Saturday, May 09, 2015

Piano recital

Lillian had a piano recital today, her third ever. This piano thing as been a long road; she really really hated it at first, and it was really hard for her.  I pretty much had to sit next to her at the piano every time she practiced and force her to do it.  There were lots of tears.  I was trusting in the studies that say that musicality helps develop math skills, an area where Lillian really struggles, and plus, I needed to set a precedent for the subsequent children that you WILL take piano lessons from ages 7-12, no buts.  I think she has a normal amount of hate for it now and will sometimes even practice without me bugging her, if she has a song she likes.

But also, she's growing up and turning into a young woman, which freaks me out.  I mean, only six more years until she can get a learner's permit.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Favorite Children's Book Authors

This is not a paid endorsement, I just wanted to tell someone about this.

I have read 5-30 children's picture books a week for almost 9 years now, so I'm pretty much an expert.  There are classics that will always stand the test of time- Goodnight Moon, The Little House, Llama Llama Red Pajama, Ferdinand the Bull.  But, if you read other books by these authors, they don't quite have the same mix of comfort and surprise that makes a good short story.  Or it's the same plot with different characters.

One of the things that is challenging with kid's books is that you, the parent, have to be able to read them over and over again without wanting to claw your eyes out.  The kids have a book called Who Stole the Cookies From the Cookie Jar where every page she asks the titular question and the protagonist guesses an animal, who then explains that they didn't do it because they eat grass, or flies, or antelopes.  At the end, turns out it was the ants who stole the cookies, but they stole them to set up a party and invite all the animals to eat the cookies that they just explained at length that they don't eat (WTH?).  The kids love it, but I hate it, so I hide it on top of the bookshelf where they can't see it.

To make books interesting for parents, authors will often try to be clever, like in the Amelia Bedelia series.  The problem is that with EVERY. SINGLE. PAGE. you have to spend 3 minutes explaining the joke... that pare is a word that no one uses that means peel, so when Mrs. Rogers says "pare the vegetables" and Amelia Bedelia "pairs" the vegetables, it's funny... see?  Times 20 pages.

It also can't have too many words on each page or be too long because either the kids will pick it to drag out bedtime, or it won't hold their attention.  Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs has this problem- it's original enough that it takes like 15 pages to explain the premise before getting to the actual story, which is fun and all, but I just want my kids to go to bed already.

However, there are two authors that I can think of that overcome all these difficulties:

Peter Brown and Oliver Jeffers.  Every single book is just right: just the right length, just the right number of words per page, just the right amount of clever, beautiful illustrations.  And every book is good.

Although I love them all, my all time favorites are-

A bear finds a boy in the woods and takes him home.
A little boy gets his favorite shoe stuck in a tree.

If you are wondering what books to get your kids/niece/nephew/grandchild, buy them these.

Or, buy them for yourself, because they are great.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Phineas and Ferb Changed My Life

Last summer, I had a bad attitude, or maybe I was actually clinically depressed?  It was the heat.  I can handle it being hot in the summer.  I cannot, however, handle it being hot in the spring and fall as well.  If the triple digits would mind their manners and stay in their own season, we wouldn't be so much at odds.

Anyway, things started unraveling fast about September.  I remember one specific day, I was in my car, waiting at a light to turn onto the freeway, and the theme song from Phineas and Ferb came on.  This was the extended, album-release by Bowling for Soup and it's actually called "Today Is Gonna Be A Great Day"

There's a part where they sing:

This could possibly be the best day ever
And the forecast says that tomorrow will likely be a million and six times better.
So make every minute count: jump up, jump in and seize the day.
And let's make sure that in every single possible way...
Today is gonna be a great day.

This was the opposite of what I was doing.  My days were not the best days ever.  I was laying down quietly, waiting to be burned to a crisp by the blinding Arizona sun.  (Seriously, though, there is no cloud cover ever, so the sun is always in my eyes... even if it's cold outside.)  I needed to do something to make sure that in every single possible way my summers would be great.

I sort of snapped that day and announced to Tyler that I was leaving next summer.

"So... we're getting a divorce...?" he asked.
"No no no, I love you.  I'm just not going to live here."
"You're moving forever...?"
"I don't know."
"Where are you going?"
"I don't know.  All I know is that I won't be here."

My first plan was that I would get a job as a summer camp nurse and take my children with me.  Tyler said he could come with us and work remotely during those weeks and watch the kids during the day.  I applied with several camps and got accepted at a camp in Maine.

I didn't end up doing this because it seemed likely that Tyler would get a job in California AND HE DID!  We leave in a few weeks and I am beyond excited and grateful once again to Phineas and Ferb for making the world a better place.
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