Monday, October 29, 2012

Hidden Power of Frances

Look who made the papers: The Badgers! They are calm. They live simply. The handicrafts. I think they might be hipsters!

My childhood is framed by the Frances books by Russell and Lillian Hoban. Oh, Frances. Her songs. Her angst. Her picky-eating. Her feelings. The closeness of her family. Her ability to notice everything. I was thrilled when my own children also enjoyed these stories.

Frances...Jam is the thing that she likes most!

A Frances book is a commitment for a bedtime story. There are a lot of words- and you will need to sing. Also, your child will probably have plenty of comments about what is fair, what is right, and whether or not they agree with Frances (which they almost always will), and comments about Francis’s feelings.

These books are like time travel: time spent with grandparents. The talk is not rushed, there is no smart-alecky tone, no materialism or branding, no texting or social media- just talk, long talk- like grandparents do. Reading Bread and Jam for Francis to my children brings my grandparents alive- their love of food and its varieties (and ability to describe any meal they ever ate in great detail), their kindness, their common sense, their joy in interacting with children.

My kids have loved hearing the Frances books as much as I have loved reading them to them. Francis (the boy in the TRWH) started sleeping with his “alligator doll” and asking us to bring his sled in his room after reading Bedtime for Frances* when he was  about 3 or 4. When we welcomed Baby Claudia, we read A Baby Sister for Frances so many times that (our) Francis suggested we name the baby Gloria. When he was older, he watched his sister Claudia love A Birthday for Frances so completely when she was waiting for her 4th birthday to happen, that he gave her a Chompo bar for her present. (It was really a Snickers, but she couldn’t read yet.) We gave her a paint set and good friends gave her a plush pig that she named Potato Chip. She already had a fancy china tea set from Nana. Unwrapping all those things in her green dress, she declared it all "too perfect."

These old-time books are a reminder to slow down and listen to feelings, but still expect good manners. Sometimes I wonder if my kids love the Frances books because I love them, because they just love them, or because we all love them.  I was a Frances growing up- and perhaps reading something I love so much aloud makes it impossible for my listeners not to love it, too.

These books have shaped me as a reader, as a teacher, and as a parent. 
And I love that.

* The spanking thing was never a big problem for us in Bedtime for Frances. We just explained it that “A long time ago, people sometimes got spankings for breaking the rules- but parents don’t do that anymore.” And, to me, the spanking also seemed quite out of character for her parents- who were always just right and far more patient with her than I ever could have been. I would have gone from appropriate to Joan Crawford in about two minutes with the picky eating and interrupted sleep. Frances is never spanked- the Badgers are clearly a family that handle their problems with talking. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

That's Not Two-Thirds! or Why a Classroom Teacher Is a Nice Buffer

Fran can be Mr. Literal sometimes. Perhaps that's why he loves-loves-loves math. Yesterday, I was asking him about his progress with his book in Reading Workshop. I do a bit of "reminding" for him to finish books, stay on task, apply himself, etc. Mr. RWH just stays out of this.

Here's what went down (including stage directions):

M: Hey, Fran. How's it going with Zoobreak?

F: Good. Now instead of rescuing one monkey, they are going to rescue other animals, too.

M: Hmmm.... So what do you think of the book so far?

F: I really like it. I want to go hear Gordon Korman at the library. (Looks at M.) I don't think it matters that I'm reading them out of order.

M: (Aside to the audience, stage whisper.)  Well, I hope it doesn't matter. I've only read the 1st one...Do you need to know that his friend has narcolepsy, like they tell you at the end of Book One? Why wouldn't you take my suggestion? I always read the first book in a series first. Why would you NOT do that?  Aaaaagh!

M: Sometimes it can help to read the first book in a series before you read the others- to introduce you to the characters. I'm glad that it doesn't seem to be causing you a problem to read them out of order. So are you almost finished?  How much more is there to go?

F: (Holds up a pinch of fingers.) About this much.

M: So you're almost done.

F: Well, there are 33 chapters and I am on chapter 20.

M: Ok- so you're two-thirds of the way through.

F: (Rolls eyes.) I said 33 chapters. Thirty-three. It's not two-thirds. Twenty-two is two-thirds.

M: Yeah. You're close to two-thirds.

F: Two-thirds of 33 is 22.

M: I realize that.  Hey- let me know what you think about the book when you're finished.

F: OK...Hey, I'm going to go play hockey in the basement.* (Exits, stage left. Footsteps on stairs, hockey puck noises commence.)

I still can't believe he's reading them out of order.

*Many of our conversations end this way.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Happy Chocolate Cupcake Day

Today is National Chocolate Cupcake Day. Our family observes this holiday and I hope yours does, too. I was stunned to find that this holiday was not recognized by our school district. Sadly, I went to work and the kids went to school. But, we were together tonight, with our cupcakes.

Jefferson Market Perfection! Two S'mores and Two Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes
Happy Chocolate Cupcake Day to you and yours!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Favorite Pothead

Ahh...I was just thinking about my favorite potheads.

I think I like him:

Nothing like Pothead to travel on your FP school bus...
He always sat in the back and seemed so distant...

More than him:

Everyone loves a happy pothead...

I love these Little People. I am relieved my mother saved every stinkin' one. The old design is simple, functional, and flexible. They're perfect. 

The new ones are terrifying, always holding stuff and look particularly bloated:

They are holding so much stuff that they don't fit into the FP Little People toy van,
which I am sure is not an intentional effort to teach children to pack light when traveling.

And the worst part is that there are no longer Fisher Price Potheads. 

So disappointing.

Busy or Just a Little Pout

I am really, really surprised how stinkin' busy we are with two jobs*, two kids, two schools, one dog, living, and volunteering. Fitting in exercise and social plans is a sudoku puzzle. I think I'll stop cleaning and cooking to make more time available...

It's funny that I feel cranky about this, because this isn't even a very busy weekend. All we need to do is hockey, soccer, finish Halloween costumes, unpack winter clothes, pack up summer clothes, grocery shop and cook, and chip away at the pile of stuff that isn't getting done (thank yous, belated birthdays, fixing house things like the broken window and re-caulking, etc.)

To all the people we truly intend to invite over for brunch... we'll get to it soon. To the babies who keep growing that we haven't seen for a while... stay cute! To ourselves... figure out what's really important and let go of the rest. Or better yet, be a little bit productive and then take a family bike ride.

Here's to a little rest this weekend!

* Really, it's one and a half jobs.