Friday, November 29, 2013

The Sound of Music

"The Sound of Music" is kind of sacred cow in our house, but one of Max's favorite lullabies is one that I wrote to the tune of "Edelweiss."

You may remember that I do this a lot. I composed a new version of "I See the Moon" to connect our baby to his daddy when he is out to sea, coming up with it long before I was even pregnant. When Max turned into such a nursing fanatic, I was moved to write "No Sleep till Boobie," an homage to the Beastie Boys.

This new one gives a shout-out to all of the folks who love him. We call Gabe "Brother" a lot, Woo is my mother, and Poppy is Dan's mother's beloved. I have to be careful to sing this when Max is really tired. He loves to say "Grandpa" and will pull out his pacifier and say, "Paaaaaa," waiting for me to repeat the verses so he can do it again.

Maybe I write these lullabies just because I can't remember the real lyrics to anything. But I like to think it's something clever and sweet. Hopefully, personalized songs will make Max remember that his mother really could be kind to him when every other thing about trying to get him to sleep sucks donkey balls.

And so, here's our lovely rocking chair song, "Baby Boy" (imagine Christopher Plummer crooning it, drawing out all of the vowel sounds):

"Baby Boy"

Baby boy, baby boy
Boy, does your mommy love you
Baby boy, baby boy
Boy, your daddy loves you too

Grandma, Poppy
Your aunts and uncles
Brother, Woo and Grandpa

Baby boy, baby boy
Boy, your family loves you

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

'We Deserve to See a Range'

I cried for three days when I found out I was going to have another boy. Now I can't imagine my life without Max in it, but boy oh boy did I want a girl.

I love the idea of seeing what kind of mother of a daughter I'd be after being the daughter of my mother. I also love the hair bows and the frilly dresses, the dolls and the sparkles, the girly girl stuff in all of its forms.

But I know there are varied, wonderful dimensions to being a girl. I happen to have some of them. A pink princess castle isn't the only part. Hell, it doesn't need to be a part at all.

Frankly, castles should be gray. A little reality doesn't hurt any girl. Boys get castle sets that resemble real stone, so why does a girl's castle toy have to be pink? It's more of the same conspiracy to label girls as the "weaker" sex that is stamped right on their diapers. (See "The Cheese Stands Alone" blog post.)

Toy company GoldieBlox, which makes interactive books and games, is doing its very best to combat this nonsense and encourage girls to play with science and engineering concepts. (See article.) Even better, it set a commercial of girls using all of that pink plastic crap as the world's biggest Mousetrap game to a Beastie Boys tune. I just so happened to have a little love affair with them when I was growing up.

That's not very pink and frilly at all. But they did inspire an awesome lullaby, "No Sleep till Boobie." (See "Max's Anthem" blog post.)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Operation Save Classic Games

At least most retailers restrained themselves until the clock struck midnight on Halloween, but the beginning of this month unleashed the full Christmas marketing torrent.

I love, love, love Christmas. I look forward to decorating my house all year, but I don't do it until after Thanksgiving. That holiday deserves its own feast and festivities.

I do my best to avoid the rampant commercialism that heralds the coming of the prince of peace. (No, the irony is not lost on me.) But I'm not always quick enough to mute the commercials between the few TV programs my toddler watches.

There are about four blog posts in this introduction alone, and I'll probably get to all of them at some point. What I want to write about today is one of the toys I heard advertised in those commercials.

Hasbro was hocking its games, including Operation. I about needed one myself when the announcer happily proclaimed that the pieces were "now easier to remove!!!"

What the hell? Isn't that the absolute point of this game?

My grandmother had the classic version, preserved since it first came out in the 1960s. We played with it constantly as kids, jumping every time our little metal tweezers made contact with the exposed metal border of the various anatomical parts the player is to remove.

There probably was a significant electrocution risk, but we played it like it was designed to be played: tough.

Operation back then taught us to be careful, patient and persevering. Operation today will teach kids that everything is easy and handed to them on a silver platter.

And we wonder why kids can be such pains in the Adam's apple.

The piece that desperately needs to be removed from parents' brains is that unfortunate desire to make things easier for their children. That won't make an experience more enjoyable. It just will heighten children's disappointment in all things and will erode their self-confidence and creativity. And yet Hasbro has caved to get their money.

Childhood isn't complete without a little zap now and again.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat, Nor Gloom of Night

There was a blizzard yesterday, but not the snowy kind of my childhood that prompted us to wear thermal leggings under our Halloween costumes and parkas over them.

It was a social media storm, conducted by pleading parents and a few school board candidates mere days away from the election. Heavy rain and wind were in the forecast, and communities all over northwest Ohio started postponing trick-or-treat times.

Some did it earlier in the week, while other officials tried waiting as long as possible to see if the weather would cooperate. But once a few communities started switching dates, the rest fell like dominoes -- even those with long-standing traditions of Oct. 31, rain or shine.

It is apparent that many bended not to Mother Nature but to Mother Next Door.

I get it. No one wants to be outdoors in that kind of weather, let alone shepherding kids dressed as dinosaurs and superheros and spooky creatures. And there was the danger of cars losing traction on wet, leaf-strewn streets and plowing into crowds of candy-collectors. Because that happens all the time.

What no one really wanted was a kid dressed as Iron Man writhing on the kitchen floor in a full-blown tantrum that he didn't get to go trick-or-treating this year when his parent determined the weather was too inclement.

First, it would have needed to be an active tornado warning for parents of yesteryear (like mine) to even consider not letting us go out on Halloween night. We might not go far or for very long, but we all bundled up and got a few blocks covered. We'd dutifully unzip our coats when neighbors asked, "Well, what are you supposed to be, sweetie?" Hell, most of the time we incorporated boots and gloves into our costumes just to be prepared. It's the end of October in northwest Ohio. It's gonna be crappy weather most years.

Second, if I had thrown such a fit, my parents never would have let me trick-or-treat again. It just wasn't acceptable, but particularly to be that dismayed about an annual event, one at which we'd get another shot the next year. This was the same for Fourth of July. Fireworks were on July 4 only, and there weren't even displays every week at the baseball game like there are now. If it rained, the show got canceled and you waited until next year.

This was crucial development for us on how to handle disappointment. Parents today seem much less willing to deal with this admittedly hard part of raising a child. They hover over their kids and fix every little trial that comes their way. They're reordering days of the year, for heaven's sake.

I know several amazing, clever, thoughtful, dutiful parents with smart, respectful, playful children who wanted trick-or-treat times to be rescheduled around the weather forecast. This alone certainly doesn't make for a parenting failure. But it is a disturbing trend nonetheless.

If the weather turns sour next Halloween, I encourage you to get more creative about how you will handle it. A neighbor of mine throws a party every year for his children and their friends, and he arranges for them to trick-or-treat on our street at a certain time. (He and his wife even offer to supply the candy.) You and your neighbors could always do this among yourselves.

Check around your communities for shopping malls and churches who offer indoor trick-or-treating for a Plan B. You might find it a happy alternative on most years.

Or stay home and make a night of it. Throw an impromptu Halloween parade around your house, banging on pots and pans. Hide all the candy you were going to pass out around your house and have a scavenger hunt, with all the lamps off and using flashlights. Play games, make paper plate masks, read books, watch "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown."

Resist the urge to call your town hall and demand an official change in trick-or-treat times. You'll be setting a much better example for your kids.