Friday, July 8, 2011


Summertime is for being outside.  And summertime in July-- in Mt. Vernon specifically-- is a special time.  Cael calls it "festibul", but the rest of Mt. Vernon calls it Heritage Days.  All of the Iowa towns have a summertime "festibul" and ours, while a little bigger than most, is pretty much the same as the rest.  Scary carnival rides and even scarier ride operators, foods balanced on a stick that are only intended to be eaten with a fork and knife, and children, children, children. 

Oddly enough, the two most beautiful children in attendance at last night's Heritage Days kick-off were my own.  Funny how that works, huh?  In case you didn't see us, we were the four sweatiest people there last night, having arrived a little bit too early for the amount of activities available and therefore subjecting ourselves to the unforgiving heat.  Thankfully there were no bugs.  My 47 bite marks haven't totally healed yet.  This festival, or this particular night of the festival, is one of my favorite summertime things to do.  Letting my kids run loose on the manicured lawn of the golf course and laying on a blanket watching the kick-off fireworks just oozes July.  For Cael, his focus was clear.  Forget the fireworks, forget the glow sticks and lightening bugs-- there was a train.

"Cael, do you need some water?"

"Mommy, there's a TRAIN!"

"Are you hot, Cael?"

"Can I ride the train?"

"Cael!  I have a treat for you!"

"Is the treat a train?"

Lucky for him (but unlucky for us) the rules of the night had changed, and any person that wanted to ride the train or any of the other inflatable activities had to purchase an "unlimited ride" band for $10.00.  In previous years, tickets could be purchased individually so that kids could ride just once, and parents could get that one extra beer.  Whether the change was made in the best interest of boozing parents everywhere, or just to make more money, (it couldn't be!) for us it meant that Cael was going to ride that train as many times as he could tolerate.  We were getting our money's worth!

Last night, our money's worth only meant three trips around the golf course.  I stood in the train line with my wiggly kid for what seemed like five hours waiting for that little train, during which time Cael was able to analyze the locomotive and determine that it was, in fact, NOT a real train.  Once he'd made that realization, the train had lost some of the allure.  This is one of the downsides of his steam engine adventure.  He got a taste of the real thing, and now he will accept no substitutes.  Even still, I loaded him on the car twice alone as I hadn't spent $10 on a band for myself.  He sat, stoic, gazing out the window as if he were leaving home for the city in some dramatic 1920's black and white movie.  The only difference being, however, that this is 2011, and my life is a lot less "drama" and a lot more "raunchy comedy".

Graham loathes being confined, so any scenario that allows him to run freely brings out a big smile on his sweet, drool-covered face.  Testing boundaries, he would run as far as I was comfortable allowing (plus a few extra steps) and then toddle back just out of reach.  He'd giggle, fall, probably pee a little bit, and repeat the process.  There were some older boys wrestling around in the grass in front of us and I think he believed he was a part of the action.  I couldn't break the news to him that he was too little to play.  He'll figure that out on his own in a very short time, since he will be two in only a couple of months.  (I'm plugging my ears and singing "lalalala" in an effort to ignore that inevitable truth.  I'm happy with my denial.)  I was afraid he'd fear the fireworks coming at the end of the evening, but Graham never ceases to surprise me, and once snuggled up on my lap, he would "ooh" and "ahh" at each explosion.  I hope he keeps that enthusiasm.  He can quit the perpetual peeing, though.  I'd be okay with that.

 In contrast, Cael didn't tolerate the fireworks as well as he usually might.  It could be that we were closer and the noise was therefore louder, or perhaps it was because he was already up an hour past his bedtime.  Either way, he whined and complained through every burst of color in the sky.  The display in a small town like ours is stretched out to fill time, too, so each individual explosion gets its own launch and pause afterward for the onlookers to discuss.

"Oh, I liked that one."

"No, I only like the sparkly ones."

"Did you see that?  That one looked like a smiley face!"

Joel isn't really interested in the actual fireworks, but rather the opportunity to assign fake names to each effect. 

"That there is called a Tijuana Time Bomb!", or "Did you see that?  That was one nice Benjamin Franklin!"  He left nothing out, even addressing the various noises that accompany each explosion.  "That squeaky one is called "Whistling Dixie." 

My apologies if you sat anywhere around us.  I feel as though I should provide a refund for the $10.00 armband if your night was tainted by my husband's inability to let a quiet moment pass, but I may have a lifetime of not-so-quiet moments coming my way, so I had better save my pennies.

When the finale was complete, we loaded up our gear and our two exhausted boys and strapped them into the car.  We slowly but surely worked our way out of the parking spot we'd been assigned, and after letting a couple of cars through that were unable to get out, we made it to the funnel point where all exiting cars intersected.  Following traditional traffic rules and common courtesy, most vehicles were alternating to allow everyone an opportunity to leave the parking lot.  But not "white van lady".  The young woman in the Ford Windstar next to us (oh, I SO hope you're reading!) was not going to let us in.  No sir, she waits for no one.  We engaged in a battle of inching toward the SUV in front of us before we realized that she would not relent.

Have you ever noticed, whenever there is an altercation of vehicles on the road, how the person at fault avoids making eye contact?  The person being faulted, however, stares and points as if they were searching for Waldo.  I wish Waldo had been in the car next to us.  He, with his striped shirt and goofy wave, would likely have let us in so we didn't have to wait for another two cars to pass before joining the queue of cars trying to merge onto the highway.  "White van lady" continued her reign of terror on the cars at the intersection of 30 and 1, where she refused to wait her turn and inched, jerking her van, through a gap in the traffic.  I bet she avoided eye contact with those people too.

Aside from the 45 minutes that it took us to drive the mile to our home with our droopy-eyed boys, it was a fun night.  I hope their little brains are able to recall these hot, firefly-lit nights in the grass when it is snowy and cold in January.  If not, we always have our pictures and our memories of the Tijuana Time Bomb.

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