It’s Not Vacation Unless Someone Barfs

Franklin, TennesseeAd Man and the girls and I took a much needed spring break trip to Nashville last week. At the same time, I vowed to go cold turkey on Facebook and not do any work on the blog so I could really unwind and relax my carpal-tunnel-gnarled wrists. This also allowed me to spend some time with the kids without an iPhone or a laptop glued to my face. So, if you wondered where the hell I’d gone to, that’s my excuse.

The good news is that, although I was unplugged from MommyEnnui, I was still gathering ridiculous stories to share with you. You see, the Schkqnchehrkhgt family has never once had a 100% problem-free holiday. Actually, I think this streak goes all the way back to childhood when my family took a trip to that vacation wonderland, the Wisconsin Dells. (Yes, we were big pimpin’ back then.) If I recall correctly, our drive up north was uneventful but for the usual squabbles in the back seat of the station wagon. By the way, this was a great improvement on the time my family took a car trip from Chicago down to Florida and we had approximately seventeen blown out tires along the way. We also accidentally hit a cat on the highway and I cried the entire 1,200 miles home. Ah, the memories!

Anyway, for the Dells trip, we arrived there only to realize that my Dad had forgotten to pack all the hanging clothes in the car. I was, apparently, the only one who didn’t feel the need to neatly hang my jean cut-offs and Shaun Cassidy t-shirts and was, therefore, the only person in the family who didn’t have to spend five days wearing the same clothes. To make matters worse, my father sat in chocolate on the day of our arrival, so he was forced to rock the same pair of poo-brown stained jeans the entire time. The Wisconsin Dells didn’t exactly have a plethora of superstores full of affordable clothing options back then.

There were no tragic fashion debacles during our trip last week, but there were enough other bumps in the road to keep us on our toes. As per our usual M.O., this vacation was planned at the last minute. Nonetheless, I managed to find and rent a cute two-bedroom cabin in Franklin, Tennessee. Franklin is an adorable town, about thirty-five minutes outside of Nashville, and home to Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, Jack White, Ashley Judd and other celebs.

Astronauts!On the drive up, we went a bit out of our way so we could stop in Huntsville, Alabama at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. Other than poorly timing our mealtimes so that the girls and I were famished and crabby by the time we left (Ad Man was his usual crotchety self), our visit was great. Both girls are now begging to go to Space Camp there as soon as possible and I’m weighing the pros and cons of selling an organ to pay for it.

For us, just getting to this point in the trip without a major incident was a huge accomplishment. Biggie and Smalls are known far and wide for their severe motion sickness and hair-trigger gag reflexes. After many, many trips that ended with a child and the car covered in vomit, we’ve finally gotten our process down. Before leaving for any car trip, the girls and I all take Dramamine (we now carry a stash of the chewable kind in the glove compartment at all times). Ad Man and I also stock the car with gallon-size, zip-lock freezer bags, wet wipes and a change of clothes for both kids.

1st Cabin BedroomIt was with a great sense of relief that we arrived unscathed in Franklin. Our cabin was unlocked as, it appears, is the custom in those parts and we proceeded to unload the two tons of stuff we’d packed for the trip. The cabin was lovely, though a bit more cramped than we’d expected. It was also a little less clean than I’d prefer. It must be dead ladybug season in Tennessee, because they were everywhere. We soon discovered, much to our chagrin, that the cabin was also inhabited by live wasps. Ad Man killed one that was hanging out on the kitchen curtains and we breathed a sigh of relief. Neither girl has ever been stung by a bee or wasp so we have no idea whether either is allergic to them. The middle of the country, far from the closest hospital was not where we wanted to find out.

Unfortunately, our sense of calm was short-lived because two wasps soon took the place of their fallen comrade. So, we continued our wasp-murdering spree. By bedtime, we’d sent five of them to wasp heaven, did a thorough sweep of the girls’ bedroom and locked them in for the night. (The girls, not the wasps.) As I was laying in bed reading, I spotted another one buzzing around, far out of reach, near the vaulted ceiling of our bedroom. I stared at that stupid thing for as long as I could keep my eyes open and finally just had to hope it would stay up there and went to sleep.

Ad Man, however, was still stationed on the couch in the living room on high alert. I awoke in the morning and realized he’d never come to bed. Instead, he reported that he was up much of the evening battling the little bastards, killing a couple more and freaking out in a very unsoldierly manner when one dive-bombed him in the night. I kept surprisingly calm until the girls came shrieking out of their bedroom after coming face-to-face with a wasp hanging out in the sleeping loft in their room. It also didn’t help that Ad Man then remembered to tell me that, the night before, he’d gone to throw a dead wasp in the trash can and a mouse popped out at him. By his own account, he’d “screamed like a little girl” much like he did that time when a turkey brushed by his leg at the Yellow River Game Ranch. Yep, that’s my studly husband.

Gotcha!At this point, we started making frantic phone calls and texts to the owner of the property. We finally heard back from him via text saying that he’d have an exterminator come to the house later in the day. He also asked if we wanted to move to another house on the property which we took to mean the shack even smaller than ours that we’d passed on our way in. Ad Man and I weren’t thrilled with the idea of all our belongings being bombed with wasp killer and there was no way to cram us all into the shack. We decided we’d rather look for a hotel in Nashville. We sent a message back telling the owner we weren’t comfortable with the chemicals and that, in exchange for him giving us back the money we’d already paid for the rest of the week, we’d agree not to give him a bad review on Airbnb and just chalk it up to “shit happens.” Sooooooo, we packed up everything that we’d unpacked the night before and gathered evidence that would support our case should we have to fight to get our money back, hence the reason I now have photos of wasp carcasses to share with you lucky readers.

We had just finished packing up and getting the kids in the car when a green pickup truck drove up the long, gravel road to our cabin. The owner got out and I thought, “Oh shit. This is going to get ugly.” I should point out that the owner of the property is a wealthy physician who owns a crapload of land very near celebrities’ homes; not exactly a thug to be feared. Turns out, he was lovely and accommodating and the other house he’d offered to us was actually the big-ass house across the road that we’d marveled at on our way in. We drove over to the house with him, I took one look inside at the enormous living room with soaring ceilings and a stone fireplace and said, “I think this will do just fine, thank you.” Whew! One major bullet dodged.

I’ve included a photo of our rented mansion so you can witness the swankiness for yourself. Ad Man and I did a little “holy-crap-we-totally-scored” dance and proceeded to unpack the car yet again. Meanwhile, Biggie and Smalls explored the grounds which included a small pond with waterfall, a large pond with a dock, a shuffleboard court, bocce ball court, horseshoes, a barn   and acres of prime Tennessee land dotted with enough wildflowers to keep two little girls happy for a month.

Cabin #2

The rest of the day was heavenly. We had brunch at an amazing bakery/cafe in downtown Franklin and explored the picturesque little town and surrounding areas. The girls spent the afternoon back at the house running around the yard and fishing in the pond with Ad Man. After going back out to dinner, we tucked the exhausted Biggie and Smalls into one of the many bedrooms together and then crashed on the couch ourselves with wine and a movie on Ad Man’s laptop. All was right with the world. That is, until the barfing started.

Ad Man and I were both startled when we heard Smalls crying out from the girls’ bedroom. We’ve gotten to the point where kids waking up screeching in the night is no longer a common occurrence. Ad Man jumped up to see what was going on and immediately called me to come help. Just as a mother learns to identify her baby’s different cries, I have come to recognize my husband’s particular yell that means, “Get in here now! There’s vomit everywhere!”

We sprang into action like the seasoned vomit veterans that we are. We sent Biggie to one of the other empty bedrooms and I grabbed the screaming, puke covered kid. I did my best to remove Smalls’s pajamas without smearing too much additional barf into her hair or onto myself and whisked her away for a warm bath. Ad Man dealt with getting the pukey sheets off the bed and into the washing machine. (Having a washer and dryer is one of the biggest benefits of renting a house rather than staying in a hotel.)

We got everything and everyone cleaned up and tucked Smalls into bed with me. So much for the wine and movie. She said she was feeling better, but I kept a trash can at the ready just in case. That was a good thing too, because just as I was dozing off, Smalls threw up again. This time, I was left holding a vomit filled trash can, but due to my fast mom-reflexes, we avoided having to rewash the kid and another set of sheets. The rest of the night was blissfully puke free.

Just petting a kangarooThe next day, Smalls was a little tired and clingy, but otherwise fine so we let the girls talk us into taking them to the zoo. We didn’t expect much from the Nashville Zoo, but it turned out to be really nice and we practically had the place to ourselves. Biggie and Smalls were especially thrilled to get to pet a kangaroo which was surprisingly soft. (I tell you this just in case you get the chance to pet a kangaroo yourself someday. Do not pass up the opportunity!)

We’d gotten tickets to go see some live music from a colleague of Ad Man’s, so a few nights later, we took the opportunity to expose the girls to their first concert not featuring a dancing, furry animal character of some sort. It was a live radio variety show called Music City Roots that’s recorded every week in a large theater-in-a-barn on the grounds of the famous Loveless Cafe. We had no idea what bands would be playing that night but we figured, even if the music wasn’t that great, we’d still have an adventure and eat warm biscuits.

Driftwood by SmallsIf you asked Ad Man and me if we’re big country music fans, we’d have to say no. If we really thought about it though, and looked beyond our Yankee music snobbery, there are honestly a number of, mostly classic, country artists that we both love. I count Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Sr. and Lucinda Williams as some of my favorite musicians. So, I wasn’t surprised that we ended up having a fantastic time at the show. Biggie and Smalls were grinning ear-to-ear and clapping along. There was one particular band called Driftwood that we were all crazy for. We bought their CD and listened to it nonstop on our drive home. Smalls, my little Southern belle, even drew a picture of the band and told me she wants to learn how to play the fiddle!

The rest of the trip was a whirlwind of checking out Nashville’s touristy spots and insider gems, getting together with good friends, fishing in the pond and eating insane amounts of unhealthy, but delicious, Southern food. Biggie and Smalls each came back with a new pair of “cowgirl” boots, as they insist on calling them. Ad Man also tried on a pair for fun in the boot shop and I nearly fell down laughing. He’s definitely more of a checkered Vans kind of guy.

Barn ratsIn the process of exploring, we absolutely fell in love with the city. We even found the hipster part of town with the help of friends’ suggestions and decided that, if we were to ever move there, it would be difficult to choose whether to live in East Nashville with the rest of the tattooed parents and plentiful vegetarian restaurants or to hightail it to the country where we could have chickens and goats and let the girls run wild. Ad Man is convinced I’d lose my mind living in the country, but I have to say, it was pretty great to breathe in the fresh air, sit in a rocking chair on the porch, drinking tea in my pajamas and point out constellations to my city kids who’d never seen so many stars in their lives. Seriously, if we’d stayed one more week, there’s a good chance you’d still find me there in a vintage dress and cowboy boots chatting with the regulars at my favorite coffee shop.

Just to keep us alert, two days before we left, Biggie threw up in the middle of the night. The nice thing about having an eight year old, though, is that they actually get out of bed and run to the bathroom when they have to barf. Ad Man was still awake in the living room and didn’t even bother to wake me with the news. Thank goodness for small pleasures like road trips, live music, room to roam, abundant stars and children who grow up and no longer spew vomit all over the house.

 

 

An Interview with Biggie and Smalls

three_on_a_swingAs part of the 30-day blogging challenge, my assignment today is to write a post that includes a new-to-me element, like an image or video. I’ve already done both, so I’ve decided to conduct an interview which I have not yet done (If you’ll recall, you guys conducted the interview with Kanye West, not me).

In considering who to interview, I looked far and wide, remembered that it’s 15 degrees (Fahrenheit!) outside and recommitted myself to not leaving the house. Luckily for you, dear readers, the witty, charming and only occasionally maddening Miss Biggie and Miss Smalls are here within the confines of my warm house. They’re also bored out of their skulls and ready to murder each other because they’ve been home on winter break for the last 2+ weeks. They’re now stuck here for yet another day with school cancelled due to the frigid weather.

You see, children in Atlanta don’t even own clothing warm enough for standing at bus stops with temperatures in the single digits. The former Chicagoan in me scoffs at the concept of calling off school for a “cold day,” while the former Los Angeleno in me is like, “Aw, HELL no! I’m going to sit my freezing ass down right here by this space heater and not move again until the temperature hits 50 degrees!”  But I digress.

Anyway, as you’ll see below, the girls had lots of insightful things to say about my current and former careers. They also really, really want cookies.

Q: What kind of work does mommy do?
Biggie: Taking care of us and doing your blog.
Smalls: Taking care of us and doing your blog. [Hmm…maybe I should ask Smalls the questions first.]

Q: What does Mommy do to take care of you?
Smalls: Giving us baths, kissing us goodnight, tucking us in at night…
Biggie: Making us food.
Smalls: Cookies! Can we have dessert?

Q: What do I do during the day when you’re at school?
Smalls: I don’t know. I’m at school.
Biggie: Dishes, laundry, clean the house, go get groceries, go get your nails done. Daddy says you just get coffee and tea.
[I give Ad Man a dirty look and kick him out of the room.]

Q: What should I do during the day?
Smalls: Go and get a surprise for us…like cookies or something. Or you should bake cookies.
Biggie: Go look at French Bulldogs. [The ladies of the house want a French Bulldog. Ad Man doesn’t want to clean up poop.]

Q: What kind of work did Mommy do before Biggie was born?
Smalls: I don’t know!  It was before she [Biggie] was even born!
Biggie: You were a lawyer. And you made a movie…a documentary. [At least someone has been paying attention.]

Q: Do you know what kind of lawyer Mommy was?
Smalls: What’s a lawyer? [Sigh.]
Biggie: You were someone who helped people who someone else thought did something bad. And you would defend them. [Yes, like representing the poor major film companies that didn’t want to pay their producers’ royalties.]

Q: What’s a blog?
Smalls: Something that you write down things on on a keyboard. People read it on the other part of the computer [pointing to the screen].
Biggie: Something some people write that goes out on the internet for people to read.

Q: What do you think mommy’s blog is about?
Smalls: You talk about what you do at your house like giving us baths and taking care of us.
Biggie: About your life. Like, a few days ago, you wrote about how messy our house was. [Specifically, Biggie’s bedroom.]

Q: If you had a blog, what would you write about?
Smalls: My family and friends.
Biggie: You could write anything. You could even write about your butt!  I would write about my friends and me.

Q: What do you think I should write about next?
Biggie: Why you started your blog…you know, so you could have something to do when we were gone. Or what you did before you started your blog, like where you lived and where you went to school and stuff.
Smalls: I don’t know. [Smalls is clearly starting to check out at this point.]

Q: Do you think I should spend more time or less time writing my blog?
Biggie: Less time so you can hang out with us more.
Smalls: More time so you can do a better job. Like if you messed up, you could do it again.

Q: What kind of school did mommy go to?
Smalls: A college?
Biggie: You went to elementary school, high school and college. You studied Geometry and Geography and French. [Huh?]

Interlude while the girls show me how they pretend to fall down.

Q: How do you think my life is different now than it was before I had kids?
Smalls: You have to take care of kids. You didn’t then.
Biggie: Mostly the same except for the part about having kids.
[Yep. Exactly the same…except for the having kids part.]

Q: Do you think mommy should go back to work full-time?
Biggie: No, because I want to hang out with you.
Smalls: No. You should stay and snuggle with us…because you do love my snuggling.

Q: Do you think mommy is funny?
Smalls: Yes. You say funny stuff.
Biggie: Yes. You make funny faces at us through the car window at the gas station. [I kill it at the gas station.]

Q: What do you like least about Mommy?
Biggie: You can sometimes be mean. Like about making my bed and cleaning my room.
Smalls: Sometimes you’re so busy you don’t get to play with me. [Like, for instance, when the thought of playing one more game of pretend with Littlest Pet Shop animals makes me want to bang my head against the wall.]

Interlude while the girls demonstrate their “mime-in-a-box” skills.

Q: What kind of work does Daddy do?
Smalls: Advertising. What does advertising mean? [OK…I feel better now.]
Biggie: He makes advertisements and commercials in a big office building.

Q: What kind of work do you want to do when you grow up?
Smalls: I don’t know. [She’ll drive around the country for a year in a smelly van with her boyfriend and his bandmates.]
Biggie: A veterinarian, an artist and a fashion designer. [She’ll change her major seven times.]

Q: Do you want to have kids when you grow up?
Smalls: No, It’s kinda scary because they cut open your belly. Do they always cut open your belly?
Me: Well, either they cut open your belly, which is called a c-section, like I had with you two, or usually the baby comes out of the mommy’s vagina.
Smalls: Eeeeewwwww! [This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed this, by the way.]
Biggie: I want to adopt two girls. [Sucker!]

Many thanks to my darling daughters for providing MommyEnnui’s readers with such a clear, detailed and accurate description of my life before and after children.  I suppose all that’s left for me now is to move on to blogging about my butt.  Stay tuned!

Kanye West Answers Your Parenting Questions

kanye_headshotDearest readers, I’m busy buying useless crap at the dollar store to fill Biggie and Smalls’s Christmas stockings just like Jesus would do, so I’ve asked my close friend Kanye West to fill in as guest blogger on MommyEnnui today. Kanye and I go way back. He grew up in the Chicago suburb adjacent to mine (at least 45 minutes from the mean streets of Chi-Town…don’t let all that tough talk fool you) and we loitered in the same malls as teens.

As you may know, Kanye’s soon-to-be wife, Kim Kardashian, gave birth to their first child North West this past fall. Because, in his words, Kanye is full of “awesomeness…beauty, truth and awesomeness,” he is more than qualified to provide some sage advice. Here, he answers your most burning questions about his new bundle of joy and advises you on your parenting dilemmas.

Q: Kanye, every morning turns into a battle with my daughter over choosing an outfit for the day. Do you have any tips?

Kanye: Imma tell you what I do with my babygirl. I pick up the phone and call my friends Tom Ford, Stella McCartney, Karl Lagerfeld and Donatella Versace and I have ‘em each send over a bunch of fly outfits in baby size and that gives me lots of options for dressing North to coordinate with what I put Kim in that day. Whether she flyin’ on a Lear to Paris for the Louis Vuitton show or she just playin’ in her private 20 acre park with the nannies, my girl be dressed to the nines at all times. When she gets older, she won’t question my fashion advice because I’m a fashion God, yo.

Q: How do I teach my child about managing money?

Kanye: Well, North is in a position of a level of royalty like the Prince and Princess of London, so she ain’t never be worryin’ bout money, you feel me? But, I grew up with a single mom, rest her soul, in [the middle class suburbs of] Chicago so I know all about bein’ poor. I would just tell your kid, “Havin’ money isn’t everything, not havin’ it is.” Tell him Kanye said that. You should also tell him, “The less said about the pterodactyl the better.” Yeah, I said that, too. [That was actually Mark Twain.]

Q: My daughter worries that she’s not as thin or as pretty as other girls in her class.  How do I teach her that beauty isn’t everything?

Kim_Kanye_c_uKanye: This is a hard question for me to answer because I only surrounded myself with objects of exquisite beauty. My BabyMama Kim is the most beautiful woman of all time! I’m talkin’, like, arguably of human existence…the top 10 of human existence. And, North, she the most beautiful baby in the history of the world. Maybe the universe. As a matter of fact, North should be on the cover of Baby Vogue. Everybody knows it. Anna Wintour knows it; Obama knows it. Even the Pope knows it! Anyway, tell your daughter that the world needs people that aren’t, like, good looking because without them, the perfect people wouldn’t be so special. She shouldn’t try to go into entertainment though. In my business, beauty is a talent and it sounds like she don’t got no talent.

Q: My son says he wants to be a rapper just like you when he grows up.  Do you have any advice for him?

Kanye: Imma stop you right there. That just ain’t possible. I am the number one human being in music. That means any person that’s living or breathing is number two. I mean, my music isn’t just music, it’s medicine. Every time I make an album, I’m trying to make a cure for cancer…musically. But you can tell your son, if he works really, really hard, wears limited edition Nikes and he dress fresh at all times, maybe he can grow up to be the second best artist in the world. Or, third…after me and Michael Jackson. Oh, then there’s Jay-Z. So, fourth. He could maybe be fourth.

Q: My daughter is very shy. How can I help her become more confident and outgoing?

Kanye: That one’s easy. Just give her this advice from Kanye, “Believe in your flyness…conquer your shyness.” Boom…done!  Also tell her Kanye says, “I scratch my head with the lightning and purr myself to sleep with the thunder.” She’ll like that.

Q: What were your favorite books as a child?

Kanye: I’m not a fan of books. Sometimes people write novels and they just be so wordy and so self-absorbed. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice, I want to dig [Jane Austen] up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talkin’ to people and livin’ real life. I would never want a book’s autograph, you know? I’m a proud non-reader of books.

Q: My wife is scheduled to give birth to our first child this spring and we’ve decided not to find out the sex beforehand. We’d like to give our baby a unique name. Do you have any suggestions?

Kanye: You want your baby to have a name that’s strong and confident…a name that don’t bow to the man so, when it grows up, that baby can rise to the highest pinnacle of truth and awesomeness. If it’s a boy, you should name him Hermes, Summit or Kanye. If it’s a girl, I’d go with Apogee, Apex or Kim.

Q: Do you have a special routine for getting North to bed at night?

Sweet_North_WestKanye: If I’m not on tour, in Cannes on Jay’s yacht, or writin’ my feelings down on paper to keep their heat from setting me afire inside, I like to spend as much time as possible with my babygirl. Me and Kim try not to be away from home at the same time so one of us is always there watchin’ over the nannies, makin’ sure they not leakin’ shit to the press.

So, when I’m around, I sing North to sleep with this lullaby I wrote special for her. It goes like this, “Stop everything you’re doing now/ Because baby, you’re awesome/ Don’t let nobody get you down/ Because you’re awesome/ You don’t need to listen to the haters/ You must be tired of running through my mind/ Can I come inside?…I’m also awesome…/ I’d rather do nothing with you/ than something with somebody new/ Because baby you’re awesome.”  And one more thing, I never give my babygirl a fur pillow. Fur pillows are hard to sleep on.

*Please note, this is a work of satire. Kanye, it would be a waste of your precious time to sue me. I haven’t received a paycheck in 8 years.

Scenes from a ’70s Childhood

Jackie 4 mo. old with MomI was born in the Summer of Love, 1969. Well, it was actually the spring directly preceding the Summer of Love, but there’s really no need to be nitpicky.  As much as I’d like to claim that I was conceived by two hippies in the back of a VW van at Woodstock, that’s not only untrue, but also a biological impossibility.  I was actually born in a suburb of Chicago that wasn’t exactly a hotbed of free love and progressive politics. My parents were both 22 years old, having gotten married two years previously.  Family members assumed that my mother was having trouble getting pregnant since she and my father waited so long to start a family.

My dad worked for the town in various capacities (driving snow plows, working at the sewage treatment plant) before becoming a cop.  I guess he was a company man. My mom had a more glamorous job working as a secretary at an ad agency in Chicago. As was surprisingly common back then, as soon as her boss found out she was pregnant, he fired her.  She didn’t work outside our house again until I was in middle school.

My husband and many of my friends were born in the ‘70s, but I’m proud to have been born at the tail-end of the 1960s.  So many major events happened in 1969, some of which changed the world.  In addition to Woodstock, Neil Armstrong was the first man to step foot on the moon, the gay rights movement was born with the Stonewall riot in New York City, students everywhere banded together to protest the Vietnam War, the Manson Family went on a killing spree in California and PBS launched Sesame Street.

70s family photoI am really a child of the ’70s though.  My formative years were spent running in a pack of kids around our “Everytown, USA” suburb from morning until night.  My mom would feed us cereal for breakfast and then set us free.  We’d return home only for bathroom breaks (the girls, that is…the boys just peed in the alley) and meals.  We knew it was time to head in for the night when my dad used his impressive whistle to call us from the front porch.  It was about as taxing as having a dog in a fenced-in yard (feed it, let it out, bring it back in, occasionally give it a pat on the head) unless someone came home bleeding which happened fairly often.

I spent my days riding my green Schwinn with a sparkly banana seat around and around the block, sometimes for hours on end.  We’d play Kick the Can, Running Bases and “Spy,” a game we made up that had virtually no rules.  We’d ride my brother’s Big Wheel down the steps of our porch and, later, his BMX bike over rickety ramps he’d nailed together himself.

We weren’t allowed to travel far, but luckily, the neighborhood park was just down the street.  Only in my adult years have I come to realize that the park was a death trap. We had the high metal slide on which we burned our butts in the summer and from which, occasionally, someone particularly uncoordinated fell over the side, plunging to the ground below.  There was a red and white mushroom-shaped merry-go-round thing the the older kids dubbed “the bloody tit” (so poetic). You could climb on top of it and lay on your belly, while the other kids tried to spin it so fast that you’d fly off head first.

The most popular feature with the teenagers was the Fun House which was a little house-shaped structure that had a rolling drum inside made of planks of wood that you could run around on like a hamster wheel.  Since four or more kids could fit in there at a time, we suffered your typical injuries from bodies smashing into the hard wood and each other.

The older kids were fond of the Fun House, however, for the shelter it provided from prying eyes.  Adults couldn’t see into it from the street so the teenagers were free to make out with boyfriends or girlfriends and smoke pot without fear of being dragged home by their parents or the police.  And, if that weren’t private enough, there was also a pavillion that had brick walls to about waist height.  We little kids only figured out what the teenagers were up to in hindsight.  At the time, we had no clue what they did in there for hours or what that weird smell was that came wafting out.  I distinctly remember that someone had spray painted in large letters on the cement floor a mysterious string of words…Blue Oyster Cult.

Jackie & Jeff 1976I thought the ’70s was the best time to be a kid and marveled at my luck in being alive to experience the highlight of the decade…The Bicentennial.  I was 7 years old in 1976, the perfect age to get caught up in all the hoopla over our nation’s 200th year. The whole country was bathed in red, white and blue and there was a palpable excitement in the air.  The pinnacle of my young life at that time was riding on a float dressed as Betsy Ross in our town’s Bicentennial parade.  That was my first brush with fame only to be topped years later by half-assed performances in numerous school plays.

To me, red, white and blue were the colors of the ’70s.  One of my earliest memories is of watching Mark Spitz in the 1972 Olympics.  He rocked not only a pretty rad porn-’stache for the Games, but also a snappy red, white and blue, stars-and-stripes Speedo.  And, I clearly remember a family of five we’d see every year when we drove down to Sarasota, Florida for vacation who arrived one summer all dressed in matching stars-and-stripes bathing suits.  It was a thing of beauty.

We didn’t have much money, but my mom managed to decorate our home with a stylish 1970s flair.  We had the requisite flocked wallpaper and macrame.  The living room was decorated in the, then popular and very hip, “Spanish Style.”  The furniture was red and black and the room was accessorized with a 4 foot tall statue of Cortez in armor.  The walls were decorated with ominous looking crossed maces and “ojo de Dios” wood-and-string designs.  My favorite thing was the white shag carpet in my parents’ room, but I rarely got to go lounge in its heavenly fluff because my dad worked shift-work and was usually snoring away in there.

We later moved a few blocks away and our new house was decorated in a more upscale, but ubiquitous at the time, avocado green, goldenrod and burnt orange color scheme.  Anything that wasn’t patriotically clad in the ’70s, was some off shade of either green, gold, orange or brown.  I remember it as an extremely muddy decade.

Being young and not yet partied out, my parents had a large group of friends.  I have memories of them lugging my brother and I along to parties with them.  After we wreaked havoc with their friends’ kids for a while, the parents would stuff us all into our pajamas and attempt to get us to sleep so they could stay late drinking beer, Whiskey Sours and a minty cocktail called a Grasshopper which I would sneak sips of when my mom wasn’t looking.

the_day_afterOverall, I had a pretty happy and carefree childhood.  The ’80s soon arrived though, and the magic of those days faded away.  With the new decade came puberty, Ronald Reagan and the nuclear holocaust movie The Day After.  I don’t know why my parents thought it was important for my brother and I to watch it with them.  It’s not like we headed to the back yard afterwards to start digging a bomb shelter together.  But I do know that my childhood ended abruptly as I entered my teens terrified of an impending nuclear attack.

I often think about how different those days were from these in which my daughters are growing up.  Despite the many differences, though, I hope my kids will someday think back on their own childhoods as fondly as I do on those long ’70s summer nights when the sun seemed to hang in the sky forever, riding in the way-back of my parents’ Buick LeSabre station wagon, fighting with my brother and listening to Jim Croce on the radio.

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Bitter

standard_la_footAd Man travels for work.  A lot.  In fact, he’ll be out of town most of this week. So, I’m sitting here sulking and dreading and wondering if I can get away with feeding the kids take-out for every meal until Saturday.  I’m also planning ways I can ensure that I’ll actually wake up when the alarm goes off so I can get Biggie and Smalls on the bus at the crack of dawn and not have to drag them half dressed, each with an energy bar stuffed in her pocket, into the car where we will then sit in two carpool lines at two different campuses. Pulling off that feat with neither child being marked tardy requires a plan of attack timed to the second and seeing that in this scenario I couldn’t even drag my sorry ass out of bed, the chances of me succeeding in such a plan are slim.

I am most emphatically not a morning person.  I lived in fear for many years of missing finals or sleeping through the bar exam because my bed was just so damn warm and cozy.  One thing Ad Man does well, though, is waking up.  No snooze button for him…when he’s up, he’s up.  And I am the direct beneficiary of this talent because, day in and day out, he manages to get three cranky ladies out of bed and moving at 6:15 am and for this, I am eternally grateful.  Oh, believe me, he bitches about it every single morning, but he gets the job done.

Beyond just missing my own personal alarm clock who won’t take “but I’m so sleeeepy!” for an answer, having a husband who travels a lot can be difficult.  In fact, one of the reasons we moved from San Francisco to Atlanta was that I was often left by myself with a newborn baby, who I was up nursing every few hours, in a town where I knew almost no one.  Meanwhile, Ad Man was flying blissfully alone to meetings on the east coast where he was put up in posh hotels, sleeping uninterrupted in sheets not stained with breast milk or baby spit-up and going out to restaurants I could only sit home and read about in Food & Wine magazine.  Not surprisingly, this arrangement got really old, really quickly.  So, we moved to the east coast where we bought a house and Ad Man started collecting more clients in, and traveling more often to, the west coast.

I also have the uncanny ability to come down with any number of illnesses that would normally send me right to bed the moment the wheels of his airplane leave the ground.  And, if I somehow manage to avoid getting sick while he’s out of town, you can be sure that both children will start running a fever or be covered in suspicious looking spots so they can’t go to school and we’re all quarantined in the house for the duration of his absence.

I really shouldn’t complain (but I do it so well!).  I know a number of women and a few stay-at-home dads who have it far worse than I do.  I have friends whose spouses have “commuted” to south Florida and even Detroit from Atlanta.  My friend K’s husband is the president of a European company that makes bicycle components so he’s often gone for weeks at a time, occasionally reporting back that he’s been cycling in the Pyrenees, or something terribly stressful like that.

I have to admit, things have gotten easier now that the girls are older.  Ad Man has learned that it’s best to be as vague as possible about the details of his trips, which helps too.  This was a lesson he learned the hard way, however.  Once, when Biggie was about 4 years-old and Smalls was 2, Ad Man felt he just had to post a photo on Facebook taken in his hotel room at The Standard in Los Angeles.  (He’s just reminded me that his room was called the “Wow! Suite.”  The guy just does not know when to keep his mouth shut for the sake of marital harmony!)  What prompted him to post the photo was an approximately 6 ft. long by 4 ft. high sculpture of an actual foot…in his bathroom.  Now, just imagine what the rest of his room must have looked like if there was space for a 6 ft. long foot in the bathroom.

I can’t remember what I posted in response or if I called him directly, but I assure you, retribution was swift and painful.  Even his guy friends were like, “Dude…what were you thinking posting a photo of your swank hotel room?!  Your wife is going to kill you!”  Luckily, he (sometimes) learns from his mistakes.  Now, half the time I don’t even know what city he’s in.  We joke that he could have a whole other family in another city and I’d know nothing about it.  Of course, the joke would be on him because he’d be the one with two pissed-off wives and even more children running amok.

I do, occasionally, get to go somewhere by myself for the weekend.  For instance, I’ve been to a couple funerals and I try to get together with a group of my friends from law school once a year or so.  In those rare instances, as soon as word gets out that Ad Man will be home (alone! gasp!) with the kids for a few days, support pours in from all corners of the globe.  It’s usually something like, “Oh you poor dear, why don’t you come to the mountains with us for the weekend where you can stay in our rustic-chic cabin, your kids will be entertained by ours during every waking moment, you’ll have a cold beer in your hand at all times and the women-folk will take care of all the meals?”  It’s truly amazing he survives those difficult times.

There are, however, a few benefits to having a husband that travels for work.  I mean, who can deny the allure of frequent flier miles?  When he’s gone, I go to bed earlier because there’s no one to veg out with in front of the television.  And, when I do indulge in some late night TV watching, there’s no one trying to convince me that an America’s Next Top Model marathon is a bad idea.  I also have one less mouth to feed and fewer articles of clothing to pick up from the floor next to the clothes hamper.

Of course, Ad Man’s frenzied and unpredictable travel schedule also makes me wonder what type of position I could accept if some fantastic job opportunity fell in my lap.  I worked as a producer at a multi-media production company before Biggie was born.  It was the job I loved the most and miss to this day, but it also required long nights in the edit bay, weekend film shoots and changes for clients at the last minute.  Could we work it out if another opportunity like that arose?  I would hope so, but I just don’t know.

biggie_tupac_croppedWe’ve talked about turning our downstairs guest room into a space for an au pair if necessary, but do I really want to be responsible for a teenager living in my house when I already have two kids and a moody, skateboarding husband with a vast collection of hip-hop dolls and breakdance figurines?

These are some of the questions that keep me up at night (along with things like “does it really matter which earbud I put in which ear?”) and I have no idea how or when they’ll be answered.  In the meantime, I’ll just be happy if I can get the kids to school on time, make it through homework without strangling one or both of them and manage to feed them items from more than one food group this week.  As for me, I’m stocked up on tea, wine and dark chocolate so how bad could the next few days possibly be?  Right?