Wednesday, August 31, 2011

End of Summer

Hi there, people!  Tomorrow is September - no joke! - which means, meteorological calendars aside, I am declaring an end to summer and the beginning of autumn.  I love the fall.  As a longtime student and sometime teacher, fall has always meant new beginnings and fresh starts to me.  SLB and I got married in early September for this very reason.  September is a breath of fresh air and a chance to start anew.  It makes me think of newly sharpened pencils and possibilities.  In this calendrical and inspirational vein, I'll be starting some new writing projects on and off of this blog soon.  Summer's over, and it's time to hunker down and do something good, dammit.  But, until midnight when I become all virtuous and productive, let's linger over fine summer memories, shall we?

Like that time I took Livy to the Ballard water park, where she proved that a fleece Viking hat is, in fact, all-weather gear.

Pillaging knows no season.

Or that time I rode a mechanical bull in Las Vegas.

In hindsight, the blouson peasant top wasn't my most flattering bull-riding option.  Learn from my example, people.

Or that time I made forty-freaking-eight cupcakes, along with forty-freaking-eight cupcake toppers for Livy's 2nd birthday party.

I'm crafty.  I'm just your type.

Because I have an embarrassing tendency to do dumb things like this in the presence of a camera...

... let's let this sweet picture of Liv and her good friend Margaret stand in for the touching one of Liv and me that never manifested.

Or that time we went to the Oregon coast to play and to Sauvie Island to meet some new friends.

Livy LOVED the beach...



... until she didn't.

Handsome Baby Jake may be Sauvie Island's newest resident...

... but Livy preferred the goats.

Or the time we saw my boyfriend Steve play at the Snoqualmie Casino.

Flawlessly silver.  Flawlessly foxy.

Or that time I read 9 horny vampire novels in 6 weeks?

So far #9 was the best.

Or that time that Toddlers & Tiaras started making sense.

Bathing, basking belly.

As you can see, it's been a fantastic summer for frolicking and fun.  But my pencils are sharp, the tags are freshly off of my school clothes, and I've got a Trapper Keeper full of fresh college-ruled paper.  Summer's been great, but fall is here, and that's time to shine.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Potty Book Rundown

We are currently entering a new phase of Earnest Potty Training here at Me Show Central, which is different from our usual Lackadaisical Potty Experimenting in its first and third words only.  Basically, we've regularly put Livy on the potty to do her dirty bidness a few times a day ever since she could sit on the seat without toppling over.  Sometimes magic happened, and sometimes it didn't.  Now that she's older and more communicative she's started asking to use the potty and/or displaying more blatant potty cues, and so we have more magic than not-magic.  Thus, the countdown to potty training has begun by small degrees.  There is a distant light at the end of the potty tunnel, and we're slowly inching toward that dry, clean, fresh-smelling light.

To aid in this endeavor, we've been collecting potty books for some time.  These are 3 of the best.

1.  Potty by Leslie Patricelli
Happy nakey potty baby!  Dang, I want one of my own!

This is an adorable little board book that's very accessible to toddlers just becoming familiar with the potty concept.  

Pro:  I really appreciate the line about the baby being able to go in her diaper, but choosing not to.  I also love the illustrations of her waiting for the magic to manifest.  

Con:  The final image is of a collection of underwear with the exclamation "Undies!" written above it.  Yes, I know that undies are the final goal, but the implication that one successful potty trip leads immediately to undies is misleading and rushed.  It's hard work to learn how to use the potty, and I'd rather that work (and setbacks) be acknowledged than glossed over.

I don't care if the spider is a friend in every Mercer Mayer illustration; I will always, ALWAYS want to squish it.

As a kid, I was a huge fan of Mercer Mayer's Little Critter books, and it was with nostalgic glee that I bought this book about Little Critter's little sister learning how to master her pink potty.  Overall, it's a great book for all beginning potty-ers: not too long to lose the younger set, and not too simple to bore the big kids. Plus, it has illustrations of pee in it.  How can you go wrong?

Pro:  There are accidents in this book, and they're handled gently and normalized.  Little sis can't make it to the potty a couple of times, Mom cleans her up, and life goes on.  Then she gets it, successfully masters the potty and her new undies, and lives happily ever after.

Con:  Seriously, is Mrs. Critter a member of a fundamentalist LDS cult?  What's with the neo-Little House dresses, and where's Dad in this story?  Alas, in the Critter world, as so often among humans, parenting is women's work and moms wear shit fashion.  At least Little Critter is learning this early so he can take his rightful place in the Critter patriarchy with no qualms about his gendered entitlement.  Also, I hate that Goddamn spider.

I used to have Jolly Roger underpants, too.  One time, when I had lost a lot of weight after drinking the water in Mexico, my pants fell down in the esteemed Benaroya Hall and all of Seattle's symphony-goers got to see them, the lucky bastards.

This book is the newest in our potty collection and is a gem of its genre.  We bought it during our recent trip to the Oregon coast, and Livy has demanded that we read it before every  nap- and bedtime since.  It's got adorable illustrations and hilarious text, including two pirate songs about having to go and waiting to go potty.   Brilliant!

Pro:  The line about the little pirate making "the greatest, grandest pee and poop ever" alone is worth it.  The pirate language is adorable, and the author fully commits to it throughout the book.  For example, the little pirate yells "anchors away!" as he flushes and "swabs" his hands on a towel after he washes them.  

Con:  The book comes with and mentions within its story a paper pirate hat and stickers to be used as rewards for successful potty-going.  While this is a fun idea, I'd rather that Livy's motivation for going on the potty remain intrinsic for as long as possible.  I want her to go because it makes her feel proud and grown-up, not because she'll get a sticker on a paper hat if she does.  Research shows that extrinsic motivation for a task can ruin adults' experience of performing it even if it had previously been considered pleasurable.  I don't know whether and how this affects toddlers, but I'd rather not play around with it if I don't have to.  Praise and pride are enough for now, and stickers will come later if we absolutely need them.

These are clearly not requirements for potty training, but they do make it more fun and open opportunities for talking about going potty throughout the day.  But, at this point it's still a no-pressure prospect.  After all, as the venerable Captain McCluskey says, "You gotta go, you gotta go."  And as long as she keeps going we'll keep practicing getting the location for that going right.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Buy Yourself That: Addition to the Emotion Coaching Funpak of Yore

Parenting peeps:  Remember that one time when I wrote about all of the emotion coaching materials I was accumulating and then surprisingly that became one of my most popular posts at the time?  Of course you don't! You're all too busy expertly coaching your children in identifying and managing their emotional lives!  But, lucky for you, I remember, and I have a new addition to that collection.

Usually I'm not a huge Sandra Boynton fan - when she hits (The Going to Bed Book and Barnyard Dance have wonderful rhythms, adorable illustrations, and a loyal following at Me Show HQ) she hits directly, but when she misses (But Not the Hippopotamus is so tragic that I don't know how it got through editing - poor armadillo!) she misses completely.  Because it's firmly on the side of the hits, Happy Hippo, Angry Duck might be a new favorite.

Duck, how can you be so angry when you're so very delicious?

What it lacks in the honky-tonk rowdiness of Barnyard Dance and the gentle lull of The Going to Bed Book it makes up for in great illustrations of different emotions for toddlers and preschoolers.  The simplicity of the title belies its inclusion of more nuanced feelings and the culminating message of acceptance of and help for unhappy kiddos is reassuring even to jaded old readers who should be above finding solace in cardboard books with fewer than 100 words.  I highly recommend it to all parents who'd rather their offspring learn to develop emotional maturity as children rather than amuse themselves with narcissistic blogging as adults.  By which I mean all parents everywhere.