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Both Kids:
The Hobbit
Swallows and Amazons (no sequels yet, but I plan to read some)
The Penderwicks (and sequel 1 so far)
Danny the Champion of the World (lesser-known Dahl, my favorite)
Alvin Ho (we've done 1 and 2; Dillo especially loves these)
Farmer Boy (no other Ingalls Wilders yet)
Kenny and the Dragon (Tony DiTerlizzi)
The Rescuers
All-of-a-Kind Family
They've both read the Captain Underpants books with mr. flea (not my cup of tea, but GREAT for a 4 year old with a shorter attention span).

Just Casper (so far):
The Secret Garden (get the version illustrated by Inga Moore)
The Wind in the Willows (also available illustrated by Inga Moore)
Sarah Plain and Tall
Mr. Popper's Penguins
The Twenty-One Balloons
Homer Price (Robert McCloskey chapter book)
She read The Spiderwick Chronicles and is working through Harry Potter with mr. flea; they like both series but I don't love 'em.

There are so many more things I want to read.
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I browse the free romance novels for Kindle at Amazon, and download the ones that might be likely; I've found a couple of good ones, but many are examples of How Life Is So Terrible Now That Nobody Can Write Any More. One I tried last night had the advantage of some amusing word choice errors:

1. Laura shut her eyes as tightly as she could when she heard Nathaniel's admonition of love.

2. "No one wants to dance with me anymore!" Claire pouted. "How can you say no to your old friend?"

Leander looked back at his sister, letting her catch the pained expression on his face. ... "Very well," he capsized. "Let's go."

The book also uses "alright" throughout. Note, this is not self-published or anything; a press put this out.


I've had a bad week; at home, not working, not doing anything much worthwhile and as a result very unhappy. Each day I've meant to go out and do something but I have not yet succeeded (today I will; there's a school even I am going to.) It's Memorial Day weekend, and we were going to stay here because of a Girl Scout event tomorrow, but that's been postponed, so we could go somewhere. But I want a vacation, not a "listen to the kids act up and bicker in new places" weekend. We went out to dinner last night and Dillo was a jerk. I am so ready for the kids to act more mature, but I don't seem to be able to manage to teach them to be so.
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Today on the (25-minute behind schedule) ride home, there was a woman on the bus with Tourette's. Not that she could help it, obviously, but there's nothing like a woman hand-flapping and screeching, "sweaty vagina!" in an odd, high voice to let you know you're on a public conveyance.

ION I started 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles,' and then went and spoiled myself for the plot via Wikipedia, and I'm not sure I want to go on. Maybe I will only read 19th-century novels written by women, since so far in the ones I've read written by men the women are all Symbols of Pure Womanhood and/or Connected To Nature (or actually named The Vengeance.)

IOON, week two of moving books 4 hours a day and I am not any less sore at the end of each day. Nor is my butt smaller. I suppose this is a consequence of being 39.
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mr. flea and Dillo (who is in the bath) are having a hilarious argument involving whether or not Dillo should pull back his foreskin and wash underneath it. Dillo had apparently never noticed that he is uncircumcised and mr. flea is, and I think mr. flea just got his junk out to demonstrate.

In higher-mind news, this year so far I have read Middlemarch, Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre, and am halfway through A Tale of Two Cities - all on Kindle. Over break I also read Wide Sargasso Sea in print.
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We started reading Roald Dahl's Danny the Champion of the World to both kids last night. After the success of reading The Hobbit over Xmas break, I want to do more reading to both of them at the same time, and we read Danny to Casper when she was 4 and she loved it. (Books that can engage both a 4 and a 7 year old are tricky; in a year or 2 it will be easier. Dillo did a lot of running around and playing during the Hobbit which he really liked, and was pretty bored by Wind in the Willows). Both kids love Danny this go around and beg for more, but Casper doesn't really remember it at all, although she loved it at 4! Very interesting. I've thought for a long time that things I love from my young childhood I remember well mostly because I got a second (and in some cases 3rd) dose of them with my siblings.

I have emailed the Girl Scout troop leaders telling them I'm not going to lead again next year. Now I just need to make it to May 17 without screaming at anyone.
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So, my dear sister sent me two books for Christmas:

1. Elizabeth Fenn, Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775-82
2. John Barry, The Great Influenza: The story of the deadliest pandemic in history (about the 1918 "Spanish Flu")

Number one is derived from the author's doctoral dissertation in American History at Yale, a signal for many dry and boring books; number two is a meticulously researched work, but one written by a journalist who began as a football coach.  Number one was celebrated, but in mainly academic circles; number two received widspread popular acclaim. 

But surprisingly, number one is much the better and more readable work of non-fiction.  Maybe it's because Fenn left her grad program at Yale to spend eight years working as an auto mechanic in Durham, NC, but she's a MUCH better writer, and manages to balance deep scholarship and detail with lively writing, and understanding of why pandemics matter (aside from the inherent coolness of mass death, she has an historian/anthropologist's concerns for the social fallout of pandemics).  Barry spends a lot of the book talking about the development of scientific medicine in the US, with its centers at Johns Hopkins and the Rockefeller Institute, which was fairly interesting to me, but he never managed to tie this thread of the book closely enough to the actual flu outbreak.  His treatment of that was rather brief and almost cursory, with a focus only on one place (Philadelphia) and no characters who we could really get a grip on.  (We got oodles about a guy named Welch who was pretty boring (despite founding Johns Hopkins medical school) and did nothing in the pandemic except catch the flu and stay in bed for a long time recuperating.)  And his language and tone were needlessly melodramatic.  Each chapter once the flu started (since the book begins when Welch was born in like 1860) began or ended with, "It was influenza, only influenza."  I was considering making up a song.

Now, do you think we could get Elizabeth Fenn to write about the Spanish Flu?  No?  Well, I think I am going to look for her forthcoming book about the Mandan people of the Dakotas.  And I am taking Barry's book about the 1923 New Orleans flood off my wish list.
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1. I am reading Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father. Right now I'm in the section where he's learning to become a community organizer in Chicago.
2. I went to Casper's school last week.
3. The current iteration of RaceFail 2009.
4. I picked up a book called Other People's Children, by Lisa Delpit - based on a reference to it in a comment thread on Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog discussing Black English (Coates' and Michael Steele's). It was first published in 1995 (there is an updated 2006 edition but our library's copy is lost) and contains essays mostly written in the late 1980s. The author is an African American woman (about my mother's age I think) who has been a teacher and a professor at teaching colleges. She won a MacArthur in 1990 and is generally hot shit, academically. Her main topic (I am only 1/3 of the way into it) is that many poor and/or minority children (she focusses on black inner city children and Native peoples in Alaska, since those are the populations she has worked with) have a fundamental cultural difference from the culture of school (which is shaped as a middle-class, largely white culture) and talks about how this results in communication gaps, well-meaning but wrong-headed application of teaching methods that assume the children are coming from white middle class cultures, and general fail. She also isn't afraid to talk about cultural power. It's a bit dated contextually (think late 80s, multiculturalism and diversity wars) but as the reviews on Amazon point out, still very relevant.

So, so, relevant to RaceFail 2009 - really basic lessons about culture clash, well-meaning and intelligent people not respecting other cultures *even when they think they are trying to*, and talking past each other.

So, so, relevant to my thoughts about Casper's school and some of the stereotyping I am doing and did in my post about her school, even though I was worrying about some of the exact same labeling *I myself was actually doing*.

It's so, so hard and complicated to deal with cultural diversity - respecting cultures that are not my own while at the same knowing that my culture is the culture of success in our society. I am 36 and have had diverse (but not diverse enough) life experiences and I am completely at sea in dealing with the issues of poor and minority families in my kids' school. I can't imagine being the 23 year old kindergarten teacher trying to suss this all out.

One thing I do know is, someone needs to get the black and latino parents involved in having ownership and a voice in the school. Right now the PTA is basically all white, and the teachers are 95% white, and they are pretty much all middle class. And that's not a great power dynamic. But how can we fix it? How could we possibly work together? Assuming one could get the minority parents to even join the PTA.

So, so hard.


Dec. 30th, 2008 12:21 pm
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Headachy & tired day, and I am home with the bunnies - Dillo is alternately incredibly loving and snuggly and violently loving, and Casper is a tv-and-candy-addled grumpy pain in the ass.

They are both sleeping 12 hours in this long break. Unfortunately Dillo is sleeping 6-6 (he takes my hand after dinner and asks to go to bed) and Casper is sleeping 9-9.

Have finished This Republic of Suffering (good) and I think must turn to Heyer. Possibly more caffeine but really how much can one woman drink?
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Pamela Stone, Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home, University of California Press, 2007.

THIS is the book on the 'mommy wars' I have been waiting for these 5 years - intelligent, well-written, an easy read, even, but a scrupulous academic study (if you are worried about this part read the appendix on qualitative studies first). She shows how women who left the workplace to stay home with children describe this as a choice, despite the existence of serious structural issues with society and workplaces that made the choice of leaving work extremely attractive to these (affluent, married) women. And she has some solid ideas about workplace policies that can make the work-life balance more possible (for women and men, and for people who at all levels in a company) - and examples of companies that are implementing them, and how they are succeeding in retaining employees.


Mar. 20th, 2008 08:25 am
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We had our first experience with Youth Sports last night; Casper is starting soccer at the YMCA, with one-hour practices once a week and "games" on Saturday mornings. Her team is 3-PreK, about 12 kids, about evenly divided by gender. (Though, sadly, there were a couple of 2nd-3rd grade teams playing nearby, and both were about 85% male, so it looks like it doesn't stick.) Her coach seems good; he's a father of 4 and has been coaching for 10 years, and his youngest daughter is on the team. They did some dribbling - chasing the coach while dribbling, then chasing one of the kids in turn. They alternated with practicing taking shots on goal (with the coach defending). They also spend some time cheering and creating team spirit. Their color will be green, so they decided to name themselves the Monsters; when it started raining lightly they decided they would be the Rain Monsters.

Casper was adorable. She was shy at first and also trying to eat some dinner, since there was no time between when we picked her up from after school and the start of soccer. She got freaked out when the team yelled "Hello Casper!". She tended to get frustrated and discouraged when "her" ball got taken by someone else (after a shot on goal, or in the mixup of dribbling) and would put her hands on her hips and pout. She runs like a girl and isn't very coordinated, but then, she's my kid, the tallest on the team and hency gawky looking, and we have never done any sports with her. She kept up okay. Other kids had issues too, and came to sit with parents on the benches at various points, and the coach was good at noticing who needed encouragement and letting them score on him. He gave out lots of stickers, too.

So, we will be shopping for shin guards (the built in to socks kind are recommended, and are $4 at Target) and a size 3 soccer ball.

Dillo loved soccer more than Casper, if anything. He sometimes got into the mix but held his own. I cleverly brought ball-ball, so he'd have a ball of his own to play with.

In other milestones, Casper brought home a Junie B. Jones book from the school library, and mr. flea has been reading it to her. It seems to be providing a good opportunity to discuss social issues at school, and how to be a good friend and classroom citizen. mr. flea also finds it hilarious at times.

Dillo has been so consistently interested in watching us use the toilet that I have encouraged him to start playing with and "using" the potty we have. He sits on it fully clothed, with the lid down only. Opening the lid scares him a bit, and when he is naked and I suggest he sit on it, he is not interested. But he says poo-poo and pee-pee when we talk about the potty, and I tell him that when he is a big boy he will do these things on the potty. I am hoping to avoid the mistake we made with Casper, which I think was waiting too late and turning potty-training into somewhat of a battle of wills.
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This is a fun blog for those who are interested in the arcane and the unusual, subdivision printed material. It comprises books, usually found for sale through abebooks, that do not appear in WorldCat, the closest thing we have to an American (and some international) universal library catalog. (Accessible to the public at Worldcat.org, if you aren't already using it.)

book boy!

Oct. 8th, 2007 11:53 am
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The Dillo has hit that early-1-year-old book-obsessed phase I remember from Casper. We moved things around so all the board books are in the living room on a bookcase he has full access to, and we started reading to him more regularly at night. Almost instantly, he started bringing us books wanting to be read to. He sometimes gets into a jag where he brings a book, listens to one or two pages, gets down, goes to get another books, listens to one or two pages, repeat ad infinitum. He seems to really like Barnyard Dance right now.

He is indescribably, incandescently cute. This weekend he started marching in place when excited.

Casper likes me to read her a book in the time (often 5 minutes) between her wakeup and my house departure. This morning she fished Danny The Champion of the World out of the glass-front bookcase. I explained it was longer and we couldn't read it all at once, and she said, "yeah, it's a chapter book." I guess they learned that at school. But the chapters are good and short. Her attention span for reading aloud in books without pictures varies. We've been reading Peter Pan in the bath occasionally, and the other long book we read sometimes is Pooh. Both of those are stories where she's already familiar with the characters, and the Pooh is episodic. So we'll see if the greater complexity of Danny is something she's ready for.
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Via Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and thence Jonquil:

Compile a short list of books specifically meant to help somebody understand you. These are not (necessarily) non-fiction books that catalogue your particular disorders or quirks, but books that especially resonate with you, that express a facet of you in book form.

This is off the top of my headachey head. I am sure I will forget something vital.

-Judith Martin, Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior. This book taught me most of what I know about being an adult. How to think about other people and their needs, and how to treat them as I would like to be treated - with respect.

-Monroe Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson, Ferdinand. I aim to be more like Ferdinand - a peaceful soul, who knows himself and is true to himself - as well as like his mother, who "was a good mother, although she was a cow," and accepts Ferdinand the way he is, once she is satisfied that he is not lonely. Also, I adore Robert Lawson and his cork trees.

-James Lipton, An Exaltation of Larks. Words, extravagant words, with a touch of big nerdy. This is a facet of me I keep more hidden - unlike most of my friendslist I am not a writer and I think I come across more ascetic. Okay, the nerdy, not so hidden.

-Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden. Gardening is a practical exercise for me, but it's also as close as I come to spirituality. The earthiness and practicality of the Yorkshire folk, the rebirth of the garden in the spring and the emotional rebirth of the two sad children, both speak to me.

-Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night. This was the huge book of my early 20s - for me it was about how to be a woman and an intellectual both, a topic I wrestled with (sad to say, it still needed wrestling at the close of the 20th century.) Plus, you know, love of wit and piffle.
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I read 64 books in 2006, only 4 of which were re-reads.

Genre breakdown:
45 romances (mostly read while on maternity leave)
16 nonfiction (lots of memoirs, but even those were very diverse)
2 that could be called litfic
1 fantasy

For next year I'd like to up the nonfiction a bit. I got about 5 interesting books for Xmas, so I can start there.


Nov. 18th, 2006 08:42 am
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These are all from a few weeks ago; I haven't read much lately. I do have a couple of more serious things on deck!

Eloisa James, The Taming of the Duke (Avon, 2006). Unbelievable characters, but speedy and witty enough that I didn't mind, much.

Edith Layton, How to Seduce a Bride (Avon, 2006). Unusual premise, executed okay.

Jane Aiken Hodge, Marry in Haste (Dobleday, 1970). Rare use of actual history that doesn't annoy me. Also dealt reasonably well with childbirth and cross-country escapes with a one month old.

Carola Dunn, Lavender Lady (Walker, 1983).
Carola Dunn, Lord Iverbrook's Heir (Walker, 1986). Both on the theme of cosy county homelife appealing to citified men.
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The Dillo is a drool fountain the last few days, and fussy today, and hand-gnawing and refusing the paci in favor of anything else, so I wonder if teeth are coming? None visible or feelable yet, but Casper got teeth at 4 months so it wouldn't be too odd. Except the baby on the corner who eats roast beef and is about to turn 1 has no teeth yet!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon. For book club, which I did join. I thought this was well done - gave the impression of really being written by an autistic person, while being much more engaging than a book actually written by an autistic person would really be. I imagine the author did a lot of research. I was sorry there wasn't really a detective story, though, and found the wrap-up a little unsatisfying, once the secret is revealed (not that it wasn't a totally obvious secret to the reader).

So then I sought out a book actually written by an autistic person, and read
Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior, by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson. Grandin consults on animal welfare, especially in meatpacking plants - she is able to see what bothers animals, so has been able to make the plants more humane. (She's mentioned a lot in Fast Food Nation, working with McDonald's.) Grandin, even with a co-author, is not as engaging as Haddon's narrator! Lot of interesting stuff here - most interesting, to me, was Grandin's explanation of how she sees similarities between her autistic hyper-specificity and visual thinking and trouble with abstraction and the ways animals think.
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Super cutie:

Carola Dunn, Miss Jacobson's Journey (Walker 1992).
The Black Sheep's Daughter (Walker 1989).
Lady in the Briars (Walker 1990).
Unusual Regencies, all three - the first with a Jewish heroine travelling across Napoleonic France; the second including Costa Rica and a slave ship, and the third, a tie-in to two, spies in Russia.

Breast is better; baby slept badly last night and I am very tired.
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8 cherokee purple tomatoes
1 german johnson
1 chinese eggplant

Current garden status is two tomatoes left standing (red zebra and cherokee purple) with multiple green fruits. Burpee carrots are still growing, probably at the baby carrot stage. There's parsely, which rebounded after the depredations of caterpillars, and more basil than ou can shake a stick at.

We got into the middle 30s overnight this weekend, so brought in Barney (the ficus). Also need to bring in the pot of calla lilies. Did some prliminary raking and mulching of things with leaves yesterday.

Deborah Tannen, You're Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation. I very much skimmed this; I just don't like her style, and this was also kind of one-note.

Amy Tiemann, Mojo Mom: Nuturing Yourself while Raising a Family. This is a local author. The book has some good messages: there's a big mental adjustment when you have kids, especially if you go from being a high-pressure career person to a stay at home mother; it's important to balance the needs of your kids with the continuing needs of your self; it's important to have a financial plan and plan to go back to the workforce, as most SAHMs ultimately do. But the book is a bit padded out - a few simple ideas made into a shortish book.

Carola Dunn, The Improper Governess (Zebra, 1998).
Carola Dunn, The Tudor Secret (Zebra, 1995).
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I've been invited to join a book club, a newly-forming one. Three years ago Sunshine's father gave her a gift certificate to Magnolia Grill (=local fancy restuarant), and instead of going herself, she invted all the new(ish) mothers of her acquaintance for dessert. Then her father died, and left some money, and she's made the dessert night an annual thing. This spring when we went people talked about books, and someone suggested a book club for mothers, who don't have a lot of time to read, would be nice. A low-key book club. The first meeting is tomorrow, at the house of one of the people I know slightly. We've sent in suggested books, and at this first meeting we'll discuss which we want to read. We're supposed to bring potluck snacky things. My knowledge of the people ranges from well (1) to slightly (2-3) to basically not at all (3-4).

I'd like to read some of the books suggested: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime; Tracy Kidder's book on Paul Farmer. Several of them seem to be required freshman reading in the local colleges over the past several years (Nickel and Dimed, The Kite Runner). I suggested West With the Night and To Say Nothing of the Dog (the latter despite the request "please no science fiction"!!) Anyway, the mix seems manageable for my tastes and not too Oprah-y.

Practically, I think this could be manageable, though it's two neighborhoods away, a longish walk, and the mess of children's bedtimes makes it complex. (I think if I go tomorrow, I'll feed the Dillo at 7, get mr. flea to drive me over - it's at 7:30 - then he can put Dillo to bed while parking Casper with some Muppet Show or something, and then put her to bed. I'd either get a ride home or walk home.) What makes me reluctant is a real problem I have with joining stuff. I am so Not A Joiner. I lurked forever (probably a year, anyway) at b.org. I don't play group sports. I sometimes join things because I feel they are worthwhile and nobody else is willing to (see also, involvement in parent organization), but generally, no. So I can't decide.

Ah well. At least by writing this I spared you all the real debate that has been obsessing me for 12 weeks now, To Have Another Child Or Not?? (Yes, it is ridiculous to ponder this when Second Child is less than 3 months old. But, if we don't, I get to get rid of all kinds of stuff like maternity clothes, infant stuff as he outgrows it. And I am mildly obsessed with having less stuff in my house.)


Sep. 23rd, 2006 09:47 am
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Eloisa James, Much Ado About You (2005). First in a new series, less over-the-top than her previous, but still with a tendency to plots that ramble all over the place.

Candice Hern, The Bride Sale (2002).
Candice Hern, Once A Scoundrel (2003). I liked her Signet regencies, insipid though they might be, better than the melodrama of these Avons.

Allison Lane, A Bird in Hand (1999). Signet. Just okay.

Mary Balogh, Irresistable (1998). Liked this one a lot.
Mary Balogh, Slightly Tempted (2004).
Mary Balogh, A Summer to Remember (2002).

Carola Dunn, Two Corinthians (1989). Traditional regency - they have a lot more by her at the library, and worth checking out.


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