Where are we going?

Our family has been summering in Florida for the past 20 years.  Every June we packed our computers, printers, boxes of files, office supplies, suitcases for five, toys, blankets, pillows and three children into our Suburban and headed south with five bicycles hanging on the bike rack bringing up the rear.   The trip to the condo is a 12 hour drive if you include potty stops and food procurement.  Loaded to the gills, we would head towards the interstate, turn around at least once to get something we forgot, and finally take the on-ramp south toward our summer of relaxed days of swimming, biking, fishing and most of all for me, de-stressing. 

Over the years, life has changed.  Desktop computers and monitors have been replaced with laptops. Printers are now able to be shared between PCs and Macs.  Boxes of files have been replaced with a wireless internet connection to a server in our office.  Boxes of checks have been replaced with on-line banking.  The kids grew up and the bikes were left in the garage.  This year brought us another change.  We traded our three kids for my in-laws, Paul and Jackie, and our female golden doodle dog named Fred.  This June we packed our laptop computer bags, one shared printer, office supplies, suitcases for five (yes, Fred has her own toy suitcase) and four sets of golf clubs.

For 20 years I rode up front in the spacious navigator’s seat while the kids sat in the back seat squished by all their junk.  This year I was relegated to the back seat behind the driver.  I spent 12 hours pushed up against the door with Fred’s butt in my lap.  My place in the navigator’s seat was taken by Paul.  My job of navigator was taken by Jackie sitting in the backseat behind Paul.  Although times had changed, some things remained the same.  The hourly asking of “Are we there yet?” was replaced by Paul asking “Where are we going?”  As always, I was ever grateful for my emergency stash of napkins when Jackie dribbled Diet Coke down the front of her seat. I still had the same feeling of dread when David swiveled around and handed Jackie a handful of sweet and sour sauce to dip her chicken nuggets into.    With three kids it was impossible to get through lunch in the car without someone wearing their sweet and sour sauce.  I wasn’t the least bit surprised when Jackie announced that she had spilled the sweet and sour sauce down the front of her shirt.  I just handed her another napkin.  Paul took over Matt’s job of reading us all the road signs that we passed.  David still called out our “percentage of the way there” just like when we travelled with the kids to cut down on the “we should be there, shouldn’t we?” questions from the navigator’s seat.   I still stood outside the gas station bathroom with cold drinks dripping condensation onto my shirt, cradling a pantry full of snacks while waiting for the last straggler to get finished up.  I still worried about having to make an unscheduled emergency potty stop because Fred, like Matthew, refused to get out of the car and go to the bathroom. 

We still entertained ourselves for hours just talking.  Sure the conversation looped back over itself just like the news on CNN but hey, at least you knew your lines.  When traveling with our kids there were always the sounds of rooting around looking for some lost toy or for new batteries for whatever the latest and greatest gadget was.  On this trip, Jackie spent a lot of time rooting around in her bags looking for her lost bottle of water, her hankie and new batteries for her hearing aids.  Our normal book on tape was replaced with me reading chapters from our book Cookies for Dinner out loud at the request of my fellow travelers.  It really made me happy to hear them laugh.  Hopefully, they were laughing at the stories. 

As much as things have changed, one thing has not.  When I woke up the next morning and walked out onto the patio to watch the pelicans splash into the bay, I had the same feeling I have had for the last 20 years.  I have an amazing life and I am so lucky to have this wonderful family to share it with.

CSI: The Barbie Files

My daughter used to have quite a Barbie collection but that was before Griffin. He is our one-year-old dog. Griffin has a thing for Barbie. Well, to be more accurate, Griffin has a thing for Barbie’s limbs.

Chef Barbie and Beauty Shop Barbie met their untimely demise when Gracie innocently left them dangling from the edge of her bed. While she was in the kitchen eating her lunch, Griffin was in her bedroom eating the hands and feet off the dolls. Fortunately, I saw the remains before my daughter and hid the evidence.

Sadly, another Barbie dismemberment has occurred. Barbie the Veterinarian was found in the hallway with her arms and legs chewed off. At first glance it looked as if Barbie the Veterinarian (who was wearing a swimsuit at the time) may have been surfing in shark-infested waters but the tooth-marks on the mangled foot just inches away from her pointed to only one suspect. Griffin the Barbie Killer had struck again.

Barbie the Veterinarian is now at peace in the trash can in my office. I know it’s not a very dignified ending but it was the quickest hiding place I could find because Gracie was headed around the corner.

The Barbie population at our house is rapidly declining. If they make Combat Barbies, I think they may be the only ones who will survive in our home.

 And where was Ken during these brutal attacks, you might ask? Apparently he was hanging out in the pink plastic storage box with a group of Malibu Barbies. Maybe we need G.I. Joe.

Two minutes

Two minutes.  For all of you out there still in the throes of “time out,” you know exactly how long two minutes is.  On a daily basis you tend to a child in the middle of a nuclear meltdown by sitting them firmly on the “naughty” mat and setting the timer on the microwave for exactly two minutes.  When it dings, hopefully the child has had time to adjust his/her attitude and you can get on with your day.

At a recent doctor’s visit, two minutes, took on a whole new meaning for this middle aged accountant with a very, very bad behaving back.  For the past 19 years I have bounced from chiropractor to neurosurgeon to massage therapist in search of the secret to calming the viscous monster that lives in the region between my belt line and my tail bone.  In the past few years, the monster has branched out, taking custody of my left hip and leg down to my toes.

Finally, after the yearlong urging of my friend Jeanne, I found myself in yet another doctor’s office.  After the last few years of constant pain, frankly I would go to a voodoo doctor and carry a small shrunken head in my back pocket if it would banish the monster from my behind.  So my new potential knight in shining armor is practicing Osteopathy (aka sadistic voodoo).  So Dr. Voodoo presses on sore spots to see which one makes me jump the highest, twists my body in so many different directions at the same time I felt it important to remind him that I was almost 50.  The prognosis from Dr. Voodoo is that I have “pissed off” the muscles in my butt which has turned around and “pissed off” the nerves running down my legs.  This was the medical term my new doctor used. I really like him.   I don’t really understand a lot of medical jargon but “pissed off” is clear as a bell to me.  On my second visit, just as we finish with the pushing on already “pissed off” places and contorting my body in less than desirable ways, I was shown a series of  stretches to help calm the “pissed off” muscle in my butt.  Really, this sadist wants me to get in a position that lights my butt on fire and hold it—for two minutes—every day!   

Being the good patient that I am, I downloaded a stopwatch onto my phone so that I could hold my position for exactly two minutes and not one nano second more.  So for the last couple of days, first thing in the morning when my “pissed off” parts are at their most pissy, I have been doing my stretches and holding them for exactly two minutes.  This morning it hit me—my bad back is no different than a bad kid.  It acts out inappropriately and I put it in time out.   Funny thing is, once I get up from the stretches, it does feel slightly better.  I’m going to be really ticked off if all I needed to do 19 years ago was put my butt in time out!

A way with words

Pam here.

One night as I passed Gracie’s closed bedroom door I heard both of my children talking in there. They were discussing tomatoes. I listened at the door because I was incredibly curious as to my kids would be having a tomato discussion in the first place. It was that night I learned that there are good tomatoes and bad tomatoes. The good tomatoes are the ones you put in your salad. The bad tomatoes are the ones that blow hard and knock houses down. Now that’s one powerful tomato!

A few weeks later I learned that Gracie was writing down her most secret thoughts. One day Gracie was in her room with the door closed. I knocked on her room and asked if I could come in. She replied that she needed privacy because she was writing in her diarrhea. Luckily, when I opened the door it was her diary I found on the bed and not a pile of stuff that would require hours of clean-up.

I wonder if this is how it all began for the hairstylist who trimmed my husband’s hair one day. He had asked her whether he should do anything about the increasing gray in his hair. She shook her head and said that his gray hair made him look extinguished.

Where’s the spellcheck?

Holy Cannolis Batman.  Kae here. Just about the time I start feeling like I’m all hip and happening something comes along to remind me that I am techno-challenged.  I was really impressed with myself.  I was using a debit card on a regular basis, paying my bills online, e-mailing and adding computers to my network at work like it was my job.  Then comes Cookies for Dinner and this loon once again is thrown completely out of her techno depth.   Suddenly, I am supposed to set up a Facebook page and invite my “friends” to “like” the Two Loons and a Book Facebook page.  Yeah, I am a college grad and I do understand all the individual words but when they are put together in this context, I don’t have a clue what we are talking about.   I spent hours stressing over what to write, who sees what I write, how to comment or whether it is appropriate to comment on someone’s post.  Being me, I am stressed to the max trying to figure out the proper etiquette for Facebook.   Matt, Christi, and Jess keep telling me there are no rules.  You’re not supposed to worry about grammar or punctuation.  Just say what’s on your mind.   I have earned several “Mom, you’re ridiculous” from Jess and I make her read what I want to say or double check that I don’t sound silly.  Then the worst thing happens, Jess goes to work leaving me alone to update the status on my Facebook wall.   So with all the confidence of a teenaged boy asking for his first date, I wrote my first solo ditty.  Just as soon as I hit the “share” button, sure enough I realized I spelled something wrong.  That’s just perfect.  Here I am trying to promote a book I just wrote and I can’t even get the spelling right on a Facebook post!  Feels a little bit like coming out of the ladies room with the back of your dress stuck in your underwear.  All you can do is yank it down and hope not too many people noticed.

Thank Goodness for Hairdressers!

Woke up this morning in a great mood.  I had an appointment to get my hair cut and colored.  I’m not sure about you, but when I have a fresh cut and color, I feel like I’m ten years younger.  The euphoria may last one day or may last several weeks depending on how stressful the rest of my life is at the time.  But I always take time to bask in the buoyancy of my artificially created youth high.
Today is Christi’s 25th birthday.  I ordered balloons to be delivered to her at work.  (Never, ever miss out on a public opportunity to display your love for your child.  It makes up for all the times they have embarrassed the fool out of you in a restaurant or department store.)  I sent out the traditional “Happy Birthday” song text before I even got out of bed.  I got out of bed feeling like super mom.
When I looked in the bathroom mirror, hair askew and face puffy from sleep, it hit me like a punch in the stomach.  CHRISTI IS 25!!!  That is two and one half DECADES!  How did 25 years slip past me.  It seemed like as I slept, my daughter took her first steps, said her first words, went to her first day of school, had her first kiss, graduated from high school, went to college and moved four states away from me.  My heart didn’t understand where the time went, but the face staring at me in the bathroom mirror had seen every single minute’s passage.
I must have had some sort of emotional ESP when I made the hair dresser appointment for this day.  Not early, not late.  Just in the middle of the day.  Not too soon to not be appreciated and not too late to curb the emotional tide.  So I went to my appointment and came out feeling ten years younger.  My grey hair expertly masked as “highlights” with a fresh little cut that swings just slightly with my jaunty little steps.
I will never understand why my birthday doesn’t bother me at all but the kids’ birthdays make me stutter just a little.  Oh, well, all I know for sure is on October 25th 2013 I plan on being in a spa somewhere south of the equator drinking a fruity little drink with an umbrella in it.  This will be the day Matthew turns 30!

Cell phones, ipods and laptops, oh my!

Gracie will be turning 9 in July. It’s already a stressful event to plan her birthday because the days of pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs are long gone. As a parent I have chauffeured my kids to lots of birthday parties in recent years and let me tell you… birthday parties aren’t what they used to be. In order to compete with some of the moms I would have to take out a loan to provide my children with the kind of party given nowadays.

When I was a kid, my birthday party consisted of having a few of my friends over to play games, eat hot dogs that were lovingly cooked on the grill by my father and then enjoy a homemade birthday cake. If it was a monumental birthday my mother would take the time to write “happy birthday, Pam” on it, otherwise the decorations would be limited to a handful of chocolate sprinkles scattered across the top.
Birthday parties now are held at special locations so the kids can either bowl, bounce, dance, skate, get a makeover or shoot each other in laser tag. At these parties the parent will also be expected to overpay dramatically for cardboard pizza and a birthday cake decorated to the nines in the current trendy theme.
So, as I am sitting at the dining room table one night thinking about how I’m going to break the news to Gracie that she’s going to have a very “retro” birthday party (i.e. inexpensive), she walks up to me and asks whether I’ve decided what I’m going to get her as a present. Foolishly, I was thinking Barbie dolls, a board game, maybe a new sundress or a music CD. Gracie has other plans. She has requested either an ipod, cell phone or a laptop.
This may just be the year I let my husband take over the birthday party planning.