Losing While Winning

You would think that living in North Dakota for 14 years would have broken me of the dumb that is gas tank roulette, but you would be wrong. It made me better at it. A little bit of practice goes a long way when it comes to running your gas tank down to fumes, and that's what I gained in North Dakota. I am entirely too skilled at driving around with the low gas light on, even when I know it's 50 miles until the next gas station.


At least four of my grey hairs are a direct result of playing gas tank roulette at the dumbest of dumb times. That's not counting the six I gained last week.

It started out responsibly enough. I had to travel a bit for work, which this time meant driving an hour south of Pittsburgh and then driving west until there were no signs of humanity. And when I say "no signs of humanity," I mean following a narrow, windy road past a few cows, but that's about it. It was the kind of narrow, windy road that has a giant drop on either side, so it's not like you're going to be obliviously texting and driving or some nonsense, unless you want to fall off the face of the earth. And if you do fall off the face of the earth, you're on your own. There is no cell phone service and no people, so you're going to have to figure things out for yourself.

For what it's worth, I had been to the middle of nowhere before, so I knew where I was going. I didn't really need directions, but had Google Maps running because why not? It's fun having a polite lady tell you when to turn. When the polite lady told me to turn a few miles earlier than I was planning, I didn't even think about it. I listened to her, despite having planned to grab gas at the exit where my original turn would have been.

It was a shortcut! Hooray!

A few miles down the road from that turn the polite lady told me to take, I remembered that there was a good reason to go the other way. Gas! I needed gas! I was seconds from having the gas light come on and there was no sense in waiting for all of that. It just needed to happen.

But it hadn't happened. And I was already a good five miles off course.

Alas, I pulled over and consulted my friend Google Maps. She politely informed me that everything was okay. There was a hint of a town ahead and there was a gas station there. HOORAY!

GOOGLE MAPS IS A LIAR. I discovered that two miles after my low gas light turned on. There was sort of a little town, but it was more like a cluster of houses with a church in the middle. There wasn't a grocery store, convenience store, restaurant, or gas station anywhere to be found. The gas station that the polite lady from Google Maps had told me about was likely abandoned way back when Alf was the king of television.

So I had a choice. I could double-back and make myself suuuuuuper late, but have gas in my car, or I could trudge ahead and hope for the best.

I've never been accused of being a pessimist. There was no point in starting right then. Hope for the best won out.

The good news is that I had pinned the location I was headed to in Google Maps, so even though none of the roads I needed to follow towards the end existed, I figured I would be fine. I was taking the most efficient route. For sure.


Google Maps swore I was four miles from my destination when she told me to take a turn down a road that didn't exist. There was no road, no hint of a road, nothing. In fact, I needed to drive a good ten miles in order to circle around to where I needed to be.

By that point, the "you can go this many miles" indicator on my car was already double dashes. My car thinks it's okay to tell you how far you can get up until it's 17 miles, then it declares you too stupid for help. Anything under 17 miles is a mystery, and there I was. In the land of mysteries.

So I mathed. I mathed and I mathed and I mathed and I realized I was toast. No matter what, I couldn't make it to the site and back without running out of gas, but I was also too far from the nearest gas station to double-back. I was going to run out of gas no matter what.

So I kept driving. I drove to the site and I took care of business and I acted like it was no big thing that I was about to drive into nothingness with a few fumes of gas and a cell phone that would be useless.

I coasted a lot.

I even slid the car into neutral any time I was headed downhill. That HAD to make the car more fuel efficient! My knuckles are still white from the adventure, by the way. I was clenching that steering wheel so hard as I drive TWENTY FOUR MILES.


That's how far it ended up being from the site to the gas station that I somehow made it to, despite the fact that my car swore to me that I couldn't make it so much as 17 miles well before I started that trek.


So now I can't decide if I should give up on gas tank roulette while I'm a winner or if I should continue to play until I find the actual limits of the gas fumes.


Together Forever

My never-ending quest to make sure that the girls get to do things they both think are fun has led us all over the place. We've gone from walks in a park to the zoo to amusement parks and back again. For the most part, it's not hard to amuse them both because it's less about where we go than it is who is there.

Case in point: I gave Alexis a ride to school last week. It was the first time all year she didn't ride the bus, and HOOBOY was Mila happy to have company in the car. She was flat-out overjoyed that her partner in crime was there to make her giggle and laugh. Sadly, it's a rare occasion that I have both girls in the car in the morning, so now Mila is spending her ride to daycare mourning her sister. "Where's Alexis? Mila needs Alexis."

So, it's not a surprise that taking the girls together and going somewhere fun leads to shenanigans. The Pitt game this past weekend, for example, was a nonstop barrel of laughs.


The fun started before kickoff with a bag of cotton candy. One insisted it was necessary and then the other jumped on the bandwagon and the next thing you know, BAM. I'm a sucker.

And WOW was Mila sticky. Was? Actually, I should say is because I'm not sure that I've gotten the layer of sugary cloud off of her. Still. Or ever will.

From cotton candy they went to happily sitting side-by-side. They both did a decent job of watching the game, as long as you take ages into consideration. It's a sliding scale, n'at. They cheered and clapped and before you knew it, the game was over.

"Let's go," I said.

"But there is going to be fireworks," Alexis argued.

I really wanted to get home. It was late and I was tired and I'm old and blah, blah, blah.

"Alexis needs fireworks," Mila chimed in.

And with that they joined forces. Mila confirmed everything Alexis said and Alexis basically said she would do anything to get to stay where she was. Then the fireworks started and they both started cheering and just sit down, adults. You aren't going anywhere.

They sat together happily watching fireworks for a good 10 minutes. Or maybe it was 10 days. That's possible because I was tired and I'm old and it was late and blah, blah, blah. IT WAS FOREVER. But it didn't matter because together Mila and Alexis are a force to be reckoned with and, frankly, I'm not strong enough to deal with them if they combine forces.

The next few years should be delightful. Oye.


Not The Jimmy

I'm going to need a rewind button on life, you guys. It's not that I want to go back and change something major or anything; it's that suddenly I might just have a clue. I'd like to apply that clue retroactively, please.

Mila has called Alexis "Lala" for a very long time. The letter "x" is a tricky one, so it's not surprising that she would find a way around it. And, yes, it's super adorable.

But, here's the thing. I didn't realize until Mila suddenly figured out that her name starts with an "M" that she refers to herself in the third person. "Lila" is not "Lala" because "Lila" is "Mila" and OMG SHE HAS BEEN TALKING ABOUT TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE.

I figured it out when seeking dinner out one night. I asked Alexis what we should get and she was useless. She completely lacked an opinion and since I resembled that remark, I turned to Mila. "What do you want to eat, Mila?"

"Mila needs candy," she replied. She said it as clear as day and suddenly I realized that there has been a whole bunch of times when I thought we were talking about that big sister and not Little Miss Mila.

"L(M)ila go to sleep."

"L(M)ila go for a walk."

"L(M)ila need water."

I always thought we were talking about Alexis. I was wronger than wrong and then even wronger, which is probably why anything I said back was met with a fit.

Two things:

1. Is Mila actually a perfectly reasonable toddler and I've been causing her frustration because I couldn't figure out who she was talking about?

2. She is going to outgrow this thing where she talks about herself in the third person, right? RIGHT? Because I can't go through life dealing with a real life The Jimmy.