When do Kids get to be Kids?

Feeling stressed out from work, bills, sick family members and storms destroying our property, we were looking for an escape the other day. Just when we thought that we would never feel carefree again, we found a place where kids can be kids. We visited an amusement park. From the time that the gates opened to long lines of excited kids; ages toddler to senior citizens until the bewitching hour screams and laughter filled the air.

We started by spinning until we were dizzy in the Twist and Shout. With each rotation, we began to forget about all of our worries. It only took two rides before we were transported into a special place where there are no worries—just fun.

Next, we joined the crowd of kids waiting at the log flume. Some of the kids were anxious, because this was their first time riding the flume. Others were big kids that have not been on the flume for many years. Together, they all descended the waterfall in the log and everyone screamed. It lifted our hearts to watch everyone ages of 4 to 70 laughing and thoroughly enjoying being a kid.

After a quick lunch, we were off to the water park. With the air filled with island music, we sashayed into the lounge area. We stashed our stuff on a few comfy lounge chairs and went to climb a Robinson Crusoe tree house structure with water falls cascading from the roof of each of the tree houses onto our heads. Suddenly water shot at us from the water guns above inducing screams and making us run out of range. Reaching the top, we joined the other kids sliding down the water slide to the pool below. The rushing water drowned out all other noises as we raced down the tube to crash to earth. Even though we know what’s coming, for some reason, that giant splash at the bottom always catches us by surprise.

Sufficiently soaked, we grabbed our packs and shoes and we were off to find rides to dry our clothing. “I’ve been waiting all day for a rollercoaster,” my husband insisted. The line seemed to take forever. Then, all too soon, we pulled the restraints over our heads, and heard the not very reassuring “click.” And, we were off! The entire ride, a voice screaming in my head, “When will the ride ever eh-nnnnn-d?” Did I say that out loud? We whipped around corners and spun around the loops like my son’s Hot Wheels cars on the track. How I longed for a nice relaxing ride—on the Ferris Wheel!

Our next ride greeted us with a wall of water as we stood in line waiting. It was the Boston Tea Party. A simple ride, really. A large boat goes up a ramp, makes a U-turn and then crashes into the water below. Water goes everywhere! Every time the boat shot down the ramp into Boston Harbor, the crowd of kids in line for the ride would scream. It seems, in this version of the Tea Party, we were the tea being thrown into the harbor.

When we finally reached our turn, the boys were so excited that we had trouble getting them to sit still. As we ascended the ride, they shrieked with glee. At the top, the entire boat gasped as they braced for the plummet down into the pool of water. A 20 foot wave submerged the entire boat, sending the wig on the woman in front of us overboard. I guess they weren’t kidding when they said “anything on your person may end up in the water.” As we were leaving the park that day, we saw her with a pizza pie hat covering her head. A little hair loss was a pizza hat gain.

Finally, too tired to go on another ride, we dragged ourselves to the exit. Climbing into the SUV, we started our journey back. Falling into bed, we slept soundly like little children. By morning, we had fully returned to the busy and stressful lives we had left behind. At least, until we take that magic journey again.

My Son’s First Visit to Beyond Vanilla Ice Cream Parlor

Wriggling in his car seat the whole way to the ice cream parlor, my son said excitedly, “ice ceam, ice ceam, I want ice ceam!” Jumping down from his car seat, he ran across the parking lot bursting through the door alerting the server to his entrance. He suddenly stopped in his tracks like a deer in a car’s headlights. This was all new to him and he was nervous. Hiding behind my leg, he peeked out surveying the room. “Hi, can I help you?” he heard a voice from behind the counter. Peering from behind my leg, he saw a big smile and kind eyes on his server’s face. “I want ice ceam,” he said stepping up to the counter.

Because he was below the counter, the server had to lean over the counter to take his order. She pointed to all of the flavors which covered an entire wall. His blue eyes grew very large. He had never seen so much ice cream in one place before. Sensing that he was overwhelmed, I stepped in to show him his options. After ten minutes of discussing his options, he finally placed his order.

Reaching into his pocket, he took out a twenty dollar bill and handed it to the server. He smiled and said “keep the change.” Looking down at the face of Sponge Bob on her payment, the server smiled. “Thank you,” she said “It has been a pleasure serving you.” She nodded to me, and I waived a ten dollar bill over his head and handed it to her when he turned his attention to the seats in front of the counter.

I tried to interest him in a seat at one of the tables, but he kept shaking his head saying, “no, no, no.” He sized up his new challenge, saying, “I cwimb, I cwimb.” Realizing that I could not stop him from climbing, I stood next to the stool and spotted him.

Straining to pull himself up onto the seat, he got stuck. Gently lifting him, I placed him safely in his seat. His hands barely reaching the counter he waited for his cup of ice cream. He squealed with excitement as the bowl was placed before him, “Ice ceam yeah!” He hungrily grabbed the spoon and reached up to take a scoop. With his first spoonful, he began to smile ear to ear.

With his mouth below the counter, he continued to reach up taking a small scoop at a time. When he finally grew tired of reaching up for small scoops of ice cream, he grabbed the bowl and brought it to his mouth. He started licking the ice cream and then put his mouth in the bowl. Lifting his face out of the bowl, he was smiling with raspberry sorbet covering his mouth, cheeks, chin and nose. “I yike ice ceam,” he declared.

Sandler Syndrome

Waking from a sound sleep, I asked my husband “What’s that noise downstairs?” When he didn’t respond, I started shaking him. “Wake up! There’s someone downstairs!” Suddenly, the noise grew louder. Grabbing an old crutch from the closet, he quietly snuck down the stairs to surprise the robber. With the crutch raised above his head ready to strike the intruder, my husband jumped into the TV room, yelling “I gotcha!” Standing in his underwear, he stopped in mid-swing, when he found our son. “Oh no!” he gasped. “It’s much worse than a robbery!” He found our son watching Grown Ups 2.

Joining them, I asked “What is going on?” It was then our son admitted that he had been sneaking down at night for months to watch Adam Sandler movies. “They’re cool, and they make me laugh,” he justified. “Months? How could we not know for months?” With his head down, he nodded yes. At the time, we didn’t want to admit it, but something was wrong. The next morning I made an appointment with his doctor.

“What seems to be the problem?” his pediatrician asked. “He has been acting strangely,” I began. “Last night we caught him watching Grown Ups 2.” I hesitated and then I continued, “Apparently, he has been sneaking downstairs to watch Adam Sandler movies at night for months.” Dr. Feldman raised an eye brow, and asked, “Has there been a history of similar abnormal behavior?”

I took a deep breath and began, “when he was a baby, I used to catch him telling himself jokes and laughing in his crib. And, he would only eat, if I sang like Opera Man for him.” The doctor gave me a reassuring look and nodded for me to continue. “Then, as a toddler, he started lining up his stuffed animals to listen to his stand-up routines. Then, one day I came to pick him up at school and he was on the stage telling jokes to the other students,” I continued. “The teachers told me he killed it.”

“Are there any other symptoms?” he asked before evaluating the situation. I pulled out and handed him a piece of paper on which I wrote:

  •  He wants Bayou Frog Muffins
  •  He wants the knee of a roasted snake for supper
  •  He has requested grilled baby alligators for lunch
  •  He’s obsessed with water purity
  •  He wants me to pay his allowance in meatballs
  •  He has been craving Popeye’s fried chicken
  •  He pretends to attend Heaven and Hell mixers with his friends
  •  He brings a hockey stick when we play mini-golf
  •  His best friend is a Walrus
  •  He wants to sail to Alaska to study Walruses
  •  He wants Gatorade and Reese’s peanut butter cups for breakfast

I watched as he read the list with a sinking feeling in my stomach. As he continued down the list, Dr. Feldman’s eyes grew larger. “Why didn’t you come to me sooner?” he scolded me. “I have one final question. Did you watch Adam Sandler movies during your pregnancy?” I couldn’t answer. With my head down, I just shook my head yes.

“But, no one said anything about Adam Sandler movies,” I protested. “I abstained from alcohol, sushi, swordfish, tuna, deli meat and a three page list of foods and medications.” I defended. “I did everything they told me to do.”

Clearing his throat, Dr. Feldman began, “There is a little known disorder called the Sandler Syndrome. Recent studies have found a correlation between expectant mothers who watched Adam Sandler movies during their pregnancy and the childhood symptoms that you mentioned,” he stopped for a moment to let me digest his diagnosis.

In my head I was screaming, “Noooooo! Not the Sandler Syndrome!” How could this happen? It seemed so harmless to watch The Waterboy, Little Nicky, Happy Gilmore, Mr. Deeds, The Wedding Singer, Billy Madison, Big Daddy, Anger Management, 50 First Dates and Spanglish.

“Some studies have shown that Reign over Me can counter the effects of his other movies, but there is nothing conclusive yet” Dr. Feldman continued. “The Board of Gynecology and Obstetrics is now recommending no more than one Adam Sandler movie per week during pregnancy.”

Panicking I asked, “But what about my son? What can we do for him?” Shaking his head, he said, “I’m sorry. There is no known effective treatment for this disorder. The accepted therapies that have been tried usually only give the patients more material for their stand-up routines. You need to accept that your son is doomed to a life of comedy.”

A Shake Fixes Everything

We called my brother Scooter, because he was always crashing his scooter and breaking his arms. In one corner of his room there was a pile of his casts that had been cut off. He called them his trophies. I just called them gross and smelly. Our neighborhood hero for his stunts, he always drew a crowd. His fans’ signatures covered all of his casts.

In preparation for his next big stunt, I made posters and taped them to the telephone poles all over the neighborhood. As his manager, I sold admission tickets for $.75 per kid at school and on the way home all week. This was our biggest box office yet.

On the big day, scooter emerged in his best Evel Knievel costume made out of a white jumpsuit he took from our sister Lindsey’s closet with the cape from his superman pajamas pinned to the collar. To get the crowd excited, he circled around the driveway on his bike popping wheelies and waving to his fans. The crowd started chanting, “Scoo-ter, Scoo-ter, Scoo-ter.” Getting louder and louder until they drowned out all other noises on our street.

Standing in the driveway channeling my inner Barnabus Bailey, I raised my hands to quiet the crowd. Sweeping my hands to Scooter, I shouted “Ladies and Gentlemen be prepared to be amazed! Scooter will attempt his most daring feat ever. He will climb up the ladder in the garage, cross the beams and jump into this pile of empty burlap sacks.”

A hush fell over the crowd as Scooter began his accent up the ladder and into the rafters. Barely breathing, we watched him balance as he carefully put one foot in front of the other to cross the side and center beams. He was halfway across, when someone yelled “Go Scooter!” breaking his concentration.

Suddenly his foot slipped and he came tumbling down catching the jumpsuit on a nail in the center beam, and hanging there for a moment. With a loud ripping sound, he came crashing down onto the pavement just two feet away from his safety pile of sacks. The silence was broken, when Scooter yelled “not the jumpsuit! Lindsey’s gonna kill me!” Trying to push himself up, he hollered “Ough!” Looking at his face contorted in pain, I realized that he was not able to get up on his own. The show was over and I raced for help.

After another trip to the emergency room, Scooter returned with 2 new casts; one for each arm. There was a line out the door for days of his fans wanting to sign his casts and bring him presents. When the excitement died down, it was just me and Scooter sitting in a hot living room trying to pass the time.

Curled up in a chair next to Scooter lying on the couch, I was making sure that he stayed still. I had strict orders to fetch anything that he needed. As the temperature continued to rise on this hot June afternoon, what he needed most was to cool off. When he growled at me, I stood up and began to fan him with my mother’s Family Circle magazine. For a moment it helped and then he was miserable again. Leaning her head in the room, my mother asked, “How is he doing?” I shook my head, “Not well I’m afraid. He really needs to cool off.” Thinking for a minute, I asked “How about we all go to McDonalds? A nice cold shake will make him feel better.”

Bellying up to the counter, I said “Give your biggest chocolate shake to my friend here.” Reaching into my pockets, I pulled out a fist of coins from the tickets sold for his big stunt. Scattering them on the counter, I smiled at the cashier as I counted out my payment.

Sliding into his seat and resting his two casts on the table, he waited for me to join him with the chocolate shake. Sitting next to him, I held up the shake and put the straw in his mouth. He took a long draw from the straw and said “Ahh, a shake fixes everything.” He finally smiled and asked “I was great, wasn’t I?” As his greatest fan, I agreed “The best! And, next time you’ll be even better!”

Peanut Meets Ronald McDonald

“Today’s the Day!” I yelled running down the stairs for breakfast with the enthusiasm of Christmas morning. “I finally get to meet Ronald McDonald,” I screamed barely able to contain my excitement. Plopping into my seat at the kitchen today, I started gulping my cereal. “Peanut, Slow down!” my mother insisted. “You’ll get a stomach ache!” I was so focused on my goal of getting to the McDonalds’ opening that I couldn’t hear her, finishing my breakfast in record time.

Running upstairs, I brushed my teeth quickly. Then, I searched my closet for my best outfit. I had to look perfect to meet Ronald McDonald. Jumping out of my pajamas, I tried on my velvet dress from Christmas. “No this just won’t do,” I said throwing this dress on the bed. Continuing to rifle through my closet, I found my Cinderella princess costume. “Yes that is it!” I blurted excitedly as I threw the dress over my head.

When my mother entered my room, she raised an eyebrow asking me, “Are you sure you want to wear that to McDonalds?” Offended that she did not like my choice, I shook my head. “Zip my back please,” I requested, turning away from her. With my dress zipped, I turned my attention to my hair. Not just any braid would do. “Please give me a French braid,” I asked my mother. Finishing the braid, she said “there you look beautiful.” To complete the ensemble, I slipped my feet into my matching Cinderella ballet slippers. “Perfect,” I said and turned for the door.

Rallying the family, I ran through the house yelling, “Let’s go, let’s goooooo!” After what seemed like an eternity, they finally boarded the big yellow station wagon. To get the party started, I began singing like The Beatles “We all ride in the yellow submarine.” I was soon joined by my sister and brothers.

After we finished singing, I started frequently asking “How many more miles?” This was one of the longest 90 minutes of our lives. When I wasn’t asking about the miles, I was bouncing in my seat from the excitement. I was barely contained and driving my brothers crazy. They kept grabbing my braid to jerk me back into my seat. “Ouch!” I cried. Looking up, my mother said sternly, “don’t pull her hair!”

As we turned the corner and the golden arches came into view, I heard angels sing “Ah, Ah, Ah.” Jumping out of my seatbelt, I screamed “We’re here, we’re here!” My father barely had time to stop before I leaped out of the car to run for Ronald McDonald. Screeching to a halt, I ran into a long line of children waiting to see Ronald. “Oh, no! Where did all of these kids come from?” I whined. Without a choice, I joined the long line of children waiting to see Ronald.

Tapping my toes while I stood in line for 45 minutes, I was speechless when I finally reached Ronald. He was so tall and handsome in person. I found myself looking down at his enormous red shoes. Searching for the words to say, I started with “Umh, Umh.”

As they were pushing me to leave, I blurted out “wait! I have to tell Ronald McDonald that he’s the greatest.” Before I could finish, the Hamburglar raced in and grabbed a burger out of Ronald’s hands. “How dare he steal from Ronald?” I hollered. When he stopped running to hold up the burger and taunt Ronald, I lunged at the Hamburglar’s legs. Wrapping myself around his legs to stop him, I yelled “Quick Ronald grab your burger. I got him!” Stunned, Ronald was not sure what to do. My mom jumped in to save the situation. Pulling on my arms, she insisted “Peanut let go of the Hamburglar.” Shaking my head, I said emphatically “No, he stole Ronald’s burger. He needs to go to jail.”

Just when the situation seemed hopeless, Officer Big Mac walked in with the handcuffs to take the Hamburglar to jail. Once the Hamburglar was safely secured and handcuffed to Officer Big Mac, I released his legs and stood up. “He’s all yours Officer. I did my best to hold him for you,” I said proudly. Officer Big Mac nodded his head to me, and reached his hand out to shake my hand. But, the moment that I will never forget is when I turned around to see Ronald McDonald reaching into his sleeve and pulling out flowers. He smiled and handed them to me with a coupon for a free Happy Meal. Best day ever!

The General

With his own cheering section, the General marched proudly through town in his faded uniform that he took out twice a year for the Memorial Day and Fourth of July parades. His Band of Brothers all wearing the same faded uniform had seen better days just like their uniforms. This crew of Veterans from World War II was getting smaller every year, but today he marched side by side with the 4 remaining members of his unit. Despite all the Old Spice, I splashed on him you could still smell the moth balls on his uniform. While his knees creaked with age, he stood tall with his customary crew cut looking straight ahead and saluting members of the military and dignitaries. When the high school band started playing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” I noticed a sudden spring in their steps.

Finishing the parade, the General loaded his truck with as many friends as he could bring back to his house. Standing in the driveway with a cold beer was Grandma, wearing her favorite summer dress, apron and bouffant, which was starting to melt in the heat of the day. “You looked handsome in your uniform,” she said smiling and handing him the beer. “Change your clothes the charcoals are ready,” she said and returned to the kitchen to finish preparing her side dishes. She was the best cook in town and when she threw a party everyone came to eat.

In fifteen minutes, she yelled out the door “kids get in here!” As we filed into the kitchen, she handed each of us a bowl to bring outside. My mother was at the tables directing traffic pointing to where we should place the serving bowls, heaped high with my Grandma’s delicious salads, vegetables and casseroles. There was a whole table for just the salads. The next table was filled with homemade pickles, relishes, chutney and sauces. Followed by a table filled with cooked vegetables from Grandpa’s garden to include corn on the cob, green beans, peas and an assortment of squashes and vegetable casseroles. There was enough food to feed an army. My mouth was watering and I couldn’t wait to eat.

When everything was loaded on the tables and Grandpa had brought the first platters of meat from the grill, he said “let us give thanks.” We bowed our heads, and he began “Lord thank you for our freedom that we celebrate today, and thank you for gathering all of our family and friends to celebrate with us. Let us take a moment of silence for those who died for our freedom.” With everyone’s heads down, my cousin seized the opportunity to pull my braid. “Ouch,” I blurted breaking the silence. Shooting a stern look in my direction, he finished with “Let’s eat.”

A line consisting of dozens of cousins, aunts, uncles and half of the town wrapped from the back yard and around the house. Fortunately, they let the littlest children go first, so I did not have long to wait. Piling as much as I could carry on my plate, I found a spot under the big old Oak tree to eat. Soon I was joined by my brothers and cousins. Before long they started the See Food contests opening their mouths to show everyone the half chewed food. And, when that was no longer entertaining, they moved onto throwing the remains of their feast at each other. “Stop throwing your food!” broke the air like a firecracker. It was the General sent to deal with our motley crew. “Now clean up this mess and go play,” he commanded waving his big hand at us as if to say dismissed.

Despite the heat, it was time for our annual badminton grudge match, which gave the winning team bragging rights for a whole year. Last year my cousin Hank and his team won, and my brother Scooter was out to settle the score. “Scooter, I’m gonna beat you again this year,” Hank taunted. My brother put his hand out to stop me from charging at Hank. “Let’s beat him on the court,” he whispered. After hours of heated play, it was a dead heat between Hank and Scooter. They were tied and their teams were fading from the heat, so my Grandma suggested that we break the tie with a pie eating contest. It didn’t hurt that my Grandma’s pies were delicious. With their hands tied behind their backs, Scooter and Hank plunged their faces into the pies in front of them gulping and swallowing the blueberries. Raising his head up in victory has he swallowed the last bite, Scooter had earned the bragging rights for the next year.

As the sun began to set, it was time for Grandpa’s speech. If we sat quietly and listened, Grandma would come out with our July Fourth cake. Every year he told us the story of the Declaration of Independence. How our forefathers risked everything for our freedom to include our own ancestor Josiah Bartlett who signed the document for New Hampshire. I know that it was important to talk about the people that founded our country, but at the time it just felt like homework during the summer. Just when I couldn’t sit still any longer, I felt a hand on my shoulder pushing me back into my seat. I looked up to see my mother looking sternly at me.

After the longest 15 minutes of my life, I was rewarded when my Grandma walked out of the kitchen with a big chocolate cake with sparklers on top. “Yay!” we shouted and ran to her as she placed it on the picnic table. My aunt followed behind her with plates and forks. We all ate a big slice. “Yummy! Grandma this is the best cake ever!” we shouted.

Just when we were looking for an outlet for all that sugar, Uncle Mack walked out with sparklers for all of the kids. It started out as just fun waiving the sparks of light around in the dark. But, then the boys decided to start a competition to see who they could light on fire. Using the buddy system, my cousin Kirstie and I ran interference for each other to escape the boys. Running serpentine around the yard screaming, we avoiding being lit on fire. However, soon the noise was so loud that the parents couldn’t ignore it any longer, so they sent in the General. “What are you kids doing?” he bellowed from his lawn chair. When we didn’t notice, he stood up and ordered “Stop that now!” Knowing what would come next, the boys scattered.

Exhausted from running, I fell into my mom’s lap. While we were running for our lives, the parents had lined up the chairs in the front of the house to watch the fireworks. Resting back on my mother, I looked up in the sky to see the bursts of color that thundered over our heads. “Ahh,” I sighed. “What a perfect day.”