Category Archives: parenting/grandparenting

Sheer Artistry, Pre-School Style


spilled polish“Mom?” My daughter started, bypassing our usual greetings on the phone. “How do you get nail polish out hair?”

This was, I admit, where I gave to toddler gods, that my own children were grown and gone.

Ashley  called with this quite unique question, because her two younger kids, ages four and two, were not napping like she had thought. Instead they had decided to get out the nail polish and treat each other to mani/pedi’s. The four year old understood the idea of where polish was supposed to go, so he managed to get tint on mostly toes and fingers. The two year old opted for a more free-style method which is why she ended up with sparkled polish glued to her scalp. They both had polish on legs, arms faces. The little one had belly swatches of color.

This wasn’t the first time I’d received a phone call from this particular parent. When her oldest was a toddler, she loved make-up, always wanting one of us to put on eye-shadow or a little lip gloss. I had once made the mistake of leaving my make-up case on my desk, where I was in the habit of checking email while preparing for work.

A few hours, I got that call. “Mom? How much did you like that lipstick in the silver tube? Ashley asked.

“What did she do?” Already knowing my adorable granddaughter was involved somehow. She was the little darling who’d pulled over a potted plant while in her walker and had delighted in spreading potting soil all over my living room.

“I texted you a photo” was her reply.lipstick girl

She looked so proud of herself.

It is something how little ones can make such terrific messes while unsuspecting parents think they are sleeping, or when Mommy or Daddy has to take five minutes to pee, let out the dog, or take supper out of the stove. Their ability to create messes of epic proportions in short amounts of time is amazing considering that they’ve often not yet mastered toilet training, or complete sentences.

A friend once came home to a couple of smurfs. In her husband’s defense, weak as it was, he’d put the children to bed, and then gone there himself. He hadn’t thought to check if they were actually asleep first. So when my friend came home, her two youngest, one still in diapers, had gotten up, found a blue permanent marker and proceeded to take turns using each other as a canvas.

When I did hair, I saw a small but steady stream of children who decided at the early ages of five and under that being a hairdresser was the career for them, with expected results.  Even my own kids went through their own “hairstyling phases”. The most creative example was a little boy, about three who’d managed to climb up onto the bathroom counter, access daddy’s electric razor and shave all his little brother’s hair off. His mom caught him halfway through his own hair.

Thankfully little artists grow up and learn art doesn’t cause shrieks of dismay from surprised parents, and they move on to mediums that turn refrigerator doors into pint sized art galleries. Until then parents, and grandparents will be making phone calls or searching Google to help them find ways to undo what their children have just considered art.

 

“Dating” Daddy


daddy dateThere is a trend happening in evangelical circles that I find somewhat disturbing. Its the trend of fathers dating their daughters.  Yes you read that correctly, and apparently its highly recommended as a means to for fathers to spend time with their girl children. A common event is the Daddy/daughter dance, where the fathers wear suits and the girls dress up and go to a planned evening, complete with photographers, punch and a DJ. Its more like a prom. In fact in some cases it is a prom. Some of these “proms”  are not designed for fun, tiaras, and all the punch you can drink while dancing to Selena Gomez.

If you have clicked on the links and are skeeved out, you are not alone. Those dances with the “purity” theme send a very negative message to girls about sexuality. I find them highly disturbing and coercive. They use fear wrapped in tulle and ceremony to get girls to consider their virginity the whole of their value. Yet they are quite popular in conservative evangelical circles.

Thankfully, some father/daughter dances  do not have the sexual purity undertones, but instead are simply billed as fun events for dads and daughters.

I understand that such events are an attempt to get fathers to spend time with their daughters. I understand that its also an attempt for dads to try to instill  positive views about the male gender, or to try to teach religious ideals about sexuality. I understand that little girls often love dressing up like their favorite princess and dancing to Disney tunes, and think Daddy hung the moon, but I wonder if such events takes away from the natural,  spontaneity  that can exist between parent and child.

I have to ask, do daughters really have to wear frilly dresses just to have some one on one time with their dads? do dads have to go to planned, events where they likely feel completely out of place just to spend time with their daughters?

I don’t think so.

I remember dancing with my dad, at family themed church dances, where he patiently tried to teach me the box step. I happened to like to dance, even if I lacked elegance, but dancing with my dad is not what rates high on my Time With Dad highlight reel.

best bag swing evah!

Best bag swing on the planet.

Instead I remember him taking my brothers and me to the lake, where we learned how to put our own worms on hooks, and catch bluegill. I remember the bag swing he built in our back yard. The bag swing was nothing more than gunny sacks, rolled up together with a rope tied to the middle. The other end of the rope was tied to the branch of an oak tree branch, a good 15 feet up. I still remember the thrill of my dad pulling me back as far as he could make that swing go, then throwing me forward. I’d screech in delight as I’d hurtle to make the arc complete, than back down again.

I remember years of playing cards or checkers with him, and never once beating him. I came close once or twice. The consistent defeat didn’t daunt me, as we enjoyed the game, as well as all the jokes, silly bantering, attempts to catch one of my brothers cheating.

I remember the entire house being dark, and hiding, while my dad tromped around, loudly yodeling the melody of the marching soldiers from the Wizard of Oz, while wearing a KFC bucket on his head. I was always found before my brother. My brother was very hard to find. It was such spooky fun, ending with giggles and a tickle.

I remember Dad being the only person on the planet who could help me almost understand algebra. It is thanks to him that I passed any math class. I remember when I was sixteen being taken to a movie, the first grown up one we’d been to together. It was Alien. He loved it, thinking it the best monster movie made in thirty years. I was scared shitless.

I wasn’t treated like a fairy princess, the idealistic little girl fantasy. The idea of going out on a date with my dad, would have likely horrified us both. For him to take me to an event where I was supposed to ceremoniously hand over my virginity so he could give it later to a spouse of his approval was unthinkable.  I was treated like a daughter, a human being with autonomy, who had a step sister and a host of brothers, each of us special in our individual ways, being groomed to step out into the world on our own.

My own children’s father  proved to  be a poor role model, so I did what I could to share the lessons my father taught me. Lessons taught that being a great parent, was simply spending time with your kids, enjoying their company, showing  a sense of humor, quick to apologize for messing up, teaching practical skills, like cooking, mowing the lawn or doing laundry, to be available to listen, to help with homework or to play Scrabble with, and to do those everyday things that they may never appreciate or remember, but they often do.

I really don’t understand the idea of “dating” daddy. I don’t understand having to plan events, schedule time to spend with one’s child. I certainly do not understand having to suggest to fathers things to do with their daughters. Even busy dads, as any parent often is, take five minutes to listen to her to play Fur Elise on the piano, or help with a Geometry problem, or teach her the trick to throwing a curve ball. They can show her how to check the oil in the car, have her hand him the tools while fixing the sink, and play pranks on Mom. Doing those small things consistently, and willingly will mean more than any fancy dress up dance with a DJ playing Justin Bieber and Pharrell.

Memories of Mamal


I wrote this poem to read at Grace Stewart William’s memorial service. She was my step-grandmother, and a sweet, gentle soul. She will be dearly missed.

Memories of Mamal

Coffee and toast, her usual breakfast
Enjoyed each morning, dressed in her housecoat
A moment of quiet to start her day

Small children, drawn to her like bees to honey.
Who’d hold a disabled child for hours
So his parents could enjoy a family gathering

Her chickens, lovingly tended,
Eggs laid, she skillfully cooked
Her grandchildren feared the meanest roosters in five states.

Hours around the table, playing cards
Friendly competition amongst family
She was tough to beat, a delightful opponent

Peanut Brittle, one of my favorite treats
Delivered by hand from trips up north
Candy, gifts, small statured hugs, infused with love.

Hair, white, permed shoulder length
The sides pulled back and pinned
A beautiful look she never changed.

A tiny woman with a tremendous heart
Gentle, stubborn, gracious and loving.
Thank you for your gift in my life

What Mom Could Ask for Anything More?


180237_10151493447669317_1339669079_nOne of the great things about being a mother of grown children is the memories. Part of the fun of those memories, as a writer is putting them into a more concrete format, that may or may not embarrass those now grown children. Any long time reader of my work knows, that I’ve been mining parenting memory gold for awhile.

It is those memories, the happy, the sad, and the hilarious that I feel have made being the mother of these three people so rewarding. My children are vibrant, intelligent, funny, creative and accomplished. Of course that’s just a mother’s bragging, but its true.  I was often so proud of them. I’ve also had times where I wanted to pinch their naughty little heads off.

I have great memories of then they were little. Of my oldest finally mastering potty training. I honestly was afraid, I’d still be trying to get that child to use a toilet at the same time he was getting his learner’s permit. But he got it. Soon afterwards, I caught him and a little girl who was visiting, on my front porch. He was demonstrating how to pee off the porch.

My middle child, cried, no wailed, every single morning the first weeks of kindergarten. She begged to stay home. “I’ll be good mommy, I promise I will!” Thankfully she overcame her disdain for school, and went on to be an honor student.

My youngest  grew up to possess far more clothes than I, mainly because she’s been stealing out of my closet for years. This child when young, HATED changing clothes. She always wanted to pick out her own clothes, usually the same damned thing, a pair of stretchy shorts and a Sylvester the Cat t-shirt. She tried for three years to wear that outfit every single day. It would mysteriously reappear into her drawer, after I bagged it up to take to Goodwill. Once when she was about three, and I was tired of the daily “dress the toddler cage match” I let her pick out an outfit herself. She picked out socks and a belt.

When they all were in grade school, their collective antics were funny, sometimes dangerous, and often messy. I refused to buy grapes for a year. Why? Because Michael, the oldest, thought it would be a great idea to make grape juice. Their method of juicing was to smash grapes on the table, then try to capture the juice somehow. I don’t think they’d figured out the last part when I walked in on them.

My crew was the first generation of kids to successfully use the laundry chute at their great grandmother’s summer cottage as a slide. To determine its safety factor, they piled all the blankets and pillows they could find, and used Megan, the youngest as a guinea pig.

They also decided to play “cat fishing, extreme style” one day. On this event, I heard uncontrollable laughter coming from the living room. I walked in to see the kids in helpless heaps, one cat staring at the ceiling, the other making rapid laps around the room. I looked where the first cat was looking. There tied to the ceiling fan was the racing cat’s favorite stuffed duck. It was making slow helicopter rotations tethered to a shoe lace. Cheese-puff was  desperately trying to catch his toy, while the other cat eyed the whole scene in disdain. Once I too stopped laughing, I made them stop the fan and take down the wind blown stuffed duck.

There were so many things that have made me so proud of my kids. Michael broke his collar bone one summer. He had made the middle school cross country team. Even though he nursed that shoulder for most of the season, he ran in every event. His tenacity was to me an inspiration. He’s been running ever since, and regularly enters events.

All three of my kids have accomplished something I’ve never managed, a college degree. Ashley did so, while parenting very small people, and with her husband either deployed or based far from home for most of her time in studies. She graduated, with honors, weeks before she gave birth to their third child.

All three are home owners, and accomplished that feat before age 30. I was in my mid forties before becoming a home owner. Megan, the youngest bought her first home a year and a half ago. She and her new husband purchased an older home close to ours. It needs to be upgraded to meet the standards of,  at least,       the early 2000’s, but they are up to the task, taking things one small project at a time.

One more thing I appreciate about these amazing people I birthed is how well they support one another, genuinely like each other and have become a source of support for me. When I made the decision to finally end the marriage from hell and leave their father who had been abusive to all of us, they were there for me, for each other. We were all hurting, yet they rallied  around me, listening to me, chiding me at times, giving me ways to distract me from how difficult things were, and letting me know how much they loved me.

I know Mother’s Day is a time to honor mothers. I, of course, appreciate the sentiment and the bit of extra personal attention. This year, I want to spend more time enjoying the gift, of being a parent of three people, who have made my life so rich.  It has been a delight watching my children grow from adorable chubby babies, to strong beautiful adults. Being their mother hasn’t always been easy, as we’ve endured some truly difficult times together.  We’ve also had a lot of fun together. They’ve made me laugh, cry, lose my temper, exhausted, physically ill,  (because germs are the gift that keeps on giving), want to run away from home and join the circus, proud as any mom could be, and feeling extraordinarily valued. A couple years ago, when I remarried, I gained two more grown boys, so now I have more fantastic kids to love.

What Mom could ask for anything more?

Mission Improbable


 

mission impossible.

Once upon a time, I wrote a weekly column called Miss Mom. It appeared on a community web blog called the Spartanburg Spark. I thought I’d drag some of my favorites out of the archives.

The other day I was watching a young mother making a purchase at the store. She had a baby on one hip as she was trying to pay for her purchase. Her other child, a lively little girl, was making fast circuits around the checkout area, running as fast as her little feet could carry her as she giggled loudly with delight.

That scene made me remember my days of shopping with my kids when they were young. This is a task undertaken by moms for generations. Shopping with kids at times could be like an epic adventure or one of those thrilling television shows. There was excitement, adventure, danger, suspense. Don’t believe me? Then sit back and enjoy what I will call Mission Improbable

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Good morning, Mrs. Phelps. Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is as follows. You must take the following list and make purchases found on that list. You must do so within budget and try to use the coupons provided. Your team, if we may call it that, are young, inexperienced and will depend completely on your guidance. It is your job to take them on your mission and keep them safe and content until you all return to base safely….

You will take yourself and your charges to the grocery store. After you unstrrap the toddler from his car seat and shout at the seven-year old to not run out into traffic you enter the facility, beginning at produce.

Why is grocery shopping with children such a mission improbable, you ask? Because to kids, stocked aisles full of foodstuffs with colorful packaging is nearly as appealing as an amusement park. There are all sorts of interesting displays, and things to touch, despite what moms repeatedly tell them. There is even a thrill ride in the form of the grocery cart. While the little one sits in the seat in the front of the cart and tries his darndest to pull things out of your purse, the older ones will take turns hanging off the sides or beg you to push the cart. Their pushing the cart, if they are still not quite tall enough to see far down the aisle, is just asking for trouble. They will either run into every obstacle they can’t quite see or repeatedly run into your ankles while you are comparing prices of spaghetti sauce.

While the oldest is imagining he’s the next star demolition derby driver, and eyes the pyramid of cracker boxes at the end of the aisle, the middle one is trying to sneak in four boxes of snack cakes into your cart when you aren’t looking, or is simply taking off items off the bottom shelf to see if she can fit into the space she just made. This will take about 12 seconds, or as long as it takes you to find the coupon you had brought for paper towels.

When you get to the back of the store, or the furthest point from the nearest exit is where the greatest possibility of tantrums occur. This is usually because the toddler is upset because you took a box of mac and cheese away. She just doesn’t yet understand why she wasn’t supposed to gnaw a hole in it. Sometimes the tantrum comes from an older child who is mad because you aren’t buying that super sized box of sugar bomb cereal that they just HAD to have. Reports of mom’s making hasty retreats with children literally in tow in such situations have occurred, leaving full carts of groceries behind. Resisting the tantrum maneuver is recommended but can difficult. Bribing the temper tantrum throwing child is one way of dealing with this danger, but it often causes long-term ramifications. It is best to find and use other methods to diffuse that volatile situation if it arises. You need to be prepared to use a variety of tactics to end the situation as quickly as possible. Retreat is certainly an option as was already mentioned.

After your list is complete, with only 14 extra items added to the cart, at least that you are aware of, it is time to begin the process of ending your mission and you head to the checkout line.

Depending on the time of day you choose for this mission, the checkout process can take a while. That is when your team can go into whine mode. They will complain of being hungry, bored, or tired and ready to leave 5 minutes ago. This is often one of the prime times that they will suddenly and without warning have an urgent need to use the bathroom, right now. It is wise to familiar yourself with the locations of every public restroom in a three state area. You will be surprised how valuable that information can be.

Now you approach the checkout station. Patience on your part is paramount at this time because you reaching little kid nirvana, or the candy display all people must pass on the road to the cash register. This display is set right at eye level for any child under the age of ten. Use all your skills to dissuade your team from persuading you to purchase, gum, candy, mints, or some cheap toy displayed. Your team has means of persuasion that could render the most hardened criminal mastermind into giving up his darkest secrets. They will attempt to use their persuasion skills on you. Use diversionary tactics to try to take their attention off of that tempting candy display. One suggestion is to do what you can to channel their energy into helping you unload the grocery cart instead.

Finally, when you have made your purchases, take all the bagged groceries and load the kids and bags back into your car. Go home, unload everything, (and everyone), give the kids a snack to hold them over till dinner and put your purchases away. You will have just completed a successful mission.

Should you choose to not take this mission, or convince your spouse to do it instead, we will not hold it against you, while applauding your delegation skills. Just try to talk him into taking the kids along.

Just one more thing. The toddler’s diaper will self-destruct in 30 seconds.

 

Drawing Trees


 

decorated christmas tree clip artImagine being a little kid, sitting in class a few days before the Christmas break. The teacher passes out sheets of construction paper and instructs everyone to draw a picture of their favorite thing about Christmas. Now imagine that you have nothing to draw. You have no favorite Christmas anything. You’ve never celebrated Christmas. You, are the sole person in your class, quite possibly in your entire school that does not celebrate Christmas, or any other traditional religious holiday.  You are truly a religious minority.

That is my clear memory of Christmas as a kid, along with having to go to the library during school holiday parties, where I tried to find solace in the books I had all to myself. I would have much preferred eating cake and ice cream and singing Jingle Bells with the other children, but that was strictly forbidden by my father’s faith. It was a truly lonely time in my first few years of grade school, made even lonelier because my mother had passed away shortly after I began first grade.

I grew up in the Armstrong movement. The church founded by a failed advertising salesman took elements from various other denominations, including Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh Day Adventist and some aspects of Old Testament traditions and built a religion around it. It focused largely on end time predictions, strict adherence to church sanctioned rules, and taking great pride in being religious outsiders. Members were told that they were the one true church, the only ones that had a chance to be eternally redeemed by God, protected from God’s wrath when the end times came. They only had to remain diligent in the tenets of the faith, which were demanding. They rejected traditional Christian holidays in favor of a version of Old Testament Jewish ones with some interesting twists. Anyone who observed the traditional holidays, as well as other things deemed by the church to be offenses, was considered apostate and would feel the full brunt of God’s wrath for that sin.

I recently read an article on just this subject by a member of one of the many little groups that splintered off from the church Mr. Armstrong founded, titled Treasure Digest, The One Snowman  . Reading that piece brought back memories of being that little lonely girl, feeling lost in a culture that she was told was evil, being terrified of being found out for wanting some of the joy the other kids, and just being plain old confused by it all.

When I read the article again, I became angry at the tone and the theme of the piece. They acknowledged that their children endure ridicule and loneliness and even shunning for the faith of their parents. But they took that acknowledge as a matter of pride. They wrote:

“While I think we need to give our children credit for what they have endured for our beliefs, I also think there are important lessons that we adults can learn from the children and especially from the example of the one snowman.”

I don’t know if the writer of the piece ever stopped to consider that the reason why their child drew a snowman instead of Santa. They drew a snowman for the same reasons I drew what I did; because they were terrified not to. It wasn’t courage, or obedience or even faith that prompted me to not participate along with the rest of my class. It was plain old fashioned fear. We had a choice, to face the strange looks and whispered gossip from our schoolmates and the lack of understanding of our teachers and friends, or face the lectures and guilt heaped upon us by our parents, no matter how well meaning, and the ever hanging fear of what God would do to us for putting colored balls on a second graders rendering of a pine tree.

I don’t remember what I drew instead of little green pine trees with colored dots and sloppy looking presents underneath those trees, probably just a tree, a plain tree with no embellishments. Despite this negative experience, I eventually found a way to gain something positive out of it. One of the biggest lessons I learned was not to force my religious beliefs onto anyone, or to insist on putting a child in a setting where they feel fearful, anxious or alone because of my religion. I can appreciate more fully what it is like to be a child or even a grownup, who is a recent immigrant, or of another religion, or is just considered odd or different. I know well what it is like to be full of questions and not have an outlet to access the answers I seek. I know what it is like to be lonely, while surrounded by others. It makes me want to try to help keep that from happening to anyone else, even though I strive for the impossible.

I learned that one’s faith is only truly strong when it is willing to undergo scrutiny and to evolve organically shedding, adding, restructuring along the way. I learned that people have many ways of trying to worship God and that being respectful of that beautiful diversity is not dishonorable to my own methods of worship.

To allow our children to learn and find some value in the religious traditions of others is actually a healthy thing. There is less danger of a child “being led astray” and more of an opportunity for a child and for us to see that even though we may believe and do things differently, we aren’t really as different as we assume.

The little girl I used to be is all grown up. I have a pretty little Christmas tree in my home and gifts wrapped for my children and grandchildren. Since I have grown up, I have drawn lots of pictures of Christmas trees, and presents, and even really lousy renditions of Santa and his reindeer.. I sing carols and holiday tunes every year, and find wonder in the birth narrative. For me, I find peace and joy to be found in this season, the sharing with friends and family and the beauty of all those gorgeous decorations. The fear of displeasing God for anything I do, or not do, is long gone. That is what I want everyone to experience, an absence of terror when it comes to considering the divine.

Happy Holidays.

Are We There Yet?


mini vanIt’s time to load the car. I strap in the toddler into her car seat, making sure she has a toy handy, and then make sure the luggage is stowed, snacks for the kids are packed and easily accessible, then the kids and the dog are all loaded and ready for their trip to Grandma’s. Everyone is all excited about spending the weekend, even the dog who barks repeatedly at every tree you pass by on our way out of the sub-division. Likely he has deduced that this is one car trip that he is allowed to go on that doesn’t require a visit to the vet.

Ten minutes into the journey, the toddler begins to wail, which quickly escalates to high pitched screams. The dog soon joins in while the other kids are trying to tell little sis to stop. She is ignoring the pleas of her siblings. Apparently my youngest can’t find her stuffed kitty. That stuffed kitty goes everywhere with my three year old, She sleeps with it, plays with it, takes it with her on all important journeys, like to the bathroom. It is her constant and most important companion. A quick search reveals no stuffed kitty anywhere in the mini-van. I can see the interstate on-ramp just yards away. There’s no way we are going back, knowing good and well that Grandma has plenty of toddler friendly toys at her house.

The stuffed kitty was lying on the sidewalk right where my darling daughter had dropped it on the way to the car. The 10 year old also decided that she had to go to the bathroom, so I gave her the house key and told her to hurry. That quick potty trip had taken 15 minutes because she was looking for a Barbie to take along. I then sent in the 14 year old to fetch her. He too was taking his time. Meanwhile my darling spouse is making huffing noises, and periodically honking the horn in frustration. Sighing, I go in and get those kids back in the car. Forty-five minutes later, we are pulling out of the driveway again.

As soon as we hit the interstate the question is asked “Are we there yet?” No, I tell the querying child, and go on to explain that the trip will last a few awhile yet.  All is quiet in the car…for about fifteen minutes.

“Mom, Tell her to stop touching me!” The eldest implores.

“Tell him to get out of my space, he’s sitting way too close!” the younger one retorts

‘”Make her move Mom; I can feel her breathing on me!”

“Its air and I can breathe on you if I want!”

“Both of you stop right now and move apart from each other by three inches each!” I command. A moment passes, and I hear the younger child murmur sadistically “Not touching you, not touching you, not touching you…”

I turn around and catch my child with finger millimeters from her brother, my son with a murderous look on his face. “Stop it both of you!”

Two minutes later, someone asks “Are we there yet?”

Forty five minutes into the trip, the kids have decided they are hungry. Never mind that I fed them before I left the house, they know there are snacks in the car and they must have them or suffer the consequences of starvation. Even the toddler, who has yet to fall asleep, is demanding Cheetos. In no time at all a week’s worth of junk food is consumed and someone needs to go to the bathroom really, really bad.

Twenty minutes later, our van pulls out of the rest stop. My bladder is thankful, and I am chiding myself for not having gone on that return trip to the house. The dog got to visit a tree, and almost made a break for the woods behind the rest stop when he saw the squirrel that was just asking to be chased. As soon as the car gets up to speed with the rest of the traffic I hear “Are we there yet?”

It doesn’t take long for yet another sibling spat to start up. This time it is over whose turn it is to play with the hand held video game.

“Mawwwoom! Tell her to give me the game. She’s been playing since we left the house. It’s my turn.”

“No I haven’t! I didn’t play when we were at the rest stop. I had to take care of the dog.”

About this time, my spouse who has been mostly silent until now says in a gruff voice, “You kids need to be quiet. Daddy is trying to concentrate on getting through this traffic.” Looking ahead, I see four cars and a dump truck.

Breaking the concentration of a man reaching his destination is something best not done. He is a man on a mission. The goal is Grandma’s and delays such as bathroom breaks, hungry children or dogs horking up Cheetos the toddler fed him is just going to add to the frustration of achieving the destination on time, hopefully shaving a few minutes off his record. Yes, he keeps score.

At least Dad’s input into the sibling rivalry works. The kids are quiet, the game has been confiscated and the toddler looking sleepy. It looks like the other two may be settling down for some snooze time as well. I finally get to open that new best seller I’ve wanted to read when I hear. “Are we there yet?”

I manage to get through a whole chapter when two things happen, I smell something horrific. Then I hear.  “EWWWWW! You farted!”

“Who-ever smelt it dealt it and I didn’t do it!”

” Who-ever denied it supplied it! It must be you!”

“Was not!”

“Was too!” In the meantime the windows are being rolled down as the aromatic offerings by the anonymous offender are diffused from the car. I look over at my husband. He has a smirk on his face. Why is he looking like that? I wonder…”Oh!” I retaliate by aiming all the air vents in his direction and turning the AC on high.

Soon, the words “I gotta go” are heard, spoken by the three year old at the same time I hear the now inevitable “Are we there yet?” I ignore the second question and look over to my spouse who announces “Well, we are getting a bit low on gas.” He then passes the next eight exits because he’s not about to pay THAT much a gallon, while mine and my daughter’s agitation grows. Finally he decides that he’s not going to find a better price for gas considering the best price he saw was nine exits ago and pulls into a station.

I unstrap the toddler from her seat and rush her into the bathroom with seconds to spare. It is only after she’s in full pee mode that I discover the disgusting state of the stall. I use an entire box of wipes to get her clean to my sanitation standards and head back to the car, only to find it empty. That is because we are at a truck stop that contains a gift shop and a fast food restaurant. My family is standing in line for food, while the oldest tries his hardest to catch a glimpse of the girlie magazine display without notice from any grownup.

Forty five minutes, two more bathroom trips by family members and 20,000 calories later we are all full and on the way again. I wait for it and am not disappointed when I hear “Are we there yet?” ten minutes into the next leg of the journey.

Eventually we reach our destination and are welcomed by Grandma and Grandpa as the kids pour out of the car and the dog jumps out of the van and begins to grace the lawn with his presence. The older kids head immediately to the pool. They apparently have planned one thing in advance and are already peeling off shirts and shorts revealing the bathing suits hidden underneath.  My husband goes in the direction of the television. He is muttering something under his breath about at least being able to watch the post-game highlights. I am left with the toddler, the dog and all that luggage. My youngest, who has just awakened looks up at me with sleepy eyes and says with a lisp. “Are we there yet?” “Yes Sweetie, we are.” I answer, kissing the top of her head. I hand her off to grandma, deciding to make everyone help unload later, and head into the house. I know where the good ice cream is hidden.