Saturday, March 18, 2017

Someone Got Really Judgmental This Week And Took Action. Not Me. My Friend. And Now She Needs Some Advice.

I need some advice.

For a friend.

Let's call her, I don't know, uuuhhhhh....Mary-yeah, good name. Anyway, my friend, Mary, has, like, a huge pet peeve, which, she didn't even know was that big of a pet peeve until she started working at, a kind of library. Not a real library. Like an extra library, only for kids. Anyway, this friend, so I'm told, was sitting there at the library thing, checking out books, as one does at libraries, right? Anyway, as she's helping kids find books to read and reshelving returns and all that, she keeps seeing these kinds of, well, these certain kinds of books...on the shelves. Books that my friend doesn't think are really appropriate for children, or really any people, no matter what walk of life, to be reading. So, one day, after volunteering (note: out of the generosity of her heart) every week for, like, three years, my friend finally cracks and removes the books from the shelves. And marks them as damaged in the computer system. And puts them in her backpack. And takes them home. And hides them under her bed. So the children don't find them. Because it horrifies her, to the depth of her soul toes*, to imagine her family reading them. Because, dudes. They. Are. That. Bad.

I'm not kidding.



Maybe you missed it. Let's lean in for a closer look, shall we?

Right. Right there. You see it? Based, which is just another word for abridged. Slashed. Mutilated. Dumbed-down. Snipped like an eight week old kitten**.

I mean, guys? The book ended with this sentence:

They ate and drank and talked and laughed. The day ended with Beth playing carols and everyone singing.



Now, maybe you're all like, eh, never liked Little Women anyway, all sweet and way too quaint and what not. Who cares!?

But, I'm sorry.

First off, you have crazy coming out of every orifice of your body, and I'm not sure we can still be friends.

Second, it was not the only "book" on the shelves.

Robinson Crusoe, widely regarded as one of the greatest novels of all time, had it's description of cannibalism changed from this:

When I came to the place my very blood ran chill in my veins, and my heart sunk within me, at the horror of the spectacle; indeed, it was a dreadful sight, at least it was so to me, though Friday made nothing of it.  The place was covered with human bones, the ground dyed with their blood, and great pieces of flesh left here and there, half-eaten, mangled, and scorched; and, in short, all the tokens of the triumphant feast they had been making there, after a victory over their enemies.  I saw three skulls, five hands, and the bones of three or four legs and feet, and abundance of other parts of the bodies; and Friday, by his signs, made me understand that they brought over four prisoners to feast upon; (...)  I found Friday had still a hankering stomach after some of the flesh, and was still a cannibal in his nature; but I showed so much abhorrence at the very thoughts of it, and at the least appearance of it, that he durst not discover it: for I had, by some means, let him know that I would kill him if he offered it.

To this:
When we came to the place in the sand where we left the two cannibals, he showed me that he wanted to uncover and eat them. I let him know that this was very wrong.

Tell me, Scholastic Junior Classics, exactly where did the chunks of flesh, the blood soaked ground and mangled bodies go? Huh? I mean, if my kid isn't ready to read a semi-biographical detailed description of a cannibalistic feast written in 1719, then, maybe they should just stick to something gentler, like The Wind in the Willows.

Oh, waaaaiiit. No. Sorry, gosh, never mind, you ruined that one too.

Didn't you?

Goodness, how can we expect the children of today to understand these stories if we don't chop out 80% of the words and then define the last 101 at the bottom of the page?

I mean, what was Anna Sewell even thinking writing all those words? This one is soooo much easier.

And under 60 pages too! (eye roll) Score.

So, I guess, what I'm asking, hypothetically, for a friend, named Mary, is this: Is what Mary did really considered stealing?

Now, before you don your judgmental righteous hat (you know, the red one***), and give an answer, hear Mary out. Because, the other day, we were drinking coffee together and we discussed the moral ramifications of her actions, and Mary likened it more to, oh, what did she say, eradicating invasive plants from National Parks? No. Recycling? Noooo that wasn't it either. Oh, yeah! She said what she did was more like adopting one of those tiny traffic circles in her neighborhood, disposing of the used heroin syringes and planting wildflowers. To save the honeybees. And by extension, mankind itself.

So, maybe my real hypothetical question, for a friend, named Mary is this: Is literature something that needs to be saved, like the honeybee? Do we have a moral right to protect the "intellectual and emotional development" of current and future generations? And, can it be achieved through gorilla type tactics?

If we have replaced all 16 removed "books" with the real thing****.

Using our own money.

Because, let's face it, Mary would do anything for these honeybees:

And by extension, yours too.

*Yes, souls have toes, and you can't prove otherwise.

**Because you should spay and neuter your pets, not your classic literature.

***This isn't the hat you thought it would be, is it?

You judgmental person, you.

****Complete list of removed (aka damaged) "books". Judge away:

  1. "Black Beauty" "by" Anna Sewell (2 books)
  2. "The Wind in the Willows" "by" Kenneth Grahame
  3. "Anne of Green Gables" "by" L.M. Montgomery
  4. "Bleak House" "by" Charles Dickens
  5. "A Little House Chapter Book: Laura #1 The Adventures of Laura & Jack" "by" Laura Ingalls Wilder
  6. "The Wizard of Oz" "by" L. Frank Baum
  7. "Alice in Wonderland" "by" Lewis Carroll
  8. "Pride and Prejudice" "by" Jane Austen
  9. "Robinson Crusoe" "by" Daniel Defoe
  10. "White Fang" "by" Jack London
  11. "Martin Chuzzlewit" "by" Charles Dickens
  12. "The Mutiny on Board HMS Bounty" "by" William Bligh
  13. "Little Women" "by" Louisa May Alcott
  14. "Heidi" "by" Johanna Spyri
  15. "The Secret Garden" "by" Frances Hodgson Burnett

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Whenever I say Grrrrl I Pretend To Be Daniel Tiger From Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. In My Head. (I've never been cool.)

Recently a friend sent me this video:

And I was all, "Dude, man! It's like Herstory but with more pictures? I'm totally in! Who wants my money!?" (Note: this website does)

But, after the "I bought a new book euphoria*" began to subside, I got to thinking more about the video. Specifically, what books were on the shelves in the video? Time posted their list of 100 best children's books of all time here, and I'm assuming those are the books the video is stocked with. Now, truthfully, there are some really really good books on Time's list! Books I own! (51 out of 100, specifically) Books I've read to my children! (72 out of 100) But, if we look at the idea behind the video, which is the lack of strong female characters in children's literature-they might have a point. Which, really wasn't a problem in the years before Katie could read, as I routinely changed character's genders to suit my agenda. *gasp* But, come on, I mean, who can tell if the little kid from Blueberries for Sal is a boy or a girl, or the kid following the farm animals in Just Me. Or the sheep from Sheep in a Jeep. They're sheep, let's face it, they could go either way! And it worked beautifully. Girls loved trucks! Girls loved trains! Any personificated inanimate object immediately became female. I felt like a genius!

Until Ellie was born.

Ellie was having none of that. Because, "Mommy, girls have long hair, and wear dresses." And my retort of, "Mommy doesn't wear dresses all the time and Grandma has short hair." didn't go far because, "Not in books. In books, Mommy, all girls should have long hair and wear dresses." And, so, you know, that's the fun story of the time my two year old called my bluff as I tried to pass boys off as girls during story time. (Thank goodness I won the argument about the WOMAN farmer from the Fisher Price farm set! Probably. Or. She's just been letting me live with that lie for the last few years. Awwww maaaaan....She has, hasn't she? Shoooot.)

So, back I went, to allowing the book characters to gender identify as the author originally intended, while scouring the library for books with girls as the main characters. Girls who didn't make me want to swack them over the head as they sat there, in their tower, waiting, when, let's face it, they could have cut their own hair off, tied to to the bedpost and climbed down it themselves, as Mythbusters has proven you can. Those. Those books were harder to find. The video was spot on about that.

Reading about characters who look like you is powerful. And, while Katie was willing to see herself as a train loving, cookie eating mouse who rode in a jeep with some crazy female sheep, Ellie, she saw herself as a princess. With long hair. And a pretty dress. And those girls need strong characters too.

I'm sure she's not the only one.

What are your favorite female characters in children's lit?

*With jazz hands.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

I Can't Just Slap This Post On The Internet Like A Bumper Sticker Full Of Ill-Conceived Grammatical Errors. It Needs Content. Or Maybe Just A Punch Line With Myself Firmly Attached To The Butt Of It.

This is not a real post, but if I push the publish button, then, I'll feel like I've accomplished something, because apparently cleaning the kitchen, doing 7 loads of laundry, volunteering at two elementary schools, and standing in the cold with my kids selling Girl Scout cookies isn't doing it for me this week. Plus writing is hard. And I ran out of coffee. And then it was time to pick the kids up from school.

(Note: Insert more creative excuse here. Maybe one including a chinchilla, a turtle and a big bowl of chili. Note on the note: Adopt a chinchilla and a turtle and convince the kids they actually like chili to add believability to the excuse. Note on the note on the note: This is turning out to be harder than the actual writing work. Plus, let's face it, I'm never going to convince the children they like chili. I'm gonna have to fake that.)

I ran a 15k on Sunday, and, at the 10k point my kids and Jon were standing on the sidelines, ready to cheer me on! Ellie even ran out onto the course to give me a high five! So cute! And then? I had this conversation with a fellow runner:

Me: (high fiving Ellie after veering to the curb so she isn't bowled over by 4,000 runners)
Guy in Shorts: (from really close behind me) Hey! You stole my high five!
Me: (with my sweaty incredulous face) Uh, no. I made that girl. She totally owes me.
Guy in Shorts: But I need it more than you!
Me: (22 minutes later, looking over my shoulder, as I kick through the finish chute) Yeah, ya' did.

What really happened:

Me: (high fiving Ellie after veering to the curb so she isn't bowled over by 4,000 runners)
Guy in Shorts: (from really close behind me) Hey! You stole my high five!
Me: (with my sweaty incredulous face) Uh, no. (gesture awkwardly toward uterus) I made that girl. She totally owes me.
Guy in Shorts: But I need it more than you!
Me: (30 minutes later, looking way ahead of me as Guy in Shorts is downing a bottle of water with his race medal around his neck I gasp through the finish chute)'re such a liar!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

I Think My Family "Invited" Me Over To The Dark Side This Christmas

This has been my Every Morning Coffee Cup:

It's the shiny happy mug I use to pour caffeine directly into my brain.
(Yes. Yes, that is exactly how coffee works. It's scientifically proven.)

But apparently, this Christmas, Fred and Ginger thought it was time for a change- a new outlook on life. You know the life. That life at 6:30 am where small bodies are dragged, protesting, out of the warmth of their book filled beds. You know, the vulnerable mom life.

In order to bring about this change, Fred and Ginger placed this under the Christmas tree for me:


Now, I realize, the difference between the two mugs is rather slight. So, I'll do a side by side comparison, just for:



(Bonus: There are five differences between these two pictures! Find them!!πŸ˜ΊπŸ’• Or, you know. *sigh* Don't. You could just play 'Here we go gathering Nuts in May' with the end part of an ants' nest. It's all the same....)

And now, each morning, I wake up to the caffeine whispering, directly into my brain (see link above), "Use the force, Martha". And I mumble the age old space ship influenced philosophical reply into the coffee pot, "Which side?"

Because, it must be chosen, mustn't it?

I mean, is it even really possible to walk the thin line between the butterfly and rainbow filled skies of the light side while also sipping from the dark, looking upon it all with indifference and, dare I say, a lack of enthusiasm? Once I drink from the mug, won't I always carry the dark side's influence within me, even if it takes decades for me to realize it?

Like Luke Skywalker.



I realized!

Wait. A. Minute!

This isn't some Grey Jedi mind trick coffee mug.



This. Is now my football watching mug.πŸ™ŒπŸ˜»πŸ‘

And so, this Saturday Sunday, as all around me people raise out of their seats, yelling in vivacity as their team ball is projectiled in some fashion into one of the net? or post??...things they set up on either side of their grassy playing area, I will be able to raise my mug, with the proper amount of enthusiasm I keep in my heart for sporting events.

Do the thing.
Win the points.

I received a threat friendly email from Ginger reminding me of the birthday present she sent me earlier this year. Again, lovingly.

So. Apparently. This is how I will be dressed while raising my mug on Super Foot Ball Sunday:

For reals. Because Ginger does Cross Fit now and I'm pretty sure she can substitute out her medicine ball for my inert body during her Wallball sets. Like the Firebreather she is.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

When Discussing Art There's Always A Right Answer.

The other weekend Jon and I took the kids to Canada. Pretty much just to see if their passports worked. Of course, if they actually didn't work I don't know what we were going to do about it. Leave them at the border I suspect. I'm sure they'd find a cozy boxcar and work various odd jobs for pay. Probably for a doctor. I'm sure I read about some kids that did that once....

Anyway, there we all were in Canada (legally, it turns out) on our way to visit the natural history museum. Because, let's face it, there's nothing our family likes to do more on vacations than visit museums and other educational geological sites. 

Unless it's a giant object! We'd totally go out of our way to see that!




Which we had to admire from the car.
Instead of getting out and posing with.
Like cowhands.
 Because someone fell asleep.

Anyway, there we were, in Canada, outside the museum, when my kids stopped and stared at this work of art:

And we had this conversation:

Katie: (with her thinking face on, the one that's a bit wrinkled around the eyebrows) How come the parents don't have bodies?

Ellie: (whisper giggling) They don't have any bottoms!

Me: Well, it's art. Why do you think the artist didn't make bodies?

Ellie: (giggling, still, because she's in the stage where the word "bottom" is funny) The baby has a bottom!

Katie: (hesitating, because she's in the stage where she doesn't like to give the wrong answer) Hmmmm....What do you think, Mommy?

Me: (without pausing because I'm in the stage of life where I know everything. Because I'm the mom.) Weeeeeelllll... Perhaps the artist is trying to symbolize, through the absence of the parental bodies, the fading of our lives that, as adults, we become aware of when we bring a new life into the world. It's representing how life is a circle, one of death and birth. In this sculpture the baby represents the future. And, perhaps here, the artist wanted to show how life is sustained by the sacrifice of oneself through love, how that sacrificial love is instrumental and necessary in order to bring the future about. How the past, our personal past as well as humanity's collective past, feeds and nourishes that what is to come.

Katie & Ellie: (giving each other the "um, mommy is being weird but we should be nice about it anyway" look)

Ellie: (Explaining. Slowly.) Or, maybe, mommy, the artist just forgot to make the bodies.

Katie: (head tilt, thinking face) Yeah. That makes sense....

Dudes. I may have misjudged which stage of life I'm in.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Like Most New Year's Resolutions These Have One Foot In Reality And The Other In, *Sniff-Phew*, Something Else

New Year's Resolutions, more or less.

Probably less.

Because I'm lazy.

1. Find the body parts that got lost in the car last year so I can quit living in fear of being pulled over by the police and explaining myself to the officer and her cadaver dog. (Note: Don't freak out, people. The body parts are from the children.)

2. There's a hot dog restaurant in my neighborhood. They serve a Greek Dog: hummus, kalamata olives and tzatziki sauce. Continue to bike on by or try it? Must. Make. A. Decision! (Because my rubber necking is getting embarrassing. People are starting to wave.)

3. Quit cracking cannibalism jokes when making children climb into giant frying pans while on vacation.

"Hey kids! What's a cannibal's favorite food? Baked BEINGS!
Smile pretty for mama!"

4. Tell that story about the last time I went bra shopping and the little old lady sales clerk kept bringing over push up bras and giggling over how much padding was in the cup. And then making me squeeze them.

5. Invent the evolutionary gene for retractable breasts. So women never have to go bra shopping again*.

What resolutions did you make this year?

*You need to feed your baby? Pop! Out they come! Running a marathon this weekend? Sloop. Done and done back in they go and no need for expensive running bras! This would be perfect for all sorts of women: new mothers, runners, strapless dress wearers, Dolly Parton impersonators-The target market is simply enormous! Or not. Because it’s your choice.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

I Put A 5 Year Old In Charge Of Her Educational Career And Now I Yell At Passing Cars

Ellie somehow managed to enroll herself in a Japanese language immersion elementary school. 

I know! I'm not sure how it all happened either....

I mean, sure, I remember signing some paperwork once a year or so ago, but, it's not like I really thought it was a real option, you know? I just thought it was a "this would be a cool option" option.

Ok, fine, I'm exaggerating. But only a bit. The VH1 True Backstory here is: I signed her up because back in college, my ECI 304 professor had us watch a documentary where kids were running around a playground talking in French. I'm 95% sure the point of the documentary, all wrapped up in some pedagogical theory, was that kids learn language more easily at a young age. Listen, the room was dark and I maaaay have fallen asleep. In my defense, you shouldn't tell your audience the ending of the movie in the first 2 minutes. It's called a spoiler for a reason, people! 

Anyway, it's year two and Ellie is still skipping to and from school, singing some song in Japanese that has a word that sounds like "booshi" in it. Which, let's face it, makes me giggle. Then, invariably, when she asks why I'm laughing, I lie, and tell her I'm laughing "for the joy of life". But, really, it's because booshi sounds like tushy. And I think it's funny. (Ignorant, uncouth American: party of one.)

Well, this year, I thought to myself, "Dude. You need to actually try and learn Japanese. You're getting laughed at by six year olds. On the playground. When you call jump ropes Nairobis*. It's getting a little embarrassing." (True story.) So, in defense of all my cool points I need to hold onto with the local six year old Japanese speaking population, I took Ellie out for pizza. Because, let's face it, I work better with a carrot metaphorically covered in cheese and pineapple than a stick. Because you can't eat sticks. But you can eat carrots. Although, full vegetarian disclosure, we didn't order any carrots. But we did order ice cream. Because I worked really really hard yelling out the color of cars in Japanese as they passed by our booth's window. And I deserved a treat. Again.

Now, what have I retained approximately three weeks later after gorging myself on pizza and ice cream and annoying all the other 5 o'clock diners at the local pizza restaurant? Owl**. Which, almost sounds like the Japanese word for blue. And, unfortunately, even with all of Ellie's corrections, encouragement and patience, is as close as I'm ever going to get to a proper pronunciation. Because I cemented it. Deep down into the roots of my brain. By singing this song. A lot.:

Yo listen up here's a story
About a little guy that lives in a owl world
And all day and all night and everything he sees
Is just owl like him inside and outside
Owl his house with a owl little window
And a owl corvette
And everything is owl for him and himself
And everybody around
'Cause he ain't got nobody to listen to (except an owl, whoo! whoo!)

I'm owl, da ba dee da ba die,
da ba dee da ba die,
da ba dee da ba die,
da ba dee da ba die,
da ba dee da ba die,
da ba dee da ba die,
da ba dee da ba die.
Note: This song is best sung while dancing like an owl. Because, as all Disciples of Confucius and education majors know, children learn best when they cement new information auditorily, visually, and kinetically. Pedagogical pyramids don't lie:

*Because you don't want to be laughed at by six year olds either:

**Or the way Ellie WANTS you to pronounce it: