Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Case of the Irish Booby Traps

Fiona came home from nursery school last week bursting with excitement over this news: her class was going to capture some leprechauns!

Apparently, while they were in the big room, some leprechauns had danced their way into their classroom and sprinkled some green glitter all over. Upon return to the classroom, the children found the glitter and Mrs. Parks and Mrs. King told them that the leprechauns must have been there.

"So...this is so exciting...we're going to use some straws and make some booby traps!" Fiona told us, overjoyed.

"Booby traps?" I said. "What kind of booby traps?"

"You know! Booby traps, where there's a box and a string and we'll put it up on its side and then pull the string so it falls down on top of them when they dance inside of there."

"But why would they go inside the box?" I pressed.

"I don't know...we'll put some little things inside of there that they like to make them want to go inside of there and then we'll catch them and take their gold!" she replied, with a devilish grin and rubbing her hands together.

"What do you think they will like that you can put in there?" I asked.

"I don't am I supposed to know?"

"I think you should put corned beef and cabbage. And maybe some beer in there."

"Ewww! Gross, Daddy! That won't work."

So, here's how it played out: apparently, they set the booby traps, but no leprechauns appeared and then it was time to go into the other room for songs on the piano, which is when the leprechauns (aka Mrs. T, the lunch lady) must have invaded the classroom. Fiona told us when they got back, the booby traps had been sprung and there were two notes. One said "Well, you made good traps, but we squeezed out," and the other said "If each child finds a clover that we hid in the room, you'll get our pot of gold." So they collected all the clovers, and the teachers handed over the pot of gold chocolate coins.

She was over the moon. Which is why I love children. She was totally immersed and enraptured by the mystery of the sneaky leprechauns.

If you ask me, those leprechauns would have stayed put in the booby traps if they had been baited with corned beef and beer.

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Bless You, Curse You

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, my favorite Irish blessing for you:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

And my favorite Irish curse:

May those who love us love us.
And those that don't love us,
May God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
May he turn their ankles,
So we'll know them by their limping.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

New Music Thursday

It's been a busy few weeks in the Progress household, so I'm opting for the lazy man's post on updates to the old iTunes roster.

Actually, I've discovered some very cool new music -- my two favorite finds being Jon McLaughlin (or visit his MySpace profile), whom I heard on Sirius 9 (The Pulse) and Low Stars, who do the opening song for What About Brian -- perhaps my new favorite show as it's the thirtysomething of the millennium. As an aside, for some inane reason, thirtysomething has yet to be released on DVD, but Amazon has had an "email me when it's available" function enabled for years.

Perhaps the best feature on iTunes (and the most time consuming) is the Listeneres Also Purchased, which links you to at least 5 or 6 other artists whose music is similar to what you're browsing. An excellent way to start in a genre and dive deep to the rarely played and undiscovereds.

Incidentally, I'm a new convert to satellite radio. I always wondered what the big deal was, but now that I have it in the new car on free trial for a year, I'm 100%hooked.

Drum roll, please, for my two new favorite playlists...

sunday comics:
industry - jon mclaughlin
not ready to make nice - dixie chicks
undiscovered - james morrison
farifax - william tell
world - five for fighting
thinking about you - norah jones
home - daughtry
gravity - john mayer
under the influence - james morrison
beautiful disaster - jon mclaughlin
shoo be doo - macy gray
maybe tonight - william tell
reality - jonathan clay
wasting my time - jackson waters
good life - andy davis
makes me happy - matt white band
praying to the wrong god - jon mclaughlin
worth taking - rob blackledge
passenger seat - stephen speaks
set me free - pat mcgee band
human - jon mclaughlin

what about me:
calling all friends - low stars
here (in your arms) - hellogoodbye
the guide - borne
the beauty in ugly - jason mraz
love, love, love - low stars
tell me 'bout it - joss stone
you give me something - james morrison
sometimes it rains - low stars
say ok - vanessa hudgens
need a friend - low stars
strangers again - ari hest
bound - christopher jak
stolen - dashboard confessional
finally made me happy - macy gray
easily - borne
the drfiter - david poe
tracks in the rain - low stars
chicago - ingram hill
unplayed piano - damien rice & lisa hannigan

Friday, March 09, 2007

Flunk Those Teachers

Continuing my look at politics and social issues being heaped on young children, here's a very interesting story that doesn't just catch my attention because it's about LEGO.

A private school in Seattle banned LEGO from an early childhood classroom as a way to teach the children that private property ownership is evil.

Who among us doesn't wish there were some way to get our youngsters around that "MINE" phase? But isn't the lesson we teach, appropriately, about learning to share with others? Last time I played preacher on the topic, it wasn't to "explore the inequities of private ownership." Quoting the teachers: "Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation." The story goes on to relay the teachers' belief that children should not accept the class-based, capitalistic society in which we live and the social inequities it brings.

And to think, when I was a youngster in school, it was super cool to learn cursive and phonics. Come on.

Every school, especially the private ones, are free to create a curriculum that moves and motivates children to learn and want to pursue knowledge. God knows some schools could use a little inspiration, but I don't see this school's choice to ban LEGO as a means of teaching collectivity and democratic participation as a way to push them to explore their creative minds. It seems to me more a way for the teachers to impose social policy and personal politics.

I wonder if those teachers all drive the same car, wear the same clothes or live in the same neighborhood, have spouses who collect equal salaries or if they all dine in the same restaurants? Surely there is a VW Beetle parked next to a Ford Expedition at that school; a pair of Banana Republic trousers contrasted to those you might buy at Kohl's; a McDonald's order juxtaposed to an upscale sit-down dinner. Maybe someone should have taken away their Legos when they were younger.

Why is this acceptable? These days, you're an outcast if you send peanuts to school with your child because someone might have an allergic reaction. Don't dare acknowledge God when you pledge your allegiance under the flag. But hey, go ahead and take away the Legos for the sake of social reform among kindergarteners.

Seriously. Where's the candid camera, people? Apparently there are only 70 children in this school, so the scope of this insanity isn't far reaching.

Why can't we just let children be children? Why are they not allowed to enjoy the wonders of curiosity, the whims of imagination and role play, the motivation of experiencing something, figuring out what it means, and then choosing how to act accordingly. Some parents and teachers want to mold little politicos and social doo-bees right from their first days in school. Let them breathe. Let them play. Let them explore the world and decide what they believe for themselves.

Look, we all know it's important to be responsible citizens. And certainly the world could benefit from more people feeling more compelled to do right and act well. But trying to affect this change at an early childhood level? I don't think so.

I may be biased, but I won't ever see the value in taking LEGO away from kids. Don't be creative, don't dream big, don't imagine what could be then set out to make it happen, Johnny, because the world is flat.

I wonder what those teachers would think of the pink Matchbox cars and the race to the mall game.

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Daily Lesson

Check out a beautifully written post, carrying a great life lesson, from one of my favorite fellow bloggers, Mike.


Monday, March 05, 2007

PUH-LEASE, Mum, Stop the Insanity

Okay, so what's with all the politics being dumped on children lately?

Some moms are complaining about a new line of Polly Pocket Matchbox cars, because they're shiny and pink and apparently there's a story line that the girls are racing to the mall.
Some mothers are up in arms that a Matchbox car doesn't have to be pink for a girl to play with it, which I don't dispute completely. And of course, they ask why aren't they racing to the geophysics lab instead of to the mall, because girls can be geophysicists, too. Umm...

Well, yes, of course they can. But do they want to be when they're only 4 years old? Or is that mom asserting her politics and sense of self onto her preschooler? I mean come on, what's wrong with a little pink and a trip to the mall? I'm not one to say men do X and girls do Y...with two girls of my own, I want nothing more for them to be whatever they want to be someday. But I don't think a pink Matchbox car and a trip to the mall is going to prevent them from being a doctor someday...if they want to be, that is.

For some reason, the fact that the goal of the game is not only to win, but to win a shopping spree at the mall, is setting apparently oppressed mums into a tizzy. As if baby dolls, Barbies, tea parties and ballet classes -- along with their counterparts -- trains, GI Joe, emergency resuce play and karate classes -- aren't traditionally accepted definitions of what it means to be male or female.

My big question really is: why are some women obsessed with trying to neutralize girls, but at the same time not seeking to feminize boys?

You don't see mum rushing to sign her son up for ballet. Or turning his next birthday party into a princess tea. But little Sally is supposed to jump behind the wheel of a Tonka truck and make mud pies, because if she goes to the mall, she'll forever be banned from the science lab.

So I decided to give it a little test myself. I purchased two of the said Polly Pocket Matchbox cars for my girls to see what would happen. They were incentives for staying in bed all night when we slept over at Nana's house. And both girls stayed in their beds. So, I told them if they got dressed themselves, I would get their prizes. Skylar was the first to cooperate, so I produced the pink convertible, with shiny silver wheels and an orange trim. It came with a little mini Polly Pocket doll to drive it, and she was thrilled!

"It's pink!" she exclaimed.

Then it was Fiona's turn. She saw her sister's car, and was intrigued for sure, but she was not feeling too cooperative. I got the cheeky sideways "I'm desperately trying to show no interest or intrigue whatsoever in what you're saying even though I'm totally into it" look to which she owns the trademark. So, what do you think she asked me?

"What color is MY car?"

"You'll see when you get dressed."

Well, she was intrigued enough by the pink convertible car to get herself dressed so she could see what color fate had for her. When I produced the super shiny silver convertible, complete with hot pink interior and blingin' wheels and a little brunette figure that drives it, she was over the moon.

"It's better than yours, Skylar."

I took them out of their packages and gave them to the girls, with nary a word of where to play, how to play or what story went along with the cars. And they proceeded to play, politely and with much storytelling and excitement, for 30 minutes, driving the cars all over the place. And, I kid you not, here's a little of what I overheard:

"Ok, friend, you go live over there and I live here."

"Ok, friend. That sounds good. How about if I drive over for a visit."

"No, friend. I will drive and you will drive and we will meet at the mall before our party. Let's go shopping. Drive to the mall and I will meet you there."

"Ok, friend. I LOVE shopping. And now I can drive myself to shopping."

"I hope everything that I bought will fit into my car. I'm going to drive it all home, and then I will drive back and meet you, friend."

"Great! That sounds like a good idea. Then let's drive to get ice cream."

Without prompting, both girls immediately saw the cars as a means to get to the mall. Do we think this means neither will become a geophysicist someday? Absolutely not. Do the pink cars and shopping role play make them stereotypical girls who have no future? Of course not. Did the fact that the cars were pink and silver make them more appealing to them? For sure. Is there anything wrong with that? I don't think so. Would they have been just as happy with a blue Jeep or red pick-up truck? Probably. Would they have used them to drive to the mall or get ice cream? $10 says yes.

Here's the thing -- regardless of what toy we give our children, youngsters tend to role play their lives. Mom and Dad put us in the van and we go run errands -- to the market, to the mall -- or we drive to a party, or to a game, or to a lesson, and yes, sometimes to get ice cream. Those cars -- pink or blue -- are symbols of the family van. So when they're given the chance to play it out, they do what we do. It doesn't mean they're smothering under a blanket of stereotype.

Fiona says repeatedly that she wants to be a veterinarian. She has a little doctor kit that she loves, and she uses it on her stuffed animals to take care of them. Skylar is obsessed with cash registers, and she calims she wants to be a "payer" someday -- a cashier. Of course, I balk at the cashier comment -- and my wife always reminds me they will be whatever they want to be and we'll love them just the same. She's right. But maybe I should run out and buy some boy colored toys so she'll want to be grow up to be something more. Now, even I know that's downright silly.


Tomorrow...personal property rights and kindergarteners.

Check out what people are saying about Polly Pocket cars:

Stroller Derby

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