Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Fruitball fight!

Christmas is a difficult day for little ones to be stuck at home all day long. Getting so many presents all at once is difficult (#firstworldproblems, I know) and the aftermath is terrible. Our solution this year was to go to the park. After all, it was 62 degrees and sunny!

Grandma opted to stay at home and nap but the rest of us made our way to the park and had a blast.

Eventually Benjamin conked out in the swing (which is just what I was hoping for...he's been fighting naps so much lately)...

And then Andrew bonked Rachel's chin on the bar of the swing (after she asked him to help her get up there) and she threw a tantrum over that (it hurt and was embarrassing and she couldn't handle it).

Benjamin and Miriam wer still occupied with the swings and neither Grandpa or Daddy wanted to approach Rachel in her current state of emotion, so I took her to the other side of the playground where we practiced swinging for a minute before we invented a new game—of picking up and throwing sweetgum fruitballs.

There are sweetgum trees all over the place here. I think I'm stuck calling them sweetgum trees because when I googled "pokey ball tree north carolina," the first hit was "Liquidambar styraciflua," but nothing in the description told me that it was for sure what I wanted and the second hit was "Armadillo," so instead I followed Google's suggestion and searched for "spiky ball tree North Carolina." This time my first hit was "Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)" and the description included the words "distinctive...spiky ball-shaped fruits." Obviously the first hit of my initial search terms would have given me the same information and I would have been able to pick another name for the tree because do you know how many names the sweetgum tree goes by?


Aligator-wood? I could've gone for that. But it also goes by American-storax, bilsted, red-gum, satin-walnut, and star-leaved gum...besides plain, ordinary American sweetgum.

Also, why exactly the fruit is explained as "ball-shaped" instead beyond me. 

Anyway, sweetgum (or aligator-wood) trees are all over the place here and, evidently, in the late fall they start dropping their dried out fruitballs everywhere. 

At first Rachel and I were picking them up and hurling them as far as we could, trying to get them over the fence. Then we started throwing them at the lattice-work beneath the deck at the park, trying to get them in the holes. That's about when Andrew joined us. We had contests to see how many we could get through the holes in a row (two (yup,that's our high score)). 

That game evolved into a sweetgum fruitball fight, which is kind of like a snowball fight only instead of getting snow down your neck you get spiky balls stuck in your hair.

We collected handfuls and armfuls of the stuff to throw at each other and ran all around the playground to hide and ambush each other.

Grandpa and Benjamin never got involved.

Miriam played with us for a little while but she mostly stayed out of the way...

We had to end the fruitball fight when Rachel started getting too emotional about it. Miriam and I built a wood-chip castle together while Andrew and Rachel went to the swings and Benjamin (who had woken up by this point) hung out with Grandpa.

It was a different kind of Christmas afternoon romp than we were used to, but warmer and sunnier (and therefore more pleasant)—certainly a good way to get some Christmas beans out!

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