Monday, February 04, 2002

February 4-8, 2002

FEBRUARY 4, 2002

Well, once again, our household does not exactly have its finger on the pulse of popular culture. Maybe we're somewhere near the shoulder of popular culture. Or the right ear. At any rate, on Super Bowl Sunday, the day when a nation turns its attention to sports and snack foods, our television was tuned to the Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen marathon on the ABC Family channel. Morning (the early twin movie "To Grandmother's House We Go," a longtime favorite in our VCR), noon (re-runs of one of the girls' forgettable post-Full House TV series) and night (the teen twins make mischief in Paris), we were all Olsens, all the time. Now, of course, we do have more than one TV; the other was devoted to the "Hey, Arnold!" marathon on Nickelodeon. My husband did get to watch the tail end of the Big Game after the kids went to bed, but by then all the good commercials -- certainly the only reason I have any interest in the game -- were gone.

It's interesting that the non-Super Bowl-carrying channels have broadened the strategy of counterprogramming with shows aimed at women to counterprogramming with shows aimed at kids. Probably a smart one, too: Moms are likely more willing to humor Dads and let them watch the game than the kids are. Heck, you know, I've already seen "Sabrina," and a Lifetime movie about Brooke Shields being stalked by Richard Thomas does not appeal, and there are, after all, those commercials; but my daughter, well, you do not wrest my daughter away from Mary-Kate and Ashley programming without a crowbar. Not even with all the Britney Spears Pepsi ads in the world.

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FEBRUARY 5, 2002

It's sort of one of the perks of parenthood to be able to complain that everything was so much harder when you were a kid. Five miles barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways, and all that. So it always throws me when my daughter brings home tests marked "D" or "F," and I realize that in my day -- you know, back when things were really tough -- those would have been "C"s and "D"s. I distinctly remember that we were graded on a strict 10-percent system: 90 A, 80 B, 70 C, 60 D, and anything under 60 was an F. It seemed fair; if you knew seven out of 10 answers, you were about average; if you barely knew half, you weren't.

But now -- and whether it's a sign of the times or just a sign of a crotchety school district, I don't know -- the percentages have been tightened up. For my girl, it's 90 A, 80 B, 75 C, 70 D, and anything under 70 is an F. That's a full 10-point difference from my good old days, and it means it's impossible to get a C on a 10-question test. Not right, somehow. So I've made a deal with my daughter: Her teacher might call a 74 a D and a 69 an F, but in my book, they're a letter-grade higher. You can't blame the old folks sometimes for having their heads caught in the past.

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FEBRUARY 6, 2002

It's come to this: I've actually purchased a "SpongeBob SquarePants" chapter book to yank my son into reading. The line between TV viewing and reading hereabouts just gets blurrier and blurrier. It all seemed harmless enough when it was "Arthur" and "Clifford" and "Franklin" and "Little Bear" books, because those were all literature before they were televised. But now the reverse trend is in full swing, and there are "Scooby-Doo" books and "Blue's Clues" books and "Rugrats" books overstuffing our bookcase. And now, of all things, a "SpongeBob SquarePants" book. That surrealistic series seems the last thing you'd expect to find in the relatively harmless confines of a simple chapter book.

The story is straightforward by SpongeBob standards, involving Patrick the starfish's destructive behavior when SpongeBob's valentine for him is unexpectedly detained. My son has in fact been interested in reading it with me -- his first chapter book -- and I've found, somewhat alarmingly, that I do the voices of Patrick and the squirrel Sandy pretty darn well. Don't know where this tube-to-tome trend is going to lead for us, but if Emeril Lagasse ever does novelizations of his Food Network adventures for the 7-10 set, we're there.

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FEBRUARY 7, 2002

I'm obsessed right now with my son's calcium intake. There's not enough of it. The boy steadfastly refuses to drink milk, and I'm okay with that; but now he's being finicky about yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, all those milk alternates I've been pumping into him, and I'm getting worried. The one true thing about my son has always been that you can't really get him to do something he doesn't want to do. He's self-determining. You can make him want to do it, if you're lucky, but especially in terms of eating, he eats what he eats.

I've been frantically dashing about the Web, then, looking for other calcium ideas. Collard greens! Canned shrimp! Tofu! Sardines are a possibility, since he likes fish and he likes salty things and he likes things that most kids think are disgusting. Broccoli is good; he likes broccoli. Perhaps a healthy breakfast of broccoli and sardines will do his bones good? Because he's sure not eating cereal with milk. He does eat waffles, which according to the package, offer 10% of our daily calcium needs. He also eats cream cheese, which according to the package offers 0%. How can that be? Guess they're whipping all the good stuff out of cream cheese and injecting it into Eggos. But heck, I'll take the calcium where I can get it. Or he can, anyway.

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FEBRUARY 8, 2002

My son's teacher sent home one of those notices last week that strikes fear in the hearts of adoptive parents: a request for a baby picture. I've always figured that, if the question came up, we could use one of his pictures from the orphanage. He was 21 months old, but he was about the size of a healthy infant. But as it turns out, it wasn't necessary. The fine print on the notice actually specified a picture of age three and under. I thought it was nice of the teacher to be so vague, and told her so. Her answer was, "You think your son's the only one in the class who's adopted?" And actually, I do know of at least one other child who is, and it turns out she was adopted at age three, and thus the age cut-off.

I guess it's one of the perks of being in a small, self-contained special-ed class, in which the teacher gets lots of detailed information on her students' backgrounds. When you've only got eight students, you can do some thinking about how to make things appropriate for everybody. So although we had those baby-looking pictures available, my son was able to pick a picture of himself on his second birthday. Another boy -- not to my knowledge adopted -- showed me the picture he brought, and it was of about the same age. No one standing out here for lack of infant photography. Would that all adopted kids would get the same inclusive assignments.

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