Moments of Vacation.

We’ve been on our annual double-family vacation, during which I took a writing hiatus. I’m still gathering and editing my photos from the trip, but here are a couple of stories from my favorite moments.

The Ghosterhood of the Traveling Skirt.

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All four kids shared a bunk room for the first time this year. It was the most generous bunkroom I’ve ever seen – two sets of double-bedded bunks. I was somewhat afraid that Noah would be a hindrance in this arrangement – either not letting the others go to sleep, or being in general boyish and naggy. But he was not. He fell asleep instantaneously every night and slept deeply, never waking up in the middle of the night.

Except for that one night.

Noah awoke to go to the bathroom at 4am. And some strange things occurred. Strange things for which he was very anxious to tell me about the next morning…

”I can’t go up the stairs to your bedroom anymore because when I woke up in the middle of the night, I saw a teal skirt floating at the bottom of the stairs! It was just hanging there – floating!!!!”

Ali: “Yeah! He said it was just like mine and AJ’s swim skirts!”

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Me: “Did he wake anyone else up?”

Tessa: “He woke me up because he was going through the suitcase and throwing clothes out and GASPING!”

Throwing clothes around and gasping, y’all. At 4am. Naturally, I found all of this extraordinarily amusing (only because all children went back to sleep after The Skirt Situation), but Noah was quite serious. There had FOR SURE been a floating teal skirt and it was certain that STRANGE THINGS were going down in this house. Apparently the suitcase rummaging had been his attempts to find Ali’s teal skirt – and gasping when he couldn’t find it.

(It was in my room hanging up to dry, but I suppose could’ve floated down the stairs…)

The mystery was thrown around all morning, us trying to convince Noah that he had probably just been half asleep or maybe even sleepwalking.

The older two girls asked gigglingly if they could prank Noah with other ghostly occurrences. We assured them that no good could come out of that plan, so no – no more ghosts were necessary.

Ashley (AJ and Tessa’s mom) mentioned that she’d heard someone get up to go to the bathroom, but missed the rest of the commotion.

Then I looked at Ashley’s shorts…and a theory began to form in my mind.

“Wait a minute. Did you sleep in those shorts?”

“Yup.”

“And…did you open your bedroom door and look out when you heard someone get up to go to the bathroom?”

“Yes, I did.”

SHE WAS WEARING TEAL SHORTS. That were very flowy – just like a skirt.

I informed Noah that he had seen Ashley’s bottom half in the dark (her room was at the foot of the stairs he was now terrified of), and had associated it with the swimsuits the older girls had worn the day before. And we all laughed that there had, actually, been a Teal Skirt(ish) Situation after all.

Noah was insistent that this is not what had happened. It was NOT shorts and it HAD been floating. But by the end of the day, Ashley somehow convinced him.

“Maybe strange things aren’t happening in this house after all…”, he surmised.

And I kinda felt like this whole ordeal was payback for him ghosting me with my keypad a couple weeks ago.

Karma’s a ghost, kid.

 

Frogs, Frogs Everywhere.

The frogs were deafening at night. There were multiple lakes and swamps and ponds and puddles near our rental house, and therefore were significantly more frogs per square mile than humans. Tree frogs and bullfrogs were most plentiful – I caught one of each to hold (and to allow them to pee on me.) (Frogs get such joy from peeing on me, and I consider it the price of the thrill of holding a frog.)

The day after the first wave of rain from the tropical storm (more about that later), the kids finally caught a break and were able to go swim in the pool. (Certainly not the ocean – double red flags were in abundance.)

The neighborhood pool was always in possession of some leftover toys or floats from the neighbors, so it makes perfect sense that, upon seeing a large frog-shaped shadow on the bottom of the deep end of the pool, the kids assumed it was a dive toy.

They quickly added doubts to the mix and decided that instead of diving down and picking it up, they’d dive down and investigate.

I was pretty sure it was not, in fact, a dive toy.

After a few unsuccessful kid missions, I got the giant pool net.

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They all crowded around as I went fishing for a giant dead bullfrog.

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I pulled him up, and everyone took a moment of silence for the sad frog (who was accidentally not included in the photo of his funeral. Or maybe not accidentally. Corpse selfies are, after all, bad form.)

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Then I carefully posed him on a beach chair for his last photo, memorializing him forever. As one does.

IMG_8678That feeling when you go to the beach on vacation and your arch-nemesis {Tropical Storm} Cindy follows you there.

But the most important educational moment of this trip is when I realized that bull frogs apparently have saggy man boobs.

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Frothed Frog Milk Espresso, anyone?

The next day, after Wave Number Two of Tropical Storm rains, there was another bullfrog – an even bigger bullfrog – swimming desperately in the out-of-order hot tub. I was able to rescue him as well – but this time, before death.

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As his facial expression implies, he was eternally grateful for my efforts.

Motherhood: The Ghost Story.

Quiet time is for Mommies.

My kids have a set time period each day where they can play on their iPads and watch two television shows. The purpose of this is not for my children’s electronic pleasure. It’s 100% for me. It’s so that I can get computer work done, edit photos, blog, or in general recover from being a mother (which may or may not include a nap.)

On Wednesday, I was editing photos. After agonizing over a particular shot for a while, I had it nearly how I wanted it, and then – *poof* – it disappeared.

Whoa.

Where did it go and why.

I clicked back to my art board and there was the photo – with zero edits. Somehow the whole project had gotten cancelled out. I knew I hadn’t hit the escape key – there was no way – but it sure seemed like I had.

This was not happy news. But I opened the photo and started again. Halfway through this time…

*poof*

GOOD HEAVENS WHAT IS THE DEAL I HAVE LOTS TO GET DONE WHY ARE MY PHOTOS POOFING.

Then I noticed my computer making sounds like it was trying to type.

I clicked over to Excel and slowly removed my hands from the keyboard so that I could see what it was wanting to say. I’d had this happen before – when somehow a drop of something sticky found its way underneath my 4 key. My angry computer had wanted to type 4s repeatedly and manically for three days.

But this time it was different. Very different.

Like a Ouija Board, it began typing. Slowly, thoughtfully, not in rhythm, not in any sort of order, and not one key over and over.

This is what my computer told me over the period of a couple of minutes.

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I watched, frozen, feeling a bit like I was in a horror movie, and wondering what Vanuatan Hacker was entering a bank-account-eradicating code into my computer.

Or was Kim Jong or Putin putting in a launch code. Was I about to be a weapon of mass destruction?

Or was my computer an eighth Horcrux and Voldemort was finally trying to get out? Was I about to have a conversation with Tom Riddle?!?

I was genuinely a bit scared.

And I did not have time to be scared.

I had pictures to edit.

Then I noticed something. It was all numbers and characters that were on a keypad. No letters.

An idea began forming in my head.

Could it be….No.

Wait a minute…I think I had left it out…It has to be.

I stomped downstairs, rather indignantly. My cherubic second-born was sitting on the couch, eating a snack, his hand draped casually over the arm of said couch.

Positively cherubic.

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Sitting on the end table, inches from his fingertips, was my bluetooth keypad – the one I use when I have to do lots of numbering.

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“Were you playing with that??”

“Yes…because I didn’t think it would work from here!

I snatched my keypad up and stomped back upstairs.

Bluetooth and children. They don’t mix.

Revisiting The Black Spot

The Year was 2013.

I was experiencing, for the first time in my life, the harrowing realities of having a two and a half year old male creature.

He was fantastically adorable.

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Which did not make up for the fact that he was two and a half and therefore made me fear for his life continuously.

Lest you’ve never had a two and a half year old male of your own, here’s the short version: they’re fast enough to do whatever they want and stupid enough to do whatever they think of.

He wasn’t the type to take dangerous risks. In that, I was lucky. But he was the type to, every now and then when I was resting in my fortune that he wasn’t SO bad, do something completely and terrifyingly unexpected.

Such was the case with The Black Spot.

I had taken my two children, one being the ultra-responsible six year old girl and the other being the grab bag of surprises two and a half year old boy, to the downtown library. The downtown library is a giant place of wonder and excitement and history. Books of history. Newspaper microfiche filled with history. An entire extra multi-story building of history. And also floors covered in history.

We were in the entrance plaza, where there’s a semi-circle of low steps that lead from the front door to the desks. Those steps are well-traveled steps, and they definitely looked the part that day. It’s a constant movement of people walking through, tracking all of the outside world in and depositing it on those steps before truly entering the library.

And I still haven’t figured out what I did to cause the Creator to smite me so, but this black spot caught Noah’s eye that fateful day in 2013.

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I saw him take a second glance at it and I sadly did not think fast enough to compute all of the parallel realities in which this crucial second could take me. Ultimately, I was counting on my son’s relative calm to guide me through this potential storm.

But. Within .0483 seconds, he turned to that Choose-Your-Own-Adventure page that ends in “…and all the characters died. The End”

He stooped down and my precious lovely child LICKED THE FREAKING BLACK SPOT.

I saw his tongue go out and immediately started praying.

No Dear God No Dear God Please No Dear God No No No Please Don’t Let It Be…

I leaned over and checked. It was.

The black spot was now a moist black spot.

And my life and surely his were now over.

I was the failure of a mother who’d allowed her gorgeous toddler to lick the shoe sole botulism coating on a piece of year-old used chewing gum.

And he would surely start seizing at any moment.

I momentarily pondered washing his mouth out with Purell. Or perhaps a bar of soap. How about foaming hand soap in the bathroom? Maybe just dunk his head in the toilet. It couldn’t make it worse.

But deep down, I knew it was too late. I could visualize those wriggling black-spot germs burrowing into his tongue. I lived out the rest of that day in fear, watching him for any sign of instant demise.

But somehow, that was 2013 and this is 2017 and he’s still a healthy, gorgeous boy – and one that has the tiniest bit more sense than that black spot tasting two and a half year old.

For the first time since The Incident, I braved the downtown public library again with my children in tow. It wasn’t that the library had done anything to me, per say, but the Mommy Guilt that would scream at me from The Black Spot – I wasn’t sure I could bear up under it.

As we drove slowly to The Place of My Failure, I told my children the story of The Black Spot.

Ali remembered it, but Noah did not. He was fascinated by the tale of this unknown toddler – he couldn’t fathom ever being a Spot Licker.

We walked into the lobby and to the parcel of flooring that I knew I’d never forget. Both kids were eagerly chanting “Where’s the black spot? Where is it?”

We found the stair and there was indeed on its surface a slightly lighter spot – perhaps the same one, but probably not. After all, black spots come and go, but memories of licking them stay forever.

Noah proudly posed with his history.

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And the Oreo shrapnel around his mouth really added to the believability that he had, at one time, licked that.

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And all I could do in that moment is what every Mom in the universe has done before me. Sigh and silently hope that he, one day, has a child just like himself.