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Monday, August 18, 2008

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

The Time family met up with the MultiplesMommy family in lovely Pennsylvania last week for some cousin fun. (MM and I will have a vacation someday in our future in which neither of us has to change any diapers and both of us get to finish whole sentences in a row uninterrupted, but perhaps we will have to wait till all of our children are taller than the minimum requirements for children's rides at an amusement park for that to happen. Even so, it was lovely to have a few days with my darling sis.)

Here are some of the things I learned about mixing a big batch of young kids together.

If you take five cousins -- ages 3, 3, 6, 4 1/2, and 2 -- to play putt putt golf, the result will be a bit like pinball, even more like hockey, a lot like chaos, and only very marginally like golf.

You will find that there are moments where the children look quite serious, and even have (borderline) good form, where they manage to hit the ball impressively well up a hill, or surprise you with a great long putt. But mostly, you will find that trying to get them to take turns on the green, stay respectfully out of each other's way, keep score, or even remember that this is an individual sport rather than a herding one, will be...well...quite simply impossible. (See picture at right, taken in the midst of playing this particular hole. Note that five children and two daddies are all actively involved, and one child has abandoned the club as a useless impediment to successfully getting the ball into the hole.)

But even though they will look like a herd of cats on every green, the family will have a fabulous time. (That's Mr. Time on the left, MultiplesMommy in the middle, and Mr. Multiples on the right. Yours truly is behind the lens.)

Although the primary reason we chose PA for our trip was Sesame Place, I have not a single photo of everyone enjoying this park, due to the simple fact that I refused to take my brand new, d-SLR camera to a water park with five small children. So I will simply have to tell you about it. Here's what Sesame Place is like:

sunshine, roller coaster, water slide, crying child, lazy river, freeeeeezing wading pool, water slide, Elmo flying fish ride, lunch, family raft water slide, "let's do it again!" or not depending on your children, hot air balloon ride, slightly warmer wading pool, melting down napless child, water slide water slide water slide water slide, drive home while everyone sleeps (preferably except the driver). Repeat the next day with fresh bathing suits, since the tickets are two-day passes.

And by the way, if you plan a trip there, do what we did, and go to the park on Monday and Tuesday rather than on the weekend for smaller crowds. Also, know that the lines are longest in the morning because for reasons unfathomable, a park that caters to the under-8 crowd doesn't open till 10am. By 3pm, the parents of melting-down children are leaving in droves, and by 5pm, you will wait less than 5 minutes to ride anything you want.

Unfortunately, Son woke up to a terrible stomach bug at 5:30am on our first day at the park. So he had to stay back at the hotel with Daddy, who bought him pedialyte and a giant package of dinosaur skeletons to play with. Fortunately, as is the way with violent stomach bugs, Son was feeling right as rain by 3pm, so brilliant Daddy took him to the movies. His head filled with Kung-Fu Panda, Son barely noticed that we'd spent all day at the water park without him. The next day, the highlight of our trip was when Son and his cousin Big Sis (age 6) became independent enough to ride a double raft together on the smaller water slides without a grown-up. Fabulous!

Another excellent family activity in the area was the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA. If your kids like art projects, you could spend an entire day there easily. We made silly hats (see above), crafted with clay, learned about printing techniques, colored with chalk on a giant floor chalk board, used markers, crayons, paints, you name it. By far my favorite room was the print-making room -- not for the quality of art that was produced but for the fabulosity of the photos that ensued. The older ones got the idea that this was a printing room, and they used all sorts of stamps to make great pictures.

Daughter, on the other hand...

My favorite playtime moment, though, of the whole trip, came on the last day we were together. For the several previous days, Son and Big Sis had been having some difficulty negotiating between their various preferred games: he kept wanting to play "Soldiers" and she (as the oldest of three sisters) kept insisting on playing "House." Neither had a clear sense of the rules of the other's game. There was some confusion and frustration -- but we parents made them work on working it out. Then on the last day, I witnessed this dialogue:

Big Sis: Hey, do you want to play Soldiers?

Son: YEAH! (adopts an aggressive stance, fingers pointed to simulate his weapons)

Big Sis: YEAH!! (primes her own finger-guns) And you can be the Daddy Soldier and I'll be the Mommy Soldier, and we can still take care of our baby.

Son: YEAH!

Big Sis: And Daughter can be our baby.

Then the two of them cuddle Daughter, and explain to her that they are soldiers and she is their baby. They all crowd under the desk in the hotel room and alternately pretend to sleep and wake up -- the baby has to stay asleep till they say it's morning -- and as soon as they're all awake, they shoot bad guys. Daughter refers to both of them as "Sarge" throughout this game. They have a fantastic time.

I nearly wet myself laughing.

But I know now that if you put several children together for several days, and give them the space to figure out their own relationships, they will play beautifully together, and adore each other endlessly. And, really, that's what having cousins is all about.

That, and making their parents laugh uncontrollably while pretending to cough into their sleeves.

P.S. For those of you wondering about NYC and the giant ship, those stories coming later this week. I have to finish some laundry before I write any more...


All Adither said...

We did the golf thing too. With only two kids. And that was about all I could take.

LceeL said...

Okay. Y'all had fun. At least, the kids did. But, having been there, and done that, I can tell you that that was WAY too many ankle biters in the same place at the same time. Just too many. I'm just sayin'.

Mr Lady said...

Do they still have the giant rope net climb at the entrance for the kids? And really? They cater to the under 8 club? The first time I went there, I was 10. My first kissy-kissy was there, at like 13. I LOVE Sesame Place. (PS: You were totally in my neighborhood. One step closer to real life meeting. Sweet.)

Lipstick said...

Great post! I love the pic of all the little ones playing golf. We did mini golf on our vacay this year and it was like herding cats.

MommyTime said...

Lceel, since it's only once a year, it works. :) But, like All Adither and Lipstick say, it's not easy.

Mr Lady, no -- no net. Lots of shallow wading areas, kiddie carnival rides, and water slides. The last range from ones my toddler could do alone to ones that made my 30-something sister nervous. There's one roller coaster, which, of course, was Son's favorite ride.

justjuli said...

I just LOVE the collaboration of the cousins in combining their own preferred games to come up with "Soldier House".

Must have been a riot to watch.

IRISHKAT said...

Wow you are brave, braver then I! Looks like a good time was had by all.

Vodka Mom said...

that WAS adorable!! I love how she manipulated the situation. That will serve her WELL later in life!!

xoxox thanks!!

Bejewell said...

Meltdowns, soldiers, stomach nugs, whatever -- that is one gorgeous family you've got!


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