Who’s the dumbass now?

On Monday, we were all driving home from New York, and Bucket was giving me a hard time about my rate of speed (which was impressive, I might add. 3 1/2 hours from West New York, NJ to Cambridge? The only way I could have been faster would have been with wings). I told him quietly (I thought), “If you were driving, we’d still be in New Jersey, dumbass.”

“Excuse ME!!! RUDE!!!” piped up The One Who Hears Everything from the back seat.

“Hey, how do you know that was rude?” I asked Peeta.

“First, you said ‘Dumb’ and ‘Ass’!” he yelled. “Dumb donkey?! Not nice, Mama. Second, I know it was rude because YOU said it.”

Ah, shit. Kid has a point.

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What happened last week

It’s been a week since the bombings at the Boston Marathon, and people keep asking me what it was like. It’s hard to put into words, really, but here goes:

On Monday, I took the kids to mile 23 of the marathon with our friend umommy and her husband and kids. We brought the Ethiopian flag, watched the wheelchair runners and the soldiers pass by, saw the Ethiopians zip by, and then went for burritos and cupcakes. It was a beautiful, sunny day (as I am finding the days so often are for terrorist attacks, strangely enough), and we were happy. We went home, umommy’s boys came over to play, and the phone rang. I was in the middle of getting the boys some water before they watched a movie, and the conversation went something like this:

My father, from his car: Are you listening to the radio?

Me: No. Why would I be listening to the radio at home? It’s not 1945.

Father (actually letting that one go): They’re saying two explosions just went off at the finish line of the marathon.

Me (thinking, Fuck. Oh, fuck. Shitfuckfuck.): Oh my God. Mmm, water!

Father: You should turn on your TV.

Me: Uhhhh, yeah. Oh my God. WATER IS DELICIOUS, BOYS! WANT SOME FISH ICE CUBES?

Peeta: Hey, what’s wrong with you?

Me, hanging up: Me? Nothing! Why would anything be wrong? Let’s get this delicious water down to the basement and watch some Wallace and Gromit, people!

I got the kids downstairs, ran back upstairs and turned on the TV. I was on the phone with Bucket when I saw the footage of the bomb going off and I almost dropped the phone. I was horrified and terrified and sickened and couldn’t stop crying. I sent umommy a message saying not to worry, that the kids were watching a movie downstairs, and then I stared at the TV, dumbfounded. My mother and siblings called me. My sister asked, “What the fuck with you and terrorist attacks? First, you were in New York for 9/11, and now this?” What the fuck, indeed.

I called Bucket later to say we would come to pick him up from work. “No, you aren’t,” he said. “Yes, I am,” I said. “I will not allow you to come get me,” he said. “Well, asshole, I will not ALLOW you to get on the T,” I replied. “It appears we are at a stalemate, so go ask the other people in your office if you can get a ride home with someone.”

He came home with a colleague that night and we sat in front of the TV after the kids had gone to bed. There wasn’t much to say. It was another terrorist attack. It was another brutal, vicious assault on innocent people. More children were maimed and killed. It had happened three miles from where I had been standing with my children. WITH MY CHILDREN.

The next morning, as planned, Bucket went to work and I took the kids to my mother’s house in Maine to celebrate her birthday. On the way up, I told Peeta what happened. He wanted to know three things: who did it; why; and if any kids were hurt. I gave him a long speech about terrorism and how the people who do it are evil and they want to hurt people, but they also want to scare people. I told him that if we let them scare us, they win. It’s okay to be scared, but we can’t change our lives because of them. We have to tell them F you, we are braver than you are. (Yes, I said it. It’s not like the kid hasn’t heard the F word before, people.)

We (okay, I) talked about how lucky we are that this is a freak occurrence where we live, and how people in the world live with bombs every day. We talked about how this hasn’t happened in Boston before, and how lucky we were that we didn’t know anyone who was hurt and that we weren’t hurt, and that Bucket and I would always try to keep him safe. And then he said, “Can we stop talking about this now? Which car is the best in the snow? Our Outback, right?”

The whole time we were in Maine, I wanted to be back in Cambridge. It was just like on 9/11 when I left Manhattan immediately after the attacks, but after a day or two, I wanted to get back. New York was my home, goddamn it, and I was going to go back there, even if I was pissing myself at the thought of getting on the subway. Now Boston is my home. I wanted to be in my house with my husband and my kids, in the city that I love. We went home on Thursday night, skipping our ski weekend with my dad because rain was scheduled. Bucket and I watched TV until about 11 and then went to bed.

The phone rang at 6:30. Bucket stumbled over and handed it to me. It said CODERED ALERT with an 866 number. Bastard telemarketers! Who calls at 6:30 am? I noticed they left a message, but was too tired to listen to the voice mail. I figured we could listen to it before Bucket went to work, just in case it was a real code red alert. Phone rang again at 7:15. It was his boss, saying, “Don’t go anywhere.” My heart stopped when I heard him say that they found the suspects at MIT and were chasing them. I called our voice mail. Shelter-in-place until further notice. I sneaked downstairs to watch TV. Bucket went back to sleep. (Men!)

I turned on the TV to see that we were indeed in lockdown. The brothers had killed a police officer at  MIT, and then went on a bizarre crime spree that ended up in Watertown. We have a neighbor down the street who just started working as an MIT cop. We have a neighbor across the street who is a Cambridge cop. Some of our dear friends live in Watertown. Two of them live up the street from the gunfight. I sent them a message and spent the rest of the day trying not to send them 29843098532 more. The MIT officer who was killed was not our neighbor, and our friends were safe.

Peeta spent most of the morning playing in the basement because our Wii conveniently stopped working on the upstairs TV. I could not turn the TV off. I figured we were safe, being about two miles away, but I was scared for our friends. I was scared for the community.  I was just scared. Even though it was 75 degrees outside, we had all the windows closed. The door was locked. I was afraid to let the dog out, in case The Bastard was in our back yard (Bucket laughed at me, but I would like to point out that he actually was in someone’s back yard, albeit not ours). My friend Lisa told me to open the windows so I could hear the helicopters, and I said, “Are you crazy?! He could climb in!!” and then opened them for 30 seconds before immediately closing them. I knew I was being ridiculous, but couldn’t stop myself. I read Twitter and online news stories. I put the live feed from WBZ on the iPad once Peeta came back upstairs. As our friend Daisy said, it was like a bad crime movie. As someone on Twitter said, it was like a season of 24. We finished off all the food in the house (we were supposed to be gone until Sunday, remember) and then realized we had neither coffee nor liquor. We became even more scared at the prospect of more days with two children and no food, caffeine or delicious drinks.

At about six, they lifted the lockdown. I didn’t feel much better knowing they hadn’t found him. Right after they made the announcement, all the neighborhood kids came streaming outside, shrieking with delight. Bucket walked down to the convenience store because the car’s battery died, preventing him from going to the liquor store. I stepped outside to get the mail after he left, and heard helicopters fly over again. I saw the cop across the street looking out his window. I didn’t think anything of it until Bucket came home and the phone rang. It was my sister, saying that they had someone cornered and there was more gunfire.

I was in the middle of cooking our last box of macaroni for the kids’ dinner. We ate, and I told Peeta what was happening. We talked about how crazy it was that the entire city had shut down so 9,000 police could catch one 19-year-old, and how that had never happened before. We talked about how we are lucky to live in a place with such a low tolerance for violence, and how bad guys in Boston would think twice before they did anything like this again. We talked about how something really bad must have happened to or been wrong with these boys to do such terrible things to so many people. We talked about how if he didn’t die, he would go to jail forever. He would never bomb anyone again.

I rushed through putting the kids to bed and came back downstairs. After what seemed like an eternity of watching police lights in the dark on TV, they announced that they had him. I yelled up to Peeta that The Bastard had been caught.

And it was over. Except that it really wasn’t. It’s always going to be there for all of us who live here, especially for those of us who truly suffered, which fortunately (oh, so fortunately) did not include me.

Cape Town or bust

I thought I was a genius when I was planning our trip to England and I realized that we could squeeze in a trip to visit our friends in Cape Town for only a few hundred dollars more. A genius, I tell you! Our friends Daisy and Ed had just moved there and would only be there for nine months, so we Had To Go Now. Obviously. Cape Town is only a little further than Ethiopia, and the kids made it to Botswana last year! Let’s do this!

I was a genius until about three days before we were going to leave, when my friend Rob posted something on Facebook about snow on the day we were going to leave. Snow. Lots of snow. FEET OF FRIGGING SNOW. The biggest snowstorm in years! Maybe ever! Snowcalpyse! You get the picture. So, I called Virgin on Thursday, the day before we were going to leave, to find out what I should do. The highly charming Irishman on the other end told me that all their flights were scheduled as normal. Given that he was so charming, I believed him. (I am prone to doing that with Irish people. It’s a problem, trust me.) Two hours later, I got an email saying that my flight was cancelled.

I called Virgin immediately. I spent hours listening to Pachelbel’s Canon, over and over and over again. I finally got someone, who kept putting me on hold and then coming back. She could get us out on Saturday night. Um, no. She could get us on Trans Aero Airlines. What the fuck is Trans Aero Airlines? Hell no! Finally, at 4, after two hours on the phone, she tells me she can get us on the 7:50 flight to London.

Nothing in the house is packed, except Peeta’s bag, which I had casually been throwing clothes into as I waited on hold. I called Bucket, told him to meet us at the airport from work, and I turned into a hurricane of packing fury. Almost everything we owned went into our bags (South Africa in summer and England in winter, people). I am a maniac. I end up with two huge bags, which sickens me (we are generally very minimalist in our packing), but I Just Don’t Care. I have five minutes to take a shower, and I use it.

And then the cab is late. Ten minutes late, which is not ideal when you are trying to haul ass to the airport and you only had 90 minutes to pack for more than two weeks for four people. Guy shows up, and tells us all about the Very Bad Traffic and tells me it will be $50 to the airport. Sure, dude. Just drive. I cling to Noodle in the back seat as we almost get in a crash AT THE END OF OUR STREET. We weave through the back streets of Cambridge, with Noodle yelling, I love this taxi! And Peeta asking, Where are we GOING? We make it to the airport 45 minutes later (usually it takes 15-20), and Bucket greets us. He had arranged for a taxi that takes cards, and surprise! Shady driver does not! He throws $50 at him and we sprint inside.

We make it onto the plane. Four seats in the middle, kids in between. Children sleep. I do not, knowing it is going to be disastrous, but I am still high on adrenaline and they keep serving drinks. And I like drinks. And I like movies. And I like when the children are quiet.

We get to Heathrow, and go to the desk as instructed, to see if we can get a hotel for the night before our flight out on Saturday. Woman behind the desk is a total frigid bitch. I am standing there, exhausted, with two children squirming, and she coldly looks at us and says no. There is no note in our file. I tell her that the people on the phone told us to check if we could get a hotel. She says no. She calls someone on the phone, sighing loudly and talking intentionally so I can hear her, saying, They want a hotel, because they’ve got KIDS. No. She can put us on a flight through Jo’burg tonight that will arrive tomorrow, but we can’t get on the direct flight to Cape Town and if we want to wait for our original flight, we can pay for our own hotel. Out of the kindness of her heart, she will put a hold on our seats while we try to reach Daisy.

I glare at her and tell her we don’t have Daisy’s phone number (this always happens when we travel and I don’t know why we never learn) and we will have to email her. She glares back and tells me there are computers upstairs. We trudge upstairs, and these are the things I say: I Hate This Country! This is why I moved from this godforsaken hellhole! Fucking England! If I had a knife, I would cut a bitch! God forbid anyone in this miserable pocket of the earth tries to be helpful ever! We should have left you to the Nazis! (I didn’t actually say that one, but I wish I had, because English people hate that shit.)

Most of these things are said quietly, so the children do not hear. Many are not.

We get upstairs, and of course the stone aged computers cost something like two pounds a minute and we have no change. Bucket goes to get change while I contemplate going back down and pulling the woman’s eyeballs out with my bare hands. He gets back, and I get online. By online,  I mean that the computer turned on. I do not mean that the internet worked at any kind of remotely reasonable speed, which cued more comments about British inefficiency (which is one of my favorite topics) and how England is like a third world country, with nasty, evil crones in charge, and why the FUCK does everything cost so much? I may have kicked things.

At this point, the children are withering before my eyes, Bucket is ready to strangle me, and we still haven’t reached the hotel we booked before our travel to see if we can switch our daylet room. We reach them after 47 phone calls (that each costs about a pound each) and yes, they can switch our reservation to today so we can rest before our flight tonight. I love the Holiday Inn. The woman tells me which bus to take, and we go back downstairs to The Bitch.

The Bitch is busy, so we have to deal with another, younger Bitch. Clearly, this one has done very well in her training, because she is as bad as the first, despite being 30 years younger. At one point, Original Bitch leans over to Bitch 2.0 and says loudly (without looking at me), They want a hotel, BUT WE AREN’T GOING TO GIVE THEM ONE. I consider leaping over the desk and kicking them each in the head, but I am too tired from the flight. Bitch 2.0 gives us our tickets and we walk to the bus.

The bus we are told to get is driven by a hideous, greasy man with long hair and the foulest, most disgusting teeth I have ever seen. He looks like the love child of Mr. Burns and a Roald Dahl villain. He immediately gets right in my face when I tell him we are going to the Holiday Inn. Which one? he keeps yelling, and I tell him the Heathrow Holiday Inn (which, by the way, is the official name of the fucking hotel). There are four Heafrow Holiday Inns! he yells back at me. I tell him the woman told me that we needed to get his bus, at which point he starts pointing his filthy, long-nailed finger in my face. At this point, I walk away. I can no longer deal with anyone at Heathrow, which is quite obviously The Worst Airport In the World, even worse than the ones we’ve been to in India and Africa. It is possible I make comments about British dental hygiene and politeness. Bucket takes over, and we get on the bus. Our hotel is the last stop, on the street I told him it would be, and is called (guess what?) THE HEATHROW HOLIDAY INN.

We walk into the hotel, and I immediately ask the beautiful desk clerk if she has our reservation. She does. I almost kiss her. She gets us our room immediately, and then looks at Peeta and asks where he’s from. Ethiopia, I tell her. She is Eritrean. She is happy we have adopted Peeta. She tells us God will bless us. I think that God has already blessed us by getting us out of that hellhole airport and into this wonderful hotel, where kind and lovely Eritreans help us without shaking fingers in our face or exposing us to their horrifying teeth and nails.

The room is clean and has two beds. We sleep from 10 to 2. We get up and watch TV and eat snacks. We reach Daisy, who tells us to come. Life is good again. We get the bus back to Heathrow, and it is driven by a clean, young man who has seen a toothbrush. We check in. We go through security. I am chosen for a random security check. A stranger puts her hands down my pants. I laugh. Heathrow is funny now. We buy the kids chips and candy and get ready for the flight. We are in seats of two, which have more leg room. Despite the leg room, I still take the opportunity to complain about the Fucking Useless Desk Women Can’t Even Put Us Together and How This Used To Be A Good Airline and If I Ever Meet Richard Branson, I Will Slap His Face. And then, we fly.

I don’t remember the flight, which means it must have been okay. Or else I blocked it. What? No! I didn’t drink so much that I blacked out. I wish! (Wait! I remember! I drugged us all! No, I am not joking.) We arrive in Jo’burg and have to go re-check our bags. We wait in an interminable line with a bazillion people until we finally reach the desk. Children are floppy at this point, and suddenly Peeta turns green and starts covering his mouth. Of course. He is going to spew. I pick him up and run through the people to the bathroom, where he pukes. Because hey! Why not? We take him and feed him some leftover candy and Coke and he perks up.

We get on the flight to Cape Town. I share a row with Peeta, Bucket with Noodle. I fall asleep for a while. Saturday at 2pm, 37 hours after we left Boston, we arrive in Cape Town and poor Daisy has been waiting for ages because the braindead whores at Heathrow gave us the wrong arrival time. Despite my guilt at making Daisy wait, I have never been so happy to arrive anywhere. It’s raining in Cape Town for the first time in months, but I don’t care.

We get back to Daisy’s and her kids have put out all kinds of snacks for us. The sun has come out, and Ed makes us tea. We sit and talk for ages while the kids run around, and then they take us to the cafe down the road for dinner. I eat a salad with green things in it and we sit outside and life is glorious.

I love South Africa already.

That’s a bad word

This summer, there were many conversations about bad words. We heard bad words (shut up, not always from me), repeated bad words, and asked about the bad words.

It all started because of LMFAO. Peeta asked me what sexy is. I told him it’s when you think someone is cute and want to kiss them. A few days later, he asked me what sex is. I told him it was naked kissing (shut up, I know I should have expanded, but we were about to get out of the car and naked kissing was enough of an explanation to gross him out and stop asking for a while). So a few days after that, after playing with his token Badass Friend, he comes in the house and announces, Girl Sex.

Um, what? Where did you hear that?

Suddenly, he is overcome with amnesia. What? Nowhere! What is girl sex?

Well, I guess it’s when girls have sex.

And we talk a little bit about how it’s probably not a great idea to talk about girl sex–or sex at all–with his friends (especially his best friend at school, who is a devout Muslim) and the subject is dropped.

Until yesterday, when we’re in the car and we hear someone say sexy on the radio. Oooooo! And then the questions start. Do people really have sex? Yes. Who has sex? Grownups. Ew! What about girl sex? And so on and so forth. I reiterate that he can ask us anything he wants, but it’s probably not a great idea to discuss sex with people outside our family, and he should probably especially refrain from this girl sex talk.

Peeta nods seriously and says he won’t mention it to Mohammed or his teachers.

Good.

And then it happens. Noodle starts chanting, GIRL SEX! GIRL SEX! GIRL SEX! and then cackling, That’s a bad word!

***

So today I am changing Noodle. She’s sitting on her changing table totally naked when she looks at me and says, My peeing right now.

I turn from getting her new diaper and yell, Noodle! NO! Are you really peeing?

Of course she isn’t. She’s just fucking with me, as usual. But she looks at me and asks, You say damn it?

No, I say. I didn’t say damn it (I really didn’t, you jerks).

She nods and then starts chanting, DAMN IT! DAMN IT! DAMN IT!

I tell her no, that’s a bad word. Kids shouldn’t say damn it.

Pause.

She looks me right in the eye and yells, GIRL SEX! GIRL SEX! GIRL SEX!