Before I begin, I feel obligated to inform you all that this a sequel to my previous blog post about the cross-country trip I took with my oldest son. It's not a prerequisite that you read, "Take Flight," but contextually, you may understand the jumping off point for this post a bit better. With that said, let us begin.
It's four o'clock in the morning, west coast time. I am awoken from my deep slumber by child-like whines and rustling. My son taps lightly on the guest room door of my sister and brother-in-law's home where I am attempting to fall back asleep.
"Daddy," he whimpers, "I'm so hungry. Can I have some cereal, please?" Oh, dear God.
"Please, go back to bed," I groan sleepily. I'm exhausted, and if I'm being honest, a little hung over. This is supposed to be a vacation after all. The boy is not having that, however. He's up with his intensely strong internal clock that is telling him it's seven a.m. EST. and is full of energy. But we're not home on the east coast. And this is the third morning in a row that this has happened! I thought he would have adjusted by now. No such luck.
I laboriously roll out of bed and pad downstairs to fix him breakfast, turn on some cartoons, and promptly try to fall back asleep on the couch.
"Daddy," the boy delightfully gargles through a mouth full of half masticated Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. "We go to LEGOLAND today?" We've had this conversation every day for the last three mornings. He's nothing if not persistent. However, today I finally get to say, "yes!"
His excitement unfortunately deflates into a frown when I tell him we need to wait for his Auntie, Uncle, and cousin to wake up. He knows he's gotten up too early again and it will be a while before anyone pops their head out of their bedroom doors. After this realization, he reluctantly allows me to close my eyes and rest a little before the house is buzzing with LEGOLAND preparation. I will brush his teeth before we leave. For now...sleep...and tylenol.
Somehow, we make it through the next few impatient hours (I was woken several times throughout this period of time) and my sister and I finally load the two boys in the car - ready to set forth. Cheers of jubilation are shouted at full volume as my Brother-in-law pulls out of the driveway.
"We're going to LEGOLAND!"
The cheers eventually die down to whiny moans from my kid. The car ride is well over an hour and he cares nothing for the beautiful coastal scenery the rest of us are taking in. My boy, who doesn't do well on long rides, does not feel great. I repeatedly check on him, ensuring a vomit bag is at his disposal should he need it and I whisper a prayer of thanks as he somehow survives the whole trip without puking. However, he does suddenly proclaim that he wants to go home just as we pull into the LEGOLAND parking lot. HOME! I sigh and pick him up out of his car seat. I try my best to console him and reinvigorate his excitement as we walk to the entrance, biting back frustration. All to no avail. The picture by the gate is nothing like I imagined it would be.
Thankfully, the line moves quickly as we flash our pre-ordered passes (thanks again to my wildly generous sister and Brother-in-law) and move through the gate. My sister grabs a double stroller for if and when the kids get tired, we can wheel them around without any hassle This proves to be a brilliant idea.
We pass the large kiosk that will guide us through the park and my son somehow immediately spots the fold-out maps. As I explained in my previous post, he is obsessed with maps. He begins to take the lead on where we need to go, even though he has no idea what he's pointing at. We placate him for a short while, but we were not going to let a bossy 5-year-old walk us around in circles all day.
Both boys, but especially mine, were getting rather moody early on and my original elation for visiting the park was melting into a deep, anxiety ridden, nightmare. My sister thought to get into the long line at a burger shack while My brother-in-law and I took the boys on a ride. My kid wanted to race at the racetrack and get this cool driver’s license with his picture on it and my nephew went to the helicopter ride with his dad. Fine. We took my son's photo at the booth and got in line for the cars, the employee (who gushed over how adorable the child was) said the license would be ready by the time we got through the line to the ride. The line was at least 40 minutes long and by the time we had finally reached the front, my little monkey had zero interest in sliding into one of those tiny go-karts (I was too big to ride with him) and began balling. It took all my strength not to lose my cool, but I certainly must have looked like I was going to kill someone because it was like the red sea parting as I stormed back through the maze of people to exit the ride.
We circled back to the photo booth, hoping I could salvage something of the experience. When he saw his picture on that license it was the first time he had smiled since we pulled into the parking lot. My nephew and his dad hadn't finished their ride yet as the line for the helicopter was longer than ours somehow. So, my sister was waiting by the tables with all our food ready to go. Soon we were all mowing delicious hamburgers and fries causing spirits to spike immensely. We navigate the park easily from there, finding the shortest lines for rides, watching the boys squeal with glee. All the anxiety and anger floating out of me as I watched the two boys run crazy.
I did fail at winning a prize at the games which broke my heart looking at my kid's face when he didn't get the huge bear I told him I'd try to win. But those games were ten times more expensive to play than standard carnival games, so I couldn't justify wasting my money. Instead we got them both toy Lego swords that lit up for less than what I would have spent playing the games and the kids jousted all day with them.
We found a few more rides with short lines that they enjoyed and one that my boy was sadly too short to get on. His disappointment sent my soul into the depths of despair as I watched him fight back tears in front of the ride operator who did seem genuinely sorry. My sister offered to let him run wild and get whatever he wanted in the Lego store as an extra birthday gift, which obviously lifted his spirits. We walked him through the endless walls of Lego sets and the boy insisted on a strange unicorn headband and glasses combo and a small five-dollar Lego boat package, refusing to get anything else. My sis certainly got off easy there. That said, she purchased the plane tickets and the park entrance fee, so I think it was just a silent nod of thanks to the most excellent family a man and his boy could hope for.
Then we had to leave...and hell, once again, broke loose. But that's a whole other thing.
All in all, it was an amazing vacation and the flight back was top notch, no hiccups. I will always remember how much fun we had, but I am enjoying getting back to my normal routine. I missed my wife and younger son terribly and so did my eldest. Another nod of thanks to my sister and her family for graciously hosting us on a wonderful trip! But it is nice to be home, sweet, home.
p.s. This is what I looked like the rest of the evening after the LEGOLAND excursion. The boys tried slaying the unicorn with their swords all the way up until dinner. Good times.