Signs of Vacation.

A flock of Emus in a Wastewater treatment plant…

The Church of Holy Water/Wrestling Federation…

A Labelmakered all-caps toilet instruction – “DO NOT FLUSH ANYTHING BUT TISSUE” – to which we almost left a post-it note underneath it saying, “But where do we put the poo?”…

These are the things I didn’t manage to get photos of on our family vacation.

I hope that the things I did manage to capture will help you forgive me.

Sign 1

So many questions.

1. What were adults using it for?
2. If my son gets stuck at the top, panics, and requires a rescue from his mother, will I be tackled by the Playground Police?
3. Are there other equal provisions for adult play in your city? Or is there an issue of play inequality?
4. What about teenagers? I feel like there is a definite age bracket that is left undefined as to their play legality.

This sign was facing an automatic toilet. A toilet that flushed two times while I was sitting on it.

Sign 2

So….the sign was for me, or the commode?

I appreciated that they acknowledged that at one time they were okay with this. But NO MORE.

Sign 3

And finally…I just…what to say…except God Bless America.

Wrestling Midget Match

In case you wanted to see where this Battle Royal took place, I captured that for you as well. Not at all creepy or suspect. Not. At. All.

Wrestling

We did not, however, visit that establishment during family vacation. I know you’re disappointed. So am I. It would have made an AMAZING blog post.

Instead, we took our children to Noccalula Falls Park, albeit slightly less educational.

Kids at Noccalula Falls

Ali was intensely more nervous than she looks. She adored the train ride, the petting zoo, the rock stairs, the playground, and every other part of the park – but not having a giant rock ledge hanging over her head.

And no, the logic of “It’s been here for thousands of years” did not help her at all. Nor did “if we die it will be so quick you won’t even know it.”

Escape was sweet.

Train Noccalula Falls b

And she was then able to appreciate the view from the top much more effectively.

Noccalula Falls from the top

Then we moved onward to Guntersville, where we met up with the rest of my family.

To refresh your memory, my family exchanges no gifts during the year (except for the children of course) and instead, we go on a trip together once a year.

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We failed miserably and didn’t get a formal group shot this year, but the above picture sums it up pretty well, except for missing Chris-the-picture-taker. Yes, Noah is still shirtless even on vacation, and yes, Eli is still fantastic at photo facial expressions.

This year, we stayed in a house on Lake Guntersville in beautiful North Alabama, and really didn’t do too much else aside from relaxing on the lake, including “fishing” with Gramamma,

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Paddle boating, for which I discovered I was extremely fond of and maybe even a little obsessed,

Paddle Boating

(and it was made all the more rewarding by my mapping and logging it like a dweeb,)

Map My Run Paddleboating

And playing an intricate mermaid game in the water – one that was too secretive to be photographed.

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Inside the house, there were games of Rummikub and Uno, which are, at the age of the children involved, only games that grandparents have enough patience to carry out.

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And of course, the kids did plenty of what kids these days do best.

Kids on Devices

Thanks to my Dad who unofficially volunteered to be my evening chauffeur (most likely because he wanted a moment of silence), I was able to catch the sunset every night.

First Sunset

Second Sunset Later

Second Sunset

Third Sunset

I even broke my most important rule and…got a sunrise picture.

Sunrise

While running with Chris earlier than I even like to acknowledge exists.

Sunrise Run

Because I’m that obsessed with running. It’s like sleep doesn’t even matter anymore. But more about that in a later post.

Sunrise Third Picture

When you’re in a place as beautiful as Guntersville, it’s best to break a few rules to get to appreciate it at its finest.

Wayne Feeds

………….especially since vacation ended with health death for half the family.

Bored at Doctor Visit

Noah and I were the first to crumble, to what the doctor told us was “just viral” but turned out to be quite bacterial and in need of antibiotics. Why do doctors hate me so?

Doctor Visit

Others have since fallen, Ali included, and Noah and I are on our fifth day of impending fatality. Family vacation has its price.

While Noah and I were at the doctor, we ran across a couple more fantastic signs – such as, the most depressed looking stick figure ever created. I want to be the kind of person that can convey such depth of emotion with so little detail.

Can't Go

And yet more puzzling flush instructions.

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I don’t even know what a toliet is, but I’m assuming it’s French.

But nothing…NOTHING I SAY…will ever compare with this.

Wrestling Midget Match

God Bless America.

The Ticket to Preschool.

As I mentioned a few months ago, Noah is attending Preschool this fall – three days a week, and his teacher is his precious Godmother, Miss Janey.

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…whom he calls “Miss Jamie”, because I make him eat lunch with Jamie of Jamie’s Rabbits way too often and once one has encountered Jamie and her Rabbits they’re hard to flush from one’s mind – even at the expense of mispronouncing one’s own Godmother’s name.

(Sorry, Miss Janey.)

At parent orientation, they told us that they would be having two parties for the moms on the first day: a “Coffee and Kleenex Party” on one side, and a “Coffee and Kick-Your-Heels-Up” Party on the other.

Which is when I realized that I am some sort of misfit alien – because I neither felt like crying or cheering.

On the one hand, I knew I wouldn’t have a “the first day of the rest of his life” moment because at this time, I plan on bringing him back home for school next year – I just needed a year to focus on second grade with Ali without his vast disapproval in the background of every subject, and I knew he’d love the chance to be in Miss Janey’s class.

On the other hand, I’m not kicking my heels up because I’m a bit nervous about the round-trip drive three times a week (it’s not exactly close to my house) and…I’ve still got to teach second grade.

Therefore, the sum of my feelings about my son going to preschool is…COMPLETELY NEUTRAL.

I told you. I am alien. I should be kicked out of the Mommy League.

So, on his first day, I was somewhat nervously timing the drive, realizing that I was going to routinely hit some morning traffic, carefully skirting around two fresh wrecks on the interstate, and in general feeling neutral.

I got off the interstate with only a few minutes to spare and began down a freshly created road on which I’d only traveled a couple of times. I was checking it out, and I even remember looking for a speed limit sign, which is when, instead, I saw a motorcycle cop.

Hello, first day of school.

Goodbye, Neutral Feelings.

He pulled me over and the kids began their flood of questions about what evil I had executed to be trapped by a POLICEMAN.

Ali was reassuring, telling Noah, “Don’t worry, Noah – he’s on a motorcycle, so he can’t take us all to jail.”

I frantically began rooting around in my glove compartment for my registration and had it in my lap when he walked up.

“Hello ma’am. I need to see your license and insurance card.”

But I went to all that trouble to find my registration and I actually *have* it thanks to my husband who takes care of these things…don’t you want to see it?

I nodded and modified my search parameters to my wallet, where my license never wants to come out and my insurance card is always at least two policy periods out of date.

“I’m sorry I promise my insurance is current but I have an old card. I can get on the app on my phone or call my State Farm agent…”

“Okay ma’am. You figure that out while I run your license.”

Fortunately I don’t find much need for my State Farm app, resulting in it unfortunately not being logged in and more unfortunately me having no idea what my user ID and password were.

I tried every likely combination with shaking hands, still watching the clock leading up to Preschool Delivery Time.

The children continued to discuss my criminal past, present, and future in the backseat.

I finally resorted to calling State Farm’s toll-free app support number, knowing that customer support never ends well. By the time I got a human on the line, the cop was back at my door with a ticket.

I tried to rush Ms. State Farm through the process but she would not be rushed.

In fact, she needed to verify my identity fourfold. Because someone besides me could have totally known three out of four of these questions.

1. What is your date of birth?

2. What make of car was registered to you when you lived at X address? [Three houses ago, from which we moved in 2002.]

3. How much did you pay for the house at Y address? [Our current address, which we bought 7 years ago.]

“I’m sorry but I have a policeman standing at my door can we hurry this along? I just need my insurance card.”

“No ma’am. I must completely verify your identity.”

4. What year was the house at Z address built? [Two residences ago, because I memorize what year every house I live in was built.]

Thankfully, the last three questions were multiple choice BUT STILL. THAT WAS NOT LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR. That was like the most suspicious nosiest most awful neighbor no one ever wanted. That neighbor is probably breaking into my back door right now just to see how clean I keep my bathroom.

(Not very.)

During the above questioning, the cop stood awkwardly at my door as I kept whispering apologies and explaining what the problem was. After question four, he said,

“Can you ask her to hold?”

I tried to get a word in edgewise but my Neighbor Nightmare was now giving me my username and a scripted list of instructions. As soon as she took a break, I said “thankyougoodbye” and hung up before she could ask me to take a survey on her exemplary interrogation skills.

I turned to the cop. “I’m so so so so sorry. I have my username now and should be able to reset my password and then get into the app and show you my current insurance card.”

“I tell you what, ma’am. Let’s forget about the insurance card. Here’s your ticket. Have a good day.”

Lesson Learned: Motorcycle Cops hate customer service as much as I do.

And as an added bonus, I now know the speed limit on that new road.

(35, if you must know.)

(And I was doing 54.)

(Because it looked like an interstate and there’s nothing on either side.)

(It wasn’t unreasonable.)

(But don’t ask my kids if they concur because they’re now convinced I deserve to go to jail.)

Thankfully I had taken happy First Day of School pictures of Noah before we left the house,

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Because his level of distrust for me after The Incident rendered his walking-in pictures as decisively suspicious, disillusioned, and humiliated.

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I deserved it.

He immediately found the water fountain to wash away the bad taste my parenting had given him,

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then started down the long hallway to freedom from me,

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and from his ever-present always-directing older sister.

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Happy first day of school, kid. And by the way, your Mommy’s a criminal.

….And might need that Coffee and Kleenex party after all.

Wal-Mart’s Revenge.

Sam’s Club.

Despite my feelings toward his mother Wal-Mart that I shared without reserve last week, I’ve always found Sam to be a delightful fellow.

Big quantities, cheap prices, more locations than Costco, adorable little old ladies handing out samples…

Actually that last point is starting to change. Because my third to last visit brought me in contact with three different types of sample distribution methods:

1. A vending machine that requested I swipe my Sam’s card in exchange for it to spit out my sample into a receptacle with a complete lack of warmth and care,

2. A scowl-faced teenager sitting at the Pizza Sample Table who LIT-RALLY never looked up from his phone the entire time my children, with much analysis, picked out their many samples, and

3. The delightful vintage-Sam’s smiling old lady handing out peach samples – which were so good that we bought some – for which she thanked us profusely, because delightful old ladies are only paid commission. We ate two, then threw the rest away because they were complete mush and nothing like her samples. Two weeks later, we read all of the recall articles clearly implicating our Mush Peaches as being contaminated with Listeria.

I hope she enjoyed her trip to the bank compliments of our disease-ridden peach charity.

But that’s not the point of today’s post.

Today’s post is about the friendliness of other Sam’s shoppers. After all, we all paid to be there. We’re all in this together. We are, for sure, A CLUB.

Actually, friendliness might also not always be true. On my second to last visit, I was coming around a corner when an elderly shopper caned me.

No seriously – she had been carrying her four-pronged cane around in her jumbo-sized shopping cart and picked that exact second to remove her cane from its place of resting and swing it around her head like a cowboy wrangling cattle before setting it on the ground with the nice addition of a piece of my skull.

I was her cow that day.

But that’s not the point of today’s post, either.

Today’s post is about our very last visit to Sam’s Club – Thursday night.

Chris was going to quickly run in and get the two items he needed, but Noah had to pee and I always have to pee, so we drug Ali along with us and turned it into a family affair.

We bathroomed, we shopped, we avoided delightful old sample ladies handing out plagues like candy, and we paid for our purchases.

But Chris wanted to get a fountain drink, so after we paid, we hauled our purchases and our progeny over to the refreshment counter.

As they thought they had done their Sam’s duty, the children were restless, running circles around our legs and such.

The lady directly behind Chris caught a glimpse of Noah on one of his go-rounds.

She gasped.

“Ohhhh mah. Doesn’t he just have the purtiest eyes???”

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Then Ali came around the corner of my right thigh.

“AND HERS TOO!!! Mah goodness. So lovely.”

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She turned her attention to squinting at my eyes, as they always do. I gave my typical muttered response of, “Yes, they got all of the recessive genes – I’m not sure how.”

She replied, “Well maybe they got their Daddy’s eyes!”, and motioned to Chris, who had his back to us.

(As if I might have forgotten to consider him in the explanation of the genetic makeup of our children.)

“No, his eyes are just like mine. They got their Grandparent’s eyes, actually.”

“Oh, I see. Well, they’re just lovely.”

We paid, she paid, and we moved on.

As we were juggling our purchases at a table so that Chris could fill his drink, the lady that was behind the eye-noticing lady walked up to us.

She patted us both on the shoulders simultaneously and said,

“I tell you what. Y’all sure do look good to be grandparents.”

I laughed, thinking she was making a weird joke that I didn’t quite understand.

I choked, when I looked into her eyes and saw her genuineness.

I died on the inside, when I realized that THAT LADY ACTUALLY THOUGHT I COULD POSSIBLY BE A GRANDMOTHER.

OF A THREE AND SEVEN YEAR OLD.

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Did Wal-Mart plant this lady here to pay me back for last week’s blog post? Or is Karma just actually that real and swift?

You win, Wal-Mart. You. Win.

I obsessively did the math in my head. Assuming I look like my age of 32, which is a generous assumption, apparently, I would have had to have been twelve and a half, and my daughter would have had to have been twelve and a half – at delivery, not conception – for me to be Ali’s grandmother.

Chris walked to the drink machine and our new friend followed him before I could share these figures with her because I had accidentally swallowed and digested my tongue.

She patted him again and said, “Aren’t grandchildren just tha best?! I’m a grandmother also. And I look purty good too, dontcha think?”

He smiled and agreed.

SMILED. AND AGREED.

Because yes.

Why not?

Sure.

Let’s play Grandparents.

Because that doesn’t at all make me feel like I need to buy every wrinkle cream in the western hemisphere.

Luckily, Sam’s Club has them all – in jumbo sizes.