I thought I was all set.
Little lady decided she would be a princess. She has been deciding which of the three already purchased pink or magenta dresses with sequins to wear. How thoughtful of her not to want to buy something.
One guy begged for weeks to be a character from a movie he hasn't seen. A movie he hasn't even asked to see. I relented and bought him a Commander Cody from some Star Wars Clone Wars cartoon movie. He has been floating on a cloud and respectfully left the costume in the bag.
The other guy, oh the other guy. About a month ago he decided to be someone that required a handmade costume. Fortunately a fellow parishioner from our church thought it would just be the coolest thing to help me assemble a denim prison outfit. I found the black shoes, white socks and black and white stripped shirt.
Wednesday night our friend came over to paint "stitches" on the denim pants. Thursday eve we tested the black hair spray and gel to make sure we could make a pompadour before the school parade.
But we decided to watch a song and dance clip one more time before bed time when we all realized the denim jacket was missing something. Some numbers.
Specifically the numbers 6240.
So I ran to the craft store tonight, got stencils and fabric paint. I put 6240 on a little boy's denim jacket. Because those were Elvis' numbers in Jailhouse Rock. And that is what my little man is going to be for Halloween.
Lets rock, everybody, lets rock.
Everybody in the whole cell block
Was dancin to the jailhouse rock.
Friday, October 31, 2008
I thought I was all set.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I have now visited one of the best museums, ever. I don't make this statement lightly.
The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is just an incredible place for learning, history preservation and imagination. As a kid, Amazing Guy went there with his dad and more than once he talked about the Museum. More specifically he talked about the coal mine.
While waiting for the coal mine tour we watched a documentary with the familiar twang of mountain music talk about life in a coal mine town. The deceit of the mine owners, the back breaking work, the six-day work week that started before the sun rose and ended at night and the ever present film of coal dust.
Then we got on a rickety cage of an elevator. Our guide at one point turned off the light (making me seriously question the intelligence of bringing a 4-year-old into a coal mine) so that we traveled down into the earth in pitch black - which is apparently how coal miners travel to their jobs every day.
The tour was obviously mostly in darkened caves. At one point we stood around a variety of different equipment and my children learned about the phrase "canary in a coal mine". And my 4-year-old did fine. I found myself misty eyed several times thinking of the miners who were killed in the Sago Mine in West Virginia or that miners toil in such conditions so I can have electricity to type these words. I suddenly felt very selfish.
After exploring the depths of the ground, we wandered over to learn about battles fought in the depths of the ocean. The Museum has the only German U-boat in the United States. The exhibit leading up to the boat is one of the best displays I've seen. There was a 3-D movie showing the American military trying to figure out where this boat was that gave a terrific context of the war and the damage the Germans were inflicting on the merchant marines and maritime commerce during World War II. At one point when the American boat dropped "depth charges" into the ocean, the floor actually shook.
And after experiencing the buildup to the capture, we turned a corner and were nose to nose with a huge boat. Boat is actually a misnomer. It was a monster.
We went on a tour of the U-Boat. I thought, like on other submarine tours we've been on, we would just walk down the long hall, look into different spaces, then leave. No, we were taken on a guided tour complete with German voices piped in over speakers that simulated the capture of the sub. At one point the lights went off (again causing me to question the intelligence of bringing a 4-year-old on a submarine) and red flashes surrounded us to simulate the depth charges. Again though my 4-year-old did fine. There was a grown man though who could barely keep it together. I wondered if he was recalling some long ago time or thinking of what someone he knew experienced. His weepy discomfort was hard to watch.
The Museum was originally built to be part of the Chicago World's Fair which was the setting for the terrific book Devil in the White City. The building was converted into the Museum during the 1920's and 1930's. It was exciting to walk in a building and along the grounds of such a significant place.
If you go to Chicago, go to the Museum of Science and Industry. You won't be disappointed.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
A park should be a public space that attracts the public. It should bring people in, either through activity or attractions, so that it is busy and full of life.
The capital city in my state has recently unveiled a large swath of public park space thanks to the depression of an interstate highway. The public space that has been created does not invite wandering, hanging around, or thoughts of grandeur. It doesn't challenge or engage. It is just pretty green space.
I wish they had talked to the folks who created Millennium Park in Chicago. Earlier this month the family and I went to the Windy City to both visit this grand town, see their grandparents who flew in from south of the Mason-Dixon line, and watch their dad run the Chicago Marathon.
Millenium Park has two of the best large scale public art I have seen. One is the Crown Fountain. Designed by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa, it consists of two 50-foot glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project video images of faces of folks from Chicago citizens. For a while they are just on the towers, sometimes smiling, other times just looking out when all of a sudden they pucker up and they "spout" water.
While we were there people danced under the spout, a groom carried his bride under a spout and people just cheered out loud as the water rained down. It was one of those big communal experiences that I wish could happen in every city, town and neighborhood. It is art that brings people together.
Then there is the Cloud Gate, otherwise known as "The Bean". This huge stainless steel structure/sculpture brought you literally into it. You walked underneath, laughed at your reflection, smiled at strangers' reflections and marveled at how the sky and buildings behind you were in front of you, part of the skyline. It was beautiful, engaging and fun.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Over a year ago, a certain large chain of coffee shops starting handing out cards with codes to redeem on a certain music site that starts with a vowel.
That is how I have come to learn about a variety of musicians included Hillary McRae and James Hunter. Getting a couple of their songs for free has led me to buy their CDs. Clearly I am in the demographic the large coffee shop attempts to influence.
But this song from 2007 just makes me outright smile. I Got it (What you Need) by Galactic and Lyrics Reborn pairs a Los Angeles rapper with a New Orleans funk band.
In case you don't catch them my favorite two nuggets are:
I got Girls Gone Wild
Cab drivers Gone Wild
Rabbis Gone Wild
Presidents Gone Wild
But hey - that's just 3 months of old CNN
I'll take gold cards, Chase Cards, green cards, the race card
And anything legal tender
with a white man in the middle of it
Any song making you laugh about the state of our world right now?
Thursday, October 23, 2008
This post is for everyone living in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Everyone else can take time off from reading Soccer Mom in Denial.
Everyone in Massachusetts please, please, PLEASE consider voting No on Question 1. Even with so much happening around us – ongoing foreclosures, global market meltdown, state budget cuts – this ballot measure could have dire consequences for the health of our communities. Question 1 would repeal the Massachusetts income tax and decimate government functions. I strongly oppose Question 1.
There is a terrific tool available on VoteNoQuestion1.com to assess what the impact would be on your city or town. For example, my town will lose over $8.6 MILLION in school funding alone. That is 77 PERCENT of the total school budget. Or, more literally, $3 OUT OF EVERY $4 for my children's schools comes from the state.
My town also gets $3.3 million in general state aid. That is money for police officers, town librarians, road repairs and ambulances. The capital city would lose over $157 million in school funding alone if this awful ballot initiative passes. Folks in Massachusetts please go to the map, click your city or town and find out what the consequences would be if the state income tax were repealed.
Even conservative fiscal watchdog group the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation released a report assessing the impact of repeal on state programs and on the taxpayers themselves. There is also a game that lets you decide how you want to cut 40 percent of the state budget. Please, play the game and tell me how you plan to cut $2 out of $5 from the state budget. I ask you to try and leave health care, education and public safety alone.
Supporters of Question 1 assert that “the average taxpayer” would save $3,700 annually if the income tax is repealed. However, when incomes are analyzed more closely in the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation report, the 65% of the Commonwealth’s residents that make $50,000 per year or less would “save” an average of $850 while the 14% of the Commonwealth’s residents that make in excess of $100,000 per year would keep the vast majority of dollars that would have otherwise supported state and local services.
Let me repeat that fact:
The 14% of the Commonwealth’s residents that make in excess of $100,000 a year would keep the vast majority of dollars that would have otherwise supported state and local services. Those are the folks who need this money the least.
I strongly oppose repealing the income tax, not only because it will hurt my town and my children's school, but especially because it will disproportionate impact low and moderate income households. I am deeply concerned by recent polls that show nearly 40% of voters support this repeal. I am in the process of getting the lawn signs outside my house. I'm wearing a button on my coat and plan on holding signs outside the polls on Election Day. I am bringing it up with other parents and elected officials.
Now is not the time to decimate government programs to save $800. Now is the time to support each other and paying taxes is one way to do just that.
Vote No on Question 1.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Monday, October 20, 2008
Friday night I was invited to have dinner with Carole Hart because it has become clear I have a slight obsession with the book she co-created, Free To Be You and Me. The 35th Anniversary Edition has new artwork by local artist and children's book author Peter H. Reynolds and he graciously invited me to join them at a local Japanese restaurant. I promised not to break into any Free to Be songs.
She told the story of how Marlo Thomas brought her a set of tales to counter the traditional ones currently read to children. She encouraged Marlo to find stories that were even more challenging to the stereotypes of the day - that girls had to be pretty and boys couldn't cry. That only girls played with dolls and couldn't be athletic.
But what made me nearly fall over was hearing her talk about starting Sesame Street. She was one of the original writers for the show and won an Emmy in 1970. This woman, and her late husband who wrote the lyrics for the Sesame Street theme song, had an incredible impact on my life and those of millions of children. I was sitting across a sushi boat with a woman who has truly made a difference in the world.
And it took all my power not to cry.
Sweeping the clouds away
On my way to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get
How to get to Sesame Street?
How do you handle meeting an icon?
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
One of the messages of Free to Be You and Me is just that, we are free to be who we are. In the book girls can be athletes, doctors and eaten by lions. Really. If you don't know the book, you are missing a key story line.
The girl eaten by the lions is a girlie girl - always wearing dresses and shiny Mary Jane shoes. She insists that girls should always go first. "Ladies First! Ladies First!" she declares as the lions are deciding who to eat first. They oblige her request. And end up wearing her dress. And her shoes.
So it is a bit mystifying how my 4-year-old daughter turned into a girlie girl. I don't wear make-up, can't be bothered with heels higher than an inch and don't always wear twirly skirts. My daughter plans her princess outfit the night before, talks non-stop about her boyfriends, and wouldn't play with a soccer ball unless it was pink.
How did I make this child?
But I was reassured when she announced over the weekend her following life ambition -
"When I am a mommy I am going to wear a jog bra, shorts and sneakers and run marathons."
You go girl. And I hope that jog bra is bright pink - or whatever color you love.
Just make sure you run from the lions. I don't want them wearing your jog bra.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
"Hi!" says deeper voice (sounding suspiciously like Mel Brooks).
"Hi!" says higher voice (sounding an awful lot like Marlo Thomas).
"I'm a baby!" says lower voice.
"Well what do you think I am?" asks the higher voice. "A loaf of bread?"
"You could be. What do I know? I was just born".
But the part that made my brother just giggle uncontrollably in the tape?
The higher voice asks "What do I look like?"
And the lower voice says "You're bald fella'. Bald. Bald. Bald. Bald as a ping-pong ball!"
See here for yourself.
And guess what? For those of you who live near Boston, there will be a Free To Be You and Me party from at the The Blue Bunny Bookshop in Dedham Square, MA on Saturday, October 18th from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. This is a book release party (the new book includes a music CD) and book signing to celebrate the 35th anniversary edition.
Monday, October 13, 2008
There's a land that I see where the children are free
And I say it ain't far to this land from where we are
Take my hand, come with me, where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we'll live
The purple book with the big cartoon letter was heavy in my hands. There were cartoon children crawling all over the title of the book. Free to Be You and Me.
In a land where the river runs free
In a land through the green country
In a land to a shining sea
And you and me are free to be you and me
I see a land bright and clear, and the time's comin' near
When we'll live in this land, you and me, hand in hand
Take my hand, come along, lend your voice to my song
Come along, take my hand, sing a song
My parents completely bought into the message promoted by the authors, Marlo Thomas and Carol Hart, that children needed more stories that celebrated the differences in all of us. That celebrated the whole child, not the stereotypes. That had a popular football player sing "It's alright to cry" or a story about a boy who wanted a doll. That talked about parents as people.
For a land where the river runs free
For a land through the green country
For a land to a shining sea
For a land where the horses run free
And you and me are free to be you and me
Every boy in this land grows to be his own man
In this land, every girl grows to be her own woman
Take my hand, come with me where the children are free
Come with me, take my hand, and we'll run
My brother and I make a tape recording of our favorite story, two babies meeting each other in the hospital. Marlo Thomas and Mel Brooks recorded it on the album I had (along with the book). My brother and I did a better job.
To a land where the river runs free
To a land through the green country
To a land to a shining sea
To a land where the horses run free
To a land where the children are free
And you and me are free to be
And you and me are free to be
And you and me are free to be you and me
What's your favorite Free to Be moment or memory? Don't worry, I'll be doing this all week so feel free to let me know another day....
Thursday, October 09, 2008
The clan hasn't been on a trip in a while. A whole 38 days since we returned from our summer vacation in another part of the country.
Now we are off. On a plane. To a different time zone.
The bags are packed. The Elvis lyrics are printed out (just wait till you hear about the latest convert to all things Elvis). We've survived daily (hourly?) qestions of "today? today?" for the last two weeks. Ballet clothes and piano music is packed (you never know when you will be able to practice). Running gear is all clean and ready to be put to the test.
We are going to the Windy City.
But I won't be sharing the exploits from that trip for a little while because every day next week I will be celebrating all things Free to Be You and Me. I hope you will come with me....
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
My boss loaned me his copy of Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin back in the spring. I was very excited to read the 750+ page book about President Abraham Lincoln. I settled into the bench seat on the commuter train, took out the book and cracked it open to the first page.
"Oh! I read that book!" announced my seat mate. He seemed the stereotypical hockey dad - subsequent conversation confirmed he had several sons playing hockey - and had a thick local accent. He did not seem like someone who would have read the 754 pages of first person accounts of the life and times of Lincoln.
"But the ending, it is so sad" he said with great reverence and sorrow. Yes, sorrow.
I must have given him the most incredulous look. I did know that Lincoln died after being shot. Fortunately I rose above my irritation to have a lovely conversation with him about sports, raising sons and commuting on the train.
This weekend I sat in my parked van in the driveway while the boys slept after a ride on the highway and read the final 20 pages of Team of Rivals.
I completely understand the hockey dad's comment. Days after finishing the book I am still in mourning for an American President who violently died 143 years ago.
President Lincoln was not only an incredible president but an amazing human being. He was gracious, smart and funny. He used his humor to both settle tense situations but also to express his point. After his assassination, the book notes several diary entries and letters in which the writers express concern for the nation since the Civil War had only barely ended and Lincoln was still fighting for the Confederacy to be welcomed back into the nation with dignity and grace - a position not shared by hard-line Unionists.
If Lincoln had finished his second term, maybe even had one or two more years, his more magnanimous handling of the separatists would have taken hold. Maybe the South wouldn't continue to act as if
the Civil War The War of Northern Aggression was still being fought. Maybe Jim Crow laws would have never taken effect. Maybe our country could have learned from the ultimate test the Civil War put on this "government of the people, by the people, for the people" as Lincoln said in Gettysburg, PA in 1863.
I wish I could take back that crazed look I gave my seat mate. I understand now.
The ending. It is so sad.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
In honor of tonight's second presidential debate, I thought I would share the questions asked by my 8-year-old sons during the first debate on September 26th. The boys got to stay up late because it was a weekend night. They won't be watching this one tonight.
9:00pm Friday, September 26th
1. When announced that the debate would last 90 minutes - "That's an hour and 20 minutes?" and after clarifying how long that would be I was asked "They are going to stand for an hour and a half?"
2. "What are golden parachutes?"
3. "So mom - are they trying to convince us to vote for them with their speeches at the debate?"
4. "How old is John McCain?"
5. "How old is Barack Obama?"
6. In reference to the question about the economic bailout package - "What's a package and what is John McCain going to do with it?" [as if he was going to mail it or walk away with it]
7. "What invasion is John McCain talking about?" [He was talking about Normandy during World War II]
8. "Was John McCain in World War II?"
9. Upon hearing about John McCain being in prison during the Vietnam War - "How long was he in that jail?"
[we're averaging at least a question a minute...]
1. After hearing the now oft-mentioned saying about Wall Street impacting Main Street. "What is Main Street?"
2. After hearing about John McCain talk about $3 million earmark for genetic testing of Montana bears - "Who are bears in Montana?"
[Finally slowing down on the questions]
1. "What are loopholes?"
2. "What is the market?"
3. "What was the worst war we were ever in?"
4. "What is the Iraq war about?"
1. After Barack Obama gave an example of Roosevelt buying houses during the Great Depression and the government eventually making a profit - "Who was Roosevelt?"
2. After explaining that Roosevelt was the US President during the 1930's I was asked "She [my emphasis] bought houses?"
To which I stopped being thoroughly annoyed with all of the questions and hugged him. He believes a woman - nonchalantly, so incredibly wonderfully nonchalantly - can be President.
"No son - Roosevelt was a man. But thank you for thinking that a woman has been President."
4. "Why do we owe China $500 Billion?"
One boy asleep.
The other boy asleep.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Our current family favorite, thanks to Amazing Guy, is Keane's Everybody's Changing. This was the song I tried to sing to myself while running my first race sans headphones.
Yes, it is a few years old but still very addictive. In fact, it is on my running on vacation music mix twice. The second time is after Kermit Ruffin's When I Die (You Better Second Line). That is a strategic placement since I felt like dying at that moment during those runs. Then hearing this song would pick me up, and I would start picking up my heels.
Any tune just gets you up?
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Friday, October 03, 2008
Tolerant [she actually said a McCain/Palin administration would be tolerant]
Walk the Walk
Government is the Problem [really? Who is proposing $850 BILLION to bail out Wall Street]
Joe Six Pack
Castro Brothers [I have dibs on any hot sauce named "Castro Brothers"]
Ramp it Up
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Ahmadinejad [President of Iran]
Drill Baby Drill
Pointing the Finger
"How long have I been at this for like 5 weeks?"
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
Now I am offended.
This week's New Yorker cover has me through the roof. Does it include racist stereotypes a la the summer cover of the Obamas?
It has an image of the Governor of Alaska looking out over lots and lots of land in, well, Alaska. And what does Barry Blit (illustrator of that infamous July cover) call his image?
A Room with a View.
Oh how I hope E.M. Forster doesn't roll in his grave.