The mom’s guide to packing for your end-of-summer road trip in 20 easy steps

One week before:
1.  Set aside time to pack clothes and other items that can be packed ahead of time, to avoid rushing at the last minute.  Get distracted by a new show on Netflix.  Lose all motivation.

Three to five days before:
2.  Start dropping hints to your husband that “we” will have to start packing for vacation soon.  Hope that he takes the initiative to do most of the packing when you are at work.  Feel disappointed but not surprised that he does not.

Two days before:
3.  Retrieve suitcases from basement.  Feel accomplished.  Get distracted by lively text conversation with BFF.  Decide to do the rest tomorrow.

One day before:
4.  Gather your family.  Explain to them that everyone will be participating in packing for vacation.  Clearly and thoroughly outline expectations regarding what should/should not be packed.

5.  Check your daughter’s suitcase.  Notice that the only things she put her suitcase are stuffed animals, Barbies, gum, and two formal winter dresses.  Stifle scream.  Consider calling her back upstairs to teach her how to pack properly.  Decide it is just easier to do it yourself.

6.  Put last-minute items that need to be cleaned in the laundry.  Start folding load of laundry currently in dryer. Get interrupted by oldest child while folding to help open a yogurt container.  Watch as child spills yogurt on the floor.  Clean up yogurt with wet cloth.  Mop the rest of the floor.  Forget about the remainder of the laundry you were in the process of folding.

7.  Pack toiletry items.  Notice that bathroom mirror is foggy.  Freshen up the mirror with a spritz of Windex.  Continue to clean entire bathroom to complete the effect.

8.  Clean the rest of the house, knowing how nice it will be to come home to a sparkling clean home.

9.  Double check that everyone has packed underwear.  Almost forget to pack your own underwear.  Ponder how many and what kind of bras to bring.  Feel overwhelmed.  Take a 20 minute Facebook break.  Pack all of your bras, just in case.

10.  Check in with children regarding their progress.  Find them making elaborate Lego creations.  Get angry with them for not being done packing yet.  Chastise them for their inability to maintain focus on this task.  Send them outside to get them out of your hair.

11.  Check in with husband regarding his progress, since he is now watching Netflix on the laptop.  Listen to him tell you he is “done” packing.  Get angry at him for being done already because can’t he see you are working your butt off here?

12.  Pack snacks for the car.  Use small sandwich baggies to portion out multiple bags of Goldfish crackers with the intent to offer them at the first complaint of hunger.  Eat half a bag of chips standing in front of the pantry.  Forget why you are standing in front of the pantry and accidentally leave previously bagged goldfish sitting on pantry shelf.

Day of departure:

13.  Pack cooler.  Wonder aloud how a family of 4 could possibly need so much food for one week.  Put in some extra fruit and lunch meat, just in case.

14.  Lock all the doors.  Check all the windows to make sure they are closed.  Tell everyone you just locked all the doors so they should only enter and exit through the garage.  Watch as oldest child immediately unlocks and exits through the front door.  Stifle scream.  Lock door again.

15.  Start packing car.  Have the children help you carry as much as possible out to the van .  Watch as husband unpacks everything you just put in and repacks to his specifications.

16.  Empty dehumidifier in basement.  Notice that bottom is coated in mildew.  Scrub thoroughly with a toothbrush to loosen debris.  Rinse with 10%  bleach solution. Call family to gather around and admire your work.  Get angry with them for losing focus and not being finished with their packing.

17.  Check to make sure front door is locked.  Note that someone has unlocked it again.  Stifle scream.  Lock door again.

18.  Fill water bottles and place last minute items in car.  Shoo your children and their neighborhood friends out of the back of the van, which they have been using to “play hobos”.  Repack everything they pulled out pretending to be hobos.   

19.  Make sure everyone goes to the bathroom, and corrale your crew out to the car!  You are almost done! Don’t give up now!

20.  Pull the directions up on the GPS and settle in for the ride.  Only 5 hours of answering questions until your arrival!  Enjoy your vacation!

Ten reasons my kids will probably need therapy

There are very few things that we can be certain of in this life.  Oprah Winfrey used to write this column on the last page of her magazine entitled, “What I know for sure”.  I was always impressed that she found something to write about in this column every month.  I would run out of things that I know for sure after the first month.  But here is one of the only things I know for sure:  My kids are probably going to need therapy someday.  

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.  I came to terms with it a while ago, which I think will be helpful for all involved.  I am also a person of great insight, and so I realize that many of the issues they will have to work through in therapy will be my fault, of course.  Plus, everyone always blames the mother. 

Anyhoo, I have been compiling this mental list for quite some time now.  It is a running list, with new items being added monthly, because why stop when you’re on a roll, right?

1. I make excuses not to play with them.
I hate playing.  So. Much.  Why is this?  My husband likes to play.  I like to sit quietly by myself.  Sometimes I will play Legos, because that is not so bad.  You can sit quietly while you play Legos, and unless there is some crazy special piece that everyone needs at the same time, it is usually a nice, peaceful activity without a lot of conflict.  Playing pretend?  Fuggetaboutit.  I hate playing pretend.  There is nothing fun about getting bossed around by a mini-dictator, who believes she should have total control over every word you utter.

“Mom, pretend I’m a butterfly, and you’re a bee”.
“OK, hi butterfly, I’m Beatrice the bee!”
“NO MOM, you are a boy bee!  The girl bee is the queen and she stays in the hive!  Your name can’t be Beatrice!”
“OK, hi butterfly, I’m Benny the bee!”
“NO MOM, bees don’t talk they buzz!”
“OK, sorry.  BUZZZZZZ.  Oh wait, I think I heard the dryer buzz, gotta go take those sheets out immediately before they wrinkle…why don’t you play with your brother for a while?”

And don’t even get me started on board games.  Board games bring out the worst in my children, I am convinced of it.  But time will go by and I will forget the pain, the fighting, the weeping because they didn’t get to go first, or they had to go directly to jail, or they got stuck on a licorice spot, thereby delaying their journey to the Candy Castle.  Or I will remember that one time we all played without fighting.  And then the next thing you know, there we are playing The Game of Life on a family night and everything is going fine UNTIL someone doesn’t like their salary card and they got the mobile home and they spun a 10 twice in a row and NOW THEY PASSED ALL THE BABIES AND WHY CAN’T I HAVE ANY BABIES???


So yeah, go play with your dad.

2.  I take them with me to my bikini waxes.
Listen, sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.  It takes a lot of effort for a pasty girl with dark hair to not turn into a hairy beast, and I can’t always hire a babysitter every time. I figure it’s payback for watching The Wiggles repeatedly from 2007-2012. My daughter actually seems to enjoy the experience.  She will climb right up on the bed with me and chat up the esthetician, helpfully pointing out to her if she misses a spot.  My son once told me he doesn’t want to be a grown up, because he doesn’t want to have to get “sticky wack on his crotch”.  I stopped taking him with me for a while after that because, boundaries.

3.  I lie to them.
Sometimes, you just can’t tell your kids the whole, honest-to-goodness truth.  It’s not always developmentally appropriate.  It’s not always in their best interest.   Sometimes, the truth would interfere with my plans to eat most of their Halloween candy  their health or well-being. In my defense, if you can’t lie to your kids, who can you lie to?

4.  I throw away their art projects.
I realize that these works of art they bring home are precious.  I know they are a source of pride and that this season of construction paper turkeys and paper airplanes and egg-carton caterpillars coated in glitter will be over before I know it.  But seriously, where am I supposed to put all this stuff?  I tried asking the kids to sort out what they wanted to keep and what we could toss.   That went over just as you would expect it to.  Of course they don’t want to throw anything away!  How could I possibly suggest such a thing?  Instead, I wait until they are outside or asleep, bury that stuff in the bottom of the trash bag, carefully cover it with something icky, make sure nothing is visible through the side of the bag, and take it right out to the garage as the Mission Impossible theme plays in the background.

5.  I lie to them about throwing away their art projects.
Because no good could come from telling the truth in this situation.

6.  We have fun at their expense.
We don’t get out much anymore.  We have to make our own fun.  So is it really so bad if we blow off a little steam by putting a temporary tattoo on our baby’s butt cheek?


I know, you wish you had thought of that first, and now your child is too old for you to do that to them.  Don’t worry.  Just be creative.  There are lots of ways for you to have fun at your child’s expense.

7.  I give them mixed messages about conflict management.
If my kids are having a fight on, say, Saturday at 10 am, after I have had my coffee, I usually sit down with them, listen to both sides of the story, encourage them to share their feelings with each other and with me, and model for them how we can reach an acceptable compromise while being respectful of one another.  I am like Danny Tanner sitting on the foot of DJ’s bed, having a feel-good Full House moment.  Everyone feels affirmed, and I pat myself on the back for a job well done.

However, if my kids happen to be fighting at 7 pm on a Monday night after a long day, Danny Tanner is not available to help.  There are no special moments wherein we learn from mommy how to solve problems in a mutually agreeable and respectful way.  It is more likely to go something like this:

Child:  “Mooooooom, he/she won’t stop ______ (bothering me, following me, looking at me, touching me, hitting me, farting near me, etc.)

Me:  “I don’t care.  I don’t want to hear about it”.

Child:  “But mom, I keep saying stop and he/she won’t stop and…”

Me:  “I SAID I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT!  You need to solve your own problems or you’re both going right to bed!”

It appears that I am only fit to teach conflict management skills when fully rested and recently caffeinated.

8.  I don’t care when they have a little boo-boo.
When your mom is a nurse, you better not go to her with a paper cut or a hangnail and expect much sympathy, because you will get laughed off the stage.  My children still have not learned this, and routinely come to me with microscopic, sometimes completely invisible boo-boos.  Try as I might, I cannot muster the response they are looking for.

9.  I feel proud when the display borderline OCD behaviors.
I am type A, to the core, and proud of it.  Why fight it?  I make it work for me.  My kids sort their candy by color before they eat it, and I totally get that.   The other day my son was bored and I found him in the basement sorting all the toys, knee-deep in labels and organizing bins.  I had to choke back the proud mommy tears.  After he was done, he said, “Phew, that made me feel so much better!  It was a wreck down there!”  I know son, I know.  Sorting and purging is deep soul work.  Now go clean the garage and see what that does for you.  

10.  I am completely unable to “mom” after 8:30.  
I don’t know what happens to me after a certain hour.  I just can’t.  Not anymore.  So if you call out for mom past the witching hour, prepare for an eyeroll and a snappy response.  If you think that we are going to drag out the bedtime routine, you’ve got another thing coming.   If you have to vomit in the night, I will hand you a barf bucket and wish you good luck.  I am available for the general supervision of unconscious children only.  You can count on me to get you out if there is a fire, but that’s it.  

Don’t worry though, kids.  I started a savings account a few years back.   We’ll use it to cover the therapy bills.  


This summer I have been focused on preventative health care.  Not on purpose.  It just worked out that way. One thing my momma always taught me was to keep up to date with your medical and dental check-ups.  And my dad taught me to keep up to date with your car maintenance, which is essentially preventative health care for your car (I’m talking to you K.C.!).  I am very obedient with all of these things.  Plus, I am a health care provider, so I have to represent, you know?  So, in addition to being filled with the usual summer leisure activities, my calendar has been peppered with a variety of health maintenance appointments.  Super fun, right?  Don’t be jealous.  It has seriously been taking up a lot of my free time.  Then multiply those appointments by 4, because of all the other people in my family that also require check-ups and dental cleanings, etc.  OK, multiply it by 3, since my husband doesn’t ever go to the doctor if he can help it.  The last, and only, time in his adult life that he had a physical I had to intercept him in the kitchen on his way to get breakfast and draw his fasting blood work at the table, because no way was he going to the lab voluntarily.

We are a healthy family, and I am grateful for that.  I know many people for whom this is not the case.  Still, sometimes you get news that you don’t really like to hear when you go for your regularly scheduled health maintenance visits.  Like that you have a cavity between your teeth because you didn’t floss well enough.  Have I mentioned how judgy my dental hygienist is?  Or that your mammogram looks very normal except for the fact that you have “lost significant volume since last year”.  Um, what?   Or that your oldest child is “starting puberty”.  Sweet mother of Mary.   In the scheme of things, nothing terrible.  Except for the puberty thing.

But really, how lucky am I that I have access to all of these services to keep me healthy?  That is what I thought about when my heels were up in the stirrups, wearing that joke of a paper gown that just barely covers my altogethers.  There are places in the world where people do not get this kind of care.  I pay my insurance premiums, and I am going to take advantage of all the screenings and judgemental advice made available to me.

The other reason that I have been thinking a lot about preventative health care is that I have started working on a primary health care project in Haiti.  Many of you followed my journey to Haiti earlier this year, which was a life-changing experience for me.  I have been given the privilege of participating in some ongoing work with a nonprofit organization, and our plan is to organize some medical missions trips to Haiti again next year.  At this point, most of my work has been researching, making connections, talking to lots of people who have done this type of thing before, and praying for direction.  We have some good ideas of what we want to do, but have to work out the logistics of implementing the plan in a way that is helpful and sustainable in the long-term.  It sounded like a simple plan at first, but the more I think about it, the more complicated it seems.

I keep reminding myself that it is OK to start something, even if you don’t know how to finish it yet.  So, I am just starting, and trying to release my expectations of how it will turn out.  Our advisory board will have our first conference call in September and I will have others to join me in this endeavor.  We will figure it out together.

The health care system in Haiti is currently in severe crisis.  The resident physicians at the public hospitals have been on strike since March.  This has essentially shut down most of the major public hospitals, creating even more strain on an already weak system.  The doctors are protesting low pay and poor working conditions.  The average resident physician in Haiti gets paid the equivalent of $140 per month.  They are subjected to terrible conditions in their workplaces, sometimes performing medical procedures or surgeries by the light of their cell phones, with unsanitary facilities and not enough medical supplies.  If this is the case for the physicians and staff, imagine what the patients are subjected to.   In addition, the country is facing a widespread cholera epidemic, the Zika virus, and all of the ongoing health problems associated with malnutrition and poverty.  If you are poor in Haiti, the odds are that you will not get medical care if you need it.

The challenge is, how do we help without inadvertently making the situation worse?  Haiti is filled with NGO’s, and yet even with all of the good intentions, foreign aid, and support from well-meaning people, the problems continue.  The fact is that we could start this project and end up doing nothing other than creating dependency on foreign aid, harming the local economy, taking the pressure off the Haitian government to take responsibility for its public health system, or even take jobs away from local health care providers who need them.  I am sure that there are a whole host of other negative consequences that I haven’t even thought of.  When I start to think about it too much, I  feel paralyzed.

I think we are never going to be able to do it perfectly.  We are imperfect, and the system is so fractured.  So there is no perfect way to implement such a plan.  But there are some methods that are better than others.  I have been able to make contact with some people in the past few months who are currently doing similar work in Haiti, and their insight has been so helpful.

So listen.  Assuming you have health insurance, go get your colonoscopy if you’re of the age to do so.  Get your mammogram, your PAP smear, your routine blood work, your dental cleaning, your vaccines, and your physical.  Get your car serviced while you’re at it (ahem, Keri!).  None of us particularly enjoy all of these things, but imagine if you didn’t have access to them?  Be thankful you have these tools to detect disease (or a faulty transmission) early, so you can get the care you need.  Think of the people who don’t have easy access to those tools, not just in faraway lands, but here in our own country–though we can talk about that issue another day.