Archive for November, 2007

reading is fundamental: books for tweens and preschoolers

Posted in BC (beloved child the elder), books, FAMILY, jools (also a beloved child), ms. malaprop, political animal on November 14, 2007 by wrekehavoc

fear not: i’m in a happy reading state of mind now.

why, you ask? for starters, i’m currently gripped by an apoplectic fear that some toy i might purchase for a birthday or a holiday will end up getting sent back on a slow boat to china. worse still, it might poison a kid. so pick a book. even if it’s a baby book and the kid does chew on it, it hopefully won’t be laden with lead.

there are some who think that some of the books i’d choose poison a kid. i mean, some of these authors, like my fave judy blume, end up on banned books lists year after year. they deal with topics like sex, or drugs, or rock and roll. or maybe a combo of all three. and some parents are so damned threatened by this idea.

now i am not a model parent. BC will be quick to tell you that i curse; i’m a major boohoo; i’m unfair from time to time; and i don’t let her live on reese’s peanut butter cups. but i like to delude myself believe that i have a pretty good relationship with my kids. we talk about lots of things. hell, they bring up stuff waaaay before i’m ready. and i try to answer them as honestly as i can — although believe me, sometimes, the answer is pretty short since they can’t handle the whole truth at times.

and when we read books together, we talk about them. if the characters are freaked out because they don’t fill up a bra yet, that’s fodder. if the characters are frightened by witches, we go there, too. i suspect a day will come when the kids will be smarter than i am, and they’ll start asking questions about nuclear particles and neurotransmitters. i’ll be the one, then, who gets to ask the questions.

but in the meantime, i get to be the smarty. i’m the mommy; that’s why.

so for a week, i’m going to share some of my favorite tween girl books, books that BC and i have enjoyed, sometimes multiple times. i’ll then magically pick a book or two that bridges the gap and that can be enjoyed by a tween girl AND a preschool boy (for those nights when i’m solo parenting and have to kill two birds with one stone. so to speak.) and then, onto preschool goodness. i’ll try to pick some faves as well as some slightly off-beat works.

but know that these are all kid-tested and mom-approved… of course, if you’re the type of mom who has perfect hair, has perfect kids, and is perfectly uncomfortable with anything remotely controversial, then these may not be perfect for you. if, however, you’ve an open mind, well, then. pull up a chair 🙂

read on, macduff.

kids books i loathe: the giving tree

Posted in books, FAMILY, health, miracles of science, ms. malaprop on November 13, 2007 by wrekehavoc

kids books i loathe week is completed with a classic that everybody seems to love. everyone except for me, that is. in fact, i would have to say this is the book that sends me over the biggest cliff. i would never, ever advocate banning it. but jeez oh man, i hate this book with a passion.

i know, i know. the giving tree is a tender story that talks about loyalty and devotion. silverstein keeps it open-ended so that you and your child can have a conversation about being good to one another. selflessness. that sort of thing.

but you know what? i think a little too much selflessness is foisted onto parents, particularly mothers. and we are often the readers of this book, and we’re the ones who get the message thus strewn upon ourselves. i know plenty of mothers — myself included — who would put limb and life and liberty at risk simply to ensure the happiness and well-being of their child. now, this is good. and this is not so good.

you know. put the air mask on yourselves, people, before you put it on the children.

i have seen and been the woman who whittles herself down to the point where there is nearly nothing left for my partner, my kids, my world. what good are you to everyone if you’re a shell of your former self?

and that’s why i get so effing mad at this book. it sanctifies the effing tree. what an amazing, giving tree. it gives and gives until it can barely give anymore. and of course, no one appreciates it until its too late.

fuck that.

appreciate me now, while i am here to hear it. enjoy me now, while i can still join you in your laughter. don’t wait til i’m dead. don’t make me a martyr.

and pick a different book out for me to read to my kids for that matter.

The Giving Tree

bruce springsteen and the e street band, 11/11

Posted in BS (beloved spouse), FAMILY, music on November 12, 2007 by wrekehavoc

we interrupt the regularly scheduled theme to share impressions about our pilgrimage genuflection concert experience with the Boss last night. for those of you who don’t know me well, know that i heart bruce springsteen; BS grew up down the street from the Boss; and that i’ve seen him a bajillion times (for example, this one.) and though we consider ourselves big fans, we are mere dilettantes compared to one of BS’s sisters, who i’ll fondly call M. M and her significant other see Bruce several times on each tour. they’ve travelled to different cities to see him. they’ve bumped into him. she’s active on a few bruce groups; in short, she knows her shit.

so when girlfriend called me at 6-something friday night and said: “a ticket drop is happening NOW,” i knew immediately to hang up the phone and grab ticketmaster. we already had tickets up with G-d for the monday night show, but what the hell — i figured i’d tempt fate. and i after several tries, i snagged two more tickets for sunday night’s show. amazingly, M snagged two — in the row right behind us. (somehow M and her beloved brother, BS, have a very strange bruce karma. one time, at a VH1 online charity auction, they tangled, anonymously over front-row seats and backstage passes. in a moment of brilliance, BS called his sister up, asked her if she was the anonymously-named chick tangling with him, and told her to knock it off. we laugh, but that chick cost us an extra grand or two, lol 🙂

ah well. off we went. i was sleepy, so i drank a can of Coke Zero before my friend, who happened to be kind enough to sit with our kids, arrived. did i ever mention that i’m really not supposed to drink caffeine because it makes me nuts? no? well, su-prise, su-prise, su-prise! i think that BS and my friend were ready to swat my nose with a newspaper, as i was probably acting like a child desperate for ritalin. are you sure you know how to turn the oven off? are you sure willcall will have my tickets? are you sure… are you sure… are you sure??? when we got in to the verizon center, BS got me a beer in the hopes that i would mellow out.

great move.

this is around the time we meet up with my SIL, M, and her significant other. i’m sure i made a fabulous impression on her friend, who i just met for the first time. fortunately, M is family, so hopefully she’ll forgive me (M has actually known me longer than even BS has. in a weird stroke of co-in-kee-dink, we were in the same highschool group years ago in NJ Girls State — our last names are close in the alphabet. yep, when i went to BS’s house for the first time to meet the family, she and i kept looking at each other with don’t i know you from somewhere? faces.)

if you’re familiar with bugs bunny, recall the scene where he inhales ether and is being chased by a scientist, who, also etherized, calls out: “commmmmme baaaaaackkkkk heeeeeeeere you raaaaaaaaaaa-bit!” yep. it’s official. i’m too old for anything that might alter my natural state of being. even if it’s legal.

all this to say that i am probably an unreliable narrator (with apologies to cynematic’s pillowbook. her unreliable narrator is far cuter than i am, i bet.)

highlights for me: she’s the one, kitty’s back, gypsy biker, growin’ up. reason to believe was amazing — i love when bruce plays around with his own material and experiments with it, and this is a successful experiment. why the hell he played dancing in the dark is beyond me (though BS did a lovely imitation of jon stewart during it.) i am eternally grateful that we didn’t have to listen to yoko mcspringsteen sing any of her solo material; i am thrilled that they have a happy marriage and a wonderful life together, but her voice grates on my ears. some of the new material is really great, but i was sad that there wasn’t much from the river, probably my favorite bruce LP.

and i still maintain that the rising will one day be turned into a commercial: come on up for Verizon. the Verizon Center was flashing VERIZON to that song; i’m quite sure they’ve tried selling that one to bruce.

bruce played for about two and one-half hours. i know, i know — the dude’s pushing 60. and he’s incredibly energetic. but i still wish for the days when he would go for four hours or more. you can’t go home again. i miss his long sermons. i miss the spontaneity. it’s all so programmed now. yes, it’s fun, but somehow, there’s a little sparkle that isn’t there much anymore.

anyway, about those other tickets we had. we’re not going tonight. i’m too old and tired. besides, i knew parents of BC’s friend were jonesing for tix, so i figured we didn’t need two nights in a row of bruce. and sharing the tix made me feel like my karma points went up.

besides. i gotta wait for my hearing to come back.

set list after the jump.

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kids books i loathe: Mr. Rogers New Baby

Posted in books, FAMILY, ms. malaprop on November 12, 2007 by wrekehavoc

ok, ok. i know i am about to go after a man who is not only still dead but is also still very beloved by a huge segment of the american population. we love the sweater, we love the parodies, we love the gentle ways of fred rogers.

i do, too, generally speaking (though i always hated the puppets and never understood how they fit into the “real” world of mr. rogers. ever.) and that’s why i felt like such a bad person for loathing this book.

but when i was expecting jools, i read several “new baby” books to BC to help her prepare for for her new baby brother. this is the only one that truly freaked her out in a way i could have never expected. see, fred talks honestly in the book about the feelings a new baby can bring out in a sibling. and one of those feelings is that you might feel like you want to hurt the baby.


BC was freaked out FOR MONTHS. mama, she wailed, i don’t want to hit the baby! i’m afraid i will hit the baby!!!!

when you’re pregnant, you really don’t need that on top of everything else. i’m more in favor of talking about feelings during the actual moment. sure, talk about what it’s like to be a new sibling. but don’t put ideas into my kid’s head that weren’t there to start, fred. you just created one hell of a nervous child. a real freaking help that book was. nope. there are a bajillion new baby books out there, everything from the berenstain bears to the sears’.

when it comes to new babies, stay the hell out of mr. roger’s neighborhood.

Mr. Roger’s New Baby

kids books i loathe: love you forever by robert munsch

Posted in BC (beloved child the elder), books, FAMILY, ms. malaprop on November 11, 2007 by wrekehavoc

a caveat here: BS found canadian author robert munsch’s website and downloaded a bazillion stories from it for a recent car trip. some of them are downright hilarious. the kids continue to quote from one in particular, especially since it contains the name of one of their beloved cousins: mac-ken-zie….do…YOU…have to go PEE? (this is what passes for art around here somedays.)

that being said, it’s a good thing i didn’t realize that they were written by the same guy who wrote love you forever or else i possibly would have nixed the project from the start. (shows you how exceptionally open-minded i am sometimes, huh.) but this book, in my book, is a major stinker. we’re talking skunker-times-1000.

i remember reading a review of this once from a self-righteous man who reckoned that if you didn’t like this book, you must never have experienced a selfless mother’s love. (sort of like those people who say that if you criticize our foreign policy, you must not be a patriot.) balderdash to that. my momma loves me, she loves me. and still, i can’t stand this one. for starters, i can’t get through this thing without crying buckets of tears, much to BC’s amusement.

if my tears were all that stood between me and this book, then i would be ok with that. but there is something about this book that is just so exceptionally creepy once you’re past the whole baby-child phase. i know all about allegory; but still, the idea of the elderly mom creeping up into the grown man’s house just made me think of one too many thriller movies. attack of the senior? throw momma from the window? my mother the breaking and entering chick? i dunno. it’s all just too freaky for me.

and then, the cycle continues with a new baby.

::cue twilight zone music::

Love You Forever

kids books i loathe: the eloise series by kay thompson

Posted in BC (beloved child the elder), books, BS (beloved spouse), FAMILY, ms. malaprop on November 10, 2007 by wrekehavoc

i may surprise a few people with this next pick, a beloved 50+ year old chestnut. and i will say that i love the illustrations for this one. but i find our friend eloise incredibly irksome.

see, where zillions of people see spunky girl, i see spoiled brat. where zillions of people see cheeky young lady pulling pranks, i see girl who really is lacking proper supervision and guidance. where people see convenient plot device in absentee parents, i see little lady who lacks consideration for anyone else’s needs but her own — and a solid reason to call the division of youth and family services. pronto.

i really do not see anything uplifting about eloise. truly. i wish i did. like i said, i adore the illustrations, an ancestor to one of my favorite children’s books, olivia. i love a subversive heroine as much as the next girl — some of my faves include the aforementioned pig, clarice bean, junie b. jones, and beverly cleary’s ramona — some of whom i’ll discuss in my part of the month on books i love for kids. but i don’t see eloise as subversive. i see her as a sad little brat, what i imagine paris hilton would have been like if she had been abandoned in the plaza hotel with nothing but a know-nothing nanny. and i simply cannot enjoy her tales because of it.

BS hated this book so much that he banned it from the house. i’ve softened that a bit, as i don’t believe in banning books. EVER. so i told BC she is welcome to get the eloise books out of the library. but she must read them herself. i can’t wait to see her try.


kids books i loathe: The Holes in Your Nose (My Body Science Series) by Genichiro Yagyu

Posted in books, FAMILY, health, jools (also a beloved child), ms. malaprop on November 9, 2007 by wrekehavoc

anyone who has kids knows that they all hit phases where they’re fascinated with their bodies. no, not the way high society women are fascinated (and repelled) and decide to undergo the knife; i mean fascinated by farts, snot, poop, bellybuttons, and anything else that might smell or be gross.

to that end, some clever japanese authors created the my body science series. some of the books, like Everybody Poops, translate ok and are funny to little kids (although frankly, they’re dull for grownups.) some of them, though, like The Holes in Your Nose, are simply gross and awful. i like talking about body fluids like the next person ( i threatened as much in my initial post on NaBloPoMo weeks ago), but reading through this book is about as much fun as eating your own boogers. which someone i know does. which is why i got this book in the first place. (i won’t name names, but he’s the youngest person in this house.)

i mean, who the hell cares if you can’t smell your own farts when your nose is stuffed (as this book shares, along with booger-eating gorillas and plenty of bloody noses)???

nope. even i, a grossologist (read: mom) can hardly stand this one.

in short, it blows.

The Holes in Your Nose

watch out; it’s book theme time!

Posted in books, FAMILY, ms. malaprop on November 8, 2007 by wrekehavoc

so i’ve got myself a leitmotif, if you will, for the rest of the month. i’m thinking about children’s books, specifically ones i loathe (very few) and ones i love (too many to fit in one month.) i don’t think i can make a week of children’s books i loathe (although i am most interested in those that others loathe, so feel free to share in the comments section if you’re feeling cranky but don’t want to go to therapy this week.) but even i have a few that i really, truly cannot stand. and you might be surprised when you find out which ones they are — some are classics in children’s literature. yes, i will probably lose a friend or two over this, but some things just have to be said 😉

nevertheless, as much as i cannot stand these books, i would never, ever advocate book banning. i want to say that as loud and clear as humanly possible.


i feel better now that i’ve gotten that part off my chest.

because i don’t want to be a beacon of negativity (Read: i already won class pessimist back in high school; i don’t want to win another such award in my life if i can help it), i am also including books that are great for tween girls and then books that are great for preschool boys. and, in the spirit of crazeeeeeeness, i even have a few that — hold on to your hat, mavis — are good for BOTH! you know, for those times when your partner is out on the town sitting somewhere with an umbrella in his/her drink sleeping with his/her co-worker working late or just plain not around and you need to read to two sleepy, teary kids. these are books that do the trick.

i mean, i had so much fun with this sort of thing and also this sort of thing, why not try it again?

here goes nuttin’::spittin’ into her hands::

themus interruptus

Posted in FAMILY, health, jools (also a beloved child), miracles of science on November 7, 2007 by wrekehavoc

so here i sit with a cold that appears to be moving me into a familiar upper respiratory hell. breathing is challenging, and i’m probably working my way toward pneumoniaville thanks to my monday with jools.

how do people do it? what i mean to say is how do people with immune systems like mine manage to stay afloat with young children? these walking petri dishes of love, these little people who use your hand as a tissue, who cough in your general direction, who spew contagion of every type at every turn. how can i refuse that little face when it so sweetly smooshes a cheek next to mine?

i can’t.

and yet now, i am battling an awful cold, something which qualifies as a nuisance for most normal people. for me, though, it’s frought with angst. i ponder the all-too-familiar what ifs: what if i get an infection from this, what if antibiotics don’t cut it when i develop that infection, what if its the infection to end all infections? i try not to think about that too much; it makes me sound like a complete and utter hysteric. i mean, fer crying out loud: it’s just a fucking cold.

and i just had my IVIG last week, so one would think i would be in fighting form. if this is fighting form, though, i shudder to think about what my 98-pound weakling self would do with this germfest.

so i wonder: is it more important for me to be healthy, yet distant from my children? or is it better for me to behave as any other normal parent would behave: taking care of children while they’re sick, pouring love and affection into them to help them feel better, at the peril of my own health? i always opt for the latter.

i hope it doesn’t kill me someday.

great music for kids: music for kids that even a parent like me can handle

Posted in FAMILY, music on November 7, 2007 by wrekehavoc

i’m partial, as i’ve said, to tons of music by tons of people. i have even made a playlist of nonkid songs that my kids love (it’s on a service called rhapsody, but it should give you some free plays if you’re interested in hearing it.) but what do you do when your kid is clamoring for some kid-friendly music made specifically for kids?

in other words, how do you fight off barney?

increasingly, real live grownup musicians are gearing music toward kids. they might be giants, dan zanes (formerly of the del-fu-e-gos, as juliana hatfield once sang), mark mothersbaugh (formerly of devo), the list goes on and on. it’s not even bad, mostly. and because i like to hifive indy folks, i’ll give a big shout out to my childhood friend yosi, whose indie kids rock blog hasn’t been updated in awhile but who has some fun content on, well, doy, independent folks who make rock for kids.

trout fishing in america is pretty hysterical. there. i said it.

i keep hoping that i can find some jazz that my kids would like. anyone got any suggestions there?

i must say, music in kids cartoons is becoming increasingly sophisticated. i once swore, for example, that a special episode of blues clues sounded like a takeoff of the who’s tommy. and the international super spy show of the backyardigans was a smart takeoff on mid-1960s spy movies, down to the music. and, guilty pleasure alert:

i still adore my old disney favorite songs. when you wish upon a star will always be one of my favorite songs. ever.

so go ahead and call me a wuss or a traitor. i care not. but music for kids is improving. and i think it’s because we parents finally said no to complete pap, like they’ve had for years.

truth be told, it still won’t keep me from playing regular music for my kids. i still think that’s the best. music. ever. and i know that my kids will rebel one day. they’ll love crappy top 40, or the current crappy hip hop that doesn’t usually hold a candle to old skool, or — horrors — they’ll fall in love with modern country.

that, and they’ll announce that they’re conservative republicans. eek.