Are words from a female less valuable than those from a male? And is this what we should be teaching our kids?

Shannon Hale, author of Princess Academy, Ever After, Austenland & more

Shannon Hale, author of Princess Academy, Ever After, Austenland & more

Some of you may have heard the uproar of Shannon Hale’s author visit to an unnamed small school. Hale is author of many novels, including the Princess Academy novels, Ever After novels and Austenland, to name a few. If you haven’t heard about it, you can check out her Tumblr post which explains it all. A brief explanation would be she went to the school for an author visit and was only allowed to speak to the girls. But please don’t just take my word for it. Hale has some profound and meaningful things to say about this issue and I think it is well worth your time to read it.

Some of you may be saying, “What’s the big deal? She writes books for girls. Why would boys want to hear about princesses anyway?” Which means you didn’t read Hale’s Tumblr post. Go do it now! But if you didn’t, let’s just think about this. Hale was there to promote her new book, Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters, but from her description, it doesn’t sound like she was there to necessarily talk about that book. She was there to talk about what it’s like to be an author. I’m pretty sure that is universal. And as a side note, another school that did something similar had all their students attend an assembly with a male author. The message sent is that male authors have something worthwhile to say to all students, while female authors only have something worthwhile to say to girls.

This is a poisonous, caustic message that eats at the very fabric of gender equality, and boy’s and girl’s perceptions of themselves and each other. If a female nurse came to tell children about her job, or a teacher, or a policewoman, lawyer, doctor, scientist, engineer . . . would that female only have worthwhile things to say to girls? Would parents cry foul if Johnny, who has always wanted to be a policeman, was excluded from a talk about being a policewoman? As a parent, I know I would. And as a parent I am horrified that these boys were excluded from learning what it is like to be an author.

A fellow AWer pointed out that maybe Hale or her publicist didn’t communicate what was going to be discussed. Maybe it was a misunderstanding. While this is possible, I tend to think that since Hale has encountered this before, and she’s been doing school talks for a long time, they know what to communicate at this point. Most other schools have not excluded boys from the assemblies, so why these couple of schools? And as Hale pointed out, she isn’t naming names or trying to shame anyone. It’s just about highlighting a problem that exists in our culture.

So what is that problem? Living in a small town with four boys, I have seen first hand what this is. I am far from perfect, but let me just say that I try to raise my boys in a neutral environment. That’s not to say that I go out of my way to buy toys or have them watch programs or read books that are “girl” related in the same quantity that I expose them to “boy” related. But whatever they show an interest in, it is encouraged. My almost three-year-old son (one of the twins) has a baby doll that he carries everywhere. I mean everywhere! He calls her Baby Sister, and he can’t go to bed, come downstairs, eat dinner or generally function at all without his beloved Baby Sister. He rocks her, he feeds her and covers her with his favorite blankey. My boys also have a toy kitchen and big stack of toy dishes and plastic food. It all belonged to my six-year-old until he passed it on to his twin brothers. Now I eat dish after dish of imaginary food at the hands of my little chefs. It’s probably one of their favorite toys. There’s also a doll house left over from my fifteen-year-old. I think he got it for his seventh birthday. I had my reservations about whether he would play with it, but he and his sister had hours of fun with their tiny stuffed animals living in this house. Later, it was staged as epic battles with green plastic army men and tanks. Now the twins parade little super heroes through the hallowed halls, giving them a rest in the bunk bed and letting them kickback with a wooden TV on the wooden couch.

And you know what, they still play soldiers and knights and pirates and run cars and trucks over every inch of my house. I still have to break up fights between my aggressive boys and though the twins are too young, the six-year-old and the fifteen-year-old play soccer like they breathe air. My teen kills zombies and aliens by the droves in his video games, and as far as I can tell, all my boys like girls. Not that it would matter to me.

I guess my point is, letting our boys and girls be who they want to be isn’t going to make them gay, or feminine, or masculine, or less male or female somehow. Parents need to to stop trying to make their kids be “male” or “female” and just let them be!

I see this in our community all the time, with the “Football is a man’s sport and soccer is for wimps!”, “Men drive trucks!”, and “Real men don’t cry!” There seems to be a little more leniency for girls. If a girl wants to race cars or join the military or do anything that has been a man’s category for so long, they’re breaking the glass ceiling. But if a boy wants to be a nurse, or a fashion designer or a stay-at-home parent, they are often considered less masculine. (Of course, girls still have to contend with expectations of beauty and body image, but that’s for another post.)

There’s a myth perpetrated about what real men do and don’t do, and it makes me sick. I know fathers—and mothers—don’t think they’re doing any harm by teaching their kids values that they themselves uphold, but you are. By telling your child from an early age that their is value in X, Y, and Z, but no value in A, B, and C, you may be setting them up for disaster later on. What if they really love A, B, or C, and you’ve shown them that real men don’t like that, or girls shouldn’t do that? How are they going to feel, or repress, or deal with a differing value system than yours. Rather, if you teach your children that there is value in many things, and they will be loved even if they are different from you, you’ll have a relationship that will last through hard times.

In conclusion, I think we as parents, teachers and just human beings in general, need to look at what we are teaching children with our actions. By excluding boys from this assembly, that school taught those kids that females have less value than males. That males aren’t supposed to like books written by a girl, or about girls. Sure, most of those boys are never going to read books written by Hale, but does that matter? If there were potential budding authors among those boys, they just missed an opportunity to hear a real, successful author talk about her career. And even worse than that, they were taught that it doesn’t matter.

Happy Birthday to ME!

So today is my birthday. I think I’m 39. I tend to lose track. And guess what my true love gave to me? Okay, that’s Christmas, but it is December, and I’m not really blaming my true love for these dubious presents. He did everything he could this weekend to take care of said situation, but still, feel free to sing this to the appropriate tune:

6 yucky tissues, 5 coughs a minute, 4 pink eyes, 3 ear infections, 2 sick toddlers and one runny nose!

So I couldn’t come up with all the others, but hey, I’ve got sick boys to tend. So, have a nice day and see you later!

You know you’re a Mommy when . . . Reasons #21-30

Courtesy of tumblr.com

Courtesy of tumblr.com


Check out reasons #1-10 and #11-20!

#21 – You can gauge your reaction time based on the type of cry and the child who’s crying . . .
#22 – The last time you and your husband had “Date Night” it was cut short by a call from the babysitter because one of the twins puked in his crib . . .
#23 – You’ve shook your head in exasperation as the kids play with the large box the expensive toy came in . . .
#24 – You’ve left you kids in jammies all day because they were still clean after breakfast . . . and lunch . . . and dinner . . .
#25 – The words, “Daddy’s home!” is music to your ears . . .
#26 – You’ve laughed sympathetically at new parents and their attempts to be “perfect” . . .
#27 – You’ve quoted Adam Sandler when your child is taking forever: “T-t-today junior!” . .
#28 – An especially long fart from a six-year-old makes you laugh in spite of your best efforts to hide it . . .
#29 – You’ve ever uttered the phrase, “I’m sick . . .” and your kids finish for you, “and tired!”
#30 – People say “It’s a nice day outside!” and you want to punch them because you know you’ll spend it sweaty and exhausted chasing toddlers around a playground . . .

Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name!

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There’s actually only one person in Boston (that’s Bah-stin) that knows my name, but we are leaving this weekend to visit my baby brother-in-law anyway. I say “baby”, because he’s the youngest of all my brothers-in-law and because he’s my husband’s baby brother. There’s a decent age gap, so he often gets lumped into the kid section with the grandkids. Since the oldest grandkid turns thirty this year, I guess they aren’t so little anymore! But being in Boston we barely get to see him so we’re Boston-bound for some quality Uncle Carl time!

But I have mixed emotions about our upcoming vacation. First there’s excitement! I’ve never been to Boston and as a history buff I’m psyched to go. We’ve all (or most of us) picked out the one attraction we have to see. Minion #1’s trip won’t be complete without a visit to the JFK Library and Museum, Minion #3 insists on touring the USS Constitution as his must-see, my hubby wants to see Fenway so we will book a tour there and I can’t wait to trek the Freedom Trail History Tour. Minion #2 didn’t pick anything. He doesn’t want to go, but hey, he doesn’t want to do anything these days and since I refused a trip to LA for VideoCon he’ll just have to find something to be happy about.

So here’s the mixed part. We decided to leave the twins with grandma. They’d be miserable walking around Boston all day and the 14 hour car trip would be no picnic for anyone. But that’s a whole week without my boys. On the one hand, that sounds like heaven. But despite how much they drive me crazy, I will miss them.

The other kicker is though I take everything I need to write during vacation, the chances of that actually happening are probably slim. I keep making goals for the book to be finished and then I watch them fly by like a seagull after a french fry.

The other thing is, this is kind of a goodbye for a week. Maybe. I have two blog posts scheduled for next week: Book Review: Origins by Jessica Khoury and Newbie Post #5: Let it go! Let it go! Turn away and slam the door!, but there won’t be anymore unless I get a chance in the next couple days. So I will see you all when I get back, and if I don’t answer comments right away, I’m not being a snob. 🙂 I’m just busy enjoying lobster and a ocean view condo!

The Obligatory Mommy Blog: I hate being a stay-at-home mom

A little harsh? Yeah, I know. But I’m serious. I do hate it. Just like I’d hate being a teacher, or a daycare worker, or a dance instructor, or a tee ball coach. I am not a born nurturer. I have to work hard at it. And I’ve been working for nineteen years. I feel like Charlotte from Sex and the City, if “he” were actually rest and relaxation and being able to do what I want for a change.

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I’m afraid I’m all used up. Dry like a well in the Dust Bowl circa 1930.

Being with kids all day, attending to their constant needs and wants, splitting up fights over toys, bottles, blankets and breathing space, trying to decipher their adorable yet sometimes tiresome gibberish, makes me exhausted!

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I just don’t like dealing with children. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. I enjoy them, most of the time. I’m even fond of their friends, for a little while. But the constant wearing down of little people is getting to me. They are the Colorado River and I am the Grand Canyon. And not the beautiful sunset part. No, the deep dark recesses way at the bottom. Beware: Don’t fall in!

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And you know what? I don’t feel guilty about it anymore. So I’m not Mother Teresa. Who is? I’m more like Mary Poppins crossed with Medusa on a bad day. But hey, you’ll still get that spoonful of sugar! Not everyone was destined to be June Cleaver. And we need to get over the notion that we should be!

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What’s important is not whether that maternal instinct to spend every second playing with kids exists inside us, but what we do about it. We all have bad days, and sometimes it feels like there’s more bad than good. But we have to keep trying. If I don’t sit on the floor stacking Duplos all day, but I’ve managed to get through the afternoon without screaming at everyone and giving myself a stress headache, well that’s a win! I’m never going to be the mom that plans crafts and playtime and gives my kids unlimited attention. I have shit to do. But I will give them unconditional love, discipline when they need it, my attention when I can (and sometimes when I can’t), and I’ll keep trying to do better. Every. Single. Day.

Real Heroes Read!

Real Heroes Summer reading 2

Those are swords, by the way. No idea why they insisted on holding them there.

Recently attended an author visit at my local library with Minion #3 as part of the library’s summer reading program. The visiting authors were David Anthony and Charles David Clasman of three children’s series Mystery Underground, Heros A2Z, and Knightscares.

David and Charles are full of energy and humor and my son and I enjoyed their visit. They were funny and entertaining and genuinely piqued my interest in reading their series to my son, though I was exhausted by the end of their act. Teachers and children’s entertainers always have that effect on me! And this was an act. They had everything down pat with tie-ins to their stories like the knighting of two audience members.

Real Heroes Summer reading 3

We saw juggling, a horn of heroes, knighting ceremony and David and Charlie even read from one of their books with one “reading” and the other doing sound effects and dialogue. The kids seemed to love it, though they got a bit restless toward the end, but that might have been in part to the awful acoustics. Every little noise (like rubbing balloon swords) was amplified. Also, I think they are geared more toward ages 5 and up and we had several babies and toddlers making distracting noise.

Real Heroes Summer reading 1

David and Charlie promote reading, no matter what you like to read, and encourage kids to not give up if they don’t like a book, but find something else they do like. Through their stories of their books and their childhoods they demonstrate how they became readers, how reading was a positive influence in their life, and how it inspired them to be writers themselves.

Overall it was a fun hour of talking about reading and writing. Minion #3 won a balloon sword and a free book as well as purchasing a second. I’d recommend Charlie and David if you live in Michigan and would like some enthusiastic writers to promote reading in your school. The theme of their program is Real Heroes Read! and their stories are all about kid heroes. Check them out on Amazon or their website.

Real Heroes Summer reading 4


Buy Heroes A2Z #1: Alien Ice Cream (Superhero Series, Heroes A to Z) on Amazon.com


Buy Cauldron Cooker’s Night (Knightscares Book 1, An Epic Fantasy Adventure Series) on Amazon.com


Buy Mystery Underground #1: Michigan Monsters (13 Terrifying Tales, A Collection of Spooky Short Stories) on Amazon.com

The Obligatory Mommy Blog: Why Kate is a real mom . . .

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Watching CNN this morning, they ran a short story about Prince George’s first year. Now I know Kate has plenty of help. Nanny’s and all, but let me tell you what she did right before this picture was snapped. She wiped the drool from George’s chin and wiped it on her dress. A dress that probably cost more than all the dresses I own. But who cares. They’re just clothes. She did what so many of us have done and didn’t think twice about it. Food, drool, snot, spit up. Yeah it’s gross, but hey, we’ve all done it. Come on, admit it! I guess my point is in all the hullabaloo over a prince and a duke and a duchess and a legacy, they’re still just a baby, a dad, a mom and a life to be lived. Congratulations George on your first year. Happy birthday and prayers for many more!

You know you’re a Mommy when . . . Reasons #11-20

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Check here for reasons #1-10!

#11 – You’ve had a conversation that consists of “Mommy?” “What?” “Mommy?” “What?” over and over and over . . .
#12 – Your jewelry box is covered in dust because there’s no point in wearing anything your children will try to rip off you . . .
#13 – You’ve said, “Silence, minions of Zurg! You’re in the custody of the Galactic Alliance!” when the kids are too noisy . . .
#14 – You’ve had the sharp edge of a vicious Lego driven into the soft flesh of your bare foot . . .
#15 – You’re ninja-reflexes saved you when you Spidey-sense detected an object beneath your bare foot that could have been a Lego (only to discover it’s a marshmallow) . . .
#16 – You’ve cursed out packaging engineers on Christmas because of the way a toy is packaged . . .
#17 – You’ve said a prayer of thank you for a packaging engineer when you open a toy and discover someone with children has designed this toy’s packaging . . .
#18 – You know all the words to Do You Wanna Build a Snowman (and cry at the sad parts!) . . .
#19 – You’ve had to save a feather, rock, egg shell, leaf, flower, sea shell, stick, or acorn because it was the coolest bestest thing ever . . .
#20 – You’ve teared up at the words “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, Your Mommy I’ll be.” . . . (you teared up just now, didn’t you!)

We are all immigrants

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On the 4th of July, Americans celebrate our independence from Great Britain. We barbecue and light off fireworks and attend parades to commemorate the fact that . . . we are all immigrants. Well, unless you’re Native American, in which case your ancestors probably emigrated thousands of years ago, but in any case, most of our ancestors came from some other place. Yet, I think most of us seem to forget this. In light of the current debate on immigration, I think most of us definitely seem to forget this.

I guess we could debate whether this is what 4th of July is about. It’s not. It’s about all men are created equal. It’s about liberty for all. It’s about a how lot of things that come back to my original point: We are all immigrants.

Which is why I’d like to tell you a story. A true story. One about remembering what it really means to be an American.

Several years ago, I believe my daughter was a sophomore in high school, I attended one of her basketball games. It must have been the first home game of the season. I was sitting alone as my husband was home with Minion #3 who was only a baby at the time and I hadn’t really made a lot of friends in our new town even though we’d lived there for four years. (I’m a bit of a loner!) Anyway, I was sitting quietly, waiting for the game to start, observing the the people around me. There were quite a few parents I knew, said hello to, and continued to keep my own company.

Nearby, was a particular father I had seen on many occasions. His daughter, only one year younger than my own, had played soccer and basketball with Minion #1 for years. The girls were friends, and my husband and I sat by her parents during countless sporting events. I wouldn’t say we were friends, really, but they were very nice people and I believe they felt the same way about us.

This night, we were both alone, nodded our hellos, but honestly, I wasn’t in the mood to be social. I’m like that sometimes, er, a lot. So I was only too happy to hear the announcement, “Please stand for the National Anthem.” Like my fellow Americans, I stood, found the flag, and fixed my eyes upon it waiting for the music to start.

I’d like to say I make a point of always singing our National Anthem. Even when it means inflicting my less than  stellar voice on those around me. Usually we have a recording that is in a key much too high for my voice, but this was different. The key was still too high, but the song was not a recording. It was sung by the young girl I had previously mentioned. Her name is Haleemah.

Haleemah’s clear, sweet voice rang through the gym. The words of the Star Spangled Banner have always brought tears to my eyes. I’m sentimental like that. But that night was even more poignant. You see, Haleemah’s parents were not born Americans. Palestinian I believe. I don’t know. I’ve never asked. Seems like a bit of a fail on my part right now. Though the children were all born here, and speak perfect English, their parents still have the heavy accent they brought from the home country. I’m not criticizing. I can’t speak Arabic after all.

The beauty of a first generation Palestinian-American singing the words to our National Anthem in a gym filled with predominantly white, Christian Americans whose families had been in not only America, but this very town, for generation after generation was not lost on me. Tears stinging my eyes, I glanced at Haleemah’s father, and there he was, proudly watching his youngest daughter. But he was also singing. Every word. Right along with her.

Looking around the bleachers at the people sitting near me, I took in my fellow white, Christian Americans. You know, the ones I mentioned whose families dated back 150 years in this very small town. The ones who had enjoyed the advantages of political and religious freedoms their whole lives. Who benefited from a free education, from a country not bombed, terrorized, or rent by warfare. I didn’t see a single lip moving. Not even lip-synching. Just  me, Haleemah, and her Palestinian-born father.

It was a touching scene, though I felt like only a few of us were truly seeing it for what it was. We have an unbelievable gift in this country, and we need to appreciate it every day. Sing the anthem, say the pledge, honor the flag, honor our soldiers. It doesn’t take much. And maybe those things are superficial compared with the inner gratitude we should experience. I’m guessing many of the people around me that day do appreciate the freedoms we enjoy in this country. But I feel it is important to express that in meaningful ways. It’s not enough to just say to yourself, “I love my country.” Because there are people out there everyday who love it too, but they have something else to compare it to.

Haleemah went on to sing our National Anthem at nearly every boys and girls home basketball game for four seasons. She graduated this year, so we’ll probably go back to the recording, but I will always treasure hearing her sing. And I will always remember the sight of her father, hand on his heart, singing the words of a song he was not born to love, but came to love by choice, by hard work and by sacrifice.

The Obligatory Mommy Blog: Home improvement shows and why they suck!

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So I don’t actually watch a lot of home improvement/DIY/remodel/resale etc. TV shows anymore, but I’ve seen quite a few in my time. They’re an easy thing to tune in while eating lunch or feeding a baby a bottle. And easy to turn off when you’re done. Since the “babies” drink their bottles while running around the house now, that sit down time is pretty limited.

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I used to watch them, back when we were remodeling our 1920’s house. Boy, did they have some great—I mean difficult—I mean insane—ideas. Of course we had to try some of them, with varying success. It’s always, “Oh, it’s so easy!” or “This is a very cost effective option!” Yeah, I think your idea of cost effective and mine are like Darth Vadar and Luke on the Dark Side spectrum, okay?

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Image courtesy of The Solid Six Wiki

Now I limit my viewing time to when my mother-in-law visits. She pretty much only watches HGTV, Hallmark and Tigers baseball. Don’t get me wrong, she’d never demand anything be put on the TV, but if Grandma’s helping me with my little terrors—I mean angels—then she can watch WHATEVER she wants. She does so much for all of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren that I’d deny her nothing. Except another grandchild!

Anyway, there’s a lot to pick apart on these “helpful” shows. Like how they try to make everything look so easy, when it’s not. Or how they spruce up the place with paint, new furnishings and Presto! everything looks new and beautiful and clean. But you know what really gets me? It’s the Before and After pics. Before, there are shoes on the floor, toys in every corner and dishes in the sink. After, it’s all disappeared. Where does it go? Yeah, I know they build in some storage and organize and what not, but something doesn’t look right. I’m no math and science major, and I’ve never taken a physics class in my life, but even I know that the total mass of junk shown in the Before pictures, does not equal the total mass of non-junk displayed in the After photos. Something’s missing . . .

Pic courtesy of Wkipedia

Pic courtesy of Wkipedia

Of course, they threw the stuff away, or tossed it in the basement out of the pictures. But that’s not real life. Anyone who’s ever tried to pry a rocket ship made from a pop bottle, cardboard and duct tape from the hands of a determined six-year-old knows it ain’t that easy!

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They treasure that junk like throwing it away would start the zombie-apocalypse. Sometimes I think zombies would be easier to deal with than kids on cleaning day. I bet if some TV show came through my house they could make it sparkle too, and maybe reduce the collection of things we don’t need. (Yes, I’m staring at you piano, that no one can play, but Hubby holds out some fond desire of having a musician in the family!) But just try to do it when the family is home. I dare you!

I’d like to see a show where the hosts have to work with a realistic budget. They can’t buy any decorative items, new dishes, wall hangings or fancy lamps. And why do they put breakable items on end tables for a house with six kids? Seriously? My twins would have those shattered in 2.3 seconds. They have to work with what is in the house and only buy materials like paint, carpet, trim, etc. And they have to put EVERYTHING back in the house somewhere. And show pictures of it. They can dispose of some items, I guess, but the kids have to be present. And the hosts have to listen to the crying, screaming, breakdowns that ensue for as long as they last. Every. Miserable. Second.

A little girl with a sad face

Am I alone? Does everybody else love the unrealistic expectations created by DIY TV? Or what is the one thing you love to hate about home improvement shows?