All the Books & Dragon Cheese

On the way home from the “Ferris wheel” (as E calls the carousel) at the mall, Eleanor and I stopped at Half Price Books to buy presents for her mom, dad, and brother. She herself requested these gifts be bought at the bookstore. Although we did have a brief falling out over her wanting to go to the library instead and me saying it was closed (so we could buy instead of check out these presents)…but all was forgiven when we entered the store and she saw “all the Bibles.” She’s in a phase where, rather than have us always read to her from children’s books, she often prefers to pull thick paperbacks, what she calls Bibles, off shelves and tell us fantastic stories while flipping through the pages. It was like we’d walked into the candy store, and she didn’t know where to even start…

But she settled on some books down on her level, settled on to the floor and in for a good storytelling. It was the most precious thing in the world…as you’ll see below.

What blows my mind is what a synthesizing machine she is; I mean, to get all scholarly for a second, she is like the human embodiment of intertextuality. The stories she tells are incredible remixes of her daily life: phrases she hears us use, stories we tell her, and, of course, the media–both books and television–that she consumes. In this video alone, we’ve got dragons–(the stars–in all shades of the rainbow–of most of her tales), peanut allergies, spit-up (what she calls vomit and which she did a lot of the week before, much of it on me), her bedtime routine, cheese which we’d been talking about earlier, the penguins I promised her we’d see at the aquarium later that week, seeing Thea tomorrow, the sailors from our Moby Dick book, mommy and daddy, shopping for them, and love, and all sorts of other bits and pieces. She’s a sponge–takes it all in, doesn’t forget a thing, and spits it all out later in her own delightfully new creation.

Obviously, this is how many children grow and learn, and I’m just seeing it for the first time (Spinster Aunt that I am*) up close. It doesn’t hurt that my love for E is immeasurable and colors all her being, doing, knowing as miraculous. (Call Guinness, as my dad would say). But I am blown away by the child brain in general and this weaving together of being and knowing with the world and all the stories–told and experienced–it tells her. Beyond intertextuality, watching her remix is watching agential realism in action. Those blank pages at the end changed her conversation, that stuffed dragon on the floor set her on a tale about dragons, the books low to the ground with pretty covers drew her in and gave her a spot on the floor to peruse them. And on and on and on…Though bits and pieces will make it into later remixes of her life and days, this story, the one in the video, will only be told once. It came out of a singular and unrepeatable space-time-mattering where its possibility was realized and recorded. She didn’t discover the story about dragons–she created it with the world, her material-discursive world unfolding through and within our unique time-space to actually create reality. And while I insert the artifact (recording) of that reality here, what you see is a different story than the one she and I experienced in that moment. It will play a new story each time it’s viewed, framed by my interpretation and creating new meaning with you and your understanding of her words and your own bits and pieces you bring to the watching of this tale. It’s miraculous, but the miracle is more than her–it’s an assemblage of past, present, here, absent, people, animals, objects, ideas, rooms, noises, smells, sights…all the things of the world working together.

And we wonder why I’m the Spinster Aunt 😉

The cherry on top of these scholarly musings is after this video stops, when she wanders over to the YA corner. And when I come up behind her, this little bit of a girl dancing within an aisle of floor-to-ceiling books, she does this Belle from Beauty and the Beast twirl, her arm up and out with a sweeping gesture and cries (happily), “Look at all the books!” I died. She killed her Spinster Aunt Say, stopped my heart dead with joyous affinity. I will never forget her smile or the love I felt for her then (I keep thinking there’s no way to love them more and events keep proving me wrong). I hope she never loses that delight. And I hope she tangles together and spins out stories for all her days and never, ever, finds the words “The End…”

belle_bookshelf

~

*I fully embrace and celebrate the Spinster Aunt title–this was not a cry for reassurance nor is that a “bad” word. For more information, see Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own.

National Read Aloud Day

SIngOutForNewStars

In honor of National Read Aloud Day, a picture of me and Eleanor reading my favorite BabyLit®  book, Moby Dick, on my most recent trip to SLC:

Tonight, Eleanor is much more involved in our reading…she counts anything and everything on each page, waiting for me to read the words before providing the numbers. She bounces on my leg and yells out “1, 2, 3, 4…” usually 5, sometimes up to 6 and the occasional word and points and points and points. It is one more reminder of how much she’s grown and changed since I saw her in November. Also new: she looks at me, grinning, when I do the pirate and captain voices. There’s some extra awareness now in this grin even though it’s the same voices–one of the reasons I love this book so much–I’ve done for over a year. But it’s the last page that always gets me, the quote from the original text: “Sing out for new stars.” And, as with many things that could mean many things, that string of words written together tugs at something (hard to pinpoint) in me–my heart, my hope, my sense of possibility and adventure. All of which–hope, possibility, adventure–I want for her and which somehow we share–or I imagine we share–through my conjuring of words off the board-page into the air.

Tonight, as I type here in Texas days later and miles and miles away, I hear my voice reading lines I know by heart:

The waves rolled by like scrolls of silver.  

Shipmates, have ye shipped in that ship?

Better to sail with a moody good Captain than a laughing bad one.

Anchor.

Harpoons.

If you’re a big white whale, bite here…

Also new: after we sing our songs (You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…Jesus loves me, this I know…) and Eleanor says our prayers (Jesus, our hearts…Aunt Say precious…And mommy and daddy and Shepard and Gammie and Gampsie…Amen) and I ask for and she gives me a big hug and I lift her up and into her bed and tuck her in (comfy cozy), she does the voices herself.

Shipmates ship ship (with her mouth all folded in and her little voice deep and her head bobbing side to  side and a grin when I laugh. And repeat, repeat, repeat to make Aunt Say laugh again, again, again…)

Ship shipped. Shipmates. Ship.

Also new: after I tell her I love her so much (I love you, Aunt Say) and give her her “towel” (Thank you) and say I’ll see you in the morning (See you in the morning) and turn off the light (Awwww) and slip out of the room, Kate looks up from where she’s holding Shepard in the living room and smiles and says the other night after they’d read the book she’d picked out, Eleanor asked to read Moby Dick and said it was her favorite.

There aren’t words to capture my answering smile, to conjure the swell of my heart off the screen-page and into the air.

Or maybe there are:

Sing out for new stars…

Excerpt: Center for Theory Talk

CenterforTheory

“The Agential Classroom: Tuning to a Posthuman Pedagogy”

In taking the material turn, posthumanism as characterized above and which I calibrate my teaching and work to doesn’t abandon the work done in the linguistic turn or through social constructivism, feminism or post-colonialism, but takes the theories already working through the posts and recalibrates them to the more-than-human. The decentering of the human in both posthumanism and its application to education, then, is not a symbolic move (Pedersen “Is the ‘Posthuman’ Educable?), but an actual recalibration of the way we understand our relation with the world, a recalibration that understands human skin is as porous, as permeable a boundary (Alaimo) as the one Schulz penned in ink. (Re)entangling the material with the discursive, ontology with epistemology, and the human with the nonhuman, posthumanism and posthumanist education as my teaching and work uses them are, Snaza and Weaver argue, “a continuation of the radical democratic, even utopian projects of the twentieth-century … [that] seek not only schools that are less authoritarian and oppressive, but also a global social formation that is not driven by [the] exploitations, dehumanization, and asymmetrical violence.”