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Sunday, July 22, 2012


Last week my sister, Kathryn, her partner Brian and I took our kids to one of my favorite places: Storyland.  (And yes, we felt awful that Sandi was stuck in the basement of the hospital while we went out and had fun.)

Storyland is an adorable mini-Disneyland for the ten and under set, nestled pristinely in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Our girls have been lucky enough to go nearly every year.  Normally when we take the kids Sandi and I rent a condo and stay for a few nights (it is about 3 1/2 hours drive time from our house) to visit Storyland and nearby Santa's Village (also an amusement park) on a different day.

Both parks are very family oriented. Admission is only $28 per person and they have special deal that allows you to enter after 2 pm and then come back the the entire next day (or any other day in the season) all for that same admission price.  You can bring your own lunch and they have tables set out for the picnicers.  They also have free kennels for pets (lots of their guests are traveling and just stopping on their way through) and free strollers.  Food is reasonably priced and even the trinkets in the stores aren't bad.  All of this allows us a lot of hours of fun at these little pockets of the world where childhood is protected like a secret.  If childhood had a backdrop, it would look just like one from Storyland.

This year, because of Sandi's schedule, the girls and I went down and stayed at Kathryn and Brian's house overnight with a plan to make it a day trip.  Since they are an hour closer, we just got up early, stayed all day and then drove back late.  All seven of us packed into our van (it wrecks my image but it's mighty handy) with snacks, music, toys and LOTS of coffee.

Brian did some route comparison on mapquest and wrote out these tidy directions for me.  I don't know the reason he didn't print them, but I'm glad he didn't because I just love the effort put in with the lines dividing turns and the symbols.

Each year we get a picture of Humpty Dumpty.  It is heartbreaking to see their growth.

Michaela, age 9.5, struggled a little to get into the groove of Storyland for understandable reasons.  We tried to make it really fun despite the young age the park is geared to and it worked in the end.  But it was hard for her, Kathryn and I had to acknowledge that she was outgrowing this magical place.

Case in point, she didn't want to be photographed with Clifford:

We totally did Storyland on a budget.  We shared the cost of gas, paid for admission, packed lunch and got Subway for dinner on the way home.  The only extraneous things I bought were these licenses for the kids ($20-  I wanted them to have the comparison from last year to this year) and ice cream ($6).  The girls each had $10 spending money from their grandparents and didn't ask for a thing.

But those licenses can only mean one thing....yep, look whose driving:

Braeden was content to ride in the back and contemplate his future and whether or not the car really was on rails and just how much he was at Maya's mercy.

Brian and Kathryn:

Milking this cow the highlight of Storyland for many kids and these two were no exception.  What they really loved was squirting each other with the water.

Lot's of stuff is child-sized at Storyland which is, as you would imagine, a riot for children.

Often it is the parents that are the biggest kids among the crowd. It would be hard to describe the enthusiasm my sister and I have for Storyland and our innate planner's minds know how to make the most of the day. 

If you passed by our group, you would think we were in a football game huddle.  "How about if we hit the Polar Coaster and the Dutch Shoes and then swing by the Whirling Whales on our way to the tractor ride?"  Pause for consideration.  "Well, we could do it that way OR because the lines for the Flying Fish get really long after lunch, we could do those first and make our way through the same loop in reverse."

I'm not even kidding. 

I will say that adult enthusiasm and joy for a child amusement park isn't without risk.  I was getting in line for the ballon ferris wheel with Maya, Ella and Braeden.  The cheerful music that comes from colorfully painted mushrooms nestled in the gardens was playing and there was no line.  The sun was shining, the mountain air clean and invigorating. I had a flash of joy and excitement and I ran a few steps ahead to kick my heels up.

And I cleaned poor Maya out at the knees.  She feel down hard on her bottom without warning (luckily on wood).  She cried with the shocked betrayal.  I guess the moral of the story is that even joy, unchecked, can me hazardous to your children's welfare?

It was obvious to see there were same changes in our bigger girls this year.  As I said, Michaela was having a hard time finding her fun groove.  Ella had some preconceived ideas about rides she thought were too scary for her.  (None really are and Maya went on all of them this year.)  When Ella was 2 we came to Storyland with a very pregnant Sandi and Kathryn and Michaela.  The four of us rode the log flume over and over again while Sandi took pictures of our screaming faces on the drop.  Ella had a stuffed toy puppy that she clutched for dear life and she screamed her little heart out and asked each time it was over to go again. 

Then for the past 4 trips to Storyland, she has refused to go on it, saying it is too scary.  I didn't push her but this year I did tell her that she was so much bigger now and that what might have seemed scary at 3 or 4 wouldn't be at 7.  After just one ride down the chute with me, she and Michaela were on their own.  Tall enough to ride without a parent, off they went in those floating logs.  This is Ella: from petrified to brave in a five minute span.  I went from encouraging her to take a risk to riding alone with the little kids, wondering how my girl got so big as to not need me on the "scary" ride anymore. 

Ah, such is parenting.

Michaela, Braeden, Maya and me: 
(I screamed each and every time we went down and, because there were no lines, I think it was like 18 times.)

At the end of the day we packed the tired kiddos into the van and tried to keep them happy for the ride home. As usual when exhaustion hits, my kids take to opposite ends of the spectrum.  Maya gets crazy and increases her volume ten fold and Ella cries.  Braeden was asleep and Micheala content and I had one carrying on like a screech owl and the other wailing to beat the band.  We played music and car games to stem the tide of dissolving children, and even had a family round of kareokee,  making up verse after hilarious verse to the tune of "On top of Spagetti" and that finally got some laughs. 

At one point in the chaos Kathryn turned to me and said, "Wow. Now I totally get why you say you need to get your kids to bed on time."

Okay, girls, I love, love, love you like this.  You are so fun and we can do so much now.  You have stamina and you are well behaved and you get along as friends (finally!) so pretty please, slow it up a little now?


Katie Duffy said...

Wow... I definitely went here with my grandparents when I was little, but I had no recollection of it at all until I read your post! It looks like you had a gaggle of happy kids there. Well played!

Zoe K said...

Why did I never know about this place???

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