Tag Archives | childhood

Character Assassin’s Carousel or, why not to EVER give a pig a pancake

Ah, read-aloud time. Those lovely minutes when you bond with your children while reading to them from a favorite story-book. Maybe, before you had kids, you had visions of this time dancing in your head like so many sugarplums: your delectable toddler in fuzzy jammies, curled against your lap, the two of you chuckling at some winsome anthropomorphic creature frolicking in a woodland dell.

And then, like so many parenting visions, reality hits, in the shape of your willful toddler (still in fuzzy jammies, so at least some dreams never die), shaking Thomas the Train at you for the seventh million time, and you think that you’d rather re-live the Bataan Death March than read about The Fat Controller and his proto-fascisti train station.

Enter Ninja Mom, whose Assassins Carousel is giving all of us recovering story-tellers a place to share our battle stories.  This month, I get to join this illustrious company, where last month the Underachieving Domestic Goddess gave Walter the Farting Dog a serious talking-to about his intestinal issues.

My turn on the carousel! My turn! Oh my friends, I have had a difficult time thinking about what to choose.  I thought about that homage to imperialism and colonialism that masquerades as Babar, in which Babar gets to be King of the Elephants because, you know, he has a car and a nice suit.  Then my mind turned to that damn monkey, George, who is happy – HAPPY – to be kidnapped from his jungle home and come live with the yellow-hat dude…But no. No, no, I had to go with the book that made my heart sink when chubby-fingered Caleb would grab it from the shelf for pre-bed story-time.

That damn pig. That insatiable, home-wrecking, tap-dancing, mofo of a pig from If You Give a Pig a Pancake, by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond.

First of all, I have to ask why it is that the heroes of picture books have to be such disasters. Why does Max, of Max and Ruby (which, sorry, Middletini, I still sort of love) always win, always get the second chocolate chicken; why is Froggy of the Froggy series never punished for the utter chaos that follows in his wake? It’s a metaphysical question, I realize, but one that I’d like someone to answer for me.

In the meantime, however, on to the pig.

cover image source

First I have to ask: unless it’s Wilbur, would anyone want a pig as a pet? Much less a pig in the house grubbing about for pancakes?  Do not be fooled by this cover image: this pig does not sit still, plate in hand, oh no.  This pig is, literally, a pig: a relentless appetite on the hoof.

Like all seduction stories, this one starts easy: syrup with pancakes. Syrup, you think, sure. Not a problem. But then…then things spiral out of control and we realize we’re reading a book about a pig with an addiction. Fueled initially by sugary syrup, this pig needs ever bigger hits of adrenalin to get that same rush, and the results aren’t pretty.

Who knew pancakes were the gateway drug? From pancakes, syrup, from syrup to big bubblebaths, to bath toys, to tap dancing (on furniture no less), to a narcissistic request for photo-shoots, and some clearly photo-shopped images of excessive pig-strength: image source

Then this damn pig wants to mail all the pictures to friends and family back home (can you imagine the cost of postage?) but in true addict fashion, the pig gets distracted when she’s wheeling her towering pile of letters out to the mailbox.  And that’s when the true nature of the pig comes clear:  not only is the pig an adrenalin addict, my friends, this pig has one of the worst cases of ADD ever seen in childrens’ fiction. The pig finishes nothing (other than the pancakes, a task accomplished by licking the plate. Add bad manners to the list of this pig’s fabulous qualities).

The pig drops her excessive mailing to begin a home-building-and-renovation project involving sharp tools and nails, as well as wallpaper paste.  A renovation project in a tree, no less. I mean please. We all know pigs can’t fly, and thus, no way is a pig building a house in a tree.

Leaving behind a trail of unfinished projects and household destruction, the pig retires to the kitchen, and demurely requests a snack. Of pancakes.  Which means, yep, you guessed it: this story is an endless feedback loop. To read this story once is to risk being commanded by your toddler “READ IT AGAIN!” because, of course, your fuzzy jammied genius of a child has figured out that… the whole cycle will repeat itself, ad infinitum. Ad nauseum.

The pig, you see, has no respect for the exhausted parent friend who has followed her around all day offering up supplies to service the pig’s ugly addictions.  (Add co-dependent enabling to the list of pig-related horrors).

Do you see, my friends, the evidence of the pig’s domestic carnage in this picture? The camera, casually tossed on the ground (is this how we treat expensive equipment?), the litter of letters (oh! the waste of paper), the wallpaper spread across the table, the laundry on the floor…This pig needs some serious behavior modification, I’d say, or else it’s time for the sequel in which that exhausted little girl gets pancakes…

with bacon.

Ride the carousel next month with Kim, from Let Me Start By Saying


Continue Reading · on October 11, 2012 in Books, Children, Education, Kids

eleven-question tag: better than choosing sides for dodgeball

Confession: In elementary school (and middle school, and okay, high school too) I was always last chosen for games in PE. Maybe it was the glasses & braces combo (plus the stringy center-parted hair), or maybe it was the utter lack of hand-eye coordination, but I was the girl standing on the sidelines, waiting (and dreading) the “choose teams” moment.

I got over it. Eventually.

Flash forward to now. Bloggers have been playing eleven-question tag–answering questions, passing along the game to another list of bloggers…sort of like choosing a team.  But thanks to Greta, at Not Enough Patience and Never Enough Jewelry, I’m not on the sidelines! I got tagged!  Yay Greta!

My seven-year old self can go slinking back into the deep recesses of my subconscious while I play the game.

Here are the rules:

You must post these rules. Each per­son must post 11 things about them­selves on their blog. Answer the ques­tions the “tag­ger” listed for you in his/her post, and cre­ate 11 new ques­tions for the peo­ple you tag to answer. Choose 11 peo­ple to tag and link to them in the post. Let each blog­ger know that you have tagged them.

Greta’s questions:

1. What kids’ show do you detest, and which one do you secretly watch when your kids aren’t around?

I pretty much hate all of it, but particularly iCarly and her ilk.  I love “Avatar: The Last Airbender” and was furious at the hash that M. Night Shamalamadingdong made of the movie. Luckily most US kids’ TV shows aren’t on here (or else we haven’t found those channels yet). There is an Arabic language show called “Freej” that was inspired by “South Park,” of all things, and it cracks me up: four old ladies cackling about the state of the world.

2.  If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Oh gadzooks. Um…the outfit I wear here almost every day: a knee-length jersey knit skirt and a t-shirt, purple birkenstocks. No one has ever accused me of being fashion-forward.

3. If you could start over completely with a brand new Facebook account and ditch the one you have, would you have the same number of friends, fewer friends, or more friends?

Waaay fewer. There are people from my past who are, due to FB, now in my present. And they should’ve stayed in the past.

4. If you could retire tomorrow (or if all of your kids were in school), what would you do with your days?

Write and be outside. So I guess if I could have a house with a big porch that would be ideal: I could write outside.

5. What toy from your childhood do you secretly wish you could still play with?

I wish it were still all right for me to sit and read for hours at a time. That and play with my Sasha dolls. Best. Doll. Ever.

6. What is your favorite movie of all time?

I should probably come up with something witty and intellectual but at the moment, all that comes to mind are the “Thin Man” movies with Myrna Loy and William Powell, or maybe “Bull Durham,” which is probably the last time I was able to watch Kevin Costner in a movie. Or else it would have to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  Those movies show me that an adaptation doesn’t always have to diminish the original. Plus there’s that whole Viggo-pre-Russian-mobster thing.

7. If you could spend a week with any celebrity and couldn’t leave his/her side the whole time, who would you want to spend it with?


8. What is the first thing you would say to that celebrity?

Is it hard to walk around in the world and look at the rest of us? Or rather, what’s it like to be inside those cheekbones looking out at the pudgy wrinkly spotty world?

9. Do you have any major regrets in your life?

Probably… I mean, sure. But then again, if you believe that everything we’ve done in the past leads us to where we are, then I can’t regret anything or else I wouldn’t be where and who I am now. And mostly that “now” space is okay.

10. If you could choose any (other) profession, what would it be?

Heiress? Philanthropist (that would be contingent on choice A happening, however). Person-who-makes-her-living-from-writing?

11. What song do you crank up the loudest in your car and sing along to?

I’m not sure we can call it “singing” (bellowing might be more accurate), but I do know all the words to “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by heart…and then of course, there’s the wild emoting that comes along with anything on the album “Tapestry.” Have also lately been wailing along with Adele and with the Black Keys.


And now my questions (some of which have been cribbed from others):

1. What is in your refrigerator?

2. What chore do you most loathe?

3. If you could be anywhere else, where would you be?

4. What is your favorite book?

5. What’s in your purse (or pockets or satchel?)

6. What’s the title for your autobiography?

7. Do you have any physical scars? What’s the story of one scar?

8. If you had to have a car, and could have any kind of car you wanted (someone else will do the grocery shopping and kid/pet/horse/goat shlepping, this one is just for you), what would it be?

9. Are you a dog person or a cat person?

10. What are you most proud of that has only to do with you (can’t be kids, partner, well-trained pet)?


Lady Jennie

Squashed Mom

Random Handprints

Adelaide from Adelaide


I Love You More Than Carrots

Kvetch Mom


Mommy’s Little Monster Blake

Mamabird Diaries


Continue Reading · on February 12, 2012 in Abu Dhabi, writing

Monday Listicles: things i said i would NEVER do

Somewhere in the U.S., it’s still Monday even though here I’ve just put the kids on the bus to Neckerchief Academy for their Tuesday. For yesterday’s listicle--which I’m going to pretend is today’s prompt–Greta gave us a prompt that is basically an exercise in eating humble pie: a list of ten things we said we’d never do…and then did.  I did this list the easy way: I thought about being a parent and how often being a parent seems to result in eating one’s own words with remarkable frequency. Or maybe that’s just me.  Maybe the rest of you don’t have this problem.  Sigh.

1. “because I said so, that’s why.” Yes. That was me. And more than once. The phrase of parental last resort–and it’s not a resort that I’d like to visit as often as I seem to be doing.

2. There was a time, back in the day, when I thought team sports were the exclusive realm of the Great Santini and his offspring. I didn’t play a team sport growing up (me and hand-eye coordination were strangers for a long, long time); I don’t follow a particular team; I don’t get the whole “team” thing. Mostly I just don’t play well with others, is what it boils down to.  But then Liam fell in love with soccer and there I was…standing on the sidelines in the freezing cold, driving all over New York to games, and here in Abu Dhabi, I’m back in the shlep-wagon, out to soccer school, over to practice…And you know what? Being on a soccer team (and having the great coaches he had in NYC–thank you, Sean and Marcus) — it’s the best thing that could’ve ever happened to him.  Of course, my weekends are shot to hell, but hey, who needs a weekend away, right? Rah rah rah go team.

3. “do you know how many starving children there are in the world who would eat that?” I have a very clear memory, when my mother would say that to me, of saying back to her “well why don’t you mail my food to the kids in Biafra then, hmm?”  Funny, she didn’t seem to appreciate that idea. I remember also thinking to myself “I will never, ever say such a stupid thing to my kids.”  Yeah. Well. Um. What can I say. It’s true, dammit. So eat your carrots!

4. In graduate school, I spent a lot of time thinking about feminism, poststructuralism, gender theory, and other stuff that now makes my early-middle-aged brain hurt to even contemplate. At the time, however, my friends and I sat around talking learnedly about how gender differences were really just socially constructed ideologies that could be done away with if parents would just be a little more, you know, thoughtful.  I believed my own words until the first time my little boy picked up a stick and said “pwang pwang pwang…”  I’m still a feminist but now I’m a feminist who has to accept that she has sons who will, for reasons known only to their DNA, step over or around the socks on the floor, leave the toilet seat down, and look at her blankly when she says “why did you knock that over?” Let me be clear–they are made to put the socks in the laundry, wipe off the toilet seat, pick up the thing they knocked down. But I’m fighting against genetics, here, people, which means that, yes, I’ve been that person who smiles and shrugs and says “well (nervous giggle), you know, boys…” Ugh.

5. Related to 4: when my boys were toddlers, I’d watch their adorable chubby selves playing “bakery” in the sandbox and look in horror at those ill-bred “big boys” playing chase and I’m-gonna-shoot-you-with-my-triblatteringlaserpistolgrappler.  I’d be all smug and judgey and decide that the mothers of these boys had utterly failed. I mean really, what mother would let her children play such a violent game? Um…hi. That would be me. And I’ve even said “run around and chase with your friends,” because I recognize that children are like puppies. They need to be exercised regularly or they’ll just wreck the furniture. .

6. MY children will never be like those OTHER children who walk around surgically attached to their screens. Cue hysterical laughter here. Computers, e-readers, DSi, iPod touch…the electronics in this family could stock an Apple store. I think we manage their computer time pretty well but the sad fact is that when screens are up, bickering is down.

7.  You know how when you were little and your mom would spit a bit on her shirttail or (worse) her fingers and smootch at your cheek to get off the remnants of your last meal? And remember how you thought “god that is gross!” Remember how you thought, nah, you’d never do such a thing? Yep. I thought so too. And then just yesterday, I grabbed Caleb’s arm just before he got on the school bus and swiped–with my shirt and some spit–at the glob of jam on his cheek. He said “MOM THAT’S DISGUSTING” and squirmed away.

8. I never thought I would have sons.  How’s that for hubris? I always wanted to have children but in my mind’s eye, it was always me and charlottedoralucyameliaruby reading Little House on the Prairie and playing dress-up and then later, when they were grownups, my daughters and I would hang out and have long conversations about Life and Shoes and Relationships. They’d tell me what to wear so I didn’t look too dowdy and we’d be the best of friends.  But noooo, the gods have a larky sense of humor and so I am the mother of boys, which means I don’t sit on the beach and flip through magazines. No, it’s SWIM and DIG and PLAY BALL WITH ME and DIG and SWIM.  And when I’m an old woman living alone with a hundred cats, the boys will buy me the valu-pak of Depends and the high-grade cat food, and congratulate themselves on being good sons.

9. I would never make separate meals for my picky eaters. If they don’t want to eat what I cook, then they’ll go hungry. HAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAAHA My children’s eating habits keep me in a state of perpetual humility. I have failed here and here and here and will probably fail again at dinner tonight.

10. God. Some people just can’t shut up about their damn kids. That’s what I thought. And then I started a blog.


Double-dipping this week: this post also links to the wonderful lovelinks site–it’s like Cheers bar for small bloggers (or micro bloggers, in my case). It’s where everyone knows our (screen) name and they’re always glad we came, where everybody can see that all our troubles are the same…and now everyone knows that I’m old enough to remember that show when it wasn’t in reruns! Click on the button below to find some great reading–and then come back on Thursday to vote for your favorites. I won’t even be mad if you don’t vote for me!

Continue Reading · on January 17, 2012 in Children, expat, family, Feminism, food, Gender, Kids, Monday Listicle, Parenting, sports

Monday-ish Listicle: Childhoods, Theirs and Mine

A few days ago I wrote about my confusion about the days of the week. In Abu Dhabi, Sunday is the start of the work week, which means that Monday feels like Tuesday and today, Tuesday, I’m pretty sure it’s Wednesday. On Sunday, I remembered about Stasha’s Monday listicle, but then I thought, “it’s only Sunday, I’ll do it tomorrow.”

But then yesterday felt like Tuesday; I sort of elided Monday right into non-existence. It’s funny how ingrained these rhythms have become and how hard it is to unlearn. But over there in the other hemisphere, it’s only Tuesday afternoon, so I’m not that late for a listicle link.

Today’s topic–well, yesterday’s topic–is about childhood and how our children’s lives are different from our own.

1. Freedom. Granted, my childhood now exists in a hazy tangle somewhere in the back of my dusty brain, so my recollections are probably not altogether accurate. But what I think I see–and my mom corroborates–is that the deepest difference between my kids’ lives and my own has to do with freedom, which is to say, the relative lack of freedom my kids have, compared to what I had.  We lived in a small town growing up, and of a summer morning, my mom pretty much opened up the front door and plopped us outside, with instructions to “go play.”  And we did: tag, running bases, sardines, tease-the-little-kids, tease-the-kid-with-glasses (me, alas), light bugs on fire, light leaves on fire (and almost the garage, whoops), hopscotch, sprinklers, various wheeled things: bikes, skates, skateboards, scooters.  We roamed our blocks at will, in and out of neighbors’ houses, depending on who had the best snacks. I’m sure that we had lessons–somehow swimming happened, and tennis, and ballet–but my memory is of a childhood relatively free from structured play. If we didn’t amuse ourselves…we were not amused.

2. Screens, screens, screens.  I’m going to try to write about screens without sounding like a luddite banshee, but it’s tough. Back in the day (you know, when everything was perfect) my family had a portable black-and-white television. It was about as big as my five-year-old head.  It perched on the counter in the kitchen, or on a table in the family room, depending on what we were watching, and that was it.  And because I knew nothing else, it didn’t bother me. I read a lot, drew a lot, lived a lot in my imagination, told myself stories. In my mind, my kids are surrounded by screens, although they think they are under-screened, because we only have one television and it’s not as big as the wall. But our house is filled with computers, ipads, iphones, and they both have a DSi thingy. It’s an entirely new way to exist–they’re going to have the most dextrous thumbs in human history, this generation is, from all the flicking and bipping and whacking they do with their various games.

3. Cousins. I grew up spending summers in Northern Michigan with herds of cousins–about 15 of them, give or take–all squeezed into one biggish ramshackle cottage that backed up onto a woods filled with pine and cedar. There was much roaming in the woods, endless games of cards and monpoly, lots of bickering and some fighting, a few serious accidents (okay, so maybe cousin Will, at the age of about 7, shouldn’t have been playing at the edge of a cliff), and, I realize now, an ever-deepening sense of connectedness. We all had to learn to negotiate with the kids younger than we were and the kids older than we were and as aggravating as it may have been at the time to share a bedroom with five, sometimes six, other cousins, looking back, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My kids have three cousins and I think that’s going to be it. I wish for their sake they could know the comfort of a herd.

4. Travel. My kids are seeing the world in a way that I didn’t until I was in college. They’ve traveled in the US (not that they remember much of it), Canada, Europe, and now the Gulf region. We’re going to India in November; Liam’s entire sixth grade is going to Turkey in October. Amazing. They will finish their school year here with the foundations of Arabic and the knowledge that they are citizens of the world.

5. Friends. Yes, I roamed the block with the other kids, and my brother and sister, when we were little, but I never had many friends. Well, I had one. Charlotte. We mostly sat in her room and read books or played with our dollhouses. Then she moved and I was once again the wombat child with glasses and that horrible mid-seventies hairdo: parted in the middle and hanging lank against my face. I preferred the company of books to people (thus blogging: I don’t really have to, you know, talk to anyone). The boys have friends, veritable posses. I love watching them run around together (always safely contained in playgrounds, of course, this being the early twenty-first century) and the pleasure they take in one another’s company. Caleb is still young enough that he and his friends saunter down the block hand-in-hand, utterly unselfconscious about their affection for one another.

6. Diversity. In my elementary school, in the lily-white suburb where I lived, there was one African American student. She came to my house after school one day and it wasn’t until many years later that I understood why my mom spluttered and giggled when I told her that Angela Davis was coming over to play. That was the little girl’s name. When we moved to a bigger city, with a more diverse population, my school remained segregated in an unspoken way: the “smart” kids were mostly white or Asian; the brownish kids were in the “slow” classes.  Lovely. Luckily, I had parents who moved in wider circles than the world my school seemed to represent, but by virtue of growing up in New York, and now here, Liam and Caleb live in a world where people come from everywhere.  Difference doesn’t seem to threaten my kids but instead engages their curiosity–unless, of course, difference extends to a slightly different kind of bread or peanut butter or orange juice.

7. Food. I wish I could say that their cosmopolitan outlook extended to their eating habits, but alas, no. I learned to cook (sort of) in about 5th grade–simple stuff like grilled cheese sandwiches or tortillas–and I ate pretty much whatever was put in front of me. Other than eggs. Have hated eggs since I was about three and I see no reason to change now.  My kids mostly hate eggs too, so we have that in common.  We are not a tribe of fried egg sandwich eaters.

8. Outside. I spent more time outside. And that, sadly, is a function of raising kids in big cities. “Outside” becomes a much more complicated concept when you can’t just run into the backyard, the woods, the garden. My fingers are crossed that in this winter-less city, it will be less effort to get outside and walk along the corniche, go swimming, kayaking, snorkeling. I’d like them to learn that a walk doesn’t have to end in an ice cream store or a playground–that sometimes, we’re just outside for the sake of being out. As soon as the air here isn’t searingly hot, our outside expeditions will begin. Of course, I may have to initiate these expeditions with Baskin-Robbins bribes.

Was my childhood “better” than theirs is? I don’t know. In some respects I was a lonely kid who didn’t quite know how to talk to her peers and I wasn’t athletic (see “wombat,” above).  I think my kids are happy (except when there’s no ice cream for dessert) but their experiences remind me about how profoundly the world has changed from my childhood.

Oh dear. Does every generation think so fondly about its own (lost) youth? Does the fact that I’m waxing vaguely nostalgic about my childhood mean that I’m middle-aged…or older?

Continue Reading · on September 20, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, Children, family, Monday Listicle

There’s a Metaphor Here Somewhere

The yoga teacher says we’re going to do handstands and that “if a handstand isn’t part of your practice, you can use the wall for your handstand.”

I’m thinking to myself, looky here, LuluLemonista, not only is a handstand not in my practice, I don’t want a handstand in my practice. In fact, I’ve been really pretty happy for most of my life without a handstand.

Going upside the hell down and then balance on my hands? Funny joke.

I don’t do upside down. In fact, I hate being upside down.

Even when I was little, when all the other kids were impressing one another with the whole hanging by their knees thing on the monkey bars?  Nope. I remained steadfastly upright. In gym class, in high school, when we were supposed to learn a move on the uneven parallel bars–a “penny drop” (swing by your knees back and forth until you get enough velocity to unwrap your legs, then land on your feet)–I about had a nervous breakdown.

So. Handstands.

Dutifully, I drag myself over to the wall, plant my hands, walk my feet towards my hands until I’m in an upside down V, then lift one foot into the air and start hopping off the other foot to launch the extended leg skyward–or wallward, rather.

It scares me. Scares me because while my feet are thrashing in space (a millisecond at a time), there’s no way of knowing if the wall is really there. Is the wall there? I can’t see the damn wall because I’m upside down, so how do I know the wall has not suddenly melted, ala “Inception” or something?  Being upside down may involve more faith than I’m really equipped to offer.

Then last week, Lululemonista ratcheted it up a notch.  Now the wall isn’t an option. We’re supposed to just V ourselves, extend the one leg up into the air and start that damn hopping off the other leg.

We’re either aiming for handstands or ol’ Lemonista has got us all doing some kind of obscure mating ritual.

Every now and then, in one of my hops, I can feel my arms kind of root down into the floor and all my muscles (such as they are) suddenly figure out how to work together, and for a brief moment I think “okay, this is what it feels like to do a handstand.”  You know what? For that split-second nano-moment where “handstand” seems attainable, it’s glorious. I feel strong and weightless, at the same time.

And then, immediately, “oh my god am I going to do a handstand? holy crap.” My feet come thumping down onto the floor and I realize that my arms are trembling with fatigue.

When I used to be in therapy and would wail about my anxieties to my therapist, she would look at me and say, calmly, “what’s the worst that could happen?”  And most of the time, when I forced myself to answer that question out loud, “the worst” wasn’t usually that bad – usually not death or pestilence or global destruction.

What’s the worst that could happen in a handstand? Maybe the wall wouldn’t be there. Maybe I’d fall down.

Or maybe, maybe one of these days (weeks, months, years) I won’t fall down. Maybe I’ll  just suspend there, balanced on my hands, toes wiggling in the air.

Nah. Never gonna happen. Upside down still scares me.

Most of the time.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Continue Reading · on January 19, 2011 in me my own personal self, yoga

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes