Friday, July 24, 2015

7 Quick Tips for St. Flags

Our family used our free reading tickets this past week and headed over to Six Flags St. Louis.  This was one of our better visits and my husband and I kept saying stuff like "we'll have to remember this for next year."  So I'm doing a post about it that I can look back on it next summer when we plan our annual Six Flags outing.  It's becoming a 7 Quick Takes posts so all the readers can benefit.  Sorry, no pictures because I decided I'd rather live in the moment than document everything.  Plus iphones and water don't mix.

1.  Tickets!!  We had three free reading tickets, one for me and we had two children in K thru 6th grade who qualified.  Homeschoolers can sign up on their Read to Succeed website in October, the reading has to be done in January and February.  Don't forget to log onto their site and verify their 6 hours of reading (although they send you multiple e-mail reminders).  I usually verify the reading when I sign them up so I don't forget.  Princess earned her ticket in school and I earned mine as a homeschool teacher with Game Boy.  Six Flags e-mails you the tickets to print out.  They expire the beginning of August, so you have to plan on using them in June and July.  Also, they are not valid on Saturdays.

We decided to leave Toddler Boy with Grandma this visit so we had to purchase three General Admission tickets for Doug and the two older boys.  There are ticket discounts on coke cans and in the McDonald's app.  To use these discounts on-line they charge you a $9 processing fee.  We found our best deal thru our local Farm Bureau.  Members can purchase tickets at their office for $43 (as opposed to $62 at the gate).  Bonus, pick the tickets up from the Bureau office and you can skip the ticket line at Six Flags and go straight to the turnstiles.

Thrill passes cost the same as a General Admission ticket (Farm Bureau sells season tickets for $60).  If you're going to go to Six Flags more than once they are definitely worth the money.  It might be a consideration for next year or when we have enough older children who would enjoy going more than once a year.  Six Flags also has meal passes membership holders can purchase, which would be worth it if you plan on going to the park at least three or four times.

2.  Parking costs $20 and there's no way around that (unless you have one of their gold memberships which gives you free parking).  Drive to the far right lane when entering because this lane splits into three lanes at the ticket booth (which means it goes much, much faster).  Not really worth it to pay extra for premier parking, if you get there when they open the general parking is just as good.  Park entrance is to the right so the farther right you park the better.  Also, the parking lot exit is to the right side in the back.

3.  Weather.  This was a big factor.  It has either been raining or scorching hot this summer, very little in-between.  Scorching hot with super high humidity is NOT the day you want to go to Six Flags.  We did that one year, never again, not worth it.  The blacktop in the park seems to radiate the heat, you are melting while standing in line.  The water park was not even refreshing, water does not evaporate off your skin in high humidity, which is what cools you down.  This year we scored a day with high humidity but temps were in the low 80s, which worked our really well.  They heat the wave pool and lazy river so even with cooler temps the water was nice.  Princess and I spent most of our time there while the rest of the family did the water slides.  She loves wave pools.  Game Boy's favorite slide is the Bazooka (the one that drops you in a tube).  The rest of the gang thought the Tornado was the best.

4.  We always do the water park first so the lines are short for the water slides.  We managed to fit everything in a medium size locker for $16 but next year I might spring the extra $4 for the larger one.  Then we change and go to the car to eat lunch, reapply sunscreen and head back into the park for rides.

5.  This year we sent the older boys off by themselves to ride the roller coasters while we took the younger ones to the more tame rides.  We met back at the entrance fountain in two hours (remember to send them with a watch).  If you plan the trip mid-week the lines aren't terribly long but next year we might want to plan more than two hours.  I have a friend who goes to Six Flags on July 4th every year and she swears the park is not crowded that day.  Be careful because the free reading tickets are not valid on Saturdays, and this year July 4th fell on a Saturday.

6.  What's up with changing all the rides?  I realize this keeps things fresh and such but it can get downright confusing.  The Evil Knievel coaster is now called "American Thunder" and the good old Time Tunnel was changed to the Scooby Doo ride (which added the laser guns).  Now it has been reinvented to "Justice League, Battle for Metropolis".  Sadly, I believe they changed that one from the beloved boat ride thru the air conditioned dark light tunnel.  Now there is no water and you ride in a car on a track shooting targets with lasers.  I miss the old Time Tunnel, it was kind of like going through a haunted house in a boat.  I have fond memories of that one.  We didn't get to ride the new Justice League one this year because it was down for repairs.  Thankfully we had only stood in line for 10 minutes before it broke, I feel for the families who were in line for an hour or more before the shut down.  Or, as Doug said, what about the ones actually on the ride when it went down?  Six Flags got rid of our beloved bumper cars too, now replaced by a new roller coaster The Boomerang.  For future reference, the first curve on the Mine Train is a hard one, make sure to hold onto little ones or they might get thrown out!  Princess is not a huge fan of fast roller coasters.  She didn't even care for the Log Flume, which is one of the original rides the park debuted when it opened in 1971.  (Yes, we did ride the info train this year).

7.  All in all, a very fun trip.  The cost breakdown:

3 general admission tickets...$129.00
food for the cooler...$18
McD's on trip home...$18
2 drinks we bought in park...$7
waterpark locker...$16
1 lb. chocolate fudge purchased in park...$3.50
6 suckers for kids from park...$5

For a grand total of $216.50, for a family of 6 it comes out to about $36 per person and includes the waterpark and two meals.  Not bad

As always, thanks to Kelly for over to This Ain't the Lyceum for more Quick Takes!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

To Love Jesus Like Mary

I was watching this week's The Journey Home program and Father Leo Patalinghug from Grace Before Meals was the guest.  I have never heard of him, but a priest who is a foodie and has a cooking show is something I definitely want to check out.  During the show Father Leo had a quote that really made me think.  He said "we should love Mary like Jesus" (I've heard that before).  But then he added "and we should love Jesus as much as His mother loves Him."

Hmmm, as a mom of mostly boys this quote was interesting.  What does it look like to love Jesus like Mary?  I grew up with one sister and no brothers so I wasn't the most qualified candidate to raise a family of boys.  Seriously, some days I'm not sure what God was thinking.  Over the years I've grown quite accustomed to all sorts of crisis situations (recently they had to do a search and rescue when one of the boys accidentally lost a tree frog in the house).  Blood no longer makes me queasy either.  Splinter removal has become an art form, as have my cooking skills.  Now there is a special place in my mother heart for each one of my little chaos tornadoes.  When I was newly married an incident happened that made me appreciate that fierce love a mother has for her son.

My mother-in-law is no stranger to raising boys, she gave birth to four of them and I married her oldest.  I was her first daughter-in-law and our relationship was rough in the beginning because it was such new territory for both of us.  She had come over that morning to babysit for Firstborn because Doug and I were both working full time.  Doug worked in the city and I had borrowed his car the night before to go to a meeting and didn't check the gas gauge.  He apparently didn't check it either and ran out of gas on the interstate about half-way between our house and his office.  Doug was none too happy about being stranded on the interstate and after he called a co-worker to bring him some gas he called me at the house to let me know just how unhappy he was about the situation.  We had a pretty heated argument discussion over the phone.  I was upset because I hadn't purposely used up all the gas in his car.  He knew I had used his car the night before, wasn't it his responsibility to check the tank?  Newlywed life is just bliss, isn't it?  I can look back and smile about it now but at the time I was angry enough to hang up on him and figured he deserved to be stranded on the road with that attitude.  (Very mature of me).  When his mom asked what happened and I told her she was upset and wanted me to drive her to where he was right that second to help him out.  Uh, no.  I'm not even talking to my husband right now and there's no way in you know what that I'm going to go help him.  Besides, I told her he already had a co-worker on his way with gas and I wasn't even sure exactly where he was located.  That answer was not going to fly with my now really upset in-law who was demanding I tell her where he was and SHE would go by herself (which would then leave me stranded at home with the baby until she returned).  Moot point, because I couldn't tell her where he was anyway.

There's a few lessons to be learned from this incident:

1.  It is never a good idea for a parent to come into an argument between a husband and wife.  Because eventually the spouses will make up but the damage done to the in-law relationship will take more time to heal.

2.  A mother's love for her son knows no bounds.  It is a fierce and protective love, kind of like a mother grizzly bear.  You don't mess with a mother grizzly bear.  Ever.  Nothing good will come of it.

Doug's coworker came to his rescue and I made it to work a bit late that morning.  My husband and I made up that evening but it would be three months before my MIL would speak to me again.  I just couldn't understand why she was so mad at me.  As I gave birth to more sons and those sons grew older I started to get it.  My MIL was adding more daughter-in-laws too as Doug's brothers married.  I was beginning to understand her better as I looked at her actions in relation to her love for her children.  When my boys were little she would watch some of their antics and tell me it reminded her of Doug and his brothers.  She taught me how to cook some of his favorite meals (probably because she was afraid he would starve with my cooking skills).  We frequently exchange recipes now.  I became a better wife as I worked at seeing Doug the way his mom saw him.  She saw him in his entirety and knew him better than anyone else.  I loved him, but I only knew him as a teenager and adult.  She had known him before he was even born.

When we love Jesus like Mary, it doesn't mean love Him in a "motherly" way.  It means love Him with that kind of intensity, with that all encompassing passion that she has for her son.  She carried Him, gave birth to Him, nursed Him and watched Jesus grow from a toddler to a strong man.  She loved Him all the way to the cross and beyond.  She knows Him better than any other human person and she wants us to love Him just as much as she does.  As we draw closer to her she can teach us how to love Him better, just like my mother-in-law taught me.  Mary was my biggest hurdle coming into the Catholic Church.  As a Protestant, I figured I didn't need her.  I already had a relationship with Jesus, why bring Mary into it?  But that would be like me saying I already loved my husband Doug, why get to know his mom?  Isn't my marriage, my relationship with Doug enough?  But I didn't just marry my husband, I also entered into his family.  We're part of Jesus' family, and his mom is a big part of that.  As I grew in my relationship with my MIL it transformed my marriage, it helped me to love my husband and kids better.  Mary can do the same thing for my relationship with Jesus if I allow her to lead me.