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Summer Adventures

Summer is bipolar. We go back and forth between manic waves of runrunrun, go do this, go do that, activityactivityactivity! and longer stretches of languidly sweltering afternoons where we can barely be bothered to lift our eyelids, let alone our butts off our seats. We're coming away from one of those frenetic patches, which uncharacteristically coincided with the worst heat wave we've had all summer; when the mercury rises to a certain point, the balance tips in favor of getting out of the house just to gain sanctuary under industrial-strength air conditioners.

Today's excursion was a field trip to the Jelly Belly Warehouse for a train ride tour. Sam had fun, anyway; Gabe seemed perplexed, especially when he was denied the right to sample any actual product. I laughed myself silly when Sam completely missed the point of the Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and deliberately sampled a soap-flavored jelly bean, followed by a black pepper one. I think he preferred the soap one, actually, but he swallowed both with only an odd grimace while other, older boys around him were gagging and spitting theirs into the trash. And this is the son of mine that refuses to eat spaghetti sauce.

(Tangentially, I'll confess to actually knowing the distinction between my boys here. Yes, Gabe would eat spaghetti sauce, and quite happily, I'm sure. He's happy with most solid foods we've given him, but he's absolutely voracious for whatever is on the plates in front of "big people." I try to satisfy him with teeny bites of baby-appropriate food that I may happen to have, but he's not fooled. Recently, he managed to snag a bite of tarka dhal from the platter between us, and he only reacted momentarily to the strong spices before grabbing for a second bite (which I managed to prevent). Last night we had homemade enchiladas, and his desperate fingers managed to prise some saucey bits of tortilla and onion from my plate. I know, I know; not particularly baby-friendly. Eric made everything but the tortillas from scratch, though, so we knew precisely what he was eating, and he adored it. I'm not about to add tomatoes and chili powder to his regular dietary rotation just yet, but I think it's a fair bet that this child is going to be a much more adventurous eater than his older brother.)

Where was I? Oh, yes. This weekend, before it got super-hot, we went to Eric's company picnic at the Milwaukee Zoo. I swear, this company goes all out when it comes to employee celebrations like this. The children's Christmas party was big presents for everybody, along with a movie, a rented Santa with free pictures on his lap, and a pretty good menu; the company picnic had a bouncy house, a well-catered meal with free beer included, free ride tickets for the zoo attractions, and door prizes and kids' coloring contests. Good deal! We didn't end up staying long, though, as the sky broke above us as we were heading for the car and there was a sizable downpour which somehow didn't manage to cool things off one lick.

But now it is cooling off, and I'm starting to feel slug-like once more. I really didn't want to go to the Jelly Belly warehouse today, truth be told, but unrestrained sloth makes my skin crawl if it goes on for too long. Last week, before the picnic, was a veritable orgy of unbridled laying about in various stages of undress ("No, we can't go for a bike ride; you're not wearing any pants!"), and I was still feeling residual heebie-jeebies from it.

The swinging from activity to non wears on me so much, and it's a big reason why I Hate Summer. Really.

Last week, in one of our few attempts to shake the sofa out of our bottoms, we went to a public pool in a neighboring town. (I won't get into what kind of messed-up town we have that doesn't have any public pools of its own.) It was a very nice pool, with a large zero-depth area and two sliding boards. The moment we walked in, Sam's eyes lit on the long, twisty blue slide and he was transfixed. "I want to go down the blue slide, Mommy! I want to go down the blue slide!"

I stopped by a lifeguard. "How deep is the water at the bottom of the slides?" I asked.

"The red slide goes into twelve feet," he said, "and..."

"I want the blue one, Mommy!"

"...the blue one is three feet. He'll be just fine." He grinned at me and Sam.

So Sam pulled me to the steps, which were higher than they seemed from a distance. He climbed up, up, up, and I stood at the bottom with Gabe on my hip and my hand over my eyes. The lifeguard by this slide seemed a little less sure of how "fine" Sam would be, but he wouldn't let me into the pool area to catch him as he came off the slide. "It's for getting off the slide only."

It didn't matter, though, because down came Sam from the steps after a few false starts at the top of the slide. "It's too spray-y," he sighed. I gathered that the water was misting in his face, which is a big no-no in his world. He wasn't happy about "giving up," though, no matter how I reassured him that it wasn't a big deal and that he didn't have to do it if he didn't want to. In fact, he tried again a few more times, each time coming back down the ladder.

On his fourth or fifth trip up, though, an attendant at the top of the slide decided to help him. She sat with him at the beginning, scootching him into the tunnel, before pulling herself back out. I waited breathlessly for those few seconds of his descent before I saw him - barreling out of the end, backwards, on his stomach. He'd been spun around so much that he was completely discombobulated, unaware of what direction was up or down. He hit the water and went under. I didn't have time to panic, though, as the lifeguard was with him in a second, hauling him out.

Sam didn't cry. He coughed a few times, then said, "I think we won't do the slide again." Then a pool worker came over to us and had us fill out and sign a nifty piece of paper for their records:

Later that night, on the phone to his grandparents: "I slid down the blue slide, and I went down to the bottom of the pool, and I almost drowned, and someone had to rescue me." He was quite impressed with himself and with the story, though I've caught him trying to alter it a little; at one point, he asked me, "Why did you want me to go down that big slide?" Sure, little man. Another time, he mused, "I think you were teasing me - that water was deep!"

For somebody who refuses to put his face under water for any amount of money, though, I was proud of him for not flipping out over his adventure. I assured him that when he was a little bigger, he'd have no problem going down the slides. Now, if only he'd stop asking me when that would be:

"When will I be a grownup?"
"When you're eighteen."
"And when will that be?"
"In fourteen years."
"And when will fourteen years be?"
"When you're eighteen and a grownup. Now go play with your trains."

At least that's better than the other question he keeps asking: "Mommy, when are we going to die?" If anyone has a good answer to that one that will satisfy him, I'm all ears; "when we're very old" or "not for a long time" don't seem to be cutting it.

Sam loved the new movie version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yesterday, with chalk, he drew a very good likeness of the quintessential Tim Burton house in which the Bucket family lived, all slanty and broken. I was proud of his eye for detail. That's my boy!

previous one year ago:
I knew things had gone poorly when I pulled into the driveway long past Sam's bedtime, and I saw a little head bobbing at the windows of the screen porch and heard a manic-sounding little voice cheerfully cry, "Hi, Mommy!"
two years ago:
I was an adjunct instructor almost an hour after I made my prayer.
three years ago:
"Rita, we're in Ohio. I wish we were in West Virginia, but we're not."
four years ago:
"Has he kept you up all night?" Eric asked with the innocence of one who'd gotten a full night of luxurious, dream-filled sleep.
five years ago:
I don't even want to begin thinking about having to pack up the whole library and move it.
In the ears:
Indigo Girls, "Perfect World"

On the Bookshelf:
Play Dates

Gratuitous Sam

Cotton candy

Web climbing

Cow riding

Extra Gabe



Cart driving


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