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.

It’s Not Summer Until Somebody Cries at Swim Lessons.

I have a stubborn, finicky five-year-old. Who tries to convince me and everyone else otherwise with his charming blue eyes.

Noah

No really. He’s stubborn and finicky.

It is for this reason that, when he began swimming on his own two weeks before his first round of swimming lessons, I texted his father and said “Swim lessons should be a breeze. Unless of course he decides to make me go insane.”

I am fully aware of his abilities to make up his mind not to do wonderful, delightful things and nothing will change his mind.

Such as the time we blessed the children with a trip to our local minor league baseball stadium that houses half a dozen brilliantly unique inflatables, which he normally adores. But for completely mystifying reasons, he refused to get on any of them. Then, when we went to our seats, he begged us to take him back to the inflatables. When we decided to go back to the inflatables much later, he refused to play on them again.

So yeah.

He can be like that.

But. I blame the failure of his swim lessons completely elsewhere.

You may remember, three years ago, that his older sister got fired from swim lessons halfway through her first week for refusing to put her face in the water. But, despite being totally cool with his face submerged, Noah didn’t make it nearly that far.

The wonderful teacher that we used with Ali hasn’t taught the last couple years, so we decided to try a different method of lessons for Noah – lessons provided through the pool of which we are members.

It was inexpensive, close by, and seemed like a great solution. Ali could swim while he lessoned, and we could even use our enrollment fee to pay all but $10 of the lesson fees!

WHAT could go wrong?

I wasn’t super thrilled that it was four days a week for two weeks – I prefer more of a spontaneous lifestyle, and eight appointments in ten days was definitely a cramp to my style. But kids need swimming lessons. Parents must make sacrifices.

We showed up on the first day and swam for a bit, then headed to the indoor pool for lesson time. The teacher was finishing up with the class before.

We sat for a bit and watched – surely this would be good for the kid to get to see the easy easy things he would have to do – all of which were way below his self-taught abilities.

Then it was his turn. He was in a class with five other kids, all of whom looked younger than him. Six 3-5 year olds sat on the side of the pool, squished together as only 3-5 year olds will do. I sat off to the side, watching. Another mother came and sat next to me, waving her hand in front of her face as if she had the vapors* and and saying “I am SO nervous!”

WHAT could there possibly be to create nervousness??

* I know “the vapors” is a thing of the past, since now vapers are people who smoke fake cigarettes. But hopefully we’re all old enough to remember what the vapors meant five years ago. However, this post will be a fascinating relic in five more years.

The teacher stood in front of the gaggle of tiny humans, saying something quietly to each one of them. They silently sat, staring at her.

After going down the whole row, she looked incredulously at me and Nervous-Mom. She threw her hands up and with wide, shocked eyes, yelled across the pool, “They won’t even tell me their names!!”

Um. Yeah. They’re 3-5 year olds. They don’t talk to strangers until they warm up to them.

Duh.

I started to join Nervous-Mom in her nervousness, but for different reasons.

An assistant teacher walked up and hopped in the pool next to shocked and dismayed teacher-who-has-never-met-a-small-child.

She looked at the new arrival and threw her hands up again. “They won’t even TELL ME THEIR NAMES!! WHAT am I supposed to even DO?!”

Assistant teacher said quiet and calming words. They seemed to work, because Teacher-From-Mars took a breath, got her paddle board and convinced Nervous-Mom’s daughter to grab ahold of it and kick her feet. Then the second kid. And then it was Noah’s turn. She motioned to him and pointed to the board. Then motioned again, impatience pouring out of her eyeballs.

I saw Noah begin to get up from his middle position in the squished gaggle of kids. This couldn’t be good. I figured I’d walk over and try to help.

I got within talking distance and told Noah calmly that he needed to obey his teacher, all while she nodded vehemently and looked at me with an incredulous and hateful gaze for creating such a disobedient human.

Noah ran over to me, threw his arms around me, and started crying.

They weren’t shy tears or belligerent tears this time.

These were real tears of “someone is not being nice to me and I can sense it.”

I removed him from the swim lesson area and found a quiet corner.

I tried reasoning.

I tried bargaining.

I tried bribing.

We tried FaceTiming his father and letting him reason and bargain and bribe.

Noah couldn’t quit crying and made it clear that he could not participate in swim lessons.

Every now and then I glanced behind me to keep an eye on Ali, who was swimming laps, and also caught glimpses of Teacher-The-Child-Hater.

One time there was exaggerated eye rolling.

Another, arms thrown up.

Incredulous eyes and looking at a tiny humans like they were the stupidest.

Looks of shock and mistreatment like these little beings came just to torment her otherwise perfect existence.

Looking around at all the parents, trying to find sympathy for her martydom.

Nope.

Nope.

Nope.

I’m one of those moms that think their kid needs to do what they are told to do, but there was NO WAY that I wanted to put up with this teacher for eight days, let alone subject my tiny progeny to her.

I went and found the paperwork girl that had come around to get our information earlier. I informed her nicely, “This isn’t going to work for us. He’s not going to be able to do it. He could hear and sense her stress and it totally freaked him out. We’re not going to come back.”

She didn’t flinch. “I understand totally. I’ll get you a refund processed.”

“Thank you.”

We went back out to the outside pool. Noah sat in a chair for a bit to gather himself, then jumped in and swam better than he’d ever swum.

After a while, a changing of the Lifeguard occurred, and I realized that the one standing right next to me had been this morning’s assistant. She realized it too, and soon we were talking.

She pointed out, “He’s swimming way too well for that class anyway.”

I asked, “Why was she so stressed? Or was it just me getting that vibe?”

“It wasn’t just you. She’s normally a swim team coach. She doesn’t know how to deal with kids who don’t swim.”

“And, apparently, little kids in general.”

“Yeah, that too.”

So the moral of this story is: stick with swim teachers that come with high recommendations, because some teachers may despise the “swim lessons” part of swim lessons. And if your kid teaches themselves to swim, that might just be good enough. At least for one summer.

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?