Tag Archives: parenting

Sois Sage*

I’ve spent the past week immersed in the book Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, and like the friends who recommended it to me I’m intrigued.  I’m something of a Francophile as it is, so it’s not much of a stretch for me to be so interested in a book on French parenting.  Like all of those other things that the French do better than us (cheese, wine, baguettes), they apparently know something we don’t in the parenting arena as well.  The book’s author, Pamela Druckerman, is an American ex-pat living in Paris who observed that most of the French children she met were mysteriously well-behaved.  Very few tantrums, sleeping through the night by the time they were two months old, and behaving like angels when taken out to dinner.  She decided to investigate and discovered that the French take a very different attitude toward child-rearing than Americans do, being both stricter and more relaxed. It’s a fascinating book, and worth a read whether you’re struggling with a willful toddler or just interested in cultural differences.

A very happy toddler, making the gateau au yaourt from the recipe in Bringing Up Bebe.

Next on my reading list is a book that, in a happy coincidence, arrived on my holdshelf at the same time as Druckerman’s:  The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, by the French feminist Elisabeth Badinter.  As you can probably tell from the title alone it’s a little more of a provacative read.  I don’t agree with everything Badinter writes about, but it’s definitely food for thought, and although I’m only a chapter in I’m noticing some of the same attitudes towards motherhood and parenting that are discussed in Bringing up Bébé. Pretty fascinating stuff all around.


*Sois sage is what French parents say to their children instead of “be good.”  Although it means something similar, it’s more of an admonishment to be “wise”– giving the child some control over judging how to act appropriately in the situation.  Such a nice way to tell a child to behave, non?


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Happy Birthday to Him!

I hope you will allow me to indulge myself for one blog post. (Although, I guess you can argue that I do that for every blog post.) It just so happens that today, my regularly assigned posting day with no interventions, is my son’s 11th birthday. He doesn’t know that I am writing this (I’m not sure he knows that I write for a blog or even what a blog is), but I will certainly show it to him later today.

7 months old

We all have strong feelings for our children. Hopefully, they are more positive than negative. I don’t believe I could have a better child. He is smart as a whip. It’s mostly A’s on the report cards, if not all A’s.  He is extremely well behaved. I don’t have to ask him to do his homework, he just sits down and does it when he gets home from school. He loves our family cats and eagerly helps clean the litter box and put food in their dish. He not only eats his vegetables, he asks for them and this includes asparagus, lima beans, and brussel sprouts. He is zealous about his interests and I admire that focused, single-mindedness (at least up to a certain point). He is caring and kind-hearted. He doesn’t understand why other children will  go out of their way to treat someone else badly

He enjoys building Legos and is especially fascinated with the Lego people. He collects Pokémon cards and pretty rocks.  He is fond of history,

2 years old

especially the French and Indian War, US Civil War, and World War II. Basically, all wars fascinate him and he watches the Military Channel as religiously as his mother watches the Cooking Channel.  We do find common ground watching shows together such as Bizarre Foods, Iron Chef, Cash & Cari, and Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  He is my favorite sous chef and I now find cooking without him to be lonely.

Lately, I have been thinking quite a bit about what we have in common.  I am grateful he has developed into a young man with whom I can share my interests.  I’ve always encouraged his passions and we’ve had wonderful adventures experiencing them (we still have a yearly pilgrimage every fall to see the trains at Horseshoe Curve in Altoona), but it’s reached the point where he is old enough to actively participate in what I consider to be fun. We like to travel to new places, stay in fancy hotels, eat in nice restaurants, and enjoy doing more ‘grown-up’ things together. I love going to restaurants with him and watching him blow the waiters away when he orders tuna tartare.

Christmas 2004

We both don’t like a lot of noise and commotion in the morning. We are night owls. Every New Year’s Eve he makes it to the ball drop and beyond while his grandmother and/or father snooze on the couch. We share a similar temperament and prefer to please other people as opposed to having conflict with them. We are a lot alike, but different at the same time.  I treasure both the similarities and the differences.  He is a joy and my life’s work.

So Happy Birthday to my baby boy, who isn’t a baby anymore…

-Melissa M.


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I have long been a fan of all things tacky, kitschy, and retro.  Some of my most prized possessions came from yard sales and thrift stores, apparently too awful or weird for their owners to stand any longer.  I also collect Better Homes and Gardens books that are older than me.  And I look forward to the day I can buy a house with loud wallpaper and bright orange shag carpeting, in which to display my terrible treasures.  Imagine my delight when I found a whole genre of books which mock the dated fads of yesterday.

James Lileks more or less founded this anti-nostalgia movement with The Gallery of Regrettable Food, which explores the glistening, gray cuisine and ominous food photography of the past.  The gallery originated on Lileks’ website, as did the follow-up project: Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes from the Horrible ’70s*.  (Take a look at the online precursors, and maybe you’ll see why the full-fledged books had me practically sobbing with laughter.)  Lileks’ third book, Mommy Knows Worst: Highlights From the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice, will make you wonder how any boomers survived their childhoods.  Finally, he returns to mid-century dining with Gastroanomalies: Questionable Culinary Creations from the Golden Age of American Cookery.

Of course, several authors have taken shots at our culture’s most awkward phases.  For more food-related mirth, try The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan: Classic Diet Recipe Cards from the 1970s*, by Wendy McClure.  Fashionable crafters will enjoy The Museum of Kitschy Stitches: A Gallery of Notorious Knits by Stitchy McYarnpants.   While a lot of Bad Taste has certainly happened since 1990,  The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste is still a valuable resource on historic crassness, from Chia-Pets to Charo. Mental Hygiene: Better Living Through Classroom Films 1945-1970* by Ken Smith is both a legitimate study and critique of the industry, and an outrageously funny book.  (To see examples of actual Classroom Films, check out the Coronet Instructional Films page at the Internet Archive.)  And I suppose the only thing I need to tell you about Happy Kitty Bunny Pony: A Saccharine Mouthful of Super Cute is that the commentary was written by that Mike Nelson, of Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame.

Be warned – after reading these, you might find you don’t completely hate velvet paintings, and you’d almost be willing to learn macramé.  But if you decide to try grandma’s frightening Jello Mold, I claim absolutely no responsibility for the consequences.


(*Sadly, a few of these books are not currently available at CLP, or even in the whole county-wide catalog.  These things occasionally happen even at the best of libraries, and someone’s probably working on it even as we speak.  But you can also request titles we don’t own using the Interlibrary Loan System.)




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Bringing Your Child to Work Tomorrow?

Tomorrow, Thursday April 22nd, is the date for the annual Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.  According to the sponsoring foundation’s website,  this event has been going on for over 16 years.  My son informed me that this year, since he is now 10 years old, he would like to accompany me to my place of employment for the day.  He asked in the nicest way possible, even inquiring if the library would allow him to come.
The short answer is yes and now we are both looking forward to spending the day together.  He told me on Monday morning that he can’t wait to come to work with me this week and see what I do.  He then promptly asked me, “Mummy, what DO you do all day?”  I gave him the short answer I think any librarian would give.  I sit at the reference desk and answer people’s questions, I shelve books, I work on statistics and reports, I plan programs, and I attend meetings.  He should get to see me do all of these things tomorrow, as well as help with some of them.
I feel that ultimately, not only will this experience expose him to job possibilities and options for his future, but it will also give him a greater understanding of what actually happens when Mummy says she has to go to work.

Websites offering ideas for planning this day and activities for children you may be bringing to work:
About.com: Working Moms 
Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Foundation Activity Page

Book suggestions for those looking to balance their family and work lives:
Flex TimeFlex Time: A Working Mother’s Guide to Balancing Career and Family
by Jacqueline Foley



Ask the ChildrenAsk the Children: What America’s Children Really Think about Working Parents by Ellen Galinsky



The ComebackThe Comeback: Seven Stories of Women Who Went from Career to Family and Back Again by Emma Gilbey Keller



Life MattersLife Matters: Creating a Dynamic Balance of Work, Family, Time, and Money by A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill



Stop Living Your JobStop Living Your Job, Start Living Your Life: 85 Simple Strategies to Achieve Work/Life Balance by Andrea Molloy



The Daddy ShiftThe Daddy Shift: How Stay-At-Home Dads, Breadwinning Moms, and Shared Parenting Are Transforming the American Family by Jeremy Adam Smith


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Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Picky Eaters*


I had to laugh when I came across Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Matthew Amster-Burton, because for no explicable reason, I sometimes say to myself “I’m a hungry monkey.” Usually when I’m hungry. I also connected to the book because I consider myself a recovering picky eater. It wasn’t until I was in my early thirties before I willingly began eating beets, greens, squash, peppers, and eggplant, and developed an interest in trying new foods. I spent several years as a vegetarian somehow, surviving mostly on grilled cheese and salad (made up of lettuce and carrots). Truth be told, it was a new boyfriend who essentially shamed me into exploring vegetables, and for that I will be forever grateful. “Why do you say you don’t like mushrooms,” he asked me, “when you eat them all the time?”

I also have to give some credit to my mother, who was of the “I cooked it, you’ll eat it” philosophy of dinner. She had no pity as I held my nose to swallow zucchini, or repeated “tastes like sugar, tastes like sugar, tastes like sugar” while chewing asparagus. In my defense, she did go through a rather extreme tofu-making phase from which it is a miracle that I recovered. “Deep fried” was the magical cure for that one. Truthfully, though, I believe the tough love approach worked on me in the end, and now I am a complete farmers’ market junkie.

Ideas about parenting may have changed since I was a kid, and certainly there is a plethora of information to help if you see your children heading down the picky path. Give one of these a try:


*With apologies to Waylon & Willie.

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Calling all parents!

Parenting is probably one of the most wonderful and scary things anyone can experience. From deciding to have children, to making or getting them, to feeding them, to raising them, and uh, getting rid of them. It’s like a big science experiment.

Well, it doesn’t have to be entirely random, since as you probably know, there are a lot of books on the subject! And what better way to figure out which ones are useful and essential than to borrow them from the library? Talk about advice that you can take or leave! A couple of titles you might like to get you started are of course, Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, or the upcoming Confident Baby Care: What You Need to Know for the First Year from America’s Most Trusted Nanny, by Jo Frost

Are there particular issues that you need some extra support with? Whether it’s ADD or autism or wanting to know what they’re doing on the computer all day, or learning to be a stepmother, there is probably a book or two on the topic!

Sometimes the best way to understand something is through other people’s experiences, fictional or not. Some wonderful novels that feature a parent’s perspective are Hens Dancing, by Raffaella Barker and Belong to Me, by Marisa de los Santos. And of course, no one does memoirs like Anne Lamott, whose Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year is not only hilarious, but can even help you with a colicky baby.

Really, though, isn’t the incredible and beautiful thing about parenting seeing how “in the moment” children are, enjoying and exploring life as it comes? Well, speaking of exploring and enjoying life, what’s coming this week is Summer Reading for everyone! This Sunday (June 8th) afternoon is Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Summer Reading Extravaganza, with free food, music, games, crafts, and of course, books for everyone! It will be in front of the Main Library, from 12-5pm. Starting that day, you can register for Summer Reading, where just by reading books and logging them, you can win bi-weekly prizes, like gift certificates and free books. Finish five books by August 31st, and you could be eligible for the Grand Prize! It’s fun for everyone! To register, come on down to Extravaganza on Sunday, or check back here for details!


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