Produced by Gary Drevitch
WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG FOR A FEW CHOICE WORDS FROM TINY GIRL
First, "Daddy's funny!"
And, further, "I love you, Daddy!"
Both phrases debuted this morning, and will immediately be placed in heavy rotation, along with Tiny's earlier smash hits, "Read a book, Daddy!' and "I don't want to!"
CRITIC'S CORNER: The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog!
Mo Willems' "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" is at the top of anyone's list of the best picture books of the past few years - simple, interactive, hilarious, and totally on message: The bus driver has to step away for a moment. And so it falls to you, dear reader, to prevent this clever pigeon from driving the bus, no matter how much he may plead with you. At the turn of the page, begin shouting No.
Unfortunately, "The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog" is the "Unbreakable" to Willems' "Sixth Sense." The Pigeon is back, as excitable as ever, and this time he's happened upon a hot dog in the street. (First problem: Kids, don't pick up hot dogs you find on the street. But we'll let it slide.) As he prepares to devour the frank, a duckling appears and begins asking, in a variety of ways, just what a hot dog tastes like. At this point, The Pigeon immediately susses out the duckling's plan (as the average three-year-old would not): The yellow interloper wants the hot dog. And so The Pigeon loudly rejects the duckling's subtle intimations. Eventually (spoiler alert) they decide to share the discarded dog.
"The Pigeon Finds" fails for this critic because:
- Although it brings back the visual and verbal style of the original, this time the reader has no stake in the story, which was the key to "Don't Let." We don't much care if The Pigeon keeps the dog or not.
- The duckling (who reminds us of Foghron Leghorn's young foil, Junior) is too subtle; the reader doesn't understand why he gets The Pigeon so worked up, unless maybe The Pigeon is off his meds.
"The Pigeon Finds" is still superior to almost all of what's available for preschoolers. But while The Pigeon's increasing consternation makes the book a fun read with some reliable laughs, and kids will be pleased with the ending, you're better off reading the original 39 more times instead of investing in this sequel.
AND WHILE WE'RE UP . . .
Thumbs at half-stand as well for Willems' other new offering book, "Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale," in which a dad struggles to understand that his toddler is telling him that he's left her bunny blanket at the laundromat. It suffers mainly from being more about the parent than the child.
IN OTHER PIGEON NEWS
We DO highly recommend downloading some "Pigeon" multimedia from Willems' Hyperion Books page. You can print out both a "Pigeon" coloring sheet, and a top-drawer PDF, "Learn how to draw the pigeon!"
(FYI: According to Amazon, the "Pigeon" series is going to roll out at least two new books in the months ahead, "The Pigeon Has Feelings, Too!" and "The Pigeon Loves Things That Go!")
IN A RELATED STORY, THE TRADEMARK OFFICE APPROVED FD's BID TO COPYRIGHT THE PHRASE, "YOU'RE HAVING A TIME OUT!"
Donald Trump is rebuffed in his first attempt to copyright "You're Fired!"
EASY TO MISINTERPRET HEADLINE OF THE DAY
From this morning's New York SUN:
GIMME AN "S"! GIMME AN "I"! GIMME A "T-T-E-R"!
Once she's on campus, Mary may want to earn some extra cash by joining the Barnard Babysitting Service. For you folks at home, the service is far from New York's best-kept secret, but if you live in uptown Manhattan, and you're not hiring Barnard girls as your sitters, you're paying too much. With a new semester approaching, it's time to slap down the nominal fee and register for sitters. Among other benefits, you'll also meet interesting young people. The other night, for example, FD was well served by a high-energy Columbia cheerleader (speaking of easy to misinterpret headlines). In other news . . . Columbia has cheerleaders.
SOUNDS LIKE THE SIDEWALKS OF WALL STREET ARE GOING TO GET CROWDED
According to Investment News:
A whopping 95% of teens thought they had an obligation to pay for some of their college education, according to a new survey by Fidelity Investments . . . Three-quarters thought their parents should pay only half or less, and 12% said their parents shouldn't have to pay any of the costs. The study also showed, however, that when asked if they knew how much their college education would cost, 64% of teens answered ''not really'' or ''have no idea.''
At the end of the third quarter of a game, you can tell him it's over and turn it off.
DEEP OBSERVATIONS MADE BY A THREE-YEAR-OLD WATCHING THE OLYMPICS, PART ONE
At the end of a one-sided boxing match, he decided the red-trunked victor was the loser because he hit the other guy too much.
THIS ONE GOES OUT TO ALL OF YOU FEELING LIKE BAD PARENTS BECAUSE YOU COULDN'T GET YOUR KIDS TO FINISH THEIR BROCCOLI LAST NIGHT.
A San Diego woman locks her seven-year-old in the trunk of her Volvo while she celebrates her birthday. (Note: The boy's fine.)
MEANWHILE, AT GLENGARRY HIGH SCHOOL, THE KID WHO GETS THE BEST GRADES WINS A CADILLAC ELDORADO. SECOND PRIZE IS A SET OF STEAK KNIVES. THIRD PRIZE IS YOU'RE EXPELLED.
The Palm Beach school board is up in arms over promotion in which Krispy Kreme rewards children with free doughnuts for getting A's, up to six free treats per grading period:
School board member Debra Robinson said, "I am a victim of food as a reward, and I don't think we should continue to do that. Then you end up fat . . . Krispy Kreme doughnuts are very good, especially when the 'hot' lights are on, but I can't say that there's anything healthy about them. Can't we find something else? . . . Chocolate-covered raisins have raisins in them."
It's hard to argue with Robinson's central point: Chocolate-covered raisins DO have raisins in them. On the other hand, this noble food-incentive victim may be ignoring a couple of other key issues: One, kids who don't study are not going to start studying just so they can get a 65-cent doughnut. Two, kids who don't eat a lot of doughnuts, or who already get their doughnuts by stealing them, couldn't care less about the incentive program. And, three, shouldn't she be, like, passing a budget or hiring a crossing guard instead of fixating on a handful of sweet . . . delicious . . . doughnuts . . . What's that? The "HOT" light is on right now? Move to adjourn!
THE SHAME ISN'T IN POTTY TRAINING YOUR CHILDREN TOO LATE. THE SHAME IS IN KEEPING POMPOMS IN YOUR BATHROOM TO CHEER THEM ON AS THEY POOP.
Front page article in the Wall Street Journal today (registration required) details the enormous stress parents of preschoolers face as they struggle to get their kids potty-trained in time for September at schools that require students to be potty-trained. It's a great piece in that it gets parents to admit to some outlandish strategies: keeping pompoms in the bathroom to cheer on a daughter starting to use the toilet; having friends call a son pretending to be baseball stars and encouraging him to go to the potty . . . they even have a woman who teaches potty training admit to violating her own rules by giving her child candy as a prize for using the john.
[The latter is no surprise to FD; watch this space for more on how parenting writers live the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do mantra.]
We were fortunate to send Small Fellow to a preschool that did not require potty-training (happily, he was fully trained by about six weeks after the start of school last fall), but we can certainly sympathize with schools that do require it, especially as we read the strict sanitary and insurance regulations that school diaper-changers must follow.
In the article, P&G and Kimberly-Clark (that's Pampers and Huggies to you) decry potty-training "deadlines" that cut into their business by "driving away good customers every year." But the conglomerates get no sympathy from us, especially since they've recently and inexplicably stopped mailing us any coupons.
AND ANOTHER THING
Our own unscientific research has found that there are no models or sizes of Huggies or Pampers available anywhere in America that are not branded, front and back, with a Sesame Street, Disney or other cartoon character. Huggies' Little Swimmers swim diapers line used to be an oasis of non-branded items, simply blue, green, purple or pink. No more. As of a couple of months ago, they're now available only in different shades of Disney: Nemo, Little Princess, and Pooh. We suggest a consumer boycott, at least until they put Pete's Dragon on a package.
Growing up, we hated Blair Warner, the snooty schoolgirl with perfect hair played by Lisa Whelchel on "Facts of Life," and we've had no problem with Whelchel's subsequent fall off the face of the earth. Well, now Blair is back, with a new book endorsing an old tradition: Cruel and unusual punishment. Seems Whelchel is an advocate of "hot saucing" children under 10 when they lie or say hurtful things (an example of a hurtful thing a child might say, I imagine, might be, "Mommy, I hate you for hot saucing my tongue!"). We guess it's an update of the old "wash out your mouth with soap" routine, except it burns, Mommy, it burns!
But wait, there's more! Whelchel's book, "Creative Correction: Extraordinary Ideas for Everyday Discipline," a Focus on Family book, is excerpted on beliefnet, and it offers an eye-opening peek inside Mistress Lisa's home. I share with you some excerpts:
When my kids were little, for example, I sometimes felt it was more effective to administer a spanking than to try to reason with them. . . . when my children were toddlers and constantly getting into things, it seemed my only alternatives for discipline--other than spanking--were distracting or confining them. And I didn't like either of those choices. . . . keeping them confined to their playpen for half the day seemed even more cruel than a slap on the back of their hands.
This is of course the temptation of corporal punishment. FD prefers "confinement," or time outs, and we've found that when three-year-old Small Fellow gets time outs (and we confess that those time outs typically involve our having to pick him up and haul him into his bed), he as often as not falls asleep within minutes. He misbehaves (sometimes) because he's tired, not because he's inherently bad. Similarly, since he's become potty trained, many of his worst behavior spurts can be traced to his delaying a needed trip to the bathroom. Once he gets to the potty, or gets to sleep, the behavior passes. Our way takes a bit more time and effort, as compared to, say, throttling him, but it hopefully teaches him that his behavior has causes (need to sleep, need to pee) that he can learn to recognize and fix. We're gratified when he finds himself misbehaving or crying and tells us, "I'm having some trouble. I need some rest." Mistress Lisa offers a different lesson:
. . . They intuitively know spankings are good for them, and that they receive them not only because they deserve it, but also because their parents love them. . . . One evening, when Haven was only two and a half years old, Steve and I left the kids with a baby-sitter. . . . When we arrived home at 8:30 . . . . She was in the midst of a full-blown temper tantrum . . . . When I went to talk with Haven, I expected to be met with more screaming and crying. But instead she said, "'Pank me."
"Did Miss Shawna spank you?" I queried, confused.
"No. 'Pank me," she urged once again....
"Do you want Mommy to spank you?" I asked, my jaw dropping in astonishment.
"Yes!" said Haven, and she jumped out of bed for her correction. Afterward, she locked her arms around me in a bear hug.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this young woman was ASKING FOR IT!
But we're just getting to the really hot material. I think I saw this next scene in a movie, with James Spader in the dominant position [itals added]:
Recently my older daughter defied her grandmother's instruction to put the Popsicle back in the freezer until after dinner. I stopped my work and called to her. "Haven, meet me in the bathroom!" A few minutes later, I found her there. . . .
"Now, Haven," I began, "why are you getting this correction?" Her head hanging, she mumbled, "Because I went ahead and ate the Popsicle even though Grandmother told me not to." "Why was that wrong?" I persisted.
"Because Grandmother is my authority and I need to obey her." . . . .
"Haven," I told her, "I'm going to need to spank you because Proverbs 23:13-14 says, 'Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.' " . . . .
I beckoned her toward me, where I was seated on the toilet lid.
"Now, lean over my lap."
She bent over, submitting to my instruction.
After I spanked her--eight times for her age--I invited her to sit on my lap. Cradling her in my arms, I said, "Haven, I love you and forgive you, but you need to ask Jesus to forgive you for not obeying Him. . ."
Beckoned? Submitted? Sally, get me Harlequin on Line One! I've discovered a hot new talent for them!
What's amazing about this passage isn't even the fact that Blair's getting off on the dominance trip. It's that her daughter actually acknowledges her mistake and even understands why it was wrong, yet she STILL GETS SPANKED! EIGHT TIMES!
The problem with even a "creative" corporal punishment like hot saucing, as actual parents know, is that it's no easier to administer than a dose of medicine. You know that until Blair broke her children's spirits and made them willing, and apparently eager, partners in her dominatrix fantasies, she had to chase them around the house and probably pin them down before she could get that pyro diablo on their tongues. When you introduce violence, the child naturally responds with defenses and then the violence simply escalates. You'll always win, but the battle, and the actions he takes in the battle, then become more of an issue than the original behavior. And then you retreat to your corners to await the next round. Now, what do the experts call that?
THE CHARACTERS HAVEN'T BEEN NAMED YET. ALL WE KNOW FOR SURE IS THAT THEY'LL HATE PAKISTANIS.
Your tax dollars at work: With a $500,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development, Sesame Street is coming to India in a big way.
Buried deep in the article is this nugget:
There have been reports that show has also been put to unlikely uses by US interrogators in Iraq. Last year it emerged they had tormented captives with the Sesame Street theme music in an attempt to make them talk. Sesame Workshop's Beatrice Chow, however, called this an "unfounded rumour.
SOME CREDIT HIS VICTORY TO HIS HIGH-ENERGY TRAINING SNACK. OTHERS SPECULATE HE MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE ONLY ONE WHO KNEW WINDSURFING WAS AN OLYMPIC SPORT.
ABOVE ALL, DO NOT LET YOUR TEENS ASSOCIATE WITH THESE TWO
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia has released a new survey making a compelling case that a teen whose friends are sexually active is far more likely himself to smoke, drink, or use pot. The survey does offer an antidote for parents: More family dinners. Teens who eat with their family less than twice a week are one-and-a-half more likely to, well, do lots of bad stuff than teens who eat with their parents at least five times a week.
TWO QUESTIONS: SINCE WHEN DO WEATHERMEN MAKE $300,000? AND SINCE WHEN IS IT A FULL-TIME JOB?
Detroit weatherman walks away from a $300,000 annual contract to spend more time at home with his kids when the station refuses to allow him to reduce his hours. The easy joke? "Extended Forecast: Poverty."
But FD will join in what will surely be a long line of folks praising Chris Edwards, because he’s done it right. This Detroit Free Press article foresees a bleak financial future for his family, but he's been his station's chief meteorologist for 13 years and he claims to have saved 40 percent of his earnings over that period. He’s going to tour the area doing science and weather shows for kids. And we think we've heard of TV personalities finding a way back on the air after a hiatus.
In any case, short of an El Nino attack on his house, we expect Edwards to do fine. Based on this Wall Street Journal article in which he was quoted a while back, he has the right attitude about careers and fatherhood.
Chris Edwards' Michigan dads group, dadsempowered.com, is one of many such orgs bemoaning the state of media representations of fathers in society. In that same Journal article, we read:
The [Michigan] conference will encourage dads to prove stereotypes wrong. They'll be shown TV commercials like the humorous spot for a Michigan managed-care organization. It features a bumbling father holding a baby like a football. The unintended message: "Fathers don't care for their kids properly," says Murray Davis of Dads of Michigan. Mr. Edwards resents all the "clueless idiot" dads in children's books and TV shows. He says such portrayals undermine children's perceptions of their own fathers.FD groks that. We've been reading Diane Ravitch's pupil-popping expose, "The Language Police," which details the shocking extent to which America's textbooks and standardized tests are bowdlerized to avoid making uncomfortable any possible ethnic, gender, or geographic group - even the ones that weren't complaining. It's easy to see how those standards have filtered into prime time TV, where everyone is portrayed positively except for those buffoonish wage-earning dads. (Ray Romano plays a nationally-known sportswriter on "Everybody Loves Raymond," and yet, what, we're supposed to believe he can't open a can of tuna fish or pay a bill? Everyone on the show, excluding his mother but including his kids, is required to call him an idiot at least once per episode, lest anyone watching at home start to get envious of a character who is unquestionably a major professional success.)
In one section of her book, Ravitch details how publishers and interest groups restrict the ways in which the genders can be represented in classrooms. For example, textbook illustrators are typically barred from showing men/fathers/white males in "stereotypical" situations - such as being brave, using tools, or leaving a mom behind at home to go to work. Now, we agree that these are just stereotypes, since FD himself is fearful, can't use tools, and works from home. By limiting themselves to images of men doing household chores, going shopping, and backing away from snakes, publishers are more accurately reflecting FD's own home life, and yet we recognize that it's sheer silliness to ban images representing the majority of American families.
In any case, everyone sending their kids to a school that uses social studies textbooks or literature anthologies needs to read Ravitch's book and then dedicate themselves to providing lessons at home that flesh out what's missing in the classroom.
TINY GIRL HAS THE CUTEST LITTLE BAGS UNDER HER EYES
We respect the National Sleep Foundation and have worked with them on articles in the past. Which is why their annual "Sleep in America" poll is so scary. Scroll down just a bit to find their daily sleep recommendations for kids: 12-14 hours for toddlers and 11-13 for preschoolers. We'd have to say Tiny Girl comes in about two hours short of that. We hope to work on improving that in the weeks ahead, but it'll be a tough negotiation: Bravo's going to start airing last season's "West Wing" episodes weeknights at 11:00 and she's not going to want to miss that . . .
"OH NO, GOLIATH, THAT BIZATCH CUT ME OFF AND NOW I'M GOING TO HAVE TO BAIL BEFORE I FACEPLANT INTO A SNOWBANK"
No one is happier than FD that "Davey and Goliath" is coming back to America's screens and bookshelves. We grew up enjoying the adventures of the plucky Lutheran and his steadfast canine pal every Sunday morning. Still, his producers may be stretching it a bit with his latest outing, "Davey and Goliath's Snowboard Christmas." He just doesn't look real . . . authentic on that board.
THE FREELANCE DAD.COM UNFORTUNATELY WORDED HEADLINE OF THE DAY
From The New York SUN:
Tina Brown on McGreevey's Amazing Confession
Norway's beach volleyball duo is reprimanded for wearing their birth-control patches during competition. (via fark.com)
LET'S HOPE HE WON'T LEAVE THE BABY SLEEPING IN THE DEEP FRYER
This story is sweeping the news wires this morning, about the short-order cook who bolted from a job interview at a Tacoma pizza joint when he saw through the window that someone was stealing his truck - WITH HIS SIX-MONTH-OLD BABY SLEEPING INSIDE. Apparently, he had closed the windows, locked the doors and left the A/C running. With help from his prospective boss and the police, he caught the thief and retrieved his daughter. And the kicker is that he got the job, instead of a court date for LEAVING HIS INFANT ALONE IN THE BACK SEAT OF HIS TRUCK.
THEY SWEAR THEY'LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN
Today's advice for new parents: Don't let your kids throw stones at quarter-ton beehives. Later news reports confirmed that these bees were Africanized. Also, they were pissed.
OH, THE MEDIA EVENTS WE'LL ATTEND
FD made his way across town to the 92nd Street Y last night for "KosherFest, presented by Fresh Direct," featuring free tastings of new offerings from leading kosher proprietors. Tip #1 for any members of the media who might attend future KosherFests: Do NOT get between an outerborough grandma and her free knish. FD is still favoring his left side today after a vicious battering from canes, handbags and carts. Tip #2: Wear your wedding ring. Here's an actual snippet of conversation between FD and Jewish Mother:
JM: They have single things here, don't they?We were eventually able to fight our way over to a fine selection of knishes, hummus, and processed meats. But we were deeply offended by the "Cutie," a non-dairy faux-ice cream sandwich Tofutti had the gall to pass off as a "treat" for kosher kids. Elsewhere, Israeli snack giant Osem was handing out samples of Bamba, "the best-selling snack and the strongest children’s brand name in Israel." Bamba is promoted by the mono-toothed Bamba Baby, a character who apparently has a Q rating in Israel equal to that of Walt Disney's characters - even better, Osem's Baby wasn't created by an anti-Semite. Bamba is a crunchy peanut-flavored (and yet somehow tasteless) snack that friends have confirmed is hugely popular in the Holy Land, which we'll just put down as Reason #73 we wouldn't last a month in Israel.
FD: You mean at the tasting?
JM: No, they have things here for singles, right?
FD: Oh, you mean at the Y! Sure, I think so. You can get catalogs in the lobby to find out what's going on.
JM: OK. Because I'm looking for someone for my daughter.
FD: [Seeks a clear path to the knish table; gets a handbag in the ribs.] Ooof.
JM: So, are you single?
FD: No, no, I'm not.
JM: Really? Because you look single . . .
FD: Um, thanks.
On the other hand, we do have two recommendations for Jews and gentiles alike: First, He'Brew, "The Chosen Beer," particularly in its dark ale version. More than a marketing gimmick, this brew is robust and tasty, and, in a room full of septuagenarians, FD enjoyed unlimited samples. Second, Ruthie and Gussie's Traditional Potato Pancake Batter, which has already received positive reviews from the New York Times and others. The company calls it the first "kvetch proof" latke batter and they'll get no tsuris from us: This frozen batter indeed delivers a delicious pancake.
Coming soon: Our report from the floor of Halalapalooza.
SMALL FELLOW WILL FROM NOW ON BE KNOWN AS "MATT"
There's a new bogus science behind names, and if you follow it when you name your kids, we guarantee that people will find your children sexy, and that you'll never have to go wandering the floor of KosherFest trying to find them a date.
THERE ARE TIMES IT'S OK TO IGNORE THE EXPERTS' GUIDELINES. THIS ISN'T ONE OF THEM.
Popcorn is a real choking hazard for small children, as shown by the tragedy in Queens the other night. We've let Small Fellow share the free popcorn available at our local video store since he was just under 3, and we've never had a problem, but of course that doesn't mean there's not a risk. It might not even be such a bad idea to put warning labels on certain foods highlighting the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation to keep certain foods away out of the mouths of kids under 4.
NOW THAT THEY'RE ALL STICKY-BACKED, IT'S SO HARD TO MAKE "LICK" JOKES
The US Postal Service has unveiled its lineup of 2005 stamps, and topping the list is Jim Henson and his Muppet creations. You can find the details at muppetcentral.com. (In other exciting news, hey, guess what, there's a muppetcentral.com!)
NEW MOMS, YOU HAVE YOUR MUSLIM SISTERS TO THANK FOR KEEPING HOSPITAL VISITORS FROM SEEING YOUR TUSHIE, et al.
How many years has the hospital-industrial complex been telling us that, for "medical reasons," there was just no to make hospital gowns less revealing? Well, turns out it can be done. As one NJ hospital doc asked, “Why didn’t we think of this so long ago?” Why, indeed? Let's get someone following the money here . . .