Happy New Year! Here’s an Epically Terrible Road Trip!

I am writing this post from my kitchen table, after a great holiday with family and then a beautiful week spent at my sister’s house. Everything went pretty much according to plan: the kids liked everything they got (Cam found me at the end of the day on Christmas, hugged me, and said, “Everything is perfect. Thank you so much,” which was pretty bomb to be honest). We had fun at my in-laws’ house on the 23rd, then at my brother’s house on Christmas Eve, and finally at my mom’s house on Christmas Day. We road tripped to Jill’s house the day after Christmas; the trip there was fast and we had a great week with her family. We kept to our plan of always doing something new every time we visit. Most of what we did, though, was low-key: we played games. The kids swam. We saw Rogue One. We went to a NYE party complete with (pretty dang professional-grade) fireworks. It was a great week.

And then.

It is well-documented that Dave and I each prefer to drive the car. We basically trade off for the most part, but we have worked out some ground rules– for example, Dave is the leadoff driver on road trips. Therefore he got behind the wheel early yesterday morning after we said our goodbyes, and we headed to Starbucks. I went inside to get drinks. When I came back, Dave asked me to drive, saying he felt a little off. He fell asleep almost immediately, along with the kids, and I spent the first hour of the drive enjoying the gorgeous scenery, filled with a sense of well-being and happiness.

Then Dave suddenly sat up and urgently told me to pull over. We later discovered that the NYE party had been Ground Zero for some kind of vicious stomach bug, with 8 or 9 people from the party coming down with it at the same time as Dave. Can you imagine taking a road trip in that condition? We pulled over… let’s just say “frequently…” and in-between vomit stops I would drive really really fast– trying to both make up time and get home before any of the rest of us got sick. I was afraid to give anyone any real food, so the kids had to survive on crackers, granola bars, and water all day while I called out. “Everyone okay? Anyone feel sick?” every 20 minutes. As the only functioning driver, I was afraid to eat anything at all. Meanwhile, poor Dave was trying not to die in the passenger seat, stretching out the time between vomit stops as long as possible (once he gambled and lost, by the way. That was not a great moment.)

But we did get home and no one else ever got sick. Our friend Kat brought over dinner for us all, which was the best, best, unexpected pleasant surprise. This morning everyone, Dave included, is feeling fine. We are doing a little bit of unpacking and a lot of relaxing. I went to the gym. Cam is downstairs, stringing lacrosse sticks. Dave and the J are putting together her new shelving units. Gabby is watching old-school Children of the Corn for some reason. It’s really nice to be home.


    The Impossibility of Gifts for Dave

    When I was a kid and we asked Dad what he wanted for Christmas, he always told us to buy him razor blades and shaving cream. We always thought that was bullshit. “But I don’t want anything else,” he used to protest. “If I want something, I get it.” It was always frustrating to figure out what to buy for him.

    Fast forward to me, now. I’m married to the busiest, happiest DIY-er in the world. Nothing makes Dave’s day more than a pile of supplies and a free weekend. This year he’s done extensive [at first I accidentally wrote ‘expensive,’ ha ha ha] work in the back yard, including adding a fire pit where the swing set used to be. Last year he began a basement hangout room project for the kids, and he did a little more work on that project as well. Finally, he continued his ongoing “replace the trim throughout the downstairs” project.

    Side note: did I tell you about our back door? Dave removed all the trim in preparation to have our new back door installed. Then the door guys came to measure, and long story short: the door we chose won’t work and we need to choose a different door. I am acting like a baby about that, since the door we chose had everything I wanted, so that project has been dead in the water for 3 months. The back door, denuded of trim, looks really nice in the meantime. (No it doesn’t.) This is just his thing: Dave loves home improvement projects. And fortunately he is very handy and does beautiful work, and– just as important– knows what he can do and what he can’t.

    Okay, so. I had had it in mind to get Dave a watch for Christmas. The kids were helping me choose one, and by “choose” I mean “find the least practical, bulkiest watch that looks the most like it was stolen from Batman.” So I finally went to the source and told Dave what was up. “I feel like you maybe should have a say,” I finished. And Dave’s say was essentially “razor blades and shaving cream:” he asked for flannel pants, and maybe some new work shirts, and a circular saw with a sliding arm. “I wear a watch because I feel like I should know what time it is without taking out my phone, but that’s all,” he said. “I like my watch just fine. What I would like, though, is some more stuff I can use to work on the house.” And then he was off, describing what he wants to change and what he wants to add and what comes next and what comes after that.

    How do you wrap a circular saw with a sliding arm?

      Morning Conversations

      [It is 6:23am.]

      JULIE: I think we should get shoes for the dog.

      DAVE: Okay.



      JULIE: ….Is that the first thing I’ve said to you so far today?

      DAVE: Yep.


        Random Sunday Interaction

        JULIE: I have a burning hatred for autoplay.

        GABBY [walks up behind Julie, starts crunching ice in her ear]: You should come up with a better word than “burning.” You need to improve your vocabulary, Mom.

        JULIE: ….I need to improve my vocabulary??

        GABBY: Yeah, you do.

        JULIE: [knocks Gabby’s cup of ice out of her hand and across the floor]

        DAVE: Ha, Gabby. Now you have to pick up all that ice.

        GABBY: What?! Mom did that!

        DAVE: You antagonized her.

        GABBY: … OH MY GOSH. The system is rigged!


          Life With Gabby

          22-118 Himalayan Salt Big.jpg

          This is the exact jar. It still contains salt.

          GABBY: Hey Mom:

          JULIE: Yes?

          GABBY: Can I have that jar that the pink salt is in?

          JULIE: What do you need it for?

          GABBY: I’ll find something appropriate to put the salt in?

          JULIE: ….Um, before I address that idea: what do you need the jar for?

          GABBY [casually]: Oh, I have some animal bones in my room.


          GABBY: I have a bird skull– remember the bird skull I found?– and I have a rabbit’s foot with some fur still on it, and I have some bones from when we dissected the owl pellets in class. They’re in a Ziploc, wrapped in a paper towel, but I’d like to put them in this jar like specimens.



          JULIE: ……No.

          GABBY: …..Are you going to write about this?

          JULIE: …..No.

            The Fifth Christmas

            We had our annual holiday brunch over the weekend. As usual, it was a great day celebrating the season with our friends and family. That evening, I logged onto Facebook to see that, exactly five years ago, we held our brunch on the same day. Here’s the photo I posted from that day, in which we expressed our feelings about cancer:

            Suck it, cancer.

            I didn’t know it then, but December 3, 2011 was the last time Dad was ever in my house. He stayed all day and into the evening (the term “brunch” always ends up being a euphemism with this party), being fun and chatting with people and just ruling the party. My oldest, dearest friends Georgann, Ann, Jane, Sheri, and Ali (all of whom Dad loved) saw him for the last time that day, although they didn’t know it then. We took that group photo that day, which would be one of our last photos with him (although we didn’t know it then). He was just fun and amazing the whole time. I know now how sick he was, and I understand how difficult it was for him to even get dressed to leave the house– but while he was clearly ill, you would never have known just how sick he felt. He was the same on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2011: fun and loving, and– although I didn’t know it then– dedicated to giving us the gift of one more precious holiday together. Now– on the other side of this great divide in our family’s life– I am beginning to understand the great heroics performed by Dad in those last days, rising above his illness to immerse himself in the holidays with us, this last time. I have great memories of that last holiday season. None of us was wearing blinders– Dad’s illness was present at all times– but we worked around it, and we found joy in being all together.

            We have spent four subsequent Christmases without Dad, and we’re on the cusp of the fifth. In some ways it’s hard every year. However, as time goes by, I remember more and more Dad’s determination to give us all one last great Christmas. I was lucky enough to have 39 years with Dad– almost twice the number that he got with his own father– and a lifetime’s worth of happy Christmas memories. I’m going to try to be as strong and brave as he was, and honor his gift to us by focusing on the good.

            But for real, still and always: suck it, cancer.


              Mattress update

              Yesterday, we thought our new hopefully-dreamy-and-perfect mattress was being delivered. Dave tore apart our room and put our mattress in the hallway (this is a really classy look, by the way).

              No mattress.

              Now it’s supposed to arrive today. Meanwhile, I’ve been reading about people who have bought memory foam mattresses and then say things like, “I love it…. now,” or, “It took me about a month to stop missing my old mattress,” or, “This is just what we have now, so I sleep on it.” So I’m utterly convinced that last night was my last night of comfortable sleep. Don’t tell Dave because he’s really excited about the new mattress… and also: if I have to get used to sleeping on the bed equivalent of packing peanuts, then honestly let’s just get the show on the road.

              It is currently 2:55pm and still nothing. (We did get our new printer yesterday, though, and our new club chair will be here on Friday, thus preventing us from having to explain to everyone at our annual party, “Um, that chair is going to be thrown out next week…” –so we’ve got that going for us.) My guess– since the mattress is supposed to require 4 hours to fully expand from being compressed under tremendous pressure (I’m hoping that the “expansion” is more like a “cartoon explosion,” so I want to be home to witness and photograph it)– is that it will arrive tonight around 930pm.

              I’ll let you know!

                Gabby, the dancer

                Gabby’s big competition was yesterday. The one that takes the best 150 Irish dancers in 14 states (well, this year the number was around 150, if you take out the no-shows) and tries to find the best of the best. Every year, Gabby has worked hard and qualified to dance in this competition (through her performance at other regional competitions, this sport is so complicated). All the girls dance two rounds, and then they keep the top half to compete further. Gabby has only made it into the top 50% one time in the 6 years she has competed. Yesterday was not that time.

                One of the other mothers texted me later, calling Gabby a “such a strong dancer and a fierce competitor.” I got that text while sitting on the couch, Gabby’s head in my lap. It was about 7:30 last night. She had gone through all the nerves and the anticipation and the letdown and the tears- followed always by her resolve to try again. Gabby believes in herself more than anyone I have ever met (not always a helpful trait, by the way). She IS a strong dancer and a fierce competitor– in part because that kid just will never, ever, ever, ever, EVER give up. I read her that text last night. I told her last night that hundreds of girls fail each year to even qualify, and she should be proud to make that high benchmark every year (she has already qualified for next year). I reminded her that it’s about the journey too. I said that it was okay to be disappointed, but not okay if she allowed her disappointment to be the most important thing about the journey. I reminded her of the hours she had spent in the studio with the other girls, supporting each other and laughing and getting better every day, and I said that that was the most important part.

                And she said, her voice muffled by the blanket in which she was wrapped, “Thanks, Mom. I don’t want to make you feel bad, but I’m okay and I’m trying to watch The Walking Dead.

                “Also, can I bring cupcakes to dance this week?”

                –So she’s fine.

                  In which Dave and I have a mature discussion about a large purchase.

                  Actual conversation I had yesterday:
                  DAVE: Take a look at those mattresses I pulled up online.
                  JULIE: ….You want to get a new mattress?
                  DAVE: What do you think about the memory foam?
                  JULIE: Well, you know how I hate the memory foam pillows.
                  DAVE: Right, but remember how much we liked that memory foam mattress topper at the cabin in Michigan?
                  JULIE: Didn’t we hate it the following year though, like it wasn’t comfortable anymore?
                  DAVE: I think so, yes. Here, you can customize your side. I did yours for you. You should do it yourself, though.
                  JULIE [reading]: “Because you have a lower BMI..” that’s fine… “Because you have broader shoulders and hips?”
                  DAVE: Well, I chose the Hourglass figure for you.
                  DAVE: That’s why I said you should do it!!! Look at your options!!!!
                  JULIE: ……oh. Fine. Hourglass. But I don’t like that term.
                  DAVE [with great weariness]: I know.
                  JULIE [still reading]: Oh my gosh, this shows up in a mini-fridge box?
                  DAVE: It pops open and then it takes about 4 hours to decompress.
                  JULIE: ….I don’t think I want to sleep on a mattress that can be stuffed into a mini-fridge box.
                  DAVE: That’s just how the hybrid mattresses are packed to ship. This is exactly how they arrive in a mattress store, and then the store opens them up and they take their shape. If we get an innerspring mattress, they’ll deliver it like always but I thought we might try a hybrid.
                  JULIE: This says it takes some time to get used to.
                  DAVE: Oh my God, you’ll pass out in thirty seconds like always.
                  JULIE: But what if I don’t? What if I don’t like it?
                  DAVE: We can return it within 100 days and get a regular innerspring mattress. I already picked one out for you to look at.
                  JULIE: Would we have to stuff it back into the mini-fridge box?
                  DAVE: No, that is obviously impossible. Someone would pick it up.
                  JULIE: This feels like the purchase of a grad school student. Look at this picture of these two hipsters, unpacking the box.
                  JULIE: I don’t know, man.
                  The moral of the story is that the mattress will be here in a couple of weeks. In a mini fridge box. My skepticism level is high, but I’ll keep you posted.


                    Here are the things I am grateful for, as I sit in my kitchen on Thanksgiving morning:

                    • That the dog no longer requires me to go outside and walk him first thing, but has figured it it’s best for us all if he just pees in the back yard.
                    • Coffee.
                    • A husband who both gets my clever literary-reference jokes AND can explain sports rules to me.
                    • That Thanksgiving takes place at the START of the holiday weekend, not the end (looking at you, Easter).
                    • I recently discovered that treasure trove of gifs in my text menu.
                    • Addie J, after making her oddly gritty “test pie” on Sunday, choose to make a different pie for today.
                    • It isn’t raining, so I can go for my Thanksgiving morning run in peace.
                    • We aren’t eating until later in the afternoon, so I don’t have to go for my Thanksgiving run right this second.
                    • My three children who are happy, healthy, and usually keep the smart remarks to a minimum.

                    Happy Thanksgiving!

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