On Tuesday, I took the kids to a private person’s home to go fig picking, only to discover the figs weren’t yet ripe. When we got home, I took them as a replacement activity to a friend’s pool. While the kids spent a few hours there, I went to Home Depot to buy more pavers and sand to finish off the patio, then spent a VERY long time toiveling about 22 dozen canning jars. I’m almost up to date now – I only have about five dozen left to kasher and toivel, and then all my jars will be ready for use. Now I just have to refrain from buying any more, which I think I can do, though if I have the chance to get some for free I don’t think I’ll be able to withstand the test!
I was so grateful as I was toiveling that a) almost no one else came during the entire time I was there – I would have hated to have had a line of people waiting; and b) the sky was overcast, and even though it was a hot and muggy day, it was comfortable. I found it almost relaxing, and I was very glad to get it all done. Then after coming home with everyone later in the day, I worked with the kids to finish laying the patio. It’s not perfect, but I decided it was better to basically lay everything and level it more at a different time so we have a sense of closure for now. We still have to cut bricks to fit into the edges, but I haven’t been successful yet in accurately cutting bricks with a chisel. It’s on my list of things to work on. But even though not totally finished and perfectly leveled, it still looks nice and it’s gratifying to be able to enjoy a lovely patio!
After all of that work, I was ready for a break! Fortunately, we had a full day family trip planned for the next day (yesterday) to an amusement park several hours away called Knoebels. In general, I’m not a fan of amusement parks – they’re expensive, loud, and overstimulating. But this park is different than most. 1) There’s no entrance fee – you pay only for the rides. That means that adults who aren’t planning to ride can enjoy being with the family without being forced to buy an expensive ticket just to get in. I appreciated this when we went two years ago and I was seven months pregnant with a child too young for rides in a stroller. Also, there are various discount packages – the best of these is the one we took advantage of – unlimited rides (doesn’t include 5 or 6 of the most expensive rides, though) for four hours on Wed or Friday evenings, for 8.50 for adults and 6.50 for kids. This is a super price and means our entire family can enjoy an amusement park for what we’d have to pay for three tickets at a typical park.
It’s also not as commercial as most parks. It’s lower key and more homey, which I like, since I don’t like hyper energy or settings that are frenetic. It’s still an amusement park – lots of flashing lights and noise, especially noticeable when watching the reactions of ds23 months and ds3- but it’s not overwhelming. There aren’t long lines (at least not when we’ve been there), and it’s a family centered kind of park. I think going at night also makes it feel more relaxed, not to mention cooler!
They have this interesting sign that dh and I were remarking on, the rules of their modesty dress code. The sign shows a picture of: sleeveless tank top – with an ok sign; sleeveless tank top that goes half way down – ok; bikini top – not okay. Dh was kind of rolling his eyes at this, and while it may not be near our personal ideas of what modesty entail, having rules like that means that people are walking around with some kind of clothing, however skimpy. They have other rules, too, like men must wear shirts, and shoes must be worn. That may not sound like a big deal, but it makes a big difference in the kind of things you see – I remember often seeing people walking around shirtless or with different minimal combinations of bathing suits and clothes at amusement parks in the summers.
However, we scheduled our trip at this time to coincide with two things: dd13′s birthday the day before, and ds16 being at camp. As much as I think he’d enjoy it, and even though the lack of immodesty isn’t nearly as drastic as most parks, it’s not a place for a teen boy who tries to avoid these things. When we were planning the trip he told us he wouldn’t come because of the immodesty factor, which we very much respected. While there, I was also struck by the young teen couples walking with their arms around each other – all of a sudden I’m seeing these things through the eyes of a mother with a child that age, and it’s even more disturbing to me. When I was a younger mother, teenagers seemed old enough to be distant to me. But now I have children in those age ranges and it strikes me even more strongly how sad it is for kids to be so prematurely involved in boy/girl relationships.
We were comfortable letting the oldest five kids go around on their own, and they decided to break up into two groups: dd14 with ds10, and dd13 with dd8 and ds7. Being able to go around on their own added the extra dimension of fun and independence for them. We spent the first two hours taking the littles on the kiddie rides – there were plenty of them. We made arrangements with the kids in advance so that dh and I would also have a chance to enjoy some rides together, and arranged to meet dd14 and ds10 at 8 pm, so they could take the littles on rides for an hour. When they met us we all went on the ferris wheel together, and by the time we got off, it was already 8:30.
After making sure the baby was fed and diapered, dh and I dashed off to have a little fun alone. I haven’t been on rides in an amusement park for 18 years!! Before our trip I mentioned that I used to love amusement parks, particularly the very thrilling and scary roller coasters, and dh and the kids were all surprised – they had no idea! As I mentioned, last time by default I ended up being the one to stay with the baby in the stroller and watched everyone else go on the rides, and this time dh insisted that I get to enjoy myself also. We were supposed to meet the kids at 9 pm but were delayed by a roller coaster that didn’t look exciting but was remarkably unassuming (especially exciting for the first person in the train, who happened to be me – I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face)!
We met the kids again at 9:15, the same time as dd13 arrived with dd8 and ds7. They were meeting us there to take their shift with the littles and it worked out perfectly that they got there late, since it meant that both groups of older kids only had 45 minutes shifts. Dd14 and ds10 ran off for more fun together, and we left the littles at the kiddie bumper cars with the other dd13 and her entourage, which ds3 loved and ds23 months didn’t (they stopped the ride to let him off because he started screaming – the man who ran the ride was very nice and saw he didn’t know how to push on the pedal and go, so he sat on the end of his kiddie car to help him, which scared ds because he’s a stranger too close with all of us too far and that’s why he cried – he wouldn’t have minded sitting there and getting bumped by everyone else).
Then dh and I went on a couple more rides together – the Flume was our favorite. That’s a water ride when you sit in a ‘log’ and go up and around and down with a huge splash soaking you at the end. It was so relaxing (except for the final big splash, but that was refreshing!). We love spending time with our children but there’s something so nice about being able to be alone and do something light purely for the sake of fun without them. Every time dh and I get out of the house together, it recharges us in a way that spending time alone at home together doesn’t.
We ate a picnic dinner before we went into the park, and then took some treats in with us – a bag of chips and a bar of chocolate for each child. Because this isn’t something they have all the time, it added to their feeling of having a special trip. I was concerned about how the littles would handle the very long day with no nap (aside from falling asleep for an hour on the way there) and being up late, but they did great.
We all had a really nice time. We finished up by watching teens at the water park diving off the high board while dh davened mincha. It was a good way to key down before getting into the van and starting the long drive home. Last time we went we made it a two day trip and stayed in the campgrounds right there, but this time didn’t want to do that. It was a very long day, since we had a three hour drive in each direction, and we got home at 2:15 am.
Now you know why I didn’t post yesterday!