of books & babies

i can’t believe it’s already the last day of january. 2015 seems to be zipping by at warp speed. i did very little sewing this month, but i did read a lot. i subscribe to a lot of magazines (“bitch,” “hip mama,” “real simple,” “parents,” “the new yorker,” “writer’s digest,” “threads”…i think that’s it; that’s more than enough) & i read like twelve books this month too.

including the handmaid’s tale. rightly or wrongly, i had never read it, probably because i was like seven when it was published & by the time i got into reading feminist literature in my teens, things from the 80s already seemed kind of outdated &/or irrelevant. maybe there’s some validity to that perspective, maybe it’s the hubris of youth, maybe a little bit of both. anyway, since the local librarians resurrected the feminist book club, they chose the handmaid’s tale for our february book.

can’t say i was wild about it. i kind of knew what it was about going in: it’s set in a theocratic dystopia in which women are pretty much powerless, & a lot of people are suffering from infertility. therefore, women who are able to have children are enslaved to childless couples & forced to bear children for them.

it just did not sound like something i wanted to read. for starters, i don’t read a lot of fiction. especially fiction that has any kind of sci fi/fantasy/dystopian element. i also am not wild about reading about violence against women, especially sexual violence, & especially fictionalized sexual violence. so many terrible things happen to women in real life, we don’t need to make up stories about it.

but i also didn’t want to be that person that shows up at book club having read sixty pages, spouting off a negative & uninformed opinion. so i grit my teeth & started reading.

that’s when i discovered that another element of the book is that the handmaid narrating the tale has already had a child, who was taken away from her & given to a wealthy couple while the woman was forced into the handmaid education center.

DUDE. the idea of having ramona taken away from me in some capacity is sincerely my worst nightmare. it was nearly unbearable for me to read about this, & also to wonder about this little girl growing up in this awful theocracy where she has no rights, probably being married off eventually to some random man…ugh ugh forever ugh.

lately i have been having a lot of dreams about me & jared breaking up (much to jared’s annoyance–i guess he’s tired of feeling like my sub-conscious has so little faith in him) & i think maybe the root of it is the idea of having to share ramona with whatever separate household jared sets up instead of having her with me all the time. that’s probably a little bit problematic, because, you know, he has as much claim to her as i do. i just hate for her to be away from me. sometimes i even go into the bedroom when she’s napping just to look at her for a while. (note to grown ramona that may one day read this: wait ’til you have your own kid, you’ll understand.)

i did finish the book, because i said i would. i drew myself a bubble bath one day while ramona was napping & just powered through. & it did get better, as far as developing more of a story beyond just “here’s the story of my subjugation”. but i’m not looking forward to discussing it.

i chose the book for our first meeting: poser by claire dederer. i was so looking forward to discussing it with people, especially my mom friend rebecca, who is in the club. but then i wrote down the meeting date wrong & missed it. word on the street is that people did not love the book. one woman didn’t finish it, & another felt that the author was too negative & judgmental of other moms. i thought she was just being honest about the things we all sometimes think, especially because she judged herself more harshly than she did any other woman. have any readers of mine read this book? care to weigh in?

anyway, in the absence of new sewing, i just have to talk about how adorable ramona is. here are some of my favorite things she’s said to me lately:

after i read her make way for ducklings, she placed one hand on the book & the other on my cheek, looked into my eyes & said, “the ducklings are safe now.”

yesterday i gave her a brown marker & she said, “it’s brown. it’s john brown!” she is truly a tiny kansan.

the other day i wiped her face after lunch & she said, “thank you, mommy. you’re such a good helper.” which, of course, is what i say to her any time she does anything remotely helpful.

such as the other day when i was trying to hem my viewfinder skirt, & she stood next to me for like twenty minutes, holding a tape measure up to the skirt & saying, “i am helping mommy sew a skirt.”

she’s also been really into getting lots of kisses before naps & especially before bed. it started with wanting to have the bottoms of her feet kissed (i guess because sometimes i kiss them during diaper changes; her first beauty mark is in the bottom of her left foot & it’s just irresistible), & now she’s all, “kiss the legs? kiss the eyes? kiss the ears? kiss the elbows? kiss the hands?” sometimes she brings her stuffed bunny into it. “kiss the bunny’s feet? kiss the bunny’s belly?” she also sounds so delighted when she thinks of a new body part she can ask to have kissed. recently she has added fingernails to the repertoire.

jared reports that the other day she went through the usual routine: feet, ankles, belly, face, ears, etc. then she said, “kiss the boogers?” man, kids are gross.

today it was raining & we took her to the grocery store. later she announced, “i had fun in the puddles!” then she tried to sing “rain, rain, go away” but couldn’t remember the words, so she said, “rain, rain, go…somewhere else. & come another time with puddles.”

she’s also working on learning the alphabet: “A B C, A B C, A B C A than a mole. come play with me B C!” this is based on her own rendition of “twinkle twinkle, little star” (which, i’d never realized, is the same tune as the alphabet song): “twinkle twinkle, little cat/how i wonder where you’re at/way down in your hidey-hole/better hidden than a mole/twinkle twinkle, little cat.”

10 Comments Add yours

  1. I read Poser & I thought Dederer was fair & healthily tongue-in-cheek about the West Seattle/progressive/attachment/whatever parent culture that she was part of. And I don’t remember books very well after I read them, but doesn’t she eventually come to the conclusion that the parenting stuff is just an extension of her perfectionism? I’d say that’s a pretty self-aware & relevant conversation that’s ideal for a feminist bookclub.

    1. andrea says:

      Agreed. I felt that she was describing impossible standards for moms, and her own relationship to those standards. The part I didn’t like was a lot of her sort of second hand sociology about her mom’s generation wanting one thing, while her own generation wants some other thing. I wrote a review on goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/528932364?book_show_action=false

      1. ciara says:

        yes, exactly! & i agree, the weird stuff where she imagines what was going on with her mom was kind of annoying, & i didn’t super-love all her passive-aggressive complaining about how her family is always wanting to pitch in with her kids, given that we have zero help, but yeah. i really like that book! it almost makes me want to take a yoga class! (which i actually did before i got pregnant with ramona. & then i got pregnant & the teacher was like, “oh, i need to come up with all these other poses for you so the baby doesn’t fall out!” even though i was literally like five weeks pregnant.)

    2. ciara says:

      yeah, that’s pretty much what happens, & why i thought it would be good for feminist book club. however, it appears that i was the only person to get to that take-away, & i wasn’t able to share my perspective because i missed the meeting.

  2. Ellen says:

    Here’s something else to blow your mind – Baa Baa Black Sheep also has the same tune as the alphabet song & twinkle twinkle. We were just discussing this last night – as long as you set your kids’ song to this tune, you’re basically guaranteed a chart-topping song for the ages.

    1. ciara says:

      whoa, i can’t believe i never noticed that before!

  3. hoperoth says:

    I keep trying to join book clubs so that I will read more books… and they keep fizzling out or being awful. Or they’re awful and then fizzle out. One of them, I realized that if I was going to drink wine and not talk about a book, I’d rather get together with actual friends of mine. So, I kinda pulled a teenage move and stopped calling them. I joined a feminist book club and it was always just me and the girl who started it. Awkward and awful. Apparently I am just bad book club luck.

    I read the New Yorker before bed every night. I used to read Real Simple, but then it was just one more thing to read, and was almost like a chore, which felt decidedly less simple. I think that’s because I used to read it in the bathtub. Once our bathtub broke, it just lost its magic.

    I’ve been writing down some of the adorable/funny stuff that LJ says, using the WordPress app on my phone. I should probably hit publish on that sucker.

    1. ciara says:

      book clubs are hard! i’m not very good at them. i read so much more/faster than the average person. i have a really hard time being patient with people who had a month to read a 300-page book & didn’t get it done (you know, assuming it wasn’t because of some kind of life catastrophe).

      i find “real simple” very relaxing. i know it’s so bogus, trying to sell me all kinds of tools & tricks that will make my life “simpler,” when in fact the fastest way to, say, simplify one’s morning routine is to just not wear make-up at all, instead of dropping $15 on a mascara that also curls your lashes. but i love the room make-overs, & i love catherine newman’s advice column. i am really into organizing, “storage solutions” (i use that phrase once a day, minimum, along with “vertical space”)…”real simple” is like my platonic ideal of a magazine.

      i feel like our kids are at SUCH a cute age with the silly things they say. right now ramona keeps ducking in & out of the pantry. she sticks her head out & says, “see you soon!” & goes back in. ahhh! she’s so overwhelmingly adorbs.

  4. Kati says:

    I really liked POSER! and read it because of your Goodreads review. Your Ramona stories are precious. I’m impressed that you can make it all the way through MWfD! My child can handle Cozy Classic board books and Maisy books and similarly short books and wants them over and over but anything too long and she slams it shut. It hurts my children’s librarian heart!

    1. ciara says:

      awww. you know, we built up to the longer books. & there are plenty of times when ramona doesn’t make it all the way through a book. like in “green eggs & ham,” she is OBSESSED with the part where the train falls into the water. she’ll ask for “green eggs & ham,” & she’s cool for the first few pages, & then she’s all, “go to water page! go to water page!”

      on the other hand, her parents got her a 90-page collection of “mother goose” rhymes for christmas. WOE BETIDE you if you don’t read all 90 pages. it takes seriously like 45 minutes to get through the whole book. i dread her asking for it because i know i’m going to be 87 by the time we’re done with it. luckily she’s heard it enough times at vhis point that she has it memorized & will read iv on her own more. but it’s still just a total nightmare.

      i’ve read her the entire harry potter series, a series of unfortunate events, all three pippi books, & all the ramona books. clearly i don’t mind reading to her for a while. but all of those books are at least interesting to me too, as where i could give two fucks about jack sprat.

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