Tim convinced me to go away for a long weekend for our 10th anniversary. I always question the brilliance of going away when preparing for it is utter chaos. Tim was leaving early in the mornings before the kids woke and working pretty late. That left him exhausted and me to deal with gymnastics, playdates, piano nagging, cooking, laundry, etc. On top of all of that I was doing my best to fight a urinary tract infection. I was also spending a fair bit of energy denying that Steel was sick.
I just found the following quote in my blog notes:
Being nice to Steel when she's feigning being sick. All she wants is love; why don't I give it to her???? Steel had the most ABSURD, marauding ailments the week before we left. Her head ached, her stomach ached, her neck hurt, at one point she had Toby wake us in the middle of the night to tell us, "Steel CAN'T WALK!!!" The loving response was, "Steel doesn't need to walk; tell her to go back to sleep!" The next morning she was over acting her pronounced limp; I screamed at her to GET HER SNEAKERS ON and GET TO THE BUS STOP!!!!
To Tim's utter shock, I decided to skip gymnastics and take her to the doctor. I needed someone else to tell her that she is fine. We couldn't get an appointment, so we did a walk-in. This meant we had to wait for almost an hour. Her young, sympathetic doctor was not there, so we met with a Grandma Susie-type older doctor. I told Steel she had to do all of the talking. I wanted to make the visit as unpleasant as possible, so she didn't think of going to the doctor as fun, mommy-Steel time. I was pretty impressed by her composure as she sat and told the doctor all of her problems of the past week. I was catching the doctor's eye and practically rolling my eyes and circling my index finger around my ear (Did anyone else do that in grammar school to indicate that someone was crazy?) I was saying things like, "Some of these things might be coming more from her head than from her body." The doctor did a great job of making both of us feel heard. She ascertained that Steel's headaches were more likely from tension than anything else. She dwelt on the joint pain a little, but we talked about stretching for gymnastics. The diagnosis was, "Steel, you need to run around at recess rather than sitting around and gossiping with your friends." At the end of the appointment after she'd been stretching Steel's legs for her, Dr. Clarke told us that she'd be remiss if she didn't order a Lyme test "just to be sure." PERFECT! Steel was going to have to endure a blood draw! Now she definitely won't be asking for gratuitous trips to the doctor.
She survived the blood draw, but it was pretty dramatic. Meanwhile, I'm getting crankier and crankier as my UTI isn't going away, and we are leaving in a day. My inability to resist wine was the culprit. Meanwhile, Toby ends up getting ferried around during the week because she doesn't like being home alone with JP, so she has to come with me during both of Steel's gymnastics classes. I try and set up a play date for her with Lilly every now and again. Lilly finishes her class right before Steel starts, so there's a perfect opportunity. The plan was to make the hand off at 6 at gymnastics. It occurred to me in a fit of UTI agony that I could make the walk-in time at the clinic if I got there before 6. I texted Lilly's mom, Rachel, that I'd hand her Steel and Toby, and she could take them both with her to drop Steel off and pick up Lilly, and I could rush to the clinic. We waited on Lilly's porch until the last minute while Rachel was looking for us at gymnastics; my text was not clear. Steel was going to have to miss gymnastics because I was going to get antibiotics before going away to celebrate my 10th anniversary. Toby was hysterical because she was going to miss her playdate.
I was in and out of that clinic in FOUR MINUTES! It was a miracle. I had Toby back to Lilly's house just as they pulled up. Steel had missed gymnastics, but that seemed to be providence as I was noticing her scratching her head. We were going to take the hour and do one more olive oil, nit pick lice treatment. What else would I want to do the night before going away? We arrived home to Tim making dinner while shouting at Jack Peter because he'd caught him playing on the computer while he was home alone in lieu of doing his homework. The phone rings. It's Dr. Clarke. Steel has LYME DISEASE. Steel gets hysterical and is screaming over and over again, "I don't WANT to have Lice and Lyme disease!!!!!" The bottom line is that I'm leaving Tim's mom to deal with my kids, and now she's got to feel itchy the entire time, and she has to administer antibiotics to the biggest drama queen on the planet. Everyone is either crying, whining or shouting, and Tim reveals that he had THE WORST DAY ever. He'd discovered that he was scheduled to lecture to 120 people at U Penn an hour after we were to arrive in New Orleans.
Steel does make an olive oil lice treatment look glamorous...
Our flight wasn't until 1, so Tim had time to figure out how he was going to lecture via computer. We got to the airport, grabbed lunch and made our first flight. I rarely get sandwiches, so when I do, I want them to be worth the empty carbs of the bread. I went to the "Earl of Sandwich" and ordered and Italian. I was informed that the Earl hasn't pickles or onions or hot/sweet peppers. I have difficulty accepting this. I want to picket with a huge sign that says, "Not Earl, Not Viscount, Not even Baron of sandwich...this is the squire of Sandwich..." I decide to make my flight instead.
The planes were uneventful. After so many nightmarish flights with kids, I cannot express the pure joy I feel when I'm on a plane, and I can read a four-month-old Vanity Fair swiped from the optometrist's office from cover to cover. On our final descent, the flight attendant announced, among other things, that we should change the time on our watches. I turn to Tim who has heard nothing and ask him if he was aware that there is a time change between New Orleans and Philly. He responds confidently that there is not. I suggest that he check to make sure. Suddenly his plan to get to the hotel and give his lecture in our room is foiled. He has less than a half hour until lecture time. He then has an altercation with the woman in the aisle seat. I tell him that even if she lets him by, the 36 rows of people in front of us will not, so he needs to just RELAX. We deplane and scurry around the airport for 6 minutes asking random people in uniform if there might be a quiet room with fast internet access hidden somewhere in the airport. Obviously this leads to blank stares and nothing. We get in a cab and drive 30 seconds to the Days Inn. We secure a room, and I go for a swim rather than listen to Tim scream at the poor internet connection.
My handsome husband having a beignet after a successful remote lecture. Beignets are so overrated.
After my healthy hour I end up at the bar. The sympathetic concierge had given us 2 free drinks because she felt bad that renting a room was our only option. My companions were: Jason, the injured diver from the oil rigs who wasn't being compensated for his injuries and was in constant pain. Bonnie, the mother of six who works at the IHop next door. After having told her five kids that they could date anyone they wanted except a black person, she married a black man and her 6th child is bi-racial. I thought she was my age or older, but she turned out to be 36. I had to ask who she was going to vote for. She can't vote because she's a felon. My third drink date was another oil rig worker who was more mainstream. We talked about snowboarding. The bartender had just blown $400 in a night of drinking and had to show up to drive the Days Inn airport shuttle with 2 hours of sleep and 16 drinks under his belt. Tim came and wrestled me away from my new Days Inn family, and we Ubered to our hotel downtown. Poor Jason wanted to come with us. Toby, our posture police, would have admired the fact that the rod in his back prevented him from slouching (and, sadly, turning his head) but we weren't going to take him on for our anniversary weekend.
My review of that hotel was as follows:
So, the International house has pretty nice rooms, linens, and Aveda products. The maid was sweet. Our room had a "garden view" which was absurd: our window looked out on a concrete-enclosed area with a few shrubs.
The truly bad part of our stay was awakening to a COCKROACH as big as my thumb scuttling up my body towards my head. I shrieked, and my husband frantically shoo-ed it off of the bed. That was a dumb thing to do because it was then invisible on the dark, mottled floor. (I also didn't get a photo which made me sad...) I remembered the incident at breakfast; we called and requested something be done.
We returned late that night to a note from the manager saying she'd be in by 9 the next morning to talk about it. That lead me to believe that NOTHING had been done. We went to talk to the concierge. He said, to my request for roach hotels or spraying, "We don't have those things here! This is REALLY weird, and it's NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE!" ummmmm...There are these amazing places called stores where you can send someone you pay minimum wage to go buy things. He seemed to be insinuating that we had brought the roach with us.
The manager wasn't there at 9 the next morning, so we left a message. The coffee is wretched, so we weren't going to sit and wait. She did call and told my husband that some spraying had been done but that they would wait to do the super-toxic spray. They also had no rooms to move us to. We saw her when we were leaving for dinner. She gave us a ticket for 2 free drinks at the hotel bar.
OFFERING SOMEONE A FREE DRINK AT A HOTEL BAR IN NEW ORLEANS IS LIKE OFFERING SOMEONE A BIG MAC IN PARIS!!!!!
Other than the cockroach incident, our entire stay was perfect and marriage-affirming. (I'm only really mad about the cockroach thing because I didn't get a photo.) We did Tulane and the garden district; we shopped on Magazine street; we listened to great music on Frenchman's; we rode bikes to the 9th ward to check out Brad Pitt's new construction and the aftermath of Katrina. Both of us were in the mood to treat everyone we met during the 3 days as guests at our personal cocktail party. We did make the mistake of asking a very large native American marine who he was going to vote for. The ensuing conversation was fun and civil, but somehow he was asked to leave the bar by the quiet, bespectacled, bartender in white tails who had repeatedly asked us to change the subject. I've never experienced that sort of Southern "we don't talk about those things here" gentility. Tim and I paid our tab and left. We exited the bar and were greeted by a lovely 4-some of well wishers.
Our re-entry was less-than-smooth. Somehow Carol had been coerced by Steel to go to Petco. There Steel fell in love with a kitten. Despite 4 out of 5 of us being allergic, we already have a cat. Rocky arrived because I was complaining about rodents at a fall ball game last year, and one of the dads needed to relieve his girlfriend of a surly cat. Rocky has been PURRFECT. He's not cuddly, so we don't feel bad about not cuddling him, and he is a phenomenal hunter. He takes his job seriously. He does (as Toby informed her teacher) "poop in the garden" but that's better than the litter box, right? Steel, the most allergic of all of us, said that she'd pay for the kitten herself, and it would be her birthday present.
Steel's birthday is Halloween; the day after our return. Yes, I'd sorted out costumes before we left. JP's got done in 20 minutes although he nagged me about it for the entire month of October. He's not a perfectionist. He was fine with wearing the crotch of one of his sister's tights over his face and my less-than-manly jacket, and he didn't care that the Sharpie he used to make the face (I still don't know what he was) was faded and crappy. Steel wanted a Target sexy witch outfit (which hurt my soul, but it's her birthday) She's definitely going to be one of the the "sexy whatever" girls for the rest of her Halloween career. This year Toby wanted to be a stalk of asparagus. Given Toby's dimensions, making her costume to scale was a challenge. We nailed it; she had a spray bottle filled with "asparagus pee" to make her that much scarier.
The photo on the left is, I fear, a future Steel Halloween costume from New Orleans.
Tim took on the kitten quest. He went to Petco and confidently filled out the application. (not unlike his confidence in there not being a time change between Philly and New Orleans) All went well until he described Rocky as a "mean cat." The woman took her glasses off to look him in the eye and said, "No cat is mean. Meanness is a response to its OWNER." We were denied not only for Steel's kitten, Sunshine, but for any future kitten. (I wanted to call that woman and tell her I'd kept a goddamned HERMIT CRAB alive for 3.5 years and counting, and our carnival gold fish have doubled in size and are thriving -ok we lost another 6 fish, and I was calling the tank Fishwitz for a while, but she didn't need to know that!) I suggested Craigslist. Tim wanted to check the "get a kitten" box off on his 'to do' list. A few days later, he told me that they were going to buy a kitten in a parking lot 40 minutes away on a Monday night after gymnastics. (?????) JP and I opted out of this craziness.
JP achieved his first ponytail. He was thrilled. Man bun to follow, I'm sure.
An hour and a half later Tim and the girls returned with Nola Pearl McDonald, the tiniest, cutest kitten on Earth. She was perfect. She puffed up her 13 oz self to stare down growling Rocky. She attacked the fringe on the rug, fell down the stairs, and chased her tail. More importantly, she was there for us when we discovered that Hillary Clinton had not, in fact, won in a Landslide and turned the House and the Senate democratic-even winning TEXAS because she turned out the Latino vote so successfully. (This was the cycling reverie I entertained on my way home from the polls. I went to bed at 9:23 on election night confident that there was no need to watch the returns)
Nola was the belle of our ball for 2 days. She came with us to a local restaurant and nibbled on my Bronzino while the entire clientele passed her around. One killjoy told me, "That kitten is WAY too small to be away from its mother!" I published a Facebook video of Nola aggressively eating Steel's pancakes. Pat's ex wife commented on the post that "that kitten is probably too little to be eating anything like pancakes." Yeah whatever, Michele.
Nola almost died. She started diarrhea and puking and not eating. It got to be so scary I took her to the vet. (Remember I don't even take my kids to the doctor, so this was a bold move) $250 later I am rebuked for having such a small kitten and told that I should probably put her in a 24 hour care unit with and IV for $1000 a night and that she still might die. Clearly that wasn't going to happen, so Tim and I nursed her for 48 hours. It was TERRIFYING. She could keep nothing down and shat/puked everywhere. Nothing the vet had given me worked-goat's milk, tinned kitten food, crazy expensive molasses lick-nothing. Tim called the vet and was told to get baby food for her. A Facebook post elicited a "canned peaches syrup" suggestion. In desperation I asked the groovy neighbor, Grace, whose birthday is also Halloween. She hands out cognac and cider to the parents all night. She said I had to force feed her kitten formula. She was right. Nola is back to her tail chasing, Rocky-confronting self.
Poor Rocky, first Nola came, then I got coerced into taking him in for a round of shots by the rapacious vet, and then we had houseguests who arrived with their "puppy." The puppy was an Irish Wolfhound that was the exact size of 3 Tobys. It was a pony in my kitchen. Nola stood up to the dog as well. Rocky was HORRIFIED. So now we are a 2-cat family, and we have a bigoted moron as our President elect.
I was a hastily thrown together Andy Warhol's Queen Elizabeth