Thursday, June 25, 2009

Libraries At Risk

I don't usually get political here in the Small World, (could be because I married a man at polar opposites to my own views, but really, we've managed that with only a couple drunken debates ending in tears, and besides, that's a whole other story.) but when it comes to libraries, I tend to get a little passionate.
There's a whole family myth about the fact that we had to switch libraries when I was growing up because I read all the books in the children's section of one library. At one time, I had no less than five different library cards in my wallet. I lived for summer reading club season, and the thrill of seeing all the books I'd read listed out on a paper folder. I made nearly daily trips to the library down the street the summer I finally got done with grad school and could read whatever I wanted.
Today, my children and I are extremely regular visitors to our local library. We have participated in story time, have held impromptu playdates in the children's section, and once a week we carry home a bag full of books, DVDs and CDs. O. is so excited about being enrolled in the summer reading club this year that he asks almost every day whether we've read enough yet for the next "surprise." Last week, one of the children's librarians stopped to talk to O. because she remembered that he had been at the preschool camp that she visited. Nice people, and a whole treasure trove of resources and programming that concretely enrich our lives.
That's why I feel an actual physical reaction of sadness and anxiety every time I think about the budget cuts that are scheduled to be approved in the next few days at the state level. The plan is to cut library funding by 50%. Fifty percent. Wow. Twenty branches of the Cincinnati Public Library System are projected to close if this goes through. While I understand that in this time of economic difficulty, the money must be cut somewhere, it seems to me that libraries are even MORE important in times such as these.
The Cincinnati and Hamilton County Library has information on their website about these cuts, and ways to contact state representatives -- you can email straight from the website. If you're an Ohio resident, please click over there and make your support for libraries known. www.cincinnatilibrary.org You can also visit http://saveohiolibraries.com/
While I'm on the subject, I've been meaning to share some of the great things I've recently discovered at the library, each of which is potentially threatened by this legislation. I'm continually amazed at all the ways libaries work so hard to change and grow along with available technology and to meet the needs and wants of its patrons. They are an invaluable resource to our communities, and need our support now more than ever.

  • Book Page -- This newspaper style publication has been available at my local branch for the last three months or so. It's basically a publisher's advertising tool that lists books that are just coming out, along with author interviews, and columns that recommend new and noteworthy titles. I have really been enjoying having this concrete way to help me get new ideas for what to read next or to add to my wish list. Almost all of the titles are available to me via the the request system at the library, so as long as I'm willing to wait a bit, I can get a copy of whichever one I want.
  • Playaway -- Up until recently, I was not the owner of any sort of digital listening device. (J. finally took pity on me, or got tired of my obnoxious whining about it, and got me an ipod nano for Mother's Day. One of the best gifts EVER.) With two small children and an unfortunate television habit, I don't find as much time to read as I would like. I always thought that if I had a means to LISTEN to books, I could do it while exercising (HA!) or cleaning, or whatever. However, my Sony Walkman is long disappeared. Then I discovered the playaway in the audiobook section of my library. It's small, ipod sized device that holds one book only. When you check it out, it comes with the battery and everything -- all you do is plug headphones into it, and a book is ready for you to listen to. Very slick. I had some issues with the fact that you can't lock the buttons or easily rewind to the middle of a chapter if you did accidentally bump a button, but it was a pretty cool, portable way to listen to a book, and I'd recommend it if you're still without an MP3 player, or even just looking to get your audiobooks for free.
  • The Ohio E-Book Project -- If you DO have an ipod or an MP3 player, here is a resource, available to you via your library, for downloading audio books FOR FREE onto your device. You check them out using your library card, and have access to them for two weeks, just as you would any other book you check out from the library. Amazing. This is not the most user friendly of sites, and there are a number of steps involved in downloading the software you will need to download your files, and to get itunes to recognize the files once you have them. Also, it seems to me that there are not quite as many titles available in MP3 format as others, but I'm still pretty new at figuring this system out. It seems the best way to get what you want to read is to place a hold for a title until it becomes available. Pretty cool, and FREE. (those of you in other states, this same technology is most likely available to you. Go here to search for a library system that uses it near you, or check your library's website for a link to an ebook program.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Retro Playtime

Last year this time, I shared some of my memories of spending summer time at my grandparents' cottage in Pennsylvania. A recent post by mep at Not to Brag reminded me of other cherished moments spent in the company of my grandparents.
My cousins and I spent hours playing in Grandma and Pap's attic, with the toys leftover from our parents' childhoods. I loved the horses that went with my mother's Roy Rogers and Lone Ranger dolls/figurines. I was fascinated by the ways that each country was represented in tiny "Dolls of the World," most of all that the United States one was a cowboy. There was a circus big top and a dollhouse, and many dolls and their clothes. I also specifically remember playing Cootie, but I feel sure looking back that this was something my grandmother bought for us grandchildren, rather than a leftover from our parents.
We prowled the storage areas and found a bird cage that my mother said once housed her canary named Cherry.* I devoured every book I found on the shelves. The highlight? The super sad dog story Beautiful Joe. (I bought a copy for my daughter right before her birth, along with vintage Trixie Belden and Cherry Ames titles.)
I have such vivid memories of playing with these "antique toys." Perhaps it was that they were ones I knew none of my friends at home had, perhaps it was simply part of the happiness of sharing time with my cousins and being so truly loved in my grandparents' home. Whatever the reason, I'm glad my parents have a large, unfinished basement full of toys from my own childhood to share with my children.
O. and N. recently had a little vacation at Grandma and Grandpa's house, while J. and I traveled to a friend's wedding. The weather wasn't great, so they busied themselves with discovering "new" toys circa 1970's/80's.

N. adored these "babies" which were just her size: Strawberry Shortcake and friends.
She has since discovered the updated DVD's and books at our library.
(mostly, she carries them around saying "Cake?")

O. runs the Big Loader around the track.
Wooden Kindergarten blocks (in their original packaging!!)

O. plays with an assortment of Fisher Price vehicles, most of them Adventure People.
My cousins had these growing up, too, and when we got together,
there were epic constructions of civilizations for these figures and their adventures.

Last week, the kids, my mom and I went to Pennsylvania to visit my grandmother and spend some time at the cottage, bringing the whole memory sharing/creation full circle.


We got chased out of "camp" one of the nights due to storms and no reliable technology to monitor them, so we had a sleepover at Great-Grandma's apartment.
This is N. showing a possessive streak towards this vintage pull-toy "durdle."
She insisted on taking it to bed with her while we were there.

Tire Swing.


Tractor.

We haven't quite gotten to the point in our house where we've outgrown enough toys or equipment to make the move to get rid of massive amounts of "kid stuff." I'd love to have some extra room to breathe around here, and don't relish the idea of hoarding too much "stuff." However, seeing my children delight in these toys from the past has made me vow that I'll keep at least some of their very favorites around in the hopes that there will someday be another generation to enjoy them.

*Cherry's home was rescued from the trash heap when Grandma moved out of that house, was repainted, decorated, and has since been used in nearly a dozen weddings as a "Card Cage."

Midsummer O-Speak

Recently, O. wanted to know whether when you change numbers after you have a birthday, you also get to change letters. "I am four now. Will I ever get to be 'B'?"

After a particularly perplexing stream of questions about why and how somethings worked that I had no idea about, I finally asked him whether he thought I knew everything. "Yes. Because you're my mom," he replied.

On our way out of dinner over the weekend (the place with the corn dogs, not to be confused with other favorite dining spots: the place with the chips and salsa, the place with cheese bread, or the place with the fish* we haven't been there in a while), O. put his arm around N. in the parking lot in a very protective, big brotherly type way. I commented that he sure knew how to take care of his little sister. In the car on the way home, I overheard this conversation between them. (they really do have conversations now: her side usually all facial expressions and exclamations of "Yah!" I love it.)
"N., you are my little sister. But when you are grown up, you will have to leave our house and go find your own children. But you can still come back to our house and visit us. And I'll always be your big brother."

*These are not fish to eat, oh no, not for my boy. They are fish swimming in a kind of gross indoor pond display. The reason we can't go here anymore is that it is a Chinese buffet, with presumably all sorts of nuts, eggs and soy lurking in all manner of unlabelled foods and a language barrier to boot.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Hey! Mom! Write about me, too!

It's been a while since I've written a post just about Sweet Miss N. She's sick this week, with the cough/fever she got from her big brother over the weekend. It's so pitiful to hear her struggle to sleep, only to be wakened by another round of coughing, but thankfully she's doing better today. Here are some of the ways she's figuring out how to be her own little person lately.

New favorite toy: washcloths. The best are the infant ones we use to wipe her face or to bathe her, but really any old one will do. She likes to drape them over her head like a little veil, or use them as a blanket for one of her "babies." Occasionally, she'll even use one to attempt to mop up a spill, which I guess makes up for the fact that she leaves them littered everywhere, and since she usually unloads them from the clean laundry basket before I get them put away, there is a shortage of them for their intended uses.

Some of my favorite new words she's acquired include: "durdle (turtle)"; "yight (light)"; "yankie (blankie); "dohyer (stroller)". Really, she's functioning quite well without words at all, right down to her new habit of holding out her hand to me as if she just wants to hold my hand. When I take it, she starts pulling me in the direction she wants me to follow. Usually, it's the freezer for a popsicle, which I tend to deny her at 7:30 AM, even if it is quite cute.

She's quite the problem solver, as well. When I won't actually give her what she wants, she pushes one of her little chairs across the floor to attempt to get to whatever it is. The other day I found her standing on the chair in the laundry room trying to reach the Sams Club giant box of fruit snacks I keep "hidden" on top of a cabinet in there. She had had to fling two different area rugs out of her way in order to get the chair to slide across the floor. Those chairs will probably be the end of me, and there goes my usual quarantine spot for them, the laundry room.

Summer weather has caused a couple of wardrobe difficulties. Firstly, dresses and skirts without the accompanying panty/diaper covers allow her access to her diaper, which she has figured out how to remove on her own. I occasionally hear her over the monitor saying "poop, poop" and I know the diaper is at least partially off. Fortunately, this seems to be her word for "diaper," so no scary surprises yet. Secondly, no long sleeves. This wouldn't seem like a problem, except that for her, shirtsleeves have become a comfort object. When I won't give in to a shriek, or let her out of her stroller, or otherwise offer the shoulder of my own shirt for her to gnaw on, she lifts her arm up to her mouth and sucks away. Yesterday, after banishing her from flushing O's wipes down the toilet, I caught her sticking her bare forearm in her mouth. Is it any wonder her eczema flares up on her face first?

Speaking of the eczema, we've got a system in place that seems to be working quite well. If she misses a dose of Allegra, I can tell. Same for missing an Aquaphor application after baths. And yes, that means, she is basically a little squirmy greased pig, and if I don't remember to change into the "Aquaphor shirt" (basically any old t-shirt I'd wear to bed), I can count on ruining yet another article of clothing, unless someone can give me a helpful hint for removing petroleum stains.

Also recently often overheard over the monitor: some girl that sounds like she's thirteen hollering "Mom! Mom!" We skipped from "ma-ma" right over "Mommy" and right to the impatient, annoyed "Mom. Mom. Mom. MOM!"

In the same vein, if you happen to eat something off of her plate that has gone untouched the entire meal, she sounds an offended "Hey!" This is also her word of choice if anyone happens to invade her personal space.

I'm already training her for allergy avoidance. One of her books is an ABC lift the flap thing, with a picture of a peanut under the "N." (legume, not nut, but I guess we don't need the book to get that technical, do we?) Once, when we were reading it, I said "N. doesn't eat nuts. Yuck!" Now, every time she lifts that flap, she makes an exaggerated "yuck face, holds her hand out and shakes it as if pushing it away from herself. The toy catalog that came this week and has been fought over ever since has a game called "Count the nuts" with plastic peanuts as its playing pieces. (You're supposed to feed them to elephants, I think. Again with the inaccuracies!) She broke out the yuck face for this page, and quickly wanted to turn the page, so maybe we're on to something.