Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Little Kids' Vacation 2014, Pt. 4 (Sprinkles)

Sometimes he's right, my husband. I'd been insisting for days that we'd have plenty of time to hit the beach in Atlantic City after leaving Storybook Land at closing time (5:30). "I don't know," he said. "We'll have to eat dinner, and I don't have a room reserved, yet."

Sure enough, by the time we'd eaten dinner (pizza at JoJo's - very good), secured a deal at the Showboat (Jim got a room for a little over $80), and gotten settled, it was dark. Jim had visited Atlantic City about ten years before and had found the boardwalk pretty questionable after dark. He was reluctant to take the children out, but I'd read about a double-decker carousel and insisted we go.

He asked me to check hours and addresses on the Internet, and sure enough, the carousel was running at the time, and it was in comfortable walking distance of our hotel. At this point (even after my quick Internet search), we didn't really have a sense of the Steel Pier; we set out for a carousel that we imagined sitting by itself on the boardwalk.

Then we walked up on this:

We were all pretty excited. 

The little kids had ridden rides all day, and Jim and I knew there were more rides in their near future, so we bought just enough tickets to ride the carousel and swings. The little kids and I all climbed to the top deck of the carousel.

And the swings! The swings went really high and didn't merely go around in a circle, but also tilted...and flew out off the side of the Steel Pier and over the Atlantic Ocean. I still can't believe my little daughters were tall enough to ride safely, but they rode one after the other, each nestled against me in a shared seat. I love the swings best of all rides, but my heart beat wildly as I tipped and swung and flew out over those dark waters with my squirmy treasures.

Chip did not appreciate seeing his mama swing so far up, out, and away, so after both girls had ridden with me, Jim suggested ice cream. I nudged him as he approached the counter. "Pay extra," I said, "for sprinkles." Just after, this happened:

I didn't know that was going to happen; I'd never seen that expression on his face before, and I haven't seen it, since. But I'll never love a photo more, because it will always remind me of our warm night by the sea. It will remind me that I'm right, sometimes. Prepared, sometimes. It will remind me that I'm not afraid of the darkness or what might happen when I shouldn't be (because, in fact, every stranger's face seemed open and friendly in Atlantic City, and we felt perfectly safe).

This photo will remind me that I know how to mother the small people with whom I've been entrusted. I don't know how to mother other children, but I know how to mother my own. I know how to give them the best of what I am, and have.

If you're like me, you doubt, sometimes. You compare yourselves to others, sometimes. But you shouldn't. You needn't. Your way is undoubtedly the best way for those with whom you've been entrusted. And if for some reason it's not, your heart will tell you, and you'll adjust as we humans are wont to do. You'll make amends. You'll do the best you can, always, and you'll be loved for your well-intentioned failures and not in spite of them. You'll be loved because you're you and not because you're perfect.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Little Kids' Vacation 2014, Pt. 3

After a third night in Annapolis, Maryland we headed into New Jersey. We passed this guy on our way, and I asked Jim to pull over so I could take his photo.

Then...on to Storybook Land.

I'd been dreaming of a visit to Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township for years, and I'm so happy to report: it was even better and more than I'd hoped. Jim and I couldn't get over its pristine condition. I felt all warm and fuzzy over the love being poured into the maintenance of its vintage offerings, especially.

Many of the structures include buttons one can push in order to hear relevant nursery rhymes and fairy tales. I walked into the giant shoe, for example; looked through glass (or plexiglass) at the girl and the stork-smooched baby in the photos below; and pushed a button to hear the familiar rhyme. Not all of the characters are made from the same materials as the characters below; while I didn't get a clear photo of the wolf from Red Riding Hood, it was large and furry, and it moved during the telling of the fairy tale!

Listening to Snow White, Looking in at the Witch

Sleeping Beauty's Castle...and (inside) Sleeping Beauty and Her Prince

I loved the Alice in Wonderland part of Storybook Land. It includes a cut-out and characters on one side of a cave that empties, on the other side, into a "playing card" maze. The cave itself features black-light-responsive murals and scenes: just really magical.

The Chapel of Peace endeared Storybook Land to me, too. A sign inside explains that an eighteen-year-old man built the tiny structure on his parents' property in 1885. Benediction was held there until the property was sold, at which time the chapel was moved to a cemetery where it fell into disuse before being purchased by and moved to Storybook Land.

The little kids enjoyed the rides. Storybook Land offers at least fifteen, and Chip could ride most of them.

Don't miss Chip's little face against his daddy!

I should mention that Storybook Land includes a little splash park; it isn't much, but the kids appreciated the opportunity to cool off.

I look at these images and know they speak for themselves. In all the best ways, I was overstimulated by this fifty-nine-year-old, fairy-tale park. My heart was full; I've never loved a place more. I'm so glad we made the trip, and New Jersey wasn't done blessing us, yet.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Little Kids' Vacation 2014, Pt. 2

After a second night at Hotel Quigley, we loaded up in the minivan and headed to Baltimore Inner Harbor. We have a two-year, family membership to the Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and can visit many other science museums for free. We visited four! such museums on our vacation, starting with the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore.

We did have to pay for the carousel just outside the museum; we love carousels.

With Jim's and Erin's help, my experience at the Maryland Science Center was relaxed and enjoyable, and the museum offers some cool things, including exhibits on dinosaurs and the body, a hands-on tornado vortex simulator, and a kids room.

Charleigh on the Bed of Nails

It was starting to spit rain as we left the museum, so we didn't stroll the harbor as we'd thought we might. Instead, we did some thrift shopping on the way back to Annapolis, then stopped to pick up the dinner Erin had ordered.


These Maryland Blue Crabs were Erin's treat and, by far, the most expensive dinner we ate on vacation. (We ate out of a cooler most of the time.) I've been picking crabs with Erin Quigley for...I don't least twenty years, and she's made it a priority to teach my children to pick and enjoy them, too. She sent Cade a text message the other night, promising to buy more if he'd come visit. I love her generous heart. And Maryland Blue Crabs!

I have to end this post by sharing one of my favorite photos from all of vacation: Chip's playing in Erin's cooler with Erin's old, pink bunny. Doesn't it have amazing character about it? She sent it on up the road with us. What a beautiful person, and I wonder if I'll ever be able to fit the friend she is properly inside a blog post.