Category Archives: mothers

May the Fourth Be With You: 2013

May 4th is on a Saturday next year and so help me, I’ll be planning and implementing a large scale, fun for the whole family “May the Fourth Be With You” Star Wars nerdamondium party that will be so awesome I may just explode.

Other libraries have done it with much success. You can get free cosplay storm troopers etc from your local branch of the 501st legion which is really the thing that’s going to make the party. The idea is to have a wide range of activities that would appeal to all ages, bringing in families as well as single adults. Additional ideas include:

Do you think you’d have a Star Wars party at your library?

Muffins with Mom

Years ago, at one of my first library jobs, I had a weekend morning program that I called “Doughnuts with Dad.” I believe it was around father’s day, but it might not have been. All I did was brew some coffee, buy some doughnuts and juice, gussy up the tables with some table cloths, throw out some toys, crafts, and books, and I called it a program. Dads and kids of all ages came to eat, drink, and be merry. I circulated, talking to families, promoting our programs, and generally just having a lovely time.

I’ve done this at my current place of work several times now, and I’ve expanded it to include a Mother’s Day version I call “Muffins with Mom.” (One year it was Milkshakes with Mom. That was a nightmare. The milkshakes, I mean.) It’s the same gist as Doughnuts, but around Mother’s Day and with muffins.This year in addition to our cute Mum themed craft, we also took pictures of Moms and kids and I’m going to be turning them into custom READ posters. I also had some leftover blank board books from National Library Week, and a couple of moms actually used them to write their own family books!

Which is another thing I like about this program–if you can get your library to market it outside of just the children’s department, it’s a great inter-generational program. Crafts and treats aren’t just for kids! We actually had an adult mother and child pair, and I was so happy to see them! And allowing the adults to do the craft projects was great fun, and has great value for everyone. Why should kids be the only ones who get to enjoy the relaxation of coloring, cutting and gluing? If you have enough supplies, go ahead and let the grown ups join in!

I like these kinds of programs for several other reasons, too. I like that it’s on the weekend, which I think is a time that many librarians don’t think to do programs. I think for a lot of families, weekends are just a better time to come out. Often people don’t want to go out again on a weeknight if they don’t have to, and the pull will have to be pretty spectacular to get them in the doors–I’m thinking Lego Master Builders or a magic show. But the weekend is a little less hectic for some families, and a good time to try some programming. I’ve noticed we get some of our regulars, but I’ve also noticed a lot of people that I never see at any other programs.

Another thing I like is that it’s a passive program, where I can relax (to a degree) and interact with people without being on stage. So often as a children’s librarian I have to be “on” which really taxes my normally introverted personality. At these programs, I am still on but in a much more low key way, being a hostess and making sure everyone gets coffee, a pastry, and has enough materials for their craft project.

I also like this program because it allows people to do something nice for Mother’s Day that is free. So many places offer expensive Mother’s Day brunches and the like, which not everyone can afford. I always make sure to have nice food (this year we got some donations, which always help), something that’s nicer than what people might buy for themselves, just to make it special.

This is what I like to spend time and money on, rather than ebooks*. I think it’s a smart investment.

*I’m mad about ebooks and all the time librarians spend talking about them and thinking about them and blah blah blah and this is my passive aggressive way of complaining about them.

Listen, I’m Telling You Stories

Funerals are not for the dead, they are for the living. They are for those left behind, to act as a comforting play in which we know all the roles and there is no twist in the second act.

My mother would have hated her own funeral. It was a maudlin, religious, church bound affair, with a sermon by the very affable ginger haired priest, and some hymn played by the equally affable church organist. If I hadn’t been wracked with grief–if her death hadn’t been such a surprise and a shock–I would have known to have cut the hymn and played a recording of Mama Cass singing “Dream A Little Dream” or perhaps the Beatles singing “I Don’t Want to Spoil The Party.” The church location was fine, I suppose; it was the same church where her own mother had been the organist until her death, but the rest of it…ugh. My mother was many things, but she was not overtly sentimental or sappy. Where other mothers might have sent a card featuring a plucky kitten grasping a tree branch, with the sentiment of “Hang in there!”, my mother tended to send cards with lines like “Don’t forget that you’re the shit!”

So her funeral, with its heartfelt speeches and quiet sobs, would probably have galled her. “Jesus Christ on a crutch!” she’d say. “Don’t you have anything better to do? This town has bars, you know.”

My mother had grand aspirations as a girl. When I was young, I found some of her poetry, and several lines of it have stuck with me since I first read them:

Laying in the Weeds

Sing a song of love
Sing a song of hate
Sing a song of dreams
That always have to wait.

Simple, and not very good, you might think; but what might my mother have become if she hadn’t dropped out of college to move back home and work at the town factory? What if she hadn’t met my miserable, mentally ill father, who managed to charm her into marriage, and after that made it his mission in life to make her miserable?

Once, during a phone call, one of the few times I ever heard my mother cry, she said her terrible marriage had been worth it, because she’d gotten her four children out of it. To give me and my siblings life, she’d abandoned her own–her dreams of being a poet, a singer, a college graduate, the life of being a girl who met her girlfriends in the cemetery for picnics of pizza and beer–she replaced these with four children who tried her patience but whom she loved fiercely, and owed their existence to a man who was as cruel as Bluebeard but not half as sane.

I learned recently that even after birth, for decades after, fetal cells can remain inside the mother, and sometimes will act as positive agents, fighting diseases or repairing tissue. I wondered tonight, as the rainstorm lashed outside and I could not sleep, whether or not my baby cells fought to save my mother’s heart when it was slowing, breaking, and ultimately stopped early one morning in 2007. I hope they did. I hope they tried, because I would have, if I had been there.

I was not ready for my mother to go. Are we ever ready to lose the life of one we love, who sacrificed everything for us? Do we ever recover from the pain of losing them, or the joy of knowing that someone, once upon a time, loved us so much, and so deeply?

My memories of my mother are inextricably intertwined with certain stories. I discovered Stephen King by raiding my mother’s bookshelves, and to this day I still rue the loss of her limited edition copy of The Eyes of the Dragon, signed by the author and chewed by dog and lost in a house fire when I was fourteen. Whenever I watch Labyrinth I spend a moment of two thinking of the morning I woke up at five a.m. and wandered downstairs to find my mother and my little brother watching it because neither of them had been able to sleep. Sometimes I will listen to George Carlin’s Classic Gold album– which I really don’t have to any more, since I have it practically memorized– and remember the time my mother was listening to it in the car on our way to the Indian Head Supper Club to have lunch with my Aunt Pat, my mother’s bitchy, long haired chain smoking sister.

These stories–these connections—are what is vitally important to our lives. I don’t want us to forget that. We tell stories, and we keep stories, and we create stories so we can become ourselves, and remember the people who helped us along the way.

That’s what matters.

if you liked “not just cute”…

…here is another child development/early childhood blog that you might find interesting and useful: Janet Lansbury, Elevating Childcare (and, yes, she is somewhat related to Angela Lansbury).  Here’s her introduction/description:

Raising a child is one the most important and challenging jobs we will ever have. It brings a considerable amount of joy. It can also be confusing, discouraging and haphazard. My goal is to provide clarity, inspiration (and maybe a smile or two) by sharing insights I’ve gained through my parenting classes, my experiences as a mother, and studies with my friend and mentor Magda Gerber. This blog is dedicated to her memory.


summer reading.

I have a complex relationship with the institution of summer reading. I never participated in summer reading as a child, which may explain my lack of zealous enthusiasm for it. I do see its value, and I do love that it gets kids into the library, but there is something about the entire exercise that ultimately leaves me feeling a bit letdown.

I’m trying to make the summer reading program experience a bit more worthwhile for our youngest patrons. What does that mean? Well, it means I created a summer reading log for pre-readers (at my library, four months – Kindergarten and by request*) that demands a bit more from the people who use it: summerpreread3

Previous logs for pre-readers involved little more than listing titles read. With this log (based in part on a version the Bartlett Public Library produced) I’ve asked that the parent or adult reading to the child take the time to incorporate activities that will help their child master the six early literacy skills.

I don’t think asking parents to interact with their children while they read will place an undue stress on them. In fact, I might just be giving them a more precise vocabulary and concise description for things they are already doing with their children. But for the parent that is unaware of how much these simple activities and interactions can help their child, I think that this simple little summer reading log could provide valuable information and service.

I have high expectations of myself as a librarian, and I also have high expectations of the parents of the children that I serve. I believe that if people are shown that a summer reading program can be more than getting free toys and a free book, they will find more value in it. I want my summer reading program to be more about the process rather than the prize. I do not think that this is a philosophy that other librarians share. If they do, I surely would like to hear about it. I feel like the cheese, standing alone,  starting to stink.

What are your thoughts about summer reading? Is it all about the number of people you get in the door, or is it about the experience itself? Or somewhere in the middle?

*By request means that if there is a person of any age who feels that the pre-reader program best meets their needs, they are welcome to sign up for it. I mostly think that this will apply to older children/adults with developmental delays.

Miss Julie