Thing 2 got up at 2:30 this morning, and he never went back to sleep. At all. Not even for a nap. Don’t even ask me how he does it, because my can of answers is empty. The boy got up a few minutes before 11 AM. You do the math and decide where my heart lies today.
Also? I had a very necessary, full-strength, BRING THE VARSITY GAME TO THE CAFFEINE PARTY cup of coffee at 4:00 this afternoon, because Mama just wasn’t going to make it any longer without some caffeinated assistance. I didn’t even mind that it lacked cream and sugar, because WHOLE30 deprives you of a sugar pick-me-up, when you most need one. I simply wanted to slip an IV needle under my skin and put the coffee in a bag on a pole. Of course, Thing 2 decided ’round about 2 PM that… FINE. I’d like to go to bed, FOR THE NIGHT, right now, Ma. I am exhausted, because 2:30 AM was a very poor choice. I see my error in thinking. Mama wasn’t going to let that fly, so we spent the afternoon watching music videos on You Tube and dancing.
I listened to Fitz and the Tantrums’ Hand Clap video thirty-two thousand times, to keep the preschooler awake, because it’s one of his favorite songs right now. When we tired of music videos, we watched the old Wipe Out TV show, where Thing 2 cheered folks through the gigantic obstacle course, as he begged to try out for the show himself. We eventually had to go outside, when the electric glow of the iPad went dim, so we moved on to the sandbox and the dump trucks. It was an all out front line attack, on Operation Stay Awake. Our house rules are simple: Unless you are BURNING UP WITH THE FEVER OR THE CHICKEN POX, THERE WILL BE NO LATE-AFTERNOON NAPS. This is non-negotiable. MAMA IS NOT PLAYING AROUND. The end.
In other news, Thing 2 finished his soccer season last night, when he played his final game of the summer. We have had the very best time watching the little man play, but there comes a point in all the heat where we just say END IT NOW, because WHO makes four- and five-year-olds play soccer when it’s a breezy one hundred degrees out there? Summer Soccer should not be a thing.
If you really want to know how hot it was at our final game last night, behold:
It was simply too hot for the league-issued jerseys, as evidenced by this Red Robin, who tried to escape that layer at halftime. Thing 2 even took himself out of the game, without informing his coach or a ref of his decision. He simply kicked the ball forward, turned around, and walked off the field, where he collapsed in a heap in the shade of the bleachers. His heart could no longer go on.
Our boy wasn’t made for these hot temperatures.
Hubs and I did our level best to get him up out of the grass, and back into the game, before the opposing team took advantage of their extra man on the field, for a short-sided goal, but it was slow going. Our little man basically let the crowd know that he QUIT THE HEAT. Let the fans boo; he was too hot and sweaty to care.
Eventually, after chugging half of his water bottle in one sitting, he got back in the game, and he even managed to kick the ball straight into the net, for a Red Robin goal.
The little peanut finished his season with eleven total goals and the makings of heatstroke.
On the way home from the soccer field, he sighed and asked, “Is it time to sign up for hockey now?” I think he would have signed up for a part in Disney on Ice, if it meant he could be out of the blazing sun, lying on a slab of frozen water. This boy was made for the air conditioning and the shade and the lake.
And Mama was made for more sleep than a person gets, when she get up at 2:30 in the morning. Today was a little early, even by Thing 2’s standards.
The wonderful thing about being a Boy Mom is that… ON OCCASION… boys will want to swing by a car parts store, “really quickly.” What you should know about this is that no guy has EVER, in the entire history of the world since the automobile was invented, been QUICK in an automotive store. There is no such thing as “really quickly,” when it comes to perusing aisles of spark plugs and radiator caps and those air fresheners shaped like pine trees, that dangle from your rearview mirror.
I’ve decided that it’s the equivalent of a girl “dashing into Target really fast.”
Thing 2 and I sat in the Suburban this morning, while the boy ran inside the store to pick up some kind of blah-blah-blah for the blah-blah-blah for his car. Eventually, Thing 2 moaned from the back seat, “Why is this taking FOREVER?! Why isn’t Bubbie coming out of that store?! WHY ARE WE STILL SITTING HERE?” And then he burst into five-year-old tears. I wanted to crawl into the backseat with my preschooler, pat his hand and whisper, “I know. This is THE WORST waiting we’ve done in years,” because I was a mere inch away from sobbing out my own grief and frustration over HURRY UP, ALREADY!!
Clearly, we survived, because here I am, even though I looked exactly like this the entire time we waited:
I’m telling you, wars have been fought and countries have been conquered in less time than the boy took in that store today.
When he finally finished up and came back outside, he had a single rubber hose that apparently goes somewhere inside the engine of a car. In other words, it only took him seventeen entire hours to decide which hose he needed, when he faced his choices on the store shelves. (“Hmm. Do I want a black RUBBER hose? Or a BLACK rubber hose? Or a black rubber HOSE? So many choices!“) And men wonder why it takes us so long to contemplate which throw pillow to buy at Target. EVERY throw pillow is different — different in size and color and shape and design. It’s not at all the same as staring at a rack of black rubber hoses, where each one looks exactly like the other one. OH MY GOSH! PICK A STINKING HOSE!
The housekeeper that I cannot afford was here today, and I managed to wrestle our sweaty clothes form our three-day trip to the oven into the washing machine, so things are pretty much back to normal around here.
Our weekend WAS fun, despite the heat.
The wicked, awful, melt-your-makeup-off-your-face kind of heat.
(Did I mention the heat? I can’t remember.)
Thing 2 woke up at 4 AM on Saturday, because OF COURSE. The only good thing about this is that I was up with him, so there were no excuses not to get an early start on our trip. We were packed and ready to go before the rest of the world had even started brewing coffee.
And then we drove and we drove and we drove.
And then we drove some more.
And then we were finally there.
We went to the Christian version of Woodstock, where numerous Christian singers were putting on a giant, outdoor concert.
IN ALL THE HEAT, AND SUCH.
We joined 20,000 other people, in our lawn chairs, in an oven set to 350 degrees. The bands were great, and there was a ton of stuff for everyone to do.
Thing 2 prides himself on being the next American Ninja Warrior, so he was plum dadgum THRILLED to see an inflatable obstacle course patterned after the hit TV show, in the kid section of the festivities. This was our small boy’s golden opportunity to jump on real, jumping-sanctioned-and-approved equipment, instead of practicing his Ninja Warrior moves by jumping from the kitchen island to the kitchen sink, and then back to the island, and then clear across the living room, to the sofa. Our counters and furniture are not holding up to the Ninja Warrior training that happens in our home.
But Thing 2 got the green light on Saturday for ninja practice. He waited in line behind fifteen other kids. The attendant at this inflatable attraction made the kids get out, if they fell off one of the giant, red balls. One slip, and they were done, because THAT’S HOW THE SHOW WORKS, FOLKS. THERE ARE NO DO-OVERS IN NINJA-ING.
One boy out of the fifteen ahead of Thing 2 successfully made it through to the end, without falling. Obviously, it was harder than it looked, because NONE OF THE KIDS could stay on those red balls without sliding straight off.
While we waited in line, I prepped Thing 2 with Inflatable Etiquette. “If you fall, we don’t throw a fit. We just GET OFF NICELY, and then we get back in line to try again, because Jesus and Mama hate fits.”
Well… he nailed it on his first try.
Clearly, all the hours Thing 2 has spent watching American Ninja Warrior on TV and practicing on my furniture at home paid off in aces!
Eventually, the heat was too overpowering, and my friend and I just dumped our kids in the nearby creek.
Meanwhile, the boy and his buddies who were there abandoned their parents. It’s what teenagers DO. I simply sent text messages to the boy throughout the entire day, “DRINK WATER!” and “REAPPLY SUNSCREEN!” We didn’t see the teens all day, as they circled the crowd of 20,000 people together, and spent large sums of money on soda and talked about important life issues, like Snap Chat, golf handicaps, burritos and baseball scores.
By 8:30 that night, the sun had set, and the temperature had dropped to a balmy, very DOABLE 89 degrees.
The kids were ready for the closing concert, which was Crowder.
Crowder was AHH-STINKING-MAZING!! Thing 2 danced in the grass so much, he would have lit a Fit Bit up like a 4th of July sparkler, had he been wearing one!! I burned up the memory on my iPhone, recording him, dancing in the dark. The kid never stopped moving, while Crowder was on stage. Our Thing 2 really does love a good Crowder song.
By 10:00 that night, Thing 2 had already been awake for eighteen straight hours, and he was on fire for Jesus, after applauding Crowder’s performance. We walked across the giant parking lot, to our motel room.
Talk about ALL THE CONVENIENCE. Twenty thousand people trying to get out of a park, and our hotel room was three feet away. The location alone was worth the twelve gold bars it cost to stay there.
By 11:00, our preschooler was out cold. He’d put in a nineteen-hour day in the heat.
On Sunday morning, our little family of four left our friends behind, and we went to ride the old-timey train. It’s because Thing 2 is a little obsessed with trains. He rode this train last October, when his grandparents took him on it, and it’s all he’s talked about since then. Hubs and I told the boys that they could each pick one big thing to do on our little trip, and Thing 2 chose riding the train from the 1800s, without blinking an eye.
The boy chose…
… dinner at Red Lobster.
Oh, yes. He did! When faced with a list of tourist attractions as long as a football field, the boy said, “I’d like to spend my ONE THING TO DO ticket on Lobster Fest.” Well then.
While waiting to board the train, for our two-hour ride through the hills and countryside, we waited at a little gift shop, where we saw THIS:
I cannot even count how many times in my life I’ve said to Hubs, “What I really need is a shopping cart that’s been converted into a chair, which someone could push me in.”
All of my dreams had come true, for a price tag of $90.
The honest truth is… it was very comfortable. When Hubs sat in it, he announced, “I’m never getting out of this. Push me to the concerts, Woman.”
Thing 2 decided he’d take the bathtub motorcycle over the shopping cart. I have no idea WHO looks at an antique bathtub and says, “This could be a motorcycle, with an engine and a little gasoline.”
Thing 2 wanted a $7 steam engine, made out of cheap plastic. It was equipped with enough noise making parts to put even Mother Theresa over the edge of her patience. I told him, “No way; you don’t have any money.”
Thing 2 looked at me and said, “Maybe I could pay in kisses? Maybe I could give you four kisses, and you could give me seven dollars.”
I won’t lie. I took the deal.
I told the boy that I’d give HIM seven American dollars, too, if he’d kiss my cheek four times, like his little brother had done. The boy didn’t accept my offer. Apparently money means nothing to him.
We finally got to board the train, and Thing 2 was beside himself with excitement. He took the window seat, and he never moved.
This train is the exact train that used to run across the West in the 1800s. We got to experience what life was like for travelers back then, on a 101-degree day. We even got to smell, firsthand, what it was like to sit next to other passengers on a 101-degree day back then.
It smelled like a train car of hot pigs on its way to market.
The scenery changed out the window, but Thing 2’s position never changed. He was in his happy place, riding a real train, ambling at 30 miles an hour through the countryside.
It’s fun to make a little boy’s dream come true.
When we got back to the concerts, our crew of friends had wilted from the heat. They were hot and hungry and ready to experience air conditioning.
So we made the boy’s dream come true.
We got a table for eleven at a Red Lobster, and the boy ordered the biggest entree this summer’s Lobster Fest had to offer, and he ate it all. We all sat around that gigantic table for eleven people, and we laughed and told stories, and prolonged our time in the sweet air conditioning as long as we could.
And then we went back outside… into the skin-scorching heat, to the concerts again.
By the time evening rolled around, the temperature was STARTING to come around to a level of WE MAY SURVIVE.
The little people got glow sticks!
Thing 2 danced like a wild man again, to Matthew West’s concerts.
And THAT, people, was pretty much our weekend.
The boys swam at the hotel with their friends.
We ate entirely too much junk food in the car, too many burgers, and a lot of shrimp and lobster.
Which is why…
… I started the Whole30 again this morning, people.
Oh, yes. Bring the Whole30 and it’s healing properties, after a weekend of greasy burgers and fries. Today was DAY ONE.
As Matthew West sang at the concert, it’s Day One, of the rest of my life!
We just spent three days at the Christian version of Woodstock.
Twenty thousand folks, slathered in sunscreen and excitement, brought their lawn chairs to sit in a gigantic park, listening to Christian musicians perform on a giant stage.
What you should know is that it was 98 degrees there on Saturday, with a hot crosswind. And by hot crosswind, I mean that wind was something that blew up out of the very deepest bowels of Hell, to blow across the park in its best imitation of a convection oven. Yesterday, the mercury reached 101 in the thermometers, without the wind.
I believe the hashtag we are all looking for is #smellslikepig, because we were sweating exactly like this:
We are home now, and I cannot even bring myself to open our suitcases, because I know that what awaits me in there is a garbage bag full of the clothes we wore over the weekend. Those would be the clothes that smell like sweat and death, and should really smell like gasoline, because they just need a match thrown on top of them. I’m afraid the makers of Tide never anticipated a bag of dirty clothes like the one I’ve got. Tide has no reference point for how to make those shorts and T-shirts better again, and frankly, neither do I. I’ma need a gas mask, rubber gloves and a box of will power to get them all in the washing machine.
Despite the heat, and the fact that we poured sweat like a waiter pouring water, we had a fantastic time, with good friends. But… rest assured… we are glad to be home, because blessed is the name of air conditioning in your own home.
My favorite thing about parenting is getting up at 4:45. Without Thing 2, Hubs and I would never know the joys of having coffee at 5 AM, as we mumble to one another and slowly blink, over and over, and try to convince ourselves that seeing the sunrise was a daily occurrence to our hard-working, ranching ancestors.
My other favorite thing about parenting is spraying a kid down with sunscreen and heading out to the carnival. There’s just nothing quite like walking around a dirty, gravel, oversized parking lot when the carnival is in town, when it’s 204 degrees outside… with a hot crosswind. The fact that the rides themselves are covered in gunk and stink and maybe even salmonella, and that a bottle of water will set you back $17, while sweat literally drips down your spine and lands in your Hanes, is really just the icing on the Tilt-A-Whirl cake.
Hubs and I have had both of these parenting pleasures in the past twenty-four hours.
And yes! The carnival has come to Small Town, USA for the weekend. Hubs and I agree that every child deserves the joy that comes when their parents drop down the equivalent of a month’s mortgage at the ticket booth, for a bracelet that entitles the wearer to have unlimited access to every ride featured. They deserve to walk through the cloud of dust that is kicked up by 60,000 pairs of feet (never mind that Small Town’s population is less than one-third of how many folks show up at the carnival). Every child deserves to have the dust of that giant cloud settle onto their sweaty bodies like a blanket, as they screech and cheer their way through the rides with the wheezing hydraulics.
Our family met a couple of Thing 2’s good buddies at the carnival last night. I thought I was going to have to pawn my wedding ring to buy a bracelet for all the rides, but somehow we managed to scrape enough dollar bills together. The attendant in the ticket booth slapped those bracelets on our group of little people, and they were off, heading for the rides, at an all-out RUN.
These three hooligans dedicated their bracelets to exactly one attraction at the carnival, for nearly the first thirty minutes we were there. It was a giant obstacle course… Indiana Jones style. The kids had to climb rope ladders, wiggle through barriers and walk across a rickety bridge, suspend two million feet in the air, as they envisioned it crossing a canyon filled with poisonous snakes and alligators that they certainly didn’t want to fall into, before they reached the slide. The slide was their ticket out of the maze. It was sixty feet of blue plastic bliss, inside a clear plastic tube that funneled the sun’s hottest rays into a temperature that was capable of blackening a good prime rib and melting cars.
The parents looked on with joy. All that climbing and baking was destined to pay off in gold bars, in the form of a good night’s sleep.
Plus? Well, the obstacle course was tall enough to block the sun. The moms were reluctant to leave the shade, so we were as content as our children were, as they worked their way through the maze… eighty-seven different times.
Eventually, though, the maze gave way for other rides.
The kids LOVED the helicopters.
Helicopters are Thing 2’s dream vehicle, right next to monster trucks, combines and military tanks bedecked with giant guns. The boys scrambled into the helicopter marked POLICE. They were ready to patrol the skies.
It looks like SOMEONE got tired of hearing the boys behind her yell, “Hey, little lady! Land your chopper now! THIS IS THE POLICE!! We order you to land your chopper on the ground right now, before we arrest you!!” Thing 2’s adorable friend, Evie, clamped her hands over her ears, in the middle of her ride.
Actually, I think precious little Evie was a bit overwhelmed by the squealing hydraulics on her rescue helicopter, which made her cover her ears up tight. The squeals were bad enough that I was ready to start bleeding some lines and checking fluid levels myself.
I tried to get another snapshot of our group halfway through the carnival last night, and I was met with a touch of resistance.
“I’m too hot for a picture! It’s too bright for a picture! I just want to keep MOVING, Ma! The lines are growing longer by the second! Ain’t nobody got time for a group photo right now!”
Oh! Did I mention?
We had a couple of Navy SEALS with us, who stood quietly behind us, offering their protection from the crowds and contaminated corn dogs. They even bought $17 bottles of water when our troops felt like they were going to drop from dehydration. Hubs and the boy trailed us moms, exactly like they were with the Secret Service.
The boy has inherited the strand of my DNA that shouts out, “PUKING WILL BEGIN AS SOON AS THE RIDE BEGINS.” The poor kid can no longer ride any carnival rides without getting sick… exactly like his mama.
Thankfully, he was very content to hang out with his family and watch his little brother ride everything, as our little Thing 2 could be spun around in a circle, 3,000 feet off the ground, by his ankles, and exit the ride, only to ask, “Can we get some fried bread, dusted with powdered sugar, a fried Twinkie AND an order of fried cookie dough?”
The kids did the carnival circuit, hitting every ride along the way that they were tall enough to go on.
There was some dispute about riding the carousel, when Thing 2 thought he MIGHT have to sit on a pink horse.
A pink horse was a deal breaker for him.
Thankfully, the boys found a couple of “boy horses” (as they called them), while Evie was searching for a unicorn, covered in pink glitter and sparkles.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve missed out on all the fun GIRLY STUFF by just having boys. It’s so refreshing to be in the company of a little girl who enjoys ALL THE PINK THINGS!
Our little people LOVED the cars, and I had to hand it to the ride’s engineers — it was designed with a steering wheel for every seat, on every vehicle, which was a CARNIVAL WIN. There is really no fury quite like the fury of a kid who didn’t get a steering wheel to crank back and forth during the ride.
The giant slide… which was tall enough that Thing 2 actually asked, “Does this slide reach clear to Heaven?”… was a big hit with the boys. Because it made the Empire State Building look short, Evie was a bit nervous about it.
She seems to possess a level of common sense, in regards to safety, that the little guys seem not to have. She was quite content to sit the slide out, while the boys tackled it together, over and over… and OVER AGAIN, until SURELY their calves must’ve ached with how many times they climbed the endless set of stairs. Evie hung out in the shade with us, watching the boys, while she sipped a bottle of ice water.
Our little gang of kids had so much fun last night.
They laughed until their sides hurt, and their grins radiated nothing but pure joy and contentment, with the thrill of being at the carnival together. Jesus has come through for us with precious friends for our little man.
Making these three little souls happy was absolutely worth all the suffering we parents did in the awful heat and the grime and the dust and the noise.
Thing 2 enjoyed the carnival with his friends so much, he was up at 4:45 this morning, asking when it would be time to go again.
This morning, I sat bolt upright in bed at exactly 3:00 and told Hubs, “Oh, no! He’s awake!” It’s because Thing 2 is awake so often in the middle of the night, every noise we hear during the dark hours really IS him. It’s because you should never brag about the fact that your first child slept through the night at the age of three months and never, ever got up a single time between 7 PM and 7 AM again. You never know when you’re going to get a second son, who starts sleeping clear through the night, ON OCCASION, after he’s officially four and a half years old.
Our Thing 2 has been sleeping through the night for less than a year, and he’s five. HE’S FIVE!!! And when I say “sleeping through the night,” I mean that SOMETIMES HE DOES.
And sometimes he doesn’t.
And when the DOESN’T hits, it’s going to be a long, LONG night, because Thing 2 has been known to expect coffee and oatmeal at 2:00 in the morning over one thousand times in his life.
Hubs told me at 3:00 this morning, “Wait! It’s NOT him!” And then we both tilted our heads sideways to decide WHAT WE WERE HEARING, and whether or not we were going to be fighting off an intruder in our pajamas.
Do you know what we were hearing?
It turned out to be hisses and growls and spits and howls on our deck. We have a glass door in our bedroom that opens up to our deck, and… right there in front of that door... two cats were involved in a FIGHT ‘TIL ONE DIES. Hair was flying in every direction imaginable, ten-pound cat bodies were being flung against our glass door and our siding, and every curse word that a kitty knows was being uttered in the guttural tones of alley cats gone rogue.
What we had was the equivalent of a prison fight.
Our own two cats, who are sheltered, spoiled, pampered INDOOR CATS, who have no idea what a callous on their feet feels like, had gone into hiding beneath our bed, because their instincts told them that they didn’t want a piece of what was happening on the other side of our deck door.
I flicked on the deck light, and was immediately met with silence, as a giant orange cat and a white cat stared at me, through the glass window. Their sides were huffing and puffing, in and out, with the exertion of hard exercise. Someone had blood on her ear. They stared at me, and the ginger quietly said, “You need to go on ahead and close your curtains back up, lady, so you don’t see any of this.”
And that’s pretty much when I started to behave like a grouchy old woman, who fills an old pellet gun with rock salt and shoots it at neighborhood children who dare to walk across her lawn. I announced to these two cats, “Get off my deck THIS… INSTANT!!” I flung open our door, and BOOM! The ginger jumped straight over our deck railing, which is not a small jump, but one that could involve a broken collarbone or skull, while the white cat streaked down the deck steps and disappeared into the night like she’d been shot from the barrel of a cannon.
And THAT’S pretty much how my day got started.
For mornings like this, there is coffee.
Some mornings, though, start out perfectly lovely, which is how yesterday morning went. A sweet friend, who happens to live around the corner from us, texted to see if we’d like to meet in the neighborhood park with another little buddy from our boys’ preschool for a play date.
And that’s how we found ourselves at the park at 8:30 in the morning, before the wicked heat of the day became too oppressive to leave our A/C behind.
Thing 2 has learned to do the monkey bars, and that is ALL he wants to do at playgrounds these days. He will whip through a set of monkey bars, over and over AND OVER AGAIN, until he tells me, “I’ve got this big SORE on my hand!”
Monkey bar blisters. They’re one of the downfalls of childhood.
So, the boys pretty much did the monkey bars sixty-two million times while we were at the playground together, and that was about it.
After their workout yesterday morning, I feel like all three of these boys are ready for boot camp for the Marines. Those little monkeys kept crossing the bars, until their little biceps just gave out and quivered with overexertion.
And sweet mercy, are these three little fellows darling! Hubs and I have prayed repeatedly that Thing 2 would be blessed with good friends, from good families, and Jesus has been listening and providing. These two little buddies of his are precious little souls.
We left our little play date tired, but with hearts filled with happiness.
Later in the day… after we’d had soccer practice and dinner… the boy announced that he was going to go wash his car. Thing 2 immediately raced for his shoes, hollering over his shoulder, “Take me to the car wash with you, Bubbie!!” The automatic car wash is Thing 2’s happy place. I believe it’s where he goes, mentally, when I am delivering one of my frequent, long-winded lectures to him.
The boy replied, “I’m not going TO the car wash; I bought all the recommended stuff to wash my car by hand, in the driveway.”
Why members of the male tribe enjoy doing this, when there is a perfectly good, perfectly cheap, fully-automatic car wash just down the hill from us, is beyond me. But, true to his word, the boy really had stopped at the store on his way home from work. He’d watched You Tube videos online on scrubbing a vehicle down in your driveway, and he’d bought super soft cloths and super gentle soap, and a bucket and Dr. Pepper.
I’m not sure whether the You Tube video recommended drinking the Dr. Pepper while you labored over your car with a sponge, or whether that was a spontaneous decision the boy made.
In the end, Thing 2 decided that an AT-HOME car wash sounded even more fun than the automated one. He changed into his swim trunks, because there was no one in this house who believed that our preschooler could actually help with a chore involving water and REMAIN DRY. Doing so would be like leaving the lid off an outdoor trashcan and asking the raccoons to JUST STAY OUT OF IT.
At our house, if water is involved, Thing 2 will be sopping wet.
And… true to our predictions… Thing 2 took advantage of the hose, the soapy sponge, and his big brother’s bucket of sudsy water…
… and he took an outdoor shower last night.
He scrubbed his entire body up.
Even behind his ears.
And… even though he’d never watch a You Tube video entitled HOW TO VACUUM YOUR BEDROOM or one labeled HOW TO LOAD THE DISHWASHER FOR YOUR MOTHER, the boy followed every step in the one on HOW TO WASH YOUR CAR IN THE DRIVEWAY.
He rinsed and scrubbed and rinsed and labored and buffed… and then he shammied his car plum dry.
And, because of the boy’s ninety-minute session of manual labor (which was also a labor of love, he later said), we had a downpour of rain that would have made Noah sit upright and ask, “Lord, will this boat hold in this storm?”
That was right after our 3 AM gang fight, between two trespassing cats.
If you want to know how my day is going, let me just tell you this one thing: I am drinking a Henry’s Hard Soda, while I sit here at my Big Mac and type this. And, before I had even typed out a single word for this post, I took a rather large, rather unladylike, swig of the purple soda. Because I’m completely immature in my ability to drink from a glass bottle, I managed to get my lip stuck in the mouth of the bottle.
I had to make a big production of extracting my lip, because everything I ever do always seems to involve things like BIG PRODUCTION and also DRAMA. The process made an enormous popping sound, which — I imagine — would sound exactly like an octopus being yanked clean off a plastic wall. And then, because of the laws of physics, which dictate things like VACUUMS and also SUCTION, there was a magnificent explosion. It was exactly the same kind of explosion that scientists have recreated in computerized animations of the super volcano exploding from beneath Yellowstone National Park. Because of the carbonation in the soda, which contains just enough alcohol for a tired mama to end her day with, grape soda erupted everywhere, until it had pretty much covered me.
I believe the words you’re looking for are VERY CLASSY, GLADYS.
I am also over the heat and trying to look cute in it. All my hair styling efforts are ending in doom and despair, as my hair does nothing except stick to the back of my neck and itch. It ends up in a heap of frizzed tendrils, that are unmanageable and untameable. I don’t know how Cindy Crawford every managed her glorious mane of hair when the mercury hit 488 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s clearly what separated her from the rest of us. Her ability to rock good hair in the wicked heat is what granted her permission to write SUPERMODEL on all the forms her kids’ schools sent home for her to fill out, asking for OCCUPATION and EMERGENCY CONTACTS.
But yesterday, I got to step out in high class, regardless of the fact that my hair was looking more like SHE LIVES IN A VAN, DOWN BY THE RIVER, rather than SUPERMODEL.
We went to the polo fields, with our classy friends, Deb and Tony.
It was exactly what I felt like Prince William and Princess Kate would have done, on a Monday night. Except, there weren’t any actual polo matches going on, because we were there to use the seven hundred and nine thousand acres of lush, green grass as a giant soccer field / Frisbee field / run-the-energetic-five-year-old-until-he-drops field.
Deb and Tony have two college sons, who have energy levels that rival Thing 2’s. Those two big boys run 5K races. And then they run marathons. And then… when 26.2 miles just isn’t enough… they sign up for REAL RACES, where they can run fifty entire miles through mountainous trails. I kid not. They have done this fifty-mile race.
I once ran across the entire playground of the little Catholic school where I teach, in an effort to stop a rolling basketball from reaching the curb and street, so basically I’m every single bit as fit as Deb and Tony’s sons are.
We got to the polo fields last night at the exact same time the wind struck. I used my iPhone to take actual video footage of the wind that we suddenly found ourselves smack in the middle of:
We had just sat ourselves down in the lawn chairs, and Deb had just opened up the cooler and poured the sangria into paper cups, when that wind came blasting off the mountains. I tried to sip my wine from the paper cup, and the wine ITSELF blew sideways in the cup, so that it wouldn’t reach my mouth.
In other words, I am losing at the game of successfully drinking these days.
The big kids tried to play Frisbee with Thing 2, which ended up in the Frisbee being blown to Hong Kong. Thankfully, the benefit of having long-distance runners in your midst is that they don’t really mind running to Hong Kong to chase down a plastic disc.
Deb passed out cheese and crackers and grapes and Oreos from her cooler in the windstorm, too. We debated packing up and going home, but then we remembered that the West wasn’t settled by Wind Cowards.
And within fifteen minutes, the wind had died down to a gentle breeze, and the temperatures dropped twenty degrees, and suddenly… LIFE WAS REALLY WONDERFUL AGAIN.
The grownups sat and ate our classy snacks from Deb’s cooler, while the college boys and one girlfriend played soccer and Frisbee with Thing 2. Eventually, the boy got off work and drove out to sit with us, too.
When our street-smart Thing 2 saw through the kids’ plans of WEARING HIM OUT, as well as his mother’s plans of EARLY BEDTIME, he changed things up by requesting piggybacks from sweet Gabbie.
I have no idea what Thing 2 and Kit were talking about, but I imagine the preschooler was asking fourteen million questions and Kit was doing his level best to absorb them all and come up with answers.
“And THAT, Thing 2, is why the moon and our ocean’s tides are connected.”
And then I’m sure Kit probably tried to convince Thing 2 that Bon Jovi wasn’t all his mother said he’s cracked up to be.
Eventually, the sun started to set amidst all the dark storm clouds, and what we had was a genuine delight for professional photographers: It was called JUST LOOK AT THAT LIGHT!!
The downside to this story is that I am not a professional photographer, so what I did with LOOK AT THAT LIGHT!! was ruin it completely with my camera. I am still a novice to the manual settings on my Canon, so I couldn’t really capture the way God showed off with His sunset last night, after the wind and the rain had passed.
And… as all good things must come to an end… we eventually had to pack up the sangria and the paper cups. We had to put the cheese and crackers and the grapes and Oreos back into the cooler, and we had to head for home and jammies and brushing little teeth and reading bedtime stories.
It’s what responsible parents do, even though what they REALLY WANT TO DO is sit with the cheese and crackers a bit longer.
Tony and Thing 2 loaded up in Tony’s Razor, to head home on the dirt roads. Although Thing 2 showed his unedited enthusiasm, Tony stared into the middle distance, lost in prayer.
“Lord, I will wait for You. I will be strong and take heart, and wait for Your deliverance, if you will just get me through the ride home with Thing 2 at my side, because I know he’s going to ask three-point-four million questions before I reach my house. Bless Your humble servant with the answers to all these questions, Lord, and the patience to keep answering.”
We came home last night and put Thing 2 to bed, as he talked nonstop about Tony’s Razor and Kit’s exceptional Frisbee skills and Taylor’s ability to catch a Frisbee in a tornado and Gabbie’s very fine piggybacks and his big brother eating all the Oreos.
And then he promptly fell asleep, until 7:00 this morning. It was a gift straight from Jesus, Himself, as the only person who gets up earlier than Tony for coffee in the mornings is Thing 2.
In other words, I’ll be knocking on Deb and Tony’s front door again very soon to ask, “So? Wanna take our crew to the polo fields again?”
Sometimes, when it’s 96 flaming degrees outside, we like to go sit on metal bleachers, so that we can have the joy of feeling ourselves go all oozy, like a marshmallow that’s been shoved into the heart of a S’more. It makes us say things like, “Could the equator even BE any worse than this?”
Except we all know that the humidity THERE would kick our fantastic manes of hair straight into frizzy waves of curls we didn’t even know we had.
There’s really no escaping the hardships of a hot summer.
We were sitting on the metal bleachers, because we went to watch Thing 2’s soccer game last Thursday evening. Our Red Robins ran hard and sweated harder, and they came out with a 3 to 1 win.
Our little man managed to score three goals on Thursday night, before he caught a REAL, LIVE GRASSHOPPER late in the second half. Thing 2 had the ball… he was running downfield with it… we thought that JUST MAYBE he’d be able to pull off one more goal before the referee blew the game-ending whistle… and then… he saw a grasshopper, hopping through the grass, as they are prone to do.
He didn’t even think twice.
He quit the ball.
He gave up on the ball and instantly pounced on that ‘hopper with everything he had, and he came up victorious!
He hollered for EVERYONE!! EVERYONE, COME SEE THIS GRASSHOPPER!!! I CAUGHT A GRASSHOPPER!! EVERYONE!! COME LOOK AT IT!!
And? Do you know what? Every kid on that soccer field QUIT. THE. GAME.
Every kid quit. The ball sat idly on the field, with no one to kick it.
Both teams gathered around Thing 2, with the game clock still running. They congratulated him on a successful hunt and catch. They all took turns petting the grasshopper and begging to hold him (her?). The referee blew his whistle. He said to the kids, “Okay! Let’s put the bug down and get back to the game.”
The kids pressed in closer to Thing 2, to admire the grasshopper more.
Coaches came close, and, with hands on little shoulders, they gently redirected a herd of four- and five-year-olds back to a soccer game that wasn’t quite finished. They encouraged Thing 2 to release his friend back into the wild, and rejoin the game.
We thought he had followed directions, until the ref put the ball down on the field and did his level best to remember which team should kick it to restart the game.
And… that’s when everyone noticed that the Great Bug Hunter was still clutching his newly-found friend.
His mama had to go rescue the grasshopper, under promises that I wouldn’t squish him or break one of his legs off. I assured my son that I’ve never been known to torture grasshoppers in my life.
When I brought that grasshopper to the sidelines, I DID gently push him straight through the chain-link fence, to a wildlife preserve on the other side, safe from the clutches of very small children.
His eyes met mine, and I saw him sigh and mouth the words, “Thank you.”
I nodded and encouraged him to stay off of soccer fields. The Red Robins are capable of doing some damage on one!
… after you’ve gotten up, FOR THE DAY, at 3:45 in the morning.
Go ahead and ask me how I know. It probably has everything to do with the fact that I was on the front lines, drinking coffee before any hint of daylight had struck.
And the answer is YES. I do realize that boy is improperly buckled in. He fell asleep, fell sideways, and fell out of his seatbelt, which also twisted.
Also? A very-recent conversation at our house shook down exactly like this:
THING 2: “Mom, what’s that thing called, when you put on the big gloves and hit someone?”
ME: “What? What are you talking about? We don’t hit people!”
THING 2: “No!! No!! That THING!! When you put on the big gloves that are all poofed out, and the bell dings, and then you punch someone’s lights out! What is that called?!”
THING 2: “YES!!!! BOXING!!! I want to do boxing, Mom! I want those big gloves, and I want to punch someone’s lights out with them! I want to do boxing!!”
I think that was the precise moment when I hung my head and said, “Jesus, are You there? Because surely Isaac did not ask these things of Abraham and Sarah, in their very old age! Surely, in my elderly state, I should have been blessed with a quiet child, who would be thrilled to read or sit for hours, doing complicated math problems at the kitchen table, in a notebook? My heart is too old for these early morning hours and requests to sign up for boxing, Lord. There is simply not enough coffee and wine to cover it all!”
I think Jesus heard my prayer, and yet… suspiciously… I think He whispered, “She’s going to need to buy some hand wraps, a mouth guard, and a blue satin robe that looks more like a superhero cape and is bedazzled with neon LED lights, because this is gonna become a THING.”
At which point, I simply said, “Okay, Jesus. I’ll sign him up for hockey… and TRAVEL IN ALL THE DADGUM SNOW AND ICE, ALL WINTER LONG, even though You know that I LOATHE, HATE and also DESPISE driving in the snow! I will do this WINTER TRAVELING, if You please… PUH-LEEZ... let us pass on the boxing.”
The weather is still holding strong at UGLY HOT, which makes us want to track down any living relatives of Willis Carrier, who invented air conditioning, and give them an iced latte or even a million dollars. Mr. Carrier’s contribution to society makes summers in Small Town, USA a little more tolerable.
And… what do we like to do in Small Town, when the thermometer reads FIRE, FIRE, FIRE OUTSIDE!!!? Well, we like to dunk our neck coolers in a big bowl of ice water to activate the cooling gel, tie them on, and go watch our cute cousin, Miss A, play softball. It also helps when you have metal bleachers to sit on (which we did), because then, while your skin is quickly roasting on your arms and neck, you can also get a nice scorch mark on your bum.
I played softball for a sweet forever. It was my favorite. I could sit on the other side of a softball fence and watch a team of girls play the game for hours on end, without needing anything. No soft pretzels to dunk in gooey, fake cheese sauce. No sunflower seeds. No hot dogs with a heavy squirt of ketchup. I’m perfectly content to sit and watch and cheer a pack of girls on, until they wrap up their last inning.
Or until the lightning rolls in, cools things off by an IMMEDIATE ten-degree drop in temperature, and plum cancels the game at the top of the 5th inning. There’s just something about standing outside with a metal softball bat in your hand… or sitting on metal bleachers… that makes you want to scurry for the safety of your Suburban when the lightning starts striking.
But, the first four and a half innings of Miss A’s game last night were delightful. Thing 2 cheered his heart out for her, until he noticed the Shaved Ice Truck coming around the corner. When that happened, I’m sorry to admit that he lost all love for Miss A’s game, because I HAVE A GRANDPA HERE WHO WILL WALK WITH ME TO THAT TRUCK AND PEEL BACK A COUPLE OF DOLLAR BILLS, SO THAT I CAN HAVE ICE WITH FORTY-SIX DIFFERENT FLAVORED SYRUPS. THIS SOFTBALL GAME IS NOW DEAD TO ME.
For a pack of junior high girls, Miss A’s team is awesome. They are undefeated this summer. They can hit the ball. They can catch the ball. They can throw the ball. The coach from Bull Durham would be happy to know that they are most definitely NOT lollygaggers. These girls are fun to watch, because they all just GET the game. Without any prompting, they know when to turn a double play. Without any prompting, they know when the ball should be thrown to 3rd base first. They even caught a girl in a hotbox last night, and managed to tag her out.
And… we might be a little prejudiced, but we think our own Miss A, who is the short stop, is the cutest player on the team.
Last night, we got to watch her hit a single and two doubles…
… and then we got to watch her get thrown out at first base once.
Sometimes even Babe Ruth got thrown out. It happens. We’re just going to blame the ugly heat and all the lightning. I think Miss A was a little nervous during her last time at bat, because LOOK AT ME WAVING A BIG METAL BAT IN FRONT OF ALL THOSE LIGHTNING BOLTS!! I probably would have swung a little early in a situation like that, too, in an effort to quickly THROW THAT BAT DOWN and run for first.
Well done, Miss A! We are happy to be in your cheering section!
So July showed up angry today, as Mother Nature pushed the mercury in the thermometer straight to 101, on the Monday-est Wednesday we’ve ever had.
I think this has everything to do with the fact that we stayed up celebrating how proud we were to be Americans until nearly midnight. This is always a lovely bedtime to pair with the fact that Thing 2 is ALWAYS getting up EARLY in the mornings. Today he threw open his bedroom door at precisely 7:20 and announced, “Whew! I slept great!”
An 11:45 PM bedtime and a 7:20 AM wake-up time have turned out to be a fantastic combination. The fact that our skin sizzled and stuck to the leather seats in the Suburban all day was just the cherry on the top.
Summer has arrived in Small Town, USA with her varsity team. She’s here to play, and she’s flashing out stats of 97, 99, 94 and 96 degrees, every single day, for the next two weeks. Those are conservative numbers, because we all know that weathermen lie and what they really mean is PREPARE THE ICE CUBES, AND BUCKLE DOWN. IT’S GONNA BE 103 EVERY DAY NOW.
I die a little.
Our 4th of July turned out to be quiet, low-key and perfectly wonderful.
We stayed in our pajamas until 11 AM. We drank coffee with REAL CREAM and REAL SUGAR, because GOODBYE FOR THE HOLIDAY, WHOLE3O! We read books. We built with Legos. We were slugs.
At 11:00, we pulled ourselves together, showered, put on real clothes, made beds, loaded the dishwasher and became responsible citizens in society once again.
And then we headed out to Small Mountain Town, some twenty miles away, to have a family barbecue at Grammy and Papa’s house.
It didn’t hurt that they live outside of the city limits, which meant that there was a full-on green light for fireworks. The big kids in our family are all pyromaniacs. The littlest peanut has always been a bit afraid of firecracks, as he calls them. (And believe me… we ALL say FIRECRACKS now, because it’s too stinking cute.) Firecracks have always been a no-go for Thing 2. He screams when he hears them, he panics, and he wants to load himself into a vehicle — ANY VEHICLE! — and get as far away from them as possible. In other words, the 4th of July has always been just so much fun, with the tears and the wails, since 2012.
This year, we expected the same thing. Hubs and I told Thing 2 that the big kids would probably light some fireworks, but that he could go inside the house, if he didn’t like them. We were pretty sure that Grammy’s stash of kid-friendly snacks would be full to the brim, and we let him know that he could sit with a bowl of snacks and play with the building blocks inside.
Three minutes after we had arrived, Cousin M managed to get Thing 2 involved with the firecracks. In three minutes, our fourteen-year-old Cousin M had done what Hubs and I hadn’t been able to do in five-and-a-half YEARS. Thing 2 wasn’t quite brave enough to hold a smoke bomb in his hand, but he was plenty brave enough to let M put one into the watering can on the big pole. Once Cousin M lit the bomb, Thing 2 would catapult it right into the little irrigation pond.
It was the closest our son had been to a FIRECRACK in his entire life.
They did this four thousand, three hundred and nine times before they stopped for a break.
The little irrigation pond suffered some pollution, in the form of colored smoke.
The grass that it waters didn’t seem to mind.
Half of the fun for our preschooler was fishing the smoke bomb carcasses OUT of the pond, after they’d been ignited and pitched in there.
Much to our astonishment, Cousin M even got Thing 2 to help him light a few low-key, not-too-terribly-loud fireworks. I’m not kidding when I say that this teenage cousin of ours was a miracle worker this Independence Day.
One of the highlights of Thing 2’s day was when Cousin M showed him how to light a smoke bomb and dump it into a plastic Gatorade or juice jug. Thing 2 gasped in amazement every time the plastic jug changed colors with smoke contamination and puffed out rainbow plumes.
I’m sorry that y’all don’t have a Cousin M in your lives. He’s the best nanny (MANNY??!!) in the business, and he plays with Thing 2 like he’s a five-year-old, too.
While M was busy inducting Thing 2 in the I CAN TOLERATE FIREWORKS NOW hall of fame, the other kids were busy lighting things on fire, too. Sometimes it was fireworks and sometimes it was just matches, which they watched burn up in ash. I speak the truth when I say that our herd of children in this family THRIVE on burning things up.
I’m not sure if I should be worried or not.
Also? They hold Roman candles with their bare hands. Please don’t report us to the Department of Family Services. These kids may clutch a lit pop-bottle rocket between their fingers as they prepare for its launch, but they are all well-loved, well-fed, and well-cared-for. Our attorneys will eat you up in court.
Well… IT’S A PUNK. I promise… the family draws the line at smoking cigars when you’re sixteen. We may let them use the butane torches to light firecrackers, but THERE WILL BE NO SMOKING.
… Hubs and his brothers and sister have always told stories about how their grandfather suspended a REAL BED between two trees when they were little. They remember swinging on the bed and napping on the bed. They still tell stories about lying on that bed in the early ’80s, watching bats fly overhead with their grandpa in the evenings.
The bed swing is one of Hubs’ fondest memories growing up, and I’m betting that his two younger brothers and sister feel the same way.
As it so happens, Grammy still had the bed that her dad had hung in the yard, all those years ago. She pulled it out of the storage shed, spray-painted it a cheery, lime green, bought a gel mattress for it, added some bedding that Joanna Gaines would have been stinking proud of, and Papa anchored the bed between two trees.
The bed debuted this weekend, complete with a solar-powered chandelier hanging above it, which was the absolute cat’s meow when it got dark outside. Our kids made some memories. Already, the boy is trying to figure out how he can get a bed tied up between our two apple trees at home.
Everyone took turns napping on the bed yesterday.
And by everyone, I mean Hubs and the boy. They both fell asleep. Hubs even missed lunch, because he was napping on the bed of his childhood.
Grammy also bought slingshot helicopters for the kids. The $8 three-pack kept them entertained for THREE ENTIRE HOURS, PEOPLE! Numbers don’t go high enough to count how many times Thing 2 launched his whistling helicopter into the air with the rubberband on his slingshot.
Yes, the helicopters found themselves stuck in the trees exactly twice.
Yes, helicopters can be knocked out of trees with a well-thrown dodgeball.
It should also be noted that EVERY!! SINGLE!! TIME!! that Thing 2 pulled the rubberband back to shoot his helicopter into the sky, he would holler, “Are you watching me? Are you watching me? Grammy! Are you watching? Mommy!! ARE YOU WATCHING ME??!”
He didn’t want a single launch to be missed, in case it turned out to be the very launch that landed his helicopter on the dark side of the moon.
There were also rides on the tractor mower to celebrate the land of the free and the home of the brave…
… and then there was a significant amount of time spent in Grammy and Papa’s tiny irrigation pond with the plastic boats.
And then we loaded ourselves up and drove to the GIANT field, where our city puts on one fantastic fireworks show every single 4th of July.
Thing 2 timidly enjoyed it, but he was most content to sit inside Grammy’s car and watch from the safety it provided, while Hubs and the boy sat outside and said, “Doesn’t the smell of lit gunpowder just make you HAPPY? They should make a gunpowder-flavored COLOGNE for men!”
The West wasn’t won by men who don’t appreciate a little gunpowder in their lives.
I used my iPhone to snap a few pictures of the firecracks being lit off.
It looks exactly as you’d expect, from someone who wears Mom Jeans, cooks casseroles with cream of mushroom soup and owns a cell phone camera.
Meanwhile… can I just brag on my neighbor boy a bit?
His name is Nathan, and he’s an artist. He just graduated from college with an art degree in May. He can paint or draw anything. He drew a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for Thing 2 with colored pencils, while he was waiting for a flight in an airport earlier this year. It took him about ten minutes, and the drawing looks like something you’d hang in a museum. We have it framed, in Thing 2’s bedroom.
And apparently our neighbor boy is now teaching himself to use a camera.
That’s right. Teaching himself. RECENTLY. I’ve been teaching myself to use a camera for the past fifteen years, and I take pictures of fireworks that are unidentifiable red blobs.
My NEW TO THE CAMERA neighbor boy took THESE:
Apparently artists just understand how to use a camera, even thought they’ve never used one before. It doesn’t seem quite fair. I was stunned when I saw these pictures he took this morning, but then… we’ve come to expect nothing less than STELLAR when our neighbor boy does something artistic.
He’s pretty amazing and talented. I told him that I want to sign up for the first photography workshop he teaches.
He’s also a pretty good nanny / manny himself, as he is always willing to crawl on his belly through the tall weeds with Thing 2, to hunt bad guys with him. Nathan is also more than willing to stand down and be Spider-Man, so that Thing 2 can have the favored Batman, as they both run through the yards, swinging stick swords at one another.
Thing 2 always says, “Nathan is my best friend!”
Y’all have a good Wednesday night, even though this Wednesday has felt like a Monday from the get-go. May your air conditioners work, and may your ice makers kick things up a notch, in an effort to prepare you for the July heat.
Oh, July-In-Small-Town. We really don’t like your hot game plan.