Part of our daughter’s pre-bedtime routine is recounting what was fun about the day. I love hearing what she remembers and what she really enjoyed. What I think is funny, though, is that sometimes she forgets the difference between reality and wishes, because she tends to name one or two things that we didn’t actually do that day! For the past few nights, she has listed “swinging on the bucket swings” and “going to the water park”. We have done both of these things within the past month or two, but not recently enough for her to include them in our daily “fun list”. My husband and I know how to take a hint, so this morning, we all headed to a nearby favorite park, along with my parents. In addition to being a fun morning, I was happy to check off some family “bucket list” items!
Bucket Swings and Playground #1
Our little girl loves bucket swings, because she can have the security of the swing surrounding her, but she can get really, really big pushes from us and go delightfully high. Some of her best and longest smiles have been on her face while riding in a bucket swing. It is a joy to see her so happy. The playground at her brother’s school does not have bucket swings, since it serves older, elementary school aged children. Bucket swings are something of a treat. There is no shade over these swings, so we have to plan our park visits either early in the morning or during the cooler times of the year. Even at 10 in the morning, we didn’t last long by the swings as the sun heated things up. The playground near these swings is in the shape of a gigantic locomotive engine, with ladders, bridges, slides, and very creative apparatuses to keep any child moving. My husband and L. (our son) played tag up and down and around the “train” while the rest of us were by the swings. After she was done swinging, our daughter, “A.”, joined her daddy and brother in climbing around all the different parts of the playground. While we were playing, we heard the whistle of a train…
A Train Ride
There is a narrow-gauge rail that runs through part of the park, with a little train offering 15-minute rides throughout the day. This was the train that whistled as we played. L. has been on the train a few times with other family members and friends, but the rest of us had not been. Now that A. is old enough to actually enjoy the ride, this activity has been on our unofficial family bucket list. Every other time we’ve come to this park, it seems there has been a reason that keeps us from doing it: too close to lunch time, too hot, too close to nap time, not enough grown-ups to hold both kids. Everything came together this morning–the timing, the people present, the temperature. My parents said they’d sit this one out and keep an eye on the stroller (which we took along mainly to transport our precious bottles of water). They got some fun pictures and videos of us choo-chooing our way around the park. All four of us enjoyed the ride, as we saw the numerous lakes and varieties of trees, as well as several miniature representations of towns in south Florida as they would have been in 1950. Our train engineer explained that part of the mission of the park is to educate visitors about Florida’s history, and the role that trains played.
A Surrey Bike Ride
We must have really been on a roll this morning, because right as we got off the train, all six of us piled into one of those surrey bikes with three rows and four sets of pedals. My husband and I sat in front with A. between us, and L. sat behind us, in between his grandparents. There was a nice little basket-like seat at the very front of the bike, but L. was too big for it, and A. wanted to sit “next to Mommy”. We stacked our water bottles in the very front seat instead. With my husband steering, we coursed around the park, checking off a second item on our family to-do list! Something about seeing an entire family in one of these vehicles makes other passers-by smile. People jogging, walking, fishing, pushing strollers, or scootering all gave us pleasant grins and waves as we pedaled on. Some of them got a good chuckle watching us all strain to get up a small sloped bridge. Around the far side of our loop, we found a second playground.
“I Can Do It!”
This second playground was not train-themed, but it had similar features. I’m not sure what, if anything, was special about the slide A. chose, but it must have inspired courage, for she slid down a spiral slide by herself for the first time. Chalk it up to being over-cautious parents, but we truly don’t mind that this was her first solo trip down a “big” slide. She also went up the stairs to the slide by herself, so I guess she got to check off some bucket list items today, too! What a day! The accomplishments didn’t end there: L. has been a pro on the monkey bars at school, undeterred by things like missing rungs or open blisters. On this playground, there were moveable handles to grip and slide across the length of the bars. When he held onto them, it looked like he had huge blue hands, and he had to shimmy his body weight from side to side to advance these handles. He needed a few attempts to make it all the way across. My mom, ever ready to record her grandchildren’s fun, got a great video of L. making it all the way across. The smile on his face as he reached the other side was priceless. I love seeing him work hard at something and then achieve it!
Time For Lunch
The park has a few snack spots where we could have gotten a burger or slice of pizza for lunch, but we decided to reward our sweaty selves with a trip to a local restaurant where we could get breakfast as late as 4 p.m. We arrived close to noon, and everyone but my husband and daughter got breakfast foods. After playing and pedaling for two hours, I thoroughly enjoyed that big glass of iced water and my plate of corned beef hash with two fried eggs. Even more enjoyable was hearing our little girl squeal “grilled cheeeeeeese” when I read that item from the menu for her. What a day she had.
I’m glad we made it out in the morning today, and I’m glad we got to indulge a bit at lunch. Most of all, I’m glad we got to do some things we’d been meaning to do for a long time. As for what comes next, I’ll have to listen closely to what receives mention in A.’s nightly list of fun. She’s got some pretty good ideas, and I want her to keep having even better memories.
Here is a link to the website for the park we visited: http://www.leeparks.org/facility-info/facility-details.cfm?Project_Num=0101