Things Explode When You Keep Toddlers Up Way Past Bedtime (or Fourth of July Fireworks)


Fireworks had the potential to start long before dark. The fourth of July is my parents wedding anniversary. 2013 marks 35 years.

And over this long holiday weekend, the muppets and I decided to grandmother’s house we go. Actually, we made the trek to the San Bernardino Mountains for some lake patrol fun in the sun. My family has been coming here for years – it was one of G.G’s favorite places as a little girl, and GrammaJ and Papa have had the mountain house since I was about 7.

As the all-knowing, amiable teenager I was, I absolutely DESPISED Lake Arrowhead.

  • The curvy windy road with only a 2 ft high aluminum guard rail to protect the family minivan from plummeting off the cliff to our untimely deaths.
  • Throwing up and suffering a migraine after every road trip because I insisted on reading the whole way and then got carsick.
  • Complete disconnection from my friends (Like, omigawd, can’t you totally imagine the horror? This was before the era of smartphones and Wi-Fi.)
  • Forced family time. Do you realize how awful it is to be forced outdoors into fresh air and tortured with boat rides on crystal blue water when you’re 16?

So, of course I now decided it would be a grand adventure to recreate the adventures of my youth with my own children.


We arrived in the early afternoon after a rather peaceful coastal drive down the state. (Jon was unable to join our excursion, and thought it would be funny to teach the boys, “Are we there yet?” before departure. Don’t worry, I’ll be teaching them, “Hop on Pop” as a wake-up call upon our return.)

“Happy Anniversary,” I hugged my parents. But they were busy trying to shake me off to get to their grandkids. Suddenly Papa paused. “Oh sheet! That’s right! Happy Anniversary amore,” he laughed to my mom. Oops.

Luckily that potentially heated moment was quickly diffused by the brewing tantrum over Search’s disinclination to wear the new “jacket” Gramma was attempting to stuff him into. He was NOT a fan of the lifejacket.


He got over it.


With such hyperdrive and excitement through the morning, you can guess exactly how well naptime didn’t go. Summary sample statement, “Hey, um, Gramma…You didn’t actually want all those vertical blinds still attached did you?” The terrifically non-napping twosome also discovered how easily a wire hangar can be modified for a rousing game of baseball (house rules).

Taking such lack of sleep and over-stimulation into careful consideration, I decided the boys could stay up WAY past bedtime and accompany the grownups (and Papa) on the boat for the Independence Day fireworks spectacular.

We had dinner out on the patio. Uncle Paul grilled up some burgers while we waited for the patriotic flyover scheduled. And we were not to be disappointed!

WWII fighter jets circled and sparred above us in dogfight re-enactments. Search and Destroy were entirely (and appropriately) enamored with the colorful propellered warplanes buzzing the treetops just beyond the boys’ juice boxes.

Lake Arrowhead_WWII Fighter Jets_07-04-13

Bad photo. They were awesome, I promise.

So fascinated were they, that neither small person even noticed when I confiscated the knives at their place setting and reprimanded Papa with the stern request to not give the 3-year-olds knives. (It is unlikely Papa is ever going to pass the solo babysitting test.) Meanwhile, Aunt Stephanie and I wrangled with the doodle dogs who were dead-set on getting their own burger off a human plate.

Destroy kept eying me suspiciously. “We’re not going to bed?” I could see the hamster in his mind sprinting furiously. What was the catch? He knew he was up far past his bedtime; he didn’t want to jinx his newfound luck either.

At 8:30, we were water bound once more. And so was everyone else who’d braved the scary twists and turns of Mountain Road Hwy 18 to escape the oppressive triple-digit heat of Southern California’s Inland Empire.

Dark continued to fall. Thousands of boats shrouded in the dark, engines quietly idling, floated toward the barge stationed center lake like moths to a flame.


Search and Destroy were excited and nervous. Their eyes darted around, unsure of what to make of the witching hour. I wondered how they’d react. This was their first experience with fireworks – the only Fourth of July booming and bright lights they’d previously been exposed were the beeping flashing alarms of the NICU.

Then with a single seemingly sub-sonic BOOM you could feel through and through, a red explosion lit up the sky.

Their mouths dropped.

Two minutes later, hypnotized by the rocking wake of the lake beneath the rhythmic pounding of colorful lights in the sky, Search was out cold.

Meanwhile, up at the stern of the boat, Destroy was providing color commentary. Literally.  “Whoa, green circle! That’s a big one. Look it’s red! Mommy, yellow boomff!”

Not bad for our first real summer holiday celebration. Maybe this lake place isn’t so bad after all. In any case, we salute you America.


1 Comment

Filed under Family Stories, Holidays

One Response to Things Explode When You Keep Toddlers Up Way Past Bedtime (or Fourth of July Fireworks)

  1. Nancy Welker Caracciolo

    Ugh!!! This kills me! The Welker Clan was there and we missed you! This year dock is 2 more docks down into Meadow Bay rather than kitty-corner to yours. We were trying to watch to see if we could see anyone at Cosaro dock but couldn’t tell. Since I hadn’t seen anything from you on FB, we assumed that your folks went North to see you. We didn’t take boat out for fireworks because the prospect of all those boats bobbing around in the dark instills fear in our Captain. Agreed, even on land the fly-overs were great. I don’t have access to computer so I didn’t see your posts until we were off the mountain.Ugh – so close yet so far….bummer!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.