The Scariest Thing

I have already told you all how I tortured myself by watching scary movies as a kid (Friday the Thirteenth).  I watched almost every scary movie they made.  I did it by myself, in the dark, and usually while babysitting.  As a result, I was SO FREAKING SCARED of everything, all the time.  Scared to be home alone, scared to open the shower, scared to close the medicine cabinet, scared to go camping, scared to go to sleep, scared to swim, scared to drive at night, scared to make out in a parked car (just kidding… I still did that).

But over the years I have gotten smarter and I stopped watching the scary movies.  I saw The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense (those were really the last horror movies I intentionally sat down to watch all the way through), but they were from last century.  I won’t even look at the previews for Paranormal Activity, or The Ring, or Mama, or the one where there is a really creepy old lady in Harry Potter’s window.  I just won’t watch them anymore.  And – funny thing – I’m not as scared of everything as I once was.

Except that I am.

I don’t know who I’m trying to fool.  I am no longer a teenager driving around the woods in the back of a pickup truck, looking for the Jersey Devil.  I am no longer the girl kissing a boy in a Nissan Pulsar in an empty church parking lot.  I am no longer the babysitter who answers the phone and fears that the call is coming from inside the house.  I am no longer any of these people.  I have evolved and changed.  I am different.  Now, I am a grownup.  Now, I am a wife.  Now, I am a mother, five times over.

And parenthood is by far the scariest thing ever.

"It's not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes." - Norman Bates, Psycho (1960).

“It’s not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes.” – Norman Bates, Psycho (1960).

Happy Halloween!

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Happy Birthday, Kid A!

Seventeen is the atomic number of chlorine.  It is the seventh (lucky) prime number.  When you turn seventeen you can see an R-rated movie or donate blood.  It is the year when Harry and the other wizards came of age.  “Seventeen” is a song by the band Winger.  And it is the total number of syllables in a haiku (5+7+5).

Today is Kid A’s 17th birthday, so this one’s for her…

Born in a blizzard.
Middle name rhymes with “fire.”
You made me a mom.
Parenting Experiment #1

Me with Parenting Experiment #1, January 1996.

Happy 17th Birthday, Kid A!

I love, love, love (most of the time) navigating this crazy, winding path of mother and daughter with you.  My birthday wish is that you will always remember what brings you peace and happiness, and that you make time for whatever it is each and every day.  I love you unconditionally, forever and ever.  xo Mom

Tales from the Trip – Part Two

The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep. - Robert Frost (this many miles, to be exact)

Three a.m. announced itself with a crappy song on the alarm clock radio.  I did not get nearly enough sleep and I had none of the “I’m going on a family trip today!” excitement that fueled me through the drive there.  But Sister B was due to arrive that afternoon with her three kids in tow and we would be even more hard up for decent sleeping arrangements if we stayed.  So I reluctantly got out of bed, made myself some coffee, and woke up some kids (best part of the day so far… just a small payback for all of the times they have done it to me).  Kid E woke up crying.  I don’t know if he was still going from the night before or if he was starting fresh, but he was working up a mighty fine fit.  What do I do about that?  Let’s all strap ourselves in to a confined space for about fourteen hours.  But first I shall spill about half of my freshly brewed coffee on my seat.  Awesome.

What is nice about the trip in this direction is that we are on the highways pretty quickly, so the kids would be melodically lulled back to sleep.  What is decidedly not nice are the number of toll booths on those same highways that are preceded by those things in the road that sound like machine gun fire when you drive over them so that if you are by chance sleeping while driving, you will indeed wake up just before you pull up to/ crash into the toll collector’s booth.  And so will everyone else in your vehicle.  Super cool.

I have my iPod in one ear while I drive and I had loaded some excellent new music before the trip up, so I was verily entertained even whilst everyone else was sleeping (/being woken up/ falling back to sleep again).  Traffic was pretty light and the weather was remarkably clear given the hideous storm just hours prior.  We even made it to the other side of Washington, D.C. by about 7:45 a.m., where we stopped for some breakfast, refueling and a leg stretch.  I noticed a party at a long table behind ours that seemed like it had a lot of kids.  There were car seats everywhere.  After watching them while we waited (forever) for our food to come, I realized that there were actually more adults than there were kids… about one mom and dad for every 1.5 babies.  And when I got a true head count I also became aware that there was only one more kid in their party than in mine.  So I realized that I have a lot of kids.  Then I think we contracted a mild case of E. coli from the food because we have all had shooting stomach pains ever since.  Fantastic.

Back on the road we continued to roll along nicely, but with eight hours still ahead of us it seemed like the never-ending road trip.  Certainly the antics from the peanut gallery would help us pass the time…

Every single time there was a noise on the highway or from the vehicle Kid D said, “That was probably a bike falling off.  You should check.  No, really Mom – I think a bike just fell off of our car.  I heard it.”

One time during a period of relative quiet on I-85 just south of Richmond, I began to pass an oil truck.  About mid-way through there was a BANG! that made me presume that someone in the backseat was setting off fireworks.  After first asking if anyone in our car had been shot, I quickly assessed the windshields.  None were cracked, so I can only assume that it was a piece of debris or a rock that shot against our undercarriage.  Holy Crap!  Now I’m definitely awake.

Kid E was in no mood to travel.  He made it clear in the driveway prior to takeoff when he started crying something about how his pillow was “broken” and such.  His lines of the day (meaning he said them no less than a bajillion times) were, “I want to go home.”  I responded with, “That’s what I’m doing, Big Man, driving us home.”  He would then reply, “No!  I want to be home NOW!”  Don’t we all?  “Here, have a roll of Smarties.”  He was clearly buzzing high on sugar by the time we got home.

“I’m hungry,”  “I’m thirsty,” “I want to watch a different movie,” and “I’m bored,” “Where are we?” and “How much further?” were frequent fan favorites of the day.  We also had a couple of the predictable “I have to pee!” and “I have to poop!” emergencies, so we got to see more rest stops on this go around.  Rest stops have gotten a bad reputation lately with the whole foot tapping thing and the sexual predator hangout stereotype, so I had forgotten how clean they usually are.  I was pleasantly reminded each and every time we had to swing into one.  They also have a lot of pretty landscaping now too, which was also nice.

Speaking of rest stop predators, maybe they were keeping all of the police officers busy because I did not see any of either of them.  Well, that’s not totally true, as I did see a few state police cars in North Carolina, but only in the northbound lanes.  I wonder what determines where the police lie in wait to hassle people who just want to get where they are going keep the roads safe from dangerous speeders.  I’d like to know the answer to that so I can avoid those routes whenever possible.

This is how we roll (at the Equator)

Our last stop for refueling was in South Carolina at about 3:30 in the afternoon.  When I stepped out of the car I was assaulted with a chest-crushing heat.  The whole time I was filling the tank (“Jersey Girls don’t pump gas!”) I struggled just to breathe.  Welcome back to Summer in the South.  And so begins two more months of never leaving my house during the day, else I will be soaked through to my underpants in sweat within sixty seconds.  Super Sexy!

Finally, around 5 o’clock we pulled into our driveway.  Yeah!  We were finally home.  It was still an unholy kind of hot outside, but the truck needed to be unloaded so I could pull it into the garage.  As I wrestled the bikes, disassembled the bike rack, climbed atop the truck to empty and detach the cargo bag, pulled everything out of the inside of our vehicle and piled it all in our driveway (I didn’t have five kids for nothing… they were going to carry all of this crap into the house for me), I realized that it was only by a Road Trip miracle (or undetectable extension charm) that all of these things fit inside.

So while the chickens were putting stuff away, I got a nice, cold shower.  Sheepdog was still on the West Coast riding in the Tour of the California Alps Death Ride 2011 (and yes, just based on the name alone I confirmed that his life insurance policy was up to date prior to letting him ride in that race) and we had been gone for close to four weeks, so our cupboards were bare.  I quickly ran out for some necessary groceries and Mexi-food for dinner.  By the time I finally sat down I was too tired to even open a bottle of wine.  Now that’s tired.

… but I would have gotten right back into the car the very next day just to go back to the beach.  Sigh.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Tales from the Trip – Part One

First things first… I realize that I forgot to make a Harry Potter reference in Friday’s post.  I will make up for that by doing two today.  My only excuse is that I have a horrible short-term memory.  Seriously, you could tell me something today and I might forget by tonight (unless it is good gossip).  I can re-watch movies and re-read books and I get excited about the endings because I have forgotten what they are.  I am just special that way. 

So I was all mixed up about what day it was from being on vacation and the trip back and I almost posted yesterday.  Then I remembered that there is no post on Sundays.  BAM!


I survived packing day on Friday.  More importantly, everyone else survived the Master Packer and all the craziness that surrounds me.  My mother-in-law lovingly said I was actually more of a “Mother Packer,” which I thought was kind of sweet.  Either way… I got everything washed, gathered, packed and loaded just as a mega-storm bore down upon the eastern seaboard.

Rewind three hours.  Kid E decided to have a meltdown over nothing/ everything and no one but his Mommy could soothe him.  Unfortunately, my attention needed to be elsewhere.  So the background soundtrack for the Pack was a whiny and crying Kid E as a very sweet and helpful (although sadly ineffective) Kid B held him and tried to calm him down.  This as a news alert flashed across the television screen for a tornado warning in Atlantic County, which we get all the time in Georgia but they rarely see at the beach.  Next thing I realize, Kid D was crying inconsolably.  I went to him to see how I could shut him up calm him down and he explained through heaving chest and jagged sobs that “(he didn’t) want to die in a tornado.”   Me neither, pal.  So you gotta buck up and let mommy do her job.  I can barely do it with one kid’s screams echoing through the house, let alone two.  So, I refocus Kid D with a video game, reassure him that we will go down to the lower level of the house if a tornado does indeed come through and I plow ahead.

I had to load the truck in stages.  First, earlier in the day I attached the cargo roof bag and put all of the beach gear inside.  This had been done prior to the trip up by Sheepdog (who is at least five or even six inches taller than me – P.S. I think I am shrinking) and I had a hard time reaching the roof to put stuff in.  Sheepdog also had a helper (Kid A) and I was in the house taking care of the other kids.  I had no assistants (the girls were driving back from Hershey Park with my mom and dad), it was raining, and the boys yelled off of the deck that they “needed me for an emergency” about 14 times in a half-hour period.  But I got it done.  Check.

Then we had to load the way back of the truck with all of our stuff.  This took most of the day as I had to wash some stuff, direct the girls to pack their things, presume that Kid C would forget most of hers and compensate for that, pack all of the boys’ stuff and my own as well, plus all of the extras.  The storm started up again around dinnertime, so my dad suggested that I back the truck into the garage instead of loading it outside in a rainstorm.  I had to leave it sticking out about two feet so I would have room to attach the bike rack.  The rain kept coming and my dad started pacing in front of the truck because the crazy rain was coming down sideways (of course it was!) and all of his tools were getting wet.  He kept assuring me that it was “not a problem,” yet he was standing in front of the shelves trying to block the weather the entire time.  Then he hung up a towel.  And we still have Kid E throwing a tantrum-to-end-all-tantrums from above.  Awesome, right?  But I got it done.  And loaded.  And we didn’t have to leave anything behind (well, I almost had to leave Kid A’s guitar there – yes, she brought her guitar – but I was able to shift things around and make it all fit.  Check.

Those bikes did not stand a chance against my mad mexican wrestling skills

Finally I was putting the bike rack onto the trailer hitch.  But I couldn’t find the stupid effing cotter pin (it wasn’t actually an “effing” cotter pin until it started hiding from me, so once I found it in the glove box – smart planning on my part, right?  that’s how I compensate for the whole short-term memory loss thing –  the cotter pin and I became friends again).  I made my dad go upstairs because he was just stressing me out.  I wrestled (literally – at one point I was straddled on the bumper doing some Lucha libre moves in order to get the three bikes onto the rack).  But I got them on, strapped them in, and this job was done.  Check.

I was a sweaty mess.  My dad directed me as I backed the truck up so that he could shut the garage door for the night.  It fit by mere millimeters.  Good thing because I didn’t really want to leave the roof bag and the bikes out in a tornado and I don’t know if I could have watched while my dad nailed a tarp to the garage opening.  And trust me, this was surely his next step.

So I went in to diffuse Kid E’s meltdown (yes, he was still actively having one – he is quite tenacious), shower and go to bed.  I set the alarm for 3 a.m. and crashed.  Hard.


I will continue with part two of this story in tomorrow’s post.  And, yes, I realize that I only included one Harry Potter reference today.  I got to writing and I forgot about it.  And I wasn’t about to rework the whole story.  Lesson of the Day:  If you drink too much in college you will forget stuff when you are old.

Sheepdog’s Dream Come True

My husband is not a complicated man.  He needs water (often), food (oftener), and sex (oftenest).  But even more than the desire to quell the hormones that frequently control every cell in his body (“But I have the DSB!  This poison is going to kill me!”), he wishes for a friend who shares his passion for cycling.

He has been a lover of the biking since he was a young boy growing up in West Virginia.  Legend (or the stories that Sheepdog and his mom tell me) has it that he built his first bike ramp, Evel Knievel-style, when he was just three years old.  Many years and multiple emergency room visits later, he has established a zeal for the two-wheeled vehicles that rivals Voldemort’s compulsion to kill Harry (side note: in honor of the eighth and final Harry Potter film’s release on July 15th, I plan to put at least one reference to the books and or movies into each post from now until next Friday – you’re welcome).

Over the years he has read, watched, wanted to be, tried, studied, followed, traveled to watch a stage of, or participated in the following: VeloNews, Cycling magazine, Bicycling magazine, Bike magazine, any and every book on cyclists or cycling, countless shows on OLN and Versus, live bike race streams on the internet, a bike messenger, a bike commuter, a bike mechanic, a bike salesman, taking apart and putting back together his own bike – both out of curiosity and necessity, daredevil stunts on bikes not limited to BMX-style tricks with pegs at indoor/ outdoor ramp parks, mountain biking, mountain bike racing (both in good weather and in the unholy desert heat and/or the pouring rain and/or the freezing snow), road cycling – solo, road cycling – club, triathalons, track cycling, criterium, time trials, the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, the Tour of California, the Tour of Georgia, the 24 Hours of Canaan, the Six Gap Century, the Tour of the California Alps – Death Ride, and the Leadville 100 – just to name a few.

No, cycling is certainly not just a hobby for him.  It is a part of his heart and soul.  If he is not on the internet looking at pictures of starlets in bikinis or their up-skirt shots, then he is surely looking at the newest in bike technology – frames, gears, suspensions, drivetrains, forks… whatever.   Either that, or he is on craigslist or eBay to see which of those is for sale, “just out of curiosity” (trust me, I’ve had to enforce a budget).

I sill believe you, buddy

And as a human being it stands to reason that Sheepdog just wants to find camaraderie and share his excitement with other cycling enthusiasts.  I’ve tried to fill that role.  I really did.  I have watched countless stages of the Tour (I love Phil Liggett but I’d happily push Bob Roll off of the Col du Granon), I have attended countless races (or “Hippie-Freak-Love-Ins” as I also refer to them), and even tried riding myself (it hurts my butt and I tend to break the bikes – I once broke a derailleur just by pedaling).  “Trying” now consists mostly of me defending Lance (getting harder and harder every time 60 Minutes gets involved) and making fun of the costumes that the cyclists wear (really, there is nothing less flattering than a pair of bike shorts, except maybe biking bibs).

So it is a good thing that Sheepdog has all of these kids.  He is hoping against all hope that at least one of them will share his fanaticism for biking.  But so far, he is 0 for 3.  People-pleaser Kid A really tried to get into it (she even contributed to buying her own mountain bike that they found together on craigslist), but it just didn’t stick.  Kid B doesn’t like to try anything new, so she didn’t even fake an attempt.  Kid C says she will surely ride with him, but she has yet to hop in the saddle.

If you are keeping count, that just leaves the two boys.  As it happens, Kid D – even at six-years-old – often butts heads with his father.  Sheepdog has been trying unsuccessfully to get him to take off the training wheels for years.  Sheepdog’s seemingly casual pleas of, “Wanna go for a bike ride?” are often met with disinterested grunts from Kid D, “…um, nah.”  I keep seeing his heart getting crushed a little bit more with every negative response.  Until the other day.

One of the greatest things about my parents’ house here in New Jersey is the isolation of the very flat street out front.  Nobody else lives and therefore drives back here, so the kids have been able to ride their bikes undisturbed for countless hours.  That has led to a peak in Kid D’s bike riding confidence and a request out of the blue to remove his training wheels.

Sheepdog was remarkably calm and reserved (I presume because he has had his heart broken thrice already) as he got his tools.  He casually handed the bike – sans supports – back to Kid D, showed him how to set up the pedals for maximum push-off power, and gave him the go ahead signal to take off.  Kid D took to riding a bike like a Kardashian to professional ball players, and even the classically pragmatic Sheepdog couldn’t help but whoop and cheer aloud.

In twenty years I have never seen my husband smile the way he does when Kid D now asks him, “Hey, daddy – wanna go for a bike ride?”

Except for the other day when he asked, “Hey daddy – you wanna watch the Tour?”

Wish me luck for tomorrow…