Monica Bielanko
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Does This Taste Like Plutonium To You?

Ever swabbed poop off a screaming, writhing human being while pulled over on the side of a major American interstate as semis roar past at 80 miles an hour a mere three feet from your jittering, shaking body nearly causing you to clean up TWO poop messes? All this while a second human being, who happens to be a very feisty toddler, is also screaming at the top of her lungs because Dora The Damn Explorer has stopped playing on her DVD player?

Me, Henry and Violet are the players in the scenario I laid out for you. And it happened several times on the trek from Utah to Pennsylvania. One might consider driving four solid days with a toddler and a 4-month-old to be hell on earth but I discovered, surprisingly, that it was nice to be able to strap the kids into their respective positions in the SUV and just go, go, go. At home, strapping the kids down somewhere for nine hours a day would be considered child abuse but on the road it's a must. So what, on first glance, appears to be stressful was actually kind of relieving. Kids were strapped in, DVD player was spewing Blues Clues and The Fresh Beat Band and Dora while my stereo was spewing Tina Fey's Bossypants on CD.

Oh, Tina. Come have a sleepover with me. We can doorbell ditch the neighbors and drink beer and flash passersby from my porch. And later, when we're tired, we can brush each others' hair and paint our toenails matching shades of red.

Anyway, there were a few hairy moments and I don't mean the armpits I didn't shave for nearly five days, although yes, they were hairy too. What I mean is when Henry would start his telltale mewling that progressed into fussing which snowballed into caterwauling, which, if left unchecked would erupt into terrible, eardrum blowing screams. Generally, I'd spot a rest area or, at the very least, an exit while Hank The Tank was in his fussing or caterwauling stage. Occasionally, like the time I was passing Chicago on a stretch of I-80 riddled with heavy duty construction work, there wasn't a square of roadway to spare and Violet and I were stuck, victims of Henry's screams, until we could find a safe place to pump him full of more formula.

SIDENOTE: They should make IVs for babies. I could hook Henry up to a formula drip and we could drive to damn Alaska, if we needed, and look at Russia from Sarah Palin's porch. I don't want to, but I'm just saying we could if we had an IV drip for babies.

So it was there, on I-80, just past Chicago that I missed a turn and found myself headed south on some strange, new highway. Henry was screaming, my bladder was screaming, Violet was working up to screaming and so, in spite of Safety Serge's very grave admonishment never to pull over on the freeway (or death is imminent!) I did so anyway.

I angled the SUV in such a way that I could open the passenger door, dangle my bare ass over the weeds along the roadside and release my bladder as Violet watched with more interest than she was previously showing Steve, Blue and their clues. Each time a semi would howl past the entire SUV would shake like an earthquake had struck.

I am now a professional at peeing along the side of the road without being seen. Hey. Don't judge. You try loading two kids into a stroller and dragging them into a nasty gas station bathroom every time you have to pee. Peeing in the weeds at the side of the road becomes luxurious! Just last week I said I had to pee and told Serge to pull over. He looked at me like I had lost my mind because were only, like, twenty minutes from home. So maybe that was a bit much but still! All those weeds just sitting there doing nothing. My bare ass is probably the best action they get all year!

After peeing I scrambled around to the back of the SUV to change Henry. That's when I noticed massive amounts of some kind of liquid pouring from the bottom of the vehicle.

DAMN. I said. What is that? Did I pass through a puddle? Is it water? Or is it some crucial automobile liquid the SUV requires to keep functioning? Afraid it might disintegrate my finger if I touched it (hey, it could be plutonium, you never know) I got on my stomach and sniffed it, yet still couldn't identify if it was water or something else. I thought for a minute then touched it. When my finger didn't drop off I actually licked it. I did! I was freaking out! What if a rock or something broke open the SUV and it was about to explode. I don't know!

I was glad I had actually taken a wrong turn because Serge, who was following in the moving truck with the two dogs, wouldn't pass me and see that, against his strict instructions, I had pulled off on the side of the interstate.

All sorts of scenarios played through my head. Tow truck? Who would I call? We don't have AAA even though Serge wants it because I don't want to shell out for a membership that I rarely use. I dreaded the I told you so! from Serge more than the cost to repair the car. This was the kind of I told you so! that would hang around our marriage for years. Decades. I looked ahead to a bleak future filled with a very self-important Serge reminding me of the time he wanted AAA and I said no because I'm a cheapskate and then went ahead and broke down on I-80 just outside of Chicago with two tiny kids in the car.

All of this crossed my mind and then I did what I always do when confronted with an automobile issue I don't know much about: I ignored it. This tactic, as you probably know if, like me, you've ever ignored your check engine light for weeks (maybe months) on end, is rarely successful. My mom can tell you that much. I may or may not have burned out the transmission of her Camaro when I drove it for several months in high school because I did not know how to put in oil. Shut up! I grew up without a dad. I had to teach myself everything I know about cars, which is admittedly pretty much limited to checking the oil and adding windshield wiper fluid.

Surprisingly, ignoring the liquid leaking from the SUV has proven very successful, so there! Perhaps it was just water, perhaps it was sweat from the car after driving all day long, who the hell knows? Either way, I made it to Pennsylvania without requiring the assistance of a tow truck and that, my friends, is a success in my book.

Reader Comments (23)

So did Violet freak out when they got a "new" Marina?

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteryotko

Ha! She didn't even notice! I was such a dork I was all googling why the old Marina left.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThe Girl Who...

I made a comment on the weight loss post about my sadness that, in the end, the post was really a way to work in a sponsorship from Hillshire Farms, complete with embedded video. Another reader, Wendyinvt, took my comments as negative. I didn't see it as negative, didn't use foul or rude language, just said that I was sad to get to the end and be treated like I was watching tv. The post about losing weight was clearly wrapped around a need to work in the Hillshire Farms sponsored ad. But the reason that most people come to read blogs like this is to have a place where they are not treated like customers. I completely get Monica's right to make a living off this blog, but there is a difference between selling blog space on the sides of the site and writing posts specifically at the behest of paid interests. It takes her relationship with readers and sells it to companies. And now look, the very next post is for Allstate. I know that individual readers will make their choices about continuing to read or not. But it just feels yucky from a writer who is supposed to be about keeping it real. I'm posting this here because the presence of two sponsored posts in a row makes me worry about the future here.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKD

@KD - The timing is admittedly bad and in the future I'll schedule contracts I sign better. The Hillshire Farm deal is for four weeks, so there will be a post about it one a week. This Allstate thing came in at the last minute and because I just had a road trip and because Serge and I have had this AAA discussion going on it felt right. But these are both topics you would have read about here on The Girl Who regardless of whether they were sponsored or not. The post about losing weight was not designed to work in Hillshire Farm. I just had a baby, I'm trying to lose weight. Serge and I are planning on going carb-free on August 1. This road trip post is one I planned on writing regardless of Allstate. Generally speaking, I think once or twice a month you may find a sponsored post on The Girl Who.

I'm sorry you don't think I am "keeping it real". I am being as real and transparent as I know how to be. I appreciate the readership and think that after awhile, after I get into a groove deciding what offers to turn down etc... readers won't notice a whole lot of difference here.

Thanks for your comment.

July 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterMonica

Don't explain yourself to anyone! I laughed my ass off during this post and when I realized you got paid for it, all the better! I have followed you since 2005 and am thrilled that you are finally getting paid for all your hard work. If people don't like it they can click away. Would they stop listening to their favorite band if one of their songs was used in a commercial? I'm so sick of the term "selling out". How else are creative, artistic people expected to make money these days? I would shit myself if someone wanted to pay me to write about being me. Go on with your bad self.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGemma

Dooce just did a sponsored post. She does them all the time and she's the biggest blogger out there, no?

People, if you want to keep reading your favorite bloggers, like Dooce and Monica, you've got to allow them to make a few bucks to keep doing what they're doing. This post was great, so what Allstate sponsored it? I see no difference between this post and others that Monica has written here that make me laugh out loud.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJ

Haha yes, some dumbass people do stop listening to their favorite bands for putting songs in commercials. Being all indie is cool when you are 20, but when you are 34 and have two kids to support-well, it's cooler to be able to support your family than to "keep it real." omg seriously ugh-get a life and stop doing weird performance art in your mom's basement.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTeres

My two cents- i love posts about challenging parenting situations- as I find myself in such situations all the damn time. So, good post for that reason. I did wrinkle my nose at the sponsor part at the end- as I wasn't expecting it and sort of skipped past the AAA stuff. I will say that you write with a bit more "oomph" in these sponsored bits- more detail, more funnies, more paragraphs in general. So, for that reason, I am still ok with the sponsored stuff. I am curious to see how you transition into this paid to blog experience. Best of luck to you!

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterali

Aw, don't feel bad....I googled it too!

And you keep doing what you're doing so we can keep reading it. Sponsored or not, I like your style.
(and your taste in children's programming, obviously!)

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteryotko

So I've been reading you for a while, don't have kids, but adore yours, your blog, your writing and am just hoping that one day we'll have drinks in Williamsburg together (creeped out much yet?)
So this is coming from a good good place: I would read anything you wrote (I have mostly for the past year) and I don't mind the sponsored posts, heck, I'm sure you as others like mammapundit would only use sponsors you like. My only thing: warn us in advance. Like put a disclaimer (this is a sponsored post). Won't stop me from reading it, but might stop me like feeling a little used (a liiiiittttllle).
Otherwise, I say yay for making money off of this, I'd love to do as well. Glad you're getting to see your kids grow up and the house looks fantastic.
Take care.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMiss A

@Miss A - I was totally thinking that. Maybe put "This post is sponsored by Allstate" at the top in italics.

July 25, 2011 | Registered CommenterMonica

this was awesome!!! remember in the movie A Christmas Story, the little boy, what the hell was his name....anyways, the little boy joined the little orphan annie club and got the decoder and the code was "drink more ovaltine" HAHAHAHA!!!! Listen people, if you feel GOT by this post, then you don't recognize that this post was genuine. whether she was paid or not doesn't concern me, it was still entertaining.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

Totally agree with Miss A. I don't give two hoots if a post is sponsored or not, but I would prefer to know up front. Otherwise it seems like those cheesy commercials Biggest Loser does for Jenny-O and Subway that get oh so subtly worked in to the show. Also, I have to know... where you wearing a skirt when you let fly on the side of the rode? If not, very impressive!

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

I find it kind of funny that the people who are accusing you of selling out now didn't think you were doing so while working for Fox News* in Utah, as it doesn't take a genius to work out that Fox News editorial policy, especially in Utah, does not jibe with your personal opinions on most of the important issues.

But you do what you gotta do to pay the bills.

And now you get to sit home and pick and choose which companies you might choose to structure a blog post around instead of having to be partly responsible for the bilious vileness pumped into millions of peoples homes by Fox, and so you have sold out!

Personally I think you have done completely the opposite. You've managed to break away from the dark side and are now doing what YOU want to do, and what YOU think is best for you and your family.

So what if a post is sponsored occasionally? If it pays the bills and allows you to live where you want to live, and allows Serge to get back to his main role as a rock and roll hero, then where's the problem?

As has been said in the past, if people don't like the ads, they can go elsewhere and find people that haven't "sold out", whatever they actually mean by that. What, just because you are getting paid to write an occasional article that would have been written anyway you're a sell out?

I guess that makes me a sell-out too, as I get paid to proof-read other peoples stuff when I would much rather be getting paid for writing my own. But we all gotta do what we gotta do to survive and get by.

Personally I wouldn't care if EVERY post on here was sponsored. You've been entertaining us all for years for free, it's about damn time you got some recognition, and more importantly some greenbacks, for all the effort you've put into this blog over the years.

I'm going to stop now before my reply becomes longer than you're original post!

*Other right-wing conservative media outlets are available!

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDamien

Yeah! Maybe on top. I'd still read all of your sponsored posts. I mean you're are my daily crack. What? Yup, you are!
And I think that its wonderful to have the means now to get paid to blog! Mazal Tov! Shit, I'd love it if you got coke, Apple, IBM and Prada to sponsor you! Why the heck not!
Cheers lady

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMiss A

I actually quite like your sponsored posts because they're not schmaltzy or cheesy. They're real stories with a plug at the end. It's like talking to your friends about such things. When I regale a tale about my Wii Fit I'm not getting paid to plug Wii Fit but that's what I'm doing, right? You're just actually getting paid for it.

Your posts are less sanctimonious and patronizing than other bloggers (and I include the almighty Dooce in this). So, keep 'em coming!

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeneria

Bottom line, you're a parent and you've gotta family to feed and bills to pay. You're one of the lucky Moms who is able to work from home. I'd much rather see you write a sponsored post than put your kids in day care all day.
It is what it've gotta make a living and you are doing it with your writing. Good for you!

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDona

Longtime reader...and I don't mind sponsored posts if they remain authentic, have personal experiences mixed in, and are labeled as such. This is a new way for you to blog, so I'm sure you'll balance everything out. Bottom line is that folks read blogs because they care about the people and want to see what is happening in their daily life. A temporary escape. Your blog is all those things to me. I heart you guys and want the absolute best for you all.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCassie

So you just let it go and see what happens. Well that makes sense. I am sure a light would have gone on if there were any serious problems, right? I have been driving around with a golden (!) sign on my dashboard, which according to the owners manual is the warming sign for low tire pressure. So I put off having it checked out and one day the light just went out. I think it had something to do with the weather. With the heat wave, I assume the internal air expanded in my tires. Just FYI, incase you see the (!) signal. Air pressure. AAA is the best. I love them so much because they don't only help you, but ANYONE you happen to want to help along the way. You see some poor slob broke down on the side of the road and you can make his or her day...if you are willing to hang out until the help arrives...Anyway...I will pass on the info on Good Hands Roadside Service. Thanks.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergina

I would like the sponsorship notification at the beginning, too. I totally understand why you have the sponsors and am happy for you- especially since this has allowed your family to move to such a peaceful place... but... I just hate ads. Not simply your ads, but ALL ads. We're all working for The Man in some way, I guess.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

I think the warning at the top would be great too :) I was all for you getting paid to do what you do best but i was kind of like wait I thought this wasnt going to be a regular thing and then there was another one...but I know you explained why. (Not that you have to explain yourself) This is your blog. It always has been. You can do with it as you please some people may get turned off but whatever. Right? I agree that your sponsored posts do read a little differently. I know you say you were going to write about these things anyway but it doesnt really seem like you had a blog already written and Oh hey wait a minute this ad would go great with this post. It def seems like the ad prompted the post...again whatever...Maybe it seems different b/c you are trying not to sound different.

July 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I don't really mind the sponsored posts any more than I mind your references to shopping at Walmart (and I do mind them, but I realize Walmart is a part of life for a lot of people--THEY should pay you--you've been writing about them for free!). However, I wonder if you have seen the way that this blogger works in her sponsors:

I originally found her because of your reference to her birth story post. I realize that Kelle's sponsors are smaller scale retailers than the corporations sponsoring your posts, but somehow she weaves in those sponsors so I don't even realize it is happening. And I can skip them if I like--they are always way at the end.

I'm sure you will figure it out in the end in a way that makes sense, and I'll still keep reading. Good luck!

July 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkajey

Blogs are meant to be like journals or diaries. The cool thing about them is that you get to write down your thoughts and feelings, and yet share them with whomever chooses to read. Kind of like shouting something from a rooftop. Some people listen, some people will ignore you. The personal nature of blogs is why sponsorship feels so wrong to me. I understand you need to pay bills and such, but isn't that why you have the babble gig? What's next, product placement in your flikr feed? Photos of your family drinking coke (sponsored by coke!) It just feels icky, contrived, and impersonal. And it is a slippery slope. I hope Vagisil asks to sponsor you and you have to try to convince us all that it was just a coincidence that you got a yeast infection.

July 26, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterfrancine

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