Short Stories From A Busy Week.

On Saturday, we went on the newish-annual Road Rally.

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This isn’t new for my family, as my Dad has driven in epic road rallies (like, China-to-Paris epic) and has created many slightly-less-epic road rallies for different groups pretty much our entire life. But last year was the first year he revived the practice to share it with our Sunday School classes.

It’s the most fun you can have on a Saturday morning.

When in creative mode, he and my Mom spend countless hours concocting a course on sometimes harrowing back roads (there was one road…that was decisively one-lane…but was meant for both directions of traffic…and containing many hairpin turns. And of course I had to meet a car coming the other way on that hairpin turn. Newsflash: I still have last-year’s-wreck PTSD.)

The way my Dad’s Road Rallies work is…

– You don’t know where you’re going,

– You don’t know how long it will take to get there,

– But you get penalized for being more than three minutes early or five minutes late.

He hands out directions and an overall average speed that you should shoot for, and from that, you must derive your arrival time. Oh – and all while answering sometimes very tricky scavenger hunt clues along the way (which is the fun part.)

This year, Chris had already signed up for a half marathon, so Not-Crazy-Renee was going to go with me (which would have, I’m certain, created a new Not-Crazy-Renee story), but her kids just had to get sick. So instead, we had an in-family insanely complex distribution of children, drivers, and navigators, as follows:

– I drove. My sister-in-law was my navigator. One of her children went with my Dad as a rally organizer helper, one of her children went with my Mom as a rally co-organizer helper, and one of her children rode with us. I had my two kids. And we had a two-year-old I’d never laid eyes on in my entire life – let’s call him Johnny. Mostly because his name was Johnny.

– My brother drove. My brother’s navigator was his friend, coincidentally the father to Johnny. They took my brother’s two-seater convertible, cruising along the back roads with the wind gently massaging their scalps. While we had four kids, one of whom said, less than a mile into the rally, “Hey how much longer is this gonna take because I’m getting bored.”.

– It is also worth noting that the reason my brother’s friend came along is so he could give his wife the day off. I would like to make sure that it is noted, dear Johnny’s mom, to not give Johnny’s dad complete credit for your day off. Although Johnny was a complete gem and adorable rallying companion, I had Johnny for 3 hours and 20 minutes of your day off while Johnny’s father was riding around in a topless car getting his hair tickled by the wind.

Now that we got that out of the way, spoiler: WE BEAT THE CONVERTIBLE DADS.

And yes, we got extra points for our tiny baggage (1 extra point per kid under 7 and 1 penalty for each kid over 7, giving a total of 2 extra points), but WE EVEN BEAT CONVERTIBLE DADS WITHOUT OUR EXTRA POINTS.

Because we’re spectacular.

(For the record, we came in second place.)

(But all that mattered was beating the convertible dads.)

By the way, if I can find the time, I’m considering creating a road rally that maybe would take the course of some of my favorite Instagram spots. Who local would be interested in participating?

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Thanks to my little tumble last week, I currently look like the cover of a Trail Running Magazine. Or at least what the cover of a Trail Running magazine SHOULD look like, if they were honest.

Trail Runner Magazine“You too can look like me – with a little trail running experience. And by little I mean VERY LITTLE.”

All of the bruising, which I am indeed proud of, is actually from internal injuries – that part of my arm did not hit the ground.

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Which makes me all the prouder.

…Because if I’m going to be injured, I might as well find something to get excited about.

(My elbow is feeling much better, although my physical therapist says my professional baseball career is over. My shoulder is slowly getting better. There are two directions that it gets VERY ANGRY about bending. One of them being the angle one must assume to take a shirt off. So that’s convenient.)

As far as my finger, the only thing I actually broke, it’s fiiiiiine. Other than being faced with the perplexing dilemma of what one does if they accidentally dip the tip of their finger splint in the toilet while they still have 8 days left of wearing said splint.

(A hefty scrubbing of antibacterial soap is what one does, in case you wondered.)

(Feel free to decline any dinner invitations to my house until I get my splint off next week.)

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I republished one of the only posts I ever deleted. It was a jewel – I just published it “too soon” originally, and deleted it two hours later out of fear/guilt. If you missed it originally (or if you just wanted to re-read it), you can give it a go here.

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Ali was disturbed when she realized her little brother had more wealth than her.

She wants to make money. This is very crucial to her long range plan of being very very rich.

So she asked me if I could please think of jobs she could do to make money.

I mean, I can give her all the normal kid jobs of unloading the dishwasher and sweeping, but more importantly, I’m thinking…

– Bring me breakfast in bed for the summer, .50 tip per day (.75 if you deliver it with a small piece of chocolate.)

– Learn how to perform a proper back massage and foot massage via YouTube, practice daily on your mother – .25 per massage.

– Read some parenting books and figure out how to get your little brother out of his narcissistic phase – $25, plus the added bonus of having a more personable little brother.

– Research recipes on Pinterest, create grocery lists, and teach yourself how to cook – $7 per meal.

– Write quality and original blog posts – $5 per post.

She’s already working on a prototype spreadsheet to track her receivables – clearly we still have some fee negotiations to handle.

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But regardless, my summer is going to be AMAZING.

Alabama, The Hunger Games Arena.

For the first time in my life, it has recently been pointed out to me that Alabama is an unsafe place to live. And also for the second time in my life, less than a month later.

I really had no idea. I was in denial. It’s so beautiful…It has to be perfect! All places have these things…right??

The first time it was pointed out, it was by a brand new Alabama resident who grabbed my arm and said with a horrified voice, “Someone told me there were VENOMOUS SNAKES here. That’s not true, is it??”

“Well yeah, sure. We mostly have Copperheads and Rattlesnakes and Cottonmouths, all of which I’ve seen in the last year. There are some others too, I think. But it’s not a big deal.”

She gasped in horror and said, “THEN DOES THAT MEAN THAT THE SCORPIONS ARE TRUE, TOO??”

“Sure, I mean, I’ve seen two in my life, but yeah – we have scorpions.”

I was confused. Didn’t all of America have the same basic set of “Nature to Avoid”?

I moved on. Until I wrote my boob/Cottonmouth post a couple of weeks ago and one of my blog readers came ALL UNDONE.

(Bethany. You know you did.)

She went on and on about how in her state, they don’t deal with wildlife, and this is just BIZARRE, and how is it that everyone in the Horror-Filled State of Alabama doesn’t band together to fight against the treachery of our nature??

Again. I was stumped. I don’t find my state treacherous. I’ve lived here all my life and have never thought any of it was unusual.

But then I began making a list.

We have venomous snakes and spiders (some even like to bite the nether regions of toddlers.) Mosquitoes. Horse flies and the angry Yellow Fly down south. Chiggers (okay they’re the worst.) Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac, plants that regularly tried to ruin my summers as an awkward middle schooler. Lots of fire ants. The dreaded Cow Ant. Bees. Wasps. Hornets. Yellowjackets. Dirt Daubers. Ticks. Snapping Turtles. Flying cockroaches. Stinging Ladybugs. Poisonous Caterpillars that send the strongest of grandmothers to the ER. Bats that cause confusion and delay. Tornadoes. Hurricanes down south. Triple digit heat. Alligators down south but slowly encroaching north. Coyotes. Armadillos that can do a NUMBER to a car tire if you hit one.

(I actually have no factual evidence regarding that last statement but their armor does seem intense.)

Alabama even had a bear run out in front of a car recently, totaling the car and killing the bear.

(My kids were fascinated by this story and said “ARE THERE PICTURES??” I responded with “Y’all don’t need to see a picture of a dead bear.” Ali’s face clouded over with disappointment and said, “Oh. So there’s not a picture of the bear actually getting whacked by the car?”)

(Clearly they’re as deranged as their mother.)

But I digress. After I made The Alabama Danger List, it did seem like a lot.

Maybe Bethany was right.

Maybe Alabama was The Hunger Games.

And maybe, just maybe, I was Katniss. I mean I do hike around with a giant (camera) backpack and a side braid, all the while with sweat dripping off of me from the inhumane heat.

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And aside from the occasional tick and regular mosquito bite, I do a good job of winding my way through the perils of my surroundings, despite my constant outdoorsiness.

(Okay but I did suffer an impressive allergic reaction while I was in Mexico – to a wasp sting that I had received the week before near home. I thought surely I had contracted the Zika Virus. But nope. Just the results of Alabama Wildlife following me out of the country.)

But overall, I am a pretty DANG GOOD Tribute.

However. As soon as I began making this list of vile dangers that I so expertly avoid, The Gamemakers at the Capitol felt it best to throw me a few unexpected challenges.

First there was runch on Thursday with my friend Tanya. We run, then we get a smoothie. It’s what we do.

IMG_8127(I promise I eat way more lunch later. And so does Tanya.)

On last week’s particular run, we each ordered the Strawberry-Peach Smoothie from our favorite local smoothie maker. And then, two hours later, were both simultaneously and violently overcome with food poisoning.

Oh, the gut pain. It reached all the way up to my boobs. And lasted. And lasted. And lasted.

Clearly we must have been slipped Nightlock in our smoothies. It’s the only explanation.

But I am an AMAZING Tribute. And I recovered. Just in time to go away, out into nature, for my annual small group girl’s retreat.

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We left 30 out of 32 of our children at home with the daddies. So of course, it seemed only right that on Saturday, I should lead a hike on a trail I had never taken. There would be no whining! No “I need to potty”s! No “I’m tooo hooooooot”s!!

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The State Park office warned us that it would be treacherous, but we knew we could handle it. And handle it we did.

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We climbed that boulderous trail with grace and Woman Power, all while having deep and completely unladylike conversations.

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We. Were. Amazing.

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After our hike, three of us wanted to go on a trail run. We took the trail that the State Park rep had suggested as the “better choice” for running.

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It was lovely, but not easy. The trail was not smooth, and had generous amounts of curves and hills and roots and branches and boulders and low trees.

A mile into our run and just a few minutes after telling my friends about Tanya’s very true blog post that runners can’t just become trail runners because trail running is freaking hard, an angry root caught my shoe, tore a hole through it, curled its tentacles around the inside of my shoe, and turned me into an involuntary missile.

I propelled forward, nearly caught myself, but then a boulder said nope.

I flailed forward again, this time headed straight for a broken face against three more boulders who were itching for a human sacrifice, but I threw out my left hand just in time.

I saved face, but not elbow.

I landed, in a wash of pain, knowing I had just ended our delightful trail run with some sort of wretched injury.

And then I began to pass out.

Nurse friend Lydia took my dropping pulse and made me sit, then tried to lift my feet up over my head as I screamed at her as to why she thought this was a good idea.

She’s a pretty DANG GOOD Tribute as well, because she crafted me a sling out of the long-sleeved(?!?!) shirt she had been wearing around her waist to cover the backside of her leggings-as-pants. I might’ve thought her modesty was silly, but I did appreciate the sling. So tip: always have a modest friend in the Arena with you.

I stood up again, then went right back to passing out.

After a minute of sitting, I decided. it was only a mile back. I could power through this.

I stood up again, began to walk, and Lydia decided from my paling face that she’d leave me with Ashley to go “get help.” I wasn’t sure what that meant but didn’t care because I was passing out again. I reasoned that the only way through this was through it and kept walking, and I am here to testify – that is sound medical decision making. The passing out faded, and I slowly made the mile trek back, trying desperately to ignore the pain of every wiggle in my arm.

The hurt began fading as we marched on, taking orange then red then blue then boardwalk trails, carefully retracing our steps.

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As we approached the last trail, Lydia met us with water, an apple, a blood pressure cuff, more of our friends, and a state park official, who was pleasantly surprised that I’d done the hard work of removing myself from a mile of woods without his help.

He filed an “incident report”, taking my name and address and driver’s license number, while I nervously asked if I was getting banned from state parks and begged him not to prohibit trail running because half my friends would hate me. He told me to go to the ER and I nodded promisingly.

He left, and Lydia asked, “What’s the plan?”

I said, “Let’s go back to the house and chill.”

After all, it’s just an arm. There are way worse things to be without. It is my left arm and I’m left-handed, but still. Just an arm.

(I did get a phone consult from my Miracle Max Physical Therapist and a text consult from our shared Pediatrician, and they agreed that I’d probably live without an ER visit.)

(I did indeed live but also totally got stuck in my sports bra for about 20 minutes, but because I’m a DANG GOOD TRIBUTE, I fought that sports bra and I WON.)

We came home on Sunday, so I made a stop by Urgent Care. Turns out, my elbow, although swollen and oddly shaped, was not broken. But my index finger, which I didn’t even realize was hurt until hours after the fall, was indeed broken.

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(Luckily I typed most of this post the night before. Broken fingers are WAY easier to type with than metal splints.)

(Apparently my high threshold for pain is detrimental to my health.)

But I can now add two new treacheries to the long list of Alabama Hunger Games Hazards.

Venomous snakes and spiders. Mosquitoes. Horse flies and Yellow Flies. Chiggers. Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac. Lots of fire ants. The dreaded Cow Ant. Bees. Wasps. Hornets. Yellowjackets. Dirt Daubers. Ticks. Snapping Turtles. Flying cockroaches. Stinging Ladybugs. Poisonous Caterpillars. Bats. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Alligators. Coyotes. Armadillos. Post-Running Smoothies. And Shoe-Trapping Roots.

How many of these things do you have in your area? Surely we all equally live in The Hunger Games. Right?

How Mommy Nobel Peace Prizes are Won.

“I’m having a bad day.”

“I’m having a bad day too.”

“Wanna join forces and do something really difficult together?”

“Sure! Let’s be sure to take on something so challenging that it will surely be physically impossible for us to accomplish it with the quantity and ages of children that will be accompanying us.”

“Perfect! I’ll pick you up at noon.”

We didn’t actually say that, but we should’ve.

Not-Crazy-Renee and I were happily (sadly) each at our own home with our own children, brooding about different things. It was Friday, and somehow we decided that five kids and two mommies in the middle of the woods was better than going it alone at our separate houses.

So I took Renee to a hiking location that she’d never been to before, whose particular parking place in question was in a quite sketch location (across the street from what is nearly certainly a chop shop – I promised her van would be there when we returned – and crossed my fingers just in case), and we set off on a 2 1/3 mile hike with a 9 year old, two 5 year olds, a 2 year old, and a 6 month old – and a couple nets and jars for tadpole catching.

This doesn’t seem like a fantastic idea.

And let me assure you. It’s not a fantastic idea.

There were moments. Oh, were there moments.

There were bugs in the eyeballs…poison ivy everywhere…

“The pond smells bad! I wanna go!”

“I’m so tiiiiired. I just CAN’T keep up.”

“I can’t walk any further!!”

“DO NOT WALK RIGHT THROUGH THE POISON IVY SON HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU?!”

<wails>

<scrapes>

<muddy hands / knees / hair>

“YOUR HAIR IS HANGING IN THE MUDDY NET!”

“I NEEEEEEEEED A WET WIPE I CAN’T BE MUDDY ANY LONGER!!!”

<screaming sleepy baby>

“Okay it’s time to put down the frog. Put him down. Push him out of your hand. Put down the frog. NO DON’T PUT YOUR ARM IN THE POISON IVY TO PUT THE FROG DOWN —- DROP THE FROG!!!

“DO. NOT. DRAG. YOUR. BROTHER!”

There was a moment, one mile from the van that was hopefully not chopped, where we both looked at each other with that look that we were certain there was no probable way that we would make it out of this hike with all five children and two mothers still in good working order. She had a baby on her front and a tadpole catching kit on her back, I had a toddler on my shoulders, and there were STILL three whiny children completely surrounding us on the ground.

We needed a white flag.

We. Were. Done.

But we did make it out. Amazingly, that last mile went shockingly well. And so, we rewarded ourselves RICHLY.

As we collected our reward, the backseat piped up, of course. “Can we have a cake pop??”

“No. This is a Mommy-Reward-Only trip to Starbucks.”

“Reward for what?!”

“For taking you children into the woods and not losing our MINDS. (Or at least if we did, finding them again before we left.)

We all went back to my house and had a grand poison ivy wash party in the bathtub.

And then I shooed my neighbors away, told my kids to knock themselves out playing iPad (literally if they wanted to I really didn’t care), and I took a shower and edited the photos from our epically disastrous hike.

Except I quickly discovered that I didn’t take any photos of the screaming, hopeless, Oh Dear God how are we going to get out of here moments. And also that children are never more beautiful than when they’re physically nowhere around but you’re quietly enjoying editing photos of their pretty faces.

Like for instance, this photo. I was helping some child with some emergency and Renee needed to put a fussy baby back into the Ergo. So what did she do? She handed fussy baby to my kid for a minute so she could reposition the baby carrier. And somehow, magically, it worked for a hot minute.

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They’re so quiet and it’s so adorable and still. You’d never know that Noah just screamed “OWWWW!! He’s sitting on my firehose!!”

Or, that just a minute after taking this picture,

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Noah saw a pack of gummies, forgot he was holding a baby, grabbed the gummies with one hand and started opening them with the other hand, thereby leaving no hands and arms around the baby in his lap, letting the baby flay out onto the dock.

“Hold the baby Hold the baby HOLD THE BABBBBY!!!”

<wails from baby>

But you’d never know it from the pictures.

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(With regards to this event, Ali had the following conversation later that night with Chris…

Ali: “Noah was holding Joshua but then he forgot to hold him because he decided to eat some gummies and Joshua fell and almost hit his head.”

Chris: “That’s okay. Noah doesn’t have a lot of experience holding babies yet.”

Ali: “Yeah and when he has held babies before, it was on the soft couch. And there weren’t snacks around.”)

(Moral of the story: It is child endangerment to let five year olds hold babies when snacks could become visible.)

Also. Child quarrels are so much more adorable when had in the woods…and also when photographed with NO SOUND.

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And little explorers look much more Indiana Jonesish when you can’t hear the Mothers yelling, “Come back! It’s time to come out of the cave!!!” Because we really didn’t want to crawl in after him.

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(And, if photographed just so (aka accidentally out of focus), children can even look like ghosts of children past. How much would you freak out if you looked in a small railbed tunnel in the middle of nowhere and saw this.)

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When reviewing photographs, you just remember the thrill of exploring new worlds and old civilizations – not the overwhelming feeling of HOLY-CRAP-PLEASE-DON’T-LET-THOSE-GIANT-CAMEL-CRICKETS-JUMP-INTO-HER-HAIR.

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And then sometimes you’re distracting all the kids so that your friend can attempt to catch a frog…or tadpoles…or just rinse out the giant clumps of mud the children collected in the tadpole-catching-nets. And somehow, the lighting is just perfect and the children are all smiling and…

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…and then you realize that your friend is actually doing some sort of AMAZING dance behind your head to get those children to smile. But whatev. Nothing matters but this tiny perfect second in the middle of miserable chaos.

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But the best picture I captured on that unforgettable, delightful, fantastic, can’t-wait-to-do-it-again hike was a particularly beautiful bonding moment (and might I say, at an exceptionally nice angle) between Not-Crazy-Renee and Noah, while they both desperately searched for tadpoles.

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Yes. The pictures always make the trauma worth it.