We are in the middle of summer vacation. It’s had its share of excitement and moments we’ll never forget, no matter how much we want to forget or how hard we try.
The season started with graduation. Two of our children graduated from high school, one graduated from elementary school. Not long after celebrating these milestones, we went to Maine to celebrate my nephew graduating from high school. Not long after that, I was able to watch a friend perform in a concert in a local town green.
Switching from school to summer vacation meant switching gears. We don’t have to wake up early to make the bus anymore, but we do have to make sure teenagers are out of bed and ready to face the day and tackle the chores. Some of the misinformed cherubs think they have a God-given right to sleep all morning into the afternoon. Wife and I are still explaining to them that’s not how life works.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have The Oppressed and The Boy. Both are at camp and spend the days swimming, rowing, and learning arts and crafts. These children have been at this particular camp for years. They love it, as do the other children in the area who attend. It’s a great camp. Parents (including this one) have tried to get in, but apparently there’s an age limit.
When the children aren’t at camp or sleeping, there are birthday parties to attend. Both The Oppressed and The Boy have been busy this season attending parties. This gives the chance for The Oppressed to express herself and her talents with drawings on the card and craft projects that come with the presents picked out for friends. The kids have fun at the parties, and it gives Wife and I a chance to catch up with the other adults.
Yes, it’s nice for things to slow down and it’s nice for us to do things other than worry about getting to school on time and making sure homework is done. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean parents like us can take a break from worrying about our little cherubs. Our little miracles of Christ keep finding ways to keep up on our toes.
Slight Incident at the Pond
There was one such incident I’ll remember and treasure forever. One day, children and I were swimming at a pond. This particular watering hole had a rope tied to a tree. Children at the pond liked to swing off the rope and fall into the water. Seems like fun, right? It is. The only problem is this: You need to swing on the rope a couple of times to get far enough over water that is deep enough. The rope can be a tricky thing to try to control while you’re swinging in mid-air.
One such child had a little trouble with that and their back hit the tree. I was watching the children take turns on the rope and dreading something like that happening. Sure enough, it did.
Luckily for this child, no one was really swinging wild enough or fast enough to do major damage to themselves. There was a little scratch. Nothing more than that. We were all grateful.
A Missing Cat?
There’s been plenty of excitement for our family this summer. Some episodes are more exciting than we would like. There was one morning Kitty decided to go out exploring, and she was gone for most of the day.
I was browsing through social media later that day when I found a post mentioning a dead cat not far from our neighborhood in case anyone was missing a cat. The description of the cat was close enough to Kitty that I felt I should respond to the post and get more information. The nice lady who had originally posted about the cat sent me a message with a picture of the cat. I honestly couldn’t say, “yes” or “no” with 100% certainty.
It was a long day and a long night. I wasn’t sure what I was going to tell the younger children or one of the teenagers, who has a special fondness for Kitty. I told nobody except for Wife. No need to alarm any of the children.
I woke up the next morning and began my daily routine, which started with letting Doggie out. When I reached the door, there was Kitty waiting. She looked healthy and intact, and ready to sleep off the excitement of her night out of the house. I was able to dial down my anxiety until the next fun-filled adventure finds its way to my house.
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.
There’s been a lot of talk about 2020 and how glad people will be to see it leave. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Coronapalooza isn’t going to disappear when midnight strikes and the ball drops to ring in 2021.
But that’s not why I’m here with you this week. I’m hear to tell you that 2020 hasn’t been all that bad. Not for me, anyway, and I want to share with you the memories of the year that was all about toilet paper, homeschooling, and wi-fi bands that were tested time and time again.
The year 2020 was a year that saw us as a family of five. One left us and two more came. One more came after that and we are now a happy family of seven. We made a jump from dealing with elementary school problems to dealing with teenagers, high school, Driver’s Ed and the multitude of happy experiences and memories that spawned from everything teenager.
Wife finally got one of her wishes. She got to spend more time at home. Granted, she was working from home so it wasn’t exactly ideal, but she didn’t have to fight traffic or deal with coming home after children had gone to bed. I even got to have lunch with her sometimes.
Youth sports got me out of the house with The Boy. We got to spend some time on the baseball diamond where I saw other ways to use a facemask besides protecting your face. Chew toys, sling shots. It’s amazing what kids can do if they’re bored enough. I also spent my time dodging errant throws and thrown bats as well as directing traffic on the base paths and making sure there was one person not chasing a batted ball so the up-and-comers would have someone to throw to as soon as they were done jumping on each other while trying to get said batted ball. Speaking of happy days on the diamond, I would like to take this time to thank a certain neighbor for taking over a couple of times so I could go on vacation with my family.
Vacation. Ah, yes. Vacation. Those glorious weeks spent with my wife, children and my wife’s cousins… and four additional children that belonged to one of those cousins. It was a good time. Swimming and campfires and no wi-fi. I think The Oppressed is still traumatized by the wi-fi-less week. Those therapy sessions are going to be epic.
We spent some time swimming at a nearby beach. We took walks. We dealt with the outdoors and the elements as best we could. It wasn’t Disneyland (our first choice for vacation before the Coronavirus fiasco) but we were able to spent some time together.
Summer vacation ends and we are back to homeschooling and The Homework Wars. We have a small break between homework and dinner where The Boy and I go to flag-football practice. I was an assistant coach. I get another chance to do something with him. The Oppressed has sworn off sports for the rest of her life. I need to find something else to do with her.
The sports seasons end and the weather gets colder. I move from coaching youth sports to helping one of The Gaggle as they start their driving lessons. There have been plenty of white-knuckle incidents and missed turns and slamming on the brakes when someone realizes halfway through an intersection that there was a stop sign. Good times. We will soon have another child starting Driver’s Ed. My liquor cabinet won’t be empty for a while. The colder weather brings a change to the seasons. We celebrated Thanksgiving. I won’t say how many were there because I’m still not sure what the limits are for gatherings at the time. Whatever they are, I’m sure we were WELL within them.
We gave candy at Halloween. We helped shovel out neighbors. I started to tell my stories to the world about parenting and all of the joys that came along with it. I also took another job writing. A friend of mine took me on to write some feel-good stories about the good people at Northeastern University and their accomplishments. I immediately said yes because I don’t have anything else going on right now. Sounds like fun. It has been.
There was no such fun when I pulled a deck of “Uno” cards out of my Christmas stocking and looked at The Oppressed on Christmas Morning. Playing cards is right under Batting Practice on the list of Cruel and Unusual Punishments she is seeking to have permanently banned. I’m hoping she will change her mind. In the meantime, there will be more stories to tell about me, Wife and our five kids who fill our home with love, memories, and ulcer-inducing stories.
So, what exactly will 2021 bring to us? I have no idea. I’m stuck with you here in 2020. I know there will be three in high school and one wrapping up elementary school and getting ready for middle school. A child in middle school. What could possibly go wrong?
I do have hopes for the new year. One hope is that we can finally get back out to doing normal things. Go out to eat. Take a vacation. Send my children, all five of them, to school full-time. Whatever 2021 brings us, I will be sure to let you know about it. Thank you for being with me this year as I share the ups, downs, and adventures in Parenting. The year 2021 should be an interesting year and, if anything goes wrong, there’s always 2022. Right?