Monday, April 27, 2009

a stitch in time, and then she's nine

Reilly is nine. This is absurd. Sometimes I'm still nine. Then again, sometimes it feels like we are so in sync that I've always had her, you know? The kids' birthdays have never fallen on a Saturday before, so when they wake up to all the decorations and a heap of gifts, they get to open one or two until their Papa gets home. This year it finally happened, which was great because I packed our day to the absolute gills, and needed all the extra hands, wheels, Americanos, I could get my hands on.

First of all, it is getting increasingly difficult to outlast the kids to put up the decorations. I mean, they know they're going to get them, but it's not the same to hand me tape as I hang your streamers as it is to wake up and see, and hopefully thank your lucky stars, that your mom is such a sentimental sap, and loves you so much, she will stay up until 5:00am if that's what it takes so you can stumble out groggily in the morning and feel that magic. That is not what happened this year. I've had raging insomnia for six weeks. Just, awake, all the time. For five weeks it never caught up to me, I was like a machine, getting things done 24 hours a day. Until the night before Reilly's birthday. I collapsed, with socks on (blech), at like 9:00pm. Fortunately, Todd woke up around 3:00am and brought me all the presents, streamers, etc. I cursed his name. I was so tired. He had arranged the gifts on the counter, but of course I had to rearrange them because only moms and gay men know how to arrange things. That wasn't so hard. Next I hung her "Happy Birthday Reilly" banner. That took some doing, but I did it. And then, UGH, the goddamn streamers. I hate streamers. HATE them. H-A-T-E them. But they're a necessity, period. But streamers at 3:00am are insurmountable. While I typically only hang two swags, this year I chose three colours, so that's like, 12,895 pieces of tape, and twice that many tattered, unsightly ends, you know those ends? I could have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro more easily. Finally, I released her balloons from their hiding spot in the master shower, and let them go, filling the entire room. That's my favourite part. No, wait. Flopping back onto the couch and passing back out is my favourite part.

The fruits of my labour:

Rei and her morning loot. Grandma and friend loot arrives in the evening: (Note that she's a brunette.)

Getting her locks done by Toni, our beloved stylist:

Rei's birthday portrait. I took 100 shots and couldn't ditch this glare:

Lunch at Young's, where she feasted on plain white rice:

Despite being somewhat anti-celebratory, my kids have chosen to have their birthday dinners at McGrath's every year since they were two:

Reilly's half white, half chocolate, half Twilight cake:

I wish she had wished for a bigger cake, I'm just sayin:

Discussing how to spend her gift cards with her best friend Andrea:

And with that, my baby is nine. Happy Birthday Reilly, I'll still hang streamers next year, when you turn 16.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

proud mama moment:

My ten year old son walks in and says, "Mom, guess what I heard on the Colbert Report?"

Now that's what I'm talking about.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

when the cat's away, the mice cook their own damned lunch

Obviously I don't cook or I wouldn't be beaming like a Kindergartener holding up a finger paint masterpiece. But I made my own lunch today, all allergy-friendly, even using the zucchini Todd was certain would go to waste, like most other things I ask him to buy. Bean burrito in an uncooked tortilla, five shreds of cheese, salsa, and avocado, with the aforementioned zucchini on the side. The real coup though? I did this while home alone! As most of you know, this is typically a recipe for mental disaster, but today, it was a recipe for burritos:

Monday, April 13, 2009

i love me some lefties!

One of my myriad inexplicable fascinations/obsessions is left handed people. I am so helplessly in awe of seeing people whose dominance comes from the left, that even now I will stare while the person in front of me in Fred Meyer writes a check with his or her left hand.

I am ambidextrous in almost every way. I write perfectly well with my left hand, but can do so faster with my right, so my need for speed dictates there. However, should I ever find myself accused of stealing (who me?) in a foreign country wherein the punishment is to sever the offending hand, I'd be fine. I can bat left, dribble left, kick with either, and am a switch-hitter in tennis. If I'm going to arm wrestle you, it will be with my left arm because it's stronger. I do struggle to apply nail polish with my left hand, as it seems to lack precision and steadiness, though it's great for painting and cleaning. And, now that the cat is out of the bag and running down the street, I hold cloves with my left hand. Of the 10,000 relatives about whom I recently wrote, not one had the decency to be left handed. While my own dexterity is of no interest to me, several people to whom I am drawn, make that extremely drawn, are left handed.

High profile lefties who matter to me:

Caroline Kennedy:

Slightly embarrassing crush, David Letterman:

Paul Simon, whose lyrics have been the soundtrack of my life:

Surprises from left field:

Angelina Jolie (Please don't have an orgasm while reading my blog okay? She ain't all that, except, now that I know she's left-handed, she kind of is...):

Controversial lefty, Tom Cruise:

Possible righty Tom Cruise (hence the controversy):

I struggle between crushing on Tom and despising him. He's short, the alignment of his teeth gives him the appearance of having one in the middle, which is extremely disconcerting, he's hella short, and um, just a little bit fucking crazier than a shit house rat. But damn, he's beautiful, and he really was dangling from that canyon in Moab in Mission Impossible 2. I've read dozens of articles claiming he is a lefty, but all the pictures of Tom holding a pen suggest otherwise. Perhaps he leads with his left and loves with his right?

I am so pleased to announce that I have exactly five favourite lefties:

#5. Bill Clinton, who signed an autograph with his left hand for me in 1992:

#4. Prince William of Wales, entering Eton. Thankfully he's finally old enough to crush on legally:

It is excrutiating to assemble the final three, and while I love this woman to no end, I have never met her, and thus, am awarding her the bronze medal in the Objects of my Lefty Obsession countdown. Behold Emma Thompson (Academy Award winning screenplay writer for Sense & Sensibility, the undisputed best film of all time.):

#2. Karen, my twin in so many ways (can't you see it?):

Drum roll.........My number one Lefty Love? As if you had to scroll down:

Admittedly, it helped seal the deal when he hugged me and squeezed me with his left hand last year, right before whispering into my left ear. (It is taking all my might not to lift the ban on orgasms while reading my blog...)

Monday, April 6, 2009

blogger eats words, best brunch ever

Presumably, you are all keenly aware of the scandalette that ensued last month as a result of my blog post about my experience at the Word of Mouth Neighborhood Bistro. Recap: I didn't like my sandwich, to the profound surprise of the staff, whom I used great creative license in describing, solely in the interest of striking comedic gold, which I believe I did. Unfortunately, any trace of humour in my post was lost on the staff, who were mysteriously tipped off about it, and subsequently went scouring Google, one by one, to witness the sacrilege for themselves. They left comments that ranged from indignant to nasty, a freedom to which they are fully entitled. Just as I can infuse my description with all sorts of embellishments to get you guys laughing, they have a right to defend themselves, their restaurant, and even hate me, which I'm fairly certain they all do. One thing they can't defend, however, is that sandwich, which I'm told has been removed from the menu. Damn, was it something I said?

Picture it, a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Salem, the sun making its much-anticipated debut of the season. I found myself with an afternoon to kill, so I texted my mom to see if she'd like to do something. Most of you know, my mom lost her baby brother last month, and the grief has consumed her, so I was really pleased when she asked if we could have brunch. Decisions are really not Mom's forte, but she didn't want an industrial-type restaurant, she wanted something with some charm, some warmth, some originality. Well, since Salem is notoriously lame on virtually every level, I had to spin my wheels for a while before the preposterous idea emerged in my mind. Mom's favourite breakfasty entree is biscuits and gravy, and despite having been this close to hiring a personal body guard when the backlash of the blog post started, I couldn't get Todd's unprecedented praise for Word of Mouth's biscuits and gravy out of my head. I mean, I thought this man was going to do an interpretive dance right before my eyes the day he came home with those biscuits on his breath. I was determined to take my mom there.

I know, what was I thinking right? Thankfully, I am the Queen of Grandiose Thinking, and I've got the goods to back it up. Ask anyone, impossible scenarios, particularly on a deadline, are my specialty. However, slinking surreptitiously into very small restaurants wherein the entire staff hates me and may very well pelt me with utensils, is fairly new territory so I had to be strategic. You see, I have learned that I am essentially the least forgettable person alive. I like to think it's my height, but we all know better. So I put on clothes that were the opposite of what I wore the first time I went, put my hair up, donned my shades, and tried to adopt somewhat of a demure mannerism without compromising my good posture. I pulled into Mom's driveway and sort of tried to nonchalantly tell her that A) I was taking her to the place that has the best biscuits and gravy in town (big smile), but B) There is a distinct possibility we will be manhandled/spat upon/shot (perplexed look, followed by a knowing nod). Mom is intimately acquainted with my unique talent for pissing people off.

Word of Mouth is a house, and it has a nice little foyer separated from the main restaurant by a wall. Mom and I instinctively squeezed onto the one seat that faced the street, giving us the best odds of being unseen by the staff. Right away a lovely, young, and most importantly, never-before-seen, waitress appeared, smiling, and not packing a firearm. She asked if it was our first time in, and we said yes. She confirmed that the biscuits and gravy did in fact live up to the hype, and insisted that we order a slice of the creme brulee French toast to try, which we did, and I ordered the veggie hash. Mom and I relaxed two millimeters, for we had seemingly secured a position under the radar, but there was no way I was taking off my sunglasses. We talked about Daniel's obituary, which Mom is writing, and she commented on how good it felt to be out in the sunshine. Two seconds later Jesse (sp?) appeared with our bounty. Right away I could tell that the veggie hash posed a serious risk of me having a non-simulated Meg Ryan moment in When Harry Met Sally. Mom took one bite of her biscuits and pretty much started speaking in tongues. I tried my veggies and knew I would be writing a retraction post. I then discreetly pulled a shovel from my purse to continue eating. We scarcely spoke, we just kept looking at each other, nodding furiously, making an occasional monosyllabic sound. The portions were hefty, the quality of the food exceptional, and the only bad thing I can say is that I could have eaten forty more plates of the veggies. Suddenly, my mom's eyes popped out of her head and rolled onto State Street. She began writhing, trying to speak, but only able to utter things that were vaguely familiar. I realized she had sampled our piece of creme brulee French toast and I honestly thought she might die and go to heaven, whence this culinary perfection had come. One thing she said was, "It's the gift that keeps on giving!" I was impressed, but so madly in love with my veggies that I was writing my vows in my head while I devoured the entire plate full in the sweet anonymity of our little nook. When I had finished licking my plate, I spied the French toast and dug in to see what the fuss was about. Oh.My.God. The fuss was about the best goddamn French toast in the world. Until Sunday I would have told you that the Sassy Onion has the best French toast in Salem, though a case could could have been made for Busick Court as well. They may as well roll up their carpets now, I'm just sayin.' This food will ruin every other restaurant in town for you.

The biscuits and gravy:

The veggie hash (I'm licking my screen):

The creme brulee French toast (don't just order one piece):

We chatted Jesse up a bit, the best we could while foaming at the mouth, and relished in our unspoken triumph. Fabulous food, no shooting, did I tell you or did I tell you? One interesting little aside to this raving review is the fact that three consecutive customers turned, as they were leaving, to ask what we had thought of our food. We gushed. Naturally. The last person to leave/interrogate was apparently the Bistro's first customer when they opened, and he was extremely curious about our experience. We told him, just like the others, that it was stupefyingly enjoyable, but it just seemed to matter more to him than the others who had asked. When we first walked in, before camouflaging ourselves in the foyer, I glanced in the kitchen and was relieved not to see any of the staff members from last month. To be clear, I have absolutely nothing against these waitresses, nor the owners, nor the cooks, but one can only assume from the vast quantity of time spent online in search of and reading my blog, that I am likely the most reviled customer of all time. I just wanted my mom to get her biscuits, so I was happy that our cover wasn't blown. Still, it was very odd to have these customers going out of their way to inquire after our brunch. Mom and I wondered if perhaps someone did recognize me, and sent out their spies. They needn't worry, I have only good things to say, and I just hope it wasn't a stroke of good luck working for us Sunday, and I am marginally concerned that my next attempt will be a bust. Perhaps I'll pick up a Groucho Marx mask just in case.

Bravo Word of Mouth. Truce?

update from the family:

Just after we returned from Santa Cruz I got to work sending everyone pictures. This isn't as easy as it seems, since some people prefer emailed pics, but you have to send 55 pictures five at a time, and others ask that you suffer at Walgreens, making actual prints, you know, like from the olden days. I felt the picture of the five siblings was particularly poignant so I got an enlargement and put it in a nice frame for my mom. When I gave it to her, we locked eyes, and I said, "Oh of course we'll slip a picture of Danny right here on the edge." Mom smiled. The next morning she called to tell me that Danny died suddenly a few hours earlier. And the world went quiet.

All five siblings were hit incredibly hard by Daniel's death. I have never seen my mom so sad in all my life. You see, my uncle Daniel wasn't merely absent from the reunion, he was absent from everything for a very long time. A former Marine in Vietnam, whose mind was irreparably damaged, he was also a schizophrenic. While he most certainly possessed the telltale Wilhelm genius IQ, he also sometimes lived under trucks, and didn't speak for years. Maria, Cat, and Sky remember him as the best uncle ever, but by the time I was three he was mid-descent into the abyss that became his mind. He would move back and forth from Santa Cruz, where his family is, to Toledo, Ohio, where the clan was raised. He'd live in motels, sometimes for years. He had been at this most recent one for five-to-seven years. The spectrum of his moods was vast, like any untreated schizophrenic, but every Wilhelm will tell you, his heart was made of gold. I don't talk very openly with my family about my experience with mental illness, so I always felt a silent, distant, unspoken kinship with my uncle Daniel, because we we're the only two out of legions of Wilhelms, born with faulty wiring. As you can imagine, his life was fraught with pain, fear, anger, sadness, shame, and oblivion, whereas I have an air-tight support system, the best doctor imaginable, the meds I need, the best friends a crazy loudmouth could ever ask for, and two reasons to wake up and give thanks for each new day: Quinn and Reilly. But somehow it brought a little solace to know that, while I was blessed with an exceptional, supremely dominant gene pool, in which (Danny and me aside) the worst health condition is myopia, I also struggle everyday with a mind that is often ferociously determined to drag me into the darkness. I knew Daniel could relate to being otherwise healthy and quite intelligent (ahem, I mean, it's true), and having to duke it out with so many demons in various forms. Anyway, he's gone. He was 58, and he is deeply mourned by his five siblings and the nieces and nephew who remember him before his mind was taken.

Be at peace Uncle Daniel.

This one's a contender. I can scarcely keep from crying as I type. You may recall from my arduous four-part Santa Cruz post that my cousin Matthew, for reasons unknown, joined the National Guard a couple of months ago, to the absolute horror of our entire family. His father, my uncle David, whom I suspect even has some Republican molecules, is vehemently opposed to sacrificing any of our boys, and we were all relieved to hear that Matt heard the voice of reason and did not sign his commitment papers. But there's always a but...

During an extremely surreal experience yesterday, in which I took my mom to brunch at a place I recently trashed on my blog, speaking in low voices for fear of being kicked out, my mom told me that my Joseph has suddenly joined the US Army, and was set to leave for Fort Benning, GA this morning. I almost choked, I'm not kidding. He knows better. This kid has a brain that knows no bounds. We talked about the collective relief our family felt when Matthew opted out. I just don't know what he could be thinking. Apparently he is joining the Parachute Infantry Battalion, or enrolling in Fort Benning's renowned Airborne School. I don't give a shit. Our troops are a really sensitive subject for me, and as you now know, my family is a sensitive subject for me too. What I see is my toe-headed one year old baby, who introduces himself as "Jo-fus," toddling off to risk his life, and the hearts of everyone in our family, for George Bush's war. It is utterly incomprehensible. I love you my sweet Joe, call me if you decide to defect.

the post that was longer than the trip, part four

PART IV: The Long Journey Home:

There's no good way to say goodbye. I am widely known, and likely reviled, for my militant insistence on departing no later than 6:00 am. But on this Tuesday, which greeted us soggy, soon-to-be-travelers, ironically, with brilliant sunshine, my entire body had turned to lead and I couldn't get going. We missed 6 o'clock, 7 o'clock, and soon Donna was calling to ask us to stay put so she could hug us and wish us farewell. She may as well have invited us to dinner, for we were apparently never leaving. Maria had a couple patients that morning (did I mention she too is an acupuncturist?), and was already home, and I was essentially etching our names onto her mailbox. There comes a point at which you just stop hurrying, not that I was hurrying. We'd get there when we got there. Hugs and pictures are more important anyway.

Bye Donna:

Quinn and Reilly really wanted souvenirs so Maria drew one of her famously life-saving maps, directing us to Capitola, where she alleged there were thousands of shops in which to waste, er, spend our money. It was 1 o'clock, almost time to go to the DMV and get our addresses changed. I choked up as I backed out of Maria's driveway, but was also eager to be on an actual freeway, as I was beginning to think I had fabricated the existence of a place called Oregon. We got to Capitola, and found Santa Cruz's brilliantly-disguised version of an outlet mall. A nice little village in which I could feel the cash trying to jump out of my wallet. Since we had eaten Maria out of the three things in her refrigerator, we were famished. We decided to take her tip and eat at the cafe Maria suggested. The menu was promising and soon my persnickety kids, Mom, and I had ordered. The bill was shockingly inexpensive, $24.50, for all four of us. Upon entering the cafe, I had in my wallet a $100 bill, a $50 bill, and a $20 bill. Obviously I paid with the fifty. After gathering our beverages and finding a table, I looked in my wallet and was aghast to find only the hundred and the twenty. Where had the change from the fifty gone? I was owed, and presumably paid, $25.50 right? Okay, well, I had entered with no change, because I had to feed our meter, but further inspection revealed two quarters in my coin pouch. This would seem to suggest that I was given my change, but there was no $25.00 to be found. This was most alarming. As B can attest, I keep my money in separate compartments depending on what it's intended use is. My discretionary cash goes in one slot, gas money in another, money Todd gives me for taking the kids out yet another slot, money for co-pays, money I've saved, money I hope to save, etc. I will admit to a certain degree of absurdity to my method, especially since I will absolutely never borrow from one fund or even make change between funds. But it works for me, and it is this rigid system that alerted me to the fact that I was missing $25.00. After exhausting all possible explanations, I decided the beautiful, friendly, and deliciously British cashier had given me my coins but not my cash. I'm not exactly famous for mincing words, but I was admittedly daunted by the prospect of approaching this lovely, albeit semi-stern-looking woman to essentially accuse her of failing to give me my change. But I had to or it would eat away at me until I was in a straight jacket somewhere, drooling, uttering only "twenty five dollars" for the rest of my natural life. Mom and I rehearsed what I would say and I mustered enough pluck to talk to her. I tried not to fall at her feet and apologize for being a dumb American, and for being born, and managed to spit out my dilemma. She was exceedingly sympathetic, and said she swore she gave me my change but to be sure, let's balance the till. I was at once relieved, and closer than ever to burning myself alive for even thinking she may have been derelict in her duties. Come to find out, she is the owner of this brilliant shop, which, loosely translated, means she knows what the fuck she is doing and I really do deserve to die. Suddenly, I began using every British phrase I know (which happens to be a lot, thank you), and lamented the fact that I couldn't produce a spontaneous document proving to her that I use the British spelling in all applicable -or words. I tried not to be pathetic by limiting my apologies to roughly 800. I explained that my kids love Charlie and Lola, a smart little British cartoon, that Quinn often speaks with a flawless British accent, that their dad had been to the UK, that my dear friend lives in the UK, and proceeded to pepper our entire encounter with whatever Britishisms I could scrape together. Unfortunately, the lid to the pepper fell off and I actually buried her instead. I'm not sure if my reprehensible, ingratiating manner was meant to somehow make the $25.00 materialize, or to impress her into giving me $25.00. I still don't know, but it was one of the most pride-swallowing experiences of my life. Alas, she accounted for every coin and note (see? I can be British), and was so humble and magnificent as to thank me for basically shutting down her business for twenty minutes, question her capabilities, possibly her ethics, and then insulting us both with my shameless attempt to more or less convince her that we were sisters via Charlie and Lola. Oh my god. I tried to rectify my mess by complimenting the food, which was exceptional, and to ask her how she came to move across the pond, as we say. She charmed, and intimidated, the socks right off me, but I believe we ended on good terms. I asked for her business card, so that I could blog about her establishment. That part wasn't a lie at all, as you will see, but I did embellish the, um, significance of my blog? It's all foggy now but it's possible that I led her to believe that my viewership is millions wide, and that, you know, one word from me would send a surge of Oregonians to her shoppe that could only be likened to a mass exodus. Christ, is there no stopping me? In any event, we left. I was short $25.00, and a cool million in pride.

This is what a wonderful, nonplussed British cafe owner looks like when you ask her to prove that she gave you your change:

(Yes, once you've sunk this low, you may as well take a picture for your blog.)

And this is her business card. I'd appreciate it if you could head down there, maybe mention me, and how British and honourable I am. Not to mention influential. Okay? Thanks.

We slunk to this gimmicky little mercantile the kids wanted to explore, and, while they were too sensible to waste their money there, I, recently out $25.00, forked over some serious coin for a necklace everyone back home hates, and a hat about which I was uber-excited, and upon my return, instructed never to wear more than three times in one month. Sam, on the other hand, threatened to steal it, but as you know, I will always align my opinion with those which make me feel the worst about myself.

See for yourself:

We went from the mercantile to this egregious Build-a-Bear knock-off. I mean, I don't even know how this place isn't being sued everyday. But their logo has an ocean's crest on it, so perhaps Build-a-Bear is too intimidated by the inherent coolness of Santa Cruz to kick up a fuss? Anyway, Rei bought a ridiculous lamb for a lot of money, and some pajamas, and named her Abby in the car.

At long last, and with 2010 fast approaching, we set out onto the perilous Highway 17. It was past 3 o'clock. The return trip, with all those fucked-up highways, was much easier in the sunshine. The only tricky part was an oncoming toll lane, which was divided into ten lanes. The two on the far right were for paying the toll, and, seemingly veering off to the right, presumably to get on a bridge or something. The other eight lanes were express bypass, and 90% of the cars funneled through them, as did we, for Mapquest instructed us to stay straight. Before we knew it, we had made it to I-5, which, despite being eight hours away from home, seemed like a monumental event. I just hoped Shasta would have mercy on us this time, considering we'd be approaching circa 2:00 am. We drove, we laughed, I sneaked texts, I pretty much owned the road in my hat and necklace. I was practically getting salutes from fellow drivers.

For several hundred miles nothing remarkable happened. Aren't you glad? Then we started getting hungry. Reilly was downright ravenous. Those who know her know that somehow she subsists on a daily bite of cheese, possibly some bread, and a frappucino if she can get her hands on one. But ever since we left Capitola, her hunger has emerged, ready to make up for nine years of lost time.

In searching the vast wastelands for any familiar logo promising food, we had the bizarre, and sometimes scary opportunity to acquaint ourselves with these extremely disturbing little worlds-unto-themselves known as T&A truck stops. These are places that have a gas station, and upon entering, you'll discover a a strip of fast food places, a formal, yet disgusting "actual" restaurant, a lounge, a store, with aisles that feature Levi's, bongs, Bibles, canteens, books on tape, books on cd, porn, tapestries of Jesus, tapestries of naked women, your standard shit like aspirin and Hostess products, but also bullets, goldfish for 10 cents each, and rotisserie sausages that, to borrow from an exhausted cliche, looked like penises with the worst case of a) herpes, and b) rigor mortis you could ever imagine. And no, I have seen neither a herpes-riddled penis, nor a dead penis, praise be to God, so you can thank Google for the accuracy of my description. One of the T&As had an arcade, and that was the one I had to take Quinn into because he wanted to try Popeye's for dinner. Okay, I don't usually generalize but every single man in every single T&A was not only a pedophile, but I knew all their penises must look like the rotisserie herpes sausages. It's the only explanation as to how they could be desensitized enough from such a sight as to be able to eat it. So I bought a pair of handcuffs, near the crucifixes, and cuffed my son, who was drawing leering gazes from every direction (I'm not kidding), to me, and practically carried him into the women's restroom, where I forced him into my stall, all the while cautioning him against touching anything, pedophiles, hepatitis (we washed with extra vigor), strangers, just pretty much everyone who doesn't live inside our house. As we got back in the car, an old-ish, weaving, leathery, obvious regular, approached my car in such a way as to make all four of feel like he was going to open my door. I do believe, I do, that I ran over his foot as I sped off, and I could see in the rear view mirror that he was watching us. God only knows which of my children he wanted to buy. It still sends painful chills. Obviously we talked about that for hours. I swear to you, he really was going to open my door, and yet, he was like 80?

We left on Tuesday afternoon and anticipated arriving home in the wee hours of Thursday, lol. However, my superhuman driving, at 100mph, seemed to suggest that a Wednesday arrival might be possible. We crossed the Oregon border around 2:00 am, still flying. One of my tricks is to spend as much time in the "slow lane" as possible right? But occasionally a stealthy speeder must use the fast lane to pass. It was just a moment when, to my horror, I spotted the silhouette of a trooper in the median dirt strip, partially obscured by some shrubbery. Now, I've passed a lot of cops speeding, and have never been pulled over, and I have no tickets. But I knew. The chasm in my gut, where the missing $25.00 sat, widened to include the imminent approach of this trooper. It took him 2.5 seconds to get behind me, during which time I told my kids I was going to lie and say I was speeding to the upcoming exit because Reilly was sick, and needed to throw up. This wasn't borne of sheer imagination and/or desperation. Reilly had gotten a migraine, necessitating one of the T&A stops for baby aspirin. Anyway I told them it was okay to lie to get out of being cited, and that they had better corroborate anything I said. It went something like this:

"Ma'am, my name is (very long and Polish), and the reason I stopped you is because you were going 73mph in a 55 zone."

"Only 73?" I thought. "Wow." But what I said was:

"OMG we're coming from Santa Cruz California [and I have this really awesome hat] and it's been 65 for a long time, and I didn't notice it change."

"Yes ma'am, it changed at the border, and 73 is still pretty fast for a 65 zone."

"Well you see officer, my daughter has a migraine and needs to throw up so we were rushing to that exit yonder...oh here honey, do you need a bag? Oh honey, it's going to be okay...Officer, do you need my license [which will show you what a bloated bleached-out failure I am], registration, proof of insurance [please be impressed that I have these things readily available, particularly in view of the fact that you will soon see that my DMV record literally squeaks]?"

"Yes ma'am." He returned to his car. Mom assured me he'd let me go, I knew I was sunk, and thanked her for not speaking because she is incapable, like, in her cells, of lying.

"Ma'am I'm gonna let you go with a warning tonight, but slow down and watch for the signs."

"OMG thank you Officer. I was was daughter...I didn't know...I would never put anyone's life in jeopardy...I'm British..." Or something like that.

After that there absolutely zero percent chance of my falling asleep on the drive home. This is for another blog, really, but I have an irrational fear of the police. I assume they're all watching my car, that I have bundles of meth falling out of my open windows, that I forgot I had stolen the Hope Diamond and it's in my trunk, that I will have needles hanging out of my arms when they pull me over, that my registration will evaporate when I try to hand it over, that I will forget proper English, or worse, slip into this inexplicable southern accent I use with professional strangers when I'm trying to be persuasive and/or manipulative. Okay yeah, I'll write about that another time. Suffice it to say, I had grace to thank and nothing else.

When the fervor subsided I noticed by gas light was on. I sort of forget about gas on long trips. In town, when the light comes on, I know exactly how many trips to Fred Meyer or B's I can make before I run out, but on the freeway, going 54mph, thank you, I have no idea. More importantly, we were suddenly in that stretch of Oregon, after Ashland, and Medford, where there is mo'fo' nothing but thick blackness for an hour. Mom and I shot each other a glance. The needle was slipping below that E much faster than it does around town. Soon I was in a dead panic. It was 3:00 am, pitch black, no signs, no exits, barely a shoulder, and I had my kids. I prayed hesitantly for a smidge more of that grace, for my kids. I did not want to be waiting on that shoulderlette for AAA at 3:00 am with my kids. Finally we saw an exit, but it looked awfully dim. At this point, even applying the brakes was costing us serious petrol. But we had no choice. We veered off, and the station was closed. We had to drive uphill to merge back onto the freeway. In fact, we'd been going uphill since we crossed the border. Mom and I were making a plan for how to run out of gas safely in the middle of nowhere, with no shoulder and two kids, at 3:00 am. Just then we saw another exit in the distance. The faaar distance. We were sputtering by this point. Th exit was on the right but the station was on the left. We were never going to make it. The car was gasping, as if it had seen the sausages. Then we ran out. Yep. Empty. Just as I was about to use the rarely-heard f-word, I noticed we'd hit a descent in the road. We were coasting downhill. Fresh out of fumes, we coasted on gravity and grace into the ricketiest gas station you have ever seen, situated in front of a mini T&A. The guy wrote me a receipt on the back of a KENO ticket. No I'm not kidding.

We were a little speechless, but wide awake, when we hit Salem at 5:00 am. We dropped off Mom, and headed home. I have this idiosyncrasy that compels me to unpack the entire car and vacuum it before going to sleep, even when it's 5:30 am. Unfortunately, Quinn and Reilly have adopted similar trademarks. They will not, under any circumstances, go to sleep without a) pajamas, and b) brushing their teeth. Furthermore, Quinn needs his stuffed mushrooms and Rei needs her veritable zoo before sleep is even remotely possible. So colour me surprised when they walked into the living room, fell on the floor in their jeans, and passed out. No blankets, no brushing, shoes on, no passing go, no collecting $200, OUT! I covered them up, hopeful that OCD might only be a mild nuisance for them rather than a mind-numbing curse, as it is for me. I schlepped in our luggage, cleaned out the car, put our laundry in the laundry, and set the suitcases out in order of size, to be unloaded when we woke up, which I assumed would be around 3:00 pm. I flopped my lucky ass onto the couch, and smiled at my babies sacked out a few feet away.

"This is going to be one long-ass blog," I thought. And that's an understatement.