Sunday, July 27, 2008

Barefoot at Last!

There's something magical about this moment: June comes running over to me (she never walks anywhere if she can help it) with a book in hand and says, "Mommy, read a book! Couch! Sit down!" Fortunately, I don't need to be dosed with this moment, I get the real thing, in technicolor, all day long. I can't define being a stay-at-home mom as a job for one very important reason: I am not putting out, I'm taking in. This life-work fuels me in a way I never expected.

Here's a great section from David Guterson in "Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense":

"In fact, 'I can't wait for school to start again because the kids have been driving me crazy all summer!' is a common complaint in this country. We have even made advertisements out of it: the harried mother who at last gets them out the door with their lunches, books, and rubber rain slickers, then settles into her exotic coffee or a bubble bath and romance novel. What is she doing but feeding herself with food she does not get from her children--food that cannot stick to her bones any more than bath water does? If things go far enough she will gradually learn to treat herself as the neediest child in the house, buying herself toys and then playing with them in various corners of the known universe (men are more prone to this than women): the windsurfing here, parasailing there, snorkeling in the tropics while the children attend summer camp, relaxed and at peace while the children are not around, fretful and irritated when they return. She has not learned how to take sustenance from them, is riven by doubts about herself as a mother, cannot understand why she prefers their absence, feels relief when they head for the school bus. The seven-hour respite school provides is in reality a hole she cannot climb from."

Needless to say, one of my many goals as a human being is to foster a deeper connection with my daughter. I want to be available when the crazy-haired junior goddess of the universe comes to me with book in hand. And I want her to have good books to choose from. This is a big reason why Matthew and I have embarked on our latest obsession (ok- it's my obsession, he just plays along). We are now independent booksellers/stallholders of Barefoot Books, a children's publishing company based out of Cambridge, MA and Bath, England. I'll let the video speak about why Barefoot is more than just a home business for us. In the meantime, visit our website, check out our new business blog: Barefoot Stories and cheer us on as we have some fun, together!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Three Pigs

“T’ree pigs, mommy! T’ree pigs!” comes the muffled toddler voice from deep within her cushioned crib. The books are read, the water‘s drunk, and I’ve hugged and kissed every animal in her bed. Now it‘s time for a story. The three pigs came to me one night when we were both exhausted. Just singing wasn’t doing it, so I said, “ok, honey, mommy’s going to tell you a story. Once upon a time there were three pigs named Oink and Oink-Oink and Oink-Oink-Oink.” She listened to every word.

The story started with my grandfather, the youngest of several boys raised on a farm in the middle of nowhere. I don’t remember anyone telling stories like Grandpa; his pigs had attitude, they even had names. Oink (was real smart), Oink-Oink (had sharp eyes) and Oink-Oink-Oink (wasn’t real bright, but was really good when it came to understanding people). Those pigs did everything from saving their Uncle H.H. Hog from cattle rustlers, to having obnoxious, distant relatives visit on Thanksgiving day. It was always the same basic premise, and they always worked together to foil the wolf‘s plan, but it was usually the least likely candidate, Oink-Oink-Oink, who wound up saving the day.

Grandpa’s stories had side-stories, too. There was a deaf sheriff the pigs always called when they got in trouble with the wolf, then he had to call his deputy to come so he could get any idea of what was actually happening. It turned out the Big Bad Wolf had put peanut butter in the sheriff’s ears once when they were younger, as a prank, and that was why he couldn’t hear. The best part about Grandpa’s stories, besides crazy pranks involving peanut butter, was that they always had a moral. Grandpa wasn’t satisfied to just have the wolf eat the pigs. He was a preacher, and a good one. At the end of every story somebody told the Big Bad Wolf about Jesus, and the pigs extended some kind of grace to the one that perpetually tries to gobble them up. In one story, the Big Bad Wolf has a religious experience in prison, recalls the incident with the peanut butter, and pays to have the Sheriff’s ears cleaned out. “Oh boys,” the wolf tells the pigs, “I’m not a bad wolf anymore, you can just call me Mr. Wolf, now.”

Back to my toddler in the crib…I tell her about the pigs and how they built their houses. The middle piece is familiar:
“Little pig, little pig, let me come in!”
“Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin (I‘m not letting you in!)”
“Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!“
And he huffed and he puffed and he blew the house in.
At the end of the story I find myself hesitating. I know it’s silly, but I cannot let the wolf gobble up those pigs. So, my pigs find themselves looking out the window of Oink’s brick house, feeling sorry for poor Big Bad who is thirsty, tired and hungry.
The pig brothers open the door, with the latch still on, and say,
“Um, excuse me, Mr. Wolf?”
“Would you like to come in for some water? And maybe some soup? You look awfully tired and hungry and thirsty. Just promise not to eat us up and we’ll let you in.”
“Well, ok., that sounds pretty good!”
And they all live happily ever after. And I’m satisfied that my daughter’s moral compass is intact.

There will be many other great pig stories in my daughter’s future. This doesn’t, however, mean an end to the perpetual bedtime routine. I hear the muffled voice, again:
“Sing, mommy, sing!”