Was it fun?

The thing about taking a trip to Disney with the kids is that you have kids with you. Kids ruin everything.

My biggest crippling fear about this trip included the kids. How would they behave? When would they flip out? How long would it be before we were “Those parents”? You know…the ones with the screaming sticky kids who are screaming at each other about things like “Well…I never liked your mother’s meatloaf anyway!”

The goal was to A: Survive, B: Give the kids an enjoyable trip. Survival was always #1.

Shmuppie, until this point in her life was a ride wuss. She’d convinced herself that everything more exciting than the little cars that ride around in a slow circle would make her sick. My mother had done a great job convincing Moo she was afraid of the dark. So, things would be awesome.

So, we drove down…10 hours in the car with the kids and my mother in the back seat. Thankfully, we made good time and disgorged ourselves into the condo. Do you take a crock pot when you go on vacation? We do. We’d planned to manage the days so we’d be back in time for dinner each night. As much as I wanted to do 8AM – 10PM every day, it just wasn’t something we could do. We had a ton of food packed for dinners and lunches.

We’d learned on a trip in 2000 that the #1 way to waste time at Disney is to spend time eating. Lunch can quickly turn into a lost hour and leave you nearly $100 poorer. Nope. We’d done our best to convince the kids that this was for the best. They had to play along if we were making this trip; we’d skimp on some things and splurge on others. Hot dogs were not a splurge item.

Sunday rolled along and we set out for our first park day…and promptly fell flat on our faces. The tickets were a pain in the ass to use (I’d bought them from a discounter) and Moo was overwhelmed. We started at the Magic Kingdom and it was just too much for her. She started shutting down within minutes. By the 2nd ide, we were in “combat the tears” crisis mode. We recovered with minimal blood loss but started realizing just what we were dealing with. This trip was to be about her pace; no one else’s. We regrouped, split up and managed to have a full day at the Magic Kingdom. We even got Shmuppie on Space Mountain. That was good because there were plenty of more thrill rides to go and we didn’t need 2 toddlers on our hands.

We even managed to hit EPCOT at the end of the day and had fun there. By 9:00, JewelrySlut and I had fed the family and were sipping pink wine on the condo’s screened-in porch.

Monday’s biggest success was me not vomiting on Mission Space. JewelrySlut and I rode the crazy version and I walked…nay I staggered off the ride and had to lie down for a while. Shmuppie was a pain in the ass, but it wasn’t a horrible day. Plus…EPCOT 2 days in a row. Pink wine was consumed in celebration.

Tuesday was the make or break day. Shmuppie was feeling sick with a head cold. I was ignoring the cold I was developing. And…it was Animal Kingdom day. Fucking Animal Kingdom. We were out of there by 2:00, hot, sweaty, cranky and snotty. We’d lost Moo and Shmuppie was grouchy (albeit understandably). We needed to rescue things fast.

You realize when you see your 4 year old light up at the sight of Fantasy Land why people will spend everything they have to go to Disney. We let Moo run amok in the Magic Kingdom for the afternoon and rode all of the rides she liked. We turned disaster into success with a trip on Small World and Dumbo. We also found that $10 is NOT too much to spend on a caramel apple.

Wednesday was arrival day for the other 2 and also a planned off-day. We needed a rest mid-week. We had a character breakfast and did some shopping. It also poured all afternoon. Wed gotten lucky with the weather and everyone relaxed. Once Grampy and C arrived, JewelrySlut and I left. We’d prepared dinner for the group and went on a Disney date.

We spent the evening in EPCOT having drinks in a few countries, having our traditional pre-fireworks dinner and enjoying some peace. I wasn’t lugging around a 40-lb backpack and we had no kids with us. For 4 hours, we were on our honeymoon again. Then, because we’d snuck in the park’s back entrance at avoid the $14 parking fee, we got lost finding the car. We went to the wrong hotel’s parking lot and I actually had to ask a hotel staffer “Where am I?” They understood…the 2 hotels look nearly alike and sit side by side. Getting lost was fun.

On Thursday, we hit the Studios. JewelrySlut and I had a good time with Moo. We took her to the kiddie areas while Shmuppie, the grandparents and C did the action rides. We met up for some of the shows and had a nice morning and afternoon. Grampy was grumpy. Because my father is a moron, he purposely brought brand new sneakers on the trip. He did this so we’d be able to make fun of him for doing so. As if we needed a reason. His feet hurt. The kids were not done so we went back to EPCOT…because why not! We bribed my father with beer from Mexico and had a nice late afternoon walking about. We were back to the condo for dinner and bought the kids a rotisserie chicken that they ate poolside. Pink wine.

I think Friday was the day that we walked 11 miles. We did the Magic Kingdom and, everyone with me now, EPCOT. We managed to get Grampy all the way to Germany for his beer on Friday. It was a long day and longer evening. My darling parents decided to start bickering at dinner and my father stormed off to bury his head in the USA Today. My mother one-upped him by spontaneously developing a migraine. YAY! It was a terse and tense evening. Saturday was gonna be fun!

Saturday was our anniversary. JewelrySlut and I wanted to revisit our commemorative brick and have a little alone time in the morning. Of course, my parents were not speaking and my mother was wrecked from her headache. YAY! We went anyway because we wanted to and didn’t care about the rest of them. The older kids ran off on their own with $100 from me burning a hole in their pockets. Moo and the grandparents did their thing. We regrouped a few hours later to shuffle along while my mother slowly died. It wasn’t a very fun day, but we did get beer in Japan that had a foam ice-cream topper on it. Beer ice cream! Yay beer!

We survived the week and nobody got too injured. The weather cooperated and everyone (mostly) got along. I did declare on the way home that I needed a full year of non-Disney trips to recover. This was not a vacation; it was another week of work in a different job. We all had a ton of fun, but it was not relaxing at all. Me being me, I was hooked to an iPhone all day judging line times, scouting maps, and herding the masses. JewelrySlut was trying to keep everyone from killing one another. Was it worth it? Yes. Moo’s face on the kiddie rides and Shmuppie getting to enjoy the thrill rides…in a huge sombrero made it worth the hassle.

We’re going back next year.

It’s about a Mouse

Last September, we had to do it. One can take one’s children to the beach only so many times before they start chanting like deranged lunatics about what they REALLY want to do. So, we did it. And it wasn’t too bad.

We did Disney.

We’d been holding them off for a while because we’re of the mindset that if you take a toddler to Disney, you’re a fucking lunatic. Taking kids…taking ANYONE there is a chore. But a slobbering pants-crapping kid? No thank you. I’ll handle those 2 areas on my own thank you very much.

Like all things, we planned the trip. My parents belong to a timeshare thing. They bought it in 2004 for reasons unknown and have been adding points to their account at a pace unknown to mankind ever since. They’re all platinum level and have 80,000 points per year to play with. What does 80,000 points get you as a platinum member? Enough to spend 8 weeks in Hawaii in the high season in an oceanfront deluxe condo.

Or…it’s enough to buy a resort in the Disney area.

Over the years, whenever they didn’t’ know what to get us for any occasion, my parents gave us “a week of points” knowing damn well we’d never use them. So, while we had probably 4-6 weeks of points in our Christmas stocking, we had never cashed them in. Now was the time to do so. But, we did so with great trepidation because nothing in this world is free. I tried to convince myself that we could stay on the grounds in a discount hotel. I tried…and failed. We were stuck.. Basically, we couldn’t NOT ask for the points because we’d be in BIG TROUBLE if we went and didn’t use the points.

So I asked. In a “Well…if you have any extra points available and might be able to spare them, and it wouldn’t be too much trouble, we’d be really grateful if we could have some points…but really…only if you have plenty to spare”. They said yes. I was only using like 1800 points so my father laughed at me for even asking.

Then it was time to pay. “So Mom…do you want to come too?”

JewelrySlut and I cringed as she said yes. We’d discussed this too and knew that this was, at least, a double-edged sword.
Pros: We had an extra adult and could split the kids up and handle them separately
Cons: Have you met my mother?

We booked a 3BR condo and bought the admission tickets.

And wouldn’t you know it, as we got closer to the trip, the other shoe fell. JewelrySlut and I are not stupid; we were ready for these shoes because we KNEW this was coming.

“Your father wants to come too. “

Of course he does.

“And, he can come mid-week and bring C”

Of course he can.

C, you see, is Shmuppie’s best friendboy. We’re not allowed to call him a boyfriend. He’s a friendboy. So, why the hell not, let’s take a family vacation for 4 and turn it into a 7-person circus.

We has some old passes that we hoped my father and C could use.

So, we had quite a mission on our hands. We had 2 kids to deal with all week and then a cranky old man and another kid arriving on Wednesday. To say nothing of my mental state in 2013; this trip could not have come at a worse point in the project schedule, but I didn’t care. I was going away for the week and the world probably wouldn’t spin off of its axis. But, fingers crossed!

So, that’s all you get for now.

Though, the week down there led to this picture
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Sometimes you’re the bug.

Sometimes you’re the bug’s asshole.

For months now, my mother’s been complaining of back and ass pain. She was convinced it was a muscle pull in her ass. The rest of us were convinced it was her back. Of course, she did not seek medical attention for this.

You see, my parents have some sort of fucked up frontier mentality when it comes to seeking medical help. They’ll more or less let themselves get to the point of collapse or loss of limb before they go see a doctor. My brother and I, on the other hand, go see doctors when we’re sick. As a result, we’ve been labeled as weak and this is brought up as yet another reason why we had daughters; I’m not man enough to raise sons.

At times like this, JewelrySlut likes to remind me that nothing about my family or my upbringing was normal or healthy. I used to laugh comments like that off, but I now realize how right she was. My family is a mess.

Back to my mother’s ass:

So, by last week, it was so bad that she couldn’t walk. She was in serious pain. In addition, she had a lovely stomach virus that’s tearing through the collective asshole of The Triangle.

By Wednesday, my father got her an appointment with an orthopedist. Said doctor would review the MRI taken on CHRISTMAS EVE!

Yup…seriously fucked up disk. Surgery time!

So, on Friday evening, my mother had back surgery and wouldn’t you know it, but her ass and legs and back feel better.

So, the good news is that my mother’s going to be able to be more or less pain free now.

Here’s the bad news and how it impacts us.

We’re fucked and I’m pissed about it.

**Momentary background**
JewelrySlut and I are tired. We’d like just a few days, or even a few hours, away from the kids. As she says “For a little while, I’d like to be someone other than Mommy”. We haven’t had any time to ourselves in nearly 6 years. I know that this is a part of parenthood, but everyone gets a little time, don’t they?

Shmuppie was home for 5 weeks and was cranky for 4 1/2 of them.
Moo got sick right after Christmas.
We had last week’s puke parade.
I was sick on Thursday and Friday with the stomach flu.
Last night, Shmuppie broke out in hives and swelled up like a balloon. The por kid is missing her 3rd day of school in 2011 today.
It’s supposed to ice tonight. This will cause another 3 weeks of school cancellations.
The whole “father in law’s health is deteriorating” thing is really kicking into gear. It’s not “if” he’ll move to a facility at this point; it’s “when”.
JewelrySlut is turning 40.

The last one isn’t a bad thing, but it’s an event. Her birthday trip started out some time ago as a week in Aruba. Then, we had Moo. Then, it became a long weekend up in NJ with ChurchBomber and MerlotMan. Well, we killed that 2 weeks or so ago because we could see all the shit that was heading towards our fan.

We’d decided to go to Asheville for a weekend, stay in a nice hotel, and just chill.

Well…now that’s not happening.

Now, am I mad because my mother had surgery and can’t lift Moo? No…that’s not it. I’m happy she had the surgery and will be getting better. Am I FUCKING FURIOUS that, a few days after we would have gone away, she’ll be well enough to get on a plane for 2 weeks in Maui?

You bethca.

We need to save our strength and heal up for our vacation. I’m not sure how one can be well enough to sit on a plane for the better part of a day and not be well enough to care for a grandchild, but that’s the case.

So, JewelrySlut and I will be home…yet again. Yes, we’re acting selfish, but dammit, we want a weekend away from the mess. We’ll try again in late February, but I’m sure that will also fall to shit when one of my parents’ dogs gets a hangnail and needs full time nursing care or some bullshit.

PS: Before I posted this, JewelrySlut and I had this very discussion. It’s not that we’re pissy that she had surgery…it’s quite the opposite. We’re pissy that every effort will be made to ensure that she can go to Hawaii (Even if, as JewelrySlut said, she needs to be administered epidurals on the tarmac at RDU and upon arrival in Maui) because, in the end, that’s what’s important.

Conundrum

Of course, there are far worse things to be worried about. But, I am who I am, and certain things bother me.

Like next September. It bothers me already.

All along, we’ve told Shmuppie that we’d go to Disney World next September. We’ve done a good job holding her back for some time now. We got out of this year by playing the St John card. But, we said that we’d go when she was on fall break next year.

Then…SWOOP! In came my mother. She decided that she NEEDED to go to Disney this year and that she just NEEDED to take Shmuppie. So, the weekend before Christmas, they will be in FLA. The ladies and my father are flying to FLA for a long weekend. They hope to be just ahead of the holiday rush.

In less civilized times, this would have pissed me off to no end because, as always, my mother swooped in on our family activities. But, know what? JewelrySlut and I don’t think we care. Want to take her to Disney over a weekend, mere hours before the holiday insanity sets in? Have at it. We’ll stay home.

The issue of next Sept remains unresolved though. Did I fail to mention that as soon as my parents learned that we may go for a week, my mother invited herself? She more or less said that there was no way we were going to WDW ad not taking her along with us. (Sad horn noise). I responded (charming son that I am) by stating that if she insisted on showing up uninvited that she would foot the bill for the hotel/condo. As it is, they have eleventy billion timeshare points and, odds are good that unless you’re JewelrySlut, and you’re reading this, you’ve been offered to use some of them by now. Everyone we know has used these points…except us. We’ve been “given” them twice as Christmas presents, yet any time we inquired about using some, we were told no. So, if she wants to come along, I’m not paying for a damn hotel room. She can.

So, here we are; looking at a trip to WDW with what will be a 9-year old and a 2-year old…and my mother. Cost aside, this has the makings of at least 12 of my worst nightmares. Throw in a clown or marionette and I’ll be twitching on the floor.

(Did you know that marionettes are evil and they scare me? Wanna know why? They combine the following things: puppet-like appearance, more often than not, clown-esqueness, and the possibility of one day becoming sentinent. A wooden clown that has the ability to move on its own? Worst. Thing. Ever.)

I’m not sure I want to go to WDW under those circumstances. As I just told JewelrySlut, we’d be taking 3 children with us and I’d be a wreck. By about 7:45 the first morning, I’d be furious and ready to leave. By Day 4, I’d be a shell of a man; reduced to rubble. There would be NOTHING enjoyable about such a trip. Every aspect of it would be horrible. Shmuppie would behave horribly. My mother would contribute. JewelrySlut and I would fight because we’d end up turning on each other. Moo, who still isn’t sure how she feels about the big blonde screechy thing, would be pissy. It’ would be a great way to spend $3000 and a week’s vacation.

That said, I just informed JewelrySlut that I would not mind going to WDW; with her…only her. That would be fun. We’d strap on comfortable shoes and have at it.

So, last night at dinner, Shmuppie brought up next year’s trip.

“Are we going to Disney next year?”
“Well…maybe. But, you’re going next month and that might be enough for you. Maybe we could go somewhere else”
(Puzzled look)
“Like…we could go back to Emerald Isle…but it would still be warm so you could go in the ocean! Wouldn’t that be fun?” (Prays she agrees)
“Yea! That would be awesome!”

A flicker of light…the light of hope was spotted in the distance. Could we get out of this? Possibly. Is it the right thing to do? Probably not.

We’re already rationalizing that we’d go when Moo was about 4. That way, she would be able to do things and Shmuppie wouldn’t be too old.

In the end, we’re kidding ourselves. We’re doomed to spend a week with my mother at the Happiest Place on Earth.

Sand anyone?

We went to FLA a few weeks ago to see JewelrySlut’s father. He’s doing progressively worse. I’d love to write about what his saint of a wife is going through and how it’s impacting us and the greater family dynamic, but you don’t come here for feelings and shit, do you? No. You come here for stories about shit.

The plan was to leave here on a Wednesday afternoon, drive to Savannah, stay the night and finish the drive in the morning. Savannah’s just about half way to their house and the hotel complex we’ve chosen has everything we need.

We left a few minutes ahead of schedule and were streaking across the highway in no time. This was Moo’s first major car trip and we all had doubts. She’s not a great passenger. Her sister, on the other hand, when not vomiting on the sides of Caribbean mountains, is a great passenger. She’s more than content to play her DS, read, listen to music, take pictures of the back of my head, and generally be well-behaved. Her younger sister likes to yell.

Stupid people that we are, we had to stop at South of the Border. We’re sorry…we can’t help it. The plan was to push on from there to a little hole in the wall along 95 called Santee, SC. My estimates had us arriving between 6:30 and 7:00. We chose Santee because it has a Cracker Barrel. While Cracker Barrel is no Michelin-starred restaurant, it offers what we need; quick service, clean bathrooms and consistent food.

That is…with the exception of Santee.

What a mess. The place was dirty, our waitress was awful and the food was bad. And, no top of everything else, we asked to be seated in the non-smoking section and they sat us right on the edge. This gave JewelrySlut an instant headache. Did I also mention that Moo was yelling? We managed to feed her something, but she mostly threw food on the floor.

We ate and, rather unhappily, got back in the car. Off we went…back onto 95. Shmuppie was watching a movie on her DVD player, and for once, Moo was quiet.

“At the next exit, we need to stop”
“What? You’re kidding me. We have an hour to go until we reach Savannah. What the hell?”
“Stop. The. Car”

Luckily, there was an exit…and, as luck would have it, a Cracker Barrel. JewelrySlut decided to make the poor people in Walterboro pay for the sins of Santee’s kitchen. We made it in the nick of time. If there hadn’t been an exit, she had planned to either hang her ass out the window at 80MPH or go alongside the road. Hell…we had plenty of baby wipes in the car. Cleanup would have been a breeze… Thanks Cracker Barrel.

The night in Savannah was mostly uneventful.

The drive the following morning, while annoying as all getout, was also uneventful. We did have one acrobatic diaper change in a Hardees’s parking lot in Bumfuck FL, but that was it.

(This is where I skip the part about me having to work while in FLA, my father in-law’s deteriorating health and the 60lbs of rotting food we pulled out of the fridge)

On Saturday, we needed to get out of the house. A few weeks back, anticipating this, I’d gone looking for a beach to go to. The local beach in Crystal River more or less sucks. It’s a protected gulf-side beach so the ocean is more like a lake than anything else. It’s shallow, flat, mushy-bottomed and has odd plant life floating in it. I don’t care much for it.

I found a little speck on the map called Pine Island Beach. It would be about 45 minutes away and looked nice enough. So, off we went. We piled into the car and headed south.

I hadn’t done my full due diligence on the beach…or the weather. I’d forgotten what happens to Florida during the month of September the love bugs come out to play. The little shits are everywhere.

Well, we arrived at a cute little beach and were instantly set upon by 47 billion bugs. Also, Moo decided to freak the hell out. She’d missed her morning nap because we’d been stupidly convinced she’d sleep in the car. WRONG!

Shmuppie and I ventured out into the muck and found a family who was hunting for blue crabs. Shmuppie had a good time trying to catch crabs. Al the while JewelrySlut and Moo were back at the beach fending off bugs. Moo was none too happy. I went back after a while to see how things were going. Moo was in a better mood, mostly because she’d decided to eat the beach. Fistful after fistful of sand was shoveled into her mouth. We couldn’t contain her and keep the bugs off of us. It was A: have bugs rape every hole in your body or B” have the child eat sand. We ended up being successful at neither.

We gave up a little while later and grabbed lunch. Then, we went home while Moo barked at us from the back seat.

Sometime later, we smelled a familiar smell. Moo had pooped.

Ever want to know what happens to the digestive tract of a baby who’s been eating sand? Trust me, you don’t.

From her, a foul-smelling pile of gritty shit had emerged. Couple this with Grandma’s odd decision to buy Activia yogurt, and we had ourselves a 4-alarm fecal disaster on our hands.

Gritty Activia shit is like nothing else on Earth. It clings to everything (especially the hands of a baby who for reasons unknown does NOT enjoy being changed and uses that opportunity to roll about on whatever surface she’s being changed on) around you and is nearly impossible to clean. It was not fun. We also knew that this was setting up for a bad ride home.

So, Sunday rolled around and we continued to rue the beach trip. The plan was to leave FLA between 2-3 and drive straight. That would get us home at around 1:00 AM (With a dinner stop).

We managed to leave at 2 and JewelrySlut took the wheel. I don’t normally let her drive, but I was going to take the late leg of the trip and was now free to radio surf and get football updates on my BB.

The plan was to get back to Savannah and visit…you guessed it…the Cracker Barrel at that exit. Why tempt fate again? Because along 95, your options at nearly every exit are McDonald’s, Burger King, locally-owned scary place and Cracker Barrel. As much as I hate chain places, at times, they’re your safest bet. I don’t know about you, but as I’m somewhere in northern GA/southern SC a Chinese buffet does not appeal to me. No person in their right mind made the journey from China to be slinging food along the side of 95 in the American South.

We arrived at the restaurant with a familiar stench wafting out of the backseat. Oh shit…quite literally.

We chose to redneck it and parked in a secluded section of the lot. We found some grass and set up a changing station. There, along the side of a road, in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel in Savannas GA, we changed an epic diaper. It was awful. Moo had crapped all through her clothes. So, not only did we have to wrestle with her to get her cleaned up, but we also had to surgically extract her clothes and get her dressed.

JewelrySlut barely touched her dinner. She was too afraid to eat. I’ll add that the bathrooms were appalling (Faithful readers know where this is going).

Back in the car, Shmuppie had a movie on and we bit the bullet and squirted a few drops of child’s Benadryl in Moo’s mouth.

Don’t look at us that way. Don’t do it. You either have or will do the same someday. We just needed her quiet for the 5-hour run home. I was not going to be able to deal with 5 hours of yelling and not drive the car into a bridge abutment.

The ride wasn’t bad…mostly quiet. Until, of course, we hit the NC state line.

Now, I enjoy my GPS. Annette gives good directions but she also gives me an estimated time of arrival. There’s no better feeling than watching those minutes tick downward as you drive along “I’m winning!” I exclaim to nobody in particular. Well, between Savannah and South of the Border, I’d shaved like 45 minutes off the trip. I was estimated to make it home by midnight. SC line to home should take 1:37 – 1:42 depending on how many lights I hit in Raleigh. I was smokin’.

BAM…Rain. And not any nice rain, a Biblical flood unleashed itself on the lower half of the state. What did our fine Tar H ell drivers do? Well, they, as expected, started crashing into each other. Every 5 miles or so, there was another impressive wreck. Card in ditches, cars on top of cars, pieces of cars everywhere. Between the debris and the rain, I was forced, at times, to slow down to 50 or so. I watched in horror as the ETA crept upward. I was powerless to stop it. I was Ok driving in the rain…not happy, but OK with it. The people around me thought his was a perfect time to slow down to 25 or so. Folks, 25 on an interstate is never a good idea. If you’re that afraid, get the fuck off the road.

We made it home at about 12:08 and changed gritty mcshittypants once again and collapsed into bed. We’d survived a much-needed visit to FLA (Perhaps the last time we all visit before the funeral) and were ready to tackle another week of at-home madness.

PS: After my letter was sent to Cracker Barrel, I got a Golden Ticket entitling me to a meal for 2…on the house. Who’s sexy?

I am.