Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Little Boy Soup

If you are looking for a recipe certain to tantalize your grandson, I would like to recommend a generous helping of Little Boy Soup.  I grabbed this enchanting little story from the lesser known recesses of my bookshelf on my way to visit the kids last weekend, and it is an understatement to say that three-year-old Pooh could not get his fill of it.

Although Sooby liked it too, this modernized fairy tale by David L. Harrison seems, for obvious reasons, to hold a special fascination for a little boy.  Pooh, for one, related instantly to the protagonist, a boy who, during the proverbial walk through the forest, happens upon the cottage of the Witch of the Woods and thereafter seems destined for her soup pot. 

Like his literary counterparts who also encounter witch trouble, namely Hansel of Hansel and Gretel and Dorothy of The Wizard of Oz, he demonstrates the resourcefulness needed to circumvent the witch's evil intentions and thereby save his own neck.  During our umpteen readings of the story, Sooby may have been listening, but Pooh was riveted.

I loved reading this story myself because the dialogue enabled me to break out my best witch voice and cackle appropriately.  (This is good practice for the play-acting that inevitably follows.)  On a more sophisticated level, anyone with a penchant for the literary will appreciate Harrison's use of sensory imagery (particularly those references to the smells of such things as peanuts, bananas, and overripe apples).  Add the fact that the witch's instructions for making little boy soup appear in the form of a four-line rhyme reminiscent of the witches of Macbeth, and you have yourself a prize-winning recipe.

On a final note, no review of Little Boy Soup would be complete without the well-deserved praise due illustrator Toni Goffe.  For example, hanging among the witch's larder of legitimate, soup-friendly vegetables are the likes of bats (upside down, of course), spiders, snakes, mice, and even a humanesque head or two.  These various and sundry ingredients make great conversational fodder for a Googie and a three-year-old who want to add a little detour to their numerous trips through the story.

Although Little Boy Soup was published in 1990 (Ladybird Books), I am glad to see it is still available on  If I have whet your appetite for it, you can maybe access it there, at your library, or, like I did, at a garage sale for a quarter.

However you come by it, you won't be disappointed in your helping of Little Boy Soup.  Whether you serve it to your little one as an appetizer, a main course, or a dessert right before bedtime, it will be a way to spice up your time together with fun, imaginative ingredients that will leave you both feeling satisfied.           



Monday, April 23, 2012

Take Me Out to the Ball Game?

A few days ago, a friend offered Sooby's dad free tickets to a Kansas City Royals game.  What followed was the indecision that often occurs when people are given an unexpected opportunity with a limited window of time in which to act.  Indeed, serendipity sometimes comes with a catch.

He and Cookie weighed the pros and cons.  It might be fun, but it would take an hour and a half to get to the stadium.  The older kids might like it, but should we take the baby or get a sitter?  It had the potential for a good family outing, but there was so much that needed to be done at home.  And, to top things off, it would mean getting back late, with a relentless schedule on tap for the next day.  Hmmm, what to do?

Privy to this ongoing debate, Sooby was adamant in her opinion that the family make the trip.  "I really, really want to see the Royals," she said again and again.  "Can't we please go see them?"

As the window of opportunity gradually diminished, the decision was finally made.  They would not take advantage of the free Royals tickets this time.  It would just be too complicated.  Surely there would be other chances with better timing and more opportunity to plan appropriately.

When Sooby was inconsolable, no one could understand why.  She had never shown any interest in baseball.  To her parents' knowledge, she didn't even know who the Royals were.  Why, then, had her heart been so set on seeing them?

"Sooby," they asked.  "Why is it so important to you to go to a baseball game?"

"I don't want to go to a baseball game," she replied.  "I just want to see the Royals."

The Royals.  As in royalty.  Apparently, when you are four and you hear the word "Royals," you imagine kings and queens and princes and princesses.  And if you have a chance to actually see them, well, why would anyone not want to go?  In the kingdom of Sooby-logic, the family was missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime.

I can't help imagining what would have happened if the family had ended up in someplace like the left-field nosebleed section of Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.  Sooby would have seen no purple carpet, just grass.  Instead of a solemn procession of royal personages, she would have seen only a bunch of sweaty guys lined up on the field, trying to get their underwear re-situated during the high notes of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Nope, at this age, I'm afraid she wouldn't have found the experience that much fun.   For now, it is probably just as well to stay home, re-read Cinderella, and snack on a hot dog and soft drink that costs you much, much less than the $8 you would have spent on them at the old ball game.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mopping Up

There are things under my kitchen table that I don't recognize.  I think most of them are (or once were) edible, but I'm not sure. 

The squashed green blobs could have been asparagus in a former life lived as recently as yesterday, and the dried-up white stuff stuck to the hardwoods was probably mashed potatoes.  Here and there lies an occasional meat loaf remnant, and the chip crumbs look like somebody tossed a handful of confetti down there.  And well they should have.  It has been one big party here at Googie's this weekend.

With two birthdays and a late Easter to celebrate, feasting and frolicking have run rampant these past two days.  Thankfully, the rain held off long enough for the traditional back yard egg hunt, which Bootsie, who has gone ambulatory on us since last year, joined in with a mix of awe and relish. 

Once again this year, there was that one egg no amount of kid radar (or adult memory) could hone in on.  As a result, son Teebo will probably run into it--literally--on the lawn mower later this summer, just like he did last year.  Once more there will be that fated crack of impact as the mower blade shatters a pastel hunk of plastic and as, for just a second, a brief aroma of the chocolate candy inside mixes with that of newly-cut grass.  If Bath & Body Works could bottle that scent in a Wallflowers fragrance bulb, I would buy the patent and maybe market it as "l'herbe au chocolat."  Then, it would smell good and sound good both.

For the first time during this wonderful "Wacky Weekend," as I will dub it, I was graced with the presence of four grandkids, with Beenie, nearly four weeks old now, making his first trip over the river and through the woods. (I have always loved the imagery in that well-known holiday song, so I take the liberty of using it metaphorically here.) 

Although in actuality it was a relatively short trip from a subdivision about five minutes away,  it was Beenie's first time to visit our house and to meet his three cousins, ages 1, 3, and 4.  His mama was gracious when the other kids begged to hold him, and showed remarkable self-restraint when they jostled him a bit and when Bootsie sneezed on him twice.  In my warped, perhaps irreverent view, this seemed no less than a christening of sorts, and I consider him thus officially initiated.

And now, back to the task at hand, that of mopping up under the table in this now-too-quiet house.  I can't finish this job without dessert, and there it is--a bit of chocolate cake and a renegade smudge of ice cream that probably escaped from the enthusiastically wielded spoon of Pooh or of Sooby.  Over  yonder may be a wayward drop of candle wax that will most likely require a scraping tool. 

And what's this under the microwave cart?  It would appear that a miniature Elmo has parked his little blue convertible just out of sight, where he was overlooked during the housewide reconnaisance mission that always precedes the departure but is never entirely successful.  It's back up to the toybox for you, buddy.  This party is over.

A little slower getting back up off my hands and knees than I used to be, I give the floor beneath the table a final, cursory inspection.  It will do for now, until I get a chance to bring out the heavy cleaning artillery.  With Elmo in one hand, I place the other one lightly on the corner of the table for balance and recall the clinking of silverware and the cacophony of voices that rose so recently around it.

Although I may not have recognized everything I recently wiped off the floor underneath this table, I do recognize the importance of every stray crumb that landed there.  This thing we call family happens in miniature, comprised of moments and morsels, and I will make sure to keep my bucket and rag always at the ready.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Potato Head Elmo

There is no doubt that eighteen-month-old Bootsie recognizes me when she sees me on Skype.  Her eyebrows arch with excitement, and her eyes light up.  If her mama is holding her, she lunges for the computer screen  (Clarification: Bootsie, not Mama, lunges.  Darn those ambiguous pronouns anyway.) Then, in her most fervent little voice, she cries out to me that special name I have come to accept as her fondest greeting:  "MEL-mo!"

I may have to resort to therapy to accept the fact that, in the mind of my youngest granddaughter, I am inextricably associated with a furry little red muppet that talks in a high-pitched voice and giggles a lot.  Unfortunately, it is my own fault.  From the beginning, Bootsie has had a special affinity for the mechanical singing "Pizza Elmo" that I snatched up at a garage sale last summer.  She knows every book on my shelf that has a picture of Elmo somewhere among its pages. 

In fact, she is so crazy about him that, at some point during each Skype session, I have to retrieve him from the toy room and let him and his cheesy little round buddy have their moment in front of the webcam.  When the pizza sings, I zoom him in for a close-up, bemoaning my lost potential as a movie director.  Meanwhile, 180 miles away, Bootsie bobs her head back and forth and claps her hands and thinks life can't get much better.  No doubt about it, Bootise loves her Mel-mo.

You would think I'd have learned my lesson.  But, au contraire, mon ami, if what I did yesterday is any indication.  I prefer to blame this on fate rather than personal stupidity, but right there in front of me on a garage sale table lay the most intriguing specimen of Elmo-icana that I have ever seen.  It was Elmo designed like Mr. Potato Head, with holes to hold different body parts from feet to noses to ears.  What's more, Elmo talks to you while you mix and match the various additions.

You put a long, gray trunk on him, and he says, "It's Elmo-fant!"  A pig snout will elicit an "Oink, oink" and a giggle.  Add a chicken beak/comb and you will be tempted to check underneath Elmo for an egg.  I have played with him for two days now and still have not heard all the different things he says.

Elmo and his eighteen removable parts came in a Zip-loc bag for a bargain price of $1.  Even his batteries are still going strong.  So, I ask you, how could any self-respecting Googie have resisted this one?

I can't wait to introduce Bootsie to Potato Head Elmo.  The older kids will like him too, but it is Bootsie who will get the biggest kick out of him.  When she puts on his elephant foot and he says, "That tickles," she will giggle right along with him, and that will be a joy to hear.

I see only one problem with the situation:  I predict that, down the road, this new Elmo may further monopolize my Skype time.  Oh well, look on the bright side.  This can only mean more opportunity to practice with the webcam--and, perhaps, more money for the shrink.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Googie's Baby Steps

As I was cleaning off my desk today, a little article printed atop a pink notebook graphic caught my eye.  Closer examination revealed it to be a page I had torn from AARP The Magazine at a busy time last November with the intention of reading it later.

I finally got around to doing that today.  Barely three paragraphs long, the article, "Baby Steps" by Christine Ianzito (p. 14), discusses the growing nationwide demand for grandparenting classes targeting grandparents-to-be who want a refresher as well as an update on how to best care for newborns and their families.

As the grandmother of a brand-spanking new baby boy born just two weeks ago tonight, I couldn't help wondering what advice I might give if I were to teach such a class.  My ruminations led me to five suggestions I would recommend to my counterparts for whom the grandparenting experience is pending.
  1. Snuggle.  Get your hands on that baby as soon as you can, and hold him every chance you get.  (Do, however, try to avoid snatching him out of the arms of the delivery nurse or you risk getting one of those Nurse Ratchet glares.)  It won't take you long to remember the soft, warm feeling of his little head against your chest, where he can hear your heartbeat, or in the crook of your arm, where you can admire the utter perfection of his features while he sleeps.
  2. Pamper.  Buy him stuff, with the limit being either the sky or the resources of your wallet.  Buy stuff for his mama and daddy.  The bank is paying you nothing for your money right now anyway.  At this point, there isn't another investment that looks better than this one.  Think of yourself as Daddy Warbucks.  Orphan Annie has arrived at your mansion, and all extravagance is utterly justified.
  3. Obsess.  Think about this baby during your every waking moment.  Dream about him as you are drifting off to sleep.  Have pictures at the ready in your billfold, your digital camera, and your cell phone.  Insist that all your friends look at them.  Stop strangers on the street and make them look, too.  Point out Uncle Leon's cheekbones and Great-Grandpa's dimple.  If your viewers' eyes glaze over after a while, view that as unfathomable awe.
  4. Invade.  Go to the baby's house at every opportunity.  Do not--I repeat do not--wait for an invitation.  Right now, the new parents are preoccupied, sleep-deprived, and not in their right minds.  They may not even realize they want you there, but you know better.  However, if you consider invade too strong a word, try infiltrate.  That is sneakier and more commensurate with grandparent personalities less aggressive than mine.
  5. Love.  You will not have to work at this one.  It will come naturally.  Play it for all it's worth.  Your grandchild will love you back, and you will experience nothing more special than that in this world.  
I wouldn't be a good teacher if I failed to provide you with an easy way to remember my five-step program for new grandparents.  So let's use the first letters of those key words and make an acronym out of them.  Although it may not be quite what Christine Ianzito had in mind, this is the SPOIL method, and it is guaranteed to work every time.