Produced by Gary Drevitch
Opening near London later this month, Dickens World
promises to take British kids back to the -- well, to the really quite
miserable old days. Attractions will include a schoolroom
where today's coddled class will encounter the "Dreaded Disciplines of
Victorian Education," and a boat tour through the sewers of London.
Dare we hope that there may also be a "Bitter Old Spinsters of the
Caribbean" ride. . .?
UPDATE: AMY WILSON'S "MOTHER LOAD"
Gina Bellfante of the Times has reviewed "Mother Load," old friend Amy Wilson's one-woman show about Manhattan parenting, running through June 16 at the Sage Theater in midtown, and reports, "It is impossible to dislike Ms. Wilson. . . even as she leaves no cliché of sophisticated maternity untouched."
HEY, KIDS, WE'RE WITH YOU. DYLAN'S BEEN CREEPING US OUT FOR YEARS
KINDERGARTEN kids in ritzy L.A. suburb Calabasas have been coming home to their parents and talking about the "weird man" who keeps coming to their class to sing "scary" songs on his guitar. The "weird" one turns out to be Bob Dylan, whose grandson (Jakob Dylan's son) attends the school. He's been singing to the kindergarten class just for fun, but [to] the kiddies . . . he's just Weird Guitar Guy.
In a related story, that dude from the Spin Doctors has been hanging around Fellow's public school.
SEEN ON AN ACTUAL CINEMA MARQUEE IN THE POCONOS THIS WEEKEND
S P I D E R M A N 3
A R E W E D O N E Y E T
A NEW LOCATION THAT WILL WELCOME THE ARABIC ACADEMY WITH OPEN ARMS? LET'S SEE. . . DOES THE DEPT. OF ED. OWN ANY LAND IN AMMAN?
Bowing to community protests, New York City's Department of Education tabled plans to open a new school "devoted to the study of the Arabic language and culture" inside an existing public school in Brooklyn. And so now the Khalil Gibran International Academy goes seeking a new home. As always in these situations, the protesting parents said their complaint wasn't with the agenda of the planned school itself. No, not at all. It was just the department's poor communication with the community. So we're sure many other neighborhood school parent bodies would be happy to welcome the Arabic academy, just as long as the department asks nicely. Stay tuned.
OK, WHO PUT THE SUNNY D IN LITTLE GUY'S BOTTLE? COME ON, GUYS. THAT'S NOT FUNNY!
Tooth decay in children under 5, which had been decreasing for 40 years, is now on the rise, according to a major new government study of the nation's dental health. And according to the study's author, Dr. Bruce Dye of the National Center for Health Statistics, it's your fault!
. . .parents are giving their children more processed snack foods than in the past, and more bottled water or other drinks instead of fluoridated tap water, Dye said. "They're relying more on fruit snacks, juice boxes, candy and soda" for the sustenance of preschoolers. . .
NOT BEING AS FLEXIBLE AS WE ONCE WERE, WE'VE FOUND THIS TO BE GOOD ADVICE
The Journal offered a special report the other day on how a couple can address the toll that new-parenthood takes on their sex life (without tackling the more problematic issue of how having a third child completely blows it out of the water). Included in the report is helpful advice like this:
Turn toward each other -- not away -- for friendship and sex.
ALSO EFFECTIVE: A SCRAP OF PAPER WITH TODAY'S DATE AND A PIECE OF SCOTCH TAPE
Here's a strong candidate for Least Necessary New Parenting Product of the Month: The Days Ago digital timer, which promises to eliminate any doubt about whether leftovers you've stored in your fridge or freezer are still good to eat. With one press of a button, the timer will indicate how many days an item has been stored. A pack of two is just $10. The device comes in magnetic (for jar lids) and suction (for plastic containers) styles. So, marketing wizards, what do we do if our food is stored in tinfoil?
AND JUST WAIT'LL YOU HEAR WHAT THEY DISCOVERED ABOUT THE KIND OF LOVERS TODDLERS WITH AN ORAL FIXATION TURN OUT TO BE
A 20-year study directed by a University of Minnesota professor has found that cranky babies grow up to become insecure lovers. The researchers found that measurements of how quickly infants looked to their parents for calming when they became upset (if at all), and how easily parents were able to soothe them, were critical predictors of how successfully children, when grown, would be able to find happiness in romantic relationships.
OH, YEAH? WELL, JUST IMAGINE HOW MUCH WE ENVY YOU EACH WEEKEND, SARA: WHILE YOU'RE LOUNGING AT ELITE CHESS TOURNAMENTS, WE'RE TRAPPED WITH THE KIDS AND THEIR MENTORS AT THE INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDIES AT PRINCETON*
New York Sun parenting columnist Sara Berman (full disclosure: her father, retired demi-billionaire investor Michael Steinhardt, co-owns the paper) today writes about why so many city parents resent the time they have to spend transporting their kids to Little League or soccer games each weekend, not to mention actually having to watch their unwatchable games. Fair enough. But our Sara can't leave well enough alone, and so she ends her report with this kicker:
To all the parents complaining about spending their weekends on the baseball fields, game after game, I [said]: "The next time you're stuck on a field on a sunny May day, just think of me, stuck in the basement of Hunter or P.S. 6 at my boys' chess tournaments, with an even more wacky parent group than you can imagine." They all felt better after hearing where I was stuck weekend after weekend. On those sparkling spring Sundays, those baseball diamonds sound pretty appealing.
Yes, we're quite sure that your reminding fellow parents to pity you your sons' intellectual pursuits put a stop to their complaining about Little League. In fact, we imagine it brought the entire conversation to a screeching halt.
* (not really what we do. . .)
UPDATE: SCHOOL OF AMERICAN BALLET AUDITIONS
We recently posted a link to Freelance Dad's article in the current issue of Time Out New York Kids about ballet classes for boys. We neglected to add that the Times this fall ran a feature about the School of American Ballet's audition process, which is also well worth reading for anyone out there who (like us) is considering bringing their own kids over to SAB for auditions later this month.
If we were suddenly to start spending hundreds
of dollars on furniture for our kids' room,
which we're not, this Lite Brite-inspired table
from Babesta ($499) would be at the
top of our list. It's outasight!
ON NEWSSTANDS NOW
Freelance Dad, a.k.a. Gary Drevitch, contributed the opening article in this month's Time Out New York Kids, called "Barre None." The article was ripped from the headlines here at HQ, where Small Fellow demanded a couple of months back that we find a ballet class for him. (He has fond memories of a ballet class he took in the neighborhood one season when he was 3 or 4.) A few calls later, we had secured him a spot in an all-boy Saturday AM group at Ballet Hispanico. The price? Gratis. As it happens, Ballet Hispanico, and several of the city's other top ballet companies (School of American Ballet, Ailey, Joffrey) offer free single-sex classes for young boys, most of them called something like "Athletic Dance" so the guys think they're doing something sporty. The goal is to get boys interested in dance, so that they either pursue a career in the field, or eventually become part of its audience. On a more pragmatic level, the companies hope at least some of the boys stick around until at least age 13 or 14, when all those young ballerinas need some boys in the studio to start tossing them around. Our favorite quote was from an 18-year-old School of American Ballet veteran who told us, "Everybody here comes from a place where they were the only guy in the class."
Coming soon: Later this month, we're taking Fellow to an audition at the School of American Ballet (they supply the kids for the NYC Ballet's "Nutcracker" each year), which promises to be quite an afternoon. As you read the article, you'll see that the company's audition process sounds remarkably like the judging at the Westminster Dog Show.
LOOK AT OUR LINKS
It's an unusual event here when we update our Links list, or anything else in our sidebars, but we've recently added a number of new places for you to go, so feel free to browse.
FD.COM: NOT ABOVE PILING ON SINCE 2004
The thing about the celebrities who get into hot water for their apparent parenting mistakes is that we don't really know these people, we can't know how they interact with their families behind closed doors, and we should always ask ourselves how we would feel if the media covered our worst parenting moments 24/7 before piling on and ridiculing these people.
Having said all that, this clip of Alec Baldwin calling Dora the Explorer a thoughtless little pig is pretty darn amusing.
NEW PHOTOS. . . OF JUPITER
We take our responsibility to the space-loving kids very seriously, so we want to alert you that NASA has released some new photos of Jupiter and its moons taken by the New Horizons probe in February.
A fresh batch of 10 photos, newly posted here, follows
Fellow, Tiny, and Little Guy on trips from the slopes
of Colorado, to the camel rides at the Bronx Zoo, to. . .
the inside of our pack-and-play.
FINALLY, A PRODUCTIVE APPLICATION OF EVERYDAY MATH
It may not be the most effective method of teaching public-school students how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, but Everyday Math's curriculum model has proven to be an excellent guide for us as we devise Little Guy's feeding schedule. For example, we introduce green beans by serving it exclusively for three days in a row, then we put it aside entirely for three weeks, reintroduce it once, then a week after that combine it with carrots for a tasty review. If only teaching mathematical concepts was so simple. . .
THE FD.COM FRANKEST COLUMN OF THE MONTH
The prize goes to Michael Winerip of the New York Times for his recent column (nytimes.com's most e-mailed!), "Young, Gifted, and Not Getting Into Harvard," in which he acknowledges that his four kids, like most of the dozens of bright young students he interviews for admissions as a Harvard alum each year, have no chance of ever matriculating in Cambridge. In fact, they won't even bother applying. We've interviewed scores of students over the years ourselves as an alumni interviewer for our own alma mater, and while our admit percentage may be slightly better than Winerip's estimated one-in-forty, when he reports that nearly every kid he meets is not only more qualified for admissions than he was all those years ago, but more qualified than his own kids, we get it. As he writes:
We are not snubbing Harvard. Even my oldest, who is my most academic son, did not quite have the class rank or the SATs.
Brother, we're hip. We're awaiting news right now on whether Tiny will join Fellow in one of the city's gifted-and-talented elementary-school programs, and to be quite honest (and to follow Winerip's example), it's really no slam dunk. We'll let our readers know how it turns out, but either way, we have every intention of keeping her. As Winerip's must-read column ends:
That day, running on the beach, I was lost in my thoughts when a voice startled me. “Pops, hey, Pops!” It was Sammy, one of my twins, who’s probably heading for a good state school. He was in his wetsuit, surfing alone in the 30-degree weather, the only other person on the beach. “What a day!” he yelled, and his joy filled my heart.
FREELANCE DAD IN THE NEWS
The champion phallus. . . is a long, spiraling tentacle. . . . “I saw this huge thing hanging off of him,” she said. “I could not believe it. It became one of those questions I wrote down: why. . . this huge phallus?”. . . . Most of the time it remains invisible, curled up inside. . . . During mating, however, it fills with lymphatic fluid and expands into a long, corkscrew shape.
(OK, it's really that amazing article about waterfowl phalluses from yesterday's paper. But isn't it a testament to Winerip that his column is actually beating this article for the nytimes.com's most e-mailed story?)
AND WE NOW HESITANTLY OPEN THE COMMENTS SECTION TO THE PTA OF NEST+M
In a stunning upset, New York magazine writes about controversial Lower East Side magnet school NEST+M, and manages NOT to take the side of the white, wealthy parents fighting to resist city-mandated changes to their beloved sanctuary. The must-read article (yes, it is in fact it a great week for local school and parenting coverage) reports not only on the school's well-known problems with admissions policy (which amounted to: white and wealthy, good; Hispanic and African-American bad; Asian OK) and the related bait-and-switch its founders pulled on the neighborhood leaders, but also claims that the school's founding (and since ousted) principal directly manipulated her students' standardized test scores, and ordered her teaching staff to do the same, so that her school could place among the city's top-ranked and (it was hoped) gain greater autonomy from Department of Education control.
It shouldn't be news to anyone at this point that NEST+M had a major thumb on the scale during admissions seasons, but our own takeaway from the article is that, as Joel Klein and Michael Bloomberg push the city toward a more principal-centered model, all parents should be a little wary. Much of what happened at NEST+M is specific to that school's overheated agenda, but the stories of dissident parents finding themselves and their kids blackballed by the school's staff can't be unique to that building. It's entirely possible that greater principal control may go too far by shrinking the number of watchmen of each school's policies.