Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tricycle Riders UNITE!!!

Tricycle riders everywhere have a new spokesman:

I'm so excited to have something in common with Skip Gates! Although his tricycle makes mine look pretty bad-ass in comparison. Here I am, struggling to go up Ann Arbor's hills with one speed while he motors around Martha's Vineyard on this 24-speed custom-made trike from Germany. Oh to be rich.

Thank you to my mom, who directed me to Larry Wilmore, who directed me to my fellow triker.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We Made the Radio!!

Ok, not us personally, but the issue of albinism. The World, a show on NPR, did two great stories on the challenges that people with albinism face in the world, including the rampant murders in Africa. Please take a moment to listen - they are short but very informative:

Albinism Worldwide on The World

My only complaint is that they used the term "albino" a million times despite the fact that it's largely rejected in the albinism community. We are pretty laid back about it in our family, but considering how rare it is to have a story on albinism, I hate that the term is being reinforced among the general public.

On the bright side, one of the people they interviewed was albinism expert Dr. Brilliant!! No, that is not his super hero alter ego - that's his actual name. We met him at the Chicago conference and he's actually a sweet man in his 40s or 50s with salt and pepper hair and dark rimmed glasses. I would tell Robbie some interesting fact I noted about the presentation (Robbie and I took turns checking on the kids in the other room, so we had to fill each other in later) and Robbie would ask in his best cartoon voice: "Wait, is that what Dr. BRILLIANT said?!"

This is life with albinism - you find humor wherever you can.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ann Arbor Goes Hollywood

In the Tom Hanks' movie "Big," there's a scene where he returns to find the fortune teller machine, only to discover that the carnival has moved on. What was once a glittering spectacle is now a desolate field with bits of rubbish drifting about. The sky is gray and full of dreary storm clouds to match the mood.

That is how my neighborhood park feels now that the carnival called "Castle Rock Pictures" has packed up their set and moved on.

Ever since Michigan passed a tax break to lure in film crews, Hollywood has been knocking at our door. In one case, literally when our neighbor brought over a location scout to see if our house might be a good fit for the new Hilary Swank movie. It wasn't, but we had fun describing several houses that might work since we had just finished house-hunting. They were looking for "Victorian charm" meets "crack house," and since Ann Arbor is a hippy town, we've got lots of places that fit that description.

Last summer, we enjoyed watching them construct a fake cafe downtown and then crash a trailer into it. We missed the day of the actual explosion, but the next day we saw the trailer (with the phrase "God's A**hole" spray-painted on the side) and the charred remains of the cafe. As we walked past the scene, I looked over and noticed that one of the storefronts across the street was filled with groceries and a beautiful display of flowers and produce.

"Look! We finally got a market downtown!" I said, pointing excitedly.

Robbie laughed.

"It's a facade for the movie."


Recently, they decided to film part of Rob Reiner's new film, "Flipped", at the park I take the boys to nearly every day. The film involves several scenes where a girl refuses to get out of her beloved sycamore tree, so they chose to use one of two large sycamores in the park. The Observer laid out the plan in detail - they would trim back one of the trees so that it could be digitally removed later on and they promised to use a professional arborist. They also agreed to resurface the basketball court and other minor cosmetic things to make up for the disturbance.

Despite all their careful planning, a protester showed up to stop the cherry picker from getting close to the sycamore tree and they had to stop work for a day. The sheer insanity that someone would protest the trimming of a tree is just part of why I love this town!

Anyway, in the weeks leading up to filming, the park regulars enjoyed watching the strange scaffolding and structures go up. Groups of people who would never talk to each other otherwise huddled to debate what they could be making. Slowly, the number of "regulars" increased until, by the third day of actual shooting, the park was filled with people at any given hour.

One day, a construction worker stopped his truck and leaned out the window.

"Hey - what's going on here?"

I explained as much as I knew, which was only a few basic facts. But even with this little bit of information, a huge smile spread across his face.

"Wow! I wonder what big actors are going to be in town? I guess we're all going to get our 15 minutes of fame, eh?"

I laughed and nodded. "Yeah, sure."

I found it funny that he would think merely being close to a film crew could make him famous - like they were going to stop shooting and say, "Hey - you over there gawking at us. YOU should be in movies!!"

The idea was ridiculous, but I admit there was a certain magic in the air with all that hoopla. Maybe nobody was going to get discovered, but it was fun to watch the lights hoisted up on cherry pickers, actors in 1950's costumes flipping open their cell phones to text someone the moment they got off set, or people carrying around fake trees - trying to find just the right spot.

More than anything, it was fun to have people from all over town gathered together - some with binoculars and camping chairs, others pretending to "casually" walk their dog by for the 100th time. Joggers stopped to jokingly complain about their restricted running area; parents pushed their kids on the swings while discussing the finer points of cinematography; and everyone of every age knew the name "Rob Reiner."

One day before heading over to the park, I overheard a group of 8-12 year old neighborhood boys discussing whether $75 an hour was a decent wage for an extra. I silently wondered if they paid them for the time they spent sitting and waiting in the catering tent. Which was most of the time.

I don't think famous actors ever have the right to complain about how hard their lives are, but I admit that movie-making is mostly a bunch of actors sitting around....waiting....and waiting....then working for 10 minutes...then back to waiting.

I tried to snap a few shots of the whole spectacle, but unfortunately that day my son never let me get close enough to show the full effect. Apparently he thought swinging and going down the slide were FAR more important than the movies.

This past week the filming has "wrapped up," as they say, and the trailers and antique cars and catering tent and police officers are all gone. It's just a field again. Everyone except the regulars have gone back to wherever they came from. And I am forced to push kids in swings for hours without anything interesting to distract me. Sigh. Movie-making is such a cruel, cruel mistress. Here one day and gone the next.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Drumroll please.......

The winner of "The World's Lamest Giveaway," chosen by, is:

#6 - Shantana!!!

Thank you to everyone for sharing with such honesty and humor!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Scenes From Daily Life III

The other day I was in one of my melancholy moods (this is an elegant, Victorian way of saying "bitch fests"), so I decided to work out my feelings by haranguing Robbie about a variety topics...including vasectomies, adoption, and the many physical feats performed during childbirth.

By the end of the night, he was sprawled out in bed next to me and I was running through an internal dialogue about the unfairness of being surrounded by three burping, farting boys and no daughters. In an attempt to goad him into yet another venting conversation, I suddenly blurted out, "The thing is, I don't even LIKE men!"

There was a long silence - and then his groggy, muffled voice:

"Is this the beginning of one of those awkward 'coming-out' conversations?"

I laughed so hard I couldn't speak for several minutes. Recognizing this rare opportunity for what it was, he rolled over and fell asleep.

The World's Lamest Giveaway!!!

A week or so ago when I started writing this post, I was riding the high of my latest "brilliant" idea: a giveaway.

You see, when you are lucky enough to become a big-time blogger, people give you really cool products to give away to your readers. However, I am not a big blogger, so my "prizes" were simple to begin with.

Basically the idea started when I got together with some long-lost mommy friends for a play date/bitch session. It was nice to be able to vent honestly about motherhood with other moms who have toddlers and babies. It got me thinking about the book I recently read - I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids - which begs parents (but women especially) to indulge in more of this honesty and less of the back-biting competition. I thought to myself, I have a great group of moms, dads and someday-to-be-parents online. Maybe I could get them to share their own ugly truths and/or fears?

Unfortunately, most of the people who come to my blog are both wonderful friends and shameless lurkers. So I decided I would try and bribe a few of them out of their shells with the promise that a comment automatically entered you into a giveaway. The prize was a once-read copy of the aforementioned book along with a brand-new, hardcover copy of the book Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman - shipped straight to your door by moi!

And this is where it went awry. I honestly thought of this idea while frantically shoving a bagel down a starving toddler in Barnes and Noble. I realized that a used book was a lame prize, so I did a quick walk through in the parents' section and immediately spotted Bad Mother. Even as I bought it, I was internally rolling my eyes at the idea that yet another book had been written about the Bad Mother phenomenon. I mean, it seems there are a million books and bloggers who have covered this subject, and I was promoting the topic once again with yet another book.

When I got home, I lazily thumbed through a couple of pages. Then a couple more. Then I said "screw it" and devoured the entire book in whatever precious spare moments I could find. It was great. So great that I came up with the world's corniest comparison:

I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids was like stealing a handful of candy from the candy dish here and there - short, sweet and temporarily satisfying. But Bad Mother was like slowly indulging in a rich dessert. Her memoir writing is a fully sensory experience and her observations are dead on. The phrases and images are still rolling around in my head.

The only problem is that my "prize" has now become two once-loved books. So lame. If, however, you want to read them anyway, feel free to comment and share a parenting (or babysitting for that matter) horror story. Or just indicate if you've done one or more of the following:

A) Had the desire to physically throttle your children
B) Let them eat something neon-colored for breakfast
C) Left them in the car to sleep
D) Told them to "stop crying" even though you know this only makes things worse
E) Found yourself doing that one thing you swore you'd never do when you became a parent

I'll pick a winner (at random) on Friday, July 24. If no one enters a comment, I'll just search out the most harried mother I can find on the playground and slip them into her diaper bag - along with a note that reads "I'm right there with you, babe."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Long-Promised Garden Pictures

These probably don't do Robbie's creation justice, but I had a squirming baby in my arms. C'est la vie.

The main garden

Annual bed turned into bountiful greens.

First strawberries

The melons and even more tomatoes

Eating our first harvest

Peonies finally explode


Our new compost tumbler

Our new rain barrel

Our little white house