Thursday, December 29, 2005

The power of a mnemonic device

Morgan Spurlock is a hero of mine.

I admire the questions that Spurlock asks through his provocational documentaries. Congressional debates on minimum wage sound like adults talking in a Peanuts television show--while Spurlock gives his viewers a glimpse at minimum wage life in an episode of his documentary series "30 days," where he guides viewers through walking in someone else moccasins for a 30 day period. I hope that Spurlock's series on F/X "30 days" comes out on DVD soon.

I hooked in to Spurlock's work, like many others, through the documentary Super Size Me. This is one of my favorite films of all time. I showed it to my confirmation class, parents, inlaws, even my daughter watched it. She was too small to comprehend the film...or was she? I am no Piaget, nor do I have more than trivial knowledge of cognitive development. But I know that music can register with a child. I know this personnally, because I would not have earned an A on my 8th grade U.S. History exam without Schoolhouse Rock teaching me in music about the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution. I still know that song.

At least six months passed since I last watched Super Size Me, maybe longer since I sang the theme song. In those days, my daughter would sing that theme along with me. A few days ago at the dinner table, much to my shock and awe, the song came out again without my prompting.

Super size, super size, the American way
Super size, super size, the American way
Going fat, going broke, either way, you're gonna pay.
Super size me. Super size me.

At first, I sat in disbelief. Then, when I realized what she was singing, I laughed in amazement, and called to my wife to listen.

For the most part, she has not repeated some of the less choice words that have come out of my mouth--although she yells at the dog like I yell at her (as well as the dog). I can learn much from what comes out of her mouth--she is a mirror of my communication.

Words of grace and words of warning.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Implanting identity via Christmas paganism

Put another five dollars in the therapy jar...we over-stimulated the little girl. I do not believe that any one relative sought to throw kks into a frenzy...but she received many kind and thoughtful Christmas gifts. Not knowing what to do with the horn of plenty containing doll houses, hockey games, cars and other delights, she offered the timeless activity of ignoring the toys and playing with boxes and wrap. Many parents (like us) have never learned. Awake all night, we just finished watching a few videos hoping to calm her down. Excitement has run its course through this house like the ocean surf. In a tantrum she passed out last night about 7 p.m., only to awaken at 1 a.m. ready to party. Ack.

At least we gathered some of her older toys for the Goodwill, and if another sibling shows up, there will be a few toys for that munchkin.

On Christmas day we sang a medley of "Gingle Bells" "Jesus Loves Me" and "Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto". An interesting combo of winter, Jesus, American Christmas fable, and social justice. Such is our postmodern schizophrenia.

What I have found interesting is the competing (?) imagery portrayed in the gifts my mother-in-law and I purchased. Guess which gifts came from whom?

Princess accessories
Doll House
Knee Hockey (small goal and sticks)
Bowling Game

Here we are, choosing a preferred identity for this little girl. I wonder when she is going to tell us we are all freaks and choose her own identity. What is nature and what is nurture? Many years remain in discovering the answer to that modern question...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Becoming royalty after 25 years

Shopping as a leisure activity leaves me cold. But we also have retail in our family lineage. At the very least, my brothers and I know our way around any retail establishment. I enjoy shopping when I have a mission: entertaining guests, preparing for family rituals, showing generosity.

I like Advent and Christmas time. I fail to see how retail bashing is helpful to public discourse about the holiday. Like the world needs more complaining. I try to make conscious decisions not go crazy and look for opportunities to model generosity. Many activities take on new levels of fun with kks. I hear this a lot from parents: looking at the Holidays through the eyes of a child brings a new joy. To me, finding many outlets for joy during the holidays means getting through the winter. It's not the cold that bothers me, nor is it the dark that takes down my spirits. It is the green deprivation that hurts. Some might say that the world needs to take a break from greenery for a few months. If this is true, why did God create evergreens? I miss the evergreens. To put an evergreen in the house and cover it with lights reminds me of the joys of God's creation.

Kks' curiosity about the sights, sounds and events of the month of December take me to a new place, even in the mall. We walked through the Empire Mall in Sioux Falls singing Jingle Bells over and over. I have not had such fun singing this song in more than 25 years. Kks holiday musical repetoire consists of "Gingle Bells" and "Santa Claus, Go Straight To The Ghetto." She prefers the Jingle Bells version done by the Barenaked Ladies. Last night in the car she rejected the rendition of Jingle Bells by
Sammy Davis, Jr.

The only way we had enough energy to sing Jingle Bells 20 times or so was our nutritious meal. The options around us had many drawbacks. One option sound intriguing: the Royal Fork. I could still taste the averageness of the food from the last time I ate there 25 years ago back in Renton, Washington. But...I could sit in a booth. Kks and I didn't have to wait around for our meal, and, she could get what she wanted. I told my parents I felt ashamed. We have made fun of the Royal Fork in the past. Many of the stereotypes of the Royal Fork and other buffets are true. Kks and I waited in line for a good 5-10 minutes waiting for an elderly gentleman who could not understand the directions of the hostess. In the end our visit worked out well. I made a good parenting decision, as if I knew my daughter. There is no shame in that. We became royalty at the Royal Fork.

I smell an ad campaign coming on...it smells like Salisbury Steak.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

O Tannenbaum

This family holds good intentions to get the Christmas tree up sometime during the first week of December. As we have the proclivity to put things off, the tree does not stand in our home until a week or so later. Some people crave the sunshine, I crave green, living things. An evergreen tree with lights stirrs memories of home and the white lights give me a sense of peace.

Kks finds curiosity in the tree as well. Is it okay to touch the ornaments? Is Dad watching? Will I get caught? How many more times can I touch the ornaments before I get a time out?

Kks loves the show "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown." How many times would I have watched this show if it was on DVD when I was a child...

Her acting skills are much more refined, triggered by music from the show. As we decorated the tree, we listen to the soundtrack for the show, and our little actress acted out the scenes associated with several songs. She glided across the carpet, simulating ice skating with the song in the show, and danced to one of Schroeder's calls to dance on the piano.

Peril must accompany tree decorating with a child. She crushed a glass ornament in her hand. We quickly picked up the glass to avoid stepping on it. Kks was not fazed, after playing for another 30 minutes, her mother noticed her hand was bleeding. She had a who cares attitude about the blood--moving to apoplectic at the thought of cleaning the wound. While applying first aid, she pleaded, "All done!? All done?!"

With the trauma ending, decoration etiquette beckons.


Part of the joy of children and the season.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Proud moments for parents

What is this salty, watery substance coming out of my eyes?

Kks was playing downstairs on Saturday having one of her many conversations with herself--at least she was enjoying her growing language abilities, when I heard a familiar tune from her mouth and a shout of "Go, Jayhawks!" I couldn't have taught her that tune more than five times...she picks things up quickly. Yes, I am proud, and I plan to employ kks utterances during the basketball season as the games become more important and as we watch more KU games on tv.

Many time kks' mother and I will say that kks' favorite food is whatever we're eating. That reached a proud moment for my wife as she drank a latte yesterday. Kks grabbed the large Nebraska Cornhusker latte mug (sorry, rev. darth) and said, "my coffee." Either she is truly enjoying the taste that I loathe, or she will go to great lengths to eat or drink whatever Mommy is consuming.

We are decorating the tree today--I have been teaching the song "O Christmas Tree." Kks has "Jingle Bells" down pat. She likes the Barenaked Ladies' version the best--it gets hoppin'.

Friday, December 09, 2005

More on the language explosion

Gathering at the dinner table, kks and I moved past the usual activity of praying and shoveling and into conversation. I make attempts to talk about what she does at preschool. I am hopeful for the future of this exchange.

Kks sees it as another opportunity to order me around. She asked me to cut her pizza into bites. I ate my pizza with my hands. She saw this as inappropriate and fetched me a fork. When I continued eating with my hands, she told me, "pizza on plate, use fork!" She did not say this to hear herself talk, kks made an order. So I ate with a fork. This articulation would not have happened six weeks ago, preschool has done wonders.

The reason I am awake this late/early? Kks decided to get up and demand many things. Sleeping with us. Reading a book, having a snack. Her mother has no problem getting back to sleep. Here I am, wide awake. Kks picks inconvenient nights to do this. At least she did not choose Saturday night...

Progress Report on Singing: Kks has nearly perfected a melodic sharing of "Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto." We're still working on "hitch up your reindeer, uhhhh (James Brown style, of course)!"

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A tender, funky, Advent/Christmas moment

Kks and I enjoy a good dance once in awhile.

I'm on a little bit of a James Brown kick...so we danced to "Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto."

We did not dance to the song just once. She asked to dance for a second time. "Again," she said.

The girl has good taste...or at least we enjoyed some fun together.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Playing In The Snow (in many ways)

We returned from our Thanksgiving jaunt one day later than we expected. Winter arrived abundantly Monday in South Dakota with blizzard conditions. Many communities in South Dakota continue to be without power. Single degree above and below zero are not healthy ways to live without electricity. News reports tell of neighbors checking upon neighbors to make sure they are okay.

Sioux Falls was basically spared, only slowed down. Our flight was cancelled Monday. Kks' uncle (my brother) drove us to the airport early Monday evening. Rather than spend the night in Grand Rapids, we flew to Minneapolis to call on the aid of our friends. This was better than spending the night in a hotel in Michigan. Our chances of getting home go up exponentially once we get on the ground in Minnesota.

Kks has become a veteran traveller. She knows that when she gets on a plane, her seat belt goes on. When we land and arrive at the gate, she chimes in "all done," and takes off her seat belt. Two habits we would love to break include kicking the seat in front of her, and bolting whenever she gets a moment alone (we forgot her toddler leash--we missed that device--it made security a harrowing experience).

Monday was only the introduction to weather-altered routines. Six inches on Wednesday. We're looking at another 7 inches today. I was supposed to travel to the western side of the state today--but snow-slowed travel on top of a 5 hour trip did not sound like fun after travelling over Thanksgiving. Kks and I took this opportunity to enjoy the snow. Snow pants, boots, the whole nine yards. She loves the snow like her father. Opportunity knocked to put up some Christmas lights--kks decided she wanted put objects in the electrical outlet. I cut this curiosity off--in disgust she threw off her mittens and hat. It was time to go inside. A cute time cut off by a tantrum.

But as my mother would say..."whaddaya expect? She's two."

We have banked some blessed times over these past several days. I love watching kks play with her aunt and uncles and grandparents. I can watch that all day. She likes being around her family. The girl is growing in many ways. Kks' mother and I are glad we have front row seats.

Although we don't sit that much.