Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dimming Twilight

I teach middle school students at my church. I had the privilege (really, it is) to drive them most Sundays to and from the class because we co-taught the class with another church in a different town. So I got to hear their conversations, have them tell me jokes (some of which were pretty funny) and listen into their worlds.

It has been an honor.

And they clued me into Twilight.

I was aware of the Stephenie Meyer's phenom. Knew of the movie. I didn't bother to read any of the books nor see the movie. But then the girls started talking about the first book in the series, Twilight. They even brought up the main character, Bella, during a discussion of female and male characters in pop culture. Some girls in the class thought Bella was strong and spoke her mind. Others thought she was a wet dish rag. It amazed me that one character could illicit such different responses.

I finally realized that this book and these characters were important to the 12 and 13 year olds I was teaching. I needed to read the book.

And the second one. And the third. And the fourth. I pretty much inhaled the entire series in less than a month.

The first one was sweet. The second and third were more of the same. The fourth one made me want to jump through the book and yell at the author. I felt she completely betrayed her young readers by writing a novel that portrayed Bella's first experience with sex as horribly hurtful, described pregnancy and childbirth in disgusting horror movie fashion and made all the painful life decisions Bella made become easy. Nothing was ever really hard for Bella. Well aside from being eaten alive (literally) by her baby but even in the end that turned out to be so easy. The kid NEVER cried. EVER!

I finished the series a while ago and have been struggling to write about the experience, the frustration, the anger I feel towards Meyer and her complete betrayal of her young fans. The fourth book should not be marketed towards middle schoolers. She should be ashamed of what she wrote.

It took my dear friend Jen suggesting this Ms. Magazine piece by Carmen D. Siering entitled Talking Back to Twilight that finally gave me the focus for my frustration. Every paragraph rings true. For instance:

The Twilight saga has become something of a bonding phenomenon among mothers and daughters. But reading the books together and mutually swooning over Edward isn’t enough. As influential adults, mothers (and, by extension, teachers and librarians) have an obligation to start a conversation concerning the darker themes and anti-feminist rhetoric in these tales. There is plenty to work with, from the dangers of losing yourself in an obsessive relationship to the realities of owning one’s sexuality.
I'm clearly awakening as a parent. Just like Lady Gag-Me and now You Spin Me Round (the super nasty remake), I need to pay close attention to what my kids read, sing and watch.

Like when one of my guys came down to retrieve the recently returned copy of Twilight on the kitchen counter. "Mama," he informed me "we're going to start reading Twilight."

We grabbed Judy Moody instead.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Don't Stop Believing

We got a new song, thanks to Adam Sandler.

Journey's Don't Stop Believing.

It is part of the soundtrack to Bedtime Stories, a sweet, sweet little movie. Perfect with kids. Some silliness but really, after m'Lady, it was nothing.

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Any fun songs out there?

Please join in Music Monday. Just remember if you plan to use little Mr. Linky below, write a post about music and link back to me. Music always makes Monday a bit more fun.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Find this woman

This person is despicable. Horrid. She should be thrown in jail and the key tossed away.

Please look at her picture and call the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division office in Boston, Massachusetts at: 1-617-918-2300 or submit the Report a Fugitive's Location web form if you recognize Albania Deleon.

As reported in the fabulous big city paper and on National Public Radio this woman ran a sham asbestos training school in the northern part of the Commonwealth. It was the largest program of its type in New England "training" over 2,500 people in how to properly and safely remove asbestos from homes, libraries, schools, hospitals, nursing homes.... the list goes on and on and on.

Asbestos was put in buildings between the 1940's-1990's inside insulation and fabric. According to a chilling graphic, asbestos particles released in the air literally float for hours and can travel for miles. Breathing in these particles leads to an increased risk of lung cancer including the very rare mesothelioma.

But it isn't the buildings, and those that reside or use them, that are most in danger. It is the workers, the people - mostly undocumented immigrants who do those dangerous jobs we native born rarely do - who are most in jeopardy and their families. These people, who thought they were doing what they were suppose to do to be properly credited for the jobs, did not wear proper breathing equipment or outfits over their clothes to keep the dangerous particles off their bodies.

They breathed in the toxic chemicals but also carried them to their homes. Where they floated in the air their children breathed. Their spouses. Their elderly parents or grandparents.

Albania Deleon's victims were not just her students. It was their families. And because many of them were undocumented immigrants, they can't be found. There could literally be hundreds of people, including young children, at risk for cancer that have no idea.

All because she wanted to make a buck.

I will let the big city paper tell the next part:

Days before she was to be sentenced for one of the country's most egregious environmental crimes, North Andover resident Albania Deleon begged for the court's mercy.

"I pray that God will forgive my soul," she wrote in a three-page handwritten letter to US District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton, "and allow me to atone the rest of my life repaying and repairing the harm I have done. This is my solemn promise."

Then the 39-year-old mother sawed off her ankle monitor and disappeared into a cool March day, becoming one of the US Environmental Protection Agency's most wanted fugitives.

The court's mercy? She should ask for the mercy of the mothers and fathers whose babies have cancer because she wanted to make a buck.

So if she appears in your community - as a nanny, a new store employee, a neighbor - call the EPA at the number above. Justice needs to, must be, served.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Secretly I listen to the Playground


Can you keep a secret?

There is this terrific student run college radio station. The early afternoon during the weekends is hours of mostly college a capella groups. The following show is all kids music - Sesame Street to Weird Al Jankovich to Gene Kelly to High School Musical.

And while cleaning the kitchen tonight I intentionally picked that station to listen to. Even though the kids were playing outside.

Because how else would I have heard this gem?

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Any guilty musical pleasures out there? Barry Manilow? Anne Murray?

Please join in Music Monday. Just remember if you plan to use little Mr. Linky below, write a post about music and link back to me. Music always makes Monday a bit more fun.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Sad, lonely, por"

One of my second grade sons came home with the following completed assignment. The photocopied cover had the title blacked out so he and his classmates didn't know the name of the book.

Book Cover Investigation

Today you looked at the cover of a classroom book. I want you to think about what you see and feel when you look at it. Think about and answer these questions.

Who do you think the main character will be in the story?

I think the main charcter (sic) is the boy on the front cover.

Write 3 things that describe this character:
Por (poor)

Where do you think the story takes place?

I think the story takes place in a desert in egypt.

Write three details from the picture that support your idea.

Theres a camel and it looks realy hot. [Mom note: only two there].

Do you think the main character has a problem?


What do you think this story will be about?

A child in the desert.

How does this picture make you feel when you look at it?

It makes me feel sad.

Name 3 specific things from the cover that make you feel that way.

The boy is homeless.
He looks sad.
There lost. (this week the class is studying "they're" for spelling)

And while I am incredibly proud of this little man's empathy, I'm a bit worried about his view of the world. He sounds like a weary old man in these answers. A weary old man at age 8.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hearing the love

One of the outcomes from a birthday party is hearing folks say how much they like the birthday CD.

During preschool pick-up, a dad followed us up the stairs to retrieve his son's belongings. I had my entire crew with me. His son came to little lady's birthday party.

"I LOVE the birthday CD!" he practically shouted at us.

He then told us how he plays it at work. His work is a construction site. I think he is at least the foreman if not the actual company owner. So clearly he gets to chose what music is played on the site.

"Yeah. And there is this one guy who just grumbles when 'Barack Obama' comes on. He tells me to turn it off." There was a pronounced pause between the "to" and "turn" which the kids didn't pick up on. I assume there is a swear that began with an f between those two words.

"Why?" asks one of my sons incredulously.

"Did he," my 8-year-old asks with grave seriousness, "did he vote for [pause to clearly wrap his head around this]

John McCain?!?" with complete horror to his voice.

"Yes. I think he did" answers the dad.

And we all - including the dad - sang "Barack Obama" in the preschool hallway.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Get out of my house Lady Gaga

A little over a week ago the boys started singing a song.

Can't read my, can't read my
Poker face

I ignored it for a few days then finally had to ask.

"How do you know this song?"

"Some girls did a Blue Man Group thing to it during the 5th Grade Talent Show!" which was followed by an impressive recreation of these girls' performance. If they really did all that the boys showed me, it was truly a lovely tribute to those three men with blue heads.

However, there are plenty of songs from Blue Man Group itself that they could have chosen to accompany their performance.

These schoolgirls didn't have to use a song that says:

Russian Roulette is not the same without a gun
And baby when it's love if it's not rough it isn't fun


'Cus I'm bluffing with my muffin

Now in the music video, while singing that muffin line, Lady Gaga points at her crotch. Clearly, my kids are not seeing that video before they are, oh, 92 years old mainly because I don't want to hear:

"So mom, if a girl's privates is her 'muffin', what's a donut? Or a scone? Does orange juice describe some private part too?"

Lady Gaga is out to ruin breakfast.

I have no problem with her music, her lyrics or her video. Have fun madame Lady.

I have a problem with parents of fifth graders (ages 10 and 11 years old) singing and performing to a song that promotes violence in relationships and quite frankly takes food to a place I don't want my 8 year olds, or 5 year old, thinking about.

And let's not forget that I teach sex ed. In my church.

So this is not a slam against the 5th Grade Talent Show, the school or the staff. This is a slam against parents who don't have the sense to listen to the songs their children are listening to and saying "no". Because once you've got a song in your head - even as an 8-year-old - you can't very well banish it.

I've since learned that a second grade classmate of one of my sons has the entire Lady Gaga album.

Great. What will be the next song they'll sing? Perhaps Lady Gaga's "Let's Dance"? That fabulous celebration of getting drunk, losing your friends, forgetting the name of the club you are in and waking up to find your shirt is on inside out from, as a friend of mine surmises, date rape.

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Any songs make you want to bang your head - repeatedly - against the wall?

Please join in Music Monday. Just remember if you plan to use little Mr. Linky below, write a post about music and link back to me. Music always makes Monday a bit more fun.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Went to Nashville and visited Greece

One of the stranger things that came out of the 19th century are the remnants of World Fairs. Cities would compete to host these events. Devil in the White City was an incredible account of what Chicago did to get the 1893 World's Fair. Some cities would create something new - e.g. the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the first Ferris Wheel in Chicago - to make their Fairs memorable while others would bring the world to them.

Like the full replica of the Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee. And as if to stress that this replica was built in the late 1890's, a guy rode up to us atop a replica of am early bicycle - one of those huge front wheel cycles with tiny back wheel and no chain to connect the two wheels. He let everyone who wanted to sit on it have a turn. And he just did it. No request for money. He wasn't part of any formal organization. Just a guy with a "penny-farthing" bike.

After Atlanta, we were back in Nashville to visit Amazing Guy's wonderful brother, his talented wife and their adorable two-year-old twin girls. Yes, marvel at the fact that two out of three brothers in Amazing Guy's family have twins.

We thought it was a brilliant idea to get the five cousins coordinated outfits, sit them on the steps of the Parthenon and take a happy photo. Early on we plopped a girl cousin on the lap of a boy cousin and started taking photos. What transpired was a 5-year-old girl sobbing in the middle because she didn't have a girl to hold. Which led to the girl cousins balling hysterically and trying to get off their boy cousins' laps. And boy cousins who wouldn't let go of the screaming toddlers because they didn't want to get yelled at for dropping a kid.

And those boys have the most plastered take-the-picture-now smiles they could muster. They got gold stars for being the only ones who played along with the plan.

So we grabbed the balls out of our mini-van and took photos of the kids chasing each other, kicking the balls and generally being silly. And in one of those 500+ photos taken by me or my lovely sister-in-law there is an awesome photo of the five cousins.

I just haven't found it yet.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Stone Mountain - the South's Mt Rushmore

We went to Stone Mountain in Georgia. On the side there are three men carved on the mountain, just like Mt. Rushmore.

The Memorial Carving depicts three Confederate heroes of the Civil War: Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and Lt. General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. We didn't talk about them with the kids. They were just some random men on the side of a mountain.

We rode a gondola up and walked down the mountain. It was a lovely albeit steep hike down. The kids flew down and fortunately Amazing Guy kept up with them. It allowed me a more leisurely walk down with my beloved Uncle who we were visiting while in Georgia.

There were carvings all the way down the mountain. Some recent, some very old. Some incredibly detailed and others just scratched on. It was fascinating to see the comments on the stone.

It was a lovely day. Full of views, sun and charming conversation. My uncle was full of stories of hiking the mountain with his Boy Scout troops, climbing up the mountain as a high school student to drink beer and various points of history he has learned through the years.

A lovely way to spend a day.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Harpers Ferry WV - didn't find any

Amazing Guy suggested that on our second day of driving into the southern part of these United States during the April school vacation we scoot over to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. I initially thought that was a pretty bleak and boring suggestion. All I had was visions of some dilapidated shed with a marker saying "John Brown's Fort".

John Brown's Fort at Harpers Ferry.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

"For Sale A NEGRO GIRL, about 9 years old...." A reproduction of a 1830 advertisement.

Harpers Ferry is part of the National Parks Service. It has a full and rich history in addition to being in a splendid part of the country. The name comes from Robert Harper and his ferry service that crossed the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Thomas Jefferson wrote after describing the view from an outcrop renamed "Jefferson's Rock" that "this scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic."

View from Jefferson's Rock

In 1803 Merriweather Lewis traveled to Harpers Ferry to gather provisions and weapons for his and Clark's expedition across the unknown parts of the continent.

Kids looking out from Robert Harper's house.

While I was familiar with John Brown's raid and attempts to start a slave revolt in 1859, and his subsequent execution, I was completely ignorant of the continued role that Harpers Ferry played in the ongoing civil rights movement.

Harpers Ferry was captured and recaptured six times on September 15, 1862 during the Civil War.

Less than 10 years after Brown tried to incite an armed revolt, Storer College was founded and opened for all regardless of gender, race or religion. And in 1906 The Niagra Movement was founded, the precursor to the NAACP, by W.E.B. DuBois for two purposes; "organized determination and aggressive action on the part of men who believed in Negro freedom and growth," and opposition to "present methods of strangling honest criticism."

There were meticulous recreations of old stores and homes. We got to see tailor shops, boarding rooms and homes for the wealthy. We listened to recordings of actors portraying slaves describing their lives and activists talking about human rights in the late 19th century. We climbed stairs carved out of the mountainous rock. There were views of the Shenandoah Valley and trains rumbling by.

I was surprised at how few people were there. Often when I visit a place I will check it off in my mind as "been there, no need to return." Harpers Ferry is a place I want to revisit again. I hope others visit it too.

As we were leaving, little lady forlornly told Amazing Guy that she didn't see a ferry. He explained to her that there were no more boats to bring goods across the rivers.

"No" she replied. "One with wings."

So maybe not all of us were impressed.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Belly Dancing Birthday Party

Little lady had her 5th birthday party over the weekend. Preparing for this, surviving a big week at work and recovering from our family drive through the American South (complete with 14 hours of driving through 8 states on the final day) led to my lack of blogging last week.

Several months ago a colleague who is also a friend took me and my daughter to a belly dancing recital. My daughter never sucked her thumb nor had a regular object of her affection. She loves her belly button. When she goes to sleep she rubs her belly button. So for her to discover a dance dedicated to her favorite part of her body was a revelation. And the perfect birthday party.

My friend came in full costume and led belly dancing with the kids. It was fun, spirited and exciting. The girls all joined in. The boys played drums. Before they ran off to play pirate. But a great time was had by all.

And as is our family custom no goodie bags were given. Just a CD of some of her favorite songs from the past year.

  1. Funky Town - Lipps Inc.
  2. Barack Obama - Michael Franti & Spearhead
  3. Single Ladies - Beyonce
  4. Jai Ho - Slumdog Millionaire
  5. Furry Happy Monsters - REM
  6. Funky Bahia - Sergio Mendes
  7. Everybody's Changing - Keane
  8. Just Can't Wait - The J. Geils Band
  9. Love will never do - Janet Jackson
  10. Copacabana - Barry Manilow
  11. Defying Gravity - from the musical Wicked
  12. Hippy Chick - Soho
  13. She Loves Me - Madagascar
  14. Candy Girl - New Edition
  15. It's Raining Men - The Weather Girls

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Wiggled your belly lately?

Please join in Music Monday. Just remember if you plan to use little Mr. Linky below, write a post about music and link back to me. Music always makes Monday a bit more fun.