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Fall Break(down)

What could be better than two full weekdays at home with the whole family? Well, let's see - um, there's getting my hair ripped out one strand at a time, walking over hot coals, sleeping on a bed of nails, or the classic standby, being forced to drag my own fingernails down a chalkboard for all eternity.

Where did "fall break" even come from? I thought Christmas Break and Spring Break were the only breaks - and bracing for those is hard enough. Why do they need a break after being in school for a month? I don't get that. Didn't they just have a three-month-long free-for-all summer vacation??? Yes, I'm one of the "I used to walk uphill both ways in the snow" parents. I never had a "fall break" - why do they need a "fall break"?...please don't send them home for fall break!!!! I'm begging you! Fall Break is really cruel and sneaky, too - you just get used to the lovely, peaceful school-day routine of having at least one kid out of the house for several hours, and then there's very little warning, just a side note on a school newsletter that says "parent teacher conferences," so you don't think anything of it and innocently set said newsletter aside. After looking at it a few times you start to get a little suspicious: "wait a minute, if the parent-teacher conferences are scheduled all day on Thursday and Friday then that means.....HEEEYYYY!!!"

Usually fall break only affects Hannah, John's 15-year-old daughter, and since she's basically our built-in yard laborer when she's at home during normal school days, she probably hates fall break more than we ever could. But now that Bryce is in school, fall break has a whole new, horrific dimension for us (somehow John talked me into taking these two days off work - have I LOST MY MIND???). I think the fall break gods are smiting us for all the years of leaf raking, gutter cleaning, sidewalk sweeping, and car washing we've used to build Hannah's character (or as Hannah would say, to "torture her and ruin her life" - hey, it's all semantics). To quote my brother Jonathan: "Touche, life. Touche."

We tried to approach the long weekend like a great opportunity to be productive (so - yes, I have lost my mind - only the ramblings of a madwoman would contain the word "productive" in a story involving pre-schoolers). Despite the chronic arguing, whining, pushing, food-throwing, and basic misery caused by two kids who aren't used to being each other's all day partners in the making-of-insane-parents-complete-with-involuntary-twitches, we did manage to clean out the garage (ah, yes, Hannah loves her life), and then John had a great vision for a fun family activity: "let's get bikes and bike seats, and all go for a bike ride." Simple and fun. Fun and simple. Wholesome, healthy, and FUN FUN FUN! What could possibly go wrong? What kid wouldn't like a trip to a huge discount chain full of toys and food to be forced to stay in one aisle to pick out bikes and bike accessories, then come home, wait an hour for their dad to put everything together while their mom pulls her hair out from their bored whining and constant "is it time yet? now is it time? how about now?" questions, then get smashed under the weight of their dad while they cram themselves into the bike seat meant for a 9-month-old, and have their baby-fine hair pulled out by the roots when the cheap bike helmets are taken off their heads??? That's FUN!! FUN FUN! If "fun" means "kind of like the 7th circle of HELL," then yes, it was a fun autumn activity to be enjoyed by all. Hannah got a new bike out of the deal; I am liking my "vengeful fall break gods" theory more and more all the time (and it makes sense that the fall break gods would be on the side of the teenagers, who in theory benefit most from this event). It's either that, or Hannah invested in some fall break voodoo dolls in retribution for years of yard work.

The next day we took everyone to Oktoberfest. The kids got to go on carnival rides, dance with the Chicken and the Beermeister, and wear yellow-feathered chicken masks; John got to drink German beer and take thousands of pictures; Hannah got the batman symbol temporarily tattooed on her arm (teenagers are weird); and I got to drown my fall break sorrows in candied pecans and German cheesecake. We got sweatshirts that say "Oktoberfest 2005," but I think I'll always read them as "I Survived Fall Break Even Though My Stepdaughter's Character Building Torture Came Back to Smite Us All."

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