Event: Adventures in Babysitting
The other day I ran into a co-worker of mine who told me his parents read this blog. That got me thinking - what in the heck do total strangers think of this crazy girl who goes out and sings with bands, hops on motorcycles with men she doesn't know, goes to shooting ranges and rides around with cops for fun? So I thought I should tone it down a bit and show that I'm not a wild, thrill-seeker living on the edge at all times. That's why I called one of my best friends and asked if she and her family wanted to meet me at a local pumpkin patch to pick pumpkins. In my mind, she and her husband and their three kids would meet me (the cool "aunt") at the pumpkin patch, where I would get to run around with them for a few minutes, eat kettle corn, pick a pumpkin, scope out the single dads, and go home. Upon running this brilliant plan by my friend, she thought it would be even more fun if I took two of her kids with me...alone. For the record, I don't have any kids of my own (that I know of) but I've been around them enough to know the basics. What the heck. Let's do it.
I drove to my friend's house because we both agreed I needed to drive their car since both kids are still in car seats. Excuse me. One is in a car seat, the other is in a booster seat. I'm guessing this is a big deal. Anyway, the youngest is two years old and his older sister is five. Right before we piled into the Honda Odyssey minivan (seriously, all of my nightmares are coming true) I got a lesson about peanut allergies. Fact: Telling a single girl about the dangers of peanut allergies and discussing the risks if a child with a peanut allergy even so much smells a peanut will literally make single girl break out into a cold sweat, maybe even hives, and momentarily wish she had never signed up for this. Ever. But that wasn't the worst part. The peanut allergy lesson got more interesting when I had to learn how to use an EpiPen. Oh for the love of peanuts all around the world, I have to watch for two warning signs and if I see them (wheezing, red cheeks, fainting, throwing up - wait, that's just me) I have to dramatically shove this EpiPen thing into the fatty part of the thigh of this sweet little two year old? All the while, maintain complete composure, explain how this is not my child, call 911, call mom and dad, yell for help, call MY mom and dad, keep an eye on older sister, watch my purse and make sure no one steals our pumpkins? This parenthood thing is ridiculous.
Scared half to death, I left my purse behind and traded it in for a backpack that looked like a monkey. (It is now abundantly clear that I will not be getting hit on today). Inside are baby wipes (for fingers only, hopefully), two cups of water, two jackets, Benadryl and the EpiPen. I got a quick lesson on how to drive a minivan, like how the side doors open automatically (my parents' Plymouth Voyager with wood paneling did NOT have that feature) and how to keep an eye on the kids by looking at the nifty little mirror above the windshield. And we're off.
As I nervously drove down the highway going 17 miles an hour, the kids were serenating me with the song "All the Single Ladies" sung by the chipmunks from Alvin and Chipmunks, the Squeakuel. Ahhh, the irony. Shortly after that song ended, Elmo came on. This is exactly why moms secretly drink in the afternoon. Three wrong turns later, the oldest told me I sure didn't know how to drive around the city very well, but we finally arrived at our destination. Before opening the cool automatic doors, I said a little prayer, reminded them that they have to stay by my side at all times or else, I grabbed my monkey backpack and we were off. I think I said "wait" and "hold my hand" like 87 times even before they were out of their car seats. Oh sweet Jesus here we go.
As we walked up to the entrance, I handed the money to the gal behind the window and that's when the oldest said to her, "this is my mommy's friend." And I responded by explaining how I was taking them to the pumpkin patch without their parents and we were going to have fun, and.... That's when she interrupted me and said to the woman, "And my older sister is at a birthday party so mom and dad are home all by themselves. And you know what that means." Before exploding with laughter, the woman and I looked at each other, waiting with baited breath for her to finish her sentence. "That means they're WORKING." Oh thank God. Good answer. Moving on.
We made it 10 feet before both kids started grabbing handfuls of gourds while the youngest went and got a wagon to pull. Oh great, this is a train wreck in the making. No telling how many toes we will run over today. From gourds we moved to big, ugly, warty pumpkins (which was fun to explain why they looked that way - I made up something brilliant, I'm sure) and we finally made our way over to rides and games. They rode a train, jumped on a pumpkin trampoline, had a duck race, went down a pumpkin slide, rode on a tricycle track, shot a paintball gun, launched a gourd out of a pumpkin cannon, got to see bunnies, pigs, horses and goats oh my! All the while, I'm pulling the wagon with 17 gourds and a monkey backpack, checking for peanut allergy warning signs, and for the first time in my life, I understood why some people put their children on a leash.
We didn't make it very far before the kids started asking for kettle corn. I didn't want any tears, so we quickly made our way to the concession stand and I ordered a large bag of kettle corn and two leashes. Just kidding. As I began to open the bag, I had a vision of kettle corn being made with peanut oil so I quickly grabbed the bag away from the youngest and asked the woman behind the counter if this was safe to eat. She of course gave me a non-answer by saying, "Legally I'm supposed to tell you some food with peanuts is made back here." She clearly doesn't understand that I'm not a mother and if this is "mom speak" I'm not following. Looking for a yes or no answer, I couldn't get one. So, the "cool aunt" quickly became "the jerk that my mom is friends with" because I told the youngest he had to wait while his older sister chowed down. He didn't quite understand my explanation, so for the next hour, all I kept hearing him way was, "I wann pup-core". Eh? "I wann pup-core." What? "I WANN PUP-CORE!" His sister had to translate. Oh, I get it. He's trying to tell me he wants some of the popcorn. I suck.
I did my best to distract him as we hopped on a tractor headed out to the field of pumpkins. Luckily, each of the kids migrated to the medium sized pumpkins, not the "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" sized ones. I told them we could get as many as they could carry. Well that was stupid because guess who ended up carrying 6 pumpkins back to the tractor. That would be me.
As we worked our way back towards the entrance, we had to stop and play on a slide, a pirate ship, a train, a horse swing, dig in the sand and play in a sandbox filled with corn. Oh crap. Does corn grow with peanuts? As I looked over, both of them were elbows deep in a corn-filled sandbox and my heart skipped a beat. We didn't talk about corn! What if he has a reaction to corn? EpiPen on the ready, I waited for the signs as I ran over and lifted them both out of the box. So far so good. I could tell a minor meltdown was on the verge, so we hopped back on the horse swing, I bribed them with more pumpkins and we were on our way. Meanwhile, mom called and said the kettle corn was fine. Sorry for the delay, here's your pup-core.
A zip-line ride, a failed attempt into a haunted house and one more stop to see the bunnies and we were out of there. Just in time because everyone was fighting over the kettle corn, I was out of money, and no one has pooped in 3 and a half hours and I'm betting my luck is about to run out.
Elmo sang us all the way home and that's when I realized these sweet little angels taught me a lesson today. Life is all about laughing, having fun, playing in a sandbox filled with corn, going down a pumpkin slide and petting baby animals. So here's to peanuts, "pup-core" and to kids of all ages.