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My Maids, Beezus and Ramona

Lily: Mommy, I want to play Ramona!

Me: How do you play Ramona?

Lily: Well, I’ll be Beezus and Rose will be Ramona and Violet will be Roberta and you will be Mother.

Me: Ok… what am I supposed to do as Mother?

Lily: Well… you sit there and do other things like cook and clean and read and take care of Roberta. And I’ll help you by… dusting! Can we dust?

Me: Sure! But you just dusted the living room a few days ago. Why don’t you wipe off the bathroom counter?

They LOVE dusting for some reason. For the next hour and a half, I played with the baby or tooled around on facebook while they sprayed things and wiped them down. I cleaned NOTHING, but my house looks so much better! The bathroom was in desperate need of a scrub and now it is spotless (except for the toilet)! They also wiped down the upstairs bathroom and the downstairs hallway and have been dusting the living room on a regular basis. As far as I’m concerned, they can play Ramona every single day all day long! I didn’t realize Ramona and Beezus cleaned so much, but I’ll never correct them on it.

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The Great Quimby Job Hunt

We are one chapter away from finishing the entire Ramona series. Fellow 30-somethings, did you know a new Ramona book came out after we were grown ups? “Ramona’s World” was published in 1999. I had no idea about its very existence until we were at the store to buy the first three Ramona books. In my head, the series had ended with “Ramona Forever”. I mean, it was meant to be FOREVER, doesn’t that mean the series is over? Apparently not.

The series has been great, with the exception of one thing that’s really stressing me out. Mr. Quimby’s underemployment and search for a teaching job is never resolved.

As a kid, Mr. Quimby’s unemployment and underemployment seemed pretty inconsequential to me. As an adult, I’m really freaked out for the Quimbys. Things always seem tight for the Quimbys even before Mr. Quimby lost his job. There’s always talk of pinching pennies. It’s always tuna fish for lunch. Ramona is always wearing someone else’s hand-me-downs, even if that someone else is a boy.

Then Mr. Quimby loses his job, but the stress doesn’t end when he finds a new one. He gets a job as a cashier at a grocery store. The Quimbys own a house and have two kids. Mrs. Quimby works as a receptionist for a doctor. That can’t be enough money for their little family to get by. As an adult, I’m seriously concerned they will lose their house, but this never happens. Instead, Mr. Quimby decides to go back to college to become an art teacher. He starts working weekends in a frozen food warehouse. I’m crossing my fingers that the student loans are enough to keep the family afloat.

It only takes Mr. Quimby about a year and a half to finish his coursework. I think he’s a returning student, but I may have missed the chapter that explained that. While Mr. Quimby is in school, Mrs. Quimby gets pregnant again. This never struck me as odd as a kid, but as an adult I’m stressing out for the Quimbys. I think Roberta had to be a surprise. I would be panicking if I got pregnant with a third child while we were struggling with my husband’s underemployment. Since the Quimby family is old fashioned (as it should be since the books started publication in 1955), Mrs. Quimby plans to quit her job to stay home with the new baby since Mr. Quimby is supposed to get a teaching job the following fall.

Then when Mr. Quimby graduates and Roberta is born, there aren’t any teaching jobs to be found. He’s offered one out in the boonies, but he decides not to take it because it would make the family unhappy. Portland is firing teachers, so he can’t find anything close to home.

In the end, Mr. Quimby starts working for the grocery store again, but this time he’s a manager. While it’s definitely a step up and I’m sure the pay is better, I’m still stressed out for him. This isn’t what he wanted. This isn’t what he put his family through a few years of meager income. I thought maybe Mr. Quimby’s job situation would reach a satisfactory conclusion in “Ramona’s World”. Maybe he would finally get that teaching job. Maybe the family would move and create a new world for Ramona.

But no. There is no mention of Mr. Quimby’s career in the book. I remain stressed out and sympathetic for Mr. Quimby.

And this has to be the last book. It was published 14 years ago. Beverly Cleary is almost 97 years old. As far as I can tell, she wrote all of her own books without ghost writers. It seems very unlikely that this situation is ever going to rectified. Maybe it’s a statement about how things really are for some families. Sometimes (or almost always. Whatever.) you have to settle into one career when you were after another, but it still concerns me that Mr. Quimby never found that job and will forever remain in a state of instability.

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Strength

Lily: Look at this picture!

*Shows me a picture of Ramona holding her baby sister.*

Lily: She’s holding her baby sister!

Me: Yes, just like you hold Violet sometimes.

Lily: No, Mommy, look. She’s holding her up in the air! She’s not sitting, she’s standing! And Ramona is 4 years old! I’m 5 years old!

Me: Actually, Ramona is 9 years old in this book. She was 4 years old in “Beezus and Ramona”, but she’s 9 years old here. Remember how she’s 8 in “Ramona Quimby, Age 8″? She’s older in every book.

Lily: Oh. So maybe if I were 9 I could carry Violet?

I guess Lily really wants to hold Violet up in the air and carry her somewhere. Unfortunately, at 34 pounds Lily just doesn’t have enough strength for me to trust her to carry around her 17+ pound baby sister. Maybe if she were a bigger, sturdier 5 year old I would feel a little differently.

I WISH she could safely lift and carry Violet. It would certainly make my life easier sometimes.

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Old Decrepit Lady

Yesterday I was reading “Ramona The Brave” to Lily and Rose when I suddenly came across a passage that made me feel older than dirt. My husband is eight and a half years older than me and started laughing when he heard me read it. If you are over 30, be prepared to feel old:

“I’m going to get you!” He (Mr. Quimby) could run fast for a man who was thirty-three years old, but Ramona always caught him and threw her arms around him.

That’s right, Ramona was surprised at how spry her decrepit 33 year old father could run because 33 was so ancient!

I’m 33.

It just goes to show how different your perspective is as you grow up. I’m sure when I read this book as a kid, I thought exactly what Ramona thought– that her dad was fast for such an old man. People over 30 seemed so OLD when I was a little kid.

Now I’m the exact same age as Ramona’s father and it just makes me laugh to think that Ramona is implying that I am too old to chase my kids around.

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Apparently the Most Embarrassing Subject Ever: Underwear or the Lack Thereof

It has come to my attention via various private messages and a couple of anonymous comments because apparently the underwear to bed issue is TOO EMBARRASSING to talk about in public (yet here I am) that not wearing underwear to bed is a very common thing. In fact, a random sampling of my friends on the (dying) social blogging site Livejournal has the underwear versus no underwear to bed ratio at about 50/50. I remain astounded because I’ve never heard of this before. I’ve heard of people sleeping naked, of course, and I’ve heard of people going commando in general, but I’ve never heard of purposefully taking off your underwear before you put on your pajamas.

Most of my underwear-to-bed-wearing friends and my mother were equally surprised to hear that so many people are not wearing underwear to bed , so I know I’m not alone in my shock. Apparently this is a truly taboo subject because I can’t find much of anything about it on the internet at large. Or maybe my search terms are wrong. I found a few message boards where people were asking about it, but no formal information. There was ONE yeast infection prevention information page where ONE GYN recommended wearing nightgowns with no underwear to bed. Why? Well, apparently (and this is what my anonymous friends and commenter are telling me) your girl parts “need to air out at night” to prevent yeast infections.

When I first heard this, I thought it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard. Cotton underwear are breathable. Why on earth would removing them make any difference? And also, um, we wear underwear for a reason. Doesn’t everything get gross when you aren’t wearing them? How often do these nightgown with no underwear people change their sheets? It’s baffling and seriously brand new information for me. It’s so strange that people whose mothers DIDN’T tell them to do this have never even heard this is a thing if it’s really true. I’m apt to think it’s am urban legend, but a couple people have told me NOT wearing underwear to bed has made a big difference in their health. When they wear underwear on a trip or something they end up getting a yeast infection.

I am still leery and even checked Snopes.com to see if there was any information about this. Snopes failed me and I’m contemplating requesting an article.

You’d think those of us in the underwear-wearing-to-bed mob would have at least HEARD of this sometime. I just have trouble believing one little layer of cotton could make such a big difference. I mean, if underwear causes such problems, why aren’t we just going commando ALL THE TIME (OMG, imagine the laundry!!!! I wear the same pants a few times before washing them. Imagine all the washing! Imagine all the jeans I’d have to buy!). A bunch of people confessed they usually wear yoga pants without underwear. I had no idea. I’ve been wearing underwear under everything my entire life. The thought of not is just as shocking to me as it was for Ramona when she discovered that firefighters wear underwear to bed.

Anyway, maybe it’s true. Maybe I shouldn’t be wearing underwear to bed. It makes me wonder what other quirky little things 50% of people are doing right now to avoid disease that I’ve literally never heard about.

Behold, I did it. I wrote the first underwear-to-bed blog post in existence. Go me?

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In Which Ramona Baffles Me

We were reading “Ramona and Her Mother” last night and I ended up utterly baffled and actually saying “WHAT? WHAT?” in response to some of the things I read aloud.

Ramona wore her pajamas under her clothes to school one day, which makes for an amusing story because she gets way too hot and her teacher thinks she’s sick as a result. Her inspiration for doing this is what got me confused. Ramona was shocked when she learned that firefighters wear their underwear to bed to save time getting dressed if they get called out to a fire in the middle of the night. She wore her pajamas under her clothes to save time getting dressed like the firefighters and when she gets too hot she gets worried about taking off her pajamas because she’s not wearing underwear underneath.

Apparently not wearing underwear under your pajamas is the way it’s done in Ramona’s little world and wearing underwear when you sleep is very very strange.

Um, I’ve never not worn underwear to bed. What? Why isn’t Ramona wearing underwear under her pajamas? Especially when she makes it clear in this book that she wears her pajamas multiple nights in a row. Shouldn’t she be wearing her underwear to cut down on how often her pajamas need to be washed? I don’t understand. Did I have a strange childhood and am somehow a savage in that we always wore underwear under whatever it was we were wearing with the exception of a leotard or swimsuit?

I’m so confused about this. Why wouldn’t the firefighters be wearing their underwear? Of course they’re wearing their underwear? Is this an old time thing? Or is this how they do things in Portland? Or?

I don’t understand.

Elsewhere, half the scenes involve Ramona putting on her “car coat”. WTF is a “car coat”? A good search takes me to a windbreaker. Is this regional language? I asked my mom if it was an older term for it since the book was written in 1979 (the year I was born!). She had never heard of a “car coat”. Is it a regional term? They use it over and over and over again. Why can’t Ramona just be wearing a “coat”. Why is that extra word there? WHY?!

I’m so confused, people. I love these books, but I’m shocked by how many parts of them are making me pause and say “WHAT? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?”

EDIT: A reader has informed me that she and her girls do not wear underwear to bed because that’s how her mother always did it when she was growing up. I’m intrigued. How many of you wear or don’t wear underwear to bed? Here is someone else’s online poll, which could use a bit more data. It looks like MOST people wear underwear to be based on this small sample, but a substantial amount of people do not. Go fill out the poll or answer in the comments here. I’m very curious and who doesn’t love talking about underwear? ;)

Pre-existing Underwear Poll on Sodahead.

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Ramona and Her Complexities

We recently started reading Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series to Lily. I thought it would be a nice, easy introduction to chapter books. Little did I know how many deep, complicated subjects I would have to explain in one book. While reading “Ramona and Her Father”, I felt like I had to stop every 5 minutes to explain a complex issue. Here are just a few of the examples of what I had to explain to Lily while reading this book:

*Ramona’s father loses his job in the first chapter. I had to explain why it was important for Ramona’s dad to have a job and what it meant for the family that he no longer had one. She was horrified by the prospect that any daddy anywhere can lose a job for no reason (or even for a reason) and that would mean that a family wouldn’t have money. We’ve talked about how some people don’t have much money in the past, but it was a revelation to her that it could happen to anyone, including her friends and family. She got kind of upset about it, but I explained (perhaps naively) that if daddy ever lost his job we would work together as a family to make sure she still had everything she needed.

*Ramona’s father is a smoker. Ramona convinces her dad to stop smoking because she is (rightly) worried that cigarettes could kill him. No one in our family has ever smoked during the time she’s been alive. My dad smoked in the 1970s, but that’s such a thing of the past that Lily has no way of knowing about it. It’s not exactly being reenacted 30 years later. I had to explain what cigarettes were and why Mr. Quimby wanted to smoke them, which meant…

*I had to explain addiction in full. At some point Mr. Quimby has a small relapse and smokes a cigarette. I had to explain why this happened and how sometimes people get addicted to different substances, including the beer we currently have in our fridge. I had to explain why it was so hard for someone to kick an addiction. The very notion that some substances were bad was a new thing for her. I suppose it’s good for her to learn now. I remember learning to “Say no to drugs!” in first grade (Thanks, Nancy Reagan!). However, I didn’t know that reading Ramona would be when this subject came up! I guess I’m glad to have opened the door to it, but wow! Ramona opens the door to an addiction lecture? Who knew?!

*We are secular Jews. I haven’t discussed religion with Lily as much as I should have by this point because I’ve never been a very religious person. I am trying harder lately to get more in depth about what it all means and what we believe. Ramona is Christian and participates in a nativity scene at church which means…

I had to tell the entire Christmas story, what a nativity scene was, what Christ means to Christians and why Jewish people like us believe something different. WHEW! I wasn’t expecting to have to discuss all that at that moment. I suppose I could have glossed over the chapter, but she asked me what a nativity scene was and I felt like a failure that she didn’t know yet so… freaking Ramona opened a deep religious discussion at our house.

Seriously. Ramona made me talk about Jesus and Judaism. Ramona! I had no idea.

I suppose this is why reading to your children is so important– so that you are forced to tackle all those issues you may have not gotten around to bringing up just yet. But still… Ramona? All this came out of Ramona? Who knew. I had to explain death in depth when Charlotte died at the end of “Charlotte’s Web”, but I saw that one coming. All I saw coming with Ramona was a little girl who was creative and sometimes rambunctious– not multiple lectures about complex subjects even adults have trouble understanding.

I wonder what sort of trouble I’ll get myself into if we start reading Judy Blume’s “Superfudge” series? And what other giant concepts I’ll have to explain when we read the rest of the Ramona books? Perhaps I need to go study up on how to explain adult issues to children?

Ramona. SERIOUSLY. Who knew?

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