We took a family trip. Not a "someone's got a conference to go to and they need a babysitter" trip, not a "well, as long as I'm going, why don't you come along" trip, not a "we'll head out as early as we can so we can get home in time for AJ to wake up for work the next morning" trip. This was a real trip, crossing state lines, staying in a hotel, and going purely for the sake of going. And it was fun. (Dude, don't forget to add "exhausting" to that description, 'K?)
A couple of years ago, AJ and some of the other mommies in our group of China adoption friends had begun talking about taking the kidlings to Dutch Wonderland. If you don't know the place, it's a theme park near Lancaster, PA (smack-dab in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch country, thus the name) that's geared toward families with young children. It lacks the polish and glitz of a Disney park, but there are plenty of rides for the younger members of the family, live shows complete with lots of audience participation, and even a real princess, knight, and (purple) dragon wandering around. (They must be doing something right, because they marked the 50th anniversary of their opening this May.)
The trip never came about, but after talking about it so much AJ decided she WAS going to take her daughter to Dutch Wonderland, and that was that. It took some doing, but after many attempts at scheduling a couple of days away all the planets aligned and the entire family set off for what Dad sometimes refers to as Pennsyltucky.
We hit the road a couple of hours later than planned on Sunday (no surprise there!), and made it most of the way to our destination before inevitably getting lost. (That's with a dedicated GPS unit, four iPhones with GPS capability, and two alternate Google Maps routes printed out in full color complete with mini-maps for each step along the route. But I digress...) Eventually we found our way to the hotel early enough for a couple of hours at the park.
The Pipsqueak had a grand old time at the park that night. In fact, she was so happy with the rides (and the super-exciting bonus of actually staying in a hotel overnight for two whole nights! Wow! Yay!) that it rubbed off on all us grownups to the point where we didn't mind it too much that dinner was overpriced fast food at the Nathan's stand inside the park, supplemented by crackers & water in the hotel later. The Pipsqueak had an especially good time on the Whip and Sky Fighters rides, and we roughed out a plan for the next day.
Back at the hotel, we had adjoining rooms, and I shared a room with AJ and Miri for the first time since China. (The difference those three years made was absolutely mind-blowing... my niece is most definitely growing up!) The Pipsqueak quickly discovered the beds were good for bouncing on so we filled the gap between the beds with all the extra pillows. This lead to a bit of a discussion over why Miri had to sleep in the bed with Mommy and not nestled into the pillows on the floor... but even as we were pointing out that the pillows were there just in case she rolled out of bed, the Pipsqueak slipped over the edge and thunked down onto the floor. No harm done, but we quickly added several pillows to the pile.
We spent essentially all of Monday in the park, and despite a few (blissfully short) episodes of "but I want to!" or "I don't want to!" it was all good. Oh, sure, we all got thoroughly soaked on the log flume (which Miri rather correctly referred to as the "log sploosh"), and I still have a sore spot where my knee kept getting slammed into the side of the "family" roller coaster, andthe sky lift across the park was more nerve-wracking than relaxing for me... but the bottom line is that we all had an absolute blast.
At one point early in the afternoon, while pausing to watch the roving brass band perform, we all noticed two little Asian girls with decidedly non-Asian mommies... they both noticed AJ & Miri at the same time and the conversation quickly turned to, "where was she born?" and "when did you travel?" Turns out both women were single mommies from Long Island here on a just for fun trip; one girl was born in northern China and the other was a Guangdong girl, right "next door" to the Pipsqueak's birthplace of Guangxi.
|Somehow our hotel rooms never look as neat after we move in...|
|It took my niece the daredevil only moments to realize the Whip was more fun|
if she didn't hold on -- poor Grandma could barely watch! :-)
|A real car with a real engine... and a four year old driver. Even with a track limiting the car's|
mobility, AJ got off this particular ride several shades more pale than when she got on!
|Gotta make sure that seat belt's on nice and tight...|
|Just a quick shot (from the park's train ride) of the sunset over|
the Dutch Wonderland Campground next door.
|Late Monday afternoon, the Pipsqueak had the Sky Fighters ride all to herself. This nice|
young lady was running the ride, and let Miri pick her own rocket to ride... twice!
|This is the engine that pulled our train. The Strasburg RR has an great collection of steam|
engines of varying sizes & ages, all either working or being restored to working order.
|Miri enjoying one of the "cranky cars" -- the kid's got good upper body strength!|
|Just an old-timey photo of a departing Strasburg RR train heading|
down the track toward Paradise...
'til next time...