Sunday, March 28, 2010

When you run out of clean underwear, it's time to come home.*

We’re back.

Actually, that’s not quite true. As I write this, we’re in the car heading north, somewhere between Beatty and Fernley Nevada, but by the time you read this, we’ll be home. We’re driving along lonely, lonely I-95, and I have the laptop perched on my, well, lap and my dad is driving. The kids are all happily plugged into electronic items of various natures, which is a good thing, because if the lone billboard at the last exit can be believed, the next place to stop is called the ‘Play Mate House’, which (as I know from our drive south six days ago) is in fact a bright pink double-wide trailer a hundred yards or so down a dirt road with splashy neon lighting shaped like a curvy woman's bare leg in a cowboy boot that made all three kids ask in tandem, “Play Mate House? Can we stop and play?!”

Er, no.

Then Nate asked the follow-up question (of course): “Why not?”

(Because we're in Nevada, and therefore, I do not think that word means what you think it means.) But before I could come up with something more concrete, Toby asked, “Do they have a ball pit?”

You know? Possibly.

But we had a marvelous time in Death Valley. It really is a breathtakingly beautiful national park, and I sure hope you all don’t get tired of hearing about it, because I have lots to say about it in the next week or so.

We had our awesome moments. Like when Toby went to whirl his bundled set of silverware over his head like a lasso for his cousin Homer’s entertainment in the resort café and his spoon flew out in a long, beautiful arc to clatter to a landing on another diner’s plate.


And when Calvin went racing down the side of Ubehebe Crater (which drops at a grade of about 45 degrees for at least 100 yards, ending in hard lava deposits) and a crowd of college students began yelling, “Oh my God! Look at that little boy! Careful little boy! Whose kid is that?!” until it got awkward enough that I felt compelled to answer, “I don’t know, but he must have really rotten parents.”

Then they laughed politely, but it was still awkward as we all watched Calvin’s sturdy little legs do double-time under him like a cartoon character as he barreled his way down. But I mean really…since when do college kids pause to express concern over eight-year-old boys to the point where they inquire about their mothers? Losing. Their. Cool.

Then we had all the moments my mom was “ma’amed”. You know what being ma’amed is. It’s when you allow your child to climb the 1850’s replica of the mule wagon in the museum right under the sign that says, ‘No climbing’, because you’re just too tired or too far entrenched in ‘vacation-mode’ to care, and someone walks by and says, “Ma’am! Excuse me, ma’am, but he can’t be climbing that.” Or when you’re feeding the ranch’s horses directly by the sign that says, ‘No feeding the horses,’ and sure you saw it, but you pretend you didn’t, because you just can’t resist the way the 18-month-old giggles when their big lips tickle the flat of his hand until someone official-looking strolls over to remind you, “Ma’am, that warning is there for a reason,” with disapproval written all over his face.

My mom gets ma’amed a lot. And yes, it’d be easy to avoid, wouldn’t it? But she believes rules are meant to be broken…whenever one of her grandkids is wanting for anything. It drives us all slowly crazy (especially Nate, who lives for rules). We spend a good amount of time pretending not to know who she is.

But here’s news: Calvin didn’t break out with a rash all over his face, like he is inclined to do on any vacation in which we’re more than 30 miles from the nearest pharmacy. Nate did complain of a toothache, however, and I paid $10.99 in the Furnace Creek Ranch general store for a tiny tube of Oragel. Which he only used once, as the toothache magically went away moments after purchase.

But by and large, we all stayed healthy, which every family knows is the real key to a good vacation. And we only got moderately sunburned. I’d call it ‘sun kissed’, really, it was so minor. And we only ran out of clean socks yesterday and, as the title of this post would suggest, clean underwear today.

So yeah, time to come home. I’ll leave you with a few photos, with more to come later in the week.

Looking down at hikers from the Stovepipe Wells sand dunes.

Nate and Cal at the pinnacle of the sand dunes.

Earning a Junior Ranger badge is serious business.

*Blatantly borrowed from Erma Bombeck's When You Look like Your Passport Photo, It's Time to Go Home. (How about a moment of silence for Bombeck, one kick-ass lady?)
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