Here's something no one tells you about kids. You absolutely cannot pack for a vacation when they are within 5 miles of the suitcase.
I have yet to devise a system (other than handcuffing them to the back door) to prevent things from being removed from the suitcase. Back when I was an amateur, I would arrive at our destination only to find that the underwear I packed was missing but now we had a toilet brush and 7 boxes of tissues, should we need them.
I become my own version of TSA now while packing. I watch the bag like a hawk to make sure nothing unnecessary goes in and nothing necessary comes out. If I even saw a tiny hand near the bag I swatted it away.
This past weekend, we headed north to see the parentals and my brother. I, of course, had to work. Because this is my lot in life. The second I get in the car to go anywhere out of town, two things inevitably, always, without fail, happen:
1) It begins to pour rain. (Torrential storms cued up for real when I hit the South Bronx.)
2) Someone needs to buy a house.
There is no cell signal at my parent's house. But if you sit by the front door you can get one bar and make a call if you don't move your head too much. Since it was 20 degrees, going outside wasn't an option. I'm talking to my client's lender to get the final info I needed to put in the offer and in the kitchen, my brother says, "Alexa, what's the weather?"
Allow me to digress about Alexa. Two or three years ago, the very same brother told me that this was the next big thing and I should buy it when my chance came up. Since I'm a whore for anything Amazon, since he's usually never wrong about these things, and since I am also, apparently, a sucker for getting in on something exclusive, I bought it.
Ours is defective. No. I take that back. Ours sucks.
Me: "Alexa, what's 2 plus 2."
Alexa: "You wanted to hear songs by Lionel Richie"
Me: "ALEXA WHAT IS 2 PLUS 2?"
Alexa: "Playing songs by Lionel Richie"
I mean, it's like this all the time. If I didn't occasionally ask her to blast Guns N' Roses on those rare moments when I'm home alone, I would smash her head like Telly Savalas did to Talking Tina. (If you haven't seen that episode of the Twilight Zone, you are missing out.) There are times when Real Estate Dad and I are watching TV and Alexa will just start talking. Sometimes she tells herself jokes and then gives the punchline. I don't get it. I'm also 99.9% sure she is listening to us and reporting to google.
Back to the parentals. I'm trying to get a contract done there's my brother, asking Alexa stupid things I can answer because I JUST CAME IN FROM OUTSIDE! I know he is trying to prove to me how useful Alexa is. Clearly he hasn't had to contend with the likes of ours which failed out of 3rd grade Alexa-School. I start screaming at him to make Alexa shut up because I can't hear anything. And the loan officer I'm speaking with starts laughing hysterically.
"You must be talking to your brother?"
Aren't all family gatherings like this?
And then, Monday came and it was time to drive back to DC.
We stayed in a hotel. So we checked out of the hotel. We go to the parentals and there are several tiny shopping bags, waiting by the front door for me, filled with all sorts of things. And this, my friends, is where it all goes downhill.
"Here are the paintings you wanted. Oh, do you want these blouses? Just cut the shoulder pads out. These flowers are for the girls, they asked for them so I made them for them, they can keep them in their room. Do you need a thermometer? How about these calculators, can't the kids use them for school? What about the donuts? Here, your brother got these for the girls."
Then there's me. "What paintings. No one wears blouses anymore. The girls don't need fake flowers, they have enough junk. We have a thermometer. No calculators - they're 3 and 5, they can't even write much less use a calculator and no the donuts are stale and they don't need the sugar for a 5 hour ride back home and I specifically told every one of you in October no more stuffed animals because the girls are overloaded."
I couldn't move fast enough. Most of that stuff ended up in bags anyway. Every time something else was dumped on me, it went into a little bag. What. The. F. I was unpacking tiny bags and tossing crap back in their house like a game of hot potato.
And then I said what I always say when I'm 7 minutes out from leaving.
"If you don't stop dumping stuff on me every time I come here, we're not going to come back again."
But we'll go back this spring. We always do.