Zoe’s books (alphabetical by author or illustrator or publisher where appropriate)

A Little Golden Book (publisher) –

My First Book of the Planets

Old Mother Goose and Other Nursery Rhymes

American Girl (publisher) –

The Samantha Series

Barefoot Books (publisher) –

The Faerie’s Gift, told by Tanya Robyn Batt and illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli

Baby’s First Book by Clare Beaton

One Moose, Twenty Mice by Clare Beaton

Playtime Rhymes for Little People by Clare Beaton

Zoe and Her Zebra by Clare Beaton

I Spy the Sun in the Sky by Stella Blackstone, illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli

The Barefoot Book of Fairy Tales, told by Malachy Doyle and illustrated by Nicoletta Ceccoli

The Adventures of Odysseus, told by Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden, illustrated by Christina Balit

Cleo and Caspar by Caroline Mockford

Cleo the Cat by Caroline Mockford

Cleo’s Alphabet Book by Caroline Mockford

Cleo’s Color Book by Caroline Mockford

Cleo’s Counting Book by Caroline Mockford

Come Here, Cleo! by Caroline Mockford

What’s This? A Seed’s Story by Caroline Mockford

The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, illustrated by Jackie Morris

Shakespeare’s Storybook: Folk Tales that Inspired the Bard, told by Patrick Ryan and James Mayhew

The Story of Divaali told by Jatinder Verma and illustrated by Nilesh Mistry

Graeme Base –


Ludwig Bemelmans –


Stan and Jan Berenstain –

The Berenstain Bears books (all of them – thanks, Lisa!)

Stella Blackstone –

Bear in a Square

Bob Books Pals from Scholastic (publisher) –


Cat and Mouse

Max and the Tom Cats

Willy’s Wish

Sandra Boynton –

Belly Button Book!

The Going to Bed Book

Let’s Dance, Little Pookie!

Philadelphia Chickens Book & CD

Sandra Boynton’s Greatest Hits, Volume 1, which includes the following titles:

A to Z

Blue Hat, Green Hat


Moo, Baa, La La La!

Sandra Boynton’s Greatest Hits, Volume 2, which includes the following titles:

But Not the Hippopotamus

The Going to Bed Book

Horns to Toes and In Between


Snuggle Puppy

What’s Wrong, Little Pookie?

Jan Brett –

On Noah’s Ark

Marcia Brown –

Stone Soup

Margaret Wise Brown –

Goodnight, Moon

The Runaway Bunny

The Important Book

Tricia Brown –

The City by the Bay

Eric Carle (illustrator, usually author) –

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?

The Very Busy Spider

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Tomie dePaola –

Strega Nona

Rosie Dickins –

The Story of Rome

Disney (publishers) –

Baby’s Book of Winnie the Pooh

First Look and Find: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

The Nursery Rhymes of Winnie the Pooh

DK (publishers) –

My First Hanukkah Board Book

Barbara Douglass –

Good as New

P.D. Eastman –

Are You My Mother?

Ian Falconer –


Matthew van Fleet –


Debra Frasier –

On the Day You Were Born

Don Freeman –


A Pocket for Corduroy

Adam Gamble –

Good Night, San Francisco

Jim Gill –

A Soup Opera

Phoebe Gilman –

Something for Nothing

Nikki Giovanni –


Green Start (publisher) –

In the Garden

One Tree

Maia Haag –

My Very Own Name

Doug Hansen (illustrator) –

Mother Goose in California

Happy Baby (publishers) –

B is for Bear

Animals, Colors, Words (a trilogy)

Piers Harper –

Little Rabbit

  1. A. Herman –

The Littlest Pumpkin

Amy Hest –

The Purple Coat

Where’s My Hug?

Hinkler Books (publisher) –

Baby’s First Sounds

Mary Ann Hoberman and Nadine Bernard Westcott (editor and illustrator) –

The Eensy-Weensy Spider

I Know an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly

Dave Horowitz –

Five Little Gefiltes

I Can Read! (publisher) –

Sammy the Seal

Steve Jenkins & Robin Page –

What Do You Do with a Tail Like This?

Kar-Ben (publisher) –

The Colors of My Jewish Year

Lawrence and Karen Kushner –

Where is God?

Munro Leaf –

The Story of Ferdinand

Maj Lindman –

Flicka, Ricka, Dicka and the Big Red Hen

Snipp, Snapp, Snurr and the Reindeer

Mercer Mayer –

Just Me and My Babysitter

When I Get Bigger

Sam McBratney –

Guess How Much I Love You

Nikki McClure –


Miriam Moss –

Don’t Forget I Love You

The Snow Bear

Stuart J. Murphy –

The Greatest Gymnast of All

Noddy (character) –

Noddy’s Perfect Job (#1)

Noddy Lends a Hand (#3)

Norton (publisher) –

The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature

Laura Numeroff –

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies

Mouse Cookies and More: A Treasury, which includes the following titles:

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

If You Give a Pig a Pancake

If You Give a Moose a Muffin

If You Take a Mouse to School

Paragon Publishing –

The Princess and the Pea

Leslie Patricelli –


Marcus Pfister –

The Rainbow Fish

Picture Me (publisher) –

On Halloween

Beatrix Potter –

The Peter Rabbit & Friends Treasury, which includes the titles:

The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny

The Tale of Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddle-Duck

The Tale of Samuel Whiskers

The Tailor of Gloucester

The Tale of The Flopsy Bunnies and Mrs Tittlemouse

The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and Mr Jeremy Fisher

The Tale of Mr Tod

The Tale of Two Bad Mice and Johnny Town-Mouse

Pudgy (publisher) –

Wheels on the Bus

Margaret and H. A. Rey –

The Complete Adventures of Curious George (a) which includes the following titles:

Curious George

Curious George Takes a Job

Curious George Rides a Bike

Curious George Gets a Metal

Curious George Flies a Kite

Curious George Learns the Alphabet

Curious George Goes to the Hospital

Curious George and the Firefighters (p)

Curious George at the Aquarium (p)

Merry Christmas, Curious George

The New Adventures of Curious George (p) which includes the following titles:

Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory

Curious George and the Puppies

Curious George Makes Pancakes

Curious George Feeds the Animals

Curious George Goes to a Movie

Curious George and the Hot Air Balloon

Curious George in the Snow

Curious George’s Dream

A Treasury of Curious George which includes the following titles:

Curious George Takes a Train

Curious George Visits a Toy Store

Curious George and the Dump Truck

Curious George and the Birthday Surprise

Curious George Goes Camping

Curious George Goes to a Costume Party

Curious George Visits the Library

Curious George in the Big City

Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury –

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Susan Goldman Rubin –

Counting with Wayne Thiebaud

Cynthia Rylant –

The Relatives Came

Robert Sabuda (illustrator) –

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

David Saltzman –

The Jester Has Lost His Jingle

Sandy Eisenberg Sasso –

But God Remembered: Stories of Women from Creation to the Promised Land

What is God’s Name?

Richard Scarry –

Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever

Betty Ann Schwartz –

What Makes a Rainbow?

Maurice Sendak –

In the Night Kitchen

Where the Wild Things Are

Sesame Street Book (publisher) –

Big Bird and Little Bird’s Big & Little Book

Dr. Seuss –

The Foot Book

Horton Hears a Who

Oh, the Places You’ll Go

Your Favorite Seuss, which includes the following titles:

And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street

McElligot’s Pool

If I Ran the Zoo

Horton Hears a Who!

The Cat in the Hat

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Yertle the Turtle

Happy Birthday to You!

Green Eggs and Ham

The Sneetches

Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book

The Lorax

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

David Shannon –

No, David!

Shel Silverstein –

Falling Up

The Giving Tree

A Light in the Attic

The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece Meets the Big O

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Esphyr Slobodkina –

Caps for Sale

David Small –

Imogene’s Antlers

June Sobel –

Shiver Me Letters: A Pirate ABC

Mandy Stanley –

Lettice: The Flying Rabbit

Marlo Thomas, et al –

Free to Be . . . You and Me – 35th Anniversary Edition

Kay Thompson –

Eloise: the Absolutely Essential 50th Anniversary Edition

Michael O. Tunnel –

Halloween Pie

Judith Viorst –

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Tamson Weston –

Hey, Pancakes!

David Wiesner –

The Three Pigs

Karma Wilson –

Bear Wants More

Dan Yaccarino (illustrator) –

Five Little Pumpkins

Jane Yolen and Mark Teague –

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?

How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?

Amy Young –

Belinda Begins Ballet

Harry Potter

(Warning: I will be discussing all seven books, so if you haven’t finished them, don’t keep reading.)

I just read all seven Harry Potter books for the second time. (That is to say, I have only read all seven in sequence one other time. I’m sure I’ve read some of the earlier books more than twice. I’m also sure I have only read 6 & 7 twice, and maybe 5, too.) Gosh, they are good books. Even now, I’m having trouble getting interested in any other books; I just want to read them all over again.

This was the first time I read the books as a parent, and that gave me one new dimension to appreciate – namely, that I really love the values portrayed in the books, and I really want Zoe and any future children to learn them. This may come as a surprise to those ultra-Christian groups who think Harry Potter is the devil, but the moral universe in the Harry Potter books is exactly the one I want for my kids. One of the ideas I like the best is the idea that your choices make you who you are, and make your life; it’s not fate or destiny or anything like that. Dumbledore shows Harry over and over again that a) the Sorting Hat placed him in Gryffindor NOT because of some innately Gryffindorian traits he possesses (or at least not only because of them) but because he asks to be placed there as opposed to Slytherin. The asking, the wanting to be in the “good” house rather than the “bad” house is the key, and b) while Voldemort believed the prophecy about a boy who could defeat him, it wasn’t the prophecy, but his belief in it, and the actions and reactions he set in motion by believing it, that result in a Harry Potter fully committed to Voldemort’s death. Dumbledore emphasizes that Harry gets to choose the part he plays in this prophecy as well; he could easily choose not to pursue the man who murdered his parents. But he won’t, and it’s his choice, not the prophecy, that makes him the person who will kill Voldemort.
The other is that it all comes down to love. At first I was dismissive of this lesson, because it sounds so gooey. But the way it plays out in the books, love has very real effects, both magical and non-magical. Because Harry’s mother died to save him, Harry lived. Because Harry loves his parents (even though he doesn’t know them), he is, in the end, determined to vanquish Voldemort. And while Voldemort thinks he can rule through fear, he ends up losing nearly all of his followers to love. Snape leaves him because he loves Harry’s mother more than he fears Voldemort. Narcissa Malfoy betrays him because she loves her son more than she fears Voldemort. Regulus Black (and I think I’m reading Kreacher’s story right) loves Kreacher more than he fears the Dark Lord, so he betrays him. The only Death Eater we are shown would never betray Voldemort is the one who loves him more than she fears him – Bellatrix LeStrange. And it’s not just a sort of “love is all around, all you need is love, what the world needs now is love, sweet love” message. It’s that love – genuine love – is a greater motivator than just about anything else, and has more power in people’s lives than anything else – and that it should be so. I definitely want my children to be motivated by love more than anything else.
But naturally there are things that are sticking in my craw a bit. The first point, which is small, is, how did Peter Pettigrew get into Gryffindor? Even before he becomes a Death Eater, he displays only Slytherian qualities, if he could be said to display any qualities at all. Until Deathly Hallows, I had written it off as, maybe he was in Slytherin but hung out with the Marauders because they were the most popular boys in school, but one of Snape’s memories in DH makes it clear he was in Slytherin. How? Another of Snape’s memories has Dumbledore musing that perhaps children are Sorted too early, but I don’t know if I buy that, at 11, Pettigrew was more inclined to bravery or loyalty than he was at 15. (Also, a nitpick. In Book 1, Hagrid says that there wasn’t a wizard who went bad who wasn’t in Slytherin. At that point, he doesn’t know Pettigrew went bad. But he thinks Sirius Black did.)
I also think I would have liked it if J. K. Rowling had done more to make Ginny Harry’s equal and counterpart. Not that Ginny is not a strong character, but she continually has to take a back seat, both in terms of presence in the novels and in terms of participation in the action. She’s still in the car, if you will, but she never gets to drive the way Ron and Hermione occasionally do. Or even read the map. I would have liked it if she did. Or if she could have been given her own car – if, instead of saying, as all heroes must say in these stories, “No, don’t come with me on my quest, because if Bad Dude knows I lurve you, you’ll be in danger,” Harry had said, “Go to Hogwarts; your mother will flip if four of her children drop out, and anyway, you’ll lead the DA there with Snape in charge and me, Ron and Hermione gone.” He could have said that, and then J. K. Rowling would not have needed to change the structure of anything, and it would have sat better with me. I mean, I hate the trope of the Hero parting from is Lurve because if the Bad Guy knows . . . Like, come on. The Bad Guy always knows. Also, Ginny is in major danger regardless of her romance with Harry. Every of-age wizard in her family except for Percy is in the Order of the Phoenix, and Percy’s in the ministry. She has enough targets drawn on her back; Harry’s really doesn’t make much of a difference. Also, Harry quite inaccurately states that Voldemort, in the form of his diary, already went after Ginny just for being his best friend’s sister. I could be wrong, but I thought Malfoy gave the diary to Arthur Weasley’s daughter to trip up Arthur Weasley, not to Harry Potter’s best friend’s sister to trip up Harry. That Tom Riddle-who-would-become-Voldemort was delighted to have Harry in his sights was incidental; it wasn’t WHY Ginny was targeted. Further proving my point that Ginny already had non-Harry-related targets on her back. But I’m not blaming J. K. Rowling for that; I think it’s pretty standard genre stuff that the hero has to keep his love away from him.
Finally, I am unsatisfied with the way wizards and Muggles interact. I first started being very bothered by this in Order of the Phoenix. In OP, Harry practices magic at home, even though he is a) underage, and b) in front of a Muggle, thus breaking two statutes – the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery and the International Statute of Secrecy. As he did the spell to get rid of the soul-sucking dementors, thus saving his cousin from their evil kiss, everyone assures him that he’ll get off, as there is a provision in the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery for extraordinary, life-threatening circumstances. Indeed, because the Decree has “Reasonable” in the title, I’d have to imagine that their are provisions for all sorts of things. But no one mentions any provisions under the International Statute of Secrecy which could let him. And I have to wonder, given that many, many wizards and witches are apparently born to Muggles, and many wizards and witches marry Muggles, isn’t there a provision in the Internation Statute of Secrecy for Muggles who obviously already know that magic is real? Like, say, a wizard’s cousin, who was there when the owl delivered him his Hogwarts letter? Are we to believe that, had Voldemort not arisen, thus necessitating their departure for Australia, when Hermione came of age, she would not have been allowed to do magic in her parents’ house? If a person marries a Muggle, can they not do magic in front of their spouse? That doesn’t make any sense. And yet no one mentions it.
But this led me to further speculation about Muggle and wizard interaction. On the one hand, we see adult wizards and witches totally ill-equipped to occupy Muggle space. They don’t know how to dress like Muggles; they don’t know how to use Muggle money; they can’t cope with simple Muggle electronics. Furthermore, the education system for wizards – Hogwarts – does not prepare witches and wizards for jobs or associations outside the wizard world. They don’t take Economics or English Literature. They take Charms and Potions. (Well, I’m sure those skilled at Potions could find a market for their skills in the Muggle world. But then they’d be breaking the International Statute of Secrecy.) This would suggest a total break between the Muggle world and the wizard world.
And yet. Hogsmeade is the only all-wizard community in England. Given the behavior suggesting such a total break, wouldn’t all wizards want to live in all-wizard communities? This is allegedly addressed by the claim in Deathly Hallows that a lot of towns attract a large number of wizards, like Godric’s Hollow. And things happen like wizard homes being concealed from Muggle vision in these areas. But that doesn’t really satisfy me. I mean, what do the wizards do if they want to pick up some groceries? And where do they pick up wizarding things like Chocolate frogs and extra eye of newt? Surely they don’t travel from all over England to go to Diagon Alley every week? Even with Apparation (which the whole family can’t do anyway) that’s kind of a pain in the ass.
Furthermore, given how many wizards come from Muggle families or marry Muggles, how can so many of them remain so ignorant of the basics of Muggle life? Don’t they have to deal with their in-laws? Like, let’s assume that Hermione brought her parents back from Australia after Voldemort was gone and restored their memories and everything. Doesn’t Ron therefore hang out with her parents a lot? Don’t the senior Weasleys see their in-laws? And doesn’t this happen with frequency across the wizarding world? Not all families are the Blacks, blasting people off their family trees for associating with Muggles.
And given that this must happen all the time, how could the adults remain in such a fog about Muggle ways, and Muggle dressing, etc.? It doesn’t really fit.
But then taking the near-total separation of wizard and Muggle communities as a given, where do wizards and/or witches even meet Muggles to marry?
I understand how these inconsistencies functioned in the story. Placing wizards in non-wizard communities gives that sense of this magical universe existing right within the regular one – it could be your neighbor! It could be you! And it allows J. K. Rowling to create this magical world as part of our world, rather than as a whole separate universe. And then all the adult wizards and witches not knowing how to operate in the Muggle world is funny. It’s especially funny given the targeted age range of the books – it’s all stuff that the child readers of this series know how to do perfectly well. Nothing is funnier to a certain age group than knowing better than grown-ups. So fine. But it’s still bugging me.
I also wish she’d done a little more with the epilogue. What happens to Harry after he defeats Voldemort? Does he become an Auror? Does he ever become Minister of Magic? Does Dolores Umbridge get fired? What happens to the Ministry? Do the laws making life hard for werewolves, etc., get repealed? Is the banking still done with goblins? How does Mrs. Weasley do after losing one son and gaining one back? How does George do? Who raises Teddy? Where do they all live and what do they all do for a living? I want so much more. But I guess she couldn’t write a whole extra novel. It just would have been nice to see how some of the themes of the story played out, vis a vis how the Ministry handled the things it handled badly before the return of Voldemort.

Bill Maher

I find this man just infuriating. I think the problem is that I like a good 85% of what he has to say – but the other 15% is just maddening. I Tivo’d one of his comedy specials and I know it’s very old news and he’s done plenty of other things to make me mad since then, but my goodness did this special infuriate me.

And it does hurt the most that I like most of the stuff he does. For this particular comedy special, he (or his team) created a series of posters that were designed to look like the government posters created around World War II, but which pertain to the current (and my God, it’s still the current war seven years after this special) war. Like a poster of a giant SUV sporting American flags with the tag line, “Empty gestures don’t win wars!” It’s part of his rant about how the government never really asked us to do anything for this war the way they did around WWII, and his rant about how driving these gas guzzlers funds terrorism more than, say, marijuana.

I mean, he’s in the middle of this perfectly agreeable rant about why on earth is lying about who gave you a blow job worse than any other lie a president could make, which is obviously very old news and was even in 2003 but with which I heartily agree, but then he has to say, “It just backs up my case that this is a feminized country, because obviously the worst thing anyone can ever do in America is get a blow job!” Excuse me?! Excuse me?! Why does this have to become about “feminized”? And, fuck you very much, major feminist organizations, like NOW, stood by Clinton during the sex scandals. They actually took heat for this from those conservative women who belong to groups that sound like they might be feminist for 30 seconds until you read what they actually believe in. Whereas most of the people screaming for Clinton’s resignation were men. Who, as it has turned out, were getting plenty of their own illicit blow jobs.

And then he gets even worse. He blames women for terrorism because women, all of them, insist on diamonds, knowing that a) terrorists use them to launder money, and b) terrible things happen surrounding the mining of diamonds in Africa. He says, and I quote, “I know women hate to hear that because women think about diamonds the way men think about sex, the way leeches think about blood.” Nice. Very nice. It is shocking to me that Bill Maher gets women to have sex with him at all. He says he told a woman friend about the atrocities committed in the name of mining diamonds, who he describes as “only about the nicest person I’ve ever met, but she is a woman.” I hope that this woman is no longer friends with him.

He starts talking about how you can say things about men that you can’t say about women, like if you go on a daytime talk show, you can say “Women are really smarter than men,” and you’ll get applause, but you can’t say “Men are smarter than women.” But he says, “I know it’s the national law here in America that women are more evolved than men, but if that’s true, then how come they’re still so impressed by shiny objects?” Can you imagine saying that about another group in America?

He claims that he realizes that not all women fit his description of feminine, but then goes on to say, “For lack of a better term, I would say that feminine values are now the values of America. Sensitivity is more important than truth. Feelings are more important than facts. Commitment is more important than individuality. Children are more important than people. Safety is more important than fun!” And I’d like to take these items one by one.

When he says “Sensitivity is more important than truth,” he’s, I believe, referring to “political correctness” and not calling a spade a spade because it’s not “polite,” and while that was a terrific point to make back in, oh, 1996, I feel that the anti-pcers – him included – have turned into assholes. They don’t want to call a spade a spade, they want to call a spade a fucking retarded n-word kyke pussy spade, and then they want to complain that anyone who’s offended is too sensitive and is also – while not at all throwing them in jail or in anyway excercising governmental power over them – destroying their freedom of speech. And yes, being sensitive is more worthy a value than being an asshole.

“Feelings are more important than facts.” When I think of 2003, and who was making feelings more important than facts, I think of the president and the president’s administration, nearly all of whom were men. And their feelings were, FOR LACK OF A BETTER TERM, BILL, I’M NOT ANTI-MAN JUST BECAUSE I’M TALKING ABOUT THEM THIS WAY, masculine feelings – revenge, violence, wanting to punch something.

“Commitment is more important than individuality”? Since when? I don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about here; I think this country could use a good dose of not being quite so obsessed with individuality.

“Children are more important than people” is quite a lot to unpack. First of all, why, in Bill Maher’s view, and in many (single, childless) men’s views, are children only women’s concern? Don’t you people have something to do with children? And if you continue to posit that children are only women’s concerns, then don’t talk to me about a father’s right not to have his baby aborted, or whatever the hell else father’s rights groups are up in arms about. Until you stop assigning “children” to “women,” STFU. Then, I guess a lot of people feel that a lot of American society is designed around children, and unfairly. Look at our movies, look at what can and can’t be shown or said on television, blah blah blah. And I believe, in this regard, he’s got a point. But when you look at other measures – like that old people can get single-payer, government sponsored health care and social security and children can’t – we’re not very child-centered at all. And I think paying for health care and keeping people out of poverty is more significant than where and when curses can be said on television.

I have nothing on “Safety is more important than fun!” I aim to be a Free Range Parent; I agree with him on that score. But I hate agreeing with him; it just makes me mad!

And he can’t make this distinction between actual women and “feminine values” when he immediately afterwards goes into a rant about wives and women and how awful it is to be a woman. He claims that, as the last unmarried man among his friends, their wives don’t want them hanging out with him because he’s “like an escaped slave. I bring news of freedom.” Like, fuck you very much, being a married MAN is exactly like being a slave. He makes fun of the notion that married men live longer, essentially saying, sure, they live long lives of quiet desperation. But married men don’t only live longer than single men, they do better in all realms of physical and mental health. Oddly enough, the same is not true for women; married women only do better than single women healthwise if they describe themselves as happily married. And a lot fewer women describe themselves as happily married than men.

Then he picks up on examples of oppressed men that I think are actually about oppressed women. Like hot, smart women in sitcoms being married to dumb schlubs. Now, I have long wondered why men are not more offended by being depicted as dumb schlubs all the time, and apparently, Bill Maher is, and fine. But what does it say about society that hot, smart women can’t do any better than dumb schlubs? Or that hot, smart women still need a marriage so badly, in order to be considered socially acceptable, that they are willing to marry dumb schlubs? Or that schlubby, fat men can work in show business with no problem, they can even get their own sitcoms, but women had better be earth-shatteringly gorgeous if they want to show their faces on any screen anywhere?

Then he has the nerve to suggest that women wouldn’t get breast implants if they stopped making men apologize for being men. That makes no sense at all. He says men don’t care about big boobs, they just care about new sex partners. He points out that Hugh Grant had Elizabeth Hurley at home but still went to a less attractive prostitute. I think he’s missing something. Women aren’t looking to be paid $50 to fuck Hugh Grant in the backseat of a car. Women – the kind of women who are likely to get breast implants, anyway – are looking to marry Hugh Grant. But the whole thing is offensive and nonsensical either way.

He makes a big joke of a couples counselor on a daytime talk show suggesting exploring “mutual fantasties.” He claims women and men have no mutual fantasies. “Yours bore us, and ours offend you.” I begin to suspect that Bill Maher a) doesn’t actually know a lot of women, and b) doesn’t have very good sex.

But the thing that really kills me is that he conflates “women getting their egos stroked on daytime tv” with “women having actual power.” Here’s how you know you have actual power – no one needs to pat your back and say you’re really the smarter one on daytime television. Sure, it might be a popular, if trite and untrue, statement to say “If women ran the world, there wouldn’t be any wars.” But if women actually ran the world, you wouldn’t need to say that. It’s only because women continue to really, really not run the world that there’s any call for saying that.

And for those of you who only give a shit when I’m writing about Zoe, I will have you know that she agrees with this entire post, although she does not feel that Bill Maher’s other 85% is funny enough to watch, when we could be watching babies dance to “Single Ladies” on You Tube instead.

Just Say "No"?

This got me thinking this week. (Warning: Rambling to follow.) Now, I’m not saying I’m in favor of high heels for babies, partially because, ew, wrong, and partially because, knowing I have roughly the same coordination as a toddler, and knowing how well I walk in heels, I foresee disaster. But I feel like there’s this attitude in the media I consume which responds to just about all of this nonsense with, “But where are the parents? Why can’t they just say no?” And I notice that, for the most part, the people writing these posts are not themselves parents.

Now, I don’t want to come across as one of those, “Say no to my precious princess? Never!” parents (although she’s nearly 18 months old, still breastfeeding, and still sleeping in my f-ing bed, so I clearly do have a problem saying no to my precious princess). But I don’t think these writers appreciate just how difficult saying no all the time is.

There are thousands of things that reasonable parents don’t want their kids to have that are being marketed, aggressively, to children. Baby high heels. Makeovers for seven-year-olds. Thongs in size 2T. “Breakfast” “cereals” that are basically globs of high-fructose corn syrup held together with sawdust. Staying tuned for the next 22-minute advertisement for a line of licensed-character products. BRATZ dolls. Video games the point of which is killing women dressed like BRATZ dolls. Disney princesses.* $130 blue jeans as worn by Taylor Swift or some such person. And on and on and on. And the people marketing these things have spent billions of dollars insuring that your precious princes and princesses will not shut up about these products for more than 20 seconds a day. They call it the “Nag Factor”; it’s been a wildly successful marketing ploy.

You, as a parent, do not have billions of dollars to promote your agenda of steamed broccoli and nice, non-gender-specific, developementally oriented wooden toys from Sweden. You also don’t want your entire relationship with your kids to be defined by the word “No.” That may sound self-serving, but all of the parenting stuff I’ve been reading recently suggests that this is true for all ages. At the toddler stage, you are advised to design your home environment so that you don’t have to say “No” all the time, because your child will tune it out if it’s all they ever hear, and also to try to only say “No” if the thing they’re doing is actually dangerous, as opposed to just annoying or messy. With older children, the advise to pick your battles and respect your kids’ choices to the extent possible is pretty prevalent right now. Furthermore, it’s more than just self-serving to not have a constant litany of “No” and “But Mo-om!” in your house. It develops trust and it means your kids are more likely to listen to you when you really, really need them to. Also, it’s one thing to say, “No, I won’t be buying you the toy you want above all others” on an average Tuesday, but every parent wants to see that look of joy and delight on Christmas morning, a Chanukah evening, or a birthday that they can produce by getting their child what they wanted most in their dearest, deepest heart.

So you might, as a parent, decide that high heels are fine for your three-year-old, just to keep the peace, even though you think it’s atrocious that a three-year-old should be taught to strive for that particular image. But one of the posters said that this is one area where the government should not shoulder the responsibilities that fairly belong to the parents, and I think that’s not necessarily the right way to think about this. I mean, yes, if toddler high heels were the only objectionable thing being advertised, then fine, leave the burden on the parents. But it’s not, not by a long shot, and there are things governments can do to ease the burden of saying “No” all the time on parents. Like not allowing for the kind of aggressive marketing aimed at children. They got rid of Joe Camel; can’t they get rid of other stuff, as well? Lucky Charms aren’t much better for your children than cigarettes. And there’s a lot more that I’m sure can be done to control the kinds of messages and products being marketed to children, and that the government can do, and indeed, only the government can do.

It might not be a bad idea for parents to do something, too, but I have a feeling that their would be too much to hope that any parents’ group wouldn’t fracture for lack of agreement about what, exactly, is bad for children. Like, there’s a parents’ group that evidently got a warning label put on the original Sesame Street DVDs stating that these were not for children because it depicted children, like, biking around their neighborhoods unsupervised and such. I would clearly not agree with that. Or I’m sure there would be parents’ groups that frowned on frank discussions of sex in media aimed at the tween set. I wouldn’t. But plenty of parents I’m sure would be fine with Lucky Charms, and I sometimes feel like a wingnut with my objection to Grand Theft Auto. You’d have to have several associations of parents, each with their own set of problems with children’s stuff, giving their various certifications and boycotts. I don’t know how that would work, really. But it’s a thought.

Okay, here’s where I’m going to ramble a bit, so if you prefer more coherent posts, stop reading now. First of all, with the sexualization of kids at younger and younger ages. I buy some of Zoe’s clothes at Gymboree, which makes pretty high-quality and cute stuff for children.** But I’ve had a big problem with how very gendered their clothing is, even the stuff for newborns. And it’s one thing to have, you know, a monkey for the boys and a monkey with a PINK BOW for girls even for the 0-3 month set because gosh, don’t you know, girls just like pink, it’s nothing to do with socialization at all, but then I noticed something that really bugged me. Zoe already had a pair of shorts from the girl side, and they were pretty short, but I didn’t care, I mean, she was a baby, what difference does it make? But then, we had a bit of a clothing emergency at the mall – namely, she peed all over her clothes while I was changing her. So we ran – nakey – into the Gymboree and over to their sales racks. Well, I already had most of the stuff on the girl side so I went to the boy side and got her an adorable t-shirt with an elephant on it and blue shorts. When I put the shorts on her, I realized that the boy shorts were about three inches longer than the girl shorts. And then that just struck me as wrong. Why do girls who are not even a year old yet need to show off their legs more than boys? Why can’t they produce basically the same shape shorts for the same shape bodies – baby-shaped bodies? That’s just weird, I’m sorry, but it is.

Second, not for nothing, but every time I read posts about the discipline parents ought to be giving children and aren’t, I notice a theme. I notice that most of the people writing do not have children. And I notice that there are a lot of stories along the lines of, “If I ever behaved like that, my mother would put a stop to it so fast it would make your head spin.” But I don’t hear, “When my child behaved like that, I put a stop to it immediately; you never saw my children behave like that.” It’s easy to think of your mom as whatever it is you think moms are supposed to be, but until and unless you have children (and sometimes not even then), you don’t realize that your mom had to put effort into that stance, and may remember the incidences in question in a far different light. You may remember that, that time you screamed for a cookie in the supermarket, your mother took you right out of the supermarket and sent you to your room, but what you don’t remember is that she was very frustrated and upset and embarrassed by the first fifteen minutes of you shouting for that cookie, and that because she had to take you out of the store, all she had to give you for lunch the next day was a weeks-old pear and some crackers. You may not remember that, in fact, you screamed for cookies EVERY TIME you went to the supermarket, which resulted in her having to rearrange her life to go to the supermarket without you, which was enormously trying and difficult. You know, The Daily Show had a great routine recently where they were trying to figure out what Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly were talking about when they kept on about a purer, simpler time in America and eventually realized that these men were referring to their own childhoods. And one’s own childhood is always experienced differently than the adults who are experiencing the exact same time, because duh. That is all.

Finally- and I’ll keep this short because God knows it touches on everything – why are we so willing in this country to absolve the government of responsibility for everything? Oh, that’s not for the government, that’s for parents (and a lot falls into that category, including figuring out affordable education and health care). Oh, that’s not for government, that’s for corporations to police themselves on (and they do such a good job of policing themselves). Oh, that’s not for the federal government, that’s for the state governments, who aren’t going to deal with it either. Excuse me, but what do we have a government for? The United States is not exactly fending off invasions every moment of the day; we can let the government spend money and time on something other than the military. And if the government is not there in order to use its resources – resources it has because of the very collectivity of its nature – to make the lives of its citizens better and easier, and to police the organizations (like corporations) who don’t have its citizens’ best interest at heart, then what exactly is government for? To give 24-hour news channels something to do?

Okay, I’ll stop. God knows I could go on. And on. But I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to do so in other posts.

*My mother-in-law found a Disney-princess-themed kitchen set at a garage sale which I find hilarious because if you turn the pages in the “cookbook,” you hear things like “Ariel, why don’t you make that delicious apple pie the prince likes so much!” I’m serious. All else aside, why are princesses baking their own pies?

**Actually, as I was linking this, I saw their new Daisies collection and omg so cute. Clearly Zoe will be sporting some of those pieces this spring.