Monday, February 18, 2008


First, let us begin with this video of The Littlest Critic, unprompted, in action almost four years ago. I think you'll gather the scene and situation on the television rather easily. A hint: New York City, 2004.

Flash forward four years later, The Wife, on a whim (actually, she learned about it at the last minute and decided to go, taking TLC) attends a Hillary Clinton rally at nearby Brush High School. Here's how she described TLC's reaction:

she waited outside in the cold after a ten minute walk and then sat quietly in an auditorium (the overflow room) for four hours for a ten minute glance at Hillary Clinton ... she was appropriately excited when Hillary walked into the room, her eyes going wide, her jaw dropping, her face lit up like she just saw a Christmas present, and her hands appropriately clapping and ... she said "I thought she was beautiful" about Hillary Clinton.

Tonight, when I got home, this is what, again, unprompted, my four-going-on-five year old daughter decided to make.

I think it safe to say that we are very proud parents of a member of the next generation of feminism.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Future Aspirations

So, The Littlest Critic and I are on our way to school, and she's watching a Backyardigans DVD in the backseat.

When we were home together all day, I used to let her watch cartoons in the morning when she first got up. It helped with her morning grumpiness to be allowed to slowly emerge into the land of the nice, and it gave me time to make her breakfast, tidy up the kitchen, and make our day's plans. She really didn't do well when she started school and her morning routine went from relaxed to frantic. I didn't do so well either and our first few weeks of getting ready for school in the morning were epic battles.

And I sympathize with this, I really do. When I was a kid, my mother would wake me in the morning for school, then come back to my room and find me sitting on the edge of the bed, one sock on and one sock in my hand as I stared blankly at the closet, still half asleep. I can't confirm this, but it wouldn't at all be surprising if a long, slender thread of drool dangled from my mouth. Getting up early in the morning for school is the worst.

Having learned my lesson from these early battles over such things as what to wear and brushing all the massive tangles out of her very fine hair, now I wake her with the portable DVD player blasting a favorite cartoon. Generally, I limit how much TV she can watch and try to insist on her playing with her toys or the two of us doing something fun together instead of vegging out. But this innovation has made our mornings run like clockwork. Two episodes of Clifford 's Puppy Days or one of The Backyardigans and I can dress her, brush her hair, get her to eat her breakfast and brush her teeth with minimal fuss. And it puts her in a better mood in the mornings which makes the transition to school that much easier.

And on some days, if the cartoons run long or if she's still a bit sleepy and surly, we pack of the DVD player and take it in the car with us. Today, she was watching "The Race to the Tower of Power." It's an episode of her new love, The Backyardigans, and in this episode two of the characters are super-villains and two are superheroes. The villains want to get to the aforementioned Tower so they can steal the Key to the World and , in classic bad guy fashion, rule the world. The superheroes want to stop them, naturally.

As we are driving along, I mention to TLC that A.J. one of her friends from pre-school also likes superheroes, especially Spiderman. She looked at me from the backseat and squinched her face up.

"You know," she told me, "I'm going to be a superhero when I grow up."
"You are?" I replied. It wasn't really a question; she's told me this on a number of occasions. Actually, I was just feeding her a straight line, which is a big part of my parenting style.
"Uh huh. I'm gonna be... UNDERCAT!!!"

Plain text doesn't quite do justification to how loudly and enthusiastically she delivered her superhero nomme de guerre. It was kind of sing-songy as if you could hear "Da da da da da daaaah!" music playing in the background. As if she were about to deliver the knockout blow to her own particular brand of super-villains.

Undercat, if you can't quite figure it out, is the feline equivalent of Underdog. With a cape from an earlier Snow White costume, a cat mask and tail, at home The Littlest Critic transforms herself into Undercat, writer of wrongs, fighter of toys, and purrer of purrs. At one point it was even going to be her Halloween costume (until she discovered a pink old-fashioned soda fountain waitress costume that The Wife bought for her because TLC described it as having "more function").

So for a current count, TLC plans on being a superhero, a secret agent, and an animal doctor when she grows up. The last one, I'm sure, is merely her disguise and alter-ego, mild mannered veterinarian at a zoo by day. She's even explained to me that some of her friends at school have told her that you can't actually be a superhero, but then she informed me quite certainly that "they don't know." I'm glad she's holding on to her dreams like that.

You go, Undercat, you go!

Image stolen from

Monday, February 04, 2008

Cutest Little Hell

Every so often, The Wife and I take The Littlest Critic to Half Price Books and let her pick out some things. Usually, we do this as an exercise in money spending, telling her she can either get one book under a certain price, or giving her a set amount to spend, or in the case of the other night, telling her we'd buy her one book and she could buy one of the very cheap books with her own money.

She had two quarters burning a hole in her pocket. She'd had two originally, then shown one of them to her little friend, D., who had thought she meant "You can have one." It wasn't until he had wandered off with the quarter and she started softly sobbing that we realized what had happened. A third quarter was found in The Wife's purse, passed off as the second quarter restored, and everyone was happy again.

Now she wanted to give those quarters to the used bookstore for a 48 ¢ in exchange for Kittens, a Bright Baby book put out by Priddy Books. (Why Amazon is selling this for six bucks, I can't fathom.) It was her choice, and she had made it. Solid.

The book we were to buy her was two dollars more, also kitten themed, but it was a whole 'nother kettle of fish. I tried, passive-aggressively and through various bits of subterfuge, to convince TLC that she really, really, really didn't want this book. After all, it was a little bent and might get broken.

TLC: We can fix it with tape.

I tried working that broken angle again and again, to the same response. What we ended up buying her was a ten page board book entitled Hush Little Baby that played the very first verse of the eponymous song in a overly loud cutesy voice that became annoying to this parent after the first listen. She played it again. And again. And again. And again.

She played it walking up to the counter. She played it at the counter. She played it walking out to the car. She played it in the car.

She played it again. And again. And again. And again.

Luckily, fortunately, she seemed to tire of it by the next day, but how long it seemed.

The Wife, of course, is much better at this kind of thing. Sometimes I get caught up in how TLC's current obsessions will annoy me or affect me. Not The Wife. She's like a rock of sympathy. She takes one look at that little face, at the joy some piece of annoying crap brings to our daughter, and the price is worth it. Usually she's right, and you can't put a price of your child's happiness. TLC did love the book, for as short as the love affair lasted.

Either that or The Wife's a major sucker.


This morning, The Littlest Critic took Hush Little Baby to school along with her Beanie Baby Pablo where it scored the definite hit of being read by the teacher to the class. I suspect this was done because she couldn't leave it alone and having the teacher take it put control of that maddening song into responsible adult hands.

I know of this, because The Wife called me via cellphone en route to home and relayed the story to me. In the background, "Hush little baby, don't say a word, mama's gonna buy you, a mocking bird." Over and over and over.

Friday, February 01, 2008


One sign of being a parent is how much you adore your child's mispronunciations and mis-phrasings. "Next by" as in "Daddy, sit next by me," has already entered my own vocabulary, often prompting curious looks.

Even though most of these are wrong, they're cute enough that we resisted correcting The Littlest Critic for as long as we could, just because we were so smitten.

Amial. This was a long-running favorite for "animal." It was so darn cute, that we said it all the time. The day the next door neighbor girl taught my daughter the correct way to pronounce it was a bitter, bitter day for us indeed. Thanks a lot, Nicole.

More Betterer. It's almost a trifecta of grammatical badness, but hilarious to me and The Wife.

Firteen. Fifteen. Seventeen. Homonyms or near homonyms are a great stumbling block and TLC is of the opinion that if a number sounds sorta like another number than simply repeating sound-alikes is a waste of time.

Thirty-ten. Another bit of number fun is what happens after you count past thirty-nine.

A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I-J-K-L-M-N-O-P-123-456-789-39-11. For about a week, every time she sung the number song, this segued into number salad.

Pewter. What you're reading this on right now.

K-Mark. That giant red K, of course it's a mark, silly.

Wiwwy Boyw. As a rule, I don't care much for Veggie Tales cartoons, for reasons obvious to anyone who knows me. Plus, the voices of the characters is intensely grating, especially the French accented one. At any rate, as I don't make a big deal out of it or anything, TLC has seen a few of these. One repeating character-fantasy on this cartoon is when Larry the Cucumber becomes a superhero by name of Larry Boy. For months, whenever TLC said "Wiwwy Boyw" we tried in vain to figure out what the heck she was saying. Willy Boy? Really Boy? Whirly Boy? All r's, l's, and w's sounded exactly the same, which lead to much laughing – and some temper tantrums.

Songs are too numerous to mention in general, as she hits funny notes in almost all of her singing, mishearing and repeating back bad versions of lyrics. A couple favorites:

Police Naughty Dot. This Jose Feliciano Christmas carol was sung at her very first Holiday Program at TLC's school. I tried to suggest to her the correct form, but she insisted, loudly and forcefully that the real song was "Police Naughty Dot." The remaining lyrics defy transcription but remind me of Pentecostal church hysterias.

"I spy what I spy with my secret agent TIE." Another mishearing that simply can't be reasoned away. A bow-tie wearing cartoon penguin is singing about being a Secret Agent. Obviously he spies with his EYE, but that hard T at the end of the line has convinced my daughter that his bowtie is some kind of spy gadget. He never uses the tie for any spy purposes and when I tried to point out the game "I spy with my little eye," she wasn't having any of it. She insisted that there was a camera of some kind inside the bowtie. Well, since I couldn't prove that there wasn't, I had to admit defeat.

Finally, the title of the post. Amazing how adorable you can find your kid while they're desperately sick and miserable with a stomach flu, but there it is. I'm sure there are tons I've forgotten about and I meant to do this last night at home where I have a bunch written down, so it's likely there'll be an update.