Pop It Up!

The pop-up books I remember from childhood were pretty much like the series of David A. Carter books we inherited from my nieces. Don’t get me wrong, they are not terribly complicated but awesome nonetheless and manage to turn pretty much anything into a bug. On an aside, the “helpful” tip I got in one parenting book about allowing your child to destroy a pop-up book so that you can mend it and show them how things need to be treasured, is complete bollocks, especially if you’re a book lover like I am. It will not only completely rip into your heart to see such wonderful paper creations destroyed, without malice, but still destroyed. It is also a really, really big pain to fix them. So do not allow children under 3 to handle a pop-up alone.

Anyway, as I was saying, I hadn’t been bowled over with the genre until I came across this:

Oh Baby, the places you'll go

Be still my paper-loving heart. I was in love! Of course at the time Iris was only 1.5 so I passed on this version and got her the abridged one, which she also managed to annihilate. However, from then I’ve discovered more and more wonders in the world of paper engineering. (That’s the actual term for someone who designs a pop-up book! Talk about best job in the world! Your job is to play with paper! OMG!)

In my newfound pop-up loving fervour, I came across an article listing Jan Pieńkowski’s Haunted House as the ultimate and original pop-up book. So of course I had to get it. I was not disappointed.

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While the cartoonish illustrations make a somewhat scary topic funny and unlikely to leave you with visions of clawing hands at your window, they still pack a good bit of scariness in them.

There is hardly any text, just one line per spread. This not only makes it a great quick read for that “just one more book puhleeease!”, it is also great for pre-reading kids to enjoy by themselves.

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I can’t imagine how fabulous it was when it came out in 1979 as it’s still pretty amazing today. Every spread is packed with pop-up creatures, pull tabs to reveal ghouls and spaghetti monsters, and wheels that create a psychedelic cupboard.

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Three years old is just about the right time for kids to really enjoy more complex pop-up books because they’ve gained the manual dexterity and consciousness to treat them with the necessary care.

I’m already salivating about the next purchase I’m going to make – a Robert Sabuda book! Now which one……

A Girl After My Own Obsessions

Almost every woman I know has iterated, “Please kill me if I become like my mother,” or something to that effect. Now as a mum, however, I take devilish delight in seeing my offspring take on little bits of me.

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Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo) and Nick Sharratt (Shark in the Park) have teamed up several times to excellent effect. Honestly though, I wasn’t sure about Chocolate Mouse for Greedy Goose, at first.

I love that it’s succinct, just one line a page and the rhymes are easier on the tongue than some of Donaldson’s other works. Each animal is given a page and food-related rhyme and Sharratt’s illustrations are, as usual, refreshingly bold and very expressive for such simplicity of lines.

It also manages to include the concepts of logic,

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healthy eating,

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manners,

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competition and

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compromise!

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But then at the end when helpful pup suggests washing up, they all go to sleep instead.

Most people close to me will say I’m a bit obsessed with cleanliness. Okay, a lot obsessed. So naturally whenever I read it to Iris I would always add a “that’s not good” at the end, referring to them not cleaning up.

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Lo and behold, a few weeks ago, we picked up this book again after a few months’ hiatus and when I reached the end, Iris refused to let me turn to the last page. She then changed the story to say they all washed up. She even added washing hand actions like a proper obsessive-compulsive! Needless to say I was howling with laughter and husband was amused but a bit afraid. Just a bit.

Now if she becomes anything near what a horrible, cantankerous, emotional jabberwocky I was as a teenager…………boarding school anyone?

All Grown Up

I realise my daughter is only three, but it still gets to me every time she matures in some way or learns something new. Just the other day I nearly got teary when she used the word “delicate” correctly. And now that she’s started school, moments of “I wish she wouldn’t grow up so quickly” are coming fast and heavy.

Iris had been very happy in our Singapore day care from 3 to 25 months, but having stayed at home with me for the past year, I was worried there might be some separation anxiety when she started pre-kindergarten last week. So I brought her to see her new school three months ago and talked up all the positive things about school (playground, painting, making friends, etc). I even bought her this book in December.

 

Jane Godwin and Anna Walker’s Starting School is an excellent aid in introducing the idea of school. Iris loved it from the first reading and kept me reading it to her for weeks.

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I love the diversity presented and that a child’s negative feelings such as fear and being overwhelmed are very subtly dealt with.

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I love the feel of the pages too. Flexible yet sturdy with a lovely smell. Yes, I’m a stationery geek.

Of course, I really needn’t have worried at all.

“Why can’t I go to school now?”

“Because they’re all on holiday.”

Pouty pause.

“I’m very sad I can’t go to school now.”

Yeesh.

As the time neared, it was getting more apparent that I was the one suffering from pre-school stress. I checked off her list of necessities, bought everything, prepared a special lunch and on the morning of her first day yelled at husband for not getting us to school at least 15 minutes early.

Then when I said I was leaving she went, “Awwww…” gave me a cursory sad face, a hug and then scampered off.

An hour later I got a call to say, “Not that we’re  not loving having her, but Iris isn’t supposed to be here today?”

I had failed to remember in a letter from January 2013 (and never repeated in any other correspondence) that children attending three days’ of school would go in Wednesday to Friday and not, Monday to Wednesday.

Is there such a thing as pre-dementia for mothers of pre-schoolers?

Growl With Me

Have I mentioned how much I love the fun in kid’s books? And it won’t be the last time! There’s no need to be reminded about how serious life is. Even glancing at the front page of a local newspaper makes me a bit depressed. Add to the responsibility of taking care of yourself in this chaotic world, the even heavier mantel of taking care of someone else and you’ve got adults who are bogged down with seriousness. So who needs fun more than us parents?

The Story of Growl by Judy Horacek is oodles of fun with only a smidgen of finger wagging and frowning, which only illicit an “awwww” rather than an “ugh”.

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Growl is a monster who lives all by herself in a castle at the end of a lane. Her neighbours live in a normal house next door and love having tea with their fancy tea set.

Growl loves growling. “Papa loves playing football, watching football and playing football games. He loves football ALL THE TIME.” And so it is with Growl and growling.

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This, however, has a detrimental effect when she causes her neighbours’ to spill tea all over themselves by creeping up and growling at them. They call the police who make a no growling rule and even put up a sign.

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Poor Growl is positively depressed. She goes moping all over her castle grounds.

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A happy ending is found when Growl, unable to sleep without her growling, surprises a thief stealing the precious tea set with the largest growl ever. Her neighbours are ecstatic and revoke the no growling rule. They all have tea together with lots of growling and running through the monster’s improbably manicured garden after.

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When life gets you upside down with things like responsibility and the NEWS, what do you do? Growl! Better than therapy.

Creating Christmas

This has been my most organised Christmas ever. I got my shopping done in November and managed to design and order custom cards and send them off on time! Quite apart from all that, however, is the fact that this year, compared to the last 20, is made fun all over again because of Iris.

I will say it up front, I do believe in God and thus Christmas has always been meaningful. Yet, this year, because there is a little person who enjoys decorations and activities and the whole she-bang, I’ve found myself really getting into the festive mood of the season. So here’s a sampling of the madness: I created a spreadsheet to map out all the activities available this month so we wouldn’t miss anything; I rushed around after her birthday to find a tree (artificial because there aren’t any non-tiny potted ones) and decorate it and the house; I drove 45 minutes to a mall in Rockingham so she could throw fake snow in a life-sized snow globe for two minutes; I went to Spotlight twice to buy buttons to make ornaments, I braved the crowds with Ah Ma and held 13.5kg on my shoulders for half an hour so that Iris could see a Christmas parade. Did I mention the spreadsheet?

Throughout this time I’ve had to keep asking myself, am I doing this just because it’s something my family always did or is this something I want our family to do from now on? It is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of Christmas and forget to create a personal Christmas just for the three of us. I’ve enjoyed starting my own collection of tree ornaments and baking up a storm, as well as having an advent candle, which is something I’ve wanted all my adult life but never found the impetus to get until now.

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What makes this Christmas extra special is that it is also our first one in our newly adoptive country. Yvonne Morrison and Kilmeny Niland’s An Aussie Night Before Christmas is a cracking take on the season in all its thong-wearing glory.

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From the beer and lamingtons left out for Christmas, to the kangaroo-drawn ute and bottom baring Santa, it’s a chuckle inducing introduction to everything Aussie. I know what I’m giving out to the kids next year!

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A very blessed Christmas and 2014 to everyone from the Reading Mum!

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Not Just DDs or DSs but BFFs Too

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Catherine Rayner’s Iris and Isaac was bought when Iris’s best friend at day care was a boy named Isaac. It’s turned into a perfect example of learning to accommodate and treasure the differences (in bottoms and other things) in the ones you love. Not to mention how in love I am with the water colour illustrations that are perfect for the story’s setting.

Sometime somewhere I heard this said of family, “I have to love you, but I don’t have to like you.” This is very true and acknowledging this, especially between siblings, can go a long way to eliminating familial discord. After all, just because you’re related it doesn’t mean your personalities aren’t going to clash. The most important thing is that you love, respect and support each other no matter what. It is not essential to absolutely love being in each other’s company 24/7.

That said, as Iris turns three, I’m finding I actually like Iris as her own person and not just as my daughter. Putting aside my natural maternal love and the custardy gooey feelings that overflow every time I look at her adorbs cheeks and squishy little toddlerness, I find myself enjoying the time we spend together because of who Iris is. She is very affectionate, free with her love and isn’t afraid of expressing her feelings (good and bad). While she can be a bit sassy, like her mum (heh), she is also hilarious and a consummate clown. She’s a fearless climber, like me when my joints still allow me to climb, and loves mucking about. She’s very observant, sensitive to others’ feelings, creative and very smart (sometimes a bit too smart).
“Mama, can you read this to me?”
“Not right now sweetie.”
Pause.
“Mama, what does this word say?”
“I know what you’re trying to do.”
“But what does this word say?”
-_-

In Iris and Isaac, two polar bear BFFs have a falling out because Iris bear made a snow nest that was too small for both their big, furry bottoms.

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They both huffed off in different directions and spent the rest of the day missing each other terribly.

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Every time we reach the reunion page, my Iris gasps, grins and gives me a big hug. This alone makes the book totally worth it. The two bears then work together to make the perfect snow nest to fit both of them, bottoms and all. They then cuddle up and go to sleep, which makes it a great bedtime story too.

Sure, my Iris certainly has her moments (see last post “Perfection is Overrated”). She is a tad too active for my mellow nature, a bit of a teacher’s pet and is beyond talkative.
“Mama, Mama, Mamaaaa….!
“What?”
“Why you not talking?”
“You don’t have to talk all the time.”
“I do!”
“Why?”
“Because I have a mouth so I need to make noise.”
“But I have a mouth too.”
Pause.
“I need to talk!” Blah, blah, blah.

However, overall, I think, Iris and I are going to be great pals. And I’m not just saying that because she popped out of my abdomen. It’s all about seeing the child for who they are, not what you want them to be and not as your child even. If you really don’t enjoy each other’s company, there’s always cake and reality tv. Seeing other people’s exaggerated dysfunction with the addition of lots of sugar, will give you a false sense of normalcy.

Perfection is Overrated

I definitely do not think I’m the perfect mother. I get unreasonably impatient when I’m teaching or reading to Iris. I use the dreaded “not today, we’ll do it tomorrow” way more than I should. AND…..I let her watch television when I need to do something else. Every other day I lose my temper with her, mostly just a little, sometimes a lot.

Take Monday. I spent the morning cleaning the house, which meant that I had to keep her out of the path of the hoover. I managed to occupy her for half an hour with painting. Then I resorted to the television. When I was ready to mop, I decided to ask her to help water the plants. Full-on brat tantrum ensued. “I don’t want to!” kicking legs, rolling on the ground, “No!” kicking legs, “Noooooo!” I lost it. I yelled at her and threatened to disown her. Finally, I realised we both needed a “time out” after which, she acquiesced to water the plants. Once I allowed her to play with the water outside, she stayed out of my hair while I made lunch.

That was not the end of it. She proceeded to have several more tantrums and shouted out her demands and refusals throughout the day. Every time she wailed, “I want it NOW!” I wanted to throw in the towel and run away. Instead I gave her a stern lecture on not being a brat and that if she was so unpleasant, no one would want to do anything with her or for her.

I was rewarded the following day with three puddles of pee in the house and four sets of soiled pants. I had in turn been duly reprimanded, toddler style.

At the end of the day, I think the most important thing is that a child feels loved. So to make up for all my motherly transgressions I give lots and lots of cuddles and kisses; I tell her I love her several times a day; and for each time I reject her play advances, I make the effort to play with her the next time she asks me to. For each roll of my eyes, I have at least 20 “I can’t believe this human being is my child” moments. She constantly amazes me with her growing intelligence, her wit, grace and boundless energy, which apart from using to climb everything in sight, she spends on making me laugh and returning my affection.

I figure I’m doing okay because Iris is happy, healthy and shows her love for me more than any other family member. Plus, I’m the only one she really listens to (*read is afraid of).

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Beatrice Alemagna’s Bugs in a Blanket reminds me that we’re all different and I can’t expect even someone with half my genes to be like me. Iris will be her own person and I need to keep that in mind, especially when she exhibits Papa’s propensity for mess-making. Bugs in a Blanket has gorgeous crafty illustrations Iris is constantly mistaking for a touchy-feely book and a simple but witty story line. It was a gift from an old friend visiting from London (thanks Delaina!) and published by visual arts powerhouse, Phaidon no less. Who could resist a cover full of fluffy bugs?!

All the bugs in an old blanket have been invited to Little Fat Bug’s birthday party. They’ve never met each other before though apparently they’ve been living in the blanket for years and years. So when Little Fat Bug opens the “door” of the big hole in the middle, he is unpleasantly surprised to find all these other not fat and not white bugs staring back at him. His immediate reaction is typically ego-centric and unthinking. He picks out the most salient feature of the bug right in front of him and demands to know why he is so thin as if it is that bug’s fault for being so. This starts a domino effect, with each bug accusing the next of being yellow, big-eyed, long-legged and speckled.

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It comes back full circle to Little Fat Bug when he is questioned on his corpulence. To which he replies that he can’t help it, he was born that way.

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As each bug in turn realises that they have all been born the way they are, they all come to the happy conclusion that they can’t help being who they are and proceed to have a riotous dancing party.

If only all the problems in the world could be solved thus, with a massive jig.