A few Saturdays ago we took the kids to a few activities around town. The local children's museum where we are members, EdVenture, had a Big Wheels exhibit. There were all sorts of big wheeled things there - from fire trucks and ambulances, to back-hoes and buses, to race cars and tractor-trailers. The kids loved them - especially the little tricycles where they could race each other around the "race course."
They got to peek inside an ambulance, test out what a race car feels like, and stand in the back of a big tractor-trailer.
Following that we decided to take them to the 2nd Annual Italian Festival sponsored by the local Sons of Italy lodge. We'd gone last year - it was okay - good food, not too much to do - but still fun. It had expanded this year, and was held at a larger park - a larger downtown park - which will become an important part of this story.
We had brought a picnic blanket with us, purchased some slices of pizza pie, and had a nice little picnic in the shade of some big trees. We were delighted upon arrival to learn that the Children's Theatre was performing their rendition of Pinocchio (James was beside himself - as you can imagine) so we agreed we'd tempt fate and let the kids skip naps to attend.
James did okay - he was pretty tired after the show was over - but was still agreeable.
Jack also did okay - he just fell asleep when he got tired in his comfy stroller.
Anna - she was the one. The one that fell apart.
After the show we stopped by the bakery-treat food booth to get us all mini cannoli's (Anna's favorite treat that she discovered at last year's festival.) We all sat down near the entrance to the park to eat our treats.
Once we'd finished, we broke the news that it was time to go.
Anna didn't like that. One. Bit.
She thought we were denying her the God-given right to participate in ALL of the kids activities (silly carnival stuff) by making her leave. And she didn't hesitate to tell us. Scream at us, really. At the top her her lungs she stood over Deonne and I, stomping her feet, tears flowing, screaming that we "don't let her do anything fun!" How we'd "ruined her day!" Seriously, folks, she was so tired and so wound up that she was out. of. control.
A colleague of mine had once told me of how she and her husband disciplined her boys (both grown into wonderful young men) when they were little. They had to hug trees. Yes, you read that right - they had to hug trees.
So when Anna clearly couldn't calm down (we were drawing a small crowd) and her brother and dad hadn't finished their treats yet so we weren't quite ready to leave yet, we needed a time out. There really wasn't an appropriate time out spot - we use the corner in the foyer at home - so when I looked up and spotted a lonely pine tree - I knew I'd found the spot.
I calmly took her by the hand and led her to the tree, told her she'd need to give the tree a big hug and stay there in time out until she could calm down.
Didn't work out so well.
She went ballistic. Screaming, crying, carrying on - you'd have thought I was pulling her fingernails out.
(Enter importance of the location of this downtown park.)
I hear Deonne talking behind me - but can't really make out what he's saying - because I've got a screaming five year old that I can't hear over.
I look up to see a crazy homeless man walking towards me - saying something about how I'm abusing my child.
Deonne get up from his seat next to falling asleep James and starting to rouse in the stroller Jack - and starts telling this crazy man he needs to just keep walking - that this doesn't concern him at all.
The crazy man stops, drops his bag that he's hauling over his shoulder like Santa Claus, turns around, and starts walking towards Deonne - threatening him - telling him he'd "go to jail for a long time to defend a girl like that" while pointing to Anna (who is still screaming bloody murder by the way.)
Then he starts going through a litany of profanity - Deonne calmly tells him we don't use that kind of language around our children, and again, to please move along.
We're drawing a great crowd now.
I told him he was crazy and we needed to find the police - and started looking around for one. Shouldn't there be police at a public event in the heart of the homeless area of Columbia?
He finally gets the message, and wanders/stumbles away.
Enter crazy #2.
Just as we're starting to pick up our stuff, lick our wounds (I'm starting to be visibly shaken that my husband almost got in a fight with a creepy homeless guy who was clearly observing/staring at my five year old daughter) another weird crazy guy comes up.
He proceeds to tell me that he'd watched the whole thing and that the other guy had started harassing us and besides (he points to Anna) "that little girl needed to go to time out."
Great - how many weirdos exactly are watching our family?
He goes on to tell us we need to talk to the police - but not to worry - he knows "where they hang out" and goes off to get them.
Did I mention this guy weighed about 400 lbs. and had a walker with little tennis balls on the front to get around?
(I can't make this stuff up if I tried...)
Deonne looks around and mutters to himself that he's sure Columbia's finest will be coming around to protect us - some overweight slow person.
Sure enough - who comes waddling over? An overweight officer of the law - whose polyester uniform looks like the seams are holding hands just to stay together. (The best part of the whole thing was the look on Anna's face when she saw Officer Fatty arrive - I think she thought we had called the police there to put her in the pokey for her bad behavior.)
We tell her the story - she asks us for the description - says she'll "look into it" and waddles off.
We pack up our things and head for the car.
I just happen to look back into the festival one last time. Wanna guess what I saw?
Officer Fatty and her cohort - standing in the middle of the field - eating a cannoli.
I promise you - I can't make this stuff up.