Category Archives: Uncategorized


I have been wanting to blog about the dreadful Consumer Products
Safety Improvement Act for weeks, and especially this week when the law
went into effect, but I have very little handsfree time for typing
right now (and you know I’m not complaining about that).

But this is a very important and disturbing issue, and if it isn’t
on your radar yet, I urge you to read up on the matter. Many used book
stores and thrift shops are now throwing out—as in, putting in the
trash—children’s books published before 1985 because to sell them would
be breaking the law, as of this past Tuesday. Books in the trash is such a horrifying thought I can scarcely type it.

Goodwill stores have pulled all children’s clothing and any other children’s product from their shelves.

Here’s some links to folks who are on top of the issue. I highly
recommend exploring their recent archives (especially their posts of
the past week) and follow their links to yet more information.


The Common Room


American Library Association

Snopes, I’m sorry to say, is wrong on this one.

A friend just sent me a link to an HSLDA statement from earlier this week which pitches the CPCA’s recently added exemptions to the testing regulations as good news:

Last Friday, the CPSC declared numerous changes in their regulations, including the
following exemptions that correspond with requests made by HSLDA in our meeting with Commissioner Moore:

  • An exemption for certain natural materials such as wood, cotton, wool, and certain metals and alloys that rarely contain lead;
  • An exemption for ordinary children’s books printed after 1985;*
  • An exemption for textiles, dyed or undyed (not including leather,
    vinyl, or PVC) and non-metallic thread and trim used in children’s
    apparel and other fabric products, such as baby blankets.
  • The
    exemptions may be a step in the right direction, but that second bullet
    point makes it clear that children’s books published BEFORE 1985 are
    not exempt from the new lead testing requirements. Used bookstores,
    thrift shops, and eBay or other online sellers of books are unlikely to
    be able to afford to have all their pre-1985 inventory tested. It is,
    therefore, now illegal to sell children’s books published before
    1985—even in your own yard sale.

    This is seriously wrong.

    (Thanks for the link, S.!)

    Updated to add: Here, at The Bookroom, is a thoughtful post responding to HSLDA’s memo.

    February Already?

    The baby is three weeks old today, can you believe it? He smiled at
    me this morning, a big, real, eyes-lighting-up-in-recognition smile
    when he focused on my face. Scott was there to see it. It was one of
    those moments where you wish life came with a freeze-frame button so
    you could stay in that flash of time for ages.

    Scott went back to work today after two weeks off, sob, and my
    parents, who flew in for a short visit (yes, my mom was just here
    helping before and after the delivery, but my dad hadn't seen the baby
    yet), went back home this evening. We are missing them already. And of
    course this means that tomorrow, for the first time, I am on my own.
    It's a day full of stuff to do, too: big kid stuff, running around.
    Should be interesting…

    Speaking of big kid stuff: It's time for one of our favorite activities of the year: the Journey North Mystery Class. We have done this fascinating project four times, either alone or with a group.
    This year, another mom in our circle of homeschooling friends has very
    kindly offered to host the Journey North gang, what with my being three
    weeks postpartum and all. Jane is extremely excited. Truly, this
    geography project is one of the highlights of our year.

    Our Shakespeare Club took a two-month hiatus for the holidays and my
    delivery, and we'll be maintaining a low-key pace during the ten weeks
    of Journey North so as not to overload anyone's schedule. But my Taming
    of the Shrew kids will be working on their scenes during the break, and
    we plan to get together now and then to rehearse. Jane spent this
    afternoon walking around muttering Katherina retorts under her breath.
    We're doing a couple of scenes, which means a couple of Kates and
    Petruchios. Fun fun.

    Haley S. sent me the link to Academic Earth,
    a WAY COOL site full of video lectures from top university professors.
    Thanks a ton, Haley. I'm psyched about the Nabokov lectures, having
    recently shuddered my way through Lolita for the first time.

    Gosh, I read a lot in January. Eight novels and two nonfiction
    books. For the first half of the month I was too pregnant to do much
    BUT read, and during the second half I was snuggled up with my sweet
    bairn, under doctors' orders to take it easy. I've been working on a
    "books read in January" post, mainly for my own records, but I keep
    getting too chatty about individual titles and it's taking forever to

    The January Carnival of Children's Literature went up last week. I haven't had a chance to peruse the posts yet but it looks like a doozie.

    Speaking of children's literature, I'm pretty excited about the new Kidlitosphere Central website that was just launched by a team of my favorite children's lit bloggers:

    "KidLitosphere Central strives to provide
    an avenue to good books and useful literary resources; to support
    authors and publishers by connecting them with readers and book
    reviewers; and to continue the growth of the society of bloggers in
    children's and young adult literature."

    Spread the word!

    One Home, Many Hopes

    Lifted in toto from Scott’s blog (Scott’s pal DT’s brother is one of the people behind this project):

    This is a campaign called “One Home Many Hopes,”
    organized to ask people to consider donating $10 in an effort to raise
    $20,000 in 30 days.

    ”One Home Many Hopes” is a charity Jon Tapper, who owns a public
    relations firm in Boston called Melwood Global, helped put together
    last year after a good friend of his was moved to action by the poverty
    he saw in Mtwapa, Kenya.

    In short, there is an orphanage, Mudzini Kwetu, which takes care of 35 girls, all of whom were rescued from the Mtwapa streets, where they searched through trash piles for food. Mudzini Kwetu not only gives these girls a home they didn’t previously have, it has also given them a childhood.

    So the gist is that we’re trying to raise a lot of money—$20,000—in
    tiny donations by November 23. People can become a part of it by
    visiting to make a donation, as well as telling friends, families and colleagues about the effort.

    They can also visit One Home, Many Hopes to learn more about this amazing organization.

    There is absolutely no overhead for this charity—every last penny you give you will go directly to the girls.

    Thanks to everyone who considers participating.

    You Spent HOW MUCH on That???

    I received a comment on my Coats of Many Colors post
    which suggested that there might be something morally wrong about paying Coats of Many Colors prices for Halloween and/or All Saints Day

    They are beautiful
    – and how lucky you are that you can afford them. I can’t help but
    wonder how other children whose parents cannot pay these high prices
    feel next to these luxurious saints! Somehow it just doesn’t seem right
    to spend so much on a fancy outfit to wear on a single day when there
    are people who have no homes, no food, no jobs.

    I’ve seen a similar viewpoint expressed elsewhere, so I thought I’d post my response here as well:

    Oh, ready-made costumes aren’t in our budget this year
    either. You’ll note I said we were given some of the costumes for a
    look-see, and I was all too happy to accept. 🙂 And I was happy, too,
    to be able to give a bit of exposure to a hardworking mother of many.
    Just because her costumes don’t fit everyone’s budget doesn’t mean they won’t fit anyone’s, and in spreading the word of her business, I am happily doing my bit to support cottage industry.

    And as for "it not seeming right to spend so much on a costume" when
    others are out of work, etc—well, I think you’re getting into pretty
    tricky territory when you start criticizing how other people choose to
    spend their income. These costumes, for example, are extremely well
    made (I would not have given a positive review if I didn’t mean it, and
    I stand by every word of my praise), and will be enjoyed by a whole
    tribe of children, both in my own family and among our friends, far
    more than "on a single day." Some families, adding up the cost, might
    consider the investment worthwhile—just as my family tends to ‘invest’
    our money in the books we treasure. And in doing so, we’re helping to
    support other writers and publishing house employees. As writers
    ourselves, we know how deeply appreciated those rare royalty checks can

    Furthermore, it’s very important when passing judgment upon other
    people’s spending decisions to consider that there may be many
    extenuating factors in their private lives which might justify
    purchases that seem frivolous to others. My own family has endured many
    periods of extended hospital stays and other medical crises, and during
    those times of our life we spent an amount on take-out food that
    horrified me then and staggers me now in hindsight. We were coping as
    best we could, and those overpriced hospital Au Bon Pain meals were a
    necessary evil, at that time.

    To that comment I’ll add that as for "how
    other children whose parents cannot pay these high prices feel next to
    these luxurious saints," I imagine they might feel very much like my
    children have felt during years when they wore our cobbled-together,
    safety-pinned costumes next to friends whose mothers could sew: full of
    admiration and perhaps even longing, but largely unfazed, because
    their minds were on the candy! 😉

    Something my kids and I have talked a lot about is the danger of
    envy and comparison. Our family has taken very, very few family
    vacations, and the trips we have taken have been of modest scope. We
    have many good friends and relatives who do quite a bit more
    traveling—weeks at the beach every summer, trips to Disney or Six
    Flags, all sorts of fun things. And sure, my children have expressed
    some longing of their own on those occasions. We talk about those
    longings frankly. Some of our friends who are able to do more traveling
    are families whose baby years are behind them. How grateful we are to
    still be being blessed with new babies! A day will come—all too soon;
    I’ll be forty this year—when there are only "big kids" in our family.
    I’ll hazard a guess that we’ll manage to do more traveling then. Of
    course, Jane may well be off to college by that point. Who can say?
    Right now, we are the family we are: still growing, still grappling
    with medical and other challenges, and with a mom too busy with home
    duties to do much in the way of contributing to family income and a dad
    in a notoriously low-paying, though undoubtedly fun, line of work. It’s
    a fine place to be, even if modest means place limits upon us. I don’t
    think it’s doing my kids one bit of harm to hear about their friends’
    trip to London or their cousins’ Grand Canyon adventure—any more than
    it ‘harms’ me to read blog entries about lovely objects or excursions
    that aren’t within my reach at the moment. We count our blessings, and
    we know we are very, very blessed. 🙂

    I heartily encourage the making of inexpensive homegrown costumes.  I read the frugal blogs and the crafty blogs with
    great relish and have gratefully snatched at many a clever idea shared
    by these talented and thrifty folks. But I don’t begrudge lovely
    purchases of those who can afford them, and if I can help another
    family by spreading the word of a home business, I consider that
    another blessing to be glad of!

    Note to Self: Stop Blogging about Caterpillars

    You’d think I’d have learned my lesson after what happened to poor old Homer and Herodotus. But nooo, I had to go and write about
    the happy little caterpillar who found its way to my kitchen windowsill
    and spent the past week munching my geranium to shreds. I celebrated
    his presence the night before last, and then all day yesterday he was
    nowhere to be seen. Mysterious, I thought, but honestly I wasn’t
    searching too hard.

    Well, this morning I found him: curled up sideways in the dirt in
    the bottom of the pot. Poor little thing. He thought this was a
    friendly place. Little did he know he had entered the Caterpillar House
    of Doom. If caterpillars could write there’d be a cautionary chalk mark on our doorpost right now, I’ll bet.