Hot up in herre

If you’re reading this, that means I wrote it, and my fingers didn’t melt into the keyboard as I feared mere hours ago when we began our first full day at our campsite on the surface of the sun.

It’s hot here in Ohio. In a metal can with wheels. With an A/C unit capable of cooling a whopping 3 1/2 square inches. Louise and I did our best to keep the children entertained and cool with our mad Uno skills and me reading the average temperatures in Maine on Weatherchannel.com, but I think the real relief arrived when the rest of the crew showed up and they could commiserate with all of their siblings.

So I’m going to gloss over the heat–mainly because the sheen from our sweat makes us all appear rather glossy–ignore the one vomiting incident and the fact that we’ve used all of our super-jumbo data plan before we crossed our first state line and focus on the wins on Camping Day 1.

~I didn’t hit anything or anyone backing Viktor into the site and hooked up all of the hoses and whatnots like a boss. Even the gross ones.

~Louise can dress a mean first degree burn caused by scalding vinyl jump pads.

~When the sun eventually goes down and they’re rehydrated with a little birthday cake and piñata treats, this is the scene that will remain in your head for a long time.

Movie night. Our neighbors love us.

Not the best travel guide in the world, but it’ll do

Alright, enough messing around. We really have to get semi-serious for 6 minutes to pull this off.

It’s logistics day, and I’ll take just a minute to provide some real details on the trip planning before we get back to our regularly scheduled nonsense just in case anyone was looking for some real travel advice (which seems like a huge error in judgement on your part) or are simply morbidly curious.

We’ve been planning this trip since we disembarked from our western adventure two years ago. It turns out the kids ended up having a marvelous time–more so than even first admitted by rolling-eyed teenagers. So over the course of months, we polled and discussed our next dream destinations, and Louise and I came up with itinerary last fall to incorporate a good many of those lofty goals.

We knew we wanted to go in a different direction this time–literally–and decided the East Coast would check off a lot of boxes. Acadia National Park seemed like a popular place amongst our families, so we planned a route that would take us through some other suggested destinations, and the idea of all of the Halls of Fame was born. We also have a joyous wedding to attend in the middle, so that was also taken into account. Oh yes, and all of the business that gets taken care of in early July in the sports world. And school. And graduations. And camps. And college orientations. And new jobs. And old jobs. And paychecks. If those pesky details weren’t a factor, the trip would’ve started in April and we’d be looping around Land’s End for the third time stocking up on summer clearance duck boots and blueberry scones right about now. But alas, reality is a killjoy.

Instead, we’ve compacted it into about 3 weeks, with the Dads, a.k.a Butch and Sundance, traveling for over two of them.

We’ve learned many lessons from our past adventures. We will still keep the same lodging arrangements–the biggest RV site in the campground as well as the the largest and most modern cabin–but this time we will also have a car following to carry stuff and passengers for all of our non-camp excursions, which are many. We have a fairly good amount of hotel stays mixed in there as well, especially at the larger cities where driving Viktor through may result in increased insurance claims and marital separations.

The kids’ ages range from 1-22 and it was a surprisingly easier sell this time than last. I’m still not sure if that’s a compliment on our fun-planning skills or if they just have devised a more sophisticated patricide plan, but we’re risk-takers. Apparently.

They are aware of about 75% of the itinerary I’d say, but through the Herculean planning efforts of their parents, there’s a good deal of surprises that still await. Some items–like getting passports updated and measurements for their trip uniforms obviously revealed some of the treats that were in store, but we’ve managed to keep a few things secret. After we planned our route, we made reservations at each location, secured advance tickets to where we could, even went to the bank and ordered foreign money (but then quickly gave all of said cash back to Costco, Target and Publix so don’t even think about robbing us). There’s very few details that haven’t been anticipated with the exception of where all of this stuff is going to physically go and if a pallet of marshmallows is going to be enough.

After the final load-in today and filling Viktor the RV up with gas, we should be ready to roll to the first destination: Cincinnati. Don’t question. It’ll all make sense as we go.

As will these robes.

Robe Trip 2018!

You can follow along here, on Facebook or on Twitter, @Subdiva. We’d love to have you join us.
#HallsFallsMallsandBaseballs

The Packing List

1. Clothes and stuff

Me: Even if we do laundry twice during the trip, that makes about 90 T-shirts and 180 socks just for reference.

Butch: Over/under that we return with 11 of the original sock total?

Me: Under is how that works.

2. Outdoor Movie System with 70′ Screen and Projector

Sundance: Um, do we really have the space for that and the 90 T-shirts?
Me: Yes! Because it hooks up to our Netflix account–which I’ll access from our new Wifi hotspot I’m also bringing aboard–we won’t need to pack physical movies, so it’s actually a space-saving item.

Sundance: Um, I’m not sure that’s how that works…

3. Portable Air-Conditioning Unit

Louise: This might not work on the RV since the exhaust is supposed to be mounted in a window.

Me: I’ve anticipated that, so I’ve purchased a second unit to cool the hot air coming out of the back of the first unit because I’m good at Science.

Louise: I’m not really sure that’s how that works…

4. Portable Ice Maker

Butch: Doesn’t the freezer on the RV do that already?

Me: Technically, yes. But I had to remove the trays to make room for the refrigerant for the new air conditioners.

Butch: Is that the way that’s supposed to work?

5. Portable Propane Grill

Sundance: Don’t all the campgrounds we’re going to provide grills at each site?

Me: Yes, but then we’d have to pack charcoal and lighter fluid and 2 is more than 1 so we’re saving room because I’m even better at math.

Sundance: Now I know that’s not how that works…

6. Extra large capacity Blender

Louise: Should we limit our cocktail choices to selections that don’t need appliances that take up counter space?

Me: Louise, we’re campers not barbarians.

Louise: You’re right–that’s exactly how that works.

#HallsFallsMallsandBaseballs

It is time.

Well, it is time to begin the countdown to the time of actual departure, anyway.

In this episode, Thelma and Louise, Butch and Sundance, and the 11 offspring and travel companions will embark upon this year’s offseason adventure: The Halls, Falls, Malls and Baseballs 2018 Tour.

In the luxurious RV–affectionately named Viktor in honor of the patron player of trailer transportation–we will wind our way through 13 states and 1 foreign country visiting all of the sports halls of fame, 3-ish baseball stadiums and Niagara Falls amongst other attractions in the aggressive itinerary Louise and I have planned over pinot grigio-fueled lunches over the past six months. It’s going to be epic.

Perhaps you’ll recall our Western adventure 2 years ago when we packed up our crew and spent almost 3 weeks driving 5000 miles through the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone making friends and testing personal space boundaries along the way. This trip will differ in that we will snake through the northeast and Acadia National Park rather than western destinations, we’ve added another member to the camping family and that Butch and Sundance will accompany us on most of the journey rather than a smaller portion like last time. This is either because A) they realized how much fun we had at places like the Corn Palace, or B) they saw our Google history from our last planning lunch and won’t trust us with the minor children for that long. I choose to believe it’s the former.

Our official departure date is Friday, so for the next few days we will somehow manage to pack a month’s worth of clothes and equipment for 15 people onto unsuspecting Viktor without flattening the tires or violating weight limits on U.S. and Canadian highways. Super doable. We may be only able to go 7 miles per hour, but that’s how many miles we will get to the gallon anyway, so it seems serendipitous.

So buckle up, chill the Cupcake wine and get ready to join us on our adventure–there’s plenty of room.*

*At least that’s what I tell Louise when she starts to question if there’s space for the wine fridge I ordered from Amazon. “It’s just for 18 bottles rather than 80, Louise, because we’re ROUGHING IT.”

A Tale of Two Boxes

After a recent brush with local tornadoes, my husband and I simultaneously placed mail orders for surviving any upcoming disasters we may encounter.

Me: Honey, we got two huge deliveries in the mail today. The box addressed to you is heavy, has been inspected by the NSA and is wearing camouflage.

Him: Oh great, the supplies I ordered from the Preppers website came.

Me: Ugh. Izod is so 1983.

Him: (Opening the really big box.) Not preppie—“Prepper.” You know like those people who prepare for an impending doomsday?

Me: I prefer to be called a Progressive. But whatever.

Him: (Ignoring my passive-aggressive politics.) With that tornado that touched down this week, I thought we should have more emergency supplies on hand.

Me: (Inspecting the contents.) Just how long do you think tornadoes last because you’ve got enough nonperishable food here for months.

Him: 2 months worth for 10 people to be exact.

Me: Is there a weather phenomenon that renders your tastebuds useless because I’m not sure the circumstances that would make me want to eat a pouch of creamed chipped beef.

Him: That will be a luxury if the power goes out for more than an hour.

Me: (Unimpressed.) An hour-long power outage would be the luxury if you couldn’t order from weird websites.

Him: (Checking out the 5 gallon drum of apple cobbler.) What was that, dear?

Me: I said, good thinking. (Inspecting one of the bags.) Um, what are these pouches of purified drinking water?

Him: In case there’s no fresh water supply, duh. And if we run out of those I have tablets to turn our urine into safe drinking water.

Me: (Horrified.) If we are ever in situation where we’re considering drinking human waste is a good idea I hope there’s cyanide tablets in there too because I’m out.

Him: Here’s a campstove made from a pie tin and a fire pit that needs no matches, but I also got waterproof ones just in case.

Me: The future looks grim.

Him: The future looks prepared. (Looking over at my ordered box.) What did you order for the emergency cause?

Me:

Me:

Me:

Him: (Opening my box. Coughing, choking, and then what appears to be sobbing.) You ordered a case of margarita glasses?

Me: (Backing out of the room.) We all have our coping mechanisms.

Him: (Disgusted.) I’m taking this stuff downstairs.

Me: (Apologetically.) The glasses are shatterproof…

© 2017 Tracey Henry

Just in case you needed visual proof to this tale…

Just when you thought it was safe to answer your door during cookie season, my husband and I discuss sales strategy…

Him: What’s with the thousands of cardboard cases in the garage? Did you go to the wine store today?

Me: No. Duh, wine store day is Friday and it’s only Tuesday. No, they’re cookies.

Him: ?

Me: Girl Scout Cookies. I thought I told you, I’m Cookie Mom again this year.

Him: (Choking in shock.) Didn’t we just settle the lawsuit from the last time you were cookie mom?

Me: Statute of Limitations. Or something. And it’s Cookie Mom with a capital C.M.

Him: I call capital B.S. Isn’t this like your 4th or 5th time? And do we even still have a kid in Scouts?

Me: I re-signed her to a limited contract before the trade deadline. And it’s my 11th. Or something.

Him: And don’t you dislike this experience?

Me: Immensely. But I was nominated.

Him: (Scoffs.) By people who have never met you?

Me: Obviously. Nor did anyone read the coffee mug I was drinking that said, “World’s Worst Cookie Mom.”

Him: Maybe the Chardonnay you were day drinking out of said coffee mug should have also tipped them off.

Me: (Ignoring him.) It was a Sauvignon Blanc because I’m classy. (Pausing.) I’ve decided to take my sales approach in a different direction.

Him: By way of the insane asylum where I’ll be residing while you lament over spreadsheets and Pinterest?

Me: No, although if you want to see my epic pins on booth decorations at Kroger, that can be arranged. I was thinking of a more direct, aggressive sales perspective.

Him: What’s wrong with the passive-aggressive posts you’ve left on the neighborhood ListServ you’ve always relied on in the past?

Me: (Smiling sheepishly in recollection.) Ok, maybe I’ll save that tactic as well—I got an extra half dozen boxes from Mrs. Kravitz last year telling her they were an appropriate snack for the neighborhood pond fowl, Ron Swanson. (Shaking off the pleasant reverie.) But I was thinking about really embracing the project more. Going really big—flyers, billboards, sales incentives. A multi-level social media campaign. Really connecting with my inner Thin Mint.

Him: Why not your inner lemon cookie because you’re really starting out fairly sweet but I know you’ll be bitter in the end.

Me: (Gazing upon the endless sea of cookies beached in the garage.) Or you could just Do-Si-Do over to that blank order form and bring it to work and get the majority of sales from your coworkers while I get creative with all of the excess inventory I’ve overbought?

Him: (Sighing resignedly as we both knew it would end up in this vein from the beginning.)

Me: (Relieved.) Now hand me some more boxes of the shortbread. I’m breading some tilapia for Ron Swanson with it.

©2017 Tracey Henry

Previous thoughts on Cookie Mom-ming

Hello, again, hello

If you are an old friend and reader from my past, welcome back. You know the drill: don’t take anything I say too seriously but know I speak (mostly) truth. It’s great to see you again.

If you are new to this side of the picket fence, welcome. If you are reading this for the first time, you probably just read an annotated version of Thelma and Louise’s Summer Adventure Series or I got arrested and the evening news just referenced this blog as evidence of my weakened mental state. Spoken truth as well.

In either case, I believe some reintroductions are in order.

Hi, I’m Tracey. Or Suburban Diva, and I’m a kidder from way back. This blog is so old in fact, that it was around before there were blogs—just thoughts written on internet sites that no longer exist in the dark ages of 2002. It has been featured there, on various other websites, my own, a syndicated newspaper column, a monthly magazine, a book, and no doubt in psychiatric journals across the globe. It has mostly been a light-hearted pursuit through motherhood, suburbia, cooking, holidays, politics, travel, spousal transcripts. Occasionally, more serious subjects are addressed like oddly specific medical advice and missing my mom.

Some things are evergreen, and some things have changed. We’ve relocated from Florida to Nashville (like a million years ago, where have you been?) and we’ve got a college student, high schooler, middle schooler and elementary student among our ranks these days. Sean is still solidly my co-star on this cast of crazies, and I’ve somehow talked Louise into a recurring role. And of course, Mrs. Kravitz, (we all have a Mrs. Kravitz) follows me to every neighborhood.

Another solid fact with no alternative? This place has brought me a lot of joy and connected me to some really great people in real life, and hopefully you’ve shared a few laughs or tears with me along the way.

Let’s see if we can bring some of that to 2017.

I think we all could use a little.

©2017 Tracey Henry

Wrapping Up 2016 In HOA Violation Notices

January 30, 2016

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Diva,

While we all have enjoyed your “Hillbilly Holiday” display, we respectfully request you remove the remnants of it as soon as possible. We have received a number of complaints that many of your inflatable yard decorations have “flown” into other homeowner’s yards, trees, and, in one tragic instance, a pool filter, outdoor fire pit and an angry wasps’ nest. Also, your extensive use of laser light cannons may have been altered to supersede residential uses and we have been notified by the FAA and NASA to cease and desist.

February 19th

Dear Residents,

Please be advised that due to the recent inclement weather, driving conditions in the neighborhood can be hazardous. Curiously, there is a particularly dangerous stretch on a portion of one of our side streets in which the ice is almost deliberately thicker than anywhere else and there seems to be blue and red lines spray painted on with a face-off circle.

Use extreme caution when driving past this particular house.

March 17, 2016

To the party that put the green dye in the neighborhood pond, please know we are actively investigating and will fine the guilty homeowner accordingly. Our resident water fowl, Ron Swanson, will require extensive cleaning for his stained feathers.

And to clarify, we house a neighborhood swan, not any “long-necked geese.”

April 19, 2016

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Diva,

Congratulations on the purchase of your new (or rather used-looking) R.V. This is just a friendly reminder that according to HOA rules, campers may be parked in your driveway for a maximum of 24 hours. We currently have you calculated at 52 days.

5/20/2016

Happy Summer, Neighbors! We are happy to announce that the community pool is now open for your use. And as a friendly reminder, we’d like you all to re-familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations found in the Covenants. Of particular note is the proper attire for the pool, and that floating coolers and poker tables are not permitted at any time—even during Adult Swim.

And we don’t have Adult Swim.

July 1st, 2016

Please note your 3rd quarter dues are now due. The increase in this month’s amount is for the rental of the construction equipment needed for the removal of several holiday inflatables that became aloft during last month’s storms and became entangled in the lights on the tennis courts. We had to enlist veterinary professional help to remove the Larry the Cable Guy on a 4-wheeler sleigh from Ron Swanson’s nest.

We are still researching veterinary psychologists for his possible continuing care.

8/25/16

Please be advised that the power outage we experienced earlier has been remedied. Apparently, the transformer blew after a surge resulting from powering several commercial daiquiri machines and outdoor speakers from a resident’s back yard.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

October 10, 2016

As you begin to decorate for Halloween, the Board would like to remind you to keep your decor tasteful and safe. This includes the use of open flames lining sidewalks, real concrete tombstones jutting out of lawns, and by all means, decapitated mannequins in the hedgerows are all ill-advised. Our regular mail carrier is still on disability leave as a result from last year’s incident.

November 2016

As a reminder during election season: Please note that there are no yard signs of any kind permitted in the neighborhood. This includes political signs supporting any candidate, mascots for sports teams or adult beverage choices.

December 1, 2016

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Diva,

We have noticed your annual holiday decorations are being erected. While we appreciate the limited use of inflatable decorations this year, the live nativity may also be in violation of HOA covenants. All residents are limited to only two (2) pets per property, and the reindeer—although festive—are not covered under the clause.

And while we have no evidence of the responsible party, we hope that you possess no knowledge as to whom tied the 6 inflatable swans behind Ron Swanson in a conga line in the neighborhood pond with “7 SWANS A SWIMMING” emblazoned on the plastic birds.

Happy New Year, everyone! Let’s make some trouble together.

©2017 Tracey Henry

#Goals

I don’t think that I’m alone in my sincere intention of achieving my Mom Back to School Goals.

The execution of these objectives is another story altogether.

We’ve just completed the first full week of school, and I’m evaluating my progress.

Goal: Buy all the uniforms in June during the sale.

Result: I did place my order promptly at 11:50 p.m. on June 30th. Except I mistakenly clicked on adult sizes instead of the youth option, and the girls look like they shrunk this summer. (The shirts did not, however.)

Goal: Save time by ordering their shoes online to be sure I’d get the correct ones in stock.

Result: Band-Aids had to be worn the entire first week of school and reminded of the that sage advice passed down from the pioneers, “Objects on screen are not what they seem.”

Goal: Reestablish healthy sleep cycles before school starts.

Result: Lots of late-night infomercials and afternoon naps with complete insomnia amnesia for the first month of 4th grade.

Goal: 2 words: Bento. Boxes.

2 Word Results: Bread. Butts.

Goal: Schedule all appointments and checkups in the summer months.

Result: 1 tardy and 2 early-checkouts during week 1.

Goal: Summer reading assignments completed early.

Result: *See Sleeping Goal.

Goal: Ask insightful and engaging parental questions at School Open House.

Result: “Is there an open bar?” does not count. Apparently.

Goal: Prepare healthy, home-cooked dinners every weeknight.

Result: Nothing says failure like a Papa John’s box. On a Tuesday. With no extracurriculars to blame.

Goal: Be that mom that they all talk about in carline.

Result: Over-achieved.

Check back in with me for my New Year’s Resolutions.