After a pretty good night’s sleep Friday night, we woke up Saturday morning and the kids were ready to head to what Squeaker had been referring to for weeks as the “amazement park” – Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America. I’d scored four unlimited rides wristbands on EBay for $71 – they’re usually $39/each. Rather than try and find an inexpensive breakfast downtown, we headed toward the Mall of America (even though we were a couple of hours early for opening). I pulled into a parking lot near the Mall, whipped out my new iPad, and looked to Yelp! again for breakfast suggestions. The most interesting thing that came up was a place that it said served breakfast and brunch called Patrick’s.

We had some difficulty finding Patrick’s at first, even with the help of GPS. Then, we saw the Patrick’s catering van in the parking lot of a huge lawn and garden store. It turns out that Patrick’s Bakery & Cafe dining room is essentially in a greenhouse. The food was outstanding. We got a huge almond croissant, a huge chocolate croissant, an immense cinnamon roll, and a small (about 6″ round) but VERY rich and tasty four cheese quiche. We shared all of the goodies, Mrs. AJRitz and I got wonderful, fresh, french roast coffee and the kids had orange juice. It was like eating breakfast in the garden of a French hotel.

After breakfast, we loaded back up the car and headed back to Mall of America, arriving shortly after the Mall and Nick Universe had opened. With a wink to Mrs. AJRitz, I dropped a subtle hint to the kids about our still-secret trip to Disney World (scheduled for October), by parking the car on the 4th parking level of the Mall of America. As you can see from the picture I took of the parking location sign nearest our car, the levels are identified by states.

Our trip to Nick Universe essentially confirmed what we already thought we knew about each of our children’s reactions to amusement parks. The Bug is an adrenaline junkie. The first things she and I rode when we entered the park were The Fairly OddParents coaster (featuring free-spinning ride vehicles) and the Pineapple Plunge (starring a straight vertical climb, followed by a straight vertical drop and several upside down loops). I’m all for the coasters, but she rode things even I won’t get on. In this picture, The Bug is the girl in pink. The apparatus she’s strapped into is part of the Avatar Airbender ride. And this is the one ride on which she started to get nervous while waiting for the ride to begin. I asked her three times before she got into the ride line whether she was sure that she wanted to ride it. She insisted she was, and once she was strapped in it was too late to get off the ride. But her trepidation turned to joy as soon as the ride got underway, I watched as the ride vehicle whipped by and her frown had been replaced by a huge grin. It’s difficult to pinpoint The Bug in this short cellphone video, but it gives you an idea of what the ride does.


If The Bug is the amusement park superfan, Squeaker is the opposite. He rode a few rides. The bumper cars were the only one he didn’t hate, and he didn’t really like that one much. He didn’t like rides that took him up in the air and didn’t like rides that moved “too fast.” Despite Nick Universe featuring three of his favorite TV characters as costumed characters – Dora the Explorer, Diego, and Blue from Blue’s Clues – Squeaker refused to have his picture taken with any of them. He didn’t want to be that close to them. He would nervously watch them from afar, Even after watching other children hug and have their pictures taken with the characters, he stood his ground and refused to get any closer than about six feet. He explained that, though they looked like the characters he liked, they were “TOO BIG!” Finding things for Squeaker to enjoy at Disney may be a bit of a challenge.

We took a lunch break in the Mall foodcourt, opting to sit down at Noodles and Company, rather than fight the huge crowd around the food court McDonald’s. While eating lunch, we noticed that a showing of Toy Story 3 in 3D was starting soon at the movie theater upstairs, so we extended the break a bit to catch Toy Story on opening weekend. The Bug was enthralled. It was Squeaker’s first movie in a theater, and he did pretty well for the first 2/3 of the movie or so, but then got bored. He ran laps in the hallway just outside the theater, while Mrs. AJRitz kept track of him from the doorway (so that she could still watch most of the movie).

After the movie, we did a quick circuit of The Bug’s five favorite attractions and then headed back to the hotel to wash up and relax a bit before meeting my college buddy and his family for dinner (he’d finally managed to get back in town from Chicago).

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