A kid’s video review of Pottermore.com


Suggested titles for Pirates of the Caribbean 5

Dead Horse’s Chest

On Second Thought

The Depps of Depravity

Pirates of the Caribbean There Done That

At Franchise’s End

Cha-Ching!

"You wear too much eye makeup. My sister wears too much...People think she's a whore."


Yeah, we’re that family.

Did I say kids were awesome?

The kids have been at each other’s throats for days. They’ve been arguing about EVERYTHING. I swear, if one of them says it’s cloudy today, the other one will point out that the percentage of blue sky to clouds negates the other’s declaration. And with three of them, this kind of thing is always happening between two. There is never a moment of peace. Plus, Manfrengensen has been working 6-day weeks, so when Sunday comes, I just want the day off.

Last night, I took the kids to seen Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Roderick Rules, which they liked. It had some funny moments, but also made me uncomfortable in some parts, but it’s just a movie, so I try not to take it too seriously. Edison came away with this idea of “Mom Bucks” where he and his siblings would earn play money from me for doing chores and things, that they would later exchange for real cash. That’s cool and all, but not really what I want to get with. I mean, first of all, they get allowances, and there’s really nothing that they want for. In addition to all that, I take them to the movies, and I also buy them things. Like yesterday, we went to this big community garage sale, and I got Edison a nice bike, almost new, for $20. After that, I took Clooney out to get him a Spooner Board, which you might think is overindulgence on my part, but it’s really just selfish. You see, by buying him this toy, I’m buying time for myself with kids outside. It’s win-win, as I see it. I don’t do it often, but I do it. To tell you the truth though, right from the start, I’m not too comfortable with this Mom Bucks thing because, and maybe I am being too idealistic here, but shouldn’t the motivation to help around the house and be kind to your siblings be intrinsic? Is that naive on my part?

Now, Edison is an early riser, and he rises every day with some kind of bee in his bonnet, some idea that he has, thing he wants to do, grand scheme he needs to execute. He’s off and running, sometimes without even remembering to brush his teeth. (Ew, I know, right?) Today’s idea: MOM BUCKS. So that when I come down, at Church-Time-minus-30, and no coffee yet made, he’s got every version of Monopoly we own spread out on the family room floor, and he has devised an ELABORATE set of parameters as to how each Mom Buck shall be earned.

I had to tell him to park it. Pistons were not firing yet, you know?

And this after I had gone into Clooney’s room (where The Princess sleeps on a fold-out chair on the weekends) to find them already locking their devilish horns. Clooney, I guess, had begun the day by declaring that this was The Princess’s last night in his room. I just backed away slowly, closed the door and pretended not to have witnessed.

Got to Mass just as the priest was getting ready to head up the center aisle. It wasn’t too crowded, I guess some people took off today, or maybe they are going to other masses because there’s no Sunday school this week. Manfrengenson trailed behind me and the boys with the Princess. We got good seats right up front. I really like our pastor. He gives an awesome homily, really knows how to tie the Gospel into what we’re dealing with in our 21st Century lives. He’s funny, comfortable with the flock, a very human kind of guy. When the homilies are over, I often want to hold up my phone and wave it in the air for an encore. “Woo-hoo! You rock, Dude!” Father Dave is like my spiritual Justin Beiber.

Today, however, I was distracted. The kids were jostling for space near me. The Princess, who’s usually in Sunday school during the 9:00 was insisting on sitting on my lap, while Clooney kept brushing his face against my arm like a cat trying to get its whiskers clean. The kicker was Communion. Before it started, the Princess, who is almost 6, and not at all a small 5, was insisting on being carried to the Priest while I went. I refused, and she refused to let it drop, whining in my ear during the entire Consecration. Communion time comes, and I pushed her out into the aisle. She’s still hanging onto my right arm and whining, while Clooney follows us, and takes hold of my left. They ‘re both hanging on me the whole time I accept the Eucharist and back to the pew, where Clooney immediately starts complaining that there’s a stain on his knee. For Pete’s sake, can’t I have a few minutes to pray? Just a minute to talk to God and ask him for the patience I need to deal with these people??

So, Clooney’s still kvetching, I haven’t knelt down yet, but as I turn to look at the problem, I notice that The Princess’s sippy cup has leaked milk all over the pew. Must be a whole pint there on the seat, so I reach into my purse for a wad of Kleenex, start mopping, the whole time, Clooney’s trying to sway my attention to the stain, I just want to pray…I’m kneeling while I’m cleaning (the rest of the congregation’s still going up for Communion) and as I straighten my leg to stand, the knee of my pants sticks to the kneeler. What’s on Clooney’s pants, what’s now on my pants, are the crushed raisins that The Princess has carelessly dropped during Mass.

These are the days that try moms souls…


Watching Red Carpet Arrivals with My Five-Year-Old Daughter

She considers herself a fashion diva, and I have no place to argue, though Manfrengensen often accuses her of ripping off Cindi Lauper’s sense of style. I thought it would be fun to watch the Oscar Red Carpet show with her, though we disagreed on a few things.

I loved Hailee Steinfeld’s Marchesa Oscar dress, thinking it was totally age-appropriate, and just stunning. The Princess, however, was not impressed. She didn’t hate it, but she wasn’t wild about it either.

She likes things a bit more frilly or sparkly. She thought Amy Adams’s dress was the bomb. I had to admit that Adams looked stunning in her sparkling purple (also big with The Princess) LWren Scott.

She was also no fan of Cate Blanchett’s Givenchy dress, which I thought was interesting.

But the dress she hated the most was Jennifer Hudson’s Versache number (never mind that the dress was the darling of most other Red Carpet fashion critics).

“Too orange?” I asked.

“No,” she said, looking up again from the iPod game she was playing to take another look, “too booby.”

Let’s hope that kind of fashion sense stays with her, at least through her teen years.

Anyway, not long after Hudson’s arrival The Princess lost interest, and we switched back to our regularly-scheduled programming. Spongebob was wearing his trademark brown shorts, white shirt and tie, and he was working that look like no one else can.


The best movie review of recent times

It’s by my brother, and btw, SPOILER ALERT.

He said he was a little disappointed, then shrugged and added that the title was “false advertising.”


The Bigger Picture

So Universal Studios has decided not to convert the latest installment of the Harry Potter franchise in 3-D, which is good news no matter where you stand on 3-D. What passes for 3-D content is often more gimmick than substance, and in most cases, it doesn’t add much more to the film than increased ticket prices, especially in those instances where the 3-D conversion was done after the movie was filmed. Avatar (which was shot in 3-D) was fine, but didn’t the 3-D images kind of distract us from the primarily cheesy dialogue in the movie? Do we really need 3-D TV? Do we really need EVERYTHING to be in 3-D? Does the public really care? Are the effects really worth it?

The whole story reminded me of growing up with my  uncle Tom. Uncle Tom was actually my great-uncle, my mom’s uncle, and my grandmother’s youngest brother. He’d been a go-between in my grandparents’ courtship, running letters between them on a daily basis. He was a bachelor his entire life. After his mother died, he and my great-grandfather moved in with my grandmother, the family’s only daughter. Even though she had her own family, she took them in, and another brother or two came along with the deal as well, although they eventually got married, moved out and had their own families.

This was a time we often forget or discount as old-fashioned, a time when men had certain roles and women had others. He was the kind of man who wouldn’t have been able to fend for himself. Not that he wasn’t a strong man, because he was. He was a god to us kids. But he never would have been able to cook for himself, or iron his own shirts. Maybe he would have learned how, if he had needed to, but he didn’t need to because he could rely on his sister. It was a time when families stuck close together. Afterall, they were first generation Americans. Where were else was he going to go after their mother died?

He worked outside of Philadelphia at the Sun Shipyard as a welder. He worked long hours and came home filthy every day at 5 o’clock, where the dinner my grandmother had cooked was waiting for him on the table. He always had black under his nails, and he had these big, meaty thumbs. He once told us that he had “worked on the bomb”, or I would guess part of its outer shell, which I suppose could have been possible. The whole operation was compartmentalized and so secret. He said they “didn’t know what they had been working on” until after August 6, 1945.

Me in the middle with Uncle Tom on the left and my cousin on the right. 1965

Uncle Tom had three domains. His primary one was a garage he rented in the alley across the street from my grandparents’ house. It was filled with all kinds of things that we always thought of as “real man” related, fishing poles, styrofoam coolers, auto parts, sports equipment, tools and things he would just find and collect. Truth be told, we kids were not allowed to venture far into the garage (tetanus being the primary danger there, I’m sure), but he would take us over to collect the items for our afternoons of play. Sometimes we would play softball, or he’d take us fishing at the state park. We’d go crabbing in the Chesapeake, searching for fossils along its bed (and we’d find some!), or more often, we would just take long walks in the park, which in those days was almost as dense as a forest. And he would point to the surrounding neighborhoods and say, “You see all this? When I was a kid, it was all trees, as far as the eye could see.”

He would open that garage door and the smell would hit us. I can still remember it, though I couldn’t say what it was exactly, nor have I smelled anything like it since. A mixture of motor oil with a pinch of gasoline and a whole lot of fishing residue baking inside the walls of those coolers while enclosed in the hot garage; to us kids, that smell was heaven. That smell meant fun.

His other domains included his bedroom, the threshold of which we rarely crossed. The room was immaculate. The bed was always made with military smoothness, and though it smelled like an old man, it looked relatively untouched, not a doily out of its place. He would sleep late on the weekends, which often drove us crazy waiting for him to come play with us when we visited. My grandmother had this fox stole that looked like several foxes, each biting the tail of the one in front of it. We used to like to leave it outside his door when he was sleeping so that he would step on it when he got up. I can still hear him yelling, “Get those crazy cats out of my way!” putting us in hysterics.

Uncle Tom’s other, and most sacred domain, was the basement where he shaved in the morning looking at his reflection in a small mirror over the utility tub, and changed every evening into the freshly pressed shirts that my grandmother would leave down there for him near her ironing board. We used to have long talks with Uncle Tom in that back room there. He’d be shining his shoes or doing some other man-task while we sat on a hard box full of dark brown Balantine empties (“The champagne of beers!”).

The finished part of the basement was where he kept his chair and his TV, which was always black and white, even though color TVs were readily available in those days. I asked him one time why he didn’t have a color TV, and he responded that it “hurt” his eyes.

That line has always stuck with me, not because I really believe that his eyes hurt, but I do think there was something to what he said. I think that watching TV in black and white helped him and his generation to distinguish the difference between reality and TV, a line that we in the 21st century see getting more and more unclear every day. We live in a society that is currently obsessed, almost terminally distracted by “Reality Television.” I personally find this ironic, because while most Americans watch some form of reality television, almost an equal number, if not more eschew what is ACTUAL reality television, network news. Networks over the last two decades have put less and less money into producing news programs and more and more into the cheap form of “reality TV” and it’s been wildly profitable for them.

But what’s crazy is that it’s not reality. It’s orchestrated and staged for the greatest possible effect. Read any of these blogs about behind the scenes of Kate Plus 8 or any of those shows, and you know that the producers put these characters (and that’s what they are — CHARACTERS) into situations that will produce the best footage, and then they weave that footage in such a way that viewers see the version of reality that is the most sensational.

In addition, we’ve created a society where almost everyone expects to have the 15 minutes of fame that Andy Warhol promised, and once some get it, they cling tenaciously and become such train wrecks that some of us can’t look away. (See: Spencer/Heidi Pratt, John and Kate and the like.) Some of these nobodies who are instantly propelled to arbitrary fame just refuse to go away. But what’s even more disturbing is that so many Americans think they could have a shot at it as well. In the early days, and even into the 70’s and 80’s you needed actual talent to be famous. Now it’s just a competition to see who can be the lowest of the lowest common denominator.

Every kid is a star. Parents talk about their kids’ talents like everyone’s a prodigy. If one girl kicks another in a soccer game, the parents consider suing for what might be a lost career, or a potential scholarship. Couples have multiples, five kids, six kids, one family’s even considering having a 20th child just to stay in the limelight. Doesn’t matter that their 19th child was born prematurely, spewed from a womb too tired to keep it going for another couple of months. Doesn’t matter what effect it will have on the child’s health or quality of life. It’s all about the fame.

And the media celebrates it. The Daily Show talked recently about how the media is like Doug, the dog, in Up, who is easily distracted by squirrels. Their point rang true for me. The media are too easily distracted, and because we are a media-centric society, we follow the lead.

3-D may be part of the never-ending push for reality in entertainment, but is it necessary? Is it like color, or hi-def, or is it just a gimmick? In a world where you don’t have to do anything special to be famous, where “reality TV” personalities are considered “talent” how much further do we really need to go?

I don’t want to sound old-fashioned or anything, but personally, 3-D hurts my eyes.


Um, more like Incredible Hunk!

After appearing with the cast of The Avengers at ComicCon over the weekend, it seems Mark Ruffalo has been cast as Bruce Banner in the upcoming Marvel feature. He will replace former Incredible Hulk, Edward Norton in the role, after an ugly press release last week in which Marvel claimed Norton was “difficult” to work with. (I’m guessing Norton had problems with the script, but we’ll never know.)

Personally, I don’t really have a lot of hope for the script, but we’ll see. There’s bound to be lots of action, and with a cast that includes Ruffalo and Robert Downey, Jr., unless it’s in 3-D, it shouldn’t be too hard on the eyes.