Last day of school….for two out of the three boys

Well, it’s day 2 of Summer 2015 and things are off to a memorable start. No matter what happens the rest of the summer, I shan’t forget Friday night around 10pm any time soon.

Having finally convinced five children to fall asleep, despite the house being a less-than-balmy 85 degrees Fahrenheit, four adults sought refuge in the perpetually cold basement for nacho eating and reruns of Arrested Development watching. I heard the dull sound of childish footsteps in the hallway above us and bolted upstairs. Only to find my not-quite-awake 5.75 year old sitting at the computer desk, with his pants pulled down. Peeing all over the floor.

I yelled, ‘no! no!’ As if by yelling I could somehow suspend what had already begun. When the torrent continued, undeterred, I had no choice but to consider the situation: a half asleep boy, using my desk chair, as a toilet, and howl with laughter. Then I ran down to the basement and asked the professor to deal with the situation. And then, because I’m a mother, and mostly because our guests may have implied that my response was somehow less-than, I returned upstairs and mopped the floor.

For the third time in eleven hours.

True story. Especially the part about the mopping. Let’s just say if you’re going to be fun mom and allow your child to juice an entire watermelon, remember that watermelon is the stickiest of all fruits (it is a fruit, right?) and when the inevitable spill of pink juice occurs you will be unable to sufficiently address the situation with a paper towel.

Unless being temporarily affixed to a linoleum floor is your idea of summer fun.

It will be even more annoying when you, the adult, go to pour yourself a refreshing glass of watermelon-grapefruit agua fresca and graze the open 1L Mason Jar with your fingertips, resulting in a horizontal container and pink juice on every surface in a twelve-inch radius.

Like I said, this break – two days in – has already been plenty memorable for me.

In summers past, I’ve made lists of activities to try with the boys, or set some vague unlikely-to-be-accomplished goals: ‘we’ll write and draw in these journals every day!’ But this year I’ve reduced my summer strategy to one word: sure.

My goal, for the next however-many-days (see, I haven’t even counted up the days!) is to say ‘sure’ as much as possible. ‘Mom, will you play a game with me?’ [Slight pause while I try to stifle the ‘notrightnow’ or ‘maybelater’ that has been my auto-pilot response these last 9 months] ‘Sure!’

‘Can we watch a family movie tonight?’ ‘Sure!’

‘Can I make a juice?’ ‘Sure! Let me cut up this watermelon and get out the mop bucket.’

I didn’t actually say the latter, but in retrospect….

Aside from saying ‘sure’ [or even a reluctant, bordering-on-regretful ‘mmmmmh…..okay’] as often as possible, I do have one more goal: to ride our bikes every day. Our last name may not be Armstrong, but surely I can ‘encourage’ [read: bribe] the boys to get on their bikes once a day and ride...somewhere….with me. And perhaps if we do this consistently, by the end of the summer, we might actually be able to do a decent bike ride; the kind that other, outdoor enthusiast families do on a regular basis.

Friday, while the Gort was finishing his last three hours of school, I tested the waters with Percy and the Hen. ‘Let’s ride our bikes to Starbucks,’ I asked, fully expecting a revolt of some sort. But the promise of hot chocolate was apparently enough to convince Percy to ride the whopping 1.7km to our nearest char-bucks.

We rode. It was a relative non-event, aside from my continuous yelling ‘stay on the right!’ and we made it to the coffee shop, consumed our beverages and returned home. Young Percy, who is not a distance-rider, per se, complained miserably of fatigue halfway home, but managed to persevere with a lot of encouragement and possibly some additional bribing.

And then it was Saturday. Blazing hot, with temperatures approaching the nineties!, I waited until the professor had taken our house guests to the airport. ‘When dad comes back, how about we go to Sunterra,’ I suggested to the boys, envisioning a five-person ride for some underwhelming treat.

Except dad didn’t come back. All I got was a text about a dead car, a disgruntled man and a newly cleaned camera. A friend came over to help the professor deal with the situation and I determined it was as good a time as any to hop on our bikes and ride to 2.8km away Sunterra. ‘But what about the hill,’ the Gort worried aloud. And despite my pooh-poohing his concern with a ‘we’ll be fine’, it had been my main concern as well: how to get my rather green team up ‘the hill’.

I figured the only way to find out if we could get up the hill was to try it. With loud admonitions to ‘stay to the right’ and ‘don’t follow too closely’ we headed south. A few minutes later, we approached the extremely busy, four-lane 17th avenue and veered onto the sidewalk-pathway with relative ease. I’d just yelled ‘stay close to the wall [on the right]’ when Percy made a diagonal beeline over the curb, onto the aforementioned extremely busy four-lane road.

Watching it happen from behind, was like watching a deleted scene from Dumb and Dumber; almost as implausible as using my desk chair for a toilet.

Choice words left my mouth, we held a team meeting and continued on our way. Up the dreaded hill, which poses a minor challenge for anyone over the age of 8 riding on a real bike. But for those pedalling tiny bikes with tiny legs? It might as well be Everest. It became clear to me that our youngest lad would not beat the hill. This time. So I hopped off my bike, leaned it against the wall and walked Percy and his bike up to the spot where I felt confident he could keep going on his own. Then I walked back to my (faraway) bike.

Another [ultra-competent, adult] biker was heading in my direction and, having witnessed my situation, very kindly grabbed my bike and pulled it beside him to where I was standing. It was perhaps the nicest thing a stranger had done for me in recent memory.

We made it to the market, where the Gort worried about where to park our bikes and whether someone might steal our less-than-stellar bikes. (As if!) Inside, they chose insanely sugary drinks and we loaded them into a backpack and rode home (downhill!), feeling disproportionately proud of our little ride.

Bringing up the rear, I found myself smiling (when not yelling at them to stay to the right) at the sight before me. My boys. Pedalling furiously. Their young bodies bouncing rhythmically; exuding the simple joy of summer, of being young and being alive.

(Now I just need to find myself a padded seat. Or some of those dreadful padded bike shorts that look like you’re walking around with two pairs of Depends underwear. Otherwise I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to maintain that smile.)







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