Slip Sliding Away.

For the past two years, my husband has been the chairman of the building committee at our Church. We’ve been building onto our current buildings to connect them all and put in an elevator – because our property is on a slope, has been built onto several times, and it was all…well, wonky. It needed to be connected and accessible and stuff.

His chairmanship has consisted mainly of late-night emails and after-work meetings and such, and simply being able to understand all this stuff that I don’t grasp at all, since his day job is in commercial construction (the computer parts of it – not the actual building of it.)

Sunday was the grand opening of this new connecting unit.

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The children, clearly, were thrilled.

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The church had planned a community celebration, inviting the whole neighborhood to church and a party – to eat food from all of the area restaurants, to see the new building, to play on the water slides, to get their faces painted, and all the things such as this.

The church service was a “family service”, which translates into no Kid’s Church – 1st grade and above go to big church. Ali and I planned on attending together, knowing that Chris would be quite tied up with last minute building things and helping set up the post-church celebration.

So when Noah decided that he really wasn’t feeling like attending his nursery class, it seemed somewhat logical to let him come with Ali and I. After all, I already had one child in the service – why not add another?

This sort of logic is what is wrong with America today. Or at least what is wrong with me.

Regardless, I’m positive that the pastor appreciated the dramatically loud and bored yawns from the third row. And the even louder fake snores.

When the service ended, I felt approximately as physically exerted as one would feel after wrestling a medium-sized chimpanzee for an hour. I limped out of the service and onto the ribbon cutting, then to get the children food, force their father to sit with them for a few minutes to retrace my steps and find my sanity, and then I took them out to the waterslides.

Alone, of course, as was expected, Chris had many tasks.

I could do it. I’m a Mom. I handle my own mischief (or two mischiefs) all the time.

No surprise, the kids didn’t want to do the waterslides – after all, “Risk Averse” is written in bold, gothic letters at the top of our Family Crest. But then Ali decided she wanted to, and a few minutes later, Noah did too.

I took Noah to Ali’s spot in line and asked the two girls behind her if they minded if Noah broke in line so he could go up with his sister.

They did not.

They should have.

Their turn arrived and they started up the steep climb – Noah in front and Ali helping him up. At the halfway mark, he managed to slip and fall all the way down the ladder – between her legs or off to the side or something. So he started back up the ladder behind her – now with no help.

The thing was Mount Everest to a four-year-old.

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It didn’t take him long to panic.

He looked down and tried to climb down, but the steep climb up and down both freaked him out, and he froze. As one does on a waterslide with thirty kids waiting for their turn.

My friend Lydia said “I’ll go get him!”, and of course that would never do. I handle my own mischief, thankyouverymuch, and plus – she was wearing extremely light-colored pants for a waterslide.

“No – it’s fine. I’m going up!”

The other kids shuffled around to let me in front of them. Poor children, looking at the hopelessness of their line-waiting situation.

I kicked my shoes off, handed my phone to Lydia, and started the steep climb up while what felt like the entire church – nay the entire community – stared at my awkward grappling.

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I now know: there is actually something worse than A PlayPlace Rescue.

First of all, those ladder rungs were not made to hold adult feet.

Also, they were at health hazard levels of slippery.

My only comfort were the sturdy handles next to each step. I felt as if I were mountain climbing with no proper footholds – hefting myself up by my arms. When I reached Noah, I then began having to support him with one arm while supporting myself with the other. Motherhood should totally be an Olympic Sport.

However, my presence did not diminish Noah’s panic at all. In fact, when he realized I was there to help him up and not down, the wailing really commenced.

This was a crossroads of parenting where every parent must decide: Do you let your kid wuss out and turn around when the whole church is already staring at your butt, or do you heft him up the slide and MAKE the dang kid have fun to prove to him that he can do it?

I decided on the latter. To continue my poor-decision-making trend for the day.

We made it up to about four rungs from the top, him still screaming, me still shoving him up the stairs while he begged for mercy. We were so close.

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When my feet slipped and my one-armed grip on the rope did not suffice. And I fell, belly-flopping over each rung of the ladder, all the way down to the bottom.

So thankful that I handed my phone to a friend who didn’t mind using it. Or not.

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It was super graceful, y’all.

This did not help my child’s panic, now all alone at nearly the top of the ladder, having lost his mother to a nasty fall down a mountainside.

But what could I do but start all over? I pulled myself up the Cliffs of Insanity yet again.

(This is a good time to note that my arms and shoulders are still sore from that journey. I’m just glad I didn’t have to swordfight a fellow left-hander when I reached the top.)

I made it back to where Noah was and kept shoving him up the ladder and over the edge. Then I went to lift myself up to the top – which is when I realized that those oh-so-handy hand ropes ran out. Right before the top.

I frantically swiped at all slippery rubber surfaces, trying to find something to hold onto, but to no avail. Then I reached a hand up to Noah and said “You’re going to have to help me up.”

It was at the moment that the child actually offered me a hand when I realized that physics were not on this plan’s side and my decision-making for the day was unbelievably impaired. I found the strength within myself and somehow miraculously threw my weight over the edge with nothing to hold onto, grabbed my son, put him in my lap, and went down that blasted slide.

Which of course, my persistent friend Lydia didn’t mind at all recording.

They say life is about the journey and not the destination. But the journey left me sore and the destination left me wet. So I’m hoping it’s about something else entirely.

How Spiderman Wasn’t Made.

Once upon a time, a spider got trapped in my son’s underpants and attempted to eat his way out.

Once upon a time was last week.

I woke up Friday morning to a text and two emails from my husband, who, despite happening upon a middle-of-the-night crisis, feels strongly that all crises are best handled if I am able to get a full night’s sleep. He’s not wrong.

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The two emails, particularly the extraordinarily long one he sent me upon discovering this traumatic male situation after a 2:30am crying bout, were not as calm.

(Noah was crying, not Chris. Although from the tone of his emails, it’s possible that he, too, was crying.)

The first one ended with the tag line “God have mercy on us!” and informed me that he might be taking Noah to the ER if it got worse. The second one used the phrase “His penis is not well!”, and instructed me to take him to the doctor when we woke up.

This particular Friday morning fell the day after Ali had been stung by a completely unprovoked wasp, the day of our scheduled bathroom demolition thanks to the flood, and on a day where my voice was struggling due to tonsillectomy scar tissue, so I was conveniently already operating under Emotional Martial Law. However, my two replies above were while Noah was still asleep. When Noah roused and I surveyed the hazardous situation that had come to pass, my reaction was slightly less calm.

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It was bad, y’all.

It was a suspicious package indeed. Looking as if there might be a grenade lodged in there, I worried that things might erupt into a shrapnel cloud of doom at any moment. And it didn’t help AT ALL that I had just published a story about a 2-liter-sized penis that ended up killing a man. Both Chris and I had Witch Doctor Penis on the brain as we mentally worked our way through our own crisis.

Thanks to the light of day and a full night’s sleep, I had a better guess than Chris was able to formulate: A spider bite.

Noah had gotten a nasty one a couple of weeks before (four nights after my surgery when I was barely lucid), so I was recently familiarized with the look of a spider bite. And on this particular morning, he had a similar new bite on his upper leg, along with a few other small bites around the area in question.

…Not that I was excited about my son being the recurring feast of a Brown Recluse or something similar, but at least knowing what I was dealing with helped my level of hysteria, and our Pediatrician had previously told me that 99% of spider bites are a non-event.

…Except that I was now having visuals of a Black Widow’s nest underneath his bed with thousands of tiny baby monsters that most likely WOULD HAVE been eaten by the considerable bat population that I’d evicted from our attic. I began contemplating whether I could ask the demolition crew at my house to just go ahead and take the whole thing down while they were at it.

But if it were a spider bite, it is summertime in the south – so the thought of blaming it on climate change or El Niño or a playground or some other such scapegoat helped hold me back from requesting that my residence be wrecking-balled.

I decided that Ali should not attend the doctor’s visit with us and took her to Chris’ office. After all, it was a “private” visit, and Ali did not need to be traumatized, as the other three of us were going to need counseling and a considerable amount of memory-blocking therapy after seeing what we had seen.

Plus, Chris offered his services to my day.

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His description of the situation was fairly accurate,

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Except that it was somewhere between this size,

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and this size.

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A Nurse Practitioner student saw us first at the Pediatrician’s office.

I carefully explained to her that Noah’s penis was quite swollen and that I suspected a spider bite, but was not positive what was going on.

She calmly asked me more details and took notes….until Noah pulled his pants down.

At which time she had a minor meltdown.

Following a gasp and a look that clearly communicated this was her first blimp-sized penis experience, she began asking him questions in an urgent and somewhat frightened tone.

“Have you been able to tee-tee?”

“Did it burn?”

“Do you have any blood coming out?”

Then she turned to me with wild, scarred, penis-rookie eyes and said “I will be RIGHT BACK with the doctor.”

A minute and a half later, Noah’s pediatrician came in alone, leaving me to assume that the NP was retching in the bathroom.

Before the doctor even saw it, she smiled and said,

“Don’t worry. Penises tend to react rather dramatically.”

Noah pulled down his pants.

“Believe it or not, I’ve seen worse.”

She and I carefully moved things about, found the fang marks, and confirmed that it was indeed a spider bite. She gave me bulging-penile care instructions (all over-the-counter) and sent us on our way.

I went to Target and bought two of everything she told me to use, plus every spider spray they had. It was as much retail therapy as I could muster while escorting a boy who was dragging around a ten-pound penis.

Noah was curious about all my purchases.

“What’s that Minion for?”

“It’s an ice pack. To put in your pants.”

“Then what’s the Froggy?”

“Another ice pack. To put in your pants.”

“What’s that red stuff for?”

“It’s medicine.”

“So my penis will quit being blowed up?”

“Exactly.”

The rest of the day consisted of a continuous regimen of Benadryl, a generous dousing of Hydrocortisone, and ice packs.

It wasn’t easy on Noah, as things were quite sensitive down there. During one of my dozen hydrocortisone applications, he looked at me and said gravely, “I’m going to need to cuddle after this.”

None of it seemed to help. I saw no progress in the size of things, but at least I was allowed to keep Noah in a double-dose Benadryl daze so he wasn’t fully aware of his risky business. And after all, the Pediatrician had seen worse. He’d be fine.

Thankful that Noah wasn’t headed for the Sunday night TLC lineup alongside Tree Man and Conjoined Quadruplets, Chris made the best of it. We dressed Noah in Spiderman PJ’s, told him how Peter Parker became Spiderman, and put him to bed.

The next morning, Noah came in my room to get his medicinal treatments.

We checked it out together, and were both filled with glee.

Noah expressed it best, though.

“LOOK HOW TINY MY FIRE HOSE IS!!!!!”

It may be the only time he ever says that, but in that moment, nothing could have been more exciting for him.

Later, we asked him, “So are you Spiderman now?”

He jerked his hands out in front of him, attempting to shoot some webbing.

“Nope,” he replied.

“Oh well, better luck next time.”

The Shirt of Summer.

Style is extraordinarily important to Noah – in a way that it never has been for Ali.

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All shorts must possess six pockets – back pockets, front pockets, and cargo pockets. The cargo pockets cannot be too low on his leg or they’re tragically unacceptable.

He has three pairs of sunglasses that he has with him at all times, and they are used differently for specific situations. Green sunglasses are for the front yard, orange sunglasses are for the backyard. The third pair is a bit of a narrower cut, and he calls them his “regular glasses”. He can often be seen wearing these under another pair of sunglasses because he wants to be like Nana, his grandmother, whom he has spotted wearing regular glasses with sunglasses over them.

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Color is important, as well – all clothing must be teal. Thankfully, “teal” is comprised of a wide range of shades that includes green and blue and everything in between. But not just one piece of clothing needs to be teal – all pieces of clothing need to be teal. Which often leads to a color situation that is neither cohesive or pleasant to look at.

His current favorite shirt is his Alabama Outdoors shirt. The fact that he can be seen on a billboard in this shirt coupled with its perfecting the teal-on-teal layering that he seeks in all things, it is his ideal go-to summer choice.

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Except for one detail that is very disturbing: The big tree is on the back, and there is just a tiny tree is on the front.

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This is not okay.

If you’re going to have a big tree on a shirt, shouldn’t it be on the front where you can see it?

Or so says Noah, who has requested that either a) I let him wear the shirt backwards or b) I special order him a shirt with a big tree on the front. He’s like a Hollywood Socialite Diva yet he’s a four-year-old boy in Alabama. It’s out of control.

We had to stop by Alabama Outdoors on Monday afternoon, and Noah was immediately drawn to the racks and racks of his favorite shirt in all the different colors (albeit none having the BIG tree on the front as it should be.)

He fell deeply in love with the brightest most florescent yellow shirt ever made. I’m pretty sure the fabric was woven from firefly buttocks.

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Perhaps he was drawn to it because he was wearing two pairs of sunglasses and therefore it wasn’t burning his retinas as it was mine. Or perhaps he wanted me to be able to see his glow from anywhere in the city.

But I saw it as an opportunity.

(Not literally “saw” since my eyes were temporarily disabled. My mind’s eye was clearer than ever since my eye’s eyes were rendered inert.)

(And not as an opportunity to have something that wasn’t teal in his wardrobe, although that was a definite perk.)

Noah had been a bit trying that day so far, with 32 whines, 28 That’s Not Fairs, 55 Can we go/do/haves, 54 But why can’t we go/do/haves, and 35 When are we going to quit going/doing/havings.

But now he wanted something.

Badly.

So I bought it. And I explained to him the rules of engagement.

“If you are polite, nice, not whiny, and pitch no fits for two whole days, you can have this shirt. If you are unwise, whine, argue, or fuss, the two day clock starts over, and you have to be wise for two more days to get your shirt.”

The effect was immediate.

It was as if I’d gone to Wal-Mart, returned my grainy Great Value television, and exchanged it for a 60-inch Sony LED Smart TV with a lifetime subscription to Netflix built in.

He was a gentleman.

He was cheery.

He didn’t ask for anything.

He napped and bedtimed happily.

He didn’t whine.

And I didn’t even ask for this but all of a sudden every question was answered with a “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am” or “I’ll go find my shoes, ma’am.”

That evening, I overheard him explain the rules to Chris. “…and if I am unwise, the two days starts ALL over, sir.”

It was the most amazing 48 hours of my parenting career.

On Thursday morning, I told him that he had earned his shirt. I think he wanted to savor the moment, because he responded “I’m not ready just yet. I’ll put it on in a sec.”

An hour later, when we were outside playing, the moment had arrived.

He went inside, retrieved the shirt, found an acceptably-pocketed pair of shorts to pair with, brought them out to the porch, and stripped.

(Because we’re classy like that.)

The prize was everything he’d hoped for.

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I shielded my eyes from the glare and took multiple pictures to savor this moment in my parenting brilliance. And began calculating the cost of giving him a new shirt every two days until he got married and wasn’t my problem anymore.

Because I really, REALLY enjoyed this version of my kid.

…the version which instantaneously vanished as soon as he was wearing his prize.

He returned to the whiny, when can we, why can’t we, that’s not fair four-year-old that I know and adore.

There was even a bout of crying.

Unfortunately for Noah, he didn’t realize that I don’t take a Once Saved Always Saved T-Shirt-Earning Theological Position.

And after he pitched a mini-fit when we were leaving the pool because it was thundering and the pool was closed and it was about to start down-pouring and I’d explained this to him four times, I felt it was time to take the beloved shirt back into my possession.

“If you’re wise for one whole day, you may have the shirt back. If you are unwise, the day count starts over.”

….Which explains why this season may be forever remembered as The Summer of The Endlessly Traveling Shirt.

And that’s okay.

Because parenting is all about whatever works.