Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Fancy Word for "role model"

Around the time Hadley was about 1 and 1/2, one of her favorite activities was to go to Barnes and Noble and play with the toy train in the children's section.  On one of our outings there, I fell into a conversation with another mother whose child was also playing at the train table.  She asked me how old Hadley was, and when I told her she said, "Just wait 'til she turns 3."  All of the sudden everything is 'princess this' and 'princess that.'"  I nodded along but didn't have much to say about it since I didn't know what Hadley would be like at 3.

But I thought, "So what if Hadley is interested in princesses?  And so what if she still likes trucks and school buses and tools? Why does that matter?"  When I was a kid, I loved dolls.  And Barbies.  And I wanted to be a Laker Girl.  Most of my friends were pretty good athletes, and while I tried to play the soccer, softball,  or what have you, I was more of a hindrance then a help on the field.  I was too busy making up dance routines in my head to watch where the ball was going.  Plus, I was never tough.

I was a little ashamed of my "girly girl" personality.  I didn't tell people I still liked to play with dolls and Barbies past the age when it seemed I shouldn't be playing with them anymore.  And when I got to high school, I secretly tried out for the dance team because I didn't want anyone making fun of me.  (I figured if I made the team then I'd deal with comments later, but I didn't want anyone to make me second guess myself for trying out because they thought it was stupid.) 

All I'm saying is it would've been nice to know a girl like Fancy Nancy when I was growing up.  This girl is fancy.  And she is not ashamed of it.  In fact, she insists that everyone and everything else in her family be fancy, too.  In the first book, Fancy Nancy, there is a great picture of Fancy Nancy showing us her room before she makes it fancy.  Flip the page, and the next illustration is extraordinary.  There's bows on the knobs of her drawers, and Christmas lights on her mirror.  She made a canopy above her bed that's held up with broomsticks tied to the bedposts with fancy bows. I just want to sit down with her in her room and ask if she has any hoop skirts, and if she does, could we play Gone With the Wind together?

Nancy uses words that are fancier then just your normal, everyday words.  She likes to use pens with "plumes," and her favorite color is "fuchsia."  She calls her family "posh" after they dress up in their fanciest clothes to go out to dinner with Nancy.

I like the Fancy Nancy books because Nancy is a strong character who is enjoys herself and the things around her regardless of what others might think.  Why not get ice cream with a ton of sprinkles on it if you can?  Why not wear ballet slippers, butterfly wings, and a tiara to the park?

Hadley likes her, too.  I see her looking very carefully at the pictures when we read Fancy Nancy books.  She cares about this character.  When Fancy Nancy and her family go out to dinner, Nancy has an accident and falls down as several plates of ice-cream fall down with her.  Hadley is so sad for Fancy Nancy.  And in Bonjour, Butterfly!, when Fancy Nancy can't go to her friend Bree's birthday party, Hadley is concerned as well.  But she also admires Fancy Nancy's creativity and resourcefulness.  She studies her accessories and outfits, and looks around her house to see if she can come up with something similar.

I'm not so concerned about what Hadley will become, as I am about who she will become.  I want to introduce her to characters who are interesting, and funny, and unique.  There will be a time in her life when unfortunately, she'll be pressured to be the same as everyone.  She may still be in love with school buses or her dad's screwdriver, but she'll think she can't like those things for some reason or another.  But I hope that by introducing her to characters like Fancy Nancy, she'll have some foundation for knowing that she can be interested in whatever she wants to be interested in.  I hope she also knows that just because she's a girl, she can like tools, or tiaras and I won't care.

A couple of nights ago, Hadley was making a picture for Fancy Nancy.  She was using glitter (of course), and I suggested that we write a letter to go along with the picture she made.  Hadley thought that was a good idea so I wrote down what Hadley had to say.

Here's the picture she made:

We mailed it off and Hadley's waiting for a reply.  I don't know if we'll get one because the only address I could find was the Harper Collins one in New York.

If I were to run into the woman I saw at Barnes and Noble again, I'd say that Hadley does like princesses, and the color pink, and she really wants to take ballet lessons.  But she also loves Goofy - probably more then anything in this whole world - and baseball, and recently took me on a trip to Target to find a dump truck.  And I'm so proud of her for all the interests she has.  She is a unique little girl with a strong personality.  And I hope she stays that way.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


One of my memories of being in elementary school, is doing "enrichment" worksheets.  These assignments consisted of exercises that enforced a concept that we students might be having difficulty grasping.  My enrichment worksheets usually had to do with long division.  Sadly, I never fully grasped this concept.

We've been working on a different kind of enrichment in our home lately.  The concept that we're working on is the minute details of using the bathroom.  I should clarify that when I mean "we" I mean Hadley.  Hadley has had the concept down for almost a year now, but there are little accidents here and there, and she hasn't picked up the bathroom etiquette that one needs in life.  I won't go into details, but I would assume that many a parent who's potty trained their toddler can make some guesses as to what I'm talking about.

And that is why I am quite thankful for two books: Potty Animals by Hope Vestergaard, and Oh No, Gotta Go #2 by Susan Middleton Elya.  Both these books deal with the issues a toddler might deal with after she's learned how to go potty, and they deal with them in a fun, friendly, and non disgusting way.  They have two other things going for them as well.  Potty Animals has animals as the main characters, something Hadley thinks is fantastic, and Susan Middlteton Elya writes part of Oh No, Gotta Go #2 in Spanish.  Hadley loves speaking Spanish.  She calls Jesse "Papi."  She'll tell me, "Wow!  The sky is so azul today!"  And if she doesn't know a Spanish word for something, she'll just make it up.

So reading these two stories have been quite fun the last several weeks.  Before naps and bedtime each day, these two have been the stories Hadley's requested.  The Spanish words in Oh No, Gotta Go #2! are ones that Hadley already knows, and if she didn't know them, she had a good time figuring out what they were from the pictures or other English words in the sentences.  And in Potty Animals Hadley loved looking at the pictures of the animals on the playground, or in their classroom.  She is pretty interested in school these days as well, so seeing what kids do in school is fun for her.

I don't know what age it starts, but one of the things I love about books is that if you connect with a character, the story is so much more powerful.  And in these books, Hadley could absolutely understand what these kids were going through.  In Oh No, Gotta Go #2!, the little girl can't figure out why she has to use the bathroom because she used it before they left for their picnic, and she didn't drink any juice or water the entire time.  This is the kind of conversation we have with Hadley all the time.  But it usually ends up with a fight.  However, watching the little girl go through the same thing, and seeing the parents in the book scramble like crazy people to get her home, Hadley could see she's not the only person who this happens too.  She can also see that she's not the only one whose parents lose their minds when this sort of situation occurs.  Plus, it's in Spanish, so it has to be cool.

In Potty Animals, the author dedicates a page to one "habit" that an animal does and discusses why, in a very cute poetic way, why this habit is not appreciated by society - or ones classmates.  For example, please don't walk in on someone else when they are in the bathroom.  Or, understand that as fun as the game you are playing is, if you have to use the bathroom, you must use the bathroom.

Another bonus is Hadley learning the word "lollygag."  One of the animals tends to take more time then she needs to in the bathroom.  The author uses the word "lollygag," and Hadley and I had many conversations about what that means.  I remember once listening to Katherine Paterson speak about her writing.  She said that someone was complaining to her that the words she used in her childrens books were "too hard."  Her response was basically, "So learn the word!"  She went on to say that one of the great things about reading is that we learn new words.

Potty etiquette is not a fun subject.  Frankly, it's disgusting.  But it's something that Hadley needs to know, and we are responsible for teaching her about these things.  I am thankful for these two books not only because they helped me to discuss the subject with Hadley, but they are clever stories with great illustrations as well.  Hadley learned new words, she sharpened up her Spanish, and she is one step closer to mastering a tough skill.  Not too shabby.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

It Doesn't Get Better Than The ABCs

Recently, an essay I wrote appeared here. So I thought it would fitting to write about some of the ABC books that Hadley enjoys reading because of the subject matter: the ABCs.

One book she enjoys very much is The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra. The story unfolds as each letter in the book gets ready for bed. They take baths, they jump on the bed, they don't want the lights turned off, they read stories. Hadley's favorite has to do with the letter "u." This letter takes off his underwear before bed, something that gets a few giggles each time.

The last page is my favorite: each letter is cuddled up in bed, and each has a piece of notebook paper for a blanket. This book was published in 2009, and looking at the pieces of notebook paper (even though they're supposed to be blankets) makes me content to know that in a world of iPads and texting, someone else thinks notebook paper is worthwhile. Or perhaps this illustration is a symbol for notebook paper becoming obsolete. After all, the letters are all sleeping on it. I'll choose not to believe that.

Another alphabet book Hadley enjoys is Chicka Chicka Boom! Boom! by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault. The letters in alphabet in the book are pretty rambunctious and try to climb up a tree only to find out the tree coconut tree can't hold all 26 letters. They all come crashing to the ground and the Mamas and Papas (the capital letters, not the musical group) come to their rescue.

I enjoy reading this book because of the rhythm and poetry, and also because Hadley likes to read it along with me. We do have to pause on the page where D has a skinned knee, E has a stubbed-toe, and F has a band-aid on. Hadley is quite concerned about the letters at this point in the story.

Besides the alphabet, another similarity these books have in common is their inside covers. The alphabet covers each of them, and before each story, Hadley tells us that we need to sing the song as we point to each letter. We do NOT begin until we've sung the song.

Last week I got a Target coupon book in the mail, and in the middle of the book was a page with the ABCs on it. The good people at Target suggested I sit my little one down and try and come up with words that start with each letter. So that's what Hadley and I did. You don't have to ask Hadley twice to play an alphabet game. She did a great job. She could think of words for almost all the letters. And when she couldn't come up with some, she improvised. For example, when we got to the letter n, she suggested we use the word "nagnet."
"You mean magnet?" I asked.
"Yea, just use 'n' instead."
And when we got to the letter t, she told me to write down the word, "tapalope." I asked her what a "tapalope" is.
"'Tapalope' is a word that starts with 't.'" she replied.
She's quick on her feet, this one.

Our completed list:

Attempting to write the word "ball":