Archive for July, 2011

cousin conversation

Mary: Where’s the dinosaur?

Jack: What dinosaur?

Mary: The one that eats force-field dogs!

Jack: That’s just pretend. Here, have a booga [Star Wars creature toy].


visiting cousins!

The cousins have landed and the kids are having a great time.

Wesley–who needs a haircut, as his current hair is sort of Stooge-like:


Nina relishing the regional specialties:


Lots of baseball was played:

Wesley is totally Riley’s minion:



Molly brought along her quilt (which I made for her before she was born) and insisted on posing with it. I can’t believe it’s still in one piece.

the tomato deluge is upon us

It’s not here quite yet. We’re still in the stage of eating most of the tomatoes right off the vine–because there aren’t that many, and it’s still sort of a surprise to see one underneath the foliage that’s actually REALLY ready and totally red. But…they’re on their way.

We have some beautiful Costuluto Genovese tomatoes (the lobed ones); some round-as-a-ball Rutgers tomatoes; some unnamed sort of beefsteak tomato that came from a plastic baggie marked, cryptically, “tomato ???”; and a mix of Super Sweet 100 and Yellow Marble cherry tomatoes.


The Yellow Marble tomatoes are my favorite plant of all time. We planted them one year. All of the other tomatoes succumbed to late blight, but the Yellow Marble ones never showed the slightest sign of a problem. Then they happily reseeded themselves all over the garden, and now they pop up every year in weird places all over the garden plot. I never pull a plant that looks like it might someday become a tomato, so we have them in with everything. They’re very tasty, too, and gorgeous. They’re an heirloom variety and not that easy to get (I just got lucky the year that I ordered them from Heirloom Acres), but if you do get your hands on some, plant them everywhere.

Some of the plants are totally out of hand. I’ve been tying them up over and over, adding stakes, adding string…and they just keep getting heavier and heavier and tipping over.

I turned this batch of tomatoes into this Bloody Mary tomato salad from Smitten Kitchen. It was awesome. I did not make the skirt steak but I bet it’d be great. (I rely way too much on Smitten Kitchen. We had this lentil-and-sweet potato curry last week–I would never have believed I could like lentils that much.)

I planted some orange cosmos this year, because I have enjoyed our pink cosmos so much (even though I don’t like pink). They’re in bloom now and they’re lovely. I can’t believe this color exists in nature, but here it is. I hope this variety seeds itself and comes back every year, like the pink ones. I am a very lazy gardener and I like things that plant themselves.


Mary helped me pick and arrange some flowers for the house. Pink. (Sigh.)

Wesley helped by giving himself a snack while I picked and tied up tomatoes.

shark attack

Mary: Wesley, RUN! There’s a shark!

Wesley: But I want to sit with Mama.

Mary: You do NOT want to sit with Mama! She’s going to be eaten!

why movie ratings are stupid

In the past two weeks, we have been to two movies with the kids (and yes, you can assume that we had to hock something valuable–geez, movie tickets are ridiculously expensive).

The first, Cars 2, is rated G. As a reminder, “G” means “for general audiences”–that is, for everyone, including small children.

As it turned out, Cars 2, which is definitely the low point for Pixar, is also very violent. Most Pixar movies, while they might be scary, limit the violence and avoid killing off characters; this one, however, crashes and destroys many cars, and explicitly shows one of the cars crushed up into a cube, beyond repair. There are many guns–lots of weapons, in general, in fact. Much of the film is a spoof on James Bond.

I love James Bond, personally, but there are a lot of things about those films that I don’t think are appropriate for kids the ages of mine (3 and 4)–obviously. And while Cars 2 has cut out the gratuitous sex from those films, it’s kept the things that I think are MOST inappropriate: violence, disregard for human life, and dehumanization of characters on the villain’s side.

Our second movie, Beginners, on the other hand, is rated R. An R rating means, according to the MPAA, that it contains some kind of adult material. They advise, “Parents are strongly urged to find out more about R-rated motion pictures in determining their suitability for their children. Generally, it is not appropriate for parents to bring their young children with them to R-rated motion pictures.”

Well, we read about the film before taking our kids to see Beginners, and the reasons that it was rated R were “language and some sexual content.” Some of the reviews and more detailed descriptions elaborated on this, saying that it had a few “sexual situations” and pointing out that it shows men kissing. It was pretty clear that there was no explicit sex.

So, we took the kids to it. It was lovely. They were well-behaved and seemed to enjoy it (even though it’s all talk, not much action, and clearly most of the plot went over their heads, as expected).

The things about this movie that I would guess led to its R rating were:

  •  language (which they are going to hear anyway–sorry, guys).
  •  sexual situations (the most explicit of which is kissing and the fact that Ewan McGregor’s character, Oliver, spends nights with his girlfriend–they really don’t include anything that I would prefer the kids not see). Some of this kissing is between two men, which I feel sure is a factor in the rating, though it should not be.
  •  discussion of sexuality, which is both loving and tasteful and over the kids heads anyway.

One of the rating pages said there was “a scene that kids might find scary” but I have to say, I don’t know what that scene is. Maybe one where the characters are setting off fireworks? There’s a lot of yelling in that scene, but everyone is happy. Or possibly, the scene in which Oliver’s father dies, but that is a very peaceful and intimate scene even though it is sad.

This movie shows a functional family. The basic plot: Hal (Oliver’s father, played by Christopher Plummer) comes out of the closet at age 75, after his wife’s death; he soon learns that he has terminal cancer. This is the story of his relationship with his son, Oliver, and of Oliver’s relationship with his new girlfriend, Anna (Mélanie Laurent). It is an intimate, sweet movie. Unlike most movies about families, there is no radical argument, no yelling, no violence. All of these characters do something unheard of in films: they treat each other with respect.

I cannot for one moment imagine why I should be more willing to take my kids to see Cars 2 than to see Beginners. I can understand in the abstract why ratings have to take swearing into account (and the language, I think, is really the only thing about this film that should be objectionable for people with small children). But I do NOT understand why a children’s movie can ignore all of that violence because there isn’t any swearing or sex. Since when is sex–especially loving, functional, happy sex, not shown on screen–more damaging to a child than seeing characters killed onscreen?

Pixar has made a lot of good movies that I like for my kids. Even the first Cars, which I found boring, is fine. The one other Pixar movie that is more violent–The Incredibles–is rated PG, which is appropriate. It’s for older kids. There is still a lot of violence in it, for what it is, but it’s not really aimed at the pre-kindergarten crowd. I don’t understand why Cars 2 is so violent; if nothing else, much of that violence is in the service of a joke that kids won’t get–that is, the James Bond thing.

I enjoyed the opening sequence of the movie a lot: Finn McMissile, secret agent, is discovered by the cars he’s spying on, and a funny, over-the-top escape follows, a la Bond. But that sequence, for kids who won’t understand why it’s funny anyway, can be scary. There’s a lot of shooting; the other vehicles shoot missiles at the car (I think–my memory of it is a bit blurry because the rest of the film was so dull). And later in the movie, the bad cars plant a bomb on Mater, the tow truck, without his knowledge, so that he is basically an unwitting suicide bomber.

Sorry, but I just don’t get why that is supposed to be more kid-friendly than Christopher Plummer kissing his boyfriend.


Mary: Did you cook this dinner?

Me: Yes.

Mary: You cooked it yourself?

Me: Yes.

Mary: Okay, Heather. IF that’s your real name.

kids are embarrassing

I walked through Target with Wesley today. As we passed the women’s underwear section, he pointed to a bra display and shouted–SHOUTED–“Those are for you! You need those! For your NIPPLES!”

Great. Just in case anyone in the store was wondering what bras are really for.

In other news, however, both kids attended dance camp AND dance class today and did great. This is very exciting because Wesley was pretty scared of dance class last week. I think Elaine won him over today, though.