You might have noticed it’s been a little quiet around here the last few weeks.
That’s because school is out and the ChecklistFamily has now entered into its regular summer-programming of slightly-too-ambitious-traveling.
We just returned from a 10-day, all-four-kids-no-paid-help, marathon trip to the East Coast. In 10 days, we:
- attended a wedding
- spent a night with Diddy’s godmom in her amazing, 220-year-old house
- visited my parents
- visited my fraternal grandmother, an easy 20-min drive from our basic homebase NYC hotel room (zoned for 4 people, so we had to keep sneaking in separately with our kids so no one would boot the 6 of us out onto the INCREDIBLY HOT AND STINKY streets)
- visited my maternal grandmother, a friggin’ LONG 3-hours-each-way drive from that hotel room
- visted MrBig(Ideas)’ mother and stepfather
- attended a memorial service for MrBig(Ideas)’ oldest true friend
Next on the agenda is a three-night stay with-all-four-kids in a rental in Solvang for the Fourth of July. Thankfully — and eternally gratefully — this whole thing is being organized by my amazing friend I-AM-SAHM, whose family we are vacationing with. (Yes I know I just finished that sentence with a preposition. It’s summer. Leave me alone.) Anyway: she found the house, she organized the itinerary, she is a basic rockstar and I am thrilled for this trip, really. Except that it’s next week and I haven’t even unfinished packing from the NYC Marathon. Still, this will be more fun than that because this time we’re traveling with REAL LIVE CHILDCARE HELP!
After that, MrBig(Ideas) and I get a few days to ourselves when we fly to Boston for a wedding, sans-four-kids. This involves paying THREE CAREGIVERS ridiculous sums of money to watch the brood while we’re away (damn you, people with helpful family living nearby or willing to fly into the breach on these occasions! I am ETERNALLY JEALOUS!). And originally we were supposed to be going to Vancouver for a few days, not Boston. But still, time off together without kids is generally a joy and I recommend making time for this sort of trip when you can, whenever you can.
After THAT, we load up the minivan with all-four-kids-plus-dog and drive out to NW Colorado for the entire month of August, to stay at the family ranch with my parents. Who, while maybe not the sort of grandparents who are willing to fly into the breach to provide childcare, are nonetheless the sort who are happy to hire camp counselors to run a custom-at-home camp for my kids and their cousins. I am very grateful for custom-camp. That’s why we go for ALL of August. And I way prefer driving with my kids to flying with my kids — and do hope to blog about that in a few weeks.
Still — what all this traveling this should demonstrate to you is that things are gonna be kinda quiet for the rest of the summer because I’m not here to write much — or I am here, and I am constantly packing — and also because, for some insane reason, the “schedule post” function of my WP theme is all buggy and doesn’t work and I haven’t had time to figure out a work-around yet.
But the whole point of this post was to tell you THE #1 ABSOLUTE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER WHEN TRAVELING WITH KIDS, which I remembered upon returning from the East Coast Marathon the other night:
GET SOMEONE TO STOCK YOUR FRIDGE BEFORE YOU GET BACK.
There is nothing worse than waking up the morning after you get home and having to feed your kids leftover goldfish from the airplane for breakfast. I know because I just did it. We totally organized the newspaper stoppage, and the dog sitter, and even taught our babysitter to use our ridiculously complicated alarm system so she could bring in the mail and check on the cats every few days. I even got her to clean out our fridge.
Know what I didn’t do?
GET HER TO BUY US MILK AND BREAD AND EGGS before we returned.
Big fail. I am now adding that to all my travel-lists. Go add it to yours!
Below, I’m re-posting an essay from earlier this year, which I can’t help but run again in light of this weekend’s NY Times Magazine piece, “Prep School Predators: The Horace Mann School’s Secret History of Sexual abuse.”
What struck me about NYT piece most was this exchange, right at the start:
Shortly after my arrival, a new friend walked me around the school, pointing out teachers to avoid.
“What do you mean? Like, they’re hard graders?”
“No. Perverts. Stay away from them. Trust me.”
I heard about some teachers who supposedly had a habit of groping female students and others who had their eyes on the boys. I heard that Mark Wright, an assistant football coach, had recently left the school under mysterious circumstances. I was warned to avoid Stan Kops, the burly, bearded history teacher known widely as “the Bear,” who had some unusual pedagogical methods. Even Clark came in for some snickering: he had no family of his own, and he had a noticeably closer-than-average relationship to the Bear, another confirmed bachelor.
I mean, seriously: this could have been written about MY prep school. EVERYBODY AT HORACE MANN KNEW about these guys … just like everybody at my school knew about Mr. Amazing-Inspiring.
So here it is again, because it bears repeating over and over and over again — the best defense is TEACHING YOUR KIDS TO QUESTION AUTHORITY.
ALL AUTHORITY. ALL THE TIME.
Once upon a time, I was one of four or five students in a Classics seminar led by a mysterious iconoclast. We were a tight knit bunch, loyal to each other and our tutor, perhaps slightly incestuous in our dealings with one another … and eventually that led us to murder one of our own.
Wait — that’s not me. That’s the plot of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. I didn’t kill anyone. The rest of it, however, is absolutely true of who I was and where I was the year that book was published, right down to the character of the teacher at the center of it all.
Seriously, it was like Donna Tartt had been taking notes at my high school. How else could she have known so much about my teacher, Mr. Amazing-Inspiring, whom we all called A-I, for short?
When I met him, A-I was in his 50s, had taught at my school for more than 20 years, and was a huge deal on campus because he had a reputation for breaking all the rules in a place that really, really liked rules.
For instance, A-I had been the biggest booster of integrating my WASPy prep school in the ’70s. And he’d been the biggest booster of co-education, which happened shortly afterwards, too. This gave him a lot of cred among the student body, because he was seen as being on the side of the righteous little guys (us) against the monolithic Man (the school).
We were angsty teenagers. We spent a lot of time thinking about ourselves in opposition to the school.
Anyway, because he was so cool, he somehow made Latin seem cool — probably because he taught it in a sort of volatile fashion. This is a guy who could get wound up enough about a dead language that he could lift you out of your seat. No, really. As in: one minute you’d be at your desk, staring at the ceiling, the next he’d be dragging you into the hallway and slamming you up against the cinderblock wall to try to get you to express a similar level of excitement to his own.
What can I say? He was cool, so Latin was cool, and somehow the small circle of us whom he selected for his honors seminars seemed cool (unlikely as it sounds) — just because he’d chosen us.
Which is why were SHOCKED — SHOCKED, I tell you — when he was summarily dismissed my sophomore year for having had an inappropriate relationship with a student. Not because we didn’t think he’d done it — he was famous for doing it. His wife, mother of his two young kids, was rumored to be one of the first girls who’d matriculated at the school. His babysitter, who he’d helped get into Yale, was widely believed to be his girlfriend. (Last I heard, they’d gotten married — I saw photos on Facebook — hello, people, yet another reason to LOCK UP YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE!)
So it came as no big shock when we learned the parents of a third girl had come forward and threatened to sue the school.
What was shocking to us, his students, was how cavalierly the school had fired a man who had served them for so many years, without offering him a chance to offer up an explanation, or a defense.
Let me repeat myself one more time: we knew he’d done it.
We just didn’t think they should have FIRED him for it.
Because we were stupid. And we were teenagers. And flirting with danger seemed cool.
How did I know he was a danger? EVERYONE KNEW. Not just because of his past behaviors — but because everyone — teachers and faculty — expected him to keep fucking under-age girls until he finally got so old he couldn’t get it up anymore.
For instance, when his babysitter graduated, a friend of hers came to me, knowing I was the only girl left in A-I’s classes, and actually said the words, “Be careful around A-I next year.”
And after they fired him? I actually had a TEACHER come to me and say the words, “I always thought YOU’D be the reason he finally lost his job.”
Why wasn’t I the reason A-I lost his job? Why didn’t he ever come on to me? Why didn’t we embark on the same sort of affair he’d had so many times before?
I was a stupid teen, sure, but I wasn’t a pushover.
I wasn’t the sort of kid who thought just because you were an adult, and you took an interest in me, I had to take an interest, too.
No, I was the one kid in my entire bio class freshman year who had refused to attend office hours with the lech who taught the class because I’d heard that at those office hours, he expected girls to sit in his lap. So I didn’t go — despite a full semester of his ending every single class by saying, “SOMEONE in this class has yet to attend MANDATORY office hours this semester. SOMEONE in this class is in danger of being docked 10% of their final grade.”
Instead, I did enough extra-credit that even though Mr. Bio Lechy-lech docked me the 10%, I still averaged out above 100.
Screw you, Mr. Science Man.
And screw you, too, A-I.
Not to put too fine a point on it, here’s the most important thing we can teach our children to help them protect themselves from bad guys in positions of power:
Question authority, always — don’t just fall in line.
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Every once in awhile I do some big grand parenting thing that makes me think I’m not completely screwing up our kids.
Not enough that these moments of Mama Mojo come anywhere near balancing out the constant “Therapy Talking Points” I provide my kids on a daily basis – She’s always DEMANDING us, she never says please! She left us with sitters she found on the internet! Sometimes she starts screaming at us before we’ve even finished breakfast! She won’t make us a back-up dinner if nothing on the table is appealing enough to our persnickety palates! One year she chose to attend a WRITING WORKSHOP for three whole days rather than celebrate MOTHER’S DAY with us! When one of us hits/kicks/bites the other one, SHE ACTUALLY TELLS US TO HIT/KICK/BITE THEM BACK! – but hey, we’re Jewish, they were going to end up in therapy anyway, so I’m doing them a favor by at least offering them something to “explore” while they’re there.
That said, sometimes I really do stun myself by coming up with something that actually helps them negotiate the world in a more logical way, and turns them into better people, with an actual value system, and umm … makes my life easier on the-day-to-day level, too.
And by easier, I mean less expensive. Continue reading “Experience Days vs. Gift Days: How To Exit Through The Gift Shop Sans Tears” »