Wide Open Spaces…That We Never Saw – The Week in Review

Days off from school either fill parents with dread (“Now what am I supposed to do with them?!”), joy (“I finally get to spend quality time with my kids!”) or, as in our case, both…

8am-12pm – Yay!
12-4pm – Is it bedtime yet?

Last Friday was an exception. We jumped on the tollway and headed to the Morton Arboretum to check out the Lego exhibit. We’re Arboretum Amateurs, which means from the 1700 acres available to explore, we covered approximately 1. Our kids refused to leave the Children’s Garden, specifically any feature that involved getting soaking wet. There are only so many times you can say, “please stop hollering and hopping across the rocks like frogs on crack,” before your kids land firmly in the muck.

Poor Olivia suffered not 1, but 2 falls, including a face-plant off the side of a tree house. Fortunately, a kind dad was there to dust her off and make sure she was OK as I sprinted across the playlot.

No wait – that’s what should have happened. What actually happened was Olivia landed at the feet of a clueless dad who looked down at the bleeding, crying 4-year-old, shrugged, then went back to his iPhone 6. Tamping down my impulse to slap him till he bled, I scooped Olivia up, shot him a dirty glare, and resolved to enjoy the rest of the 3-day weekend.

Other highlights included:

Midnight Circus
If you’ve ever wanted to run away and join the circus, this would be the one. Yes, the tent was hot. Yes, our kids begged for popcorn to which these 1st and 2nd-gen FOB parents said, “No. You have food at home. Now watch the show.” And yes, Nick brought a book to read. But the show was fantastic, Nick eventually looked up from his latest SF novel, and the performers were incredibly gracious as they signed sweat-stained programs.

Paper Planes
A friend recommended this film. Good, clean family entertainment…in other words, not what I was expecting from the country who gave us Animal Kingdom and The Babadook. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve, which our cynical American kids were not expecting since they kept asking when the other Ugg was going to drop. They were eventually won over, nay, inspired, as evidenced by the paper planes covering every inch of our living room, bedrooms, and front yard.
Available on Amazon Video

Monkey Kingdom
The kids may be too young for 30Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but they can still enjoy the genius that is Tina Fey thanks to our Sunday nature series. Monkeys may look cute from afar, but up close they are petty and vicious. (I do wonder whether the Fey’s Mean Girls history inspired the choice of narrator because the queens of this monkey pack were straight-up bishes!) Never one to stay silent during a movie – must be related to Lori – Nick offered non-stop commentary, punctuating everything with, “because that’s what I saw on Wild Kratts.”

I’m neither a fashionista nor a Noo Yawker, so I thought Carrie Donovan and Iris Apfel were the same person. This fascinating documentary not only set me straight, but also made me much more tolerant of Olivia’s AM clothing choices. (I am nevertheless counting the days until she can wear the school uniform.)

In my spare time (ha!), I read Richard Wiseman’s The Luck Factor and Night School – breezy, informative, research-informed books on a good life and a good sleep, respectively. On the nightstand this week are Emotional Intelligence and Radical Acceptance, or is it Emotional Acceptance and Radical Intelligence?

Either way, I need them all.


Seeing is Believing

“His hat looks like a – ”

The gentleman seated behind us used the “p” word, one with which we were very familiar since we do have 2 boys and are using anatomically accurate language so they are 100% comfortable with 100% of their body.


I had not expected to hear it at a Cirque du Soleil show, even if it was 100% accurate. If the kids noticed the language, they gave no indication, too busy fighting over the bag of popcorn that we passed and spilled back and forth down the row.

“Oh my God! No way! No way! Did you see the flip?! How is that even possible?! At the last show…”

I harrumphed in my seat, well aware of the rising tide of exhaustion and annoyance. After a full day of conference calls and last-minute deadlines, we had picked the kids up directly from school, hightailed it down to United Center, plied them with low-mess snacks which they nevertheless managed to spill all over the car, then side-stepped puddles in torrential rain to arrive at the Big Top cold, shivering and wet…which would have been fine had we not been seated in front of the cooling system.

And now, I had to endure the non-stop MST3000 commentary from No-Filter Man.

“Wait, are they fish? Look at that! They’re waving their tails like fish! That’s hilarious!”

I could turn around. I could give him the Disapproving Stink Eye that my kids, unfortunately, know all too well. Or I could-

“Olivia! Stop cramming all of the popcorn into your mouth! That’s disgusting!”

Nick yanked the bag from his sister’s grasp, spilling most of the contents into the aisle. “Now look what you made me do!”

“It’s not A Gusting, Nick. You’re A Gusting!”

“That’s not even a word,” Nick retorted, then bent into the aisle, cupping his hand.

“What are you doing,” I hissed.

He shrugged. “Five-second rule.” The d’uh was implied.

Gabe popped his fingers out of his mouth long enough to complain, “Great! Now there’s no popcorn for me!”

“Gabe, quiet! Nick, you are NOT eating food from the floor.”

“Yeah, A Gusting,” Olivia chimed in.

“Still not a word,” Nick muttered.

“We are here to watch the circus and have fun,” I snapped, and that’s when I saw it. The harrumph from the row in front of us, the sideway glance, the smug shake of the head.


What do you know, Mr-Hipster-Hat-Who’s-Blocking-My-Kid’s-View? Just wait until you have kids and try to give them some cultural enrichment! You have no idea what we’re going through back here! If you could just step out of your Portlandia Paradise for one minute and stop judging us –

I froze.
Then blinked.
Or rather I tried.
But the beam in my eye wouldn’t let me.

Breathe. Accept. Release.

No-Filter Man resumed his commentary, or maybe he’d never stopped and I just hadn’t noticed. But now I heard his joy, the immediacy of his wonder. And now, I could hear the murmured assent from his companion. I sneaked a glance at the couple – his eyes wide with excitement, her head content on his shoulder, their hands intertwined.

“They must practice at least 5 hours a day. Maybe more.”
“Mmm Hmm.”

Nick still tried to convince me that not all of the popcorn was dirty. Olivia still complained about her sight lines. And Gabe still mewed about not having enough to eat.

“”Mmm Hmm,” I replied to each.  “At intermission, we’ll get a new bag of popcorn and split it into 3.”

The I smiled, leaned back, and finally enjoyed The Show.