Sunday, July 17, 2005

Coming to a Theatre Near You: Barbie Zero

by Anne Zelenka
Anna's been diligently working over the past couple weeks on "Barbie Zero" the first in a series of films about Barbie and her paramour Bryan. What about Ken, you ask? We don't have a Ken doll. We have a Ryan doll, and Anna translated this into Bryan.

Let me tantalize you with the first scene from Barbie Zero...

Two attractive dolls are wandering around on the coffee table. They see each other and shake hands.
Barbie: Hi, my name's Barbie.
Bryan: Hi, I'm Bryan.
Barbie: Want to get married tomorrow?
Bryan: Okay!
Barbie: See you tomorrow!
Bryan: Bye!

Where does a four-year-old get this stuff? I suppose from the Disney princess movies where the main goal in life is to meet and marry a handsome man. That's an easy target for ridicule except that being married is associated with higher levels of health and happiness. As long as you don't put all your hopes and happiness in long-term love, I think it's a worthy goal to aim for.

Birthday Party Bliss

by Anne Zelenka
So I ordered Madagascar plates, napkins, cups, and favor boxes from Birthday Express. Bought supplies for paper bag puppets. Made a list of kids to invite. Steeled myself for birthday party madness.

And then... Anna announced she just wants to have a family party. She only wants to invite my friend C. and C.'s two-year-old son.

Oh joy! Oh joy! Oh joy!

No map to make; no invitations to send out; no mad rushing around on birthday party morn to get balloons. No worrying that we'll either have more attendees than favor boxes or no attendees at all.

Can I really take her at her word? Are the birthday police going to come arrest me for lazy and anti-social mothering?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Mommy Foul

by Marjorie
I think I may have been a perpetrator. The Mommy Foul is what happens when a moms tries to direct the actions of another mom's child, especially when said child's mother is there. I've been a victim, too, so I'll start with an example.

I was on a field trip to the cathedral with my kids. As we were walking through the doors into the cathedral, I was opening my mouth to remind Suzanne that we were going into a church and we must behave properly -- be quiet and no running, the idea being that we are reverent to God. Before I could say a word, the organizer of the field trip said this to Suzanne -- it was not a general announcement to the other kids (of which there were none other than her kids, who never run, anywhere, ever). Now, she's not even a church-goer, so I was doubly annoyed. However, she organizes lovely field trips and just happens to have a more controlling personality than I do (hard to believe). I let it slide, probably because, being a church-goer, I am prone to exercise forgiveness (pipe down, I can hear your laughter). And I'm used to this from her -- she is a frequent Mommy Fouler.

Okay, so that was a foul on me.

Here's my foul, though I maintain it was justified. We're at the pool today and my girls were playing beautifully with another little girl, filling a pail with water. The other girl's mom smiled at me. A little boy comes wandering over and picks up another pail, fills it with water, and starts pouring in on the girls' heads. The other girl's mom and I again exchanged looks, unhappy at the interloper. The boy's mother told him to stop and he seemed to ignore her (he had earplugs in his ears to keep out the water) and she sighed heavily. The boy stopped for a bit and went elsewhere. Peace was restored.

The boy came back, this time he flung a toy that nearly hit Gabrielle in the head and then he poured more water over Gabrielle's head. The mother of the other girl seemed shocked. I was not about to sit around sighing heavily because the boy did not listen to his mother. I got up and said to the boy (loudly because of his earplugs), 'please don't pour water on her, she doesn't like it.' That got the mom's attention; she must not have seen the toy flung, because that was worse than the water pouring, in my opinion.

The mom came over and admonished her son for pouring water. Then she made some sort of defense to me that he had earplugs and some other excuse about his behavior. I said only "it was the third time he poured water on her" and otherwise ignored her. I think she was annoyed with me but she eventually got over it. If you're going to be ineffectual, prepare to be fouled.

That said, I don't think we can control our kids, especially very young children -- we can teach them not to harm others or property, we can expect some courtesies, but a lot of things are just beyond their understanding and ability. I have two daughters, I think moms of boys tend to be more laid back because this principle is made obvious to them so early in their sons' lives.

Dads don't seem to be as constrained as Moms -- I've seen some pretty harsh Daddy fouls. My favorite was when one kid was pushing by a younger child on a pool ladder. The younger child's dad was right there and plucked the older kid off the ladder saying that his child was climbing it. It was an egregious Daddy foul but it matched the kid's egregious behavior (he was old enough to know better). I envied and admired that Dad's guts. Moms tend to be so nice and chirpy when they ask a child not to attack their child. I'm not that nice -- not anymore. If the mom isn't handling it, I'm the hammer.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

More Vacation Reading: Chick Lit or Not?

by Anne Zelenka
Check out this hilarious translation of Curtis Sittenfeld's review of Melissa Bank's The Wonder Spot, via Half-Changed World. Who the heck is Curtis Sittenfeld, you wonder? She's the author of Prep, the novel Marjorie read on her vacation. Sittenfeld claims that Bank's novel is just "chick lit." Whatever. I'm not very discerning when it comes to literature; I just want to be entertained. I don't care if it's great literature or chick lit or a textbook as long as it draws me in and keeps me reading. I'll probably skip Prep based on Marjorie's ambivalent review and The Wonder Spot doesn't sound much better from the reviews on Amazon.

I was fortunate to come upon two entertaining reads at the Honolulu hotel where we stayed this weekend. They didn't have our suite ready when we checked in so we waited in a lounge for an hour. The lounge had a library with donated books--I assume that means books that patrons left in their hotel rooms. The sign said to take what you wanted so I did even though Rick and Henry accused me of stealing. The sign said you could! It's not my fault they didn't notice. I picked up The Devil Wears Prada and After You'd Gone. I think these two books must have been left by the same U.K. guest because the first was a British reprint of the American novel by Lauren Weisberger and the second was published originally in Great Britain.

I started with The Devil Wears Prada as it seemed more accessible; it was a light and easy read. I didn't find the heroine very appealing and the denouement was far less satisfying than it could have been. If it gets made into a movie, I bet they'll come up with some ending where the fashion editor from hell sees humiliation at the end. I suppose this novel qualifies as chick lit: single woman in interesting job in a big city, trying to find/keep love and have a successful career at the same time.

Then last night I began After You'd Gone. Now all I want to do is read this book. I haven't gotten lost in a book for years. Books don't seem to have the same magic over me that they did when I was, say, fifteen years old. But this one has enchanted me. I picked it up again at 10 am this morning, when I normally would be studying or running errands or paying bills or doing something else that is my "work." It felt wild in a way. That's the wildness of a 37-year-old married mother of three--reading fiction on a weekday morning.

Weekend Trip to Japan

by Anne Zelenka
We went to Japan, er, I mean Oahu this past weekend. But it sure seemed like Japan. The shops at the hotel where we stayed catered to Japanese tourists, I think... the hair salon was called "Beauty Salon Classy" and the sandwich shop was "Trivial Deli." I'm just assuming that in Japanese translation those names have some appeal. We went to the upscale Honolulu mall and found ourselves surrounded by Asians; most looked Japanese to my untrained eye. Neiman Marcus and Macy's were joined by a Japanese department store of which I've forgotten the name--I didn't take the opportunity to shop there because I had just 45 minutes to run through Ann Taylor and Sephora for the first time in nine months. I saw very few Pacific Islanders and even fewer haoles--that's Hawaiian for foreigner, but it's used to refer to mainland white people.

When I went to Kauai a couple months ago, I didn't feel a satisfied sense of "I'm home" upon returning to Maui. But visiting Honolulu made me appreciate Maui and I was happy to fly back after just three days of pseudo-mainland life. There were a few high points: our fabulous panoramic ocean view at the Ilikai resort, hot and fresh malasadas (Portuguese hole-free donuts covered in granulated sugar) from Leonard's Bakery, and enjoying a bunch of water slides with Henry, Anna, and Laura at the water park. We had a nice lunch on arrival at California Pizza Kitchen which was, for a long time, the only restaurant that Henry liked. There's no CPK on Maui. There were some serious low points too. I slipped on a walkway at the water park and banged my head hard on the concrete. I'm left with a persistent headache and whiplash; thank goodness the current treatment for soft tissue injuries to the neck is not immobilization in a goofy collar. Worse, for twenty terrifying minutes I lost Anna because of a dumb comment I made that led her to decide she could take care of herself. And on the plane trip home, I was almost smothered by a large tourist who sat next to me.

We had an excellent dinner at Outback, but I could have done that on Maui, because there's one not ten minutes away. I loved the slab of salmon they served me and Henry eats their steaks--what an achievement for a kid who used to eat pasta, pasta, and more pasta. I haven't had much salmon since we moved out here. I used to get it frozen at Trader Joe's and served it once a week but there's no Trader Joe's here or on Oahu. The Costco frozen salmon tastes weirdly fishy. If Oahu wants to be mainland-like, they need a Trader Joe's and a Whole Foods and a Target. And if they're going to have Ann Taylor, they should have Ann Taylor Loft. I'm too cheap to pay $52 for shorts.

I aim to visit as many of the Hawaiian islands as I can while we live here. I've already visited Kauai, Oahu, and, obviously, Maui. I need to go to the Big Island, Molokai, and Lanai. It would be quite a feat if I could get onto Ni'ihau--that island near Oahu is privately owned. Only the native Hawaiian residents, the owners, and guests of the residents can visit. Kaho'olawe, which I can almost see when I go to our rooftop deck, is uninhabited. So practically speaking, I am halfway finished with my tour through the Hawaiian islands.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

I'm Back

by Marjorie
Howdy -- I was off teaching Vacation Bible School last week, which is why I didn't post -- I was too darned tired. Anne knew that but I just thought I'd share the reason with our dear readers. I've come to the conclusion that involvement in such kiddie activities is not for me.

VBS is well run; the administrators are models of efficiency; and its a great opportunity to meet other moms and dads. But the whole schoolish environment is not my bag and I'm not good at it. Suzanne adjusted to it at the end pretty well, but I just don't see it as necessary and the opportunity cost is not worth it to me.

Though there was one year I really enjoyed VBS [yes, another Ode to Anne is coming], it was when I helped Anne in the kindergarten classroom three years ago. It felt a lot like re-living sorority rush -- not that that was something I'd need to re-live, but the decorations and uniform t-shirts and happy, bright, cheery songs reminded me of rush. "Come little rushie, listen to me, Christ-i-anity is the religion for me." Anyway, working with a good friend is the way to do these types of things. Unfortunately, none of my good friends will teach with me....I wonder why?

No matter, I'm learning to take experiences for what they are and look at what they teach me rather than try to judge them as good or bad. Perhaps my Eastern philosophical bent these days points out that plugging Christianity to kids is not my talent. Of course, I don't think this line of thinking is purely Eastern, Jesus has a lot to say about not judging things as well, but sometimes I 'hear' better when I read it elsewhere.

Oh yeah, Suzanne was asking me about death the other day. I think I bumbled it a bit. I've put a request in at our library for the book The Next Place. I have no idea if this book will be helpful, but its very gentle. Any suggestions are welcome.