Chickie’s big night out

It has recently come to my attention that there’s the possibility that my oldest child has observed a year of her younger brother getting a lot of attention for repeatedly falling into messy chunks, and that she has since concluded that the best way to get love and affection in our family is by behaving badly.

[This conclusion is fueled by a deep need to believe that her recent rottenness is the result of incorrect conclusions rather than an honest-to-God sociopathic streak, and I AM OKAY WITH THAT.]

So over the last month I have been trying very hard to Spend Quality Time With My Daughter, because I love her, and because I’m hoping that doing so will help to curb some of the behaviors that make me want to rip her face off. And part of that strategy has been to essentially “reward” her for being older/more mature than her brother, by taking her to things he doesn’t get to go do.

All of which is preamble to saying that this weekend I took Chickadee to a cocktail party.

But not just any cocktail party, you understand. Oh, no! I took her to the closing cocktail party of BlogHer Food.

Now. I am not a food blogger. I didn’t know most of the people attending BlogHer Food this year, but a few of my favorite people were going to be there, and it was in Atlanta, which is practically my backyard (because don’t you have to drive an hour and a half to your backyard through crazy traffic? SURE YOU DO!), and it was on Saturday, and somehow it just seemed like a great idea.

I bought our tickets online and told Chickadee to go get dressed. She eventually came back downstairs looking like a cross between Blossom and Punky Brewster, which convinced me I was going to have the most fun date of anyone at this party. Obviously. We bid the boys adieu and headed off to The Big City.

You may or may not have gleaned from the years of writing on this site that I am capable of getting lost in my own damn living room. The advent of the GPS unit is really the only reason I can leave my house unattended at this point, so we programmed up the GPS and headed off.

Now, my current GPS actually has traffic updates built in, which is totally confusing to me. Chickadee and I are cruising along, chatting and listening to the radio, and traffic is moving nicely, but every so often the GPS would be all “You are now delayed by traffic conditions by five minutes. You are still on the fastest route.” And we would look around—trying to locate these mysterious “traffic conditions”—and continue on.

Eventually we made it to Atlanta and picked up Liza and all went out to dinner, because Liza was skipping town before the party and I wanted to see her before she left. We went to a Mexican joint and fell face-first into a bowl of queso. It was great fun.

Of all the bloggers I could’ve chosen to bring my daughter to meet, Liza is perhaps the most easygoing and friendly, and so I’d hoped that even my instantly-shy-around-people-she-doesn’t-know kid would open up and chat a little, but alas. She mostly busied herself with tortilla chips, despite Liza’s kind and repeated attempts to draw her out a little. (Pretty much the only thing we could get her to comment on was the apparent deafness of our waiter. No matter what we asked for, he would bring us the opposite. He came and asked if we wanted separate checks, we said sure, he brought us one check. Stuff like that.)

After dinner we dropped off Liza and turned the GPS back on to try to find the party. Do you know what about Atlanta? It has LOTS OF TALL BUILDINGS. And sometimes, when there are many tall buildings, my GPS can’t find the satellites, and it forgets where it is. The display just grays out and suddenly I’m driving… somewhere. And I don’t know which way to go. And I get VERY STRESSED OUT.

My daughter learned LOTS of new words on this trip! Hooray!

Eventually we figured it out, and I parked on the street when I thought we were kind of close, and we started walking, but then it became clear that we were still a number of blocks away and there were plenty of parking spots closer, so we went back to the car and moved it up, and then continued walking. And then we arrived at the party.

I had to go check us in and we were given drink tickets. “I don’t think she needs a drink ticket…?” I said, but we were told we’d need them even for sodas, so we took them. Into the party we went, where there was music and food and my child was immediately struck completely mute.

We had about half an hour of wandering around, eating a little bit, and chatting with a few people I knew. I had prepped Chickie for Denise and Tarrant to fawn all over her, and that’s exactly what happened. She tried very hard to look displeased but it’s hard to do when two grown women are telling you how much they love you. HA. (“I thought you were kidding about me having a fan club,” she said to me later. “I WOULD NOT KID ABOUT THAT,” I assured her.)

So it was all quite lovely. We redeemed our drink tickets for Cokes, because we are WILD WOMEN, and I gave a roving server the stink-eye when she tried to give my 13-year-old daughter a POMTINI—YEAH THANKS, NO, LADY—but in general it was all quite nice.

And then they turned up the music. Prior to that, the music had been pleasant. Once the DJ turned it up, we were pretty much at a rave.

[Sidebar: I do not understand the “It’s not a party until you can’t hear yourself think” mentality. How is it more festive to have hearing loss? What is fun about being with a few hundred people so that you can continually turn to one another and scream, “WHAT?? I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”? I didn’t understand this as a kid and I don’t understand it as an adult.]

Chickadee commenced walking around with her fingers in her ears. People cast her sympathetic looks and then gave me the “You’re such a terrible mother” glare. So that was fun. We left the main party area and sat outside for a bit, hoping that maybe after this or that song the music would get turned down again. I tried to get Chickie to dance with me. She died of embarrassment, then came back to life long enough to stick her fingers in her ears again.

We reentered the party room and made several slow circles through the area, trying to find anyone I’d already chatted with to let them know we were leaving, but everyone must’ve been down in the front dancing or outside fleeing from the music, I guess. So we left without saying goodbye to anyone, proving that you can dress me up and take me to the big city, but I am still socially maladjusted once I get there.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the REAL FUN of the evening, which happened on our way home. I fired up the GPS and we wound through the maze of Atlanta one-way and five-laned streets until we—finally!—made it to the highway ramp. This particular ramp is verrrrrry long and windy, but we were in the right place. I knew we were in the right place. For sure. Which was good, because…

… listen, my GPS does a display of a map and a little car. Which is fine. Down at the bottom it tells me things like which lane I should be in and my speed and which way I’m turning next and that sort of thing. But while I was on the on ramp for the highway, suddenly the display changed to… I don’t even know what. A cartoon, kind of? Of a giant highway sign that said ATLANTA, and six lanes of traffic all lit up with FLASHING GREEN ARROWS.

I have never seen my GPS do this before. And it freaked me out.

So naturally, I started yelling at it. “WHAT? WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?”

And my daughter—my sweet, shy, retiring daughter—who was up well past her bedtime and had barely said a dozen words all evening, started yelling at ME. “WHAT’S GOING ON? DRIVE THE CAR! EYES ON THE ROAD PLEASE! STOP IT!”

And so it was that we drove about, I don’t know, three hundred yards along some weird overpass while we both dissolved into screaming hysterics.

(Going places with me is FUN!)

Once we hit the actual highway, the display turned back into the map I’m used to. This did not assuage my displeasure. “I DO NOT APPROVE!” I bellowed at my GPS. “I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THAT WAS BUT I DID NOT AUTHORIZE IT! DON’T DO THAT AGAIN!”

My poor kid. I don’t think she stopped laughing—but in that hysterical “Oh my God we’re all going to DIIIIEEEEE” kind of way—until we were halfway home.

I still have no idea what was going on with the GPS.

I asked Chickadee if she had fun and she said yes. Then she slept until 10:30 the next morning. So I guess it all worked out okay.

P.S. Tomorrow I shall tell you The Saga Of The Fence. It’s possible it involves more curse words than my adventures with the GPS.


  1. Em

    Don’t all cities have tall buildings? They should really take that into consideration when they are designing GPSs. Sounds like you all had an adventure, whether or not you wanted to!

  2. birchsprite

    I really wish I lived over in the States so that I could bump into you and Chickie at some function like that! That sounds hilarious! I remember going with my Mum to things like that and although I too was a shy one, I did love that feeling of being grown up and being a part of stuff. You are doing a grand job of creating lots of fun memories for you both to share! If you ever bring her on a trip to the UK… give me a shout!

  3. RuthWells

    Awwww!!! Reminds me of the time I got lost trying to get out of my in-laws’ development without hubby. After the third wrong turn, a very tired then-9-year-old Garrick said, “We’re NEVER going to get home!” Good times.

  4. Elisson

    Navigating downtown Atlanta can have its exciting moments, even if you’re equipped with a GPS device. As many years as we’ve lived here, there are still plenty of confusing and tricky roads, ramps, intersections, and what-not.

    Glad you and the Chickadee had a good time. Bloggers and food – what’s not to love?

  5. burghbaby

    I have found the free maps app I found for my phone to be WAY more accurate than the over-priced hunk of plastic I used to bless with obscenities. It makes zero sense to me.

    Chickie? Shy? Harumph. I’m certain I’m still missing an ear. Although, Monkey had a bit to do with that. ;-)

  6. Lynn in Mass

    I LOVED it! I get lost VERY easily too.
    This weekend I had plenty of Mother/daughter time and this is my conclusion from my weekend. (My daughter is 10) I was told that I should not stare at her out at the softball field and I make her nervous. (which I replied I was just cheering you on and you should be happy that I am). Also I gave her some of the needed mother/daughter “talk”. Which I think I pretty much grossed her out. Sunday didn’t end so well for us as I struggled with her to get a school project done that she kept putting off.
    Here is to hoping that Mother/daughter time goes much better next time for you and me :)

  7. Brigitte

    I’ve never understood that loud music thing either . . it’s always freaked me out and given me anxiety attacks, particularly when accompanied by flashing strobes. Then I might go home and join Licorice under the furniture . . you know, if my home came equipped with a Licorice dog.

  8. Denise

    Funny!!! Whenever I’m leaving Atlanta, I turn off the GPS and just drive aimlessly around until I find any sign directing me to 75/85….makes for interesting trips!

  9. karen

    OMG I can only imagine what you’ve felt like in downtown Boston while it’s been under construction for the last 275 years or so. Well, that’s what it feels like.

  10. Daisy

    And we wonder why hearing aid sales are at an all time high…

  11. Becca

    My mother’s GPS is about 5 years old, which usually gives her no problems, but she came to visit my sister and me in Brooklyn and needed to drive through a part of town that’s pretty much all one way roads. Well, they’re building a stadium in the middle of it (Oh, the STUPIDITY) and the direction of all of those one-way roads changed. The GPS threw a fit because we wouldn’t drive the way it wanted to, and we threw a fit because none of us drive in Brooklyn – I only know how to get around on foot.

    Oh, and it was dark and raining! Good times for all.

  12. suzie

    When my now-14yo was 10, I brought her to a work/recruiting event at the large law firm where I work. Most people brought their spouses or other romantic interests, but I brought my daughter. We went to a very nice restaurant in Boston, and then to a Shakespeare play.

    She found herself so overwhelmed by the “fanciness” of the restaurant, and all of the adults that she did not know, that she ended up in momentary tears during dinner. It didn’t take too long to get her to breathe and to be okay, but I definitely had a moment of feeling like instead of treating her to a special night, I’d actually tortured the poor child. Fortunately, it ended up a great memory, even if it wasn’t great in the moment. (She did love the play.)

    Also – that GPS thing, with the lanes and the flashing? I *love* that feature! I am a real freak about being in the right lane, and the fact that the GPS is with me on that gives me great joy.

  13. Beth

    OMG!! I usually chuckle at your posts but this time I laughed out loud… oh my goodness… love your musings…

  14. Lynda M O

    Still… you’re pretty.
    So is Chickie.

  15. Megan

    Ah. Memories of driving in Frankfurt – city of the longest street in Germany: einbahnstrasse. All we could do was fix in our heads the general direction of where we wanted to go and then watch, sadly, as we one-way-streeted our way MILES in the opposite direction. They honesty have real genuine signs that say [in German, natch]: to make left turn take the following three right turns. Since I regularly get lost getting our of doctor’s exam rooms, this was NOT HELPFUL. Thinking back, it’s rather amazing I’m not STILL wandering the streets of Frankfurt…

    Glad Chickie had fun though – and it sounds like it was a proper mother-daughter outing since you managed to squeeze in Embarrassing Dancing, You Call This Music? [although, wrong generation so you get dinked a point for that] and Okay Long Evening So This Is The Part Where We Yell! In my experience it’s not a real night out without those moments!

  16. Linda

    Over Easter weekend, I visited Lake Nakuru National Park with a friend (I live in Kenya). We didn’t have a map, because the Rough Guide says that it’s practically impossible to get lost in the park. HAH. They didn’t mention that the sign posts don’t point out the most efficient way to the main gate, just that the road will (eventually) get you there. We drove and drove and drove and it was getting dark and we were getting desperate, and finally thought to try my phone — and the park is actually mapped. Between GPS and google maps we were able to find our way out, well after dark but without hitting any cape buffalo or encountering any lions.

    In conclusion, I love my phone’s GPS. And we bought a map.

  17. Chuck

    I’ve had a few GPS adventures myself. Technology is great, when it works. I did just buy lifetime map updates for my Garmin though. Also related to technology, your site is loading normally again for me now. Must have been an internet router hiccup of some sort.

  18. Mom2Trplts

    Oh Mir! I am a slave to my GPS as well and it hates me. My three most memorable GPS experiences:

    1) My (then) young son tires of me yelling at the GPS and suggests I switch it to the girl’s voice because she might be smarter.

    2) Out in the middle of nowhere, literally a desert, it announces: “You have arrived”

    3) It decided it no longer knew where Ontario, CA was and directed me to Ontario, Canada, right in the middle of a very busy California freeway, when I was late, and had NO idea where I was.

    Glad you and Chickie made it home. I was feeling your pain!

  19. Cathi

    So maybe THAT was the apocalypse!

  20. Brigid

    I was just telling friends last night how much LOVE I have for whomever invented GPS because it has saved my life on many, many occasions. Glad you made it home safely.

  21. Rinatta, the Health Conscious Mommy

    I am grateful that did not have a drink in my hand or I had not just taken a sip of something before the paragraph where you started to talk about the GPS fiasco. Because I am still laughing at that and I might keep laughing for a while!

  22. Heather

    It sounds like a very memorable night out ;)

  23. Nancy

    Brought back fond memories. A few months ago my daughter and I went out in Boston for her 30th birthday. We ate at a nice restaurant and saw Mary Poppins in the theatre. We gossiped and chatted over dinner, and laughed remembering that in that exact same theatre we saw the Nutcracker when she was 5, and Les Mis when she was a teen Those memories never go away.

  24. kapgaf

    I’m just glad to learn that I’m not the only one who screams at the GPS. We call ours Maggie (it’s a Magellan) and she sometimes tells us to “turn around as soon as you can without breaking the law”.

    And I understand what you mean about teenage children. Just keep doing what feels right for you and, hey, who knows, it may be right for Chickie…… keeping your fingers crossed can also help.

  25. The Mommy Therapy

    I so very much hope that I can have a night out with my daughter like this sometime. I love hearing about your outings with her. Dangerous and fun!

  26. Laura

    I was just trying to imagine myself at thirteen dancing in public with my mother. Yep, death by embarrassment.

  27. elz

    I want to know- was the food good? Great? Fantastic? Artfully displayed? I’m just imagining….sorry, got a little drooly. Sounds like Chickadee (and you) had a great time.

  28. Liza

    I am sorry that the GPS got you so insanely lost after you so kindly dropped me off at MARTA! And very sorry that the GPS lost its little electronic mind and made Chickadee yell at you on the Atlanta interstate.

    But I am not one bit sorry I got to have dinner with the two of you. And although your daughter is quiet, she made eye contact, and smiled. I didn’t think she was dying of embarrassment or from the attention. She made a few age-appropriate jokes. I thought she was quiet but charming. And you both looked fantastic. And it was VERY exciting to hear people referred to by secret code names! (Wait, am I confusing real life and the Internet again?)

    Thank you again for driving in early to have dinner with me, and let me haul you all over scary Atlanta traffic. It was wonderful.

  29. Cele

    My daughter is 35, I still don’t think she would fancy dancing with her mom in public. My grandson, yeah, Burp is all up for that.

  30. Katie in MA

    Perhaps – just perhaps – you should kill the GPS before driving lessons start. You know. Not-at-all-soonish. :)

  31. Stacy Q

    I KNOW that GPS. We HAD that very model and I recognize what you say it does.

    Yeah, we took it back.

  32. Jenny

    Driving in Atlanta is one of the most stressful things I have ever done. My hands are aching just at the memory of clenching the wheel.

  33. TW

    A group of us fled upstairs to the nice couches and less noise to chat. I should have thought to grab y’all.

    Ah poor Chickadee, even as I fawned, I knew my kids would want to kill me or melt into the floor if the same happened to them. But, darn, I am not reduced to a ridiculous puddle of nothing to say by oh…typical famous bloggers or people in general–but Chickadee is different. I remember talking with you about Chickadee WAY back in the day (in another crowded loud room but much smaller) and about how she is and isn’t like various children in our family.

    Too bad I didn’t take RJ with us (or better E, oh wait, the two of them could have given each other tips) she quickly gets overwhelmed at the loud parties. (oh wait, RJ just walked in and said “You got to meet CHICKADEE” so add one to the fan club.

  34. Sue @ Laundry for Six

    If we’re ever at the same cocktail party, I’ll meet you in the lobby where we can hear each other. But don’t worry about driving me home. I’ll find my own way.

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