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An Open Letter to the “Hot Facebook Mom” Maria Kang

19 Mar

Dear Maria,

First of all, let me say that I dig that you have a message and a vision for your life. I read through your blog and I could relate to some of it (I was unmarried and not financially prepared when I got pregnant the first time too! The second time I was married but not financially prepared and now I’m neither married nor pregnant and not financially prepared for life in general).  I didn’t really find much else that spoke to me, but that’s okay. I respect your story and your journey thus far.

maria

I saw once again that you wanted to know what my, and other moms who don’t make fitness a priority,  excuse is.  Maria, while I appreciate your concern, I find what you’re doing to be just more mom-shaming, wrapped in what you think is an inspirational message.   I’m not even going to touch on the fact that I find it to be fat-shaming as well,  which I do, but for the purpose of this letter, I am just going to address the mom-shaming aspect. However, I will answer your question at the end of this letter.

Let me just say that I am a huge proponent of moms not shaming other moms for their choices.  I find parenting hard enough without having to concern myself with Polly Perfect who is constantly on Facebook proclaiming to the world how perfect her kids are, accompanied by pictures of little Sally and Billy  munching away happily on homemade organically grown apple sauce. I assume this is not the impression you want to leave, but I may be wrong about that. It seems that looks are extremely important to you, so I can imagine your need to control every aspect of what is even thought about who you are is extremely important too. I’m not judging, just pointing out that I find you to be a bit of one of those moms that I avoid at baseball practice.  Or on Facebook. Or in life. Ever.

maria

According to the picture you posted above, as well as what I’ve read about you in your blog, I know that you have three sons, born in 2009, 2010, and 2011, and that you are tired. I can only imagine! I know you don’t have a nanny or a chef and that you are not an athlete or a fitness model and you work over 8 hours a day. One of those arrows up there supposedly points to your stretch marks, but I’ll be damned if I can see them, but that’s not the point.

The above picture, which I  know is small, also says that you “practice consistency, persistence, discipline, intensity, patience, desire, focus, and faith”.   Good on ya girl! I do too, though I find patience to not come naturally to me,  I do try to practice it.  I’ve got the desire part down pat though, know what I’m saying? Yeah you do.

Maria, you are absolutely gorgeous, that is for sure. It is obvious that you have made fitness and “being hot” a priority in your life, and you have since the age of 16 when you started competing in beauty pageants.

I have NO PROBLEM with beauty pageants. My sister was in the past an actual beauty queen, and she still is beautiful, though I’ve had it with her wearing her crown for every family function. I understand  prioritizing what is important to you, that’s what life is all about, right?  I DO have a problem with your holier than thou attitude directed at those of us who do NOT make those things a priority. I KNOW being fit and being healthy are important, though just to be clear, and I’m sure you know this, skinny does not automatically mean healthy and overweight does not automatically mean unhealthy.

Maria, you may or may not be mortified to learn that we are actually not all that different.

This is from your blog,

I’m a wife, mother, business owner and nonprofit founder.

I dream.

I set goals.

I plan.

I take action.

I reflect.

And I repeat.

Well, me too bitch! I mean bitch as in girlfriend, no disrespect meant, because while you do irk me a little, we are similar. That’s right, Maria, you have a lot in common with a mom who has two boys, and is overweight, and exercises very lazily 3-4 times a week, and is right this moment drinking a Coca damn Cola, because I also dream! I set goals! I plan! I take action! I reflect! And I repeat! I couldn’t help but notice that you have a vision board next to your treadmill. GIRL, mine is in my bedroom.

I know there will always be people who insist that their way is the only and right way. The debates between those who have chosen to bottle feed their children rather than breast feed, those who choose cloth diapers over disposable, those who co-sleep rather than not, those choices are all valid and good choices.  Figuring out what works for ones own family and filtering through everything that is out there about what you SHOULD be doing is one of the toughest things about being a parent in my opinion.

I understand that you have chosen to prioritize fitness in your life, and that is a good and valid choice. Maria, I will now answer your question. My excuse I guess,  is that I just haven’t made fitness a priority in my life, but it’s not an EXCUSE, it’s a choice. It’s a choice you may not agree with, and that’s fine, but it doesn’t mean that because you have made it a priority in your life that I am any less the person or mom that you are.  The words that are on your picture as far as things you “practice” are not exclusive to you and your commitment to fitness.  This year I have chosen to conquer fear to do something I have always wanted to do, stand-up comedy. I write daily, even if it’s just something like this, I am someone who constantly tries to learn from my past and is striving to make myself the person I want to be, not only for myself, but for my children. I want them to see a mom who is not afraid and who kicks ass. I think those are things you want your children to see in you as well, we just see the end product as something different. And it’s okay! We’re both right!

So Maria,  let’s agree that maybe you knew you were stirring up some controversy when you posted your “what’s your excuse” picture, because I think you did. You’ve been blogging for a long time, since 2005, but nobody gave  you much thought before that picture took off and went viral. I don’t think you’re a MEAN person, and I know you think you are impacting the world in a positive way. If I could wish anything for you it is that you would come from a place of support rather than shame, because we are not all that different and maybe we could learn something from each other, but it is hard to listen to someone when you feel they are attacking you.

Also, your boys are adorable and I wish you nothing but luck in your endeavors.

Love and donuts (I’m sorry, now I’m just being a brat)

Amy

Happy Galentine’s Day AND Happy Valentine’s Day

13 Feb

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and today is, from what I understand, Galentine’s Day.  What, prey tell is Galentine’s Day? Galentine’s Day is from an episode of “Parks and Recreation”, a show starring the very talented and hilarious Amy Poehler as well as an equally talented and hilarious supporting cast including Nick Offerman (and his EPIC mustache), Aubrey Plaza, Aziz Ansari,  Rashida Jones, Chris Pratt, and Rob Lowe. See? Why aren’t more people watching this show? Including me actually since I don’t watch it on the regular either. I know, I suck, but in my defense I just now figured out how to program my DVR.

Anyway, Galentine’s Day is a day invented by Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope,  to celebrate the women in your life. It doesn’t matter if your gal-pals are married or otherwise attached, Galentine’s day is a day to let the gals in your life know that you love and appreciate them. Here is what Leslie Knope herself has to say about the day –

What’s Galentine’s Day? Oh, it’s only the best day of the year. Every February 13th, my lady friends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast-style. Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lillith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.

Sounds like fun! I am extremely fortunate to have an excellent support system of women near and far that I call friends. Some are family members, some have been my friend for over 30 years, some for not that long, some I haven’t even met in person but thanks to social media we have become friends. I share in their lives and they share in mine. They are my biggest cheerleaders and I know when I need anything, they are there. We have cried together, we have laughed together, we have gotten outraged together over my seemingly endless bad luck regarding relationships, and we have nervously laughed at my sometimes terrible decisions, because if WE can’t laugh about not being able to stop texting someone who clearly doesn’t want to be contacted simply because I think I thought of the PERFECT way to explain why I sent so many texts to him BEFORE, then who can?

So to my gal pals I say Happy Galentine’s Day! I love each and every one of you and I thank you for being there for me.

galentines

As for Valentine’s Day, I grew up with a father who felt it was important to give his daughters Valentine’s presents and/or candy and/or flowers and because of him, the day is much LESS about having a romantic relationship than it is to shower those you love with love, and a balloon or little box of Scooby Doo bubblegum balls (spoiler alert, that’s what my children are getting from me this year).

I have my fair share of stories of Valentine’s Day plans that went terribly awry. My personal favorite is when I was dating someone and we had plans for him to come to my house for dinner, this was when I was in my 20’s so when I say “my house” I really mean a crappy studio apartment. I searched all day for a heart-shaped baking pan and I made a delicious yellow cake and topped it with whipped cream and strawberries. Rick never showed up that night or called until the next day.  I don’t remember why he couldn’t come over, but I do remember that over the course of about 6 hours while waiting for him, I ate that entire cake with a fine white wine (just guessing since I don’t remember but it was probably from a box).

I’m not involved in a romantic relationship this Valentine’s Day, BUT I can guarantee you, I will feel loved and I will show love. I will be spending the day with my two favorite Valentines, my kids, and I will tell them that I love them, just as I do every day, and I will hug them a little tighter than usual and I will tell them that no matter what, their mom will always be their Valentine, and this will creep them out immensely, but hopefully when they are older they will carry on the tradition of looking at Valentine’s day as a day to show appreciation and love to everyone just a little more than they do every day, and that being single on Valentine’s Day is not a big deal.

And I may or may not, just for old time’s sake, eat a whole cake with some wine.

heart-shaped-cake

 

 

It’s a Boy. Two, Actually

30 May

booksThe last day of school is approaching in T – 4 days. Tuesday, June 4, is the day. The day I have circled in red marker on my calendar. I have never looked so forward to the end of a school year in my life.  Not even when I was the student. It’s so much more stressful as the parent.

It’s been tough, as any and all of you who read this blog on any kind of regular basis know. If you don’t read on a regular basis, let me sum it up – eldest son lost his mind this year, his first year of middle school, and decided to do as little as possible AND do everything with a terrible attitude and argue everything from the color of the sky to his middle name (slight exaggerations MAYBE).

Thanks to his super freak out plus modern conveniences like school websites that show practically up to the minute updates on his progress, (or shows what homework I know he DID, but did not turn in for whatever reason) as well as teachers (and I do appreciate it) emailing and letting us know what we knew already because of the websites, his dad  and I have been big balls of stress this year.

Facebook updates from parents who seem to never have any problems or issues with their kids certainly don’t help, nor do reading comments on those posts that say things like “that’s a reflection of great parenting!” True, it probably is, but that means that we are NOT great parents?  But I know I’m a wear my heart on my sleeve parent, and person, and many parents, and people, feel the need to present a certain front. I should probably do that…but I don’t.

It also seems that I have read many tug your heart-strings stories about kids who are saddled with the task of raising their siblings while working a part-time job and living in a box all while maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA.  SO, as any concerned parent would do, next year I am kicking my 12-year-old out of the house. I am kidding, of course. It does make one wonder just what the hell factors are present that motivate some children and how I can do the same.

My kids are awesome. I just want them to do the best they can do and my eldest has not done that this year. They are both so clever and  could do anything, and anything is what I want them to do. I want the world to be their oyster, not their dried up chicken nugget. I really should have eaten dinner before writing this.

So here we are at the end of the year, and even though math camp and some extra work on math programs loom in the summer horizon for my 12-year-old, the summer will be so much more relaxed than the school year.   I can be a mom again, not some stressed out drill sergeant wildly clutching my chest as I vacillate between helicopter parent and letting  my kids have autonomy and dealing with the consequences  on their own if/when they don’t do what is expected of them. I can also get to know my kids again.

About 10 times this year I have said “that’s it! I can’t do it. I’m done with this” to my friends and/or the boys dad.  I’m not even sure what I meant, but I imagine I meant I was done with this being a grown up responsible parent thing. This summer, I’m going to be less of one. We all deserve a break dammit. We’re going to try all the new frozen yogurt places in town (Three have opened in the last few months) and stay up until 10 and go to the beach and start with a clean slate in August.   I have missed my boys.

We have had plenty of talks about how the behavior that was exhibited this year, will not be exhibited next year. He understands, he says that he had trouble adjusting this year. I nodded my head and agreed with him and gave him a big hug rather than going over in detail any issues he has had. We’ve already done that. And this is the beginning of a stress less summer. EXHALE.

sand heart

That Time I Got Lucky in Las Vegas

23 May

Way back when I was in my 20’s, I was fortunate enough to have a job that allowed me to travel all over the country. I was a , we’ll call it, “meeting planner”, because I really don’t know what other title to attach to it, and when I preface it by saying “we’ll call it”, it sounds very intriguing, and since I recently bought a pair of very large prescription sunglasses, and one person told me I looked like a European movie star from the ’60’s, I am all about intrigue.

SO, here I am in my 20’s, traveling all over the country setting up “meetings” for a “company” that may or may not (may) have had some “unsavory business practices”, but I was very naive, and nobody was getting hurt, except for the people who were using their life savings to buy into what the company was selling, but again, I clung to the hope that perhaps SOMEBODY was making the kind of money with the system we were selling that they were told they could make. Also, I was very selfish about enjoying the travel and money. I am AMAZED that many people in their 20’s seem to have their shit together, because my 20’s were all about me and partying, unlike my 40’s that so far are about my children and…hmm…can I say my children twice? Because there ARE two of them.

Anyway, one of my business trips took me to Las Vegas, NV (NV is probably not necessary but there it is). I was so very excited to go to Las Vegas because I have said for slot machinemany years that I plan to retire there and be one of those old ladies who spend their afternoons in the casino, bucket of quarters in one hand, gin and tonic in the other. Sadly, now all of the machines give out a ticket or some such nonsense when you win and also even more sadly, I really hate gin and tonics, but that part of my white trash dream can be modified easily enough.

When I used to travel, I would park my car in long-term parking in a lot that was located off airport property. The trips would take me away for a week at a time, sometimes more, so this lot was a necessity. From there I would take a shuttle bus over to the airport and go on my merry way. This was all pre 9/11 and I haven’t flown much, if any, since then, but then I would roll my giant ass suitcase (filled with booklets and other crap for the meeting), and my not so giant suitcase filled with sensible work dresses and 3 lbs. of makeup (I don’t even wear a whole lot, but I own a lot and I travel with a lot), off the shuttle bus, tip the nice men generously to check my suitcases and I would go relax and have myself a latte and peruse the airport shops for some worthless shit that I did not need. The money I spent on soy candles and earrings and corkscrews or whatever interesting must-have item I found in an airport shop every single time I traveled is sorely missed these days. OH 20’s…you came and went too fast.

The lot where I parked was not free, of course, as not many things in life are. I usually managed to save just enough money from my trip to get my car out of the lot, but not much more. For some reason that I cannot remember now, I did not have a bank account. I traveled with CASH. I know, right? What was I, a damn caveman? This means that not once but twice, both times involving a bar, I lost all my money and had to borrow money for the rest of the trip and to get my car out of the lot. The times that happened, I was fortunate enough to be traveling with a group of wonderful people who were also in their 20’s, but had their shit together more than I did and at least had credit cards and bank accounts.

I traveled to Las Vegas alone, which is pertinent to the story. On the way back home, I had just enough money to get my car out of the lot. I was so proud of myself. If ONLY there hadn’t been a delay in my flight and I wasn’t stuck at the airport being taunted by those slot machines. They would beckon to me “come on, stick a quarter in me. You may win. You may win BIG”. I have no willpower. NONE. I slowly fed all my quarters into the slot machine, and I watched my money dwindle down to nothing. What’s even crazier is that I told myself that if I won really big I was going to just stay in Vegas. I didn’t have much in Orlando any more, and my friends there would love to come visit me in my high rolling bachelorette pad, and the guy I was dating would just have to find a way to pay for his own food. And gym membership. And clothes. And other girlfriend.

I didn’t win big, BUT I did win enough to get my car out of the lot. Lesson learned, right? Not so much. I was YOLO before YOLO was even a thing (mom, that stands for You Only Live Once), sometimes to my detriment (please see years…too many to reference here) but SOMETIMES, it is fabulous and fun and amazing to fly by the seat of your pants.

As a mom, I see SO much of myself in my boys and I have NO idea how to tell them how to figure out when they should go with their gut, and when they should carefully measure their decisions because honestly, some of my fly by the seat of my pants decisions have led to amazing things, and I don’t want them to miss out on THEIR amazing things.

There is no pretty bow to tie this up at the end. We’ve established that I make poor decisions sometimes,  but sometimes they work out okay, and sometimes better than okay, and sometimes they hurt like hell (me and others). My wish for the boys is that they experience their amazing things AND they make measured decisions. There HAS to be a happy medium, and I think they can find it, especially with my constant story-telling about the time I almost had to resort to prostitution to get my car out of a parking lot or the time I thought that eating escargots all night then drinking copious amounts of whiskey would NOT end up with snail carcasses being vomited down the side of my sister’s car. Kids love stories.

That’s Hilarious, Now Watch Your Language

21 May

parental_advisory_magnet

My 12-year old is the source of many posts on this blog, mainly because of the “rough patch” he has been going through in regards to refusing to do his homework, his need to be right even when I’m pretty sure he knows he is wrong, and his sassy mouth.

That mouth of his definitely gets him into trouble sometimes, but it seems whenever I share something he has said that is particularly sassy, I am met with comments like “oh where DOES he get that, I wonder?” and “the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree”, and often I find myself nodding my head and agreeing that my boys’ dad really is an epic smartass, but then I realize I think they might mean ME.

Of COURSE they mean me, I am not delusional (in this sense), but in my defense I come from a long line of funny smartasses, on both sides of the family. My father was a mad genius/smartass, my aunt majored in biting sarcasm in school. Cousins, uncles, and my grandmother, all well-versed in the fine art of sarcasm. My sister and brother carry the gene as well, as do my nieces.  My mom has a subtle sarcasm that sneaks up on you. Sarcasm and smart-assery have been elevated to new heights with my children however,  and I am simultaneously horrified and proud.

georgeBesides being delightful smartasses, my children cuss sometimes too. Thank George Carlin for that bit of parenting advice, though he didn’t actually use it as parenting advice, my ex-husband and I took it upon ourselves to decide that we would apply a famous comedy bit of Carlin’s to parenting, and our children would be allowed to use words deemed “wrong” because really, they are just words.  Carlin’s “Seven Words you can Never say on Television” was the bit and I still stand by my original assessment that it is STUPID that some words, regardless of context, are deemed “wrong”. This applies to what is known as curse words, not words that refer to any group of people.  I believe some of those words are FAR more offensive than the word “tits”, for instance, and the boys would be severely reprimanded by us if they used those words.

We have told the boys since they were born that as long as the words are not being used maliciously, that they would not get into trouble for saying them. We have also told them that they are not allowed to use the words in school or around grandparents (hey, we don’t want our parents yelling at us for our children’s use of curse words, plus there is a matter of respect, of course).

In hindsight, this bit of parenting was probably a misstep. The boys have stuck to the rules and very rarely, and usually only with each other, do they use the words in any kind of malicious way, but still, other parents probably wouldn’t be too thrilled when my kid loudly proclaims “SHIT!” on the playground after falling off the”mother fucking balance beam”. The previous scenario is fabricated, but it could happen. Backtracking and trying to regulate what words your now 8 and 12-year-old sons are allowed to say is a bit like trying to put silly string back into the can after you have squeezed it all out.  Or string cheese. Look, I’m bad at similes, but you get what I’m trying to say.

After that set up, I wanted to share some funny quips penned by my eldest child. I have to say, yes, they might be a bit racy and include curse words, but they also are really funny and are not MEAN in any way and the fact that these are from the same child who gave up his chair this past Sunday so an older man could sit down, and did this when he didn’t know I could see him,  makes me think meh, they are just words.

This is part of a blues song and is an ode to a woman who works as a clown  –

Spending all my money on your big ass shoes

Seriously, that line cracks me up every time I read it.

Brace yourselves,it’s racier than the other, but for a 12-year old boy, still not too bad, and it really is funny –

I’ve got a fire dick

You’ve got a water hole

Baby our love is like stop drop and roll

I am telling you, that is better than like 90% of the songs on the radio these days.

I think the boys are turning out pretty okay, even with all the doomed sarcasm genes and iffy parenting.

* Parental Advisory picture from Stabilitees

* George Carlin picture from his official website

A Letter to my Sons

17 May

typewriter2.jpg

Hello my boys,

As I write this, you are 12 and 8 years old, and I am 43.  I have lived probably about half my life, give or take some years. Although you both think I was born this age, I actually started out as a child! A baby even. Weird, I know.  I started as a baby and grew to this age, and along the way, I learned a few things that might help you in your journey to whatever lies at the end of this road.

I will try not to get philosophical and I will try to keep this short. I will be honest with you, it took me a long time to learn some of these things myself and some I work on still, but my hope for you both is that you actually listen to my words and you realize that I come from a place of pure love for the both of you.

There will come a time when you both will fall in love, the kind of love that will knock you on your booties. It will happen. Love is grand. Love is lovely.  I LOVE love. What you need to know about love is that you cannot “fix” anyone.  It is not your duty as a friend or boyfriend to be a magic elixir for someone else. There is a bit of a romantic notion attached to the “broken” individual. It is not romantic to be a mess or to be attached to a mess. It will rub off on you and leave you a little “broken” and messy in the process, and won’t do a thing to fix the other person. Be supportive, but realize, the hard work that needs to be done will need to be done by the person who is “broken”.

Don’t be afraid of love. Don’t be afraid to express it, and don’t be afraid when someone shares their love with you. When someone gives you their heart, be gentle with it. You don’t have to love everyone who loves you, and you probably won’t, but you don’t have to play with the hearts of those who love you. Don’t be that guy.

You will screw up. It is inevitable. How you deal with yourself and those you hurt after you screw up will define you as a man. Don’t let what others think of you enter into your mind other than as a passing thought. Try very  hard to absorb the good things that are said about you or to you and dismiss the bad.

Never forget that while you grew up living in a trailer, many grew up living in boxes, or worse. Be thankful for everything you have and have been given, and give back as much as you can to those who have less.

Hold tight to your true friends. You will know who they are.

Your family loves you. Your family may drive you crazy sometimes, but try to mend fences with them because they really do love you. I know this for a fact.

It is better to be slightly over-dressed for an occasion than under-dressed.

Keep a blanket in your car. Make sure your spare tire is not flat. Keep jumper cables in your car. Know how to change a tire. I can teach you if you want.

If someone needs money and you have some, give it to them. You both have seen me do this with people standing on the side of the road, and you have both asked why. There is the reason. I had it, they needed it, and I truly don’t care what they wanted to do with the money. My father taught me this and I have never lost one second of sleep thinking “sure hope that guy didn’t spend that $5.00 I gave him on booze”.

Help other people whenever you can. Pay for someone behind you in the drive thru if you can.

Never park in a handicapped spot unless you are handicapped.

Say “please” and “thank you”. Common courtesy should be truly common. Do it every day.

Never ever forget that everybody, every single person on this earth, has a story and has been through some shit. Try to remember that when dealing with the jerks, and you will encounter some jerks. You cannot tell by looking at someone what kind of a person they are inside. Be kind to everyone. EVERYONE.

After a break up, and I hope you have breakups because from my breakups I learned the most about who I am, take your part of the mess, look at it, own it, learn from it, then leave it in the past. We all have baggage, but yours doesn’t have to be a big honkin’ steamer trunk. A carry on will do.

Never underestimate the power of laughter, and of making other people laugh.

Travel as much as you possibly can.

Stand up for yourself but don’t be an ass about it. People can disagree with you and that is okay. Listen to them, try to see things from their point of view, and always respect them. If you enjoy debate, then debate, if the other person enjoys it too. If they don’t, and you insist on debating them, you are being a bully. Don’t be a bully.

Don’t let anybody else define you. YOU define you. Know who you are (and you will figure this out probably sometime in your 30’s…or later if you take after your mom) and be proud of it. YOU BOTH ARE AWESOME.

Water parks are not ever as much fun as you think they will be, but if you must go to one, always wear sunscreen and the longest pair of swim shorts you can find. If you go down any slides, you will thank me.

Be comfortable in your skin. If you are thin, own it, if you are heavy, work it, if you don’t like where you are as far as your body or anything else in your life, do something about it, but don’t ever shame anyone because of their body and how they look, and don’t do the same to yourself. Don’t buy into advertisements that tell you that you MUST buy or do something to be better,cooler, faster, hotter. They want your money. That’s it.

Alone time is okay and good for you.

When you are hung over, and you will be hung over at some point, wake up and drink as much water as possible and take a couple Excedrin. If you feel like throwing up, do it.  You will feel much better afterwards.

Those nights before you woke up hung over, don’t drive. Take a cab or arrange for someone to be your driver. Take turns with friends.

Play music, or write, or paint, or run, or do Tae Kwon Do or something that shakes your soul every day.

You can learn something from everyone you meet even if that lesson is “don’t sit next to Bob anymore”.

This is your journey. You only get one. Do with your life what you want, as long as you don’t hurt anyone else, and it makes you happy.

Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. That is them. This is you. And you rock.

Never ask a woman if she is pregnant or when she is due unless she is wearing a shirt with a huge arrow pointing to her belly. Even then, maybe just say “nice shirt”.

I am sure this is not the end, but this is the end for now.  I cannot imagine my life without both of you and even though there are times that we seem to not like each other very much,  I want you both to know that I am proud of you and I cannot wait to see you grow into men. You will both be EPIC and kind and original and hilarious and I love you both every second of every minute of every hour of every day, forever.

Mom, Mommy, and sometimes Amy (stop calling me Amy by the way)

Books for Kids that Don’t Suck

14 May

When my boys were younger,  I would tell them non-traditional versions of classic stories. In my version, after the prince helped Rapunzel out of the tower, the two of them rode their horses through several little towns that were in need of a doctor, and she decided to go to medical school and provide medical services for the townsfolk.  She and the prince got married and their child ended up being the girl in Rumpelstiltskin, which featured a misunderstood disfigured little person who befriended the little girl who saw past his exterior.

Before the movie Hoodwinked even came out, in my version, Little Red Riding Hood was a bad ass and she didn’t need to wait for any lumberjack to come and save her from the wolf. She took care of that herself.  By the time the lumberjack came along, Red and granny were enjoying the treats Red’s mother had made and the lumberjack hauled the body of the wolf away.

The Little Red Hen was less about the lazy farm animals and more about why the little red hen couldn’t earn a living wage and had to live with 3 other animals (okay, I never told that story, but now I kind of want to).

Granted, I might have told the stories the way I did partly because I couldn’t remember the original versions but also  because I was sorely disappointed in the stories of my youth. In the stories I heard, females were helpless and waiting for their princes, or they were helpless and waiting for a lumberjack to come take care of the big scary wolf for them, or they were hens who couldn’t afford to live alone because they earned so much less than their rooster counterparts.

I heard these stories growing up, but my mom was far from one to tell me to wait for anybody or anything to save me. I vividly remember as a child watching a news report with my mom about a study that was done that said that during an attack women who did not struggle were more apt to get out of the attack unharmed.  My mom looked at me and said “you fight. You fight like hell”.

Once the boys got tired of my willy-nilly style of story-telling, I made it my quest to find books that were intriguing, had good lessons, and characters, male or female, in non-traditional roles. Here are a few that I found that fulfilled that wish and are charming and appealed to the boys, and didn’t make me want to stab myself in the eye when reading them aloud.

Pirate Girl  by Cornelia Funke – This is the story of plucky Molly, who is kidnapped by a not really very scary pirate, Captain Firebeard, while pirate girlsailing to visit her grandmother. The pirates take her aboard their ship with high hopes of holding her for ransom.  They try to convince her to tell them the name and address of her parents but Molly refuses.  Molly waits until the  pirates are all asleep every night and she puts notes into bottles (empty rum bottles, hence the pirates sleeping so soundly) and tosses them overboard hoping to signal for help. Help does come, in the form of Molly’s pirate queen mom, Barbarous Bertha.

The boys both really liked this story and the pirate voices are always fun to imitate when reading aloud.

I read an Amazon review that said that this book might be a little much for some kids, so I guess  if your child has a fear of pirates or the ocean or ships or rum or frightens relatively easily then skip this one, or read it to them as kind of immersion therapy, it’ll put hair on their chest.  I kid,of course. I suppose you won’t know what your child likes until you read it to them or they read it themselves, so your local library is a great place to try out books before you add them to your personal collection.

ThePrincessKnight_000The Princess Knight  by Cornelia Funke – I don’t know if I knew before right this second that Cornelia Funke wrote both of these books. You go, Ms. Funke. Anyway, The Princess Knight is Violetta, the king’s daughter, who is told that she has to get married because that is what girls do. Violetta would much rather learn how to be a knight, like her 3 brothers. Her father, the king, tells her that she will marry whoever wins a contest he has set up for her.  I don’t want to give away the ending but Violetta enters the contest herself and wins and makes her own decisions. DANG, I gave it away anyway.

Once again, the reviews on Amazon for this book are mixed, manly because the first page of the book states, without fanfare, that the queen, Violetta’s mom, dies when Violetta is born. This was never an issue for the boys and it actually gave me an opportunity to tell them a little about what it means when someone dies.  But, again,  if this is not something you are comfortable with or think they won’t be comfortable with then cross this one off the list.

Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed  by J.C.Phillips –  My youngest is fascinated with Asian culture and has been for many years. Ininja found this book because of the whole Ninja aspect, but was delighted, yes delighted, when I discovered that it has a lot to do with individuality and being comfortable with following your own path as well. Wink is in ninja training but would really rather be a performer than a stealthy ninja. His grandmother helps him realize his dream and combine his love of ninja-ing and performing, and yes, ninja-ing is totally a word.

Amazon reviewers have nothing negative to say about this book.  WHAT THE HELL, Amazon reviewers? Just for fun I read the three reviews that gave Wink a 4 out of 5 and their reviews are good too. I’m shocked that nobody could think of anything snarky to say, but unless your child is scared of ninjas, this book should be a good fit for them.

stripesA Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon  – Camilla Cream is the little girl who develops a bad case of stripes and only when she stops worrying so much about what other people think of her do the stripes go away. This book is still a favorite in my house and I am even asked to read it aloud every now and then.

This book has all positive reviews except for one reader who gave it 1 star out of 5 because his kindergarten age child has had nightmares since the book was read in her kindergarten class, and apparently is so scarred by the book she mumbles “the girl with the stripes” in her sleep, so, take that into consideration, albeit, with a huge grain of salt.

I will say, you never know what is going to scare some kids. I was terrified by the movie Gremlins. I was less a “kid” than a “teenager” but still, that Spike creature scared the bejesus out of me.

Todd Parr – This one is only an author because anything this man has written is awesome, from the silliness of Zoo Do’s and Dont’s,  that is still it's okayquoted by me and my ex-husband on occasion,  to the lovely  It’s Okay to be Different, because really, it IS okay to be different, to his books featuring his dog Otto, because who doesn’t love dogs?  All of his books are super bright and the illustrations are simple but engaging and the stories are sweet and/or funny.

I refuse to read the Amazon reviews for any of his books because I would like to hope that nobody has anything bad to say about them, but I have given human beings the benefit of the doubt before only to be proven wrong. I prefer to live in my bubble of ignorance on this particular subject.  Yay, bubbles!

One of my Mom’s Favorite Shows

12 May

I wrote this a year or so ago and I am sharing it here again for Mother’s Day –

Oh how I miss that show about those four ladies living in the big city; the relationships, the puns, the humor, the clothes. I saw a little of myself in each of them;  the somewhat spoiled and sheltered one, the one who was more than a little man crazy, the cynical one with a sweet side, and the sometimes voice of reason single career gal. No, not THAT show, this show had less to do with shoes and sex in the city and more to do with funky head scarves and character development. The show I miss is the Mary Tyler Moore show.  MTM was on TV from 1970-1977 and one of my very favorite early memories is watching it with my mom.

Mary Tyler Moore took place in the big city of Minneapolis. The Mary in the show, Mary Richards, was played by Mary Tyler Moore. She was a single woman in her 30’s who had moved to Minneapolis after breaking off her engagement. She worked at TV station WJM as an associate producer for the 6:00 news.  Mary was kind and sweet and cute as a button. She had an awesome bachelorette pad and I envied everything about her, from her shiny straight hair to her apartment. She ‘could turn the world on with her smile’. Even a 7-year-old me knew that Mary WOULD make it after all.

One of Mary’s pals, and neighbor, was Rhoda Morganstern, played by Valerie Harper. Rhoda was also single and seemed to date a lot, with pretty awful results.  Rhoda was acerbic and self-deprecating and she had an awesome collection of head scarves and she wore the hell out of them. She was a window dresser, which to me, seemed like the best job in the world. Play with and dress up life-size Barbie’s every day? SURE, I can do that! Rhoda met and married Joe and moved back to NYC a few years into the show (for a spin-off show) and I really missed her not being there. Her show was good, but I never liked Joe, and neither did anybody else apparently because they divorced after 2 years of marriage.  BUT, like Mary, Rho would be A-OK.

Rhoda and Mary’s landlady was Phyllis Lindstrom, wife of never seen doctor, Lars Lindstrom. Phyllis was a bit spoiled and rather snobbish. Phyllis’s teenage daughter Bess was in the show too, though I honestly remember seeing her only a few times.  Phyllis and Rhoda were uneasy friends. I think maybe, and this is me totally guessing, that Phyllis was a little scared of Rhoda. Rhoda was like Mary, but without the soft exterior. Rhoda was more ‘in your face’. I think Phyllis was more traditionally minded and she felt sorry for Mary and Rhoda for being single.  Cloris Leachman played Phyllis and she was funny and delightful in the role, and I remember she wore a lot of maxi dresses

And now….for my very favorite character of the show, Ms. Sue Ann Nivens. Sue Ann was played by the always amazing and talented, Betty White. Sue Ann was the perpetually dimpled star of the TV show (produced at the station where Mary worked) The Happy Homemaker. Sue Ann was, in no uncertain terms, a slut. She was a total man-eater. She constantly hit on Lou Grant, Mary’s curmudgeonly boss, played by Edward Asner (no, I didn’t have to look that up just now because I forgot the name of the character, but because I would SWEAR to you that the actor’s name was also Lou Grant), and every other man she found somewhat attractive. I remember she made a lot of smart-assey remarks towards Captain Stubing, er, Gavin McLeod, who played a copywriter on the show, about his baldness, so she DID have standards, they were just somewhat low.    Sue Ann was an absolute perfectionist and though I’m sure psychologists would say otherwise, I’m going to say she just loved men, and she was a romantic,  not that she was a mess and was constantly looking for validation in them. Sue Ann and Mary tolerated one another. Sue Ann was frequently jealous of Mary because she was younger and she had that damn shiny hair. How did a 7-year-old me relate to Sue Ann?  I don’t even want to delve into that.

In the series finale, everyone except the dumbass anchorman Ted Baxter, played perfectly by Ted Knight, is fired due to lacking ratings in the 6:00 news. The former work friends, and hopefully always real life friends, pile into a big group hug and then Mary turns out the light of the newsroom. The episode is considered one of the absolute best finales ever, and I would agree.

This show was groundbreaking at the time. It was rare to see a single woman on TV who was career minded. Mary was shown at work as much as she was shown in her fab bachelorette pad. She was a disastrous party giver and not ‘domesticated’, and while she did go on dates, she was selective in who she went out with and she wasn’t going to settle.  I always got the impression that if it happened for her, great.  If not, meh, she would still be fabulous.

I didn’t realize the effect the show had on me until I was writing a post about things being good, and I ended it by saying ‘I’m going to make it after all, and then I throw my hat up”.  It makes me curious about what effect the shows my boys watch now will have on them.  Honestly, the only TV they get to watch is on weekends because during the week we don’t even have time to even turn it on.  I have told them both how special it was that my mom used to let me stay up to watch Saturday Night Live with her, and I KNOW that had an impact on my life too.

The boys and I watch a lot of SpongeBob Squarepants and the cooking show Chopped together.  Valuable lessons can be learned from both, but I feel that is best left for another post. I have started letting my eldest stay up to watch Saturday Night Live with me, and though he falls asleep before it comes on often, it is special time for us when he can make it….after all. Sorry, I can’t stop now.

mtm

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