Family vacations are always a mix of pure joy and total exhaustion. Children don’t acclimate to new settings as quickly as adults so their reactions to pretty much everything are usually a little over the top. They are like little ping pong balls bouncing back and forth between bliss and terror. My mini-me is usually on the verge of wetting her pants with excitement or trying to find a safe place because the sky is falling. Also, once she is excited, there is very little slowing her down. She is like a tiny energizer bunny. Unfortunately, her recovery time from a walk into terror town is of similar length.
We took a trip down to Florida last month to test out the latest Harry Potter ride at Universal. This was not exactly the trip we were planning to take at the end of June, or really at all, but it happened. We had gone to Universal during Easter break and somehow when I planned the trip back in March, I bought two sets of tickets to the theme parks. This sounds ridiculous unless you know me. I buy duplicates of things all the time. In fact, I realized on this trip that I had packed a pair of shorts with a tag still on them that I had worn several times since May. I had not actually been wearing the pair with the tag on them, I had been sporting this pair’s doppelganger for a month prior to buying the shorts I took on vacation. I usually pretend that I intentionally bought duplicates because of my undying affection for whatever the item is, but this tactic was not a good one in the case of the duplicate tickets. I had to fess up that I accidentally bought two sets of tickets whilst confused about how many days and how many parks we planned on visiting. Needless to say, my husband was not thrilled about this trip but mini-me was over the moon, especially since a new ride had opened just two weeks before our arrival.
During our flight down to Orlando, my daughter talked of nothing other than the timing of our riding the new ride, where she most wanted to sit and how many times we should fly through the air strapped onto a metal track during our stay. She vacillated between titillation and crippling fear for the three hour trek. She loves all things Harry Potter but is nervous about roller coasters, so there was much ambivalence. She had watched several YouTube videos of the ride which were apparently replaying on the screen in her brain repeatedly.
Once we arrived, we could hardly hold her back while we checked into the hotel and grabbed lunch. As we headed toward the park (by foot since it was faster than the water taxi), she skipped ahead of us calling back for us to hurry up. When I finally barked at her to slow down and settle down she turned to me and said very earnestly “I know, having kids is hard. Maybe you two shouldn’t have gotten married.” Just like that – mom, these are the consequence of your actions, live with them. She stroked my arm while saying this, the same way I have touched her while doling out a punishment for the last several years. I couldn’t help but laugh. Proud of herself, she skipped off ahead of us again.
My husband and I spent the rest of the vacation blaming every minor disappointment on our marriage. Everything from long lines to the rain that arrived halfway through our third day was the result of our nuptials. Apparently the butterfly effect of all things can be traced back to our wedding fifteen years ago, even the decision for overweight women to wear short shorts. Who knew?! Luckily, the same rules applied to all things that went right. Riding the front car of the new roller coaster wasn’t luck, it was the direct result of my saying “I do” in 2004. If not for our marriage, the ride probably wouldn’t even exist. If nothing else, the recurring joke saved us our sanity while fighting crowds in the sweltering heat.
By the final night of our trip, my family was literally falling asleep at dinner. The fact that the seating at the restaurant was groups of couches did not help. We fought the sleepiness long enough to inhale some sushi before collapsing into our beds. My child’s sudden narcolepsy was of course blamed on her parents’ marriage. I had to point out that this was probably the most accurate assessment of the entire trip. This crew really does wear me out!
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I know one thing to be true. Just when you are convinced your child is a genius, they will do something to completely shatter that belief. The universe has a way of keeping the perceptions of parents in check and it usually involves shaking the pedestal they are standing on after their child does something wonderful.
Over the weekend we attended a church service where my eight year old daughter read the prayers of the faithful. It was a long reading with a lot of unfamiliar words, but she nailed it. She did such a fantastic job that the priest actually paused afterward to commend her. He said she should be a public speaker based on the job she did. I was especially impressed since it was an emotional time for her considering it was her great grandmother’s memorial mass. We had debated even letting her do the reading, taking into consideration her emotions might get the best of her. But she hit it out of the park. I am still receiving compliments about it.
Four hours later, while still basking in the glory of the accolades from my little superstar’s performance, I got a call to come home from the gym immediately. I could hear my little mini-me sobbing in the background that she was afraid she was dying. My husband was trying to comfort her while simultaneously addressing my question of “what the hell is going on?” and quickly losing the battle. He finally blurted out “she ate a LEGO!” and “settle down, you’re not going to die!” all in the same breath.
As I was walking to the parking lot, I received a photo of the LEGO piece she ingested. It was a tiny little tube, about the length of a fingernail. I gave up my frantic internet search after realizing the giant LEGO block I pictured lodged in her esophagus was not the situation we had at all. I did notice that the list of search results all noted toddlers swallowing foreign objects. There was no mention of nobel prize winners, mensa members or ivy league college graduates shoving pieces of plastic down their throats. No wonder I thought that my days of telling my child to keep foreign objects out of her mouth were over – it is apparently a common problem for toddlers.
I’m thoroughly convinced this was my fault. I’m pretty sure my child picked up my proud vibes radiating from five miles away and decided I might be setting the bar a little too high for future expectations. She decided my mommy pedestal needed a good shaking and promptly inhaled the smallest LEGO she could find. Maybe she really is a genius after all. A lazy, evil genius!
**I wrote this while listening to
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My Dad presented me with a coupon book I gave him as a gift thirty years ago. I was thinking how cute it was that I made him a handmade gift as a teenager and laughing at all of the items I included when I realized that what I forgot to include was an expiration date. None of the coupons had dates on them which meant that they were still valid. Oh shit.
The coupons include things like “One Free Control of the Clicker Sunday” and “One Free Assist in Car Repair”. All of the coupons are things my Dad often asked me to do or needed help with. The fact that I used the word “free” on the coupons implies that I tried to charge him for my assistance on most occasions. I have to admit, I asked for cash frequently, mostly while he was dozing on the couch.
The funniest part of these coupons is the fine print. Each coupon includes a description or exclusion. Some of the descriptions are apparently meant to entice. The “One Free Fix This Before Mom Sees Cover Up” option says “this will come in handy next time you spill some paint on her new carpet” which he had actually done. And I had actually helped him cover it up before my Mom saw. I am a bleaching genius.
Some of the other fine print includes exclusions like on the “One Free Trip to Home Depot” which states “lunch not included!” I mean seriously, hardware store hot dogs? No thanks. I was also only available or willing to rub his feet on Sunday evenings during our favorite television shows because the fine print on the foot rub coupon lists four television shows it could be redeemed during. Unfortunately for me all of these shows are currently still available on demand. I clearly was not thinking ahead at sixteen. I was, however, smart enough to know that I should probably at least be entertained while I rubbed the Old Man’s feet. Being a masseuse while having to watch something like golf or baseball would have been torture.
I confiscated the coupon book before leaving their house yesterday. In all fairness, my Dad had literally used three of the coupons in the hour I was there. I do feel like it would be a waste for him not to get to use the rest though. I guess I am going to have a busy day this Sunday rubbing feet, fixing cars, shopping for gifts for my Mom and possibly going to jail. I noticed that the “Get Out of Jail Free” coupon says I will take the blame for any screw up with my Mom as long as it isn’t a felony. I didn’t mention anything about misdemeanors. I really was not thinking these things through at sixteen. It’s not like I hadn’t experienced a misdemeanor by then!
It’s also possible that we will all spend the day in the hospital if he cashes in the “Free Breakfast”” coupon. I think there is a reason this particular coupon was never used. I may have included that coupon as a joke considering I didn’t even know how to cook a pork chop. Also, why would anyone want a pork chop for breakfast?
My Dad has been having fun threatening to use coupons all day. I keep coming up with exclusions but I have a feeling I will run out of reasoning at precisely the wrong time. I already told him that the home repair coupon only covers jobs within the four walls of their main home. I could sense him handing it to me and demanding I renovate the bathroom at the lake house. My services are similar to homeowner’s insurance coverage, very limited and mostly useless.
Who would have thought that a homemade gift from the eighties would be the gift that keeps on giving. Somehow I think the Old Man is going to get months, if not years of fun out of these, holding them over my head. Luckily I was not very ambitious at the age of sixteen and there are less than a dozen coupons available. With the way my Dad digs a hole when it comes to angering my Mom, he could be down to only a few coupons by the end of the week!
**I wrote this blog while listening to the Descendents. Something about that band brings out my inner sixteen year old brat!
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A few months ago, my daughter was playing catch with her Dad when she accidentally nailed him in between the legs with the ball. Apparently she throws like her mother. She immediately said “Daddy, I’m sorry I hit you in the privates!” As he bent over in pain she continued talking rapidly. “Last week one of the boys in the fourth grade got hit in his privates. He bent over too. Then one of the girls said her Dad calls his privates the wall of gems. Or maybe it was the dangling jewel. Or the family dangler. No, no, it was the family jewels. Why would he call it that?”
I had no words. This rarely happens to me, but I was truly speechless. Part of it was that I was laughing so hard, I couldn’t have answered if I tried, but I also had no answer to this question. It’s not that I hadn’t heard the term before, I just never gave much thought to where it originated from. I also had a strange image in my head of a giant wall of penises since the term “wall of gems” came out of her mouth. My brain was slowly melting.
Before I became a mother I knew there would be many, many questions tossed my way from my child that I would be ill equipped to answer. This was not even in the same zip code as that list of questions. I expected to google “types of clouds”, “books about poop” and “new math” but never did I expect to perform an online search for the origins of slang for penis. And let me tell you, it’s a search I never want to perform again. It was similar to the time I searched “Tinkerbell” only to find it was an incredibly popular name for women in the adult entertainment industry.
By now everyone knows that there are certain things you shouldn’t talk about in front of your children. Don’t talk about what a cranky old man the neighbor is if you don’t want him to know you think he’s a cranky old man. Don’t drop an F-bomb unless you want your kid doing it loudly in the middle of Target. And don’t talk about your poor self-image if you want your kids to grow up feeling confident about themselves. I would like to add to this list, please, do not use old man slang in front of your kids. They don’t know what these strange terms from the 1940s mean and they are definitely going to ask for clarification.
Fortunately my daughter only used the term “family jewels” for about a week. Unfortunately, a few weeks after giving up the phrase she received a ball to the crotch and was so distraught that she screamed “Ouch! My penis!” It only took her a minute to realize what she said and laugh but I think she might have my tendency to scream inappropriate things while in distress. It’s like a form of stress induced Tourettes. I’m expecting the next time she is injured I will hear a thundering “wall of gems!!”
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Life would be easier if everyone would just do what I tell them to. When my family and friends are acting exactly as I want them to, things run smoothly. It’s when my cast goes off script that the wheels come off the wagon.
I am a recovering control freak. It’s a condition I have been afflicted with my entire life. I think everyone is born with it. I mean babies are the biggest control freaks on the planet. They want what they want, when they want it and they are going to scream and cry until they get it. Some of us just never outgrow that phase of life I guess. I am one of those people. Although now I don’t scream and cry to get my way – I usually just give a stern look or manipulate the crap out of the situation. I can also argue my point for hours and wear my opponent down if need be.
I didn’t even realize what a control freak I was until a few years ago. People just always kind of did what I asked of them for most of my life. I think this is the way with a lot of control freaks. I knew I was a pain in the ass, I just wasn’t sure why. Now that I know I have an issue, I try to step away from the controls. The problem is it’s like having your hands on a marionette and then expecting the strings to move by themselves when you let go.
My first family vacation in control freak recovery was a tough one. Instead of getting prime seats by the pool, we sat a few rows back. We ended up eating lunch at a restaurant that I didn’t have the menu memorized so I had no idea what to order and a storm blew through while we were still outside. I blamed that storm on my letting go of the wheel – like I could control nature! Things just didn’t move as quickly because everyone was standing around waiting for me to bark orders. If the rest of my family had known I was trying to step away from the wheel, it would have been fine.
Things have become easier now that my family knows I am trying to let go a little. Sure my kid goes grocery shopping in a costume and we show up late to almost everything, but nobody has lost a limb yet and I haven’t given myself high blood pressure. I do still pick the restaurants most of the time, organize events and do most of the driving – even other people’s cars. But believe me when I say I am A LOT better than I used to be. What can I say, I’m a work in progress.
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