Monday, May 23, 2011

Last week, in preparation for our drive up the East Coast, I visited the AAA office. It was partly out of necessity (I wanted to get physical maps in the off chance that my GPS both on my phone and in my car crapped out during the trip) and curiosity. I remember my grandparents talking about the AAA offices when I was growing up and I have to admit, with all the travel tools available online, I was sort of surprised to find that AAA still had local offices and that the advent of the Internet hadn't deemed them obsolete.

I had predicted that I would be the youngest person in the office. This prediction was only partially correct. There was a gentleman that walked in with his college-age daughter while I was waiting for my "road travel counselor". (The office was surprisingly huge with small little areas marked with signs that indicated the various aspects of traveling that the office handles...Travel, Road Travel, Insurance,

Anyhow, the man made a grand entrance, barging through the double glass doors, arms spread wide, cheerful voice booming in a British accent: "Hello! Cheerio!! We would like some assistance please!!"

The receptionist returned the greeting in a British accent (she had JUST checked me in and definitely did NOT have a British accent when speaking to me). "Ooooooh!!! Helloooooo!!!! Are you going to Lun-dun!?"

Man: "Oh, indeed! We AAARRRREEEE going to Lun-dun!"

Receptionist: "Will you be visiting the Queeeeeen!?"

At this point, am beginning to wonder if I have stumbled onto the set of a Monty Python movie.

Man's daughter: "Dad, could you turn off the British accent, please?"

(The Monty Python man's daughter turned out to be one of two people that were younger than me in the office that day. The other was the travel counselor that helped me...I presume they hired him because of his technology skills.)

After they were checked in, they sat down in the waiting area where they proceeded to have a heated debate about the number of pieces of luggage they could bring on their upcoming trip to London.

Man: "I think one carry on will be plenty."

Girl: "Dad! I cannot bring two weeks' worth of clothes in ONE carry on."

Man: "All we'll be wearing are shorts and t-shirts. One carry on is definitely enough."

Girl: "What if we go somewhere fancy!? What if we go to Harrod's!?"

Did you know you can also buy luggage at the AAA office?

(This picture is blurry because I was trying to take it without anyone seeing that I was taking it...)

When it was my turn, I explained where I was driving to (New Hampshire) and what I wanted to do along the way (avoid Washington D.C. and NYC and also stop at Sesame Place). Antiquated or not, I have to hand it to AAA, they were really helpful. I was given two regional maps (Southeast states and Northeast states) with my route (avoiding D.C. and NYC and stopping at Sesame Place) highlighted and even stamped in the exact location where I am to put down one map and pick up the next map, several tour books with restaurants, hotels and points of interest (not as useful since I can do all of that online and from my iPhone, but still nice to have) and also the highly anticipated TripTik, as discussed in this post.

The TripTik, a small, bound notebook, has turn-by-turn instructions, each on a new page, so you can easily flip through the book while on your route and know exactly where you are without having to fold and unfold maps or squint to find your location. I know I have technology at my finger tips on this trip, but I worry that I could lose the charger for my phone or that the built-in GPS on my car will take me right through Manhattan during rush hour or that Eli will be playing Barbie Fashionistas on my phone during a point where I was supposed to make a crucial turn and we'll wind up in North Dakota instead of New Hampshire (as long I'm going north, I must be going the right way...?). I want to relax on this drive, not white-knuckle the steering wheel full of anxiety.

I think we're ready. (In terms of directions anyway.)

Now, if only AAA could help me with the packing...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

I am not a morning person (though I really, really, want to be...must add this to my to-do list). This is unfortunate because Ethan seems to bring up topics that have led to some of our most important conversations in the car on the way to school. To date, we have covered gay marriage, whether or not my mother and father love each other anymore (they've been divorced for decades), how babies are made (bought myself some time for that one by telling him that I'll tell him when he's ten), what Botox is and why people use it, and most recently, why we euthanize pets. I should point out here that our home is just one mile from Ethan's school. I would also like to remind everyone that these are not topics raised by me. I can barely see in the morning, never mind having the brain power to examine and theorize the long-lasting emotional effects on divorced couples.

Getting back to the whole pet started off innocently enough...

Ethan: Mommy, remember that dog you had when you were little? How did it die?

Me: Uh...well...she was very old and very sick and couldn't really walk. (Hold my breath hoping this ends the conversation as we are coming up on the carpool line, but deep down know that Ethan knows I haven't answered the question).

Ethan: But, how did she DIE?

Of course he wouldn't settle for some vague, wave of the hand response. He wants details (wonder who he gets that from) and of course he needs them at 7:20 a.m. before I've even had my coffee. I explain that when a dog is very sick and in a lot of pain that the owners will decide, along with the vet, that it would be better to not allow the dog to continue living. I told him how the dog gets a shot and gets put to sleep and doesn't wake up again. I wait for all of this to be absorbed.

Ethan looks at me with giant eyes and says, disgusted, "You killed your dog!?!? That's horrible!"

Eyeing the carpool line because I am dangerously close to the door of Ethan's school and knowing I can't send him into the building thinking I am a cold-blooded murderer, I stammer through an explanation about how it is really much more compassionate to do that if you know the animal won't get better. And I remind him that it's not called killing, it's called putting the dog "down" or "to sleep". He looks at me suspiciously and appears to accept what I have to say, but for good measure asks how I felt after Jessie died and wants to know if I cried.

Me: "Yes, I cried. A lot."

Ethan: "For how long?"

Me: (feeling like am on a witness stand instead of in my minivan) "Days. I cried for days. I still cry every once in a while if I see a dog that looks like her."

Satisfied that I am showing adequate remorse, Ethan hops out of the car and disappears into school. When I pick him up that afternoon, he doesn't mention it again. That evening, when Adam got home from work, Ethan blurts out, "Daddy! Did you know mommy killed her dog!?".

Monday, May 16, 2011

On Saturday night, I was listening to the noises coming out of the shower. Adam had Ethan, Eli and his iPhone in there with him and all three of them were singing Usher at the top of their lungs. This joyous sound made me smile and reminded me that I'm never sure what kind of craziness I'm going run into each day, but let me assure you, where this is a Slipakoff boy, there is something silly happening.

For instance, Thursday night I went to check on Ethan before I went to sleep and he was snuggled under his covers cuddled up with the cup of caterpillar larvae meant for his butterfly garden.

The next morning Eli said to me as we were getting ready to head out the door, "Are you ready old lady?". Lucky for Eli, I was still swooning over the fact that he calls plums, "plumPs", so I barely raised an eyebrow at being referred to as "old lady", though I am desperately hoping that this doesn't become a habit.

And on the way to school, Ethan heard a commercial about Botox and asked me what it was. When I explained that people inject something into their wrinkles to make their face smooth, his eyes got wide and he was quiet for a minute. After a silent moment, he piped up from the backseat, "Oooooooh! It's just like the magic flower in Tangled except without needles!". Leave it to Ethan to decipher the social commentary behind Disney movies.

Like I said, I never know what I'm going to get.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tales of a Road Trip

Each summer, as soon as the last day of school comes and goes, I begin packing up the boys in preparation for our summer-long trip to New England.  This year's summer plans aren't much different.  But there is a twist.  This year we are driving.  Which is not a big deal.  I know a lot of people who pack their kids in the car and take long road trips.  But for me, it's a bit out of my comfort zone.  My aunt Susan (Aunt Sue, as she's affectionately known around here) has volunteered to drive with us since we will be leaving my husband behind to enjoy the quiet house work all summer long and I'm not sure I am quite adventurous enough to manage the drive solo. And somehow, with the two of us in the front seat, the trip seems so much more exciting. This idea we've cooked up is going to prove to be either really great or really stupid. Time will tell.

My GPS tells me this journey will take about 20 hours. I'm sure many people could do this in two days. I am not many people. We have allotted five days, not only because I get really sleepy when I drive, but also because we want to take our time to see and do interesting things along the way. I've started borrowing books from the library, looking at maps, small ways to begin planning for our big adventure.

I bought one book called Cross Country, written by Robert Sullivan, that chronicles his adventures of driving, well...cross country. It was meant to inspire me, and so far, I've been able to snag a few tidbits of helpful information such as using my local AAA office to have them put together a "TripTik", a binder with maps, hotels, restaurants, attractions, etc., all available on our route. This is something I was going to pull together myself, so if I can commission AAA to do it for me for free, even better. But are there even any local AAA offices anymore??? The whole concept of using AAA as a travel planner seems very 1989. And if these offices still exist, will I most definitely be the youngest person in it?

Other than the helpful hints I've been able to garner, I may have to return Cross Country to the library largely unfinished. As one Amazon reviewer commented, it's a bit like watching someone else's home movies...not all that interesting but I feel like I have to politely push through to the end. Not to mention, Sullivan and I are clearly not cut from the same cloth. In the first few pages he says he thinks he can make 3,000 miles in 3 days. As for me, I'm just hoping to make it to our destination in one piece at some point before it is time to turn around and go back home!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Raising Redheads

Thanks to Deb at Raising Redheads ( for featuring me as a guest author today!  The article I wrote was actually originally written for Deep South Moms, but can be found in the guest article section of Raising Redheads.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tales of a Late Bloomer

I have interesting relationship with this blog.  It is something, like my faith, that I am sometimes far away from.  Yet, when I come back, it's still there, just the way I left it.  Without wavering, without judging.  Welcoming.

I've made vows to myself to write more regularly, but then life gets in the way.  Something comes up.  I'm supposed to be somewhere.  The phone rings.  The laundry is done.  The oven timer is going off.  It's time for soccer.  It's time for cub scouts.  Someone can't find their socks.  And it seems when I feel pressured to write something, that's the exact moment when my ability to manipulate the written word into something that anybody would actually be interested in reading completely abandons me.

I have all sorts of reasons for writing on my blog.  The first is to keep a record of moments that are meaningful to me, moments that I want to remember.  The second reason is to keep my family and friends close to me.  To let them see, even if I'm not with them, what my life is like.  To let them see a piece of me, of my family.  Another reason is that something that somebody reads might mean something to them.  It might change their opinion, it might change their perspective.  It might make them feel less alone in whatever struggles they might be going through.  Maybe they can identify with something that has happened to me and they can feel better about managing trying times for themselves.  Another reason is to help me sort through issues.

If you've read my blog, one issue that you know that I've used this platform to sort out is to go back to school or to stop going back to school.  And I've really struggled with this for the past three years.  It seems I never solve the problem.  It's just something that seems to circulate around in my head, a cycle that never stops.

The truth is, I did recently have to put an end to the cycle when I forced myself to make a decision to withdraw from school in the middle of the semester.  I cried.  I mourned.  And for a brief moment, thought if I re-enrolled that I would feel better...though I've been down that path a few times and know better. 

I know what you're thinking.  You've heard this before so why was this time so different?  This time, I made the decision swiftly and surely.  I made it in the midst of a crisis, while my youngest son was in the hospital with salmonella poisoning.  During day two of his seven day hospital stay.  The same day that my professor emailed me and congratulated me on getting the highest grade on my organic chemistry exam.  (My son is fine now, by the way.)

I made the decision in that time and place because I knew if I made it then, it would stick.  My sweet husband begged me not to make a hasty choice, telling me that no one should ever make a decision in the thick of crisis.  I told him I disagreed and said that a crisis is exactly the time to make decisions.  During a crisis is when your priorities are brought to light and are made clear to you.

While I know I made the right choice...a choice that I have made several times before...I am now struggling with the feeling that I'm floating freely, without any anchor.  And quite frankly, that free-floating sensation scares that crap out of me sometimes.  When I was in school, I was anchored at the library, in the chemistry lab.  And now, at home, I'm the one doing the anchoring.  At school,  I found my sense of self in achieving the objectives I set to get me to the next thing (nursing school).  Right now, there is no next thing.

I'm just here.  Doing everything and doing nothing at the same time and the dichotomy of those emotions unhinges me a bit sometimes.  It unhinges me because I don't know where it leaves puts me in a gray area and I don't do well with gray.  The irony (and the challenge) is that I'm not seeking a solution to this emotional hiccup...which is fortunate because I don't think there really is a solution in the near and not so distant future.

I have always known I was going to be a late bloomer, only now I've realized exactly how late the blooming is going to be taking place.  And despite my ranting, I am okay with that.  I find a sense of peace knowing that one day, at the end of what I hope is going to be a very long life, I'm going to look back and not have any regrets about any of the decisions I made.  So while they might not be the decisions I want to make,  I have faith, unwavering faith, that at some point in my life, I will see that they were the very right decisions.

While I know I will continue to look out on the horizon and ask "What if?", there is a part of me, a very big part of me, that is relishing in the moments with my boys.  I joke with Adam that I'm too young to be retired, but I'm thinking that what I'm going to find is that my work has only just begun.

I hope to continue to share this journey with you here on my blog.  If you're joining me for the first time, I can promise that you will never see daily updates from me.  But I can also promise, if you check back with me after a while, what you will find is a story about my life, about my family, about something that has moved me deeply enough that I think it could move you, too.