My husband has been away on temporary duty for just over a week. The kids seem to really like their dad; they either really miss him or know that I have no one to tattle to at the end of the day. Whatever the cause, we have new seat grooves and bite marks on the Repentance Bench. I think today was a family record, we clocked a total of 62 minutes in time-out.
With Dad coming home tomorrow we've been planning a big Last Day for the kids. Summer in Germany means festival time. Normally you walk into these events, blow 30 euro in four minutes on the one ride available and some bratwurst, then go home with happy, dizzy children. It's a great time.
After a week of summer slacking we woke up this morning and had a family meeting. Anyone who wanted to go the festival had to clean house. For three hours in our stuffy, air conditioning-free, hot European house we worked. We vacuumed and mopped four levels of floors, cleaned bedrooms, bathrooms and windows. The dishes were loaded and unloaded three times throughout the day, sheets were stripped and laundry was folded and delivered.
I have to hand it to them. Even with our overactive Repentance Bench we beat our list and everyone earned an afternoon popsicle. Most importantly, we were going to the festival.
We met up with another family whose dad is also out of town and parked our cars along the side of the road some distance from the lake where the festival was held. The lake has a gravel walking loop around it about a mile long. There's an awesome unsafe park with a death slide and a waterpump play area that the kids love to frequent.
With seven kids and two moms we got four feet from the car when the first kid almost got run over. The rest of them went running pellmell for the lake. It was a bad start.
Once we hit the gravel our kids started in with the dust cloud. You know, look at me, scuff my feet and choke the Germans out of a good time? We went over rules, then went over them again. The kids were running and screaming and kicking dirt through the crowd while acting like they'd never been allowed in public before.
We stopped at the play area so they could work out their wiggles and spent 15 minutes trying to keep them out of the sandy water, while promising that if they'd just stay dry we'd take them around the lake to the festival. They watched the rides and smelled the treats wafting over the water with giddy anticipation. I had given each of my kids 5 euro to spend on whatever they wanted, usually enough for a ride and ice cream.
We finally got everyone dried off and back on track. Things looked good. The kids were happy and excited ... And then we saw the line to get in.
In order to go spend money at the rinky-dink one-ride festival it was going to cost 5 euro for the adults and 4,50 euro a child. It would have eaten nearly every penny of our spending money.
I wish you could have heard the weeping and the wailing from our children as we turned the show around. We fought the crowds for half a mile with a chorus of tears and an onslaught of disappointed accusations.
It was after 8 p.m. when we finally got to the car. In our attempt to salvage their sad reward we swung into the local grocery and picked up a fat load of ice cream bars, then drove to a super lame park and let them out.
And of course they had an absolutely fabulous time. It wasn't even a fun park but somehow they managed to play for a solid hour in the waning summer air, sticky with ice cream and covered with sand from the nearby sand pit. We had the place to ourselves.
I should really stop trying for these cultural experiences. Parks are so easy.
Annie Valentine is a wife, mother and columnist. Readers can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her blog at regardingannie.wordpress.com.