Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Big Love

Somehow, the other day, after Zeb woke up at 6:30 a.m., I found myself lying on the couch with him watching a video for the Pussycat Dolls' song "Buttons'' (see "My Lumps'' entry in November 2005 archives).
As they strode amazon-like through the video, straddling chairs, then tossing them aside, Zeb exclaimed, "That boy has a lot of mommies!''
"Which boy? You mean Snoop Dogg, the rapper guy?''
"No,'' he said. "The boy that's not in the video.''
"You mean, there's some boy who has all of them as mommies, but you can't see him in the video, maybe kind of like you?''
It was Zeb's polygamy fantasy, only with mommies instead of wives.

Myths And Legends

Lulu once staged the myth of "Orpheus and Eurydice,'' starring the family.
Maybe this is what happens in families where kids aren't allowed to watch the Disney Channel or eat Cheeez-Its. So I was shocked when Lulu suggested this, since we normally avoid high culture.
In the fall, however, she got a book called "Myths and Legend'' from her friend Celia (actually Celia's mom) . It was a birthday gift and she insisted we read it to her at bedtime. We think maybe she was drawn to the book because we don't go to church and it fulfills her unmet spiritual needs. Also, she likes the pictures.
She was especially struck with" Orpheus and Eurydice.'' In this story, Eurydice, a nymph, and Orpheus, the son of Apollo, are married and deeply in love. But she dies from a snake bite. Orpheus is so grief-stricken, he travels to Hades and tries to bring her back. He plays his lyre and begs Hades and Persephone (part-time goddess of the underworld) to let her return with him.
Hades refuses, but Persephone is so moved by the music, she says Eurydice can follow him from Hades if he promises not to look back. But of course, as he's floating upward, he worries Eurydice isn't behind him and turns around "only to glimpse Eurydice's sorrowful face and her outstretched hand as she faded back into the blackness.''
In Lulu's production, Zeb was Hades, she was Persephone and Regis and I were Eurydice and Orpheus. She and Zeb had to wait downstairs until I died and joined them.
Then Regis had to come down playing Lulu's toy guitar.
"You guys, can Eurydice come upstairs?'' he asked.
"No!'' Zeb shouted.
"Yeah, its okay. She can go,'' replied Lulu.
I began ascending the staircase until Regis turned around.
"Orpheus'' I wailed, backing down the stairs with my arms outstretched.
We both pretended to cry.
It took about three minutes.
And that was the first and last play we ever performed.
posted by mean old mommy at 8:11 PM 0 comments

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Strangers With Candy

Last weekend, we marched in the Childrens Day parade in Mount Nabor (see previous post). Regis built a float out of the kids' Radio Flyer wagon, like he does every year.
This year he made Dino, and at the kids' behest, we were forced to dress like the Flintstones.
I actually really liked being Wilma. Wilma is the Jackie O of cartoon charactors, with her pearls and her little white dress, although Betty Rubble is sexier and initially, I wanted to be Betty.
But then I would have been married to Barney and people would be confused to see Barney and Betty with Dino, so we had to be Fred and Wilma.
Anyway, the best thing about marching in the parade is throwing candy to screaming spectators.
Zeb, however, has never wanted to throw candy. He sits in the wagon, possesively clutching his bucket full. He'll reach in and grab a fistful, but its too hard for him to actually part with it, so for the rest of the parade it sits in his sweaty little palm, melting.
This year, we got so frustrated that when the rest of us ran out of candy, we were snatching pieces from him so we could pelt the people at the end of the parade who never get candy because everyone always runs out by then.
Zeb sobbed, crouching protectively over his bucket, and as I tried to pry a pack of Bottle Caps from him, I realized that seeking the mob's approval had reduced me to THIS!
We apologized. But before the night time parade (there's two, one in the afternoon and one at dusk) we tried yet again to convince Zeb to throw candy.
I used empathy: "You love candy so much and its such a treat. Its hard to actually give it away.''
I resorted to bribery: "You can have your own special bag at the end of the parade if you throw the candy in the bucket.''
I tried apapealing to his sense of altruism: "It makes people so happy when you give them the candy!''
But the only thing that worked was when I stressed the heady sense of power you feel as the crowd shrieks your cartoon name, and, if you deign to make them happy, you can nonchalantly toss them a few Skittles.
"Zeb, YOU are the one with the candy. YOU are the important guy. YOU have what they want. The guy with the candy is like a movie star. Kids will go, "Bam Bam! Over here! Over here! Give me some candy!'' And when you do, they're like, "Thanks Bam Bam!'' They think its so cool. You'll feel like such a big shot. And, oh yeah, you'll feel good that you shared your candy with them.''
That night, he enthusiastically threw fistfuls at everyone he saw.
Unfortunately, when it was over I couldn't help thinking of a story Regis used to tell me from his childhood. Timmy Sheehan was an outcast boy who discovered that the kids who normally ignored him or teased him would grovel at his feet if he brought out a bag of candy at recess and tossed it out on the playground, where everyone fought and scrambled to get some.
But when it was over, the kids would go back to ignoring him. And I think he was the kind of kid who later ate dog shit on a dare.
So maybe, in the long run, the message I gave to Zeb wasn't really so good.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Not So Tiny Dancer

Zeb has a thing for one of the teenage girls who's helping Lulu rehearse for the annual "Children's Day'' show (Its a century-old tradition where two 15-year-olds in Mount Nabor are voted "king'' and "queen,'' and during their "coronation'' the kids put on a "show' to "entertain'' them. And the next day, there's a parade. Its actually very cool despite its retro corniness and the pain and bitterness caused by the "elections.'').
Anyway, when the younger kids were playing outside, and the teens were inside rehearsing, Zeb tugged my arm.
"Mommy,'' he said. "Come see my dancer.''
"Your dancer? What do you mean? Who's your dancer?''
"My dancer in the pink shirt,'' he said.
He led me into the hall and pointed to Paige, the leggy blonde who had singled him out earlier in the cast party snack line, asking if he would dance next year with the others.
"No,''he announced loudly. "I'm too shy.''
"He's a really good dancer, though,'' I volunteered. Twice.
I not only worry that people will judge me for having a shy child---even though, dammit, there's nothing wrong with being shy and he's not shy at all when he gets to know people-- I also felt compelled to stoke his ego with extra heartiness so others would see that, yes, my child is shy, but its not because I don't routinely bolster his self-confidence with plenty of praise. (And yes, people really do seem to judge you if your kid is shy. Like you've damaged them in some way. I think its because of their own fears of exclusion. I know that's the case with me.)
Anyway, Paige, who was Mount Nabor Queen 2004, smiled down at Zeb and told him, "You're not too shy if you can tell me that!''
As Zeb and I watched her onstage, she looked over at us puzzled. I pointed to Zeb and said, "He wanted to come see you dance. He has a crush on you,''
She laughed and gave him a little wave.
"Mom, you're embarassing me,''' Zeb complained as we walked out.
I was surprised that not only was he old enough to feel embarassed, but that he conveyed his embarassment in a 14-year-old's tone of mortified exasperation.
"I'm sorry. I'll never say that again,'' I reassured him. "But I don't think she minded. And I can see why you like her. She's really pretty and nice.''
When I was tucking Lulu into bed, I couldn't help telling her about Zeb's crush. I warned her not to tease him, and so far, she hasn't.
But when they were watching TV the next day, she gingerly asked him, "Zeb, do you love my dancer?''
"No,'' he answered irritably. "I love MY dancer!'''
He wanted to know when My Dancer was coming over. Could My Dancer ever babysit?
Later that night, I was telling Regis about My Dancer, when I had another gender reversal epiphany.
"Girls don't get crushes like that on older boys at that age,'' I said.
Then again, I pointed out, no one was encouraging four-year-old girls.
No one would say, "Ooooh, you have a crush on the 18-year-old skateboarder across the street. And, hey, I don't blame you. He's a hottie!''
I imagined how stricken a grown man would be if led Lulu by the hand and blurted, "She has a crush on you! She calls you My Insurance Salesman.''

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Little Merman

Ever since Lulu and I saw the movie "Aquamarine''--in which two pubescent girls sublimated all their sexual feelings via an adopted mermaid, who dates the hunky lifeguard on whom they have a massive and humiliating crush--Lulu has been obssesed with mermaids.
And why shouldn't she be? Mermaids are the grooviest of all girl fantasy creatures, far more exciting and complex than fairies or princesses, and when I was little I was obssessed with them, too. I had an imaginary friend named Tina the Mermaid who took baths with me. She had long red hair and a golden tail.
Lulu's mermaids have blonde hair and blue tails. Over the winter, she kept drawing pictures of them, including "before'' pictures of girls with legs and "after'' pictures of girls with tails.
I wondered what it was about mermaids that made them such enduring mythological figures. And then it occurred to me that that this never happened with merMEN!
No one cared about them--not only because they never starred in any Hans Christen Anderson stories or Disney movies---but because, when you think about it, they're slightly creepy.
When I did an image search on mermen, I realized why. Having a tail made them look look hippy, like blowsy starlets. Even illustrators who tried to avoid this by narrowing their hips and bulking up their chests ended up with something that resembled Fabio with a tail.
The mermaid images, on the other hand, were sexy. Their tales made them seem womanly, even kinky. Up top they were naked, and below the waist was a big long vagina symbol, but there wasn't an actual vagina there. Just smooth and glittery fish scales. They could swim, but they couldn't run. They were at home in one element only, and otherwise, they were completely vulnerable. Even in the ocean, all you needed was a net to capture them.
In theory, mermen should be sexy, too. They're sensitive, in touch with nature, they have beautiful upper torsos. But for men, having a tale instead of legs---not to mention a penis--is not a good thing. They just look like shark bait.
I discussed this with Lulu as I showed her the merman images. She agreed that there was nothing very attractive about them.
"Why don't you draw a merman?'' I asked. "Maybe you could make one that looks good.''
"No,'' she said. "I want to draw mermaids.''
Even after I offered to pay her 50 cents to draw a merman, she refused and continued drawing mermaids with flowing wavy hair and seashells over their breasts, frolicking in the sea.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


The lady across the street died. Regina was a reclusive diabetic woman who'd been ill for awhile. But two years ago, she started dialysis and lost weight.
She got her dilapidated house fixed up and painted. She started walking around with a cane. She'd come over and give us tomatos and preserves and tell us how her dad worked for Thomas Edison when he was in his teens.
When Lulu started selling Girl Scout cookies two years ago, we went to her house, and she was so happy since no other Girl Scouts or Brownies had bothered to stop. She bought 35 boxes and claimed they were for other people.
Last year, she bought about 20 boxes. I guess since she was diabetic, we shouldn't have gone over there, since I think she ate most of the other cookies herself, but not going would have been seemed worse.
Anyway, her health declined (I like to think it wasn't because of the Girl Scout cookies). She got cataracts and couldn't drive to dialysis anymore and asked us if we could take her. We knew she must be bad off to call since she didn't like to seem dependent on people.
Regis drove her once. She died a week later of congestive heart failure.
After her death, there was this limbo period when Regina was gone, but her life looked like it was finishing up without her. Two days after she died, I saw full garbage cans waiting at the curb. Her friend John, who looked in on her every week, must have taken out her trash.
The next day, someone came to take away her cat, Abby. It was an Abyssinian and she would let it out sometimes on a leash so it didn't get too far. When I walked by with the kids, they liked to stop and ask her about it.
Before she died, Regina arranged for the woman who let her adopt the cat to keep it. After she pulled up to the house, John, came out with a cat carrier, the cat mewling forlornly inside. He called, "Take care of her. She meant a lot to Regina!'' And the woman answered, "Don't worry! I will!''
She put the cat in the backseat and you could still hear it crying as she drove away.
It reminded me of when Regis's Aunt Rue died. A few days after we found out, we got a Christmas card from her. She died in her sleep in a nursing home and I imagined the a pile of cards at the foot of her bed, blank and waiting to be filled out, or sealed in envelopes, waiting to be mailed.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Chelsea, Mourning

My kids have always liked "That's So Raven'' on the Disney Channel, and being kids, they never seem to notice what is glaringly apparent to me: while Raven Symone, the show's star, gets fatter with each passing episode, her side kick Chelsea, is becoming a babe.
Once an awkward-looking teen with bangs, a big nose and a few extra pounds, in the past two years, Chelsea has lost weight, grown out the bangs and had some subtle rhinoplasty. She might also have had breast implants, but because she was busty during her ugly duckling phase, I think the breasts might be real.
Anneliese Van der Pol, the actress who plays Chelsea, isn't exactly crowding the pages of "Us,'' however, since her fan base is comprised entirely of seven-year-olds. Her transformation has gone untnoticed by the entire adult world---except for me!!!
When my kids are watching "Raven'' I must constantly supress the impulse to yell: "Oh my god! Chelsea--has she been augmented?'' or "Raven, she's so pretty, why is she ballooning out of control?!''
I remain silent because I don't want Lulu and Zeb to care that their beloved Raven is getting fat or that Chelsea is obviously angling for post-Disney roles that will make use of her sizeable breasts.
I also resist the urge to air my many opinions regarding Raven and Chelsea's career prospects.
Raven has evolved from scenery-chewing Cosby moppet to black Lucille Ball. She's funny, and can probably transcend the weight. And since America allows famous black women to be fat---and in some cases, insists upon it--I think she'll do okay when the show is over.
As for her music career, I don't know. Whenever, I hear Lulu playing Raven on her Disney compiltions, I wonder why she hasn't found better material. She has a good voice, If only she could find the right producers, if only she would hook up with Timbaland or the Neptunes....
I feel especially invested in Anneliese because I interviewed her once for a newspaper story about Disney divas and the success of Hilary Duff.
Anneliese, who is 22, was finishing up the show's final episodes and Disney hadn't renewed her contract, like they had for Raven. Their label, Hollywood Records, which launched Duff, wouldn't give her a deal, even though Anneliese, who has a throaty, Broadway-esque voice can sing.
She'd been to auditions for some independent films, but no luck.
"I don't want to be a teen sitcom actresss my whole life,'' she said plaintively. "I'm capable of a lot more. I'd love to do the roles that Scarlet Johnanson gets.''
When I asked her why she thought Duff's music had sold so well, she sighed heavily.
"I wish someone would tell me,'' she answered, despite the fact that a Disney publicist was listening in on the call. "Sometimes when I think that's what people want, I worry, because its not what I am at all.''
Now that "Raven'' was over, she felt free to vent about her exclusion from the Disney Channel's "Express Yourself'' segments, where stars hold forth on topics like helping others and the importance of family.
"They hardly ever used my stuff,'' she complained. "I didn't answer the questions the way they wanted me to.''
Ever since, I've been rooting for Annelise. When I recently saw photos of her in a cleavage-baring dress, attending some Disney premiere, I hoped the whole sexpot stratagy would work.
I don't want Anneliese end up like Lalaine, Hilary Duff's side kick, or Christy Carlson Romano, teen stars who can't make it in the grown-up acting world.
Long after their final season has ended, they hang around the Disney Channel, taping "Express Yourself'' segments and promoting their failed solo albums, like last year's high school graduates, cruising the school parking lot when their factory shift is done.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Instruments of Torture

We were in bed at 6:30 on a Saturday morning, trying not to get out, when Zeb came in with his toolbox.
He announced, "I'm going to fix your feet,'' and started hammering at our toes with his little plastic hammer and sawing at our ankles.
He picked up a wrench and informed me, "This is a scab picker. It might hurt a little, but you'll be okay.''
Then he gave me the same advice I give him when he gets shots at the pediatrician: "Look at the ceiling.''
I did. It wasn't painful but I humored him, yelping, "Ow. Ow. Stop it!''
"That's okay. That's okay,'' he murmoured reassuringly.
Afterward, he doled out the perfunctory praise: "Good job. Good job, mom. All done.''
We heard his footsteps in the hallway as he strode purposefully from the room, probably to pick up our aged cat Buddy.
He holds the cat constantly, and when we tell him to please put Buddy down, he replies, "He's not wriggling yet. I put him down when he wriggles.''