Things are Different in the Islands

IMG_1585Things are different in Turks and Caicos. For one, everything is really expensive. I mean really expensive, nine dollars for a case of water, six dollars for a tiny bottle of honey, three dollars and fifty cents for one avocado. I know they have to import everything, but I still think there must have been a little price gouging going on at the Graceway IGA, though I can’t be sure. I suppose I could have stopped in the “real cheap” grocery store tucked inside the industrial park, to test my theory, but I didn’t think the family, all cozy in what passes for a minivan on TCI, was up for a side trip.

Speaking of our ride, which truly needed pimping, the steering wheel was on the wrong side, unless you’re from Turks and Caicos, which then would make it on the right side. Apparently, this is convenient for driving on the left side, which is all terribly confusing the first few times you drive, especially when navigating traffic circles, or roundabouts as the locals like to say. Seat belts are also a bit different in that they don’t retract and lap belts are still a thing, or maybe just a thing in the twenty year old “minivan” we were driving. Who can be sure? I thought I would be able to look in someone else’s rental car to check out their seatbelt situation, since we were instructed to leave all the windows down and the car unlocked every time we parked, but no one else seemed to follow this rule, leaving us to wonder if this was really a rule, or if someone at the local car rental agency was just messing with us.

Belongers (yes, that’s really what the people of Turks and Caicos are called) don’t seem to have the same fear of pesticides that we do, or, at least, I do. When a trail of ants appeared on our counters we called the front desk in the hope that some bait would be laid down, and voila, the ants would disappear by morning. Instead, housekeeping showed up with a nondescript spray bottle, ready to fumigate the hell out of our unit. I politely declined, recounting my old days in Florida, where ants ruled the scene. It was while living there that my pediatrician posed the question, rather rudely, I might add, “Would you rather live with a few ants, or poison your child?”

After sending housekeeping away, ten minutes later, the maintenance man showed up with some traps from 1979, that even the ants avoided at all costs. I decided to embrace the ants as our friends.

Belongers, unlike Americans, don’t make a big deal about trivial things, like finding poop in the pool. When said poop was discovered, maintenance was called, came out, looked at it with disgust, and walked away, which I guess is island protocol when dealing with these kinds of inconveniences, squashing the assumption that poop in the pool is an actual problem that needs to be solved. Only after a repeated phone call to the front desk, informing them, that in fact, the poop was still in the pool, did someone begrudgingly come out and fish that sucker out. Close the pool, why bother? First the ants and now the poop? I could almost hear them thinking, Americans are soft.

This island nonchalance, not to be mistaken with rudeness, because in fact, no one was rude, or in a rush, or overly chatty, or overly concerned about anything (see above poop paragraph), left me with the impression that they thought it was I who was a bit too anal. When asking about food allergies:

Me: Does the pancake mix contain any nuts or sesame? (Just for the record, some, like Krusteaz do.)
Island Lady: No, they just mix in some eggs and milk.
Me: So, there’s a mix? Do you have a box I could read?
Island Lady: (Hesitates) No. We threw it out.
Me: But you know it doesn’t contain nuts.
Island Lady: (Shrugs. Not an I don’t know shrug, but you’re boring me kind of shrug.)
Me: Ok, we’ll stick with the oatmeal.

When renting snorkeling equipment: 

Me: (sounding fussy and overprivileged by just asking the question) Do you sanitize this stuff?
Island Lady: (sounding mildly bored) No one’s every come back and told me they got sick.

Do you notice a pattern (besides the fact that my family waits for me to ask all the obvious questions)? Not only are Belongers nonchalant about everything, but no one ever answers a question. I don’t know if this is genius or subterfuge.

Regardless, I took my equipment upstairs to my room and washed it, but my children put her methods to the test, since they popped their breathing tubes in their mouths within seconds of it being handed to them. IMG_1638To her credit, no one’s gotten sick, yet. Maybe I do need to relax.

The airport is quite different in Turks and Caicos, too. Why bother with order, or speed for that matter? Airline paperwork already informs everyone that they need to be at the airport at least two hours before their flight. Why not make use of that time? Sitting in an air-conditioned space waiting to be called to your unnumbered gate is a waste of time, and sitting too much causes early death (hasn’t anyone been reading the news?), so the Belongers are actually doing you a favor.

The fact that some people can bypass these silly little lines of sweaty, sunburned, annoyed (and annoying) people by finding just the right valet, or feigning illness (as was the case with the lady, who I sat with on the plane, who magically perked up by the end of our flight), the rest of us sheep can try, like we did, prepared with the Benjamin’s to get out of that miserable line, but if you are unlucky enough to be followed by the really pissed off guy who raises holy hell that your attempting to pay  someone off to cut the line, well, then you’re screwed. If this happens, you will spend the rest of your day and flight scowling at that red, freckled faced man, while he stares right back, ready to throw down if he so much as utters a word to you. Lines and heat are not a good combination.

Not that I think I’m above waiting in a line, but listen, I tried to check in at one of those kiosks, which along with the Belongers, don’t operate the same as the do in the United States, and it wasn’t having it. It checked my husband in, in row 22, in a seat by himself (like that’s happening). It tried to put my children in an emergency exit row until I had to fess up that the kids were too young. The computer then booted me out and would only print one boarding pass, my husband’s. That left my six year old, nine year old, and my eleven year old, who has food allergies, sitting alone on a plane where every meal and snack, from it’s chex mix to its fruit tray and M&M’s, contained nuts. I mean who the hell even knew there was such a thing as almond M&M’s?  I was not happy and so, willing to shovel out some cash to get to the front of that line in attempt to get our seats changed. That is until freckles butted in.

We just made it through the check-in line before we had to make a last minute rush through security, which would have never happened had I not been obsessively stalking the freckled face man, whom, in the end, I just have to add, I beat out of the check in counter. As we stood, in yet another ridiculously long line, I watched him cut the line and head right through security. I’d call him an ass for doing what he complained about us doing, but watching him was the only we way we found out that they had opened up a separate line for our flight because it was getting ready to board. Announcements, who needs them? If you’re not in the know, and by not in the know, I mean minding your own business, then you’re out of luck.

Once on the plane, which we had to hike to in the blazing heat, I expressed my concerns to the flight attendant, as instructed. Not a Belonger himself, and thus accustomed to some kind of rules, he was the first person ready to address my problems, which were his problems too, since in the end, the counter agent still sat two of my kids in the exit row, even though they couldn’t be there. And work it out he did, for a lot of families, who were also scattered all over the plane, yet, I’m sure could have easily been sat together if there was just some sort of system. It would have been comical, watching the chaos that ensued, had I not had to live through it. In the end, though, the whole seating fiasco bought us an extra ten minutes on the runway, which was probably the only reason my luggage, tagged fifteen minutes before, made it on board. Maybe these islanders do have it all figured out.

Whew!  Yes, that’s how I felt when everyone was seated, me across the aisle from my nine year old son, in the last row of the plane, my food allergic child and daughter, with a doctor next to them, my husband behind them, next to another woman and her nut allergic child. I’d say given the circumstances, it couldn’t have worked out any better. The best part, with all this other shit going down, I didn’t even have time to indulge my fear of flying.

After reading this, you might get the impression that I had a miserable trip, but nothing could be further from the truth. It was a wonderful vacation on a beautiful island. But, when we returned to the United States, and walked directly from the plane into the brand new, desolate international terminal, muzak playing softly in the background, I was tempted to fall to my knees and kiss the ground. Things are different in the United States, and boy, am I grateful.

 

A Personal History of Valentine’s Day, or Why I Hate Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Day? Better buy those roses!

Valentine’s Day? Better buy those roses!

I have never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. It’s a holiday with murky beginnings that has evolved into a huge money-maker for the greeting card business. Why the hate? Because, much like New Year’s Eve, it’s always been a big fat disappointment. A lot of hoopla that never lives up to the hype. Maybe it’s me, but I feel like Valentine’s Day is all about comparisons and everyone knows that comparison is the thief of joy.

My hate for Valentine’s Day has been a long time in the making. It started when I was a young girl and would wake up to a card, some candy, and maybe a little bear from my parents. Sure, I was thrilled to get something, until I went to school and was bombarded by my friends (okay, friend) who received beautiful jewelry from her father, which made my little white bear look pretty lame. As it turns out, long before social media existed, it was still possible to feel bad about your own life, all you needed were one or two spoiled friends who liked to brag and whose parents were a tad bit excessive. I can’t even imagine what Valentine’s Day is like now for kids. How many love themed Instagrams do you think they have to endure, before they declare themselves loveless losers doomed to a life of loneliness?

As I got older, Valentine’s Day became less about a token of love from my parents and more about tokens of “love” from the opposite sex, which I’m sure I received none of while in middle school, which is probably normal, but again, when you have a friend or two whose normal is being adored by the opposite sex, well, then your lack of Valentine’s becomes a black mark on your soul. How’s that for middle school drama?

By high school, if I didn’t have a boyfriend then I was just ready for the damn day to be over already.  Yea, it’s all about love, unless you don’t have any love in your life, and then it’s 24 hours of feeling like a loser. Of course, that was also the exact time of year that student council sold candy grams as a fundraiser. For Valentine’s Day, students could buy candy and attach a love note to be delivered to their object of affection’s homeroom, while the loveless loser sat next to them embarrassed by their own empty desk. If you were lucky, a kind friend with a little extra change would send you one, as well as that secret crush, who you were well aware of but played dumb, because they were the last person on earth you wanted to go out with. Good times.

College was no better, but at least, there were parties with plenty of beer to help you forget about the godforsaken “holiday.”

You would think as I matured into a cynical young adult that Valentine’s Day would have lost its power over me, but you would be wrong. At that stage in my life, my friends were my social life, so if Valentine’s Day fell on a weekend and I was the only single lady, then my ass was sitting home, condemned to watching sappy love movies and commercials that just reinforced what I already knew. Nobody loved me.

As my boyfriend became steady and eventually turned into my husband, I still found the pressure of Valentine’s Day to be overwhelming, and in the end, disappointing. Why? Because that’s how all things that are artificial and overly hyped end. Have you ever gone out to dinner on Valentine’s Day? If you have, then you’re familiar with price fixed menus, cheesy chocolate roses, and below average food and service. Have you ever worked on Valentine’s Day? Then you have experienced the woman who receives roses from her boyfriend or husband, while your desk remains empty and you murmur vague things about what your significant other has planned for that night, even though you know there’s nothing. Who cares that you have told your husband a thousand times not to waste money on flowers that you don’t feel like becoming a slave too. Doesn’t he know how bad he’s making you look by not getting roses delivered to your place of work? Surely, he must not love you as much as Jane’s husband loves her.

Having children has just compounded the problem. Of course, I want to give my children tokens of love on Valentine’s Day, well, not really, I buy them enough, but there’s no way I’m not showing up without a gift. I can’t imagine sending them off to school without some candy packed in their lunch bag, so they don’t sit stewing all day over the fact that Johnny got candy and a new Xbox game, while they got nothing. But my children, especially my middle son, has a way of over hyping things, thus insuring his own disappointment and my personal hell. He has been discussing Valentine’s Day for three weeks, now (for the record, he is also discussing Easter), and he keeps asking me what I’m going to buy him.

What? How did we get here?

I have purposely kept Valentine’s Day simple, a red bag, some candy, a card, and a little, were talking under ten dollars, present. Yet, I can’t help feel like he is expecting more. He will be disappointed and no matter how unjustified my child is in feeling that way (but understandable, since I was once there, too, with my jewelry laden friend) it only continues to make Valentine’s Day a huge disappointment.

But there’s no escaping February 14th, the world will smile and profess their love for one another when they should have been professing their love all year long. Women and girls will hope to be wooed, while only a few wise men will figure out that Valentine’s Day really isn’t about them, but about giving the women in their life a way to brag, and the real wise men will have been showing their love all year long. Meanwhile, the rest of us will plunk down obscene amounts of money for words written by strangers printed on colorful card stock, purchase candy that is slowly killing us while making our children hyper, and buy stuffed animals that will only be tossed aside.

Happy Valentine’s Day. 

A Slave to Sickness

IMG_0733So, it turns out my kids can even fight about being sick.

“I have the highest temperature!”

“Your throat doesn’t hurt as bad as mine does.”

“You’re just pretending because you don’t want to go to school!”

“I get more medicine than you do.”

I have tried to play this to my advantage.

“Your sister didn’t cry when I asked her to take Mucinex!”

“For God’s sake, why can’t you just blow your nose like your brother.”

“Your brothers say the throat swab didn’t hurt!”

They have also used sickness for an excuse to be even bigger slobs than they already are. It started with Little Lady, who ran a fever from Saturday night until Wednesday. The first full day of fever she had a tissue fest. She burned through three boxes, which she left in mounds beside her, without once blowing her nose. One wipe, one tissue.IMG_0730

The second day of her fever brought such delirium that I didn’t even care that she used up another box of tissues that she, again, emptied next to her on the couch, I just wanted her to sit up and take a sip of water.

By the third day, we were five boxes of tissues in and she was still feverish, but, at least, ready for soup with crackers, except not that many crackers made it into the soup, as I found out when I walked in on her crumbling crackers in her hand and scattering them all around her. “What? It’s fun,” she said as I scowled. I’ll blame it on the fever.

About this time, First Son decided to get into the game and started running a fever, too, because, hey, why not. Not only is he a serial nose blower who also cannot find the trash can, he had a sore throat, too, which meant he had to indulge in a constant stream of cough drops, with the only good place for the wrapper being the floor.

Second Son, feeling like he was totally being left out of the Minecraft/Halo marathon that was going on in the house and jonesing something serious for a popsicle, decided it would be a great time to also run a fever, take over the downstairs couch, and go to the nether world (it’s a Minecraft thing).

His sloppiness is similar to his siblings except that there are no tissues because he refuses to blow his nose. Instead, he graces us with his non-stop sniffing which is enough to drive anyone absolutely bat shit crazy. As for his mess, eating a bowl of popcorn? Leave it on the couch, where I’m only letting them eat because they are sick. Sick of being surrounded by couch cushions? Throw them on the floor. Cold? Wrap yourself in a blanket that drags behind you and sweeps everything over and out of the way.

Then, there’s the sloppiness that comes when multiple kids are sick. Three different medicine dosing cups for Advil, Mucinex, Tylenol and allergy medicine. Three different dosing cups for antibiotics. Counters that have been touched by fingers that have been in noses. Refrigerator handles pulled by hands that have been used to cover a cough. Toilet seats that are always gross. Humidifiers to be cleaned. Sheets to be laundered. Toothbrushes to be sanitized. Blankets to be washed. Remotes, game controllers, iPods, iPads, computer keyboards….

I’ve become a slave to my kids and their sickness.

I’ve learned something about myself, this past week. While I’ve got a few good days in me of being a selfless caretaker, my patience starts to run thin as the amount of children I need to take care of increases. A visit to the doctor’s office, five days into all this crap, where I was sitting with three sick, but not so sick that we can’t mess with each other, kids, was almost my breaking point. The doctors office that tried, for the second time this week, to keep me from coming in, pushing me to provide at home care for my children. The same office where two of my three children, and not the one with the highest fever, tested positive for strep. The same office where I was informed that my children could not return to school for the rest of this week, and where my son, I think a little too cheerfully considering the circumstances, announced that they had a long weekend because they do not have school on Monday. What? Weren’t we just off for winter break? I’ve completely lost track of time.

Now, I am at the point where if my son comes to me one more time to tell me how much his throat hurts, I might just lock myself in the bathroom with my laptop and go to my own nether world. It’s not that I can’t sympathize, because I can, but there’s nothing I can do, and not much he wants to do for himself. He’s on antibiotics, he doesn’t like the popsicles, he won’t eat soup, doesn’t like tea, won’t sip ice water, and there’s only so much motrin and Tylenol I can give him.

Here’s hoping next week is better.

 

Staring at My Christmas Tree

IMG_0712I am in my sitting room, if that’s what the room with no real purpose is to be called, staring at my Christmas tree, wasting my time on my computer, researching things such as botox, because, yes, I am sick of my frown lines, but of course, too chicken to do something about it.

This is how things looked two weeks, ago. IMG_0407Merry Christmas.

December was chaotic. In between hockey games and family obligations, there was so much to write about, so many useless points to belabor, such as ordering my new Christmas tree, debating the merits of a trampoline, menus for Christmas dinner, but I had neither the time nor will to write about any of it, thank goodness for Instagram.

A visit to my sister's for an early Christmas celebration.

A visit to my sister’s for an early Christmas celebration.

IMG_0298

Gingerbread house making with lady's class.

Gingerbread house making with lady’s class.

A class party for my oldest with my first attempt at a pull away cupcake cake.

A class party for my oldest with my first attempt at a pull away cupcake cake.

Christmas came faster than I would have liked, and, then, we went away. Because I was so wired from the frantic days leading up to and including Christmas, I wanted nothing more than to be in Florida over winter break. I wanted to sit by a pool and relax. I wanted to spend the first day of the New Year in the sun.IMG_0627

I got my wish.IMG_0474

And a beautiful sunset.IMG_0636Then, after a long day of delays at the airport, with just me and the kids because my husband flew back Sunday, we finally made it home, Tuesday night. IMG_0703Now, I have returned and the aftermath awaits. My tree, which is never up after January 2nd, is still standing in all its mismatched glory, the mantle clothed in its garland and lights. The suitcases are still in the laundry room, half full, summer clothes strewn around the house, in need of being put away. There are things to be organized, tasks to do, items to be returned, and yet here I sit, on the computer, researching botox, which I may or may not ever work up the nerve to try.

I hope that writing this is the first step to shaking off the sense of inertia I am feeling, today, either that, or more coffee.

Happy New Year!