This is a picture of Claire in her handmade paper-and-tape Rainbow Dash costume. The lovingly-made costume is a tribute to Claire’s enduring fascination with My Little Pony. She is even talking about publishing to YouTube a video of her playing with the My Little Pony. There are video like that that have over 30,000 views.
One time I said something offhand to Claire about, “When you move on to the next thing after My Little Pony…” and Claire, shocked, said “What? I will never move on from My Little Pony!”
The only other rival for Claire’s attention is the movie Frozen. Claire and Molly both know all the songs, etc. and talk about who is better, Anna or Elsa (the consensus is Anna, although Claire has some sympathy for Elsa). Claire and I can perform the song “Reindeers Are Better Than People” with me on guitar and Claire on vocals. It actually sounds okay. Maybe we should put that on YouTube, huh?
Still, MLP is king no matter if some people Claire’s age think its “babyish”. Claire is a loyal and proud fan, and her paper costume shows it.
I had a loose plan to record the girl’s favorite TV shows and movies every few months, thinking it would be fun and maybe silly to look back at what they used to watch. I am happy, I think, but a little confused, to say that there is not much to report.
Molly still has no interest in the TV. She just does not care to sit still and watch some silly show when there are so many things to mess with around the house. We have actually tried to get her to watch a little TV, with fairly disastrous results. Why would we want her to watch TV? We thought she would like Sesame Street, due to her fondness of Elmo, and maybe get some small educational value out of it. And yes, the idea of Molly sitting still, not messing with anything, for 30 straight minutes was appealing. But alas, she has outsmarted us and will not have any.
Even Claire’s once fine interest in TV has waned. She does not really watch TV shows, opting mainly for movies. So I guess she is a film snob. She will usually pick a movie and watch it over and over in bits and pieces. The first time, she is absorbed, if it is a good movie. The second time, still fairly absorbed. Then her interest fades but she keeps kind of watching until she just doesn’t care about it enough to watch any more. Sometimes we rent a movie at the RedBox when we want her to spend a little time on the couch settling down. Since she no longer naps, this is our best bet at something resembling real rest time for Claire during the day. But she has even turned up her nose at fresh rentals lately. We rented The Muppets (her choice) last weekend, and had to return it the next day unopened. Claire has even actively declined the use of her DVD player on the last two trips our of town.
Like Molly, I guess there is just too much more interesting stuff going on for Claire to sit down and watch a long movie. Still, Claire does watch some movies. She likes to have her current movie on briefly during breakfast before school. Sometimes I skip turing on the TV, and she usually does not say anything. And there is valuable little time in the evenings after school. Claire watches some TV (movies) on the weekend, but preferably if someone else will sit with her while she watches to talk about the movie or just act silly. She seems to be a social watcher.
I should note that we have never had strict time limits on Claire’s TV watching. In the past, when she used to watch more TV, we would occasionally encourage her to do something else if she had been watching for a long time. Not so much like, “Get off your lazy keyster and go do something productive!” but more like, “Do you want to help cook dinner?” Personally, I think strict time limits may backfire by making TV seem more alluring and valuable to kids. All I know for sure is that Claire does not especially value watching TV unless someone is sitting next to her cuddling and talking about it.
Anyways, Claire’s current favorite movie is Bye Bye Birdie, which she watches occasionally, thanks to her mom’s recording from Turner Classic Movies (Claire does tend to like the 1960’s musicals.) Claire especially likes to watch and giggle over the ads for the other movies at the end, especially the 1938 edition of Robin Hood. She roars and says that the guys look like babies when they are sword fighting.
Kit and I are hoping to get Claire into the upcoming Olympics, though. We have fond memories of watching curling on the 2006 Winter Olympics while cuddling with little baby Claire. Maybe that is how she got started on the whole social watching thing.
The other day, Claire said she wanted to have a party at our house. She wanted to have either a Valentines party or a history party. That’s right, a history party! The idea would be for people to come and dress up as mummies, cowboys, etc. and, you know, do historical activities. I loved the idea and started to dream up historical snacks and drinks. But I had to explain to Claire that we probably could not manage a party. There are already so many birthday parties, and we can barely scrape through a weekend as it is just getting our basic chores and survival done, and hosting a party was going to be a tall order. Still, I love the idea…
Anyways, it is nice to see that Claire’s interest in history has continued well past her trip to Washington DC, where she first discovered those glorious mummies and all things Egyptian at the Smithsonian. Her Egyptian fascination continues. She has lots of questions. Is Egypt a real place? What did the mummies do before they died? Did the Egyptians ever come to Austin? Who came before the Egyptians? Do people live in Egypt now? “No fair! I want to live there!” she says and mock cries when I tell her yes, Egypt is real, and yes, people do live there. It is almost like Egypt is Disneyland for her. It is a place of golden masks, great pyramids, mysterious gods and goddesses, and fashionable wigs and sandals.
Claire’s interest in history continued when we got Claire a copy of the movie Night at the Museum and its sequel, which is set at the same Smithsonian museum that we went to in DC. In the movies, all the museum’s characters come to life at night, including Teddy Roosevelt, a Roman general Octavius, Napoleon, Attila the Hun, an Easter Island statue, a playful dinosaur, and yes, a (fictional?) Egyptian king named Ahkmenrah. Claire got really interested in the characters and was fascinated that they were (mostly) real people, not just storybook characters. We have spent a lot of time telling Claire that such and so story or character is not real, only a story (Star Wars, Ponyo, Barbie), so it was pretty wild for her to think that all these interesting and sometimes scary people really did exist. She had more questions. Was Napoleon a bad guy? Was Custer from Europe? How did Amelia Earhart die? Was Octavius a real Roman general? Were there Ro-women too, or only Ro-men (i.e., Roman)? (Really, that was a question.)
But I don’t want to push this history thing too hard for fear of spoiling it for Claire. Well hold off a few years before tackling the Oxford History of the United States. She should be at least 9 or 10 years old, right?
If there is a single song which defines this time period, it is the Ponyo song, hands down. Claire loves the movie Ponyo, as do Kit and I. But Claire and Molly really lovethe theme song, Ponyo On the Cliff By the Sea, sung by by Frankie Jonas And Noah Cyrus.
This all came about when I made a movie-themed CD for the girls to listen to in the car. The CD had the Ponyo song and a few others including a couple from some Barbie movies. Claire was pretty happy about this, especially the Ponyo song. And after a few listens, Molly was nuts for the song. I think its cheerful melody and squeaky voices play well to the budding toddler set. Literally every time we get in the car now, Molly says, “Pono please!” (the “y” sound is still a little tricky for her). When the song ends, or even when it takes a momentary lull, Molly says, “More Pono!”, putting her fingers together to sign “more” for emphasis. Sometimes she even gets quite perturbed when the song is not immediately restarted. we must have heard these words hundreds of times by now…
Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo fishy in the sea.
Tiny little fishy, who could you really be?
Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo magic sets you free.
Oh, she’s the little girl with the round tummy.
Molly has even learned to sing small pieces of the song, usually just a syllable or two at a time, but she gets the right sounds and the right timing. This is officially the first song I have heard Molly sing, at least on her own.
After a couple weeks of this, even Claire was getting sick of the song, and I was tiring of it too. But not Molly, she is all about the Ponyo song.
We made the mistake of recording Star Wars again, this time the whole original trilogy, episodes IV through VI, and letting Claire know about it. She was really excited to get a chance to watch it some more after her initial teaser a few months ago. On the plus side, she finally got to meet Yoda. Her favorite episode is Return of the Jedi, although she can’t tell us why. Maybe the ewoks?
Claire notices a lot of things in the movies like people’s outfits and even the colors of their lightsabers. She says that if she had a lightsaber, it would be rainbow-sparkle colored. She asks a lot of questions about what people are doing and why. She is fascinated with Darth Vader and the idea that he is kind of nice after all. But when Darth is being mean, she calls him ugly names like “mustard syrup” and says that she would poke him in the eye or kick him in the shin to make him go away.
Even though Claire likes Star Wars, she insists that does not mean she likes “boy stuff”. As if to punctuate the point, she sometimes wanders off mid-movie to go play with her My Little Pony toys.
This Christmas season, Claire does not have any obsessions like she did last year with the music from Charlie Brown or the movie The Polar Express. But she does have a couple of standout favorites this year for Christmas. Her favorite holiday song this time around is definitely the 1970 Jose Feliciano classic “Feliz Navidad”. She loves to sing along to the song, which of course is quite easy, being only two real lines. She likes the Spanish part best, where it says “Feliz Navidad” over and over. Claire’s favorite Christmas movie this year is Elf. She especially likes when Buddy is in the North Pole, oversized for everything, including his adopted dad’s lap. She also likes the music, and we listen to a CD I made partly of the soundtrack (along with “Feliz Navidad” and others) to and from school. I also included her favorite from last year’s Peanuts obsession, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, but Claire prefers to skip over this touching song for Jimmy Durante’s spirited rendition of “Frosty the Snowman”.
Claire has been curious about Star Wars for some time now, especially with the boys in her class playing and discussing Star Wars every day. She has actually been somewhat confused by the whole thing. What is “R3D2”? Is Han Solo a good guy or a bad guy? Is Darth Vader a person or a robot?
At long last, some of the mystery was folded back tonight, her last day as a four-year-old, as chance would have it. Claire finally got to see (some of) Star Wars! The original Episode IV, aka Star Wars: A New Hope, happened to be on TV just before dinner. Normally we turn off the TV for dinner, but tonight we let it run and even rearranged the TV so that we could watch during dinner as a special treat. You just can’t pass up the original Star Wars falling right in your lap like that!
From past experiences, we thought Claire might be frightened by the movie, and Kit went to great lengths to explain that what she was seeing was not real. We talked a lot about how the director would say “cut!, and they would stop filming. Then everyone would change out of their costumes and go have coffee together, even the storm troopers and the good guys.
Claire was at times little scared by the movie. She continued to be frightened whenever Darth Vader appeared, even if he was just standing there. But mostly she was engrossed by the movie. Her eyes were glued to the TV all the way to the end. She said Princess Leia was beautiful, and we stressed that she was also brave. Claire liked when the good guys stole storm trooper uniforms so they could sneak around the Death Star unfettered. “They fooled the bad guys!”, she was quite fond of saying. When the movie was over, she asked us to record it so she could watch it again, but we told her it was a special or “sometimes” movie, and the next morning it was back to watching Arthur.
Claire has never seen Star Wars, not even a little bit of it. But she is quite curious about it because most of the boys in her class play Star Wars and talk about it a lot. Yes, over 30 years after the original movie came out, it is still the king of boys’ playtime.
Not having seen it, Claire is trying to piece together the world of Star Wars from little tidbits of information here and there. She doesn’t even know what most of the characters look like. For a while she would ask me basic questions. Is Star Wars real? Is Darth Vader a bad guy? What is Chewbacca exactly? All she knew about Chewbacca was that he was furry and could be described as a “waking carpet”. I had to pull up a picture of Yoda on the computer because Claire did not really understand my description of him. I told Claire that Yoda was green, about her own size, 1000 years old, wrinkly, and he talked kind of backwards. Seriously, what’s so confusing about that?
Tonight during bath time, Claire made up her own saga — fairy tale, actually — of Star Wars. I was Luke Skywalker, and she was my kid. She talked really weird, not English or anything, and so did I. Darth Vader was coming to get us. Claire had magic powers and could turn herself into any princess or fairy except Princess Leia. When Darth Vader got close, Claire turned herself into a fairy, and she offered to turn me into any fairy I wanted. I just said, “Okay, uh, thanks.” We both used our fairy powers to float up into the sky where Darth Vader could not get us. When we went into her bedroom after getting her dressed, she pointed down at the floor and said Darth Vader was down there. She stuck her finger on the floor and said, “Ouch! He bit my finger!” When I walked across the room to hug her, she said, “You’re stepping on Darth Vader!” I could not tell if she was happy or upset about that.
Then Kit came to read Claire her bedtime story, and I went shopping at Target. There, passing the toy department, I saw countless Star Wars toys lining aisles. I almost — but did not — buy something for Claire to help her straighten out her Star Wars story.
When we moved to Austin, we were the beneficiaries of free HBO for a couple of fleeting days. With access to all those great movies, we recorded as much as possible to the DVR. One such movie was Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who!, which somebody (Kit’s dad?) decided to record. How lucky for Claire.
Claire watched this movie the first time with Kit’s dad. She seemed to enjoy it, but she forgot about it pretty quickly. A week or two later, we had it on again for some reason. This time, it really clicked for Claire. I mean, really clicked. It has literally been the only thing she has watched on TV for the last three or four weeks. She has lost interest in all other shows. I tried to get her to watch some other shows over breakfast such as her old favorites The Little Einsteins, Olivia, or the newcomer Special Agent Oso. But Claire has none of it. “I want to see Horton,” she always explains. It’s not worth fighting over, and Horton really is a great movie, so what the heck.
Horton may have even surpassed the cast-induced obsession Finding Nemo as her favorite movie, and that is saying something. And I can see where Claire is coming from. These movies get better with each viewing. After a while, you start to feel a special attachment to the characters, like they are part of the family. And you start to appreciate some of the unnoticed funny lines and small details that are crammed into these quick movies. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen anything else except Horton for the past three weeks either!
By the way, we also got the original Dr. Seuss book that the movie is based on. To my surprise, much of the fine rhyming narration from the movie is actually not in the book. I assumed that all the charming, melodic narration was take straight from the book, but most of it is not. Also, the movie adds a whole lot of character development that is not in the book. It seems that screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul (according to IMDB) may have out-Seuss’ed the beloved Dr. Seuss!