Saturday, August 04, 2012

Superman and The Albino Squirrels vs. The Dentist...

Continuing the story of my recent vacation to Florida... read part one, "In Another Universe, I Am In Birmingham, Alabama, For Some Reason," by clicking here
or part two, "Why Would Anyone Want To Drive Through Illinois?" by clicking here
Or part three, "We Are READY TO GO. Well, almost", by clicking here.
Or part four, "Sometimes, a house" by clicking here.

TO RECAP: We were going to Florida to hang out with Sweetie's family for a week, and got waylaid by recalcitrant car lenders and three cases of strep throat.When we left off, we were nearing Beloit.

As I said, it's important to remember that Mr F and Mr Bunches had never been away from home for more than a day, before.  It's also important to remember that previously,  the longest car ride they'd ever taken was 3 hours, from Madison, Wisconsin, to Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

So four hours in, when we were still deep in the heart of Illinois, things began to get a little dicey, when Mr Bunches stopped playing iPad, stopped playing Kindle Fire, stopped playing telephone, and said, loudly:

"Go home?"

Sweetie and I looked at each other.

"Not yet," I said.  "We're going to a hotel and we'll go swimming," which was both a bribe and an amazingly cruel thing to say because while Mr Bunches loves swimming, he wasn't going to get to go swimming for another five hours and five hours to Mr Bunches is the same as five days which is the same as never and right now, simultaneously.

I don't know when most kids get a concept of time.  Heck, I don't know whether I, yet, have a concept of time that makes sense, in that things seem to move incredibly fast and amazingly slow in my life all at once.  It's August 4 as I write this, and I can't believe that the summer is more than 2/3 over, since it honestly seems to me like I was just getting ready for June and making my annual list of things that I wanted to do this summer, things like "Go to the beach" and "Take the boys to Natural Bridge State Park," which is a State Park where there is a Natural Bridge, and Sweetie and I went hiking there once and I remember it as a fun day even if I don't remember the Natural Bridge.

Also on my annual list of summer activities:  Pete's, which is explanation enough.  Pete's is this hamburger stand I read about a few years back in the local newspaper, a hamburger stand that has been around since 1910 or something in Prairie du Chien,Wisconsin.  Pete's is only open weekdays, I think, and it's a 3-hour drive away, which makes it seem like a bad idea to spend a day driving to it to get a burger, but the article made the burgers sound really good and anyway, food is entertainment now, so a daytrip to get a burger is not unthinkable, and certainly no worse than the time I proposed that Sweetie and I drive to St. Louis for our wedding anniversary because at the time that was the closest Sonic had a restaurant and I wanted to try eating there.

(Also on the annual list: a restaurant in Minnesota that serves only breakfast cereal.)

I was talking about Mr Bunches, though, and his sense of time, which consists of two times: right now, and right now-er, which is  to say that Mr Bunches needs everything to happen this moment, if not maybe a little bit faster.  Say we are eating dinner, Sweetie and I -- Mr Bunches and Mr F never join us, for a variety of reasons, although they do hover around-- and Mr Bunches says something like "Spider Park?" (which isn't what it sounds like, it's this), and I say "Sure, after dinner," because, remember, I am eating dinner, Mr Bunches will immediately go get his Crocs on and come back and say "C'mon, Dad," and if you try to say something like "Well, um, no, because, see, I've still got this half-a-hot dog to eat and I was hoping to change clothes out of my suit..." he will either tug on your arm to get you to shut up and go to Spider Park or he will tug on your heartstring by getting sad-eyed and giving you the impression that he's thinking "Oh, sure, you wanted me to learn to talk so I could communicate with you but now you don't care that I can say things and do things, so why bother?"

Which is why I've eaten a lot of meals as I got ready to go to the park, or the pool, or Target.

Anyway, in the car somewhere in Illinois, Mr Bunches decided he wanted to go home, and at first I tried to put him off by saying that we were going to a hotel to swim, but within an hour it became apparent that we were not doing that, as such, we were just driving through nowhere, which is what Central Illinois looks like: Generic America.

We didn't drive past the only parts of Illinois that anyone would want to drive past, on our way through the state.  The only parts of Illinois that anyone would want to drive past are:

1.  Chicago, so you can see the Sears Tower and discuss for a while what it's called now that it's not the Sears Tower, and you can ponder whether buying the Sears Tower and renaming it after your company is worth it if people are just going to always call it the Sears Tower.  (If I had money, I would buy the Sears Tower and rename it "Chet.")

2.  The Giant Superman of Metropolis, Illinois, which is a real thing I looked up and also mentioned, I believe, in Sufjan Stevens' song "Man Of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts" even if Sweetie doesn't believe me that he (Sufjan, not Superman) wrote an entire album about Illinois, and which is where we were headed, so we hadn't driven by it yet.

3.  The Albino Squirrels.  The Albino Squirrels of Illinois are a real thing, too, and I looked them up because when we were planning this trip and I had to choose where we were going to stay on the first night, I wanted to pick a spot that we could actually see a tourist-y thing at, and enjoy some "local color" in the sense of "buying souvenirs."  So I looked up things to see in Illinois and had to choose between Superman, the Albino Squirrels, and a giant metal dragon.

I nixed the metal dragon because once we took the boys to see a bunch of metal sculptures called "The Forevertron" outside of Sauk City, Wisconsin, by a guy who makes metal sculptures out of junk, and Mr Bunches got really frightened, which, in retrospect was only to be expected because the scuptures really are frightening.  They mostly look like they are metal recreations of the "Skeezix" from the old Uncle Wiggly game, except for the ones that look like they are giant metal cockroaches.  It's all really quite post-apocalyptic and frightening, just like Uncle Wiggly was, when I was a little kid.  I'm not sure, as I think of it, why I thought he might like it.

So we didn't see the Giant Metal Dragon, and I gave strong thought to the Albino Squirrels, which is apparently a colony of squirrels that lives in this city and they're all albinos; that seemed to me to be the kind of thing that's worth seeing, but then I came across "Giant Metal Statute of Superman" actually in a city called Metropolis and as you would guess, when it's Superman vs. The Albino Squirrels, Superman wins that.

We weren't near any of those things at this point.  Illinois takes up, by my estimate, 103% of the continental United States, and has only those three things worth seeing (four, if you count the dragon, and five if you count Robot Abraham Lincoln, which you might say does not exist and to you I say it darn well should) and five things can be pretty sparsely spread out when you consider the volume of Illinois (am I using that right) and so Mr Bunches got more and more despairing as the drive went on and on and began to doubt me more than ever that we were, in fact, going to a hotel, which he kind of understood as he's been to one, with a pool.

During this time, Mr F was not troubled at all.  Mr F was calmly watching identical mile after identical mile roll by, tapping his hangers and not minding anyone.  Mr F is pretty cool that way, 99% of the time.  99% of the time, Mr F is okay with whatever you are doing and keeps a steady attitude, kind of a detached, wary sense of humor where he might look as though he's happy but he's also not entirely sure whether you are taking him to the doctor or near an animal, since Mr F dislikes both of those things (but he dislikes animals worse than he dislikes doctors, as we learned at the Dane County Fair when Mr F cringed away from a tiny baby bunny in terror.)

(I never would have guessed that Mr F's fear/hatred of animals extends to baby bunnies, which are pretty much the antimatter of scary: you cannot be afraid of a tiny baby bunny.  If a tiny baby bunny got infected with ebola and kidnapped your entire family and held them hostage tied to a neutron bomb buried in the heart of Tokyo, and then bit you on the finger, too, you could not be afraid of it because first,  a tiny baby bunny would never do those things but also if it did it would still be kind of cute.)

As we whiled away the hours driving through Illinois, too, Sweetie and I were discussing the kinds of things married couples discuss on vacations when they finally get a chance to spend hour after hour together in a car, talking and relating to each other, namely: music, and which music we would listen to, in particular, alternating between my iPod with its new Regina Spektor album which I had bought specially for this trip, using the gift certificate I got for our anniversary two months earlier and which I'd saved just so that I could buy a new album for this trip and so consequently I felt we should listen to on the trip that I'd bought it for, and then on the other hand there was Sweetie's thoughts on that subject, which were


although to be fair, sometimes she didn't pay attention and I'd play it again.

We also debated, at length, for some portion of the trip so I might as well say it was on day one as we drove through Illinois, the proper pronunciation of Flo-Rida, the rapper.

The Boy said it was Flo-Reeda, and based his claim on actually knowing how the man's name was pronounced as The Boy is 20 and consequently knows about things that are taking place right now in our culture, provided that those things are not in any way important or meaningful.  The Boy is only about 10% sure who is running for President, and 5% sure which country that candidate wants to lead, and 1% sure what a President is or does, but The Boy is 100% sure how to pronounce the names of rappers, which is why sometimes I thank God I will almost certainly die before The Boy's generation has a chance to begin running things:

The Boy: Now that we are in power, there are some things we need to decide.

Other People In The Boy's Generation:  [after making sure to Save where they are on Call Of Duty VII: Roman Warfare, which will feature Roman Centurions with jetpacks and will by that time constitute the entirety of knowledge the human race has about Rome, which will turn out not to affect us at all]: Huh?

The Boy: I forgot what I was talking about.  Let's order pizza.

 EPILOGUE: The entire country is eaten by a Skeezix.

 Sweetie and I, on the other hand, said it was Flo-Right-A, basing our arguments on:

1.  The fact that flow is (I think) a rap term and Right-A kind of makes it sound like Flo-Rida is saying he's got Right Flows, which is probably a thing [Me]


2.  "It's a girl's name!" [Sweetie]

And that was how we killed three more hours until we got to the outskirts of a town around dinner time, the town being nowhere near where we were hoping to be by that time but we were hungry, and so we stopped for dinner at a local Burger King, because on this vacation I had decided I was going to branch out a bit and try new things -- and I almost never eat at Burger King, which makes it a new thing for me.

We got out of the car and began the process of unbuckling the boys and letting The Boy out from where he was entrapped between the two booster seats, and Mr Bunches lost it.

He refused to get out of the car, and kept saying "Go home.  Go home to my house," and when I lifted him out of the car and tried to get him to stand up, he crumpled to the ground, a little boy crying in a heap on the edge of a Burger King parking lot somewhere in Illinois, wanting desperately to go home.

Sweetie and I had talked about this and how the boys might handle it and we had agreed that if they got really, really upset about being away from home, we would take them home even if it meant leaving the vacation early, because the boys have been making great strides in all the areas where we want them to make great strides and we didn't want to set them back in their therapy by forcing them to go to Florida, especially since we weren't all that crazy about going to Florida, either, and so as I stood there in the parking lot, having sent Sweetie and The Boy and Mr F in ahead of us, I considered whether we should, in fact, just turn around and go home.

The thought had its appeal.  I had strep throat, and was tired.  We were already way behind schedule.  We didn't really want to go on vacation, not now, not this year, when we were finally getting some money saved up and getting ahead of our bills and could have used some breathing room and quiet time.  Orlando wasn't anywhere near the top of the list for places we wanted to go.

But I couldn't give up,  not just yet.  Superman awaited us.  The ocean awaited us. Other things awaited us, probably.

Plus, as much as I didn't want to upset the boys by making them go outside of their comfort zone, I also wanted to force the boys to go outside of their comfort zone, a little.  There's this tension with the boys, with Mr F and Mr Bunches, about how much to challenge them and how far to push them.  Should we make them do this?  How about that?  Is it okay to make them wait a day to get that toy they want, or should we reward them for being able to ask for it right now?

These are not easy questions.  For every success story there is a miserable failure.  Consider Mr F, who I have repeatedly forced to dress himself for as long as I have thought he was able to do so.  I will wait, every chance I get, for Mr F to put on his pants and shirt himself, even if it means taking three, four, five times as long as it would for me to just do it, and I was rewarded for that the other day when Mr F got out of his bath and while I cleaned up the tub he went into his room and got out his pajamas and put them on, a tiny huge victory that most parents would not notice but which nearly brought tears to my eyes.  We force Mr F to go swimming, and he decides one day to put his face in the water and swim himself forward, all on his own and if I could have put on a fireworks show to celebrate that, I would have.

On the other hand, when Mr F was three, we decided to implement on therapist's advice to get him to talk more.  When he wants something, we were told, make him ask for it using words. So we did, and we started with the thing that was then Mr F's favorite thing in the world: milk.

When he used to want milk, Mr F would tug us to the refrigerator and wave his hand at the milk, throwing our hands towards it so we would pour him a glass of milk.  When he was three and we wanted him to say "milk," we forced him to do that.

He would throw our hands at the milk.

"Say milk," we would tell him.

He would point to the milk.

"Say milk," we would tell him.

He would get out the milk and hand it to us.

"Say milk," we would tell him.

For a few days, he would actually say "milk," and we'd pour him a glass.

Then one day, he stopped drinking milk.


It has been three years since Mr F drank a glass of milk and if you offer him one right now, he won't take it.  Not only that: he might dump it out.

So we are wary about forcing them out of their comfort zone.  They might swim and put on pants.  They might stop drinking milk.  We don't know.

But in the parking lot of the Burger King in Illinois,  I decided we were not yet far enough out of the comfort zone to back down now, and so I hit on Plan B, which was to say to Mr Bunches:

"Do you want to take your Play-Doh Dentist in and play with it while we eat?"

"Yeah," he sniffled, and wiped his eyes, and I put him on my shoulders,dug out the Play-Doh Dentist toy he'd bought at Walmart the day before and we went inside, where The Boy and Sweetie and I ate burgers, Mr F ate french fries, and Mr Bunches created Play-Doh teeth to put into a plastic head so he could fill the Play-Doh cavities with Play-Doh fillings.

This is actually taken in a McDonald's.

The head also had a Play-Doh tongue.

1 comment:

Andrew Leon said...

Yeah... kids... we go through some of the same kinds of things. I k now yours are so much more magnified, though.
And, still, you manage to do all this other stuff, too.