Monday, June 24, 2013

Colorado wedding

Just got back from a four-day trip to Colorado to see my niece Emily get married. The highlights:

Thur, 6/20:

Flew on a regular plane from NYC to Denver, then on a rickety prop plane to Farmington, New Mexico. It was a bumpy ride over the mountains, made worse by the fact that the guy sitting next to me eked out a horrid fart, causing the other nine passengers to open our air vents and pretend we didn't notice.

Dinner Thursday night at Francisco's, my favorite restaurant--there were thirty of us in all.

Fri, 6/21:

Rafting down the Animas River with my sister April and her family. Not exactly whitewater, but still fun. Cheeseburger and milkshake afterwards at Sonic.

Rehearsal dinner at a restaurant next to the Durango train depot. This is my niece Addie and nephew Ryan.

Sat, 6/22:
Went to Cascade Canyon with my niece Mary (I have a lot of nieces), her boyfriend Freddie, and a couple of her dancer friends, Neile and Jessica, to wade through icy mountain creek water and jump off some waterfalls. Here we are in the giddy moments before we nearly lost our lives.

The water was ice cold and the current was strong. We had trouble staying on the rocks. At one point we had to slide down a rock into a pool below, and Mary and I both went about ten feet under and had to struggle a bit to get back to the surface. I hit my head on a rock on the way up, lost my hat, and got a mouthful of water.

Then Mary looked downstream and said, "No way. It's too turbulent." The walls of the canyon were steep, and there was no way to go back upstream.

So Mary climbed up a cliff with a 20-foot drop to the rocks below. If you fell it was a broken bone at minimum, but the rest of us decided that was a slightly better option than dying of hypothermia. As the others climbed up I thought, "Well, if I die here, at least the last thing I see will be dancers' butts." Then Freddie went ahead of me, so I willed myself to live.

Here is a picture of someone else, as no photos were recovered from our waterlogged camera.

Saturday afternoon was the wedding, which we were happy to be alive to attend.

My dad officiated the ceremony, even though he is obviously not ordained. If you're allowed to grow your own pot in Colorado, I guess you can also officiate a wedding ceremony.

Here I am with my brother Brad, the father of the bride. Note my new hat, which I bought an hour earlier.

My favorite part was playing with the flower girls...Addie and Adelyn, both missing the same tooth, shy Taylor, Skyler the dancer, Stella, who wouldn't let go of my hand and demanded to be swung in circles until my nose bled, and 4-year-old Lily, who had pretty blue eyes, a pink polka-dot dress, and was just learning to jump rope.

The world would seriously be a better place with more dogs and flower girls.

Sunday, 6/23:
Mary and Freddie picked me up at 9:15 and we climbed Hogsback, the mountain overlooking Durango.

It was much easier when I was sixteen.

Mom and Dad drove me back to the Farmington airport (with a stop at the Wendy's drive-thru for a Frosty), then back onto the prop plane for another bumpy ride to Denver.

Here's my little town of Durango from the air:

I took that photo about five minutes before the guy in front of me threw up. Suffice it to say the plane rides were not the best parts of the trip.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"If you could have one super power..."

Ethan: If you could have one super power, what would it be?

Todd: Invisibility. You could have a lot of fun with invisibility.

Samuel: For me it would be time travel.

Jen: For me it would be healing.

Todd: Healing? Crap, now I'm kind of ashamed that I said invisibility.

Ethan: For me it would be the ability to make bagels magically appear in my hand.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Last day of school

He was slow getting up, as always. I had to throw the covers off of him to get him out of bed and into the shower.

He decided to wear his favorite shirt, a Minecraft Reaper t-shirt, but it was in the laundry, so he went with his second-favorite, the skeleton.

He opted for Cinnamon Toast Crunch over Crunch Berries and Froot Loops. He doesn't like the new Froot Loops with marshmallows because "they just don't go together." Note to Kellogg's consumer research team.

He informed me that he and Brooke are getting married on Minecraft and are going to adopt Dominic, but he is worried that Aaron and Zoey might get married first. He said he might get married someday in real life, but he won't have actual kids because he doesn't like them.

Samuel, meanwhile, has Regents Exams this week, and didn't have to be at school today until 1pm. So while Ethan ate breakfast, Samuel trudged from his bedroom into mine and Jen's, because he likes our bed better. (Jen had already left for work.) He then covered himself with the comforter because Ethan was talking too loudly. It's difficult for Ethan to speak quietly.

On the way up Amsterdam in the cab, Ethan told me that he wasn't excited about the last day of school. For one thing, he probably won't get as much time as he wants this summer to play on the computer. For another thing, there's supposed to be a picnic after school with a water gun fight, and he forgot to bring a swimsuit--or a water gun. So life will be continue to be one misery after another as he leaves the sixth grade behind.

I want to tell him he has nothing to feel miserable about. But I don't have anything to feel miserable about either, and I'm still sad to see him grow up so fast.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

10 best waterparks near New York City

Occasionally I display my altruism by sharing my waterpark secrets. In celebration of summer, here is the holy grail--my overview of all ten major waterparks near NYC.

1. Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, Jackson, NJ

The corporate behemoth option.

Pros: Well maintained, decent sized. It has all the features you'd expect: slides, wavepool, lazy river, and a great play area for little kids.

Cons: Lots of concrete and fiberglass trees. Its location draws people from NYC and Philly, so it tends to be on the crowded side. Also, you will not be able to get the song "Kokomo" out of your head for the next three days.

Distance from NYC: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

2. Splish Splash, Long Island

The really, really crowded option.

Pros: It's large. It's less "fake" than Hurricane Harbor, with natural landscaping and trees. You can get there via LIRR and a bus (but so can everyone else).

Cons: If you added up every single person at every other waterpark on the list on any given day, it would probably not equal the hordes at Splish Splash. I'm being facetious, but not really. Everyone who likes it should keep going there. Please.

Distance from NYC: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

3. Camelbeach, Poconos, PA

The less-well-known option.

Pros: Built on the side of a mountain (it's a ski area in winter). Large, well maintained, and people don't seem to know about it, so it's generally not crowded. One of the best!

Cons: Wee bit of a drive.

Distance from NYC: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

4. Splashdown Beach, Fishkill, NY


The small-town option.

Pros: Locally owned and operated, well run, continues to add new features every couple of years. Less expensive than most. Seldom over-crowded.

Cons: Wave pool is Barbie-sized.

Distance from NYC: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

5. Sesame Place, Langhorne, PA

The little kids option.

Pros: If you love Sesame Street, you'll love it.

Cons: If you hate Sesame Street, you'll hate it.

Distance from NYC: 1 hour, 25 minutes.

6. Wildwater Kingdom (at Dorney Park), Allentown, PA

The faraway option.

Pros: One admission price for the waterpark and amusement park. Big, clean.

Cons: It's almost 2 hours away.

Distance from NYC: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

7. Lake Compounce, CT

The faraway option in the other direction.

Pros: One admission price for waterpark and amusement park (with a hillside wooden coaster). There's also a lakeside beach and a trolley ride.

Cons: The waterpark is relatively small. It's almost 2 hours away.

Distance from NYC: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

8. Mountain Creek, Vernon, NJ

The big-kid option.

Pros: It has the most extreme attractions for big kids: Cowabunga Falls (huge vertical-drop slide), a 20-foot cliff jump, Tarzan swings. Built of the side of a mountain, with lots of trees and grass.

Cons: It's an "early" waterpark, and several of the attractions feel homemade and slightly dangerous. Or maybe that's a pro?

Distance from NYC: 1 hour, 15 minutes.

9. Runaway Rapids, Keansburg, NJ

The fast, cheap option.

Pros: One of the less expensive waterparks, due to its smaller size. Food and parking are also reasonable.  It is best for younger kids, and the lines are relatively short. And it's the closest waterpark to NYC!

Cons: It's smaller, and Keansburg can be a bit seedy. In short, it's good if you're in a hurry, on a budget, and want to say you went to a waterpark--or if you live in Keansburg.

Distance from NYC: 1 hour.

10. Great Wolf Lodge, Poconos, PA

The indoor option.

Pros: It's open 365 days a year. It's family oriented, with mostly younger kids. It's well maintained. It comes with a hotel room! And you get two full days of access to the waterpark with one overnight stay.

Cons: It's not cheap, particularly on weekends. It's obviously not as large as an outdoor waterpark.

Distance from NYC: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

(2017 Addendum: Since this post was originally published, two more indoor waterparks--Aquatopia and Kalahari--have opened in the Poconos within a few miles of Great Wolf Lodge. All three are terrific. Great Wolf is best for little kids, Aquatopia is best for teens, and Kalahari is best if you have a mix of ages. I haven't anything about Runaway Rapids lately and if I were to write this post again I'd leave it off the list.)