BY MAURA AMMENHEUSER
Think life in your household is a circus?
Katya Quiroga's life really is a circus - Circus Vargas, which tours the U.S. each year and this week performs in Temecula.
The circus conjures magical images: acrobatics, death-defying feats, amazingly trained exotic animals - not child-rearing, laundry and cooking.
But Quiroga, who with her husband, Nelson Quiroga, owns Circus Vargas, says her family life is pretty typical. They have daughters ages 14, 9 and 4. Quiroga goes to the bank and supermarket, cooks meals and supervises homework and chores.
"Being a parent is a challenge anywhere," Quiroga said. But, as one of the circus' songs says, "We're just like you. We just have an extra thing we do!" (In Quiroga's case, that's trapeze work. Think about THAT as you try blocking your kid's baseball from smashing a window or chase your loose dog down the street.)
Of the 15 kids in this circus' families, the oldest five perform. "All of them know school is their first priority," Quiroga said. Circus Vargas employs a preschool and an elementary/secondary teacher who travel with the show. School starts at 10 a.m. Saturday's a school day; one weekday is school-free. The Quirogas' evenings involve dinner at 6 p.m., the performance from 7:30 to 9:30, and a little down time with the kids afterward.
Constant travel doesn't mean instability. "It's actually easier than if you're someone who moves continually," for example, military families, Quiroga said. "Our house [an RV] comes with us!" The "school" is set up similarly from town to town, so home and classes are as constant and familiar as they would be for any other kid. "It's not that feeling of moving and packing all your stuff," Quiroga said.
Quiroga's happy, however, to have the modern conveniences of an RV during their 10 months of travel each year. A seventh-generation circus performer, she said, "When I grew up, there was no running water, showers, flush toilets. It was harder on the road." The Quirogas spend their non-performing time at their home in Las Vegas or visiting relatives in Europe.
Their oldest daughter performs in the "pre-show" as an acrobat. The 30-minute pre-show gives the public a close-up view of circus members doing their thing. Older circus kids are included, on a rotating basis, Quiroga said. For Quiroga's daughter, the pre-show's a privilege, something she's permitted so long as chores and homework are up to snuff.
Asked about the challenges of raising a family in the circus, Quiroga said parenting is probably easier in her world than ours: "We are with our kids all the time," and there's always extra child-care help. The kids get a big dose of varying geography and cultures. The hardest thing is "not to keep them enclosed in our own little circus environment," she said. They take field trips, such as children's museums or the San Diego Zoo. In Arizona, they visited Indian reservations.
The Quirogas put no pressure on their girls to pursue circus life forever.
"They all have to go to college," Quiroga said. Later, a circus career is fine but not mandatory. Good thing. Already, Quiroga added, her 9-year-old seems less interested in the trapeze than the violin.
Circus Vargas performs at Temecula's The Promenade (at 40820 Winchester Rd.) through April 9. From there it heads to San Bernardino from April 12 through 16; to Victorville April 19 through 23; and to the Ontario Mills mall April 26 through May 7. See www.circusvargas.com for tickets and more information.
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