early summer road trip

I usually save my big family road trips for the end of summer, but a few factors forced it to June, which was fine.  I’m just back with, a yet again, dirty car and a great appreciation for the Golden state and the power of junk food to quiet children at a nameless truck stop.


It’s always nice to come home and realize you might have a pair of clean underwear in your future, but even in a quiet moment in my back yard there is the hum.  The constant running of something, many things in a city.  I got to taste the clarity of quiet and I’m still thirsty for it.

That’s why we endure the dirty cars and the truck stops.

Family Road Trip

Okay, so here is magnum opus on my last hurrah of summer.  To some driving around in a mini van for two weeks with two small children might be hellish.  I was in heaven.  Did they listen when I tried to tell them the importance behind Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the storm”?  No, but we bonded in other ways.  Most of it we did as three for the road, but Mark joined us 8 days in.

Being a mom of two littles is easier for me on the open road.  We aren’t chained to our screens.  Away from stressors.  That’s why they call it vacation.  Mountain of laundry

pre travel jitters

I think I become OCD before I go on a big trip.

I have pulled our passports out 4 times already and will do so 10 more times before we leave.

I always have the soap opera look, “Did I leave the stove on?” expression as I check, recheck and check again. I’m not a nervous flyer.  But, I do worry about leaving things that are essential.  Passport, credit card, children.

Of course this trip I am purposefully leaving a child behind. This has it’s tension.  I was up late wrapping little presents for his aunt and baby sitter to give him while we are gone.  Then I started thinking will he be wondering “where is mommy?” more when he gets a present from her?  How am I harming my child this time.   Finally went to bed hugging him next to me. His skin never seemed silkier, his breath never sweeter, his little hand holding mine.  The magic of holding his hand.

I warned Vivien, “When he leaves with Aunt Cecily today don’t cry.  He will follow our lead. We have to be strong for him.”  I was really telling myself.  I’m having my sister come before we go to the airport as I want him to feel he is leaving us, not the other way around.

The leave takings are always the hardest, and once a trip has started you lose yourself to the trip.  But, this is new ground for me.  One I purposely set out on, filled with misgivings.  Like going to grad school.

I pray Rex has a great, fun week playing with his cousins and friends, knowing his aunts and uncles  are there for him.

My mantra as I board the plane “it’s only a week.  It’s only a week.”  7 sleeps is what I said to Rex. 7 sleeps away from the soft skin, the sweet breath, the little hand.

Utah Fun!

When Vivien and I awoke in Provo I sensed that sweet, lack of sound that snow fall can bring. I looked out and said, “Vivien, it snowed last night!”

WAAAA she ran from bed to look below. I loved seeing my little desert dweller’s excitement at the blanket of white outside. Then it ran through my mind that I might be driving on ice, and this scared the long underwear off of me. I did my “I must be brave; I’m the mom” mantra and pushed out to our complimentary breakfast downstairs.

My sister emailed that the LA Times had come out with their review of The Tar Pit.  They had done a “first look” review, which had been a rave. This would be the bigger review. The one that happens when their writer comes 4 or 5 times. Here is the review. It was good, but not a rave. So that was kind of bugging me, but I pushed it to the side.

I called Heather Armstrong (Dooce.com) who lives SLC.

“It snowed,” I said happily.

“How you doing?” she said with suspicion. She knew I was a weather wimp and might be flipping out.

“Well, I’ve decided to be brave.” She assured me they are great about clearing the roads.

After we procured some much needed gloves at a large store called Shopko, we had the standard battle:

“I want a toy.”

You can’t get a toy every time we walk in a store.

“I want a toy!” ( I caved/compromised and said she could have something if it were under 5 dollars.)

One bunny later we were off. All was going well. Vivien was strapped in the back watching her mini dvd player as I drove, proud of myself that I could still travel like before I was a mother. I could still adapt to any place, get along with whomever I met. I still had a good sense of direction (and GPS) and driving in cold weather with a light snow falling was a piece of cake.

But as I was driving up into the canyon toward Park City, the snow really started coming down. I was on the road with two big trucks and all my fears.

“Momma, strawberry shortcake is over,” Vivien called.

“I can’t do ANYTHING about that now honey. Mommy can only drive.”  Heather’s earlier, “Are you okay?” was going through my head as I white knuckled it up the hill.  “No, I’m not OKAY!!” I thought.

Finally I saw the turn off for our sledding/tubing park that was our destination. I had decided trying to get Viv on skies for the first time might be too much in our rushed day. And I hadn’t been on them in 12 years, so I Lindsay Vonn I am not. I was aching for some non-bland food but didn’t want to risk driving into the heart of Park City with the nice restaurants.

“This will do just fine,”  I said as we walked to the bagel bakery, the closet place to eat near the tubing park. I couldn’t get on that highway again… not yet. The food was awful and everything was white or pale yellow, but I shoved it in anyway.

We got to the tubing park, and Vivien was a little afraid. She didn’t really get it. I didn’t either, but I kept acting really plucky so my daughter will not grow up to the be the timid dilettante that I am.

We got on our round tubes and some hardened ski bum attached us to the pull rope. “Because she is under 6 you can only go as far as the first hill.”

I looked at the rope operator like, “Bummer” when really I was thinking, “Cool, that big hill scares me.” Our second bit of luck was when we got to the top of the hill that we were about to launch ourselves from and the worker said, “Sorry, it’s really slow today.”

Without thinking I said, “That’s good, because we are scaredy cats.” Oh, bad mom, don’t transmit fear to young daughter.

Which why I stayed calm when the worker pushed Vivien down the hill, by herself. There went my 4 year old down the hill.

Now, if you have grown up being the least bit outdoorsy in your life this is no big deal. But I was raised by intellectuals who thought that reading was a sport and TV was a sacrament, and I’ve been trying to make up for it since.

Vivien went down the hill, but it did not carry her all the way. She stopped. Just sitting in her tube.

The ski bum “Um, yeah, she needs to get out of the way.’

Me: “Well, you didn’t explain that to her before you launched her.”

I plopped into my tube on the path beside her, and the ski bum pushed me. “Vivien, mommy’s coming to get you.” She thought that was really funny.

The lady who sold us the tickets had warned me that Vivien would not want to do the kiddie park part where kids sit in tubes and go around and around. “Oh, you don’t know my kid.” Sure enough, she loved that, and she had huge piles of soft snow to frolic in just like I had told her about. Now we were in our groove.

We did the run about 5 more times. I could have kept going, but Vivien was pooped. “Mommy, my pants are soaked.” Yeah, no ski pants are a drag. Next time will have those.

We drove out of the area, and fortunately I did think to have a change of clothes. Thankfully Heather and her dear family received us so we could change and I could pump. Lovely people to visit with. They also directed us to a restaurant with spices in their food that was on the way to the airport. Yippie. Red Iguana (we ate at Red Iguana2 as the first one was busy). I even had a very un-Utah-like Margarita. The flight home was easy, and we didn’t have to wait for a cab. Who says you can’t travel with kids? This is fine.

As the cab pulled into our driveway, “Momma, PICK ME UP!” I stared at Vivien while I held my pump, my purse, her cap and gloves and about to grab the suitcase the cab driver had just dumped on the driveway.

“Whaaa? Vivien no, I can’t.”

“PICK ME UP!!!!!” she wailed.

“Sweetie, I still have to grab your booster seat, I can’t.”


So here it was. The final breaking point. I somehow got her to continue her fit out of the cab so he could leave. I took a few things to the porch, then carried her up and went back for the rest. It was a hard next hour getting her to bed while I also greeted Rex.

“I know honey, it’s hard to have to share mommy again.” I said as she tried to pick Rex off of me.

When she finally passed out I did as well. The next day I felt so burnt. I think traveling is like drinking, I just don’t recover like I use to. Although now that I have, I am really glad we took this trip.

Sky Mall

I was just in NYC for the final leg of my media for Upromise MasterCard. I was flown business. Now, a few years back I flew all the time for work. I had tons of miles racked up, I was an old pro at traveling. No more. I rarely take a long flight and rarely ever without my family.

So, I really stuck out from the jaded, business men who sat next to me and around me.   was super excited to enjoy my flight. On my way to NYC, it was kind of a disappointment. I had envisioned a personal monitor where I could catch up on all the movies I’ve missed for the last 4 years. But sadly,  Continental business class only had a tiny screen tat hung a few rows ahead and a B movie to boot.  The food was edible. That was it, nothing great.

Happily, coming home, which is the longer leg of the trip, I was flown back on Delta. Now, they know what to do. The seats were really big. I had a TV screen and on flight 709 I had the nicest flight attendants I could remember. They rushed over to me and asked if I wanted a drink. I was like, “me?” I started to say I was fine with water when I saw all the boozy businessmen around me slurping up the free drinks I changed my mind.

“I want a gin and tonic. Right, I can have one?” They laughed, yes, I could. They came around to take our orders for dinner and when I said, “steak and mac and cheese.” The flight attendant said, “You are one of the few people who ordered.”

I turned to the accountant next to me. “What are you thinking?” I wanted to yell, “Quit showing off that you LEAVE your house!”

Man in gray flannel suit, “I will eat dinner when I get home.”

ME: “That will be in like, 8 hours!”

I stashed the pulp novel I had bought at the airport and hunkered down to watch movie after movie. First one was 500 days of Summer. Enjoyed it. Think that kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun did well. Then I watched an episode of Big Love. Completely missed the last season when we tried to save money and canceled HBO (since been reinstated) and 4 Christmases with Vince Vaughn. I was sure it would be dumb, oh,not, this easy audience member. I laughed and laughed, and I sopped up every bite of the kid-you-not-delicious steak and very good mac and cheese. When the fresh cookies came out I would have had to unbutton my pants, but thinking ahead, I wore my maternity pants!

I was so excited I elicited a few chuckles from the working staff. “Is it okay if I have another drink?”

Here is one thing I thought of while traveling.

Mommy Vacation

Does this look like a vacation?  For a mom away from home, it can be (it’s me in Austin for Hillary last spring).

Clinton 2008


My husband has to go out of town for work all next week. So it got me thinking that before I get any LARGER and certainly before our crown prince is born, I need to take some trips. I cannot leave Viv for more than 2 and half days. I just don’t feel good about that, and I can only leave her at all if Mark or my sisters can be with her. So my thought is that when he comes back, I should take a trip. Especially since after February, I’m going to be one grounded momma for a while.

Here are my ideas; what do you think?

1) Go to a spa/fat farm up in Ojai or something like that. It’s nice to be out of the city. I did this when I was about 4 months pregnant with Vivien and it was great to take walks, talk with other ladies, and eat bran muffins and poached fish.

2) Don’t be idle and get a tan. In ’04, I went to Miami and campaigned for Kerry. I have a condo there (aka, the money pit, as I am one of those people whose mortgage is now more than the appraised value of my property). I have friends in Miami, and Florida is a crucial swing state. So I could go to Miami, knock on some doors for Obama, and get to take a few dips in the Atlantic. Campaigning is tiring, but fun. Just wonder if I can hack it in my present state. But when I think of a possible President Palin, I wet myself.

3) I haven’t come up with three: do you have any ideas?

Where It All Started

It’s not often you can take a child back to the place where her mom was conceived. This summer I was able to do just that. On our way out of Yosemite we stopped for a snack in Tuolumne Meadows. Tuolumne Meadows is an area in Yosemite National Park, and incidentally a place where my folks told me years ago they decided to “start” me. I always liked that, thought it was cool that I could visit a beautiful place that inspired my parents to expand their family. I remember a friend of mine whose parents were teenagers when she was born said, “I’d have to go in the back of a ’65 Volkswagen.”

In college a rock-climbing friend of mine showed me a map of Tuolumne, and on it there is a “Daff Dome.” Whata ya know?

Now here I am with my daughter in Tuolumne taking an ice cream break.

I am still not exactly sure where “it,” happened but they said it was in a cabin.

Weekend in New Orleans

Well, the boogie weekend wound up being pretty fun. I reconnected with the man who claims to be my husband. We actually went out with adult friends both nights and DIDN’T TALK ABOUT KIDS. It was good that some of them don’t have children. I could feel my brain opening up. We bagged out of the Tales of the Cocktail for the weekend. I went to one seminar on Friday and yes, a seminar about booze can be really boring. Even when it’s about hooch, people, you need to involve the audience. They all sound like Ben Stein.

Mark Peel and Daphne Brogdon in New Orleans

Since Mark works most nights, it was a treat to be out with him. I also enjoyed the heat because I could wear my new maxi dress. This is a trend I am partaking in. (I am a firm believer in picking and choosing your trends; Uggs and Crocs went on without me.) It’s also remarkably similar to the dress I wore when I was 6 (in the ’70s), the first time I went to New Orleans.

Rue de la Course mug

I had the best mocha ever at the cafe Rue de la Course on Magazine Street, hence the photo to record the moment. And I made Mr. Fancy-Pants Chef chow on the fried wonders of a beignet. Yum.

Mark Peel enjoys a beignet

Honestly, the New Orleans I saw, French Quarter and Uptown, looked better than when I visited 10 years ago to eat nutria for the Dr. Dean Edell Show. Seemed like there were fewer drunks bugging this time, but back then I was usually walking alone. Our friends who live there had many Katrina horror stories, but they were glad to see tourism was up.

New Orleans is great but I did, however, take issue with the excessive air conditioning. It was hot out, but why the deep freeze indoors? Really uncomfortable. I met one lady who liked it. She said, “It’s an antidote to hot flashes!” My friend Beth came in from Nashville and she said you always need a cardigan in the South. And I was worried about humidity! Silly me.

Vivien was fine with my sister while I was gone, but definitely paid for it the day we came back (at the crack a– of dawn, ’cause I missed her). She was very clingy and needy and wanted to know where I was at all times. Poor baby. By night time she was better.

It was still worth it to go, which I have to remember the next time I resist a similar trip.

My Boogie Weekend

So, I am gearing up to leave early this morning for my weekend away with my husband. I should be psyched, but I’m not. I always feel anxious when I leave Vivien.

Buffett's Cafe
Creative Commons License photo credit: ViNull

I know she will have a great time. My sister Cecily and niece Lily, whom she adores, will move in our house and take care of her for the two days I am gone. I have left detailed notes including what channels she can watch (no Disney), the nearest emergency room, and plenty of chicken tenders. I need to snap out of it.

Nearly 3 days (I took a red eye, so it wasn’t a full 72 hours) is the longest I have ever been away from her. I hear of mothers/parents leaving their kids for a week. I would find that very difficult. I met a woman on a plane once, nice woman, no horns on her head, mother of three, who said when her first baby was a newborn, she left him for six weeks while she and her husband went to Europe. Her parents took care of the kid while she pumped all over Italy and France. I am still struck dumb by that.

I have a one-day gig in San Diego next week for Fox and I’m already trying to figure out how I can take Vivien with me and go to the Zoo or Legoland and or something very Southern California.

When I have spent a few days away, usually in San Francisco or NYC, truth be told, I have a good time. Relaxing, having meals where I don’t have to give someone some crayons or stickers so I can eat. But leaving is so hard. And, let’s face it, post 9/11-travel ain’t what it used to be.

Oh, and you’ll love this classic male/female difference. My husband is already in New Orleans for work (he is attending Tales of the Cocktail – yes, a convention) and I asked, “How’s the hotel room?”

Mark: “It’s got clean sheets and a TV.”

Me: “Are you kidding?”

Mark: “No.”

Me: “So I am going to fly 4 hours, leave my child for 2 days, and I assume you want to have sex at some point – in a room that you describe as ‘clean sheets and a TV’?”

Mark: “Do you want me to move rooms?”

Me: “I think you will be happier if you do.”

Did he just meet me?

I have to put on some Zydeco and get in the mood.