23 September 2015

When coat racks give perspective

It's all quiet in the house and my only day off this week is looming large with piles of housework and even though I vowed this would not happen, it is exactly how I will be spending the day after all. All around me I just see the wanton destruction that a decade's worth of family life has done to this place. This house is a large-scale reflection of what is happening to my face and body. No amazing family holiday for us in some wonderfully exotic location this summer, I need to work just to be able to repair or replace all the broken stuff.

Our jug leaks and the automatic off switch is broken so if it hasn't already lost its contents all over the bench, it threatens to boil dry anyway and all the curtains in the bedrooms are just hanging by a thread from being left down permanently because the pull cords are broken. We've killed another broom and there's something stuck up the vacuum cleaner pipe that can't be coaxed out in either direction. My guess is that it is two years' worth of loom bands. Our entry, I'll admit, has never been a particularly welcoming space, but it's looking like squatters took up residence in there. The front door is swollen from months of wet weather and we have to kick the door sometimes just to open or shut it, which is always good for a bit of dramatic effect when someone knocks at the door. For the third time someone pulled too heavily on our poor coat rack, and three weeks later, it's still on the floor, in the same spot that it was when it fell out of the wall, just with a few more coats and bags dumped on it because it's still the coat rack. I will fix it, three weeks is more than enough of a clue that no-one else is going to do it.

Strangers can tell that children live here because there's a waterlogged soccer ball rotting in the overgrown garden. Somewhere in the corner there's a neglected pet bunny. Children also live here because there's a purple shoe in the lounge that I just tripped over to reach the half-eaten packet of Chit Chats I left out from binge-watching Breaking Bad the night before. I'm finishing off those biscuits as I write this. It's my coffee. A family lives here because there's a pile of washing to sort but never any clean, matching socks to wear and discarded rolls of toilet paper on the bathroom floor even after many patient attempts to convert the last person to finish a roll to put it in the bin. A family lives here because there are photos on the wall of a young couple filled with hopes and dreams for their future. If the grubby walls and marked furniture aren't proof enough of realizing those dreams, there are also some photos of babies growing up right before our eyes and if I stop and reflect on those images, none of the mess, the broken bits and parts that just frustrate me even matter. He tangata he tangata he tangata. A tidy house can wait. Except for the coat rack. I am going to fix it now.

14 September 2015

A lesson in book censure

Nothing is more appealing to a curious child than a cupboard with a lock. More appealing still is knowing that the key to that cupboard is always kept in the lock, ready to be turned at any time when no-one else is looking. To a book lover, even more amazing than that is finding a pristine-looking book tucked in amongst all the important household documents. This was how I discovered, at age 9 or 10, 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'. When my mother found out that I was reading it, she wasn't particularly happy about it. She didn't want me to read it, but she didn't stop me. This is a very important lesson. Had she taken that book from me with no explanation given, I would have found ways to find it and not because I was an especially disobedient child, but because I would have been curious to know what was in the book to garner such a response from my mother. As it turned out, and perhaps just as my mother was hoping, I was far too young to understand any of the sexual content so I found it to be a very underwhelming book. In fact, I wondered what all the fuss was about.

Let's give our children more credit where policing books is concerned. To jump the gun with our responses to what we perceive will be damaging to them is to do a disservice to their intelligence. Over the past week, a young adult fiction book freely available to the public was banned from sale or supply in New Zealand after a complaint from conservative lobby group, Family First. 'Into the River' won Book of the Year and the Young Adult Fiction category in the 2013 NZ Post Children's Book Awards. It contains sex, drugs and obscene language. It also contains issues relating to racism and bullying. Aren't these topics that we should be talking to our pre-teens and teens about? I have not read the book, but now I really want to. I am not even the target demographic. This book was written for male teenagers, which is by and large, a difficult audience to reach. Surely something that encourages this demographic to pick up a book can only be a good thing?

Many of us may remember reading 'Clan of the Cavebear', 'Go Ask Alice' and the 'Flowers in the Attic' series, to name just a few. All of them contain confronting subject matter yet the overriding memory from these novels is not that they contained adult content but that they were powerful stories. The very fact that 'Into the River' is an award-winning novel demonstrates that Dawe's work has been judged by his peers to be a story deemed worthy of being told, shared and discussed.

The best way to get even the most reluctant reader to pick up a book is to ban it. With all the attention surrounding 'Into the River' over the past few days, Family First may have just done the complete opposite to what it had intended and actually promoted sales, given that it can still be bought from overseas websites.

What 'controversial' books did you enjoy reading as a teen?

11 September 2015

Help! The Wolf is Coming!

If you are looking for a birthday or Christmas gift book idea for a toddler or preschooler, consider this board book by Cedric Ramadier, which quite literally, turns reading on its head. When we received our review books from Gecko Press a little while ago, this was the first one in the bundle that Aimee picked up. She was aged 5 at the time. She was drawn to it by its simple drawings which can tell a story within themselves but we discovered that this is also a very interactive book that engages the child with instructions for when to turn the page. The reader will find themselves tilting and turning the book every which way as the wolf inches closer.
It sounds very ominous, and yes, for sensitive children, it may well incite a little fear depending on the reader's tone of voice, but it is a great book to introduce them to the concept of building anticipation through a simple narrative. There is no better endorsement of this book than when my two year old nephew was introduced to the book just recently. He loved it so much that even after reading it to him three times, he cried when the book was taken away from him. Guess what he'll be getting for Christmas?

Reading level: All ages. Perfect for reading aloud to preschoolers.
RRP: $19.99

02 September 2015

{Free Printable} Father's Day Kids' Quiz

Even though it's still wet and cold, I love that winter is officially over. It has been quite a rough season in the Paper Moon household and I am looking forward to getting back onto an even keel again. Spring is my favourite season; I love the promise of new beginnings, longer, warmer evenings and that my daughters were all born at this time of the year, which means launching into birthday party mode.

Father's Day is also fast approaching and for the last couple of years, it has become a little tradition for the girls to fill out a simple questionnaire for their Dad. Each year yields different responses as they get older and their relationships with their Dad develop. I still laugh at the answers my daughters gave the first time they did this. There are many questionnaires available on the internet; I first saw this idea on Mousehouse's blog and simply changed some of the wording on her Mother's Day questionnaire to make it more suitable for Father's Day. It's quite a revelation to see how children view their parents and serves as a great memento of this fleeting ride raising children.

This year, I decided to make a shorter version with more white space so Aimee could practice writing independently. Feel free to download my printable for your own personal use. Try it, laughs will be guaranteed.