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Archive for October, 2007

When Maya was born, J’s entire extended family showered us with gifts, which was very nice of them. Several people gave us ruffly pink dresses and those pink headbands you put on naked baby heads so everyone knows you have a girl. We got pink sleepers, t-shirts, jumpers saying, “Little princess.”

I wrote out thank you notes and then took everything but the sleepers to a consignment store. I could not bear to put them on my baby, especially the dresses, which J and I called baby armpit warmers.

As she aged, I put her in dresses and girly things – black dresses, blue dresses, green dresses. No pink. Most of the non-dress stuff I got was gender neutral in case I had a boy next time. That was my excuse, anyway.

We have no Disney movies, so Maya had limited ‘princess’ exposure and it never caught on with her, to my great relief. When someone gave her a viciously pink book of Disney princess stories for her birthday, I nudged it under the couch the moment she was distracted by the next toy and she never saw it again.

She soon asserted her independence, of course, demanding only shirts that demonstrated some sign of femininity, like flowers or hearts. She feel madly in love with Barbie and much as I hated them, I figured making them forbidden fruit was worse.

So she got girly. But at least she wasn’t princessy. For her 3rd Halloween, she went as a biker chick, with a faux leather jacket from her aunt and wee cowboy boots from a friend.

Asher came along and loved pink more than Maya. Perversely, I was happy to dress him in the pink sleeper. Then I steered him towards gender neutral stuff too, not wanted him to be abused by his peers. He had his own dolls (named Sam and Sleeping Baby) and wore nail polish, but I managed to distract him from the bright pink raincoat he was set on with a colourful but less pink umbrella.

I don’t just hate pink because people have irrationally assigned it to only one gender (oddly, in the 1800s, the colour was considered to be too strong for girls and was almost exclusively for boys). I just don’t like it.

I weakened a bit when Boo was born, because she had dark hair and looked pretty nice in pink. Limited, non-ruffly pink.

Despite the fact that we still don’t have any Disney movies, she found out about the princesses. I have no idea how. That’s the problem with the third kid – you have no idea what’s going on with them, even when they are little.

Last year, she wanted to be a princess for Halloween. Maya has been a witch, a ghost, a unicorn, a cat and a biker chick. Asher has been a wizard, a witch, a magician and a vampire. I sighed and told myself that at least she didn’t want to be a specific princess, like Cinderella, and bought her a cheap blue costume dress.

This year, she has decided on being a fairy princess. She already has the pink wings, but the blue dress is too small.

The other day, I was in the Children’s Place and saw this:

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It has that gauzy stuff underneath to make the skirt stick out all the time, like they do with wedding dressed (and which I took off mine), and you can’t see it well enough, but the front is all this brocade-type patterning. It’s really quite well put together, and it was on sale for $15.

I ignored it and went around the store collecting $3 skirts and $7 pants, and brought the entire pile up to the cash, where I spotted a knight’s costume for the same price and decided to get it for Asher, who is sick of being a wizard.

Then I stood in line and stared at the princess dress. I hate pink and I hate princesses, but Boo loves pink and princesses and as far as pink princess dresses go, I recognized that this was a good one, and for a good price too. I knew I could find her something I hated less and that she would like, but I also knew that she would love this dress.

I sucked it up and bought the dress. It isn’t me dressing up for Halloween, it’s her. And she was just as happy as I imagined she’d be when I showed it to her. She put in on immediately and wanted to wear it everywhere.

So there you go. It took me 11 years to slide all the way down that slope from giving away all the pink gifts and forbidding my mother-in-law to buy anything that colour to voluntarily buying my kid a pink princess dress. Now she’ll never be Prime Minister.

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Thirteen Things about just making it up.

  1. Top of my list is a book called How to Read the Bible, by James L. Kugel. It puts the Bible (and by that I mean the Torah, the one Christians call the Old Testament) into historical, archaeological and etiological context, as well as giving the traditional interpretations of the various elements and stories. It looks at the assumptions people bring to it as they read it, and why they bring those assumptions. It is just fascinating. I stumbled across it at Barnes and Noble in the US. The only problem is that, at 800 pages, it is hard to drag around in my backpack or read in the bath (although I’ve been doing the latter anyway).
  2. Biblical Literacy, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin. I have several of Telushkin’s books, as I like him as a person and a thinker. He does a lot of speaking about Jewish ethics. I got this book because J was at a conference at which he was scheduled to speak, and when he arrived at the hotel, it had bumped him from his room. The desk dork was directing him to some Super 8 miles away so J, who recognized him from other talks, approached and offered him the other bed in his room. Telushkin gave him this book in thanks, and several others since, but they are made out to me as I’m the one who reads this sort of thing. Anyway, I’ve read a lot of it before, but it is an interesting companion to read along side #1. It’s only 600 pages, though.
  3. The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, Wendy Mogel. This one was a Borders buy, but I’ve been looking for it, as several people recommended it. It is a parenting book along the sort I like – that say that this self-esteem thing is producing self-absorbed little shits for children (doesn’t put it quite that way, though) and they actually need a little hard work and to be allowed to experience failure and disappointment in order to grow up to be happy, successful adults. The twist on this one is that the author uses the Torah and Talmud as her jumping off points for parenting successfully.
  4. The Optimistic Child, Martin E. Seligman. Another parenting book that’s all for letting your kid fail on her own, and succeed on her own too. This guy’s thesis is that not allowing this sets our kids up for depression as they grow up, and we need to produce resilient, realistically optimistic kids in order to ‘innoculate’ them against depression. Based on a ton of research and study, and very interesting.
  5. The New Yorker, latest issue. This stays in my car in case I get caught without anything else to read. (heaven forbid!) My in-laws got me a subscription for Hanukkah last year and it has been one of the best gifts ever. The damn magazine is expensive, though, and up for renewal soon. I’m going to have to start making off with their copies again, which was what inspired the gift in the first place.
  6. Inkheart, Cornelia Funke. I read this to the older two every evening.
  7. Pain, The Fifth Vital Sign, Marni Jackson. It is a sort of sociological look at pain in our society and how we deal with it (or don’t, as the case may be).
  8. Stumbling On Happiness, Daniel Gilbert. It’s a kind of Freakanomics sort of look at happiness. Interesting. I think it is due back at the library soon, though.
  9. The Dangerous Book for Boys, Conn and Hal Iggulden. Reminds me of my childhood, even if I’m not a boy. Asher and I are reading it. He’s very keen on the part about making a battery and about making a bow and arrow. He hasn’t discovered the chapter on hunting and skinning a rabbit so far, thankfully. I’ve noticed this book reviewed and wanted it, but it is damn expensive. The friend we stayed with in NY had a copy, though, and when I commented on it he gave me permission to steal it, so I did.
  10. Several days of newspapers that I refuse to recycle until I’ve at least had a look at.
  11. The Case Against Homework, by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish. The title is pretty self-explanatory. I haven’t opened it in a while because it is too painful, as Maya slogs through her homework each night. I’m toying with just giving it to the vice-principal as a gift.
  12. Blogs.
  13. Okay, I’ve run dry. But doesn’t the fact that I’m reading an 800 page book and a 600 page book together kind of make up for not having a thirteenth?


Links to other Thursday Thirteens:
1. Pass the Chocolate

2. Bring Your Own Cheese

3. Burnt Offerings

4. MamaArcher (kindly put me in her 13 favourite Thursday Thirteens on motherhood.)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


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Well, we did it. We drove 8 hours (give or take a few pee/food breaks) down to New York on Wednesday and then 8 back on Monday.

The weirdest part of the trip was the weather. It reached the high 20s (Celsius) every day and didn’t get much cooler at night. It was so hard to convince ourselves that we were there in October. We feel blessed by the weather gods.

We stayed on the Upper West side in a friend’s apartment. He was kind enough to vacate it and stay with his girlfriend so we could take over. I have to admit, I could totally see living in New York if I had buckets of money. We walked to Central Park, which we all just loved. They have a carousel there that costs $1.50 per ride – the best deal in the whole city.

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Even the big kids liked it.

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We went back two days in a row.

The kids also lived climbing on the rocks (and giving me heart failure) and just watching the action. Here’s a picture of them at the top of the rock, silhouetted.

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We also stumbled across people practicing their rock-climbing skills on the more sheer parts of the rock. Our friend, S, ever up for a challenge, climbed it in his street shoes. As he got higher, they dragged the mattress they had to break falls over and placed it underneath him. Then, as he hoisted himself over the lip at the top, every hand went up to catch him as he fell, which he didn’t.

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They then swore they weren’t a club, just random people who show up, conveniently with a mattress and gear, but we think there were just jealous and didn’t want S to join and show them up.

We also got Boo’s face painted.

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Here’s the final product. She has a dopey expression on her face, but it was the best I could get. She’s in the ‘lame smile’ stage right now.

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Another good deal was the little zoo in Central Park. It is very lovely and well-kept, and just beautiful.

We’ve been going to New York since J first took me 15 years ago, and I have to say, the place has changed. We took the kids to gawk at 42nd street without a moment’s concern, and had lots of fun checking out a 3-floor M&M store, amazed that a place with 3 stories of M&M stuff could stay in business.

When I first saw 42nd Street, I stood and gawked like the hick tourist I was and J nudged me and said, “Stop looking like such a tourist! You are going to get us mugged!” He based this on his experience of being mugged on 42nd Street a few years earlier. There were strip clubs and peep shows everywhere and a large black guy with a wild look in his eyes was up on a stool preaching about how the ‘so-called white man’ had ruined the world.

No more crazy people and peep shows there now. Never at any point in New York, even when it was just Maya and me walking in the dark, did we feel a moment’s concern. In fact, several times, when we were having trouble figuring out exactly how to get where we wanted to go, people just came up to us and asked if they could help us out. It was a really nice experience. It seems New Yorkers have mellowed.

Another fun thing was the shopping, thanks to our equal dollars. A lot of stuff, like clothes and books, are cheaper in the States, plus there is no tax on clothes, so we went a little nuts. I bought $50 worth of underwear. (Woo hoo!)

We, of course, had to take the kids to FAO Schwartz.

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We fed them at the little cafe there, which actually had healthy food for kids (plus ice cream – there are limits) . Here’s a happy Maya after a day of shopping.

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The place we really lost our minds was the bookstore. The book situation is ridiculous. One book I got was $14 if you bought it in the States and $21 in Canada. As a result, it just felt to us like everything was on sale and we all got several books. Then, on the way home, we stopped in a Borders for a pee break and walked out with 5 more books and 2 magazines.

We also did various museums, of course. A huge hit was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as The Lightening Thief begins there, plus, it has a section full of Greek statues of the various gods. Here are Maya and Asher ‘posing’ with a young Hercules.

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I know I’ve already raved about this book, but really, it was so remarkable to follow my boy around as he said things like, “Look, he’s holding the skin of the Nemean lion he killed,” and “This sarcophagus has carvings of Theseus fighting the Minotaur on it!”

We then sat on the steps outside the Met, relaxing for a bit. This is Boo’s idea of relaxing:

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We then got to witness something else typically New York: a performance art piece. These women, dressed to the nines, kept crossing the street, pausing in the middle to wave and pretend to flag down taxis. Frequently people who were crossing with them would get into the act, blowing kisses to the crowd and such. Very funny.

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And now we are home. The weather has turned cold, it is raining and the routine has returned. Sigh.

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Ow ow ow ow ow. Ow.

I exercised. Ow.

I’ve been walking, convincing myself that is exercise. It is, right? But it clearly isn’t cutting it, so now that all three kids are in school full time and I don’t have a full time job, it is time to ratchet up the exercise. Significantly.

My fibromyalgia is bad. Very bad. Washing and cutting up potatoes to boil causes extreme neck pain, for instance. This makes dinner difficult. Every little injury hurts for days, and I am only getting worse. I take 2 pills in the morning and 4 in the evening, and that isn’t counting the pain pills (which I am still slowing weaning off successfully, so at least that is going in the right direction). I feel like I keep propping myself up chemically while the foundation crumbles.

So, time to rebuild the foundation. I swam laps for half an hour this afternoon. I paused every 50 meters (2 pool lengths) to rest, could only do breast stroke and my shoulders and neck still complained (front crawl is completely unbearable) and pulled a calf muscle. All my muscles are screaming, which has tipped me off to how much walking wasn’t really exercise.

I’m going back Friday, then Monday, then Wednesday again. And I signed up for yoga Tuesdays and Thursdays, and will not quit this time, no matter what. And once my body stops screaming at me for all that, I will add weight training. This will not be pretty. The squeamish among you may want to avert your eyes.

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You know what I don’t get – how people manage to throw up photos so fast onto their blogs. Getting them the right size so that they don’t eat all my space takes time, and slows me down. I have two photos ready to go, except their pictures aren’t. Off to work on that.

Oh, and I also don’t get the point of having tags and categories. What’s the difference?

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Apparently, I was remiss in my description of certain details. Okay, Jon Stewart looked exactly the same in person as on the tube. You know how people sometimes say that celebrities look smaller in person? Well, Jon never struck me as particularly tall, and he isn’t. He really was just the same. The other two as well. Exactly the same as you’d expect.

He behaves pretty much the same too. He’s friendly, has a sense of humor, good at ad-libbing. He didn’t arrive on the set like a prima donna and order people around, for example. He was professional and while he didn’t spent a lot of time with us, he did chat with us for a while beforehand and did come out after to thank us. He seemed genuinely appreciative.

It was weird seeing him talk straight to the camera as though he were talking to the audience. We were supposed to respond as though he was talking to us (at the beginning of the show, he started with, “So, how you feeling? How are the kids?”). And his reactions were, of course, also straight to the camera. It made me more aware of how much of a performance it is of his. I mean, of course it is a performance. It is just weirder to see in person.

And, watching the show on TV afterwards, I realized that it is actually easier to engage with what is going on sitting in front of the tube in your living room than being on the audience. We missed some of what he said, had to peer around cameras, etc. Which didn’t make it any less cool, of course, but I wouldn’t want to see the show that way every day.

Oh, and I appeared on the show, for the merest nanosecond! After Jon introduces the guest, the camera cuts to him coming out and you can see a few people  in the audience right at the edge. Pause exactly at that moment and there I am! Our friend here has a crappy TV, so I don’t know how clear it could be, but on this TV I am a red blob to the very left of the screen, second row. If it is any clearer on other TVs, then I have actual proof of being there. How exciting.

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That’s what they made us do in the Daily Show audience this afternoon before Jon Stewart came out, which seemed a little over the top.

So, here it is, for those (Yogamum) who are living vicariously through me.
When we arrived at Comedy Central, which is a boring little office building, there was already quite a line-up on the left of the doors. On the right, with the sign, VIPs, was a line of about 6 people. As we assessed the situation, the official door guy told us the line actually continued around the corner.

Around we went and stood behind a nice older woman, waiting alone. Meanwhile, J phoned our friend who got the tickets, S, who hadn’t arrived yet, as we thought he had said something about having VIP tickets. Sure enough we had, so we happily abandoned the long line for the short line. I was number 13. Lucky 13.

After a long wait, they brought us in, putting us through a metal detector and confiscating my jackknife. Odd. We then waited in a plain white room for another long, long time. Finally, someone came along to tell us how important we were to the show and that we couldn’t eat, drink or pee.

As VIPs, we were seated first. It was very orderly, with us being directed to particular seats. We were the closest to Jon’s desk and the second row up. We were so close Jon Stewart I could practically see him clearly without my glasses.

As the seats were almost filled, people slowed to a trickle, probably because larger groups would have been rejected in favour of single people to be happy in the single seats. Finally, the last person came in and took her seat, and I realized it was the woman we had been talking to right in front of us in the first line. Thanks goodness for VIP tickets.

The doors closed and we proceeded to wait some more. Wait and wait and wait. We got to examine the studio and set in great detail. Not surprisingly, it looks a lot smaller in real life.

Finally, some guy came out and told us jokes to warm us up. He was pretty funny, I have to admit, ad-libbing as he abused the audience, ordering people to sit up straight and the like. He also emphasized that we weren’t there to watch the show, we were there to be part of the show, and made us yell and clap a lot, encouraging us to be louder and more enthusiastic.

And at last, two hours after we arrived at the studio, out came Jon Stewart. He took a couple of question from the audience and seemed funny and kind. Someone asked if the rumours she’d read on the internet about him having a role in some movie was true. He had never heard of the movie and said, “Well, unlike almost everything else you read on the internet, this appears to be false.”

What I found most interesting about the show was reading the teleprompter while Stewart spoke. A lot of stuff I’d expected to be just him, like, “Um …” were scripted. But on the other, he did vere off-script fairly frequently, tossing in extra little jokes or changing words. He must be very comfortable in front of the camera to be able to do that.

When John Oliver came out to do a live report from Victorian England, the blue screen (which projects the picture behind him) was right beside us, so Oliver was only a few feet from us. He was also only a few feet from Jon Stewart, which looked so weird. As Oliver did his bit, Steward would crack up, giggling and putting his head on his desk before recovering in time to do his part.

We also got to see the last John, whose name I can’t remember but he stars in the Apple commercials, reporting on the dollar. As a Canadian who is delighted to be buying cheap New York stuff with our strong dollar, that whole section was amusing.

The only disappointing thing was that Stewart didn’t have time to throw to Stephen Colbert at the end of the show. He talked to the guest too long. I saw the director waving at him a few times to wrap it up, but Stewart ignored him and kept yacking.

After all the waiting, the show whipped by and all of a sudden, it was over. Jon came out again and thanked us all, telling us we were no long on air, so we didn’t need to clap. And then we were back out on the street.

If anyone watches tonight and hears someone clap or whoop at the mention of the US dollar being at par with the Canadian dollar, that was J and me.

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We made it to NY! The drive, including dinner and only one pee stop, took 8.5. The kids were very good, in part due to a portable DVD player someone lent us and a couple Mr. Bean videos. 

The kids, of course, had no idea what to expect, and every hick town we encountered, they asked, “Is this New York?” When we finally did reach New Jersey, only Maya was awake. We actually got lost at one point trying to find the exit for the Lincoln Tunnel and ended up driving through a slightly skuzzy part of New Jersey, and Maya asked, clearly trying to be cool about it, “Is New York all like this too?” Needless to say, she was much more impressed once we arrived.

I am very excited about showing them New York. It is unlike anything they have ever experienced. A cool bonus is that the kids’ (Maya and Asher, anyway) favourite book series is the Lightening Thief, by Rick Riordan. There are three in the series now, and we eagerly await two more. I read these out loud to the kids and love them as much as they do.

In the first one book, we meet Percy, who is 12 years old. He bounces from school to school because he keeps getting in trouble, is dyslexic and has ADD. He soon finds out that he is a demi-god – a product of a human and Greek god. Olympus exists, on the mythical 600th floor of the Empire State Building. The ADD is because he’s wired to be a hero and the dyslexia is because he’s meant to read Greek.

Okay, it sounds kind of weird, but it really well done. Riordan weaves in all kinds of Greek myths and updates them seamlessly as well. And he has a great sense of humour too. It is a bonus that the hero has ADD like Asher does and yet is smart and funny, and also has difficulty in school – more, in fact, because of the monsters.

Anyway, New York City is Percy’s home town, so the kids have read all about it. The gargoyles can come to life in the book and if you look, there are gargoyles on buildings all over the city. There are constellations painted on the roof of Grand Central Station, so we’ll have to show them that.

And, of course, there’s the Statue of Liberty, the American Girl doll store (sigh), the Science Museum, Central Park, Times Square…

 

And the Daily Show. Let’s not forget that. I cannot wait.

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