Archive for March, 2009

30 Poets/30 Days

March 23, 2009 @ 5:40 am | Filed under:

30poets30daysSo, so, so excited am I. So will you be, too, when you hear the news. Gregory K. Pincus, the inventor of the Fib, has put together a wonderful bloggity adventure for National Poetry Month: he’ll be posting a previously unpublished poem by a well known writer every day in April. The poets include: Arnold Adoff, Jon Sciezka, Jane Yolen, Jack Prelutzsky, April Halprin Wayland, and so many more. 26 more, to be precise. Hop over to Greg’s blog and find out all about it.

Twitterlog March 9-20

March 22, 2009 @ 6:51 am | Filed under:


• Beanie and Rilla march into the room hand in hand. “We’re going on a long and perilous journey to seek a nice monster who’ll growl at us.”


Today’s readaloud interrupted by 1 leaky diaper, 2 bouts of spit-up, 2 toddler squabbles, 1 desperate need for snack, 1 agonizing tiny bruise. (more…)

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Mid-March Garden Notes

March 21, 2009 @ 7:04 am | Filed under:

In Virginia, we always used to plant our peas around St. Patrick’s Day. Here in San Diego, we’re harvesting them. My mother helped the girls put in a small vegetable garden during her visit in January: lettuce, tomatoes, basil, beans, peas, cucumbers, carrots. Which, now that I see the list written out, doesn’t sound small at all.

The peas—they planted just a few starts—are ready now, affording the children the singular delight of picking and eating them warm in the sun, impossibly sweet, crisp, perfect. Or so I’m told. I wouldn’t have dreamed of depriving Rilla of one single magical pea; this may be the first time she has voluntarily eaten a vegetable.

The lettuce is ready too; we’ll be having a big green salad for dinner tonight.


The pole beans are about a foot high. Tomatoes ripening, and desperately in need of staking. (I forgot to buy the cages for them, Mom.) That’s on my Saturday to-do list.

We’ve got a few carrots sending up their feathery greens. The cucumbers are spreading. Uncle Ray’s bean seeds haven’t sprouted yet but it shouldn’t be long now.

Jasmine is blooming along the back fence, and the bougainvillea too. The bird-spilled sunflowers under the feeder are half as tall as the fence now. The ice plant is thick, lush, unabashedly magenta. The tall graceful spires of lavender and salvia nod at each other from their opposite corners of the garden. The Oriental poppies are are shedding bright orange tissue-paper petals onto the dark soil beneath their fat, fuzzy buds; they look like the day after a party.

Hordes of brown aphids are encamped on the stalks of our pincushion flowers. We watched one valiant ladybug wearily do her part to combat the sapthirsty squadrons. I fear ’tis a losing battle.

By the front stoop: pansies, petunias, snapdragons, rosemary with its tiny blue flowers like the scraps left after someone stitched a sky-quilt. Yesterday I read the perfectly beautiful picture book A River of Words about William Carlos Williams, and I had to laugh because all week I’ve been hearing an echo of his red wheelbarrow poem whenever I pass the front step, where purple velvet petunias are tumbling over the rim of their green glazed pot: so much, indeed, depends upon this, these blossoms, this gray stair, the merry pansies below.

Caught Reading This Week

March 20, 2009 @ 11:59 am | Filed under:

Legion of Super Heroes
(Showcase Presents)
Your Big Backyard (magazine)
Rowan and Ice Creepers
Rowan and the Travelers
Rowan and the Zeebak
Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal
(Emily Rodda’s Rowan books are perpetual favorites around here)
Only Opal
The House in the Night

Rose: (she’s been on a picture book kick)
The Day Leo Said I Hate You
Tales of Trotter Street
So You Want to Be an Inventor
Miss Suzy
So You Want to Be President
The Plain Princess
The House in the Night

Harry Potter
(rereading the whole series yet again)
The Sherwood Ring (“You’ve GOT to read this, Mom!”)
Muse magazine
Interweave Crochet
Sense & Sensibility
(in progress)
The Broken Blade
The Kidnapped Prince
Anna and the King
The Arrow Over the Door
Daughter of Time

Out of Control

March 19, 2009 @ 8:53 am | Filed under: ,

My current TBR stack. Stacks, rather, collected from around the house for one brief precarious moment.


A mix of review copies, library books, kid requests (“You’ve GOT to read this, Mom!”), and titles gleaned from favorite bookish blogs like Semicolon and Mental Multivitamin.

Doesn’t it make your heart go pitty-pat? Such a comfy feeling, knowing there’s plenty to choose from the next time I sit down to nurse the baby…

(And how about my super-classy bedside table? Yes, that’s the top of a bar stool you’re seeing. This is what happens when you spend your money on books instead of furniture.)

Reading Notes: Words and Whuffie

March 18, 2009 @ 7:30 pm | Filed under:

Thursday 3/12

—Not much reading time today. Shakespeare Club in the afternoon and somehow the morning just went to different activities. Did squeeze in time for about half a chapter of Lucky Girl. Love how she’s retelling the history of her birth parents, her adoptive parents, even the nun who facilitated the adoption.

—Beanie was glued to Usborne’s Living Long Ago all morning long. Wants to make fish pasties (the name made me LOL) and meat pie. Explained to me how to make a fake beauty mark. Showed me pictures of hoopskirts and farthingales, right before the Shakespeare kids arrived & “farthingale” was a word in one of our scenes.

Friday 3/13

—Baby had his two-month appointment today. Weighed in at 14 lbs! This has nothing to do with reading, of course, but it’s the reason I didn’t read much to speak of today. Schedule upturned. Guess I did read the med journal article refuting Sears’s recommendation to space out vaccinations.

Saturday 3/14

—A gardening day. Sorry, books. I’m a foul-weather friend. (Not that there’s any foul weather here.)

Sunday 3/15

—Finished Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom. Doctorow spins an entertaining yarn. And makes me want to run and hide in the nearest neo-Luddite cave. And also, simultaneously and contradictorily, kind of makes me want to go to Disneyland. He paints a future in which scarcity is a thing of the past: scarcity of food, energy, shelter, access to transport, almost everything. The only kind of scarcity left is esteem-based: a good table in a restaurant, primo seats at a Disney attraction. What serves as currency in this kind of society is: esteem. The respect and good opinions of others. Fascinating concept. Doctorow calls it “Whuffie.” When others think well of you, your Whuffie goes up. Poverty amounts to ostracism, worse than ostracism actually, because it isn’t that people are choosing to look past you; they simply don’t notice you at all. Their mental internet uplinks tell them you have no Whuffie and their gazes just slide past you as if you aren’t there, which in a way you aren’t.

Doctorow explores some of the complications and disadvantages of his Whuffie system: a kind of saccharineness overtakes public discourse, because in order for people to think well of you (increasing your Whuffie), they usually need to like you, which means people are careful to speak very pleasantly to each other all the time. Which sounds like a good thing, but if it’s not sincere it would be cloying. And even in a Whuffie economy, the rich tend to get richer and the poor poorer, because the more liked and respected you are, the better positioned you are to influence people and do things that make them admire you all the more. As I said, a really fascinating concept.

(Fair warning to my gentle readers—quite a bit of rough language and promiscuity in the book.)

UPDATED with link to interesting interview with Cory Doctorow about Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom.

Wednesday 3/18

Finished Rules by Cynthia Lord, a recent Newbery Honor book. 12-year-old Catherine has a brother, David, age 8, with autism. Catherine has great affection for her little brother and is quite protective of him, sensitive to the reactions of others around him, but she is frustrated, too, tired of the embarrassing situations David is constantly, unwittingly creating. At her friends’ houses, he’ll run through the house counting doors and slamming the cellar door if it’s open; a drop of water on his pants will cause him to undress right then and there. Catherine has created a whole set of rules to help David (who loves rules) learn accepted social behaviors; she is constantly adding to the list and reminding David of his rules.

My heart went out to Catherine. My Wonderboy is not on the autism spectrum, but he has some specific behaviors that are quite common in spectrum kids, and I could envision exactly the kind of situation Catherine kept encountering. That wet-clothes thing, Wonderboy totally does that. One drop of water is all it takes. And the fixating on an expected event, the difficulty in dealing with a wrinkle in the plans: oh yes, we’ve been there. But I’m the mom and helping ease my son through these challenges is part of my vocation. Watching Catherine battle frustration at David’s rigidity, seeing how helpless she sometimes feels, I felt some pangs over my older children, who, like Catherine, are extremely patient and loving with their brother, and who, like Catherine, probably feel in over their heads sometimes. Catherine’s parents are wincingly oblivious to her frustration. She longs for time alone with them, and seldom gets it. She longs for time alone with friends, without the complications that David’s presence can entail (as when, during the new girl next door’s first visit to Catherine’s house, David is bothered by the squeaking of Catherine’s guinea pigs and tries to drown them out by shouting), and seldom gets it. And even then, David seems to occupy most of her thoughts.

Catherine’s plight is handled with great sensitivity. Always, her deep love for David is apparent—and is, indeed, the cause of some of her hardest moments. It bothers her when people stare at him, but it bothers her even more when a stranger’s gaze slides past him, deliberately not seeing him. (Hmm, Whuffie again.) But Catherine’s unhappiness runs deep as well, and this is portrayed in an honest and utterly realistic manner.

The best parts of the book are the scenes in which an awkward friendship develops between Catherine and an older boy, wheelchair-bound, unable to speak, whom she sees every week in the waiting room of David’s OT clinic. Jason communicates by pointing at words written on index cards in a binder that is always with him. He’s rather a cantankerous person, clearly depressed, possibly suicidal. Catherine is shy and fumbling around him, not wanting to offend him but often doing so. And yet they become friends. Jason likes her a great deal. Unimpressed by the limited vocabulary his communication book affords him, she offers to make more word cards for him—and this is the heart of the book, because as Catherine searches for words that are important, vivid, useful, meaningful, to include in Jason’s book, she is also searching for words that communicate her own feelings. Her additions to the book range from the comical (“Whatever”—good for annoying your mother with, she tells Jason) to the poignant (“complicated,” “hidden,” “murky”). She’s groping for an understanding of who she is besides “David’s sister,” and she’s searching—though she doesn’t know it—for the courage to not care what people think, because what makes her unhappiest is her anxiety over the opinions of strangers, neighbors, the kids at school, the girl next door. Her friendship with Jason stretches her (and him too, it seems) in ways that are uncomfortable and good.

Learning Something New

March 17, 2009 @ 12:28 pm | Filed under:

I’m in a little online quilting bee, and this month’s designer sent us a gorgeous batik vine print and the suggestion that our blocks should fit a nature study theme: things you might see on a nature hike. Too fun!

I saw this freezer-paper foundation piecing tutorial at Twiddletails and knew I had to give it a try. The tree shapes in the tutorial are perfect for Theresa’s theme. I am a total novice at this, but I gave it a try yesterday and I was tickled by the results, imperfect though they be. (I recklessly made alterations in the tutorial’s pattern, which would have been no problem if I’d known in what order to piece my pieces together. I messed that bit up, and consequently things aren’t lined up quite as well as I’d hoped. But you’ve got to expect a few scraped knees when you’re first learning to ride a bike, right?)


This is the first of four smaller squares I’ll be sewing together to make one big block. I finished the second square today (no pictures yet) and it came out better. I used this month’s free pattern for the “Geese in the Forest” block-of-the-month project, also at Twiddletails.

(The turquoise fabric at the top isn’t part of this quilt block. It belongs to a different project.)

I think I could really get into freezer-paper piecing. It spares you the part of sewing that stresses me out—the measuring—and makes the cutting part pretty much foolproof. There’s a bit of fabric waste, though. I imagine I’ll be able to cut down on the amount of waste as I get the hang of the process. Besides, when it’s fabric it isn’t really waste, is it? It’s scraps. You can do any number of things with scraps…

Actual Train of Thought

March 15, 2009 @ 12:53 pm | Filed under:

I had just read these lines at Toddled Dredge, where Veronica so often makes me grin:

During my hiatus, I read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. Apparently it is a requirement of being a thirty-something housewife (it’s on the list right between “make ironic references to eighties pop” and “own yoga pants”).

And I thought:

Hey, that’s three strikes for me—I haven’t read Twilight, I don’t own yoga pants, and when I make references to eighties pop I am nearly always completely sincere. (Oh Adam Ant, how I miss you.) (Sincerely.) Huh, guess I’m not a typical thirty-something housewife. OH WAIT I’M NOT A THIRTY-SOMETHING HOUSEWIFE AT ALL NOW THAT I AM FORTY.

Sometimes I forget.