bentangle

Tag: Cricket

Trek Into Darkness

by on May.19, 2013, under family, movies, parenthood

Being a fan of various shows and movies in the Star Trek franchise, especially it’s more recent phoenix-like rebirth, it would be an understatement to say I was eager to see the latest installment in J.J. Abrams treatment of the movie series. I attempted to rally the family around it (my wife and daughter were already on board, but my son seemed to need some persuasion), but when my son (probably wisely) proved too reluctant to endure the sound and fury of the theater despite how exciting the trailer looked. So my wife opted out to stay with Grasshopper while just Cricket and I made a go of it. While the movie left us with warm feelings of contentment, our post-movie conversation left me alone with a cold quiver down my spine.

As any parent can appreciate, drawing a detailed opinion out of a child (at least when it is wanted) is like drawing blood from a stone with ADD. So I’ve learned to ask more pointed questions than simple “What did you think of the movie?” Today’s Q&A went something like this:

Me: So which character did you like the best?
Her: Uhh…that’s hard to say…
Me: Okay, if you could be any character from the movie, who would you be?
Her: OH! I’d be Spock!
Me: Okay, how about if you could go out to dinner and spend time with any character from the movie, who would it be?
Her: You mean if none of the drama and stuff was happening?
Me: Yeah, just you and that person hanging out, no drama.
Her: Ooh – definitely the bad guy!
Me: Why the bad guy??
Her: I don’t know. I just like the idea of going out with the bad guy.

I had trouble coming up with any more questions after that.

My daughter has impressed me on numerous occasions with the characters that she has opted to adhere to in the media she watches. For instance last fall when we opted to go spend some of her allowance at the comic book store (her choice), she ended up deliberating at length between two POP! bobble-head hero toys. Her top choices were Nick Fury and Robin. She settled on Nick Fury and when I asked her afterward why those characters, it was because she saw them as leaders – Fury of the Avengers and Robin of the Young Justice team (based on watching the Young Justice cartoon that we until recently enjoyed watching on Cartoon Network). In this instance, it seemed no different with regard to the first question – she saw Spock as a logical and heroic character unafraid to take charge and act intelligently.

As for the second question, that one just felt too much like the kind of foreshadowing that I could easily have lived without. I love Cricket and enjoy that so far at her young age of 9 boy-related issues are limited to fleeting crushes. And I’ve told myself since she was a baby that I would try my best to be open and accepting of what teenagehood would one day bring. But there have already been touches of temperamental behavior that I can only assume will be exacerbated by puberty. So if there is also the possibility that she will also be a bad-boy chaser, I’m worried for my own resolve in the years to come.

Hopefully I’m reading too much into the statement and she just legitimately thought he would be the most interesting person to hang out with disregarding the potential evil streak. Perhaps like my wife she was captivated by his deep British voice that supposedly sounds like a jaguar trapped in a violin. Or maybe he seemed the safest bet as most of the rest of the characters had quite a handful of scrapes with death in the course of the movie – him comparatively the least often. Or perhaps I should just read less into the whimsical commentary of a 9-year-old and just continue to nurture the right skills and judgment in her until such fears either come to inevitable fruition or fizzle out as a vestige of an unrealized time-line.

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Shake What Mattel Gave Ya

by on Nov.10, 2011, under family, home & stuff, parenthood

Naked BarbiesAs a parent, I’ve come to appreciate the various common experiences and rites of passage of childhood from a different perspective – one that often makes me yearn to remember what it must have been like to be so blissfully ignorant of so much.  Some of these, though, are a bit odder than others.  One in particular that I was recently reminded of is related to Barbie Dolls.

I’m sure I’m not the first to come to this revelation, but I find a certain level of irony in the fact that the very point of variability between the variety of such dolls one could add to one’s collection often ends up the first element sacrificed – their clothes.  My daughter has only about 4 or 5 Barbies (she was never hugely into dolls), and to my knowledge only one complete outfit still retrievable and intact – which, due to the tedium of application often is discarded anyway during play.  While I know that naked Barbie play is a fairly common trend – I had playmates in grade school who had collections of them, I know my wife and her sisters commonly played with them as such in their youth; the only example I know of to the contrary would be my own sisters (they were surprisingly prudish about such matters at the time – I was often sent from the room when outfit changes were in order) – what I find fascinating about this trend is the creative rationalizations built around it.

For instance, just a few days ago I come home to my kids playing with the collection of unclad dolls (the one dress only inches away completely ignored).  When I ask what they are doing, the explanation is that they are shopping at a special grocery store where moms are allowed to shop naked.  In conversations on such topics with my wife, their apparent go-to rationale was that all of the dolls clothes were somehow stolen and there seemed to be a lack-luster effort put into locating or retrieving said items.  My grade-school playmate seemed to have an array of dolls with painted-on underwear (which in most cases she seemed to scrape off).

While I know that Barbie has been used as a focal point as a gateway to the unrealistic female body-images that our daughters (and sons) are exposed to, it is hard to see that affect in the eyes of these children at play that are so innocent as to not fully understand body modesty (a point also clear in the joy they get from stolen moments of naked time after baths or in the mornings).  Don’t get me wrong – I do take the body-image issue seriously.  While we encourage our kids to play and be active, it is never backed by negative messaging (e.g., you need to lose that baby fat).  Hopefully my kids will only retain the positive aspects of these experiences – imaginative, cooperative, and care-free play.

By the way, the picture in this post was found via a Google Image search that was innocent enough in nature (naked barbie doll – with safe search on), and I come to find that someone actually made a calendar full of such images made to look like a pin-up calendar … which is just a bit creepy (also, this pic was the ‘tame’ one from the spread).  I believe that I had read somewhere that Mattel may actually be suing over this, so if the image suddenly stops working there may be a valid reason.

Anyway, if you’ve got any childhood memories of quirky justifications for clothing-optional Barbie play, feel free to share.  Or if you were more like my sisters and kept your dolls chaste, I’d like to hear your stories as well. And in either case, if you feel that your dolls’ proportions influenced your own body-image feel free to discuss.  Thanks for reading!

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Cape Crusading

by on Jun.24, 2011, under family, travel

Family vacation – 6 days, 5 nights in Cape Cod, bookended by a combined total of about 20 hours of driving.  Despite the latter, the trip proved to be a lot of fun and a welcome reprieve from the daily routine.  Sure the kids had their questionable moments and I’m coming to learn that there are some tensions that come with parenthood that will likely take years to uncoil (though I suspect the specific cause will simply shift over the decades until they are finally untethered and on their own), but all in all it was a great trip.

We started our vacation the day after school was out for summer – packed the car to the gills with food, toys and clothes (both for the destination and the journey), and headed out as early as we could with the hopes of being well past the major metropolitan areas before the afternoon rush.  As it turned out, Google Maps failed me in its default recommendation and led us most of the way there via I-95 – as a result we were moving at a rate between 10 and 40 mph from Northern New Jersey to mid-Connecticut.  We managed to get out of the congestion briefly just past New Haven only to hit rush hour shortly after and until Providence, RI.  Despite all of these transit setbacks, the kids were well-behaved, remained in good spirits, and generally kept themselves entertained for most of the journey.  For part of the trip I decided to stream Pandora through my iPhone – I had previously setup a number of stations to suit various tastes:  one with a variety of modern music that I like, one based on a number of feel-good songs that my wife likes, and one based on a playlist of songs that the kids have come to enjoy (containing songs from artists such as Ok Go, The Gorillaz, Pomplamoose, and “Give Up the Funk” by The Parliament Funkadelics).  I started by playing the kids mix and apparently got a stream of about 7 or 8 70s funk songs … which the kids seemed to enjoy much more than I would have expected.

The resort that we stayed at was a small collection of quaintly-sized homes (mostly single-story twins) that was situated right on a bay near Hyannis.  The unit we opted for had one bedroom with a twin and a full sized bed in it and a Murphy bed in the living room.  Initially the kids found the Murphy bed so fascinating that they opted to take that bed while my wife and I would get the separate beds in the bedroom.  But in less than a half hour they were fighting (Cricket kept whining because Grasshopper kept kicking her, Grasshopper kept kicking Cricket because she wouldn’t stop whining, etc.) which required them to be separated.  So the first night I got the bedroom with Grasshopper and my wife and daughter shared the Murphy bed.  For the rest of the week the kids took the bedroom and we took the living room and all was copacetic … except for the fact that the kids seemed to like to wake at the crack of dawn.

The first morning, Grasshopper was up at 4:30am.  He seemed unsettleable so I gave him some books and toys and told him to play quietly.  After about 45 minutes of that, he had to go wake up his sister, and by 6:00 they had my wife up and trooped on down to the beach.  At around 7:30 they returned so that I could take a shift and my wife could get in a little more sleep, so I took them back to the beach where the played happily until about 10 before we gathered to plan our day.  The rest of the week we got to sleep in until around 7 to 8 (one of the drawbacks to being somewhere with a wide horizon on some of the longest days of the year).

Most of our days were punctuated by day trips to various parts of Cape Cod.  On Father’s Day we drove up the National Sea Shore and spent the afternoon in Provincetown.  We managed to visit 2 museums (a pirate museum on the pier as well as a Cape Cod history museum at the base of the Piedmont Monument), climbed the tower, and I got Cricket to try seafood (which she insisted she hated, but after a bite of my lobster BLT, she ended up stealing a quarter of my sandwich and on a seafood quest for the remainder of our trip).   We spent the next day in Chatham enjoying the beach, perusing the shops, and watching the seals circle the fishing boats at the docks, and spent Tuesday enjoying the amenities closer to the resort (e.g., the pool, the beach, and various mini-golf courses) before finally packing up and leaving on Wednesday.

Looking back at the trip, I’m sure my wife and I would have had a more relaxing version of a vacation were we there without the kids, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.  Even when the kids were pushing their limits (e.g., hooting as they ran up and down the ramps in the Piedmont tower to hear themselves echo), we couldn’t help but take joy in their unbridled enthusiasm.  And the trip gave me a new perspective on all of the family vacations I remember taking as a kid.  In the end, I managed to relax and unwind a little and spend 6 days not touching a computer, not being concerned about deadlines or meetings, and not needing to know what time it was – at the cost of a little loss of sleep and a little sunburn.  And considering the kids (and my wife) wanted to know if we could move there, I’d imagine it was good for them too.  Now I have to figure out when we can afford to do it again.

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A Curious Point of Perspective

by on Jun.12, 2011, under family

Cricket was recently using her laptop (a cheap netbook that I salvaged from being tossed at work that she and her brother share) – mostly to do her usual activities:  play games on NickJr.com, watch episodes of the Pink Panther on Netflix, or practice typing in Word.  But it seems she decided to be exploratory today.  Now we have already had talks about how exploratory she is allowed to get (she has been burned on her own before watching YouTube videos – just because it has Elmo in it doesn’t make it kid-friendly), so I generally don’t worry that she will find anything she isn’t supposed to see (and filters are set as explicit as I can manage short of setting up site-filtering).  But today she ventured in an unexpected direction – she Google’d herself.

Specifically she Google’d her name and the word family (I presume expecting to find information about her family or maybe our blogs or something – frankly I’m not entirely sure what she expected to find).  What was really interesting is what she found – she found an old online journal page that I used to sporadically write on up until shortly after she was born.  The last post I wrote on it actually was talking about her and her development so far (at that point being 8 months old), and then going on about how life-changing becoming a parent is.

I found myself reading through the old posts up there – I read the one about her to her before putting her to bed for the night, but then I came back and read the rest.  And frankly I was pretty boring and kind of dumb back that (aside from my parenting revelations).  The rest of my posts were indicative of how little I really had to say and how little I really had learned so far in life – mostly shallow introspection and occasionally misdirected frustration at things for which I had more control or responsibility than I took – that and some lame mixtape playlists and a weird attempt at poetry.

Anyway, I’ve strayed from my point (another thing I tended to do a lot … and probably still do now).  After reading my post to my daughter, she asked if she could have her own website.  At age 7 and a half she wants to start sharing her musings with the world.  Considering the behavior model, I’m not surprised (I’ve been blogging amateurishly for a few years and my wife more successfully for a little longer).  But alas I told her no, I’m not buying her her own website – which was a shock to her in itself, not that I said no but that there were costs involved.  What I did agree to, however (assuming she remembers having the conversation) is that if she felt compelled to write somethings, she could post them on my blog.  So don’t be surprised if you start seeing “Cricket’s Corner” posts in the near future … or not depending on whether it goes anywhere.

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From Flower to Chocolate Dessert?

by on Jun.06, 2011, under family, parenthood

This weekend seemed to be punctuated by my daughter’s Girl Scout events and the resultant aftereffects.  Cricket, being in first grade, was a Daisy this year (the lowest rank in the Girl Scouts organization – at least as far as I’m aware).  The weekend begun with me having a boy’s evening with my son because the Daisies were having a camp-out (camp-out = a dozen kindergarten and first grade girls sleeping in tents in someone’s back yard).  My wife hung out with the crew for part of the evening as well.  Apparently my daughter had awoken at around 5:45 the next morning and, as is characteristic, was a little jabber-jaw (to the chagrin of the councilor who was shushing her and hoping that she wouldn’t wake any of the other girls).

As a result of the short night’s sleep, Cricket was in rare form most of Saturday – breaking down in a handful of whining fits throughout the day and finally falling asleep mid-afternoon in my bed.  Ironically this happened while I was at the grocery store getting the makings of burgers to grill at her request.  I made the burgers nonetheless and hers still sits in the fridge to be eventually consumed or tossed.  My wife and I had considered eventually moving her to her own bed, but instead took advantage of her absence to get her room to an actual clean state.  Officially, we didn’t throw away anything except a few pieces of actual garbage, unofficially we filled at least 2 garbage bags – one with donation items.  We also collected a wardrobe’s worth of laundry and a classroom’s supply of pencils from her floor (and don’t even ask me how many hangers).  I then opted to sleep in her bed in her stead – it was fairly relaxing until the kids came in in the morning and were literally running circles on the newly clean floor.

Yesterday things were generally more even-keel.  The kids were in good spirits and properly rested.  They even played well together at times (not all the time, but some of it).  We enjoyed some time at the park and went to pick out some paint for the loft bed I plan to build Grasshopper.  Things only got hectic when dinner preparation ran long requiring us to eat fast – a feat that is nigh impossible it seems for children under 8 – so that we would make it to Cricket’s bridging ceremony on time (bridging ceremony = groups of Girl Scouts walking across a plank of wood situated next to a blue tarp resulting in the need to re-accessorize in a new vest color).  As my daughter’s troop marched up to the staging area, I couldn’t help but marvel at what the patches on the backs of their vests depicted as achievements (e.g., bowling, s’more-making), but I guess at the ages of 5 to 7 you can only expect so much.

The local den mother (or whatever you call the senior officiant for all of the levels of troops) took a moment to point out that the Girl Scouts was undergoing a drastic program change next year, thus making the patches and honors currently awarded soon to be ‘collector’s items’ (i.e., it’s a profit deal).  Once the ceremony of it was over and my daughter was officially promoted to the Brownies, the kids all got sugared up on cake and then shortly thereafter were literally running around the auditorium at top speeds.  Incredulously there were few if any injuries and we were able to drag our kids home without any complaints for them to settle to bed without too much hoopla.

It is easy to see that very little of my life as a father any longer revolves around me.  But I’m perfectly content with that.  I love my kids and I couldn’t imagine things any differently.  Among the various kid-centric events of the weekend, I got to spend rare one-on-one moments with my son, and I got to take pride in the continuing growth and accomplishment of my daughter.  I can ask for little more in life.

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