Me, Wife, five kids, a dog, and a cat. Between all of us there are two schools, four jobs, and countless extra-curricular activities. We, like you, have a busy family and life throws us plenty of curve balls and we deal with those curve balls the best way we can.
Sometimes the curve balls lead us to new things. That’s what happened to me recently when I was running around trying to get things done one particular day. I ran into a little trouble with the car. Luckily for me, everything was still under warranty. I just needed to wait things out a bit for a courtesy vehicle to come. The weather here in Massachusetts has been oppressively hot or rain and more rain. On this particular day, it was oppressively hot. I wasn’t far from home; just a few blocks away. I took this opportunity to answer emails from work and words of praise from adoring readers and social media followers. I’m good like that. I was standing outside the car since I was told it wouldn’t be long before the courtesy vehicle would arrive. I kept a keen eye up and down the street looking for the nice person who would come to my aid. While I was standing outside, a nice lady came out to check on me. She had noticed my car parked on the street for a while. In our neighborhood, no one parks on the street and if they do, it’s only for a minute or two before continuing on their way. I explained to her what was going on and she invited me into her family’s house with central air for a bottle of water while I waited things out.
I appreciated the invite. I went in and we started talking. I explained I lived a few blocks away. She immediately knew which house I was talking about. She and her husband liked what our house looked like and they were considering putting an addition on their house. I told them the work we had done on our house. They loved the lending library we had outside. I told them that was the brain child of my daughter, The Oppressed. We both had dogs. Our dogs run around a fenced-in yard. We talked about our children and the unique challenges they present.
The courtesy vehicle arrived and it was nice of the couple to invite me in because the vehicle arrived over an hour after they said it would. It was hot that day and I’m delicate. The most random things can happen and that day was an example of that. We made preliminary plans to meet up on night for beers and a fire pit. On that night, Wife can meet the nice people who saved me from oppressive heat and gave me another story to tell on what otherwise would have been a routine day, even though “routine days” with this family can be exciting ones in their own right.
Later that day I saw a post on social media. Someone who was my age was wondering how they can meet people. They were lamenting about how no one talks to anyone anymore. I explained to them I met someone through virtue of some car trouble. Totally random and unexpected. With me and my family, that’s just another day in life.
Ahhh, vacation. A time for leaving the hustle and bustle of work and everyday life. A time to replace work with fun. A time to check out someplace new and maybe try new things. Try new food, or maybe indulge in a little extra of your favorites.
Whether we’re on vacation or just trying to live our daily lives, nothing is normal or routine with our family. And even if we’re just trying to live a low-key life at home or away on vacation, action and excitement finds a way to find us.
Booking the trip
Wife and I were looking for a place to take our children on vacation this summer. Sadly, our options were limited as to where. (Check the state’s rules for foster parents if you want to know how.) After looking, consulting, and careful planning, we thought a few days at Six Flags would be just the thing. We found a nearby hotel that included passes to Six Flags. Breakfast was included with your stay. I showed this to my wife as the heavens opened up and a choir of angels began to sing. Brave Daddy had come through for his family!
I got the confirmation email shortly after booking. There was no mention of the included passes, so I called the hotel to find out if that would be in a separate email. Turns out they, “don’t do that anymore.” They stopped doing that during Coronapalooza. I tell the nice lady it would have been nice to know that when the website was saying passes were included. She was sorry.
I consult with my wife. We still want to go to Six Flags so we decide to keep the reservation since the hotel is so close to the park. Lucky for us we live in the 21st century and things can be done with the click of the mouse or tapping your phone. Loving parents that we are, we go online and look to secure tickets for our family. I find a package that fits our family and includes free soft drinks for the entire day of our visit. Brave Daddy has come through again! I check the terms and conditions to confirm this isn’t something too good to be true. I click “buy”. Rides. Food. Free drinks. Parking close to the park. I’d prepare my “Father of the Year” acceptance speech but I need to take care of things for work. I need to cook dinner and there’s a trip I need to pack for. The speech will need to wait.
The confirmation email from Six Flags arrives. The amount paid looks a little (a lot) different from what was listed at the checkout screen. Apparently I missed some things in the finer fine print. I explain to the nice person on the phone the price at checkout did not match the price charged to my card. The nice person explained the reason for the price. I asked for a refund. They don’t do that. They were sorry.
“If you actually get somebody on the phone, nobody can help but everybody understands… And they’re always sorry.”
The glorious day of leaving on vacation finally arrives. Doggie goes to the kennel. The car is packed. Everyone has their screens and headphones, ready for the ride through the fair commonwealth of Massachusetts. I love travelling and I love driving. Living in eastern Massachusetts, we don’t normally see western Massachusetts. I’m travelling to a different place. We’re going on vacation. We’re going to an amusement park. Life is good.
After our excursion (including a stop or two for food and bathroom breaks), we finally arrive at our lodging. A quaint place of business strategically located off the highway for travelers such as us. I go to the front desk to check in and get our keys. After getting the necessary information, I look over and see a “restaurant” with tables pushed to the side and chairs stacked on the tables. I ask the nice person behind the desk if that’s where the breakfast is served in the morning. The nice person gives me a look indicating they have no idea what I’m talking about. I don’t need them to say anything. I know this is going to be good. There’s no breakfast. They don’t serve breakfast. It would have been nice to know that when their website touted a free breakfast with your stay. They were sorry.
There was a silver lining to this story. Not having breakfast at the hotel meant we needed to find a place to feed our starving children. Parents know what a tedious, thankless job this can be. I did a search of the area and found “Donut Dip”, a quaint shop near the hotel that would, could, and did solve our breakfast conundrum. The Boy and I left and returned with donuts, coffee, and juice for all of us to fill up and prepare for our excursion in western Massachusetts.
Fun at Six Flags
We arrived at Six Flags. The temperature was hot. Thankfully, we had access to the water park. After going on a couple of rides and trying to find cold drinks to cool off, we decided to splash around the water park. From the water park we were back on the rides. The Boy was the most adventurous. He went on every ride he could. He was ecstatic every time he found out he was tall enough. He and one of The Gaggle went on the SkyScreamer. It’s a ride that climbs 400 feet and goes in circles. He loved it. I think he’s still excited about going on. This was just one example of the joy he felt going on the rides.
Like I said, it was hot when we went. Luckily, our membership allowed for free soft drinks all day, everyday. There was a small problem: Half of the concession stands were closed when we were there. The concession stands that were open didn’t have functioning fountain machines. We were looking for rides and looking for drinks. Sometimes the lines for the drinks (and the food) were longer than the rides. If you’ve been to Six Flags or any amusement park for that matter, you know how long the lines can be.
I was in line at one concession stand and thought I was going to get a little added entertainment when someone tried to jump the line and fill their cup ahead of the people who were patiently waiting in line. Despite multiple reminders that there was a line and you couldn’t cut, this person continued to attempt to fill their cups. People got louder. I thought there was going to be a brawl. I had my cell phone ready to record whatever was going to go down. Would I be YouTube famous? Who knows? It didn’t happen. The person left the line. No additional drama.
We went home with more gear that when we got to the park. Children loaded up on hats, toys and souvenirs. People won prizes for winning games. My children don’t have enough stuff in their bedrooms, so naturally they got more. We stopped at a diner for breakfast before the trek home. We unloaded the car, picked up Doggie, and crashed for the night. In the morning, we packed up again for a couple of nights down Cape Cod. There we regaled Wife’s parents with glorious tales of Six Flags, the hotel, food, and a near-brawl over soft drinks.
Cape Cod presented its own challenges but challenges go with the territory when it comes to my family. I had daily shopping excursions with one of Wife’s aunt. Every time we got back we found out something was needed. We added it to the list and set out the next day. There was lively conversation at mealtimes that focused on the vacation and the fun we had food shopping. The days on Cape Cod were a lot cooler than the sweltering days in Western Massachusetts. We went to the lake one day. The kids went swimming. I stayed on the sand with Wife until The Oppressed came to me and begged me to go into the water with her. I did and I’m still recovering from the shock of the cold water. My kids would swim in a blizzard if we’d let them. Cold doesn’t faze them at all, unless of course we’re walking to or from school, taking a hike, or playing a game outside.
Doggie tried to play with my in-law’s dog, who was totally disinterested in that. Both dogs spent their time competing for table scraps that might fall from the table. They played the percentages and hung out near the Boy, who was the smallest of the family and the least careful with his plate of food. Both dogs also hung out near the grill. Their dog suddenly decided he needed to mark his territory at the grill. That was never a problem before. Now it needed to be official.
The dogs co-existed. Our dog was excited to have a playmate. Their dog tolerated our dog and made it clear on many occasions that there would be minimal playing. There were campfires at night where we had drinks and made s’mores. Walks downtown resulted in ice cream and candy. None of the kids wanted to share despite numerous requests. I reminded them I would have shared with them. They told me that’s nice.
Now we’re back home. Wife and I are back to work. We share glorious tales of our trip and learning experiences with friends and family. Camp will be starting soon. Kitty was excited to see us. Doggie was excited to have someone to (sort of) play with. It was an exciting time. I spent three hours at the grocery store to restock the refrigerator and pantry. The Boy is back at his friend’s house. The Gaggle are still sleeping until noon or later. Everyone is adjusting to life back home.
(Language in this post has been watered down for the purposes of proper decorum.)
Being a parent means being responsible. Not all the time, just when the kids are around. It means eating healthy instead of eating junk or sweets to set a good example for your children. It means Continuing on your way when someone is making a scene in public because it’s not polite to stare at people.
There are some people who don’t watch when something is happening in public, regardless of whether they’re alone or their children are with them. I’m not one of those people. If something is happening, chances are I’m standing off to the side pretending to do something or look at something when the truth is I’m watching the drama unfold out of the corner of my eye. Some people like reality TV. I like reality.
There was one recent episode that took place while I was out shopping one morning. My children were all at school, so it was another trip to the store by myself. A chance to take a little drive, play a little music, and get some things done and out of the way.
As I was making my way through the parking lot, my head turned in the direction of someone who was shouting. I saw a man walking with a cell phone in one hand. The other hand was fending off a woman who was walking with him, visibly (and audibly) upset over something that involved whoever was on the phone.
I went into the store like a mature adult who, “wasn’t interested in other people’s drama.“
The woman was trying to maneuver past the fending hand. She stretched her neck as far as she could to the phone. “What the heck did that lady say about me? Come down here and say that to my face, you bawd!”
“Ignore her,” the man said on the phone. “She’s upset.”
“You’re darn right I’m upset,” the woman screamed. “I’m more than upset. I’m hopping mad! Tell that woman to come down here. I’m right here in the parking lot, you hag! Come on down here and say that to my face!”
The woman continued to shout past the man to the phone. The man still had the phone to his ear, trying to prevent the woman from getting to his phone. A part of me wanted to know the backstory. It was entertaining, to say the least. If I had children with me, I would have hustled them through the parking lot faster than I was moving by myself, but there were no kids with me so I was able to watch the entertainment during my stroll to the store. On my way to the store, there was another woman who was walking with her daughter. The child asked, “What’s that?” The mother said, “Nothing,” and ushered her along so the child wouldn’t be caught gawking. I exchanged glances with the parent, who was trying to answer her daughter’s questions as vague as she possibly could. Meanwhile, I was wondering what parts of the conversation I had missed as I went into the store like a mature adult who, “wasn’t interested in other people’s drama.”
My new book “Down on the Farm” is now available for purchase on Apple Books.