The kids were so excited and had spoke of nothing else for the entire week leading up to the trip. Most of their excitement was fueled by the memories of last year.
Isn't that how memories are?
Sometimes even better than the moment itself.
Last year we visited an ice cream parlor, by chance, called Holy Cow Ice Cream.
We didn't plan it, but ended up there, and the memory of the experience grew through out the past year, adding enthusiasm to the kids over flowing excitement. Most of the excitement was over our over-zealous comments about the ice cream. Although I don't remember the ice cream being that extraordinary, I do remember Steven and Jason, followed by a chorus of L and B, saying "Holy Cow! That was some good ice cream!"
For over a week B could talk of nothing other than Holy Cow and their ice cream, and L couldn't help but marvel that no one in her class at school (5 hours away) had ever been there or heard of it.
This time we arrived in Hot Springs earlier in the evening than last year and just in time for supper. Some how, some way, as our crazy family does, we created another 'tradition'.
Although I don't know why, it was jointly decided that wearing a 'bib' while eating was a must.
Even when the people around us thought we were crazy and didn't understand.
But who are we kidding? We don't even understand why we do most of what we do.
Despite looking ridiculous, we still had fun and we still had pizza. And to Sarah and I, that is pretty much the secret to the good life.
However, B didn't appreciate our enjoyment of good pizza and couldn't hardly wait to get out of there and get to 'Holy Cow Ice Cream'.
Sarah and I shared our worries on his reaction if we were to get there and it was (gasp!) closed.
We knew that both kids would be greatly disappointed, but if you have read for any period of time you know that B is very ....um....(trying to think of the right word)...... emotional.
When facing disappointment it has, in the past, been devastating. I wasn't ready for a breakdown. And no one else wanted to be party to one either.
As we drove by I noticed that the lights were off...
...and the tables were gone...
and it was out of business.
I turned to B who was clearly disappointed. "B? Listen. We have two choices. We can go to the hotel, or we can go find ice cream somewhere else."
Now, the typical response from B would have been to say that he didn't want ice cream anywhere else, tell me how he had his heart set on "Holy Cow" ice cream, followed by tears and the revelation that it was the 'worst day ever'.
Instead, he looked at me, said matter of factly, "Lets go somewhere else..."
And so we did.
My sister looked at me and raised her eyebrows. I shrugged and mouthed the words, "This is big."
You see, it wasn't that long ago that I had shared my fears with her regarding B. He wasn't ill-mannered. He didn't behave badly. He wasn't spoiled. But he WAS emotional.
All. The. Time.
Any disturbance in routine, any outgrown item of clothes, the removal of a dying tree from our yard, and the evidence of fleeting time, were all things B struggled with.
In fact, he once told me, "You don't know the things my mind tells me..." and it scared me.
But lately, he hasn't been quite so bothered by those daily 'disturbances'. Lately there has been a lot of shrugging off and moving on.
And you can't even begin to imagine my relief.
So, when we pulled into 'Scoops' for some ice cream and B happily bounded inside, I noticed the cow on the wall. In that moment I stopped, took note, and I couldn't help but think that there was definitely something 'holy' about this experience.
The next morning we woke excited for the day to begin.
When you are heading to the horse races it is anyones guess on how the day could turn out.
But, of course, we all know how it had to begin....
..eating breakfast and wearing bibs.
(The family that wears bibs together, stays together.)
(Yes, we are THAT family. That very weird family.)
And if the bibs weren't enough to grab everyone's attention, Jason purposefully speaking loudly about how much money we had won the day before (when in fact we didn't even go to a race) and the horses that we owned (which we don't), surely did.
However, since this was all happening while eating the continental breakfast provided by our hotel, I doubt anyone was fooled.
The kids, although crazy, weren't messing with the luck of the irish and donned their green for the races which happened to be on St. Patrick's Day.
L's stategy has always been "voting" on the jockey.
(That's what the kids call "betting". No, we didn't teach them to say that. We are up front about promoting gambling to our young children.)
(Just kidding. We don't "promote" it, we just do it.)
B's strategy was "voting" on grey horses.
Sarah and I? We are much more sophisticated.
We "vote" based on name.
The first race we laid down a whopping $2 on a horse named 'Batesville' which just happened to be the name of a casket company. Considering my employment, I felt it was a sign.
And after turning that $2 into $28.50, I was sure of it.
Unfortunately there weren't any other horses named "Criswell", "Artco" or "Aurora".
It was also unfortunate that L's jockey didn't win a single race.
Only one of B's grey horses did...turning his $2 into $10.
And although Steven doesn't bet, I took a risk and bet $2 for him on a horse named 'Cowboy Cadillac' and it paid off as well.
I told you the selection process was very scientific.
The kids enjoyed theirselves as much as we did. L, being the horse lover, couldn't believe that she had experienced the worst luck of our entire family.
Of course, maybe that's because she was betting on the jockey, not the horse.
Or maybe because she didn't do scientific research like her Aunt Sissy and I.
However, with all our research, Sarah and I didn't take note of the horse owners. It was only after being tipped off by someone sitting near us did I realize that we had inadvertantly bet on a horse owned by someone we "knew".
Yeah. Toby Keith. Or, rather, Toby Covel.
His horse, Reckless Jerry, was racing in the rebel stakes and he was there watching, very near to us.
However, if we had known that the horse we had bet on was owned by Toby Keith, we might have opted to "vote" on a grey horse.
Or a jockey.
(Apologies to all you Toby lovers. I like his music as much as the next guy, I just think that Toby is his own biggest fan, therefore he doesn't need another one in me....or Sarah.)
(I don't think he had any green on. Wonder if I should have tried to pinch him.....?)
We left the races and took the kids to play putt-putt golf, which has also become a tradition.
And later went to eat supper and almost got locked in the restaurant.
We didn't, however, lock the keys in the car which is an improvement over last year.
The memories that we make as a family will last longer than Steven or I.
That is what we intend.
That is what we hope for.
And as this year passes by, I know that I will re-live, along side the kids, the adventures, the fun, the silliness and the chaos that we make a point to experience together, in the stories we tell and re-tell, and the laughs we laugh, almost as if it were for the very first time.