Sunday, May 20, 2012

Four Messed Up Books for Kids

You may recall I worked at a book store for a while. While there, I got to check out a lot of children books. Some I fell in love with, some not so much. There are a lot of bad books out there, but there is a special category in my mind: books that are really successful and people seem to love but that I find totally messed up. On my hit list of weirdo books:

Coming in at number four: The Poky Little Puppy by Jeanette Sebring Lowery.Five puppies sneak out and run around all day. Four of them get caught and get sent to bed without dessert, the fifth one is slower and sneaks in later. He eats all the desserts. Then one day, the four get caught but fill in the hole they had dug to get out. So they get the dessert and the slow one gets caught and doesn't get dessert. What is the point of this story exactly? Why doesn't the mother realize there's a puppy missing the first few days? I just don't get it.

Coming in at number three: The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. The young bunny wants to (understandably) run away from his mother, but no matter what, she will find him, so in the end, he just gives up. My understanding: basically, the mother emasculates him, and he gives up on his dreams and creativity. Good job, overbearing mother, I hope you are proud of yourself!

The number two spot goes to Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. Seriously, what's the message of this book? To me it shows a boy who grows up and is portrayed as selfish and greedy, when truly, it's normal to develop interests other than swinging from tree branches when you become an adult. On the other hand, you have this ridiculously selfless tree, that gives everything away in desperate hope that the boy will come back to him. Is it a symbol of parents? Well I sure hope I don't turn out to be a "giving tree" parent, and that I have a life of my own and don't sit around waiting for my children to come back. In my view, that tree can be summed up in one word: pathetic.

Speaking of pathetic and messed up... here comes number one: Love You Forever. by Robert Munsch. What's up with this creepy mother who crawls into her grown-up son's house and bedroom to rock him at night. That's just plain f'ed up! She needs to get a life, and the son needs therapy. Besides, the illustrations are hideous. 

There are plenty of great books that tell stories of parents' love for their children without being creepy . Guess How Much I Love You is one of my absolute favorites. It's OK to read books that tell kids parents love them, but maybe we can help cut the cord a bit instead of trying to guilt them from the very beginning.

Do you have differing opinions on these books? Am I reading them wrong? Do you know other children's books you think are messed up? 

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Toddler-Friendly Language?

Could some languages be easier to use with toddlers that others? This is by no means a study in linguistics, but more of a personal theory that comes from my day-to-day experience. To tell you the truth, raising my son in French in an English-speaking country, I have developed  a sort of English-envy. I feel that the English language is better suited for toddler-rearing, because of its simple words and clearer ways to express things. For instance, it's a lot easier to repeat "share" than "il faut partager!" You can also use 'sharing' for lending toys, whereas in French you have to switch to "preter" which brings in a whole other concept. 

There are also some simple phrases parents use that convey easy messages like "use your words". I try to translate it, to "utilise tes mots", but it sounds a bit awkward and unnatural. I also like the saying "it hurts my feelings", the translation for this would be "ca me fait de la peine" but I think the French expression is a lot more abstract (it literally means "it pains me"). 

Finally, I think the English language can easily be put into simple phrases you can repeat over and over. I have heard A's teacher say to a child who was upset about the sticker she got "you get what you get and you don't get upset", I think that it's a great way to put it, and that there is no way you could do that in French. Maybe it's because I don't live in France and have lost some of my skills, but I feel that French requires you to explain things in more complex ways. 
Don't get me wrong, I love the French language, and its complexity is what makes it particularly interesting, but when it comes to toddlers, the English language may have an advantage. Maybe a linguist could actually study the issue.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Great Mother's Day

This is my third mother's day and my best so far.. mostly because it's the first time I got a gift from A (thanks to his teachers at school.) So here it is, A's gift, a super cute mold of his hand, painted by him, along with a card and wrapping paper he decorated:

He was so excited to give it to me that he wanted me to carry it with me everywhere -- including to his swim lesson -- and I was petrified at the idea of breaking it.
Sunday morning, the day started with SleepyPapa and A bringing me a card and gift in bed. The gift was a necklace I love:

After that, it was time to go to brunch (we have this tradition with my mom that we go to brunch the Sunday before she leaves, it just happened to be on Mother's Day this time). We all got dressed, but A had his own idea of what to wear to brunch. All the kids there were wearing fancy outfits, and this is what my son decided was appropriate:

That's his PJ top, with shorts, and a pair of sneakers without socks. Oh well, it's not a big deal. He had fun at brunch, and was very good, and that's all we ask for. Who cares what he wears, since he doesn't want to pose for pictures anyway...

The rest of the day was spent doing stuff around the house and in the yard. Then we inaugurated our grill by making burgers, hot dogs, and grilled zucchinis. I don't want to brag, but for a first-time run, it was pretty yummy! All in all, a really nice day...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What we've been up to

I took a little break from blogging recently, mostly because we were sooo busy: end of the semester, trip to LA, and many other things. So here's a quick recap of what we've been up to since the birthday extravaganza...
The weekend after A's birthday was Easter weekend. We went to an egg hunt in our village on Saturday  and held our own along with a brunch with some friends of Sunday. The weather cooperated and a good time was had by all.

The Wednesday following Easter, the three of us flew out to L.A. for my sister-in-law's wedding.

A's idea of packing

 We packed quite a lot in the four days we were there: a trip to the doctor for A (stomach problems), Jamba Juice, a fun morning at Zuma beach in Malibu,

 a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, an afternoon with family, dinner at In-and-Out

mani-pedi with the bridal party (I was a bridesmaid), rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, a beautiful wedding day (A was great and danced with us until 10 pm!),

wedding day!

 a morning at the pool, an afternoon at Griffith Park (they have a great little train to ride), sushis and a red-eye flight back home on Sunday night.
The past two weekends we enjoyed a picnic at Green Lakes State Park,

 some gardening and house projects

(we planted flowers, a blackberry bush and three blueberry bushes), reseeded the area where they dug up our septic tank last fall, and tried catching some butterflies-- A actually caught one at first try, but there has been no repeat since.

So we've been busy (ans as you can see form the clothes, the weather has been crazy!) but as of Friday, I'm done with work and done with school for a while. Now on to new adventures...and hopefully better weather!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Breastfeeding and why I'm mad at Whoopi

I haven’t watched daytime TV in years, but today I came across a tweet about Whoopi Goldberg ranting on The View against a new initiative by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to encourage breastfeeding in New York hospitals. I usually like Whoopi, but this time I think she’s just being ridiculous. What is wrong with encouraging new moms to breastfeed? It’s clearly best for the baby (and for the mom too), it’s also cheaper for the household than buying formula for a year. I understand that some women just can’t do it, and those women shouldn’t be stigmatized, but encouraging people to do something that benefits their child doesn’t mean you are blaming the others.

I breastfed A for a full year. It certainly wasn’t an easy thing for me, but I set this goal for myself and am glad I stuck to it. My main reasons for breastfeeding were:  1 my baby’s health 2. Not spending money on unnecessary formula, 3 shedding the pounds 4 not getting my period back (it sounds dumb but it’s a great motivator). I was able to do it, in part thanks to those lactation consultants and Leche League members who helped and encouraged me along the way. I took a class at the hospital before giving birth, and in the maternity ward, the nurses were incredibly helpful. The hardest part for me was probably having to pump at work and worrying about having pumped enough. The bonding part they talk about? I didn’t really get that… my son couldn’t stand being talked to while eating and would promptly stop if I said anything. He also never looked at me while eating. His feedings were about 30-40 minutes long, so no; it was not a simple, easy thing. But knowing that it was the best thing for my son kept me going.

What shocks me the most is how it’s so often women who are their own worst enemies when it comes to breastfeeding.  Like Whoopi and that dimwit Elizabeth Hasselbeck did on the show, I often hear women deride La Leche League and accuse hospital lactation consultants of being horrendous militants barging into new moms’ hospital rooms and guilting them into breast feeding. I am not sure how they operate in other hospitals, but in the one where I delivered, the main problem I encountered with the lactation consultant was that she wasn’t available enough. I never saw anyone from the League, but when I needed advice, I did pick up the phone and call a woman from the local chapter and she was incredibly helpful.

I pumped three times a day at work for about nine months (I had a three-months maternity leave). I was lucky to have my own office, so I just had to shut the door and pump. When I was done, I would put my bottles in the community fridge and rinse my apparatus in the kitchen sink. I never heard a word about it from any of my male coworkers. That’s right, it was the women in the workplace who gave me “the look”, and the women who made comments about my milk in the fridge. Seriously, what is so gross about human milk in closed bottles? You drink the same thing that comes out of a cow’s teats every day. At the time I worked in a store, and I heard female coworkers comments several times about women breastfeeding in the store and how “wrong” it was, suggesting they go to the bathroom to do it. Nothing angered me more. I didn't really care about any of this, because I knew I was doing what was best, and other people's opinions didn't matter to me, but I could see how it could discourage other people.
My point is that it seems that women DO need to be educated about breastfeeding, so yes, Whoopi and Elizabeth, it is a good idea to encourage it. It’s easy to make fun of things and act like a 6 year old about anything that involves boobs, but it’s time women grow up and support each other instead. Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do as a new mom, but it’s not an easy thing, so new moms need all the help they can get. Thank you Mayor Bloomberg for taking the initiative to help our families, and sorry that some women don’t see what good you are doing.

Did you have a hard time breastfeeding? Did you encounter weird looks and comments about your breastfeeding?