Last weekend my parents took us all to Great Wolf, a facility run by a top-secret psychological research center to see how children and their parents react to extreme overstimulation. Or maybe it was a hotel/indoor water park. One of the two. Anyway, it was great fun, and my children have yet to understand why we don’t do that every weekend.
Great Wolf has this slide called the Howlin’ Tornado that I’m not sure is legal. You get in an inner tube, go in a dark tunnel, drop off a cliff (STILL IN THE DARK), then shoot out into a bright, two-story-high funnel that makes you feel like you’re having a Dr. Seuss-inspired hallucination, where you slide up the wall just to the point that the tube is about to tip over, then rocket over and do the same thing on the other side. Then you go back into the dark, drop off another cliff, and shoot out into a pool of water. I rode it five times, and my neck hurt so bad the next day that I had to take pain killers. It was awesome.
Great Wolf had some of the best people watching I’ve seen in a long time. I submit that people watching is better at beaches and pools, because people reveal more about themselves with their choice of swimming attire than with street clothes. That, and you can see all their tattoos. There were also a few women sitting in the lounge chairs wearing jeans and t-shirts, engrossed in books. I wanted to go up and introduce myself, perhaps pointing self-consciously to my dripping outfit and saying, “Don’t let the swimsuit fool you, I’m a nerd who hates pools too!”
You know what is a terrible idea? Going to Ikea on tax-free weekend. You know what is a worse idea? Taking three kids with you. The thinking was that I was just going to get the kids out of the house to price shop for a desperately-needed shoe rack for the living room. I had forgotten that it was tax-free weekend. I had also forgotten that the kids hadn’t been getting out of the house much this summer.
Since they wouldn’t fit in the tiny shopping cart, I had my two-, four-, and five-year-old girls pile onto one of those flatbed rollers used for hauling heavy furniture; and I learned to take corners slowly after the second time they didn’t hear me tell them to hold on. They’d jump off the platform to inspect seemingly every chair and bookcase, staring in wonderment at this amazing world that exists outside our house. (Remind me never to buy my kids “WE’RE HOMESCHOOLED!” t-shirts.) I ended up spying the perfect thing for our living room, a combo bench/shoe rack at a very reasonable price. I decided to get it, as well as a few other small things, which meant piling everything — including the very heavy furniture box and the kids — onto the cart.
I actually made it out of the store without incident, and then a horrible, sinking feeling came over me as I realized: I forgot where I parked. I’d been distracted when we arrived, so I had no idea where my car was. None. It was like something out of Lawrence of Arabia. I trekked around the parking lot endlessly, blinded by the sun, sweat dripping from my face, every car that seemed to be mine was nothing more than a crushing mirage. I had actually just called my mom to come rescue us when I finally found it. Next time I think I’ll order online.
If I were rich, I’d hire the guy who did the brilliant Whole Foods Parking Lot video to do an Ikea Parking Lot video. (You know, like how Pope Julius II commissioned Michaelangelo to fresco the Sistine Chapel? Me and the Whole Foods Parking Lot video guy would be just like that.) We’d need references to the unfathomable size of the parking lot itself, and to the “Hybrid Only” parking spaces up at the very front. We couldn’t forget some rhymes about the “Living in 550 sq. ft.” mini houses, or the $2 meatball plates. And if he left out commentary about the tiny cribs that no American baby could ever fit in, or the labyrinthine aisle schema, I’d dramatically withhold payment. Anyway, if I ever win the lottery, look out for an Idea Parking Lot video coming soon.
Speaking of people who are living a great story, we had the pleasure of having dinner with Fr. Dan Lorimer a couple weeks ago. Fr. Dan left a comfortable parish job to volunteer to sign up as a miliary chaplain, so that he could go into war zones and serve our men and women deployed overseas. From a recent article about him:
“There is a big need for Catholic priests in war zones, ” [he said.] His concern is for soldiers who might go a year or longer without seeing a priest. “I want to give them better access to the sacraments so they don’t feel they have no church or faith, ” Lorimer said.
My dad, who was in Special Forces during the Vietnam era, joined us for the dinner, and regaled us with some stories about military life. Please keep Fr. Dan and his ministry in your prayers as he prepares to deploy, probably to Afghanistan or Iraq.
Want to watch something interesting? Here is Salman Khan, founder of Khan Academy, talking about how new media can reinvent education:
Have a great weekend!
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