For weeks--since B. was in a school musical of the King Arthur story--she has been singing the songs from it and M. has learned them, quite well. He tends to sing the punk version--loud and aggressive, his favorite portions the parts that involve the "LA-LA-LA-LA"s.

He started requesting the "Laundry Man song" and we could not figure out what song he wanted. No one knew a laundry man song and any attempt to compose a laundry man song was met with shouts of fury.

It turns out that the "Laundry Man" is the first line of the Troubadour framing device of the musical: "Across the fields of France, there came a wandering man...".

But it took us a long time to get there...

Elmo outranks Mama and Papa

I've been meaning to write this for awhile now, that for the last 4 months or so, the rank in our house has been dominated by the little reddish chappy from Sesame Street. It started as a joke--M. wouldn't climb up onto the changing table so I grabbed the small stuffed Elmo from the crib and put it on the changing table, telling M. that Elmo wanted him to climb up. It worked. Really well. In fact, I can ask M. to do things and be met with utter feet-planted, stiff-bodied resistance that if I then have Elmo ask him, he will do with cheer. Elmo can ask him to go for nap, lay down for a diaper change, settle down and go to bed without another story. The only thing that keeps Elmo from seizing the reins completely is that we don't allow him to be at the dinner table (and M. will eat any vegetable if there is something to dip it in so we don't need Elmo as much as we need ketchup). I'd feel insulted if it were just me but it is the same for E., although since E. is more willing to use the "Papa is all done with nonsense now" voice, I think he gets more mileage before he needs to resort to Elmo. But he is certainly not above using the fuzzball. I think we both wish it would work though without imitating the high-pitched squeal.

Most nights, I say goodnight to Elmo, Ermie, and then M. It seems only right.

Why Copyright Renewal is bad for parents (not a serious policy position)

So one of the PS's favorite books right now is the children's classic, Danny and the Dinosaur, by author Syd Hoff. It was published originally by Harper and Row in 1958. The hardback we have is from my childhood, so printed ca. 1974?, given when my dad worked for Grolier and brought us home lots of cheap books and factory seconds (books put in their covers upside-down were the funniest thing when you're 4.).

We have been reading it to M. and it is a hot favorite so he has it completely memorized (along with Go Train Go, Where the Wild Things Are, and parts of many others).

Recently, in our bookshelves, probably purchased when B. was a child, was a paperback copy of Danny and the Dinosaur. It has the advantage of the more sophisticated color printing of the 1980s. It is a new copyright date, listing the old as well, so I assume Syd Hoff renewed his copyright. Since he lived until 2004, I can hardly begrudge the man the right to control the income of his imagination.

But I really must protest.

The second edition makes three small changes.

1. Instead of lifting telephone wires for the Dinosaur to go under/get tangled in, Danny lifts clotheslines (a change clearly made because each of the little shirts could be a different color and thus more visually interesting). The text has been changed from "wires" to "ropes".

2. At one point a dog chases after the pair. The original reads "Bow wow! said a dog, running after them." The new edition drops the clause, because clearly the words "running" and "after" do not fit the level 1 reading category.

3. In that same exchange, Danny reveals that the dog thinks they are a car, to which the dinosaur replies that he can honk like a car. In the original, there are 2 honks. In the later edition, there are 3.

Small changes can reduce a toddler to utter sobbing, quivering jelly of fury. "Read it right, Mama". He will stop me and say "No no no." and then repeat the line as in the original book. (And, one assumes, had we first had the second edition, I would be reading it wrong as well. This is not about Mama winning ever.)

That's my boy, future continuity editor...

How I know B. doesn't need intervention

These are two writing samples from B.:

10/17/09 Timed Writing Prompt Assignment: Write an elaborative segment of the character below. Tell specifically what she looked like (hair, eyes, clothing) and how she behaved. Do not write a grocery list. Use interesting words and make it entertaining. "Everyone's eyes turned as the queen stepped outside."

"She strode slowly towards the throne as everyone bowed. The air smelled of the most fragrant roses. Her gown of pink and purple made a striking couple with her long, golden hair. Her golden crown seemed to glow."

Undated but October 2009 Same type of Assignment using the sentence prompt: "I stared at the wild think standing before me."

"The wild thing slowly reached down with one twisted claw and grinned fiendishly. It spread its giant wings and bared its grotesquely yellow teeth. I gasped in horror as poison glands leaked poison to its claws, mouth, tail, and feet. Its eyes gleamed and I could only watch as it lunged for me."

Now, looking at them, the spelling is only about 80% accurate and the handwriting is awful but the vocabulary is all her--she talks just like she writes, believe it or not--and the punctuation here is also her grasp of the way it marks the sound of the sentence. She just failed to be able to take a standardized test correctly. We'll work on testing strategies but as for vocabulary, I think she's fine.

Third Grade Parent Teacher Conference

Going through my head:

I don't really have to sit in this tiny chair, do I?

M. needs a toy to keep him busy. E., genius Papa that he is, provides him with a hand-pump with a balloon over the nozzle, and M. goes off happily puffing up the balloon and watching it deflate.

What are you supposed to do with your kids while you have one of these?

M. is back, for a new balloon. B. trots after him so all conferencing must stop.

Instead of baking for the PTO so that we can "support" the faculty with treats, how 'bout if the PTO supports me with half-hour child care slots?

How come it's so quiet where the kids are?

Don't let on to B.'s teacher that you don't like her much.

Do we have any questions? No, our child is amazing. Everyone says so.

WHOA! Did she just say that B. took a standardized test that resulted in her needing intervention on vocabulary?! Does she mean B., the child who knows more words than some grown-ups? The child who spontaneously on our Halloween walk reflected that she felt "The harvest moon adds to the spooky atmosphere of this holiday"? Maybe she means some other B....

Nope. Our B. Her teacher fortunately adds that the faculty discussed her in their recent meeting and concurred with her assessment that there was something else going on; her assessment was test anxiety that resulted in panic or similar. She felt--and B's other teachers agreed--that they would simply use this as a baseline to watch and actually address test taking more with B. That she doesn't think it would be a good use of resources to intervene with B.

Thank god, someone is being sensible here. But...the heck? I knew testing made B. anxious but that bad?! Must ask her about it when we talk about her conference results.

M. comes back looking for another balloon.

Teacher reads us a B. story about a wild thing that is absolutely to a T a reflection of B., complete with dripping poison glands and grotesque yellow teeth (yes, these are words from her story, my child with the vocabulary problem). It's a hoot.

M. is back and does not want a balloon.

Is this almost over? M. is clearly all done. And me too. Who knew these were such a wilting combination of boring and intense?

So when we return home and are chatting about things her teacher has said about her, we bring up the areas to work on. Her organization is the pits; neatness is in no way her forte. In fact, her desk is readily identifiable by the things flapping out of it. So we casually mention that we know she gets anxious with tests and maybe we can do some brainstorming about how to help her not feel like it's such a big deal.

B. replies, "Well, I didn't want to say anything but I know I didn't do well on one of the tests we took already. I didn't realize the pages got stuck together and so I got a whole bunch of answers in the wrong spot. And I didn't want to tell you. And I'm always worried that I don't have all the bubbles filled in all the way 'cause I know that it's graded by machine..."(and on she babbles about something more, no longer in anyway concerned that she isn't making sense or conversation).

So am I worried? Not about her skills. A little about test pressure and the need to perform. Eight is too young for ulcers.

Why we don't let Papa out of the house very often-or-The Second Baby

Yesterday, I took a mental health afternoon off and went to our local art museum to see the Rembrandt exhibit. I took E. as a date-like-thing-that-parents-who-hate-springing-for-childcare-on-top-of-pricey-tickets do, which meant we also took M. (as B. was in school and in after-school rehearsal for her first school play). True to form, instead of the lovely crisp fall day I had hoped for, it had progressed from drizzle to buckets of rain. True to form, we got lost/turned around driving to the museum. But we aggressively maintained cheer--nothing will stop our fun, dammit. So we park in front of the museum and I volunteer to go to the parking kiosk and get our ticket while E. gets M. out of the car. I turn back to see E. standing by the door, chatting with M. who is still in his seat.

When I return to the car to see what's up, I discover that M. is not wearing any shoes. His papa has let him walk from the house to the car in his socks and buckled him for an afternoon out and he is not wearing any shoes. It's 40 degrees and raining out and M. is not wearing any shoes. E. explains what happened--he went to put M's shoes on and smelled...that smell...and they detoured to the changing table. Late to pick me up, he hustled M. out the door and M., happy to go and see Mama, went.

And the thing is...we laughed. I totally get how this could happen. M's feet were strangely not totally soaked so we carried him in to the museum and let him pad around in his socks for 45 min. and then carried him back to the car. It was a very nice day out.

I'm in a different place than where I was when B. was 2. It would never have happened to B.--we would have checked a hundred times before leaving the house that she was all set and we had everything. We had a very well stocked diaper bag at all times--complete with everything from antiseptic cream and band-aids to yogurt and zwieback. If the unthinkable had happened, we would either have gone home or found a ubiquitous Payless and bought her a cheap pair of shoes. And I would have been mortified about how my husband pays so little attention that she could have walked off without shoes. And that would have been one way to do it. This was another. M was happy. I'm relieved no strangers asked why my child was not wearing shoes. I pray he doesn't catch a cold. But we're good.

I guess people are different one to another and sometimes people are even different from themselves. And that is what makes the world interesting and fun.

Sly like Fox

Sorry for the silence--new computer wrangling.

In return I will relate an anecdote about my children. The scene begins with me in the kitchen cooking and B.&M. in the living room, playing.

B: OW!!!

I come running in. B. is massaging her head and tells me that M. has just hit her with the toy telephone receiver.

Me: Did you just hit your sister with the phone?

M.: No.

Me: Then why did she say "OW!"?

M.: She meant to say "Wow".

So all of that training to get M. to say "Wow" instead of "Ow" when he was playing/wanting attention but not actually hurt did, on some (nefarious and evil) level, sink in...

Oh how my words come back to bite me on the ass...

The Eternal Truths of Relationships

B. comes home from school all day and wants nothing more than to go to a quiet spot and read. She has been all day doing things that she likes less--math and writing and lining up. She can put her nose in a book and be completely oblivious to the world around her.

M. has waited all day long for his sister, his best playmate, to come home to him. He has even wandered around looking for her. He will say "Hi Bean" over and over til he screams and shrieks but be frustrated because he has been ignored. Then he will haul off and hit her and climb on her, hurting her and finally eliciting screams and attention.

Parents will spend all their time trying to foster nice play, enforcing time outs for hitting your sister, and eating ibuprofen like M&Ms for the splitting headaches. Just praying for bedtime. And finally the kids are in bed and we turn to each other, and talk about the kids.

Food choices for toddlers

At the grocery--
Papa: Let's get hot dog rolls, M. Do you want hot dogs for lunch?
M.: Yeah! Hot dogs!
Papa then puts a frozen pizza in the cart.
Papa: Or do you want pizza for lunch?
M.: Hot dogs on my pizza.

Conversation starter

M. has lately started starting conversations with "Mama, I have a better idea." It's terribly cute even if he doesn't get that then you have to articulate this better idea...

It's one of those picked-up phrases that makes me wonder if there's too much sarcasm used in our house. But at least he's stopped with "I have a joke", which inevitably runs as

M: "knock knock"
Me: "who's there?"
M: (straight to the punchline, sorta) "Funny you look like shoe"