Monday, January 24, 2011

Fantastic Mr. Bird.

For Christmas Liam got a box set of Roald Dahl chapter books that we've been making our way through three chapters before bed at a time. Some have been hits - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was particularly enjoyable (as was the Johnny Depp movie that followed), while others have been misses - we read three chapters of The Twits before Liam declared it "way too nasty" and tossed it into the donate pile.

Since watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory after reading the book was such a thrill (and doubly fun with Liam learning about different versions of stories at Encore!), we were eager to finish Fantastic Mr. Fox so we could watch Wes Anderson's movie version. Here's the trailer if you're so inclined:

The movie was...fantastic. Really. Laugh out loud enjoyable. And family friendly. I love that! I honestly don't know why we hadn't seen it before this weekend. I LOVE Wes Anderson and oftentimes wish I lived in his imagination or on one of his quirky movie sets. This movie, even though it's animated, is no exception. It's pure Wes Anderson and doesn't disappoint on any level. In fact, Liam and I just may watch it again after quiet time.

One of the themes running through the movie was particularly poignant for our family this weekend. The movie is obviously personified (another one of Liam's Encore subjects - score!) yet Mr. Fox is clearly torn between who he is (a husband, a father, a newspaper man, a former whack bat champion...) and who he really is (a wild animal).

(Sorry about the commercial but I really like this clip.)

The reason this hit home for us is because our cat, Mr. Bird, passed away this weekend. Okay, he didn't just pass away. He was viciously attacked and killed by a pit bull and died a horrific and untimely death. (Forgive me for being dramatic - it hasn't quite sunken in yet.) It happened in the middle of the night but Bill witnessed the tail end of the attack (I was nursing Finn, we heard a sound, he went to investigate - with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist - and saw the dog shaking the living cuss out of Mr. Bird). He somehow made the dog drop our cat (really scary now that a Google search on pit bulls brought up endless information about the dogs mauling and killing not just other animals but people, too) and scared him off when he came back for more. He scooped up Mr. Bird who was bleeding profusely and barely breathing and brought him into the house briefly before rushing him off to the emergency vet. Once there, it became clear that there was little that could be done. His front arms were visibly broken, the severe bite had caused internal bleeding, and his eyes were moving in a way that indicated brain trauma. We were asleep at 4 am; by 5:00, Bill was home from the vet and Mr. Bird was dead.

I'm not saying this to get all soap boxey about pit bulls running loose in residential neighborhoods (we'll let animal control handle that...), but just to say that for the enormous personality that Mr. Bird had, it's surprising and sad that he had to die like a wild animal (especially since he weighed 17 pounds...and the dog that killed him was not very big).

Mr. Bird was funny. (Slithering under the covers of a made bed on a cold day, "nursing" on our old dog Chelsea...)

Bossy. (He meowed like he was telling you what to do. When he was my sister's cat (long story...), he came home one day covered in poop. While she bathed him he stared her in the eyes meowing like he was lecturing her for letting such a thing happen to him.)

And bad. (He peed in the shower at least a few times a week and chased his own mother around the house hissing at her.)

He was a lover. (If you didn't mind getting completely covered in cat hair and really petted him, he would stare into your eyes and purr in a very...romantic way, he also had a "thing" for stuffed animals and Snuggies...)

And a fighter. (At least he looked good doing it!)

He loved to eat. (The first time we fed him cat food he spread his tiny arms out as wide as he could to block his brothers and sisters from getting to the food and hissed at them if they tried to sneak a bite (he nursed like this, too). This is how he ate his entire life and probably explains how he went from being the runt of the litter to such a huge man cat.)

Drink. (Mostly from the bathtub faucet although any dripping source he could force you to turn on would do the trick.)

And be merry. (Despite the fact that he always needed something, he seemed pretty doggone happy most of the time.)

He was a cat, yes, but more than that he was Mr. Bird. And even though his death was pure wild animal craziness, it's his personified version that we'll always remember.

We'll miss you, Birdie.
(May 2001* - January 23, 2011)

*Even though he was born under our bed, we never could remember his birth date...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Parental advisory.

Do you remember when you first started really liking music? For me it was probably a little later than most. I mean, sure, I used the $5 my grandpa gave me for ice cream on a Gloria Estefan tape once when I was about eight. And, of course, by then I already knew plenty of Cindy Lauper and Bananarama songs by heart. And I was super stoked when I got my very own walk man complete with a Lionel Richie Dancing on the Ceiling tape for my fourth grade birthday. And I definitely remember RUNNING home from the bus stop in 6th grade to catch the tail end of Madonna's Like a Prayer that had just started on the bus radio (Katie, ask Lizzie about this - she was there!). And I seriously almost lost my mind with excitement at the MC Hammer/Vanilla Ice concert in 7th grade...

Okay. My intro no longer makes sense. Evidently I have always really liked music. I guess what I am thinking about is when I started really liking good music. (I mean, Gloria Estefan? Really?) But that doesn't make sense either. I am a 33 year old woman who likes Britney Spears. A LOT. And not at all ironically.


Sorry about that. Moving on...

I guess what I was really thinking about was the first time I heard a song that made me stop and think, "Wow..." For me it was Radiohead's Creep when I was a junior in high school. I recorded it off the radio and listened to it again and again and again. It was the first time I remember a song speaking to me and saying something other than, "Let's dance!" The lyrics, the sound of Thom York's voice, the highs and the lows and the space in was perfect. I knew I would love that song forever.

What I didn't know, and could never have guessed in a million years, was that someday I'd have friends who would perform that song a cappella on national television.

Or that because of that my four year old would become a HUGE fan of my favorite song. First the Street Corner Symphony version (we have all of their live songs on a CD in my car...or at least we did before Liam took it out and put it in his room), and then after we introduced it to him for comparison, the Radiohead version.


He's OBSESSED. The other morning before his first day at a new preschool he said, "You know what we need to get this day started right? A little Radiohead." Then he proceeded to rock out to Creep on repeat until I dragged him out the door and strapped him into his car seat.

First day jitters? Not any more!

What I also couldn't have predicted all those years ago would be the conversation I had about my favorite song with my child last night. We were in the kitchen making dinner and listening to the latest mixed CD Bill made Liam (as random as they come...everything from You Be Illin to Sitting on the Dock of the Bay). After we listened to the full version of Street Corner Symphony's Creep, Liam ran off to get his Radiohead CD so we could listen to the original. When he came back to the kitchen he said, "Mama, guess what? You're never going to believe this. Number 13 is Creep but so is number 2. Creep is on this CD twice!"

Are you familiar with this album? If so, you can probably guess how the rest of this conversation unfolded. See, #13 is the radio friendly version. The version where Thom York sings, "You're so very special, I wish I was special..." #2 is the uncensored version. The version where instead of saying very, he goes ahead and drops the F bomb.

"That's right, Liam. Creep is on that CD twice. But the songs are not exactly the same."

"They're not? What's different about them?"

"Well..." Was there anyway to get out of this? "Number two has a very powerful word in it and number 13 does not. Do you want to listen to it so you can hear it for yourself?"

"NO! I don't want to hear it!" And he ran off into his room. Great. Now he was scared of the F word. I called for him to come back but he just poked his head out of the door and said, "I'll just listen to it from in here. Go ahead and play the song!" Darn. I guess it was my fault for calling it "very powerful". All I meant by powerful was, "Not to be repeated in in front of your Grandma or at school." It's just a word after all.

So I grabbed my boy and marched him back into the kitchen so we could listen to some uncensored music together.

But first I did my best to explain to him that words only have power if you let them have power. I mean, they're just letters strung together, right? Some are nicer than others (and some are definitely inappropriate for a four year old to be saying in mixed company) but they don't actually have power all on their own. At least nothing you need to be afraid of.

Before I hit play, he stopped me. "Well, what's the word? The very powerful one. What is it?"

Busted. "Oh. Um. The word? Well..." I wanted to just say "the F word" but he wouldn't have any idea what I was talking about. If it was just letters, why was I having such a hard time saying it out loud? Suddenly it felt both very powerful and very silly. There was really no way out of this but to straight up teach my son the F word. So I took a deep breath and said, "It's...fuckin."



"Fuckin. Huh. Fuckin. It doesn't sound very powerful." He crinkled his nose and said it again. "It sounds kind of funny." He was right. It sounded completely ridiculous! Fuckin? Who says that? Why didn't I go with the classic "fuck" or even "fucking"? Why did the first real swear word I taught my son have to be "fuckin"? It's not even really a word!

But it didn't matter to Liam. He was hooked. It was like he could feel the power rolling around in his mouth (even with all that bubble tape in there!). Even after I told him that even though it's just a word, it's not a word we need to say all that often, he kept finding reasons to drop it into conversation. " number 13 they say very but in number two they say fuckin. That's the only difference. Fuckin!" Or, "You know, since fuckin is too powerful to say to some people, you could just say freakin if you didn't want to say very. You're so freakin special. That would work, right?" Or, "I wonder why people think fuckin is so powerful. It's just a word!"

Yes, Liam, it's just a word. A word no four year old should EVER repeat outside this house. Got it? Don't make me look like a terrible fuckin mother, okay? Okay?!?

He promised he'd never say it to anyone. "Don't worry, Mama. I won't say fuckin to anyone. I promise."

So, there you go. If your kid drops the F-bomb (or some silly version of it...) at the dinner table, HE DIDN'T HEAR IT FROM LIAM.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hollywood magic number.

Today's title is what you'd call on Wheel of Fortune a "Before and After". Basically it's taking two things that are in no way related to each other and smooshing them into one. It's a cheaters way of making two sort of lame things longer really fun and interesting. Enjoy!

Hollywood magic:

This afternoon on the way home from the ice cream shop where we were celebrating Liam's awesome first day at his new school, I swear to God I saw the real life Edward. You know, like Team Edward? Sparkle face vampire boy? Yeah. I saw him. Not Robert Pattinson Edward. Edward Edward. Or at least who he would be if he existed in real life. (I know, Anna. I'm sorry. But EDWARD ISN'T REAL!)

See, in the movies (or at least in the first Twilight movie that my friend Anna made me watch...), a pasty-faced outcast who likes to wear all black and talk about mythical things like vampires looks like this:

But in real life, he would probably look more like this:

Or this:

Or like any of the kids you went to high school with who went across the street to smoke between first and second period.

I mean think about it - vampires and werewolves, dungeons and dragons...what's the difference?

The Edward I saw today was riding a dirt bike and hanging out by the railroad tracks. At first I thought he was just your everyday average dirt bike kid but when the wind blew his longish hair out of his face, I did a double take. He looked exactly like Edward. Seriously! And let me tell you, there was nothing hot about it.

All this to say I must be on Team Jacob. I know. I'm as shocked as you are.

Magic number:

I don't know why no one told me this before but having two kids is like twice as awesome as having one kid. I mean, sure, it has it's challenges but my oh my how the good outweighs the bad...


This was right after they returned from an adventure up high in the air in a huge bubble that Liam made around the crib (after he filled it with stuffed animals and "dictionaries" and snacks, of course). They played like this together most of the afternoon and when I finally wrestled Finn away to try to give him a nap, Liam was genuinely bummed out. It's crazy amazing to see this relationship blossoming already. As a mother, of course I'm happy to see my children getting along (and entertaining each other and making each other laugh...). But as someone who LOVES my sister, I'm delighted to know that my boys have each other. Hooray for siblings!