Category Archives: Jen & Lauren Chat

Chat: If Our Daughters Want to Shave Our Heads, We Will Let Them (And other parenting lessons we learned from Will Smith)

Willow Smith shaved her head recently, and when Parade Magazine asked him about it, Will Smith said this:

“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”

Inspired by Will Smith (a phrase I never in a million years thought I would type), Lauren and Jen talk about setting boundaries and answering tough questions.

Lauren: So, would you let Dorothy shave her head?

Jen:  I shaved my head, when I was 19.

Lauren:  Cooooool.

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(Chat) The Push-Pull of Motherhood, Careers, and Other Grown-up Pursuits

This week’s chat is our take on the whole Mommy Wars/The Conflict/work-versus-home dilemma we face. Ultimately, we agree that there needs to be less at stake for mothers who want to both be there for their kids and have a working life of some kind. We also wonder what alternatives there are to identifying through an occupation, and how do you become a “real” writer, anyway?

12:20 PM Lauren: Holly slept through the night last night, for the first time in her life.

In her own bed, too.

12:21 PM Jennifer: WOW. AWESOME!!!!

Do you feel like a new, well-rested, human person?

Lauren: Well, I woke up at 5 convinced she was dead.

So I’m still kind of tired.

12:22 PM But yeah, it’s exciting. It was April when Robin started sleeping through the night as a toddler, too, so maybe this trend will stick.

Jennifer: I hope so!

Lauren: Me, too.

12:23 PM So, how’s the old work/life balance treating you today?

Or identity-discovery-through-vague-means?

12:24 PM Jennifer: Today was Wacky Wednesday, so it took longer than usual to get ready. But the girls were very happy and excited, and my schedule is more flexible, because it’s exam week, so we actually had a really nice morning.

12:25 PM Lauren: Nice!

Jennifer: Of course, next week I have 2 days of professional development and 2 field trips to the zoo and no childcare lined up yet, so this happiness probably has an expiration date.

Lauren: I *hate* the scramble for childcare.

12:26 PM And I don’t even have family around for that kind of thing!

12:27 PM Jennifer: I’ve been thinking since I posted yesterday about why is it that I feel stressed so much of the time when I have what appears to be a functional balance. And I think child care is a huge part of that stress.

The cost to put the girls in full day care would negate my financial contribution completely.

12:28 PM Lauren: That makes sense. Just the fact that your schedules shift every week, so you can’t just say M-F 12-4 or whatever…

Jennifer: But also, our schedule is different every single week, because Tyler’s schedule is different every week.

Right.

Lauren: Yeah, that’s our situation right now. Which is why me going to making very little money but staying home more doesn’t make much of a difference.

(Can we have a moment to acknowledge how much retail SUCKS?)

12:29 PM Jennifer: It’s so hard. So hard.

12:30 PM And because we are pulling multiple sitters/moms/sisters as child care, every week is a weird patchwork: on Monday, Dad will be home, and on Tuesday, mom will drive you to school but Grandma will pick you up, and on Wednesday the other Grandma will watch you all day and take you to school, and on Thursday…

12:31 PM Lauren: I have to say that sounds nightmarish to me, I hate that scrambling. We went through that last year when Holly was more of a baby…

OK, every morning you’ll both go to daycare but I’ll pick you up BEFORE lunch.

Then in the afternoon, a babysitter will come but different sitters at different times, oh wait she’s suddenly unavailable, how will I ever get anything written, etc etc.

12:33 PM Jennifer: Right. It’s insane. But any time we talk about going to a more structured care schedule, the cost seems insane, and then we start saying, oh, wait, sometimes you’re off on Wednesdays, so why would we pay for care every Wednesday when at least 1 of those we won’t need, etc, etc.

Lauren: Totally.

This makes me so glad our daycare has us pay ONLY for the hours we use. But yeah, most places you pay for a “slot” rather than per hour, which makes it really expensive.

12:34 PM Jennifer: Do you try to work at home while you are also parenting?

Lauren: Not really. I pretty much gave that up when Robin was a toddler and kept trying to “help” me grade or read with me.

I just end up getting really pissed about being interrupted.

12:35 PM Sometimes I can write (personal stuff, not academic stuff) with the girls playing nearby.

Jennifer: I had to give it up too. Sometimes when I’m in a real crunch to grade I can get a few things done while they watch Dora or something. But mostly it’s a lost cause.

12:36 PM Lauren: I can’t straddle those worlds.

I can move between them, but not inhabit them simultaneously.

Jennifer: Same here. I’m happier and more productive if I draw firm boundaries.

12:37 PM Lauren: So, why can’t we feel satisfied with our partial commitment to mothering/homemaking, and our partial commitment to a profession?

Why isn’t adjuncting enough for either of us? Why isn’t SAHMing appealing?

12:38 PM Jennifer: For me, I think I love my job too much to SAHM. I would miss it. My colleagues, my students, the time in the classroom– I really like what I do.

12:40 PM And I feel like I am maybe unusual in that I also really love the more SAHM type stuff: classroom parties, field trips, going to the Childrens Museum, playing in the garden. But I don’t think I want to give up the fulfillment of my job for it.

12:41 PM Lauren: I have realized that I like the SAHM stuff that involves interacting with the girls.

If I can take them to the park, play with them, hang with them — awesome.

I just need someone else to do the cooking and cleaning while I’m out.

As I’ve said before, I like the maternal but I’m not wild about the domestic stuff when it comes to SAHM.

12:42 PM But I don’t get INTO it the way some people seem to. I don’t relish planning crafts or whatever.

Do you think a full-time CC teaching position would be fulfilling?

It seems like it would be pretty ideal.

Jennifer: I like cooking and gardening. I despise cleaning and organizing.

12:43 PM I would love to have a full time teaching job at the university I’m at. Because the stuff I teach is interdisciplinary (WGS, lib studies) I’m less likely to be a good fit at a CC. But conceptually, yeah: a full time mostly classroom gig is my dream job.

12:44 PM Lauren: Duh, I thought you were at a CC — sorry.

Jennifer: No prob.

I feel like even though it would be more work hours, it would be less stress.

12:45 PM Lauren: Well, having the income of a FT position is really helpful.

No doubt about it. And the benefits.

Jennifer: Right. Better finances means more childcare options means less chaos.

12:47 PM I do like the balance of working very little in the summer and closer to full time in fall/winter.

Lauren: I kind of like a steady stream of work

I wish I could work part-time all the time

And do work I feel really good about.

12:48 PM But I worry that PT teaching is leading to burn out. I’ve felt very checked out an uninvested in my teaching this year.

12:50 PM Jennifer: Do you think that has to do with the status of part time faculty?

Like, if part time were valued equally in the university hierarchy, would there be less adjunct burn out?

12:51 PM Lauren: Maybe.

I really think if I was around more, and had some space on campus, I’d feel more hooked in.

But right now I’m in and out, as bad as any adjunct who’s a ghost, you know?

12:52 PM Jennifer: I recommend pretending that a popular lounge is your office. That strategy has worked well for me. Although it is also kind of crazy.

Lauren: We only have one TA lounge and it’s kind of a drag.

ANYWAY: I think it’s a mindset thing more than anything, but I’m trying some new things out instead of assuming that I have to be or want to be a FT teacher.

Jennifer: What’s your game plan?

12:53 PM Lauren: I have absolutely no game plan.

I am adjuncting one class in the fall.

I just interviewed for a position doing advocacy for a campus union that’s super PT.

Otherwise…..??? I don’t feel pulled strongly to a JOB, you know?

I like the idea of income, and the idea of having somewhere to BE, and of feeling like I make a difference

But I don’t want to just go out and work at Kmart, you know?

12:54 PM I don’t want to work for the sake of working, especially if it means being away from my kids. If I leave my kids, the job had better be meaningful.

12:56 PM Jennifer: Yes. I definitely agree. And I feel lucky that I have stumbled into a job that feels that way. I feel like a lot of what’s missing for me is structural support.

Lauren: YES

Jennifer: I have purpose as a mom and a prof. But I need better pay and health care and more flexible/affordable child care.

Lauren: Don’t get me wrong, teaching is awesome. I LOVE IT. I just need a break from it.

Definitely

12:58 PM Jennifer: I would also like the flexibility to move in and out of full time/part time/time away without fearing that I will be replaced/be seen as replaceable.

Lauren: Right, the dreaded MOMMY TRACK.

Jennifer: Yes.

Lauren: People have been so serious in warning me that I shouldn’t stop teaching

JUST IN CASE

Because ANY GAP in employment is the kiss of death, I guess

12:59 PM It might hint that I think my kids are more important than teaching the 4 adults who attend my reading class on MW mornings.

Jennifer: And how could that possibly be, right?

But ti does feel that way.

it.

1:00 PM Lauren: Especially when they’re very young, yes, my kids trump teaching.

Jennifer: And I don’t even know if that’s a real fear or if it’s just a thing everyone says but that wouldn’t actually matter because I have never attempted to find out!

Lauren: I don’t know if I should be a SAHM but I do think I should be Canadian. I think I’d have thrived as a Mom in a system that pays you for a full year after you give birth.

I needed it to be ok that my babies mattered more for awhile. Not permanently, but for awhile.

1:01 PM Jennifer: Yes: Structural Support. Why do so many Americans think that is bad/crazy/socialist/evil?

Lauren: EYE ROLL

1:02 PM I don’t know but it makes me nuts. Actually…

I think I recently heard that there is a lot of bipartisan consensus among people that more/better family leave is good.

It’s probably businesses that have the clout there,

Jennifer: That makes me crazy.

Lauren: I think it’s interesting that we met in a writing workshop, but neither of us has really considered what role writing plays in our developing sense-of-selves-as-mothers.

1:03 PM Can we talk about fulfillment outside of “occupation: housewife” or “occupation: teacher/whatever thing that is paid”?

Jennifer: YES.

1:04 PM So, the thing about me is that I basically let go of any self-identity as a writer when I left grad school. I had been beaten up for so long about my writing that I just…. stopped.

1:05 PM And then, just before Margeaux was born, I started thinking about blogging, and I talked to Marian (from Runaway Sentence) about the logistics.

And then I found out that somebody else had the blog name I picked out, and so I totally gave up on the idea.

Lauren: Oh no!

1:06 PM Jennifer: And I honestly couldn’t tell you why I decided to go to the workshop with Ariel. There is no logical reason why I should have driven to Iowa in the winter and left all my girls home and gone to a writing workshop when I was not a writer and had actually not written anything in years.

But I did, and there you were.

1:07 PM Lauren: I did it because I needed an antidote to grad school.

I don’t know about you, but writing is working for me: the more I do it, the more I want to do it.

Jennifer: YES.

Lauren: But I have no idea how to translate that into some kind of life path, you know?

1:08 PM It feels like I should DO SOMETHING MORE with it than just post it for free online! 🙂 Yet I don’t know if it needs to be a paid gig or something to “matter.”

1:09 PM Jennifer: Right. the blog has been an amazing, awesome experience for me. I love writing. I love reading your posts. I check our stats. but… are we writers?

If we want to be WRITERS, should we be, like free lancing for Parents magazine?

Is that a thing writers do?

1:10 PM How would we even do that?

Lauren: I’ve looked into it

Jennifer: HA!

Lauren: It looks way too much like doing homework 😛

Jennifer: I love that you have looked into this.

Lauren: It’s a lot of filing and reading to figure out what the editors want and then matching up your voice to theirs.

I mean, I would love to do some freelancing, but I don’t want to write articles like “Ten Ways To Beat the Heat!”

1:11 PM Jennifer: Nope. Well, maybe? No, probably not.

Lauren: I really spent a lot of time one weekend being like “I could do this!!”

And then feeling like I was still in grad school, having to do research to write a paper that would meet a teacher’s needs but not mine.

1:12 PM I want to be able to write in a way that includes my perspective. I want to write personal stuff.

1:13 PM Jennifer: Yeah, me too.

Lauren: I guess I feel like if I’m taking time away from my children, and doing something that requires me to pay for childcare

1:14 PM Then I have to be earning money

Jennifer: Yes.

Lauren: I have it in my mind that next year I’d like to have more time to devote to writing — whatever THAT means — but I don’t know how to have a job that pays enough and takes little enough time that it’s possible to do that.

I love teaching but if I teach more than 1 section, grading will suck up that down time.

I like the idea of the job I interviewed for but it might be time intensive at times, and that makes me nervous.

1:16 PM But I feel like a heel because I am not a “real” writer

Right?

I’m basically taking time off to UPDATE MY WEBSITE

Jennifer: Most days I feel like I’m not a real anything.

I’m not a real writer.

Lauren: It has this cheesy geocities feel to it.

1:17 PM Jennifer: I’m nto a real prof.

I’m not a real SAHM.

Lauren: Right. YES. When do we hit that threshold so we can feel REAL at something?

Jennifer: And the thing is that to my students, I am a real prof. And to my girls, I am a real mom.

1:18 PM Lauren: So whose eyes are we seeing ourselves through?

Jennifer: EXACTLY.

1:19 PM So how do I stop the madness and chaos and self doubt and insane scheduling and too much mac and cheese and find some peace in doing what I’m already doing well, for teh most part?

1:20 PM Lauren: Right.

The whole “bloom where you’re planted” thing

I suck at that. I’m never satisfied with now.

Jennifer: We need a cutesy Mary Engelbreit graphic there.

Lauren: yuck 🙂

1:21 PM Jennifer: I kind of love M.E. Not sure why. More importantly:

WHY AREN’T WE BLOOMING?

Lauren: It’s like we’re blooming, but we can’t see our own blooms, because we are wearing the BLINDERS OF PATRIARCHY

1:22 PM Jennifer: ALSO THE BLINDERS OF CAPITALISM.

Lauren: Fuckin’ capitalism man.

1:23 PM Basically: how can we feel really good about the non-Mom stuff we want to do, even if it doesn’t pay

And about the Mom stuff we do want to do, that isn’t Pinnable

1:24 PM Jennifer: Yes. I want to be able to see my self and my strengths more clearly. I want to be able to enjoy the days I spend with my girls and the days I spend at work.

1:25 PM I want good healthcare and flexible, reasonably priced child care.

I can’t figure out if these desires make me feminist or Buddhist or Socialist or all 3.

Lauren: I want better maternity leave so you don’t have to plan your birth around a semester schedule.

Jennifer: YES.

1:26 PM I feel so grateful and lucky that we got pregnant with Margeaux when we did, because if we hadn’t, I don’t know if we would have tried for another month, because a July birthday seemed really scary if I was going back in August.

Lauren: Totally

1:27 PM I remember doing those feverish calculations in my mind as a grad student

How can I plan babies so as not to fuck up everything?

Of course when push came to shove we just rolled the dice and hoped it wouldn’t be too disastrous.

But those semesters were incredibly stressful. I was back in the classroom — not for long, but still having to negotiate all that shit — 4 weeks after birth.

I’m not one of those bounce back from birth mamas

1:28 PM I like to sit for like, 3 months, and do nothing after I give birth

I needed more down time.

1:29 PM Jennifer: I feel like the moms I know who have been able to immediately reintegrate into normal adult life are moms who are DISCIPLINED. I’m just too… loose, I guess.

1:30 PM Lauren: I’m just a mess, kinda, I need a lot of adjustment time.

Jennifer: Again: If we were Canadian, this would not be an issue.

Or Scandanavian.

Lauren: (I’m geeking out because Obama is speaking at Iowa right now and I’m streaming it!)

Right.

One of the things I think I’m learning from rereading Feminist Mystique

Is that women go through some identity shit when their babies aren’t babies anymore

Jennifer: YEAH OBAMA!

1:31 PM Lauren: In the 60s, the only option they felt they had was to become

a Mom again

They would just have another baby to maintain the necessity of their devotion or whatever

Or some would go on to a career or whatever, but that was viewed as a huge deal

Now we have more options, more acceptable options anyway

But I think we may just be hitting a sort of identity THING that women at this stage may go through

1:32 PM What’s next? Who am I? Etc

I just want to keep doors open to possibilities beyond a job in terms of fulfillment. But I know I need something more than “just” mothering.

Jennifer: Yes. And I think if you are part time, it’s harder in some ways to sort through because I can’t fully integrate into any of the worlds I move through.

1:33 PM Lauren: Yes, the shifting is so hard

Jennifer: I can’t join the playgroups, or keep going to breastfeeding support group to be social, because I have to work.

But I can’t go out with the women at work, or go to the more social events (like holiday parties or retirement parties) because I’m needed at home.

Lauren: I have absolutely NO social life.

Jennifer: It’s hard.

1:34 PM Even to get together with my friends with kids, it’s hard.

Lauren: I have been asking other Moms how they do this and it sounds like a job itself

Making calls, following up on things, having parties and snacks

Facebook event creating, etc.

I wish, wish, wish I didn’t live 20 min away from most of our friends. But that’s another topic altogether.

1:35 PM Jennifer: I fantasize about living in a neighborhood with other parents who I like and who have casual social gatherings.

I know people who live in neighborhoods like this, and I envy them deeply.

1:36 PM Lauren: I basically want to live in a housing co-op

I really should have been a hippie.

1:37 PM Jennifer: I want the support network: I want to be able to say to my neighbor, Can you pick D up from preschool on Wednesday when I’m at the zoo with Lucy and I’ll be by to pick her up from your house in an hour?

Lauren: Can you watch Holly while she naps so I can pick Robin up from preschool?

1:38 PM Jennifer: Can you watch Lucy while I take D to get a tetanus shot because she cut her finger on a can in the recycling bin?

Lauren: Can you take this $10 and get me some milk and bread while you’re at the store so I don’t have to run errands with no bra on and screaming children?

1:39 PM Jennifer: This is why people used to live with their extended families.

Lauren: The whole village thing really makes sense.

1:40 PM Jennifer: Because it creates flexible support, which is what we seem to need most, especially when we are trying to be present in more than one grown up world.

Lauren: Right

To not have either mothering nor working make or break the other thing

1:41 PM Being a mom shouldn’t negate my ability to work

Working shouldn’t negate my ability to be a good mom

Jennifer: The stakes shouldn’t feel so high.

1:42 PM Lauren: RIght

Not at this vulnerable time of intense personal transition

This has been a lovely chat!

You need to prep, though, right?

Jennifer: I should try and finish grading this batch of essays before I go in to hear their presentations.

1:43 PM This has been an awesome chat.

Lauren: Have a great class!

Jennifer: Enjoy Obama!

Lauren: You know it!

1:44 PM Jennifer: I’d offer to find an ME Bloom Where You’re Planted image, but wordpress hates it when I use pictures.

Lauren: I’ll take care of it 🙂

Jennifer: Thank you 🙂

TTYL!!

Lauren: TTYL!

You can’t throw a shoe without hitting a recent post about The Mommy Wars or Elisabeth Badinter’s controversial book The Conflict, so I’ll spare you the links. What do you guys think?

 

Jen and Lauren Chat: Sisterhood is Powerful

Jen and I chatted this week about sisterhood, family, and babies. Conclusion: sisters are awesome. So is Eight is Enough.

Lauren:  Let me know when you are ready to chat!

Jen:  I am ready!

How many sisters do you have?

Lauren:  I have one younger sister.

How about you?

Jen:  I’m the 4th of 5 kids; I have an older sister and a younger sister. I also have two sisters-in-law (2 older brothers).

Lauren:  So you are both a little sister AND a big sister.

Jen:  Yes.

But my family is a little odd in that we are two separate generations: my parents had 3 kids close together, waited 9 years, then had 2 more.

Lauren:  So you and your young sis are the two littles?

Also, sidebar: what were your parents thinking??

(I say that in admiration and awe.)

Jen:  Yes: we are “the little kids” or “the girls”.

Do you have any other siblings? Or is just the two of you?

Lauren:  It’s just us two: we are 2 years apart.

My Mom came from a huge family and wasn’t interested in having more than two, nor was my Dad!

Jen:  My mom is the oldest of 5; my dad is the youngest of 3. (He has 2 older sisters.)

Lauren:  So did you feel it incumbent upon you to have more than 2 kids?

Jen:  I always wanted a big family. In fact, when I was pregnant with Margeaux I secretly hoped she would be twins, because I sort of knew I wouldn’t have another but actually wanted more than 3.

Lauren:  I adored my Mom’s huge family and fantasized about having eight kids.

Then I scaled it back to 4.

But I am probably done with my two girls.

Jen:  As I kid I wanted 12, like Cheaper By the Dozen.

Lauren:  YES

Or Yours, Mine and Ours

Or Eight is Enough

All movies/shows I obsessed over as a kid.

Eight is enough to fill our lives with loooove!

I think I really wanted to BE in a big family, not necessarily give birth twelve times or parent/pay for that many kids.

Jen:  Yes. I definitely had no idea what it would be like to birth/parent multiple children.

Though I imagine it will be substantially easier when they are older and not so needy.

Lauren:  Yes, I look forward to that as well.

I loved the idea of all those different personalities, all the hubbub at holidays.

Jen:  And for me, having a lot of siblings has been awesome because I have been closer to different sibs at different points in my life.

Lauren:  My sister married a man who has TWELVE siblings!

Jen:  When Tyler wanted to stop at 2, I worried about the pressure on them to be EVERYTHING to each other.

I still kind of fantasize about having 12.

Lauren:  I also really cherish my close relationship with my sister and parents, and I don’t know if that’d have happened if we had five other sibs.

I have half-joked with my sister that she is my true soulmate/long distance relationship, because I feel destined to get back to a life where we live close to each other.

Jen:  My sibs and I all live within an hour of each other; my sisters are both within 15 minutes.

We share clothes and take care of each others kids and pets.

Lauren:  That’s so awesome.

I’m deeply, deeply, deeply envious of that.

Jen:  When I lived in Iowa, we trained for a 25k road race together one year and then I came back to GR to run with them. It was awesome.

Lauren:  My Mom is close to her many sisters in that way.

Several of them live in IL/WI and they collaborate to care for my aging grandma.

Jen:  My mom and her siblings are taking care of my grandpa, who has Alzheimers.

Lauren:  Here’s the thing:

My sister is definitely my best friend.

I assume that Robin and Holly will be best friends for life: I basically teach them that.

But when you add more sisters to the mix, does it work out that way? Or does it change the rel?

I know some people who hate their sisters, or have gone through phases where they hate their sisters.

So how does this work?

Jen:  My sisters and I have gone through phases where we are very close and phases where we just didn’t have as much in common. But I definitely feel like my siblings are people I can COUNT ON.

They painted my house. They watch my kids. They have given me furniture. We celebrate holidays and birthdays together.

I know that if I need something, they will be there for me.

Lauren:  Exactly.

My sister is the first person I call for practically everything.

With the exception of three-ish years around junior high, we have always been super close and one another’s biggest fans. I named my firstborn after her.

Lauren's Sister/BFF

Jen:  Sometimes Dorothy gets mad and says she doesn’t love Lucy. I just keep telling them, “You might not like her right now. But you will always be sisters.”

Lauren:  There is TOTALLY an ethics of sisterhood in our household.

Sisters are tops. Sisters are number one. We treat our sisters the very very best.

Jen:  Right. Because even though they don’t get it now, I think that establishing that early on matters.

Lauren:  When I was pregnant with my second (we did not find out the gender), we both hoped and hoped and hoped it would be a girl, because I really wanted Robin to experience having a great sister. When Holly was born we were OVERJOYED.

Robin meets her sister for the first time.

Jen:  The other day, Dorothy said, “I am not going to come to your house to visit!” Meaning, when they grow up. And Lucy totally didn’t get the threat and said “We live in the same house.” But I thought it was interesting (and hilarious) that D understands the significance of that as a threat.

Lauren:  Lucy’s like “We will always live together.”

Jen:  I didn’t know the sex of any of mine, but we definitely hoped Margeaux would be a girl.

Dorothy and Lucy Meet Margeaux

Lauren:  As kids, we had family friends with three sisters and they fought terribly.

I mean, they treated each other horribly. But now, as adults, they are all super close and take care of each other’s kids, etc.

So is it in the genes?

Jen:  D and Lucy fight sometimes. It’s intense. And it will be interesting to see what happens when Margeaux grows up enough to really be in the mix.

Lauren:  My little sister (her name is Christine, and she’s 29 so I guess she isn’t really little) is insanely beautiful, smart, and talented.

So most of my anger towards her was motivated by jealousy.

She also has this amazing social life and always has, and I wished intensely to be more like her.

Gratuitous Image of Lauren's Sister

Jen:  I have friends who are brothers who are close in age but grew up in different states because of divorce/custody issues. They are really, really close friends, and they have a ton in common. But they have said that they think they are so close as adults because they didn’t grow up competing with each other.

Which would have been the case, if they had grown up in the same household.

Lauren:  Interesting.

It seems like there’s no way of predicting how things will turn out, but siblings trend towards (at least in our tiny and totally unscientific sample) awesome relationships.

I remember that Chris and I had this intense argument in high school that ended up with us both sobbing in the bathroom

Complimenting each other “You’re so amazing, I wish I was like you!”

“No! You’re amazing! I want to be like youuu!”

Jen:  HA!

Lauren:  I think that was our last major conflict, other than the time I adopted a cat without asking her if it was okay (we were living together at the time).

Jen:  My little sister and I worked together for a while in an after school program. Super fun.

Lauren:  We lived together for 2 years in college

And if it hadn’t been for evil grad school, we probably would live next door to each other or something.

I still fantasize about moving close to her. If only she didn’t live in stinky old Tulsa!

Jen:  Do you guys have any family in Iowa?

Lauren:  No.

We have family in IL and WI — my Mom’s sisters live in that area. But the closest people are still 2.5 hrs away.

Jen:  Does your sister have kids?

Lauren:  No — they are planning to get pregnant very soon.

That’s killing me, I want to help her out so bad.

Not with getting pregnant

With having a newborn.

Jen:  My sister had a baby on Monday.

And my girls are really close with their cousins. I think it would be so difficult to not have those connections.

Lauren:  I spent most of my childhood growing up far away from my cousins/aunts/grandparents.

I yearned to be closer to family in the midwest.

Jen:  I took the girls up to the hospital yesterday and Dorothy sang to the baby and told her about dolphins.

Lauren:  That’s really sweet.

Jen:  It was so amazing. I feel really lucky that they are growing up so close to my brothers’ and sisters’ kids.

Lauren:  They are lucky. You are lucky!

I wish I had that feeling of geographical and… heart… centerdness.

If only all the people who really matter in my life also lived in the same place, and that place did not suck.

Jen:  I knew, even when I was actively working on the phd, that I wasn’t interested in going on the academic job market because I wanted to come back to GR. And that was totally devalued by faculty. But seeing Dorothy singing to Paige? I feel like I got it right.

Not that there aren’t other ways to be right. But for me? This was right.

Lauren:  Because my family lived in a state where none of us felt quite at home

There was a lot of desire to “get out” of Oklahoma

Grad school was that ticket I had been seeking since I moved there in 7th grade.

My parents even moved away, two years later (they live in Kansas City, which is right between Tulsa and Iowa!).

I always thought that the kind of place you grew up was really important, because I’d lived in a place that felt so strange.

But, now I think I may have got it all wrong, because I miss my family like a pain, and raising kids without that support is more difficult than I ever could have imagined.

Jen:  Maybe your sister could move to Iowa?

Lauren:  We actually tried that…

It just didn’t take! She has a really amazing group of friends that have been close since jr. high.

She had a serious boyfriend who she ended up marrying… and he works for the Air Force base in Tulsa…

And his enormous family is all in that area….

So she’s pretty much there for life.

Jen:  So what’s holding you in Iowa?

Jobs, house, a million things, probably.

Lauren:  For the time being, yes —

Brian’s very decent pay at a not-so-great job, and our house.

But yeah — I don’t think I anticipated as a kid the amount of PULL my relationship with my sister would have on my adult life.

I think it was after HS when we were apart that we realized how much we like being around each other, so when we lived together in college it was like roomie heaven!

Jen:  Right. I would never have imagined that my adult life would be so deeply intertwined with my family.

Lauren:  She taped American Idol for me and we even shared a car for awhile without fighting.

Jen:  I put a picture of Lance Armstrong in my sister’s locker at work. We sent in an audition tape to The Amazing Race. I am trying to convince Tyler to move into my older sister’s neighborhood.

I eat dinner with parents or siblings (mine or Tyler’s) at least once a week.

Lauren:  My sister is the only other person in my life who I just never get sick of.

I don’t get tired of talking to her, hanging with her, etc.

(Other than my husband, is what I mean.)

Jen:  So, did our parents do something that made us connect with our sibs this way? Or would it have happened regardless?

Lauren:  I don’t remember my parents placing a particular emphasis on the bonds of siblings.

They were close to their sibs but we didn’t live near my aunts/uncles so I never had that modeled for me.

Jobs took us away from family pretty early on in my life, so it was all phone calls.

Jen:  My parents have always been very insistent on everybody showing up for one another: if there was a birthday or a graduation or some event, you were required to BE THERE. And if you were living out of state, you called. It was expected.

Maybe after a while, all that mandatory attendance tipped over into us actually knowing each other and valuing that?

Lauren:  I think that explicit messages about the importance of family make a lot of sense.

Otherwise, how would we have anyone on our side when we do stupid shit or make a big mistake?

You know? When we get depressed and alienate all our friends and smell bad, who is going to dig us out of that?

I really want my kids to understand that we value family in a way that goes beyond mere liking.

(’cause otherwise we’d have some real problems with members of our extended families!)

Jen:  Right.

And I think as we grow up and change and our identities shift, our friends and peers are often around only for a small piece of who we are. But our families are there for the long haul. They see ALL of us.

Lauren:  Yes

Exactly. Through thick/thin, with a full appreciation of all our complexities.

Which is probably why those relationships are so satisfying as adults. I don’t have any adult friends (other than Brian!) with that depth of connection.

Jen:  Right. And I value my relationships with my sisters-in-law too, even though they don’t have the same amount of history, they are there for the not-so-pretty parts of family life.

Lauren:  Totally.

Plus, I appreciate that my brother-in-law appreciates how fantastic my sister is.

Any mega-fan of her is a friend of mine.

Jen:  Right on

Lauren:  That was basically my wedding toast for them.

Funny stories, then stories about how brilliant my sister is, then complimenting my BIL for having such good taste.

Jen:  In my sister’s wedding toast I talked about how we all listened to my now brother in law’s voice mail at work and evaluated whether or not she should call him back.

Lauren:  Haha

Awesome!

My sister was the first person I called when I decided to quit grad school.

She was the first person who knew I was pregnant (I was visiting, out of town, and Brian wasn’t there).

Jen:  And actually, they met because a childhood friend of my older sister’s ran into my mom at the grocery store, heard from my mom that my little sister was single, and then fixed her up with a guy from work (now my brother in law).

I gave birth to Lucy 2 days after their wedding.

Lauren:  Aw!

Jen:  I was the most pregnant bridesmaid ever.

Lauren:  I was pregnant at my sister’s wedding, too.

I found out right after the engagement, so she had me pick a dress first and then the rest of them matched up to me.

Jen:  So: sisters (and brothers, based on my experience) are awesome, and if our girls don’t grow up to love each other intensely, we will have failed as parents?

Lauren:  Pretty much

I mean, I would be devastated if that happened.

But, it seems like that is unlikely!

Jen:  Agreed.

Lauren:  I do expect some bumps along the way

Namely, puberty

But otherwise, I think R&H will be BFF most of the time.

Jen:  I think it’s okay if it’s a bumpy road. And I’m even okay with them not being BFF. I just want them to grow up knowing that no matter what else is fucked up in their world, they have sisters they can rely on.

Sisters 4 Life

Lauren:  Definitely.

And, I would like to be able to model that for them in person

Rather than just tell them stories about it

Jen:  So in conclusion: you and your sister need to live in the city, and I need to go see my new niece again because this conversation is really making me want to be with my sister and her tiny new baby right now.\

the same city.

You and your sister.

What happened to my typing skills?

Lauren:  Yes, I might move back to Oklahoma to be with her, and that is REALLY saying something!

Enjoy your niece. I’m totally jealous!

There are babies everywhere and spring is a notoriously pregnancy inducing time for me.

Jen:  YOU SHOULD TOTALLY HAVE ANOTHER BABY.

and with that unsolicited possibly terrible advice, I have to go teach my class.

Lauren:  If I didn’t get sick for 5 months straight, and then have kids who didn’t sleep?

I totally would.

Jen: I should go teach my class.

Lauren: OK! Great chat. TTYL!

Jen: TTYL!

What about you? What is your rel with your sister or siblings? What does family mean to you? How did your relationship to your brothers and sisters shape your idea of what kind of family you’d like to have?

Muppet Babies and the Do No Harm Theory of Children’s Television Viewing

This week, we are talking about watching TV with our kids. You will find that Jen and I are rather unabashedly pro-TV. Read on for Muppets, Dora, Kipper and more.

Lauren: I’m here and ready whenever you are.

Dude, 3 more hits and today ties our busiest day so far!

Jennifer: My kids are watching Dora the Explorer, and Tyler has pledged to supervise toothbrushing. I’m in!

8:12 PM Lauren: Sweet!

What time is it where you live??

Jennifer: It’s 9:15. Normally they are in bed by now, but dinner was late so we pushed bedtime back rather than fight over changing the routine.

8:13 PM Lauren: WOW

If my kids aren’t in bed by 8:15 I’m like WTF YOU PEOPLE ARE CRAZY

Summer is definitely bumping everything back for us.

Jennifer: But yours get up early. Mine will sleep till 9 tomorrow morning.

Lauren: I was watching Dora the ‘Plowah with Holly at 5:15 today.

8:14 PM In the MORNING, I mean.

Jennifer: I do not know how you do it. Usually Margeaux wakes up around then, and I just bring her back to bed with me.

Lauren: She won’t accept ANY substitute! And she won’t stay in bed or stay asleep. She just starts whining “wanna get uuuuuup”

8:15 PM Jennifer: Yikes. we have had our share of sleep struggles, but I feel like that would have pushed me over the edge.

8:16 PM Although for a while around age 2 D was having nightmares and would demand to watch Wonder Pets in the middle of the night.

Lauren: I’m inured to it. It’s debilitating at times for sure, but Robin sleeps pretty well at 4, so I have hope that things will settle down, you know, in a few years.

Haha

Yikes

Our fave show for toddlers is a British show called Kipper

8:17 PM It’s completely lowkey and not remotely annoying. Robin was OBSESSED with it, but Holly has zero interest (she is all about Dora).

 

Jennifer: I’ve never seen Kipper!

Lauren: Oh, dude. It’s so good.

Jennifer: We still love Wonder Pets. Also this new show, Doc McStuffins.

Lauren: My kids did not get Wonder Pets. They’re like, wtf.

I do not know of this Doc McStuffins.

8:18 PM We only watch tv streaming on Netflix so we are always about 5 years behind any tv trend and completely dependent on their selection (hence the absence of Disney in our lives).

Jennifer: Doc McStuffins is a 6 year old Af. Am. girl. Her mom is a doctor, and she cures her dolls/toys/stuffed animals of various ailments that she makes up funny names for.

8:19 PM Lauren: Oh dude, that sounds awesome!

Jennifer: My girls have started saying, “What’s the diagnosis?” when they play with their dolls.

Lauren: Robin is OBSESSED with anatomy right now, she would love a show about doctor stuff.

Jennifer: Disney Channel.

Lauren: Fuckin’ Disney.

8:20 PM Jennifer: Maybe you could get it on DVD?

She has a stay at home dad, which is also cool.

Lauren: That is really great.

Maybe someday it will trickle down to Netflix availability.

Jennifer: Someday… and in the meantime you have Kipper.

8:21 PM So what are your tv rules?

Lauren: The rules I wish I enforced, you mean?

Jennifer: HA!

Yes.

Lauren: If I’m following the rules, they can watch one show in the morning and one show when they get home from daycare while I cook dinner.

8:22 PM The rules we always stick to is, no TV during meals, and no TV after dinner.

Any day Holly wakes up at 5 am I pretty much will allow anything if she just lets me sit and zone out.

Jennifer: That all seems very reasonable.

8:23 PM We almost always do tv as part of the evening routine- tv, brush teeth, go potty, stories, songs, bed.

Lauren: I read in a sleep book that TV right before bed makes their brains all crazy

And since sleep is the holy grail in this house, I banned TV after dinner time.

8:24 PM Jennifer: Yeah, it’s probably bad for their brains.

Lauren: We typically play for 15-30 min with Brian when he gets home, which is typically during dinner

So it’s dinner, play, bath, stories, tooth brush, bed.

8:25 PM But TV is def part of our morning routine.

8:26 PM Jennifer: It’s just such an easy way to fill those little gaps of time when I need to be productive and I need them to not destroy anything.

Lauren: Yep

Jennifer: Because free play and art make messes. And that’s fine, but there are limits to when I can deal with messes.

Lauren: For me it’s essential if dishes are to be done or dinner to be made when we get home in the afternoon.

8:27 PM Jennifer: And honestly? I don’t feel as guilty as I think I’m supposed to. They have definitely learned stuff from watching tv.

Lauren: Otherwise I’m interrupted every 5 minutes with needs for shoes, toys, coats, a drink of water, etc etc

Jennifer: Mine do things like play “shirt store” and take all the shirst out of all the drawers.

8:28 PM Lauren: HA!

In moderation, I don’t sweat it.

But, I don’t like the way it dominates our home time

Jennifer: Do they ask for it?

Lauren: And I worry that my kids will be unmotivated blobs like I was as a kid, and I really don’t want to encourage that.

Jennifer: Or is that you find yourself offering it more than you want to?

Lauren: Which is why I really WANT to enforce those rules.

Oh yes.

8:29 PM I find myself saying yes a lot.

I find myself offering out of desperation more than I’d like to.

8:30 PM Jennifer: Dorothy didn’t watch tv (except what we were watching) until I lost my job and unexpectedly became a stay at home mom.

Lauren: The amount of TV we watch is inversely proportional to the amount of sleep I’m getting, let me put it that way.

And I don’t get much sleep.

8:31 PM Jennifer: She was about 1, and I was pregnant, and until that shift to being home I didn’t realize how many hours there are in a day spent entirely at home. And so I began to fill a couple of those hours with Elmo, and we haven’t looked back.

Lauren: Yeah

Jennifer: Yes– I feel you on the more tv when I’m tired.

Lauren: That’s almost exactly the same thing that happened with us.

We didn’t watch kid shows until Robin hit about 14 months and I was pregnant with Holly and then it was all Kipper and Yo Gabba Gabba and Curious George.

8:32 PM Jennifer: Maybe their brains are fried on the inside from all my lax parenting.

But from what I can see, they are doing just fine.

8:33 PM Wonder Pets at 2 am and all.

Lauren: I worry about it when school comes around.

My kids will never be watching whatever shows are cool.

8:34 PM PLUS it seems like gender becomes a real issue as you move into school-age/tween shows.

So I start getting all lecturey and annoyed.

Jennifer: What do you think about gender in the preschool age shows? I know you hate Angelina Ballerina.

8:35 PM Lauren: I hate Angelina for reasons that go beyond gender.

I hate Angelina because the entire construct is completely idiotic, and I find her whiny and annoying, and the more I watch it the more problems I find with it, so it makes me grumpy.

8:36 PM As far as gender goes, Angelina does feature boys who dance, and girls who enjoy dance other than pretty ballerina dancing.

And technically the mice represent different races, so that’s good (I GUESS).

Jennifer: I’m fascinated by the way kids tv shows make the animals different races.

8:37 PM I can’t decide if I think it’s useful or ridiculous.

Lauren: Yes, it’s pretty interesting to parse. Angelina attends some absurd dance school with only five students and each student is from a different country.

It feels tokenish?

I mean, take a really flat show concept with no real narrative

Add stock characters

8:38 PM Does it really matter if Marco is a South American mouse?

Wouldn’t it be just as meh if he was a white mouse with no accent?

Jennifer: Dorothy sometimes makes up nonsense words and claims she’s speaking Chinese, like Kai-Lan.

8:39 PM Lauren: Robin insists that the word “crotch” is Spanish.

I definitely attribute Dora and other shows for my girls’ awesome counting and Spanish speaking.

Jennifer: Ha!

Yes.

8:40 PM Lauren: Often, Robin and Holly play a game where they have to say abre or cierra to get through.

That’s all Dora.

8:41 PM Jennifer: My girls definitely incorporate the basic Spanish into their games. Although I think the Spanish is easier to understand on Handy Manny. And I like that the voice is Fez from that 70s Show. But alas, my girls will. not. watch Handy Manny.

8:42 PM Lauren: We don’t allow Phineas and Ferb anymore because of the sexism.

It’s a shame, because otherwise we enjoy that show as a family. But we can’t get past how sucky Candace is.

8:43 PM Jennifer: We have never watched it- the girls havent really shown an interest.

Lauren: That show would be great if you were raising boys.

It’s all about intelligence and seizing the day, some of the guys are nerdy and some aren’t, it’s based on cooperation and not competition, etc.

But their older sister is this vapid idiot who obsesses over either catching her brothers breaking the rules, or what her boyfriend thinks about her.

8:44 PM She has no interests, identity, or purpose beyond those things. She’s completely uninteresting.

Jennifer: Ugh.

Lauren: The music is awesome and it’s really funny. And it’s sexist so we can’t watch it.

So now we watch Spongebob, which only has ONE female character, a Texan squirrel.

8:45 PM Jennifer: Sandy!

Lauren: Sandy’s kinda hardcore

Jennifer: My sister used to watch SpongeBob when the show first started– she was in college.

Lauren: It really has a universal appeal.

8:46 PM Jennifer: My personal favorite Spongebob episode is the one where the jellyfish are having that crazy party at his house and they’re blasting the music and he can’t sleep.

Lauren: HAha

Our favorite is the Krusty Krab Pizza episode.

8:47 PM Jennifer: My girls aren’t really into Spongebob yet.

They like Cat in the Hat.

Lauren: Holly calls him Spongebob Snowpants.

We did Cat in the Hat for a long time.

It’s okay

I mean, I don’t think it’s brilliant, but I like it. Seems like they air the same eps over and over again so we got bored with it.

8:48 PM Jennifer: Yes- and it borders on too factual/educational for Lucy, who prefers Dora and UmiZoomi above all others.

8:49 PM Lauren: We have played Umizoomi games but we have not seen the show. This is the magical skirt show, right?

Jennifer: Yes. Geo uses his shape belt to build things, and Milli can measure things with her ponytails and change the pattern on her dress to fill in missing parts of patterns.

8:50 PM Lauren: NO. Her ponytail??

Jennifer: Yes. They turn into measuring tapes.

Lauren: Speaking of hair, how do you feel about the final episode of Dora, where she goes from being our androgynous explorer to a fairy princess?

8:51 PM Jennifer: It drives me nuts.

And really, I blame Diego.

Because until the Diego spin off, Dora was not explicitly a girls show.

Lauren: I think Diego was intended to be for older kids, but it ended up being the boy show.

8:52 PM Which is irritating, because S1 and S2 — even S3! — Dora is so gender neutral and friendly to all little ones.

8:54 PM Jennifer: My girls will watch Diego too. But with both Dora and Diego the shouting makes me crazy. WHY DO THEY HAVE TO SHOUT ALL THE TIME?

I know some people are really freaked out that Dora has no parents, but it doesn’t bother me.

Lauren: Yeah, the volume and repitition is a little rough.

8:55 PM I think it’s FANTASTIC that Dora goes out on her own with a map to solve problems.

Oh my God, if my girls can do that, I will succeed as a mother.

I mean she’s basically a Girl Scout!

Jennifer: I feel the same way.

8:56 PM Lauren: Here, you’ll love this:

Jennifer: and honestly, even though my kids are constantly supervised, they are so much more invested in each other and their games and pretend worlds that I think sometimes they see me as sort of a distant, supervisory, non-entity.

In that sense, shows like Max and Ruby and Dora, where the parents aren’t around, probably feel truer to how they exeprience their world.

Lauren: When I was a kid, my Mom kicked us out of the house and was like “see you at dinner”

8:57 PM We wandered all over our neighborhood, within the established parameters.

And that was that. She didn’t even keep the door open to hear us.

Jennifer: HA! (cereal guy)

Lauren: Right: I mean, I agree some of the scenarios are far-fetched/odd, but I think it’s probably right to acknowledge that kids are the center of their own world

8:58 PM And parents move in and out of that world. We don’t have to be the focus or the bosses all the time.

8:59 PM Jennifer: Definitely. I don’t want to play shirt store. And I’m sort of glad they don’t need me to.

Lauren: Right.

I guess I think it’s interesting that we expect shows to pass on messages to our kids, and in some ways reflect reality, but also be wildly interesting and entertaining.

9:00 PM AND educational.

Jennifer: It’s a lot to ask. Definitely more than I ask of the tv shows I watch.

Dancing with the Stars is definitely not meeting all those criteria.

9:01 PM Lauren: Right. I remember one of the folks discussing this with us on facebook said that if a show didn’t have a “purpose” then her kids probably shouldn’t be watching it.

Jennifer: Maybe Project Runway does?

Lauren: Creativity! Sewing! Bitchiness!!

Jennifer: Although, I’m not sure I agree that all kids tv needs purpose.

9:02 PM It can’t be harmful. But it’s okay with me if it’s not super educational.

Barbie Mermaid movie falls into that category.

Or Fresh Beat Band.

Lauren: Right, I remember several people agreeing with you that “do no harm” is ok.

9:03 PM I think this is where I tend to push certain shows and discourage others (ANGELINA) — because I think ok, fine, if you want to watch a show because it’s fun, which is fine, a least make it one with a decent narrative, or decent music, or humor, or something.

9:04 PM How about The Princess and the Frog or Gabba or Spongebob, and NOT the skinny new My Little Ponies?

Jennifer: Have you heard about the bros who like My Little Ponies?

Lauren: No

9:05 PM Jennifer: Let me see if I can find a link. They’re guys who are obsessed with MLP.

Lauren: I do find that, as a Mom, I am surprised at how much I enjoy watching my children enjoy something like a TV show.

9:06 PM We went a little wild with the Dora swag for Holly’s birthday because she just gets SO EXCITED to wear anything with Dora.

Jenniferhttp://jezebel.com/5827591/the-unlikely-origins-of-the-brony-or-dudes-who-like-my-little-pony

9:07 PM Lauren: Wow, that’s really interesting. I’ve watched it and I don’t find it that riveting.

Jennifer: Me either.

We watched the Muppet movie last weekend, and we were thrilled that Dorothy loved it so much.

Lauren: Nice!

9:08 PM Jennifer: Maybe partly because we have childhood connections to it.

Lauren: We had a phase where Robin was into Muppets Take Manhattan: that was awesome.

My girls love the Chipmunk movies.

Jennifer: And partly because it was so hilarious to watch her encounter the Muppets for the first time and try and make sense of them. When Beaker came on, she actually said “Why does that skinny oval keep saying MEEP MEEP MEEP?”

Lauren: (Which I also have some gender problems with, esp. the newer one, but that’s a battle for another time.)

9:09 PM Jennifer: We haven’t seen the Chipmunks.

Lauren: I spent last summer showing my girls episodes of Muppet Babies on youtube while I made lunch

That was pretty great. Muppet Babies is awesome.

9:10 PM Chipmunks are def. a “do no harm” kind of show. The music is pretty good, though!

9:11 PM Jennifer: I think the honest truth is that I like tv, T likes tv, our kids like tv, and I’m more invested in raising media savvy kids than kids who aren’t exposed to tv.

Lauren: To be fair, I should hate Muppet Babies because Piggy is such a psycho. Damn you, nostalgia!!

We live TV, too.

9:12 PM Jennifer: I haven’t watched Muppet Babies since childhood, but I’m totally going to watch it with the girls tomorrow now that I’m thinking about it.

Lauren: And, I do use shows as opportunities to have actual conversations with my kids about choices, bodies, stereotypes, feelings, etc.

(It’s as good as you remember it.)

9:13 PM In fact, the other day, Brian and I were saying that we need to start talking to the girls about commercials. We never see them, which we think is AWESOME and IDEAL, but we want them to know what they are before they start encountering them later on.

Jennifer: This was the first Christmas where the girls realized that the things they see in commercials are actually real things in the world.

Lauren: We plan on telling them that commercials are lies/tricks. It sounds extreme but it’s also kinda true.

9:14 PM Jennifer: My mom definitely told me that Magic Shell and the Easy Bake Oven were lies. Why she chose those products I’ll never know.

9:15 PM Lauren: HAha

That’s interesting

Jennifer: The girls got Stompeez for Chirstmas. Because they were obsessed with the commercial.

Lauren: My parents never talked to us about commercials. I was a total dupe for that stuff.

I want my kids to have robust skepticism when it comes to consumerism.

Are those the weird slippers?

Jennifer: Yup. We have a rabbit pair and a cat pair.

They were definitely overpriced. But kind of adorable.

9:16 PM Lauren: We saw that commercial while visiting my inlaws at Thanksgiving and Robin was really interested.

Jennifer: I felt like they fell into a sort of Do No Harm category.

9:17 PM Lauren: Sure. Animal slippers? Do not harm.

Barbie I’m not sure about.

Jennifer: Better than Bratz dolls.

Lauren: Bratz I’m adamantly opposed to

Haha — great minds.

Jennifer: Ha!

Lauren: Robin got a My Little Pony doll in a kid’s meal last week

9:18 PM And every time I see it I’m like “wow, that pony doesn’t look like a real horse, look how thin and unhealthy this body is, look at the way the nose is too small for her to eat” etc etc etc

Jennifer: We have some My Little Ponies, and some Barbies, and some princess dolls, and some Groovy Girls.

Lauren: Robin’s all EYEROLL on me.

Jennifer: I told Dorothy that Bratz wore too much make up.,

9:19 PM In general, my toy policy is like my tv policy: moderation in all things.

Lauren: I just don’t get the appeal of Barbies. I had ONE Barbie as a kid, and I ended up giving it to the boy next door, who LOVED Barbies.

I got bored brushing her hair.

Jennifer: Ours have snarly hair.

Lauren: I will definitely allow my kids to get the Katniss Barbie!

My friend Steph and her sister did amazing stories with Barbie. So did Pamie at pamie.com. If my kids did that, I’d be cool with Barbie.

9:20 PM Jennifer: My girls mostly use them in pretend games which typically involve someone being stranded and someone else rescuing them. Or someone being hurt and someone else being the doctor.

And they put on dance shows.

But our dinosaurs put on dance shows too.

9:21 PM And honestly, all of that is part of why I feel like tv hasn’t fried their brains. They pretend avidly. ‘

Lauren: Right

9:22 PM I think that if we use TV to start conversations and ask a lot of questions, then it can be ok.

I never want them to accept it at face value. But otherwise, I can be ok with it.

9:23 PM Jennifer: I have actually banned some pretend games (fork people and crayon people). I think tv can be good in lots of ways: to start conversations, to ask questions, to relax when we need our bodies and minds to wind down after a long day.

9:24 PM I like to snuggle up on the couch with popcorn and chocolate milk.

Lauren: Definitely: and I look forward to sharing certain shows with the girls when I’m older.

Mystery series, like I watched with my sister and Mom. Buffy.

9:25 PM Jennifer: Project Runway. Amazing Race. Possibly The Cosby Show.

X-Files.

9:26 PM Lauren: When we visited my inlaws at Thanksgiving, we all enjoyed watching Dancing With the Stars together

I thought that was pretty cool!

XFILES OMG.

9:27 PM Jennifer: Right? I want my girls to at least consider growing up to be Scully.

Lauren: She’s a skeptic

I like that

And Mulder, so cute.

Jennifer: I KNOW.

Lauren: Scully’s cute, too, for that matter.

Jennifer: Yup.

9:28 PM So: I think we are definitely pro-tv. People might hate on us for this.

Lauren: Yeah, I can imagine some people I really admire being like OMGBADMOMMY.

9:30 PM Jennifer: Me too.

Lauren: I don’t know; I keep reading about Moms hating on each other on the internet and I’m just not sure how to avoid that.

I mean, there may be no way to avoid controversy.

9:31 PM Jennifer: Let’s get Ashley Judd to say something about it.

She’s freaking amazing.

Lauren: Totally! And hey, she’s on TV.

Jennifer: Perfect.

9:32 PM Lauren: From our facebook convo, we know that this is something a lot of parents are thinking about

9:33 PM Jennifer: But I think a lot of this comes back to your most recent post: I am not a perfect mom. But I am trying very hard to be the best mom I can be, in the way that is specific to my own pleasures and quirks.

Lauren: And people have divided opinions about what’s appropriate, etc.

I neither think watching TV will ruin my children, nor do I think NOT watching TV will automatically make them good people/better people.

9:34 PM Jennifer: Right.

9:35 PM Plus, the Muppet Babies is just too awesome to deny.

Lauren: I’m sure there are lots of kids who do not watch TV or watch limited TV, and still suck.

Muppet Babies is so. Good.

9:36 PM So when you post this, you’ll have to find lots of Muppet Babies pictures

Because MB worship is what this has boiled down to. 😉

Jennifer: I see nothing wrong with that.

9:37 PM Lauren: Well, it’s my bedtime, since I get up at the asscrack of dawn.

Jennifer: May you dream sweet, muppety dreams.

9:38 PM Lauren: That would be awesome.

Have fun revisiting M. Babies tomorrow!

Jennifer: Can’t wait! TTYL!

Lauren: TTYL!

What do you think about kids watching TV? What are your house rules? Anything we missed when it comes to feminist shows, especially for little ones?

If these issues interest you, definitely check out Peggy Orenstein’s awesome blog and books, as well as the essential resource Pigtail Pals.

Feist on Sesame Street was an early, televised ray of hope when Dorothy was a baby.

Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood does good advocacy work on these issues, though I don’t think Lauren and I are signing up for screen free week.

Geena Davis has run the numbers on girls and women being underrepresented in the media.

(Chat) Hunger Games: Powerful Feminist Fiction With Love as Its Centerpiece, and other YA recs

Last week, we chatted about YA fiction of our youth, waxing nostalgic about the BSC, the Hunky Dory Dairy, and other books we read under the desk during math class. For this week, we decided to focus on contemporary YA fiction, and Jen read Hunger Games (and then Catching Fire, immediately, within hours) for the first time. With a few exceptions, we are over the moon for the trilogy, its heroine, and Suzanne Collins’ political stance(s) in the novels. Read on as we connect the Hunger Games to Trayvon Martin; contrast our fearless and complex heroine, Katniss, with the blah Bella Swan; and speculate about endings for the series (since Jen hasn’t finished it yet).

THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR HUNGER GAMES, CATCHING FIRE, & THE FILM ADAPTATION BELOW.

Lauren: Hi!

Jennifer: Hi! I just finished the second Hunger Games book.

Lauren: LOL

YES!!!

I knew you would be hooked.

2:59 PM Although book 2 does end in a bit of a rush.

Jennifer: Yes. I will probably have to stay up till 2 am again reading book 3 and then I will hate myself a little for not being able to slow down and enjoy it.

Lauren: I read them in about 4 days.

Then I called my sister, who bought them and read them in about 4 days.

3:00 PM As soon as my student returns HG, I will reread them, probably more slowly.

In a way, I was glad I rushed, because I know I’ll catch more details this time around and enjoy it almost as much as I did the first run through.

3:01 PM Jennifer: I will definitely teach them in the fall, and read them more slowly with my students.

3:02 PM Lauren: Yes, I have a book club reading them in one class (college level) this semester and I’ll teach it in my developmental reading class at the community college this fall.

3:03 PM Jennifer: So, can we talk about how much we love Katniss?

3:04 PM Lauren: So much.

Jennifer: So much.

Lauren: I was just reading a review of the movie that waxes rhapsodic about Katniss as a feminist heroine and I was like YES. YES. YES to all of this.

3:05 PM Jennifer: And I admit I was worried about her character getting swept up in the romance/love triangle angle. But instead I feel like that ended up deepening her as a character: we see her flaws, and she sees her flaws.

3:06 PM Lauren: Yes.

Collins really walks the line with that set up, and sometimes veers a little too close to Twilight dramaz, but mostly I think it’s a mature exploration of the way your feelings change as you go through serious shit.

3:07 PM And, you see how people change really quickly when the reach near-adulthood. I appreciate that Katniss, Gale, and Peeta change over the course of the trilogy in ways that resonate with my memories of that 16-20 span.

3:08 PM Jennifer: Yes. And her personal life is so deeply intertwined with these larger political issues and forces she can’t control and doesn’t fully understand, but her recognition and comprehension is clearly growing, and it changes her sense of self, and her priorities.

I haven’t read the last book yet, but I feel like she will end up with Peeta.

3:09 PM Lauren: Yes. I love the way the personal becomes radical in these books. There’s another YA dystopian trilogy — Matched — that is similar.

Well, I won’t give anything away! But I’ll be interested to hear what you think when you’re done.

A lot of people are anti-Peeta!

My students are always like “She should be with Gale!”

But I like Peeta a lot.

3:11 PM Jennifer: I actually think they are both interesting and compelling. And I like that it’s not clear who we are meant to be rooting for as readers.

Lauren: Definitely.

3:12 PM I think because we align with Katniss so strongly, Gale is really appealing because he is very like her.

He’s strong in similar ways, and she relies on him and trusts him, so we do, too.

Peeta’s strengths as a character are very different, and he’s not as physical as Gale

3:13 PM I think there’s some blowback for that, because he may come across as weak and therefore not as masculine/desirable. (In a stereotypical way, that is.)

3:15 PM Jennifer: Right. He’s a baker and a painter- traditionally feminine. And he has a disability, though he never seems to fall into any of the disabled character tropes: no pity party, no bitterness, no supercrip narrative of overcoming all odds. He just has a disability.

Lauren: Tiger Beatdown had an awesome discussion about this on their blog recently.

Jennifer: It strikes me as incredibly rare.

3:16 PM Lauren: They were disappointed — RIGHTLY — that they play down Peeta’s leg injury in the film. Which I didn’t recognize when I saw it, but is really true, and is the one thing about the movie that disappointed me. (That’s my only spoiler, I swear!)

3:17 PM Jennifer: It’s okay! I haven’t seen the movie yet. Does he not get a prosthetic leg?

Lauren: At the end, he’s injured, but it seems to heal up with some magic goo that Haymitch sends.

They dramatically compress the whole cave storyline.

3:18 PM Jennifer: I glanced over the Tiger Beatdown piece when it went up, but I hadn’t read the book, so it didn’t fully register.

Oh…. so they leave it open for him to keep his leg in the second film. Bummer.

Lauren: Yep.

3:19 PM I guess it’s impossible to make the films as awesome as the books.

ANYWAY: what else do we love??

3:20 PM Jennifer: I love that Katniss hunts, and I love that she’s so…. I’m struggling to articulate this. Embodied?

Lauren: Totally!

Jennifer: She lives IN her body. She knows her strengths and her limits.

3:21 PM Lauren: And, the book hints at sexual pleasure as rooted in her body

She’s not worried about what she looks like when she’s making out with Peeta — not even what the cameras are seeing, much. It’s fairly radical.

3:22 PM Jennifer: Yes. And even though the emphasis on superficiality and appearances in the Capitol is obviously characterized as negative, it doesn’t read to me as an indictment of femininity.

3:23 PM Lauren: No, it applies equally to men and women and seems more aligned with capitalism/excess than it does with gender.

Jennifer: Sometimes I think when we get a character who is a physically strong women, we also get a really heavy handed rejection of the stereotypical feminine. But yeah, the emphasis is really different here.

3:24 PM Especially because Cinna is a man, and he’s the one crafting her appearances.

Lauren: Right: although Katniss is certain that she will never have children, it’s not because she looks down on motherhood or whatever: it’s rooted, in a way, in her protectiveness of children. It’s a very strong nurturing that we get in Katniss.

3:25 PM Jennifer: And Prim and her mother have a more traditionally feminine gift for healing, but they’re also portrayed as having physical and emotional strength.

Lauren: A lot of people assumed that Cinna was gay. I don’t know if it ever becomes clear in the books (my memory is dimming!) but in the film he’s not at all stereotyped in terms of sexuality. He’s just a really grounding force in Katniss’s experience.

3:26 PM Jennifer: He’s powerful.

Lauren: Even little Rue has some skills and is not portrayed as some kind of, oh, Bambi or damsel in distress.

3:27 PM Girl gets an 8! That’s not bad!

Jennifer: Yes. There’s a tremendous range of skills and strengths, and they don’t seem to attach to stereotypical ideas about gender. And the framework of the games itself isn’t gendered: everybody’s in the same arena.

3:28 PM Lauren: Class seems to be a much more central construct in the world of Panem — it forges alliances across gender and race lines.

Which is totally awesome. I mean, in the book, you can tell that Katniss and everyone else are Seriously Hungry

It’s the HUNGER games because these people have been starved half to death.

And that is the root of rebellion.

3:29 PM Jennifer: Right. ‘It must be very fragile, if can be undone with a handful of berries’ is pretty much classical Marxism.

And yet people don’t seem freaked out that these books are going to make kids Socialist?

3:30 PM Lauren: Haha

I did find some sites that said “this is feminist commie death porn” or something like that

3:31 PM Jennifer: Focus on the Family actually has a pretty good set of discussion questions. And they point out that the nudity tends to emphasize Katniss’ treatment as an object. Which is basically a feminist insight.

Lauren: That is a feminist insight. Interesting!

3:32 PM I saw the film within a few days of the Trayvon Martin case getting national attention. And I was really struck by the connection between that reality and the Games, in that, you know, we already live in a world where our system is predicated on the exploitation and killing of children.

3:33 PM I mean, the construct of the Games is shocking, but so many people have pointed out how we expect and accept the killing of certain kinds of children as an aspect of modern society.

(Which is one more reason I cried the whole time I watched it!)

3:34 PM Jennifer: Yes, to all that. Yes, yes, yes.

3:35 PM Lauren: I don’t know if it’s necessarily feminist but it seems like the power of love is so central to the HG — the fear of children being killed keeps society in check, and the anger at children being killed leads to the uprising.

3:36 PM Jennifer: And there’s this incredibly layered sense of love: motherlove, love for family and kin, love for place and land, romantic love, friendship, intimacy…

Lauren: Exactly

3:37 PM It’s powerful and complex, which is tremendously moving.

Jennifer: One of the reasons I think Katniss is so powerful as a character is that she’s riding waves of these different, powerful, experiences of love and identification, and they move her in competing directions.

3:38 PM She loves Peeta AND Gale AND Rue AND Prim, and that’s not supposed to be possible.

Lauren: Yes.

And it doesn’t all come together neatly for her, either.

And there’s a LOT at stake!

Jennifer: It can’t. Life doesn’t.

3:39 PM Lauren: For this reason I think you will find the conclusion of the trilogy truly poignant (like me). But I won’t spoil it!! 🙂

3:40 PM Jennifer: Only in Twilight does it all come together neatly, in which you can marry your vampire love and be a vampire and have a baby and your former best friend/werewolf love can imprint on that baby and you can all live happily ever after. (Salon has a great comparison of Bella and Katniss here.)

Lauren: Ugh, don’t get me started on Twilight.

Collins refuses to tie things up neatly for Katniss

Jennifer: I mean, I’m assuming Gale and Peeta and Prim and Katniss don’t all move in together in some cottage in the woods after the rebellion successfully overthrows the Capitol.

3:41 PM Lauren: That means she experiences true love and true pain, and that is powerful.

Yes, Gale turns into a dog and then they go hunting together and Peeta bakes bread.

Prim marries Peeta and….

Katniss ends up with Haymitch!

(Just trying to complicate things for you.)

Jennifer: I love those endings.

3:43 PM Okay. So we love the emotional complexity, the centrality of love, Katniss as an embodied feminist heroine, and the fact that these books may be turning kids into Socialists but nobody is freaking out about that.

What have we missed?

Lauren: Well, the plot itself is pretty stinking awesome.

The action is compelling. It’s a great transformation of your average death match scenario.

Jennifer: YES, and let us not forget the critique of reality tv!

3:44 PM Lauren: I’m thinking of other movies that are similar, like Running Man or Death Race (which have you seen it? it’s not feminist but it is awesome!) but in those, the death match is between criminals and criminals have no rights so it’s ok to cheer them on as they kill each other.

Making the death match between children is a fabulous twist.

3:45 PM YES I love the reality tv angle. I love the PR nature, and how Katniss feels pressed to conform to femininity so SHE DOESN’T DIE which is pretty high stakes.

3:46 PM Jennifer: But also, it’s so clear that femininity is a construct, and that actually complying with femininity (weakness) would be deadly. SHE CAN’T WIN EITHER WAY!

Lauren: Exactly.

Jennifer: So powerfully feminist.

Lauren: In the film

Jennifer Lawrence perfectly captures the performance angle

3:47 PM When she’s doing the whole Katniss-smiling-and-waving thing but her eyes never smile

They’re in that wide, school photo kind of false happy position and it’s so clear that she is conflicted and uncomfortable. But of course the audience isn’t tuned into that.

I mean the audience of the show within the film.

3:48 PM Jennifer: I can’t wait to see the film.

Lauren: I suggest you go tomorrow 🙂

3:49 PM Jennifer: So, it seems pretty obvious that this is not the YA of our youth. Even the hard hitting diabetes books aren’t on this level.

Lauren: Totally!

The YA dystopian genre is really booming right now, which is really interesting.

3:50 PM I find it fascinating to compare/contrast the author interpretations of the future and visions for different forms of government, different relationships with technology/consumerism, etc.

3:51 PM Jennifer: I’m not as familiar with the genre, but it strikes me as far more political than what would have been considered edgy books/issues when we were reading YA.

Lauren: Definitely

There sure is a lot more death.

Jennifer: I remember edgy mostly dealing with interpersonal issues: drugs, alcohol, family violence, maybe poverty. And always individualized.

3:52 PM Lauren: And a lot of unease about the relationship between people and the gov’t, super Foucauldian questions about what is normal/healthy and what is aberrent, political questions about moreality and ruling, etc.

RIGHT — ohhh, divorce! Pregnancy!

3:53 PM A lot of these new books focus on a female protagonist, which is cool.

3:54 PM Matched is one, that series is more cerebral and romantic but really interesting, I thought.

3:55 PM Jennifer: I was completely amazed by how obvious the political questions are and by how clear the feminism is in Hunger Games and yet it never felt heavy handed to me. If these other series are comparable, I’m totally going back to reading YA.

Lauren: Divergent is another series with a female protagonist that everyone swears is as good as Hunger Games — and in terms of action it is pretty good — but I didn’t think it was nearly as moving or deep as HG.

Yes to what you said — this is why I think HG will be a great teaching tool.

3:56 PM Feed by MT Anderson features a male protagonist and takes consumerism and social media to a terrifyingly possible and absurd conclusion.

I just heard about a series called Shipwrecked that I want to check out, too. (sic — it’s called Ship Breaker)

3:57 PM Jennifer: Awesome. I will have to check these out after I finish the third book. In which I am certain Peeta will marry Prim and Katniss’ mom will marry Haymitch and Katniss will marry Cinna, who be miraculously alive.

3:58 PM Lauren: Right, Cinna comes back as a hologram created by a rogue gamemaker, just like Yoda.

Jennifer: who is. sorry. terrible grammar there.

YES! Or Rue could come back and Katniss could come out.

Lauren: YES!

3:59 PM Well, none of those things happen, but I think you will be proud/pleased of the end of the series anyway.

I found the 3rd book pretty satisfying.

Jennifer: I would read it right now if I didn’t have children to feed and essays to grade.

4:00 PM Lauren: For realz.

That was definitely a series I was reading at stoplights!

4:01 PM Jennifer: Let’s see if we can interview Suzanne Collins for the blog.

Lauren: I’m sure she’s totally into interviews with fledgling feminist mom bloggers.

I’ll have my agent call her agent.

Jennifer: I’ll have my people call her people.

Lauren: We’ll do lunch.

Jennifer: My people are a 5 and a 3 year old wearing princess dresses and demanding pink milk.

4:02 PM Lauren: Ha! Sound like Capitol folk ;).

Mine are grubbier and just as demanding.

Jennifer: Yup. Maybe I’ll get them Katniss dolls for Christmas this year.

Lauren: SRSLY. Be like Katniss! PLEASE!

4:03 PM Jennifer: I can’t give them bows and arrows or I’ll have a mini Hunger Games in my living room.

Lauren: Haha, yes — that kind of intense sisterly love isn’t always in abundance, is it?

4:04 PM Jennifer: It’s always intense between them- but they can go from hugging to hair pulling at the drop of a sparkly princess crown.

Lauren: Same with my 4yo/2yo.

Jennifer: Sounds like another chat: how do we teach them to love each other Prim and Katniss style?

Lauren: We should definitely do a chat about sisters.

4:05 PM Jennifer: You’re on. Right now I should feed these sisters, before there’s a District 8 style rebellion.

Lauren: OK, I will get this posted tomorrow in our continuing post-stravaganza. (Join our awesome giveaway!!)

Jennifer: AWESOME. 4k here we come!

4:06 PM Lauren: We’re almost halfway there, yeah!

TTYL!

Jennifer: TTYL!

If you’re hungry for more analysis of Katniss and the HG Trilogy, check out these fantastic articles and sites:

Hunger Games Tweets — Brings together all the commentary about racist responses to the casting of African Americans in the film. We didn’t get into this because it’s been done brilliantly by folks at Racialicious, Jezebel, etc.

NYT review of the movie and commentary about Katniss as a feminist warrior and “American Adam” archetype, both insightful.

Intriguing commentary about Katniss as a new female superhero, whose feminine characteristics give her power.

Another feminist blog also loves the movie.

Sexy Feminist debates whether or not Katniss is a feminist heroine.

And check out this BRILLIANT Hunger Games/Mad Men MASHUP at Bitch Magazine!!

What did you think about the books and movie?

YA Lit of Yesteryear

This week, Jen and I chatted about YA literature we loved in our youth, mostly late 80s and early 90s. Next week, we’ll discuss contemporary YA lit, with a special focus on HUNGER GAMES!!!!! WHICH JEN HASN’T READ BEFORE!!! OK I’m too excited.

We discovered this fantastic blog that reads/reviews novels and series that we read as kids, so if you’re looking for a bit of nostalgia, check out Nikki’s blog. She has it all broken down by category. Fantastic. This blog is also about awful series from the 80s (featuring one of my faves from youth, The Gymnasts!) and she’s just started back up, so that’s cool.

For snarky fun about the BSC, check this out:

OK, let’s get our nostalgia on!

Lauren: Are you ready to chat?

2:17 PM Jennifer: Yes! Can we talk about The Hunky Dory Dairy, in which a girl tries to marry her mother off to an Amish ghost?

Lauren: WTF. We can talk about that as I add it to my Goodreads “to read” list

2:18 PM Jennifer: I think he was actually from the past, but my tween mind conflated that with the present-day Amish.

Lauren: That sounds really hot.

Sexy Amish ghost is definitely the kind of thing I’d form a crush around.

2:19 PM Jennifer: The girl and her mom were able to travel back in time on a milk truck. It was awesome.

Lauren: That sounds fantastic.

Jennifer: Tweens of today are missing out!

Lauren: It’s all vampires these days, gross.

Jennifer: We had Goosebumps. More ghosts, fewer vampires.

2:20 PM Lauren: Totally: Fear Street and Christopher Pike books were all about serial killers and ghosts, but I don’t remember vampires being a big deal.

Jennifer: The Bunnicula series was about vampire bunnies, right?

Lauren: YES.

2:21 PM I was just reading recaps of those books.

We actually read that book as a class when I was in 3rd grade. But Bunnicula was a vegan-pire. He needed vegetable juice.

2:22 PM Jennifer: Right. I remember the cover being orange, with a picture of a bunny and a white vegetable-maybe a stalk of celery? The juice had been sucked out of it.

 Lauren: Yes. I also had one of the sequels, Howliday Inn, which I liked quite a bit.

Jennifer: Right. We had that one too.

2:23 PM Lauren: I don’t know if those qualify as “YA” lit but they were very good.

Jennifer: I think I read those around the same time as the Baby Sitters Club, but before the Sweet Valley Twins.

Lauren: We should maybe do something scandalous and name years here

Jennifer: I was not allowed to read Sweet Valley High, and so I read them on the playground in sixth grade.

2:24 PM Lauren: Because as I was making notes for this, I realized that I read “YA” lit for a fairly limited amount of time before I started taking smartass AP lit classes in HS and didn’t read for fun anymore

And I wonder if our years overlap that much or what ages we considered ourselves reading “YA” lit.

Jennifer: Oh, yikes. I can work backwards from my high school grad to my YA years…

2:25 PM Lauren: I was never forbidden to read books, but I probably should have been because SVH was a) awful and b) full of adult shit that was not appropriate for a 4th grader to read.

Jennifer: I believe I was reading SVH secretly on the playground in approximately 1988.

Lauren: I started reading YA-ish stuff around 4th grade (which for me was ’89) with my biggest reading years being 5th and 6th grade. Tapered off in early HS, around ’95.

2:26 PM Jennifer: I remember a particularly scandalous scene involving one of the Wakefield twins making out with a boy in a pool.

Lauren: I know someone had a boyfriend who wasn’t in HS and there was some shady shit, I think he was on drugs.

Do you remember Enid, Elizabeth’s BFF? WTF kind of name is Enid?

Didn’t she end up paralyzed or something?

2:27 PM Jennifer: I don’t remember Enid. Or drugs. But I had to read quickly and in short increments, so I sometimes had to just read the sections other girls marked off as “good”.

Lauren: Nice!

2:28 PM I didn’t get into SVH deeply, I think it was just too beyond me at that age.

It might as well have been based on Mars, it was so unrelated to my quotidian existence in Peoria IL.

BUT, I DO remember hiding the fact that I read the Children in the Attic series. (sic — should be Flowers in the Attic)

2:29 PM Jennifer: Right. Most YA felt like that to me. The BSC was an exception, which may be why I read them so avidly.

Lauren: Because that stuff? Was TWISTED. And I knew my parents would not be cool with that content. I interlibrary loaned those books and seriously thought the librarians would not let me check them out.

Jennifer: Nobody I knew was allowed to read the Children in the Attic books, so nobody had copies to circulate on the playground.

And my mom took me to the library.

Lauren: Wow, draconian censorship in Michigan!!

My Mom took me to the library but paid ZERO attention to what I did or read.

2:30 PM Jennifer: I did read a lot of sunfire romances, which my mom didn’t approve of but also didn’t forbid.

Lauren: Which is why I could read about incestuous sex and allllll kinds of other things that made me feel funny.

Haha. I went through a romance novel phase in 8th grade.

I can remember the first one I read REALLY clearly, I kind of loved it.

It was a completely typical Harlequin romance but I remember it in detail.

2:31 PM Jennifer: The Sunfire series was actually written for YA readers. Historical romance fiction. I remember one about a Pilgrim girl who came over on the Mayflower.

 Lauren: Oooo. I hated historical fiction, but continue.

Jennifer: She fell in love with someone inappropriate, of course. A pastor’s son? A Native American? I don’t remember.

Lauren: Hot.

2:32 PM Jennifer: Right? I recognize the romance novel tropes now, but it was all news to me then.

Lauren: Completely.

Now that we’re talking, I realize how much of my YA reading activities had to do with finding and then hiding books that would tell me secrets about sex.

The BSC was obviously not in this category.

2:33 PM I remember reading a book about a teen pregnancy and being like !! (Someone to Love Me by Jeanette Eyerly) and one that had a (SHHHH!) gay person (Crazy Vanilla by something something).

Jennifer: But isn’t that how everything about adolescence is? Simultaneously trying to hold on to childhood and fast forward to adulthood?

Lauren: Right

2:34 PM Jennifer: Oh! I remember my first book with a lesbian character. Annie on my mind?

Lauren: Juxtaposing Ramona Quimby with Sweet Valley and making it work somehow.

http://www.canonballblog.com/?p=2584

2:36 PM Jennifer: YES. I can see the cover clearly in my mind. Weird how the cover art stays with me for so many of these books.

Lauren: I can remember weird flashes of images from the books but not always the covers.

Probably because I sped-read through them so often.

2:37 PM I know I’ve read every Nancy Drew — or at least every one written until about 1991 — even the shitty newer ones.

 Jennifer: I read alot of Nancy Drew. Also Trixie Belden.

Lauren: Totally!

I got all my friends hooked on Trixie Belden in 4th grade.

Jennifer: And some of the newer Nancy Drew meets the Hardy Boys.

2:38 PM Lauren: Yes. I ended up getting irritated with those books, ultimately.

Mostly because the personalities of all the characters were expressed entirely through their wardrobes, and their wardrobes were absurd.

Jennifer: Wardrobes and cars. What more could you possibly need to know?

2:39 PM Lauren: Yes, the cars.

And Nancy’s weird rel with her Dad, and was she seriously 18 the whole time?

Jennifer: Totally unrelatable for me. Did you ever read a book that made you want to change your name?

I desperately wanted to be Anastasia, like Anastasia Krupnik.

2:40 PM Lauren: Natasha was a name I loved.

A lot of my play at that age — 4th/5th/6th grade — involved using a “fake name”

I think my first fake name was Victoria.

Jennifer: I may have even vowed to name my daughter Anastasia. Sorry, 11 year old self. That promise had to be broken.

2:41 PM Lauren: I remember a fondness for the name Acacia

which is a kind of tree. In 4th grade I actually asked for and received a baby name book for Christmas.

So I got a lot of strange inspiration from that.

Jennifer: I named a tree in my parents yard Algernon, after Flowers for Algernon.

Lauren: Awww.

I read that for school in 8th grade.

2:42 PM So, clearly a defining feature of YA fic in the late 80s: WEIRD NAMES.

Jennifer: Also: I felt like a lot of YA characters has intense relationships with their moms that didn’t seem like my real life at all.

2:43 PM Lauren: Interesting.

Jennifer: The Hunky Dory Dairy, The Great Mom Swap, You Shouldn’t Have to Say Goodbye (the mom dies of cancer in that one).

2:44 PM Even the girls in the BSC seemed to have a level of friendship and understanding with their moms.

Lauren: Funny, I keep thinking of books where the Moms are absent or checked out in some way… Ramona Quimby‘s Mom works, several of the Moms in Willo Davis Roberts books (Don’t Hurt Laurie, Megan’s Island, etc) are absent or messed up…

  Maybe we were seeking out opposites?

I was pretty chummy with my Mom, at least she was around a lot and I trusted her.

2:45 PM I didn’t confide in her about my crushes or like, get mani-pedis together, though.

Jennifer: Right. My mom was definitely not a confidante.

2:46 PM Lauren: Clearly not with her anti-SVH policies.

Jennifer: And even though she took us to the library and sometimes set limits on books, I don’t remember talking to her very much abotu what I was reading.

Lauren: Yeah…

My sister, Mom, and I all swapped books together, like mystery series we all liked (Charlotte MacLeod books, Cat Who mysteries)

2:47 PM but we didn’t talk about them a lot.

My sis and I did, but not with Mom for whatever reason, even though we were all burning through the same series.

Jennifer: Huh. My mom and I swap books as adults, but that didn’t start till I was in college. Maybe even grad school.

2:48 PM Lauren: We still get each other books. A few years ago, my sis and I read the same mystery series by Louise Penny

and got all huffy when my Mom said she didn’t like them. We were like WTF you are nuts.

But it isn’t all book clubby. Although now my sis and I buy each other books so we have someone to talk to about them like, ahem, Hunger Games.

2:49 PM Jennifer: I LOVE to talk about books now (it’s why I became a professor!). But as a kid and a teen, I thought of reading as a really solitary space. Books were a buffer between me and a world that DIDN’T UNDERSTAND.

Lauren: YES

So true

2:50 PM My heaviest reading years were my most miserable: 5th and 6th grade.

I read all the time: on the bus to and from school, under my desk DURING school, at the dinner table, when I woke up, when I went to bed, etc etc.

Jennifer: Yes. I read constantly. Every available second. And I read some books over and over.

2:51 PM Lauren: Definitely.

I would check out stacks of books, like 20, and get through all of them.

Jennifer: I was limited to 10 a week from the library.

Lauren: Did you like fantasy lit?

Jennifer: I read Madeline L’Engle’s books over and over.

2:52 PM A Wrinkle in Time, of course, but also the series about the Austin family.

Lauren: I got through the first 3 but when Meg grows up, I get disinterested.

2:53 PM I actually reread those last summer and experienced the same loss of focus in Swiftly Tilting Planet, so I moved on.

2:54 PM Jennifer: It’s funny how my memories of them are so hazy, (dolphins? starfish? wasn’t one of them a marine biologist? did they travel to other planets? a couple of them were psychic?), but I vividly remember how intense the experience of reading them was.

Lauren: Yes to everything you just said.

My sister loved those books.

Jennifer: I think I loved them for the same reason I loved Dirty Dancing: smart girl AND love AND sex.

Lauren: She always finished series that I never got through, like every Anne McCaffrey book ever written, the Austin stories, Chronicles of Narnia.

Jennifer: Although Dirty Dancing didn’t have the dolphin angle.

2:55 PM Lauren: YES I remember the sex stuff too and loving how adult she treated her readers about it.

Jennifer: Oh, I loved Chronicle of Narnia too.

Lauren: I only got through book 3.

Apparently I have a short attention span! 😉

Jennifer: Ha!

Lauren: I also fizzed out on Anne of Green Gables books after book 4.

Jennifer: I wanted to be Anne of Green Gables.

2:56 PM Lauren: After she married Gilbert I was like, borrring! And I knew one of her kids died and that made me too sad so I just avoided it.

Jennifer: Actually, I wanted to be most of the characters I read about. And I actively sought out books about death, even though I would cry uncontrollably while reading them.

Lauren: Awww!! ❤

I identified really strongly with characters, too.

2:57 PM In fact, I think that’s one of the reasons I had to STOP reading fantasy novels.

I went through this really intense phase in 8th grade

Where I was obsessed with The Three Musketeers.

I mean, I wrote fanfic novels based on it, and only listened to classical music (?) and convinced myself I’d been born in the wrong century.

2:58 PM Jennifer: Did you know there is BSC fanfic? It’s disturbing.

Lauren: And it just got so depressing to think about how none of that stuff would ever happen to me — I couldn’t go back in time, and I couldn’t become a wizard or talk to dragons. My life would never be that cool. So I just had to quit.

BSC fanfic?? The books themselves are practically fanfic, how is that even possible?

Please tell me it isn’t slash fanfic.

Jennifer: Yes. It is slash fanfic. * see clarification at bottom of post

Lauren: NO.

2:59 PM I.

NO.

Jennifer: YES.

Lauren: THAT IS NOT OK.

Jennifer: That was my feeling as well.

Lauren: NOW I HAVE TO GOOGLE IT. DO NOT MAKE ME GOOGLE IT

Jennifer: I can’t stop you. But you’ll regret it.

* * *EDITOR’S NOTE: DO NOT LOOK UP SEXUALLY EXPLICIT BSC FANFIC. YOU CAN’T UNREAD IT. SAVE YOURSELF. * * *

3:00 PM Lauren: Noooooo

Jennifer: I remember reading books like The Egypt Game and wishing desperately I had some special secret power that nobody around me knew about. But yeah, on some level I knew it wasn’t true.

Are you reading BSC fanfic right now?

Because I warned you.

Lauren: “stacey comes back to stoneybrook, but charlotte johannsen doesn’t need a babysitter anymore.”

Jennifer: STOP.

3:01 PM Lauren: Ugh, at some point all fanfic just becomes a Penthouse story with recognizable names.

Jennifer: Right?

3:02 PM Lauren: Weird, I can’t imagine liking BSC enough to Go There.

Jennifer: And the tween/teen emotional stuff I connect to those books is already intense.

I don’t want to add adult layers to that.

Lauren: Yeah. That just feels wrong.

3:03 PM Jennifer: Although maybe that’s the appeal, reworking those emotional experiences?

Lauren: I suppose so…

It’s weird because I should have been a fanfic-er.

I was completely wired for that.

But I ended up, once the internet happened, getting really annoyed with the ways people changed characters and narratives.

3:04 PM I felt like it violated the author’s intention and that was Not Right to me. Maybe I’d been brainwashed too much by AP lit courses or something.

Jennifer: Maybe you’re a memoir-ist at heart?

Lauren: I got into a really heated argument on a Labyrinth fan list about some fanfic and was like fuck all y’all!

Jennifer: Ha!

Lauren: Maybe that’s where I started seeing myself more as an interpreter of texts than a creator of them.

3:05 PM Jennifer: I didn’t have a computer or internet access till college. I’m that old.

Lauren: That’s awesome,

We got the internet during my senior year in HS.

3:06 PM That’s when I connected all these weird worlds of people who liked the same stuff as me, including Labyrinth, and ya know, bands :).

Jennifer: Yes!

3:07 PM Huh. It seems like YA lit should have less importance in the Internet Age or whatever we call the present.

But that doesn’t seem to be true: YA books have gotten more intense.

Lauren: Definitely

I read a lot of YA lit and since most of my students, for now anyway, are just out of HS I see a lot if it.

3:08 PM I guess part of it is that YA lit has to be more “realistic” and inclusive and diverse and incorporate harder realities.

So that’s cool, writers like Chris Crutcher and Walter Dean Myers do good things.

3:09 PM Jennifer: I’ve taught Sherman Alexie’s YA book (you have too, I think). And I used a YA book about the Triangle fire in my gender studies class this semester.

It’s hard for me to imagine teaching the YA stuff from my youth, though I guess some of those books were hard hitting too.

Lauren: Oh my god, this BSC fanfic has them becoming basically a babysitter/prostitute club.

“Great idea” Kristy exclaimed.

Jennifer: STOP READING.

3:10 PM Lauren: OK, OK!

YES I absolutely love Absolutely True Diary!

But some of the books I love seem really tame.

At the same time

I really enjoyed YA books of the 50s, even though they were really tame, when I was a kid.

So maybe our books will seem dated but still have an appeal.

3:11 PM I liked Beanie Malone books and I remember a series called Sue Barton Student Nurse or something.

 Jennifer: I guess Judy Blume is timeless.

Are You there God It’s Me Margaret and all.

Lauren: For sure.

3:12 PM Jennifer: Bridge to Terabithia stands the test of time.

Lauren: I never read that

because I knew it was sad!!

Jennifer: But The Against Taffy Sinclair Club? Probably not.

Again: I sought out books about death.

Lauren: That’s so awesome. I avoided death books like, ya know, the plague.

I don’t think the BSC will thrive in the future.

Mostly because no cell phones?

3:13 PM Jennifer: Also, the bad fashion choices.

Also, Stacy’s diabetes.

The BSC attempts to be hard hitting = diabetes.

Lauren: I loved books about diabetes!

3:14 PM There was a great book called Sugar Isn’t Everything that was all about diabetes

I based my 6th grade science fair presentation on it and got honorable mention.

Jennifer: Not intense enough for today’s youth. Now it’s all eating disorders and self harm.

3:15 PM Lauren: Right

Jennifer: Which is maybe a good connection to next week’s chat!

Lauren: A whole book about asthma would be boring.

Totally.

Are you excited about Hunger GameS?

Jennifer: YES.

Lauren: I have to admit I am jealous because I know you are going to be hooked.  I have lost my copy and don’t know what to do!

Jennifer: I have it on my iPad. I better not lose that.

3:16 PM Lauren: haha

Jennifer: I have to go teach my class now. But I am excited for next week’s chat!

Lauren: OK! Me too!

TTYL.

Jennifer: TTYL!

What were your fave books as a kid? What series did you love? What themes or issues did you explore or work out through your reading choices? We’d love to hear your comments below (and get book recommendations!).

* In this conversation, I use the term “slash fanfic” incorrectly: “slash fanfic” is specific to fanfic that creates a romantic situation between two characters of the same sex, and I was using it in a more general way to indicate fanfic that was sexually explicit. That was inaccurate. I certainly have no problem with same-sex romances in fanfic or in real life, but DO have misgivings about “mature” fanfic featuring characters I loved in my pre-adolescent time, especially really, really bad fanfic that is less erotic than it is pornographic. I’ll never see Mr. Prezioso the same way.

(Chat) PINTEREST: Thinspo-for-the-home or divine inspiration?

This is the first in a new feature on our blog, which I’m realizing as I type that we haven’t named. But whatever: it’s CHAT! Jen and I will get together once a week to talk about some topic on our minds, and then share it with you. We hope it’s just the start of a broader conversation.

This week: PINTEREST! Love it or loath it? Inspiration or desperation? Time-waster or under-ass-fire-lighter? Below, we wonder if some crafts are more like porn than creative acts, and if design boards are just thinspo-for-the-home.

We have two boards at Pinterest that illustrate our points below, one that focuses on what we like about Pinterest (where we see promise, things we may actually do) and what we dislike about Pinterest. I should note that Jen is a fairly avid Pinner, and I have dabbled but am overall unimpressed. We are not saying that Pinterest is pure awesome or pure evil, but that it’s a complex and interesting phenomenon that we find intriguing.

And now, the chat!

3:18 PM Jennifer: Hello!

3:19 PM Lauren: Hi! This is going to be funny because when people read this, our names will be Jen/Lauren and “me.”

3:20 PM Jennifer: We should probably fix that. You should know that while I am chatting, I am also feeding Margeaux overpriced squishy organic baby food.

Lauren: I do not know how to fix that. I am somewhat tech savvy. But not that tech savvy. Maybe when you save it changes the names?

That is the best kind of baby food.

3:21 PM Jennifer: I bet I could find recipes for homemade baby food on Pinterest.

Lauren: You could totally do that. We should try to do that right now.

Jennifer: But then it wouldn’t be in this awesome package that attaches directly to a spoon.

Lauren: No way, that sounds awesome.

3:23 PM Yes, I have not only found baby food recipes, but also a baby food jar chandelier, baby food jar cupcakes, and magnetic spice jars made out of baby food jars.

3:24 PM Jennifer: I should totally pin those. I’ll get to them right after I bake that 8 layer rainbow cake.

3:25 PM Or the baked oatmeal. Or the Key West grilled Chicken.

Lauren: That kind of brings together everything that is awful and awesome about Pinterest: something you might actually use, something no one should ever do/care about/use, and something to make you feel bad about the things you wish you’d do but never will.

Jennifer: I don’t even eat chicken, for the record.

3:26 PM Lauren: Ha!

Jennifer: I’ll be honest: I have never actually cooked a recipe I pinned on Pinterest.

3:27 PM Lauren: People swear by Pinterest as a way to find great recipes, but I don’t get how it’s any better than googling “black bean tacos” and reading the recipe.

3:28 PM Jennifer: I like the idea that all those recipes are there waiting for me, as though I had cut them out and stuck them in a folder.

3:29 PM For me, that’s the appeal beyond googling: the organization.

Lauren: Pinterest is full of possibility but it seems like there’s very little follow through. I’ve seen bloggers with “Pinterest challenges” where they vow to actually do projects they’ve pinned.

3:30 PM Jennifer: If we do that challenge I’m starting with Rolo cookies.

And I’m unpinning those elaborate bunk bed plans.

Lauren: I used Pinterest the most when I was decorating my daughters’ room and I pinned all this “inspiration”

3:31 PM But then the final product really didn’t resemble those pins, and in fact, juxtaposed, it looked kind of homely and embarrassing. That made me kind of hate Pinterest, because it’s a great room and was done on a budget.

But since every square inch of the walls weren’t covered in fanciful art, and I didn’t customize the knobs on the dressers, somehow it didn’t feel good enough.

3:32 PM Jennifer: I actually have intentionally stopped even browsing decoration inspiration my dream home type pins.

3:33 PM I realized looking at that stuff was making me depressed.

Perhaps because most of the people I follow are facebook friends from high school and once I started looking at those pins I became convinced they were all living in enormous beautiful houses and I hated them.

Lauren: I posted a few new boards to our account and tried to find some examples of the kinds of things I do like and don’t like about Pinterest, and under don’t like I posted a few images of people’s decorated LAUNDRY ROOMS and GARAGES.

3:34 PM (http://pinterest.com/mamanervosa/)

Jennifer: YES! I saw a bunch of those types of pins come across my account today.

Lauren: WTF? Am I crazy or is the garage supposed to be a stinky mess?

3:35 PM Where are our kids supposed to be dirty?

Where can we pile the sheets our 4yo just peed on?

3:36 PM Jennifer: In my garage right now: 2 turkey fryers Tyler uses for brewing beer, an ugly table from a garage sale, an old set of shelves with a jumble of gardening tools, 4 bikes, a tricycle, a big wheel, a cozy coupe… organize that Pinterest!

And spiders. at least a thousand spiders.

Lauren: Ha

Exactly.

3:37 PM I was thinking that Pinterest fuels lookism. Morality = aesthetics.

The better you are as a person or a parent, the prettier the things are in your life. The better your crafts, the more elaborate your tooth fairy rituals.

3:38 PM The absence of any other images — anything simple, messy, or imperfect — implies it’s lack of worth.

Jennifer: Yes. Yes. Yes.

And yet: I keep going back for more.

Lauren: Have you heard about the whole Thinspo controversy at tumblr and now Pinterest?

3:39 PM Jennifer: No. Tell me more!

Lauren: So, Thinspo is short for “thinspiration”

Which means these are boards/images that girls and women use to inspire them to be thin.

It used to be called “pro-ana” aka pro-anorexia.

Jennifer: Oooohhhhhh….. pro-ana I know.

3:40 PM Lauren: So, tumblr and Pinterest have these Thinspo boards/circles popping up

Because they are visual-intensive social media sites. And girls are using these sites to fuel notions that being thin is something to aspire to, posting their stats, posting meals/diets and challenges to lose weight, etc.

3:41 PM And I’m thinking, isn’t everything on Pinterest, sorta, Thinspo for our entire lives? Isn’t the logic that if we are good enough/disciplined enough/organized enough, we can achieve perfection (even if it’s perfection in knitting)?

3:42 PM Jennifer: I just searched it on Pinterest. This is really disturbing.

Lauren: Yes. We will not link to evil, evil Thinspo.

Jennifer: Ok. I have to stop staring at those images.

Lauren: And people are upset about it, and I think that’s totally appropriate, but what I’m saying is, I’m not sure other aspects of Pinterest are that different (except it won’t destroy your bones or kill you if you try to make that paint chip art).

3:44 PM Jennifer: Right. Instead of beating myself up about being fat I’m beating myself up about not being the kind of mom who makes string art easter eggs and dips my kids feet in paint then makes footprint butterflies and frames them.

Lauren: Right

Is it really that different from images of housewives/mothers in the1950s/60s?

3:45 PM Jennifer: No. It’s the same oppressive bullshit. Just on an iPad. And we take Xanex to cope instead of Valium.

3:46 PM Lauren: I guess what bugs me is, blogs and Pinterest are supposed to be from real people. But increasingly, they do not match up with my lived experience.

As I was looking at Pinterest today, I was wondering what the difference is between looking there and looking at, say, a fashion magazine.

Are the images any more realistic than highly edited, styled, commercialized publications?

3:47 PM Jennifer: No.

3:49 PM And I think it’s easy to fall into the hate on Martha Stewart and the skinny girls trap. That’s not where I want to land either.

Lauren: It feels more insidious to me because there’s less psychic distance between me and that mommy blogger… she feels more real, so it feels like I should be able to achieve her level of contentment and organization.

Exactly. Like, I was doing a search on Pinterest for fashion for curvy girls, and all the pins were either 1. famous people in gowns or 2. not curvy girls!!

3:50 PM Oh, I misread your point

Yes — I want to avoid black and white, us vs them stuff.

3:51 PM Jennifer: Because it’s more complicated than that. I have occasionally made delicious food and done awesome art projects with my girls. (Not on the same day.) But if you could see my house right now? It’s appalling.

Lauren: Yes.

3:52 PM I feel like I go to social media craving authentic connection with other people.

I want to share something. And I look for myself in others, and all the things we do when we seek community.

3:53 PM But I don’t see myself on Pinterest. In a weird way, it just archives our collective cultural fantasies, or at least the fantasies of middle class ladies.

Jennifer: Yes. We all want that gorgeous outfit and that enormous kitchen and those clean shiny garages and entry ways.

3:54 PM But instead I am wearing shorts from Goodwill and there are Cheerios on the floor and my kitchen is so tiny I have to fold my chairs up after every meal.

Lauren: Right.

And my laundry lives in a basket and my beds are never, ever made.

3:55 PM I guess no one aspires to that.

3:56 PM Jennifer: I make my bed sometimes. But yeah, I think we’re afraid to acknowledge that this is what our real lives look like because shame! Judgment!

Bad mom!

Lauren: It’s weird because I think the fact that Pins are images really dehumanizes our lives. We never see children making the art, or people eating the food, right? We lose sight of the sort of visceral pleasures that things like creativity and togetherness are supposed to draw out.

Instead we focus on the aesthetic appeal or the product.

Jennifer: Oooooo….. that’s REALLY interesting to me.

Because yeah, the pleasure for me is in the doing.

3:57 PM But that’s completely absent.

Lauren: I get really frustrated with craft Pins because they seem way too focused on reproducing a perfect product, rather than the process.

Right? Especially with children: I mean, there’s no way my kids could recreate the perfect owl mobile or whatever.

The adorable children’s rooms are never in use, or the clothes aren’t on bodies.

It’s very commercial in that way.

3:59 PM Jennifer: I keep pinning outfits that I fantasize about wearing when I’m done nursing and my wardrobe doesn’t revolve around easy access to my breasts. But it’s been driving me crazy that there are no people in any of the fashion pins. How do I know if I can wear that?

Lauren: YES

Exactly. Show me that shirt on someone with actual boobs so I can see if it would be flattering and sexy (good) or lumpy/awkward (bad).

4:00 PM Jennifer: Also hips.

Lauren: But I guess that furthers the notion that these Pins aren’t really for people, they’re for our ideas about ourselves.

4:01 PM Jennifer: Right. And I’ve found that I enjoy imagining myself as a person who wears stylish clothes, does crafts with my kids, and cooks elaborate desserts.

Lauren: Certainly: I love the idea of a home with eclectic bookshelves and walls with neat art, both commercial and handmade.

I guess I wish people used Pinterest to say something like “Here’s how I…”

4:02 PM Like, here’s how I found jeans that fit.

Here’s how I used some leftover gift wrap with my kids.

Here’s how I… made leftover beans into something other than fucking burritos.

Helping Pins, not Judging Pins.

4:03 PM Jennifer: Here’s how I made a delicious cocktail with Juicy Juice and some odds and ends from my liquor cabinet.

4:04 PM Lauren: Right. With a real picture, not a staged, photoshopped image.

Jennifer: Here’s how I found a style of shirt that doesn’t make me look pregnant.

Lauren: I mean, couldn’t we use an entire board of that??

Jennifer: YES.

Lauren: I’m 5’1″ and curvy, these clothes work for me — etc.

Then maybe we could take delight in our actual lives.

4:05 PM Jennifer: Let’s call it Realspiration.

Or some other catchy spiration.

Lauren: Right

This is the whole point of counterpinning.

Lives as we live them, not as we wished they were.

4:06 PM Then maybe Pinterest could be less like Metropolitan Home and more like Shape of a Mother 

(Realspo?)

Jennifer: Because it’s not that I want to wallow in the half chewed Cheerios. It’s just that the leap from where I am to the fairy garden treehouse bunk beds is too far.

Lauren: (Spo sounds so close to spooge to me. I have a hard time using it without giggling.)

4:07 PM Jennifer: HA!

Lauren: Right — babysteps.

Here’s what’s achievable!

You could really actually do it!

You could really actually paint a room green and buy some JC Penney bedspreads and make a room as cute as my kids’ room. Here are the real kids playing on the real bed.

4:08 PM Here is the reading nook where the book basket is perpetually full of play food and that’s ok!

4:09 PM Jennifer: Yes. Process, pleasure, play, possibility.

4:10 PM Lauren: They all begin with P so they should totally work at Pinterest.

Jennifer: Not owl mobile craft porn.

Lauren: YES.

It is sort of pornographic.

In the way that porn objectifies pleasure.

Jennifer: In all the worst ways.

4:11 PM Lauren: I mean, some craft posts really do seem to make kids the objects, rather than the subjects, of joy/fun/whatever.

We sort of act out fantasies of good motherhood ON our kids with our aggressive leprechaun visits or whatever.

Jennifer: You will inevitably feel dissatisfied with your real life owl mobile partner!

4:12 PM Lauren: Your kids will inevitably not make the googly eyes perfectly centered on the die-cut circles!

Jennifer: The owl always ends up looking drunk and mangy.

4:13 PM Lauren: So you Pin owl crafts all night on the internet instead of doing owl crafts with your real kids.

Jennifer: But they loved using the glue stick, and isn’t that the point?

Lauren: Exactly. I mean, there doesn’t have to be a goal when you craft with kids. Sometimes I just put shit on the table and see what they come up with. Today we use scissors! Today it’s stickers!

4:14 PM Jennifer: Resolved: in the next week I will cook a food and do a craft from Pinterest and post pictures of the process.

Lauren: Sweet!

I have a post about post-partum fashion tips in the waiting.

Jennifer: And I will do them with my kids, not alone at midnight so the owls turn out perfectly.

4:15 PM Lauren: Excellent. You should take some kind of staged shot with the clock just to prove it ;).

Jennifer: I need those fashion tips!

Lauren: They mostly involve MacGyvering breast pads.

Jennifer: Nice.

4:16 PM Okay. You should go get your darling daughters, right? I feel like we’ve definitely got something here.

Also, Margeaux just pooped.

Lauren: Yes. This is a good time to get my real children and make them campbell’s bean and bacon soup for dinner, w hich is their (disgusting) favorite.

Duty/doody calls.

4:17 PM Jennifer: Drive safe.

Lauren: I will figure out how to post this and I’ll put it up tomorrow.

Let your post breathe :).

Jennifer: Awesome. You’re the most awesomest co-blogger ever.

4:18 PM Lauren: You are the awesomest blogging soulmate in history!

Jennifer: High five!

Lauren: Top Gun Windmill

TTYL!

Jennifer: TTYL!

Clearly, our jury is out on Pinterest: there’s promise and concern – legit, we think — here. I (Lauren) left the chat with a greater appreciation for the promise of Pinterest and ways it could function differently than it does now: for example, sharing more process-oriented images, and finding more awesome art. If you’re interested in contributing to these “counterpins” — pins that focus on doable projects; real visions of women, bodies, homes; and the creative process, follow us at Pinterest or drop us an email and we’ll add you as a collaborator.

lauren(at)mamanervosa(dot)com or jen(at)mamanervosa(dot)com

Jen promises to do some process posts this week!

Here are other recent commentaries on Pinterest:

Mom-101 on the darker side of Pinterest.

NPR tries to nail down the appeal of Pinterest.

Her Bad Mother talks about Pinterest as a storytelling venue, and as a space for men, too.

Bitch Magazine explores lifestyle blogging in general.

New Domesticity tackles all these issues and more, although she hasn’t covered Pinterest specifically (yet!).

And we got the idea for a weekly chat straight from Tiger Beatdown.

So, what do you think about Pinterest? We’re interested in the diverse experiences, uses, and views of Pinterest and we’d love to hear your thoughts, here or on any of our boards at Pinterest.