Monday, May 30, 2011

This post is brought to you by the letters O and Crap (Sponsored by USAA Roadside Assistance)

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but the word smooth doesn't seem to be in this family's vernacular.  We seem to find a way to screw everything up in some way, shape or form.  Now this may just mean that I forget to pick up my reusable shopping bags before I go to the commissary, or it may mean that I let my son lock himself and my keys in the car.  Either way, our adventures are never as smooth as I think they should be when I'm planning them.  I imagine in a parallel universe, there is a Gallagher family that is so coordinated, so immaculate in their planning and executing of mundane tasks that they have gone beyond smooth to slippery.  Because they've stolen our mojo.  I'm considering locking us in the house and wrapping the entire thing in bubble wrap.  It's safer for the rest of you that way.

We were supposed to make the drive to Newman on Friday so that we could happily greet Nana and Papa when they returned from their hot-air balloon race around the world (or their transatlantic cruise - you pick), but a couple of things went wrong before we even started.  The biggest of which was Sweet Girl coming down with a mystery fever.  This happens way more than I'd like, but her doctor seems to think this is part of normal toddler stuff and I don't need to worry about it.  In other words, stop calling the office.  So we'll leave on Saturday, not a big deal.

Saturday morning I do my normal packing routine of shoving every.single.thing we own into a duffel bag and jamming it in the car.  And because I'm traveling with a kid on a special elimination diet, I also shove every.single.thing she can eat in a bag and a cooler and shoehorn those into the car leaving room for the kids, the dog, and the 30,000 blankets I am apparently required to schlep around the country for the rest of my natural life.  Of course while I'm distracted doing this, Little Man takes the opportunity to "feed" the dog one last time by picking up a piece of kibble, licking it, and shoving it in the general direction of Oreo's mouth.  In case you're wondering, Beneful is not gluten free nor is it what I normally put on Little Man's menu.  Also, Oreo is evidently adverse to being fed like a baby bird. These are standards I did not know he had, as he is often wont to "clean" the drip pan under the grill.  Seriously? Just get in the car.

Once on the road things are going well.  Sweet Girl is kicking it to the Alphabet March at volume 11 and Little Man is happy to clap along.  A quick stop for gas and then we're already through Kentucky!  Then things go from good to not-so-good.  An indicator light on the dash says something's wonky with the rear driver's side tire.  The same tire I had to have patched last week because there was a screw in it.  That's odd.  And there isn't a place to pull off and take a look, so I keep driving with the plan to stop in Marion (of puke stop fame) to take a look and get the kids something other than animal feed for lunch.  Then I hear a pop and the car gets a little difficult to steer.  Flat tire.  Yay!

I throw on the emergency flashers and get the car onto the shoulder of the interstate.  I put a movie in for the peanut gallery and grab my phone to call USAA Roadside Assistance (of Little Man locking himself in the car fame).  I'm halfway through the call when the reception starts to break up.  And then the call gets dropped entirely.  Hhmm.  Call again.  Halfway through the call gets dropped again.  Things are going from not-so-good to bad here.  I get a little panicky when I realize I only have two options if my cell service is going to keep dropping calls like they're hot:  I can get the owner's manual out, find my inner tough girl, and put the spare on myself (btw, wheel locks are new to me) or I can crack the windows for the dog, load the kids in the double stroller and walk the mile to the next exit where I'm not really sure there's anything/anyone to help the crazy woman who just walked a mile along an interstate with two children in a stroller.  Please, let this call go through.  And it did. 

While I wait for my knight in shiny white Toyota pick-up, I start unloading the cargo container so the spare is accessible.  A quick look at the sky confirms that it could possibly start to rain at any moment which would make the tire-changing more obnoxious than it already is and get all of our worldly possessions wet as they sit alongside the road.  I realize that I'll need to remove the liner from the back of the car to access the spare, so I pile our duffel atop our stroller and drape the liner over the pile with the hopes that it would keep our things somewhat dry if it starts to rain.  Everything else I can fit in and around Sweet Girl and Little Man who are learning the intricacies to beach blanket luaus.  I'm feeling somewhat clever and very relieved when the truck shows up.  Then he says something to the effect of "What is that?" while looking at my makeshift "umbrella for all of our things."  Not feeling so clever anymore but still very relieved.  The very nice man gets the spare on and in the mean time compliments my dog, says my kids are cute, thanks me for my husband's service.  He then offers to block traffic so I can get the donut up to speed ("not over 60 mph but really stick to 55") and tells me to stop in Marion for a new tire.  This one was wrecked due to a nail in it.  Seriously?  OK, we'll be stopping in Marion.  We reload and move on down the road. 

Our first stop warrants a "We don't have that size of tire in stock.  We can order it." Um, thanks but we need it, oh I don't know, today since I just told you that we were traveling from point A to point B and were rocking a donut.  Our second stop has the tire needed but are "really busy - are you sure you want to wait?"  Well we're kind of stuck, so yes I'm sure we want to wait.  They take the keys and pull the car into the garage out of the now-blazing sun so Oreo doesn't get overheated.  I take the kids to find lunch and kill a whole bunch of time.  Our gfcf options are extremely limited and it ends up that the kids get the super nutritious lunch of Lay's potato chips.  At least the Beneful had protein and nutrients.  We walk the mall, we terrorize a toy store, we nearly fall in a fountain, we make me sweat carrying Little Man around while trying to herd Sweet Girl through the mall.  This part is mostly a typical day for us.  About three hours after we dropped the car off we get a call that it's ready.  We pay, get the keys, find out Oreo has become the shop mascot, somehow manage to make a garage tech think my husband is in prison, and then I put the kids in the car.  Again that's all fairly typical for us.

Once we got back on the road, the rest of the trip went smoothly if you can imagine that.  We made it to Nana and Papa's where Aunt Carrie was waiting.  Boy is that new tire pretty.  And so full of air!  Unfortunately, we seemed to pass our travel charms on to Nana and Papa.  You'll have to ask them about their wonderful trip that would never end.  Me, I'm remembering all of those that served and are serving our country so that I can do things like travel freely to see my family if not travel smoothly. Thank you for your sacrifice.  To show my appreciation I'm going to bubble tape my kids in the house.  It really is safer that way.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

And Now it's Time for a Breakdown

Unfortunately it's not an En Vogue kind of breakdown.  And yes, that dates me but I'm all right with that.  I have this theory that the months that are supposed to be the most fun/cherished/highly anticipated are actually the most frantic/over-scheduled/Lordpleasegivemethestrengthtomakeitthrough kind of months.  December and May I'm looking at you.  December gets billed as the time for family togetherness and holiday cheer.  And I DO find those things every year, it's just that I usually find them after I've had a nervous breakdown over the shopping, baking, wrapping, and partying that has to be done first.  So then there's May.  Supposedly a time of great weather, the end of school, beginning of summer, graduations, Mother's Day (my birthday as well as approximately half of my mother's family), Memorial Day bbqs, May is also a time of severe storms, writing finals, allergy flares, the end of a regular schedule for school-age children and their parents, grading, packing up classrooms, and buying gifts/food for parties/celebrations for graduates/mothers/Blackwoods.  It can be exhausting.  And I'm exhausted.

I know I'm not alone.  Many of the blogs I read are singing from the same hymnal on this one and a glimpse at facebook will tell the same story.  We are all tired.  We all need a break.  Or some of us need to have a breakdown (that's me).  I could tell you all the things that happened to bring me to the edge of sanity, but they can all mostly be summed up in a few bullet points.
*My husband is deployed.  That is a difficult situation for a marriage and a family.
*My children are young.  They require constant care and I am currently the only person here to do so.
*There are times when it seems that all things decide to break.  I have in the past three weeks addressed the following; garage door (twice), garbage disposal, lawnmower, the damage to the car where someone hit it in a parking lot, the screw in the car's tire, the broken windshield on the car, Oreo's back (for the third time), Tricare's billing practices, the vacuum cleaner, Sweet Girl's car seat (from the flu incident), the DVD player, the various things that can go wrong/need to be done to sell a house when you are hundreds of miles away from said house.

OK, so it looks like I did list everything instead of summarizing.  But I promise I spared you some of the very whiny details.

Anywaaaaaaaayyyy.....I'm exhausted.  This exhaustion led to poor decision-making on my part this morning.  This poor decision-making led to Little Man being locked in the car-with the keys in his hand- in the Ft Campbell mini-mall this morning.  Let me just give you a minute to revel in that awesome parenting.  My 14 month-old son was locked in our car for about 40 minutes this morning while I stood outside of it crying.  There is nothing as effective in crystallizing all of your parenting insecurities and doubts as the click of a car door lock.  Nothing.  In the space of that click, I went from getting things done to negligent mother.  That click can bring you low like nothing else.

We were on post to get the tire looked at and to get a new sticker for the car.  Because the windshield is being replaced, we will need to have a new sticker so that we can have access to post without a search every time we go through the gate.  I thought I was being proactive by getting this done before the new windshield was actually on the car (saving me a search on the way to vehicle registration with the new and consequently naked windshield).  The office was amazingly empty and the service was efficient and courteous.  They gave me a razor blade to scrape off the old sticker before they gave me a new one, so I gathered up Little Man who was flirting with a female soldier and headed out to the parking lot.  At first I put Little Man at my feet, but he didn't want to cling to my leg like I thought he should in a busy parking lot.  I picked him up and he grabbed the car keys from my hand.  I thought nothing of it as I let him shake the keys all the time while he's in some cart or another when we run errands.  Also I always have a spare key in my purse, so it's no big deal if he pushes the buttons on the keyless entry.  I quickly put him in the driver's seat (it was closest) and shut the door so I could finish scraping off the sticker.  Razor blade to glass and click.  He found the keyless entry buttons.

Disbelief at the situation is the first thing that popped up.  And then, "Oh yeah, spare key!"  Except, thanks to the dog going after the emergency stash of kid snacks (My purse was on the floor because Little Man had a diaper explosion as we were headed out the door to drop Sweet Girl off at school.  In my haste to get her there on time I left my purse on the floor while I used eleventy fifty thousand wipes to clean up Little Man.  Oreo likes Frito's and has an excellent nose.) I had accidentally dumped the spare key out of my purse in the world's fastest purse clean-up.  Now I start to ask Little Man to "hit the button" from the other side of the glass.  He's having a great time: knocking on the glass window, shaking the keys, pushing buttons just never the right button.  I feel like vomiting (this car has the effect on people) but call for roadside assistance instead.  The very nice woman on the other end of the phone informs me that it will be faster for her to call the fire department rather than one of the response vehicles they use.  Fine.  The fire department informs me they will have to break a window.  Fine.  Whatever it takes to get Little Man out of the car and in my arms.

This all transpires in about 25 minutes.  At one point I look around and realize that I'm in the company of fire fighters who are working hard to figure out a way to not cause me added expense while still getting me my son and my keys, as well as a chaplain who just happened to be in the parking lot and saw a crazy woman in distress.  He was putting his phone up to the window to entertain Little Man with his parrot app, while the chaplain's assistant had run back to his car thrown his dry cleaning off its wire hanger and was attempting to unlock the car from the outside.  Little Man thought this was all great.  So many people watching him!  So many people playing "Knock, Knock" on the window with him!  Look at that parrot!  And that guy, with the wire thing he wants me to grab!  Then one of the fire fighters points out that it's not hot out today and Little Man is just fine...was I sure I didn't want to call a locksmith?  He promised they'd stay there until Little Man was out so if it looked like something was going awry on the inside they'd break the window they had taped.  I indicated that was fine with me if it was fine with him that I was choosing to save money over expediency.  He didn't seem to think that was a problem. 

I ran back into the vehicle registration office.  I returned the razor blade and through more tears explained to the nice woman what was happening.  She recommended a lock smith that was nearby, gave me the phone number, and gave me my new sticker.  Oh yeah, that's why we were here in the first place. I called the locksmith.  The woman on the other end cut me off when she heard the words "my son" and got on their radio system.  Turns out there was someone already at a call on post.  He'd be there in 5-10 minutes.  Tony pulls up with his van of tricks and his ZZ Top beard, and pops the passenger side door lock in 5 minutes.  The car alarm goes off and I nearly tackled a fire fighter opening the driver side door.  It is at that moment Little Man decides to cry.  Join the club, buddy.

So 40 minutes, 40 dollars, a million " thankyouthankyouthankyous", and a new sticker later, Little Man and I are on our way home.  The drive from post to our house - about 20 minutes - is filled with sobbing.  This was too much.  It's all coming out.  I called Amy because the poor girl always has to hear me cry over the phone.  I'm incredibly disappointed in myself and that upsets me.  But I don't think I was crying because I was cursing our bad luck.  I'm pretty sure I was crying because we have been so incredibly lucky and I'm scared of what happens with that luck runs out.  When our car was hit, no one was hurt.  The guy came in the restaurant to find me instead of driving away.  Oreo's fine now.  All the things around the house were relatively easy to fix or call someone to have come fix.  The screw in the tire was discovered at a time and place where it can be fixed rather than having it combust while I'm driving my two small children somewhere on the interstate.  We have a house to sell.  Little Man was in a car in Tennessee in mid-May and the skies were overcast and the weather was cool.  Through the kindness of strangers he had the best 40 minutes of his day.  We get to hear from Sean more than most people.  He is tired and misses us, but he is ok.  We are tired and exhausted, but we are blessed and we are lucky.  And that's what I'm trying to focus on.  Click.

Monday, May 9, 2011

It Wouldn't Be Mother's Day Without Bodily Fluids

If anyone was driving past the Casey's General Store around Marion, Illinois on Sunday and wondering what that woman with the (mostly) naked toddler, screaming baby, and overheated dog was doing with a tie-dyed tshirt, roll of paper towels and a disgusted look on her face, I'm here to tell you I was celebrating Mother's Day.  Sean is still on family leave - as in leave from his family - and our children are too young to do much for themselves (though Sweet Girl is a breath away from four and I'm having a hard time reconciling that age with the breeze that blows through the house) let alone plan a day to celebrate me in all my mothering glory.  And believe me, I have mothering glory.  So we celebrated Mother's Day at Nana and Papa's rather than staying at home and watching Mommy sulk around the house all day.  It would have surely become known as The Day Mommy Cried A Lot in what will definitely be known as The Year Mommy Went Crazy.  Don't judge - you might be inclined to pity parties too if you had to be in charge of this circus of a family.

The day started innocently enough.  Sweet Girl was up way too early and annoyed that I wouldn't let her go downstairs to play at 3:30 am.  I'm cruel like that.  Little Man slept in until 7:30ish and from there we started the dressing for church/packing for the drive home routine.  It mostly involves me getting annoyed with my children because they are less than useful in the organizing/picking up departments.  I know, I know. They're young.  But seriously, the very least they could do is refrain from undoing what I do manage to accomplish.  That would be nice.  Actually, this time it wasn't that stressful as Nana was there to help.  So Happy Mother's Day, Nana!  You get to do things you haven't had to do for your own children for 30-odd years.  You're welcome.

Church was lovely.  Little Man was wiggly and Sweet Girl was a little too loud and couldn't seem to keep her feet down, but other than that we didn't totally ruin the service for anyone (I don't think).  Perhaps it was to our advantage that Sweet Girl was a little noisy, as her volume disguised nature's percussion coming from her little brother.  Had anyone else been close enough to hear they would have been concerned that I was only feeding this child bean burritos with a side of fiber puffs for breakfast.  An added bonus:  Sweet Girl did NOT take off running down the aisle to visit Papa during the service like she did at Easter.  There's some progress.  And it is pretty funny to hear her sing-along with the hymns despite the fact she doesn't know the lyrics.  I'm pretty sure her namesake, who was an excellent la-di-da'er, would be proud. 

So after a quick a stop at home to collect our belongings and Oreo, we were off to lunch with Nana and Papa.  Sweet Girl loves getting off the interstate when we visit Nana and Papa because she knows two things are going to happen; she's going to see Nana and Papa and she's going to get to eat pizza.  Going gfcf can restrict one's pizza quotient as it really is just a slab of gluten covered in casein.  But Monical's has gluten free crust and they will cook it without cheese, so Sweet Girl gets a gfcf bacon pizza every time we go home.  She can be pretty antsy in restaurants, but for this she sits very quietly once her pizza arrives.  Recently she's had to share with Little Man and he's pretty much starting to take over in terms of volume eaten.  Little Man ate three of the eight pieces, and acted as though I had stabbed him in the heart when I cut him off after that.  I'm not positive but I'm pretty sure his overly dramatic nature is Sean's fault.  Upon further review, I'm positive it's Sean's fault.  All in all though, it was a good lunch.

Then we drove.  And drove some more.  Sweet Girl sang her Alphabet March songs twice and Little Man napped.  I daydreamed of a day when teleportation would be a reality while checking out the crazy high water levels on either side of the interstate.  Then just as we were getting to the Marion exits, a noise erupts from the back seat.  A belch big enough to rattle the windows and reverberate the vehicle over to the shoulder, quickly followed by a hiccup.  It took me 4 seconds to process that the noise had come from Sweet Girl and that she surely wasn't done.  In those four seconds, my thoughts progressed from "Wow that was loud." to "Crap, I know what that means."  And why, why, why wasn't there someone else in the car to cover her up or put a bag in her lap to catch what was inevitably going to be the next (disgusting) step in the progression.  Sure enough, as the words "Are you ok?" came out of my mouth, Sweet Girl's lunch came out of hers:  all over her and her car seat.  I took the next exit and hunted for a place that could be of use in the hazardous material clean-up that was to follow.

Casey's was about the only thing other than fast food at this particular exit, so I pulled in there (because nothing says "Enjoy your meal!" quite so much as seeing someone mop up vomit in the parking lot of a restaurant) and girded my loins for what I would have to do.  I love Monical's pizza.  I miss it whenever I'm too far from home to have it.  It's something I look forward to whenever I'm home, but I'm not sure I'll ever be able to look at it the same again.  Sweet Girl was covered in semi-digestion from her chin to her lap, and her car seat was a mess.  What to do?  I had an extra outfit in our bag of clothes so I quickly stripped Sweet Girl down in the parking lot, stashed the pukey clothes in a plastic bag, and stole the towel out from under the dog to do a wipe down.  Sweet Girl was very brave (she's much better at vomiting than her mother - if she ever gets to the place where she is able to be independent and go to college, she is going to school some frat boys on puke-n-rally) but also very burpy; a sign there was more to come.  So I quickly wiped all of the Monical's Redux I could out of her seat leaving it fairly devoid of stomach matter but it was still..........wet.  I couldn't put her back in the seat for the rest of our 2-3 hours in the car without something to function as a barrier.  If the towel I had stolen from the dog hadn't already been defiled, I would have used it for absorption.  Alas it had exhausted itself of usefulness and I retired it to the plastic bag of pukey clothes.

I grabbed Sweet Girl and Little Man (who, just to make sure he wasn't forgotten in all this drama, had been screaming the whole time) and go into Casey's for some essentials.  A quick perusal garnered not much in the way of towels, so to think of what I could use and stall for time in case Sweet Girl had another regurgitation episode, I took us to the bathroom.  While scrubbing my hands a la Lady Macbeth, I saw that this bathroom actually had paper hand towels rather than an air dryer.  I shoved a handful in my purse.  We went out and got Sweet Girl some water and I noticed while we were pottying, they had stocked some shelves and there were paper towels!  Then I saw the two tshirts on display.  After a quick debate about which one we needed to add to our burgeoning tshirt collection, I paid for our water, paper towels, and red, white and blue tie-dyed tshirt (the other tshirt was an homage to mushrooms and while I thought Papa might appreciate it someday when it not longer smelled of relunch, I wasn't all that convinced it wasn't some sort of celebration of narcotics that I was not hip enough to understand - Americana it is!) and took our circus back to the car.

I let Little Man play in the front with Oreo while Sweet Girl stood as close to me as she possibly could without melding into my leg, as I padded her car seat with the pilfered hand towels.  Then a layer of paper towels, and the coup de grace; the tshirt, folded over to cover the on-the-go decoupage job I had done.  This left us with a somewhat smelly, not-so-pretty, but functional car seat.  I put Sweet Girl in and realized the straps of the car seat were still wet as well.  No problem!  More Bounty please!  I wrapped paper towels around the straps and buckled her in.  She asked for both her blankets despite the 88 degree heat so I tucked her in and put another layer of paper towels on top of the blankets as damage control for future incidents.  With all the paper towels around her face and her pale wan expression, it looked like a dental appointment gone awry.  But she was somewhat clean and dry and she had her blankets, so after two more urpy spells (not much left in her stomach thank goodness) she fell asleep.  Little Man was having a ball tormenting the dog and was generally unfazed by the whole ordeal once he got out of his seat initially.

We made it home.  Sweet Girl came in and quasi-collapsed on the floor while Little Man delighted in trying to step on her hair.  I began the process of rehabilitating the car seat and unloading the car.  Oreo went out back and ran three rabbits out of the yard.  Eventually I put the kids to bed and Oreo got bored hunting defenseless creatures.  He and I sat on the couch for a couple of minutes before I went to bed while the washer did its best to clean the memory of the day from the car seat pad.  And that, my friends, is how you celebrate Mother's Day right; with two children asleep and a mother with puke on her shoes.  :)