When Death Is Stranger than Fiction.

It was bath night.

We had been to the playground, we had eaten popsicles and let them drip down our entire being, we had handled with our bare hands an opossum jawbone found in the wild (another story for another time), and, most compellingly, it was technically our twice a week appointed bath night.

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There was no escaping it. There was only pushing through it as quickly as possible.

I threw Noah in the tub and started scrubbing his head before he even had a chance to sit down. He wasn’t exactly joyful about my aggressive approach, but complied with my wishes anyway.

Ali came in to prepare for her own bath, when she gave a tiny shriek and said, “A roach!”

There are certain triggers in life to which I cannot be responsible for my feedback. Cockroaches are chief among them. As I’ve mentioned before, Chris knows that if he ever hears me scream like I’m being murdered slowly by butter knife, he simply comes running with a cup.

It didn’t help that the roach was running quite actively down the wall right next to the bathtub, of which my son was in and I was directly on the other side. I jumped out of the way as I let out my sound of fright.

And that’s what did it.

You see, roaches usually like coming out late at night, so Noah rarely hears my war cry, which meant that he didn’t remember ever seeing me truly frightened since roaches are my only nightmare.

Apparently, being three and a half and seeing your mother scared is quite the traumatic experience.

And so, he responded in a completely new-to-him way.

He Mariah’ed the neighborhood.

Seriously. I had no idea he had that note in him. I don’t know what it was but I’m positive it was actually higher than the beginning of any Mariah Carey song and louder than the monthly tornado siren test. And he didn’t stop at just one shriek – he gave five in a row – long, loud, sharp, and exquisitely painful.

My ears. They bled. They rang. They ached. The windows quivered in fear. The judges from America’s Got Talent heard him from their respective corners of the earth and all called at once to beg him to audition.

Then Noah started crying. From overexertion, I’m sure.

Meanwhile, the roach had scampered off of the wall and was on the floor out of eyesight, right behind the Bath Stuff Basket.

Chris heard all the commotion from downstairs and, since I was joined by two other screamers this time, he wasn’t positive of the cause. He came loudly sprinting to see who was throwing us out the window one by one. I pushed through the ringing of my ears to greet him with, “It’s a roach!”, the main purpose in being him not freaking out over us freaking out over nothing.

He told Noah to calm down, told me to move, and then he pushed the basket out of the way.

And there he was.

The villain that had upset the entire balance of our family.

Dead.

Dead as a doorknob dead.

Flipped over on his back dead.

Just twenty seconds ago, that very same roach had been defying gravity, running up and down the wall at Roadrunner speeds, clearly ready and able to participate in a Couch to 5k. And now he was as dead as dead could get.

There was only one explanation, only one possibility as to the cause of death.

My son had killed him with his screech.

And now he’s my favorite forever.

A Brief History of Football and Offspring.

My husband has had the same Alabama football season tickets since he was a wee lad of 13, making this his 25th anniversary to sit his butt in that same spot on that same bench every fall. It became a necessary relational hurdle for me to learn to enjoy/tolerate (depending on the day) the sport and the all-day affair that was tailgating in order for our romance to blossom. I became his football companion when he was 23 and I was 17, making this year my butt’s 15th anniversary on my spot on the bench, so apparently I passed the test.

And I remember that test well.

It was The Iron Bowl of 2000, shortly after Chris and I got engaged. It had been a particularly frigid November, and Saturday’s forecast was a mix of rain and sleet.

It was the first Iron Bowl I had attended (Alabama versus Auburn and THE most important game of the year, for those of you not from around here), and the game was at night.

The temperature creeped above freezing half an hour before the game, allowing it to dump a good bit of nearly frozen rain on us, soaking our clothing beyond repair. I get cold if I get rained on in a 90-degreed-July day, so getting doused in 33 degree precipitation was something I didn’t even know I could live through.

Then the temperature dropped below freezing again and the sleet began to coat over our dripping clothes, adding a crunchy texture to the already-torturous situation.

I assumed that surely we would not sit through a game in such untenable conditions. Surely we would leave early. Surely they would cancel the game. Surely there was some sort of multi-million dollar retractable stadium roof for such a hell as this.

But no. It was The Iron Bowl, and one does not leave The Iron Bowl. We sat, wet and icicled, and endured the torment of being sleeted upon.

I hunched my back as far as it would go, looked down the entire game, and nearly died that night.

Did I mention that we lost? NINE TO ZERO.

Because there’s nothing that can improve the mood of the frozen fan like a bone-crushing defeat.

I was entirely angry at my normally above-average sweet-and-doting fiancé, but it was an important lesson in expectations with regards to the realm of football. A lesson from which our marriage certainly benefited.

I married that guy anyway, and six years later, we had a kid.

We realized quickly that infants are complicated enough on their own merit, so Ali’s introduction to the family tradition didn’t happen until 2008, at the ripe age of 20 months.

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It was even more challenging that we expected.

There are naps. Feedings. Dirty Diapers. A constant need for entertainment and protection from running into the street. A vigilant eye so as to not get lost in the more than 100,000 people all dressed in exactly the same colors – trying to spot anyone on gameday in Tuscaloosa is like Where’s Waldo for Mensa members.

In 2009, at the mature age of two and a half, it was better.

2009

She was a little more self-sustaining, although the need for entertainment was still ever-present, and I fought hard to make naptime happen – even while tailgating.

After all, naptimes are for Mommies.

(If I ever write a book, that will be the title.)

It should also be noted that things you would think would be thrilling for a nearly three year old are actually terrifying.

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(Which makes them kinda more fun for parents.)

In 2010 we had an almost-four year old. She could go without naps if needed (although Mommies never quit needing naptime – there’s my sequel), and was much more self-entertaining, considering she had to hang out all day long under a football tent.

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…but by then, another addition was imminent. You can’t see him in this picture, but he was there. Waiting for football season to end so that he could make his appearance.

2010

Which brings us to 2011.

Ali was fully and beautifully self-propelled by then – an expert nut-collector,

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Dirt-Stirrer,

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Dirt-Wearer,

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And literary British-Waif wannabe.

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But the addition.

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Oh, the addition. We were back to the need for naps, nursing, poop disposal systems, and motherly exhaustion. And by this time, my quiet-room-naptime-options had been stripped from me due to a need for greater campus security, thanks to dishonorable and perhaps not-so-sober tailgaters.

I did miss naptime. Tremendously. But I tried my best to hide it for photographs, anyway.

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In 2012, we upgraded “High-Maintenance Baby” to “Nearly Two-Year-Old Boy Who Made us Jettison our Morals and Buy a Leash to Keep From Losing Him in the Throngs of Identically Dressed Fans.”

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And naptime was…still a need. For everyone.

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(Except Ali, who had by now mastered the art of Dirt Bathing.)

With 2013 came even older children,

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With slightly more concentration – both pre-game and in the game.

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…But we still smiled with relief when we left the children behind and attended a game on our own.

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The 2014 football season has now arrived. And with it, we have an almost eight-year-old and an almost four-year-old.

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THEY’RE HUGE.

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They’re self-entertained.

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They spend their tailgating day making dirt piles,

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Then turning them into haboobs,

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Digging for breathtaking and one-of-a-kind buried treasure,

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And if they get tired, they simply lie down.

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Whether in tailgate or in bleachers.

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They even pose for selfies. VOLUNTARILY.

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But you’ll always be able to find it in my eyes after a long day of tailgating and football – Mommies never quit needing naptimes.

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The Profit of a Yard.

The best thing we did in 2013 was get sod in our front yard.

Previously, our slightly sloped yard was nothing but dirt – with a few weeds, a bunch of gumballs (or pricklies, as we call them at our house), and plenty of tree roots. It was a shame, as most yards in our neighborhood are too sloped to be properly utilized. And then there was our yard – not a bad plot at all – yet a wasteland of uninhabitable negligence.

We’re not much for big investments or big renovation-like projects, but even we could see that something needed to be done. So we got our yard guys to quote it, were surprised that it wasn’t as much as we feared, and within a few weeks, actually had….a yard.

My kids actually began playing in the yard nearly daily,

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We accessorized our yard with nostalgic items such as Slip n’ Slides,

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And it became so popular that odd traffic jams began occurring.

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Our yard became a gathering place, where Ali basked in the privilege of hostessing/bossing/organizing neighborhood friends to properly enjoy her domain.

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Although we have several neighbor families that we love to play with (one of which you heard about last week because apparently it’s Neighbor Month around here), our across-the-street neighbors became our most common guests, with playtimes and picnics occurring at least twice a week all Spring and Summer.

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Lachlan would drive over,

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Bringing his older sister Olivia, who is a few months younger than Noah.

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Ali and Olivia were tight from the beginning, as Olivia was more welcoming to Ali’s organizational bossing than Noah.

Ali and Noah

Olivia played the part of the adorable younger sister that Ali always wanted,

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and Ali was a seven-year-old superhero to Olivia.

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But then, as the summer wore on, Olivia began to notice the other superhero in the family.

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And a new friendship began to develop.

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Noah had always been too busy avoiding the Realm of Girlishness to realize how fantastically awesome Olivia was, until all of a sudden, they were sneaking off for long conversations and impish giggles on the porch.

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There might have been one occasion where Noah and Olivia snuck inside, upstairs, and into his toddler bed to “Play Nap.”

He wanted to show her his blankets, he explained.

She liked his noisemaker’s music, she explained.

Their appreciation for each other’s company grew,

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And Olivia had to start diplomatically splitting her time between Ali’s maniacally organized activities and Noah’s casual conversations.

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The pinnacle of the summer occurred on the occasion of Olivia turning three.

She had a birthday party with a water slide and bounce house, and, to cut down on toddler bashfulness, there were only two non-adult guests – Ali and Noah.

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So basically the best thing that ever happened to my kids.

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And Noah paid her back well, becoming The World’s Best Birthday Party Guest.

He jumped and bounced and jumped and bounced and ate cake and jumped and bounced some more.

Then, when it was time for presents, he sat a respectful distance away from the gifting area, joyfully wearing his assigned Princess Party Hat, and made unpresumptuous recommendations as to which presents she should open next.

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At each present opening, he awarded the crowd with a creepy way-too-loud-and-excited laugh, thereby fully demonstrating glee on Olivia’s behalf.

And even when he realized that she’d gotten a Barbie Motorhome and she wasn’t opening it quickly enough for his boyish needs, still he sat, dutifully holding his balloon.

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He inched closer as the motorhome was assembled, still being somewhat thoughtful of her Birthday Personal Space.

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Until finally, he found his opportunity to participate.

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Noah.

He might be a player, but he’s not afraid of some pink.