Where I Wasn’t on September 11

The following post originally ran on September 11, 2012.

 

I wasn’t at home on September 11, 2001.

I wasn’t in my little row house in Washington DC, just blocks from the Capitol Building, clutching my infant daughter and thinking the world was ending. I wasn’t in front of the 24 hour news onslaught, watching horrifying images over and over. I wasn’t desperately trying to get a phone connection to my husband, who had left for work in the Virginia suburbs that morning, and whose drive to work took him right past the Pentagon.

But I could have been.

If it wasn’t for the particular timing of our vacation to the family lake house, we would have spent that day in confusion and terror, just like the rest of those in Washington DC and New York.

But we didn’t.

Fate lent a hand. Illness forced us to push that vacation back by a week.  So on September 11th, we were one thousand miles away from Washington DC, isolated in a lakefront cabin in the woods.

What you should know:  The place is quiet. Almost in the middle of nowhere. Look right, look left: the nearest neighbors are too far away to be seen or heard.  Once summer is over, we are the only ones left on the lake. No paved roads for miles. Silence except for the occasional loon call. It’s the ultimate retreat, the perfect place to get away with a stack of books.

What else you should know: If you are possession of such a place, you tend to entertain fantasies of retreating there in the event of some sort of nuclear disaster. Or power grid failure. Or alien attack. (Okay, maybe that last one is just me.) In any event, something about a log cabin allows us to delude ourselves into thinking we are some sort of survivalists. It’s mostly unspoken in our family, but it’s there: If something happens, just get to the cabin. It’s like just being there will suddenly, magically  endow us with skills we don’t have, like field dressing a moose or suturing a wound.

There is no computer in the cabin, no internet access. The TV in the cabin has no reception save for one fuzzy channel, so we never bother to turn it on.

We wouldn’t have heard about the attacks at all, if it weren’t for the recently installed telephone. At that time, it was so new the only people who knew the number were my parents – and they called only occasionally in the evening to check on the weather or get the latest fishing report.

Picture this: In the midst of all this silence, a long vacation day stretched out before us, the new phone rings in the morning. Our first clue that something is wrong.

It is my father. He tells my husband that he knows we probably don’t have the TV on, but that we should turn it on right away. Then he hangs up.

I don’t know how long we watch our one fuzzy channel. Long enough to know planes are dropping from the sky. Long enough to see someone jump from one of the towers. To wonder, how bad was it there, to have to make that decision? Long enough to watch as a confused reporter tries to interview people as they run past him in terror, but no one stops. When the reporter and his cameraman also start to run, enveloped in a black cloud, we know it is bad.

One tower falls, then the next.

“Turn it off,” my husband says, his voice somber. He is not one to get caught up in the 24 hour news cycle.

We take a drive to a nearby town to try and take our minds off of it, but everywhere already there are signs saying “God Bless the Victims” and flags have been lowered. This usually bustling resort town is desolate and the few people we see look haunted. So we drive back to the cabin. We are supposed to stay another week, but something has changed.

Let’s review: The place is quiet. Almost in the middle of nowhere. Look right, look left, the nearest neighbors are too far away to be seen or heard.  Summer is over, and we are the only ones left on the lake. No paved roads for miles. Silence except for the occasional loon call.

September cold has crept in. Grey skies loom. We are scared, our nerves are shot, and the place takes on the feel of the beginning of a horror movie.

Suddenly, seen through the filter of 9/11, what was previously peaceful and serene doesn’t seem like such a good idea. It is creepy and unsettling to be so alone when the world is in chaos.

We are pulled to be around people again. So we pack up and drive back to Washington DC, leaving behind the isolation and security of a cabin in the woods that is nowhere near any terrorist target. We return to uncertainty, but at least we are surrounded by others going through the same thing.

A week or so after we get back to Washington, I am walking out of the grocery store with my two-month old daughter. An elderly black man approaches us, and gazes at the baby in her car seat.

“Little one, you done come at a baaad time,” he says softly to her, shaking his head.

Maybe so. But what I learned is that you can’t hide. There is something to be said for safety in numbers. So whatever happens, we’ll all face it together.

10 Awesome Things About a Broken Refrigerator

Last week, our not-very-old refrigerator decided it had had enough, and decided to quit on us without any notice whatsoever. Just packed up its little Mary Poppins bag and stomped out the door in a huff. I know, so rude, right? For  a few days I whined and complained, but in light of the terrible weather now going on all over the East coast, I feel pretty stupid now. We have heat. We have power.  A broken refrigerator isn’t so bad after all! Chin up! Here are some positives:

  1. The oodles of recipes I can make using only eggs, milk, and bread out of the cooler. Yummy!  Want to come over? It’s French toast night (again).
  2. Throwing out an entire refrigerator-full of food is so freeing! Besides, food is overrated. After all, they lived without it just fine during the… um, oh never mind.  I forgot they all died and ate each other.
  3. Kids no longer stand in front of the open refrigerator door, staring plaintively for minutes at a time. Ya know, because it’s empty.
  4. A kid’s dream:  Absolutely no fresh vegetables whatsoever!
  5. Total fridge clean-out means no more mysterious bowls of “didn’t that used-to-be soup?” lurking in the back.
  6. Recent steady diet of canned food, processed food, and take-out will possibly make my kids appreciate my  cooking more.  Plus, it makes them lethargic and slow, so I can catch them more easily.
  7. I have all of this extra money just lying around, and even with Christmas coming I would rather buy a new refrigerator even though this one is only seven years old. The appliance people need the money more than we do, after all. I am a giver.
  8. The opportunity to offer a guest a nice cold beverage from the beat-up Igloo cooler in my kitchen, in the middle of the day on a Monday. Because that’s not redneck at all.
  9. The eight hour window of time I have to stay home to wait for the refrigerator guys to show up offers much opportunity for “contemplation and reflection”. Oh, oops, that’s actually “simmering anger and frustration”.  My mistake.
  10.  Step one in my diabolical plan to begin living like the Amish is now complete. Next on the list: replacing flashy buttons and zippers on children’s clothing with tiny hooks.

See how good at this I am? Next week you may find me in the backyard with a washboard, a bucket of soap, and a rock.  I could totally do the pioneer thing. Wait, pioneers had wine, right?

Halloween Costumes, My Nemesis: So We Meet Again

Halloween Costumes, My Nemesis: So We Meet Again

How’s everyone doing with getting their kids’ costumes together this year? We ordered ours. Mostly. Trust me, there’s a good reason for that.

Every year, Lucy decides on a Halloween costume that is quirky, strange, and “out there”, just to make sure no one else she knows is doing it. So, yes, these are not costumes that are easy to come by. Several years ago, she decided she wanted to be the Chiquita Banana lady. Believe it or not, these costumes actually exist out there in the internets. However… there was absolutely nothing we could find that was appropriate for a young girl. Every costume we could find was the tarted up, belly-baring version, and that was absolutely not happening. What happened next sealed my fate for years to come, and it is a demon I’m still battling.

I offered to make her a costume.

I can hear your collective gasps, and I know. I know.

My sewing skills are limited to hems. I failed sewing in Home Ec because I couldn’t figure out how to close  up the holes in those puffy giant initial pillows. But somehow, I cobbled (note: I didn’t actually make shoes) together a respectable belly-covering yellow top with puffy sleeves, a ruffled skirt, and a basket with hot-glued fruit for the top of her head. She was thrilled. She looked adorable. That the shirt looked like Carmen Miranda meets Gordon Gartrell (bonus points if you get the Cosby reference) made no difference to her. I allowed her red lipstick and clip-on hoops, and she rocked it.

Cut to the next year. She wanted to be a ghost. No, not the Charlie Brown, two eyes cut in a sheet ghost. No store-bought costume would do, either. (Did I mention she’s a bit particular? Don’t know where she gets that. Cough cough.) The only costume she REAALLY REALLY wanted was reminiscent of Jacob Marley, a layered, shredded, chiffon-ey get up that would blow in the wind and scare the pants off of people. And, not to be outdone, since I was making something for her sister,  Magpie wanted me to make hers too. I gamely agreed.

So we got patterns. We got fabric. I have no clue how to use patterns, or fabric, and all of the sewing terms except for needle and thread are like a foreign language to me. (Baste? I still have no idea what this means, unless you are referring to a turkey.) Approximately four thousand sewing, snipping, and swearing fact  hours later, I had two badly sewn get-ups that the girls absolutely loved. The fact that they weren’t perfect didn’t matter to the kids one bit. I sent them off to school praying that their costumes wouldn’t fall apart during the Halloween Parade,  And I vowed to never, ever, sew another halloween costume for the rest of my life.

Last year,  Magpie  decided she just wanted to wear the costume from the year before, thus making her my new favorite child. (Just kidding, of course. Sort of.) Lucy went with a pieced together, storebought costume, that only required a simple hem. Doing great so far, right? Not so fast. We ordered the Boy a Knight costume, and when it arrived it was easily two sizes too big. The top looked like a dress, and the pants, well, not wanting him to be nicknamed Sir Pants Falling Down, I had to alter them. So much for no more sewing.

Now, since the scary black cat is out of the bag regarding my rudimentary sewing skills, this is how the conversation went this year:

Lucy: Mom, I kind of want to be an angel this year. I found the wings and the halo online – but do you think you could make me a…

Me: No.

Lucy: Really, it wouldn’t be that complicated. All I need is a…

Me: No.

Lucy: …flowing white dress, you know, kind of floaty, and…

Me: No.

Lucy: Fine. We can just order it online then. Oh look, here’s one. It says “Naughty Angel”. And here’s one called “Fallen Angel”. or how about “Sexy Angel”?

Me:  (Sigh). Get in the car.

Lucy: Why?

Me: Because we’re going to the fabric store.

Well played, daughter, well played.

 

Humiliation: It’s a Good Thing

VP and I often talk about how small choices in our lives might have made a difference, to the point where if a certain thing happened, or didn’t happen, maybe we would never have met. Neither one of us got terrific grades, for example. What if one of us had studied harder? Or at all? Ahem. We likely would have gone to different colleges, and ended up somewhere different after college. Therefore we wouldn’t have met, and our children would be completely different people!  One of our kids could be Honey Boo Boo! Okay, maybe not her. But anyhow, mind-boggling, isn’t it?

The point is, cliché as it seems, everything happens for a reason. So even those embarrassing, humiliating moments, the ones that make you want to crawl into a hole and never come out? Sometimes those can lead to a better place, the place you are actually supposed to be.

One of these moments for me came in my twenties. It was a cold, foggy night in Nantucket Massachusetts. It was mid-April, and I was visiting the island with my then-roommate, whose mother lived there. On that damp, chilly night a lot of younger people on the island were crowded into a few of the bars/restaurants that were open in the off- season.

So we were ensconced in a cozy, but crowded tavern, enjoying the warmth and some lovely cocktails and appetizers, when I noticed a really nice- looking guy across the way.  Handsome, preppy (just my type) with dark, wavy hair. In my memory, he looked kind of like James Marsden, except not so, you know, Marsden-ey. I looked at him. He looked at me. We continued to sneak glances at each other. Oooh, now the weekend was starting to look up. Freezing cold, rainy weekend? Thumbs down. Cute guy? Thumbs up.

After a while, I started getting a bit sniffly because of the warmth in the bar, and found myself in need of a Kleenex. I didn’t have one on me, so I headed for the one bathroom in the place. It was one of those unisex bathrooms, I should mention.

When I got to the door, it was locked. Someone was in there. So I waited. And waited. Suddenly I sensed someone standing behind me, so I glanced, and, Oh my! It was Cute James Marsden-ey Guy, behind me in line. Now, I glanced at him, maybe gave him a slight smile, but couldn’t really engage in conversation because a) we were in line for a bathroom, and isn’t there some kind of a social code against that?  And b) by now I was pretty sure my nose was running visibly. And I’m pretty sure that wiping your nose on your sleeve after introducing yourself is some sort of a romantic deal breaker.

So as we waited, the door in front of us remained closed, and we exchanged a few “Can you believe this? WTF is taking so long?” glances between us (During which time I may or may not have been inwardly chuckling over the funny story we would someday tell our children about how we met). You know how, in your twenties, you have a whole sixth sense devoted to chemistry regarding the opposite sex?  There was definitely a vibe there. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Finally, the door opened. A young woman scurried out, her head down. I walked into the single bathroom. Closed the door. Reached for a few squares of TP to perform necessary nasal maintenance. And then… horror.

The person before me had apparently backed up the toilet. Not only had she backed it up, she had left… no polite way to put this… floaters.

Suddenly it became clear to me why she was in the bathroom so long. It also became clear to me that Cute Guy, who was, may I remind you, right behind me in line, would have no reason to think this excrementory nightmare wasn’t left behind by me.

I made a feeble attempt to flush, but the flusher thing was broken. Of course.

There was no way out. There was no way to explain. By now, I had, unfortunately, been in there for a couple of minutes. Poor planning, yes. Was I going to burst out of the bathroom, pointing and screeching, “It’s not mine!”?  I came to the sinking realization that there would be no “meet cute” moment, not on this night, as I, too, scurried out of the bathroom with my head down.

And no, there were no more surreptitious glances across the bar, as nothing kills a budding romance like thinking you have just seen a toiletful of someone else’s dookie.

So, to one unfortunate young lady who happened to be having a really bad night, in the end I have to say thanks.

To my loving husband, who I met just 6 months later, yes, everything happens for a reason, and even the little moments make a difference. There’s a song I love with the line that goes God bless the broken road that led me straight to you. I would like to add to that, God bless the broken toilet.

Happy thirteen years, Honey. It was meant to be. I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

But Does He Do Windows?

Much to my chagrin, every time I clean the house it somehow gets dirty again. I don’t have time for this, people. I am a Very Important Writer, and besides, my mom is many people are waiting for me to post.  So I have decided I need a housekeeper. Good help is hard to find, or so I’ve heard, which is why I have grabbed the nearest five year old (I hear they come cheap) and armed myself with a list of interview questions courtesy of E-How. Yes, it was the first listing that came up in the search engine. What, you expected in-depth research? Please. Dance Moms is coming on any minute now.

Me: First of all, why do you want to be a housekeeper?

Candidate: Um, because I want to help you?

Me: Good answer. What prior experience do you have doing housekeeping work?

Candidate: I don’t know what that means.

Me: What kind of cleaning have you done?

Candidate: Well,I cleaned my toys.

Me: Anything else?

Candidate: I cleaned the table once.

Me: Hmmm. Are there any chores you won’t do?

Candidate: I won’t pick up everything in the basement.

Me: That’s okay, neither will I. It’s creepy down there, amIright? Do you have any other part time jobs that might interfere with this job?

Candidate: (Blank look)

Me: Do you do anything else during the day?

Candidate: I go to school and sometimes horse races.

Me: ????

(A pause here while I check out the school website to ensure that trips to the racetrack are not, in fact, part of the curriculum.)

Me: Okay,how many hours a week can you work for me?

Candidate: Ten years.

Me: I think you misunderstood the… oh never mind.  Do you have any problems with children or pets?

Candidate: I won’t work with children but I will work with pets.

Me: Why not?

Candidate: Because I’m too small.

Me: Got it. How would you clean a hardwood floor?

Candidate : Um, with a broom?

Me: Fair enough. Tell me how you would get a stain out of a white shirt.

Candidate: Use Kleenex?

Me: Okay. How much would you like to be paid, due to your prowess with Kleenex?

Candidate: One hundred.

Me: Seems like a lot for someone so short. Is there anything you want to ask me?

Candidate : No.

Me: Okay, thanks for coming.  I’ll be in touch soon.

Candidate: Okay. (Begins playing with Legos on the floor).

Me: Are you going to clean those up when you’re done?

Candidate:  No.

And the search continues.

Sandwich Pants

Can someone please help me?

My husband, aka VP, has disappeared. Well, not exactly disappeared, but the version that I met almost 16 years ago seems to have gone by the wayside. Something sinister has him in its tentacles, and I fear I am not strong enough to save him.

It all started with something we call “Sandwich Pants”.

When we met almost 16 years ago, we were both city dwellers, frequently dining out and occasionally attending a party at an embassy or at the Capitol. His suits had labels that read  Armani or Hugo Boss, and if he needed pants he would dash to a local Saks or Nordstrom where he would find something work-appropriate yet stylish. Aside from a closetful of Cosby-esque sweaters (which I eliminated faster than you can say “your Aunt Freida’s knitting basket”)  he was usually immaculately dressed and well-groomed.

Fast forward. Years passed. Jobs changed. We were now married, with kids, and living in the Midwest.

One day we were out and about, casually exploring our new city, not a care in the world. We stumbled upon a Gap Outlet. Not just any Gap Outlet, mind you. This was a Gap Outlet Clearance Center. We’re talking ridiculously low prices. The kind of prices at which it would be rude not to buy something.   So of course, as a mom, I took the opportunity to dash in and stock up for the kiddos. Oh, how naive I was.

At some point during the shopping trip, VP approached me, triumphantly holding aloft a pair of pants. “Look what I found!” He said. “These are only $5.99! What do you think?”

Seeing as they were basic flat-front khackis, preppy, classic, perfect for his new casual work environment, I gave a thumbs-up, and blissfully continued shopping.

He bought three pairs total that day. For weeks, maybe months, he marveled that he could buy a pair of pants for the same price he paid for a good sandwich. So those pants became known as “Sandwich Pants”. It became a thing. So much so that one day I got a call from a friend wanting directions to the Gap Clearance Center. “I want to go buy Rick some Sandwich Pants”, she explained.

I wish it ended with “Sandwich Pants”, I really do. But sadly, the story took a dismal turn when we joined Costco, and VP discovered he could save time and money by purchasing peanut butter, pants, and patio furniture AT THE SAME PLACE! Now, when he skips out the door for Costco on  Saturday morning, I nervously await his return, wondering what he will come back with this time. The man who used to buy Cole Haan and Mephisto now lights up at a display of bargain priced shoes. You can practically  see the thought bubble over his head: “Style be damned, these are only $9.99! And anyhow, I heard Hush Puppies are making a comeback!”

I beg. I plead, “You work hard, Sweetie. Buy yourself something nice! You deserve it!”, and surreptiously leave catalogs open on the breakfast table.  But my entreaties fall on deaf ears. The lure of a bargain, the thrill of the hunt, is too strong.

And now, in an ugly turn of events, our local grocery store chain has now begun proudly selling clothing. Right alongside the bread, milk, and eggs. And it’s only two blocks away. I fear all hope is lost.

If you can help, let me know. I’ll be the one in the soup aisle, trying to steer her husband away from the bargain-priced Sans-A-Belt slacks.

Some Random Things About Me

Readers,

My head is buzzing right now. I think it’s that I attended my high school reunion, and it was an overwhelming experience in a lot of ways. (That or the three cups of coffee I had this morning. Maybe both.)  I am trying to process the experience of my first reunion in twenty years, and to bring forth a thoughtful, introspective post about the whole thing. I promise it is forthcoming, but, since I hate to write from such a raw, emotional place, I need to hold off for now.

So, in the meantime, I present a superficial post: Some Random Things About Me:

My secret ambition:  to be a backup singer.  (What’s that? No, I don’t know how to sing. Pish posh,  minor detail.)

I read constantly, sometimes two or three books a week when I’m really on a roll. Mostly non-fiction. On a related note: I’m pretty good at Jeopardy.

I am an excellent cook, and an obsessed foodie who reads cookbooks for fun.

I once (accidentally) dumped a glass of water on Dan Quayle.

I grow some mean heirloom tomatoes. I also grow way too many. If you come to my house, you’re leaving with tomatoes.

I’ve always thought I would be good at ice hockey. (Hmmm? No, I can’t really do what you call “skate”.  Again with the minor details!)

I am a loyal friend, the kind of person you can call in the middle of the night in an emergency. Not that anyone ever has, but I have heard about this sort of thing happening, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t  answer the phone, mumble “No habla Ingles”, roll over, and go back to sleep.

I love playing tennis. Anywhere, any time. It’s the best sport ever, because it involves cute outfits and the potential for snacks.

I love DIY projects, yet happen to also be spectacularly bad at them. Not a helpful dichotomy.

I am naturally thin. There, I’ve said it. Please don’t hate me. (Wait, where are you going? Come back!)

I have one sister. She is my best friend on the planet.

I believe lipstick goes a long way in helping you feel better on a bad day. And also pie.  Pie is good too. Come to think of it, forget about the lipstick and just go with pie.

Happy Monday everyone!

A Handy Guide to Attending Your Class Reunion

"Guess what? i'm on my fourth gin and tonic and I've got a handbag full of cocktail weenies."

“Guess what? I’m on my fourth gin and tonic and I’ve got a handbag full of cocktail weenies.”

 

Readers,

It’s class reunion season again, and since I’m practically an expert, having attended one once, I thought I would take this opportunity to answer your very important reunion-related questions. You’re welcome.

Question: Should I diet before my reunion?

Answer: Absolutely. Take a tip from today’s “in-the-know” brides: Find a willing doctor, have him install a feeding tube, and watch the pounds just melt away!  As an alternative, for the entire week before the reunion, eat nothing but skittles and grapefruit.  You’ll achieve that hip, gaunt look in no time. Bonus: the lightheaded feeling will make you more relaxed, and also you won’t have to drink as much! (Possible side effect:  you may have to leave the reunion early due to passing out and striking your head on the buffet table. But you’ll look fantastic.)

Question: Is now the time to try out a new hairstyle?

Answer: Yes. That asymmetrical haircut you’ve been thinking about? The day before the reunion would be the perfect time to try it. Because nothing says confidence like a snappy new “do”! Bonus: You’ll look like that guy from “A Flock of Seagulls”, so, win/win.

Bonus answer: A perm is also recommended, especially for the men. Don’t spend a lot of money on this, though. Find a “discount” perm or do it yourself at home. Second degree scalp burns are a small price to pay for beauty.

Question: How can I present the best version of myself at my reunion?

Answer: If you’re not fabulous, and you’re probably not, then the best way to go about this is to be the best version of someone else.  Practice tossing around phrases like “pied-a-terre”, “Fashion Week in Milan”, and “can’t find good help for the house in the Hamptons” while snipping the Target labels out of your of clothing.

Question: I want to look a bit younger. Any skin brightening tips?

Answer: For women, a strong chemical peel just prior to the reunion is a great refresher. Try to schedule it for a couple of days beforehand. Ditto for men and face tattoos. ‘Cause face tattoos are hawt, yo.

Question: I’ve never tried a spray tan. Do you recommend it for this occasion?

Answer: Yes, you have the pallor of a corpse. Um, I mean, spray tans are definitely the way to go. We were the baby oil/tan reflector generation, after all. For the newbie, ask for “the Snooki” for guaranteed results. For the more adventurous, ask for the “Tan Mom”, and pay to bump it up to extra-crispy.  Because nothing says “middle aged mom of four” like a circa 1980s Daytona Spring Break tan.

Question: At the reunion, what can I do to liven up the evening if things get dull?

Answer:  Here are a few ideas:

1.  Fun drinking game: Bring images from latest colonoscopy instead of pics of kids. Everyone who says “Gross!” has to drink.

2. People love to be noticed, so exclaim loudly to first person you see: “Wow! You used to be so skinny! What happened?”

3. Attempt to dance”Gangnam style”, because all the cool kids are doing it.

4. Conspicuously stuff remains of dinner into handbag, while screeching “Waste not, want not!”  Do same with other people’s plates.

5. From the stage, call for show of hands to find out who has been divorced the most times. Award “Crown of Shame” to winner.

6. Arrive dressed head to toe in full-on eighties attire, because everyone knows this makes you look younger. Bonus points for acid wash, multiple useless auxiliary zippers, or anything from the Limited’s “Outback Red” collection.

Well, I hope this helps all of you who are headed to your class reunions this season. Check back in another twenty-five years, when I answer questions  such as “How Can I Make Sure Everyone Knows My Grandchildren are Superior to Everyone Else’s?” and “How Can I Keep My Partial from Falling Out and  Landing in the Onion Dip?” Until then, happy reunion-ing!

 

Notes from the Shallow End

Chapter 2: In Which Some Bad Things Happen, Plus Some Good Things

Afternoon Readers!

When we last left off, my clever plan to feed my kids concession-stand fare in lieu of cooking dinner had been foiled due to a thunderstorm. I now present to you  the rest of our ill-fated evening, this time in handy Good/Bad format.

Bad: Arrive at restaurant to find that the rest of the Tri-state area has apparently had the same idea as me, as there are no parking places to be found. Who thought this was a good idea again? Oh, right, it was me. Ahem. There is much whining and grumbling from the back seat.

Good: After circling the parking lot six times, magically a space opens up right in front of the restaurant. I take this as a sign I made the right decision! See kids? Look how great this is! Look how chipper I am!

Bad: After putting our name in, the hostess cheerfully informs us that it will be a TWO HOUR wait for a table, and hands me a pager.

I’ll pause here to let that sink in. She is telling me it will be approximately 10:00 by the time we even get seated. That obviously is NOT GONNA HAPPEN. These are kids, y’all. Some of you may be wondering why I don’t, at this point, about-face and head for the nearest drive-through. Short answer: My kids don’t like fast food. (What I can’t answer is why they will deign to eat concession stand food, which is much worse. My kids are odd.)

Figuring maybe we will luck out, I decide we can wait about twenty minutes. I begin formulating a Plan B, which involves scrambled eggs and toast at home. Meanwhile, my kids are piled in a heap in front of a funhouse-style mirror. While watching their reflections squoosh into weird shapes, they have temporarily forgotten their hunger pangs and threats to call Child Services.

Good: After only two minutes, the pager buzzes. Perplexed, I approach the hostess stand, figuring there must be a mistake.

Reading my quizzical look, the hostess puts her finger to her lips and gives a subtle shake of the head, but reaches out and takes the pager from me. I’m not sure what is going on, but sure, I’ll play along. At this point what choice do I have?  A gentleman approaches, points to us, and says, “Johnson? Party of four?” Oh. (Sound of other shoe dropping). I start to tell him that isn’t our name, but only get out, “That’s not…” before the hostess interrupts me.  “Yes, yes, that’s them,” she says, shooing us into the dining room.

Readers, I’m still not sure what happened. Probably another party of four took their name off the list, so she took pity on me and my pathetic mewling pile of children and put us in their spot. Regardless, it is an incredible act of kindness.

Also Good: The service is super quick and cheerful, plus our waitress has pink hair. Which always helps.

Bad: In the middle of our meal, a shoe comes flying across the restaurant and lands in the middle of my daughter’s plate. The people who possess the shoe flinging- child are apologetic, and my daughter promptly receives a new plate. So all in all? Could be worse.

Good: Our waitress, she of the Beauty School Dropout-hued locks, is great about making sure my ice water is always topped off, even toward the end of the meal.

Bad: While handing me the check, Pinky Tuscadero accidentally knocks said full-to-the-top ice water all over me and my five year old, who at this point is sleeping on my lap.

Imagine poking a sleeping bear with a stick, then dumping ice water on him, then trying to stuff him in a car and drive him home. Yes, it went that well.

But on the plus side, it makes for a great story, and I’m all about a great story. Now, where will we go next week? I know, let’s try a 4 star French restaurant! They just love kids at those places.

Chapter 1: In Which Nothing Goes Right

The night had all the makings of a disaster.

The VP was away on a trip, so when Friday night came around, I was tired from a week of “single parenting”.  My frazzled state, plus the fact that my  daughter had a game at the high school stadium and had to be there by 6:30, meant that the ritual “cooking of the dinner” wasn’t going to happen on this night. Instead, my oldest daughter had the “For God’s Sake Just At Least Eat Something So You Don’t Pass Out at the Game” sandwich, otherwise known as turkey and provolone. As for the younger kids, since we were rushing, my diabolical plan was to let them eat stadium food and call it dinner. After all, they’ve never met a concession stand they didn’t like.

Readers, I present a timeline of the subsequent events.

6:30:  Drop daughter off at stadium to meet her squad. Drive off in search of an ATM, because good looks and charm won’t get us in to this game, and neither will the three dollars in my wallet.

6:50: In attempt to avoid ridiculously high transaction fees, finally locate a branch of our bank. Ignore the fact that I probably used the equivalent amount of the transaction fee in gas locating said bank branch.

7:10 Money in hand, arrive back at stadium to find usual entrance closed.

7:13 Find another entrance. This one is also closed, but a couple of sheriff’s deputies are assuring the assembled line of cars that “they are trying to find someone with a key to unlock it”. Apparently this Friday night game has caught these good  folks by surprise!

7:17 Locate an open entrance approximately 3.6 miles from the stadium, and also the last available parking space, not coincidentally also 3.6 miles from the stadium.

7:25 Arrive at gate with younger kids in tow. Hand over way too much money for a game they won’t even watch.

7:30 Find spot in bleachers just in time for marching band to start. Younger kids are beginning to ask for food. As I am assuring them that we will go to the concession stand as soon as the band is finished, notice ominous darkening of sky to the west.

7:36: Marching band finished, the football team takes the field.

7:38: Announcement: “WILL EVERYONE PLEASE CLEAR THE STADIUM! PLEASE TAKE SHELTER IN YOUR CARS IMMEDIATELY! THERE IS SEVERE LIGHTNING IN THE AREA! I REPEAT, PLEASE CLEAR THE STADIUM!”

7:39: Realize that I just paid a ***load of money to watch a marching band and two minutes of football.

7:40 After collecting older daughter, arrive safely at car relieved not to have been rendered extra-crispy in the trek across the parking lot.

7:41 Realize that we still need to eat dinner. We are also, unfortunately, inching dangerously close to youngest son’s bedtime. Tired and hungry are not a good combination for anyone, let alone a five year old.

7:42: Remember hearing about a restaurant nearby that just opened a few days ago! This is a great idea! I will take three tired, hungry children to a restaurant! By myself! On a Friday night! On opening week! In a thunderstorm! What can possibly go wrong?

Tomorrow: Part two, in which things get worse. And then they get better! And then they get worse again.   Until then, have a great day!