Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Road Trip with a Toddler

Warning: This trip was taken by trained professionals on a planned course and it was still an exercise in patience and tolerance– it is not recommended for anyone regardless of your level of skill.  This information is presented for entertainment purposes only. If you do decide to take a road trip with a toddler, you’re on your own.

So for a lot of reasons I won’t go into, Roger and Echo and I had to go to Lake Worth, Florida to get some business taken care of.   We did a lot of  careful planning (ie: arguing about stuff),  purchased snack foods in bulk to avoid expensive stops at convenience stores, chose the most direct route and set a budget, and packed our things. Well, I packed anyway.  Fate watched us do all this and laughed and laughed and laughed.

Friday, July 12 – Departure Day
We planned to leave at 9am, so I got up at 7 and showered and packed my bathroom things.  Fate giggled.  I woke Roger, who growled at me and went back to sleep. I threw his bag at him and got no response.
8am: My mother in law called to let us know that the nephew who was going to travel with us and let us borrow his car was in the emergency room.   I priced rental cars online, went through the bid process several times, and then required CPR when the results came back.  After some phone calls between 9:30 and 10:30am: it was settled that we could still borrow the car, but would need to get the oil changed before we left.  And have the motor mounts looked at.  And perhaps get a new tire.  Roger starts packing.
 11am: Echo did not want to get in her car seat, so while Roger convinced her that we were going to the beach and it would be fun, I fed the pets, called the pet sitter again, unplugged everything, and walked through the house praying.  When I was done, Echo was still sitting in the driveway screaming.  I pulled out the arm floaties I got her and handed her the bottle (yes, she’s 2 and still has her bottle, don’t judge me until you’ve met her) and blankie and asked her nicely to come with us to the beach.  She finally agreed to let Daddy buckle her in, and we headed to my mother in law’s house.
11:30am: We stopped to find the bottle which she had thrown, I refilled it with milk from the stash that was supposed to last us at least half the actual road trip, and we got back on the road.
12:30pm: we arrive at the mother in laws to discover that the nephew is home from the hospital and would very much like to go with us. He is not packed. Echo tells everyone she is going to the beach over and over and over again.  I secretly hope that the repetition of her little excited voice will open a time portal. 
5pm : We take off in the nephew’s car and head east toward St. Louis.  Fate has the hiccups.
6pm: Just outside of Kansas City, we stop again to refill the bottle (I am now out of milk for the trip), throw away the snack wrappers, change a diaper, and the nephew decides that he is not well enough for the trip after all. 
6:45pm: We drop the nephew and all his stuff off at a friend’s apartment 20 miles back and take off again.  “I go beeeech!” even spoken 1,746,319  times by an adorable toddler is not opening up any sort of time travel option for us.  We are not going to be able to get the oil changed or anything else done at this point today, so I start looking for WalMarts along the route.  I am not disappointed.
10pm: Roger is finally sleepy, Echo has been asleep and so have I, and we stop in O’Fallon, MO.  We spend $12 on milk and coffee and a quart of oil and $40 on gas.  I tell Roger I don’t want to know how fast he’s been driving, and that he should probably just go to sleep and let me drive the way I want to. He warns me that I should at least be heading south before the sun comes up because he didn’t bring a welding hood.  He has a point.  Just as we get back on the road, Echo wakes up.  She is horribly disappointed that a: we are not at the beeeech yet, and 2: there is no video player in the nephew’s car.  We change her diaper on the side of the highway and are very relieved to find out its not poopy.  Plastic sacks don’t have much in the way of smell guard in a small car. 
3:30am: I am praying for signs for I57 south because the sun is already creeping up over the horizon, but blessedly Echo and Roger have slept through the night.  I have to pee and I would love a cup of coffee.  I tell myself that as soon as I hit I57, I will stop.  Fate wakes up. 
5am: I missed I57, apparently in the fog.  Roger is driving and I am recalculating the route.  We have coffee, milk, breakfast sandwiches (not in the budget) and a clean diaper on the baby, who is again lamenting the lack of video equipment.  734 “I watch Mickey?”s  does not open a time portal, either.
9am: We are outside of Lexington, KY, which should only have added 3 hours to the drive time.  Google Maps does not have children.  There is not enough sunscreen in the world to protect us from the UV rays blasting in the windshield at this point.  All I want right now is a portable DVD player and a shower.  We still have not gotten the oil changed.
12pm: Having already stopped six times for various things, we are still not even to Knoxville, TN but are at least heading south. Once we get to Knoxville, we will head southwest on I75 just in time for the sun to start going down.  We are both regretting not buying a portable DVD and prescription sunglasses when we had the chance.  Echo is crying because we are not at the beach yet, and she is having Mickey Mouse Clubhouse withdrawal.   Fate has a stitch in her side from laughing so hard, and she has cried off all her mascara.  I have not been able to sleep, and Roger is tired again.
4:30 pm:  Fate apparently found someone else to torture, because the last few hours have been quite peaceful.  The signs say Atlanta 40 miles, and I wake Roger up because I refuse to drive through Atlanta, even on a Saturday, at this time of day. In Knoxville we got the laptop from the trunk, found a Dora video in Echo’s backpack, and plugged it into the car charger.  It has been balanced precariously on a stack of stuff so that she can see it, and it was an okay substitute for Mickey.  I can just reach the replay button safely, but I resist the third time.  I’m a little tired of Swiper stealing stuff, frankly.
9pm: We are already to Gainesville, I slept the whole time and so did Echo.  We did not turn off the computer, and the fuse in the car charger has blown.  Roger did not deserve the quiet time, and I vow to make him change diapers for the rest of the trip as revenge.  We are sick of beef jerky and cheese sticks so we stop in Gainesville for dinner.  Since we have been careful with fast food and only gotten drinks on our stops to this point, we spring for a truck stop diner.  I have a BLT that is moderately acceptable and Roger has a burger.  When her chicken strips arrive, Echo announces that she wants nuggets instead.  It takes 20 minutes to convince her that she does indeed have nuggets, and she takes one bite.  We get a to-go box. 
1am: We have run out of gas on the side of the highway 10 minutes from our destination.  In my defense, the tank shows 1/8 and the light is not on.  Our hosts come to rescue us and are very kind about it.  I am too tired to even think about standing up for a shower, but Echo won’t settle down so she gets a bath.  I am jealous, but still not enough to stand up that long.

July 14 – The Morning after our arrival
I want to stay here forever rather than drive back. We take Echo to the beach and she has a blast. We left the floaties in the van at my mother in law’s so we go to WalMart to get more, spend $30 on floaties, beach toys, milk and bottles of water, and a swimsuit for me (yep, I forgot to pack it),  I burn my feet on the sand, get 1000 mosquito bites, and decide that home has it’s benefits. Plus I would miss my other kids.  A little. 

July 15 – a day of rest
Our business is pretty much concluded, we go to another beach and pick up shells and find a disgusting sea sponge that Roger wants to keep, and spend the rest of the day napping because it is too hot to do anything else. I miss my own bed.  The pet sitter has left messages saying he is unable to keep coming over as he is having surgery.  I call our neighbors and leave a message asking them to feed the pets. I don’t hear back, but the cats can mouse and the dogs eat road kill anyway, so I hope they will be fine.

July 16  - Departure day
It is raining sideways.  The gym equipment we need to put in the back of the truck for the trip home could potentially get ruined, which means the point of this whole trip is moot.  We load up anyway, wring out our  clothes, and get on the road.  We have to stop hourly to change diapers because Echo is pooping today – she alternates days.  The bright spots in this are getting to see my cousins in Daytona, my aunt in Fort Walton Beach, and of course, getting home. Eventually. At this point death would be okay too.

July 17
After a wonderful night of rest and great conversation and a nice shower in Daytona, we are back on the road.  I10 in Florida is a lot like I70 west through Kansas – snore…  If Roger is in front of me, Echo says, “I see Daddy!” at the top of her little lungs every 14 seconds.  If he is behind me, she says, “I can’t see Daddy!” equally as often.  We stop three times to let her ride with Daddy, then me, then Daddy again.  The snacks are gone, and the budget is shot. Gas is ridiculous down here.  I want to go home.  The neighbors call to ask where the dog food is.  I still have enough heart left to be a little concerned about my dogs.  Well, actually I’m more worried about the condition of my house.

July 18
A wonderful night with my Aunt in Fort Walton Beach and we are back on the road.  I am out of patience and money is short, and I tell Roger that if we do not get to the Missouri state line by the time we both need sleep, I will never change another diaper as long as I live. We make it to Sikeston, MO by 9:30pm.  The Motel 6 is not bad. Echo would like to know when we are going to go the beach. 

July 19 – the Home stretch
I have never been so happy to see familiar gas prices and be able to get UNSWEET tea in my life.  Echo again needs us to stop every hour and change a diaper (it’s another pooping day) and switch cars, but we make it across the state to Joplin, where we pick up my step-son and head home.  The dogs have survived, the cats are disdainful, and the only casualties are a stuffed animal and a board book.  

July 20
We have to drive north to get our van and drop off the car.  None of us want to get in the car.  We argue about who is going to drive.  Echo wants to know if we are going to the beach.  I put her floaties on her and tell her to go play in the puddles in the driveway.  Beach a la Missouri.  She’s perfectly happy. We eventually make it up north and I apologize profusely for not getting the oil changed.   I don’t feel quite so bad however, when Roger comes back in the house and announces that the van won’t start. 

It’s out of gas. The moral of this story is if you can afford to fly - DO IT!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Razors pain you, rivers are damp...

Razors pain you, rivers are damp.
Acids stain you, and drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful, nooses give,
Gas smells awful, you might as well live.
             Resume  by Dorothy Parker

I know where suicidal thoughts come from.  We all, at some point in our lives, have had them.  Most people have them during those tumultuous teenage years when emotions are crazy to begin with and you are POSITIVE you will NEVER GET OVER whatever embarrassment or failure or horrible experience it is. But you do – get over it, I mean – and you wake up the next morning, and the next, and gradually the shameful sting goes away, and you’re fine.  Everything is fine and you get perspective and it’s all fine.

But I’m talking about the thoughts that creep in and just sort of stick around – the ones that never let you get any perspective whatsoever because they keep creeping in.  Let me clarify here – I’m way too much of a control freak to ever actually take my own life.  No one else is capable of raising my kids the way I can, and I certainly don’t trust anyone to deal with all my stuff properly, etc...  So I’m going to stick around.  I don’t want to worry anyone – I just have been thinking about this since one of my favorite weather guys of all time, Don Harman on KC’s Fox station, committed suicide in December 2011.  Don was funny, good looking, smart, and battled depression for years.  I actually cried when I heard the news, and couldn’t bear to watch his fellow morning newscasters slog through the following few days. It was awful even though I don’t know them personally – that’s the way it is with TV, you feel like you do.

Anyway… There are so many levels of depression, and Don Harman had a severe one.  I have a milder one, situational depression, but even situational depression has about a 50% chance of turning into severe/clinical depression, even if the “situation” is dealt with.  Counseling can help, medication can sometimes help, but how many people actually get the right help? Less than a third, according to the WHO, NIMH, and the CDC.  (Yes, I did the research before quoting statistics.)
My situational depression started well before my divorce, which surprised me when I looked back and realized that.  After Ben was born, I was tired and sore and bleah all the time, even after sleeping six plus hours or doing things that used to make me happy.  I knew there was something going on besides just the usual tired, I really knew I wasn’t healthy.  I had a lot of strange symptoms that no one else had – numb fingers and toes for no reason, sharp pains in my rib cage for no reason, tender spots on my legs that ached for days if they got the slightest bump, canker sores and yeast infections all the time, burning flaky itchy patches of skin on my face and scalp, and joints that just sort of quit working and wouldn’t hold my body weight (I fell down once in church because my ankle just froze). Plus I was tired and felt like I had a fever all the time.  THAT’S NOT NORMAL EVEN FOR A MOM OF THREE LITTLE ONES. Right? Right.

I saw four different doctors who all said the same thing: ‘You have three kids under the age of five, of course you’re tired.’
You know how you can hear the words and know the meaning of the words, but FEEL something very different when they settle into you? They all said pretty much the same thing (see above) but this is what I FELT them say: 

Doctor #1: “I understand that you are tired, and I’m not surprised, as the kids get older you will probably feel better, try to enjoy this time with your children. Your symptoms are probably just your body reacting to stuff your kids bring stuff home. You should get a flu shot.”

Doctor #2: “Of course you’re tired, you had three children in less than six years, what did you expect to happen? I’m sure your symptoms don’t mean anything other than the normal colds and aches and pains of aging, I can’t do much for you. Do you want a flu shot?”

Doctor #3: “Um, really? You’re wasting my time with tired? Did you get a flu shot? You just said you have kids, all parents are tired. There’s nothing wrong with you.”
Doctor #4: “Yeah, you are a hypochondriac freak, and I feel sorry for your kids.  Flu shot. ‘Bye.”

Why I went ahead and tried Doctor #5 is a mystery to me, but I’m glad I did – Dr. Amit Mohan in Raymore listened to my list of symptoms (without a smirk, I might add) and suggested I see a rheumatologist.  I went to see Dr. Mark Box at Kansas City Internal Medicine, and finally someone didn’t think I was crazy.  I cried with relief in his office and he didn’t think that was crazy either.  I have nine of the eleven common symptoms of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.  YAY! A diagnosis! Oh, wait – it’s not a disease that has a happy cure.   Lifelong symptoms include arthritis, general inflammation (that feverish feeling), organ damage, increased risk for multiple sclerosis, and decreased life expectancy. OH, AND DEPRESSION.  Awesome.

Okay, so how does one manage all these symptoms? The usual stuff that you do to stay healthy: eat right, moderate exercise that doesn’t hurt, get enough rest, avoid stress.
                 (cue maniacal laugh track )

Since that diagnosis, I’m not exactly batting a thousand in any of those categories.  Divorce, dead relatives, an unexpected pregnancy and another marriage, new husband’s physical disabilities, a step child (which brings the total kid count to 5), dead pets, chronic unemployment and rejection despite my skills and education, bills that I can’t keep up with, house falling apart a little bit every day, commitments I can’t give the same energy I used to, vehicle maintenance, my own physical limitations… It seems like something sharp pokes at my life bubble every day, and for a control freak, I’m having some serious issues. Simple stuff seems to come with a boatload of crap these days. 
Take car insurance for example.  Most people shop around for the best deal with the best service, right? Yeah, I’m struggling to get anyone to cover me at all, and here’s why: I’m married.  Yep, I can’t get car insurance JUST FOR MYSELF because I’m married, and my husband’s ex-girlfriend filed for child support in two different states on the child that we actually have custody of and his license got suspended because she gave them a false address (she doesn’t have a license to suspend, so they took his). I found out about the suspension when I went to renew the insurance. We still haven’t been officially notified of a suspension from either state – one state claims we have moved and left no forwarding address.  Ummmmm, no – we responded to the LETTER YOU MAILED US.   We’ve been trying to unravel this for several months, during which time I have been without car insurance and praying every time I leave the house.

So this is why I’m saying I know where suicidal thoughts come from.  I do have those moments when I understand why someone would think it would be nice to just not have to deal with it all anymore.  Since the world didn’t end and I haven’t seen any zombies, I will continue to deal with it, but when someone says they don’t understand how someone can take their own life, I will say honestly that I do. I do understand.
And I will give them the same advice I’m going to take myself. Instead of just moping around asking WHY??? I’m going to choose Y instead.

Yogurt – sweet, creamy, comforting and packed with nutrition - protein, probiotics, and calcium all have health benefits. It’s the ultimate food – eat it anytime of the day without seeming weird (like spaghetti for breakfast), and some flavors taste sort of like pie or cake.
Yoga – gentle stretches and balancing exercises can be done anywhere anytime, and really help relieve a lot of the physical pains that come from stress.
Yawn – the minute I feel myself yawning, I will take that as a sign and snuggle with one of my kids for a quick story/nap/cartoon/whatever break – the quiet time will do us all some good.  I can yawn on command.
Yell – there are times when I feel like yelling - at a bill collector who is not listening despite my attempts to be nice, at my car or my house for falling apart at just the wrong time, at my kids for leaving their dishes on the table (after all, it’s only been a rule for a few years), or at my husband because sometimes you feel like yelling at your spouse.  Well, I’m going to take some of those opportunities and yell.  Nothing specific, no profanity, just a good old Tarzan Yell to blow off some steam.  Come on, bank, call me.
Yes – I’m going to say yes the next time someone asks if they can help me. I may not know what I need or how they can help, but I’m going to say YES – I NEED HELP! Accepting help can be a huge relief, even for a control freak like me.
So I do understand where the thoughts come from, and even though I will not let them get out of control in myself, I absolutely understand how they do get out of control. Life is painful sometimes, and the social nature of today’s life makes the differences between people seem that much more obvious sometimes.  I have facebook friend who is beautiful, thin, healthy, happily married to a great guy who happens to be very wealthy, went from one amazing job to another in the past year, operates a charity and a small business… Yeah, I hate her sometimes.  Great things just seem to flow her way, and I feel like just the opposite, but I’m happy for her too.  She is making the most of the things she was given in life, and at one time in my life I was able to do that also.  No one knows what the future may hold for her, either.  I didn’t ask for or do anything bad to get this disease, I didn’t want to be divorced, and I certainly never thought I’d be unemployable.  I’m trying to make the most of the things I’ve been given too, and not pine over the things that have been taken away.  (And I blocked her from my newsfeed because her chipper-ness wasn’t helping J - sometimes making the most of what you’ve been given means knowing when to say no.)

If you are struggling with any form of depression, say Y, get help, and know that I really genuinely DO know exactly how you feel.

Love, Natalie