We decided to let Nico join the Boy Scouts. He loves it! Loves it so much that he gets dressed, without being told, two hours ahead of time. This past weekend the troop went to Corona for the Green Zone 11 Apocalypse Training (survivalist training with the word zombie in it to sound cool).
Nico loved it. Mikey liked it. The Mister didn’t have a great time.
I couldn’t go because at the last minute I got a coveted appointment with my hair stylist. I hadn’t been in so long that I touched up my roots at home 3 times. When I got out, I texted the Mister that I could head out that way, but he told me to stay put. The event had such promise. Here were some of the items on the agenda.
**Red Cross Class- First Aid/Emergency Prep/CPR
**Water Purification and Outdoor Survival Skills
**Knots and Paracord (open baggie in your bag and
trade ticket for your paracord)
**Naturalist for You- Native American Skills- Shelter
Building, Foraging for Food, Plants for Medicine
**Zombie Research Center- How a Pandemic Happens
and Zombie Information
**Outdoor Cooking- GS Troop 356- vagabond stoves, box,
dutch and solar ovens and fire starters.
**Duct Tape for Survival at Duct Duct Bloom
(take the eye bolt out of your bag)
**Earthquake Information- Cal State Fullerton
**Survival Gear from Household items
**Food Safety- Cee Duckett
**Alternative sources of power- Solar, Pedal Power
Special FX Makeup
I mean, right? So cool. According to the Mister, it had the potential but was unorganized. The event planners held it at the same place Corona used to host The Renaissance Pleasure Faire, which is now the Old World Festival.* There was stuff to buy, but the Mister couldn’t find most of the educational stations.
But the boys got to fight zombies, which is always a plus, and I’d like to try it again if they hold it next year. One, because this was a first-time event and there is only room for improvement and refinement. Second, and I’m going to be honest here, I love my husband very much but he doesn’t do well in unorganized crowds. Amusement parks, festivals, malls during holidays or on the weekends, IKEA…
I think for us to get the most out of an activity like this, I needed to be there to be the cheerleader, to remind him that the odds of the boys being kidnapped are low, and to point out that a hot, crowded, dusty field of apocalypse training only feels like the end of the world.
*I don’t know why The Renaissance Pleasure Faire is now in Irwindale, but I suspect the faire, which I hear is huge, outgrew the venue.
If it’s possible to be a grinch outside of Christmas, I suppose I’m one when it comes to Halloween. I can count on one hand the number of times I have carved a pumpkin. It’s something I never really did as a child, so the Mister does it with the boys every year. I find the ghoulish decorations depressing, and the costumes some of the teenage girls wear make me want to pelt them with a collection of hardcover Gloria Steinem books. If I had my way, I’d probably turn out all the lights and read a book. And yet, somehow, we have a party every year.
Except this year. I couldn’t do it, even though Halloween fell on a Friday. I knew that I would come home from an all-day meeting feeling tired and antisocial. I compromised with Mikey and allowed him to invite his two best friends. I had Nico do the same thing, but they already made plans. I told everyone when they arrived that I was tired and probably going to stay home and grade papers while they walked the neighborhood. I ended up passing out candy with the moms, even though I wanted to do nothing more than hide my introverted self under the covers. I ended up having a great time. Sometimes I need a good shove into social situations, and almost always I’m happy to have stepped out of my comfort zone.
The best part of the night had to be when a Weeping Angel came to the door and confronted our 11th Doctor. (Doctor Who reference!)
The boys convinced me to get Buddy a Halloween costume. For almost a week I debated returning it, but I’m so glad I didn’t. He looked adorable and was the hit of the neighborhood. He barked and barked inside, so I brought him outside and had him lie down next to me as we handed out candy. He was a little excited for a few minutes, but then he curled up on his bed and slept. When you’re mostly blind, deaf, and have trouble walking, sometimes it feels good to do nothing more than snuggle next to your people.
My mom established a Halloween pajama tradition that the boys look forward to every year. Like the name strongly suggests, she buys the boys a new pair of pajamas every Halloween in an enormous size they can grow into. They usually have a spooky theme, but now that they are getting older those themed pajamas are hard to find. Everything is dark and plaid for their size. No matter–they loved their new pajamas. Every year they wake up on November 1st and claim they had the best night’s sleep of their life thanks to combed cotton.
I wasn’t planning on being here today, but I thought I would regret not jotting down a few thoughts on one of the last celebrations before the new year. I hope you indulge me.
My teacher’s in-service (I was well enough to go) was in Yucaipa at St. Francis X. Cabrini Catholic Church, which has to be one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in the area. It was stunning and huge! As I exited the freeway, I noticed that the famous apple orchards of Oak Glen were to the left. Going to the apple orchards is something I always wanted to do as a family, so that’s what we did on Saturday.
I didn’t know which orchard to pick, so I chose Riley’s because it was the first one that popped up online and looked pretty good. The boys had a great time. There were a ton of activities for them, including tomahawk throwing and archery. I was nervous when it was Mikey’s turn to throw the tomahawk. Mikey is a fair athlete. He gives it 100% and loves sports, but he will never be a professional…football player, for example. I’m more than OK with that, but the mama bear in me didn’t want him to toss a tomahawk in front of a crowd of people and have it land in the dirt 5 feet from the target. I shouldn’t have worried. He listened to the directions quietly and got into position. Then my serious, small-for-his-age 10 year-old let that tomahawk fly. It whistled through the air blade over grip and hit the target with a loud whack. Head shot, I’ll have you know. The crowd made a murmuring sound of surprise and the guy in the tri horn hat looked at me and said, “OK, he’s a natural.” Then Mikey went on to make 5 more shots like tossing dangerous weapons is what he does for fun after he runs out of babies to pinch. Nico, it turns out, is a natural at archery, even though they didn’t have a left-handed bow. I walked away both proud and slightly concerned that we are raising the Dixon brothers from The Walking Dead.
As much fun as it was, we wouldn’t go back to Riley’s. It was far too crowded and the trees were picked bare. We only managed to get a few apples, and only standard varieties you can get at the store. When I came home, I went on Facebook and saw that our priest went apple picking, too! While we were there at the same time, he was at a different orchard. He couldn’t remember the name, but his pictures showed him drowning in bushels of apples. Our orchard was more picturesque, but the man walked away with apples from an apple orchard. Which is, like, the point when you go apple picking. Clearly he had God on his side during the apple orchard selecting process.
Life Lessons From the 5th Grade
- Open book tests are hard. If you ever hear there is going to be an open book test, this is what you need to do: a) freak out b) calm down c) study hard d) wash, rinse, repeat
- Don’t multi-task. It is a really, really, really bad idea to read your Percy Jackson book (Battle of the Labyrinth) behind your social studies book in class.
- Don’t get cocky. If you take a math test and you think you aced it, and then tell everyone that you aced it–including your mom–don’t be surprised when you get a D. It’s called Karma.
- Don’t go super fast during tests because you will make careless mistakes. If you have extra time, check your answers to make sure you weren’t being cocky. (see number 3)
- 4th graders will copy all the games you play at recess because they have no imagination.
- If people laugh at you, just think in your mind that those people are overrated.
- The Lightening Thief movie is nothing like the book. It is the most inaccurate thing I have ever seen in my life. I think that the movie directors got the story mixed up but when they realized it they had already spent a lot of money on the movie and couldn’t redo it without going over budget. The movie is so wrong that if you do a book report in class on The Lightning Thief I will totally know that you only watched the movie.
- Always practice for music class! It will backfire on you if you don’t!
- Having your mom work at the school is awesome because if you forget your clarinet and give her puppy dog eyes she will go pick it up on her lunch time.
Yesterday the Mister had to take his mom to the emergency room. She’s okay now, but at the time she was tired and miserable and hours away from going home. I was out running errands when the Mister texted me about getting comfortable clothes for his mom.
Of course, I said. Since I didn’t have her house keys and she lives 30 minutes away, I offered to go buy something. He agreed. I went into one store, then another. Yesterday was the first day in recorded history that cheap sweat pants in a size Medium were not available in the United States. Except, of course, at one store. My last resort. The place I only go in case of extreme emergency. Not just regular emergency, extreme emergency.
There are several topics one doesn’t mention in polite society: (A) religion, (B) politics, (C) income, and (D) Walmart. Not-so-coincidentally, talking about D usually involves A, B, and C. I’m going to disregard my biological impulse for self preservation and devote an entire post to my personal rules for shopping at Walmart.
Rule No. 1: Never Shop at Walmart
I get a pass on this one since it was an extreme emergency.
Rule No. 2: Arrive with an Empty Bladder
I didn’t, so I had to venture into the Walmart bathrooms. Again, I get a pass on this one since it was an extreme emergency. I tried, unsuccessfully, meditation, mind-over-matter, and the pee-pee dance to prevent the inevitable.
Rule No. 3: Maintain a Positive Attitude
Create a Wall of Happy. Say excuse me, please, and thank you. Show respect to fellow shoppers. Smile beatifically at the parents of children having tantrums. Be a good person.
Rattled from breaking two of my hard-and-fast Walmart rules, my Wall of Happy started to crumble.
Rule No. 4: Bring Entertainment
I usually have a book in my purse, and of course there is always my phone. But because it was an extreme emergency, I decided to forgo a cart or hand basket in favor of grabbing what I needed. Then I walked to the “Speedy Checkout” register, only to stand in line with my arms full of miscellanea, unable to access my entertainment.
Rule No. 5: There is no “Speedy Checkout”
Management must instruct their employees to affix Walmart price tags with spit and wishes, because there is always at least one item in 75% of the shopping carts without a price. This produces all sorts of outrage as everyone else in line waits for the mythical Price Check Employee to appear in a swirl of smoke and intone, The Soft Touch Hanes Sweat Pants, classic fit, are $9.86.”
There is also at least one shopper who will produce 400 unorganized coupons on a Sunday afternoon, ready to do battle over the price of a 32-pack of Gatorade.
I stood for 20 minutes in the “Speedy Checkout” line listening to a woman argue about the price of juice before remembering Rule No. 5.
Rule No. 6: Expect the Unexpected
There will always be that one guy wearing something you can’t believe, or that one employee you can’t believe has a job. This is normal at Walmart, The New Colossus of shopping.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to wear spandex,
The street-rat-crazy of your teeming shore.
Send these, the butt-cracked, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
I call her Babushka, the 4’3″ fuse attached to my cannonball. Babushka, though I don’t know if she’s a Russion grandmother. Her age is indeterminable, maybe early 50s. I know she wears a headscarf tied under her chin and looks like she walked out of a Van Gogh painting. Actually, she bears a horrifying resemblance to the late Zelda Rubinstein, down to the stiff walk and raspy, child-like voice.
Babuska, my nemesis. It’s not the first time I’ve stood in her line, which always takes forever. When I see her, I run. But this time, this time she got the best of me. I was in line, almost 20 minutes by this point, when they did a shift change. I watched with dismay as a black, simple headscarf made it’s way through the aisle of bottled water like the dorsal fin of a hungry shark. I was doomed.
True to form, Babushka slowly and methodically scanned each item. If an item didn’t scan, she did it again, even slower than before. Watching her scan items is like watching a sea anemone creep along the ocean floor. She scans an item three times before reaching for the handheld scanner. I commend her for working; it must be a grueling, exhausting job. I wish she didn’t have to work at Walmart. I still want to strangle her with her headscarf.
She requested so many price checks that the mythical Price Check Employee stopped coming back. The crowd behind and in front of me started sharpening their pitchforks. “Why are we here,” said a woman holding a lamp.
“We’ve been here too long,” I said. “We’re invested in this line, so now we can’t leave.”
Four college boys tried to buy everything plus one white serving dish without a price tag. Babushka turned the bowl over and over and over again, perhaps looking for the answers to life’s most important questions. She began randomly scanning the bowl with her hand scanner in case the tag was invisible, I suppose.
I had enough. I, normally a patient person, came unglued. “Gentleman,” I called out. “If there is no price, you are not getting the bowl. Let the dream go and move it along.” Four pairs of entitled eyes turned and looked at me. I looked back.
At this point, I had been standing for 30 minutes in line to buy $7 worth of clothing. I started imagining my 30 minute drive to the hospital, walking through the halls, searching for my husband and mother in-law. Babushka, Babushka, Babushka. I texted the Mister that he would have to meet me in the parking lot.
Finally, three customers later, it was my turn. MY TURN! I walked up and handed her my items rather than placing it on the conveyor belt because I noticed the counter was wet.
“I don’t know why it’s still wet!” She said in her terrifying voice. “I cleaned it but it’s still wet! So sticky! So sticky!”
“That’s alright,” I said in what now sounded to me like a rumbling baritone. “I’m in a bit of a hurry and it’s just as easy for me to hand you this.”
“So sticky!” She said again. “I cleaned it once already!” She grabbed four squares from a roll of toilet paper and started wiping the counter.
“Perfectly fine!” I said. “But, really, I just need to get going.”
She scanned my items while I stood ready with my ATM card. I ran my card through faster than I ever have in my life. My fingers flew across the keypad. It read “WAITING FOR CASHIER”.
I was almost there, almost done. Almost out of the hellhole. And then. Dear God, and then.
“So sticky!” She said. “I don’t know why it can’t get clean!” I wanted to reach across the counter and tell Lady Macbeth to forget the damn spot and press that little button that would complete the transaction. Instead, I watched, slack-jawed, as she moved away from the counter and shuffled towards a bottle of cleanser 5 check stands away.
“No!” I yelled. “No! It’s not that sticky! Please, come back!” She didn’t hear me over the creaking of her bones. The luckiest part of my entire Walmart experience was that a manager happened to walk up to help the checker next to us. I begged her to check me out. “Just press the button,” I said. “That’s all you have to do.”
As the manager pressed the button, back came Babuska, wildly spraying her cleanser all over the counter, the lamp on the belt, the customers, the world. “Watch out, my eyes!” cried out the woman with the lamp. Babushka and her toilet paper, rubbing everything down.
Forty minutes later, I had my $7 sweat pants. I texted the Mister to let him know I was on my way, forgetting the most important rule of all when it comes to Walmart shopping.
Rule No. 7: It’s Not Over Until Sam Walton Sings