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Archive for February, 2011

I’ve always loved family road trips even though I know that some people would call me crazy. It took me some time, and several newspaper columns, to figure out what it is I like about road trips, but I’m pretty sure it’s having the family really close to me and unable to escape.
When the kids were little we drove to California several times. I used to spend weeks preparing for those trips, deciding exactly what games, toys and food would keep three kids relatively happy while strapped into the car for days at a time. The year the youngest was born, we drove to California to see Grandma and I spent so long packing, repacking and reorganizing the mini-van that I killed the car battery while it sat in the garage. The morning of the big trip, we got everyone up and dressed early, added ice to the cooler, stuffed in favorite pillows and blankies, fastened seat belts, locked the house up and turned the key which clicked ineffectively.

We stopped pretty often back in 92


That was the same infamous trip when my mother got the speeding ticket. I had sent the husband back to work early and had Grandma drive back with me. On the second day I made her drive through the desert while I climbed into the back seat to nurse the baby. Although I totally believed in car seats and always obey all traffic laws, we were exhausted and out in the middle of nowhere. There was no way I was going to add a half hour to our driving day. Unfortunately, Grandma couldn’t quite figure out the cruise control on the minivan and in an effort to set it at a reasonable speed, she did a little bit of accidental speeding and naturally, we were pulled over.
As the police officer walked up to the window of the mini-van, I was frantically stuffing a hungry, screaming baby back into her car seat with one hand, buttoning my shirt with the other and yelling at the older kids to stop making faces at the cop in the back window. My mother was flustered too. She was so flustered that she explained to the officer that she was trying to set the cruise control for ten mph over the speed limit and that’s why she ended up going 20 miles over. She insisted on paying her own ticket.
Grandma was along when I drove the kids to Rhode Island a few years later, but I drove across country alone the year we moved to Arkansas. Well, I wasn’t alone, but I was the only driver that trip. I had all three kids along as passengers. That was the trip when we discovered the full extent of the oldest child’s car sickness. She threw up across seven states. I stumbled on the video recently. The middle child, who was 12 that summer, was filming a stunning landscape somewhere in the Colorado mountains. When he panned around to get the family we saw a stressed out mother leaning against the front of the van staring blankly ahead and a hyperactive little sister jumping up and down dangerously close to the cliff, but all that showed was the top of the older sister’s head as she slumped in the way back seat of the mini-van. I don’t think she noticed the view.
So recently we took the latest family road trip. I’m grateful that my kids like each other enough to want to do it. There were only four of us in the car that left Arkansas on Saturday morning because we were meeting the oldest for a slightly late celebration of her 26th birthday. We met at the zoo in Kansas City.
That wasn’t really the best idea. I packed a nice lunch and we found a nice pavilion and eventually the oldest daughter found us for the happy reunion. The problem was that it was cold and rainy in Kansas City that weekend. It was cold enough that everyone was fighting over the extra sweat shirt I had packed for myself in spite of its unfashionable mom-ness. By the time we finished lunch and headed to the ticket booths, it was not only cold, it was getting late and we opted to skip the zoo in favor of a late afternoon matinee in a heated theater.
But the experience of driving four hours in a smallish car with a cooler full of “car food” and drinks hasn’t really changed very much. There was the usual teasing and passing of food. The college daughter was playing the same Gameboy she’s been playing for a decade. If only the oldest had been wedged in between her siblings, threatening to throw up and arguing over who was taking up too much of the seat, it would have been just like old times. I savored the whole experience.

All grown up

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Icy Surprise

So we had record breaking cold and a ridiculous amount of snow, but I told the kids Beaver Lake doesn’t freeze. It is, after all, a moving body of water that used to be a river. Moving water doesn’t freeze. They didn’t believe me.
They used to believe me when I told them stuff like that, but now they consider themselves grown and so belief has become optional. I don’t think of them as grown and they don’t always act grown.
On Friday the older brother had been enlisted to give me a ride into town to pick up the college daughter. I could have driven my little car into town that afternoon if I had dug it out of the 18 inches of snow. By then the roads were clear, but my half of the driveway wasn’t and I didn’t want to shovel. So the 23 year old son and the 18 year old daughter were together with all that snow on the ground and nothing in particular to do. Within a few minutes they had broken out the old snow pants and ski jackets.
I told the 23 year old that the kid-sized snow pants wouldn’t fit him. He didn’t believe me and wore them anyway. So the latest chapter in a snowball fight that started all those years ago ensued. They looked exactly the way they looked ten years ago when it was a 13 year old boy pushing his 8 year old sister into a snow bank. I couldn’t stand to be in the house. I put on my boots and went out to play too.
We ended up down at the lake because there was a hill and they had resurrected the last two sledding type devices left in the household. We used to have many more sleds. When we lived in Indiana, there was plenty of snow but no hills. Every Christmas we added a new sledding device – a family sized toboggan, a round “flying saucer,” a plastic snow board. We brought a few of them along when we moved south. Now we have all these hills and occasionally we have snow, but there’s never a clear spot and the sleds don’t steer. They used to sled on the street heedless of my nervous breakdowns, but the snow plow had ruined that by Friday.
So two grown kids, two very happy dogs, and I ended up at lake.
I’ve spent hours on Beaver Lake. I’ve tried to hike the shoreline, although it’s never easy. I’ve picked up litter on the islands. I’ve cooked hundreds of meals while tied up in one cove or another. I’ve been out in the winter looking for eagles and in the summer looking at fireworks, but there are still surprises left. Our little cove where we’ve spent hundreds of hours on floatation devices was frozen enough that the dogs could cross to the other side. I made the kids stay on shore and eventually we got the dogs back on shore too. All that water, finally still, was something to see. Even after 12 years, Beaver Lake still has surprises for me.

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O.K. it’s official. I’m too old to shovel snow. It’s something I’ve done all my life, but living in Arkansas for the past 12 years, my shoveling skills aren’t necessary very often. I’ve gotten rusty.
This past month has been dedicated to health and I thought I was doing pretty well. I’ve stayed on my low carb, high protein diet and I’ve been using the elliptical in the basement (until today). I even found some five pound weights and I’ve been using those too. The old Yoga mat was been laid out on the living room floor for crunches. I was pretty proud of myself, but now I know the sad truth. I should have done a lot more crunches and maybe found some heavier weights. My health program is no match for snow.
My husband and I have never agreed about shoveling snow. I grew up in the northeast and every time it snowed, all three of us kids were sent out in it to clear the driveway and the path for the mailman, as well as a path across the grassy yard so my grandfather could make his way over from the house next door. We never really questioned it. We just trusted that it was necessary to move the snow so the grownups could drive.
My husband grew up in California. I didn’t realize we disagreed about snow shoveling when we lived in Kentucky. We didn’t have very much snow, but when we did we agreed on a hands off policy. Our gravel driveway was a quarter mile long and there was just no way to shovel it. Sometimes it would get icy and I came up with the method to clear that ice.
Our house in Kentucky was heated by a wood stove and that meant ashes had to be emptied regularly. I used to empty then directly onto the ice in the driveway and that helped a lot. The embers would first melt the ice a little and then when they cooled, they provided a little bit of traction. I’m not sure why it took us so long to realize the connection between the ashes, which sometimes contained old nails from the wood pallets we burned, and the flat tires we were suddenly dealing with on a regular basis.
Eventually we left rural Kentucky and found ourselves in suburban Indiana. The suburbs of Indiana were a lot like the suburbs where I grew up in Rhode Island, so I knew that snow had to be shoveled. I knew that shoveling the driveway was much easier if you did it before you drove a car over the snow and packed it down. We lived in Indiana eight years and we had our share of snow storms, but in all that time my husband never once shoveled the driveway.
“Sooner or later it will melt,” he said and then he drove over it.
Everyone else cleared their driveway. Most of them owned snow blowers or even little plows that went on the front of their yard tractors. We had snow shovels and we only had those because I went out and bought them. I also used them, although that was never my first choice. I remember enlisting one of his male friends to try and talk to him about shoveling, but even that didn’t work. Although the friend would sometimes come down with his yard tractor and plow our driveway himself.
I tried to get the kids involved, but the oldest daughter took her Dad’s side and waited for melting. Luckily the younger brother used to help me even though he was too small to be very effective. I think he felt some sort of male responsibility that had skipped his dad’s generation.
Since we have lived in Arkansas, snow shoveling has become much less necessary. His melting claim was ridiculous in Indiana, but it works most of the time here in Arkansas. I didn’t think it would work this time. We had about six inches of snow on our driveway last week along with two small cars not suited well to winter driving.
And the truth is, I was little bored being cooped up in the house. I wanted to get outside and what can you do when you don’t have any kids home to play with?
I tried walking the dogs, but they didn’t really enjoy it very much. The little dog’s stomach was actually dragging in the snow which she found both undignified and cold. I thought about bringing out the camera and adding to my large collection of winter photos but I just couldn’t see any way to improve on last year’s series. Finally, I went and found the snow shovel.
By that night I was so sore that I went and found the vibrating back massager that had been a Christmas gift years ago. I spent the evening watching television with the back massager and taking every over the counter pain pill we had. If only we had had prescription pain killers! I think it was the pain killers that caused the upset stomach.
So once again, he wins. I will never shovel snow again. It’s gonna melt anyway.

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