Road Tripocalypse 2012: my end is neigh. Live blogging the madness.

Alarm set for 3 am. Husband insisted. I lobbied for 2:30. “Rachael, that’s not safe.” YOU’RE not safe, I imagine retorting. But, maybe he’s right. OH WAIT. It’s 2:40 and like some cruel and twisted alarm clock, Eli is awake. And just for good measure, he was up at 11 pm too. Nothing about my life is safe right now. The baby is already playing dirty. All bets are off.

3:50. Late start. This is, however, happening: we are in the car. My husband just offered me a “go team” fist bump. Edie wailed “why are you taking me out of my bed.” This blog will hopefully serve as evidence of her non-kidnapping should she decide to continue wailing this at a patrolled rest stop.

45 min in. Edie is still awake. Not shocking. Eli finally passed back out. Some thoughts: are the waffles at Waffle House really awesome? Like all thick and fluffy? Why do I have a song from Dinosaur Train in my head? And not even the theme song. No, the B-side tune “Troodon Night Train.” I want it out. Slightly better than when I got The Thong Song in my head during a 10 day silent meditation retreat, though. National corvette museum in 15 miles. That is a specific museum. I don’t want to go to it. I DO want to go to the medical oddities museum. In Pittsburgh, is it? I don’t know. But it looks crazy cool.

5:33. The screaming begins. Eli. Edie is awake. Super.

5:45. Screaming stops after crawling back to Eli and singing Hush Little Baby 9 times. Now he is chattering to his Sleep Giraffe. Cute, but, for real, go back to sleep. Edie lost baby Calin. But we found her after only one tear. Victory. Now SLEEP, creatures! The sun is way not up yet.

6:05. Eli “waaaah!” Edie: “my tummy hurts.” Mom “it is not today, yet. Shhhhhhhh.”

“If you lived here, you’d be home right now.” is a really popular slogan for apartment complexes.

Passing through Louisville. Which is way hard to say properly. If you think it’s “loo-ee-ville,” think again!! It’s some inexplicable back of the throat pronunciation. I practice when I’m alone sometimes.

Asked will if he thought Waffle House would be awesome. He said maybe. Do I want to try it? I said maybe. But he knows I do. Then he asks if I heard what their CEO did. Sigh. No, but I am guessing it will cause me not to eat at Waffle House. Yep. I was right.

9:03. But I think that accounts for a time zone change. Who knows. Anyways. Half way there. It’s going … mediocre with a dash of bad. Eli is massively unhappy. I nursed him when we stopped and he fell dead asleep. But him in his car seat, he immediately woke up and had been yelling at me ever since. Will broke the car outlet by trying to “fix” the mp3 radio device by jamming it in with all his might. He’s pretty adamant that the issue is a shoddy outlet. I think that, by design, these outlets aren’t meant to withstand full blown rage. Oh!! Oh!! Eli closed his eyes! Maybe? A nap?!?

10:40. The nap was 10 min long. He woke up mad. We had to pull over after awhile. Starbucks!! Small miracles. We get out, use a moderately clean restroom, order chai and whatnot. Wish we had eaten breakfast here, because, lets face it, we are inexcusably and irredeemably prissy and the Waffle House (yeah. we ended up at one. The screams, people!) made us feel lousy. City slickers (*knocks heel of boot against a rock and spits in dirt*).

Ok! Almost there! *ish*. 30 miles to go. Eli’s voice is raspy with exhaustion and anger. But he perseveres, lest we forget that he never signed on to this. He has taken two 15 min naps. Yet I specifically ordered a baby who was not capable of substituting sleep for shrieking!! Customer service, these days. Dreadful. Edie is mostly delightful. The back seat is decorated on polka dot stickers. My toe is bleeding. Something under the dash cut me. I think a little blood is appropriate.

Current theme song: “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” by the Animals.

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Traveling with Kids. Also, I am Scared of My Spawn.

Even though it is – I believe – common knowledge that young humans go to bed earlier than full grown humans, for some reason it doesn’t fully register how that will dictate so much of your life until you are in it.  Bedtime is sacred, because without it, there is End of Days-type chaos, complete with blood curdling screams, gnashing of teeth, eyes rolling back in head, occasionally swarms of locust, etc.

The first trip we took with Edie was when she was seven months old.  And it quickly dawned on us that if we wished to survive this ill-advised escapade, we would need to put her to bed relatively on time.  Ok, that makes sense.  But, what of you, the parent, once The Scary One is asleep?  Well, you can try to make some sort of game out of it.  (Who wants to play “Anne Frank?!”)  Or you can do what we did.  Hunker down behind the hotel bed, plug in two sets of head phones into the DVD player you purchased under the duress of nearly-expired credit card points, and watch The Sopranos really, really (really) quietly.  Edie was unimpressed with our efforts, however, and sent us this message by waking up every. hour. all. night.  She woke up with this cute little peep.  Almost like “Hey, mama.  I’m not sure where I am. Can I have a cuddle?” Nope! That’s not true! Hahahah!! Actually she woke up as if Boogey Man himself was playing peek-a-boo one millimeter from her face.  Edie’s special brand of alchemy which converts exhaustion into rage is really something.  Edie has gotten better to travel with, now approaching three years old.  But, that’s not really much of an endorsement considering the baseline.

We are currently planning a long road trip to the in-laws for Thanksgiving.  Seven hours according to Google maps.  To me, that is tortuously long. But, see, it’s even a little worse than that. Because during the day, Eli nurses about every ninety minutes, requires being held in my arms for an absurd rain dance of sorts in order to defecate (and if the dance is done improperly, he’ll just scream and writhe in pain indefinitely), oh and he poops half a dozen times a day, plus he hates the car and the car seat and will also scream about this particular brand of confinement/isolation for an amount of time whose limit we’ve not yet discovered.

Allegedly, there are babies who don’t mind cars.  Some of these “babies”** even stay in their car seats while their parents eat out or socialize.  (**Maybe they’re babies.  Maybe they’re automatrons put into circulation by some underground population stimulation cabal.  And if so, hey, cabal! What’s a lady got to do to get implanted with one of those automatrons?)  I don’t make this version of child, though.

I am not not content to sit and worry, however.  I am a woman of action.  So a plan is in place.  And this plan is – ETD: Three In The Morning.

3:00 a.m.  Not a time for the faint of heart.  But we need to play to our strengths here.  Will and I are outmaneuvered by these children all the live long day.  And though they can and do haunt us at any time, statistically speaking, we are left alone for almost the entire night.  They do require some modicum of rest for survival, and their blessed circadian rhythms seem to pull them into slumber best during the darkness.  Will and I also require sleep.  But we have additional tools, including coffee, snack food, and a delicious adrenaline and cortisol cocktail produced by the fear state in which we live.

My fat-cheeked oppressor.

I have been introducing the idea of a middle of the night flight to Edie for a few days now.  She does not like changes or surprises.  And it seems like a messy ordeal to get an Amber Alert wiped from your record, which would inevitably result after our first stop on the road, as our tear-stained and drunk with exhaustion toddler would almost certainly yell out the window some variant on “Take me home! I don’t want to go with you! Why did you take me from my bed! I don’t like this!”  So I’ve been trying to make this all seem like an exciting adventure, with the end point being her beloved Grandma Sally.  So far, my campaign is a dud.  Our last conversation about it went like this: “Remember how we are driving to Grandma Sally’s for Thanksgiving?” “Yeah” “Well, it’s a loooong drive. It will take most of the day.” (Child’s eyes narrow in a “what’s your point?” fashion) “So, to make it easier, we are going to leave when it is really early.  So early, it will still be dark out! And I will pick you up and wrap you in your soft blankets, put you in the car, and you can go back to sleep! Sound good?” (Eyes widen) “Why?” “Well, if you sleep, the drive will seem shorter” “But WHY?” “You will be comfy and so tired, so you should just sleep.” (Eyes well with tears) “Why are you gonna do dat? WHY?!?” “Honey, we will all be there, it will be fine. And then we’ll be at Grandma Sally’s so quickly!”  “I’m NOT gonna sleep! I’m gonna SCREAM! And I’m gonna WAKE UP ELI!”  Fabulous.  Way to be a team player, Edie.

But, I mean, come on. Can she really make good on this? She’s two.  It will be the middle of the night.  I am trying to find some comfort in science, here. She’s got to sleep, right? (Repressing memories of Edie staying awake for entire transatlantic voyages). WHAT DOES SHE WANT FROM ME?  My youth, beauty, and my iPad.  All these things I have sacrificed at her altar, yet she scoffs.  (Seriously. She scoffs at the iPad.  Once she realized it was a device we gave her for our convenience, she shuns it, often crying at its mere suggestion.)

That said, I am honestly looking forward to being at my in-laws for a few days.  And perhaps, living there forever if I am unable to work up the nerve to leave.

You Have Got To Be Kidding Me: A Baby Doll Story

Back when we lived in Munich, I developed a bit of a past time going to yard and consignment sales.  They did them on a large scale – entire neighborhoods at a time, for example.  The thrill of the hunt, plus the near certainty of getting adorable euro-fabulous kids clothes for cents on the dollar (Euro cents on the Euro?), and throw in the fact that I would typically go sans Edie and with my friend Lara, it was a delightful way to pass a Saturday morning.  A big draw for me was toys.  Oh, German toys.  So lovely.  So wooden.  So praktisch.  And so spendy.  Used was the way to go.  At one I found a teeny tiny baby doll.  I hadn’t been looking for one.  Edie was only just over a year old.  But it was very cute, and the perfect size and feel for a little one to enjoy.  I bought it on a whim, as one does when the price tag is 1 or 2 €.  

As life would have it, Edie loved her doll.  She was just learning to speak then, and so it was simply “baby,” which remained its name for sometime.  Baby was taken everywhere.  At 15 or so months, I remember seeing her “nurse” her baby, soothe her baby, and rock her to sleep.  When Edie got a little older, she loved to take the baby’s romper off, and then hassle me loudly until I put it back on, so she could do it again and again.  During my pregnancy, baby became even more important to Edie.  With all this talk of my new baby, Edie began to treat hers with even more care and concern.  At some point, the baby got a new name: Bow-Oh.  I know it sounds weird and isn’t a name in the traditional sense, but there were a few months there when Edie invented names and words for things she didn’t know, and though she does it less these days, preferring to name things based on people or characters in stories, Bow-Oh stuck.  

Some time after Eli was born, Bow-Oh disappeared.  Edie asked after her all of the time.  Because she was so special to Edie, I was very careful never to let her take Bow-Oh out of the house or car, and if we did (as sometimes the fight was just not mine to win), I was very, very careful.  I lost two special “friends” as a kid – a stuffed dog and a Cabbage Patch doll.  I still remember way too much about the ordeals.  I did not want Edie to go through this if I could avoid it.  Nevertheless, somewhere in the chaos of baby brother’s arrival, it seemed as though Bow-Oh truly went missing.

On several occasions over the past few months, I have gotten serious about finding her.  I have even been quite harsh on myself, thinking “Come ON.  It is in the house somewhere.  Quit your laziness and FIND THIS DOLL.”  I’ve spent precious hours, when I could’ve been resting for once, instead tearing up the joint in her pursuit. Though thorough, I’ve tried to be strategic.  One of the adorable complaints I lodge at my husband is that when I ask him to help me find something, he opts for the completely random approach and then calls defeat. Honey, please, I cannot find my wallet anywhere and I am so late! Can you help?? [Will checks freezer, toilet tank, and bottle of ibuprofen.]  Sorry. I can’t find it anywhere either.  I went through the entirety of her toy closet, nooks and crannies I know she favors, every millimeter of the floor of the cars.  I even sent a sad-sack email to all of the moms I know in Nashville to see if Bow-Oh had turned up somewhere.  Nothing.

For a couple weeks, it seemed like she’d forgotten about Bow-Oh.  But, even though she has not seen this doll in months and months at this point, she began asking about Bow-Oh in earnest again last week.  It was getting depressing.  Did some body take Bow-Oh, mom? Is Bow-Oh coming home, mom? Can we look for her? Yeesh.

The decision was made to get her a new baby.  She has a couple dolls, but no baby dolls that meet the needs that Bow-Oh filled.  But still it was not an easy decision.  The kid is … particular. I had to spend two weeks inoculating her to the eventuality of needing to switch sneakers because her current ones were getting too small.  It started with showing her the new ones online.  See Edie? Aren’t they nice? * Yeah. … But I am gonna wear MY sneakers. * Ok.  But your feet are growing. And soon you will need bigger ones. * Ok.  But today I am going to wear MINE. * But soon, these. * … No. I like mine. I recently found out at parent-teacher conferences that it was upsetting Edie so much that her teacher spent one hour a day with the Kindergarteners, that Edie had to accompany the teacher so as to avoid an hour long meltdown.  Edie does not like change.  So our question was: would a new baby be awesome, or awesomely traumatic?

I had an idea of the brand of doll that hers was, but after much detective work, I could not find an exact replica.  There would be no way to convince her that Bow-Oh had returned. The stakes were high.  We ordered a doll, got it, but it was wrong.  Right face.  Too big.  I contacted a friend whose son had a similar doll.  She wised me up to the correct model.  First doll sent back.  Second doll, ordered.  I get an email saying that my shipment would be delayed because of Hurricane Sandy.  This both put things in perspective and made me impatient. Go figure.

Now, I get a shipping notice.  And so I begin to plant the seed.  The next time she asks about Baby Bow-Oh, I finally concede that Bow-Oh isn’t coming home.  But before she is totally crushed, I gingerly offer that there are lots of baby dolls who need mamas.  She looks interested.  In fact, I say, the mail man helps these baby dolls find mamas.  And he just told me that there was a baby doll named Calin who needed a mama. (Calin is the name the company gave the doll.  I did not dig too deep here. Though I failed to consider that she still can’t say “L” so this is actually a very difficult name for Edie to say.  But it’s done now.  No going back.)  After I said this, Edie’s eyes widened and she said – hand to God – Maybe I could be her mom?! Oh I’d be patting myself on the back for quite some time! Yes! I replied. That is a great idea! I will let the mail man know.  So we’ve been talking about Calin for a few days now.  Things seemed to be going great.  I even made a bed for her, planning to unwrap her and lay her in the bed, leaving her momentarily on the front porch for Edie to find.  I am a little bit great.

From a cardboard box, the dolly bed was forged.

Calin is set to arrive today.  Edie knows this, as Calin-fever has been raging around here, and details have had to be offered to keep her sated.  Edie is at school today, so while she was out, I was going to whip up a simple little pillow and mattress for the bed, and voila!  And then, on my way out the door for a walk with Eli and the dogs, I scurry through the house to grab some poop bags from the right drawer of the entryway table, and upon finding none, I chance open the left drawer – the drawer nothing, nothing, is in – and BAM.  Oh. Hello, Bow-Oh.

The smuggest baby doll I have ever seen.

So, what to do?  Oh, decision of decisions! Throw out or donate beloved, sweet, rummage sale Bow-Oh? And stick with Calin and the lies I’ve spun? Take the chance that Calin actually will become special to her – something that cannot be taken for granted? Or somehow convince Edie that Calin found a different mom, rendering her totally confused but perhaps ultimately happier? 

Or maybe, just maybe, I could get a life and think about important things? 

I don’t know! WHY, BOW-OH, WHY DID YOU FORSAKE US FOR SO LONG? 

(Is there an election or something this week, btw?)