My name is Greg. I’m from Massachusetts and have been a househusband for over nine years. I am a parent and a foster parent You’ll learn more about the cast of characters as we go along, especially the little darlings that have since transformed me from a gentle, live-and-let-live individual into a single malt scotch and craft beer connoisseur.
The Cast of Characters
Me. A college-educated, well-read individual who has turned into a hardened veteran of “The Homework Wars”. Hostage negotiator who frequently deals with hunger-strikes as a result of limited menus and a refusal to cook multiple dishes at mealtimes.
Wife. Mother of “The Boy” and “The Oppressed”. Claims to work in Corporate America but I and a few others seem to think she works for a secretly-funded black-ops branch of the federal government due to long stretches of not being reached and impromptu travel.
The Oppressed. My daughter. Believes I am conspiring with her teacher to make her life miserable and blames me for her not, “enjoying life”. Anti-homework crusader and tireless advocate for oppressed children everywhere.
The Boy. My son. Proudly announces he will work 10 jobs when he grows up. These jobs include building houses and playing a role in a local S.W.A.T. unit. Considerately stacks five or six books in front of his bed for me to read every night.
The Gaggle. Any one or more foster child(ren) that enter and leave our home.
Kitty. Our cat. Kitty likes to think I am her personal climbing post and Wife is her own bed. Kitty enjoys running around in circles at random times during the day and stalking/pouncing on anything that moves. Kitty has already used up seven or eight or her nine lives if you ask Wife.
Keep in mind I said there are three people playing cards and there’s not a lot of time between turns, but my children (especially The Boy) are convinced they have the time to check their rooms, run downstairs, go somewhere and do something and be back in time for their next turn.
School is in. Classes have started. Assignments have commenced. All five children are in the routine of reading and writing.
It was a good summer. We got to get away a couple of times. We tried new things. Wife and I liked being able to try a new restaurant in the middle of our travels and the kids liked the donuts we got at Donut Dip. We had a good summer. It was nice to have a break from the excitement of the daily life of work, practice, and the daily crisis that befalls us.
We still get a little free time now and then. That usually happens at night when dinner is over and dishes are done by the child who has that task. They haven’t started them yet, but it’s just a matter of time. For a short time, before we send the children to bed to recharge the batteries for the upcoming day, people usually spend a few moments doing something. For me, that means playing a game with The Oppressed and The Boy. Sometimes one of The Gaggle will join us, especially if it’s a game of Monopoly (I love that child).
Lately, it’s been cards. We play a couple of games before sending the children to bed. The games are fun. The problem is that the children don’t understand they actually need to be there when they are playing. We play Uno at night. There are three of us, so theoretically, it’s a fast-paced game where you don’t need to wait very long for your turn.
With our house, there’s always something that steals our children’s attention. It doesn’t take much when it comes to our kids and it doesn’t matter what it is we’re doing at the time. My children think they can multi-task. I wish they felt this power when it came to picking up their rooms or whatever mess they left behind. It’s a strange power. It comes and goes like wi-fi signals.
We’ll start to play a game. It starts well. Everyone checks their hand, waits their turn, and throws a card. As the game progresses, though, the children feel a need to check on other things throughout the house. Keep in mind I said there are three people playing cards and there’s not a lot of time between turns, but my children (especially The Boy) are convinced they have the time to check their rooms, run downstairs, go somewhere and do something and be back in time for their next turn. They thrown down a card, jump up, and make a dash for it. Before they’ve left the room, I tell them it’s their turn and need to be back. They will be back, they tell me, right after they check out what needs to be checked out. They’ll be right back, and they do come back just in time to throw down another card before doing another lap around the house before coming back for their turn. Honestly, it’s almost like we’re back at Six Flags. Waiting a long time for something that’s a fraction of the time we spent waiting. Maybe that’ what The Boy is doing. Maybe he thinks we’re back at Six Flags and he’s pretending he’s still on Summer Vacation. Or maybe he just has that sudden burst of energy that evades him when we need to leave the house or pick up his room. I don’t know. I’ve mentioned before there are mysterious forces at my house; Forces that visit and leave messes in what were clean and tidy rooms and corners. Maybe these forces have found their way to my son. I wonder if they can get him to the car in time for football practice.
My poison ivy is on the mend. It sure has been an interesting couple of weeks. Then again, weeks here with me, Wife and all of our miracles of Christ usually are interesting.
Doctors and nurses did a good job of taking care of me and making sure I was as comfortable as I could be with this onset of poison ivy. Rashes and itching weren’t fun. I’m glad I was able to provide a nice topic of conversation for people at practices and impromptu meetings with family and neighbors. Everything seems to be going away. I’m very happy for that. I’m definitely not going to miss this. The itching and discomfort was bad enough. Worse was the medication they gave me. This stuff was known to give you some stomach pains. Another side effect of the medication was increased appetite. I don’t need that. My appetite is healthy enough without the medication. I don’t need any more help in that department, especially since I spent all summer trying to lose weight, and I was losing weight. Trips to Six Flags (or any amusement park) usually include pizza, ice cream, fried dough, and other staples that are required eating when you’re at a fair or an amusement park. Now that we are in September, it’s almost time to check out local fairs and the delicious fare being offered at the fair (See what I did there?). The point is, I was doing a good job if controlling my weight until I was prescribed these medications and now my appetite is coming back. I’m hoping my willpower will be able to hang in there while the medication runs its course and does its job.
I’ve been told to take it easy since I came down with the rash. That’s hard to do. I’m coaching The Boy’s flag football team. I take The Oppressed to cheerleading practice. Pickups and drop-offs at school. Sports practice for The Gaggle. Things are busy. Medication had side effects. I’m hoping being busy will take my mind off of eating and the schedule will give me other things to do besides eat.
Speaking of eating, I got a nice fruit basket from an aunt who wanted to make sure things were alright here. Some of the fruit was covered in chocolate. Again, I’m trying to control my appetite, but there always seems to be other things popping up in front of me when I’m trying to walk the straight and narrow, or slim and lean. There’s always something here. If there isn’t something requiring out attention at home, there’s something away from home that requires our attention and efforts. On the plus side, I have a few more good stories to tell. The people watching at the hospital was interesting. Sometimes, I thought there would be authorities involved. People telling hospital staff they didn’t know what they were doing or they were wrong. I kept my family looped in with the drama that occurred as I went from Emergency to my room. I was also glad to have my books and phone with me so I was able to keep up with my work while waiting to be looked at by the GSH staff. Thanks to all those who had a hand in my recovery. And to the nice people at the walk-in clinic at the start of this adventure, I’m sorry if what I had on my arms and legs creeped you out at all.
It’s September. That means transitioning from vacation to school. Hopefully, it will also mean having a few more uninterrupted conversations with my wife now that the Miracles of Christ are back in school.
Everyone is adjusting to the new schedules. Some children are dealing with the harsh reality of not waking up at noon. Other children are adjusting to a morning of getting dressed and leaving the house instead of rolling out of bed and going on autopilot to the television, generating just enough energy to stay vertical until they reach the couch.
I’m adjusting, too. I need to make sure I’m up early enough to get the little cherubs out of bed and on their way to the car or bus. I’m helping children get their breakfast and find their things so they can be on time for school. The first day of school was tough. Kids had tons of supplies to see themselves through the school year. Usually, we can get to the school a day or two before the official first day and drop the things off so children can just walk to their classrooms on Day One and not worry about anything else but making it to the classroom and seeing who they were sitting next to.
It didn’t happen this time. Oh, well. I dropped off The Oppressed and The Boy with their gear. Luckily, things fit in their bags and they were able to remain upright on their way into the building. I went home and did my work, patiently waiting for the time I could return to the school and find out about their day.
That glorious time came and I eagerly waited at the school parking lot for the doors to open and release the children from the temporary adult oppressors to the permanent oppressors. The Oppressed was in relatively good spirits and gave about as much information as I could expect. The Boy, on the other hand, was none too happy. Apparently, his teacher took his things from him as soon as he got to his room and locked them up on him. The Boy didn’t understand why the teacher had to take his things away from him without any explanation. I decided to find out more about this and asked The Oppressed, who just happened to be an alumna of this teacher. It turns out this teacher allows the students to keep what they need in their desks and the excess stock is kept in a closet. When the student needs something, the teacher will fetch it from the closet, thereby making sure that everything is accounted for, nothing gets lost, and the student has everything they need for a successful school year. The Boy didn’t exactly see it that way and was upset with his teacher for days because she, “stole” the things he needs for school. The Oppressed and I tried to explain what happened. The Boy said she should have spoke to him about it and asked him if it was alright to take his things before she took it. After all, The Boy reminded us, it’s his stuff.
Despite my inexperience and lack of know-how when it comes to parenting (I just live here with my children), I have learned there are times when it is best to just let kids sulk and stew about the cruel lot cast upon them by fate. At this point, all I can do is patiently wait for The Boy to need something and, at that time, the teacher will go to the closet and retrieve what he needs from the supply closet. Maybe then he will understand the grand scheme of the teacher and her classroom.
Time will tell. As of now, there are other things to deal with. Another round of the Homework Wars will be descending upon us. There are flag-football, cheerleading, and cross-country practices to attend. Wife and I have our own jobs. I know I said something about having uninterrupted conversations with my wife while the children are away, but there may be other things lurking in the shadows and waiting to snatch whatever chance I have to talk to her without someone or something jumping in and fill what I thought was an opening.
I have decided to tell a story about the excitement that has befallen me. Last week, I got into some poison ivy. I tend to have a bad reaction to it, worse than most people. I dealt with it the best I could. I took antihistamines, used ointments to ease the itch. I washed the infected areas. I did what I could to keep it under control.
There were some things about the reaction Wife didn’t like, like parts of the rash turning a deep purple and one of my legs swelling up. Wife, with the help of a few additional relatives said I should go to the hospital. I’m at the hospital now and patiently waiting my turn. While I’m here, I’m going to keep you up to speed on everything going on with my treatment and the fun people-watching I’m doing in the waiting area. By the way, this is being done on the phone, so I’m sorry if things look off-kilter.
It’s been fun here at the hospital. Nurses come into the waiting area, yell a name, and no one answers. I gave my information to the people at check-in, sat down in the waiting area and the. Was seen by triage. The nice people at triage asked me the same questions I was originally asked. A third person asked me the same questions I answered twice already as well as a couple of bonus questions. My religion. My race. I didn’t know what my race had to do with my poison Ivy. The nice person explained it was for research. The person asking the questions told me they weren’t the one asking the questions.
Luckily, I have some books to keep me busy. I’m reading. While reading, I spoke to some relatives over the phone. I gave them a play-by-play of what was happening. There was a guy who was yelling at nurses and then security. A woman was yelling at the receptionist for not giving her a note, which meant she would be fired from a job. The nice receptionist explained the doctor had to see her first before they could give her the note. She’ll get one, she just needs to be patient. She isn’t feeling very patient right now. I stopped reading to take in the sideshows going on here at the hospital.
Family Feud is on, but the drama here in the waiting room seems more exciting. I’m just glad none of the excitement is being caused by my family this time. We’ve had enough of that.
Someone else has come in. They’re being belligerent. A woman who came in with him grabbed him by the shirt and dragged him to the door saying, Stop it right now.” Security is putting gloves in. This should be fun. Closer to me, a lady is on the phone while trying to prevent her son from climbing on an end table.
After a six-hour wait, I’ve been moved to a triage unit. It’s nice. There’s a tv. A table for my books. It’s nice to put my feet up. It helps the swelling. No one has come in yet, but some nice people are saying hello as they pass by.
More drama. Someone’s mad. They’re tired of waiting. I think all the patients are, but this guy is really letting them know. I can’t hear everything because of the TV in my room. I can’t find the remote control. They didn’t give me a tour of the place but I’m trying to figure out all the important stuff while I’m here.
Two people come in and check me out. My rash (see the pictures) are unlike anything they’ve seen. I’m glad I was able to contribute to medicine. We discuss my prescriptions. They decide to give me a larger dose. Keep being vigilant with the medication and ointments. Resist the urge to scratch (but it feels so good! 😖). I am sent home with a new prescription. I talk to family on the way home. When I come home, I see my children. I hope for some sympathy hugs. Nothing. I eat dinner and reflect on the day, the nice people who helped me, and those who unknowingly entertained me.
The Boy has taken a liking to basketball. This is only natural as one of the Gaggle plays, watches, breathes, and lives basketball. The Boy tends to want to do things older children do, especially the older ones living with him.
I jump in a game sometimes. Sometimes, I will just wait under the hoop and get the rebound and pass it to someone. God forbid someone gets a rebound nowadays. The Gaggle will try a shot and sometimes I will call out “Miss!”. The ball hits the rim and falls to the ground. No basket. The Gaggle looks at me because my powers caused him to miss the shot. I never knew I had this power and now I think I have the perfect reason to get free tickets to Celtics games.
Basketball really isn’t my thing. Brave Daddies, Brave Mommies, and other loyal readers know this already. When I started writing for newspapers, I addressed the shortage of hockey writers in the department. It was cold in the ice rinks, but people wanted to know what was going on with the renegades of the rink. I gave up heated gymnasiums and climate-controlled fieldhouses in order to deliver the scores and the stories behind those scores in unheated hockey rinks. You’re welcome.
I’ve gotten into basketball ever since the Gaggle had taken a liking to it. I was at basketball game cheering for him and the rest of the team. I offered whatever advice I could after the game. I asked him about the game on the way home. We would talk a little and wait for the next game or practice.
Back home, The Boy will join in on our games/shootarounds. The boy is still growing and the Boston Celtics aren’t scouting him yet. He likes to shoot from downtown. He can barely make the rim, but he insists he can do it. I offer some advice to him while he’s dribbling. Does he take any? Of course not. It reminds me of my basketball games with the boy named “Wilt”. “Wilt” would be double-or-triple-teamed. It didn’t matter. He was going to take it to the hole one way or another. I’d be wide open. Heck, he could even pass it to me, get some defenders off him, and he’d be open and under the hoop. Ready to lay one in. But, no. He knows what he’s doing. He can do it. Just like the children at my house. They won’t take advice. They won’t make a lot of baskets right now, but if you have a clause in your contract for rebounds, they just might make you wealthy.
I try to talk to The Boy about this. If he would move a little closer to the hoop, he could work on his dribbling, his footwork, his layups. I thought it would be a good chance for him to work on everything. As he gets older, his arms get stronger. He can move further away from the hoop as time goes on and work on those three-pointers he’s so obsessed with. But, no. He knows what he’s doing. I don’t know what I’m talking about, as usual. My advice is useless and I know nothing.
Another shot goes off the rim and down the street. More boys chase after it. Maybe next time, The Boy will move a little closer to the hoop. Then again, maybe not.
I’m not a runner. I never have been. One day… I almost lost to an offensive lineman. Running isn’t my forte. Now I have a child who wants to spend his time after school running. This is someone who lacks hustle when getting ready to leave the house, but who am I to step on one’s dreams?
Seasons come and go, especially in sports. When I was a child, seasons were divided into sports, school, and summer vacation. The sports seasons and their beginnings and ending remained when I moved from being a high school student to a newspaper reporter. I didn’t mind it, of course. I’ve enjoyed playing and watching sports my entire life.
I’ve taken that experience in sports and used it to teach my own children and those who have played under my tutelage during the baseball and football seasons. As a coach, I have served as a teacher, a motivator, and sometimes a therapist for those who watched someone step on their base or didn’t get the ball thrown to them on a certain play regardless of how many people were covering them. These are challenging times for me. Sometimes I have to explain to someone why they got pushed out of bounds. It’s because they had the ball and were running near the sidelines. Sorry, Champ. That’s how the game is played.
It’s not always easy, but then again, I’ve been watching sports long enough to figure a solution to the problem. That’s what I do. I fix things: game situations, strategies, bruised arms and egos. I find a solution and help the promising athlete back on their feet in on the field.
And then one of the Gaggle tells me they want to run cross-country. This threw me for a loop, especially when they originally wanted to play football. At least with football, I could offer a little advice. Cross-country? I get excited when I break the eight-minute mile. I’m not a runner. I never had been. One day at football practice in high school, I almost lost to an offensive lineman in the 40-yard dash. I had a baseball coach who told me to get the refrigerator out of my back pocket when I ran. I wasn’t fast. I’m still not fast. Running isn’t my forte.
Now I have a child who wants to spend his time after school running. This is someone who lacks hustle when getting ready to leave the house, but who am I to step on one’s dreams? Lucky for me, a friend of mine happens to be a runner. He was captain of the high school cross-country team. He beat me in every race and game we had. I’m not going to say if I let him win. We’re friends. No need to get into the past like that. Anyway, I sought his advice for running since I had none to give. He gave me some pointers that I passed along to the Gaggle. It should be interesting. This child will be running about three miles every day. He’s been excited about it. I haven’t dealt with high school sports in a while. I’m still getting back into it and figuring out captains’ practices (if any) and what the child needs in order to practice with the team (doctor’s forms, permission slips, CYA paperwork). There’s also the issue of making sure the child knows their schedule, when practice starts and ends. When and where the meets are. What they need for said practice and meets. I’m not worried. I’m sure they’ll be fine. They’re a teenager. What could possibly go wrong?
One of the Gaggle has taken a liking to sports, especially basketball. This is most welcome news to me. When I was a teenager, sports was a focal point of my life. Even if my favorite teams weren’t in the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA, or Stanley Cup Finals, it was an obligation for me to follow the playoffs and watch or listen to the final round or game. This particular child has taken a particular interest in basketball and has signed up to play in an organized team this season.
This new activity means going to games. This is nothing new to me or The Boy, as we have spent many Saturdays going to games and bonding. My favorite part is when we talk about the game and whatever else is going on in his life over chicken fingers and french fries after the game. For the record, when I ask, he does “nothing” at school, with his friends, and “nothing” is happening with his life.
Back to the Gaggle. This child has games that stretch over the weekend. It’s usually one game on one day and two on another. That’s fine with me. It means a chance to get something to eat and catch up with the other children who are at the game with me. It’s a nice little bonus for me. I get to watch sports, eat with my kids, and talk with them and find out how their life is.
Speaking of bonuses, there was one nice little surprise that happened for us, or me, on one day we were enjoying a day of basketball. The Gaggle had a game at a prep school one weekend. This school just happened to have a hockey rink across from the basketball gymnasium. This hockey rink just happened to have a hockey game during the time between the two basketball games. It was too good to be true. I recruited The Boy to go with me to the rink to check out the game. He lasted about 30 seconds before he decided it was too cold and he couldn’t stay there. The Oppressed, on the other hand, didn’t seem to mind the ice and cold and watched the game with me. She seemed to like hockey, especially the hitting.
It was a great day for me. I got to see one child play in one game and got to see another game with another child. There have been other games that I have watched the child play in. I look forward to all of them. I like to watch the games and then talk to them about the game and what they thought about how they did. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, there will be another game for me and someone else to watch.
There was another recent milestone for The Gaggle. They saw their first game at Fenway Park. This was a special moment for everyone because their first game was against the New York Yankees.
Wife wanted me to pick the seats. I knew this would be a special moment so I knew the seats had to be just right. I picked bleacher seats behind the bullpen. I knew this would give the children, all children a special experience and it did… But more on that later.
We drove into Boston that night and parking wasn’t as bad as you would expect. We made it to Fenway Park with time to spare. We got food. I got a score book because I like to keep score when I go to a Red Sox game. There wasn’t a lot of time to get to our seats and we wanted to get our food and get settled. I grabbed a pre-made Italian sausage. Don’t buy the pre-made Italian sausage.
A few innings in and The Boy already had to use the bathroom. It was the first of multiple trips to the bathroom during the game. I stopped keeping score. I was missing too much to keep up.
It also rained. Usually, when sitting in right field, I am under the porch where the retired numbers are. I picked seats that were directly behind the bullpens with no shelter. I was so occupied with finding good seats, I didn’t think about the weather. This was a lack of foresight and I assume full responsibility for this. My family got wet because I did not plan. Luckily for my family, my wife planned and provided ponchos for us.
Another trip to the bathroom for The Boy. Another episode of standing up, making other people stand up so we can get out. Finding our way through the crowds getting food, finding their seats, standing in line. Fenway Park is small and I would like to see the Red Sox play in a bigger park with room for people to move around without walking into each other or having to walk through a line of people waiting for their food. Yes, I said it. I would like to see Fenway Park replaced.
The game went on. The Boy and I returned to our seats. I got a refill on my drink while I was up. Just Coca-Cola tonight. The boy and I returned to our seats. We were in the middle innings. Things were getting a little tense between the Red Sox fans and the Yankees fans. People started chanting their standard slogans. I thought the Red Sox winning World Series lately would put an end to razzing the Yankees and their fans. I guess it’s been a while since I’ve been to a Red Sox-Yankees game.
More rain. This time it was enough to cause a delay. Rain ceases. Play resumes. More chanting. More razzing. Yankees fans yelling. Red Sox fans yelling. Things escalate. Security comes. Police come. Fans are escorted out of the park. Fans cheer and now I feel like Wife and I have truly given our children a real Fenway experience.
Some of the children aren’t feeling well so Wife leaves with them. I offer to go and suggest we should all go. Wife disagrees. Children have been looking forward to this and it’s their first time there. I remain with the other children. The Red Sox win, 5-4 in 10 innings.
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.