Thursday, October 28, 2010

My girl is full of the clever!

The Bulldawgs are gearing up for Homecoming, and in the run-up to the Big Game the girl in charge has been pressed to show up every day in various "Spiritwear" get-ups.

I need to inform you that the girl in charge does not love Spirit Week. She did participate in "Slippers and Sweats Day" because hello . . . sweats? Obviously. And she has awesome penguin slippers that were yearning to wow the Bulldawgs.

But today -- Cartoon and Super-hero Day, she succumbed to the pressure and made herself this rockin' costume. I asked her how Ms. Pac-man fit into the theme -- is she really a cartoon? The girl in charge snorted dismissively. "Ms. Pac-man is a feminist icon: she was the first female video game character. So clearly she's a super-hero. Good grief, mom -- get with the program!"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's not really a circus . . . .

So Coleen and I took a big mess of girls to see OVO, the latest Cirque du Soleil production, and of course we loved every minute of it. It was the best circus ever -- even though there was not a tiger or an elephant to be seen. They didn't even have trained bears or dancing dogs in tutus.

What they did have was every kind of acrobat you could think of -- plus clowning of the French variety. You know the kind of clowning I'm talking about, right? It's a combination of the most glamorous and sophisticated French humor (at least I suppose it was sophisticated -- I couldn't really tell because Cirque du Soleil isn't so much about the dialogue, so all the performers spoke a sort of Frenchified bug-speak. Very elegant.) and the most farcical slapstick comedy -- think Jerry Lewis, but French and urbanely witty.

And oh, have mercy, the acrobats and gymnasts and tumblers and miming! These performers did things that the human body isn't really made to do -- and they all did it so gracefully!

At one point I looked down our row of seats and all of our girl urchins were agog -- their eyes bugged out and their mouths hanging open. I considered taking a picture of those glowing urchin faces in the dark, but then I watched as burly and business-like ushers stormed some poor kid who brought out his cell phone, and I reconsidered the whole idea of flash photography -- but I did stage a re-enactment for you. As you can see, some of the urchins are all about re-enacting, while others think I am a big dork.

We topped off our fabulous evening with a swingin' dinner at the House of Chou -- our favorite Chinese place. I knew the urchins were having a good time when Jolie Blonde's sister the heart-faced girl told a joke having to do with seagulls that was so funny and inexplicable that she laughed so hard she cried into her pu-pu platter.

Check out these Cirque du Soleil swingers!

Image credits:
All performance images and video courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"Read me a story, please!"

So I read this depressing article in The New York Times the other day (pointed out to me by my friends, Mary and Mark), and when I told the urchins about it, it got them depressed too. The article points out that parents are increasingly pushing their very young children toward chapter books, and away from the true picture book or storybook. It seems that more and more parents feel that picture books are "too babyish" for their precocious youngsters. Some parents worry that their wee one will have fallen too far behind in that all-important push to get into college, if the sweet lad isn't reading Dickens or Shakespeare by the time he enters school.

OK, maybe I'm exaggerating about the Dickens and Shakespeare (maybe not). But I do know parents who feel that the most insipid "chapter book" will somehow be a better reading experience for their children than the most lushly illustrated and creatively written picture book. I don't get it. And even worse, soon children will only rarely know the joys of storybooks; this makes me sad.

You know these books -- the ones with few words, or sometimes no words at all. For most people I know, these are the books that evoke the truest emotional response; many of my friends can recite whole chunks of their favorite (or their kids' favorite) storybooks. Raise your hand if you can recite Goodnight, Moon -- all together, now: "In the great green room there was a telephone, and a red balloon . . . ." One of my most vivid movie memories is at the end of the Tom Clancy film Patriot Games; Harrison Ford's character has just saved the planet, but now he settles in beside his daughter's hospital bed for a truly important job -- and begins to read: "The sun did not shine; it was too wet to play . . . ." Fabulous dad -- now there's a real hero!

The urchins and I have started an ongoing conversation about the books we loved to look at when we were little; each urchin has a particular favorite, but we also have realized that there are certain picture books that have become part of our family history: we refer back to The Runaway Bunny, Quick as a Cricket, A Fish Out of Water, and the monumentally wonderful Make Way For Ducklings on a regular basis.

One little phrase from one of our favorite stories evokes layers of meaning: we remember the story; we remember the feel of the beautiful book in our hands; and the memory also evokes images of snuggling up on the sofa or sprawling on mom and dad's bed while the story is read.

We are a family of readers -- you might have guessed that by now. And in our conversations about reading we have all agreed -- the joy of picking up a book and reading it all by yourself for the very first time cannot be over-stated. And the sound of a beloved voice, reading to you as you gaze at beautiful, intricate, funny, colorful pictures, or as you drift off to sleep with those images in your head, must be what heaven will be like.

Our picture books and storybooks are the books that made us fall in love with reading. I've illustrated my musing with some of my family's favorites -- I would love to know about your favorites, too!

And ooh! While we're talking about delicious books, here's a fantastic Halloween book about a witch who is not as scary as she thinks she is -- but she sure knows how to make some wickedly delicious blueberry pancakes! After you read the book you can make the pancakes -- the recipe is included in the story.

tangent: Old Black Witch was a book I loved so much as a kid that I kept it like a precious treasure for my own children. Of course soon after I placed it on their bookshelf, my old friend of a book got chewed to shreds by our dog, Toby AKA the Hound From Hell, may he rest in peace. Thank God for Amazon-dot-com!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Something's not right about this . . .

So the sunny girl loves to dance. From the time she could toddle, she twirled her way through life; a two-year-old in a tutu can dance anywhere she wants to, has always been my motto. She used to spin along in the frozen foods section of the grocery store, and has been known to fling her arms out gracefully as she takes her seat in church. To this day, she gives off a very Isadora Duncan air, except without the free love (the sunny girl is only thirteen) and also without the part about being strangled to death by her own flowy scarf.

Well, a lifetime of dancing means that we buy a lot of dance shoes. It was fabulous back in the good old days, when I could pick up a pair of ballet slippers and some tap shoes for twenty bucks at Walmart -- but those days are long gone. The sunny girl has grown-up feet, so we get to trek over to Heather's Dance Boutique.

Let me just say that a dancer who walks into Heather's for the first time feels a little like Harry Potter the first time he entered Ollivander's Wand Shop. Stacks and stacks of dance shoes surround the famous Heather herself, as she kneels at a dancer's feet. She is unwilling to pronounce herself satisfied with a pair of pointe shoes until the ballerina has tried on multiple sizes of multiple styles by multiple makers: Blochs, Capezios, or Russians? Serenades or Supremas? Size 6B or 7A? I know that she would nod her head in complete agreement with Mr. Ollivander: "The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter." Substitute a couple of words in that sentence and you'll understand why the sunny girl tried on 37 pairs of pointe shoes before Heather would sell us a single pair.

But here's the thing about ballet slippers and pointe shoes: while each pair costs approximately the same as a good pair of basketball or running shoes (ballerinas are athletes, no joke), unlike other athletic shoes, they do not come ready to wear. No, no! The ballerina mom must pay close to one hundred dollars for these airy confections of silk and glue, and then take them home and sew on the ribbons and elastic that are required for them to function at all.

Do I strike any of you as someone who enjoys sewing?

This is my sewing box; it consists solely of the items necessary to sew 1) ballet shoes and 2) merit badges. People, I have made many a kick-ass Halloween costume, but you can bet your Aunt Pat that I used glue and staples, and a little smidge of duct tape. I have made a kitty-cat, Sacajawea (with papoose, thank you), and several versions of Neil Armstrong, and never once did I so much as thread a needle -- much less put on a thimble.

I mean, come on! A thimble?

I do love my ballerina, though . . . .

And those shoes look pretty damned good.

Monday, October 11, 2010

If laughing were an Olympic sport, I would be on a Wheaties box.

This fabulous friend celebrated her birthday with us this weekend -- and as always when we gather with these pals, we had just the swellest time.

Our hostess was very clear as she invited us: "It's last minute, I know, so let's just have cake and champagne. I think it'll be fun!" Of course when we got there we were treated to glamorous hors d'oeuvres and smelly cheeses and multiple wine offerings and sophisticated mixed drinks. And chocolate.

When I asked our hostess what I should wear, she gave the least helpful answer possible: "Oh, you always look so nice!" Oh, please! Keep up that kind of lingo and I'll be showing up in flip flops and some sort of "I Heart Jesus" sweatshirt, which can I just say would be an unfortunate party look. I mean, I do heart Jesus, but the shirt? Unfortunate.

But then I pressed her for details, and of course she had gotten a clothing report from everyone:

"The birthday girl is wearing her new red pumps because after her long recuperation from surgery, she has been given the high-heels all-clear." Fabulous news!

"And the paragon of elegance says she's wearing sparkles."


It's hard to keep up with these babes sometimes . . . .

I wore what might be described as a "summery frock." Really. I wore a frock.

Well -- I regret to inform you that I spent most of the evening laughing my ass off, which means that I took very few pictures. I think this should be a new Law of Physics or similar: "The amount of fun one enjoys is inversely related to the documentation of that fun." Or something like that.

I did get a picture of the Lego Death Star that claims a place of honor in our hosts' dining room -- just to torment the tall boy. He will turn nineteen next month -- and I bet for his birthday, he would love to get the Lego Death Star wrapped up with a shiny black bow. Keep dreaming, tall boy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Snapshot: I can't even think of a way to label this . . . .

When the sunny girl says, "I'm going outside to draw with chalk," I need to remember this image.

It's kinda trippy, don't you think?

I like it.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Facebook Funny Boy

Here's what the tall boy wrote on my Facebook wall this morning:

Who buys a dinosaur skeleton?
The BBC's Olivia Lang reports on the trend of collecting dinosaur fossils, as Sothebys auction house puts a partially complete Allosaurus skeleton up for sale in Paris.

The tall boy > Liz in Virginia Please? Pleeeeaase? Pretty pleeeaaaseee? I'll do the dishes, I'll walk the dog, I could wash the dog, clean up my room, take out the trash, clean up and vacuum and dust, justpleasebuymetheniceAllosaurus?

You like my Tom Chapin reference? I knew you would -- it's what's going to melt your heart and make you realize you want to buy the dinosaur skeleton for the Tall Boy. Doooonnn'tttt you?


Even from far away, the tall boy just cracks me up.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Now I feel really old

So I went to my high school reunion this weekend and of course I had a fabulous time. But I cannot begin to tell you how neurotic and angsty I was about getting ready for it. My philosophy vis-a-vis reunions is that appearance is everything. I must look fabulous and yet like I don't care: No, this isn't a new dress. No, I didn't go to the fabulous Pincurls and get my hair glamorized for the event. Shoes? Am I even wearing shoes? I don't remember. People, shallow doesn't even begin to describe my approach to reunions.

So the traumatic event of the night for me occurred when I realized that I was completely unable to make a decision about the crucial choice between the fun-yet-casual sandals and the awesomely fabulous but pointy-to-the-point-of-witchiness pumps. I was paralyzed by the possible ramifications of a poor shoe choice. So I headed next door to get the fabulous neighbor to rescue me. She's awesome with the shoe psychology; she totally gets the importance of the decision, but can intervene from a more neutral point of view. She's like Dr. Drew, only for shoes.

Well, thank goodness for the fabulous neighbor -- but ask me sometime about how her husband slapped me with a piece of pizza, when I banged on his door and said, "I need the fabulous neighbor -- STAT!" Apparently my urgent tone made him think someone at my house had a bone sticking out or something. He just doesn't get the whole shoe thing, I guess.

So once I got to the event, I smiled graciously and strode confidently through the room and parked myself in the far corner. The husband brought me a glass of wine and said, "You know that you can't stand here all night, right?" He just didn't get that I couldn't mingle until Lisa was there to mingle with me. I was also slightly hyperventilating because across the room I saw the boy with a heart full of sweet whom I ditched meanly to go to the prom with a another boy, who ended up coming out to me -- at the prom. Neither of these boys is my husband, of course (with whom I also went to high school) -- and we're all approaching fifty and happily married. But still. The mind was reeling, and I had not had enough wine.

See what I mean about neurotic? People, you don't even know.

And by the way -- is it just me? I remember people, and I just assume they have no idea who I am. So I imagine saying a cheery hello to a high school pal, and having her look back at me with a blank stare. And I was one of those involved girls in high school -- so I don't know where this notion comes from. I sang; I acted in the school plays; I wrote for the yearbook; I acted like an idiot at pep rallies. A story for another day is how I broke my ankle at a pep rally, and then fell down a flight of stairs the next day and broke the other ankle; the point here would be that people knew who I was -- even if it was because I was widely regarded as a giant dork.

Anyway -- the reunion was fabulous, and so were all the charmingly fun people that I was so afraid of. Look how great we all turned out!

I hugged more people than I have since I don't know when. Seriously, hugging was the default greeting: at the door I was hugged by Dale, who sat next to me in French in 8th grade and dragged me toward a passing grade; and the hugs just kept on coming. Sometimes a spouse was mistakenly hugged but bore up under the strain.

This man was so cute in high school and I always had the teensiest little crush on him. His wife is lovely, just so we're clear.

And this woman was just so dear to me in high school. And she still is. I'm so glad I got to spend time with her; it made all the anxiety worth it.

But can I just say that some things never change? My friend Tim was there and people, he snuck in booze! How hilarious is that? Of course this time he wasn't hiding the beer or the cheap vodka because we weren't old enough to drink. No -- he brought his own "good" wine because he was afraid the house wine would give him a migraine. I howled with laughter -- but I was first in line when he offered to share the good stuff.

It was just like high school.