Things to Read - 5 Articles From Around the Web (Scary Food, Parenting is Hard, Legos for Girls, the Joy of Quiet, and Personal Libraries)

1. (Scary Food) - 7 Foods You Should Never Eat - canned tomatoes? who knew?

2. (Parenting is Hard)
- This Momastery article on "carpe diem" has been making its way around facebook and I have to say I really loved it, both because it is well-written and because it is so so true.

"Parenting is hard. Just like lots of important jobs are hard. Why is it that the second a mother admits that it’s hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she’s not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn’t add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it’s so hard means she IS doing it right…in her own way…and she happens to be honest. . . . My point is this. I used to worry that not only was I failing to do a good enough job at parenting, but that I wasn’t enjoying it enough. Double failure. I felt guilty because I wasn’t in parental ecstasy every hour of every day and I wasn’t MAKING THE MOST OF EVERY MOMENT like the mamas in the parenting magazines seemed to be doing. I felt guilty because honestly, I was tired and cranky and ready for the day to be over quite often. And because I knew that one day, I’d wake up and the kids would be gone, and I’d be the old lady in the grocery store with my hand over my heart. Would I be able to say I enjoyed every moment? No.

But the fact remains that I will be that nostalgic lady. I just hope to be one with a clear memory. And here’s what I hope to say to the younger mama gritting her teeth in line:

“It’s helluva hard, isn’t it? You’re a good mom, I can tell. And I like your kids, especially that one peeing in the corner. She’s my favorite. Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime.” And hopefully, every once in a while, I’ll add- “Let me pick up that grocery bill for ya, sister. Go put those kids in the van and pull on up- I’ll have them bring your groceries out.”

3. (Legos for Girls) Should the World of Toys Be Gender Free? Apparently Legos has released a "Friends" line aimed at young girls, "[s]et in fictive Heartlake City (and supported by a $40 million marketing campaign), the line features new, pastel-colored, blocks that allow a budding Kardashian, among other things, to build herself a cafe or a beauty salon. Its tasty-sounding 'ladyfig' characters are also taller and curvier than the typical Legoland denizen." According to Lego manufacturers, the Friends line relies on research concluding that boys and girls play differently. According to Lego, by the age of preschool "girls prefer playthings that are pretty, exude 'harmony' and allow them to tell a story. They may enjoy building, but they favor role play . . . . In order to be gender-fair, today’s executives insist, they have to be gender-specific."

But even if "natural" differences control play preferences should we, as adults, be encouraging (and exploiting) these difference? The article's author makes a good argument that boys and girls need to learn to play together. "Traditionally, toys were intended to communicate parental values and expectations, to train children for their future adult roles. Today’s boys and girls will eventually be one another’s professional peers, employers, employees, romantic partners, co-parents. How can they develop skills for such collaborations from toys that increasingly emphasize, reinforce, or even create, gender differences? What do girls learn about who they should be from Lego kits with beauty parlors or the flood of “girl friendly” science kits that run the gamut from “beauty spa lab” to “perfume factory”? A very good question.

4. (Quiet) - Pico Iyer's "The Joy of Quiet" article in the New York Times doesn't really offer any solutions to our fast-paced, technology-consumed society but it serves as a nicely stated reminder that we need to find time to "be." According to the article's author "nothing makes me feel better — calmer, clearer and happier — than being in one place, absorbed in a book, a conversation, a piece of music. It’s actually something deeper than mere happiness: it’s joy, which the monk David Steindl-Rast describes as “that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens. . . . It’s vital, of course, to stay in touch with the world, and to know what’s going on . . . . But it’s only by having some distance from the world that you can see it whole, and understand what you should be doing with it."

5. (Libraries)
- Shelf Life by James Wood questions whether our personal libraries really matter to anyone but ourselves - "Libraries are always paradoxical: they are as personal as the collector, and at the same time are an ideal statement of knowledge that is impersonal, because it is universal, abstract, and so much larger than an individual life. For in any private library, the totality of books is meaningful, while each individual volume is relatively meaningless. Or, rather, once separated from its family, each individual book becomes relatively meaningless in relation to the original collector, but suddenly newly meaningful as the totality of the author’s mind. Our libraries perhaps say nothing very particular about us at all. Each brick in the wall of a library is a borrowed brick."

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