Happy Easter! This picture of my daughter Lucy was taken two years ago when she was just 1. I remember that morning like it was yesterday; she had never seen a plastic egg before and had no idea what she was doing with it clutched in her little hand. Now she’s a rambunctious little girl running around saying, “I want more Easter eggs!” I know she is going to love the annual Easter egg hunt on Sunday morning – and the candy inside them even more so.
As with other holidays, sometimes I get a little overwhelmed with all there is to do. Do my kids have good outfits for Sunday morning? Are we going to make a special meal? Did I get everything I need for their Easter baskets? (Will I be able to find their Easter baskets?) My hubby and I decided to take this year easy, since the kids are still pretty young and we’ve had a busy couple of months leading up to now.
Recently I heard about a simple bread that is easy to make with children that symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus. After it bakes, it becomes hollow on the inside to represent the empty tomb. This is a perfect opportunity to enjoy some family time, make a yummy treat, and remind the kids what Easter is all about! Here are a couple of recipes should you decide to try it:
One of the best things about the Christmas season is watching classic Christmas movies. My husband’s favorite is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. My favorites are It’s A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. I just realized that they all have a long-suffering wife/mother figure. Something about the stress of the holidays, huh? Poor Ellen Griswold is always running around, simultaneously trying to support Clark while cleaning up his messes. Mary Bailey has four little ones to look after, and a husband who’s miserable. (Remember the scene where he yells at the kids’ teacher on the phone?) And Ralphie’s mom is a classic representation of motherhood: always making dinner, trying to keep the Old Man happy, and lovingly raising two boys. She’s my favorite.
What movie does your family watch every Christmas?
Here’s one of my favorite scenes from A Christmas Story, re-cut for some added laughs.
Today has been very busy! Late last week, I learned about this new movie, Tropic Blunder Thunder. It’s full of big name celebrities including Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr., Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise, etc… The movie is a comedy making fun of actors. The main characters are actors in the movie, so there are “movies-within-the movie.” Tropic Thunder used one of these “movies-within-the-movie,” titled “Simple Jack” for a promotional campaign. Simple Jack was about a person with an intellectual disability and used hateful language and depicted his character in cruel ways. The promotional campaign included posters stating “Once upon a time, there was a retard” and a trailer for viewing which has Christine Taylor’s voice saying “I’ll talk to any retard I like.” During the production of the film, the cast discussed their concern about some of the racial slurs and wanted to make sure they didn’t cross the line with the racial banter, however they did nothing to protect anyone from the cruelty shown toward individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Major disability rights organizations discovered this and met with DreamWorks to discuss their concern and outrage over “Simple Jack.” The promotional campaign was pulled, however there were no changes to the movie made. In the movie, Tropic Thunder, Ben Stiller’s character discusses his role as Simple Jack with Robert Downey, Jr. They discuss how Stiller stated that while making the film, he actually felt retarded. The two characters exchange cruel banter filled with derogatory terms toward people with intellectual disabilities and ends with Downey, Jr. telling Stiller to “never go full retard.” You can read the script HERE and watch parts of this scene on the trailer HERE. Shortly after this script leaked, t-shirts were found on the internet with the slogan, “Never Go Full Retard.” There are many more issues with the movie and those who have previewed it, such as representatives of the National Down Syndrome Congress say that after watching the film, they felt “assaulted” and it is actually worse than the internet activists have been able to show.
Timothy Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, wrote the most wonderful article in the Washington Post today. He describes the cruelty that is shown in our society toward people with intellectual disabilities. I was startled to learn that “Gallup found that more than 60 percent of Americans don’t want a person with an intellectual disability at their child’s school. ” We’ve come so far and I’m so happy we are not the society of 50 years ago, but in a society that aborts over 90% of prenatally diagnosed babies with Down syndrome it’s hard to say that we’ve arrived to the place of acceptance toward people with intellectual differences.
While freedom of speech is one of our greatest gifts, I am hoping that we as a society can make the word “retard” and the abuse of the word “retarded” taboo. I hope that we can teach our children that it is never ok to make fun of someone with intellectual disabilities, whether it is direct or indirect. I hope that we can choose to not do the “PC eyeroll” at people fighting the abuse of the words “mental retardation.” I hope that we will tell Hollywood what is funny and what is not funny. This is not about being “politically correct” this is about dignity and respect.
What am I doing about it?
Blogging about this has been a way for me to create awareness and vent my frustration about this film and the abuse of my daughter’s medical diagnosis of mental retardation.
Online forums and communities have also been an area I have been making a strong presence in. This has been a great way to get more up-to-date information and get ideas on how to make some changes. There is power in numbers!
Boycotting the film. While this may or may not keep a large number of people from seeing this film, it will keep those who love my daughter from watching it. For every 1 person who is interested in this film because of the negative attention it is receiving, I hope that 5 people will be turned off of the movie.
I am waiting to see what The ARC and my local Down Syndrome Association recommends regarding physically protesting at the movie theater. If I make a public appearance, I plan on having information handy (and will be calling our news station that did the interview again!)
Contacting every local news source has proven to be successful as well!
I expect a lot of people to think I’m being extreme, oversensitive, and time-wasting. However, most people that would think that don’t have a little girl who is going to come home from the playground someday crying because she was called a retard. Most people don’t have typical sons who are going to come home crying because someone called their sister a retard. Although, the name-calling that is bound to ensue my children’s future is the “best case scenario” for my kids. Most people are unaware at the cruel, hateful, violent, dangerous acts that are committed against people with intellectual differences all the time. According to The Arc’s Q&A on abuse of children with intellectual disabilities, the statistics are that children with intellectual disabilites are 4-10 times more likely than non-disabled peers to be victims of crime and twice as likely to be victims of physically and sexual abuse.
The bottom line is this. My beautiful daughter, Darah who has an intellectual disability IS NOT a “retard.” That word has no place in any of our vocabulary, and Hollywood needs to understand that while my daughter does not yet have a voice to stand up for herself, she has a Mamma! And this Mamma is not going to sit back and allow her baby girl to be the butt of the joke!
I like to watch a lot of t.v. (no shock there). Some of my favorite television shows are about families, so I get to see a lot of unique mother-child relationships play out. And though you may think of Donna Reed or Marion Cunningham when you think “t.v. mom”, I have no Nick-at-Nite classics on my list. Go figure.
My favorite four t.v. moms, in no particular order:
Elyse Keaton, Family Ties (played by Meredith Baxter-Birney). I grew up with the Keatons, and I loved Michael J. Fox as much as the next girl. Looking back at clips of it now, I am taken aback at how simple and low-key it was – yet it still makes me laugh. The show was consistently funny and well-made. You just don’t see them on t.v. like this anymore. Anyway, Elyse Keaton is a normal working mom, with wit, a sense of responsibility, and an easy relatability with all of her kids. I like Elyse because she’s just so normal, which is refreshing in an ironic sort of way. Here’s the first bit of the show’s pilot episode, dating all the way back to 1982. I was six!
Norma Arnold, The Wonder Years (played by Alley Mills). Another show that I grew up with, The Wonder Years is an all-time classic. Norma was a great, compassionate mom. Most of the time, we saw her making dinner for the family, trying to keep the peace between Kevin & Wayne (her two sons), or between Karen & Jack (her somewhat rebellious daughter and her hardworking husband). Every now and then, an episode would focus on her, which gave us a new perspective of who she was. I distantly recall that she enjoyed sneaking away every now and then just to do something for herself, like take a pottery class. We often saw the family overlook her or take her for granted. I like Norma because she is the classic American housewife who only occasionally reveals subtle layers of wistfulness and frustration. Here’s a clip from an episode when Norma took a job as a secretary at Kevin’s school. Lots of great stuff in this, what the show did best, in fact: highlight Kevin’s selfish tendencies and teach him important lessons about the people in his life.
Tami Taylor, Friday Night Lights (played by Connie Britton). I wrote about this great mom character a couple of months ago, and my opinion of her has not changed; therefore, she gets a spot on the list. Season two added another baby to Tami’s busy world; it was refreshing to see such a realistic portrayal of a stressed-out mom. Summer is a great time to check this show out on nbc.com; it needs more viewers!
Lorelai Gilmore, Gilmore Girls (played by Lauren Graham). No modern t.v. mom list would be complete without Lorelai. The greatest thing about her is not her excellent wardrobe, her quick-wittedness, or even the way she cares for her daughter Rory. What Lorelai’s character does best is show us that she makes mistakes. A lot of them. There have been lots of times I wanted to shout at Lorelai through the t.v. screen, saying, “Be honest, you fool!” or “Stop acting like such a baby!” It’s a good thing the writers made her as flawed as she was, or she’d be a completely unrealistic mom character, in my opinion. No mom is that pretty and cool, no matter how hard they try, but it’s probably safe to say there are plenty of immature, self-centered moms gracing our fallen world. Despite her frequent bouts of immaturity, though, wouldn’t we all want to get some coffee with her at Luke’s? I’d love to see if I could keep up with her in one of those quick, back & forth conversations she seems to have with everyone. I like watching Lorelai because she’s just plain entertaining.
I am a big fan of Friends. One of the things that the writers of this classic sitcom did so well, in my opinion, was make Monica’s relationship with her mother into a problem that a lot of us face: hopelessly trying to please a critical parent. Because it was tv, Friends was able to milk a lot of jokes from this relationship that at times appeared a little exaggerated (there were a couple of hilarious jokes over the years where Judy Geller seemed to even forget she had a daughter!) For some of us, sometimes those situations resonated all too easily.
I thought it’d be fun to learn from Monica and her mother’s experiences, so I present to you my
Five Easy Steps To Avoid Becoming Monica’s Mom
1. Compliment your child on their efforts, even if you’d rather nitpick. In “The One With the Sonogram at the End”, Jack and Judy come over for dinner with Monica & Ross, and Mom is quick to judge that the spaghetti Monica is serving is “easy“, making it clear that she’s disappointed while pointedly fluffing Monica’s couch pillows. We all know how it feels to be Monica here: frantic that guests are coming over (especially her hyper-critical mom) and working hard to make everything as nice as possible. Mrs. Geller should have said, “Thank you for having us. Spaghetti’s great. I’m just glad to spend time with you.” Children will never get tired of hearing how much they and their efforts are valued in their parents’ eyes.
2. Love each child in your family equally. It was a running gag in the world of Friends that Mr. & Mrs. Geller favored Ross over Monica. Some classic bits: “I just wish Nana was here to hear Ross’s toast” – right after Monica gave her horribly inappropriate one at the Gellers’ anniversary party, and “We turned Monica’s room into a gym.” Let’s not forget that all of Monica’s childhood mementos were ruined in the Gellers’ garage when they used her boxes to stop a flood. Of course, this is pure comedy, but when parents show favoritism, even in the subtlest of ways, children notice. It’s more than making sure each kid has an equal amount of ice cream; we need to invest equal amounts of energy in each of our children’s varying interests. (If you happen to have made this mistake already in the lives of your kids, just follow Jack’s lead and give the less-favored child your Porsche. It seemed to make all of Monica’s issues disappear! )
3. Understand that these kinds of negative traits are passed on from generation to generation. In “The One Where Nana Dies Twice”, Judy confided to Monica that she was frustrated by her own mother’s critical nature. Of course, she remained oblivious to her constant harping on Monica. How many times have we heard her drop a comment that Monica’s hairstyle is unflattering, or that her singleness was a terrible thing? The good news is, the pattern of passing down these traits can be stopped! All it takes is some self-awareness and a desire to change, along with a lot of hard work.
I know this from personal experience. As a minor example, last fall, I realized that I was a little obsessive about my daughter Lucy’s hair when we went to public places. If I was unable to fix it in any cute way, I’d make some comment to other people like, “Look at her crazy hair.” As though her toddler hairstyle was a reflection on my parenting skills or something, and as though Lucy had any control over it. When I caught myself doing that, I realized I was emphasizing her appearance more than her value as a person, and I made a point to stop worrying about it. I mean, who cares? Now, her hair looks precious all the time and no one says anything about that either.
4. Don’t spend your daughter’s wedding fund on a beach house! Especially if she knows about it and she’s counting on it. ‘Nuff said.
5. Never, under any circumstances, bring up old embarrassing stories in front of your adult childrens’ friends. This one applies to Ross. In “The One With the Cake”, the Gellers bring to everyone’s attention something that Ross did as a toddler. It’s so completely mortifying that I am choosing not to repeat it here. Ross, however, handles it like a pro. After all, he’s the one who still refers to Judy as “Mommy” in public, so I don’t think he embarrasses all that easily.
To be fair, I love the character of Judy Geller. Here are a couple of things about her that I find endearing:
She’s very affectionate, supportive, and frisky with her husband. Of course, this can sometimes seem kinda disgusting, since we see them from Ross & Monica’s point of view. But it’s sweet all the same. I mean, 35 years together! They’re adorable.
She’s totally blunt and hilariously scathing when she speaks to people. One of my favorite episodes is “The One Where Ross Gets High” (aka “The Thanksgiving When Rachel Screwed Up the Trifle”). The Gellers are there to experience Rachel’s botched cooking experiment, as well as witness a fantastic blowout between Monica and Ross. Judy gets to deliver my favorite monologue from the show: “That’s a lot of information to get in 30 seconds… Joey, if you wanna leave, just leave. Rachel, no you weren’t supposed to put beef in the trifle. It. Did. Not. Taste. Good. Phoebe, I’m sorry, but I think Jacques Cousteau is dead. Monica, why you felt you had to hide the fact that you’re in an important relationship is beyond me. Ross, drugs? Divorced, again? Chandler, you’ve been Ross’s best friend all these years, stuck by him during the drug problems, and now you’ve taken on Monica as well. Well, I don’t know what to say. You’re a wonderful human being.” Her delivery is awesome.
What fun memories do you have from Friends? Did you ever find yourself relating to Monica’s relationship with her mother? Have you heard the news that “our little Har-Monica” is going to be on three episodes of Scrubs in the fall?