I was shocked to hear tonight of the death of Molly Ivins. Ivins was one of those writers who always, always made me laugh. Even when she was spitting mad, she was fucking hilarious. She was fiercely political, in a way that few funny women get to be, and I’ll never forget her
Apparently, I’m not alone in being a fan, as lots of my favorite bloggers are writing about her.
Check these out:
I wish I had some brilliant thing to say about Ivins, but I don’t. I first read Molly writing about Ann Richards (and did ever a politician find the columnist to cover her in that combo! what luck for them both). So instead of trying to come up with something brilliant or witty to say about Ivins, I’ll just link to what she wrote about Richards, after her passing last year. I hope there’s no need for AA wherever they are now.
My good friend over at Sanity and the Solo Mom has a great post up tonight about the books she wants to make sure her daughters own–not just check out from the library. Obviously, the topic of kids’ books is one I have a lot of strong feelings about. One of my all-time favorite things about parenting is introducing the kids to books that I loved as a child, and I absolutely have a similar list of books that my kids must own. In fact, there’s a fair amount of overlap between her list and mine.
I’ve spent the last seven years trying to catch up on what happened in children’s lit after I grew up. There are a lot of really wonderful books that came out. A whole lot transpired in Ramona’s life after I stopped paying attention to her, for instance. Then of course, there’s Cornelia Funke, who followed a great tradition of writing books where readers are the heroes. Philip Pullman–the Dark Materials series is brilliant. Eoin Colfer–I love the Artemis Fowl series. And of course, J.K. Rowling, the god-mother of 21st century children’s fantasy.
But there’s also been some stuff that I’ve considered tremendously overrated. To wit? Lemony Sn*cket. Also? Christopher Pa*lini.
What about you? What kids books have you found over-hyped, under-written, and just basically all-around disappointing? I’m particularly interested in hearing from those of you with middle schoolers, and the children’s librarians in the house. It seems like there is a fair amount of pap being put out daily to feed the ravening maw of the tween set, and I want to know what to avoid. Or at least what to insist should be checked out, not paid for.
One of my new favorite daily reads is Diana Higgins’ blog Diaphanous. A few days ago, she posted a photo of her to-be-read-stack, and I liked the way it looked, so here’s mine.This little bookshelf is next to my bed. What you can’t see from the picture is that the books in the shelves are stacked two deep. I’ve been trading a lot of books lately on bookmooch and bookins, and I’m developing quite a backlog.
These books are the first thing I see every morning when I wake up, and the last thing before I turn out the light. It calms me, to know that I have a lot to choose from. At any given moment, I’m working on a couple of different books. Right now, it’s E.H. Gombrich’s A Little History of the World, Mike Davis’s City of Quartz, Jane Smiley’s 13 Ways of Looking at a Novel (okay, I’ve been reading this on and off for over a year), and Dorothy Allison’s collection of short stories, Trash. I can only take the Allison book in very short doses, because it’s so incredibly upsetting, although sooooo good. I might finish it by the time I’m forty.
I tend to read a couple of different non-fiction books at a time, but to read fiction serially. Mostly, that’s because I’m a slow reader of non-fiction, while I plow through most fiction. I have a terrible habit of starting non-fiction books and then taking a year to finish them–the Smiley book is not an accident. Unfortunately, it means it will be quite a while before this stack gets much smaller. It’s good news for my reading life, though.
Now is the winter of our discontent
made glorious summer by this Peony’s sleepover;
and all the Bee that lour’d upon our house
in the deep bosom of the night away from home.
Now are our brows bound with Mommy kisses;
our pudgy arms wrapped around Daddy’s neck;
our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
(P.S.–the Bee had a great time.)
The Bee is going to a sleep-over birthday party at her best friend Peony’s house this weekend, and I’m a little worried about it. I think that there’s starting to be some friction between them, and I’m afraid that Peony is starting to turn away from the Bee, and toward another girl in their class. They’ve always had a sort of lopsided three-way friendship, and for the most part, I think the Peony has been left out more than the Bee has been, but the scale is tipping toward her and away from the Bee right now. Whether due to this turn of events or just through unhappy coincidence, the Bee prefers the Peony to the other girl now.
I’m sort of wondering how to deal with it. I know that the vagaries of little-kid friendship exist, and are a healthy part of growing up. I know that the Bee and the Peony will cycle back toward closer friendship again. But I’m still a little worried about how the Bee will react to being left out when it’s in a sleepover situation. There will be more kids there from their class, and I’m hoping that she’ll just decide to play with them.
I remember that my own childhood best friend and I were constantly on the ins or outs. There were a pair of twins in our neighborhood that were our age, and when my best friend was dumping me, she’d go off with not one but both of them. It added insult to injury–after all, if she had just paired up with one, I would have had the other to play with! There’s pretty much nothing worse, when you’re seven, than seeing your best friend go off with someone else, and I don’t want my Bee to suffer that pain, though I think in the end it will be good for her.
I spent most of today helping the Bee clean her room. There seems to be a bout of cleaning energy going around, and I was partly inspired by reading about Phil’s and Mary’s similar endeavors. The Bee is a clutter-y person (hmm, can’t think where she got that from), and about once or twice a year, we go through the whole collection item by item to try to cull some of the mess.
She donated quite a lot of stuff to Goodwill, trashed a huge amount of old paper and broken toys, and handed down a bunch of books and a few stuffed animals to her brother. I was really happy about the hand-me-downs, until I realized that one of the books she gave the Potato was my most-hated Elmo book ever, a book the Bee herself demanded endless readings of when she was three. Sure enough, the Potato asked me to read it to him before dinner, and then informed me that he would have daddy read it to him at bedtime.
This is really the first time we’ve done an exhaustive going over of her library since the Bee moved away from picture books and toward reading chapter books. I suggested to her that we shelve books by the same author together, and she got really into the idea. After we finished sorting out the pile of Junie B. Jones, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, and E.L. Konigsberg, she decided that she wanted to categorize all the other books. These were the categories she came up with: animal facts, animal fiction, biography, fairy tales, fiction about people, and poetry. Somehow, the two or three Barbie books she has didn’t seem to fit into any category. And yet, they were reshelved anyway.
It was kind of a pain to do all the sorting, but in the end, I had fun doing it with her. Plus, I get the joy of knowing that someday she too will spend hours drooling over Kimbooktu, or writing to Doppelganger with recommendations for Sam. Maybe she’ll end up getting that MLIS that is my retirement dream
In other news, thanks to everyone for your supportive statements on yesterday’s post. As Elise guessed, I’m just venting, and the landismarriage is not really in jeopardy. Landisdad and I will struggle through this latest misfortune together, as we’ve struggled through many others in the past. After all, at the end of the day, who else is going to appreciate the agony of Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street?
I kind of wanted to write a social justice-y post in honor of Martin Luther King, but it’s just not in me today.
We’re about two weeks away from the end of landisdad’s unemployment eligibility, and coupled with some bad budgetary times at my job, I’m feeling pretty desperate about money. I spent most of Saturday trying to figure out how we could cut our personal spending by quite a lot. Goodbye, three days a week of daycare for the Potato! Adios, dreams of buying a new car! Sayonara, buying new books and giving charitable donations!
It’s sobering, to say the least.
In addition to my worry about money, there’s also my fury at landisdad for landing us in this situation. Oh, it’s not fair for me to be angry at him. I recognize that. It also doesn’t help him find a job if I’m nagging at him and yelling at him all the time (trust me, I tried that). The problem is that we’ve come to a situation where landisdad’s psychological makeup and mine are in complete conflict with each other.
You see, landisdad grew up in a family that is generally wealthier than mine, and with much more supportive parents. I haven’t taken money from my parents since I was a freshman in college (nor have they offered any). It’s been a very long time since I felt that they are a safety net that will support me in a rough patch. Landisdad (luckily for us) does not have similar feelings about his family.
I’m not trying to say that landisdad isn’t stressed out about our financial situation–he is, although I don’t think that he’s spending the amount of time going over our finances in his head that I am in mine. Some of that has to do with our family dynamic–on a day-to-day basis, I’m the one who manages the money. But at the heart of it, he’s not afraid that he’s totally alone.
I’ve found it very challenging to overcome my instincts about how to deal with the situation. There’s a part of me that wants to get up every single day and start our life over again. To go to a new place, to sell our house, to find new work. Sometimes, those plans involve staying married, and quite frankly, sometimes they don’t. There are times when I can’t help thinking I’d be a better mother to my children if I wasn’t walking around pissed off at a member of our family every day. Then there are the times that I remember that part of being a good mother is showing them that families stick together, especially through times that are hard.
Like most people, landisdad and I pledged in our wedding vows to stay together rich or poor. Like most people, I didn’t think it was going to be so difficult. In the eight years that we’ve been married, I’ve had six different jobs, and he’s had four. Some of those job changes were voluntary, some weren’t. But it’s a little hard to find stability with all that change.
I should say, too, that’s it’s not as if we’re in a really desperate situation. We do have his parents’ support (although I’m somewhat pained to keep taking it). It’s not like we’re running out of food any time soon–it’s more that we have to decide to live on our savings for a while. In fact, I’m almost embarassed to write this post, because really, we still have it so much better than the majority of people in the world.
I know that it will get better eventually–he’ll find work, we’ll make cuts, the kids will live without Nickelodeon. I’m trying really hard to look for the silver lining in this cloud, and the one thing that I’ve come up with is that it’s given me the opportunity for substantial personal growth. Now if I could only convince my psyche that this is a healing experience…