As a grown-up, I’ve kind of looked down on going to the movies. It’s so expensive, and I think it’s so weird that they show commercials (not just previews) before movies now, and you know, it’s not exactly an interactive activity. But, let’s be honest. I love going to the movies- despite my boring adult-like views. I grew up in a small town so there was never a lot going on and driving a few towns over to see a movie was in some ways a great escape.
And going to the movies holds so many fond memories for me. It might be a passive activity but it really is an opportunity to bond. When my mom and dad celebrated their anniversary each year, they chose to do so as a family, by seeing a movie and going to dinner together. If I try really hard, I can tell you each movie we saw from Gladiator (2001) to Benjamin Button (2008).
During Christmas and summer vacations, those rare occasions when all of us cousins were out of school and together, my dad would always, always take the big group of us out to a movie. We always had to pick something that was suitable for the whole age-range of kids and I will never forget seeing The Cat in the Hat, gosh, maybe in 2003, and how I was so not into the movie, but so very into sitting with my cute kindergartener cousin who had just discovered that her entire fist could fit into her nacho cheese cup.
So. Last Saturday it was 110 degrees, and we all know that the best way to beat that kind of heat is to veg out in a super cold movie theater. I decided to take Rachel to see Brave. (Aren’t the people at Pixar pure geniuses?) We got there early enough to beat the rush of families that would inevitably show themselves later, and this way Rachel got to totally savor the experience. Without the pressure of lines that needed to move along, or crowds that needed to be navigated, she got to tell the woman at the ticket window what movie she wanted to see, she got to give our tickets to the usher (“We got our tickets!” she said as she handed them over), and she even got to place her order at the concession stand. (When the concessioner asked if she wanted a small, medium or large popcorn, Rachel put her finger to her chin and said, “Large!”)
Our girl was so patient as she waited for the movie to start. She ate from her (small) popcorn bag and just waited. Total shocker. She was just so excited for what she knew she was about to witness.
The movie itself was so sweet, essentially about a mother-daughter pair who don’t see eye-to-eye, but due to a series of mystical, magical events are forced to renew their connection. It was a really charming legend of a tale.
By the time it was over the popcorn was gone and Rachel was perched on my lap. More than once she looked up at me and said, “Mom…I like this!” I grinned and nodded then put my finger to my lips. I certainly felt a special bond between us. What an experience to share.
I must confess that for every adventure I plan to take Rachel on, I’m never really sure if she’s going to be into it. I always wonder if it’ll be age appropriate, if it’ll be worth the money or effort involved. Partly, this is why I try to choose free events, and I always make sure there’s an easy exit plan. In advance of the adventure, I try to get Rachel excited. I try to explain where we’re headed and read books or watch movies on the subject involved. Sometimes, by the time the adventure rolls around she’s totally game, and sometimes it’s a total flop. At the end of the day, at least we got out of the house, which both of us find far more exciting than anything else. We get stir crazy, me and Rachel. We really do.
To “prepare” for our recent trip to the Zoo I rented the movie “We Bought a Zoo,” and we watched it about 75 times. (Rachel was feeling under the weather, so there was not much else to do anyway – don’t judge. We played with zoo animal puzzles too!) And every day when we drove by the zoo, I would tell her, “That’s where we’re going on Saturday! She was super pumped.
We went with a group of families from her new daycare, which means when we got to the zoo we waited a while for everyone in the group to show up. Waiting=not a great way to start the day…and I’m talking almost an hour here. However, there was a small water fountain near the entrance that kept Rachel’s attention while she waited…but then, somehow she fell under the impression that this trip to the zoo was about seeing interesting water features, not animals.
It didn’t help that most of the animals were asleep until about noon. The flamingos looked cool, but who wants to watch a sleeping bear? Rachel was also in a bit of an I-wait-for-no-one mood. It sounds really bold and whatnot, but it really means that I spent the whole time chasing her.
“Look, the zebras!” I’d say.
“NO!” she’d shout back, and off she’d run down the slope and towards the next water feature/ice cream stand/cooler slope than the first slope. You get the idea.
It may sound like I’m complaining a bit, but you know what? We had a really great time. I found myself smiling from ear to ear all day long, just taking it all in. There were tons of families around, parents begging kids to stay close by, groups of cool dads waiting for their wives and kids to get off of the carousel, a few young couples channeling Rocky and Adrian (Why didn’t Jim ever take me on a zoo-date, I wondered), and plenty of tweens exercising their independence. It was a true cross-section of Philly too, because who doesn’t love the zoo?
We will definitely go back, perhaps in the fall. A few notes-to-self (mostly for my own benefit, but maybe you’ll find them helpful too): Next time, go early for good parking and fewer crowds (but with a small group+no waiting!). The animals that are outside will be sleeping, so hit up a few indoor exhibits, then the rides (shorter lines!), then lunch in the Picnic Grove, then go see the outdoor animals while they’re awake and playing. Finish the day with ice cream and a stroller ride to the car, and then, hopefully, a nap.
Finally, I have to add right here that the Philadelphia Zoo is nothing like “We Bought a Zoo.” Matt Damon is nowhere to be found, and the “enclosures,” well, they’re totally different. Bigger, boxier, sometimes involving painted backdrops. I have to tell you, one of my favorite moments was spotting this peacock gone rogue. Look at it. It’s totally going for a stroll down the sidewalk thinking, “Screw you, enclosure.”
So, continuing on our playground tour…
You may think that once you’ve seen one playground, you’ve seen them all, but friends, that is not true. Once you’ve seen a dozen, you still haven’t seen them all.
We randomly, but delightfully, ended up at Fort Washington Park on Sunday and the playground there had at least two features that I had yet to see at a playground. One was the fake mountain climb, above. (Conquered, below.)
And the other was the cool tube ladder-things (official name) that you could climb up to the top. Seriously, they were cool.
Look how satisfied Rachel looks after scaling the cool tube ladder-thing. Quite an accomplishment, I have to agree.
And they had the traditional playground stuff too. Classic, can’t be beat: slides…
And I even got Rach to ride one without Jim’s help!
On Saturday we went to discover what Blue Marble Books in Mount Airy is all about. It’s a converted row house- super charming- and they were having a literary festival. Lucky us!
They had authors doing readings every hour so we checked out two different stories. The first one was Will You Please Go To Sleep illustrated by Ron Cortes. (Do you remember the NY Times best selling Go the F*** to Sleep? Same author/illustrator, but this is a child-friendly version.) Quite predictably, the parents were more excited about this reading than the kids.
While we waited for the second story we went for a walk around the block. It was such a sunny day so there were lots of people out and about, visiting the co-op next door, or the coffee shop around the corner, or the antique/vintage warehouse across the street. Blue Marble Books is on the happiest (or most progressive) block ever!
The second story we got to hear was super interactive for the kids. I’ll have to update this post with the title and author of the book, but let me just tell you the reader was amazing. The book she read was about a train and it was written by her grandmother, but was never published all those years ago because publishers said they had no need for another book about trains. Interesting, no?
It was a cute book about choosing your own journey in life and all the kids got so into it. The woman leading the reading had each child volunteer for roles making various train sounds. Rachel was smartly paired with one of the older girls (5 or 6 maybe) and their job was to shake boxes of Good & Plenty to make the chugging sound of the train. (The older girl’s job was also to kind of keep Rachel…on task. A first lesson in mentorship and I’d say she did a good job!)
I was so impressed at this woman’s ability to keep everyone engaged. And I was maybe even more impressed with how well Rach followed directions. We had so much fun and we’ll definitely have to try going to more events like this.
Have you checked out any new places or events with your family recently?
We went to Pretzel Park recently and it’s pretty much our new favorite park. I’m a sucker for modern playground equipment. (Here, it’s similar to, but much smaller scale than Smith Playground.) Our favorite feature was the short rock climbing wall subbing for stairs up to the slide. I didn’t get pictures of it because I was busy teaching Rach where to place her feet on the wall. Maybe next time.
Pretzel Park is situated in a pretty cool spot on a plateau in Manayunk. Below, you can see the train trestle for SEPTA’s Norristown line and a glimpse of Main Street, and at the top of the hill is Roxborough. In between is this fun park, a beautiful, towering Cathedral, and tons of cozy row homes.
In addition to the cool playground equipment there’s a dog park sectioned off, which Rachel was fascinated by.
You can’t really tell, but there were about a dozen dogs running around. Rachel sat right on the concrete wall, alongside the dog owners, and threw flower petals to the dogs. (I don’t think they really noticed, but I thought it was cute.)
The best thing though, was playing under the trees. We stood underneath the gorgeous boughs and pretended their canopy was our home.
Pretzel Park: We’ll be back soon!