Thursday, April 21, 2016

Creating a Comic Book with a 4-Year-Old

I've been thinking about how to make a comic book with Jack, but it took me a while to figure out how to do it. He can't read or write and he mostly just draws shapes, all of which is a bit of hurdle. But he loves to tell stories, so I wanted to figure out how to make this work.

First, I downloaded a free DIY comic book pack. The PDF has several different comic book page layouts, speech bubbles, and explosions and lightning--a good start.

I was surprised to find that Jack jumped in with both feet when I gave him the blank comic book pages. He has really made a leap in his drawing skills in the past couple of weeks. And the night before I gave him the pages, he made up a Walrus Man character while playing in the bathtub (the place for inspiration).

Walrus Man is just a head with big eyes and arms and legs and two tusks sticking out, but I love him. He also, in Jack's mind, uses many spiky weapons and builds traps (which he draws plans for first). Jack would draw and then tell me about his drawings. I would add words to the speech bubbles, explosions, and lightning based on what he told me.

Jack even created sidekicks for Walrus Man and a tag line: "Adventures...and beyond!" (Obviously a play on Buzz Lightyear, an appropriate 4-year-old pop culture reference.) He made more pages the next day, each growing a bit more abstract and less story driven than the next. But it was good start.

The next step is to keep him focused on one story long enough to create something that has a beginning, middle, and end. I learned from teaching elementary school that the concept of "beginning, middle, and end" is very difficult for young children. Surprisingly, it's not necessarily the most natural way to tell a story. It has to be learned.

So my next steps are

  • Take pictures around our neighborhood and around DC and print them out in black and white to create backgrounds. I could even let Jack help me take photos. (As you might have noticed if you follow me on Instagram or are friends with me on Facebook, Jack has suddenly become interested in taking photos of himself, so why not use that?)
  • Take pictures of Jack's Lego people and action figures, print and cut them out, and let Jack glue them onto the backgrounds. With multiple photos of each toy, I can keep him focused on a few characters. When he just draws what he wants to draw, he's constantly creating new characters, gadgets, and story lines, so having a limited number of characters will rein him in a little. 

I will let you know how this works.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Why Do I Care?

I've been stuck during the past couple of weeks, not only because Jack got sick but because I have a post I can't finish. The post is about teaching my son to be a man, and I've been working on it almost as long as this blog has existed. The problem is, it caused a little conflict with someone back when I first started writing it, and I haven't been able to get over that.

I started asking myself why I care so much about gender. I am a white, straight woman with a husband, (almost) two children, and a nice house in a very progressive city. I am so white mainstream liberal that I will never understand or encounter the discrimination many people face because of their gender identity, sexual identity, or race.

No matter how much I talked or wrote, I couldn't seem to articulate what it was about living life as a girl and a woman for almost 35 years that had made me so determined to change gender norms for my children. Then, I watched this little video, and I felt like it said all the things I couldn't say.

This Is What It Would Be Like If Women Acted Like Men In The Workplace
Posted by SOML on Wednesday, March 16, 2016

I almost started crying when I watched the video. (Having someone say, "I can see you're really emotional about this," when all you're doing is stating your position rationally--that is my life.) This is it, I thought. This is how it feels.

I can't point to one defining gender-discrimination moment in my life. I can't say I write this blog and I think this much about gender because I was sexually harassed, fired from my job, or discriminated against in some horrible way. For me--and I would wager for most women--it's the small daily slights, added up over a lifetime, that make us feel the way we do. Because of all these moments that happen day in and day out, we can empathize with those who experience more extreme forms of gender discrimination. The discrimination doesn't have to happen in one big moment to profoundly affect your life.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Super Links, March 18, 2016

*Note: I originally linked to, my original home improvement blog I started in 2009. I moved the blog to many years ago, so I meant to link to the Tumblr blog. I have serious baby brain right now, so please forgive me. I have corrected the links in the post.

Two sick days with Jack have really eaten into my writing time. I have a post that is finally almost ready, but I'll have to finish it over the weekend. The little guy needs my attention now.

I have some interesting reading for you this week, but I also have a plug for my sister site, 4929, which I haven't updated in a while--until now. I started 4929 soon after we moved into our house in late 2009. It is a record of all the work we've done on the house so far, and it will soon include my plans to update the nursery for Baby Chu #2 (a.k.a., Lady Baby Chu). The latest post is a round-up of our most recent improvements, including refinishing the upstairs floors (oh, lovely heart of pine) and getting a new dresser for Jack's room.

Alright, now that you're finished enjoying our home improvement escapades, here is your reading list for this week:

This one was hard for me to read, because I hate making people uncomfortable--and even reading about someone making people uncomfortable makes me squirm. But I totally agree with the author, even if I can't live her philosophy as fully as she is. The small things, the little gender imbalances and slights, add up over time, and it's so unfair that little girls have to put with so much of it so soon. We have to stand up for them if we want their world to be better than ours.

McSweeney's never fails to make me laugh, and "Reasons You Were Not Promoted that Are Totally Unrelated to Gender" is no exception. "You don’t smile enough. People don’t like you. You smile too much. People don’t take you seriously."

This article is a great starting point for discovering mostly forgotten great female writers. I want to attempt to do a semi-regular feature of my own on feminist writing, starting with "The Yellow Wallpaper." (I am writing this now so that it will actually happen.)

And let's finish things off with a little education soapbox reading. I briefly worked as an elementary school teacher in a low-income school, so I know how administrators are obsessed with homework. But study after study shows it has no benefits for elementary students, so it's time to stop forcing teachers to do extra work that only makes administrators and parents feel better without having any actual impact on student learning.

But wait. One more thing. I want to read this comic book so badly.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Super Links, March 11, 2016

Here's this week's reading list: a sad one, a weird one, and comic-book one.

We've all done it. An overweight person sits next to us on a plane, and we sigh, maybe roll our eyes, shift our bodies to avoid touching them as they take up just a bit of our seat. But do we ever think about how that person feels? Well, now we know, and we should all feel horribly guilty.

And on the other end of the body-image spectrum there is a story about fat men's clubs in the early 20th century. "Weigh-ins were a competitive event. A New York Times article from 1885 describes the crestfallen reaction of a member of a Connecticut fat men's club upon stepping on the scale. 'I must weigh over 300 pounds now,' George Kapp boasted. Alas, he came in at a disappointing 243. As the Times reported, 'His friends thought he shrank at least 20 pounds more from grief before evening.'"

Finally, because this is Oh, the Iron Man, I present to you a glowing review of The Legend of Wonder Woman, a retelling of Wonder Woman's famously bizarre backstory. I'm definitely putting this on my reading list.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Best Thing I've Read This Week. No, This Month.

from Buzzfeed
Mira Jacob made her son's obsession with Michael Jackson into an amazing little comic-book style Buzzfeed article. I adore it. I've included a couple of photos, but you need to read the whole thing. Kid logic is the best the logic.

from Buzzfeed

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I Can Grow a Human and You Can't: Part I

My newest podcast obsession is The Longest Shortest Time. Today I listened to the most recent episode, "Kicking Ass While Pregnant," and I couldn't wait to post about it. The host, Hillary Frank, interviews the writer of the newest iteration of Spider-Woman, a Marvel comic book character that has existed for 40 years. The writer, Dennis Hopeless, decided to convince Marvel that Spider-Woman should be pregnant. (His wife had given birth to twins five months earlier, so the power of pregnancy and parenthood was fresh in his mind.) To his surprise, they loved the idea. So, for the first time, Marvel had a title character that was with child. How perfect for Oh, the Iron Man is this?

Though I believe strongly in gender equality, there is one biological reality separating men and women that I cannot completely reconcile: pregnancy. Men can't get pregnant, despite what Arnold Schwarzenegger has told you. And seven months into my second pregnancy, I am feeling this gender separation pretty strongly. My husband can sympathize, he can try to help, but he doesn't know what it's like to (somewhat) willingly lose control of your body, to feel elated and trapped at the same time, to feel powerful and powerless all at once, to feel another living thing bouncing around inside you. And he will never know how those things feel. It is biologically impossible.

What does that mean for gender equality? Will we always be in a "separate but equal" situation because of pregnancy? The most viable way to level the playing field is to eliminate pregnancy altogether. Science could someday bring us to a world where no one needs to carry a baby for nine months. But having done this pregnancy thing twice, even with all the weird and inconvenient side effects, I would never want to lose the privilege of being pregnant, of giving birth, of breastfeeding. These biological realities are almost magical in their effects.

If anything, I would want the world of Junior, where Arnold Schwarzenegger can, against all biological realities, be pregnant. Imagine if husband and wife could decide who wanted to the carry the baby. Imagine if they could take turns: you carry the first child, I'll carry the second. What problems would be solved in this country and this world if men had to worry about pregnancy as much as women? If men had to experience the mood swings, the constant trips to the bathroom, the contractions, those little kicks and somersaults in the womb? Arguments over abortion and birth control would effectively end. Our snail's crawl to reasonable family leave policies would transform into a sprint. The gender pay gap would close.

The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that doctors and scientists should just drop whatever they're doing and start figuring out how to get men pregnant. Right now. This is your only job, ladies and gentlemen. Get on it. If we work hard enough, the world of Junior could become our reality.

But what do we do in the meantime?

To be continued...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Super Links, February 22, 2016

I am long overdue for a post...again. Here are some things I've been reading.

We're happy to name our baby girls Blake or Charlie or Dylan, but we would never name a boy Sara or Annabelle. "Might it be because, despite all our talk about gender equality, we still believe deep down that the worst thing a boy could be is like a girl?"

Why do we teach girls that it's cute to be scared? "According to a study in The Journal of Pediatric Psychology last year, parents are 'four times more likely to tell girls than boys to be more careful' after mishaps." And this translates into timidity and deference when girls grow up.

I started reading the novel Dietland by Sarai Walker this week. I'm not that far into yet, but I love it so far. Walker is a gifted writer, and an obese female protagonist is such a rare thing to find.

If you are a parent--or just a lover of children's literature--you should be reading The Ugly Volvo. The blog is clever and funny and doesn't take anything too seriously. The author's sort-of series in which she critiques the weird illustrations in some great kids' books is just genius. See "All of My Issues with the 'Goodnight Moon' Bedroom" and "The Seven Things I Can't Stop Noticing Whenever I Read 'Knuffle Bunny.'"

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Face of the Fat Girls

I posted something very personal about myself a few days ago. I have mixed feelings about it. I almost didn't post it at all, because I am, by nature, a private and introverted person. My stomach turned over when I clicked "Publish." I feel a little sick thinking about it now. Then, this weekend, I read a post on the New York Times' Motherlode blog about a Swedish hate group attacking the author of Rage Against the Minivan, a blog I've read off and on in the last few years (and a blog name I've envied). The author and her husband have two biological daughters who are white and two adopted sons who are black. She writes often about her mixed-race family, her Christian faith, parenting, and other personal topics.

I started thinking about why she chose to make her private life so public, why I chose to publish something so personal, why anyone does these things. There was a part of the Times story that really struck me:

"With the [personal] stories [bloggers tell], we’re talking about people. Without them, it’s all abstract. To have a real conversation about race, we need some people willing to stand up and take a bigger risk. To support that conversation, the rest of us need to stand with them."

I finally got the courage to write about my body image problem because I realized that I had spent my whole life suffering in silence, and this had only made things worse for me. I never wanted to identify as fat. I rarely talked to people about how I felt about my body, because the only thing worse than being fat was to draw attention to it. I quietly avoided swimming parties and learned how to take a bra off without removing my shirt so I could survive sleepovers. I strategically planned what and how much I would eat in front of certain people, making sure to "under-eat" in public because I feared what I knew everyone would think if I ate a healthy portion of anything: "Well, that's why she's fat. She eats like a pig."

Our torture of overweight, or even slightly unskinny, girls persists because no one wants to talk about being fat. No one wants to be the "face of the fat girls." But if we all suffer in silence, the next generation suffers too. When I realized I would soon be responsible for shaping a little girl's body image in a world that will do everything it can to make her feel inadequate, I knew I couldn't keep pretending my problem didn't exist. I had to face it, or I would just pass it on to her.

There are certain people who have a real disdain for the personal. Talking about private things--such as being fat--publicly just shouldn't be done. But when has my weight or my body ever been private? It's something everyone could talk about except me. But not anymore.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Will I Teach My Daughter to Hate Herself?

This is the look of a sunburned 6th grade girl who just got back from a water park field trip, at 
which she wore a T-shirt over her swimsuit the whole time.

When I was 12, I was convinced I was fat. I decided to order a weight loss plan from the back of a teen magazine. For just $10.95--which I paid by mailing an envelope full of dollar bills and change--I received in an unmarked package a little book filled with platitudes. I took it very seriously. In the book was a black-and-white photo of a hippopotamus, which I was instructed to hang somewhere I would see it every day. Apparently, a constant reminder that I was one Oreo away from hippo status was supposed to scare me--or shame me--into losing weight.

The book also suggested taking a "before" picture of myself, so I could record all the imperfections I would soon erase by following that $10.95 advice. I can still remember what I was wearing in the picture: a white wireless bra from Walmart and a pair of purple Hanes Her Way briefs. I assume this image has burned itself on my brain because I obsessed over it so completely. I wanted to change everything in that picture. My thighs were just a little too wide, my stomach wasn't perfectly flat. I can still see how I pressed my arms nervously against the sides of my gentle pear shape.

I hid the photo in my desk drawer and would look at it now and then--a human hippo to provide inspiration along with the animal one. One day, sometime after this craziness started, my mom found the photo. She freaked out. Who took this picture? she asked, pure fear in her eyes. It hadn't occurred to me that the photo looked like a molester's trophy. To me it seemed completely rational to ask my 7-year-old sister to take a polaroid of me so I could fixate on my hatred of my own body and torture myself into changing the way I looked.

It worked to some extent. I went through a phase in which I ate saltines almost exclusively. I wouldn't have said it then, but I was right on the edge of anorexia. I never became the obsessive exercising type, though, so I didn't get the full "benefits" of starving myself (please, make sure to note my sarcasm here). I never got to feel small, fragile, petite--the things I wanted but could never have, the things a woman--a desirable, sexy woman--was supposed to be. I wanted to be light enough for someone else to pick me up. Was that so much to ask?

This yearning to be small started early. Around third grade, I got tall, taller than most of the boys in my class. I also wasn't skinny. I wasn't grossly obese or anything, but I was chubby. These are both common things for girls that age, but between the tallness and the chubbiness, I felt like The Hulk. In fourth grade, I became a bit of a novelty because, as the monster that I was, I could grab those scrawny boys by the hands and spin them around like rag dolls.

9-year-old Adrienne, wearing a swimsuit and getting knocked down by a wave. Classic.

Just as I grew tall early, I also grew breasts early. I've never had to complain about having a flat chest, but the attention I got for my "development" only made me uncomfortable, and it usually came from the wrong types of guys. (That is a storyline that has continued throughout my life. Something about my body type or face really attracts the sorts of rednecks who shout at you from moving pickups.) I wanted an athletic body, even a waifish one. I wanted to be Audrey Hepburn, not Sophia Loren.

I have spent most of my life battling my weight, worrying about my weight, fussing over a body that could just never be what I wanted it to be. I am the kind of person who eats ice cream in secret, because I'm too ashamed to let anyone--even my husband--know that I'm adding more fat to my already fat body. I am the kind of person who turns to junk food for comfort, and then beats herself up for eating the junk food. When someone tells me I'm beautiful, I cringe. It feels like an awful lie, a cruel joke. Who is this person who can't see what I see? What's wrong with them?

When I got pregnant the first time, part of me really wanted a daughter. Another part of me was very relieved when we found out Jack was a boy. That same part of me is very nervous about having a girl the second time around. What will all my body issues do to her? What will she learn from me? Will she see me try on ten different outfits and mumble under my breath about how fat I look in each one? Will she see me eat a bag of chips in one sitting after a particularly hard day? Will food be connected to her emotions the way it is for me? Will eating to feel happy and hating herself for eating become a never-ending loop for her, too?

Maybe she'll get my husband's genes and metabolism, and she'll never have to worry about being fat. But if she gets my genes and my metabolism, the world will be a tougher place for her. Whether we like it or not, girls and women are constantly told how to look, and constantly reminded of how they fall short of the ideal. And an overweight woman is still a pretty unforgivable thing in our society.

I want my daughter to be strong and brave, to go against the grain, to be comfortable in her own body and not let other people's expectations change her or paralyze her. I have not succeeded in doing any of these things. I still fail at them every day. And whether I intend to or not, I am afraid that, no matter how much I want a better life for her, I will still teach her to be like me.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Super Links, January 29, 2016

Photo credit: USA Today

So many good stories to read this week. Have fun.

Now available: curvy, petite, and tall Barbies. Because everyone has been complaining about how Barbie was too short? Or too tall?

The most likely person to read a book? A college-educated black woman. Really blows up the idea that there are so many books about white men because the market for books is made up mostly of white men.

Gender-neutral bathrooms are the next battleground in gender equality. And it's not all about transgender people--though that is an important part of it.

An 11-year-old girl was "sick of reading about white boys and dogs," so she did something about it.

Disney princess movies may have female stars, but most of the talking is still done by male characters.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Note about Someone Cool

I officially love Gene Luen Yang, our National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. His platform, Reading Without Walls, fits perfectly with our mission here at Oh, the Iron Man. Yang says: "I want kids to explore the world through books, to read outside of their comfort zones. Specifically, I want them – and you – to do one of three things:
1. Read a book with someone on the cover who doesn’t look like you or live like you. Books are a great way to get to know people who are different from us. By reading other people’s stories, we can develop insight and compassion.
2. Read a book about a topic that you find intimidating. My pet project in this area is promoting books about science, technology, engineering, and math. Often, people think of stories and science as completely separate, but they’re not. Stories are a great way to learn science.
3. Read a book in a format that you’ve never tried before. If you only read books with words, give a graphic novel a try. If you only read graphic novels, try a prose novel, a novel in verse, or a hybrid (half graphic, half prose) novel."
Number 1, of course, is my favorite. Our next few "Books We Love" will focus on this. First on this list: Star Wars Jedi Academy. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Stay-at-Home Elephant in the Room, Part I

I've known I would have to write this post since I decided to start the blog. I've dreaded it for the same reason I dread the question, "So, what do you do?" (which is a ubiquitous and loaded question in Washington, DC).

I am a stay-at-home mom. I realize the possible irony of this—a woman who gave up her job to stay home with her child while her husband works now writes a blog criticizing gender stereotypes. If you choose to be June Clever, you can't speak with authority on gender equality, right?

I have spent a lot of mental energy trying to convince myself that I should be comfortable with staying home, that caring for my child is a job. Sometimes, I succeed. Sometimes I feel like a kid ditching school--guilty, aimless, like I should be doing something else, be somewhere else.

It's like I can feel a world full of my younger selves watching me and judging me. I have distinct memories of saying, maybe ten years ago, that I couldn't understand how anyone could stay home. Isn't she bored? Doesn't she want something of her own?

And then I had a child in a city with long commutes and no family nearby, and I realized I might've been too quick to judge. After my maternity leave, I returned to work part time and then, after a few months, full time. A full day of work meant I left the house by 7:10 am (my husband took Jack to day care), got to work at 8:00 am, took a 30-minute lunch and two pumping breaks (during which I would often work), left work at 4:30 pm, picked Jack up at 5:30 pm, came home, fed him, bathed him, and put him to bed by 6:30 or 6:45 pm (and also woke up two times a night to nurse). My husband usually didn't get home until after Jack was asleep.

I quickly realized this was not what I signed up for. I liked my job less and less every day, and my meager paycheck almost disappeared once we started paying for five days a week of day care (almost $1,800 a month!). I never imagined that I would see my child so little, and that I would be trading my time with him for such unfulfilling days at work. Surely, it would be better for me to stay home. I could use my master of elementary education skills to make each day like a school for one. Jack and I could go have lunch with Dad anytime, so we both would get to spend more time with the child we loved.

It all made sense then, and it still makes sense now. But then there are stories like this one from the New York Times:

[In the United States] daughters of working mothers earned 23 percent more than daughters of stay-at-home mothers, after controlling for demographic factors, and sons spent seven and a half more hours a week on child care and 25 more minutes on housework.

If you read on in the story, the researchers define a working mother as anyone who worked outside the home before her children turned 14. I will definitely be back at work in few years. But this story bothers me because it reminds me that I always thought I would be a working mom because I wanted my children to see me work. I never wanted them to think that the office was Dad's territory and the home was mine.

Have I just traded one form of guilt for another? Will I always worry that Jack won't help out enough with his kids or that my daughter won't earn as much money because I stayed home? More simply, will my life choices teach them the opposite of what I want them to learn?

I don't regret the time I've spent with Jack, or the time I will spend with Lady Baby (you can thank my husband for that hilarious nickname), but believing that my choice was the best one for our situation doesn't erase my guilt. It just opens up my mind to a thousand what ifs.

Which is why this is only Part I.

Coming up: Will I teach my daughter to be a bad feminist? Can I teach my son to be a man? Find out next time on Oh, the Iron Man.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Super Links

The dog ate my homework. Or, more precisely, Blogger didn't save my post. So while I try to remember it all and rewrite it over the weekend, this list of good stuff I read this week will have to do. Maybe we'll make this a weekly thing.

The Library of Congress named graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang as its fifth National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.

Paid parental leave has lots of great consequences. Duh.

Moms in the US are getting older. So maybe I don't have to feel so ancient now.

A dad cut back on his workload to have a better work-life balance.

A dad is not a babysitter or a helper. He's a parent.

Being unattractive has consequences in the classroom—but only for women.

Friday, January 8, 2016

You Made Me Write This, Disney

A couple of weeks ago, I made a conscious decision not to write about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We didn't go the day it was released, so by the time I saw the movie, it seemed everything that could be said had been said already.

I've changed my mind. Actually, Disney and Hasbro and Target and whoever else is responsible for making Star Wars toys changed my mind. Internet outcries about Rey's presence--or lack thereof--in action-figure sets popped up before the movie came out. But now, when all excuses about not giving away the plot, blah, blah, blah, have been exhausted, the frustration has turned to outrage. Tell me, Hasbro, how, exactly, does one make a Force Awakens Monopoly game without the main character?

To help you understand why these omissions hurt so much--and, yes, hurt is the correct word here--you first have to understand how joyful I was after watching the movie. We went to see The Force Awakens a week after we found out we're having a girl. So I sat in that movie theater in Nowhere, Tennessee, with a tiny girl kicking me while I watched a strong, capable, powerful, three-dimensional female character rule the newest installment of a franchise that is essential to my very being. When we left the theater, I was visibly giddy.

It was like a glimpse into a world I could have only imagined. A world where women are just as likely to be the heroes as men. A world where a girl doesn't have to be a princess to get a little respect. A world where the lady does the saving, not the nagging. My husband said to me, "What if little Adrienne had had Rey when she was growing up?" What if...?

And then he said, "But now our daughter will have Rey." Yes, she will. She will be born into a world where Rey exists. I get teary eyed just thinking about it.

What he didn't say, what I was thinking, was, "Now our daughter and Jack will have Rey." Jack hasn't seen the movie yet. (Because it is rated PG-13, we rightly determined that it would be too violent for him. He's only three, after all.) But soon, when we can buy a digital copy, he will see Rey's awesomeness--after I fast-forward through the scary parts. And he will see a girl doing all the things only boys are supposed to do--flying space ships, fixing things, standing up for herself, rescuing people, using the Force, winning a light saber battle. As hard as I try to find them, books and TV shows and movies with girls as strong main characters are still pretty scarce. And now, with the influence of school and so many other little boys, Jack wants to watch what they watch and read what they read, which is mostly stuff about boys. And then there is, as I've discussed, my own predisposition toward all things boy. The Force Awakens turns one of the boy things I love the most into a girl thing--an everyone thing, really--and that makes my life a lot easier.

But then my life gets harder again when I look at the toy choices. There are not a lot of Reys to be had, especially ones that a three-year-old would have fun playing with. HuffPost did a search of Star Wars toys on the Disney, Target, and Toys "R" Us websites and found that Kylo Ren toys outnumbered Rey toys by two or three times, depending on the website. Jack loves playing Star Wars more than anything. It has actually started to drive both Keith and me crazy because we play it so much. After he watches the movie, Rey will become a huge part of our lives. At least she will be if her toys are available.
I can't explain everything that Rey means to me. It sounds silly to place so much importance on a fictional character in a sci fi movie. But the movie and its mythos occupy such a huge part of our lives. When I watch Jack tell his little friends everything about the Star Wars characters on his lunch box, my heart is full. I can't wait for him to tell them all about Rey, all the skills she has, how smart and brave and kind she is. I can't wait for him to tell his little sister about her, to see Rey in her, to believe that his little sister can do and be everything and anything because Rey helped me instill this in him.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Books We Love: "The Day I Lost My Superpowers" by Michael Escoffier

The Day I Lost My Superpowers by Michael Escoffier is the best kind of origin story. It reminds us why superheroes fascinate us. It's not the explosions or the ability to defeat the bad guys. It's the possibility that we can do something special.

The story begins with a little girl being thrown into the air by her father's disembodied arms. We know it's her father only because the arms are clothed in a business suit--and because, as in so many children's books, we never see him again. Her mother is there for for all the day-to-day activities that turn into displays of her superpowers. She can make cupcakes disappear...but not peas. She can even make herself disappear (by hiding under the bed). She can (sort of) talk to animals. Mostly, she makes a mess that her mother has to clean up.

Our little superhero brushes off any signs that she might not actually have superpowers. Her first attempts at flying don't work out so well, but she keeps trying. When talking to her dog seems to have no effect, she moves on to plants. But then she goes a little too far. While attempting even more daring flying feats in her backyard, she falls and hurts her knee. When the pain hits, she realizes her superpowers must be gone. And she cries.

Then, her mother gives her a magic kiss, and she feels better. The little girl concludes, of course, that her mother must have superpowers.

Stories told from the child's perspective almost always win me over. The older I get, the harder it is to remember that feeling of possibility, of hope, that comes so naturally to children. When a book can remind me of the rush of discovery, the excitement of everyday life that I know Jack experiences, I have to recommend it. The Day I Lost My Superpowers does this simply and beautifully. And it also reminds me of the way Jack sees me. To him, I am something of a superhero, able to swoop in and solve (most of) his problems with a hug or a kiss. I know my superpowers won't last forever, but I appreciate the reminder that I have them for now.