I’ve become somewhat famous (well, not really. OK, not at all) for writing about our family misadventures, but the truth is that we probably don’t have any more of them than any other family. It may seem like we have more, erm…foibles than the average family, but that’s because I choose to write about them for your general amusement (and also my own). I liken it to how the world sometimes seems scarier and more dangerous now because the news media covers every single horrific event in excruciating detail.
Truth be told, immediately following a Crap Family episode, I’m usually pretty mad, or at least supremely annoyed. But then, about three days later, I start to see the humor in it, and then the whole mess becomes actually pretty funny, in a weird, morbid sort of way.
Take last weekend, for example. We decided that finally, finally, after more than 3 months, my husband would paint our hideous, salmon pink, 70s-variety porcelain bathtub. Aside from painting the woodwork, and cabinet/drawer fronts, this is the last really major step toward completing the painfully slow and tedious bathroom remodeling project. We optimistically purchased one of those Rustoleum epoxy acrylic resurfacing kits, and my husband read the back of the box about 90 times, along with every web site article he could find. Because I have asthma, and we read that epoxy paint fumes are very strong, I reserved a room for us at the local hotel. We’ve been having strangely warm (but delightful) weather, so our plan was to leave all the windows open and let the house air out overnight, while we slept peacefully, and without danger of toxic chemical poisoning, at the hotel.
When I called to reserve a room, I was told that there were only 2 non-smoking rooms available, and both were suites. Since the price difference was negligible, I opted for the 2-room whirlpool suite, so my husband and I could have privacy. Because, I’m just going to be honest here….I love my husband madly. Amid the hustle and bustle of raising kids, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there was once a time when we were a couple, and wildly attracted to each other at that. We hadn’t been alone, without distractions, for a long time, and I was still naively viewing this weekend as a mini-vacation – punctuated here and there by brief periods of unpleasant work – during which we could rekindle our long-neglected, though not forgotten romance.
So, on Saturday afternoon, I took the kids to the hotel, while my husband stayed behind to clean and acid-etch the tub, to prepare the surface for painting. The kids were extremely enthusiastic about the hotel stay, and they chattered gleefully all the way down the corridor to the elevator, while I trailed behind them, dragging a cumbersome luggage cart heaped with the required 14 suitcases, portable crib, snacks, pool noodles, and fully-inflated floating devices that are necessary when traveling with children – even if you’re only going to be a mile from home. As soon as we managed to maneuver our way into the elevator – and I mean immediately after the doors shut – DJ, who is obsessed with buttons and levers, pushed the Call for Help button. Bee and I stood, frozen, listening to the automated dialing, and wondering what we should do, when a disembodied voice said, “Ma’am, is everything all right?”
I was incapacitated momentarily by the realization that there was clearly a security camera in the elevator, and therefore the entire hotel staff could see us, which induced a mental flashback of all the embarrassing things I’ve probably done in elevators in my lifetime, but I snapped out of it when Bee said, in a very grown-up manner, “Oh, we’re sorry…our baby pushed the button.” I finally found my tongue, and chimed in to reassure the invisible elevator lady. As the doors opened to our floor, I yelled, “Don’t worry! It’s OK…I’m so sorry, everything is fine…” and at that very moment, because it took me so long to get the luggage cart out of the elevator, the doors began to shut on Cakes, who was not all the way out yet. Of course, they opened right back up, as they do when they encounter resistance, and Cakes was completely unharmed, but she let out a scream of epic proportions.
As I’ve frequently said to my husband, I don’t think we need to worry about her being mugged, because she will scream like a banshee and fight like a rabid badger.
I could hear the elevator lady saying, over and over, “Ma’am? Are you sure everything’s OK?” I called over my shoulder, as we traipsed down the hall, “Fine. Everything’s fine!” while Cakes clung to my arm, and DJ asked repeatedly, “OK? You OK? Mommy, she OK?”
We passed an older couple, and they gave each other a look that read, “Oh dear God…please don’t put them in the room next to us. PLEASE!” After nearly 10 years of parenting, and 2 years of dragging around what is, essentially, a 3-ring circus everywhere I go, I’ve become quite accustomed to these looks.
After we got settled in our room, I took the kids down to the pool. They were excited beyond belief, and didn’t even care that it was slightly murky, and chlorinated to within an inch of its life. My husband arrived soon after we got there, so we all played, and splashed, and had a good time. DJ stood at the edge and said, “Ready….Two…Set….Go…JUMP!” and then leaped into my arms, no less than 400 times in a row. Afterward, we walked to the Dairy Queen for supper, and here’s where the downward spiral began. On the walk back, Cakes, who insisted on wearing flip-flops, tripped and fell in the DQ’s asphalt parking lot. She had only a minor scrape on her knee, and yet she screamed, in shrill, histrionic, crazy Cakes fashion, all the way down the street to the hotel.
My husband went home to put the first coat of paint on the tub, and I took the kids upstairs to get ready for bed. They were thrilled to be able to sit in the whirlpool tub and watch TV while they took their bath, except the tub wouldn’t hold water, and they couldn’t hear the TV over the bubbling noise, so the allure wore off quickly. When I got them into their PJs, and pulled out the sofa bed in the main room, I discovered that the blanket was full of diamond-shaped holes, as if the previous room tenants had attempted to turn it into a giant, green velour snowflake, such as we used to make in elementary school.
I kid you not. You just can’t make this stuff up, people.
I called down to complain about the blanket, and when the desk clerk brought us a new one, she regarded me suspiciously, and tried to look past me into the room, as if I and my heathen offspring had brought along our safety scissors and massacred the blanket ourselves just to annoy her.
When I finally got the girls settled, I set up the hotel’s “portable crib” (a pack-n-play), which had an orange, vomitus-type stain creeping down the side, for DJ. I gave him his cubby bear, and his ratty orange kitty, and turned off the lights, but as soon as I retreated to our room and shut the door, DJ began to cry.
At this point, I was becoming painfully aware that something awful was brewing in my stomach. I felt sick and crampy and miserable, and I had already spent an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom since we got back to the room (I was really beginning to regret the chili dog I ate at Dairy Queen). DJ absolutely refused to lay down in the porta-crib, and he freaked out if I even left his sight, so I had no choice but to take him into the bathroom with me. The girls gave up on trying to sleep, and turned all the lights and the TV back on. My husband returned, and he was upset. The supposedly “self-leveling” paint, which could be “brushed on, rolled on, or sprayed on!” was not leveling itself as promised. It was full of runs and brush marks, and he was very unhappy with it, but after 45 minutes of semi-anguished discussion and debate, he decided to go back home and give it a second coat anyway, hoping that it would turn out better.
While he was gone, in between bathroom visits, I tried, in vain, to get DJ to lay down in the porta-crib. He refused. It was after 10:00, the girls were getting tired, and I was feeling very weak and exhausted from dealing with my 3 spirited children, and my new friend, E. Coli, so I decided to just put the porta-crib in a corner of our room. I told DJ that Mommy was going to go to sleep, so DJ needed to sleep too. He nodded solemnly and said, “OK, Mommy. I will. Of course.”
He chattered to himself. He climbed in and out. He even sang a little song. He stood up several times in the crib and tickled my foot, which was dangling off the bed, and then giggled at his own amusingness. When I continued to feign sleep and ignore him, DJ finally settled down and went to sleep, probably because I had been silently making plea bargains with God in my head for a half hour, and He took pity on me.
I had only been sleeping for what seemed like a few minutes when my husband returned, looking forlorn and dejected because the bathtub still looked terrible. I could tell that he was also very disappointed to find DJ in our room, because he’s a married man with 3 young children, who hasn’t seen his wife naked in weeks, which in man time is more like YEARS, and he was clearly hoping to salvage what had turned into a very crappy evening. I told him that given my current horrific stomach scenario, nothing was going to happen anyway, so he may as well forget it and go to sleep. By now it was midnight, and we both fell into a fitful, exhausted slumber, which was disturbed every hour by DJ waking up, overtired and afraid because he was in a strange room, and crying, “MOMMY!”
The next morning, the girls woke us up bright and early, so we could enjoy the hotel’s carb-laden, but free, continental breakfast. My stomach was still in an uproar, and DJ took one bite of his Froot Loops and barfed all over the table. That pretty much clinched it for us. We decided that even though we still had several hours until check-out, we were going home.
Sunday was a warm, glorious, sunny day, but I missed it because (in between bathroom trips), I spent the whole afternoon dozing on the sofa in my pajamas. The girls played outside, DJ took a 4-hour nap, and my husband crouched over the tub for hours, scraping off the paint (which he had just applied the night before) with a razor blade, so next weekend he can start over fresh with a paint sprayer, and hopefully achieve better results.
And we wasted $120 on a hotel room, for absolutely nothing.
When we were leaving the hotel, wearily dragging all of our junk, and watching our kids giggle, and skip, and gallop down the hall in front of us, my husband turned to me and said, “Look at that…”
“That…this family we started.”
“Oh, that.” I was tired and sick, and not in the greatest of humors.
“Our life is funny,” observed my husband.
I wasn’t amused. “Nothing we ever, EVER do works out the way it’s supposed to!” I said, exasperated. “But it makes for good Crap Family posts, if nothing else.”
My husband smiled. “In 15 years, this will all be over. We’ll meet another couple, dragging their own little kids down a hotel corridor, and we’ll say, ‘Remember that time when we tried to refinish our bathtub?’”
I knew that what he was really trying to say is, “Someday, we’re going to miss this.”
And he’s right.
So yes, we are the Crap Family. But it’s the crap that makes us closer, and stronger, and better. So we get through it…together.