Sunday, December 25, 2011

Special Appliance

For Christmas Gong Zhu got an Easy Bake oven from Saint Nicholas!! She's going to try it out. She says, "Now Mama, this is not your everyday oven!"

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oracle . . . of Sales

GongZhu found a free promotional calendar that we got from a "mail order" company and knew it had to be hers. She put it in a 3-ring binder to make it part of a "book" she'll continue to create. She seems impressed at all the advice it gives such as, "Last chance to order for Easter!" Once set up, she was very eager to show the book to Mommy. Opening to the cover page of the calendar, she pointed to the bold numbers "2012" and excitedly and earnestly pronounced, "It tells the future!"

Saturday, July 25, 2009

SquareDad LoserPants

One day (earlier this summer) my children & I were "playing tennis." (By "playing tennis," I mean only that were using a tennis court, balls and racquets, and we were attempting to hit the balls ... WITH the racquets. Any other similarity to the sport called "tennis" was purely coincidental.) I made a bad shot and my 5 year-old daughter said to me, "Lo-ser", in the sing-songy taunting way that I'm sure the teens think is so '02 (if they remember that far back). This verbal act was the first violation of our rule "It's OK to watch SpongeBob as long you don't ACT like SpongeBob." What I really mean by that, is that it's not ok to act like Squidward, or Patrick or King Julien (yeah I know, different show) ... etc, but the former formulation is catchier ....

Yes, we let the kids watch "SpongeBob SquarePants." We continue to do so only because the humorous anecdote just related is an anomaly. How did it all start? Well, I've been familiar with the images for most of the ten years it's been on television. (When I taught 4th grade I had a student who, in his "spare" time, would adorn his margins with perfect SpongeBob character likenesses making witty comments, often of his own invention.) But until less than a year ago, I knew nothing of the content of the show. From promotional footage, I had the impression it was a lot of belch- and butt-oriented humor. As our son approached 7, it wasn't that there was anything very offensive about the samples I saw. Heck, by that time he had already been through several bodily function obsessions with absolutely no help from network TV producers whatsoever. It seemed, however, watching such shows would be a big step away from innocence. Then I started catching an episode of "SpongeBob ..." here and there, while doing dishes, scanning the channels, yatta yatta yatta, there was nothing else on. (Yeah, I know, I'm 40 ... ish ... going on 10. Who doesn't know this already?) So now: this show is funny. It's not just poop humor (except "People order our patties" but that's another story). It's so much more. It has characters that are clever caricatures, witty irony, and some good old physical comedy and drooling to boot. But still, irony ... yeah, sarcasm, too, plus all sorts of subjects—crime, greed, "sailor talk", fist fights, etc.—that are just not present in the likes of "Diego ...", "SuperWhy," etc. My children watching this? That would be a more profound stride away from innocence than I'd initially thought.

Nevertheless, we allowed Nickelodeon in the kids' faces, and after their 'softcore' Nick Jr. "playdates" with Dora, etc., the "SpongeBob..." promo's beckoned. One day "SpongeBob..." came on and Mrs. OccupationDad didn't turn it off. I think I objected once and was gently told it's probably OK for them to watch. I'm pretty sure I didn't object again for about 20 minutes, because I hadn't seen those episodes yet myself.

We debated about it, but a new precedent had been set, and my mild concern was little match for it. Once Mrs. OccDad realized how funny the show was, it was all over. The advantage is we all have a show we can laugh at together. No more occasional attempts to sneak in a tamer episode of "Seinfeld" at dinner.

Of course, our son is seven now. He's fully authorized to watch ... because I have complete faith that the "TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board" and "individually-participating broadcast and cable networks" are lookin' out for our young'un's. You betcha'. (Yes, you detect sarcasm. Feel free to imagine that statement being uttered by Squidward at his sardonic best.) But what about Gong Zhu? She's but a tender 5 years old. Well, I figure, there are SpongeBob pajamas in her size, and if she gets much bigger she'll be in the "Hannah Montana" section, so it would appear we're right on target. In reality, it's about equity. No, she doesn't get to do everything her brother gets to do But this is a hard one to "developmentalize." Putting her in front of another TV with a "Blue's Clues" DVD seems even more of a descent into contemporary suburban stupor.

I suppose we could just altogether turn off what my dad often called the "idiot box" and get on with our lives. Ahhh but who are we kidding?

So it just is: We watch SpongeBob.

And yes, the "It's OK to watch SpongeBob, as long as ...." rule is real one we actually discussed with the kids.

The aforementioned "loser" quip notwithstanding, it's worked. Outside of literally quoting, or acting out scenes or dances from the show for fun, they almost never imitate TV in real life interactions.

The second little, teensy exception is our son's new affinity for the word, "WHAAATever." He has given this laconic response in real conversations, with more than a hint of Squidward's slack tone. So, yeah, we've had to review the rule there, too.

All this agonizing over 22 minutes (now and again), of a frolicking, hyperactive cartoon Sponge, a drooling Starfish and a squirrel in a diving helmet. I guess it's a bit much.

But admit it: for you it was worth it all just to picture that little Gong Zhu, who had choosen to be our lowly "ball girl," on the tennis court that day, haul off and call me a "looo-ser." You just love it, don'cha'?

Yeah . . . . WHAATever . . . .

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Vanity: Hair Today, What Tomorrow?

Today I noticed how shiny Gong Zhu's hair was after I had combed it a bit and had stuck in one barrette. I complimented her on it. She quickly checked the mirror. The concentrated grin, the unmistakable look of pride and (dare I say?) vanity on her face was remarkable and ... a little scary. I used to be a "feminist"—feminist enough to call myself only "pro-feminist" for fear that some womyn feminists might think no man could be a true feminist. Now I'm a little too busy trying to get the dishes done to worry too much about gender agendas. Nevertheless, I don't want my daughter to think more of her "value" as a person comes from her appearance than it does from her intelligence, compassion, strength, yatta, yatta, yatta .... I hope I'm not sending that message to her.

Of course, I compliment her all the time on her accomplishments—clever things she thinks and says, crafty things she makes, physical feats in the backyard, etc. Is the proportion of this praise to "you look very pretty" high enough? I know I tell her she's pretty more than I tell Sponge that he's handsome. I have no idea if I'm unintentionally overdoing the pretty praise. I'm not known for being a cultural lemming, but really these days I just take my cues on this one from everyone else. They're all heaping on the "you look beautiful"'s like she's the empress with no clothes and she'll off with their heads if she finds out the truth. In fairness, she is the cutest little one you've seen. (If I weren't paranoid about their safety, the Internet, etc., I'd pull out the photos and prove it to you a-good-one, I would). And she doesn't let her cuteness go unnoticed, with her usually effusive, command-the-room personality.

So there it is. If she starts perceiving herself as a human doll, it's not necessarily my fault. I blame her. I blame society. Seriously, I guess I'll just have to be mindful and do what seems right.

In the meantime, I have even gotten my own ego stroked via her "vanity". The other day I decided to put her hair in a hair band instead of doing a ponytail or barrettes. (I had rarely used the hair band, but it seemed like it would work for that day.) I struggled as I usually do with her hair—fine motor skills, straight lines, etc.: not my forte. I got it done without loops of hair sticking out at odd angles and what-not, and, frankly, that was accomplishment enough. I made it past at least one impatient sigh (I can't compete with mommy for outcome or speed), and Gong Zhu's hair wasn't a disaster. She responded, "Can I least look in the mirror before we go?" I consented, and she went for the full-length one that she can see into, in the bedroom. I heard, "Baba, it's beautiful? Will it stay this way until I get to our friends' house?"

Nice! It's all in day's work, baby. All in a day's work.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Trains Without Eyes

Did I ever tell you this story? (Note that it happened a year or more ago, when Gong Zhu's didn't speak English as grammatically as she does now.)

Sponge is a big fan of Thomas the Tank Engine. Gong Zhu, then, has enjoyed a lot of Thomas . . .
One day we went by the part of the train yard in town where they keep the engines when they're not using them. We pointed them out to Gong Zhu. She looked at them for half a minute then very earnestly asked, "Why those trains not have eyes?"

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A New Smurfy Record

Here's a record I never thought would be broken. Never thought, because I never would have thought anyone would try to . . . .
Just take a look.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Simple Truth

I was walking a friend of Sponge's to our house today. Noticing the nice, strong breeze, he commented, "This would be great kite-flying weather!" Of course, I would have called it something else. The breeze was actually a 15 mph wind out of the north, blowing sleet into our faces as we walked on ice and about 1/2 inch of slush. Gotta like his positive attitude.

At our house we told the same friend that one of our cats had recently died. He said, "That makes me really sad. All cats are precious to me. I don't know why, they just are."

I like cats. We will miss Spooky.

The kids didn't dwell on sadness, however, and were soon playing pretend, including elements of Star Wars. Our young friend explained to our daughter, " Jedis have these things called light sabers. They can cut through anything; you can just put it through a door and cut right through it. It's as simple as that."

I would say our young friend sums up life's complexities pretty elegantly. It's as simple as that.