Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood

"God Bless Mr. Rogers!"

Joe exclaims this as he sits down to dinner. Kiddo has a cold and reminds one of those velcro monkey babies that are permanently attached to their mother; he constantly wants to be held. Except, that is, when Mr.Rogers Neighborhood is on. We rented a DVD on Friday and miracle of miracles, TV has saved our tired butts. Kiddo started Saturday morning out easily, then turned into a human faucet of snot. Seriously. He won't sleep unless he's completely tired; he'll just nurse into a light slumber and god forbid I try to detach myself unless he's out cold. I'm crossing my fingers for an early bedtime tonight.

There isn't a lot that I'm excited about the Kiddo watching, but next to live music, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood is pretty darn great. The man knows kids. Some people say he's a little creepy, but the fact of the matter is, most of us didn't grow up knowing very many people like Mr. Rogers. He was unconditional in his friendship with us, his "Television Friends". He knew what concerned children, what really made them think, and his show proves it time and again; not only with his intelligent, compassionate conversation directed toward viewers, but with the way he provides adults with a gentle nudge of insight. If you really watch this show with a critical eye, you can see that he is talking just as much to the parents, telling them things they might not know about their child. Remarks like: "It's okay to take a break at the circus. You don't have to stay for all of it." or "This sign says 'restroom'; that really means bathrooms. Most restaurants have bathrooms, just in case you need to go." These are things that kids don't always know how to say or ask but can worry about nonetheless.

The dialogue that runs between the characters is also very respectful, and when it isn't, it's usually part of a story that includes problem solving regarding social and emotional issues. While the human adults are very appropriate and safe, Rogers lets his puppets act out; in one scene, Henrietta Kitty's angry retort to X the Owl is conveyed mostly in peevish "Meow Meow"'s and, if I can say it with a straight face, puppet body language. The gist of it is clear: Henrietta is very unhappy with X and as she leaves, taking her cookies with her, the drama of it is safe enough for even very tenderhearted children to understand without becoming upset.

Fred Rogers had a gift. He had no reservations about really getting on a child's level and explaining complex ideas with empathy and understanding. You weren't stupid if you didn't get it right away--asking questions is an important part of the process of learning about ourselves and our world. Rogers and his work respected the questions of children, their worries and concerns, and most evidently, the child's need to know that despite whatever happens, things will end up alright. Mr. Roger's Neighborhood is, at it's core, reassuring.

So, may the heavens smile on Fred Rogers, the mild man who spoke to Congress in defense of public television, the man who took time to really learn about kids (something that seems to be remarkably absent from many kids shows) and who wasn't afraid of what people thought of him. He's one of my influences: I always learn something from him in every episode, in how to teach, how to relate, and most importantly, what I can be to the children in my world.

Up next in my series of influences: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. I'll bet you just can't wait.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Few Moments... say "Hey" to the world. I've had my head down with a bunch of stuff for a while. Here are some very random thoughts on what we've been up to:

Birthday Soup: Okay, so I didn't eat this on my birthday, but I did spend some birthday money at the farmers market on some gorgeous fresh leeks and potatoes. Add in some good broth (I like the Rapunzel cubes), some corn, diced red peppers and lots of celery and throw in some finely chopped fresh basil toward the end. Serve with good bread--I chose a pain au levain--and dig in.

The Autumn Color: the cold snap created some serious beauty outside, including some very trippy-hippy bright multi-colored leaves...the kind you painted in elementary school with loads of green, brown, orange, red and yellow. And those bright red dogwoods--amazing.

Slight tendinitis: Okay, the word 'slight' is an understatement. Between my proclivity to write and my tendency to sleep on my hands, my arms and neck are also affected. Must Stop Typing. (Can't! Can't!)

Brochures for Plumtree Nursery School are finally finished. Feel free to ask for one...we're enrolling!

The Skybridge: If you live in Portland and need something to do for a while to get out in the morning, there's nothing better than the Hollywood Max skybridge off 41st and Senate. Seriously...we spent a half hour up there yesterday, just getting across, watching people, cars, and two guys working in a cherry-picker.

Bruno Bettelheim's "The Good Enough Parent": Personally, I'll say that if I get through this book, I'm going to be at least a Smart Enough Parent. Very good information presented in a not-so-facile text, but if you are willing to stretch your brain around Bettelheim's complex sentences, it's worth the work. Lots of deep insights that ring true; the man has studied parent/child relationships with an eye for what's going on beneath the outward behavior. Put it on your list of "I want to read it someday" books and hope you finish it before your child finishes college. That's my wish!

and finally--Those Yankees! I'm torn--should they lose it to the Angels, Joe will be so bummed. Should they make it to the World Series, I will be sooooo bored. Dilemma of dilemmas...if it were me, I think I'd throw the game in my own best interest. Perhaps that's why they won't let me play the only position I'm suited for: shortstop.