Fall at the Botanic Gardens (from Oct. 16, 2008)

As a plant guy, I am always trying to get the family to go to the local botanic gardens. Until recently, the “no way” side has won the argument, relying on these downsides: the long drive into town, the $30+ cost for the family to get in, our busy schedule, and, of course, the “we-don’t-like-this-why-do-we-have-to-go-there-nobody-but-Daddy-wants-to-go” argument. That last one is particularly lame, in my opinion.

Well, the stars aligned and the waxing Venus waned on Mars, or something like that, and we finally went. And fun was had by all. The end.

That was the short version for those with limited attention spans.

I wish I had brought my notepad, because the bloggable quotes were a-flying. I would have just had to write them down and I would have had a perfect companion article to my park blog .

One of the ways I had convinced my older daughter Madeline to go was to say that we could set up a blanket and that she could just hang out there and do her homework. When we got out of the car, she pulled out two huge bags of books. I mean huge. (If I had a thesaurus I’d look up a bigger word, one that means “really gratuitously huge,” but I think you get the point.) I asked, “Do you really need all of these books?” Of course the answer was yes. “ALL of them?” Yes all of them. I need them. “Well, you’ll be the one carrying them.” Of course, of course.

Only moments later, following some unbounded wailing by overloaded daughter, Carrie, not wanting to ruin the family outing, told her that she’d carry the bags. A few minutes after that, I realized that they were too heavy for her too, and I ended up carrying the bags… along with the camera which I brought to get my wife Carrie to come (“we could get our Christmas card pics while we’re there!”).

It really was a beautiful day, though it was a bit hot, especially when you’re dressed up for pictures and you’re carrying 87 pounds of textbooks. No one wants to see a sweaty wrinkled guy in a Christmas card, do they? I don’t. Anyway, the biggest challenge was to get a family picture that didn’t involve 3 or 4 strangers in the background, staring like they’d never seen a camera before.

We really did have a lot of fun. We set the blanket up, Madeline got some homework done, I got to see some plants (in passing), we visited a cool house covered in pumpkins, Isabella got to roll down a grassy hill several times (the classic Chigger Vacuum Maneuver), I got a good workout, and we snapped a few nice pictures. Mr. Photoshop might have to work some magic, but I think we may be covered for the Christmas cards.

Right before we left, we visited the spitting frogs. Technically, I think they were toads, and they didn’t really spit — being 5 foot tall statues, they actually just squirted. But the kids ran through them and got soaked to the point that I had to hand off my dress shirt to Madeline and my t-shirt to Isabella so that they wouldn’t have to endure the long drive home all wet. Therefore I drove home in full shirtless redneck mode, though I was in an SUV with my family instead of a pickup truck covered in mud. I like to return to my roots when possible, so I didn’t mind a bit.

I forgot to mention: one of the “have to have it” books that we pulled out of Madeline’s bag was a massive combination Dictionary-Thesaurus that was thick enough to chock a gravel-hauler. The right thing for me to have done would have been to slide it quietly back into the bag and just silently enjoy the family time. But then again, “right things” don’t make for compelling blogs, do they? Luckily, level-headed Carrie stepped in before I could chunk the dictionary into the lake, and tragedy was averted.

So I guess good times were had by all, after all.


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