how to travel by train without annoying your fellow passengers

We went from Oregon to California (and back!) by train. Nineteen hours spent inside a rail car. And it looks like it’s time for another installment of Things That Make Me Cranky: Travel Edition.

Traveling isn’t always easy, especially if you’re traveling with a kid. And since you can’t check them with the luggage, you’re pretty much stuck traveling with a kid if you’re a parent. But here’s the thing: you’re the parent. And if there was ever a time to act like a parent, it’s when you’re stuck inside a rail car with forty or fifty strangers.

Here are some tips, from you to me:

1. If your kid doesn’t want to sleep after lights out, bring your child to the lounge car, where the incessant renditions of “Twinkle Twinkle” interspersed with fits of weeping and declarations of “No more train!” will not keep your fellow passengers awake.

2. If your child is still in diapers, utilize the changing station in the bathrooms just below. Do not change diapers in the seat behind me. The windows on the train? Do not open. FYI.

3. When the entire car is quiet, it does not mean everyone will enjoy your child’s exhuberant recital of the ABCs at the top of his or her lungs.

4. Use the words “Keep your volume down” or something similar instead of choosing to ignore your child’s extremely loud demands and/or running commentary. Yes, it’s lovely that your child is so observant and can point out every tree we pass. I’m sure you and possibly your mother find this kind of thing fascinating. Share appropriately, not indiscriminately.

5. However, when calling your mother to share such news, DO NOT USE SPEAKERPHONE. This is not your living room. Do not act like it is.

But it’s not just parents who need a gentle reminder about how to behave like a civilized human being when utilizing mass transit. A few examples:

1. When watching a movie on your clever portable DVD-playing device of choice, use headphones. Do not turn the volume up so you and your seat mate can hear the movie over the sound of the train. You should not wait to see if any of your fellow passengers are annoyed enough to ask you to turn it down. What you’re doing? Is inherently annoying. Stop it at once.

2. After the lights are turned down and the conductor announces that radio silence is falling is not an appropriate time to begin a conversation about your cousin’s intrauterine cancer. It’s a tragic subject and one that you clearly have strong feelings about, but your fellow passengers do not need to hear all about those feelings while they are trying to sleep.

3. When passing a parent with a small child who has just fallen asleep on the seat beside her, do not stop to loudly exclaim “Oh, how cute! I remember when I could sleep anywhere!” I can pretty much guarantee that the child in question cannot sleep ‘anywhere’ and will then wake up, cranky and disoriented, while you go on your merry way.

4. Finally, don’t get so drunk that you decide pulling the emergency brake halfway through Southern Oregon would be a good idea.

Basically, all of these things come down to “Have a little fucking common sense and be considerate.” Should I have to explain this? No. Do I? Let’s just say: I didn’t make any of this up.

more, now, again

SO, my husband is camping again. It’s lovely that my husband camps, and even lovelier that he does it without me (my idea of a vacation does NOT involve sleeping on dirt, with the bugs and the nature). But it’s his second week-long camping trip in as many months, and we’re WAY behind on work, and the stuff he was supposed to have ready for me before he left is not, how shall I say, ready.

This does not result in a Happy Fun Me.

Also: solo parenting. Generally I like one-on-one time with the kid. Generally we have a pretty good time when daddy is out of town. Generally I don’t have to spend every waking second typing frantically on my computer while the kid pulls on my arm and (quite reasonably) demands attention. I would like to point the reader to Exhibit A, wherein I took the kid for a week-long vacay at my sister’s house so Not So could get some uninterrupted work time – and I STILL ended up having to do a ton of unexpected work because he got all swamped with projects at the last minute and yeah.

Yeah. Our entrepreneurial adventure has hit a rough spot. Send reinforcements in the form of chocolate.

Speaking of chocolate, I made a chocolate cake late last night, as sort of an apology to the kid (and also to assuage my massive PMS of doom). Much of it ended up stuck to the bottom of the pan, despite the fact that I followed the instructions for greasing the pan to the letter, thank you very much, but I filled in the empty bits with frosting. Ha! Take that, cake! I also ate the stuck-on bits myself with my fingers and went to bed all jittery with sugar. Good times.

startup mama

The internet. I love it, and yet it sucks the lifeblood right from my veins.

We’re dealing with the Terrible Threes, not only with the kid but also with the business. Both are growing at an alarming rate. Both demand huge amounts of time and attention. (Only one regularly elbows me in the sternum, however.)

I’m beginning to think that finding a balance is code for something else, like Discovering Valium or Hiring a Nanny. It doesn’t help that the last couple of months one or both of us has either been sick, out of town, or working through the night in order to catch up on the work that being sick or out of town interrupted. And since Not So’s job comes with more exciting deadlines than mine, guess who nobly “works” from home with the kid? Yes, because a clinging preschooler is an excellent business partner, let me tell you.

I’m behind. I’m stressed out. And it was 107 degrees in Portland today.


back to basics

Why’d I call myself Cranky Mama again? Oh, right.

Here’s a list of this week’s peeves:

  • Yes, I can probably build that website faster than you can. No, that does not mean I will do it for 1/16th of my stated estimate because you ‘think that’s what it should cost.’ I post my rates prominently on my business site; if you can’t afford to hire a designer, don’t hire a designer.
  • That said, don’t come crying to me when your website looks like crap.
  • Especially if I did do you a favor and make some tweaks to your site on the cheap, which is RARELY A GOOD IDEA, so remind me of that next time, yes? 
  • Although sometimes it works out gorgeously, which lulls me into a false sense of security. 
  • Dear Public: Maybe you do not use the same internet I use. Because my internet gives me the ability to fact-check, while yours apparently just supports every crazy-ass idea that comes into your head. You should use my internet next time.
  • And on an unrelated note, having a long torso means low-rise trousers look terrible on me. Yet what is in all my drawers? LOW RISE, YOU HAVE WON THIS ROUND.
  • Hair. Specifically my hair, and the fact that it does not do what I want it to do. Why you got to be like that, hair? I style you. I buy you expensive shampoo. What more do you want from me?

Oh, but it’s not all doom and gloom at Chez Cranky! No sir and/or madam, there are plenty of reasons to put on a party hat and dance like the devil, and here I shall enumerate:

  • Easter candy. YES I SAID IT. Creme Eggs, people. I am just depraved enough to kidnap me a Cadbury bunny.
  • My kid woke up in the middle of the night and said quite clearly “The dinosaur doesn’t eat that. Okay, mama?”
  • Also: “Row, row, row your boat / gently down the drain…”
  • Clearance at Target = closetful of cute clothes for me. Yay Target.
  • I solved the Scone Issue that has been plaguing me and now have freshly-baked scones upon which to gorge. Burp.
  • I have mostly wrapped my head around floats (in CSS). Shut up, it’s exciting to me.
  • My new MacBook is all that and a bag of chips. It’s so sexy I keep having to stop myself from making out with it.
  • I’m almost up to 80,000 words on my book.
  • And stuff.

So, see, I am balanced. BALANCED I TELL YOU. Now be quiet: I’m hunting wabbit.

one toddler. price: cheap.

So I suddenly and unexpectedly found myself with the afternoon off. Hooray, I said (I’m pretty sure all-caps were employed as well), I totally needed an afternoon off, if by “off” you mean “doing laundry, replying to work emails, cleaning the house and dealing with a two and a half year old who refuses to eat.” Because, yes!

And the kid, he’s such the icing on the proverbial two year old cake. He wanted a granola bar. I suggested that mac and cheese might be more appropriate for lunch. He SCREAMED NONSTOP FOR 38 MINUTES. (Yes, I timed it.) Then took a break. Then saw me eating my mac and cheese and screamed some more. Then – finally – agreed to a pb&j…of which he consumed three bites. And then asked for a granola bar.

This is comedy gold, people.

I had grandiose dreams of taking the kid to the park, having one of those idyllic mom and baby experiences that one sees in magazines and commercials for Happy Meals, but now I’m exhausted, and cranky, and full of angst, and any park-going experience would resemble one of those other commercials, the ones involving Calgon and pleas to be taken away.

So instead I’m going to fold laundry and wish I had some vodka in the freezer while the kid (apparently) empties out every single bloody toy bin in the living room.

(Oh, what, you were expecting something funnier than this? Pfft.)