The Stroll… just another walk through the park

Sorry that it’s been a few days since I have written a post.  Mama has been cooking, and she is ahead on the meals vs blog posts scoreboard.  That was the deal, when she cooks, I am supposed to write.  My BULLSHIT excuse for the past five days was that it was the first week of March Madness, and I worked at the sports book 10-12 hours each day.  It’s only the biggest single week of the year in the business, and it requires me to be on my game.  The response came cold and swift, complete with a sarcastic “hrmmph”, a side to side head shake, and a muttered something.  OH, OK.  I get it.  You like eating at home?  Start writing mother huncher, or it’s back to unhealthy value meals for you.  Message received loud and clear, no problem.

This week’s post is about taking walks.  I don’t know about you, but I LOVE going for a walk/run.  I used to run a lot more than walk when I was younger, and those days will come back someday, but for now, it’s a nice, brisk stroll.  Just me and my playlist or a couple of podcasts.  Sun shining down, breeze in my face, lathered up in sunscreen, workout shirt and shorts, nice running shoes tied tight, away I go.  Peace and solitude.  It’s like a small sliver of heaven watching the cars go by as I work up a good sweat, smelling the trees and grass (and the car fumes) and losing myself in whatever I am listening to at the time.

Over the years here in Las Vegas, I have developed a routine and a route for this excursion.  It’s a one mile walk down Alexander Road to W. Wayne Bunker Family Park, do at least a lap around the one mile track around the park, then back to the house.  All depends on the window of time that I have, the condition of my body, the temperature outside, the wind, etc, etc.  At minimum, it’s three miles, and usually takes about 36 minutes if I just do one lap around.  It’s not record setting pace by any means, and depending on what is going on in the ocean of estrogen at the house, there are times I walk like an eighty year old man to milk the clock.  It’s quiet time for Daddy, and the pace slows to a crawl.  Walk, run, listen to music/podcast, sweat, get the heart beat going, back home.

On some occasions, I am joined on these walks by the girls.  The ten year old and the eight year old will either ride their bikes or their scooters ahead of me.  Needless to say, this changes the dynamics of the quiet stroll completely.  The “Daddy Spider Sense” is constantly tingling and on high alert.  Only one earphone is allowed on, as I have to hear what the two of them are doing at all times.  My head is on a swivel, not looking at the birds or the owners walking their dogs, but watching for whatever imminent dangers lie ahead every step of the way.  It’s a relief when we get to the park because the traffic danger is no longer present, but now, as I am constantly reminded by Mama, you have to keep your eyes on the kids at all times because people are crazy, even at the park.

This week’s episode begins when we decide to make the stroll a complete family event.  Dinner is cooking in the crock pot, it’s 4:30p.m., Mama says we will have dinner at 5:30 so I say, “Let’s all go for a walk.”  HOORAY.  Cheers for Daddy’s idea ring out all throughout the house.  The eight year old jumps up to put her shoes on, the ten year old tells Mama she will help get the stroller out of the minivan, and Mama goes to load up the diaper bag.  I grab my house key and my phone, and I am ready to go in about 15 seconds.  I go outside and do what I do best— stay out of the way and supervise.  This is what it is like leaving the house with a wife and three daughters.  I mostly just try to not get in the way.  I do what I am told and try not to ask questions.  Without a doubt, the worst thing I can say is “hurry up”, “let’s go”, or “are we ready yet?”  Those type of questions are like pouring gasoline on a simmering flame.

Sunset on this day is at 6:53 p.m., and in my head, I am racing against sunset just to leave the house.  Wisely, I don’t say it out loud though.  Contrary to popular belief in our house, I have learned a thing or two how to survive up in here.  And, soon enough, after at least three trips back into the house to get something somebody forgot, we embark on our journey.  It’s 75 degrees outside and perfect.  Kids on their scooters, baby in the stroller, Mama in her workout gear complete with sports bra, the monogrammed diaper bag loaded to the gills, and me with my phone, no headphones and only 25% life on the battery.  Definitely not the usual routine, but away we go like Columbus discovering the New World.

The kids start out like it’s a sprint and racing with each other.  Them and I have done this before.  They know the routine.  They go ahead, but they can’t cross a street until I get there.  We are maybe 5 minutes into the walk, and Mama starts chirping.  “Girls, you are a little too far away.  Slow down.  Be careful.  Watch for cars.”   Then, to me.  “Boy, you really let them go up ahead of you.  They know not to get too far away, right?”  Oh, yeah, I see how this is going.  “It’s fine, Mama, we do this all the time.  They know the routine.”  My playlist is on but I can barely hear it.  This is no time for Eminem.

A couple more minutes pass, and we make it across our first crosswalk.  First, I walk out into the street, looking like the old man crossing guard, but without the little stop sign and fluorescent vest.  “OK, let’s go.  Get moving, please.”  Everybody safely crosses the street, despite Mama’s pleas that the girls walk their scooters across instead of ride them.  The baby, two months old now, is just smiling and enjoying the ride.  Mama comes with, “You know, it’s going to be harder walking back because it’s uphill, right?”  Pitbull is on the playlist now, but I don’t hear it.  In hindsight, I should not have heard this question, and I should definitely not have responded.  But, I can’t help myself.

“WHAT?”  I reply, loudly over the passing traffic.  “You are kidding, right?”  She looks at me, pushing our child in the stroller, and says in all seriousness, “No, I am serious.  It’s a down grade going there so it’s uphill coming back.”  Now, I have done this route a thousand times on foot and we drive this road everyday.  I know it’s flat.  Hell, even a blind Stevie Wonder could tell that it’s flat.  I ran hills in Pittsburgh, this is not a hill.  This is not a grade.  This is flat.  It’s one of the reasons why I like going this way.  A bit agitated, I say, “Look, you can see all the way to the park from here.  There is no hill.”  Without breaking pace, she says, “Yes there is, but that’s fine, whatever.”

I don’t know what it’s like at your house, but the whatever is the end all be all.  Conversation over.  I shake my head and continue forward, ahead of mama and the baby, but behind the two speed demons on their scooters. We make it across Buffalo Road with minimal arguing over who gets to push the button at the cross walk, and soon, we are at the park.  I don’t know what time it is, but we are way behind pace.  Mama says, “Ok, now what?”  I say that I usually do a lap or two around the track and then go back.  After a brief negotiation, it is agreed that I will go do a lap around the track while the kids go on the swings.  We will meet up upon completion of my lap, and make our way back to home sweet home.

Ah, time to go.  Me and Eminem, Pitbull, the Fugees, a little K7, and some Limp Bizkit for a little quality time.  I start to run.  I am fired up.  Quickly, I go back to walking.  Nobody else is in a hurry, why am I?  This is going to be one of those slow walks.  Everyone on the track gives you a head nod, or a brief hi, the sun is out, and I am off duty.  Soak it in.  It is glorious.  Then, just as I am about done with my little side trip, I get the text.  “We walked to the gas station for a drink.  U want anything?”  First sniff of BULLSHIT.

It’s a strict rule I have on the stroll when I am with the kids.  The gas station, let alone the Dairy Queen, across the street from the park is usually off limits because it extends the trip by at least a half hour.  Unless it’s really hot or there is a poop stop required, we don’t go.  I usually don’t bring money, the park has water fountains and public bathrooms that are perfectly acceptable, let’s go.  Too late.  I see them crossing the street to the gas station as I am making the turn home to the swings.  So, I reply with this text.  “Nope.  I’m good.  You want me to wait or just meet you at home?”

“Wait for us.  Meet us at the swings.  Will be there in a few minutes.”  More BULLSHIT.  I thought we were walking, but again, I am just waiting.  I should have just done another lap, but I didn’t want to hear about it if I wasn’t there waiting when they got there, so I just started pacing, back and forth.  The music is playing, the battery is at 8%, but I am like a caged animal walking back and forth, waiting.  I can’t relax knowing we have to get back home, get dinner ready, eat, do homework, get showers, bathe the baby, watch the Voice, and get to bed.

Finally, the crew arrives at the swings.  The eight year old is walking with Mama now, her scooter folded up in the stroller, a bag of sunflower seeds in her hand.  The ten year old has a blue Powerade, as does Mama.  “You want some seeds, Dada?”  Sure, but let’s go.  My whole routine is thrown off.  Let’s pick up the pace.  So, we head towards home together, but we are walking at Mama’s pace, not mine.  You know what happens next, right?  Yep, baby unloads.  Diaper change time.  Find some shade off the path.  Who knew you can’t change a diaper in the sun?  What usually takes 45 minutes is now approaching two hours.

Poopy diaper disposed of, we are now a half mile from the house.  The sun is approaching the horizon, and hopefully, the dinner is not overcooked because I know I am hungry, and I have to think the rest of the crew is famished as well.  We get to the crosswalk, and the baby is not happy about something.  Probably because she is hungry too, but what do I know.  She is really crying at this point, and she is all I can hear over the traffic, the bickering about pushing the button, and  the pleading by Mama to stop crying.  I can’t stop myself, and out it comes.  “Whew, it’s like nails on a chalkboard, huh?”

You know the saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.”  Yep, well, if I could pull that one back into my head, I would.  But it’s too late.  Mama just looks at me and says “JUST GO ALREADY!”  I reply with a meek “What?  Why?”  She says something about it’s not the baby’s fault, you don’t have any patience, you walk too fast, something about being a jagoff, and gives me the backhand wave.  Incredulous for a moment, I pause in my tracks.

PEACE OUT!!!  SEE YA!!  You don’t have to tell me twice.  I take off like Adrian Peterson heading for the end zone.  I am waving my arms like a madman and screaming to the heavens.  “OH, NOW you want me to just go?  After you made me wait for 20 minutes at the swings?  NOW I get to just go?  And WHY?  Because I said the baby crying sounded like nails on a chalkboard??  You mean it doesn’t?  BULLSHIT!  Really?”  On and on, it went all the way home.  The ranting and raving of a madman to himself in public view.  Cars beeped.  One even waved.  All said and done, almost three hours from start to finish.

Just another walk in the park.



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