Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How This Mom Watches World Cup, Part Two

Step One: Put the children to bed. This is critical. They may suddenly profess enthusiasm for the game, but don't be fooled. The only reason they're showing interest is because the 8 p.m. kickoff means their bedtime will get pushed back. Don't fall for it.

Step Two: Once the children have been bathed, read to and tucked in, realize you've missed the 8 p.m. kick off of England versus Sweden. Do not worry.

Step Three: Get a COLD beer out of the frig. For those MarathonMum fans who were slightly distressed that I had to drink a warm beer last week, do not despair. The warm beer reflected only my lack of forward planning.

Step Four: Prepare Indian ready-made-meal, as Mr. MarathonMum is at a work event. Listen out for cheering on the street.

Step Five: When cheering on the street is heard, rush upstairs to see first goal of the game.
Go England!

Step Six: After watching the goal replay, switch to the BBC's show on the Summer Exhibition (talk about counter-programming). Smile to yourself knowing that its host, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, probably is not watching World Cup either, because you saw him picking up his dry cleaning during England's first game against Paraguay.

Step Seven: Answer phone and chat with friend, who is watching the game and gives you the necessary goal news as it happens. Chat for 40 minutes about jobs, life, memories and Angelina Jolie.

Step Eight: Go back upstairs and watch final 10 minutes so you can say you saw the game.

Step Nine: When offspring wake up in the morning, tell them that England tied Sweden, 2-2.

Step Ten: Get out globe to show them where Ecuador is.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

How This Mom Watches World Cup (In 7 Easy Steps)

1. Most importantly, you have to convince your two offspring that this is a good idea. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security that this will be easy if your two offspring are male. Particularly if they are under the age of 7. Indeed, evidence from a friend with two sons shows she had the same problem.

2. Persevere with No. 1. They may moan, ask to watch anything else or even, in a fit of desperation, suggest they will play outside. "Why do we want to watch television on a beautiful day like this?" they may ask. The correct response is to laugh, and heartily at that, because if they had control of the remote they would very much like to watch telly on a beautiful day like this. But they don't have the remote.

3. Don't say it to them during the game, but it's important that they watch England play World Cup, because, frankly, you don't want them to turn into the type of kids who get beat up in the playground.

4. Once you have asserted your authority over the remote, sit down and enjoy the game. But never forget you are a mother and your middle name is "Multitasking," so surround yourself with piles of laundry that need to be folded. Fold, watch, take sips of beer-- be sure said children do not trip over the beer-- and cheer, as necessary.

5. If the children decide that they are more interested in reading a book than watching the exploits of Beckham and the Bunch, do not despair. At least they're not still asking for the remote back.

6. Try not to recall the beer-fueled days of yore when watching Villanova victorious or Chicago celebrating. Those days are gone. This is the best it's going to be for World Cup. That's right: piles of laundry and a lukewarm beer. Life is good!

7. Take the opportunity to teach your children the fine art of celebration when England scores, and scores again. Jump, scream, clap and raise your hands in the air like you just don't care. (But you do, of course. Especially the beating-up-in-the-playground part.)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

England Wins!

England won its first match in the World Cup today by beating Paraguay, 1-0.

Hardly a blowout, particulary when you consider that the one point was an own-goal by a Paraguay player, but a win is a win.

MarathonMum fans not familiar with the glory of the World Cup-- yes, I'm talking to you Americans-- it is an athletic spectacular surpassing the World Series, the NBA Finals and the Super Bowl all rolled into one. When those U.S. events roll around commentators always talk about the millions and billions of people around the world watching, but that's just hyperbole. When they say that about the World Cup, they mean it.

[By the way U.S. fans, I'm talking about the game you call soccer, but that everyone else in the world calls football.]

As you can see from above, Thing One supported England's team in his own special way. But he'll be rooting for the U.S. on Monday.

Go England! Go U.S.A.!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Team Jolie-Pitt Triumphs Again

Now we know the price for worldwide celebrity obsession: It's more than $4.1 million.

The figure is reportedly the amount that People magazine in the United States paid for the exclusive North American rights to pictures of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, daughter of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. But the pictures apparently also have been sold to Hello! magazine in the United Kingdom and other media outlets worldwide, pushing the estimated total amount paid up to $7 million.

In a masterstroke of both charitable giving and public relations, Jolie and Pitt plan to donate all the proceeds from the pictures to charity. This donation follows their first gifts of $300,000 for maternity equipment for two Namibian hospitals and a $15,000 for a community education initiative.

Suddenly, all celebrities who have pocketed the money for pictures of their babies, weddings or homes seem shallow, miserly and stupid. Much like they are, probably.

The May 27 birth of this little girl has been a case study in how to outfox the media and the public. Pitt and Jolie travelled with their other two children to the southern African country Namibia to have the baby. I'm quite certain that most entertainment reporters could not find that country on a globe prior to this trip. By going there, they ensured that there would be few reporters and photographers in the country to follow their every move. To ensure their privacy, the government would not issue any journalistic visas to anyone without the express written consent of Jolie and Pitt.

Personally, all of these actions caused me to switch my allegiance from Team Aniston (wronged first wife) to Team Jolie (international humanitarian who really cares about African children). Jolie seems to be a woman who takes her responsibilities as a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador seriously. Unlike, say, Geri Haliwell, also a U.N. ambassador who recently sold pictures of her newborn daughter to Hello! but did not donate any of her proceeds to charity.

The couple, who are the subject of worldwide interest, first got to know one another while starring in the movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Pitt happened to be married to Aniston at the time.

But how the couple, dubbed Bradgelina, have handled the interest in this child makes me respect them like I never did before.

The couple said in a statement, "While we celebrate the joy of the birth of our daughter, we recognize that 2 million babies born every year in the developing world die on the first day of their lives. These children can be saved, but only if governments around the world make it a priority."

If only all celebrities could use the superficial interest in them for the benefit of others. Other celebrities really could learn something from Team Jolie-Pitt.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Legoland: City of Dreams (for kids, anyway)

Our trip kicked off at 4:21 a.m., when Thing One walked into my bedroom while pulling his wheelie suitcase behind him, and asked, "Is it time to leave for Legoland yet?"

A few hours, a breakfast, a shower and a lost tooth later, we were on the road heading to the Promised Land. I planned the half-term adventure because Mr. MarathonMum had a business trip to China, and I thought a mini-break would be fun for the rest of us. Thing One and Thing Two thought that Dad had the short end of the stick, since he only got to go to China, while we got to enjoy two days at LEGOLAND! and stay at a HOTEL! with a POOL!

Before we left, I did my due diligence by checking the Internet and asking Legoland veterans for tips and advice. If you ever go, an impressive 11-year-old created a site full of advice here. I tried my best to devise a strategy, but in the end I decided to just go with the flow and enjoy it without military-like precision.

As a 10-year-old, when I first read about Legoland in Denmark in National Geographic for Kids (then called "World") it seemed so amazing and foreign and exotic and far away. I also thought at the time, I'd never be able to experience the wonder of seeing an entire city built out of Lego, because Denmark was so far away from New Jersey. How wrong I was. Now in addition to the original Legoland, there are parks in Windsor, where we went, California and Germany. The miniature cities and towns made entirely out of Lego, especially London, were amazing. The boys loved them. But I couldn't help but wonder: How do you get a job building cities out of Lego? What sort of degree do you need?

Aside from the Lego cities and sculptures everywhere, Legoland basically is an amusement park for children. The top attraction for both Thing One and Thing Two was Driving School, where they got to drive a Lego car around-- without the benefit of a steering track underneath. If they successfully finished the course-- all the kids did, even the ones who were hopeless at it (read: Thing Two)-- they got a driver's license.

On Friday morning, I had the good luck to read that my friend Laura also would be there. My mother-in-law is convinced I could find a friend anywhere, so I suppose the fact that I found a friend at Legoland (not to mention seeing two more on Saturday), confirms her theory.

Laura and I used mobile telephony techonology [we sent texts to each other] to rendevouz at the park. It was great to see her. Our friendship is one of the more unusual ones that I have. It started as we both trained for the London marathon, we first met each other in person at about mile 17 in the race, and we have remained friends since via e-mails and our blogs. But we are very similar in our outlook and approach to life and we keep finding unusual things that we have in common (shoe size, the fact that we both rowed starboard). The kids had a fantastic time together, and I was happy to have a friend to talk to in the midst of all the child-centric fun.

By the end of the second day, Thing One and Thing Two had become a bit jaded about the wonder of Legoland. "Look!" I'd say, "A giraffe/tiger/zebra/dinosar."

"Oh," they'd say, disappointed. "It's just made out of Lego."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Wobbly Tooth Wobbles Out!


DefTooth 1 has been lifted. The subject tooth has fallen out. The family now will revert to DefTooth 5 (normal peacetime readiness).

At 8:08 a.m. GMT, the tooth's owner ran down to the kitchen and exclaimed, "Mom! Mom! My wobbly tooth fell out!"

Joy, jumping, laughter and jubliation ensued.

Subject now is preparing a letter to the Tooth Fairy, and the tooth has been placed in an evidence bag.

Meanwhile, subject's brother is convinced that he had a wobbly tooth and it, too, has fallen out. As brother is only three and only just filled his mouth with new teeth, he has a way to go.

In a prepared statement, subject's mother said, "It's been a terribly exciting day for us all."

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wobbly Tooth Watch: Day 7

We remain at DefTooth 1.

However, chewing has become painful and the tooth is very, very loose (I can see it for myself).

The "pull the tooth out with a string and a doorknob" method has been suggested by two friends: one via online comments and one via a conversation on the sidewalk, but Thing One has resisted the idea.

As always, pool coverage and photos as events warrant.

Pixar Exhibit: It's Incredible!

With just over a week before it closes, the boys and I headed out to the Pixar animation exhibit at the Science Museum. "It's Incredible!," Thing One said, with the pun probably unintended, but well done just the same.

Pixar, for those of you catching up with the rest of the class, is the animation studio responsible for "Toy Story", "A Bugs Life", "Monsters Inc.", "The Incredibles" and the soon-to-be-released "Cars." Our family's love for Pixar cannot be adequately described. To illustrate: when we recently painted the toy room in our house, we painted it not red, but "Incredibles red."

The exhibit had hundreds of pictures and models that Pixar animators made for the movies. I wasn't really sure that Thing One and Thing Two would like or appreciate it, but they did. They loved seeing the models and some of the pictures. We also loved the spot where we could watch all of the Pixar short movies (or "shorts," as they say in the business) and the final video montage where the pictures came to life, via computer animation.

The highlight, hands down, was the Toy Story zeotrope (pictured above). We loved it so much we went back to watch it four different times. This was worth the price of admission alone. Characters from Toy Story, including Buzz, Jessie, Wheezy the Penguin, the aliens and the toy soldiers, performed various stunts on the round sculpture as it spun around under strobe lighting. Buzz bounced on a Pixar ball. Jessie did rope tricks. The toy soldiers parachuted into the action. When the zeotrope stopped, you could see that each of the characters was in a slightly different position so that the 3-D animation could occur. Even the adults around me were enraptured, with several people laughing and gasping at how wonderful it was.

(The picture above is courtesy of the New York Times and is the zeotrope from the New York exhibit. Ours was slightly different, as we had Jessie, but no Woody. The picture also doesn't really do it justice. To really appreciate it, you have to see it in action.)

The Museum of Modern Art in New York hosted the exhibit first, at the beginning of the year, then it travelled transatlantically to London. You could tell that the exhibit started life in an art museum, because it certainly had an artistic-- rather than scientific-- feel to it. But the exhibit definitively proved that what Pixar does is art.

It truly was incredible.