July 2013 archive

Chin up, Class of 2026!

My daughter will be headed off to college…in thirteen years.   While that thought can put both a lump in my throat and a spring in my step, depending on the day, I do have some time to sit with it a bit.  In fact, I have until 2026 to be exact.  Yet this morning, it became clear to me exactly what story I am going to tell her when that time comes. 
In fact, I had the chance to give her a preview of the tale today, even though she is only five years old.  Similar to the summer between her high school graduation and departure for college, this is also a big summer for Lucy.  This one is bookended by preschool and grade school.  At age five, she is a full hand of spread out digits each one proclaiming a year on this earth.  It’s a hand waiting for a high-five from a world ready to congratulate her for it all.  Losing her first teeth, writing her letters, taking off on her two-wheeled bike…these are all feats that she shares with anyone and everyone from cashiers at the grocery store to tellers at the bank.  And these are all feats that earn her a high five and cheers from these parties who are generous enough to lend an ear to a spirited five-year-old.
Until she had a crash on her bike, scraped up her chin and crushed her tiny little spirit.  We saw a pediatric dentist and checked everything out.  Thanks to helmets, her chin was the only casualty of this very bad fall.  Even still, it’s kind of sad; I can tell that she doesn’t recognize herself when she passes a mirror.  And it’s kind of sad; her big brother exclaimed that she looks like she has a beard.  
Fortunately that same big brother, Lucy and I have been reading the wonderful book, Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, chapter by chapter over a number of bedtime sessions this summer.   This sweet and revealing book tells the story of a boy with a facial deformity going to school for the first time.  It is filled with precepts about many things including loving yourself exactly as you are and loving each other no matter what. Thanks to lessons from this book and lessons from life, we all know that a scraped up chin is really not a big deal.  Not really.  And she knows that too, but in my daughter’s little world, her red, raw chin is a big deal, right at this time.  And it’s kind of sad.
And so this morning, when she didn’t want to go to have fun at the beach with her big bandage and her scrape and her embarrassment, it was kind of sad.
Luckily, I had the just the right dose of funny to cheer up her sad.  I told her about how when I went to college as a freshman I had two huge black eyes.  I was in a car accident the week before and other than a totaled car, the only damage was a matching set of bruised eyes, swollen shut with only a small sliver of an opening from which I could see.  It was kind of sad to go to college and meet a bunch of new people looking like this, but what choice did I have really?   I did my hair and selected one of my favorite outfits, topped by a puffy face and two shiners.   I rolled my shoulders back and walked into my dorm room to meet a person I only knew as a name on a piece of paper, but would be living with over the next four years.  Paying no attention to my eyes, she said, “hi, I’m Amy”.  No doubt, this new roommate would become an old friend in no time.  

Those black eyes quickly became irrelevant as we swapped stories of our summers and plans for school.  Just hours into our newly formed friendship shared interests were discovered.  We were laughing about TV shows and high school experiences, and everything in between…including those black eyes. We made up stories to tell the boys in our dormitory about how I had a nose job, gone bad.  We used the eyes to make our way to the front of lines and they became a great conversation piece when we were meeting other freshman on our campus.  Everyone remembered me and my signature accessory.
As the bruises around my eyes shrunk, the friendship with my roommate grew.  Twenty years later, she is still one of my closest friends.  We currently live over 800 miles apart, but that feels close because at times we’ve been separated by oceans and international date lines.  In fact, other than those few years when we shared a bunk bed in college, we’ve never lived in the same state, or even the same time zone, at the same time.  Yet her friendship is one of the cornerstones in my life.
We give each other advice on parenting, and pick out handbags for each other.  We go shoe shopping together…on Zappos, while on the phone.  I can’t imagine going any significant stretch of time without talking to her on the phone or shooting her a text, either about a big life challenge, or about Katie Couric’s dress color.  And as for the black eyes, they’re rarely mentioned, except for on occasion like the one time in our late twenties, when she sent me a photograph of the freshman black eyes with a post-it note attached saying, “just remember this when you don’t feel so good about yourself.”
Just thinking about that note makes me laugh, just as I laughed this morning when I told Lucy this story and catered it to her five years of age.  I said that to me those black eyes represent a time when I was able to be brave and turn something kind of sad into something kind of funny.  And furthermore, they represent a time when I made a friend for a lifetime.  We talked about how great it was that my roommate didn’t let my appearance stop her from making a new friend, just like in the book we’ve been reading. 

Then we talked about how Lucy’s chin represents how hard she has been trying to ride her bike on two-wheels and how sometimes you’re going to fall, but you have to get back up.  Plus, when someone sees that scrape, they’re going to think about how Lucy is brave.  And that scrape shows how interesting Lucy must be, how she has a really good story to tell! 
Lucy seemed receptive to my story and I immediately sent a text to my friend saying,  “just got to use your friendship and my college black eyes in a teaching moment with Lucy”.
She replied:

She is right.  I can’t tell this story only once while Lucy is five, and then not again until she is eighteen.  I need to keep telling it over and over.   So much so, that it won’t be a story, rather a part of the texture in the fabric of her being.  It will become so ingrained in her that she’ll forget that it’s not her original story, rather a blend of her story and my story.  Isn’t that exactly how it works, really?  Parents and children and true friends, we continue to be always interwoven…strengthening the durability of each other and adding layers of richness and beauty to one another by being a part of each other’s history and tales.
I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities for this story to be told, with various renditions, over the years between now and when she goes to college.  But today, upon hearing it for the first time, Lucy laughed, put her chin up and confidently marched off to the beach, just as I marched into that dorm room twenty years ago. 
The world is full of discovery, lessons, hardships and laughs.  So in thirteen years when she is headed off to college I’ll have some general tips:  study hard and have fun (but not too much fun).  And some more specific tips:  when that first warm day of spring hits, go ahead and skip class and sit on an old couch in the front yard with your friends (you’ll spend the rest of your life reminiscing about that afternoon).  And a big tip:  study abroad (oh gosh, please study abroad).
But I’ll also have this, an interwoven story that blends my story and her story, a story about bravery and how I went to college with my black eyes and how she went to the beach with her scraped chin.  
In the meantime, first things first:  Lucy marches off to Kindergarten in just three short weeks!  Chin-up, Class of 2026!

The Gap

Your smile.  That familiar beam of light radiates from every aspect of you.  Its starts in your bright, twinkling eyes but quickly stretches out to your entire face, right down to the tiniest muscle in your dimpled cheek.
I know this smile.  I know this joy.  It is matched only by the joy I felt at the miracle of your birth.  Your lifetime ago, and in a way mine too, yet only five years ago.
When you were a baby I was swallowed up in this radiant glow as you nursed in the middle of the night.  As a toddler, this beaming smile would light up my world as you made discoveries at every turn.  As a preschooler, your smile would guide you to meet new friends and form new relationships.
It’s a familiar smile, but with something new – the gap.  Your first two loose teeth, gone and leaving a hole where the adults ones will soon appear.  The gap is a unique identifier to this exact age, and to this exact moment in your lifetime.  You’re no longer a baby, not yet a big kid.  Your baby teeth appeared with much fanfare and fussing and now have left you with far less fussing, but far more fanfare!  They’re graciously making way for their successors, the adult teeth who have not yet quite arrived.  You’ve outgrown one set, but not yet grown into the other.
At five, your mind is growing and your face and legs are starting to stretch out.  In fact, I’m not sure I can make out the last little indentation of a crease that used to separate one roll of chubby baby sweetness from another.  I used to fill those creases with Vaseline to avoid chaffing.  They’ve now given way to muscular legs that you use to kick a soccer ball and pedal bicycle.
You’re still creating dress-up outfits, but they are far less outrageous these days.  Gone are the days of you making a belt out of a TV cord around a tutu and princess dress.  I’ve seen you observing older girls on the beach and at the pool in their swimsuits.  You’ve asked about how your little practical Land’s End tankini will show more of your tummy.    You want your toenails painted and ask about growing your innocent bobbed hair out to a longer version.  It amuses me that you still confuse the words cheerleader and teenager, but I know you won’t for long. 
You’re starting to write letters and understand the early concepts of reading.   You can listen to and understand a chapter book that stretches over weeks to read night after night.  You’ve taken off on two-wheels.  You can both keep up with your nine-year-old brother and play with your two-year-old sister.  The other day when you had a friend over, the two of you complained that the boys were making gross noises while you played with Barbies.  Later that afternoon you cuddled up on the couch and watched Caillou and asked to take care of your sister’s baby doll.
Together we just picked out your much-anticipated monogrammed backpack for Kindergarten.  It was a process!  I had to hide certain selections from you and your sweetly eccentric and colorful tastes knowing they may not be appealing to you in Fifth Grade as your self-awareness grows.
Your smile has confidence and strength, humor and beauty.  This is the beaming smile I hope you will know throughout your teenage years and into your twenties and beyond.
But as your mother I can feel it:  a changing time with a changing smile to prove it.  While your radiant beam is consistent and true, your ray of light now shines through the gap.  This is the gap between being a big kid and a little kid.  This stage and this time is fleeting and rare, just as the gap in your bottom row of teeth is fleeting and rare as it will only be here for a few weeks before it is filled with the teeth meant to stay with you for the rest of your life.  

I often don’t realize how fast you are growing until after the stage has passed.  Suddenly your pants are too short, or you can reach a shelf you couldn’t before.  But your toothless smile is a tangible way of being forced to observe this exact stage, at this exact moment.  

And so I acknowledge that just like most everything else, the gap is a true gift, if I’m able to see it.  I will treasure this moment, and treasure this gap that holds me to this version of you, right here, right now.

Sunday Morning Interrupted

A new day dawned on the quiet summer colony. A Sunday morning met by a dewy and damp ground, leftovers from scattered storms over the previous few days.  Despite the Canadian breeze from the north it was that type of morning that already felt warm and well on its way to hot….even in the early 7:00 hour.  As summer has its own rhythm, we were squarely in the middle of the season’s ebbs and flows.  A few lingering lawn flags and porch buntings remained from the Independence Day holiday a few weeks earlier, yet not officially into the dog days associated with August.

The sleepy summer cottages started to show signs of their residents’ rising.  Shades were drawn.  Newspapers gathered.  Dogs walked.  Grandparents bounced babies while the sleepless new parents, who provided the connection between these generations, took some rest after a long night of infant-related trouble shooting.

The swish, swish, swish of a broom pushing away the sticks from the sidewalk.  A storm had passed through and graciously spared the lake community any substantial damage, but left just enough debris and sticks to make its presence known.  In the background a train’s horn rolled over the corn fields and bounced off another sound from the other direction…one of summer’s treats.  Were those waves?  Yes!  Another gift from the storm…the Great Lake would have great waves today!  The kids would be so excited…it was going be a good beach day.

As my family started to stir in their beds, I quietly put on my sneakers.  I hoped to sneak in a quick jog before the flurry of activity that is breakfast and beach preparations overtook my morning energy.  Although we should be well practiced at this by doing it on a regular basis, our family of three young children and two adults can still only be propelled to the beach by a chaotic whirl of applying sunscreen, searching for swimsuits (it was right here last night!!), packing snacks and selecting beach toys.

As I took off on my regular route my senses immediately picked up an unusual presence on the quiet streets.  A bright yellow firetruck, accompanied by an ambulance.  They looked like giants among the tiny cottages.  Black police SUV’s and people stepping off their porches, headed towards the beach with a quickened pace.  I slowed to a walk, steadied my breathing, paused my music and pulled out my earphones.  Seeing some familiar friends, I asked what was going on just as a police car pulled up.

He showed us photos on his phone of three young girls.  Had we seen them?  They had been missing since the night before.  Their shoes and bikes were found at the beach.

A pit in my stomach.  I didn’t know these girls.  But they were children.  I wanted to hug them, I wanted to protect them.  I wanted to wrap them tightly in a giant towel and whisper in their ears that everything was going be alright.

A racing mind.  As soon as the question came to my tongue a neighbor was already asking it as we seemed to have not only a collective concern but a shared brain wave and thought pattern.  The police officer provided information.  Question, question, answer, answer.  Another five questions met with only two answers.  Pop, pop, pop.…a rapid fire exchange, but instead of from a weapon with intentions to hurt, from emotions with intentions to help.  Everything was suddenly very fast and very transactional.  Exchange of information and calls to action.  They were last seen around 12:30 am.  AM?!  At a party.  A party?!  Grade school aged.  So young!?  With their mother.  Mother?!   She was missing too.

In a community that claims multiple generations of family members returning year after year to partake in long fun days of summer recreation, everyone knows everyone, or at least thinks they do.  But no one knew this woman.  They’d noticed the woman in the last few days and her kids unattended.  She didn’t appear to be stable.  Not the night before, not all week.  Someone mentioned that the police had been called earlier in the week.  She wasn’t familiar and no one could recall her being here before.

Another foreign presence, a helicopter in the sky above.  And on the beach, not umbrellas or beach chairs being set up for the day.  Rather a yellow rescue boat steadily making its way back and forth running parallel with the shoreline and further down a police boat mimicking its route.  This all felt abrasive and in stark contrast to the peaceful backdrop of the waves lapping up on the beach.

I rushed back to our cottage, quietly got my husband’s attention and stayed with the kids while he hopped on his bicycle to help out.  I stalled our kids who were eager to check out the waves at the beach and my husband and I took turns out on the bike riding the neighborhood.  The Block Watch had been activated and several neighbors visited our cottage asking us to check our yard, storage shed and to report in if we saw anything.  Auxiliary Police volunteers in neon vests came by with the same information.

Whispered voices, tense faces, hurting hearts.  While the feeling was somber and palpable in the neighborhood I was relieved that my own children were happily playing with their dolls and yard toys.  They were an oasis of uninhibited laughter and typical sibling bickering, unaware of the concern all around them for three children, similar in age to them.

My husband returned and I took my shift on the bike.  I rode the beach where a small crowd had gathered and was standing on the shoreline, their hands to their brows, squinting at the waves and rescue boats.  What did they see?  And then I saw it.  A sight that took my breath away and filled my eyes with tears and my heart with fear.  A human chain moving perpendicular to the shoreline.  Synchronized in their slow and methodical movement, guided by a fireman and blow horn, a chain of men, women and children of all ages held hands stretched yards upon yards into the lake

I was vaguely aware of reading in the news about a human chain being used in New Zealand to save a drowning child.  But I’d never, ever seen anything like this.  Some of the people in bathing suits, some in their clothes.  I counted at least 47 heads bopping up and down, with outstretched arms walking hand in hand, waves in their faces as they walked east, then turned around all together and going back west.

Admittedly when I first saw this image I was rattled and chills ran up and down my spine.  But then the image was reframed for a moment and hovering above that human chain, linked hand by hand I saw goodness.  I saw community.  I saw spirituality.  I saw action and it was inspiring and uplifting.  Warmth filled my heart and while it didn’t replace the fear, it surrounded it.

In this image of goodness I was reminded of a quote I once heard about how many people turn to God as their last resort, when really we can turn to Him as our first resort.  Prayer.  How had I forgotten prayer in the morning of activity?

When I returned to our cottage my five year old asked what was going on at the beach.  I had hoped to shield her and her innocence from this unpleasantness.  I wanted to keep her away from this awareness that bad things can happen.  I wasn’t sure that I wanted her to know that some children may not have someone who is protecting them in the same way I was trying to protect her.

But I realized that to shield her would not truly protect her.  Instead I needed to give her the tools to find strength when life gets messy.  And the reality is that it will, in some form or another, be messy at some time.  But right now, at this young age, I can teach her how to utilize her own inner voice and spirit to steady her sails when the storms hit.

So I gave her a brief and age appropriate version of what was happening.  Her wide eyes showed the same concern that everyone in the community had.  I told her that the best thing we could do right now was to say a prayer for their safety and to ask that peace will surround their family right now and in the future, whatever it may hold.

My daughter reverently sat down on the cement stoop, folded her hands and said her prayer.  Then she stood up and rubbed my upper arm and said she thought that the kids were probably scared.  I nodded and said we should add a wish for their courage and protection to our prayer.  And so on a humid summer Sunday morning, amidst a flurry of activity and rescue efforts, my daughter and I had a moment of stillness and a moment of surrender.

Just as I saw goodness and spirituality in that human chain in the water, I felt goodness and deep spirituality in our own moment of stillness, meditation and prayer.

After a few hours the search was called off and the mother and her children surfaced, not from the lake as everyone had feared, but rather from deep sleep tucked away, far from where they were expected to be, but where they likely had spent a rowdy night before.

Instead of focusing on the sensationalism of the outcome of this situation, and while prayers for this family are likely still needed, I am going to focus on what I witnessed that Sunday morning in that moment.  While no one in this community really knew this mother and her children, everyone felt as I had initially.  The one thing we knew was that they were children.  And the collective we wanted to find them, to save them.  To rescue them and tell them it would be okay.  We wanted to protect this family we didn’t even know.  If this act of human kindness is a snapshot of human kind, then I am proud to be a part of it.

A reverent Sunday morning.  A Sunday morning interrupted.   Families on our way to church, brunch, exercise or the beach were stopped in our tracks.  Our paths redirected towards each other, community and a call to help.  Not in the walls of a church, but certainly in the sanctity of a summer beach community, holiness was present and goodness was at work.

Pink Sunglasses

I wrote this piece as a lunchtime assignment while at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival in June.  Its an Inner/Outer Story.

Long, straight hair, not quite blond, not quite brown.  Shoulders rolled back, the tall stance you’ve been taught as an adult, but with the adolescent habit of shifting your weight from one long and pale leg to another.  Your hands gesturing as if reaching for the confidence that your steady voice, although forced, is carrying.

In your university-issued yellow t-shirt you rattle off historical facts about the buildings that surround you and the ground that swells beneath you.  Someday soon you’ll claim this place as your Alma mater.  And someday soon, a handful of the members of your audience will claim it as their school.  As a crowd of anxious parents and their wide-eyed teenagers listen and eagerly nod their head, your voice carries just enough inflection to engage, yet not enough to embrace.

You’re duty-bound to your university, your upbringing and your family.  Guided by your Midwestern morals, it feels natural to help others who are new to this path.  A few years in, you’ve been this way before.  You have it all figured out, but do you?

You fit the mold, except for your one piece of unique expression popping out from the uniform of standard-issued college student tour guide — your pink sunglasses.

Take them off, lower them a bit.  Perhaps they keep out the intense light and dim the realities that surround you.  Perhaps they cover the dark circles of a haunting previous night.  Perhaps the fun accessory with the feminine color carries special meaning.  While they undoubtedly have a story all of their own, they are guarding your story.

Dear College Tour Guide, you show them this place with memorized facts and antidotes, convincing them to make a choice like yours.  But show us who you are and tell us about your choice.  For just a moment pull down your pink sunglasses, and connect.

I know you Midwestern state school girl, but do I?  You’re playing a part I know well, but I can’t see what lies beneath.  Your pink sunglasses shield, but please reveal.

I know a thing or two about shielding.  And I too have a stamp of unique expression that wardrobes my standard-issued uniform.  Contrasting against the practicality and frumpiness of my mom gear, my stamp has a story all of its own.  But rather than guarding my story, my stamp tells my story.

Enjoying the colorful world of a college town on a humid summer Saturday afternoon I passed the new/used vintage storefront.  Browsing is not a luxury that a mother of young children affords herself.  My feet moved forward by habit always in the direction of what’s next.  But my eyes stayed locked on the window, intrigued by the colors and designs.   My core reversed the momentum set in motion by my feet and propelled me into the store.  Why not?  This was my weekend away from the kids.

My hands felt beaded necklaces and textures of fabrics while my eyes processed unusual combinations of colors and hues.  Dresses and wallets, shoes and hats.  This all felt foreign and fascinating.  Since most of my days are spent in big box stores in the suburbs, a simple and small, earthy store in a college town felt gritty and thrilling.  Clever stationary and animal-prints blended with florals.  This wasn’t Target and there weren’t three children tugging on my skirt.

Skimming a table top, my hand gravitated towards the stripes.  Black and white, kind of classic, kind of trendy, the shape round and Jackie O.  Oh come on, I’m a Midwestern, Middle-aged Mom, no Jackie O!

But this was fun.  I thought the kids might get a kick out of them…or be embarrassed by them.  They could be a good lesson to show them self expression and independence.  I set them down and thought ‘seriously, when will I wear these?’  Certainly not in the school car pool line.  I don’t have the physique to carry them off.  Not anymore anyway.  Really, who did I think I was?  Really, who am I?  Mom to others.  Wife to other.  Always someone to others.  But who to me?  

I thought of you, College Tour Guide and your pink sunglasses.  And with those sunglasses in mind I changed my course and made a choice to buy myself the striped pair.  Just a small souvenir of a weekend away from it all, a weekend to focus on my own interests and hobbies.  A tiny step backwards in restoration, and an even tinier step forwards in rejuvenation.

While not pink, my pair is unique and carries their own story.  They too shield and reveal.  Perhaps they too will shield me from my daily realities. But perhaps they will also reveal a little something about a girl I once knew.

I wore them today for the first time.  No one noticed but me.  That’s ok.

The Sun is Out Today

I wrote this as part of an assignment at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival workshop a few weeks ago.   Its a real memory from my childhood, but told from my brother’s perspective in an attempt to capture a little boy’s voice.

An army of tiny ants on the move.  There must be a million of them, maybe a trillion.  It’s a big brigade.  They’re crawling all over my bare feet and tickle in a way that feels differently than the rough rub on my big toe as it explores the grooves of the patio cement.
I look up and squint at the sky.  Maybe this is what they mean when they say “sun-soaked”.  It looks like the sun is touching every single spot of a giant ocean of blue and a white puffy hippopotamus floats by as it attacks its fluffy friend the walrus.  “I’ll get you, Walrus!”  “You can’t, Hippo!!”
In the background I hear The Voices.  Muted, but familiar, they’re always arguing or kissing dressed in their fancy clothes.  I don’t know them, but every afternoon they talk to my mom from the TV.  I imagine The Voices must be the logic behind ‘They’ when Mom says, “well you know what They say”.  No doubt, The Voices are who made up the term sun-soaked and told my mom that I shouldn’t let the ant army crawl on my feet ’cause I’ll poke out an eye or something.  
Smash!  I crush one of the ant soldiers into the cement and pick a stick up from the ground and snap it in two.  Now I feel kind of sad and sorry I killed the captain of the ants.
I really just want to play in the woods and put Carissa in that jail that Mom made us.  Its just pretend, don’t worry.  She tied rope around three trees and made Triangle Prison.  I’m going to capture Carissa today and then come back as a bandit to release her….maybe.  I’m not sure yet.  I might get stuck in the brush of evil thorns before I return.  But I’ll use some leaves for handcuffs for sure.
Humph!  The capture has to wait for the queen high on her perch.  I stare up at her.  She’s standing tall and mighty on the picnic table.  She’s barefoot too.  I hope she gets a splinter in her big toe.  The table has a lot of splinters to give.  I get one almost every time we eat dinner there.  
Carissa better be careful.  I know it.  The table is going to give a splinter to her feet.  They arch and she taps them, then stretches to her tip toes.  A stick for a microphone, she’s swaying back and forth as she sings, rather yells, “the sun will come out, tomorrow!”.  She thinks she is Little Orphan Annie.  She might be….after all, she’s not getting any splinters.  A full three worldly years and four months older than me, she is pretty convincing up on her picnic table stage.  The sun shines all around her as she hops in and out of its beams.
“Stupid, Big Sis”, I think as I study the ant army changing its formation to overtake my pinky toe.  “The sun is out today – lets go play!”

Roadtrip Surprise

You may wonder how it is that one ends up installing a luggage cargo rack….in the middle of a Dick’s Sporting Goods parking lot…in the middle of Indiana…on the 3rd of July.  The steps for such an occurrence are really quite easy to follow and listed below:

1.  Back in January, you make a grand statement that you can simply no longer stand driving a mini-van and when faced with hefty repair costs, you trade in the 7-year-old, 130,000 mile van for a smaller, more fun-to-drive crossover (so what?  Nine years in I went a wee bit diva on this whole motherhood thing and wanted a smaller car!)
2.  It’s winter.  It’s Chicago.  The AWD is great and so is driving the car around town.   You can actually fit into parking spaces, enjoy your turning radius and never give those side-sliding-doors a second thought.   Hasta la vista, mini-van!
3.  Spring brings roadtrips and just a few in, your family is desperately missing the cargo space of a mini-van.  You declare that you’ll get one of those luggage racks that go on top of the car….someday.
4.  Summer holidays are here, you still haven’t gotten around to getting that luggage rack.  You look back at your family packed in like sardines for a week at the beach, process the safety concerns and miserable faces and once again declare that you need to get one of those racks…someday.  But in the meantime, “come on…it’s fun to travel 5+ hours with a bike helmet and a berry cobbler on your lap!   Think of it as an adventure!”
5.  An hour into beach bound drive, your son declares that he is going to throw up.  You furiously toss around bags, snacks and a bunch of other stuff to uncover a plastic bag for him and pull over on a rainy turnpike to re-pack car.  Thinking how dangerous this is you vow to get that luggage rack soon.
6.  The boy pukes and when you pull into a rest stop to clean, you coincidentally park behind someone traveling in the same car model as you, with the same number of kids and a roof luggage rack!  “Excuse me!”, you question them on the model number and solicit a review out of them.
7.  You find the nearest luggage rack dealer and call to learn that they carry the very rack that the strangers just recommended.  Bingo!  Just a few miles off the highway, you pull in and its waiting for you at the counter.
8.  You spend 45 minutes in a hot parking lot sweating and installing the brand spank’in new luggage rack with kids chirping in with excitement, questions, commentary, taps on the leg and offers to “help”.  While you pretend not to notice the stares and whispers of bystanders, you hope that your children will pretend not to notice the curse words you’re muttering under your breath.
9.  Back on the road, luggage rack on top, you say, “you know, when its time to replace the other car, maybe we should look into a mini-van.”