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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Tear the bunny into little pieces

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When I was little I thought Dorothy Kunhardt’s Pat the Bunny was about Pat, the bunny. Don’t blame me: I didn’t have a comprehensive understanding of correct comma use. Before my daughter was born we were lucky enough to be given two copies of Pat the Bunny. THANK GOODNESS, because she devoured/tore to pieces one of them! They appear to put something in the book that makes babies crazy. I think it is actually designed to maximize baby insanity, I mean enjoyment? First off, there is a little book in the book, so if you didn’t already feel like ripping apart the main book, a couple of good tugs on the mini-book will probably get you (if you are nine months old) to a point where you feel ready for destruction. Then there are the flowers you are supposed to smell. They really smell and somehow their scent gets stronger over time. It gives me a headache that makes me want to rip apart the book. There is a mirror and a lot of little ones love mirrors. But not a mirror in which is easy to see yourself (like in awesome Peek-a-who by Nina Laden), but a really little mirror. In fact you feel like if you pulled at the page around the mirror, maybe the mirror underneath is bigger, then you could see yourself better in it. And, suddenly, the book is being ripped to shreds again. You are supposed to stick your finger in a a hole that claims to be mommy’s ring, but is actually the perfect sized hole to start from if you wanted to tear the page apart. Then there is the plastic spiral binding which also seems to be asking for a little tug. Do you think it may actually be designed to be torn apart so that people have to purchase more?

My daughter’s second copy has survived reasonably well, but we are still finding bits of the one she “looked” at when she was younger in weird places. See Judy’s head! See a piece of Paul’s hand! The copy we have now is missing its cover, but is otherwise intact and I think my daughter has outgrown ripping it apart.* But I am not completely sure. What are your experiences, past or present, with Pat the Bunny? Do you get a headache when you sniff the flowers?

*I wrote this and two days later she tried to destroy the book again, thanks to the  spiral binding. She then wanted it put together again. Great, a new game I am really excited to play.

Daddy’s Best Friend and Continuing Monkey Issues

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Warning: this post isn’t about books. It is a completely self-indulgent, “I cannot believe my child got me to say that” moment. I talk about monkeys a lot in my life these days. Dogs, monkeys, and lions are three staples of daily conversation. I know I have talked about monkeys repeatedly in my posts (especially on Monkey Mondays). My daughter has one monkey that is “Daddy’s Best Friend.” When her father is here she says “Hold your best friend, Daddy” and gives him this specific monkey (he bought it for her, so maybe he told her that it was his best friend? I have no idea). He’s back East for a couple of days. Last night my daughter informed my that she was not going to go to bed with this monkey, but that I should. “Will you sleep with Daddy’s Best Friend, Mommy?” “Yes, I will sleep with Daddy’s Best Friend.”

Chug chug men are selfish?

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Many know the inspiring story of a little train who thinks it can and then successfully does. “I think I can, I think I can” is something I have heard more than one person repeat. If you have not read The Little Engine that Could (Retold by Watty Piper, illustrated by George & Doris Hauman) recently you may not remember that before the little miracle worker engine successfully gets all the toys and sweets over the hill to the good boys and girls, a bunch of mean power hungry engines tell the train that they don’t have the time to pull it to the boys and girls, even though it would be easy for them since they are strong. They are too important for toys or children. All the bad engines are men. The good engine is a woman. Or at least all the bad trains are referred to using male pronouns and the good one using a female pronoun (and the original toy-sweets puller was also female). Is this because the train is headed for children and the book is kind of sexist (I know I am reading too much into it here, but I find the switching of pronouns weird and would love an explanation)?

The book is definitely not a twenty-first century kids’ book: there is doll diversity because the train has dolls with blonde AND BROWN! hair. Among its toys it lists jack-knives.

Or is the male vs. female engine dichotomy because the last train is good and the books kind of, for lack of a better term, hates men? This reminds me of a moment I had in class when someone asked “Is there a word, like misogyny in terms of women, that means hating men?” and a student replied “Feminist.” No, that is not the right answer. In any case the female engines help, the male ones do not. What you think of this in the book, probably relates to what you think of this more generally, in life. Let me know what you think!

Children are different or, at least, mine is

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So I am going to give you some scenarios, tell me which would cause you to comment or cry out: hunter shoots mother, old king eats poisoned mushroom and dies, refined lady does exercises with elephant in his underwear, monkey swings in a tree, lady runs into an elephant in the street and buys him clothes, and dressed up elephant marries cousin. What, you think “monkey swings in a tree” is clearly the most interesting part of what I just said? Not the tragic killing of a mother in front of her child, not the bizarre woman knowing an elephant wants to wear clothes, not the suspiciously poisoned mushroom, not the exercises? If you agree that the (in this series of events) banal monkey in a tree is the most exciting thing about this story, you are in good company. My daughter (who usually is empathetic) could care less about the deaths in The Story of Babar: the little elephant (by Jean De Brunhoff), she doesn’t seem to find elephants wearing clothes odd, she just gets really excited whenever the monkeys make an appearance. They have a really minor role, as small as, say Elmo’s parents in his life. She told her father the other day (when he was trying to get her to nap) that monkeys were her best friends. Please let me know when I should be concerned.Most interesting thing about this picture? The monkey in the bush.

They are all good

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(Music added afterwards – Julian Smith)

My daughter’s parents have been living on opposite sides of the country for work. The family is reunited now, which is really wonderful. I’ve gotten to take a little break from reading the same book repeatedly (third day back I hear “but I just read you this one, you don’t want to read a different one?” No, she doesn’t, sorry! Heh heh) and everything is just generally better. The second day we were all together I told my daughter, “Go and pick out a good book from your shelf for your daddy to read to you.” She goes to her shelf. She stares at her shelf. She spreads her arms wide and says “They are all good.” Both of her parents found it funny and wonderful. I also agree, my daughter has a lot of great books. Some are books we bought because they looked so interesting. Some people gave to us before she was born. Some of them are books we picked up for free. Some are books that were her father’s when he was a kid. Some are books I remember having my parents read to me. Some are books friends of mine have loved and passed on. Some are books relatives read to their kids. Some are books that made people think of us. Some are books I wouldn’t have ever thought of getting for my daughter, but I am so glad someone else did. When you get older you often have less time to experiment, picture books are short and it is so easy to read one that represents a totally different world (imaginary or real, culturally, in terms of period, etc.), to move back between the new and the familiar (it would be like if every night I could reread one of my Italian novels and reread a Jan Austen novel and read a work of new fiction and a classic I have never read and a biography and a book translated from a language/culture I know little about and something bizarre recommended to me by a friend). Although a couple of my daughter’s books cane be annoying, the variety is incredibly exciting. I thought it was impossible to go wrong with picture books, but lately I have come across a few. I’ll save a discussion of them for a post called “books I will never read,” but I’d like to keep this one positive, so I’ll end with an image from Ideal Bookshelf (I’m paranoid about getting anything new for our walls, because last time we took the time to hang things we ended up moving, but someday I’d love an “Ideal Bookshelf” print). Where do your kids’ books come from? Do you have things you remember learning (recently or long ago) from a children’s book? What would be on your “Ideal Bookshelf,” children’s version?

(Wait, are you upset that it is Monday and besides the Curious George book pictured below I didn’t include anything on monkeys? Well, no fear, I am going to talk about some monkeys tomorrow. This week’s posts are going to concentrate on books that are shown in this Ideal Bookshelf image.)

Jane Yolen & Mark Teague’s “How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?” Again

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This book made a lot more sense to me after I went to Habitot’s parenting workshop given by Dr. Erica Reischer, “10 Things Great Parents Do.” She had a lot of wonderful advice and information. Unlike some parenting blogs, books, doctors, people, etc. her advice seem adaptable to a whole series of different kind of families (so it wasn’t aimed just at people who live in a house made of organic vegan reconstituted bread crumbs or parents whose two year old’s schedules are busier and more stressful than mine). She made some of the things that I already do make more sense, made me reconsider some of the ways we try to deal with our vivacious two year old, and gave some great ideas on other parenting methods we could use. One idea she mentioned that I definitely want to do more of is getting a child to behave using imagination/creative techniques. Dr. Reischer mentioned a study that got a bunch of five year olds to be still through an inventive story (involving, I believe, a trapped princess), whereas they wouldn’t be still when just ordered to be still (make sense! seriously, this makes sense to me, I think the creative technique might work better on me as well). In How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? a whole bunch of dinosaurs (with human parents) are depicted doing things one should not do before going to bed (but which dinosaurs do not actually do, because dinosaurs are awesome), and then the second half of the book illustrates how real dinosaurs say good night (they are very sweet, don’t roar, they do not whine, they get into bed without making their parents read a million books, etc.). It is fun and a way to have your child pretend to be a dinosaur when going to bed, that actually involves being super well behaved. The book asks questions and my daughter loves responding loudly “No!” to all the questions about the dinosaurs who are behaving naughtily (Does he mope, does he moan, does he sulk, does he sigh? Does he fall on top of his covers and cry?).

I’ve been telling her a story right before she goes to sleep about a little girl who lives in an enchanted forest who happens to have my daughter’s name (the story always ends with the little girl going to sleep); it seems to be helping. What sort of creative parenting techniques do you use? Do you ever use creative techniques to get yourself to behave?

Have a great weekend!

Changing and Mother Stalking

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Kids change so quickly. If you are a parent and you have not heard this, then you either don’t know anyone or you never go outside your house. It’s true, they do change so quickly. My impression of some books also changes as my daughter changes. For instance, we’ve been reading Karen Katz’s Where is Baby’s Mommy? for a while. When she was little I thought, “Oh, so sweet! I can’t wait to be able to play hide-and-go-seek with my daughter, sounds so fun!” It is fun! But as kids grow more mobile you also lose the ability to stick them somewhere and have a guaranteed moment alone. I mean, maybe with crying, but at least be alone: be alone in the shower, be alone by one’s computer, be alone, just be alone. Now that my daughter is old enough to talk and walk, if I want to be alone and she does NOT want me to be alone it is very difficult to make happen (maybe this will be easier in a bigger apartment?). If I somehow trapped her in something so that I could take a shower alone I would still hear “Is your hair wet? Are you in the shower? Are you using soap? Are you washing your hair? Is your hair wet?” If I lock a door (because someone else is around to watch her) to try to grab some time for myself and my daughter would like to be with me she will not only knock on the door, but also (thinking I did not hear or that I am an idiot who does not understand knocking) then SAY “Knock knock I want to come in!” Yes, that is what knocking means, I know. Generally I really like spending time with my daughter so this occasional mother stalking isn’t a big problem, but I have to say that now when I read Where is Baby’s Mommy? I kind of feel like the mom isn’t playing hide-and-go-seek, but is actually hiding from her child. The end isn’t a happy moment in which the child finds the mom, succeeding at the game, but is a moment in which the mother lost — she needs a better hiding place to have a moment alone. They always look under the bed!