Thursday, April 10, 2014

Watching '80s Night with a Child of the Twenty-Tens

Last night, as we sometimes do, Bella and I watched American Idol together to unwind. She DVR's it and doesn't miss an episode, whereas I usually only half-watch, while cleaning up dinner or folding laundry.

(Watching American Idol with her feels all-too right because the only time I ever watched it from season's start to end, was the second season, the winter/spring of 2003, when she was an infant. With lots of time and no other kids, I sat in front of the TV nursing her, and avoiding news of the brand-new and too-frightening Iraq war by not missing a minute of the all-out battle between Ruben and Clay. Maybe it seeped in to her more than I realized...)

But last night was the "'80s" theme, so I perked up and paid attention. I felt a strange camaraderie with Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr. because we remember the 80s! Those two judges are like critical yet encouraging parents to the contestants, none of whom were born when the songs they sang last night were recorded. I wanted to jump into the screen and shake J Lo's hand when she said exactly what I was thinking, that that dope Alex totally ruined "Every Breath You Take" by ignoring the melody (there's no point in "making a song your own" if you're going to ruin it--but, I digress).

Bella wanted to know what I was talking about, so we started watching videos. "Yeah, that is much better" she agreed when we watched The Police.

And then she had lots of questions for me: did you love that song, way back when? And I had to explain that, yes, I liked that song, but no, it wasn't my favorite Police song because it was overplayed, kind of like I can't stand "Roar" by Katy Perry, but not exactly in the same way because "Roar" isn't a good song to begin with, whereas "Every Breath You Take" may be one of the best pop songs ever (it's amazing how much better it can sound after thirty years of not hearing it incessantly on the radio, and also compared to some shlep's mangling on American Idol). So maybe, for a current analogy, more like how I'm starting to not be able to stand "Let It Go."

Oh, to instill musical values on young minds! It takes patience, craftiness, and skill. We so enjoyed watching the video for "Time After Time", even though we couldn't really figure out the story that Cyndi Lauper was enacting. But she was so dynamic, so interesting to watch! "See? That's the look the American Idol stylists were going for with Jena's weird mismatched plaid outfit," I was able to helpfully point out. Then we googled "scrunchy socks" and I explained how to fold and tuck your stone-washed jeans at the ankle.

It's good to feel like I'm instilling sage wisdom on my daughter.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sometimes We Need a Quick Escape

Sometimes we urban dwellers long, this time of year, for a glimpse of sky and freshly budding greenery.

Sometimes, the closer the better. Sometimes, it's enough to walk down the steps at the end of our street into Riverside Park. But sometimes, that's too close. Sometimes we need to get in the car, in order to get away. But not stay in that car too long.

Sometimes, when the parents have decided that's it's time to escape, during the planning and packing up stage, the kids revolt. Sometimes they say they are not leaving the apartment at all today under any circumstances. Sometimes they claim they have very essential TV to watch or very essential hanging around to do. Sometimes they say that it's so mean for you to make us go on a hike. Sometimes, the parents must cajole and threaten and find themselves somewhat miserable just trying to shake these tired sacks out of their stasis.

But sometimes, once we get there, just twenty short minutes over the bridge into Fort Lee, where there is a lovely, wild public park that straddles the riverbanks on the north and south sides of the George Washington Bridge, everything changes. Sometimes the kids pick up walking sticks, and look for trail markers, and get excited following winding paths across the entry lanes to the bridge, which we all find to offer a very neat, new vantage point on a familiar place. Sometimes, even the three-year-old walks on her own two feet the whole way, since she's a big girl and she wants to do just what her sisters do and this is no place for strollers anyway. Sometimes, when we find that the walk down the cliffs to the river involves steep switchbacks and hundreds of winter-wet, all-sized, often-loose stone steps, the children step up to the challenge. Sometimes they focus, sometimes they sing. Sometimes, they seem like different people altogether from the humbugs they were in the apartment just hours before.

Sometimes, when they're busy smelling and listening to the wind and feeling their own flowing blood, they actually say Thank you for taking us on a hike. We really like hiking. When are we going to go camping? Can you please take us camping? And sometimes we reply by saying, I know.

(These photos were taken a week and a half ago, in Fort Lee Historic Park. My guess is by now it looks a lot greener. A week makes a big difference, this time of year.)