Once in a while, I find myself comparing M’s childhood to my own. Do you do this too? For example, the place where I grew up—a bona fide hamlet of a couple thousand fine folks in the mountains—is so much different than where she’s growing up—a culturally diverse city of 90,000+ less than 2 miles from the ocean. She has the world of technology at her fingertips and can roam the house while on the cordless phone with her Gramma, yet I was tethered by about ten feet of curly cord when I talked to my Grandma. Things like that. Not necessarily weighing the differences, just noting them.
Anyway, one night when I was laying next to M in her bed in the middle of the night,* I was strangely and acutely aware of the difference in the kind of nighttime sound I had during childhood sleep, compared with what she has had, especially during the summer. I had katydids as my slumber soundtrack. Lots and lots of katydids.
Have you heard them before? Katydid, katy-didn’t. Katydid, katy-didn’t. Katydid, katy-didn’t. To this day, if I happen hear one of those green guys—which isn’t often at our house—I am immediately transported to my upstairs bedroom on Holland Drive.
But M’s ambient lullaby? There are a few. Though I am not really happy about most of them.
A noise machine playing artificial ocean sounds. It used to be set to “rainstorm” but we switched it because we thought that was what was making her wake up to pee 2x a night…but no dice. Of course as I type this I realize we’ve not made it much better with the sounds of an ocean! I guess it bugs me on some level that we are using that machine, something else to plug in, to block out other sounds from outside and the clatter that comes with living in a small house.
The booming bass of a car that drives to and from the apartment around the corner, every night. It’s not just loud, it’s sonic boom loud. This guy has been living around the corner for a few months now and the only time he seems to drive by is very late at night, which means I can’t shake my cranky old lady fist at him to ask him to stop. And it’s not like we only hear it for a second or two. We live on the corner and so we get to hear him roll the entire way home and sit in his car for a bit to finish up the song. Yo dude, I don’t care if you want to blast that mofo during the day, and I’m not even complaining about the kind of music you’re playing because I own some of it myself, but really…do you need to have it cranked up so loud as you cruise into the neighborhood where you live, surrounded by people who you should be “neighborly” to? It kills me that people like him just cannot extend a courtesy like that. I know it’s a free country and all, but really how free are we without some semblance of quality of life at 2 fucking AM!
Background noise from the airport (which, thankfully, ends at midnight) and the highway. Because of where we live, and the topography that comes with living in an old granite quarry, sound is amplified and bounced around more off of our house than others nearby. It does have a kind of white noise, soothing effect after a while, but some nights it is seemingly crushing. Low cloud ceiling and the planes fly lower. First few nice days of spring and the motorcycles are in full force cruising at high velocity down the almost empty highway lanes in the middle of the night. Comes with urban living, I know, but there are times when I wish I could just turn it off for a while.
And, lastly, maybe even oddly, the Eastern Screech Owl. We heard this for the first time the other night. I was wide awake dealing with the aftermath of an unwisely chosen caffeinated beverage enjoyed in the late afternoon, tossing and turning. I think I had just fallen asleep, when I heard this outside (on the Sounds tab, scroll down and click on “Descending whinny, monotonic trill” and listen).
What. The. Fuck. Was. That??!!! You know when you’ve been startled awake by something and things seem surreal for a minute or two? Yeah. It was like that but I wasn’t sure if I was still even on planet Earth. I think a glow of sweat came over my brow as I tried to recall what I had just heard and whether it was remotely human or not because it was definitely coming from the backyard and it got me thinking about the guy in our yard last year.
Then M woke up, wide eyed and scared like me.
“What was that!!??” she said.
Being brave Mommy, I said, “Oh, just a possum probably in the backyard.” Do possums even make noise?? I had no idea but usually she doesn’t press things like that at 3AM.
But then I heard it again, in the front yard. And then again within 3 seconds up high in the back yard again! Um, possums don’t move like that!
We only heard a few times and then it was gone. M was sufficiently freaked out and wouldn’t put her feet under the covers or touch the ground to use the bathroom for a good 45 minutes until the levee was about to break, so to speak. Then the next night she had a nightmare about millipedes at the foot of her bed and would only sleep on her pillow. So yeah, that was fun.
But we looked it up for a while the next day to see if we could figure out what it was (thank you, Google!). And now we know what a skunk, fox, possum and raccoon sound like because those were my first few guesses before it dawned on me that it must be something that flies. Something that flies only at night. Ah, yes. The mighty Eastern Screech Owl. Admittedly, I was scared when I heard it, but now I am happy that I did because I am not sure how often that little guy will be passing by our house.
As an interesting but related aside, here’s another difference between my childhood and M’s: the ability to look stuff up online. Stuff with audio. Wouldn’t you know that my whole life I thought there was only one kind of katydid sound. Not true. All summer we’ve been hearing a tick tick tick tick tick tick tick sound at dusk. At first, I thought one of the electrical transformers on the telephone pole across the street was on the fritz, but then we started hearing it in the yard and various places. Then I thought it might be a bat, but (thank you again, Google!) the bats around here don’t make sound in a range humans can hear without assistance. Long story short…we discovered together it is the sound of the Greater Angle Winged Katydid! So she is hearing them, or at least the cousins of the ones I knew. What a lovely sound!
Night sounds. One difference between M’s slumber and mine growing up. I guess I struggle with the idea that too many of them are artificial, but sometimes we get lucky.
* As a side note, yes, you read that right…we still play musical beds in our house…M has been a crappy sleeper since the day she was born. I am not joking when I tell you that her first year was comprised of 2 or 3 daytime naps that NEVER lasted more than 20-30 minutes, and it never got better. Because of that, sleep has become the lowest common denominator for me, no matter where it happens, which is why we have chosen the various sleeping arrangements we have for these past 5 years. Maybe if Elizabeth Pantley comes out with The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Kindergarteners, we’ll gain some ground because the first two books certainly haven’t stuck! And we all have our parenting styles and skeletons don’t we, so I’ll take a blind eye to yours too.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Kristen M. Ploetz.
It’s the first Monday of Fall — good morning!
M is officially enrolled (and already three hours in) at her new K-Prep school. New school, new routine and new schedule (for all of us). Given the season we’re now in, change is good. What better time to become re-committed to this site, especially now that I think I’ve found a way to keep a happy medium between blogging and maintaining M’s privacy as she grows older. As I mentioned in this post, I’m nervous about the terrain of writing about raising a now five year old daughter while holding tighter to her right to a private life, but some subjects just seem to lend themselves to group discussion in a public sphere…like books!
I’ve reviewed books on here before, and honestly, I could make that a blog in and of itself given how much we all like to read around our house. But I’ve been slacking off, not on the reading, but on the reviewing. Part of that was because we’re now in this new wonderful (and, at times, weird) territory that includes a pre-reader who likes longer stories, but still wants illustrations too. Not quite picture books, not quite chapter books. We have had several misses this summer amidst an occasional hit or two.
Considering where we are at in the reading spectrum, I asked my trusted and seasoned parent friends on Facebook and got some great recommendations–though after reading some of them, they seemed to be a year too early, if only because of the lack of illustrations for most of the titles rather than the quality of the stories. Except for a very small sampling of the Rainbow Magic series, they really weren’t holding her attention–I think we just need to come back to those in a year or two.
But I seem to have really hit the nail on the head last weekend after visiting The Children’s Book Shop in Brookline Village, Massachusetts. If you live within an hour of this book store and have not been, stop right here and go. I mean it — go there. Right now. I’ll wait. It’s small, but I assure you, it does not disappoint.
It’s accessible by T (Green Line) but parking is no problem either on a Sunday afternoon (we went before a show we were catching at the Puppet Showplace Theatre around the corner). The staff there is completely wonderful, knowledgeable and, if I didn’t know better, in cohoots with my credit card company to get me to spend more because of all the truly amazing and spot on recommendations they had.
The salesperson who helped us that day was a wonderful man who happens to also be a children’s librarian during the week and has two daughters of his own. My basic parameters for him were: books that are closer to chapter books but still with lots of illustration and longer stories than picture books. I also told him I was trying to add more stories to her sphere that did not necessarily include having to deal with younger siblings, as many books for this age group seem to, if only because it was not a dynamic she would be experiencing personally. I mentioned that she liked ballet and cats too, but any subject was fine. I got so many great, great recommendations from him, and had we not had to skedaddle out for the show, I would have been able to sift through so much more. I have many to talk about in the coming posts.
But today I’m starting with Mercy Watson To The Rescue, written by Kate DiCamillo (whom also wrote The Tales of Despereaux) and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. There is a whole website dedicate to the Mercy Watson series–there are six books so far.
Mercy Watson is a pig–a “porcine wonder”–that lives with a couple. She loves buttered toast. It is her love of buttered toast that leads her on some crazy adventures, including in this first book that we read together with many laughs.
The storyline in Mercy Watson To The Rescue, the first in the series, is zany, implausible and obviously one that lends itself to the five year old set, boy or girl. The level and length of dialogue, that sometimes includes up to four or five speakers, is well beyond that which we’ve read in the picture books that we seem to be growing out of. At several points in the story there is a feeling of “what will happen next?!”–a hallmark of good storytellng–whether it be a bed possibly crashing through the ceiling or dealing with a crotchedy neighbor who clearly does not like pigs in the house. And did I mention the fire department shows up?
The book is 68 pages and broken down into twelve chapters of around 4 or 5 pages each, including illustrations, so it can be read all at once in about 10 minutes, or a couple chapters at a time if you only have a few minutes. But with its smaller size and thick paper, it even feels like a book meant for an older pre-reader or early reader, which seems enticing to M at this age. I have not seen them at our local library, but maybe you will be lucky and find them at yours. Either way, I think this is the kind of book and series that is well-deserving of a permanent spot on the home book shelf, and at $5.99 retail (or used at around $3.98, like online at www.betterworldbooks.com) it would hardly break the bank. We are eagerly looking forward to reading the next books in the series!
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Come back next Monday when I will review the first book in the Nate the Great series (by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat).
Copyright (c) 2010-2014 Kristen M. Ploetz. All rights reserved. Personal theme was created in WordPress by Obox Themes.