Archive for May, 2010

Unreality TV

May 25, 2010

Not long ago, when I was homeschooling The Baby, we did some learning about media literacy, particularly the rules governing advertising to children. It seems to me that one of the rules (no, I didn’t memorize them and I’m not looking them up) had something to do with telling the truth. You know, like, NOT LYING TO CHILDREN.

I got my toddler fix this weekend, the nephew was here for 48 hours. (when your nest is emptying and you’ll be laying no more eggs, you start to borrow chicks just for fun. No, really.) Let’s call him Peanut, which I do, sometimes.

**Side Note** The child is allergic to peanut butter, and here I persist in calling him Peanut. Is it irony, or just bad taste to call him something that could kill him? Kind of like calling someone Arsenic, isn’t it? **End Side Note**

Anywho. During a rare moment when he was actually sitting still instead of dumping a jar full of sesame seeds in the middle of the floor or feeding the dog every treat in the bag, we watched a bit of YTV or Treehouse or something. A guy was making crafts on the screen, and the point of it seemed to be that a kid could make this craft in a minute or something. There was even a little countdown clock in the corner of the screen.

The guy cut a piece of paper in the shape of ears, glued a rock to the paper, stuck two stickers and a smaller rock on the first rock, scribbled with a marker and voila! A Pebble Puppy. In 60 seconds.

I work with 5 to 8 year-olds every week, and let me tell you something about 60-second crafts:


This is what it looks like in real life:

Kid cuts paper ears. Kid cries because the scissors slipped and the ears are crooked. Kid tries again. Possibly is happy with the result on the third try.

Kid takes cap off of glue stick. Picks up rock, then has to spend three minutes searching for the ears they just cut, which have fallen off the table.

Kid applies glue to paper ears. Kid puts rock on paper ears. Finger sticks to paper ears and paper rips. Kid cuts more paper ears and tries again with the glue and the rock.

Rock keeps falling off the ears. Kid puts more glue on the ears. Adult has to help unstick all the unused scraps of paper that have drifted over.

Rock is finally stuck to ears. Now stickers must be chosen, peeled off, and stuck to rock for eyes. Kid whines because someone else has used the stickers she wanted. Kid finally gets stickers and accidentally sticks one to ears. The other sticker is missing – after five minutes it is located stuck to hem of shirt.

Now for the pebble nose. The pebble must be located, as it has also fallen onto the floor. Fingers are now covered in glue and everything is sticking to fingers instead of to rock.

Time for the marker to add eyeballs, mouth and whiskers!  Oops, the marker slipped and Pebble Puppy now has a large mole on its cheek. And shirt has a new black stripe. Good thing it’s washable, ha ha, as if.

Kid heads off to wash glue and marker from hands, eyebrows and elbows. The cap to the glue AND the marker have disappeared, Pebble Puppy looks like it has been hit by a car, and the kid ultimately leaves for home and forgets to take the 60-second craft they spent 20 minutes making.

For gifted kids, add five minutes discussing whether the paper ears should be brown or purple, how puppies don’t HAVE two noses, and how they’d really rather just draw a picture with the markers on this scrap of paper, thankyouverymuch.

Truth in children’s programming, my foot.


The turning of a page

May 4, 2010

I have been reading, with as much interest as I ever did, blogs from DaMomma, Kira and Dooce, three women who have at least one thing in common-  they have all had babies in the last year or so. As they share the joys and challenges that have come with adding to their household’s numbers, I giggle and nod knowingly; I well remember those early years, when things like bedtimes, grocery shopping and tiny pink shoes were such an integral part of the shape of each day.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that getting from Point A to Point B often resembled military manouvers with their planning, precision and sheer unpredictability in the outcome. I once heard an Early Childhood Education professor describe parenting thusly: Imagine you’re in the cockpit of a jumbo jet, tasked with bringing the behemoth plane in for a safe and happy landing. You’ve never done it before,  have no training, there’s no instruction manual, and your co-pilot is just as clueless as you. It’s also foggy. Now add in three kids pounding on the cockpit door, demanding the drinks cart be brought back around THIS MINUTE.

I read these women, and others like them, and I want to tell them one thing: Love every minute of it, because before you know it, the plane’s on the ground, your passengers have taken their luggage and caught a connecting flight, and all that’s left to do is empty the trash bags and scrub the lavatory.

When my kids were small, I often heard, “This too shall pass.” I always assumed that was a promise, not a threat. Now, here we are, just a few blinks later, and we’ve gone from jumbo jet to twin-engine, and the remaining passenger just glances up from her iPod every now and then to say, “Can you drop me at the mall? “

In rapid succession, the almost-grown-ups have grown up, and are flying the coop, in one way or another. Suddenly, all the chairs fit around the table, days pass without the basement light being turned on, and no one is stealing my socks. It doesn’t take an engineering degree to pack the car trunk for a weekend away.

Oddly enough, though my nest is nearly empty, my basement is still full. I remember Erma Bombeck lamenting the tendency of college students to take everything that wasn’t mailed down when they left home. This is not true – first apartments and dorm rooms don’t hold much, and so the house now feels a little like a storage facility. I’m tempted to charge a fee.

I’ve really been surprised by what a struggle this has been for me. I have always had things other than “mother” to define myself with. I work, I volunteer, I have friends of my own. I have a co-pilot who still enthralls me with intelligent conversation. And, of course, I still have one more chick who’s got several years yet before she can fly on her own.

I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s not so much empty-nest as it is a psychological and emotional morning-after-the-party thing. You know, everyone had a fantastic time, and you danced until dawn. If you’re lucky, the party was fantastic – good times, lots of laughs, heart-warming memories to take out and look at when you’re feeling a bit down.

But then the party’s over and you have to drag yourself out of bed to start clearing up the dishes, taking out the trash, and running the vacuum over the floor. It sucks, a little bit.

So yeah, it passes. Much, much more quickly than you think. So, like the song says: Don’t blink.

Hole Language

May 1, 2010

The Girl With Two Lovely Knees (that’s what we call her now, since her second surgery this winter) started school when “whole language” was the Thing To Do in early literacy. The baby known as Phonics had, at that point, been thrown out with the bathwater, and primary reading focused on teaching children to read using a combination of word recognition and cues. Something like this:

If this word is “cat” and this word is “food” then this word must be “eating” or “ate”.

Their books, of course, had pictures, to help you conclude that, yes, in fact, the cat was eating the food, rather than throwing it, cooking it or poisoning it.

Since then, Whole Language has mostly gone “out”, the bathwater has been retreived, and the value of learning to read through phonics has been recognized.

Side note: When she was halfway through Grade One, I bought Hooked On Phonics and filled in the gaps at home.

Recently, I’ve been teasing her that her early experiences with Whole Language don’t appear to have done her any good in hearing things properly either.

For years, I used a phrase when the kids were in a particularly complaining mood: Don’t hassle me with your sighs, Chuck. It’s a phrase from the Peanuts cartoon, Peppermint Patty used to say it to Charlie Brown frequently. It wasn’t until just a year or so ago that Knee Girl realized I wasn’t saying, “Don’t hassle me with your SIZE, Chuck.”

When questioned, she admitted that her version didn’t make any sense, but that I’m often a mystery to her anyway, so she didn’t worry too much about it.

And just a few months ago, I used the phrase “Fish or cut bait.” From the backseat, she said, “Fish are good plate?”

Turns out, we’re all prone to what they call “aural malapropisms.”  Hence this article I saw on Sympatico today:

What song lyric do you always mis-hear?