In Which Voldemort Gets the Cheese Touch.

This is the expression on my face most days. Especially the eyes.

I think I’ve mentioned on this blog the fact that I, most days, haul a carpool to school filled with delightful elementary school boys. I use the word “delightful” here in its broadest sense, in order to include yelling, cat-calling, fake-swearing, bodily eruptions, poop jokes, gun jokes, penis jokes, fart jokes, farting penis jokes, something about boobies and light-saber-sound-effects. To rescue my thin grip on sanity, I decided a while ago to forgo any crunchy-mama prohibitions I may have had ever in my life regarding screen time and throw a movie into the ole minivan VCR.

(It is, I do believe, a certifiable miracle that the thing still works, as both minivan and VCR are about ten years old. And that thing gets hammered – hot in the summer, absolute zero in the winter, sticky drinks, stray kicks, and, once, projectile vomit. The thing keeps ticking. If it is a miracle, does that qualify my minivan for sainthood? If so, someone should alert the Vatican.)

Anyway, the kids watch movies on their way to school in ten minute increments, and I listen to said movies as I drive. E.T, Apollo 13, Star Wars, Newsies, Cats and Dogs, Galaxy Quest, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Dark Crystal, George of the Jungle, and basically whatever else I’m able to pick up at Savers for a quarter. I have become a connosieur of kid-movie sound construction and voice inflection. E.T., for example, is a thing of beauty – communicating more through silence than most films can do in hours of scene-building. The Phantom Menace, on the other hand, while bad to watch, is torture to listen to, and whoever is responsible should be in prison.

Today, they watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, or the end of it, anyway. They tumbled out of the car last Friday just as Professor Quirrell was about to remove the turban from his head. They climbed back into the car today shouting turn it on turn it on, despite the fact that they have all read the book and watched the movie approximately nine million times. They were beside themselves with anticipation. I pushed play, rolled into the road, and headed toward school. Here is a transcription of the conversation that ensued in the back seat.


You shhh!”

“We’re missing it.”

You’re missing it.”

“Cheese touch.”

“Wait. What movie is this again?”

“Harry looks like he has to fart.”


“Cheese touch.”

“You’re squishing me.”

“You’re squishing me.”

“Cheese touch.”

“Why do you keep saying that?”


At that very moment, Voldemort, stuck on the back of the doomed professor’s head, instructs Quirrell to take the Sorcerer’s stone from Harry. But when he touches Harry, his hand burns up, thus showing that Voldmort cannot be touched by the boy wizard.

“Harry Potter has the cheese touch.”

The boys nearly peed themselves laughing.

“Now Voldemort has the cheese touch. Lookit him! Cheese toucher.”


“Voldemort smells like a fart. Like cheesy farts.”

“Cheese farts are not as bad as sausage farts. Sausage farts are THE WORST.”

“I’m kinda hungry.”

“Don’t let Voldemort get the Sausager’s Stone.”

“It’s the Sorcerer’s Stone.”


“Quit saying stuff like that. I have to pee.”

“Harry Pee-ter and the Sausager’s Stone.”


“If it could make me defeat Voldemort I would totally touch the cheese.”

“You already touched the cheese.”


By the time we reached school, I was weak with laughing. And hunger too, as I had forgotten to have breakfast before I left in the morning. When I got back to the house, I went straight to the fridge to grab something quick before getting to work. A nice, square slice of cheese.

Cheese touch.


Yeah, that’s right. I said it. Do you realize, J.K. (if that’s your real name) how much your books have hijacked the brains of my (I’ll admit it) utterly addled children?

I know I’ve written about this before, and I’ve certainly thought about it often, but today was bloody ridiculous. It began when I asked my son to choose his breakfast.

“EXPELLIARMUS!” he cried, pointing at my chest with a chopstick.

“That’s very nice,” I said. “But what I want you to do is decide between Cheerios-”

“EXPELLIARMUS!” he yelled again, giving the chopstick a jaunty flick.

“or oatmeal,” I continued.


“Or, if you want-”


“I could boil you an egg.”

“EXPELLIARMUS! EXPELLIARMUS! EXPELLIARMUS!” He vaulted forward, somersaulting across the kitchen floor, zapping me with his magic spell over his shoulder, then from under his leg, then upside down. He shouted the disarming spell while leaping, lunging and flying through space. He was joyful, intent, and unbridled. He was magic personified.

My eight year old – always a cool customer – was not amused. She extracted her spoon from her cereal and licked it clean. Then, shutting one eye, she pointed her spoon squarely at her brother.

“STUPEFY!” she yelled. Leo froze in mid-air, his face a mask of shock and horror, and fell, senseless to the ground. Deedee humphed, twirled her spoon, blew the tip, and resumed eating.

“It’s so easy,” she said with her mouth full, “to be in charge of boys.”

Leo still didn’t move. “Will someone,” he mumbled with frozen lips, “please un-stupefy me?” Deedee didn’t budge.

“Hermione wouldn’t’ve done, so I won’t either.” Deedee tucked into her breakfast and re-opened her book, a barely-concealed, un-uttered snicker uncurling across her lips.

I asked Leo later why he didn’t just get up – why he waited for his sister to finish eating, brush her teeth, and then un-stupefy him. Leo looked at me like I was nuts.

“How could I have?” he asked. “It’s not like I could just break the spell.” And he sat down and ate his breakfast and no more magic occurred that day.

DO YOU SEE WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO US MS ROWLING? Granted, my kids are crazy, but I think the evidence clearly shows that you have made them crazier. And a bit of a challenge to parent.

Perhaps, it’s time for me to return to my copy of Defensive Magical Theory and my Standard Book Of Spells (vol 1-7) just to brush up.

The Perils of Harry Potter (and how the whack-job book burners may have been sorta right)

In my first year teaching, one of my reading groups had chosen Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as their shared book for that month. And boy did I catch hell from some parents. I got all kinds of nonsense  – from “the scar on his forehead is an obvious allusion to the Mark of the Beast”, to “I don’t want my child reading about witchcraft. I have a hard enough time controlling him as it is”, to “you shove a bunch of goddamned fantasies into these children’s heads and they won’t be able to know what’s real any more.”

Because I believe in books and I believe in Story (and I secretly believe in magic), I laughed off the parents’ concerns, and relegated their voices under the category of “Total Nuts That I Have To Put Up With.” I made some accommodations for the children whose parents wouldn’t budge, but mostly I just thought those parents were being silly – and I told them so.

And I never thought about their concerns again. Until recently.

Two thirds of my children are Harry Potter fanatics. They’ve read those books, re-read them, re-re-read them, and refer to specific passages as they correspond to particular events or decisions in their lives as sixth graders and third graders, respectively.

They can tell you, in exquisite detail, the points at which the movies diverge from the books; they can tell you – chapter and verse – the moments in the books in which character is revealed, in which clues are hidden, in which mysteries are unraveled. They have spent months assembling character-based costumes – both for Halloween, and just for fun – and have assumed the identities completely – Hermione, Bellatrix Lestrange, Mad-Eye Moody and Professor McGonagall. My children live in the Potterverse. Those books have seeped in through their fingers, permeated their bloodstreams, fed their dreams.

And maybe this is problematic.

My husband was driving my oldest home from a basketball game this weekend. As they drove past the snow-covered field, Ella glanced over at a black lab leaping upwards to snatch a red frisbee from the air. Her eyes widened and she let out a panicked gasp.

“OH MY GOSH!” she screamed.

My husband jolted in his seat. “What?” he asked.

Ella sighed and relaxed. “Oh,” she said. “Phew. Never mind.”

Ted, his heart still racing, said, “What happened?”

“Oh,” Ella explained. “It’s nothing. I just looked over at the field and thought I saw a giant spider.”

Ted drove in silence for a moment. Finally: “A giant spider?”

Ella sat primly in her seat, her hands folded in her lap. “Well, obviously. You see something out of the corner of your eye, something black and hairy with legs flailing every which way as it hurls itself into the air. What was I supposed to think?”

Ted, biting his tongue to keep from laughing, stayed silent.

“It was perfectly reasonable,” my daughter insisted.

And maybe she’s right. It likely is perfectly reasonable – if your brain has been hijacked by Hogwarts and your brain is filled to bursting with magical adventures.

Of course, if the book burners had their way, she’d be exclusively reading the Bible and the Left Behind books, which means that, given the imagination on this kid, she’ll be blowing horns at city walls, expecting them to come tumbling down, and will likely assume that every empty pair of shoes is evidence of the rapture.

I think we’ll stick with the giant spiders.