Gotta Be Strong

I have had a long and tortuous relationship with the Des'ree song, "You Gotta Be". I really hated it. Dreadful song, really.

It all started back in my Sophomore year at CU Boulder. Using my best 19-year-old logic, I got myself a job at movie theatre and a restaurant. The thinking was that I spent all my money on food and films, so this would be the best way to get both for free. I got a job at the United Artists theatre, because they seemed to get the best films. Until I started there, that is. Then they got the worst run of movies in history. The best of the bunch was Schwarzenegger's True Lies, and the worst was a film about a necrophiliac. Yes, really.

Towards the bottom was Karate Kid III with a young Hillary Swank. It was nowhere near the worst film (see above), but it was not my cup of tea. No matter, it was still an easy job, and I didn't have to watch the films. Except for the last five minutes. As soon as the crowd moved out, we had to go in and start clearing away their popcorn boxes. (Seriously, people, clear your own popcorn boxes! The bin is right next to the door you have to go through anyway!)

So, the last song of Karate Kid III was Des'ree's "You Gotta Be". So, for the seven years it ran at the theatre (okay, it was probably only a few weeks, but it felt interminable) I got to hear "You Gotta Be" over and over and over again. Man, I hated that song. Really hated it. Then I quit working at the movie theatre and my first thought was, "At least I won't have to hear that dreadful song ever again."

Fast forward six months to when I lived on The Hill with three girls. They were nice girls, but I didn't get to know them very well. We didn't have all that much in common. Finally on the last day of our tenancy, we did a big clean up. Someone suggested we play some music really loud, to keep our spirits up. Great idea! That is until one of them choose Des'ree's CD. When that terrible song finally finished, the three of them jumped up and exclaimed they wanted to hear it again. And again and again! They put it on repeat and it played the WHOLE DAY LONG. Man, I hated that song! When I moved out I thought, "At least I'll never have to hear that terrible song ever again!"

Years passed and I thought I was finally free of the song. Honestly, I didn't think of it much. When it came on in the grocery store or whatever, I tried to block it out. It wasn't a big deal. Until!

I started my first teaching practice in November. It was a lovely small school with big ambitions. They did all kinds of exciting projects and kept the children very involved with their community. So, of course when the opportunity came long to participate in an attempt to break the Guiness World Record of world's largest sing-a-long, they signed up. It was already in gear before I joined the school, but if they'd asked I would have recommended against it. Why? Because the song was that same freaking Des'ree song that has been haunting me my whole life!

So, now I got to hear "You Gotta Be" sung every single day at assembly and throughout the day as various teachers and students spontaneously broke into song. I even heard it at night as I tried to go to bed. Worst of all was when I spontaneously started singing it. NO! I don't want to have this song stuck in my head. Ever!

The thing is, those kids? They sang beautifully. They were adorable. When we finally participated in The Big Sing, it was amazing. All those voices, all those hundreds of thousands of children participating in something so much bigger than themselves. It was inspiring and very moving.

I just can't hate that song anymore. Those kids changed it for me. I no longer hear Des'ree's voice. I hear their voices in my head. Their pure, ringing voices. I just love it. I just love that stupid, dreadful song.

The Mommy and Daughter Show

Having a strong relationship with my mother and hoping for one with my girls, oh and being me, I am predisposed to liking The Gilmore Girls. It's verbose and beautiful, two of my all-time favourite things. I have been spending my lazy Monday morning looking for what I consider an accurate review of the show, but I haven't found one. So now I'm writing it.

The Gilmore Girls is adorable. The actors are beautiful, the script is fast-paced, insightful, jam-packed with cultural references, and the relationships feel real. Well, realish. Like reality but better, but that's what I look for in my light entertainment.

The thing is, it's not a perfect show. The problem is the writing. Don't get me wrong, the writing is very good. But every character speaks in exactly the same way. From Lorelai and Rory to the staid senior Gilmores to the first-generation Korean lady, every single character doesn't talk so much as patters. Snare drum conversation I get from the mother and daughter. They shaped each other, so they would talk in similar patterns. But Rory's best friend Lane's Korean mother? Why should she be all patter-patter? She shouldn't. She should be allowed to be her own character. She doesn't look like Lorelei, so why does she have to sound like her?

Okay, that wasn't so much a review as a moan. Thanks for letting me moan about it. I just had to get that off my chest to get back to enjoying the show.

Katie and Harry (WARNING: SPOILERS!)

Over the last couple of months, Katie has started decorating her door. She calls it her gallery. She puts only her best pictures up there, and occasionally deigns to put one of Buffy's up. If it passes muster. Buffy has retaliated by starting her own gallery by the front door. Unfortunately it was some time before we realised she was using GLUE and not tape, but that's another story. Well, that's all of the story, actually, but I want to tell Katie's story.

My favourite picture currently on display in The Gallery is filled mostly with words. It says several things, but the best line is "Katie is in love with Harry Potter". And she is! She so is! It's so beautiful and adorable and everything else heart-achingly wonderful. She loves Harry in all his sparkly magical glory. More than I would have her at this age (still 6, mind you).

I have tried to stem the torrent of Harry-ness. I made her read other books in between HP novels. I gave up after she tore through Black Beauty and Heidi with wild abandon. She clearly did not enjoy these classics. They were impediments between her and her Harry. With heavy heart I shelved the Lauren Child-illustrated Pippi Longstocking, and gave in. She could read all the Harry Potter books... AFTER I'd read them all first. I was most worried about the last pages of Chapter 27 in The Half-Blood Prince. The scene where Dumbledore falls. I didn't know how she'd deal with it, I didn't know how I'd explain. It's so hard when the full story isn't revealed until the final chapter of the SEVENTH book.

You may have already guessed... she got there tonight. Just before lights out. She looked at me with wide, trusting eyes and says, "He's not really gone, is he?" I have thought long and hard about how I would answer this question. I totally and utterly failed to handle it appropriately. I nodded. That was all, and that was enough. She dove under her covers and sobbed.

I would have worried more and been more upset, but she wasn't really crying. I think she knew it was a big deal, and she knew how others react to terrible news. She cried and howled, but no tears came. I told her it would all work out in the end, and Harry can always talk to Dumbledore's portait. Then I kissed her and said goodnight. How she is really affected remains to be seen. The book's explanation is so complicated. I don't know if she'll get it. Must prepare more speeches (which I'll undoubtedly forget at the critical moment).


Katie's new favourite tv show is Trapped. This is significant, because until now she's been a Cbeebies girl. Trapped is on CBBC, the children's channel, rather than the young children's channel. Still no commercials, thankfully (and none of those "not a commercial" idents that PBS has in America), but the content is decidedly older. The concept of the game show is a group of children must outwit their captor or become TRAPPED! The catchphrase, uttered a zillion times a show is, "Poor unfortunate (name), you're TRAPPED!"

Since we have two children who like to hang out together, Buffy also watches this show. She just likes it because Katie likes it, and there's nothing about it that stops us from letting her watch. I'm not sure how much Buffy gets out of it beyond the catchphrase, but by god has she got that. A week or two ago she was colouring in a book and was writing everyone's names. She writes her name pretty well now, and Katie's is fair. Daddy she has, but Mommie comes out "MOMOMOMOMOMO". Actually, that's how she calls me when she wants me, so that's pretty good, too! As she was writing my name she circled an "M" carefully. Then, taking just as much care, she scribbled it out. Then she cackled, "Poor unfortunate M! YOU'RE TRAPPED!"


On the way home our friendly neighbourhood handyman slapped me on the back. Why? Because he was so thrilled with Obama's election. Clearly he was impressed by my part in it.

The reaction on this side of the pond has been overwhelming. Overwhelmingly one-sided. One American mom was greeted with spontaneous applause and cheers of "Obama!" Americans are greeting each other with "Didn't we do well?", not even knowing the other's political persuasion.

It's amazing.

And, yes, we are so pleased!

1,000 a Day - and Not One More!

It is commonly understood in our family that I am the outgoing social one and Andrew is the grumpy misantrhope. While I regularly subscribe to this view, I have a conflicting theory. My theory is in two parts: 1. My husband is friendly, social and very funny. 2. We each have 1,000 decent human interactions in us per day.

The thing is, until very recently, I never reached my daily quota of friendly interactions. Maybe on the way up to school I'd pass a few neighbours and some familiar commuter faces. Smile, smile, wave, wave. Then at school I'd get to meet up with friends and we'd catch up quickly on our evenings and anything else that might be brewing. A mention of brewing would then stir our souls in the direction of a coffee shop, where we'd encounter a few more familiar and friendly faces. Then Buffy and I would go home, usually passing no one along the way. Repeat for the afternoon and by evening, I was at 200 interactions, tops. The bulk of them with friends.

Andrew's commute gives him a far different perspective on the world. By the time he squeezes onto his train at 8:30, he has had 200 interactions with, at best, indifferent strangers. A further mile's walk to work and he's at 400 before he's reached the safety of his desk. Out for lunch? 200 more. He's tapped out his 1,000 before he gets the evening train. I get back a curmudgeonly ghost of the sunny husband I know I have.

So, when invitations come up to go back into town for the evening, while I am excited, Andrew is more like a snapping turtle that has been relentlessly teased by a gang of pre-teen boys. Not exactly keen to come out.

Please keep all of this in mind as I tell you about our Saturday.

Yesterday was the Lord Mayor's Show. The Lord Mayor of London is not the Mayor of London. Lord Mayor is largely a figurehead role, complete with gilt carriage and lacy bib. Shortly afterwards we headed to for a banquet and tour. Katie was particularly charmed by all the "royal-looking chairs". She asked to have her photo taken in each of them, with her best royal expression on her face. Buffy, predictably, just ran around like a loony.

Ah, but the day wasn't over yet! We walked to St Paul's for an organ recital, taking in the second run of the procession along the way. The rain had lifted and crowds dispersed, so we were able to see much more. It was all a bit much for Buffy, who fell asleep along the way. Fearing an organ recital might disturb her rest, I continued on to Tate Modern, leaving Katie and Andrew to enjoy the music (including percussion by someone Andrew knew at university).

Buffy slept all the way across the Millennium Bridge, through the new exhibition in Turbine Hall at Tate Modern, and most of the walk along the Thames to the Royal Festival Hall. She woke up just in time for us to order some scrummy takeaway from Giraffe and haul it upstairs to the balcony from which we were perfectly situated to watch the fireworks. Except the stupid Thames is an old river that likes to wend its way around London, and the fireworks were just on the other side of the bend. We left the building and watched the fireworks as we headed towards the train station.

It was a HUGE day, and there were absolutely zillions of interactions to be had. The absolutely best, most amazing bit? Andrew planned the WHOLE THING! It was entirely his idea and his schedule. And it he did it all for the girls.

Definitely Daddy of the Year!