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Things We Broke While On Vacation


1) The shower. Okay, first of all, you need to know something about our Ocean City vacations. We stay for free with Jason's great-aunt and great-uncle, who retired there. Who are very nice and gracious and welcoming, but also COMPLETELY KIND OF TERRIFYING. I mean, first, they're in-laws. Distant in-laws. That's baseline intimidating already. And all my in-laws have this quiet, measured, Germanic stoicism about them, which is the complete opposite of my family. We're a bunch of hand-talking Irish drunks with voice immodulation syndrome. 

Plus...well, they are very particular and set-in-their-ways and they keep their condo impeccably clean and organized, having mastered the "living in small quarters" thing to an enviable degree. 

And then we show up. And basically wreak havoc and disaster all over the damn place. Every year the amount of STUFF we have to lug there grows exponentially. Not surprising, given that every other year we seem to show up with a whole new family member in tow. More suitcases, more bags, more toddling towers of childproofing terror. Now with bonus lightsabering pool noodles!

They like children, at least. And they especially like babies a whole lot. But they don't particularly like said babies and children to touch anything. So then we have to move everything that our children might possibly touch, but then that sets off a chain reaction of Cluttered Surface Everything-Not-In-Its-Place Eyelid Twitches, so I start not moving things and instead spend our time inside chasing after children and prying remotes and coasters and decorative baskets out of their grubby fingers, panicking that they're still somehow tracking sand inside, spreading tea towels on upholstered chair surfaces and picking up stray Cheerios off the floor before anyone else sees them.

Basically, it's like bunking with the Imaginary Authority Figures. Only they are real and trying to assure you that "oh, it's fine, we understand" but YOU KNOW BETTER.  You know you are racking up Imaginary Bad Houseguest Citations LEFT AND RIGHT, girlfriend. 

So naturally, I'm the one who broke the brand-new shower head in the guest bathroom. In my defense, I was trying to hose two children off at the same time, while also being naked and slippery myself, and I didn't pull up on the detachable handle thingie-thing before pulling down, and then heard a sickening oh-now-you've-done-it crack as the plastic bracket that held the shower head snapped in two. 

I hid the evidence with a strategically-draped towel over the shower door for three days while we waited for the new shower head we ordered to arrive from Amazon. 

2) The chair. Not just any chair. Jason's great-aunt's favorite porch rocking chair, the one that has been there for as long as I can remember. We were sitting out on their balcony by ourselves when suddenly Jason yelled "HOLY SHIT!" and started flailing wildly backwards.

Being the quick thinker and devoted wife that I am, I instinctively grabbed the bottle of wine off the table in between us while Jason frantically tried to not like, crack his head open on the glass door behind him and die. 

Two bolts on the underside of the chair had up and cracked solidly in two. Jason tried to spin his confession in the best positive light, like "I'm just glad it happened to me and not <great aunt>."

That went over about as well as expected.

3) The window screen. After applying a little more wine to the situation, everyone quickly forgot about the chair (except me, because I was still trying to find the right moment to drop the shower head news on them and was starting to reach Telltale Heart levels of guilt). We were all enjoying a nice chat and people-watching session out on the balcony together. That's when a little Noah-shaped silhouette appeared in the living room behind us.

"We need to go home!" he whispered. "We need to go home right now!"

He was clearly terribly upset about something, and after some hushed questioning I got the bone-chilling answer: "I broke the window, Mommy."

I looked over and indeed: The screen had ripped from the frame and was merrily flapping away in the ocean breeze.

"Are you mad, Mommy?" Noah asked.

I actually wasn't so much "mad" as "wanting to grab a few loose belongings and drive off in the dead of night in abject mortification," but...well, I went with "mad" because it was easier. He'd been warned about leaning on the screen several times, especially since we were in a high-rise building, NOT TO MENTION all the times I've barked up at him from the backyard to stop mashing his face against the screen in his bedroom because if you rip that it will cost all the dollars in your piggy bank SO HELP ME.

At the same time, it was also mostly an accident. And he'd come out and promptly confessed. Instead of like, pitching the good silverware out at the parking lot 12 stories below. 

Still, though, I made him go back out and tell everybody else what happened, the heat of my secret shower-head hypocrisy burning through my cheeks as Noah dutifully apologized to his great-great uncle and I was like, "oh God, just add it to our tab."

4) The dog. Our pet sitter called on Tuesday to report that Ceiba was having bloody diarrhea all over the place, plus vomiting, plus not eating or drinking, so....yeah? Should probably take her to vet? Or something?

So from that point on, several times a day, we attempted long-distance pet crisis management over the phone, blindly approving charges for X-rays, blood tests, IV fluids, antibiotics, medical boarding and I don't even know what else, because every time I attempt to read the itemized bill I pass out:

Photo (1)

The official diagnosis? Gastroenteritis, the catch-all name for Your Dog Probably Done Ate Something Stupid. Again.

We have no idea what she got into this time (the stress of being left with a pet sitter for the second time in a month probably didn't help anything, though) (LIKE OH SURE DOGS ARE TOTALLY ALSO WELCOME AT THE CONDO HA HA HA), but by yesterday she was fully recovered and ready to come home. We were planning to stay the full week, but you know what? Sometimes you just have to listen to the Vacation Gods and know when to pack it in. 

We packed it in and came home to pick Miss Thing up ourselves. She seemed very grateful.

Photo (2)


I confessed to the shower head crime before we left, hoping that the fact that we were packed up and leaving and (almost) guaranteed to NOT BREAK ANYTHING ELSE would soften the annoyance. The new one is being delivered today and our check for a replacement screen is in the mail too. I should probably send a fruit basket or gift card or case of wine or something too. 



Mullet-hat baby don't care. Mullet-hat baby didn't break a damn thing, and doesn't know what y'all's problem is. 


Veep Veep

oh dear! i don't think i would have been able to handle things breaking back to back in someone else's home. probably would have left sooner and not shown up next year with all the guilt i would start feeling! lol

Veep Veep

oh dear! i don't think i would have been able to handle things breaking back to back in someone else's home. probably would have left sooner and not shown up next year with all the guilt i would start feeling! lol


What is it with your pets and vacations? I still remember the call I got when you were in Jamaica. Glad ceiba is ok.


I'm thinking it might be cheaper to rent the kinda shabby but family- and dog-friendly condo for yourselves next year...


I was feeling very sympathetic but you ruined it with the mullet-hat baby. All feelings of sympathy vanished and were taken over by hysterical laughter with that caption. Hysterical out loud laughter. At my desk. At work.

It really is bad news for me to read your blog from here!


There are DEFINITELY people who would do all of the above without ever thinking of paying for the repairs, so you are way better guests than you're making yourself out to be. Plus you brought that mullet-hat baby with you!


I had one of those "oh no, it's totally fine" (but really it's not) house visits exactly ONCE. After that, never again. There is nothing that ruins a vacation, visit to friends, lunch out with friends, you name it, more easily than having two little ones who don't get why I can't act the same here that I act at home. And in my (our) defense, it's not like they're being bad, it's just that our house is for kids, and other houses aren't. Sigh.

The caption on that picture of Ike is exactly perfect.


It seems odd that such a tiny dog would amass a $2300 vet bill. If Ceiba were a Great Dane, it would seem somehow correct. Small dog should equal small vet bill, no? Of course when we adopted a 6 pound chihuahua from the SPCA and his adoption fee ($100) was the same as it would've been for a 106 pound dog, it seemed like we were not being smart dog consumers. Like we should get more dog for our money or something. Glad Ceiba is on the mend!


Just have them over one of these days, and let them have their revenge ;)

Erika Mitchell

Oh my gosh, children leaning against screen doors in high rise buildings makes me all twitchy!!!

Also, vet bills are the worst. They might as well just make you bend over, y'know?


Sheesh...your in-laws sound like mine except mine aren't quite so far removed (MIL & FIL). I hate visiting mine. So far we have spilled coffee on their carpet; had numerous barfing episodes; broken a chair; stained a towel, etc. This happens in a house that typically looks like a museum.

I like to limit our visits to less than 3 days or I wind up with the eyelid twitch.


Sheesh...your in-laws sound like mine except mine aren't quite so far removed (MIL & FIL). I hate visiting mine. So far we have spilled coffee on their carpet; had numerous barfing episodes; broken a chair; stained a towel, etc. This happens in a house that typically looks like a museum.

I like to limit our visits to less than 3 days or I wind up with the eyelid twitch.


Makes me kinda glad I don't own an animal. I mean, how are you to guilt a dog for being expensive?


Millennium Falcon shirt!!! I bought my husband the Yoda and Darth Vader shirts from that line. I really wanted to buy them all. Nerds unite! :)

Also, I should know better than to read your blog while holding a sleeping baby. I nearly woke him up with my muffled snorts at mullet hat baby.


Bwaaaaahahahaha. Love that post.


That is why we stay in hotels when we visit people. Too much eyelid twitching. :) And that Ike caption is hysterical.


Photographic cuteness aside, this sounds like torture, with a bit of wine on the side. You were brave to try.


At least when your dog broke your pet sitter told you about it. Last year when we were 1000 miles away in Florida we got a call from the in-laws that the dog was limping a bit but seemed fine. She's getting older and would limp on occasion with the weather and they made it seem like no big deal. When we came home 4 days later and picked her up we discovered that it was not just a limp. She couldn't bear any weight on one of her back legs and was constantly whimpering in pain. After rushing her to the vet we found out that she tore her doggie ACL and would require surgery. That was some serious pet Mommy guilt let me tell you. But even with surgery she didn't have a vet bill quite that impressive and she's got a good 40 lbs on Ceiba. What the hell did your dog eat?


My little girl has a mullet baby swim cap. Everyone is always making fun of it. I had no idea it would cause such a ruckus!

Amy in StL

Old people do like fruit baskets. In my experience they love those towers of treats from Harry and David or whereever.... My mom always tries to figure out how to reuse all the little boxes while my dad wolfs down the treats.


This is why the only house we will visit for a full week is my parents. And that's mostly because it's a 9 hour drive. Sometimes I think I'm imagining the eye twitch from the kids being kids but then my in laws visit us and our mess makes my MIL's eye I figure I'm not imagining it. At least you got a trip to the beach. Now to see if you are invited back next year!!


Oof. That vet bill made me audibly gasp! Do you, by chance, have pet insurance? But glad Ceiba is on the mend now!


Glad the Ciebster is okay. Glad you guys hit up Fish Tales. You finish that taco? I always get weird looks from drunk old men when trying to eat it. Come back this fall, great time of year for the beach! I'd love to buy you a big drink.


I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to mentally file this Tale of Vacation Havoc for my own sanity, to bring out when a vacation of ours is (yet again) going south: at least we haven't broken anything yet! This time! And also we've finally paid off our vet bill that looked like that! (oh yeah. It happened. And we were in the room, even. The waiting room of the pet hospital at 11:00 p.m. on a Saturday night, which, BTW, happens to be the Most Surchargey Time Ever. "Here! Sign here to agree to these charges, or of course you could take your dog home to die! Your choice!"


My last massive vet bill ended with an xray of my dog that showed a little pile of cat litter outlined in her stomach. That little catbox excursion cost me a down payment on a new car. She's the size of Ceiba too. You're not alone in your vet bill misery.


Your blog is, like, the BEST birth control EVER!


I love mullet hat baby.

Send a wine basket. It will guarantee you get invited back. We used to seemingly break everything at my grandparents house when my girls were small. Wine basket makes everyone happy.


This is why I don't really do vacations at my husband's grandmother's lake house anymore. Too many things to tell my kid not to break, too much mortal terror of incurring the strong disapproval of a pint-sized softspoken elderly woman with a spine of steel.

Suzy Q

Oof! Both to the vacation and the vet bill.


Oh no...As soon as you described the symptoms Ceiba had I figured it was gastroenteritis. So glad that your dog sitter took the poor pup to the vet! Our girl had that a few years ago and the bill was similarly astronomical. Thanks ER Vet for saving my dog, but could you at least have left me some retirement money in the process???

Korinthia Klein

Mullet hat baby just gets cuter and cuter.


We came home from vacation last night to find that our dog was lost (or stolen as the owner called it) from the kennel. What?!


Millennium Falcon t-shirt. Awesome.


Where oh where can I get the Millenium Falcon shirt?!


ZOMG you really should have had pet insurance. Also, I totally sympathize with the rest of it. At least no damage was permanent?


THIS! Yes my M-I-L in New Mexico has a house covered in Things Toddlers Cannot Touch. It is actually slightly infuriating to me because they make SUCH A BIG DEAL about us staying with them but clearly have no regard for child-proofing. I would rather spend the $$ on a damn hotel room than spend the entire visit telling my kid "no don't play with that." Especially when all of the things she collects are like little clay owls, and little hand woven baskets that LOOK like toys, for heaven's sake.
Um and also I totally bought my kid the mullet hat and thought it was so cute and clever but my husband will not let me put it on him outside of the house. Sigh.


Reminds me of the mine my mother in law stayed at our house for a few days with one of our kids who had a school commitment before he could join us at Disney World. The cat got out in the backyard - we have coyotes in our neighborhood, thus the cats are indoor cats. Mother in law chased down cat in the backyard and under a bush. She grabbed him by the tail and carried him, by the tail, into the house. Locked the house up and left. Our twice a day cat sitter wasn't too concerned about a skittish cat who hid under the table, sofa, etc. When we got home, we wondered why the cat's tail was bent at a funny angle. Took him to the vet to find out he had a broken tail and it was necrotic by then and he had to have about 2/3 of his tail amputated. $750 for a tail amputation. I keep thinking a pair of scissors costs about $4. Six months later, the cat got out again, and we never saw him again :(


Thank you so much for the true belly laughs I had reading this post! Noah's whisper to you of, "We need to leave now." was the best!!


The dog thing TOTALLY HAPPENS TO US EVERYTIME we try to board our dogs, exactly the same symptoms, everything. Finally our vet said that one of them just gets so stressed out she creates stress induced ulcers and he called the other one a drama queen. Our vet and boarding bills are always more than what we spent on vacation. We decided last summer that we will not be vacationing anywhere we can't take the dogs from now on.


THIS is why we can't have nice things. Also, it's why we can't visit anyone ELSE with nice things. That definitely includes the Hearst Castle and any Museum with art in it, no matter how much my wife wants to teach the kids about culture.
"So, how much to repair the Mona Lisa?"


DUDE! My sister totally has that Falcon shirt. It's a dudes shirt, but her boyfriend LOVES star wars, so that shit is like pretty much lingerie to him...


Don't feel bad - you saved the wine! Also, the last time my in-laws visited my FIL's sister, my MIL broke/ruined so many things that my husband's uncle said he would have to increase his homeowner's insurance before my MIL could visit again. Believe me, the shower head is easier to replace than the shower door (she broke it), the window screen is cheaper and faster to fix than the large spot of red nail polish in the middle of the white living carpeting... and the list goes on and on and on... and she's an adult!


A. Baby Ike is too stinkin' cute.

2. I am really inmpressed that Noah told you about the screen right away. That's some responsbility there. (Good job, mama!)

Part the Third. Thank god for pet sitters. Ours called us last year three days into a week gone to let us know the AC was froze up and dripping all over the coffee table in the living room. She'd already put down towels and a big bucket and she came over 2x every day just to empty it. Normally she only comes once for feeding the menagerie. And she didn't even raise our rates for this year.


Eh? Aren't those hats standard for little kids? We had to wear them right through primary school or we weren't allowed to play outside. Damn ozone hole.


oooommmmmgggggg. i love this post. too darn funny. i could actually visualize this all happening. i totally thought you could get away with the shower thing (god bless amazon), so sneaky!
love u alllllllll. bye.
p.s. - do they really make light saber pool noodles? i gotta know!


"Telltale Heart levels of guilt" = haaaa nearly peed myself. Also: too much wine tonight. Will probably be equally funny in the morning though.


I'm stressed out just reading about your trip. I'm with SueBob. Spend the dough (that you're basically spending anyway in repairs & hospitalization) and go be on your own!

Sue C

Yeah those little plastic shower head holder thingies do break SO easily don't they? Don't ask me how I know............


Oh my god, that is horrifying! Don't get me wrong, I'm laughing my ass off, but still: horrifying.


This post was terrifying. I remain filled to the brim with empathetic mortification, and I don't even have kids.

I might steal Ike, though. Watch out.


Oh I had forgotten about voice immodulation syndrome! Thank you for that reference. Now I must YouTube or Hulu that SNL skit. Hilarious.


Please don't take this the wrong way, because I loooooves your blog and have been a lurker for years - but that sounds like the worst "free" vacation EVER. I'd rather not go on vacation (or pay for a hotel) then stay there. Way, way too stressful. Glad Ceiba's OK. We have three dogs that often suffer from the "I ate something stupid AGAIN" illness, and yes, I rush them to the vet every time and pay a fortune to find out that they're stupid.

Michaela for HaveDeals

The worst vacations make the best stories!


I was all giggling at your great-aunt/uncle in-laws' misfortune at having you over until I got to Ceiba and that bill whoo lawd I done died. And mullet hat baby ain't fed the dog nothing wrong either, so no, mullet hat baby don't care.


OhhhhMFG! So terrible. That sounds like the least relaxing vacation EVER. And you know what? You're making me feel better about not having a beach week again this year. Not going sounds better than your trip! I'm stressed just reading about it!

Josie Bisett

Hi Amy,
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Best wishes and such from me:)

Shannon Lell

I think I can type something now that I've stopped laughing. Seriously, I was breathless for a minute. I have never met you but I SWEAR I can hear your voice saying these things and it amplifies the hilarity in my mind x1000. This one ranks up there with the night the stove caught on fire. Seriously.


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OMG you are hiLARious!!

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