During our recent vacation to the Jersey shore, we took the kiddos to a small scale amusement park on LBI. The south side of LBI (Long Beach Island for the uninitiated) has an amusement park called Fantasy Island. It’s surrounded by shops, a little mall, eateries, an arcade etc etc… all the trappings for separating you from your money with some enjoyable summer fun. We had planned this excursion in exacting detail. When you have small children, planning is a must. There are schedules around naps, food, and behavior that must be maintained or you’re walking a dangerous line with meltdowns and ruined expectations.
We targeted Friday, because every Friday during the summer Fantasy Island has a Pay one Price deal for kids – pay a flat rate and they get a wrist band for access to all the rides from 4-7pm. Naturally every parent within a 20 mile radius shows up at 3:45pm with the same plan. We left early, as it was a 30 minute drive, calculating that we’d get naps from both girls on the way. We had snacks, and tokens in our pockets so we could ride alongside Little Miss on some rides if she wanted company. Our plans were set.
All in all things went swimmingly at first. We hit the mall, and got ice cream. Red got a coffee while Little Miss worked on spreading her ice cream across her head and torso with the efficiency of a veteran 3 year old holding a large melting ice cream cone in August heat. Little Miss got some temporary tattoos, prepping me for the day when she comes home with the Japanese character for ‘love’ on her neck. Daddy purchased Fried Oreos (that’s right, fried oreos) for the family, and Red rolled her eyes but managed to get one down. By the way, if you have the means, I highly recommend a fried oreo, they are choice.
4pm rolls around and we head over to Fantasy Island and get on line for Little Miss’s wrist band. I join the growing troupe of strollers, dads, and baby bjorns as we shuffle towards the ticket shack. Red takes LM to walk around a bit and see what rides she’d like to venture on. The crowds grow, we hit some rides, and LM would like to play a carnival game. We’re all familiar with these booths, openly disguised reverse ATM’s where we play some vaguely impossible game to win a 50 cent poorly made stuffed animal from Beijing for $5 a try. LM’s eyes go wide at the walls of stuffies across the booths and we give some games a try. First up was a baseball tossing game – knock down the clowns, win a prize. No luck on this one, you had to hit all 3 clowns and the best I could manage was 2 out of 3 after a couple tries. Okay, that cost about $50, so let’s try something else… aha – basketball. This next game was slightly better odds – overly bouncy balls and small rims, but only 2 out of 3 wins a ‘medium’ prize. Medium = mildly less crappy stuffed animal from Beijing than ‘small’ prizes. Go figure, but Dad-E nets two balls on his first try and Little Miss can pick a prize to her delight. Unfortunately the ‘medium’ stuffies at this booth were a bunch of sports logo bears and of course the brightest one was a neon blue-green Philly Eagles bear which LM picked immediately. Normally I’d rather vomit in my mouth a little than buy something associated with the Eagles (Go Big Blue!), but this was not about me. I bit back my derision and LM got her ugly Eagles bear.
Eventually more family showed up to meet us… we took a break for pizza, and Little Miss Junior started getting tired. Red strapped her into the baby carrier and LMJ fell fast asleep on her chest. Good choice kid. As fate would have it, right at this time Little Miss decides she wants to ride the teacups. Uh oh. This is a ride that Little Miss cannot go on by herself. She is not quite ‘this tall’ per the Russian ride operators measuring stick to spin wildly by herself. Uh oh. The teacups are a wonderfully fun ride that spins you in a tight circle while rotating around an axis at the same time… wonderfully fun if you have the inner ear of a 3 year old. The teacups are also Dante’s seventh level of hell for the 40 year old yours truly. The baby has just fallen asleep on Red’s chest, and there’s nobody else to accompany LM on this ride. I’m trapped. Ok, I’ll take one for the team. I settle into this teacup with LM and her cousin, and we proceed to get wildly ill…. I mean have a blast spinning. Little Miss is delighted, shouting “faster faster!” and giggling while grabbing the center steering wheel and trying to spin our teacup into the ground. I’m wondering why the ride seems to last for hours as we go round and round and I can feel my breakfast looking to make a return visit to my mouth.
Mercifully the ride ends and I stumble off the torture device towards our family, turning a bizarre combination of pale and sickly green simultaneously. LM now wants to ride the merry-go-round… another spinning joy that requires accompaniment given her height… ok, round two for daddy of going in a circle… thankfully this ride is not nearly as fast or painful, but isn’t helping to calm my stomach (who forced that god awful fried oreo on me?!?). The ride ends and the world is tilting like the last stages of the titanic. It’s hot, very crowded, and now I’m sweating buckets and my sea legs are wobbling. Red recognizes that I’m not doing well, and steers LM to another activity that doesn’t require Dad-E vomiting in public.
Uh-oh. Problem. Big Problem. We suddenly realize that ugly Eagles bear is missing. LM doesn’t realize yet because she’s 15 feet off the ground in a spinning swing ride still going in circles and loving it. I can’t even look at her without wanting to gag. I know it’s a crappy stuffed animal, but we’re having a lovely family day, LM had already declared her love for the ugly toy, and Dad-E was a hero winning it the first time… I’m far too proud to bear the meltdown when she realizes we lost it somewhere in the crowds…Ok, time for Dad-E to be a hero again… I’ll just go win her another bear I tell our group, stay here and I’ll be back with ugly crappy Beijing stuffed animal in tow. The moment I try my hand at the basketball game a second time I realize I’m in trouble. It’s a few hours later, I’ve had pizza and quite a bit of spinning, and my ability to sink a basket is severely compromised. My first shot crashed off the back wall and bounced literally out of the booth. My second adjustment shot fell a foot short and well to the right… the world was still spinning. The first go round I won on the first try, $5 well spent, everyone’s happy, and LM gets her ugly eagles bear. This second go round is not going so well. First try, fail. $5. Second try, fail. $5. Third try, fail $5… ok… take a breath. Focus. 4th try… SUCCESS. 2 out of 3 balls wins a crappy eagles bear! So that awful stuffed animal cost $25, Little Miss never knew it was even missing, and Dad-E saves the day without vomiting on his shoes.
All in all, a nice afternoon at the Jersey shore. Thank god she wasn’t old enough for the Buccaneer.