Travel with Teen: Salt Lake

While the boys had their age appropriate moments of poor behavior on the trip, Symone wins the worst traveler award. With only one day left I’m not sure how she can Unwin that award.

Her teen world falls into two categories: about me, not about me. Traveling with a person with only those two settings is a drag. While this is quintessential teen it’s still been pretty exasperating.

An earmark of teenhood is not having a measuring stick yet. Things that didn’t go her way couldn’t simply be shrugged off – they instead become a knife that was plunged into the very core of their developing personhood. We tried a number of approaches to help her process her less than ideal experiences but none of our attempts found their mark… yet.

Throughout the trip Symone has had to face not being a child anymore. The Red Robin milkshake she’d enjoyed when she was seven no longer tastes the same to her at 12.75. She chose to deal with her disappointment by bitterly complaining, vilifying the milkshake and all those who had a hand in its making, and being angry at all of us for not somehow knowing that the experience wouldn’t be pleasing for her.

Somehow she got the idea that travel was luxurious, relaxing, and free from discomfort or responsibilities. Her loudly express entitlement has us cringing and wondering where she got any of these ideas – we decided we needed to start talking about our experiences, and range of discomforts differently to teach her what to put up with and what is actually uncomfortable and can be fixed.

She’s also going to be the recipient of a lot more household responsibilities when she gets home.

High Desert Museum

While half our party was monitoring the double-ended blowout the other half made a quick stop at the High Desert Museum to see lizards, turtles and have a somewhat confrontational visit with a historic reenactor in the pioneer cabin.

Afterward we sucked in any possible germs carried on our bodies from exposure to Emmett and paid a visit to Mark and Cindy McConnell. Mark introduced Noble to an ancient Japanese poetry game that ended up being used as a game trail for his rubber lizard.

Mark and Cindy it was great seeing you guys!!

Barfing in Bend

We had a wedding to attend in Bend and since Oscar was just beginning his transition plan to his new family we were up for a distraction. We piled everyone in the car for the four hour drive to a mystery VRBO in Bend.

The car trip involved a lot of “dying” of various things like boredom, thirst, hunger and lack of Wi-Fi but through some miracle we arrived at the southern most tip of Sunriver at 11 at night to the coolest log cabin ever. As we opened each door we kept expecting the Cartwrights to jump out and ‘howdy’ us.

The kids were thrilled with the place and mostly went to bed and stayed there. We all slept in beds made of whole logs.

We ventured out for breakfast and then came home to Emmett complaining that his stomach hurt. Emmett’s stomach always hurts when he’s reluctant to participate in an upcoming activity, so we mostly ignored him…until he puked all over the bathroom. And by all over I mean at least three times his total body mass area multiplied by PI.

Plans for the day changed at that point…

The reality of the new road kill laws

When we got off the plane I found that my vaguely sore throat had become a volcano of burning fire that had crept into my ears.

Kaety wanted to stop in Albany to do a little late Black Friday shopping for the Foster Kids Association. While she did that I opted for a visit to Urgent Care – Noble came with me as my medical advocate.

He wasn’t much use as my advocate – as I got my throat swabbed he covered his eyes. While we waited for the culture to finish baking and heard about all the different types of strep I could possibly have, he recreated all the gagging sounds I had made while getting swabbed.

We were released a few minutes later, strep free, to search for mommy in the Black Friday madness.

Even with the shopping interlude the kids had been cooped up for way too long and had turned to constant and vigorous bickering. I was in the co-pilot seat for the drive home, and in charge of telling everyone to knock it off and delivering ‘looks’. After threat-laden speech two-thousand I turned back around to hear Kaety say, “shit, shit, shit” as she clipped a huge deer with the right side of the van. The deer limped off, and we drove on intact. We spent the next few minutes sticking all our scared parts back into their places and breathing. During the whole life threatening event the kids never missed a beat in their bickering.

We spent the rest of the drive home talking about the logistics of the upcoming road kill take laws. If we’d had a road kill permit, we would have pulled over on the dark and foggy road with screaming kids in the car, found and tagged the animal. Put it out of its misery with our TSA approved set of tweezers, gutted it with the same set of tweezers and then hefted the carcass onto the roof rack of the mini van. The rest of the ride home would have been fun for the kids as they played “what’s that look like” as the blood drained down the side windows of van and made cool patterns.

We are joining the church of SkyCap

The process of departing started the night before. As we feared we had gathered more things than we had come with and neglected to bring a duffle bag. To be totally clear Kaety had suggested that we bring an extra suitcase – I had glanced at the mountain we already had amassed and gave the idea a thumbs down.

We remedied the situation with a Black Friday drive-by on a Ross. Kaety was so magnanimous, or distracted, that she did not give me a ‘told you so’.

The luggage, the car seats, the backpacks, the shuttles, the airport carts, and the mobile humans made the 20 min trek to the airport…challenging.

The SkyCap was our savior. He calmly processed 7 people and our small rural towns worth of luggage with good humor and calm. His calm became our calm.

As we walked away we decided that if SkyCap ever starts a religion we’d join up right away.


Love! Love! The Beatles. Cirque Du Soleil.

We split up – Grammy and Kaety went one night and Symone and I went to the next nights show.

Symone had little to no idea who the Beatles were – which gave us all pause. We weren’t sure if it was the natural evolution of the next generation or a fatal flaw in our parenting – like not showing her how to use a fork.

The show was stunning. I was blown away by the beauty and the artistry. It was a combination of dance, acrobatics, projection art, light, fantastical props and atmospheric effects.

The interpretations around the songs were layered, sophisticated and often moved me to tears. Symone and I had a lovely time together – at some point in the show both of us sat with our mouths open in wonder.

Real life with Uber

Great experience with our Uber driver on the way to the Love Beatles show. An Iraqi immigrant who had worked with US Troops as a translator – great guy. Good life vibe and very circumspect about the Mandalay Bay shooting. He said, “It was a terrible event. It happened everyday in my country. I’m so glad it wasn’t a Muslim who did it. America is naive about the destination that the path of violence takes you all.”

Symone had a lot of questions for me when we got out of the car.

The Thanksgiving miracle

After several memorable/traumatic buffet outings we were getting a bit twitchy thinking about going to a Thanksgiving buffet with all the kids. I started asking every local I could get my hands on for a buffet recommendation that was non-smoking, would tolerate flopping and crying and was affordable. The unanimous answer was Excalibur!

We headed over after some swimming and as soon as we hit the door we heard multiple children crying. We smiled. We were among our people!

The buffet food was set low, perfect for the kids and had all their favorites front and center.

The hostess made a special point to mention that beer and wine were free and unlimited.

A huge bump in our growing love for the place was the inclusion of crawfish on the seafood island. Noble loved them. Not to eat of course, but to play with. The crawfish had many adventures at our table while we ate in relative peace.

Another big bonus was that after last nights sleepless misery Oscar finally fell asleep. Kaety and I got to enjoy the use all four of our hands as he slept like a rock in the stroller. It was a Thanksgiving miracle!!

Desperate strollering

The cone of silence did not work. He took the cone, threw it on the ground and used it to climb to new levels of hysteria. Kaety crashed in the boy’s room while they were next door at Grammy’s and I took the baby out for a long walk in the stroller hoping he’d fall asleep. We travelled far but slept little. We did talk to lots of interesting people along the way. Yikes.

Happy Thanksgiving…?

Last night was horrible.

Oscar has had trouble sleeping in the hotel room and was coming down with a cold which coalesced into the perfect storm at 3 am. He was awake, he wasn’t happy and he had some weird crazy energy fueling him. We were up with him trying to get him back to sleep. We gave up on the sleep scenario about an hour later and turned on ‘Alaska Bush People’ which should be renamed ‘the borderline intellectual functioning family goes into the woods’. Yikes.

As the baby cried and walked on our faces I pointed to the TV and said, “Look honey, we could be living with 7 of our adult children in a 100 sq foot sod house in the middle of Alaska – things could be worse!”

She was not buying my comfort.

About an hour later, the sun was up and so were the other boys. For various reasons they also got wound up and upset so that we then had three kids crying hysterically at a volume setting of 11.

Kaety came over to me and said something I couldn’t hear over the trio of screamers, I looked at her and said, “WHAT?”


When you are standing in an endless tornado of hysterical children sometimes hope can become an UberEATS delivered waffle. We grabbed that hope like a drowning man grabs a floating log.

As Noble and I headed down to meet Laticia in her Jeep Cherokee the Bush People on TV were off the town to ‘get some women’. God help those women.

Breakfast came and the tornado of crying was still going on. The reasons for the crying had morphed into who got more strawberries and who got to eat in their bed and who didn’t. We shipped everyone off to Grammy’s room to create a cone of silence so that the overly tired drippy-nosed mess of a baby could sleep. The Bush People got turned off – it had stopped being entertaining and was now just a re-enactment of all the family court sessions we’d been to.

Just as he fell asleep one of the kids knocked on the door. Somebody’s something had been left behind and was required to sustain life as we knew it in Grammy’s room. The knocking messenger woke up the baby of course. Against all advice to the contrary, we shot the messenger.

We had finally lost it in Las Vegas.