Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Disneyland (aka the inside of P's brain)

Hello. Governor Ratfcliffe here. Or possibly Gaston, depending on whether P's having a Pocahontas or a Beauty and the Beast kind of a day. Sometimes I'm even the evil stepmother (Cinderella) or the mean queen (Snow White). TLOML was King Triton (The Little Mermaid) for weeks on end. Yes, our immersion in Disney is complete. It's wall to wall. We watch the movies, wear the costumes, listen to the soundtrack and live the stories every day.

Thanks to streaming, P is unaware of that childhood experience of switching the telly on to 'see what's on'. Fortunately that means she's never seen an ad (except those on NFL Sundays). But thanks to my busy/laziness, and her post-school fatigue, and the glory of Apple TV, we watch about thirty minutes of the Disney movie of her choice most days.  Her appetite is endless. She must have watched Cinderella 20 times. And Pocahontas, a more recent obsession, about 12 times in the last month. Mulan is her current favorite, which is a welcome change from wall-to-wall princesses. 

I must admit I'm doing nothing to stamp this madness out. I'm not encouraging it, but as we liberals are telling ourselves in these troubled times, if you're not acting against something, you're part of the problem. I am part of the problem, therefore.

The thing is that despite the dodgy plots -  basically a variety of ways in which a 16 year old girl can alienate her family by marrying a man she barely knows - I do love these films. The animation is, obviously, charming, and the soundtracks are great. I've even come around to the less obviously appealing tunes of Pocahontas - not to mention Donny Osmond singing 'I'll make a man out of you' in Mulan. And not all the plots are about princesses - she told me she wanted to join the army the other day, after watching Mulan. If we could up the ratio of Nemo/ Lion King/ Jungle Book we'd probably have an even more rounded world view. Even if we remain stuck in our current rut for a while, I suppose a princess phase is par for the course for a four year old in LA.

To offset the downside - those strange ideas P might be picking up about marriage - there is a significant benefit. It's the comedy value of her playing out the roles. Phrases she has shouted at me in public in recent weeks include:
'Mean stepmother, I need to go potty!' - at LAX, to the obvious amusement of those nearby.
'Gaston, I don't want to marry you because I love books!' - almost daily, usually when I pick her up from school.
'This is NOT your land!' - too true.
'The huns are on the move, prepare to fight!' - my personal favourite, yelled over our deck at passersby. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cheesecake, glitter and balloons

It's the simple stuff. We celebrated P's birthday this weekend with five of her buddies from school, 50 balloons and about 3 pounds of glitter.

Last year P objected to seven peers as 'too many people'. Which suits us, as hiring a playspace for 20+ kids costs literally hundreds of dollars. Much more fun and almost as easy to do something at home, especially since this year we limited the guest list to just five. Less expensive too, one might imagine.

In an attempt to elevate her birthday from a completely unstructured playdate to something, well, with glitter, I headed Michael's, that mecca of crafting materials. I bought each guest a little wooden letter, and all sorts of stuff for them to stick on their wooden letters. A dozen pots of glitter, glitter glue, little tiny pom poms, paper flowers, sticky plastic gems - you name it, if you can stick it on a wooden letter I bought it.

We ordered a festival of balloons, and a little table and chairs so P and her girl gang could sit sweetly for a tea party. It was very sweet and very photogenic. The amount of time I spent making flower-shaped watermelon pieces, heart-shaped brownies, star-shaped sandwiches, and heavily frosted cupcakes was worth it for the six minutes those girls sat nicely and ate.

Note how not one of these guests observed the afternoon tea rules of 'savory first'. Barbarians. But cute ones. The highlight for P I think was the cheesecake she had been so excited to eat. She took hers down with glee, but her friends mostly just looked confused about this strange birthday cake format. Before long they returned to the far more exciting task of playing with someone else's toys.

The other highlight, for all the guests I think, was creating mountains and clouds of glitter on our deck. Thank god for a sunny SoCal February day which allowed us to keep the crafting outside. But who am I kidding?, that glitter still got everywhere. And now there will never not be glitter in our house.

When all's said and done, I'm not sure a party at home is a low cost effort - by the time I'd filled a cart at Michael's, and ordered all those party supplies we might as well have hired a play space. And low effort it certainly is not. But for the delight I saw on P's face, bombing around her house with her crew, sharing her toys and feeling like a gracious hostess, I think it was well worthwhile.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Minor celebrity status

I've achieved celebrity status, at least among the children of class P1. But forget 15 minutes  - my time in the spotlight was closer to ten.

P and her classmates have been 'studying' England this month. And yes, by studying I mean coloring English flags in (bet they're glad they didn't choose Mozambique), and listening to Paddington stories. As a native, I volunteered to come in and teach those kiddos a thing or two about England.

After a minor panic - what DO you teach a gaggle of three year olds about England, once they've covered the flag and Paddington Bear? - I settled on flash cards. British English on one side, and American English on the other.

I resisted the urge to tell them that in England, a trump is a fart. For the most part I stuck with nouns, like jumper and pavement and trainers. P insisted on the inclusion of 'cheerio' which I couldn't argue with. She helped me paint the pictures on the answer side. The idea was that the picture would allow them to shout the answer when they saw it, but I'm not sure our illustrations - between my poor drawing and her exuberant colouring - really clarified anything. Still, we had fun making them.
P at work (dressed as Belle, obvs)

And we had fun actually delivering this performance too. I had P help me with the cards, since she knew all the answers, which delighted her. Some of the kids put their hands up to answer some of the words. Some of those kids actually knew some of the answers. Out of the 12 cards I had, wellies, nappy and loo were easy answers. But plenty of them left the children looking confused (which wasn't really my intent). Some of the kids looked at me blankly as if to say 'what is P's mother doing in our teacher's seat?'

It was all over in about nine minutes. Which is a preparation:performance ratio of about 12:1. I enjoyed it, and P enjoyed it, but I wasn't sure it had all been worth all the effort.

Until the next day, at a kid's birthday party, when several of the parents came up and told me they'd heard all about my star turn (my phrase not theirs, but I think they were reaching for an expression along those lines). 'Oh it was nothing', I murmured, 'just a bit of fun'. But I clutched those accolades to me as tightly as an actress holding her Oscar.