A Revenge Greater Than Living Well

After every breakup, dissolution or just plain bad ending, I always remind myself  that living well is the best revenge. I keep moving forward, bettering myself, learning from my mistakes and building on my experience. I mean, there is usually a lot of drinking and dancing, and eating ice cream in my pajamas, too, for a short while, but then it’s all about progress.

I work hard to make any partnership work, whether in business or in my social life, so that if it does not I can end it with no regrets, knowing I did my part. I don’t burn bridges but that’s only because I don’t bother to look back. I might be one of those super cool chicks that is above concern, but it’s more likely that I’m just too lazy to waste my energy on nonsense that won’t further my own agenda in any way. Putting others down, trying to make them miserable, trying to undo what they have done, none of that helps me or my family in any way, so I have no time or energy to spend on it.

The problem with this sort of laziness or indifference is that it leaves you open  to attack. When you turn your back to walk away it makes it very easy for others to gather there and talk. By the time I reached “real” adulthood there wasn’t anything you could say about me that hadn’t been said so I was pretty much desensitized to the BS that is gossip and slander. If you wanted to light a fire under my ass and really get me riled up you had to attack me where it hurt, my soft spot, the people around me.

I would get riled up, all right, and start calling upon all my resources, which are many, and then… there we were, all my “resources” and I, hanging out, maybe having a drink and just generally living well, and suddenly whatever mission we were on to protect one another seemed far less important. We were living well and that truly is the best revenge. Or, so I thought.

Until the night when someone asked me if I had heard what someone else was saying about me and all that is mine and I had to reach for a picture in my mind of that person’s face and could not conjure up an actual memory of why they would hate me so thoroughly. It was then, as I heard stories of my Facebook being stalked and my name being drug through the mud, that I realized living well leads to a far greater revenge. Forgetting.

Imagine going out of your way to make someone miserable and they are simply too happy to notice or care, how frustrating that must be. Makes ya laugh, doesn’t it? Let’s do it. Let’s choose to live so well we forget others that would have us stew in their misery with them. I know it’s not easy. I know it may involve some amount of going out drinking and dancing and then coming home to eat ice cream in your pajamas. What exactly do you think living well is? That sounds like the good life to me. Let’s move forward, let’s choose to forget… whoever that guy was.

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I am reblogging this because the entire time I was reading it I was nodding my head saying, yes, yes, yes.

I’d like to add that the other night as I was buckling Sharkboy into his seat someone on a motorcycle drove by and yelled, “Hey New Bar Bitch!” And flipped me off. Instead of “new bar” though, he said the name of my new bar. I didn’t recognize what little I saw of him but he must have spent a lot of time looking at my ass because the rest of my body was in the van strapping a two year old down.

We live right down the street from a few bars, including the one The Barkeep used to own, but I’m a nice girl and hardly ever point out to people what scumbags they are, so I can’t imagine why they would target me. *shrug*

That is what it’s like to own a bar.

Ambrosia

I stopped by my friend’s house one day to pick him up so we could get a drink. We usually chat over drinks at least once a week but he recently bought a pub and it has been keeping him busy. I deserve an award for “greatest understatement” and “most patient friend” for that last sentence. My patience is running thin, though.

I stood in his doorway tapping my toe while he handled a situation at the bar over the phone. “It doesn’t matter who started the fight, everyone has to leave if there was a physical altercation. Alter… a fight.”

He had to listen to three different accounts of the fight in question and in the end he said, “I don’t care who started it, our policy is no fighting. They both leave.”

I wanted to call my mother and apologize for every summer vacation when my siblings and…

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Parents Are People, Too (aka A Good Ol’ Fashioned Guilt Trip)

Every so often I check my site stats to see which blogs are being read and shared and what search terms lead people to my blog. (I think a lot of lonely young men attempting to buy their own batsmoke leave my page disappointed.) I can see at a glance which blogs are the most popular and which blogs you are sharing with friends.

Most of my blogs are about parenting and all of the wonderful things that go along with that like cleaning the house, cooking dinner and trying to explain why I don’t have a penis. Those blogs are, by far, the most popular. I also write about movies I like or do not like and I suppose eventually I will write about books again and there will be a lot of blogs about The Bar and live music. Those blogs do not get read as often or shared as much but I will continue writing them. I write for me but I also write for you and I think you need the blogs about music and movies and drinking as much as I do.

Becoming a parent changes everything. It’s a cliche because it’s true. Humans, in general, are self centered. That’s not mean or a negative outlook on humanity, it’s just common sense. All of your most basic instincts are cleverly designed to protect you. Until you have a child. Between your biological urge to protect your child and society’s pressure to do so and do so better than anyone else, it is very easy to forget that you still have needs of your own. When taking a shower becomes a task you have to schedule, finding time to nurture your talents and explore hobbies can seem like a luxury.

Some time after Goldy and Beauty were born, but before my divorce, I discovered that I was boring. I didn’t do anything worth talking about and I didn’t have anyone to tell even if I did do something noteworthy. It would be easy to blame my ex-husband because he did instigate my isolation but it wasn’t intentional and I let it happen even though I know better. Lucky for me, he still had friends and one of his friends was still into girls (that is a whole different blog for another day) and he brought over my future best friend, H-Bomb.

It’s amazing what one person listening can do for your self esteem. My Ex had forgotten who I was before I became overwhelmed with parenting and house work. It wasn’t entirely his fault, though, I stopped reminding him. I suddenly understood all possible meanings of the phrase, “I need to find myself,” which I had always thought was complete hocum. How do you lose yourself? Now I know how very easy it is to lose track of yourself. Hint: You will not find yourself at the bottom of a pile of laundry.

No matter how deep the pile, you will not find yourself at the bottom.

Having someone to listen again made me want something to talk about. I didn’t want all of my fun stories to be about the past. I wanted to read books that weren’t by Mercer Mayer and go places that weren’t family friendly. I wanted to put on lipstick, not chapstick and paint my own nails, not my daughters’. I wanted my own life.

If any of this sounds familiar or you are nodding your head then you are the one I’m writing for. You need support. You need a friend to listen. And you need to know that it is okay to be a parent and your own person. It’s not only okay to have a life outside of your children, it is necessary to be a good a parent. You cannot be your best self if you are only focused on your children. You need a hobby. You need a night out. You need a shower. No really, you need a shower.

I often hear new moms say, “I don’t even have time for a shower!” I feel your pain, I do. Put the baby down and go take a quick shower. Yes, he might cry and you might feel guilty but when you are done you are going to feel so good.  Babies sense your stress and discomfort. They also sense your peace and happiness. Be at peace, be happy. It will be easier to get him to latch on or fall asleep if you are not a sweaty ball of nerves. This gets harder as the kids get older. Cages are frowned upon so you will need a good support system, but you not only deserve it, you need it.

These are not my kids. Do not call CPS.

We went out last weekend on Little S’ birthday. Without him. We spent all day with the kids and then took him to Grandma’s house after dinner. We have karaoke every Saturday at The Bar and our karaoke jockey was having a birthday party. We’ve only owned The New Bar for 6 months so it is important to be present, to meet people, to interact. We also had friends playing in bands on the other side of town. The Barkeep helped set up one of our friends, an old local music connection of mine,  on the bill at the last minute, so we wanted to see the show. I met a fellow at The Bar that night that asked about my kids. When I told him it was my youngest baby’s first birthday he told me I should be at home. Now, you might agree, but I want you to flip the phrase around in your head awhile and ask yourself why I needed to be home with a sleeping baby on a Saturday night when I had so many other options and a trusted babysitter. In case he wakes up and wonders why his Mommy went out on his birthday? This is your first baby, isn’t it?

People might make you feel guilty about pursuing your own interests. You might make yourself feel guilty. Consider this, it is our job to model the behavior we want to see in our children. We cannot raise well rounded people if we feel like half the person we used to be. We cannot encourage them to cultivate their talents and nurture their ideas if we are ignoring our own. We can’t teach them to explore hobbies if we don’t have any of our own. Humans have an actual need to share and enjoy themselves.Why do you think Sims have a social meter and an aspirations meter? They are based on us! (And now you know one of my hobbies…) Our children need us to remember that we are all people, too. Our children deserve to be raised by well rounded individuals.

If none of this convinces you then I have one last thought, a question actually. Think of your child’s favorite activity. Goldy likes writing. Beauty likes fashion. Sharkboy likes constructing. The jury is still out on Little S, he seems to enjoy dancing and eating. What does your child enjoy? Do you do your best to encourage that hobby, take her to lessons, buy the necessary tools and praise liberally? Do you want him to give it up for anyone, ever? Or do you want him to continue building on that interest and learning new ones as he grows?

At the core of everything we want for our children is the same basic premise. We want them to be happy. Se ta good example for your children and remember, your parents wanted you to be happy. Don’t let them down.

On The Road Again

I wanted to write a couple of informative and useful pieces about surviving our road trip and camping with small children but I have been kind of busy preparing for and cleaning up after each trip so it probably isn’t going to happen. I never claimed to be responsible or informative. Look anywhere on any bio I have written, you’ll see.

We did survive both trips but possibly only because they were short. We stopped at the biggest truck stop in the world and posed for pictures in semi trucks, mostly for Sharkboy’s benefit.  Little S had his first of many outdoor, roadside diaper changes. We saw the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile as we crossed the state line and a quick Facebook poll confirmed that was, in fact, a fortunate sign. My cousin’s wedding was beautiful. It was outside on a perfect day at a ski resort. The boys displayed excellent behavior right up until dinner time when they started getting hungry and restless. Note to self: Bring more snacks. Little S heaved milk all over The Barkeep so we left shortly after the cutting of the cake. We went back to our hotel, changed into pajamas and comfortable, non-barfed on clothes, and went out for ice cream.

Seeing the Wienermobile as you cross the state line is either a sign of good fortune or that the Wienermobile is just leaving the state you are entering.

In the morning we visited local caves, which amused my mom since she clearly remembered my intense hatred of caves. I did not remember until we were about to start our journey into the earth and then it came rushing back that I was terrified of cramped, dark spaces and slippery stairs over hot lava. She swears she did not take me in a hot lava cave, ever, but I still see it in my mind and I was suddenly positive we would have to carry the boys over hot lava on slippery steps so I started getting a little sick. Then I realized getting the boys over hot lava would be nothing compared to trying to drag Beauty over it. We might have to sedate her. My children are amazingly strong willed. It will fare well for them in many situations, but not all.

the reality of co-sleeping in a hotel

There was no hot lava, though, just a lot of cave bacon and humidity. It was a good time right up until it wasn’t anymore, which was right about the time Sharkboy pooped. There is nowhere to change a diaper in a well preserved cave and this one was awful. It was obviously painful and he was getting more and more agitated as we walked. The last 5 minutes before being released into daylight he just cried. We changed him immediately and his mood changed just as quickly. Everyone had fun excavating rocks and fossils in the giant sandboxes outside of the cave, especially the girls, and Little S showed his first signs of being a collector. He found a crystal and held on to it almost the entire time we were there. When he did drop it he would dig until he found the right one again. I ended up buying it for him because I’m a sucker.

You know how you look back on a trip and remember one defining moment? I will always remember this trip as “the time Sharkboy started yelling in the restaurant that his butt hurt” and I will laugh every single time even though the poor kid was definitely in pain. My kids almost never get diaper rash and when they do I just use coconut oil and it clears right up, but this one was terrible. We went to Wal Mart and investigated every single kind of ointment and cream. They were pretty much all variations of the same thing. Zinc Oxide in varying percentages. I finally settled on Desitin Maximum Strength because it was 40%, the highest by far. I can’t stand the smell of Desitin but I also can’t stand my baby boy crying and being miserable, especially on vacation. The girls helped me change diapers and we were on the road again in no time.

I will probably always remember this camping trip as “the time Grandma drank vodka lemonade straight from the jug” but our camping trips tend to blend together because they are always in the exact same spot, usually on the exact same weekend, Father’s Day. I suppose it might also be recalled as Little S’ first camping trip, but no, Grandma drank vodka lemonade straight from a jug. You don’t forget that.

My whole family camps together one weekend every summer. We take over a big oval of land right by a small playground with our tents and kids and coolers. Friends are welcome to join us and they do. The lake has paddle boats, a beach and a skating rink. We have been camping there since I was a kid, before they had showers and toilets that flush. Maybe that is why I am so good at peeing outside. (Not to brag but my sister in law and I have shirts that say, “been there, done that, peed on it”.) There are still only 2 modern bathrooms in central areas so I still do a lot of peeing outdoors. I am not a fan of outhouses. We missed the rain and brought the sunshine this year. No one cried that their butt hurt, no one threw up watermelon and no one got a fish hook in their foot. I call that a successful trip. My brothers and their friends took the older kids skating after drinking all day, the grown ups, not the big kids, and there was a lot of good material there if you want to hear about straight, grown men holding hands or falling on their asses. No? Okay, just know that it was funny. Goldilocks got pretty far in the limbo considering she was skating under with her 6 year old cousin. Little S found another treasure he couldn’t let go of, this time it was a shell in the rocks at the playground. I saved it for him. A hoard has been born. Two, probably.

The Barkeep did not get a Get Out Of Jail Free Card for Father’s Day, unfortunately. We had a lot of teardown to do before we could go boating and play at the beach. He did get the Bear Grylls ultimate survivor knife that he hinted he wanted by saying, “I really want this,” and ladies, learn from that. men don’t use hints because they don’t get them. (That’s a generalization and I know it, so no angry messages, boys.) He also got a whole lot of ethically and locally grown pork. Noms.

Because we have enough steak.

I do have some advice. You know that wonderful campfire smell? It turns nasty the minute you get home. Be prepared to do laundry before you even sit down. That and a general  “be prepared” are my only nuggets of wisdom to pass on, though no matter how prepared you are something will happen you could never predict. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, raging diaper rash or heaved milk.

Aside

A Disclaimer For Morons

*giant sigh*

*even bigger eyeroll*

I shouldn’t have to write this, but here I am, writing it.

I work with other people’s children Monday through Friday. I don’t really drink while they are napping. They don’t even all nap. Monster Princess is 4 so she reads stories or watches a movie while the little ones sleep. Sometimes she sleeps, but I do not take that opportunity to get “shitfaced drunk while watching babies.”

I do sometimes drink while caring for my own children and I don’t really care what anyone else thinks about that. I will say, if you don’t know the difference between “drinking” and “getting shitfaced” then perhaps you are the one with a drinking problem.

*in case you didn't notice the carbonation or color, that's POP

Me. Eight months pregnant with Sharkbaby.*

I can, in fact, go a whole day without drinking. I went 9 months without drinking. FOUR TIMES. That is 3 years of not drinking, in case your math is as ridiculous as your grammar. I’m a social drinker, usually, but sometimes when The Barkeep and I are sitting in the sun or just watching a movie together I choose to call that a social activity and I have a drink or two. I can do that because I am the mother and I decide who drinks what around my kids.

My secret is out. I’m not throwing keg parties in the addition while the kids nap. I’m cleaning the kitchen or sitting on my ass writing a blog, wishing I had a drink, not because of the kids so much as all the morons.

Naptime IS for drinking, but who has time for that? If you have kids you drink when you can or not at all and either one is cool with me. Just keep your cup sniffing snout out of my business. Thankyouverymuch.

* In case you did not notice the color or carbonation, it’s Diet Pepsi, not wine.

How To Survive A Road Trip With Your Kids

Drink.

I’m kidding. I don’t drink nearly as much as I write about it. Shhh… that’s our secret.

Kids are portable. Never use them as an excuse not to go to the places you’ve pinned on Pinterest. That being said, hitting the road with a little one on board can be an overwhelming idea. We have not been out of town since Sharkboy was a Sharkbaby so Little S is about due for a trip. When SB was 4 months old we took a road trip across the southwest to visit my Grandma and attend The Barkeep’s friend’s wedding. We saw 10 states in 10 days. We could have flown but I am so glad we didn’t. In case my love of the movie Cars didn’t give it away, I love road trips. I don’t want to fly over anything, not even flyover states. I want to see everything that every state has to offer, from mountains and cactuses to lakes and fields to skylines and a Starbucks on every corner, and more importantly, I want my kids to see it all. Obviously, at 4 months old Sharkbaby didn’t retain much of what he saw but he can say he got his first tooth on the road and celebrated hisfirst St. Patrick’s Day by the mountains. Beauty and Goldy can tell stories about the creepy late night restaurant we stopped at the night we discovered SB’s tooth, the friendly gentleman in the Oklahoma gas station, the cow concert in Texas and their first trip to Vegas. We saw the Hoover dam but it was the middle of the night and there was construction holding up traffic. We witnessed nearly every way to pee in a desperate situation that you can imagine and one member of our group even had to pee in a plastic cup from a convenience store and dump it out, so we experienced a true road trip.

(Photo By Flickr user Idiolector)

We are scheduled to hit the road again next weekend, just a short drive to the next state over, but like I said, we haven’t been out of  state since the spring of 2010 because every single penny we make is going into the addition on our house and keeping our kids alive. That being said, we recently sold “The First Bar” in favor of one that actually generates an income, and I have been watching the Monster Princess for extra money, too. We have a wedding to attend and plan to turn it into a short weekend getaway for the family.

I can’t write about road trips, especially not this one, without telling you about a very special group of women who will, coincidentally, also be hitting the road next weekend. My love of road trips led me to a book that led me to a forum that led me to belonging to something special. I think everybody craves belonging, but maybe it is just me because I am a little weird and never seem to fit in any one group very well. This group, the Swirl, was almost entirely female, other than that we spanned every variety of everything; every political belief, every religious background, every sexual orientation, every stage of relationships, every level of education. Gay, straight, atheist, Jewish, Catholic, polygamist, happily married with children, childfree, socialist, right wing republican, slutty, prude… I can’t stress enough how diverse we are! The only thing we have in common is attitude, strong opinions with a strong desire to share them. That, and possibly a love of the open road, wanderlust, a desire to keep going. The Swirlers will be hitting the road by car, train and plane next weekend to meet up inWashington and I am insanely jealous but pleased that I will be travelling with my own family to enjoy a family celebration. I will be with my friends in spirit and can’t wait to hear about their trip.

On With The Planning!

First, and this is very important, own a Dodge Caravan with stow and go. Okay, it doesn’t have to be a Dodge Caravan, I hear there are other vehicles with stow and go, but the Caravan has the added benefit of a high safety rating, 7 seats, ease of moving around inside and doors that open and close with the key fob. If you are not familiar with stow and go you should check it out. There is space in the floor of the vehicle to stow the seat when you need to haul something, or, if you are hauling a whole family, there is space in the floor to stow your luggage. This frees the rest of the space in the car up for people, stuff to do and a cooler. Ours is also equipped with a DVD player, which I do not allow except on trips lasting more than an hour, and even then I’d prefer they just look out the damn window, but sometimes it comes in handy. I know a lot of people are like, “Minivans are for squares and parents,” but we are kind of squares because we don’t care if we look like parents. We are parents. I picked a vehicle that fit my needs and I will rave about it whenever I get a chance. We love it.

Packing The Van

Your overnight luggage goes in first, we keep ours in the floor compartment. For a long trip I would suggest packing a lot of items that can be mixed and matched to wear together so you can pack less. Bring layers that go nicely over all your outfits in case of bad weather. (I am working under the assumption, like me, you will never purposely travel to somewhere colder than where you already are. Because, why?) Don’t forget the BabyLegs! Not only are they great layers for the little ones but the whole family can use them as arm warmers.  I swear I’m not on their payroll. Remember to pack for comfort during drives. I understand you want to look good in vacation photos but no one looks good miserable. Comfort, then vanity. When I pack I make a list from head to toe. It looks something like this:

  • hair  products, blow dryer (the hotel dryers don’t cut it), comb, brush, hair bands
  • make up, face cleanser, eye makeup remover
  • toothbrush, paste, etc.
  • jewelry
  • body lotion, body wash
  • feminine hygiene products (even if it’s not expected, just in case)
  • clothes
  • shoes, walking shoes
  • plastic bags to store clothese once they are too dirty to rewear

Obviously this is an oversimplified list but you get the idea. I then repeat the process for the kids. Older kids like my teenagers can pack their own bag but I give them a list and ask  them to the point smart-mouthiness if they have certain items we can’t just purchase on the road, like their glasses.

Another item that gets packed first is the pack and play. If you are bringing a baby then definitely bring this staple. Some hotels claim they have portable cribs but they are often 20 years old and I wouldn’t even put my dog in one, if I had a dog. If it’s not good enough for my hypothetical dog it’s not good enough for your baby. Don’t forget Baby’s special blanket, stuffed animal or other lovey. We have a “ba” and two Scout puppies, one for each boy. Ba is Sharkboy’s blanket and he can sleep without it but he loves it.  The puppies say their names and sing lullabies we custom downloaded from the LeapFrog website. We play them every night and I think it is best to stick with a bedtime routine as much as possible on the road. After you have packed your luggage into the van and anything else you need for the overnight portion of your trip it is time to load up for the actual driving portion of your road trip.

Eating (and drinking!) On The Road

Reuse empty cartons of milk or juice as water bottles. You will need a lot of water, especially if you have a bottle fed baby on board. Bring them already full and remember to refill them any time you stop somewhere with water that you know is clean. Also refill your cooler with ice at these stops.

A few ideas for packing the cooler:

  • berries and grapes are already bite size,
  • raw veggies for dipping, we like sugar snap peas and carrots because they hold up longer
  • veggie dip
  • diced chicken breast and/or turkey breast
  • cheese cubes (obviously, always bring cheese)
  • squeezable yogurt – These can be frozen treats, too, as long as your cooler allows. Check the label, some of these are almost all sugar, no one wants that on a car trip.
  • Bacardi

That list is far from all inclusive, I just covered the basic food groups like protein, fruits, veggies and rum.

Other food to pack:

  • trail mix – Don’t buy it, customize your own with your family’s favorite stuff. Some possibilities are nuts (packed with good fat, protein and fiber!), whole grain cereals and dried fruits. You may want to put a little container of chocolate chips in the cooler to throw in the mix right before you eat it. Don’t store them in there or you will have chocolate covered nuts and berries. Yummy but messy.
  • squeezable fruits and vegetables – These are often found in the baby aisle and you have to check the labels to make sure you are getting the good ones, but when you find them you have hit the convenience food jackpot.
  • baked crackers – Goldfish come in a variety of flavors and they smile back.

Bring inexpensive containers to use as dishes, the kind you buy to send leftover holiday food home. You can also find inexpensive take and toss dishes in the children’s food aisle at most stores. This way you can wash and reuse it (not just on this trip, but in the future, too) and you won’t miss it if it gets lost or too soiled to pleasantly continue the trip with you. I pack our dishes with the non-perishable food items and reuse a plastic bag from the grocery store to hold the used ones. They can be washed in any sink if you also pack a travel size dish soap.

You will want to try to keep the kids drinking as much water as possible but when that fails dilute their juice. Sharkboy has only had “straight” juice a few times at restaurants and he looks like he just snorted a line of Pixie sticks afterwards.

Assuming you are not driving for awhile you’re going to need to dilute your rum, too. I recommend Diet Pepsi even though this poses one major problem. You’re going to need to pee. A lot. So don’t forget to pack toilet paper in your emergency kit. (More on that soon.) It is very likely that you will need to pee more than anyone else if you’re drinking. That is the great thing about bringing kids, they need to get out of their seats often so you always have an excuse to stop and pee.

**I recommend researching your route before you leave. Find cool, offbeat restaurants for the nights you choose to stop and eat. Map out interesting local attractions for short breaks. Have a picnic at a local park. I want my family to experience the culture of the area we are visiting, not just drive past unaware of the difference. Every stop should reflect that desire, even a quick bathroom break, if possible. If you must pee on the side of the road use it as a teaching opportunity for your children. There is an art to peeing while standing if you are a female and it’s about time your daughter’s learned about it. Speaking of bathroom breaks… **

Adventures In Diaper Changing

When Sharkboy was just a Sharkbaby I changed his diaper on the bathroom floor of a dirty roadside convenience store. Now that I have to drag so many little ones outside to play everyday it has occurred to me it is much nicer to lay down a blanket and change them in the grass. You might get strange looks from other customers but its better than laying your baby down next to a dead cockroach. I always carry anti-bac in case we need to make a change or use the restroom somewhere that does not provide soap or running water. If you are near a town or city and are not planning a fun roadside stop at an attraction, restaurant or museum then look for Target or another family friendly store that will have clean, well supplied restrooms with a changing table.

Sharkbaby showing off his roadtrip outfit during a quick bathroom floor diaper change at Casey’s General Store

For older kids that can read and write start a journal. On each page ask a question about the trip and let each child answer it themselves when they get bored of looking out the window or if they start to fight. Ask about the weather, the most interesting thing they have seen so far or what they are looking forward to. Write down any memorable quotes from your trip and later add photos of silly things you saw and did on the road.  Encourage everyone to be part of journaling.

We play two different alphabet games, depending on what kind of road we are on. In town we like to search for the letters of the alphabet in order. Whoever gets to Z first wins. We just shout out A in Wal-Mart, B in Dress Barn, etc. On the interstate where signs are sparse we play as a group and search for things around us that start with each letter. A for airplane, B for birds, sometimes you have to get really creative. We do allow the use of actual letters for some of the trickier ones, like the X in an exit sign.

Another fun game is the scavenger hunt. Write (or draw for little ones) a list of things to find on your trip and check them off as you go. For example, on our trip across the SW some of the things we searched for included a cactus, an Elvis impersonator, and a pink semi. This can be fun if you include some socializing possibilities, such as, an “authentic” farmer. Dare your kid to ask the guy in bib overalls if he does, in fact, work on a farm. Be polite and have fun meeting people on the road. Be safe, obviously.

I recommend bring a wrap, slung or other carrier for your trip, as well. We first used an inexpensive Snugli and jeep brand carrier. Both work well for us but I was later told they’re not the best for little boys and legs. I just ordered a mei tai for Little S that I can’t wait to try out.  Sharkboy is just under the weight limit if he needs a rest. We have a wonderful double stroller but it is bulky. An umberella stroller is an alternative if you’re not into babywearing, but give it a try, you might be!

My whole family, pre-Little S, perched on the chasm of doom known as The Grand Canyon. The Barkeep is wearing Sharkbaby in a carrier.

**Pick up a map at a rest stop and teach your children how to use it. Talk about the symbols, show them the legend, teach them how to calculate distance. Encourage them, to help watch for your next turn. These skills are becoming obsolete in the era of GPS and smart phones but education trumps technology. Your mind never runs out of batteries or gets lost at a rest stop, not literally anyway.**

Timing Is Everything

If possible, start your trip in the evening so the kids can sleep through their own state that they are already familiar with. Try to plan stops at attractions and parks for the time that little ones are usually awake and let them sleep during their normal naptime. (This may be a good time for a movie?) Try to keep meals at their routine times. This will help eliminate a lot of crankiness.

Links 

http://www.roadsideamerica.com/

http://www.roadtripamerica.com/

http://www.sillyamerica.com/index.html

And Don’t Forget

  • Your  badass hat and sunglasses! No matter how greasy your hair gets gets and no matter how dark the circles under your eyes are you can still look      fabulous in your Supermom disguise!
  • A camera. Maybe one for the kids.
  • Your  towel.

A very special thank you to all the Swirlers but especially these few for helping me with this blog: Exclamation, GypsySpice, Roxeigh, TIGRRRSEYE

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Mind Your Pints And Quarts

Historians can’t agree on the origin of the phrase “Mind your Ps and Qs” but I like the one that suggests they are referring to pints and quarts in the pub. The bartender would holler out for a rowdy crowd to mind their Ps and Qs. Don’t be a bunch of jerks. Use your manners.

Maybe it’s because I work with young children who are not prone to listening all day, or because my teenagers come home and use up what little patience I have left, but I have very little tolerance for adults who do not use their manners and even less restraint when they are blatantly rude. I am so appreciative to the parents I work with because sometimes the few minutes we converse at drop off and pick up are my only reminder that I deserve to be listened to, not because I am asserting my authority, but because I am interesting. I deserve and engaging conversation because I am an engaging person.

I don’t want to give you the impression I spend the day with naughty kids, but I spend the day with two 2 year olds, so I’m not going to try to convince you that this is easy. It is a constant challenge to remind them that there are expectations and rules and consequences for their behavior.

An actual conversation from yesterday:

Me: The couch is for your bottom, feet go on the floor.

Sharkboy: *jump jump jump*

Me: Your bottom goes on the couch.

SB: I can’t want to sit my bottom.

Me: The rule is, feet go on the floor.

SB: I can’t want the rule.

And today:

Me: It’s time to go in.

SB: I can’t want to go in,

Me: We are going in.

SB: I can’t want to go in.

Repeat until exhausted. Not really. I just go in and he follows me because after two and a half years he knows I am not, in fact, going to wear myself out playing two year old games. With anyone.

So, my patience level wass about topped off when speaking with Oldest Daughter’s school. (I’m still working on clever nicknames for everyone, sorry.) I have no idea who they transferred me to. I know her name but not what her function is or exactly why I’m being redirected to her office. She answers her office phone, “Hello?”

I’ve worked in an office. I answered the phone with the name of the business and my name so often that I sometimes said the whole spiel in my sleep.

Me: Er, hello, is this Mrs. Bungleface?

MBF: Yes.

(This is where her boss should shoot her a look for not saying, “How may I help you?” I can only assume Bungleface works in a void with no boss and no pleasantries.)

Me: I was calling about a discrepancy in my daughter’s attendance report.

MBF: Ok.

(Long pause as I wait for her to confirm I am on the phone with someone who can help me. I was not.)

Me: *explain issue* *ask question*

MBF: I can’t fix that.

Me: Oh. Can you…

MBF: If you would have called a week ago maybe.

Me: Oh. Sorry. Then can…

MBF: But nothing can be done now.

Me: You can’t even…

MBF: No.

(I wish I were kidding, but I’m not.)

Me: *too quickly and much too loudly* Youcan’tevenanswermyquestion?

MBF: Which question? No.

Maybe I just got punked. Some random teenager just happened to be in Mrs. Bungleface’s office waiting for her return and decided to answer the phone. That would explain the unruly teenager type talk we had. It wasn’t that awful, I haven’t gotten to awful yet, but it certainly wasn’t professional.

When I was 20 I was promoted to a quality control position in a carpet cleaning business I had just joined and knew nothing about. I knew nothing about our products, our services or quality control. I knew I was a young mother who needed a job and could not turn down a promotion. After two weeks of training, mostly on the telephone, answering calls from irate customers, I was given a raise. No one else wanted to talk to these people and it turned out I was well suited for it. The complaints didn’t offend me because they were not about me or my services and I could knock any call out in about 5 minutes with my bag of tricks. I’m going to share my secret with you now.

Manners.

Please, thank you and the ultimate get down to business and get off the phone conversation ender, “How may I help you?” Now, in troubled times, like say the carpet cleaner kicked a poodle when he though the owner wasn’t looking, I had to pull out, “What can I do to make this better for you?” Which is the same thing but it sounds more serious. Commit that line to memory. Make it a habit. Next time someone is in your face about something simply ask, “What would you like done about this?” Most of the time you will find they just wanted to bitch about it for awhile.

This brings me to Ms. Awful. I called her to return some tiny doll sized swim diapers I bought for my normal sized children.

Me: Hi, I am calling about the email form I was asked to fill out for returning these diapers. Your return policy does not indicate that I must make an even exchange but that seems to be the only option on the form.

MA: Uh huh. I know.

Me: So, what do I do to get my money back?”

MA: If there wasn’t nothin’ wrong with ’em you can’t get your money back, you have to just send ’em over for a new pair the exact same.

Me: Well neither of these pairs fit and the bigger sizes don’t come in the same print so I…

MA: Now you just hush and wait. Too small ain’t our fault so the policy says if there’s nothing wrong you need to exchange them.

Me: The policy I was sent in an email after I requested help returning them indicates they must be exchanged, your return policy, though…

MA: I know what our return policy is, I work here.

The whole conversation went pretty much the same until I asked to be connected to a supervisor who was quite helpful. You can argue that this isn’t about manners, but rather poor business practice, and I would have to agree, but I think manners are a part of sensible business.

I try not to judge people based on their fashion sense or lack thereof, even if they are wearing black socks with tennis shoes and shorts. I try to ignore weird habits, close talking, bad breath and many of the other small indicators we often use to pre-judge one another, but I can’t go around just automatically liking everyone. I used to do that and it got exhausting. I need some indication of who is worth getting to know and who should remain a  friend of a friend.

Manners.

Good people have good manners. I know it’s not really that simple but… yes it is. Say please and thank you, don’t interrupt, chew with your mouth closed and hold the door open, for everyone, not just women and the elderly but especially mothers with a load of children and groceries and the elderly. Listen and respond. Take turns. Share. Cover your mouth when you yawn or sneeze and say excuse me if you burp or bump into someone. All of these things indicate to me that you have a sense of decency and the ability to form good habits and interact in society. If you can’t handle that, I don’t want to share my pints and quarts with you.