I WAS NOT EATEN BY A SHARK. 

I just spent a week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For seven days, I frolicked, waded, wallowed, and boogie-boarded in the Atlantic Ocean. Remarkably, and despite the ultra-hype associated with sharks this year, I WAS NOT EATEN BY A SINGLE SHARK. 

One day something grabbed my foot in the surf and gave me a good little gash. When that happened (it hurt like hell) the thought immediately crossed my mind that it was a shark, so I cried out and punched about in the thigh-deep water. But then I decided it wasn’t a shark, because when I pulled my leg out of the water nothing was attached to me and my foot was still there. Good news. It was probably just a little crab I had stepped on. 

Another day we drove to the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk. Nick and I sat together for the ranger program, along with 70 or 80 people. About 15 minutes in, Nick got bored, so then he sat on my lap while I (hopelessly) asked him to be patient and quiet. After about 5 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore; Nick’s wiggling, squirming, bony little ass had left my thighs feeling mauled. I dumped him on the chair next to me, hissing at him to be quiet a little longer. 

“OKAY,” he hissed back as he promptly jammed both his hands down his pants. 

He appeared to be manipulating something so I leaned over and whispered, “Do you have to pee? Why are your hands in your pants?”

Nick answered in a bellowing hiss that echoed off the wings of the full-size model of the first airplane to ever take flight. “MY PENIS IS UP, AND I AM TRYING TO MAKE IT GO DOWN, BUT I CANNOT.”

My ears turned beet-red and I slunk loooow in my seat. I avoided all eye contact.

But it could have been worse. Instead of my tiny son giving himself a woody on my thigh, a shark could have eaten a full meal off of it. 

I even let the kids get in the ocean, repeatedly and without me standing hip-to-hip with them. They, too, went uneaten by sharks. Instead they had a lot of fun. 

Here’s Jesse catching a wave.   

And Nick doing the thing little kids do at beaches. I don’t know what to call it. Standing around, I guess.  But they’re happy doing it.   

Lots of beach and ocean happy, no shark bites.    

   


 I actually don’t have a lot of pics from the beach. I was too busy having fun to take out the camera. 

The sharks I fear are on dry land. They have four wheels and insane minds that make them swerve, race, and behave completely erratically. Large schools of them surrounded us during most of our drive to the Outer Banks.  

These sharks kill more than 30 thousand peeps a year in the USA alone, but we rarely hear about those fatalities in the national news. More than a thousand of those deaths each year are children. I’m more afraid of car sharks than I am of real sharks. 

As we drove away from the ocean and all those water sharks I was warned to avoid, we passed a banged-up car on the grassy center shoulder of our divided highway. Two ambulances, a fire engine, and a couple police SUVs had stopped all traffic on the two lanes going the other direction. Seven firefighters surrounded the car in a bustle of activity. One was leaning into each open door of the sedan, as others hurried about with saws and other gadgets. They were working on someone in the back seat. It looked grim. I wondered who was back there — more likely a child. What story would I hear if Fox national news decided to tell me about this likely fatality? What terrifying images might Fox show me, of massive metal machines hurtling down bumpy roads at insane speeds? 

I kept driving and expressed my gratitude to the universe that my family had not been in a car accident (yet) OR eaten by sharks. 

There will likely be about 40,000 breast cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2015. During the week that I was frolicking blithely in the Atlantic, insolently ignoring warnings about SHARKS and enjoying myself immensely, approximately 770 women died of BREAST CANCER in the U.S.  

I’m grateful that neither breast cancer nor sharks pulled me under this week. 

And on and on. I’m not making light of shark attacks, or minimizing the suffering of those who’ve died from them. I just want to keep my eyes on the right balls when I decide what to be terrified by. 

Life is full of risk, random suffering, and unfairness. It’s also full of fun, beauty, and being-alive-ness. This past week I got to enjoy time and the ocean with loving, playful friends and family who seem to know how to squeeze aliveness out of life.  And also, I wasn’t eaten by a shark. 

Grumpy on the road: I hate packing

Since I’m the default parent, I do all the packing whenever we travel. I make sure everyone has everything they need, soup to nuts, head to toe, alpha to omega.

No one does that for me. They just ask me questions and distract me. So when I was packing yesterday, I ping-pinged around the house as usual. 

Tonight as I was getting ready to jump in the shower at our hotel, I suffered the miserable realization that I failed to pack any underwear or socks for myself (all other clan members are fully stocked). I had those drawers open and was ready to pull items. But something obviously distracted me. I don’t even remember what. 

I have no clean underwear or socks. That is all. 

Grumpy on the road: airport

We’re at Chicago O’Hare waiting for our flight to California. A week in warmer climes, so I can’t complain.  But I can still be grumpy, because I had to get up at 5 am and I’ll be on an airplane for 5 hours with two kids. 

Too many grown ups at airports, especially the business travel set,  don’t respect children. It’s like they think kids aren’t actual human beings. Some guy just walked up behind Nick as we walked to our gate and got right up in his personal space, practically ramming Nick with his roller luggage and pushing Nick out of the way. I hustled Nick to the side just to keep him from being hurt. An “excuse me” would have been appropriate. Or better yet, some ordinary patience, because all this fellow was doing was walking to a chair to sit his pushy ass down and wait for the same plane as us. 

Well. I’ll take some deep breaths. Maybe not-thoughtful man will be seated in the row ahead of us. I’ll put Nick in the seat right behind him and give him a few hours to remember. Nick’s volume control button already appears to be broken. 

Grumpy about the vacation: unpacking

We’re home! That means we have to unpack three weeks’ worth of gear, which we packed to cover beach camping, beach house, and mountain camping.

This part of traveling sucks.

How much stuff do you think we can pack into an Outback and Yakima cargo box?

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Here’s almost the answer:

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Here’s another angle on all that shit:

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This collection doesn’t include our camping food (all scraps of which we threw away yesterday as we left our campsite) or whatever fell out of the passenger space, i.e., a bag of books, a box of learning stuff (untouched, I’m pleased to say), a box of art supplies, 3 iPads, 2 portable DVD players, a large carrier of DVDs, Nick’s 7 stuffed animals, a bag of dragons, a box of kleenex, and 420 pounds of human. Also the travel accordion folder, which contained important itinerary information and the laminated diagrams (drawn by me 2 years ago) of exactly how all this shit will fit in the car.

I can’t exaggerate how critical these diagrams are. Two summers ago, when we went on our first month-long camping trip, I spent about 3 days figuring out how everything would fit. There is no wiggle room, right down to which way to orient the camp chairs in the cargo box (fat end to the front or back?). So I drew pictures to remember. I have to rely on them every time I pack the car.

There’s always the open question of whether we could fit a little more stuff in the air space at the back:

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But we haven’t figured out yet how to get the hatch down before whatever is sitting there falls down. Maybe we could rig up some kind of webbing. Tempting.

There’s also the question of whether we could fit some more stuff right behind and over the kids’ heads:

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But since bags sometimes fall on their heads already, we haven’t gone there. Also I wonder if there’s some safety regulation we’d be violating and then someone might call child protective services on us for endangering Nick and Jesse. Never mind that we’re en route from taking them on terrifying hikes where not much of a mis-step would have sent them plummeting to their deaths.

But they didn’t plummet. They thrived and grew up a bit, as they do on all of these trips. It almost makes the unpacking worth it.

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Grumpy about the vacation: Assateague

We’ve finished up our camping interlude, with 3 nights at Assateague and 1 quick night at Kiptopeke State Park in lieu of a hotel.

We got dirty and had fun in the ocean and bay, except for times when we were dirty and didn’t have fun. That’s how it goes when you travel with two little kids and a grumpy mom.

The first tent night was tough. Jesse had a hard time settling down, and there was much moaning and groaning. We fixed the problem for the other nights via extreme bribery, 5 entire bucks if you can be quiet for the night. It seemed wrong somehow to be barking at my child at 2 am, “remember the 5 dollars? Be quiet right now if you want them!” But it was effective, so I was satisfied.

There were wild ponies right in our campsite!

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Down side: steaming piles of horse shit right in our campsite.

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We had loads of fun on the beautiful beaches. The surf was mellow and we lucked out with low tides, so the kids were able to enjoy pretty calm seas on the first ocean trip of their young lives. We built a sand fort and populated it with little mole crabs we captured in our digs. We eventually set the crabs free in the surf and mocked the passing lady who was grossed out that they were STILL ALIVE.

Nick didn’t act like a kid who’s afraid of water as he waded out into the frothing surf and vanquished waves with his imaginary powers. Jesse swam in and rode waves on her boogie board, overcoming anxiety and outright fear. She was tiny and lithe and spectacular. There were pelicans, herons and egrets, gulls, wading birds, horseshoe and normal crabs, dolphins, and a huge school of fish the dolphins had herded to the surf. Magical.

Down side: sand. We discovered that Nick is OCD about sand between his toes, requiring surgical precision in the removal of each grain when we leave the beach. Jesse is OCD at-large, so at random moments she just freaks out for a while about sand on different parts of her body. All we can really do is grit our teeth and wait until she works through it.

I have no beach photos to share. I didn’t take any because I was playing. Sometimes I like not having pictures; they have a tendency to replace broad deep memories with a limited, one-dimensional idealization.

But also sometimes I wish I was a pro so I could capture an image that was the event unto itself. One evening we saw the full moon rise before night fell. The sky was red and purple from the setting sun, and the moon shimmered through a mist of clouds. It lasted all of 20 seconds before the clouds covered it up, and it took my breath away. Unfortunately, this is the image my iPhone captured:

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Yeah. That little dot in the sky is the big beautiful moon. The real thing was much more impressive. I wish you had seen it with me.

Grumpy about the vacation: still 21 days left

I made a day-counting error about this extended vacation we just started. More accurately, I misled myself by saying repeatedly that we’d be gone “for three weeks,” and technically that’s 21 days. In fact, we’ll be together as one united happy family for twenty-TWO days.

But who’s counting.

Today we continued our drive eastward. We went a few miles out of our way to visit our roots in Oberlin College, where Anthony and I met and fell in love, formed our core moral and political views, learned about critical thinking, made many of our lifelong best friends. We graduated in 1988, so a surprising amount has changed on the campus and in town, but an even more surprising amount is just the same as we remember. I felt some nervous anticipation as we drove into town, but I quickly rediscovered a basic truth about myself, which is that I don’t really get very busy with nostalgia. Life is too rich to waste much of it looking backwards ruefully.

I was going to write tonight about our Oberlin stop-off and load up some photos, after the kids fell asleep in this hotel room somewhere in Pennsylvania. Maybe I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow, because Anthony and I pulled out our emergency bottle of quality bourbon instead and drank too much out of small plastic cups as we reminisced. It’s too late for Oberlin tales now; I spent my available time having a delightful, relaxing conversation with my mate. Also I’m loopy from the bourbon so I can’t do anything complicated right now.

Tomorrow, we hit New Jersey and my in-laws’ home. (Insert sound clip of melodramatic Wagnerian opera music, such as is used in movies to introduce fatal and tragic battle scenes.) I hope to be as vacant, silent, and polite as is humanly possible around people who don’t like or understand me all that much. Also I hope to be sober by then. Good night.

traveling with my kids sucks, but not as much as it used to

best airport pizza ever

best airport pizza ever

Tuesday, 6:30 am PST, Stockton, CA (8:30 am in Wisconsin). Nick and Jesse are awake. I beg them to snuggle just a little while longer so that we don’t wake Little Grandma and Grandpa up. They sort of comply, but it involves painful wiggling and poking all over me, and lots of shushing.

7:00-9:30 am. We explode out of the bedroom. More accurately, two little people explode. I stumble out, slouch-shouldered and exhausted from yet another sleepless night spent between Scylla and Charybdis on a queen-size bed, alternately poked in the eyes by Nick’s elbows and bludgeoned by Jesse’s head. Jesse has also had a terrible night’s sleep, full of bad dreams and much moaning and groaning. She’s in dissonance mode, trapped between sadness over leaving Grandma’s house and happiness over getting back to Dad, and loaded up with anxiety over the changes to come. My mom’s already awake when we hit the living room because she always gets up early on the day I leave, which I forgot happens, otherwise I would have unleashed the kids on her at 6:30. Thank heavens she’s made coffee. I do a one-quart coffee bong, feed the kids, rush through a shower, get everyone dressed, and pack.

9:30-9:45 am. I secretly run to the grocery store by myself in Grandpa John’s car to buy a few travel snacks for the kids. Actually, that’s a tangent to the primary reason for going, which is that I’m desperate for just a few moments away from Nick and Jesse before I’m hopelessly stuck with them for hours and hours in travel mode. I get 15 minutes’ peace.

10:00 am. Jesse’s dissonance is reaching full pitch as we prepare to depart. My brother Mark’s dog, a gorgeous and gentle pit bull poetically named Girl, has been relaxing with Jesse; but even this sweet therapy dog can’t help her now. Jesse’s starting to cry, ululate, and disappear silently to places we can’t find her (literally, somewhere in the yard), in a repeating circuit that appears to be designed to make it easy for relatives to say goodbye and rush us out of town. Meanwhile, Nick has decided he can only pee outside where the feral cat goes. As I’m pulling up his pants after that fun thing, I notice there’s a huge tear in one pant leg which will leave him in a half culotte by the end of our trip. I rummage through our suitcase, find new pants, and tend to that. Nick gets in the car and we start yelling for Jesse.

10:15 am. Got her. Sticky roller has been used to get visible dog hair off her (don’t forget the crotch of her pants) so she won’t freak out about that, and she’s in the car. Everyone’s gotten kisses and hugs, and Uncle Mark is ready to drive us to the San Francisco airport.

10:15 – 11:45 am. Nick is an angel who falls asleep in 15 minutes. Jesse spends most of the drive groveling, whining and groaning about feeling sick, and also making gagging/choking/coughing noises that suggest she might puke. Uncle Mark tells her she’s faking it as he cheerfully swerves over the Altamont Pass, mixing bold accelerations, terrifying lane changes, and sudden braking to maximum effect. I cling to the oh-shit bar and try not to yawp too much, while snapping helpful things to Jesse like, “If you puke on yourself, you’re gonna smell like puke for the next 10 hours so you just ask yourself if you can handle that!” I ask her several times if she needs us to pull over. She says no each time and then groans even louder. She asks me 427 times when we’re going to visit Little Grandma again. Jesse’s sense of time is off. She wants to know if we’ll come in summer, in two weeks? How long is it to summer? How many days? How many months? Will I be out of school? When will we visit Grandma again?

Deep down, I know this is all an expression of anxiety and transition issues, and intense sadness over leaving family (human and canine) behind. Knowledge does not stop my irritation, nor does it stem my rising panic about the 7 hours ahead of me.

11:45 am – 12:30 pm. We check in with relative ease. Jesse even helps with the luggage. We spend a final 15 minutes going crazy with Mark before heading into security as late as reasonably possible. Saying goodbye to Mark is always difficult for the kids and me. We spend a lot of time together whenever I visit Stockton, and I always want that to last longer. The kids handle it remarkably well this time, and there aren’t even any visible tears shed.

Jesse and I visited Mom when Jesse was 3 and I was pregnant with Nick. On our last day, Mark and Mom both came to the airport to see us off. Only passengers were allowed up the escalator to security. We said our last goodbyes, everyone started crying – even Mark – and apparently this is when Jesse realized Little Grandma and Mark weren’t coming with us. She was shocked. She wailed as we rode up the escalator, reaching back as if her parents had just died in a fiery car crash right before her eyes, or I was a kidnapper. She didn’t stop. It cascaded into a 7 or 8 hour ordeal as we made our way back to Wisconsin. More on this later.

12:30 – 12:45 pm. Security. This is when I start saying one of many blessings to my brother Ted and all his future progeny for using his frequent flyer miles to get these tickets for me and the kids. Ted travels a lot for work, so he gets “premiere” tickets on United. We’re flying coach, but we’re treated first class. We get to skip the line at security. A security dude lets us through a cut-in-line rope while about a dozen waiting travelers glare. I don’t even care, because Nick immediately makes a run for it, with Jesse after him like a dog to a rabbit. Two security guards herd the kids back to me, and then we have a minor melee as shoes come off and I dig out the 18 electronic devices I’ve brought for the kids, along with Jesse’s epi-pen and emergency allergy meds. Then we’re sent through a couple odd rope angles to get to the x-ray box kids are allowed to walk through. It takes several more guards to keep Nick and Jesse on course, because they’re confused now and moving in completely random directions, like pinballs. We make it through and collect our things. I don’t bother to apologize to the 4 businessmen whose crotches have been mashed by Nick’s erratic moves.

1:15 pm. We’re at the gate, after a quick stop to pick up a pizza which we’re sure has an egg-free crust. (Finding safe food for Jesse during travel can be difficult. Firewood Cafe is a pizza joint in the SF Int’l United concourse that’ll make you a fresh thin-crust pie in 5 minutes or so, delicious and to-go. Whenever we fly out of SF, we stop in.) The first boarding group is already through when we arrive at the gate. I thought we’d be a little earlier, but Jesse dawdles at every step and refuses to stay close to me, driving me crazy as we move through heavy crowds. Still, with a good deal of snapping and cajoling from me, we make it; and I and my premiere access tickets march right over to the attendant, skipping ahead of all other passengers. But my kids aren’t with me. I look around wildly. Where are they?? Oh. Nick is right behind me, hiding as my third butt-cheek. Jesse is dawdling 50 feet away. I yell at her to come over here NOW, gesticulating madly, oblivious to whatever wicked observations others might be making. She shuffles over, ornery, and I shove the kids ahead of me down the boarding tube. I shove them all the way to row 42. If I was a tired soldier holding a bayonetted rifle and moving unruly POWs along, I’d be using the same move.

1:15 – 6:00 pm PST, or 3:15 – 8:15 pm CT in Wisconsin. On the plane. Direct flight to Chicago. Dreamliner! Yay (blessings to Ted). Free TV and on-demand movies for each passenger! Double yay (more blessings)! Also I have my iPhone, two iPad minis, a Kindle, and two DVD players. We’re set, except for not really. I could go into excruciating detail, but what’s the point. Four year old, eight year old, grumpy mom, 5 hours on an airplane. You can imagine the rest. I’m on call the entire time of course, filling a need, moving things around, managing feelings, taking potty breaks, finding food. As my mom used to say: ee-tee-see, ee-tee-see.

About twenty minutes before we land, Jesse starts losing her cool and Nick gets loud. Nick’s volume control goes out of whack several times a day, and it happens on the plane. It’s hard to be mad, because he’s a really cheerful little guy and he’s yelling happy things, but it’s still painful on the eardrums. Also no one really wants to hear him bellowing at me about the angry birds level he just nailed. Jesse’s issue is that I tell her to stop playing the touch-screen video games on the United TV, because she’s beating the chair in front of her with her feet while poking the screen so hard that the passenger in the seat has to feel like he’s being bonked at both sets of cheeks. By the time we settle that row, Jesse has punched and head-butted me a number of times, and I’m making empty threats about taking her iPad away. As if. Still, she quiets down for the rest of the flight. She’s got the crack in the dam plugged with a little finger. I’m satisfied.

8:30 pm. We find Anthony by baggage claim. Despite Nick’s best efforts as he careens around, I haven’t lost him, but my voice is getting hoarse. Jesse has been crying and whining since we started deboarding. She doesn’t stop when she sees dad. Unfortunately, just then is when I observe that the kids have gotten something yucky and black all over their hands. I pull out wipes and try to fix this, but Jesse’s tired OCD mind becomes absorbed for some long moments with how totally disgusting this is, a la Adrian Monk, and she just lets loose. In fact, she pretty much keeps crying (with brief intermissions) for the next hour, until we’re in the car and well on the way home. The only thing that eventually shuts her up is simple exhaustion: she falls asleep.

11:00 pm, Glendale, Wisconsin. After driving through nasty snowy conditions for two hours, we make it home. The kids are fast asleep. It’s been almost 11 hours since we left Little Grandma’s house. Anthony gets out first to take the dog for a walk. The plan is for me to wait until they’re around the corner (otherwise the dog will be too excited to do her business) and then unload the car before waking up the kids. But of course, they wake up without any help at all. Nick comes to first, and he’s in whiny mode. He wants to snuggle, he wants mommy, he wants his iPad. He dissolves into tears in a few moments and I stop being able to understand anything he says. The noise of him wakes Jesse, and she starts crying too. She wants Little Grandma, she misses Girl and any other dog or relative whose name she can remember, she wants to snuggle, and everything else isn’t human language. That goes on incessantly for a good half hour until we manage to get them into jammies and settle them down to sleep. I only yell at them a few times.

Whew. Time for an episode of MI-5.

* * *

But really, it wasn’t that bad a travel day. I’ve had some awful experiences traveling with Jesse, and this trip doesn’t even touch them. When she was about 7 months old, we traveled to California for Christmas. She had a fit of diarrhea so bad that it shot up her back all the way to her neck. It was inhuman. It wasn’t fit for an airplane restroom, so Anthony and I took care of it together at our seats, best we could. No one complained, but the flight attendant refused to take our ziplock bag full of used diaper and 500 wipes, claiming airline rules prohibited it. So, I’m thankful no one pooped their pants this time around, or vomited, or peed in their pants, especially since I didn’t keep extra clothes with me.

The trip home when Jesse was three, which I mentioned before, was one for the ages. After the betrayal of leaving Little Grandma and Uncle Mark behind, she screamed at me with only a few minutes’ pause until we boarded the first of two flights. Back then in the stone ages (almost 5 years ago), I didn’t have an iPad, and also Jesse was still at a place where any electronic visual stimulation sent her into unbalanced sensory overload for hours. So I had books and toys, and I applied my best effort, and I nursed her, but it was all to no avail. She screamed, cried, ululated, kicked, head-butted, punched, and tortured me all the way to Colorado. The man sitting in front of her stood up and glared at her a couple times. Notably, that did not help. In fact, no one helped me. When we got off that flight in Denver, Jesse was calm for about 15 minutes and then started yelling again. I wasn’t sure they would let us on the second flight, and I had a 2-hour layover. I didn’t know what to do, and I was pregnant and uncomfortable. I eventually buckled her into the umbrella stroller and just sat glumly next to her while she screamed at me. This is when I saw the man who had been sitting in front of us on our first leg. He stopped as he walked past to say some rude niceties to me about Jesse’s behavior, so I asked him what connecting flight he was on. He told me someplace other than Milwaukee but I replied, “Hey, that’s where we’re going, maybe we’ll be seated near you!” He ran off in dismay.

The second leg of our journey was on a 3-seat-wide commuter jet. Jesse was just quiet enough for just long enough that they let us board. But as soon as the cabin doors closed, she released her misery. She never fully calmed down. It was 2 more hours from hell. The flight attendant swung by a couple times to ask me things like, “Is there anything else you can do to help?” Not “I.” Again, no one helped, except for one lady sitting in the row behind me who put in about 5 minutes’ effort distracting Jesse. By the time we landed, which was late in the evening, I was cooked. I got Jesse off the airplane eventually, set her on her feet, and walked away. When I got to the end of the security zone, she was 30 yards behind me, lying in the middle of the empty concourse screaming. Anthony and I waited until she got up and came to us, and then I walked away with no feeling of guilt.

To this day, I have to fight back tears when I think of that trip. I felt alone, crushed under the wave of Jesse’s emotions, and no one stepped up to show me kindness. Compared to that, Tuesday’s trip home was a happy dance in la-la-land. Final assessment: traveling with my spawn doesn’t suck as much as it used to.

Grumpy about diplomacy

I’m on day 4 of a pretty long visit to my mom’s house with the kids. I haven’t posted anything since I got here. Today my brother Ted mentioned that he was surprised not to be reading some stuff about my visit.

I’m surprised too. After all, I’m home. I’ve descended into the maelstrom of grumpy. Grumpy winds whine through this house when we all get together, a perfect storm of grumpy waiting to happen if we all vibrate the right way at the wrong time, like a choir of Tibetan monks droning on just the right frequencies.

Is that enough inane metaphors and analogies for now? (I sometimes have to think to assure myself of the difference, and right now I don’t have time to do that, so I’ll assume I have both just to be sure.)

Anyway, I’m hypothetically right where the best material resides when it comes to my inner grumpy. But grumpy isn’t the same as mean, and I’m not sure I could muse about my family in close quarters without just being mean or hurting feelings, however unintentionally. We’re all ridiculous — I mean all human beings, not just my family — but most of us don’t want our noses rubbed in this fact.

My family has had some doozies of collective grumpy meltdowns over the years, and we’ve also had individual hissy-fits. As a result there have been long periods of absence for various reasons, for one or another of us. Traditionally, we have at it with each other – a gift of battle-ready gab bequeathed to us by our parents. But we don’t do that so much anymore, and I really don’t want anyone to bug out ever again. There aren’t enough years in a life for it. Some years ago my mom and I talked a lot about how we could all get along better. Love is pretty constant. Mom liked to tell me that breaking a family is like cutting blood with a knife. But sometimes, we concluded together, love asks more of us than just love. It requires diplomacy, and of course respect. Love is the easy part.

So here goes: I’ve really enjoyed seeing my brothers and sisters-in-law and nieces and my mom and her husband and all the blessed shedding dogs. Awesome visit. I dearly love my mildly insane, mildly grumpy family. My kids are a good fit here. Diplomacy demands that I leave it at that.

The weather was worse than the kids

We survived a long drive yesterday. Jesse and Nick were horrid for the first hour and then settled down. As I often say, they were really well-behaved, except when they weren’t.

The final 4 driving hours were spent in snowy, barely-adequate road conditions, skidding down the narrow, barely-plowed roads in the gloom of rural northern Wisconsin at 20 to 30 miles an hour. Anthony was very lucky to have me sitting next to him, because I was able to give him helpful pointers and ask useful questions about road conditions as he gripped the wheel. I also gave him distance-to-destination updates about every quarter mile for the last couple hours, which lightened the mood measurably.

The good news is, we made it safely and enjoyed a delightful evening catching up with Kevin in his home on the shores of Lake Superior. Now we’re ready to get outside and play in the snow. It’s a balmy 1 degree outside with a sub-teens windchill. Absolutely spectacular monotonic conditions.

If I could figure out how, I would post a picture for you from my phone. Some day when I manage to pull my head out of my…

Road trip

We’re driving to Cornucopia, WI as I type (LOVE that I can do this with my thumbs on my phone) to visit our dear friend Kevin who lives on Lake Superior. What a great way to celebrate the end of Anthony’s teaching semester. it’s a beautiful morning outside, snowing but not so much that we have to cancel. It feels very holiday.

Kevin’s a monk-style bachelor so we have to bring all the food we’re going to eat. Unfortunately, we have to bring the kids too.

In order to facilitate the morning packing, we let the kids watch TV. They watched several episodes of Kung Fu Panda Legends (AWESOMENESS). It’s always a mistake to let my kids watch TV, ever, but it’s especially a mistake in the mornings. It does something to their personalities, like what the Bad People’s experiments in Firefly did to the Reavers.

You want to be in this car with me right now. 7 hours to go.