Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

A Life Appreciation Post December 11, 2018

We are not big on the kids sleeping over at friends houses – if we don’t know the family well. That said … Jay got invited to a sleepover to celebrate one of his school friends birthday. My initial thought was no. But my mind kept drifting back to … well, maybe.

Having good friends is huge. For many autistic people, having any friends is huge. I mean, just yesterday the mom of a popular facebook page posted the foll:

 

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(As you can probably assume, her son Greyson is non-verbal and uses a device to communicate.)

 

I had met the mom issuing the sleepover invite before. She seemed very nice each time. As Jamaican people would say “mi spirit did tek to her”. Jay had been invited to and had attended that same kids birthday party last year so this is not a brand new friendship.

After talking to the mom 1 more time and asking questions like “which other kids that we know will be there and *do you have a gun in your house?”, we agreed to let him go. He was so excited about it and the other kids were excited to see him when we showed up – that made it easier for me to walk away after the drop off. I want this for my son. I want him to have friends and to be included.

 

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For the first time – I think ever – Ace had Shaunie and I to himself for an entire evening and night. He’d been asking to go to a Hibachi restaurant but since we knew Jay wouldn’t eat any of the food there it hadn’t happened. This was our chance. We didn’t tell him where we were going and to see his face light up once the realization hit was awesome. The evening did not disappoint. From the initial giant flame to clean the stove area, to the flaming onion volcano to the catching of the food in your mouth to the fake egg being thrown at him. He loved it all. And I loved watching him love it all. He tried the miso soup and said it was good. He did not eat any of the salad but … are you ready?… he ate a piece of zucchini AND a mushroom. Of both he said “It was ok but I don’t want anymore.” He did like the rice and although he had chosen to order steak, he said the best part was the complimentary 3 pieces of shrimp he got. Neither of those meats are things he typically eats.

I was just so proud of him. I want this for my son. I want him to have a wide variety of experiences and to know that even though sometimes his wants are not immediately do-able, when we can, we will do, just for him.

Following the hibachi dinner, at Ace’s request, we browsed Barnes and Noble where we each got a new book.

 

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The next day we picked Jay up and heard rave reviews from him about how much fun he and the other boys had. He didn’t even want to come home. [Well, hurt my feelings won’t ya 🙂 ] The mom told us how pleasant of a kid Jay is and how polite and how much of a gentleman. It made me feel so good. I know I say this all the time, but truly – I NEVER COULD HAVE IMAGINED THIS WHEN HE WAS YOUNGER. It’s the most wonderful thing to witness.

 

After we got home it began snowing so we spent the day reading books and baking and playing in snow and finally settled down in front of the TV to watch Christmas Chronicles (a new holiday movie on Netflix). As I sat there, cuddled with my 2 boys under a blanket, listening to them laugh and seeing Shaunie in her spot on the other side of the couch, also under a blanket, the fireplace lit, the Christmas tree lit and already overflowing with presents, the snow falling outside, I had a moment of total and complete contentment. Despite a whole lot of crazy and hectic and worry, we have such a good life and I am so blessed.  I don’t take any of it for granted.

 

 

 

 

*If she did own a gun, I’d’ve had follow up questions about the storage of said gun.  I mean, you can’t be too careful with 7 boys ages 10 and 11 running around.

 

Play Date For 2 September 17, 2018

Ace and Jay have never gone to the same school.  Mostly because they had different needs and the same school was never able to provide each kid what he needed.

 

In our area, there are 20 elementary schools that feed into 10 middle schools.  At the elementary school that Ace attended, the kids split fairly evenly between 2 of the middle schools based on where the kid lives.  At Jays elementary school though, the kids pretty much all end up at 1 middle school.  Jay will not go to that middle school.  He will instead take the bus with Ace and for the first time ever, next year, they will walk the same hallways and eat at the same cafeteria.

 

I say all that to say, when Ace began middle school last year, he knew a bunch of the other students already, but the one boy that he became the best friends with had come from the school that Jay currently goes to, so he hadn’t known anyone there prior to last September.

 

A couple of weeks ago Ace came home telling me that he and Nick wanted to hang out on the weekend so could I please speak with Nicks parents and arrange it.  Sure, no problem.

 

As the plans were coming together, Jay asked if he could hang out with them also.  He too knew Nick even though Nick was 2 grades ahead of him.  When Nick was at Jays elementary school they had both been in the same before and after care group.  They were friends of sorts.  Ace said he was ok with it.  Since the hang out was happening at Nicks house I made sure to clear the extra guest with Nicks parents.  We were a go.

 

At 11 am, we pulled up to Nicks driveway, made sure everyone was good, agreed on a 6pm return drop off and left.

All afternoon my phone was quiet.  That meant things were going well.  Right?

 

Just after 6, our doorbell rang and 2 happy boys waved their goodbyes to Nick and his parents and came bounding inside.

 

Later, I texted a thank you to the parents for having my 2 over and the reply said, “No problem!  They are wonderfully well-mannered boys and they are welcome at our house any time!”

The !’s and the “welcome any time” means the parents weren’t just being nice.  It means the boys really had all had a great time and my 2 really had been well behaved.  If the parents were just being polite the response would have said something like “You’re welcomeglad they had a good time.”  Right?  I think so.

 

I am so pleased that Ace has a good friend who seems to be a good kid from a delightful family.  I am so pleased that Jay had a good time with them and there were no attitude problems or meltdowns (I hadn’t told the parents about Jays autism).  I am so pleased that next year, Jay will know at least two students at his school – even though he will probably only see them in the hallways or the cafeteria.  Hopefully he will find his own Ace, just as Nick had.

 

Pride Month Reflections – With some religion and general life stuff thrown in there. June 28, 2017

Very often, life is incredibly beautiful.  Very often, life is incredibly difficult.  Just as often, both of those things are happening at the same exact time.

If you are lucky enough to find someone who makes the beautiful moments even more so and the difficult times somewhat bearable, then hold onto them with both hands.  If you find someone who you love and who in turn loves you and is as committed to you and your happiness/success/well-being as they are to their own, then cherish them.  Don’t let them go.  Certainly don’t let them go because of what other people think.

Find your real people.  The ones who willingly share your burdens.  The ones  who make you laugh and who comfort you and who are good influences on your children and who bend over backwards for you.  The ones who welcome you with wide open arms and want nothing more than for you to be happy.

Ignore the ones who do not make any effort for you.  The ones who make excuses and who don’t show any concern and who forget important dates and who obviously don’t care about your feelings or appreciate your time/sacrifices.  The ones who talk about you but not to you.  The ones who add nothing of substance but would have you live by their rules.  The people who are happy living in their own sin but who would judge you for your perceived transgressions.  No matter what their titles are, those are not your people and you do not need them.  Life is hard enough without them adding to it.

At the end of the day, there’s no use pretending to be someone you are not.  There’s no point in being lonely and no reward for being unhappy.  There is no prize for leaving yourself unfulfilled in order to please people who should be focusing their energy on other, more worthwhile, ventures.

 

 

I am no different than anyone else.

My life has had a lot of very difficult moments.   My life has had a lot of very beautiful moments.

I have truly amazing friends who have been there with me and stood by me through it all.  I have found romantic love and lost romantic love.  I am in love now – And I couldn’t ask her to love me (or my boys) any better.

I cannot imagine doing life without these people.  I would not want to imagine it.

 

But, there are those who would attack us with their religious speeches.  The ones who would deny my wife and I our happiness/rights and deny my children an awesome parent.  The re-married “adulterous” divorcees who quote one verse of the Bible to justify their anger/hatred/fear of gay people, but happily disregard the parts that say women should be silent in church and keep their heads covered or that shrimp is an abomination or that allows for incest and polygamy and slavery and that speaks of women as property for fathers to give away and for men to own/pass from brother to brother.

A few months ago they were posting about “Black Lives Matter” but now that it’s June they are posting about being “Straight and Proud”.  They don’t see that proclaiming Straight Pride is the same as proclaiming All Lives Matter.

These same people, with their holier than thou attitudes when it comes to homosexuality, have no problem with other forms of supposed sexual immorality.  They have no problem getting drunk on a regular basis or not tything or touching a menstruating woman.  Others remain silent when their friends spew racism and the worst of them condone men in their family who have molested children.  They welcome these sick bastards into their homes and they smile with them and wish them a happy fathers day.

 

I am not here to bash the Bible or religion or church goers.  I am bashing the hypocrisy.  I am bashing the picking and choosing of which Bible verses to pay attention to and make a big deal out of.  I believe the Bible can and should be used as a tool for good.  It should not be used as a weapon.  I believe there are a lot of benefits to having a church family.  I also believe it’s not possible to take everything the Bible says (in both the old and new testament) literally.

I believe at the end of the day, Jesus was about love.  Jesus was about protecting children and healing the sick and befriending the outcast.

When He gave His sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7), He talked about anger issues and lust (for another mans woman) and divorce and making promises and retaliation and loving your enemies and giving to the needy and fasting and anxiety and judging others and He taught people how to pray.

 

Do good.

Forgive.

Be Honest.

Help Others.

Love!

These are the things He preached about.

 

Shaunie and I didn’t attend any Pride events this month as it wasn’t convenient this time around.  We were busy living our lives.  Paying our taxes.  Pumping our gas.  Watching kid friendly movies.  Going to the dentist.  Hanging out with friends and hosting Grandma.   That’s not to say I don’t fully support them though.  I do.  I understand the desire to celebrate with and to be surrounded by other LGBT+ people.  I am 100% on board with activism and I think it’s totally ridiculous that laws get enacted based on the religious beliefs of some.

 

Life is hard enough without us imposing additional and unnecessary burdens on each other.  We should let people feel comfortable enough to find their true love; whoever that may be and whatever body parts that person may have.  Let people adopt children and give them a good home no matter the gender make-up of the household.  Provide a safe learning environment for all students regardless of their gender expression.  Stand up to bullies in every form.  Ban work place and/or healthcare discrimination based on sexual orientation.

 

To everyone I say, I don’t have all the answers to all the questions.  None of us do.  But I do know it is NOT our job to make things harder.  It’s just not.  It IS our job to make getting through this damn difficult thing called life as happy as possible for as many people as possible.   It IS our job to leave the world a better and safer place for the next generation.

To my fellow LGBT+ people, in addition to the above I say, keep your head up.  Be proud.  Be open.  Don’t give up the fight for equality.  Handle your personal business.  Live your truth and let your light – and rainbow – shine!

 

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Deen-A-Palooza March 7, 2017

 

I wrote a whole long thing giving all the details on my birthday weekend.  I had such a great time that I wanted to share it here.  As I was writing it though, I was shocked at how unexciting it all sounded.  None of the fun – And there was A LOT of fun – was making it’s way from my head to the screen and definitely none of the fullness that was in my heart fits onto a screen.

 

I think that’s because I can’t tell you all the jokes we shared.  Jokes don’t work that way.  I can’t tell you about VP or drinking poop water or introducing your girl to your cute friends; And by the way, how do you even know where my homeboy lives?   I can’t tell you about Panda Panda Panda or the frustrated George Washington buff.  I can’t tell you about the stall tactics Shaunie employed or the 4 person fake pajama party or the male nip slip.  I can’t possibly tell you about all the spilled wine and the yoga pose turned dry humping.  Seriously, I can’t.  I can’t share with you the stuck out pinkies or the Fe Fi Fo Fum or the no queso.  There’s no way the dusty law degree will be funny to you or the meme game or Indian people with Jamaican accents arguing with black Ghanian people with British accents over which one is more weird.

 

So here’s what I can do … I can tell you that my weekend was full.  It was full in the most glorious way.  My people showed up for me and I felt the love.  People came from New Jersey and Pennsylvania and North Carolina and Maryland.  They were childhood friends and college friends and work friends and friends of friends who became my friends.  We had dinner and we went to a club and we had brunch.  We had a game night and we sang karaoke and we laughed so hard that at one point I was literally rolling around on the floor.

Shaunie took me on a tour of Mount Vernon which was George Washington’s estate.  It was awesome for a history fan such as myself; especially one who is currently obsessing over all things Hamilton and the Revolutionary War.

We went indoor sky diving and to see a movie – Logan – Which is also awesome for someone, such as myself, who thinks the X-Men is the best comic book series.

We closed out the weekend with massages and then cupcakes with the kids.

I got a new bike, which I’ve been wanting and I got a stained glass ornament hand-made by the boys.  I got wine and a personalized wine goblet and nail polish and t-shirts and books and jewelry.

I loved all the gifts but none of them compare to the gift that Shaunie is to me or to the ongoing and long-lasting gift of friendship that I have received from the best people in the world.  I was (am) completely overwhelmed and full of gratitude to have these people in my life.

 

Did I mention that every bit of it, was a surprise?  Starting on Friday evening, from one minute to the next, I never knew what was coming.

 

I am sure I am leaving stuff out but hey – I’m old now so I can blame that.  🙂

 

Camp Diary August 24, 2015

Friday, August 7, 2015

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Jay was so excited for our camping trip that he took it upon himself to write it on our family calendar.  “CAMP TUDAY”.  I’ve never seen him do anything like that before.*

We planned to leave home at 7:30 am since we had a 2:00 pm check in time at the camp site.  That gave us 6.5 hrs to get there.  Google said it was a 5 hour drive so I figured that was perfect.  And it was.  It gave me 1.5 hrs to run late and actually leave home at 9:00 am and also gave me enough time to stop for over an hour and show up at the camp site at 3:30 pm.  ON TIME by Jamaican standards.

Friday was full of greeting the 13 other people we were camping with, setting up tents, sorting out the food/drinks station, taking pictures and lots of talking and silliness.

The kids went to bed after we ate our hot dogs and hamburgers dinner.

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

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Ace was one of the 1st people to wake up.  That was a shock to exactly NOBODY.  My kids early rising is well known in my circle.  Well before 7:00 am he was roaming around looking for fellow early birds.  Eventually we all got up and did a lot of nothing.  That’s one of the best things about camp life.  There is a lot of work to do; but it never feels like it.  There is no time pressure, there is no rush, there are no schedules.  We get around to things when we get around to them.  You wanna stay in pajamas all day?  Go ahead.  You wanna eat junk all day and not comb your hair?  Knock yourself out.

At some point in the afternoon, after we had feasted on a big Jamaican breakfast, we went to a nearby beach.  Mind you, it was not exactly beach weather.  It was chilly and overcast and windy.  But guess who cared?  None of us.

The waves were HUGE and the current was STRONG.  To some of the adults in our group, that spelled nothing but danger.  To some of the adults in our group – and all of the kids – that spelled lots of fun.  The little ones were getting properly tossed around and knocked over and spun around and under and every which way by the waves.  The adults were on super watch keeping our eyes and hands on them and making sure they were all safe.  There were 7 kids under the age of 10 to keep track of.

Back at the camp site, we roasted marshmallows and the kids played sword fight with some plastic tubes and Jay harassed the other kids and I got attacked by a wild band of sword-wielding pirates and the kids got high on sugar from a giant bag of gum balls.

As you can imagine, it was a full day and once the kids were in bed, the rest of us needed a few drinks.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

There was pulling down and packing up to do.  There was also a pool and a playground that the kids wanted to go to.  I ended up at the pool and the playground with the kids.  Cause who wants to do the work of pulling down and packing up if you can be at the pool tossing 6 year olds into the deep end.

Once all the hard work was done and the kids had played volley ball over our clothes line and lots of pictures were taken and one person who shall remain nameless was determined to use the timer on his camera to capture a picture of all the grown ups but failed and once all the hugs and kisses were dished out and all the “see you soons” and “I hope you have a great school years” were said, we all made our way out of Chincoteague Island VA.

 

Speaking of Chincoteague Island, can I just say that I had never heard of it before we chose it for our camp site but it’s quite an interesting place.  Next to a shop selling confederate flags and T-Shirts you might find a shop proudly sporting a rainbow flag and a little further down you just may see a giant Jamaican flag atop a brightly coloured, polka dotted boat outside of Woody’s Eatery which you would assume is a Jamaican food establishment but it will not turn out to be anything of the sort.

All in all, although there were some slightly rough patches – A little fussiness from kids, a bum tent for one family and too much wind to enjoy some of the games we had planned to play for example  – It was a very successful camping weekend and I’m sure all 17 of us who were there (for 7 of them it was their 1st time) would agree that it was a wonderful get together and we will all be ready again next year.

For me, without a doubt, my favourite thing was watching all the kids play together.  They even played freeze tag (or stucky as we called it), and sat with us learning dominoes, just as we all had when we were children growing up in Jamaica together.

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*He’s since written “ACE BIRTHDAY” on the Calendar – Sept 3rd.

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Some people actually do work and set tents up … Some people (me) take pictures.

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Cannon Ball!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I was once this age; playing with these kids parents.  (Crazy!)

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Usain Bolt pose.  lol

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Hanging out, talking and watching the corns get roasted.  No I-anythings.  🙂

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Heads Up.  Volley Ball time.

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Early morning inside the tent.

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Told you I was attacked and made to walk the plank.

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The next generation – Learning the game.

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Just chillin and catching up with each other.  Not a care in the world.

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A restaurant, but not a Jamaican restaurant.

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Ignore the hair.  Focus on my boy helping to make johnny cakes on a charcoal grill.

 

Weekend – Part 1 – Play Date May 19, 2015

This past Saturday we met up with a friend of Ace’s at an indoor trampoline place.  Let’s call him Antonio.

First of all, my boys LOVE trampolining.  Second of all, it was Antonio’s idea to go there.  WIN!!!

I had seen this particular friend a bunch of times when I went to pick Ace up at school but I had never met his parents before.

I’m always a little nervous about meeting new parents.  First of all, even though Ace is a total sweetheart and he loves everybody as though they are his family, he is a HIGH ENERGY, get all up in your space, kinda kid and second of all … Jay is … unpredictable.

Antonio’s mom arrived with her cousin who also has a little boy.  The family could NOT have been nicer.  As it turns out Antonio is also on the autism spectrum.  It wasn’t obvious to me in the times I had seen him but that’s what his mom said.  We easily struck up a conversation about Jay and his struggles vs strengths as well as those of Antonio.

The 4 boys were having a great time and us adults were having easy and fun conversations.

All good.

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Then a group came in for a birthday party.  This group ruined everything.  First of all, they brought in pizza for their guests.  Second of all, they did not bring pizza for Jay.  This lead to a meltdown of semi-epic proportions.  We had about 30 minutes left on our time so I tried really hard to keep him calm so the other boys could finish up their jumping session.

Antonio’s mom and cousin weren’t phased at all.  Like, AT ALL.  Not even a little bit.  They asked if I wanted to leave.  They would have been ok with that.  I declined.  They asked if there was anything they could do.  I asked them to just keep their eyes on Ace while I sat on the floor and rocked with Jay.

The original plan was for us to go our separate ways at the end of the two jumping hours but as we were changing shoes to go, they suggested that we all go to Pizzeria Uno for a late lunch/early dinner.  They knew Jay wanted pizza and they weren’t quite ready to ditch us yet.  WIN!!!

As soon as Jay heard that we were going for pizza his mood changed and we all ended up having a REALLY NICE meal.  Conversation flowed smoothly and the kids behaved as well as 4 boys between the ages of 4 and 9 can be expected to behave.  They ate and laughed and talked and managed to only spill 1 drink.

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Three hours after the play date was supposed to end, we said our goodbyes with promises to do it again soon.  I hope they meant it. First of all because Ace really likes hanging out with Antonio and second of all because I really liked hanging out with Antonio’s mom and cousin.

 

The Friend Jackpot August 25, 2014

In my life, there have been oh so many times when I wished to be in a different situation and there have been oh so many circumstances that I would have changed if I had my way. But the truth is, one small change can change the entire projection of our lives. In the end, we just have to take what we have and do the best we can. We have to be as good as we can to the people who are good to us and we have to try to forgive those who have hurt us. (Forgiving does not mean continuing to tolerate).  It’s because of some life-pain that I have received some of my best blessings. It’s because of some less than ideal situations that I was able to meet and become friends with some of the most incredible people in the world. I wouldn’t change a thing if it meant losing any one of my friends. 

 

NO MATTER WHAT life throws at me (or what I get myself into), I can WITHOUT A DOUBT say that I hit the Super, Mega, Giant, Best Of All Time Jackpot where friends are concerned.

All through mine and their own, family drama, financial issues, heartbreak, questionable fashion choices, medical diagnoses/procedures, bad decisions, relocations, close calls, fears for/death of loved ones, fad diets, disappointments and all things wonderful and joyous … My friends have been the most consistent, kind, funny, fun, supportive, responsible, dependable, strong, goofy, sensitive, compassionate, genuine people in my life.

 

My circle is not that big (although it’s grown to include some of their spouses). The friends I have now are the same friends that I have had for YEARS. I get lonely sometimes since we are all now scattered across the globe but our bond is unbreakable and we make time and effort to see each other when we can. Jobs and other things get in the way so there is usually at least 1 or 2 people missing when there’s a gathering but none the less, what we have is special. We all know it and we all really cherish it.

 

This past weekend some of us got to spend 2 days together and it was just amazing. It’s nice seeing our children together but our children won’t understand what WE have. It’s wonderful – our reminiscing and teasing and dancing and eating and cooking and commiserating and laughing and sharing together – again – still – after all these years. We all want the best for each other and we bring out the best in each other. I may not be where I want to be in many ways in my life but without these people who I call friends, there is no doubt in my mind that I would be a heck of a lot worse off. 

 

I know that having them in my life saved me.

In every way. 

 

I hope that my boys find friends who will look out for them and who will be a good influence on them and who will not worry about following the crowd. I hope my boys find friends who will want good for them and who will accept them and encourage them and help bring them back into the fold when they stray. I hope their circle of friends will make them want to be their best selves just by setting a good example and loving them through thick and thin. I hope that they can be all that for someone who needs it – like I did.  Like I still do. 

 

 

 

 

 

*There are a couple of people who are not necessarily a part of this particular group that got together over the weekend.  My feelings above are as much about them as about the ones I just saw.  Just know that if you are my bonafide friend (and you know who you are), THIS is how I feel about you and I love you.*

 

Snitches Get Stitches August 7, 2014

We’d been camping before and it was always wonderful.  What we hadn’t been, was camping following a week long (and very tiring) trip to Florida and camping without CC.  It was anyones guess how it would go.

 

For starters, we had a 4 hour drive to get to the camp site.  We made one stop on the NJ Turnpike to get gas, something to drink and to use the bathroom.  That did not go well.  Apologies to the gas station attendant, the cashier at the rest-stop store, the young-ish gentleman who held the door open for us and to anyone who was unfortunate enough to be in the parking lot of the Woodrow Wilson rest stop on that day, at that time.  A couple of hours later we made a stop at Walmart to get fruits and charcoal in order to kill time since we were way ahead of the rest of our party.  That stop went perfectly well and was actually kinda fun.  You win some and you lose some.

 

 Camping itself was fun – as usual.  Sure there was the occasional whining and fighting and general fussiness due to being tired, but overall the adults  behaved themselves.   (ha ha!). 

Seriously though, there was a lot of tattling from all 4 boys which my friend Sun Man tried to discourage by telling them that “snitches get stitches.”  (so funny!)  Despite that, the kids all had a great time.  They spent A LOT of time in the river.  Man they loved that murky, cold, rocky, who knows what else river water. Yeesh.  They were in it from morning till night.  That’s not an exaggeration. 

S’mores were made and balloon rockets were fired off and there was dancing and a  full blown crab dinner.  Real rocks were thrown at real heads and boys tried to drown each other – all a part of the fun apparently (?!). 

To keep the adults sane there was an abundance of alcohol and there was much laughter. 

I found out through the game of Scruples that one of my friends is WAYYY more competitive than I realized and that my other friend would pick up a hitch hiker (still in this day and age) and that my other friend is a total softy when it comes to door-to-door sales people and that my other friend thinks that I might, “depending on the situation“, battle it out with her for a cute guys attention if we were both single. 

 

The trip wasn’t perfect but I would definitely mark it down as a success – even if the boys and I were happy to get home and to have no plans at all for the following weekend.

 

 

Pictures anyone?  🙂

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