Thursday, April 14, 2011

And they're off! (And we're off. Seriously. We're a little off.)

This past weekend we did what any good parent does when their children are 5 and 7.

We took them to the horse races.

(What?) 

(Good parents don't promote gambling?)

(Seriously?)

(Why didn't anyone tell me....)

We picked up the kids a little early from school (see?  Parent of the Year!) and headed to town to meet Aunt Sissy and Uncle Jason and hit the road.

After driving a little over 5 hours we reached our destination and I was surprised at the absence of "are we there yet ('s)" from the kids.  They did really well and complaining was at a minimum.

We decided after all the energy that was put into the drive, we deserved a nice ice cream treat.

We stopped at a little place close to the lake and "HOLY COW!" they had great ice cream.

**************
The next morning we got ready and I think it is safe to say that the kids were excited.

L was studying up on the horses and figuring out who she wanted to place her money on.

(I'm kidding!)

(We aren't that scientific.  Color and name are how we place our bets.)
After leaving our hotel we made a stop at a local Wal-Mart (of course) to get some sunscreen and some cheap gas.

As Sarah and I were heading in we noticed people looking back into the parking lot.

This is what they saw:
The Wal-Mart greeter stated that this had recently become a daily occurrence and speculated that the nest for this duck was located in one of the bushes on an island within the parking lot.

The momma duck was very good at navigating in and out of cars, actually pausing and looking before crossing into a driving lane on her way to the swampy area located beside Wal-Mart.
With sunscreen in hand we drove to downtown Hot Springs to check-out all the town had in store and make notes about what we wanted to come back and see after the races.

We all posed for pictures at the lookout at the bottom of the Hot Springs Mountain Tower.

Don't they look all sweet and innocent?

Being ever-efficient we arrived at the horse track and secured ourselves a $2 parking spot that was rumored to have been non-existent.

Although Sarah and I were saving bettin' for the race track, Steven and Jason were placing their bets on whether or not the gate we parked by would be opened after the race.

However, none of us had the foresight to place our bet on whether or not Jason would lock the keys in the car.

Because...he totally did.

Steven patiently waited while Jason called "pop-a-lock", and Sarah, the kids and I went to see what the name of the road was we were parked by.


And then we waited...... and waited.   Finally after a couple of failed attempts the car was unlocked.
Then....we headed for the track.

Surprisingly, this is what the entrance into the deep, dark world of gambling looks like.

(Deceiving, huh?)

The kids tried to get into "the zone".

 







Because Sarah and I are cut from the same cloth, we went ahead and chose our horses prior to the races starting.  without even seeing them.  or knowing what their odds were. or if they had been scratched.

This was our first time and reading the book was like reading Greek.  Harder, maybe.

We pooled our money and bet together....spending a whopping $25 each.

What can I say?  We're big time.

We were all excited as the announcer proclaimed..."and they're off!"

Sarah and I started jumping up and down and squealing, sure that our method of betting was a money maker!  (O.K.  Maybe I was the only one jumping and squealing....)  We tasted the thrill of victory........until we realized that the finish line wasn't at the 1/16th gate.

And it was then that we felt the agony of defeat.

I think the kids were embarrassed to be seen with us.
L wanted to capture everything as well, alternating between taking still photos and video of the races.

(I think she is going to go home and study the horses so that next time she is better prepared.  She didn't like our strategy.)
Shortly after the races started we discovered that L's favorite jockey was competing several times that day.

Yes.  She has a favorite jockey.

No.  She had never been to a horse race.

Let me explain.

Back in November there was a news story about Calvin Borel and a fight he was in with another jockey at the Breeder's Cup.  Since that time, L has decided that he was a jockey after her own heart.

(Again.  I am obviously raising my children up right.)

In fact, she often times will pull out her "jockey face" (her impersonation of Calvin) if she is trying to divert attention away from the subject at hand.

Like, maybe, if she was getting in trouble during church for messing around with her Uncle Jason....the face then making Aunt Sissy start laughing and "forget" that L was actually in trouble.

(Hypothetical situation, of course.)

(My (gambling) children would NEVER act up in church.)

(Just sayin'.)

So, L picked a race and placed her $2 bet on Calvin.  Not the horse.

He placed 2nd.  Incidentally, so did the horse.

No money for L.

She seemed unfazed.
B was growing a little tired in the hot sun and horses aren't really his thing.

However, he didn't complain and he was being an absolute trooper just going along for the ride, but I didn't want him to simply tolerate the races....I wanted him to enjoy them.

So I did what any good mother would do.

I encouraged him to place a bet on a horse.

(Why are you looking at me like that!?!?!?!?!?!)

But you see....B is like his momma.  (Lord help us!) He has trouble making decisions for fear of it being the "wrong one".  He is anxious and he worries..... he would rather not play than play and not win.

I felt this gambling venture would be....um....character building.

So, as we stood inside looking at the horses being readied for the race, I told B to pick a horse and I would place a bet for him and he could cheer his horse on.

The conversation went like this:

Me:  "B, why don't you pick a  horse and you can root for him.  L has a horse (i.e. jockey) to cheer for, why don't you pick one?"

B:  Enthusiastic, "OK!  Followed by a less enthusiastic, "I don't know which one to pick.", followed by an anxious, "No, never mind.  I don't want to pick.  I don't know which one.....I don't know. No. Never mind.  I don't want to do it."

Me:  "B, no one knows which horse to pick.  If they did, it wouldn't be fun.  That is what makes it exciting....you might win, you might lose.  Odds are you will lose....but that makes winning all that much better."  (Do you like how I actually PUSH him to gamble.....)

B:  "I don't know.  You pick the horse.  I don't know."

Me:  "Which one do you like?  They are all brown, that one over there is gray (ish) black...do you want that one?  It would be easy to tell it apart.  They say gray horses are fast...."

B:  Anxiously..."OK.  Idon'tknow. OK.  OK."

So, before he could change his mind I headed to the kiosk.  I looked at my book to figure out the race and number and noticed that the horse's name was Lady (somethingorother).  I hesitated because I knew B wouldn't want a horse whose name started with "Lady" or a horse that was actually, well, you know,....a girl. 

Knowing that time was slipping away and my window of opportunity was narrowing and that I didn't have time to go through another 15 minute pep talk about choosing a horse, I selected B's horse and handed him the ticket. 

"B, this is your ticket.  You have to keep track of it because if your horse wins you will need it to get your money."

Already pshyching himself up for a loss he said, "I'm not going to win....."

The bugler played and the announcer declared the start of the race.  B sat on the edge of the wall.....watching his horse run.....in last place.

"It's not going to win...." he said.

"That's OK. Mine isn't winning either.", I said.

As the horses raced on the back side of the track he kept talking, giving voice to the anxiety that is always just below the surface...."It really isn't even gray....it is more black.  It's not gray and it isn't going to win...."

I wondered if I had made the best decision and if he was going to fall apart at his loss.  I also knew that he needed to realize that in life....you do lose sometimes.  It's inevitable.  And it's OK.

He turned and faced me, talking about his bad choice.

As the horses rounded the last corner everyone but B craned their neck to get a better view.  He had already moved on to his next worry and  sure enough, B's horse was still in the back. 

However, something happened in those last few seconds and in an instant, B's horse moved from last......to 1st.

I barely had time to jump and squeal and indicate to B that he needed to cheer with me.

As the horse crossed the finish line B raised his fists in the air and let out a yell.

He jumped down off the wall and we headed for the doors.

(This was the second time I had collected money that day.  On an earlier race Sarah and I had picked a winner that we had bet $5 (collectively) on.  We made $6.50. )

(We. Are. Big. Time.)

Some guy I didn't know opened the door for us as we headed inside and made polite conversation.  In passing I stated that B and I were going to go collect money because his horse had won the last race.

The guy paused.

"Buddy!!! That horse had 24:1 odds!"

Although neither B or I knew exactly what that meant we knew it was good.

As we waited for the results to become official, the gentleman that had opened the door for us had collected a few of his friends.  From 1o feet behind us they gave B "thumbs up" and asked him what horse he was going with the next time.

B's face turned red as he held onto my leg and buried his head into my side.

I handed the clerk my ticket and he handed me $48.00.

I gave B his money as his face lit up as he said, "I'm done.  I don't want to bet again."

We walked back outside so he could deliver the news to everyone else and as we headed out the door he said, "Do you think I could buy a matchbox car?"


Even though the $350,000 race had yet to be ran, everyone decided that they were ready to call it a day.  As we left L mentioned that she sure hoped Calvin won the big race.

She doesn't give up easily.

We headed downtown towards the Hot Springs and Bath House Row.
After we stopped for the 4th or 5th time for L to take pictures, I realized how I must appear to everyone.
B liked reading the signs about the bath houses.  We were disappointed that the visitor center had just closed and there weren't any open for us to tour.  The history of the city was apparent everywhere you looked.....some of it was a little shady.




The kids were amazed at how HOT the springs actually were. 

Go figure.

It didn't take long for their fingers to be yanked back out of the water once they had summoned the courage to stick them in.....

(Allowing your kids to scald their fingers.  Definite Parent of the Year material....Ahem.)


As we walked back to the car, B teamed up with Steven as L reached out and took my hand.  I actually closed my eyes and took in the moment, so thankful that my children were there to share it with me.

While walking by a flowering bush, L said, "Wait momma!" and she reached out and plucked a flower and tucked it behind her ear.

She then struck a pose knowing full well that the camera was already out and waiting.



After I captured the moment she told me to lean down and she removed the flower from behind her ear and stuck it behind mine.

(Oh, how I love that girl.....)

We then grabbed a bite to eat and went to play a nail-biting game of putt-putt.

Aunt Sissy won.

And I finished just ahead of these two hoodlums:



Yep.  I am that good!

This is what they do to losers of putt-putt golf in Arkansas....

B couldn't miss a chance to ride go-karts.  I had, after all, promised.

After the completion of the big race, L asked Aunt Sissy to look up on her phone and tell her if "her jockey" had won the race.

He had.

L was so excited that Calvin had won.

B looked at her and said, in an effort to burst her bubble, "You didn't bet.....you didn't even win any money.  Why are you so happy!!!!?"

L looked seriously at her brother and exclaimed passionately, "B! Money DOESN'T make you happy!  I just wanted him to win!!!!!"

B looked perplexed.

(I felt my chest swell up with pride at this obvious parenting triumph.)

B looked at her and said, "Yeah?!? Well, my $48 makes ME happy!"

(Chest then deflated....)


Maybe, just maybe, they should wait to inscribe my name on the "Parent of the Year Award" for now.

Maybe.

1 comment:

The Next Phase said...

I hope I'm half the parent you are!!! Sounds like an exciting weekend.