Category Archives: Travel

Welcome aboard, plebs

Good morning, passengers! Welcome to Every Airline Flight 525. We will begin boarding in just a few minutes but please stand by for a few pre-flight announcements.

It looks like we are scheduled for an on time take-off, although that will likely change once everyone is onboard and trapped. It does seem we are overbooked today so we ask that our customers be prepared to unceremoniously be bumped to a much later flight even though you have a connecting flight in Washington D.C. We apologize for this inconvenience but have the utmost confidence that no one will be of much help getting you where you need to go. 

Onboard we will have a variety of complimentary beverages and snacks available during the flight. So please enjoy those two swallows of Diet Coke and three tiny pretzels. Of course this only applies to those of you who bought our basic economy seats. First class and economy plus customers will be given something much, much better which, fortunately for the peasants sitting in the back, you will get to glimpse as you awkwardly pass by them during boarding. 

We also have a variety of alcoholic beverages available for purchase if spending $13 on a tiny bottle of vodka that isn’t even big enough to give you a buzz is your idea of a good value. 

For those of you who have a middle seat, please be prepared for the other two people in your row to be seated first and then be super annoyed when they see you that you didn’t have the decency to die on the way to the airport, thus giving them more elbow room and a place to put their gigantic parkas. Middle-seaters should also be advised that you will have to pee about ten minutes after take off but will feel too anxious to ask the aisle person to move again and will spend the rest of the flight in pure misery. There will be plenty of bathrooms once we reach our destination but all of them will have a long line filled only with old people and women with multiple small children in tow. 

Speaking of boarding, we here at Every Airline have a very strict boarding pecking order because classism is our creed and motto. We are now inviting those passengers who require any special assistance and anyone traveling with small children to begin boarding. Yes, even ahead of the rich people. But only because we’re pretty sure it’s required by law or something. For those of you boarding first, please do not make eye contact with the pompous lady who has been hovering near the gate for over an hour and is angry that just because you have a toddler you get to go ahead of her. She is clearly one of our Premier Select Members Plus and as such feels superior to you in every way. Please also note that she is married to the angry man who was indignant when the poor airline worker told him his carry-on, which was clearly a full-sized suitcase, had to go below in the cargo hold. 

We will now begin boarding our Gold Circle Elite customers, which are somehow different from our Premier Select Members Plus customers. For those of you in Boarding Group 5, please stop standing around like you will get on this flight anytime soon. Sit down and pretend to read that overpriced John Grisham book you just bought at the airport souvenir store. 

We are now inviting any veterans or current active military members to board even though the pompous lady is now audibly huffing and looking around with her best “don’t you know who I am?” face.  

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been informed that all the overhead bins are already full since no one checks baggage anymore because we charge a ridiculous fee for it. Although feel free to hold up the entire line trying to stuff your gigantic overloaded carry-on up there anyway. 

Since we are a bit afraid that the pompous lady is going to have a heart attack, we now invite our Premier Select Blah Blah Blah customers to board. As well as Boarding Groups 1-4 because the only thing our Select Elite Whatever membership gets you is the illusion of prestige.  

Finally we invite Boarding Group 5 to board but most of you already did, sneaking in with the rest of the passengers. 

We here at Every Airline know you have your choice of airlines and are happy that you choose to spend $377.34 to be treated as a criminal and a second-class citizen by us. Please enjoy your flight. Which I have just been informed has been delayed. 

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We should get together sometime

I bought a plane ticket to Clarksburg, West Virginia today. Full disclosure, prior to today, I did not know Clarksburg, West Virginia existed. I know nothing about the town, other than that on Friday it will unfortunately have me as its loudly dressed tourist. And I have no plans once I get there save for one. 

Meeting up with one of my oldest friends from childhood. 

How this all came about was almost mystical in origin. My friend, who lives in Ohio, told me, who lives in Boston, that we should get together sometime soon. But then, unlike every other time we’ve said this exact same thing over the past decade, we actually picked dates. And a location. And arranged childcare. And booked a cabin. And she told work she was leaving early next week. And I bought a plane ticket. 

If this all sounds obvious and not the least bit magical to you, hey, congratulations on being a fully functional and socialized adult! 

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For the rest of us, you understand that what we did was some kind of friendship wizardry. 

See, people like me are always saying things like how we want to get together. Soon! But then, the second the words leave our mouths, even while those words are still hovering in the air over our heads, we are already mentally making excuses about how we can’t make it. Which is totally ok because the other person is likely doing the exact same thing. 

“We should get together sometime soon!”

“Yes! Absolutely! Although I probably can’t make it.”

“You mean to the thing we haven’t even planned yet? Yeah. Me neither. I’m going to come down with a cold.”

“Oh, no worries. I’m thinking I’m going to be working late and then, just as a backup, my dog is going to eat a small amount of chocolate and I really should stay home and monitor him.”

“Sounds totally plausible. I look forward to having this exact same conversation in eight months.”

“Aw…same.” 

I don’t know why I do this. Even for an extrovert such as myself, plans always seem like a good idea at the time (at the time usually meaning after consuming large quantities of alcohol) but when it comes time to actually do said plans, I start to dread it. Like, wait, I have to leave my HOUSE? Away from my cozy cocoon of blankets and carbohydrates? And interact with people? Why would someone ask me to do this? I thought these people were my friends. Why are they making me socialize with them? 

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Of course, when I do drag myself out, I always have a fantastic time. I remember why I’m friends with these wonderful people. I remember I am a social animal. And I vow to start socializing more. A vow I then promptly forget, turning back into my Gollum personality usually within 24 hours. 

“Peoplsies are dumb.” 

*caresses TV remote and recently delivered burrito* 

“My preciousssss…”

And it’s so easy to think of reasons not to go see your friends…

I’m so tired. 

I’m so busy.

It’s been a rough week. 

There’s a 10 percent chance of rain.

The new episode of “Castle Rock” is out.

I spilled ketchup on my shirt, clearly I’m in no shape to go out. 

I sneezed four hours ago. I don’t want to get anyone sick.  

I’m pretty sure my friends don’t even like me even though they have consistently proven otherwise. 

We’ll just get together next week. Or month. Before 2025 for sure. 

But this time, after both of us talking about how we feel like we are drowning in a toxic whirlpool of motherhood and responsibility and anxiety, it hit me. Friendship is a lifeboat against all those things. So why do I waste so much energy coming up with ways to avoid it? Why do I work so hard to convince myself I should stay home and clean instead? (Especially since, let’s be honest, I’m not actually going to clean). 

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So I bought a plane ticket to Clarksburg, West Virginia. And I will be getting together with my friend very soon. Not because we should. But because we need to. 

A Nightmare in Elm Trees

It was a cloudless blue day in late summer. The kind of blue that made the heart ache with possibility. The kind of day made for adventures. 

And it was in that spirit of happy potentiality that the little family began packing up their car for a weekend away in the woods. Backpacks full of toys, a small suitcase filled with hoodies and bug spray, a cooler loaded with beer and marshmallows. The father grunting as he loaded the trunk, the children squealing and chasing each other, the mother watching fondly but also desperately trying to remember what she forgot because it was definitely something. 

How could they possibly know under that perfect sky that they were walking into a horror story? (Other than the fact it’s the premise for an entire genre of horror stories?).

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The drive passed quickly and uneventfully. The cabin was small and cozy. They only had one neighbor in this isolated part of the New Hampshire woods. A lone man wearing flannel staying at the other cabin across a copse of trees. The mother joked that he looked like Ted Bundy. The father laughed. Because it’s all fun and games until someone gets murdered. 

For now, it was peaceful. Quiet. Which is probably why the mother was able to hear it. Barely perceptible, but definitely there. She had just sat down and opened her book when a low moan rose up out of the woods. She looked around but when she didn’t see anything, decided to ignore it, managing to read three whole sentences before hearing it again. Only it was a little louder this time. 

“…oooooooommmmmm….”

“Hello?” she practically whispered. “Is…is someone there?”

The woods answered back with the light rustling of leaves in the wind. After a few more moments, she turned her attention back to her book. Finding time to read was a luxury and she refused to waste it. But just when she had finally relaxed, releasing the tension in her shoulders that had been there since the birth of her oldest, there was that sound again. Louder. Much louder. An unearthly wail. 

“MOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!” 

No. No, it can’t be, she thought. But it was. Suddenly, like a pop-up book from hell, her two children appeared on either side of her, loudly complaining that they were already bored. 

They had only arrived 20 minutes ago. 

The mother screamed. 

Meanwhile, the father was in the cabin unpacking. Although beautiful late afternoon sunlight filtered in through the windows, the man couldn’t shake the black, foreboding feeling that something wasn’t right. He checked and double-checked all the bags. Everything seemed in order. When suddenly…

“Honey!” he screamed in terror. “We forgot the graham crackers!” 

There are some who say the inhuman wails of the children upon learning this news could be heard as far away as Vermont. 

After that, it was as though the children were possessed. “S’MORES!” they screeched while clawing, grabbing, tearing at their parents with small but freakishly strong hands. “S’MORES!”

Somehow the father managed to escape, fleeing in dread to the car. Twenty minutes later, he was running blindly through the streets of the only nearby town.

“Help! Someone help! I need graham crackers!” His words echoed off the empty buildings. “PLEASE! I left my wife alone with the kids! I don’t know how long she can hold out!”

By the time he returned, a box of horrifyingly overpriced crackers in hand, he found the children dancing around the fire, having gone completely feral in his absence, dirt smudged on their faces like so much war paint. The mother lay in the fetal position to one side, quietly whispering over and over again “he’ll be back soon, he’ll be back soon, he’ll be back soon…” 

Quickly, the father got to work, roasting marshmallows but trying in his panic not to burn them. May the good Lord have mercy on his soul if he burned them. With shaking hands, he assembled the dark snacks that had turned his children into unrecognizable fiends. But just as quickly as he made them, the children tore into them like a pack of wolves, quickly disemboweling the father’s careful work, discarding the crackers and marshmallows over their shoulders and only eating the chocolate. 

“MORE.” they bellowed. 

The parents quietly wept. 

A few hours later, determined to salvage this family trip, the parents announced in perky but trembling voices, “let’s go for a walk in the woods!” To their surprise, the children agreed, chocolate still ominously smeared across their faces. And for a few glorious minutes, it appeared all might be ok. The children happily scampered ahead, collecting acorns and pine cones. They even let out a few genuine laughs of delight. 

But then the couple made the fatal mistake of enjoying themselves, triggering in the offspring all their most evil and depraved impulses. Because while the children typically loved nature, could spend hours staring at a dead leaf while in the city, they could not stand that very same nature when their parents paid $100 for a cabin completely surrounded by it. 

“This is dumb. Can we go home?”

“My feet hurt. Will you carry me?”

“I SAW A BUG!”

“Can we get an Uber?”

“I hate trees.”

“Did you bring any s’mores? I WANT A S’MORE!”

The parents didn’t die that day. But there are some who say they can still see the ghosts of their expectations haunting the woods to this very day.

On the plus side, the family never did get murdered by their neighbor Ted Bundy. Likely because the children scared him away. Even serial killers have their limits. 

Absolutely.

It was a tradition we had started a few years back. Whenever someone in our family had a birthday coming up, they got to choose whether they wanted gifts or an adventure. Since I had just reached Level 38 in the game of life, I felt an adventure was in order. I have stuff. A ridiculous amount. I wanted memories. 

We didn’t go far. Adventures don’t always require distance. My husband and I Googled our little hearts out and found an idyllic seaside town not even an hour away. It had all the requirements.

1. A beach. 

2. A place close to the beach that sold alcohol.  

Better yet, we found a quirky little inn that still had rooms available. An inn that was the perfect blend of charming and yet definitely haunted, but haunted by the ghost of Lorelai Gilmore. I immediately fell in love. 

It was everything a small getaway should be. Even the constant sibling fighting added an air of authentic vacation whimsy. 

“Ah, we’re going to miss this when they get older.” I sighed to my husband as we sat on the beach and watched our daughter throw sand directly into her brother’s eyes.

“Yes, these moments when they’re still small enough to lack the strength to actually murder each other are truly magical,” replied my husband as we then watched our son retaliate by hitting his sister over the head with some driftwood. 

Alas, all good things must come to an end. As we were packing up to leave the following morning on our second night there, the whining started. Right on time. 

“But MOM! We don’t WANT to go HOME.” my 5-year-old wailed, splayed dramatically on the bed. 

“MOMMA! Can we live here now?” my almost 3-year-old helpfully chimed in as she mimicked her brother’s splaying.

“Guys, you know we have to leave tomorrow.”

Simultaneous groans. The only thing they had agreed on the entire time. 

“Can we stay just one more night?” 

“Yeah, can we?”

Pffft. Who did these kids think they were dealing with? Not in the mood to argue about this for the next 45 minutes, I decided to throw the hammer down, saying the two words universally known to decimate the hopes of youths everywhere. The verbal nuclear option, if you will. 

“Absolutely not.” 

And that was that. 

Until it wasn’t that. It wasn’t that at all. Because out of nowhere, my husband whipped out a homemade missile defense system built out of only three words.

“Are you sure?”

Was I sure? WAS I SURE? Who did this guy think he’d knocked up on multiple occasions? Of course I was sure. We couldn’t possibly stay one more night. We had to get home and…do things. Like…important things. Important things like…THE DOG. Yeah. We have a dog and there is no way…

“I mean, we could see if the dog sitter can stay one more night.”

But…

“And the owner mentioned to me earlier that he doesn’t have the room booked again until next week.”

But…

“And I know what you’re thinking, but we can afford it. I worked all that overtime last month.”

But…

“What do you think?”

What did I think? What did I THINK? I think the mom part of me was holding up a giant banner over my brain that said “ABSOLUTELY NOT.” As she so often did. Because the mom part of me is inundated with 300 ridiculous requests a day. Can I jump off the roof? What if I wear a cape? Can we have candy for breakfast? Can we put makeup on the dog? Can we lick this old gum on the sidewalk?

So, “absolutely not” was the only possible answer to all of these. It was a survival technique really. But, because of this, how many times did I say no to things just out of sheer habit?

And that’s when I heard her. The non-mom part of me. The part of me that was slowly being smothered underneath the pile of unfolded laundry in my soul. She was straining to be heard as she whispered “what if you said yes?”

Meanwhile, while my brain was short-circuiting, the three of them were standing there, staring at me expectantly.  

“Well, I guess there’s no harm in seeing if the dog sitter can stay one more night,” I finally sputtered out. 

She could. 

“But I doubt the owner will just let us stay another night at the last minute.”

He did. 

Again, six eyes stared expectantly at me. 

“So can we, mom?”

“Yeah, can we?”

Can we? What would one more day mean? One more trip to the beach. One more dinner at a place where the wine paired perfectly with deep fried everything. One more day to make memories I will probably forget but Instagram will remember forever. 

“Honey?”

I stared back at them. I smiled. And I decided then and there to drop my bad habit like a bad habit. 

“Absolutely.”

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Who deserves a vacation?

Of all the titles I thought I’d have throughout my life, Illicit Vacationer was never one of them. And yet, here I am, with my Instagram feed defiantly full of photos of me and my family cavorting on a beach in Maine.

In my defense, I didn’t read Michelle Singletary’s piece in the Washington Post titled “If you’re in debt, you don’t deserve a summer vacation” until after I got back. So, you can imagine my surprise that I somehow managed to get away with sneaking off to the shore without my student loans grabbing me by the ear and hauling me back home while they lectured to me about financial irresponsibility.

If you haven’t read the article, it’s all right there in the headline. But it’s the “deserve” that got me the most. Interesting word choice, considering that the vast majority of Americans are in debt. Luckily, she clarifies what she means by “debt” with the definitely not condescending sentence “I’m sorry to tell you that you don’t deserve a summer vacation if you’re a hot financial mess.”

Ah. Thanks, Michelle. Hot financial mess. Got it. So…everyone then?

But perhaps my favorite bit was when she goes on to say you don’t deserve a vacation even if you saved up for it. Because we should all be using that money to pay down our debt. Because, honestly, how long is it going to take you to become completely debt-free? What, 30, 40, years? You can vacation in your 80’s.

In HER defense, though, she does graciously offer a solution to us mere commoners, us plebs who frivolously spent our stagnant wages on unaffordable higher education, child care, housing, working vehicles and medical procedures. That solution being, of course, the luxurious and also definitely not condescending concept of the “staycation.” Because everyone knows how relaxing it is to hang out in your filthy house that you hang out in every other day of your life. But, as she so kindly reminds us, don’t spend your valuable time off cleaning and attacking that mile-long to-do list. You’re on vacation, afterall. Act like it. Just step around the piles of laundry and dog vomit.

But enough of Michelle’s Very Helpful Tips for the Working Poor. Let me tell you who I think “deserves” a vacation.

Everyone.

Everyone deserves a vacation. Full stop. Everyone is stressed out. Everyone is busy to the point of exhaustion. Everyone is struggling, in some way or another.

I’m sure even rich people get stressed out from time to time. I don’t know, maybe their third Porsche didn’t start today and now they have to have their butler take it to the mechanic and it’s become like a whole thing. I get it, man. It’s rough.

Which is why we all deserve a break.

Do you know what’s so amazing about vacations? It’s somewhere away. Away from home. Away from your problems. Away from the world’s problems. Just for a bit. Just long enough to breathe and take in a lungful of life.

Because by being away, you get perspective. Say, perspective about how you were not put on this Earth merely to work hard and pay your bills.

And you don’t need a big fancy vacation for this perspective. All travel changes you for the better. We only went an hour and half away. In the off-season. For only five days. Because that’s what we could afford. Most of the time it was 55 degrees and rainy.

But it was heaven. Because it was away. Because it was the four of us, laughing and exploring and eating absolutely nothing of nutritional value and remembering that in the grand scheme of things, all the rest of it is just the small stuff. Life is big and should be treated as such.

Because do you know who deserves a vacation the most, in my opinion? My children. They deserve to run around on beach when they’re young enough to scream in delight and slight terror every time a wave touches their foot. They deserve carefree days full of sandy kisses and sticky hugs that leave their lollipops hopelessly tangled in their mother’s hair. They deserve the pure joy that can only come from hopping in the car and setting off for destinations unknown with happy parents.

Debt will always be there. Even if I finally do pay off all my current debt, my car is 14-years-old. We’ll need a new one soon. At some point, someone will break a leg, or get really sick, or need surgery. Eventually, we’d like to own a house instead of renting. Someday my kids will likely go to college. There will always be more debt.

But you know what there won’t always be more of? Time. This time, right now. Where my kids are young and my husband and I are less young but still young enough to chase them through the streets of a charming seaside town with delight.

I can guarantee you that when all of us are on our deathbeds, we won’t be thinking “man, I’m so happy I got all that debt paid off, what a life well-lived.” We’ll be thinking instead about how we sat and watched the waves on a freezing beach that one day in May. And then we came back to our little oceanfront cottage and made s’mores by the fire, with a peace settling upon us that was interrupted only by spontaneous hugs that left fragments of sticky marshmallow hopelessly tangled in my hair.

So, take that vacation, my friends.

You can’t afford not to.

 

The weird things that excite you as a mom

I stood there in front of the refrigerator, the cool air wafting past my body like a million tiny kisses from the grocery store angel. I stood there and just stared. For how long, I have no idea. My brain was too busy taking inventory to notice something as trivial as time. Somewhere, way in the back of said brain, I realized I was doing the exact same thing I yell at my kids for doing. But I didn’t care. Rules are made (by me) to be broken (by me).

Besides, I was downright giddy by this point. There are weird things that excite you once you become a mom. That brief 45 seconds where all the laundry is done. Educational toys that promise to make your kid a STEM superstar. Drinking wine based on your favorite TV shows while watching those TV shows.

All great things, truly. But for me, there is nothing that can top the weird excitement I feel in the days leading up to a vacation when I am confronted with the task of getting all the perishable food in my kitchen consumed before we leave. And as I stood there in front of the fridge, I couldn’t help but notice how full it was. Only four days left to go and there were ingredients and leftovers enough for at least a good week. I should have been embarrassed by how exhilarated I was about this. How electrified I was by the challenge.

But I wasn’t.

This was my culinary Olympics.

There are rules, of course. You can’t just throw the food away, for one. You’re a mom, after all. It must be consumed. Or, as in my case since I have small children, prepared and placed in front of my family where it is ignored and stubbornly not consumed. And THEN, after an acceptable amount of ignoring time, it can be thrown out. The goal is always to let as little food as possible go to waste.  

As you can imagine, this leads to some rather creative meals in the days leading up to vacation.

“Mom, what is this?”

“Chicken nugget spaghetti”

“And this?”

“Scrambled eggs mixed with overripe avocado.”

“And for dessert?”

“Mashed potato pie.”

“It looks like it’s just leftover mashed potatoes.”

“It is.”

Another rule is that you will not be going to the store. For anything. You can’t subtract by adding. Which means that some things will have to be rationed.

“Momma, can I have some milk?”

“Everyone gets a thimbleful of milk every three hours.”

“But Momma…”

“I measured it perfectly! There will be no deviating from the plan. There’s water if you’re thirsty.”

“Well, can I at least have a snack?”

“Of course. Here, eat this about-to-be-expired sour cream.”

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Some people, and by some people I mean my husband, think I take this all a bit far. But he’s wrong. Which is why we end up having conversations like this:

“Ryan, did you just heat something up from the freezer?”

“Yeah. I was really craving a…”

*knocking microwave burrito out of his hand* “Do you think this is a game? Was I not clear before? Do you need to see the PowerPoint slides again?”

“Oh God, please no.”

“NO CANNED OR FROZEN FOOD FROM HERE ON OUT.”

“Honey, don’t you think you’re taking this all a bit too serio…”

“THAT FRIDGE WILL BE EMPTY.”

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And lastly, if anything is left, guess what everyone is eating in the car on the way to our destination? I don’t care that it’s a bag of wilted salad and slightly wrinkled grapes and questionably smelling hummus from the far, far back right corner. Eat it. Momma is on a mission and I will not let ANYONE’S fickle eating habits ruin it.

You can eat whatever you want on vacation. You can waste whatever food you want on vacation. There are no rules on vacation. Let complete chaos REIGN on vacation.

But before vacation, I am running this joint like a gastronomic gulag. And you will eat those stale marshmallows and leftover lasagna for breakfast. And you’ll like it.

And all because, and I say this in my most haughty evil dictator voice, it amuses me.

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A (rented) room of one’s own

They looked bigger in the pictures online. The rooms. My compliments to the photographer.

The pictures also managed to somehow downplay the whole floral aspect of the room. Which is quite the accomplishment as well. Did you ever sleep over at your grandma’s house in the 1980’s? It looked just like that. Complete with the four-poster bed and the beige, eternally out-of-date, carpet. And, of course, the floral wallpaper. The floral curtains. The chair in the corner covered in clashing floral upholstery.

I didn’t even know flowers had it in them to be so aggressive.  

But this room, it’s mine. For two nights at least.

My husband kicked me out of the house. The beautiful bastard. He had silently watched for months as the daily grind wore away at me, chipping relentlessly at those parts of me that were buried underneath the gargantuan title of MOM.

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He watched and watched and then said enough. Take three days. Go somewhere. Just you.

There were a thousand reasons not to go. Seven hundred of them, at least, being things that had to be done IMMEDIATELY. He let me spout off a mere handful of these reasons before interrupting me with perhaps the two most beautiful sentences ever uttered in the English language: “I don’t care. You’re going.”

As I type this I have a Harry Potter marathon on the supernaturally tiny TV they provided. I’m reclining on a ridiculously comfortable bed (with floral bedsheets) surrounded by books and graphic novels and back issues of magazines and newspapers that I wouldn’t be able to finish even if I had three months.

I keep waiting for an interruption. For a knock at the door. For a feral howl of my name to reach my ears. For…anything.

It never comes.

I’m so happy.

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Remember your room from childhood? From when you were a teenager? How it was your sanctuary? The place you could dream in, wonder and plan who you would become. It was perhaps the only place where all the possibilities and all your potential was allowed out in the open.

It has been a very long time since I had that feeling.

“What are you going to do?” my friends asked me when they heard I was temporarily running away from home.

Nothing.

Nothing?

Nothing.

Or perhaps everything.

I don’t know and it’s delicious.

In the end, I do things. And then I don’t do things. And then I think about doing more things but just lay in my beautiful but possibly haunted rented Victorian bed for a bit longer because sometimes just thinking about doing things is better than actually doing them. I keep checking the time. An old habit from my old life, with kids. It’s going slow, the minutes and hours crawling forward, in no hurry to get anywhere. I briefly debate stealing this precious clock.

And then, perhaps the most magical thing of all happens. I start to miss them. My family.

It has been a very long time since I’ve had that feeling.

It’s lovely.

And, I now realize, vital.

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I don’t know how I can ever repay my husband for this gift, for these three days he gave me to remember who I was, who I still am, underneath all the MOM. And to remember all the reasons I decided to take that title in the first place.

But should he ever feel the need to run away from home, I know a place.

 

The Road Trip, Part Two: Even Trippier

 

Previously, on the “Chick Writes Stuff” blog…

Parent 1: “Hey, let’s take a road trip in our tiny car with two small children and an aging dog!”

Parent 2: “Brilliant!”

Thirty seconds after leaving the driveway…

Parent 1: “This is awful.”

Parent 2: “This is the worst idea we’ve ever had.”

One hour later…

Parent 1: “JUST THROW MORE DORITOS AT THEM!”

Parent 2: “IT’S NOT WORKING! THEY’RE DODGING THEM! OH GOD, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!”

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(Read Part One here)

One week later…

Hello, everyone. How are you? Good. Good. Glad to hear it. …Oh, me? I’m…fine. Everything’s fine. Just sitting here calmly at my computer, typing industriously away. Because everything is fine…now.

Plus the doctors say the constant twitching of my left eye should taper off any day now so there’s that.

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Of course, in hindsight, it wasn’t like our trip was ALL bad. There was a swimming pool at our hotel. That was fun. And I was smart enough to bring wine with us. That was REALLY fun. Yup. Really, really fun all the way until…bedtime.

Have you ever been unfortunate enough to sleep in the same bed as your child? What am I saying? Of course you have. You’re a parent. Which means that you already know that when children are small (and sometimes even the not-so-small ones), there is nothing they love more than sleeping with one foot up a parent’s nose and the other shoved in-between some parental ribs. They are also big fans of the game Musical Bed Positions. Because if they don’t move every three minutes while sleeping they die. At least that’s what I’m assuming based on the evidence.

And then there is the 2 a.m. stage whisper of “Momma! Is it morning yet?” Which wakes up their sibling, who also stage whispers “It’s morning! Can we get up? I need juice! And a cookie!” Which makes the other one go “I WANT A COOKIE TOO!” Which results in a dual meltdown after they are both informed by a gruff parent voice that NO ONE is getting a cookie and everyone needs to go back to sleep.

But it’s all worth it when you are forced awake again at 5 a.m. by your child’s creepy ghost face breathing heavily a mere half-inch from your face and then have to immediately deal with the fact they don’t understand live TV.

“Momma! Turn on the TV!”

(sleepily) mm-kay.”

“What is this?”

“A commercial.”

“Can you fast forward it?”

“No.”

“Can we watch a different episode?”

“No.”

“Can we watch a different show?”

“Only if you want to flip through 40 channels three times to find something else with no guarantee of finding something better.”

“Well, this isn’t fun.”

“You never would have survived the ‘80’s, kid.”

I really shouldn’t complain, though. The end result of all this was that we got to spend a wonderful week with my family in Ohio. Doing exotic things like napping while someone else kept our kids alive and eating homemade food someone else made and thoroughly enjoying those little moments where someone else yelled at our kids.

It was like a Norman Rockwell painting. But with more screaming and hitting.

Except I am going to complain. Because when it was all over…we had to come back.

I was determined though, DETERMINED, to make the best of it this time. Even with the awful snowstorm we drove through for three hours. And the windshield wipers that started malfunctioning. And the unsalted road before us that became a super fun slippery asphalt coil of death!

Hahahahaha! Road trips, man! Such a great American tradition! Right!? RIGHT!? They’re just the best! Hahahahaha!

The good news is that after what seemed like two hours past eternity, we finally arrived to our beloved home, with all our hearts and bladders full to bursting.

Only to find out that we did not currently have a toilet in said beloved home because the bathroom remodel the landlord scheduled while we were gone wasn’t finished yet.

But that, my dear friends, is a story I’m saving for my lawyer when I inevitably snap and start running naked through the streets laughing maniacally.

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How to survive a road trip with your family (Part One)

Spoiler alert: You don’t.

Sure, you’re still alive. Technically. But you come back changed. Different. Hardened. You are not the same person who optimistically climbed into that tiny Hyundai Accent with your husband and two kids and elderly dog, all bright-eyed with dreams of adventure and bonding and Instagram-worthy shots of the highway.

You are now a survivor. You have been to hell and back. And let me tell you, Dante had it easy. He never had to help a toddler with diarrhea in a dirty rest stop bathroom. I can still hear the screams. “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING…NO. STOP. WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? DID YOU JUST STICK YOUR HAND IN THE TOILET? NOOOOOOOO…”

And the torture isn’t just limited to the road. In fact, it begins long before the traditional road trip opening ceremony of stomping from room to room looking for the lost car keys. (Because why would the car keys be where you left them? That would be silly. Then you would actually leave on time.).

No, see, for every road trip there is a person who is designated as the Carrier of the Mental Load for the group. This is the unfortunate soul who is responsible for remembering everything that everyone could possibly need for every single possible eventuality. Clothes for every weather scenario. Favorite toys and blankets. Second favorite toys and blankets in case the first ones get lost. Swimsuits for the hotel pool. Sippy cups. Extra wipes. Extra diapers. Tissues. The night-night book. Dramamine because last time the back seat looked like a scene from “The Exorcist.” Two coats, per person, because it is likely to be 70 degrees one day and a blizzard the next. AND DON’T FORGET THE CHARGERS. ALL THE CHARGERS. DID YOU PACK YOUR CHARGER? WELL, CHECK AGAIN. WE ARE NOT BUYING ONE FROM A GAS STATION. YOU HEAR ME?

Even the dog gets his own bag. Dog food. Dog treats. Rawhide bones. A bottle of water and an empty bowl. His favorite toy, Lobstah Killah. His second favorite toy, Mr. Disemboweled Stuffed Squirrel. His arthritis medication that you can never get him to take but bring with you so that you can more confidently lie to the vet at his next visit.

Do NOT mistake this as a position of honor. It is not. It is the quickest way to destroy your brain without the help of illegal drugs.

But take heart. If this position falls to you, just know that someone else (hint: your significant other) will be designated as the Master of Luggage Tetris. This is the person who has to take the various shapes and lumps that all your Very Vital Vacation items have been stuffed into and fit them into a tiny car trunk. This is also not a position of honor, which is why cursing is allowed.

(Please note that the same person can’t do both jobs without permanent brain damage. Don’t be a hero and take it all on yourself.).

Once you are finally in the car, the typical rules that regulate our lives no longer apply. For example, you can never have enough snacks. Let me repeat that. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE ENOUGH SNACKS. Buy ALL the snacks. It doesn’t matter if they don’t all get eaten. They won’t. You will waste so much money on these snacks that never get eaten. Hundreds of dollars. Thousands, possibly. But it doesn’t matter. You would pay double, TRIPLE, that amount for any object that can stop multiple children who all decide to have meltdowns at the exact same moment. They will eat three Doritos out of that family-sized bag and then dump the rest on the floor and you will still spend the rest of your life thanking the God of Doritos for his divine intervention. You will get to a point where you are hurling SnoBalls like grenades into the backseat just for one moment of peace. You’ll let them snort straight sugar through a straw on the back of their Dr. Seuss book. And at every stop you will buy more snacks. Because snacks are the dam holding back the raging river of your kids’ “BIG FEELINGS” that you do not want unleashed in that tiny tin can you call a vehicle.

Naturally, as a result of this, your car will eventually become one of the scarier episodes of “Hoarders.” Half empty coffee cups as far as the eye can see. Happy Meal cartons that are breeding like rabbits under the seats. Chips and half eaten snack cakes littering the floor ankle-deep. Let it go. Do not worry about it. If it gets too bad, just ditch the car in a river a few miles from your destination and call an Uber to take you the rest of the way.

Of course, snacks does not mean liquids. Do not, under any circumstance, give liquids to anyone in that car. If you do, no one will be on the same pee schedule.

Actually, scratch that. Even if you purposely dehydrate everyone, giving out one capful of bottled water every four hours like you are stranded on a desert island, you will still have to stop every 14 minutes. Yup, that’s right. They can’t even make it 15 minutes. The good news is that this gives you plenty of opportunity to buy an overpriced charger on your way out (that, it will turn out, doesn’t work with your phone).

Luckily, all of this will be forgotten when you reach your first destination, the hotel right off the Interstate. Because that’s when the real nightmare begins.

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

The Adventures of Kitty “Meow” Cat, III

Hello. You probably don’t know me. In fact, there is no reason you should. My existence is of little importance to most people. Most people, that is, save one.

And it is for her sake that I would like to share the following story with you.  

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. My name is Kitty Cat. A wholly unoriginal name, I’ll grant you, but considering I was given my moniker by a young creature who still occasionally sticks a spoon in her eye, the name serves its purpose. I am, indeed, a small stuffed kitty cat toy.

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I remember little of my life before the Christmas of 2017. The first clear memory I have is of being imprisoned in a small cardboard box in some kind of gargantuan toy prison, my feet and neck bound by indestructible chains of plastic. The entire lot of us were slowly being driven mad by an endless loop of what our prison guards called “sounds of the season.” And from morning until night, we were subjected to humiliating pokes and prods by chaotic mobs of angry giants and their leaky offspring.

You can imagine my relief then when one of these giants took pity on me and orchestrated my escape in a daring plan whereby she distracted the prison guards using only a piece of green paper and calmly walked out the door.

Soon thereafter, however, I realized my freedom came at a cost, for I was quickly put into the possession of her own personal leaky offspring.

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Life hasn’t always been easy for me. I suppose it never is when you are the beloved toy of a 2-year-old. But I tolerated things like the high-pitched, screechy voice she uses for me (even though clearly I sound much more like an off-brand Patrick Stewart) because there is not much in the way of an alternative for me.

A realization I would soon come to know intimately.

It was a summer day like any other. I awoke in the vise-like grip of my small human. We played Kitty Cat vs. Batman. We illegally removed her fresh diaper (although I was a very reluctant accomplice). She mashed my face into her bowl of Cheerios while repeatedly proclaiming “Kitty Cat eat. Num Num Num.”

Then it was off to the library, her strapped into the stroller, me securely by her side with half my head accidentally tucked under her rear. Like most of our asinine activities, it all went by in a blur of giggles (hers) and shouts of “dammit, Mae, I said NO!” (her mother’s). It wasn’t until our walk home that my entire world, small as it was, was shattered.

I wasn’t sure what was happening at first. Then, all of a sudden, I knew too well. I was slipping, slipping. I tried to cry out, to cling to her, my little sticky biped, but with horror remembered I am utterly inanimate. Yes, dear readers, “Toy Story” is a falsehood of the most egregious kind.

I was tumbling, down, down. By the time I could finally orient myself, the stroller was disappearing over the horizon.  

And so I laid there. Under that overpass. Cars careening past. Pedestrians trudging by on their weary way. No one even bothering to look my way except for the useless neighborhood birds and squirrels with their tedious chittering.

I had never felt so alone.

All was lost. I knew it in my non-existent heart. I prayed for death but it wouldn’t come. Oh, what I would have given to be back in those chubby arms with their faint whiff of ketchupy peanut butter. That little girl loved me so much and what did I give her in return?

Nothing.

Nothing but a silent, stitched-on, smirk. Had I neck muscles, I would have hung my head in shame.

But wait, what was that? In the distance? A glimmer of flannel? Could it be? No. No, it couldn’t possibly be.

Yet, hope of all hopes, it was. It truly was my girl’s father.

“There are no lost toys on my watch,” I heard the man say in a very macho voice as he tucked me into his very manly computer purse.

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Later I was to overhear that the mother had told the flannel daddy man about how I was lost and so he had walked the same route we took on his way home from work. But it was all just background noise to me. For I was safely back in my love’s arms, being squeezed until I thought my stuffing would fall out my eyeballs. The smell of old macaroni and cheese has never smelled so sweet.  

So, where do we go from here? For I have seen things. Things no small toy should see. I have aged much beyond my calendar age of eight months and have seen firsthand just how frightening of a place the world can be.

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But I have also found my place in it, this scary world. It is by her side. For if the world is scary to me, imagine what it must be like for her. It is the least I can do, for there is no love quite like the love of a tiny child for her ratty old stuffed animal, and, from now on, I shall do my utter best to return that love ten-fold and be her courage when the world grows just a bit too big. 

And I shall do it even when she relentlessly kisses me while eating pancakes with an obscene amount of syrup.