My life as Thelma

wrong wayIt was getting dark by the time I got back to my car. I called my husband.

“Ummm, yeah. So I don’t think Renee and I should do things together anymore,” I told him.

“Why?” he asked. “What did you girls do now?”

Siig asked that question because he knows that Renee and I tend to get into all kinds of trouble whenever we go on any kind of adventure, even a small one in our backyard. I’ve known Renee since we were 19 years old, when we met our sophomore year at UC Santa Barbara. So that’s almost 20 years of getting lost, stranded, going the wrong way, you name it, if we are together we will almost always do it wrong.

Last night was not the worst of our experiences, but pretty much par for the course. It was Renee’s 37th birthday and she wanted to go on a mountain bike ride. Seemed harmless at the time, but knowing our history we should have known something was bound to happen. About a half hour into our ride, Renee said: “My bike feels weird. How’s my back tire?

One glance at her pancake of a tire, and I knew we were in for our traditional misadventure. “That would be completely flat,” I said with a sigh.

Good news: Renee’s husband, Drew, a former bike mechanic, had attached a bike pump and fix-it kit to her bike. Bad news: we had no idea how to use any of the tools.

Good news: I had my cell phone. Bad news: mosquitos were out in force.

So we called Drew, putting him on speaker phone while he walked us, step-by-step, through the process of removing the tire from the bike, then the tube, and then how to pump the new tube back up. We felt like we were passengers talking to air traffic control while we tried to land a 747. In other words, we were totally clueless, and slightly nervous as it was past 7 at night, and getting dark.

All in all, the situation was much better than other conundrums we’ve gotten ourselves into. There was the time we were hiking the Atlas Mountains in Morocco when we decided that oh, unlike every other single tourist out here, we don’t really need our guide. So we paid him to leave us alone and then proceeded to take the wrong way up to the 14,000 foot peak, falling and tripping our way up the rocks and scree until finally I called it quits even though the top was in sight. It was pretty miserable, although we got a good laugh out of it later once we were safely in a van full of Berbers bouncing along on our way back to Marrakesh.

Another time we were leaving a bachelorette party in Napa Valley, rushing back to Tahoe since Renee was pretty sure she had strep throat. I got on Highway 101 heading north, because of course I thought that Tahoe, being in the mountains and all, was north of Napa. In actuality, it’s east on Highway 80. About two hours in, nearing the Oregon border, we realized our mistake. Needless to say it was a long drive home.

And then there was the time we were hiking in the Tetons in Wyoming. At 5:00 in the evening, we had reached probably 10,000 feet or so and I felt it was time to turn around. It was September and I didn’t want to risk getting stuck in the dark. But I think we were suffering slightly from altitude sickness and didn’t quite have our wits about us, and somehow we managed to lose the trail as we were descending. After crossing the path of a pissed-off moose, we made it back to our car right as the last bit of daylight was disappearing.

Which brings me back to last night. Renee was doing pretty well following Drew’s directions, but it turns out we had the wrong pump so after much trying and cursing and fretting, we said, quite literally, “fuck it,” and decided to walk our bikes back to the trail head. The walk didn’t take us that long and was actually quite beautiful with the pink alpenglow and crescent moon up above, and yellow colors of fall already overtaking the meadow.

And, of course, it was almost dark when we got to the car. But as usual, somehow, yet once again, by the skin of our teeth, we had survived and made it back to civilization.

I am hoping that our misadventures won’t lead us off a cliff, Thelma & Louise-style. But if we are headed in that direction, than I got dibs on playing Thelma. I always wanted a night with Brad Pitt.

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Ant this grand?

antHere at the Siig household, with less than one day left of summer (well, at least for one child), I am dealing with two new realities: an onslaught of carpenter ants and the fact that I am going to have to get my act together by 9 am every morning, five days a week, for the next nine months.

Both, shall we say, kind of suck.

Let’s start with the ants. These are not your usual tiny ants you find outside in the grass or between cracks in the sidewalk, or the adorable kind from some Pixar movie. No, these are more like the kind you’d find in a bad horror flick from the 70s. I’m talking big, black and plump, like when you squish them they make a loud popping sound and their guts spray everywhere. These suckers are fat and hungry, and they have their eyes on my roof for a meal. And they’re also smart little fuckers. I swear to god, whenever I try to sneak up on one of them to flatten them with a rolled-up magazine or paper towel, they scurry out of reach into a corner or crack. And then they use their dam ant ESP to warn all their comrades, and soon all those ants I had my eye on are hiding. I am sure they are all gathered in some unreachable corner, watching me and laughing. They mock me with their antennas.

It’s me against them. War. But I have modern technology on my side. So I did want any self-respecting maniacal dictator would do. I bombed the shit out of them. Gassed them. Well, not me personally. I hired a professional assassin of course. He sprayed those persistent buggers. At last, it was over. No more bad dreams of ants crawling all over my skin. I had won.

But those little shits were too smart even for the Gas Man. Two days later, they are still crawling around the walls and floors of my kitchen, flaunting their hardiness.  Like cockroaches, these mega-ants could probably survive a nuclear attack. I see them everywhere, even when I close my eyes.

I called the Gas Man again, but he said it was normal, that he had succeeded in stirring up the ants and they would all die eventually once they made it back to the nest. In the meantime, I need to wait two weeks. TWO WEEKS? Easy for him to say. I think the ants are now out to get me. I’m hoping they don’t poison my food.

At least I have Kaiden’s first day of kindergarten tomorrow to keep my mind off the ants. I am just having a hard time adjusting to the fact that he has to be somewhere every single week day, at 9 am no less. For kids who like to sleep till 9, even 9:30 in the morning (I know, you hate me), a start time of 9 a.m. is a stretch. Kaiden was in a summer camp last month that started at the same time and we were late almost every single day. Most days I had to throw Kaya in the car still in her PJs and rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.

It’s going to be hectic at first. But we’ll make it.

Too bad I can’t say the same thing for the ants.

Can I tell you something?

bed

Before we proceed in this relationship any further, I think there’s something you should know about me.

I don’t make my bed. Ever.

And I only clean the inside of my car about twice a year.

There, I’ve said it. I’ve laid all the cards on the table.

Wait! Where are you going? Don’t click that button! Don’t leave! I can explain! I promise. Just give me a chance. I’ll be your BFF (Best Facebook Friend)!

OK, that’s better. Now that I have your full attention again, let me defend myself. First, I do make the bed when I change the sheets, which is about as often as I clean my car. Just kidding! I don’t want to totally freak you out when I have just regained your trust. Wait, don’t check your e-mail! I’m still here, I have lots more highly interesting stuff to say. I’ll try to stop kidding around.

In total, complete seriousness, I just think making the bed is a complete waste of time. I mean, you’re just going to mess it up again at night. And who sees my bed anyways besides my kids and Siigo? In the rare case we do have company, then, I admit, I will straighten up my bed so that it looks descent, but the guests are probably so overwhelmed by the sight of Siig’s multiple piles of clothes that they don’t even notice an unmade bed.

I haven’t decided yet whether I’m going to make my kids make their beds every day, like I had to when I was growing up. It didn’t do much for me, after all. I just think it’s a silly chore. I’d much rather have them clean up all their toys.

I know what you’re thinking. I can see it in the look of disgust written all over your face. (You know, you read just like a book.) You’re thinking: “Then why even shower when you’re just going to get dirty, or clean your house when it’s just going to get messy?”

Touché, my friend, touché. Well played. But I’m one step ahead of you. Really, you are so predictable.

Personal hygiene and a clean house are different than a neat bed for one reason – I have to smellbe around myself and the rest of the house all day. I don’t really spend much time in my bedroom. Except when I’m working at my desk, but then I am so absorbed by my amazing skills as a writer and the thrilling stories that I spin that I hardly notice an unkempt bed.

Well, I think I’ve clearly won this debate. Mountain Momma:1; You:0. What? What’s that you say? What about the messy car? Oh, that. I had thought you forgotten. Dam it!You just seemed so anxious to move on to ebay, but thanks for nothing reminding me.

I neglect my car out of pure laziness. Honestly, I really don’t feel like exerting the energy to perform the herculean task of keeping my car free of cheerios, crackers, dried bagel bits, bars, juice boxes, sand, etc. stuck in every nook and cranny of the kids’ car seats and the back seats. Just like my bed, every time I straighten up the car, it just goes right back to where it was by the next day.

So I say, “No, thank you.” I have better things to do with my time, like have this wonderful conversation with you. Hello? Hello? Were you even listening? Did you read anything I wrote here at all?

That’s it! I’m unfriending you from my Facebook page. Ah-ha! That got your attention! Fine, fine, we’ll call it even. Mountain Momma:1; BFF:1. Better, now? I feel like we have really made major strides in our relationship today. Come here and give me a hug!

But I’m still not making the bed.

That’s OK, Supernanny, we didn’t need you anyways

supernannyWhat a difference a year can make.

Last year this time, right after Kaiden turned 4, I was getting ready to ship him off to China to an orphanage for terrible toddlers. Kaiden had the worst tantrums of any kid we knew, as in hour-long, kicking-and-screaming-on-the-floor fits. I have racked up enough stories to tell about the embarrassing places Kaiden has spun out of control – from the disgusting floors of public bathrooms to airport restaurants to airplane aisles during major turbulence – to write a book about it. I already have a title: “My Life on the Edge: Three Years of the Terrible Twos.”

The pinnacle of Kaiden’s bad behavior occurred last August, the night after his birthday party. Around 10 p.m., just when we were all getting ready to go to bed, Kaiden descended into such a tailspin that we couldn’t even calm him down enough to get him to eat, which we knew was probably the source of the problem. We were such at our wits’ ends that Siig did the only thing left to do at a time like this – he wrote to the TV show “Supernanny” asking for help. Still, by the next day I was ready to throw in the towel and trade-in my son for a new model, but my girlfriends somehow convinced me that, as his mother, I had a responsibility to get to the bottom of what was causing his tantrums. This was easy for them to say as they all have polite little girls.

So I listenedto my friends and that little voice in the back of my head that said, “Melissa, you do love him despite the fact he can make your life a living hell, and he is adorable when he is not completely freaking out,” so instead of leaving him by the side of the road for a nice family in an RV to pick up and adopt, I made an appointment with his pediatrician.

That was one of the best decisions I have made as a parent.

I took Kaiden to the appointment and he sat quietly on the floor while he listened to me and the doctor talk about him. I think that affected him more than anything else I could have done – listening to his mother talk to an authority figure about how much his tantrums were out of control. The doctor felt that Kaiden was not exhibiting anything out of the ordinary and didn’t have any chemically-caused behavior problems. While I was disappointed the doctor didn’t tell me that there was a Toddler Boot Camp in Kentucky that would turn my son into the perfect child in the span of one week, I swear from that point on Kaiden gradually improved. Whose to say if he just grew out of it or if listening to the doctor really made an impact – it doesn’t matter and I don’t care. As long as things got better, which they did.

Of course, right when things got better is when Supernanny called. OK, it wasn’t Jo Frost herself but one of the show’s producers. I about shit in my pants. Our call for help has been answered! Our 15 minutes of fame has arrived! Hallelujah! But when it came down to documenting how awful Kaiden was, I just didn’t have the fire in me anymore. He actually was starting to become, dare I say it, good. Figures that after three years of throwing the most intense tantrums, Kaiden would finally start improving right when our chances of scoring our own reality TV show were at our finger tips. That’s my son for you.

Needless to say, we didn’t hear from Supernanny again.

We were disappointed, but on the plus side Kaiden was improving all by himself. And a year later, his tantrums are down to a minimum. In fact, a whole week or more can go by without a fit.

And now that my first baby has just celebrated his fifth birthday, I think it’s my right as his mother to reflect on his birth. I’ve thought about it a lot over the last five years, because as some of you may know, it was an emotionally painful experience for me. Kaidenwas a breech baby who stubbornly refused to turn despite multiple efforts by doctors, acupuncturists and chiropractors, resulting in an unexpected c-section at 37 weeks. The full story is actually much longer and more involved than I feel like writing about here, but after his birth I fell into a deep depression for six months and truly didn’t heal until Kaya was born two years later, at home and naturally.

But now that I know my son’s personality and who he really is, the events of his birth completely make sense to me. He is a stubborn child who likes to do things on his own time, according to his own plan, so of course why would he want to cooperate and turn into a head-down position? I also believe he wanted to come early to be a Leo, the sign of a leader. For my bossy son, being a Virgo just wouldn’t do.

So five years later, I think I may have finally come to terms with Kaiden’s birth. And the fact that he made us lose out on an opportunity to be on “Supernanny.” But that’s OK. Now we are gunning for “The Amazing Race: Family Edition.”

Marin weekend 045

Treasure Hunt

Treasure Found

Treasure Found

 If, as the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” than Kaiden is filthy rich. This entire summer, Kaiden the Pirate has been on a permanent treasure hunt, picking up anything that catches his eye, from money to bottle caps to golf tees. Without him knowing it, he has been performing a community service by grabbing any piece of trash he finds on the ground, which he then transfers to his pockets, which then finds its way, eventually, to my washing machine.

With his pockets so loaded with junk all the time, it’s a good thing he didn’t fall into a pool, because he would have sunk to the bottom. This was the contents of his shorts pockets that I emptied out on Wednesday after doing laundry:

  1. Newcastle Beer bottle cap
  2. Beach glass
  3. Key
  4. Dime
  5. Marble
  6. Plant stem
  7. Part of a plastic spoon
  8. Rocks
  9. Popsicle stick
  10. Piece of wood
  11. Red bead
  12. Bits and pieces of broken plastic toys
  13. Various shiny things I can’t even begin to describe

If you can’t find your keys or an earring or any other item that could fit into a child’s pocket, let me know. It might be at the bottom of my washing machine.

Lost: Luggage & Memory, last seen in Aspen

suitcaseOur stuff did not want to come home with us.

We were halfway to the Aspen airport (which is only 15 minutes out of town, so don’t feel too sorry for us) when Siig realized he had left his and Kaiden’s swim shorts drying by the pool. Siig only remembered this because I asked him if he had his wallet. For those of you unfamiliar with Siig, let’s just say he does not have the best memory (and no, he did not inhale on this trip), so I often try to remember things for him, but my over-taxed memory can only handle so much. We had the taxi turn around and go back to the hotel. After retrieving the forgotten goods, no sooner had Siig climbed back into the taxi and we pulled away from the curb then he shouted: “Stop. Go back.”

Without a word, he climbed back out of the taxi, walked back into the hotel, and came out with the kids’ floaties. “Yeah, that’s right, I forgot that I had forgotten these,” and gave me a look as if to say, “Please spare me the usual sarcastic remark.”

So I bit my tongue. What I was planning on saying was something like, “Did you leave your brain by the pool, too?” but I think he’s heard that one before. Instead, I just grinned and said, “That’s OK, honey. You’re on vacation.”

So a half-hour and $20 extra dollars later we were at the Aspen airport, unloaded all our stuff and got in line to check-in at the counter when I realized we were missing something.

“Siig, where’s the hat box?” I asked, referring to the brand-new, $300 Stetson cowboy hat I had just bought him for a belated birthday present.

“Ummm, that would be still in the taxi,” he said.

Fortunately, we had the taxi driver’s business card so I put in a call and 5 minutes later the driver was back at the airport with the hat box AND Kaiden’s backpack full of priceless toys that we had both totally forgotten about as well. The taxi driver looked at us like, “Man, you people are crazy,” and I thought he was going to ask for his card back, but he didn’t.

Siig looked at me with this look of fear on his face because he always gets concerned when I start forgetting things because he knows that if I lose my memory too our whole family is doomed. The kids won’t go to school, their lunches won’t get packed, no birthday parties will be thrown, no bills paid on time, because my memory functions as the entire memory for the family so if that goes, so goes our future. He tries not to think about the months following the births of each of our children because I had major baby brain and could barely find the car keys let alone remember to pay our mortgage.

“Take a deep breath,” I tell him. “It will all be OK.”

But still, our luggage did not want to come home. It wanted to stay on vacation. Can you blame it, really?

Our flight out of Aspen was delayed so when we landed in Denver we only had about 20 minutes to catch our next flight. Since we landed in Terminal A, and our next flight was out of Terminal B, we had a major sprint ahead of us. I have never seen Siig run so fast or maneuver the stroller so deftly through crowds of people, some of whom got out of his way like the Red Sea must have parted for Moses. Panting and sweating, the kids yelling for MORE, we arrived just in the nick of time at our gate.

Our bags, on the other hand, did not.

This really wouldn’t matter so much if I hadn’t packed my bottle of Ambien, or should I call it Desperately Needed Sleep Assurance, in my suitcase. The airlines officials promised us our luggage would be delivered to our house by 1 a.m. Just in time for my middle-of-the-night wake up, I thought to myself, I should be fine.

I didn’t wake up at 1 a.m. I woke up at 3 a.m. By 4 a.m., I couldn’t take it any longer and ran upstairs to the front door and looked outside. No luggage. Fuck. I’m totally fucked. I try my old stand-by, Melatonin, but that’s a lot like expecting to get buzzed from a can of Bud Light after your used to drinking straight Vodka. In other words, no go.

Still awake when Siig got up at 5:30 a.m. I asked him to please, please bring the suitcase down if it was there. Ten minutes later, I couldn’t believe it, I heard him coming down the stairs with the bag thudding behind him. Rejoice! There is a God! I threw open my bag, practically hug my bottle of Ambien, pop a quarter of a pill, and was in a blissful asleep before 6 am.

It’s obvious our brains and our luggage wanted to stay in Aspen. I only wish my sleeping habits felt the same.

Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.com

datingI am totally psyched to be dating on Match.com again.

Well, not exactly.  I am virtually dating through my 34-year old sister, Julie, who after many years of prodding and cajoling have finally, FINALLY, convinced to give on-line dating a try. (Julie, if your reading, I’m super proud of you.) Of course, it helped that I bought her a 3-month gift certificate to the site and threatened that I would never talk to her again if she didn’t at least sign up.

I feel comfortable getting my sister to use Match.com because, well, OK, I can safely admit it now, once upon a time I was on Match.com. And yes this was long before I was married. (The Accidental Mommy had this great idea of confessing to your truest embarrassments. This might fall under that.)

Back in my past life when I was living in D.C., where women out number men like 3 to 1 (see, women really do run the world), I was going through a bad dry spell. Like no dates in 7 months, no prospects, no cute boys on the subway or in the gym. Nada. Nothing. (For my D.C. friends, this was before Bus-stop Bill. Remember him?) So with nothing to lose, I decided to give Match.com a try. It had its pros and cons, but you know what? It sure beat sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. There were bad dates, of course, like the guy who took me to play video games at Dave & Buster’s for a first date (I despise video games) and the stalker who wouldn’t stop calling me after I went out with him one time. I think my roommates wanted to disconnect the phone.

But there were also good ones: I met a young Burt Reynolds-look alike who swept me off my feet for a few weeks. So much so that I didn’t even mind when he took me to a shooting range for our first date. (I know what you are thinking: what happened to a nice dinner for a first date?). It was fun while it lasted, and he even put off moving to Colorado because we were having such a good time. Then he totally freaked out at a party and got weird and that was the end of that.

But before I totally scare my sister off Match.com, let me be clear: yeah, I was embarrassed at the time that I was on Match and couldn’t find a date in “the real world,” but so what? Dating is hard. And meeting men in bars sucks. And now I know lots of people who have had success on Match.com, including my mother who met her boyfriend of one-year on the site, and my friend Rachel from college who met her husband Steve on Match.

Yesterday Julie and I browsed through some of her matches, and there looked like there were some good ones already.  (For me, it was a lot like checking out the goods in a chocolate store – all the fun without the calories.) The guy with the bull dog was pretty cute, and so was Purple123.

I have one piece of Match.com advice, and I know it’s got to be better than what my grandmother told Julie: “Be sure the guys aren’t HIV-Positive.” My suggestion: if a guys wants to take you to an arcade for the first date, it’s probably a safe bet he’s not the one.

But you never know.