Monthly Archives: June 2017

Guides to My Bookhouse Books

I’ve written elsewhere about My Bookhouse Books. When I was in Elgin in February I brought the parents’ guide to the set back to Bethesda.

The first of the two guides is called “In Your Hands: A Parents’ Guidebook” and features such quotes as “The child who reads is the child who leads.” and “…..Today is one fleeting moment…..A miracle and unrepeatable.”

The first part of the book is full of guidance to parents on raising their children to become readers which will help them become solid citizens with not only an appreciation of literature but also a firm grasp of language skills and a good character to boot. The rest of the book continues the guidance in a more age-specific way from birth through age twelve. At the end are chapters on how to use the book for holidays or seasons of the year. At the end of the book is a “Character Building” index for different parts of “My Bookhouse.”

Reading through this now, as dated as the photos and some of the guidance is, it does mention ideas that are still popular in current thinking about children and books such as “if your children see you enjoying books, they are more likely to enjoy reading”. Here’s what “In Your Hands” says about that:

Baby Reflects Your Attitude Toward Books

Children quickly sense your attitude and actions toward books as well as other things. You will find your child imitating the very things you do when handling a book.

Of course, most of the photos of a parent reading to their children are of women. There is one photo of a father and son, but they are standing outside and on a page with a poem titled “A Little Fellow that Follows Me.”

The second of the two guides is called “Your Child’s World: The Specific Approach to Daily Problems.” The first chapter, called “Some Ideas About the Home, the Family and Being a Parent” talks about how to make a creative home, how to foster security at home and why parents say “no.”

The rest of the book is packed full of scenarios that may occur in the home and tips to handle them as well as a discussion at the end.

For instance here’s one titled “What Would You do about Father’s Ill-timed Treats?”

What Would You do about Father’s Ill-timed Treats?

Evelyn, age six, and her brother, age four, rush up to greet their father upon his return from work and he usually has some candy treats for them. However, when they eat the candy this spoils their appetite for dinner.

If you were the parents of Evelyn and her brother, what would YOU do?

  1. Make them promise to save the candy until after dinner,
  2. Give the candy into Mother’s safekeeping until after dinner,
  3. Take it away from them and gie them none the next day if they begin on it before dinner,
  4. Let them have a little taste before dinner, saving the greater part until after the meal is over,
  5. Insist that they eat a certain amount of dinner “no matter what.”
  6. Have Father postpone giving them anything until after they have finished eating.


This issue is a matter for parental unity. The most efficient and reasonable approach is (f). All of the others represent needless compromise which is difficult on all concerned. (a) would be an acceptable first step if it works, and it may. However, if it results in broken promise, such punishment as is involved in (c) is not good. (e) would probably create more problems and larger ones than the orignal. (d) would cerate a lot of fuss and even a “little taste” may take the edge off the children’s appetite. (b) is not quite fair to Mother since it puts her in the position of withholding, and in addition, the sight of the candy may make the dinner less attractive. Father should be able to hold off with his largesse and, who knows,may he not in the long run be assured that they are running to greet him for himself and not for the goodies?

I don’t think my mom read much of these books, but I might be wrong. I don’t remember he going through the Bookhouse Books with me, but I do remember reading them on my own. Whatever the case, I am so grateful that she and Dad bought the books because I attribute my love of reading to them.


No soap radio

My dad was a funny guy and had witty stories and jokes ready for any occasion. I don’t really remember too many of the stories and only remember one of his jokes. Maybe two.

The joke I definitely remember made no sense to me when I was a kid. When I grew up I figured it was funny to someone who was in the “know” about the “golden days of radio” because it sure made my dad laugh. It was not until this afternoon that I realized that my dad was not telling me a joke as much as pranking me.

“Momma Bear and Poppa Bear were taking a bath.

Momma Bear said, “Poppa Bear, pass me the soap, dear.”

Poppa Bear said, “No soap, radio.”

After telling the joke my dad would laugh and laugh and laugh. I’d say I didn’t get it. He’d say, “No soap, radio! No soap radio!” I’d tell him I still didn’t get it. I’d ask what it meant, but he could never seem to explain it to me and said, “never mind” when I bugged him about it.

I told other people the joke and no one else understood it either. How could my father laugh so heartily at a joke that no one understood?

When I grew up I’d think back to the joke and try to understand it. I finally came to the conclusion that it must have had something to do with the olden days and radio programs. That maybe the people that grew up listening to soap operas on the radio understood the joke and that since I hadn’t I’d never hope to understand the joke.

This afternoon I brought the joke up with Dean. He remembered me telling him about it years ago. I told him my theory and he suggested that I consult Professor Internet. I did and what I found out kind of made me sad.

It turns out that the “No soap radio” joke was a prank that may have started in the 1950s. A group of friends would be in on the joke, one person would tell it (or a variation of it) and all the friends would laugh. If the person being pranked laughed, the others would laugh and ask what was funny.

So when my father told it and I didn’t laugh but asked what it meant, how did that make him feel? Was he disappointed that I didn’t do what was expected? Would I have laughed if other people were also laughing? Should I be upset that he was trying to prank me? Does it really matter? Should I stop obsessing on this?

Dad at the Wonder Spot in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin 1954

San Francisco house dream, time travel and possible ghosts

My waking dream this morning (rather, dream after I woke and fell asleep again) was my favorite kind of dream — a house dream. Only the other day I lamented, either to someone or to myself (is it worrying that I don’t remember if I was talking to myself or someone else?) that I’d not had a house dream in a while.

This was different from other house dreams because the house we’d bought was clear across the country in San Francisco. We’d visited it before — maybe to look at it to consider purchasing it or as tourists. In the dream, it was moving day. We’d just gotten off the plane and were on our way to the house wondering when Clare and Andrew would arrive to help us move in. Dean and I arrived at the house, which was somehow connected to a church that we also now owned, but rented out to a congregation, and let ourselves in.

old photograph of a Victorian mansion
Not our house, but it looked something like this except it was in the middle of a city block, not on its own.

The door was open and when we walked in the front door someone asked us if we belonged there. We showed them that we had the key and said it was our house. The person, a workman, said we should look around. We started in the kitchen and moved to the living room where we were glad to see a golden-yellow mid-century modern leather sofa until we noticed that the front of the middle cushion was in shreds. As we walked around the house more we noticed a lot of sofas and other furniture including an old crank telephone.

Clare arrived and was sad that we’d bought this house after she moved out because it was a Victorian mansion and she’d wanted to grow up in one. At this point, I was carrying her around like she was a child. I told her that now we’d be only a short airplane trip away instead of a 5-hour airplane trip away.

We walked into the master bedroom and noticed an ornate door that we’d missed on our first visit. The door led to a walk-in closet with views of a river running through downtown (yes, I know there is no river in San Francisco, but my dream self saw it). The closet also had a staircase that led downstairs.

As we continued our tour of the house we encountered more and more people who looked like they were either tourists or were shopping. I went back to the master bedroom and noticed a hospital bed behind a curtain and saw a man in the corner, crying and looking at some papers. I wondered if someone he loved had just died in the house.

I followed a woman dressed as a waitress into the walk-in closet and down the stairs. We went out a door and I tried to talk to her, to ask her if people in San Francisco were friendly because by this time I was not sure we’d made the right decision, moving across the country into a huge, possibly haunted, Victorian mansion. She would not answer me and disappeared into a doorway. I turned around and realized that I was in 1800’s San Francisco.

That’s when I woke up and my first thought was “how the heck could we afford a Victorian mansion in San Francisco?” My second was that I was relieved that we were still in Bethesda. My third was how weird it was that I was carrying Clare.

My interpretation:

The house in San Francisco: I bought Ruth Franklin’s biography of Shirley Jackson a few weeks ago and read a bit of it which mentioned the house that Jackson likely based “Hill House” on. I must have had that at the back of my mind, although I have not yet read “The Haunting of Hill House“, I have seen both movie adaptations of it.

The people in the house: After thinking about the dream for a short while I thought that aspects of it were like the House on the Rock in Wisconsin, so perhaps the people were visiting a similarly strange house in San Francisco.

Carrying Clare: A few days ago I had the pleasure of holding a family friend’s  2-month old grandson. I remember thinking back to when I held my own children like that.

Time Travel: I don’t know — I like time travel. I like the staircase being the portal.

Shredded couch cushion: We have a leather sofa I hate in our basement and Dean just bought something to fix it. I was hoping we were going to replace it instead.

Or maybe I have been watching Twin Peaks too close to bedtime!