It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Friendship is a Two-Way Street

When we go to the library, the children each get to choose two books.

When I choose a book at the library, I pull a likely-looking title off the shelf, I flip to the blurb on the inside of the jacket, I open at random and read a paragraph here and there, to determine if I like the style and tone. Then I might put into my bag, or, more often, back onto the shelf and move on to the next likely candidate.

Now, toddlers can’t do much of that. Toddlers can’t read. They can, however, look at pictures. Not that they do. When a toddler ‘chooses’ a book from the library, they wander to the nearest shelf and yoink one off without, far as I’ve noticed, even looking at it. They certainly don’t open it first. Toddlers could ‘choose’ their library books blind-folded.

When it’s a lingering visit rather than a git ‘er done visit, I do a little training in discrimination. “Look at the front cover. Look at the back. Open it and peek inside. What do you see? What do you think is happening? Does that look fun and interesting?”

But really, toddlers are far more of the “ALL books are fun!!! I want them ALL!!!!” school of discernment. Which is why, when I go to the library with the tots, I feel more than free to discreetly look over their Giant Heap o’Books and cull. I remove the ones with far too much text. I eliminate the ones that we’ve read a gazillion times before, and I Just.Can’t.Face again. I slip to one side the ones that would drive me screaming round the insanity bend.

Because, you know? THEY love them ALL. I am more persnickity easily bored picky discriminating. And I’m the one who has to read them. All. Over and over.

We don’t tend to read our books at the library. Even for the older children, the library is too distracting, with all those books on the shelves, the other children, the toys and activities. Rosie, who is not much of a cuddler, and more of a grabber and scruncher of books, tends to get bored after a book or so. (“If I can’t crumple the pages, WHAT IS THE POINT?!??”) If we’re at home, I can let her toodle off without worry. At the library, I can’t let her wander out of sight. Reading at the library is too damned stressful!

So we’re at home before I tackle the giant pile o’books. Eventually we get to A Splendid Friend Indeed, by Suzanne Bloom. I love the size of the book, I love the clean, simple layout of the pages, I love the look of the characters, a big, fuzzy polar bear and a small white goose.

I will tell you now that the people over at Goodreads looooove this book. Lively! Charming! Funny! A good look at Friendship and how friendships are formed!

Hm. I think all the people who gave it five stars are extroverts. They’re all the Goose. Me, I’m the Bear.

Now, in terms of pictures and layout: five stars for sure. Language appropriate to the age of the readers (the read-to’s)? Five stars. Whimsical, playful feel? Five stars. This is a very appealing book.

But the actual content?

The story goes like this: You have a big old bear, see, who is reading a book. Along comes goose. A lively, cheerful goose. “What are you doing? Are you reading? I like to read!” As I read, it seemed that goose just had to have a rather LOUD voice. And you know? I’ve met goose before, many times. He didn’t just say those things once. He said them repeatedly. Rapid-fire. Incessantly.

“What are you doing? Huh? What’re you doing? Are you reading? Areyoureading? Areyoureading? Hey! I like to read! You know that? I like to read, too!”

And after two pages, goose has not only inserted himself between bear and his book, but has commandeered the book. (How are you feeling abut goose at this point? Are you thinking, “Oh, what a lively little character!” Or are you thinking, “Lordy, what an annoying little doofus!”) A mildly disgruntled bear decides he will write instead. The next pages are predictable.

“What are you doing now?”
“Are you writing?”
“I like to write.”
“Do you want to see me write?”

And then goose has bear’s journal and pencil. So now bear is sitting there, without his book, without his journal and pencil, looking rather pissed. (I LOVE the illustrations in this book. They are SO expressive!) Bear has nothing left to snitch. Does goose stop yet?

NO. Because goose doesn’t want the things so much as he wants, needs, DEMANDS THE ATTENTION! ALL OF THE ATTENTION! Do not dare attend to anything but meeeeee!

(Are you gathering that Mary is not a fan of goose?)

“What are you doing NOW?”
“Are you thinking?”
“Thinking makes me hungry. Are you hungry? I think I’ll go make a snack.”

I wryly note how goose does not, in this instance, follow the previous pattern. “I like to think!” HA. As if. That would involve sitting still, being quiet, and not being the focus of attention. Goose is an annoying little twerp.

Bear relaxes back into his journal with visible relief. When the little twerp returns with a snack, he cringes. Because bear is an introvert. He wants to enjoy his book, his writing, his thoughts. Not only is goose a raging extrovert, but he’s also an attention-hog. He doesn’t just have to be talking and acting all the time, but the talk and action has to be focussed on HIM.

I am not liking goose, but I am enjoying the true-to-life dynamic. There are children out there like goose. There are children out there like bear. Bear is being remarkably patient, mind you. Many bear-type children would have either run away or decked goose by now. But there are quiet, introverted kids who just become overwhelmed by this type of insistent, pushy extrovert. I can see this happening.

So goose returns. Bear cringes. Goose has a snack and a note. Goose reads the note:

“I like you. Indeed I do. You are my splendid friend.”

Yup. Extrovert all over. They’ve interacted, therefore they are FRIENDS!!!

However, it is at this point that the book loses all credibility to me. When presented with this declaration of splendid friendship, does bear give him an incredulous look and say, “You stole my book, you commandeered my journal, you interrupted my thinking. How could we POSSIBLY be friends???” No, he does not. In fact, he is so touched that he must wipe a tear from his eye.

Eesh.

What has goose done to earn bear’s friendship? Was there any sharing? Any accommodation of bear’s style? Anything at all that would make bear want to be his friend?

Nope.

And what could possibly be in the ‘friendship’ from Bear’s perspective? Why would he want to be friends with this intrusive, pushy, demanding little dude?

No idea.

But NONE OF THAT MATTERS! Because to be friends, see, all you have to do is make an enthusiastic declaration of friendship. No need to find out about the other guy. No need to let them take a turn. No need to be respectful of their needs. Nope! Just be REALLY REALLY ENTHUSIASTIC!!! and then, even if you’ve been SUPREMELYY ANNOYING (and rather selfish to boot), then boom! You’re friends!

Gah.

I sound much more angry than I in fact am. We all know kids like this. You may find them charming. They are charming, in their way … but are they good friends? Not really. Do they need to be taught to tone it down, to pause, to listen once in a while? Yes. Until then, they’ll just be the annoying kid who is generally ignored by the others. And rightfully so.

I would have found this book much more satisfying had there been some recognition that friendship is a two-way street, and that Goose has done nothing whatsoever to make Bear want to be friends with him. Had Bear shown some annoyance, and Goose had to make some accommodation, the two of them meet in the middle somehow.

Then it would have been a good book about friendship.

January 15, 2013 Posted by | books | , , , , | 6 Comments

Menu Monday

Monday: Beef stew (Pinto bean stew for the veggie tot)

Tuesday: Penne with tomato sauce

Wednesday: Squash-chickpea curry with naan

Thursday: Beans and rice, cucumber-mint salad

Friday: Black bean chili and baking powder biscuits

January 14, 2013 Posted by | daycare, food | , , | 1 Comment

Popcorn

A game that gets them jumping!

1. Have the children crouch down in a tight squat, feet on the floor. They are being popcorn kernels.

2. Begin the rhyme:

You put the oil in the pot
And you let it get HOT!
You put the popcorn in
And you start to grin!

Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle [at this the children start to wriggle around on their feet, while still scrunched down tight]
Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle
Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle, sizzle …

POP!!! [here the children LEAP upward]

The game officially ends here, but I usually keep them going for a while, shouting out “Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!” for five or six or ten more jumps, but before it gets wildly out of control, I call out, “AAAaaaaand [this gets their attention] STOP!!”

And with ‘stop!’ they plop back down into the kernel position, ready for the next round.

With slightly older children, you can do “sticky popcorn”, which has them, when they bump into each other, stick together to form a popcorn ball, and then they have to jump around in a clump. I don’t do this with toddlers: the odds of everyone falling into a piece of furniture and ending up in a crying heap on the floor is too great!

It’s a great game for a stuck-inside day.

January 9, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 1 Comment

Winter Fun

Our theme this month is Winter. What will we be doing?

A fun sensory bin, with cotton balls and plastic ice chunks, some snowflakes, a couple of polar bears and a snowman.

Coloured ice cubes for outdoor building. (We did this today. It would have been better had my ice cube tray been nice and square, like the one pictured in that link, instead of with rounded corners. Still, the kids had fun!)

Indoor skating using big wooly socks over their own socks.

Edible snowballs, made with meringue. (Easy, tasty, and fun!)

Squirt bottles of coloured water for painting the snow.

Matching games using real mis-matched mittens on an indoor clothes line

Matching games using paper mittens and stickers

Pattern-making on paper scarves

Make snowballs from white socks stuffed with rice. Toss these into baskets and through holes in a box lid.

Sparkly white play dough

Polar bears made from salt dough

Ice candle-holders

Popsicle stick snowflakes

Paper doily stained glass

Stick the carrot on the snowman (like pin the tail on the donkey, only with carrots and snowmen)

String snowballs (Yes, those instructions make tree ornaments, but if you use white string and add some opalescent glitter, why, you’ve made pretty snowballs to hang around your winter-themed home!)

Linked snowman garlands

That’s not all of it. We’ll make more as we go along! Nor do I include everyday winter activities, like toboggan rides, digging, floundering, and otherwise messing about in the stuff.

January 8, 2013 Posted by | Canada, crafts | , , | 2 Comments

Menu Monday

Hello! Sorry it’s been so very long since I posted. A combination of pre-Christmas busy-ness, followed by computer problems, then illness, then Absolutely NO Internet for FIVE DAYS, then more mysterious computer problems (thank goodness I have a tech-geek son!) created a very long hiatus. I’m back! Goodness me. Are any of you still there??

My first post back is an easy one, too. I’m being gentle with myself…

Monday: Grilled cheese sandwiches, cauliflower

Tuesday: Broccoli-ham strata

Wednesday: Lentil soup, quinoa-kale pilaf

Thursday: Stuffed green peppers

Friday: Falafels

As always, if there are any recipes you’d like to see, just ask!

January 7, 2013 Posted by | food | , , , , | 10 Comments

Black bean enchilada bake

This one can be as basic or as fancied-up as you wish. I had a recipe once, no idea where I got it any more, but I’ve made it so many times I no longer use the recipe. Instead, I think in terms of component parts, and go from there.

I’ll give you the parts, I’ll suggest variations, and you can take it from there! Obviously, the ingredients will vary enormously depending on how you decide to whip it up. I’ll give you a basic list.

This is a layered dish, containing:

the tortilla layer
the protein layer
the veggie/sauce layer — this is the layer where you can really go to town, if you’re so inclined.
grated cheese on top

Ingredients:

Tortilla layers: 3 large tortillas

Protein layer:
black beans (I like to smoosh these a bit. It’s strictly a texture thing. If you don’t mind eating little round smooth things, no smooshing required.)
hamburger
tofu (I use extra-firm, crumbled)
Any combination of the above, totaling a cup, to a cup and a half. I rarely use hamburger, but when I do, never more than 200 grams. (A bit less than half a pound.)

I rarely use hamburger because I’m mostly vegetarian by inclination, and because you have to brown the meat first, which adds an extra step, and an extra pan to clean! Seems I’m lazy by inclination, too…

Veggie/Sauce layer:
2 onions, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced thin
Sautee the vegetables until soft.

Now, this is the very, very basic ingredient list, and me, I never stop there. You can add anything here, just keep them thinly sliced or finely diced. I’ve used mushrooms, diced (previously cooked) carrots, grated fresh carrots, zucchini, eggplant, squash, finely chopped kale… Really. Whatever you like!

I don’t measure, but I suspect that if you go much over two-three cups total, you might have trouble squeezing it all in the two layers. (Oh, well! You’ll just need an extra tortilla for the extra veggie layer! This is a very flexible dish!)

Sauce: Generally I use whatever jarred spaghetti sauce we have on hand, but a large can of crushed tomatoes will do just fine, and will likely have less sodium! Mix half a cup in with the veggies; save another few tablespoons for the top tortilla.

Grated cheese
. Cheddar, usually, as much as seems reasonable, though I’ve used hard, sorta dried-up feta in the past with good results. I tend to grate directly on to the dish as I prepare it, so I can’t tell you how much I use.

Assemble:

Preheat oven to 375F.

Put one tortilla in your baking dish. (Anything with a bit of an edge, as it will seep a bit. I use a quiche dish or a pie dish.)

Spread half the meat mixture on the tortilla.

Spread half the veggie mixture on top.

(You can sprinkle on a wee bit of grated cheddar, if you like.)

Another tortilla, followed by the rest of the meat mixture, and the rest of the veggie mixture.

Top it with the last tortilla, smear the tortilla with sauce, and top with a generous amount of grated cheese. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, until cheese is melted.

We cut ours into pie-shaped slices with a pizza wheel. Along with a salad and a hot vegetable, this serves our family of four — which includes a 19-year-old (female) and a 23-year-year old (male) — without difficulty.

January 5, 2013 Posted by | food | , , , | 6 Comments