Tag Archives: children

Okay, so… that happened.

15 Jan

I’ve been asked to review many books before, but children’s books aren’t necessarily my forte. On the other hand, I’m a father of two and have read MANY children’s books before, so I’m gonna call myself an expert. Let’s dive into Honeycake.

Honeycake is a evil child with special magical powers who threatens to destabilize the world economy by… no, of course not. Honeycake is our protagonist’s nickname, whose actual name is Nala, a mixed-race girl who goes with grandma and Uncle JD to give her leftover toys to charity. I mention that she’s mixed-race, not because I care, but because it’s the first thing you notice on page… two? (Could be four–children’s books are formatted with maximum space for small readers.) The child is black, the grandma is white; since the author (Medea Kalantar) is mixed-race herself, she’s basing it on her own life.

Okay, let’s move on, the art is amazing! There are so many children’s books where the art is either sub-par or they had a professional illustrator have to come in and save the day. This is done by the author herself and it is excellent. Since there is so precious little text in children’s books, this makes me move my review WAY up, because I give great respect to illustrators. After all, in a kid’s book, the art is over half the material.

Now I’m pretty cynical, and there’s not a lot of text in this book, so the author gets to the message rather quickly. “Talk less, smile more.” (blink) Wait, that’s Aaron Burr in Hamilton. Let me have the book tell it: “When you give a someone a nice smile, it makes them feel better,” said Grandma. (Grandma might need an editor there, or it’s supposed to be a delightful brogue, but it’s a kid’s book–so who cares?!)

So when Honeycake uses her special magical power of smiling, you show kindness, and spread sunshine wherever you go. Okay–good message.

Going through the visit, Nala’s experience reinforces her special magical power of kindness, and she learns that she can use her power to spread kindness wherever she goes. Nice. Although, having the stars around the phrase “special magical powers,” puts a ™ in my mind, as if the author trademarked it. 🙂

There’s not much else to review, because it’s only 36 pages, and half of them are art, so I’ll just say this is a great children’s novel. It feels about right for a 3-6 year old and it’ll probably have good repeat value. It’s got a story, a relatable character, so I think it’s worth getting. As much as I gushed about the art earlier, she does repeat many of the same pictures, so I’m gonna dock her a star in my review, especially because the best children’s books are those that are a little quirky and the message is not so blatant. But this is good and I’m sticking to it.

What are your favorite children’s books–the ones that are heavy on pictures and not much on text? Let me know in the comments section below!

The Lord Don’t Rain Down Manna in my Yard

7 Jan

In high school, our drama teachers decided to put on Quilters, a musical about women’s experiences in the Wild West. This hurt me because it was an all-female cast and this was my only chance to star in a musical. However, I forgave my teachers completely after I saw it.

A little background–I grew up in the small town of Morrison, Illinois, a wonderful place to grow up because it allowed me a lot of freedom and opportunities that I never would have gotten in a bigger city. If you wanted to be in a play, you could; if you wanted to join the football team, you could. There were few entry requirements because they simply needed people to participate!

Up until my junior year–when they decided to put on Quilters–the drama teachers (John and Anne Frame) would do a fall play, a children’s play, and a musical every year. If you’ve been a drama teacher, that’s an exhausting schedule, so for the 1991-1992 season, they decided to do a musical one year and a fall play the next. But at the time I was 16 and didn’t know that, so from my perspective, I had been cheated out of a performance. This was especially true because of the RHIP rule: rank has its privileges. I couldn’t get into Pump Boys and Dinettes because I was a sophomore, there were only two male parts (and only two female), so those were going to juniors/seniors. I didn’t know that at the time either, so to this day, I can still sing my audition piece, “Farmer Tan.” 🙂

To add insult to injury, I found out that Quilters was an all-female cast of eight women. (It has been performed with a 2-3 men in supporting roles, but they don’t sing.) So now I was never going to star in a HS musical; I was pissed. However, to get eight singing girls to perform in our small school, they got every female who could sing AND wanted to perform. So that meant my sister, my sister’s friends, my female friends, and even some freshman girl I didn’t know all got to be in it… and I didn’t. Of course, since my sister was in the musical, I couldn’t just boycott out of sheer teenage spite. So I went.

Oh… my… God! The musical was beautiful! Each scene was a “quilting block” (which they showed) and told a different story about the Wild West. It had a real band in the band pit which played beautifully. The ladies on stage sang songs that sounded like 19th Century hymns (which I love) and often did it eight-part harmony. The stories were funny and serious and shocking and made me cry by the end. It was a beautiful experience… so much so, I went again the second night (there were only two performances)! I asked my sister’s friend whose dad recorded the dress rehearsal for a copy and I got it–I still have that tape and watch it, but usually only when I’m seriously depressed.

That musical for me represents a significant change in my life. Not only was it good, but it was a snapshot of what life was before everything changed. My sister went to college the next year–she ended up going two years, quitting, and then getting married to her stepbrother. It worked out, they’re still married 20+ years later, have three teenage boys, and she got her bachelor’s in Early Elementary Ed. My mother died in March of the next year, my stepfather remarried, and moved out to Iowa selling my teenage home. Half the cast have been divorced, picked themselves up, and sometimes married again. All the cast has children of their own. If they’re not where they thought they’d be, what I heard from them tells me things are doing all right. As one of them put it, “Now that we’ve had those experiences (that their characters had), we could put on a much better version.”

So every time I see it, I still cry–it’s that good. Have you got something similar in your life? A song, a movie, even a HS play that represents to you childhood innocence? Let me know in the comments below!

Bad Husband, Good Father?

12 Oct

I seem to live my life in commercials (compared to my son who lives life in musical numbers), because I keep picking up nuggets of confusion and blogging about them. So in today’s online therapy, here’s the fun phrase I overheard: “Bad husband, good father.” Really?

At first blush, this is perfectly understandable. As the son of divorced parents, there is a huge difference between a father who’s there for you versus a father who’s not. To quote another commercial, “Your kids don’t need the perfect parent, they need you.” Simply being there makes a HUGE difference. My dad was in the Navy, so he physically couldn’t be there, but he tried as best as he could through letters, but there was a big difference. So I have a lot of appreciation to those divorced dads who stay in the same area, make sure to take the kids half the time, continue to be a parent even though they’re no longer married to their mom. To the kid, their relationship to your mom is less important. At first…

However, parenting is just another relationship, just like marriage – there are different needs with adults than with kids. So naturally, a relationship with your spouse is exponentially more difficult, because your needs are different and often harder to fulfill. If the kids wants junk food, and you refuse to give it to them, sure you’re got a tantrum for a few minutes and then life goes on. If your wife wants you to stop X, and you don’t want to stop X, this will continue on and on for… weeks? Months? Years? That lingering “tantrum” will poison your relationship for a long, long time.

That poisoned relationship will affect your kids, whether you like it or not. I certainly remember the day my parents divorced – it was done remotely, again because my dad was in the Navy – but it made an impact on my life. That anger can make things difficult for everyone in the family. Even when you stop that behavior, or start doing something to mend the relationship, it’s hard to forget that anger. For the one trying to change, when that anger is still directed at you… what’s the incentive to keep with the change?

Man, that was vague! I guess what I’m trying to say is that… yes, you can be a good father but a bad husband, but it’s preferable to try and be both. I’ve been married 14 years and I find it a wonder that anyone stays together. Relationships are hard work. However, being a good father is… a little easier. It’s still difficult, but it seems to be easier to keep your kids happy than to keep your wife happy.

Then again, my kids are only becoming teenagers now – I’m sure that as they become young adults, they’ll get more of those adult complexities, and they’ll hate me half the time too. Then they’ll become parents and they’ll forgive me, just like I forgave my father, because it’s only once you’re in their situation that you understand what your parents went through.

What do you think? Is there a happy medium you can make between all your family members? Or do you find relationships with children harder? Let me know in the comments below!

“Furbaby”

30 Sep

I cringe when I hear the word “furbaby.” I love my pets, don’t get me wrong, and I’ve spent way more at the vet than I feel comfortable with. But they’re not your children – and people using that word tells me something fundamentally wrong in America.

Now if you’ve had your kids, you’re waiting for (or have) grandkids, you get a pass. I understand the nurturing gene and how it doesn’t turn off after child-rearing age. I understand wanting to pour that into a pet. But don’t expect me to start talking to your “furry child” as if it’s going to speak English any moment now.

What really scares me is that the term is shifting down to younger and younger women… and let’s face it, it’s mostly women. (See Nurturing Gene) I’ll admit it, relationships are hard, children are a pain in the ass, but… that’s how we exist as a species. I didn’t realize until I had kids how different that experience is.

Pets are far easier; they don’t talk about, they want to be pet (unless they’re fish). All you have to do is feed them, walk ’em, clean up after them… and you get unconditional love. Now full disclosure, I have two cats, several fish, and way too many snails. The amount of work that goes into an aquarium is a serious pain in the butt; didn’t realize how much that was when the daughter wanted some fish. My older cat barfs on the carpet every other day. I have to do that with kids, too, but let’s face it… my cat doesn’t talk back about doing his homework.

The problem with the term “furbaby” is that it tells me that I should treat your pet like your child. Not just you do, I should. I’m not against animal rights, but don’t think animals have the same rights as humans. Your furbaby is not going to take care of you when you’re old. Your furbaby is not contributing to our society. Furbabies are the reason we need to import thousands of people into America just to keep our population rate just above replacement level (that’s 2.2 children / adult, in case you’re wondering).

Now you can say there are couples that can’t have kids, or you can’t get/keep a partner, or kids shouldn’t be brought into families that don’t want them… all valid points. Just don’t pretend your pets are your kids. They’re pets.

Too harsh? Not harsh enough? Tell me in the comments below!

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