On Being Absolutely Delicious.

Our family has two distinct branches.

There’s the Chris Branch.

Chris does not recall a time when he had a run-in with any poisonous-plant-caused rash, and does not have the pleasure of experiencing bug bites of any kind. Sometimes he feels a bug on him and is annoyed by the biting sensation, but does not swell or itch or react in any way to the bite thereafter. More often, though, bugs don’t even bother to perch upon him.

Then there’s the Rachel Branch.

I spent most of my childhood and parts of my adulthood afflicted by the rashes of multiple poisonous plants, and am the best insect repellent money can buy, because if I’m with you, every living thing within 25 miles will be feasting on me as if I’m the main entrée at a party thrown by pre-prison-days Martha Stewart.

It appears, after much analysis and hiking, that Ali is a descendent of the Chris Branch, and Noah is a true prodigy in the Rachel Branch.

The poor child can get bitten by anything anywhere regardless of whether he is lacquered in bug spray and/or the surface area in question is completely hemmed in by tight-fitting garments.

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He’s the Taco Tuesday of the mosquito world. The Avocado Toast of the ant world. And the Double Fudge Brownie Milkshake with Sprinkles and a Waffle Cone Straw of the spider world.

And furthermore, his reactions to said bites can be rather…intense.

Which explains how his penis swelling like an overextended water balloon last week was totally standard for him.

It wasn’t his first rodeo.

(And when I say rodeo I mean the kid was walking like he’d just dismounted from a large bull.)

But he was calm, he was knowledgeable, and he fell right back into Protuberated Penile Procedure.

Noah-Ice-Packs-Spider-Bite“Put one ice pack in the pants, get an extra ice pack to swap out, and oh by the way this whole operation is easier if I wear gloves.”

He took it all with the casualness of a sore throat, as if carrying around an oversized package is something that is common to everyone’s daily experience, not just the UPS and FedEx men.

…Or at least, he was nonchalant until he was half asleep that night, when he meandered to me about his feelings about the situation.

“I’m sad. That my firehose is swelling. But I’m glad that my bottom isn’t swelling because then it would be huge. <slaps his own butt> Because it’s already big.”

(Nobody wants to be a spider-inflicted Kim Kardashian.)

If that had been his only bite, he wouldn’t have even gotten a doctor’s visit out of it. I had already looked up my last blog post to ensure we were waddling through all the recommended treatment steps.

But it was the one on his neck that was troublesome. Because the next morning, it had turned into The Dreaded Target.

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THAT’S the sign we all have nightmares about. THAT’S the one that should send you to the doctor the minute you see it. Or at least those of us who live in a territory of Lyme Disease.

Noah, however, was becoming more preoccupied with his other still-growing issue.

“I’m tired of walking like this. But I can’t walk normal because my firehose feels gross. I HATE IT!!”
“I’m sorry. Hopefully the doctor can help that, too.”
“As long as it’s not a shot right HERE. Because that would really hurt.”

He’s not wrong.

As expected, our Pediatrician inspected the lower issue and said “Yup, looks like last time. It’ll be fine with ice and Benadryl.”

But the neck issue…whether or not it was what it looked like it was, it’s ALWAYS best to treat for Lyme if it could be a possibility. It was most likely a spider bite gone dramatic, but just in case…

As she looked up his dosage of antibiotics and steroids, Noah told her in no uncertain terms that he’s never even tasted a lime. Clearly she was mistaken.

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Mansplaining starts early these days.

Noah was concerned as to his level of boredom during his recovery. He could not walk. He could NOT run. And he even made sure to tell Chris specifically* that he ABSOLUTELY COULD NOT swim. I mean the kid had a freaking millstone hanging around his…well you know.

*Chris tends to be an authoritarian ruler when it comes to regularly decreeing family fun at the pool.

What could a boy do who could not use his body from the waist down??

While we wandered Walgreens waiting on his prescriptions, God shined down upon us and led us to a couple sets of Minecraft papercraft boxes that were on clearance ($4.49 a set, currently on Amazon for $15-20.)

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This blessed craft party ended up being the ideal weekend time passer while waiting for one to be able to walk without a waddle. With the added benefit of my house now being covered in a thin layer of a Minecraft empire.

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So at least the road to genital recovery has treasures along the way.

Epilogue: Noah is back to normal now, except for the extreme maniacal laughter and hippity hoppity effects of his steroid. I actually really like this kid on steroids. Can I get a long-term steroid prescription to treat chronic whininess? Because it’s totally working.

Mom’s Worst Adventure Ever.

Sometimes Moms make mistakes.

Sometimes Moms have inadvertently terrible timing.

These things could both be said of me on Wednesday, but I’m going to choose to blame Noah instead.

You see, we had to do an errand. And he decided to wear his extraordinarily dapper hat that Chris and I bought him last year when we went to Isla Mujeres.

The kid looked amazing.

And I hadn’t taken any pictures of him lately.

On top of that, we had no plans for the rest of the day, and we were very near Aldridge Gardens – the perfect place to photograph a child when they’re looking ridonkulously fabulous.

So it would be dual purposed: we’d get outside and take a small hike, and I’d get some pictures of the kid.

Of course he didn’t make this easy on me. He in fact drove a very hard bargain.

“I’ll let you take pictures of me in my hat if you give me 100 pieces of candy.”

“I don’t have 100 pieces of candy.”

Ali: “Just get him a box of Nerds, Mom.”

(She’s so smart.)

Before I answered, he counter-offered, seemingly not wanting Nerds.

“I’ll let you take my picture if you let me pick out one piece of candy on our way home. Whatever I want.”

“Fair enough. I can do that.”

So he grabbed his hat out of the car and we headed toward the entrance of the gardens.

He wanted to get the picture taking out of the way as soon as possible (because he wanted to put his hat back in the car because difficult), so he posed for me two inches past the entrance.

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Yes, I’d made a good deal.

I told him I needed a close-up, so he became wiggly and found all his silly faces.

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He found great pleasure in the fact that he was being difficult to photograph, and laughed a mirthful, evil cackle.

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The irony was not lost on me.

I finally got the shot I was looking for,

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And he went back to the car to drop off the hat.

After all the bargaining, silly faces, and hat putting-up, some rumbling thunder could be heard off in the distance. As we walked back in, I mentioned it to the gentleman that works at the garden gates.

“It doesn’t look like we’ll be able to stay very long…”

“Oh, I think you’ll be fine. It looked like that earlier, too, then just sprinkled for a minute and was gone.”

I checked my radar. Off to the west was the usual summer pop-up storm that lasted 5 minutes and was entirely unpredictable in the direction it would choose to travel.

So we strolled back into the garden, reveling in the lovely day.

It started sprinkling as we were headed toward the lake, so I said “let’s go in the boathouse for a minute until it dries up again.”

The kids happily ran toward the little open-air house that sat out over the lake. It’s the best place to observe and feed turtles and fish and in general enjoy the view out of the sun or rain.

Ali dug some crackers out of her Mary-Poppins-like bag and they happily threw crumbs on the turtles, cooing at the tiny babies. I took pictures of the calm sprinkles on the lake. It was a perfect summer shower.

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Until very suddenly it wasn’t.

The rain cranked up to a level that was so heavy that you couldn’t see the fountain, and the lightning definitively reached our location. Soon, the wind was blowing in the open sides, the thunder reverberating all around us, and my children were no longer enjoying their stay in the boathouse.

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But we were trapped.

The rain was way too heavy to make a run for the car, a quarter of a mile away, and even too heavy to make a run for the house on the hill (home of the public bathrooms and gift shop) and OHMYGOODNESS DID THAT LIGHTNING JUST STRIKE THE HOUSE UP THERE??

It didn’t, I don’t think, but it was seriously close to it.

The lightning and thunder were now nearly on top of each other, and it seemed like we were surely next on its hit list. I listened nervously to the rain pounding on the metal roof above our head. I texted Chris electrical engineering questions.

FullSizeRender 90Unfortunately, he never liked his Electrical Engineering classes.

Chris and I both kept assuming that this thing would pass over any minute. ANY MINUTE. Summer storms do not stick around to attack unsuspecting families in boathouses.

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The minutes ticked by, except instead of ticking, they thundered by. See my little blue dot below? Just barely under all that lightning? Yeah. I didn’t even know my radar had that purplish color in the middle of the storm.

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The thunder got closer and louder to the point that each peal of thunder was followed by my son’s impressive high-pitched scream. Have I ever told you how very much noise rips my soul to pieces?

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Chris kept watching the radar for us and willed that storm to move on.

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I couldn’t look at the apparently lying radar myself because…Noah’s arms had gotten tired.

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After fifty minutes filled with a “pop-up storm” and my son’s screams and stomps and declaring it “your WORST ADVENTURE EVER, Mom!”, the rain finally let up a tiny bit. I measured it as “light enough to make it to the house but not to the car without my camera getting ruined” (it was safely put away in its carrying case but still. This was some seriously submersion-determined rain.)

We ran up the hill and splashed into the nice, dry house. The kids immediately began emptying the paper towel rolls to dry themselves, then plopped onto the floor and began playing cards.

One of the garden’s administrative staff walked through and was a bit surprised to see us on the floor of her bathrooms. We explained. She gasped.

“Oh! I thought I heard screams from my office and I was wondering where they were coming from…”

She disappeared around the corner and came back bearing a bouquet of lollipops.

“Each of you take one. I hear it can help with the trauma.”

She was the garden’s Professor Lupin, giving out chocolate after a dementor attack.

About a half hour later, we were able to make a run for the car, splashing through giant puddles on the way.

We found out later that our storm had seriously flooded the lower lying areas surrounding us – to the point of cars getting pulled into the (usually tiny) creek and carried downstream, turning flips as they went. The bowling alley, a couple car dealerships, some offices, and Chuck E Cheese were all completely flooded.

(Although Chris and I agreed that The Chuck was probably now cleaner than it had been in years. Maybe decades.)

So yes.

I made a bad decision that day.

But I got this picture.

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So there’s that.

Epilogue: Noah chose Bubble Tape for his candy bribe. Ali also got candy for surviving the incident with a bit more grace than her brother. For my prize, I chose spending the rest of the day reading in bed.

Let Freedom Spew.

It was the Fourth of July.

I had woken up at some crazy early hour to check out of our Girl’s Weekend rental house (more on that later), drive to the Detroit airport, and fly home. That night, we had our annual fireworks watching “party” planned, for which thankfully Chris had made the preparations and done all of the organization.

We have this fantastic spot we’ve been going to the last three years. Every year, we have a different group of joiners, and most are usually last minute deciders. This year ended up being the biggest crowd yet – over 20 people circled around our spot in the top of the Children’s Hospital parking deck that directly faces our city’s fireworks extravaganza.

IMG_9435Plenty of other people not-with-us came later, as well – we just tend to get there first.

 Chris brought Watermelon, Ice Pops, and Gummies. Noah and Ali each packed additional snack bags. My Mom brought adorable little strawberry shortcakes in tiny Mason Jars (she’s been a Living Breathing Pinterest since before the Commodore 64.) We arrived at 7pm, two hours before the fireworks show, so the children had plenty of time for running and playing and screaming and racing. I got tired of my kids asking if they could have another ice pop, so with grand flourish and holiday cheer, I announced “It is a night for snacking freedom! Eat whatever you want, whenever you want. You don’t have to ask me for anything.”

Being that we have a strict 10:30am/3:00pm snacking schedule at home (created solely to get them to never ask me if they could have a snack ever again), this was huge news. Both children lit up with The Cheer of Independence and began snacking with the fervor of the Declaration signers themselves.

(I assume there were some spectacular snacks at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The passionate throwing off of Tyranny cannot happen without a good measure of gluten.)

(And I can totally see John Adams being on a gluten-free diet and Alexander Hamilton brattily working in a few overt jabs his way during some awful Hamiltonian 16 hour speech.)

As it approached the 9 o’clock hour, Chris convinced Noah to come sit in his lap for the actual fireworks. Flush-cheeked and sweaty, Noah was obliging – perhaps needing a moment of stillness more than he knew.

I was sitting next to them, my camera tripodded and my phone controlling the shutter so that I could get long-exposure photos with as little camera vibration as possible.

The fireworks began, and we all oohed and aahed. They seemed to come in odd spurts – not the usual nonstop onslaught of previous years. But no one had brought a radio to play the accompanying music, so we murmured that it must have to do with the rise and fall of the melody.

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170704f-FireworksYou can see the rest of my fireworks pictures on my Instagram account or Facebook Page.

Then the fireworks stopped.

No grand finale, no obvious ending – they just fizzled out.

It was odd. I mean, I’ve been watching this fireworks show all my life and I know how long it should last and what an ending feels like, and it was clearly short and lacking of ending.

The hoards of people waited around in the parking lot for a few moments, staring impatiently at Vulcan, waiting for the show to pick back up. Then they started leaving.

Something just wasn’t right. So we sat there a little longer, waiting.

Still nothing.

I took my camera off my tripod so that it didn’t get knocked over just as I heard Noah say to Chris,

“I just swallowed a little throw-up.”

Chris sent him to get his water bottle, and said to me, “Too much snacking leads to vurping. Good life lesson.”

Noah crawled back up into Chris’ lap and began to cry. Then wail. He couldn’t say why, he didn’t know what was wrong, he was just sobbing with all his little boy heart.

…Until he leaned over and vomited, nearly on the shoes of the guest sitting next to Chris. (Quite possibly on his shoes and he was just too nice to say so.)

Right as he did, the very tardy fireworks finale ramped up.

Chris quickly shuffled Noah back behind our group, and as the finale popped and banged with color and flourish, Noah did the same. It was the most immersive surround-sound experience anyone could ever wish for.

Heave, crack, gag, bang, vom, pop, splatter, cheer.

Chris and I found ourselves on either side of Noah, helping him lean out, wiping his mouth with voluminous amounts of paper towels, and covering his puddles with more paper towels to prevent passerby trodding.

In between pukes, Noah would cry and scream “I HATE THIS SO MUCH!!!”

After half a dozen heaves, Chris and I made eye contact. And with our eyes dancing in the light of the lovely fireworks behind us and the moisture of the terrible vomit before us, we simultaneously burst out laughing.

I mean how can you not.

Parenting is the most hilarious affliction.

We quickly stifled our laughter for Noah’s sake, and went back to guiding his ice-pop-soaked half-digested fries to the ground.

Chris said that he had it handled and I should really try to get a few photos of the finale. I ran back over to my tripod, slapped my camera back up, and hastily tried to grab a few shots, right as it tapered down and ended – this time, with proper fanfare. I managed to get one single non-blurry finale shot.

170704b-FireworksVulcan’s explosions were so much more attractive than Noah’s, but approximately equal in color variety.

I went back to also-tapering Noah to comfort him, apologizing to our friends as they carefully filed past Noah and his freshly birthed lakes.

“Good night. I’m sorry. Hope you had fun. Happy Independence Day! Watch out for that puddle!”

Chris took all our stuff back to the car while I sat and rubbed Noah’s back. He stared ahead of him, looking like the miserable puppy dog that he was.

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“Why is it pink? I had green and blue ice pops…”

We had to walk through all of the vast amounts and varieties of food that he consumed that night to track down the color of his output, but he seemed relieved when we’d figured it out.

“It was the red JELL-O!!!”, he said with eureka.

We all made it to the car without further incident, gave Noah a bag in case of Dear-God-No a car emergency, and I sat in the front, downloading and editing pictures, while we zero-miles-per-houred it in the parking lot traffic.

When we finally made it to the exit, we could see the left turn we needed to make, which fortunately was down a clear road with no traffic, but there was a truck quite unnecessarily blocking our way.

Chris calmly ignored it for a few moments, but finally started muttering under his breath about the utter rudeness of this individual that could clearly back up or go forward to allow us a much needed exit and as-quick-as-possible return to home with our Puke-Risk kid.

…Which eventually led Noah to inquire, “Hey Mom, we’re too young to call people jerks like Daddy just did, right?”

So what did we learn from that night?

a) If given no guidelines, our son will binge himself to vomiting like a starving dog who finds a Costco-sized bag of Alpo.

b) Rudeness is, at least in the Callahan household, apparently a privilege of aging.

Jerks