Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Saved by the Belle...

So first of all, group hug for all the incredibly kind and thoughtful comments you've made about my little neurotic "everybody must be happy all the time in my universe" breakdown yesterday. Had I known I was going to be given such blog-based lovin', I would have found something else to flip out about sooner. I appreciate it and feel much better in my blogging-skin for having gotten to the bottom of all of that miscommunication. And to commenters A & B, I am so very happy to have you reading and commenting, and I promise not to make you the glaring focus on any of my anxiety ever again. And if any of you all have things to say to each other, have at it. I will respect your disagreements with each other and with me, so long as no one says anything disrespectful about mah baby.

Now that I've said that, I HAVE to spend some time ponding the realm of toddler entertainment. This is something that I am just discovering--dipping my toe into the pool, so to speak--of all this costume-wearing, guitar-playing, funny dance doing strangeness that apparently keeps the preschool set mesmerized.

When Ethan was a wee colicky bean, swaddled and screaming in my arms, a friend of mine bought me a CD by someone named Laurie Berkner. "This isn't for now. This is for later," she said. While it was a lovely gift, I put it away and pretty much forgot about it because I was so utterly overwhelmed by the "now" of those days and what I needed more than a CD of silly songs was something with a heavy sedative effect (either for me or the baby--preferably both).

Last week I found the CD among a pile of others I have accumulated (including Free To Be You & Me, which I never had a copy of growing up, what with being from conservative New Hampshire and all). I decided since Ethan has become a Lord of the Dance (there is swaying and rocking and arm waving the likes of which hasn't been seen since the days of Solid Gold, my friends. He is one step away from a metallic unitard and an introduction by Marilyn McCoo), I should provide him with something besides TV commercial jingles with which to practice his moves.

I did not realize as I peeled the plastic off the CD case that I was about to change the soundtrack of my brain FOR. EVER. See, apparently there are these guys named Victor Vito & Freddy Vasco and they eat a burrito with Tabasco. Not that big of a deal, right? But they also put it on their rice, they put it on their beans, they put it on their rhudabega & their collard greens. And there's something about eating spaghetti with Freddy in there, too.

These few lyrics have become a loop in my head. At any time of day I can be found humming the tune that accompanies these inane, yet utterly happy & catchy lyrics, to the point that I have considered smashing my forehead into the door jamb as I go from one room to the next just to be able to focus on the pain for a few fleeting moments instead of these lyrics.

And when it's not Victor Vito who's occupying the space in my brain that used to be reserved for Steinbeck and Shakespeare, it is Froggy. He went a'courtin', apparently; or Susanna, who shouldn't cry for the guy who says it rained so hard the night he left, the weather was so dry AND that the sun was so hot he froze to death. If I were Susanna, I'd be in tears trying to follow that guy's train of thought. And for cripe's sake, who the fuck is the Muffin Man?

Of course, the songs are entertaining to Ethan, no doubt. But what's doubly interesting to him is when mommy sings them or dances to them. And so...I can be found at any given time of the day prattling on about all of these fabulous characters and the adventures they are living in these songs. I'd made peace with the fact that this will indeed take the place of the drunken kareoke of which I'd always been so fond.

Until...drum roll, please!!! I found Miss Belle, a local children's entertainer who plays her guitar on a little stage at a local Starbucks on Tuesday afternoons. Take a moment to pause here and feel the atmospheric ripple from my GINORMOUS sigh of relief.

One of my mommy friends, to whom I will be forever grateful (and will seriously considering naming a second child Wendy, after her, even if it happens to be a boy, so great is my appreciation) told me about Miss Belle and today we thought we'd check her out. She serves the dual purpose of doing the singing for me AND she starts at 4pm. Four o'clock on a Tuesday is generally when I start eye-balling whatever bottle of wine is open from last night's dinner and wondering if I could have a glass before 5pm without being a total alcoholic. So having some place to go at 4pm that will entertain a 15 month old and keep me from hitting the sauce is a good thing.

Today was our first trip and oh my. Miss Belle is the quintessential toddler's songstress. She is the type of person who, if we continue to go see her when Ethan has developed the ability to form memories, will always be a part of his childhood recollections. Miss Belle and her purple crocs paired with her purple socks, all which match nicely with her purple frock. Wow.

When I was in elementary school at St. Christopher's, we had a substitute teacher named Mrs. Leahy. She wore peasant skirts and big wool sweaters, had a salt & pepper pixie cut and told stories about her stuffed monkey who came to life at the full moon. She was so convincing, so mesmerizing, and told her story with such confidence and passion that a room full of 2nd graders, kids old enough to know better, never doubted her. She came to mind immediately when I saw Miss Belle surrounded by a whirling crowd of 4 year olds, strumming her guitar and encouraging the kids to wriggle and wiggle and "shake the sillies out".

Ethan took to the music immediately. Before I even had him sitting on the table with me, he was swaying and rocking. And when I got up the guts to let him get on the floor (ugh, the dirt!), he crawled to her like a moth to the flame and got up onto the stage, where he proceeded to sit up on his knees and bounce, with his arms in the air. Yes, you read it right...my child was raising the roof with Miss Belle.

There was much dancing and toddler chasing. Ethan crawled countless laps around the place--I went through my entire stash of wipes cleaning the dirt off his knees, feet and hands. This is one of the reasons I can't wait until he starts walking--just one yucky surface to clean after all that floor contact. There was a ton of laughter. Ethan's favorite new thing is to let me chase him while he laughs the entire time. Adding a bunch of other toddlers into the mix, thereby making the chase more complicated seems to have added to his utter glee and it is physically impossible for me to hear him laugh without laughing as well. I don't remember the last time I enjoyed the 4 o'clock hour so purely.

So, all in all, the realm of toddler entertainment is a fairly welcome phenomenon in our world. It beats the hell out of the voice in those Fisher Price toys who is always saying, "It's 1, 2, 3 time!" or "It's A, B, C time!" over and over again at every push of damn button. And as of yet, I have managed to avoid that purple dinosaur, which along with breastfeeding and saving for college educations, is one of my overall main parenting goals. I'll take Victor Vito, Freddy Vasco, Froggy, the Muffin Man and Miss Belle, thanks.


Sarah said...

awesome-- I wish we had a Miss Belle-- the 4:00 hour sucks around here, too. and the Fisher Price voice-- my god, if I hear "it's learning time" again, I'll freak out (except I won't really because I'll hear it at least 65 times tomorrow). a very funny post!

Ashley said...

Sounds like fun!

And yeah, I want to beat Toby the Tot Bot senseless (that is the toy, right- or do all the FP toys use that same annoying voice and song?)

Also- Brady Rymer is awesome, C loves him.