Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tough Question 5

"Mom, do cigarette boats take diesel gas or regular plain gas?"

Why my eight year old would think I have the answer to this question is beyond me.

The fact that he thinks I could have the answer to this question is pretty cool.

I was curious to know why these boats are called cigarette boats. They don't much look like a cigarette. A quick check on Wikipedia and I discovered these boats were used at first to smuggle cigarettes into Canada and therefore derived their nick name as the "cigarette boat." Wikipedia also states that apart from the racing market, most buyers of these boats purchase them for the mystique; the combination of the racing and smuggling connections, plus the immense power, high top speeds, and sleek shape make these boats popular. My son likes them because they look cool and the name cigarette boat makes them seem just a little bit bad.

Want to know what a cigarette boat looks like? Want to impress your eight year old son with how cool you are? Show him this.

I still don't know what kind of fuel these boats use.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Chestertown to Annapolis in Four Hours

The drive was supposed to take one hour. But a big rig drove over the side of the Chesapeake bridge, closing it down and stranding us and many many other people who desired to cross it.

We survived on one package of Skittles dolled out as fairly as my ten-year-old could bring himself to do.

We heard the Kid Rock song All Summer Long on the radio about ten times.

The most exciting part of our day was experiencing a thunderstorm in Annapolis. First it got cloudy, then the wind came up a bit. Next we heard the thunder, then saw a dramatic lightening strike in the afternoon sky. Soon after, an astonishing amount of hail and rain fell so fast that we didn't have time to run, and I mean RUN, to shelter before we were completely soaked.

Then we did what my boys and husband would call shopping, but I call speed walking past lots of shops that may or may not be open if we were moving slow enough to see the signs in the windows. While eating ice cream.

We are back in the room, trying vainly to shush three crazy kids up too late and hyped up on Olympics competition. I better go intervene before someone gets tied up with bedsheets and lowered out the window.

3 Boys Perform Olympics in Hotel Room

Having three boys in a hotel room, even a fairly large suite room, is just not a good idea.

They are loud. The walls are thin.

The beds are two perfectly placed trampolines. Or they are the perfect ring for the wrestling game called bullfighting.

The pillows are to test if the bedside lamps are attached to the wall or desk. Or not.

Walking from suitcase to bed means stepping on a crispy sock or tripping over one of the six shoes strewn over the floor.

The sound of punches landing on various body parts fills the air.

There is no escape from the farts, burps and the odors they produce.

The mirror is to do a silly dance in your underwear.

The last person to shower has to use a wet towel because we have forgotten to call and request a fifth one.

There is a place for nothing and nothing is in it's place.

We all get to listen to a great rendition of Life is A Highway by my eight year old who sings in the shower.

Life is a highway
I wanna ride it all night long
If you're going my way
I wanna drive it all night long

He is a great singer but usually forgets that a shower is to use shampoo and soap.

But there are lots of giggles and a lot of togetherness. And there is usually a bathroom off the lobby in which only women are allowed.

Ecology and the Olympics

We picked up my oldest son two days ago from his camp in Chestertown MD where for three weeks he studied the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay. We decided to stay in the area for a couple days so he could show us some of the places and things he visited and studied. He makes an excellent teacher and tour guide, telling anyone who will listen (mostly me) about substrate and turbidity and mummichogs.

A mummichog

So we have had a strange combination of going out and about touring around and then watching the Olympics in our hotel room.

The first day we went to the Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge to check it out. We were literally the only people there. My son guided us down an unmarked gravel road and then to a hidden trail to get right out on the shore. All three boys stripped down to their underwear and my oldest demonstrated how astoundingly shallow the water is way WAY out there. They all walked so far out they were little specks. It made me a little nervous, but the water wasn't even up to their waist.

Soon enough they headed back in, and my middle son was complaining that something really painful and itchy was on his back. He turned around and his back was very very red. Oh no, an allergic reaction to something. He said something jumped on his back. I grabbed the field guide we brought with us and flipped through it to find the most likely culprit: a jellyfish. Hmmm, I had no idea there were jellyfish out there. Duh. Come to find out they are the common nemesis of anyone swimming in the Bay. There was no cell phone coverage, no way to search for treatment online, so we headed back to the car and drove to the drugstore we had seen on our drive out there. By the time we got to the drugstore, I had read online about how painful jellyfish stings are (like multiple bee stings) and some treatment options. I went in to talk to the pharmacist, who was very helpful. I spent $3.89 on a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and some benzocaine ointment, which I applied to my son's back in the parking lot. It worked just great, his painful welts were gone by the next morning.

A jellyfish found in large numbers in the Chesapeake Bay right now.

He wasn't too keen on going back in the water after that.

The next day, after a delightful lunch at the Fish Whistle in Chestertown with my son's teacher and TA from his class, we headed to St. Michael's and the Maritime Museum there. My son was there on a field trip and he thought we would all enjoy it. He was right, it was a great museum. We signed up for an extra excursion through the museum, a two hour sail on the bay on an old skipjack piloted by a waterman who was very knowledgeable about the bay and had a lot of great stories to tell. We brought our purchases from the farmer's market: homemade foccacia bread, handmade cheese, peaches and enormous blackberries, plus a bottle of wine we purchased at a nearby restaurant, and had wonderful time just listening to Captain Farley talk.

This area is a place I think I could live. But then I see the signs along the road: snow evacuation route. Then I hear the river can get nine-inch-thick ice on it. Then I see what I think is a bird but is really an insect. Then I come to my senses.

It's back to the hotel to watch Olympics until my husband and I are almost asleep and have just enough energy to reach over and turn off the light. The boys protest, wrestle and giggle for a couple minutes, and fall sound asleep.

I forgot the cable to download pictures from my son's camera, so I will update the post with pictures later.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Summer of Hair, or Lack Thereof

This summer has marked a new trend in hairstyles for my family.

It started with my youngest wanting a buzz cut. For some reason I have resisted this particular hairstyle for my boys with their gorgeous blond hair. When I got the phone call from my youngest, calling on dad's cell phone from the haircut place, to ask my permission for a buzz cut, I had mixed emotions. On one hand, he has the nicest hair, why cut it off and look bald? On the other hand, why not let him get the hairstyle he wants, it will grow back? I gave my permission and in return a fuzzy little chick came home in place of the tousled-hair boy I once knew.

Then, more recently, my middle son saw one of his best friends from school. This friend has had a longer, rumpled, signature head of hair since we've known him. So we almost didn't recognize him with a buzz cut. And he declares to my son, "I love it." I can see the wheels start to turn in my son's mind immediately.

I have a very hard time getting my middle son good haircuts, his hair is fine and thin and difficult to cut well. I already have one son with no hair. So a few days later, I ask if he might want a buzz cut too.

I don't know where the idea for the mohawk came from.

He thinks it is AWESOME.

We are now negotiating whether or not it will still be in place when school starts.

So now I am thinking of a change in my hairstyle. Nothing like a mohawk or tri-hawk, but maybe a color change so my hair is the same color as my boys' when they still had hair.

Life with Two for Three

As I am packing for our trip to return to the east coast to pick up my oldest from the CTY program, I've been reflecting on how the last three weeks have been different. I've missed my son, of course. I miss his companionship, his opinions, his chatty commentary, his calm in the sometimes-storm of his brothers. Some of the things that drive me crazy about him are the things I miss.

However, I have appreciated the time with my middle and youngest sons too. Having one less child does mean you have a little more time for the others; to really listen, appreciate, and focus. I have three different opinions to deal with on every topic (mine and my two sons) instead of four. Decisions are easier, like what to have for lunch, what game to play, where to go on a bike ride. The wrestling is more fairly matched and somehow calmer, and there is less arguing and fighting with two instead of three. There is less laundry and a little less food packed into the refrigerator. When we go out to eat, we can sit at a regular table for four instead of waiting for rearranging tables or the one table to hold a larger party.

While we all miss my oldest and are looking forward to seeing him, I know in my heart that some part of both my younger boys will miss having that little extra helping of mom and dad. My middle son has enjoyed playing the role of oldest instead of middle. He has grown up a bit, separate from his best friend and brother for the first time. He sees himself in a new light, a more responsible and independent light, and so do I.

I knew this summer would be a time of big growth for my oldest. The fact that there has been such growth in my younger sons has surprised me though. It reminds me that a pack of three boys close together in age cannot be treated as a pack, they are three very distinct personalities and each have different needs. As they grow more independent, it is an opportunity to really spend some one-on-one time with each, the kind of time that has frankly been pretty rare in our family until this point.