Actually, there are three things the kids like. I was forgetting the parade. If you don't live in a small town, you probably don't go to parades where kids ride crepe paper covered bikes or walk their dogs or sit on handmade floats illustrating this year's parade theme. Here, it seems like all Lamar's banks are required by city statute to take part--and they put on a heck of a show!
The longer you've lived here, the more people there are for you to holler "Hi!" to as they pass by on their float. Some groups toss candy to the kids, which is always popular. Sometimes grown-ups catch the candy instead--but they divide it among the littler parade-goers who aren't catching as much as their scrambling big brothers and sisters. There are even still a few people here who know citizens are supposed to stand up as the first American flag goes by.
Caro was at the fair for pretty much the duration this year. As the final event of her summer reading program at the Lamar Middle School, they had a booth, staffed by actual students as well as our favorite long-suffering mild-mannered librarian. It would be hard to really describe what this experience was like....
A few years ago, at a workshop, the educators were given a method of determining which grade a student was in. If they ran everywhere--6th grade. If they hit all their peers at random times for no discernable reason--7th grade. If they couldn't decide between hitting and kissing peers--8th grade.
Caro spent the fair with this dynamic going on, in an 8 foot square tented booth. She is expected to make a full recovery.
The Sand and Sage is really a very typical rural county fair. And yet, Lamar has its special attributes, and these show up in non-typical events. Like the return of the former World Team Sand Sculpting Championship guy, Dave Henderson. He came back for a second visit this year to create another humongous, impermanent work of art from...sand.
We've got plenty of that around here, and Dave's return was partly based on the fine quality of our local sand. Funny to have so much sand, and not an ocean in sight. (Well, there was an ocean here once, but it went away a few hundred million years ago.) Funny to make a giant sand castle, with livestock pens and show barns for a backdrop, with the baa's of sheep echoing around it, instead of the cry of gulls.
(Divergence #2: Some people think Lamar is named for the sea--La Mer is French for sea--or at least the sea of grass that was once here. Nope. The fine upstanding town founders who stole the Blackwell train station and moved it to Lamar's present location named their new site after some Washington DC bigwig--I think he was the Secretary of State back then--in the pious hope he would grant them special favors in return. I understand they got burnt on that one....)
So here at the Sand and Sage fair, people came and went like the tides, forming an ever changing pool of viewers on the metal benches under the tarp. Sitting in rapt silence, they watched a genius from California create a fantasy from very ordinary material, as they listened to imaginary waves.
I suppose you could count washing the five dogs Saturday as an adventure. Due to this year's freak meteorological conditions, or perhaps a curse from on high, we are currently suffering a plague of fleas. Particularly me. For some reason the fleas pretty much ignore Caro and Michael, but flock to me like teenyboppers (does anyone still say teenyboppers?) to an 'N Sync concert. Must be my colorful past as a flea market maven.
At any rate, we bought the giant economy size of flea shampoo and hauled the dogs into the bath one by one. My back definitely notices today, even though Caro did half and Mike "helped". Of course, he meant well. But we had a situation with two lipidly enhanced ladies teetering on the edge of a slippery, soaped-up bathtub, trying to enforce the concept of "SIT! STAY!" to dogs who had a decided wish to be somewhere--anywhere--else. Nothing a 7 year old tried to add to this scenario was likely to be constructive.
So today the dogs look great, and we are a wreck. About par for the course.
Friendly family boy. That's a Michael phrase, a self-description, and a darned good one. Michael has some developmental delays, you see, and it shows the most in his language skills. He has a lot of trouble with things that need to go in order, whether it's numbers or the ABCs or stringing words into a sentence. It seems to be hard for him to catch minute differences of the blends of sounds that make words, too. So he uses 'friendly' and 'family' interchangeably a lot of the time. When I tried to figure out how to explain the difference, I got kind of stuck on the similarities myself, and gave it up to try again some other day.
Before I get started, I want you to know I'm not saying all this about Mike so that people will think I'm some kind of saint. (Even my mom doesn't think that!) I hope no one takes offense, but it really annoys me when I hear the phrase, "God picks the most special parents for these special kids." People mean that in a nice way; I realize that. But if you'd seen some of the situations I've seen, you'd know this little homily is a major insult to the Almighty.
If it is true, He needs to go do some Heavenly Personnel Adjustment in either His Quality Control or Shipping departments. The fact of the matter is that, as with regular babies, sometimes these innocents show up in a family capable of coping with the challenge and becoming a home where children have an excellent shot at making the most of whatever their capabilities are. And sometimes they get sent to their own little hell on earth....
Warning. Button is hot. Do not push.
OK, back to Michael. He's adopted, and only a year older than my oldest grandchild, Zachary. Michael came into our life as a foster child, because both his parents are people with developmental disabilities. In some cases, that doesn't need to be a disqualification for parenting. In this case, it did. Sparing you twice this week, I'll cut what can be a very long story short. I adopted Michael, but he kept his birthname, and his parents are free to come visit.
Ironically, I had rather been looking forward to getting my own life back once the last of the Big Kids graduated from high school and moved on. Re-enlisting in the Mommy Brigade had not been anywhere on my list of things to do in my middle years. And yet I could find no way to square it with my conscience to ditch a baby (diagnosed with his own developmental problems), who was a year old already and would likely be several years older before his case got settled. Perhaps I do have a soft heart, a perfect match for my soft head. But I just couldn't send that sweet little guy, who had been raised in a family he had every reason to feel was his own, out into the morass of the child protection system (Darn! There's another of those pesky hot buttons!) just because it might be a tad inconvenient for me to sign up for another Mom hitch.
So I adopted him. It was way more a miracle than the commonplace biological acquisition of my two homegrown offspring. And I think when you get older, you don't take miracles for granted as much as you did when you were a kid.
It's pleasant to share a home with someone who tells you daily, "You my best friend eber!" Mike also tells this to Caro and the teenage boy next door and the dogs and his Cookie Monster doll, but that's okay. There's plenty of best friendship to go around.
It's tough sometimes, coping with a child with special challenges. But there are benefits there too. Mike goes through stages more slowly. That is a handicap for his school work, but it means the good parts of childhood last longer as well. Even though he's a big and sometimes rowdy 7 year old boy, he will still willingly slip his hand into mine as we walk through a store's parking lot. Sometimes he explains it is so he can take care of me. (Funny to think someday I may need him to. Ideas like that come to you more in your 40s than they do in your 20s.)
I don't know what I might be doing now, if this or that minor event leading up to Mike's adoption had gone another way. But I can't imagine any way I could possibly be happier.
That's worth putting up with a lot of dog-washing "help".