Thursday, March 12, 2015

Adventure Time

“Whatever course you have chosen for yourself, it will not be a chore but an adventure if you bring to it a sense of the glory of striving.” – David Sarnoff

Ahhh, spring break. We didn’t have anything planned other than thoroughly enjoying the fact that we didn’t have to get up and go to school. Violet was out of town visiting her grandparents, so it was just Emma and me. I decided we needed an adventure.

We live in Tyler, a medium-sized city in east Texas, so I decided for an adventure we would go to Dallas, visit the Dallas World Aquarium, take in dinner and a show at Medieval Times, and – treat of treats for Emma – spend the night in a hotel. The only times Emma had been to Dallas before were to visit the super-specialist for her ear and to have ear surgery, so this was quite a different trip.

Car trips certainly have evolved since I was a kid. I remember having to ride in silence, staring out the window in a vain attempt to entertain myself with the passing landmarks. God bless the inventor of the portable DVD player (and headphones). It cuts down on the relentless “Are we there yet?” and “How much longer?” questions. The down side of this, of course, is I learned not to have to ask those questions because of those landmarks I became so familiar with. We had to pass X, Y, and Z before we reached our destination. Because of the focus on technology, kids today don’t learn to read landmarks. They hardly look out windows on car trips.

Now, I am not confident driving in Dallas. I am not – in any way – a “big city” kind of girl. And downtown Dallas is complicated. Roads merge, lanes peel off or become “exit only”, and there is always so much traffic. We went straight to the Dallas World Aquarium…or at least, that was the plan.

Turns out, it’s really easy to get lost in Dallas.

The directions on the DWA website seemed quite clear and straightforward. That probably should have alerted me. Alas, it did not, so I didn’t turn on my GPS. I simply went by the driving directions they provided. Oops. We did get a lovely, unplanned driving tour of downtown Dallas, and beyond, by the time it occurred to me that we were lost. So I activated my GPS, and it’s a good thing I did. I never would have found the Aquarium had I not.

Emma was flabbergasted that we had to pay for parking. “It’s Dallas, honey,” I told her. “Nothing’s free in Dallas.” (I was later happily proved wrong about this.)

We spent hours at the Dallas World Aquarium. There was so much to see! No, it’s not just fish (don’t let the name “Aquarium” fool you). It’s all rain forest-y (there’s even a waterfall!), and the colors on the birds are brighter than anything I’ve ever seen. There were monkeys, otters, flamingos, and we even got up close and personal to a sloth. The sloth was not in a cage or behind a net. He’s out in the open, on a tree, just (very) slowly climbing and swinging. He was pretty adorable. When I took a picture, he actually turned his head to look at me. It was pretty awesome (and slightly creepy in that it looks like he’s smiling at me).


Of course, there were the fish, too. And penguins. The penguins were adorable. They stood there like little superheroes, like they were just totally unimpressed with all the attention and were completely above it all. I loved them.

Emma and the overly proud penguins

After DWA, it was time for dinner, so we headed to Medieval Times. Emma’s eyes grew large when she beheld the castle. “This is an awesome adventure!” she said. We had time before they began seating, so we took photos inside the castle, visited the gift shop, and looked at the horses. I wanted a souvenir goblet (every girl should have a special cup), so I went to the bar (what good is an empty cup?). I ordered a Pepsi (they didn’t have Coke) in my pretty cup and saw that they had kid cups also. I asked for some water for Emma in a souvenir kid cup.

Emma with my purple goblet

Here’s the amazing thing.

The bartender didn’t charge me for the kid cup. Even though it was a Medieval Times holographic cup, he gave it to us for free! Emma looked at him, said “thank you!” without me even having to prompt her, and just beamed. As we walked away, she said, “I thought you said nothing was free in Dallas?”

I said, “Sometimes it’s good to be wrong. He was giving you a present.”

They called us to our seats and introduced the knights. We were rooting for the Blue Knight. We waved our little banners and shouted our cheers (whilst wearing our crowns, of course). The Blue Knight had three carnations that he tossed to three ladies in the audience; Emma was one of those select three. He tossed her the flower, bowed, and winked at her.

What is it about my child?

The Blue Knight

He didn’t hear her “thank you”, so the next time he rode by she stood up and shouted it. He smiled and bowed again. She was so pleased that he heard her. She said, “I just really wanted him to know I love my flower!”

After the show, we drove to the hotel and checked in. Emma thinks hotels are very exciting, but on our many trips to the ear specialist I learned that she needs her own bed. Not only does she talk in her sleep, but she also kicks like a Rockette. She rhapsodized about the squishiness of the pillows, the coffee maker (not that she drinks coffee), the tiny shampoo bottles, and the fact that we had an ice bucket and could get as much ice as we wanted. I love going to hotels with her. She makes me appreciate them so much more.

The next morning, we woke up slowly and hung out in the hotel room until the go-to-work traffic in downtown Dallas died down a little bit. We got everything packed up and finally left about 8:45. To cap off our Grand Dallas Adventure, we stopped – where else? – at Denny’s on Beltline Rd. for breakfast. This has become our tradition every time we come to Dallas, and for this trip it was the cherry on top.

Our Dallas trip wouldn't be complete without a stop at Denny's!

As we sat and waited for our food to be delivered, Emma leaned into me, hugged me hard, and said, “Thank you for inviting me on our adventure. It was the best!”

The appreciation, the thank-yous, the genuine joy in each moment: these are all what made the adventure so great. I had the greatest companion for my adventure. I’ll remember this time just the two of us were able to spend together. I’ll remember the sparkles in her eyes when she saw the horses, the smile when the knight tossed her the flower, the giggles when she saw the sloth, and the warmth of the hugs she spontaneously gave me.

The sparkles, smiles, giggles, and hugs were – and will always be – the very best part of all my adventures with Emma. I look forward to many more.

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