Tag Archives: travel

If You Give a Housewife a Vacuum…

My grown stepdaughter and boyfriend fly into Austin tonight.

In preparation, Mister and I watched Meet the Parents.  We took notes of what not to do.

Mister’s not going to talk about snakes or milking cats.  I’m avoiding the word “pooh-poohs”, which is rather difficult considering I have two toddlers in the house.

I prepared for their arrival in other ways, as well.  I cleaned both high chairs, washed the bathrooms, made cookies, bought snacks, wrote a message on the fridge using Bunder’s alphabet letters, rewrote the message after Mister chastised me, made the beds, hid some toys, etc.  I reserved my final task for naptime today – SCRUB THE KITCHEN FLOOR.  I thought globs of dried yogurt might gross out our guests.

Right after I lay both kids down in their separate rooms for naps, I eagerly attack the kitchen telling myself, “Your cup of tea and quiet time will be a delightful reward for cleaning the kitchen floor”.  (I know that sounds a little pathetic, but I hope you other SAHM’s can relate).

Before I can wash the floor, I have to find it underneath the assorted crayons, colored pencils, stickers, toys, and dog bowls.  Therefore, I pick everything up and carry a few chairs into the living room.

Afterward, I drag out the vacuum and alternate vacuuming with the hard-floor nozzle on the main areas and the straight nozzle in the corners and edges.  When I make my way to the fridge, I notice the vent at the bottom is loaded with dust.  I attempt to vacuum the dust, but it doesn’t budge.  I kneel next to the vent, and try to remove it.  It seems stuck.  I lie on the floor looking for a release latch placing my face uncomfortably close to the dust and dirt.  Nothing.  I kneel again and give a few tugs.  “Mister will kill me if I break this vent,” I half-heartedly worry as I yank harder.

The vent pops off and I place it in the sink to wash later.  With the vent removed, I clearly see how inept I am at house cleaning.  I start to vacuum the dust, dirt, Cheerios, and M&M’s at the front of the fridge only to discover a boatload of kids’ magnets.  “Ah-ha!  I’ve found the missing magnets!”

The vacuum nozzle doesn’t fit under the fridge, so I can’t easily rescue the magnets.  I go searching the house for something thin enough to use under the fridge.  Ideally, I’m looking for a thin yardstick, but all I can find is a yardstick in the shape of a rectangular prism (I’m showing off my third grade geometry skills).

Instead, I grab a piece of plywood from the garage.  I wrestle it around the kitchen island and onto the floor.  Too big!  What’s thinner than plywood?

In desperation, I grab a flyswatter from under the kitchen sink.  Sweet success!  It’s working.  I sweep the flyswatter from the far left of the fridge to the far right pushing out countless magnets covered in dust.  The flyswatter isn’t quite long enough, so I grab the part used for swatting flies to extend the handle as far back as possible.  I gag a little to be touching fly guts, but remind myself that I’m already nose deep in under-fridge gunk.

I vacuum the dust from the magnets before placing them in the sink with the fridge vent.  Then, I vacuum the area surrounding the fridge where the dirty magnets previously lay.  I crouch on the floor once more to survey the situation.

Yuck!  Thick dirt mats the floor under the fridge.

I hear Kiki cry.  Naptime’s over.  The kitchen sink is full of magnets and one large vent.

I didn’t even start scrubbing the floor.

What's under the fridge?

Just Write. 


E-I-E-I-O Duet

Both kids fuss and whine loudly from the back seat.  I stretch to grab their portable DVD player, insert a disk, and fast forward through what feels like twenty-seven previews.  All the while, I’m attempting to hush and comfort them, “I know.  I know.  We’re almost home. “

It’s hour thirteen of a fourteen-hour car trip.  “The last hour is always the worse,” I complain quietly to Mister as the kids settle into watching Disney’s Baby McDonald video.

“Are you ready to switch yet?  I’m more than happy to drive now!”  I tease.  Mister laughs.  No one wants the taxing job of entertaining the kids in the back seat from the passenger’s seat.

The song Old MacDonald starts to play from the DVD’s speaker.  Bunder joins in, followed by Kiki.  As so often happens with young children, a tense moment spontaneously becomes joyful.

See for yourself.  Pardon the raw footage.  I grabbed the closest device, my iPhone.  Oh, and don’t worry.  Kiki’s wearing frosting on her nose.  I swear it’s not boogers.

Just Write

Best Laid Plans of Mice and Moms

I remember teaching my third grade students to think like writers – to live like writers.  I encouraged them to see their lives through the eyes of a storyteller.  Oh, how I loved teaching writing.

I miss those students.  Some days I think teaching a class of twenty-two children belonging to other people is easier than managing a day with two children belonging to me.  I digress…

Just as I taught my students, a continual narration runs through my head regularly.  As I experience a long drive in the car with my kids, I imagine the parts I would tell you.  Certainly, I’d include this conversation:

“Mommy!  Mommy!  Open your eyes!  Mommy!  Mommy!  Open your eyes!”

“Bunder, I know you have lots to tell me, but Mommy really needs a nap.  Will you please be quiet while I sleep?  Watch your movie or color with your crayons.”

“Okay Mommy.  I’ll be quiet so you can sleep.”

“Thank you, Pumpkin.”

Ten seconds pass.

“Mommy!  Mommy!  Are you asleep?  Mommy!  Are you asleep?”


Sometimes, I’m so caught up in watching the story unfold, narrating it in my mind that I forget to react.  I forget to parent.  I know!  I’m that lady- the one sitting back all calm and reflectively watching my children wreak havoc on innocent bystanders.  Such was the case earlier this week.

All day Sunday and most of Monday morning, I built anticipation with my children to visit the Butterfly House.  “Oh, I can’t wait to see the butterflies!  I can’t believe the blue Morphos are back!  I wonder if one will land on me again this year.”

Why do I do this?  I’m not certain.  Is it to extend the fifteen-minute trip into a grander excursion than it really is?  Is it to encourage cooperative and obedient behavior prior to the journey?  Or is it my own twisted masochistic tendency?  I think the latter.  Surely, after this many years as a stepparent and parent, I should know better.  All too often circumstances outside of my control ruin my schemes.   Ah, the best laid plans of mice and moms.

Truly, I blame myself for Monday’s calamity.  After all, I stoked the fire of excitement for Bunder and Kiki.  I built the Butterfly House up so high, not even Godzilla could climb it.

I thought these thoughts as I watched my offspring kick and pound on the doors of the Butterfly House Monday morning.  Over their shrieks and cries, I attempted to read the sign to them, “Closed on Mondays.”

They didn’t hear me.  I stepped back and observed.  Dreadful to admit, I wished for a video camera to record their tantrums.  No video camera existed, so I pressed record in my mind – narrating the story as I watched.

Seconds, (okay maybe minutes later), I snapped out of my trance as other parents tried to console my kin.  I tried not to laugh (okay, I did laugh, but I tried not to – shouldn’t that count for something).

For the benefit of the bystanders, I said all the things a parent should say in such a situation, “Oh, I know you’re upset.  I’m upset, too.  I feel frustrated that the Butterfly House isn’t open today.  See the doors are locked.  We can’t go inside.   Don’t worry.  We’ll come back tomorrow.  Blah, blah, blah.”

I said all this while I half carried, half-dragged Bunder and Kiki toward the car.  This was not an easy task with a 25-pound toddler, 35-pound toddler, and 10-pound diaper bag.  But of course, I deserved it.  I was the nitwit who set up this disaster.

At least, we made it through the doors on Tuesday.

Caramel Corn from a Stranger

I lost my cell phone today (again).  When the doctor took out my ten-pound baby, I swear she took out half my brain.  Geesh!  Of course, it wasn’t until the end of my seven-mile run that I realized I no longer carried a mobile in my pocket.  At least I still had my car key.  I turned around and ran back a couple hundred yards before my slow and small – now half the size of a normal- brain realized I would not find my phone in the last 1/100th of my run.   Ugh!

Periodically throughout the morning, I tried calling my cell phone from our house phone.  After a few tries, a very sweet woman named Dora with a southern accent answered, “Oh, honey.  Don’t you worry.   I’ve got your phone, sweetheart.  Where are you?  I’ll bring it to you, darling.”

I stammered and stuttered.  I didn’t know how to talk to someone who called me honey, sweetheart, and darling.  I blushed and assured her I wouldn’t inconvenience her anymore than I already had.  I’d swing by and pick it up as soon as the baby woke up from her morning nap.

Well, “swing by” turned out to be a thirty-minute drive with Kiki screaming almost the entire way.  (She hates the car.  I know, I know, your child loves the car – puh-lease – don’t rub it in.)  She’s going through this phase where she wants a binky, but once she has it, she whips it out of her mouth and launches it into the abyss of the car.

Finally, we arrive at Dora’s house.  She’s waiting in the front yard for me.  I want to jump out of the car, run around to Kiki’s side, and find her a binky, but Dora’s waiting.  Therefore, I close the car door behind me to hide the screams from inside and thank her profusely.  She hands over my cell phone AND two large bags of her homemade caramel corn.

“A little treat for you, darling” she says.

Again with the stammering and blushing.  “I should be giving you something for finding my phone not vice versa,” I manage to say.

Once in the car, the deafening cries remind me of the missing binkies.  I run around the outside and open Kiki’s door.  Ten toys fall out along with a sucker, six Cheerios, a sock, a book, a mitten, four animal crackers, and two raisins.  BUT NO BINKY!!!  I rummage through the mess of a back seat until I find one.  Aha!  At last, I’m saved!  I plug in the binky and dash back to my seat.

Just as I’m about to put the car in reverse, I think, “Where’s my cell phone?”

Remember that half a brain thing – well, amazingly enough, I’ve lost my cell phone.  AGAIN!  After having it in my possession for what – a mere thirty seconds.  I dig through the front seat of the car.  I jump out and run around to Kiki’s side.  I look on the ground, under the car.  I look in the back seat.  I mumble to myself under my breath.  Kiki starts to cry.  Bunder starts to fall asleep.  Sweet, sweet, Dora stands in her front yard wondering what brand of crazy I am.  I open the passenger side door and look in all the minute hiding places of the car.

Just when I’m ready to cry, I spot a glimpse of it between the passenger’s seat and armrest.  I dig my arm into the tight, teeny slot only to push it farther to the ground.  I try to reach it under the seat only to be blocked by the metal underbelly of the seat.  I try moving the seat back.  I try moving it forward.  I try pleading with it, “Please, please come out.”

With some sort of shot of adrenaline, I press my arm through the diminutive space and latch onto it.

Relief.  Now onto the crying baby.

Hey, I’m not a newbie at this whole mom-thing.  I have my own little tricks.  Is it a special song on the stereo?  A favorite DVD?  A sip of juice?  Heck, no!  None of that works!  I pull through Mickey D’s and order fries for my little rascals.  It solves a multitude of problems.  It keeps one child happy, one child awake, and one mother sane for another thirty-minute drive home.

Happy, happy Kiki showing off her french fries

Peace.  Serenity.  We ride blissfully along munching DELICIOUS homemade caramel corn, french fries, and singing along to the World of Animals DVD.

What’s that?  A police car on our off ramp?  Our exit is suddenly blocked?

Another inconvenience!  Ah!  When will it end?

Traffic slows to a crawl as we drive past the accident on the frontage road.  Everyone is gawking, staring at the scene.  I see a number of police cars, an ambulance, workers in orange vests with trash bags in the grass between the highway and frontage road, two trucks stopped in the middle of the road, and then …

a man lying in the road wearing an orange vest.  I glimpse his face just as two police officers cover his body with a white sheet.  Quickly, I cross myself and say prayers for the man and his family.  How small and petty I feel.  What a perspective changer.

Dear God, Thank you for reminding me of my many blessings.  Help me always to keep joy in my heart amidst the day’s small, insignificant troubles.  Amen.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles


Lessons Learned when Traveling with Monsters Very Young Children

1.  DO NOT fly solo.  Batman had Robin.  Cher had Sonny.  Thelma had Louise.  Laverne had Shirley.  Bert had Ernie.  Frodo had Sam.  Butch had Sundance.

DO NOT attempt to travel with a ratio of one adult to two very small children. 

I must have been crazy when I booked flights for Bunder, Kiki, and me one week prior to Mister’s departure.  At times, my zeal for life and adventure is just plain stupid.  This would be one of those times. 

2.  Embrace your sense of humor (embrace it and don’t let go)!

Kiki still naps twice a day, and she’s past the age of napping well on the move.  Furthermore, if she falls asleep in the car right before a nap, she won’t nap once we’re home.  This creates a terrifying situation for a stay-at-home mom who NEEDS her two children to nap at the same time.  That is why I trained Bunder to scream when he sees Kiki falling asleep in the back seat of the car.  Let’s face it – a two-year old doesn’t need a lot of motivation to scream.  As soon as he sees Kiki close her eyes and start to bob off, he’ll yell at the top of his lungs, “AHHH!”

I know you’re waiting for the funny part.  Well, what do people do on flights across country?  That’s right.  They fall asleep. 

On our flight from Texas to Minnesota, every time someone near us attempted to sleep, Bunder screamed as loud as possible, “AHHH!” 

Although unpleasant for the other passengers, it provided a much-needed comic break for me. 

3.  Pack as light as possible (and yet prepare for the worst).

Although it’s tempting to pack only two diapers, remember you may be stuck on a plane with a stinky diaper and a bunch of unhappy, delayed passengers.  Pack enough diapers, wipes, drinks, and food for your wee-ones to survive a day of travel, but keep in mind security personnel show no mercy for women with babies. 

At the security checkpoint, I had to do everything that everyone else does: remove shoes, detach my watch, belt, and keys, separate liquids, lay bags flat.  IN ADDITION, I had to remove both children’s shoes, disconnect the kids from the stroller, separate the car seat from the stroller, collapse the car seat, fold the stroller, remove all toys from the stroller, and detach the two-year old from his strawberry milk.  All while holding Kiki and threatening Bunder to stay next to me (even as he’s screaming for his strawberry milk being passed through the x-ray machine). 

4.  Fly direct.

Luckily, on the trip home, I had Mister with me to help navigate through the security checkpoint and other perils of air travel.  Unfortunately, our 8 a.m. flight was delayed almost two hours causing us to miss our connecting flight.  At which point, the pleasant airline clerk behind the counter informed us, “If you don’t make the next connecting flight from Houston to Austin, you’ll be grounded in Houston until 7 tonight.” 

Thank God, we did make the next connection -only by running through the airport, babies, stroller, car seat, luggage in tow, taking two elevators and a train to terminal B.  Our checked bags weren’t as fast as we were.  I didn’t even care.  Comparing lost bags to a day at the airport with two overtired babies is like comparing leftover apple pie to the sticky substance stuck under the fridge.       

5.  When in doubt, stay home and beg for visitors. 

Any takers?


Date Night

I’m back! 

Mister, Bunder, Kiki, and I returned home to sweet, hot Austin on Friday night and the very first thing we did – schedule a date night.  Yes, we had spent the past seven days together, but considering we had spent the past seven days with all seven members of our family, we needed some serious alone time. 

If any of you think traveling can be difficult, try it with an almost one and two year old. 

The Spectacular Seven at Randy's Brewery in Whitewater, Wisconsin

Sitting on the balcony of The Grove, we took turns answering date night questions.  Shockingly, after seven years together, we learned something new about each other.  (Okay, I’m saying we learned something new, but in reality – we probably had forgotten the story our spouse recounted).  Either way, Mister suggested I share my story here, and because I always listen to my dear husband’s advice … (wink, wink)

Mister’s date night question: What do you remember about learning to drive?

My answer (without pausing): The brake on the passenger side of the car because the Driver’s Ed teacher always had to use it.

Mister: By saying “always”, you’re exaggerating again and really you mean he used it once.

Me: No, I mean he used it all the time, almost every driving session.  I’m not sure why I was such a terrible driver.  I did grow up on a farm with plenty of opportunities to drive tractors and trucks and such.  Although, come to think of it, I am the youngest, so maybe when I was 15 my three older siblings were doing the majority of the farm work, and I occupied my time dancing in the back pastures. 

To make matters worse, my parents refused to take me driving.  My father did once, and afterward he said he’d never do it again, because he didn’t have a brake on his side of the car, and he couldn’t stand how close I came to hitting parked cars.

I remember one driving session in particular.  My instructor, Mr. V., a rather large, ominous fellow, (whom I know was a kind, good-natured teacher, but whose humor was lost on a skinny, timid, pubescent) told me I had two goals for this session.  The first goal was to drive in such a way that did not require the use of his brake. 

The second goal he explained while shaking brightly colored Chiclets into his hand and lining them up in front of him, “Your goal is to keep this gum in place on the dashboard.  Remember to make turns slowly and cautiously.  If you have to brake in the middle of a turn, you know you started the turn too fast.  Let’s see how little you can move this gum.”

Now you and I both know if poor Mr. V. was pulling out all stops and using visual aids to help me, I must have been a first rate driving flunky.  At the time, I didn’t realize this.  I just thought, “Wow, I really underestimated Mr. V.  This will be a lot of fun!” 

Before I tell you what happened next, let me set the stage.  We were sitting in the Driver’s Ed car in front of the high school entrance waiting for the second driver.  You all remember Driver’s Ed – everyone is required to drive a certain number of hours and observe a certain number of hours.  Well, Mr. V. and I sat there waiting for the second driver, but it wasn’t any driver.  Oh no, on that day we awaited my long-time crush, we’ll call him Liam.  I liked Liam from the moment he transferred over from the Catholic school in town in the seventh grade.  (No wonder, I ended up with Irish, Catholic babies.  I could never resist those blue eyes and freckles). 

Now the pressure is really on – Mr. V. has two very challenging goals for me AND I have to impress my crush in the backseat.  (With all those teenage hormones flying, it’s a wonder anyone survives learning how to drive). 

The high school parking lot has only one entrance on the far end, so in order to return to the street, I must navigate a u-turn around the parked cars back toward the entrance. 

Liam climbs into the back seat.  Mr. V. motions to the Chiclets, “Remember, if you brake in the middle of a turn, you started too fast.  Try to keep the gum from moving.” 

I slowly pull the car into drive, listening and watching each gear, park, *clunk* reverse, *clunk* neutral, *clunk* DRIVE.   I start to sweat as I proceed past the long line of parked cars and think to myself, “Why do I have to make a turn so soon?  I don’t have any time to warm up!” 

I accelerate as I approach the far end of the parking lot thinking “I have to speed up!  Liam will think I’m lame.” 

I begin to turn the car and focus my hands on the steering wheel.  I feel the car’s momentum trying to pull us forward as my hands try to steer us left.  All of a sudden, I know we’re going too fast, but I can’t brake or I’ll be admitting I made a mistake.  Mr. V. said if you brake in the middle of a turn, you started the turn too fast.  Liam’s watching, I have to impress him!  “Turn the wheel!  Keep turning!  Come on, you can do this!” 

In a blink of an eye, it’s all over.  The Chiclets fly off the dashboard hitting the passenger window ricocheting to the floor.  Mr. V. slams on the brake.  Liam crashes into the back of my seat. 

Well, our trip up north was a lot like this driving experience.  We had great expectations.  It sounded like fun.  Surely, we could pull this off!  How hard could it be!  Then, before we knew it, everything careened out of control.  Ah, to travel with young children…  

More traveling news to come. 

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