Dress to Impress Day

It’s Spirit Week at Edison’s school, and the theme for today is “Dress to Impress.” Yesterday was “Wear Orange” (It had something to do with an anti-bullying campaign), and Monday was “Dress like a Twin Day.” Edison pulled out his spiffiest duds for today’s occasion. Unfortunately, these include the sport jacket that he wore for his First Holy Communion four years ago. They are a size 8, and he is a firm 12-almost-14. I tried to dissuade him, to tell him that he looked silly, but then an argument began, and I thought, you know what, if he were The Princess, I would have given up at the first protestation. If she’s taught me anything, it’s to pick my battles, and what you are wearing is not worth fighting. So I let him go, even though he kind of looked like this:

Just hoping some of that anti-bullying rhetoric stuck to the ruffians in his middle school population yesterday.

Finally, a field trip I wouldn’t mind chaperoning…

The Princess started first grade last week, We had this conversation this morning.

The Princess: Mommy, can you chaperone my field trip?

Me: When is it?

The Princess: Like, three weeks?

Me: What is it?

The Princess: It’s when you come along with my class.

Me: No, I mean, what is it?

The Princess: It’s when you get a group of kids from my class and you take them around and make sure —

Me: I mean, where are you going?

The Princess: Oh. France.

Another old snapshot…

I am cleaning out my inbox, and I found some old memories…

June, 2008

(We belonged to a pool that summer. It was like a little party club. There was a main clubhouse there with changing rooms, a kitchen, and a little playroom with toys for the kids. Edison was 8, Clooney 4 1/2, and The Princess was almost 3.)

Yesterday I took the kids to a play date at a pool. When it was time to leave, Clooney totally melted down. People were offering condolences, words of comfort to me. I wasn’t too flustered. I just kept

Clooney and Edison under the sprinkler. June 2008

talking to him calmly while herding him inside. He’s going through a phase. I got him into the changing room and calmed him down a bit before realizing that I had left Edison’s underwear in my bag back out at the pool. I ran out to get it, leaving them in the otherwise empty changing room for what could not have been more than 30 seconds. As I came back, I saw Clooney, doing a full-circle streak-show, out the changing room door, through the toy room to the kitchen, and back out through that door to the patio. Got him corralled and back into the changing room, came through the door, and there’s Edison, BUCK NAKED riding the back of this rubber hippity-hop animal thing; The Princess was cheering him on. And the hippity hop wasn’t the only thing that was bouncing, if you know what I mean.

Insane. Luckily no one else saw that, but if they did, they’d have to burn the hippity hop.

I deploraxed The Lorax

Was The Lorax originally meant to represent Teddy Roosevelt? He certainly has a convincing moustache.

I took the kids to see The Lorax yesterday. I really wish I had read the reviews before I had promised to do that. I was going to write a lengthy review, but A.O. Scott of the NYTimes said most of what I wanted to say, and I feel, said it more eloquently than I ever could have, so I’m sharing that with you.

I don’t mean to seem like I hate things, or that I am no fun, but I must tell you that as I sat in that darkened theater, I felt sad. Mostly sad for Dr. Seuss. I kept thinking that if he were alive, he’d go out in his yard, dig a grave and practice rolling over in it.

As Scott mentioned in his article, Theodore Geisel exercised tight control over his work, which his heirs have abandoned. That’s why we get these overblown adaptations that have little to do with the original story. These tales are perfect for the ten-minute-long animated shorts we got in the 1970’s. They don’t need all these added-on backstories that muck them up and make them run for 90 minutes.

Another thought that kept occurring to me was an article I’d just read about how folks today, for the most part, really aren’t that green. That everyone likes to use the buzzword “green” but in practice, we still keep consuming and discarding and leaving the saving of the planet to others who are too few to stem the tide. We need the latest smartphone, the latest TV, what all the other kids are wearing, and we feel better about ourselves when we throw our plastic bottles into a conveniently placed recycling bin, but overall, we can’t be bothered to carry our own reusable bags into the mall.

While the message of “save the trees” is still there, pretty much everything else Dr. Seuss stood for is not. Sure the little kids will walk away with that idea about saving the trees, but they will also come away feeling like they laughed a lot — at things that were kind of mean-spirited. Language is used to cut other characters down, and slapstick is what really gets the laugh. For some reason there’s also a fat bear that’s played for laughs as well.

Dr. Seuss was a genius, I’m not going to deny that. But his genius was his simplicity. The way he used his children’s books as allegories about racism, environmental issues and war is a great thing. But it’s not like he was the only one. I see a lot of Dr. Seuss’ words everywhere these days. They are plastered all over Pintrest, quoted on Facebook, painted on library walls. But you know, Theodore Geisel is no more the world’s greatest philosopher than Shel Silverstein is its poet. We are wise to use Dr. Seuss as a starting point to talk to our kids, but we need to back that up with more complex ideas — and follow through on those ideas ourselves.

Learning Swerve

Here’s another funny thing about my kids:

They can figure out how to beat Bowser in the Super Mario Bros. video game, but when I ask them to return the laundry bag to their wood-framed hampers, they wither and give up. This is apparently a skill  they are not interested in acquiring. What’s up with that?


All over the place

Last week was another crazy one. The Princess had been sick, mostly with fever, but also she was listless and had no appetite. I took her to the doctor, since strep is going around her class (and pretty much everywhere else), but she didn’t have strep. Her liver seemed a little inflamed though, the doc said, and because of that, suggested we test her for mono. So great…no worries there…turned out she didn’t have mono, which was a relief, just a lingering virus, that made her especially cranky. The virus seems to be gone…now we’re still working on the cranky.

Friday, Edison started teaching himself to play the Super Mario Bros. theme on the piano. I went out to dinner with a friend, and when I came home, he was still banging on those keys. First thing Saturday morning, he was at it again.

Before I had even finished my coffee, fantasies of opening the oven door and leaving the gas on were dancing in my mind. By Sunday afternoon, Manfrengensen claimed to have been checking out flights to Japan on Expedia.com, with plans to hunt down the man who wrote the song and torture him, mostly just by following him around and singing the song.

Saturday night we were in church, and the kids were so good there. Not like the other time I told you about. Clooney was actually following along in the missal and even singing the songs. When the mass was over, I gave him kudos for his behavior, and he shrugged and said, “Well, yeah, it’s not like I’m here for nothing. What do you think, I just come here for all the standing and kneeling?” which I kind of thought was a funny thing for a nine-year-old to say.

Earlier in the day, I took Clooney and Edison to audition for a local commercial. I’m not a stage mom or anything, but I kind of know the guy who’s making the commercial. I asked the boys if they wanted to try, thinking it would be kind of fun, and they both agreed. Edison is more of a performer than Clooney is. Clooney’s a comedian, but he’s really dry, and he doesn’t really look for attention (unless someone has given him lemonade — that’s like feeding a Gremlin after midnight — watch out!)

Edison has done a couple of school plays, plus his toddler years were spent imitating Steve from Blues Clues, so he has a certain element of the musical-theatrical about him.

We went to the place where they were holding the auditions, and Edison went first. I could tell Clooney was nervous, so I pulled him into a hug to keep him still and whispered in his ear that there was nothing to be nervous about. “Just go in and be yourself,” I said.

“No,” he smiled, “I’m going to go in and be Billy.” Billy was the name of the character in the script. So obviously, he’s more of a method-kind of actor, comes from the Strasberg school (or the Strasberg preschool). Like he’s freakin’ Christian Bale or something. Go be the part, Clooney. Inhabit the role.

Anyway, afterward, they were both excited, it had been a fun experience, and I started to worry that one or both of them would be disappointed if he didn’t get the role. I said, you know, you both did well, (the director had said so) and if one of you didn’t get it, no big deal, they could just be looking for something else, someone younger or older or lighter or darker. It’s all luck sometimes. And then when we were in the car, I reminded them again, they could go with someone else entirely. The important thing was that we had fun today.

The boys agreed, and then Clooney whispered from the third row of the car, “Even though it’s going to be me.”

Well, this morning, we got word of the callback…and it was for Edison. The director stressed again that Clooney had done well, but he just wasn’t quite what they are looking for. I felt very proud of Edison, and I was kind of hoping Clooney wouldn’t be too sad about it. But he was. He cried. He cried! So I told him that these kind of endeavors are really just a crapshoot, and you can’t take any kind of setback too hard. I told him about all the rejection letters I had gotten for my children’s book a couple of years ago, and told him that even though no one bought it, I am still proud of it. And some day, maybe someone will want it, or something else I write. You can’t let it make you stop trying.

And I think he got that. He was cool after a while. He’ll try again. And we’ll see how Edison’s call back goes. You never know, because every day is a new adventure, right?

Choking, shmoking…

Here’s an example of what it’s like for a mother of young children at the pool:

The Princess was paddling in the shallow end, safely ensconced in her pink floaty Disney princess vest. I had been in for a while, but it really wasn’t that hot a day, and I’d been fighting a headache all day, so I got out and wrapped myself in a towel. I sat in a chair at the side of the pool, while she showed me how she could jump, dunk her head (while holding her nose) and float. Every trick was preceded by the words, “Watch me.”

All of a sudden, I felt something in my throat. Had I swallowed a bug? In any case, the apparatus was seizing up on me. I needed water stat! But the water was on the other side of the pool, where Edison’s friends had settled for the afternoon. I got up to go get some, coughing and trying to swallow.

“Mommy, watch me!” The Princess called from the pool.

“Princess, I have to go get some water.”

“No, watch me!”

“I’m choking here. I need water.”


“I swallowed a bug or something! I’ll be right back.”

“W A T C H  M E!”

Needless to say, I completed the task that was most pressing — I watched her for about ten more seconds before getting the water and preventing myself from full-on asphyxiation.

In other news, my decluttering thing has gotten a little side-tracked, but I have been slowly collecting things. Here are the things recently:

27) Hot Wheels stop watch. This had been Clooney’s, but he grew tired of it and gave it to The Princess. She put it on the desk in my office, where it proceeded to go off at random times. No one could figure it out, how to stop the beeping, how to work the thing. It moved from my office to the kitchen counter, where I finally dissected it to remove the battery and threw it away.

28) The Lemonade Stand. Purchased for $10 at Target four years ago, this thing has taken up space in our garage, only to be used for 20 minutes per annum. Not sure that in all its uses it paid for itself, but they never played with it for fun, only for business. I was going to throw it away when we moved, but they caught me and insisted we bring it to the new house.

29) Widowed yard game racket. Terrible game, really. Racket was neither taut enough to hit the ball back, nor slack enough to catch it. No idea what happened to its mate or the ball.

30) Clooney’s old raincoat. He must have taken it off in the garage last summer and left it there near the old paint cans. I’m sure it kept many a spider warm this past winter.

31, 32) Two Pirates of the Caribbean Nerf pistols. They only shoot one foam dart at a time, which in today’s automatic Nerf gun warfare is death.

33-37) 5 LEGO boxes. For some reason, the boys insist on keeping the boxes their LEGO sets come in. I don’t get that. It’s never going back in the box, and the model that they make and save (quite the racket LEGO’s got going these days. No longer do kids imagine myriad combinations for these blocks, now they are all specialized and the kids make the models, displaying them as trophies until when? college? they have their own children? The answer has yet to be discovered.) looks exactly like the one on the box, so what do they need to look at the box for? Makes no sense to me, so they’re gone.

Some headway. Next week while they are in camp, I am hoping to tackle the back room in the basement.