Wednesday, August 27, 2008



My, that's a big, bright banner for my modest, little back-to-school giveaway. Got to hook you somehow, though, right?

Here's what's at stake (or at steak?!): Thanks to the fine folks at Boca, I have some coupons for a free Boca product (of your choice) to give away. I've always liked Boca's Burgers--best, most beef-like, vegetarian ones I've tasted. I tried a couple of their new products at BlogHer, although I can't for the life of me remember what they were. I was in a low-blood-sugar fog/rage at the time, so my memory's a little hazy. I do remember the food was tasty, though, and it really saved me--kept me from passing out or attacking random passersby for their snacks.

To go with your Boca burgers (or whatever other Boca product you choose), I am also including a bottle of this new, healthier ketchup I've come across called Krazy Ketchup. This isn't your run-of-the-mill ketchup, no siree. (At $5.00 a 12oz bottle, it better not be). It's a puree of all sorts of organic vegetables--mostly tomatoes, of course. Aw heck, I'll just let the folks at Krazy Ketchup describe it for themselves:

My daughter and I like this ketchup, and not just because it's healthy. My son--not so much. This probably has more to do with texture than anything else, as it is a little thicker and denser than standard-issue ketchup. Keep in mind, though, that my son has a repertoire of about 4 foods he is willing to eat, not including chocolate. He hates, among other things, hot dogs, pudding, pancakes and doughnuts (what child does't like DOUGHNUTS????!!!). He's only ever liked one brand of chocolate milk, and when the stores in our area stopped carrying it, I fed him a different brand without telling him. BIG mistake. He could tell it was different at the first sip. So, no more chocolate milk for him. He also is willing to drink only ONE flavor of ONE particular brand of drinkable yogurt. And the child won't even TASTE honey or maple syrup. I think you can understand why I feel you shouldn't rely on my son's evaluation of the ketchup--or any other food product, for that matter. (Unless it's chicken nuggets--he's got a pretty good grasp of the subtleties of chicken nuggets. . .)

So--there will be three lucky winners in this contest, as I have three bottles of wild and Krazy Ketchup. There will be one or two coupons per winner for free Boca products, depending upon how many I decide to keep for myself. I may throw an extra surprise item in the package, too. But I'm not making any promises--so don't get all excited just yet.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that Boca provided me with the coupons, although I made no promises to review or mention their products for good or ill. The gals at Krazy Ketchup have no idea I'm doing this (at least until I e-mail them with an introduction to me and a link to my blog. . .), so they just owe me big-time.

How, you ask, do you actually enter to win this delicious (and exposition-heavy) contest? I was inspired, as I so often am, by my friend Florinda and her Ten on Tuesday post. This week, it was: 10 Things I Didn't Like About School. [Note: While I started drafting this post on Tuesday, I didn't have a chance to finish until today--so now you have Ten on Tuesday on Wednesday.]

While I listed all 10 things I disliked about school, I'm going to cut you a break. To win, you only need to leave a comment below with the 5 things you disliked or downright hated about school. Alternatively, you can post the 5 things on your own blog, then leave a comment below with a link back to your post. (Feel free to be far more succinct than I am). You can earn extra chances if you (a) link to my post on your blog, and/or (b) list the full 10 things.

The contest is open to residents of the US and Canada. And I reserve the right to choose the winners any way I want to, although I'll probably be using because I think it is a cool site. The contest will end sometime toward the end of the week of September 1st. I haven't decided which day yet. I'll keep you posted on that, though.

10 Things Karen Disliked About School (in no particular order)

Like Florinda, I generally liked school--at least the academic part of it. Nevertheless I was still able, with some mental scrambling, to come up with 10 things I didn't like about school--most of them social. (And I swear, I'm not copying you, Florinda!)

1. PE. I sucked at sports. Or at least I thought I did. (I realized as an adult that I'm not that bad--or I finally matured into my physicality-- or whatever). And my performance generally lived down to my low expectations. (With a couple of weird exceptions, like being able to cradle, catch and throw with ease during Lacrosse. Too bad there was running involved, or I might've actually found my niche!) So, as is the case with geeks everywhere, I was always picked last. (I hope PE teachers have finally wised up to the cruelty inherent in such a system). Plus, for at least some of my school career, we had to wear these hideous one-piece, zipper-front, striped, blue and white (or more often, blue and dingy gray) gym uniforms, which, needless to say, reeked by the end of the week. We looked like convicts--and probably smelled worse.

2. Leaving Home. Pathetic case that I am, I continued to have separation anxiety (compounded by a strong case of hypochondria that only my mom could soothe) pretty much until high school. Lots of stomachaches, lots of calls to come pick me up, lots of absences. Luckily, it didn't affect my grades much.

3. Elementary School Cafeteria Rolls-or rather, their smell. I'll pretty much eat anything, including cafeteria food, but there was a kind of dinner roll my elementary school baked--and it had a very distinct aroma. I've only come across that particular smell a couple of times as an adult, but the negative olfactory connection is so strong that the smell induced nausea both times. It was a smell that permeated my elementary school and so I cannot separate the odor from the experience of school as a whole.

4. Recess-Yes, I may be the only person in the history of the world to dislike recess. I was so painfully shy and such a loner that I didn't really have anyone to play with after about 2nd grade. I therefore felt both left out and conspicuous. Recess, with it's lack of structure, was hell for me.

5. Wesley Bunch-The golden boy of my grade in elementary school. He had an angelic face, and a head full of cottony-soft, curly, blonde (and I mean tow-headed) hair. He thought he was da bomb (if that term had existed then). He was an obnoxious and annoying boy. He also had the temerity use the time we spent waiting in line to go into the library to spin himself dizzy, eventually falling down and cracking his chin open. A very large puddle of blood pooled below his pale, seemingly lifeless body. I almost threw up several times, was sick to my stomach the rest of the day and was utterly traumatized. Wesley came back to school with a bunch of stitches in his chin, hero status and the envy of every boy in our grade. (I'm sure he matured into a lovely adult, however.)

6. Math-I hated math and thought I was not that good at it. Until I hit 11th and 12th grades. Funny what a difference a GOOD math teacher can make.

7. Mean Girls-I don't think this needs an explanation. School-age girls can be vicious.

8. Riding the Bus-One year I was the last pick-up on the morning route. By the time I got on the bus, inevitably, all the seats were occupied by at least 2 people. The seats were ostensibly built for three--and maybe that works when you're 6 or 7, but when you're between the ages of 12 and 17, those seats are just too small for three people. This was horrible for me on two levels. First: No one wanted to share a seat with a third person, so every morning I had to piss someone off by asking to share a seat. Some kids were so unkind that they actually said no. For an exceedingly shy child, this daily humiliation amounted to torture of the most cruel and unusual kind. Second: I spent my bus ride with one butt cheek on and one butt cheek hanging precariously off the seat, trying to brace myself to keep from falling in the aisle and to keep my books from flying all over the bus as we whipped around corners and freeway off-ramps. It did help me understand some basic physics, though, albeit in a most personal and unpleasant way.

9. Stupid people-I guess in some ways I wasn't a terribly tolerant tot. (So my later shyness and the torture related thereto was perhaps karma coming back to bite me on the ass). I am ashamed now to say that the kids who just didn't get it annoyed me beyond belief, and having to go slowly for them bored me to tears. I'd like to think I'm a little more tolerant as an adult. Looking back and seeing my smug six-year-old self in the reading circle, impatient with kids who could barely sound their way through Tip The Dog, when I could have read it two years earlier does not make for a pretty picture. If possible, I was worse in kindergarten, where I scornfully refused to "read" what I now assume were the curricular pre-reading books because they didn't have any words, just pictures. (Think Good Dog, Carl, except with crappy illustrations and story lines).

10. Boys--This only lasted until late-middle school. I assume you can imagine the cause of my change of heart at around that time. Before that, though, boys just scared the life out of me. Having only sisters (and younger ones at that), I did not understand or know what to make of them and their strange and rowdy ways. Although I do remember having a crush on Robbie Ritchie in 2nd grade. . .not that I ever would have dared to talk to him.

Okay, now you've read my 10 things--it's time for you to share your 5 for a chance to win, and win big! And don't forget: linky-love and/or an extra 5 things will earn you extra chances. Go ahead, dredge up that past you thought (hoped) was forever buried in the darkest recesses of your memory. It's fun!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Random Bits and Tuesday Teasers

From The-Kids-Truly-Will Fight-about-ANYTHING File:

Bella Bambina (the all powerful): "I could destroy the world if I wanted."
Boing-Boing: "No you couldn't."
Bella Bambina: "ANYONE could destroy the whole world if they wanted to."
Boing Boing: "Nuh-uh."
Bella Bambina (volume rising): "I could too destroy the whole world myself."
Boing Boing (angry): No, you couldn't.
Bella Bambina (screeching): Yes, I COULD!
Boing Boing (also screeching--it'll be so nice when his voice changes one day-then I'll be able to tell them apart in a screaming contest . . .): NO YOU COULDN'T.
Bella Bambina: COULD, TOO!
Boing Boing: COULD, NOT!
Bella Bambina: I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT, SO THERE. (I guess the female empowerment message is getting through loud and clear. . .).
Boing Boing: NO. YOU. CAN'T. I'M TELLING MAMA (pause).....MAAAH-MAAAAH.....!
Me: Wha-at?
Boing Boing: [Bella Bambina] thinks she can destroy the whole world . . . ."

You get the picture.


And now, for the Tuesday Teasers:

Teaser Tuesd
ays, hosted at Should Be Reading, asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

  • Two books again this week:

    The first excerpt is from The Good Girl Revolution: Young Rebels with Self-Esteem and High Standards by Wendy Shalit. This book was included in the copious swag I received from the BlogHer Conference. I am less than a quarter of the way through the book and am enjoying it far more than I thought I would. We'll see if I feel the same way after reading the whole thing:

    "They also distributed stickers reading F___K THE PATRIARCHY that seemed to be in conflict with the first set of stickers (unless they meant F___K THE PATRIARCHY literally)." Page 44

    The second excerpt is from a book I've just started reading: No One You Know by Michelle Richmond.

    "He raised an eyebrow. 'How did you know that?'
    'I use the Yerba Buena on-ramp.'"

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    Teaser Tuesdays (Two Days Late)

    Sorry for the radio silence folks. It was a combination of feeling unmotivated AND being on jury duty. Luckily, I was kicked off a panel (via peremptory challenge) yesterday--and so am done with my civic duty for a year.

    As I missed Tuesday's posting, I decided to post Tuesday's Teasers on Thursday this week. I love being the G-d of my own Blog!!

    The rules again:

    Teaser Tuesdays, hosted at Should Be Reading, asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

  • Two books again this week.

    The first is from a FANTASTIC book called My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger. It's targeted at the YA audience, but as far as I can tell, every adult who has read it LOVES it (personal anecdotes and 5-star reviews from everyone-no exceptions last time I looked-on Amazon). Another example of a the YA moniker being unduly restrictive. Oh, and it's three sentences, but it wouldn't make sense otherwise.

    Dear Mama,
    We have a science teacher at Laurents named Mr. Landey, and since his father is deaf he knows American Sign Language (they call it ASL). So I've been learning it from him every day after sixth period. I've already nailed the whole alphabet, even though I still get D and F mixed up (which really isn't a problem as long as I stay away from "duck
    "). (page 154)

    Oh, and I can't resist a few more lines--again--I love being able to be the G-d of my blog.

    Augie is falling in love with Andy Wexler.
    Andy Wexler is falling in love with Augie.
    Augie doesn't know that Andy is gay.
    Andy doesn't know that Augie is gay (Hello?)
    I'm glad I'm a girl.
    (page 69)

    Gosh, there are so many great lines. . .I could just keep going. But I will stop myself here.

    I continue on my Stephanie Meyer jag--but this time I'm reading a book NOT in the Twilight saga: Ms. Meyer recently wrote an adult science-fiction-ish book called
    The Host, from which the following quote comes (and I cheated on the length again):

    I couldn't stop shivering. Jeb could only promise me now. There was no guarantee that Jared would not decide my secret was more important than protecting Melanie's body. I knew that such a fate would make me wish Ian had succeeded last night. (page 162)

    Happy reading, folks.

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    Of Meat Raffles, Atheists and Billboards

    Technicolor Sunset

    If you read the title of this post and said "Huh?," I'm right there with ya.

    My family and I recently returned from a week at a cabin by a lake in Minnesota. It was, by the way, a fantastic experience, and one that was particularly valuable to my children, as they had freedom to roam in a way that would never be possible here in LA. I thought it was the coolest thing ever when I realized my kids were playing an indoor-outdoor game of hide-and-seek--and not one damn adult had to be out there watching them (nor were the kids asking for permission or for parental oversight--which they would have done here in the big, bad Orange). The lake by the cabin was beautiful, the sunsets amazing, the loons noisy and the mosquitos and black flies mercifully few.

    Now, I don't mean to disrespect ANY Minnesotans out there--you are among the friendliest, politest people I've ever met outside of Canada--but your state does have a few, well, quirks.

    First, there's the Meat Raffle. We found that "Meat Raffle" signs were practically ubiquitous in every town we passed through. If you think I'm making this up--you'd be wrong, wrong, wrong. We have photographic proof and I will post it if my husband ever downloads his photos and e-mails me the appropriate one. (It will happen, but don't go holding your breath, because I don't know exactly WHEN it will happen--I'd hate to see you pass out over meat--In the meantime, Google Images has come to the rescue).

    Baffled? So were we. Were they actually raffling off meat? Everywhere? And would people actually spend money on raffle tickets just for MEAT? I don't know what your experience with raffles has been, but, at my kids' school, we could hardly get anyone to purchase raffle tickets for a CAR, so how on earth were they getting folks to ante up for meat? And not even guaranteed meat--but potential meat? Was there some sort of meat shortage which made raffled meat particularly desirable? Perhaps it was rare and unusual meat. Or maybe winning meat is just way more fun than my paltry imagination can handle.

    My husband and I wondered if we were thinking about this thing too literally. But what else could a meat raffle be? Dirty birdy that I am, I wondered if "meat" was some sort of code for. . .um, how shall I put this. . .good old-fashioned beefcake? Visions of burly men danced through my head. Whoa, that WOULD make Minnesota a progressive state. . .

    When we got home, I Googled "meat raffle." (Thank G-d for Wikipedia. EVERYTHING is in Wikipedia, except, for some reason, an entry on Hershey Felder.) If you want to read a little more (and I do mean little. After all, how much can you have to say on the subject of raffling meat?) about meat raffles, click here. As it turns out, what you see is what you get. Apparently, Minnesotans are wild about raffling meat. (The only other places mentioned as having regular meat raffles were Britain and Australia--called "meat trays" in the latter locale. I don't have any idea what Minnesota, with its largely Scandinavian history, has in common with GB or the Land Down Under, other their obvious propensity to gamble on animal flesh.)

    Unfortunately, my husband and I were not able to participate in the meat raffle in the town in which we were staying. . .it turns out we were leaving before the big date.

    Ach, it's probably just as well. We keep kosher at home, and I don't know that we'd have had much use for that big ole slab of pork. . .

    Not that all was lost on the competition front, however; we did get to participate in the weekly turtle races--us and almost 500 other people. Yes, you read that number right. They happen every week during the summer and usually have around 500 participants. In a town with a non-tourist population of only 1,800+. And you know, some of those turtles can move surprisingly fast.

    From what I've learned, Minnesota is a very civic-minded state--even down to its atheists. Nowhere was this more in evidence than on the Adopt-a-Highway signs, where one stretch of highway had been adopted by the Minnesota Atheists. I've traveled many a highway and interstate and have never, ever seen a stretch of road adopted by an atheist or group of atheists. Unfortunately, we couldn't get a photo of the sign as we sped by, nor could we turn around and go back because we had a plane to catch. Curious about this group, I looked it up on the internet--and it does, indeed, have its own website. The organization's motto? "Positive Atheism in Action." Only in Minnesota--where even the atheists are committed to social action.

    All kidding aside, you should check out this group. They are seriously organized and seriously committed to doing good. And they all look so darned wholesome doing it, too. . . .

    Now, we get to the billboards. These were among the weirdest billboards my husband and I had ever seen (and he's lived in Minnesota before). These ranged from numerous HUGE anti-abortion billboards (so much for being a progressive state), complete with large photos of fetuses and other (meant-to-be) heartwrenching pix and text (but which we found to be disturbing for other reasons), to lots of medical advertising. But not the sort of medical advertising you might have expected.

    "Do you know how much YOUR colonoscopy will cost?",

    one very large specimen practically boomed--as if G-d were speaking to us through the billboard (very LA Story-esque, but without the flashing lights, traffic and smog. Think the analog version). I sank down in my seat and felt ashamed: Um, well, no? Should I? I'm so. . .sorry. I must be terribly irresponsible.

    Finally, Minnesota is such a WHITE (not to mention, blond) state. I haven't seen such an unbroken sea of white faces since. . .well. . . EVER. Although the Pacific Palisades comes close...but that's another story. I mean these people are WHITE (and I'm not talking skin tone--they do tan). I felt downright ethnic among this crowd. And all I am is Jewish (and pale, at that). Oddly enough, though, in the town in which we were staying, there did seem to be a high incidence of African-American or bi-racial babies and children attached to white parents. But there was nary a black adult in sight. Another Minnesota oddity? Who knows?

    And that, dear class, was My Summer Vacation in Minnesota.

    Bulletproof Bras

    As I said earlier, breasts are everywhere this week:

    FINALLY, some equality in the workplace. . . . .

    Although the term "bulletproof bra" somehow brings to mind those pointy, torpedo-tit bras from the 1950s.

    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Bookworms Book Carnival

    Just a reminder that this month's Bookworms Carnival is up. To get the complete overview--see Florinda's site:

    But, first--and of course--read my entry below.

    Happy Reading!

    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Teaser Tuesdays

    I've found this cool new meme (thanks to Florinda), called Teaser Tuesdays, hosted by Should be Reading. The "rules" forthwith:

    TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
  • Leave a comment with your answers (if you don’t have a blog), or with a link to where your TEASER TUESDAYS post can be found!

    ** If you’re finding out about this event later in the week, you can still play along! **

    I've got a few books in the fire, but I'll just post from 2. . .

    The first is from Stephanie Meyer's recently released Breaking Dawn, the last installment of her Twilight series:

    "'Imagine kissing that.'

    My throat ripped into flames like pulling the cord on a hot air balloon." (p. 484)

    The second is from Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks.

    "But for some people, it may assume an elaborate, phantasmagoric form remarkable for its mimicry, antics, playfulness, inventions and unexpected and sometimes surreal associations. People with this rarer, phantasmagoric form of Tourette's may show much more complex reactions to music." (p. 227) [Yes, that is, indeed, only two sentences!]

    An aside: It is hard to get relatively new hardbacks book to fall open randomly anywhere. Just so you know.

    Monday, August 11, 2008

    AHHHH, Bra!

    Boobs, boobs, boobs, boobs, boobs. I feel like it's been all boobs, all the time, lately. Everywhere I turn, somehow, boobs are coming up (or falling down). Online, in conversation, nothing but breast. There's even a very good chance that the LA Mom's Blog tag line will be tata-related. (Never fear; I will not reveal the tag until it is officially part of the masthead).

    With that in mind, I'm going to commit what is probably the cardinal sin of an old post. Okay, fine--so I'm simply copying an old post and using it here. It's still relevant, it's still true, and it is still (hopefully) funny. And since I really didn't have ANY readers when I posted it, probably no one has read it yet, anyway.

    Here goes:

    Never, never, never underestimate the power of a good bra. I had forgotten what wearing a good fitting bra can feel like--and let me tell you, at least in my rather limited life--it approaches heaven.

    Because I have endured endless fertility treatments and borne two children over the last 10 years, my breasts have seen more fluctuations in size than Pamela Anderson's, on a WAY smaller--- make that a WAY, WAY, WAY, smaller--scale. I was going to say "seen more ups and downs" as opposed to "fluctuations in size," but frankly, the only direction in which my boobs are travelling lately is down. And that leads me to another question--how is it possible that someone with barely any, um, leverage, can sag? I never thought it could, much less would, happen to size 32 me, but hey apparently when it comes to National Geographic breasts, God has made sure not to discriminate among the sizes. Big, small, infitesimal, somehow gravity manages to grab ahold and pull. Hmm, do men stretch out like that? (And I'm not talking breasts). I do not think I want a visual survey.

    Anyhow, it had been a couple of years since I'd bought new bras and my current ones were ill-fitting, constricting and uncomfortable. I let this go on for months until I just couldn't take it anymore. I had an unusual hour free during the day and popped into the local lingerie/bra store. You know the kind. The one with the old ladies who size you up apprasingly and manhandle your precious pearls into one sling after another, then personally rearrange them for the perfect effect. Sounds creepy--but it really is the breast, um, I mean the best. (Okay, that was just bad punning. So sorry). The sensation of suddenly having my breasts supported instead of squashed was liberating. It might sound counterintuitive to feel liberated while being contained, as it were, but it is much more liberating than just floating free. Ask any woman of a certain age--or bra size.

    It's interesting, I've gone from hating padded bras (back in my perky days, when natural looked, well, natural AND good) to refusing to wear anything but padded bras. And there have been great strides made in bra technology. Man, I can go up a bra size, add killer cleavage and have it look like ME! Why anyone without a medical reason (say, mastectomy) would want to go under the knife when you can just walk into Saks and have a whole new set within minutes is beyond me. Cheaper, too.

    Men simply do not understand the pleasure of a good fitting bra, although they have been known to appreciate the effects of a good bra. I was prancing around, gleefully re-trying on all my bras post-purchase, positively singing with joy, and my husband looked at me like I was an alien, albeit one with really good cleavage. . .which in turn led him to some leer-worthy ideas--most of which involved removing my bra. But he simply could not understand how good it felt to be wearing the bras.

    The next day, in contrast, I mentioned to a friend who was visiting how great it felt, and she immediately knew what I was talking about and launched into her own story of her recent bra purchases. We bonded for a good half-hour over bras and boobs and mutual admiration of our newly supported assets. Now that's what friendship is all about.

    Please help Jessica

    Please click on the link below and read all about my friend's sad saga. She really needs help clearing this issue up with Sheraton, and I guess she feels the (bad) publicity will help. The upside for you? It will make your shitty day feel like a cakewalk in comparison!

    Jessica thanks you.

    [I'll try to post something original later. . .]

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    The Continuing Saga of the Edible Insults

    For the, oh, say, two of you who regularly read my blog, you will remember that my kids have gotten quite creative with the insults. If you will recall, thus far we've had the kids calling each other an artichoke and an ice cube.

    Well, grease up folks, because today my son got angry at my husband for lord knows what and called him (drumroll please. . . . .) a butterhead. Yep, butterhead. What the hell is a butterhead? Someone whose head you could fry an egg on? The closest I can figure was that he wanted to call DH a butthead, but then (wisely) thought better of it mid-word and changed it to butterhead.

    Quick thinking, for a junior butterhead.

    Saturday, August 09, 2008

    Confessions of a Kid Lit Lover

    I wrote "Confessions of Kid Lit Lover" for this month's Bookworms Carnival. This cross-blog, monthly event is organized and facilitated by Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf, but each individual Carnival is conducted by a volunteer host--in this case my friend and fellow LA Moms Blogger, Florinda. She is hosting the carnival on her personal website, The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness, where she has chosen the theme "You're Never Too Old - Children's and Young-Adult Literature." She will link to all the blogs participating in this month's event. So what are you waiting for? Mosey on over there for more good reading (AFTER you finish reading my post, if you please)! Her post is up now--so check it out!

    It’s been a tough decision to make, but I think it is finally time for me to come out of the closet. To proclaim loudly and proudly: I LOVE children’s and young adult books. (Don’t worry, I love lit for grown-ups, too—I’m an equal-opportunity lit lover—I’m. . .I’m. . . .omniliterary—yeah, that’s it, omniliterary!).

    Not that there’s anything wrong it.

    I’ve held on to my favorite so-called “children’s books” all my adult life. And when and if they became too tattered to read, I replaced them. Of course, I told myself and others that I was doing it for my future children’s enjoyment. But I knew, deep down, it was for me and me alone. I couldn’t bear to part with (among many others) The Secret Garden, Anne of Green Gables (my mom's copy), From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Heidi, A Wrinkle in Time and Grimm’s and Anderson’s Fairy Tales (which were my father’s before mine). But I did feel embarrassed about my, um, attachments. I hid them in the bookcase in my storage room—safe from the prying eyes of friends and neighbors.

    [An aside: I was overjoyed recently to discover that they are still printing these same editions of Grimm’s and Andersen’s Fairy Tales (my copies were printed in the 1940s)—complete with the original magical and sometimes frankly disturbing illustrations and text. It’s nice to know that at some time in the not-too-distant past, people did not feel the need to write “down” to children, that authors had enough faith in their audience to know that they’d understand—or get the help they’d need to understand—scary ideas, real language, real grammar, and—gasp—an elevated vocabulary.]

    It didn’t help that my husband thought my attachment to many of the books in the young adult genre was an indication that my emotional development had stalled in adolescence—It was basically the same way he felt about me watching that late, lamented TV classic, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And really, the argument I made about watching Buffy—that, despite its seemingly childish (or rather, teen-focused,) subject matter, it was one of the best-written shows out there, applies equally to those purportedly childish or adolescent books I love—they are all incredibly well-written stories. And shouldn’t that be enough to make them universally appealing? Why are adults so prejudiced against stories about children or for children? A good story is a good story, dammit. Harry Potter, anyone? The Twilight Series? Kiki Strike?

    Speaking of prejudices, in my childhood and adolescence, I noticed the grown-ups encouraging—whether intentionally or not—gender prejudice among books. I remember that in some grades at my school, the girls’ reading lists and the boys’ reading lists were different. While the boys were reading The Hobbit, the girls were reading. . .sheesh, I can’t even remember what we were reading-- Flowers for Algernon?? In any event, no boy wanted to be caught dead reading a “girls” book—and likewise, most girls were discouraged—or at least felt they were—from reading “boys” books. So, it never occurred to me to read books like The Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was young. I thought I wouldn’t find them interesting. That they were too boy-ish. Boy oh boy, was I wrong. When I finally got around to reading many of those “boy” books as an adult, I thought they were brilliant, and, quite frankly, I was angry as all get-out that the girls had missed out on a lot of fine literature because some grown-ups thought….I don’t know what they thought, because it doesn’t make one iota of sense to me. Could it have something to do with being raised in the conservative South? Who knows?

    Considering my love of kid lit, it’s no surprise that I’ve particularly enjoyed revisiting old favorites and being introduced to new ones with my daughter and son, and I thank the literary gods who have granted me a child who, at nine-and-a-half years old, still wants me to read to her every night. In fact, I’ve loved some of the books we’ve read together so much that I’ve stayed up late to read on, long after my daughter has fallen asleep. I can’t help it. Trust me. You would want to know what happens next to Gregor the Overlander, too.

    And it’s not just young adult books I love—there are so many picture books that bring me enormous pleasure (I found that the hardest part about writing this particular blog entry was having to leave OUT so many books that I adore)—some for their message, some for their humor, some for their artistry, and some—for all of the above reasons.

    I think the best picture books are often like a good Disney (note that I said GOOD) or Pixar animated feature; the stories work on many different levels—having appeal (often for different reasons) to both adults and children of various ages. A great example of this can be found in Kevin Henkes’ Chrysanthemum--While the book is ostensibly about a little girl mouse (Chrysanthemum) who learns to love her name no matter what others think, much of the book pokes fun at adoring, hovering, hyper-intellectual parents. In any event, Chrysanthemum comes home from her first few days of school in tears because everyone has made fun of her name. While the text concentrates on Chrysanthemum’s parents (and in particular her mother) cheering her up, the illustrations show her father (in a lab coat) furtively reading books with titles like “The Inner Mouse, Vol . 1 Childhood Anxiety” and “A Rose by Any Other Name: Understanding Identity.” The first time I read this book, I almost snorted my nursing tea out my nose. I was also squirming in my glider with self-recognition. I’m sure the kids reading this book do not get most of the jokes—but it sure does make for enjoyable reading for parents! And what about Mo Willems? I don’t know an adult (or, at least, a parent) who has not been charmed by the Pigeon’s wide-eyed wheedling or failed to recognize themselves and their children in the Knuffle Bunny books (a fantastic mix of illustration and photography, by the way).

    I don’t think it is an accident that so many brilliant New Yorker illustrators and cartoonists have written and illustrated children’s books. Humor, art—they are universal. There’s no reason an adult shouldn’t enjoy Bark, George (Jules Pfeiffer) as much as a child does. Then there are all those children’s books by William Steig, Ian Falconer, Syd Hoff, Harry Bliss and Jon Agee, to name a few.

    Sometimes the artwork alone in children’s books just blows me away—Elisa Kleven’s books are a riot of color and detail. (When I was pregnant with my second child—her The Lion and the Little Red Bird never failed to make me cry. My daughter thought I was insane!).

    And that guy up there on the pedestal? The one with worshippers bowing awestruck at his feet? That’s Robert Sabuda. He’s in a class by himself. I don’t think there’s any disputing that his popup books exemplify artistry (and engineering) at the highest level. Each of his works is breathtaking, and I cannot resist opening every page of every work he’s ever published. I suspect that, in this case, adults may admire his books even more than kids do.

    I also appreciate the subversive nature of some children’s picture books. At the same time that she makes a fairly noncontroversial point about the necessity of beauty in the world, Barbara Cooney, in her book Miss Rumphius, also paints a somewhat revolutionary picture of an adventurous, independent-minded woman of a previous era who lives a very full life without ever having married. (Although I do think there's something fishy about Miss Rumphius’s relationship with the married Bapa Raja. His wife stands in the doorway of their home, grimacing, surrounded by children, including one babe on hip, while the Bapa Raja gives Miss Rumphius a gift handpainted with the words “You will always be in my heart.” Maybe I'm off-base here, but I’m thinkin’ the Bapa Raja was the John Edwards of his fishing village. . .).

    A while ago, I thought that one of the happier moments of my life was when I was able to walk into Children’s Book World and not feel like some sort of, um, deviant, because I finally had a “legitimate” reason to be there. . .my children. (Oh dear, does that mean my children were my literary “beard?” Ick.). Well, I don’t need that crutch anymore. I stride proudly into Children’s Book World to purchase books for myself. Books that aren’t even arguably appropriate for my children. . .yet.

    Now leave me alone. I’ve got to get started on My Most Excellent Year, dude.

    John Edwards is a Putz

    What an IDIOT. Why can't these guys keep their dicks in their pants???? Did Edwards really think he could get elected president and not have the press ferret this out?? Okay, clearly he's not only an idiot, he is also a delusional idiot. I realize power is attractive and that many of these guys have women basically throwing themselves at them left and right. But can't they exercise SOME self-control? Maybe we should be adding saltpeter to their Wheaties.

    Punditmom does a bang up (tee hee) job of covering this issue here. Most people posting comments there are either pissed off, disappointed or both.

    Here is my comment on her post:

    "Surprisingly, I find myself unsurprised. I'm beginning to think there isn't a (male) politician out there who can keep his fly closed. I also think that, like all the other celebrities out there (ugh), when politicians reach a certain stature, they can become arrogant, conceited and self-oriented. After all, how many of them are surrounded by people who are honest with them? Who will tell them "no"? Who will tell them they're being idiotic and stupid? Not too many, I surmise. At some point, these public figures no longer believe that the rules for mere mortals apply to them. Either that, or they have a subconscious wish to be brought down. . .

    I'm not really all that interested in the sex lives of our leaders--as long as they are generally competent AND not lying to us about it. It's the lying that really gets me. And yes, someone who's banging someone other than his spouse and yet holds himself out as a family man--a paragon of virtue--is most definitely lying to us."


    Thursday, August 07, 2008

    Damn you to Hell, Hungry Girl


    Okay--I, like many others out there in the internet ether, rely on Hungry Girl to help us choose healthier (I don't say healthy--b/c she is most definitely NOT a health foodie) eating options--lower calorie, lower sugar, higher fiber options.

    Anyhow, this only works if you know how to control yourself. Unfortunately, in some cases at least, I do not. HG recently posted about a new product, Newtons Fruit Crisps --from the fab folks who bring us Fig Newtons. Ever since I read her post, I've been scouring the stores for these morsels of deliciosity.

    Much to my regret, I found them yesterday at Gelsons. And the apple ones, at least, live up to HG's ecstatic commentary. (The berry ones are good, but not so good that I can't control myself around them). They have a kind of flaky, crunchy crust and a yummy apple pie-y filling. Each individual pack contains 100 calories and far less sugar than one would expect. Now that's all well and good--if--as HG expects--we can limit ourselves to one pack at a time.

    I. Cannot. Stop. Eating. Them.

    Each bite of crunchy, chewy goodness makes me crave more. I suspect it rather defeats the purpose of eating health-ier, if I'm eating the entire BOX in one sitting. (And this stuff isn't even chocolate!!) I want them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I want them INSTEAD of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    I hate you Hungry Girl, for giving me the goods, but not the tools to control my consumption of said goods. You're leading me into the flabby arms of temptation--and now I need to be exorcised (and, yes, exercised, too. Bah-dum-bah.)

    Caveat Emptor, everyone. You buy these at your own risk. Your taste buds may thank you, but your waistline will not.

    Now, you go right ahead and have yourselves a great day, y'hear?