The Secret Life of a Happy Hiking Heart.

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My children, particularly the youngest, have a propensity to whine when I tell them we’re going on a hike, which is a once or twice a week occurrence, especially in the fall. But forced hiking is the mother of invention, and my children are never as brilliant as they are when the mood hits them to turn a hike into a video game.

They created their favorite game a while back, titled “Super Bonus Power-Up”, but last week they advanced and perfected it so drastically that it deserves recording. So that all children in all the world can learn to enjoy forced hikes.

In the past, this game has consisted on them running up to trees, slapping them, and saying “Super Bonus Power-Up!” to get extra energy for the hike. Using a rather rudimentary version of Parkour, they would bounce off the trees, therefore giving them the magical feeling of being more energetic.

But the Super Super Bonus Power-Up game really amps up the imagination volume.

Here’s how to play.

First, determine what recurring trail markers and features are available.

On this particular hike (our first time to hike the beautiful trails at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve), the children noticed that there were blazes, or trail markers,

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Trail posts,

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And an extra special and unique trail find, diamond signs that seemed to not have much use except to greatly add to our game.

Blog 171005x Turkey Creek Nature PreserveIMG_3770Are they to let bears know that the delicacy of hikers are available in this area? No one knows.

The blazes replaced trees for energy boosts – no longer could any old tree give you a power-up – you had to slap a blaze.

The signposts were extra super power-ups – because obviously.

And the diamond signs became Mystery Boxes.

(It was so Mario up in there.)

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Mystery boxes were extra valuable – too valuable even to fully comprehend.

Me: “What’d you get in your mystery box?”

Noah: “I don’t know – it’s a mystery.”

Noah realized he couldn’t reach all the Mystery Boxes, so he began collecting large acorns, or, as he told me, Bombs. Throwing bombs at a mystery box multiplied the amount of mystery treasures you could receive. This created the need to stop every now and then as he counted slowly to ten while throwing acorns at the poor sign, but totally worth it.

(He did try once to throw a bomb at his sister to slow her down, but she quickly clarified that bomb-to-other-player combat was DEFINITIVELY against the rules.)

So then he tried The Force.

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But she seemed immune, I’m sure due to her superior gaming morals.

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For this particular hike, I further forced them to carry the backpack of snacks and water (as I was carrying my camera backpack.) They swapped it every half a mile. To incorporate it into the game, Noah named it the “Ten Pound Slowdown.” It’s a rough penalty, but you just have to roll with it.

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We made it to the top of the hill, where we found a lovely pollinator garden in which to have our snacks and water.

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(And for me to stop and take a few pictures – my own personal favorite hiking game.)

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After our snack and drinking of most of the water, Noah jubilantly exclaimed “The Ten Pound Slowdown just got reduced to the Two Pound Slowdown!!”

Talk about raising your experience points – everyone loves it when they earn lighter armor.

Their game became so fantastic that they both thanked me multiple times for me bringing them on the hike, and were shocked at how fast it had gone by.

But pictures don’t do their enthusiasm justice. Here’s a bit of terrible video I made for my Instagram Story that day, including a slo-mo stomping of a particularly power-draining puffball mushroom.

So. If your kids need help turning their video games into actual reality (or if you do – because who among us didn’t dream of entering into our Nintendo games??), my children are available as trainers and counselors. But if you ask them to take you on a hike, expect at least a little whining on the front end.

Mario Hike Pipe

On Keeping A Relationship Fresh.

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Sometimes you can live with someone your whole life and still not really know them. You might think you have them pegged – especially if they share DNA – and know exactly what decisions they’ll make in each scenario. But then some random recessive gene will pop up and shock your socks off.

Such has been mine and Noah’s relationship of late.

I have logical children. Degreed as an Engineer and an Accountant, Chris and I have a significant amount of organized, calm, orderly genes in our pool. No, we don’t allow belly flops or dunking.

So when I was changing light bulbs and asked Noah to come take the old one out of my hand, it didn’t occur to me to say “CAREFULLY throw this away.” I mean sure he’s a six year old boy but he’s my six year old boy. And even more extreme, he’s Chris’ six year old boy.

So I just said “Take this and throw it away.”

After which I heard the crash and shatter and skittering pieces of glass in the kitchen.

“What happened??”

“You SAID to throw it!!”

“What?!? You know what ‘throw it away’ means – why would you THROW a lightbulb?”

I shooed both the children out of the kitchen and began angry sweeping.

(Thankfully these were old-fashioned bulbs – no immediately-life-ending poison in these babies.)

After carefully sweeping and then linting my floor (y’all keep dryer lint around to pick up tiny glass fragments too, right?), I followed up with Noah, who was feeling the weight of his sins in the living room. I think my angry sweeping was rightfully emanating throughout the house.

“Why did you throw it?”

“Well, actually I didn’t throw it. I slammed it against the counter to break it before I threw it away.”

“Wait. WHAT?!”

I angry-ran back in the kitchen, Noah leading the way then pointing out shiny objects. Sure enough, the counter was also covered in glass shards.

I spent the day marveling at his ability to surprise me. But then I remembered a couple of weeks ago when I did the same to him…

He and Ali were playing Hide and Seek. He ran into my room, quietly shutting the door behind him. Breathlessly, he said “Don’t tell Ali I’m in here.”

I was busy at work on my computer and nodded busily.

Ali finished counting and eventually popped her head in my door.

“Is Noah in here?”

I didn’t look up and answered as if I was giving her 1% of my attention. “Nope.”

“Okay, thanks.”

She ran downstairs.

Noah slowly rose up from the other side of my bed, starry eyed. With a lot of awe and a tiny bit of fear in his voice, he said,

“Well that…..is amazing. You can lie to kids.”

And he’ll never, ever know how good I am at it.

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.