Are We There Yet???

Around March or April, my husband and I begin to sweat and break out into hives. It is this time of year that we start to plan our annual family travel extravaganza. Like most other red blood American parents, the notion of a family summer vacation is ingrained in us. We feel it is our parental duty to provide our children with some sort of vacation during their vacation from school. We want them to have life experiences beyond their own backyard. Every year, we ponder destinations over brochures and the Internet, seeking our perfect family getaway. And every year, after we’ve spent countless hours analyzing our options and fighting over who wants to go where (some reasonable, some not so much…ahem…European cruise), a sense of dread immediately begins to consume me.
Vacations are hardly that for me. The anxiety sets in about a week before we are scheduled to depart. That when I start with the lists.
My family (my husband) makes fun of my lists. But without them I think I would quite frankly lose my mind. Packing for four people and preparing for a trip, even a two or three day mini vacation, is a monumental undertaking. Ugh…there’s that word…”packing”. Just saying it gives me a headache.
It causes my head to pound because it is entirely up to me. I have to make sure everyone has bathing suits, socks, underwear and outfits for every conceivable situation we may face from hiking up the side of a mountain to an impromptu invite to dinner with the President. Not only are the other three people in the house completely incapable of this chore, if I left it up to them it would cause my head to explode. Because when I hear, “Mom, where’s my…” or “dear, did you pack the…” I know the answer to the question. If they packed, my son wouldn’t pack any underwear, my daughter would fill her whole suitcase with clothes for her American Girl doll and my husband would throw everything in a garbage bag because he would have no clue where the suitcases were kept. Nobody would remember their phone chargers, toothbrushes or extra flip flops. And then would stand there in their broken flip flops, holding their dead cell phones and a tube of toothpaste blaming me for their inability to plan ahead and anticipate their own needs. Needless to say, it is exhausting. Because inevitably I WILL forget something and usually it will be something of my own (like our week long Myrtle Beach vacation the day after all of us were in a wedding and I remembered every last blessed item except my phone charger).
Then there is the actual traveling. All of our trips are via car. Not only am I like chicken in the flying department, but the hubby is cheap. (Love you dear) Despite providing the children with ample food, drinks and activities on the road, the trip in at least one of the directions will be nothing short of disastrous. Usually it is the returning home trip after we’ve had a smooth sailing on the way to our destination and have lulled ourselves into a false sense of security that “hey, maybe this will be a good car ride both ways”. But alas, our return trip will always be a nightmare. We will hit bumper to bumper traffic at some point and my husband will start off by cursing under his breath. He will ask why we are traveling on a Saturday again and loudly announce “we are never traveling on the weekend in daylight hours again!”. As we crawl down the road, he will become increasing agitated and start shouting at the drivers around him and clenching his jaw which will undoubtedly cause him to get a migraine. He will not want to play the license plate game any longer. It will be at this point that my daughter will (without fail) announce that she has to pee and she has to pee NOW. Dear hubby will grip the wheel, knuckles turning white and inform her that there is no place for her to go to the bathroom. Her eyes will well up and her bottom lip will tremble. She will announce that she is in fact peeing RIGHT NOW. Her brother will scream that she’s gross, to which she will immediately get defensive and tell him it’s no fair that he can pee in the Snapple bottle. Which he will take as a challenge and try to pee in the bottle, missing as my husband sharply switches lanes.
I’m desperately trying to ignore the rest of the travelers in my car by reading a book when I hear those ominous word, “Mommy, I feel like I’m gonna puke”. Quickly I spring into action because this a very real threat. Inevitably my belt will lock up as I am attempting to contort myself to grab the plastic bags stowed behind my seat. My son will usually take pity on my and hand his sister the bag, but his help ends there. He will turn his head, muttering about how gross she is once again, as she spends the next five minutes with vomit shooting out of her mouth and nose. She will then hand me the plastic bag and I will discover as I carry over into the front seat, that it has a hole in it. I start my mental list for the next day. Unpack, laundry, scrub car seat, scrub car floor. The wall of traffic lets up at this point and my husband, desperate to “beat his time” will now attempt to do 90. Causing him to get pulled over and get a ticket, thus losing money and even more time. There is no way he’s going to let us stop to eat or pee now. It’s home or bust now.
I probably could tolerate the packing and the car ride if it was a little easier to enjoy the actual vacation. No matter where we go, someone is unhappy. If we go to an amusement park, the little one wants to ride on the toddler rides (which she is WAY too big for) and the older one will have a temper tantrum because he doesn’t meet the height requirement for the rides that twist you up and tie you into knots. My husband wants to eat three fast food meals and I think eating two big meals is more time efficient on vacation. If we go to the beach, someone gets burnt the first day and spends the rest of the trip miserable and complaining. When we go some place known for it’s unique cuisine, one of my kids will turn up their nose and go on a hunger strike. If we go someplace remote and relaxing without a lot of distractions, they will complain they are bored. Every souvenir stand we pass will result in tears because I don’t want to buy junk that will fall apart before we get to the hotel. If the hotel doesn’t have a pool, they will cry. If the hotel does have a pool, they will never go in. They don’t want to share a bed. “She pinched me”, “he kicked me”…24/7 for the entire duration of vacation and I can’t get away! I think, next March, I’m just going to take the money and hop a plane to Hawaii. Yup, I’m gonna get on a plane and fly away by myself. Just me and the cabana boys bringing me drinks on a sandy beach all day long. I can read all day, eat when I want and not pack anything but a bathing suit. Now that’s my idea of a vacation!

How I’ve Become My Mother

I realized the other day that despite my best efforts not to, I am slowly turning into my mother. I don’t mean that I’m becoming a horrific driver in a rumbling way too old vehicle filled with sun bleached Beanie Babies. I don’t mean I am stockpiling so much food in my refrigerator that it will go bad ten times over before anyone could eat it. I certainly don’t mean I wear sweatshirts emblazoned with “Grandma’s Cuties” or other nauseating attire that seem to be the dress code for any woman over 55. Maybe that’ll come later. But for now, I’m simply turning over phrases that my parents once uttered to me.
So, in no particular order, I give you the top five ways I’ve become my mother. Or father for that matter.
#5: Not Sharing My Junk Food With Them
Child: “What are you eating Mommy?”
Mother: shovels ice cream in mouth and gulps “Poison.”
My mother wasn’t big on sugary snack food for us kids (well, at least not for me or my sister…my brothers ate enough crap for all of us). In fact, I probably didn’t have soda till I was in my teens She brought us crunch granola and other health food snacks. I was the laughing stock of my elementary school when I’d break out my organic snacks before organic was cool. Mom was concerned about our health or so she claimed. So she would wait until she thought we were in bed to eat the junk food she had squirreled away. I can still see her now, sitting in front of the TV as we spied on her from the hallway; dish towel on her lap, ice cream dish propped on top of that. Lovingly spooning the rocky road into her mouth, thinking we were oblivious to her enjoyment.
I don’t even wait for the kids to go to bed. There’s one scoop of ice cream left and I’ve been dreaming of it all day? It’s mine. I’m sure both of my children have snuck enough chocolate from my secret stash or weaseled some junk food out of my mother in law, a woman who feels a home is not complete without a fully stocked cookie jar. I don’t feel guilty. I was deprived of junk food or anything that wasn’t made from organically recycled cardboard until I was in college. Oh and the kicker? My mother’s cabinets are now chocked full of crap like Fruit Loops and Oreos, foods she led us to believe were the devil’s playthings.
I also make them eat their vegetables. I remember endless nights of sitting at the kitchen table devising diabolical ways to beat “eating my vegetables”. I fed them to the dog, smeared them under the chair, filled my mouth with them and excused myself to go spit them in the toilet. You name it, I tried it. And my kids aren’t getting away with ANY of those things…I think.
#4: Dumb Parenting Statements and Idle Threats
“Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!”
Ok, even I’m confused when I say this. If I want the kid to shut up, why would I do something to make him/ her cry? It just doesn’t make sense. Yet, I find myself saying it ten times a day since the younger one cries CONSTANTLY. This may have been uttered to my sister a lot. She could turn on the waterworks at will. (And usually got her way as a result)
The redhead stepchild to this statement is “Don’t make me turn this car around!” 90% of the time we are in the car and I utter that doozy, we are going some place the kids don’t even WANT to go. So why the hell would they care if I turned the car around? Technically, this should encourage them to continue what they’re doing.
A close cousin is, “I’m going to beat you within an inch of your life.”
Really? They know I’m not going to do that. In fact, with the way people are overly sensitive to child abuse (mostly people WITHOUT kids) you can’t even make this type of threat anywhere in public. DFYS will come knocking on your door and be check your fridge to make sure you’re not eating all the kids’ junk food, making them eat their vegetables or making their lives uncomfortable in any way at all.
I got whipped with a belt on a bare ass which I’m sure many of you did, too. And nobody dared call anyone because then you’d just get beat again. Seriously, these kids have no clue.
#3: “You have no idea how much easier you have it than I did growing up.”
This one is unequivocally true. My kids DO have it easier. My kids have way less responsibility than I ever had. I was the oldest of four children which was absolutely not a picnic. There is a lot of mess and laundry with four kids. My sister played the flakey blonde card that got her out of a lot of chores and my brothers were just generally helpless and incompetent. I, on the other hand, always had this drive to be a perfectionist. I couldn’t even fake screwing things up to get out of them. I got stuck with most of it because my parents knew it would get done and it would get done right. So needless to say, it boils my blood when I find myself cleaning my children’s rooms and they can’t even help me by picking by clothes up off the floor. They have no drive towards perfectionism in this department and it saddens me..(sob).
Of course we always rolled our eyes at my father’s stories that usually involved working for no money with no shoes soon after he was able to hold his head up at three months old and walking uphill in the snow both ways to school without a hat or gloves. I’m not nearly as dramatic.
#2: Democracy Starts At the Curb
At age 12, I had absolutely no input in anything my family did. Not where we’re going to eat, what I was going to be able to buy at the clothing store (Bradlees, ick), how late I was staying up or where we were going on vacation.
My little darlings have become world class debate champions as far as arguing their side of our parental choices. About a hundred times a week we hear things along the lines of “I don’t want to go grocery shopping”, “I want to eat at Benihana and get a $30 meal” and “we should go to Disney for the umpteenth time and I won’t go on vacation with you if we don’t go there”. And my husband and I sit there with our jaws on the floor almost unable to utter the simple word, “no”. Partially, we’re afraid of the fall out and tears that will result. Sometimes, it’s easier to give in than fight them. But lately, we’ve been a big boy and girl, holding our ground and saying, “no” to the little demon seeds. And we’ve been called mean and we’ve been “hated”. And it stings and I want to cry but, ultimately, we’re not here to be their friends or make them happy. Our job is to raise responsible, well mannered non-shitheads who don’t think the world owes them or that their option is necessarily the only one.
#1: The Curse
“I can’t wait until you have kids of your own who act exactly like you do.”
This statement mostly steams from something the kids did in #2. My husband also says (and mostly to my son) “I can’t wait until you have a house a family and see how much things cost.” Because my son thinks we are mean that we don’t let him order lobster when we go out. Or we don’t go to the movies every week. Or his latest, that we don’t want to buy him a $150 pair of sneakers.
When my parents said this, I retorted with “I hope I do! At least I’d understand them!” Or some other nonsense like that. Because seriously, even if you have kids that are EXACTLY like you, most likely you will end up scratching your head half the time, wondering what you’re doing wrong. After all, everyone becomes their parents in the end.

I’ll Have What He’s Having

As I previously mentioned, my cooking skills leave a lot to be desired. Thus, we end up eating out in restaurants quite often. My darlings have become quite the little connoisseurs of restaurant cuisine. You would think they would act like midget food critics with table manners of an 87 year old church lady going out to eat so often. Instead, they act like it is their first time out of the insane asylum in the backwoods of Tennessee. I don’t even know why we continue to take them out. Oh yeah, I think because it’s illegal to starve your children. A crying shame too because missing a meal or two might cure them of this entitlement complex they seemed to have developed over the past few years. Every time we get in the car around dinner or lunch time they ask, “where are we going to eat?”.
It’s our fault, I’m sure. We’ve indulged them a little too much. They’ve had seafood and steak before most children even graduate from Gerber Stage 4. Ever since he was about 6 or 7, my oldest has declined the kids’ menu with a look of destain from the usually overzealous hostess offering him a paper menu and crayons. In fact, today, we went to Rainforest Cafe and I thought my son was going to stab the hostess in the eye with the paper crown she was trying to place on his head. As he dodged it like a prize boxer in a fight, I remarked pointedly to her, “If you want to keep all your limbs I suggest you give that up and give him the adult menu.”
He is highly insulted when wait staff offer him children’s menus or bring him the child’s size of chocolate milk (but in all honesty, how many adults actually order chocolate milk?) It’s because he’s a bit on the short side (my fault entirely…his father is 6 foot) and he has a baby face. It’s like he’s trying to prove something by waltzing into Red Lobster, ordering the Ultimate Feast and finishing the whole thing. Why yes ma’am, I am a big boy.
But anyway, I digress…as I often do. We sat down to a late lunch and it began.
“I don’t wanna be here…” The older one whined, arms across his chest. He dislikes the Rainforest because of the big gorilla that comes to life. And that makes him want to poop his pants. When we told him where we were going to eat he literally kicked and screamed in the car that he was calling the authorities to report us for child abuse. My husband offered to pull the car over and dial for him.
“Go ahead,” he dared. “Let them know your horrible parents are taking you out to a restaurant after a day of shopping for clothes for you. Oh, and please put it on speaker. I want to hear when they laugh at you.”
The little one (girl of no fear), laughed maniacally at her brother. “Look! There’s a jungle spider coming down from the ceiling,” she taunted.
“Ah!!! Where, where?” The Boy frantically grabbed at his hair. “Get it off me! Get it off me!”
“There is no spider,” I told him. “She’s just teasing you.” I turned to the Girl. “Don’t tease your brother.”
She shrugged and went back to coloring her menu. The older one grunted with annoyance and opened his menu to begin studying it. My husband flagged over the waitress to bring him a drink menu.
After about thirty seconds (in which time I was not even able to read past the appetizers), my son folded his menu closed and announced, “I’m having the steak and lobster combo. It’s $26.99 and you’re not going to stop me.”
“Like hell I’m not,” my husband retorted. “This is lunch, not your wedding.”
“This is so unfair,” the Boy declared. “You drag me to a place I hate the least you can do is let me get what I want.”
“Get a burger,” my husband hissed. “We are here for burgers.”
“I don’t want a burger!”
At this time, the waitress cheerfully reappeared, assuming a normal family would have made up their mind by now.
“Are you all set to order?” she asked in a sing song voice.
“No,” we answered in angry unison. She slunk away.
“Mommy, play tic tac toe with me,” the little one urged as she poked me with a crayon.
“What are you getting?” I asked her. She must know what she’s getting if she’s playing games already.
“I dunno.” She shrugged her shoulders.
“Well, can you please look?”
“I have to go to the bathroom,” she told me. Of course you do.
I take her to the bathroom where she tries every stall before deciding on the dirtiest one and can hear the boys are still arguing when we return.
“She gets everything she wants,” the older one accuses, pointing his finger in his sister’s direction as she climbs back into her seat.
“Yeah I want the kid pizza. It’s $5.99, not the price of a Build a Bear,” she tells her brother, sticking her tongue out at him. Ah, I see where this is going. She’s sucking up to go to Build a Bear.
“You see that?” The older one throws his hands up in the air and huffs.
“Knock it off,” I tell the older one before turning to the older one. “Grow a pair. Her sticking her tongue out is not going to hurt you.”
“She’s such a baby,” he whines.
Suddenly a blue crayon goes flying past and hit him square in the forehead.
“Ouch! She threw a crayon at me!”
“I saw. Don’t throw crayons,” I remarked dryly.
“That’s it? You’re not going to punish her for throwing crayons?”
I ignore him because the waitress has returned and I haven’t even looked at the menu. “Are we all set to order?”
“Start with them,” I tell her.
She turns to my son who says, “They won’t let me get what I want so I guess I’ll have the disgusting burger.” The waitress stares at me, appalled.
“I think he means this one,” I point to my menu. “He’ll have it medium.”
She nods and then turns to my daughter. “I’ll have the Mac and Cheese.”
“I thought you were getting the kid pizza?”
“I changed my mind. Can’t I change my mind?”
I quickly scramble to read over the menu as my husband orders.
I feel hot breath in my ear as I try to decide between barbecue pork and some cheesy chicken sandwich. “Mommy, I have to go to the bathroom.”
“That’s impossible. We were just in there.”
“I really have to go!” She grabs herself and hops up and down.
“Ok, wait one minute. I have to order.”
“No I have to go NOW. I’m gonna pee myself if I wait one minute!” She pounded the table with her fists, causing the next table of elderly ladies to recoil in horror. Oh please ladies, if you wanted a quiet dining experience what the hell are you doing at the Rainforest Cafe?
“Let me just tell the waitress…”
“I feel the pee coming NOW!!!”
I leap to my feet, shouting at my husband, “Order me the chicken!” praying that there is only one chicken on the menu.
After yet another bathroom visit in which I have to shush my child at least ten times when she asks why the “man” (a really manly looking woman) is using the girls’ room, we return to the table and the sullen looking males of our family. They both have their arms crossed.
I don’t even want to know what they’re arguing about so I ask, “What store are we going to next?” Stupid question.
“I don’t want to go to a store. I want to go home and play my game,” my son announces.
“You spend too much time in front of the TV playing video games,” the king of the couch potatoes replies.
“You suck! You treat me like a baby,” the older one shouts as he blows bubbles in his chocolate milk.
“You need Midol,” my husband says crankily.
“No, you need Midol,” the older one retorts.
I ignore them and turn to my daughter, asking her where she wants to go. She’s the only one at the table I don’t want to strangle at this very moment.
“I want to go to Build A Bear,” my daughter announces happily as she clamors under the table to retrieve her crayon. She resurfaces, crying and clutching her arm.
“He kicked me in the arm!”
As usual, I am mortified as I shoot the older one a dirty look.
“Why did you kick her?”
“Because she’s stupid and she shouldn’t be under the table.” He has a look of smug satisfaction on his face.
The meal arrives just then. Everyone takes a bite of their meal and within seconds it falls apart. My son turns his nose up at the very scrumptious looking burger (which I know for a fact he would eat in a heartbeat if it had been served at Ruby Tuesdays) and makes retching noises while my daughter is holding her stomach and moaning, “I’m full…” To make matters worse, this is not the chicken I wanted.
I turn to my husband who is on his second glass of Sangria, ignoring the scene unraveling in front of him, happily chewing his burger and scrolling down Facebook on his phone. The waitress passes just then and I grab her arm.
Pointing to the hurricane glass in front of my husband, I tell her, “Miss, I’ll have what he’s having.” And that, ladies and gentleman, is why Mommy needs a drink when we go out to eat.

Mom’s Cooking! Call the Fire Department!

I have a confession to make. I am a lousy cook. Well, this isn’t a secret to my children and spouse. They’re pretty much aware of this fact. Actually, they live with this reality on a daily basis. It’s a confession to the rest of the world who may imagine that I’ve got it together. My house is clean and neat, my kids are (generally) presentable and I hardly ever venture out of the house without my hair and make-up done. But I have a deep dark secret. I. Really. Can’t. Cook.
When I say I can’t cook, I mean it on every level imaginable. I have the uncanny ability to either ruin the simplest meal by making it taste like regurgitated cardboard or light it on fire. Gourmet to me is anything I have prepared without injury and the children have eaten without gagging or projectile vomiting. Anything other than frozen food, that is. Apparently, I make a mean Digiorno pizza. And Kraft Mac and Cheese (only Spongebob shapes, however). But that is the extent to my culinary prowess.
My children groan audibly on the days my husband works and we are out of frozen pizzas and boxes of Mac and Cheese. They beg and plead, “can we please go out to dinner?”. And they don’t care where because anything is better than my cooking, according to them.
Is it hurtful that they would rather be stung by a sting ray than eat something I prepare? Yeah, it is. I die a little inside every time they say, “Mommy cooked this? No!!! I’m too young to die!” But I can hardly blame them. It IS horrible.
It’s not for lack of trying. I have spent hours pouring over cookbooks, watching Rachael Ray and pining recipes on Pinterest. I’ve found the easiest idiot proof meals out there. Yet somehow, those “easy five step” recipes only have two steps in my kitchen. Step #1, start. Step #2, destroy. I’m really not exaggerating. When I “cook” (if one could even call it cooking), I have the fire extinguisher on the kitchen counter and the kids on high alert for knife injuries. One time, I actually made a decent meal only to discover I left the pot holder on the electric burner and melted it to the stove. The kids were too traumatized to eat it.
I blame my mother. My mother was one of those June Cleaver types who always had a homemade meal on the table. My great grandmother, too. In fact, Nana seemed to exist only in the kitchen. There were permanent indentions from her sturdy shoes both in front of the stove and the sink and scuff marks where she shuffled between them. Neither of them ever showed me how to actually cook, so I assumed cooking was some innate talent inside me that I could use whenever I needed to. I grew up with the impression that when I was married and had kids, I would simply whip up delicious homemade meals for them without batting an eyelash.
Yeah, it seems that gene has completely skipped me. In fact, I think it ran screaming from the room. Now that I think about it, it is quite possible that it was a gene that skipped a generation. My grandmother was a horrible chef also. At least I think she was. I don’t recall her “cooking” me anything more complicated than a bowl of cereal. When I slept over her house, we ate out a lot. Hmmm…there’s a pattern here.
We eat out a lot. More than the average family. Like five times a week sometimes. My husband is gone 24 hours, at least twice a week, leaving me completely on my own to feed the kids. We order Chinese a lot. We have cans of soup when I’m too lazy to go get the Chinese food. Sometimes, I declare it frozen waffle and ice cream night. Other nights, I tell them they are going on a scavenger hunt for their meal and the first one who discovers where the leftovers are hidden wins. What? You never went to bed without dinner as a kid?
On the days hubby is home, he does cook most of the time, but for some reason, he can’t get over the fact that the woman he married actually burnt a baked potato in the microwave and actually expects me to do some of the cooking. Those are the other nights we end up eating out. He takes classes and begged me to go with him. I went once and fell asleep as soon as they started talking about measuring things. so hubby takes the classes without me and then tries to bestow his knowledge upon me. I politely bob my head up and down but I soak in none of this knowledge. He has his little spice cabinet and tries to point the differences out to me but I’m pretty sure I’ll never need to know more than the salt and pepper.
Listen, the cooking ship has sailed for me. Cooking is like learning a foreign language; best done when you’re young. In fact, listening to him prattle on about braising and making a rue is exactly like a foreign language to me. One I am pretty sure I am allergic to. I broke out into hives once when he had to run to work unexpectedly and asked me to grill the salmon he had taken out for dinner. (We had Burger King that night)
When we were first married, we were so poor we could never go out to eat. I was afraid my new husband would learn my deep dark secret and he would leave me for a woman who served French cuisine with wine every night. After a few months of boiled pasta and sandwiches, my husband did get suspicious. I tried to fake it…I put takeout on plates and served it. stupid me forgot he does the checkbook and I gave him the receipt. Needless to say, he was on to my secret. He told me to “figure it out and just cook something” Fifteen years later, I’m still trying to figure it out.
In my defense, there ARE a few meals that I can make. Stew, chicken parm and, um…that’s it. For some reason, I’ve been able to master throwing the ingredients for stew in the crock pot and breading and baking chicken smothered in cheese. But that’s it. That’s my entire bag of tricks. Oh, and my kids hate chicken parm and my husband hates stew so what’s a girl to do? Make reservations!