Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pennsylvania

We've successfully completed another trip this summer, in spite of my uptight ways and obsession with normalcy.  This time it was the Brady family vacation, which typically takes place in New Hampshire, in the White Mountains.  But this time, to make it easier for me, it was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  The idea was to meet halfway, but it wasn't really halfway -- more like three hours (ideally!) for me and about seven hours for them, coming from central Massachusetts.

Last Saturday, the 17th, Tim and I left in two cars, because he could only stay until Sunday afternoon.  We had just had a big lunch, and we anticipated a short ride during which the girls' naps would take place, and soon after, we would arrive at the resort.  Tim figured we would probably run into a little traffic along the way.  But 495.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  As the result of an accident that had happened hours ago, it took us two-and-a-half hours just to go TWENTY MILES.  It was so painful, just inching along, bored out of my mind.  Then I called Tim and said, "Um, I have a problem.  Annie's just woken up from her nap and we haven't gotten anywhere."  I had not come prepared for this long of a drive.  No more snacks and drinks.  Tim had issues of his own.  A few minutes after that conversation, Delaney needed to pee, and he texted me to tell me that he was pulling over, but I was too busy talking to my mom and complaining about my boredom to see it.  So he pulled over to the side of the road and she filled up the bag in her little potty-to-go.  Then a young man walked over from his nearby broken-down car, and said to Tim, "I don't have any money, but do you have any water?"  He and his parents had been broken-down for quite some time in the oppressive heat.  Tim gave them one of the three cases of Capri Sun he had in his truck.  When he told me that later, I was so glad he'd been able to help those poor people.  Anytime I saw someone at the side of the road with a broken-down car, I felt so bad.  When your car breaks down on a day like that, and traffic isn't moving for hours, you can't get any help, and then you're in danger of heat injury or dehydration.

We met up to regroup at a "Welcome to Maryland" rest area once traffic started moving again.  I refreshed my snack supply and changed Annie's diaper.  The rest of the drive went quickly.  At last we were in Lancaster, PA.  The resort was really nice, and our suite was surprisingly large.  There were two bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms, full kitchen and living/dining area.  The place was meant to sleep 10 people, I believe, but not necessarily if one or more of those people happen to be toddlers.  In our case, we had 12 people, two of whom were toddlers.  18-month-old Natalie and 14-month-old Annie roomed in with Sam, Kathy and myself in the bedroom that had two queen beds.
Grandpa and his dollbabies

That first night was interesting, to say the least.  Little Natalie woke up at around 10:45 and would not sleep after that.  I've never seen any small child with such a strong will to stay awake.  I kept figuring eventually she'd crash, but she just wouldn't.  At first she made some little noises, but wasn't upset -- just wanted to play.  She'd get quiet for a little while, then start up again.  When she got a little louder, Kathy took her out of the room to walk around with her.  She did that several more times over the next few hours. I lay awake the whole time feeling exhausted, but grateful that I could at least be exhausted while lying down, unlike poor Kathy pacing around with Natalie so she wouldn't disturb anyone.  Tim was sleeping downstairs on the couch, and at Sam's suggestion, I woke him up and asked him to come upstairs to sleep in the bed  with me so that Kathy could have the downstairs to herself.  I wish I'd done that sooner.   Later in the week, I too, would be glad I had the downstairs option for when Annie woke up one night at 3.  After that long first night, we even had an extra crib downstairs for the "delinquent baby" to use.  They're lucky they're cute, that's all I've got to say!

In the other bedroom, Tim's parents and the four other girls in sleeping bags on the floor slept just fine.  I'm happy to say that the remaining nights there went much better for all of us.  We figured out a routine that worked.  We needed our sleep because it was a busy week!

Sunday is when we celebrated Delaney's birthday again.  We love our Delaney!  Tim was there, and his younger sister Karen and her boyfriend Matt were also there just for the day.  It wasn't so hard seeing Karen go this time, knowing that in a few short weeks we'll be taking over her condo again for several days.
We spent a lot of time at the hotel pool, but there aren't too many pictures to show for it, because as any one who's ever taken a bunch of little kids to the pool knows, there isn't too much opportunity to grab a camera.  I don't have a single picture of Delaney jumping in the pool and going under the water with her eyes open, but it's good enough for me to know that it happened.
   
On either Monday or Tuesday, we went to Hershey's Chocolate World in Hershey, PA.  It was so crowded, and strollers were not allowed, so I was once again so happy to have my Ergo carrier.  Annie is one squirmy little girl, and my arms would have been so tired holding onto her all that time.  Chocolate World was a little overwhelming. If you love being shoulder to shoulder with strangers, and chocolate is your life, then this is the place for you.  If you have six kids 7 and under to keep track of, this is probably a place you should skip.  I know I was fighting panic the whole time, but that's because I'm weird about small enclosed spaces filled with lots of people.  (Just ask Tim how much fun I was at the New England Aquarium last year.)  The one nice thing was the ride that took you through the process of the making of milk chocolate.  It cracks me up that every day since then, Delaney randomly says, "The oven was hot."  She's referring to the part of the ride where we all go through the roasting process of the cacao beans.  That's her only take-away from the two hours we were there -- the oven was hot.  I call her "Delaney Bean" now, which should please my mom, since she called her her "Boston Baked Bean" when I brought her to Cincinnati for her first visit as a newborn.  


 L-R: Tim Sr., Juliana (7), Carolyn, Alexa (6), Delaney (3), Kathy holding Natalie (18 months), Sofia with her head turned (5), Sam

Our next outing was the train ride at the Strasburg Railroad.  I loved the train ride, and not just because it allowed me to sit on my behind.  I loved the scenery.  It was so peaceful and beautiful.  It felt like we'd gone back a couple centuries to a time that was simpler.  We saw some Amish people in and around the train, and they looked so serene.  I'm sure they were not actors!  Although the weather forecast called for rain almost every day we were there, that was the only day it rained.  Thankfully, it didn't rain until we were on our way back to our cars.  
Kathy and her girls, Natalie and Sofia
A picture with my Annie before I pawned her off on Grandpa.  She was squirming too much.
When Alexa showed me this loose tooth the first time, I made the fatal mistake of being grossed out.  Every single day from that point on, she made sure I saw the disgusting loose tooth several times.

On Wednesday evening, everybody but Annie and me went to Dutch Wonderland for the "preview" of the day pass.  I've never heard of such a thing, but apparently, if you buy a day pass at Dutch Wonderland, you can preview it the day before from 5:30 to 8:30.  The only thing I knew about Dutch Wonderland was the episode of Jon and Kate Plus Eight, where they all go there.  It sounds a little forlorn, the "everybody but Annie and me" part, but trust me, it was better that way.  It's best that we don't take her anywhere in late evening around bedtime.  She falls apart quick.  And then so do I.  Not fun.  Here's a picture taken of all the girls before they all left.  No, you will not see a single boy in the bunch.  Bradys don't make boys.  
On Thursday, we all went to Dutch Wonderland from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and I have to say that for me that day was the "crucible" of the entire week.  I understand that not everyone has spent a summer at Parris Island, and is not familiar with the term "crucible", but that's the only way I can put it.  I did not think I would make it past lunch, and we were talking about the possibility of me taking Annie home and putting her down for a nap; and then coming back.  The hotel was only a few miles down the road, and I had my own transportation.  It was very tempting.  It was so hot out, and and Annie was so unhappy, screeching every time I put her in the stroller.  And there was no way I was wearing her in that weather.  There's nothing like a miserable baby to bring me to my knees.  My attempts at helping her have a good time were met with failure.
"The Whip":  Am I a bad mother?  You be the judge.

I decided to have lunch with everybody, and make my decision after that.  After lunch, the plan was to go to the water park.  I opted to stay.  On my way to the water park, she fell asleep in the stroller, and I pushed her around the park while she napped.  After about 40 minutes, I encountered Tim Sr., who was doing the "baby walk" with a sleeping Natalie.  We both sat down at the amphitheater, and I mentioned how nice it was to finally sit down.  That's when Annie woke up, of course.  Then I took her to the water park, where she had a ball.  After that, I kind of figured I was hanging in until the end.  That was the turning point, because after that, it got more fun.  As the afternoon went on, it got cooler, and I was able to put her on more rides than I thought I would.  And she started to get it -- that it was supposed to be fun.  She giggled on the "froggy bouncer."  She was content on the train.  She was smiling and pointing at things on the boat.  By the end of the day, we all agreed that all the girls were so well-behaved and had such a great time.  




During the last two hours, we decided to put our charges on the ferris wheel.  I thought I was going to be allowed to ride it too, but at the last minute, found out that grownups were not allowed.  As with "The Whip" and the "froggy jumper" I had the moment of 'Should I or shouldn't I'?  In the end, I chose to put Annie in the little cage with Juliana, Sofia, Delaney and Natalie.  I said, "What's the worse that could happen, all of them locked in a little cage together?"  To our relief they just sat there as they went around and around and around, and .. wow, this is a long ride.  This was one of the funnier times of the day for us, because a nearby parent of another child on the ferris wheel got Kathy's attention and told her this: "If you don't tell that guy you want your kids to get off, he'll just keep letting them go around and around."  I, for one, was thrilled to not be chasing a toddler for the first time in a few hours, and thought maybe we should just leave them on there the rest of the night.  I believe we also tossed around the idea of just leaving.  In the end, I would say that that was the most intense day, but it was fun too.  It was a lot of work.  I slept better that night than any other night, and I'm sure I was not alone in that.

We hung out at the resort all day Friday, and then Saturday morning it was time to go.  Knowing that we were going to be seeing them all again in August made goodbye easier.  We made it home in three hours this time, even with the traffic jam on 95 for the last 10 miles.  95 is the devil.

Now, back to our boring, predictable life for three more weeks until we move to North Carolina.

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