Wednesday, July 29, 2020

COVID County Fair

The Wayne County Fair sure looked different this year, but it occurred. When we look back on the summer of 2020, could that be all that matters?


The Wayne County 4-H and Purdue Extension team can’t be commended adequately for the job they did organizing the 2020 event. Woodworkers, photographers, electricians, seamstresses, and beyond still wowed the judges and those who raised livestock were still able to present their market and breeding animals.


It was different. 

It was lacking an urban crowd. 

It was managed unbelievably well. 


“Who was there?” Mom asked me on the phone one night after we’d returned from the beef show.


“Everyone you’d expect to be at the heifer show,” I said, then named the 3rd generation families that likely haven’t missed a beef show in 40 years. When your grandkid is in the ring, you show up, come COVID-19 or high water. 


There was no Sugar Grove Community Church lemonade shake-up stand, no queen contest, and no antique tractor display, but as a mother of two under four, it still got the job done. 


From the sidelines, too young to exhibit anything but stains down the front of their shirts, our children still had a ball. 


First, at the sno-cone stand where Caroline placed an order without parental supervision, leaving me no option but to run to the car for a wallet before it melted. 


Then with the rocks in Cyrus’ mouth because his hands were full, and his shorts didn’t have pockets. How else was he supposed to haul them?!


Then with the Play-Doh back in the camper area where friends had cattle tied. 


Caroline asked me, “What kind of Play-Doh is this?” holding up a tiny red stick.

“It’s not. It’s a day-old old French fry covered in ketchup. Put it back where it was. Someone may want it for supper”


That’s the county fair spirit!


Cody judged the beef show at another county hours away on that day. Every time the kids begged for cotton candy, I told them we’d get some when Daddy arrived (believing he never would). Low and behold, the Angus heifers walked into the ring and he arrived just in time. The man has a 6th sense for Angus cattle on display. 


All Angus classes and one division later, our kids appeared to be sweating cotton candy. 


Six minutes after that, the sugar kicked in and Cyrus began ripping the CAUTION tape (used for social distancing) off the bleachers. He’s never been a rule follower. That’s when I knew it was time to head home to Economy. 


By the time we got home, they were so deeply asleep that I had to wipe little rivers of drool and cotton candy off their faces. I washed their feet with a warm washcloth, in awe of how much they’ve grown. I put them in footed jammies so sand wouldn’t sleep in their sheets. I swiped Cyrus’ mouth for more rocks and he didn’t even try to bite me. That’s a big deal. 

As a parent, getting those two in bed early, completely exhausted was quite a feat. In fact, because of the great 2020 Wayne County 4-H Fair, later that evening…


I made no supper. 

Watered flowers. 

Tended garden. 

Meal prepped for the next two nights. 

Did two loads of laundry. 

Went to the bathroom and no one asked why.


Cody did all chores. 

Mowed pastures. 

Checked cattle at three different farms. 

He actually enjoyed a Diet Coke with no one hanging on his leg begging for a sip (chug). 


It was the most relaxing evening, ever!


So thank you, all who organized and hosted the Wayne County 4-H Fair. We don’t have exhibit-age kids but we do have two who enjoyed the event tremendously. 


And think of all the money I saved on Kemos. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Summer Road Trip

With no one in the house but me, I stood at the top of the stairway: Is there anything we’re forgetting? 


I’m fortunate in that I married someone who can handle every construction zone, detour, speed limit and time zone change quite well; Cody is a natural born trucker. When we travel west to visit his family in Kansas, I simply have to get the kids (and myself) in the truck. He does all the driving – both ways!


There was an extra outfit for Caroline that I’d remove from the suitcase two hours prior and placed on our bed. But on my final trip through the house, something told me to grab it. As I locked up the house, something told me to grab paper towels. I don’t know what was “telling me” this, but I did it. We travel to Kansas a few times a year; even in the kids’ infant stage, I’ve never packed paper towels. 


We weren’t five miles into Illinois before Caroline whimpered quietly, “Mommy. I’m going to be sick.” She wasn’t wrong. The best I could do was hold her beloved white blanky in front of her to catch what I could. Cody was driving, in the thick of a conference call about flying live beef bulls into Brazil. I don’t know if it was the sound or the smell, but he kicked that Ford F-350 into NASCAR mode and we were at a rest stop in less than two minutes. 


Suddenly, the last-minute paper towels and extra outfit sure came in handy. 


For thirty minutes I wiped down every inch of Caroline and the car seat that I could reach. I used the paper towels and public sink to wash her hair. We were in a rest stop stall when someone joined us next door. 


“She’s suuuure using a lot of toilet paper, Mommy. Please tell her not to clog the potty,” Caroline requested, using her outside voice. I was mortified, but also proud that she remembered the 4-square rule, even with an upset tummy. 


I used the hand sanitizer in Cody’s truck to try to kill the acidic smell. That didn’t work. It just turned our truck cab into a tiny pediatric center waiting room on wheels. 


Because of our frequent flyer (or, driver as we’re usually pulling a stock trailer fully loaded) miles, our children have become fantastic travelers. In fact, we find that Cody and I usually need a stop before either of them mention it. I pack a lunchbox of fruit, fiber and Pringles and that usually gets us through the “you’re not hungry, you’re bored” conversations. 


These days we avoid truck stops as much as we can while driving a dually, and utilize rest stops more often. There are always families of other ethnicities, dogs and yoga poses that feed our need to people watch. 


We were almost to the heart of Kansas City when Caroline announced she had to go. BAD. 


I tried to convince her otherwise, but I know that 4-year-olds don’t joke about these things. Cody quickly exited the interstate and stopped at a Taco Bell directly across from Kauffman Stadium (where the Royals play) and Arrowhead Stadium (where the Chiefs play). Much to our dismay, it was open to drive-thru traffic only. Thanks, COVID-19.


By this point, tears were streaming down Caroline’s cheeks. 


He then hastily drove around a vacant parking lot and pulled behind a dumpster just off the I-70 freeway traffic of Kansas City. We were so close I could see cars zipping past us through a chain link fence.


“What are we doing here?” I asked.


“This is the last place to stop before Kansas City traffic stalls us. It’s now or never,” he responded. It was 5:00 PM CST.


I got Caroline out of the truck and looked around. I was fairly certain I had recently listened to a true crime podcast about this exact parking lot not long ago, but desperate times call for desperate pit stops. 


We walked over to a grove of trees and I studied the debris on the ground before encouraging her to take care of business. A lot of coordination and sanitary measures went into the next few moments, but you need not know those details. My fear is that Caroline will remember this pit stop when she’s 30. 


All of the sudden, loud sirens began blaring on the interstate just 20 yards from us. Absolutely startled, Caroline takes off running through the thicket and across the parking lot…pants not yet up.


“Caroline!” I called out. “What are you doing?!”


“Run Mommy! We’re going to jail for pottying in the ditch!” she screamed. 


So there I was. 


90° heat outside Kansas City with a 4-year-old running pantless around a parking lot screaming about getting arrested. When did life take such a turn?


While running to catch her, I had serious concerns going through my own head about her seemingly innate decision to run from the law. 


Cyrus handled the long trip (and dramatic big sister) like a champion. He tolerated diaper changes in the bed of the truck and somehow had the sun in his eyes 80% of the time. On the way home we were fueling up when a panhandler came to the truck asking for money. Cody was inside the store, so it was just me and the kids. After telling her no multiple times (I’d actually watched she and a man get out of their car and approach several people before coming to us), Cyrus chimed in from the backseat with, “No! No! No!” 


It was a good life lesson: If my dog or my kid doesn’t trust you, I probably won’t either. 


We’re home safely now. I always set out on these road strips with a bit of nostalgia running through my head (packed full of great expectations). I envision a family of four on a calm scenic drive maybe down US 40, enjoying the views and the company. Very Rockwell-esque. Then reality sets in and I realize anytime the four of us load up into the truck and head towards those Kansas plains we more resemble the Griswolds. 


Clark Griswald, 1983: Why aren't we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.


I’m not convinced.