Friday, July 22, 2011

Good Honest "Boy Fun"

Testosterone on vacation isn’t really any different than at home, just a bit more amped up.

The conversation, whether in the car or in the family room, goes something like this: “Hey, you’re navel cheese!” “Be quiet, Earwax!” “Your Mom!”… (“Is someone using my name in vain?” I respond). Being the Queen – the only family member without an extra appendage – I listen to and endure the endless boy humor and interaction. On a daily basis, there must be at least one wrestling engagement, usually on one of the beds in the beach condo and then one out in the water. What is it with the male need to have a regular bodily struggle 99% of the time? It’s all in fun though a good percentage of that ends up in an injury of varying levels. We women don’t understand or relate to this at all.

Contrary to reports, the weather has turned out to be just wonderful – hot and sunny during the day, cool breezes in the evening. Parasailors periodically fly by my window, the white sand is warm and soft under my feet, the ocean water feels like a bath. Seems rather ethereal and serene doesn’t it? Three boys keep it real. Seldom are there under-the-breath snide remarks or gossip behind backs (the female’s tactic); it’s all out there. God probably knew what He was doing by giving me all boys. If there’s disagreement, you know about it…and the neighbors likely do too.

After one of those loud spats this afternoon, I overheard Matthew (14) say to Wesley (7), “Hey, even if we argue, I still love you”. I gave him a knuckle bump for that one. A rare but appreciated effort to keep the connection lines open.

It's raining again but all the males are out in the water, both surf and pool. Why not? Wesley made a hat out of sand for his hair. Why not?

Soon, my junior barbarians will be tromping in from the beach, wet and sandy, weather-worn but happy. And hungry. Do they ever run out of energy? I’m usually out at the beach or pool but this time I’m the chef, enjoying the quiet with my glass of red wine preparing food and tapping out thoughts on the keyboard.

Counting my blessings.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Rainy Beach Vacation?

It rained on and off during the entire drive down to Florida making my seven-year old concerned that the weather would impede at best, ruin at worst, his plans for fun in the waves. It sort of began to dawn on all three boys that we might not have the proverbial hot, dry, sunny beach vacation we’ve had all their lives. They did end up going in the water in the drizzle and had a blast. The rain fell even harder today and they went in again… and had even more fun, pretending they were on the planet Kamino (the perpetually watery world in “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones”). Fortunately there was no lightening so it was much safer than at home in Atlanta where it seems that when there is rain, there’s nearly always lightening. Followed by inconvenient power outages in our neighborhood…(but I digress).

            The older man bagging groceries at the local supermarket here told me the weather forecast shows a 60% chance of rain each day for the next 10 days. I think I’ll not share that bit of information with the children as that might crush their expectations, though I think they might learn a different perspective as their two experiences thus far with choppy waves from rainy weather are ideal for body surfing. I, for one, have already accepted that we could be spending a large portion of this vacation indoors.

            And quite frankly, I’m just fine with that. Being enough if an introvert, a tired mom in need of relaxation, and a lover solitude and quiet time – even quiet time with the kids playing board games or watching movie dvd’s – eating good food... I could see myself having a simply fabulous time on this vacation, despite rainy, “gloomy” weather every single day. Even as I write, the sliding window in our condo’s master bedroom is open enough to let in the ocean sounds with the misty spray blowing in; and out on the water there is so much grey fog that the horizon is obscured, disappearing into the blur like a film special effect. The rain drops are gently splashing against the window panes and dripping down like great tear drops and there is no hint of blue sky anywhere. I’m absolutely delighted. I’ve got my books, my journal, and my girlie fashion and design magazines. Just found a program on tv (cable of course -- which we don't have at home) about the royal weddings and another on the magical special effects of the Harry Potter films. What could be better?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Reality Show Burnout

Are we becoming ancient Rome? Or as one writer put it, is the “law of the jungle" taking over?

We, the formerly intelligent viewing public are morphing into “the great unwashed”, as we dumb ourselves down while voyeuristically watching intimate, private conversations, outright fights, awkward situations, and people generally making asses of themselves on reality tv. Okay, I said it. "Unscripted documentation of human events in which ordinary people instead of actors are taped on film" – is a hilariously dignifying description for the trash that now dominates the television airwaves. My kids even love it.

Not that it’s all trash – there’s a place for unscripted documentation of ordinary people -- but the trend to frame situations to incite conflict and up the ante of sensationalism is definitely the mode du jour... but is it healthy?? Do we need that much escape from our boring lives? A few shows are simply good entertainment (“America’s Funniest Home Videos”) and don’t pretend to be anything more. Some aim to be heartwarming acts of community and corporate giving (“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and “The Secret Millionaire”) – and generally they are, though one sometimes wonders if things need to be so totally over the top when so many in the world are starving and homeless. A few shows actually bring out the best in people. But so many more reveal less-than-virtuous human qualities. Audiences seem to be okay, if not totally thrilled, with watching others feel unsure of themselves, scared, exhausted, embarrassed, humiliated, infuriated, deceived, and deeply disappointed, while either doing the best they can (“The Greatest Loser”) or downright drunk and tacky (“Jersey Shore”).  Do we just want to feel normal compared with the freaks on the screen? And then there’s the issue of participants who magically turn into celebrities despite having no talent whatsoever, i.e. Jessica Simpson “Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica”, Paris Hilton “The Simple Life”, and Kim Kardashian (“Keeping Up with the Kardashians”) among many, many others.

We grew up on sitcoms (“The Brady Bunch), evening dramas (Hawaii Five-O”) and some games shows (“The Dating Game”) – lame though they were by today’s standards. But at least the first two had real storylines with a plot, blessedly uninterrupted by participant interviews. I was interested to learn that “Candid Camera” actually began as early as 1948, which means we’ve had lots of time to develop this genre into what it has become today. Japanese variety shows and European dancing contests have influenced our tv culture too, leading to shows like “Wipout” and “Dancing with the Stars”. There’s certainly a buzz in being the fly on the wall as events unfold, either unbeknownst to the one experiencing it or actually enhanced by the knowledge that a huge viewing audience is right there. The voyeuristic desire and sense of justice is fulfilled with surveillance-type programs like “COPS”. Are we glad someone else got the ticket? “Survivor” – the runaway success story that kicked off the reality programming trend – gave us the excitement of the proverbial desert island experience (a primal scenario?) Using sensation to generate profit is the name of the game, and sadly, it works. But, true to Hollywood’s exploitative mantra: just make money, damn it, it’s not all just spontaneous life happening. The networks put forth the directive to create entertaining stories, then the producers and editors go to work shaping storylines, picking a “cast” who will create drama, even coaching them behind the scenes. The creators are professionals even if the participants are not. It’s the propensity to appeal to the lowest common denominator of viewing interests –escapism, morbid curiosity, excitement, entertainment and peeping. We’ve descended into celebutante cheese (“Real Housewives” faux socialites), fantasy renovation cheese (“Pimp My Ride”  -- take a look at the fabulous and hilarious spoof “Mom My Ride”), romance-related cheese (“Bachelor/Bachelorette”), seriously weird cheese (“Hoarding: Buried Alive”) and job angst cheese (“Shark Tank”). Perhaps the latter takes the edge of the stress off our current market woes and worries?

What’s next – a virtual reality show in which we experience what the participants do via headsets and simulators? Oy, I’m just glad we don’t have cable.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Myth of Relaxing Summers

‘Scuse me but what happened to the proverbial “lazy days of summer”? When I was growing up (late 1960’s/early ‘70’s), summers were spent playing outside, engaging in play dates with friends, trips to a neighborhood pool, some time at the beach, and the annual trek down South and Southwest (we lived in New England) to visit relatives. Occasionally my siblings and I would participate in a week-long day camp. As a teenager, I journeyed up to Martha’s Vineyard Island for a week or two of the absolute best Christian camp ever (haven’t found one like it since), first as a camper and later as a counselor. Picnics could be enjoyed as cold air was gone for a few precious months, and our crabapple tree moved on from fragrant blossoms to crabby little fruits that fell and rotted in our yard. I loved finding and tasting them though. Perhaps our parents found summers tiring; I don’t know.

My summers seem quite a bit busier than those of my childhood. Is it simply because I’m a parent and have traded school-related responsibilities for summer-related ones? Or is our generation decidedly busier than that of generations past? My three kids are doing several weeks of camps (two different ones which means driving in different directions), the older two are counselors. There was the youth group “away camp”, play dates with friends (who I must help transport), swim team – ah, there’s one huge difference. Neither my siblings nor I made that big of a commitment, and if we had, would meets have lasted 6 hours long? Surely not. Then there are the grown up activities for we parents. I’m certainly busier with writing deadlines, blogging, and other things.

Just seems so much busier. I do love sleeping in later than on school mornings but at day’s end, there still seems like an endless list of unfinished items that spill over to the next day, then the next, then the next…

Does anyone relate to this?