Never a dull moment

I really thought that once Chickadee got her license, my life would become less complicated. Like: immediately, and exponentially less complicated. Because everyone knows that just when you feel like your kids have reached an age of relative self-sufficiency, you are then relegated to 24/7 chauffeur status for years while they are too old for you to micromanage their lives but too young to handle their own transportation.

To some extent it’s true that things are easier now, in the sense that I am no longer driving back and forth to school more often than not, because I can let the kids take my car and they do many of the same activities, and then I can just wait at home in my apron to serve them a hot meal they don’t want when they get back. (I almost never wear an apron, so that part is hyperbole.) And while Chickie doesn’t have her own car, we happen to have a spare (you know, the haul-the-camping-trailer truck which, now that the camper is gone, is mostly the haul-the-Costco-shopping-trip truck), so it’s not a hardship to let her take my car and leave me out of the daily GOTTA GO TO THIS THING AND THEN GO THERE BE HOME LATER BYEEEEEE thing.

On the other hand, sometimes the kids don’t have the same activity, and sometimes they still need me for something other than rides (the NERVE), and I’m supposed to be working on work stuff and I am also working on book stuff (shhhhhh; the first rule of HolyshitIamwritingabook Club is that we don’t talk about HolyshitIamwritingabook Club) and I am trying to get back to exercising regularly and it’s getting colder so I need to cook and bake stuff to make the house warmer (that’s totally a thing) and sometimes the dogs need me to play with them. Stuff is still going on, is my point. And mostly it’s manageable.

The thing is, it’s a delicate balance, and it doesn’t take much to upset it. CUE OMINOUS MUSIC.

So. SO! Last week, Chickadee had a cold. More accurately: last week Chickadee was still dealing with a cold she’d already had for a couple of weeks, it seemed like. I cannot IMAGINE why that child doesn’t just get over illness right away, what with all of the healthy food she eats (“ice cream is a food group”) and the way she adequately hydrates (“but I’m not thirsty, unless it’s something loaded with caffeine and sugar, in which case I am totally thirsty”) and gets plenty of sleep (“I wasn’t up that late! I turned out the light before 1:00!”). Whatever. Good practice for college! But she had a cold, and it was annoying, as colds are, plus she’d started complaining that she was having trouble hearing because she thought she had some wax build-up going on.

Here let me just pause and say that I know the party line is that you should never put anything smaller than your elbow into your ear, but I clean my ears (carefully!) with cotton swabs and have never had a problem. Otto, however, regularly has to use some special wax build-up removal kit which involves squirting stuff into your ear that FIZZES and breaks down wax in order to keep his clean. This is probably a genetic thing. Or maybe he’s just weird.

Anyway, Chickie asked Otto if she could use his fizzy wax-removing stuff because she was sure she had a bunch of build-up and that was why she couldn’t hear. That was… ummm… Wednesday night. Otto gave her the stuff, she headed off to bed, and I didn’t think much of it.

Thursday morning, Chickie fairly slid down the stairs, wrapped up in her comforter, and curled up on the kitchen floor. “It feels like someone’s stabbing me in the ear,” she said.

Oh. Cold for two weeks + trouble hearing = AM I NEW HERE BECAUSE CLEARLY I AM NEW HERE.

She didn’t have a fever but it was clear she was unwell. I sent Monkey off to school without her and began dialing the pediatrician’s office as soon as they opened, and of course once I got through at 9:03 they offered me a 9:30 appointment, which meant my solicitous “Do you need anything? Do you want me to get the rice pillow? Want some juice?” morphed into “BRUSH YOUR TEETH! FIND YOUR SHOES! LET’S GO LET’S GO!!!”

The doctor asked which ear hurt and Chickadee pointed to her right one, so the doc said “Okay, let me just check the other one, first.” After a quick peek into the left ear, she said, “If that’s not the ear that hurts, I can’t WAIT to see the other one!”

Hi, double ear infection. I thought you were just for toddlers, but apparently the occasional visit to a pitiful 17-year-old sitting in a room adorned with Disney princesses is not out of the realm of possibility. Thanks!

We left the pediatrician and went to the pharmacy for some good old-fashioned horse pills. Then we went home and I suggested Chickadee take a nap, but she hollered something about some class or other over her shoulder to me as she ran upstairs to take a shower. Ten minutes later, she was out the door to school.

To be clear, I would’ve rather she stayed home… but… no fever, on antibiotics, she’d taken some Advil, and she wanted to go. Eh. Hard to get worked up about that. I guess it’s okay. (I did see a frame in her Snapchat story, later, of her lying down on an instrument shelf, captioned “The tuba room is a great place to take a nap,” so I guess she was still feeling crummy.) She went to bed VERY early that night without any prompting from us.

Friday morning, she still didn’t look so good. “Do you want to stay home?” I asked.

“Nah, I’ve got stuff to do, and if I miss I can’t march and we have a game tonight, so I’m just gonna power through.” I sent them off to school, but I wasn’t happy about it. Fortunately they had early dismissal, which meant she could come home and rest for a while before the football game. I had made her favorite soup the day before, so I reheated that and gave the kids big bowls for early dinner before I had to leave.

This is where we get back to the car thing. I can’t quite remember how we managed it before, but on game nights, I head over to the high school first, sometimes as much as two hours ahead of the kids, to prep stuff in the concession stand. The kids show up at whatever time their call is, and then Otto comes home from work, feeds and empties the dogs, and comes over to school after that to chaperone and take photos. This means all four of us end up in the same place with three cars. It’s stupid, but it’s also convenient, because now that I think of it, before Chickie could drive, they either had to come over early, with me, or Otto had to take them to school and drop them off, then go back home to deal with the dogs and come back later.

The kids were eating their soup on Friday afternoon and I headed over to school to work. I put the truck into Park and a light I’d never seen before lit up on the dashboard. Hmmmmm. I snapped a picture of it and sent it to Otto. (Caption: “Help?”) He said it was probably nothing—I might have accidentally pushed a button, which sounded like something I would do—and he would take a look at it when he came over. Okay, then. I turned the truck off and went to go get ready for the game.

A couple of hours later, I received a series of angry texts from Monkey because someone had been in the uniform room screwing around (allegedly) and his uniform had been knocked down and walked on and his jacket was filthy and MONKEY ANGRY, MONKEY SMASH. This was not an auspicious start to the evening, and I suggested he try to roll with it, and/or that he come down to the concession stand to talk to me in person. He showed up about twenty minutes later, wearing his bibs but not the unacceptable jacket, and it was one of those classic “stuck” scenarios where nothing I suggested was acceptable and he was just unable to get past the injustice of it all. I’d taken a break from working to try to talk him off the ledge and not only was I not getting my prep work done, I wasn’t making him feel any better, either.

Our unlikely savior just when things appeared hopeless was… Chickadee! She walked up to us in full uniform, looking so wan I was amazed she was walking at all.

“Are you okay, honey??” Instinctively I pressed a hand to her forehead. She was burning up.

“Um, [band director] told me to go home,” she said. “So I think I’m gonna do that. I don’t feel so good.”

“You’re hot,” I said. “I’m glad you’re going home. You okay to drive?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” she said. “I just need to… ummm… Monkey, can you take my uniform?” She was already stripping down, right outside concessions. Wait. PERFECT!

“Hey Chickie?” she looked up from where she was extracting one leg from her bibs. “Is it okay if Monkey wears your jacket tonight?”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” she said. I’m not sure she even heard me, really, but Monkey flashed me a grateful grin, and it turns out that her jacket fits him well enough (he’s taller, but she has a longer torso than he does), and that particular crisis was solved for the night. We gathered up her stuff and she headed back to the car with a promise to let me know she got home okay.

Monkey trotted off to join the band for march-in. Chickadee sent me a picture of our digital thermometer a little bit later—she had a temp of 101.

Otto showed up, got the update on the kids, and checked the truck for me, as promised. He said he started it up and no weird lights came on so it was probably just some weird glitch and not to worry. I proceeded to spend the next however many hours slinging food at people and would’ve been there until 11 or so except that Monkey wandered back by to see me during the fourth quarter. He wasn’t feeling good. Everything was irritating him. Couldn’t he just stay in the stand with me for a while? (Note: The concession stand is a small concrete box necessitating a complex ballet just to keep essential personnel in there from crashing into one another. No, he could not stay in there with me.)

I decided to step out early so I could sit with Monkey for a bit. We sat and watched the game—which turned out to be a complete heartbreaker, so tense and close that even Monkey declared, “I don’t even LIKE football and this is kind of exciting!”—until the end. We tried to get out of the stands ahead of the crowd, but then we had a decision to make.

“Monkey,” I said. “I’m parked up here, but you need to go back down to the band room, right?” He nodded. “We can try to drive down there but we might get stuck in traffic. Or you can walk down on your own and I’ll meet you over there with the truck.”

“I’ll stay with you,” he said. “I don’t really feel like walking.”

So we piled into the truck and I started it up. No weird lights on the dash. YES! Relieved—because I did NOT need any more complications this evening—I put my foot on the brake pedal and released the emergency brake. As soon as I did, about five different lights flashed up on the dash. Shit. I went to shift into Drive and… discovered the transmission was locked. I couldn’t get it out of Park. I tried to move the shifter a couple of times while Monkey expressed his concern, then turned the truck off. I turned it on again; the same thing happened.

“Let’s go ahead and walk down to the band room,” I said, with what I hoped was convincing enthusiasm. “It’s a nice night, anyway.”

Monkey peppered me with questions while I phoned Otto and asked him to come rescue us. In the end, it was a very late night, but Otto brought me my car, I took Monkey home, and just about when I was ready to go get Otto, he drove up in the truck. He offered some explanation of how he’d bypassed the transmission lock which I didn’t understand in the slightest, then spent another hour poking around out there (because midnight is the BEST time to work on your car!) and told me he was pretty sure he knew what was wrong but he’d do some research in the morning.

The next morning he was able to ascertain that whatever the problem was, it was shorting out the tail lights. And that’s how we ended up dropping the truck off at the dealership on Saturday while I drove behind Otto, praying the whole way that no one stopped short in front of him.

That’s all fine. That’s the beauty of having an extra vehicle! We dropped it off and still have plenty of cars. Except this morning I realized that I had to let Chickadee take my car because she has something after school and then an evening commitment, but due to the fun and games with the truck and a few other things, I never went grocery shopping this weekend. And I don’t have the truck. And we’re out of milk and I’m missing several ingredients I need for tonight’s dinner.

“Just make me a list,” Otto said. “I’ll swing by the store on my way home.” He’s swell. I took his phone and popped up his shopping list and typed in everything we had to have: 2 gallons of milk, 1 container of ricotta cheese (Galbani, part skim), 1 lemon, 1 puppy.

He’d been at work for about an hour before he caught it. “I’m not buying any puppies at Publix, good grief….” he texted me. I can’t imagine why not. Probably just because Publix doesn’t have puppies. It’s not like we don’t need a little more excitement ’round here.


  1. Navhelowife

    So sorry about the sick kiddo. And I feel your game night pain. My youngest loves marching band. I cheerfully despise it and am living for the first week of November when state will be done. Hope the truck wasn’t too expensive to fix.

  2. Otto

    See, this is why we need another car – we no longer have a viable emergency backup car.

    Let me poke around for some ideas …


    • Mir


      • Pippa

        Listen to your husband! If Otto can’t fix it and thinks you need another alternative, methinks you need an alternative. Of course, I think Otto is all that is right in a man person, so I MIGHT be a bit biased. Plus. You know he’s right. 😀

        • Mir

          I already let him put down a deposit on a new car, actually. If they truly go into production and we get one we’re gonna be arguing over who gets to drive it, though!

          • Otto

            You know, they’re cheap …. we could get two.

            Mine is going to be orange.


  3. Gennie

    When I leave my Google Docs spreadsheet shopping list open on the computer (because Wegman’s is BIG and doubling back is NOT an option), my husband likes to add random things to the list to see if I notice. It makes for occasional random snorty-giggles in the grocery aisles.

  4. Summer

    Brilliant. I just added “puppies” to all of our shared grocery lists to see if my husband notices. Knowing forgetful me, I’LL see the list in a week and go, “Who put puppies on the list?!?”

  5. Ali

    When I first was married, we saw a show or skit or something where a character was asked to go get some condoms and Ho-hos from the store. 15 years later, my husband will periodically slip them into my groceries lists. Always a laugh but it drives me crazy that he doesn’t consider that I make my list in order. I mean, if you’re going to slip condoms on the list, at least write it with the toothpaste not the celery.

  6. Chris

    I was sure you were going to end with Otto winning the need a new car battle! (or new to you car :)

    We had to get a new third car when it turns out the huge highlander which made us feel like our babies were protected on the interstate freaked out my otherwise good new driver since it was so big. A smallish incident with her dad’s nicer Lexus (garage 1, new driver 0) left her with only our biggest car to drive. Seemed a bit crazy but we are very happy that we traded in the highlander for a used CRV which met my no small cars and new driver criteria but passed our new driver comfort test.

    Three cars and three drivers but we are still having issues with transporting our other DD but that is an issue for another day.

  7. Jeanie

    It’s days like this that make me say, “Why me, God?” But then I saw the word “puppy”…

  8. Susie

    If it helps, my best friend went to a wedding in North Carolina during Hurricane Joaquin and came home with a double ear infection and a sinus infection at age 33… That doesn’t really help at all, does it…

  9. kate in mi

    “feed and empty the dogs”
    That makes me giggle.

  10. another sue

    And I’m still stuck on the apron image. That’s with pearls and high heels and somehow I see a spatula in your raised hand. Yes? When I retired I decided I really didn’t need 3 vehicles. (Why one person needed three vehicles while working is still a question for the ages, but retired! One vehicle!.) Still not sure if I got rid of the correct two. But as I live a good 45 miles from the closest public transportation, it does make for a ready excuse when I need one. Sorry! Can’t help. My windshield wipers don’t work, and you know it looks like rain. Or – Hey, sorry I can’t help, but my truck won’t start. It doesn’t like to start in cold weather. Which last week it interpreted to be 49 degrees. Brrrrr.. . At the least, I do believe that a new battery is coming into the budget in the very near future. Hope everyone is feeling better. Somehow meeting the challenges while healthy seems marginally easier.

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