Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Vacation Cliffs Notes

I've been absent from the blog for a long time because I road-tripped with the kids to Colorado -- but only after I took Lucien to the emergency room where he was evaluated for bacterial meningitis.

It was determined Lucien did not have bacterial meningitis after five hours of testing in a small windowless room with stickers on the door that said cryptic things like, "If ye wear not a mask in this room, death be most certainly upon you."

I got so hungry in that room I kept sliding out of my chair to the floor but it wasn't possible to leave my scared boy alone to go find a vending machine.  My hands started to look meaty and delicious.

Lucien, thankfully, did not need a spinal tap to rule out bacterial meningitis.  Each time "spinal tap" was mentioned by the doctor, I had two very conflicting reactions -- my heart seized in fear for Lucien as I resisted the urge to yell  "IT GOES TO 11!  LICK MY LOVE PUMP!"

At the very moment Lucien was deemed fit for release, there was a ruckus in the hallway.  A nurse popped her head into our room and said, "Please stay in this room for your own safety!" and slammed the door shut again.  She said it so cheerfully I briefly thought it was a pleasurable thing to be shut back into our tiny windowless room.

We then heard what sounded like a wildcat out in the hallway.  More accurately, a wildcat who knew four-letter words wrestling wildebeests with authoritative voices.

I texted my nurse friend and asked, "What does 'Code Gray' mean? I'm hearing it repeatedly over the intercom."  She responded, "That's a behavior code, it means someone's going nuts and they're calling for a show of force from the staff."  I thought, "Hell, I'll get out there and wrestle that motherf*cker to the ground myself if it means we can leave."

When it was finally safe to exit our room, we walked quickly through a group of policemen who were somberly discussing "meth-induced psychosis" with the emergency room staff.

The incident gave Lucien and I context for our first "drugs are bad" conversation.  It happened as I was carrying him like a baby out to the car, both of us covered in dried vomit, but it was a start.

A few days later, The Loosh was feeling much better so I packed the car for our road trip to Colorado. Most people think I'm nuts to drive 20 hours alone with the kids but it was a great trip, the kids were awesome and we had a lot of fun talking about wind farms, hay bales and cow poop.

The trip went so well thanks in part to the "surprise bags" I tossed over my shoulder into the backseat every two hours (thanks for the idea, Ohio Mom, I love you). They were filled with crap I bought in the $1 section at Target.  If I handed my kids bags containing Post-its, puffy stickers and a couple markers at any other time in their lives, they would look at me like, "What the hell are you doing, Mom?"

But in the back of a car, it was miraculously like winning the lottery every damn time.

You're the best, surprise bags

We spent the first night of our road trip in a hotel in Utah where I split the kids into separate beds and then had to decide with whom to bunk.  I chose Coco.  It seemed logical given her size but I didn't realize one insurmountable problem -- Coco is a spooner.  If you turn away from her and try to sleep, she will soon be pressed up against your back.  Then her skinny little arm will appear over your shoulder and snake up and around your head.

My muffled voice could be heard for much of the night, "Coco, I need some space please" but she just squeezed harder.  I would have fared better with Lucien, the restless-legged horizontal sleeper.  Kicks to the kidneys would have been more restful than My Little Shadow.

Driving through the western United States is one of the greatest things you can do.  There are many times you're the only car on the road and actual pieces of tumbleweed are blowing across the highway.

 Western road trips are so magical, rainbows end in the middle of the roads

A lot happened during our visit to Colorado.  It's impossible to address it all.   I'm going to do some greatest hits bullet points, throw in some pictures, and then I promise my summer vacation tales are over.

  • Coco, of course, got sick immediately upon arrival at my parents' house.  Then there were five days of 105-degree fever, one febrile seizure and one visit to Urgent Care.  She would not be the last family member to fall prey to the virus from hell.
  • While Coco was sick, the rest of us had a good time playing with my Fashion Plates set from 1982.
  • I had a visit from Paris Karin, a friend and fellow blogger from our Paris days who now lives in Denver.  Denver Karin was standing next to me when Coco had her seizure and was an invaluable voice of calm and reason when I needed it most.  Paris 4-ever, woman.
  • Lucien entertained himself that first week by playing in my parents' pond with the frogs and dragonflies that live there, and by striking unintentionally phallic poses.
Oh dear

He also spent time in an inflatable pool imprinted with cryptic instructions --
1) Balance a large ball on your baby's back while you shoot arrows out of your eyeballs at your baby's head.
2) Do not walk away from your baby to throw a javelin.
  • The following is the kind of news you find in a Colorado newspaper.  A bear walked into a bar and nobody noticed -- 

  • The reason we went to Colorado was to celebrate my parents' 50th wedding anniversary.  50!!!  Coco recovered, Alex joined us the following week by plane, and then we all drove into the Rocky Mountains to spend a week at a YMCA family camp together. 
  • The YMCA of the Rockies does not permit alcohol in its dining room because it believes in "healthy family environments" yet it serves fried chicken and french fries for dinner.
  • The first night at family camp, we joined a drum circle where Alex, unfortunately, got a hold of a cowbell.

  • I got sick with "the virus" on Day Two of family camp.  I then missed the family hiking and family fly fishing because I was busy wishing for death in my bed.
  • A squirrel got into our room, which made Alex scream like a little girl.
I'll see you in your nightmares, French Canadian.

  • Coco rode a pony named Strawberry and hasn't stopped talking about him since.  She is slowly driving us all insane--

  • Mom met "the virus" on Day Three of family camp.  "Another One Bites the Dust" became the official theme song of the vacation.
  • We switched from our three individual rooms to a family cabin on Day Four.  At the time of booking months prior, we were unable to book a cabin for the entire week, just part of it.  The switch seemed a good idea at the time.  But the actual day of the switch, with several family members now ailing, the six-hour homeless period between rooms and cabin was unfortunately timed.   
  • While we were waiting, Mom and I found a nice bench outside the lodge upon which to sit and wish for death together. 
This is a reenactment.  We felt better by this time.
It's also a strange angle that makes Mom look like she has a tiny head and a giant-like lower body.

  • Meanwhile, back in Seattle, we began receiving photos and alarmed texts from neighbors asking about stuff happening in our yard -- 

The short answer is we unexpectedly had to replace our sewer line in the middle of our exterior project.  It's a long story and no, I don't want to talk about it.

Back to the Rocky Mountains.
  • We moved into our cabin and it was everything we hoped and dreamed --
The children were not allowed to wander too far off the porch lest they be devoured by a mountain lion. 

  • My sister is a talented oil painter so did a surprise painting of Mom and Dad for their anniversary present.  We hung it over the fireplace when my parents weren't looking.  We then spent a frustrating amount of time trying to get them to notice the painting by saying things like, "Should we build a fire now?  Should we build a REALLY TALL fire? Should we build a SUPER DUPER TALL FIRE?"
  • Nothing worked until we asked the very bizarre, "Should we go into town and buy something to put on the mantel?"  Mom looked at us like we were batshit crazy and asked, "why the heck would we do that?" before finally glancing at the mantel.  Then yeeeeeah!  So much love!
  • My sister stole Mom's address book out of their house months ago and sent me pictures of all the addresses.  I then wrote their friends and family members and asked them to send my parents a letter for their 50th anniversary.  I received lots of letters and photos in response and put them all in a big book. 
  • The book took some time to create.  Our dining room table was occupied for weeks --

It was worth it when they realized what it was

  • I hated to leave them.  My family is a lot of fun even when we're all sick. 
  • On the drive back to Seattle, we drove through the Tetons and Yellowstone, two of our favorites.
Old Faithful still draws a crowd.  
But the crowd wanders away before Old Faithful is finished doing its thing.  
We have short attention spans in this country.

  • Yellowstone is a steaming, sputtering, erupting, magically surreal landscape and it blew my science-loving son's mind. 


See you next year, incredible Yellowstone.

  •  Now a question:  if you approach a construction zone but the person holding the STOP sign has completely disappeared into their car at the side of the road, do you still have to stop?
(the answer is apparently yes, judging by the sudden hysterically waving arms)

  • And some advice:  if your kids annoy you in the car with constant requests from the backseat, a good idea is to sing "You Can't Always Get What You Want" loudly until they give up and cross their arms in frustration and anger.  Then high-five your partner/spouse.
  • We arrived home.  I was sad to be without my family but happy to be back in Banister Abbey, pain in the ass money pit she is.
  • And that's what I did with my summer vacation.

Now let's move on!


  1. Oh my. So much awesome to be found here. More cowbell!

  2. Whoa that's quite a summer vacation.

    Though I've gotta say that Colorado newspaper is really phoning it in: "No Bear Necessities"? That's the best they can do?

    How about "Bearly There"? Or "Embearassingly oblivious"? Or "Sidle up to the bear"? Untapped gold mine.

    1. Chris. Awesome work there, just awesome work. Have you considered a career in punny newspaper captions?

      Thanks for bearing with me as I wrote about my long-ass vacation.

  3. hey glad you caught up with Paris Karin and hope all is well with her...

    and I guess I missed the bit in the story where "and then Al appeared from out of now where"

    looks like good times.

    1. Alex is a sneaky one, it's true -- but I wrote it, Debbie, I wrote it! He joined us by plane the week after Coco was sick. I understand if you missed a sentence or two or fifty. There were a lot of sentences in this one.

      Karin is great. Denver suits her very well, I think better than Paris did!

    2. Glad to hear that Karin is enjoying life in Denver!:)

      Debs, that's what you get for reading blogs on company time!;)))

  4. What a wonderfully horrible holiday, my Dear!:) Glad you're all doing better!:) The fact that you can still have a swell time with your family despite illness says it all, doesn't it?:) Congratulations to your parents for sticking together half a century! They look like a very happy couple:)))

    1. Duchesse! Hello and I'm happy to see your name! Wonderful and horrible, that's what it was. But I sure do like those people.

      My parents are very happy together. It was a good match, and a fortuitous one for me. I'll spare you the pictures I took of them making out after they looked through the book. Oooh boy.

      Bye, D.

  5. The virus from hell! It visited my vacation too, but not at 105 degrees, like your poor kids! We now call our friend who started it all "patient zero" or "Typhoid Tim"; we think he caught it on a plane to Atlanta visiting his daughter.
    He infected 6 adults in a shore house, who then spread it wherever we went. My doctor told me to leave without going through the discharge room just to keep it out of his office.

    Congrats to your parents, and I love the painting and the book!

    What a great summer!

    1. Oh Lou, let's feel each others pain. Not much worse on a vacation than knowing you're all going down.... one by one....slowly and in great agony.

      I hope you never talked to that guy again.

      Thanks for reading, Lou!

  6. I so incredibly needed to laugh today, and your interpretation of the pool instructions made me LOVL (laugh out VERY loud).

  7. I love how you kept the young'uns occupied during the drive. I'm stowing away that idea for future reference.
    Ugh, I always wanted those fashion plates when I was a kid in the 80's!
    The Man and I are moving to Colorado Springs, CO in a couple of months! What can you tell me about it in one short sentence?

    1. Thank Ohio Mom, the true genius behind the surprise bags.

      Colorado Springs in one sentence? No problem -- "I have no idea!" I've never been. But it's not far from Denver -- next time I drive across country we can hang.

  8. I'm with Buffy888! Always excited to see a new post from MJ cause I KNOW you will make me LOL!!! You never disappoint. Congratulations to your folks on their 50th!

    1. Thanks, Lora. I'm happy to hear people are still reading and still getting something out of it from time to time!

  9. Awesome post! Just lost an hour of my sleep catching up on your blog, well worth it!

    Those fashion plates....I almost knocked my computer off of the table jumping to get a closer look! I had those and I'm pretty sure I had not thought of them for about 25 years!! Thanks for stirring up the ol' memory bank!


  10. Good thing Alex got all that cowbell practice at Halloween!