On the Megabus

When we finally decided on Philadelphia as our Girlie Weekend destination, my mom said, “Why don’t we take the Megabus?” She says it was Dad’s idea.

This sounded like a great plan to me. In general, I don’t mind driving, even long distances, but I could see how a long car ride with my mother could be problematic. Mostly because of my music choices.

But on the Megabus, I could listen to what ever I wanted (which mostly turned out to be M.I.A., Wilco, Pearl Jam, and Arcade Fire), plus tweet, look at the Philadelphia guide book I had purchased for the trip, and read my book, A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin.

So I made the reservations, and we were ready to ride.

Here is what you should know if you’re going to ride the Megabus:

1. If you want the really, really low rates (I have heard of people riding for as low as $5), you have to make reservations way in advance. My mother and I didn’t ride for low, low rates of $1 or $5.

2. You don’t have a lot of room on a Megabus. About the same as if you were riding on a plane. Minus the overhead compartments. Mom and I were perfectly comfortable, for the most part — I could’ve used a little more leg room, natch.

3. You can bring food, drinks, and electronics on the bus. Most seats even offer an outlet or two if you want to charge your phone or save your laptop batteries. Mom and I had water, snacks — including cheese and crackers, complete with a cutting board — and even white wine.

4. The Megabus between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia makes two stops, one at Harrisburg to let people off and pick people up, and one at Sideling Hill on the PA Turnpike for a rest/snack/stretch-your-legs stop. It is about a 5-and-a-half-hour drive with these stops.

Generally speaking, I would endorse the Megabus. Aside from a slight hiccough leaving Philadelphia on Sunday, it was a perfectly acceptable experience: affordable and pretty comfortable. And, let’s face it, being able to read a book for as long as I wanted was pretty sweet. The pros (not having to drive, pay for gas, worry about traffic) far outweighed the cons.

The cons primarily consisted of other passengers: loud music (yes, they had earbuds in, but the volume was cranked), a whiny toddler (I felt bad for him and for his stressed-out mama), a smelly seatmate (briefly — I changed seats), and bare feet.

I am sure that most of you all have lovely, smooth, well cared for, not-smelly feet. But even so, I don’t want to be exposed to them on public transportation. I would no more take off my shoes on a bus or a plane than I would sit in one of those seats in the buff. It’s unsanitary and unappetizing.

Two more things you should know:

In Harrisburg and Philadelphia, the bus stops were out in the open — no shelter, no building, no nothing. In Harrisburg, they pick up/drop off in a mall parking lot, and in Philadelphia, you’re on the sidewalk across from the 30th Street Station. This means if the weather is inclement, you’re in it. I was a little worried that we were going to get rained on before our trip back to Pittsburgh, but instead we stood out in the sun and the heat. Which was all fine and good, but, yeah, HOT.

Megabus seating is first come, first serve. If you want your pick of seats or you are traveling with a seatmate, get to your stop a good 30 to 40 minutes before departure. Otherwise, it’s a crap shoot of diminishing returns.

Finally, this:

Leaving Philadelphia, they put us on a bus that did not have working air conditioning. I’m not quite clear how that happened, but for the 20 to 30 minutes we were on that bus, it sucked. A lot.

They turned us around and got us a new bus, but that put us about 2 hours behind our original timing, meaning we got into Pittsburgh at 11 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. When we unloaded and reloaded, Mom and I ended up being among the last people getting back on the bus, and this is when I ended up with a smelly seatmate (I’m sure I was no rose by this point, either, but it was clear this kid was a least a shower behind). Fortunately, there were enough empty seats that I was able to move.

Clearly, taking any kind of transportation that is not your own car has its own risks. I would gladly take the Megabus again, depending on my traveling companions. (If I were going somewhere on my own, I would probably just drive). But it’s not a bad idea, and for this weekend, it really worked out just fine.

Girlie Weekend: The Highlights

I could go on and on (and on and on) about what a fun, fabulous, and relaxing time we had in Philadelphia.

I will spare you the “on and on”, but suffice to say: It was excellent.

Here are the highlights:

1. My sister found her wedding dress.

This was a big reason for the trip: access to shopping, especially boutiques. Where she lives in North Carolina is not very big-city, bright-lights. As a matter of fact, she originally suggested we all meet in NYC, but that was way out of our collective budgets. We converged in Philadelphia instead.

After wandering into and out of several stores, we walked into MaxStudio. Dr. Sis tried on several dresses, and settled on the perfect one. It really is lovely.

2. I found my best woman dress, also at MaxStudio. Completely and totally second in importance to Dr. Sis’ dress, but still nice to have checked off the wedding to-do list. I don’t have a lot of opportunity for leisurely shopping, so it was nice to be able to capitalize on the time spent doing it girlie weekend.

3. Juju Organics Spa and Salon: OMG. Let me repeat that, so you understand how much I mean it: OMG.

If you are going to or live in (or near) Philadelphia: GO TO THIS SPA. The salon is separate, just a couple of doors down from the spa, and it’s where my Mom and Jess (Dr. Sis’ MOH) had their pedicures (and in my mom’s case, manicure). I can’t speak to the experience there, although Dr. Sis and I headed there after our services and were offered wine, so that’s good, right?

The ambience at the spa is immediately relaxing and lovely. It is very quiet. Dr. Sis had a 90-minute deep tissue massage that had her floating on air afterward. I had a facial with microdermabrasion, and I wanted to marry my aesthetician and bring her home with me. It was heavenly. I had never had microdermabrasion, and I intend to find a spa in Pittsburgh that does it chemical-free because after my facial my skin felt and looked wonderful. My hour-long service also included scalp and hand massage. Honest to God, it was one of the most lovely things I have ever had happen to my body.

4. On Saturday night, I had possibly the greatest meal of my life at Tinto Wine Bar. Mucho thanks to Joe (my college buddy and former South Side roommate, owner and operator of Alfa in Philadelphia) who got us reservations for an early dinner. Every last tapas that came out of the kitchen, including our shared dessert, was better than the last; the service was wonderful; and we had a lovely bottle of white wine (the grape was Albarino, but I completely forget the label). We ate and drank and laughed for two hours. It was delightful in just about every way.

5. Getting to see Joe when we finally made our way to Alfa after dinner, and having Miss @MamaPhan (who blogs over here  drive all the way to Philly to join us for a drink. It was great to meet her after this time of knowing her online, and she gave my sister the low-down on real estate procedures. (Dr. Sis and her fiance are buying a property  in NC.) And I haven’t seen Joe since he drove Dan and I across the Verranzano-Narrows Bridge for our flight to Italy for our honeymoon.

Like I said, I could go on and on. The company was stellar, we actually accomplished wedding-related stuff, and I got to discover a city I had never visited in depth before. Yeah, yeah, I missed the kids (eventually) and my husband (actually almost immediately upon checking into our hotel room), but sometimes, you just gotta get away.

For those of you who are curious, and who watched me provide #megabusupdates on Twitter, that post is coming up soon! Stay tuned, as they say.

Different Sisters

To give you more of an idea of what different sisters* we are, the following is a text exchange between me and Dr. Sis as we were coming into Philadelphia from different directions on Friday.

Me: Where are you?
Sis: We hit traffic. We r 30 miles away. We hit a lot of traffic.
Me: Oh. We are disembarking soon. See you at the hotel, i guess!
Sis: Disembarking?
Me: You know what that means, sweetie?
Sis: Sounds gross.

::blink:: ::blink:: thinking to myself, “What could she possibly mean? —”

Me: That’s disemboweling!
Sis: Oh
Me: Disembark means to get off the bus!
Sis: I know but who says that!
Me: I DO.

*I mean, aside from the fact that I am a foot taller; she is a doctor of chiropractic medicine and I am a writer; and she likes to live near a beach, whereas I like to live near a city. We’re, uh, pretty dissimilar, although both very very pretty.

Are you more like or less like your siblings?

Taxing Talk

I ended up having a very civil Twitter conversation the other day with @FunkyDung and @burghseyeview, who, politically speaking, are not on my page. It was primarily about the debt ceiling and how both parties are doing it wrong.

There was no sputtering or profanity (on my end anyway).

While there were points of agreement (especially along the lines of how both parties are doing it wrong), I think where we really would part ways is over the idea of taxes, or as another way of saying it, “forced wealth distribution”.

I’m not going to argue semantics here. It’s true that taxes are a form of redistributing wealth. Not exactly at arrow-point, to go with a Robin Hood metaphor, but, yes, more money would come from people who earned or had more money. It wouldn’t exactly *directly* go to the beggar down the street, but that could be seen as mere nuance.

In general, I am fine with the idea of taxes, and I am of the mind that if you have more money then you should pay more into the system. I fail to see the inherent evil in such a thing. (Disclaimer: I am not rich. My husband is not rich. Together, we are firmly in the middle class, with the hope that when we finish paying off our debt we will be… in the middle class.)

I would guess that the crux of the issue isn’t taxes or wealth redistribution per se, but the idea of what government is for.

I am not a tax lawyer or a political science major, so I am claiming no expertise here. I’m a mere voter, a fairly well-educated one (again, not necessarily well educated in politics, but I have a college education, and I know how to think for myself, and research facts, et al).

I tend to go along with the idea that paying my taxes helps my government do the things I want my government to do: provide for the public good in terms of education, protection from harm, giving assistance to those who need it (the social safety net? the welfare state?), and, in general, writing, passing, and protecting good laws for the benefit of its citizenry.

Do I agree that government is too big? I do.
Do I think that in order to reduce the deficit and balance the budget the government needs to make some deep, hard cuts to entitlement spending? I do.
Do I also think that in order to reduce the deficit and balance the budget the government needs to collect more revenues? Yes, I do.

I also want Congress to vote to raise the debt ceiling. Because if the American economy gets worse than it already is, I will probably become unemployed, and, frankly, I like having a job. I’m shallow like that.

If we could choose to not pay taxes, that would be something. If we could pick and choose what we would be willing to pay taxes for, that would be something, too. But I don’t think that not paying taxes at all is an answer, because it seems to me the corollary  to “no taxes” is “no spending”. And I think that “no spending” would lead to a collapse of the social safety net (welfare state?).

And I think that would be bad. Morally bad as well as economically bad.

Maybe this makes me a liberal patsy, a bleeding heart. I don’t know. This feeling, of the choices we are faced with as a country, that others are important too and some others need to be protected or helped — it’s something that lead me to supporting health care reform. It’s something I still feel strongly about.

I don’t think of paying taxes as getting my pocket picked or as being stolen from.

I think of it as paying for the things I am using, or things I will use, or things that maybe my children will have to use some day. The government definitely has to take steps so that my kids have things to use down the line without being bled dry on government debt.

I sincerely hope that both parties can see that far, too.

I probably don’t even have to say this, but I’m gonna anyway: Comments, if there are any: Keep it civil. And of a reasonable length, if possible. 🙂

Inquiring Minds

(for @katrina413)

Flora’s first sentence was a question. “Ut dat?” Translation: “What’s that?”

She asked it All.The.Time. Pointing a little finger at the object in question.

“Ut dat?” “It’s a bird!”

“Ut dat?” “It’s an apple!”

“Ut dat?” “It’s a car!”

You get the idea.

So it’s really not surprising that at 6 years old, Flora asks more questions in five minutes than I ask all day long. (Unless the question is, “What are you doing??” I seem to have to ask that one an awful lot.)

My propensity to accurately and honestly answer her questions gets me in a boatload of trouble all the time. I really need to start saying, “Magic” or “Because God made it that way” more often.

There are, of course, questions she asks that I have to turn to Google for — my generation’s version of consulting the Encyclopedia Britannica — but even better than googling is Twitter.

I even created a hashtag: #floraquestions. Last night’s Twitter query involved parachutes (thanks to @mindbling for the answer: “nylon and the prayers of a 1,000 sky divers. #answersforflora”).

Most of our interchanges are like this (from last night and this morning):

Me: I need you and Kate to get up when I ask in the morning. Daddy is unavailable —
F: What is unavailable?
Me: He won’t be here.
F: Why not?
Me: He has conferences.
F: What are conferences?
Me: They are meetings.
F: Why is he going?
Me: For work.
F: I’m going to miss him!
Me (trying to get back to the point): Right, me too! That’s why I need you to get up in the morning when I ask you to.
F: Where’s Daddy going again?

Me: Get in Daddy’s car.
F: Why are we taking Daddy’s car?
Me: Because Daddy’s taking my car.
F: Why is Daddy taking your car?
Me: Because it’s in better condition.
F: What’s condition?
Me: It works better.
F: Why does your car work better?
Me: I have no idea.

In general, I do try to patiently answer her questions. But I also admit when I’m trying to herd them out the door or make dinner for everyone, it’s hard not to get a little exasperated. When Flora hears that in my tone, she protests: “I’m just really curious!”

And it’s true. She is.

Obviously, I think her inquisitiveness is a good quality. It’s one of the reasons I think she will do well in school, and, eventually, college and beyond. I always joke that she’s my little research scientist.

I think for her next birthday, I’m going to buy her a white lab coat and a microscope.

Heebie Jeebies

I woke up in the middle of the night from a terrible dream.

It involved Twitter drama (which: no. No, Twitterama, I refuse to engage!), a former friend, and an ex-boyfriend.

I woke up extremely angry, and composing pissed off tweets, blog posts, and texts in my head.

My subconscious clearly needs to be cleaned out. I’m storing some crappy stuff down there.

I am a vivid dreamer. Like, I wake up in my bed sometimes utterly confounded that “it was all ‘just’ a dream”. It feels like another life (sometimes a really scary one). I have woken from dreams — nightmares — of losing people; I have woken from dreams of dying or being in mortal danger; I have woken from nightmares of being chased or consumed. I have woken up clinging to my husband, relieved to find him breathing — even loudly snoring — next to me in bed.

Of course last night, I woke in the middle of the storm. After I calmed down, I felt grateful that my children don’t have clown dolls or trees growing outside their bedroom window.


The former friend in the dream is a woman I went to high school with. I haven’t spoken to her in nearly four years. She was a mutual friend of me and my friend H (who sometimes comments here as aidensmama). She (our former friend, I’ll refer to her as A) stopped returning our calls and emails some time ago; she lives and works in Pittsburgh — although I guess this may have changed.

When H finally made contact with her, and asked why she hadn’t talked to me or H in awhile, A answered, “You two have everything I want. It’s too painful.” By “everything I want” read: “children and husbands”.

That’s the last I’ve heard from her. I don’t know why she is on my mind, or why she pissed me off so much in my dream last night. (In the dream, she was asking me a lot of questions about The Ex. And I was answering them, and then she got shirty with me, and I conned to the fact that she was asking all these questions because she was *dating The Ex!* I’m not 100% sure why that last point pissed me off — although in the dream I kept referring to our conversation as “the interrogation” and I was angry at being subjected to it.)

I don’t know if she’s on Facebook. I don’t know if she’s on Twitter. Like I said, I don’t know if she is still even living in Pittsburgh.

I guess the upshot is for some reason lately I am missing her. I am hoping that she is happy, where ever she is and whatever she is doing. But I also feel that seeking her out to reconnect may cause her pain.

And I would never want to do that to her.

Have you lost friends throughout life? Was it a normal drifting apart, or was it a painful split? Do you still dream of them?

The Difference Six Years Make

When Flora was a little over three months old, Dan and I talked about going out for my birthday.

We got Flora’s godparents (who lived a few blocks from us at the time) to babysit, picked a bottle of wine, and decided on a restaurant in the same neighborhood in which we lived (the South Side).

And we worried. I had left a bottle of pumped milk, but we still worried.

We knew that it was important to have a date night, and a birthday was a perfect excuse. But we had misgivings that were a mixture of parental guilt for wanting a date night, unease over going several blocks away from our child, anxiety about breast feeding, and some residual panic relating to the loss of Gabriel.

In other words, it was hard to go away from our infant girl, even though she was in good hands and we weren’t very far away and we were going out for maybe three hours tops.

Fast forward to this past weekend, when I turned over all three of my children — including my adorable and adoring 7-month-old son — to my in-laws care overnight. Without blinking.

I was more worried about my in-laws than my children, to be frank.

Dan and I proceeded to drive up to Erie, attend a wedding reception, go to bed after midnight, and sleep until 10 a.m. Then we went to breakfast with my parents before driving back to Pittsburgh.

And, again, I was more worried about my in-laws than the children. Especially if Michael didn’t sleep through the night. (He didn’t. He didn’t nap Saturday afternoon for them either. Gah!)


This weekend, I will again be leaving my children in someone else’s care. Of course, that someone else is their dad (with my in-laws as backup), so the anxiety again is about the caretaker. Dan hasn’t been alone with all three children for more than an hour or so, let alone most of two days and overnight.

I am leaving instructions for him regarding Michael. The girls can tell Daddy what they need, but Michael is going to need an advocate.

But I have a wedding-related duties, so I am meeting my sister in Philadelphia to…um… shop for dresses! That’s it. So, yeah, we might go to some nice dinners, and stay in a nice hotel, and there’s that hour or so we will be in the spa. But mostly: dress shopping.

I suppose if I were breast feeding Michael, this getting away would be more difficult, and I confess to having some residual guilt about that. But done is done, and he’s doing well (except for ear infections, which all my children had/have, breast fed or not).

But Dan and I needed those hours in the car without the kids, and the night and morning free. I need some child-free time, some girl bonding time, some dress shopping time. I don’t know if this makes me a bad (or “bad”) mother. (Or wife, for that matter.)

Mileage will vary.

Do you make leaving your children a practice? (Not counting working outside the home, because don’t even get me started.) Have you gone away from them overnight? Is it still hard, or did it get easier for you, too?

Random Thoughts: The Neglectful Edition

I’ve had a post boiling in my head all week, but it’s about politics, and the obstructionist GOP leadership — not just in Washington, see Minnesota for some truly fucked up reasoning — and debt ceilings and deficits and…

And every time I start it, I descend into outraged sputtering. With profanity.

So I don’t want to do it.


But this: The governor of Minnesota finally “compromised” with his GOP-led state legislature. The government in that state has been shut down for two weeks over the budget.

Instead of raising taxes on people who make a million dollars a year, or more, he went with the GOP plan of delaying payments to schools and borrowing to meet the budget numbers.

Because that’s a GREAT PLAN.


I simply do not understand the GOP stance against any and all tax revenues being raised. Without exception. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND, and thinking about it makes me want to go into a profanity-laced rant. Which doesn’t exactly elevate the discussion, you know?


Here are some things I haven’t told you: Michael is trying to pull up. *sob* He sometimes walks on all fours instead of crawling on hands and knees. *weep* His two front teeth are millimeters away from breaking through. *please please please, already*

So this baby that I wanted because I wanted another baby is growing. Is becoming less baby-ish. It happened faster than I would have wanted. I’m trying to come to terms with it.

Because *we are done*.

Michael loves me best, still, and proves it by crawling directly to me and then giving me open-mouthed, drooly kisses on my cheek when I pick him up. He follows me around the house, room to room. And even though his sisters make him belly laugh, he still checks in with me to make sure I am not going to abandon him to their overwhelming affection.

At 7 p.m., the move toward bed must begin, because he will suddenly be ready, and will start to cry and not stop until he’s got that bottle in his mouth and is dozing off in my arms. Everything else can go hang.


I have not been eating with my children lately. When we get home, my children NEED TO EAT IMMEDIATELY OMG! So I throw food in the girls’ direction, and sit down to feed Michael.

Since I don’t particularly enjoy warmed over mac ‘n’ cheese with Boca chik’n nuggets, I often don’t eat until the children are fed. I usually crave a salad of fresh greens from my CSA with some cheese and fruit, and maybe some nuggets and some sweet potato fries on top (the vegetarian’s version of a grilled chicken salad, Pittsburgh style).

And all that takes time. So I am often eating at 6:30, or 8 or 9 p.m. Which makes me super cranky. The girls’ bedtime has not been going very well. I’m working on it.


Finally, this (via @JanePitt, via Suits+Boots):

“…You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.‘”
— Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell

NOW, I feel better.

Meatless Monday: Not Your Mother’s Potato Salad

Between my CSA and my neighbor’s garden, I am going to be swimming in fresh vegetables this summer. Not a complaint.

I currently have six zucchini in my crisper, and I am looking forward to making zucchini lasagna again soon. I plan on sharing some with the neighbors.

They also gave us a crop of Italian green beans and yellow wax beans on Sunday. Flora was eating them raw right up until dinner time. Then I roasted them, and she ate a pile that way, too. (Kate is currently on a fresh green vegetable strike. I’m not sure why. As long as she’s eating a variety of foods — and she still is — and at least trying the vegetables I cook, I’m not going to give her grief.)

Red Potato and Green Bean Salad

10 red potatoes, cleaned and cut into 1-2-inch pieces
1 lb. green beans, cleaned, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 lb. buffalo mozzarella, cubed
Fresh basil


1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. dijon mustard
dried herbs to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes until fork tender (about 7 to 10 minutes). Drain; let cool for a few minutes.

Blanch the green beans.

Mix up the dressing ingredients.

Toss everything together, and let chill for an hour or so.

I completely forget where this recipe came from. Possibly Vegetarian Times. It’s a nice summer alternative, because it’s light and crisp, without heavy mayo. If you toss the potatoes and beans with the mozzarella while the former are still a little warm, it results in a lovely creamy texture.

Memory Lane: Space Shuttle Challenger

I was in my freshman year French class.

My French teacher, God rest his soul, was a weird dude. I wish I remembered his name. He wore the widest ties with the craziest patterns, completely mismatched outfits, and often appeared to be in his own French-speaking la-la land.

But hey, when I traveled to Paris for spring break one year, I had enough high school French under my belt to get by.

It started to snow. Then the principal came on the public announcement system. I thought for sure they were going to send us home early — that an Erie blizzard was starting up.

So what she told us instead didn’t make sense at first.


They didn’t send us home early. When I got home from school that day, I watched the footage of it on the news.

This was the days before cable news, before the 24-hour news cycle. Interest in the launch was probably higher than usual because of the presence of a teacher on board the shuttle.

They played it over and over again. I finally turned it off.

“Why do they keep showing it?” I asked my mom. She shrugged at me; I remember she looked sad and troubled, touched by the deaths of those astronauts.

“They announced it at school,” I told her. “I thought they were sending us home early.”

“It started to snow right when it happened,” she told me. “I wondered about that. If the launch had something to do with the weather. Isn’t that strange?”


Today, space shuttle Atlantis lifted off for NASA’s final shuttle mission. As I listened to the news this morning, I thought about Christa McAuliffe, and that long-ago classroom. About the legacy of space flight, about what comes next.

I wonder if my children will travel to the stars, to the moon, to other planets. If they want to, I hope they get the opportunity. What a dream that would be.

Do you remember the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster? Where were you? Do you think your kids will go into space?