The Weekly Book Review By Jane the Austen

Hello Again! I sincerily Hope you enjoyed the book review of Cheaper By The Dozen & Belles on their toes! 

I have finished The Girl who drank the Moon!

It is very fascinating. And Very Cliffhanging.

It has a madwoman, kind swamp monster, a witch, an  absurdly small dragon, sorrow, hope, and a wonderful main character!

Simply everything you need for a lovely story.

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Why Early Motherhood is a Golden Age for Service, or, How to Build Community with Toddlers and Babies

Early motherhood is hard. Sleep at night is perforated by the bodily functions of the children, from eating to pooping to vomiting. If you fix me with that pediatrician stare and say “Enurises,” my eye will start twitching. Really. It’s funny.

When one is the caretaker of babies and toddlers, it’s really, really easy to get depressed, bored, lonely. Sleep deprivation, stress, and postpartum hormones don’t help. But service does help. The best kinds of service lift people out of their isolation, sadness, and boredom, give children a deeper appreciation for what they have, and build a culture of love that goes beyond family, friends, and comfort zones.

So, without further ado:

4 or 5-ish SOUL-HEALING, HEART-LIFTING, RAINBOW MAKING SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES FOR MOTHERS OF YOUNG CHILDREN (Including Toddlers and Babies):

  1. Become cultural companions with an immigrant/refugee family. Or just befriend them. In husband’s and my experience, befriending people brand new to America is really easy. If you’ve ever been in a foreign country with no familiar people around you, you know how lonely it can get, and what a blessing a friendly and willing stranger can be. It’s possible he has run into jet lagged new people at the library before and invited them for dinner. Because he’s awesome like that. I’m going to write a whole post on why kicking it with brand new Americans this is the best life choice you could ever make, but here, I must be brief.
    1. WHY THIS IS IDEAL WITH CHILDREN:  Immigrant young mothers are going through all the same difficulties as you are, compounded by language barriers and culture shock. When you have children in common, it’s amazing how well you can bond and communicate without a common language. The joys (and bodily fluid messes) of motherhood transcend language, culture, religion, and nationality. Trust me. Also, our babies all speak the same language, and it’s adorable.
  2. Go to a nursing home. I am blessed by friends who regularly organize trips to nursing homes all over our area. We go with them to sing songs, hand out cards and pictures, hold hands, and generally have a lovely, loving time. And every time I go, I think, we need to do this all the time. Every week. Every day. Why aren’t we living at the home with these wonderful people when their time with our children is so obviously, mutually beneficial????
    1. WHY THIS IS IDEAL WITH CHILDREN: The sweet souls we visit all love our kids. Even (perhaps especially) the baby is a wonderful volunteer, who will snuggle and smile at every elderly grandma who wishes to hold her (I have to help support baby and arthritic hands). Babies are magical in nursing homes. When Husband and I went as fiancees to volunteer, they’d sometimes hold our hands and want us to stay longer than we could. It breaks the heart to leave. With the baby, the arthritic grandmas talk to each other so excitedly about having held her, the parting is not as sad. Older children learn compassion and gentleness and end up being rather reflective on things like aging and mortality. It’s good for everyone, at every age.
  3. Neighborhood clean up. They’re picking cigarette butts off the curb anyway. Might as well give them some gloves and a receptacle that’s not their mouths.
    1. WHY THIS IS IDEAL WITH CHILDREN: Fresh air. Running around. Dirt. GERMS! This doesn’t actually need elaboration.
  4. Bake Treats for Neighbor. Because neighbors really do seem to enjoy sugary pinterest fails with toddler fingerprints in them.
    1. WHY THIS IS IDEAL WITH CHILDREN: Sugary. Pinterest. Fails.
  5. IN CONCLUSION:
    1. JUST SERVE. Because it fills the postpartum soul in ways that a pint of Ben and Jerry’s* cannot. Strange, but true.

 

*Though this is also an excellent remedy for postpartum woes.

The Gift of Hypocrisy

I believe hypocrisy can be a precious gift.

It’s not ideal to say and teach one thing, and do another. But far worse than that is abandoning principle simply because we have not fully lived it ourselves.

There’s a lot of very popular rhetoric that runs along the lines of “you do what’s best for you, everyone does what’s best for them, and there are no one-size-fits-all ideals.”

While this may be true for the lactose intolerant and hypoglycemic, moral principles are not food. They are stars, meant to be reached for, stretched for, yearned for, because they feed our souls, build our lives into better things, and stave off degeneration and depravity.

One of the things I most appreciate about my (divorced) parents: They so thoroughly taught me about the sanctity of marriage.

They never backed down from that, they never shrugged or added caveats or let their own divorce shame them out of teaching me, and wanting for me, a whole and unending marriage.

They never abandoned the reality, importance, and grandeur of this institution, even as divorcees.

“Don’t do this,” they both told me. “Get married and stay together.”

There are some who would claim it’s hypocritical to tell your child to reverence marriage, to fight for it and make it work when they themselves are divorced. Maybe it is, but if it is, it is a gift for which I am grateful. If anything, having failed at an ideal or value can give us our own particular insight to it, if we don’t throw in the towel and insist that it wasn’t worth aspiring to in the first place. Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed.

If perfect embodiment of a principle was a prerequisite to teach said principle, then we’re all unqualified to speak on anything of worth. If we don’t teach our children to strive for patience, simply because we are not patient, we’re restricting their access to something that will give them a happier life.

Should we practice what we preach? Absolutely. But failing that, we should preach what we ourselves aspire to.

A world without striving for goodness is a dark place indeed. Let’s not call darkness light simply because we’ve inadvertently, or even deliberately, poured water onto our candle. Dry off, find a match, and try again. And even while you’re fumbling in the dark, having snuffed the fire, you have the right, perhaps even a moral obligation, to tell everyone you know how wonderful and real candlelight is.

A Few of My Favorite Things: The Fancypants University Chalkboard

When we first arrived at Fancypants University, Jane the Austen was nearly eight. Eight, in our faith, means if a child is willing and prepared, she may enter into the covenant of baptism, which dear Jane the Austen joyfully did.

Husband the Man’s parents came to witness said event, and as we were walking through the auspicious grounds of Fancypants University afterwards, we came upon a very large dumpster that was being filled with the innards of one of Fancypants University’s historic edifices.

Peeking over the top of said dumpster was a perfectly lovely chalkboard.

“What a terrible waste!” says the Father In Law. “That chalkboard is perfectly lovely!”*

“Why yes, it is,” I reply.

“Surely you could use something like that in your homeschool endeavors?”

“Why yes, I could.”

And that is how it transpired that Father in Law dumpster dived for us and retrieved a perfectly lovely chalkboard for our homeschooling endeavors. We use it every day. And often, it reminds me of Fancypants University, Father in Law, and beloved Jane the Austen’s baptism.

Mathematical calculations on the above photo are courtesy of Mister the Rogers.

The End.

*Forgive the artistic liberties, Father in Law. I couldn’t remember your words verbatim.

Museum Training (or, potty training level 2)

What you need for a grand adventure in the wilds of Urban Connecticut:

  1. Library Card (Obviously. What true adventure doesn’t involve one?)
  2. Baby wrap (one without buckles and adjustable plastic things. Too complicated)
  3. Purse with diaper in it (I gave up on diaper bags ages ago. Viva la resistance!)
  4. Progeny (count twice to make sure you’ve got them all)
  5. Umbrella Stroller (for the short of stature do weary fast)

 

It is best to museum train the children. This is like advanced potty training–one must hold in all the joy and only let it out in non-antiquity destroying ways. It’s slightly harder than potty training, because children’s bladder and bowel capacities are finite; their capacity for joy in the beautiful is NOT.

Despite the worry associated with allowing a child within sneezing distance of a priceless piece of art, the payoff is worth it. Set low expectations and leave when they still want to stay. Ask a million speculative questions about the art, and the children end up feeling a sense of ownership. They each have “their” favorite painting at Fancypants University Art Gallery. Fred the Roger’s painting is a 50 million dollar Van Gogh. And he hasn’t sneezed on it….yet.

On one of our first visits to the Fancypants University Art Gallery, the Museum Guard demonstrated the “gallery pose.” You clasp your hands behind the back and lean towards the painting. He told the children they could get as close to the art as they wished, so long as they had their hands behind their backs and didn’t touch the painting with their faces.

On this particular field trip day, we went to the library first. So as to have something to read when Mom has to stop in the middle of cutting across Fancypants University to get to Fancypants Art Gallery in order to breastfeed Lucy the Maude. As one does.

We made it for an hour of museum time on this particular afternoon before Fred the Rogers was hungry, Katherine the Great was tired, and Lucy the Maude was done tolerating a nursing cover. She prefers to dine al fresco.

If I could do it inconspicuously enough, I’d have nursed her blanketless; but even when the children are perfect museum patrons ,they are still flashing lights and sirens, drawing disproportionate amounts of attention to our little group. Me, unceremoniously flashing the staring art professor with Undergrad art history class in tow when Lucy the Maude comes unlatched to grin and coo, is just one scene too many. Yes, I know the Fancypants galleries are rife with portrayals bared nipples and nursing infants; I’m just not prepared to join their ranks.

There are coin-operated lockers for stashing our things whilst in the museum. This is to safeguard against a 9th century Chinese vase “accidentally” ending up in the preschooler’s Spiderman backpack. I understand, Fancypants. I understand.

Upon retrieving our things at the end of our cultural excursion, we found ourselves in a hallway traffic jam with a small army of Fancypants University Caterers who were preparing a Fancypants feast. They went slack-jawed and doe-eyed at the children, and the little beggars scored to melon ball fruit skewers.

And I got a Fancypants Punch Recipe, which I am dying to make:

-Ginger Ale

-Pineapple Juice

-Orange Juice

-A bunch of “grown up drinks” than I will never be “grown up” enough to drink. Because I’m drunk on life, darnit!

I don’t remember the proportions, but it will be delicious in any ratio. I’m sure of it. And it will be virgin.

And that, dear friends,

is the long story of how my children scored free melon ball skewers on field trip day.

The end.

 

 

The Weekly Book Review by Jane the Austen

Hello!

This week I thought it might be nice to start off with “Cheaper by the Dozen” and its sequel “Belles on Their Toes.”

If you ever feel that five children in the house are a lot, read these two books. It will make make you relieved  and wanting more kids at the same time!

Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes are so so sweet and lovely.

Even those wild brothers of mine would most likely love it. And That is something.  If they  could sit still long enough. He,he,he.

It will make  laugh out loud.

It will make you cry out loud.

I advise you, read these wonderful two books.

-Jane the Austen

Nonreason and Reason for Modesty: an addendum

There’s one more* Nonreason for Modesty:

Nonreason for Modesty 6:

Because I’m OK being party to dress codes or modesty guidelines that are sexist because they disproportionately effect girls.

Actual Reason for Modesty 6:

Unless a dress code has different body coverage requirements for men and women, it’s not actually sexist.

But…but…it’s harder for girls to comply with dress codes establishing a standard of modesty!

Perhaps that’s because society, not the standard of dress, is sexist.

I live in Fancypants University College Town, a delightful city rife with overachievers. This means that I can’t go anywhere (read: anywhere affluent) at six a.m. without seeing cardio enthusiasts out and about in all manner of spandex and lululemon and cycling gear. And athlete for athlete, the girls will be less covered, and more tightly wrapped, than the boys. WHY? There is no (practical) reason for this.

When I go to a concert on the town green, the boys will wear t-shirts and jeans. The girls will wear tank tops and short skirts.

When I go out on the town with Husband the Man, the men around us will be covered from bowtie to argyle sock, while the women will be mostly bare from strappy heeled-ankle to flippy mid thigh skirt to plunging neckline.

I have enormous respect and admiration for the women of my generation. They have broken into one Good Old Boys’ club after another, they have sweated and worked and become the tops in their fields. They fight for social justice and equality, seek to reform the world into a better place, and command respect with their passion and eloquence.

But in the face of breaking down one barrier and glass ceiling after another, many, if not most outside of religious and orthodox communities, passively service society’s insatiable demand for exposed female flesh.

They’ve submitted to the notion that “athletic” for women is tighter and lower than for men. “Casual” for women is shorter and barer than for men. And “formal,” for women, is 2-3 times as exposed than it is for men.

This enables and feeds into widespread public entitlement to women’s exposed bodies.

Some will even defend it. Passionately. They will say that championing the notion of modesty is oppressive, cruel,shaming,** and that bared flesh is empowering, without bothering to ask the very crucial question:

Why do we feel that nakedness empowers us?

Because we’ve been told it does.

We’ve been told millions of times, in advertisement after movie after TV show that uncovering your female body, down to the breast, up to the thigh, sheer through the lace, tight at the waist, is how we can be beautiful, how we get attention and praise and respect.

We’ve been told that our value lies in our giving the whole wide world access to our bodies, access to our flesh.

If we defend this narrative, dismissing championing of modesty as misogynistic, how can we expect the world to change? How can we push back the constant demand for and commodification of women’s bodies when we are feeding it with our own?

The world wants to commodify women. We’re expected to be tightly packaged, transparently wrapped pieces of meat on public display. We are expected to be bare, vulnerable, unprotected from the elements, unable to so much as squat down to change a car tire without giving ourselves to every passing motorist, baring our flesh for public gratification.

Where men are covered, dignified, closed off from the scrutiny, shielded from heat and cold or a fall to the asphalt, a woman’s body is eternally vulnerable, held up to a microscope by the sheer, scanty, and tight clothing offered by fashion and trend.  It is unfair and deeply, deeply sexist.

When a dress code that holds men and women to the same standard of coverage makes dressing harder for women, it’s not because the dress code is sexist. It’s because the rest of the world is.

*OK, this isn’t the final Nonreason and Actual Reason for modesty, but it will do for now.

**People saying stupid and unkind things is not OK. Having a basic dress code for a place of work or a school is another thing. If you want to be taken seriously, distinguish between the two. If you want to change a dress code, don’t disregard it and throw a tantrum (ON. OR. OFF. THE. INTERNET.) when it’s enforced; talk to the people who make policy. In a nice, calm voice. But really, is splitting hairs over shorts length or shoulder coverage worth your time and energy? I would submit that there are

many

other

causes

that

help

women

more.