Three Kid Circus : A slice of Americana

Friday, July 30, 2004

A slice of Americana

It's County Fair time again. The hubster took a day off from work and we set out for our annual jaunt around the fairgrounds.

Back in the days before we had kids, it was a simple matter of pulling on a cute outfit and stopping at an ATM. We would hold hands, drink margaritas, bet two dollars at the racetrack, people watch and eat our way through the vendors. The hubs and I love fair food. If it's fried and/or on a stick, we've probably tried it.

We're both really bad at making plans. We call ourselves spontaneous. Our friends and family think we're lazy and disorganized. Be that as it may, we seldom have our plans straight until we are minutes from our scheduled departure.

I KNOW we are supposed to get cash and gas the night before. We should lay out our outfits, pack diaper bags and check the camera for batteries and film. We always seem to be running around like chickens with our heads cut off the morning of an event.

Kids add a whole new dimension to trying to get out of the house. After trying to get the kids to eat something of substance before we leave, we brush teeth and hair and proceed to the Sunblock Event.

Ever seen a greased pig catching contest? I haven't but I can tell you I would win. As soon as that white goo comes out of the tube, the kids scatter like buckshot. As soon as you get one arm greased up, that kid takes off and you snag the next one who races by. Everyone engages in high-pitched squealing and squirming. It takes about 15 minutes to slather everyone completely and then we award bonus points for amount of times Mommy's outfit has been tagged with sunscreen.

After quickly stuffing the kids into outfits and changing any pieces of my own outfit that have white smears, we move onto the Diaper Bag Challenge.

After 5 years of packing for all manner of day trips, I've gotten pretty good at packing just enough for our specific needs. 2 extra diapers for the baby, an extra pair of big boy pants, shorts and a pull-up for my son and extra t-shirts for all three. The sunblock, some bandaids and the digital camera. Ummm... I think that's it.

Okay, Final Jeopardy Round. Everyone has shoes. Check! Sweatshirts? Check! Everyone has peed. Check! Everyone is... wait. Why are the knees of my son's pants muddy? My husband acts sheepish, since the escape to the wet grass happened on his watch. Okay. New pants. Check! Out to the car!

My husband secures the kids into their seats while I make sure the dog has food and water. She's trembling, in a heap by the garage door. Sigh. Buh-bye, Donna.

A quick stop at the ATM and we're on our way. Woo hoo!

The fair was the same as always. Same vendors, same midway. We arrived just after the fairgrounds opened, and enjoyed a relatively smooth stroll around the entire fair. We petted animals in the petting zoo. We saw the sheep and cows and horses. We ate cotton candy before anything else.

In years past, the kids could have cared less about the midway, with its rides and games. We could get by with a few bucks worth of ride tickets for a spin on the carousel and call it a day. We've crossed some sort of level of awareness this year with our oldest, because she was ALL about the rides from the minute we got there.

I pulled rank on my husband and made him ride in the whirling dragon, on the carousel and in the kiddy roller coaster. I kept the baby occupied and took pictures and shouted "Whee!" every time they passed me.

"Whee! I'm eating all the cotton candy! Whee! Smile for Mommy!" I sound like an overgrown cheerleader. Yay, team!

A high point came at the ping-pong in the glass bowls game. My little guy won a stuffed dog. $8 and some quick negotiation between my husband and the carnie put a stuffed dog in the hands of my oldest, too. Everyone came away happy.

My son is a delicate soul, and when he gets tired, he's tantrum-prone. About 3 hours into our adventure, he hit the wall. He HATED the kiddy roller coaster. He was screaming "Off!" the whole time, and I felt bad for putting him on. Then, for the finale, we took them to the Dinosaur Jump House, where he learned that his sister could go in, but he was ONE INCH too short.

Catastrophic. He threw himself face down on the pavement, wailing like his heart was breaking. "Diiiiiiiiiiiii-nooooooooooooo." I scooped him up and took him off to a bench for some quiet Mommy and boy-boy time. He was so fried. After we got our oldest back out of the damn Dino jumpy thing, we bought both big kids a giant inflatable toy of their choice and made a run for it.

Actually, if we could have timed it better, we could have dominated. The fair had a screaming contest, stroller derby and greased pig catch scheduled for this afternoon.

Back at the van, the kids belted in and giant inflatables secured, we breathed a sigh of relief. It's a far cry from the leisurely days we used to pass at the fair. A day outing to the fair is more like an endurance sport with bi-polar teammates. But they say they had fun, and the hubs and I think that WE did, too. We will call it a success. Looking back in a few years, I'm sure our photos will seem like a perfect slice of Americana.