Monday, April 13, 2009

Hakuna Matata!

Well, that was quite a weekend we just had here in the Smith family. One of those "I need a weekend to get over my weekend" type deals. It all started bright and early Friday morning, when we loaded up Ye Olde Minivan and headed west to Lansing, Michigan. Why'd we do that, you ask? Because Lansing is where the national tour of The Lion King happens to be playing right now.

You see, Kiddo is a bit of a musical theater nerd, just like her mama. Kiddo also is completely obsessed with The Lion King. She claimed my OBC soundtrack for her own years ago, and has since memorized every word, note, grunt, roar and snort therein. We own the movie, which she has watched at least a million times. We have the storybook version of The Lion King, which she has read at least two million times. She has not one, but two Simba stuffed animals. Every year when we go to Walt Disney World, we see the Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom, and Kiddo is rapt throughout. So, a few months ago, Hubby and I were talking about how much we thought Kiddo would enjoy seeing the actual stage production. Our first thought was, of course, Broadway, where we had seen TLK many, many moons ago ourselves. Hubby hopped online and quickly discovered that these days, a ticket to TLK costs approximately four arms and three legs, especially multiplied by three. On to the next thought - perhaps the national tour would be coming back to our fair city sometime soon? Hubby looked into it and discovered that sadly, no, it isn't going to be stopping back here in the near future. That was when he discovered that the tour would be playing in Lansing in April. Some further research led him to the conclusion that we could get three awesome seats and a hotel room overnight for less than what it would cost us to see the show on Broadway (which would include free lodging at Chez Grandparents in Jersey). Furthermore, Google Maps informed him that driving from our house to Lansing takes almost exactly the same amount of time as driving from our house to Chez Grandparents. Seemed like a no-brainer to us, so we ordered the tickets, made the hotel reservation and put a big star on the calendar.

So there we were, setting out Friday morning, Kiddo watching the first of her vast Veggietales DVD collection, Hubby and I overcaffeinating with Wild Cherry Diet Pepsi and Mountain Dew Code Red, respectively. Now, the thing about driving mostly due west from our home is that it takes us a bit out of the country:

And it turns out that this is the more direct route than staying in the US and going the long way around the eastern Great Lakes. We had renewed our passports and gotten Kiddo her very first passport a few months ago in anticipation of this trip, so we weren't sweating it. We made good time over the border into Canada, stopping for a quick bathroom break during which Kiddo had to go sit next to "the really shiny guy" on the bench inside the Duty Free shop...

We continued on our way through what must surely be one of the most boring stretches of eastern Canada (no offense intended to the lovely inhabitants of this section of the country; I know anyone would have the same impression should they be driving along the NYS Thruway in our neck of the woods as well). It was so boring that I promptly fell asleep, as I am wont to do whenever I'm in a car anyhow. I was awakened from my midmorning nap a short while later by the energetic and loud serenade of a bunch of singing vegetables - Kiddo had decided to remove the headphones connecting her ears to the portable DVD player (and seriously, was there ever a better invention for the sanity of all adults on long car rides than the portable DVD player? I know that as a child, we made several long car trips - I'm talking NJ to Florida and back length trips - and I know that I certainly would've appreciated the opportunity to gorge myself on repeated viewings of Dirty Dancing or Pretty in Pink or A Chorus Line, the Movie instead of playing endless rounds of Herbie Car - what my family called Punch Buggy - or "Mom, she's touching me! She's on my side!" and praying that my Walkman batteries wouldn't run out before lunch....). The Veggietales crew might provide wholesome and often humorous entertainment, but they certainly do not provide good lullaby-esque music by which one can nap, especially when the portable DVD player is strapped to the headrest directly behind one's head.

We zipped along through Canada, feeling like we were driving much faster than we actually were thanks to the cute, metric speed limits (100 KPH? Wow, we must be flying!) and in no time, we were circling 'round Lake Huron and approaching the US Border once more. We were getting hungry, but Hubby refused to stop at any of the Fifth Wheel Truck Stops we'd passed for lunch despite my begging (come on now - they had HUGE signs proclaiming BREAKFAST ALL DAY, and we were in Canada, where they surely have maple syrup instead of Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth, right?). We pulled up to the bridge back into the US and promptly came to a



It turns out that many, many Canadians really wanted to head into Port Huron for Good Friday. Who knew? We sat on the scary, heart-stoppingly high bridge over the lake for a good ninety minutes. Plenty of time for me to get this shot of the beautiful view of the sparkling, clear blue waters of Lake Huron out my window:

When we were finally back in the US of A, we stopped at the first Golden Arches we came across that we could see from the highway. That is one of Hubby's Road Trip Rules: it isn't enough to see a sign telling you there is a Mickey D's or Wendy's or gas station at the next exit, the actual building itself must be visible from the highway or you do not pull off the main road. This rule came about after one too many frantic attempts to get gas or change a blow-out diaper where we found ourselves traipsing about the dark, back woods of Nowhere, PA, driving further and further from the main road and in some cases, unable to get right back on to the highway where we exited. So, after a later-than-we'd-planned-for lunch, we trekked onwards, finally arriving at our hotel in West Lansing.

We stayed at a Residence Inn, which meant we had a suite with kitchenette instead of just a room. Kiddo was extremely excited to learn that she was sleeping on the magical sofa that would transform into a bed just for her. We didn't disabuse her of the idea that it was a special treat to sleep on the pull-out bed, either. Kiddo and I changed into swimsuits and headed down to the pool (excellent sensory input for her, as well as a way to stretch and burn off some energy after spending almost 8 hours strapped into a booster seat watching animated veggies frolicking about). Unfortunately, we were not the only people enjoying a late afternoon dip. It seemed that the West Lansing Residence Inn was the gathering point for someone's large family function. Could've been a wedding or maybe a large family reunion, but there were fifteen adults and at least two dozen children who all were related/knew each other well already occupying the relatively small pool and hot tub area when Kiddo and I arrived.

Now, when I say "large family reunion" I am not emphasizing it quite the way you'd expect. What I mean to say is, it was a LARGE family. As in "Biggest Loser" large. Now, I am not a small woman. The words "slender" or "svelte" do not ever apply to my person, especially when my person is squeezed into any sort of swimming gear. I freely and openly acknowledge this. However, I was the smallest adult woman in the pool area by at least half. The men were even bigger, and most of the children were equally rotund. Oh, and they were all REALLY, REALLY loud, too. It was insane. Despite the fact that the deepest part of the pool was only 4ft 2in and there were impressive NO DIVING signs on every available surface, the Large Family was diving with abandon. Come to think of it, the amount of water that was being displaced by cellulite and cannonballs probably brought the water down to closer to the two feet deep level, and made a "lazy river rapids" sort of effect all the way around the pool, as well. Consequently, Kiddo and I didn't stay in the pool area for more than 20 or 25 minutes before heading back up to our room, where Hubby had set up the computer (yay, hotel with free WiFi!) and located a nearby Domino's with coupons online and ordered us some pizza for dinner.

Soon enough, we were all bathed/showered and fed and tucking ourselves in to sleep in our respective beds.

Now, remember how I said our suite came with a kitchenette? That kitchenette included a fridge/freezer that had an ice maker as well as a cute, miniature dishwasher. We'd started up the dishwasher after dinner, thinking it would provide a bit of white noise for Kiddo as she was in the front part of the suite, closest to the hallway, and the Large Family were no quieter moving about the rest of the hotel than they were in the pool. Turns out that the teeny-tiny dishwasher operated via a very loud engine. A loud, slow engine that clanked and roared for a good hour after we'd turned it on and tucked her in some eight feet away. Whoops. Eventually, though, the dishwasher wheezed to a halt, the Large Family stopped thundering past our door in the hall, and peace and quiet settled over our suite. Everyone drifted off to sleep, and then the ice maker in the freezer began to work.

This was a Very Special ice maker. When we'd first arrived at the room and were investigating all the features therein, I peered into the freezer and noted the lack of any cubes in the tray below the ice maker. Hubby subsequently jiggled a few bits in the freezer and proclaimed it broken. Not quite. In the wee, small hours of the night, the ice maker decided the time was nigh to produce a cube. One cube. But not just any little cube. The effort required by this machine to produce one cube started off with a noise akin to the Space Shuttle gearing up for blast-off from the launching pad. After ten minutes of this machinery grinding away, building to an ever-crescendoing roar, it popped out its cube with a resounding BANG that sounded like a shotgun being fired, again from mere feet away from my sleeping child. Needless to say, the noise woke me up. The ice maker continued to "work" in this manner irregularly throughout the night, the Space Shuttle crescendoing roar leading up to the shotgun blast of the cube shooting out into the tray. If I didn't know how quietly water actually does freeze, I'd completely believe that this level of ferocity and sound was totally required to fuse those Hs and Os into a solid, cold mass. I do know better, though, so I was not impressed or amused.

At any rate, despite the Thundering Herd of Larges and the World's Loudest Ice Maker, we all managed to get some sleep, if not of the highest quality. (I forgot to mention the West Lansing Residence Inn also featured the World's Worst Pillows. They seemed promising enough, all fluffy and big, but they were of the Insidiously Evil Feather variety, whereupon you rest your head waaaay up on top of a pillow or three, and in mere seconds, your head is down on the mattress with pillow puffed up around your face in a most suffocating-esque way.) Morning arrived, and Hubby took his turn taking Kiddo to the pool. Luckily for him, the Large Family had bypassed the early-morning exercise option in favor of the free, full breakfast offered by the hotel, and he and Kiddo were the only people in the pool area. I opted to surf the 'net and take a super-long shower (yay for endless hotel hot water!). Hubby checked out the breakfast scene on the way back from the pool, and reported upon their return that there was no room at the inn, or at least in the restaurant area. Yep, he'd met the Large Family. He made a few trips from the restaurant to our room instead, bringing us some very tasty breakfast (though I bet not as tasty as breakfast-for-lunch would've been at the Fifth Wheel). We had some time to kill before heading out to the show (remember the show? I know I've spent paragraphs here on the hotel, but really, we were there for the show) so Kiddo watched some TV (including more Veggietales, which are in the Saturday morning cartoon line-up apparently), Hubby "worked" on his computer and I watched vintage Law and Order (oh Jerry Orbach, how I miss you) and napped a bit in the other room, then we nuked some leftover pizza for lunch before packing up our stuff when it was time to head out.

We bid the Large Family and the Residence Inn a fond farewell (Kiddo, in the parking lot, blowing kisses to the building: "Goodbye, Michigan hotel. I'll miss you. I'll come back soon! *mwah*") and made our way to Michigan State University, where TLK was playing, while Kiddo watched our Lion King DVD in the back seat. We drove around campus for a bit and then did some parking garage strategizing to optimize our chances of a quick exit after the show. We paused in front of the theater to get this shot (after Hubby graciously offered to take the same picture for a family that had thought of the idea first)

and then it was showtime! Well, not quite. We couldn't even get into the lobby yet, and stood in the entrance way as Kiddo looked longingly through the doors at the lady setting up the Official Lion King Souvenirs Stand a few yards into the lobby. Finally we could enter the lobby, and we made our way past several OLKS Stands (as well as a few Roasted Nut stands, oddly enough) and up to the balcony level. We found the right set of doors and were told that we'd need to wait a bit more before we could go in, so wait we did. When the doors opened, we discovered that the front row of the balcony at the Wharton Center is not only very high up (I know I've mentioned my utterly incredible fear of heights before) but had a long, sloping ledge off the front down which one could easily slide before plummeting to the orchestra level below. My palms are sweating as I type this just from thinking of it, I kid you not. We settled in for the show, which began after at least a dozen more announcements reminding us in no uncertain terms that photographic or other recording devices were most definitely prohibited.

Finally, finally, finally it was showtime. The lights dimmed, the curtain rose, the music swelled and The Lion King began. We had great seats despite the sickening height, as it turns out. Kiddo was transfixed, and Hubby and I were as captivated by this production as we'd been when we saw the original on Broadway. I briefly regretted not choosing an aisle seat in the orchestra section when the actors made their entrance at the beginning of the show, but at the beginning of the second act, one of the bird actors stood not ten feet away from us, swooping and soaring his bird in circles directly over our head. It was awesome. Kiddo did not like the strobe light/exploding bursts of steam and smoke effects that accompanied some of Scar's "villian" scenes, but was not the least bit upset by the wildebeest stampede (which we'd thought she might find scary). At the intermission, Hubby went off to find some snacks and Kiddo announced she had to use the bathroom, level "emergency" so we joined the line at the ladies' room.

Now, it appeared the balcony seated maybe 800 people or so. It was a near-capacity crowd. There was exactly ONE ladies' room for the entire balcony section. We were maybe 40 or 50 people back in line when Kiddo, who was growing increasingly frantic, told me that she "could feel the pee starting to come out" and I had to make a snap decision. I hoisted her up by the armpits, and bearing her aloft in front of me like a shield, I cut to the front of the line. The woman who was at that point next (along with her maybe 10 or 11 year old daughter) most graciously allowed us to go ahead of them, and I got Kiddo into the stall and on the seat with not even a millisecond to spare. I didn't even bother closing the stall door - I was peeling her tights down as we hustled into the stall. Whew, that was a close one. Since we had cut the line, I didn't feel right using the facilities myself, so I opted to rely upon my Bladder of Steel and we exited the stall as quickly as we could when Kiddo was done. She was apologizing and thanking everyone in line behind us as we washed our hands and made our way back out of the bathroom (and I would like to extend my own apologies and thanks to all the women and girls we cut in front of as well; I know you all had to go, too, and I appreciate your allowing us to avoid a pants-wetting incident that doubtless would not have been pleasant), where we rejoined Hubby who had managed to acquire a small bottle of water, 2 mediocre and very dry chocolate chip cookies and a small bag of chocolate-covered peanuts for approximately $15. That boost of sugar was enough to get Kiddo bouncing, and before we knew it, the show was over and the actors were taking their third (well-deserved) curtain call.

Back out to the garage, where Kiddo changed into her jammies and strapped in to watch yet more Veggietales DVDs (I swear to you, we brought many, many NON-VT DVDs with us as well, but Kiddo was on a veggie kick) and Hubby's pre-show parking strategy worked like a charm, getting us out of the garage and on our way back to Canada in less than three minutes flat. With a few quick stops for bathroom breaks, food and gas, we were back in New York and approaching our town by a little after 11:00 Saturday night. Oh, and for the last hour and a half or so of the ride, we were wowed by the sight of the moon rising low on the horizon. It was so darkly orange that it resembled the setting sun more than the rising moon, and I spent a good twenty minutes trying to take a decent picture of it through the windshield. Sadly, this is the best I could do:

and it doesn't nearly capture the orangey-ness or largeness of what we saw. The higher the moon rose, the less colorful it became, but trust me, it was an amazing sight.

Once we arrived back at the homestead, Hubby carried Kiddo up to bed and I began assisting the Easter Bunny in basket prep and hiding. (Yeah, I know, I should've done that before we left. Idiot.) Thankfully, the late night and excitement of the trip meant Kiddo slept in until 7:40 yesterday morning, instead of being up and in search of baskets at the crack of dawn, as is customary. She found her basket and promptly surveyed the loot brought by Mommy and Daddy the Easter Bunny.

While I was salivating at the sight of Cadbury mini-creme eggs and the giant Gertrude Hawk Chocolate Dinosaur Egg, Kiddo was most excited by the arrival of Pico, the Chihuahua (or Chewawa who is "so cyoot" according to the various odes Kiddo penned later on, during church and afterwards). Kiddo took Pico up to her room to meet the rest of her Stuffed Animal Entourage and I decided the time was right to hide to have the Easter Bunny hide our eggs in the back yard. Hubby was watching golf on TV at this point, so I left him in charge of making sure I the Easter Bunny was not discovered. Imagine my surprise when I came in from the deck to find Kiddo standing in the living room! Shooting Glares of Death at Hubby (who returned them with the Shrug and Raised Eyebrows of "What did you want me to do?"), I quickly explained to Kiddo that I had noticed the empty egg carton in the fridge when I went to start breakfast, so I'd gone outside to see where the Easter Bunny had hidden her eggs this year - in the front or back yard. Kiddo bought the line and insisted upon immediately going out to find the eggs, so we did. Well, by "we" I mean Kiddo and I, as Hubby wisely opted to stay inside where it wasn't a wind chill of 29 degrees. I wound up giving Kiddo "you're getting warmer/colder" type hints just to hurry things along (and because she was really not doing that spectacular a job of finding not-very-concealed, brightly colored eggs) before any of our extremities blackened from frostbite and fell clear off.

Once that was done, we returned inside to thaw and enjoyed some Easter omelets cooked by Hubby, then it was time to get ready for church. (Yay for church that doesn't start until 10:45!) After church, Kiddo played with Pico and the rest of her SAE, Hubby watched golf and I took an Easter nap. But, not before I got a few shots of Kiddo (and Pico) in her Easter ensemble....

Any girl knows that dresses - especially ones with crinolines! - were made for twirling...

In conclusion, Hakuna Matata and He is Risen, hallelujah! Hope you and yours had a wonderful weekend, and a happy Easter or Passover or whatever you may celebrate. Now, stay out of my way as I hit the post-Easter candy clearance bins, okay? At least, stay away from the Cadbury Creme Eggs, as they are MINE!


kwr221 said...

Does your blog have a word count feature? Or did you blow it out? ;-)

Wow, what a busy weekend!

Smoochiefrog said...

I feel exhausted just reading that! :)

Glad you had a fun weekend!

Anonymous said...


Sounds awesome. I definitely want to take the kids to see the show. They haven't even seen the movie yet as it isn't in our DVD collection at this time.

Mammatalk said...

Wow, little lady. Do you type 500 words per minute? :+) Glad you had a lovely time. I love The Lion King.

My name is Andy. said...

I CANNOT believe that you skipped a 5th wheel for a golden arches. Did they let you back INTO Canada for the drive home? I must call those border guards and warn them about your type! Sacrilege!!

but otherwise it sounds like an awesome time!!

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

WOW!!!! girl... that trip was off the hook!!!!!! What a fun time full of memories!!!h

Camille said...

Your family had such a wonderful Easter Holiday! Kiddo looked so pretty in her dress. I loved reading about your weekend! Now, it's time to plan the birthday party!

nikkicrumpet said...

What a fun trip! Your daughter is one lucky lady that you'd go to so much trouble to get her to a live performance! Even with some of the not so fun sounded like it was well worth the trip!

Carrie said...



This is what I get for not reading blogs for a week!!


Sapphire said...

Wow! W.O.W. You sure packed a lot into Easter weekend and into that post!
Everything sounded awesome!