Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos.

Good morning fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

I am back with your weekly parenting news update. Here are some topics we recently discussed here at MotherTalkers:

This week we sadly mourned the loss of one of our moms, Janet Carol Lane Eaton, who was known as “Janetle” at both MotherTalkers and Daily Kos. She died of colon cancer at the age of 56.

For those of us fortunate to have known Janet either virtually or offline, she was an attorney by trade who left a job at a law firm to raise two children who are now in their 20s. She was smart, thoughtful and not afraid to hold back on her opinions. She was an inspiration to all of us and will be missed.

We were also shaken by the death of actress Natasha Richardson who died at the age of 45 from a freak skiing accident. She left behind her husband and two teenaged boys. While there is much talk in the media whether a helmet would have saved her, one thing we can all agree on is to hold our children as often as we can and never hold back from our loved ones.

Another topic that dominated the news this week, was the birthrate in the United States. More children were born in 2007 than at any other time in our country’s history, even at the peak of the baby boom 50 years ago. Some of the increase was due to the number of babies born to single, teenaged and Hispanic mothers. About 40 percent of those births were to single moms, again, more than at any other time in our history. But analysts expect less people to have children now that we are in a recession.

Also, in case you missed it, Eric Carle’s famous book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, is 40 years old. Newsweek had a story about the author, who is now 80-years-old and living in Key West, Florida. Anyways, La Oruga Muy Hambrienta, Colores and Oso pardo, oso pardo, ¿qué ves ahí? are three of my children’s favorite books. I found two of the three books in the foreign language kid section of Barnes & Noble. They also like the Dr. Seuss books, the “dinosaur” series by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, and some “junk” books we found at the Scholastic Book Fair like Star Wars and Dora. What are your children’s favorite books?

Speaking of Dora, what do you think of the new doll to be introduced in the fall? Here is a picture of her at 10-years-old.

Also, we discussed the desperate measures some schools are taking to make up for budget shortfalls such as leasing cell tower space on school premises and selling ad space on exams. You have got to read some of our reader comments especially in regards to the ad space. They are funny!  

Finally, we discussed at what age children should receive allowances. There seemed to be agreement, at least on our site, that children should learn to earn and save money at around 7 years of age, but no money should be tied to household chores. This made sense to me.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Happy Birthday, Very Hungry Caterpillar!

In celebration of the 40th birthday of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the Eric Carle book that has dotted the bookshelves of young children and schools everywhere, Newsweek recently ran a story about its author’s upbringing in Nazi Germany.

Carle was born in 1929 in Syracuse, N.Y., to immigrant parents from Germany. He remembers his first six years fondly: Mickey Mouse and Flash Gordon, family camping trips, the big windows in his kindergarten class. When he was 6, his mother got homesick and the family moved back to Stuttgart. They lived in a big, four-story house with many of his relatives. “My grandmother had nine sisters,” Carle says. “I had an interesting, wacky family. They’re all liars but wonderful storytellers.” Carle had trouble adjusting to his new country. His first-grade teacher still haunts, especially because Carle once picked up a ringing phone, and the teacher lashed his palms with a bamboo switch in front of the class. “I was this free American kid,” Carle says, “but I was careful after that.”

When World War II broke out, Carle’s father was drafted by the Germans and his family was engulfed in the chaos of war. “We spent many hours in our cellar,” he says, his voice breaking a bit. “It was scary at times. The nearest bomb was maybe 20 feet away, and it shook the house. [The bombs] came closer and closer, and when it passed, my mother took my head and put it in her lap. I will never forget that. There was no panic. It was over.” He developed a special bond at school with his art teacher, Herr Krauss, who secretly showed him the works of Picasso, Matisse and Braque, all banned by Hitler. He remembers wading in the Rhine when a warplane flew by and shot at him. The bullets missed him by a few feet. He also remembers an unexpected knock at his family’s house, days before the Germans surrendered. “Some Nazi official came to the door and said to my mother, ‘Your son tomorrow morning has to report to the railroad station, we’ll give him a bazooka.’ I thought it would be exciting to get a bazooka. But she didn’t let me go.”

The Americans saved him, in more ways than one. He went to work as a file clerk in the denazification department of the United States military government. After years of starving, he was allowed access to the troops’ kitchen. In his autobiography, “The Art of Eric Carle,” he remembers swiping “peanut-butter sandwiches, lumps of butter, cubes of sugar, leftover bits of steak” for his family. It took two and a half more years for Carle’s father to return home; he’d been sent to a Russian prison camp. The man whom Carle met at the trolley looked like an 80-pound ghost. “He was different, and I was different,” Carle says. “I was going to art school. I was into art and girls.” And Carle still wanted to go back to America. He finally returned in 1952, with only $40 and dreams of a brighter future.

Carle broke out as an illustrator at the age of 38 with another children’s bestseller Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? He illustrated, but did not write the book.

Carle, who is now 80-years-old, lives in Key West and makes about $50 million a year in royalties from his books, according to Newsweek.

I can’t imagine how thrilling it must be for him to see so many children eating up his work. My kids love his books, which I have found in Spanish at Ari’s school’s book fair and Barnes & Noble. What about your kids? What are some of their favorite books?