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Posts Tagged ‘Children’s Books’

We’re back home in the mountains, with birds singing and ethical questions abounding. Yesterday I saw Dr MacDreamy about my incessant back pain, and picked up an April 3rd copy of Time in his office titled, “Is Truth Dead?” All week I’ve been listening to pundits discuss whether Comey or Mr T were lying. Just that question… who to believe? And Bob and I listened to a podcast on the nine hour drive from Nashville on This American Life titled, “Mr Lie Detector.” https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/618/mr-lie-detector

Turns out lie detectors don’t work, so why are some companies still using them?

And to round out this theme, I was reading quite a bit of “Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It” by Michael Kaplan last week to the grandchildren. It was one of the free books that are sent via snail mail to all new parents (for the first five years) in TN from Dolly Parton’s “Imagination Library.” http://usa.imaginationlibrary.com

Well of course Betty Bunny DID do it, break a lamp that is, and her attempts at a cover-up only dig her deeper and deeper into hot water. It’s a great age-appropriate lesson in honesty. But let’s face it, who hasn’t lied about something? I was taught it’s a sin to lie, but to spare someone’s feelings it’s “a little white lie” that doesn’t count… Mixed message or what?

The Flapper lied about food all the time. Since she was a busy working Mom, and also an excellent cook, she couldn’t help but take credit for making the whole meal if we had company. When someone would ask, “Did you make this?” Her reply would always be, “Of Course!” Even if the muffins or cake came from a bakery. I distinctly remember the first time I heard this, I was dumbfounded since my foster parents and the nuns had me convinced lying was evil.

But my Mother lied with such enthusiasm we all believed her, even if we saw the package in the kitchen. Sometimes, on the weekend, she would go all out and bake a pie, but everyone knew she wouldn’t actually buy a pie.

She also lied about her age, and her hair color, but of course I thought everyone did that!

Bob and I are true believers in brutal honesty. We taught our kiddos not to lie to us, ever! We started telling them, probably around age 6 or 7, that in the future things may happen, but whatever happened if they told us the TRUTH, they would never get in trouble. Trouble with a capital T (consequences such as being unplugged or losing car privileges) happened when we found out they were using truthiness on us, deliberately obfuscating the truth, lying. And I’m pretty sure this approach paid off, though I’m also sure the statute of limitations on some teenage crimes and misdemeanors is about to run out!

Today we have an outright liar in the White House. He couches his texts in uncertainty – using modal verbs like, “may,” “might,” or “must.” He makes his followers think it’s possible that undocumented immigrants voted in the last election, even though he was proven wrong. He must believe his own lies, like any good paranoid he believed Obama was “wire tapping” Trump Tower. Having Mr Comey call out that nonsense must have stung; not bowing down in all his 6’8″ majesty of manhood to poor, pitiful Mr T, to pledge his loyalty and allegiance? No, so long Mr FBI Director. “You’re Fired!”

Mr T calls his version of the truth, “truthful hyperbole.” Kellyanne gave us a whole new lexicon with “alternative facts.” Facts are facts, like a deal is a deal is a deal! Just because Mr T believed that President Obama was born in Kenya did not make it so. And even if Mr T fires his special prosecutor Mr Mueller, the evidence, the facts about Russia will continue to come out.

Whatever your feelings are, and most of us are on a spectrum of honesty from being horribly brutal to trying to save someone’s feelings, we can all admit it’s never a good idea to lie under oath. Or for that matter, for public officials to lie to us. Lying about having sex with “that woman” is a different level, a whole different category of lies. It’s trying to save face, save a family unit, maybe even save that poor intern Monica.

But knowing that hackers interfered with our election and denying you knew anything about your chief advisors dealings with Russia, such a huuuge smart businessman like you Mr T, and we are expected to buy this? Didn’t you invite the Russians to hack Hillary’s emails in a debate? Oh Republicans, give them a good sex scandal anytime, but win an election at all costs, am I right?

Calling this a “witch hunt” really? Witches were innocent women, and you sir, are no innocent man. You are saying and doing things that would make you the opposite of innocent! When our reluctant Chief Executive/Golfer reads the National Enquirer and Breitbart News and watches Fox TV all the damn time – and believes it all?!

Mr T can’t negotiate his way out of this fast moving train of facts. Like Nixon, he can fire his staff willy nilly, but the truth will come out. His lack of credibility has diminished our leadership in the world. Right now, I’m wondering what he traded North Korea for to get our UVA student, Otto Warmbier, back.

It’s been hazy, hot and humid this week and Bob likes it chilly in the house. He asked me this morning if I turned the AC up last night? Who, freezing cold moi?

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The Love Bug’s little brother does everything she does. He’s a copycat.

“What’s a copycat Nana?”

“A copycat isn’t really a cat,” I told the rising Kindergartener, “it’s someone who likes to do whatever you do; when you try new foods, he tries new food. When you build a fort, he wants to help. When you put on your shoes, he puts on his shoes, even if they go on the wrong feet! That’s OK, cause he did it himself.”

It was time to put on our shoes and get into the car. Even though summer has arrived with its hot, sticky days and fireworks filled nights, there is no time to dawdle. The Love Bug shrugged her shoulders and pulled her shoes slowly out of the bin while watching her brother do the same. As they sat together on the floor, and I wondered if we are raising a generation who will never learn how to tie their shoelaces (thanks velcro), I heard her say to him,

“I hope they don’t have cupcakes.”

And maybe it’s all the children’s books I’m reading lately, but I thought to myself, “What a great title for a book!” This has been an exceptionally busy weekend, capping off an incredibly busy week. What with basketball practice, and basketball games, and pre-school camp with her brother, we are a family on the move. Not a lot of time to swing on the porch or play in the pirate sandbox.

And now it was Sunday, the Bride was heading off to work, and we were going to yet another birthday party! Bob and I didn’t go to the party on Saturday, but we were looking forward to seeing the family of this particular three year old. They are our grandchildren’s Godparents. And I knew they had created a childhood paradise under the shade of an ancient tree in their urban backyard, complete with chickens, a water slide and a huge screened-in porch off the kitchen.

We had one of those back yards in the Berkshires. Bob built a zip line through the trees on the edge of a bird sanctuary where guinea hens would come and peck under our feeder. And though I wasn’t known for my cupcakes, I would bake the occasional carrot cake with toasted coconut cream cheese frosting. The Bride loved helping in the kitchen, especially cleaning out the frosting bowl with her fingers.

I’m happy to see this love of pastry making continue since the Bride will often whip up a batch of cookies on the spur of the moment with lots of help from her children.

I looked down at my Granddaughter and smiled. I asked her if they had cupcakes yesterday. She told me the whole birthday story, which led to an astonishing snippet of insight into an almost five year old mind. I loved listening to her take on the summer social season. Every now and then her brother would interrupt with an anecdote of his own.

I realized suddenly that these children were growing up in a city, with all that entails. Trips to science museums and art galleries and libraries where a Nashville Ballet dancer performs along with a reading of Ferdinand the Bull.

The Story of Ferdinand is an example of a young protagonist who grows up very comfortable in his own skin and with his own decisions, but is soon confronted with difficult situations that challenge his peaceful way of life. Young children can use Ferdinand’s story to confront their own questions about ethical dilemmas. Each question set deals with the larger issue of how we make choices in our interactions with others…                          https://www.teachingchildrenphilosophy.org/BookModule/TheStoryOfFerdinand

When her Mommy got home from work, the Bug dragged her into their backyard where the Groom had installed a basketball hoop! She made eight baskets! Her Dad is an excellent coach. We’ve been doing a lot of counting lately, every day it’s a different color car after they strap themselves into their seat belts. Only black was too hard, because there are so many black cars you could hardly catch your breath.

Turns out the birthday party had a soaker hose strung between trees. And they didn’t have cupcakes, they had cookies!  IMG_0789

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m feeling like a two year old. It’s a rainy, cold morning in the mountains and I just cranked up my Twitter account to read about some middle-of-the-night GOP shenanigans. It would seem that Congress has voted to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics! So somebody please sit me on your lap, get me a blankie, and read me Rebecca Patterson’s book, “My No, No,NO Day.”

Won’t somebody make it stop?!

After nine days in Nashville without cable news of any kind, I was almost looking forward to watching some CNN. Y’all know I’m a news junkie, an ex-reporter and school board policy wonk with a taste for irony. When West Nile began swelling my brain until my eyes turned beet red, I didn’t go to a doctor until I couldn’t read that new-fangled news crawl. But I’ve been quickly disabused of this notion – it would seem that media coverage today consists of deconstructing Mr T’s Tweets.

And I refuse to follow him on Twitter. NO.

SO, since throwing a temper tantrum isn’t an option, today we here in MountainMornings Land will be observing Opposite Day! I am in opposition to this whole damn Electoral College business (this is true) and Mr T is NOT my President-Elect! Get it?

Today I will dress up funny, I will say the opposite of what I mean to say, and probably mumble. A Lot. Kids love doing this in Middle School; they learn about antonyms and might play a game of Opposite BINGO in their classroom. When the Rocker was very little, we were playing a board game with a group of adults, the one where you can’t actually say the word in order to get your team to guess your word and win…his word was “Negative.”

“The opposite of affirmative.”

That’s what he said, and we all looked at each other. This response has been etched into our family’s history.

In some ways, I feel as if our country is living in a perpetual state of Opposite Day. Since journalists are now trying to parse what, how and when to use the word “LIE,” and translating Tweets has become a common practice. It’s only because I have Twitter on my phone that I read about Mr T’s New Year message to his “enemies.” Tasting like a bad clam, I wish I hadn’t.

Nancy Pelosi said, “Ethics are the first casualty of the new Republican Congress.”

Elizabeth Warren said, “Tell us, @GOP: Who, exactly, thinks that the problem with Washington is that we have too many rules requiring the gov to act ethically?”

And I say, shall I list the antonyms of ETHICS? Corrupt, Dishonest, Immoral, Improper, Unjust, Unrighteous….

Some friends and family have stopped watching the news on TV altogether. But being an ostrich about current events isn’t the answer. In fact, this beautiful, tall bird has gotten a bum rap all these years. They actually DON’T stick their heads into the sand! http://mentalfloss.com/article/56176/why-do-ostriches-stick-their-heads-sand

So let’s suspend all our belief systems for the day, or maybe the week, or even this New Year. My cookie broke and ballet is too itchy and… Put on your big girl boots and get ready to March on Washington ladies on January 21.

 

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I was always a Stones girl. The Beatles did catch my attention in high school, and the boys all cut their hair into Beatles’ bobs. But they were too upbeat in the beginning, too melodic. My first memory of being moved, really moved by a song was hearing “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” over the loudspeakers, echoing across the lake at Camp St Joseph for Girls. Yeah, preteen girls and boys separated all summer by a lake. It became an anthem for our generation. One of the highlights of my adult life was seeing the Stones perform at the Meadowlands for my 50th birthday.

So of course I’m going to rush right out and buy (or maybe I’ll just click and send on my laptop?) the Love Bug Keith Richards’ new children’s book, Gus & Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar. Richards’ daughter Theodora, named after her Great Grandfather Augustus Theodore, did the illustrations.

The characters and story required no embellishment. Theodore Augustus “Gus” Dupree, Richards’ maternal grandpa…was a big-band jazz musician who had seven daughters and owned and played a number of instruments. And he often took grandson Keith, also the name of the boy in the book, on outings like Gus & Me’s journey through London’s streets and a music store. http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/books/2014/09/08/keith-richards-keeps-it-all-in-the-family-for-kids-book/15121597/

It’s that eight year old brain that can determine a life’s work. Richards loved the singing cowboy, Roy Rogers, he was the super hero in his life, and it took a real hero like Gus to show him that he didn’t need the horse or a gun to have fun.

I remember putting the Rocker’s first guitar in his hands at that age, after enduring two years of violin lessons. Listening to him practice with his Corgi howling beside him.

The Music Corner of our Family Room

The Music Corner of our Family Room

This Thursday, September 11, the Parlor Mob will play in NYC at the Gramercy. The Rocker will be stage right again, playing the guitar and the keyboards. I know he remembers his first guitar and I hope he likes these old pictures from middle school. 9/11 is always a sacred day for me, a day to sit quietly and reflect. But my son’s soul was forged during that heartbreaking time; he ditched high school to watch the Towers burn across the shipping lanes from Sandy Hook with his friends. Playing in the City is a love song from our boys. We will never forget.

His First Guitar

His First Guitar

 

 

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It’s finally happening in the previous Capital of the Confederacy, ex-Gov Bob McDonnell’s trial is underway. Lawyers are picking a “jury of their peers” and charging him with accepting bribes loans and lavish gifts from a health/supplement company CEO/supporter. It’s rumored that much of the blame on the defense side will be placed on Maureen, who needed the pretense of a certain lifestyle in order to marry off her daughter. It seems misogyny is still rearing its ugly head in Dixie, particularly among Republicans. They are also contending that the ex-first couple of VA were simply extending “common political courtesies” like hosting and arranging meetings for his supporter…while also accepting loans of $165,000.

I’ve never served on a jury, but believe me this would be ripe material for a writer. I’ve heard that many have simply sat in the public section of a courtroom just to listen, to pick up the cadence of a jury trial, to spark an idea that might lead to a plot twist. I wonder if this Richmond trial will be televised? I’ve only watched two trials on TV, OJ and Anita Hill. But this is my kind of reality TV. Gentlemen get out the clapperboard – “Roll Cameras!”

The Bride sent me a video of the Love Bug reading a book at the airport last night. I love that it’s her favorite of the moment, and it used to amuse my daughter too, “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina. She was born in Siberia, Russia and immigrated to the US in 1929. A talented artist, this book became a children’s classic instantly. Probably taken from a Yiddish tale, the peddler is trying to sell his caps, while monkeys are doing what they do best. It is a cautionary story for parents and children alike, a kind of “monkey see, monkey do” parable play.

When I would laugh out loud in the car, I’d hear the Bug laughing behind me in her car seat. When I would say, “Thank you Mama for making us pancakes this morning,” she would repeat, “Thank you Mama.” When I would point out a lizard on the deck, she would repeat, “Lizard!” We hiked to the river, we looked for deer every morning, and she would repeat whatever we said, but more importantly, she picked up our feelings, like a tiny toddler empath. It was not just baby see, baby do, but baby feel.

And so, as I was aware of the constant push and pull of parenting once again, of the need to civilize our smallest citizens, and as I was modeling “Please” and “Thank you” and “Excuse me” a gazillion times – because not getting what you want when you want it is tough for anybody, especially a toddler – I thought about our poor ex-Govenor.

In a system that has become corrupt, it becomes harder and harder to distinguish between ethical and unethical behavior. If everybody is doing it, trading favors, on Wall Street or in the hallways of political power in our state capital, well then one might understand how a loan might be perceived as a common courtesy. But in a democracy, someone has to play the role of the parent, and put a stop to all that monkey business.   IMG_0927

 

 

 

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Yesterday was Bastille Day, so happy holiday to our French friends belatedly. I love following the Instagram pictures of the French student we hosted one summer, who is now a lawyer and mother of two young boys in Paris. Her shots are miniature art works: a still life of different flowers in bud vases; a building in the south with violet shutters; the backs of her boys in shorts entering a garden with dappled light; or the colorful play of fresh vegetables on her kitchen table “Retour de marche.”

Whenever I see Stephanie’s children, I think of Madeline.

Madeline at the Paris Flower Market 1955

Madeline at the Paris Flower Market 1955

She is turning 75 this year and is currently on exhibit at The New York Historical Society. “The Art of Ludwig Bemelman” will be shown until November 19 and then travel to Amherst, MA. “Bemelmans’ grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano, has continued his grandfather’s work with three more books of Madeline’s adventures. He says that Madeline is not French, but a real New Yorker.” http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-28233820

Ludwig Bemelman immigrated to the USA in 1914 from Austria-Hungary. Because his mother was German, he was not allowed to go overseas in WWI, though he did serve in the Army. He was assigned to a mental hospital in upstate NY where he nearly suffered a mental breakdown.

He saved himself by creating what he called “islands of security”: “I have started to think in pictures and make myself several scenes to which I can escape instantly when the danger appears,” he wrote in a memoir, “instant happy pictures that are completely mine, familiar, warm, and protective.”

Like Bemelman, I will often see my prose in pictures first. He considered himself more of an artist and less of a writer, and like many artists he had to support himself over the years by working in the real world, and in his case it was the hotel industry. His first Madeline book was published at the cusp of WWII.

I find it fascinating that his red headed girl in the yellow hat was always the one in 13 girls who did not fit into her convent school life – she had a personality and some spunk. It’s as if he took a New York schoolgirl and dropped her into Paris to deal with an ancient regime, because God knows nobody likes what happened to France during the war. Whenever Madeline left her house covered in vines, in two straight lines of girls, we always knew she was in for an adventure. And we always knew she would step out of line. I must remember to get the first book for my Love Bug to read!

Here is a self portrait of my beautiful sister Kay, a gorgeous artist who also worked in the health industry, and sent her daughter to the Convent of the Sacred Heart on East 91st Street and Fifth Avenue. The school was founded by French speaking nuns in 1881. Thank you Kay for putting me up, and putting up with me, during Sue’s shiva. Your apartment was my island of security in NYC.

My Sister Kay

My Sister Kay

I believe we red headed girls think alike.

 

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I recently discovered a website called “Letters of Note.” http://www.lettersofnote.com Whoever thought of digging up old letters from famous, and not so famous, writers was genius. It all started with an obit that EB White wrote for his dog Daisy, who happened to be sniffing the flowers in front of a shop when a carriage careened into her. Most of us know White because of his spider named Charlotte; he is masterful at writing for children. I always thought that a good children’s writer had to have never really left childhood behind. There had to be a Peter Pan quality to him when he wrote about Daisy; that she was born, “an unqualified surprise to her mother.”

My Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Tootsie Roll, was extremely surprised when she delivered her brood in the corner of the living room, on the good rug, and NOT in the whelping box I had so carefully arranged in the family room. And as most doggie people know, each and every one of her puppies had a personality all its own. One was sweet and cuddly, one was aggressive and always first to dine. One loved to explore and one was always hiding. Blaze, the one we kept, was the alpha male. He seemed to know he was in charge of his siblings from the moment he opened his eyes. I was writing for the newspaper back then, but now how I wish I’d put pen to paper about the pups.

I am thinking of writing some small poems about our dog Buddha for the Love Bug. I’ve already asked my artistic sister Kay to illustrate a story or two. Buddha came from the SPCA at the Jersey Shore and looked a little like a polar bear – he was a hundred pounds of white fluffy Samoyed-mixed love! So tell me what you think of my first attempt at a beginning?

Buddha Springs into Action

Buddha awoke and stretched himself

Gently into downward dog

Looking up, he thanked the tree

Shimmering in the morning fog

The tree was full of birds

Singing sweetly, flapping wings

Dancing in her branches

A Blue Heron was the King

“Good Morning Buddha Bear,” he said

“Happy day to one and all”

The big white dog sat down at once

To hear the sea wind call

Buddha Bear in the Blue Ridge

Buddha Bear in the Blue Ridge

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