Thursday, November 30, 2006


Fine Young Gent (3): Look, Mom! Look!

Me: What?

Gent: Look what's on my finger!

Me: Do I have to? What is it?

(Can you see what's coming?)

Gent: Moooom! Look! It's a booger!

(My kids are so gross.)


Older gent (5): Thanks for being my brother.

Middle gent (3): You're welcome.

Lovely young lady: Mom, my ear hurts.

Me: Oooh. That looks really red. Which earrings have you been wearing? Hmm, let's get out the gold earrings and I'll clean your ears for you. You can wear the gold ones for a while until this heals.

(Cleaning and trying to put the earring through the hole.)

Me: I'm having a really hard time getting this earring through the front, but I can get it to go through if I start at the back. Let's just put it in backward for a bit.

LL (shrieks): Mooooooooom! We can't put the earring in backward!!!

Me, misunderstanding the problem because I have an ounce of common sense: Sure we can. Look, it goes just fine.

LL: Oh no!! I look hideous!!

Me: Oh for heaven's sake. You look lovely. Besides no one will see you.

LL: But MOM! I'm going to do the yoga video! I can't do yoga looking like this!

(Can you hear me rolling my eyes? No, Mom, they didn't get stuck that way, sheesh!)

Young gents, squealing in harmony: Listen Mom! We can go really high! (Squeeeaaaaal!)

Me: (groan) Uh, yeah...not liking that so much. Look guys, I have an earache. When you squeal like that, my ears want to jump off of my head and hop away down the street.


Gent (3): Nooooooooooooo! Moooom, ears can't jump off our head!

Gent(5): You mean like this? Squeeaaaaall!

Fine young gent (6 because he had a birthday): Happy Birthday, Mom!

Loving Husband: Are you going to tell the kids how old you are? Or is it a secret?

Fine, fine young gent: Mom, you were 17 yesterday, right?

Me, to gent: Oooo, does that mean that I'm 18 today?

Very very fine young gent: Yup! You're 18 today!

Me: Man, you're my new favorite kid!
(Which begs the question: Who was my favorite kid before? Fortunately no one asked.)

Me: How's the math going?

Lovely lady, the elder (moping): I don't get it.

Me: That's ok. I'll explain it again.

(I explain it again. Lovely lady says something along the lines of "Oh. I think I get it.")

Me, a few minutes later: Looks like you're struggling. How's it going?

LL, the E: I don't know.

Me: Well, try this. (I offer some directions. I wait for the "Aha")

LL, the E, sounding sulky (but apparently not feeling that way, as I discover after I fly off the handle): There's no point.

Me, flying off the handle: No point? Are you kidding me? Are you listening to what I am saying when I explain? The explanation I'm giving is the point of this whole concept. That is the point. If you don't listen to my explanation then....(I look at the graph she's working with.) Oh.......oh.....wait....(slowly, and a bit sheepishly) Um, do you mean that there's no point on the graph?

We both burst out laughing. Then I explain the piece she was missing. She got it and sailed through the rest of her algebra.

In my defense it was Mopy What's-the-Point Teen Week at my house. LL the E did say that she understood why I assumed she meant "pointless." Whew. But still. Sheesh, I need to get a grip.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Monday, November 27, 2006

Tuesday Ten: Christmas

Dear Santa,

I've been a good girl this year. Sometimes naughty, but mostly nice. Here's what I want for Christmas:

1. The Christmas season. Please, please, Santa. Can't you magically make things go back to the days when the Christmas season started the day after Thanksgiving instead of right after the back-to-school supplies go on clearance?

2. Pretty slippers. My feet get cold.

3. No more diapers. Santa, while you're here can you use your magic to potty train the youngest? If you can make yourself fly up the chimney with a twinkle of the nose surely you can convince the baby to "pee-pee potty," or at least get him to believe that the potty is neither a Hot Wheels trick set nor the root of all things that are evil.

4. A gift certificate for an extra 24 hours to be used in any way throughout the year, as I see fit. I promise I won't use it all up in the first few months getting an extra 15 minutes sleep each morning.

5. Snow. And not that powdered-sugar dusting that we've been getting. An honest-to-goodness snow, that sticks around for more than an hour.

6. A real magic wand. The younger lovely lady asked for a magic wand when she was 7 or 8. Imagine her disappointment when the lovely pink sparkly wand in her stocking didn't do anything. (I believe she tried to make her stocking fill with candy corn and make her brother grow a dog nose.) The next year her list specified that she wanted a "real magic wand to do magic with." What a brilliant idea. I've had that on my list every year since. C'mon Santa...this is the year.

7. A puppy.

8. A honey pot. One of those pretty little honey pots with the little twirly stick for stirring honey into my tea.

9. A bunch o' loot. I'm channeling Eartha Kitt here.

Santa honey, I wanna yacht and really that's
Not a lot,
Been an angel all year....

Actually, I don't want a yacht (or a sable or the deed to a platinum mine or a duplex...). I just think that song is great fun to sing.

1o. World peace. If you could just sprinkle a little of your magic all over the world I'd never ask for anything else. Except maybe some slippers for when my feet get cold. And the puppy.

Merry Holiday Season. Most of my gifts are wrapped and ready to go under the tree. My decorations are up. I intend to thoroughly enjoy the bit of shopping I have left, along with the rest of the holiday falalala: Carols and concerts and recitals and crafts and baking.

Cristy's Tuesday Ten.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Yesterday we got to visit an alpaca farm, 4 Oaks Alpacas. Alpacas are beautiful and graceful, long-limbed and long-necked. They look like a cross between a poodle and a ballet dancer. They seem impossible and odd to me, like fantasy creatures from a storybook. I wonder if people who have lived all their lives surrounded by alpacas think that cattle look odd, all thick-legged and wide, or that horses look impossibly broad-chested and round.

We were greeted by friendly (and well-behaved!) family dogs and welcomed by the farm owner, Mr. Williams. What a gracious and kind host. He answered questions and told us a little about alpacas and about his farm-- animal talk to the kids and fleece talk to my knitting mom.The kids tromped around in the mud to feed and pet the alpacas. The animals have obviously been well-cared for, as they are friendly and confident. The ladies and gents thought the animals were pretty nifty. So did I.

Tomorrow I'll be 40

Tonight I celebrated my birthday with my mom and sisters. We went out for a lovely meal and to Sweet Life Patisserie for dessert. I was given handknit socks (I guess all that hinting worked), books, chocolate, and cheesecake. And great company. And a pooping moose.My heart and my feet will be toasty while I relax with sweets and a couple good books. Life is good.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

I said to my mom, "It's kind of like Harry Potter for grownups. Except that the writing is better." (No tomatoes, please! I love HP too, and there is no doubt that JKR is a story-teller par excellence. But the writing in this book is better. More adult, more complex. Less tied to the plot, more writing for the sake of good writing.) And no one in their right mind would want to actually be one of the heroes of this story. And the characters are far more complex. And there is no wizard school, at least not in the beginning. So maybe the two stories aren't so much alike after all.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke is a story about magicians, and the impact of magic on the world. Magic has left England, and the only magicians left are "theoretical" magicians, men who study the history and theory of magic without actually practicing magic. Until Mr. Norrell, who has worked so diligently to revive the art of good solid English magic, demonstrates his talents and Jonathan Strange becomes his pupil. In order to make his entrance onto the stage of world-movers and shakers, to get the politicians to take his claims about the revival of English magic seriously, Norrell performs an astonishing magical feat that opens the door to a force far more dangerous to England than the French. And so the story unfolds. Clarke does a lovely job of weaving together the pieces of the complex story of the two English magicians and a servant, two wives and a butler, an amoral fairy, and even the Duke of Wellington, and their fulfillment of an ancient prophecy.

I love a good fairy tale, and clearly Clarke does too. She weaves elements of the old fairy tales into this adventure using old lore and tales about Faery and fairies, and creating her own tales that follow the traditional fairy tale elements so closely that the tales ring true, especially those created around the possibly real, possibly mythical Raven King.

One of the things that I appreciate the most about Clarke's writing in this tale is the development of the characters. The only truly despicable characters are Lacelles and Drawlight, useless social leeches. Even when Norrell is at his fussiest, Childermass at his creepiest, Strange at his foolhardiest, Clarke manages to surprise us and to convey the qualities that help us to sympathize and identify with them. It's so satisfying to read a story with well-developed characters, especially in stories about magical worlds where so often one's character directs one's destiny. While a classic hero tale where the "good triumphs over evil" outcome can be quite satisfying (think HP, as a matter of fact, since I mentioned it above), a story where the characters are allowed to be flawed gives us the opportunity to forgive them their faults, and we identify with them differently because we are also flawed. Think of all of the young (and adult) Harry Potter readers out there who love to pretend to be Harry. Few people would choose to imagine themselves as Strange or Norrell. Clarke reminds us that even the magical villain in this story is following his nature. He does appalling things, and yet she leaves it to the reader to judge whether or not he is evil. And yet the traditional fairy tale character-as-destiny as an element of this story....well. You'll just have to read the story yourself.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is a good fun magical adventure. It's intelligent, witty. Sometimes dark, sometimes surprising. A must for adult fairy tale lovers, and a good adventure story for the rest.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Turkey Birthday

Happy Sixth Birthday to my fine young gent.

Six years ago, at this very time of night, your dad was finishing baking the pumpkin pie while I lay on the couch and tried to watch Letterman.

A very short time later, I said "Please put the bags in the car," and your dad said, "I don't think we need to do that yet." He lived to tell the tale. Barely. I'm not quite sure what I said, but it was not. nice. Twenty minutes later we left.

Three hours later a nurse told me not to make so much noise when I pushed. I thought briefly about smacking her, but decided to use my energy to have a baby instead.

Then I held you. I kissed you and named you and nursed you. I have loved you from the moment we met.

You are a light in my life. I miss the sweet roly baby you were, and I am so proud of the truly fine young gentleman you've become. I will miss the five-year-old you; at the same time I look forward to spending time with six-year-old you.

Happy Birthday!

Greater than, less than, equal to

A flash from the past: First grade. Mrs. Jorgenson, a round grumpy woman who always wore her hair in a bun. Once she made me sit in the thinking chair* for trying on Carleena Buchanan's glasses during listening center. (Why can I remember Carleena's last name...and I can't remember what I ate for lunch today?) It's math time, and Mrs. J has just showed me how to do "greater than/less than." I was so thrilled. No one else in the class got to do this math! I proudly whipped through my paper and brought it to Mrs. Jorgenson, glowing with pride and accomplishment because I'd had so much fun doing something new.

(Her) "Some of these are wrong."

(Me) "Oh."

(Her) "Which ones are wrong?"

I stared at that paper for an eternity. They all looked correct to me. I wanted to cry because I'd felt sooooo smart and now...I couldn't for the life of me figure out what I'd done wrong.

Then she took out the pen. In my mind's eye that pen is huge, a red pen bigger than the whole world. She quickly, impatiently slashed a red mark on every single problem. I started to cry (quietly, I didn't want to be a crybaby) on the way back to my seat. I stared at the paper once I got there. I had no idea why I'd gotten them wrong....after all, in every single problem, the arrow was pointing to the larger number.

I corrected them all by turning the arrow to face the other direction. But I had no idea why. Mrs. J didn't bother to actually explain it to me.

As an adult I know that it has to do with reading from left to right, and that I had learned the concept but that my teacher had forgotten to make sure that I understood the expression of the concept. As the adult, she should have understood that when I got every single problem wrong. I had the same teacher in fourth grade. She really wasn't a bad teacher. But I still vividly remember her berating the entire class because we'd all gotten "F"s on a math test. Even then I knew there was something wrong with that. When the entire class fails or when a student gets every single problem wrong, there is a teaching problem instead of a learning problem. But I didn't know how to articulate that then, I just knew that I was going to have to go home and show my dad that I'd gotten my very first "F" ever. (Mom said she wouldn't tell. I don't know whether she did or not, but I never heard about it so if she did tell she made it clear that I was devastated. I should never make fun of my mother again.)

The lesson I learned: It is my job as a teacher to teach the task along with the concept. If a child doesn't understand something it's my job to rectify the problem, not the student's. And, most important, try not to be hasty.

Back to "greater than" and so forth. For second grade, I had Mrs. Buck. I still remember her as one of the nicest teachers I'd ever had. We reviewed "greater than/less than." Alex (or Andy or Al or some such, just go with me here) the Hungry Alligator wanted to eat more fish. So he opened his mouth as wide as he could go toward the larger group of fish. AHA!! That was why the arrow pointed the wrong way. Because it wasn't an arrow at all, it was an alligator! (It would have taken all of what, five seconds?, for my first grade teacher to explain this, by the way.) For the rest of that second grade math unit, all of my > and < had eyes and teeth.

Yesterday the fine young gent and I took a break from Miquon math and paged through a different math book until we saw something that looked like fun. And I showed my fine young gent the hungry alligator.

Look at those eyes and teeth! That's my boy, all right.

*My sister had Mrs. Jorgenson for first grade too. She never had to sit in the thinking chair, not even once. She always reminds me of that when we talk about first grade. So I thought I'd save her the trouble of posting a comment to that effect. So there!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Number Eleven

I forgot one. Think I'd get in trouble if I replaced Loving Husband (#4) with coffee? It was a toss-up between Loving Husband and pie. And you can't have some kinds of pie without coffee.

Ten minutes later: Loving Husband just pointed out that he's the one who actually makes my coffee in the mornings.

What to do now?

I'd better leave him on the list. I don't want to roast the Thanksgiving turkey, make my own coffee or clean up cat barf. But I'm really really grateful for coffee too.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Hushabye, cobwebs

Sleepy Baby, Mary Cassatt

So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby. Babies don't keep.

From Song for a Fifth Child, Ruth Hurburt Hamilton

Saturday, November 18, 2006

My First Meme

Books? Reading? Childhood? How can I resist? I read this meme at Semicolon (originally started here at Kate's Book Blog) and had to jump right on board.

1. How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you? I was four. Mom taught me. I don't remember learning to read, but I do remember sitting in Mom's lap while she taught my sister (read her responses to these questions here).

2. Did you own any books as a child? If so, what’s the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library? We went to the library so often that I am not sure what books we owned and which we brought home from the library. I don't remember having shelves of books to choose from like my kids. Oh, I do remember vividly that we owned (and I read and re-read) the "two-books," a set of Companion Library books with two books in one volume.

3. What’s the first book that you bought with your own money? I don't remember. Probably a horse book.

4. Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often? Yes! Not only was I a voracious reader, I was a voracious re-reader. Good thing, or I might have read the library clean out of books! I re-read The Black Stallion series (Walter Farley), The Incredible Journey (Sheila Burnford), Where the Red Fern Grows (Wilson Rawls). Everything by Margeurite Henry.

I still re-read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (Lewis Carroll), The Sword in the Stone (T.H. White) and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (J.R.R. Tolkien) regularly. I know, that's more than one, but they're like potato chips....

5. What’s the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it? When I was about 8 (9?) I fell in love with a kid's book and my mom suggested that I search for books by the same author. She'd written mostly adult books. Adult romance books. I vividly remember telling the librarian upstairs in the adult section (oh, I felt so grown-up!) that my mom said I could. I don't think my mother realized what I was checking out. It was only mildly inappropriate, but still...I didn't check out any more of her books. At about the same age I read Jaws all in one night while my parents were gone. I don't think I was supposed to read it. I never asked, but rushing to read it while they weren't around suggests that I probably knew the answer.

As for adult books that I was allowed to read, I read a couple books when I was about 12 written by a woman who worked with children with autism and other disabilities. I was particularly fascinated by her descritions of autism. I decided then that I wanted to teach children with autism when I grew up. Life's funny, isn't it?

6. Are there children’s books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones? Historical fiction in general. I was just not interested when I was young. Now I enjoy reading the books I assign my oldest for her free reading, and she's enjoying them too. It's been fun to discover new books together.

Friday, November 17, 2006


I got an email from a friend a couple days ago. In the course of the message she wrote something along the line that she was inspired by watching me parent. I glowed all day. I mention this not because I want to toot my own horn or hold myself up as an inspirational person...I mean, for heaven's sake, if I was Super Parent, would my kid's feet smell like toast? Would I tell my kids fart jokes?

The reason I mention the email is because I had no idea that this loving mom, a good friend, felt inspired by something that I'd done. I was just tootin' along, being my imperfect human ol' self. And still something or things I did and said resonated with another person. It makes me think in turn about the things I admire about my friend-- the humor she finds in life, her dedication to her children, the way she reaches out to the people around her-- and the things that inspire me about the people around me. My creative youngest sister who lives her life with so much zest and honesty. My homeschooling sister who is my sounding board about school and life, and one of the hardest workers I know. My smart and loving mom, who accepts our teasing with humor and grace. The neighbor mom who is always gentle and patient with her children. My dad's hard work and love for the outdoors, and my dad's wife who is always kind and never complains. I don't think I've ever said to any of these people, "Hey, I admire this about you. I see things in you that I want to emulate. You inspire me to try to be a better person."

The other thing that happened was that when I saw myself through my friend's eyes, I became the person she sees. This morning I drove back from piano lesson thinking about what she'd written and the way it contrasted with how we at Sunshine Acres Academy had started our school day-- we were all out of sorts. The ladies and gents were dawdling and distracted. I grumped and gruffed at dawdlers and distractions. "Hmmph!" I thought to myself. "Nothing inspiring about this." And it occurred to me in one of those lightbulb moments that I am a great mom, that I am the one who sets the tone for our day, that I can inspire my kids. When I walked through the door I clowned and goofed and complimented. I laughed and teased. I even fell down on purpose for a laugh. I probably looked and sounded a little crazed, but it worked. Our day together brightened, pulled out of that down-in-the-dumps mopey grumpy feel. We all had a great day together. Because my friend took that little bit of time to say "Hey, I like this about you," I remembered that I like that about myself too. And I made the extra effort it takes to be a better parent and person.

So...a challenge: Let someone know that they've inspired you.

Thanks, Kari. And thanks for the laughs tonight. You inspire me too, sweets.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The better to hear you with, my dear.

The Book of Old-Time Fairy Tales, beautifully illustrated by Margaret Evans Price was on the bargain shelf at Barnes and Noble bargain last time we visited. I recognized the cover illustration instantly, from another story collection I read when I was young.

Two of the fine young gents share a room, soon to be joined by the third. My guys are best friends, much to my delight, and sometimes to my dismay. My visions of tucking my sweet darlings peacefully in to bed were dashed by much giggling and jumping and Hot Wheels flying from bed to bed and so forth. And so...bedtime stories. Storytime started as a survival tactic, a positive alternative to "Quit-stop-don't!" and has since become one of my favorite times of day. I rock in the rocking chair with a book or my sewing. We chat for a bit and I read while the gents drift off to sleep. Sometimes it's my reading, like The Reformation, and sometimes it's fairy tales.

from Cinderella

These old-time fairy tales aren't the sanitized Disney-ized versions, where the bad guys disappear never to be seen again. They're full of blood. Hop 'o My Thumb tricks a wicked ogre into slitting the throats of his own wicked ogre daughters, Jack the Giant Killer bashes giants in the head and cuts their heads off with a magic sword. Interesting, though, Sleeping Beauty magically wakes, sans kiss, as her prince reaches her bedside, and they talk for hours before joining the world that's awakening around them. The gents seem to be unphased by the gore and death. Maybe they take it as a matter of course that the bad guys die. Or maybe it just sails right over their heads, just another plot device that keeps the stories moving along neatly-- really, what else can logically stop a wicked giant?

from The Frog Prince

This particular collection of fairy tales has some grand old favorites, like Cinderella and Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty. And there are some not-so-common tales, including Furball and King Hawksbeak, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and Hop o' My Thumb. I grew up steeped in these fairy tales, reading version after version of the same stories. The three princes, good daughters, clever youngest sons, wicked ogres, disguised fairies. Wickedness and foolishness punished, virtue rewarded. Women are beautiful and sweet and kind, or ugly and wicked and petty. Men are either clever adventurers or the princely accessories necessary for the wedding that ends the story.

from Diamonds and Toads

It's been a treat to re-discover these familiar tales through the eyes of my boys. They're drinking them in. At the end of each tale, they like to re-tell it back to me, asking questions, trying to resolve for themselves the ins and outs of the story. For fairy tale fans young or old, this site, SurLaLune Fairy Tales, has annotated versions of many fairy tale favorites that include "the tales, their histories, similar tales from other cultures, bibliographies, and modern interpretations." Sometimes the annotations can be just as interesting as the tales themselves.

from The Twelve Dancing Princesses

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Rose and Coyote Dressed Up for the Heard Show (Harry Fonseca, 1981)

We went on a fantastic field trip yesterday. Artrain USA is a travelling museum on a train. The current exhibit, Native Views: Influences of Modern Cultures, features contemporary Native American art. It was amazing. Some favorites: the original Apache skateboard, a modern baby carrier decorated with beautiful beadwork, a comic-based Pop Art piece showing a Native American Spiderman, and the Rose and Coyote painting above (my favorite!). If you'd like to see these pieces and more, you can view them on the Educational Programs page or this Exhibition Images page at the Artrain website. They're well worth viewing. The educational packet, which you can download from the site, has some nice basic definitions of general art terms in the introductory section of the packet. They offer a nice framework for talking about art in general, as well as about some of the art on the train.

Both the lovely lady and the fine young gent who went on the field trip chose as the most memorable work of art a painting about the building of the Glen Canyon Dam along the Colorado River, which flooded Native American ancestral lands. Even the five-year-old understood the anger and grief depicted in this painting, which was even more powerful in person than in the image I printed for the kids to preview.

It looks like this exhibition is winding up this tour, with the next stop Walla Walla, Washington. If you're in that area, it's worth checking out.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

More conversations about Peter Pan

Fine young gent (almost 6), at bedtime: Mom, is Peter Pan real?

Me: What do you think, hon?

Fyg: I don't know. Maybe. Is Neverland a real place?

Me: Well, that depends on what you mean. I think Neverland is a pretend place because it's made up of all of your pretends. What do you think?

Fyg: I think it's real. In my Neverland is all the same stuff as Peter Pan. There's even pirates. And swords! (pause) Maybe he's real. I think I hear him crowing outside the window when I'm asleep.

Me: You do? (laugh) Maybe we should get a dog and let the dog sleep in your room so that he can't take you away.

Fyg: No, I want to let him in. He'll teach me and Speedy how to fly! I want to fly to Neverland and fight with pirates!

Oh, heartless children. Barrie didn't quite sentimentalize childhood in the same way that other children's writers have. (Think A. A. Milne's easy-going serene Christopher Robin and his faithful Pooh, or Carrol's sweet fuddled Alice.) He wrote of the disarming selfishness and power of a child's imagination, the time when things were almost real simply because we believed them to be. Barrie reminds us of the time before children outgrow their charming solipsism (charming because they are completely unaware of it), when they take it for granted that our world revolves around theirs. The time when they can fly because they are still "gay and innocent and heartless." My children didn't seem so affected by faithful mother Darling waiting in the nursery with the window open, and weeping at the piano but oh, I was. It's a whole new experience to read Peter Pan now, at the time in my life when I identify more readily with the mother than with Peter or Wendy. I think the elder of the lovely ladies knew that I was near tears when Mrs. Darling finally welcomed her darling Darlings home, in through the window.

But I won't be waiting near the window. In my darling's Neverland everyone is invited.

Fyg: Nooooooo, Mom. Mom!! I know! We'll come wake you up, and the baby, and sisters too. We'll all go to Neverland!

Me: But how will we get there? I thought only children could fly. Remember when Wendy grew up and she couldn't fly any more?

Fyg: (solemnly) In my Neverland even the grown-ups can fly. Peter will teach you too. And we can see the trees underground! And go on a pirate ship! That's what I'm going to do when I go to Neverland!

Friday, November 10, 2006


The rain is raining all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.
~Robert Louis Stevenson

The fall rains have arrived. We went for a rain walk on the first stormy day, splashing in the puddles and getting soaked. It was a grand adventure, and it ended with hot chocolate as all grand adventures should.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Reformation

Long long ago I posted about reading Diarmaid MacCulloch's The Reformation. Two weeks ago I decided to read only this book until I was done, and I finally finished three days ago, all 687 jam-packed pages. You can read about the beginning of my adventure here, and an update in this post. I read several other books while I was reading this one, started school for the kids, Mom's Taxi Service was pressed into service after the summer break, and I lost the book three times. The longest it was missing was three weeks: After an evening of reading the gents to sleep, I accidentally left the book on the night table. One of the fine young gents (I'm not sure which) realized in his moment of need that the book was about the same number of inches thick as he needed to be taller in order to reach his shirt hanging in the closet. Pretty creative thinking, but I didn't think to look in the boys' closet for my book. I found it while I was looking for a missing cowboy boot. I found the boot three days later while I was looking for a missing sock. Still haven't found the sock. I hate losing things. No, I hate looking for lost things. But I digress....

The verdict? I really enjoyed the challenge. The Reformation was well worth the time and extra concentration it took to plow through five pages or so at bedtime, often the only time I've got to read. I wouldn't say it's ideal bedtime reading, as it was difficult to muster the concentration after a long long day of teaching and parenting: You know it's time to turn off the light when you've read the same three sentences three times and still have no idea what you've read. The book was readable and mostly interesting, even (or especially?) for a complete Reformation novice like me. I certainly feel prepared to discuss the Reformation with my daughter as we rapidly approach this historical period in our studies. And, perhaps most telling of all, when I've got a little more free time there are a few topics I'd like to study in a bit more depth.

I ended up with five bookmarks filled with unfamiliar words, most related to religion or the church in some way. I counted yesterday, there were around 60 words, but I don't feel like re-counting so my estimate will have to be enough. Some favorites: syncretism, nominalism, bibulous, casuistry.

I love that book-free moment when I've completed a book and get to choose another. You'd think that I'd be looking for something that's not quite so bulky, but my hand was drawn to Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Eight hundred pages. I kept trying to find something shorter, but in the end this was the book I opened. I fell in book-love as soon as I began reading. From the first chapter, during a discussion of the question of why magic was no longer practiced in England:
Mr. Honeyfoot was a tall, cheerful, smiling gentleman with a great deal of energy, who always liked to be doing or planning something, rarely thinking to inquire whether that something were to the purpose. The present task put him very much in mind of the great mediaeval magicians, who, whenever they had some seemingly impossible problem to solve, would ride away for a year and a day with only a fairy-servant or two to guide them and at the end of this time never failed to find an answer. Mr. Honeyfoot told Mr. Segundus that in his opinion they could not do better than to emulate these great men....Mr. Honeyfoot did not propose going quite so far-- indeed he did not wish to go so far at all because it was winter and the roads were very shocking.
It promises to be another great adventure. But I'll bet it doesn't take as long for me to read.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Me: Let's look at these pictures of coats and you can tell me which ones you like so that I know what to look for when I go shopping.

Lovely Lady:

Me: Good, now which one do you like best?

LL: Mmmm.....I can't choose a favorite. I like them all.

Me: Ok, well, maybe we could figure out which ones are your least favorites? I don't care for this one as much, what do you think?

LL (about that very coat): That's my favorite. I want that one.

Youngest gent: Momma!

Me: What, love?

Gent: Momma!

Me: What?

Gent: Momma!

Me: What?
(And so on....)

Three-year-old gent, aka "Speedy": Mom, my feet smell like pickles.

Me: They do?

Speedy: No...(smells toes), I think they smell like toast. Want to smell them?

Me: Um, no thanks, sweetie. Really really I don't.

Speedy: C'mon Mom. Smell my feet. Pleeeaaase?

Me: Whew! Aw maaan, you're taking a bath tomorrow, kid.

Fine young gent(5),aka "Zipper," looking at toy magazine at bedtime: Dear God, I really want the golf toy. Amen. Oh wait, Dear God, I wasn't done. And I want the marble run. Amen. Mom, I asked God for ten toys.

Me: Well, honey, I am so glad you're sharing what you want with God. But just so you know, praying to God isn't like making a wish list. God is kind of like Mom and Dad, sometimes we say yes, but we don't always give you everything you ask for.

Zipper: Oh. (pause) Dear God, I really only want two things. I want the car carrier and the golf game. Amen.

Me (knowing that a car carrier is wrapped and in the cupboard, but the golf game isn't): Well, sweetie, why don't you put those things on your wish list. And remember, you get some things off your wish list, but not everything.

Zipper, in that "Obviously I am not being clear" voice: Mooooom. I am telling God and he's going to tell Santa.

(Gotta hand it to this kid, he's not afraid to go up the ladder.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sisters revisited

Last night was Girl's Night Out with my sisters. It was a great time: We sat around and made fun of Mom. It's not nearly as much fun when she's not there to object, but we made do.

So....I thought how cute it would be to put a picture of the three of us on my blog before we went out. And I did. Then when I got home I started looking at the picture. What was I thinking posting that? There we all are, sitting under the tree. Aw, look at the sweet little baby! Oooo, look at the cute kid with the long hair in the cute barrettes. And...oh my goodness, what is wrong with that child's hair? And those giant glasses?

That's my childhood in a nutshell. People would meet my cute sisters. What a cute baby. Look at that petite shy little girl with the long braids. Oh dear... I hope that one's really smart or nice or something.

It's my mother's fault. (Hi Mom!) She got the bright idea that my thick, wavy, poofy hair would be just adorable in a Dorothy Hamill wedge, a hairstyle designed for straight glossy well-behaved hair. But wait, it gets was always cut by a beginner from the beauty college. I believe I've mentioned before that my mother should be paying for me to go to therapy.

(I'd better send Mom an email telling her that I really don't mean this and that all we said last night was, "Gee, I wish Mom was here." It may or may not be true, but hopefully it will make her feel better. I'd promise to never make fun of her on my blog ever ever again, but I might break the promise, so best not to go there.)

I must add, to be fair, that my mother made the shirt I'm wearing in the picture. It was my favorite shirt. It had little white hearts on it, and they were raised and soft, little velvety Valentines on my shirt. I think my long-haired middle sister had a white one with red hearts. I thought about making fun of the shirt too, but I just couldn't do it. Like I said, I loved that shirt.

Read Sisters, part three on my Irie sis' blog, here.

At least my hair is manageable in that picture.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saturday, November 04, 2006


One fine morning the youngest helpful gent decided to help me put on my glasses, and that was the end of that pair. It was time for a new pair anyway, but in the meantime I dug around for my old wire-rimmed pair and wore those while I waited. Every time I looked in the mirror my glasses just disappeared into my face. I just didn't look like me any more. Kind of like the time I dyed my hair red-- it was cute, but I didn't look like me to myself.

"Boys don't make passes at girls who wear glasses." Those geeky, intensely self-conscious high school years wishing I didn't wear glasses took their toll. I always chose gold wire-rimmed "I'm not really wearing glasses" glasses. But secretly, I kind of wished I was brave enough to choose something just a little different.

And then I did. What prompted the change? Who knows? But a couple years ago when I ordered new specs I chose red "I wear glasses! " glasses. (Ok, in the interest of honesty, the eyeglass lady chose them for me. By the time I get close enough to actually see the glasses my nose is nearly touching the mirror-- squinting at a pair of glasses from a couple inches away doesn't quite let one know how they look. But I did tell her that I wanted glasses that say "I wear glasses!" ) When I ordered my replacement glasses I asked for a pair just like the ones that were broken by my sweet guy.

My new glasses are in and I look like myself again-- the shy nearly invisible glasses are back in the drawer. I still look kind of geeky. But now I look like I'm doing it on purpose.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Frosty morning

The kindergarten gent and I walk to the elementary school down the street so that he can go to P.E. with the other kindergarteners. He loves getting to play games with the other kids, so I drag my rear out of bed at 6:30 a.m. twice a week and volunteer in the school library for half an hour while he's in the gym. Yesterday was freezing. We got all bundled up-- coats, hats, gloves-- and went shivering through the fog. Kindergarten gent found a pretty frosty leaf to give to the crossing guard.

We were across the street from the school when I realized that something was missing. There were cars in the parking lot. No kids. No crossing guard. Seems it was parent-teacher conference day and I'd forgotten to check the school calendar. "I could have slept in!" I groaned to myself as we turned to trudge home. What I think I said out loud was "What an adventure! We got to go for a walk on this foggy frosty morning!" What a bunch of hooey.

Then the sun peeked out and the frosty world turned magical. Everything was glittering and sparkling. Our walk turned into a real adventure. No need to hurry home, so the fine young gent was able to meander and poke around and look at things without being hurried along. "Look at this, Mom!" he'd say. Our favorite finds: Spider webs with beads of ice strung along the strands and sparkling leaves that looked as though they were covered with glitter.