Saturday, February 26, 2011

Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday, and Do I Have Your Home Address?

Yesterday, I took a break from the latest editing gig to update a spreadsheet with addresses from three years of Christmas cards. This might actually mean that my family and friends will receive some kind of holiday note from us next December. I feel organized and restored by having completed a chore that has haunted me for so long. I have sent Christmas cards since I was 12 years old—writing the first ones to kids I met at summer camp. The last two years have been chaotic and I have sent none. Ceasing the creation and mailing of cards has felt like some kind of counter to the holiday spirit. Having lived in six states, I have friends everywhere. I loathe not being able to keep up with each one intimately; the cards, therefore, are especially important.

Each year, I used to mark on the bottom of a card to my former painting professor the words “I still paint” to let him know that he was wrong about at least one of us those years ago. Almost 17 years later (has it been that long?), yes, I still paint—not as actively as I would like, but there are still commissions and sales and the occasional lending of work for some purpose somewhere. Am I Ford Smith or George Rodrigue with financial success and notoriety? No, not yet, and maybe someday or not at all, but the point is to remind my dear teacher that his lessons were not lost on me.

The year I left my first husband, the Christmas card was a simple photo of my children. Without newsletter or further explanation, it read the following: my name restored to its original as printed on my birth certificate, my children’s first and last names, and the complete absence of their father’s name. It said everything by saying nothing, and the responses were tremendous—notes ranging from sorrow and empathy to those that read, “We saw this coming. There are things we knew that we never told you…” A friend from out of state sent a note about his own troubled marriage and an embarrassingly large check to help with Christmas that year. (He and his darling wife are still together, thankfully.)

The past two Christmases, I wanted desperately to send a letter to the world about my new family—my husband, his lovely girls, my two little ones—and I even wrote one, but I could not make myself produce copies and mail them, and we were in the middle of a stressful and distracting custody suit anyhow. I kept asking myself questions about how hard it would be to get addresses of friends from my husband, about whether or not my former in-laws would appreciate a card, and if sending some kind of printed holiday report made me impersonal. (My mother used to hate holiday newsletters and took the time to carefully pen signatures and personal notes by hand on close to 100 cards.) The first married Christmas, I felt that including pictures of my step-daughters would be to take a liberty with them that they were not ready for me to employ—their image, their snippets of life as though I had some kind of claim on them. Plus, were the cards to go to former in-laws, would they take the sight of new family as some kind of slap in the face? 

Things are different now, but last Christmas, I was overwhelmed by the craziness of having an early celebration here with all four children, travelling across three states for another Christmas with my birth family, dropping off my two children for them to have a Christmas event with their father and his step-children, and trying to complete a massive graduate school application plus keeping up with the contract work I do. I just gave up.

This year, I now can print labels off my Excel spreadsheet (the original file was lost to a hard drive crash). I have reconnected with a handful of former in-laws, whom I missed dearly once I was able to let go of so much bitterness. I think that, the world of Café Catiche aside, there is a gift in the electronic publication of a more personal note about my family’s accomplishments and events. But most of all, what I want to say is this:

Yes, we think about you. We send you this note because you represent various chapters in our life and we are grateful for you. We can’t afford to send Christmas gifts to everyone, but we can tell you how we are doing, send a picture for your fridge of the lovely clan we have evolved into, and most of all let you know we love you and your memories stay with us. We wish you love and happiness; success with work, school, and/or childrearing; peace in your family; and for you to be the great spiritual connection that helps keep others grounded in unfortunate times.

It’s February—nearly March, really. I suppose with the remaining months in the year, I can manage this, but I am already a month and a half behind on birthday greetings. And yes, I have been working fastidiously to rectify this matter. My sister was the only one to receive her Valentine’s note (a gift of pedi socks, actually) on time. My youngest step-daughter will receive her Valentine on Monday. And so it goes, and so it goes…

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hen Roasting Mafia Style

Last month, I promised my oldest step-daughter, the fabulous Mae West, that I’d teach her how to roast a hen. I sent pictures and simple instructions via text messaging of a mafia-style roasting--I had butterflied the hen. See below:

First, talk to the chicken.

Then, show it who's boss.

Finally, let it know you mean business.

This Monday, Mae indicated that, humor aside, she wanted specifics. We spoke on the phone, discussing what pan to use, temperature, time, and seasoning options. Moments later, she called back. Apparently, her chicken had “butt wing flaps” and she wanted to know what to do about it. I asked if “butt wing flaps” was what I really heard her say. I suppose this term explains what I have going on in my own caboose department as I near middle age. I considered this briefly. “Just leave the hen’s butt alone. It’s fine like that.” I hoped by some means of transference that my bum is, too.

“Don’t forget to reach in the cavity and pull out the bag of gizzards and such,” I added. But our famously bold Mae apparently was not so fearless as to allow her hand to trespass the butt of a chicken.

“Oh, no!” she stated firmly, “I held up the chicken and shook it all out.” Sounds like the Mafia retained its influence after all. Either that, or due to the fact that having birthed two children and cleaned up mass amounts of inherently “gross stuff” since, my casual approach to sticking a hand up a hen’s ass qualifies me as a certain kind of brave in her world. Later that evening, Mae celebrated her triumph with a beautifully browned and glistening hen, butt flaps and all.

Tonight, having confidently cleaned and prepped my own hen, which roasted contentedly in the oven as I wrote the bulk of this post, the lovely Mae sent me a text about how hard she shook the hen. She wrote,”…I shook it like a bully shakes lunch money out of a child’s pockets…” Laughing hysterically, I stopped my writing and called her. You know what she said? “I took your advice. I was showing it who’s boss.”

And some people say their kids don’t listen….

She began to blog, by the way, at Anchors and Orchids. While her first post is pensive and sentimental, I am sure the sauce pot we all know and love ultimately will make her keen sass and wit felt as well. I look forward to every delicious morsel she offers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Having a Blast: Catiche's Anniversary and Gunfire Firsts

February 19th marked my first anniversary of blogging at Café Catiche. While I wished to post on that day an appropriate mark of the occasion, my time was short due to travel—once again. Besides, I was busy creating a new first.

This weekend, I learned how to fire a gun. The last time someone even managed to get my feet on a firing range (not really a range as much as a patch of Mississippi hunting land bordering a lake), I was maybe 21. The young men with me were not the most mature souls to be teaching me how to respect a loaded weapon, and so I chose to stand at a distance behind them with my hands over my ears. What I remember most about this day was how we bottomed out a sports car on a speed bump normally built for trucks or ATVs, the tall brown grass and sprawling woods that had overtaken burial plots from the 1800s, and the stretch of dirt road carved into places so seldom traveled that deer bedded alongside it.

This time, the company was different, but we were back on seemingly remote land. My husband, a retired Air Force officer; my step-daughter, the oh-so-fabulous Mae West; and her gentleman friend, a Marine pilot; drove with me to a broad smack of family-owned field in the unremarkable flatlands of North Carolina. Dry grass crunched underfoot as we settled the dog and ourselves at a safe distance from a well-used and fortified target. My husband explained how to use the site on his Ruger, how to load and unload the weapon, and how to hold it safely between firings. I plugged my ears with safety foam and listened to my breath and heart as though I was sinking under water. Warm sun on my back, the rhythm of living in my ears, I felt ironically drawn to early days as a child when feeling my heartbeat would terrify me. As I held the unloaded weapon and practiced dry firing, fear ebbed only slightly. I turned to my husband, who stood so close to me that I could smell the soap on his skin. “This is not my comfort zone,” I said letting the weight of the Ruger bear into my left palm.

I stood there arguing silently with myself about being the kind of person who is terrified of everything including roller coaster rides, dark water at the ocean, and conflict of any sort. Holding a gun and pulling the trigger might define a side of me I really didn’t want to know. Wondering what I could possibly gain by quitting, however, I decided that my husband would never knowingly endanger me, that he was taking time to teach me the rules, and that of all the people I knew, this handful represented the most trustworthy sort. I breathed slowly out, raised the Ruger, aligned the two sites, and let the distance blur softly. The gun fired before I thought it would, startling me for its slight kick in my hands, my ability to not drop it in that shock, and for the fact that I actually hit my target. Nine rounds later, I held the paper target in my hand, one shot having made a bull’s eye and most of the other holes spattering the eight and nine rings.

I was pleased to have done well, but I balked on the opportunity to fire the shotgun we’d also brought. I’d had enough and was content to shoot what I already do well: pictures. The charred smell of fired shot spattered the air and I watched smoke drift from the end of the gun between the turns my companions took firing. It was one of those seasonless days between winter and spring, the earth still sleeping underfoot, bare branches needling the sky. I framed shots of poised shooters against nature’s lackluster pasture and break of trees, my own squeeze on the camera’s trigger designed to preserve the broadly targeted view.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


A day in New Orleans includes the following routine: lounging over coffee while discussing what to eat for lunch, and at lunch discussing where to dine later. What I haven’t mentioned is that while indulging in those meals or on the way to the next one, I cannot walk ten steps there without running into a friend or relative. New Orleans isn’t a city, it’s a river town--the banks that hug the bend of land and water being much like our snug connection with each other.

Friday morning, my father and I had a coffee date at Still Perkin’. Located uptown at the edge of Lafayette Cemetery and a block from the famed Commander’s Palace, Still Perkin’ attracts mostly locals. Dad and I rolled in chatting, and there standing with a small group of people, not moments after I just wondered aloud who we might bump into, was a woman whose child I used to babysit and who used to teach at my high school. In fact, she is running for some kind of political office and works for the mayor now. After coffee, we headed into the lobby that Still Perkin’ shares with a half dozen independently owned businesses. I entered a store managed by a distant, distant relative who, as it turned out, keeps in solid touch with my uncles. If you are seeking anonymity, New Orleans is not the place to be.

Meanwhile, my husband was introducing a paper at his conference and shaking hands with colleagues. He ran into friends of my parents. These friends live out of state. Seeing as how a joyful reunion was in order, we all paraded to Palace Café on Canal Street for lunch between conference sessions. My sister, who also lives out of state and whose work and travel commitments nearby had been cancelled on short notice, also had managed to grace us with her presence that day. A wonderful waiter doted on the seven of us. Something he said sparked my curiosity and I started gently probing for his background. The waiter once had owned two big restaurants in Denver, where my husband happened to have been a customer in those years there.

At one point, the waiter, telling us his incredible story about his return to New Orleans after years of entrepreneurship and a life-changing heart attack, stepped back and threw his hands up in the air and exclaimed, “I love life!” This is the New Orleans I love—the social engagement over plates of steaming gourmet, the vigorous exchange of commonality and affection, the joyful celebration of life.

Sitting here this morning, quietly nursing the lingering and frustrating effects of illness, I wish I were back at Still Perkin’--at a table boasting café au lait and brioche, with seats cradling my family. Views from broad windows there include the long alternately blanched and shadowed wall of the cemetery, the elegant decay of aging Mediterranean-inspired French cottages, and a stray tourist or two wandering. I often miss the comfort of being somewhere so elegant and familiar, where I was entirely known from childhood and welcomed, a place where so-and-so “went to schoo’ wit’ ya mama”. Maybe those days will come again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Foodies and the Flu

This past weekend, my husband and I flew to New Orleans for a conference he was attending. I spent the first full day with my family doing what we do best: eating and talking about eating.

Oh, Lawd, as we say down there. For my friends, I left a Facebook food diary in my dining wake—pictures of fried oysters wading in a light pool of remoulade, a wedge of iceberg lettuce and crumbled blue cheese on the side; po boys with flaky bread crust and premium deli meats and cheeses showing a swath of creole mustard; jumbo prawn flecked with seasoning, its meat the heavy steak of all shrimp, and fresh enough to taste gulf waters; and even a lone chocolate turtle from MacKenzie’s—the fudgy frosting swirled on a pecan sandy-style cookie. Unfortunately, my husband experienced a limited amount of fine cuisine between commitments at his conference; the morning of his second day, he found himself re-living my little son’s recent flu experience. Any joyful consumption from Friday was retched all day Saturday. As he shook under the covers and murmured in delirium, I cancelled plans: tea at Windsor Court, dinner at Antoine’s, the tour of the D-Day Museum. The hotel sent me extra pillows and blankets, a can of air freshener, and a stack of menus for restaurants that deliver. Instead of wine, I poured my husband Gatorade. In place of white napkins on his lap, he received cool, wet cloths for his forehead.

Sunday, my parents delivered us to the airport. We promised that we would be fine. My husband was better, albeit slow. Little did we know that we would board a plane without an operable toilet, have that flight cancelled while we sat waiting for take off, wait in line in the terminal another hour or more, and then get rescheduled to come home after my children’s bedtime. With time to kill, my dad and sister rolled by the airport for a second chance to party with us (my bourbon was great--my husband savored ice chips instead.) By afternoon, my spouse was looking more and more like death—his energy completely depleted. On the walkway to the first flight, I found him kneeling and bent over. Within minutes of tucking him into his seat, I requested an electric cart to shuttle us to our connecting flight. Flight attendants brought us ice and sick bags and we tucked his coat around him like a blanket. Men on either side of us leaned over to offer help—alcohol wipes, medicine, et cetera.

Our connecting airport was big and we had scant minutes between flights. We pushed our way through a crowd to flag down the cart that had been sent for us. My husband curled up (if any man 6’1” can really bend his frame to that description) around a pile of luggage. The driver took one look at my panicked face and started yelling at people to back away from the cart so we could turn around and head to the escalators and trains. There was no one waiting on the other concourse for us, so we walked, or should I say lurched, toting our luggage and seeking out garbage cans for emergency vomitoriums just in case. We were the last ones on the flight, it having been held for us. The attendant on our small jet watched my husband heave into the plastic bags she had given him and asked if I wanted the EMTs to meet us on the ground, but I said just a wheelchair would suffice. For the two hours of that flight, my beloved slept fitfully and unable to talk. From my seat further back on the narrow plane, I could see his shoulders shake.

We made it home, but barely. Two days later, my husband is still not fully recovered, and I am exhausted. There will be other trips home, other meals. I was lucky to have Friday with my sister as we explored the places where we grew up--our last childhood home is now a grass lot, thanks to Katrina. I enjoyed my dad’s cooking and my mom’s doting. I had squeezed in a brunch with an old friend and her daughter. Running to the pharmacy on Saturday, I even bumped into the end of a small Mardi Gras parade—a reminder of what once used to be considered normal.

With hope, everyone's health will be recovered soon and a good summer visit to New Orleans will make up for this last one. More NOLA-inspired blogs will follow soon.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Airline Safety of a Different Sort

I fly soon and have been reviewing the updated flight safety checklists because I will be carrying my baggage onboard. I learned I could bring my knitting needles and sewing scissors (metal and under 4” long—yes), but I am sorry to say that I must leave at home my pick axe, swords, bowie knife, and flare gun.

Of all the potentially dangerous items listed, there was nothing to prevent the most common threat to passenger safety: babies. My firstborn was lethal on a flight several years ago. Almost brand new and still squalling, I bundled her and prepared well for travel. Packed in her diaper bag were extra diapers and a change of clothes because good mothers should plan for one poopy blow-out. Chicken Little gave, however, gave me two. One per flight. I changed her on the first leg of the journey in the comfort and convenience of an airport bathroom with a full sink and diaper changing table. Mid-flight on the second plane, however, my husband began to insist that something was rotting in the baby’s pants. We were already seated near another passenger whose bathing rituals apparently did not parallel our own. Swathed head to toe in her dark robes, her skin was protected from view, but the weave of fabric could not withhold the heavy body odor that was making several passengers twist uncomfortably in their seats. Add to that the now rising, putrid scent of a diarrhea diaper, one that, as I quickly learned, failed to hold its contents.

At the rear of the jet on the floor, flight attendants cooed at my baby. They dutifully passed me wet paper towels as I hastily cleaned the results of explosive bowels off her tiny parts. While I at least had the extra diapers, Little One had completely soiled both outfits. I sat back down in my seat with a nearly-naked baby. She was blissfully content, having been relieved of all her baggage—interior and out, but the plane continued to smell terrible. Passengers practically fought to deplane at landing.

This time, I am travelling sans enfants. My children are long past the diaper stage anyway, but I will miss them. I will be safe from the bursting bottoms of my own babies, but I cannot guarantee the absence of other babies on board—a bittersweet and mixed blessing, to be sure.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

And the next time you barf, please remember to open the toilet lid.

Several years ago, my sister-in-law Lisa told me a story. Both her children had had the flu, both had vomited through all clean pajamas and all clean sheets in the house. Out of desperation and exhaustion late that night, she had sat on the kitchen floor crying and holding a child in each arm while the kids continued to vomit on the floor beside her like some kind of viral fountain. She called her other sister-in-law, Jody, who lived nearby and who had children close in age. Thankfully, Jody arrived with clean sheets, clean pajamas for each child, and then helped Lisa clean up and put the kids back in bed. Everyone survived the night.

I think of this story every time my kids get the stomach flu. Last night, after a very sad sick day where both my little children had the flu, my son threw up in the doorway of his bedroom. I called his name and reached to him so that he could walk around it and throw up in the toilet of the nearby bathroom, but he didn’t make it that far. He layered the path to the bathroom with a good dose of upchuck. Meanwhile, I threw towels on the floor and directed him, saying urgently, “In the toilet, son! In the toilet!” He leaned over the toilet, its lid closed, and heaved the remains of mac’n cheese. Semi-digested dinner rebounded everywhere. I started pulling at my hair in desperation. Somehow, before I could reach him, he opened the toilet and finished the job in there.

Just when I bent down to start scrubbing the floor, I started to cry. I was almost crazy with fatigue. I had spent the day laundering sheets and clothes after vomit and diarrhea blowouts, my ears still hurt from the infections I have been fighting for weeks, and I had knelt down in a puddle of something absolutely gross. I looked at my son, remembered Lisa’s story, and started to laugh. I got enough walkway cleared to reach my son, help him clean up, and soothe him.

My husband, who had worked about an eleven-hour day, had just come home to the chaos. He stood in our bedroom doorway, asking to help, but was unable to walk forward more than two steps for all the vomit between us. He edged his way to the kids’ bathroom, peeked, laughed, and promised he would not be eating macaroni anytime soon. He waited for me to collect all newly soiled laundry and toted the load downstairs, laughing all the while about once when his youngest hurled a bellyful of spaghetti down his back.

These are the rigors of parenthood, the It’s-So-Gross-It’s-Funny moments, the little episodes that bond me with other exhausted parents. Who knew puke could forge a bond? For Lisa whose story gave me perspective when my own have been ill, I am always thankful. (Lisa used to also tell me that I would one day be absolutely grateful to sit quietly, still, and alone with a cup of coffee. Yes, Lisa, as a sister in the tribe of Motherhood, I completely understand this now.) Even before I had children, I would hear of stories of how my now husband’s former wife had gracefully handled her children’s illnesses and injuries. I was in awe of how she managed. Nearly eleven years into childrearing, I think I am managing nicely thanks to the inspiration of parents that walked the path before me. I will survive this episode of vomiting and the others to come, but it may be quite some time before I can eat a plate of macaroni and cheese.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nothing Deep Here--Just a Vent

I am always on the lookout for a better job and have the occasional frustration of sorting false advertising from genuine employment solicits in my email box. Today, I received this one:


We have retrieved your info on our partner job database. Having reviewed your CV comprehensively we concluded that you may possibly be a perfect employee for the career we propose.

Business description: the big worldwide financial group operating in the area of medical payments wants an individual for the employment of Account Manager in US. Our offices are based in Germany, Japan, England and US.

Job specifications: the assignment of Account Manager is to process incoming payments and bank transfers from US clients.

Person specification:

- possibility of remote work;

- experienced PC user;

- US citizenship;

- Age: +21

- Responsibility, decency.

Wage conditions: 8% charge from each settlement/bank transfer plus $2300 month-to-month during the trial period and $3000 per month plus 8% from each settlement/bank remittance after the trial period.

Please forward your resume to us via email.


Come now! You can’t be serious! The email states that my CV has just been reviewed (as it is posted on a few job boards) and then at the end, the writer asks to see my resume. Genuine letters are written personally and hold specific information. My name would be there. Information gleaned from my resume would be there. When I check the details on the sender, there is a yahoo email, not a corporate one. There isn’t even a corporate name mentioned in the email itself. There are mistakes in grammar and missing punctuation, and the spacing is formatted like that of a flyer. This is obviously one of those information phishing scams (redundant, I know). Who responds to letters like this? Sorrowfully, there are individuals who must because letters like this keep coming.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

With Love: Memories of a Mother-in-Law

My first mother-in-law was a New York Italian that had relocated to Florida. She died when my then-husband and I were twenty-five. I never got to know her the way I wish I had, but her legend has lived with me long after her death, my divorce from her son, and the increased distance from what used to be so clearly called family. I often wish I could ask her about raising sons or share with her my children.

While managing a successful franchise of hair salons, Linda raised four children, the youngest of whom was my former spouse. In an Italian family, the youngest boy might be highly prized, but his wife is at the bottom of the sausage pile. I don’t think this family was aware that they maintained this hierarchy and I learned to just accept my place. I never felt I had anything to offer them or was worth much; I was young, inexperienced, naïve, and found entry into a loud clan of Italian Americans to be a bit of a shock. Linda, however, humored me. She made me tea and asked me about my New Orleans upbringing--I'd come from a place where we attended formal teas, poetry readings, and spontaneous jazz performances. My presence was some kind of aberration from the norm. But oh, she did love me. She had congratulated her baby for marrying a Catholic (at the time I was the only one, but one in-law converted later) and asked her boy what he had done to marry such a nice girl, as though she herself had ever doubted that possibility.

Linda, always with perfectly sculpted blonde hair, spoke with typical Jersey brogue and sometimes widened her large, pool-blue eyes behind her even larger glasses as a wordless response--one that I could not read and therefore would drive me to mild angst. She entered and exited rooms with great whirls of energy as she carried platters of steaming Italian delicacies for Sunday dinner or bursting shopping bags. She was incredibly savvy, industrious, and absolutely generous. She knew how to overlook the shortcomings of her own children much less those of a still-maturing young woman such as myself. Everyone loved her, and Linda loved back, mixing her love with occasional humorous criticism.

“Why don’t you move to Florida?” she used to ask my spouse and I. “What’s wrong with us? What’s wrong with Florida? You don’t love us anymore?” And on a visit to see us in our far away state, she sat in our car behind my former-athlete spouse and poked him in the neck saying, “Oh my Gawd! Your neck is so thick! You're letting it get too thick!” She continued to berate him about it as though survival depended upon immediate diminishment of this body part.

Linda knew when sensitive matters required careful judgment. I will never forget her intervening when another in-law had commissioned me to complete a painting to emulate the style of Bev Doolittle. I was given the assignment, took incredible creative license with it (and produced not at all what they had wanted, silly me), and they hated it. Linda took it upon herself to buy the painting instead. She hung it in the guestroom and now, a niece has it. Looking back, I see clearly my mistake as well as Linda's creative solution and beneficence. What she did was to preserve a relationship and strengthen another one. God bless her.

During my second year of marriage, Linda was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died just three months later. At the end of that year, we opened Christmas gifts that she had bought for us before she had been confined first to a wheelchair and then to a bed. She had shopped knowing she wouldn’t live to see us unwrap her precious parcels. I cannot remember at all what she had purchased, but can still feel clearly the sacred silence in the room as we reflected on that final gesture of love and generosity. My then-husband has never recovered from her death. I can understand and appreciate this. None of us have ever been the same.

Note: Before dying, my mother-in-law had predicted that I was pregnant and would have a child in April. I was not expecting at the time, but a baby did come three years later on one April morning. In a joyful tribute, we blessed this hazel-eyed, wriggling newborn with a lovely middle name, Linda. In Italian, it means pretty. This child, who is almost eleven, certainly lives up to that.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

On the Road Again

On the most recent road trip, I complained to my husband that travel with children would be easier if they were tranquilized. While these journeys are better now than they have been in the past, they still offer challenges.

Being a smart mother, I pack each child an activity bag. The kids delight in drawing pads, stickers, cool twisty crayons, and some kind of toy, but eventually all charm wears off and the miscellaneous items become strewn about the backseat. New urgent needs become voiced-- I’m thirsty, I have to potty, she won’t share… to name a few. The hardest part of the journey, though, is dealing with Tiny Man’s hunger.

“Mom? Mom. Mom! I’m hunnngry,” says Tiny.

“I have chicken sandwiches. Would you like one?”

“No, I would wike chips.”

“You can’t have chips until you eat your sandwich.”

“I don’ wike chicken!” asserts my son.

“Well, I guess you’ll starve then.”

“Mom. I want chips.”

“No. We have sandwiches.”

“I don’ wike chicken. I want chips.”

“You cannot have chips until you eat a sandwich.”


“You can starve.”

“Otay. I would wike a chicken sandwich.”

The entire journey is filled with conversations like this. Here's another:

“Mom? Mom. Mom! I’d like a Sprite.”

“You can’t have Sprite. Too much sugar. You can have water.”

“I don’ wike water.”

“That’s too bad, then. I suppose you’ll die of thirst.”

“Okkkaayyy. Can I have some water?”

If the children aren’t making requests, the grown ups are, but ours are of a different variety.

“Please stop kicking the back of my seat.”

“Please share with your brother.”

“Please quit policing your brother.”

“Please quit poking your sister.”

“Don’t play with that.”

“Please quit hogging the entire seat.”

“Where is your activity bag? Why don’t you draw a picture?”

To add to all this nagging and chaos, are the needs of my husband. He has asked that my son not make pow-pow gun noises which can be distracting. (Note to self: duct tape son’s mouth.) But, this past week he gave me the crowning glory of all requests; he asked me to invent a snack for the children that will not drip, crumb, or otherwise soil the backseat. I ignored that considering our obvious alternative is simply to tie or tape the children to the roof of the car for the duration of these travels.

Perhaps the monthly road trip is some kind of twisted bonding experience that we can all laugh about later, but these days it is a massive test in patience. I used to have a DVD player in the car, which helped entertain the young folk and distract them from hunger (road trip hunger is often really boredom in disguise). It broke though, and the only way to get one safely mounted anywhere in the kind of vehicles we have is with generous amounts of duct tape. If my husband doesn’t want crumbs on his cloth seats, he sure isn’t going to want tape residue on his center console or seat backs. Of course duct tape residue on the console is a far pleasurable alternative to the DFACS call I would get for duct taping the children to the car roof. With the next road trip three weeks away, looks like I might have to reconsider.