Monday, March 05, 2007

Injecting a little dose of cul-chah

I’m noticing a theme here. It’s a little like freshman year in college. Aside from their nonstop eating and their habit of strewing their belongings far and wide and deep, my children are studying the following subjects:

1. Music of the 20th Century
Both love listening to and playing music. So I thought it would be fun to take them to a free concert at our library a few Sundays ago.

(I’ll pause now for you to laugh at my idealism.)

Yes, I thought that I could scoop up my almost 2-year-old son literally seconds after his nap ended, toss him in the car with his almost 5-year-old sister who only thinks she doesn’t need a nap, and hustle them into a large room crowded with strangers where they would be expected to sit quietly and listen to more than an hour’s worth of jazz.

The band was billed as a “gypsy swing” ensemble so I guess I was picturing singing, dancing, trumpets, saxophones — all kinds of both ear and eye candy (they LOVE this boogie-woogie dance video). In reality, it was two guitars and an upright bass. And the musicians were excellent. It’s just that for two preschoolers, the excitement of watching and listening to them faded after about 10 minutes (not so coincidentally, about as long as it took for them to consume the cookies they grabbed from the refreshment table on the way in).

Since we arrived at the last minute, we were sitting on the far side of the room away from the door (and the cookies!). There was no way out unless we walked directly in front of the band, in the 3-foot aisle between them and the first row of seats. Instead we made our way to the corner, alongside the band were the kids could see a little better and also spread out, stand up if they liked, even dance a bit.

The drawbacks? Also located in the same place were a baby stroller filled with enticing items (juice boxes, toys, blankets) belonging to another family; a wheeled walker delicately leaning against the wall, ready to topple over at the slightest touch from an inquisitive toddler; and the emergency exit, armed with ear-piercing alarm. Oh, and the band’s amps, speakers, and power cords. Needless to say, I spent most of my time chasing Opie away from danger zones and shushing him when he said “Home! Jacket! Car! Wan’ go home!” At least Jo was pretty happy to lounge on the floor and listen quietly, especially once she was promised more cookies on the way out.

2. Art History
When we went to see my parents, we decided to visit an art museum. (Again, I pause.) The exhibit was called "Monet in Normandy," so in the car on the way there I talked to Jo about what we would see. I was hoping to drum up some excitement.

I started giving her what I thought was an age-appropriate lesson in Monet and Impressionism. I told her that we would see lots of pictures of flowers and beaches and places outside. I told her this painter loved painting outdoors and that he was always trying to notice different colors, and how the color of something (like a flower or the ocean) could change depending on whether it was morning or afternoon, sunny or cloudy. I told her how he would line up a series of canvasses and work at them for a few minutes at a time, switching as the light around him changed.

I told her how he used a lot of small little brushmarks to create his pictures, and how if we looked at them from far away we would see a scene that we could recognize, but if we got up close we would only see little dots. Here she jumped in. "I know about those dots! It's called pointillism!"

Good grief! Okay, so a real art historian would say that Pointillism isn't the same as Impressionism (it came later) but still, I was... impressed. Turns out she learned it from TV. Naturally.

Meanwhile, Opie had absorbed some of the excitement and chirped, "I see paintings! I go museum see paintings! I say ‘HI paintings!’"At the exhibit itself, results were mixed. Both kids did pretty well at walking through the galleries (or at switching from stroller to floor to Mommy to Daddy, repeat) and looking at the paintings, but I was glad that the museum wasn't yet crowded. I later figured out why Jo seemed a little disappointed. Turns out she was hoping to see the Mona Lisa! Apparently the episode of Blue's Room in which Blue and company visit a museum taught her about "masterpieces," and she was on the lookout for one.

Our apologies to M. Monet, but apparently his water lilies didn't qualify.

3. Literary Criticism
Jo and her friend H. are playing in a tent.

H: Come into the tent, Jo! It’s our club!
J: Yeah! Our book club!


Nancy said...

We used to make trips downtown to the Smithsonian museums up until Rosie was mobile.

I guess since you have kids about the same ages as mine, you can clearly picture why we have since stopped going, at least for now. ;-)

Christina said...

Ah yes, we know about Pointillism as well, thanks to Blue's Room. Although I'm not brave enough to risk taking Cordy to an art museum yet, even if she asked.

mothergoosemouse said...

The zoo and the Children's Museum. That's the extent of culture here. Oh, and Spongebob. Mustn't forget him.

I give you an A for effort. Much more ambitious than I'd ever attempt to be.

Magpie said...

Hey, all you can do is keep trying. I took my kid to the Nutcracker this year, and she was good, but I'd prepped the hell out of her. When I took her to her first movie, she demanded that we leave about half way through. Not sad, scared - just done.

tallulah said...

The Metropolis near Way Down in Mayberry has two things that are quite special:
*Once a month concert that is only 45 min. long....after, the kids get to go and play the instruments themselves and discover and talk to the musicians.
*Once a month at art museum, kids get a brief history on a particular art that is being displayed, then they create their own art through exploration with certified art instructors.
Good for you for trying to enject a little cul-chah!

Lady M said...

Pontillism - I'm very impressed!

You've certainly heard of "Sing-along Messiah" performances at Christmas time. Well, San Francisco hosts a "Dance-Along Nutcracker" every year, and I'm dying to go. I think the tolerant atmosphere might make for a good toddler outing.

Q's been to a number of small dance performances with us. He's quite happy to sit and watch dances . . . if the music is good. If the music isn't good (and he has pretty good taste), it's all over. Small critics, what can you do?

TB said...

I love your explanation of surrealism for the preschool set.
You should have your own Bob Ross type show on Nick.

Kate said...

Ha! This is great. Glad to see me and my husband aren't the only ones dragging our kids around to suffer through cultural events.

Too bad most of the cultural lessons are coming from TV!

movin'mom said...

Sounds as if you can take Jo out of New York but you can't take the New York out of Jo.

I have always found that museums (where you cannot touch) are better off with one child at a time.

I only took them all together when in a museum like Science and Industry. Where you can touch everything.