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Road Trip!
(August, 2009)

Last weekend, we took Theron to Arkansas for a family reunion. This particular bit of the family is on my wife's side, for whatever difference that makes.

The drive from Dallas to Little Rock takes about five hours. With a small child in the car - especially a small child who is required by law to stay buckled into his car seat - this has the potential to be, well, nightmarish.

It wasn't.

One of these things is not like the others
So we're driving along on a two lane stretch of highway, and we pass a little cluster of businesses: three small buildings huddled around a parking lot. The buildings are kind of tucked back into some trees, and they aren't terribly well marked - at least not from the perspective of a moving car. So, naturally, there was a sign at the front of the lot, advertising their businesses. It said:


This is funny enough by itself, but here's the real punchline: we're no more than ten minutes outside of the Dallas suburbs.

Small boys on the road
I took a day off work, so we were able to leave on Friday. We packed (fairly sensibly) on Thursday night, and in the morning I took Theron to his gymnastics class. (In the process, I saw Nastia Liukin; apparently she trains there.) He'd slept late, but he finished waking up in time to put in some serious bouncing/balancing/somersaulting time. Then we went back home, shoved our bags in the car, and got on the road.

Theron was calm and quiet for the first bit of the trip. After a little while we fired up the portable DVD player (which is a godsend for trips like this), and he watched Jimmy Neutron. This kept him occupied until, well, he fell asleep. Better still, he had the courtesy to stay asleep until we stopped for food just outside of little rock. Once we'd finished eating, we finished the trip - a matter of about twenty minutes - and arrived at the home of my wife's grandmother, who is best known as Meme (pronounced "me me").

The hosts and the horde
Meme had already headed over to... hm. I'm not sure what to do about names for this entry, so I'm going to err on the side of privacy. Right, so...

Meme had already headed over to M & D's house, where the rest of the group had gathered (or was gathering). Fortunately, she'd left instructions (and a room key) for us at the gate. (That probably makes more sense if you already know that Meme lives in a retirement community, with both individual houses and apartments. We were staying at a guest apartment in the complex.)

There's a fairly large extended family with Meme at the center, and this particular gathering had somewhere around forty attendees. A lot of them were around our age, and - more to the point - had kids around Theron's age. M & D have a large house - at least by my standards - with a pool and some play equipment in the back yard. They had (very sensibly, I thought) arranged to have food available throughout the weekend, so that people could graze when they got hungry. (This was vastly easier than trying to get everyone to a restaurant, or even sitting down for a meal together.)

So, really, the location was ideal. We arrived at M&D's house, and immediately got in the pool. I cannot recommend this highly enough as way to finish a long car trip. There was food, beer, and conversation; and then we went back and found our room, watched Robots, and went to sleep. (The portable DVD player also plugs into the television in the room, so we could watch on a regular-size screen. It really is a stunningly useful little device...)

Saturday followed much the same pattern, except that we were a little slow to get out of bed. By the time we reached M&D's house, family photos were well underway. This culminated in a valiant effort to get all the small children together on one couch for a group picture. I decided, since everyone else was trying to get pictures of the kids, that I would get video of the setup instead:

I wound up taking a nap - I was (and still am) recovering from a sinus infection. Later, somebody put on a movie in the home theater upstairs, and Theron watched The Incredibles - which has now become one of his favorite movies. Later, I goofed up - I had been supervising Theron upstairs, and I didn't follow him back downstairs. (My wife was out by the pool, and I didn't realize that she wasn't where she could keep an eye on him.) This resulted in Theron wandering around and driving a toy truck on the antique furniture for a bit, which was entirely my fault.

More food and conversation followed, until bed time arrived and we returned to our room once again.

And then we were lost
On Sunday we got up, went over to Meme's house, had breakfast, and then went on to M&D's house. This allowed us to make our valedictions (and return a movie that M&D had been kind enough to loan me overnight). We were on the road by eleven o'clock, and turned down Kanis to bypass downtown Little Rock (which Theron kept referring to as "Big Rock").

By about eleven-twenty, I was pretty sure that this was not the way we'd arrived. That seemed a little unlikely, since all we really had to do was follow Kanis until we hit a fairly major intersection, but the landscape - while scenic - was unfamiliar, and we kept not finding the turn off. After a while I turned us around and drove back to a gas station I'd seen.

It may tell you something about the area when I point out that not only did the gas station lack any sort of pay-at-the-pump capability, the three pumps were labeled "Diesel", "Diesel", and "Unleaded". If you needed a better grade of unleaded, you were out of luck.

The people at the gas station were exceedingly helpful, and directed us back into Little Rock. So, about an hour after we'd first set out, we found ourselves back on the road that runs between Meme's place and M&D's house.

This was not an auspicious start to the trip.

It turns out that there are actually two Kanis roads (or maybe one of them is a lane or a parkway or somesuch), and naturally we'd been following the wrong one. We took the direct-but-slower route through downtown Little Rock, picked up lunch at a drive-through, and finally got onto the highway.

The trip back was much like the trip there, only in reverse. Theron sat still and watched a movie; at one point when we stopped for gas we discovered that he'd managed to pee all the way though his diaper, to the point where his outfit and his car seat were completely soaked. Possibly he'd soaked the actual seat of my car, too; I didn't want to detach the car seat in order to check. We got him changed, and put a towel down on the car seat, and once we got back on the road he fairly quickly fell asleep.

We stopped for sushi on the way into town. (Theron slept through that as well.) Then we stopped at a park, so he could slide and run around a bit.

Then we went home, put everyone to bed, and spent the week being tired. Whew!

All in all, it was an excellent family trip.

There Must Be Beer
Theron woke me up on the Friday after the trip.

Actually, that sentence is somewhat misleading. I was in the bathroom, having shaved, showered, medicated, and brushed my teeth - I was, in fact, very nearly ready to leave for work - when Theron and the Beautiful Woman wandered in and found me. Theron, it seemed, had been awake since about five-thirty, but he had stayed still in his bed at his mother's request.

So, I went back to our bedroom and got into bed and made loud snoring sounds so that Theron could come and wake me up. (Theron: "Wake up wake up wake up!" Me: "I'm awake I'm awake I'm awake!") Then he grinned at me, and ducked his head, and asked: "Does Daddy need a beer?"

This is, of course, entirely my own fault. One evening last week, I sent him into the kitchen to fetch me a beer. (His mother was already in the kitchen; she helped.) Being a three-year-old, he has not forgotten this, and he occasionally asks if I need a beer.

So I explained to him that beer was for night time, before we go to bed. In the morning, when we wake up, Daddy needs tea.

That was yesterday.

This morning, Theron came in and woke me up again - this time for real. He needed me to put one of the wings back on his wingy monster. (This wingy monster is an action figure that Theron took from my desk at work. It's supposed to be a vampire, but it's a very bestial, chiropteran sort of vampire. As a result, it bears a pretty close resemblance to the Wingy Monsters [Winged Twilights] in Daddy's Game [Morrowind]. In addition, Theron commandeered a zombie action ficture, and of course he thinks they're both wonderful toys, perfectly appropriate for a child his age.)

Once I'd fixed the wing (a simple matter of popping it back into place - they're meant to be interchangeable on these toys), Theron sat next to me and said, "The Wingy Monster wants to talk to the Zombie."

I wasn't quite ready to be the zombie yet, so I said, "I think the Zombie is still in your room. Theron, can you go find Mommy? Find Mommy, and tell her, 'Daddy needs tea.' Okay? 'Daddy needs tea.'"

Theron said, "Otay." (Translation: "Okay") Then he grinned. "Daddy not needs beer. Daddy needs tea."

I said, "That's right, Theron. It's morning, so Daddy needs tea."

Zombie Homeopathy
Eventually, there was tea and I made it into the kitchen. Theron wanted me to play with the zombie, while my wife played with Octopus Monster. More to the point, he wanted us to make Octopus Monster talk to the zombie.

So I'm sitting at the kitchen table, sipping my tea, and making the zombie talk to the Octopus Monster, when I spot this this business card lying amidst yesterday's mail. On the front, it gives the name and phone number for someone who claims to be a "Homeopathy Physician" (and actually puts "M.D." after his - or possibly her - name).

Well, the thing unfolds. So I open it up and look at the inside, and find:

Stimulate body and mind to heal naturally

Beneath this is a list of things that Homeopathy can cure. I call my wife over, because - in addition to things like "Allergies" and "Acne" - it has a bullet point for "Woman disease like Menstrual problems, Menopause, Uterine fibroid, Pregnancy related disorders, Brest lumps etc." That's an exact quote, by the way, so the erratic capitalization and misspellings are all part of the original card.

So I'm sitting there thinking, Homeopathic medicine cures Menopause? Seriously? Except that I'm currently the zombie, and my wife is currently the Octopus Monster, and our son wants us to make the two monsters talk to each other. This, naturally, pulls the conversation a little off track...

Octopus Monster: "Hi, zombie"
Zombie: "Hi, Octopus Monster."
OM: "What are you looking at, Zombie?"
Z: "It's a business card. It says homeopathic medicine can cure all kinds of things."
OM: "Do you need homeopathic medicine, Zombie?"
Z: "Well, I was hoping it would cure Rotting Flesh."
OM: "Yes, you do seem to have a problem with that."
Z: "It would be great if I could rub some powdered rose leaves..."
OM: "Maybe a poultice?"
Z: "...or maybe put a poultice on my arm and have the flesh grow back."
OM: "Well, maybe there is some sort of natural cure for that."
Z: {thoughtful pause}
Z: "Brains."
OM: "Oh, yes. The brains of the living."
Z: "Brains are homeopathic."

So there you go, folks. Brains are homeopathic medicine for zombies. You heard it here first.

One of these days, Theron is going to repeat something like this at school (or church, or somewhere equally inappropriate). I'm not looking forward to explaining our sense of humor. On the other hand, it'll probably make for some interesting parent-teacher conferences...

Asleep at the Table

Behold the Pringle