Monday was declared Mama's Day Off (Summer Session II teaching begins tomorrow) and Scott and I decided the night before that we'd let the kids pick: Mudcats baseball game, or a day at our favorite science museum. We half expected both of them to pick the museum, and were thrown when T. picked the museum and L. picked the baseball game. We then did what all good parents must do when faced with such a choice--we flipped a coin. The Mudcats won. I never went to baseball games much when I was growing up, and I'll confess that I don't really like watching baseball on TV. But once I met Scott I learned to love a good live game--the people-watching, the baseball park peanuts, and the catchy music and silly promotions punctuating the spurts of action. I even--dare I say?--like the sport. But it's one thing to go to a game without kids in tow, as Scott and I often did before we became parents, and quite another to go with your kids--especially very small kids, who just don't understand that a baseball park is no place for a diaper blowout. We haven't been to a game in two years, and we've only been to five games since T. was born--one of them I spent crammed in a tiny, damp ballpark bathroom stall trying to nurse her to sleep, and another I spent walking her to sleep in the Durham Bulls gift shop, and another we spent trying to bum a spare diaper off of someone--anyone. The week I found out I was pregnant with T. we went to a Bulls game and I ate an entire bag of cotton candy AND had a sip of Scott's beer and then spent the rest of the post positive pregnancy test week worried I had somehow damaged my innocent, pure fetus from the overexposure of sugar, food coloring, and horror of all horrors, a sip of alcohol. But this outing was going to be different--we were going with big kids now--kids who surely could sit still for a few innings and watch some baseball. After a quick pizza lunch at a very salt-of-the-earth pizza place off the highway ($20 for a medium cheese pizza and drinks) somewhere in Zebulon, North Carolina, we were at the ballpark ($4 for parking, $17 for tickets)--just in time for a downpour of rain, only one inning into the game. We bought T. the cotton candy we assured her back at the house she could get when she lost the coin flip ($3), and ourselves the peanuts ($3), and ate almost all of them during the 30 minutes it took for the rain to stop. When it did finally end, we sat for all of three innings until it started up again, and we fled to the concessions stands once more ($2 for a kid's size Sprite for L., $3 for a bag of Cracker Jack for T. because I spent the whole car ride to the ballpark teaching her how to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame and describing in great detail just how great a bag of Cracker Jack is). At 2:00, only four innings into the game, they called it. "Good!" L. exclaimed, leaping around in excitement. "Now we can go home." On the way back to the car, Scott and I lagged behind the kids, who were jumping mud puddles, while T. clutched her crumpled Cracker Jack bag in her cotton-candy sticky hands, and we tallied up how much the outing had cost us--in money, in nerves, and in poor nutrition. "Wow," was all we could say. But strangely enough, our spirits weren't too dampened. We'd had fun together, even if L. had spent most of the time crouched on the cement, his head in a book, and T. had overdosed on sugar, and rooted for the wrong team half the time. There had been something strangely familiar and comforting about those baseball park seats, about sitting side-by-side together, arms touching, like the couple we had been before the kids were born--and the whole entire trip no child needed to be nursed, or rocked to sleep, or taken away to have a diaper changed. Indeed, sometimes the gift of time is priceless, even if it really costs you $52 in the end, and even if it is as fleeting and sweet as cotton candy on your tongue, and as magical as opening up that first bag of Cracker Jack.