Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I Couldn't Have Said It Better!

Tonight N. was wheedling to watch something on TV. As I got up to oblige, J. commented that the only thing on right now was the State Of The Union address. Gah, utter boredom all around!

"Gee," I commented snarkily, "don't you want to watch that?!

N. perks up. "Is it a cartoon?!" She chirps excitedly.

I pause, and J. and I look at each other, grinning and savoring the moment.

"Why...yes! Yes it is." I drawl slowly. N. proceeds to jump up and down, clapping her hands. "Yeah, yeah!" she shouts.

Sadly, we had to show her what it really was, and she wisely opted for Porco Rosso by Hayao Miyazaki instead.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Is Childhood Disappearing?

An uncomfortable thought occured to me last night...was my generation the last to see a true 'childhood'?

When I was a kid we couldn't wait until after school to get outside and play with our friends. We'd roam freely to each other's yards to play (actually going into the house required parental permission and/or notification), roller skate, ride bikes, climb trees, play in playhouses. If we wanted to go down to the elementary school (back when the schools would never THINK of locking up their playgrounds), a friends' house or park to play, we'd just stick our heads in the door in passing and yell out to our parents where we were going. In Summer, we could basically leave the house in the morning and not return until nightfall and our parents wouldn't worry. We could even make an impromptu trip to the drugstore for ice cream with our friends' parent via car without concern. On holidays such as the Fourth of July, we'd have neigborhood block parties where we'd set up sawhorses to block off the street and everyone would bring out pot luck dishes to share and the kids would play. We could wander through orange groves and investigate now housing developments (collecting bits of discarded kitchen tile scraps, brightly colored bits of telephone wire and metal 'slugs' from electrical boxes). We could roam the outdoor halls of the school, peering through the windows of empty classrooms and playing baseball--or even tetherball or foursquare if we found a stray ball laying on the playground. Beyond the basic warning of 'don't talk to strangers' and 'don't get into cars with strangers', there was never a concern.

Things are different today.

Child predators, razor blades on playgrounds, evil neighbors, drugs or drive-by shootings. Terrorism. There are security cameras, metal detectors, lockdowns and metal detectors. Sirens scream and helicopters circle the neigborhood almost daily.

I don't live in a really bad area. I live on a typical southern California residential street, with many families with kids of various ages, some houses have older folks with kids grown and gone.

But rarely do we see any kids playing outdoors. It's almost as if they are trapped indoors. Kids here never skate, ride bikes, jump rope, play hopscotch or do anything else out front. Or out back, for that matter. My next-door neighbors only allow their kids to play out front when one of the parents is present, because of child predators, drug dealers and the like. And I hate to admit it, but I am the same way. There simply aren't enough neighbors out in their yards during the day, I can't count on the typical neighborly folk that might help warn off anyone cruising for kids.

So my neighbor and I have kind of formed an agreement to try and help get the kids out of the house and playing safely. She shoos her kids outdoors as I do mine, so they can interact with each other. Our daughter has an array of outdoor toys such as badminton racquets (we got 8 cheap ones at the dollar store so the neighborhood kids could join in), a jump rope, Frisbees, a bat, ball & mitt and a pair of roller skates. The skates she just got at Christmas, because I remember how much I LOVED skating with my siblings and friends when I was a kid--we would lace up our steel-wheeled skates as fast as we could, then zoom up and down the street for hours...until the street lights came on, that was our signal to go home.

Such fond memories, and knowing how fun it was, we got N. skates. I have been walking up and down the street with her, helping her to learn to skate, balance and fall. What's downright creepy is that there are never any other kids out there playing in any way. It's been almost a month now. Quite frankly we have been hoping that if we ventured out more often and played, the other kids would naturally emerge and join in...maybe we could get something started. There IS hope, today the next door neighbors bought their son (same age as N.) a skateboard, and several other little boys have been around on bikes and skateboards.

I realize that most kids nowadays spend their time playing video games. We didn't own any until recently, when my sister in law gave my husband her sons' old PS2. He now has three different games, but as they are adult games, N. doesn't play them. And I can't say that I want her to get started on video games, I've heard nothing but horror stories from other parents whose kids are addicted to them.

Kids today, out of necessity, are warned early on about the dangers they face. My daughter learned the slogan 'Just Say No To Drugs!' in Kindergarten. I nearly cried when the school held Red Ribbon Week (an anti-drug campaign) and she came home educated on the dangers of drugs and alchohol. She was FIVE. FIVE! I've had to have discussions with her on what to do if someone tries to hurt her or abduct her. Good Touch and Bad Touch. How to deal with bullying, racism, what to do in an emergency and whom she likely can and cannot trust. Good God, it gives me the willies and breaks my heart to think about how different her childhood is from mine, and how SHORT childhood is today.

I'm going to give her the best childhood I can, with simple fun and good times, and make it last as long as possible. She's got the rest of her life to be an adult with worries and issues. That'll come on soon enough without rushing at it headlong.

Hopefully we can spread it to some of the other kids, too.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Well I'll Be Damned...

The other night as we were all in the car on our way to somewhere, J. was driving and he and I were squinting at road signs and muttering to each other as to what they said. N. pipes up from the back seat, reading the sign aloud correctly. "Wow." I say, impressed. "Good eyes!"

"Yeah!" She says proudly. "I've got GREAT eyes! I can see in the dark, just like a night creature! (from a book she owns on nocturnal animals) I'm like a bat, or an owl!"

*evil thought occurs*

"Oooh, so are you half bat, half owl?" I ask slyly, not daring to glance at J. for fear of bursting out laughing.

"Yeah!" excitedly from the back seat.

"So...that would make you (wait for it...) a bowel...?" A choked-off snort from the drivers' seat.

"YEAH!!! I'm a BOWEL!"

oh my god i'm going to hell...

But not alone. "So if you fly into a wall you're an Impacted Bowel, right?" J. asks her. God, I love that man.

"Ummm..." She isn't sure what 'impacted' means...

"And if you are in a bad mood, than you are an Irritable Bowel, right?" Again from the childs' loving father, who is openly snickering now as I stuff my fist in my mouth to keep from laughing out loud and carefully face forward so she can't see the way my eyes are watering.

"Yeah...but I'm not in a bad mood, I'm HAPPY!" She proceeds to make all kinds of happy bat/owl noises.

My turn again. I stop gasping for air long enough to say, "So you are NOISY Bowel!" before I resume laughing.

J. is making choking sounds and weaving a bit in the lane now.

N. laughs right along, making animal noises punctuated with the phrase, "I'm a Noisy Bowel!" Thankfully, we all find this funny, so we can laugh openly now. Pretty soon we are at our destination and have to ask her to calm down a bit.

This is exactly the kind of thing my Dad used to pull on us kids--sometimes it would take months, or even years for us to find out the truth behind one of his jokes. I'm not so sure that one or two aren't waiting in the wings for some horrible reveal one of these days...

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


It's 1AM and I'm watching TV in the living room.

My little girl just emerged from her room, eyes squinting at the light, hair mussed up, clutching her favorite stuffed toy, Bunny. She smiled pleasantly, came over and plopped down next to me on the couch.

I asked her what was up and she told me, "Guess what, Mom? My tummy just growled!"

"Oh, really...?" I smile and wait. Is she fishing for a midnight snack?

Excitedly--"Yeah! It said: Oohhhhh!" This in a deep voice.


"Yeah! It almost said it's first WORD!"

Make the appropriate, 'hey, wow!' remarks and lead her back to bed with a kiss and a chuckle. Kids are the coolest.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Meet Maggie...

Maggie is a LARGE New Hampshire breed hen. She is the classic 'Little Red Hen', except Maggie weighs in at around 6-8 pounds. Maggie was a freebie from the feed store (they know we are softies and take all their injured birds) about a year and a half ago. She has a bad left leg, which although it supports her and she runs for food just fine, thank you, has a set of curled-up toes. She can move her toes, they just don't unfurl into the classic chicken foot shape. It hasn't slowed her down or hindered her abilities in any way, and she has been a fine little (ok, HUGE) hen.

The other day I found Maggie sitting under one of the bushes at feeding time. She didn't come running for dinner like the others, so automatically I knew something was wrong, and suspected the bad leg. Bingo. She doesn't want to stand up or put weight on it. We hope it's just temporary, a slight injury that will heal in a few days. So into the house she came, placed on an old towel in the kitchen with food and water nearby.

That was 4 days ago, and she has since learned to gracefully endure N. running around, me washing dishes right next to her (she talks to me while I work) and us throwing things away in the trash can right next to her. For this she is duly rewarded with assorted treats, lots of pets and attention. She has learned all about The Big White Foodbox and that when humans open it goodies come forth, and how to whine plaintively if she somehow gets forgetten.

In return, Maggie has gifted us with 4 lovely large brown eggs, laid right there on her towel with a little clucking, muttering and talking. We do our bit and praise and pet her, properly admiring the egg before we put it in the egg basket. We've let Phoenix, the Head Rooster, in to visit with her a couple of times so that she doesn't get too lonely and the other chickens don't start crying for her. Maggie likes it when she has company and eats and drinks better when there are others in the room eating and drinking--chicken or human, doesn't make any difference to her. A flock is a flock. We were hoping that it was an egg pressing on a nerve that was causing the leg problem, as happens sometimes, but after the fourth egg was laid we figured it must be an injury after all. Now Maggie is standing sometimes and shakily putting weight on the leg, while staring at it in irritation, so she's making progress. Meanwhile she's been a better houseguest than most humans, and is playing the 'dignified old dame' part well.

Time will tell!

Altered Angel

My daughter brought this home yesterday, a little angel dot-to-dot they had done in class before the holidays. Not satisfied with the plain version, she added bunny ears and a Santa hat...hmmm, it STILL lacks something...?
With that goofy face, this angel really NEEDS to be sticking out her tongue! PERFECT!

Meet Binky, Archangel of pratfalls.