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Sunday, August 30, 2015
Let’s go on vacation, they said. It’ll be fun, they said …

In all fairness, it was my idea. And it was fun.

And exhausting. And expensive.

And fun.

When I was growing up, it seemed my amusement-park-loving family did a summer vacation every year. We don’t. It seems summers are so full of practices and commitments and expenses and everyday … life … that you blink and they’re gone.

But it’s been a rough year. We wanted to do something for the family. A very short vacation from normal life, even if it was just a weekend, seemed to fit the bill.

I looked into waterparks and amusement and campgrounds, and we eventually selected Canada’s Wonderland near Toronto, where I’d last set foot more than 12 years ago. (And before that, when I was, perhaps, 9.) The boys were thrilled.

And early one Saturday, we all piled in the car and set off for Canada.

Well, if this was like family vacations were like for my folks when I was a kid, I think I owe my parents an apology.

Family vacations are work.

We weren’t on the road half an hour when they were starving. Starving. Didn’t matter they’d only eaten breakfast an hour ago. STARVING.

We endured the pleas of the famished children until we got to the area near our hotel, where we sought a nearby fast food restaurant. Nope. Eventually, we located a Tim Hortons (of course) in a strip mall with a line out the door, endured the line for sustenance and carted our hard-won lunch back to the hotel, where we had to pick up our tickets.

Except that there was one guy with tickets. No one knew where he was.

I corralled two small and excited boys at a lobby table, where they fell on the food like a pack of starving (and messy) wolves. Ticket guy was, eventually, found. The parking pass we thought we’d receive as part of our package? Oh, it doesn’t apply to THAT package. Of course. Lovely. Still, we were here, right? We continued on to the park.

Twenty bucks poorer and a good 30 minutes later, we were inside, heavily laden with bags full of clothing changes and towels for our visit to the waterpark. Family photo! Nope. “Mom, the sun’s in my eyes!” “I want to go SWIMMING!”

The park was packed. The waterpark was more packed. I held grimly onto the boys and juggled bags while my husband waited for the computer to reserve a locker. (It’s all done by computers now. Who knew?) They whined. I juggled. He waited. Finally, we located our locker (another $25 poorer), jammed all the bags in with extreme force and headed for the water.

And it was good, if packed. (I laughed far harder than I should have when Jim forgot about the big bucket that dumps water at regular intervals and got dowsed.) But there was no place, really, to sit down and take a break, and eventually the shine wore off. Time to move on to the rides.

Sam badly wanted to go on the two non-waterpark rides that were water-based, so it seemed perfect for us to keep our waterpark clothes on for those. We left my husband and Jim at a table in a convenient central location and headed for the first line.

And waited. And waited. For a boy used to Fantasy Island and its much more manageable lines, it took forever. Finally, we piled into the log flame ride.

Which was, perhaps, three minutes long. “Mom, was that it?”

We returned to find Eric and Jim holding onto the table with the grim determination of a pair that’s figured out that, if they leave, there will be NOWHERE ELSE to sit down. I apologized for the wait, made plans to head for the second location (a rapids ride) and promised to return in the line looked huge.

It didn’t. Great! It was sort of along a winding path, though. Surely, the ride was just around that corner.

Or that one.

Or maybe that one.

The line was not short. The line was ridiculous. But after having been in there a certain amount of time, it seemed like giving up to bail out. We waited. We rode. (And it was fun.) We returned, shamefaced, to the two who had been holding the table.

The day continued. I won’t say we didn’t have fun – we did – but it was continually punctuated with “I’m hungry!” “I don’t want to wait that long.” “How much for a bottle of water?” “I gotta use the potty.”

I’ll say this: They were so exhausted that they fell asleep very, very quickly that night. We all managed a decent night’s sleep.

Then it was back again. (Another $20 poorer for parking, of course.)

“I’m hungry!” “I don’t want to wait that long.” “How much for a bottle of water?” “I gotta use the potty.”

I hate to see it, but I breathed a small sigh of relief when we finally piled back in the car, heading for home. I had literally walked the bottom off one sandal.

When we were leaving the park, exhausted and weary and just a little bit sunburnt (on my part), I heard a sigh from the backseat.

“Mom,” Sam said contentedly, “that was the best vacation ever.”

Funny how seven little words make it worth it.


The annual Buffalo Niagara Buddy Walk for the Family & Friends Down Syndrome Association of Niagara will take place as part of the Peach Festival parade Sept. 12, starting at 11 a.m. in the Village of Lewiston.

This will be my family’s eighth year walking in it.

If you see us, say hello!

+Jill Keppeler ... Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler or email her at

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