Children’s Book of the Week: Who Needs Donuts?

November 30, 2009

Who Needs Donuts? by Mark Alan Stamaty

Wow. This is quite a book. It was first published in 1973 and then apparently went swiftly out of print, and used copies of it fetched hundreds of dollars. I can see why. It’s definitely the kind of book where, if you read it as a child, you would be desperate to get your hands on it to see if it was everything you remembered it to be. Happily, it has now been reprinted, so we can all enjoy it.

First, the story. A boy named Sam wishes for a bigger life, one that includes more donuts. So he hops on his tricycle and goes to the big city, where he meets Mr. Bickferd, a man who collects donuts. Lots and lots of donuts. He hires Sam on, and together they collect an obscene amount of donuts. So many donuts, in fact, that their donut cart breaks down, and Pretzel Annie comes to the rescue. While the cart is being fixed, Pretzel Annie and Mr. Bickferd fall in love, Mr. Bickferd leaves donut collecting, and Sam is on his own. All the while a bitter old woman keeps intoning, “Who needs donuts, when you have love?” The bitter old woman soon falls into a random set of circumstances that has her drowning in coffee, and Sam, now a lone donut collector, comes to her rescue.

Ok, so the story is one thing. But the PICTURES. Oh my goodness, they are indescribable. They are all black and white, pen and ink, and just unbelievably detailed. This is a book you will pick up after the kids go to bed just so you can study it. There are tiny words woven in everywhere, as signs, as ads, as bumper stickers, as things people are saying. Your kids will be begging, “Turn the page, Mommy!” as you get completely lost in every scene.

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Pre-Thanksgiving Bounty

November 26, 2009

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CATEGORIES: Eli, Henry, Zuzu

I’m ten minutes away from legwarmers

November 24, 2009

Ok: I hate being pregnant. I know there are some women who get all ecstatic and rejuvenated and glowy, but that’s not me. I’m not glowy. I’m ashen and sullen and there’s a permanent crease between my eyebrows. I hate being sick, that’s for sure, but that ends (as it has, thank you), and I still hate it. I do sort of like the ultrasounds, but honestly that’s just a science geek thing and I would be just as satisfied watching that NOVA special about pregnancy. It’s the lumpiness, the frumpiness, and the clothes, really, that I hate. As soon as I get pregnant I not only get the belly, but also sprout some love handles and generally give off a Bosc vibe. No good. And these clothes — can someone please make maternity pants that don’t fall down? I think I need maternity suspenders.

It’s really just that it’s impossible to look hip and sexy when you’re pregnant. (Or, at least, when I’m pregnant.) Any attempts at hipness somehow just up the schlub factor. There’s no getting around it: me pregnant = schlubby. And it’s just depressing. I know I’ve got at least another year of wearing someone else’s body. I’m trying to make the best of it, but I just want it to be May already (or May 2011). This time I didn’t even move my regular clothes out of the closet; I just shoved the stupid maternity stuff into a big pile in the closet and I just grab whatever’s on top.

Lately I’ve been trying to distract from the schlub factor and burgeoning midsection by clever accessorizing. I’m wearing very large necklaces, for instance. And capris with striped socks. I’ve starting wearing patchouli again; maybe someone will become so distracted by the scent of dirt and pine essence that they won’t notice I’m pregnant. The other day I wore (really) a paisley headscarf that (with the striped socks) made me look like Rhoda Morgenstern on crack, but I think it may have been sufficiently distracting.

When this is all over I’m buying matching lingerie and burning the maternity crap in a bonfire.

CATEGORIES: Julie

Children’s Book of the Week: Sixteen Cows

November 23, 2009

Sixteen Cows by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus

This one is for Emily.

Lisa Wheeler, rhyme-mistress extraordinaire, continues to charm the daylights out of every single one of us, and really hits it out of the park with this one. It’s the story of Gene Biddle and Sue Waddle, two ranchers who live right next to each other, love their cows, and generally pay no attention to each other. They are spending too much time loving their cows, and singing their cows home with a fun happy rhymey sing-song that’s made up of all the cows names.

But one day a tornado rips out the fence between the two ranches, and the cows are clumped together in a big messy cowherd of Biddles and Waddles, and Gene and Sue get into a cow-singing-home fight that has the poor herd clomping from one ranch to another. Gene and Sue finally call a truce, for the sake of the poor cows, you know, and then they finally realize what kindred spirits they are, with one of the loveliest getting-to-know-you sequences I’ve read in children’s literature: “Gene mumbled, ‘What nice cows you have,’/Sue blushed. ‘I like yours too.'”

So the cows get to be one big happy herd, and serve as bridesmaids at Gene and Sue’s wedding. Hurray! I will honestly say that all my kids — even Zuzu — love this book, and want it read again and again. The illustrations are marvelous too, and the cows really are pretty. It’s fairly difficult to read this without lapsing into a Southern accent of some sort, which is part of the fun. And now Eli is using phrases like “down yonder” in his everyday speech.

Also, I should say that, when I say that “Zuzu loves this book,” that would probably be better characterized as “Zuzu is completely obsessed with this book and wants us to read it to her 100 times a day.” She really, really loves it. I was trying to decide whether to get it for her for Christmas or to just get it out of the library every three weeks. But then I noticed that, in the scene where Gene and Sue get married, there are two cowboys dancing together, and it’s very subtle, but also unmistakable once you notice it, and how great is that? So I will be buying this one to put under the tree.

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Your Weekly Zuzu

November 20, 2009

Zuzu is a hat girl. Well, we’re a hat family, really. We’re all about the big sun hats in the summertime, and in winter we retreat into the cozy embrace of wool and fleece, mostly as delivered up by Mexicali Blues (a local funky crunchy shop that has a wondrous selection of hats every winter). And so I love that Zuzu puts every hat she finds on her head, and likes to wear them inside too (as do I — come December, I often will wear one all day — which I’m sure has nothing at all to do with the fact that we keep our thermostat at 59 degrees, as well as my less-than-frequent shampooing these days).

Here she is, two recent forays into hattiness. The one on the left involved a garlic press, because why not. She needs some help with the granny square beret, since it’s an adult size and easily covers her eyes. But she likes it because she knows she looks fantastic in it once she gets it situated properly on her head.

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CATEGORIES: Zuzu

Letter to Santa

November 18, 2009

Ok, what is it with my kids asking Santa for impossible items? Is it because they don’t watch television? If they watched TV they’d just ask for some Matchbox raceway they saw on a commercial. But no.

Here’s what it says: “Dear Santa Claus, Please give us a pet bush baby and a pickax with two picks. If we are good. Sincerely, Henry Falatko and Eli Falatko.”

So what are my options here? I already told Henry that Santa probably wouldn’t bring him a bush baby because it would die in our climate. Can I find a stuffed animal one, do you think? Will that be satisfactory? And a pickax? I know Eli really wants it, but no. I’m pretty sure that, next to the phrase “bad idea” in the dictionary is a picture of Eli holding a pickax. He’s into the whole California gold rush thing right now, which is fine, but he’s not getting a pickax. Do they make some kind of 1849 gold digging dress-up kit?

Or do I just tell them that they must not have been good enough?

At this point I’m just hoping for some kind of addendum to this letter with more things they want. More reasonable things, that is.

CATEGORIES: Eli, Henry

Children’s Book of the Week: The Tiger Who Came to Tea

November 16, 2009

The Tiger Who Came to Tea by Judith Kerr

What I like about this book:

  • The tiger is a lovely mix of polite and rude. Basically, he’s your basic terrible houseguest who doesn’t realize he’s a terrible houseguest. He’s very gracious — “Excuse me, but I’m very hungry. Do you think I could have tea with you?” — and then he proceeds to eat and drink everything in the house, while little Sophie and her mother watch in somewhat stupefied horror. So: a good primer on the fact that even though some guests can be appalling, you are supposed to just grin and bear it until they leave.
  • The lovely retro life they lead. A milkman (“This week’s special: Farmhouse Chickens”), a grocery boy on a bicycle.
  • That Sophie casually cuddles with the tiger while he’s eating all their stuff.
  • The un-PC-ness of the tiger drinking “all Daddy’s beer.”
  • Sophie’s mom’s fashion sense. I love everything about what this woman is wearing. Green shirtdress, blue knit cardigan, striped grey tights, blue/grey ballet slippers, hair in a messy bun. When she adds a bright orange mandarin collar jacket and small pink structured handbag I just about die with envy. I would wear the entire outfit tomorrow. Love it. Plus also love her net shopping bag and her awesome wheeled shopping basket.
  • The Britishness of it. The tiger comes to tea, first of all, and then eats all the buns (huh?), and all the “packets and tins in the cupboard” (what?).

The only thing I don’t like is the other retro notion that Sophie’s daddy somehow gets dinner all to himself. After the tiger leaves, Sophie’s mom frets that she’s “got nothing for Daddy’s supper.” Don’t Sophie and Mummy get to eat supper? Or do they just fill up on sandwiches, biscuits, and buns at tea? It seems a little odd.

But don’t let that one tiny bit stop you! This book is deliciously charming. I’d want to live in it, if it weren’t for, you know, the giant tiger who comes in and eats all their food (although I do have some fantasies about a tiger eating all the food in our refrigerator, so I’d have to clean it out and start fresh).

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Formalwear

November 13, 2009

The other day Dave had a tie on, and Eli said, “You look just like Barack Obama!” I love that our world in Maine is such a casual place that the only person Eli can associate with tie-wearing is the president.

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CATEGORIES: thirty second post

Halloween

November 12, 2009

Why do I let myself get all worked up about stupid Halloween costumes? This year Eli wanted to be a crossing guard, and I scoured the internet until I found just the thing (which is, in fact, a real crossing guard outfit, since it turns out no other child in the history of Halloween has ever wanted a manufactured crossing guard costume before). Henry wanted to be an alien penguin, and since I predictably couldn’t find that anywhere on the internet, he promised he’d make it himself out of paper on the day of. Which he did end up doing, but then (realistically) decided that the paper costume was a little crazy, and he’d just be a spider like last year. And then at the last second Eli decided to be Eeyore, like two years ago.

The only one who kept her original costume was Zuzu, and that’s because the costume we already had in her size was foisted upon her without any input on her end. I didn’t even really explain the Halloween concept to her, just shoved her into the turtle costume (complete with its prominently missing snap, as you can see in the photo). I really think any normal kid would have freaked out at this point (“You’re making me be a turtle, when I should be going to bed? And you’re adding a turtle headpiece?”), but Zuzu acted like this was the best thing that ever happened to her. She was so psyched to be walking around dressed up as a turtle. Here they are all gussied up:

And here’s a 4-second video where I tried to capture how happy and determined Zuzu was to be turtled. Note that it’s only 4 seconds long because she was so determined, that she just walked right out of the room.

The other great thing was how much she got into the actual trick-or-treating. She happily climbed the stairs at each house (all six of them we went to), and after getting candy, happily waved goodbye. There were also a few houses where it became clear that she didn’t get the concept at all, because, as the candy-giver was getting her some candy, Zuzu was looking through her goody bag to see what she could give in exchange. She kept trying to trade.

It’s a good thing we only went to six houses, because the boys had eaten all of their candy before 7:00 the next morning.

And we only got two trick-or-treaters. Why? Swine flu scare? Saturday night Halloween? I was ready to give the whole bowl of candy to Trick-or-Treater #3, but no one ever showed up to be the lucky one.

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CATEGORIES: Eli, Henry, Zuzu

My secret agreement with the UPS man

November 11, 2009

So this is the kind of parent I’ve become: I notice that the giant box of diapers has come from Diapers.com, and I carefully herd the children upstairs to bed so that they don’t see it. Then I fall asleep while putting Zuzu to bed, but manage to drag myself up so that I can open the giant box, put all the diapers away, and put the giant box into the recycling. Because heaven forbid they should play with a box.

Listen, they play with the box, and they have a great time. But they become attached to it, and it sits right in the middle of our not-very-big living room. And at some point someone starts stabbing at it with scissors to make “windows” and then there are little bits of cardboard everywhere. Also they like to use the diaper packages as giant building blocks, and at some point the packages get ripped open and there are diapers everywhere. So I am always very motivated to get that diaper box squared away before anyone knows it existed. I am the Diaper Box Fairy.

I totally thought I’d be the kind of parent who would say, “Oh, kids! A giant box! What fun! Here are some markers! Would you like some cotton balls and glue?” Instead I’m hiding markers and boxes and getting mad because they don’t bus their plates.

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CATEGORIES: clutter, Parenting
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