Thursday, September 25, 2014

Oh, Poddy!

There's been a devastating loss in my household. My very first iPod Video (now called the Classic), the gateway drug, er, product that made me a devoted Apple acolyte, my Poddy, full name Poddington, is on his last legs. During the move, something must have been stacked on Poddy's little home, and he's cracked, as you can see from the picture. I am in mourning.

Prior to the iPod Video, I eschewed the need for any Apple music player, and I am a music JUNKY, a former on-air personality for my college radio station, first adopter of all things musical. My mom used to tell the story of how, at age 5, I wouldn't let anyone else play with my 45 player, handled the precious Disney records by the edges, placed the needle lovingly on and off, put them away in their little sleeves, and I've only gotten worse since. When the iPod Video came out, and I realized I could take my ENTIRE CD collection (over 300 CDs strong and 19 gigs at the time) with me, I was hooked. But I couldn't afford one right away. That was when I found out about Apple's refurbished store, and I told Scott it was ALL I wanted for Christmas, 2006. He saw the crazy gleam in my eyes, and he ordered it. Later, he found it wouldn't be delivered before Christmas.  I could wait, but he used that info to get a few more bucks off (YEAH!). It was delivered after Christmas, and I was in love, saving all my CDs to itunes and uploading them to my Poddy. It was also immediately placed on non-child touching lockdown.

Then I was on the hunt for a player, because I have music on all. day. long, and the ear phones weren't cutting it. I went to Target and Best Buy and played my little Poddy on each and every offering, assessing sound quality, bass, treble, volume, and how difficult it was to get out. The Altec iM9 pictured below, was the winner. It had fabulous sound, and there was no danger of a kid ripping the iPod off the top mount. Plus, it could run on either battery or AC/DC. This little twosome has been my companion while painting the walls of our home, to Girl Scout and Cub Scout meetings where music was needed, to my classes where I played podcasts, to friends' homes, camping, and now, it's outdated and obsolete for charging current models, but still, I could just cry.

I know, my phone holds all my music now, but it was so great if my phone was charging to play music in the kitchen. It was also awesome to jam out when the kids weren't home to my music with "naughty" words in it, or to hold impromptu dance parties at high volume. It still plays music, but I can't really decipher what song or artist it's on.

Poddington and his loud companion will be missed, sorely missed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Peanut Butter Experience

We are deadly serious about our peanut butter in my family. I have certain texture issues that must be satisfied, and only crunchy will do for me. Skippy is my crunchy peanut butter of choice, but the brand the sell at Aldi's is good, too. Jiff? NO. Peter Pan? HELLS to the NO. The boy and I agree 100%. Scott? He likes CREAMY, and really, what's the point? But whatever, he too knows only Skippy will do, but if it's all creamy, I don't really know what his criteria is. Megan? She's complex, needing chunky for sandwiches but creamy for apple or celery dipping. Diva.

We come to Louisiana, and Uncle Bob has JIFF, not only that, but CREAMY JIFF. It was a situation that required immediate attention. Additional peanut butter was purchased, and all was well again in the land, and the people were happy. Really, it takes so little to keep us all amused.

Last weekend, we went to the "big town" closest to us, about a 20ish minute drive. Doggies came along, as we had doggy-related issues to attend to, and we'd heard there was a slamming dog park (there was!) in town. We thought we'd pack a picnic, and the dogs could roam freely.

Uncle Bob was kind enough to make our packed lunch while Megan and I tended to last minute girly things. En route, Megan, of course, asked what had been packed. Uncle Bob said he'd packed PB&J and listed other items. Megan immediately honed in on the PB part, citing our noted peanut butter stances. Uncle Bob replied that he'd made all the sandwiches the same--crunchy peanut butter. Megan reminded him of his preferences, and he said since it had been at least 15 years since he'd tried crunchy, and we had been so adventurous moving down here, he was going to be adventurous and try crunchy again. Awwww, right?

Come doggy park/lunch time, we're sitting at a picnic table, letting dogs roam, sharing our apples with a man and boy who stopped to chat, and I'm eating my sandwich, chit chatting, and I notice I feel smoothness, infinite smoothness. I take more bites, still smooooooth, and wrong where PB&J is concerned. Hmm. I'm near finished when Megan leans over and says "there's no BUMPS in my sandwich" with a displeased look on her face. She feels infinite smoothness too. Man and boy leave, and I ask Uncle Bob if he didn't just try to trick us with smooth peanut butter. He says no and that he used the jar with the blue top. I ask "medium blue or dark blue"? "Medium blue" he responds. Megan and I look at each other and I tell him that DARK blue is the color of the crunchy top. He says "oh" and continues to contentedly munch on his smooth peanut butter sandwich. At least we know we can get rid of the Jiff now.

So much for peanut butter adventure.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Poor Uncle Bob

Yes, poor Uncle Bob. He raised boys. That means he never had TWO women in the house, let alone a 10 year old girl on a consistent basis. There is a whole WORLD of knowledge he's gained in the last month, including some of these:
  • Women--young or old--cannot use the same hair products for long. They have different hair needs that must be addressed, so for each female, there will be approximately three products in the shower at any given time. This math is confusing to men.
  • When making room for us, poor Uncle Bob was unaware of the criteria his home would be graded on by Megan when we arrived. She immediately needed some furniture moved because it was necessary to have ample dancing space. Uncle Bob said he didn't know that was a consideration. Megan replied with "always" and left it at that. Girl is serious about her dance spot.
  • The emotions of a 10 year old girl run hotter and colder and are more rapidly changing than anything else on the planet.  There is more drama to those emotions than those Mexican soap operas Erik Estrada stars in. I think he was a bit shell shocked last week when one dramatic episode arose, then just as quickly disappeared.
It's an education for all of us.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

It's the Disrespect for People that Kills Me

Ok, so we know economically times are hard. They are improving for some, but they are hard for many. It was primarily due to these difficult economic times that we moved our family 1100 miles south. There was a time when things for my family were good, not great, but good. We have never been the people who were interested in big vacations (we mostly camped, much cheaper), we weren't fashion or possession hounds. I will admit to a weakness for techie stuff, but I've never been a first adopter, and I always searched for screachingly great deals. We didn't enroll our kids in overly expensive activities. We did all that, in part, to live in a modest home in a great school district.  We did everything right when we moved there, had about six months' savings in the bank, put as much down on our house as we could afford, we didn't risk. Two extended job losses--one of 10 months, one of almost two years--wiped safety out. In between the two job losses, my husband had essentially a 50% pay cut from before his first job loss. That meant we were NEVER out of the hole. Things still weren't horrific yet. We all wear clothing from thrift shops, the campouts were fewer, we didn't go out to eat unless there was a groupon involved. We started a business to try to make ends meet, and I took on a second job. We didn't qualify by the state of Illinois as "poor" but we didn't have much compared to our neighbors, who weren't rich themselves. Living in that town was hard.

I say all this because of two things. One is this ridiculous clip/article that says if you have a computer and/or air conditioning, you "can't be poor" in the eyes of some politicians. Essentially, he, and those like him who might not say in public but in private agree, is saying that only the basest of existences can be considered "poor" for the government's purposes, and anything above that is a-okay! So if a single mom has a kid and someone gives her a second hand computer her kid does homework on, she can't be poor. If, like my family, we had some good times and were able to purchase computers that are now four years old, we can't be poor. Because we lived in a house where we turned on the a/c when it was reaching 100 degrees, nope, we can't be poor. He's a moron. I could probably feed my kids on what he spends on dry cleaning in a month.

The other reason I say all this is a general sense of disbelief I have after having moved to Louisiana. I registered my kids for school, and the school has been AWESOME, telling us to send them with whatever supplies we had, they'd make up the difference, and they didn't charge us for the "spirit wear" shirts kids can wear on Fridays instead of their polos and khakis (which we still had to buy). I think they're used to people who stay with family members, as there's a significant migrant worker population here with sugar cane harvesting. In any event, when we were back in Illinois, and the unemployment benefits stopped last December, my pitiful salary, made even more pitiful after the deductions for parking pass, health insurance, pension, union dues, simply wasn't enough for four people, two of whom kept insisting on eating and growing. I looked into public aid and found I made too much per year by about 6K, not even small enough to get help with lunch costs through the school, as that threshold was in the low 30s. When we got to Louisiana, I'm filling out all the paperwork, and the threshold for reduced lunch is OVER $44,000! The cost of living is less here, gas is less, granted milk is more, but I know people who are raising kids on a far less than $44K. I've actually been walking around muttering 44,000! at random times during the day. I have issues letting things go.

It amazes me that areas can be SO different and have such a different attitude. When living in that SW burb of Chicago, where many people had great incomes, but there were just as many who didn't, and I inquired about assistance through the schools, all but one person acted annoyed and put out to give me any information. Here, they just said "don't worry about it" and gave me stacks of information. We may be going through a lot of adjustments here, some that have made me bang my head on a desk recently, but there is definitely more of a feel that we're all in this together that I'm really liking.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's a Complex Situation

No Louisiana talk today, branching out to what's going on around us for everyone.

We've got a complex situation going on in our world. The actions of police, police brutality, racism, abuse, racial profiling are all very serious issues that people feel deeply about. For myself? I'm conflicted. I've personally known people pulled over for Driving While Black, thankful it didn't escalate to something far more dangerous. I've known people touched by police officers' overuse of power, and it's devastating. Here, a woman talks about how frightening and demoralizing these situations are. I feel her questioning, her anger, her embarrassment, her outrage, and she's completely justified in all of those emotions. There are police officers who are making decisions that affect people short and long term in devastating ways. Just as there are bad people in EVERY profession, there are bad police officers, but in their situation, the stakes are infinitely higher and far more frightening.

On the other hand, I know police officers too. I've had them in my classes, I call some friends and extended family. I know they have to go into every traffic stop, every domestic situation, every loud party with the expectation that the person they are detaining could have a firearm and is itching to use it. If they don't, they are putting themselves and their partners in infinite danger. Every situation has to be approached with DEFCON 1 seriousness, or danger could ensue. I know even great police officers can't find out information about attacks and shootings in high crime areas due to the inherent mistrust of police bred by media sensationalization of police brutality cases. Even if the cops come from. that. neighborhood. there is distrust from other community members. I know it has to be difficult and stressful to tell a superior officer that maybe someone who has had your back, saved your life, has gone too far in an arrest. When a police officer is killed in the line of duty, there should only be tears that a public servant is gone. This article spells out the sacrifices even the families make. Again, I feel her pain, her longing, the depth of her despair.

I don't pretend to know what the solution is to this issue, but I know we can't toss up our hands in question and despair. Somehow, we've got to get police officers to serve in ways that respect humanity. We've also got to get community members to respect the job officers do. I wish I knew how to make that happen.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I Expect to Have a Criminal Record

Those of you who've driven with me know speed limits are merely suggestions, and I rarely listen to those suggestions. Well, karma is about to kick my ass.

I don't know if this was simply a scare tactic used by local police, but my uncle got a speeding ticket not long after moving here two years ago. He, unlike me, is a speed suggestion abiding citizen, but there are a number of places here where speed limits go from a blistering 70, down to 55, down to 35 or even 25 in a flash. He got caught in one of those change ups going 46 in a 35. The officer told him in Louisiana, ELEVEN MILES OVER THE SPEED LIMIT IS A FELONY! A FELONY, my friends. I'm doomed.

Every time I drive anywhere, my accelerator foot twitches, and I feel like I have hives. To paraphrase Sammy Hagar, I can't drive 25!

I give me two months.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


It is apparently a good thing we came to my Uncle Bob's house. Had we not, he'd have probably killed himself ingesting over expired food and medicines. I'll admit, this may be a familial thing, as before Scott, I wouldn't even think of checking dates on things. It wasn't until he sat down to eat some of my homemade spaghetti and realized the parmesan cheese I'd used had an expiration date of six months prior, and of course the apoplectic fit that followed, that I realized I needed to LOOK AT dates prior to cooking. I'm still not the best, but I use my Christmas cookie making time to cull my spice cabinet of outdated baddies, ditto with regular foods when it's food drive time at the kids' schools.

When we arrived, Scott started checking dates in the fridge, and he became sad. Four or five items in a row ended up being significantly expired. One day, while Bob was at work, we held a refrigerator intervention. It sure cleared out space and made things easier to clean, lol. We knew we had to do it while he was gone when Scott pointed out Bob's favorite mustard was expired, and he replied "then I guess I need to eat it FAST." We bought a replacement when next at the grocery store.

Little did I know, the fridge was just the beginning. Megan had an upset stomach, and Bob offered up a remedy, but he actually looked at the box and said I didn't want to know. Oh yes, I did! 2002, people! 2002! That means he'd carried it from his home two years ago in Georgia expired! Gah! I hit the medicines, and we were left with maybe four items. The next oldest was 2008, which means, again, transferred expired. Eek!

Use this PSA to go clear out your fridge and medicine cabinet, and let's see if anyone has anything older.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Changes in Our Habits

Yes, we're going to have to change a number of habits we've had in the north. Some are just a tweak we have to remember, some make me break out in a cold sweat. In no particular order, they are:
  1. Everything moves slower in the south. Not worse, not better, just no sense of urgency we have in the north. This is the thing that makes me go into deep breathing mode. Today, we nearly shut down the ENTIRE grocery store because we asked for a price check on an item that wasn't coming up as on sale. Literally, two people went to investigate, while the line of people behind us grew (no other open lines). They weren't worried, no loud sighs or recriminating looks, but I had to go to my inner happy place to get through.
  2. Everyone assumes you've lived in the south your entire life, even with evidence to the contrary. I've been told to turn at places that haven't been in existence for longer than the kids have been on the planet, informed that there's a particular type of bbq sauce on a hot link (Jack Miller) when asking if it was hot or sweet, and various other things that have the undercurrent of "it's totally obvious, right?"
  3. The streets roll up before dark. The library, the LIBRARY closes at 6pm on weekdays. My kids LIVED at the library. They aren't happy. A few gas stations and the McDonalds and Sonic are open, but that's about it after dark.
  4. Dairy prices are OUTRAGEOUS! Apparently, we aren't close to cows, so there are only a couple kinds of cheese at the deli counter, which are super expensive. Milk? Cheap, store brand, non-organic, I just picked up for $4.25 a gallon. That's the sale price. Considering we use more milk than gas, not good, BUT gas is only $3.19, so that's nice.
  5. NO RECYCLING! This is one thing that makes me feel dirty. I don't know if it's because we're in a teeny tiny town, but there's no recycling program. None. Milk cartons, cereal boxes, cans, they all. go. in. the. garbage. Do you know how difficult it is to undo decades of conditioning? Nearly impossible. My hands tremble when I throw recyclable stuff out. But they pick up garbage twice per week. Riddle me that one, Batman.
I'm sure there will be more later.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Rice or Noodles

When we were at the grocery store last, Megan asked if I could pleeeeeaaaaasssseee get one of the packets of noodles I sometimes make, usually when we have chicken. I don't know why, leave me alone about it. I said yes, silly me, thinking "hey, I'm going to a grocery store, where we can BUY food" probably.

Did you know in Louisiana they REALLY like their rice? You may have answered "yes" to that question. Even if you did, you STILL cannot fathom how much they love rice. Love. Rice. Love. Yes, LOVE. There is an entire aisle in a small town Winn-Dixie of RICE. Big bags, little bags, flavored kinds, not flavored kinds. I have never, except when I went to Costco, seen so much rice, and even that was not of the variations of rice this one aisle had. It's insane!

I went to the place where these little noodle packets are, and there they were. ALL RICE! Gumbo rice, Spanish rice, all different types of rice in the packets and in the other brands of boxes too. I found ONE packet of flavored noodles. It's not long and stringy like she normally gets, so I'm sure she'll howl. I don't know if you can tell from the picture, but the package looked like it had been creased and tossed around a lot. There wasn't even a tag for it on the shelf. I'm thinking it's a rogue package that got caught accidentally in a box somewhere and they just put it out for fun.

The same trip, we also bought a 5 lb bag of potatoes. I bet they were wondering what we were going to DO with all of them. I may have to ask for noodle packet care packages soon.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Adventures in Registration

Our first real goal getting to Louisiana was to get our kids registered in the charter school that served our new area. Louisiana has had, shall we say, "issues" with education in the recent past, not really making the national grade. I didn't want our kids, who had been in a very, very difficult district, to become bored and slack off, especially Brett, so I'd found this charter school that had ONE slot left in the 8th grade, none for 5th, but I was betting if we showed up with both kids, they'd take both. Then we had a dilemma. How to prove residency when we'd arrived only days before, and even if we hadn't, nothing is in our name since we're living with my uncle. The solution? Get Louisiana driver's licenses! Of course, some of that residency stuff may come into play, but we made a plan that if my uncle's information would be needed, we'd contact him. So Monday, we went with the goal of registering ourselves as drivers and our kids as students!

A little back story is necessary for this tale. Prior to leaving Illinois, I had the amazing idea to amass our social security cards, birth certificates, shot records for the kids, transfer papers from their schools into one folder. Yes, I AM a genius! When amassing these documents, I noted ONCE AGAIN that we only had the hospital copy of Scott's birth certificate. I marveled at that 16 years ago when he moved down to Illinois from Wisconsin and he was going for his driver's license there.  I assured him they would want the certified copy his mom had never bothered to follow through on getting. They took the hospital copy. When we got our marriage license, I told him we'd need the certified copy. They took the hospital copy. I was starting to see how people vote "early and often" in Chicago. I again said he might want to get the certified copy before we left. He assured me they'd take the hospital copy.

As a Chicagoan (and then Chicago suburbanite), I'm used to DMV facilities with long, complex lines that are set in stone, even if you've stood in the wrong one for and hour. There is a sea of humanity and every nationality teeming while waiting at Chicago DMV faciliites. There's a separate person JUST to give information and get people in the correct line. What we entered was a small room with about 20 chairs mostly filled, three people waiting on individuals, no separate lines. Unfortunately, we'd brought the kids, so we were settled in for some whining.  Luckily, one of the workers called up everyone who was just doing renewals and banged out a bunch of people. Soon enough, it was our turn. I'm good with my paperwork, all is wonderful! Scott? Not so much. They didn't take the hospital copy (DUH! That felt good.).  I'll fill you in on what's needed to get your information from Cook County when you're outside the state in another posting. Turns out, they didn't need ANY proof of address.  None, zippo, nada! I just TOLD them where we were living, and they TOOK MY WORD for it. I really didn't know what to make of that, so I sat there blankly. With my spanking new driver's license and voter registration--btw, I'm an organ donor too--we set off for the school.

When I registered my kids for school, not only were their birth certificates, social security cards, and immunization records required, we needed two bills with our names and addresses on them, one having to be our property tax bill, and a vial of blood.  Oh, just kidding on that last one, but the registration gal was eyeing up my veins. I thought Louisiana would be no different. They are. We were ALL worried about proving residence, and they basically didn't care. Birth certificates and immunizations were necessary, but again, they didn't even LOOK at my driver's license. How TRUSTING and totally disconcerting. I was right about them taking both kids, whew! The principal is super nice, told us even before we filled out paperwork the kids could get free breakfast and lunch and to get supplies as needed. That was great, because this school has uniforms, granted, only khakis and navy or hunter green polos, but still, it's an expense. Plus, it took me an hour in Walmart to find things that fit, since kids here started August 8th, and everyone had picked everything over.

As most already know, Megan missed her first week of school due to hand, foot, mouth disease her brother lovingly shared with her. They were on the waiting list for the bus, but they are now riding that every day. Brett has found a friend who, thankfully, is a Boy Scout. We're still working on Megan finding both a buddy and a Girl Scout troop.

We're still a work in progress. Next up, I muster up a little outrage at Illinois!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Our First Weekend

When last we left the intrepid Reynolds clan, they had arrived in Louisiana, unpacked their things, looked around at each other and mused aloud, "now what?"

We started to get to know our surroundings, explore the town a little, a very little. Franklin has a population, according to their website of just shy of 8,000 people. It just got a little closer to that magical number with the addition of we four souls. It does have more than one stop light, though. Things are more compacted than I would have thought, but there are also vast spaces in between, as the main output of this town was for a long time sugar cane. They will be harvesting it soon, and apparently the sweet smell of burning sugar fills the air. Recently, with offshore drilling, petroleum and all its by products have surged to out distance sugar cane as a main export. The drilling has led to more plants, and those have led to more people, more housing, a new hospital built. I think they anticipate more of a population boom in the next few years.

On Sunday, my uncle took us to his church. We thought our church was small! For my church friends who may see this, it's about 1/3 the size of PCOP. Fifty-two people were in attendance, the board told me, last week. We met some very nice people there, but when they heard we were from "IllinoiS" just south of Chicago, women fanned themselves and men said "whoo-ee" and shook their heads. I'm not sure if that means we're marked with an unholy sign or seen has having gotten out with our lives. In any event, they were quite nice, but the kids missed not having a fellowship time afterwards. One thing I found amusing was that the pastor kept encouraging us to hug certain individuals' necks. Aren't shoulders or arms just as good? Isn't really hugging a neck kind of dangerous? I'll have to figure that one out, because there were a number of people who were in need of this specific hugging.

Next, the tale of Monday brings registering the kids for school! And the DMV!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Day 3!

The final leg of our Louisiana Invasion Tour was fairly uneventful. Another lovely morning spent gathering our things and sweeping clean the breakfast offerings before walking the pooch in the green area, then saying farewell to Jackson, MS.

For some reason on this trip, we saw inordinate amounts of tire leavings on the highway. I mean I dodged large chunks many, many times on the way down. Just tonight, my very learned uncle who used to be CFO of a construction company said it's because they try to buy cheaper tires, which are retreads, since the new can cost $800-$1000 PER TIRE. In the hot weather, if tires aren't adequately inflated, they blow out. Interesting. Yes, this is what we talk about over dinner.  You're jealous, I know.

Scott did do a fist pump out the window as we crossed into Louisiana, and I felt the same, but I wasn't rolling down the window, because it was 97 degrees, y'all (See what I did there? I'm TURNING!). The only real mishap was that about 45 minutes after we stopped for lunch, Megan and I both HAD to go to the bathroom. I mean HAD to. This undeniable urge hit while we were on this 50 mile long bridge, ok, maybe only 3 miles, but it FELT like 50. Even when we got off the bridge, there wasn't an exit for another five miles. The first one I saw, I drove off, hoping Scott saw me, because both Megan and I were to the point of tears. We stopped, leapt out of the car, I saw our Jeep pull in next to me, and I threw my car keys in the Jeep's general direction, then turning and running into the convenience store/gas station, hot on Megan's heels, with Coco keening in the distance. Scott said I almost hit the windshield.

After that, our phone GPS faithfully led us to the correct address, and we arrived in Franklin, LA, mostly unscathed. We unloaded all our crap, and are still trying to get settled. We've already had some adventures and mysteries that will be forthcoming. Stay along for the ride!

Day 2!

I know, I'm behind, story of my life.

I forgot to mention in day 1 that we all showered, despite the late hour, because, nitwits that we are, we had the gas shut off a day early.  Yes, we apparently cannot read a calendar. After the day we'd had, it was a glorious shower, at least from my perspective. Day 2 was far easier than day 1. First, we left at a respectable 10am, and the time prior was relaxed, spent invading the breakfast area, replenishing road supplies, and checking Brett's temperature. At this point, we were thinking just a nasty cold still. We also made a reservation for Jackson, MS, because we knew with sick kid, we couldn't make it all the way to Louisiana in one day. I was actually outvoted in this respect, as my reasoning was "he's asleep anyway, MUSH!" The rest of the family--possibly including the dog too--threatened to leave me on the side of the road if I continued in this vein of thought.

It's a straight (and kinda boring) shot from Blytheville, Arkansas to Jackson, Mississippi. I like when there are directions to follow, but this was all one road. Blah. I will say, there was an interesting stop in the middle of nowhere. Some of us needed bathroom breaks, so in we trooped. It was a weird little spot. Half of it was a makeshift diner, and even though it was only 1ish, nothing was cooked, no smells of previous cooked items, no people in the few seats. Okaaaay. The other half was devoted to a register, two freestanding racks, and three cooler cases. The racks held your basic minor health remedies and snacks. They did not, however, have MY road food--Twizzlers. Don't judge, they're the perfect road food, no crumbs, nothing melting, gives you a sugar rush, and they're fun to play with. Oh, MUST be the long ones, no nips or bites or whatever the little ones are. Fine. Except they had a massive knife display. I mean big ones, skinny ones, jagged edged ones, pink ones, blue ones (would a knife be an appropriate baby shower gift in Arkansas?). Brett was, of course, begging for one. Um, no. On to get my caffeine rush. I'm not picky, but my faves for the road are non-carbonated. I like either iced tea that isn't Brisk or the Starbucks stuff in bottles. NEITHER! They had neither! One and one half of the cold area was taken over by BEER. They only had water, pop, and energy drinks (foul stuff). I'm not going to say there's a lesson learned there, but think of things what you will.

Once we got into Mississippi, things perked up. I think I counted eight colleges/universities according to signs on the road in Mississippi. I'm calling that the state of education from now on! We stayed at a lovely Holiday Inn Express right off the highway. Very new, very quiet, even with a dog, nice pool, friendly people, and immediately adjacent to Waffle House and Whataburger. That night for dinner, we decided to partake of local BBQ, however, and found The Hickory Pit. It was GREAT! Megan and I shared ribs (wet), and Scott had a pulled pork sammie. I was relieved they had unsweetened tea. However, we found out later there is apparently some Hershey pie thing they are known for, and we missed out! Guess we'll have to go back sometime. Brett was still feeling crappy, so we brought him home a chocolate chip waffle from "the House" that he didn't want to throw away, even when he could eat no more.

The next morning, Brett's fever had broken, and I encouraged him to come down for breakfast. It was there he showed us his hands, which suddenly had blisters. Dr. Google diagnosed hand, foot, mouth disease, saying it was generally no longer contagious after the fever broke. This hereby is my public apology of "I'M SORRY TO ALL THOSE IN BATHROOMS, REST STOPS, HOTELS, CONVENIENCE STORES I'M SURE MY SON CONTAMINATED. I WISH I COULD FIND 'PATIENT ZERO' AND SHAKE HIM." That felt good. In true Megan fashion that morning, she had charmed the front desk and breakfast people. There were individuals actively waiting for hot food while my daughter conned the breakfast area help into a bag for the excess of banana muffins she planned to take with her. Ugh.

Stay tuned for Day 3!

Monday, September 1, 2014

On the Road. . . with my Family

We all had a difficult time saying goodbye to our home, packing up what little we could, and moving 1100 miles south. Immediately prior to the move, we tried to sell off some of our big items to try and fund the move. Side note, I LOATHE people who inquire about items, say they want to meet, set up a time, then don't show, don't contact again. They deserve to be roasted in the fires of hell. By me personally. Packing day, Scott did a great job of putting as much into the backs of the cars as possible, like a giant game of Tetris. Rear view mirrors, be damned! Brett decided to add sickness to our mix, with lounging on the couch complaining of headache, stomachache, and sporting a slight fever. We'd decided if we got out by 11am, we'd call it a win. It wasn't a win, but we were on the road by 2pm, and the rain had stopped, which was a bonus.

Coco was feeling anxious too. I don't know how to illustrate that I knew my dog had anxiety, but I knew he did. Whenever we stopped, he would cry and whine piteously when, in turn, so he wasn't left in the car, we'd go into bathrooms or to get things to eat. He was worse than the kids. Brett was delightfully silent, as he slept nearly the whole way. His illness was a bit of a blessing, as when we got to the hotel, he still wanted to sleep, so he stayed in the room with Coco when we went out for breakfast in the a.m.

Apparently, I don't take my kids to hotels enough, because both thought they had to use hand towels to dry themselves after showers. I don't know what their issues were, but I was too tired to argue. Housekeeping was probably more confused than I was.

Ask yourself when was the last time you drove for seven hours. Were you in your 20s or 30s? I bet you weren't in your 40s, because, as I discovered, in your 40s, seven hours of driving makes your back, your HANDS, your joints, all cry. And your eyes burn and sting if you're driving after dark in the south, because there are HUGE sections of road, miles and miles and miles where nothing is lit, and I mean nothing. Given all that, Scott and I decided we would stretch "day 2" into "day 2 and day 3" so we would be more likely to arrive with our family intact and not featured on the news. Day 1 ended in Blytheville, Arkansas, and we pushed that check out envelope to the laaaaaaaast minute, deciding to stop in Jacksonville, Mississippi for our next stay. It saved us a few hours less of "are we almost to the hotel yet" having banned Megan from asking if we were there yet.

More tomorrow!