Last week I took my kids to see the famous smelly corpse flower at the National Botanical Garden.

The trip from the ‘burbs took us an hour door-to-door, which included 15 minutes of waiting in line outside while it was 4,000 degrees with 9 million percent humidity. By the time we were almost in, the only thing keeping the kids from acting like wild animals was the promise that this flower was going to smell like the worst thing they could possibly imagine. My daughter asked me very earnestly if it would be “worse than a poop and vomit bubble,” and I said, “WELL OF COURSE.”

And then we overheard this conversation between a guy standing in line and a Botanical Garden worker:
Guy: “So this thing must be pretty stinky, huh?!”
Worker: “Nah, not really. There are so many people.”
Guy: [Stunned silence.] “Uh, what? It’s supposed to smell like dead bodies. And why does it matter how many people are here?”
Worker: “Yeah, it’s not really THAT bad. And with all the people around, it just doesn’t smell as much. I don’t know, it sort of dissipates or doesn’t make as much smell during the day or something.”

So to recap, this 10-foot-tall uncomfortably phallic looking plant that is plastered all over the intrawebs gets a little shy around crowds. I am pretty sure no one ever mentioned that to me.

Once we finally got up close to the thing, sure enough, it did not smell at all. My kids told me that they thought they could smell something stinky, but I’m pretty sure it was just all the sweaty tourists.
Titus Anum

Which reminds me: what the hell happened with the cicadas? I will tell you what. Nothing. I did not see one all summer long. Back in the spring I read article after disgusting article about the impending East Coast invasion, describing how the cicadas would take over the East Coast, steal our children, ruin our crops, and enslave us, AND NOTHING HAPPENED.

So I am grumpy about a not-smelly-enough stinky plant, and also about missing an invasion of noisy, creepy insects. Perhaps I need a nap. Or perhaps YOU do, DC, with your nature-hype machine.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be beautiful out, and I’m taking my kids to the movies. So there.

Home Sweet Home

The kids and I went to Grandma’s house in Missouri a few days after our return from paradise. After chilling by turquoise Caribbean ocean waters, you may think that the kids would feel a little let down by a trip to Missouri. But you would be wrong. Because:

1. This is a bakery in Missouri:
Why, yes, that is an entire aisle of bulk candy. On sale. The “bakery” had sugary versions of things that should not be candy, including candied veggie fries, gummy fried eggs, sour bone-shaped candy, and chocolate life-sized fish. My son is a blur in that picture because his pancreas is trying to jump out of his body.

2. This is what happens when you go fishing in Missouri:
That is a toddler-sized, barking catfish that was 2 feet long and weighed 30 pounds. For all you city folk, catfish do not live on land or fall from the sky. OH no. I caught that thing from a lake with a line, a pole, and a whole truckload of gumption. In all my years on the East Coast, I have never caught a catfish like that. I have also never tried, but that is really not the point.

3. These are some wardrobe choices in Missouri:
Wiener Dog
Missouri summers can be brutal. When it is 104 degrees with 4,000% humidity, wearing clothing of any kind is awful — why not wear something hilarious? That way, the people walking by (who are likely experiencing heat exhaustion, and may be slipping in to some sort of diabetic coma after grabbing breakfast at the “bakery”) can get a little chuckle on their way to the ER.

4. And finally, there is really good ice cream everywhere in Missouri. And our super awesome Grandma took us to all the best ice cream spots.
Central Dairy

On the plane heading home, the kids said they liked Grandma’s house better than the Caribbean. And once Grandma stocks up on some rum punch and has an ocean view, I will totally agree with them.

I Believe I Can Fly

I took a little blogging break. Did you miss me? Well, I am sorry, but I did not miss you, because this was happening. TO ME:

And this:
And a little of this:

We were in the Caribbean and it was perfect. My kids snorkeled in the ocean, the hubz and I fell off paddleboards paddleboarded, and we crammed about forty years of sun exposure into ten amazing days. We also enjoyed the local drinks cuisine. Here is a picture of my husband telling some local men how much rum punch I drank at lunch one day:

Our travel day home was not perfect, though. I’m talking mechanical problems, a missed connection, a screwed up re-booking, and getting home after midnight with two delirious kids. Which got me to thinking: you know all those tips and suggestions people give you for flying with kids? Like, “Bring earplugs for the people seated next to you on the plane while traveling with your infant.” And, “Take the red-eye so your kid will sleep.” And, “Buy these overpriced and difficult-to-use gadgets and you’ll be able to change your baby’s diaper in an airplane bathroom with only your mind.” Well, those are completely useless. Here is the only list you will ever need.

Mama, Esq.’s Tips for Flying With Kids
1. When planning your trip, ask yourself: who will watch the kids while I go on this trip without them?
2. If you are definitely going to fly with your kids, then go have a drink and get the fuck ready.
3. Seriously, just fly by yourself and meet everyone at your final destination. Preferably after you’ve had a chance to explore the local spas.
4. OK, so let’s do this thing. Wait, you said you’re planning on bringing one bag? Well aren’t you precious. Just go ahead and make it eight, and budget around $400 for baggage fees.
5. Do not let your plane’s mechanical problems make you miss your connecting flight, because that is totally under your control.
6. When your travel day does not go as planned, try going balls-out crazy at everyone around you. I’m talking yelling, and making empty threats, and foaming at the mouth, and tossing papers around. This helpful tip was provided by the angry man in front of me in the re-booking line.
7. If an airline representative dismissively tells you to file a formal complaint with the airline “to help make his life easier,” remember: it is probably better to choke down your anger and get an ulcer than to explain to your 4-year-old why mommy dropped an F-bomb at a pleasant-sounding stranger. Probably.
8. When you realize an hour later that the same airline representative screwed up your re-booking, just go ahead and drop that F-bomb. It’s probably better your kids hear it from you first than from some little punk at preschool. Probably.
9. Don’t forget to enjoy the magical wonder of flight with your children. You may want to celebrate this magical wonder with several cocktails and/or an Ambien.

Safe travels!

Hide and Seek Gone Bad

Oh no, did you see this story? In a nutshell, a 4-year-old girl went missing from her grandma’s house during a family get together. Insanity ensued, the police came, POLICE DOGS searched the house, and no one could find her. And then, guess what. Someone discovered her sleeping peacefully under her grandma’s bed surrounded by “items” — probably blankets, and stuffed animals, and her poor grandmother’s fragile nerves, which were destroyed in one unannounced game of hide-and-seek-with-the-authorities’-help.

So much to say.

First of all, those police dogs are an embarrassment to the profession. Finding a kid under a bed in a house must be Doggie Police Academy 101, right? Like a prerequisite class before taking “Finding Heroin in Butts and Greyhound Buses” and “Scaring Foreigners at the Airport.” These dogs are going to lose their fancy street beat and face a lifetime of boring police paperwork.

Second, I sympathize with that grandma. You’d think that you could relax about your kids a little bit when you have a house full of adults, but let me tell you what happens: all the grown-ups assume that some other responsible person is watching your kids, and no one is, and then they wander off to some corner of the attic and set fire to a battery and eat expired prescription pills. Or just play quietly, one or the other. But my point is you just never know.


Third, I really hope that girl is amazingly cute and charming, because it is going to take a lot of adorableness for that grandma to get over these shenanigans. I imagine this girl at her college graduation years from now, proudly crossing the stage to get her diploma with honors, and that grandma in the audience: “Summa cum laude?! How about that time you hid under my bed for six hours WHILE THE POLICE AND THEIR DOGS RANSACKED MY HOUSE?”

But thankfully the story had a happy ending and now everyone has an amazing story to tell. I’m sure those dogs will think about that when they’re stuck behind a desk, trying to figure out how the hell to type.

Help, My Pants Are On Fire

Yesterday at bedtime, I tried on one of my daughter’s pink plastic tiaras. I would say it was because my hands were full and my head was just a convenient way to carry the tiara, but that would be a lie. I really just wanted to see what I looked like with a tiara on. And I will have you know I looked hot. Regal, even. So I sat in the bathroom, wearing the tiara while my kids brushed their teeth, and debated with my son about whether or not I was actually a queen.

Me: “I mean, I could be a queen, right? And just not know it?”
J: “You are not a queen, because queens don’t do anything except wear a crown and sit on a throne and boss people around.”

I pointed out that at that exact moment I was wearing a tiara, sitting on the toilet (sitting, not going – even I have my limits), and yelling at people to brush their teeth. As this information sunk in, both J and L got very quiet and stared at me for a few seconds. Now I think they’re wondering whether I’m really a queen and what’s in it for them.

Someday soon my kids will discover that I am not royalty and that, instead, I am just a liar. But aren’t all parents? For example, this week my son has two wiggly teeth and lots of questions about the tooth fairy. Every word that comes out of my mouth in these discussions is a huge, elaborate lie. But they are lies that I learned from my own parents that I have perfected with details I’ve learned from my parent friends. We are a multi-generation community of liars, who regularly tell our kids never to lie. Awesome.

I’m not psyched about my kids discovering that I am a big, fat liar, but I kind of can’t wait for the day when my son figures out that I have totally lied about the lyrics to a bunch of his favorite songs. Some day he will realize that Psy does not sing about a woman playing the saxophone in Gangnam Style (“Hey, saxy lady!”). And that Kings of Leon is not singing that someone’s socks are on fire (“Heeeeeeeeey, your sock is on fiiiiire!”). And that Matt Nathanson’s song “Come On Get Higher” is not about someone flying in an airplane. And that shopping at a Thrift Shop is not “really” awesome. Nope, it’s fucking awesome.

When I was my son’s age, I was obsessed with the song “Just the Two of Us,” which always made my parents giggle and I never understood why. In my 6-year-old mind, the song was about two friends who enjoyed spending time together. So imagine my surprise when, years later, I realized the song was about two REALLY good friends who LOVED spending time together, ifyaknowwhatimean, probably while naked and in a hot tub with mood lighting and essential oils. Why did my parents not just turn off the radio (or 8-track or phonograph or whatever the hell they used back then)? Why did they let me just believe that this was a sweet, innocent song about buddies?

I will tell you why: because it bought them three or four minutes of peace and quiet, and it made me smile. String together enough of those moments and you’ve got a pretty sweet day with your kids. Who cares if it involves a little lying on your part. That just means that you care equally about your own sanity and your kids’ short-term happiness.

And that is what I call balance.