I've started a handful of posts with the words, "If you ever want to get a really good look at yourself..." Some of the posts I've published. Others are dangling in my 'draft' file, waiting for wit and substance to arrive. A few examples of endings to this sentence include: "pack up your entire life and move out of the country," "set-up residence in a foreign country," or "live with another family in their home." Well, I'd like to add another predicate to that subject. Add, "take a 36-hour road trip with your family across five states while hauling all of your worldly possessions in a trailer behind you."
Last week we drove from Portland, Oregon, to Austin, Texas. The good news is, it's over. We are here. We have new jobs, new home, a new start. The bad news is, last week we drove from Portland, Oregon, to Austin, Texas.
Remember when I mentioned two paragraphs ago that there are posts in my 'draft' folder just waiting for wit and substance to arrive? Well, I'm putting this post out there sans wit and substance. To be honest, it's probably missing a whole lot more than just those two elements, but I'm doing it anyway. Why? It's all still fresh in my mind. And before I try to lock it away in that closet in my mind where I keep WAY too much baggage, I'm setting it free for the world to see. (Okay, not the world. Just the 14 people who have signed on to be Followers of my blog.)
I kept a notebook next to me in the front seat so I could jot down bits of fascinating insight as they occurred. I never quite accomplished fascinating insight...the closest that I came to that was when I realized that all public radio stations have their fundraising drive at the same time - which really, really bummed me out as I scoured the dial for some sort of information source. But I digress. What ended up first in my notes was the situation with the Mad Libs.
Our wonderful friends, Tom and Casey, prepared a treasure trove of activities for the boys to do on the road. Let me tell you, that bag of goodies was my god for four days. One of the items inside was Mad Libs...remember those fill-in-the-blank stories? You have a story written with key words missing, and you have to fill-in key words without knowing the context in which they will be used. You only know the part of speech that belongs there...verb, noun, adjective...or it says you need to fill it in with a girl's name, or body part, for example. Yep. Tell a seven year old boy to name a body part. Better yet, tell him to name a PLURAL body part. You're seeing where this is going, aren't ya?
But wait - there's more. Like the offer on TV where they'll double the fun for the same low, low price, I also have additional fodder within one story. It's not all about bodily functions and inappropriate body parts that come in pairs. No, it's also about the tunnel-vision of a seven year old boy who cannot seem to get a concept out of his mind. Kids do it all the time...they get obsessed with something and talk about it non-stop. They pretend around it, they draw pictures of it, they ask about it. See if you can guess what Son 2 was fixated on in this sampling of our conversation. We were about three libs in at this point.
Me: Okay, I need a noun.
Me: How about something that Godzilla is? Like "lizard" or "creature."
Him: Godzilla wasn't just a lizard.
Me: Yes, but using his name isn't going to work in the story. His name is a proper noun, remember? We need just a noun.
Him: F i i i i i i i i n n n ne. Morphed crocodile-lizard.
Me: (writing down 'lizard' and hoping he won't remember.)
Me: Now a plural noun.
Him: Plural means more than one, right?
Him: Two-headed Godzilla.
Me: Well, that's not quite what it means by plural.
Him: Four-headed Godzilla.
Me: What I mean is, the creature needs to be plural...like dogS, catS.
Him: Four headed tyrannosaurus.
Him: You can just write "four-headed T-Rex" if you can't spell it.
Me: I can spell it...I don't think you are listening...you know, like I said about dogSSS or catSSS. (emphasis on the 's')
Him: Dogs and cats are lame, though. How about just a four-headed Godzilla with a buncha two-headed baby Godzillas?
Me: No multiple heads. Just multiple CREATURES. No more heads, just one head per creature, okay?
Him: (sighs) Jeez.
Are you feeling it?
Just to make it clear that not all Mad Libs ended in a communication breakdown, I'll tell you about one that was particularly funny. Now it's my chance to be inappropriate and juvenile, because the boys didn't even "get" it when John and I were cracking up over the way this one turned out. I'll transcribe the end of it here, verbatim. The words in italics are Son 2's words. Note the coordination of the part of speech, despite the complete absurdity of the sentence. That is, until the last sentence. The last sentence is could stand on its own. And remember, this is ME reading the whole thing aloud after it was complete.
"The other day I had to ask my two giant gnomes, Sleeping Tootie and Bella for help. They're both on the varsity cyclops team. It was a grueling thousand million months before my smelly sisters deemed me ready for the poopy moment. I had to do deep toe bends and skyscrapers to improve my truck capacity. As for me, I didn't have the slightest crab with three eyeballs what to do about sports. It's embarrassing that in a family of supersonic athletes, I'm the only one without any hand-groin coordination."
Perhaps it was funnier when we were slap-happy in the middle of New Mexico. Needless to say, Husband and I have made a couple of hand-groin coordination jokes since. Go ahead...try it at home. Funny, no?
Here's a picture of one of the worksheets in a second grade Brain Quest book. It was another one of the gems in the Tom and Casey Bag-o-Tricks. Son 2 was doing some worksheets, Son 1 was reading a book, Husband was driving, and I was acting like I didn't want to take a nap and wake up in Austin. It didn't take long for something to end the silence. The boys caught this little mishap in editing at Brain Quest, Inc. and were giggling and laughing about it from the backseat. I had to ask what was so funny. Look closely and tell me which one of these pictures doesn't quite belong:
I've probably given you the impression that our road trip was nothing but bad words, potty talk and multi-headed creatures. Au contraire, mon frere. There's much more to come!