Back in February, P and I took our niece Ella to Sesame Street Live. Yeah, that was fun. Well, it had been about six months since our last outing and we were due for our steroid shot of birth control. Here is the sequel to Birth Control Brought to You by Sesame Street.
We stood in line about ten sweaty adults and twice as many children back from the front. P held Ella while we waited. It was hot – that early September humid kind of heat that makes you feel like you were just swaddled in a hot, steamy towel. I looked over at P wondering if I could sneak a swig from the water bottle we were rationing. He was awkwardly holding Ella away from his body with his left arm and feeling his shirt with his right hand.
Me: What are you doing?
P: I’m trying to figure out if this is sweat or pee running down my side.
Side note: Ella recently achieved potty-trained status, and while she hadn’t had any accidents that we knew of, it was a valid concern.
Me: Are her pants wet?
P: They don’t look wet.
Me: Well, let’s just assume it’s sweat.
Ella seemed oblivious to the conversation, solely focused on the carnival train we were waiting to board.
We were an hour and a half into our adventure at the First Baptist Church of Blue Spring’s Big Night, an annual free carnival for family, friends and neighbors. Patrick’s parents were volunteering at the carnival and Ella’s little sister Lucy was born two days before, so we thought it would be fun to take Ella and give David and Amy a break for the evening.
Upon arriving at the carnival, we put Ella’s socks and shoes back on (she has a thing with taking them off when she gets in the car) and made a beeline for the registration table. However, our beeline was immediately interrupted by Minnie Mouse. A Minnie Mouse bouncy house, to be exact. The bouncy house captivated Ella’s attention and she starting walking in it’s direction, pulling my hand as hard as any tiny two-year-old can.
I use the term “bouncy house” loosely. It was the bouncy house for toddlers. It looked more like an inflatable boxing ring covered in Disney characters. Upon reaching the entrance, Ella said she wanted me to go with her. Of course, I wasn’t allowed. Probably because the weight of one adult would capsize the entire thing. I told her if she wanted to go in, she had to go alone and we would be waiting for her on the outside. She started to get nervous.
How do you not impose your fears on small children? Of course, I didn’t want her to go in. Bouncy houses terrify me. They are a whole lot of whiplash and static cling waiting to happen. But maybe Ella would like the bouncy house. Maybe she wouldn’t have the same irrational fear as her crazy aunt. So I looked at those big brown eyes and quivering bottom lip and told her she could do it. I told her it would be fun. She believed me.
She cautiously crawled through the netted entrance and bounced over to the slide. 20 seconds later she was beaming. Giggling as she went down the slide again and again and again and again and again and again.
I hovered next to the side of the inflatable death trap and mean mugged the little boy who (probably accidentally) knocked her down. Oh, my poor future children.
After surviving the Minnie Mouse Bouncy House, we picked up our wrist bands and punch card for snacks from the registration table and began to wander toward the less intense activities.
But first, a potty check.
Me: Ella, do you need to go potty?
Me: Ok. Look, Ella, tattoos!
There were hundreds of options at the temporary tattoo tent – ok, maybe just fifty or so, but enough to overwhelm a 2-year-old…and a 25-year-old. The choice was clearly up to us.
Our filters for selecting the perfect tattoo:
- Something pretty
- Something purple or pink (per Ella)
- Something her parents wouldn’t mind
We landed on a sparkly, purple butterfly.
Tattoo Lady: Where would you like it?
Ella: (no response)
Tattoo Lady: Where should I put it?
Patrick: (starts giggling)
Patrick: Let’s put it on her lower back.
Me: Patrick Moss. We are not putting a tattoo, albeit temporary, on our niece’s lower back.
Patrick: C’mon! It would be hilarious.
Me: And we will never get to babysit again.
In all reality, her parents probably would have thought it was funny. But they were sleep deprived with a newborn and I wasn’t about to push the limits.
And it was a church carnival. And the tattoo lady was looking at us funny. So, instead, we opted for her bicep. Such a tough girl.
Inked and sweaty, we heard the refreshment stands calling our name.
Quick potty check.
Me: Ella, do you need to go potty?
Me: Ok, have you ever had a snow cone?
Me: Well, you are about to. What color would you like? Blue, purple, or pink?
The woman running the snow cone stand punched our card and handed over the flavored ice.
We found a spot in the shaded gazebo and Ella went to town on her snow cone. P and I sat quietly and tried to cool down.
P: Ella, can I have some of your snow cone?
L: Ella, can I have some of your snow cone, too?
Such a sweet, unassuming child. It’s not like she was going to finish it on her own anyway.
We maxed out our water bottle quota with two more punches to the card and it was time for another potty check. I was determined to continue her accident-free streak.
Me: Ella, do you need to go potty?
Me: Ok, let’s go play a game.
There weren’t many age-appropriate games for toddlers, but we did find a game where she could shoot a mini-basketball while we held her close to the basket. We walked up and they handed us a kU basketball. Please note: lack of capitalization for kU is purposeful.
Patrick: Ella, what do Jayhawks say?
Patrick: Yeah, we’re going to need to use a different ball.
Ella made a basket with the generic basketball on the fourth attempt. She’s two, what do you expect? The high schoolers in charge of the game handed her a small bag of skittles as a prize.
Um, can she eat skittles? How old are you supposed to be to eat hard candy? I mean, she was almost three, maybe she could handle it?
Me: Ok, Ella. One at a time. And don’t walk while you are eating it.
I still mince up her grapes when I babysit. Yes, I’m aware it isn’t necessary. Better safe than sorry when it comes to a real life child, I always say.
Ella finished the bag of skittles safely as we waited in line for the train ride. We eventually made it to the front (as is always the case when you wait in line…), and Patrick handed off Ella.
Me: Uncle Patrick are you sure you don’t want to go on the train?
Patrick: No, I’ll just wait over here.
What? You mean you want to stand in the shade with the water bottles and watch while we sit on the hot metal seats and go in circles on a blacktop parking lot underneath the blazing sun? Yep, seems about right.
When I say the train went in circles, I mean it only went in circles. I should have taken a heavy dose of Dramamine between climbing aboard. It also did not have a reverse function. Thankfully we had an experienced carnival train conductor (aka Pastor Randall) and no three-point-turns were required.
We staggered off the train and met up with the well-rested P.
Patrick: Hey Ella, do you need to go potty?
Ella: I do.
Ella has this incredibly adorable way of saying “I do” instead of “yes.” I love it and I’m sad she is slowly transitioning away from it.
Patrick: Alright, Aunt Libby will take you.
Me: Thanks, Uncle Patrick…
I looked around to assess our options.
Option 1. A port-a-potty next to the petting zoo. Yeah, not gonna happen. I don’t do port-a-potties myself and I wasn’t about to try to hold my niece in the air and have her miraculously pee into a nasty plastic toilet.
Option 2: Waiting in the line inside the air-conditioned church.
It would be a race against her bladder’s clock, but a risk I was willing to take. Especially for some time in the air-conditioning. Fifteen minutes of waiting and four seconds of tinkle later, we were headed back out to the blacktop desert.
It was time to bring in the reinforcements. Grandma and Grandpa.
My in-laws were working the twirly, spinning, vomit-inducing ride at the carnival. It was the Disney teacup ride without the teacups. I don’t do twirly, spinning rides, but it was the only mechanical ride I felt ok letting Ella ride. I figured if she were going to get on a mechanical ride operated by volunteers at a church carnival, it would be the one operated by her grandparents. They wouldn’t let anything happen to her. And if something did, all responsibility would transfer.
P had to bite the bullet on this one and climb into one of the buckets with Ella. Standing too close to the ride would send a wave of nausea through my system. Nothing in the world could get me to buckle into that ride. Not even that sweet, cute face. (I mean Ella’s, but P’s is pretty cute, too). Recording the ride about did me in. (You can check it out here)
“That was funnnnnnn!” Yes, Uncle Patrick is way more fun than Aunt Libby.
So, what do you do next after you have exhausted all of the approved carnival rides? Eat more sugar, of course.
Cotton candy. Check. Pink, sticky sugary goodness. Another first for the little girl.
Next? Kettle corn. Check. Grandma wanted to get it for her. You can’t say no to Grandma.
While Grandma waited for the kettle corn, Ella pointed to the petting zoo.
Ella: “I want to see the goats.”
Me: Are you sure? Goats smell. You don’t really want to see the goats do you?
Ella: I do.
Thankfully, Ella had no interest in actually petting the goats. Just watching them. And saying how much they smelled. I refrained from telling the toddler “I told you so.”
After inhaling the kettle corn, we thought it best to make our way to the car before we completely ruined her dinner.
We had big plans for the next phase of our evening with Ella.
When I was three-years-old, my uncle took me to Winstead’s and gave me my first sip of “spicy cokey.” It is still one of my favorite early childhood memories. I wasn’t planning on giving Ella any Coke but I couldn’t wait to take her to Wintead’s for our own tradition.
Our 30-minute car ride back to Overland Park consisted of Ella hysterically laughing, incessantly asking “What’s up, Libby” and playing hide-and-go-seek with the little red Frisbee she was given at the carnival. I should have known she was reaching her sugar-induced breaking point, but how can you say no to that face?
We walked into Winstead’s to find the place empty with the exception of two waitresses sitting on the barstools chatting and an elderly couple in the far corner booth. Glass half full: We had our pick of a table. P just gave me a look. He isn’t a huge Winstead’s fan and the lack of customers wasn’t helping my case.
We plopped Ella in a highchair and gave her a menu to play with. She pretended to read her menu like Patrick. And Patrick pretended to be excited about the food. I didn’t need to read the menu – single Winstead with everything and cheese, please. And a fifty-fifty (half fries, half onion rings).
As we waited for our food, Ella pointed to the front of the Winstead’s menu.
Ella: Pakirk, what’s that? (Yes, that is how she says Patrick. Its too cute for words.)
She was pointing to the illustrated Winstead’s building on the cover of the menu.
Patrick: That’s the Winstead’s spire.
Seriously? Spire? Nice one, P.
We ended the evening with one of my favorite things on this earth: a Winstead’s chocolate milkshake. Ella got the Tiny Tot version.
It was clearly past her bedtime when we pulled into David and Amy’s driveway. We unloaded her from her car seat and she ran inside. We set her milkshake, red Frisbee, and bag of candy on the kitchen island and found Ella spinning in circles in the living room in front of David and Amy. She ran back and forth, back and forth, back and forth across the room. Fell down, popped right back up. And spun in some more circles.
Yep, she was drunk on sugar. At the top of her sugar high. Maxed out on her sugar intake.
After the fifth time falling on the ground, David confidently said he had never seen her this hyper.
And on that note, we escaped and drove in silence back to our quiet house and sat quietly on the couch. Quiet. It was nice. And then I felt bad. Really bad.
I texted Amy: Sorry if she pukes in the middle of the night…
Good thing I don’t believe in Karma.