Thursday, July 30, 2015

Low Standards

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Hey, mom, how’d you sleep?  I’m still tired.  Can I nurse more?


I didn’t sleep.  You used me as a pacifier all night.  When I tried to un-latch you and put you in your own bed, you screamed.  I decided that dozing with you attached to my breasts was better than screaming.  I have no more milk to give you, and besides, it’s time for work.


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Gee, you sound sort of annoyed.


Honey, it’s been a long week.  I’m driving a car that’s not mine, it’s over 80 degrees and our house is an inferno, and the dog has shed so much, my ice cream has fur.  Plus, you might have noticed that your dad is gone, so I have had no adult help with you and your brother and the house this week.


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Here, have some cantaloupe.


No, thanks, babe.  You keep it. 

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Okay, then, but you’re missing out.  Besides, I’ve noticed that you’re not so into cooking this week.  If you skip this cantaloupe, you might be limited to nachos and pancakes until you can find the energy to shop again.


Excuse me?  Am I not keeping you alive in this murderous heat, under less-than-ideal circumstances, and without the help of your father?

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Sheesh, don’t be so touchy.  I only meant that you seem a bit lazy these days.  Here, have some baby corn (snort!).


Ha ha, very funny.  For your information, I’m exhausted, I had to do all the cleanup after we went camping, I broke our second vehicle after our first went kablooie and has been out of commission for a month, and it’s TOUGH to cook for one adult, one four-year-old, and one baby.  I think I’m managing just FINE, thank you, and there’s nothing lazy about it.  You have clean clothing, don’t you?


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Mom, I’m just saying that things are starting to slip, is all.  I still love you.  And I’m still cute, which allows you to forgive a multitude of sins.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for bed.  Where are you going to sleep?


Sigh.  I have no idea.

Monday, July 27, 2015

I Have A Black Thumb, But with Cars

camping 1

Do you know what’s not a good idea?  Taking a baby in a white shirt camping.  Ask me how I know.


Over the past month, I have driven five different cars.  Not like, test driven, but driven around, kids in the back, running errands, living my life.  First, our van broke.  The repair has taken FOREVER, but it might be (fingers crossed) that Toyota will pay for the whole job (including valve replacement and cam shaft something-or-another, I have no idea what all those words mean, but they are expensive words), so that’s lucky.  After my van broke down, I drove my parents’ Suburban for awhile, until they needed it to pull their camp trailer, so I swapped for my mom’s Mini Cooper.  My parents live 230 miles away, so car swaps are not easy for anyone, but it sure beats having to rent a car.


Then I drove Tony’s truck this weekend, though it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll ever let me drive it again.  Not that it’s MY fault that these things happen to cars I drive, just that I have the misfortune of being the driver when shit happens.  Case in point: When I was 17 years old, my boyfriend at the time (one of those great mistakes on a long list of many that helped me know what a fantastic catch Tony was) totaled my first car, so I had to drive my parents’ original Suburban (they had a 1986 model and now a 2001 model) for a few months to get myself and Leland to and from school and work and extra-curriculars.  After I had driven it for a couple of months, I told my dad that I was sure something was wrong with the engine; the truck sounded so loud and weird and was starting to smell (more than just over-perfumed teenagers with poorly-managed B.O., too).  Dad didn’t believe me.  He totally brushed me off.  So I told mom, and she drove it, confirmed that something wasn’t right, and crawled under the truck, at which point she noted that the entire exhaust system had rusted out.  My dad was livid – it’s no fun to be facing a multi-thousand dollar car repair after your daughter’s idiot boyfriend just caused the complete loss of another car in your fleet – but obviously it wasn’t my fault.  The injury had happened over years of driving it in the salt air.  To this day, though, he’ll say things like, “You only drove that truck for three months, but you rusted out the ENTIRE exhaust system!”  I think he’s mostly joking now.


Anyhow, I packed the three kids and the dog in Tony’s Dodge Ram pickup on Friday morning and headed south.  We stopped at the kennel in Stanwood to drop off Buster and his cloud of fur (seriously, he’s like Pigpen from Peanuts, only with fur, not dirt) and proceeded to wend our way through terrible traffic toward Olympia.  It used to be that we could leave early and blaze through Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, JBLM, and Olympia at or near 60 miles per hour, but not anymore.  In the last year or more, EVERY trip hits a slowdown in each of those cities/areas along I5, JBLM being the WORST.  So yeah, when we FINALLY made it to Tacoma, it was time to stop and have some late lunch.  Really late.  My poor, hungry boys were almost eating their own arms.


After lunch, we drove for another hour to Millersylvania State Park, where my family reunion has been held for the past several years.  Just as I pulled up to the ranger station, the engine (the big, burly diesel engine that makes me feel like a total fraud driving it – shouldn’t I have a sleeve tattoo or a gun rack or something?) started making this whap-whap-whap-whap-whap noise and smelling a little burn-y.  Not cool.  I drove to our campsite, turned the engine off, and was immediately greeted by a fellow camper smoking a giant cigar and drinking a beer (he’s the type of guy who should drive this truck) who said, “Sounds like you’ve got something stuck around your fan.”  Sure enough, the serpentine belt had split and half of it was wrapped around the fan.  Tony brought the appropriate part and tools and then he fixed it.  No big deal, I guess.


camping 2  Jamie the gearhead helped.

Then we camped.  The kids got dirtier than they’ve ever been, ever.  We ate, we hung out with family, it was great, and then it was time to leave.  Tony and Charles headed south with my parents for a week of fishing, while Freddie, Jamie, and I headed north in Tony’s truck.  Of course, I was immediately snarled up in terrible traffic.  The baby started screaming, Jamie fell asleep, and I began to dread the loooong drive home.  Maybe, I thought, we’ll be able to make it all the way to the Fife rest area before stopping.  Hahahaha!  I should know better than to tempt fate, because that’s just when I noticed the temperature gauge on the truck: it was pegged all the way to the right, a clear indication that something was WRONG.


I pulled over and killed the engine.  I was still on the freeway, but within sight of an exit ramp.  Still, I didn’t want to exit without at least cooling the engine a bit.  I popped the massive hood and couldn’t see anything wrong – there was no steam, no fire, all the liquid reservoirs were full.  Some young guys pulled over and checked to see if I was okay, but they couldn’t offer much help.  I chilled for a few minutes, fired it back up, cranked the heater on full-blast, and drove the shoulder to the exit ramp and pulled into McDonald’s.  For the second time in a month, I used my AAA benefits.  The tow truck didn’t arrive until almost 7:30 pm (it was 5 pm when we got off the road), so we had ice cream and a happy meal and waited. 


Though I wanted to cry, I quickly realized how blessed we are.  Not only was no one hurt, but I called around and family immediately jumped into cars to come help us out.  My uncle and aunt forewent an additional night of camping in order to pick us up and drive us to Kirkland, where my brother met us at our cousin’s house to take us home.  The tow truck beat us home by about 20 minutes and my neighbor drove our truck off the tow truck and into our driveway.  It was a stupidly late night for me and the kids, and Freddie refused to sleep anywhere but in the crook of my arm, but we made it. 


The most surprising loaner car has been the last one: Leland is allowing me to drive his 2015 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon until I get my truck fixed.  He is even allowing me to put my kids and dog in it (!).  I never thought I’d see the day when this would happen, but it just goes to show that he loves me after all.  In return, I changed all of his radio presets to the most obscure foreign-language stations I could find.  Hey!  Maybe he’ll learn Russian now!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Full Hands, Full Heart, Leave Me Alone

People OFTEN say to me, “Wow, you really have your hands full.”  And maybe I’m just insensitive, but I don’t mind.  Just like I don’t really mind when people say, “Treasure these moments, time passes so quickly and one day they’ll be all grown up!”  You know why?  BECAUSE IT’S TRUE.  I do have my hands full.  I am totally overwhelmed by my busy life most of the time and it’s kind of nice when strangers in the grocery store notice that.  And time is flying by.  I go to kiss Charles at night after he has fallen asleep and sometimes the only place I can reach to kiss is the bottom of his GIGANTIC foot (size 5 men’s… seriously, I swear he’s only six years old) and I know that time flies.  He used to be so little.  He used to be Freddie-sized. 


You know what I am kind of sensitive about, though?  Sanctimonious memes and articles and quotes.  I KNOW most people find them inspirational; they make me cranky and depressed.  For reals:


“You’re not ruined.  You’re a goddamn tiger who has earned her stripes.”  This, of course, is written under a photo of a super-fit, nearly-nude woman with extreme stretch marks photoshopped onto her flat stomach.  Meanwhile, I can go for days and days not thinking about my stretch marks or the various ways in which my body has changed since having children (hint: I’m a lot wider and saggier) and then I see one of these photos tossed around FaceBook and feel like shit about my stupid body and how ugly it is.  Why do we have to talk about women’s bodies so fucking much?  Can’t we just stop already?  No wonder we all feel like we’re being judged – women’s bodies are the biggest conversation in America, when we should be talking about politics or the environment or ANYTHING that matters instead.


“Dear mom who feels like a failure…”  Well, I didn’t feel like a failure before, but I sure as hell do now.  After all, articles like these point out that it’s not failing when you don’t get the dishes or the laundry done, it’s only failing when you don’t smile at your kids or don’t take care of their basic needs.  And then I realize that most of the words out of my mouth are things like, “No, honey, I can’t read you a story right now because I need to make dinner,” or “PUT YOUR BROTHER DOWN RIGHT THIS INSTANT!”  Or I realize that the baby is cranky because he hasn’t had a snack and he is just starting to eat real-people food and I am not in the habit of packing Cheerios wherever we go.  Shit, baby, I’m sorry.  Here’s a boob.  My four-year-old hasn’t bathed in a week, maybe more.  The dog is downright neglected.  Plus, in what world do we NOT have to do the dishes or the laundry?  Laundry and dishes and dinner prep are not really optional.  Failing?  Yeah, I think so.


“Remember, you will never be this loved again.”  Not much of a comfort when my four-year-old can’t bear to break contact with my body, my one-year-old can’t bear to be put down for even a second, and my six-year-old wants to hug me long and hard when I am doing the dishes or holding a pot of steaming broccoli or trying to put poopy diaper laundry in the washer.  I am over-touched.  The baby sleeps with us right now because it’s the only way anyone sleeps.  When I hand him off at daycare, he shoots me a look as though I have betrayed his trust and he is soooo disappointed and then he throws his arms around his teacher and doesn’t let go.  Sure, I will never be this loved again and I should embrace the loving, but instead I cry about the fact that what I want more than anything is for everyone to STOP TOUCHING ME. 


Tony keeps the same hours now as he did during tax season.  It’s tough, and it’s meant an extra burden on me to keep the household running with very little aid.  Tax season is a trial when it’s three months long.  We’re essentially heading into month seven and I can look forward to another nine months or so before it’s truly over.  Maybe then it will be easier.  Maybe then I’ll be more Zen about it all.  Maybe then I will have figured out how to show my children love and take care of the family needs and be an effective businesswoman and not feel like a volcano about to erupt.


My hands are full.  I am busy.  They’re growing up so fast.  And I have days when I just want to run away.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

No One Else But You

Last Friday, some friends and I teamed up to surprise our friend Heather for her birthday.  We successfully convinced her that she had “guessed” that the surprise activity before dinner in Bellingham was a pole dancing class.  Can you even imagine?  We are all moms.  We can’t drink heavily enough to do that.  Instead, we did something a bit scarier, a bit more serious: we climbed the highest climbing wall in Washington State.

And by “we” I mean Heather.  The rest of us attempted to climb the highest climbing wall in Washington State, but did not make it very far. 

We all summited (does that word work for climbing walls as well as mountains?) the weenie wall and then gave Heather the first spot on the gigantic wall. 

Me at the top of the weenie wall, which my son summited FOUR(!) times at camp the next week

She just kept going, making it look easy.  Since there were four-year-olds scaling the humungous wall at the same time (though none of them made it to the top), we all thought it was easy.  Turns out: no.


Super hard, in fact.  Two days later, when soreness in my muscles generally sets in, my fingers and forearms HURT.  Think about that: my fingers were sore from gripping the wall. 

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This is as high as I got 

Man, we were so proud of her!  She looked so awesome up there, so strong and powerful and in control.  It was breathtaking.

 photo 3 (92)So fucking high.

Once we were all back safely on the ground, alcoholic beverages in front of us at a bar down the street, , we toasted Heather and her climbing feat.

“Heather, that was SO AWESOME!”  (Like most women, we are good at high-pitched hyperbole.)

“Well, but did you see me?  I wanted to give up.  I tried to give up but no one heard me.”

“Ha!  No, we totally didn’t – you were too far away!”

“Still, that was amazing!  I can’t believe you made it to the top!  It was so hard!”

“Yes, but… I couldn’t do it.  I wanted to give up.”

“But you DID do it.”

“Yes, but…”

Heather, my dear, strong friend who is a great mom, was having trouble owning it.  And here’s the thing: I totally understand.

I have trouble owning it, too.  I have trouble owning my achievements in life, partly because they don’t seem like achievements and partly because of that American/Protestant/humble legacy I have. 

I have accomplished many things in my life, but they don’t feel like accomplishments.  I graduated high school and college and grad school at the top of my classes; I have a successful, stable, happy marriage; I have three beautiful children; I run a profitable business that supports seven families; I give back to the community… all of these things are my ongoing lifestyle, however.  I certainly didn’t begin work in my business thinking that it would fail.  I began work in my business with the intent to build it into a strong company that could support many employees for years to come.  We have so much growing left to do.  I haven’t safely ushered my children to adulthood yet.  I don’t really know if my marriage is a success because I’m not dead yet.  I don’t really know if my life is a success yet.  How can I brag about my accomplishments?  How can I NOT point out the gaps in any compliment of me and my life?  “Yes, but…”

So I don’t often brag, but when I do, I feel terrible about it.  Case in point: I ran a 5k a few weeks ago and crossed the finish line in 23:45, including a wrong turn and while running in 90-degree heat.  I received hearty congratulations from everyone I told, but I began to feel worse and worse about telling them.  I kept trying to find a way to minimize the brag after it had escaped my mouth – “I ran an amazing race!  But really it wasn’t amazing because, um…”  Nope, it was amazing.  And I was proud of myself because, you know what?  I had a baby a year ago and even before then, I’d never run anywhere close to a sub-eight-minute-mile in a race or in practice.  My legs were on fire!  But pride is a deadly sin, after all, and no one wants to be the boastful girl who won’t shut up about her fantastic race.  So I did, I shut up.  I didn’t post it to FaceBook, I’m only mentioning it now after three weeks to illustrate a point, and I mentally slap myself every time I reference it in conversation.

I’m a good mom, but I screw up sometimes (a lot).

I’m pretty fit, but I still need to lose fifteen pounds.

I have nice clothes, but I didn’t pay very much for them (does anyone really care where I shop?  Why, when I get a compliment on a dress or shirt, do I immediately say something like, “Thanks!  I got it at Goodwill!”?  Isn’t this a form of pride, perhaps worse than just internalizing the compliment?).

My children are well-behaved in public and at school, but can be little monsters at home.

I cook well, but I have to because we don’t have time/money/patience to eat out all the time with three wee monsters in tow.

What’s wrong with me?  What’s wrong with us?  I hear women, moms especially, self-deprecating all the time.  No one else but me ran that race at such a fast pace.  I walked a little bit, I sort of felt like throwing up at one point, I DEFINITELY felt like passing out from the heat, but I pushed myself and I did it.  I did it.  I will always have that, even if, three weeks, three birthday celebrations complete with loads of cake, and a terrible chest cold later I couldn’t run a nine-minute-mile to save my life.

And Heather, even though she wanted to quit, even though she doubted herself, rang the bell at the top of the highest climbing wall in Washington State on her birthday, having never, ever climbed anything ever before.  Ever.  She did it.  With her doubts and her fears.  No one else but her. 

I tell my children to take pride in their work, to set goals and feel good about meeting those goals, to enjoy the hard work it takes to accomplish something of note.  Time to model that behavior, I think.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fearless Freddie Is ONE

Little Dude here made it out of his infancy alive; on Tuesday he turned one year old.


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And I, being the sentimental idiot that I am, cried as I rocked him to sleep.




He’s so big.  He laughs at his brothers’ antics and tries to join in the chases and wrestling matches.  He flirts.  He sleeps terribly.  He loves music.  He can say “Dog” and “Dada.”  He climbs anything he can.  His hair is so fluffy. 


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He can’t eat solid food because he chokes and vomits on anything even a little bit chunky.  He hates hats or anything on his head.  He still doesn’t walk.  His toothy grins are the best.  He’s more determined than either of my other babies.  He love baths and the pool.




We had a birthday party for him on Tuesday with many friends over to eat cake and ice cream and generally go crazy in our backyard.  And then we I, in front of lots of people I love and respect, committed a terrible parenting faux pas: I “let” my child burn himself on his goddamn birthday candle. 


We were outside and the candle blew out in the breeze before we were done singing, so I relit it.  And then, quick as can be, Freddie leaned over and touched it, blistering up his wee, adorable finger (we had candles at both Charles’s and Jamie’s first birthdays and neither of them reached for the flame).  Of course he started to cry.  And then, because I am awful and don’t think things through very well, I shoved his little burned finger into his ice cream.  I thought it was a good idea at the time, but it looked pretty callous and harsh, I think.  I mean, I could have pulled him out of his high chair to comfort him, I guess, but I didn’t want to derail his celebration completely.  He calmed after a minute or two, Tony quickly sang the last line of the birthday song, and everyone clapped.  With tear tracks on his face, Freddie tentatively tasted cake.  And then he dived in.


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Did you know that sugar acts as an analgesic in children?  I did, but only because Charles was a chunk of a baby and had to be tested for all sorts of things in the hospital because of his high birth weight (he was totally healthy, just big).  Instead of a local anesthetic when the nurses pricked his heel for the millionth time for a blood sample, they fed him about a quarter ounce of glucose solution.  I think the sugar in the cake acted as an analgesic for Freddie, helping him to forget about his blistered finger.


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Freddie is fine now, of course, breaking hearts with his smile wherever he goes.


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Oh, Lord, this little boy is so wonderful.  He is everything a baby should be and I love him so much.  Nearly seven years into this gig of parenting and I don’t feel the need to enumerate milestones or wax poetic about normal baby “feats.”  I’m simply enjoying being this baby’s mom.  He’s growing and learning at his own pace and I hope I’m giving him a good environment in which to do so.  He might have burned his finger, but he doesn’t let that or any other injury keep him down.  Instead, even though he has fallen down the stairs twice (on a related note, I have suffered two mild heart attacks in recent weeks), he still crawls up and down them every chance he gets.  Even though he routinely falls off of the picnic table bench, he persists in climbing up and over it.  Bruises?  Black eyes?  Freddie don’t care.


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Freddie has always been a calm, easygoing child.  It has served him well in our house of chaos.  Despite being the rather abused object of their affection and the innocent bystander all too often caught up in their arguments, he loves his brothers something fierce.


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I sure hope I’m up to the task of keeping Fearless Freddie safe.  He appears to want to push every boundary I can come up with.




Here’s to another year of greatness, another year of making me smile, another year of belly kisses, slobber, and sleepy cuddles.  It’s been a rough year, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.  My Freddie.  I love him so much.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Mess with Your Kids and Your Car Will Explode

ED: There's still a bit of a "tick" in the engine, so we won't be getting our car back anytime soon.  It's stuck at the beach awaiting official diagnosis and repair, and we are stuck praying that this won't cost us an arm and a leg.  Sheesh.

Holiday weekends are the WORST time to travel: it’s a billion degrees outside, traffic is bumper-to-bumper, and all you want to do is get where you’re going (rather than enjoying the journey) because there’s usually a barbeque or family or something fun on the other end of the drive.

I honestly dream of a time when we’ll do road trips, rather than destination trips.  We drive to visit family, but we don’t ever drive just to see the world.  Someday, someday, I’ll force my boys to take trips south or east or north (probably not west, as I get horribly seasick) with only vague destinations in mind, stopping at every roadside lookout and viewpoint and attraction along the way.  Every time we drive home I think, I wonder if that restaurant is any good or I hear that there is an amazing park in this town.  Someday…

Until that day, though, we are destination travelers.  We drive to get places.  We have three small children and a dog and THANK GOD they are all male because of THE PEEING.  When we left on Thursday to head to Ilwaco for Independence Day, I made sure that every seat had a water bottle within reach.  Charles sits alone in the way back (the way-way back is the trunk space, creative namers that we are), so I put a 24-ounce sports bottle of cold water there with him.  When we got close to the rest area outside of Arlington (20 minutes from home), I asked if anyone needed to go potty.  Charles did, so we stopped.  And then he had to go again in Everett (another 20 minutes down the road); luckily, we were very close to the Everett rest area.  Then, as we were tooling along I-405 (yet another 20 minutes later), he had to go AGAIN.  We managed to pull off the freeway just in time for him to water some bushes and I scrambled to the back of the car to check.  Yep.  He drank his entire water bottle in the first hour on the road.

Traffic really wasn’t horrible on Thursday, and we made decent time, but the weather was excruciating.  Our van registered 97 degrees in Olympia.  We had to get Taco Time drive-thru so we could go to a park because there was no way the dog could stay in the car while we ate lunch.  The van’s air conditioner, which is rarely used, was on nearly constantly for five hours.  The heat and long drive clearly took a big toll on the vehicle when a problematic oil hose burst, spewing engine oil EVERYWHERE.

We had made it almost to Raymond and were driving up and down the twisty hills just south of the Pacific County border.  I was in the drivers seat and we were entertaining the kids the best way we knew how: messing with them.  Jamie had asked me to “look, mommy! I have ten fingers!”  To which I replied, “Do you know how many fingers I have, Jamie?” 

Charles, from the back, “She has the same as you, Jamie.”

Tony, sensing the mischief in my voice: *Sideways glance, like “what kind of bullshit are you going to feed them now?”*

Jamie: “Ten?”

Me: “Nope.  I have fifteen.  Want to see?”

At this point, I held up my right hand for him to see, palm facing the windshield while Jamie counted, “one, two, free, four, five.”  Then, I put my right hand on the wheel and reached across my body with my left hand.  “Six, seven, eight, nine, ten!”  Then, I grabbed the wheel with my left hand and put my right hand up again, palm facing the back of the car this time. “Eleven, telve, fourteen, fourteen, fifteen!”

Cue the mad giggling.

Then I told them that Tony had twelve fingers, so Tony was forced to participate in my game, holding up an extra finger for each hand so he had six each time Jamie counted.  Charles couldn’t stand it and was yelling at us that we were lying, LYING!, from the way back.

And then, all of a sudden, into the chaos of a happy family in remarkably good spirits for being hour five into a six-hour trip, the engine started making a VERY funny noise, like when you accidentally suck a shoelace into a vacuum cleaner and the aglet hits the side with every turn of the beater or like a baseball card in the spokes of a bicycle, but louder.  I turned everything off and then pulled over.

There was oil dripping from the passenger’s side front wheel well and oil all down the side of the van.  We were toast.  The boys peed in the woods, we thanked our lucky stars that we were in a shaded area and that it was now only 85 degrees, and I called AAA.  Not for the first time, and probably not for the last, I was happy that I pay the $130 annual fee for this great service (plus, I like the AAA magazine) (I know that sounds boring, but it’s really good, I swear).

car trouble 2

We read to the boys and kept the dog out of the sun while we waited for the tow truck and my dad and Tony’s mom to come rescue us (five people and a dog and our stuff are too much for conventional vehicles).  Upwards of 10 cars stopped within that hour to ask us if we were okay or needed water or anything – people are fundamentally good and want to help others, I think.  See how I just turned this into a feel-good story?

car trouble

Fortunately, my dad has a lift in his garage and he, Tony, and my father-in-law were able to quickly identify the problem.  We had a new oil hose shipped and dad made the part swap last night.  For now, I am driving my parents’ hulking 2001 Chevy Suburban around town.  For years I have fought against driving big cars, and now I am driving the biggest.  How thankful I am that they had a vehicle that would fit three car seats across the back to loan to us.  Pedestrians and small vehicles beware, however.

And you know what?  The trip home was completely uneventful.  It probably had something to do with the fact that we left at 9 AM.  From now on, we will ALWAYS leave early to avoid the headache.  That is, until we’re in a position to take the scenic route home and stop at all the attractions.