Category Archives: Travel

It’s the season of the sick

It’s almost Halloween, guys! The candy! The costumes! The cocktails! And most importantly, the release of season two of “Stranger Things”!

Truly, it’s the best time of the year.  

Ahem…

If you’re single.

But if you happen to be a parent, October really does live up to its reputation as the scariest month (and not just because your kids won’t let you binge-watch “Stranger Things” no matter how much you beg them).

Forget the mountain of treats that turn your offspring into manipulative and heartless sugar addicts. And all the idiots ordering that stupid zombie drink at Starbucks that takes the barista three hours to make when all you want is a giant-ass dark roast so you don’t collapse on top of your toddler. Or even the fact you can’t find a decent Halloween costume because they only make slutty costumes for women and you now have mom boobs that look ridiculous in a skimpy “Rainbow Brite” outfit.

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No, this is the scariest time of year because this is when it all starts. The season of the sick. The marathon of mucus. The tsunami of tsissues.

That relentless march of germs that invade your children’s bodies and doesn’t quit until that one beautiful week in May when everyone in your family is finally healthy again. (And then promptly begins again that beautiful week in June when everyone suddenly comes down with an awful summer cold).

It all starts NOW.

My kids don’t even have to be around other kids to get sick this time of year. If anyone within a 23-mile radius encounters even a single germ, my children somehow know (probably via mucus telepathy), and they immediately start ripping through tissue boxes like we own stock in Kleenex.

True story. We just got back from visiting family in Ohio. Now, my extended family has approximately 18,000 small children as members. Of those 18,000 children, approximately 17,999 were sick. Or just getting over being sick. Or just starting to come down with something. Or coughed sometime in September but we weren’t taking any chances.  

So, we quarantined our children, even though it interfered with all our plans. We hunkered down at Memaw’s house and hosed down their tiny bodies every three hours with a gallon of hand sanitizer followed by a blast of Lysol directly to the face.

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And yet, AND YET, my little one still woke up one morning with a fever. Which she kindly passed on to her older brother because she licked his eyeballs during a fun game of “Wrestle Until Someone Cries.”

And then she broke out in a horrible rash. But he didn’t. Which made for a particularly rousing game of “What’s The Amateur Diagnosis?”

We specifically avoided any and all people, healthy or sick, going as far as to jump on top of anyone under five feet tall like they were a germ grenade if they even THOUGHT of approaching our babies.

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But it didn’t matter. Because it never matters. Because life is short and cruel and full of snot.

WHY ARE CHILDREN ALWAYS SICK? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, their immature immune systems and other science “facts.” But seriously, WHY ARE CHILDREN ALWAYS SICK?

It’s never when you need them to be sick either. Like when you need a viable excuse to get out of your friend Dave’s “Make Your Own Calzone” party. Or when, say, the latest season of “Stranger Things” becomes available and you need a guilt-free reason to put them in a Benadryl coma so you can watch it.

Oh no. Then they are the picture of health and pestering you endlessly to go to the playground or the library or “parent” them in any discernible form.

They only get sick when it is the worst possible time. Like, oh, I don’t know, on vacation.

And then they stay sick forever.

And ever and ever and ever and then a brief recovery just in time for you to begrudgingly attend Dave’s “Game of Thrones” wine tasting party, and then ever and ever and ever and ever.

Here soon I won’t even be able to remember a time when one of them wasn’t sick. They will just pass germs back and forth with each other all fall and winter and for the next one hundred million months. And they’ll be miserable. And I’ll be miserable. And Daddy will be miserable (mostly because his wife is an asshole when she’s miserable).

On the plus side, however, maybe I will finally get to watch “Stranger Things.”

Where did I put that damn bottle of Benadryl?  

 

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Becoming human again

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married woman in possession of a few children must be in want of a life.

It took me 23 minutes to come up with that line, even though technically Jane Austen wrote it first and all I did was butcher it. (Sorry, Jane).

My amazing literary pun skills aside, I’m not kidding about that truth. Because we do. Oh, how we do. We want (and need) a full life.

Not that we moms don’t live for our kids. Because do. Oh, how we do. When my kids were first born, my whole world shrunk down to their exact height and weight. It’s a monumental change you go through when you have a child, physically, mentally and emotionally, and for the longest time, I couldn’t see anything past them. Everything took a backseat to them. Part of this is because you just created AN ENTIRE HUMAN BEING and as such are completely mesmerized by everything they do. Even farts took on a whole new meaning. Coming from their tiny butts, it was the most adorable sound in the world.

But another part of this tunnel vision stemmed from the fact that I was terrified I couldn’t do it. That I would fail. That if I took my eyes off them for a second they would get hurt. Or sick. Or kidnapped. Or, my biggest nightmare, roughly thrown into a car trunk by a kidnapper with the flu. Suddenly, I realized that THE WHOLE WORLD IS ONE GIANT, FESTERING CAULDRON OF DISEASE POPULATED BY SERIAL KILLERS AND PERVERTS AND EVIL BABY BLANKETS THAT COULDN’T WAIT TO SMOTHER MY CHILDREN.

Eventually this passed. Mostly (I still don’t trust that baby blanket). I learned that kids are tough and resilient. That they start to gain a bit of independence. Life keeps moving on. And it was around this time that I finally looked up and, to my surprise, had trouble recognizing who I was.

I felt I was losing myself. Or at least some very vital parts of myself. Motherhood is demanding and it seemed like I no longer had time to maintain the complex person full of contradictions and passions and interests that I used to be. There was only time for diaper changes and fixing fairly large household structural problems with duct tape.

I didn’t laugh as much. I was always tired. I was always distracted. Always thinking about what had to be done. Or done next. Or done next week.

Parenting can sometimes feel like a zero-sum game. You give everything you have (and happily so) to these tiny creatures so that they can have everything. You give and give and give and you love and you love and you love. There’s also some yelling and vague threatening and an army of curse words muttered under your breath, but mostly it’s the giving and the loving.

Without a chance to replenish, without a break, however, it can soon feel like you have nothing left to give. You start to forget who you are, just slowly turning into a zombie mom robot. (Although Zombie Mom Robot would make a great title for a parenting book).

Luckily I had someone to remind me. Which is how I ended up alone in Portland a few weeks ago. With an entire hotel room to myself. Just me and a bottle of wine and an extra large pizza, which I ate on a king-sized bed while sitting in my underwear and watching “Big Bang” reruns.

And it’s how I ended up attending my wonderful friend’s beautiful wedding. Which is how I ended up doing an unhealthy amount of tequila shots, which is how I ended up doing a mortifying karaoke performance, which led to more tequila shots, which led to long conversations stuffed with every curse word known to man (or woman), which led to eating late night fried chicken; all with my long lost group of best friends, relationships that were neglected but now renewed and stronger than ever.

And it’s how I ended up running a 5K last week with another good friend. Like, an actual race, where you purposefully run fast even though nothing is chasing you. My first one ever. And I ran the whole damn thing. And a week later I still feel like Wonder Woman.

It’s how I ended up dusting off my beloved camera and taking photos again. And reading more. And writing more. And drawing my god awful stick figure art again.

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And it’s how I finally started remembering who I was.

All because my husband refused to let me forget. He kept throwing me on planes so I could travel and kept kicking me out of the house so I could pursue my own things, my own passions. Because he knows that being a complex person with a full life makes you a better parent.

He understood, even more than I did, what I needed.

And so here’s to hoping you have someone in your life who reminds you who you are when you forget. That you have someone who understands that sometimes you just need a hotel room of one’s own.

(I’m butchering all the classics today. This one only took me 12 minutes though. My apologies to Virginia Woolf).

 

(Kid)-free at last, (kid)-free at last

Hey, do you guys remember what it was like before you had kids? Like, what you used to do on a typical pre-spawn Saturday, when you had a million hours stretched out in front of you where you could do anything you wanted? And, most importantly, if candy tasted better eaten out in the open instead of while huddled in a corner of a locked bathroom, like a junkie mainlining M&M’s?

Yeah. Me neither. Apparently there gets to be a certain point in parenthood where you can’t remember what it was like before you spent 85 percent of your day refilling sippy cups. Personally, I think this forgetfulness is a survival instinct. Your brain suppresses those pre-child memories so that your head doesn’t explode when you have to get up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday now and get ready and cook breakfast that no one eats and deal with three tantrums before finally getting them to soccer practice and then head to the grocery store because you’re out of milk and then immediately head back to the store when you drop the milk in the driveway and it explodes all over everything and then you look at the clock and it’s only 9:15 a.m. and you cry a little.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because at the end of this month, I will have four glorious days all to myself. No kids. No husband. No dog. Just me and my questionable decision-making skills, all alone. I’m heading to a beloved friend’s wedding in Portland, Oregon, and there will quite literally be an entire continent between me and my responsibilities.

And. I. Can’t. Wait.

I’ve never been away from my kids. Oh sure, an hour or three here or there but never overnight and certainly never in a long enough time frame for me to permanently ruin whatever is left of my tattered reputation. And I plan to fully take advantage of this particular gift I have been granted by the grace of the parenting gods and my friend Adriana’s airline points.

Because, see, a lot of moms will tell you that “I don’t even know what I’d do with myself without my kids.” Seriously, I Googled “What do moms do when they are away from their kids?” and the pickins were slim. It seemed to be a tie between blogs where moms boringly describe “it was great for 15 minutes but then I just missed the kids so much, so I just sat here like a lump until they came back” and news articles about moms who run away from their children permanently. Because even in motherhood, we women are still reduced down to the sinner/saint, madonna/whore archetype.

But not me. Oh no. I’m hitting that sweet spot right in the middle where I’m going to run off and do awful things and not feel guilty once and then come home to my loving family smelling like happiness and stale beer.

So, first things first, I’m going to start off slow. I want to read a book. Read all the books, in fact. And every newspaper and magazine from the last three years.

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Then I will drink all the booze. ALL OF IT.

Sleep in. Until 7 a.m. Maybe even 7:30.

Take a long, long, long shower. Or hell, a bath. And then actually style my hair into something other than “messy bun.” Like “purposefully messy bun.” And then I will pluck my eyebrow until there are two again.

Eat a cheeseburger for breakfast and an entire cheesecake for dinner. WITHOUT having to share ANY of it.

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Make a huge mess. And don’t clean it up.

Run around my hotel room naked.

Run around the hotel naked.

RUN AROUND THE ENTIRE CITY NAKED.

Smoke a cigar with some old men wearing fedoras.

Steal one of the fedoras and run away laughing maniacally.

Set my daily planner on fire and cover my face with the ashes and do a ritual pagan dance to every known deity devoted to chaos.

Write my novel!

Start a rock band!

Finally learn to juggle those fire sticks!

Buy a bunch of spray paint and become the new Banksy!

Rob a bank and give all the money to the poor!

I WILL DO ALL THE THINGS.

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Right after I buy my kids a bunch of souvenirs and text my husband dirty hotel room nudes, of course.

 

A funny thing happened on the way to New Hampshire

Family vacations are a funny thing. Essentially all you are doing is taking a group of people who are together all the time and plopping them down…

Hi!

Um…hi…

Where was I? Oh yes, and plopping them down into a new location. But this simple act of geography change can…

Hello!

Uh…hello?

That was weird. Anyway, as I was saying, this simple act of taking you out of your element, out of your daily routine, can expose a lot about your character. For example, my family and I are at a resort town in New Hampshire, where…

Good morning!

Oh, um, good morning.

How are you?

Good. I guess.

Have a lovely day!

Ok, sure.

Man, I lost my train of thought again. Um…yeah, so, anyway my husband and I schlepped our two kids to a tiny cottage on the lake up in New Hampshire for a few days to, as they say, “get away from it all.” A great idea in theory, of course. But in practice, leaving your house for even a small period of time with a toddler and a baby in tow is the opposite of relaxing. It’s basically spending all night getting kicked in the face by tiny feet (because, god forbid, they actually sleep in the bed provided for them) and spending all day hurling gallons of sunscreen at their back as they sprint toward the closest large body of water so they can eat sand and practice drowning.

How’s it going?

Huh? What..? It’s fine. Everything’s fine. Just sitting here trying to get some work done.

Fantastic! Lovely day, isn’t it? Well, nice talking to you!

I…sure. Nice talking to you. Random stranger.

Ugh. Why won’t people leave me alone? People around here are so weird. ANYWAY, like I’ve been TRYING to say, there’s nothing like a vacation to expose who you really are. Everything is different and you are constantly tackling unforeseen challenges, like how to tactfully deal with your son who just pooped his pants in the fancy bookstore…

Beautiful day, huh?

Alright, that’s it. What the hell is going on here? Can I help you with something, buddy? Huh?

Oh, my apologies. Just trying to be friendly. Have a good afternoon!

Trying to be friendly? Well who the hell does that? See, it’s just like I was saying, going on vacation exposes who you really are. And someone I truly am is apparently someone who has lived in a city for too long and is now just super rude and glares at everyone who smiles at me with my best April Ludgate impression.

Only it’s not really an impression anymore so much as it is just my face now.

Because we have apparently ended up in the world’s friendliest town and I am confused and angered by this tendency of people to be overly nice even though I used to BE one of these people when I was growing up in a small town. But I have now forgotten how basic human decency works. Meanwhile, my husband, within 30 seconds of arriving here, reverted back to his old, friendly, Midwestern roots as easily as breathing. I think I even heard him blurt out “howdy” at one point.

And so I guess the only thing to do now is to finish up this stupid column of mine and go sit in front of the mirror and have me a “come to Jesus” moment about how I have transformed into a stereotype in just a few short years of living in Boston…

Oh, excuse me, ma’am? You forgot your purse. Here you go.

Oh, and so you just thought you’d give it back to me? Without stealing my money or anything? Of course. Well, thank you, Mr. Nice Friendly Man. And sorry I sound so sarcastic. I am actually very grateful. But I just realized I am a horrible, rude, human pile of garbage.

Have a nice friggin’ day.

 

 

What My Kids Did On My Summer Vacation

Hey! Hi! How are you?! We are Aprill’s kids! And we want to tell you all about what we did on our summer vacation.

This summer was great! We did so many fun things! And we did all those fun things for roughly an hour and 15 minutes before having dual marathon meltdowns! Mommy said this was because when we get overstimulated we turn into evil swamp demons! She’s so funny!

Like any good summer vacation, ours started early, with a trip in mid-May to visit family far away. We even got to fly in an airplane! Surprisingly, we both behaved extremely well during the flight. So, of course, we made up for that by refusing to sleep in the beds provided for us every night! And instead crawled into the bed our parents were sleeping in, not letting them get any sleep for seven nights straight! Because who needs sleep on summer vacation?! Who doesn’t love waking up to a baby foot in your mouth and a toddler foot buried in your rib cage?!

On Mommy’s birthday in June, we went to a pond to swim. Except neither one of us wanted to get wet. Because we can all agree that the best part of going to any body of water in the summer is baking in the hot sun while sitting on sand the temperature of lava!

There were also a bunch of little day trips this summer to fun and exciting places! Where we’d get in the car and complain, and then we’d get out of the car and complain, and then we’d go do stuff and we’d complain, and then our parents would finally give up and say “fine, we’ll go home!” and then we’d complain about not wanting to go home. Traveling truly is a priceless experience!

We also spent a lot of time this summer at the library. We did so many interesting things there, like pretending to listen to books during storytime but really just trying to steal the other kids’ snacks.

We also did a bunch of fun stuff at home!

One of our favorite things to do was climb all over Mommy when it was 92 degrees out with a humidity level of one thousand. This was especially fun that week that the air conditioner broke! The best part of this game was Mommy would pretend to get mad and holler “get off me!” but that just meant she wanted us to do it more!

And what is any good summer vacation without some cool treats?  Even though Mommy forced us to eat our popsicle outside, sticky melted popsicle juice still magically appeared inside. Mommy said bad words. It was so funny! We laughed and laughed and smeared our disgusting sticky hands all over the TV and then laughed some more. Which is why we repeated this exact same scenario with ice cream.

Speaking of the TV, we also spent a lot of time this summer whining and crying about wanting to watch very specific movies! Even though we have already seen those specific movies 78 times! And when Mommy finally relented, we would watch exactly 17 minutes of the movie before deciding to ignore it because climbing the bookshelves that are definitely not attached to the wall seemed way more fun. Even though this activity was bound to end in certain death!

The best part of this summer is that it’s not even over yet! In two weeks we will actually be going on real vacation even though all the cool and important people of the world are already done vacationing. SOMEONE (and I’m not mentioning names although it rhymes with “if you don’t like it plan it yourself next time”) was a bit late in trying to book a place to stay anywhere close to water and so was stuck with dates at the end of August.

We can’t tell you how excited we are to yet again share a room with our Mommy and Daddy and not let them get a wink of sleep! It’s the kind of stuff memories would be made of if it wasn’t impossible to make memories when you are brain-dead from chronic sleep loss.

Now most people feel sad when summer vacation comes to an end. But not us! Since neither one of us is in school yet, these good times can keep right on rolling into the fall. And winter! And spring! And next summer! And next fall! And next…

 

Checklist for road tripping with small children

  1. Run to the store to buy juice boxes, goldfish crackers, raisins, assorted cheaply made toys designed to be hurled into the backseat at the first sign of a tantrum.
  2. Eat all the leftovers in the fridge, even the questionable ones, over the three days leading up to the trip. The ancient pizza, the fossilized Chinese food, the milk on the verge of going bad, the giant vat of bean soup everyone hates but mom keeps making because it’s cheap and has at least a 2 percent nutritional value. Eat it. Eat it all.
  3. Do everyone’s laundry because every single person in the household only wants to bring the outfits they wore for the past five days.
  4. Run back to the store because you just realized you are out of dish soap and need to run the dishwasher before you leave.
  5. Spend 45 minutes looking for suitcases in the attic.
  6. Realize suitcases are still in the corner of the bedroom where you left them the last time you took a trip and still contain the dirty laundry from said trip.
  7. Unpack suitcases.
  8. Do laundry. Again.
  9. Run back to the store AGAIN for Little Swimmer diapers because the hotel has a pool. Pay $10 for an entire pack even though you will likely only use one. Cry briefly in the car.
  10. Gather all the chargers for everyone’s electronic devices. Keep removing chargers from the pile of chargers because everything needs to be charged.
  11. Look up route on Google Maps. Cry again.
  12. Drop dog off at the dog-sitter’s house, who you found off of Rover.com after surfing the website for five whole minutes. Feel huge waves of guilt you are abandoning your dog with a complete stranger. Try not to look too concerned when she opens the door and looks 12.
  13. Run back to that godforsaken piece of crap store AGAIN because the Little Swimmer diapers were the wrong size for your toddler. Also fork over another $10 for another pack because what if your freaking 4-month-old wants to swim too? Give $3 to a bum in the parking lot so you can take a swig from his brown bag whiskey.
  14. Pack. Or more precisely, try to fit basically everything you own into every suitcase, backpack, tote bag and ridiculously large purse you own.
  15. Drag all the luggage to the car the night before. Play the world’s least fun game of Tetris.
  16. Start drinking heavily.
  17. Wake up hungover at 4 a.m. Throw everyone in the car with their pajamas on. Get snippy with your significant other over whether the coffee pot is still on.
  18. Run back into the house to search for Mr. Doody, the stupid stuffed monkey your toddler can’t live without. Give up search after 20 minutes. Go back to the car and see your toddler holding Mr. Doody.
  19. Try not to murder your significant other when they ask if you checked the coffee pot while you were in there.
  20. Climb into the driver’s seat.
  21. Re-enact Ryan Reynolds’ car scene from “Just Friends.”
  22. Calmly put the car in reverse.
  23. Take a deep breath as you pull onto the highway and both children immediately start crying.

Checklist for the return trip home

  1. Hurl everything into the car.
  2. Throw suitcases into the corner of the bedroom and unpack eight months later when you need the suitcases for another super fun family bonding trip.

What I did on my summer vacation

We didn’t really have the money. Or it might be more accurate to say we had the money but we knew we should probably save it like real grown-ups do to put toward buying a house, or purchasing bookshelves that aren’t held together with duct tape or funneling it into an account to pay for our toddler son’s future therapy bills.

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But instead, we said screw it and blew it all on a spur-of-the-moment beach vacation.

And here’s why:

It was growing dark on our first night in a little beach town in Maine. Walking through the quaint downtown, we saw a fudge shop and since calories don’t exist on vacation, we decided to buy an obscene amount to counteract the obscene amounts of deep-fried things we had just got done eating.

The friendly teenage boy working the counter gave us samples to try and made small talk and made faces at our toddler and it was all very Norman Rockwell-esque until I ruined it all.

“How do you resist the temptation to eat fudge all the time?” I asked him.

“Who says I resist it?” he replied.

Hahaha. We laughed. He laughed. Even Riker laughed. And then cue awkward moment in 3…2…1…

“Well, you look REALLY good.”

…crickets chirping…tumbleweed rolls by…

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“Yeah. Well, here’s your fudge.”

As we awkwardly left the store and headed back to our hotel, I turned to my husband.

“Did that sound…?”

“Oh yeah.”

“But I just meant he’s in good shape.”

“Sure.”

“I mean, that I would weigh 400 pounds if I worked there.”

“Oh, I knew what you meant. I just don’t think he did.”

“So it sounded…”

“Yup.”

“So, to sum up, it appears like a creepy woman in her 30’s just hit on a teenage boy in front of not only her husband but also her son.”

“Yup.”

Long pause…

“So…does this make me a cougar?”

And then we burst out laughing again. Even Riker (although I suspect his laughter had something to do with the epic poop we would soon find out he was busy taking in his Little Swimmers).

That right there. That story. That’s why we dipped our tired and grubby little paws into our savings account and splurged on a three-day trip to Maine. Because I can guarantee that THAT story will eventually become family lore. The vacation photos that everyone points to and says “Wasn’t that the trip where Mom hit on a poor kid that she could practically breastfeed?” And everyone will laugh. Even me, once I’m done whacking everyone in the back of the head.

Because that’s what families are; a series of stories all lived together and then told and retold and embellished (“No, I was not massaging his chest when I said it!”). And for far too many months, the plot of all our family’s stories contained work, dinner, Netflix on the couch while doing more work, repeat and too little else.

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Study after study has been released lately on the recent American tendency to avoid taking vacation days, or if they are used, it’s for a “staycation” where you do all the boring things you don’t have time to do when you’re busy doing all the other boring things you need to do. This is due to a lot of reasons but a good chunk, I’m assuming, is because people are so overworked they can’t afford to miss any work and, as in our case, a lack of funds to even afford a proper vacation.

And sitting here typing this, I can already name two dozen other things that the money probably should have been used for instead.

But I don’t feel guilty. Not even slightly. Even if the rent check will be a little late this month.

Because, sure, we have nothing tangible to show for all the money we spent other than all the sand we dragged home that will remain in our house until the day we die and seven extra pounds each and that white touristy sweatshirt I bought that Riker promptly got mac and cheese stains all over. But that story and those memories and that mental image of the relaxed smile my husband gave me (the first relaxed smile I had seen in quite awhile) as we clinked our beers together in some beachside dive will last much longer than new bookshelves.

Plus, Riker can just pay for his own therapy. I mean, that’s what allowances are for, right?