By Mir
April 19, 2006

Wow, I learned a lot from that last post. Specifically, from your responses in the comments and some folks’ responses to me, off the blog, about it.

I learned that many of you share my loathing of popsicle sticks. This made me feel warm and fuzzy.

I learned that Karen does not want to hear about me sanding down my feet, and a single joke about topping a caesar salad will cause her to declare that she will never, ever eat any food which I prepare with alleged parmesan cheese.

I learned that Kira will retaliate against foot-grating discussion with a cruel declaration of “I’M CHEWING ON A POPSICLE STICK RIGHT NOW! Ooooh, SPLINTERS!”

Look, sandal season is fast upon us. Can I help it if I want my feet to be fabulous? Here I am, sacrificing, GRATING MY FEET, and all I want is a little bit of support from my friends. Sheesh. I didn’t even have anyone to comfort me when I shaved that one callous down to the bone, earlier….

Okay, let’s stop talking about my feet, now.

Guess what they’re doing at Monkey’s school this week! Go on, GUESS! They’re having a “Reach for the Stars” reading program, and I could tell you all about what that means in great detail if I’d actually read the seventy-five memos on it that went home, but I didn’t, so I only know the general gist. And that is this: The kids can sign up to track the books they read and gather donations for the school and then–assuming that your friends and relatives don’t end up killing you in your sleep because they’re still angry at you for hawking ugly wrapping paper and coffee cakes at Christmastime and now you’re asking for money just because your kid read “Go, Dog, Go!”–the Usborne Books people come put on a book fair.

Doesn’t that sound great? Don’t you wish you were me?

I declined to sign Monkey up for the reading fundraiser, just as I accept the wrapping paper and coffee cake catalogs each year and throw them away the moment I get home. It’s not that I don’t want the school to have more money, it’s just that I pay tuition, save those annoying little Boxtops for Education for them, bring in supplies, and pay for field trips, already. If they want me to raise money on top of that, I expect my kindergartener to directly benefit from the additional funds. Like by getting his very own gold-plated cubby and Tempurpedic nap mat.

Nonetheless, it’s hard for me to resist a book fair. And the school gets a cut of the sales! That makes sense to me. So this afternoon, I got Chickadee off the bus and we picked up Monkey, and went to browse the book sale.

I love books. I even love the Usborne books. But you know I hardly ever buy anything at full price, and these books are not cheap. So I cautioned the kids that we were just looking, and I wasn’t sure we’d be buying anything. Two Usborne reps clucked disapprovingly in my direction. Imagine! A mother who doesn’t buy her child books! Clearly I don’t value education! Or my children! Or democracy!

Here is how I usually get our books: I go to the book swap at the dump, where they are free. Or I go to yard sales, where they are about a quarter. Or I go to the thrift store, where they are about a dollar. As a result, we’re not exactly short on books around here. But it does somewhat dampen my desire to buy a $15 board book.

Both children ran around the displays picking books they wanted. (And by “picking” I mean “putting their grubby hands on every book they could reach and declaring ‘I want this one!'”) I gently tried to steer them away from inappropriate choices (anything too young or over $10). Meanwhile, the Usborne Borg kept interjecting.

“Honey, I think that book’s a little young for you,” I would say, taking it out of Monkey’s hands.

“Oh, but it’s for ALL AGES,” one of the reps would interject, suddenly appearing at my elbow. “For younger children it’s about phonics, and for older children there’s a more involved story, and it helps with fine motor coordination, and also gets excellent gas mileage and meets or exceeds all California safety emission standards!”

Monkey would continue begging and making sad kitty eyes at me while I put the book back and tried to get away from the rep.

Chickadee begged for an abridged copy of “Moby Dick” and I tried to explain what it means for a book to be abridged and also that I just didn’t think she’d enjoy it very much until she’s older… and the Usborne Borg launched into a lecture on how the books are revised for younger audiences, blah blah blah.

I finally selected a couple of “Great Searches” books and got the kids to agree that they were pretty cool (these are the books with very detailed pictures and then a certain number of a variety of objects to spot within the scenes), and paid for them while the reps regarded me with disdain. The children continued to whine over wanting more books. Which, hey kids, GREAT! Please do continue to be interested in books. But maybe not Usborne, quite so much.

The only saving grace in the whole book fair fiasco was that my feet were really nice and smooth.


  1. Melanie

    As someone who was unsuccesful at a stint of selling Usborne Books, your post made me laugh so hard tonight! Thanks for sharing a parent’s view of the bookfairs! The books are wonderful AND expensive ;)

  2. buffi

    Okay…what KIND of cheese grater? I use a dremel tool on my heels. Very effective. Lots of “white dust” though.

  3. Irony Queen

    Ohh, I remember the book fair! It was like going to the library, only better, because all the books were brand, spankin’ new. Parental direction is good, though, otherwise your daughter could end up fully versed in Iranian marriage and child custody laws, at the ripe old age of twelve!

    Also, will you do my feet next? They could use some attention.

  4. Cele

    I have never been to a Usborne fair, but several Scholatic fairs. I was always glad Psam devoured books, but darn the prices. I don’t remember them being so spendy when I was growing up. Time does change perspective.

  5. Katie

    Ugh, the book fairs! At least yours ended up with books, I sent money with mine to use during their book fair hour at school and they brought home fancy pens and stickers. Where’s the books?

  6. Monica

    I have ONE foot that gets dry and cracky, just one. Since I loathe the cheese grater (the sound OH the sound!), I bought a set of plastic lined cotton socks. I found them at a drug store, and now I us Burts Bees coconut foot creme on one foot before bed and slip on the sock.

    About once a week I do both just so the other foot never decides to behave like it’s evil twin in order to get more attention. I did try plain cotton socks before buying these ones, but I found I was moisturizing the sock, and not necessarily the foot. Depending on the state of the feet, plain cotton may suffice.

    In the mean time I’ll just turn up the music to drown out the grating noise.

  7. Bob

    oooh, book nazis. You vill buy zese books fur das kinder oder I vill haff to call CPS, hein? Mach schnell mit die pocketbook.

    I could have loaned you my belt sander. Then you would have had seasoning powder instead of parmesan flakes.

  8. radioactive girl

    Is it wrong that I buy Usbourne books for OTHER people’s kids as gifts but not for my own kids? My kids have to make due with *gasp* library books and other books that don’t cost as much as their college tuition will end up being. Yikes, maybe the money I am saving by not buying them the books should be added to their therapy fund jars?

  9. Ingrid

    Oh feet! Ever notice how 20-something feet are young and supple, but 30-something feet are getting icky? I don’t even want to know what they’ll look like in my 40’s! What I use is some thick shae butter product from Bath & Body and lay it on like it is going out of style. Then I put on my socks and shoes and go for a long walk. Maybe it’s the heat? Maybe it’t the lotion? Who knows. Works like a charm every time. Also makes that cheese grater contraption work better after the callouses are softened up.

  10. Brenda

    You still did not spill the “good news.” What up?

    I don’t even bother with the cheese grater. I use a Tweezerman callus shaver. Works faster, better, easier. Just be careful, ’cause you really can go down to the bone with it.

    And popsicle sticks: they don’t freak me out, but the taste is terrible. You’ve just finished that delicious popsicle and suddenly you’re sucking on wet, oogie wood.

    I never take the kids to a book fair unless I’m carrying an extra $50, at least. Happily, I scored some Usborne books on clearance at a book store. I’m overdue to go back to that book store and check the clearance section. Huumm, good thing I get paid tomorrow.

  11. Theresa

    I’m sorry. I didn’t past the cheese grater on your feet. I need to go get sick now. ;)

  12. SheilaC

    Laughing hard at the book fair story. So true. I like Dorling Kindersley books better than Usborne, for the non-fiction. I shop at our bookstore where at least I get a 10% discount. But mostly we get them from the library. Libraries rock, especially for expensive children’s hardcovere books!

  13. joaaanna

    That’s why I LOVE the library! When I do have kids – they will have tons of books. But some of those prices are just nuts. I bought each of my neices enormous pop-up books for Christmas. One was Wizard of Oz and the other was Alice in Wonderland. $25 each! I just couldn’t pass them up – because they were VERY well done, great stories and I know they’ll treasure them forever. But $50 total. TWO BOOKS! Gah. I don’t spend that much on myself!

    I am thrilled to hear that your kids love books though.

  14. Heather

    I love the library. It’s the only I could ever possibly support my papaerback habit!!

  15. moxiemomma

    okay, but yeah, um, be careful using that cheese grater thingie–you need your callouses to walk, especially that really long walk and all the training ones in between. i only know this because way back when i was a travel writer i was doing a book on maui and there i was on the island of maui with apparently nothing better to do than grate off all of my callouses. i was so proud of my pretty, smooth feet. and then i had to walk somewhere and let’s just say, i learned my lesson.

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