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Border-ing On Insanity

10 Dec


I recently came across this old email I’d sent some friends a few years ago after an attempted vacation with my daughter and mom. It made me laugh.

From: Robin Doyle

Subject: what happens in mexico, stays in mexico

Date: June 6, 2010 3:18:26 PM PDT
So you may be asking yourself, “Self, why am I getting an email from Robin when she should be in Mexico having a wonderful, relaxing vacation?” Here’s why:
Tuesday night

6:00 p.m.: At dinner, Liam throws up all over me.

6:05 p.m.: Liam throws up all over Craig.

6:06 p.m.: I have a mini-nervous breakdown and rethink my vacation.

9:00 p.m.: After lots of mom guilt, I decide to go anyway knowing that Craig and the nanny will handle him and proceed to pack all 10 bags. (Ella NEEDS dolls, movies, books, toys, water toys, snacks, 4 pair shoes, Leapstar, etc.)

Wednesday morning

9:30 a.m.: Pick up my mom and head south. We dream of lying by the pool caressing strong, fruity drinks with a little umbrella.

2:00 p.m.: Buy car insurance and cross border. Only $87.50. 

2:10 p.m.: Miss the Ensenada turn sign and get lost. End up in Tecate. Lovely city.

3:45 p.m.: Make it to our hotel, but room is not ready. To compensate, we’re given voucher for free drinks. The strawberry margarita tastes like motor oil.

5:30 p.m.: Go swimming and Ella makes friends with another girl on vacation. Starting to feel like we’re on vacation.

7:00 p.m.: Call home to check on Liam. He’s is still sick.

Thurs. morning, early:

3:00 a.m.: Ella wakes up and has to pee.

3:10 a.m.: Ella is up again and has to poo.

3:20 a.m.: Ella throws up in her bed.

3:30 a.m.: Give Ella bath and change pjs. She gets in bed with me.

4:00 a.m.: Ella throws up in my bed. We clean her up.

5:00 a.m.: Ella throws up in my mom’s bed.

5:05 a.m.: Ella throws up in hallway and bathroom.

5:06 a.m.: We quickly pack up and head home. Ella continually dry heaves and pukes all over herself and car. Cannot stop because I am driving on a two lane highway in Mexico.

7:00 a.m.: Reach border, but a portly Federali won’t let me in line up to cross border. He yells at me to move my car. I won’t move. He reaches for his hip…is he going to shoot? I yell at him that my daughter is sick. He won’t listen to me. He then blocks my car and I am forced to leave line up.

7:05 a.m.: I get lost, again. Drive around Tijuana for 45 minutes trying to find my way out. (It’s only a matter of time before Ella asks me what the F word means.) End up coming across “the suburbs of TJ.” Find what is the “Balboa park of Tijuana,” with people jogging and walking along a round path. In the corner, I see an open air court where 200 women are doing aerobics to blaring Mariachi music.

8:10 a.m.: I finally find the border line up. Wait 40 minutes more, stuck in a sea of cars, with no where to go or move. Ella is dry heaving and throwing up liquid. My poor mom is crying because she has to pee and is in excruciating pain. Two four-year-old Mexican boys are trying to sell me used plastic balls. An old man attempts to wash my windows with newspaper. I feel like I’m in my own “Babel.”

9:00 a.m.: We make it to US soil. I stop at fancy deli in Solana Beach to use their facilities and grab some coffee and bagels. The owner schmoozes me and asks about my morning. I crumble at his humanity and let it all out.  ”Why Mexico?”  he asks. I want to throw my coffee in his face, but instead, I head back to my car. Only three more hours of driving before we hit home.

Friday morning

9: 30 a.m.: Ella wakes up and is completely fine. Ends up Liam gave her his stomach bug as a bon voyage gift. 



Throwing Salt On A Wound

27 May


I truly believe that my kids are going to kill each other one day. If not each other, then me…of a heart attack…as I scream at them while they pummel each other to a pulp on the couch for the 237th time while watching “Adventure Time” and fighting over who gets the last Fruit by the Foot.

As the older sister, I know full well that siblings fight. My younger brother Kevin always used to terrorize me when we were kids. The time he prank-called my parents pretending to be a school aide by announcing my absence from school (when I was totally there) will always be with me.

But no matter how many times I remind myself of this cultural norm, it still pains me to the deepest core of my motherly instincts when Ella and Liam go batshit on one another.

I’ve taken a multitude of approaches in trying to deal with this issue. I’ve yelled like Mommy Dearest, I’ve clenched my fists, forced myself to remain Zen and spoken in a calm, reassuring and loving voice. I’ve also just said f#$k it, and jumped in like the referee in a caged MMA fight and punt kicked them to opposite sides of the room.

I would say 99% of the time, Ella, the older one, initiates the fights. Liam is good at playing the victim and whining about it to the point that I’d rather listen to a Neil Young album on a five-hour loop. The other day, however, Liam was feeling rather ballsy and wasn’t having any of Ella’s crap.

In one of her loving, sisterly moods, Ella sashayed over to Liam who was playing quietly at the Legos table. “Can I play Legos with you?” she questioned sweetly. Instead of making room for Ella to create a mote to his Hogwarts Castle, he furiously clawed at her face and scratched her like a cougar starring at its prey.


Did I lose my sh%t this time? No. I was actually quite proud of myself. After I handed Ella an ice pack that I retrieved from the freezer, I casually went upstairs, closed the door to my bedroom, and ran a lovely lavender bath. Ding ding ding ding! I had come to the conclusion that most of their fights occur when I am in the same room. So I left. If I could jump in my car and hightail it to Nordstrom Rack, I would, but they’re only 7 and 9 so that could have potentially thrown me in jail for negligence.

Between the hypnotic sound of steamy running water, the calming scent of Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salt Soaking Solution, and the breathing exercises I forced myself to repeat until my heart didn’t feel like it was going to leap out of my chest, I calmed down. I reminded myself over and over they probably wouldn’t kill each other. How many stories are there really of siblings under 10 killing each other over a game of Legos? We don’t have guns in the house. (Note to self: Google this fact tonight.)

After I emerged from my mini spa session, my 11 brow-crease was softer, my skin was supple and my nerves were massaged. My kids? They were playing like two little kittens at the kitchen table. You would have never suspected fowl play.

So far, this new disappearing ritual of mine works like magic. Except for the spike in our water bill, there’s really no downside. With all my free “spa” time, my legs are usually shaved, I have polish on my nails (chipped, but it’s on there), and I have caught up on “Bate’s Motel”. You see, my husband has also adopted my habit of “fleeing to the bathroom” during our kid’s brawls and installed a flat screen above the tub. HEAVEN.


Has Anyone Ever Told You, You Look Like Sandra Bullock?

9 Jul

I’ll never forget when I was waiting tables at The Good Earth restaurant in the ’90s and a mom and daughter in my section both could not get over my resemblance to…wait for it…Ricki Lake. I wanted so badly to spit in their Sweet & Spicy hot tea. They genuinely seemed like they were paying me a compliment.





Then there was the time I was trying on fancy dresses for a fraternity dance in college when the sales lady in Fashion Island said I looked just like Jamie Lee Curtis. I was 19. Jamie Lee Curtis was like, old. That didn’t sit well either.
But honestly, there’s nothing better for a shot of self-confidence then when a complete stranger tells you look like an attractive movie star. Especially if that movie star has been voted byPeople magazine as one of the “World’s Most Beautiful People”.  So imagine my elation the other day when the girl taking my order at California Chicken Cafe says, “Has anyone ever told you look like Sandra Bullock?” Wow. I blush. Honesty, what do you say? The answer is yes, but do I tell her that? Jesus, that would sound so conceited! Even just writing this can come off as totally narcissistic. But yes, I have been compared to the lovely Ms. Bullock. It’s true. Years ago when I actually worked at People magazine as a lowly editorial assistant, Steven Cojocaru told me I reminded him of SB. I loved Steven. He called me his “Jewish sista”. This was way before the whole “Cojo” thing. Now, he wouldn’t even remember this sista. So as I reach for my broccoli soup I shyly say, “Thank you, I’ll take that as a compliment.” Man, that’s all it took to make the rest of my day float by. Giddy, I text my husband to share my recent compliment. His quick response: