Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mighty Morphin Toy Selections

(There's no way I should be writing this post right now. I have a ginormous book to edit, a family birthday party to implement, a house to level to the ground clean.

But why attend to the shrieking to-do list when I can fritter time away?)

In the past I've worried a bit about girl toys -- mostly how to keep the princesses and Barbies at bay, let alone, God forbid, Bratz dolls. This hasn't turned out to have been much of an issue because Allie prefers to play with whatever Sean plays with. In other words, cars, trains, and trucks.

Those boy-end-of-the-gender-spectrum toys have always been in my violence comfort zone as well. Sean's never played with guns or other weapons, and his exposure to superheroes has been pretty mild.

Enter the birthday party, and the attendant birthday gifts. Sean's kid party was last Saturday, and I steeled myself for the possibility that he'd be receiving gifts that I would never purchase in a million years. For the most part, though, the gift choices were reasonable, if a little on the obnoxious side (like the big recycling truck that plays a version of the "William Tell Overture" with the lyrics "To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump" and the monster truck that plays and shimmies back and forth to "YMCA" [why, I ask you, why?]).

Then Sean opened a big box of Power Rangers. Power Rangers! Did you know they are back? This particular set is quite charming, with several villains that are brandishing a wide variety of weapons. I had hoped that Sean would forget about this toy amongst all the other booty, and I even went so far as to hide it in my closet. (Is that wrong? Wait, don't tell me.) The ever intrepid birthday boy found the box, however, and I didn't have the heart to confiscate it again.

And then my sweet, not-exposed-to-violent-toys-or-shows-of-any-kind son started playing with the action figures. Despite my attempt to sugar-coat the weaponry (the torch that one guy carries is designed to help him see in the dark, the huge mallet held aloft by another is a hammer so he can build things -- I know, totally lame), he knew just what to do with it. Those bad guys were being dispatched most efficiently, and not with a firm "Please stop that, bad guy," either.

Sweet Jesus. It's as if some testosterone switch has been flicked on.

Has anyone else witnessed this with boys? Should I be alarmed?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A Riddle Wrapped in an Enigma

How did I come to have a five-year-old? Have I really been a parent for five years? It seems like a milestone of some sort.

Happy Birthday to my sweet, loving, inventive, smart, adorable boy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

If I Only Had a Brain...

I have fallen far short of my original expectations of my blog. It seems that as time passes I have less time for writing posts that attempt something beyond a complaint about my children or a charming anecdote about my children. I wonder, though, if this is actually a time management problem or instead symptomatic of my shallow intellect.

So imagine my surprise and delight to find out that Dana tagged me as a Thinking Blogger.

I'm truly flattered that someone has found something of value in my blog, especially someone whose own posts always make me think. Now, of course, the pressure is on to live up to this lovely button. It's good to have a challenge.

Part of the deal is to select five other bloggers who similarly inspire me. What a near-impossible task! Not to sound snobby, but I only read bloggers who are funny and erudite and thoughtful. But I'll play along nicely and pick a few, ones who I don't think have already been chosen as Thinking Bloggers. For each one, I've also added a link to an especially think--worthy post.

Bumblebee Sweet Potato: Dare to Care
Half Changed World: The Personal Is (Still) Political
Just Another Day: Saturday Soapbox
Daughter of Opinion: Entitlement
Peaceable Imperatrix: Too Much Info

Thanks again, Dana!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Answer Key

And the deceitful entry is . . .

Number 3. I have never read Ulysses. Worse, I have never even tried. Worse still (and please forgive me), I don’t even like James Joyce (except for perhaps “The Dead”). Although I am flattered, Kath, that you think I may have done other things during college to be proud of! I myself can’t think of any off the top of my head.

Congratulations to DaniGirl, Gina, and Becki for their perspicacious guesses. Now for some elaboration:

1. I truly need my sheets tucked in while I sleep.

4. I went from living with my mother to living with Jeff. I wish now that I had spent a year or two on my own in between college and our wedding; perhaps my regret is stemming from the fact that lately I’ve been feeling hemmed in by my near-constant caretaking duties lately. Ah well. That ship has long since sailed.

5. I am not really that neat, but having dishes piled in the sink makes me feel like my life is out of control. It’s the one housekeeping thing I’m obsessive about. For example, dust must be a few inches think before I even think about removing it, and I have an impressive threshold for an untidy bedroom.

And now that other item. It’s kind of a circuitous link, so bear with me.

2. My grandmother’s cousin is a film editor. Apparently he’s well known on the techie side of the industry. He’s even won a few Oscars, for Apocalypse Now and The English Patient. Alas, I’ve never met him, although I have been in touch with one of his children. Another one of his kids is, da da dah dah! Billy Bob Thorton’s partner and mother of his child.

So there you go, my one claim to fame.

Thanks so much for playing -- this was a lot of fun!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

How Well Do You Know Me?

As seen lots of places, the “four statements are true, one is false” meme. Pick which factoid about me that you think is a great big lie.

1. I cannot abide sheets or blankets that are not tucked underneath the mattress. If they become untucked during the night it almost always wakes up. The comforter is the only item allowed to remain untucked.

2. I am separated from Billy Bob Thorton by about three, and no more than four, degrees.

3. One of my proudest achievements in college was reading Ulysses. Okay, okay, with lots and lots of footnotes. And I didn’t really understand the whole thing. But still.

4. I have never lived by myself.

5. I can’t stand having dirty dishes stacked in my kitchen sink. They must be quickly dispatched to the dishwasher or I start to twitch.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Yet Another Silly Time-Wasting Internet Thing

But still, kind of fun.

As seen at Danigirl's.

Monday, March 12, 2007

No Coherence Whatsoever

For anyone not in the mood to follow my usual meanderings, have I got a post for you: random bullets!

-- I am a soccer mom now. Sean had his first game yesterday; he seems to have polished up his abilities a bit since his last soccer experience but has not lost any of his enthusiasm. It's quite adorable to watch. Except for that I don't actually LIKE soccer, I can think of worse ways to spend our Sundays afternoons this spring.

-- I don't know how it happened, but I found myself applying some of Stacy and Clinton's What Not to Wear guidelines yesterday. I bought this cropped jacket a few months ago, thinking it would be flattering. After wearing it a few times, I realized that it is anything but flattering. What I needed, instead, was a jacket with a nipped waist that gives the illusion of a waist instead of a jacket that lets everyone see, in no uncertain terms, that there is actually no waist to be had. A jacket, in fact, that I ALREADY OWNED but had forgotten about. This is what happens when you wear jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt every single day.

-- I hate when Stacy and Clinton are right.

-- It's a lovely, warm-ish afternoon. I should begin to feel my soul lifting any minute now.

-- (Looks at watch). Still waiting.

-- I have to go distribute our neighborhood watch newsletter now. Did I ever mention how Jeff volunteered me for this gig about a year and a half ago? The man who coordinates the newsletter was walking down our street and asked Jeff if he'd be interested in helping out. "No, but my wife can. She's staying at home now." Of course! Walking up and down our street, leafleting and risking actual human contact with our neighbors? Wait, can I take the kids along so that the whole process takes three times as long? Okay, great, sign me up!

-- On the other hand, what's the rush? I've had the current newsletter for over a month.

-- Okay, okay, I'll go do my civic duty.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Revisiting Old Friends

(This was to have been two separate posts, but I saw a link between them and decided to stick them in the blender.)

One of my Christmas presents was Rereadings, edited by Anne Fadiman. When I initially heard about the book, I hadn’t paid sufficient attention to the “edited” part -- I was thinking that Fadiman had written it. The subtitle apparently hadn’t clued me in, either: “Seventeen Writers Revisit Books They Love.” So aside from the introduction, the book features none of Fadiman’s delicious writing.

Proceeding from that disappointment, I also discovered that reading essays about books I’ve never read is not especially resonant. I’m sure that says a lot about my own intellectual shallowness. The more familiar I was with the re-read book, the more I liked the essay. So, the ones on Pride and Prejudice and Franny and Zooey fascinated; those on Lord Jim and The Charterhouse of Parma . . . well, let’s just say I skimmed.

I don’t often re-read books. The time I have for reading is so limited now that I don’t want to devote any of it to familiar titles. This wasn’t always the case; when I was a teenager I read Sybil and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden about 10 times each. Books about insanity, it seems, nicely augmented my adolescent propensity for angst.

With Sean’s burgeoning interest in longer books, I think I’ll now get a chance to indulge in re-readings I’d never otherwise attempt. Fresh from our success with Winnie-the-Pooh, Sean and I just finished reading Charlotte’s Web.

I know it’s a classic, I know that anything I have to say about it is just a pointless drop of water in the sea. But . . . I’m still reeling from its magic, from its simultaneous simplicity and profundity. The story remains as touching and sorrowful and joyful as I recalled, but I don’t think I’d ever paid much attention to the writing itself. It astounded me, how prose so crisp and concise could evoke such transcendent images.

I was a little worried about how Sean would react to the threat of the ax throughout the story. I needn’t have been; he seemed concerned about Wilbur’s fate but not overly alarmed. When we got to the passage about Charlotte dying, I kept glancing at Sean’s face to see what feelings, if any, were registering. Did I see tears in his eyes, or was I just projecting my own emotions onto him? I’m still not sure. I do know that I had to wait a few minutes to collect myself before I could read this:

She never moved again. Next day, as the Ferris wheel was being taken apart and the race horses were being loaded into vans and the entertainers were packing up their belongings and driving away in their trailers, Charlotte died. The Fair Grounds were soon deserted. The sheds and buildings were empty and forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash. Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all. No one was with her when she died.

(One quibble that this re-reading prompted: It seems to me that Fern’s transformation from an 8-year-old girl who saved Wilbur’s life and spent her summer perched on a stool in the barnyard to a boy-crazy preadolescent in the span of a few months was not quite credible. I know that this shift served to embellish the book’s theme of lifecycle changes, but I just don’t think that Fern would have abandoned Wilbur for Henry Fussy at his proudest moment. Not my Fern, anyway.)

I wonder how Sean will remember this, his first reading of Charlotte’s Web. I wonder how many times he will re-read the book, and what he will think of it with each iteration. For now, I’m just thrilled that each day for the past week I got to hear him ask, “Can we read more about Wilbur and Charlotte now?”

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Dream, Dream, Dream

One of the morning rituals the kids and I have is a talk about what dreams they had the previous night. On the basis of their answers, I strongly suspect that they aren't reporting with a great deal of accuracy. Either that or they have an astounding psychic link while sleeping. For example:

"So, Sean, did you have any dreams last night?"

"I dreamed I was in a rocket ship and flew all the way to Pluto!"

"Wow. That must have been a really long trip. Allie, how about you?"

"Well," (Allie begins many many sentences with "Well...") "I dreamed I flew all the way to MARS in my CAR!"

If I overlook the dream discussion in the morning, Allie reminds me later in the day: "Mom! You forgot to ask us about our dreams!" (How is it that she has already perfected a nagging, recriminating tone at age 3?)

Even if they aren't necessarily describing their dreams, I love these little insights into what is capturing their imagination at that moment.

Most of the time these conversations are one-sided. Every now and then Sean will ask me what my dreams were. Sometimes I just say that I can't remember, sometimes I make something up. And sometimes I'm tempted to be completely honest. "Well, it was a classic anxiety dream. You know the type? Where you are in college and you're trying to get to a class except that you don't even know the name of the class or the time or the professor or the building and you can't find your schedule and you keep trying to get to the office where they keep the schedules but it turns out that office has been turned into some sort of fortress/amusement park ride? That's what I dreamt about last night."

I can see why they don't ask me about my dreams very often.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Trying to Feel Inspired Instead of Demoralized

In my egotistical youth, I thought I was well read. As if I needed further evidence to the contrary, I saw this list by the Women's National Book Association of 75 books by women that have changed the world. My friend Chichimama posted the list, boldfacing the ones that she read. Then she ever so gently nudged her readers to do the same. I was thisclose to not posting my own boldface items because there are so few of them. But then I decided to do it since there's nothing wrong with admitting my ignorance, and doing so might be a good impetus to read some of the neglected books. Also, it's Friday evening and I have nothing better to do.

So here we go:

Jane Addams, Twenty Years at Hull House
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Isabel Allende, The House of the Spirits
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture
Boston Women's Health Book Collective Staff, Our Bodies, Ourselves
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will
Pearl S. Buck, The Good Earth
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Willa Cather, My Antonia
Mary Boykin Chesnut, A Diary from Dixie
Kate Chopin, The Awakening
Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health
George Eliot, Middlemarch
Fannie Farmer, The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book
Francis Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake
Dian Fossey, Gorillas in the Mist
Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl
Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique
Emma Goldman, Living My Life
Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch
Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness
Edith Hamilton, Mythology
Betty Lehan Harragan, Games Mother Never Taught You
Karen Horney, Our Inner Conflicts
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Helen Keller, The Story of My Life
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying
Frances Moore Lappe, Diet for a Small Planet
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals
Carson McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
Katherine Mansfield, The Garden Party
Beryl Markham, West with the Night
Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa
Golda Meir, My Life
Edna St. Vincent Millay, Collected Poems
Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
Marianne Moore, Complete Poems of Marianne Moore
Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
Lady Shikibu Murasaki, The Tale Genji
Anais Nin, The Early Diary
Flannery O'Connor, The Complete Stories
Zoe Oldenbourg, The World Is Not Enough
Tillie Olsen, Silences
Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels
Emmeline Pankhurst, My Own Story
Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools
Adrienne Rich, Of Woman Born
Margaret Sanger, An Autobiography
Sappho, A New Translation
May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor
Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin
Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror
Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavransdatter
Alice Walker, The Color Purple
Eudora Welty, Delta Wedding
Edith Wharton, Ethan Frome
Phyllis Wheatley, The Collected Works of Phyllis Wheatley
Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Women
Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Either We Know Each Other Really Well, or We're the Most Boring People Alive

The other night Jeff and I were in the late stages of coach potato syndrome (symptoms: slack posture, glazed eyes, rapid reflexive pressing of remote control buttons) when we came upon Miami Ink. We'd never actually seen an episode of this show. Jeff put down the remote and turned to me.

"Let's play a game," he said.

"Umm, okay." A game is not part of our standard evening repertoire.

"Think about what kind of tattoo you would get and where it would go. Then think of the same for me. Then we'll try to guess what each other was thinking."

It probably won't come as a surprise that neither of us has a tattoo. In fact, the thought of my straighter-than-an-arrow husband with a tattoo is very hard to summon. Nonetheless, I agreed. After a few minutes of pondering, we offered our guesses.

"Well, with you it has to be one of two things," he said.

What, am I that predictable?

"My first guess is a peace symbol."

Apparently, yes, I am that predictable.

"Okay, where would I have it then?"

He thought perhaps my shoulder, but then revised it my hip. Both of which were the two places I'd considered. Hmphh.

"And what was the other one?" I asked.

"I thought maybe a yin-yang."

This man knows too much about me.

"Okay, my turn! I'm thinking drum sticks for you."

"That's right," he said, laughing. "And where?"



So, like I said, either we have this amazing insight into each other's soul or we're just criminally lacking in imagination. On second thought, it could very well be both.