Hello, blog readers! I’m back from my “summer vacation”, otherwise known as Three Long Months When My Child Was Not in School and the Temperature Was over 100 Degrees Every Day. But now it’s September, my kid is at school, and the temperature has actually dropped to the 90s, which is shockingly refreshing…. or would be, if the town I live in were not surrounded by raging wildfires.
What’s more refreshing is having time to myself, time to actually move my thoughts around in my mind and move my body around in space without bumping into the ever present and ever busy and ever demanding Vivid Girl. Mamas who spend a lot of time with their children often share the experience of hearing themselves sound just like their own mothers; this summer brought me more of those moments than usual, but since I can’t generally get a word in edgewise I more often found myself thinking things my mother used to say. (As well as some things my mother, who as you know is very nice, would NEVER say!) When I could hear myself think, that is. Which I usually couldn’t. Which is one of the things my mother used to say. (Another thing she would say, when we would interrupt her conversations to ask her what she was talking about, was “Oh, we’re just talking about running away.” I have not actually said this one to my own child –yet– but I spent a lot of time this summer thinking it in a REALLY LOUD VOICE. So loud I could actually hear it.)
One of the main things I did this summer, in fact, was think about running away. This activity manifested in several forms:
daydreaming, of course
planning long and elaborate (and prohibitively expensive, unless you sit in coach, and who wants to try to get the Vivid Girl to sleep in coach?) trips on Amtrak
emailing people who live in cool climates and saying “Are you gonna be home next week? cause if I can snatch up some cheap last minute plane tickets we are coming to visit!”
obsessively checking for cheap last minute plane tickets
adding “Bend, Oregon” to my list of favorites on my weather app and checking the temperature there several times a day
I also actually managed a couple of minor escapes, even though I didn’t actually get out of my original climate zone. Mr. B, the Vivid Girl, and I drove up to visit my parents at their lake house for the Fourth of July. Mr. B had to be at work on the 5th so he came home but VG and I stayed a few extra days. We swam every day, which was fun but not exactly refreshing because the temperature of the lake was approximately 92 degrees. It was more like bathing, except that the water was murky and green and you had to take a shower right away to wash the swamp smell off of you. Still, it was fun, and the real bonus was that my parents’ lakehouse is in a part of Texas that actually got some rain this year so the Vivid Girl was able to set off all kinds of fireworks, which were banned in Austin because the last time it rained here was 2007.
We also got to sit out on the dock three nights in a row and watch huge displays of fireworks all around the lake.
We also did a bunch of crafty and seasonal stuff like using Sharpie markers to “tie dye” tank tops with firework designs.
And we made pretzel rod treats that are supposed to look like sparklers.
And it was really hot, and my parents have air conditioning and
satellite TV, so we watched a lot of TV (mainly commercials for the Regular Show: Yeah-uh!) and played a lot of Doodle Jump.
My mom and I also pulled out the old fiberglass canoe that played such a huge part in my childhood and took the Vivid Girl out for a little paddle in the pond.
That sounds so fun and wholesome in summary but here’s how it went in real time:
We went into garage to get lifejackets and paddles. The Vivid Girl has outgrown the kid-sized lifejacket my parents bought for the lakehouse, but the kid-sized lifejackets my sister and I used to wear were nowhere to be found. So VG had to wear a grown-up life vest, which went to her knees and made it very hard for her to move her legs. She complained about this quite a bit. Also the life vest smelled bad. She complained about that, too.
We pulled the canoe down to the pond but somehow managed to choose the muddiest place to try to put in and my mom and I both sunk to our knees in rich, black, stinky ooze. The Vivid Girl started to cry because she couldn’t lift her knee high enough to get into the canoe. My mom got out of the mud somehow but I had to lie on my stomach and crawl out, and the mud sucked one of my shoes off (I was wearing my dad’s water shoes) so then we had to get a shovel and dig into the mud to rescue the shoe. The Vivid Girl sat on the bank and sobbed and narrated a story about how nothing ever goes right.
We moved the canoe over to a sandier part of the shore and all got in, and as we started paddling around the lake the Vivid Girl started screaming because there was a SPIDER in the CANOE and she is DEATHLY AFRAID of spiders. My mom and I used our paddles to try to flick the spider out of the canoe, all the while trying to use our (sadly lacking) core strength to keep the canoe balanced so we wouldn’t all go into the pond. Which was even greener, murkier, and warmer than the lake. With turtles.
By the time my mom magically disposed of the spider the Vivid Girl was practically hyperventilating and saying “I’ve gotta get out of here, I’ve gotta get out of here, I’ve gotta get out of here.” But since we had gone to so much effort to get ourselves into this situation we gamely paddled around the pond a few times. The Vivid Girl even pulled out her paddle, which was just her size, and did a few strokes. Then she announced, “I’m bored! Let’s go inside!” and we went inside and watched more TV.
Our next getaway was closer to home so it was just as hot but had some very cool aspects. My friends went out of town for a few days so the Vivid Girl and I went out to Lakeway to housesit and take care of their three whippets.
Their neighborhood has a little lake park with a rope swing, a boat launch, and some docks. We swam in the lake everyday, and here the water was clear and clean and cold because it comes in under the dam with a current that will carry you from the dock to the rope swing to the boat launch. And I could happily jump off the dock, float to the rope swing, watch the girl swing, float to the boat launch, climb out and start over all day long. But the girl decided she would rather play mermaid in the big rocks between the boat launch and the rope swing, and so she did that while I got some exercise by swimming against the current and getting nowhere, like I was in my own personal endless pool.
The rest of the time we sat in the air conditioned house with the hot and panting dogs and watched TV.
Mainly what I did this summer is watch TV, actually. Because not only did I watch a lot of TV with my child (we are now totally addicted to So You Think You Can Dance, and after you watch this video I think you might be too!), I also watched a lot of Netflix on my iPhone while I was lying in bed helping keep my child asleep in a strange bed. Here are the TV shows I have gotten totally caught up on in the last few months:
Wire in the Blood (though I recommend quitting when Hermione whats-her-name leaves the show)
And I’m currently watching American Pickers. I’m not saying I’m proud of all the TV I’ve watched; I’m just telling you what I did this summer.
Right before the Vivid Girl and I went to whippet-sit Mr. B had a minor medical procedure done, and at that time it seemed that his recovery was going to be quick and unremarkable.
By the time we got back from Lakeway, though, it became obvious that his recovery was going to be long, complicated, painful, and expensive. He developed an infection, for one thing. Then he developed a hematoma that somehow tricked his body into displaying many of the signs of an infection: body-wracking chills, fever, aches and pains, heat and swelling, lots of pain. We have some experience with infection from when I was in the hospital for two weeks with cellulitis, so we were freaking out and calling the doctor a lot. The doctor, and the on-call doctors I talked to when the regular doc wasn’t around, were very nonchalant and seemed content to call in prescriptions for antibiotics and tell us not to worry. Finally Mr. B actually saw the doctor and got some actual medical care and began to recover, and then I got an infection. And so we spent the rest of the summer obsessively washing our hands, our bodies, our bedding, and our doorknobs with hospital-grade cleaning products. And spending our vacation money on doctors’ bills. And air conditioning.
And when I got better I took the girl swimming as much as I could, because swimming is the only thing other than watching TV that we could really imagine doing after 70+ days of 100+ temperatures. One day when we swimming in some of the nice cool water coming into the lake from under the dam the Vivid Girl really surprised me by saying, “Remember when we went canoeing with grandma? That was really fun.”
“You think you might want to do it again sometime?” I asked incredulously.
“Yes,” she said thoughtfully, “but next time let’s do it someplace cooler. Like Bend, Oregon.”