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‘Restful’ vacation quickly turns to purgatory

We just got back from a week-long trip to Orlando, Fla.

The kids had a blast, but my husband and I would be content if we never visited another amusement park for the rest of our lives.

On the third or fourth day of our “vacation,” we knew ourselves to be trapped in some sort of amusement park purgatory. Similar to Sisyphus, forced to endlessly push a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll down again, we were compelled to forever push a stroller and herd two other children through a maze of people and attractions, to stand in long lines only to ride neck-jarring roller coasters, to stand in long lines to buy expensive but poor quality food, to wait
in long lines and pay ridiculous amounts of money just to park our over-priced rental car.

Yes, we were witness to some crazy sights at these amusement parks. The highlight of the trip (for everyone but my Muggle husband) was strolling through the imagined world of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. We tasted Butterbeer, bought chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, and ate at the Hogsmeade Inn. It was mind-blowing, for nerds like us.

But the craziest sight by far was witnessed not at Sea World, or Disney World or Universal Studios, nor even at Gatorland. It was witnessed at an upscale Italian restaurant in our hotel.

My husband and I were happy to get out for a couple of hours one evening without the kids. It was blissful. Picture Lady and Tramp spooling spaghetti round forks, finding themselves nose to nose, batting eyelashes at one another while music played softly in the background.

We savored our freedom, until the family with two of the most misbehaved children we’ve ever seen took the table next to ours.

While the young father seated himself, the young mother proceeded to herd the two petulant boys – at a guess, around the ages of four and two – to their seats. As she wrestled the youngest into a high chair, the four-year-old chose the opportunity to bolt for a nearby door and open it a few inches, letting in cold air that cooled my very own food.

A man that I guessed to be the grandfather told him sternly to close the door and sit down in his seat. The boy took his time at the open door, but sit down he eventually did, only to get back up again a few seconds later.

Now I’ll have to cue the amusement park music to accompany the table’s high-jinks from here on out, because – I kid you not – the boy started to run laps around the table. In a nice restaurant. With paying customers nearby. He ran those short legs like he was in some kind of contest, as if someone held a stop watch and clipboard, as if he were being cheered on by a stadium of fans.

Meanwhile, the mother scampered back and forth from seat to seat, producing sippy cups and toys from her bag. And the two men stared at their menus as if their lives depended on it, neither lifting a finger nor uttering a word to the little demon blazing a trail around them.

Their orders were taken while the boy crawled through the rungs of their chairs, kicking and whining. Their food arrived, but the boy had no appetite for anything other than aerobic exercise. He eventually tired of running around the table and opted instead to run endlessly up and down an unoccupied booth that stretched half the length of the restaurant.

Plates and glasses and cutlery glittered on the nearby tables, ripe for the crashing. At the bitter end, he took to holding onto the back of his mother’s chair and wailing while his little brother accompanied him.

I tried not to stare, I really did. But my meal was forgotten, my prior bliss a fading memory. I didn’t understand how the adults could sit there and calmly eat their rather expensive suppers while their little boy was clearly in need of an exorcism.

Any sane parent would have never brought such children out to dinner, not even to McDonald’s. It was coming up on nine o’clock, after all, and from the looks on all their zombie-like faces, Orlando had taken its toll on them, just as it had on me and my husband.

And all at once, I felt kind of sorry for them. They too were trapped in vacation purgatory. True, it seemed to be a self-induced purgatory that might well last until their children moved out of their house if they didn’t learn how to discipline their children, but still, I shared their exhausted mind-set.

Once children enter the picture, “vacation” isn’t restful anymore, not even for the children.
Community

Author, child abuse survivor to speak at Henrico event

To help celebrate twenty years of service to advocating for abused and neglected children in Henrico County, Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (CASA) will host an evening with bestselling author K.L. Randis on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Recreation Center in Lakeside.

Randis is best known for her bestselling novel, Spilled Milk, which tells her painful – but ultimately triumphant – personal story of abuse and of child abuse prevention. The book is her first novel.

The event is free to the public, but seating is limited Reservations may be made by e-mailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Belmon Recreation Center is located at 1600 Hilliard Road. > Read more.

Philippines ambassador to the US visits Filipino Festival in Henrico


The Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. attended the Ninth Annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church earlier this month. Cuisia (pictured above with festival performers) was welcomed by County Manager John Vithoulkas and Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover (below) at the church, which is located in Lakeside.

While enjoying some of the cultural performances at the festival, the ambassador and his wife had a private lunch with Vithoulkas, Glover, Eldon Burton (an outreach representative from U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s Office) and Father James Begley, the pastor of OLL. > Read more.

Dragon boats invade the James

Hundreds of spectators filled the banks of the James River to watch two dozen teams of competitors in the Walgreen’s Richmond International Dragon Boat Festival at Rocketts Landing Aug. 2. The event included a number of races, as well as several cultural performances. The sport is billed as the fastest growing water sport in the world.(Photo by Roger Walk for the Henrico Citizen) > Read more.

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Entertainment

‘Planes’ sequel crashes

‘Fire and Rescue’ proves too predictable, boring

Planes: Fire and Rescue opens with a dedication to the hero firefighters of the world. It’s an admirable notion, and it makes sense, given that this is a film about planes that fight fires.

But here it might be a little out of place, as Planes: Fire and Rescue has a few things on its mind besides supporting the men and women who routinely throw themselves into burning buildings.

Like money. Lots and lots of money – into the 11-figures-and-counting range. In case you weren’t aware, 2006’s Cars was the biggest moneymaker Disney had in decades – not because of how much green the film printed at the box office, but because a combination of toys, games and snack foods stamped with the Cars seal of approval routinely pulls in tens of billions of dollars per year. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


This weekend in Henrico, you can learn about fall herbs or mad science. Enjoy some laughs from West End Comedy or Three-Penny Theatre’s production of “The Rivah Home Companion.” For music lovers, Jennifer Nettles is in concert tonight and the fifth annual GWAR-B-Q takes place tomorrow at Hadad’s Lake. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

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Learn about the story of Tom and Pharoah from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Meadow Farm Museum, 3400 Mountain Rd. On Aug. 30, 1800, these slaves informed Meadow Farm’s… Full text

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