Category Archives: bucket list

Circus Part Two (Or, Dylan’s Bucket List)

Editor’s note:

In the interest of full disclosure, I was given free tickets to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus in exchange for (1) doing a ticket giveaway and (2) writing about the show.   It goes without saying that I’m an Honest Mama regardless of the perks. 

We took the kids to the circus on Friday night.  It was a surprise.  We’d never surprised them like that before, so we felt like pretty stellar parents (I did, anyway).  I mean, it wasn’t a “Hey, kids, we’re going to Disney World!  Right now!  Get in the car!” kind of a surprise, but they’d never been to the circus before, so I was eager to see their astonished faces when we let the cat out of the bag.

All day long, I imagined the shocked, jaw-dropped looks they’d have on their faces when we told them.  It was torture waiting until the end of the day, just before we had to leave.  When we finally did the big reveal, I had my camera ready to capture the epic moment.

“Kids, guess what?  Daddy and I are taking you…to…THE CIRCUS!




Epic probably isn’t the best word to describe their reaction.  In fact, they acted like I told them we were going to the doctor for shots, but in their defense, it was Friday evening and they were tired (both of them fell asleep in the car on the way there).  They really were excited, especially after the nap, but the surprise certainly didn’t unfold they way I’d seen it happen on television.  Go figure.

During the drive (and before the nap), Dylan kept saying, “I’ve always wanted to go on the circus.”

“Is it on your bucket list?” I asked him.

“What’s a bucket list?” he asked.

“A bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die,” I said, and because I did NOT want to start a conversation about death, I added, “which will be a very, very, very long time from now.”

He thought about it for a minute and said, “My bucket list is to (1) go to the circus, (2) go on a cruise, (3) jump from an airplane, and (4) live in a hotel.”

“Jump out of an airplane?” I asked.

“Yes, that’s what you do when you turn twenty,” he said.  Of course.

“Riley, what’s on your bucket list?”

“I want to go fishing on a fishing boat…and catch fish…with eyes.”  Of course.

Then, they both fell asleep.

The first thing we saw when we arrived at the arena where were protesters.  One of them handed me this flyer.


I don’t mean to be a circus party pooper, but the treatment of the animals, especially the tigers and elephants, weighed heavy on my mind.

Before the show, we visited the “Animal Open House” where we saw and learned about the circus animals.


As we walked around, a voice from a loud speaker spewed a bunch of information on a loop about how Ringling Bros. cares for, feeds, and trains the animals.  It felt like one big public relations effort to demonstrate how good they are to their animals.  (I’m not saying they’re not.  I’m just saying it felt a little bit like one of those BP-sponsored television commercials on the clean-up and restoration of the Gulf after a few hundred million gallons of their oil spilled in the ocean.)


At the open house, we met a miniature horse name Gunther…


…caught a small glimpse (and a big whiff!) of the elephants…


…and got up close and personal with the tigers, whose living quarters seemed a little bit tight (just sayin’).


Once inside, we checked out the “All Access Pre-Show” on the arena floor.


There were costumes to try on, clowns and dancers performing, and there was even a bounce house to play in.  We didn’t stay on the floor long because the boys were more interested in getting their hands on popcorn and cotton candy than anything else, but we did get one shot with a clown (Riley was afraid to get in the picture).


After quickly spending a gazillion dollars on drinks, food, and light up circus crap toys…


…we found our seats and waited for the show to start.



The show itself was a lot of fun.  The clowns, performers, dancers, acrobats, stunts, lights, sets, costumes, and music were a feast for the senses.  Afterwards, we talked about our favorite acts, and interestingly, no one picked the tiger or elephant acts.  Personally, I found tricks the tigers performed – rolling over, walking backwards on their hind legs, and hopping – uncomfortable to watch.  Looking at the elephants roll over and do handstands was equally awkward.  It’s just not what these majestic (and endangered) animals were put on Earth to do, and it made me kind of sad.

The debate over animal cruelty in the circus is a doozy, and I don’t want to get too wrapped up in it because I haven’t done nearly enough research to have a thoughtful discussion on the issue.  All I have is my instinct, and my gut tells me the next circus we attend will be animal free.  That said – and call me a hypocrite if you must – there was one animal act that I really loved, and I’m not referring to my kids.  No, I’m talking about the poodles.  The poodle act was without a doubt my most favorite act in the show.  It was surprising, funny, fun, and freakin’ adorable.  (And, by the way, I want a poodle.)

Bottom line: Thumbs up from the Runaway Mama and her brood.  The animal issue aside, it was an entertaining show (and a valuable learning experience), a nice way to spend quality time as a family, the boys L-O-V-E-D it, and, let’s face it, everyone should see a human cannon ball at least once in their lifetime.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents Built To Amaze! is at the American Airlines Arena in Miami through January 20th.  The arena wasn’t full when we went, so I’m sure there are plenty of tickets available.  For long distance readers, go to to find a show near you.

On to the next big top!  The house is being tented for termites this week.  The only cruelty I foresee is the pain and suffering I’ll endure cleaning out and packing up the house and living in a hotel with my two circus animals.  And just like that, Dylan can check off another adventure on his bucket list.

Speaking of which, please email me at therunawaymama (at) gmail (dot) com if you’re looking for mom bloggers to review family-friendly cruises.  The entire family would be thrilled to offer our services!



Filed under bucket list, circus, family

Spring Break In Review

Spring break is over! Yay!

Almost. Boo.

Dylan is back at school, but Riley, because of the Passover holiday, doesn’t go back until tomorrow. Bugger.

Just as I anticipated, it was a long week, and just as I predicted, I wanted to pull my hair out by bedtime on Thursday. All in all, though, it was an interesting week filled with dilemmas, adventures, anxiety (of course), firsts, and family.

Dylan bought new sneakers with laces. The “with laces” part is important. I vowed never to buy him (or Riley) sneakers with laces until he could tie his own shoes, but then he drooled over these really cool black Nike basketball sneakers and I couldn’t say no. (Never say never.) Now I’m desperate to teach him to tie his own shoes (so I don’t have to do it ten times a day), and let’s just say progress has been slow. This milestone – tying ones own shoes – feels like a big deal, and I feel as much pressure to get it done as I did when Dylan was almost three and a half and not yet potty trained. I can’t help but think about Lisa Belkin’s recent piece, “Parenting Memories: The Bubbles That Unite And Divide Us,” about how we get caught up in whatever stage of parenting we’re in (breastfeeding, potty training, applying for colleges, etc.) and then find it hard to relate to parents who are in a different place. My friends, I am in the “learning to tie shoes” bubble. (Help!)

We went to the zoo and the lion roared! It. Was. Amazing. It was the first time I ever heard a lion roar, and it’s going on my Runaway Mama Bucket List, for sure. It was a first for Dylan and Riley, too, although if you ask Dylan what his favorite part of the zoo was, he’ll say, “eating popcorn.”


I got the results of my thyroid biopsy. Don’t get too excited. There was no result. Really. It was non-diagnostic, which means the cell sample wasn’t large enough for the pathologist to make a determination. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s nothing. It’s like it never happened. I have to do the biopsy all over again, and I have to wait three weeks to do it so the thyroid can heal completely from the first procedure. This non-diagnostic result happens approximately 10% of the time, which made me want to scream into a pillow for a little while. I’m okay now, but the anxiety has propelled my spring cleaning energy to a dangerous level. I still haven’t started on my closet, but the laundry room looks great, I rearranged the kitchen, and we finally hung some framed pictures of the boys that I’ve been meaning to do since Christmas (and before they graduate high school). Next up: the patio, the toy closet, and the boys’ bedroom. [Insert dramatic music].

Riley got his first ear infection! In fact, it was our first ear infection as a family. Dylan has never had one. Crazy, right? Poor guy was stuffy and coughing all week, but it wasn’t until Friday that his ear nearly exploded.

We had a very successful family dinner on Saturday night at the Macaroni Grill. Both kids behaved, ate the food they ordered, and only went to the bathroom once. So that’s what it’s like to go out to dinner with my children and not have an uncontrollable urge to hurl myself out a window!

We celebrated Easter on Sunday. I (a Jewish Mama, remember) hid candy and Squinkie filled eggs in the backyard, the boys ate excessive amounts of chocolate…


Riley=1. Bunny=0.

…and we had a lovely brunch with stimulating conversation about Plato and Socrates’ Allegory of the Cave, “The Croods” (major philosophical undertones!), and Jesus Christ, all of which made me wonder where the hell the Easter Bunny came from.

Last but not least, bedtime last night, after a week of staying up late and sleeping in, was, predictably, a bitch.

How was your spring break?


Filed under anxiety, bedtime, bucket list, cleaning, Easter, eating out, health, movie, spring break


I started this blog to find meaning in my everyday life. Early on, I discovered there were things I did as a mother that made me feel happy, proud, and grateful all at once. That’s when I began the Runaway Mama Bucket List.

On my list so far are watching my boys splash in puddles, baking a cake from scratch, running a 5K and having my kids watch me cross the finish line, and taking Dylan to see Cars 2 in the movie theater.

This past weekend, there was a small carnival set up at a church near our house. The boys had never been to a carnival, which, of course, was a source of anxiety for me. (God forbid they missed out on such an important childhood experience. It would be heartbreaking. Devastating. They’d eventually resent me, and they’d never get into a decent college.)

The more I thought about it, the more excited I became. It was my mission to bring them to the carnival and – drum roll please – take them on their first ever Ferris wheel ride. It would be extraordinary! It would be a bonding experience for the whole family! It would change our lives forever! They boys would never forget the unbelievable feeling of being on top of the world! It would end up on my Runaway Bucket List for sure!

Editor’s note: Thank you, Mike, for indulging me. Lucky for you, there was beer for sale at the carnival.

Before we left the house, I told the boys to be good listeners because it would be busy and crowded. I also said, “If you’re saving your poops for the carnival, you’re going to be very disappointed. Go now, because if anyone has to use the bathroom at the carnival, which will surely be gross, we’re leaving.”

Editor’s note: It might be time to address my public bathroom issues with a professional.

And then we were off!

There she was…


First, we went on some rides…


This kid took the motorcycle ride very seriously.


Dylan’s first roller coaster!

Then we played some games, which robbed us of our life savings.


Worry not. It was worth every penny, because we “won” a lot of crap prizes.


In fact, Riley actually earned back everything we lost when he “won” this hundred dollar pillow.

Of course, I carried everything (#motherhoodis).


And then, it was finally time for the bucket list worthy Ferris wheel ride.

Mike and I double-checked with the boys that they weren’t afraid. You’re not nervous? You’re not scared? Both said they weren’t, so we went for it. The views were pretty cool, and the boys seemed to enjoy it. I, on the other hand, had a moment when we reached the top and the ride stopped because other people were getting on down below. We were just dangling up there. Swaying in the breeze. Hanging from a metal contraption that was probably fifty years old and taken apart and put back together hundreds of times each year, which got me thinking…

What kind of mechanical safety measures were in place at this creepy, traveling carnival? How often were the rides checked for maintenance? What if we fell to the ground? Would we survive? What was I thinking!? I heard about carnival ride accidents in the news all the time! Were the carnie workers trained to handle the equipment or an emergency? And why did they have so few teeth?

Then, as quickly as it stopped, the ride began moving again, and my Crazy slowly receded. I smiled and took some pictures…





…and when we were safely on the ground again, I breathed deep.

Then we had “lunch.” By lunch, I mean popcorn and a blue raspberry snow cone.


Carnival. Check.

Ferris wheel. Check.

Bucket list? Maybe.



Filed under bucket list, carnival, Crazy Mama