Here are a few of the things that have kept us entertained in 2005.
AUDREY At the kids’ school, the top ten readers (according to their “Accelerated Reader” scores) are recognized each month by having their names read over the loudspeaker. A friendly rivalry among a group of neighborhood pals has grown up around this. After hearing Ned’s name several times last year, Audrey decided it was time to get in the game. So she plowed through the huge Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — followed by the rest of the series in quick succession.
JOHN Rarely does a book actually crack John up so much that he is compelled to read aloud from it. But he was so moved by James Lileks’ Gallery of Regrettable Food that he had to pass it on to me and now to you. All the photos and recipes were featured in real advertisements and home magazine features of yesteryear — including the hotdog jello!
LAURA Edward Jones’ novel The Known World, about free blacks who owned slaves in the antebellum south introduced me to a historic fact that was for me a total shock. Of all the books I read this year, this is the only one I would read twice.
NED Ned’s a little bit of an addict in this category, so he had a lot to choose from for his favorite. He narrowed it down to two: Squire and Page, both installments in the Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, about a girl who is trained to be a knight. The best part is, he doesn’t even know how liberated he is.
AUDREY Ever since seeing her first Broadway musical last year, Audrey’s been on a bit of a Great White Way kick. She even composed the lyrics and wrote the music for her own show tune, and distributed copies to all the girls on the school bus. The best movie Audrey saw this year was The Muppets Take Manhattan, especially the dream sequence (“I’m gonna be a movie star / And I’m gonna learn to drive a car…”)
JOHN The Wedding Crashers
LAURA No specific title: this year, as long as it was a musical with great costumes and great dancing, it was a good movie. Audrey’s new favorite weekend leisure activity is “Spa Night,” when we give each other facials and hot oil treatments, and watch an old movie together. Having a big girl is extra fun.
NED Ned says his favorite movie this year has been the brand-new Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He only had to flee the theater twice during scary bits.
AUDREY Audrey was in a vintage kind of mood this year. Her favorite movie came out 13 years before her birth, but her favorite album was produced in 1968! Walt Disney’s Merriest Songs must have been included in a bunch of records my sister Marion salvaged from our own childhood collection and then passed on to my kids. Its chipper selections like “Chim Chim Cheree” and “Give a Little Whistle” really resonated with our own little birdie.
JOHN Owsley, The Hard Way. This is slick, glimmery pop/rock, in many ways similar to Fountains of Wayne. A consistently enjoyable second album.
LAURA Alison Krauss & Union Station, Lonely Runs Both Ways. We went to see these guys live at Playhouse Square in April, with several good pals from church. Excellent soundtrack for doing housework, though I do tend to get sidetracked singing along and pretending to be a bluegrass star. The lovely “Living Prayer” makes for an andante antidote to endless repetitions of “Crazy Frog,” too.
NED Yes, Ned’s favorite album this year was based on European ring tones for cell phones. Crazy Frog Presents Crazy Hits isn’t quite as excruciating for adults as you might think. For one thing, we did have a couple good family conversations where the grown ups got to explain the origin of the themes to The Pink Panther and Dallas. Still, I did actually have to acquire earplugs.
AUDREY Returning to her Potterian theme, Audrey enthusiastically recommends the “Hogwarts Challenge” game on Time magazine’s “Time for Kids” site. Her parents also recommend the site for a daily dose of current events suitable for the civic-minded third-grader.
JOHN Ars Technica. An obsessively geeky computer site manned by a couple of doctoral candidates in ancient history.
LAURA We hesitated to write our own family Christmas letter, knowing how many people despise them. This kindhearted essay in The Christian Science Monitor was persuasive.
NED The kids have to earn their entertainment computer and TV time a minute at a time, so they are getting more selective about how they spend it, thank goodness. Ned’s big favorite this year was RuneScape, an interactive adventure game played simultaneously by thousands of people all over the world. They definitely didn’t have stuff like this when John was a 10 year old budding computer geek!
Favorite Live Entertainment:
AUDREY Because of a conflict with our Michigan cross-country skiing trip, we traded four orchestra tickets for two tickets to a stage production of “Junie B. Jones” at Playhouse Square. On the surface, this would seem like a bad deal, especially since productions in which adults play little kids so easily veer toward cloying. But this fast-paced, silly show was just right for Audrey, and its title tune “Top Secret Personal Beeswax” became a sort of anthem around our house for many weeks.
JOHN As always, it’s nice to make the quick trip over to Jacobs Field, especially when the team is winning. And thanks to some of our neighborhood friends we had some excellent Indians tix this year. Too bad that it rained pretty much every time we went.
LAURA That would have to be the spring orchestra concert at the kids’ school, Newton D. Baker School of the Arts. The sight of Audrey slouching with her legs crossed in the second row of violins didn’t exactly cause a mother’s heart to swell with pride, but their playing did! I wish all the anti-school levy folks who planted “Don’t Reward Failure” signs in their front yards could have attended.
NED Asked what was so good about the Cavs vs. Memphis Grizzlies game he chose as his favorite entertainment, Ned said, “I got some cotton candy, I had some pretty good seats, and the Cavs won.”