The Texture Of Things

Meme of Fours

November 11th, 2006

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Car Wash Extraordinaire (Okay, I dried cars with towels as they came off the line.)
2. Movie Concession Queen (No one kept that entire popcorn counter crankin’ like me!)
3. English Tutor (Too, too many years of this before and sometimes during teaching.)
4. Industrial-strength embroidery sewing machine operator (Family business. There is never any escaping it, not even now that I’m a grown up. I still help out at holiday time.)

Four movies I would watch over and over
1. The Blues Brothers
2. Better Off Dead
3. Much of the Monty Python catalog (Holy Grail, Life of Brian, Meaning of Life – in that order)
4. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Four places I have lived in my life
1. An island off of the Upper Penninsula of Michigan, where I was born
2. A different apartment every year I was at “Cornfield” State University (in West Michigan) for my four-year degree
3. A Southeast Michigan city, when I first got married, known only for its two intersecting highways that lead to all the better cities
4. A Southeast Michigan suburb, where I live now, about ten miles west of the Southeast Michigan suburb I grew up in

Four TV shows I love to watch:
1. Good Eats (!!!)
2. Law & Order, regular or SVU
3. South Park
4. Daily Show/Colbert Report

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Disney X, in Florida (I was a child. I got lost for most of the day. It sucked.)
2. Yellowstone National Park (It was our honeymoon. It was splendid and I recommend it.)
3. Algoma, Wisconsin (We go to a friend’s family cabin – very good times every time we go.)
4. Flagstaff, Arizona, plus the Grand Canyon (We visited an old college friend of mine there years ago, and I’d go back with the tot in a heartbeat.)

Websites I visit daily
1. Ask Moxie
2. Parenthacks
3. eBay
Bonus: Paperbackswap

Four of my favorite foods
1. Cookies, chocolate or otherwise
2. Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats, plain (don’t waste my time with the flavors. really.)
3. Cheese, alone or with macaroni
4. Salty, store-bought tortilla chips
Bonus: Coffee
Bonus: Diet Pepsi

Four places I would rather be right now
1. On the sofa with a fleece blanket and a cat (Mittinz, perferrably)
2. At the mall, shopping for Christmas gifts and a dress/outfit for the tot to wear in her holiday pictures
(I know, I’m not even a shopper, really, so what’s up with this?)
3. Someplace warmer than Michigan right now, with water
4. Someplace colder than Michigan right now, with snow
(I am tired of brown mud and rain. If winter is coming, on with it!)

Four friends I am tagging:
Meh. If you want to be tagged, consider yourself so tagged.

The Winter Holiday is ON!

November 11th, 2006

Today’s the day, the big big day.

The Winter Holiday Of Your Choice Blog Extravaganza giftee names have begun to be assigned. I have received mine, and I can hardly wait. HARDLY.

I will do my best to restrain myself, though. And I will try to post more. The poor sap who gets my name will be in for a harder time, I think, because this blog is so new. Others have at least a year under their belts and in their archives. It is only fair that I make myself a little more visible here, in order to facilitate the Gift Giving Experience.

Some announcements:
Historically, I’ve never participated in those email-forward memes that my cousins always send me, but I will add some here between now and the end of the year. I will categorize all memes during this time under WHOYCBE. I hope it helps.

I will update my Questionnaire, because some new things have occurred to me. I’ll indicate an update with a new entry to draw attention to it.

Meanwhile, Yay! Winter is Coming!

Something’s Troubling Me About a Laurie Berkner Song

November 8th, 2006

For a while now, I’ve wanted to add some book, television, movie, and music reviews to ye olde blog, and I suppose this will be a start to that.

The tot loves, loooooooooves Laurie Berkner. Looo-ooo-ooooves her. From her car seat, she will request driving music, and it usually sounds like this: “I listen Laurie Berkner now?” It’s not really a question, though, so without waiting for an answer, she cheers, “Laurie Berkner! Yay!”

Truthfully, Laurie is okay in my book, too. I do have some bones to pick, but overall, they’re overcome-able. (If that’s even a word.)

Bone #1:
We first discovered Laurie on Jack’s Big Music Show, which we all love, LOVE, in this house. We’re music nuts, what do you want? Those who have seen Laurie on Jack’s and has then listened to one of her cds know that, frankly, her performances on Jack’s are far superior to those on the albums. Sure, the albums are still good, but she’s just a more polished singer now. She projects in these more recent performances, and when she projects, she hits the notes, her voice is more robust, and the result is a song that’s fun to sing and listen to.

Can She Overcome it?
Yes. She needs to re-record and re-release the old songs. I need to find a newer album.

Bone #2:
Dear Laurie,
I’m sorry, but seriously. When are you touring in the midwest? The videos are not enough for my daughter. They are merely placeholders until she can mind-meld with you, assimilating your very essence and your entire songlist, as far as she’s concerned. So hurry. She makes me sing your songs from sun up to sunset and I’m growing hoarse.

Can She Overcome it?
Yes, by getting her butt on a plane and coming to a Great Lake state.

Bone #3:
This one is kind of serious, and it’s been on my mind lately.

We just bought the Victor Vito album, and the last song, “Goodnight,” is becoming a favorite. Though I’ve looked for the songwriting credits, I’m not sure if this is a Laurie Berkner original, but I suspect it is. The tot now wants me to sing it to her when I put her to bed at night and usually first thing in the morning too. I don’t mind. It’s cute and I like that the two albums we have each a closing song to help the transition from “Laurie” to “Laurie all done,” and this is one such song.

The lyrics go something like this:
“I’m a little frog and my daddy loves me,
I’m a little frog and my mommy loves me.
And when they tuck me in to say goodnight,
they say, ‘ribbit, ribbit, ribbit, goodnight!'”
chorus, then repeat verse with another critter – owl, tiger, kid – and its sounds

There is nothing earthshattering here. Except lately I’ve been thinking about how completely typical I am. White. Married. Mom. Middle class. Middle-aged. Straight. There is nothing dangerous about me. I get all the good perks based on things I don’t normally think about on any given day.

But I am not the only kind of person out there. What do gay parents do when they are in a situation like this? Single parents? A child who loves a song by an artist s/he loves wants a parent to sing it, but the lyrics don’t fit. Certainly a child of gay parents or a child of a single parent becomes aware that families take all sorts of different shapes, either because her/his parents address it or because s/he sees the differences firsthand across the extended family. Or, hopefully not, because someone pointed out the difference.

So maybe this child’s parent(s) do what a lot of people do and change the words to fit. I’ve done it. I don’t sing “mommy,” I sing “mama,” but that is a superficial change. What could these words be instead? Parents? A repetition of “Mommy” or of “Daddy”? The addition of “Grandma” or “Grandpa,” “Brother” or “Sister”?

When even the music a child hears everyday uses language that doesn’t fit her/him, it must send a clear message to the child that differences matter, especially when you’re the one who’s different.

Can Laurie Overcome it?
Well, it’s not just Laurie’s job, and most of her songs are not structured in a “Mommy/Daddy” way, so I don’t mean to imply that the source of the dominant culture’s prejudice can be found in Laurie Berkner because that’s not the case. But what I do hope Laurie and other singers at Laurie’s level do is start to consider ways to shape their songs’ language to include other family shapes.

How does she do it? I don’t know exactly and that isn’t where my head is yet. What started this whole entry was me trying to think about singing “Goodnight” with different words to begin to demonstrate to the tot that not all kids sing about Mommies and Daddies.

I have to keep thinking about this.

Oh, Heavens

November 6th, 2006

This is glorious.
HG stayed home today because I have a doctor’s appointment late in the day – past our babysitter’s hours – and because he’s trying to use up his time off before the end of the year, when he will lose any unspent days.

But I have papers to grade and laundry to do and I can’t read papers with a toddler under my feet and in my hair. So, what does he suggest?

A road trip.

With my help, he packed up the tot and is taking her to his grandmother’s house to visit. His mother is there as well, and she’s itching to see her only grandbaby.

The tally:
One mama, getting stuff done at home, alone
One daddy, enjoying a day off with his daughter
One gramma, getting to see the tot for the first time in over a month
One great-grandma, seeing the tot for the first time since Easter
One babysitter, not needing to be paid

Oh, this is, like, the Best. Day. Ever.

WFMW: Sidewalk Chalk Numbers

November 1st, 2006


The sidewalk in front of my house is made up of thirteen concrete squares. How do I know this? Why, I’ve numbered them, that’s how.

Indeed, I’ve gone through a lot of sidewalk chalk keeping those little buggers numbered all summer and fall this year, but there have been several payoffs. Here’s what works for me about this:

First, the tot is fascinated by numbers and letters and makes me draw them for her repeatedly until I think my head will burst. (She’s two. Whaddya gonna do?) Her goal is to step on each number and say its name, so when I draw them on the sidewalk, she’ll burn about a million calories walking up and down the numbers endlessly.

Second, she gets a lot of numbers practice going up and down the sidewalk, both counting forward and backward. Its fortunate that I’ve got thirteen squares, actually, because she needs more practice with thirteen. Without the visual prompt, she’ll count to twelve and then say, “sixteen, sixteen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty.” She’s doing really well with counting backwards from ten now, too, and can do it spontaneously.

Third, frankly she loves it when we draw with sidewalk chalk, but really. My creativity gets tapped. How many caterpillars, balloons, smilies, bunnies, and shapes can I draw before both of us get bored with them? Then, I can always refresh the sidewalk numbers and off she’ll go, giving me a minute to stand up and give my back a break.

Fourth, it keeps her on a part of the sidewalk and driveway away from the street, which I’m terrified she’ll run into since she doesn’t stop on command.

Last, it buys me a break. This is no exaggeration: she is capable of spending over 45 minutes traipsing up and down the sidewalk, but only if there are numbers on the squares. (Occasionally she’ll allow letters.) I can lazily follow her, snap photos, pull a weed or two, chat with our neighbor, or contemplate just about anything while she plods away. She is happy to do it with me or by herself (with me in view), and that makes the effort of drawing the numbers worth it.

But wait! That’s not all!

You don’t have to be an artist. I have drawn plain numbers and outline numbers. I have drawn big ones and small ones. I have added the spelled out numbers below them. I have had to scratch out mistakes and color in goof ups. What seems to matter to the tot most is that they are always there or are easy to put there again and that we do it together.

Sidewalk chalk is a healthy part of your complete sensory diet:
*The dusty texture is unique. It is not a typical solid and it is not soft, though it leaves residue on your hands.
*Drawing with chalk teaches cause and effect. Draw all you want on the pavement, sure, but when you run out of room and crawl across your drawing to open pavement, you smear the existing drawing and get smudges on your clothing.
*Drawing on different surfaces yields distinct sensations in your hand. Grooved concrete like my sidewalk makes the chalk vibrate differently in my hand than when it glides across the relatively smooth asphalt of my driveway.

Certainly, this activity is based on having a regular space to draw safely, so what ways could it be adapted to other situations? Anyone?

(Hop on over to Rocks in my Dryer for about a billion more great ideas!)

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