A brief stint at the kiddy casino… never again!

UnknownI walked around in a whirl hands stuffed with wands and tickets as lights flashed and machines made more noise than their hypnotized operators. I was strong armed into taking my kids to “funplex” at their request since Doreen, my wife, was off to Atlantic City with her mom for her birthday. Armbands, tickets and tokens, I was so unprepared for the true money suck I had entered. As I approached the token machine with my debit card I thought, I’m going to load these kids up with some tokens and I am just not going to stress it. For forty dollars you got something like 160 tokens, “that should really do the trick” I thought. Maybe forty-five minutes later I was purchasing another forty dollars worth of tokens and begging my kids to understand how un-fun this place was. “Cooper, I could have gotten you five Mario plush toys at the store with the money you are dropping in this terrible grab game.” “Olivia, I don’t think luck is with you today angel, maybe you want to pick a skill game.”

images “Ruby, that’s a lot of tickets but I thought you wanted to go on the rides? Isn’t that why we got you that wrist band?” It was ridiculous how tense I was over the fact that my children were pouring tokens into these games that either gave you tickets that resulted in the worst dollar store prizes or possibly an eight dollar plush toy out of a grab game that was manufactured in a factory in China for maybe sixty-five cents. In fact, these grab games are such an obsession for Cooper, and the hundreds of other kids (and their parents) walking around with pools of drool gathering in the corners of their mouths, that I had to tell Cooper to surrender the machine to the kids gathered around and take turns. He reluctantly stepped away and a couple of turns later another kid won the jack pot, the Mario ba bomb. Cooper was so devastated that even Olivia was trying to console him by telling him I would buy him ba bomb. I finally told Cooper he was cut off, I wasn’t getting anymore tokens and we would leave after the girls were finished in Magic Quest, which is some Harry Potter inspired section of this game place. Also, not a place I can easily embrace but at least Doreen had already gotten them wands so all I had to do was pay four dollars for them to disappear into that attraction. I walked away to use the restroom and when I returned my son was sitting on the floor next to the token machine hunched over like one of the many homeless outside of Penn Station in the city. All he needed was a piece of cardboard that said “Just looking for a few tokens. God bless you.” The irony was not lost on me that Doreen was off in AC happily wandering around in a stupor of her own with bells ringing and money eating machines.

I am resolved that this will never be how I am an awesome fun mom. In fact it is two hours of my life I am quite certain I will never get back. Yet all that said as we were finally leaving, and I was in just about as foul of a mood as I could be in, Cooper turns to me and says, “well, that was fun!” and his sisters in complete agreement skipping behind him.

The face of the incredible invisible girl, Ruby!

DSC_0056I have a little girl who is a little bit untamed and honestly I like it that way. She has an odd mix of freedom accompanied by a wicked sense of familial spirit. If you imagined a child who grew up in the trees in a loving pack, with with her braids tossing about as she dances happily in the sun that child would be my Ruby; but instead of trees she is growing up in a Dutch Colonial dancing happily to whatever tune she is moved by at the moment, real or imagined.

Ruby is seven years old and fights to not be completely dominated over by an older sister & brother who’s needs often seem bigger than life itself. Depending on the day she is video worthy with her ten year old brother or partaking in elaborate Barbie sessions with her eleven year old sister. She’ll never pass up a bike journey, although prefers it include another of her siblings. She loves for me to pick her up and hold her in my arms, an act that is not so easy given her solid frame and height, but something I will do until my body can no longer bear the load. Her preferred lounge ware is a pair of leggings and maybe a bracelet, but that’s it… no shirt required for comfort. She is stubborn to the point that it seems she will never conform to the usual standard practice of dress and diet, but I’m not sure she should. Don’t get me wrong, I would give my left knuckle if Ruby would get dressed without a fight in the morning, brush her teeth and go to the bathroom without an escort but this reality is it is part of her whole package.

Ruby enters a wonderful world of secret passage ways whenever she wants. She’ll make elaborate gifts with letters for her teachers and then never deliver them, but never wants them revealed from their packaging. She will disappear under a cover to play on the i-pad but its not just to be alone, she enters another time, another zone that allows her to block off fire breathing dragons that take the form of her sister Olivia or slip by unnoticed with a heard of Rhinos charging across the jungle floor or as we lovingly refer to him as Cooper. She lives a life under the cloak of that quilt that unfolds without apology or abandon. She pulls her mom and I aside in the most private way but causes a public uproar if we need to depart this covenant. She wants no attention but refuses to go unnoticed. The colors of her spirit are amorphous; the pink of a young girl mixed with rogue mixes of deep purples and bursts of orange. You never know what Ruby you’ll encounter but trust me they are all pure Ruby.

We play our game of twister with Ruby. Manipulating our plans to try to make her feel special but not noticed. We really have no idea where this labyrinth will end. She gives us no clues and almost taunts us with the idea that we may figure her out one day. She has no noticeable agenda but is full of powerful mysteries that God gave her at birth. Mysteries that we watch with equal part horror and love. Her name is Ruby Jones and she truly is one of a kind.

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