Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Playing Favorites

Me to the Big Yam: "Do you have a favorite baby brother?"
Big Yam: "Yes. Lenny.  I love Lenny."
Me: "You mean you don't love Quincess?"
BY: "No. I don't love him. I love Lenny."
Me: "Awww, you're making Quincess sad!"
BY: "I don't love him.  I love Lenny."
Me: "C'mon!  He's your baby brother.  He loves you so much."
BY, exasperated: "Fine. I love him." (clearly appeasing)

The Big Yam has been full of bon mots lately.  In order to get us to stay in his room longer at bedtime, we've been getting really plaintive, "Pleeeease?  Please, Mama?  It would make me so happy.  Just one more minute, pleeeease?"  The other day, we watched a documentary about the complete overhaul of the New Orleans school system in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which saw the failing public school system switched over primarily to charter schools.  One of the principals of a charter school made an assertion that I support.  That is, if you set a high bar of excellence and establish excellence as your de facto expectation, children will rise to meet it.  Setting the bar low is my nemesis.  Anyway, I started getting panicky about us being too "soft" on the Big Yam and succumbing to the namby pamby, indulgent, everyone-gets-a-prize-for-showing-up school of parenting that's so prevalent nowadays, so I said to the Big Yam: "You're going to university!"  He immediately looked up from the iPad (where he's been obsessed with a deep ocean episode of Blue Planet lately), and said, "No I'm not!"  The Dotytron laughed, and I started inwardly freaking out a bit.  "YES. YOU. ARE."  The Big Yam replied, wailing, "I thought I was going to kindergarten!!!"  LOL!

Aside: a 3.5 year old who is already working on a David Attenborough impression is pretty hilarious.

I went to the drop-in centre with the babies yesterday and because this drop-in centre doesn't insist on shoes off, I bring a big blanket to put the babies on in the baby area, to protect them from people tracking all their gross outdoor shoe detritus all over the baby mats.  This old grandma walks in, and STOMPS in her winter boots all over the blanket as I'm inwardly doing a slow motion, "Nooooooooooooooo!" and frantically trying to gather the blanket out of her way.  It made me physically recoil.  WHITE PEOPLE ARE THE WORST FOR THIS!  I will never understand why they think it's totally okay to wear their shoes inside, ON CARPET, especially when they know that there will be babies mashing their faces into the floor and gumming up all the dirt, dog poop, and who knows what else in that same area.  Meanwhile, white people are the first to freak out about whether their pork is cooked enough, but think it's okay to literally track s**t into the house. End Russell Peters-style rant.  Ha.

The weekend was pretty chill.  We ordered from the newly opened Mother's Dumplings on the Danforth for Friday night take out night.  I dunno.  I think the dumplings are pretty overpriced and were mediocre at best.  Everything was just lacking that certain finesse and delicacy that I've come to expect from places in the 'burbs.  I went to see the Veronica Mars movie which was DEEPLY satisfying.  I had been really worried that based on the vitriolic fan reaction to the much-maligned third season, series creator Rob Thomas was going to play the "auteur" card and try to continue along the path out of some misguided sense that he knew better than the fans.  10 years is a long time to let things fester, especially when your baby project gets cancelled.  However, I was pleasantly surprised in that he delivered a movie for the fans.  Seeing as how it was fan-funded, I could see that being a savvy business strategy, but it does call into question the whole process of crowd-funded projects.  If your shareholders are rabid fans, then what leeway do you have to tell the story you want to tell, as the creator?  All that being said, the movie was like a quality beefed up episode, and it was super fun to watch in a theatre filled with 'heads.  All the old favorites were trotted out and my only regret is that we didn't get to spend more time with some of them.   Kristen Bell must have shot the movie shortly after giving birth, because she clearly has giant breastfeeding cans.

At dinner with JJ and S, JJ mentioned how her sister-in-law had to go down to her (grade 6) kid's school at lunch, to sign him out so that he could go on a "date" and take a girl off school property to eat.  JJ asked me if I would ever do that, and I can say, unequivocally, without any fear of back-peddling at a future date, HELLS, NO.  Uh, seriously?  Since when would a kid of mine have time to be thinking of romantic relationships?  In between piano lessons, swimming lessons, junior astrophysicist school, Chinese school, and generally fostering a thoughtful, reflexive, and critical worldview, my boys aren't going to have time for romantic pursuits.  That kind of dreck leads to your kid being a fedora-wearing, low-achieving, slacker.  Look at my parents!  They severely limited my opportunities for social engagement and look how well we all turned out!  Am I socially stunted?  No!  If anything, my social skills are off the chain!  Why?  Because rather than exercising them in the no-holds-barred arena of ACTUAL social interactions with my so-called "peers", I was able to injest and assimilate idealized versions in all the books I read as a kid.

I recently finished Guy Delisle's graphic novel, Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City.  It's a classic Delisle travelogue/memoir about the year he spent in Jerusalem with his partner (who was stationed there in her work with Doctors Without Borders), and their two young children, from 2008-2009.  He encounters many instances of Israeli-Palestinian conflict and while he doesn't side openly with the Palestinians, the depictions of some of the actions of the settlers in the Jewish settlements and the injustices and power wielded by the Israeli government in the checkpoints limiting movement by Palestinians certainly does make you, the reader, deeply sympathetic to the Palestinian situation.  Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It helped to make me more informed of an area of the world which occupies a great deal of headline/news space, but about which I didn't know very much of depth.

As I read so many children's picture books, I'm going to start reviewing some of those here too, for those of you who have little ankle biters of your own, or are looking for good books to buy for your friends/relatives who do.

Monster, Don't Eat Me! By Carl Norac and illustrated by Carll Cneut.  Apparently this author-illustrator duo are Belgian, and all I can say about that makes a lot of sense.  This was a Big Yam library grab.  As I've mentioned, he's starting to be more afraid of the dark and is obviously going through some monster-scary-things-that-go-bump-in-the-night developmental stuff at the moment.  Alex, a little pig, is caught snacking between meals and is chastised by his mother.  On his way to wash up, he gets nabbed by a monster.  Who should kids fear?  The monster?  Do all monsters have mamas?  The story is whimsical and the drawings are beautifully detailed and fantastical, with shades of the dream-like world of Chagall, but rendered in precise line and autumnal tones.  

There are beautiful, odd, hidden characters and details on every page.  It's like Cirque du Soleil but way less grating.  I loved this.

Jon Klassen is pretty well-known in the children's book world.  He's won at least one Caldecott, if not more, and you will generally recognize his work (he does illustrations for other people's stories, in addition to his own work as author/illustrator), by the very modern, naive, flat, and sly looking animal characters that populate them.  This is a book about a bear's search for his hat, and the tricky woodland creature who made off with it.  

To me, Klassen's work generally falls in the category of "the books you want your kids to like, versus the books they actually do like."  There's something a little sly, deadpan, and a shade dark about them that flies over the kid's head.  The humour definitely speaks more to adults, or at least kids who have been weaned on some kind of sardonic pop culture content that will give them the tools to pick up on the jokes.  I love the visual style though, so while this isn't a huge hit with the Yam at the moment, I'm hoping that it will be some day.

Video of the Quincess doing his inverted inchworm crawl.  Accessorized with a bonus knitted toque stuck to his helmet.  

St. Paddy's meal of oven-baked mustard & brown sugar crusted corned beef, with sautéed cabbage, honeyed carrots, and champ

Last night's dinner of braised barley & kale with eggs & grated parm

Sour cream peach pie


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