Thursday, May 27, 2010


A couple of weeks ago my best friend T called me with news that managed to turn my Y axis 180 degrees and caused my world start spinning in the opposite direction. She's been my partner in crime, my confidant, the devil on my shoulder, the voice of reason in my ear, my medicine, my poison, the source of my sanity and a pillar of strength for the past 9 years-- what was happening had to be a cruel joke, but it wasn't. In that moment, I told her that if there was anything I could do, anything at all, to just say it and I'd be there. Last week we decided that I was going to go to her, so we could just be.

In order to do this, I needed to head back to CA, with the kids, drop the older 2 off with my parents and then take the twins with me to T. No big deal-- this is cake! We just did this trip, we're pros. I called my friend J and asked her if she wanted to take a few days off of work to come out and then drive with me and she said yes. And I reminded her that I had 4 kids and she would be stuck, in a minivan, for 4 days. And she still said yes. That is a good friend, right there

So I got everything in order, started packing, tying up the loose ends and getting ready to be gone for anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months. I took the car in for a check up, making sure they checked the transmission because the car had done something funny when I tried to reverse earlier in the week. They changed the oil, told me everything was fine with the transmission and I told them that was good because the last thing I needed was for the car to blow up on me in the middle of Texas. Everything was going great, and then J's flight got delayed, and she ended up stuck in Dallas for the night, instead of making it to me.

No big deal, slight change of plans. I would just take a little detour and pick her up from the airport after her flight landed on my way out the next morning. We ended up getting on the road 4 hours later than I wanted to, but no worries. All we had to do was be in CA by Saturday, we still had time. At one point we pulled off to fix the straps that were holding down the stroller on the top of the van and I noticed there was a very weird sound coming from my car. I thought we were dragging something underneath, but when I looked, there was nothing there. I turned off the air conditioner and we drove a bit and the noise seemed to disappear, so we went on our way. After stopping for dinner we decided to push for another 120 miles and then called it a night.

The next morning we got up, got dressed and headed out. Everything was going well, despite it being 80 degrees at 8am. Because it was so hot I broke down and turned the AC back on. I noticed the car was a bit "jumpy" but would calm down after a few words of encouragement. We were making really good time and I blew through a tank of gas in record time. Looking back, I should have realized I was getting only 15 miles to the gallon, instead of the normal 21 highway that I normally get. As we pulled off to get gas, the car jumped. And then pretty much refused to accelerate. I managed to make it to a gas station, only to have the car peel out on me as I tried to accelerate into a parking space. At that point, I knew something was really wrong, and my gut told me that if I didn't get the car to a service center, we were going to be stranded within 90 miles. And the thought of being stranded on the side of the road with 4 kids and a busted up car in 90 degree heat gave me a panic attack. 4 kids, 4 carseats, J and me cannot fit in a tow truck! What would we do?

There was a dealership about 15 miles away so I gave the car a little rest, said about a hundred and fifty prayers and slowly headed back onto the freeway. As I pulled into the left turn lane to turn into the dealership, my dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree decorated with warning and check engine lights, and then the car refused to accelerate. We literally coasted into the parking lot. Thank you, Jesus, we made it but Oh. My. Goodness. Are you kidding me? W defines the "middle of nowhere" as "Texas" but we weren't in Texas-- we were in The Middle of Nowhere, America. Stuck. There was no way that car was going anywhere.

The service guy was like, "well, we'll see if we can work it in, but we're really busy..." and I was like, "well, my 4 kids and I are going to have to sit in this waiting room and terrorize all of you until you manage to 'work it in' so you might want to think about doing that sooner rather than later, if you know what I mean." And he was like, "well, last time we saw this kind of problem it took about a week to get the parts." And I was like, "well, that's hilarious because there's no way in heck we are going to be stuck here for a week. I'll rent a car, fly a plane, stowaway on a train car, paddle a boat or find a donkey cart and go get the parts myself before we are stuck here for a week." And he was like, "well, the other dude is going to look at it while I'm at lunch and then we'll go from there" and I was like, "well, ok, cause I don't really want to ride a donkey from here to Dallas to pick a transmission, know what I mean?" and he was like, "yo, I totally do."

So the other dude took it out for a test drive and disappeared for a couple of hours. When he finally made another cameo, he was with the head of the service department, someone who is normally  allusive. I knew this wasn't good news. Mr. Allusive didn't beat around the bush, he just gave it to me straight and told me they had ordered me a new transmission, and it would be here the next day. Oy. And then the service dude told me he would personally bust his butt to get it put in as fast as he could, while still doing it correctly, and that we should be on the road again by 3, maaaaaaaybe 4. Oy.

Apparently, when I took the car in to be serviced before I left, they didn't really look at the transmission. Because if they did, they would have seen that it was a mess. The other dude told me that the pan thingy under the transmission was filled with metal and that it was totally messed up. He also said he was pretty sure we had been driving in 1 gear, overdrive, for a very very long time and that he was really surprised we had made it as far as we did. He also said it was a very good thing we had stopped because if we didn't, we would have been stranded within 90 miles. Oy. And believe me, there is NOTHING between here and the next big city, which is well over 90 miles away. We would have been screwed.

After spending almost 6 hours in the dealership, we made our way to the hotel for the night. The dealership was awesome and had contacted some of their advertisers and got us a free hotel room, free food and a $30 van rental. That all managed to take some of the sting off the fact that my van, that only has 25,000 miles on it, is now having the AC fixed for the 4th time (because that, and the defrost also failed again about 300 miles before the transmission did), has had the radiator replaced at 8000 miles and is now getting a new transmission. I really know how to pick a winner of a car!! Ironic, because the Jetta I had before I got married required a new transmission at eight HUNDRED miles, and then 2 more transmissions after that. Everything I touch turns to crap, I swear.

Now I get to decide if I want to call the other service center, the one who told me my car was just fine 4 days ago, and yell at them, or if I just want to file a formal complaint through the car maker, or both. This dealership thinks the other dealership just said they looked at it, but didn't, but still filed the warranty claim to get some cash. They think this because 1) there's no way they could have told me what they did (took the transmission apart and looked at it) in the time they said they did it in (2 hours) and 2) if they had taken it apart, they would have seen some of the problems the dude did right away. Oy. I'm just irritated.

Thankfully, I have the best kids in the entire world and they are pretty much up for anything. They are having their moments but they are doing pretty well, especially for being cooped up in a car and waiting room and hotel room for the better part of 3 days. It could be sooooo much worse. I'm waiting for the call to come get my car, and praying really hard it comes sooner or later and then we are going balls to the wall and driving as far as we possibly can to get through the rest of America and to California before Saturday. Oy.

To be continued... just not sure how yet...

Monday, May 17, 2010

i fell into a burning ring of fire

This weekend was one I've been looking forward to for awhile. M wanted to do a triathlon so we chose one in a perfect location: the beach. And because he was doing a triathlon, I was like, heck, I'll just do a 5k, why not? Um, because I have 4 kids and no babysitter, that's why not. Thankfully my good friend K was up for doing a 5k too, and decided to do it with me. But, between the 2 of us we have 5 kids, and that didn't really work either. So the plan was to put one of my babies and her baby in one of our joggers* and then to put W and CB in the other**, and then for me to wear the other baby on my back***. It was a flawless plan, except, M and I forgot to put the handlebar to one of the joggers in the car before we left, and didn't realize it until we were 2 hours into the 4 hour drive. Awesome.

I didn't want K to have to push the weight of W and CB in a busted up stroller, so I pushed them, or rather yanked them, with MJ on my back. Pushing a jogger w/ 70 pounds without a handle bar is rough, let me tell you. I was fully expecting to get last place but to our surprise, we finished in 47 minutes and ended up pacing a firefighter doing the 5k in full gear. He was the only person out there who was just as crazy as we were and I have nothing but respect for him because at 7:30 am, it was already 83 degrees out. In all, it was so fun but next time we are going to remember that darn handle bar. I'm pretty sure I could have cut at least 5 minutes off our time if it wasn't so hard to push that thing. K was such a trooper and put up with me slowing down and speeding up every 20 seconds and fielding all of the "OH MY GOD! Are they TWINS?!?" questions while she was pushing her baby and A. It was, selfishly, really nice having someone else deal with that for a day. We drew so much attention it was almost comical, but I guess that is what is to be expected when you are walking around at a 5k looking like this:
(thanks, K, for this picture! It makes me laugh!)

After the we finished the 5k and M finished the triathlon we hit the beach. It was the first time A and MJ had been and A took to it like the beach baby I knew she was. MJ wasn't impressed. She did the same thing CB did as a baby and curled her toes when they hit the sand and refused to touch the stuff, although she did crawl for the first time while in her little shade dome. It was so nice to be on the beach again. M and I both crave the beach so to feel the air and hear the waves, feel the sun and the sand was just what we needed.

The next morning we decided to go back to the beach and started getting the kids ready. Everyone got lathered up with sunscreen and I put it on my face and arms, my back, and got the back of my legs... and then someone started crying and I got distracted and then got distracted doing something else... and then we went to the beach. We spent a couple of hours there until the epic meltdowns began and then decided to leave. Got in the car to make the 4 hour drive home... and my legs started itching, which I thought was from the sandflies biting me... and then they started burning... and 2 hours into the drive I looked like this:
Sun poisioning. We literally watched it spread as we were driving. Chills, fever, nausea, sensitivity to temperature changes, small blister like bumps... it was horrible. And there was nothing I could do about it because we were driving through the middle of freaking nowhere, on a Sunday, in a state where pretty much everything is closed on Sundays in a small town. My only option was to hit up the Dollar General in one town we passed and pray they had some kind of burn relief. Oh, and did they have some. Knock off "aloe". I would have been better off without it, as the 2nd ingredient was alcohol and it was green from Blue #something and Yellow #whatever. Funny enough, I missed rubbing it into a spot on my foot and when I found that spot 30 minutes later, my food was dyed green. Fantastic. My favorite part of that picture is the hilarious white line that goes across the top of my belly-- clearly need to do some more situps and cardio to get rid of that lovely little space where the skin meets when I sit... yo.

Now, the above picture doesn't really show my true pastiness as the color is quite off, but it is bad. Really bad. Just 2 hours earlier on the beach I had looked like this:
Holy Mother. This. Hurts. I always thought people in the movies were being dramatic when they got a bad sunburn and laid on the couch all day with tea bags over their eyes. Puh Lease. It can't hurt that bad! Oh, but it does, folks, it does. And the best part about it is when people stop you in the store or parking lot to tell you just how sunburned you are. REALLY?! So that's why I feel like the fire of a thousand suns is raging through my veins?? THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION!! Thank you SO much for telling me that is why I feel like a billion needles are poking into my legs and belly at once. Helpful!! Seriously, you want to be helpful? Go get me a cold compress and an iced tea. Why do you think I'm here in Target at 8:52 at night, 8 minutes before they close, sprinting through the store like I'm on Supermarket Sweep, desperately trying to find any kind of remedy to get me through the night??

I'm all about the natural remedy and having never had a sunburn this bad since I was, I don't know, 12? I called my friend J, who is the queen of unintentional sunburns, and begged for advice. I had already googled "natural sunburn relief" and came across a site that claimed you already had the ingredients as close as in your fridge and kitchen cabinets. SWEET! That's what I needed... but after they listed the typical aloe, they went into how you can put mustard or white vinegar on your skin and that would help (um, no.) and then they said that Emu oil is great(!) for sunburns. Yes, because I have Emu oil hanging out in my kitchen cabinet. Really, I do. Thankfully J called me back and walked me through the steps of nursing your skin damage back to a somewhat repaired state: lots of water, gatorade, lotion and aloe, ibprofen and for the love of God, don't let anyone touch you. I also picked up some Vit E oil and have been slathering that crap on in ridiculous amounts.

After a very long night I'm getting better-- now it only hurts when I walk or stand and the blood rushes to the skin but I'm still walking like a zombie and leather couches are NOT my friend. As I'm writing this I can hear my Aunt K in my head. She has always warned us about being smart in the sun and I'm hesitant to even post this blog because I know it is going to freak her out something fierce. I am making an appointment w/ a dermatologist to get my skin checked for any sings of abnormality as skin cancer is on both sides of my family. This is not something to mess with. Lord knows I don't want to end up looking like Donatella Versace and I really don't want skin cancer. So mothers, heed my advice. 1) Don't get distracted while putting on sunblock and 2) if you are using birth control pills, read that little insert with all of the side effects. Apparently one of them is increased sensitivity to sun. Things that would have been nice to know YESTERDAY!

*Chariot CX2
**Chariot Cougar2 (full reviews and comparison for both strollers coming soon!)
***Macpac Child Carrier

Friday, May 7, 2010


A few days ago I went to the store to pick up some razors. I hate shopping for razors. It's stressful. There are so many kinds... with lotion strips or without? Do I want 2 blades or 4? Or, WAIT!! Do I need the 5 blade? Holy crap, they make a 6 blade razor now? Seriously? If I had that much hair on my legs that I needed SIX blades, I'm going to be waxing, thanks. And why are they so expensive? 10 bucks for a starter kit and then 16 bucks for 4 replacement heads? No thank you.  I'll take my double blade, $4 for 6, cheap walmart brand razors. But those give me razor burn so I really do need to spend the 8 bucks on the triple blades w/ lotion strips. Now, do I want aloe lotion strips or "conditioning" lotion strips?? Oh. My. Goodness. I need a drink. I'm going to close my eyes and point and then get the heck out of here. Oh dang, I didn't want those!

Honestly, I can buy a stroller or even a car faster than I can buy razors. I finally ended up picking a pack and then I looked and there was a seemingly identical pack for $3 less. More stress. What was the difference? It took me a while but then I found the answer: Scented Handles. Seriously? Scented handles? For real?  We need scented handles on our razors now? Why? Why on earth do we need scented handles on our razors? Is it to make us feel more at peace? More rested? Transport us away from the misery of shaving our legs, into a tropical paradise filled with cabana boys and pina coladas?

Is it not enough that we go on a virtual trip around the world with all of the other scented products we use in the shower? I personally start off with a shampoo that is supposed to uplift me a take me to a roadside fruit stand with the smell of summertime nectarines. Then I am taken away to Asia with my jasmine scented body soap. After that I take a fun little trip back to the produce stand with my "energizing citrus" shave gel, where at the same time, if I was using said scented handled razors, I would also be taken to the tropical shores of Hawaii with it's "fun, fresh scented handle" and THEN I get out of the shower, head on over to Mexico via my coconut and lime lotion... all while in a room already scented with a candle that is supposed to "ground me" with lavender and chamomile. And that's not to mention the 3 hair products, face soap, moisturizer, and deodorant that I have yet to use...

I guess I didn't realize I needed to get my passport and pop some malaria pills every time I stepped in the shower. So, not only do I get out of the shower smelling like a fruit salad with a hint of  lime, now I also need a nap from the jet lag AND I'm going to have to pop a pill for the raging headache I have from all of the "aromatherapy", which is going to transport me somewhere else entirely, if you know what I mean. It's no wonder I'm all kinds of jacked up. It's no wonder all of us are all kinds of jacked up.

I can't help but wonder what the point is  of all of this "aromatherapy"? The only thing that "energizes" me are a good cup of coffee or a hard workout. I'm not more grounded, I'm not more at peace and I certainly don't look like those chicks in all of the commercials advertising this crap.  A handle on a razor or a bottle of shampoo isn't going to fix our problems.

Yes, it's harmless "fun" and smelling good is a definite plus. So what's the problem with something like scented handles on razors? I just don't see the point. Are we on such a quest to find a happy place that we actually buy into this? I think it's a gimmick, a tale of consumerism and waste, an annoyance and just one more thing thrown in your face, saying that you NEED this in order to have a better life. No people, no. Having a better life begins on the inside. No bottle of lotion is going to help you. A bottle of pills though...? Maybe.

And that has been "deep thoughts by Joanna". Tune in next week for, "why must children's toys be SO FREAKING LOUD?! and what it says about America today".