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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yeah! Some Pictures!

The producers took kids to this room in groups of six and sat them in front of the wall hanging you see behind Jack. They asked the kids general questions about themselves and their interests.

Here is Jack sitting next to four lovely girls who may be on their way to tv stardom and starlettehood. Lucky guy.

Here's the group of six that Jack was a part of. The kid to Jack's immediate right apparently came across memorably. Bruce says he thinks Yellow Shirt Kid will make it.

Here is Jack in what I suppose is the "holding room" (*Moo*). The tv is showing reruns of the "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grade?". Host Jeff Foxworthy is in the background.
My gut instinct at this point is that Jack probably won't be picked. When I see him, tall, skinny, and with an "Alaskan tan", looking more 15 than 5th grade, next to those round-cheeked tan cherubs that look like second graders, reality sets in. So far, all the kids I've ever seen on the show have looked like the latter.
But that's okay. It certainly is a grand adventure!


My stomach is in knots.

So, Jack's interview is over. It went well, but we may not know anything for a couple more days.

In the end, there were 25 kids at the auditions this morning. Ten of the kids were boys. Most of those kids were like Jack, sent by local FOX affiliates from various parts of the country. The remaining kids were sent by casting agents.

Though I'm not sure this was explicitly stated, Bruce had a strong impression that the five kids for next season's "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" were going to be pulled from this particular group.

The first thing the producers did after everyone had arrived, was to do short video snippets of each kid to be sent to respective local FOX affiliates for this own marketing/promotion. This was done in the "holding room" (*Moo*).

Then, the kids were broken into groups of six, and each group was taken to a separate room with their parents to a separate room for more personalized interviews.

Jack was in the first group which consisted of three girls and three boys. Bruce was impressed with one of the boys, named Zach, in Jack's group. The kids were seated together in front of a backdrop that was probably of the show's logo. The kids were asked a little bit about themselves. The kids took turns telling jokes; Zach sang a song (I'm told he has a great voice).

Bruce said Jack did great, did exactly what we have been coaching him to do: be himself and have fun.

So, now they're done. We just wait for a fateful phone call while life goes on. Bruce and Jack are headed to the LA zoo for the rest of the afternoon.

CBS Television City

Here is where Jack and Bruce are at this moment.

8:27am (9:27am L.A. Time)

The current update:

They are in a smallish room; about 40 chairs set up. Eight kids so far; three of which are boys.

There is a big screen tv in the room, and one of the moms (a professional stage mom, perchance?) is "organizing" the kids. *Moo*

Bruce claims to be feeling "less nonplussed" than he felt while sitting in the parking lot.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lights.... Camera..... Product Endorsement

(Forgive the weird periods between paragraphs, but when I posted, the computer refused to recognize carriage returns.)
Here is a close-in shot of Jack being filmed for the FOX local news. Note the expression on his face. It is considering, serious, and altogether freaked out.
The staging for this event was very deliberate. Jack is miked, he is sitting facing the light. Ellie, Evan, Sabrina and I are sitting with him. In front of him is a DQ ice cream cake. Our friendly neighborhood FOX representative, Kathy, arranged it for him. That is Kathy's blond head in the foreground. She was the impromtu interviewer.
We all received a complimentary DQ lunch. (I'm not allowed to call it "Dairy Queen"; I was told "there are no Dairy Queens in Alaska"; it is most decidedly a "DQ".) After a brief "interview", we were instructed to eat our lunches and "pretend the camera isn't there".
We discovered that casual mealtime conversation can be profoundly stilted when a tv news camera is trained in. I'm afraid we will come across as rather uncommunicative and repressed. At least filming finished before Evan spilled his Coke all down his shirt, pants and the seat.
I have waited all my life for fame and fortune. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my 15 seconds of fame would be while masticating. *Moo*
For those of you who previously asked, or are only now beginning to wonder, if there is a way of getting a "recording" of the actual news story: yes. I have to order it from a local company that will secure a DVD.
My day is at a momentary lull. Bruce just left for the movies (Indiana Jones #4) with eight kids to celebrate Jack's birthday. Poor Bruce.
I'm here alone with Ellie and Evan. I have already done all the tasks that had to get done today. The house sure seems quiet.
But, on the dining room table are a pile of presents and a homemade cake (to which we can add the DQ ice cream cake if we're pinched).
In honor of their California adventure, Bruce upgraded our cell phone service so that we have unlimited text messaging. We got new phones as part of the new service agreement. Bruce immediately uploaded his own special ringtone.
Though his phone - all our phones, actually - has been ringing a lot this week, every time someone calls him, the phone chirps a happy reminder:
Don't worry
(do do do doo do)
About a thing
(do do do doo do)
Every littl' ting
Is gonna be alright

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

* Tick * Tick * Tick *

Even though my friend and neighbor, Lucy, accused me last night of being a "stage mom", I think I'm handling the stress pretty well.

However, today I almost lost my cool when the checkbook came up MIA. My husband, who in the last 24 hours a) left Jack's birthday present sitting out of the bedroom floor and b) last night forgot to let the dogs out "one last time" (resulting in 6:30am "quality-carpet-time" with my Bissell), redeemed himself by remembering the checkbook was in the pocket of Evan's Mickey Mouse backpack.

Of course, additional deep cleansing breaths were necessary when, upon paying bills using the recovered checkbook, I realized there wasn't enough money to pay all the bills. Darn.

Ah well. Money is the least of our worries.

Jack is being interviewed by the local FOX news station tomorrow morning at around 11:30am. They're filming back at the Dairy Queen, the proud sponsor of Jack's trip to California, and for his cooperation tomorrow he will receive additional payola in the form of a complimentary chicken strip basket. Ah, ya gotta love capitalism.

Then, as tomorrow also happens to be Jack's 10th birthday (a nice angle for FOX news to explore), he is having his birthday party: a bunch of friends to a movie, pizza, and them home to hang out.

A couple hours after that, Bruce and Jack head to the airport for their trip to L.A.

I found out the tryouts are from 10am to 1pm on Saturday the 28th. Only three hours. Wow. My speculation at this point is that this group of kids is but one small pond from a much bigger pool of possible candidates for the show. That probably should have been more obvious to me from the beginning, but this whole process is incredibly foreign. We're learning as we go.

What I loved was reading the following part of the directions to the studio:

When you arrive [at CBS Television City], please enter through the main gate at Gennessee Avenue. Your name will be on a list at the guard gate and they will direct you to the Artist’s Entrance at the East Studios. There will be plenty of parking available.

A Casting Associate will be waiting for you at the Artist’s Entrance and they will check you in. They will then take you to our holding area where you’ll be waiting to get your audition to be on
Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?

I love that: "Artist's Entrance". "Holding area". Sounds ominous. ("Moo.")

Anyway, that's all I know for now. I understand to the very depths of my soul that Jack being picked to be on the show is very, very slim. I'm not thinking about that. Nary a "what if?" But it is a grand adventure for a boy turning ten, that pivotal age encompassed in so much great coming-of-age literature.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Photos By Evan

Evan enjoys taking pictures. This is a collage of his "work" that we sent to Jack when he was at Boy Scout camp last week.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I am starting to come down from my adreneline rush.

Today was the final audition for "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?". Fortunately, Bruce had already returned from his dipnetting trip, so I didn't have to take all the kids.

Another 50 or so kids were going through a second round of auditions. By the time finals began at noon, the number of competitors had been whittled down to about 20.

Jack was first in line again for finals. As he succeeded through each of the next few rounds, my stomach got more and more jittery. Jack got more and more excited.

Kids were missing their questions and the number of finalists was shrinking. It was cool and cloudy outside, but most everyone stuck around watching things progress.

When it got down to about seven kids, we were gathered together and told that there would be one more round of questions. Then, assuming there would only be four or five kids left, the judges would then handpick one kid, the one that would go to Los Angeles to screen test-audition for the television show.

So, that last round of questions commenced. Again, Jack went first and got his question right. (Don't ask me what any of the questions were this time. I was so nervous I could barely think.) Three other kids (all girls) answered correctly as well.

It was down to four kids, and Jack was one of them. We could not rely on his intelligence anymore. Now it was a matter of screen presence and personality.

The judges deliberated for awhile, then gathered us all together for a pep-talk. The kids were congratulated for their bravery and intelligence. Then, they said, "And our winner is.... Jack."

I felt pretty faint. I'm sure my jaw dropped. Kinda went all numb. I had Jack call Bruce after the other contestants had left (they and their parents were all impressively gracious and congratulatory). I think Bruce didn't believe it at first, but then the judges started shouting "Go Jack! Go Jack!" and that probably convinced him.

So, Bruce (Jack's chaperone of choice; no, I'm not disappointed) and Jack will head south to LA on Friday. I think they'll just be there for the weekend (I imagine the days will be long and boring, and possibly hot). Then, on their way back north, they'll just disembark and Seattle, and I and the other three kids will rendezvous with him there.

That's all I know at the moment. I have a splitting headache.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Smarter Than Who?

I can’t resist blogging this.

An email we received earlier in the week informed us that auditions for the TV game show, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” would take place this weekend. They are looking for, well, fifth graders. The selection process began this morning in the Dairy Queen parking lot.

Well, as he is now a 5th grader, Jack qualifies. He is both smart and easy on the eyes, so I encouraged him to give it a go. After consulting with his cul-de-sac buddy, Hayden, Jack agreed. None of us has ever watched the show, though our neighbors have the board game, which we played once. It was a bomb. Bruce and I won the $1 million in one turn. Apparently, that means we are smarter than Jack.

Anyway, in order to participate, we had to sign-up inside the Dairy Queen. Sign-ups consisted of a list on a clipboard. We had to wait in the food-ordering line to get to the clipboard. So, for us, sign-ups consisted of putting Jack’s name down and then ordering five meals. It cost us $22. Jack was the tenth person to sign up.

There were maybe thirty or so kids auditioning this morning. I’m guessing that a number of kids who signed the list didn’t come to the actual auditions. We lined up according to the order in which we had originally signed up, so Jack went towards the beginning.

There was a panel of four “judges” sitting together under a tent, and in a separate tent, far enough away to not be intimidating, was a television camera.

There were three rounds of questions. Between rounds, we ate French fries and read our books. No one else was reading books. Honestly, not a single parent, 5th grader, or sibling. Jack was working on Charlie Bone number three, I was reading “Dreamers of the Day”, the new one by Mary Doria Russell (fantastic so far), and Sabrina was working on “Fantastic Mr. Fox” by Roald Dahl. Honestly, I couldn’t understand why we were the only three people there with reading material. Doesn’t everyone know that the word “audition” is synonymous with “waiting”? Hey, and don’t smart people read?

Anyway, Jack made it through the first three rounds. The questions got progressively “harder”.

The first one was: “How many kids would there be at a party attended by three sets of twins?”

The second questions: “Which field of play is the longest: a) soccer, b) football, or c) lacrosse?”

The third question was: “Which of the following shapes is not geometric: a) rectangle, b) cylinder, or c) sphere?”

(If you don’t know the answers to these three questions, then you are not smarter than a fifth grader. Apparently.)

Jack was the first kid to get through the third round, and though we probably should have stuck around to see who else made it, we split right after to go to Costco.

Jack, Sabrina and I were very excited. While we were getting ourselves buckled up in the car, we observed some of the other kids who didn’t make it. They were crying and upset, their hopes of fame and fortune dashed in the soggy Alaskan DQ parking lot. Meanwhile, Jack’s nose was already back in his book.

Finals are next Saturday from noon to 2pm. I have no idea how many kids Jack will be competing against. The “producers” were hoping for 20 or so for the final round. Whoever wins that will be flown down to Los Angeles on June 28th for the real finals. Like, in a television studio. I’m aquiver just thinking about it. Those aren’t impossible odds, are they?

Ignorance is bliss, I guess. When I got home, I finally Googled the TV show, which is on FOX and hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy. (An aside: did Sabrina positively jinx us when she was reading “The Fantastic Mr. Fox?”) When I pulled up their homepage, I saw there were photos of five kids on the webpage. For the first time the question popped into my head: “What, exactly, does one do on this TV show?” I was told that the kids are like this panel of “experts” that the competing adults can consult. I also heard that the team of kids competes against the adults. Any clarification would be appreciated. But the biggest question was this: “Do the kids who get through the selection process only go on one show, or is it for a whole season?” That changes things. Interesting.

Clearly, this isn’t a logistic problem for the moment. My head knows that the odds of even making the cut next week is slim. Bruce is, as always, reliably philosophical. Even making it through three rounds is a fun thing. And it’s a fun process, too. Fun to watch Jack do something very different and outside the norm, and fun to watch all the other kids and parents. But my heart, my poor dreamy little heart, it’s in my throat.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

April & May 2008 Reads

Is it really already June? That means only four weeks until our Seattle vacation. This evokes an excited/anxious response in me. I have a hard time being away from home.

Our summer break from school began on May 23rd. The kids have been running and playing ever since. I spent the course of five or so days raking the yard. Now I'm working on clearing out the wooded area behind the house. I cut down eight or so trees of varying sizes.

Yesterday I purchased a mattock to get some of the deader, older tree stumps out of the ground. While its been wonderful to be outside and doing physical labor of varying degrees, the birch pollen that saturates the air is making it difficult to any beyond blow my nose.

I'm still reading as much as I can, between doing dishes, laundry, and heaving my mattock. What I read in April and May are as follows.

April 2008
"Lying Awake" by Mark Salzman (a book club pick)
"The Enchantress of Florence" by Salman Rushdie (an ARC for LibraryThing)
"The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse" by Robert Rankin
"Imagine Me and You" by Billy Mernit (another ARC for LibraryThing)
"Time and Again" by Jack Finney (a book club pick)
"Lunch Money" by Andrew Clements (YA, recommended by Jack)
"Dervishes" by Beth Helms (another ARC for LibraryThing)
"The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie (so far, hands down, the best book of all May and June)
"Belong To Me" by Marisa de los Santos (very uplifting; recommended)

May 2008
"Bridge of Birds" by Barry Hughart
"Duma Key" by Stephen King (a great intro to King for people who don't think they would ever like him)
"America America" by Ethan Canin (ARC for LT; lucky me!)
"Avalon High" by Meg Cabot (YA; a contemporary retelling of the King Arthur legend in a high school setting; very fun)
"Twilight" by Stephenie Meyer (YA; teenage vampire/human romance; read the whole six hundred pages in a day)
"Jim the Boy" by Tony Earley (a lovely coming-of-age, Depression-Era story)

That's it! April was great, May a little on the slacker-side. If I wasn't currently reading two books at once, I might have been able to squeeze out one more.

Currently reading:

"Bonk" by Mary Roach (a book about sex research; very "revealing")
"Enchantment" by Orson Scott Card (a book club pick)

So that's the reading skinny. I have quite a few recently purchased books that I'm dying to get to. Which, in fact, I think I'll do right now.

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