When a Book isn’t a Book

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We are big book people at our house. Tom and I met doing our Masters in literature and he’s chasing the PhD. Books represent the bulk cost of our move to Plattsburgh from St. John’s (and we purged majorly beforehand!). You’ll find books on shelves, night stands, end tables…basically any flat surface around our house and so it’s no surprise that Violet has already cultivated a library of her own. This deep interest in books brings a certain level of expectation on the authors we invite to live in our home and reside with our family. My taste is not refined to the level of some (I read The Da Vinci Code, I confess!) but I try to spend my reading time, albeit limited nowadays, consuming meaningful and well-crafted texts (you won’t find 50 shades of anything at our house).  

Children’s books can be beautiful. Sometimes the messages and writing are so simple you wonder why we bother with complex storylines at all. In other cases, the books unravel complicated feelings within me. And this rewarding and delicious reading experience usually happens alongside colourful and stimulating illustrations that reflect the story you’re reading as well as infinite other plotlines. 

And then there are Disney books.

Hashtag Eff Em El Niño! 

I’m not exclusively anti-Disney. In fact, I find it very interesting that the massive Disney machine manages to embody both the best and the worst of humanity. A visit to a Disney park forces you to suspend disbelief and trust magic, resist evil and take the higher road. Yet, as most of us know, Disney prioritizes finding romance over self-satisfaction and glamorizes heterosexual relationships as the only true “happy ending.” As important as it is to note all of that negativity, it is already well-documented and I won’t add to it here. 

Instead, I’m going to rant about a book Violet has called Super Cute. This book was given to her and I’ll confess that I have no idea by whom so I apologize if it was you. I’m assuming you had no idea what lay within these cardboard pages. 

Every spread of this book makes me urge. The first page simply asks, “Who’s super cute?” To which a dolled-up Daisy Duck says, “Yoo-Hoo!” This page is only mildly irritating but it bothers me for being so self-congratulating on Daisy’s part. I read the underlying message on this page as, “Be super cute and make no apologies. Cuteness is important.”

Turn the page. Maybe things will get better, right? 

On this page Minnie and Daisy are having tea together, tucking in to eat an entire tower of cupcakes. That’s what females do after all. They get together and stress eat sugar. I’m serious. Women often do this (I have), but maybe let’s strive to not pass our wildly unhealthy relationship with food on to the next generation. 

I assume the next page will be set in a bathroom where Minnie and Daisy continue their conversation while purging their cupcakes. I’m wrong but it’s not much better.

Minnie and Daisy’s cupcake date, which I’ll admit could be interpreted innocently enough, has turned into a gossip session. The dialogue reads, “Did You know?” “Do tell!” A cloud of cartoon hearts fills the air between the two comments and Daisy and Minnie’s little anthropomorphized faces are devilish with the glee they are experiencing as their conversation no doubt continues, “Did you know Bobby’s back on the market? He totally dumped Mary.” “She deserves it for not keeping her eyebrows under control!” 

Underlying message to children here? Gossiping is a completely acceptable – and fun! – activity to engage in! 

The final two pages are really where I conclude that this book should be used as kindling. 

“Something new!” Minnie exclaims over her outfit.  And, to the books credit (ha!), it returns to the theme outlined in the title and first page. Daisy affirms, “Totally cute!” 

Underlying message here? New! Buy! Consume! Settle for nothing less than new! It is newness that makes you super cute and (consult page 1!) cute is important!

Right now many of you are rolling your eyes at me, pursing your lips to say, “It’s just a kids’ book!”

It is an offence to the word ‘book’ that this collection of words and pictures on cotton fibre be called as such. Books are food for the soul. Books transport you. Books belong in the hands of children. This is not a book.

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Let’s Band Together – Rainbow Loom Valentines

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If you’ve been around any children between the ages of 5 and 10 recently, you have probably seen the infamous Rainbow Loom. Or, maybe you have seen a loving parent or grandparent sporting a woven bracelet made of rubber bands. Rainbow Looms were the hot Christmas gift of 2013 but Santa didn’t bring one to our house. My oldest boy wanted in on the trend though, so he parted with some giftcard money and bought one for himself! Yes, boys and girls are loving the looms! So far, we’re on our third bag of elastics (each bag holds 600 multi-colored elastics).

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There is no shortage of great Valentine ideas on the internet but when you need to buy nearly 30 of that great idea, the total cost adds up quickly! Since BigB was churning out Rainbow Loom bracelets like he was on an assembly line, I figured there was an opportunity for cost-effective Valentines in his Rainbow Loom addiction!

Paper and Pigtails has great FREE set of printables for Valentine cards to go along with Rainbow Loom bracelets!  We printed these in colour and laminated them for durability. (Let’s face it, these February 14th gifts are going to be thrown in a paperbag, then a schoolbag, go on the bus, make their way around the classroom and then be tossed in another school bag for a second bus ride to their new home!)

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I’m definitely happy with how this Valentine project turned out. They look really sharp and they were so easy to make! BigB is very proud of his creations and he’s excited to hand them out to his friends and classmates on Friday.

If you’re part of the Rainbow Loom club, you might want to check out these videos. They give examples of the styles we made, which can be challenging to get the hang of! They show two of the simpler weaves, the Single-Bracelet and the Fishtail. We haven’t made our way to the Starburst-Bracelet level yet! #MelMar

 

What Did You Call Me?

Well, here we are. Sweet Baby Violet is just about one year old. The bi-weekly Maternity Leave deposits have dried up and I’m officially not going back into the formal workforce any time soon. So, where does that put me? What am I now? What do I “do”?  

We opened a new bank account today. As part of the application process we were asked for our professions. At home in Canada, it is assumed that a woman with a not-yet-walking baby is on maternity leave. Here in the US, women return to work (exhausted and zombie-like, I assume) mere weeks postpartum (a phenomenon I am incapable of understanding for enough reasons that maybe I will blog about it later). I was in a brief state of Canadian half-bewilderment at the bank rep’s question. Didn’t she see my baby? Of course she did because said baby was flailing herself wildly in my arms, making every attempt to gain access to everything on said bank worker’s desk. Peering over Violet’s unruly body I mumbled something along the lines of “I stay home with our little girl.” The bank representative looked at me knowingly and, with a nod, said, “Homemaker.” 

I let out a little chortle. 

Homemaker! Me? I’m classified in some computer system as “homemaker.”

“Is that okay?” She asked. “Do you mind if I list you like that? Some people get offended. We used to put ‘housewife’ but we had to change that.”

Sure. Whatever. It’s okay. I try not to get too hung up on stuff like that. Just hurry up and finish the account. I can’t protect your stapler from destructo-baby for much longer. 

When we got home, my alleged title of ‘homemaker’ came back to mind. 

The word felt weird. Like wearing someone else’s shoes. Or holding someone else’s baby.

“Hey Tom. Did you know the bank identified me in their database as a ‘homemaker’?”

“Do you mind that?”

“I don’t know. It just doesn’t seem right. (pause) … (pause) I think I prefer ‘stay at home mom’.”

And so, for the umpteenth time in the last 11 months of being a mother, I have been given another reason to grapple with how I’m going to balance being a mom (which is undoubtedly the most demanding, rewarding, precious and important role I’ve ever been assigned) with making sure I feel like a person who is fulfilled, who is contributing and who is living up to her potential. 

Hashtag LifeDilemma 

So, which am I? What am I? Who am I? Let’s see if a quick word association reveals anything about who I think I am: 

Word: Homemaker 

Immediate Association: Cookies / Apron

Word: Stay-at-home-mom

Immediate Association: Stained Shirt / Mini Van

Sure the image of cookies and an apron seems abundantly more appealing than that of the disheveled stay-at-home-mom I conjured up, but I believe it’s the latter that fits me better. When I think about my day with Violet, I’m not ‘home-making.’ If I were making a home, I would be baking things or polishing things or laundering things. Instead, I’m sitting on the floor doing a puzzle. I’m singing remixes of itsy-bitsy-spider to keep Violet from hurling herself onto the floor while I change her diaper. I’m calculating her input of food and output of poop over the last 48 hours.

And, for the most part, I’m loving it. 

Although, sometimes I do make cookies. And my shirt may be stained but I might throw on an apron to cover it up. Does that make me part-homemaker? Maybe. But do I care? Just like before Violet was born, I am a multiplicity. Being a mom is the biggest part of what defines me these days and, for now, I’m going to find my fulfillment and make my contributions through building a solid relationship with my daughter. While the salary’s not great, the payback is huge.