Apron String

I know I mentioned this in my last post, but I really did get a small thrill out of seeing the mileage sign for California when we got on Interstate 40 outside of Wilmington. I’ve always regarded 40 – not that I spend a lot of time thinking about highways, honestly – as kind of a lifeline to home, home being Texas, of course. When I first moved here it was a small source of comfort to me that the highway that ran through my new city was the same one that ran through the city closest to my hometown. It was down 1400 miles of east-bound I-40 that I drove here – my sister too, because she moved to Boston the same week I moved to NC – me and my mom in my red Ford Tempo, Jana and Dad in her blue Buick, pulling a U-haul trailer. We drove through Amarillo and up the Panhandle, through (surprisingly pretty) Oklahoma and (somewhat smelly) Arkansas, then into Tennessee, of the beautiful mountains and the runaway truck ramps. (“Have you noticed all the pretty ivy stuff all over?” I asked my dad at a gas stop in Tennessee. He snorted and said, “That’s kudzu, and it’s eating up the South.” Oh.) Then, if I recall correctly, through a tunnel under a mountain and into North Carolina, which immediately greeted us with a series of safety reminders – Buckle Up! Headlights on when it’s raining! I was touched by these signs, and if it sounds silly, then remember that I was 22 years old and moving to a place I’d never been before and where I knew not a single soul.

I-40 became a thorn in my side, however, when I got the job I still have today (sigh) and had to commute into Raleigh from Chapel Hill and then Durham. Some days I’d take long meandering “shortcuts” to avoid the traffic, and sometimes I’d just deal with the “I-40 parking lot.” The very worst traffic occurred due to, of all things, an Elton John concert at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill. Gridlock for hours – I think that something like a third of the ticketholders never even got to the concert because of the awful traffic. But in spite of the routine annoyance, I never once got onto 40 for the drive home without thinking, “40 west – towards Texas.”

It’s silly to romanticize an interstate highway; I know that. (I’ve seen Cars!) I know that interstates contributed to the demise of lovely small towns on the less-traveled routes; I know they’re boring and utilitarian and peppered with obnoxious billboards (although also sometimes livened up by “bushes and shrubs,” which my father would pronounce in a funny voice meant, I think, to be Lady Bird Johnson’s in a joke that I never quite got). But it’s strangely comforting for me to know that if I had to, I could get in my car and drive all the way home, without once consulting a map.


The Middle

Well, to summarize, we went to the beach and the NC Aquarium and the girls had a fabulous time, although honestly we could have gone down the road to the Hampton Inn and they still would have had a fabulous time, because what they liked best was the swimming pool and eating donuts for breakfast. Other highlights:

  • Mallory trying one of my fried shrimp at dinner, pushing away her chicken strips, and saying, "I want all of your shrimp for me!" Which was okay, because I also had some divine crab-stuffed shrimp which she did not want to share. Yummy. And expensive, thus explaining why we had donuts for breakfast.

  • Phoebe and I found the ocean water way too cold, but Chris and Mallory managed to wade in up to their knees for a while. A group of teenagers in bikinis ran past them into the waves and Mallory said, "Those people are from Crazyland!"

  • Phoebe announced, "This was a good idea. My favorites were the beach and the swimming pool!" ... when the only things we'd done were go to the beach and the swimming pool.

  • I found this too cool: Coming to the very end of I-40 on the way there, and joining it at its origination point on the way back, where there stands a sign proclaiming "Barstow, Calif -- 2554 miles." If I'd known that was coming up, I would've had my camera ready.

And, well, there's not a whole lot more to say. It was fun. Here are pictures.

The beach! My three favorite people, standing at the edge of the continent.

Sad little girls leaving the hotel:

At the aquarium. These turtles were so perfectly still I was convinced they were fake.

My favorite, the octopus:

And now my little night owl is demanding attention, so I guess that will have to do. Speaking of trips, however, I want to wish my mom and grandma a safe journey to Italy next week. Have fun over there!


The Beginning and the End

The day before we left for our quick spring-break-trip-to-the-beach, Phoebe packed her suitcase with: One pair of pajama bottoms, one diaper, five Barbies, and a handful of Barbie accessories.

The day we came home, Mallory spent the two-hour drive imploring us to turn around and go back to the hotel. When we pulled into the driveway, Phoebe burst into tears and said, "Not this house! I don't want to be at this house!"

I'll tell you about the middle -- with pictures -- later.


From the mouths of, etc.

Mallory has become a fan of the Magic Tree House books (why didn't I think of the Magic Tree House books? Because I totally could've written those and then I'd be the famous-to-the-kindergarten-set-author). The other night we were reading the one where Jack and Annie go back to Ancient Greece, and Annie is not allowed to go into Olympic Stadium because she's a girl. I paused to explain to Mallory that a long, long time ago, girls were not allowed to do things that boys were, such as going to school or playing sports or learning to read and write.

"That's terrible!" Mallory said. "You must have been very sad."


"I bet you wished you were a boy so you could do those things."

"No no, this was a long time ago."

"Right. When you were little."


This morning I found a bag of chocolate coins in Phoebe's backpack. "Phoebe, where did these come from?" I asked.

Phoebe looked up with big wide eyes. "From the leprechauns!" she said.



My mom, bless her, and I stood in line for almost an hour to ride the Judge Roy Scream, the wooden roller coaster whose opening coincided with our trip to Six Flags in 1980. My big sister had turned chicken once we arrived at the park and refused to ride much of anything, but I had been watching the Judge on TV commercials all summer long, and although I was nervous, I was determined to get on that coaster. We finally got to the top of the line and got strapped in the cars. I was wondering if I’d be brave enough it wave my hands over my head on the descent. I wondered if my dad and Jana would be able to see us from the ground. I was wondering some other things but then we started to move. The cars slooowly inched up up up the big ascent and just before we dropped, I realized that I’d made a horrible mistake.

“I don’t want to do this!” I screamed. “Get me off! Don’t make me do this! I don’t want to be here! Mooooommmm!” And so forth, for the full ninety seconds of the ride.

Then it was over, and as the lap bars unclicked and we started to unload, I said to my mom, “Can we do that again?”

On Friday night we took the kids to a rinky-dink carnival in the Home Depot parking lot. Mallory and I rode the Dizzy Dragons together, which Phoebe declared “too scary.” So imagine my surprise when, while Mallory ran into the Funhouse, Phoebe pointed to the “Music Express” and said: “I want to ride that, Mommy!”

I tried to dissuade her, but Phoebe has never been dissuaded from anything that she’s got her mind set on, so off we went. I handed over the tickets and we got strapped in and then commenced the longest amusement park ride in recorded history. We started to spin. Phoebe laughed. We undulated. Phoebe shrieked with delight. “It’s fun, isn’t it?” I said. Then the spinning and undulating and bumping up and down got faster. And faster. And didn’t seem likely to stop in a timely fashion. We kept going. I was beginning to regret the sweet and sour shrimp I’d had for dinner. We spun. Around and around. Up and down. Phoebe still laughing. Around and around. I saw Chris and Mallory and Amy on the sidelines and telepathically asked them to send for help. Then, finally, we slowed. And stopped.

Then, we started going backwards.

You cannot imagine my despair. Around and around we went. The undulations seemed even worse, going backwards. The centrifugal force was causing a painful crick in my neck. Around and around. As we spun I could see Chris and Amy first laughing, then looking a bit concerned. I no longer cared how Phoebe was faring; I just kept one hand on her leg to make sure she didn’t fly off the seat and closed my eyes and tried not to barf. When would this ride end? We kept going and going. And going. And…going.

Then, blessedly, we stopped. I wrestled with the lock on the lap bar, lifted it up, stumbled onto the platform. Turned to Phoebe, who I assumed would be as addled and shaken and nauseated as I was.

Phoebe clutched the bar and shouted, “I want to do it again!”


Dwayne the bathtub, I'm dwowning!

Phoebe has started telling knock knock jokes. Kind of. Examples:

Knock knock!

Who's there?


Olive who?

I love you!

Okay, that one's all right. But then things go downhill:

Knock knock!

Who's there?


Olive who?

You don't have to cry about it!

This one, however, she seems to have made up herself, and it's not bad:

Knock knock!

Who's there?


Grapes who?

Don't grapes the eggs!

(Get it? Grapes? Like breaks? Don't break the eggs? Well, I thought it was clever. For heaven's sake, she's only two.)

As for Mallory...well, for years now (funny to say that about someone who's only six), Mallory has perpetually mixed up oranges and peaches. "Can you peel me a peach?" she'll say, holding up a clementine. So you can guess what happened when she tried to tell that most famous (and annoying) of knock knock jokes...that's right: "Peach you glad I didn't say banana?"

True confession time, though -- I was maybe sixteen, seventeen, twenty-three years old before I realized that "orange you glad" was meant to be "aren't you glad." So that joke never made much sense to me to begin with.



You know how you start playing a stupid computer game one day because you're bored and need a way to kill time and then the game turns out to be kind of fun and you play it more and more often and then you get stuck on a level as it becomes more challenging and suddenly it's not just something you turn to when you're bored, suddenly your mission in life is to pass this wretched level you're stuck on, suddenly nothing else in the world matters and you even google strategies for this ridiculous game and you keep trying and trying and thinking "this time I'm going to do it! this time I'm in the groove!" and you keep playing even though there are many other things you need to be doing such as your job and even though the game is not even fun anymore but it doesn't matter, you must keep playing, you must get past level 8, even though your eyes are blurring and your head aches and your hand is permanently frozen in mouse-clicking position and after spending ALL DAY trying to get past level 8 you STILL haven't been able to do it and all you can think about is going home and putting the kids to bed as quickly as possible so you can try AGAIN, because if you don't get past freaking level 8 in this stupid, awful, cursed game you might as well just stop breathing?


So, how was your day?


the closet

Amy has challenged me to list 8 things that are hidden in the back of my closet. I try not to actually look to closely at the back of my closet, so these are my closest guesses:

1. At least three no-longer-needed diaper bags.

2. An outfit that I've been meaning to return to Land's End for at least six months now.

3. One of our wedding pictures, which has a broken frame which I keep meaning to replace.

4. Shoes, shoes, shoes, shoes.

5. Possibly a pair of fuzzy slippers. I miss those fuzzy slippers. Maybe I should brave the mess and go try to find them.

6. Baby blankets.

7. A few small toys that I meant to stick in the girls' Christmas stockings. Maybe next year.

8. And I'm guessing, a bunch of mismatched socks.

My closet isn't very interesting, I'm afraid.


Monday Blues

Yesterday, driving home, it occurred to me that what I really wanted to do was to pull over to the side of the road and have a good cry. This is odd for two reason: 1) I’m not much of a cry-er; and 2) There’s nothing wrong.

Nothing wrong, really. No crises, no disasters. I’m healthy, I have a great husband and two healthy kids, we have a nice home and food on the table and all the necessities plus some extras and my nation is on the cusp of electing either a black man or a woman to the White House, which is awesome…but I still have the blues.

It’s all just too much, sometimes. Sometimes my life seems like a long list of have-to’s, with no time for the want-to’s. Go to work. Shop for groceries. Bathe the kids. Make dinner. No, make a healthy dinner. No, make a dinner the family will actually eat. Pay the bills. Feed the dog. Supervise the homework. Do the laundry. Conserve the water. Pick up the socks. Refrain from responding in kind when the six-year-old says, “I don’t like you!” Stave off the two-year-old’s tantrums. Change the diapers. Get the children to school on time. Pack the lunches. Not to mention all things that I should be doing on top of everything else that I am doing: Exercise. Save money. Read more books to the children. Work on family tree project for distant relative who asked me to do it over a year ago. Clean the house. Brush the dog. Find a new career. And so forth.

I feel like I’m just muddling through, that I’m just scraping by and doing the bare minimum it takes to get from morning to night. And maybe that’s all I can expect as a full-time working mom of two small children…but maybe it’s not. I’m tired of being caught off guard by the change of seasons, the turn of the calendar, of thinking over and over again some variation of, “Wait, it’s March? It’s 2008? I’m 36? And this is all I’ve done?” I’m tired of putting off even thinking about ways to make my life better because I’m too busy, too stressed, too…tired. I’m tired of being tired.

And again – I know how lucky I am. I know that I have a blessed and happy life.

But I don’t think this is all there is. I think there can be more. I just don’t know how to get there.