Wow, it just occurred to me that I haven’t talked about our family vacation !!! How can I not share a 2,000 Miles road trip to the land where one of the most popular songs is: ‘Whiskey in my water’?
After last year’s post-vacation meltdown, I was adamant that this year was going to be 360 degrees different and I had a checklist to keep my eyes on the ball:
– No flying – CHECK. We were going to drive so if the kids loose it we will be able to stop and let them have a total freak out while I drink wine or eat chips (my number one food comfort)
– Go somewhere I cannot be judged on my parenting skills in high stress situations – CHECK. We were traveling to Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, bystanders probably will have no fucking clue of what ‘tu vas arrêter de faire chier ou pas????’ means and DOUBLE CHECK since we were renting a beach house with our friend Rafa, dad of two, who as a good old Marseillais swears like a truck driver. And thus cannot possibly judge me by the number of times I say FUCCCKKK!!!!
– Travel with child free and zen master/helper/masochist/friend who can suffer 50 renditions of ‘Let it go’ belted out by a trashier/less talented Von Trapp family without wincing – CHECK. Our girlfriend Maro from Berlin agreed to carpool from NYC. The girl is a top finance executive and a rock band drummer. We are a lightweight challenge for her…Plus I have checked and there were no major international airports between DC and Miami thus a reduced likelihood to dump us at a local mama’s fried chicken dinner.
What I love about road trips besides the fact my 3 kids are restrained in their car seats 4 hours a day is that you really get to discover the country you visit and in this instance, the very country I do now live in. And I have indeed learnt many,many things:
– Americans have this reputation of never traveling overseas. Europeans are often gobsmacked by this fact and often use it to evidence ill placed superiority. I now understand better why they don’t travel overseas: each state is really like a freaking different country…In the space of 2 weeks, we traveled to Gritty Philly, Complex Virginia between North and South, Rugged North Carolina, Laid Back South Carolina, Proud Romantic Georgia and for some reasons though the time zone has not changed I felt I had to adjust.
– Indians had no horses – originally! They used to travel by foot until the Spanish conquistadores brought horses into the country. Can you believe this? This fact just floored me. I hate you John Wayne.
– People don’t ‘mix’ in some states. I keep bragging about how every single kid the age of my children is of mixed cultural heritage in my neighborhood Well…Down in the South, blonde people are really, really blonde and black people are really, really black. And they don’t sit at the same tables. I swear. And then, I remembered that interracial marriages was legalized in those states less than 50 years ago in this part of the States. Blimey. I got a whole new understanding/appreciation for the civil rights movement in this country and of why it is a fucking big deal that Obama was twice elected president. Anyway, people on the beach could not figure out our crowd like AT ALL. What are these people: the mix raced couple with 3 ‘Chinese’ children, the Aryan lookalike family and the single child free almost 40 year old woman. An why do they ‘speak Cajun’?
– Americans do the beach differently to Europeans. They are fucking pros: 3 coolers on wheels, a gigantic gazebo that protects 6 adults, 4 teenagers, 3 toddlers, 6 foldable chairs, beers, food for the whole day, music player, planned activities american football for mornings, volleyball with proper nets for afternoons, tanning with feet in the ocean during low tide, BBQ for sunset. Meanwhile our crew of 5 adults and 5 tots were fighting over 1 seat/cooler placed under the one and only umbrella when we were not busy pushing ‘going to fall apart’ strollers on the sand…All this plus the non stop ‘Tu vas arreter, oui????'(‘are you going stop??? in a very, very loud voice) did set us apart. LOSERS. The funniest thing is that – unbeknownst to us when we booked our vacation – staying in Hilton Head Island meant a certain etiquette, savoir-vivre and bank account …so our fellow beach goers were rather dismayed by the bunch of tramps we were.
– P thinks that her twerking in our home bathtub is actual swimming, which is a problem when you rent a house with a not child safe swimming pool. I will spare you the drama…but yeah…Parent of the year award
– DH does not know the difference between a dolphin and a thin shark and thought it was clever to flap the water to call out a ‘dolphin’ while swimming with G. Someone will have to/be made to rewatch Blue Planet.
On this note, I shall finish with a list of country songs titles from the Highway radio. Hope all of you are having a kick ass summer! Xoxo
Made in America
Whiskey in my water
I am in hurry
Like a cowboy
Kiss me when I am down
Keep them kisses coming
Small town throwdown
(I am getting) Drunk on a plane
Hungover [please do appreciate that this song often followed the one title above – gotta love country music radios]
That s how we do summertime
I don’t dance
Country girl (shake it for me)
Hope you get lonely tonight
I hate bad customer service. It is one of those things that really bug me. Living in New York does not help; I get even more demanding now. However, something very out of character happened to me: two weeks ago, I almost tipped someone so that they stopped doing their job so well. It was a very kind beauty therapist…
Disclaimer: this post is kind of graphic and could cause discomfort. Read at your own risk. In my defense, I am muy loca these days.
With all the stress leading to our summer road trip down South and DH’s work news, I decided to finally claim my Mother’s Day present: a long overdue Mani Pedi and a massage. But since I, more than ever, needed to think ‘practical’, I opted out from the massage and asked for bikini waxing. It was a no brainer: I was going to the beach in South Carolina, it was going to be hot and whether I liked it of not I had to help DH supervise the kiddos in the sea. So yeah I had to do IT.
It was high time that I finally overcame my fear. I avoided any ‘maintenance’ job down there since L was born 2 years ago because I have this (irrational) belief that a tiny tiny strip of wax was going to rip open wide my C-section scar. Hey, people tend to sweep under the rug the excruciating pain of C-section recovery: ‘it is standard procedure, don’t sweat it, you’ll be fine…You will be like C- what again?‘ Bullshit !!! I am still traumatized about it and every time L is pinching my scar (and all the fat around it)-for fun- I swear I cry. Note: this boy is obsessed with fat so either he becomes a cosmetic surgeon, a personal trainer or a soap maker. Bets are on.
Anyway, I was feeling strong and did not flinch when I confidently replied ‘Brazilian’ after the beautician asked whether I wanted a a Brazilian or a basic bikini. But then, she started to voice her concern when she saw me naked:
‘Wow, it’s a lot…Are you sure? Have you done it before?
‘Yes, I did it once when I was in Sao Paulo years ago. It was way before I had kids…I know it is all a mess down here these days but see, I had 3 kids [as if…] and I had this C-section so been scared to do it again bla bla…’
The more I talked, the more confused she looked but she proceeded anyway…That’s when I started to get confused.
She told to lift this, and lift that, and turn this and turn that. WTF???!!!! I was so shocked that I could not utter a word and just obediently followed the instructions. Thousand thoughts and screams were bursting inside my head with the loudest one being this one:
‘Obviously now I know for sure. I never had a fucking Brazilian ever before!!!!! Because if I had, I would definitely know!’
I swear it felt like a thorough OBGYN checkup combined with an hemorrhoids consult. Every time I thought she was done, she was going back to it again…and AGAIN. Even mental teleportation to my calm and safe haven where I ‘go’ to when the kids piss me off (FYI recently that place has been the Catskills Mountains in the Fall season) failed to calm my nerves.
She finally paused:
‘You have very, very sensitive skin…
Me thinking: No I don’t it. Perhaps I am bleeding because this part is supposed to have hair to protect it?
‘Yes you are very sensitive, so I am going to ask you one last time. Are you sure you want me to take it all off?
At this point, it is not confusion anymore but sheer disarray:
‘What do you mean? Surely, there is nothing left to take off… I said partly smiling partly wimping partly melting with sweat. Let’s just pause now to imagine a selfie of that expression…hahaha.
Realizing that I would never understand what she meant even if she was to speak very slowly and articulate every single sound, she just silently pointed her finger at my ‘sacred line’. My eyes rolled out of my head and I finally screamed: ‘Please stop now, please’.
‘Sure. Let me ‘clean’ the rest some details.’ She said getting her tweezer out to finish me off.
When I left the treatment room, I noticed that:
– I have been in there for almost an hour
– I could barely walk
– I should have thought better than wear tight jeans
And most importantly, as I was slowly moving toward the seat where my pedi would take place, I saw that all the customers were staring at me big time as if wondering whether or not I had my whole body waxed…Once home and after all the redness disappeared, I started to laugh. In the last few years, I have been telling people how the whole IVF process, multiple vaginal exams during my two pregnancies, my two deliveries by C-section destroyed all my sense of privacy and intimacy and claiming proudly that now old prudish me could face anything bla bla bla. As if no other woman on Earth could understand a word of what I freaking went through.
Turns out any woman who had a $50 full brazilian wax (or any gay man period) probably totally gets it!
I have read somewhere that the first week of the year is a good snapshot of what the rest of your year will look like. Or I am totally bullshitting this one because I needed to find a smartass way to frame my first blog post of the year. I could talk about my resolutions except that I haven’t made any resolutions…OK; I am lying. There are still two things on my ‘I swear to god this year I will’ and these are:
– I will lose the extra 15lbs I still carry around. One of my mates overheard me talking about these 15lbs and thought I had actually gained them in the last month or so…It was the wake-up call I sorely needed.
AND most importantly,
– I will stop saying ‘No, this does not make any sense…’ to every single suggestion DH makes about…basically anything. More recently, he was talking about living in the mountains breeding sheep or something like that (what does a city girl like me know about life in the mountains anyway?) and I started to say ‘It is impossible because a)…b)…c)…blablabla and z)…‘To which DH retorted:’Can you not put my ideas down like this? I haven’t even finished talking yet…It’s not a big deal; I know you, you’ve ALWAYS been like this but it is annoying.’ OOPS. He was not even angry, just resigned. That’s not good enough. It is actually terrible. So yes, I decided to bite my tongue before talking for the rest of the year. Even when DH starts talking about our crew of 5 spending a 2 weeks vacation in a RV in Middle America…See, biting my tongue.
Besides these 2 pledges, I have no resolutions worth detailing. I thus thought about the past week trying to decipher what this could seriously (and not seriously) tell me about what 2014 has in store for my family and I. Drum roll!!!! In no so specific order:
– Better ‘me time’ for everyone
The cold weather in NYC has proven really challenging. Cabin fever and the sober realization that this year we are slowly but surely going to outgrow our current living space led me to accept the plain truth that the 5 of us needed to sever our umbilical cords to each other. For years now, we have been doing everything together (including taking a family shower to save time sic) per choice as well as per sheer necessity. ‘Me time’ was for me something like doing the laundry and for DH, going to the bathroom.
Note: he does go 4-5 times a day equipped with his mini IPad while I almost NEVER go because I am just a mutant freak. Nature is seriously unfair! On bad days, I would nudge him to get out by tagging him on a Facebook update such as ‘DH, get out from your hiding spot right now!!’ (Worked every time by the way) or I would time him to count how much alone time I was owed. I am a petty, petty wife.
Anyway, I can see that things are changing – slowly. P has started to voice some preferences when it comes to seeing ‘her’ friends (the girls) as opposed to her twin brother’s friends (the boys). Meanwhile, G has been timing himself out in his own room quite often just so he can be on his own, I guess. L now plays on his own for a considerate amount of time without hanging onto my butt or tit. DH started a biweekly guitar/singing jamming session with some neighbors in the building. As for me, being stranded home because of snow, icy rain, or kids’ colds made me realize that I wanted to create, cut, pleat etc. MORE. But unfortunately this week-end, I stared at some chiffon fabric for about 2 hours and then tried to make a cape which actually made me look like a freaking black giant cocktail umbrella pick. Not a good omen for my creativity.
– Wilder parties
Most our friends with kids are now, like us, at a stage where screen time is no longer felt like guilt but perceived as a socially acceptable survival tactics. Besides, PBS kids on the Ipad is kind of awesome right? What this means is that everybody is now ready to catch up on the last 2 years of no hard partying because of pregnancies, breastfeeding, fear of hangovers (TV in the morning makes those way more bearable) etc. And if our NYE party is a snapshot of what lies ahead of us, the year will be fucking wild:lots of Champagne, kids dancing surrounded by drunken parents, masquerade masks, split legs on the dance floor, choreographed Karaoke and so on. Yeah!!!
– Bolder decisions
Since we found out we were pregnant with L, we have been living in a temporary mindset: staying in the same not entirely furnished apartment because we did not have any energy to look for something else, DH staying in the same job because we could not afford for him to work 15 hours a day to impress a new boss while I have been sporadically freelancing because I was unsure about whether our fragile family equilibrium would sustain a potential return to a full-time job etc. But this can no longer last: no more savings, no more space, too much stress. We need to make our life easier NOW. And I started to commit to my life as as a New York mom to 3 kids by…going onto containerstore.com to buy: pegs rack to hold the kids’ scooters so I stop sliding on them and a shower basket for my shower products (3 years in the apartment and I am still hurting my stiff back by bending down to get my fucking Burt’s and Bees shower gel…). 2014 is looking productive, people.
On this note, I wish you all a Happy New Year and if you live on the US East Coast: STAY WARM!!!
Below some fun moments of our first week in 2014 including a video of how to let your kid crash (almost) into a pole while trying to figure out how to take a video with you IPhone…
We have been home for more than 24 hours and I still feel empty. After everything that happened, is this all I can do? Feeling empty? I have been warned about my insane marathon vacation, now infamously coined work-cation. I did not listen and now I may be scarred for life.
This year’s vacation was a once in a lifetime event full of epiphanies, unforgettable snapshots, laughs and drama – I shall delve into these in later posts. But for now, I need to exorcise the trauma of our hectic schedule and the amount of time we spent to go from one place to another, from one culture to another. We knew it was going to be a challenge to do NYC-Paris-Ajaccio-Bergerac-Paris-NYC but I never thought I might lose my sanity in the process and most worryingly, perhaps a little piece of who I am (or at least thought I was) too. Let’s roll out key stats and facts:
· 8657 miles flown in 3 weeks
I made this calculation after we got home and I have been staring at the total ever since. And we did not earn any air miles? I-D-I-O-T-S.
· About 80 hours spent on travel, transit, and waiting for check ins, for security checks, for boarding, for un-boarding, for our rental cars or for a free restroom cubicle
That is the one number I overlooked in our grand scheme and that is the one number that pushed me off the cliff and nearly got me detained in a French prison cell (see point about physical altercations). Yes, the total duration of flights on our tickets confirmation was just the tip of the iceberg and I mistakenly thought: ‘It’s not that bad, is it?’
· 4 is the number of times I actually brushed my hair in three weeks because of the little time I had for myself
It is a random fact but this could have contributed to the point about physical altercations. What was I thinking packing hair rollers? Dumb mama.
· 15 is probably the number of times the kids watched Toy Story 3 on the Ipad
I usually don’t promote anything that will sell even more Apple products but Speck iGuy Ipad case is absolutely amazing: it not only protects the iPad but turns the whole device into a highly flexible ‘TV screen’. It stays upright on a table or a suitcase, and the handles enable you to hang the Ipad between the handles of an umbrella stroller, or between the pockets in front of your plane seats…Absolutely amazing. It got us out of a few potentially apocalyptic situations. Well unfortunately not all of them…
· 60 pissed off passengers on the return flight wanting to kill one of our my kids or maybe all of them as a matter of fact
As we were trying to calm G & L down (P was surprisingly calm and collected during the whole ordeal), I could feel the anger and desperation raising and my own embarrassment eating me up. I could hear behind my back the muffled insults, the exasperated sighs, and the loud shush. It was like a beast crawling towards us and about to devour us alive. I swear that even now when I close my eyes, I can still hear the beast grunting and puffing, puffing and grunting.
· 2 near physical altercations with airline staff and a fellow passenger
I am not a violent person or at least for the last 20 years I worked very hard to tame my dark side. I used to be angry at everything and would lash out at my siblings, a wall, DB (Dear Boyfriend, now Dear Husband) etc. My now mature Me is a rather diplomatic woman…until Crazy me takes over.
Near fight 1
An Air France stewardess told me in an arrogant way that I was not allowed to keep my lightweight single umbrella stroller all the way to the airplane.
Stewardess: ‘Mrs, we have done you a favor in the past letting you take the stroller up to the gate.
Me: How am I supposed to do with 2 (running around) tots and 1 baby?
Stewardess, shrugging her shoulders and with disdain: with baby carriers.
Mature me: Ok, sure.
Crazy Me thinking: ‘You better find a solution, bitch. Because if you don’t, I swear I am registering G & P as unaccompanied minors and you are going to have to find 2 staff members to board them. See how you’ll like that…’
Near fight 2
G did not sleep during the 8 hours return flight and as he was dozing off craving for a lie down on the plane’s floor, we were asked to strap him back on his seat. He started to fight back, kick, scream, and turn blue with his eyes blank. I thought he was going to have a heart attack. That’s when I felt a fellow traveller tapping on my shoulder:
‘Are you going to do something about it? There are about 50 persons for whom, this situation is becoming unbearable. You know, there are some soft drugs…
Me: I tried Benadryl and it is not working. I am sorry for everyone but I don’t know what to do.
20 year old fellow passenger: Well, when one travels with 3 children, one takes some precautions and plans…
Crazy me said: I did take precautions. What else do you want me to do? If you have a list of drugs, please give it to me. I swear I will try them. And was thinking: but if you ever open your fucking mouth for else, I swear I am going to rip your head off. Right there.’ I always prided myself on being able to stand in other people’s shoes-it keeps me grounded and I never assumed that having kids gave me any sort of right. But that girl, she just set Monster me in motion. Was it the patronizing tone? Her bony ass? Her arrogant youth? I am not sure what it was but it was bye, bye Crazy me and welcome back Monster me. Indeed, I actually had a 60 seconds outer body experience and saw myself slapping her, tearing her jugular out, kicking her bony ass off the plane and painting Sioux warrior signs on my face with her blood.
Scary shit. I am still shaking from the resurgence of Monster me in my head. I thought I buried her a long time ago. Turns out she was just hibernating. 8657 miles woke her up. G’s agonizing face screaming for help ignited her fire. I am home now, very far away from that XL airways plane but Monster me is still awake. I can feel it. And I am not even ashamed of her. For now. F-U-C-K, I need a lychee-tini.
A little tribute to my very courageous mini-monsters.
What is a sensible ratio between travel time and time actually spent on your vacation spot? I am not sure what the answer is but 48 hours after we left our Harlem pad, and some royal screw ups from our airline company, DH angrily said: we have just lost 12 hours of vacation time. Almost as depressing is the fact that we already had 3 leaks per child meaning that after just 48h of vacation I already had to do 2 laundry washes. Vacation, my ass…
Things had started swell. With Thor’s help, we took some well behaved kids to the airport by public transport. We then managed to not only smuggle some fresh milk but also buy some additional stash from McDonald’s. Yeah!!!
We felt it was just our lucky day: families with babies had priority boarding on the XL airways plane (it was our first time using this low cost airline – more on this later) and we managed to have a beer in a quite civilized way by the waiting lounge. All was goos. At least it was until we realized with horror that half of the passengers were families with very, very young children. In average, there was at least 2.5 children per family. My entire face just melted like cheap wax on flames. The entire aircraft was like fucking Disneyworld. On ecstasy. One tantrum away from a general meltdown.
I did not close an eye during the whole flight and even gave my seat to my high maintenance little G. I tried to ‘sleep’ on my bended knees on the plane’s floor patting his majesty’s ass. What devotion…And as I thought we handled the flight delay and the 7 hours New York-Paris flight pretty well, I was reminded on landing how delusional I had become as a mother. Indeed while I was trying to locate G who was ‘playing’ Hide and Seek in an empty plane – yep we were the last ones to leave, no surprise there – I was told by a flight attendant ‘G, G, G…this boy is so fuuuulllll of energy. He neveeeer sleeps, does he? G…it is the one name I kept hearing during the whole flight. G, this. G, that.’ Me: fake ‘hahaha’ and thinking ‘G, if you don’t get out of your hiding spot now….I am going to skin you, I swear!’
It is true my boy is like a mad dog: when about to board the first aircraft, god knows how, he found a button to release the connecting bridge and the whole thing started to fucking shake. On the second aircraft, he tried to pull the emergency handle of the plane’s back door in front of horrified stewardesses….The only thing that keeps him steady is the Ya-Ya, code name for the IPad. And after a 5 hours flight delay (on the Paris-Ajaccio leg), I was not going to remove the Ya-Ya from him whatever the air regulations were. I mean, we have been that the delay was due to the plane being stuck in Stockholm first, Bangkok then and New York finally… What the hell???? S-U-R-R-E-A-L. We also got stuck boiling for an hour in a cramped bus on the tarmac. Yep. For real. So when the flight attendants told us to switch off the Ya-Ya on take off, I basically ignored their order. I, usually obedient and civil citizen, looked at them with a blank stare exhausted and had that answer fully formed in my mouth, ready to lash out: ‘I am paying for a full price air fare. The ticket is under his name. You deal directly with him, see how he takes it’. Well, they knew better and sheepishly pretended not to see…Yeah, that’s what I thought.
PS: we finally arrived and here’s the view from the villa’s garden.
2 hours left before the big departure and we have:
1 suit bag
5 cabin luggage (including 1 diaper bag, 1 kids entertainment bag and a foodie bag)
And a baby carrier
This is not going to work. How are we going to carry sleeping babies into the air craft with all these bags. Need to come up with a back up plan muy pronto.
In the meantime I am very proud of my 40s inspired ‘light’ packing of accessories:
1950s rhinestones brooch, 1940s Coro earrings (both from my favorite Vintage Jewelry shop, Pippin in Chelsea), my little bird fascinator, pearls, ribbons, rolls for retro curls …and lollipops. Our pediatrician recommended that we use Benadryl to help us get a ‘hold on’ on our kids. But it backfired. If anything L was more excited than ever this morning at 3am…So now we stacked up on our ultimate ‘I will give you anything if you stop climbing onto people’s head rest and sit on your effing seat’ weapon: the lollies.
I described the challenge of packing a stylish vacation wardrobe with now 3 kids in tow. So I looked for some inspirations, this blog post by Ain’t no mom jeans is particularly useful. I also decided to curb my fashion schizophrenia by adopting only one look for the entire vacation: the 40s. The idea is that it will help me filter through outfits and accessories and thus pack light (or at least lighter). It will be tough for me because I never stick to one style – see my ‘mood of the day’ posts.
First item on the packing list: Le chapeau.
Options included straw men’s hat, a cap with visor, a cowboy’s hat, and a straw large brim. The main attribute should be ‘easy to carry around’ but I favored the ‘I don’t care if it gets trashed’ factor because on my last trip to France, I wanted to show off to my family my millinery skills so I flew with my straw cloche. It was my way to say ‘No, I am not a jobless loser. I kind of make my own hats…How cool is that?’ But unfortunately a fellow passenger put their suitcase on top of it….Nice. I almost sobbed in the middle of the aisle. I have thus chosen a granny brim purchased in Savannah, Georgia which I improved with a striped scarf. The plus factor: I can pack a couple of ‘no space cluttering’ scarves as alternative trimmings. Still schizophrenic but genius, right?
I am throwing in two pairs of sunnies, a cheap one and a Tom Ford pair: one to wrestle with the kids in the pool and one to pose with on a bar terrace.
PS: my rants of the day
– I had to buy something in the village for my sis today and ended up walking in the meat packing district. I adore this hood but could not help feeling like I was the protagonist of the ‘Truman show’, except that it was more like the ‘Cindy Crawford’ show. In the meatpacking, all the women are long legged amazons, all men are like Richard effing Branson and I am the naive troll wandering around wondering if unbeknownst to me I crashed into a Style Network production.
– I did some shopping in a department store in Chelsea (aka known as gay and skinny Chelsea)and a shop assistant heckled me:’Mommy, mommy, the fitting rooms are over there’. I was like ‘Am I in the maternity section?’ and thus checked if I had picked nursing tops…Horror, I had not. She bloody thought I was pregnant !!! B-I-T-C-H.
PS bis: in the middle of the rush hour at 34th st Herald Square, a perfect falsetto rose. A big guy was singing a Maxwell (I think) song, he did not have a GQ face but a voice that stopped at least 50 people in their tracks: young African American teenagers, tourists, commuters, elderly people, busy mamas etc. I love this city for the sickening volume of talents you can find at every corner. And when that talent stops time, unites such crowd and makes me forget about the sticky weather and my swollen feet, it is just magical. New York, I am going to miss you on my vacation…