is it late June yet?

I’m not sure, but I think I’m going to be even happier about the end of the school year than the Bee. The PTA-related activity that is back-loaded at the end of May and beginning of June is freaking me out. Between the end-of-school parties, the yearbook, the field trips, the school projects, and the need to buy both personal and PTA gifts for the retiring third grade teacher, I’m a basket case.

In my continuing role as a cautionary tale for the other parents in my office, I painted a bobcat at work last week. (Be clear–the Bee was allowed to buy a bobcat–I wasn’t helicopter parenting–it was just the only one I could find was paint-your-own, and she needed it in a final state that night.) There was a lot of hilarity at my expense, and my officemate insisted on being allowed to help. Even my boss ridiculed me, saying it looked like a cross between a cow and a dog, and insisting on calling it a ‘dow’ all afternoon.

Why, oh makers of the paint-your-own-bobcat kit, did you only put red, blue, black, yellow, green and white paint in that kit?

Needless to say, my bobcat did not exactly achieve a color that occurs in nature.

In other PTA-related news, I finally found a vice-president–a very nice kindergarten parent, who has no idea what she’s getting into (oh, those were the days!). The corresponding secretary recently told me that she and her family are moving to another state at the end of the school year. But for a brief few months this year, we had a full slate!

May 27, 2008. the joys of PTA. 5 comments.

another book meme

I saw this meme over at Penguin’s place, and had to do it. Here are the directions:

What we have here is the top 106 books most often marked as “unread” by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. Bold the ones you’ve read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish.

I was a fan of LibraryThing, until I realized that to categorize my whole library, I’d have to pay to join. I’m not sure why I’d do that, when I can do it for free on GoodReads. I do like their book recommendation engine though.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights

The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov

Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales

The Historian : a novel (I do have this on my to-be-read shelf, though)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum

The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys

The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels & Demons

The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels

Les Misérables
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present

Cryptonomicon (also on the to-be-read shelf)
A Confederacy of Dunces

A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter

Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake

Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye

On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequencesWhite Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

I guess my tendency to read a book to the end, whether I like it or not, has served me in good stead.

At least in completing this meme.

May 22, 2008. books for grown-ups, memes. Leave a comment.

I live in a sick, sick country

Okay, I’m taking a time-out from self-recriminations to be mad at my ridiculous country once again. Why, you may ask?

Well, I was poking around on CNN today after reading the breaking announcement about Sen. Kennedy’s brain tumor (and sending good thoughts to his family) when I came across this story.

I’m not really sure if I’ve read a worse piece of news than that this year. More upsetting even than the individual story that they focused on is the fact that the city of Santa Barbara has set aside 12 parking lots for homeless people to sleep in their cars.


I guess it’s cheaper than actually developing housing that’s affordable, though. Plus, the city gets the added bonus of looking busy at all hours of the day and night!

At the turn of the century, I worked for an organization that was organizing welfare mothers who were being moved from welfare to work. One of my responsibilities there was policy research, and I remember reading a study that someone had done (in the early 90s? not sure) about how the differences between the way that poverty is portrayed in the media during a recession (lots of ‘deserving poor,’ who tend to be white folks that lost a job and fell on hard times) versus the way it is portrayed in good economic times (lots of multi-generational ‘welfare queens’ who drive cadillacs and are black).

I’ve been noticing a lot of poor white folks in the news recently, is all I’m saying.

May 20, 2008. politically motivated. 5 comments.

would you like to come over and kick me in the head?

A confession:

Sometimes, I really am the world’s worst mother. It’s not just something that my kids say to hurt my feelings.

On Thursday morning, I got really fed up with the fact that the Bee was dawdling about getting ready for school (like–it was 8:15, she needs to be at school by 8:30, she was still in her pajamas). This is a dawdling that’s been going on for a week, and I was/am so tired of having to nag my kid out of the house every day.

We got into a huge fight about it–at one point, she, landisdad and I were all screaming–and finally I yelled, “what’s wrong with you?” at her, and she broke down in tears and told me that one of her friends has been making fun of her clothes every day. Because they ‘don’t match.’ And because she wears the same sneakers every day. And that two days ago, this other girl pointed out to her several times that she was wearing a purple shirt and brown socks. And that the Bee, for the past week, has been freezing up every time she opens her dresser before she gets ready in the morning, because she is afraid that she will pick the wrong thing to wear.


Was. Not. Prepared.

I honestly believed that we had a few years before this “I’m telling you this hard truth because I’m your friend and I want you to be a better person/popular/cuter” kind of bullshit started.

And I honestly believed that, when it happened, I would actually help my daughter through it in a calm and supportive way, instead of screaming at her.

We’ve had a bunch of conversations about this topic since then, and come up with some strategies for her to call out the other girl for bullying her, and enlisting some of her other friends as a support network. I told her a story about how I ran away from school when I was in the fourth grade, because I was getting teased for an outfit that I was wearing. I’ve asked her repeatedly why she didn’t tell me and landisdad what was going on earlier. You know what she said? “It’s embarrassing, mom.”

So we talked some more about that, and about how there are other adults that she can talk to, if she doesn’t want to talk to me and landisdad about things like this, and about how we live in a country where people will judge you on your appearance, and you have to learn to be happy with the way that you look, or else there will always be someone making you feel bad about it because you’re too fat, or your skin is too dark, or your nose is too big, or you wear too many stripy clothes, or you have feet that are too large, or eleventy-million other things that are not “the norm.”

And I feel like she’s going to be okay about this, in the long run, and she will learn to stand up for herself against bullies, and she’s a tough kid.

But I also feel like I fucked up, and that at a time when my kid really needed me to pay attention to her, and notice things about her, what I chose to do was make her feel worse about herself, because she was making me late for work.

The thing about parenting is, you can’t wallow in your own feelings of fucked-up-ed-ness. I’d like to spend a bunch of time lying in my bed, curled in the fetal position, but that’s not going to make the thing I fucked up better. I’d like to invite you, oh people of the internets, to come over and kick me in the head, but that’s not going to make it better either.

So instead, I post this cautionary tale:

Sometimes, your kid is not dawdling just to get on your last nerve. Sometimes, your kid has a rich and fascinating (and even scary) interior life that has nothing to do with you. Pay attention.

May 17, 2008. Tags: . growing up, thoughtful parenting. 21 comments.

back to the politics

I hope you all had a lovely Mother’s Day (if you’re a mother), or you just got to sleep in on a Sunday (if you’re not). My favorite moment of the morning was when I came down the stairs (after being summoned to breakfast) to see the Potato acting as a maitre d’, asking me if I had a reservation. I could have eaten him for breakfast!

But Mother’s Day is over now, and I’m back to my usually snarky self. Here’s my new favorite political blog:

Things younger than McCain

H/T landisdad. Enjoy!

May 12, 2008. politically motivated. 4 comments.

It did not take me 13 years to read this book.

Although at times I thought it might.

It did, however, take me over three years. In fact, the only New Year’s resolution that I made this year was either to finish it, or to stop even trying to read it. And I’m finally done.

I feel a huge sense of accomplishment, not least because I’ve already in my life abandoned one of Jane Smiley’s books (The Greenlanders—oy, the names, it’s worse than a Russian novel) , and I like her too much as a writer to have two unfinished books by her on my shelf.

Now, having finished it, I wish I had read it backwards. But first, the back story from the dust jacket:

…in the wake of 9/11, Smiley faltered in her hitherto unflagging impulse to write and decided to approach novels from a different angle: she read one hundred of them, from classics such as the thousand-year-old Tale of Genjii to recent fiction by Zadie Smith, Nicholson Baker and Alice Munro.

If I had read it backwards (or if Smiley had organized the book differently), I think I would have had a more successful experience, and not felt the need to drag out my reading of it for such a prolonged amount of time. While there’s no question that Smiley is more widely read than I am, it would have helped me, in reading her analysis of various forms of fiction, to have first read her essays about the 100 novels she read in the post-9/11 world.

It’s not that I expected that both of us would love the same books. But it might have, for example, helped me to understand her writing about writing better, had I known in advance that she is not a fan of The Great Gatsby, which is one of my favorite books. I can’t explain my love of that book in as clear a method as she explains her disdain for it, but still, knowing her feelings about that–and the other books that are in her 100 that I’ve read–would have helped me to better understand the arguments she was trying to make about the novel.

That being said, I’m happy to have read it (and happier still to be done with it). And now, I can finally go back to reading her fiction—I’ve had a copy of Ten Days in the Hills for about six months, but I vowed to get through this opus (or give it up for good) before I cracked the cover.

May 8, 2008. books for grown-ups. 2 comments.

is it weird

that I dreamt I was playing scrabulous last night?

I might have a problem…

May 6, 2008. random other things. 5 comments.

it’s not exactly a meme…not exactly…

My favorite dad-blogger, MetroDad, wrote a post last week that I really enjoyed which consisted of questions to other parents. I liked it so much, I’m ripping it off.

Why does my daughter insist on wearing her batting helmet onto the field when she’s playing softball? Is this a sign that she’s destined to be one of the uncool kids?

If a four-year-old boy and a gnat are in the same room, which one will get distracted first? What if there are legos in the room? How does the equation change if there are dinosaurs? Train sets?

Is it wrong for me to refuse to let my children watch the movie Alvin & The Chipmunks in a movie theater, and instead Netflix it so that I don’t have to be in the same room with that singing?

Is it a sign that I’m getting old that I can no longer listen to my beloved hip hop, because I can’t listen to one more song that references a stripper pole? Didn’t there used to be lots of popular music that didn’t talk about strippers?

When I’ve repeatedly warned a certain child that she’s going to be late to her softball game if she doesn’t put her cleats on right now, why is it my fault when she actually is late?

Which of the following scenarios is likely to happen soonest: 1) the parents who decide that it’s okay for them to block the entrance to the daycare with their cars will have a change of heart or 2) the Potato will enter kindergarten and stop going to daycare?

At what age will I stop carrying crayons with me everywhere that I go?

When I finally do break down and get a cell phone for my kid (which is still years in the future), what will she set her sights on next, a fake ID?

Is the rate at which a child outgrows a pair of pants directly related to the amount of money that one spent on those pants?

If you only have one pen in your purse, and that pen is hot pink and has a Polly Pocket doll on the end, is it acceptable to use that pen in a meeting? with your boss?

At what age can I expect that my child will use the bathroom when he needs to, instead of insisting that he doesn’t need to pee while hopping up and down in a frantic manner?

If a child’s friend, when entering one’s house for the first time, exclaims, “this is the messiest house I’ve ever been in!,” is it socially acceptable to send her home with a dust-bunny in her pocket?

Answers in the comments—or questions of your own—are welcome!

May 1, 2008. memes, random other things. 7 comments.