CALawMama's Blog

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Experiences at the interface of life, law, and motherhood in Cali

What Mama’s Reading

I haven’t had the chance to read much, since baby #4 was born– surprise, surprise! Just before he was born, I had a chance to finish 1Q84, by Haruki Murakami.

Perhaps more poignantly, rather than not being able to read, I haven’t been able to venture to the adult section in the library, because, as you may be well familiar, you have to be absolutely quiet and calm in that part of the library– something my big kids are not always necessarily the best at. I’m sure the librarian from our local library would attest to his joyful sprinting through the stacks and laughing all the while yesterday afternoon, during our brief visit.

So anyhow, our largest local library has many floors of books, with the adult books being on different floors than the children’s (and therefore utter insanity to attempt to brave with the kids), but the smaller local libraries have the pin drop silent adult section, which is located adjacent to the kids section. So, the past two times when we have visited the smaller libraries, I quickly snuck over and grabbed some things.

Here’s what I’m hoping to make a dent into:

Thinking Fast and Slow

Steve Jobs

The Scarlet Letter

and for the TJEd Discussion of the Classics group, Jane Eyre

Also, as a part of our “KidSchool,” we have begun The Violet Fairy Book, The Green Fairy Book, and Little Women.

Additionally, I have picked up some pretty killer audio books, IMHO, but so far my kids hate them all indiscriminately. These include Little Town on the Prairie, Treasury of Native American Heroines, Magic Tree House books, and many more. It is literally as though my children believe that the sound system in our car should solely be used for music. Further, unfortunately, this isn’t a new phenomenon. They have hated audio books since our first attempt. My five year old literally yells, repeatedly, “I HATE this! Turn it off!” So pleasant to hear as a driver 🙂 Anyhow, we shall see what other means we may find to listen to these treasures.

What are you reading these days?

Filed under: A Thomas Jefferson Education, Children's Books, Classics, Parenting, TJED, , , , ,

Book Review: “Let’s Avoid Uncle Dale”by Dos Bad Dads

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Dos Bad Dads’ most recent work of satirical children’s literature. As proclaimed in their forward, this book is for children who are essentially incapabable of understanding what you are saying yet, or in any event cannot parrot your words back to you. Let’s face it, it’s basically for snarky sarcastic parents, like me.

I thought it was hilarious. It centers on the paradigmatic experience of parents everywhere that comes along when dealing with people who are totally full of it. You know, the ones who claim to have gone to the same college as mommy and daddy on their facebook profile, when you know full well they didn’t go to college at all. Or the ones who claim to be sitting on a tidy sum, yet subsist entirely on a diet of Ramen noodles, ringing any bells?

It’s funny because in real life, social norms usually dictate that the polite thing to do, the “proper” thing, is to not call out these total liars, especially not to children. That damn Bambi Golden Rule and everything.

The book centers on the themes where people are mostly likely to lie/those areas of life with which our society grants the highest respect: educational achievements, investment prowess, marital status, military service, etc. The things which earn respect, but are increasingly difficult to accomplish are also those which are increasingly easy to lie about or fib, especially on the internet and through the use of social media.

It’s also funny because, let’s face it, as parents we take everything so Goddamn seriously, we have to, or we get judged by the parenting police. Not that such a thing exists, but you know what I mean. Our everything related to parenting is under constant scrutiny by everyone we encounter, and yet we aren’t supposed to say anything mean you know because manners. Well whatever.

However, it does come back to the underlying theme, which is that their uncle loves them, even if he is never to be trusted with any child related responsibilities, ever.

Children’s satire books are good for parents. Hopefully DBD can continue to fill that void.

I think it’s the funniest thing you can buy for $2 for yourself, and I would personally HIGHLY recommend it for a good PABSy (PABS= Passive Aggressive Bull Shit– best acronym I ever did read on the interwebz) gift to someone you know who may engage in the same lines of work as Uncle Dale. Especially since Father’s Day is coming up.

Happy reading!

Tumblr: dosbaddads.tumblr.com

Twitter: @dosbaddads

Filed under: Book Review, Children's Books, Parenting, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Late to The Frozen Game

So by now the market is fully saturated with everything Frozen. I’m sure I don’t have anything new to say on the topic, except that it is new to our family.

My girls have a friend who, like many other girls across the country, has been obsessed with the film since the first time she saw it. Due to a pronounced fear of the dark, and inability to remain still or quiet, we did not see it in theaters. And although there was a rumored digital copy on the internet, unfortunately as lawyers, we can’t very well claim ignorance of copyright infringement laws. So, we were waiting for the film to come out. Although the girls did recently see the “Let it Go” scene on YouTube, which they have been signing ad naseum ever since. In fact, on a trip to the Disney store a month or so ago, my oldest read a sign that said the release date was March 18, and essentially branded the date into memory. She would let anyone who wanted to hear know when it was coming out, and essentially counted down the days until the big release.

So, like the dutiful Disney watchers that we are, March 18 we headed to our favorite Target and picked up a copy. Once we brought it home, the four kids and myself squished to fit onto our couch, and watch in the closest thing to silence that my kids can muster.

I must say, eventhough I knew from the book we recently picked up that Hans was a “bad guy,” I really did not see that one coming. I recalled reading an article about how there was no “mustache twirling” to inform the viewers that he really had a hidden agenda. I imagine that would have been borderline devastating to my overly trusting and sensitive littles. But, they were anticipating he would be bad– in fact my 4 year old delights at the ending scene where Anna punches him in the face. I was personally so upset, that I actually understood the basis for this article, although I happen to fully disagree. I mean, at the end of the movie, Anna presumably is interested in Kristoff, and who knows what will happen to Elsa.

I also read an article/watched video of the ending scene of Let it Go, where the writer claims there was some upset among mothers of some sexy look or villianous situation with Elsa looking at the camera in a bad girl way. I didn’t get it in the clip, nor in the film. So whatever.

However, while I was warned of the snow monster, which luckily wasn’t a big deal on our small screen, and the parents dying (my kids still haven’t figured out that the ship scene signifies that), nobody warned me how God Damn SAD the beginning, and actually a large majority of the film was. As an only child, I always dreamed of having a sister, and the portrayal of how their relationship evolved made my heart hurt for my two girls as they watched. They understood what was going on, and I imagine the felt how sad it would be if that ever happened to either of them.

Sob story aside, I was interested to learn who portrayed the voices of the characters. Ever since we bought Tangled, and I figured out that Rapunzel’s voice was Mandy Moore, I’ve felt rather proud of myself for having figured that out. As it turns out, I was further correct that she is now voicing the lead character in the new series “Sheriff Callie.” And, while we are at listing my oh so important inferences, I was very surprised when I realized that the butler on Sophia the First is none other than Tim Gunn from project runway.

In Frozen, however, I was unable to place any of the voices. After looking at Wikipedia, the only actress I recognized, was Kristen Bell, who apparently can and does sing in the film, as Anna. What was more surprising, however, was that the actress who voices Elsa, Idina Menzel, was also one of the leads in Rent and Wicked–which I am unable to link for you as my 3 week old is calling. Check out the Wiki entry on Frozen to learn some cool info about the film, including how they studied Snow and culture to build the scenery, etc. The “A Mighty Girl” page on facebook also stated that it was the first film directed by a woman to break a billion dollars in revenue. Pretty cool!

Filed under: Parenting, , ,

Time in Slow Motion

Baby #4 joined our family at the end of last month, and ever since, it seems as though everything moves in slow motion, except for his growth, which is too quickly!

It seriously takes forever to get anything done or go anywhere. The upside is that it requires all of us to be a little more patient, but the down side is I don’t anticipate ever being on time anywhere ever again.

In the vein of posting smaller topics that are piquing my interest, this morning I came across this article by the New York Times. Essentially, it expands on this fact:

Of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people, according to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin.

Although I had the pleasure of taking a Multicultural Literature class as an undergraduate (offered through CSUMB–which I highly recommend, great prof and great selections), these days, perhaps obviously, more than a substantial proportion of my time is spent in reading (or being read to by my 6 year old) children’s books.

We do make an effort to check out a wide variety of books, in fact our amazing library system allows each cardholder to check out a total of 50 materials per visit. Due to the insanity that is a trip to the library, I try to stock up, so to speak.

That being said, unless we deliberately check out materials on particular holidays, celebrations, cultural events, or historical events, the cultural monotony is blatantly obvious. We have the blessing of being a part of the PJ Library, so that our children each receive a free Jewish themed book, or occasional CD/DVD every month, otherwise even Jewish characters are noticeably absent. Although, I suppose one could argue that absent a Jewish themed storyline, Jewish characters don’t necessarily have an obvious outward appearance to suggest that they are not merely Caucasian. I will say, Abuelo y Los Tres Osos is one of my kids favorites, but I’d venture to guess that it’s a rare non-Hispanic family that owns or checks out from the library Spanish language children’s books–Huevos Verdes con Jamon non withstanding.

My guess as to why there are so few characters of color, and I am assuming that this study means not only African Americans, but also Latinos, Asians, Middle Easterners, etc., is that the authors and publishers are most likely predominantly white. I have zero evidence to back up this guess, but it is my gut feeling. It would make sense, from a self identification perspective, that authors and illustrators draw the characters that they most closely identify with. I would also venture to guess that those types of authors may be accused of lacking the cultural sensitivities necessary to convey stories representing a particular group with which they are unfamiliar with. I believe this is one of the criticisms regarding cross racial adoption. Speaking honestly, the issues that families and individuals face ARE different, and I don’t claim to dispute that.

So what is the solution to this pandemic lack of diverse characters? I suppose it is like any other shortage, we need a more diverse audience producing the books themselves. That sounds naive, even as I type it. I know the publishing industry is a corporate stronghold, and probably incredibly difficult to get a publishing deal– I would further guess that unless you are Mo Willems or Eric Litwin, children’s books aren’t incredibly lucrative.

However, it does matter. This particular article reminds me incredibly of the argument in NurtureShock, of attempting to “insulate” our children from racism by completely neglecting to recognize differences in appearance, in the hopes of making them more culturally sensitive. The problem is that this method typically backfires because kids DO see the difference, and based on their developmental stage may automatically assume that that those who don’t look like them MUST be different, because they have not been told that appearance is not an indicator of really anything other than outward anatomy.

WDYT?

Filed under: Children's Books, Parenting, , , , , , ,

The Blogger’s Dilemma

I read a blog post recently that was so categorically inflammatory, that I simply could not believe what I was reading. Then, ironically, one of my tweets in response to the initial piece was picked up in an article published by a Yahoo blog.

Whenever I tweet something, I never assume that anyone beyond my followers, or maybe some others will read it. Therefore, I don’t necessarily anticipate a wider audience, or expand my prose beyond whatever the 160 or so character limit  will allow.

Following my brief statement on the article, I did a brief perusal of some of the comments on the piece. I saw several comments along the lines of the article being intentionally bad, so that it could garner clicks for ad revenue, a so called bait piece. Now :that: made sense to me. This perspective, along with the information that the blogger refused to reveal any personal information, such as “her” age or other details was sufficient enough for me to assume that this article suffers from what I like to refer to as the bloggers dilemma. As a paid blogger, you have to produce a certain amount of content by your deadline. Additionally, employers keep track of SEO (search engine optimization) data, some moreso than others.

To be honest, I have never heard of the parent (in the corporate sense of the term) company which hosted the initial piece. However, assuming they are some sort of lifestyle blog, I assume that they are much more interested in articles that take advantage of SEO and other traffic driving measures to increase ad revenues as opposed to articles which focus primarily, or mostly, on the underlying substance.

Political sites are a great example of this SEO vs. substance debate. They want to capture enough of an audience, but don’t always focus primarily on the facts, those things which can be readily verified by an objective third party.

Blawging differs somewhat,  in that it is primarily based upon legal developments, both statutory and following individual case decisions, which are constantly developing. However, I have done non law related blogging, and I therefore understand the nature of the dilemma: I don’t have anything particularly interesting to write about, yet I have to write something sufficiently interesting for people to actually read. 

Blog posts relating to parenting decisions, then, allow for the perfect storm to drive traffic through the roof. It’s simple, all you have to do is choose anything related to children or parenting, arbitrarily decide what you subjectively think is the correct answer or philosophy, in any case and for everyone, and then dispense with saying why everyone else is wrong. Sound familiar? An article about cosleeping in which an infant was depicted as lying next to a rectangular butcher’s knife comes to mind. Or the TIME magazine cover featuring a mom breastfeeding her 4 year old child. (For the sake of transparency, I did not read the TIME article, as I do not generally subject myself to sensationalist journalism, if you can even call it journalism to begin with).

I know the blogger’s dilemma well, because since having additional free time with which to produce content for this blog, I have not been extraordinarily motivated to write on anything in particular. Generally speaking, those news items in which I am interested, I share via Twitter, and more often Facebook, with my literal 2 sentence opinion on the matter. This works well because I am friends with people who understand my background, political stance, legal training, and general philosophies on things. Therefore, the discussions that flow from these topics are interesting because they allow for an open forum whereby I am familiar with the general political perspectives and backgrounds of my friends. Also, perhaps due to my legal training, I do not feel personally insulted when someone disagrees with me. It’s a little reported on fact that not all people think about things in the same way. Go figure!

This time, however, as my reach went beyond those who know me personally, or at least from social media contact, I received a string of tweets which so eloquently demonstrated what I personally believe to be at the root of the problem with all pieces related to parenting that follow the “this is the best: here’s why everyone else is wrong” approach.

Namely, I honestly do not care how other people choose to parent their children. I do have some caveats, and I will get to those. However, generally speaking, so long as your children are fed, safe, and not neglected or abused, your parenting does not affect me in the slightest. I know for a fact that no one is parenting at me.

Of course, in the case that your child hurt’s my child or says unkind things to my child, I will even go so far as to give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that your child is engaging in typical developmental beahvior, but not without helping my child to advocate for his or her position, and I will not ever allow my children to be bullied nor become door mats. The only other time I will ever question another parent’s decision is in the case of abuse or neglect.

However, those incidents are few and far between, and as such, I tend to stray away from articles that engage in this sort of bombastic display of superiority, even in those cases when I may agree with a particular parenting school of thought.

Formula feed or breast feed; stay home or work at home or outside the home; tough love or coddle; helicopter parent or free range– our country has yet to internalize that if it is your child, you and only you (and your relevant spouse/partner/co-parent) are the ONLY ones who should have input on your decisionmaking. For the record, those negative tweets which I received seemed to accuse me of the corporate attorney lifestyle which I outwardly rejected, and continue to reject. I am a full time homeschooling caregiver. The professional blawg work that I did/do, is completed during the time of day when my children are sleeping. That being said, I do not feel any need to justify my choices to anyone, just as I wouldn’t if I were truly in the corporate legal world, as so many of my friends are, because it is simply none of anyone else’s business.

Anyone can say what they want, but nobody outside your nuclear family knows your dynamic as well, or what other factors go into the decisions you make. Those who wish to impart the wisdom of their parenting philosophies are more than welcome to use them on their own children and adjudicate whether it is best to impose themselves on others who are simply trying to do the best that they can. If you really want to help someone, in the truly altruistic sense of the word, then actually offer your help to them rather than attempting to put them down by assuming you know anything about their child or their parent:child relationship.

In sum, rather than artificially inflating the level of content on this blog, I refrain from writing anything. However, I do realize that a blog cannot be built upon nothing, and so, I leave you with those things with which I have been the most interested lately, and encourage my readers to engage in the path that brings them the most happiness and meaning in their lives. I assure you that regardless of the individual course, it will not be built upon stepping stones of putting down or otherwise chastising others.

Photo

Slow parenting in the age of instantaneous-ness, what a concept.

See also, How Legos Are Made.

Photo: Fans have asked what I think about the Justin Bieber controversy. This about sums it up.

This one just made me laugh, from George Takei’s facebook page. I often lament that so much of what is reported these days does not constitute actual news.

Cheers!

Filed under: Parenting, , , , , ,

Book Review FYI: Great Grandma is Racist

I was recently approached by some of my tweeps (@DosBadDads) to review their latest “baby” book, entitled FYI:Great Grandma is Racist. Being that uno of the dos is an English Lit professor, or something, perhaps he can remind me what the rule is regarding how to properly denote that you are discussing a book. I seem to remember you are supposed to underline it, whereas an article is italicized, but underlining isn’t an option in WordPress, and the title should clearly indicate that it’s a book. So there you go grammar police! Anyway…

FYI: Great Grandma is Racist

cover page

I really like this book. The only reason I can’t say that I love it is because I think that people who fall within the racial categories discussed might take offense at the fact that it is essentially making light of the fact that our majority culture (read: white people, though this is slowly changes to a glorious amalgam, or melting pot as we’re taught in elementary school) accepts racism rather than addresses it, in order to make it through the uncomfortable moments when it rears its ugly head. However, keep in mind that I live in one of the most radically liberal areas, and thus I’m probably oversensitive. Also, it’s not like the authors created the phenomenon, it just exists. With that in mind, we shall continue.

There are several things that I love about this book, and I mean that broadly.

  1. It accurately centers on the awkward relationship between parents (though this could apply to any individuals, since it is a book intended to be read to babies that don’t quite understand what you’re saying to them, I’ll assume it is aimed at parents) and older relatives and their inappropriate behaviors. While the broader message is that we must subvert our impulse to control or correct others’ behaviors due to their racist tendencies because of the fact that there isn’t much longer we must put up with them, it isn’t only racism that parents have to deal with, and it isn’t always restricted to people who are nearing the end of their living spectrum. Subverting feelings of rage towards relatives for their inappropriate, unwelcomed, or otherwise unhelpful advice, input, or unsolicited information is one of the most common recurring problems parents face in the real world, IMO. Close relatives and even complete strangers will give you advice on your parenting when you didn’t even realize you were inviting their input–because of course you weren’t. (I have a good friend that lives near the Haight and regularly gets advice from transients who are most likely probably under the influence, bless her heart!) Additionally, it highlights the struggle between using an example of undesirable behavior to teach your children what’s right (for example if they called someone a racist term you would correct them and explain all the reasons it’s hurtful, etc.) versus the fact that you should respect your older relatives’ feelings, and not embarrass them or attempt to speak for their behaviors. Hopefully you are still following me at this point 🙂
  2. The overall style of the tone is incredibly evocative of Carrie Bradshaw’s pitch to Mr. Big’s ex in the Sex and the City series. Ladies are you with me? She goes into the meeting knowing that the woman is a publisher, but not realizing that she exclusively publishes children’s books. So she comes up with an idea off the top of her head regarding a girl named Cathy that can travel anywhere in the world when she lights up one of her magic cigarettes. A children’s book for adults, Carrie musters to explain. The publisher loves the idea and praises her ingenue. FYI GGIR falls squarely within that genre.
  3. It exposes the incredible hypocrisy prevalent in American culture that individuals are comfortable being racist in any number of facets of their lives, yet accept entertainers (or those in other professions) that fall within a race that they would ordinarily hate on because of some plus factor. The book describes how GG loves Eddie Murphy, presumably for his Shrek movies, but shows her being rude to an African American librarian. I bet GG would be shocked to learn of Eddie Murphy’s roots and how he earned his claim to family fun fame. Also, in researching the name of his first standup show (it’s Delirious, in case you didn’t want to follow the link, which you should it’s HILARIOUS, though incredibly vulgar), I read in his Wiki entry that he is the second highest grossing actor in the U.S.! I was too short on time to discover who number one was, but OMG, I would NEVER have thought Eddie Murphy was so high up there.
  4. Lastly, this is sort of a tangent, in case I haven’t already taken enough of those in this post, this book highlights the importance of discussing race with children. I’ll take this opportunity to recommend another book to parents, called NurtureShock by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman, which has an entire chapter dedicated to talking about race with children. Apparently, the common tactic taken by us “cultured” liberal accepting parents is to not address race for fear of putting artificial labels in our childrens’ heads. We think that by hanging out with muliticultural families or sending our children to “diverse” preschools that they will learn acceptance by osmosis, but apparently this is not the case. Children have an inherent need for everything to fit neatly into its own category, and when we don’t supply them with these labels and tell them that just because their friend has dark skin, he still likes the same things, feels the same feelings, etc. they will automatically assume that those who look like them must like the same things, whereas those who look different must not be the same as them. (The exact term for this is escaping me.) Thus our attempts backfire, and sometimes kids can run into problems. There is a fascinating discussion about the parents of children who were involved in a study that was attempting to gauge the effectiveness of diversity teachings, you’ll have to read about that one on your own if you’re interested.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this book, if for no other reason than it will only cost you $2, little more than the price of a song on iTunes (they raised their prices to $1.25 a song, in case you didn’t know!), and a little less than $2 Chuck (which by the way has also had its price raised, to $2.49).

In addition to buying a copy for yourself, because you know you’ll need a laugh to accompany your copy of Go the F**k to Sleep, I would DEFINITELY buy a copy for all of your friends when you attend their baby showers. It’s my personal feeling that modern parents can be too uptight and serious, and not laugh at the incredible unreasonableness that parenting can sometimes entail. Let’s keep it real and take a break in between the debates of EBF, rear facing car seats, homemade baby food, eliminating food coloring, corn syrup and GMOs, and poke fun at some of the realities we have to deal with.

Also, go follow @DosBadDads, they’re funny for realz.

Filed under: Book Review, Parenting, , , , , ,

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