Here’s something I didn’t know:
That I would inflict that competitive nature on my kids.
We travelled to Minneapolis to visit some friends, right around Halloween. Sophie and Maggie had store-bought costumes so that they could trick-or-treat in the neighborhood. In fact, while we were there, the fancy commercial area (Edina) had a Halloween Festival which was happening. Spooky tractor ride, pumpkin bowling, even trick-or-treating! So, we got the kids dressed up and walked over.
Sophie and Maggie were in matching flower outfits, and did look pretty cute. When we heard there was a costume contest, we thought – hey, let’s enter the kids, and see what happens. Little did the locals know that we came loaded for bear, with two matching cute kids, and four loud, shameless adults. After planted ourselves throughout the audience, we whooped it up for the “Flower Sisters”, and sure enough, came in first place.
Don’t believe me? They even put our picture on their website: http://www.50thandfrance.com/events/pumpkin.html
Needless to say, when we showed up for the Christmas Festival, we were not allowed to enter any contests, amidst whispers of “ringers”.
Here’s something I knew:
During RAGBRAI in 1993, I had a heckuva good time. One of the memories from that trip across Iowa was going off the side of the road and peeing in the corn. Maybe it wasn’t the highlight, but every guy enjoys the feeling of using the side of the road as his urinal.
Here’s something I didn’t know:
That I would be witness to my own child having that experience 13 years later. There’s Sophie, finding her zen place while watching the corn grow in the middle of Iowa.
So this is it.
We’ve moved from the house which we had spent months getting just the way we liked it. We’ve left a city that Betsy has loved since she was a teenager. We’ve packed up our lives into boxes, put them in storage, and left them in Charlestown.
And gone to Omaha.
I have nothing against Omaha. I didn’t know exactly where it was until my interview out here, so I didn’t have much of an opinion one way or the other. But why move there? Why move to a place which is an eight hour drive to a major city?
Of course it was for a job. Hey, after all, my parents moved plenty of times – both before I was born and when I was a kid. So how hard could it be? Of course, by the time they were in their thirties their roving days were over, and they ended up in the same general location as the rest of their families.
Not us, though. In some ways we’re much further (even though not so much geographically). After all, plenty of people can justify a vacation in Boston (with a side trip to visit with us), or meet up after a business trip there. Out here, however, we’ve got only one friend who said he would swing by – and that’s because there’s a plant “in the corn” about 100 miles away that he’s required to visit every few months.
I can’t say it’s a complete “fish out of water” story – after all, I grew up in a mid-sized Midwestern city. But perhaps instead it’s a little more subtle. This is like what I remember growing up, but not quite the same. It reminds me of visiting a place like Canada, where almost everything seems the same until you see a cereal box written in two languages.
Now we’re here, and while we haven’t settled in, I feel like we’re at least surviving. Yes, Betsy is miserable and keeps wishing we could go “home”. Yes, I’m still looking for the Dunkin’ Donuts. Yes, we live in a temporary apartment that is carpeted under Maggie’s high chair, which is really annoying.
But we’re surviving.
Last week we went on a family road trip. It was a big event, all four of us in the car, heading out on the road (insert your favorite Jack Kerouac quote here). The destination for our big voyage was “New Concepts Hair Salon (and Retail Center)”. Yes, that’s right. We loaded up the car and headed for an hour ride to get a hair cut (actually three hair cuts since Maggie doesn’t have any hair yet).
Why so far? Hasn’t Boston discovered the scissor yet?
No, it was because of Laurel, who has been cutting my hair for 7 years now. The ride is only a few minutes from work, but Betsy likes the way she cuts her hair too. And Sophie has gotten into the game as well, treating the barber’s chair as her own personal throne (although ruling a kingdom while wearing a smock seems less than regal).
While on this journey, I tried to come up with a game to keep Sophie occupied. The last time she drove down she didn’t last the whole way before throwing a fit (this is a kid who knows her T stop yet can’t sit in a car for an hour). So, what’s the typical game you would have for a child? Of course, a “Do you see a something?” game!
On the road to Middleborough, there isn’t much scenery, at least that you can describe to a two year old. “Can you see a capped landfill?” “Can you find a State Trooper pulling me over?” “Can you see the suburban sprawl?” None of those worked.
We ended up focusing on signs, cars, and bridges. “Can you find a red car?” “Can you find a green sign?” Sounds like a hoot. Until she gets hooked, like a kid on crack – or the bahbah. A few minutes of the game, and all of a sudden, she starts calling out, “I find something else!” And we have to come up with a new goal for her.
Can you imagine how many green signs and red cards we found during the hour ride? And don’t think you can give her something that’s not easy to find – she gives up after about thirty seconds, and starts up again. “I don’t see it. I find something else!”
The good news is we don’t use the card all that often – once a week going to gymnastics. The bad news is that the 80’s music I listen to on the ride gets drowned out – “Daddy, I find something else!”.
While she was away (for all of four days), I was amazed how much easier it was with one child rather than two – we slept in a little later, I didn’t have to scramble trying to keep two kids entertained at the same time, and Betsy had a much easier job during the day (trying to coordinate two naps is tougher than any sales deal she’s ever done).
The other surprise was how she reacted when she came home – even though she was able to spend a lot of time with Mimi, she was soooo excited to see us when she got back from Ohio. I spent most of the weekend playing with her – she did not want to leave my side at all. The first thirty minutes after she got home was spent playing gymnastics (which is basically me flipping her over my shoulders onto the couch). She was so revved up all day she did not take a nap (ugh!), and was always looking to show me something new.
Wow…she likes us, she really likes us!
Note to self: A two year-old is too young to be taught the subtlety of gardening, especially the part where you soak the seeds in cups of water to get them started. A two year-old seems to think the idea of taking those cups of water and pouring them into each other, onto the table, the floor, and all over herself is great fun. Sorry, Mommy, the seeds could not be saved.
Two year-olds are good at picking up sticks in the backyard and dragging them into the house to be burned in the fireplace. Sophie is still working on her sense of perspective, since the sticks usually come nowhere near fitting in the fireplace. She also not aware of minor things like property rights, since she has no problem going into the neighbors yard if they have better sticks. At least she’s not picking the neighbor’s flowers….yet.
In this house we love to sing songs….well, make that I love to sing songs. Since I’m not a big fan of memorizing the words, I just make them up as I go. I figure that anyone who is listening probably hates my complete lack of tonality more than butchering the lyrics.
After all, that’s why they have websites like this.
Since the kids, my repertoire has been limited to songs from kid shows. Sophie is in her Dora the Explorer phase, so all I know are Dora songs. Not much to work with there. They have the Map Song:
I’m the map, I’m the map, I’m the map.
I’m the map,
I’m the map, I’m the map, I’m the map!
But I can even butcher Dora’s simple lyrics. I’ve taken the Dora the Explorer theme song, and changed it into:
You know you can do it, just don’t make a big poo-it!
OK, so I’m no Bernie Taupin.
Thankfully, Sophie has picked it up now too, singing the theme song to Miffy:
Mommy, she’s a little crazy,
Daddy, he’s a little crazy,
Sophie, she’s a little crazy.
I’m not wild about the commentary on the family mental health, but I’ll take what I can get.