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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Review: Just-Opened Whole Foods 365 Cedar Park

The new Whole Foods 365 in Cedar Park had a pre-opening parking lot party on Sunday, a soft opening on Tuesday, and the grand opening Wednesday (yesterday), so I wasn't entirely sure how feasible it would be to try to make a quick trip, especially with a two-year-old in tow.

However, we made the visit, and it wasn't too bad at all. The parking lot was extremely full, so we didn't try to get too close to the store. But even with all of the people, I never felt claustrophobic, so it was good.

There is a JuiceLand right as you enter the store. That is a good idea, if you or your kids go in a little peckish. Sure, you're going to spend $4+ on a smoothie, but think of the money and junk food purchases you'll save!

Easy Tiger is a bakery (and beer garden) opposite, and it has both an indoor eating area and an outdoor patio. Speaking of the patio...

We got to blow off some steam before we went inside, as they have all of this cool stuff for the kiddos. There's an astroturf area with two kid-sized picnic tables, a bunch of blocks, some hula hoops, and four or five rocking "chairs" (those pod-looking things).

The eating area isn't entirely fenced in, but the kids' area is surrounded by tables, and I'd feel comfortable chatting with someone while my kid played, even though you're right by the parking lot.

There is a "Veggie Alley," kind of like a walk-in beer refrigerator, but for vegetables. I didn't go in there because I hate getting cold in the grocery store. They have deli items, a self-serve bakery, meat, etc.

There were a lot of employees restocking and facing items, and offering samples. But there wasn't a service deli or a bakery attendant or any of those things that many typical Whole Foods have.

The focus of 365 is supposed to be slightly lower prices, and more grab-and-go stuff. The store was very conveniently set up for that.

Above is the freezer section. They didn't go high, so you're able to see most of the store from any location inside. You'll notice, this isn't a sprawling complex; then again, the closest Whole Foods Market to where I used to live was their flagship location downtown Austin, and that thing is a beast.

This 365 has just enough stuff for you to have some nice choices, but without experiencing decision fatigue.

For instance, this one section is all of the peanut butter and jelly that they have. Again, plenty of choices, but not Peter Pan and Jif and Hershey's and Reese's and two store brands (it's all 365 Organics and a couple of boutique/local brands), etc.

And the "regular grocery" section of the store is pretty small. The middle of the store is convenience items, in tune with the "grab-and-go" focus. There are a ton of water choices, and then take-out meals.

Snap Kitchens is so delicious and is "fast good" you can feel good about giving to your family.

Elsewhere, they had sushi, a salad bar, pizza-by-the-slice, and other "ready" meals you could enjoy out on the patio.

Just past the registers, there are a couple of microwaves, in case you get something from, say, Snap Kitchens, and you want to eat it with your friends out on-site.

Before we left, I had to check out the Easy Tiger Bakery items (oh, and they are apparently hiring, if anyone is interested). The counter was pretty busy, but here are a few of the items.

Here is their entire menu.

There's a big Connect Four game right by Easy Tiger, but it was up on that counter and couldn't be accessed by kids, plus it's kind of rickety, but my kid was extremely happy about it.

Also, if you bring your pup, they have doggy parking right at the front of the store! There wasn't any water, which might be a nice touch. But these "parking spaces" are adorable.

I had laid out all I bought, and thought I took a picture, but apparently I did not. I got two bags of stuff for about $60, but saved $5 by signing up for their 365 rewards program (which you can do online). I have no idea how that compares to other stores or Whole Foods, honestly. I will say that their strawberries are amazing, and my son ate an entire half pint of blueberries in the car on the way home. Oh, and the 365 Organics "mismatched sandwich cookies" are way better than Oreos's version.

Check it out!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Scenario: A Day at the Office

See if any of this sounds familiar to you…

You pull into the parking lot at work a full half hour early. You’ve brought a bagel and cream cheese and contemplate whether to sit in your car and listen to NPR while you eat it, or whether to go into the break room to refresh the bagel in the toaster.

However, approaching your parking space, you see your boss, pacing around, looking agitated. He flags you down, and you lower your window as you approach.

“Good morning?” you say tentitively. And before you can unlatch your seatbelt, he has started on a list of “must-do”s that need to be addressed immediately. You know there’s no use explaining that it’s not technically time to start work yet. You get out and follow him into the building.

By the time you hit the front door, he has given you seven urgent demands, a few of which contradict each other and two which, not only can you not do, but science hasn’t developed the technology to make it physically possible.

Your mind races, prioritizing and strategizing how best to meet the impossible demands in a way that will satisfy him, even as you fall short.

As you make your way to your desk to get started, he calls you into his office. He has the reports from last night’s automatic tests, and he wants to read them to you.

“Do you just want me to take a look at them?” you ask.

He gives you the side eye, and so you settle in, waiting for him to start.

He reads the first page, but it just doesn’t make any sense. It’s like he ran the reports through Google Translate into some language that sounds vaguely related to English, but not exactly English. You struggle to stay with him, until you finally have to admit--

“I’m sorry. I’m having a hard time following that. Can I just read it myself?”

He doesn’t dignify this request with a response, but starts over, a little more slowly but more agitatedly this time.

It’s the coffee, you realize. You haven’t had any, and your brain isn’t functioning properly. You need to get some coffee, and that thought suddenly becomes the only thing on which you can focus.

He sees your attention drifting and starts over, unbidden, this time YELLING THE WORDS AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS.

Actually, that helps a bit. You get the general idea and make more mental notes of what it is you need to do about it when you get to your desk. Which should be any time now, right?

Then your boss looks back over his shoulder, and something outside catches his attention. Other employees have arrived, and the parking lot is full. He darts past you and out the door.

You’re used to this kind of erratic behavior by now, so you take the reports he was reading and walk into the corridor, reviewing the salient points on your walk to your cubicle.

Your boss intercepts you, taking you outdoors with him to show you a travesty.

“That car,” he points, “Is parked over the line. We need to move it. But we can’t because that car is too close to the side. So we need to move all of the cars.”

You know there’s no point in trying to convince him that it’ll be fine the way it is, so you say, “I’ll get everyone to come out and move--”

“We’ll do it. Get their keys.”

“Their-- whose?”


“You want me to go inside and gather everyone’s keys?”

He nods. You drudge back in, going desk to desk. No one even asks. They just hand over their keys and go about their business.

When you return outside, your boss is nowhere to be seen. You go to the farthest car to start moving them as he mentioned, and realize that you really should have asked whose car belonged to which keys, because you’re going to have to try until you find the one that works.

As you fumble through the remote entry fobs, you see that your boss has gone back inside and is on the phone. You move all of the cars except the last one, for which you realize you don’t have a key.

The owner of that car is in another building, and she comes out just as you’re squeezing out of the car beside hers, parked insanely close now. She gives you a dirty look and makes it a point to have her passenger’s side mirror hit the driver’s side mirror of the car you’re in as she pulls out. Your coworker probably won’t even notice. Then the mirror falls off, hanging by the cables. She’ll probably notice.

You go back inside, determined to snag some caffeine before you do anything else. You can tell your boss is about to talk to you, so you head him off at the pass.

“I’m on my way to the kitchen. Do you want me to get you anything?” you offer.

He smiles, “The usual!”

You go into the kitchen, pouring your coffee and adding the milk. The way the dairy swirls into the brown liquid soothes your soul, for some reason. You watch it for a moment, then move on to the cabinets. You pull out the bread, some peanut butter, a tin of tuna, and a jar of sweet pickles.

You knew. You knew when you got this job that he was eccentric. Well, you were told. You didn’t really know know. Now you know.

Making this sandwich, even while breathing through your mouth so as not to catch a whiff of the odd assemblage of ingredients, centers you even more. You spread the peanut butter on the square of indecently white bread. You smooth it, taking more care than is necessary, and more pride in the slick surface than the task warrants.

You inhale, picking up your coffee-- and he beckons.

You hurredly lick the knife, and two hours into your day, the remnants of the creamy peanut butter might as well be a perfectly-cooked steak. You slam down your caffeinated beverage and carry the sandwich into your boss’s office.

He asks you how much of his to-do list you’ve knocked out so far.

It’s pointless to say, “None of it! I’ve been doing other stuff you’ve asked me to do. I haven’t done one single thing, of course!” So you mumble something about really digging into it now.

He smiles, placated, picks up his food with one hand, and starts scrolling on his computer with the other. You hurry out, eager to leave before the disturbed sandwich starts releasing its odor anew.

For the first time today, you sit down at your desk. You power on your computer and notice the voice mail light blinking on your phone. You pick it up, punch in the code--

“Can you come here for a moment?” your boss calls from his desk. He means you. He always means you.

You manage not to slam the phone back down as you stand.

“Yes?” you ask as pleasantly as possible.

“It’s not working,” he says, motioning to his monitor.

You say, “I’ll give IT a call.”

“That won’t be necessary. You can fix it.”

Again, to argue this point would waste time, and you probably can fix it, anyway.

Ten minutes later, the boss’s computer is back up and running, and your nasal passages are full to the brim with sweet pickles, tuna, and peanut butter. You carry the plate back into the kitchen, place it in the dishwasher, and return to your desk.

Your chair is missing.

You sit on your desk and pick up your phone, determined to check voicemail messages. Once those are cleared out, you’re starting to feel some momentum kicking in.

Then a voice over the PA system announces that there is an office celebration in the conference room, and everyone has to go celebrate, including you, whether you want to or not.

The entire day passes like this: false starts, interruptions, genuine attempts to be helpful and productive; distractions; minutiae; concern that you’re never going to get caught up, much less ahead; and maybe, on the rare occasion, a victory moment when you get to mark a single item off of your seemingly endless “to do” list.

“Can you come in here for a moment?”

For the fifteenth time today, at the least.

You stand in the boss’s doorway and see him pull his keys out of the top desk drawer.

“I’m taking off a little early. Cover for me?”

You try to hide your unmitigated relief and nod seriously. You watch him walk out of the office, down the corridor, and you can see him getting into his car from the back window.

He forgot to turn off his computer.

You sit at his desk, log off, and--

The electricity goes out in the whole building.

You had a clear path ahead. You were going to get so much done this last hour.

Instead, you sit in the dark, soaking in the silence. You don’t pack up and leave like everyone else. You just sit. It gets quieter. It feels a little bit like heaven. You close your eyes for a moment--

The lights come back on.

You startle, looking outside. The sun is coming up? How can that be? It was just 4 o’clock two seconds ago!

But no. It’s morning again, and the boss has just pulled up. He’s getting out of his car.

It can’t be. You’re not ready. You haven’t caught up from yesterday, not in terms of work and not even mentally. You’re exhausted.

Then you see his morning-fresh face, and notice his peculiar gait.

“I’m in love with him,” you say aloud, as if you needed the reminding.

You love him. With all of your heart. And that’s why you do this. That is why you put in your best effort every single day. That is why you try to take his ridiculous demands seriously, and why you genuinely want to do what will satisfy him, even if you don’t always understand it.

But before he can throw you off of your game, you dash to your desk, tear your day-old bagel into bits, and dip it in the schmear, cramming it into your mouth as quickly as possible, and mentally noting that you need to brush up on self-Heimliching. As soon as you get some free time.

Does this whole scenario ring any bells?

If so, then my guess is that you have a toddler. Because this is every dang day of my life right now. And I’m going to go sit in the dark for a few minutes.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Drying Out

It would seem that I am no longer in the milk-producing game. While I've been ready to wean for some time now (and maybe my body is responding to that?), my child is NOT ready to wean.

During the day, it looks like this: He asks for "deedees," latches on, gets nothing so asks, "other side," latches on, gets nothing, and then goes about his business. We have several of these check-ins during the day, less when we're busy. So that's not too bad.

What's pretty bad is nighttime. See, my son still does not have the ability to self-calm or to "just" go to sleep. Without nursing or riding in the car, he's just awake. And now that there's no milk, bedtime is taking between two and four hours per night! Not because I want to "put him down" at a certain time; we let him decide when he's sleepy.

And here's how it played out tonight: At about 6:30, Mal wanted to lie down and have "deedees." He was exhausted. If I'd had milk, he would have nursed to sleep. Since I don't, he sucked on one side, eyes rolling back, lids drooping, then popped off and said, "Other side." So we switched. Since he wasn't getting anything there, he hopped up and decided we needed to take the dog for a walk.

We did. We put on jackets, got the dog leash, went for a fairly nice walk... except I left HIS jacket on the porch. Since he had on long johns, he didn't really need it (I was wearing a short-sleeved top and capris so did), but once he realized we didn't have it, he started screaming and crying that he needed his jacket. I told him we could come back home, but he didn't want to turn around. He cried that he wanted to go "that way" AND have his jacket. I offered him mine. He cried more. "Mal's jacket!"

It took us a good five minutes for him to realize that going the way we were going and his having a jacket were mutually exclusive. We ended up walking some more, and about a quarter mile from the house, he decided to get out and push his own stroller. (I'm not going to lie: I was a little disappointed that the walk didn't lull him closer to sleep. He was a hot mess.)

When we got home, he wanted to go into the back yard. He was pretending that his stroller was a lawn mower, but he wanted me to get the real mower out. I told him I wasn't going to do that because it is dangerous, and he sobbed hysterically. Then eventually, he got distracted and went on the swing. Then he wanted to slide. He wanted me to go up to the slide, also, which I did... then he wanted me to slide down, and I told him I would, but only once because I was getting tired. 

He demanded I go back up and slide again, and because I was tired of the crying, I told him I would one more time. When I got back up, he FLIPPED OUT. I couldn't figure out what it was for a while, then I realized that it was because I went up the ladder instead of what he calls the "step stool." I said I'd slide down and come back up the step stool, but he indicated, still with hot tears and snot, that I could NOT SLIDE because I'd come up the wrong way. So I started to climb back down, and he said, "NO, MOMMY! DON'T!" I guess he wanted me to magic back to the ground and climb up the right side.

He cried when I wouldn't turn on the hose (because he was already dressed for bed, and I was too tired to let him get soaked at 8 PM and then change his clothes AGAIN, plus it was 60 degrees). He cried when I tried to fold up the stroller to put it away. He wanted to play "games" so got the not-Frisbee... which we've had for months and it's been sitting in the sun, so the second time I threw it and it happened to land on its side, it shattered. Guess what happened? Yeah. More screaming and sobbing.

Mal talked his dad into taping the disc with duct tape. I suggested to Mal that we lie down. He did, and, again, would have gone to sleep if I'd had enough milk to keep him still for two minutes. As I didn't, he hopped up and plugged in his lights. He got some blocks and said he wanted to build a tunnel. He wanted me to build, too, but I was done. It had been two hours of on-and-off hysterics, and I just wanted to hold him so he could calm down. I knew whatever I did with the blocks would just upset him at some point, anyway.

Finally, after getting very mad at me, then lying down and demanding "deedees" then rejecting the first side, then very angrily rejecting the second side and demanding the first one again, he managed to wear himself out.

I'm at a loss.

All of the stuff people tell you to do with the nighttime routine and the lighting and whatnot... None of that works for him. He isn't a "lie down and unwind" kind of person, and since I'm unwilling to physically restrain him, I don't know how to save him from himself in these situations.

Oh, a few weeks ago, I made lactation cookies and those things were delicious but did NOT work. In fact, everyone in my household ate bunches of them, and literally no one is producing milk.

He's such a busy guy. So full of energy. I need some serious help figuring out how to help him wind down. I hate having him weepy (understatement) and on the verge of injury and/or breakdown the last couple of hours he's awake. I wouldn't care if he stayed up until 10 (until recently, he did; when he was still napping), as long as he was in a chill-to-happy mood.

But his distress eventually wears through my energy, and I'm emotionally too drained to deal well with helping him. Because this his happening now every day, and it's been almost a week and I can't imagine what I'm going to be like three weeks from now.

On the up side, this morning, Mal walked into the kitchen and saw me drinking out of a mug. He said, "Mommy like copy (coffee)?" I said, "Actually, I'm drinking milk. Want some?" So I gave him a drink. He said, "Yummmmmy!" So I poured him half a cup, which he drank and then requested more. I gave him another cup, which he drank and then requested MORE. I poured him another cup, but he didn't touch it so it's in the fridge for tomorrow.

I'm thinking that tomorrow I might try to warm the milk up, maybe add a little vanilla, and see if he'll take that at bedtime.

Wish me luck, people. And hit me up with any ideas you have. We're worn out and super frazzled over here!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Getting It

We're at that stage where Mal frequently does stuff that is surprising, as it shows abilities we didn't realize were there and that are a lot of fun to watch develop.

He's in a weekly class called "Music Together," which has been great on a couple of levels. First, they're very open to active kids and different behaviors in class, so he's had a lot of leeway to be himself but then participate when he'd like. He adores having lots of percussion instruments to try out before class, too!

Along with ten weekly classes, we received a song book and two CDs (identical; one for car and one for the house). There's a traditional-Jewish-sounding song called "Bim Bam" where they do the verse three or four times, speeding it up each time. This had never been mentioned, but once when we were in the car listening, in the break between the first and second rounds, Mal said, "Faster!"

We saw "Beauty and the Beast" at the movie theater a couple of weeks ago. Several days later, I was singing, "She looked this way; I thought I saw. And when we touched, she didn't shudder at my paw. No, it can't be. I'll just ignore... But then, she never looked at me that way before," and Mal said, "Beast!" 

Then Monday, we were drawing on James's white board, and James had drawn a daisy (or sunflower?) so I added a rose. Mal then asked me to draw Beast (I'd show you, but it's truly terrible). THEN he requested that I add Belle, specifically with a blue marker. As I drew her, he said, "The rose! Don't touch it, Belle!"

Yesterday, we'd gone to my parents' house and Mal was drinking out of a Mickey Mouse cup. My dad asked, "Is that Donald Duck?" Mal said, "No! It's apple juice!"

Oh, yeah, and the other day we were at McDonald's, and he looked at his juice box and said, "100 juice!" It actually said "100% juice," but I wasn't going to split hairs.

He loves to pretend. He'll be a doctor (which he has learned from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood) or a fireman... or, more recently, a garbage man. He does this by hanging on to the side of my shopping cart while I push it through the grocery store.

Here he is putting out a fire.
There's so much stuff, none of which I can remember when I actually sit down here. So here are a couple of videos of Mal playing tonight.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Homeowner's Week of Fun!

The past few days, we've definitely felt the full brunt of home ownership.

First, after some on-and-off really heavy rains Tuesday, that night, we had the windows open as it was gorgeous out (immediately after rains are often the only times it's not ick humid... except when it is). There was a very obnoxious noise coming from the neighbor's yard, maybe? I asked James what it was, and I went outside. It was to the east of our house... As I was looking to see if maybe someone was using a saw or grinder, I saw the light on the mystery box at the back of our fence lit. Uh oh. All I knew was that it was ours, it had something to do with the septic tank, and that can't be good.

I had no idea what to do, and more than concern over the septic was concern over how to make that box STOP MAKING THAT NOISE, and how much is it going to cost to get someone out here at 7:30 at night? I looked up the name on the box, and tried to find a way to shut off the noise, but neither proved helpful. So I called non-emergency police and said, "I'm sorry, but I have no idea what to do here..." They put the fire department on the line, and that lady told me I'd need to call a septic service. By the way, the reason I called local authorities in the first place is that our septic tank is kind of "governed" by the Lower Colorado River Association, and they were closed, so I didn't know if there were a protocol about which I was not aware.

AND THUS, I called a generic septic service. They told me that I could indeed turn off the alarm myself, and then I needed to give the drain field time to dry out, as it was likely saturated from the rains plus my having done laundry. I didn't realize that we needed to try not to put a lot of water in the system during heavy rains. I had a septic tank for 7+ years in Sherman, and never ever heard that.

Anyway, I went back, and, sure enough, there WAS a "silence" switch. I hadn't looked really thoroughly because 1) it was loud, 2) there is a lot of growth, including poison ivy, back in that corner (probably outta do something about that), and 3) I was kind of freaking out.

After 24 hours, the light was still on, and that was a problem. The stuff I'd read said 10-15 hours and the light should go off. It also said the alarm gave us 24-48 hours before it would reach critical mass. So something needed to happen.

A tech made it out on Friday (yikes!) and, as it turned out, the drain field wasn't saturated. The septic pump was burnt out. It was kind of funny: The tech gave James the price for the pump, and when James said, "Yeah, of course... what am I going to do?" the tech kind of laughed and said, "Yeah. You have to."

As a consolation prize, here is a thing I saw in our yard this week.

During this same time frame, our Nest thermostat gave us a warning that something specific was going on, complete with a URL to look up. I did, and it gave me trouble-shooting tips, THEN asked me to do some wire stripping and reattaching, that I did not feel comfortable with doing. So I called them, and they talked me through some stuff on the phone, and between what they can tell on their end and what I was able to read from our system, they were able to determine that the original message error was gone.

However, at that point, our actual air conditioner wasn't working. I'd reset every breaker when we were doing the thermostat stuff, but the house wasn't cooling down. It took us about 45 minutes, but finally, for some reason, at some point when I flipped the breaker, the unit came back on. So that was a fix without having to spend any money. Yay!

Saturday, we'd come back from a walk or something when I started wondering why there was so much Chinaberry debris in our front yard. Looking up, I realized that a large branch had mostly broken off and was just wedged in. Heavy winds, and it would come down. We tried stuff with our ladder, rake, etc. and it didn't work, so we had to buy one of those telescoping-handled saw/branch snipper thingies. The only ones I saw in Lago Vista were chainsaws, and those were $400-600, so James went into Cedar Park and got a hacksaw thing for like $50.

I was able just to manhandle the branch down, after a few tries, standing on the porch and therefore under the roof so the branch wouldn't maim me (yes, I wore goggles). Then I realized there was ANOTHER branch above that one that was also dead. James came out and helpfully pointed out that I didn't actually have the thing fully extended, which would have helped with the first branch, but was absolutely necessary with the second. I had to saw that one off, as the break was on top of a branch, and the dead part was pretty securely wedged in.

That was a work-out! But it finally came crashing down, and Mal even helped me clean up the front yard of all of the sticks and leaf bunches.

Between that maintenance stuff and then my spending 4 hours Friday mowing and weed-eating, then James spending really untold hours all weekend planting irises a neighbor gave us, we've been feeling very much like fully-fledged homeowners.

And while we're outside working and enjoying stuff, here is a little record of what our back yard looks like right now, if you're interested. I took the video to mark this for posterity's sake, so if you don't want to watch it, I'm not even offended. Also, the wind wasn't that bad; I need to get a muffler for my camera, or a remote mic with a cover.

Lots of other stuff, but we'll save that for another time. Happy Easter, and have a good week!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

If you think the "new" Beauty is any kind of revolution from the canon, you weren't paying attention

We saw "Beauty and the Beast" last night. I'd seen the headline to this earlier in the day, but didn't read it until my husband mentioned it last night.

Oh my goodness, what the heck?? Why do people want to be mad?

First of all, I'm "just" a domestic woman. I don't have a job. I am a dreamer. I haven't done anything remarkable. And I feel like a feminist, anyway. This movie didn't make me ashamed for who I am. Oh, and I use my words, as the article mentions, but I don't always use "soft" "kind" "vulnerable" words, nor do I spend an inordinate amount of time sobbing into my sheets. Still consider myself pretty much full on lady girl type person.

Second of all, I do not think that Emma Watson is an amazing actor as much as I think she's a capable enough actor, and an amazing person. So some of the "vulnerability" or "feelings" they might miss from the cartoon might be a function of her just not having the range to express those things.

But, anyway, the gist of the article is that "Emma Watson" (meaning, collectively, this movie and all involved in developing the character of Belle) has ruined Belle, and Olivia Friedman is going to tell you why.

So here are some excerpts from the article, and the issues I have with her hypothesis:

"To that end, Belle does not follow the path of the original Disney movie." How? The exact same things happen. There's not a real departure.

"She is thoughtful, sweet-natured and touchingly vulnerable." Really?

"In the original film, Belle wants more than her provincial life, but she is a dreamer." Yeah, true. Have you listened to the words of the opening song, "This Provincial Life"? Belle is haughty and elitist. Even in the original film, she talks (sings) about how she has "more" than those tedious province-dwellers have in store. She's destined for more. She sees herself as not like them, even as she seems to blanche at being seen as strange. She herself feels she's "other," and, one gets the impression, somehow better than they are, bless 'em.

"In contrast, the Belle of 2017 does not vow. When the Beast won’t come into the light, she swings a candlestick at him, catching him in its glow so as to reveal him against his will. Similarly, she forces her father from his prison, locking herself into his cage after whispering into his ear that she is not afraid and that she will find a way to escape. When Lumiere unlocks her cell door, she hits him with her dungeon stool. As soon as she is in her room, rather than sobbing on her bed, as the Belle of the original film does, she starts tying sheets and ribbons together in an effort to escape from the castle. At first, she has only disdain and hatred for the beast, spitting defiant words at him through her locked bedroom door and standing up to him rather than retreating into herself."

Ugh. Where to start with that one. So what, she wants to see her captor? So what, she knows her father would never let her trade him places? She does what she does out of FEELINGS (which they go on to pontificate she does not have and this is what makes her an offensive uber-feminist butch-y ass-kicker instead of "vulnerable") for her father, knowing him and that he, too, would sacrifice himself for her.

Also, she spat defiant words at him through her locked bedroom door in the cartoon, too. Here's a clip that's been over-dubbed by a fan, but Disney is super protective of their products and it's not easily/legally available online in its original iteration. But anyway, here she refuses him multiple times. She doesn't say, "I'll never have dinner with you," but she says "I'm not hungry," a tense, forced, "No, thanks," and then finally, "NO!" So she doesn't just "retreat into herself." She refuses. Strongly.

"The message is that the original Belle is not sufficiently heroic. She reads Jack and the Beanstalk, loving magical tales, instead of being familiar with Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet. She blows dandelion spores into the wind. She uses words, not violence, to save her father."

OH MY GOSH. STOP. "She blows dandelion spores"??? That's so important to the feminine ideal, what brutes they were to cut that! And, honest to God, I don't see the difference in Jack and the Beanstalk and Romeo and Juliet. Even Beast kind of mocks her for loving romances. Sounds fairly dreamy to me.

And who says the message is that the original Belle wasn't sufficiently heroic? Any time a movie is remade, there will be some additions and changes. I personally liked the tying-fabric-together scene, because... well, she's not using VIOLENCE or "stereotypical masculine" behavior; she's not using words, but she's using her freaking brain. So that makes it offensive? To whom??

The article talks a lot about how the original Belle "sobs" onto her bed, and, again, feels all the sad lady feels... but I'm guessing the person who wrote this never saw the Broadway musical? Because if they're mad she's so defiant to the Beast, then they can't have heard the TWENTY-THREE-YEAR-OLD lyrics, "Yes, I've made the choice: for Papa I will stay, but I don't deserve to lose my freedom in this way, you monster. If you think that what you've done is right, well then you're a fool; think again... Build higher walls around me; change every lock and key. Nothing lasts; nothing holds all of me." (And then I feel all the sad lady feels.)

The article talks a lot about how Belle has to be "fearless." "To be a 21st century heroine means that it is not enough to be afraid and still choose to be brave — no, one must be fearless." When her father encourages this of her, I don't think he's saying, "Don't be scared" like, "Don't be a little baby scaredy cat." I think he means, "You might be scared, but do it, anyway, because you're awesome." I think it's semantics and lots of splitting hairs to argue that bravery in the face of danger and being fearless are hugely different. If someone truly has no fear, they're probably psychotic.

"And it is that vulnerability that the 21st century heroine version of Belle — Emma Watson’s Belle — does away with. To be a 21st century heroine, we are taught, means to stand up for oneself, always choosing to be active rather than reflective, to be defiant rather than vulnerable, privileging logic over emotion."

I think that might be the second most offensive part of the article. I don't think we're "taught" this, but I also don't think there's anything wrong with it. If I were locked in a castle by a scary monster, I might cry a little bit at first, but I'd also be spinning my wheels, trying to figure something out. And women SHOULD stand up for themselves in times of oppression, if they can. Everyone should. If I am unjustly arrested and jailed, should I take the time to parse it out in my thoughtful mind wanderings, blowing dandelions (or whatever they have in jail), or is my time better served calling a lawyer and figuring out what to do about the injustice?

"And in the iconic scene after the dance where the Beast lets her go, we loved the fact that she told him she was happy with him but wished to see her father again because she missed him so much. This allows the Beast to do the right thing on his own. This, as opposed to the 2017 version where, when asked if she is happy, Belle prompts the Beast, asking, “Can anybody be happy if they aren’t free?”"

HOW CAN YOU LEVY THIS AS A CRITICISM?? I have nothing to add to that.

"Yes, she wanted more than her provincial life, but living happily with a man she loved, respected and who understood her was sufficient." I don't see how that's any different in this movie.

"She was an idealist, someone lost in books and fairytales — not an inventor, or someone logically sorting through how to break the curse, or consistently fearless. She valued the Beast’s being gentle and kind because that’s who she was."

I'm going to go out on a limb and say she valued the Beast's being gentle and kind because people don't like it when others are mean to them. I can't believe I'm having to point that out.

And I can't believe a woman wrote this article. "Someone lost in books and fairytales..." Okay? So, how is that better than being logical? I think those are moral-neutral things to be. Why are we having this conversation?

"The Belle of 2017, with her strong, defiant, stoic attitude — choosing anger over sadness — sets us back. It says that a woman of today is not impressive if she does not do something, such as become an inventor, or if she feels too much — crying rather than creating escape routes. It takes much of the Boy Code that makes our culture of masculinity so toxic and applies it to women, arguing that heroism is linked to toughness and stoicism."

This is the most offensive paragraph, along with the bit later about how Belle acts in "stereotypically masculine" ways.

I don't think the movie said any of these things, first of all. But secondly, DID YOU WATCH THE FIRST MOVIE?! Belle wasn't just a doe-eyed dingdong crying and floating through the story.

After Gaston's marriage proposal, she said (sang): "He asked me to marry him. Me, the wife of that boorish, brainless..."

That sounds pretty angry and not really "kind."

Anyway, I thought the movie was beautiful and, armed with reasonable expectations, I enjoyed it. Of course, it's the first movie I've seen in a theater in 2 years, so that was something.

Conservative corners are mad about the "big gay storyline" (which wasn't, actually; even though LaFou did have every LOL line in the film); LGBT corners aren't thrilled that the first portrayal of an openly gay character in a Disney film is someone literally named "fool;" and now this. Man, they're just supposed to be fun flights of fancy, and I enjoyed mine.

As a bonus, this is my favorite song from the Broadway show. That was one slight disappointment I had: they added some mini songs to string together the new scenes, but I would have loved to see some of the music from the play in the new movie. They did hint at "Home" a couple of times when Belle was in her room.

But overall, a pretty non-controversial, sentimental retelling of a Disney classic. Can I get an "amen"?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Another Group of Random Updates from the Grotto

Hello, friends. How are things with you guys? Great. Or sorry. Whichever one is appropriate. Now on to my stuff.

Lately, I've kind of been freaking out at night. All of the television shows I watch seem to be on some weirdly-timed hiatus, so there is nothing to distract me. And this is my concern: I am starting to doubt that my son will ever be able to fall asleep on his own.

Here he is, more than 2.5 years old, and has still only ever fallen asleep nursing (or in the car, or that one time in January 2015 when he cried himself to sleep in his crib, and then one other time when he was sick and fell asleep in James' arms at the apartment... yes, I remember them all because IT DOESN'T HAPPEN). This includes when he wakes in the night. He wakes up with, "Mommy, deedees."

Also, today we saw a girl at the park who I would have pegged as 6, but it's entirely possible she was just big like Mal and maybe 4? Anyway, she made it clear to her mom in full-on English that she was in need of a clean diaper. My heart sank, because I thought, "Aww, crud. That's going to be Mal." He has zero interest in the toilet, even though he'll say, "Mal pooped again!" or insist that he needs a clean diaper. 

However real those concerns are, there are a few really cool things that he is starting to do.

This morning, when he woke up and was lying in bed, I asked him if he wanted to go to Nana and Pappy's house. He said, "Nana Pappy's house? Eggs, crack... Popcorn... Phone." Then a few minutes later he added, "Cookies." When we went to see them 3.5 weeks ago, Mal played with their Easter eggs, they had gone to see a movie and had left-over popcorn, and he used their ornamental old-school Mickey Moust telephone a lot. Also, my mom had baked cookies to take neighbors, and he got some. 

Then later, we'd gone to the park while my parents had lunch with a friend. When I asked Mal if he wanted to tell Pappy what he did at the park, Mal said, "Roundabout, slide, swing, bongo drums!"

He's remembering things that happened, and he's able to relay them back. He can narrate his own story.

He is also pretending more. Some of his play is based on videos that he's watched, and some of it is just totally out of his own head. He will pull a blanket around him and say, "Get in rocket; close the door." And by "close the door," he means he wants the blanket in a solid ring around him.

Another thing he's doing more consistently is things like today: We went to eat lunch at Cici's. When he sat down to get a drink, he accidentally hit the cup on the side of the table and spilled the entire drink into the floor. I went up to the buffet line to ask for a large rag, but the guy said he'd come out and clean it up.

When he arrived at the table, Mal said brightly, "I'm sorry!" The guy said, "It's cool." The lady at the table next to us said to me, "He's very polite for such a young age." It made me proud, not for anything I've done, but because I actually *haven't* done anything; he's just seen politeness and is learning how appropriately to use it. He did the same thing at the doctor's office when the nurse had taken his vitals and was leaving, explaining that the doctor would be in in a few minutes. "Thanks so much!" he told her.

The thing that makes me happiest about all of this is that we've never insisted Mal say anything, ever. Not "thanks," not "please," not "sorry." We've never made him shake hands or acknowledge anyone... so you can know that when he does it, he's just really good at parroting or he really means it.

But another thing that makes me happy is that Mal was very light-hearted when he apologized, which means he isn't too concerned about accidental spills. I know sometimes I probably blanche when he spills something *again,* but it seems like I haven't indirectly taught him to be terrified of that kind of thing, and some kids just are.

My name is Mal. I spill stuff, and I don't really give a flip.
Oh, and even though he's not fussed by his own spills, he will attempt to help clean them up.

UPDATE: It's Thursday now, and so when I say "today" up there, I mean "yesterday," but I'm too lazy to change it.

So, as we were leaving Cici's (man, lots of nostalgia about that place, from when D was  little), I strapped Mal into his car seat, and as I was getting in, he was singing, "Go Away (Scary Monsters), Go Away" from a video channel he used to watch. A lot of times, I'll sing it (to the tune of "She'll Be Comin' Around the Mountain"), "Go away, Mal Gatannah, go away!" And he'll say, "No! Scary monsters!" But this time, he didn't play along. So I turned around to see him singing specifically to the window, where there was a giant red wasp walking around INSIDE OUR CAR.

That kid was way calmer than I felt! I jumped out and opened the door, but the wasp was kind of having a nice time walking around. I didn't have anything to "swish" it with, and I didn't want to make it mad. So I waited until it had walked up onto the ledge of the door and slammed it. When I opened the door, that thing was still alive! Finally, he got up high enough that when I closed the door, it just flew off. Whew! What a chill kid.

UPDATE: It's Friday now, and our internet just keeps going in and out so hopefully I can tell you two things I did today and we'll be done with this post!!

brought to you by ExLax

1) Today, I made dough for lactation cookies (for the first time; yes, my kid is two and a half). I had the mixer on low because Mal was napping in the living room. When I put in the first egg, half of the shell fell into the batter! No worries; reflexes to the rescue! I'll just turn the mixer off really fast-- NOPE! Turned it up to 10. Spent the next 20 minutes fishing egg shell out of the batter.

2) We got our giant popcorn refill as we left the movie. I put it in the front seat and belted it in for the ride home. It was flawless! Not one kernel spilled! When I stopped the car in the driveway, I triumphantly unclicked the seatbelt, and as it retracted, it spilled the whole box sideways into the seat and floor between the door and seat. I spent the next 20 minutes vacuuming my car.

Bonus: a grasshopper jumped into my car while I vacuumed, and I was trying to get it out of the car so as not to kill it, but I lost it. Sorry, buddy.