Forgiveness and Scrambled Eggs

Childhood... full of uncomfortable, awkward moments.

Childhood… full of uncomfortable, awkward moments.

Miles run Wednesday: 10

Near-maimings by a golf cart while on 10-mile run: 1

Miles to be run today: 4.5

I had a great childhood.

This is not a popular thing to say if publishers are, say, wanting to publish a memoir about someone’s years addicted to heroin or how someone’s parents drove them out into a field to be raised by wild dogs.

When I hear my peers talking about whether kids benefit from staying at home or being in daycare, I can speak about both: I had a stay-at-home mom for a while, a part-time stay-at-home mom, went to daycare for a few years and spent time as a latchkey kid. All pretty good, all things considered.

During the daycare years, I spent time at four different daycares; five if you count the hippy-dippy one I enjoyed for one week while we were living in an apartment just after a big move.

There is enough material for several posts about My Time in Daycare. For today, let me tell you all about the week-long, hippy-dippy one.

We had just moved to Atlanta, and we were living in some kind of new job-subsidized apartment until our house was ready. The apartment seemed cool to me, but my mom said that roaches the size of Rottweilers came out at night after my sister and I were already asleep.

While my mom and dad were working, or whatever they did during the day, my sister and I went to this daycare inside a large house in Buckhead.

There were lots of old-growth trees shading the house, and the lighting inside left a lot to be desired.

The kitchen took up the entire center of the house: a large, open, galley-style kitchen staffed with good-natured counselors who had big dreams of teaching 9-year-olds to cook long before the Food Network was even a gleam in a hungry executive’s eye. We got to help cook scrambled eggs and toast, and we were treated like short adults.

The outside area of the house was blessedly shady, unlike most daycare playgrounds of the era. July in Atlanta is not known for being cool. There was a chain-link fence around the small perimeter and swings and climbing equipment. The ground throughout was reminiscent of the Dust Bowl.

As a rising fourth-grader, I was one of the big kids, and a few of the older kids made friends with me right away. We hung out near the playground equipment, but we were too old and jaded to actually climb on it.

We also went on roller-skating field trips and took a turn at bowling.

Everyone was perfectly nice to me.

But I had a secret weakness. One that made my mom shake her head in agony.

I forgot to ask people their names.

Then, months later, it was too late to ask. It was horribly embarrassing, and every time, I would coach myself: remember to ask their names. But in this peaceful, commune-style setting, the scrambled eggs had thrown me off my game.

And one tall kid who had been kind to me… well, I wasn’t sure if it was even a boy or a girl. He/she had short hair, either a Dorothy Hamill cut or a boy bowl cut. Which was it? It tortured me in bed at night while the roaches were having their way with my mom and dad.

You would think that hearing the other kids call his/her name on the playground would be a good clue. But here was the problem:

It was either Jane or Jame(s). Which actually sound incredibly similar in kid parlance.

I had two more days of daycare before we moved out to The Burbs. It was time to find out, once and for all.

We were standing out on the cement patio, the dusty red clay swirling around us. Kelly, a girl who was clearly a girl and who I had trusted to be my friend for lo, these three days, was right there. And Jane/James was turned away.

So I leaned over and whispered to Kelly, “Is the name Jane or James?”

Kelly leaned back and looked me over, then grinned.

“Jane! Jane! Anne thinks you’re a boy!”

Awkward.

Jane turned around, and I studied her face as she studied mine.

I felt sorry for her, that she would be stuck here with Fair Weather Friend Kelly, who obviously didn’t have Girl Jane’s best interests at heart.

Poor Jane, embarrassed by the newcomer (me), unprotected by her so-called friend, and still, as far as I could tell, devoid of any gender identity.

We eyed each other carefully. “You thought I was a boy?” she said.

“No!” I choked out. “I couldn’t understand what people were calling you. Some girls have boy names; I don’t know!”

Jane turned out to be a forgiving sort. “Yeah, it’s Jane. Now let’s go make some lunch.”

I breathed out.

And I made a pact with myself to learn the names of every kid at my new daycare, a place unlikely to serve up forgiveness along with scrambled eggs.

When Destructor Robots Nearly Derailed Valentine’s

Yes, I'm recycling an image I've already used because I love these: Valentines my great aunt sent me from the 1930s.

Yes, I’m recycling an image I’ve already used because I love these: Valentines my great aunt sent me from the 1930s.

Miles run today: 4.5

Valentines waiting to be addressed on our kitchen table: 30

Days until Valentine’s Day: 1

February 13, 2007, 8 p.m.

“Put on your shoes!” I yell, grabbing my keys and purse. I am on my way to the grocery store with my two children, ages 4 and 6.

My husband is out of town, it’s raining, and the kids are already in their pajamas.

“Don’t worry; no one will see you. Put on a coat, and we’ll pretend you’re wearing pants,” I tell my son, who is in kindergarten.

“But there are spaceships on them!” he yells.

“Sometimes people like to wear pants with spaceships on them,” I say, as we dash to the minivan, getting pelted with raindrops.

My daughter is sobbing, her tiny hands clenched into fists.

Five minutes earlier7:55 p.m.

“Hey, are you almost finished with those cards? It’s time for bed.” I walk into the dining room, where my daughter is addressing Valentine’s Day cards for her preschool friends. There is a list of 22 friends, and my daughter is using preternaturally gorgeous penmanship to write each child’s name on the Disney Princess-themed cards.

She reaches for another card, but her hand comes up with nothing.

She leans over the box and scrambles around inside.

Nothing. No more cards.

I tilt the box sideways. “So you must be finished, right? You had 30 cards, and you only have 22 classmates and two teachers.”

“Nooooo,” she says, pushing them all into a neat pile and pointing at her list with checkmarks next to most names. “I have five left to do.”

“Five? How is that possible?” I check the inside of the box again.

Her eyes focus on her lap. Silence.

“What happened?” I say, touching her shoulder.

“Well… I made some Valentines for my… my… my animals.” She looks up at me, and her face turns blotchy red, a sure sign of tears brewing.

“How many did you make for your stuffed animals?” I ask, sinking into a chair and cradling my head.

She starts to whimper. “Well, one for Bear Bear, one for Pinkie, and Bunny-Bunny-Love, and a few others, and I might have messed up on one or two…”

8:05 p.m.

A herd or flock or swarm of Valentine’s-loving locusts has ravaged the pink-and-red card display.

I am standing with two kids in pajamas and tennis shoes, one crying, one asking for chocolate, and the 20-something business-casual types who drop into the grocery store at 8 p.m. to grab sushi are eyeing our ragtag group with suspicion.

There are no more Disney Princess cards. No more mermaids or cute bunnies. What is left: destructor megatronic robots and manga-style girls with huge alien eyes and miniskirts with thigh-high socks.

“Mo-oooo-ooommmmy! There are no more caaaaaaards!”

We are causing A Scene.

I rummage through every single shelf until at the very back, I find some mangled Bob the Builder cards and emerge victorious.

“Yes! Can We Find It? Yes! We! Can!” I sing.

“Bob the Builder is for boys!” my daughter cries, but her sobs have switched back to quiet whimpers.

“But you have boys in your class who will love these!”

My son rolls his eyes. “Can we go home now?”

By 8:45 p.m., my daughter finishes addressing her cards. And the next day, some crazy mom brings in Ferrero Rocher candies for the kids. It will be the last decent candy any of them see for at least 10 years.

February 13, 20138 a.m.

My husband has helped my daughter craft her own Valentines out of a rabbit picture she drew. He printed them off for her and only needed to cut them… but the nice cutting thingie is at work.

“Um. No. They need to get cut this morning,” I say, hands on hips.

He looks at me as he turns away from some serious work thing. “I’m working.”

I give him The Look and try to transfer some of my Valentine’s Day horror flashbacks onto his consciousness. This has never worked, and I don’t know why I expect it to today.

But he cuts them. “Are you sure you need 30? Are there really 30 people in the class?”

“She needs 30. Trust me on this.” Tears, buddy. Tears. Mayhem. Destructor Robots.

I have been remiss in accepting a couple of blog awards. I wanted to say thank you so much for thinking of me and point out some great blogs you may or may not be visiting.

versatileblogger111

Thank you, Mike Lince, who blogs at Applecore. He and his wife have set a course to move to a different country every six months. They just finished in Panama, now they’re in Mexico, they plan to move to Scotland in July, and after that, Spain. He writes some wonderfully informative posts with great photographs.

I’d like to pass this award on to a few bloggers (please feel free to use or ignore as necessary):

Vanessa-Jane Chapman’s new(ish) blog, Sugarness, will make you want to lick  your screen. (If it’s dusty, like mine, fight the urge.) Yummy chocolate recipes will start piling up on your to-bake list. Thanks, Vanessa, I think.

OK. Don’t be mad, because this one is a bit self-centered… I wrote a post about being 10, and someone else I follow got inspired to write about being 10, and hers was… wow! So much more (as Subtle Kate would say) muchier. Check out this post by Desertrose. So good.

Also, many of you already follow her, but JM McDowell’s serial mystery about archaeologist Meghan Bode, Buried Deeds, is one you won’t want to miss each Tuesday. Don’t worry; she’s on the 11th installment, but she has the rest archived if you’ve missed them.

Thank you to Kate at 4am Writer for the Blog of the Year Award for 2012. She is humble, kind, a generous blogger and friend to writers everywhere. I can’t wait to read her novel(s) when she’s ready to share them with the world.

I guess it’s a little late to be passing this one on… but I’ll share a few blogs that I’ve enjoyed over the past year so you can start enjoying them, too.

If you haven’t read one of Gabriela Blandy’s posts at A Sense of a Journey, you’ve been missing out. Fan.Tas.Tic. What a great writer! And if you want a title for your posts that draws people in, call up Gabriela. The woman can do no wrong.

You dig? I can’t stop looking at the photos of Florida at SmallHouseBigGarden. Gorgeous photos, she knows all the Latin names and growth habits of every blooming thing south of the Mason-Dixon line. Especially if you’re sitting inside on a drizzly rainy day like today, those photos will transport you somewhere warm. Divine.

I can relate to this fellow mom on the other side of the Atlantic. She turned 40 last year like I did, writes about shoes and lipstick and music and pyromaniacs and politicians and Cadbury’s. Yum. Check out TurningTwiceTwenty to read her latest musings.

And thanks for the awards!

Discomfort and Being in the Field(trip)

The gardener was harvesting sweet potatoes at Old Salem. Yum!

Miles run today: 3

Words written in my novel so far: 56,961

Bird nests we saw yesterday: 4

My ears hurt. My head hurts. I haven’t yet recovered from yesterday’s fourth grade field trip to Old Salem.

You wouldn’t believe how loud a bus full of fourth graders can be.

What?!?!

What’s that you’re saying?

Sorry. I couldn’t hear you.

When we arrived in Old Salem, a 1700s-era Moravian settlement, my six little female charges for the trip clustered around me as we looked at the map. (Maps again!)

“I’m hungry!” one piped up. It was 9:30 a.m.

“Me, too,” I said. “Too bad for us, right?”

One of the little girls in my group could have turned out to be an issue. But she had an uncanny knack for spying birds’ nests in the most unlikely places. We walked through a covered bridge, and she found a dove with her baby in the rafters. We visited the old fire station, and she saw an abandoned nest in the corner. And when we stopped to wait for a couple of stragglers along the sidewalk (there were always stragglers), she found a nest tucked way, way back under some vines.

Her bird-watching was very charming. Her hunger was alarming.

She kept walking up to me, sniffing in the area of my neck and saying, “You smell like food, and I’m hungry!”

I wondered whether I smelled like a bacon cheeseburger or tiramisu, but I was afraid to ask. I was a little concerned that she might bite off my arm when I least expected it.

When a wild turkey gobble-gobbled up in front of a parked car along our route, her eyes grew big. A bird. And a source of food. I didn’t want to get in the middle of that.

“Come on, girls! Let’s go get some ice cream!” I sang out, charging forward, Mary Poppins-style.

Even Moravian settlers had a weakness for ice cream, I suppose.

We learned about sugar making, crop growing, fire eliminating, baking, fire making, tavern attending before the Temperance movement made life a whole lot less fun, and pulleys. I found out about Lattimer, an African American who devised improvements in Edison’s original lightbulb design, and the tightly-strung ropes that served as a mattress foundation, which is what “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite” was referring to. I even discovered that Moravians had kitchens that were attached to the house and cellars, unlike most of the other American homes of the era.

I correctly identified mustard greens by taste and found out more than I ever wanted to know about the differences among sweet potatoes, potatoes and yams. (All, in my opinion, are yummy in my tummy.)

I felt sorry for the poor Moravians who never knew the comforts of central heating, box springs or Cadbury’s chocolate. They didn’t know what it was like to build sand castles while wearing a bikini or the joys of sweatpants.

They also didn’t have to deal with a bus full of riotous fourth graders.

My group was the last group on the bus, due to a long period of me herding catlike fourth grade girls out of the gift shop.

“Look! There are some seats at the back of the bus!” I said, pointing. Then I dropped into a seat way, way up at the front.

At least up there, no one tried to eat my arm.

Goodbye, Things.

What’s mine is yours, Bumblebee.

Miles run yesterday: 9

Words written in my novel so far: 47,585

Size of men’s running shoe that is too small for my 11-year-old: 10

Goodbye, Things

(an homage to Goodnight Moon)

In the great messy garage

There was a grown man’s bike

And some running shoes

And a picture of…

A mommy singing the blues

And there were wide and narrow ties-es

And t-shirts all sizes

And an old Blackberry

Lots of things to carry

Goodbye things.

Goodbye bike

Goodbye shoes

Goodbye mommy singing the blues

Goodbye ties-es

t-shirts, all sizes

Goodbye phones

Goodbye short bones

Goodbye things that used to be mine

Goodbye things for all time.

My parents like to laugh about my sister. She had a penchant for things that were theirs.

My dad still remembers the time he returned from a speaking engagement with a gift of a nice men’s watch. My teenage sister walked in and said, “Oh! I could use that.”

Watch: gone…

Along with some of my mom’s clothes, some furniture, jewelry and various and sundry items. Things always look more appealing at my parents’ house. With my sister being the younger child, my parents found her appropriation techniques charming.

My son seems to be following in his aunt’s footsteps. He has already appropriated my husband’s (adult men’s) road bike as well as borrowed my husband’s favorite ties for dressy functions.

“I try to point him towards my least favorite ties, but he likes the expensive ones,” my husband says, shaking his head.

Yesterday, I went to buy running shoes. I picked out some for me and scanned the clearance section for some low-priced ones for my 11-year-old son. We have poured SuperFastBoneGrow solution all over him, and he can’t seem to stay the same size for more than two minutes.

I dubiously handled a size 10 men’s Karhu pair, a glorious black-and-orange festival of happiness for your feet. “Size 10? I don’t know. He’s really only a 9 and a half.” The store manager assured me I could bring them back if they didn’t work.

My son tried them on when he got home; they were TOO SMALL.

What?!?!?!

Vexing.

When my husband got home, he held his head in his hands, then marched out to the garage.

He returned carrying some of his favorite running shoes, gently worn, that never worked for running but that he started wearing around town; a distinction only men might understand: dressy running shoes.

My son tried them on: they worked.

My husband is trying to make sense of what is happening to his carefully constructed life: he wonders if giving his children the shirt off of his back is actually necessary.

He really likes his shirts.

I am concerned that I will come home one day to find a lock on our closet door. Our son probably wouldn’t be able to get past it because it would lack high-tech functionality like a case-sensitive password.

My daughter is not far behind; she eyes my jewelry with an experienced eye. She pretends to sort my necklaces to “help me out.” But I know the tricks of the Goodbye Gang.

Parents, join with me:

Goodbye ring

Goodbye bling

Goodbye every little thing.

Run. (A Father’s Day Post)

My daughter drew the picture; my son edited it on Photoshop.

Goodberry’s ice cream eaten today: 1

Miles run today: 3 (not enough to counteract the 1 ice cream)

Chickens my husband rotisseried: 2

I bought my husband something for Father’s Day that might not have been a great idea. He’s going to run his first marathon in November, so he can’t yet put a magnet on his car that says, “26.2.” So I got him a nifty magnet that says:

run.

After he put it on his car, I studied it and wondered if maybe I was sending the wrong message to his fellow drivers. Like maybe they would read it after he cut in front of them signaled and changed lanes and think, “Ooooh. So now this guy is threatening me. Okay buddy, I’ll run. Run over you.”

Somehow 26.2 looks less sinister.

Back when we were dating, I got worried about my future husband because he liked to help people in other cars. I decided it must be because he didn’t grow up in The Big City like I did, and also, in England, the people you stopped to help probably weren’t carrying guns.

One time, two of his friends from England had come over to visit, and we took them to the beach, which was two hours away. We spent the day there, and after getting too much sun and sand, we headed home. About thirty minutes into our trip, we spotted a couple on the side of the road who were on a little trip of their own.

“Stop the car!” he said. “They look like they need help.”

We have a word for that where I come from: foolhardy. Also, sometimes, dead.

So we stopped, and I gnawed on the dashboard because I’m not a big nail biter. I watched through the rearview mirror as the people wandered around in a fog. I reviewed the steps for flagging down police officers, administering CPR and the little I had seen in movies about removing bullets with a pocket knife.

When he ran back to my car and said, “Let’s go,” he seemed peeved that the people were so high that they didn’t care if they got help or not.

I was just glad all of his major veins and arteries were functional.

We got back home without further incident, and from that day forward, I didn’t have to allow an extra hour of drive time in my planning because of drug addicts who had forgotten to put gas in the car.

It was around that time that a stray cat wandered into his life. He named her Flo and used every extra penny he earned (not much exaggeration involved here) to pay for her food, her litter box, and the three kittens she thoughtfully birthed in his apartment.

While helping down-and-out types at the side of the road earned my grudging respect, his care of Flo and her little ones made me realize that he would make a great dad someday. For his charges, there was no expense spared and no need unmet. Those kittens didn’t know how good they had it.

Our kids may not realize their good fortune until age 30. But I sure do. He’s the most terrific dad ever.

And I want to thank the druggies who did not have the money to buy a gun all those years ago.

Happy Father’s Day, D!

Life After Learning to Cut Grapes

Ah, butterfly… you were once a mere caterpillar.

My 11-year-old son’s shoe size: men’s 9 1/2

His weight when he was born: 9 lbs. 4 oz.

Times I have told him no: 8,453,921

Yesterday, the pediatrician asked my son to lie back on the examining table, and when he did, my son’s Sauconys stuck way up off the table.

“Whoa. What size shoe do you wear?” the pediatrician asked.

“Nine and a half.”

I felt proud and recognized it as the silly response it was. I did not make my son’s feet big. I did not grow him tall by peddling a bike at warp speed for several years to increase the inches.

And yet.

My friend’s almost-high-school-aged daughter recently wondered why her parents weren’t so happy with a bad grade. “Why do you care about my grades? They’re my grades.”

Oh, the karma building up for her in that one response. Karma: 1, Child: -14.

Parenting can elicit some weird emotions and change us in ways we never expected. Here is a cursory glance at what has changed for me in the past 11-plus years:

1. I learned how to say no. You might think this is a given. But look around at Target; there are parents who have never gained this gift.

Before kids, people used to ask me to stay late at work, take on their responsibilities, watch their children, and attend functions at ballrooms with white tablecloths and long speeches. I couldn’t say no.

Try one year at home with an infant who likes to play with electrical cords, and you learn “no” pretty darn quickly.

Now, it’s bigger things: “Mom, I want to go out on the main road on my bike; it’s so boring around here.”

Yeah, the main road where people have been known to go 20 miles over the speed limit and off into the grass, killing trees in the process.

Ummmmm… “No.”

“Mom, everyone else is buying ice cream from the ice cream truck, please please please please please…”

Seriously? Our ice cream truck comes through at 5:30 p.m. Right before dinner.

“No.”

I am officially the mean mom of the neighborhood.

2. I learned how to cut grapes. I never thought I’d be cutting a grape in half. I am quite sure I lost a couple of years of my life cutting grapes when my kids were young. I may never get them back, people.

Before I quit my public relations job to stay home, I worked at a hospital. Other than obvious ongoing issues like asthma and chronic illness, the top reasons for emergency room visits were choking on hot dogs and getting hurt on trampolines. This is an official public service announcement: cut kids’ hot dogs lengthwise and ban trampoline usage. You may hate me for saying this, but: there is no safe trampoline.

Okay. Serious injury averted.

3. I learned how to prioritize in a big picture kind of way. I get stressed. You can ask anyone who knows me and hears my voice going up a register when the kids can’t get their shoes on and get out the door.

But as far as worrying on a daily basis, I’m feeling pretty good if they have clothes on when they leave the house and don’t have any major illnesses. I’ve heard a rumor that nudity is frowned upon in the public schools.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I have a weird tooth thing, so dirty teeth and the fact that they might rot in your mouth really creeps me out. Clean teeth are, like, mandatory. Eating, showering, laughter and homework are also key.

Everything else can go jump in a lake.

4. I learned how to break the rules. Sadly, I am a rule follower. I may have a teesy problem with going a few miles over the speed limit at times, but for the most part, I have navigated life in a mannerly way.

Having kids has made me a renegade. Try to get the image of me on a motorcycle, wearing badass leather out of your mind.

But when my daughter starts worrying that a substitute will get mad at her for tossing a ball during a sanctioned game that ended up hitting something and knocking it over, I tell her to tell the substitute to go jump in a lake.

I also like to run through the halls at their school. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

5. I learned that I know how to teach absolutely no skill that I learned as a kid. If you were to drop in, fly-on-the-wall style, on our family one weekend afternoon, you might see weird stuff.

Namely, me trying to explain how to blow a bubble with bubblegum. I know, y’all, there’s YouTube. But I am trying to be a good parent here.

The things I can do (passably well) that I stink at teaching, include but are not limited to: blowing bubbles, whistling, cartwheeling, somersaulting (dang, that hurts), sewing, tying a shoe, probably skipping.*

* I failed skipping in kindergarten.

6. I learned that if there were 600 million people crowded around our city, and I had lost my kids, I would recognize their heads anywhere. They say animal moms can find their babies by smelling them, but my sense of smell isn’t that great.

It is uncanny how, as a parent, you can pick your child out of a million other similarly dressed kids.

7. I learned that no matter how easy a kid you think you were to raise, you weren’t. The cat is out of the bag: you may have been a loving, rule-following, good-grade-getting kid. Your parents likely still agonized over you, if they had any parenting gene worth having. You might have only eaten white foods or wanted to wear only purple or idolized some rocker who bit the heads off of ferrets.

If you’re a parent, you’ve figured this out by now. If you are not yet a parent and in your 20s, you are likely still living under the assumption that your parents had an easy ride. Please give your mom an extra hug for me this Sunday. She may need it.

Don’t forget your moms this weekend and all the shoes she bought you as your feet grew at lightning speed! Happy Mother’s Day in advance!

 

A Stroll Down the Nature Walks of My Youth

Bee. Flower. Yep. Seen it.

Nature walks, Indian mounds, forts and gardens we visited when I was a kid: 547

Average temperature (in degrees F) when we visited: 97

Amount of whining involved in any trip with me as a child: too much

I went on a field trip with my son’s fifth grade yesterday. We were at the school at 6 a.m. to get on the buses and arrived back at 8:30 p.m.

When I am nominated for sainthood, please vote for me.

We visited a battleship, an aquarium, the beach and a fort. I was in charge of four boys. We spent the most time at the battleship’s gunnery set-up, with all four of them crawling over the various killing implements, trying to figure out which one would do the most damage in the least amount of time.

Here are my thoughts and memories about sightseeing; about being a kid and being an adult with kids:

1. Nature walks. My parents were much better than I am about taking us around to see whichever sights there were to see. Their favorite was nature walks. Nature walks are, well, free, and they are extremely nature-y.

As an expert now in the area of nature walks, I can tell you that no matter what the venue, there will be a nature walk nearby. The Washington Monument? I’m sure there’s a nature walk. The Cape Hatteras lighthouse? There’s a nature walk within spitting distance. Grandfather Mountain? I can definitely attest to that one, because my husband and I started walking on it, and I had on flip-flops. It wasn’t exactly a flip-flop kind of nature walk.

When I used to whine about nature walks, the air being stagnant and 98 degrees, the bugs getting all excited at the tribe of four dumb humans stumbling onto another feast opportunity, my parents would always say, “I bet your kids are gonna love nature walks!” Then they would laugh maniacally.

They do.

I recently took my kids to a little lake nearby to throw a frisbee and jump around. They ran up and down a hill for 30 minutes. Up. And down. And up. And down.

Then…  they volunteered to go on a nature walk. I know. Weird, right? We started walking around that lake, and it was all nature-y, and I was fine because it wasn’t too hot, and I had on running shoes, and we all talked and had fun. And after almost an hour and a half, my daughter said, “Do you think we’re almost there?” And I assured her we were, although I was starting to doubt it myself.

They never once complained. That, my friends, is some kind of weird karma.

2. Forts. I love history. Really, I do. I almost majored in it in college.

However, forts are not my most favorite thing in the world. Yesterday, we visited a fort with my son’s class.

We listened to a guy talk about weapons; he was pretty entertaining, talking about murdering people and how the bayonet they had back then was designed to kill you slowly after causing copious infection. Now, it’s been outlawed by the Geneva Convention.

I wanted to throw in that AK-47s might be the real reason bayonets aren’t today’s most popular killing machine, but I restrained myself. It was thrilling; the boys were completely silent.

But then we started walking around this path that was basically around this bunch of odd little hills, and then there was a marsh (ahem, wetlands) and lots of wind.

My son pulls on my sleeve and whispers, “This is pretty boring, Mom.”

To which I said, in a totally grown-up and appropriate way, “I know.” I even added an eye roll. “My mom and dad took me to lots of forts, especially when it was really hot.”

He looked at me with pity and said, “Dude.”

Precisely.

3. Battleships. Boys like battleships. I don’t know why.

Maybe it’s the same kind of thing like when Lyle Lovett was asked, “You seem to attract a lot of women. What’s your secret? What have you learned about women?” And he said, “Women like to eat outside.”

Battleships have claustrophobic little rooms and labyrinthine passageways where you lose track of which direction is fore and aft. The bathrooms offered no privacy, and there was only a tiny surgical room, even though the movie they showed described several of these ships having enormous holes blown out of them.

They reek of war and salt water and metal, and every boy I asked said that the battleship was the best part of the field trip.

We were eating lunch, and I overheard some of the boys talking.

“Dude, did you see that well? Like, what if you fell into it?”

“Dude.”

“No, well, actually, if you read the plaque, it said it wasn’t a real well. It said…” the boy broke off in mid-sentence, sensing the metaphorical sharks circling. It was the sound of his popularity in serious jeopardy. “I mean, I didn’t really read it, but the name of it just…. nevermind.”

4. The beach. I am firmly of the opinion that beaches are for getting wet. There is, like, all this water and stuff. Looking at all the water without getting in is like looking at a thick slice of homemade chocolate cake and saying, “Well, that’s some nice cake.”

Guess where we went yesterday? The beach. It was in between lots of other activities, and the teachers had prepped the kids for weeks, telling them they absolutely, positively could not get near the water.

Yep. You guessed it. Several of them rushed the water like malicious little lemmings.

And I just want to say, I almost did, too. It’s a pain to be a grown-up sometimes.

5. Gardens. Gardens are pretty. They have lots of flowers. And nature. And they’re peaceful.

They’re not great places for kids.

My parents took us to lots of gardens. And now, in a kind of hazing mentality, I have taken our kids to gardens, too.

We went a few weeks ago when they had the day off school. My friend and I took our four (combined) kids to the nearby Duke Gardens. It was hot that day, just like I remember.

She started out by yelling, “Don’t run!” as they dashed away down the garden paths. Isn’t that silly?

Garden paths are not walking paths for kids; they are mazes, designed for getting lost. Quickly. Let them. The funny thing about kids is that eventually, they get hungry. Or thirsty. They’ll find you.

Our kids managed to completely destroy the lunch of at least one college-aged couple in love who thought the gardens would be a great place for a peaceful, romantic lunch date.

One day, that will be my kids and their dates. And I hope they will remember how dumb they used to think people are when they’re in love. Karma again.

I hope you have enjoyed my meandering journey down a nature path. The next time you go, remember to bring water, wear sturdy shoes and never, ever tell your kids to walk. There will be plenty of time to walk when they’re 40.