Thursday, July 10, 2014

Durham to Hershey

Getting ready for a week-long camping trip is truthfully about the same amount of work as getting ready for a one-night camping trip. It’s both amazing how easy it was to get everything ready and how crazy things were at the last minute. I was up until midnight cutting bagels and muffins and peaches and watermelon after getting everything else packed up and then we were up early in the morning to finish packing everything into the van. 

Andrew wasn’t able to get both containers of watermelon into the cooler so we had to abandon one. Fortunately, our neighbors are early risers. I ran the extra container over to them and then we were off.

The children behaved impeccably well. We drove all the way to Washington, DC, before making a pit stop. Not a single one of them asked to go to the bathroom and the only fits we had were due to (a) me only being able to find the regular gummy worms when Miriam wanted the sour kind, (b) not having a truck visible out of Benjamin’s window every time he wanted to see one, and (c) allowing Miriam to choose the first DVD because even though she chose the movie Rachel was going to pick Rachel wanted to be the one to pick first. 

Other than that, though, our children were fantastic. And Benjamin didn’t have a single potty accident the whole day. 

I’m probably jinxing us for tomorrow, aren’t I?

(Hopefully not). 

At one point I was explaining (again) how I can't control when there are and are not big trucks driving beside us and I finished up by saying, "So I can't make a truck be there just because you want one to be there."

"Hmph!" Benjamin grumped.

"I love you!" I cooed.

"Okay," he said in the sweet little way that only he can. I seriously need to record him saying okay because the consonant he uses isn't quite a /k/ but it isn't quite a /g/ either. It's just plain cute. 

Anyway, our entire family spent the day repeating that little exchange. 

"I love you."


I’m still working on Elizabeth Keckley’s Behind the Scenes (I’m about 58% finished—can you tell I’m reading it on a Kindle?) and was just as we were reaching Richmond I read about the Union’s victory there. ‘Lizabeth accompanied the Lincolns when they went down to Virginia to reclaim it as a state of the Union. It was kind of amazing to be reading a first-person narrative about the city as we drove through it. 

Then just as we passed a sign for Alberta and Petersburg I was reading about how there was a “large, peculiarly shaped oak tree,” which “attracted the particular attention of the President; it grew upon the outskirts of Petersburg…”

“Hey, look,” Andrew said. “We’re almost to Alberta.”

“And Petersburg! That’s crazy—I was just reading about Petersburg!” I said and read Andrew the rest of the bit about the oak tree. 

Rachel’s been plowing through Harry Potter. When she got tired of reading she started filling up her notebook with drawings of quidditch uniforms and portraits of Hermione and other favourite characters. When she got tired of doodling she wrote a quiz about Harry Potter for me to take. 

One of her questions read, “Was Harry Potter possessed by Voldemort or not? Yes or no.”

It was quite a difficult question to parse out. I settled on using a complete sentence for an answer rather than simply circling ‘yes’ or ‘no’ because a single word answer would have been too ambiguous for a question like that. 

Many of her questions were difficult to answer, actually. Like “What was Harry’s favorite subject?” Boy, oh, boy, did we talk about that for a long time! I thought that defense against the dark arts was his favorite because of his chosen profession later in life and because he seemed to like a lot of the teachers, but then Andrew pointed out the years with Umbridge and Lockhart and Snape. Obviously potions was Harry’s least favourite…except when Slughorn was teaching. Rachel suggested that perhaps care of magical creatures was his favourite, though I pointed out that Harry only liked the teacher and not necessarily the content of the class (after the incident with Buckbeak and things got a little too tame). It was quite difficult to come up with a solid answer. 

Miriam was also happy with her notebook. She pouted a bit when I tried to hand it to her, claiming that a notebook couldn’t cure her ennui, but then I reminded her that we’d purchased new packages of felt-markers for the girls to use in the car. Then she was really excited. We haven’t bought a new package of markers in years and all the ones at our house were getting dried out. 

Before we knew it we’d crossed into Pennsylvania and started seeing signs for Hershey–the sweetest place on earth! 

We have a friend whose parents live not too far from Hershey and since Andrew’s the only one driving all this long way we thought it would be good to split the drive into two days. I’m glad that we stopped because even though he said he would be fine driving straight through he fell asleep in the rocking chair while I was giving the kids a bath. 

Anyway, I’m not sure the stop in Hershey was as grand as we were expecting. We went to the museum first but found it to be a bit pricey considering all Benjamin wanted to do was run around outside (he was so happy to be out of the car) and we only had a little bit of time, so we forewent the museum and headed over to Hershey’s Chocolate Land, which was insanely busy. 

But don't worry—we read up on the life of Milton Hershey while we were driving. He sounds like a pretty remarkable man. I have a hunch he'd cringe at how capitalized his company has become...

Hotel Hershey
The amusement park is well out of our budget but there’s one ride inside the gift shop called Hershey’s Great American Chocolate Tour. It’s basically a “train ride” (which Benjamin was thrilled about) through a mini-factory. They show the whole process from sorting the beans to wrapping the chocolate, complete with singing cows (which Benjamin also loved), and a free sample at the end (dark chocolate pomegranate bits, which no one liked so Andrew ended up eating all four packages). 

Rachel was a little terrified when we went through the cocoa bean roaster but I think everyone had fun. Miriam especially loved the little chocolate characters and the fact that the street lamps were shaped like chocolate kisses.

(Andrew said, as we took the exit for Hershey, that “if [his] memory from [his] trip there twenty years ago served [him] correctly, even the streetlights [would] be shaped like chocolate kisses.” Looks like his memory was correct).

After that we found a little park called Cocoa Castle and let the kids get all their wiggles out there before heading to our host’s home for the evening. I think we broke at least 50 playground rules:

The park reminded us a bit of Discovery Park in Pleasant Grove, Utah. I was trailing Benjamin pretty closely because he had a tendency to suddenly disappear into small doorways and then would be "lost" for several minutes until he popped out somewhere else. The tunnel system of these playgrounds is almost nightmarish for parents.

Here's Rachel looking fierce on top of a tunnel:

And here's Benjamin making his way through the very tunnel Rachel was standing on:

And here's Miriam on a tire swing:

I should probably mention, since I don't think I have yet, that Miriam can pump on the swing now (oh, happy day)!

We had friends over for dinner on Sunday and went into the backyard to play. Miriam asked for a push on the swing, so I helped her onto it and pushed her once and then got wrapped up in conversation and completely forgot about pushing her—and yet there she was, swinging higher than ever!

Having children who can pump on the swing is almost as great as having children who can read, though the kind of child who still needs constant pushing and whose only knowledge of the alphabet is that his favourite letter is definitely "dubba-oo" is pretty great, too.

I just can't get enough of his sweet face!

And here's the entire gang swinging together—minus me. I don't really like swinging anymore, now that I'm old and grey. It just makes me dizzy.

Here are Miriam and Daddy swinging at the same time:

"Haha—we call that dating at our school!" Rachel said.

"Well, we called it marriage at mine!" I said.

"What?!" Rachel shrieked with laughter.

Yeah. We were just that extreme.

Here's Benjamin asking for permission to leave the fenced in playground so he can visit the nearby sandbox. He's pretty good at asking to do things, even if his asking is a bit rudimentary. Today his method was waving at me and saying "Bye! Bye! Bye, Mom! Bye! Bye! Bye! Okay? Bye!"

To his credit, he didn't leave until I told him it was okay.

Andrew (re)introduced the girls to "spider" swinging:

Once we were sick of the swings we spent a few more minutes playing before calling it a day. (One of the park rules is to not play when the equipment is wet and it was threatening to rain).

Benjamin didn't want to leave the way I was trying to make him leave:

He had to find his own way down:

We left the playground a few minutes after Andrew and the girls. Benjamin took off running down the sidewalk as fast as he could and then stopped short, whirled around, and screamed in a panic, "Where Meme?" 

"She's already at the car, see?" I asked. "You're the slowpoke!"

"Okay!" he said, and took off running again. Silly boy.

We had a nice drive to Jenny's house, through beautiful winding country roads. 

"This is beautiful!" I said. 

"How can you tell?" asked Rachel, who was finishing up Harry Potter and thus was probably not paying much attention to the view.

"By using my eyes," I said. 

Jenny’s mom is amazing! She had dinner waiting for us and she even had ice cream cones for dessert. After dinner she encouraged us to take a dip in their pool, which has a diving board (which Rachel was excited about (but Andrew only took videos and I don't want to upload one right now so you'll have to wait to see that)).

We’ve been spoiled by our hot North Carolina days, however, and their pool was simply not as warm as what we’re used to. We only lasted a few minutes before we wimped out—but we lasted long enough for Rachel to get a few good dives under her belt. She sure picked up on it quickly!

PS. Miriam found a daisy on the ground (it was just sitting on the sidewalk—she didn't pick it (and was sure to tell me so)) and wanted to put it in her ponytail. She thought she looked gorgeous! (And she did)!

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