Category Archives: Books

Reflections of Generation X

Hey, I hope everyone had a wonderful Father’s Day!

I should probably get my ducks in a row by preparing timely holiday posts, but I’m too busy celebrating with my family and am apparently not great at planning ahead. We had a nice time swimming and eating a good meal with my folks, at any rate.

Watching my kids with their grandparents got me thinking about the different childhoods we various generations have had. My folks are Baby Boomers, the young adults currently dominating the scene are Millennials, of course, and my kids will be part of some generation that doesn’t even have a name yet. You know, the one soon to be characterized by all their robot friends or teleportation skills or whatever.

crawford_lang1And me? I’m late Generation X (the “whatever” should’ve clued you in). We used to be all the rage, back when we were waiting to see if Winona Ryder would pick Ethan Hawke or Ben Stiller before rocking out to Nirvana while wearing our long-sleeved plaid shirts and brown lipstick.

We gave you cynicism, MTV, Rap and Grunge Rock (it was a backlash against those flashy 80’s. Plus, we had AIDS & crack epidemics on our hands and all watched the much-hyped Challenger explode when we were little kids).

We questioned the American Dream and debated all existing philosophies without worrying much about PC language, beyond a few obvious terms (we just turned everything into sarcasm and irony if someone got annoyed). We figured we had the racism deal mostly licked by the time The Cosby Show came out (oh, how different that seems in retrospect) and sexism practically beat with Title IX and Puritanism was clearly on the wane since Bart Simpson started swearing in family cartoons (that’s right, folks. You so wouldn’t have Family Guy and Robot Chicken if it weren’t for us. Honestly, I can’t believe The Simpsons is still on TV).

See, Gen Xer’s are young enough to have been introduced to email, smart phones, and the internet relatively early, (early enough to master them without frequent bouts of cranky belligerence, at least) while still old enough to remember what growing up without them was like.

And lately, I’ve been thinking about how they made life different, for better or worse:

Video Games

I’m… ahem… old enough to barely remember when playing a video game meant loading a tape for 45 minutes then smacking pixelated squares around with a joystick. Or dumping quarters into an arcade while avoiding the much older, friendlier men.

I can actually remember trying to sort out Zork commands. Those games always had long, tedious maze sections.

And I also remember when hitting a snag in a game meant possibly never finishing the game. I got stuck in one that doesn’t exist anymore while trying to get my rich family to travel back in time to their medieval selves, hoping for the chance to type in the “sneer” command. I hit this puzzle that I couldn’t solve and still don’t know how that story ended.

You couldn’t look up walkthroughs. You would just sit there, stuck, unable to finish your game and running to the nearest comic book store to find whatever local nerd you figured had the best chance of having figured it out.

I played Sim City back when it was a bunch of red and yellow rectangles and Age of Empires, back when it was just minuscule cave men saying, “Rooooooh-gan!” before cutting down a tree. I remember when Castle Wolfenstein was a bunch of stick figures shouting angry German amidst the hiss of walkie-talkies (surprisingly terrifying at the time) and when Doom began setting the standards for awesome graphics and superficial, blow-everything-up game play.

And now… well… I still love video games and modern graphics make the ones I grew up playing look like something a drunk toddler worked out on an Etch-o-Sketch, but we did have elaborate stories and had to mentally fill out those stick figures with our wild imaginations. We also didn’t have those massive multiplayer online role-playing games that now suck up years of people’s lives with their thin storylines and continuously-regenerating VI opponents that make you button-mash like a laboratory chimp jonesing for its next cocaine hit until it starts peeing itself and finally forgets to mate or eat.

So… there’s that.

Plus, we’re now seeing a strange return to those earlier simplistic games with FarmVille and similar phone apps, now combined with the addictive qualities of MMORPG’s. Hey, it doesn’t really matter if your pumpkin crop fails, people. Get on with your life (and get off my lawn).

Smart phones

chandler
Yeah, they were pretty goofy.

For a while, when I was growing up, personal phones were around but not something most people had access to. They were really popular in Italy and we all found that really funny (Psh, those crazy Italians and their crazy cell phones and wild hand gestures and protection rackets).

They were also roughly shaped like a shoebox and cost a ton of money to use, so only businessmen were using them to make sure everyone knew that their time was really that important and those guys were probably also shelling out for those exorbitant plane phones while flying Business Class or getting their suits tailored or otherwise worshipping at the altar of Ayn Rand.

But normal people had landlines. If you wanted to showcase your whimsical, Bohemian self, you’d get something like a hamburger-shaped phone (Hell, I remember when cordless phones were a big deal because they’d you let you walk outside a two-foot radius).

People couldn’t contact you outside your house. Sure, we had answering machines so you’d find out if someone called, but you wouldn’t know about it before you came home (and you could be on vacation). You could feasibly put off calling someone back for several days, because you hadn’t had a chance to check your messages.

On the one hand, texting is really convenient. You can reach anyone, anywhere, at any time.

On the other, now anyone can reach you, anywhere, at any time. They now expect you to get back to them right away, or else they’ll be mad. There’s no excuse, because you’re wearing your phone at all times, or should be. You can never totally escape into the activities of the present moment, because in a way, you’re always leashed to a device that keeps you perpetually “on call.”

And you can’t heighten romantic tension anymore by making your significant other think you’re running around having an awesome time, innocently oblivious to all of their attempts to contact you. Now, you’re just ignoring them, which is rude. It used to be much easier to remain mysterious.

But I sure wish I had Google maps back in college because it would saved me from so many crying jags on L.A. freeways. Thomas Guides were absolute crap.

Downloadable media

It was once much harder to get your hands on entertainment. You had to buy compact discs for $16, so they’d better be worth it. You either had to catch shows when they were on or make sure you programmed your VCR correctly, and also that no one accidentally taped over your show, because once you missed it, you could be waiting years for it to come back on. If ever.

blockbuster
However, there used to be more comedy scenarios about people you wanted to impress catching you picking up embarrassing films.

If you wanted to see a movie, you’d drive to Blockbuster Video. You could rent movies for just a dollar, but they’d triple in price if you returned them thirty seconds after 8 PM the next day. For some reason, your rental bill always ended up being $8, which was roughy the same price as a couple of fast-food dinners, so renting several movies meant having to order fewer pizzas that month.

It’s a bizarre equation, but trust me… that’s how it was.

It’s nice to be able to instantly access whatever you’re interested in without having to rearrange your schedule. But on the other hand, we probably watched less TV and spent more time outside, doing stuff during which no one could contact us without getting into a car and finding us.

We also had fewer channels, which means we couldn’t as easily live in the polarized political echo-chambers people live in today, with internet sites, news channels, and Facebook groups completely devoted to upholding whatever one-sided world views we’re aligning with. We tended to argue more face-to-face.

The Internet

It’s pretty great to access whatever information we want, across international borders, within a minute or two. You can fall into rabbit-holes of infotainment that you once had to tackle walls of library microfiche to navigate.

We can also fact-check more easily now. If someone warns you about the guys at the Walmart parking lot knocking unsuspecting women out with chloroform disguised as perfume samples, it now takes 30 seconds to debunk the idea on Snopes.com, whereas it used to remain an unconfirmed rumor, forever.

So you’d think people would get less paranoid, right? Except now we have entire websites devoted to whatever whackadoodle conspiracies people take as Gospel Truth, so I’m not sure.

Today, anyone can also write anything on the internet and get lots of attention for it. I don’t think we had as much of a troll culture back in the 90’s. We spoke much more earnestly back then.

trollNow, it’s hard to tell if someone’s a jerk or just trying to get a rise out of people, which inherently casts doubt upon any unconventional opinion. If you start taking on someone’s nasty argument, you get worried about becoming the sap that’s playing into some obnoxious troll’s hands, so we now hear increasingly crazy, unchallenged opinions on a regular basis that go half-ignored by most because we’re unsure of how to best distinguish idiocy from narcissism.

Maybe that’s why people seem more outraged these days… they have to convince everyone that they really, really mean it.


So, any other Gen-Xer’s out there who want to weigh in on what I’ve been saying? How about some Boomers or Millennials?

Or even the Greatest Generation, if you guys are actually perusing blogs right now instead of discussing the mechanics of WWII planes. I’d love to hear your insights as well, since you guys definitely have the long view in this equation.

 

 

 

 

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Seniors in Hotpants and Toddler Book Reviews

Tuesday is library day, which the girls love because of its set routine.

First, we load water and snacks into the girls’ backpacks and the past week’s books into mine. Then, we walk out of our neighborhood, pausing on our way to stare at the bizarre cacophony of objects in the Vietnam Vet’s front yard.

Doll heads, Snoopy statues, American flags, ancient tools in a gravel maze of cacti and rosebuds… to me, it represents lingering existential puzzles. But for Brontë and Bridget, it’s a Where’s Waldo of disordered beauty. They always point out something random before moving on.

We hit the boulevard where I always pick up Bridget and squeeze Brontë’s hand to cross the street. Knowing this, Bridget reaches both arms up as we approach, then pushes her face into my neck as we wait for an opening before trotting across. I set her down as we continue past the lost animal posters, the guttered fast-food cups, the place where the skateboarding kids’ skunk-toned air turns to jasmine bushes.

The kids greet the Jehovah’s Witnesses sitting in front of the library in flowered dresses and well-ironed suits, then they charge toward their respective book return slots. Bridget always goes to the left, and Brontë to the right. I hand them books to return until my backpack is empty.

Then we walk to the park to play before Storytime begins at the library. Sometimes we meet our neighbor there, but she was busy last week. So instead, the girls ran to the playground after immediately ditching their backpacks and shoes, as they always do.

I sat down on a nearby bench, trying hard not to judge the lady who was at least well into her seventies wearing short-shorts that just walked by because I hate those preachy 30 Things Not to Wear After Thirty lists and shouldn’t be so damn hypocritical. It was warm outside, so I should cut her a break, even if I’d never wear something like that myself. Even Jessica Simpson would have trouble pulling those off.

Showcased flesh aside, I was wondering if we’d have to drive next week because it would be too hot to walk when I noticed Bridget walking up the big, spiral slide again. Dang it… I’m always telling her not to do that because it creates a traffic jam with the kids at the top, but there were no kids at the top right then and sometimes parents have to pick their battles so maybe I’ll just let it slide.

Let it slide, let it slide… shut UP, annoying brain with your terrible puns. Climbing up the slide must be incredibly fun, considering how badly kids want to do it. Like a spiral mountain-climbing event. Aerial geometry. 

And that’s when Bridget started screaming.

I walked over confused, because she’s climbed up that slide a thousand times before.

“They boarded up the slide because the slide is hot,” the grand dame in short-shorts told me.

OH. Bridget’s freaking out because she’s trapped. That makes sense. I reached my arms up toward her.

“Come here, baby,” I said. “I’ll get you down.”

And then loudly, the lady said, “Well, she CAN’T walk down the slide because she ISN’T WEARING ANY SHOES!” (subtext: Only a monster of a mother would let her child run around without any shoes on).

Then, without missing a beat or pausing for breath, she worked up her most martyred-sounding tone and yelled, “I guess I’LL have to GO GET HER THEN,” before shoving me out of the way to reach the slide bottom.

Panicked by the sight of a crazed old lady in hot pants advancing upon her, Bridget shrieked before jumping sideways off the top of the slide into my arms. Irritated by the forced parkour, I twirled her away as the lady let out a frustrated HMPH! and one more “she WASN’T wearing any SHOES!”

“She walked UP the slide, didn’t she!?” I yelled back, wondering why the woman thought trying to cart a hysterical toddler backwards down a spiral slide wouldn’t be dangerous and whether she would later recount her heroically-attempted rescue of the poor kid whose mom wanted to boil her feet to all her friends, who would then pontificate on how social media and participation trophies ruined the Millennials.

Well, we made it to library Storytime, where the kids had a blast and learned all about the Storybook Summer Reading Challenge. If they read five books and log reviews into the website, they get to pick out a free gift book. If they read twenty, they get a SUPER READER medal with their name on it.

This is beyond exciting for my kids and all they can talk about. They want that medal. They’re hungry for it. It has their NAME ON IT.

It will be easy, since I read Brontë a different story every night. We always check out three books for Bidgie to choose from, but she always picks the same one… whatever one she happened to read first. Bonus points if it’s Dr. Seuss though, whom she loves, even though Brontë inexplicably HATES him.

For Brontë, I try to select a bunch of different styles and genres to open up her brain. I usually get a couple of weird ones to make her think. She usually loves them.

But not the one we read last night.

Sendak-nightkitchenIt’s called “In the Night Kitchen,” by Maurice Sendak. It was published in 1970, but looks like something out of the 1920’s: a little boy falls asleep, floats out of his clothes and into  the dough of three chubby bakers who want to cook him because they think he’s milk…

The boy fashions the dough into an airplane, then flies over a huge glass bottle of milk. Jumping inside it, he gets a pitcher to bring back to the bakers, who then sing a happy song about having milk for their cake. The boy makes rooster noises before floating back into his clothes and his bed.

It was mildly disturbing, to tell you the truth. I was curious about Brontë’s take…

Night Kitchen milk
Frankly, this creeped me out too

Me: So, what did you think?

Brontë: That was… weird.

Me: Yeah. I’m sensing you didn’t like it.

Brontë: No, because that little boy was NAKED.

Me: He was.

Brontë: And then he GOT into the MILK. Naked! I do NOT want naked boys in my milk, momma. He could PEE in there!

Me: True.

Brontë: Or even POOP!

Bridget: GROSS!

(The girls laugh hysterically).

Me: Okay, so in your review, you want to say, “I thought the naked boy in the milk was weird because he could pee in there.”

Brontë (very seriously): YES. Or poop. Don’t forget that part. I don’t want to see any more books about naked boys in milk. You write that.

Me: Okay.

And I did. Anyone researching children’s books in Sacramento libraries can now read all about how this one contains disturbing imagery of naked little boys in milk jars who could spontaneously pee and run everybody’s breakfasts. I can’t help wondering if that lady in hot pants will someday come upon it and spontaneously combust.

I also can’t help wondering if there was some deeper, more intricate symbolism in the book that both of us missed. That couldn’t have just been about being baked naked in Oliver Hardy’s cake, right?

Hopefully, Brontë will like tomorrow’s batch much better, but on the other hand, her negative reviews are much more entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Murder, Card Catalogues, and Birthdays

It’s been well over a week’s since I’ve posted and high time I wrote something, before I completely lose momentum…

We’ve been in the depths of home-buying hell lately, scrambling to compete for limited Sacramento inventory while trying to sell our house to folks who don’t want to risk contingencies. Moving from a lower-demand area to a higher one is proving tricky.

Plus, I’m having sporadic  panics about having to clear the evidence of two wild toddlers from our house quickly, so someone can check out our house before it re-explodes: “I said PUT THAT DOWN! Where are your SHOES… Did you just FLING YOGURT ALL OVER THE KITCHEN!?”

Momma is rapidly losing it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: white carpets are where madness lies. White carpets and white tile and white grout and white painted decks were clearly the brainchild of some bourgeois masochist, hell-bent on providing suburban disciples with a daily atonement exercise.

dori
The carpet, like your soul, is filthy
It’s never clean. None of us are clean. There’s nothing so decaying as the core of Puritanical zealotry. Just keep scrubbing, just keep scrubbing (I’m picturing a wild-eyed Dori in a Thanksgiving hat as I say this).

 

In the midst of all this, however, my husband John surprised me with a three-day trip to Disneyland for my birthday, because he’s awesome like that. I thought we were just gonna hang out at Santa Cruz.

The trip was fantastic and I’ll be writing another post about it with adorable photos. But for now, I’d rather discuss getting older, since birthdays tend to make one reflect.

I don’t want to get too detailed about it, but let’s just say I had kids older than many, but young enough not to need medical help with it. I firmly believe there are different advantages to parenting at various ages, but in my case, this was the right path. I wasn’t financially or emotionally ready at 20.

Besides, the older I get, the more I grasp the grand relativity of age. For instance, I can still vaguely remember sixth graders looking SO grown-up, back when I was seven years old.

Now, many high schoolers look like kids.

In fact, I remember being baffled when my high school teacher parents called them that: “Kids.” Kids were single digit ages, to my way of thinking, who played hopscotch and dragged around dolls. 

High schoolers, on the other hand, could almost vote. Clearly, my folks were delusional.

I can also remember thinking 30 was practically middle-aged, back when I was fourteen or so. Thirty now feels very “young adult,” the soonest a person should be trusted with important decisions. Possibly it sounds infantile to septuagenarians.

 

My recent Sue Grafton mystery novel reading jag has put all this into even greater perspective. I don’t know why I’ve been on a Grafton kick, except that I like mystery novels and read hers years ago, back when I was younger than the main character. Back when I had to check them out of the library and hope someone had brought the next alphabet letter book back.

I have to mention, she really developed an ingenious titling system: A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc. Not only is is easy (she just comes up with a crime-related word for each alphabet letter), but it also activates any Obsessive-Compulsive tendencies within her readers.

longdivision.gif
ABOMINATION
You want to complete the set. You don’t want to be missing “E” or “J” in your beautifully-coordinated book set, because that would be like long division with an outrageously repeating decimal remainder. It’s a missing bicuspid in an otherwise uniform set of teeth.

 

Clever titles aside, it’s been eerie to reread a 80’s saga I once read in my youth. It’s world is forever frozen in the 1980’s of my childhood, with a detective who still uses phone books and card catalogs. A detective who once seemed worldly and mature to me, but is now younger than I am, locked into a world without internet or smart phones.

It’s amazing to think the kids growing up today will see phone booths as antiquated relics, the way my generation saw old-timey 1920’s phones with bells you talk into and little cranks on the side. Phone numbers that included addresses because everyone was on a party line, or something.

Even crazier is the idea that someday, Millennials will be the old farts. Whatever the next generations ends up being called, they’ll eventually be making fun of Millennial music and pants styles, pointing out how dated it is to tattoo your arms and cringing whenever someone born “way back in the 90’s” mangles the current slang.

Sigh… it’s all a big cycle, isn’t it? I’ve never understood the point of fixating on age (you won’t find me posting commiserating “age test” memes on Facebook), since we’re all alive on this planet for one brief lifetime (probably) and better off living our lives than complaining about unchangeable details, but there are a few points I’d like to make after all this reflection…

  1. Every generation, probably since the dawn of time, thinks the next one is going to Hell in a hand basket 

Right now, it’s Generation X complaining about Millennials: they’re entitled, they’re materialistic, they’re lazy, they have bad manners… blah blah blah. But a thousand years ago it was Socrates, saying:

The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.

Funny how everyone seems to think the world happened to reach its greatest potential within their lifetimes.

On everything: common sense, manners, the right amount of technology before people become socially-impaired…

And music, of course. Music just happened to be awesome until right after your college years, whereupon it went straight into the toilet. The world’s collective creative peak just happened to zenith along with you before sliding into another Dark Age.

I don’t know if it’s because we forget the follies of our youth or just resent the world going without us, but I have no doubt the Millennials will be making the same arguments in another 15 years.

2.  We’re all convinced we were tireless gods in our youths, before our bodies betrayed us

“I used to stay up partying all night long, throw back some coffee, get into work early, and keep going like no one’s business. Can’t do it anymore, but boy, I used to be unstoppable.”

animal-house
Sure, this guy passes for early 20’s
That’s roughly what I’ve heard thirty-somethings-or-more say about sixteen billion times. They never used to get tired. They could get by on no sleep and just keep going. They used to get up an hour before they went to bed to run seven miles, hungover, before partying all night long.

 

I don’t know… I don’t remember it quite the same way. I remember having 8 AM classes every morning before doing a work study job then sabre fencing until 2 AM, night after night…

And I also remember being EXTREMELY TIRED.

I was late to that 8 AM class, more often than not, and downing as much caffeine as possible while I dragged myself through my days, sneaking naps whenever I could get one.

I remember eating candy corn and pounding Jolt cola while pulling all-nighters to write fifteen page papers, walking in circles to stay awake and eyeing my bed with incredible longing… How sweet sleep sounded, to just lay down and close my eyes into restful oblivion. I’d get the paper in and come home to pass out for the next ten hours.

I’m not saying we don’t have more energy in our youth, just that it’s not as extreme a difference as people claim. We view our youth through the Golden Good Times filter, much like we view relationships in the first days of their disintegration. Suddenly you’re remembering all the special songs and inside jokes, forgetting all the zits and jealousy.

We were tired back then TOO, we just did it anyway. We didn’t care. We wanted to hang out with our friends and had breaks in-between classes. We weren’t about to to get fired and lose the house.

We’ve grown soft, that’s all. We have cars, regular schedules, and expect more for dinner than microwaved Hot Pockets and creamed corn. We’re tired and bored, because making spreadsheets in a cubicle is way more monotonous than discussing the philosophical implications of Family Guy.

3.  You’ll eventually view your younger self as amazingly attractive, but stupid

meme-birdsI’m exaggerating a little for effect, but this is generally true.

While growing up, you’ll probably have a list of “flaws” you worry about: your chubby thighs, the shape of your nose, your zits or lack of six-pack abs, or whatever.

Ten years later, you’ll probably see an old photo of yourself and be amazed at how much cuter you were than you thought at the time. You may even want to reach through the photo to slap yourself, just for wasting so much time being insecure about nothing.

I think it’s a question of perspective. High schoolers spend most of their time around other high schoolers, so they don’t appreciate all the physical gifts that come so easily then… the fast metabolism (despite eating crap), the shiny thick hair (despite flatirons and bleach), and shadowless skin (despite stress).

They compare themselves to photo-shopped models, expensively-groomed Hollywood actors, and the select set of fresh-faced youths they run around with. Not the real world, the larger world of all times and ages, rush hours and cubicle jobs without exercise.

You’re so much better-looking than you realize. Even now, I look at “before” photos from five years ago and wonder why I felt so fat. Why I thought raspberry lipstick would look any different than fuchsia delight.

What a waste of time.

On the other hand, you’re probably deluded about how smart you are. I mean, you may be very clever, especially for your age, but you haven’t had the life experiences that will end up granting you wisdom over your next few decades. You’re taking things for granted you will end up appreciating later. Opportunities that you’ll wish you still had.

Because you’ll have some regrets. We all do. We all make mistakes and some of them stick with us.

And when you look back on your life, you see yourself heading into those mistakes, over and over again. Like watching Titanic and hoping the boat won’t sink, even though you know it will.

You may wonder how your life might’ve turned out differently if you had only done X or Y, wishing you had a time machine to see how it would’ve all played out. You want to impart this wisdom on another kid, hoping to spare them the consequences of your own idiocy.

titanic
Trust me, there’s no time for this crap. Go find a lifeboat and sit there.
But you can’t, because the story has been written.

So far.

Maybe that frustration is responsible for our tendency to remember the past differently than it really happened, to think we bounced from party to party, without sleep, and never had the irresponsible tendencies kids today seem to display.

I don’t know. But somewhere, faintly, I can hear F is for Fugitive calling my name.

Some things in life are easy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chickens Grow Up and Get Their First Apartment

Sorry, were you planning on eating that spider?
“Sorry, were you planning on eating that spider?”

Our cute little chicks have grown into lovely young hens and just moved out of their little light-bulb cage in our garage into their very own outside coop!

They were both so excited. Living in the garage must have been pretty boring, though we decided it was less heart attack-inducing than having four giant cats pounce against their cage all day.

Now they have a much bigger place outside, which must be the chicken equivalent of  getting your first apartment with a roommate.  Now they can peck at bugs all day and sneak out to go dancing at secret chicken nightclubs in the evening.

At least, that’s what I like to pretend they do.

These chickens, brought to our house partly for the amusement of our children, have been held and cuddled since they were puffy little yellow cottonballs, so they are much tamer than your typical poultry. Rosie, the Rhode Island Red, appears to be the leader. Hester, the black-and-white Austrolaurp, goes ballistic whenever she loses sight of her buddy Rosie. It’s funny to think they were chosen at random out of a giant pile of unrelated chicks, but now are total BFF’s.

Bronte likes to carry the chickens around the yard.
Brontë likes to carry the chickens around the yard.

Rosie and Hester follow us around the yard whenever we are outside and we pet them every day. Brontë even nuzzles their chest feathers and carries them around the yard. The chickens are surprisingly indulgent with her aggressive cuddling.

We got chickens to expose our kids to animals, to teach them where food comes from (not always magical bags with cartoon characters), and to establish a fun routine of feeding animals and collecting eggs. Brontë absolutely loves it. She walks out to the yard every morning, holding hands with me, and helps get chicken feed. But she has started taking chicken care a step further…

Bronte provides light entertainment at meals.
My daughter provides light entertainment at meals.

Recently, she has insisted on bringing a book with her. She helps me get chicken feed, helps scoop it into the coop, then points at the chickens and commands them: “EAT, CHICKENS!” After they start pecking, she makes herself comfortable, pulls out her book, and begins showing them the pictures while talking about the story. Since storytime is one of Brontë’s favorite things in the entire world, I figure these daily reading sessions come out of deep toddler love.

Bronte is a firm believer in chicken literacy.
Brontë is a firm believer in chicken literacy.

Sometimes, when Bronte gets tired of making up stories to go with the pictures, she will hand me the book and say, “READ, MOMMA!” I’ll read to them for a bit, just to humor her, but I swear the chickens look like they are paying attention.

All this chicken joy and she hasn’t even seen them lay eggs yet. I try to explain how they will produce eggs for us, but she usually looks at me with the level of toddler concern that tells me she thinks I might be delusional.

She is in for a fun surprise.

My Daughter Wants Dr. Seuss to Shut the Buttercup Up

Hop on pop and bop the cop and chop the mop and...
Hop on pop and bop the cop and chop the mop and…

Brontë seriously hates Dr. Seuss. I didn’t actually realize this was possible.

Partly because storytime is Brontë’s favorite daily ritual. She lights up when it’s time to read before bed, grabbing her Minnie Mouse blanket and scrambling under the covers in happy anticipation. She stares at each and every page with unbroken attention until I announce “the end,” and then usually wants to discuss any illustrations on the back cover. In fact, if she’s being ornery before bed, usually the mere threat of going to sleep “without a story” is enough to instantly snap her back into line.

Until I grabbed some Seussian fare, the only book she hadn’t liked was That’s Not My Bunny, and only because she considered it hateful propaganda. In That’s Not My Bunny, each page has a different illustration of a bunny with a tactile element. For example, one page features a bunny with bumpy paws and reads, ‘That’s not my bunny, his paws are too rough.”  

Brontë, however, absolutely adores bunny rabbits and would indignantly scream, “That IS my bunny!” after every page until she eventually had to grab the book and throw it across the room to stop all the lies.

But I never expected her reject one of the gods of children’s literature. Dr. Seuss is classic. Everyone loves Dr. Seuss. He even has his own award recognizing the most distinguished children’s authors in English literature. When I was pregnant and envisioning all the adorable scenes I would have with my future child, one of them was reading her stuff like Green Eggs and Ham and watching her giggle in delight.

That is not what happened.

I am Sam. Sam I am. (Brontë stares, bewildered, wondering where this is going.)

That Sam-I-am! That Sam I am! I do not like that Sam-I-am! (Brontë’s brows furrow in clear irritation.)

Do you like Green Eggs and ham? I do not like them, Sam-I-am. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham…

“STOP!” Brontë yells.

“Hold on, just stick with it,” I reassure her as she squeezes her Minnie blanket tighter and suspiciously looks at the book. I resume…

Would you like them, Here or There? I would not like them, Here or There. I would not like them Anywhere. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.”

“STOP IT! I NO LIKE IT!” Brontë shouts, making her eyebrows into an angry-V. “Just listen,” I tell her, certain she will get into it as soon as we talk about the mouse…

Would you like them in a house? Would you like them with a mouse?”

“STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP PLEASE STOP!” she screams while grabbing the book and chucking it across the room. She sighs deeply, as though she can finally breathe again.

Hmm, I guess she really means it. Was it the idea of green ham? That is kind of gross, and I can understand a toddler being sensitive to the subject matter. We keep pressuring her to try foods she doesn’t like, and maybe she just didn’t want to see that drama play out once more while she’s trying to relax before bed.

Then again, maybe she’s just in a bad mood tonight. You never know with toddlers… sometimes they just like to reject stuff. It makes them feel like they have some control over the universe.

Wondering if that was the case, I let it go for the night then came back to the table with Horton Hears a Who the following evening:

On the 15th of May, in the jungle of Nool, in the heat of the day, in the cool of the pool…

“NONONONONONONONONONO!” Brontë screamed, looking completely betrayed.

“You don’t like the book?”

“I NO LIKE IT!”

Alrighty then. I selected a different book about the adventures of a lost cat and she was happy. She just hates Dr. Seuss.

It’s the incessant rhyming. I swear I saw her flinch every time another word rhymed.

And she has a point. Just imagine you had a coworker that talked the way Dr. Seuss writes… Three or four rhymes would grate your nerves, and after a few minutes, you’d want to punch them in the face (“I don’t like coffee, Chuck-I-am. Not in the office, not in the can. I do not like it with sugar or spice, I do not like it neither hot nor iced.” *CRACK!*)

Dr. Seuss will never sound the same.

Brontë Gets into an Argument with Pinkbear

Pinkbear sometimes takes his shenanigans too far.
Pinkbear sometimes takes his shenanigans too far.

So, yesterday Brontë got into an argument with Pinkbear (a little teddy bear in a pink hoodie who is normally a favorite toy).

I asked if she wanted to bring Pinkbear to bed and she shouted, “No!” When we sat for story time, I perched him toward the book and said he wanted to hear the story too, and Brontë screamed “NO!” with angry cartoon eyebrows, then flipped him on his stomach so he couldn’t see the book.

After story-time, Pinkbear hopped up to her as gave her a kiss on the cheek. She paused, softened, and hugged him after holding him out for me to give him a goodnight kiss. I’m not sure what they were fighting about, but it seems to be over now.

I think she may have been worried he would start pressing the buttons and flipping the doors on her interactive books. Next thing you know, the raccoon, Princess Merida, and Yellowbunny are all crowding in for story time, and suddenly Brontë has to fight to see the pictures…

Story time is for mommy and Brontë and she will brook no interlopers.