Congratulations! You’ve been selected by GigaSavvy as a VIP member to attend…
Those weren’t the exact words, but still.
Spam. UGH. I hated getting all excited when my phone told me I had an email on the weekend, only to find out it was just junk mail. I slipped my phone back up on the mantel and went back to herding the boys.
Monday morning was busy, so it was almost noon before I had a break to check my emaill. A little bored, I decided to actually read the email before completely deleting it.
Boy, am I glad I chose to do that.
It wasn’t spam. It was a legitimate email from a marketing company, inviting me and my family to Knott’s Berry Farm’s Camp Snoopy.
It took a moment to sink in but when it did……Holy crap. My writing just got us into Knott’s Berry Farm for FREE. There would be breakfast with The Peanuts Gang. There would be rides. There would be costumes and candy.
Did I mention there would be rides? And that it was free? And that they chose me because of this blog? And that it was free?
Did I mention that I have a slight obsession with free stuff? I’d probably line up to get my head chopped off if someone advertised it as a “Free Guillotine Ride!”
bouncing around and squealing in excitement for the better part of a day calmly sharing the news with friends and family, I did what any good parent would do:
I immediately set about hand sewing two adorable, classy little costumes made out of organic dye-free hemp.
Ha. Haha. Ha.
No, I didn’t. I procrastinated about getting the boys’ costumes all week long, waiting until the last possible moment on Friday evening after a long day of work. I decided to ignore the fact that it was dinner time and that we were all cranky and chose instead to drag two tired, hungry children to a Halloween Superstore.
The flickering lights, demonic masks, lifesize blood-covered dummies and soundtrack of anguished screams were all a REAL hit with the DragonMonkey.
About fifteen seconds after we entered the store, he began pulling at my pants leg. “No yike. No yike dis. No yike.”
“Shhhh. It’s okay. We’ll be out of here soon”.
“Here, it’s okay. Oooh, look at this!”
“No Yike. Outside. Pease.”
“This is a cute costume. Your baby brother could be a fishie! And look, it’s on sale. What do you think, should The Squid be a fishie? Seems kind of appropriate, right?”
“NO! NO FISHIE! OUTSIDE!” He stared in horror at the wiggling skeleton above him.
“DragonMonkey, don’t look at that. It’s just… it’s fake. It’s silly. We’ll be out of here soon. Don’t be scared.
“DM, give me thirty more seconds. That’s all I need. Please.” I knew I had about 30 seconds before I had a full-blown meltdown, but if I could just pick something reasonably priced in the next 30 seconds…
“OUTSIDE! OUTSIDE! OUTSIDE! NO YIKE! OUTSIDE! OUTSIDE! OUTSIDE!”
His volume was increasing, and he was tugging even more earnestly at my pants, trying to lead me out of the store.
“Baby, it’s okay… Don’t be scared. We, uh… we just need to find you a costume. Squid will wear the fish, and you will get….” I reached down and snagged his collar as he tried to bolt. He twisted, whines building up. Uh-oh. I recognized that look. I had about two seconds before we had a complete, screeching, red-faced/sweaty meltdown. “Without a costume you can’t ride the train tomorrow!” It was mean of me, but it got him to stop and think.
“No twains?” He chewed his fingers, shifting his weight nervously.
“No. No trains. Knott’s Berry Farm won’t let you on without a costume.” I was rifling through the packages at top speed, trying to find anything…ANYTHING that would fit him. It didn’t matter if it was a fairy Princess or a clown costume… just please…. something that would fit him…..
The skeleton above us, apparently set to go off at intervals, came to life with a howl, shaking suddenly, eyes flashing red.
“NO TWAINS! NO TWAIN! OUTSIDE! NO YIKE!” He screeched and pressed close, jostling me, and I dropped the fish costume.
“Fine, DragonMonkey, we’ll leave.” I bent down to pick up the fish costume I’d dropped to return it to the hanger, and by the time I stood up, he was gone.
I was standing in the middle of an empty aisleway, baby on my hip, fish costume in my hand, and no DragonMonkey to be seen, anywhere.
With a heavy sigh I dropped the costume and trotted to the front of the store, certain I’d find him there.
I checked a nearby aisle.
I checked another nearby aisle.
Losing your 2 year old in a store is such a fun, calming, totally not-panic-provoking experience.
I found him about a minute later, but oh, what a long minute that was.
I located him when I finally heard a familiar screech. I bolted over to find him crouching away from a snarling witch mannequin, sweaty, crying, and trembling with terror.
“Aww, baby, come here.” I picked him up with a grunt, ignoring the fact that he was choking me with his clinging grip and lumbered outside of the store, doing my best to keep Squid from lunging over and pulling his brother’s hair.
I popped them both in the car and headed over to bright, happy, non-ghoulish Target, where to my delight I was able to find a pair of pinstriped overalls in the little boys section. One red handkerchief later and we were done.
He could wear his Thomas the Train hat and be a train conductor.
The Squid could go dressed as an 8 month old baby.
Like a responsible adult, I put off getting everything ready until the next morning.
I also failed to set my alarm clock properly..
If being a mom was a job, I’d probably be fired.
Instead of everyone skipping into the car, well-fed, dressed, and in happy moods, 7:15 in the morning found our house in utter chaos. The Squid was howling, DragonMonkey was jumping up and down on the furniture squealing, “Twains! Twains! Wide Twain! Wide Twain! Twain? Twain? Wide Twain!”The Bean was loading the stroller in the car and I was slapping together Gluten-free ham and soy cheese (eww) sandwiches and other snacks. Breakfast might have been provided, but the DragonMonkey is apparently allergic to everything except noise so we we always have to bring our own food.
We arrived 45 minutes late and stood at the back of a small group of latecomers. I hadn’t been to Knott’s Berry Farm in years, and neither had The Bean. I think we were both more excited than the DragonMonkey. It was exactly the same as I remembered it – wooden planks and warm western decorations clashing with the brightly colored roller coaster tracks twisting overhead, promising excitement.
Nothing had changed a bit, not even me.
Ha. Ha, ha, ha.
The last time I was there I wore stretchy jeans and tennis shoes – the better to run in. I had a flat stomach and a smaller butt, and I crowded the gate at opening time and dashed headlong along the aisleways to the best rides so I could be first in line, laughing with friends and reveling in my freedom. I carried a wallet, and an extra scrunchy around my wrist to hold my hair back (in case the first one broke.)
This time I had a husband, a baby, a toddler, a double stroller, a diaper bag, a bigger butt, a bag of lunches, a baby blanket, two binkies, a nursing cover, an extra pair of pants for the DragonMonkey (just in case), two hats, my purse, my phone, a sippy cup, and, of course, an extra scrunchy to hold my hair back, in case the first one broke.
Ah, well. I guess if I were feeling optimistic I could add “cleavage” to the list above. There are some benefits to being a nursing mom.
We stood at the back of a group of stragglers as a woman with a badge handed out flyers, VIP wristbands – and cowboy hats.
“Oooooh!” I brightened as she handed us a stack of four hats. Fun!
I immediately put on one The Squid – it fell around his ears, blocking his view. He began whining.
I sighed, took it off, and tried to put it on The DragonMonkey, who ducked and twisted away. “No. No wide howsies. Wide TWAIN,” he said forcefully. No way. Uh-uh. He wasn’t falling for it – if I put a cowboy hat on him, that meant he would have to ride a horse, and he was here for the TWAINS.
I sighed again, and put the hat on my own head — where it perched uncomfortably high, several sizes too small.
And NO, I am not full of hot air – I have a big brain. That’s why my head is big. Yeah, that’s it.
With an even bigger sigh, I tried transferring the hat to The Bean – who stood there stoically, staring at me with one eyebrow raised as I placed it on his head.
“You look good!” I said hopefully.
“Are you done yet?” He stood there, waiting for me to take it off.
I snagged the hat off of his head and stuffed the stack of hats grumpily into the overflowing double stroller. Fine. No hats for anyone. We’d all just be hatless, and get skin cancer from the sun. See if I cared.
We followed a volunteer past the front gates and western-themed stores and paraphernalia and up to the restaurant at the entrance to Camp Snoopy— or rather, since it was Halloween time, Camp Spooky. I’d never been in the park before it opened, so it was kind of exciting. The decorations were light and tasteful – a couple of cobwebs, etc, etc. It had a nice Halloween-ey feel without creeping the kids out.
We parked the stroller in a small herd of strollers and set about unloading. I handed the baby to The Bean and unstrapped the DragonMonkey from the stroller. All around us there were parents with children in various adorable costumes, all of them smiling politely and clutching their parents’ hands happily.
“Welcome to Camp Snoopy!” said one of the volunteers brightly. “Would you like to follow me?” A group of well-dressed, polite, VIP-type families began calmly ascending the stairs.
“TWAIN!!!!!” shrieked the DragonMonkey, twisting out of my grasp and bolting in the opposite direction at approximately 37 miles per hour.
I bolted after him, catching up after a couple of steps and grabbing his hand to drag him back to the group. I was blushing. He was not.
“Is this where we get breakfast?” I tried to seem intelligent, mature, and a respectable, good mother, but the DragonMonkey had other plans. Why were we wasting our time here? There were twains to be ridden.
“Twains! TwainsTwainsTWAINS!” He shouted happily, twisting out of my grasp again and bolting in the other direction.
This time, when I caught him, he fought me, twisting wildly and letting his legs buckle out from underneath him. “Twaaains! Twaaaaaaains!” he screamed.
I grabbed him by the back of his overalls and marched back to the restaurant, carrying him beside me like an angry, striped, howling little briefcase. He was beyond discipline – all of his little neurons were on sensory overload.
“Is this where we eat?” I gestured with my chin at the restaurant, ignoring the raised eyebrows on the volunteer. Whatever. Judge all you want, lady – let’s see you do any better.
“TWAINS!” howled the DragonMonkey.
“Uh, yes. This is breakfast – just head on in.”
“Thanks,” I said, starting up the steps.
“TWAAAII—“ And then, suddenly, there was silence, and the thrashing bundle under my arm went still.
There, in the doorway, stood a giant masked figure. The notice had said we would be invited to a complimentary breakfast with “The Peanuts Gang!” I anticipated Snoopy, or Charlie Brown.
I had no idea who the costumed person in the doorway was supposed to be, but as far as I could tell, it was “Leprosy Man”.
Look, I’m sorry if that’s not PC, but that’s what he looked like.
He was dressed all in black, with a flowing red hood, and had a giant, misshapen, lumpy face and goggly eyes. He blocked the doorway, and waved cheerfully – which was at complete odds with his “I’m-Going-To-Kill-You” mask.
(Hello. Welcome to Camp Spooky. Please come closer so I can eat your soul.)
The DragonMonkey instantly went into prey mode – maybe if he was still, Leprosy Man would be distracted and wouldn’t see him. He was hanging tense and silent from his overall straps, so I lifted him up to my hip. He buried his face against my shoulder and his hands tightened painfully around my neck.
He wasn’t the only one.
“Daaaadddy!” shrieked the little girl ahead in front of us as she scrambled up into her father’s arms.. “No! Make him go away!”
“No yike,” The DragonMonkey whispered in my ear. “No yike. No.”
“DADDDY! NO! Make him GO!” the little girl shrieked.
“No yike,” DM whispered again.
Hey, Knott’s Berry Farm? When hosting an event for little bitty kids, you may want to rethink having Leprosy Man as the door greeter. It’s just a thought.
Breakfast was a short, noisy affair. The Bean and I ate. DragonMonkey screamed “TWAIN!” at regular intervals. Eventually we managed to convince him that it was too early morning and that the trains were barely waking up and were off brushing their teeth.
Then, instead of hearing “TWAIN?” screamed every two minutes, we heard “BWUSH TEETH?” It wasn’t much better, but after hours of “TWAIN?!” hearing anything else was kind of a relief.
Trains are very big on oral hygiene. Didn’t you know that?
The Squid smiled placidly from his car seat before falling asleep for the next few hours.
Snoopy came by to say hi, but after his encounter with Leprosy Man the DragonMonkey wanted nothing to do with him. Snoopy did an admirable job trying to seem friendly and approachable – he knelt down, waved, pretended to be sad that the DM found him scary, and otherwise did everything possible to seem sweet and adorable. I bought into it.
“Awww, DragonMonkey, look! Snoopy likes you! Look, that other kid likes him!”
“No yike,” The DragonMonkey whispered tensely, poised to either bolt or scream. No way. He wasn’t going to fall for the nice act. Snoopy obviously liked to suck children’s brains out of their heads with a giant straw.
“You’ll be fine, little man. Come on. I’ll hold you. We can go together.”
Okay, fine. No picture with Snoopy.
Breakfast was tasty but not terribly memorable, Being the incredibly observant parents that we were, The Bean and I never realized that DragonMonkey’s breakfast was served in an adorable little lunchbox. We thought it was just a piece of red plastic and we threw it away when we were finished with our meal. We didn’t realize our mistake until about an hour later.
“Do you think… uh…. Do you think they’ve emptied the trash cans where we tossed it?” I glanced at The Bean. What I was really asking was whether he would be extremely embarrassed to be seen with me if I started digging through the trash in public.
“YES. The trash cans have DEFINITELY been emptied.” Translation: If you go dumpster diving I’m drawing up divorce papers.
I moped about for a few minutes before I had the bright idea of begging a new lunchbox off of the kitchen crew.
They were incredibly gracious and gave us another one.
I was annoyed when The DragonMonkey saw me with it and claimed it for his own. Being the adult sucks sometimes. I’m still waiting for him to get tired of it so I can steal it back.
After that, the day kind of blurred. Chasing two kids around a theme park is exhausting, but worth it. The rides were pretty incredible. Going out in public with The DragonMonkey is usually a chancy affair at best, but this time we. HAD. A. BLAST.
We had the park practically to ourselves for the first bit. It was pretty cool. The DragonMonkey went on all the rides.
He jumped on the bouncy house.
He flew the airplanes.
He rode in the little cars and smiled the whole time.
He rode in the little semi trucks with the annoyingly loud horns and smiled the whole time.
He pushed the kid ahead of him on the little go-cart ride and smiled the whole time.
He smiled the entire time we were at Camp Snoopy. I didn’t even know that was possible. I knew he had that many teeth, but that’s only because we’re used to seeing them while he’s in the middle of a meltdown.
Even The Bean had fun. At one point the Squid got hungry, so we took a break in the shade while The Bean snuck off to ride one of the big roller coasters. When he came back he was smiling and relaxed. If you look, you can see him waving happily to us, swinging his feet like a little kid.
I don’t think I’ve seen him that happily relaxed in months.
After the rest of the park opened we left Camp Snoopy and went to visit the trains.
Yook! A twain! Yook! Yook! Yook! YOOKYOOOKYOOKYOOK!
Once we boarded the the train, the DragonMonkey became very quiet and very still.
Apparently riding in a train is something to be taken very seriously.
Hey, DragonMonkey. Psst… Over here.
No, over HERE.
How do you feel about being here at Knott’s Berry Farm on a train – an actual, moving, chuffing, train? Are you enjoying yourself? How do you feel about Camp Spooky?
Yeah. Me too.
As far as I can tell, Knott’s Berry Farm sprinkles Kid Crack on their streets every morning. You know what? I’m cool with that. Sprinkle away – if it can produce happy, relaxed DragonMonkeys, I’m all for it.
I mean, last night (in a fit of spite after I told him he couldn’t jump on the couch anymore) the DragonMonkey snuck into the bathroom and got the toilet brush – oh, yeah. THAT toilet brush. The one that makes your skin crawl at the thought of touching it? The one I keep meaning to sanitize after I scrub our toilets?
When I heard the ruckus in the kitchen I thought he was playing drums with the kitchen utensils. Silly me. He was actually systematically “washing” all of pots and pans with the toilet brush.
When I took too long noticing how “bad” he was being he came over, grabbed me by the hand, led me into the kitchen, pointed at the disaster and said, “UH-OH. Bad.” You know, just in case I couldn’t realize on my own how horrified I was supposed to be.
If I’m really nice, maybe Knott’s Berry Farm will give me some Kid Crack to sprinkle in my house, too? Pretty please? With sugar on top?