Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Ocala started like this. 
Then there were mermaids at Weeki watchee springs, cousins in Tampa, and seashells on the gulf. I'm too tired to write much more, but here are the pictures:

Monday, June 29, 2015

day 4 kennesaw to ocala

I'd go so far as to say nothing has gone our way since we started.  This trip, but that wouldn't be true. We've had great weather, met great people, safe travels and relative good health - all good.

But nothing we planned has come to fruition - no visit to the Atlanta history center, no frolicking with lorikeets in Kentucky, no flushing ourselves down the giant toilet bowl in Indianna, maybe on the return trip.

Today was a stop in Marietta for a visit with my mom's friend Lorainne. Yoda got to feed the giant Koi in her backyard, while the big kids heard stories about Grandma Terry.

Then we were on the road again. 

We stopped at Lane Southern Orchards in Fort Valley, Georgia. We toured the peach factory, sampled Georgia peaches, tomatoes and cobbler. Even Mr. Particular loved the cinnamon pecans.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

day 3 kentucky to georgia

changed my mind.
It's Nashville, I'm moving to Nashville.
I'm setting up a tent in Centennial Park and eating every meal from a food truck. I'll make my own organic lip balm and sell it to aspiring country stars who sit with their dogs in the park playing bluegrass and sipping fresh lemonade. We'll be best friends and they'll thank me in their Grammy speech and ask me to move to LA with them because they can't live without my lip balm, but I will take a bite of smoked brisket and say, "No I belong here with my people."

Maybe it's the sunshine. Maybe it's the southern drawl. Maybe it's the way nobody seems rude or even passive aggressive "Minnesota Nice". Maybe it's the food. I don't know, but I'm sold.

Not kidding this time.
I'm already looking for houses.

Anyway . . .
Our trip to Kentucky Down Under was sidelined by an emergency trip to the orthodontist for Kooka. Poor thing had a wire embedded in her gums and her entire jaw was swollen like olden-times movies of the mumps. Thankfully, Amy at Lawless orthodontics in Bowling Green came to our rescue. She teleconferenced with Dr. B. in MN, took care of Kooks and we were back on the road.

The next stop was Nashville, not for the Grand Ol'Opry, but because I figured my Greek baby should see the Parthenon before she turns 5. Turns out she didn't care in the least, in face she anti-cared, complaining the entire hike up the stairs and scowling at us when we invited her into the picture. But the rest of us were awed. Built in 1897, as part of the Tennessee Centennial exposition, the Parthenon in Nashville is an exact full-scale replica of the original in Greece. It's huge. HUGE. See those specks up there? One of them is six feet tall.

The Parthenon was cool, but the food in the park was incredible. With dozens of food trucks lining the street, there were infinite choices. Punk and Kooka chose handcrafted mini-burgers and cokes. Yoda tried the BBQ mac-n-cheese. But Rico and I hit the culinary jackpot - smoked, pulled pork sandwich with fresh cut Georgia peaches right where the pickles and onions would be. We washed it all down with fesh-squeezed Tennesee Twisters - lemon and orange juice shaken, not stirred, while you wait.

We bought organic bug spray from the organic soap lady (I noticed her lip balm game was lacking), practiced our hula-hooping skills, scaled the Parthenon a few times and refilled our Tennesee Twister before heading back on the road.

In Chatanooga we snacked on ribs and banana pudding at Sugar's and walked a short portion of The Trail of Tears exactly 138 years after it started. Suddenly, the drive to Florida doesn't seem so long after all.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

day 2 sinkhole schminkhole

It was better than a sinkhole.

Louisville's Mega Cavern Quest is located in an old Kentucky mine. It's a neon-lit high ropes/zip line course that allows you to simultaneously face your fear of heights AND your fear of being sucked to the center of the earth by a giant Kentucky crater. 

Neeks was barely tall enough and not nearly brave enough to try, so both Rico and I watched with envy as the big kids traversed the ropes. 

Quote of the day: 
Rico: (from the galley down below the cave ceiling) Uh Punk, I don't think your caribeaner is actually latched.
Punk: Oh, whoops.

Our home for the night is Cave City, Kentucky. Between the caves, Abe Lincoln, and the accents, I think I could live here forever.

day 2 illinois, indiana and kentucky

You know how sometimes your memory of a place is better than the actual place?

Yeah, well Mug-n-Bun is NOT like that. Admittedly, it's located on a pretty crumbly street, there is a sign advising, no begging you to help them stop thieves from taking their stuff, and it hasn't been painted since the Nixon administration, but don't let that stop you. We've seen 48 states and lots of road food. Mug-n-Bun wins.  After google searching the world's best root beer 5 years ago, we drove to this place to scope it out. We weren't disappointed. It's thick and vanilla-ey, like root beer Nirvana.

This time, we drank two quarts of it and didn't even feel a twinge of remorse. The chili dogs (dogs with sauce and cheese) are the greatest thing you'll ever eat in the Hoozier state, and let's not forget about these little nuggets:

Deep fried mac-n-cheese. Three orders of these glorious little babies went down the hatch in about ten minutes.

Thankfully we had the drive-in food to distract us from the five hours of stop-and-go traffic from Chicago to Indianapolis. It completely sidelined our plans and we didn't get to flush ourselves down a giant toilet bowl in Columbus like we'd hoped, but ce'la vie, I'm sure we'll find a sinkhole somewhere in Kentucky.

day 1 northfield to naperville

It's been a long spring.
For all of us.
So kicking off our summer road trip this early will either be a blessing or a curse. Two weeks in Ernie the van will tell.

Our first pit stop was lunch. Mac's in Wisconsin Dells serves only mac and cheese, but not your standard Velveeta variety. At Mac's you can choose from a homemade skillet full of cheeseburger mac, buffalo chicken mac, taco mac, loaded baked potato mac, classic Mac, and about a dozen other sizzling skillets full of cheeses goodness. Of course, this is the Dells we're talking about, so we weren't expecting much, but we're all pleasantly surprised (taco, loaded and classic for us in case you're wondering).

Next up was a trip to Ripley's Believe It Or Not, which I must admit was much cooler 8 years ago when we went for free. At $50 for the family, we should have bought the book - or two - or the boxed set of DVDs - or canoed down the Amazon ourselves to look for shrunken heads.

Yoda thought it was creepily cool, Punk loved the nostalgia and Kooka was disgusted by two headed everythings, and well, let's be honest - dirtiness of the place. It's kitschy and fun, but there's a reason we're at the museum instead of hunting for giant tarantulas ourselves - sweep for cripe's sake. If Ripley could afford to travel the world a'la Indiana Jones, he can surely afford a Swiffer.

Goody Goody Gumdrop claims to be the world's largest candy store and is a family tradition. Candy cigarettes for Punk (yeah they still make them, and yeah they're still gross), Zots for Kooka, and Bertie Botts Beans for Yoda.

Our stop for the night is the Marriot Convention center in Naperville, IL, just outside of Chicago, we discovered Lou Malnetti's deep dish pizza, a great hotel pool, and the Korean fish market Super H, which looks deceptively like a Cub Foods, but does indeed smell like fish even in the shampoo aisle.
P.S. Happy marriage equality. As I always tell my kids when they get old enough to ask if magic is real: Yes it is - it's called love, and with it, you can make anything happen.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

getting it over with

Let's get this over with:
I have a mental illness.
I've been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Let's also get this over with:
"Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha - no kidding."
"Did you pay for that diagnosis, because I could've told you the same damn thing for an $11 plate of Applebee's nachos."

Yeah, I get it. Calling it a disorder doesn't make it any different, doesn't make ME any different. This "disorder" is me. It's how my brain works, how it's always worked. The fact that I anticipate disaster keeps me on my game. It's what gets my kids to school ten minutes early instead of ten minutes late, what gets my dance costumes shipped on time. Most of the time it's no big deal, most of the time it gets things done. Other times, well . . .

Three weeks ago was particularly bad. Three weeks ago I had an undiagnosed ear infection. I did not even know that what happened to me was even possible, didn't even know it was a thing. But I can say that it was unequivocally the most terrifying event of my entire life.

Apparently, my over sensitive nervous system (also an issue) could not handle the trace amount of extra fluid in my skull. Apparently, I was also suffering a bit of adrenal fatigue (didn't know that was a thing either). Apparently it was the perfect storm, because this is what happened:

I could not formulate sentences. I forgot words - easy ones like "mug" and turnover" My eyes could not focus on words to read a picture book, it was like I suddenly needed bifocals, and no matter how much I squint or pulled the book away, I couldn't read the words. Even if I could, I could focus long enough to make sense of them. I lost hearing in one ear. I couldn't eat. I was afraid of forgetting my own address though I could remember the 15 others I'd lived at since I was 3 years old. My temperature dropped. I was sweating constantly. My blood pressure dropped from a fairly consistent 117 to 93. I did not sleep for 4 days.

I thought I had instant onset Alzheimer's.
Really I did.
I cried for two days straight and was afraid to pick my kid up from preschool because I wasn't sure I could find my way home.
The urgent care doctor prescribed, antibiotics, Ambien, and Prozac.
I took the first two, which blessedly worked.
As my hearing came back, the world started to settle a bit.

But I made an appointment with a mental health counselor anyway - which ended in me passing out on the floor of her office and a triage nurse coming to my rescue.

FML at the point.

After some testing she came back with something like this: "You are completely in the normal range for most things - even below the level of concern in all areas except anxiety, which is, well, nearly off the chart. The combination of that, the adrenaline depletion, which was likely caused by stress and the extra fluid in your skull was like a perfect storm. I don't think it will ever happen again, but regardless, let's do something about this anxiety and sleep."

Because this is the deal kids: I will occasionally flip my shit for no real reason other than my body and mind are overwhelmed with adrenaline, or crashing after an enormous rush of adrenaline. I can't help this, it's a physical sensation, it's what my body does. That feeling you get when you narrowly avoid a car accident, that's me 24/7. That is what my body feels like when the doorbell rings unexpectedly, when somebody drops a dish, when the dog barks at night - heart palpitations, ice in my veins, shortness of breath, and it can last for hours. Imagine opening your front door to a surprise party full of velociraptors - that's what happens any time I'm surprised (thanks Ellen Deneres - if you saw this, you know what I mean. I wasn't startled, I was running for my life). But know this - I will never flip my shit at you - that's not how it works. I will forget things, I will cry easily, I will not go out to eat with you, my body will hurt, I will sleep.

The way my body reacts feels terrible, and today we call it a mental disorder, but in 1000 B.C we called it "survival of the fittest." Back in the day, I would have lived longer than most people, simply because my instincts are sharper. Of course nobody lived past 40 in Java-man times, but I digress. All I know is three weeks ago, I could not lift my limbs, because I had depleted all of my adrenaline making a pot-pie or some damn thing. Twelve days ago I passed out because I had to rehash by ER visit.

Is this rational?
Do I know this is ridiculous?
Can I help it?
If I could, I damn straight wouldn't have been laying on the floor with a triage nurse being force-fed peanut butter crackers trying to remember my own address last Thursday.

So I will continue to figure out what this diagnosis means for me, for us, but in the meantime, I want my kids to know, that this is a rare occurrence for me, but it's real, it's a thing, and most important it's treatable. If it happens to you, it's OK. It is what it is. I am who I am. You are who you are. It's all good.