Tag Archives: family fun

How We’re Spending Winter Break

I love the school my kids go to, and the teachers are really wonderful and engaged and caring, and they are kind.

One child’s teacher sent him a letter, which arrived today, thanking us for a gift and asking what he’d done over break: Had he traveled? Been to a museum or the movies? She reminded him to be ready to share his vacation fun with his class when he got back to school.

I immediately, defensively, bristled (NOTE: She’d meant the note to get him thinking about what to share about his winter break, certainly not to make us feel like we hadn’t done enough over break!). We’d done none of those things. Max had mostly wanted to stay home, playing with his little brother, especially after Christmas, when they both had exciting new Legos and other things to explore.

Many families at the school are quite wealthy (not us!). Thus we hear about sailboats and ski houses and spring break in Paris and such. When I drop off my kids in my 14-year-old Honda Civic, I am especially careful not the bump the Range Rovers and BMWs parked on either side. The letter made me think maybe every other family was having a winter break filled with travel and culture.

Then I calmed down and decided to talk this over with the boys. How had we spent our winter break?

What we’ve done so far:

1. We hosted Christmas dinner, for one thing, which involved a fair amount of planning, cleaning, shopping, and prep. My mother had come here for a few days, and my boys got to finally see my childhood Christmas ornaments, some of my mother’s childhood Christmas ornaments, plus use my parents’ wedding china and the family silver for the first time. Plus have everyone come to our house for a holiday meal, for the very first time ever. Big doin’s, indeed.

2. We made and delivered little packages of warm new socks, homemade cookies, and a tiny bit of cash (thanks, Mom!) for the people who live under the bridge. No, really. We live at the edge of town, near the subway, and several people live in the underpass. Of our various holiday charity, this was the one thing the kids got into and could relate to, because they actually see these people every time we go to the subway. Kids without toys? My kids don’t really comprehend that, so our Toys for Tots donations were just confusing to them. Warm things and treats for the people under the bridge? Max was on it.

3. We spent a few days in the woods (not continuously!). We spent a few hours with school friends in a local conservation area, and returned a few days later with friends from our old neighborhood to spend even more time exploring the woods and meadows and enjoying a picnic lunch.

4. We went ice-skating. Both boys now want lessons.

5. We went to the New England Aquarium today, an adventure involving one bus ride; six trains; lunch out; and a return to the aquarium after lunch to see the octopus, the penguin feeding, and the seal training session. Several M&Ms were given as bribes and rewards, and I didn’t totally lose my shit when the little one ran his bare hand the entire length of the handrail on both the Blue Line and the Orange Line….and then touched his hand to his face (why oh why had I left all the hand sanitizer at home??). I told him if he touched one more thing, he’d need to get an extra flu shot (yes, I did say that—and yes, it worked).

6. We saw a movie (Planes 2), but we saw it at home (thanks, Redbox!) because we are movie cheapskates and would rather spend $1 and make our own popcorn (and uncork my own wine, thanks!) (though theater movies are certainly fun, and our local ancient theater is really cool).

What’s left to do before school starts again: 

1. New Year’s Eve family party at the neighbors’, which will be an early, fun, low-key, kid-filled affair.

2. New Year’s Day dodgeball party at my friend’s house, which will be full of young childless single hungover mountaineering people and could be a total blast.

3. ?? Who knows? Will the kids go spend the night at their grandmother’s house? Will we all head north for a day of skiing?

We will know by the time the kids return to school, that’s for sure. But even if we stay here, which Max would probably be very happy to do, we’re enjoying our winter break.



The Big Apple Circus is in Town! [Review]

backdropThe Big Apple Circus is here in Boston for seven weeks with their new show, LUMINOCITY, and we were lucky enough to go on Saturday!

The kids loved it. We all had a good time. The Big Apple Circus is a good old-fashioned circus, with people doing tricks. Acrobats! High-wire acts! Horse and pony acts! Dog tricks! Clowns! A proper ringmaster! A flim-flam man (that’s right: a flim-flam man—don’t you just love that word?).
joykidsMost impressive, perhaps, were the Russian acrobats, whose core muscles—unlike the rest of us soft mere mortals—were apparently made of steel.

Necks of steel, too!

Necks of steel, too!

The high-wire act was pretty impressive, too.

She is standing on a chair way up in the air on a tightrope...calmly.

She is standing on a chair way up in the air on a tightrope…calmly.

Most fun (for us, at least, because humans launching humans is just fun to watch) were the sensational Dosov Troupe, who used a teeter-board to burst each other into the air….including people on stilts, who—once airborne—somersaulted and landed on their feet—I mean, on their stilts!

See that blur just above and to the right of the chair? It’s a person. He is about to land, quite neatly, in the chair.

From Big Apple Circus themselves:

Venture within the hubbub at the heart of Gotham, where the restless tide of humanity rushes through canyons of skyscrapers and shoals of billboards: The dog-walker, whose rowdy pups perform amazing tricks! Businesswomen who arrange to meet, soaring high above on a double trapeze! The rube, a clown-prince among peers, celebrating the mirth of life! Revelry at New Year’s Eve, with teeter-board acrobats flying like fireworks! and a chic couple of wire-walkers suspended mid-air for the event! The humble repairman, climbing the ladder of his imagination! The mounted policewoman, directing a cavalcade of steeds! The flimflam man with his quicksilver moves! The food cart vendor, juggling his produce! Construction workers assembling athletic poses of incredible strength! The celebrated Big Apple Circus Band, under the baton of maestro Rob Slowik, provides the lively musical soundtrack, and your cosmopolitan Ringmaster, John Kennedy Kane, will conduct your tour through this luminous cityscape. Run away and join the Big Apple Circus this season for a dazzling, unforgettable spectacle of wonder, merriment and joy!

(There was no double-trapeze act, but maybe that was just our show.)
In short, the circus is fun and family friendly and small. “No seat,” they like to brag, “is more than 50 feet from ringside!” It’s not too loud or flashy. It’s just a plain old good time. Details:

  • Big Apple Circus presents LUMINOCITY at City Hall Plaza from Tuesday, March 25 through Sunday, May 11, 2014.
  • There are concessions for sale, including cotton candy (what’s a circus without cotton candy?), hot dogs, and beverages (adult beverages, even!).
  • The Big Top is heated in cold weather, and air-conditioned when it’s warm…The show runs for 2 hours, including a 15 minute intermission. For more ticket information, group sales, inquiries about wheelchair–accessible seating or for additional information please call the Ticket Info Line at (800) 922-3772.
  • The Big Apple Circus is a not-for-profit performing arts and outreach institution committed to invigorating the communities we serve with the joy and wonder of classical circus. Tax-deductible contributions made by corporations, foundations and individuals enable the Big Apple Circus to bring its special magic to diverse audiences through its outreach programs — Clown Care[SM], Vaudeville Caravan[SM], Circus After School[SM], Circus For All!® and Circus of the Senses® — as well as its critically acclaimed performances.
  • More details, including how to buy tickets, can be found here. There are weekend and weekday shows, including midday weekday shows if your kids aren’t in school!
  • The Government Center T-stop is closed for construction, so you can walk from a different stop (not far from Park Street or Haymarket or else park in a garage for a discount. Details on that are found here.
It's right there on City Hall Plaza!

It’s right there on City Hall Plaza!

Don’t miss it. It’s fun. It’s the circus!

[Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to the show for review purposes. All opinions are my own.]