April 2013 note: I was just looking through my folder of blog-post drafts, and found this. These were emails I sent to family before and during a family vacation. I think my plan was to finish this and add photos. I don’t have the heart to delete it, so I’m just going to go ahead and post it as it is. Three years later. Without photos.
(If there was ever a Part 2, I don’t know what became of it.)
July 30th, 2010
Subject: See you in two weeks [written just before leaving]
Ha–I told Dean we’d tell the kids that we would be leaving at 3 PM just so
they wouldn’t nag us before that, but I hoped to leave closer to, say, 11.
But that was before I found out Dean stayed up until 4 AM uploading recorded
books to my iPod, which involved some learning for him (it’ll go faster next
time–maybe). I also did make Dean go buy a Thule storage thing for the top
of our van at Costco so it would be easier to fit our jackets and beach toys
and stroller and all that (this after he said one more suitcase or duffle
wouldn’t fit and he started throwing things into grocery bags). Buying the Thule thing
slowed us down maybe an hour and Dean doesn’t think having it will make much
difference, but I think it will be great.
I’m all sweaty from cleaning and packing. It’s tempting to take another shower before we go, but I don’t think my family wants to wait another half hour, and I guess I
don’t really, either.
Anyway, off we go (headed to L.A. and then San Diego) and at least we
shouldn’t have any trouble getting to Las Vegas today, which was our plan
anyway unless we got on the road sooner.
August 8, 2010
Subject: Notes from SeaWorld
At SeaWorld on Wednesday we attended all three of the main shows right in a row: the killer whales, the sea lions, and the dolphins. We sat in the “soak zone” for the killer whale show and then didn’t reapply our sunscreen until after the dolphin show, so some of us got sunburned on our noses and foreheads. It wasn’t too bad, though, and we seem to have all recovered already. We also forgot to put sunscreen in the parts of our hair, so the girls have been very tender-scalped when I comb their hair. In the soak zone Dean and I figured the little kids were going to get wet no matter what, so we used them as human shields to stay somewhat dry ourselves. Mabel loved getting soaked and the rest of the kids tolerated it, except for Hazel who thought it was a horrible, horrible thing to be hit with a big wave of salt water out of the blue.
The dolphin show was trying to be something like a Broadway or circus show and featured way too much human diving and acrobatics (we just wanted to see the whales and dolphins swim and dive and jump). Mabel was highly critical of the anodyne story line and low production values. The show features a girl who, we were told, dreams of swimming with the dolphins and flying with the birds, and gets her wish. She actually gets her wish in the first thirty seconds of the show, when she dives out the window of her poolside pink castle. Then the show talks a whole lot about how you just have to dream and your dream will come true. Afterward I said, “Yeah, all you have to do for your dream to come true, if your dream happens to be swimming with the dolphins, is to live right by an ocean where dolphins swim, and to jump out your window.” Mabel latched onto my critique and has referred to it several times, reminding us how stupid that was.
Mabel was also disappointed we didn’t get seats in the soak zone for the dolphin show.
Dean wanted me to help him remember another nonsensical platitude from the end of the Atlantis ride. A speaker blares out the words, “You have redeemed Atlantis. The city will continue to thrive as long as humankind chooses to live in harmony with the ocean world.” Dean’s response: “You flatter me.”
The last time we were at SeaWorld, seven years ago when Mabel was three, we lost Mabel twice for several minutes each time, and one of those times Isaac ran off trying to help find her and we lost him, too. Target stores sell cute kid-leashes that look like a stuffed-animal backpack, and we already owned one that looks like a bear (purchased to keep Rose reigned in on a trip to Zion’s Park a couple of years ago) but before this trip I had bought a second one that looks like a puppy. The kids had tried them on at home and had fun with Mabel pretending to be a farmer guiding them as horses. When we got to SeaWorld Dean thought we would only need one leash for Henry, since Hazel would be in the stroller, but I wanted to put one on adventurous Rose, too. There were plenty of times when we weren’t in dense crowds and we would unleash the kids, but when we did need the leashes, I was very glad to have them. I would feel a tug on the leash and lose sight of the kid in a crowd, but know they were still there at the other end of the leash. Near the end of the day a woman stopped me to ask where I bought the leashes. She pointed to her toddler and said she’d lost him earlier that day. I asked her how long he’d been lost, and she said, “It was probably only a few minutes, but it felt like hours.” So, hooray for Dean and I spending a whole day at SeaWorld in peak season with five kids, and not losing a one of them even once.
I haven’t figured out how to style my hair so that it can survive humidity, but even if I had, the soaking at the beginning of the day would have undone it, so SeaWorld wasn’t very good for my vanity. More than once I caught a glimpse of myself in a restroom mirror or reflected in aquarium glass and thought I was seeing some other red-faced, bedraggled middle-aged woman.
Near the end of the day when the lines for the rides were a little less long, Dean watched Henry and Hazel so I could take Ike, Rose, and Mabel on the Atlantis roller coaster. Last year Mabel and Rose were about to go on a little-kid roller coaster in Park City, but Mabel chickened out and actually made them stop the ride so she could get off. So Mabel was terrified of going on this larger coaster. Dean told her she had to go on it. Ike doesn’t like roller coasters either, but Dean made Ike go, too. In line Mabel said she really really didn’t want to, and did she have to? I said, “Daddy says you do.” She asked if I would pay her to go on the ride, and I said I’d give her a dollar–so Ike wanted a dollar, too. Mabel said, “I”m shaking. What if I need to throw up?” “Then throw up.” “What if I freak out?” “Don’t freak out.” I told her it would be scary but she’d be buckled in and secure, and she could close her eyes if she needed to. I reminded her that she likes skiing, and told her that roller coasters are less scary than skiing because you don’t have to try to keep from falling down. She kept telling me, “Wait, so you actually like roller coasters?” I’d say, “Yes, at least medium-sized ones,” and she’d say, “I just don’t think of you as someone that would like roller coasters.”
In the end I got Mabel talking about collectible Japanese erasers just to try to get her mind off her fear. After a forty-minute wait, we finally we got to the front of the line. Isaac sat by Rose and I sat by Mabel. The coaster has two big downhill dips, and on the first one Rose shouted, “This is going to be awesome!” (But Ike did say later that Rose closed her eyes a lot, and when she had a chance to ride with Dean again later, Rose was willing but a little less enthusiastic.) When the ride was over, Mabel was laughing and ecstatic. She said, “I can’t explain it, but it’s really funny and fun to be so scared.”