We found ourselves with only two kids Saturday morning. This sort of makes it sound like we left one in the back of a cab but in actuality Cal got invited to his friend's lake house, which is wonderful for two reasons. First, Cal is realizing that being unendingly polite is garnering him the reputation as The Kind of Kid That Other People's Parents Like To Have Around, and has thus been on the receiving end of a lot of very nice playdate invitations. Number two, of course, is that his friend has a freaking LAKE HOUSE. Which in Georgia is apparently pretty common, but as we have no such lake house, seems as exotic and Gatsby-ish as a straw boater worn non-ironically.
Usually we take these kinds of occasions to carve out some special time with Mack, if not just for the simple reason of heading off middle-child syndrome as distracting him from the cold reality that he has not been invited to boat and fish and tube and whatnot on the resplendent banks of Lake Wanahanapeepaw (note: not a real lake), and is, in fact, missing out on some serious fun.
Anyway. It's a beautiful weekend but as I am on call we couldn't go anywhere too far. So we went here, to the Big Trees Forest Preserve in Sandy Springs.
Mack wanted to collect some leaves for a project he's planning (I don't actually know what the project is--and I don't think that he knows exactly either, though I'm fairly certain that it will involve a lot of Scotch tape) and it's such a gorgeous time of year that I figured that something outdoorsy and wholesome was just the ticket. I originally wanted to go to the Chatahoochee River Natural Recreation Area, but of course because of the government shutdown most areas run by the National Parks Department are closed. Not that I'm complaining about it--though most visible, the shuttering of the national parks and monuments may be lower on the list of Very Important Things things the government shutdown is affecting--but I'm just pointing out that maybe in a few weeks, we'll bypass the municipal nature preserve and try something on a grander scale.
Smaller scale may have been a blessing in disguise anyway, as even the maximum loop entailing a mile and a half of easy trails can start to feel awfully long when carrying a large-ish 15 month-old (Nina can walk pretty well now, but on that kind of uneven ground she tends to fall a lot) (see also: muddy) (see also: persistent fear of snakes--my preoccupation, not hers) and felt even longer during the last leg of the hike when lugging around 40+ pounds of Big Mack. By the end I was starting to get paranoid--I assumed the trail was configured in a loop, but the longer we walked the less sure of where we were going, and there were no signs indicating EXIT or TRAIL HEAD THIS WAY or 500 FEET TO THE NEAREST CHICK-FIL-A.
I also started to get concerned that it was slightly inadvisable that we went that deep into the nature preserve in the first place--I'm on backup call for the hospital, so while one of my partners was already in house and though I checked in with him before leaving the house to determine that the chances of concurrent emergent-to-the-OR catastrophe was sufficiently minuscule, I did have a vision when I thought we were maybe-lost of being stat-paged to the hospital because, OMG TWO RUPTURED TRIPLE As AT THE SAME TIME, and having to rapidly extract myself from the middle of the damn forest using only my wits and by, like, feeling which side of the tree the moss was growing on. (To be fair, the preserve area is actually quite small, so it's not like I was on call and decided to go hiking in the middle of the Moab Desert or anything. We never even fully lost audio confirmation on the loudspeaker-amplified event in the parking lot of the Ford dealership next door. But still it's more dramatic if I don't tell you that part so forget I said anything.)
Anyway, we knew we had finally made it all the way back around when we saw the bright blue port-a-potty in the parking lot. Some of the trail had apparently washed out due to the heavier than average (some might say biblical) rains the latter part of this summer, and we had to scale an erosion-melted slope to re-enter civilization. At this point we had joined forces with another family who was similarly lost (they were not outdoorsy-types either and admitted that the only reason they were doing anything even remotely wholesome was because the dad had to attend a bachelor party later in the day and felt that he should pre-atone for the damage he was about to incur on his body), and I had recanted on all my earlier sentiments about the weather and the leaves and was basically like, "Fuck nature, let's go to Taco Bell."
AND WE DID.