“Bey Blades Bey Blades, let it rip…” My eight year old son could not be more enamored by these battle tops, and after last weekend, I understand there are many other fanatics out there. Nikolas has been toting around his little red case of Beyblades for months. He also has a stadium dented and even cracked by hours of use. Once Nikolas saved twenty dollars, and after researching Beys he had chosen to spend every last cent on one in particular, Basalt. There is a Beyblade cartoon that is impossible to sit through without smirking, but Nikolas prefers watching You tube videos. Nikolas begged us to take him to a tournament and we decided we would be super cool parents and take him to the national tournament in NYC. When I tried to register him, the tournament was closed and the disappointment from Nikolas was astounding. I helped Nikolas join a forum and we discovered a tournament held last weekend near the D.C. area. We live six hours from there and are we crazy for agreeing to this? You could say so. Nikos was hoping that if we took Nikolas to the tournament his obsession could finally subside. I felt this was a small moment in Nikolas’ fleeting childhood, and what a great experience for him to attend something he so desperately wished. Soon enough Nikolas will find another fascination, undoubtedly marketed by corporate manipulators.
I packed, baked banana bread with my rotting bananas, and tidied up in a frenzy before picking up the kids from school. I like the house clean for two reasons before embarking on a trip. The first, naturally is that it is always nice to come home from somewhere to a clean home. The second is why my husband suggests I could use some psychotherapy. I am afraid if we would perish while on our vacation, I would be horrified (dead or alive) to have people entering my house and seeing just how bad our house can get on a daily basis. I want to pretend that there isn’t toothpaste all over the sink and mysteriously even on our ceiling light fixtures. I don’t want anyone to see two day old food bits stuck in our kitchen sink strainers, and the worst is the mound of dirty clothes challenging the Matterhorn.
My beloved chickens were fed, watered and our skanky cat was all taken care of and we were off. We picked up some sweet tea from Tudor’s, chatted with the always friendly cashier and not even two miles on the interstate, Nikolas began hyperventilating and emphatically bellowed, “I gotta pee!!”.
Nikos finally came down with the same two day illness that had been shared by the rest of us. It was his turn, and the drama began. Nikos is the single most annoying sick person in all the world. He wheezes and whispers like the Godfather, grows sickeningly sentimental and I imagine terrible things I’d like to do to him to get him to stop with the deathbed dramatics. I told him to pull over so I could drive once he insisted that he couldn’t drive past 50 m.p.h. in a 70 zone due to his fatigue.
The awkward twists and turns of the West Virginian interstate makes for a lovely drive and rural Maryland matches WV in its beauty. Nikos snored away until we reached a rest area. The kids all needed their shoes on and Katerina likes to throw her socks which means we’ll never find them again. I suppose the dark and lurking mysteries found in the back seat swallows them up. The kids filed out of the car, immediately running straight to the pet area, ironically. I was quietly grossed out imagining his hair gobbed with dog feces when Nikolas decided to do somersaults, even though he called them “cartwheels”. Elizabeth tried to show him on how its done, but the girl never learned to do a cartwheel after eight months and tons of cash later. She doesn’t need to know this. Katerina is like a butterfly freed from its net, skipping and dancing away. Sometimes, I imagine living at a rest area. They are wonderful happy places.
Nikos insisted that he had a fever even though his forehead was fine, so we stopped earlier than planned and stayed at the Comfort Inn. The kids were way too wild, we dished out our threats if they jumped one more time on the beds, and Nikos was asleep before even the kids.
Nikos felt better the next morning, however he still didn’t eat anything for breakfast. The hotel offered a decent array of choices and I chose the microwaved sausage and eggs. The kids had blueberry waffles and oranges. The guests were unusually jolly and making comments on Katerina. Nikolas’ asthma has been pretty bad and I had to explain that he didn’t have pneumonia just asthma before everyone cleared the room. The employee complimented Nikolas’ good manners and I swelled with pride feeling like a good mom temporarily. She went on about how kids simply are not taught manners these days and then gave me the details of each of her grandkids.
We needed to decide if we would go to D.C. or to Baltimore since both were exactly 1.5 hours away. I printed off both directions and then we packed up, but I first needed to dish out my earnest promise that we’d swim at the next hotel.
The kids were hungry for lunch at eleven so we stopped first at the grocery store for some swim diapers and I bought some honeycrisp apples and bananas. We picked up some Chick-fil-A for lunch, and I made a mental note that I’m not wild about their sweet tea.
I decided that we’d visit the Baltimore aquarium another time and that it might be more meaningful to see the White House and go to a free museum in D.C. Saving a hundred bucks was too enticing.
We first fed the hungriest meter in history and walked to the National Geographic Museum, but decided to go instead to the National Museum of Natural History. It took us around forty minutes to park and Nikos was so irritable I thought he’d grow some more hair on his head.
We parked along the mall and before us was the White House. Nikolas wanted to visit Obama, and I imagine he thought Obama might be interested in doing some Beyblade battling with him. I told Katerina if she remained a good girl and did well in school (yes, I’m aware she’s only two, thank you) she could one day be the president and live in the White House. Nikolas turned and said that she couldn’t because she’s a girl. Elizabeth and I both lit into him and he defended himself by saying there has never been a girl president. I explained there had never been an african/american president up until now either. Oh, the stereotypes-beginning in my very own home!
The museum was crowded but free and very impressive. The architecture was gorgeous. Nikolas hopped around with passionate interest like a bee in a flower garden. Elizabeth seemed to know and add information along each exhibit. It says something for her public school education. After 2.5 hours my lower back felt tired and my enthusiasm was waning. We started to head out when Nikos suggested we check out one last exhibit, skeletons of mammals.
Nikolas resembled a bug splatted on a windshield looking at those skeletons. As I shook my head I noticed a familiar face and it was my long time friend Shelly with her family! I had to call her name twice before she turned with her gaping mouth. Coincidences!
Two years ago they had moved to North Carolina and I haven’t seen her since. Her two young boys have grown and they all looked terrific. Nikos loves her husband Craig and they immediately took up a conversation. As the museum closed we shuffled out on the lawn-the White House lawn. It actually needed some mowing in my opinion. It made Nikos feel better. Nikolas climbed tree after tree and Elizabeth tried to stand and talk with the grown-up girls until she grew bored. Twelve is a tough age, with her little arms folded and I well remember that self-consciousnesses. Shelly and I talked as if we ran into each other at the mall. Katerina and Shelly’s son played in the dirt, and even an asian tourist snapped some pictures of them. We took our own handful of pictures and we parted with lots of hugs.
It took some time to depart from D.C. yet I claim to be the queen of navigation, even though we had to make four illegal u-turns before we left the area.
Macaroni Grill is one of my favorite restaurants and therefore I chose to stay at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Frederick since both were in that town. There was a forty-five minute wait for Macaroni Grill, it was nearing 7:30 already and Katerina had skipped her afternoon nap. Instead, we chose Panda Express and ate a mediocre meal, although we did save roughly $40 as a result.
The hotel didn’t even offer free cookies like most Hampton hotels do. Elizabeth grew mouthy as she has a tendency to do when she’s exhausted. We were all arguing and I don’t want to imagine what the adjacent rooms think about us. It ended up being a lousy evening for all of us and the guilt brimmed over now that the little angels were slumbering, that I will never be Caroline Ingalls or Olivia Walton. I suppose I’ll always be searching for patience among the long-needed list of virtues. At least I ended the evening on a sweet note-I indulged in the raspberry filled white cake I’d brought from home (Kroger special).
The following morning Katerina found her swimsuit and put it on over her pajamas. I took the giggling kids swimming and Nikos sat in the pool chair watching us. I learned long ago that it doesn’t matter what fabulous destination we have in mind, the kids are delighted if there is a pool. We could very well travel ten miles from our house and the kids would be thrilled as long as they could swim in the pool.
We quickly packed up and I felt proud that we hadn’t trashed the room too much. Normally, the kids accidentally step on coffee creamers or there are crumbs and something is always spilled. We took our complimentary breakfast to go.
We were off to the tournament in Silver Springs, MD. We wanted to arrive in plenty of time to allow room for getting lost. Nikolas was very excited in his kick-back character sort of way. We found the lovely park and I was pleased that a playground was right beside the shelter. We arrived nearly two hours early. There were some boys with a Bey stadium already at the shelter, and Nikolas shuffled up to them carrying his little case. Nikolas seems to be at the epitome of boyhood at this moment in time. He is still small, even though he grows about an inch per month, wearing his mismatched outfit of blue shorts and an orange/gray striped shirt. He wore two long sleeved shirts to fight off the autumn morning chill. I wanted to hold on to this image of him as I silently watched him walking up to the shelter, capturing his sweetness and earnest interest of so many things.
It just so happened that those boys in the picnic shelter hadn’t heard of the tournament and simply had gone to the park to play with their Beyblades. I imagined there would be a handful of kids, and told Elizabeth it would be like a birthday party. I quickly realized I had made an incorrect assumption. Teenage boys arrived, the main guy came with his computer and box of $60 items for sale, and family after family arrived. Most of the boys were asian, then east-indian and some african/american. There were around forty or fifty kids entering the tournament. All I wanted was for Nikolas to win at least a round so he’d feel like he’d accomplished something by travelling all of this way. Then again, perhaps it was my own sentiment and need of justification.
Elizabeth was feigning torture by all of it. Katerina played for hours contentedly at the playground, and often Elizabeth would assist her. I found a take-out hibachi restaurant for lunch. I had two different mothers ask me where the restaurant was. Most of the parents were nice and I felt like it was any other Saturday at the soccer game. Parents are parents anywhere. We all wanted our kids to win.
The kids were a fine group overall, displaying fine sportsmanship by shaking hands after each round. I didn’t hear any foul language and the kids were friendly. After talking to several of the parents, I realized that many of the boys shared similar characteristics, such as being interested in math and science. Beyblades does require unmeasured physics and personalized customization. Nikolas even made some nice friends who rooted him on as he won round after round. Yes, believe it or not, Nikolas made it to the semi-finals. Some of these kids held world rankings. Even though Elizabeth likes to talk smack to Nikolas and of course she was excruciatingly bored after five hours at this peaceful turned blasted park, she was right there hoping more than anyone else that her little brother would win.
The last round, the tournament director told his nephew which tips he should use on his Bey after looking at what Nikolas would be using. The round was suspended while the boy customized his Bey. Another mother and I were silently shocked. I felt it was downright cheating, but I refused to bicker like I’d seen some other mothers doing an hour before. Parents can grow frighteningly ugly when it comes to their children.
Nikolas lost the round and I thought I saw tears in his eyes, but he later denied them. He lost again and he was out of the tournament. Personally, I was relieved, ready to leave hours ago. Additionally, it was a six hour ride home. Once we were in the car, we talked Beyblades and filled Nikolas with compliments for a good bit of our drive.
I made Nikos stop at a rest area in MD, even though the sun was beginning to set. There is a walkway that crosses the interstate and a climb to look at the stratified rock layers of sandstone and clay where the road cut through the hill. We began waving at the cars as we stood directly on top of the interstate while cars honked and hands waved back at us. This delighted the kids and Nikos remarked that I will always be a kid myself.
We didn’t arrive home until 10:30, and it was a school night. I knew Katerina would sleep easily, and slowly Nikolas knocked off and finally Elizabeth. The peace and feeling of triumph is profound at the sight of my cherished children, snugly asleep in the backseat of the car. In conclusion, it was a fine weekend trip.