Three doctors…or …How I learned to stop worrying and love making dopey halloween decorations

Halloween, as you might know, is one of my High Holy Days. Still just love it to death.

And so here is a very short movie I made from this Halloween, 2010. As you can see, there are two videos. One is a kid-friendly version, and the other is for the grown-ups. They’re not really all that different, but somehow the soundtrack songs make allll the difference, such that the song I used on what came to be called the grown-up version warps the whole narrative of the thing. Whatever, I’ll shut up. :-)

After the vids is then a funny li’l tale of how my goofy halloween decor led to my son inadvertently revealing that he’s now a reader! (insert biiiig daddy grin). Here are the videos.

(Since the hotlinks in this post are truly hot, and since I don’t know how many of you click on them usually, I’ve extracted them, and you’ll find a list of the links at the end.)

I. “The conference of Education Doctoral Research on Early Child Development is happy to welcome Dr. Jeanne S. Chall…”

Ah, reading.

It is, of course, a fundamental underpinning of navigating life. Since I’m a writer and my lovely wife has advanced degrees and my many and stuffed bookshelves form a fundamental underpinning of our home decor — and since we have both always been aware of the critical importance of the various things you can do to prime kids for reading readiness, I’ve just never stressed at all about our two kids learning to read. I knew it would emerge organically, and they’d both get the skill solidly and masterfully. Bolstering this confidence is also the fact that in 2004 I took a job teaching reading to all ages, and the job involved a month of intensive, full-time training, in which I learned enlightening information on how it all works, and methods for making it work, no matter what.

Such assurance, however, in no way diminished the sentimentalist Dad in me from experiencing utter joyous rapture and pride from on high at moments when my kids have unintentionally revealed their reading ability to me. And they both have, at almost the identical points in their learning processes, basically just as they are starting to “decode” as it’s called in the parlance of teachers (and other such holy warriors, cuz they are!)

It seems important that both of them generally have seemed staunchly determined to keep their acquisition of this skill as under wraps as they can to me. They both would act like they were not as far along as they actually were. It was only when my back was turned, or their guard was down for another reason that I was able to observe that they both were, or are as the case may be, further along than they wanted me to know. Frankly I’m not sure what’s up with that. But whatever it is, it hasn’t at all hindered their learning of reading; if anything, it’s like they’ve been trying to learn it so well that I don’t “get to see” until they’re ready to show off…or something like that. Who knows.

II. “Theodor S. Geisel, better known to the world as Dr. Suess…”

My daughter’s moment happened a little over 2 and a half years ago, and I wrote about it at that time on the blog. You can read it here. It’s charming and has killer links; I’ve incorporated the links in this part, too, since they’re essential reading.

My son’s happened last week, when he and his sister were checking out the tombstones made from cardboard that I had decorated our front garden areas with while they had slept the night night before, thus officially marking ours as a “Halloween House”. And again, per the point above, his official line to me is “I can’t read yet”. (He used to pretend not to know certain letters; I only figured out he was pretending when I overheard him correct his sister one day on some letters in a sign! lol)

III. “Dr….Frankenstien, I presume?”

So here’s the setup. As you can see in the video(s) one family name only fills the makeshift little cardboard cemetery. See, I started with Homer Simpson cuz I have that Simpson’s trivia game that has Homer’s head, and ran with the idea of using it as part of the halloween levity. After making his tombstone, I thought, well, I don’t want to tax my poor old brain too much so I also then ran with the idea of just making all the tombstones Simpson tombstones (adding the cheeseball embellishment of altering the spelling on the older generations’ tombstones to “Symps’n”)

So as my son, (let’s call him “Jolly”) is standing there looking at them, he asks me, “Why did you make them all Simpsons?”

As usual, my forever dorky inner geek-self stepped up first to react, and I cocked my head and started to form the first sentence of a response that basically amounted to “it was easier than finding a bunch of other names”. Thankfully, my executive function or something approximating it took over and I smiled at him, leaned down and said, “Wait just a minute, buddy,” and he looked at me slightly apprehensively until my big fat dumb smile must have let him know all was well, and he started smiling. I got him up in my arms and stood and said, “How did you know they all said ‘Simpson’, my friend?” Hee hee. I had him. He darted his eyes back to the tombstones and then to me and was totally at a loss. I speculate that he recognizes the word “simpson” and saw that it was repeated across the “tombstones”, rather than actually decoded, but it’s delightful evidence that he’s not only past the point of what’s called “reading readiness”, and is deploying the skills of recall and recognition of words toward what will very shortly become fluent reading.

Made my heart leap for joy, anyway. So I kissed him, pet his head many times (studies have pointed to a correlation between the touch on a child’s head with stimulation of neuronal growth) and complemented him very privately into his ear, which made him grin and plop his head onto my shoulder and hug me tighter. Then I put him back on the ground and he and his sister started talking about how the spider webs in the corners made the house also look spooky. But those are always there, I said. But they both stuck to their case. At that moment I was so aglow they coulda milked me for just about anything. Writing this I now realize that I need to cherish these times when a mere opinion is all they want to convince me of, and not — as when they’re older and wiser — to buy them something expensive, let them take the car, let them go to the rock show with that boy…and so on.

Btw, her costume is a leopard. His is a spirit warrior, based around the mask, which is his handiwork.


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