Friday, February 22, 2013

Just read the book

I have had a lot of favorite books through the decades. In elementary school, Anne of Green Gables and Little Women were at the top of my list. In high school, I was obsessed with Jane Eyre  and A Room With a View. During college, I focussed on Jane Austen's rather large catalog. In grad school, I was all about Edith Wharton. I still maintain that Age of Innocence  is the best American novel ever written. As a grad school dropout, my favorite books were those that didn't require any thought or analysis. I seem to remember a lot of John Grisham.

These days, I don't have a favorite. I'm kind of all over the map with what I read. According to Ella, though, my Kindle is filled with nothing but "books about mass murderers, serial killers and assassinated presidents." I'd protest that she was being unfair, but she does have a point.

Over the years, the books I have always, always come back to, though, are Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. I have read them so many times that my paperback editions disintegrated and are now held together with rubber bands. I swear I could identify my copies by how they smell. I knew passages of each by heart because I had read and reread them.

I wanted to be Anne. I wanted to be brave and stubborn and willing to crack a slate over someone's head. But as my sister once pointed out, I'm much more of a Marilla. I also wanted to be Jo - free spirited and creative and willing to sell her hair to help her family. There were also times I wanted to be Beth. I envied her patience and kindness and beautiful death scene. I never wanted to be the know-it-all Meg or spoiled-rotten Amy, though. Never.

After Ella was born, I started picking up copies of my favorite childhood books as I saw them. In addition to Anne of Green Gables and Little Women, I couldn't wait to introduce her to Little House on the Prairie, The Phantom Tollbooth, James and the Giant Peach, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Through the Looking Glass, just to name a few.

When Ella learned to read, I counted the days until she'd be ready for chapter books, stacking my favorites in her room.

To my everlasting delight, Ella loves reading as much, if not more than, I do. She always has her nose buried in a book.

So what's the problem?

She won't read the books I want her to. Absolutely refuses.

Each time she complains that she is out of books, I helpfully and hopefully hand her one of my favorites. She just rolls her eyes and wanders off to browse the book closet on her own. She has read all of the Harry Potter books many times over, wanting to be Hermione and hoping that her invitation to Hogwarts would arrive on her 11th birthday. She's read all of CS Lewis, which I couldn't stand, and The Hunger Games trilogy, which I have no interest in.

She's also discovered some cool series like the Mysterious Benedict Society and You Have to Stop This. I've enjoyed reading these books along with her.

But she still won't read my favorites.

She finally read Anne of Green Gables last year as part of a school project. When she told me she had been assigned it, I did a happy dance around the room. I knew, just knew, that once she met Anne, she'd want to read the rest of the books.

Yeah, no.

When Lily started reading chapter books, I figured I had a second chance to introduce my favorites. I moved all of them into Lily's book shelf and offered them to her each time she asked for something to read. She is most decidedly not interested, and refuses all my suggestions as stubbornly as Ella does.

Lily's been home all week sick, and I've been suggesting that she go read instead of beg to watch movies. She came in the other day to tell me she didn't have anything on her Kindle that she hadn't read yet. I did a happy dance and loaded Anne of Green Gables on to it. She sighed and rolled her eyes.

"I don't understand," I said. "This is my favorite book. And it was Aunt Sarah's, too."

"Yes, but that was you and Aunt Sarah," she replied. "I'm Lily, and I like different things."

I hate it when my kids are smarter than I am.

So I have resolved to back off and stop pushing books on the girls. But I still feel like a bit of a failure as a mother, English major, writer and avid reader. Some day, someone is going to look at Ella and Lily with the same shocked look I have, and say, "What do you mean you've NEVER read Anne of Green Gables? How is that possible?"

Campbell is now reading, but I know better than to try my favorites with him. He came home from the library this week proudly clutching some Star Wars book. Elizabeth is my final chance. Her middle name is Anne-with-an-E. Maybe she'll want to read about her namesake.

But probably not.

Here are the books I will never, ever try to get my children to read.
Where the Red Fern Grows (honestly, I think I have PTSD from that damn book)
The Yearling
The Summer of My German Soldier
Rumble Fish
The Outsiders

Monday, February 18, 2013

Someone talk me out of this

This is Robin Wright on House of Cards. I love her haircut. B and I have been rationing our viewings of the show, but each time we watch, I sigh about how much I want to cut my hair short.

I have always been willing to experiment with my hair. I've turned all of it pink, I've turned parts of it pink. I've cut off 10 inches for charity. I've cut bangs on a whim. I've bleached it almost white blond and I've turned it deep auburn.

My philosophy is that it's just hair and it will grow back.

But I just can't quite talk myself into getting this haircut. I know better. I know it won't work, no matter how much I love it. And I know I will spend the next year wishing I had never cut my hair short.

How do I know?

Because this is what happened the last time I cut my hair short. It just sticks up in a lumpy mess. It won't matter how much product I put in it and how much time I spend with a blow dryer or a flat iron. My hair will be a sticky-upy, lumpy mess.

I've been polling family and friends about whether I should try it. Knittergran says yes. Liz @Peace, Love & Guacamole says I should talk to a professional first.

B says I should get another tattoo.

What to do? What to do?

Friday, February 08, 2013

A piece of my childhood is gone

Have you seen the news? It turns out that Mary Ingalls, of Little House on the Prairie fame, probably did not go blind from scarlet fever. A new article in the journal Pediatrics proposes that, instead, Mary suffered from meningitis or encephalitis. The article's author, Dr. Beth Tarini, looked through medical records from the era and studied Laura Ingalls Wilder's memoir Pioneer Girl, which was the basis for the Little House books. She also looked at the records from the school for the blind, which Mary attended as a teenager. According to the records, Mary went blind due to a "brain fever." 

This has turned my world upside down. It also reminded me of one of my favorite posts ever. I wrote it back in 2010 for a now-defunct site called Deep South Moms. 


My youngest daughter recently had croup (which I call THE CROUP, complete with jazz hands). When I posted on Facebook that the baby had croup, my sister's immediate comment was "get the ipecac." I laughed out loud, because I knew exactly what she was talking about.

In Anne of Green Gables, which was our favorite book growing up, Anne saves Diana's little sister from the croup by dosing her with ipecac.

Elizabeth was sick enough that we ended up at the doctor's office. After he had finished the exam and confirmed my diagnosis, I asked him about the whole ipecac thing. He laughed when I told him about Anne of Green Gables and said that he had seen that particular episode while watching the mini-series with his daughters. Then he told me that giving kids ipecac really was standard treatment for the time. When he was in medical school, he went to a Q&A session with an old pediatrician, and one of the other med students asked the doctor how he would treat croup. The doctor's immediate answer was ipecac. Go figure.

My doctor said that there are two theories on why it worked. First, it's chemically similar to an opiate, so the baby probably gets good and relaxed, which stops the coughing fits. Second, it may just make the baby throw up enough that the coughing stops. Either way, it's not recommended by anyone anymore.

But all of this reminded me of the time I diagnosed my oldest with scarlet fever, which I told the doctor about. Ella, who was three at the time, had already been in to see him and had tested positive for strep and started antibiotics. But that night she broke out in a rash all over her chest. I pulled out my trusty Dr. Spock and decided that it looked like scarlet fever, and I freaked the heck out.

I immediately phoned the on-call pediatrician, who explained that there are several types of strep and a few of them produce a scarlatina rash, which is commonly called scarlet fever. This is the rest of our conversation.

Me: But Beth in Little Women  DIED from scarlet fever.

Doc: (long pause) Yes, but that was before they had antibiotics. Ella has already started taking hers. She'll be fine.

Me: But Mary in Little House went BLIND from scarlet fever.

Doc: (another long pause) Again, that was before antibiotics. Ella will be fine. I promise.

My doctor laughed at the story, but he also made me promise to stop diagnosing my kids through children's literature.

When my sister first read Little Women she got to the end and asked what had happened to Beth. When we told her that Beth died, she looked perplexed and said, "The book said she went to a better place. I assumed that meant the beach or something."

I fully expect the next literary medical discovery to be that Beth did, indeed, go to the beach and lived quite happily in a better place. 

And speaking of beloved children's classics, have you seen what a publisher has done to Anne Shirley? Just.No. 
Updated to include a note from my sister: This totally leaves out that I was seven or eight and the copy of Little Women I had was abridged and the fact that Beth died was NOT well explained. Mom immediately bought me the full version. I feel like my reading comprehension skills are under attack when you tell the story without all the details