All moms should be divas...this one just happens to be in Jersey!

Friday, February 18, 2011

13 Now vs 13 Then

Everyone talks about how different the world is, and it’s true enough. This is really being hit home for me as I think about Son1’s big 1-3 birthday next week. I’ll officially have a teen (insert Vincent Price “Thriller” video laugh), I’ll be exploring all the shades of white (wine) for the next 10 years, and I will now be provided, most assuredly, at least one opportunity a day to be reminded how old I am. How ancient I am. How clueless I am.

Scanning over his wish list, I’m beginning to feel like all of the adjectives he envisions. I started thinking of my 13yr old wish list and it seemed like something dug up by an archeologist compared to the presents & such he’s angling for:

Son1: Xbox 360. Super fancy controller needed for Kinect to supposedly make controllers obsolete. Special board for balance games. Elaborate arsenal for Call of Duty.
Me: Atari. One low-rent joystick style sold. Multi-function use as Frogger steering device, PacMan navigation, Asteroid demolisher

Son1: Droid or Iphone w/4G connectivity, wifi for hi-speed access to Youtube via The Cloud.
Me: A “Bell Telephone” streamline model, or maybe phone in shape of lips with 2 distinct (giant) parts and a (fingers crossed) SUPER long cord so I could take the phone to any part of my room. If truly blessed, this will be my own phone line, as opposed to simply another extension.

As to videos, we got ours the way God and the cable company intended, from MTV, back when they still honored the M in their name. “4G?” Connect Four maybe, but never heard of 4G when I was 13. And what the hell is The Cloud?

Son1: Pocket Flip Video Camera
Me: Kodak Disc Camera. Would never in my wildest dreams ask for video camera, which was big honking VHS thing that looks like current broadcast TV cameras. I will take my phot disc and feel like THE SHIT when I only have to wait 1 hour for processing at the mall. No namby-pamby one week service for me. HA!

Son1: Gift card to Abercrombie & Fitch
Me: Paper gift certificate to Macy’s, though probably not Macy’s at the time. Maybe it was Alexander’s- Let’s see how many Northern NJ readers remember that. Said certificate would represent an accounting nightmare to keep track of store credit until finally the clerks threw in the towel at $5 or below remaining and gave you cash back. Abercrombie was some weird fly fishing outfitter or something. Who the hell would have wanted their stuff as a 13 yr old back then?

Son1: Night at the movies with some friends with drinks and snacks.
Me: Similar, actually. Only I know such a night out did not hit my parents’ bank account to the same level as remodeling the kitchen.

Son1: Cooler, less lame looking bike helmet if I’m going to insist he wears one.
Me: Bike helmet? Huh? We didn’t wear no stinkin’ helmets. By the by… have I ever mentioned I suffered 4 concussions before the age of 18?

The times they are a changing aren’t they? It’s always kind of crazy to think about things that seems so basic- so critical- to our kids’ lives that never even existed 10, 20, 30 years ago. It’s ok, rest assured it’ll happen to them someday. It has for every generation known to man, ever. As to me, by this time next week, I’ll be wondering what happened to the intellect I used to have, back in the day, before my kids made it clear to me I’m an utter jackass. Maybe there is some validity to bike helmets after all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

On Volkswagens, Darth Vader, and true mayhem captured

Every once in a while some viral video hits and you hit play and play and play to the point you may crash YouTube's server. The Susan Boyle video did it for me when I first saw it, as I emphathized with this "past her prime" looking former-lass. Guys skateboarding off cliffs and piano playing dogs... you can watch them and go numb. But my latest love is nothing "accidental" or homemade. In fact it's quite deliberate. It's the Darth Vader Volkswagen SuperBowl commercial. If you've been under a rock and haven't seen it (or are one of the deprived masses who saw only the 30 sec mini version) here ya go.  I love this. I crack up each time. I'm kind of mesmerized by it. I went out and bought a Passat. Really. (Ok, I actually bought it 3 weeks before the ad, so I'm not fully insane.)

What sets this apart for me (beyond Tucker the piano-playing pooch, talented as he may be), is that this spot is SO spot on. Every one I know who has seen this and has sons, brothers, or nephews etc cracks up because we've all seen this in our lives. I can not count the number of times I've walked down to find Son1 sitting in his Darth Vader helmet playing video games, watching TV, or texting people. Yes, I said texting... because though on the edge of 13, he STILL loves to sport the Vader-wear. Son2 is partial to a clone trooper helmet though has been known to work his inner Vader, voice distortion and all.

You have not lived until you've watched (undetected) children totally succumb to their own imaginations. They'll do it in backyards, in playrooms, and in any public place to which you drag them.You smile at the creativity, wince at the hazards, and feel a bit envious that it's no longer socially acceptable for you to waltz around Costco as if the leader of the Dark Side. Or Sabrina Duncan or Kelly Garrett. Who's getting 16 cheescake samples now, Mr. Costco dude? That's what I'm talking 'bout.

Like in the commercial, kids do leverage family pets as props, straight men, and accomplices. Over the years, our family has seen dogs and cats dressed up, coerced, cajoled, sat upon, WWE body-slammed, and even stuffed in a lunch box. Man oh man, of all the times for the lunch box latch to get stuck. Poor Patches, once sprung, wanted no human contact for weeks... but I digress.

As in the commercial, kids will expect you to understand when they have assumed a new identity. You are not to question the moral character of their choice, or how well said character may assimilate into the neighborhood or corps of altar boys.You are not to blink an eye when Lord Vader joins the table, sitting where your 8yr old usually does. You may be puzzled how he will eat with the helmet on. Did Darth actually consume food or drink? This was never addressed in movies. It's been addressed by cases of Clorox wipes in our house.

There's another aspect to the Darth Vader commercial fixation that I'm beginning to see though. While Son1 will still escape into his imagination and drag Son2 with him (without a choice since he'll be in a headlock), it is a fleeting time in their lives. Sitting here trying to remember if the much-beloved-MUST-wear red Aeropostale shirt  is clean for tonight's middle school Valentine's Dance, I can see this phase will be passing soon in our home. I'm becoming more and more aware of this. When fully garbed, my Dark Lords tower over the commercial one by a good foot. They still love the trappings of the costumes but their sense of reality is creeping in to the scene, unlike the little boy awed by his own car starting powers.

I'm probably closer than I realize to owning a home in which the light sabers have all been extinguished. So I guess for this weekend, I'll embrace the imaginary worlds that still swirl in our playroom and try not to let the volume fracture my sanity. And then in a quiet post-bedtime moment, I'll sneak back on YouTube for the Volkswagen deleted-scene clips, then sit back and think about all the treats my poor Ewoks/dogs have earned over the years. It's going to be a big weekend at PetSmart.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Letter to Our School Superintendent

So one snowpocalypse too may, and I feel like I’m seeing more of my kids around the house than we do during summer vacation. This is a bit of a challenge since A) hubs and I work; B) they can’t really go out to play as much in ice storms; C) my kids are wicked-hyper stir crazy; D) Division of Youth and Family Services I’m sure would frown up me me making some side change televising an epic yet-ill advised Ultimate Fighting Championship Pay Per View event in which light sabers, Wii controllers, and dog treats (don’t ask) are the weapons of choice.

But I figure I’m far from alone in this descent to madness. I see the maps of the country, and it looks like NJ is far from isolated in our iceolation. (See what I did there? Ice – olation.) Clever, eh? Proof I need spring. But as much, if not more, than we need spring, we need our kids IN SCHOOL. All of us. Even with standard school schedules, our country is falling behind Asian and European schools each year in math and science, and I’m whipping through what’s left of savings for on-demand movies and merlot. Hell in a hand basket is just a stone’s throw away. We need these kids in school! For the good of us all, they need to be THERE- weather be damned. Below is a letter which I have prepared for our superintendent. It occurred to me many of you may choose to write to your districts, so I have tried to make it somewhat flexible so you can personalize and use yourselves. I’m a giver, truly. Simply select the parenthesized phrase(s) that best sum up your feelings, and off it goes!

Dear (Mr./Mrs./Dr.) School Superintendent:

I am writing today to (implore you/ scream at you/ pleadingly beseech you) to consider keeping school in session the next time there is a (snow/ ice) event. While we respect your desire to (keep our children safe/ stay snug in your own bed), the disruption to (their education/ my mind) is becoming worrisome. 

I am aware that logistically, opening a school in inclement weather is a strain. Our state requires students attend (180/ your number) days a year. Many states are also stressing the need for physical education, in spite of trimmed budgets. I have a solution to propose which may (address these/ be totally selfish yet effective/ tap dance upon child labor laws). Have you considered having the children dress warmly and shovel the sidewalks and driveway? Snow shoveling is a highly effective aerobic activity as evidenced by (numerous studies/ the spike in cardiac care cases during snow). Under the combined mentorship of the Physical Education staff and town DPW, I’m sure they would do an excellent job. Sure, they may be a little tired when it comes to school work but (they will bounce back/ I could care less because they’ll be out of my now-trashed house and I’ll be at work).

In these days of tight budgets, I think we need to (get these ****ing kids out of my house/ get creative). Imagine the learning opportunities the music teacher would have if given multi-hour access to students to “whistle while they work” or sing chants like (well-trained athletes/ POW’s). Once cleared and cornered, snow mounds can be sculpted into a veritable Mt Rushmore by each class, thus combining History and Art. The lessons of inertia, mass and force, and the biology behind contusions are very easily demonstrated by students in your parking lot everyday. Snow fights may expand this learning. “In school snow days” would be the staycation of field trips. (Think outside the box./ Take my kids.)

While you may be (concerned parents may not want to drive/ appalled how readily we would drive) to the drop off for an in-school snow day, I am confident that as this winter drags on, parental support would be strong. Our country can not continue to slide internationally in educational comparisons to the industrious German and Japanese children. I think it’s time we realize that keeping kids home because of an inch or sixteen of snow is (disruptive to our position as a world leader/ making me want to stab my own eardrum at every robocall of the phone chain.)

Lastly, I was wondering if the school board would consider alternative solutions for our area which is prone to (snow/ ice/ wild boar infestations). While some room would need to be phased into the budget for any capital expenditures, I think public boarding school is perhaps an option that should be put on the table.

Hug and kisses~
A (deeply concerned/ completely fed up) parent