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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Shhh...

I have a confession to make. I've been spending a lot of time in the company of another woman. A lot of time. And no, this isn't a cutesy way of saying that I've been spending all of my time with my daughter, ha ha boy don't you have egg on your face for falling for my joke.

No. I'm dead serious. Every day, after Emily goes to work I let this woman into my home and...

...well...

...the details aren't important. But she makes me happy. She smiles at me, and dances a little, and serenades me.

Even better, she always brings a couple of kids with her to distract Erin while we enjoy our special, stolen time together.

Recently, though, she's been acting a bit, I don't know, is clingy the right word? No, maybe not. Just, insistent. She's had friends try to talk to me on her behalf; she's sent gifts; and she's even left a little note lying around where I'd be sure to find it. She's reckless though; Emily could have found the note first and then I'd be in a mess of trouble. I feel like she just wants to let the whole world in on our secret, and I don't know if I can fight her anymore. She has me wrapped around her finger like a piece of coloured tape.

Oh, Rachel. You win. Let's tell the world.

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Rachel sent me a preview copy of the Baby Signing Time DVDs. (I say Rachel sent it even though, in fact, Lindsey her communications manager sent it, but let's not confuse the story, ok? Rachel sent me a gift, and it came with a note handwritten by her and she put hearts over her "i"s and winks throughout.)  Erin has been more than a little addicted to Signing Time for, oh, half of her life. I've mentioned that fact here on the blog a couple of times and, because the internet really is a small, infinite space, I found myself in possession of episodes of the new series.

For those unfamiliar with Signing Time, it is a pre-schooler show starring Rachel "Backpacking Dad's Other Wife" Coleman, and her daughter Leah and nephew Alex. And a frog. It is a live-action show with the occasional animation and lots of songs and montages that teach some basic American Sign Language to young children. Erin demands that we put it on, even when I'm watching something else like "Yes, Dear" and learning the secrets of parenting from Hollywood writers. The songs are the kind of "get stuck in your head" tunes that you'd expect from a good children's program, without, in most cases being the kind of "make you want to stab pencils through your eardrums" tunes that you'd expect from most average children's programs. Each episode features a theme, and a barrage of signs are taught and demonstrated, and Erin has woken up some mornings and just started showing us new signs that I swear I've never taught her: she learned them straight from Rachel (and Alex; Erin swoons for Alex, and could sign his name almost before "daddy").

Watching the Baby Signing Time episodes is a little bit like going to Main Street in Disneyworld, Orlando, after having spent your whole life walking down Main Street in Disneyland, Anaheim. Or, as Vincent Vega might say: "It's the little differences. I mean, they got the same {bleep} over there that they got here, but it's just--it's just there it's a little different."

Example?

All right. Well, you can watch a whole episode of Baby Signing Time and not see Alex and Leah. And I don't mean just like in no cut scenes, I'm talking about not even once. And in the episode where you do see them, they are in montage footage. And you know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?

Baby Signing Time isn't Signing Time, which even in its theme song announces the presence of Rachel's two sidekicks. Their characters are in the new DVDs, as cartoons, but Erin wasn't making any googly eyes at the cartoon version of Alex. Baby Signing Time is all Rachel. And that's okay with me.

The animations in the new DVDs are much slicker, though, and they do grab and hold Erin's attention. As do the songs, which feel significantly longer while at the same time being less densely packed with signs. This is probably what child-development folks would call a "good thing": fewer quick-cuts and more emphasis helps build those little neural networks, helps maintain attention span, and permanent-ifies (new word!) what the kids are learning. This is probably why the Teletubbies, which is inexplicably both laconic and prolix, is such a hit with the under-two crowd. But it also means that the songs are just a little bit less memorable for the adults watching the show. (I know, right? It's all about me.) Because after a while the songs just get tuned out as background instead of engaged as communication.

This is true of many of the songs, but there are exceptions. In Episode 3: Revenge of the Signs A New Day, "Strolling, Strolling" is particularly memorable for its poppy rhythm. And the show-closing "Tiny Hands" song is just pure sappy goodness chock-full (who says that?) of signs.

In Episode 4: Let's Be Friends, the "Opposites" song has lots of signs, which makes paying attention a lot easier for the older kids, like me. And once again the show closer, this time "Show Me a Sign", stands out as a pop-ballad that is not insane-making in the least. It is also full of signs.

I think I just used the term "pop-ballad" and the phrase "not insane-making" right next to each other. Whatever happened to my cynical youth?

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Erin's Review: Erin didn't budge from her seat or make a peep for the 50+ minutes (yes, I let my daughter watch tv for that long; what of it? she can also tell me exactly what she wants or sees and rarely spazzes out, so I'll take the trade-off) we were watching these episodes. That should tell you something. Even without live versions of Alex and Leah, the longer songs and less talk-time really grabbed her attention. She's right in the middle of the targeted age-range (3 months to 36 months), and the show works perfectly for her.

Backpacking Dad's Review: Rachel is sporting a new hairdo (shoulder-length, flipped out) and what appears to be a slightly more form-fitting orange sweater, and that works just perfectly for me.

Kids and dads alike will love Baby Signing Time.

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And before you type that e-mail to me that says "Dude, you have got to control yourself, it is utterly creepy and inappropriate to be talking about a children's program host in the way you've been doing," just know that I've read what some of you have written about The Wiggles. So I'm making no apologies for my not-so-secret crush anymore. Rachel + Backpacking Dad 4 Ever.

22 comments:

Sam said...

I'm down with anything that will give me 50+ minutes of semi-silence... trust me, there's no judgment here. In fact, I'm going to have to buy Rye a ST dvd because he's losing interest fast in Wee Sing.

Kaza said...

Just 50 minutes? Amateur. ;) I had forgotten about Signing Time. I'll have to see if my kiddo loves it as much now as she did as a baby.

anna said...

I am simultaneously jealous that your daughter can use signs and annoyed that I will probably go buy this from amazon now. Damn social media marketing practices, why am I your helpless pawn?

for a different kind of girl said...

Dude, I would make out RIGHT NOW with Steve from Blue's Clues (old school!) on the Thinking Chair, and kick that damn Mailbox in the mouth if he so much as tried to interrupt us by trying to give steve mail from kids doing cute kid stuff, so I do not feel creeped out at all reading about this love you have for Rachel from this show I've never seen because we don't get it here.

I do feel a wee bit jealous, perhaps, but that's my own issue. Heh...

Redneck Mommy said...

I've got nothing. NOTHING.

I'm sitting here and all I can think about was how I had Grover's handler on his knees begging me for love.

Until you get Rachel on her knees with want, you can't compete.

MereCat said...

Two things..

number one. I went looking for Signing Time because of you, Backpacking Dad, way before this post. And, I ordered Signing Time from Barnes and Noble because I couldn't find it anywhere else.

number two. A Quarter Pounder with cheese is "un Royal Cheese" in France. I know, because I worked at McDonald's in France.

Scary.

BabyShrink said...

As long as we're confessing, the Blues Clues Guy -- the second one, not the first -- is pretty darn cute, I totally agree. See? I'm terrible, I didn't even know his name. And Anthony Wiggle? Don't get me started.

(I also watch "Vegas" with the sound turned down so I can catch -- and watch-- Josh Duhamel. But I digress.)

And tell Rachel and the gang that we need more Signing Time out here in Hawaii -- we can barely find it, even with TiVo!

Backpacking Dad said...

sam: do it.

kaza: I know, right? I should just give in and tape a tv to her face.

anna: It is worth it.

FADKOG: You can always order the DVDs.

redneck mommy: now I've got nothing. :}

merecat: What do they call a Whopper?

babyshrink: I'll let her know next time I see her ;}

Oh, The Joys said...

And then there's my dear friend Tanis...

:)

Backpacking Dad said...

Oh the Joys: shhh...don't tell Rachel about Tanis...:}

Rachel Coleman said...

Dear BPD,
I'm just going to tell the truth... I blushed! Then I blushed some more. You had me at "wrapped around her finger like a piece of coloured tape."

Your BFF
~Rachel

Backpacking Dad said...

Rachel Coleman: Ah, you've got me blushing now. And grinning like an idiot.

Loralee Choate said...

This whole thing cracks me UP.

Elisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Montanadad said...

Carolyn and I love ST. We want to know where Rachel gets her super cute orange jumpsuits.

mrsbuckett said...

You should tell your followers that you can also watch snipets of Signing time on you tube! It's kept my son and I busy for almost 30 mins going through all the videos. Just search for Signing time at you tube. You can even learn how to sign happy halloween!

CC said...

I concede. Your post was WAY better than mine. You deserve the winning prize! :)

~Babychaser~ said...

I've got to second CC... Way better than mine. You make me wish I hadn't lost track of time (I have 2 under 2) and had given more time to writing mine better. Well done!... and hey, I didn't get a comment from Rachel. Nice job!

Pam said...

Okay I am dying here. See you have to know that Rachel pulled off a Make A Wish apperance for my son Rhett in August.

So MY husband got to actually HUG Rachel.....(sorry had to throw that in there...)

Now here is the part you will love. My hubby, Rhett, and I recently went on a trip driving from Utah to California. As we were driving through Vegas the "Lonely Letter X" song came on and my hubby just busted out laughing saying. "OMG!! I totally feel like she is seducing me, I can picture her in black lingerea and everything..."

What was Vegas DOING to him!?!?!?

You are not the only one with a crush on Rachel. I just never said anything till now lest someone think we are total nut jobs!! ;)

I enjoyed your review, thanks so much for making me laugh.

Pam, Andy and Rhett from Utah

Lisa said...

I have to second CC and babychaser... WAY better than mine too! If only I had thought to pour my deepest darkest secrets into my post!!!

SmartBabySignLanguage said...

Wow! I feel much better about my Signing Time addiction. I admit it. I want to watch it more than my daughter, now. She's moved on to Dog and Duck and Bear in WordWorld and I'm still missing our daily hour of Rachel. But we sing with Rachel in the car everywhere we go.

I'm also thinking, BPD, you are very brave. Risking the wrath of your wife and Rachel's backpacking Aaron to win a contest...

Chrystal said...

You are hilarious!

And referenced to you keep popping up wherever I am on the 'net. Perhaps I need to join your fan club?

I'm a sucker for a good dad. *swoon*