Day one: Wave goodbye at the airport. Go to a movie. Take a nap. Read for several hours.
Day two: Check email repeatedly.
Day three: Follow chaperoning teachers on social media. Scour Instagram and Snapchat posts by strangers.
Day four: Search for sightings on live webcams.
Day five: Pace house. Whine. Search for excuse to call a chaperone.

My 12-y-o is in Costa Rica for nine days without a cell phone. Nine days. Is he eating enough? Does he feel okay physically? Mentally? Are there adults listening to him? Guiding him? Has he bathed or brushed his teeth since leaving home?

Suggesting that my child keep his tech devices at home was easy. He does it whenever he goes on camping trips. Aside from the relief of not worrying about fragile tech getting dropped or wet, not having it removes the compulsion to ‘check’ things on the Internet. Childhood adventures should be active and messy and loud, not staring at a screen. Travel is about immersing yourself in the unfiltered sights and sounds of the world beyond your home.

“I would never trust someone else to watch my child like that.” “We don’t do school trips. We do family vacations.” “I can’t believe you’re letting him go without you.” If my children had to wait until we could afford for one or more of us to accompany them, they would never go anywhere. I want them to go and see and do.

“How will you know what he’s doing?” “Don’t you want him to call you?” “My child needs a cell phone for safety.” I trust my son’s teachers during the school day. I trust his teachers far from home. A cell phone in his pocket won’t make him safer. It makes him distracted.

The only reason to send the cell phone with him would be for him to comfort me.

It would be nice if the teachers would send out a one sentence email every evening or post an unbandaged group pic once a day or use one of the many group messaging apps or do ANYTHING to ease my anxiety. Given a choice between being able to text or call my child when he’s busy having fun and letting him fully disconnect from tech, I’ll accept my new ulcer.

Blade Runner 2049

I loved it. That was my feeling walking out of the theater and it remains my feeling after a night of Blade Runner flavored dreams. Blade Runner 2049 is worth the expense of movie tickets and *concessions.

Blade Runner’s greatest strength is sensory nostalgia. It takes the grainy memories of the first movie and explodes them into reality. Every single adolescent conversation about what it means to be human, the value of life and the savage brutality of maintaining those beliefs is played out in a breathtakingly beautiful, monochromatic peacock.

The weakness of Blade Runner is plot. The use of a primary science fiction trope isn’t the problem. That trope exists because it is important and endlessly relevant. The problem is that after 35 years (How did I get old so quickly?), the film is written as a prequel movie. The first movie wasn’t a neat and tiny package with a beginning and end, but it was a complete story. The new Blade Runner feels like closure of the old to setup for the new. If you never saw the original Blade Runner, don’t watch it now. Immerse yourself in the Blade Runner world that they are creating now. If you are a fan of the first movie, you’re going to love the characters, art, music and layers of detail. Blade Runner 2049 is sensual. While it neither validates nor invalidates the questions the original movie wanted audiences asking themselves, it affirms that we still don’t have the answers.

*Always visit the concession stand. Movies are so expensive to produce that ticket sales do little to nothing to help finance movie theaters. Concession purchases pay for the luxury of a neighborhood theater staffed by your community members. No matter how big your home television, there are some movies that should be experienced in a theater. Blade Runner 2049 is one of those movies. Don’t lose that option for future movies by filling your pockets with gas station candy bars. See the movie. Buy the concessions.

mornings + adolescence = misery

“Today was the worst day EVER. I was running late to the bus when I tried to use my pockets and figured out my pants were on backwards. I ran back home as fast as I could to fix them, but my shoelaces were a big knot and I couldn’t get them untied. I ran back to the bus stop wearing only one shoe and barely made the bus. When I got on the bus wearing only one shoe, the driver put one eyebrow up and the other one down. He ‘hmmm-ed’ at me. I sat down and a sixth grader asked me if I needed help putting on my shoes. It was terrible!”

No amount of the awfulness that was my Monday could compare relatively to the endless dignity assault of adolescence that all John Hughes fans recognize. Telling him that the soundtrack to his life is going to be stellar won’t make him feel better about it either.

not a camper

The husband loves to camp. The children love to camp. I hate camping.

I will shop for camping supplies and gather campfire cooking ingredients. I will pack with ziplocs for waterproofing and gather gear for unexpected weather. I will unpack, scrub and launder the day that campers return.

I don’t camp.

I don’t need camping lovers to explain why they love the things that I dislike about camping. I do expect them to respect that my feelings about camping are different from theirs.

When eclipse options made it clear that the best experience for the youngest child would be seeing it from a rural campsite, I set to making it happen for him. From the very first “busy” excuse utterance, it was obvious that my agreement to go eclipse camping was needed to guarantee it happened. So, we went camping.

I don’t own camping equipment or clothing. I wasn’t about to spend money on a one time only event. I packed the blanket and pillow from my bed. I wore my cheap flip-flops and canvas sneakers. I bug-proofed my hair with an old bandana.

I slipped and slid down a hill outside of the bathroom facilities. I brushed my teeth in those facilities while the walls shifted because they were covered in camel crickets trying to outlive the mice chittering in the corner. I let the inexhaustible 12-y-o repeatedly drag me up and down the steep terrain while sniffing the air for the scent of the hemorrhagic fever victims that I was warned to avoid.

I moonburned my chest. It couldn’t have been sunburn. The husband put sunscreen everywhere not covered by the absurdly inappropriate leggings and cotton t-shirts I wore because I only own ‘moms who spend their days sitting in carpool lines’ clothing. I pretended to be calm and relaxed as bugs gifted me with miserably itchy souvenirs.

My toes blistered. My arms hurt. I’m still sneezing.

I killed my pedicure. My pedicure!

The eclipse made my eyes unexpectedly leaky. Everyone was happy. We camped. That should have released me from my obligation to do this ever again. Now we can hotel travel or take that cruise I’ve begged for since forever.

Two days later…

“You know, this wasn’t real camping cause we didn’t pee on trees.”

Best customer treatment

Between the husband’s keyboard building/collecting and the oldest child’s woodcraft hobby, the mail carrier totes packages to our door every week. Last week, the mail carrier told the youngest child that we are his best customer. The child and his father found that much funnier than I did.

The youngest child expected his new school binder to arrive today. He spent the morning staring out the front window. When the mail truck hadn’t arrived at lunchtime, the child began googling things like “how to track packages” while texting complaints to his father.

“Mail!” One not at all Blues Clues-ish scream and the child raced out the door to greet the mail carrier. The driver made a huge production of putting a large box of toilet paper in the youngest child’s arms and slowly stacking two boring ads atop the box to make the child’s balancing act additionally comical.

As the child stomped back in the house loudly grumbling complaints about his missing package, the mail carrier silently walked three steps behind him. The mail carrier didn’t speak, but he grinned. His entire face was barely constrained laughter as his arms casually carried the small box addressed to the youngest child.

weaponized pits

“Did you use deodorant?”
“No, but last night I used enough to last all week.”
“It really doesn’t work like that. You put deodorant on every morning like it’s your armour. Only instead of it protecting you, it saves the rest of the family from the stink bullets that shoot out of your armpits.”
“Ewww. That’s disgusting.”
“It is if you don’t use deodorant.”

playing with cameras

She: “Don’t step in front of the camera if you are going to run around the house like that.”
Ten minutes later, child dancing in underwear has no memory of the camera conversation.

She: “Don’t forget the camera.”
He: “If I don’t care about open windows, why would I care about our cameras?”
I can’t argue with that level of commitment.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The Guardians sequel is lighter and sillier than its’ predecessor. The cold, sharpness of the film’s antagonist is softened like metaphorical vaseline on a camera lens. Everyone on the screen seems to be having fun and that mood was reflected by the audience. Nobody exiting the theater was fruitlessly trying to explain to a companion about the connections to the broader Marvel Universe. People were smiling. Maybe we were all psychologically starving for comic book escapism. Maybe we were all dedicated fans who would have cheered for anything with a Stan Lee cameo. Whatever the reasons, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is a laugh out loud, fun movie.

Instead of one big scene at the end of the credits, there are four or five tiny scenes during the Grootified credits. One of them deals with the Ewok situation that Vol. 2 embraced in the title sequence. Another end credits scene name drops a future movie character so the canon nerds can squabble amongst themselves. Everyone else should be excited at how the character could be interpreted and the potential for some spectacular CGI battles.

Go to the movies this weekend. You need the stress relief and the economy needs your support.

P.S. Always imagine good hair in your personal flashbacks.

P.P.S. The Blu-ray/DVD release should include a Guardian brand condom.