her WE would be in Minneapolis on
Friday afternoon. After a big scream of excitement, we decide to
meet for lunch or whatever. After calls back and forth all week, we
finally decided on a time… and a place. The
Mall of America.
As we approach, I glance over at Carter, who is behind the wheel.
He’s looking a little smug.
“There it is. The Mall of America.” he says. “Funny you would pick
“It’s a good place to meet. We can grab lunch. We can get the cd
player. We can buy me a book. It’s a fine place to meet.”
“But you always said…”
“I know what I said and no one but Julie could make me break my
You see, years ago, back before we had kids, back before we were
married, when the Mall of
America was brand new, Carter and I went on a trip. The
in-flight magazine had an article about this fantastic new mall. I
rarely read the in-flight magazine because I always have a book
handy. I was reading my book and Carter was reading the magazine.
“Can you believe this?” he said. “This place is huge!”
From that point on, he listed for me every fact and figure about the
Mall of America. Besides
interrupting my reading, he knew I just didn’t care all that much.
But I would listen patiently. Then I’d read. Then I’d listen again.
Then I’d read. Then I’d listen some more, not so patiently. Finally,
I grabbed the magazine from him and said, “So help me God, Carter,
if you tell me one more thing about the Mall of America, we will
never go there. I swear it.”
He didn’t respond. Only took back the magazine and started to read
again. I started to read too.
“There are over three hundred stores there. Isn’t that something?”
“That’s it. We’re never going,” I muttered.
“Oh, we’ll go,” he argued with a laugh.
“No way. I swear it. I will never set foot in the
Mall of America.”
“I’ll get you there someday.”
“Fat chance,” I said. And I kept my vow for years.
Until today. We park and head inside. All I can say about the
Mall of America is that
it’s big. Carter was a
disappointed I think. I’m not sure what he was expecting. At the end
of the day… it’s still just a mall. A HUGE mall with rollercoasters
and things of that nature, but still just a mall. Of course, I have
no doubt I’m biased and am completely determined not to be impressed
by the place.
The kids immediately ask if they can
go to the amusement part that is smack dab in the middle of the
I smile indulgently. “Of course not,” I say and continue to walk on.
After a few cell phone calls we finally make it to the correct food
court on the correct side of the mall. And there I see Julie. We eat
and talk and shop and talk and walk and talk and play with her baby
and talk. We try to fit so much into the few hours we spend there.
The girls and Carter are happy to be out of the car and running
around. I’m just happy to see my friend. After picking up a new cd
player and a book for me, it’s time to go. We’ve had a three hour
break. It’s time to drive again. Sadly, we say our goodbyes.
Carter drives after we leave. We’ve been keeping track of the hours
each of us drives and so far, I’m winning. He’s trying to make up
some time. We’ve been driving forever it seems. We’ve been awake
longer. As we follow route twelve into South Dakota, things are
getting kind of fuzzy.
But in a very pretty way.
The sky is huge as always. We can see storm clouds gathering in the
distance but it’s far, far away from us.
When I take over driving again, I ask the girls, “Have you ever seen
a sky like that? It’s so beautiful. We don’t have skies like that in
Olivia frowns. “We have sky in Pennsylvania.”
“Yes, but you can’t see so much of it. Look at it over the prairie.”
Emma pipes up. “Of course you can’t see this much sky,” she says.
“We have these things called houses.”
“And people,” Olivia adds.
“Hills,” Emma puts in. “We have hills.”
“And trees,” Olivia says. “Trees block the sky.”
“Okay, okay,” I say. “Isn’t it time for a nap?”
A nap isn’t happening but they stop being smartasses for a few
“Hmm,” I say as rain starts to hit the windshield. Guess the storm
clouds aren’t so far away. “That’s a weird looking cloud there in
Carter looks up and frowns. “That does look kind of funny, doesn’t
“It’s probably just rain. It’s just falling hard there.”
“Yeah,” Carter says, but he keeps his eye on it.
After a few more minutes, I ask, “Okay. Is that a funnel cloud?
Because from here it looks like one.”
“No,” Carter says. “No. I don’t think so.”
“Think? You don’t think so? Should I maybe not be driving in that
“No, it’s okay. It’s not a funnel cloud. I think.”
“What if it is?” I ask. “What if a tornado comes right toward us?”
The word tornado has the girls perking up fast. “Is that a tornado?
What do we do?”
I frown. “What do we do? We should have a plan. I know you’re mother
always tells us, but what is it?”
don’t know.” Carter looks at me a little frantically. “Go in a ditch
I think. I don’t know. She didn’t give us that warning this time. It
was all about watching out for the bikers from Sturgis.”
“We’ve seen three motorcycles the entire trip. And two of them were
parked. What do we do if a twister hits us?”
“A ditch,” he says again. “I’m pretty sure it’s a ditch.”
I look up again. “Oh.” The sky’s clearing up a bit. “Where’d it go?”
Carter looks up too. “Guess it wasn’t a tornado.”
The kids sit back, deflated and clearly disappointed.
The sun shines on the yellow grass all around us. The blue sky is
now filled with white puffy clouds and not one of them is shaped
like a funnel. We pass farms. We head through different little
towns. A few times we pass fields filled with bright yellow
sunflowers. And finally with Van Morrison telling us we were born
before the wind we head into Mobridge, into Carter’s hometown.
We did it again. We made it in little over a day. We are exhausted
but happy to know our travels are over for a week. We unload what we
need from a minivan that somehow got really messy on the way out. My
efficiency and organization obviously took a side trip to Chicago
and hasn’t caught up with us. We see Carter’s parents, his
grandparents, his sister and her family. And then finally we go to
“We made it,” Carter whispers when we lay down.
I sigh and stretch out. “We made it.”
Right before I reach a comfortable level of unconsciousness, I hear
Carter say, “And you got to go to the
Mall of America.”
He’s never going to let me forget that.
“I did,” I say and with one final yawn, I add, “And I drove two
hours more than you.”
To be continued…
Are We There Yet? 2005, 9/03/05
Part 4 of 7 - Jeepers
Last year on our trip, we spent a lot
of time seeing what was to be seen in the town of Mobridge. We
visited, we shopped, we toured. This year, we’re not doing any of
that. Or not so much anyway. We decide to focus on family and, as
Emma would tell you, horses. Family and horses. That’s our goal.
Carter and I spend a lot of time with his grandparents. Both of them
are in their eighties and we watch them all
talking, arguing, laughing. They have a little tiff about what to
serve the jelly in, “Carl, why would you serve it in the jar? I have
a bowl for that.” To which Carl responds, “Marie, they’re from
Pennsylvania. They’re barely civilized. They don’t mind jelly in the
jar.” And a bigger tiff over bugs. “Carl, that hole in the screen is
letting all those little bugs in.” To which Carl responds, “Jeepers
Marie, (they both say ‘Jeepers’ a lot) those bugs have all of
Walworth County to fly free. Why would they choose to come through
that little hole in the screen? Let’s be reasonable.”
We play cards with them almost every night. Carl puts two pillows on
Marie’s chair so she’s high enough to reach the cards. Marie beats
us all soundly at Gin, but it’s hard to begrudge her when she’s also
shoving her delicious cookies on us all night. They both make fun of
me when I make a mistake that costs me the game and I let out a word
slightly more shocking than Jeepers! Carter and I laugh when they
tell us that after sixty four years of marriage they’ve finally
decided to be friends. And we listen when they tell us stories and
show us pictures from their past.
I get a little misty during our last night of cards when Carl says,
“Tomorrow night we’ll look at the clock and think, ‘If they were
here, we’d all be here playing.’”
We spend a lot of time during the week with Carter’s dad and his
horses. The girls fall in love. Carter’s dad teaches them while
letting them have fun. I see patience and care and a whole bunch of
indulgence. Emma is the first person to ever sit on one of the
horses. And when she finally rides it, she’s in heaven. Carter
mutters over and over, “Don’t get any ideas.” Emma’s confidence
blooms before our eyes. All the girls feed and brush their horses.
Even little Julia hauls hay for her horse. She calls her Honey Bun
one day and Ladybug the next. And when we set her on a horse, our
fearless one throws her arm up and yells, “Yee Haw!” And then
there's Olivia, so scared to get on a horse but unwilling to be the
only one who doesn’t try. When she finally gets on, she clings to
Carter’s hand for protection.
Our last day there, Emma hugs her horse and whispers goodbye. The
horse lowers her head as if to hug her back and I look at Carter.
see you’re getting ideas,” he says. “You should stop.”
He obviously has a heart of stone.
We also spend a lot of time with our ten year old niece. We asked
(begged) her to stay for the week to help with the kids. She agreed
without reservation (we paid her). She is wonderful. She takes the
girls to the playground, to the park, the pool. She rides bikes with
Emma, colors with Olivia and takes Julia for walks in a stroller.
She is priceless.
On my birthday, we all go out to the farm. The girls investigate the
old homestead and Emma decides she has to write a book about this
place. She sees skeletons that aren’t there. She finds intrigue in a
spoon left on the front step. She goes into the barn that is about
to fall over. When we object, fearing for her safety, she
us it’s research and it has to be done. So we let her.
When Olivia actually finds a skeleton (small animal, not human),
they are in ecstasy.
Later that day, Carter’s mother takes the girls to the pool and
Carter and his dad head out to a pasture where they need to do some
work. I tag along and sit in a tree with a pen and a notebook. I
listen to the sounds of the wind making the old, grey trees groan. I
love that I can’t hear a car or a radio or anything other than that
wind and the buzzing of the locusts or the zip of the little red
dragonflies dashing all around.
I have to tell you one of the best things about this vacation and
having a ten year old nanny is the time Carter and I get to spend by
ourselves. We take walks together, we go through old letters and
pictures found from the late 1800s, we watch shooting stars on a
late night walk all without interruption. We hang out laundry to dry
and all the while we talk, we argue, we laugh. It all reminds me how
thankful I am to know that he’ll be the one who one day will put
pillows on a seat so I can reach the cards. And is it any wonder
then that when he kisses me behind the wet shirts we’ve just hung,
the only word that passes through my mind is… Jeepers!
The week passes by and Friday morning arrives. We are packed up and
ready to go. We wake the kids and make our sleepy goodbyes. It’s
time to get back in the car. It’s time to go home.
We always look to the ride home with trepidation. First, because we
take two days to drive home instead of one. An all-nighter is
impossible after a week away. Second, because we know the chances of
our children being asleep for ten of our traveling hours are nil.
There are bound to be meltdowns. We can only hope, as we always do,
that the children are the only ones having them.
To be continued…
Are We There Yet? 2005, 9/03/05
Part 5 of 7 - The Round Bale of...HEY!
The drive home begins early Friday
morning. We get the kids up, throw some clothes on them, say our
goodbyes and are on our way by 7:30. We decline Carter’s mom’s offer
of breakfast, preferring to get something in a couple of hours along
This will prove to be a mistake in judgment. But our hindsight is
always good. At the time, our foresight was still sleepy.
We tell the girls to go to sleep once we’re in the car.
don’t. But I don’t mind. My mind… my eyes are drawn to the scenery.
You see, I have this love affair with the round bale of hay. I don’t
know why. I’ve seen them up close. There’s really nothing
fascinating about them, but every time we pass a field filled with
these round bales, I beg Carter to stop the car so I can take a
picture. He does a few times and then he tells me to get over the
So we drive on past beautiful fields of gold. Every once in a while
we pass through a small town. And every time, I make sure the doors
are locked. Really small towns freak me out. Mobridge has just under
4000 people and, though it’s considered one of the larger towns
around out there, even that gives me the willies sometimes. When we
reach the towns that are well kept and idyllic and have less than
1000 residents, well, I’m scared to death.
since I read The Lottery by Shirley Jackson years and years ago,
I’ve had a fear of the very small town with their
traditions that might or might not include stoning someone to death
once a year. You never know. Frankly, I’d rather not take part in
something like that. So as we drive through one small town, then
another, my eyes scan each neat town square for a pile of rocks. I
see none. I also see no restaurants.
About two hours have passed. The girls are getting hungry. I quiet
them with animal crackers. When Emma eats one and passes the rest to
her sisters. I frown and study her a moment.
“Hey! You okay?” I ask.
She nods, but I can see the dark circles under her eyes. She’s
trying to take a nap, but can’t get comfortable. This isn’t a good
“Do you want something to eat? I’ll get you something out of the
She shakes her head and closes her eyes.
“Uh oh,” I say to Carter. “Emma needs breakfast.”
“We’ll stop at the next town,” he says.
Which is a lovely thought, but we’re on reservation land now and the
towns are even further apart… and <gulp> smaller than the last few.
We’re in trouble.
“Hey! Hay!! More round bales,” I say, looking out the window. “Let’s
“No,” Carter says. Suddenly a sound comes from the backseat. Carter
frowns, “What’s that noise? Hey! What’s going on?”
Next comes the sound of high pitch screaming. I know what’s
happening before I turn around. Emma is throwing up and the other
two are grossing out over it. Unfortunately, we’ve been in this
position before. This is why we keep a bucket in the car at all
“Do you need some water, Emma?” I ask. I see Olivia watching her
sister with wide eyes. Olivia is the biggest sympathy barfer you’ve
ever seen. “Olivia, don’t watch. We only have one bucket.”
Both Olivia and Julia turn away. As Emma had nothing in her stomach,
there isn’t all that much to gross out over anyway. Carter pulls
over and I rinse out the bucket. Okay, and I snap a few pictures as
well, but we were there. Shame to waste an opportunity.
Soon we are on our way again. We’re nearing the town of Chamberlain
and Carter assures me they have food.
“We used to play basketball against them,” he says.
I look out at the prairie. Then I
frown and look at the clock. “What do you mean you used to play
basketball against them? We’ve been in the car for almost three
He nods. “Yeah, one time it was so cold there was ice coating the
windows… on the inside.”
“What?” I’m completely incredulous. I knew they had to travel for
games, but this seems a little extreme. “But, this is really far.”
“I know. We used to get home at around three in the morning.” He
obviously sees there’s nothing strange about this.
I look at him and shake my head. It’s like he’s an alien sometimes.
“Hey! Windmills! Girls! Look at the windmills.” We are coming up on
rows and rows of them. It’s the Hyde County Wind Energy center. “Let
me take a picture!”
Carter pulls over. “And look, there are round bales on the ground.
No, don’t worry about your daughter starving to death in the back
seat. I’m sure she’ll have a pulse when we get to breakfast. Get the
I ignore his sarcasm and take a few pictures. “These are huge!”
“How do they work?” Emma asks, obviously rallying herself in support
of her mother.
“The wind spins them,” I say.
“But what do they do?”
Uh oh. “They make electricity.”
“How’s that happen?”
I look at Carter. He looks at me. “We should really get going to
breakfast,” I say quickly.
“It’s all about harnessing the wind and all that,” I add.
“And it becomes electricity?”
“Umm. It harnesses and then…” I look at Carter again. He shrugs. I
sigh. “I don’t know Emma. We’ll look it up at home.”
“There’s a dam in Chamberlain,” Carter puts in. “They harness the
“How do they do that?” she asks.
“You and Mommy can look that up at home too,” he says.
A short while later, we come upon Chamberlain. It’s a beautiful town
on a lovely lake. It looks quiet and well kept. I’m immediately
Until I spot a McDonalds.
Not that we’re eating there, we’ll find a diner, but just the fact
that they have a McDonalds comforts me in someway. There are no
villager sacrifices in towns with fast food. I’m sure of it. We head
to the Anchor Grille for breakfast. Emma steps out of the van and
throws up in the street. She’s shaking now. I can only imagine how
low her blood sugar is. We go inside and I take the girls to the
bathroom. Emma’s acting a little drunk now, so I get her out to the
table quickly. Bev, our waitress, immediately brings Emma some
juice. In a few minutes, she’s all better. She devours her
breakfast. We all do. It could be the fact that we’re eating so late
in the morning and we’re all starving, but this breakfast is,
without a doubt, the best breakfast I’ve ever had in my life. All
plates are clean within a half hour…
And we’re back in the car again.
The girls pass out once we’re on our way. In Chamberlain, we pick up
the interstate that will take us to Iowa. And though I know it will
get us home more quickly, I miss the open prairie, the sky without
billboards, even the freaky little towns. And, of course, the truly
wonderful round bales of hay.
To be continued...
Are We There Yet? 2005, 9/03/05
Part 6 of 7 - An Organized Trip
Not much happens on Friday after the
vomiting. Iowa rolls more than I thought it would. It’s downright
hilly at parts and very pretty. After a long day’s journey into
Davenport, we check into our hotel. We swim, we eat in the room
while watching cartoons, and we all quickly fall asleep. The next
morning we eat breakfast at the hotel. (Never let it be said that we
don’t learn from our mistakes.) Then we’re off.
I have to say, we’re pretty damn organized. I had packed a small bag
with all we’d need for the hotel so that’s all we had to carry in
and out. A few years ago while on this same trip we stopped at a
restaurant and I saw this family traveling in a mini van similar to
ours. We pulled in as they were packing up to leave. They had three
girls as well, though a little older than ours. They were all
dressed alike, wearing t-shirts proclaiming this to be their family
vacation. I imagine they tie dyed them themselves. When they opened
the door of their van, it was neat and clean and they all looked so
happy. When we opened the door to our van, parked right next to
theirs, things fell out. Videos, books, water bottles and Barbies
littered the pavement. And our children were not the happiest they’d
Now, of course, there is a part of me that thinks this family is
obviously really screwed up in some way that doesn’t show on the
surface. But there’s another part of me that wants the neat van,
that wants the organized back seat, the happy kids. There is no part
of me that wants the matching shirts, but the rest… the rest, I’ll
My apple kit was just the beginning for us and as we head into the
final day of our trip, things are looking good.
Carter and I find an eighties station and spend a good half
trying to one up each other on guessing the artists of all the one
hit wonders. He wins (and worries me) with the speed of his shouted,
“Mike and the Mechanics!”
We lose the station and after letting the kids watch another movie,
we head to the cd collection. It’s late in the morning and I’m
driving. I put in a cd I made for the trip. I lovingly call it My
Girlie CD. Carter groans. I’ve made some good music mixes for this
trip, he tells me, and this is not one of them. It
obvious and filled us with pride that our children could belt out
Green Day lyrics as well as they could Kelly Clarkson’s. Still not
sure they should be on the same cd but the girls picked the order of
But this one… this one is all slow and soothing and… girlie. And
Carter hates it. I tried to play it on the drive out but Carter
suddenly needed to charge his phone then. But
I’m driving and as Alanis Morrisette starts singing, Uninvited,
Carter looks ready to stick an ice pick in his ears.
I ignore him and sing along.
The girls are coloring or doing workbooks in the back seat.
Suddenly, I hear Emma say, “No, Julia. You’re not coloring that the
right way. You’re mixing up too many colors. The markers will get
Julia doesn’t take this very well. In her silence, we sense her
sadness. There will be tears soon. Since I’m driving, Carter’s on
kid duty. He turns around to see what’s going on. I’m looking in the
rearview mirror, because, really, seeing Julia work up to a good cry
is something you don’t want to miss. It takes about five minutes
before any whimper can be heard. First her eyes get big. Her mouth
closes and stretches across her face in a straight line. Then her
eyes fill but she holds the tears back as long as she can. Her mouth
opens then, wide, but still she makes no sound. Her distress is so
great that words fail her. And then, as we all watch in fascination,
she lets two fat tears fall and a sob escapes.
“That was good one,” Carter says. “You missed it.”
“I saw most of it in the mirror.”
“Daddy,” Emma says. “I didn’t mean to hurt her feelings. I was just
trying to help her.”
“I know, Emma,” Carter says. “It’s not your fault. I blame the cd
your mother’s listening too. I’m about to cry myself.”
starts laughing. Even Julia who was in the throes of self pity
manages a snicker. But they don’t bother me. Nothing is bothering me
today. I take a sip of my Coke and say, “Oooh… Joni Mitchell.”
I turn up the stereo and drive on. Nothing is going to ruin my day.
A short while later, we’re completely stopped in traffic.
Not just a slow moving traffic. Like last year, this is ‘get out of
your car and have a visit’ traffic. There are hundreds of cars
stopped ahead of us. And hundreds now behind us. We turn off the car
and get out. Some kids up ahead are playing with a basketball.
Everyone gets drinks and snacks.
“It’s so hot out here,” Emma complains.
“It’s not a big deal, Emma,” I say. “Just consider it a break.”
“Why are we stopped?” Olivia asks.
“Probably an accident,” Carter says looking up ahead. A man walks up
and starts talking to him.
The kids along the line of cars get all the trucks across the way to
blow their horns at us. When an ambulance goes flying by, leaving
whatever is stopping us, the line of people gets quiet.
“Was someone hurt?” Emma asks.
“I think so,” I say.
I know so when, twenty minutes later, we pass the remains of a small
car. Flipped, shattered, and smashed.
Thank God we were the ones stopped in traffic.
It’s early afternoon when we approach Indianapolis. Carter is
“I have to go potty,” Julia says as she squirms around in her seat.
“Can you hold it?” I ask. “We’re going to stop for lunch after we’re
through the city.”
She nods, but I’m not convinced she’s telling the truth.
“She’s going to pee in her pants,” Olivia says.
“No, she won’t,” I say. “She’s a big girl.” Then I mutter to Carter,
“There should be a place soon,” he says.
Suddenly I sit up in my seat. “Jeepers! Is that what I think it is?”
“Do you think it’s the RCA Dome?”
“Yes!” I laugh.
“Then it is what you think it is.”
“Girls, look!! That’s where our Colts play!! That’s where Peyton
records. Let’s all take a moment and pray for a good season, okay?”
“Mommy, I think Julia really has to pee,” Emma says.
I tear my eyes from the glistening dome and turn to see Julia
squirming again. “Hmm. Don’t think about it,” I say. “Girls,
And then something amazing happens. Suddenly Emma and Olivia are
overtaken by the spirits of Abbott and Costello.
“Let’s sing the alphabet song,” Emma says.
“Okay,” says Olivia.
“Only don’t say you know what.”
Olivia starts. “ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOP…”
“Aaaargggh!” Emma shouts. “You said it.”
“The letter you’re not supposed to say.”
“What letter? ABCDEFGHIJKLMNO…”
“Stop!! Don’t say it,” Emma pleads.
“Say what? I was at the letter P.”
“Don’t you understand, Olivia? If you say ‘P’, Julia is going to
think about having to pee and that’s not distracting her.”
“It’s just a letter.”
I see Julia looking distressed. “Girls,” I warn.
“Try this, “ Emma says. “ABCDEFGHIJKLMNO… hmm… QRSTU…”
“You forgot to say ‘P”,” Olivia tells her.
“Ohmigosh, Julia is going to pee because you keep saying the letter
‘P’ and so it’ll be all your fault.”
“But it’s just the letter ‘P’,” Olivia shouts.
“GIRLS!” I snap as I turn on them. “If one more person in this car
says any form of ‘P’, you’re all in trouble.” I look at Julia. “I
expect you to hold it until we can stop. You’re a big enough girl to
handle this. Understand?”
She nods again, looking determined. Then her determination flees and
she looks scared. “Oh, Mommy!”
“Jesus! Step on it, Carter,” I yell.
He flies off the next exit and we find a restaurant. We haul
everyone out of the car and are momentarily stunned by the hot, wet
air that surrounds us. Olivia’s hair automatically curls a bit more.
Emma only has a second to complain before we pull them all into the
restaurant and back to the ladies room. Julia held it. I’m
completely surprised by that.
I’m even more surprised when the waitress brings their drinks and
they all say thank you without me giving them meaningful looks or
nudging them under the table. I look at Carter and he shrugs and
shakes his head. It’s truly amazing.
My children… my beautiful, wonderful, fabulous children have been
great on this trip. As we eat lunch, I feel myself relax. We’re
getting closer to home.
We’ve been through tears, traffic and bathroom emergencies and it’s
all been handled beautifully. I’m feeling a bit like the matching
What could go wrong?
To be continued…
Are We There Yet? 2005, 9/03/05
Part 7 of 7 - Family Vacation
my God. This is the longest trip in history. Why did we take this
route? Why? Why do we insist on driving? Why don’t we fly anymore?
We’re never going to get home. Never.
Ahhh, here we are… mid afternoon on the second day of travel. This
is always the worst part of the trip. We’re close to home and yet,
still so far. It’s become obvious that this was a longer route to
take, God knows when we’ll finally make it home and… it’s my turn to
I haven’t been driving all that much today and I know
tired. The problem is that I am too. So I grab the necessities to
help me along. Spree and Coke. It’s my life blood. And, just to be
safe, I grab some more candy.
Some people think because I’m so fundamentally opposed to Chewy
Spree that I dislike all chewy candy. This couldn’t be further from
the truth. I like chewy stuff. In particular, I like red fishies
(tiny Swedish fish) and Bit O’Honey. I don’t know why. I’m neither
Swedish nor Irish, but I love them both dearly and I have them both
on hand for this trip.
put in a slow-ish cd and hope everyone goes to sleep. And they all
do for a short time. I’m really tired. I consider putting in Moulin
Rouge and singing a few with Ewan, but I know it would wake Carter
up and he should sleep. I should sleep, but instead I pop Spree like
it was, well… candy.
I’m eating fishies and bit o’honey and drinking Coke like mad. And
after a bit, I’m feeling better. All better, in fact. I’m not tired
anymore. I could drive on and on and… I need faster music.
Just in time, the kids and Carter wake up and I throw some Blink-182
into the player. I turn it up and I’m pounding the steering wheel,
singing along. Every time Carter tries to turn it down, I turn it
“Do you want me to drive?” he says as he turns it down one more
“No,” I say, turning it up. “I’m good.” And don’t interrupt, I add
silently. I’m singing!
“Really?” he asks. “You still okay with candy and Coke?”
I turn to him. “What do you mean? Of course I’m okay. This is my…
it’s my method.” I look to the road again. It’s starting to rain. I
slap on the wipers.
“I know it’s your method.” Carter’s voice takes on the tone of a
medical professional talking to a crazy person. “You’re just a
I jerk around to face him again. “Jerky? I’m not jerky. You’re
“I think you might be on a bit of a sugar high. Maybe we should
“Mommy, I have to pee,” Emma says.
“But I’m doing fine. I’m not tired,” I say with a bit of a whine.
“She has to use the bathroom,” Carter says, firmly. “Let’s pull off,
get gas and switch.”
“Fine!” I pout.
I pull into the nearest station. Carter gets out and starts pumping
“Get your shoes on, Emma.”
“I can’t find one.”
“What do you mean you can’t… what the hell happened back here?”
The back seat is wrecked. There are papers everywhere. Crayons,
markers, books, freaking Polly Pockets.
“We were just playing.”
“Playing? Playing? No wonder you can’t find your shoe.”
“What’s the hold up?” asks Carter.
“Emma can’t find her shoe,” I snap.
“It’s lost,” she says.
“It’s not lost!” I shout. “If things were put away instead of lying
all over the place, you’d know where your shoe is.”
“Well, I’m going in,” Carter says.
“Just wait. Take her.” I say as I throw things around looking for
I look at him. “Yes, you! You can take her into the bathroom once.
Just wait for her.”
“I have to go too,” says Olivia.
“You should take them.” He’s sounding desperate.
“I don’t have to go!” I look at Julia. “And neither does Julia.
Someone has to wait here with her.”
Julia looks at me and I see that my tiny three year old understands.
“No, no potty.”
“See? I’ll stay with her. You can take them both… here it is!” I
pull up Emma’s shoe and hand it to her. They hurry out of the car
and Carter angrily takes them to the bathroom.
Minutes pass. I look at Julia.
I close my eyes. “Don’t say it.”
“I have to go potty.”
“You have to go potty?” My voice is shaking now.
“Fine!” I snap. “Let’s go potty.”
I shove her tiny feet into her sandals and pull her into the
convenience store. I hear the girls talking. I try the ladies room.
It’s locked. Hmm. Their voices aren’t there. They’re coming from
“You took them to the men’s room?” I ask Carter as Olivia lets me
“It’s just us and the other one was locked. They couldn’t go in.”
“Well, looks like we’re all going now.” I say.
“There’s no toilet paper,” Emma says. “We’re supposed to drip dry.
Daddy says it’s easy.”
“Easy for Daddy to say,” I mutter.
Carter leaves with Emma and pays for the gas. I’m in the bathroom
with Olivia and Julia. I set Julia on the toilet.
“Julia? What’s that?”
“You’re butt. It’s blue!” I look at her pants. Her underwear. It’s
all blue in the back. “Were you sitting on a marker?”
Olivia pipes up. “We were playing with them and…”
“I told you to keep the caps on them. I don’t think this is washable
ink. Your clothes are ruined!” I tell Julia.
And Julia makes an error that all
children make sooner or later… she laughs at her mother.
“THAT’S IT!” I cry.
I throw soap and water on their hands and make them wipe it on their
shirts. I grab their still wet hands and pull them through the
Carter and Emma are ready to go. Olivia and Julia get into their
seats and they all watch, fascinated, as I have a complete meltdown.
“I’m never letting you use markers again! Look at this mess! This is
ridiculous! There’s paper everywhere, dolls, crayons! Look at this,”
I hold up a piece of ripped paper. “Why didn’t you throw this away?”
“We don’t have a…” Emma begins but stops when I pin her with a look.
I start picking up markers and throwing them in the box. “If you
can’t take care of things, I’ll just throw them away. Do you want
Emma starts crying.
My voice is shrill and some small part of my brain is telling me
that I’m being a complete cow of a mother especially since on a day
to day basis I’m sloppier than they are. But I wanted the car to be
organized. I wanted to be the happy family. And now it’s ruined.
I go on and on. Yelling, tossing things around until the floor is
clean and clear of debris. When I hear Carter smother a laugh, I
think I’m going to kill someone.
I slam into the car. “What’s so funny?”
“Did you see that girl?”
“What girl?” I look around but see no one.
“She left, but she heard your tirade when she went into the store
and heard more of it when she came out.”
I’m looking around frantically now. “Where is she?”
“She’s gone. She was a chippy. Early twenties, cute, driving a
truck. She smiled at me.”
“Not that kind of smile. She heard you yelling, saw you throwing
things around like a crazy woman and smiled at me… in pity. I could
almost here her think, ‘You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.’”
I look at him for a few minutes. He’s laughing like a loon. I think
I’m going to cry. Is there anything worse than having a stranger… a
cute stranger… witness you losing your mind? “Great,” I mutter.
“Don’t worry about it,” he says, patting my shoulder. “Someday
she’ll be in a mini van crashing from a sugar high and freaking out
on her kids.”
“She’s Christie Brinkley,” I say miserably.
“She’s Christie Brinkley and you’re Chevy Chase. Like the movie.
She’s the girl you can look at and think about while you’re stuck in
the car with your wife and kids. I’m Beverly D’Angelo. All we need
is Lindsay Buckingham singing and it would be the same thing.”
“Lindsay Buckingham? I’m impressed.”
“Shut up. I’m going to sleep.”
And I do. I sleep for a while. Around eight o’clock we stop for
dinner. I feel sick from all the candy I sucked down earlier and
also from the guilt I’m feeling for completely melting down on the
kids. When we get inside, Carter gives the girls a meaningful look
and nods in my direction. The three of them all press big hugs on me
with their little arms and finally, I smile. I tell them all that I
am, in fact, very proud of them and they’ve been great on this trip…
if your looking at the whole picture.
By the time we get back in the car, I’m feeling better. It’s nine
o’clock now. Carter is still driving. He definitely has more hours
in on this trip. I tell the girls to go to sleep but they’re busy
looking out the windows. There’s a fantastic lightning display we’ve
been following for quite some time. As it gets darker and darker,
we’re more and more impressed.
Finally, the girls are asleep and I let out a deep breath. We’re
still about four hours from home and right now it seems like
forever, but I’m calm now, relaxed. I put on Norah Jones and sit
“The lightning remind you of something?” Carter asks.
I smile and remember watching a lightning storm as we drove through
New Mexico on our way from Las Vegas to meet my family at the beach
in North Carolina. We were engaged. Carter had just graduated from
college and after a week at the beach, we were going to settle down
Pennsylvania. We had everything we owned loaded in the back seat of
his old Volkswagon Fox. It was so full that you couldn’t see out the
“That was a fun trip. Remember the back pack?”
“I hated that back pack,” he says.
“I know.” I laugh.
We’re both quiet for time.
Carter reaches for my hand. “A lot’s changed since then.”
I think about that for a bit. We both wear a ring now. We have a
mini van instead of a tiny stick shift I could barely drive. We have
a house that’s messy more than it’s not. We have a dog that jumps on
people. We have, I think as I turn around, sloppy kids who take
after their mother. I watch them for a minute, all peaceful and
“What are you thinking about?” Carter asks. He always asks me that.
“It’s pretty corny.”
“That’s okay,” he says.
I squeeze his hand. “I’m thinking things haven’t changed that much.”
“No.” I look out at the lightning. “It’s still you and me in a car
on a trip.” I nod back to the kids. “And everything that’s important
to us is packed in the back seat.”
He smiles then. “I guess you’re right.”
And we drive toward home, taking turns along the way and knowing
we’ll never fly to South Dakota. Because it doesn’t matter what the
car looks like, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to reach
your destination. It matters who’s with you for the drive.
The Magic I Have Left, 5/29/05
There is a storm brewing and not just
in the sky. My children were up too late last night. So was I. Our
moods are bad and that’s putting it mildly. We are grumpy and I know
soon after we wake up this morning that a nap will be needed… for
all of us.
Julia starts first. Everything she does today is a cause for tears.
Every word out of her mouth comes out in a piercing whine. There is
nothing we can do to please her. Nothing she can do to please
herself. Misery is her name.
Olivia is our quiet five year old. She often gets sleepy but doesn’t
let us know until the meltdown. I hope upon hope that the nap comes
before the meltdown.
And then there’s Emma. Our seven year old drama queen is at first
mad because she couldn’t swim at the neighbors and then, when she
can, is mad because she gets wet.
There is nothing I can do. Nothing I try to do to make it better.
And between the whining and the crying, my mood is turning as dark
as the clouds and moving in just as quickly. Finally, I snap and my
anger is as quick and sharp as lightning. The shouts are like
thunder… loud and scary. There is a rainfall of tears.
And I wonder why it always has to be like this. I wonder why a day
can’t go by without an argument, without someone fighting with
I do the only thing I can think of. I announce to one and all that
it’s nap time.
Olivia stays outside with Carter. She is still silently sleepy and
is spared from my temper. Emma and Julia are sent to the house. I
head in with them and try to find some calm. I take Julia up to my
bed. I tell her we’ll lie down and watch the rain come in and I
secretly hope she’ll fall asleep. Emma comes in and asks if she can
watch tv downstairs.
She looks miserable. I suddenly feel sorry for her. She’s incredibly
sensitive. She’s a lot like me and so many times we end up screaming
at each other instead of heading to our corners and cooling off. Now
I see the circles under her eyes; the sadness in them and instead of
turning on the tv, I ask her to join us in bed. Wouldn’t she like to
watch the rain coming in?
She doesn’t hesitate. She lies on the side of the bed right next to
our glass wall. Julia is next to her and I am behind Julia. We watch
and we wait for the rain to hit the leaves of the tree outside.
As the sky grows darker, Julia wraps
her hand in my hair and falls asleep. She’s only three and it never
takes long. Emma is quiet as she watches but I can tell she isn’t
asleep. She’s staring out the window and I wonder, as I often do,
just what she’s thinking about.
I untangle Julia’s hand and move between her and Emma. Wrapping my
arms around Emma from behind, I hold onto her. Something I never
seem to do anymore.
The first drops of rain hit the window and I see her cheeks move.
She is smiling.
“Emma,” I whisper. “What are you thinking right now?”
“The rain drops look like crystals on the window,” she whispers
I look up and see that she’s right. They do.
“Why do you always ask me what I’m thinking?” she asks quietly.
I think about that for a minute. But I already know the answer. “All
children have magic, but when they grow up, they lose some. So I ask
because every thought in your head, every word you say, every
feeling you have is magic to me. Even when we're mad."
She sighs. “Magic.”
“You help me remember the magic I used to have,” I whisper.
She yawns and whispers back, “I’m the magic you have left.”
I smile and kiss the top of her head. “Exactly.”
Soon Olivia comes in and lies down across my legs. She’s not one to
be left out and has decided a nap is just what she wants to do just
then. Julia turns over and grabs my hair again.
Soon, very soon, they are all asleep.
The thunder comes but it doesn’t wake them. One child’s hands are
tangled in my hair. One child is draped over my legs. One child is
cradled in my arms. They know they are safe. They are at peace,
because their mother is with them. And sometimes that’s all it
Soon I drift off, forgetting the storms of the past, the storms to
come, the storm pouring down outside.
Now I am safe. Now I am at peace because sometimes all it takes is
being surrounded by the magic I have left.
Showers of Happiness, 5/28/05
Part 1 of 4
My sister's baby shower was on
Sunday. It was at my house. The following are true events...
Friday 9am: My mom shows up to help clean my house. She did this
because though I am technically a 'housewife', I take the house part
to mean I get to stay in my house all day. Not I have to clean my
house all day.
Besides the general sloppiness of my place, there has also been
construction going on for the last nine months. My house is pretty
I clean a little. Pick up a little. Because I don't want my mom to
think I'm as bad as I really am. My mom is a clean freak. She does
laundry for fun. She is a mystery to me.
Anyway, she shows up, buckets and mops in hand, takes one look
around and says, "We should have had the shower at my house."
This was only the beginning. Those of you who heard from me at all
on Friday know that I was in my own personal hell. I was reprimanded
for never cleaning the underside of my dining room chairs. And I'm
not talking legs... I mean, flip the chair over and scrub under the
seat. HUH?? Who ever looks there, besides maybe the dog? And the
dog's not going to tell.
My neighbor comes over to see how I was doing. She's great. We chat
for a bit, my mom gives me a dirty look and I sadly say good bye.
hour later, another neighbor comes by, and not empty handed. She's
holding a Mike's Lemonade. She comes in and says, "What is that
noise?" I look up from the corner where I am scrubbing the floor and
say, "It's a vacuum." She gives me a quizzical look. If there is one
thing I love about this neighbor, it's the fact that she's messier
"Come on," she says. "We're drinking over there."
My mom turns off the vacuum and looks at my neighbor.
"You're welcome to come over," she says to my mom.
My mom gives her a false smile. "Oh thanks, but we've got a lot to
My neighbor looks at me. I look at my mother. Back to my neighbor.
"I can't," I say in a quivering voice. "I have to clean."
She holds up the Mike's. "Are you
I look back at my mother. She raises a brow. I nearly sob, "I'm
first floor is coming along. We scrub by hand. We scrub by mop. The
only incident is me getting Murphy's Oil Soap in my eye and being
partially blinded, but as my mother says, "There are hardly any
chemicals in Murphy's Oil Soap. Let's get to work."
And people wonder where my insensitive side comes from.
We continue cleaning until 7 in the evening. I make some excuses
every once in a while to hit the computer, so I can see my friends
emailing each other and having fun without me. More torture, until
they send the story they made up about CinderKirsten.
of my email excuses was to email Kelly's boyfriend about the plan to
get her to my house on Sunday. I email his instructions and he
writes back and tells us that Kelly was just put on complete bed
rest by the doctor.
My mom calls Kelly and gets the scoop. Her blood pressure is high
and she's not allowed to work anymore. There are still 4 weeks to go
and she's freaking out. My mom calms her down and asks if she'll
still be able to get to my house for 'dinner' on Sunday. Kelly says
she's not going to miss dinner. She'll lay on the couch if she has
to, but she'll be there.
My mom tells me this. We look at my couch.
"Maybe we should tell her about the shower," I say.
"The surprise might be too much," my mom says.
"But maybe she'd like the surprise," I say.
"It might cheer her up," she says.
It's decided. Still keeping it a surprise. Back to cleaning.
I have to say, my first floor has NEVER been so clean. I tell my mom
I'll take care of the rest on Saturday. She promises to stop by for
progress checks. Damn.
But I look around. The first floor of my house is sparkling. It
looks REALLY good.
I'm sure I can get the rest finished on Saturday. And I'm sure the
shower on Sunday will go off without a hitch.
I am so very, very wrong...
To be continued...
Showers of Happiness, 5/28/05
Part 2 of 4
Saturday goes well. I'm cranky from
cleaning, of course. Carter and I have been snarling at each other
for quite a few days now. He surprises me with a bracelet and
earrings. This has nothing to do with the story. This is just to let
you know that my affection can be bought. Thankfully, my darling
It brightens my mood, as does my neighbors coming down in the
evening and pulling me outside for drinks. Alcohol and jewelry... a
Anyway, Sunday morning I wake up and finish the cleaning I put off
from Saturday. I get the kids ready for Sunday school and they are
out the door. I've heard from my mom (who did NOT spot check on
Saturday) and she and my brother and sister-in-law are coming over
to start setting up. So... I QUICKLY clean up all the stuff that was
put off from before. I'm running around
crazy when I remember that I have nursery duty at the late church
service. I consider calling off sick, but realize my chances of
going to hell would go up really too far for my liking, so I decide
to go and keep the kids with me.
I shower quickly. And head to the church after the set up team
arrives at eleven. Once at church, I realize, it's confirmation
Sunday. The young girl watching the kids with me tells me it's going
to be a LOOOOONG service. Crap! I should've called in sick.
But I play with the kids and watch the clock. People are arriving at
two. It's about 11:30 now. At around twelve a mother comes down to
collect her twins. That leaves, my three kids and the daughter of a
friend of mine and the 6th grader who's helping me.
I look at the clock again.
Alyse (the sixth grader) says, "You can leave if you want. I have
red cross training."
"What?" I look at the clock again. Then back at Alyse. "You do? Are
we supposed to have that?"
She shrugs. "I got it for babysitting. I'll be fine here with
That's true. Actually, my being there is more of a nuisance since
most of the kids in attendance belong to me. And really, Amanda is
seven. And she's a good kid. And besides that, her mom is one of my
friends. She'll understand if I leave early.
But no, I shouldn't. The angel on my shoulder is yelling at me about
responsibility and this is church. I can't just walk out on a church
Then Emma says, "What did we get Aunt Kelly?"
"Huh?" I ask, still looking at the clock.
"Didn't we get her a gift?" she asks.
My gaze turns to Emma's quickly. I
stare at her for thirty
Then I look at the clock. Then at Alyse.
"I think you'll do just fine without us here to make a big mess,
don't you?" I say as I jump up and gather the kids sandals. The
angel has just been beaten to death by the devil reminding me that I
didn't buy a gift for my sister.
"Umm, yeah. We'll be fine," Alyse says, as I gather up my children.
"Are we going home?" Olivia asks.
"Yes," I say. "After we hit Babies R'Us."
I RUN out of the church. It's a little after noon.
We head to Babies R'Us. We walk the entire store because my kids
want to each get her something special. Finally they each pick
something and we get home.
I get into the house. My brother, Kevin and his girlfriend are there
setting things up. Kory is washing windows. Carter is scrubbing
stairs. Chairs have been set up. My mom and Alynda (my sister in
law) are off picking up all the food and the cake.
It's a little after one. People are showing up at two. Kelly's
getting here at two-thirty. Plenty of time. I start wrapping the
presents the kids and I bought Kelly when the phone rings.
I check the caller id. It's Kelly.
I've been avoiding speaking with her all week. I haven't even
emailed her. You know why?
Because I can't keep a secret. Everyone in my family knows I'm the
worst. So, in an effort to make this shower a surprise, I've just
been 'too busy' to get back to her. She mentioned something to my
mom about it, and my mom just covered and said I've been running
around a lot with the kids.
But now... I had to answer. I take a deep breath. I can do this. I
take the phone outside so she can't hear the other people in the
I can't hear anything. Just someone crying on the other end.
"My water just broke!!"
To be continued...
Showers of Happiness, 5/28/05
Part 3 of 4
"My water broke!!" she cries.
"Okay!" I say. "It's okay!" Just so you know, this is my typical
response to crisis. I keep saying "it's okay" over and over in an
attempt to convince myself and others that it is, in fact, okay.
"It's too early!" She's really crying now.
"It's okay!" <--see?
"He's on his way home now."
"Okay, I'll talk to you until he gets there."
"I couldn't get ahold of Mom."
"I'll find her," I say. "It's okay. You're having your baby."
"A month early." She's hysterical now.
"It's okay. It'll be okay."
"Okay," she says. Clearly she's had enough of my clever pep talk. "I
have to get dressed. The doctor said we're supposed to go right to
"Okay," I say. "It'll be fine." (I changed it up a little there.)
I hang up and turn to see my family at the back door all looking at
me with wide eyes.
"This is what comes from me cleaning my house!" I say as I run in to
call my mom.
Mom is FREAKING out when I tell her. Her reponse is something like
"She what? Oh my God. I should go to the hospital. Oh no. We just
bought all the food. What are we going to do with this food? I
should go to the hospital. But what are we going to do with this
cake? I should go to the hospital."
"Should I start calling people?" I ask.
She pauses and says, "Let me get back to you."
She and Alynda show up some time later with all the food.
"We're not cancelling," my mom declares. "Someone is eating this
food. We'll just have the party without Kelly. Things are moving
slowly at the hospital. We'll just tell everyone when they get
Patrycja, Kevin's girlfriend, is making the 'Guess the baby's
arrival' board. "You know what would be funny? Let's not tell anyone
she's not coming until they're all here waiting."
"Oooh, that's a good idea." my mom says. "We'll surprise them
instead of Kelly."
Another surprise?? Great. I decide I'll keep myself busy before the
announcement. That way I won't spill the beans.
The first guest arrives. My cousin. I quickly look for something to
do. There is nothing to do. Everyone else has scattered and are busy
doing all the other things. I have nothing to do but host... and
"So does Kelly have any idea?" she
"Hmm? Umm, no." I say. That's a lie. My mom told Kelly on the phone.
"How's Kelly getting here?"
"Hmm? Umm, oh... Harry. Harry's bringing her." I'm starting to sweat
I look to the others for help. They have abandoned me.
Other people show up and I continue the sham. This was a bad idea. A
very bad idea.
Finally, I escape and head to the kitchen where my brother, Kory, is
wiping a counter or something equally unnecessary.
"What's wrong?" he asks.
"I'm a terrible liar. I think Aunt Sue thinks I'm on drugs, since I
keep blabbering about nothing and losing my train of thought."
"Well, you're the hostess," he says with a smile.
Finally, my cousin, Missy, shows up. She's the last one to show.
She's my age. We spent a lot of time together as kids and within two
minutes, she knows something's up.
She catches my eye and says loudly, "So... I was upstairs with the
girls. Kelly's in the hospital?"
The girls!! I forgot about them. They're so excited. Of course they
told. I look at Missy. I look at my aunts. Everyone has gotten
"Well... I... ummm..." I swallow. Oh God. Is everyone here? Kevin
(also my architect) is giving tours of the new addition. I know not
everyone is in the room. But what can I do?
she..." I look again at everyone staring at me. "She is!" I cry.
"She's having her baby now. It was too late to cancel. She's missing
her shower and well... there's so very much shrimp here... we just
didn't know what..."
mom comes racing into the room. "Cat's out of the bag, I see?"
"I blame the children," I say.
My mom explains. Word spreads through the house and everyone is
shocked and excited. And surprisingly, no one is mad at me for lying
to them for the past thirty minutes.
So we eat, drink and are very merry. All gets quiet whenever there's
a call from Harry. But things are still moving slowly there.
Finally everyone leaves and we all sit down and look at each other.
Now, we decide, now it's time to have a baby...
To be continued...
Showers of Happiness, 5/28/05
Part 4 of 4
We decide to go into the hospital in
shifts. First is me and Iliana. Iliana is Kevin's ex-girlfriend.
She's still around for the big things as she was part of our family
for a long time. Luckily Kevin and, more importantly, Patrycja, are
okay with this.
Emma makes a card for Kelly. She drew a picture of Kelly holding a
baby and above she wrote, "If you are worried, it's okay." She's the
take a few presents and head in. Harry has just left to go pack up
some things from home. Kelly is a few hours into Pitocin-ville and
is not happy about it. Her contractions are coming fast and furious,
but she's not progressing. I keep telling her to relax. I remind her
to breathe, but it's not helping.
I avoid mentioning the
because she's got a terrible fear of needles. Even the IV she has is
making her sick. So I don't say a word, though secretly I'm
screaming... "Get it!! Get it!!"
I know what I'm talking about in this case. I had my first two kids
naturally. Not a epidural in sight. First one was because I was
natural Earth mother and had something to prove I guess. Second
there was no time for an IV let alone drugs of any sort. With my
third, I got it. I was in so much pain I was levitating and realized
something needed to be done.
It was the best decision I ever made in my life. I'm now an epidural
advocate and really think they should be mandatory. But that's just
The doctor comes in to check Kelly. He's really nice. Her nurse is
cool. Another nurse comes in and I remember she was my nurse when
Emma was born. Everyone is really great.
However, Kelly is only 2 cm. along. The doctor asks Kelly how she
feels about epidurals. I get ready to hear her loud negative
response and am shocked when she says, "Well, I expected to say no
to the epidural. But I didn't expect this pain."
Things are a go for the epidural. I can see she's scared but I tell
her I think she made the right choice. We help her through the next
few contractions and the drug doctor shows up. So does Harry. Iliana
and I leave and wait outside the door.
I hear Kelly crying and hope she's okay. I hope she made the right
decision. I know the epidural doesn't work for everyone and I HOPE
it works for her. We hear every thing that's going on. We hear Kelly
crying, then moaning, then all is quiet.
Then after a few seconds of quiet, as we are both holding our
breath, we hear Kelly say...
"Oh, I like this medicine."
We breath sighs of relief and go back in. The rest of the family
shows up and in no time she's at 5 cm. Iliana and I leave. I get
home and hang out with the neighbors for a bit. We call the kids in
and get everyone ready for bed.
It's nine o'clock now. Kids are on my bed, teeth brushed, pajamas
on, book in hand, when the phone rings. It's Kevin.
"It's go time!"
"She's at 10. She's pushing. It's go time."
"Oh my God!! Already?"
We get disconnected.
The kids start screaming. "Can we go? Can we go?"
I look at Carter. "It's a school night."
He looks at me. "Yeah, but when is this gonna' happen again?"
I sigh and look at the girls. "You MUST be good. You MUST be quiet.
And if there's any change in that behavior, you won't see this baby
until she's walking."
They nod dutifully. We get them
dressed and head out.
get to the hospital and wait in the waiting room. The kids are in
heaven because there's a tv and a vending machine. They are quiet
and good. I'm amazed. So is everyone else.
Kory and Alynda, sadly, had to leave earlier. They had the long trek
back to Virginia. But Kevin and Patrycja only have to go to Philly.
They're going to stay.
"This has been the strangest day," I say.
My mom laughs a little. "It's been a strange year, if you think
And we all think of my dad and wonder if he's watching.
At 10:15, we're trying to decide if we should go home or not, when
Harry comes out and tells us to come and meet the new baby. All is
She's 6lbs 12oz. 20 inches long. And the name we'll get from Kelly.
While we've known all along that it was a girl, the name was kept a
secret. Kelly did tell my dad the name before he died, but he took
it to the grave. And before you wonder... yes, I did ask him to tell
me before he went. I'm curious, like that.
Anyway, we walk down to the room. The
girls are good and quiet. And then we see them.
Kelly and a tiny baby wrapped like a hoagie. Kelly looks at us with
a dazed kind of look and says, "This is Miranda Grace."
And she's just beautiful. The girls are in love. We all are. She
cries a little and we laugh. You forget that newborn cry and it
makes me weepy to remember when I was in the bed holding my little
ones. I hold her for a bit, then my mom takes over. We all ooh and
ahhh. And promise to come back tomorrow. Then we have to leave. It's
almost eleven and the girls have to get to bed.
You would think this is where the story ends, but it's not.
As we're walking by the nurses desk, Emma scratches her head and
says, "Mommy. I think I have a tick."
I stop, pull up her hair and say, "Well, you're right. Climbing
She grins sheepishly. But doesn't freak out. Carter looks over to
the desk where the nurses are gathered around. It's a slow night in
"I wonder if there's a nurse around who could help us," he says in a
They all rush over to see what's going on. They take charge. They
grap big tweezer like instruments and alcohol soaked pads and within
seconds, the tick is gone.
Emma is a trooper.
On the way out the questions begin.
Emma asks, "What did you mean when you said her water broke?"
"Umm, well, ahhh... there's this fluid in there with the baby."
"So the baby was drooling a lot?"
"Exactly," I say.
"And I'm so glad to know something now."
"What's that?" I ask.
"I now know that you can not buy babies in the store."
We all laugh and head home where I give my girls an extra hug
because they're still my babies and I forget sometimes.
And I pass out with Carter.
It's been a strange weekend. It's been a strange day. But at the end
of it all, we have a new life to celebrate. We have our lives to
Welcome Miranda Grace!
The End... and for Kelly and Harry and Miranda... the
Kindergarten and Cookies,
We had a meeting at our daughters’
school last night. Olivia, our five year old, will be starting there
in the fall. Emma is now in first grade there. Tonight’s meeting was
regarding the school’s decision to switch to all-day Kindergarten.
This is not meant to start a debate about the issue. I’m simply
retelling the events as Carter and I saw them.
I should start off by telling you that one of two things happen to
me whenever I find myself in a room full of serious people. One is
the cough. I get a tickle in my throat. I get desperate for a drink
of water. I try to suppress the cough, but it never works. It only
makes it worse.
The second thing is the hysterical and wholly inappropriate giggle.
I can’t help it. It happens at the worst times. I usually have to
leave the room to get myself under control. I wish it didn’t happen,
but in the wide world of problems… these are pretty minimal.
Unless, of course, I find myself in a room full of serious people.
As I did tonight.
Carter and I got to the school right at seven. The guidance
counselor greets us.
My eyes widen. “Yes.” She remembers me from when I was a mom who
dropped off and picked up her kids last year. Now I’m a mom who
sends her kids off with a kiss. I like being this mom better. This
mom gets to stay in her jammies longer.
Anyway, she hands me a packet. Carter and I head to the very back of
the room. The last row is the row for us. This allows for two
things. We get to see everyone. No one gets to see us. We’re like
spies or assassins that way.
should have grabbed some cookies?”
“Cookies? There are cookies?” My eyes light up. I mean, when you go
to these things you always hope there’ll be a snack… but cookies??
The meeting begins. A couple of people welcome us… blah, blah, blah.
And the power point begins. We follow along like good little
students, I mean… parents.
Carter looks at me. “Why are we here?” he whispers.
“Because if this had been for Emma, we would have come,” I hiss
Carter looks at his watch. “We’d better be home in time for the
“It’ll be finished by eight. Relax.” I say to him. And then I feel
try clearing my throat. I try a little cough. Nothing’s helping. I
look in my bag, thinking maybe it’s a magic bag and a bottle of
water has suddenly appeared. It’s not a magic bag.
Carter frowns at me as I try the silent cough. You know, coughing
with no sound. Much like the end of a cough you might hear from
someone who has Emphysema. It starts off big and then kind of peters
out into this quiet hacking. I was trying for that part. The quiet
“Are you okay?” Carter asks.
“It’s this damn cough. I can’t stop.” And I can’t. The annoying dry
cough is taking over. I try holding it in, but my chest is heaving
up and down trying to force the cough out. I hold my packet in front
of my face.
“My mom gave you tic tacs,” I remind him. “Where are they?”
“I ate them,” he says.
“All of them?”
“There weren’t that many.”
I go back to coughing.
I steal a glance at Carter. He’s trying not to laugh. I look back at
the packet in front of my face. Carter leans over. I don’t look at
He whispers in my ear. “You’re a real piece of work, you know that?”
“Shut up,” I cough at him. “I can’t help it.”
My face is red. My eyes are watering. My tickle is not going away.
And then when it looks like things can’t get any worse… the
hysterical and wholly inappropriate giggle escapes. Only it’s not
just a giggle. I start laughing and coughing, still keeping my face
hidden behind my packet.
Emma’s principal is there. She’s a scary woman. I don’t want to get
in trouble. But I can’t stop what I’m doing.
Suddenly, the crowd gets a little noisy. I cough REALLY loudly and
manage to get rid of the tickle. My giggle disappears when Carter
leans down and asks, “Are you listening to this?”
There is a couple in the front. The man raises his hand to ask a
“Oh crap,” Carter mutters. “This is his third question. We’re never
getting out of here.”
“He’s a concerned parent,” I say.
Carter rolls his eyes as we listen.
Concerned Parent asks, “I’m wondering about the snack situation. I
really think the snacks around here have too much sugar and I think
the school should provide a better choice.”
Carter and I look at each other as understanding dawns.
“Think he watched ‘Super Size Me’?” I ask Carter.
We listen to the man go on and on
about the sugar in snacks. I’m a little perplexed. Emma takes her
own snack to school. She has an orange everyday. It’s a pretty
healthy snack, but still… I’m not against having better choices. Not
sure if the Kindergarten meeting is the appropriate venue, but
Concerned Parent is still going on about the snacks.
“Somebody should offer that guy a cookie,” Carter mutters.
I nod my agreement.
Next, a woman on our side of the room asks about snack times and how
often the kids will be provided with food.
Carter leans down. “Have we really just spent twenty minutes
“I’m afraid so.”
“Those cookies up there look pretty good. We really should have
grabbed some before sitting down.”
“Don’t let Concerned Parent catch you.”
Concerned Parent starts in on gym class and recess. He definitely
saw ‘Super Size Me’. He’s throwing out statistics like crazy. He’s
done his homework. Good for concerned parent.
Suddenly Mrs. Concerned Parent speaks up. “I don’t know why a full
day program was implemented without parent approval.”
The principal speaks up. She is polite, but as Carter says in my
ear, “You shouldn’t mess with her.” The principal goes on and on
about studies and learning from other schools that’ve done this.
Mrs. Concerned Parent is really pissed that her child is going to
school all day long.
Suddenly, another person raises her hand. “For the orientation,
there are no evening times. For parents who work, this is really
hard. Can you change it?”
Ahhh, Carter and I look at each other. This is Mrs. I Don’t Like To
Change My Schedule. I know a lot of people like her. So does the
The woman has a valid point, but the principal is ready. ‘No, the
times can not be changed. This is how it’s done and it’s for the
kids. We want them to be fresh… yadda, yadda, yadda.’
Mrs. Schedule is left unsatisfied.
Another question from Mrs. Concerned Parent. She and her husband are
like a tag team. Carter and I are stretching our heads up over the
crowd so we can get a better look. The discussion is getting heated.
Suddenly, Mrs. Parent Who Sat in the Front Row turns around and
breaks into the debate.
“You know,” she says. “If you don’t think you’re child is ready for
Kindergarten, you can wait another year.”
The room falls silent. Carter and I gape at each other.
“Oh they’re gonna’ go at it.”
“They’re throwin' down any second now!”
These things are furiously whispered between Carter and me. But we
must keep our voices down. Nothing shocks people into shutting up
faster than implying their child isn’t READY for something. This
room is silent. We wait on the edge of our seats for the coming
“There’s going to be a fist fight,” I whisper excitedly.
Carter nods, too enthralled to take his eyes off the happenings.
Mrs. Front Row deflates the situation by saying, “My daughter wasn’t
ready last year. I held her back. This year she is ready.”
Damn. I’d be lying if I told you we weren’t a bit disappointed.
Mrs. Concerned Parent bursts out with, “Well that’s your choice!!”
Mrs. Front Row turns back around and says, “Yes, and this is all
your choice too.”
Mrs. Schedule breaks in. “If I’m not mistaken, isn’t Kindergarten
optional in Pennsylvania?”
“Go, Mrs. Schedule,” Carter murmurs.
The principal jumps on that. “Yes it is. Kindergarten is not
mandatory. There’s the option of taking Kindergarten elsewhere or
home schooling, etc.”
Voices rise again throughout the room.
The woman a few rows up looks back at me. She heard Carter and me
laughing and we all share an incredulous laugh. I don’t know her,
but I admire her ability to see the absurdity in all this.
She holds her packet in front of her face and mouths, “Less filling…
tastes great. It will never end.”
I laugh. I like this lady. I hope Olivia ends up in her kid’s class.
The meeting hits the end and people start to mill about. The wind
has been taken out of the sails of the Concerned Parents. No way are
they going to admit their child is somehow NOT ready. The principal
is talking with them off to the side of the room. It is apparent
that they are mostly pissed because they weren’t consulted before a
decision was made.
I lean over to Carter. “Are we bad parents?”
“Why? Because we trust that we have a good school? Because we have
proof in Emma that we have a good school? Because we didn’t come
here with an arsenal of questions?”
“Because all we really care about is getting those cookies.”
“Oh that.” He looks at the cookies longingly and sighs. “Then yes.”
“I thought so.”
Fish Tales, 1/15/05
in the summertime, we were offered some goldfish by a co-worker of
Carter’s. Her pond was becoming over run with fish and she was
“Sure, we’d love some,” we told her.
After all, the kids really only have KC our dog. Nothing they have
to do to take care of her. KC pretty much takes care of herself.
Maybe fish would be a good way to teach them about responsibility.
Great. Let’s do it.
Carter comes home with around fifty fish. I am a little shocked, but
nevertheless, excited by our additions to our family. We have a big
fish giveaway and the neighbor kids are so happy to have some new
pets. Neighbor parents are less happy, but what are they gonna’ do?
You can’t say no to free fish.
decide to keep four fish. Two for Emma. Two for Olivia. Julia is
completely uninterested in the fish, so we just tell the other two
that Julia is part owner in all of them. The rest of the fishies
will be traveling to my mom’s house. She has a pond with some fish
and they could always use some more.
I say to Carter, “Maybe we should get an aquarium.”
He looks at me incredulously. “What do you mean? I’m not spending
money on an aquarium for fish that will probably only live a few
let him have his way, for now. We dig out the old goldfish bowls and
set the girls up with their fish.
Emma names her fish, ‘Fin’ and ‘Goldy Gills’. Olivia names hers,
‘Spot’ and ‘Dorothy’.
The first night Spot and Dorothy die. They are flushed without
ceremony and quickly replaced by two fish from my mom’s stash.
Olivia knows they died, but has decided to give her new fish the
same names as her old fish.
Luckily fish don’t have issues about things such as this.
Time passes. Bowl turns several shades of green but fish are alive.
Severely depressed, but alive.
Finally I clean them out. It’s gross, but the fish seem much happier
now that they can see through the water. I mention the aquarium to
Carter again, who scoffs.
“Look at the nice clean bowls,” he said. “They don’t need
I raise a brow but remain silent. I know what I must do.
A month passes and our fish are so unhappy living in the filth of
the bowls that I see one ready to jump out of the bowl, just to be
free. He fails.
Finally, it starts to smell and Carter finally capitulates and we go
to buy an aquarium. We fill it, set it up and move the fishies into
their new home.
They are no longer depressed. They are happy. Why, Dorothy is even
swimming upside down.
Huh? Upside down? I don’t think that’s normal. Oh well, just happy I
We have a fake plant in the tank and a pink rock formation thing.
Girls are ecstatic and aquarium provides nice night light for the
All is happiness in our fish loving home for a month.
Right before Thanksgiving, I am adding more water to the aquarium
when I see a fish… Fin, in fact, sleeping on the bottom. It occurs
to me that fish don’t actually lay down on the rocks to sleep. But,
it’s late and I think… maybe he’ll be better in the morning.
Morning comes and Fin is no longer on the rocks. Yay.
Fin is stuck up in the filter tube. Crap.
Dead fish. And horror of horrors… it’s Emma’s fish. I keep the news
from her until she gets home from school. In all actuality, I could
have let that fish rot in the aquarium for months and she wouldn’t
have noticed. I feed the fish. She barely looks at them.
I break the news to her gently.
“Your fish is dead.”
“Fin… he’s dead. We have to flush him.”
She runs to the tank. “Get him out.”
I do. I looked for the damn net all day and couldn’t find it, so I
reach in with my hand and grab dead Fin. Emma looks as if she’s
about to start CPR. I try to explain about gills and such not being
very open to receiving CPR and that regardless of any life saving
measures… Fin is gone.
Emma is bereft. She begins to weep. Then she cries. Then she wails.
“You can’t flush him! We need to bury him.”
“We have to bury him!!!”
last was said in the most pathetic cry you’ve ever heard. I give in
and find a jewelry box and my rain coat. I head to the garage and
find a shovel and there in the rain I stand and dig a hole for Fin
the fish. Emma joins me and we say a few words over his grave.
I have to tell you, with the rain and Emma’s sad sack face… it’s a
very touching scene we’ve got going. If this funeral had been for
anything other than a fish that was barely looked at in the two
months we had him, it maybe would have caused a tear to well.
Emma places a cinder
block over the grave and says what a good fish Fin was. I agree
solemnly and we head inside where she decrees that she will never
I look at the remaining fish. Dorothy is still swimming kind of
funny. I really think she’ll be the next to go. I say as much to
Olivia. Olivia says as much to Emma in a sisterly effort to make her
But we are wrong. So very, very wrong.
The very next day Goldy Gills is swimming with the fishes… or
rather… NOT swimming with the fishes. She’s dead. She was our
biggest, healthiest looking fish. I thought she’d last the longest.
I prayed she’d last the longest because Goldy Gills was Emma’s other
Oh the screaming, oh the drama. It was a sad time in our house. I
didn’t have time for another burial, so I left Goldy in the tank,
stuck up against the filter tube. My brother and his wife, both of
them marine biologists, came over that day and gave us a good
talking to about dead fish emitting bad gases that will kill the
other fish. So, after much rolling of the eyes, we get rid of Goldy
Gills. She is buried along with Fin.
Emma goes on and on about how she is bad luck and she kills fish.
She calls herself a murderer. I call her the winner of the best
actress award. Funny how the tears stop when we say she can get a
But we wait on that. Dorothy and Spot… or Dot and Spot, are doing
really well in the tank. They are happy fishies. We let them enjoy
having the tank to themselves for a little over a month.
Emma’s birthday rolls around and Carter buys her a pretty goldfish.
Emma is thrilled. She names the fish Birthday Two Tails. Olivia is
still happy with Spot and with a benevolence that exceeds her years,
she gives her other fish, Dorothy, to Julia, so they can each have
However, they feel Dorothy is now in need of a name change. So in
remembrance of the fish that’ve gone before, Julia’s fish is now
called, Goldy Gills Fin Dot Spot or GGFDS for short.
Happy days follow. Happy weeks even. Until I check the tank one
night as I’m getting the kids ready for bed.
GGFDS is up against the tube. Julia’s fish has bit the dust and no
way am I burying it outside. I break the news to Julia gently.
“Oh no Julia. Your fish is dead.”
Emma screams. “What??”
“Wait,” I say. “This is not your fish. You can not be upset about
Emma turns to Julia. “We should bury it.”
I grab a dixie cup and scoop the fish out of the tank. As Emma is
talking to Julia about the best burial plots in our backyard, I
carry the remains of GGFDS to the bathroom.
I call on my Finding Nemo wisdom and holler, “All drains lead to the
sea, girls. Remember that.”
I see that one of my dear children has left a little
in the toilet. Gross! Even I can’t flush the fish down a dirty bowl,
so I do a cleansing flush and wait for the toilet to refill.
Julia and Olivia quickly join me in the bathroom. I plop GGFDS into
the toilet and we wait some more for the toilet to refill. It’s an
old toilet. It takes forever. Finally it stops. Julia is given the
honors of flushing. She is just about to push the lever when Emma
comes screaming down the hall.
We all look at her. “What now?”
She looks at me disgustedly. “I think we should say a few words,
“Fine,” I say. “Go ahead.”
She takes a deep breath and pulls Julia’s hand off the lever.
“Goldy Gills Fin Dot Spot was a good fish,” she begins.
I think this is all she’s going to say and am about to give Julia
the go ahead, when Emma continues.
“He had a very long name,” she says. “Like Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Martin Luther King Day is Monday. Emma’s been talking about him all
week. I blow out a breath and close my eyes. This is going to be a
good one. I can tell.
“And now, Goldy Gills Fin Dot Spot is dead… like Martin Luther King,
Well, not exactly like Martin Luther King, Jr., I think. None of
this mess could be placed at the door of James Earl Ray. And Dr.
King’s funeral in no way resembled… well… never mind.
Emma goes on and on about the virtues of this fine fish, though I’m
almost positive our pet was never arrested in the name of civil
rights. She finally stops just short of breaking into the “I have a
dream” speech and
is given the okay to flush. She does and Emma leaves the room. She
can’t watch such a thing. Olivia and Julia watch closely and mutter,
Then they say, “Bye bye, fishy!”
Later that evening, Julia gives Carter the biggest pout of her life
and reminds him that he bought Emma a new fish. He immediately
agrees to buy Julia a new fish too.
I’m going to watch these fish closely. I’m of the opinion that our
tank can only hold two fish happily and the third will always die.
It’s just a question of which one will go first.
It’s hard to say. We can only hope the next one shuffles off their
mortal coil close to President’s Day so we can hear how Birthday Two
Tails was instrumental in ending slavery.
I'm No Snow White, 11/25/04
It is well
known, by now, that I am having an addition put onto my
house. This has caused many a problem in recent months, but
things are still moving along nicely. We just got lights in
our new kitchen. It’s very exciting. With every new day, I
find something to be happy about. Something new… something
to look forward to.
And this morning was no exception to the excitement. Today,
before my workers arrived, I had a visitor.
was first suspicious when I let our dog, KC, out for her
morning barking up the only tree. After I closed the door, I
heard a shuffling. A fluttering. And my first thought was,
MICE. We’ve had them before. We always seem to have a few
stragglers every year, but usually our mice are considerate
and only come out at night… with a few rare exceptions. I
couldn’t believe a mouse would have the balls to be running
around at 9:30 in the morning.
So I start to investigate. I went out into the new addition.
After carefully scanning the floor, checking behind power
tools, I heard the noise again and it came from… above. I
looked up into our new lighting and there was our invader.
There was a bird.
I know a bird getting in the house is a common occurrence,
but it freaks me out. I’ve had bats, mice, little neighbor
boys and none of them gave me such a shriek as this little
bird. I couldn’t identify the bird. My environmental science
teacher apparently wasted his time going over slide after
slide of local birdery. And now that I think of it, my
also wasted his time going over reason after reason why
‘birdery’ isn’t, in fact, a word.
Anyway, it wasn’t a sparrow. It wasn’t a nuthatch. It wasn’t
even a finch. BUT, I’m fairly certain it fell to that side
of the aviary
It was brown, had a reddish breast, longish beak. Very cute,
once I got over my initial fear of the flying thing.
Suddenly, the bird takes off again. It flies to the living
room. It lands on my lamp.
It flies to the kitchen. It lands on my dirty dishes and I
swear it gave me a disapproving look as it sees the size of
the stack. This tells me it’s a mother bird.
Speaking of mothers…
I pick up the phone. I call my mom and tell her the
“Did you open the doors, so it can fly out?” she asks.
I scoff. “Of course I did.” I say, hoping she can’t hear the
sound of me sliding open the doors.
“And the windows too,” she says.
“Yeah, yeah… and the windows,” I agree, heading for the
I hang up after being told how much of a mess birds can make
in one’s house. Obviously, mom hasn’t been over lately. I
imagine the bird is flying around thinking, “Oh my feathers,
what a messy house. Why… I could make a fine nest with the
dust bunnies alone.”
After hanging up, KC comes back in the house. I listen. I
hear nothing. The bird must have flown out. I go around and
shut all the doors and windows and as I’m shutting the last
one, I hear it again. Flutter, shuffle, flutter. I look into
the dining room. There’s the bird.
KC spots it, thinks “I can take that thing” and rushes over
to eat it. I scream at her to stop and she does. The bird is
flying frantically at the window. It perches above it. Okay,
I think… if I could just open that window, chances are good
that the bird will just fly out.
I approach the window
“Nice birdie,” I say. “There’s a good bird.”
know what you’re thinking… "It’s just a bird!!" But she has a good
size beak and could probably, if her aim was true, do some damage to
my eye. I keep going. I get to the window and at the first sound of
window opening, the bird flies away. I quickly duck for cover. KC
starts jumping like mad to get this thing. When the bat was in our
house a few years ago, KC cowered behind the couch. But, really, I
can’t blame her. That was a bat. Everyone, even my dog, knows bats
just MIGHT turn into vampires.
Something you should also know about KC. Being a Jack Russell, she
loves to jump. She used to jump the fence at our old house when she
was a puppy. It was way impressive. Now, however, she is eight years
old and the jumper isn’t what it used to be. However, the sight of
the bird has her catching air she hasn’t caught in years. She is
springing up and down, trying to catch the bird who… oof… just ran
into a closed window. I should probably open that one. I quickly
open all the windows and doors.
Eventually the bird settles on top of the china closet. I study her
for a moment, wondering how I can get her to the open window. I
glance at the broom. No, I don’t want to hurt her. I see a sheet on
the floor (why’s that there?), but no… that could be dangerous too.
I think of Snow White. I picture myself singing the bird onto my
finger and then carrying it outside. Would that be a story or what?
I think about it. I couldn’t really do it, could I? Maybe Snow White
was onto something. I mean, there are a lot of similarities between
me and Snow White. We…
we both like… apples and umm… short guys… okay let’s stick with
apples. We both like apples. The singing just might work and
wouldn’t it be funny if it did?
Automatically, I stick my hand up in the air and go… pssss, pssss,
pssss. It then occurs to me that making the same sound one uses to
call a cat might not be the best way to persuade a bird onto your
hand. Maybe I’ll whistle. I’m an excellent whistler. I try, but have
suddenly developed the giggles at the ridiculousness of the
situation, and whistling is impossible. So I sing a little. What is
that Snow White song? Someday my prince will come… I begin.
The bird seems frozen.
Oh my God!! I’ve hypnotized it with my voice. The bird is my soul
mate. She’ll come to my house every day just to hear my sweet song.
I walk forward, still singing, though I hum over the words I don’t
know. My hand is up. My finger out.
Suddenly she attacks!!
She swoops and I swear she was aiming for my eye. Or my voice box. I
duck and scream. KC starts hopping again. There is a moment or two
of complete pandemonium during which I grab the broom and think,
“well, she gave me no choice.” I try to swoosh the bird out of my
house. But it is too late. The bird doesn’t need my help. She has
flown out the back door. She is on a branch of the tree outside.
KC runs to the tree and begins barking up at it. I walk around
shutting all the windows and doors… again. And then I spot the dirty
dishes. I have a moment or two of guilt. I really should get those
done. And the bird did give me that look.
I sigh and head over to the sink. I can’t believe it. Guilted into
doing dishes by a freaking bird. I glance at the apples sitting on
This NEVER happened to Snow White.
I Love Grumps, 9/22/04
I love grumps!! I love people
who are so angry and pissed that nothing in the entire world can
make them happy. I don't know why... but they make me laugh.
I'm not talking about sad or upset people. They don't make me
laugh. They make me sad too. But pissed off people give me a
chuckle. I don't know why. I'm perverse that way.
We have a grumpy girl cashier at our grocery store. I always go
to her line. She hates it. She hates me. I always have a TON of
groceries and usually a few kids with me. I let the kids help
unload the groceries from the cart. The look she sends me when I
get in her line sends me to heaven. She hates me. And I know it.
She hates her job. And I know that too. I'd feel bad for her,
but she's young and if all she has to be pissed about is her job
at the local market... well... she's gonna' be seriously angry
Carter wonders why I seek her out at the store. I don't really
know. I just like seeing her scowl at me every once in a while.
I love smiling back at her. Well that and she's a fast cashier.
She hates customers... of course she's fast. She wants them out
of there as soon as possible.
However... lately Grumpy Girl is missing. I've gone to the store
at different times and she was no where to be found. Did Grumpy
Girl go to college? Crap. I've been going to this other cashier
who is a nightmare. He's slow... and chipper. Ugh. What a combo!
Today, however I had contact with a new grumpy person. Someone
who I may never meet again. Someone who was pissed... at me!!
I was bringing Emma from the doctor's office and we turn off the
main road to cut over to the grocery store to get her
prescription filled. As I am bearing right, I see a car coming
to a stop sign at my right. I don't have a stop. She does and
she is NOT slowing down. I slow down because I think she's going
to run it. Luckily she sees me at the last minute and stops
However, there is a woman behind me who is really pissed that I
slowed down. She slams on her breaks and starts honking her horn
and, I imagine, cursing a blue streak. She was either
speeding... because I only slowed a little. I didn't stop. Or
she was following me too closely and I, slowing down, almost
caused her to hit me.
I shrug and keep going. No one was hit. If it ever happened
again...I'd slow down again. I wasn't going to risk getting hit
by the lady who had the stop sign.
So we carry on and the lady behind me is PISSED. She is beeping
and waving her arm at me and her mouth is going a mile a minute.
She finally stops beeping but is still following me. I can see
the rage pumping out of her car like exhaust. She is mad!!
"What is that lady's problem?"
I look in the rearview mirror. She's still cursing me out.
"Well, I don't think 'lady' is the correct word to describe her...
but I think she's unhappy with her life choices."
"Huh?" Emma asks.
"She's a grump," I say and smile, remembering that I LOVE GRUMPS.
I stop at a light and she goes to pull into the store at my right.
As she pulls up beside me, she stops... but keeps her window closed.
I lower mine. I'm willing to hear what she has to say. I lean over.
Her mouth is still going, but since her window is up... I can't hear
Now I don't claim to be a lip reader... but she seemed to be saying
"fudge" an awful lot. I don't understand. Maybe she needs some
fudge? Maybe she thinks I have her fudge? I don't know. But she
finally just stops and stares at me... her venom spent.
this point... my light has turned green. So I say farewell in a time
honored way. I smile widely and flip her off. Turns out... I'm not
so much of a lady either. But it gives me a good laugh as we make
our way to the store.
We get Emma's drugs and check out in the pharmacy but we have to go
through the cashiers to get outside. We can't go 'out' the 'in'
door. So we head over and who should appear behind the first
register we hit. That's right. GRUMPY GIRL!!! My favorite cashier
has returned. She looks at me warily and then smiles.
"Go on through," she says. "Have a good day."
What?? WHAT?? Grumpy Girl just told me to have a good day??
Something's not right.
My step slows as we head to the parking lot. What a let down?! Happy
Girl? Is she now a Happy Girl? Then I realize... we had no
groceries!! That's why she was happy. She had no customers... that’s
the reason for the cheerfulness.
I'll change that.
I know when you work now, Grumpy Girl. And I'll be back... with a
load of groceries, a couple of bad kids, a
smile on my face and if at all possible... a pissed off 'lady'
honking her horn behind me.
Boys Are Scary, 9/03/04
Okay, maybe I have
my fair share of drama being the mother of three girls. Maybe I
never thought my day would revolve around dress ups and Barbies.
Maybe, on MANY occasions, I wonder why I was given three girls
instead of a boy. Maybe I’ve wondered what it would be like to
have a boy. To have him look at you with adoration, to never
hear the words – “Do you think blond hair’s pretty? Because
Danielle thinks brown hair is better and do you like curly hair
or straight hair better? Because Olivia’s is curly and mine in
straight and Julia… well hers is right in between, so do you
have a favorite? And where are my new brown boots? Do you
think they look good with this skirt? Is this too dressy for
school? How should I wear my hair? Which reminds me – do you
think blond hair’s pretty?”
So, yes, it has
entered my head. My neighbors across the street have three boys
aged 8, 7, and 4. They are sometimes our girls’ great friends,
most times mortal enemies, and always a nagging fear in the
hearts of Carter and me. There is nothing scarier to the
parents of three daughters than three little boys of close age
moving in across the street. But we’ve become friends
them and except for a few instances, (like… oh… I don’t know…
our dog killing their
chicken) everything generally runs smoothly.
Their mother and I
often compare notes on parenting the different sex. She’ll sigh
over the girls’ new Easter dresses. I’ll wince in envy every
time she says, “Oh, the boys don’t care what they wear.” She’ll
see her husband helping one of my girls do something and say,
“Oh… a girl.” And I’ll see my husband walking down the sidewalk
holding her son’s hand and say, “Oh… a boy.”
But then, on
occasion, I’ll baby-sit their 4 year old. During that time… we
kick things. Or rather, I hold things and he kicks them. He’ll
find anything in our house that closely resembles a football,
ask me to hold it, and then punt it across my living room, while
wearing his favorite snow boots that he will NOT take off. For
next few weeks, I can’t look at a snow boot without flinching.
And then there is
our annual Christmas party, to which kids are also invited.
I’ve taken to hiding ANYTHING that could in some way be used as
a weapon. Batons are stashed in closets. Jump ropes… GOOD GOD…
are rolled and stuffed in drawers. I tell the girls to pick a
favorite doll and put her in the witness protection program…
because there will be casualties that evening. Fairy princess
wands are hidden behind the book shelf. But all this doesn’t
matter. The boys always find something to turn into a weapon.
This is evident the year we were thoughtless and left the
feather boa out with the dress up clothes.
Then there was the
time this summer when my girls had some girl friends over and they
were hanging out on our front porch. I am out front. Ryan, the 8
year old, pulls his bike up in front of my house and eyes the girls
playing quietly on the porch. He looks at me.
“Hi, Mrs. Cheskey,” he
“Hey, Ryan,” I say.
“How are you today?”
“Pretty good,” I say.
“And you?” I reach out and mess up his hair a little. What a
sweetie to ask how I’m doing!!
“I’m okay,” he says.
I see him look back at the girls on the porch.
“Could you do me a
favor?” he asks.
“Sure,” I say.
“Would you hold my
bike a minute?” he asks.
“No problem,” I say.
“Thanks,” he says, as
he jumps off the bike and runs onto my porch yelling and roaring and
chasing the girls into the house. The delicate sounds of PIERCING
GIRLY SCREAMS can be heard echoing throughout the neighborhood.
And do I run in to
stop his rampage? No, I am standing on the sidewalk holding his
bike, looking dumbfounded at the house. His mother comes over and
says, “What’s going on?”
I break out of my
daze, turn to her and say, “You’re son just had the gall to ask me
to hold his bike while he goes and terrorizes my kids… and I have to
say… I’m kind of impressed.”
every time I complain about the drama of my girls, I hear or witness
a story about the boys and decide I’ll take the drama. For every
time I complain about having to watch Barbie of Swan Lake a hundred
times, I hear my neighbor complain about having to watch Star Wars a
hundred times. After my girls watch Barbie of Swan Lake… they dance
around the place. After her boys watch Star Wars… they pick sides
and break out the light sabers.
I know they are just
boys being boys… but now I know there is a reason we weren’t given
boys. I’m a wuss… and I can’t take it.
Boys are scary!!
The Question, 8/19/04
I knew it would happen
someday. In fact, it’s already happened. But before when I was
asked, “Where do babies come from?”… I had a ready answer.
come from my belly,” I would tell them.
Now, however, Emma is six and she wants to know the what, when,
where, why, who, and most importantly, HOW of everything.
This morning Emma had her reading observation at school and as we
were buckling up to go she asks,
you know that photo album I was looking at?”
“Is Julia in that one?” she asks.
“Nope, that one only goes until Olivia was a baby,” I tell her.
“Julia wasn’t even in my belly yet.”
As soon as the words are out of my mouth, I wince. CRAP!! Why did I
add that part on the end? Mentioning Julia in my belly was a can of
worms that just burst open.
“Yes?” I say as I start the car, while silently begging her to ask a
“Babies are in your belly, right?” she asks.
“Well, not at the moment,” I tell her.
“But they grow in your belly?” she asks.
“Yes they do,” I say and hope the finality of my tone will help her
change the subject.
she doesn’t change the subject. She is quiet for a moment and I
start to breathe a sigh of relief when I hear it…
“But how does the baby get in your belly?”
UGH. Okay… I can handle this. I’ll just give her the standard line
I’ve heard used before.
“Well, when a mommy and daddy love each other very much sometimes
they are given a baby,” I say.
She is silent again. I am once again lured into thinking that’s the
end of the conversation. Once again, I’m wrong.
“So,” she begins. “You are given a baby and what? You put it in your
“Well,” I stammer. “No.”
“Because, that doesn’t
make sense,” she says.
“Umm, okay… see… when a mommy and daddy love each other they are
allowed to try to make a baby.”
“Make a baby?”
“Yes… make a baby.”
“But… how?” she asks.
“Well… no…” I say.
is it like something you cook?”
I stop and glance in the rearview mirror. “Well, as a matter of
fact…” I say.
“Do you use a spoon and stir something in a pot?” she asks.
“In a manner of speaking,” I mutter.
“Nothing… umm… see here’s the thing…” I begin.
She waits patiently. Damn.
“Okay, when a mommy and daddy really love each other…”
“I got that part,” she interrupts.
“Oh,” I say. “Well, good… umm… when they love each other they decide
if they want a baby and then they try to make one. It’s… umm… just
something you’re allowed to… umm… practice at… and hope it works.
When you REALLY love each other…and then sometimes… you get a baby
in your belly… when you love each other. And you’re older… and umm,
MARRIED. You should maybe be married too. And then if you’re lucky
you end up with a little baby and THAT is how a baby gets in your
Emma is quiet for a moment.
“Huh,” she says. “That’s funny.”
No kidding! But I ask, “Funny, how?”
“Well, Danielle told me that God puts them there.”
I raise my eyes heavenward and silently ask the unseen almighty,
“Where was that answer a minute ago? I maybe could’ve used a little
divine intervention just then actually.”
I pull into the school parking lot and I turn around to face her.
“Well, yes Emma… or… or… God puts them there.”
But thankfully her thoughts have turned to her school and the
question is forgotten… for the moment.
Are We There Yet?, 7/28/04
Part 1... The Secret Weapon
By the time Carter
gets home from work on Thursday, I have the van all packed. We
have snacks. We have caffeine. We have movies and games. We
are ALL set to go. Carter gets home and takes KC to
our friends’ house, where
she’ll be spending a fun filled week. We get the kids set up
with lunchables in the car and we are off.
Carter started the
trip. He drives all the way across Pennsylvania… through
construction… through rain…
terribly bumpy roads, all the while avoiding being run into a
construction wall by an eighteen wheeler. I can tell by the
time we reach the Pennsylvania – Ohio border, he’s getting
tired. Really tired. It’s midnight now and I can see Ohio
before us like an asphalt oasis. I know Ohio has really good
roads… really wide, nice, smooth roads. So I say, “Hey babe,
how ‘bout I drive now?”
Carter looks at me
as we pull into the service station and he peels his hands from
the steering wheel that he’s been gripping so tightly.
“Yeah,” he snarls,
“how ‘bout it!!”
I shrug and slip
behind the wheel. I glance at the kiddies in the back seat.
They are all sleeping soundly. This is going to be fun. The
rain has stopped. I’ve got a nice cold Coke. I’m all ready to
go. I also have my secret driving at night weapon. Of course I
brought chocolate on this trip but I’d be lying if I told you it
lasted past Harrisburg. My secret driving at night weapon is
not chocolate. My secret weapon is…
The hard, candy coated sweet tart-like thing that fills my mouth
with flavors too wonderful to describe. This is my weapon. I
pop one in my mouth, suck on it, guess which color it is and
THIS keeps me awake.
Now, I know there
are SOME people in this world who claim all SPREE taste the
same. They would have you think a purple one tastes the same as
a red one and I can tell you…that is not the case. These same
people can also be found claiming that green M&M’s don’t taste
any better than the browns ones. HAH!! Green M&M’s are clearly
better tasting than brown ones. But I digress. Back to the
SPREE. My favorite flavors are purple and red. I don’t really
care for the green ones. A girl I used to work with only ate
the green ones… but she was crazy. HOWEVER, a green SPREE is
better than no SPREE at all. I begin my drive.
I’m popping SPREE
left and right. Carter is snoring away. I have some trouble
with our cd player playing my mix cd’s, but I solve that by
hitting the player every now and again. And before you ask…NO…I
to Fonzie. We just share the same talent for getting music to
My driving time is
going along smoothly. I make a big dent in my box of SPREE.
But… I’m getting sick of guessing the colors. I mean…it’s not
like I can check to see if I’m right or not. It’s too freaking
dark!! I’m even getting sick of singing along with my music…
and that’s saying something. I love singing along to music. I
look at the clock thinking it must be close to dawn. Carter
drove for 5 hours, surely I’ve gone that long. The clock says
An hour and a
half? That’s it?? Well this sucks. I’m getting a little
sleepy here…but I realize I must pull my wait on this trip and
Carter DID do all the crappy Pennsylvania driving. So I suck it
up and pop another SPREE in my mouth. I have now eaten so many
SPREE that the inside of my cheeks are raw. I can actually feel
all the sugar beneath the surface of my skin. I would probably
be better off just sticking the SPREE to my face since I’m sure
when the ensuing break out comes… it’ll look much like that. I
keep driving and entertain myself by popping in the Moulin Rouge
soundtrack and like always, imagine myself singing along with
Ewan McGregor. This, of course, leads to happy Ewan fantasies
that keep me well occupied for the next hour or so.
It is now 2:30 am.
Carter is still snoozing away…the bastard. I stayed awake to keep
him company, but there he is all comfy, cozy and reclined. The
practical side of my brain tells me that it is good he is sleeping.
This will be for the good of the trip. However, my impractical
side…the side that’s smothered by a SPREE and Coke filled haze…
tells me he should wake up!!
I mouth the word
“Carter” in his general direction. Still snoring.
“Carter,” I say…so
quietly he doesn’t hear me. He doesn’t even budge.
“Carter,” I say… a
little louder this time…but still a whisper.
I clear my throat. I
clear it a little louder. Still nothing. Is the man in a coma??
“Carter,” I say… still
Suddenly he jumps up.
I clamp my mouth shut.
“What?” he yells.
“Hmmm?” I say
“What’s the matter?”
“The matter?” I ask.
“Nothing’s the matter.”
He shakes his head.
“Oh,” he yawns. “I thought you were calling my name.”
“Why would I do that?”
He narrows his eyes.
I glance at him from the corner of my eye. He narrows his eyes
some more. I tap on the steering wheel and start humming along to
the song playing.
“All right,” he says
with a stretch. “So how’s it going?”
“Okay…I did call your
name,” I confess with a cry. “I’m tired. The SPREE!! The SPREE!!
The orange are beginning to taste like the purple. The Coke’s not
working. Even impure thoughts of
McGregor aren’t working. I need to sleep for a few minutes. Just a
couple of minutes. Then I’ll take over. I promise… I PROMISE.
Please. I need some rest. PLEASE let me sleep!!”
Carter looks at me
with pity in his eyes. “No problem,” he says. “I’ll drive for a
few hours. I’m all refreshed after my nap.”
We pull into a gas
station and fill up. We switch places and are on our way once
Carter turns to me as
I’m getting settled. “Could you hand me an energy bar and some
grapes before you go to sleep?”
“Sure,” I say and hand
him his snack. “But wouldn’t you rather have a Coke and some
“SPREE is gross,” he
“Not true,” I say as I
close my eyes. “It’s my secret weapon.”
And I am fast asleep
before he swallows the first grape.
Are We There Yet?, 7/28/04
Part 2... My Kind of Town
I sleep for close
to two hours. I wake up to the car weaving and being corrected
really quickly. I pop up.
“Hey,” I say.
good,” Carter says. “I’ve taken the cruise control off so that
when I finally DO fall asleep behind the wheel there’s a chance
we’ll slow down a bit before crashing and dying in a fiery
He looks over at
me. “I have to pull over,” he says. “We’ll just sleep for a
little bit before hitting Chicago.”
“I’ll drive,” I
say. “I feel great after that nap. I can do Chicago.”
says. “It’s a big city we’ll be going through.”
“It’s not so much
through as around,” I tell him.
“You’re sure?” he
“Yup,” I say.
“Toss me some SPREE and we’re all set.”
We pull over and
switch places. Carter falls asleep immediately and I drive for
an hour or so before we get to Chicago. Since, we gained an
hour by passing through the time zone there is not too much
traffic around Chicago. Carter is awake by now and we hear the
mumblings of our oldest daughter, Emma.
“Are we there
yet?” she asks with a yawn.
“No way,” says
Carter. “Check it out, Emma. Second tallest building in the
world…right over there.”
impressed. “Whoa,” she says. “A city.”
Emma loves big
The other two
girls wake up. They are both impressed by the city. I’m
impressed that I’m driving through the city and am still pretty
grabs the cd player and starts flipping through the cd book.
need Frank,” he says. He finds one of the Frank Sinatra cds we
brought along and pops it in the player.
“Where’s ‘My Kind
Of Town’?” he asks.
“Chicago!!” I say,
“No!!” he growls.
“Where on the cd?”
“Oh…near the end,
I think,” I say.
He is furiously
punching the buttons on the cd player. Finally ‘My Kind Of
Town’ starts and I have to sing along.
brawling’,” Carter mutters.
Oh jeez!! He’s
quoting poetry. Carter knows two poems. And not even the whole
poems. Just parts of two poems. One is one verse of ‘The
Carroll. The other is two verses of ‘Chicago’ by Carl
Sandburg. That is what we are blessed with now.
(I never said we weren’t geeks.)
I suspect Carter
learned parts of these poems to get girls to sleep with him in
college…and to be completely truthful, it worked. Now, though,
it just makes me laugh. We get through Chicago and head to
Carter says. “That’s my kind of town.”
“Huh?” I ask.
“What’s Rockford have?”
files!!” he says.
“The Rockford Files
were named after Jim Rockford.” I begin.
“Who was from
Rockford, Illinois.” Carter interrupts.
“I don’t think so.” I
“I’m pretty sure,” he
I roll my eyes and
pull over. It is time for Carter to drive.
We get the kids
dressed and eat breakfast in Beloit, Wisconsin or somewhere near
there…it’s all fuzzy now.
When we are back in
the car, Emma asks…again, “Are we there yet?”
“Honey, we won’t be
there for a long time.” I tell her. “It will probably be this
Emma gives a huge
sigh. “I don’t understand why we didn’t just fly to South Dakota.”
“Emma,” Carter says,
“this is fun. Look at all the stuff you’re seeing. You just saw
the second tallest building in the world this morning. You just saw
Rockford, Illinois, for God’s sake. And look there’s a billboard
advertising the “Cheese Chalet”. You DO NOT see that everyday and
you certainly wouldn’t see that from an airplane.”
Emma is satisfied
though I think she rolled her eyes. “Well, what kind of football
team does Wisconsin have?” she asks.
Carter and I grin.
We’ve successfully turned at least one of our children into a
football crazy child.
have the Pack,” I tell her. “The Green Bay Packers…and Brett Favre.”
My second favorite football team… and Brett Favre.”
“Oh well,” she says.
“That’s okay then.”
We pass through La
Crosse, Wisconsin (which Emma claims is the prettiest place on
Earth) and over the
River. All the while pointing out all the sites Emma would have
missed while flying.
“Look at those
horses…you wouldn’t see that if we’d flown.”
“Check out that old
farm…can’t see that from a plane.”
billboard for Wall Drug.”
By the time we get
through Minnesota and are into South Dakota, she is very sorry she
ever asked why we couldn’t just fly.
In South Dakota the
skies are so blue and full of clouds it is breathtaking. I turn
back to Emma and say, “See those clouds Emma? If we had flown you
wouldn’t see them.”
frowns at me. Carter glances at me from the driver’s seat.
“Well, actually…” he
“From this side!!” I
add quickly. “You wouldn’t see how pretty they look from the ground
and you wouldn’t be able to pick out the shapes and okay, maybe I’m
a little tired right now and MY GOD!!! HOW LONG IS THIS TRIP
ANYWAY?? Are we there yet?”
Are We There Yet?, 7/28/04
Part 3... Of Mice
I don’t know if
I’ve ever mentioned this before but…I could drive FOREVER in
South Dakota. First … the speed limit is 75. Second… there’s
NO traffic. Third … it’s beautiful!! Fields of gold and green
swaying in the breeze. Brilliant blue skies with puffy white
clouds. Summertime on the prairie is a beautiful thing. And
this is exactly why Carter does not allow me to drive in South
Dakota. I’m too busy ooh’ing and ahh’ing over the scenery and
once in a while I hit the shoulder. Carter finally makes me
pull over after I yell out, “LOOK….A BUFFALO!!”
a round bale of hay,” Carter says…looking toward the field.
distance it looks like…”
“A round bale of
hay,” he adds. “Pull over babe. You can look all you want
I do pull over and
I spend the last leg of our trip admiring the prairie.
Carter is from a
town with the population of about 3500, which compared to some
of the towns we drive through, is kind of big. Our last stretch
of highway is wonderful. Carter turns around and tells the
girls how good they’ve been on this trip…and it’s true. They
have been good. That is…until we tell them how good they’ve
been. Then they start fussing and fighting and I have to turn
around and threaten to feed them to the wolves if they don’t
settle down. They do and we pull into Mobridge.
I have to say the
week is pretty idyllic. Carter’s sister and husband arrive with
their daughters, aged 9 and 13. I am shocked to see my 13 year
old niece is as tall as I am and I get a little misty thinking
of her in her flower girl dress at our wedding 10 years
We see the famous
bike, Pink Lightning and are a little concerned when it turns
out Emma is too big to ride it. Luckily, Grandma and Grandpa
have a back up bike…a
bigger, just as pink bike called…Pink Lightning 2. Emma is in
heaven all week.
Olivia finds that
we are a little more lax in the snack area during vacation and
she finds that her Great-Grandma makes wonderful cookies.
Olivia is in heaven all week.
Julia finds that
she is just as able to wrap this Grandma and Grandpa around her
finger as she is with the set of grandparents at home. She
manages to get herself rocked to sleep every night by Grandma
and has her every wish catered to. Julia is in heaven all week.
Our darling angel
nieces decide to stay all week though their parents can only
stay a few days. The result of this is built in babysitters…who
seem to be happy to take the kids with them everywhere.
So…Carter and I are in heaven all week.
There is really
only one major crisis all week which I will describe for you
now. Picture a pet store on Main Street. Animals
everywhere…dogs, cats, lizards. It is while standing by the big
lizard that our story begins. I am looking at the cute little
puppies when I hear the kids say, “Oh look at the cute little
baby lizard!! Mommy come see the baby.”
I make my way over
to the lizard terrarium and see a little pink thing squirming on
the floor of the cage. I smile and say, “Oh isn’t that just the
cute…wait a minute.”
“Carter!!” I call
nonchalantly. “Could you come here please?”
He walks up beside
me. “What’s up?”
“Umm, just a
question,” I begin in a whisper. “Don’t baby lizards come out
looking like big lizards only little.”
“Huh?” he asks.
“What is that?” I say
pointing to the small, pink squirming thing.
“Baby lizard?” he
“Baby lizards don’t
look like that. They look like lizards.” I whisper again. “That is
He looks again.
“You’re right….that’s …”
baby mouse,” I say.
“Dinner,” he says at
the same time.
Unfortunately the kids
have been listening to our little conversation and quickly the
“That’s a baby mouse?”
“Why is a mouse with
won’t eat the mouse, will it?”
To which we respond
“Circle of life??”
There is quite a
ruckus. Finally a salesperson sees the problem and grabs the mouse
from the cage and takes it to the back.
“Sorry,” she says. “I
thought he’d be done by now.”
The kids are very
upset…but fortunately there are puppies in the pet store in need of
love. And kids with puppies in their arms tend to forget about the
evil lizard preying on a defenseless mouse.
If only the puppies
worked on Carter. I look at him and he looks a little sick.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“That poor mouse,” he
“Well, the lizard has
to eat too,” I say.
“But…it was just a
baby,” he says.
I need to remind you of the village of mice we killed in our house
this year?” I ask.
“But…it was just a
baby,” he says again. “That would be like us taking a newborn human
and setting it in the path of a dinosaur.”
At this point, Olivia
breaks in with a “Don’t worry Daddy. Longnecks don’t eat babies.”
My God!! They are
I shake my head at
everyone and mention to Carter that I’d love to buy that little
beagle that loves me so much. The thought of spending money breaks
him out of his sympathy for the mouse and we quickly leave the
store…never to return.
The rest of the week
passes uneventfully. No more mouse sacrifices. No nightmares
involving dinosaurs eating babies. Just a nice relaxing week.
But I know it’s
coming. The trip home. I just hope I’m ready for it!!
Are We There Yet?, 7/28/04
Part 4... Some Observations
Just a little note...this is a little different than what I
This story was published in the
Mobridge Tribune on August 18th, 2004.
don’t quite know how to describe the town of Mobridge to you…but
I’m going to do my best. I’ve always loved the people I’ve met
there, but in the back of my mind was always this question… “How
can you live here?” Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE to visit…but I
know in my heart of hearts that I could NEVER live there year
round. I mean…there’s no mall. There’s a rodeo ground…but no
mall. Not that I go to the mall all that often at home, but
it’s a comfort knowing it’s there. There
is a WHOLE lot of winter here. I’ve visited Mobridge once in
the winter… and that was so cold, I get a chill just thinking of
I tease Carter a
lot about his small town upbringing. It is easy to make
fun of something you don’t understand…so this year instead of
focusing on the differences I try to look at the town and I
wonder how I would write about it. What would I tell you about
this town? What is Mobridge? Here are some things I find…
I find a group of
women (my mother in law included) who meet at their friend’s
gift shop on Main Street every Saturday for coffee. I find
these same women come together to help each other with
problems. Women who, instead of buying birthday cards for one
another, put the money they would have spent into a fund to buy
gifts for the angel tree at Christmas. Some of these women have
been friends since high school. Some haven’t been around as
long but are no less a part of the group. I should also mention
that coffee get togethers are not only for Saturdays. We visit
the store three times the week I am there and have a coffee/chat
three different times…with different sets of women.
I find a community
that comes together for a band concert/ice cream social in the
find that all different kinds of people get the same sad look in
their eyes when you mention the eighty diseased trees that are
marked for removal.
I see a semi
circle of Shriners singing the national anthem before the circus
begins… and singing it so well it makes my breath catch.
I see a
where a dozen cars go down a neighborhood street in a day and
people complain about the traffic.
I see a grocery
store where, not only do they bag your items; they carry them to
I find a
salesperson at the shoe store who talks to me as if I’m an old
friend she hasn’t seen for a while.
I find a furniture
store that lets you take the couch home for a few days to see if you
I see the local museum
get better every year I visit it. I
two women dedicated to making it that way.
I see the prairie…the
land that is still in my husband’s family. I see Carter baling hay
and running fence with his dad and when he asks me how I knew it was
called ‘running fence’, I answer him with,
Roberts…Montana Sky.” I then see Carter roll his eyes and mutter,
“I should have guessed.”
I see the horses my
husband and father in law own. I see my bashful, 4 year old,
Olivia, patiently hold out alfalfa hay until the shy horse she has
claimed comes to eat from her hand.
see fields of wheat against a blue sky and wonder if I’d find it so
beautiful if I saw it every day.
I find a cemetery
where my husband’s grandfather is buried.
cemetery that is set in the middle of a field that used to be a
town. There I see too many little headstones marking the death of a
child in the early 1900’s. There Carter finds two tiny headstones
marked, Babies… December 24th, and I wonder if their
mother ever had a good Christmas after that. There my daughter,
Emma, finds and is fascinated by, a headstone marked with her
name. The name, we find out later, of her great-great-great aunt
who only lived to be 22. Emma takes a picture of the headstone.
Carter can barely stand to look at it. And there I take a moment to
thank God and pray for the health of my children.
I see what I’ve seen
every year we go…but maybe I didn’t always appreciate it. Instead
of comparing all I saw with what I knew at home, I should have been
listening, finding, seeing, and learning from what these people in
this town know. This year I did…and I’m grateful for all I was
The week passes
quickly and we are soon packing to come home. We leave early
Saturday morning. We won’t drive straight through on the way home.
We’ll be stopping in Wisconsin and staying in a hotel. We say our
goodbyes and I am sad to leave, but my eyes gleam with
excitement…because today we are going someplace I’ve wanted to go
since I was a little girl. Today Carter is taking a different route
home so that one of my childhood dreams can come true and I CAN NOT
Are We There Yet?, 7/28/04
Part 5... Little Me on the
you should know about me. I am a "Little House" freak. When I
was eight years old, I brought home my Scholastic Book Club
and asked my mom if I could order “Little House in the Big
Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And I was so happy when she
said I could. I loved the television show…I mean LOVED it and I
wanted to read the books as well. Little did I know that I
would come to love the books so much more than the show and as I
said before… I LOVED the television show. (I’m not kidding
When I would get in trouble my punishment was no “Little
House”. My parents knew to hit you where it hurt.)
I read through
“Little House in the Big Woods” quickly and was allowed to keep
ordering the following books in the series. This must have been
spread out over a few years, since I know I didn’t get them all
at once. I do know it seemed like I was growing up with Laura
and her family.
I also know that I
did on occasion ask my parents why we couldn’t skip the beach
one year and go to De Smet, SD to see the museum and one of the
“little houses” that Laura lived in. My parents would roll
their eyes and tell me that one day I would get there.
When I met Carter
and found out he was from South Dakota… well… let’s just say it
seemed everything was coming together quite nicely. Until I
visited South Dakota for the first time and realized these towns
are not exactly a hop, skip, and a jump away from each other.
It’s a four hour drive from Carter’s hometown to De Smet. We’ve
never made the trip. BUT this year… we are going. Carter
mentioned earlier in the week that maybe we could hit De Smet on
our way home, if I still wanted to see it. He was met with an
enthusiastic, “YES, YES…YEESSSSSS!!!”
So we pack up the
kids on Saturday morning and start on our way. When we leave
South Dakota it is around 6
We witness one of the most spectacular sunrises I have ever
seen. A pink sky welcomes a bright orange sun. At one point a
farmhouse on a hill is completely profiled in the sun. It is
breathtaking. I yell at Carter to pull over so I can take a
picture and realize I have to load some film. By the time I
manage to do that… the sun is up above the farmhouse and the
moment is gone. If ever there was an argument for the
convenience of digital cameras… this was it.
“You know, if that
were a plow instead of a farmhouse,” I say to Carter, “I’d be
feeling a bit like Willa Cather right now.”
“We don’t have to
go visit her house anytime soon, do we?” Carter asks.
Blah, blah, blah.
I hear nothing bad today. I’m going to De Smet. Nothing is
ruining my mood. We travel along the many roads to De Smet. It
turns out it is not all that far out of our way. We just need
to zigzag across South Dakota for a bit. We pass very few
cars. The girls have fallen asleep again, so all is quiet. We
go through a few towns. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re
in a town until we see a gas station and grain elevator. It is
a gorgeous day and I am happy to just look out the window.
At around 9:30 we
hit De Smet. We made really good time. We pull into a gas
station, fill up and then go to a restaurant across the street.
We pick up some brochures and check things out while waiting for
“I think we should
be out of here by 11 o’clock,” Carter says.
“Whoa, really?” I
ask. “You don’t think it will take longer than that?”
“It’s not a huge
town,” he says. “The tour shouldn’t be that long and if we make
the 10 o’clock tour, we’ll be in good shape.”
“What time is it
now?” I ask.
“Eat fast,” I tell
the kids as our meal arrives.
sits up a little straighter. I glance over. He’s looking at
Olivia’s glass of milk with wonder.
“I just had a sip
of her milk,” he says as his eyes glaze over. “That is the best
milk I’ve tasted in years.”
He hails the
waitress and asks her to bring him a glass of milk too.
I shake my head.
I’ve never seen this side of him.
His milk arrives and
he closes his eyes as he takes his first sip. I must be sitting
there with a strange look on my face because when he opens his eyes,
he says, “What?”
“Nothing,” I say,
shaking my head again.
Our breakfast is
wonderful and we leave quickly for the tour. We arrive at 10:02 and
have missed the 10 o’clock tour. Carter is a bit put out. I want
to mention that we may have made it on time if he hadn’t been making
love to his glass of milk…but I bite my tongue and say nothing.
We’ll just make the 10:30 tour.
“The 10:30 tour is
already booked,” says the tour guide who is dressed like a boy from
the prairie. “A group of girl scouts is coming in…sorry.”
FREAKING GIRL SCOUTS!!
Carter can tell I’m
getting upset so he talks to the guide and finds out we can do a
half tour. We get to see the house that Pa built…we just can’t go
through the Surveyor’s house, where the family lived at one time.
Okay…that sounds good. We sign in, hop in the car and are off to
see the house.
We arrive and are
welcomed in by a woman, also dressed to historical accuracy. She is
very nice and tells us all about what happened to the family after
the books ended. She asks my daughters questions about
books, but I’ve only started reading them the books and they don’t
know the answers. I know all of the answers. I know more obscure
facts about Laura Ingalls Wilder than any person should.
The girls are bored
out of their heads. Carter is too, but he’s putting on a good face
for me. We look through the items they have placed around. I see a
big, green book of wild animals and get all excited.
“Pa used to read the
girls stories from that book,” I say.
Carter says. “That’s something.”
“Whoa,” I say, “these
were Ma’s kitchen cabinets.”
“How about that,”
I glance up at him.
“I’m not bored,” he
“HAH!” I say.
“No really,” he says
as we leave the house. “I can see where this would be interesting
to someone who has read the books.”
“Have you read the
“Exactly,” I say.
We head back to the
beginning. The girls all have to use the bathroom so I make a deal
with Carter. He takes the kids to the bathroom. I go to the gift
shop and we can leave. I won’t make him drive to the cemetery. I
won’t make him go anywhere else on the tour. We can leave as soon
as I’m finished shopping. He hastily agrees.
I hit the gift shop
like a tornado. I spend more money than I should but consider it a
consolation for the missed part of the tour. I head back outside
where the 11 o’clock tour is just starting. I look over and see
Carter frowning at the group going into the house.
“Those are some young
tour guides,” he says.
I look over and roll
my eyes. “Those are Mennonites taking the tour,” I say with
We head back to the
car. Carter’s eyes widen when he sees all I bought but he is too
smart to say anything. I give the girls their little china dolls
dressed like prairie girls to play with in the car. They love them.
“What are their
names?” Emma asks.
I turn to look back at
“How about Mary, Laura
and Carrie?” I suggest.
They all think about
this for a bit.
“You know…three of the
girls we just heard about?” I say. “From the books at home?”
“How about Jenny,
Meggie, and Livvy?” Emma says.
Olivia and Julia voice
their approval of those names.
I turn around in my
seat with a sigh. “Or Jenny, Meggie and Livvy.” I say, while we
drive out of De Smet and onward toward home.
Are We There Yet?, 7/28/04
Part 6... WE ARE THERE!
We are back on the road and
making our way to Madison, Wisconsin, where we’ll be spending
the night. It is a smooth trip. We spend much of it counting
the Harleys on their way to Sturgis. The kids are busy playing
with their dolls. We stop for lunch and get back in the car.
I’m driving now. I’ve got my music on. The kids are
sleeping…everything is great.
We get through Minnesota and are
heading into Wisconsin when Emma wakes up. We are just about
into La Crosse when Emma wakes up.
“Look Emma,” I say. “We’re in
the pretty place.”
all that smoke?” Emma asks.
Carter and I look ahead. Sure
enough about a quarter mile ahead of us is billowing black
“That can’t be good,” mutters
I see all the cars around us
slowing to a stop. I stop too.
“I wonder what’s going on,” I
roll down our windows, because it is a beautiful day. As soon
as we do that, a man on a motorcycle heading the other way
passes us and yells, “CAR FIRE!!”
“Oh boy…this could be a while,” I
say. I look back. Emma is watching the smoke. Thankfully
Olivia and Julia are still sleeping.
“Hey Emma,” Carter says. “Check
out the guy in front of us.”
We all look. Directly in front
of us is a guy on a motorcycle with a side car. In the side car
is a beautiful black lab. On the beautiful black lab is a
of motorcycle goggles. We are all in heaven. It is
Now here is what I love about the
mid west. In Pennsylvania, if there was an accident and people
had to be stuck in traffic, you would hear a horn every now and
then. You would see people frowning and bitching to themselves
or whoever they’re speaking to on their cell phones. People
would not be happy.
Here in Wisconsin, people throw
their cars into park, pop open a coke, get out of their cars and
have a visit. The guy with the dog comes back to talk to us. A
bunch of people get out to see the dog. People are talking and
laughing. Carter gets out to take a picture of the dog.
Finally the fire trucks arrive
and traffic starts moving. We pass the car that has been
extinguished. There is not much left of it. We see a bunch of
young people looking at the car frowning. We imagine them
saying, “Dude, we are SO dead.”
Then we pass a guy sitting on top
of his car laughing hysterically. We imagine him saying, “Look
at those crazy people who set their car on fire!” I know we
shouldn’t laugh…but it can’t be helped. Sometimes you look at a
person laughing and you just can’t help but laugh with them. We
laugh until we reach Madison.
In Madison, we stay at a hotel
with a pool. The kids think it’s the best thing in the world.
We swim, then we walk to a nearby restaurant to have a late
dinner. We are having a great time. Everyone is being silly.
To be honest, Carter and I are still laughing about the guy on
his car. Everything is fine until I look at Emma and see her
face fall. Tears fill her eyes. The ends of her mouth droop to
her chin. I hear a small sob escape.
“Emma, what’s wrong?” I ask,
“I just realized,” she begins.
“We have to spend all day tomorrow in the car again!!” The end
of that sentence drowns into a wail.
“WHY DIDN’T WE JUST FLY??” she
“Do we have to start pointing
stuff out again?” I ask. “What about that Mississippi River?”
“What about the burning car?”
“What about the dog with the
goggles?” I supply.
She laughs through her tears in
spite of her best efforts to remain sober. “I just don’t want
to get back in the car,” she says.
“Oh well then,” says Carter. “I
guess we could stay here.”
“Madison does seem like a nice
place to live,” I add.
“That’s not what I meant,” Emma
“We know, Emma,” I say. “But we need
to get in the car. KC is waiting for us. There’s a lot left to
“But for now,” Carter says, “you get
to watch TV while lying in bed back at the hotel.”
This cheers everyone significantly.
The next morning we head out early
and have a good trip home in that we don’t get lost and we don’t get
stuck in traffic. You can tell we are all sick of being in the
car. We are all a bit short with one another. We are all tired and
just want to get home. We hit Pennsylvania and the car starts
bouncing. We are cut off by people. We are trying to avoid
Once again…near the end of the trip,
Carter tells the girls how proud he is of them. They have been
pretty good throughout the trip. However, when he tells them this,
once again…all hell breaks loose. Suddenly Emma starts screaming.
Olivia and Julia start kicking one another. And they don’t stop. I
try to tell them it won’t be long until we get home, but they’ve had
enough. They have completely lost their minds.
I give up for a moment and turn on
a Josh Groban song,” I say and look at Carter.
“Fabulous,” he mutters.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see
Olivia and Julia kicking again. Emma screams again, “ARE WE THERE
I feel scary mom emerge. I try some
breathing exercises, but it’s not working. I feel Julia kick my
seat. Emma has hit a note with her screaming that makes my eye
twitch. Scary mom can not be contained.
“THAT IS ENOUGH!!” I shout. “DO YOU
THINK YOU THREE HAVE IT TOUGH? TRY BEING IN CHARGE UP HERE.”
I turn to Emma. “YOU,” I point,
“WILL BE QUIET AND STOP COMPLAINING!!”
turn to Olivia and Julia. “AND YOU TWO,” I point back and forth
between them, “WILL STOP KICKING OR I SWEAR TO YOU… I WILL CUT OFF
YOUR FEET WITH A SCISSOR!!”
I turn back around in my seat.
“I’m there,” Carter says. “It’s
“What? Where?” I ask grumpily.
“I’m officially in HELL!!” he says.
“You? Why you?”
“Well, let me see,” he begins.
“We’re about to be killed by a truck or a construction wall. The
kids are being REALLY bad. You just threatened to chop off their
feet with a rusty scissor…and….AND,” he says his voice rising,
“FREAKING JOSH GROBAN IS ON THE RADIO!!! THIS IS MY HELL!”
I reach over and turn off the radio.
“The scissor wasn’t rusty,” I mutter.
“What?” he snaps.
“The scissor wasn’t rusty.” I say.
“I wouldn’t risk blood poisoning.”
starts banging his head on the steering wheel. This makes me
smile. I reach for the cd player. I put in the Ramones… “I Wanna
Be Sedated”. There is much head banging and afterwards, we all feel
Finally, FINALLY we are at home. We
walk into our house and there is a collective gasp from the kids.
My brother has started our addition and while we were gone, he tore
out our dining room wall. There are holes in the ceiling. There
are holes to the outside that are covered with plastic. Carter and
I are not surprised by this. We knew it was happening, but still it
is a shock suddenly being able to see our back yard from the front
of the house. The kids had no idea. There are tons of questions.
There is much hugging of KC. Olivia
hurries upstairs to see if anything is amiss. She comes down and
says, “It’s okay. Uncle Kevin didn’t break the upstairs.”
“Give him time, Olivia. Give him
time,” says Carter.
Emma checks out the hole and looks
back at us. “So when is this going to be done?”
We shrug and herd the kids into bed.
We stumble into bed ourselves.
We are there. We are home.
Home, sweet, dusty, big hole in the
The Sardine Game, 7/06/04
some of you know I spent the weekend with four of my very
good girlfriends and their families at my friends’ lake
house in the Pocono Mountains. This amounted to 10 adults
and 10 kids (would have been 12…but two of my friends left
their youngest ones with Granny for the weekend).
weekend was idyllic. Deer came to be fed by hand from our
kids. All the kids and grown ups caught fish from the dock.
Canoeing trips were made to visit the island in the middle
of the lake and to see the huge beaver dam on the other side
of the lake. Campfires were built, s’mores were eaten. Kids
eventually passed out and then the real fun began.
is a game that I learned from my best friend, Julie. You
turn off all the lights in the house. One person hides and
the others split up to find him or her. However, when you
find the person, you don’t call out…you squeeze into the
hiding place and hide with the person until the last person
finds you. It may not sound like fun…but trust me, if you
are squished up with a bunch of friends listening to other
people try to find you, knowing you can’t laugh out
loud…it’s a good time.
Since the kids on the trip were spread sleeping throughout
the house…we nixed the idea of playing inside. So, what the
hell? It’s dark outside. There are lots of hiding spots.
LET’S PLAY OUTSIDE!! One of the couples in our group turned
in early, so we leave them inside with the kiddies and out
It is dark!! It is
horror movie dark.
There is a still lake with the moon slowly sinking. There
are stars everywhere and that is the only light. We turned
off all the lights in the house so it wouldn’t help us find
anyone. It was my friend’s husband’s turn to hide. We give
him a few minutes and go to search.
I have to tell you…the other husbands think this is the
ideal time to scare us. They jump from behind trees, they
make “Jason” noises…they’re a real laugh riot. We girls
decide to stick together and we head from the front of the
house to the
back by the lake. We check around the docks when suddenly it
occurs to us that the men are no where to be found. They all
found the hider. We are the only ones left. This feels kind
of creepy. Kind of like the Blair Witch suddenly made off
with our husbands. But…we’ve all been drinking and have the
bravery of the inebriated coursing through our veins.
We head out front once again. There is a small copse of
trees in front and a big carved wooden bear, a garage, lots
of brush and a wood pile. We search. All the while squealing
at every little noise and then laughing at our own
stupidity. My friends Katie and Terri are holding hands and
Denise and I are joined at the hip. We all know what happens
when you get separated from your friends in the woods after
Denise whispers, “Dave’s a hunter. It’s just like him to
pick a good hiding spot.”
“Hush,” Terri warns, “listen for them.”
The key to finding hiders is to listen for the laughter.
There is always laughter sooner or later. In this case, we
hear nothing but the bullfrog out back in the lake.
Suddenly we stumble on some brush and start laughing
“I’m going to pee in my pants,” Denise yells.
“I want a new partner,” I say.
can’t hold it…I’m going.” Denise says.
She walks over to the carved bear who sits beside the trees,
squats and pees.
“Good God…you sound like a racehorse!” I say.
“Told you I had to go,” she laughs.
Terri and Katie are investigating the trees…keeping a fair
distance from Denise’s stream. Denise finishes and we join
“Do you think they’re in there?” Terri asks.
“I’m not going in there!” Katie says. “It’s scary out here.”
“I’ll go in!” yells Denise, in all her drunken courage.
“Wait,” I whisper, as I stop her from
trouncing into God knows what. “Let’s think about this. If that is
them right there…we’ll throw something. If it’s human and NOT a
bush…it should make a yelp-like sound.”
I find a fallen branch and haul it up. I throw it with all my might
and “BAM”. We all wait quietly. No sound. Damn.
“Maybe they are around the side,” Katie says. “Let’s go back.”
“Hush,” Terri warns, “listen for them.” (I have to tell you, this is
her phrase of choice for the evening.)
are headed to the back of the house when we hear a turkey call from
up front. We all realize this is a clue and stumble our way out
front once more. When we get there…there is no sound.
“Did they cross the street?” Katie wonders aloud.
“Dave’s a cheater,” Denise states, “It’s just like him to break the
rules of the game.”
Hmm, we look across the street when a one of us steps on a branch.
We all scream and grab onto one another.
my God,” Katie says, “I think my pants are wet.”
“I’m peeing right now,” Terri cries, “I can’t control it.”
We all stop and talk her down. She regains control and we continue
“Okay,” whispers Terri, “we need to think. We need to do something
funny, so they’ll laugh.”
“Okay,” Denise whispers back,
“how about a lesbian ménage a trois?”
Katie adds, “But there are four of us.”
“Ménage a quatro?” Denise asks.
“We’re mixing languages,” I supply.
“Whatever,” Denise says, “let’s give it a try.”
“OOOOOOH!!” she yells out. “I think we should head out back and
kiss. You girls game?”
We all start laughing again until Terri breaks in with, “Hush…listen
We listen…still nothing.
“Wanna’ go get a drink?” Katie asks.
all agree and begin to head out back. Suddenly we hear turkey calls
and a dog barking. All man made sounds and we run into the trees,
where we find Dave shaking his head, not five feet from where his
wife dropped her pants and answered the call of nature. We find
Carter and Terri’s husband, Chris rubbing their back and neck,
because my aim was true and I hit them both with the branch. And we
find Katie’s husband, Jim, who was the first to find Dave and who,
it is decided, will be the next to hide.
We all go inside and give Jim a few minutes to hide. The guys head
out to begin the search. After they leave, we look at each other.
“Jim’s probably going to pick a good spot.” Denise says.
he’s always wearing hiking boots,” Terri states. “He might just
climb a tree or something.”
“Anyone want a drink?” Katie asks with a gleam in her eye.
“You know,” I say, “we could just forego the searching part of this
We all agree. We head to the dock and sit with our drinks, sharing
stories, sharing laughter under the starlight…while in the distance
every once in a while the man made call of a turkey or a dog barking
is happily ignored.
My Dog Killed a Chicken Today...A
my dog killed a chicken today…yo ho
My dog killed a chicken today
I don’t know how
That dog got out
But my dog killed a chicken today…yo ho
My dog killed a chicken today.
The little boy across the street
Wished he could one day farm
He asked to raise some chickens
And keep them from all harm.
His parents said, “Okay then…
We’ll go and get some peeps.
Just remember they’ll go back one day.
These chickens aren’t for keeps.”
So Ryan got two chickies
And he was feeling fine
The brown one’s name was Stripes
The yellow’s was Sunshine.
They grew in love and harmony
With boys to give them care
The neighbor kids all watched them grow
Every child got to share
Then today I was a’ visiting
With the mom across the street
She went out back, came front again
With KC at her feet.
I looked on in confusion
What was KC doing here?
She must have snuck out sometime
When the little ones were near.
“KC got the chickens!”
The mom yelled with glassy eyes.
“Are they okay? Are they dead?”
I asked in my surprise.
“I can’t tell,” she said
As she moved out back once more.
I threw KC into our house
And headed out the door.
I came upon a scene
That I won’t soon forget
The cage knocked over, Sunshine hiding,
And Stripes…on the lawn…dead.
While Sunshine has recovered
And Stripes is buried 'neath the tree
The guilt I have was heightened
When Ryan tried to arrest me.
So now my head hangs low
My heart is filled with shame
For though they say no one’s at fault
I know I am to blame.
So why do these things happen?
WHY ME? I always say
Why did my dog have to go
And kill that chicken today?
So now we have a problem.
At least it seems to me
That now we’ll have to change
Our dog’s name to KFC.
Oh my dog killed a chicken today…yo ho
My dog killed a chicken today
I don’t know how
That dog got out
But my dog killed a chicken today…yo ho
My dog killed a chicken today.
The Bike Thing, 4/20/04
teaching Emma to ride a bike without her training wheels.
And when I say ‘we’, I, of course, mean Carter. I don’t
have any great wells of patience and I know that if I were
in charge…things would get ugly…really fast.
teaching Emma to go without the training wheels last year.
To say it didn’t go well, would be putting it lightly.
Emma, it seems, is also lacking the great wells of patience
and since she didn’t get it in 10 minutes…decided she was
too little and begged her father to put the training wheels
back on. This was after the obligatory ‘throw the bike on
the ground and run into the back yard sobbing’ scene, all of
which I have on video.
So last year
we gave in and put the wheels back on. This year, she is
going to learn. She is six. It’s time for her to ride a
two wheeler. When we mentioned this to Emma, we learned
something new about her. She not only lacks great wells of
patience, but also any amount of courage. In short…she’s
afraid of falling. So, I buy her knee and elbow pads.
These, along with her helmet, will surely persuade her to
get on that bike. And miracle or miracles…she gives it a
Day one is not
so productive. There is a lot of almost falling and VERY
LOUD SCREAMING! Carter stays with her, holding the back of
her bike the ENTIRE time, but she quickly decides she’s had
enough. Rather than push her into the scene from last year,
we back off and tell her she can try again on Sunday.
Day two is a
little better. She seems to be getting a little balance,
but still screams whenever the bike starts going a bit too
fast. She lasts a little longer than day one, but gives up
again. We say that’s okay and she’ll try again on Monday.
three…Monday. Carter comes home from work and we get
dinner. We are finishing our meal on the front porch, when
we mention that after dinner Emma will have her bike
practice. Emma swallows the last of her ice cream sandwich
with a loud gulp and looks out at her bike in the front
“Did I show
you my new library books?” she asks.
did.” I say. “We’ll read them after you practice on your
“I think we
should read them now,” she says and runs in the house to get
She comes out
with her backpack and pulls out three books. “This is the
one the librarian read to us today,” she begins. “It’s
“I’m sure it
is,” I say. “I’ll read it after the bike lesson. Emma,
it’ll only be a few minutes… like before.”
She looks out
at the bike again. She looks back at me.
thing, Mommy,” she begins.
should be good.
isn’t really my thing. Painting, reading, swimming, running
once in a while…those are my things. I don’t think I should
have to learn to ride a bike.”
“Hmmm,” I say, “well,
that’s true and you are good at those ‘things’, but Daddy and I want
you to try all different ‘things’ so you aren’t limiting yourself.
If you learn to ride and then it is still not your ‘thing’, well
then you don’t have to ride.”
“Do I really have to
learn, Daddy?” she asks.
“Well, I guess not,”
he says, “but you’ll miss out on riding ‘Pink Lightning’.”
Emma looks perplexed.
“What’s ‘Pink Lightning’?” she asks.
Carter’s been waiting
for her to ask…I can tell. He gets a gleam in his eye and begins…
Lightning’? WHAT’S ‘PINK LIGHTNING’? You have never heard of ‘Pink
Lightning’? Let me tell you. ‘Pink Lightning’ is a bike…not just
any bike. ‘Pink Lightning’ was found and fixed up by your grandpa
and is waiting in a garage in South Dakota…waiting for a little girl
to take it for a ride. Your cousin Courtney rode it when she was
little. Your cousin Chelsey rode it when she was little and your
mother and I had hoped that when the time came…you would ride it.
But…if you prefer to skip the bike riding part of your life…’Pink
Lightning’ will just have to wait…for Olivia.”
I just have to step in
here and mention that at times like these I am completely
overwhelmed by the brilliance of my husband. First to get her
attention with the bike’s name. Then to throw in a mention of her
13 and 9 year old cousins, who are the epitome of cool to Emma
simply because they are 13 and 9. And to cap it all off with the
subtle threat of keeping the bike for Olivia…BRILLIANT!! Emma had
her helmet on before the end of the speech.
I am buckling up the
knee and elbow pads and I decide to give Emma a last bit of advice.
“Remember…fear is our
enemy, babe…courage is our friend.”
She is almost out the
door when she turns around. She raises her eyebrows and says with a
laugh, “Have you been watching Star Wars?”
“Umm, no. Why? Is
that from Star Wars?” I ask.
don’t know. I’ve never seen it…just sounded weird, like it would be
in Star Wars.” she says.
“Use the force, Luke.”
I say as she rolls her eyes, shakes her head and runs to her bike.
She picks up her bike
and within two minutes she is riding with no help from Carter. We
are all cheering. The neighbors are cheering. Emma is glowing.
When she finally stops she gives us all high fives and runs to tell
Olivia who is out back swinging. Emma joins her and I hear her say,
“This feels so good. I want to tell the whole world that I can ride
a two wheeler.”
So this may not be the
whole world…but I am telling all of you…the people in our world.
EMMA CAN RIDE A TWO
And for Grandpa and
Grandma in South Dakota…dust off Pink Lightning. Bike riding has
become one of Emma’s ‘things’.
The Princess Diaries...Entry Three,
So you know I have three girls and
while raising three girls is very rewarding on…maybe a
couple days out of the month…on the whole it is one big
challenge. What makes it worse is that I'm getting an
inkling that my darlings might be a tad spoiled. Not
completely...but well...you'll see.
problem starts here in our house one day a few weeks ago.
Olivia has outgrown her latest pair of sneakers. As I always
do when Olivia needs a new pair of shoes, I check the attic
first. I have a huge Rubbermaid container filled with Emma’s
old shoes, so I check…but sneakers get pretty worn out and I
am out of luck. So I buy a new pair of little white sneakers
for Olivia and I give them to her one morning before school.
“What are these?” she asks.
“New sneakers,” I say.
“New?” she asks. “Were these Emma’s?”
“Nope…only yours.” I answer. “You can tell this because they
are still white.”
She holds out her hands and I place the new shoes in them.
“They’re my size?” she asks.
“Yes, Olivia,” I say while laughing. “They are your shoes…no
one else’s and while someday they may be Julia’s, right now
they are only yours.”
She puts them on.
“They fit,” she says. “I love them. Thank you Mommy.”
Wow!! Didn’t realize a new pair of sneakers could instill
Olivia wears her shoes to school and shows her teachers
right away. One of her teachers takes her over to the sand
box in the class room. Olivia hesitates but then follows.
“I’ll play with the sand,” she says, “but I must be very
careful. These are my new shoes and I don’t want them to get
“Okay,” says her teacher, “we’ll be careful.”
“Do you know these shoes were never Emma’s?” she asks.
“Oh well,” says her teacher, “they are very nice sneakers.”
I can’t believe it. My poor middle baby. I never knew she
even cared where her clothes came from. Has she been feeling
this way for a long time? Will she need therapy for this
and, once in therapy, will she <gulp> BLAME ME??
I go home and do what I always do when faced with parental
guilt…I call my mother. She always talks me down and tells
me to get over it. I’m counting on this. I know I wore hand
me downs. I was the fourth of five children. I lived in hand
me downs and, as far as I know, my mother has no guilt about
it. So I call, looking for guidance. Looking for a “Oh
Kirsten, you are being ridiculous… she doesn’t really care
that she wears hand me downs.”
But I don’t get that. There is a big difference here, you
see. I was her child. Olivia is her grandchild. All I hear
is, “Oh the poor baby.” and “Well, we’ll fix that.” and
“I’ll see what I can find.”
Well, gee, that worked out didn’t it? I still have a bit of
guilt, but my mom is going to take care of it. All right!!!
I’ve passed the guilt buck and she’s going to go spend it.
So we go visit my parents a few days later and, while there,
my mom breaks out the clothes she bought for Olivia. There
are some really cute things. Olivia is ecstatic and when my
mom breaks out the nightie she is beyond words. The nightie
is long. It has the word princess on it. It has a sheer
overlay with little silver hearts on it. It’s pink.
I quickly glance at Emma. She was pretty bored with Olivia’s
other clothes but I see her eyes sharpen on the nightie.
“Is that mine?” she asks my mom.
“No, Emma,” she says. “You just got some clothes last week.
These are Olivia’s things.”
a pink nightie, Grammy,” she says. “MY favorite color is
pink. Olivia likes purple.”
“I like pink too.” Olivia pipes up while her fingers tighten
around her nightie. She is not giving up this piece of
“Emma,” I say, “this is Olivia’s clothing. It wouldn’t fit
“It wouldn’t go to the floor,” she explains, “but I bet it
“Well,” I say, “that’s too bad. This is her nightie and
you’re not getting it.”
“What do I have to do to get that nightie?” Emma asks.
“What? Clean my room? I can do that.”
This is a tactic Emma must have inherited from her father.
We call her the deal maker. When we were at her pre school
conference back when she was only three, her teacher told us
how Emma loved the Snow White dress up clothes and if
someone else would have it on, she wouldn’t cry or beg for
it…she would follow them around the room holding another
dress and say things like, “I think this dress would look
much better on you.” or “Look, you could have this dress AND
the shoes, if you give me the Snow White dress.”
Today, I’m not
“Emma,” I say with the tone (you know, the mother tone), “this is
Olivia’s…end of conversation.”
Emma gets the message and I think this is the end of the problem and
it is…but night falls. The kids get ready for bed. Olivia puts on
the nightie and comes to show me.
“Do I look like a princess, Mommy?” she asks.
“Yes you do.” I say. “A very pretty princess.”
“WHAT??” Emma yells down the hall. “You think she’s a princess, but
“Did I say ‘Yes you are a princess Olivia…but that Emma sure
isn’t.’?” I ask. “Did I?”
“You said she looked like a princess.” Emma whines.
“She asked a question and I answered it. Now get into bed.” I
say…and the tone has come back.
Carter comes up to put them to bed and when he sees Olivia he says,
“Oh what a pretty princess we have here!”
I wince…I know it’s coming and I count to three before I hear.
“WHAT??? DADDY THINKS SHE’S A PRINCESS TOO? I want that nightie!!!”
Carter looks at Emma. “Emma, just because I say something nice about
your sister doesn’t mean I am thinking the opposite of you.” he
“But…but…but,” she gasps. She is really getting upset. She is headed
to meltdown territory. I hate meltdown territory.
“Emma,” Carter continues, “you are very tired and you are making
more of this than there is. Go to sleep. You’ll feel better in the
We give kisses. Olivia is glowing. Whenever Emma is being the least
bit naughty Olivia becomes the biggest angel in the world. Emma does
the same when Olivia is naughty. They think they are working us, but
we’re onto them.
I take Julia into her room to put her to bed. Carter gives a kiss to
her and heads downstairs. I start to read a book to Julia when I
“Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooh,” Emma moans.
“Oh boy, “ I whisper to Julia, ”it’s going to be a long night.”
“OOoooooooooooh, “ she moans again. “Why, oh why was I ever born?”
I look at Julia. She looks at me. I shrug as if to say, “Can’t
really think of a reason right at the moment.” It certainly wasn’t
so she could argue with her sister over nighties. Emma finally
realizes she is not getting any response from us so I hear her get
up and whimper her way downstairs to Carter. I’m still with Julia,
but I can hear the high pitched complaints of Emma and the deeper
reasoning tones of Carter.
A little while later, Carter comes up with a sleepy Emma and puts
her to bed.
“What happened?” I ask.
“Well, she really didn’t understand why Olivia got clothes and she
didn’t.” he says.
“WHAT??” I yell. “She ALWAYS gets new clothes. She just got some
“I know, “ he says,” I asked her to put herself in Olivia’s
position. I mentioned that maybe from now on we’d only buy clothes
that wouldn’t fit her for two years…and she’d just have to wait…like
“Wow, good one.” I say.
“Yeah well…it worked.” he says.
We go to sleep. The next morning several things happen. At one point
Emma comes down wearing the nightie along with Olivia who’s saying,
”It’s okay Mommy. I said she could wear it.” I make her take it off,
mostly because it’s about to rip and also because I found out she
paid Olivia for it and since Olivia has no concept of what money
is...she let it go for 43 cents.
I call my mom and tell her the story. She sympathizes and I know she
will not let this state of affairs last long. And it doesn’t. On
Easter, at my mom’s house, Emma receives a long, pink, silky
nightie. Peace is restored. The spoiling continues and my princesses
That is until Julia sees the nightie and says, “An’ me? Where
I see my mom flash a guilty look her way and she is about to say
something like, “I’ll run out right now and get you one.” But I’ve
had enough. This is ridiculous.
“Do you want to know where your nightie is Julia?” I ask…a little on
“Uh huh.” she says and she folds her arms across her chest.
“Olivia has it, “ I say through clenched teeth, “you’ll get it in
She looks me in the eye for a few seconds. “Oh,” she says. “Otay.”
And off she goes.
That was easy. What a sweetheart. You know… I think maybe she
deserves a reward for being such a good girl. Maybe a new nightie…
The Princess Diaries...Entry Two,
few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if Emma was going to play
"Ummm, I don't
think so," I replied. "She never mentioned anything to me about
To be honest…I did
see the paper in her bag. I just threw it out. Here's the
thing. We don't push sports in our house. Not that we have
anything against them. We just have this fear that one day one
of the kids will come home and say, "I want to play soccer."
Soccer scares us. We've seen
parents in our neighborhood, coming home from day long
tournaments...eyes glazed over...muttering, "Six games
today...oh...but tomorrow there are only four...that's good."
That's not good!!
That's terrible. We don't want to spend our weekends at a
soccer field. But, I'm getting off topic. I tell my friend, “I
have no idea what happened to that darn T ball paper…what’s
"Well, Amanda (her
daughter) is playing and I'm coaching," she says. "So far
Amanda is the only little girl and she would love it if Emma
would play with her."
check with her." I say, after finding out that it is only once a
week for eight weeks.
So I am driving my
little princess home from school and I say, “So Emma...do you
think you'd be interested in playing T ball?"
I look in the
rearview mirror and see her frowning. She, then, looks up with
an incredulous expression and says, "But...isn't that a...a...a
"Errr, yeah!" I
have to run?" she asks.
I roll my eyes.
"Yes, I imagine
running would be involved at some point." I reply.
could fall," she says. "What happens then? What if I fall?"
"Well...you get up and
keep running." I say. (GEEZ...we may not push the sports, but I
was completely unaware that we've raised a big priss.)
As we pull into the
garage, I explain what Amanda's mother told me. Emma's eyes light
"Oh well," she says.
"I'll do it if you want me to."
But I am on to her.
She doesn't want to play T ball. She would only be joining for the
social opportunities presented.
"Well, we'll see." I
say as we go into the house.
Later, I talk to
Carter about this.
"The only reason she'd
play," I say, "is so she can hang out with Amanda. She has
absolutely no interest in playing a sport."
"Hmmm," Carter says.
"I'll talk to her. What are your plans tomorrow night?"
"I'm going to that
scrapbooking party." I absently reply.
scrapbook." Carter says.
"Well...duh, but I do
get to hang out with all my fr...oh HAR DEE HAR!!! You think I've
done this to her??" I ask.
"I'm just saying." he
Later, Carter talks to
Emma and they decide to skip T ball. We tell ourselves it's because
she already has dance class once a week and we don't want to put too
much on her. We tell ourselves that if she truly wanted to
play...we would have let her.
The sad truth
is...we're pretty selfish and really hate running all over the place
all the time.
The other sad truth
is...we're lazy and it looks like our girls are headed in the same
The saddest truth of
all is...deep down...we're afraid that a season of T ball will in
some way, somewhere down the line...lead to soccer.
The Princess Diaries...Entry One,
Today I’m having a
bit of trouble with my little princesses. The two oldest
princesses, in particular. Okay, let’s be honest…the youngest
isn’t all that much of a princess anyway…so let’s leave her out
oldest princess, Emma, who is 6, loves the color pink. Olivia,
the middle princess, who is 4, loves the color purple. Here’s
where one of the problems started. You see they have these
little rolls of tape to use for their crafts. Emma has a pink
one. Olivia has a purple one. One day, while upstairs making
some kind of beautiful thing out of paper, markers and tape, the
screaming terribly and she’s the quiet one. The last time she
screamed like this was when Emma slammed her pinky in the front
door and nearly cut it off. So I am understandably concerned.
I run upstairs to find them both at the table. No blood…that’s
good. Apparently, no injuries at all…even better. Olivia lets
out another scream.
problem here?” I ask.
thhaaaaa heee isssssooonnnnnnnllyyy princessssssssss.” She
“Huh?” I ask.
“Slow down…give it to me without the crying.”
something?” I say.
“I didn’t do
anything,” Says Emma.
and tell me what the trouble is.” I say, while giving Emma a
“Take your time.”
“She said that her
roll of tape was the princess because only pink is a princess
color.” She cries out…finally.
ask…again. I’m tempted to have her repeat it. But it took her
three tries the first time and I don’t really want to go through
all that again.
“Let me get this
straight,” I continue. “You are upset because Emma says that
her ROLL OF TAPE is a princess and yours is not.”
“Yes,” she sniffs.
For a moment I’m
thoughtful. I can almost guarantee this was NEVER discussed in
understand this is a roll of tape we’re talking about?” I ask.
“Yes…and she said hers
was the princess…and, and, and…look at it.” She says.
I look at Emma’s pink
roll of tape. There on the side is a capital “P”…I assume for
“princess”. I raise my eyebrows at Emma. She just shrugs and
I try again. “It’s a ROLL OF TAPE. I don’t think there has ever
been a tape princess. Well, maybe in Scotland, but they just call
it Scotch tape, not Princess Scotch tape. And it is NOT pink.
Maybe you can both have princess tape.”
“Mommy,” Emma says
with a sigh. “Mine is pink. Sleeping Beauty wore pink…”
“And blue,” Olivia
“Yes…but mostly pink,”
Emma continues. “I have the pink tape and it is marked with a
“P”…so mine is the princess tape.”
At this Olivia lets
out another wail.
“Okay,” I say over the
noise. “Let’s look at what we’ve got here.”
We all look at the
“Again, I have to
point out that this is TAPE we’re talking about.” I say.
This doesn’t matter to
“Okay,” I continue
after a huge roll of the eyes. “Well, I have to say that
historically I think purple is the more royal color.”
“But,” Emma sputters
out. “Do you like purple better? You like her better, don’t you?”
“Huh? What?” I ask.
“No…I like pink and purple. They can both be princesses.”
Now I’m shaking my
head at myself. This is ridiculous.
They are still arguing
back and forth. Finally I’ve had enough.
“THIS IS TAPE.
THESE,” I say picking up the rolls, “ARE ROLLS OF TAPE. NOT
PRINCESSES. THIS IS TO STICK THINGS TOGETHER. THESE DO NOT DANCE
AT BALLS. THESE DO NOT WEAR PRETTY DRESSES. THESE ARE NOT
“They’re important to
us.” Emma says taking her tape back.
“Yes, they can be
princesses if we want them to be.” Olivia says.
“Yeah,” says Emma.
“Come on Olivia. Let’s play with our princess tape.”
And off they go and
I’m left with only one thought in my head…some days it sucks to be
To Reduce the Risk
of Serious Injury..., 2/22/04
(This is the Prequel to
"The Bath...or why I love
I’ve never been known for my
great powers of concentration. Anyone who has ever driven
anywhere with me will tell you they’ve uttered the words, “Umm,
weren't we supposed to turn there?” I can't help it. Obeying
traffic laws and holding a conversation takes up too much of my
brain. There is no room left for directions. My mind wanders.
I was the kid in school that got yelled at for staring out the
window. I used to tell the teacher I had to go to the bathroom
just so I could escape the classroom and stare out a window in
peace. I didn’t see the harm. After all, I wasn’t hurting
anyone. Maybe I’d be better at math today if I had paid a
little more attention but really…a little mind wandering
couldn’t actually physically hurt a person…could it?
Read on…and find out.
bought me a treadmill. Yes, we belong to a fitness club. Yes,
they have many treadmills there. Yes, I even ran on them many
months ago when the membership was new and exciting. And NO, I
don’t go anymore. I liked running on the treadmill. My legs
didn’t hurt as much as they did whenever I ran outside (which I
have to be honest…wasn’t all that often). My problem was
actually going to the club. I could find a million excuses why
I should NOT leave my house. Too much to do. Too much trouble…yadda,
yadda, yadda. So I stopped. And Carter, against his better
judgment and after making me sign a blood oath swearing I would
actually use it, bought me a treadmill for our house.
It’s a nice treadmill. Lots of
buttons. Two fans (one of them for aromatherapy). A key with a
cord to attach to your person in case you fall. Pulse checker.
All sorts of numbers flashing all over the place. I really have
no idea what they all mean. I just hit start and slowly punch
up the numbers as I run. But first I need music. I made a
running CD back when I was planning on becoming a fitness club
junkie. It’s really good. I think about putting it in the DVD
player, but remember the first song has some bad words and the
kiddies are about, so I use my walkman. I am now attached to
the walkman sitting on the little shelf and attached to the
treadmill by the emergency key. And so it begins.
first song is “Creep” by Radiohead. If you know the song you
are probably thinking, “Hmmm, not the motivating song I would
have picked.” Well, you may be right. It is not very
motivational, but it is a song filled with such self loathing
that it suits my mood quite nicely. Here are some particularly
I don't care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice when I'm not
You're so fucking special
I wish I was special
But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo
What the hell I'm doing here?
I don't belong here
This song kills me. I hate
myself when I listen to it. I am suddenly thinking, “What the
hell AM I doing here? I DON’T belong here.” Then I start
cursing society and the media for telling me I have to be thin
(though it is in the back of my head that I am actually running
to prevent myself from dropping dead of a heart attack). And
then…when I am about to jump off of the machine and tell Carter
to take it back to the store...my second song comes on…
The Wiseguys…Start the Commotion
which has these lyrics…
Get up, get up, put your body in
Get up, get up, put your body in motion
Get up, get up, put your body in motion
Let's do it, just start the commotion
and over again. You may remember it from a Mitsubishi
commercial that was out a couple of years ago. There’s a pretty
girl in the car singing along to this very upbeat song. And
suddenly I think, “Heart attack, Schmeart attack…I want to look
like the pretty girl.” All of my outrage against society and
the media drifts away as I turn the treadmill up higher and
start running. I start checking out all the flashing numbers.
Whoa, look at me. Look how fast I’m going. Wait, what’s that
in the middle there? A warning sign…I should check that out.
I can’t read it from this distance. I need glasses. I bend
down a little bit to check it out. “To reduce the risk of
serious injury…” Yeesh, that sounds ominous. I probably should
have read this before starting. I lean down again.
BAM!! I run into the left side
of the treadmill. I give a little shriek and grab onto the bar,
barely saving myself
a fall. Maybe I should leave the reading until later. It can’t
be that important. I keep going. The third song is about to
start. It’s Mandinka by Sinead O’Connor. Again, maybe you
think this is an odd choice, but this is my cd. And this was
one of my favorite songs in high school. AND it has these
I don't know no shame
I feel no pain
I can't see the flame
But I do know Man - din – ka.
Wow, I haven’t heard this song in so
long. It brings back memories of me dancing around in my room at my
parents’ house. I was soooo skinny then and really, I didn’t
appreciate it. I close my eyes as I smile. I love this song so mu….
CRASH! My eyes whip open. My hand
has hit the cord to the walkman. My walkman goes hurling through
the air. The CD flies out of it. In an effort to grab the walkman,
my right hand has hit the cord to the emergency key and the
treadmill slows to a stop. Unfortunately I’m still running…
BAM…right into the front of the treadmill.
I stumble off the death machine and
catch my breath. I’m a little dizzy from stopping so suddenly.
After a minute or so, I find my CD and decide the walkman is too
dangerous. I don’t think the rest of the songs have any cursing so
I stick the CD in the DVD player. I skip over Mandinka and go
fourth song, Blue Monday by Orgy. This is a fantastic remake of
another of my favorite songs from high school. I plug in the key
again…attach it to myself and start running. Ouch…I have a little
twinge in my knee. Hmm, I’ll just run through the pain. I’m sure
it’ll work its way out. I’m happy to report there were no problems
during this song. Just a whole lot of running my butt off
(hopefully). I’m really going at a good pace now. I don’t know how
far I’ve gone since the machine reset itself, but that’s okay.
Don’t dwell on the past. I am kicking ass right now. That’s what’s
what song is next? Woohooo! It’s Zombie by the Cranberries. I
punch up the pace a bit. I’m sure this twinge in my knee will be
better any second now. This is such a great song. I know this song
has a message and I’m supposed to seriously think about the lyrics,
but all I can think is, “This would be a great song to play while
having sex.” Maybe it’s the beat, maybe it’s the melody… probably
it’s Dolores moaning throughout the entire song. I don’t know. The
picture is in my head. And well, one thought leads to another and
my eyes close and
again I have run off the left side of the treadmill. Once again my
hand has hit the emergency key cord. And this time…I fall…hard. I
grab the bar and haul myself up.
knee really hurts. I probably twisted it or something. I sit down
for a few minutes and contemplate the machine. I never had this
problem at the club. Why now? It must be the machine. It can’t be
me. The alignment is off. That’s it. Just like the car, it keeps
pulling to the left. Wait, wouldn’t that mean MY alignment is off?
I shake my head and am about to admit defeat.
next song is playing. It’s Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie
(or by David Bowie and Queen… whichever you prefer). I sit and
listen. This would be a good running song. I concentrate on the
lyrics and I hear…
Insanity laughs under pressure we're
Can't we give ourselves one more chance?
Oh God. I can’t believe I’m going to
do this. I’m going to give it one more chance. Stupid cd. I limp
onto the machine. I’ll just walk a bit and maybe my knee will be
I plug in the key. I don’t attach the cord to myself. That’s
caused too many problems. I start walking. Ouch…ouch…ouch. Every
step hurts. The next song comes on. It’s Brass Monkey by the
Beastie Boys. Unfortunately, I can’t even make it to…
We're offered Moet - we don't mind
Wherever we go with bring the Monkey with us.
My knee hurts too badly. I
give up. As I am about to hobble off I notice the warning again. I
read it. To reduce the risk of serious injury, stand on the
rails before getting on the treadmill. Read your owner’s manual,
blah, blah, blah. I limp over to the desk and grab some masking
tape and a marker. My warning now reads…To
reduce the risk of serious injury…PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU ARE
DOING, YOU IDIOT!!
I promise myself that I will get on
the death trap, umm…I mean, treadmill again…but not today. Today I
have had enough. Today I am going to try to forget about this
fiasco. Today I am going to treat myself. Today I am going to take
a nice, long, relaxing bath. I deserve it and what could
possibly go wrong in the bathtub.
The Bath...or why I love showers, 2/11/04
don’t often take baths. Who has the time? I’m a ‘hop in for a quick
shower’ type of girl. I’m sure if I had the time I would love baths.
They certainly look relaxing. And today…I hurt my knee. Today…my
skin is really dry. So today…I am taking a bath.
I spent a
ridiculous amount of money on some bath oil a few months ago that is
supposed to hydrate my skin and help with aches and pains. So since
I fell off my treadmill today (another story completely)…I decided I
would see if this stuff really works.
We have a very old house and only one bathroom, so I am doomed to
take my bath in the tiny tub upstairs. First I have to empty the tub
of all the toys. The kids have all these foam letters and numbers
stuck all over the wall. I leave them alone. They look like they’ll
stay put. I empty out all other toys and do a quick rinse of the
Then I start the water and poor in the oil. WHOA!! This stuff
smells…like…like…peppermint, I think. Whew. It’s making my eyes
water, but maybe that is the active ingredient. I’ll keep it going.
I do one last check of the bedrooms to make sure the kids are
occupied and go in and shut the door. I get in the tub and lay back
with my eyes closed.
What the hell was that?? I open my eyes and notice the number 7
floating near my leg. Must have fallen off the wall. I check the
other letters. They are still secure. I close my eyes again.
Splat!! Splat!! Splat, splat, splat!!!
I am suddenly attacked by the foam letters. I try to arrange them in
some sort of order. After all, this may be some sort of sign.
Instead of reading tea leaves, I’ll be known for my powers of
reading bath tub letters. However, the letters are G, T, B, Q, and
the number 2. Along with the number 7…this comes to…well…nothing
really. I can’t work without vowels. Maybe I’ll just lay back and
see what else drops.
I lay back and wait. Nothing. I open one eye to check out the
letters. I tap the E with my toe, but it just slides around the wall
and really I mustn’t help the letters. It won’t mean anything if I
push the vowels into the message. So I sit back and shake my head at
myself. Who thinks of these things while in the bathtub?? Ugh. I lay
down again and close my eyes…willing myself to relax.
Thirty seconds later, my eyes open again. I start looking around the
tub. OH GOD!! What is that?? Under the soap dish thingie that’s
built into the tub there is a whole load of mildew. How’d that get
there? Hmmmm, that’ll teach me to only clean the places I can see. I
make a mental note to clean the tub when I get out.
I’m feeling pretty good. My knee is better. I’m feeling all
hydrated. I’m probably ready to get out, but then I remember the
bottle said 20 minutes. Good God!! I’ve only been in for like 7
minutes. Sheesh. I lay back….again and here the pitter pat of
Olivia’s feet. She comes into the bathroom and announces she has to
“Fine,” I say. “Go ahead.”
She sits and looks over at me. She frowns.
“What are you doing, Mommy?” she asks.
“Ummm, taking a bath.” I answer.
She frowns again. “But you don’t take baths…you take showers.” She
“I know that, but I thought I’d try a bath today.” I reply.
She looks really perplexed by this. I can see her trying to get her
brain around it. She decides she needs another opinion. “EMMA!!” she
yells, “MOMMY’S TAKING A BATH!!”
I hear Emma scamper down the hall. She bursts into the bathroom and
says, “What are you doing, Mommy?”
“Taking a bath.” I answer. “Could you please shut the door and
Olivia aren’t you finished yet?”
“Forgot to go," Olivia mutters.
Apparently the sight of me in the bathtub has made her forget her
original purpose in coming to the bathroom.
Emma is still standing there looking at me. Suddenly she breaks out
laughing and leaves the room (and forgets to shut the door). Really
I can’t blame her for laughing. I see myself naked and break out
laughing all the time. Of course my laughter usually ends with a sob
and an, “Oh God, what happened?”
Finally Olivia finishes and leaves.
“SHUT THE DOOR!!” I yell after her.
She pops back in, “Sorry Mommy.” And she shuts the door.
lay back…once again. Still no letters falling. I hear footsteps…
again. Olivia opens the door.
“Mommy,” she says all seriously. “We can’t find the baby to the
Barbie Happy Family.”
“Sometimes we lose things though, so it’s okay.” She continues.
“Okay, Olivia…it’ll turn up.” I say.
She leaves. SLAM!! At least she remembered to shut the door.
Close my eyes...again. Jesus…are those more footsteps coming??
The door pops open. Emma comes in.
"Do you know where to find the Happy Family baby. She was wearing a
cute little shirt.” She tells me.
“Emma, Happy Family baby will turn up. Maybe you should clean your
room and find it.” I say. That last line was a stroke of genius.
Nothing gets my kids to hide like the thought of having to clean
“I'll keep looking.” She says and runs away.
“SHUT THE DOOR!!” I yell…again.
SLAM!!! “Sorry Mommy.” She says.
Okay…this is ridiculous. Why am I even in the bathtub? If I’d been
in the shower I’d have been finished before Olivia had to go to the
bathroom. But I am going to follow the rules. I think I have about 7
I lay back and try to enjoy the last few minutes of my bath.
Good GOD!! More footsteps. Little footsteps. Julia. At least she
can’t turn the knob. But our little Julia is resourceful. She always
manages to get what she wants. What she wants now is me.
“Honey, I’ll be out in a few minutes.” I say.
“MMMAAAAAAMMMMMMAAAAAAAAAAAA.” I hear her moan through the door. I
look and see her little hand reaching under the door. This is just
pathetic. I really should get out, but my time is not up. What
should I do?
Suddenly I hear a SPLAT…SPLAT!! I look and see my answer. The Zero
and the U have fallen. They are floating next to the T and if you
pretend the zero is an O and put it with the U and T… you get OUT.
So that’s what I did.
So I am now hydrated, my eyes are still watering from the
peppermint, my knee still hurts and I get to look forward to an
afternoon of cleaning the tub. But I am happy to report that we have
found the Happy Family baby. Julia had it.
So very, very glad I took that bath.
Okay here was the question posed on my message-board...
director, found a little known follow up book to "Lord of
the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien. He plans to start
filming and wanted the original cast back. Unfortunately,
none of the actresses are available.
Casting call has gone out and YOU have been chosen. Which
part do you take in the new film?
You don't have to pick a character that's been
in the previous movies, or even the books! Make one up. But
if you do, tell us about your character!
All the girls were saying, 'Oh I'll be
Arwen' or 'I'll be Legolas' girlfriend'...really no
imagination. So here is my answer...
I'm the new
Elven queen, Ivehadmephyll, the always forgotten sister of
Galadriel. (I look a bit like her, only not quite so pasty.)
Since no one told me when the boat was leaving for the
undying lands...I'm stuck here in middle earth with a bunch
of little freaks or "hobbits" as they call themselves. And
in the way of all lesser beings…they took one look at my
beauty and made me queen. S’okeedoke with me. After all,
Galadriel’s not here to object (she was always jealous of my
complexion. Hey…not my fault she never hit the tanning
quest is to find a girlfriend for one Legolas D. Elf, since
Gollum started this nasty rumor about Legi being in love
with Aragorn…it’s thrown the story off and things MUST end
happily (well that…and Arwen is in a state thinking Aragorn
might one day return Legolas' affections. She just keeps
staring off into nothingness. Every once in a while you see
a tear drop down her cheek, but other than that…nadda. Bit
of a drama queen if you ask me, but well…you didn’t.)
So continuing on… first…we have to find Mr. Elf. He’s gone
missing and the little thingies…umm…oh yeah, Hobbits, think
I’m the only one who can find him. So what the hell. Things
are kind of slow now that peace has been restored. Let’s
start out in some woods where Merry and Pippin have a good
time catching up with some really tall drink of wood. He’s
got this sloooow, seeeexy, kind of thing happening. But bark
is too rough for me and it doesn’t take long for me to
realize he hasn’t seen the elf. All he wants to do is talk
about how he and his treebuds overthrew Saruman. Blah, blah,
blah. Happened a long time ago, buddy. Let’s move on.
head to Edoras and find the hunky Faramir and the fair Eowyn
giving long lustful looks to one another. Every once in a
while Eowyn will yell out, “I am no man”. Hmmm, maybe she
has to keep reminding him. Sounds like they need some
counseling only I don’t have the time to listen. I look over
the table to Eomer. It is clear he is in love with his
sister. Ewwww, these people have enough trouble without
throwing a maybe gay elf in the mix. We better leave them
Oh no…Merry and Pippin are waxing poetic about the freaking
shire again. “So go home already,” I shout. “This was your
idea…not mine.” They finally stop arguing and agree to keep
with me on this quest.
Okay…we’ve checked all over middle Earth…I don’t see any
sign of Legolas. “Maybe we should check Rivendell,“ says
“Rivenwhat?” I ask.
“Ummm, Rivendell, it’s where the elves used to live. You’re
an elf…shouldn’t you know the place?” He asks (a little
cheekily, I might add).
“Listen up, Shorty…and I don’t just mean your height.” I begin. “I
am a lady of the freaking golden wood. I kept away from the crazy
relatives in Rivendell. Wait…isn’t that where Arwen’s from? Oh
jeez…no wonder I never went there. She used to come visit us in
Lorien….ugh…the stares…and the tears. Puh-lease, I stayed far away
But it does sound like a spot where Legolas would be hanging out, so
we check it out. Our first clue is the ground littered with broken
arrows. We follow them along the buildings until we come to a tower.
There we hear the distinct sounds of male elf sobbing. Hmmm, this
could be touchy. Things are not looking good for Arwen and Aragorn.
We start to climb the stairs. We come across a tapestry depicting
Aragorn and his cool new sword all crumbled up in the corner. Not a
good sign. We keep climbing and come across a tapestry…this one
still hanging... of the HOTTEST elf I’ve ever seen.
“Who is that? “ I ask the ‘bits.
“Why…that’s Legolas. Didn’t you know what he looked like?” Pippin
“Ummm, NO!!” I reply. “I just told you we didn’t mix with the
“Well,” says Merry, “How did you expect to find him if you didn’t
know what he looked like?” (I can tell he’s still pissed about the
“I assumed you two would ferret him out,” I say. “You do have a
heightened 'gay-dar', do you not?”
They both looked stunned. Pippin sputters, “Why would you think that
we have good “gay-dar”?”
Uh oh, I think, they aren’t out yet…tread carefully.
“Well, you know,” I begin, “I just figured you two were…well…I mean
you can’t stand to be separated and well… you can’t tell me that
maybe one night after too much pipe-weed and brew from the Green
Dragon you haven’t… at least thought about it.”
They gape at me. Then they stare at each other as awareness dawns in
their itty bitty eyes. “Okay, “ I say, “I’ll just head up here to
find Legolas.” I leave them on the stairs.
The sobbing is getting louder. I must be close. Did he have to pick
the tippy top of the tower? I sigh and continue on. I come to a
closed door and knock lightly and call softly, “Legolas?”
There is running and the door is thrown open by the very sexy
Legolas. “Who the hell are you?” he yells.
“Ummm…I’m Galadriel’s sister…Ivehadmephyll.” I say. “I was sent on a
quest to find you and discover if you are, indeed, in love with
He gapes at me…lots of gaping going on today. He finally recovers
and begins to laugh. Oh what a nice laugh he has. And then I see it.
The tapestry on the wall…the eyes…the stare…the freaking teardrop.
He’s not in love with Aragorn…he’s in love with ARWEN.
I say. “I see what the trouble is and you are just going to have to
get over it. She is in love with Aragorn and he, for some reason, is
in love with her.”
“But I’ll never get over her,” he laments. He starts singing an old
elvish chant and really I can’t stand the oldies so in order to shut
him up…I kiss him. He pushes me back and gapes…again. “I could never
love you as I do her.” He says.
I don’t mind telling you…I’m a little hurt by this. I mean…I’m the
one with the tan. Sure my gowns may be a little more form fitting,
but can I help it if I made friends with the breast fairy? I sit
down. What can I do? He loves her. I stare across the room…looking
at nothing really and then I feel it. The teardrop on my face.
Shit…it must be a elven thing.
I feel Legolas turn my face to his and I suddenly see a love for me
shining in his eyes. Arwen is freaking BRILLIANT. The teardrop
So Legolas and I are still in the tower room. Don’t know what became
of the Hobbits. Don’t really care. I have my elf…and you other
ladies are gonna have to wait until after …I’ve had me phyll.
Time in the City, 12/15/03
Part I: City Sidewalks...Busy
Ahhhh, the holidays…a
time of good will, spending time with family and silver and gold
decorations on every Christmas tree. This year I am overcome with
the spirit of Christmas. I vow in late October that I WILL enjoy
holidays this year, I WILL get around to doing my Christmas cards
this year, I WILL make sure my kids experience the magic of
Christmas. The “magic of Christmas” this year included a trip to
New York City to visit the shops, to see the tree, to experience New
York in all it’s Christmas splendor.
We really decided to
go to New York as a treat for our 5 year old, Emma. She was dying
to see the city. I’d like to tell you it was because she is an
urbanite at heart or that she was ready to wade hip deep in culture
or even that she wanted to see the windows at Macy’s but no,
these are the reasons
the trip. Emma wanted to ride in a taxi, so being the suckers…I
mean doting parents that we are, we agree to make a trip to New York
so she can fulfill her dream of tooling around in a cab. So we pick
a day and that day is…December 5th. (Did anyone else
hear the horror movie music when I mentioned that date? No? Oh
We leave on Friday
morning at 9 am. We drop Julia at my mom and dad’s house, because
there is no way I will ever take a stroller to the city. I’ve seen
the kids in strollers in New York. They are NOT happy kids. And
really any opportunity we have to hoist one of our kids on my folks,
well, we take it. So we begin our trip. We can usually make it to
New York in 2 ½ hours, but we are allowing extra time because there
is snow forecast and there is already a dusting on the ground. But
does that stop us?? NO WAY!! We are talking Christmas magic
here…snow HELPS Christmas magic.
The trip up is
fantastic. We make it in only 2 hours and take that as a good
sign. Hindsight being what it is, we probably should have taken it
as a sign…a big flashing neon sign…that says, “IT’S SNOWING, YOU
IDIOTS…GO HOME.” But we are caught up in the spirit and even though
the skyline is mysteriously hidden by all of the clouds, we continue
to the city.
We park at the Port
Authority and go to wait for a taxi. Emma is dancing with
anticipation. About this time Carter asks where we are going to
go. “I don’t know, “ I say, “we’ll just fly by the seats of our
pants.” Carter gives me the look…the incredulous ‘I can’t believe
we are in New York without a plan’ look. He runs into the gift shop
and buys a map of the city. Then he gives me the ‘I can’t believe I
just paid 10 bucks for this dinky map’ look. Finally we are in a
cab and Emma is in a nirvana like state. This is why we came to New
York. Wait…I phrased that wrong…this is why we came to New York??
For a taxi ride? Are we nuts? Oops…bad thoughts…go away. Silver
Bells…tralala, not listening to the little voice in my head
We decide to start at
FAO Schwartz and work our way to Rockefeller Center. So we go to
FAO…see the line…sneak around to the back where there is no line AND
where there is…SANTA. How cool is that? Christmas magic at work
again. Kids talk…yadda, yadda, yadda. Check out the toys. Kids
want everything they see, but we are standing firm with our “NO TOYS
UNTIL CHRISTMAS” decision. Emma starts to get hungry and is looking
a little tired…after all her life long dream of the taxi cab ride
has been realized. There is bound be some post taxi cab let down.
So Olivia is looking at some toys and Carter sits Emma down on a
bench. Two older ladies come over. One sits down and says to her
friend, “Delores, sit down here. I’m sure this young girl won’t
mind moving over a little.”
Then she pushes Emma
off the bench.
And then Carter gives
me the “I can’t believe I’m going to get into a fight with an old
woman look”. I start to intervene when luckily the crisis is
averted by the arrival of the strange wandering toy store princess,
who is a pretty girl dressed up like a princess talking like she has
just taken a shot of helium. You would think this would be
comforting to kids. “Oooooh, fairy princess…how pretty…” and all
that, but no. My kids are freaked out by Princess High Pitch, not
to mention kind of scared of the old lady, so we leave FAO…quickly.
Hmmm, cold as a
witch’s…well…you know…outside and kids are getting hungry.
“I know,” I say, “
lets go to the American Girl Store…they have a café there, I’ve
“Great,” Carter says,
“where is it?”
“Hmmmm, must be around
here somewhere.” I reply and I start walking like I know where I’m
going. I really don’t, but realize I can’t let Carter know that.
“I can’t believe you
didn’t research this before we came here,” he says.
“Well, you know,
hehehe, fly by the seat of our pants and all that.” I reply.
He mutters something
about the seats of our pants being frozen, thus making the flying
very difficult, but I’m not quite sure about that…it was lost in the
wind. It is really getting cold. The kids really start complaining
about weakness due to hunger. Carter and I tell them to look up at
the tall buildings… if only it weren’t so cloudy, maybe we could see
the tops. If only it weren’t snowing so hard, maybe we could see
Ahhh, it’s all so
magical…and cold…so very, very cold. Actually it is really wet, as
well…but still…kind of magical in a very messy, wet and cold kind of
way. Keep repeating over and over in head…”Silver bells, silver
bells. It’s Christmastime in the city…”
It's Christmas Time in the City
Part II: She Was...An American
I’m walking and
walking and okay…maybe shivering…a little. Okay, A LOT, but I am
having fun. I am in New York. I am introducing my kids to the
wonders of Christmas. I am keeping my eyes peeled for any sign of
an American Girl. I am dragging my older daughter, while Carter
drags our younger daughter, through the first snow of the season. I
start to get discouraged. I don’t see an American Girl store
I am about to give up
when an angel of the Lord descends upon us. Okay…not so much an
angel of the Lord as a man carrying two HUGE American Girl bags, but
still…a very good sign.
So I do what every
wife does. I elbow Carter and whisper, “Go ask that guy where the
“What?” He asks.
I point to the guy
with the bags. Carter gives a long suffering sigh and asks the man
where the store is.
The man says, “Fear
not, I bring you tidings of great joy for up ahead a few blocks is
the store you seek.” (I may be paraphrasing a bit…I’ve still got
the angel image working.)
“HAH,” I say, “we
are going the right way…I knew it.”
The man starts to walk
on, then turns around and yells, “Don’t forget your wallet…my kids
went nuts in that store.”
Oh hahahaha. What a
funny guy and much nicer than that old lady at the toy store. I
glance at Carter…he’s twitching. Never a good sign. Okay, we’ll
just keep going to the store.
But wait…is that St.
Patrick’s?? Oh it is soooo pretty. “Let’s go inside.” I say.
“Do they have food in
there?” asks Emma.
communion wafers, but let’s go in. It is so pretty…and WARM…I bet
it’s warm in there.” I say.
That gets their
attention. We go in and the kids are less than impressed.
“Are they having
church?” Emma asks.
“Yes,” I say, “keep
your voice down.”
“Why are all these
people in here? Is that a store?” Olivia asks.
“Ummm, well, yes it
is…look at the windows. Aren’t they wonderful?”
“I guess, but our
church doesn’t have all these people walking around AND we have
those kind of windows too.” She responds.
“Okay, who’s hungry?”
I ask, “Let’s go see the American Girls.”
We venture back into
the cold. We walk and lo and behold…The American Girl Store. We
rush inside. Yay, we are here. We can eat. YAY!!! We are warm…we
are dry…we are in an alternate universe. Everyone in the American
Girl store is beautiful. Beautiful parents… beautiful kids…
Now, I have a little
history with the American Girl thing. When I turned 16, my mom
bought me the Kirsten doll. Yes, I was too old for dolls, but
growing up I could never find ANYTHING with my name on it. So my
mom would buy me anything she could ever find with Kirsten on
it…earrings (I still have those), a key chain (lost that) and when
the American Girls came out and one was named Kirsten…I got it. So
now Kirsten sits on a shelf in the girls’ room…and now the girls
want their own.
Luckily, my mother is
getting them the American Girl of their choice for Christmas. She
already has them wrapped, so when Emma and Olivia run up to the
dolls they’ve picked, we have to give them the “NO TOYS UNTIL
Carter cuts to the
chase at this store and immediately asks an employee where the café
is. We are told it is
the third floor, so up we go. The girls aren’t saying too much. I
think they are in awe of the whole thing. Carter thinks they’ve
slipped into a coma brought on by excessive hunger. We check our
coats on the second floor. Everyone is so nice. We head up to the
café and we stop in front of the CLOSED doors. We stop in front of
the unhappy woman behind the podium in front of those CLOSED doors.
We stop in front of the sign that says “RESERVATIONS ARE SUGGESTED”
that is in front of the unhappy woman in front of the CLOSED doors.
Carter looks at me.
“Do we have reservations?” he asks.
“Of course not,” I
say. “I didn’t know we were coming here.”
“Of course not,” he
Okay, I am going to
ask the unhappy woman. Unhappy woman is on the phone. She doesn’t
look at me, but points to the sign that shows the ‘seating times’
for the café. We are two hours late for lunch and an hour shy of
afternoon tea. I have questions but unhappy woman is still on the
phone, so I go and grab a menu. Hmmm, I see nothing on here that my
kids will eat. THIS is a disaster. I look at Carter and see him
looking around the place with something akin to fear in his eyes.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“This place is
freaking me out.” He says. “All the little girls are dressed like
“They are just little
kids having fun.” I say. But I start looking around too.
“Fun?” he says, “It’s
a freaking snowy mess outside and these kids are wearing velvet
dresses. This is a strange place. There’s a Fridays across the
street. Let’s go there.”
I look at OUR two
little American girls. Like all good girls from the suburbs, my
kids are head to toe GAP. Sure their little sneakers may be
dripping, sure their hair may be windblown, sure their noses may
be…okay their noses are dripping too, but they look
Olivia could pass as the “Little Match Girl”, but other than that,
they're fine. I kneel down in front of my little girls, who really
have been troopers through this whole thing and ask a question to
which I know the answer…
“A vegetable frittata
here? Or a burger across the street?”
A resounding “BURGER”
meets my ears. We leave unhappy woman on the phone and head down to
get our coats. While at the coat check we see another mother
getting her little ones ready.
“Oh, were you at the
lunch?” she asks.
“No, I’m afraid not,“
“Oh, it was great,”
she says, “we were lucky to get a walk in spot at the lunch
This brings a picture
into my head of unhappy woman upstairs picking the best dressed
little kids to get behind the CLOSED doors. Kind of like a kiddie
bouncer. This makes me smirk. I tell the woman to have a good day
and head downstairs while thinking, “That woman is crazy” Which is
immediately followed by my covetous thoughts surrounding the
American Girl sheepskin jacket that her 4 year old daughter was
So we head across the
street. We go into Fridays, because like all good parents from the
suburbs, Fridays is our natural environment. We defrost. We eat
our fill of nachos, burgers and ice cream (I know…ice cream?? But
we wanted dessert and ice cream was available.) And we have a good
time. And I start to think…this is good. We’ll go see the tree and
we’ll head home. We’ll get out of the city early and be home for
dinner. Things are really looking up. After all, the trip home
couldn’t be that bad… “ring a ling, here them sing…soon it will be
It's Christmas Time in the City
Part III: What a Long Strange
Trip It's Been
“Okay, let’s go see that big tree,” I say as we finish with our
dessert. We are all refreshed and full of yummy food. We go back
outside where the very, very cold wind blows the very, very cold
snow right in our faces.
“Let’s make this quick,” I mutter to Carter, “we have to get home.”
So we see the tree, we see the ice/snow skaters. We take pictures
and off we go…back to the Port Authority. I would have taken a cab
to the Port Authority, but Carter insists it’s not that far and,
really, precipitation + New York = no cabs, so we hoof it. The kids
are really getting tired. Carter picks up Olivia. I see Emma’s eyes
“Boy, my feet are wet,” she says.
“We’ll be there soon.” I say.
“I’m really tired,” she says.
“I know…we’ll be there soon,” I say.
“Why does Olivia get to be carried?” she asks.
“Well, Olivia is only four. You are almost 6. Don’t worry we’ll be
there soon.” I say…again.
“Mommy…will you please carry me?” she asks.
“Emma, I can’t carry you all the way to the Port Authority.” I
“But…we’ll be there soon,” she says.
Damn, she got me. I hate that. I pick her up and keep walking. About
a block later…I switch with Carter. After all, he is bigger than me.
He should get the bigger child.
Finally…FINALLY we see the Port Authority. The relief I feel when we
step inside is so great, I almost cry. No more walking in the cold…YAY!!!
Okay, we are going to make a potty stop and then go get the car.
I take the girls into the ladies room. Carter says he’ll meet us in
the gift shop when we’re done. Okay, Emma
she doesn’t have to go. Truth is she is scared to death of public
toilets. Olivia on the other hand will go in any public toilet she
can find. So, in we go. The next person out comes out of the
handicap stall. I always feel guilty using the handicap stall. What
if someone comes in that really needs it? Hmmm, I mull it over until
the person behind me asks if I’m going in there. Okay, I quickly
pull the kids in telling myself that if taking two kids to the
bathroom isn’t considered a handicap, it should be.
I set Olivia on the potty and kneel down in front of her. Suddenly
the toilet flushes. Olivia jumps off…SCREAMING.
“What happened?” I ask Emma, “Did you flush that?”
“I didn’t touch it…there’s not even a flusher,” she declares. Which
tells me that she may not have done it…but she thought about it.
I look and see it is an automatic flusher. When I knelt down it
activated the flusher. Okay, I explain what happened and Olivia gets
back on the potty. I stand in front of her…the flusher is not going
to be activated this time. I look down at her. She is still
sniffling. I crack a joke and she laughs a little. She starts
blinking her eyes.
“Mommy,” she says,”I think I have something in my eye.”
“Oh, let me check,” I say and I kneel down.
I realize my error too late. I look back at the flashing flusher
light in much the same way, I suppose, as a bomb squad guy might
look when he realizes he cut the wrong wire.
Screaming like you’ve never heard follows. Olivia jumps off the
toilet so fast that the hat on her head flies off and lands…in the
toilet. I quickly slap my hand over my mouth. I really shouldn’t
laugh when my daughter is so upset, but I’ve moved into a hysterical
state and can’t quite control the giggles. Emma is in a state of
sheer bliss. This is the funniest thing she’s seen in a LONG time.
Olivia is still crying and claiming that she doesn’t have to go
anymore. Apparently now I have two daughters afraid of public
toilets. I give up trying to get her to go. I dig the hat out of the
toilet and we head out, stopping to throw away the hat (because even
though my grandmother made that hat…it was in a toilet at the Port
Authority…it will never be clean again, no matter how many times I
may wash it) and to wash my hands…VIGOROUSLY.
We meet Carter in the gift shop and I relay the recent events to
him. Then I spot something over his shoulder... a book with an
orange cover. The new Nora Roberts book that I haven’t had time to
get at home. I rush over and tell Carter I am buying it.
“Can’t you get it for less at home?” he asks.
you understand that I just had my hand in a public toilet?” I ask
and my hysterical giggles vanish into what can only be described as
an “if one more thing goes wrong” look. Carter quickly breaks out
the wallet and I feel somehow comforted by the new Nora book in my
We get up to our car…which is covered with snow because we had to
park on the roof. Carter cleans off the car while I get the little
ones settled in their seats. Everyone in snuggly warm by the time
Carter gets the car cleaned and we start to leave the city. It is
3:30 in the afternoon. We were in the city for four and a half
It takes a long time to get through the tunnel. The kids pass out
before we hit the end. We are going about 10
per hour. Two hours pass and we haven’t hit the New Jersey turnpike.
I call my mom to check on Julia. All is well there. I tell her we’ll
be late. Really, really late. Emma and Olivia start to wake up. We
start playing car games. Our version of a car game is called “Would
you?” We just keep asking ‘would you’ questions. That lasts for a
little while but, like always, the subject matter keeps
deteriorating. When Olivia asks if I would brush my teeth with snake
throw up, I call a halt to the game.
The roads are really bad. We know we are on a two lane road, but
there are four lanes of cars. No one can see the lines, so
everyone’s guessing. It is now around 7:00 pm. The kids are getting
a bit restless and I still have it in my head that Olivia has to pee
but is refusing to go. I mention to Carter that we should try to
pull off somewhere and find some snacks and a bathroom. He agrees.
He is really stressed out. He is hot, because every time we turn our
defroster down a little bit, the windshield starts freezing up. So
the temperature in our car is up there. He is stiff because this is
not the most relaxing drive. We pull off the next exit and hope to
find a gas station or something that has some food and a bathroom.
We travel down the road a bit, when we see a light in the distance.
The light seems to call to us…beckoning us with its warm glow. We
get a little closer, when suddenly Carter’s eyes get big and he says
in an awestruck
“Honey? Kids? It’s going to be okay. We’ve found a strip mall.”
We pull into the lot and look around reverently. This is the nicest
strip mall I’ve ever seen. We find an open grocery store and head
in. The kids think this is the best adventure they’ve been on. We
load up on lunchables and deli sandwiches and lots of water.
Everyone makes a pit stop and we are on our way once again. Fate is
smiling on us when I find a movie stuck under the seat. We set the
kids up with their dinners and put the movie in. When we get back on
the road we are behind a plow…YAY!! The kids are in heaven.
Apparently eating in the car…in the dark…is a big deal.
We are all feeling better. Well, until Carter realizes the movie I
found was “Fantasia” and he is in for two hours of classical music
while sitting in a sauna-like mini van. Every once in a while he
rolls down the window and sticks his head out. Every once in a while
I stick my hand out the window, break off some ice and shove it down
his shirt…okay…I only did that once.
Finally, FINALLY we make it to my mom’s house to pick up Julia. It
is 10:30 pm. It took us seven hours to get home. Personally, if I am
going to be in a car for seven hours I expect a beach-like
destination. But I am glad to see my littlest one. I take her out to
the car where Carter and the girls are waiting. All three of them
are sound asleep. I wake up Carter and we head home. We get the kids
to bed. As we are getting them changed they wake up a little and I
ask them what their favorite part of the day was.
“Taxi,” Emma mutters.
“Dinner in the car,” says Olivia.
Oh well, I tried.
I go down stairs and plug in the tree for just a little bit and look
outside. Still snowing and it looks really nice when you are in your
house all safe and warm. I watch it for a while and pet our dog who
is wondering where we were all day. I unplug the tree and go
upstairs where I check on my sleeping girls.
“Here is my Christmas magic,” I think as I kiss them one more time.
“Here is my everyday magic.”
I go to bed...
…and start making plans for next year’s trip…when…
”above all the bustle you’ll hear…Silver bells…Silver bells…it’s
Christmastime in the city. Ring a ling…hear them sing…soon it will
be Christmas Day.”
Here's what you do...
or how to get a 2-year old to bed, 10/22/03
Lately we’ve been having
difficulty putting our little almost 2 year old to bed. Well, we
don’t have trouble putting her there…she seems to have an issue with
being put. So, last night I kept careful track of everything I did
to get her to bed. I post this now in the hopes of helping other
mothers. So here’s what you do…
First, you put your other children to bed in the hopes that the two
year old will see other children going to bed and want to do same.
Next, never let your husband try to get the two year old to bed.
Even if you are chatting with friends on the computer, you should
put them on hold and just put the baby to bed yourself. Really you
will be saving time in the long run.
If you ignore the above advice, as I do often, here’s what you do…
After about an hour your husband will descend the stairs with a two
year old who is bloated from all the drinks of water she talked him
into. He will look at you and admit defeat. She will look at you
and gloat. So then…you will put whatever you were doing on hold and
take her upstairs.
think rocking will help. Yes, you realize, it is ridiculous to
still be rocking a two year old to sleep, but she is the baby and
will probably be rocked until she is sixteen. However, after
rocking for a half hour on the wooden rocker that you thought would
look “quaint” in the nursery, you rub your aching back and say,
“Hey, two year old, why don’t you go to bed like a big girl?” You
try putting her in the crib. She is reaching for you desperately
and the lower lip is sticking out and…and quivering. You can’t
leave her like this. She’ll hate you forever. She’ll be in therapy
at some point blaming everything wrong in her life on this night…on
So you pick her up and decide to take her into your room and lay
with her on your bed. This seems to be working…she is laying still,
playing with your hair. She’s relaxed…you’re relaxed. Suddenly you
wake up…it is now midnight and you are still fully clothed on top of
the covers with a two year old asleep on your arm. Miraculously
your husband has come into bed and slipped under the covers without
waking either of you. You narrow your eyes and look at him. You
suspect he may be faking sleep so he doesn’t have to help remove the
two year old from your arm (which by this point is all tingly). You
have her hand so tangled in your hair you don’t know how to extract
it. You decide to take matters into your own hands (no matter how
numb one of them may be). So here’s what you do…
roll over…slowly. This is key. NO SUDDEN MOVEMENTS. You slowly
take your feet off the bed and lower them to the floor. Now you are
in a REALLY uncomfortable position. Half of you is ready to stand,
the other half pinned by the baby. You take your right hand and
extract baby hand from hair. You then grab hold of your left arm at
the shoulder and pull. This is the only time when quick movement is
allowed. You get the arm out from under the baby and quickly flop
on the bed…just in case the quick movement wakes her up. You lay
there for a few moments, not unlike an animal playing dead. You
open one eye and notice hers are still closed. You breath a sigh of
relief and work the blood back into your left arm.
Okay…you are now ready for the most delicate part. You stand up.
NOW…this is very important, you MUST be careful where you step. You
have wood floors throughout your house. It is an old house. IT IS
VERY CREAKY. You thank GOD that you left some dirty clothes on the
floor, as this will muffle the footsteps. You stand and look at
your little angel sleeping. You consider just leaving her there,
but decide that would be the wrong thing to do. She must sleep in
her own bed…eventually. So you lean down and pick her up. Her eyes
open, and your breath stops, but they flutter closed again and you
begin your journey.
You walk over the dirty clothes….trying to remember where you left
your shoes, so as to avoid tripping over them. You do a kind of
hopping leap on your tip toes, so as to avoid creaky boards. You
make it down the hall and put the two year old in her crib. You
quickly shove her favorite stuffed animal in her arms and cover her
with her blanket. You look…her eyes have opened. You keep your
hand on the blanket, so she knows she hasn’t been abandoned. Her
Now you wonder how long to keep the hand on her. Do you remove it
quickly and risk the eyes opening again? NO…you remove it
slowly…one finger at a time and then slowly….sloooooowly lift the
hand out of the crib. Then you do something that makes you shake
your head in disgust. You drop to your hands and knees and crawl
out of the room. You manage to shut her door…using more care than a
thief and creep back down the hall while pressed up against the
wall, because the floorboards there don’t creak as badly.
You get changed…you crawl into bed. You hear your husband whisper,
“Is she all set?” You say yes and then get a bit of revenge by
shoving your freezing cold feet between his legs. And then you
slowly drift to sleep.
You are awakened sometime later by the pitter pat of 4 year old
feet. Then, the sound of 4 year old feet tripping over the dirty
clothes as she makes her way to your side of the bed. You open your
eyes. You hear the words, “I had a bad dream.” You mutter
something that sounds like ‘climb in’. She squeezes between you and
your husband and you decide to take a little snooze while you figure
out how to get her into her bed. You wake up a while later with the
plan in your head.
So here’s what you do…
Pray for Me, 10/13/03
Okay...it all happened on Saturday (perhaps the nicest day of the
year). It was fantastic outside. Skies were blue, sun was shining,
clouds were puffy, leaves were falling. It was damn near perfect, if
you ask me. And where was my oldest daughter on this beautiful day??
She was downstairs...watching television.
Now I admit, I let my kids watch tv a lot. There are no "no tv on
school nights" rules in this house. The only rule we have is 'If it
is nice outside...it would be nice for you to be outside.' And it
wasn't just nice on Saturday...it was freaking gorgeous. (I
know...I'm repeating myself.)
Anyway, we tell Emma to shut off the tv and get outside. She
complains that she doesn't want to go outside...she just wants to
"Too bad." I say, "Get your butt outside."
"Emma," Carter says, "who knows how many nice days we'll have
left...you better get outside and enjoy it." (As you can see, he's
far more diplomatic than I am.)
she yells. "I AM WATCHING TV!!"
Wow...look at that!! Carter's diplomacy just flew out the window
(probably because it's gorgeous out there). Emma is punished by
being sent to her room. And if you think Emma went quietly...well,
then you don't my daughter too well.
So finally she is in her room, whimpering over and over about how
she neeeeeeeds tv and she doesn't understand why we won't let her
watch it and blah, blah, blah.
"Emma," I say, "if you are going to cry up here, please do it
quietly. I have to get Julia down for a nap." (As you can see, I not
only lack diplomacy, but sympathy as well. Really, there should be a
test before you have kids.)
Surprisingly...she does quiet down. Carter has Olivia outside. Emma
is in her room. I am in Julia's room putting her to bed. This takes
a little while as Julia has decided she's not all that sleepy. I
change her mind for her and in about 20 minutes, she is asleep.
I go to check on Emma. Hmmm, she's not in her room. Oh, she must
have gone outside with the others. I go outside with the others and
ask, "Where's Emma?"
in her room, I guess," Carter answers.
"Nope not there," I say. I narrow my eyes. I look at Carter..."You
We both run inside, down to the family room and there is Emma
The anger I felt was too great to put into words. But I managed to
get one sentence out...
"EMMA, YOU WILL NOT WATCH ANY TELEVISION FOR AN ENTIRE WEEK!!!"
Now, apparently diplomacy must have run into sanity outside, because
sanity suddenly comes crashing in screaming, "WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU
I realize I have just punished myself far worse than I have punished
her. I look at Carter and utter the only two words left to say, "Oh
He looks at me and nods. Emma finally goes outside where she has fun
in spite of herself. I walk around in a daze. How will I survive for
a week without my nanny...I mean...television?
Then I think...well...it won't be too bad. She has kindergarten. If
we can just get through the weekend...it shouldn't be too bad.
Sunday was bad. The pleading and deal making were, quite frankly,
embarrassing. She is trying everything in her power to get us to
lift the ban. My favorite was "I'm sick...I need to watch
television." Sunday night she goes to bed and I think, "Okay, school
is tomorrow. Sure she only has afternoon kindergarten, but we'll
survive. We can make it."
Then I remember...IT'S FREAKING COLUMBUS DAY!!! No
all. AAAAAAAAGH. So I heard some more pleading and begging. I had to
clarify that, yes, movies were also included in the ban. I had to
get angry and threaten a two week ban. (I did hear sanity scream
again when I mentioned that!!) And then Emma went outside.
So please...pray for me. Pray for nice weather. Pray for the "Hello
Kitty" shrinky dinks to last. Pray that I don't cave and let her
watch tv. Support me in my time of need. I don't expect sanity to
come back until next Saturday.
Family Fun Night, 9/05/03
Earlier this week we had a couple of
rainy days and nights so in keeping with our efforts to be a more
Cleaver-like family, we decided to have a game night. No TV
for us tonight...this is "family time." During dinner we tried
to decide which game we should play...
Carter: Okay girls, who wants
to play a game tonight?
Emma: I do
Olivia: I do
Julia: Ah da (she’s still not
speaking very well)
Me: Okay, which game should we
Chutes and Ladders
Emma: Not Chutes and Ladders
Olivia: Yes, Chutes and
Emma: I can’t play Chutes and
Me: Emma you CAN play Chutes
and Ladders…you’ve played it before.
Emma: I know how to play…I just
Me: Why not? (Although
truth be told…I know why not)
Emma: I cheat.
Carter: So don’t cheat.
Emma: I can’t help it. I
won’t go down the chutes, so we can’t play that game.
Okay, looks to me like Emma has
admitted to having a problem and instead of trying to fix it, she
just avoids the temptation. Not an uncommon step in many cases
of addiction. You know, if you’re addicted to alcohol, stay
out of the bar…if you’re addicted to gambling, stay out of the
casino…if you’re addicted to cheating, stay away from games.
However, this IS family fun night and
we ARE playing a game, damn it. This is what people on Milton
Bradley commercials do and they look like they are having fun.
So we eventually decide to play “Go Fish,” we just won’t let Emma
deal the cards.
So we play the LONGEST game of “Go
Fish” on record. Carter is helping Olivia, Emma is on her own,
and I am trying to keep Julia from showing everyone my cards.
(I take “Go Fish” pretty seriously.) Finally, after 7 hours
(okay maybe it was closer to 32 minutes, but it felt like 7 hours),
we are finished and Emma has come out the winner…without even
cheating (at least not that we could see.)
Surprisingly, Emma is taking the winning of the game
very well. No victory dances, no smug smiles, no calling her sister
a big loser. Obviously she does not take after me in this respect,
as I’ve been known to celebrate my victories for quite a while.
Olivia, on the other hand, is not faring so well. After pushing all
her cards away, she threw her head down on the table and is not
showing very sportsman-like behavior. We give her the old “there’s
always next time” line but she’s not buying it. Her head is still
on the table, a little hiccup of tears can be heard every now and
then. And just when I am about to give up…here comes the voice of
Emma: You know Olivia, everyone is good at
something, no one is good at everything.
Carter and I look at Emma, then at each other. Holy
crap!! Our daughter is Master Po.
Me: Wow Emma, that was a pretty cool thing to say.
Emma: Yeah, I heard it on Sponge Bob. (Sponge
Bob…Kung Fu, same thing)
Carter: Ahhhh, yes, Life Lessons by Sponge Bob.
Sponge Bob, Sponge Bob, Sponge Bob (funny…she says that pretty well)
Are we great parents or what? Anyway, Olivia (or
grasshopper, as she is now known) saw the wisdom of Emma’s words and
got up from the table. On their way upstairs to brush their teeth
the gloating (previously held in check) is now let loose.
Emma: You know Olivia, you are really good at lots
of things…I’m just good at winning stuff.
Olivia: (no response, but I think she rolled her
Emma: Look at this Olivia…you are really good at
brushing your teeth and I am really good at winning stuff.
Olivia: (again, no response, but she looks like
she’s wondering if her toothbrush could be used as a weapon)
Emma: And this Olivia…you are really good at saying
your prayers and I am really good at winning stuff.
Olivia: (too busy praying to respond, but I bet I
know what she’s praying for)
Me: Okay Emma, that’s enough.
Emma: I can’t help it Mommy. It’s just the way it
Me: Emma, go to sleep.
Olivia: Next time we’re playing Chutes and Ladders.
Me: Yeah right. Next time…we’re watching Sponge
Four Shots and a Urine
This is an old
story, but has some very valuable lessons.
It all happened
a year and a half ago. My three girls were then 4, 2, and 2 months
old and it was time for Julia's 2 month visit to the doctor.
great, “ I think , “that’s around Emma’s 4th birthday…I’ll set their
checkups up on the same day. AND I’ll take Olivia along so she
doesn’t feel left out and then I won’t need a sitter. People will
be so impressed that I am out with my new baby and my other two
adorables. They will look at me and think, ‘I want to have three
kids, look at how well that woman handles her kids.’ ”
So the morning
of the check up arrives. What the hell was I thinking??? I have to
get these three kids all ready and be at the doctor’s office by
9:15? (I know what you’re thinking…9:15 isn’t that early…but with
my three kids…well…it’s early.) But I manage. They are all
dressed. Emma and Olivia have used the potty. They are all buckled
in and we’re off.
We get to the
doctor’s office and I admit it, I’m feeling a bit smug. “Here I
am,” I want to shout, “I have three…yes, three children with me. We
are out and about. They are dressed in clothes that match. They’ve
been fed…and if you really want to be impressed, I could tell you
that this morning I nursed the baby and made scrambled eggs at the
same time.” But that would be bragging, so I keep quiet, though
We go back to
the little room and the nurses start checking out Julia and Emma.
Since Emma is now 4, she has to have her sight and hearing checked.
Passes the sight test okay, but she’s being a little bashful. Time
for the hearing test. The nurse gives her explicit instructions,
you all know how it goes – you hear the beep, you raise your hand.
Well, Emma has apparently forgotten the ‘raise your hand’ part of
the instructions. The nurse is beeping away, slowly making them
louder and louder. My God, my daughter is deaf. She’s not raising
her hand. Oh my, now the beeps are so loud, I can hear them. My
poor baby…all this time, I thought she didn’t listen…turns out she
couldn’t hear. Just then Olivia says, “Mommy are we almost done?”
around with the headphones on and says, “No Olivia, I have to finish
listening to the beeps.”
that…reverse it…she can hear…does NOT listen.
So we finish
that….doctor comes in and checks them out. All healthy…Julia’s
gaining weight. After some more instruction, Emma passed the
“So now all
that’s left, “ says the doctor, “is Julia's shots and Emma’s urine
“Oh yeah, how
many shots is it today? And what’s this about a urine sample?” I
like four shots for Julia and we’ll just need a little sample in
this container here from Emma.” Answers the doctor. “It’s normal
on their 4 year visit.”
Oh it’s normal
on a 4 year visit…okay, I can do that. Sure Emma only pees two,
maybe three times a day, but we can handle it. WAIT A MINUTE…Did
she say four shots?? FOUR??? FOUR??? In my baby’s tiny legs? Are
they kidding? FOUR?
I mention my
reservations about FOUR shots to the doctor, as this is my third
child and I’m sure my other girls never got four shots at once.
Three maybe, but not four. The doctor explains that they’ve changed
the immunization schedules a bit and now they give four at the two
“Well, okay,” I
say, though I am already apologizing to Julia in my head.
leaves…the nurses arrive with the needles. I take a deep breath
and watch them poke my baby. I wince…Julia screams and really, who
can blame her? I’d be screaming too. But I try to soothe and
comfort her. I get her dressed and am about to leave when one
nurse points to the little urine sample container.
forgot about that. Hehehe, well, I can handle it…after all, I got
these kids here. I am a together mother. I can handle anything.
So we head down to the bathroom and lock the door.
“Okay Emma,” I
say, “you need to pee in this little cup…think you can do it?”
Emma, “I don’t have to pee right now.”
“Well, you have
to try," I answer, “I really want to get home, okay?” (Please keep
in mind that Julia is STILL screaming and as I said before…who can
So she sits. I
kneel in front and hold the cup under her in one hand and Julia in
“Okay, “ I say,
Nothing. Not a
drop. I try begging, threatening, I may have even cajoled (but as
I’m not sure what cajoled means, I can’t be certain).
Nothing. Not a
drop. She tries laughing, making faces, squeezing…nothing is
I am getting
really frustrated. I made it this far, damn it…I am getting the
urine sample. More threats, more pleading and in the middle of it
all…my little forgotten middle child (and don’t give me any crap
about forgetting about her…I was a middle child too. I know what
it’s like)…anyway, my little Olivia decides it is time she was
getting some attention. She reaches behind Emma, to the back of the
Emma jumps off
the toilet and knocks me in the mouth with her head. I fall
backwards since my hands are full of screaming baby and urine cup
(though, thankfully, an empty urine cup). Now everyone is crying.
Emma is crying because the toilet scared her…Olivia is crying
because I yelled at her for flushing the toilet and Julia…well…FOUR
shots. And me? What about me? Did I cry? No I did not, but it
was a close thing. I checked to make sure my teeth were still
intact and then pulled up Emma’s pants, grabbed the urine cup and
left that terrible place with a promise to bring the urine sample
(and not so many kids) next time.
So Moral #1: If
you find yourself with three children and someplace to go…don’t be a
hero. Don’t be smug. Hire the freaking sitter.
Moral #2: Don’t
double up checkups…you may think you are saving time, but you’re
Moral # 3: Pay
attention to your middle children. They’re sneaky.
The Cookie Judgement, 6/20/03
Last month my
mother in law called asking what kind of cookies she should make for
my kids. She was going to make them and freeze them, so she would
be all prepared for our visit.
“Great,” I say,
“they eat any kind of cookies.”
chocolate chip?” she asks.
exclaim, “that is their favorite.” (and mine as well, if you must
“Okay, how about
if I use M&M’s instead of chocolate chips?” she asks.
“That should be
okay,” I say, but secretly I’m a little disappointed because I like
chocolate chips better than M&M’s. However, I am a good and giving
mother who always thinks of her children first (hah), and I know
they looooove M&M’s, so I’ll go with that.
says, “then I’m going to use applesauce instead of butter.”
“And then, I’ll
use Splenda instead of sugar,” she continues.
“Hmmm, I’m not
“And I’ll throw
a bit of oatmeal in as well,” she says.
This is NOT a cookie!! What she just described is NOT a cookie.
That is a cookie atrocity, an anti-cookie. Everyone knows a cookie
requires butter or shortening or some form of fat. And it needs
sugar…not Splenda. Brown sugar, white sugar…stuff that is bad for
you. Otherwise, what is the point of eating a cookie. My God, in
some circles, what she is making could be considered…<gasp> HEALTH
I am a good and
giving daughter in law who always puts the feelings of my mother in
law first (hah…no really, HAH!!), so I try to be diplomatic.
“Well,” I say,
“I can’t guarantee that they’ll like that, but they’ll try anything,
so whip some up. They sound…<gulp>… yummy.”
we get to South Dakota, and the cookies await us. My kids take one,
for a moment fooled by the presence of M&Ms. They eat one…and
therein lies their verdict. They only eat one…they don’t help
themselves to a second, they don’t ask for a second. They eat one
and don’t touch those cookies for the rest of the week. And I
personally think they are a little pissed that their grandma tried
to pass off such crap as a cookie, but being the good and giving
daughter in law that I am, I would never say that.
So the moral of
the story is…if you are a grandma and you say you’re gonna’ make
chocolate chip cookies…for god’s sake, make chocolate chip cookies.
There is a recipe right on the back of the Nestle Morsels bag and no
where...NO WHERE does it mention applesauce.
King of the Road Rage, 5/05/03
As some of you
know, I had a child-free Saturday. I spent the day with my friend
Jenny, being pampered and polished and spoiled. It was a great day,
but I won’t get into all that. This story is about the drive home.
about an hour and fifteen minutes from me, so I was looking forward
to the drive home. I mean, one hour and fifteen minutes in a car
(not my minivan), listening to my music (not the Disney princess
collection) is just a little slice of heaven for me. So I begin my
I have to tell
you, I was feeling pretty cool. I had just had a wonderful time. I
was singing along to the music and even though I sometimes get a
little nervous driving at night, on this particular night, I was
King of the Road. Cars everywhere were getting out of my way. It
was perfect. I was going to make great time getting home. YAY
ME!! I can’t believe it. I’m passing everyone. I’m not even
speeding…that much. Everyone must realize that here is a girl who
is in control, who is confident in her night driving abilities, who
is relaxed and happily heading home to the bosom of her family.
(Okay, truth be told, I don’t really know what that last phrase
means, because when you think of it…I am actually the bosom of the
family…but anyway…) Everything was moving along fantastically,
This guy is NOT
getting out of my way. In fact, he is slowing down in front of me.
Just pull over mister…I am King of the Road here tonight. You know,
‘keep to the right, so people may pass on the left’? Ever hear of
that, buddy? God, why can’t everyone be a great driver, like me?
Suddenly, actually rather abruptly, he shoots into the right lane
and I pass. Then suddenly, rather abruptly, he pulls behind me in
the left lane.
Hmmm, maybe he’s
angry. Maybe he really likes the left lane. I’ll just scoot over
to the right. Agghhhh, he’s followed me into the right lane
and…AND…puts his high beams on. “Oh God,” I think frantically,
“it’s road rage.” Every horrible road rage story pops into my
head. He’s going to shoot me with a cross bow, he’s going to throw
my dog into oncoming traffic…only I don’t have my dog with me. MY
GOD, he’s going to throw ME into oncoming traffic.
Now he is
flashing his high beams. What is he doing? What did I do to him?
I start to get angry. I mean, the high beam thing is just rude.
Just who does he think he…wait a minute…hmmm…what does that blue
light on the dashboard mean? It looks like a little headlight…in
fact I think when that light is on it means…
My high beams
are on?? MY HIGH BEAMS ARE ON?? How did they get turned on? More
importantly, how do I turn them off?? I quickly start flicking
anything that will flick and after turning on the wipers, the turn
signals and giving the windshield a quick, unexpected wash, I hit
the high beam switch.
I slow down, I
turn the music down…I am defeated. I’m not cool. People weren’t
getting out of my way because I was King of the Road. They were
frantically trying to avoid being blinded.
The pick up
truck pulls up beside me. I courageously (hah!) keep my eyes
straight ahead so I don’t have to see Mr. Pick-up. I know I should
give a wave to thank him for letting me know about the lights, but I
can’t bring myself to glance out the window. I am quite sure he is
either laughing or giving me the “stupid, woman driver” look. And
anyway, it is too dark to see anything. So I drive on…
Then I hear
something coming through the speakers of the car. Wait, I love that
song. That is one of my FAVORITE songs. I turn it up. I pull into
the left lane, behind the pick-up. I follow him for a bit, and
eventually he pulls over into the right lane. I pass him…I pass
other people. I am still King of the Road. I am still cool.
Woohoo!!! I am relaxed. I am a great driver. I am blowing by
these people and I’m not even speeding…that much. This bosom is
going to be home with her family in no time…no time at all.
Everything is moving along fantastically, until…
Was that a
Breakfast or 20 Questions,
So you know how
everyone always talks about how their kids ask a million questions?
Like, ‘why is the sky blue?’ or ‘where do babies come from?’. Well
I have a different problem. Why do I have to ask a million
questions? I’m talking about breakfast at our house. Most meals in
our house are strictly dictatorial, meaning you will eat what you
are given or you will be sent to your dungeon/bedroom. However
breakfast is a different affair. We like to give the kids a
choice. We run a petite dejeuner democracy, if you will. After all
there are only so many breakfast foods available. How hard could it
Let me set the
6 am…my house.
There is an
annoying morning person (also known as Carter/Daddy) bopping around
the kitchen making his breakfast and lunch for the day. He’s very
chipper because he realizes he can go out in the world and speak to
adults today. But that peeve is for another time. I come
downstairs holding baby Julia. Julia is 17 months old and can only
manage a few words. We have worked out a system, though, of yes and
no. Nod and grunt means yes. Shaking head means no. The questions
Me: Julia, are
Julia: (nod and
Me: Want an
Julia: (nod and
Me: How ‘bout
Julia: (nod and
really have to ask her those questions, but I’m trying to block out
the sounds of the cheerful morning person in the background. Get
Julia her breakfast just in time for Olivia to come downstairs.
Olivia is 3 and speaks with a little lisp lately. You’ll soon see
why that bit of info is important to the story.
Olivia. Did you go potty?
went last night.
Me: Sure you
don’t have to go now?
have to go potty.
eyes) Okay, want some breakfast?
Me: What would
of the 7 boxes of cereal in the pantry) Okay, what kind of cereal?
a little exasperated) You know!! The thereal we got at the thtore.
At this point
Carter breaks in with a “You know, as opposed to the cereal we
harvested in the backyard.” Which earns him “the look.” I finally
remember that Olivia picked Fruit Gems at the store, which is
basically Fruity Pebbles without the Flintstones. I pour some in
Olivia: I don’t
Me: You don’t
Me: Eat one
bowl with milk, then the next without. Deal?
I don’t even ask
about juice. She always picks orange, so I go with it and hope
there hasn’t been some change in her opinion of orange juice. Set
it down. She drinks. YES!!
lumbering down the steps. Ahh, our 5 year old Emma is most
definitely NOT a morning person. She sits down carefully keeping
her eyes closed against the sunlight.
Me: Want some
Emma: (nod and
grunt…so that’s where the baby gets it from)
Me: What would
Emma: (think she
has dozed off)
Me: Emma, why
do you get out of bed if you’re so tired?
eyes again) Okay, what do you want to eat?
At this point
Olivia breaks in…
Olivia: I have
to go potty.
Me: So go.
Emma: I want a
Me: Just one?
Me: Are you
sure? You usually eat two.
Emma: Just one.
Go to the
kitchen and nuke one frozen pancake. Carter is on his way out.
Kisses all around.
Me: (yelling up
the steps) OLIVIA?
everything okay up there?
Me: Do you know
your cereal is getting a little soggy?
What? What is it??
(pointing, nodding, shaking head all at once)
Me: What the
hell does that mean?
pointing and nodding)
Me: More juice?
Me: More egg?
Me: (a little
frantically) What? What? Toast?
head and really getting pissed)
Me: You want
mommy to make daddy call in sick so mommy can spend the day at the
Damn, was really
hoping for a nod on that one.
Emma: She wants
at me as if I were a pitiful excuse for a mother) <sigh> Julia wants
Me: Oh, okay.
Get some dry
cereal for Julia to eat/play with/throw on the floor. Crisis
Okay, I am going
to sit down and read the paper. Everyone’s happy, it seems. I sit
down, sip some juice, when finally my children decide it is their
turn to ask the questions.
down the steps) Could thomeone come wipe my butt?
Emma: Mom, could
I have another pancake?
Me: (nod and