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Sesame Family Robinson – From making Muppets to Raising Moppets

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Twin's Day

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The God people ceremony

Curriculum of the Day: Cultural/Ceremony

We very specifically do not address religion on the Sesame Street domestic show for obvious reasons. I am going to break that rule because:  1) This is a blog and not the TV show; and 2) I’m writing about an event that is about community and family, rather than any kind of organized religion. (FYI—we do address religion in some international shows when it cannot be separated from daily life, or the show wouldn’t truly represent the culture if it were missing.)

Marty was raised Unitarian but is no longer a churchgoer. He put up with going to the service with his mom because she took him to McDonald’s afterwards. I was raised Presbyterian but became a Methodist during my NYC life, mostly because I found a specific church that was close by and had an excellent volunteer choir I could join. We are spiritual people and hope to give Lyra and Ripley a well-rounded understanding of spirituality and religion, which they can make their own choices about as they grow. Being older parents, one thing we do not have nearby is a lot of young family members. Marty grew up with 22 cousins, all of whom he knew very well since they gathered every summer at their grandfather’s lake in Michigan. Marty wants our girls to have some kind of similar experience. However, all the newer cousins that are the product of those original 22 are mostly grown-up and scattered about the world. So, how do we find more local family for our girls? We decided a great way to do this would be to create a “godfamily.”  

A few weeks ago, we had our godfamily ceremony at a friend’s house in Harlem. Since this was a non-traditional idea, we didn’t have any traditional rules to abide by. So, we had godparents, godgrandparent, godaunts and uncles, and godcousins—one of whom is a puppet.

My goddaughter Jojo holding her puppet, with Lyra and Ripley’s godaunt Leslie Carrara holding godcousin Lolly.

The event, I have to say, was lovely. Wisely, I hired two helpers from Barnard College, and had the afternoon catered by Carmines (anyone from the Upper Westside will know why—tasty large portions!) The entertaining part went off without a hitch. The ceremony itself was very simple. We introduced each person, explaining why we chose him or her to be part of our godfamily.
Family at family party.

Family at a family party.
The god family group (ignore the red flash eyeballs!)

Then, we had simple “vows” that we read out loud:

Do you – godparents, aunts, uncles, grandfather, cousins – promise to help Annie and Marty guide Ripley and Lyra, both spiritually and artistically, as they grow, showing them through your own experience what is true and just, beautiful, and profound?

Do you – the family support of all our godfamily – promise to help them as spiritual and artistic guides of our children, supporting them in all their endeavors as they help our children on their life journey?

And then, we sang as a group Dylan’s “Forever Young.”

Family at family party.
Singing “Forever Young” to Lyra (Ripley was downstairs with our nanny having a diaper emergency but she could hear us!)

You may have noticed the word “artist” in the vows. We realized after choosing all our godfamily, that there wasn’t a doctor or accountant in the bunch—just a bunch of nutty artists. So, we figure they’ll help the girls on their artistic journey, and we’ll just have to do the legwork on the math and sciences ourselves. We’ll start by watching Sesame Street.

The Godfamily:

Pam Arciero (Grungetta puppeteer)
Jamey Evans (Graphic artist and drummer)
Anthony Asbury (Puppeteer and Chef)
Barbara Jones (Senior Editor Hyperion Books)

Leslie Carrara (Abby puppeteer)
Catherine Gillette (Playwright and social worker)
Nadine Zylstra (Sesame Street producer/director)

Steve Rinehart  (Novelist)
Tim Lagasse (Puppeteer)

Lyra at her party.
Lyra watching the ceremony.

Ripley watching her party.

Ripley watching the ceremony

“D” Day

Letter of the Day: “D”

It’s appropriate on this “Letter D Day” to discuss my daughters’ fascination with this particular letter of the alphabet. When I was studying linguistics in school, I learned that children naturally babble using the “D” sound. This makes dads the world over smile because they think that “Dada” is referring to them. Most likely, at first anyway, their child is just practicing making “D” sounds. 

Lyra and Ripley have made Marty smile a lot because “Dah!” and “Dada!” are their favorite sounds at the moment. Ripley will go on a “Dah!” rant, screaming it in a high C at dinner, or constantly yammering “Dada!” as she runs about the rumpus room. Lyra also has a favorite “D” word: “Dute.” It seems whenever she has an important point to make, she says, “Dute.” 

Both of them know who their daddy is. When we play “Where’s Mommy?” and “Where’s Daddy?” they clamor over to the correct person. They still haven’t said “Dada” or “Momma” when they’re directly referring to us, but I think we’re close to that breakthrough. In the meantime, we live in a world of “Dah!” and “Dute!”

Baby with the Letter D

Lyra and her letter "D"
Lyra and her “D”

B is for Boo-Boo

Letter of the Day: “B”

A few weeks ago, Ripley got her first real boo-boo. Marty had put a small plate of food for the dogs on the floor, and left it unattended for just 30 seconds too long. When he turned his back, Ripley picked it up and then fell, so it broke in her hands. She got a very small, but deep cut between her index and ring finger. We had her off the floor away from the glass immediately and while rinsing it we could see it needed to be checked out by a doctor to be sure it didn’t need a stitch.

We bundled Ripley into her coat while one of us held a sterile bandage on her hand. Lauren and Sam were there to watch Lyra. Once Lyra realized she was being left behind, she started to wail. (She had a whole other breakthrough moment being left with her older sister and brother-in-law for the first time without her parents, twin, or nanny.) Ripley had stopped crying already and was wondering what all the fuss was about. Her hand had stopped bleeding, thankfully, and she was ready to play again.  

Conveniently, there was a major snowstorm going on so the emergency room was almost empty. They checked us in, then we brought Ripley right inside. She charmed everyone; and soon a doctor was with us looking at her hand. He took a long look before deciding that it would serve the healing process better if we put in two small stitches. So, our brave girl had a little numbing solution put on her hand and then after fifteen minutes, was wrapped up in a “papoose” to keep her from moving. We were right there holding her other hand and talking with her while she endured the hardest part of the whole event—the shot for the anesthetic. She cried, which made me cry. After that, she was fine, sucking hard on her binky as the doctor did his work.    

I have to say, he did a beautiful job. Just two tiny little knots. Then, she had her hand wrapped like a little boxer and off we went home in the snow, only an hour and a half later.

And another parent lesson learned—no unwatched plates on the floor!
 Ripley with a boo-boo.

“I have a boo-boo.”

Baby with her big foot.

“I have a big foot.”

Babies eating breakfast.

A bandage doesn’t stop a girl from enjoying her pancake breakfast.

Lyra’s sound explorations

Curriculum of the Day: Sound Exploration

At the dinner table, Lyra loves to make her own private soundings as we keep the blueberries and raspberries coming. She has a long, mantra note she does when she’s contentedly shoving fruit into her mouth. It’s a low “nnnnnhhhhhhh.” We call it: Lyra’s Note of the Universe. When she’s waiting for another course, she enjoys doing such sounds as a high-pitched “aaaaa” while swinging her head in a figure eight. There’s flipping her tongue back and forth in her mouth to “lalala” and another big favorite is “numneeenumneenumnee.” She seems to get great pleasure in sending these sounds out into the world, whether anyone is listening or not. And so, we present, Lyra and her soundings:

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Like your family we have twins, boy/girl, that turned three last month. I saw your blog entry for January and it looks like we have something in common, potty training twins. Like one of your girls, my son WILL NOT pee in the potty but his sister was doing well until she caught on to "Bubbie" not trying. I was just letting things run their course but our local pre-schools/mommy day out programs require the children to be potty trained and this mommy needs a day out. Bribery isn't working. Have you had any success?


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How often is the telly puppet renewed or replaced?

Katherine Sydney, Australia

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I read in 40 Years of Life on the Street about an incident involving Snuffy's puppet where a sombrero caused the wood frame to collapse on you and Bryant Young. Did they rebuild the puppet after that or did they just make a new one?


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I just wanted to say thanks for the blog. My daughter Kylie (who just turned two yesterday) loves to ask if we are going to see "the babies." Thank you so much to you and Marty for bringing the joy of Sesame Street into our lives every day.

Kendal and Kylie Montreal, Canada

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I've noticed that there are fewer Muppets and people in an episode now than there were twenty years ago. Does everyone show up on the set for filming days or only certain ones? Who decides who gets to play the Anything Muppets? There are some voices I hear more than others.


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