“We’re making other plans for you,” or No Place For Me

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Barthe DeClements is most well-known for her books Nothing’s Fair in Fifth Gradeand Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You But I actually prefer this book over either of those (but not as much as Double Trouble, which technically takes place in the same universe as this book.)

Copper Jones is twelve years old. Her mother has just entered an alcohol rehab center (again) and can’t care for her. Her stepfather has decided to leave, and the book begins with him calling family members trying to get them agree to take Copper in until the mom gets out.

Copper ends up going to Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Tom’s house. (Dorothy is her mom’s older sister). Things do not go well. Dorothy and Tom have three daughters Kim (14), Brenda (11), and Sarah (8). Copper assumes she’ll be rooming with the pretty and popular Kim, but instead she’s put with babyish and tattle-tale Sarah.

Dorothy and Tom have more rules than Copper is used to. Copper’s mother was usually too drunk to care too much about what she was doing. Copper usually gets Kim to go along with what she wants to do. One rule is that the girls aren’t allowed to go to the skating rink on Friday nights (because that’s when the stoners are there). So Kim and Copper pretend to go to a movie, but sneak to the skating rink instead. Copper wants to meet up with the very cute Ricky Layton.

Of course, they’re caught after being tattled on by Sarah. Copper says some rude things to Sarah (making fun of her overbite) and Dorothy decides that Copper isn’t welcome there anymore.

Next, Copper is off to Aunt Judith and Uncle Raymond. They are well-off and have no kids. Uncle Raymond is running for state Senate. Things are great at home at first, though the school situation is much worse. While people liked Copper at the other school, no one even talks to her here.

One night Judith and Raymond have to go to a fundraiser and the babysitter gets the flu. So against their better judgment, they leave Copper alone at night. Of course that night, a burglar gets into the condo. Copper hides under the bed and calls the cops, who get there, and catch the burglar then wait for Judith and Raymond.

Raymond knows the press will be over this story, and decides Copper is a liability to his political campaign. That leaves Copper only one place to go: Aunt Maggie’s.

Maggie is Copper’s biological father’s sister. Copper’s mother doesn’t like Maggie because she practices witchcraft. Because of this, Copper has a negative opinion of Maggie right off the bat.

But Maggie turns out to be a really nice woman. She has a nice balance of being kind to Copper while not putting up with any of her shit. And she is open about practicing witchcraft. She talks to Copper about how what you put out in the universe comes back to you threefold. After a couple instances of Copper getting caught lying to Maggie, she feels genuinely bad, and decides to turn over a new leaf.

Maggie says she likes having Copper with her, and invites her to stay with her after the mom gets out of treatment and gets settled and looks for a job.

  • I know Copper could be a handful, but I’d have liked someone to realize how shitty a time this twelve year old kid is having. I’m thinking more of Dorothy & Tom, because they have kids and they should have a little bit of a clue. But also, her stepdad could have maybe stuck around at least a little bit longer so Copper didn’t have to move around.
  • Raymond is especially awful. He doesn’t care that Copper is OK after the run-in with the burglar, just about his political career. And he lectures her about putting a robe on in front of the cops, which embarrasses her because she hadn’t realized her nips were poking through her tee shirt. Because she’s fucking twelve years old and has just been through a trauma and wouldn’t even be thinking of it yet. And I’m sure the cops weren’t perving on her. But way to shame her for the crime of having boobs, Raymond.
  • There’s a nice scene where Maggie agrees to take Copper to the skating rink in Dorothy and Tom’s town to see Ricky Layton and Copper gets her first kiss. Then she tells Maggie about it, and it’s very sweet.
  • Jake and Faith from Double Trouble make a small cameo in this book. They are close with Mrs. Thompson, Copper’s favorite teacher from her school at Maggie’s. Mrs. Thompson tells Copper a little about their adventures the year before.
  • When Maggie offers a place for Copper, I think it’s because the mom is clearly not serious at all about her recovery. It’s clear it’s not going to work.
  • Copper’s name matches her hair. But how could her parents have known that when they named her when she was a tiny little baby?
  • I don’t know why, but this book was impossible to find. I’ve been searching for it since I began the blog. Which, by the way was EXACTLY SIX YEARS AGO.
Posted in abandoned kids, Barthe DeClements | 9 Comments

“Our toothbrushes together….” Or, Someone to Love

Once upon a time, I read a Y.A. book about a girl who falls in love with a boy and it turns out the boy is a ghost. And he has some ridiculous name – I think it was Tuesday. So I picked up this book in the used book store, and was certain that this was that book. Because look at the cover:

Cover courtesy of Goodreads

Cover courtesy of Goodreads

Does this not look like a cover of a book about a girl who loves a ghost????

Anyway, it turns out this wasn’t that book. This is a book about a girl who who wears long-crotch, highwater, mom jeans and falls in love with a dude who is very much alive despite looking ghostly on the cover.

This book is by Norma Fox Mazer, who wrote Silver, which is one of my favorite YA books of all time. It is also very reminiscent of Norma Klein in that it’s about older teens falling in love. But the two protagonists of this book lack the precocity of Klein’s protagonists, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Speaking of Norma Klein, this book is dedicated to her!

Nina Bloom is a Sophomore in college. She’s in her first year at a 4-year college after spending her first at Community College. She’s from a tiny town in the adirondacks, and is from a blue-collar working class family, of which she’s the first to attend college. She’s anxious to break out of her mousy shell, and ends up sharing an apartment with Sonia and Lynell, two music students.

But not for long. Because early in the year, Nina meets Mitch while he’s painting a house in her neighborhood. Mitch is from an upper-class academic family, though he dropped out of college to do what he thinks is more ‘real’ work with his hands. They fall quickly in love, and by November Nina has agreed to move in with him.

Because that’s a good decision.

Being with Mitch does pull Nina out of her shell a lot, and by moving in with him, she actually becomes very close friends with her former roommates. Things are great in the beginning, but after a while, they are fighting more and picking at each other over stupid things.

Then it becomes not so stupid anymore when Mitch gets laid off and falls into a funk and turns mean and nasty toward Nina. And Nina, who works as a typist for a professor she has a crush on, never knows what to say to him. One day while working for the professor, he kisses her. Nina doesn’t know what to do.

She also begins to suspect that Mitch and Lynell are sleeping together. She never says anything to him, but she can’t get the thought out of her head. She kind of thinks that maybe she’s projecting her guilt since the hot prof kissed her.

Things come to a head when Nina comes home one day to discover her cat got out of the apartment. Mitch says that Lynell had come over and when he opened the door, the cat got out. The cat had been a point of contention between Nina (who loved the cat) and Mitch, who hated it. They go on a neighborhood search and discover that the poor kitty dead, obviously having been hit by a car.

Nina tries, but she can’t stop blaming Mitch for killing her cat.  And she can’t get the thought of Mitch and Lynell being together out of her head. The next day, she goes to work for the hot prof, and sleeps with him.

She’s overcome with guilt about it, and a few days later has an awful horrible confrontation with the professor, who is uber creepy. She tries to make everything happy with Mitch again, acting like nothing ever happened, but it feels false. So she tells him that she slept with the hot prof, and he admitted that he’s been sleeping with Lynell.

They agree, against her better judgment, that it was tit-for-tat, they won’t blame each other and they’ll try to carry on. It doesn’t work out (of course) and after her final exams, Nina breaks up with Mitch. She leaves for home for the summer, never having told her religious parents that she ever even lived with a boyfriend all year long.

  •  I don’t think I read this back then. I actually wonder what I would have thought about it. I was pretty broken up when Michael & Kathryn didn’t last in Forever…. but as an adult I could see that obviously they should break up. And that sort of obviousness is in this book too. Nina and Mitch had a good ride, but they didn’t really belong together.
  • Mitch could be a dick. He was all right at times, especially in the beginning, but he could be a major dick. At the end, right before Nina breaks up with him, he says that he thinks Nina cheating on him was worse then him cheating on Nina because “…a man’s feelings aren’t like a woman’s.”
  • This book was published in 1983. I was six in 1983, so maybe things changed. But honestly, when I was in college, it was very rare for boyfriends and girlfriends to live together. I spent plenty of time at my boyfriend’s (now husband) apartment and he at mine in college. But the idea of us actually living together before graduation never crossed our minds. But in this book a lot of students do it.
  • Despite being in an eventually-bad relationship and banging a professor, this book does a really good job of presenting Nina as a good character. There is a lot of growth in her. She comes out of her shell, and learns to stand up for herself.
  • Reminder: pets are rarely introduced in YA/Juvenile fiction unless they’re going to die. I forgot about that momentarily and allowed myself to be surprised by Emmett the cat’s untimely death.
  • There are a few nice sibling scenes. Nina comes from a large family, but has only one sister, Nancy. Nina and Nancy are a year apart in age and are as different as can be. Nancy left high school to work in a local factory, and is currently openly sleeping with four different dudes. As different as they are, they both make attempts to get closer. Nancy is one of the only people Nina feels like she can talk to when things are going way south with Mitch. I actually wish there had been more Nancy in the book.
  • There was juuuust a touch of classism in the book. Mitch was romanticizing blue-collar life, but Nina knew better. Her mom worked herself to the bone after her dad had a heart attack and had to stop working when Nina was fourteen. In fact, Nina talks a lot about that year and how afraid she was that her dad would die and how much stress it put on her and the whole family, but Mitch never really seemed to grasp it.
  • This drives me crazy. They never actually use the word sex in the book. Sex is always called “making love.” Did anyone, even in 1983, really call it making love? I feel like this is the case even in Norma Klein books.
  • So…..can anyone remember a book where a girl fell in love with a ghost named Tuesday?
Posted in Norma Fox Mazer, teen sex, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

“OK. Give her a chance,” Or The Cat Ate My Gymsuit

Many times, I re-read these books and am pleasantly surprised by how well they hold up. This is not one of those times. And I really wanted it to be. I loved this book when I was a kid.

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Marcy Lewis is in ninth grade in Junior High. Her life isn’t easy. She’s overweight (she calls herself a blimp), clumsy, shy, and her father has a mean temper. She also has only one friend, Nancy. Nancy is pretty and popular, and Marcy is sure that they are only friends because Nancy’s mother forces it.

All this changes when Ms. Finney becomes their English teacher. She’s an awesome teacher with some non-traditional methods that include a lot of fun group-work. Ms. Finney is a bit of a hippie, which we know because a huge deal is made out of her being called Ms., rather than Miss.

Marcy really grows and develops in Ms. Finney’s class. She begins to come out of her shell, and even talks to Joel, the smartest boy in class. Ms. Finney begins an afterschool club (called Smedley) for kids who need a place to go and talk and vent. Kind of a teenager support group. Marcy really loves it. And she begins to stick up to her dad, who is constantly putting her down about her weight.  Marcy’s mom is meek and won’t stick up to the asshole.

But one day the school principal, Mr. Stone, comes in to English class with a substitute and says that Ms. Finney is no longer teaching there. The students are outraged and a bunch of them meet at Nancy’s house to plan what to do.

Joel finds out from his father, who works for the Board of Education, that Ms. Finney was sacked for not saying the Pledge of Allegiance. The kids who are meeting come up with a plan of attack, involving a petition and a sit-in during homeroom. Marcy, Joel, Nancy and another boy Robert (a class clown, but decent guy) are elected the leaders.

This leads to the four of them getting suspended for ten days when one of the students rats them out. Marcy’s dad is all up in arms, not about her getting suspended, but about her speaking her mind and falling for this women’s liberation (now called feminism) crap. He tells her it’s best to keep her head down and follow the rules. That’s how you get ahead in life. Marcy’s mom on the other hand, starts to speak up to her husband for the first time ever. Even though she still calls Marcy fat. Nice.

There’s going to be a Board of Education hearing about Ms. Finney and whether she can keep her job. But first! Nancy has a party and Joel asks Marcy to go with him. It’s very sweet. Marcy’s mom takes her out to get a new outfit, and Marcy picks up a sweet purple pants-suit. (I did a Google Image search on purple pants suits, and nothing good came up.) Beer is opened at Nancy’s party, which makes Joel and Marcy both uncomfortable so they leave. She hopes Joel kisses her goodnight, but he just gives her a little peck on the forehead.

Anyway, the night of the BOE meeting comes, and Marcy is all ready to go with her mom. Her dad refuses to come along, and even takes a piece of the engine out of the car to try and keep her mom from going. But they get a ride with Nancy’s mom. The Board agrees that Ms. Finney has shown excellent results as a teacher, then they meet privately to discuss her refusal to say the pledge. They come out and say that although they strongly disapprove of her refusal to say it, they have no legal grounds to fire her so she is reinstated. After the cheering dies down, Ms. Finney stands and thanks everyone for their support, but she knows she now would be ineffective as a teacher, and therefore resigns her post.

Joel and Marcy are super upset, but they go out for ice cream with Joel’s dad and Marcy’s mom and they talk things over. They remember how Ms. Finney taught them about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, and they realize how difficult a time Ms. Finney would have coming back to their school.

  • Adding Marcy’s dad to the Cunt Log. What a cunt. The words used to describe him are way to kind. “Old fashioned,” or “hot-tempered.” He was emotionally abusive. Period.
  • This book was published in 1974, and although some books from the 70’s have remained timeless (Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret comes to mind) this is not one of them. Not only are the references dated – push button phones, pants suits, women’s lib, smoking lounges at school, etc. But there is something about it that feels even more dated than it is. YA and juvenile lit have come a long way in the last forty years, and the simplistic style of writing wouldn’t fly at all with today’s teens. In fact, I think this book was written with 13-14 year olds in mind, but by today’s standards, it reads much more like a middle-reader book. In fact, I got this out of the juvenile books, not the YA books at the library. But the casualness of junior high kids smoking and drinking is so out of place for a middle-grade book.  Also, Joel’s parents are divorced and he lives with his dad, and a big deal is made of this. Joel doesn’t even want people to know.
  • The dialogue was incredibly stiff and uncomfortable as well with a lot of short choppy sentences. For example, when Marcy’s dad doesn’t like her going out with Joel her mom says, “Martin, please don’t start. Marcy is a good child. She’s just going out. All the girls do at her age. Why, lots of them have been going out longer. I’m sure that Joel is a nice boy.” The whole book is like that, and it’s vaguely Little Sister-esque.
  • Marcy has a younger four-year old brother (Stuart) who’s attached to a teddy bear named Wolf. Stuart heard somewhere that oranges are good for your health, and decided that he wanted to feed oranges to Wolf. Their mother convinced him that for bears, it’s the orange pits (seed, I guess?) that are healthy. Stuart has a lot of anxieties, especially where the cunt father is concerned, and has a soothing habit of stuffing orange pits into a hole in Wolf. That poor kid.
  • The fact that this book not only didn’t live up to my memory is kind of a bummer to me. I really don’t remember it being this poorly written and trite.
  • The title comes from the hilarious excuses Marcy gives to her gym teacher to get out of gym class. She’s failing gym, but no one cares. But her dad DOES care that she isn’t meek and obedient.
  • If Marcy is fourteen in this book, that would make her fifty-four today. Sigh.
  • She begins to lose weight at the end of the book. Mostly because learning to stand up for herself means she’s doing less stress-eating.
  • There are a lot of covers of this book. The one above is the one that I had and the only one in which Marcy is overweight on the cover. Here are some others. All images are from Goodreads.
This one is horrifying. Look at those bony arms!

This one is horrifying. Look at those bony arms!

This one is super 80's.

This one is super 80’s.

Kind of blurry. But you can tell she's still skinny.

Kind of blurry. But you can tell she’s still skinny.

I think this is the first edition. And I guess she is marginally chunky on this cover.

I think this is the first edition. And I guess she is marginally chunky on this cover.

  • Oh geez. I just Googled Paula Danziger and found out she’s been dead for ten years. :(
Posted in ***CUNT LOG, Paula Danziger | 13 Comments

This isn’t good-bye

I jumped on the Tumblr bandwagon. And I’m not leaving here, even though it’s evident that I’m letting longer and longer periods of time go between posts. I have, you know, something of a life. (Kind of.)

So the Tumblr isn’t replacing my blog here. It’s merely an extension of what I’ve created here. There will be a lot of focus on books and nostalgia, two of my favorite things. But also a smattering of other things I’m geeky/passionate (OK, more geeky) about. Things like Harry Potter, Doctor Who, Comics, Superheroes, and feminism.

I’ve found that Tumblr is not nearly as intuitive to use as WordPress, so be patient. It looks very bare, but as I spend my pittance of free time working through it, I hope it will look better eventually.

And don’t let the name fool you. I’m not going to be posting any of Tina Belcher’s Erotic Friend Fiction. I’m just sort of Tina Belcher obsessed right now, so I picked it as the name.

Here, in all it’s glory is my Tumblr. Tina Belcher’s Erotic Friend Fic. 

If you know of any Tumblrs I should be following based on the types of posts I’ve made in the past, let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for good ones.

Until my next post!

Posted in personal shit | 1 Comment

“It certainly sounds resourceful,” Or, It’s Not What You Expect

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Image courtesy of Goodreads

Norma Klein has a habit of writing teens who are preternaturally mature. But none are moreso than Oliver Simon, the twin brother of fourteen year old Carla Simon.  This book is told from the point of view of Carla, and she uses words like ‘lugubrious.’ And she’s not nearly as smart as Oliver.

It didn’t matter to me back then, reading about kids my own age being incredibly mature and smart. I liked it, in fact. It seems a little precocious now, but it doesn’t really stop me from enjoying a good Norma Klein book.

The summer when they’re fourteen, Oliver and Carla decide to open a restaurant in a neighbor’s house. I’m going to pause to let that sink in. Two fourteen year olds, opening a fancy restaurant (A Cote de Chez Simon) in their neighbor’s house. Oliver, it turns out, is an amazing chef and loves to try recipes from Gourmet Magazine.

And because child labor laws don’t exist in Norma Klein-land, nor do health and safety laws, they do manage to open a restaurant with the help of their brother, Ralph and his girlfriend, Saralee, and a few other friends from school. Ralph and Saralee are the only ones over 18.

Oliver and Carla are also dealing with their parents’ separation. Their dad had just moved out of their house and into a sublet apartment in New York City. Carla is afraid they’ll get divorced, or that their dad is having an affair but Oliver seems a little detached and unconcerned with it.

Their dad comes to the restaurant with a date, Frances. Carla really wants to hate Frances, but she turns out to be very nice, and not even a hippie at all. This book was published in 1973, by the way. That same night, Carla spies their mother getting a little cozy(ish) on the couch with the father of the two waitresses at the restaurant. Oliver, the mature one, is all right with it, but Carla is unhappy. She doesn’t like the feeling of their lives changing so much.

Then Saralee ends up pregnant, and confiding in Oliver. Oliver strong-arms Carla into offering to pay for her abortion with their restaurant money. But their brother Ralph is a little offended by that and he ends up paying for it.

Carla finds herself having a lot of mood swings all summer long. Long periods of melancholy and annoyance and even a little anger at her parents, at Ralph and Saralee for getting pregnant, and at Oliver for not feeling like she does. When her mom calls her out on it, Carla opens up. And she learns that her mom had an abortion when she was younger. She’d had a boyfriend who died of Hodgkin’s Disease. Carla, while not happy about hearing about her mom, feels a lot closer to her mom than she had before.

At the end of the book, their father comes home. Carla asks her mom what was the reason behind their separation, and her mom talks about how her dad wouldn’t be happy until he’d finished this novel he had been working on for so long. So he left, thinking it would make him happy, but it didn’t. So everyone was happy at the end. Then they all have a big dinner with their friends on the last night the restaurant is open.

  • OK. These kids are so mature, they can openly discuss their parents’ sex lives without getting weird. Like, their dad told Oliver he’d never slept with anyone until he met their mother. And Carla finds this fascinating, but isn’t grossed out by parent sex.
  • Then after this conversation, Carla tells us that she thinks marrying the first person you sleep with is a bad idea, and she plans on having at least six love affairs until she gets married – which won’t be until she’s twenty-five at least. I like this girl. Purity culture is gross makes me want to punch people.
  • At the beginning of the book, it seems like there are small hints that Oliver is gay, but then he ends up going out with Letty, who works with them in the restaurant and is also in their chamber music group. Yes, these fourteen year old kids have a chamber music group because why not.
  • At one point, one of the waitresses at the restaurant feels like a male customer is propositioning her, and everyone shrugs it off, “Men are just like that.” This makes me a little uncomfortable, and something I wouldn’t have expected from Norma Klein, who writes a good, feminist character.
  • You know how much dinner costs at the restaurant? $8.00. Which gets you soup, appetizer, entree and dessert. Eight-freaking dollars. 1973, right?
  • Just going to repeat this because it’s crazy. Two fourteen year olds successfully run a french restaurant for one summer. Fourteen. At fourteen my biggest accomplishment was making All-County Band.
Posted in norma klein, Sibling Rivalry, teen sex | Leave a comment

Book rant

I’m taking a break from my usual nostalgia to bring you a rant on an entirely different type of book. Celebrity parenting books.

Parenting is big business, and there is no shortage of books and blogs out there to make any parent (though these are marketed almost exclusively to mothers) feel like they are doing something wrong. From the HuffPo blogger who told us about the ten mistakes she is just sure we’re making as parents ,to the dipshit mom who took most of her kids toys- including the comforters off their beds- away because she doesn’t know how to parent through her kid wanting a dinosaur toy or refusing to clean up a mess, moms are constantly being bombarded with advice (much of it bad), psuedoscience (I’m looking at you, anti-vaxxers), and constant pressure to do everything 100% perfectly. (The toy-less mom is the blogpost that started my hate-rage against mom bloggers. I have so many feelings on this post, but I don’t want to interrupt my stream of thought. So check below by the asterisk* where I’ll go in to my many criticisms of it.)

It’s bad enough when Dr. Sears is trying to shill whatever products on his website under the guise of M.D.-provided parenting advice (seriously. Check out the multitude of products on the sidebar of his website.) But when the chick who has no degree but DOES have a spread in Playboy joins in the fun? Oh, hell to the fucking no.

Jenny McCarthy was known at first for her boobs, then as the talentless half of the Singled Out hosts, and later became known for being the loudest voice in the ‘vaccines cause autism’ debate. Which, is really not a debate because the guy who first wrote about it in a journal admitted to fraudulent science. But even after that memo and thirty-plus additional studies that debunked the vaccine link, Jenny McCarthy continued to proudly tell us to not protect our kids against pertussis. And then this happened. So thank god she’s been given a platform by book publishers, amirite?.

Alicia Silverstone was known at first for being the girl in the Aerosmith videos in the 90’s, and then as Cher on Clueless. Then she was known for nothing for a while. Then she had a baby and wrote a book about it! In her book, this millionaire mother tells us all that we should be attachment parents. Despite the fact that the majority of American mothers HAVE TO GO TO FUCKING WORK and aren’t living off the many dollars earned being in music videos,  and in movies, and writing parenting books. In response to her critics, Alicia states “I am confident in my choices. And I trust my intuition when it comes to parenting.” But, she wants you to not trust your instincts too much – because otherwise, you wouldn’t need to buy her book.

And that’s what this all comes down to. There’s a whole industry of parenting books and parenting blogs that try to do nothing but make us question ourselves so they can cash in. The last time I was at Barnes & Noble, it practically broke my heart to see how many shelves were devoted to parenting and child care books. It breaks my heart every time one of my friends posts a link to a mommy-blog instructing us on what we’re doing wrong. Especially when it’s posted by a friend who I know damn well is a great mother!

So,come on moms. Just stop it already. Stop letting the bloggers and the celebrities and the unethical doctors tell you what to do. You have have parenting instincts. I know you do. You can be a good mom all on your own. And if you need advice? There are plenty of places to turn, including your friends and family, and actual trustworthy pediatricians to answer all your questions. Use your instincts to determine what is good advice and what is shitty advice.

Just for funsies, here’s a list of celeb parenting books. (Some of these may be more memoir-ish. I wouldn’t know because I’ve never fucking read one. Obviously.)

  • Jenny McCarthy. Three books! Belly Laughs, Baby Laughs, and Louder Than Words
  • Alicia Silverstone; Kind Mama
  • Mayim Bialik; Beyond the Sling
  • Soliel Moon Frye; Happy Chaos
  • Tori Spelling; Mommywood
  • Alec Baldwin; A Promise to Ourselves
  • Michelle Duggar; A Love that Multiplies
  • This one book called What they know about Parenting, which is a compendium of celeb-parent knowledge. It includes goodies from Gwyneth Paltrow, Donald Trump (wtf), Adam Sandler, Reese Witherspoon, Denzel Washington, Sarah Jessica Parker and many, many more.

These people do NOT know more about parenting their kids than you do. Trust me.

*OK. The dipshit mom who took her kids toys away. I have so many strong negative feelings about this post.

  • The title is obviously click-bait. And when you see the number of comments on the post, she’s clearly made quite a bit of money from the title.
  • The defensive tone. If she’s so confident about her choice, why is she so defensive right away? It’s like she knows she has something she needs to be overly-defensive about.
  • The comforter thing. Look, take the toys away. Whatever. But a comforter is WHAT KEEPS YOUR KIDS WARM AT NIGHT. Giving your kids a warm bed isn’t spoiling them. It’s kind of a bare minimum of parenting. Then she said that they’ve since “earned” the comforters back. What the fuck oh my god I can’t even.
  • She only left toys that are good for their imaginations. Fine, those are great toys! But there are other toys that are worthwhile, but which aren’t imagination building. Puzzles are great for kids, but not necessarily their imaginations. Board games are and awesome way to teach kids about fair play and being a good sport, but again aren’t imagination building. Jump ropes, pogo sticks, sports balls, bicycles, etc are all amazing things to have for reasons outside imagination.
  • After all this purging of toys, her kids’ room is nearly bare (even fucking comforter-less, as I may have mentioned before). This raises the question: What the fuck kind of toys did they have to begin with? My kids have a good amount of toys. But if I got rid of everything that didn’t stimulate imagination (or the exceptions I listed above, because I’m not an idiot) I’d only be getting rid of maybe 10% of their toys.
  • So she got rid of the vast majority of her kids’ toys. What did she get rid of her own? What’s that? Oh right, only her kids have to make sacrifices evidently. She posted a picture of her kids’ bedroom and it is fucking HUGE. This leads me to believe that they live in a house that is also huge. Are they downsizing? (Because I could give her tips on living with two kids in a small 2BR condo.) Of course. The big house can’t be sacrificed. Did she sacrifice her wardrobe? Her kitchen gadgets? Her computer? Her cable TV? Her car? Her shoes? Her makeup? Her furniture? Did she take away her OWN goddamned comforter? Did her husband make sacrifices? Did he get rid of his computer? His car? His suits? His furniture? Does her bedroom look as bare as her kids’?
  • In the pictures of her home, it seems her house is bereft of books. An book-less house is a sad house.
  • But the one thing that really twists my knickers? I actually agree with her premise. I think kids do have too much and that they do better with less. Hell, my husband and I could afford a bigger home, but one of the reasons we specifically choose condo-life with two kids and a dog is because we don’t want to be tempted by stuff. But like everything in life, moderation is key. And this woman seems to have no concept of it. There’s a happy-medium between too much and nothing. She takes toys out one at a time. And these are all ‘imagination building’ toys. So her kids play with Polly Pockets or Lego. But heaven forbid they use their imaginations to build a Lego house for their Polly Pockets. They get dolls or dress ups. But they have no opportunity to build blanket forts for their dolls – especially since they have no comforters.  I don’t think taking toys away to built their imagination works the way she thinks it will. And call me crazy, but when my kids get to be teenagers and are invariably going to rebel against what I’ve tried to teach them, I’m happier that they do it with beer and pot, rather than by hoarding.
Posted in general, non-book review, rant, really awful books | 16 Comments

“That’s the boy!” or, The Secret Life of the Underwear Champ

Image courtesy of Library Thing

Image courtesy of Library Thing

For whatever reason, I didn’t remember that this book was for much younger readers, like the 8-10 set rather than the 12+ set. The other Betty Miles books I’ve reviewed have been for the older readers. So I was shocked that I was able to finish it in about 30 minutes. But it’s not too bad, my seven year old will probably like it.

Larry Pryor lives in suburban Connecticut and one afternoon is in NYC to go to the dentist when his mom is approached by two modeling agents, who are looking for a red-headed boy Larry’s age to star in a commercial. Larry and the mom are skeptical, but they do agree to a meeting at the agency, the Zigmund modeling agency. Mr. Zigmund is talking up the agency to Larry’s mom, saying “We have all types [commercial actors]. You need a grandmother, we supply a grandmother. A plumber, we’ve got him. College Professor types, bride types!”  Evidently they have all types except red-headed boys because they’re prejudiced against gingers or something.

After a whirlwind meeting, Larry is cast in a commercial for the ChampWin clothing company. It’ll be a commercial for a sports-line of clothes for the whole family, and will feature a family of redheads playing baseball. Larry’s a natural because he’s on the baseball team.

Which is the first problem in the book. At the very first practice, Larry is called away to shoot the commercial sooner than expected. And his beloved first-base position is given away to Knudson, the school knucklehead. His second-favorite position, shortstop, is given away to one of the two girls on the team.

The other problem? The commercial is for underwear. The commercial will show Larry and his fictional family playing ball in their underwear. (Underpants AND undershirts.) Larry is embarrassed to do it, but he is put at ease by Suzanne Ridley, the girl who’s playing his sister and who is kind of a big shot in the commercial acting world.

The commercial is shot in one day, and afterwards, Larry doesn’t tell anyone about it. He finally confesses to his best bud, Robert, but doesn’t tell him the commercial is for underwear. One day, his teacher assigns homework for his class – to watch a TV documentary about the Great Barrier Reef. Robert comes over to Larry’s and they watch together. Guess what comes on? Of course, Larry’s underwear commercial.

Robert is in hysterics over Larry playing ball in his underwear. Larry gets angry at him, and Robert feels bad about laughing at him. The next day at school, a lot of the kids are laughing at him, but others think it’s kind of cool. His nickname, which he hates, is Underwear Champ.

Larry’s baseball team has a big game against their rival, The Jays. Larry is a sub, so he spends most of the game on the bench. His team goes down 2-0, and Larry is put in to pinch hit for Robert. The kids on the Jays notice him and start teasing him about underwear. But Larry gets the last laugh. He hits a homer and wins the game for his team.

Things settle down at school, and Underwear Champ is shortened to Champ, a nickname Larry is fine with. Larry shoots another commercial for ChampWin, this time in tennis clothes. He becomes good friends with his commercial sister, Suzanne, and she even comes to watch one of his baseball games.

  • Goddamn, the Zigmund’s are pushy people. They literally won’t take no for an answer when they meet Larry and his mom on the street. And they never even ask Larry what he thinks. Because he has red hair and they need him, they don’t care about his feelings.
  • The woman who plays Larry’s commercial mom, has a nice rack. Which even 10-year old Larry notices (“She sure doesn’t look like my mom.”) The guys on the set of the commercial also notice and whistle at her when she’s in her underpants and undershirt. So, you know, nice of the director to allow the workers to sexually harass one of the stars.
  • But at the same time, a big deal was not made about two girls being on the baseball team, and there was no weirdness about Larry losing out on his position to a girl. So score one for feminism.
  • This book is copyright 1981. When Larry has to go to the city to shoot the commercial, both of his parents are at work. So he takes the train by himself into the city, then makes the three block walk by himself to the agency, then takes a cab by himself to Central Park. Where he is parent-less while shooting a commercial. I’m not an overbearing parent, and, if pressed, I would say I prefer the free-range parenting style. And I have no doubt a kid who lives in the city could easily be expected to handle that. But it seems surprising to me that a suburban 10 year old would do it, no questions asked. At least in 2014 it seems like that. Maybe in 1981, things were different.
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