Ten Things I Learned On Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is always so exciting, whether it’s spent at the beach, the pool, or in the backyard.  My summer certainly started off with a bang, though not the kind I would hope for.  The fire threw a wrench in many of our summer plans.  I swore we’d go to the beach at least 3 times, seeing as how we live a mere 35 minutes away.  Didn’t happen.  I said we’d go to the Jacksonville zoo, the park, the water park–all promises unfulfilled.  I simply didn’t have the time or energy to take them.  Now school starts in exactly one week and all I can do is feel guilty about what we didn’t do.  Oh well, such is motherhoood. 

Despite all the craziness of Summer 2011, I was determined that my trip home would not be cancelled.  I needed that trip more than ever after all the drama. So I packed up ALL my clothes which, depressingly, fit into 1/2 of a medium-sized suitcase, the kids’ clothes, some toiletries, snacks, video games and chargers for home and the car, books, diapers and wipes, crayons, a cooler full of drinks, my hotel reservation confirmation, etc. and we took our trip

I learned a lot on the road and at home.  Some things, I can’t put into words.  Not yet, anyway.  As for the ones I can express, here are the top ten. 

Ten Things I Learned On Summer Vacation

1.  If you’re leaving on an extended vacation, a major repair will be required on the car or the house the day you’re supposed to leave.

http://www.photl.com/en/copyright.htmlIn my case, it was both.  I had to get new tires for the car.  While this isn’t a major repair (new engine, transmission, etc.) it was still not cheap.  Gone are the days when a tire cost a mere $50.  Three tires=$600+  Ouch. 

The problem with the house was the plumbing.  The night before we were left, I was doing laundry and found the hallway flooded.  The washwater was backing up into the toilets and the bathtub.  I had to call RotoRooter to fix it.  They quickly cleared the pipes of tree roots and then rotorootered me as well with the $300 bill.  Double ouch.

2.  Not all music is driving music.

One of the most exciting parts of this trip for me was being able to pick all the music.  I spent a couple of hours making what I thought was the perfect playlist.   I started up the music before I pulled out of the driveway and I was cruising along fine.  Until about an hour down the road and Death Cab For Cutie’s album began to play.  Now, I like Death Cab for Cutie, but it is NOT driving music.  Ben Gibbard’s voice along with miles upon miles of tree-lined roads and yellow lines is a prescription for sleep that rivals Ambien.  I luckily had some other stuff that was perfect driving music, regardless of what my kids had to say about it:  The All-American Rejects (yeah, I actually like that), Adele, The Black Keys, and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. 

3.  Cruise Control and the Nintendo DS are two of the best inventions ever.

Speaking as a woman with chronic back pain, a tendency for foot and leg cramps, and an extremely low tolerance for whining and fighting kids, I can honestly say these two things are right up there with central air conditioning and indoor plumbing.  That being said, fie on those stupid drivers who don’t understand what “SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT” means.  They totally screwed up my cruise control experience.

4.  Never say anything in front of a two-year-old that you don’t want repeated.

You can read about that here.

5.  Your family is weird, whether you realize it or not.

I never exactly thought we were normal (see here, and here), but I didn’t realize just how different we were until I saw it in stark relief against the families of my brother and my cousins or in the now childless house of my parents.

6. Everybody loves the zoo.

It was approximately 200°F the day we went to the zoo but the only one who complained was my 12-year-old.  He complains that water is too wet, so I don’t pay any attention to him anyway.

Who wouldn't love this guy?

Pole dancing orangutans make me smile.

7. The line between mature woman and high school girl is very small indeed.

One of the highlights of my trip was girls’ night with some friends from high school.  We talked about motherhood, kids, jobs, and our lives in general.  We also talked about people from high school.  Specifically, we talked about people from high school as if we were still in high school.  It wasn’t the mature thing to do, but we also talked about how dumb we were in high school, too.  That totally makes it okay.

I haven’t had a night out with these girls for a looong time and it was a wonderful reunion. While we were sitting in the restaurant laughing and talking too loud, I felt several different things at once. I felt old, young, smart, stupid, sophisticated, childish, bold, self-conscious, happy, sad, and important.  It was good for my soul.  The margaritas didn’t hurt, either.

8.  Madonna may not be an affected poser after all.

Image via Wikipedia

Living somewhere for an extended period of time almost guarantees a change in speech patterns.  Like Madonna, I have acquired an accent.  Unfortunately it isn’t an English one, it’s a southern one.  I’m sure some of you are under the impression that Kentucky is a southern state (it is if you’re from anywhere in Kentucky except for Louisville, it isn’t if you’re from any other southern state–strictly Border State.)  If you are under that impression, you may also be under the impression that all Southern accents are the same.  They aren’t.  Anyway, I was informed that I have acquired an odd way of saying “want.”  I now say “wont.”  At first, this disturbed me.  I’ve prided myself on my minimal accent all my life.  For example, I’ve never said the word “warsh” for “wash” as many Kentuckians are wont to do.  (I did mean “wont’ and not “want” there, in case you were wondering.)  Then I took the proper attitude about it and decided I didn’t care.  Besides, everybody’s got an accent.  Furthermore, a ridiculously cartoonish southern accent has done wonders for people like Paula Deen.  A few more years down here and I might be able acquire enough of the local dialect and milk it to sell cakes or publish a book.  The world really needs more eccentric southern writers, don’t you think?

9.  I have an unhealthy relationship with food.

White Castle, Mark’s Feed Store, Christy’s, Rally’s, Steak and Shake, and Valley Dairy Freeze.  I patronized all these places while I was in Kentucky.  Some of them twice.  I also drank Big Red.  I relished every morsel and drop.  I even brought it home with me (in the form of 50 lbs. that went straight to my giant gut.  At least it had plenty of company with the other 300 lbs. I acquired in Georgia.)

10.  I prefer hills and dirt to marshes and sand.

Living on the coast has its perks–beaches, warm winters, and coastal skies.  However, driving through the hills made me forget all that.  Up, down, and around we went–the kids squealing with every dip and curve.  Me, reveling in the terrain and the greenness of it all.  I took pictures of tree-lined, deeply sloping driveways.  Of hills covered in green, regretting I’d miss the reds, oranges, and yellows of Fall.  I took my shoes off to walk on my grandma’s lawn of soft grass, not a sand spur or fire ant bed in sight.  I did a lot of porch sitting, enjoying the sounds of the bobwhite, which is my favorite bird.  My favorite because it’s the only bird I recognize by its call and because my grandma used to whistle to them when we sat in her sideyard when I was little.  The bobwhite call. 

Of course there are trees, grass, and bobwhites in Georgia.  But it’s not the same.  Like Dorothy Gale from Kansas so wisely stated, “There’s no place like home.”


The Kentucky Hills in Late Summer


Summer Road Trip–Alone with Five Kids

I thought for sure that my kids would provide me so much material during out 12 hour trip.  When have they gone longer than 10 minutes without fighting or being the most annoying people on earth?  Never.  Until we piled in a car and all of them had a Nintendo DS to keep them occupied.  In anticipation of their general awful behavior, I had a plan.  We would make periodic stops and take some goofy pictures to document our trip and maybe give them a chance to stretch their legs or have something to look forward to.  But, since they were mostly quiet and only had a couple of minor squabbles, I took advantage, and just drove. 

They finally gave me some trouble when we stopped to eat dinner at the McDonald’s, a mere hour and a half from our destination.  I had a couple of really nasty diapers to change, courtesy of my 21-month-old daughter, who was apparently waiting for a restaurant to stink up before she let loose.  Fine by me.  Better the McDonald’s than my car.  Then, in uncharacteristic fashion, my 5-year-old decided he’d have a go with a poopy accident.  There’s something about the McDonald’s that makes people want to poo, I guess.

Anyway, I got some goofy pictures of the kids on the Play Ground (post-clean-up, of course.)

Brotherly Love

Molly the Gymnast and Billy the Fashion Expert

#1 is not dead. I swear.

See? This is one of his better pictures.

Things were pretty boring until we got to the motel.  When we pulled into the parking lot, I instructed Miss Molly and Crazy Billy to lay down in the backseat.  Why?  Well, there is a three kid limit to a room.  Now, I don’t have the funds to rent 2 rooms.  Since we enter the rooms from the outside, it was essential we sneak the other two kids in.  So, I told them to lie down so they wouldn’t be spotted.  They obliged, but after about 30 seconds, Miss Molly asks in a suspicious voice, “Is this a joke?”  No, dear heart, it’s not. 

I get the room and drive around to the parking lot.  It turns out, we have to walk across a large expanse of grass to get to the door.  The chances of us making it unnoticed, at 11:00 pm when there is nobody else around, are not good.  Considering the kids picked that exact moment to be loud, obnoxious, and clumsy made it impossible.  They dropped blankets and suitcases, Billy talked in his only tone of voice which happens to be an outside-on-the-playground-with-tons-of-kids-radio-blasting-swarm-of-bees-passing-by voice, and all of them decided it was time to start pretending they were in Wrestlemania.  On a positive note, Anna learned a couple of new words.  The sh%% one, which she only said once (as did I, in a moment of panic and frustration), but only because she liked the other one much better.  We made our way across no-man’s land with a 21-month-old repeatedly saying, “dammit” at the top of her lungs, and the other kids laughing hysterically at the profanity coming out of such a sweet baby’s mouth. 

Do you kiss yourself with that mouth?

Miraculously, no one accosted us and made me pay the $70 for another room.  Even more amazing, not one person knocked on our door once we got in the room and all the kids started arguing about who was sleeping in which bed.  Turns out, one was on the floor and another one had a bed all to himself.  The other three slept in the bed with me, where the most comfortable spot must’ve been my head and my feet.  Anna head butted me several times before finally drifting off.  When I woke up the next morning, I could barely stand, my back hurt so bad.

The next leg of the trip was even more pleasant than the first.  Even less arguing and no traffic.  Well, until we got about an hour outside of Louisville.  The rain was really coming down and the interstate went down to one lane for a while.  We only stopped moving for about 2 minutes.  That was scary, though.  While we were sitting there, a huge bolt of lightning struck not 100 ft. from us.  We all flinched/ducked/squealed.  The crackling was freaky.  By the time we got home, the rain had slowed to a drizzle and I was more than ready to get out of that car.  This was a welcome sight.

Home! I forgot how GREEN it is here!

I must say it was a pleasant trip.  Somehow, I feel like the trip home will more than make up for that.  They still have their Nintendo DSs and I still have the camera.  Maybe I can get some better pictures on the way home.  Honestly, I’d rather just drive.  Hopefully, the kids will cooperate.  Though it would make for much better reading if they acted more like themselves.  If you’re hoping they will, just so you will be more entertained–shame on you.

Three Cakes

I’ve been away for a while and I’ve missed The Blog terribly.  I promised myself I’d post this weekend so here I am, with about 5 minutes to spare to keep my promise.  With moving and all that jazz I still managed to do three cakes this week.  One for my son’s 11th birthday, one for a dog’s 1st birthday, and one for my husband’s cousin’s son’s (did you get that?) 2nd birthday.

My son is a video game junkie, so he chose a Nintendo DS as his cake.  That was fine with me since I didn’t have to carve, stack, or work out the physics of anything.  I did, however, have to paint with food coloring, which I’ve never done before.  Now, I can make things out of fondant (its edible Play Dough, which I’ve been playing with since I was three), but drawing is not my thing.  Painting, even less so.  Basically, painting with food coloring is like using watercolors.  Ach.  I grabbed a picture of Sonic (drawn by my #1, who is a FAR better artist than I’ll ever be) and a picture of Mario, Luigi, and the oh-so-lame-Yoshi, who I didn’t realize was oh-so-lame until the next morning when my son saw his cake and said (with disgust), “Why did you put Yoshi on there?!”  Autistic children aren’t known for their tact.

“I put Yoshi on there because I painted Mario and Luigi too far to the left and needed something to fill in all the white space on the right,”  I explained out loud.  To myself, I added “brat” on the end of that sentence.

Anyhoo, here is a picture of the cake.

Here are the close-ups of my fancy artwork.

Sonic the Hedgehog in Food Coloring

Mario, Luigi, and Oh-So-Lame Yoshi in Food Coloring

Yeah, so Luigi has a big butt like my daughter pointed out (8-year-old girls aren’t known for their tact, either) and Mario’s head is HUGE.  I think it’s pretty good for a first try.

The second cake was much better.  Well, I had a less critical client for it, anyway.  It was for a dog’s 1st birthday and no, it wasn’t made of Alpo.  Although it’s a bit out of proportion, I’m sure Max didn’t mind.

The third cake was the most fun and the most challenging.  It was working on this cake that made me truly sorry for some of the things I lost in the fire.  I bought the bare minimum cake supplies I’d need and I was missing the fancy cake levelers and fondant tools.  *Sigh*  I completely underestimated the time I needed to do the cake, too.  I was forced to make my husband’s cousin’s mom (that would be my husband’s aunt, or ex-aunt since she’s divorced from his uncle, or my ex-aunt-in-law.  Got that?)  wait in the car for almost 10 minutes.  I was desperately trying to get florists wire to stick in a cake at the perfect angle and had to stop when Jehovah’s Witnesses rang my front doorbell.  I’m sure they were two very sweet little old ladies but I gave them the politest brush-off I could muster.  At least I didn’t hide in the floor away from the windows like I usually do.  I took The Watchtowers and tossed them in the trash on the way back to my floral wire nightmare.  Anyway, here is the finished cake.

Elmo Birthday Cake

This picture doesn’t do my Elmo justice.  He looked like he’d had one too many drunken nights with the Cookie Monster.

Fat, drunken Elmo

My daughter said, “Elmo looks kind of fat.” Brat. But she was right.  #1 said he was creepy.  Yeah, well you should’ve seen him before he had hair. It was definitely not my best work and I felt really bad about it.  Oh well.  I’m sure the two-year-old was okay with it.

Well, that’s all I have time for now, folks.  I have to pack and my bathroom has flooded with backed up washing machine water, which leaked into the hallway carpet a little bit.  Things have been going so well, something irritating was bound to happen.  I’m just wondering why it had to be the night before I left for vacation.