Category Archives: Sharing Stories

Parents Who Shrouded 9/11: Is It Time to Lift the Veil?

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was standing in our hallway bathroom, staring at a wall, when the phone rang.  It probably took me a few rings to snap out of my trance—after all, bathroom remodeling is serious business.  But after I answered the phone, deciding on paint color and tile didn’t seem so important anymore.  It was Andy calling from work, telling me to turn on the TV and see the events unfolding over 1,500 miles away.  I put down my tape measure and watched in horror.  It was so unbelievable, at times I felt as if I was watching a twisted episode of Batman where the villains were winning,  in an over-the-top, diabolical way, using only a few people and a few box cutters.  The atrocities kept happening, and somewhere, you just knew that a villain was smiling some sick grin and probably throwing his head back, laughing like The Joker. This is not supposed to be happening for real, I thought.  This can’t be happening to America.  I wanted to wail.  I wanted to scream.  But there in the next room, my 2 ½-year old toddler was dancing happily in a pink tutu.  And down the street at the elementary school, I had a six-year-old starting her third week of first grade. I knew, based on past experience, that any strong outpouring of emotion by me would scare both of them, and they wouldn’t understand why, or if they did, they might feel wrongly that they were in eminent danger.  And so, I made the decision pretty quickly that as a mom protecting her kids, I would not act like the events of the day were a big deal.  I would stifle my emotions.  I told Emmie I was watching “some very important news” while she danced in circles, round and round to the soundtrack from The Big Comfy Couch (a former PBS show).  Sirens were wailing on the TV in front of me as I heard Emmie singing at the same time: “Ya gotta stop! Don’t go! Wait ‘til the green light says so-oh…” As the hours wore on, I was even more determined that no terrorist was going to affect any more lives than he already had…Emmie and I ran errands together, ate lunch…I remember actually being annoyed that some stores, such as The Container Store, were closed for the day. I was determined to keep moving for the sake of my kids and my country, and I didn’t understand why everyone else wasn’t doing the same.  We need to be like Whoville, I thought.  The Grinch did NOT steal Christmas!!!

I felt helpless to do anything else. How could I possibly make a difference? I wasn’t going to enlist in the Army, as many were inspired to do, or get on the next plane to New York.  I felt that I needed to be at home, being a mother to my kids.  We gave a donation to the Red Cross and the star-studded telethon. We attended a 9/11 memorial church service with Allison and prayed.  We did tell her about the events in basic, simple terms and allowed her to see a bit of the footage on TV.  But we didn’t dwell on it much more than that.

Ten years later, we still haven’t.  Out of my strong desire to shield my kids from needless stress and worry, I pretty much swept 9/11 under the rug.  But lately I’ve been wondering if that was such a healthy thing to do, for me and for them.  I mean, it’s not good to stifle emotions, right?  But once they got old enough to where my emotions wouldn’t scare them, seeing Mom crying about anything became a source of humor for one of them, and embarrassment for the other. (I have managed to steal a few 9/11 cries over the years in private, like this morning as I watched on TV as a 12-year-old girl remembered her mother, a fallen NYPD officer who died in the south tower…)

For sure, keeping quiet about 9/11 for so long definitely doesn’t help our kids’ history knowledge, which Andy and I are usually big on enhancing.  Surprisingly, their school classes have been pretty quiet about it as well.   

Andy and I discussed recently about possibly showing the girls a documentary or movie to mark the 10th anniversary. A Google search and IMDB.com revealed a larger selection of choices than I expected.  Flight 93, a made-for-TV movie, might be good.  It focuses on heroism and doesn’t contain the foul language of its big screen counterpart, United 93. But, according to reviews, it’s still extremely tense and sad.  “I know I don’t want to see that,” said Andy.  There’s World Trade Center directed by Oliver Stone (got horrible reviews) and DC 9/11, a view of the tragedy from inside the Bush administration (a bit slanted).  A good choice looks like “9/11”, a documentary first aired on CBS, which uses hand-held footage taken by two French brothers who were already near the twin towers, working on a documentary about a fireman, when 9/11 unfolded.  It won two primetime Emmys and gets high praise for its avoidance of sensationalism.  So, maybe we will add that to our Netflix queue.  In the meantime, it looks like there are a lot of news specials on TV tonight that also sound good—CNN’s  “Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11”, CBS’ “9/11: Ten Years Later” which uses footage from “9/11” and is again narrated by Robert DeNiro; and “CNN Presents: Footnotes of 9/11”, which focuses on eight ordinary people who were footnotes in the 9/11 Commission Report, such as a man at the airline ticket counter who checked in two of the hijackers. 

Ten years ago, shielding my kids was probably the right thing to do. Experts lately are saying that children who viewed nonstop images of 9/11 in the days after the events showed signs of post traumatic stress syndrome.  But now, I think it’s okay to show them more, at least older kids (mine are almost 13 and 17).  Allison says she’s fascinated by what little she’s already seen.   And both Allison and Emmie had lots of questions when Osama Bin Laden was killed recently, since they knew it was a “big deal”.  Now they can see for themselves just how big.

When Your Child’s Email Gets Hacked: My Look Into the Evil World of Spamming


I guess our first clue should have been when our preteen daughter, Emmie, couldn’t get into her email account a few weeks ago– she said it wouldn’t let her in, and she figured that maybe she’d forgotten her password, even though it was the only one she ever used, and it always popped up automatically from our home computer, anyway.  (Her email service says that’s a sign that the account might have been compromised.)  But unknowing doofus parents that we are, we just went on about our business as she answered the security questions and reset her password (she chose to “change” it to the same one as before).  Then yesterday morning, suspicious emails, with blank “subject” lines, started arriving from her address, several every few minutes, into my inbox and into everyone else’s in her address book.  They contained a link to a “pharmaceutical” website, a site that contained descriptions of just how their products would help male enhancement and performance.  It’s bad enough we all get bombarded with those ads on radio and TV, but now kids are being specifically targeted for that message as well?

“How do they know it’s a kid’s account?” Andy asked me after I phoned him. I was mad and needed to vent. I think they have a pretty good idea, I told him.  I’d found out, after doing a bit of Internet research, that spammers often get into email accounts because many people use the same password for all their online accounts, and the spammers simply find a not-so-secure website where the person has entered their email address and password, and they figure that same password is good for that person’s private email inbox. Which had been the case with Emmie, and probably so for a lot of kids.  Which means that, based on her Internet presence, that spammers troll everywhere, even kid websites like Neopets, Webkinz, American Girl…and that’s just sick. 

You are probably wondering, as I did, why pharmaceutical spammers would want kids to find their website, since it’s doubtful a kid is going to beg Santa Claus for some Viagra. Why waste time going after kids? Well, it’s simply a matter of clicks– the more clicks their site gets, the more that spammers make money. (Even exiting out of an unwanted spam pop-up earns those spam vermin some cashl!)  And unsuspecting kids might just be the “perfect” audience to give their site a lot of traffic, especially those kids who get the giggles every time they see the word “penis” in print.  A 2008 study done by the University of California-Berkeley and UCSD showed that even at an average rate of only one response for every 12.5 million spam emails sent, spammers turn a nice profit.  For one large spam network, it was to the tune of $7,000 per day, over $2 million per year. 

Emmie was definitely upset when she arrived home, bleary-eyed and tired after a sleepover, to find out what had happened.  By that time, I’d emailed everyone to whom the messages had been sent to tell them not to open up any emails from her. Her mouth dropped open in horror every time she realized just who might have received the spam, as she remembered who was on her address list– “My teachers from last year?” she asked.  Yes.  “All my camp friends?” Yes.  “The gymnastics coaches?” Yes. And yes to the email addresses of music instructors, relatives, even some of her friends’ parents.  The more upset she got, the more upset I got on the inside, and the more I wanted to go after the jerks who did this.  I called up Andy again.  “I want to find out who did this, and I want to press charges!” I told him.  After signing in to Emmie’s email account, he found a list of the origins of the last 10 sign-ons, and called me back. “Well, I guess you’re going to have to send that lawyer to Azerbaijan, Turkey, Chile, and Poland,” he said.  Because someone, or someone’s computer, from each of those countries had gotten into her account that morning– one at 5:12 a.m., the next at 8 a.m., another at 9:43 a.m. and the latest at 12:06 p.m.  Creepy, isn’t it? He felt it was futile to do anything except make her account more secure (email providers usually offer how-to’s), but he underestimates the lengths moms will go to when someone messes with their children.

A few Google searches and a little more reading and I came upon a website called The Spamhaus Project. The Spamhaus Project is an international nonprofit organization whose mission includes tracking the Internet’s spam operations and sources, working with law enforcement agencies to identify and pursue spam gangs worldwide, and to lobby governments for effective anti-spam legislation. It maintains a Register Of Known Spam Operations, or ROKSO, collecting information on “known professional spam operations that have been terminated by a minimum of 3 Internet Service Providers for spam offenses.”  The list is long, but represents a group of about 100 “spam gangs” that put out 80% of the spam we receive at any given time, most operating illegally and moving from ISP to ISP. It didn’t take long to find the name of the website to which all of Emmie’s spam emails had directed her friends–though each email housed a different address/link, they all led to one place:  “A long time running pharmacy spam operation. They send tens of millions of spams per day using botnet techniques. Probably based in Eastern Europe, Ukraine/Russia. Host spammed web sites on botnets and on bulletproof Chinese web hosting”.  Just as I was thinking it really was futile to bring charges against someone sitting several continents away, I decided to click on a ROKSO feature labeled “Contact info.” And there in black and white were the street addresses of the spam pharmaceutical company’s three “known” offices: one in Canada; their “warehouse” in India; and their “U.S. branch office”, located in… Austin, TEXAS. Yee-HAH! (Now I may not be proud of some things in Texas, but prosecuting criminals is something Texas does really well, so at that moment, I couldn’t have been happier to live where I do– even in this nonstop triple-digit heat…)  I double-checked Spamhaus’ address information with what was listed at the pharma website and it matched. 

SO- to make a long story shorter, I checked with the Texas Attorney General’s website (yes, spamming is illegal in our state, not to mention selling prescription drugs on the black market), and I called their Austin office, and was encouraged to file a consumer complaint– it’s easy to do and the form is online (see below for links). Maybe if enough angry parents complain, spammers will be put out of business, or at least put out of state. (Various state attorney generals have had success in prosecuting spammers.) The TAG’s office also encouraged me to phone the Austin police non-emergency line, who gave me a national link where people in any state can file a complaint against spammers (see below). I’m also thinking about a call or email to the Austin Better Business Bureau, and an email to the FTC (they take spam complaints at 
www.ftc.gov).

A ridiculous waste of time, you may be thinking? Just get used to spam? Ah, but think again. Where one crime is being committed, usually others are, or will be, as well. Not only do website spammers often branch out into identity theft and fraud schemes (like bilking senior citizens), they’ve been known to be pedophiles and child pornographers as well. As responsible
citizens, we’ve got to treat any Internet crime just like we’d treat a hit-and-run or an assault, and report it, especially when it happens to our children.
———————————————————————

Texas Attorney General consumer complaint form:
https://www.oag.state.tx.us/forms/cpd/form.php

Internet Crime Complaint Center (run by FBI, National White Collar Crimes Center) http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx

The Register Of Known Spam Operations: http://www.spamhaus.org/rokso/index.lasso

A Bang-Up Time at Westminster Abbey

What an experience it was. As I sat in my seat at Westminster Abbey, I almost pinched myself. I can’t believe I’m sitting here. I knew I’d probably be sitting there for awhile, so I tried to drink it all in and memorize every detail…the soaring architecture, the sculptures, the paintings.  Was that Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, sitting next to me? No, turns out it was a young advertising exec from north of London that looked very much like her—but she was friendly, and we struck up a conversation. I wondered where my husband was sitting and wondered if we would be able to find each other when this was all over…we’d gotten separated when I took too long staring at Elizabeth…

No, I didn’t get to attend the latest Royal Wedding, but watching the news and seeing them inside Westminster Abbey reminded me of the last (and only) time I was there. Yes, right there, sitting in the spot where…hmmm, was it the place where Elton John sat on Friday or Posh Spice? Not sure.  Maybe they felt my leftover vibes.  If they did, they were a bit frightened vibes.  You see, I was once required to sit for awhile inside Westminster Abbey due to a bomb threat.

In the summer of 1993, Andy and I, married one year and not yet parents (by the way, today is our 19th anniversary), decided to take a trip to England to visit my sister, who’s lived there since the late 80’s with her husband and son.  We’d spent a few days in my sister’s town of Chester and were wrapping up our trip with a whirlwind three days in London, trying to pack in as much as we could see, in case we were never fortunate enough to be able to return.  If I remember correctly, on our last day there, we’d visited The Tower of London, Parliament, the Churchill War Rooms, snapped a photo of Big Ben and finished up the afternoon by walking to Westminster Abbey.  I’d studied up on British history on the plane ride over and was fascinated with all the people who were buried inside there—yep, did you know that Kate and William’s guests also included hundreds of famous dead people?  Just about every historic church in England is also a sort of “mausoleum”, and Westminster Abbey is no exception.  Sir Isaac Newton is inside there, and so is Charles Dickens.  George Frederic Handel’s final resting place was Westminster Abbey and Queen Elizabeth I’s tomb (along with her sister, Mary) is in a far corner. It was there I lingered awhile, marveling at its black and gold artistry and remembering facts about the Red Queen, a daughter of Henry VIII. It was almost closing time, and Andy, who was ready to leave, said, “I’ll meet you outside the front doors in 15 minutes.”  After 15 minutes, I was still in the Elizabeth corner and realized I needed to practically bolt out of there in order to make my way across the broad expanse of marble floor and out the door in order to not be too late.  But as I approached the doors, I was told, like masses of other people, that we could not leave, that a possible bomb had been found outside, and that the doors would be closed until further notice. Yikes! Where was Andy? And how were we ever going to make it to our next stop on time, a planned pub tour south of the Thames? So it was that I began my “sit-a-thon” with the Fergie look-alike (unfortunately, they didn’t let us spend our time looking around the Abbey some more). Since this occurred before the age of cell phones, I definitely had something to sit there and worry about, in terms of finding Andy when it was all over. Was he even outside, and would he be moved several blocks away? (Yes, in fact, to both questions.)  Would those of us inside be let out the doors where he and I were originally going to meet? (No, in fact, we weren’t— after what I remember to be about an hour, we were ushered out a different set of doors, not exactly close to the other ones.)  What if the bomb went off anyway? (It didn’t, but if it had, I reasoned, it would be a grand place to die, with some pretty famous company to boot). 

Upon exiting, I headed to our planned meet-up spot and after waiting a few minutes, finally spotted my husband.  We left Westminster Abbey, happy to have found each other and that our “adventure” there was over—similar to William and Kate’s sentiments a few days ago! Only they left in a horse-drawn carriage for an 8-tiered cake at the palace, and we left on foot for a “shandy” (ahem, that would be beer mixed with 7-Up) at The George Inn.

Updates

Time for an update on previous blog posts, especially in light of the “archived” post just published on Mamapedia:

      Emmie has decided to play an instrument in 6th grade band…and the instrument is…drumroll please (how appropriate)…drums! Well, actually “percussion”.  Which means xylophone, several different kinds of drums, tambourine, castanets, gong, washboards… —anything to fill out that “wall of sound”.  Our exchange student may want to run and hide with all the instruments being played in our house! Actually, the only part of percussion that Emmie has played at home so far is a practice drum, which is like a thick rubber pad on legs, so not too bad on the noise…although it does get on big sister’s nerves sometimes when Emmie chooses to practice right in the center of the house…where the sound carries pretty well!

     Speaking of our pending French exchange student, the AFS home visit went well.  We all imagined that a stuffy older lady with a clipboard (a la Gladys Kravitz from “Bewitched”) was going to be showing up—but it wasn’t like that at all. Our visitor was a very friendly volunteer and fellow mom dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, whose family has hosted many exchange students.  She put us all at ease immediately and was a wealth of information and great suggestions.  I was so glad she asked the entire family to sit down and talk, after she checked out where the student would be sleeping, studying, etc.  Again, another rare opportunity for a family “check-up” and to hear our daughters get in on the Q and A.  The best line of the whole night was when the AFS volunteer was talking to us about how learning U.S. history in school would probably be new to the student, to which Emmie was amazed.  “Well, think about it,” said the volunteer.  “What do you know about French history?” Andy mentioned something about Napoleon, after which Emmie’s face brightened and she blurted out proudly, “I know all about Napoleon! I learned about him in that movie, ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’!” (I was very glad at that moment that Gladys Kravitz was not our volunteer!)

                        b&teanapoleon2.jpg (48371 bytes)               b&teadudesbw.jpg (29654 bytes)
 

Elsewhere in updates:  I didn’t win a spot on Nickelodeon’s Parents Picks national nominations list this year…but it’s no big deal, I barely even voted for myself or did much promotion.  They made it harder for people to vote this time and I didn’t want to push for readers to have to “sign up to become a member” in order to do so (not all my readers are parents), so…I will just have to rest on my 2009 laurels for now!

 

My Betty White Dodge ‘aravan’ is still hanging in there—no AC screeching at present, but since I last wrote, one of its shocks came loose while I was driving Allison to a theatre rehearsal last month and it started dragging on the ground (I think it rivaled the AC screeching in its intensity), so we had to pull into a nearby neighborhood and wait for Captain Car to rescue us. Which Andy did, and I drove Allison to the Granville Arts Centre in his car, while he worked under mine in front of a total stranger’s house. (Luckily it was a neighborhood where lots of people probably work on their own cars, so it was no big deal!   Andy also recently learned, from the Internet, how to fix car ceilings and took the entire ceiling “shell” out, bought new fabric, re-covered it, and replaced it.  So no more billowing fabric.  (Just in time for the start of school…)

 

Which brings me to my last update.  Allison’s high school drill team started practices this week, and she has been on time (and early) for everything so far (Yippee!).  Today is photo day, and she wore the uniform for the first time.  I cried when I saw her in it. It hit me like a ton of bricks, after she’s been watching the team and dreaming about being on it almost her whole life, to see her now as an official member.  I hope I’m not a blathering emotional idiot when they’re out on the football field this fall…maybe I should just take a paper sack to put over my head…I’ll be the “Unknown Mom” then…with a hole cut in the front for my camera, of course!

Scenes From A School Talent Show

Just like a 4th of July Parade or apple pie, nothing is more “slice of Americana” than an elementary school talent show, eh? Kids in egg costumes singing a hard rock/rap version of Humpty Dumpty; a boy on piano plinking out “Axel F”; teachers tap dancing; three sisters in red lipstick singing The Star Spangled Banner…Last weekend, Andy and I coordinated the mechanics of our elementary school’s talent show for the first time.  Though it’s a small school with less than 250 kids, the talent show is a big annual production (some would say it’s unnecessarily “over the top”), held at a local high school auditorium, complete with tech crew, music, lights, microphones, fog machine, scared kids, bold kids, “stage parents”, pint-sized divas, and this year, lots of props.  While I completely understand the “over the top” comments, I also think it’s a unique arts opportunity offered by our school’s PTA, giving young kids the chance to perform on a big stage– some kids who may never have the chance otherwise, or who may never do so again.  This year’s show went well and was a big success, but, well, read on…


This year’s theme was “television”, and the show was titled, “Don’t Touch That Dial!”  While it’s hard to see a connection with TV from the acts I mentioned above, believe me, if it wasn’t obvious, I somehow found a way, in the emcees’ script that I wrote, to tie each act to TV (who knew “Axel F” has been played on numerous TV shows, like The Simpsons? Thank you, Wikipedia…) But we did have a lot of obvious TV-related participants—one mom dressed up like Richard Simmons and led a group of kindergarteners as they “sweated” to the Oldies; there was a giant bottle, a bunch of tiny Jeannies and mini Major Nelsons in a 3rd grade “I Dream of Jeannie” dance act; and Hee Haw even made a comeback…twice! Never mind that the kids (and some of the parents) probably hadn’t ever seen half the TV shows parodied, or even knew what the “Dial” was in the show’s title…but at least some of the parents and most of the grandparent-filled audience knew…


Andy and I had hoped that maybe this year there would be no drama involved in bringing this show to life…but, hey, it’s a talent show, and I guess drama just naturally comes with it…
        First, people complained about the fact that we’d moved the date to February, since in the past it had been in late March, early April, or even May. But in the past, people had complained about those dates as well (“There’s too much going on in the spring!”) so we thought we’d try something different.  Then, a mom who was choreographing a large group act but whose son doesn’t attend our school any more, called to see if he could be in the act.  “He wants to be with all his friends,” she said.  I said yes, and she was happy (this was someone who’d done a lot for the show over the years and I figured she’d earned that privilege.)  But our principal said no, and I had to call the mom to break the news.  She was on a ladder putting up Christmas decorations at the time and having fun with her kids.  Not the greatest time for me to play Scrooge.  Then, 7 weeks before the show, we realized we were short on acts, so we sent out a plea on the last day of school before the holiday break to see if anyone else wanted to participate.  We got six more acts, including a Michael Jackson impersonator.  Well, pseudo Jacko ended up dropping out (he was only in second grade, so maybe we’ll see him next year), leaving us with about 23 acts, but we decided that was enough, and boldly forged ahead.


By mid-January, things were starting to come together.  Most of the acts had turned in their registration forms and backing music. A parent volunteer was planning out the set design. The 6th grade class, who all take turns in pairs being the emcees and who have two big dance numbers every year, were practicing every week with a parent volunteer choreographer, who just happened to be a former drill team member. She was working wonders with those kids who seemed to have two left feet.  I’d finished the script, and Andy was working with the student emcees on learning their lines.  Were we in the clear? Was it now smooth sailing ahead?


My phone rang late one afternoon as I was fixing dinner.  It was a 6th grade dad who was very excited about an idea he’d been thinking about “ever since the show’s theme was announced!” He wanted to build a giant remote control, with buttons and lights that turned on, and it would be, as he put it, his last hurrah at the school, since his 6th grader was his youngest child and would be going to jr. high next year. He wanted to craft it out of a yoga mat, so it would be like a sandwich board that could hang on someone, but at the same time, it could be taken off and used as a giant prop, and… My head was spinning.  ‘HUH? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?’ I was thinking, but what I said instead was, “Hmmm…interesting. Go on.”  He had all these ideas for how the remote could be used by the emcees, how they could get in a fight over the remote and hit each other with it, it could “run away” and they could chase it, he himself could ride his bike across stage at the end of the show, dragging it behind him…I calmly explained to him that the script was done, that we were three weeks away from showtime, that we had an art director who was already working on set decoration, and that the emcees were already memorizing their lines.  He was stunned. “Wow,” he said, “The script is done already?” Well, yes, I explained, when the kids practice only once a week, that doesn’t give them much time to learn their lines together….


I could tell he was bummed, and he had so much enthusiasm for this project, that I tried to figure out a way to make it work.  Which was tough, because the “thing” wasn’t even built yet.  “Well, at the very least,” I reasoned, “you said it would make a good prop just to sit on stage, right? And you said you could always wear it for Halloween, right? So go ahead and make it, and we’ll see.  But, you have to bring it to a rehearsal soon so we can work with it and the kids together.  You can’t spring it on them at the last minute.”  I also thought, maybe he won’t be able to finish it because it seemed so complicated, and then I won’t have to deal with it at all.  What kind of hair-brained idea is it, anyway, to make a giant remote control out of a yoga mat?!


One week went by and no word from Mr. 6th Grade Dad. Two weeks went by.  At around this time, the choreographer’s father passed away and practices had to be re-arranged. Then three weeks passed and still no sign of the giant remote, so I figured either it just didn’t work out, or he didn’t have the time…


On the night before the show, dress rehearsal is in full swing when I catch a glimpse of Mr. Dad, carrying his contraption under one arm and attempting to get someone to listen to him.  He tries to get my attention, but I’m scurrying around trying to make sure all the acts are where they need to be, and I don’t have time to deal with him.  He looks dejected.  One of the parents tells me, “Well, it is a pretty cool remote control…”  From what I could see, it wasn’t made out of a yoga mat after all, more like black painted foam core, and it really did have a working red light, and lots of buttons…and it wasn’t a costume, just a 5-ft. long prop.  (Meanwhile, Allison calls on my cell phone to tell me that she is stranded at home and can’t get a ride to her high school, where she’s due in costume any minute for their production of “Fiddler on the Roof”, and I make frantic phone calls trying to arrange a ride for her…Me: “Allison, I got you a ride, be looking for Mrs. M’s tan SUV in ten minutes!  There’s too much fog onstage and the Addams Family act can’t see! No Allison, I’m not talking to you.  Break a leg! Bye! CUT THE FOG!!”) At the end of dress rehearsal, I find Mr. Dad sitting on a table backstage, and feel bad that I’d ignored him.  Why do I keep feeling sorry for this guy? I take pity on him and say, at the risk of hurting the integrity of the entire show (and what little I have left personally), “Okay, I’ll make a deal with you about your remote.  We have some places in the show where it’s taking awhile to get props on and off the stage.  And we also have a couple places where we don’t have emcees.  So, if you can work with your son and his friends tomorrow during the day, on some of your ideas, we can put it in the show.”  He lights up (just like his remote).  I show him, on the “Order of Acts” sheet, exactly where we can fit it in, including right at the start of the show.   
    “I’ll call the boys and see what I can do!” he promises.


The next night, ten minutes after the show was to begin, I’m standing in a backstage room with my clipboard and headset, not believing what I am experiencing—everyone is waiting to get started– the audience, Andy at the sound board, the tech crew, the props movers, the spotlight operator, the acts …all because…the back had fallen off The Remote.  Mr. Dad is in front of me, the giant remote lying prone on a desk, wires popping out, and he’s frantically trying to get the back in place with the help of a mom with a box cutter, and narrow electrical tape. The people in my earphones are getting antsy.  Finally, he walks onstage, just him and his giant remote control in the spotlight…


It was actually a pretty good opening…he pondered out loud about what might be on TV tonight, and aimed the large remote at the stage curtains, and the show began.  Even though he and his “actors” missed most of their cues and only made it back onstage a few more times, he was thrilled.  He got his last hurrah, we got a sort of-pretty-good prop and sight gag for the show, and I reminded myself, once again, just how much my life is like the sitcoms that the kids were singing about up on stage.