We Survived BIRTHDAY WEEKEND Without Even Needing a One-Way Pass For a Little Vacation in a Padded Cell

So tragedy struck at the Jedi Manor last night.  We went from being a two-frog family to a one-frog family, as the boy discovered his beloved Gru floating belly-up in his tank just before bedtime.  The boy caught Gru in a park here in Small Town, USA last August, so he lived a good, solid year in a glass aquarium in the boy’s bedroom, where he continually frowned at me every single time I walked by and said, “I’m wrongfully incarcerated, and I’d like to speak to my attorney!  You have no legal rights to hold me here!”

Eventually, Gru settled his anger levels down about being caught, and he got used to having live meals delivered right to his front door twice every week.  Meals on Wheels never looked so good.  Plus, there were no snakes he had to dodge in the boy’s bedroom, so really?  Life was plum GOOD for Gru.

Gru was a polite frog…a non-verbal frog…which is what we loved the most about him, because listen, people!  His roommate, Yoda Joe (the exotic tree frog from beneath the canopy of the far-off jungles), is anything BUT non-verbal.  Yoda Joe speaks his mind, AND FREQUENTLY.  And also LOUDLY.  He spent a few minutes in his own tank last night, mumbling to himself, and I’m rather certain he was saying a fond farewell to the silent guy from upstairs.

Upstairs being the next higher shelf in the bookcase.

Yes, we had some extensive tears last night, as the boy sobbed out his grief, and it PLUM! BROKE! MY HEART!  Hubs found a little box that had been destined for the recycling bin, and we wrapped Gru up in Bounty paper towels and laid him to rest.  Hubs dug a hole, as we all gathered around, and then the boy used a Sharpie marker to doll up a giant rock to use as a headstone.  We shared memories of Gru together, which is honestly something that I never, in all my crazy college imaginings, envisioned myself doing — standing around a pile of dirt, recalling how a frog had entertained us for an entire year.  We laughed as we talked about how the boy had given Gru his first BIG cricket — not the wimpy crickets meant for LITTLE TINY FROGS, but the ENORMOUS crickets, meant for pet ostriches.  We giggled as we remembered how Gru had pounced that thing and ridden it like a bull rider would have done at the local rodeo, right before he snapped its head off with one, quick bite.

And then we had MORE tears, and Hubs and I snuggled our boy, and we said that life sometimes throws us some hard balls, because sweet mercy!  It’s ENORMOUSLY DIFFICULT to see your child’s heart snap in half with sadness.

So yes.  We are a two-psycho-cats-five-quiet-goldfish-and-JUST-ONE-very-outspoken-frog house now, but Hubs and I have our suspicions that the current status quo will change soon, because the three of us picnicked in the park this afternoon for lunch, and the boy stole my iced tea cup to hit the creek, in search of a new pet.

A new pet, which I emphatically declared, with gusto and authority and FIRMNESS and MUCH FINALITY, shall not be a SNAKE!SNAKE!SNAKE!  The boy had absolutely zero pet-finding luck this afternoon, unless you count the water skippers he caught in my iced tea cup, but you know water skippers.

They’re shady and shifty and indifferent, and they’re completely unworthy of Good Pet Status.

But on to happier things.

Like the birthday WEEKEND (as opposed to the single birthday DAY, which most children celebrate).  At the Jedi Manor, we like to stretch the fun out for as long as we possibly can, until everyone’s heads are spun completely around like an owl on crack.

The boy’s giant birthday party with all of his closest buddies happened on Friday night.  Naturally, Ben came, because Ben is the life of EVERY party, and because he and the boy are tight friends, regardless of the small fact that Ben moved to Small Ranching Community, which is seventy miles down the interstate (as the crow flies), last August.  When Ben’s mama (my darling friend, Bridget) dropped him off early Friday afternoon while she was in town, the boy wasn’t with me, because Mam and Pa had him.  So I loaded Ben up in the Suburban, and we drove across town to collect the boy, while Ben TALKED! NON! STOP!  Nonstop.  As in there was a continual, loud conversation flowing from my backseat for the entire trip.  When we parked in front of Mam and Pa’s house, I told Ben, “Goodness, boy, but I have plum missed you and all of your talking!  You’re just precious, and I’m so glad you’re back with us this weekend!”

And Ben looked me square in the eyes and said, “Well, Mama, it’s good to be back with you, too.  And I imagine that the reason we get along so well is because you talk as much as I do, so we always have something to say to each other!”

Oh, y’all!  I adore that kid, even if he does have extensive plans, complete with hand-drawn diagrams, on catching Big Foot one day with the boy.

So the big party happened that night, and, because of OUTDOOR MOVIE, things wrapped up around 11 PM.  Naturally, NO ONE wanted to drive Ben home to Small Ranching Community in the middle of the night, so we had arranged for him to sleep on our family room floor, where he has slept approximately one thousand and ten other times.


Hubs and I agreed to drive Ben to Smaller Town, USA (formerly known as Gymnastics Land), which is thirty miles down the road, because Ben was participating in the fair there, and he had some chores to do for his animals and a 4H parade to be in.

So, you know, no trouble whatsoever…that whole concept of falling asleep around 12:30 and getting up so that we could be ON THE ROAD by 7:15 the following morning.  I had a bit of a birthday party hangover, but a little early-morning Starbucks solved THAT problem!

The fair was so much fun, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that Hubs and I met THE NICEST BOYS anywhere around!  Ben introduced us to three boys from Small Ranching Community that he pals around with in 4H, and I wanted to adopt them all immediately, because of SWEET, SWEET, SWEET!  The 7th grade boy held every gate open for me that we had to walk through, and they took an immediate liking to our boy, as they showed him all of their pigs and sheep and steers.  Hubs and I even got to haul a bale of hay in our Suburban for Ben, so that he could feed his sheep that morning.

And then we made a visit to the car wash later to vacuum up the remains of said hay bale, because we quickly learned that if we’re going to become real ranchers, we need a TRUCK.

And not a Suburban with a carpeted tailgate area, because HAY!  IT STICKS IN THE CARPET!

After all the critters were fed and watered and seen to, we left Ben with his incredibly sweet friends, and we went downtown to watch the parade, which Ben was going to be in.  He and the boy had a deal, which involved the boy sitting on the curb and gathering as much of the candy that would be thrown from the floats as he possibly could, and then they’d divvy up the lot and share it.

The boy took his job seriously, and he scored more wrapped bits of pure sugar than Willy Wonka has ever manufactured.

When the parade was over, we returned to the fairgrounds to pick up the ninja Ben.

Hubs and I returned Ben to his mama, and we talked and talked and talked, while we sat around holding his brand-spanking-new baby brother, Isaac!  I doled out kisses and hugs to that baby in gigantic quantities!

Later on Saturday, Hubs and I decided that we’d give the boy his birthday present a bit early.

I think he was overwhelmed with surprise and happiness.

Hubs and I were tired of watching the boy ride his little red four-wheeler, which he has had since he was four years old, because he looked like a grasshopper on it this summer.  His legs were too long, and he looked like Hubs would look, if Hubs tried to ride a little bike with training wheels.  So, Hubs’ parents went in with us, and the boy was blessed with a new four-wheeler, which we told him had to be his primary mode of transportation until his twenty-first birthday.

Learn the hand signals well, Boy, for the right- and left-hand turns, because this yellow four-wheeler will be your high school car.

The boy’s favorite thing is LOADING and UNLOADING the four-wheeler, which made Mama want to stroke out at first, until Hubs told me to go in the house and breathe into a paper bag because my nervous comments were driving them bonkers.

A mama’s job is worrying about her baby dumping his four-wheeler off the ramps and snapping his neck off.

A dad’s job is to tell the kid, “Yep.  You can do this; no problem.  It’s cake.  I’ll handle your mother.”

The boy wasted exactly zero minutes when we brought the four-wheeler home before he recruited the cute neighbor boy to go riding with him.

On Sunday night, we had my family over for a giant Taco Bar Night.  One of the boy’s all-time favorite dinners is homemade tacos, and we pulled out all the stops.  We had tacos and taco toppings exactly like they’d serve at any fine Mexican restaurant.

Only better.

The boy’s favorite dessert is S’Mores, so we made those, too.

We made them exactly like City People do.  Over the gas cooktop.

The boy ate FOUR S’MORES!  Four, people!  And Hubs and I didn’t cut him off, because of BIRTHDAY WEEKEND.  We made plans to start the Family Detox Diet later in the week to cleanse our system of all the sugar!  And the cake!  And the ice cream!  And the popcorn!  And the S’Mores!

After everyone was hopped up on ‘mallows and melted chocolate, Mam and Pa stayed to play a board game with us.  The cute neighbor boy had given the birthday boy a game called Would You Rather? at his birthday party.  We hauled it out, and we asked one another outrageous questions (“Would you rather eat an omelet made totally out of ear wax, or eat a hair sandwich?”  “Would you rather be struck by lightning or be bitten by a Great White Shark?”), while we moved our game pieces around the board.

For the record, Hubs went for the hair sandwich, because he said ear wax makes him want to barf.  Pa went for the omelet, because he can’t stand to find a hair in his food, and a sandwich made entirely out of hair would render him dead.

Monday morning dawned, and the boy!  HE WAS OFFICIALLY ELEVEN YEARS OLD!

Grammy brought him chocolate donuts for breakfast, because she loves him and because why not?  His sugar intake for the weekend was already at an all-time high.

Hubs took the boy’s birthday off from work, and the three of us hung out together, doing whatever the boy wanted to do.

Which was eat a second donut.

And then the boy JUST WANTED TO RIDE, MAN!  Just like he was in the movie Wild Hogs.

So he rode.

And then our boy asked if he could PRACTICE PARALLEL PARKING.

Sweet mercy, but who does that?!

Believe me when I say that parallel parking is most definitely NOT the race that Jesus has called me to run, but the boy had enormous urges to perfect the art NOW!  So, Hubs set up a couple of folding chairs in our church parking lot, and the boy practiced away.

His parking abilities were better than mine in exactly seven seconds’ worth of practice.

A little Arms on the Hips display, as he grins and says, “This is really kind of EASY!”


Of course, I wrote the boy plum out of my will when he said, “Hey, Dad, we should stay longer so that Mom can practice HER parallel parking, too.”

Later on Monday night, we met Hubs’ family at the park for Birthday Party, Round Three.  Hubs’ mama brought Jimmy John’s sandwiches, which is the boy’s second favorite meal on this planet.

Homemade tacos.  Jimmy John’s.  The sugar cane plant.  Gold.  Silver.  Bronze.

I think it goes without saying that the cousins all caught a snake at the park.  I used my telephoto lens, FROM A GREAT DISTANCE, to take a picture.  Mama has a difficult time with the SNAKES!SNAKES!SNAKES!

The cousins all practiced their jumping on Monday night.  They jumped off the bridge…

And then they jumped the ditch together…

Cousin B set the Party Record for MOST AIR CAUGHT WHILE DITCH-JUMPING.

We had more presents…

And then I bribed all the cousins to squish together for a group shot…

And then Brother chased the boy down, so that there could be a birthday SPANKING.  Even though it winded him and made him feel a titch OLD, Brother wasn’t going to be outrun by an eleven-year-old boy!  Our boy didn’t stand a chance, because Brother was going to win the race to catch him, even if he had to cheat.

And THAT, people, completely wraps up the Birthday Weekend.


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