Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Godwinian philosophy

Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Just a few words of wisdom from my new buddy, William Godwin.  I'll be reading a lot of him in upcoming months.  

my personal favorite of the various portraits of William Godwin

There is a numerous class of individuals who, though rich, have neither brilliant talents nor sublime virtues; and, however highly they may prize their education, their affability, their superior polish and the elegance of their manners, have a secret consciousness that they possess nothing by which they can so securely assert their preeminence and keep their inferiors at a distance as the splendor of their equipage, the magnificence of their retinue and the sumptuousness of their entertainments.  The poor man is struck with this exhibition; he feels his own miseries; he knows how unwearied are his efforts to obtain a slender pittance of this prodigal waste; and he mistakes opulence for felicity.  He cannot persuade himself that an embroidered garment may frequently cover an aching heart. 
-Enquiry Concerning Political Justice

At first reading, I was tempted to post this accompanied by a picture of Kim Kardashien.  Then I worried that I might call too much attention to her potentially "aching" heart.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

traveling with baby: before

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Not long after Baby A was born, I was taken over by the idea that it was ab-so-lutely essential that we take a family trip to Denmark so that he could meet the Danish family. I don't believe that I've ever mentioned it here, but my dear MIL is Danish, thus making SH half Dane.  Keeping close to our Danish family has always been important to both of us, and my MIL is great about maintaining her traditions AND exposing the children to the language.  In fact, she speaks only Danish to my beloved, precious niece, and the plan is for her to do the same for Baby A.

Needless to say, a whole host of circumstances (business trips, weddings) has made it possible for almost the entire family to visit Denmark for a week over the summer (we'll miss you, Aunt C and Uncle P!).  I have been once before, and enjoyed every moment-it's a beautiful, CLEAN country.  I know that's a rather mundane adjective to use to describe it, but once you've visited, I think you'd understand.  Gorgeous architecture characterized by modern Danish design is present even in the airport. Streets and highways (with many, many roundabouts) seem spotless.  In the countryside, it's not uncommon to constantly pass farms where kartoffler (potato) is sold, freshly pulled from the dark, fertile soil.  The food, by the way, is uncommonly delicious.  I gained something like five pounds on my first visit.  Huge hunks of salmon scattered with finely chopped dill, juicy pork with its crispy skin still intact, buttery pastries mounded with fruit and covered with cream, dark brown bread with butter and sharp white cheese. Dark coffee and really good Danish beer served approximately five times a day.  And always kartoffler.  At every meal.

Ok, so clearly I'm getting distracted from my main purpose in composing this post.  Obviously the amazing breastfeeding diet is going to be slightly less successful when I'm devouring mountains of Danish food.  Now that we've got that out of the way, I shall move on to more important matters, namely, how in the world am I going to be able to properly entertain an eleven-month old on two monstrously long flights?

Logistically, I'm pleased with the flights themselves.  Our first flight departs from the East Coast in the late afternoon, and I am fairly certain that baby A will sleep at least two or three hours of the 8 hour flight.  It won't be the first time he's flown, so I'm not concerned about his ears or the pressure bothering him, although he has become more frightful in the past two months-he might be more nervous.  Our return flight, which also departs in the late afternoon, is all the way from Frankfurt to San Francisco, so much longer.  My only consolation there is that we arrive home in the evening, so even if A has slept a mere hour or two on the flight, he'll at least get a good jump start on readjusting to our time zone.

I've been scouring the Internets for suggestions for flying with a baby, and I have found a few good ideas, which I'll list here.  I was shocked, in this day and age, to see how many message boards were full of parents advocating medicating the baby.  Granted, most of our parents probably did this, and we clearly all turned out okay, but I can't even fathom dosing baby A with something I have idea how he might react to, particularly since it would mostly be for my convenience!  The little love has barely touched a non-organic thing in his little life!  He won't be taking any medicine to calm him!  Granted, if there WERE some FDA-approved, all natural, homeopathic soothing medicinal "remedy" I will admit I would be tempted....
*I would like to note that in NO way do I mean to judge here-everyone is perfectly entitled to do what they think is best! 

I've compiled a collection of ideas I found, all of which I've begun to purchase and gather together in anticipation of our departure.  My plan is to have my second carry-on (the first being my diaper bag) full of these items, which are all relatively small and take up little space.  The books are the heaviest and most unwieldy. I'll pack a few of them in A's bag for the return trip and switch out before we leave.

for tearing apart, sifting through, sticking
-stickers + small notepad
-packages of travel-size tissue
-box of Band-Aids
-playing cards

for actual play:
-finger puppets-I found a great, perfectly sized set of these at Ikea
-super small nesting cups/dolls
-lift-the-flap or multi-sensory books
-travel-size Magna Doodle-My favorite mom blog, growingafoosa, tried out this idea first and it was a big success.
-miscellaneous $bin items-think squishy bath toys, throwaway cardboard books, small bouncy balls.  Basically simple toys of dubious origin that I would otherwise avoid.

Granted, baby A is going to attempt to put each and every one of these items in his mouth before playing with them, but there isn't a whole lot I can do about that.  I'm hoping that I can get 5-10 minutes of interest per object.  He LOVES books, which is a huge blessing.  I'll also have plenty of snacks.

So, loyal few, any good travel hints you can pass along?  I will be eternally grateful!  After we've recovered from our trip, I'll return the favor with any newfound traveling-with-a-baby wisdom I've acquired.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Well, it's very clearly a Baz Luhrmann production.  Still makes me want to reread the book again.  Leo looks goooood, a perfect Gatsby in appearance at least.  There are certainly glints of Daisy in Carey Mulligan-I especially liked her "You always look so cool," sound bite.  We shall have to see.

Friday, May 18, 2012

what we're reading now...may 18

Friday, May 18, 2012
You might notice that our recent reads are, ahem, lacking in substance. This is totally justified because baby A has truly begun to take notice of his multi-sensory books.  Granted, I probably have not spent enough time with turn-the-flap, touch-and-feel, scratch-and-sniff, etc.  Instead, I often select the books that I personally love.  Hopefully, this is not completely to A's detriment.  I am beginning to rectify the problem!

Tails.  I read about this book on a message board when I was trying to assuage my growing panic about our upcoming transatlantic flight to Europe and in search of any good "entertaining the baby without medicating them" ideas.  As it turns out, I think it's a bit bulky and unwieldy for travel, but it was a completely inspired purchase.  Baby A LOVES it.  He's not so much into touching the furry tails, but he likes opening the flaps, which are extra large and easy for him to manage.  Lately, he's been wriggling all around in our arms and craning his little neck towards the shelf where we keep this book, and it's the only one that calms him down immediately.

Inside Freight Train. I feel a pang of bittersweet nostalgia when I think of Freight Train, Donald Crew's 1979 Caldecott-honored book.  It was a beloved former student's favorite book, and every time I see it, I can still hear him chanting the simple text boldly and exuberantly, "...a black tender and a black steam engine!"  The aforementioned dear librarian friend purchased both Freight Train and this companion book for baby A shortly after he was born, and we are really enjoying them now.  Inside Freight Train is a sliding board book-open the partitions and the contents of each car are revealed.  Baby A laughs every time I slide open the paper "doors."  He's always enjoyed the original Freight Train, and I carried it in my diaper bag for emergency entertainment for months.  Now that he's so interested, however, I've put it back into our regular library rotation.  I usually read one or the other every few days.

Dear Zoo.  Here is a classic turn-the-flap book. It's one that I'd often seen in classrooms and libraries but never read.  A shame I missed it, because it's absolutely adorable and truly a perfect beginning for showing babies and small children how to turn flaps.  I must warn you, should you purchase your own new copy, that the flaps are quite secure and also constructed of fairly thin stiff paper.  You'll need to go through the book first and open all of the flaps, because they'll be impossible for baby to manipulate when the book is brand new.  Sadly, baby A experienced his first paper cut when he enthusiastically attempted to open one of the crisp, new flaps.  I am pleased to say it has not affected his interest in the book.

Moongame.  There is a whole series of "Moonbear" books by Frank Asch, but this is the only one with which I'm familiar.  It was a random find in my set of classroom books, probably from a book fair or an extra copy shared by my mother.  I pulled it out on a whim a few days ago, and we've both enjoyed reading it.  I can imagine it will become even more interesting as A gets older.  The illustrations are simple, but bright and sweet, and the story is relatable.

The Lorax.  To be fair, baby A's attention span does not allow for a complete reading of The Lorax in one sitting.  We usually break it up over about three sessions.  I did not fully appreciate the wonder of this book when I was young.  It really warms my heart to think that I sort of "discovered" it again while reading with my baby.  I am confident it won't be the last time, either.

We had our weekly visit to the library yesterday, and I'm really excited about some of the things we (okay, I) picked out.  Maybe a few of them will make the next list?

Happy reading!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

paying respect

Saturday, May 5, 2012

RIP Adam Yauch.

lascivious Robert Pattinson

Can my innocent Twilight heart take it? Perhaps I prefer chaste Edward Cullen.

I would like to note, once more, that this is a film adaptation of a novel written by a respected author.  I will be remembering this as I sneak in the movie in ten to twenty minute increments when Baby A is resting.  It's On Demand, iTunes, etc.  In case you're interested.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

what we're reading now...May 1

Tuesday, May 1, 2012
So when I dreamed up the idea for posting about our reading, I was imagining a bi-monthly post.  Ha!  Is it any surprise that I'm starting the month of May with my second post, having allowed the rest of April to pass me by? I'm saying my mantra out loud now, BLOG MORE OFTEN.

The Bunny Book.  I mentioned I Am a Bunny in my last post, which is a treasure of a book, recently recommended to me by my wonderful SIL.  This book is in the same vein, written by Patsy Scarry and also illustrated by Richard Scarry.  Similarly adorable bunnies grace its pages, but rather than a quick dash through the seasons, this book is about the aspirations of one baby bunny.  His family has all kinds of ideas for what he might be, from the exotic to the quotidian, but he already knows what he wants to be.  I won't spoil it, but you will keel over from the sweetness of the conclusion.  I promise.  

Caps for Sale. A beloved classic, I plucked it out to read to baby A a few weeks ago mainly because of its enduring value.  It's not an especially exciting story, but I thought he might like the scenes with the monkeys.  As it turns out, it's a great book to read with a young child.  We practice shaking our fingers and fists at the monkeys, and eventually we'll get to stamping our feet. I know A is truly indiscriminate now when it comes to our books, but I shall claim that he does indeed show preference for some books, and this is one of them.  As an adult, I especially love the lovely vintage illustrations.  

Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See.  I'll be the first to admit that I did not appropriately appreciate the beloved Bill Martin/Eric Carle series.  I always found it a bit tedious, and even though the students seemed to adore the repetitive "Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?" questions, I just felt that the books lacked substance.  A bit ridiculous on my part, really, considering that all of these books (there are 4 total: the original Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear, and our personal favorite, Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See) are excellent for small children-patterns to identify for the emerging reader, bright colors (both for aesthetic appeal and for educational value) and a pleasing rhythm.  We checked this particular title out at the library, and I like it so much that I purchased the board book version for A's birthday.  It's based on endangered species, and the pictures are some of the most beautiful of the series.  While the other books conclude with a teacher, zookeeper, and mama bear, respectively, this one finishes with a "dreaming child."  Love it.  

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.  Something strange happened the very first time that A and I made it through an entire reading of this book (it's long, people!).  At the time I purchased it, I simply wanted to add a Seussian title to our collection.  I didn't read them much as a child (or so I thought!) but I felt that A needed to have it.  As I read to my precious little mooshie, however, a vague, completely pleasant familiarity settled over me.  I felt that there was a fond memory that I couldn't quite grasp.  While I still can't exactly remember having read the book as a child, I am now certain that it was a part of my mother's repertoire.  The wild pictures and crazy Nooks, Yings, and Zans opening cans weren't new to me, and somehow I realized that I had looked through the pages of the book many, many times.  I hope that A has a similar epiphany some day, as he reads to his own baby.  

Henny Penny.  I am still on the fairy/folk tale train, still on a Paul Galdone kick.  We have another variation of the same tale, the raucous, busily illustrated Chicken Little, by Steven Kellogg, and I had been reading it quite a bit to baby A before I found Galdone's Henny Penny at the library.  It's a simpler, much more old school version of the story.  In the Kellogg version, the mischievous Foxy Loxy is caught and sent to prison, banned to a diet of vegetable juice for life.  The much darker Henny Penny sees its innocent fowl heading straight into Foxy Loxy's cave never to be seen again.  These words are actually printed on a single black page.  Shudder :)  Tradition is good, I say!  Fairy tales are supposed to contain a bit of the sinister.  Besides the inherent value of being a traditional tale, this version also sticks to a clear pattern which a child might readily identify.  More modern versions are a bit messier, with extra added details.  That's great for older children, but when you're attempting to reinforce basic early reading skills, it's good to have simple, predictable texts.

I can hear a certain adorable baby waking up from his morning nap! Victory!  Post accomplished!