It Doesn’t Take a Village [Of Strangers.]

Most of the time, I am highly amused at the odd antics of strangers – especially since I seem to attract so many of the especially bizarre.

However, there is one stranger behavior that irritates me like no other – the “volunteering” to parent my children.

I need my friend’s and family’s help in parenting – they see things I do not, their eyes are pointed where mine are not, and they are, in general, invaluable.

However. I have never come across a stranger, who upon foisting unrequested parenting onto my children, were the tiniest smidge helpful.

For example.

One day my children and I were walking at Railroad Park. They always enjoy stopping at the exercise equipment to play on it. There’s a pedal thing, various bars for push-ups and the like – the usual outdoor exercise stuff.

Ali was at a very low bar and was walking on it like a tightrope. The thing was maybe half a foot off the ground – at most. She was also approximately four feet away from me, where I had my eyes pointed in her direction.

A young guy (not the usual demographic of the Awkwardly Intense Busybody Club) turned to Ali and said, “You need to get off of that – it twists around and you could fall.”

SHE WAS MAYBE SIX INCHES OFF THE GROUND.

AND SHE’S TEN YEARS OLD.

AND I WAS RIGHT. THERE.

Indignant rage bubbled inside of me.

But unfortunately, my genteel southern upbringing took over. I simply herded my children out of the area and ignored the man all together.

(Which for the situation, was 120% as polite as I could have been.)

Every time I find myself in one of these situations, I always regret afterwards that I did not explain to the stranger that I shockingly(!!) am able to safely parent my children even when they’re not around and they make me want to approve letting my children play in a field of thumbtacks just to spite their unrequited helpfulness.

Okay maybe I have rebellion problems.

Anyway.

That brings us to this week.

On Monday, my friend Amanda and I took my kids to a small park along the Cahaba River to enjoy the newly crisp fall air. It was a perfectly lovely fall day, giving hope to all that perhaps soon our humid 88 degree days would be but a memory – at least for a couple of months.

The leaves have just begun changing here (fall comes late here BUT IT’S COMING!!), but I noticed that approximately .005% of the leaves on the ground were actually in fall colors. In my most exuberant of mental states, I yelled for my children that we would be having a Grand Fall Scavenger Hunt – and to find as many non-green, non-brown leaves as they could.

As soon as they whooped with joy and set off to run around the small park trying to beat each other to the prettiest of leaves, an older lady in the parking lot, who was in the act of getting into her car, yelled angrily (venomously even), “There are snakes ALL OVER this park!!!”, then proceeded to glare at me, as if I’d just gleefully instructed my children to find and swallow vengefully furious scorpions.

Which led to the loudest 5 seconds of silence in my life.

Because a) The park is a park and therefore meant to be attended by humans (and wasn’t she just here?), b) as stated before, my #1 pet peeve is strangers parenting my children for me (although she seemed to be trying to parent me and not directly my children so she gets half credit), c) The park is 4.7 acres – how many snakes could we possibly find there because d) I do adore snakes – especially snakes I find in the wild, but e) my momma raised me to be polite even to the most impolite people.

I looked at her. She was still standing expectantly behind her car door, glowering at me, The World’s Worst Parent.

So I called back in a faltered but oh-so-genuine voice, “Yes ma’am!”, which satisfied her enough to allow her to sit down and close her car door.

Immediately I said to my frozen-in-place children, “Find the leaves! And the snakes! If you find one let me know! And don’t let it get away until I see it!”

We searched for an hour and only found leaves. My resentment only grew – both still in rebellious annoyance that the lady had attempted to quash my fall joy and because I hadn’t found a SINGLE SNAKE.

We gathered our leaves and I presented Ali with the award of Best Leaf Collector. The children helped me line the leaves up in a beautiful fall bouquet.

171023b Fall Leaf Scavenger Hunt IMG_4907

I kept waiting for the poetic justice of a venomous snake slithering through my arranged ombré of leaves as I was photographing them, but sadly it didn’t happen. So next time I see The Outraged Snake Lady, I’ll be sure to tell her that we looked as hard as we possibly could, but she falsely advertised the features of the park.

Epilogue: Two days later we went out hiking again, found zero snakes again, but did collect the best collection of fall leaves ever collected in the history of hiking dangerously close to life-ending reptiles.
 171025b A Late Afternoon at Oak Mountain IMG_5099

…Also if you illegally download the following photo, it makes a darned good fall phone lock screen photo, of which you can impress your friends by pointing to it with a horrified look on your face and say “There are snakes in that pile!!!” If you can’t figure out how to illegally obtain my photographs, email or text me and I’ll be glad to send it to you.

171025 Leaves in Ombre from Oak Mountain IMG_5089

So basically, my children and I risked all, braved untold dangers, and conquered fall – all for your iPhone’s lock screen.

171025b A Late Afternoon at Oak Mountain IMG_5051
You’re welcome.

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.

IMG_0354

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.

IMG_0357

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

IMG_0356

The irony was not lost on me.

I finally got the shot I was looking for,

IMG_0355

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.

IMG_0347

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.

IMG_0331

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.

FullSizeRender 92

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.

IMG_0332

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?

IMG_0329

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

FullSizeRender 91

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

IMG_0335

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.

IMG_0356

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.

170704-Fireworks

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.

IMG_9446IMG_9444IMG_9443

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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