Book Review Monday: My Little Golden Book of Manners

Manners cover

This is a Richard Scarry joint. So there’s delightful and confusing weirdness. Are the predators vegetarian? Do the eat their neighbors? WHAT IS GOING ON?!

“My Little Golden Book of Manners” (or: How not to be an ass to the anthropomorphic animals of the world)
by Peggy Parish
Golden Books, 1962
Consultants: The Third Grade at Dalton School*
Illustrated by Richard Scarry

I started reviewing this book a few years ago for my old parenting blog. I had a stack of torn yellow Post-Its with scribbles on them–thoughts that came to mind as I read through the text. As the months went by, I moved these from the pages of the book to a drawer, then another drawer, until finally I recycled them or hid them so efficiently, they are effectively destroyed. Of course, now I want to review it for real, and I am starting from scratch. I imagine the original Post-Its are full of snark; the only one I can find reads, “Dinosaur? DINOSAUR? I can’t even…” But when I sat down to crap all over this book afresh, I found myself surprised. There’s some good stuff in here. [Read more…]

Parenting: Not everyone prays

“Finn’s Mom! Finn’s Mom! Finn says he doesn’t pray every night!”

I think I was supposed to be upset. But when my son’s friend blurted this out to me on the school bus during a field trip, my calm response was, “Well, honey, not everyone does that. I know that Finn doesn’t pray. We don’t do that in our family.”

It’s a dilemma freethinking parents face as their kids grow older and they start talking about stuff like this. We are by far in the minority, though my son’s school is highly diverse, and many religions are practiced by the families who send their kids there. My guess is that the highest percentage of families are Muslim followed closely by Christian, and so on, and so on. It’s impossible to identify the freethinkers. When you spend more time with parents, you begin to have the tentative conversations that reveal non-religious people, and you realize you are not alone, but you know that you are going to have to give your child the comparative religion skills necessary to cope with kids’ questions and their ensuing shock.

“Finn says he doesn’t pray every night!”

We have conversations about his friends and their religion, many of whom are Muslim, and many of the girls wear the hijab. When we came back from the winter break, I talked with him about how to ask his friends about their time away. “You know how we celebrate around Christmas, but we don’t go to church, and, for us, it’s not about Jesus or God? Well, a lot of your friends don’t celebrate Christmas or any holiday at this time, so don’t ask them, ‘What did you get for Christmas?’ Ask them, ‘What did you do on your break?'” Not to mention the fact that he attends a high poverty school, and who knows what circumstances his friends’ families are dealing with at home.

The unfortunate thing is, as I embark on this journey of teaching my child about freethinking, world religions, and specifically religion in the United States, it doesn’t appear that many of the religious families are having similar conversations with their children.

P.S. I am always interested in resources for freethinking parents.

Book Review Monday: The Pokey Little Puppy

PLP coverThe Pokey Little Puppy
by Janette Sebring Lowrey
Illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren*
Little Golden Books, 1942

Any work of literature is an agreement between writer and reader. There are expectations and norms. While writers can and do experiment with these conventions to create great art, the reader usually needs to feel that there is a certain amount of trust in order to read with enjoyment.

The first few paragraphs of a work of fiction often establish the parameters of the experience. The reader meets main characters, is given clues as to over-arching themes, and the relationship between reader and writer is created.

I love the classics of children’s literature, which can mean anything from a Little Golden Book to The Victorian Book of You Are Going To Hell if You Are Bad. The Little Golden Books are easy targets because they are recognizable, accessible, and often messed up in that “totally acceptable and not at all shocking because I never thought of it like that” sort of way. We 40-somethings grew up with them. Hell, our parents grew up with them. So books like “The Pokey Little Puppy” just sit there in our psyches, absorbed and not questioned.

[Read more…]

Their scientific name is bison bison. They don’t wear coats.

I’ve been to Yellowstone National Park perhaps dozens of times. I’ve hiked, walked, cross-country skied, photographed, toured in the car, and gazed admiringly at the landscape. I love it there. Know what I’ve never done? PICKED UP A BUFFALO.

It’s like the start of the worst joke ever, but it’s true, and now I have to apologize to my cats yet again for being a member of the species Homo sapien sapien.

Last week, two human tourists picked up a buffalo calf and drove it to a ranger station because they thought it was cold and they are stupid. This resulted in park officials having to euthanize the calf because it was abandoned by the herd. Go humanity!

When I lived in Jackson, Wyoming, south of Grand Teton National Park which is south of Yellowstone, it seemed like there was a tourist death reported in the paper every week (they only came out on Wednesdays). Be it a climbing accident or an animal incident, it was usually related to human stupidity or error. Sometimes with the climbing accidents, it was the weather. When it was animal-related, it was almost always bison.

bisonUpon entering the parks, you get a map, a park newsletter, and plenty of warnings about not approaching animals. They are wild and dangerous; it’s not a petting zoo and even at a petting zoo, the goats kind of freak me out. Bison, specifically, are highlighted in the literature, including an awesome drawing:

“Visitors to the park are given a bright yellow flier that depicts a person getting gored by a bison. But the charms of the bison have proved hard to resist. Last July, a woman was tossed by a bison after trying to take a selfie with one. She was one of five people to be injured by bison last summer.”

I wonder what these people would be like on a visit to a farm. Would they bring onesies for the cows and scarves for the chickens? Or at the zoo, getting a selfie of you being eaten by a tiger. And here’s a hint: when someone asks, “Do you think that buffalo will fit in the trunk?” the answer is ALWAYS “NO.”

F#@* you, Child Protection League

“‘The Target mixed-bathroom policy is not about solving a problem, it is about taking the wrong side in a massive cultural assault on women and girls,’ said Julie Quist, board chair of the Child Protection League. ‘Voyeurism, exhibitionism and stalking are well-known public concerns most commonly directed at women and children.'” (MPR “Target transgender bathroom campaign sparks opposition campaign,” May 16, 2016)

Oh did I mention fuck you?

First of all, stop using children as an excuse for your bigotry.

Second of all, stop pretending you care about girls and women as an excuse for your bigotry.

If my child is out with his transgender grandparent at a store, or anywhere, and she needs to take him to the bathroom, I would very much prefer that she take him with her into the women’s bathroom rather then either sending him into the men’s bathroom alone, at 8-years-old, or going into the men’s restroom with him and risking her safety, making the men there uncomfortable, and probably causing stress to said 8-year-old because no one feels OK. BECAUSE SHE’S A GIRL AND USES THE GIRLS’ BATHROOM WITH OTHER GIRLS, including me. And if I’m OK with my son using the girls’ bathroom with his Gran, and I am fine with using the same bathroom as my transgender parent, you can shut the hell up.

Also, “mixed bathroom”? Seriously, what the crap? Boys use the boys’ bathroom and girls’ use the girls’ bathroom, just like always. And, stop using children, girls, and women as an excuse for your ignorance. Why can’t you just be afraid of spiders or an eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera, like normal people?

If you cared about women, you would have jumped on a women’s issue at sometime, ever. Like paid parental leave, affordable high-quality child care, reproductive and health rights, or, like, I don’t know ACTUAL ASSAULT as opposed to whatever the hell “cultural assault” is (I think it might be Christian Rock, but I’m not sure). Nothing has changed for you. Nothing is different, except you are aware of a group of humans who have always existed. You have been using the bathroom with transgender people all your goddamn life, and you were fine. And to think, you could be using this experience as an opportunity to be less stupid and hateful. And to think further, while our public schools are short on funds and programming, you’re driving your creepy-ass truck all over Minnesota, scaring kids and nauseating adults.

Also, fuck you.

On This Day…

Normally, those Facebook “Hey, we really love you, so we are going to show you your own stuff” daily reminders are only of interest to me, and I feel no need to share them with anyone aside from my husband, because it’s a super cute picture of our kid.

But in recent weeks, 21st century Facebooking Minnesotans have been treated to some fine memories. First of all, three years ago today, May 14, 2013, was hot. Like, stupid hot. According to

“The hottest day of 2013 was May 14, with a high temperature of 98°F. For reference, on that day the average high temperature is 69°F and the high temperature exceeds 81°F only one day in ten.”

Today, May 14, 2016, it’s 35 degrees with a frost advisory. I had to put my baby plants in the garage last night. But to warm my heart, I was reminded of this: three years ago today, Governor Mark Dayton signed marriage equality into the law of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. And we were there to see it.

Minnesota YES

Flickr album of my images related to marriage equality in Minnesota, with caption commentary.

It’s that whole “arc of history bending toward justice” thing, and it can be hard to remember this, given recent injustices and the ravings of a certain presidential candidate giving the microphone of hate to oddly angry white people everywhere. But at least it’s nice to remember that on November 6, 2012, Minnesota voters said “no” to both marriage and voter restriction. In May, 2013, the Minnesota House and Senate voted yes on marriage equality, and on this day, the governor signed the bill. On August 1, 2013, the bill went into effect, and loving couples exchanged their vows.


Arts & Hate-crafts

max stash

This cat is not a racist. He just thinks we should be talking about dog-on-dog crime.

We all internalize racism and respond subconsciously to that social programming, and it’s a lot of work to patrol your own thoughts and root out the stereotypes and tropes that make us less human, I get that. But I don’t understand what I call “practicing racists.” Those who actively promote, engage in, and deeply believe that their racism is justified and correct. For these people, it’s not even racism. It’s obvious truth.

I’m sure there are many, many sociological, psychological, and neurological studies involving brains clouded with irrational hatred of entire groups of people, which explain some of these human tendencies. I’m sure there’s a reasonable evolutionary explanation to the whole fear factor when it comes to the interaction of human groups. But it’s 2016, and I don’t understand the time, money, and resources devoted to racist, sexist, heterosexist, transphobic activities in this country. Why don’t these people get a hobby or take up crafting? Like hate knitting or grievance crochet? “Look at this rage quilt I made using all my fear and repression!”

[Read more…]

Book Review Monday: Morris Has A Cold

Morris cover001Morris has a Cold
by Bernard Wiseman (1977)

Morris Has a Cold is one of several tales of an unlikely friendship between a moose and a bear. On a recent vacation to the grandparent’s, our boy discovered this book, and it makes his Gran crazy. This surprised me because I remember these stories so fondly.

Having read Morris has a Cold for the child on the night of his return, I get it. It is a maddening tale of poor communication and unlikely circumstances.

Basically, Boris spends almost the entirety of this story in various degrees of rage and frustration, much like many of the adult readers, responding to the oblivious Morris, who plays his role as Captain Literal to a tee. One can’t entirely blame him. He is a moose. [Read more…]

On Mother’s Day

First off, let me say that I think Mother’s Day is a load of happy horse shit, and previous observances have found me in the kitchen, unloading and reloading the dishwasher, making coffee, feeding the cats, and being the only grown up awake and parenting.

Secondly, owning a pet is not the same thing as raising a child, unless you are doing both of them wrong. Sorry you feel left out, but until you are responsible for creating a functioning and contributing member of a civil society, you are not a parent. Your dog is not a child. Your cat is not a child. Your plant is not a child. National Pet Parent’s Day is in April. (I didn’t name it that.)


This was pretty excellent, though.

Finally, I began Mother’s Day 2016 630 miles from home after attending a friend’s graduation, and I mothered by text. My husband was home with our son, sleeping while the boy played Minecraft. At 10 o’clock, I told him to get Daddy up as breakfast should probably happen, and try as I might, I have not passed my Apparition Test. “If it helps, tell him I’m mad,” I told him.

It helped.

So yeah, Mother’s Day is generally kind of lame. But if you really want to get me something, I’d like affordable child care for working families; paid maternity leave; access to high-quality medical care for women including birth control, abortion services, pre-natal and natal care; equal pay; standardized voting procedures including eradication of voter ID laws; legal control over my own body; and a Lego Death Star.

Voter, ID Me This

I’m a big fan of evidence-based policy. So you can imagine how happy I am to see that a law is having its intended effect:

“As the general election nears — in which new or strengthened voter ID laws will be in place in Texas and 14 other states for the first time in a presidential election — recent academic research indicates that the requirements restrict turnout and disproportionately affect voting by minorities.” (NYTimes. “Stricter Rules for Voter IDs Reshape Races” May 1, 2016)

Fan-damn-tastic. That’s exactly what Voter ID laws are supposed to do.

“We’re asking people if they have a driver’s license,” he said. “We’re having those basic conversations about IDs at the front end, right at our first meeting with voters.”–Representative Pete Gallego (D-TX) (Same citation)

Even better! Tie up democratic candidates’ already continuous campaign cycle helping people with their ID and registration instead of hearing stories and talking policy and securing those actual votes. I love it! This is probably an unintended consequence of this policy, and unintended consequences are usually detriments. It warms my heart that this time, it’s right in line with the intentions. Not to mention that Rep. Gallego gets to do this in a congressional district the size of Mississippi! Woo Hoo!

[Read more…]