Hands tired! So instead of a post, a hasty recap of the day:
—Dawned gray, cold, rainy. Scott picked a playlist of songs about rain, but then the sun peeked out just as Karen Carpenter’s spirits began to sink. It was like that all day. Sun, rain, sun, rain.
—Set bread to rise. A basic white loaf, today. Made darn good paninis later.
—Some bookish time with the girls, while baby napped and littles played. Some days this works a treat, other days there’s too much hubbub and the older kids wind up reading on their own, or doing other things. Both ways are good.
—So we read some Plutarch. It has been a while. Jane and I really enjoyed wrestling with Dryden’s prose to get to Brutus last year. I thought Rose and Bean might be ready. Rose was skeptical at first, but the opening comparison between Pompey and her beloved Hercules reeled her right in.
Me, reading: “The people of Rome seem to have entertained for Pompey from his childhood the same affection that Prometheus, in the tragedy of Aeschylus, expresses for Hercules, speaking of him as the author of his deliverance, in these words:
Rose, excitedly: “I know what that’s saying! Cruel sire means Zeus, he was cruel to Prometheus, but his offspring—Hercules—set Prometheus free.”
And so it went from there. One line in particular generated a fair amount of discussion:
How often, we pondered, do we give without assuming there will be something in return? A reciprocal favor, gratitude, praise, a reward of some kind? We thought about people we know who, like Pompey, “give without assumption.” Rose named our next-door neighbor, who sometimes mows our lawn just because he’s mowing his own, and shrugs off our thanks.
—But I was going to try to keep this recap brief.
—ASL practice. I’m determined to step this back up.
—We’ve been reading bits of Wordsworth lately. Today I happened upon “The Solitary Reaper,” with a quote above it from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal about seeing reapers working in small groups or even alone, on her tour with William through Scotland in 1803. Dorothy’s journal was an important research source for me during the writing of the Martha books, as I’ve mentioned before. (Terrible formatting of the poem in that post; sorry; I’ll try to fix it tomorrow.) Well, today we talked about how a line in a travel book (see the link above) and the sight of the reapers sparked the idea for Wordsworth’s poem, and Rose said it was sparking a story idea for her, and I felt exactly the same way. The girl “singing at her work/ and o’er the sickle bending,” the poet tramping past, the song lingering in his mind “long after it was heard no more…”
—But again with the fearful lack of brevity.
—What else? Oh yes, Jean Redpath—I wanted some old Scottish airs after that poem. “I’ll Walk Beside You” is one of my favorites. The girls thought Jean Redpath sounds like “the lady at church, not a real singer.” (Which: ouch, poor lady at church.) We YouTubed it, listened to four or five versions. The nicest was three ladies at church (!), at a funeral, singing in harmony. I can’t be bothered to look it up again now, sorry.
—I cleaned out the freezer and we had to test some foods for freezer burn. “Some foods” is a euphemism for Toaster Strudel.
—The mail came; Wonderboy brings it in, a job he takes most seriously. Today’s pile included the kids’ nature magazines, and there was a picture of a mama stinkbug guarding her hideous pale army of offspring, so that caused quite a sensation. You understand, I’m sure.
—And then the bread was out of the oven (it went into the oven, somewhere up there), and the baby was awake, and people ate lunch, and older children scattered to do older-children things, and I did little-children things with little children. Rilla painted. Wonderboy needed to hear The Berenstain Bears and The Spooky Old Tree again, and who can blame him? It’s a perfect picture book, and I’ll go to the mat saying so.
—Afternoon. Rose made chocolate chip cookies, with Rilla and Wonderboy’s help. Now, that is a very casual statement but it’s something I rather marvel at. I am really not gifted at baking with small children. Or, let’s face it, without them. But especially with them. I fuss and hover. Rose—at this activity specifically and uniquely—is calm, collected, a veritable Mary Poppins.
—So they made cookies, and I ate a lot of the dough, and there was this little bitty someone is wrong on the internet thing happening in Twitterland, and, well, the afternoon was quite lively.
—And the cookies were really, really good.
—And the milk.
—And I read Inside, Outside, Upside Down to Wonderboy (again, again, again), and that too is a word-perfect picture book, however painful the later Berenstain Bears books may be.
—Later, there was a lot of Wii, and tidying up and dinner and things. And I think Rose was a governess, a very strict one, I gather? At any rate Rilla was saying “ma’am” a lot. Which is probably what put Mary Poppins in my head a minute ago.
—But now my hands are really tired, and Scott and Jane are waiting for me so we can watch TV and eat up all the rest of the cookies.
—No, wait! I forgot about Journey North! We pinpointed the location of our Mystery City, and Rose was terribly pleased because it is known as the City of Cats. And we learned that Nebraska has a unicameral state legislature, and what that means.
—And I was wrong last night; it was only Scott waiting for me, not Jane, and we didn’t eat cookies. The baby came down with a fever and was tossy and turny all the rest of the evening, and all night. And now it’s morning, so instead of The End, I will finish with:
From the Archives: Thanksgiving
Good Call, Santa
The Month That Ate My Brain
The road goes ever on and on…