Most of the searches that lead people to my site make sense: they look up a specific book that I have talked about. But then there are some bizarre searches (and I wonder how many pages and pages of other searched items they had to look through to get to my site, seeing as it would probably not show up in the first 25 pages!). For instance, someone looked up “no” and got to my site. Some people seem to be looking for answers I (and the internet in general) cannot necessarily provide, like “am i a character in a book?” Some just kind of disturb me and the searcher is probably not interested in my site (“full frontal child nudity,” “tickle-me kiss,” and “george grover prison”). By the way, “the little engine that could by watty piper” is completely beating “mr. noodles from elmo” (two most popular searches I have). Take that, Elmo. What strange searches lead people to your site?
We went on a couple-hour drive last weekend and discovered we need to own all of Eileen Christelow‘s Five Little Monkey books for our cross-country trip (or else I would have to read the same three books over and over and over and over again). Or, if not all, at least more. So we purchased three more and I have discovered a few things.
Regarding last Monday’s post: Mama goes dancing by herself; is that a date in her car (above)? Picture from Five Little Monkeys Play Hide and Go Seek. Also, here are the photos she has up in her house (From Five Little Monkeys with Nothing to Do). Is that her in the wedding photo? What do you think? I am torn between the joys of imagining what her situation is and really, really wanting to actually know. Story of my life.
For a long time my daughter has been recounting the story of the alligators/crocodiles and the monkeys. I couldn’t wait to figure out exactly what she was talking about (there are a couple of versions) and it turns out it was from reading Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree at school. The first time I read the book, I got worried that the crocodile was in fact eating the monkeys, something that would explain my daughter’s intense crocodile hatred. Crocodiles are also a large, evil presence in Five Little Monkeys Wash a Cartoo (see below). My daughter often yells at them “GO AWAY GO AWAY!” as we read. My daughter’s father and I have been wondering, are they really monkeys’ enemies? By, “really” I mean in nature. Do monkeys often get snapped out of trees? Do crocodiles or alligators eat monkeys? Oh! Question partially answered (from the author’s page):
When we were at Five Little Monkeys (the store, not the book, confused yet?) we saw a crocodile Folkmanis puppet and were enticed. We know our drive will involve a lot of monkeys and it seemed like it might be a fun way to act out some of the many scenes of crocodiles and monkeys we’ll be reading. Okay, and to be honest, with all the monkeys in our life, we probably kind of liked the idea of pretending to eat the monkeys (after a certain number of readings one is almost rooting for the crocodiles, unless one is my daughter). We showed it to my daughter, smiling, “Should we get this? Isn’t this nice?” and, unfortunately, she started screaming, “NO, no that’s TOO scary!” Since we can’t justify getting a toy just for ourselves, we left it. My daughter is fiercely loyal: her friends’ enemies are her enemies and she is not going to make friends with a crocodile. Perhaps we haven’t read Lyle Lyle Crocodile enough; maybe if I try reading that over and over again we’ll be able to convince my daughter she needs a crocodile puppet. At least two members of this family would really like that.
There have been a whole series of pieces in Slate and The New York Times about why people choose not to have kids and why they shouldn’t be judged. I didn’t know people judged other people for not having kids. I find it confusing when people think their choices are the only choices. I am happy with my choices, but also appreciate that other people do other things. If everyone got a Ph.D. in literature and had one daughter, the world would stop. People would be able to discuss Joyce but unable to eat; it wouldn’t be pretty. Pressuring people to feel like they should decide one way or the other about very personal things just seems generally odd. Among the reasons people have given for not having kids is, they ruin your career, body, relationship, ability to have fun and a whole bunch of other stuff. Oh, and statistically, according to some, they make people more miserable.* As much joy as they bring into one’s life, a primary argument seems to be that they make everything harder. Okay. The counterarguments for why people have kids usually isn’t “they make life easier,” but a whole slew of other things (again this argument in general seems weird, I cannot imagine life without my daughter, but this doesn’t mean that I think everyone has to have a child).
I’ve got one counterexample to the “kids make life harder” argument (and there are more). You arrive at a hotel for a brief vacation or wedding, look out your window and see a huge construction site. Thoughts without kids: “ARG! Now we will be woken up at 7 a.m. by jackhammers, it will be noisy in here all day, and I will not sleep. I should complain. This is supposed to be a vacation, what the . . .” Thought with kids: “YES, it looks like a Richard Scarry book out there! This will keep my child entertained for hours! I am so excited they gave us this room!” (AND THEN you get a discount on top of that for the awesome construction, life could not be better.) So obviously all people should have kids in case they go on vacation and end up in a room with a construction site outside their windows.
*I also do not think people who do not want kids should criticize people who do have kids. It’s like the mommy wars escalated to the people wars or something. Is this mostly media fabricated or are there really people running around out there thinking “Wow, that woman should have kids” or “Wow, that woman should not have had kids”?
As we get ready to leave the bay area, there are a lot of things we are going to miss. The weather. The produce (you know, fruit). My daughter’s friends. My friends (whom hopefully I will keep in touch with). My department. My students. Being close to West Coast friends more generally (I have close friends in L.A. and Seattle; it’s been so nice to see more of them). This list is not complete and it is not in order, or else friends would precede fruit. In terms of negatives, I will not miss skateboarders who seem intent on running over my child, but beyond that I have few complaints. As I mentioned, I was alone with my daughter for a good portion of my west coast time and some things (like certain people) have made a big difference. Another thing that has made a huge difference is Habitot. They have two areas that involve books for children, a reading room and a “baby garden” in which there are books for very little ones (20 months and under). We’ve enjoyed the books in both areas. They also have a library for parents of books on child-raising and other things. They have a “toy library” that has been amazing because you can take out toys for three weeks and then return them. It’s genius. Why do more places not do this?
Especially as a “single mom” (albeit temporarily) it has been wonderful to have a place like Habitot to go, where my daughter felt comfortable, open rain or shine (6-7 days a week, depending on the season). There are all sorts of parents and caregivers (nannies, grandparents, others) coming through. I got to have conversations with adults in person on days when otherwise I might not have. The staff is amazing (they greet my daughter by name and are so sweet and creative). A mix of kids go, so my daughter learned from older kids and a little about how to treat younger kids, getting to see and interact with a lot more people than she would have otherwise. When she started school they commented on how comfortable she was immediately with groups of kids, and I think a large part of that is thanks to Habitot. She had access to totally different art supplies than she does at home, her Habitot art decorates our kitchen (see above) and the creativity of the art room projects helped me learn what kind of different stuff she was really excited by (at different ages). I realized how incredibly special Habitot was, when I spent some time in New York. There are tons of resources and centers for kids in the city, but . . . a lot of them are insanely expensive (yeah, rent is high in NYC; it is in Berkeley too!), some of them do not allow you to drop by for a one day visits, some of them (like the children’s museum on the west side) are great but can be kind of overwhelming for a younger child (and the crowds, oh the crowds). In addition, Habitot is really invested in its community: it has great classes for kids, talks for adults, and all sorts of interesting community programs. Habitot, like its staff, really cares. I cannot say enough good things about it. I know this didn’t have a lot to do with children’s books, but it has a lot to do with the often discussed “imaginative play” and they are related. Do you have a favorite children’s museum or place to take your kids? In other words, what is your “habitot”? Do you have memories of going to a children’s museum or something similar from when you were younger?
These photos are from a range of ages, which you can tell by the varying degree of hair.
In Eileen Christelow’s Five Little Monkeys Bake a Birthday Cake, the monkeys hammer, saw, burn things in the oven, throw food on the floor, fall, let strange men come into the house, and cause a fire truck (with the sirens going EEEEEEEEEEE) to arrive. The book used to be called Don’t Wake Up Mama and, honestly, I am not sure what could wake up Mama! She wears earmuffs on her ears that appear to be super noise and worry blockers. They are amazing (are these legal? I may want some, but I am not sure I could block out worry). Then there is another book my daughter loves, Joy Cowley’s Wake Up, Mom! which is basically the opposite of Don’t Wake Up Mama. I cannot pretend I have any idea about how hard it must be to work on a farm (a small or large one). I do know that I understand waking up and feeling like there are all these needy things around that need to be taken care of (be they sheep, children, papers, dirt on the floor, articles, or other things). I have read this book so many times I can read it on autopilot and here is what my brain is saying to me as I read it. (Side note, there are so many kids in children’s books named Henry and Harry, why?)