By Shannon, Ladybug’s mama
My jeans don’t fit and Ladybug has at least a dozen new freckles — two signs of a great vacation.
We just got back from nearly two weeks of visiting my husband’s two sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces and a whole lotta extended family that Ladybug and I had never met. My husband hadn’t seen many of the relatives since he’d been a kid growing up in Philadelphia and “walking the boards” down the Jersey Shore.
We started the vacation with a trip to Hershey Park and I immediately began the I’m-on-vacation-and-calories-don’t-count eat-fest. I started with chocolate, of course, in deference to the park’s theme. Ladybug’s daredevil side came out and she wanted to ride anything fast. I was a wimp and let her ride the really fast ones with her dad, Aunt Nancy, Uncle John or the three young sisters who met us at the park. I did risk the log flume and the Ferris Wheel. Yep, call me a wuss, but at least I retained the chocolate bars, hot dog, fries, Pepsi, hot fudge sundae, humongous pretzel and iced tea in my stomach.
The only thing that kept me from having to wear a large tent dress on the plane ride home was all the walking we did. Nancy was wearing a pedometer and we clocked just under eight miles at Hershey Park.
We logged a slew of extra miles during our other adventures on the trip: Adventure Aquarium in Camden, N.J.; the Franklin Mills outlet mall; New York City (Ladybug loved the “U-Nork” subway and the dinosaur bones at the American Museum of Natural History); the beach and boardwalks in Ocean City and Wildwood, N.J.; and the Philadelphia Zoo.
Ladybug has been to visit her aunts and cousins in Philly before, but was much younger then. Now that she’s six, I know she’ll remember this trip. Of course, how could she forget all the cool rides at the amusement park and boardwalks; touching a real starfish with her attorney cousin Kelly at the aquarium; the ice cream cones EVERY SINGLE DAY; walking out of the movie theatre midway through WALL-E with her Uncle John because it just wasn’t her cup of tea; playing with all the cats and dogs (Meanie, Patches, Fluffy, Sadie, Nellie, Max, Cooper and Petunia); riding the Ferris wheel at the three-story Toys ‘R Us in Times Square; boogie boarding on the beach with her 25-year-old museum exhibit coordinator cousin, Sarah, and impromptu 7-year-old friend, Abigail; meeting tons of new relatives ranging in age from the resilient and generous Aunt Peg to 16-year-old Colin, who gamely played basketball with her for several hours; and riding a pony AND a camel as well as getting her face painted like a leopard at the Philly Zoo. (Wow. That list just helped me understand why we’re having such a “fun” hangover right now.)
I certainly know I’ll never forget Cousin Jerry’s pants falling down as he lifted Ladybug up onto his shoulders on the crowded Wildwood boardwalk. They were seriously down around his ankles, but he was holding on to Ladybug and couldn’t quickly pull them up. My sister-in-law Jane had to do the honors.
One lady cackled so hard she doubled over, breathless. “Where is my camera?!” she shouted. “That’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all day!”
Luckily, Cousin Jerry (a retired Air Force officer) has a great sense of humor.
Once he was hitched back up, we continued our sustained march to Groff’s, a boardwalk restaurant that’s been a family favorite for years and years.
I was the Wildwood wild card and didn’t have their famous pie. I went for the hot fudge sundae to share with Ladybug, but only got two bites because I was so busy talking to Aunt Irene about her recipes (I plan to post a few next week) and her up and coming website.
John hadn’t seen Aunt Irene and Uncle Jerry since he spent nearly a summer with them when he was maybe 13. He recalled his first fight ever on the boardwalk, enjoying the chance to reminisce and reunite with some of his blood relations. I know he particularly enjoyed having them meet his little Ladybug.
The next day, as we lounged on the beach, my sister-in-law, Jane, looked over at my husband and Ladybug who were leisurely building a palatial sandcastle together.
She noted with a smile: “You can’t take the Shore out of the boy.”