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While other families discuss politics, flu shots, gas prices and other newsworthy topics, the conversation around our house has been going something like this lately:

Five-year-old: "What do you call a rhinoceros in a cookie?"

Me: "I don't know. What?"

Five-year-old (barely containing herself): "A very, VERY small rhinoceros."

Or, just as likely . . .

Five-year-old: "Knock, knock."

Me: "Who's there?"

Five-year-old: (silence)

Me: "Who's there?"

Five-year-old: "Uh, I think I forgot.

I love this stage (actually I love them all). To see a kindergartner get such a kick out of hearing and telling silly little jokes does the heart good.

And, there is more.

I love how she giggles at nonsense rhymes. I love how she laughs from the tips of her toes when the cats go a little batty and start wrestling and rolling around. And I love how she perches herself just so at the kitchen table so she has an unobstructed view of herself making funny faces in the window opposite her.

I love her budding sense of humor -- which is why I want to encourage this interest in jokes, nonsense rhymes and even slapstick.

But, honestly, I have never been much of a joke-teller. It's that whole punch-line thing, you know? And when was the last time I even told a knock-knock joke? It occurred to me some time ago that I didn't really know any (although I was doing a pretty good job at improvising.)

That's when, thanks to the Internet, I discovered there are Web sites and books devoted to silly jokes (looks like I'll be adding "The Best Ever Knock-Knock Joke Book" to my reading list).

And, of course, I have read aloud jokes from children's magazines to our daughter and heard them on PBS kids' shows.

So, now, I have armed myself with jokes guaranteed to make any kindergartner giggle. I have knock knocked myself out, so to speak.

I am ready to make our house the Knock Knock Capital of the world. I will encourage, enjoy and -- yes, possibly at times -- even endure any silly joke she sends my way.

And I will laugh with all my heart when she repeats the very joke I just told her -- perhaps, with her own little 5-year-old spin on it.

That's because even if I do not initially know the answer to such riddles as "What did the grape say to the elephant?" (answer: "Nothing. Grapes don't talk"), I do know this.

Today, it's knock-knock jokes. Tomorrow: College applications.

So, bear with me, while I rehearse.

Knock knock!

Who's there?


Justin who?

You're justin time for dinner.

(Hold the laughter. There's more).

Knock knock!

Who's there?


Isabel who?

Isabel necessary on a bicycle?

And, I know this one will be a winner . . .

Knock knock!

Who's there?

I don't know!

I don't know who?

I told you I don't know. Why don't you believe me?

I'm even ready to branch out a little . . and I know our daughter is, too.

Recently, some friends shared this joke with her -- much to her delight.

Question: "Why did six run away from seven?"

Answer: "Because seven eight nine."

Get it? Eight? Ate? Seven eight (ate!) nine!

Oh, my, I'm even beginning to sound like a 5-year-old.

Which isn't such an icky thing after all.

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