Monday, March 31, 2014

My three favorite picture books for the littlest readers

Since I have a toddler again, I get to repeat read board books, too. Depending on your perspective, and the book,  this could either be a treat or a trial. In my case, because I'm a snob and have very decided preferences when it comes to books, especially regarding those I read to my children, it's both. And because this is my blog and i get to do whatever the hell I want, I will now list my top three board books/ first reads and then another time, I'll list three board books that really get on my damn nerves


There's a reason people have been reading Where the Wild Things Are for as long as they have. I have my childhood copy, though I won't let Terza touch it because I made that mistake and now the book looks like a bear mauled it. Reason number one I love the book: my kids love the book. Terza goes crazy for the wild things; she loves getting her wild on, gnashing her terrible teeth and rolling her terrible eyes and then, acting out despotic Max when he tells them to "Be still!" There are just the right amount of words on each page for her to be able to soak them in, and the repetitive nature allows her to remember the language which is really gratifying to her. 

Then, there's my love affair with the book. I will never get tired of reading Wild Things. This is a theory I have tested. I don't even look at the words anymore, because it's memorized. By the time I get to "and it was still hot," I linger, not quite ready for the book to end every time.  The characters! Who wouldn't love Max, that power-hungry, hell-raising scoundrel? Who wouldn't love the wild things, feral beasts just desperate for an object of affection? Who wouldn't love his mother, his beleaguered, fed-up mother, who knows to set limits but then also knows when she's gone too far. She gives him his dinner after all, AND IT WAS STILL HOT. The hopefulness of that last line SLAYS me. It just does. I swear, let that be my epitaph. And it was still hot. You know what that means? It means, kids, it's going to be OK. It means you can have adventures and make mistakes and we will still be here, because we will always be here, even when we're not anymore, and you can still have your dinner AND IT WILL (EVEN) STILL BE HOT.

Goodnight Moon is, in my personal opinion, a damn near perfect first book for kids. It seems so basic and straightforward, and then you get to "Goodnight nobody" and you're like, "WHAT THE FUCK?"  You're like, "Where did THIS come from? And what does it MEAN?" It's so creepy and enticing and it just begs a bunch of questions that I never tire of asking. Yet, at the same time, those spare, simple rhymes totally lulls you into this hypnotic trance of total calm and peacefulness. "In the great green room, there was a telephone. And a red ballon, And a picture of  . . . (WAIT FOR IT!) the cow jumping over the moon."  That just what I wanted the picture to be of!  Damn near perfect. 

I really love Taro Gomi's Spring Is Here, for precisely the same reasons. It doesn't have the creepy caesura of "goodnight nobody" but you know what? Sometimes you don't want that. I have this certain feeling that after all my kids are grown and off to college or wherever their futures take them, that I will be sitting at my couch, reading Spring Is Here to myself because it kind of is the best treatment for anxiety ever invented. The flowers bloom. The snow falls. The world is white.The snow melts. Ahhhhhh . . . And at the end you circle back to the beginning, except look! The calf has grown. Which is MAGICAL AND AMAZING. And oh-so-gratifying. And it's what we experience watching our kids get older year by year. Damn near perfect, too.

And there ends the positivity. Next time, I'll bitch about the ones that grate on my nerves.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A New Way To Do Kids' Birthday Presents

Consider this:
A. Shopping for other kids' birthday presents is a drag
B. Chances are good, whatever you get them, they've already got it or if they don't it's because they never wanted it in the first place
C. There are a lot more impactful ways to spend money than on yet another Lego set

Someone did consider all these points and came up with a solution, which is to say  A New Way To Do Kids' Birthday Presents

It's called EchoAge and it's kind of like Evite, except they have an option where they can take care of presents too so they collect money from the guests (read: guests' parents). The guest decides how much they want to give and other guests don't see the amount (though you can, as the host). EchoAge then takes a cut, about 5 percent, and divides the remaining money in half. Half goes to the kid to get the present of their dreams and the other half goes to a charity of their choosing.

I love the idea -- though, like the author of the Times piece, don't think I'm quite ready to sign up because of the asking-other-parents-for money deterrent. Pretty fantastic idea, though. I think YOU should do it first and let me know how it goes.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Christmas Revolutions

The other day on the walk home from school, Seconda saw a teenager smoking a cigarette and tossing the butt, still lit, onto the pavement. She didn't know where to begin her lament.

"That is SO dangerous! Fire on the floor? And he's littering! And why is he smoking anyway? Didn't he ever hear of Christmas Revolutions?"

"I'm totally with you," I agreed, "But what does Christmas have to do with it?"

"He should have made a revolution at Christmastime!" she explained, "To stop smoking."

"Ahhh," I replied, "Yes, generally they're resolutions and they're made at New Year's but i have to say I like the idea of getting an early start and maybe calling them revolutions will give them staying power."

It was one of those moments where I was reminded that though seven years of experience sometimes seems like an awful lot, it really is still just a handful of years. Such a little girl, after all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Making a scene in the waiting room

You know those moments where you know you're being a little crazy but you can't -- or don't want to -- stop yourself? I had one, recently, in the waiting room of the pediatric ENT. 

Terza's been having chronic and recurrent ear infections. Like constantly. Basically, as soon as she gets off antibiotics, she gets another ear infection. Since October, it's been non stop. So, finally, we took her to a pediatric ENT, an outstanding one, a superstar. I love this doctor, for many reasons, including but not limited to the following:

1. She has the best bedside manner I have ever witnessed, to both kids and grownups
2. She knows her shit, backwards and forwards. 
                                                                     3. She is extremely glamorous

We saw her once and then scheduled a follow-up in a few weeks, and that follow-up is what I reported for one Friday in the not-so-distant past. It turned out to be fortuitous timing because the night before the appointment, Terza got a fever and was up all night crying. I had a strong suspicion she had ANOTHER ear infection (I was right, by the way, and it was a raging, hard-core double doozie). 

The trouble with seeing such a rockstar doctor is that everyone wants to see her, so when we walkd into the waiting room, ten minutes early for our 11am, the room was mobbed. Every single seat was taken by a parent or a child, ranging in age from little babies who could barely keep their heads up to  school-agers. You could hardly walk in the door, the hallway was so jammed with strollers. We squeezed past and a thoughtful parent pulled their toddler off a seat onto their lap so I had a place to sit and read Sandra Boynton to Terza. We read and read and read. We ate Goldfish. We ate Veggie Booty. We drank milk. We looked at magazines. We looked at pictures on my iPhone. We played with other children. We pushed other children. 

At 11:45, Terza discovered the water cooler. This was an unfortunate discovery, for reasons I hope are obvious (if they are not obvious that means your kid is so impeccably self-regulated, they'd never think to press the Poland Spring lever down for seconds on end, allowing a waterfall to overflow the tray). Once Terza had wasted approximately ten gallons of water, I grabbed her and carried her kicking and screaming back to the mobbed waiting room, where she continued to scream and kick and carry on like a child from an PSA for abstinence.

By this point it was almost 12. We'd been waiting for an hour. My toddler was overdue for lunch and for her nap and, oh yeah, she also had a RAGING EAR INFECTION IN BOTH EARS. Not a coincidence, since we were at a pediatric ENT office. So, was she being a shit? Sure. Did she have good reasons? Hell yeah. The first one being that she's 22 months old. 

So when another doctor - not MY doctor, the rockstar, but another one who shared the office -- walked in and announced to the waiting room at large: "We have a lot of doctors at work here and we really need you to try to keep the noise down," I went a little loco. 

Not full loco. If I had to measure it, I'd say I was 20% as crazed as I felt. Meaning, I restrained myself quite a bit. Still, I felt the doc deserved a little crazy for being such an asshole. 

"TOTALLY!!" I chirped with deranged sarcasm, "We will absoLUTEly keep the kids quiet! Because it's SO EASY!"

That was crazy enough. But then I also started muttering under my breath and shaking my head, like a genuine wackadoo. 

"Man keeps me and my sick baby waiting for an hour in his damn waiting room and then tells me we're being too loud."

Five minuets later, they called Terza's name and we were seen. It was probably because thepeople in charge overhead my little scene and decided to avoid a riot. 

So the morale to the story is: when you've been waiting for the doctor for an hour, make a scene. It costs you in public humiliation but it saves you time. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sun. Bubbles. Happiness.

This is what it looks like when the temperature of the air feels pleasant and not like a bitter assault. This is what it looks like when you don't dread stepping outside. 

This is what it looks like when you believe SPRING MIGHT ACTUALLY COME. 

Sun. Bubbles. Happiness. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

You will cry, and you will not be able to stop singing

Ok, I may be a big old sap but this  amazing version of "Let It Go" with Adele Dazeem and Jimmy Fallon just made me sob like A BABY. Something about the classroom instruments lets you really hear the lyrics again and allows her incredible, goosebump-inducing voice to just wash over you in galvanizing waves.

Hot damn, that's a great song.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Sick Baby + Elvis on Repeat Play = Deranged Mother

Terza get a lot of ear infections. One might use the word "chronic." One might even suggest ear tubes, but that's a whole other blog post . This chronic, ear-tube-worthy ear infections make her quite cranky, quite frequently. Now I'm not averse to putting on some Elmo for the kid when necessary. She's baby number three, and as such certain AAP recommendation such as "no TV under the age. of two" just don't apply, but if I let her watch Elmo every time she was cranky or sick, she's be glued to the iPad pretty much half of her existence and even I think that's a bit much So i try other measures before resorting to Elmo. One such measure is music. 

After all, my close personal friend William Shakespeare once told me that music tames the wild beast, and when she's got an ear ache there is no doubt my daughter is both wild and a beast, though I certainly don't hold it against her, poor thing. Primo right now is going through an Elvis phase, and one day while DJing on my computer one evening, he put on "Hound Dog."

The baby, who was on day two of earache, went LOCO. It was as if she was a teenage girl seeing Elvis live in concert. Alongside her brother, who was attempting some pretty fancy, pretty frenetic dance moves, she began to get DOWN. Mainly her dance consisted of the warm-up Jennifer Beals does in Flashdance in her leg warmers -  the super fast running-in-place on her tiptoes -- except with a chicken wing flap added in that really made the move really sing. Making the moment inedible and delicious, she was laughing like a madwoman the whole time. 

It was one of those moments you live for as a parent, a transporting moment where there are no problems, no troubles, no stressors. Just joy, mind-erasing, expansive, effervescent joy. It was the kind of moment you wish very much to replicate. Be careful what you wish for.

After her Elvis Flashdance Moment Terza often asked to listen to "Hound Dog" and how could we deny her? The problem is, the more she listens to it, the more she wants to. She just can't get enough. She wants it on repeat play, two, three, four, twelve times. There is no amount which is too much. The first time she hears it, she gets up and dances her patented Flashdance Chicken Joy Dance and it is delightful and life-affirming. The second time, too tired to maintain such ebullience, she sits down and listens, not unhappily, but not altogether pleased either. And after that, she just goes about her cranky business, throwing kicking tantrums on the floor, whining to get more cookies, grabbing her sister's drawings and crinkling them into balls, except that in the background is Elvis singing "Hound Dog." Whenever the song ends, the takes a break from screaming COOKIES! or ELMO! or "PICKAMEUP!" to screaming "HOUN DOG! HOUN DOG," and we put it on because our brains are so addled we don't know what else to do.

Which is how I have come to hate Elvis Presley. Sorry, Mr. Pelvis, but talk to the president of your baby fan club, because it's her fault. 

Saturday morning, David let me sleep in until the crack of 7:30 at which point I was awoken by the sound of a drum roll followed by "You ain't nothing but a …"

"Nooooooo," I moaned.

Five minutes later, when I emerged from the bedroom to find Terza whining about waffles while listening to "Hound Dog" for the fifth consecutive time, I was forced to ask David, "What is this song ABOUT anyway? Who is the hound dog in this scenario? And is it supposed to be a bad thing to be a hound dog? In what sense? I JUST DON"T FUCKING UNDERSTAND WHAT HE KEEPS TRYING TO TELL ME."

This is how people go insane. If I end up in Bellevue, have the docs go on my history on Spotify and tally up how many times I was forced to listen to "Hound Dog" and they will understand why I am sitting in a corner muttering incessantly to myself: "you ain't never caught a rabbit.".