Over the River and Through the Woods

My sister was Facebook stalking me today. I’m not sure what she was looking for, but she found these pictures from 2006.

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A friend asked what happened. I tried to post the link to the story and *gasp* I haven’t transferred it from blogspot yet! It’s one of my more popular stories. So. Here’s a bonus holiday post 🙂

This is an excerpt from my book- currently being sent to agents- called “Hope Springs.” Those of you who are new to Thoroughly Modern Mommy (Hi!) need a little background information. The book is a memoir that follows my husband and I in our first year of trying to conceive. I tend to cope with humor. This story has nothing to do with any of that.

Friday, December 22, 2006
We’re spending Christmas in Denver with my family. Even though my parents have been divorced for ten years, we still all have Christmas together. And when I told my Dad we didn’t think we could afford the flight this year, he booked the tickets for us., So. We’re spending Christmas in Denver with my family.

The weather has been terrible all week, so I get up early to check our flight online to make sure it hasn’t been delayed or cancelled.

But I can’t find it. There is no flight at that time. I check the flight number again, and it just doesn’t exist. I’m looking at the email confirmation, and I can see that I have the information correct, so I finally call the service hotline for Southwest. I get an automated response, and enter my flight number. There are no matches. I try again. No matches. Out of desperation, I try the “just press zero” trick, and miraculously I am soon talking to a real live person. I explain my situation, and give her my flight number.

“Um, Ma’am? That flight doesn’t leave for a month.” I look at my email confirmation again. And there it is, plain as anything. January 22, 2007.

“Um, yeah, OK, I see that.” Note to self: when sixty-eight-year-old father offers to buy ticket home for Christmas, always accept. But next time, get credit card information and book the flight yourself. I sit, silently holding the phone to my ear, staring blankly at the screen, waiting for the logical answer to come to me through divine intervention. I try to will the flight into existence. Or, more accurately, to will the flight into this month. When that doesn’t work, I try a different tactic. “Is there anything available for today?” I ask the woman on the other end of the phone, knowing the answer before I hear it.

“No, ma’am, all our flights are booked for the week.” Of course they are. It’s three days before Christmas. So, I call out to Ryan, who is saying something in the other room about waiting until the last second to pack again. Something about how we’ll never fit all this in our luggage. He joins me in the office, where I tell him that luggage is probably not going to be an issue. “My Dad booked our tickets for January 22. We don’t have tickets for today. We have tickets for a month from today.”

And he just laughs. “Looks like we’re staying here then.” He has always fantasized about a quiet Christmas in our very own home. The look in his eyes tells me he thinks this is his chance. But I’m not up for that. Not this year.

“We can’t just stay here! We need to get there!” I yell, trying to remain calm. But within moments, I’m crying, and he can tell we need to find a way. “OK,” he says. “Let me think for a sec. You should call your Mom though and tell her what’s going on.”

Ad so I do. And she tells me how heartbroken she is. And that we have to find some way there. I tell her we’ll try, but I just don’t see how it’s possible.

“Hey!” Ryan says from the living room a few minutes later. ”We have a car. We could drive.”

“To Denver? In Elyse Keaton? Would she make it?”

“Sure she would! It’ll be fun! Call your Mom and tell her we’re driving.”

And I do. And she is terrified. Not so terrified that she doesn’t want us to do it, but terrified nonetheless. I call my sister and give her the news. She laughs at me from Canton, Ohio where she is celebrating Hanukah with her in-laws. “Seriously, though. Be careful.” I tell her we’ll be careful, and that I’ll see her in a few days.

Minutes later, the phone rings. It’s Michele. “Hey. Can we have a ride?”

“To Denver? From Canton?”

“Yeah. The snow is so bad here all the airports are closed. There are no flights in or out of Canton. Or Cleveland. Or Detroit. Or Columbus. And they don’t think they can get us out of here for at least a week. You drive to Canton, and then leave your car and we’ll rent one. No offense.”

“None taken. We’ll come get you. It’ll be a road trip! It’ll be fun!”

Saturday, December 24, 2006

I’m not sure what part of this we thought would be fun. It hasn’t been un-fun. Just not fun. It’s mostly just exhausting. And cramped. We had time for a ninety-minute nap in Canton before heading back out on the road. And now it’s the wee small hours of Christmas Eve morning and I’m wondering if I will ever get out of this back seat. I’m drifting in and out of sleep like I have been for the past twenty hours when I hear a loud bang.

“Shit” Eric says. He’s driving.

“That’s not something you want to hear from the driver,” Ryan answers flatly from his shotgun seat.

“I hit something.” And then, everything in the car powers down completely. Eric turns the steering wheel hard and manages to get us to the side of the road. The rental car rolls to a stop. Ryan and Eric get out of the car all manly-like and come back with the report.

“Yeah. Something tore through the gas tank. That’s why we stopped. We’re out of gas. It’s all over the road.” We all look at each other stunned. There are twenty years of Ohio University education in this car (not to mention my two from NYU) and we all come up with the same answer. We call our Mommy. It’s 3 AM, but she answers. “Hi,” I say, trying to be casual.

“Well, hi. What’s going on.”

“Um, we hit something. Well, Eric hit something. I mean, he didn’t mean to. But it tore through the gas tank and we’re stuck on the side of the road. We’re all OK. But we’re stuck.”

“What do you mean he hit something? What did he hit?”

“We don’t know. There was something in the middle of the road.”

“Well what did they say?”

“What did who say?”

“Whoever you called to come help you!”

“We called you.”

“Melinda Kay. Hang up the phone and call Hertz. They will send someone to help you.”

“Oh. We didn’t think of that. Sure. We’ll call them. Do you want us to let you go back to sleep? Or should we call you back.”

“My two daughters and two sons-in-law are stranded on the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere on Christmas Eve. I won’t be sleeping. Please call me back.”

I tell Eric he should call Hertz, which he does. He explains what happened the best he can, and explains our location the best he can. The Hertz agent tells us she’ll send a tow truck right away, but that she doesn’t know how quickly she can get someone to us, seeing as it’s Christmas Eve, and we’re in the middle of nowhere. This is not comforting.

It’s dark. And it’s cold. And I’m tired. And I don’t know where we are. “What if we freeze to death?” I wonder out loud. “That happens. People break down on the side of the road and freeze to death.”

“We’re not going to freeze to death,” Ryan tries to assure me.

“Wait. She’s right,“ Michele agrees, probably not helping things. “We could totally freeze to death. That does happen. What if it takes them hours or they can’t find us and we freeze to death?”

I’ve just decided that we are, in fact, going to freeze to death- I start glancing around me, looking for a piece of paper on which I can leave my last thoughts- when the red lights from the fire truck swirl through the car. So I guess we‘ll be fine then.

The fireman asks us what happened while his friends take a look at the gas on the road. Since the only information we have is “we hit something,”,” and they know a tow truck is on the way eventually and the fuel on the road has been investigated, the fire truck leaves our accident scene in a very anticlimactic way. No lights or anything.

We have just enough time to remember that we have snacks in the back when the Sheriff pulls up. We offer him a rice crispy treat. He doesn‘t take it, but asks if we need anything. We tell him it’s cold, and he lets us into the back seat of his car. And I’m sitting there with my little sister, and we’re warming up, and we’re eating rice crispy treats at 3 AM on Christmas Eve in the back of the Sheriff‘s car. And we start to laugh. And then we start to laugh harder. And soon I’m laughing so hard that I can’t breathe and tears are streaming down my face and I’m not even making any sound. Just completely seized up in the joy of how ridiculous it all is. Ryan knocks on the car window.

“What is so funny?” his muffled voice yells through the glass. “You’re shaking the whole car!” which only breaks us up more. I can’t answer him, but I gesture out with both palms up, taking in everything around me in an effort to say.” This! This is what’s so funny!”

A few moments pass, and the fire truck returns. The Sheriff lets us out of the car. “The firemen found what you hit,” he says. They’ve brought it to us, like a Christmas present. They’ve tossed it in the snow on the side of the road. It’s a large hunk of metal wrapped in black rubber.

“How does that even happen? What is it?” I ask the fireman who threw it there. He explains that it’s a metal mud flap from the back of a semi. And I know in that moment that when I recall this story in years to come, the mud flap will be decorated in my mind with the white silhouettes of two women sitting back-to-back, even though this is just a plain old ordinary black mud flap.

“It looks like a tire blew, and tore this off with it. So it was all just sitting there tangled in the road, waiting for you to hit it. And that’s what tore through your gas tank.”

“Oh,” I say. “Do you want a rice crispy treat?“ He doesn’t. And the laughing starts all over again.

An hour later, we are sitting in the cab of Manuel’s truck. “Your name is Manuel?” I asked when we first boarded the vehicle, to make sure I had heard him correctly. And then I offered him a rice crispy treat, which he declined. And I have been sitting quietly ever since, as Ryan, Michele and Eric tell Manuel our tale. Ryan and Michele’s version is a comedy, while Eric’s is an I-hope-I-don’t-have-to-pay-for-this tragedy. And in a break in the conversation, I burst into song. To the tune of “Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel,” I serenade my tow truck audience.

REJOOOOOOOOICE! REJOOOOOOOOICE! It’s Ma-a-a-nu-el! To save us from our Christmas travel hell!

Michele stares at me in silent shock. And then, finally, “have you been just sitting there working on that?”

“Yes.” She hands me another rice crispy treat, and we all go on as if I hadn’t just performed the greatest One-woman-show-about-hitting-a-metal-mudflap-on-Christmas-Eve in the history of tow trucks.

We arrive at the Hertz office at the Denver airport to trade in our car, and we are greeted by two employees who have obviously been alerted regarding our accident. “Are you alright?” they say, rushing from behind the desk. “We’ve been waiting! Do you need water?” We assure them we are fine, and ask if either of them would like a rice crispy treat. Alan, our new friend behind the desk, says that he would love one. “Really?” I say. And I run to the car to get him one. When I return, Eric is filling out some paperwork. He is telling the whole story- about the loud bang, and the gas tank, how the firemen brought us the mud flap- to Jennifer, who appears to be paying attention. Technically, she had to return the first car, and rent us a second. So Jennifer starts with the questions that come up on the screen.

“Is the gas tank full?”

“No. It’s not,” Eric answers.

“Oh. How full would you say it is?”

I can see that Eric is getting tired and frustrated and worried that he’s going to have to pay for something else, so I step in. “Um, the gas tank is empty. But I tell you what. We’ll pay for as much gas as you can get to stay in the tank. The one that tore open. When we hit the mud flap.”

“Oh. Right.”

And we get in our new rental car, and we drive those last few miles over the river and through the woods.

Labor Day Neighbor Day

Sometimes I still miss Fred Rogers. What’s not to love about a man who dedicated his life teaching children about emotions? I see those videos of him- speaking for Congress or just doing his thing on “Mister Rogers Neighborhood”- and it makes me sad that he isn’t around anymore. Sure, I’d like my daughter to be able to watch new episodes of his show the way I did. (I’ve played the old ones for her. They don’t quite capture her attention.) But I also just wish he was around to continue influencing the world. We need more Mr. Rogers.

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I was thrilled, then, when his ideals and lessons returned with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. And I was even more thrilled that my daughter loves it.

One of Mr. Rogers’ most important lessons was what it means to be a good neighbor. This Monday PBS will have a new episode featuring Daniel doing good deeds for the people around him. It’s Labor Day Neighbor Day!

This. Is. Brilliant.

We’re all exhausted at the end of the summer. What better way to spread some joy than to do some random good deeds?

I spoke with Lily about the idea. We live in an apartment building so we have pretty regular interaction with our neighbors. She suggested that we make lemonade for them. I love it.

We’re going to make some signs to hang around the building letting people know that we’ll be out there for a few hours on Monday afternoon. We have a lot of elderly people in our building and I know what they really crave, more than lemonade, is company. And Lily is the BEST at that.

So join us, neighbor! What can you do on Monday to help your neighbors? Take some pictures and I’ll post them all next week 🙂

Throwback Thursday: The Class of 93 Edition

I loved high school. I mean I loved it. I had great friends. I was in every musical organization possible and I was in theatre and I was a cheerleader. I dated a soccer player and we went to every cheesey event possible fully dressed for whatever theme the studen council created. Out of my class of 268 I received the top service award. I had done the very most for my school. I really- really- loved high school.

When it was time to graduate I cried for a week. How would I ever find a place as lovely for me as high school? How would I ever stop being a Panther? What would I do with all of the blue and red clothes?

Then, I went to college. And man I loved college. I was in marching band and choir and I was a cheerleader and I decorated my dorm in green and white and I loved everything about being a Bobcat.

Now that I’m a grown-up, I love everything about being in my community. We’re active at our local YMCA and we go to town events and I teach piano to the kids in the area and my daughter will attend public school. I would be a cheerleader for my town if there was such a thing. Although I’d need to be a cheerleader who keeps both feet on the ground at all times. My toe touch days are long over. But still. I would do it. And I would love it. Because I love my town.

Two weeks ago I attended my twentieth high school reunion.

What? You can’t possible be old enough to have been out of high school twenty years! You look sooooooo young!

I know, right? And thanks.

But yes. It was my 20th. And I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I had attended my tenth and had a blast. Back then my husband and I were days from moving to NYC. We had exciting stories to tell. I was thin and tan (spray tan, not real) and my nails were done and I was wearing the perfect dress. I had the time of my life.

As we drove to the venue for my twentieth I was feeling less confident. I had ordered the perfect dress, but it hadn’t arrived in time. I threw several things into the suitcase back in CT and chose a random dress from it when I got out of the shower. It was nice. It was fine. But it wasn’t what I’d planned. I was going to paint my nails earlier in the day but there hadn’t been time. I worried about the wrinkles around my eyes. I worried about the ten pounds I’ve added in the past year. I worried that the financial troubles that almost kept us from attending would not only be visible, they’d be the only thing anyone noticed.

And. I had a great time.

Once I started chatting and connecting with classmates I forgot about our financial woes and my nails and the dress that was a second choice. I was too busy spending time with people. Catching up, yes. But also having real conversations. The kind of conversations you’re not supposed to have at parties because they’re too divisive. And we shared pictures of kids. And we remembered some good memories. But mostly we just created a new memory.

And I realized- that’s the key. I remember the good times. I could still sing the fight song (and do the cheerleading routine) and I still have (but don’t wear) my Varsity jacket. And we go to our college homecoming every year and march in the alumni band and pretend we’re young. (And then get reminded by our bodies the next day that no. No we’re not.) I remember all of it as good times. Great times even. But I never look back on them as the best times. I can’t imagine living that way- thinking the best of my life was behind me.

When I first started blogging over at blogspot I wrote this piece. It really is funny how neatly my life has been divided. And it makes me terribly excited to see what’s in store for me in the next ten years. Especially at Starbucks. Did you know the pumpkin spice flavor debuted ten years ago? Man. What flavor will change our lives thus decade? Whatever happens between now and 2023, I’m looking forward to them as the best years of my life so far.

Go Panthers

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A celebration of utter silliness as my high school boyfriend and I recreate our “Most Devoted Couple” pose from our senior yearbook. Not taking things too seriously: the key to a fun reunion.

Screen Shot

This is my ipad:

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Yesterday I watched a video about people who spend so much time with their faces in screens that they miss life.
It was a wake-up call, and a reminder that I need to bring back the once-a-week Media Fast Day. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Let everyone know you’re turning everything off, and turn everyone off.
As I prepare for my school year, I’ll need to figure out which day will be most appropriate for this. I’ll write all about it.

But for today, this is my ipad.

I’m sharing it with you because there’s some cool stuff on there. And as much as I need a break from it, some of these apps really help my crazy life as a freelancing Mom.

As in, I am a Mom who freelances at other things. The job of Mom is pretty full time 😉

A big portion of the screen is filled with my regular ole’ everyday apps. I’m going to assume you’re familiar with everything through Pinterest. But after that, we have some things I’ve found along the way.

So here we go, some of my favorite apps. I didn’t get paid for this or anything, I just really like ’em.

Wisdom:

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It’s the app I use to write. In fact I’m using it to write this right now. Because of this app, I haven’t opened my laptop in over a month. Really intuitive, easy to share documents, things end up looking like I intended.

Cozi:

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This one is a game-changer. It’s a family planning system. Shared calendars. Shared to-do lists. Shared shopping lists. And you can download Flylady’s routines. This is the only calendar I use. If you are overwhelmed with life, (and who isn’t…?) check out Cozi.

CVS pharmacy:

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I just think this one is fun. We go to CVS a lot because if you play the game correctly, those extra bucks ADD UP. You can get a lot of stuff for free, and you don’t even need to be an extreme couponer. You just have to pay attention. But the app is fun because it looks like the store and you feel like you’re actually shopping and as a Mom, sometimes that’s as close as I get to leaving home that day.

ThredUp:

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Speaking of shopping. Oh my goodness ThredUp has changed my life. It’s basically an online kids consignment shop. I’ve been using it for two years or so- way back since people shipped each other boxes directly. The company has changed a lot since then, but I’ve loved the improvements. It’s where I get most of Lily’s clothes, and it’s where her nice stuff that she’s just too big for now ends up. They ship you the bag- shipping label included. You don’t even need to leave home. WHAT? I know.

And now they have women’s clothes too!!!

A shameless referral plug. If you’re interested in ThredUp, check it out through my referral link. You’ll get $10 off your order. And I’ll get a $10 referral credit too. I know it sounds a little pyramid-schemey. That’s not my intent here. I tell strangers on the street about ThredUp. But hey. If they’re gonna give us each $10…

Mint.com: (There’s no picture for this one because, it’s like, my finances and stuff…)

This has been huge for us. You do need to have an online banking account and allow it to access your account. But this is a really reputable company, and the benefits are so worth it. Mint tracks your budget for you. And it does it automatically. And it is so in line with the principles of Total Money Makeover. Totally easy to use, easy to set up your own budget. A great way to keep yourself on track.

There you have it! My top 5 favorite apps. What apps get you through your day?

Happy New Year!

Every first day of school was the same.

This year, it will be perfect.

This year, I will wear the perfect outfit. Every day. I’ll plan out the first few weeks to give myself a head start.

This year, I will do my homework. Every day. I will not forget, I will not procrastinate, I will hand it in on time.

This year, I will keep all of my notes organized. And my locker too.

This year, I will figure out what makes the popular kids popular. I will study them. And I will become one of them.

I made plans. And I wrote them down. And I had lists. And schedules. I had brand new school supplies and a whole new wardrobe.

Then I went off to college. Then grad school. Then I became a teacher. Then I went to grad school again. Then I taught at a college.

And each year, while my roles changed a bit, my goals did not.

This year will be perfect.

Now that I’m a Mom, I know better. There’s no such thing as a perfect school year. We can set ourselves up for success. But the reality is that being a Mom is hard. And we know we can’t be perfect.

Ha! Just kidding!

Wouldn’t that be awesome, though? What if we could actually wrap our brains around the idea that we can’t be perfect? Another goal. Of course, I know me. I’ll try to be perfect at knowing I can’t be perfect. And then I’ll get frustrated. Because that concept may not actually be possible.

OK. So we know we can’t be perfect. But as I get ready for a new school year (both as Mom and teacher) I can do some things to help the sailing be a little smoother. Follow my routines, mostly. Keep my schedule to a reasonable amount. (I actually turned down a job yesterday. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that before.) Stick to the plan. Work on the flylady and Total Money Makeover plans that I had once upon a time here and here. Work on my fitness goals again. Keep this awesome calendar wall current.

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And, we’re back to perfect. Or at the least the quest for perfection.

Happy New Year, everybody. Let’s make it a perfectly imperfect one.

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Launch Party!

Yesterday I celebrated my official launch! I was so excited to celebrate with family and close friends. The theme was “Back to School with Thoroughly Modern Mommy.” Check out the details below.

20130826-175742.jpg Guests were greeted with Thoroughly Modern Mommy totes adorned with green Lace to the Top shoelaces. (You can learn more about Lace to the Top here.) The bags were filled with penicls, notepads, and tshirts for the kiddos sporting individual graduation years. Moms can take a First Day of School pic in them each year and watch as the kiddos grow into them, twelve months at a time. 2027 feels far away to me now. I have a feeling I’ll blink and watch my little girl wear a cap and gown.

The menu featured the brown bag, deconstructed. Guests could choose from lunchbox favorites from our childhood like chips and fruit and cookies and juice boxes…. You know. The things many Moms- myself included- don’t feed their kids very often anymore 😉 And the main food focus was the PB&J bar! Four different kinds of peanut butter, strawberry preserved, honey, marshmallow fluff, and a big basket of mini bread slices: white, whole wheat, crusts on, crusts off…. Someone who’s really good at math should figure out how many possible combinations that is, while they’re working on it, I’ll just work it out long-hand. (AKA eating my way through the leftovers.)

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We took an outside recess with some role-reversal time. Kids drove the car around while the grown-ups colored. Can we find a way for that to be a permanent arrangement?

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I’m so blessed to have so many great friends in my life. And I’m grateful that they’re willing to be silly with me.

Baby Weight: It’s Not Just For Biological Mothers Anymore

(Originally posted May 16, 2013 on blogspot.)

I know. You’re rolling your eyes at me. You know me personally and you know I’m teeny tiny and you’re shaking your head because seriously? What could I possibly know about weight gain.

Laugh all you want. But my pants don’t fit.

I’ve always assumed that since I was never pregnant, I escaped one of the more notoriously frustrating parts of motherhood. Baby weight. But here’s the part they don’t tell you. The weight isn’t from the pregnancy.

I mean, it is. It probably is. And I don’t mean to take the unique experience of pregnancy weight away from the breeders. Growing a person inside of you is, of course, a factor. But there are other factors I hadn’t counted on. Age. Clocks. Kupcakes.

Ack!

(OK spelling friends. I had to misspell cupcake. But I’ve been sitting here looking up words to make this work, and I couldn’t find any. And Acc looks like an abbreviation for account. Which is not what we’re going for here. Plus it’s cute. Time to move on.)

Age:
I had always heard that metabolism slows with age. But I never thought it would happen to me. I’ve been able to eat whatever I wanted my entire life. Well, up until the past two years or so. Now, as I approach a “zero birthday” (it’s not the next one, but it’s the one after that…) I notice some pretty big changes. All of them at my waist. I just have to face it. I’m getting older. Ack.

Clocks:
They just keep ticking, don’t they? My responsibilities as a Mom are pretty overwhelming sometimes. And that’s without the responsibilities of being a teacher and writer and musician and person. Sometimes I forget to eat. And then I’m starving. And then my choices are processed crap. (Although I did just find an amazing juice bar here in Greenwich. I thought I had found the answer. And if it’s just me and I just need a smoothie it’s perfect. But last Saturday I stopped to get a few snacks for Lily and I for the road. And it was $40. Seriously?) I would love to make grocery shopping and meal planning a priority. Then I would always have healthy snacks on hand, and we would never have pizza for dinner. But I just don’t have time. Ack.

Kupcakes:
(That K is still really bothering some of you. Now I think it’s funny.) Lily has an extremely active social life. And you know what they serve at kids parties? Cupcakes. And candy. And cookies. And they look so good. So I’ll just have one. Because I can eat whatever I want without gaining weight, right? Ack.

Now a few of my fitness friends are ready to have heart attacks (but they won’t. Because they are so healthy.) over this. Find the time! Work out! Make meal planning a priority! Don’t let your kid eat that processed crap anyway! These friends of mine, by the way, do not have children. But I hear you, healthy friends. Spring is the busy season in the music education business. And all three of our family birthdays fall within a month. Plus Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. When June is here, I pledge to make some healthy lifestyle choices. Maybe I’ll blog about it. K? (As in kupcake.)

Yes, my metabolism is slowing down because I am getting older. Yes, my schedule is out of control and I need to make health a priority. And yes, I could say No Thank You to the cupcakes. But there is one other factor to consider here.

I might have been too small before I was a Mom.

Now you’re really pissed at me. But honestly. My depression was at it’s worst. And it’s not like I was making healthy choices before. I very well may have been underweight.

So my pants are too small. Which makes me have a muffin top. This is unacceptable. And I need to make better food choices regardless. But you know what? I also might just need to buy bigger pants.

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