Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Clickety Clackety...It was a GREAT Day

Sunday night, we were sitting at the dinner table trying to make a plan for the week. My niece, Jessie, is visiting from New York so we wanted to plan some fun things. Monday was the only day that we didn't have anything to do, no basketball games to cheer at, no swim meets to attend. We had a few things that were discussed; the Maryland Science Center, taking a drive to the Chesapeake Bay to dig for fossil on the beach at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland but what they kept coming back to was going to Hershey Park. 

We used to go to Hershey Park every year on the way home from our Poconos trip. We drive right past it. It's not out of the way. It's a great park when you have kids of different ages because there really is something for everyone. But a few years ago, we didn't go. I thought we could spend the money doing other fun stuff that we hadn't done before. So on Sunday night, when we were deciding what to do, I had five kids sitting at the dinner table chanting, "Hershey, Hershey..."

When you first enter the park, the kids always measure themselves. I have years of pictures of the kids in front of the signs determining if they were a Reese's, a Hershey, a Twizzler, or a Jolly Rancher.

I thought I had three Twizzlers but Timmy was right there on the line and so he rounded himself up to Jolly Rancher.

I can't believe Shannon is a Jolly Rancher. I have pictures of her at every level.

But this is the picture that made our day not just a good day but a GREAT day. It made all the difference in the world that she was a Hershey and not a Reese's because this meant that she could go on all the big wooden roller coasters. We were a group of six, so everyone had a partner and nobody had to ride by themselves and nobody was left behind. Molly was a big kid and this made for a fun day. 

I love the wooden roller coasters, no upside down, no loop de loops, no dangling feet, just a good old traditional roller coaster. I love the clickety clackety sound as you go up and the anticipation of coming down. Molly was my roller coaster partner for most of the day and her hands were up in the air, outstretched and loving the fact that she was not left behind and that she was a big kid.

The kids also love to look at their pictures when the ride is over. After riding the roller coaster a few times, they know where the cameras are. They know when to "strike a pose." Sometimes they look like they are just riding in the car, straight face, no fear, calm as can be. Sometimes they make funny faces. Sometimes they look right into the camera peace signs up and smiles on their faces. I, on the other hand, always have a look of terror on my face. It doesn't matter that I love to ride the roller coasters. It doesn't matter that I know where the cameras are. It doesn't matter that I try not to have a crazy look on my face. I always do.

The second ride of the day, the flume ride.

We made it to the water park section, but about 4 o'clock, the clouds started to roll in and the whistles blew and the water rides were closed until the storm passed.

Waiting for the rides to open again after the storm with kettle corn and drinks.

Love this picture of Jessie.

After the storm passed, the park cleared out and we were able to go on roller coaster ride after another with no wait. We took a ride on the ferris wheel after our heads were hurting from doing too many coaster rides in a row.

This was in front of the flume, the second ride of the day and the second to last ride of the day about ten hours later. They really don't look like they were at an amusement park all day.

We closed the park down. After one last ride on the Comet before leaving and then a bathroom break and some ice cream for the car ride home, we finally made it to the car. Everyone was sleeping in about 15 minutes. 

The next morning, Molly jumped into my bed, sang a wake up song that I usually sing to her in the morning and suggested a water park for the day's activity. 

Me: Not today, Molly. I think we should just hang out and relax today.

Molly: Oh, come on Mom, live, laugh, love and be happy.  To live a good life you have to have fun. We'll be having fun in the water which will make you laugh and you say you love when we are happy.

The girl had a good argument and even though my head agreed with her, my body just wasn't going anywhere that day.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Big Big Sea

The Big Big Sea

Mama said, "Let's go!"
So we went...

out of the house
and into the dark
and I saw... THE MOON.

We went over the field
and under the fence
and I saw
the sea in the moonlight,
waiting for me.
Mama said,
"Take off your shoes and socks!"
And I did.

And I ran 
and Mama ran.
We ran and we ran,
straight through the puddles
and out to the sea!

I went right in
to the shiny bit.
There was only me in the big big sea.

I splashed
and I laughed
and Mama came after me
and we paddled
out deep in the water.

We got all wet.

Then we walked
a bit more
by the edge of the sea
and our feet
made big holes
in the sand.

Far far away,
right around the bay,
were the town
and the lights
and the mountains.
We felt very small,
Mama and me.

We didn't go to the town.
We just stayed for a while
by the sea.

And Mama said to me,
"Remember this time.
It's the way life should be."

I got cold
and Mama carried me
all the way back.
We sat by the fire,
Mama and me,
and ate hot buttered toast
and I went to sleep
on her knee.

I'll always remember
just Mama and me
and the night that we walked
by the big big sea.

                               Martin Waddell

This is one of my favorite picture books. My mom gave it to me many years ago. She dated it 12/94. That's four years before Shannon was even born. For many years our family went to Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. My aunts and uncles and cousins would all be there. We rented little cabins on the lake and in the evenings we would go down to the beach and just lay in the sand and watch for shooting stars. Sometimes we would gather all the beach chairs together and build a fire to make smores. We would sit and talk and laugh and listen to each other's stories.

It been over ten years since we were all together at the lake. Life happens, things change, and we move on to new adventures and experiences. Now my family has been traveling south instead of north the past few years. We are no longer at a lake, we are by the big big sea and in the evenings we go down to the beach to see what we can see.

This is Shannon on her hands and knees trying to get a picture of this sand crab. We don't lay down in the sand at night on Kiawah Beach unless you like these little guys running over you.

Good shot Shannon!

There is my Molly with her arms out stretched as if to say, "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else." I only had my camera phone with me so the pictures are not the best. There are no lights on the beach because of the loggerhead turtle nests all along the dunes, so it is dark. When the baby turtles hatch, they use the light of the moon to guide them to the ocean water. We had just seen a sign posted at the Nature Center earlier that day that the first nest had hatched.  

Timmy looking at the stars.

They found a beach ball.

The sand castle stomp...when we are walking along the beach at night and we see a sand castle or a hole that someone had dug during the day, we either stomp the sand castle down or fill in the hole with sand. If you were to see us on the beach, you might think that this is mean, but it is all for the sake of the baby loggerhead turtles. When the babies hatch at night, they have to get to the ocean as quickly as possible before a bird or a crab or another predator gets to them first. A huge sand castle may confuse a baby turtle or they may fall into one of the holes and not be able to make it to the sea before the birds get to him. So we do our part and we stomp out the sand castles and we fill in the holes.

             This sand castle was just too big to stomp out.

This night we only had three kids because Ryan was sick in bed with a fever. I felt bad that he was sick on vacation but I felt even worse when we got back because we were gone too long for his comfort.

Molly found a feather on the beach, and started stomping and dancing. She reminded me of Max from Where the Wild Things Are..."Let the wild rumpus start!"

After the kids showed me the huge sand castle that they found that they couldn't stomp out and our wild rumpus was over, we headed back to the house. Molly came up to me and grabbed my hand and said, "Mama, give me your hand because your hand is my most favorite hand to hold." The girl knows how to sweet talk her mama.

You can't see Molly in the video on the beach, but you can hear her sing her song. The memories we make today are the stories they will tell tomorrow. I hope that they will remember this time. It's the way life should be.

Fun for the Whole Family...Maybe Not

Fun for the whole there really such a thing? Jerry Seinfeld says, "There is no such thing as fun for the whole family." It is not easy with a family of 6 to find activities that we all enjoy. There is always someone that is not happy or at least less happy than the others. But part of being a family is doing things together...right?!?!?

One of the things that we do when we go to Kiawah is rent bikes. It is what one does when one goes to Kiawah. The island is covered with bike paths that are shaded by the huge trees and that makes for a pleasant ride. When you are out and about on your bike, the cars slow down and give the bikes the right of way, people say good morning as you pass by others riding in the opposite direction. People of all ages ride their bikes. I have seen grandmas riding with their grandkids to get ice cream, I have seen dads with their young children still learning to ride with their training wheels, and groups of kids with towels hanging around their necks on their way down to the beach. But fun for the whole family? 

Last year I made everyone go on our rides...this was a family vacation and you can "hang out" and watch tv at home, we didn't travel 10 hours to just "hang out!" But this year I just asked who wanted to go. I wasn't so animate about everyone going. Kiawah does have fun for the whole family, but not everyone thinks all the activities are fun. So our first trip was just with the boys. Shannon, being the teenager, wanted to sleep-in, and Molly who likes to follow in her big sister's footsteps at times stayed behind as well. So it was just me and my three guys.

Our first stop was the Nature Center where they have some of the local animals that were found injured on the island. They also had a poster of how many Loggerhead Turtle nests have been found this year on the island. 

 After the Nature center, we made our way down to The Sanctuary, the hotel on the island. There is an ice cream shop inside and we always make a pit stop for ice cream somewhere on our bike rides.

My three guys just "hanging out" after a hot bike ride and some refreshing ice cream.

 Timmy just soaking in the sun.

The next morning, we had lost another rider. Timmy wanted to venture out on his own. I think sometimes with four kids in the family there are not many opportunities to have alone time. I think Timmy just wanted to go exploring on his own. So with a map in hand he headed off. Now our group was down to three, Ry-ry, Chris and myself. Just as Timmy wanted to go off exploring on his own, I think Ryan was loving having his mom and dad all to himself.

So the three of us started our journey to the east end of the island. We spotted an alligator in one of the ponds on the way. I know he's hard to see but he was there, right at the edge of the water. 

 Water break.

Time to climb a tree.

Enjoying the scenery.

On our way back, Ryan found a small sprinkler which was just enough to hold him over until we got...

ice cream. 

Our next adventure was to ride to the west end of the island on the beach. It was low tide, the best time to ride on the beach. You can see all the tracks of the bike riders that were down there before us.

Some finds on the beach.

Our view in front of us...

and our view behind one was on the beach that morning.

We finally made it down to the west end. One thing that we have learned about Kiawah is that the tides are drastic. They come in and go out quite quickly. Notice our bikes sitting in the sand. In just a mere twenty minutes, the water will be up to them.

Chris walked out onto a sand bar and then the water came up.

Chris and Ryan then had to find a way back to shore.

All of a sudden, the water was much deeper than they thought.

It was time to go when we saw the water getting closer to our bikes. The hard sand was being overcome by the water and it would be too hard to ride our bikes in the soft sand. We love coming to this place. You never know what you may find. You may even be lucky enough to see some dolphins feeding.

So bike riding fun for the whole family? Maybe not. But for Chris, Ryan and I, we certainly enjoyed our adventures together...

...and all the ice cream.