Out of Arizona last week came the story of a high school baseball team that decided to forfeit a state championship game rather than play against a team with a girl, second baseman Paige Sultzbach. The fundamentalist Catholic school Our Lady of Sorrows decided that playing in the game would violate the school's mission to teach boys and girls separately - a mission they apparently seek to impose on everyone else. After all, nobody is forcing Our Lady of Sorrows to add girls to their roster.
This is a maddening story for numerous reasons, but I find it maddening on a personal level, because I was once Paige Sultzbach. Through much of middle school, I played on a boys soccer team. Sometimes I was joined by a few other girls. Sometimes I wasn't. In eighth grade, I was the only girl on my team. This meant I had to work twice as hard as everyone else, for less respect on the field. Was I the best person on the team? No. But I was OK, and sometimes even better than that.
I've always enjoyed lying to kids, and when I worked at camp, I lied to kids often. One of my favorite lies involved dinner - whenever the kids asked me what we were having, I always said, "Gruel."
Anyway, The Awl has a nice little story about how historians and scientists are able to reconstruct millennium-old recipes, and how they were able to recreate the recipe for Bogman's Weedseed Gruel, which sounds like an even better answer to the "What are we having for dinner?" question than plain old gruel. Much to my delight, this recipe calls for water infused with sphagnum moss, which makes me think of the eighth grade, when I ran for class president on the slogan "Vote For Sara Foss or She'll Turn You Into Sphagnum Moss." Ah, nostalgia.
Click here to visit the piece in The Awl.
Books: J LeBlanc on Maurice Sendak, and children books in general
Parenting: Cindy F. Crawford on losing a tooth
Travel: Sara Foss on ordinary places
Lessons in Parenting
A great children’s book author passed away this week. He is probably best known as the author of "Where the Wild Things Are," a favorite of ours, but we also love "The Nutshell Library" (which has accompanying songs by Carole King from a 1970’s era television special), "In the Night Kitchen," and "Outside Over There."
Maurice Sendak is known for not sugar-coating the life of a child: The children featured in his stories are brazen and selfish at times, loveable and imaginative at others. In the course of reading to my son, I noticed there is something that sets apart the really well-known children’s book authors, and a part of that is the realism that they attempt to portray. Sendak’s hero Max is terrorizing the house before he is sent to bed without supper, but he is more than simply a mischief-maker, as we realize when he suddenly wants to be with someone “who loves him best of all." Dr. Seuss is another of our favorites, and I hope my son will pick up on the message "Green Eggs and Ham" has for the picky eater. While my son has yet to really warm to Beatrix Potter, I love her stories and how the animals act like little boys and girls, such as when Tom Kitten and his siblings run around getting their nice clothes dirty playing outside.
There are a lot of newer children’s books out there and a surprising number of them are not very good. First, too many celebrities think they can write children’s books. Nothing against John Lithgow - I admire his acting - but I picked up a children’s book written by him at the library the other day and it looked like lackluster folk song lyrics written in tribute to his dogs. There are others who seem to take children’s book writing more seriously, but they often make childhood seem too saccharine. Take for example, "Guess How Much I Love You." It is, as a mother at one of my playgroups pointed out, basically a competition between parent and child as to who loves whom the most. The parent wins - big surprise. What’s more, it’s just not that interesting to read. Another author we’ve run into frequently is Karen Katz. We have a copy of "Counting Kisses," which I have altered. Rather than reading to my son about how someone is kissing the baby’s “yummy, chubby knees,” a description only a parent will appreciate and maybe not even then, I have focused instead on who is kissing (mom, dad, sister, cat, dog, etc.) and the body part, minus the strings of syrupy adjectives so as to teach my son about the people in the household and body parts, in addition to numbers.
I don't have diabetes, but if I did, I'd be very excited by the news that licorice root contains substances with an "anti-diabetic effect." Why? Because I love licorice, that's why.
According to an item at The Atlantic:
"The licorice root has been used as a traditional healer since ancient times. Certain forms of licorice root have already been shown to calm the digestive system and ameliorate respiratory ailments in humans. Because of its beneficial effects, the licorice root has been dubbed the 'Medicinal plant of 2012.'
Now scientists have discovered that licorice root from the papilionaceae or leguminous family might also be effective in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. This form of diabetes affects humans who are usually overweight or obese, causing the body becoming resistant to insulin. So far, treatments for type 2 diabetes have been developed but none of them halt disease progression. Many clinicians believe that the best treatment for type 2 diabetes is to prevent it before it starts."
Click here to learn more.
Over at MSN Movies, Glenn Kenny has put together a pretty interesting list of the 50 greatest movie romances. It includes some pretty standard choices, such as "Titanic" and "Gone With the Wind" (a movie I hate, by the way), but also some more offbeat selections, such as Luis Bunuel's "That Obscure Object of Desire" and Hal Ashby's "Harold and Maude."
Anyway, click here to see the list.
Over at the DG, I review the new Terence Davies film, "The Deep Blue Sea."
Here's an excerpt:
“'The Deep Blue Sea' is a deeply felt and richly textured examination of a love triangle, centering on a strong-willed woman named Hester (Rachel Weisz) who leaves her older husband, Sir William, for a younger lover, named Freddie. Neither of these men are quite worthy of Hester, a smart, vibrant and passionate woman who, as the film opens, is attempting to gas herself to death because Freddie has neglected her on her birthday. How did things get so bad? And is there any hope?
Based on a play by Terence Rattigan, 'The Deep Blue Sea' is a bit of a chamber piece, focused primarily on Hester and the two men who orbit around her. But it also paints a vivid and detailed portrait of post-World War II England — of sing-a-longs in pubs, and chilly rooming houses and bombed-out streetscapes that have yet to be rebuilt. The love triangle that propels the plot could only happen against this somewhat shell-shocked backdrop — a veteran, Freddie (Tom Hiddleston) has struggled to adapt to civilian life, and taken to drinking too much, while Hester remains haunted by memories of life during the Blitz. As she contemplates suicide in a subway station, she remembers joining her fellow citizens there during a bombing raid, her husband’s arms around her, as a soldier sings 'Molly Malone.'"
Click here for more.
When I was in college, I talked to my parents once a week. I went home on breaks, and spent part of the summer at home, before my summer camp job began. I love my parents, but I did not feel the need to talk to them five or six tiimes, or see them all that much.
Over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, Terry Castle writes about how the Millennials are tethered to their parents, and why this is bad. She makes the case for orphanhood -for separating from your parents, and becoming your own person. I think she's right, and that this is an essential part of growing up, but recent trends - helicopter parents, college students who talk to their parents five or six times a day - suggest that maybe this changing. Castle asks:
"So where are we today? Are we in the midst of some countertransformation? A rolling back of the Enlightenment parent-child story? Are we returning to an older model of belief—to a more authoritarian and "elder centric" world? The deferential-child model has dominated most of human history, after all. Maybe the extraordinary Enlightenment break with the age-old commandment—honor thy father and thy mother—was temporary, an aberration, a blip on the screen."
Anyway, the whole essay is interesting, and you can read it here.
In 2011, NPR's Terry Gross had a nice chat with Maurice Sendak.
You can check out her interview here.
In her column Greenpoint over at the DG, my colleague Margaret Hartley writes about the use of corn for ethanol, rising food prices and the benefits of growing your own food.
Here's an excerpt:
"It’s almost time to plant the corn — and I’m talking about corn in our own gardens, grown for food, not fuel.
But the use of corn for ethanol has changed our food supply, and is changing how people eat and how much. And it’s affecting food prices.
It stands to reason. If fertile agricultural land is being used to grow corn for ethanol, it’s taking land out of food production. Subsidies for ethanol keep corn prices high, which also makes animal feed expensive, which makes meat expensive.
Of course, there are a lot of things affecting food prices. The World Bank reported late last month that rising fuel costs, bad weather in Europe and the United States, and increasing demand in Asia combined to push food prices up 8 percent worldwide between December and March. Because our food supply is no longer local, problems far from home — tsunamis in Japan, droughts in Australia — affect both prices and supply in our local stores.
The globalization of our food supply is not all bad, of course. It keeps us in oranges and coffee, and gives us cheap rice and cinnamon."
Click here to read the whole thing.
Mommy Making It Work
About a month ago, my husband put my 5-year-old, William, to bed a few nights in a row, switching off with me for the not-so-easy 2-year-old Alli.
So when it was my turn again, I went to brush his teeth and noticed something poking out of his bottom gums, behind a tooth. At first, I thought it was a popcorn kernel. The kids were in an everyday popcorn phase at the time.
Then I realized it was a tooth. His first adult tooth!, While I know it happens with every kid, I wasn’t prepared for how I would react. This was one of the first signs that my little boy wasn’t a baby anymore.
And as he becomes a big boy, that baby tooth has to go. I wriggled the baby tooth in front of the new one, and it was barely moving. It just looked like he was growing a second layer of teeth, like a shark.
Over at the DG, I pay tribute to Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, who died last week from cancer.
For the record, here are my top 5 Beastie Boys songs:
1. Egg Man
2. Get It Together
3. Fight For Your Right
Anyway, click here to read my piece.
The recent passing of drummer-vocalist Levon Helm, best known for his work with The Band, affected me very deeply. Of his significance culturally, I can do little more than amplify what has already been said by countless fans who were greatly touched by Helm’s music, and by fellow musicians who had the privilege to share a stage with him.
Such tributes are themselves heartening reminders of Helm’s generous spirit, revealing the many ways that people – a culture, really – can very purely reflect a single individual’s humanity and grace. We need such reminders more often, and I will surely remember these recent weeks whenever I hear a recording of Helm’s rolling drum style and soulful voice, and whenever my fellow musician friends and I gather to sing songs in what has become a yearly tradition modeled after Helm's
storied Midnight Ramble shows.
Living in upstate New York, I was extremely fortunate to have attended three Midnight Ramble shows at Helm's barn/studio in Woodstock. Rooted in the spirit of the traveling “tent shows” that Helm witnessed in Arkansas during his youth, the intimate Woodstock Rambles of recent years – presided by Helm and his exceptional house band – had an almost participatory feel to them, offering perhaps the closest opportunity for pure audience involvement in a musical act without actually being on stage. These shows were electrifying and magical, with world-class musicians giving their all, sometimes assisted by surprise guest artists, including the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Gillian Welch and Elvis Costello. On two of the nights I attended, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan sat behind the piano and the Loving Spoonful's John Sebastian was introduced for a few numbers.
Over at the DG, I write about my recent trip to Auburn, N.Y., and how I generally like most places - even places generally regarded as boring.
Here's an excerpt:
"Last weekend I went to visit friends in Auburn, a trip I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time.
Auburn is about 40 minutes outside of Syracuse, which is where my friends used to live. I always have a good time when I visit them, which has given me fond memories of both Auburn and Syracuse. I mean, who can forget their first trip to Dinosaur Bar-B-Que?
But when I mentioned my Auburn trip to a friend, he looked at me with pity.
'I’m sorry,' he said.
'Don’t be sorry,' I said. 'I like Auburn.'
My friend is from Syracuse, so it’s not like he’s sneering down his nose at a region of the state he’s never set foot in, which is the sort of thing that drives me crazy. He’s sneering down his nose at his hometown, and he has every right to do that. But his hometown really isn’t that bad, in my opinion.
Of course, I might be a bit unusual in that I tend to like most of the places I go."
Click here to read the whole thing.
Greed: Sara Foss on wanting more
Parenting: J LeBlanc on traveling with a lap child
Movies: Sara Foss on "The Cabin in the Woods"
Sports: Sara Foss on the death of Junior Seau