Adventure! Villains! Bonding! Blueberries! Baseball! Crayons! Chocolate! Those are just a few of the highlights from my recent girls road trip with Belle. Okay, I suppose the trip should more accurately be described as a quick trip to visit family, but “Girls’ Road Trip” just sounds like a lot more fun.
Last fall my husband resurrected the annual Family and Friends Fishing Trip to Canada for our two boys. They and 20 of their closest friends and family members converged on a fishing camp in Ontario for a week of fishing, frolicking and fun. I think the only requirements to join the trip were that you be male and over the age of 5. As I have very little interest in fishing and no interest in roughing it in Canada for 5 days I took no offense to the fact that girls weren’t invited. Belle is even less interested in the outdoors than I am, and so during the trip last year we hightailed it to the American Girl store for a weekend of lunching, shopping and indulging in Godiva chocolates. Never mind that I only ever saw one picture of a fish from that trip, and to my knowledge no actual fish dinners were brought home, the trip was declared a smashing success and repeated again this past week.
Although I had unwittingly started a corresponding girls’ tradition of my own last year, Belle and I actually had to wait until the last minute to plan an outing because it was very possible that our oldest son would still be playing baseball and I would be playing baseball Mom shuttling him to and from practices and games. But, (un)fortunately, the All-Star run only lasted four games and he was free to join the fishing excursion (a great diversion from the sting of defeat). Which meant that I was free to reproduce an equally fun experience for Belle. I decided to play it simple for this trip and suggested we visit her little cousin in N.J. I knew she’d be super-excited to see my brother and sister-in-law and to have the three year old’s attention solely on her.
We downloaded The Isle of the Lost, the prequel to Disney’s Descendants (which airs on Disney Channel on July 31, 2015) from Audible so that we would be up to speed when the new movie premiers, and I must admit the storyline kept us engaged throughout most of our trip (the book was about eight hours read aloud and our total trip was just over 11 hours). Other than a slightly annoying breathy teenage narrator, and some sickenly sweet drawn-out descriptions of life in Auradon, the fairytale kingdom presided over by King Beast and Queen Belle where all the Disney princes and princesses live happily ever after, it was both entertaining and enjoyable. The characters are well-developed and likable (if somewhat cliched), despite being the offspring of some of Disney’s most famous villains – Maleficient, the Evil Queen, Cruella De Vil, and Jabar. Together the four kids – Mal, Evie, Carlos and Jay – find themselves on a quest to recover Maleficient’s Dragon Eye Staff, each for the own selfish reasons, but realize that they are bonding through the process. As feelings of compassion, kindness and empathy begin to swell within them, their evil machinations take a back seat to their budding friendship. My daughter loved it and we are looking forward to the next installment.
The first stop on our trip was a visit to the Crayola Factory in Easton, Pennsylvania. We had a great tine exploring the four floors of creative fun. Please forgive the one lousy picture I actually took. I didn’t carry my good camera with me because I wanted my hands free for creative pursuits. Belle loved melting down a crayon into a little Crayola man, making vibrant Spin Art and painting with melted wax. She also enjoyed making puzzles and computer-assisted art. We watched a live show on how crayons are made and named and wrapped our our personal crayon creations. There was also a glow-in-the-dark room, water table and enormous play area, as well as specially-designated toddler zones and photo opportunities. I highly recommend the Crayola factory to anyone with a creative child between the ages of 2-10. Of course, no self-respecting attraction allows visitors to leave without a visit to its colossal gift shop, and Crayola was no different. From crayon shaped socks to stuffed crayon men (we came home with two), to t-shirts, mugs, Christmas ornaments, umbrellas, commemorative baseballs (we came home with two of those as well), to every conceivable crayon, marker, and paint project Crayola makes the square footage of the gift shop rivaled the entire fourth floor. The most amazing part of the gift shop was the enormous wall of crayons and markers in more than 150 colors. My daughter and I stood in awe as we stared at the rainbow of colors climbing twenty feet high.
We enjoyed three wonderful days with my brother, sister-in-law and three-year old nephew. Belle loved being the “big cousin” for this trip and having my nephew’s undivided attention. We took him blueberry picking one afternoon. Outfitted with two large sand pails we hit the blueberry bushes, which we were warned were past their prime, and gleefully started picking and sampling. The blueberries were tiny, but super-sweet. After picking about eleven berries my nephew declared he was done, but Belle picked up the slack and filled both buckets about half-full, equating to about three quarts of blueberries. We watched the baby goats frolicking in their play yard for awhile and took some time for lawn bowling before calling it a day.
That evening we attended a minor league baseball game. Just what Belle wanted to do on our girls’ road trip – baseball!! But with her grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousin along for the ride it wasn’t so bad. We even had a “luxury suite” – so she was able to watch the game in air-conditioned comfort from a comfy leather couch. (Actually, I think they watched Disney Channel on the in-suite television, rather than the game). The home team lost, although I can’t say anyone was all that invested or even interested in the game. My favorite part of the game was getting to spend three uninterrupted hours hanging out with my Dad. And, there was a dynamite fireworks show when the game was over.
On our way out of town we stopped at the mall for some quick shopping. Belle found a pair of flip flops and I hit a sale at Athleta (gotta love a SALE at Athleta!). Then, we stopped in Godiva for our traditional truffle indulgence. It was a quick getaway, but it was terrific to have so much one on one time with my little girl – who is growing up so fast!