Thursday, April 30, 2009

Inspiration

So remember how I started this blog talking about being challenged to do something really extraordinary in 2009? Not long afterwards, I learned that my friend Leslie Nordin was doing something truly extraordinary: she was training to run the Boston Marathon blindfolded, to teach her son, who is blind, that he could accomplish anything he set his mind to. (You can read my original post about Leslie here.)

Well, I am so thrilled to report that Leslie not only finished the marathon, but she did it in four hours and 17 minutes, which many runners would love to do with their eyes wide open. And in the process, she raised an astonishing $31,000 for the Perkins School for the Blind, where her son Sawyer is a student.


At a time when words like "hero" and phrases like "you're an inspiration" get tossed around far too easily, I think what Leslie did is truly astonishing, and it fills my heart with hope and joy.

"It was simply one of the most life-affirming, uplifting and joyous experiences I've ever been a part of," reports Leslie's sister Natalie. Natalie made a little video of the day, and I'll confess that once again I teared up reading the shirts that Leslie's supporters wore.



I'm working on that New York Times piece I said I would publish this year. Really, I am.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Allison! Allison! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice!

OK, people. From here on out I'm just going to say every week it's Allison. Because I've only been wrong twice this season. And both times it's because I've incorrectly predicted her departure. So if I just keep saying Allison, I have to be right eventually, right?

But I actually loved Allison last night, for doing a bang up job on one of my all-time favorite songs, Someone to Watch Over Me. My boy Kris did a solid The Way You Look Tonight. I'm going to love watching those two battle it out for third place, because unless we have a Oh-My-God-Chris-Daughtry-got-kicked-off-in-4th-place moment, the finals will almost certainly be Adam and Danny. Have I mentioned I don't like Adam? Yes, I think I have. (By the way, I've gotten used to the fact that Adam wears eyeliner, but I could swear he had pink lip gloss on last night, too.) And I'm no huge Danny fan, either. Which makes for a pretty anti-climactic rest of the season for me.



Tonight's departure will, of course, be Matt. Because I don't know what Simon was smoking, or whether it's all part of some grand conspiracy where the judges purposefully prop up or ream certain contestants regardless of their performance, but Matt was just horrible.

He'll be joined in the bottom three by Allison and Kris, but he will depart, just as he should have two weeks ago before they did that whole judges' save nonsense. Buh-bye weird moley-skintag-thingie!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hot Stuff?

Disco week, baby!

So here's who I know for sure is not going home tonight on American Idol:
Adam Lambert
Danny Gokey

Here's who I think should go home:
Lil Rounds
Matt Giraud

Here's who I think could go home:
Lil
Matt
Allison
Anoop
and -- I almost can't bear to say it -- my boy Kris, who DialIdol once again has near the bottom, my calls clearly notwithstanding. There should be a muffin named after Kris he's so cute.

If DialIdol is to believed, it's definitely not going to be Lil, but some combo of Anoop, Matt, Kris and Allison.

For once, I really have absolutely no idea. (Excuse me while I pat myself on the back for getting five of the last six weeks correct, btw. Why must this be the year there's no money on it? Why? Why?)

I'm feeling uber-cranky today and can't think of anything funny to say. I have a feeling DialIdol is right and Lil will somehow live to see another week. I once again stubbornly refuse it to be Kris. And while it very well might be Anoop, and I'll go ahead and say he's bottom three, I'm just going to go with Matt and Allison to get the boot, even though I've incorrectly predicted Allison's departure once before. (She's tricky, I tell ya.) I'm tired of looking at that skin taggy mole-ish thing in the center of Matt's forehead, anyway.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lucky Seven

Was it just me or has American Idol begun to stall a bit? Last night was, well, it was just alright for me. I found myself just wanting to get it over with already.

The highlights for me? Well number one has nothing to do with American Idol, really, but was the sight of actor Phil LaMarr, who is married to one of my best friends from camp, cowering in the corner in the scene from Pulp Fiction at the opening of the Tarantino tribute. (He was the guy who accidentally gets his head blown off in the back of the car.) So now I can say I know someone who was on American Idol. Kind of.

Anyway, my real number one highlight would be Kris, who is quickly gaining in my affection, choosing the awesome song "Falling Slowly" from the magical little Irish film Once. The highlight wasn't necessarily Kris' performance, which was heartfelt but didn't exactly bring me to my knees, but just that he chose it. It seemed a cool, non-Idolish thing to do. And we like that 'round here. We also think Kris is ridiculously dreamy.

Number two would be Anoop, who will never, in a million years, win this thing, but whose voice I love and whose eyebrows fascinate me. Memo to the stylists, however: Why is he always dressed like he's Archie from the comics, with those letter sweater-looking things and thin ties? Does the fact that he's a graduate student automatically mean your only choice is to dress him like he's going to a fraternity sock hop, circa 1955?

Number three is going to be Danny, only because I'm old enough to have, like, seen Endless Love in a theater and have a huge soft spot for that song, which he delivered pretty spot on. I think Danny will clearly go on to have a career of some sort, whether he wins this thing or not. DialIdol says he was last night's biggest votegetter, no doubt for sentimental reasons.

While I'm clearly in the minority, judging by the reaction in the theater, the lowest point for me was Adam's Born to be Wild screechfest. Adam doing Mad World? Brilliant. Tracks of My Tears? Inspired. But it's when Adam lets loose his inner Steven Tyler that I cringe with embarrassment for him. I'm just not a fan. The eye makeup was flawless, though.

I'll confess I barely watched Allison's competent I Don't Want to Miss a Thing, and felt the judges were a little too harsh on Lil's gospel-inspired The Rose. (Though she once again proved without a doubt she's this season's biggest disappoinment.) And Matt just kind of sleepwalked through another week with Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman? I think it's just enough to have him fall through the cracks.

DialIdol puts Kris dead last, followed by Matt and Allison, but we know they said the same thing last week and they were wrong. I'm being stubborn and refusing to think my cutiepie Kris is even in the bottom three.

So I'm going to say bottom three are Matt, Allison and Lil, although I suspect Anoop could very likely be in that third spot instead of Lil. Sayonara Matt.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

For Maddie

Little Maddie Spohr's funeral is beginning right now. I've spent much of today thinking of her parents and wondering how on earth you get up on the day you're going to bury your child.

Like everyone else, I feel so helpless. If only the collective power of caring felt around the world could be harnessed somehow.

And so, in Maddie's honor, I'm posting this photo, as are scores of bloggers all over the world at this exact moment.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Agony and the Ecstasy



I got a facebook message Friday night from my friend Vicki, who knows I can't turn away from a sad story. (And who, not coincidentally, is the person who prompted me to blog about one not long ago.)

She follows a woman named Heather Spohr on Twitter. Heather writes a hilarious blog called The Spohrs are Multiplying, about the ups and downs of raising her 17 month old daughter Maddie, who was born 11 weeks early. The blog is enormously popular, with untold thousands of people following Maddie's every adorable move.

It's easy to see why. Maddie is just one of those kids that you see once and never forget. That impish little face. Her other-worldly eyes.


Even the quickest of scans through Heather's blog makes you want her to be your mother. And the love she has for that little imp, who struggled so hard to make it into the world, is all but palpable.


Heather was tweeting last Tuesday that Maddie had been hospitalized after a bad cough that failed to respond to oxygen treatment, which was nothing terribly new for the Spohrs. She joked about the hot EMT in the ambulance, and the lack of choices in the hospital cafeteria. Then, at 4 p.m, she wrote "They're going to intubate her, I'm freaking out." At 9:16 a friend updated Heather's blog saying that Madeline had died. Just like that.

It's times like this I wish I could summon something like a semblance of faith. I envy those who believe there is a higher purpose for an event like this one; I just can't muster one no matter how hard I try. I envy those who can take comfort believing that Maddie is now with God. Or Jesus. To me? I can only see a mother and father forced to suffer a gaping, ferocious, unhealable wound. And a dark spot in the world where once there was a very special little elf of a baby girl who should by all rights be snuggled in bed right now, just like my sons are.

The only comfort I draw is that much like the death of Emilie Lemmons, Maddie Spohr's death has created an overwhelming outpouring of love and support.
In just five days, over $23,000 has been raised for the March of Dimes in Maddie's memory. Close to 400 people have blogged about Maddie. The entire blognosh.com site is currently devoted to writings about Maddie. (There's also an article about the Spohrs in today's LA Times.) And thousands of children, including two who happen to live in my house, have no doubt been hugged and kissed with reckless abandon, even after they left half-eaten crackers on the train table. Must. Not. Sweat. Thepettyshit.

Since I'm not a Christian, I don't want to put too fine a point on the fact that today is Easter. But having spent much of the weekend musing on what could possibly be redemptive about a senseless, heartbreaking death, perhaps it's not entirely coincidental that I accidentally stumbled on this today and it made me feel hopeful again.
If there's a faith to be had, I feel confident I have faith in whatever this is.

Sound of Music Train Station @ Yahoo! Video

Rest in peace, Maddie.

And if you're feeling inspired, you can use one of these buttons to make a donation, either to the Spohrs themselves, who are self-employed, to help with funeral costs and loss of income, or to the March of Dimes.




Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Year They Were Born

I bet you thought I was going to go on and on about how I'm freaking out they were all born when I was already in high school. Or college. That they're the same age as the kids I used to babysit. Or, in Allison's case, they were born when I was already two years out of college and living on my own. Which makes me easily old enough to be her mother, let alone her babysitter. And probably way too old to be obsessed with this show.

Anyway, that's not what I'm going to go on and on about. I'm going to go on and on about what a strange up and down night it was. Yo-yo indeed, just as Simon said. If you were down last week (Matt, Anoop) you worked it out. If you were up last week (Kris!) you stank. But can I just say that I am so done with Simon calling performances "indulgent, boring, and forgettable"? Kris' wasn't the greatest performance, but it wasn't indulgent. Adam having sex on stage to Ring of Fire was indulgent. Learn some new adjectives, Simon.

Clearly, once again, Adam shone way above the pack. I have a special soft spot in my heart for Tears for Fears, and he was incredible, even though I had to watch him on the web since my DVR cut him off. But I'm starting to wonder if we're being set up here in a Clay Aiken-kind of way. Clear frontrunners sometimes don't win American Idol. I, for one, was completely convinced David Archuleta was a lock last year. Oops.

Anyway, my homeboy Anoop boomeranged back into the top for me, although DialIdol has him in the bottom three. I would hate for him to go. Allison and Danny were predictably solid, but Danny is somehow starting to get really boring for me and verging on grating. Matt was good, although not quite as good as the judges seemed to think.

For me, last night's bottom three were Kris, Lil and Scott. Kris' performance somehow reminded me of a band from my high school doing a much-loved rendition of The Hooters' "And We Danced." I don't think Lil quite deserved the dreaded "it's just karaoke" drubbing she got, although even my somewhat pop culture illiterate mother said, "She's even dancing just like Tina Turner!" during the performance. DialIdol says it's Kris at the very bottom. Could it be? One off week and sayonara to the dark horse of the last two weeks? I hope not.

Personally, I think it's time for Scott say goodbye. And then go get his canine teeth shaved down. I'm a horrible person, aren't I?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dear Powers That Be

(Warning, this post is graphic. But might be familiar to any parents who've survived stomach bugs.)

Dear Powers that Be:

Just wanted to let you know that having the drain in my utility sink get clogged with vomit from rinsing out Alec's puke-sodden clothes, causing my washing machine to overflow and flood my entire basement was really not particularly what I needed today. Dealing with extremely sick, inconsolably miserable puking/diarrheaing toddler while trying to prepare to have 18 people here for Passover seder (while older son is off school) was really enough, thanks.

Love,

Jennifer

P.S. I'm not sure if it's mean to post a picture of your sick toddler, but he's so frigging cute in his ragdoll state it's going to break my heart. Oh, and that's not blood on his face, it's the remnants of a cherry Pedialyte popsicle.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

American Idol, Week 4

Um, hello? Kris Allen, anyone? Wow. Just wow.

So I'm thinking that last night broke down neatly into three little trios.

At the top, Kris, Danny and Adam. Who might well be gunning for the final three at this point.

In the middle, Scott (who redeemed himself ever so slightly with a heartfelt "Just the Way You Are" and much better hair, but clearly isn't long for the competition), Lil, (Celine Dion? What-evs. She's been this year's biggest disappointment for me) and Allison, who is clearly so freaking talented it's scary but again, strikes me as someone who'll be gone before long. She's lacking ultra-likability, I think. Dialidol actually has her in the bottom three, which wouldn't surprise me at all. If you could be kicked off for your outfit, she should be.

And then my bottom three. My boy Anoop, who, much as I adore him, sadly proved that he is just way out of his depth here. Then there's the chameleon-like Matt Giraud, who just can't seem to figure out if he's Chris Martin or Ray Charles. And clearly had no idea, judging from his reaction to the judges, that he stank up the place so badly.

And then there's Megan. Oh, Megan. She has quickly become this year's Sanjaya. Or Antonella. I grimace when she takes the stage. And something about her singing reminds me of ventriloquy. Seriously. Just please, America, in the name of all things Good and Right: Send. Her. Packing. Tonight. Thank you.