Friday, May 15, 2009

a book is like a garden carried in the pocket.

chinese proverb

reading to my daughter has been a source of sublime joy. i love to use different voices and point to the words as i go. she started out following my finger when i read to her and seeing the closed caption when we would watch television. often we would quote stories and scenes when we weren't reading or watching them.
there was a time when she would recite books from memory, which would amaze her grandparents. now she has moved on to actually reading, which amazes me. the first time i realized it, we were looking at one of her many horse books and she told me the name of several of her favorites from the table of contents! before i knew it, she was reading her books all by herself without me even reading them to her once. she sounds out new words and repeats them when i correct her.
i couldn't be more proud. it really is wonderful to hear her lilting voice read nursery rhymes, advertisements, or even the newspaper. we love to visit the local libraries and i often carry big stacks of books to and fro. she likes to read to her animals; but i am glad that she still asks me to read the dr. seuss.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

curious behavior

we watch the cartoon version of curious george on public television every once in a while. i've never been a fan of the franchise even when i was a kid. even then i didn't understand why the man with the yellow hat always gave so much responsibility to his pet monkey. the cartoon seems to have taken it much further; whether george is entrusted with the repair of a space shuttle or taking the initiative and fixing the clogged pipes (almost) like he saw the plumber do it. it makes me a little crazy to watch it all happen sometimes. then i just have to take a deep breath and remember that it's just a cartoon.

at the end of every episode there is a video segment with kindergarten age kids acting out what just happened in the show. it really bothers me because they preface the narration with the caveat: "curious george is a monkey and he can do things that you can't do." then they proceed to show the kids doing just what curious george did.

i make a point of telling my daughter that she can do anything that george can do. and more.

this week she told me, "some of the things he does are dangerous though."

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

guaranteed personality

"i'm all lost in the supermarket
i can no longer shop happily
i came in here for a special offer
guaranteed personality!"

i have heard a lot of this song lately. my daughter insists on playing it over and over. i can't say that i mind all that much since london calling is one of my favorite albums. i have to thank ben folds for this development in her musical appreciation. his version of it during the credits of over the hedge inspired us to dance and me to play the clash for her in the car. it's that easy. i even showed her how to use the remote control on our stereo so that she can play "number 8" over and over. sometimes she'll get preoccupied with her toys and i get to hear the rest of the album. if i play the song on my guitar she will sing with me during the "i'm all lost" part at the end. that's when i'm found. she's too cool for school.

the clash helped me define myself in my formative years. they inspired me to investigate the political machinations for myself and to question authority. that said, it's some heavy and heady stuff to have my three year old daughter listening in on. the imagery of the "hedges over which i never could see" completes the isolation of "nobody seemed to notice me". this sad undercurrent gets lost in the groovy busyness of the song. since she and i do most of the shopping together, there is a connection for us there; especially when we have to go back and forth looking for that last thing on the list.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

toy jail

we have a system for discipline in our house that has been working for us. it's called toy jail. rather than the extended wrestling match that the popular 'naughty chair' method can involve, we prefer this more relaxed approach. basically, we warn shuggie when she is being "mean" and give her a warning that we will put whichever toy it is that she is playing with at the time into jail. usually, the warning is enough; but sometimes we have to carry through with the incarceration.

Friday, February 22, 2008

the swiper

shuggie and i are often in a power struggle. i can get a little controlling and over-protective. sometimes i get impatient and take things away from her, rather than getting her co-operation. as anyone would, she gets upset when i do this. it is at these times that i become the swiper. if you aren't familiar with dora the explorer then you haven't heard the cries of "swiper no swiping!" shug uses this quite a bit; and it is a reminder to me that i might be going too far. there are times when i need to take things away from her for her own protection; and then there are times when i'm just being a nervous nelly (aka swiper). when i see my inner control freak flag a-flyin', i can only sheepishly echo the words of the foiled swiper: "oh man!"

Monday, February 18, 2008

season of the fair

my daughter is in love with horses. so much so that she calls herself "little horsey". any coin-operated horsey ride that we see must be tamed. "can i ride it daddy? please! can i? can i? can i?" sometimes i take alternate routes home so that we don't pass the places with such equines. recently, we had an opportunity to go to an indoor fair that had a full size carousel. this was the first time that she had seen a real merry-go-round; and the awestruck look on her face in this video says it all.

Friday, January 11, 2008

toxic toys

"when the world is running down,
you make the best of what's still around."

this holiday season i've felt like scrooge or the grinch or burger meister meister burger when it comes to the endless stream of toy recalls.

since just about every toy seems to come from china, it makes them all suspect. we could wait until a consumer advocacy group decides to test the toys that we actually have or until the companies announce a recall, or we could test for lead ourselves. unfortunately, the the us consumer product safety commission ( has declared that home testing kits are unreliable.

so what's a concerned parent to do? should we wait until consumer groups get around to randomly testing the toys that we actually have at home? should we wait for the companies to announce a recall and hope that our children will be alright in the meantime? should we get rid of all of the toys? here are some practical suggestions:

i have not gotten around to the inventory of all of the toys in our house. yikes. god forbid that i get rid of something that my daughter will miss. she's still upset about the purple golf ball that has disappeared. still, i don't want her to get caught up in the toxic materialism.

i need to simplify. certainly, we do not need all of the piles of stuff that folks feel obliged to buy during the holidays. it's the thought that counts; and yet it makes me uneasy when i think that there are folks all over the world fighting to survive against hunger, disease, and oppression.

my problem is that i'm a hoarder. i love recycling and reusing and...yes, even regifting. i don't like to throw things away. our basement is filled with things that we might need someday. i love my stuff. i have more books than i can read and more music than i have time; and still i pine for things that have been lost, broken, or misplaced along the way.

and then there's the newest latest. we all get caught up in the hype machine that tries to tell us what we need. there is a restlessness that burns in our guts that cannot be sated by the promise of the product. all too often i have felt the buyer's remorse over some disappointing new purchase. even if i really enjoy a new album or sweater or toy, i eventually get bored with it and seek out something new.

a lot of the things that are dangled in front of us are only a distraction from the things that really matter. i think that the toy recalls are really a wake up call for us. we all know somewhere deep down inside that the industry that fuels our economy is not sustainable. our convenient disposable culture makes for a disposable world.

a depressing sight this time of year is the piles of dead christmas trees ready to be carted off to the local landfill. it has always struck me as strange that we celebrate the season of life by killing a tree. that's why i prefer to use an artificial one. i know that there are folks that make their living by growing and selling real trees, and that they must have some usefulness; and yet i still have that initial reaction of disappointment whenever i see them.

"shine on what we throw away. shine on what we keep." one man's trash is another man's treasure, though it takes a special self-abnegation to dig through dumpsters and landfills. it's hard to imagine what value toxic toys might have. at the very least they can serve as a cautionary tale. perhaps the people that will survive in our increasingly toxic environment are ones who have developed a resistance to the nasty chemicals.

i can't help but smile when shuggie gets all excited about playing with the cardboard tube left over from a roll of wrapping paper or a bucket of snow. it gives me hope for the future.