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We survived our first Electronics Free Sabbath today. Poobah and I were discussing the boys’ increasing dependence on iPads, iPhones, and computers when he suggested that we ban electronics on Sundays until 7pm. I liked the idea instantly, but we figured it wouldn’t go over well with the boys. To put it lightly. I suggested we plan out fun family activities so we could pitch it to them as some fun we were adding in, rather than something they loved we were taking away. Poobah liked the way I was thinking, and began setting things up.

We began our day with a big Sunday breakfast, a tradition in my family. Growing up, my ex-Christian parents still held Sunday as a special day. We didn’t go to church, but we rested (the only day of the week my farmer father didn’t work) and had a big special breakfast and a big dinner, generally at four in the afternoon, farm-style. So, I got up and cooked us all eggs (egg whites for Poobah, guardian of his uber-low LDL), hash browns, and soysauge (don’t tell the kids, they think it’s dead macerated pig. Soy is really so disgusting compared to real sausage after all). We finished our orange juice and off to church we went.

Sounds so simple, but here’s what really happened: Poobah scrambled to clean up the kitchen while I scrambled to get dressed with Princess crying her head off the entire time saying “Door” over and over again in an attempt to convince me to let her outside. Soldier Boy attempted to get dressed on his own but turned into a weeping puddle when he kept putting both legs into the same leg of the pants. Tree lamented church being a “waste of time” (as opposed to playing on his iPhone) and sat moping on the couch until we’d told him to get in the car for approximately the 56th time. The Ax, oddly enough, put his shoes on and went and sat in the van without even being told to do so. Little miracles all around.

We eventually managed to get on the road but only after realizing Soldier Boy was missing when our head count came up one short. I found him wandering the basement whereupon he explained to me he’d attempted to go out to the car when Poobah told him to, but he hadn’t been able to get the front door open (he has issues with doorknobs). I asked him why he didn’t just ask for help, but he didn’t know why. Out the door we went.

We arrived at church only ten minutes late which is pretty darn good for us. The parking lot was crowded, presumably for Memorial Day. Poobah commented that this must be a western Pennsylvania thing. We grabbed Princess (her shoes had been forgotten in the flurry of morning activity so we carried her across the gravel parking lot) and herded the boys toward the door. Poobah did a body check for contraband on the boys (minus the pat down) which didn’t turn up any hidden iPhones or the old iPad in the seat of their pants tricks. We left the three boys with Princess in the nursery and went in and found two seats towards the aisle, in case we needed to get out to the nursery in the middle of service (which we do about 100% or so of the time).

We arrived as the singing was slowing down and the Memorial Day honoring of the veterans was commencing. We sang “God Bless America” as the ushers circulated the collection plates. I didn’t sing along as I don’t feel comfortable doing anything very patriotic when I’m in the company of those who don’t recognize the imperial atrocities the US government has visited on various developing countries throughout history, in addition to the good the ideals and the people of the nation have done along the way. The preacher then began to preach on a passage about Saul from book of Acts and we sat listening, Poobah more engaged than I. Soldier Boy came in, a few minutes before the kids were to be dismissed for children’s church. Tree came in, preferring the teenage boredom of the service to the teenage boredom of watching the baby in the nursery. Soldier Boy was soon dismissed and Poobah and I focused on the word the preacher was giving.

My mind drifted elsewhere as he spoke with fire and a dash of brimstone, to what we’d have for lunch and what I might wear when I gave my talk on autism to a group of physicians later this summer. I got the general gist of the sermon, but probably not to the extent I was supposed to. I did clap when the preacher talked about how much he loved when sinners came to church. Jesus surrounding himself with sinners and prostitutes had always been one of my favorite things about the gospels.

Church ended and I tended the brood as Poobah went up for prayer. I watched Princess as she walked up and down the steps in the lobby (“steppies” being her greatest passion in life right now) as the boys beat one another up in the nursery. A concerned older gentleman said to me that I’d better go check on them as one boy was kicking the other one. I looked in the room and saw The Ax on the floor, giggling, with the much bigger Soldier Boy poking him with his foot. I told the gentleman they were just pretending but he insisted they were not. To placate him, I went and in and told the boys to go outside and play. Princess remained at her station on the steppies, mastering the craft of going down them holding onto the rail, instead of mommy’s hand.

Poobah came out and we made our way to the minivan. I let Princess walk up the cement steps between the two levels of the parking lot despite being barefoot and got a disapproving comment about doing so. Tough crowd. We came home and I packed up peanut butter and honey sandwiches as Poobah loaded up the bikes for our afternoon adventure. After a diaper change, the boys getting out of their church clothes and into their play clothes, sunblock application, homemade lemonade made and distributed amongst five bottles, the cooler filled with berries and watermelon, and everyone peeing in the potty (or at least trying after being told they had to after whining that they didn’t have to go), we were on our way.

I rode in the back with The Ax and Tree (long story) while Soldier Boy entertained Poobah with tales that only half made sense to him, appropriate, as I imagined he was only half listening anyway, focused on finding us the out-of-the-way park we’d never been to before. Princess snoozed, luckily, preventing her from being Miss Crankerpants for the rest of the afternoon. It turned out Poobah’s map wasn’t of the best quality, so we made some loops and hit some dead ends before arriving there, guided more by his inner compass than the map. We were all excited to get out of the van and get some lunch. We ate and played on the playground. Soldier Boy was already on the swings by the time I made my way up the little hill to the playground, chatting up a seven year old little girl next to him. Soldier Boy and The Ax were both incredibly social, completely at ease wherever they want. They’d apparently gotten it from their dad as I was a shy kid and am a shy adult now.

We ate. Princess found some steppies to work on and some pretty big slides to go down (she knows no fear). The boys played on the big spinny thing playgrounds tend to have. Soldier Boy found a fort for himself and a stick for a gun. That’s about all he needs in life.

We played a while and then Poobah readied the bikes for us. Cooler away, helmets on, let’s ride. The Ax was struggling with his bike a bit. He only just really began riding well this summer and he was having a somewhat off day. Soldier Boy was happy as usual on his bike. He’s unable to balance a bike, related to his autism and issues, and is legally blind so we have a tandem type bike attachment with two wheels that attaches to the back of Poobah’s bike. Soldier Boy weighs a hundred pounds and can’t really pedal much, so it’s lucky for me I married the fit man I did. Princes was excited, sitting in her little seat attached to my bike. Tree was riding all around the parking lot, waiting for the caravan to leave.

We made our way to the trail, but it didn’t start well. The Ax was struggling with his bike and getting very upset with each fall. The trail started out uphill and little Ax just wasn’t ready for that so early in his bike riding career. We made our way long with me and Princess holding back to stay with The Ax It soon became apparent this wasn’t working, though. We canceled the bike trip and headed back to the playground. We played a while longer and drank our lemonade. We headed home around five. The ride home went smoothly.

When we got home, it was 5:30 and the kids were jonesing for some electronic time. Some serious moping began to set in. Poobah and I were in the kitchen discussing plans for the next day and I mentioned the water balloons we’d bought last week. I told him perhaps we could play with those tomorrow as well. Poobah, however, had a better idea. We could defeat the e-withdrawal the kids were going through with a good old fashioned water balloon war. I’ll admit I groaned a bit, knowing I was the designated water balloon filler-upper and tie-er-offer. But I put on my brave solider face and began to prepare to go to war.

Poobah brought a bin and put it on the dryer. I stood at the sink between our washer and dryer and commenced prepping the artillery. Soldier Boy and The Ax were on board and a bit giddy with anticipation, bit Tree was still sitting sullenly upstairs. As I filled, little Ax went upstairs and convinced Tree to join us. We were all excited. It was Poobah and Soldier Boy versus Tree and The Ax. Princess would no doubt wind up as collateral damage. They quickly used up the stockpile I’d supplied and starting coming in to ask for more. They were throwing them as fast as I could make them, faster actually. They all got in some good hits, their favorites hit being, of course, the ones that landed on Poobah. He was a good (soaked) sport and gave it back without mercy. Eventually my fingers grew weary from tying off so many little balloons and I called the battle over ( I looked on the balloon package and realized we’d gone through a good chunk of a bag containing 200 balloons). But not before getting in one shot myself: I launched a balloon from within the basement right at Poobah’s head as he bent over to help the baby. Line drive, direct hit, I sunk his battleship. He commended me on a good shot as he shook the water from his hair.

By this time, it was 6:45 and the kids were ready for the electronic fast to be over. They managed to maintain their cool and Poobah showed them some mercy, letting them break the fast five minutes early. I’d just finished making dinner at that point, but I gave them a five minute stay to get a quick fix. We ate a nice family dinner with Tree’ leftover birthday cake for dessert, and then the boys played their respective devices and Poobah watched the baby as I rinsed the dishes and swept the floor (Poobah washes the dishes but every now and then I do remember to rinse them so they aren’t crusted over when he washes them later on. Want to paint an accurate picture here, credit goes where credit’s due and all that).

All in all, it had been a great day. No meltdowns, no sunburns or broken bones, no one going into convulsions from lack of screen time. Good family time spent doing something together instead of sitting in the same room, staring at screens next to one another. We’d managed to pull them out of their games and into this thing called life. Let’s hope we keep doing it, a little more each day.