Thursday, October 30, 2008

Boy v. Wild

Dear readers, thanks for your patience regarding yesterday's crabby post. Every once in a while you need a forum to vent frustrations and also to document your experiences so that, years later, you can look back and realize how ridiculous you were for making such a big deal out of nothing. Memories.

Anyhoo, about camp. Tim, Alex, Murphy and I got our own little cabin to stay in, complete with cots, curtains, a shower, sink, and flushing commode. I'm not sure it would qualify as "roughing it", but we were out in the woods, and that's gotta count for something. Poppa, aka MacGyver, fashioned a partition out of blankets, rope, and binder clips so that Alex and his pack 'n' play would have their own space separate from where the rest of us would be sleeping. It worked great, and wouldn't ya know, I forgot to get a picture of it.

We had to drag ourselves out of bed Saturday morning after Friday's sleepless night and get ready for breakfast. But there is something strangely exciting about waking up as a family in a new place, and we really enjoyed that morning time in the cabin together, despite the fatigue. We met up with Grammy and Poppa, who were staying in the cabin next door and made the brisk trek up to the dining hall.

Breakfast was good, too good, and we needed to run around a bit to burn it off. A loooves to be outside, mostly because he is free to roam and explore and there are much fewer no-no's than he's used to dealing with inside.

Of course, it didn't hurt that Oliver had spent the week with his Papa and M'laine, who live in Eldo, and they had brought him to camp, too. We were so excited to hang with O, and we think he was excited to see us, too. At one point, he mentioned that he wanted to go to Alex's house to play, so we spent the next hour training him to go home and tell his mom and dad, "I want to go to Alex's house, NNNOOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!" While failing and pounding his fists on the floor, of course.

They especially had fun climbing the tree in front of the dining hall. Now, I realize that the following pictures of Alex, Oliver, and Oliver's cousin Payton will seem redundant, but it's the subtle details that make them hilarious. Like poor Oliver's face. In his defense, I think Alex had a chunk of his skin in that monster grasp he has on his shirt. Or maybe he was afraid that A would fall out of the tree and drag him down, too. Either way, the fact that Alex appears to be completely oblivious to anything but the camera makes the scenario twice as funny.

We decided to switch things up and put Alex in the middle, at which point he pretty much fell in love with Payton. I mean, who wouldn't, right? This boy was mes-mer-ized.

When he wasn't up a tree, he was hanging with his Grammy.

When he wasn't hanging with his Grammy, he was hanging with his Mamaw Meador.

He also went for his first ride on the teeter-tauter. Then Grammy showed him how it is really done.

Then, Alex and Oliver discovered "bodark balls". I've always known them as "horse apples" or "hedge apples", but whatever you call 'em, they are lots of fun to play with. And dangerous. Bodark balls kept falling from the trees and crashing down like canon balls around us. Luckily, I have cat-like reflexes and managed to avoid getting clobbered.

Good times.

After some vigorous hand-washing to remove bodark juice and whatever else Alex had gotten into, we had dinner. Grammy was turning the big 5-0 the following Tuesday, so while we were all together, we decided to celebrate. Leah had brought a giant cake and printed pictures of a "less mature" Vicki, which we plastered all over the dining hall when she wasn't looking.

Saturday night at Fall Retreat is known as "Fun Night" with Brother Sam. "Fun night" starts at 9pm, which, as you know, is two full hours past Alex's bedtime. We were torn about what do to because we knew Alex would enjoy the songs and the games, but we rarely let him stay up that late because he will be a disaster the next day. He had taken a good three and a half hour nap in the afternoon (after I cranked the heat up in the cabin, of course), so we decided to throw caution to the wind and let him stay up, then basically play the rest of the night by ear.

O was playing it by ear, too, so here are the boys in the dining hall, waiting for the festivities to begin.

Alex loved all of Bro. Sam's silly songs, and every time we'd finish singing one, he'd say, "mo'! mo'!" He started to fade about a half hour in, so we whisked him off to bed, around the same time we saw Papa and M'laine heading to their cabin with Oliver. I guess those two really are on the same sleep schedule, even when they go to bed late!

Sunday morning started out much like Saturday, although Alex slept all night and woke up around seven, so we were all feeling much more rested. After breakfast, we got the van packed up, and then we left Alex with Grammy so we could go play frisbee golf. His late night must have caught up with him, because when we got back, this is what we found.

Poor tired baby. He just slept...

...and slept...

...and slept. It was our turn to surprise Grammy for her big birthday, so when she got to our table at lunch time, she found fifty little presents to open. Which she had to do one-handed because Alex was still sleeping.

He eventually woke up just in time to have some cake.

We had a few more minutes before we started our long journey to burn off some energy and soak in as much of the great outdoors as possible.

Camp was as fun as I remembered, and even more so since we were able to share the experience with Alex. We can't wait until next year!

Monday, October 27, 2008

an exercise in impatience

Every year, Timothy's hometown church has bible camp throughout the summer and a retreat in the fall. Tim and I hadn't been in years, and Alex has never been, so we decided that this year's fall retreat would be as good a time as any for him to have his first experience at Victory Bible Camp.

We had planned to leave around noon on Friday, but as my luck would have it, the "check tire pressure" light came on in the van that morning. Not exactly what you want to see before a five hour trip to a campsite in backwoods Arkansas. And, before I proceed with this story, let me just mention that this had been a particularly stressful and exhausting week for me, due to more (ridiculous and petty) reasons than I care to share, and I was soooo not in the mood to have to deal with car issues on top of everything else I needed to take care of. Of course, when I took the van by the dealership to have them take a quick look, they found a nail in one of the rear tires. And because our fancy mini van has fancy tires that allow you to drive on a flat up to 50mph for 125miles, replacing or patching a tire is not a simple task.

I was told it was going to take "an hour and a half", and at that point I got really flustered because a) Lord knows that keeping Alex entertained for an hour and a half, during lunchtime, in a place where he's not allowed to wreak havoc, is nearly impossible, and b) I had planned on packing everything into the van after getting the tire fixed, but with it already closing in on eleven, our delayed departure time would surely interfere with Alex's much-needed nap, and c) the Head Mechanic Dude mentioned something about our warranty not covering the new tire, when I was pretty sure that our warranty covered everything, but not so sure that I felt comfortable arguing with him about it.

I frantically called Timothy, aka my voice of reason, who talked to the Head Mechanic Dude about the warranty and said that the dealership would take us home in the courtesy shuttle so that I could feed A and get our stuff completely ready to be loaded into the van as soon as it was done being fixed. Crisis averted. For now.

I left the keys in the ignition and proceeded to pull the car seat out of the van, along with the umbrella stroller and as many toys and snacks as would fit in my purse, in an effort to control all six tons of a squirming, restless Alex as we waited for the shuttle to show up. About ten looooong minutes later, the shuttle arrived, we got the car seat reinstalled, and were headed home. We pulled up to the house, and as the driver followed us to the door with the car seat in hand, it suddenly dawned on me that my house key was on my keyring. The keyring that was attached to my van key...that was still in the ignition...back at the dealership.

Yeeeaaahhhh, I pretty much lost it. I had the driver hang around for a few minutes, and after attempting to break into my own house by every reasonable means possible, I gave up and called Timothy. Not because he would be able to help, but rather, to inform him that I was giving up, that I was just going to lie down on the front lawn and take a long nap while the shuttle driver took Alex for ice cream or french fries or a full-fat mocha latte, whatever, I just didn't care, I was tired and frustrated and ready for another bad day to be over. Instead, he talked me down enough that I was able to ask the driver if he could run back to the dealership, which was only a mile or so away, and pick up my key so we could get in the house. I was so embarrassed and tried to explain that I wasn't normally such a flake, that it had been a rough few days, etc., etc...Thankfully, he didn't mind, and I was able to take my nap on the front lawn until he got back.

The Head Mechanic Dude called me around noon to say that our vehicle would have to undergo a warranty claims check, which basically meant that before the dealership could proceed with the tire replacement, they had to take pictures of the damaged tire and submit them to the warranty department for approval. It's a completely random check that they perform to discourage false claims, and we were the ones selected!!! Lucky us, huh??!!! That meant it would be at least one-o'clock before it would be done. Sigh.

I heard from him again a little after one, when he called to say that our claim had been approved, and that they were working on the tire. I asked him whether we should head back to the dealership so that we could take the van as soon as it was done, so that we could pack it up, hit the road, and get A down for a nap as soon as possible. He said that it was a good idea, since the driver goes to lunch at 2, and we wouldn't be able to ride the shuttle after that. So a few minutes later, our driver showed up, reinstalled the car seat, and we headed back to the dealership...

...where the Head Mechanic Dude told me that they had to get a part from another dealership in order to mount the tire, that it took longer than expected, and that they were still working on putting the tire on. Here it was, one-thirty,
we're already running an hour and a half late, A never really got a lunch other than milk because I was busy organizing for our trip, it's past his naptime, and I'm back to entertaining him in a place where he's not allowed to wreak havoc, for an undisclosed amount of time. I mean seriously, people. Timothy got another flustered phone call with the update, and while he sympathized with my plight, he told me that all I could do at this point was to laugh it off, it didn't matter if we were running late, and, oh yeah, let Alex wreak havoc if that meant maintaining my sanity.

Another hour and a half later, after numerous trips to the vending machine, countless tours of the Honda sales floor, and just a little bit of havoc, the van was finally done. Fortunately, A managed to stay mostly out of trouble, and he was so distracted by all the new things to look at and people to amuse that he forgot it was two and a half hours past naptime. But once he stopped moving and got back to the car, the beast emerged and his sleepiness caught up with him. We got home and I packed the van as quickly as possible, and we finally hit the road around three-thirty.

I'd like to say that all was well from that point on, but that simply isn't the case. A slept for about an hour in the van and rode pretty well otherwise, and we got to camp after 8pm. I was a little worried that A would be cold sleeping in the cabin, despite a heater, his blankets, and his warm jammies.

He woke up crying throughout the night and would fall back to sleep after a few minutes, so we just assumed he was adjusting to his new surroundings. After the third or fourth time he woke up, I kind of broke down because, truly, the only thing that really stresses me out about these sorts of outings are how Alex will sleep. Generally, when he wakes up during the night, the best strategy is to let him cry himself back to sleep because if we go to him, he wakes up completely and thinks it's party time. But in my gut, I kept wondering if he was too cold to stay asleep, which made me feel terrible about letting him cry, and I was really in a predicament about what to do. When he woke up whining for the sixth time at 5:45am, I finally decided to risk waking him, snuck over to his bed, and piled a bunch of heavy blankets on top of him. He stopped whining right away and went back to sleep until 7:20. Shame on me for doubting my instincts.

None of us slept at all that first night, but luckily we were so excited about camp that we didn't mind being sleep-deprived. The rest of the weekend went great, but instead of tainting those fun stories and pictures by adding them to this crabby post, they'll get their very own happy post, coming soon...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A geek in nerds' clothing

Halloween came early this year because last evening, we attended the Binns Boo Bash, a yearly Halloween party held by a partner (and said partner's wife, of course) at Timothy's firm. Seeing as it was technically a party for kids, Alex was actually the one invited, and he was nice enough to let us tag along as his "plus 2".

It took us a while to come up with Alex's costume this year because, somehow, nothing that we thought of seemed to be "it", "The One", the costume that inspired the elusive AHA!! moment. As some of you know, this is a process I take very seriously, one that requires careful consideration, research, and planning before a final decision can be made. And after months of rejected costume concepts, it came to me, the perfect choice, "it", "The One". I finally had my AHA!! moment.

I know, it totally suits him, doesn't it? Somehow, in all his nerdy glory, he is still about the cutest darn thing I've ever seen. I mean, the kid makes nerdy look good.

Compared to last year's strongman get-up, this nerd thing was a cinch to put together. I only had to make the suspenders and the bowtie (which I could have ordered online if the idea had come sooner) and tape the glasses and the pocket protector. Everything else was pret-a-porter, so we had extra time before we left for our party to take lots of pictures and recover from the raucous fits of laughter that ensued after we saw our whole vision of nerdliness realized.

Sure, he may resent me when he's thirteen for putting him through this humiliation, but I figure I need to take advantage of the early years, when he could care less about his costume, before he gets older and, God forbid, wants to be Barney or Spongebob Squarepants for Halloween. Shudder.

Anyway, we left for the party and, after fighting our way through miles of State Fair traffic, got there around four-thirty. The Binns' have a humongous fenced-in backyard (with grass!) and lots of fun kid stuff, like a swingset, playhouses, a huge wooden train, and an inflated bouncy house, so Alex was in hog heaven. They had even hired a clown to paint faces and make balloon animals. Turns out, Aunt Rachel, that Alex is not afraid of clowns. Of course, this clown bribed him with a turtle bracelet, which we promptly confiscated when he tried to eat its head.

It was really helpful to see which toys Alex gravitated to so that we could start formulating his Christmas list, especially now that we have a backyard to put big backyard stuff in. He really loved the little pink playhouse, of course, and I immediately started thinking about how I could make one for him out of wood. Hmmm, Grampa B will be here in a couple of weeks...perhaps it could be a working vacation...

He also loved the swings and the slides, although we may wait a while before we get ourselves any of those. That's what the park is for.

It's always fun to see Alex interacting with other kids, and although he was one of the younger kids there, that didn't stop him from jumping in. By the end of the night, I think close to twenty kids were racing around, having the time of their lives, and Alex was one of them. We didn't end up leaving until 8 o'clock, so it was another late night for A, but totally worth it. We are so looking forward to the Boo Bash next year. Hmm, better start planning his costume now...