Monday, September 24, 2012

Ahoy, There!

When my kids were little, I took them out on Sundays so Mike could watch the NFL games without having screaming and crying going on in the background.  I can get a little loud with that.

But now that they're older, Sunday time has taken on a new meaning.  After all, Cara will be heading to college next year.   Not only do I want to spend as much time with her as possible.  I want her and Ryan to bond over the "things Mom MADE US DO!" in an effort to foster a "sibling relationship" between them.  As opposed to the simmering hostility and sarcasm that counts as kinship now.

And I want to take Ryan out if only to get him off Xbox.  He's not allowed to play it during the week.  Or Sunday nights.  So unless we're out of the house, he's always scheming to get back on.

Last Sunday, Cara had her usual boatload of homework to do.  She couldn't come out with me and Ryan -- to take a stab at kayaking or canoeing around the Meadowlands.

Ryan: "Mom, seriously, I do NOT want to do that!"

Me: "Why not?  It's nice out, we'll be on the water.  We've never done it before."

Ryan: "Exactly!  We've never done it before and we could tip over, or get lost or some animal or giant snake could come along...."

Me: "Ry, end it.  You're done with the Xbox for the weekend.  Put on your water sandals and get in the car."

He yanked on his Nike basketball sneakers and proceeded to punctuate the short ride to the Secaucus paddling station with banter like:

--"What kind of parent makes their kid DO something like this?!  I mean, kayaking??"

--"I'm not paddling.  I'm not.  Just so you know.  You're on your own."

We passed some "Live Dinosaurs!" park on our way to the boating area.

Ry: "What's that?  I'd go to that."

Me: "We'll do that another day.  I really want to try the boating."

We got to the paddling station and told the girl that was running it that her we wanted a rental.  She told me I couldn't take Ryan out unless another adult was with us.  I swear to you, while my mouth was hanging open trying to process this rule, Ryan suddenly went from Mr. I Hate The World to Ryan, The Agreeable Chum.  The girl said, "Sorry," and made a sad face.  Ryan was like, "Aww, it's okay," and waved good-bye.

We got back in the car.

Ryan: "HA!"

Rather than make him walk home, I opted to continue my quest to keep him off Xbox, and said we could check out the "Live Dinosaurs."


After I paid $10 to park in what I thought was a county parking lot, Ryan decided this looked too babyfied.

Ryan: "Mom, these kids are all in strollers!"

Me: "They're not ALL in strollers.  Come on we'll just walk around and kill some time."

Ryan: "I could be home on Xbox with my friends right now.  Instead, I'm walking around with babies and strollers.  I'd rather go KAYAKING."

Of course he would.

We walked up to the entrance, and I saw a ticket window.  I have no idea why I thought this dinosaur thing was part of the county park system, other than the fact that it's located at the ENTRANCE to Laurel Hill Park, a Hudson County-owned public land.  But apparently, it's not park operated.  By which I mean, its entry fees rival Six Flags.

This place was $25 for adults and $20 for kids 12 and younger.   Plus tax.  Plus that parking fee I just paid.  I was like, "Really?  I'm going to spend $60 to keep Ryan off Xbox for two hours, so I can listen to him complain about babies and strollers the whole time??"

I went back to the parking attendant, who knew exactly why I was walking up to him, got my $10 back and told Ry we were going on a walk.

"Who does this?!  I could be on Xbox! What kind of parent FORCES their kid to walk around parks to kill time?"

Gluttons for punishment, I would imagine.
We saw a plane heading to Newark, flying so low we could clearly see its landing gear.


We saw a bunch of older dudes with mega remote-controlled planes and helicopters.  We saw a retaining wall with water and lots of small fish.

And that's when I saw THE RACCOON walking on the other side of the iron fence.  In broad daylight.  It was a teachable moment and I told Ryan to get back because it could be rabid, since raccoons are nocturnal.  And then I told him to hold the water bottle while I took a picture.

Ryan: "Oh, I have to get back, but you're getting closer to take pictures.  What if it jumps through the fence?"

Me: "Raccoons don't jump.  And it can't squeeze through the bars of this..."

Suddenly, it was through the bars of the fence.

But just as quickly it went back, eventually sauntering into the trees and down toward the river.  So I told Ry we should continue the walk.

Ryan: "My god!  We just saw a rabid raccoon.  Planes are practically landing on our heads.  What will it take to make you stop and just go back to the car??  A bear coming at us?!"

Readers, I know you're all jealous of the fun I was having.  I continued down the path, determined to get to the end, or see if it looped around, whatever.  And when I say path, I don't mean some muddy, unmarked, backwater trail.  I mean a wide path of stone pavers.  Imagine the Yellow Brick Road, only not yellow.  This was the madness I was foisting upon my youngest child.

Just was we reached the end, Ryan saw a big turtle.

Ryan: "Mom, quick, look!  A turtle!"

Me: "Wow -- that's really big!  Hold the water bottle while I take a picture!"

Again, you live you learn.  Who knew that just because turtles have no ears, they'll move as quickly as their stump legs will allow to hide from people who are yelling and running towards them?  It disappeared into the meadow reeds.

Ryan: "Great.  The ONE THING that wasn't a fail, and you don't get a picture."

Ah, I don't know.  I think we had many, many priceless moments.

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