Those of you who've read the Harry Potter books will of course be familiar with the Dementors, those soul-sucking wraiths who drain the joy and goodness right out of you.
Well, I took my kids to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese on the Saturday before Valentine's Day, and the overall effect on my psyche was remarkably similar.
It smelled bad. It hurt my ears. And not just mine--during the official "birthday celebration" part of the party, all of the hostesses yelled out a birthday song/cheer which the kids were supposed to learn. The teaching of this cheer seemed interminable. Once the other tables of revelers had been worked up to a Lord of the Flies level of fervor, we were all to do the routine, which culminated in frenzied screams. At this point, our birthday girl covered her ears, rolled her eyes up in her head, and trembled violently from head to toe. And our table of Christian school pre-schoolers just looked around in bewilderment. Willem shot me a look that said, "Am I safe here?" Nels's teacher leaned in and said to me, "We don't encourage this at school."
No. And never again. Next time we're invited to a party there, Shaun takes the kids or he sends our regrets.
Fortunately our Sunday was more on the restorative side. We actually went to church, and the boys really liked it. I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that they served pop in Nels's Sunday school class. We spent the afternoon driving the back roads. The goal was to take a hike, but there was too much snow on the ground to even drive where we'd planned to go. Plan B was to make various stops in places of interest for Shaun to take photos, ending up at B.J.'s for dinner. It's not the most exciting place, but it's family-friendly, and one can count on getting a good beer there. Sometimes that's all one needs.
The next weekend we were lucky enough to have some time to ourselves. Shaun's mom took the kids overnight. We got a late start on Saturday, so we just walked around Portland a bit before heading to Toro Bravo to line up for dinner. We got there just in time, which was about 15 minutes before they opened. Those who came at 5 had a 1 1/2 -2 hour wait.
I'm including this not terribly flattering photo of me (my new haircut is actually less helmet-like than this) because I like the colors and it represents our fancy-free day pretty well.
We had a relaxing breakfast out on Sunday and enjoyed the quiet. It was a nice contrast to the everyday boy noise. (For example, right now Nels is yelling, "Willem, stop talking to me! You keep talking and it's making me all sweaty!")
Our one misstep of the weekend was watching the movie The Dark Knight on Sunday afternoon. Now, I know I will bring a bucketful of grief down on my head for saying this, but I wish I could have the three hours of my life back that I spent watching that movie. Yes, Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker was amazing. The movie was just too too dark for me. I've heard a lot of talk that The Dark Knight was elevated beyond mere "action" status by virtue of its dealing with big moral issues. But I felt that these issues were raised and dealt with in a shallow, formulaic way. It IS a comic book story, so I don't have a problem with that in and of itself. I just felt that nothing about it was thought-provoking or redemptive enough to counteract the feeling that I had just spent three hours wallowing in yuck. It just wasn't for me.
OK, phew! I'm feeling better already.