Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

KonMari for Homeschooling Moms

March 22, 2017 @ 3:20 pm | Filed under: Books, Homeschooling

 

konmarihomeschoolmoms1.

This is going to be terrible, so start with something easy. Let’s say: board games. Collect all the boxes from the playroom shelf and put them in the middle of the floor. Go through each box. Have an old Tupperware container handy; you’ll need something to hold the stray buttons and loose change you’re going to find rattling around each box. (Don’t worry that the Tupperware is missing its lid. You’ll get to Tupperware lids in Step 13, That Box of Miscellany in the Garage.)

Collectively, your board game boxes will contain seventeen dice, forty Pictionary drawings, six Mousetrap pieces, eleven paper squares from Caves and Claws, some D&D minifigures, and 1 1/2 actual game boards. Add the minifigures, dice, and Caves and Claws squares to your Tupperware container. Throw everything else away. I know, I know, the rest of Caves & Claws is long gone and saving random game pieces is pointless, but you’re just getting started here and your heart hasn’t hardened yet. Give it time.

2.

Next up: art supplies. This step will be easier than you think, as long as you steadfastly refuse to let your brain access budget records.

Paint in tubes and bottles: If item was first opened more than six months ago, toss it.

Brushes: If they came from a Crayola or RoseArt paint set, toss them. If your toddler dipped them in glue, face the fact that you are never going to get around to soaking it out. Toss them. All other brushes go in an empty mason jar. Place this jar on a centrally located shelf. Consider artfully leaning your old tin of beeswax crayons behind it. This display will afford you feelings of satisfaction. You will need to summon those feelings in moments of despair as you work your way through subsequent steps.

Crayons: Gather all loose, blunted, and broken crayons from around the house. Place them in a clean five-gallon ice-cream tub. (You’ll find two of those under the kitchen sink and four more stacked on the dryer.) Dig your hand into this glorious collection of crayons. Bring up a fistful and gaze upon them, recalling to mind all the times you resolved to melt them into wonderful homemade crayon balls, blocks, and tapers. As you gaze, ask yourself the one crucial question: Does this spark guilt? Of course it does. Throw them all away. Ignore any lingering pangs of regret. Ten minutes from now you’ll remember it’s your turn to bring a snack to your child’s Little League practice. The ensuing waves of panic will obliterate any memory of the broken crayons.

3.

Delete your Pinterest account.

4.

Glance at your kitchen. Realize people are in there making snacks. This will never not be the case. You will never KonMari your kitchen. Move on.

5.

If, however, you open a cupboard one day and find a refillable plastic cup from the local zoo—it will be giraffe-colored with an accordion-pleated straw—discard it immediately. You are never, never going to remember to take it with you for the 20¢ discount.

6.

Toys. One does not KonMari toys. That way lies madness. You can’t pick up every single toy and ask a question about it. That process would spark many feelings, and none of them would be joy. Anyway, most of the time the question would be “Why is this sticky?”

Here is what you do with toys: gather assorted large cardboard boxes or, if you are one of those fancy types, Rubbermaid storage bins. Dump random armloads of toys in these boxes/bins. Label them Box 1, Box 2, and so on. Allow only one box into the house at a time. Three weeks from now when your children are bored, make them refill Box 1 with all the toys they’ve dumped out in the interim. Swap it out for Box 2. They’ll greet its contents like long-lost friends. Repeat this process, rotating through boxes, at monthly intervals or on the third day of a rainy streak. Store the other boxes in your garage or attic. Your children can deal with sorting and purging these items when they’re grown. I mean, you can’t possibly be expected to remember which My Little Pony is the one that must be kept for all eternity.

Eh, while you’re at it, stick the lidless Tupperware container from Step 1 into one of the toy boxes. There are probably at least three other Caves & Claws pieces in there somewhere.

 7.

Look, those nondescript rocks and pebbles are VERY IMPORTANT to someone in your home. If you do not understand what Marie Kondo means when she talks about things “sparking joy,” ask your seven-year-old if these are his rocks and observe the expression on his face. That’s the feeling you’re chasing here.

8.

Clothing. There is no point in attempting to KonMari your children’s drawers and closets. Those places are subject to particular laws of physics which cause any neatly folded or hung matter to expand and accumulate in untidy heaps. Nature abhors a vacuum and so does your child’s sock drawer. Who are you to alter the laws of space and time? Move on.

9.

Craft supplies. (You can distinguish these from art supplies because they exist in a different room of your house and usually involve thread.) Outfit yourself for an archeological dig, because that’s what this stage will be: an expedition through the strata of your previous selves. A dozen fabulous iterations of you will be unearthed as you work your way through the layers. You, the erstwhile quilter. You, the maker of beaded jewelry. You, the needle-felter. You, the handstitcher of faceless cotton dolls. You, the…wait, what’s quilling?

Do not lament the incomplete manifestations of these past selves. Each of them was awesome for at least a week, maybe a whole second trimester. Also, each one of them undoubtedly sparked an enthusiastic blog post which inspired some other woman with more follow-through to actually become accomplished at said pursuit. I mean, that has to count for something, right? Right?

Anyway: here’s what you do with all these craft supplies. You say airily, “Oh, hey, [insert name of nearest child], any interest in [random craft]?” Rotate through children’s names until someone gasps with delight. One of them will, and you’ll look extremely cool for having all the materials on hand already.

10.

You knew it had to come, sooner or later. The homeschooling materials. Brace yourself. This is just a warm-up for your books, which is where the real pain lies.

First, assemble all packaged curricula. If an item is intended for second grade or younger, box it and give it to that sweet-faced young mom at park day, the one with a kindergartener and two babies. She’ll be delighted and will leaf eagerly through the instructor guides, each item sparking joy. As a courtesy, strongly advise her not to use any of it, just as you wound up not using it. She’ll ignore you, and this coming September she’ll suffer through one impossible week in which she tries to “do school.” Then she’ll stuff it all on a shelf and avoid looking at it until her oldest is in college, at which time she’ll repeat this time-honored cycle. This is a necessary stage in the metamorphosis of a homeschooling mother. In inflicting these materials upon her, you’re simply participating in an inevitable, natural process. I mean, really, it’s the same thing as planting milkweed.

Survey your remaining materials. You will be surprised to find that’s it’s all good stuff that your family actually uses. That’s because you successfully emerged from the homeschooling-mother pupal stage about the time your fifth kid was born, and also you were too broke to order anything new.

Have someone sharpen all the stray pencils and put them in a jar next to the paintbrushes. Post a picture of this on Instagram. We’re sparking now!

11.

Who put all these bird feathers in the linen closet??

12.

You’re getting kind of bored with this and anyway, Lent is almost over. You know you have to deal with the books. It’s impossible, but there’s no avoiding it. Marie Kondo says to begin by assembling them all in one place. This is good advice. Gather every single book in the house into one place, preferably the living-room floor. You’ll be bombarded with emotions as you handle each book. Do not, repeat DO NOT, stop to flip through Brambly Hedge or Swallows and Amazons. It is acceptable to sing “Bed in Summer” while adding A Child’s Garden of Verses to the pile.

Complete the process by placing your copy of Home Comforts on the top of the heap. At this juncture, your floor will collapse under the collective weight of your family library, and your entire house will be swallowed into the abyss.

Congratulations! You’re now a minimalist!

 

Footnote: you’ll notice this guide, and your Kon Mari endeavor, ends before Step 13, the garage. You’re welcome.

 

2016 Cybils Winners

February 16, 2017 @ 9:45 am | Filed under: Books, Cybils

Cybils-Logo-2016-Web-Sm

Did you catch the announcement on Tuesday? Here’s a list of the winners—happy reading!

The YA Fiction winner was Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, which I raved about a few weeks ago.

The judges write:

This harrowing historical novel follows the lives of three young refugees seeking freedom and safety in East Prussia as World War II nears its end: Lithuanian Joana, a nurse burdened by guilt; pregnant, Polish Emilia; and Prussian Florian, a German army deserter carrying a valuable secret. A bumbling, delusional young Nazi soldier, Alfred, also narrates from aboard the doomed ship Wilhelm Gustloff—the eventual destination of the three protagonists and their small band of traveling companions. The ship, packed far beyond capacity with thousands of desperate refugees, is struck by Soviet torpedoes in the icy Baltic Sea. Joana, Emilia, Florian and the others must draw from their nearly tapped-out resilience as they try to survive the greatest maritime disaster in history.

Meticulously researched and brilliantly written, this stunning and devastating story will captivate readers. Sepetys shines a light into the everyday life of the citizens of Nazi Germany and the occupied areas, with many parallels to the modern-day refugee crisis. Each character has secrets that unfold gradually and converge with others in unexpected ways, showing the varied effects of war on the average person. The narrative voices are distinct, well-drawn, and, with the exception of Alfred (a vile coward who fulfills a necessary role), sympathetic. Even secondary characters, such as the Shoe Poet and the young orphan boy, are vivid and compelling. Tightly paced and filled with constant peril and action, the story moves quickly, with the rotating viewpoints and short chapters aiding in the momentum. Though the setting is one of overwhelming tragedy, the growing connections between the courageous travelers render the narrative less bleak. This powerful, haunting, and immensely readable novel has wide appeal. Readers will not soon forget Sepetys’s vivid characters or the story of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

We’ll be making our way through the picture book and other shortlists in the coming months. Always a highlight of my year.

This was my first year as a Category Chair. Quite an experience! I’m so impressed with the smarts and and dedication of my two judging panels. I’m already looking forward to next year. 🙂

day 30: quick book notes

January 30, 2017 @ 8:28 pm | Filed under: Books

Had my brief dip into Martin Chuzzlewit—met the Misses Pecksniff—but have sensibly put it aside until Jamie’s May read-along in favor of Great Expectations, which I need to revisit in February so I can teach it in March. Better get hopping.

Murder for Her Majesty is going over swimmingly. Huck would like to squeeze in two sessions a day.

During our Saturday night art dates, Rilla and I are listening to Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy. The library audiobook checkout period is never quite long enough for us to get through a novel. This past Saturday, I was trying to finish something up and told Scott to send Rilla in a bit later than usual. Then I opened an Overdrive tab just to have the book queued up when I was ready for Art Night. And yikes! Overdrive said our loan was set to expire in one hour. So I rapidly scrapped my finish-the-other-thing plans and hollered for my girl. One hour left! Heavens. I hope we can renew it before next weekend. I always try to get auto-renew but our system is cranky about that with digital audiobooks.

 

day 26: booknotes catch-up

January 26, 2017 @ 8:33 pm | Filed under: Books

1. Picture books

    

Today is the 26th and my Goodreads log says we’ve read 23 picture books so far this year. Sounds about right; we’ve missed a couple of days here and there but not more than two or three. I may have forgotten to log something.

Mrs. Biddlebox by Linda Smith, illustrated by Marla Frazee. Until I went to grab the cover from Amazon just now, I didn’t realize this was out of print. The author died not long after it was published—we had the same editor, who sent me a copy, knowing my kids would love it. They truly do. Mrs. Biddlebox turns a grim, gray day around by, well, eating it up, bad mood and all. I hope your library has a copy because it looks like it has become a collector’s item, judging by the resale price.

I Scream, Ice Cream: A Book of Wordles by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Serge Bloch. Lots of punny fun from the always delightful Rosenthal.

Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss.
Diary of a Worm.
Diary of a Spider.  Everyone knows these; everyone loves these. My kids can’t listen to one without demanding all three.

The Lady with the Ship on Her Head by Deborah Nourse Lattimore. A longtime favorite of mine—my copy was signed (and delightfully doodled in) by the author when she did a booksigning at the children’s bookstore I worked at during grad school, many moons ago. Madame Pompenstance can’t figure out what kind of fancy hairdo to concoct for the king’s contest. When she bends over to scoop a few sad shells off the beach to ornament her coiffure, a tiny three-masted ship rows right onto her head. She has no idea it’s there, even though the tiny crew drops anchor below her earlobes, forming cunning little earrings; she only knows that she has a fearful headache all day long. So funny, and the art is lavish and captivating. A big hit with my gang.

Frog Girl by Owen Paul Lewis. You had me at the bit where the frog lifts the skin of the lake and takes the girl to her underwater frog village.

World Rat Day by J. Patrick Lewis and Anna Raff. A poem collection of made-up holidays. Dragon Appreciation Day is Rilla’s favorite.

2. High-tide companions

We’re still reading The Secret Horses of Briar Hill at bedtime—only a few pages at a time, because Huck is a sleepy guy at the end of the day. We can’t move it to morning because then Stevie would miss out. So I’ve started a new midmorning read-aloud; I was wanting some historical fiction to tie in with our Age of Exploration studies. Beanie suggested one of her old favorites: A Murder for Her Majesty. I haven’t read this one in ages, and possibly never aloud. SO GOOD. We’re only on Chapter 2 so far: young Alice witnessed her father’s murder and went on the run. She’s been taken in by a group of choirboys at York Minster, and they’ve just decided she should cut her hair and hide in the choir. Suspense!

3. My own meanderings

You didn’t think I really meant that Dickens quote the other day, did you? I didn’t look it up to see who said it, but “Let us have no meandering” sounds like Betsey Trotwood. Me, I’m a meanderer. After I finished Ilsa (about which: seriously, more later—not tonight because they’re waiting on me to watch the rest of Fellowship), I found myself in a familiar dither over what of a hundred (a hundred hundred!) options to choose next. Sometimes it takes me weeks to choose. It’s annoying. Just settle down and PICK something! I fight with my brain sometimes. I’ve read the openings of at least five books. One is about King Edward VII and I do mean to finish it. Another is about bees (I know, shocker), and yet another falls into my favorite subgenre: books about books. I keep dipping back into it and will probably curl up with it this weekend for real. And then there’s a (digital) stack of YA novels whispering to me. Also: I did download Martin Chuzzlewit and have chuckled through two chapters so far. I’m arriving too early at Jamie’s May Dickens read-along but her description of this particular novel piqued my interest. Realistically, though, I’ll have to shelve it soon and turn my attention to Great Expectations, which I’m teaching in March.

Oh, and I forgot the three in-progress audiobooks. What is wrong with me? Code Name Verity (edge of my seat; I’ll be recommending to Beanie; and yes I’m very late in getting to this one, which knocked everyone’s socks off a few years ago); Landmarks (still); and A Short History of Nearly Everything.

day 23: what the dickens

January 23, 2017 @ 9:24 am | Filed under: Books

Image source: The British Library's public domain collection. Taken from page 109 of 'Pictures from Dickens with readings. With illustrations by H. M. Paget, Fred Barnard, etc.'

Image source: The British Library’s public domain collection. Taken from page 109 of ‘Pictures from Dickens with readings. With illustrations by H. M. Paget, Fred Barnard, etc.’

Jamie of Light and Momentary has been sparking my desire to read more Dickens since, well, I want to say since 2004 or ’05 when I first encountered her blog. It often puzzles me that I have so many Dickens gaps in my reading history, since David Copperfield is one of my favorite books, one that actually, literally makes me cry laughing. And Tale of Two Cities, jiminy crickets what a nail-biter. Once you get past those impossible opening chapters when you, like the baffled guard, have no idea what’s going on.

“Did you hear the message?”

“I did, Joe.”

“What did you make of it, Tom?”

“Nothing at all, Joe.”

“That’s a coincidence, too,” the guard mused, “for I made the same of it myself.”

I remember reading a Neil Gaiman post a number of years back, in which he described jumpstarting an exercise habit by listening to Bleak House on audiobook:

[The book Younger Next Year] said, among other sensible things, that I should exercise for 40 minutes a day, getting my heart rate up. And I should do weights…

And I thought, But Dear God I’ll Be So Bored.

And that was when I had one of those ideas that ought to come with floating lightbulbs. I thought, Bleak House. A book I loved, but had never finished, due to always leaving it places.
I’ve been chatting to the Audible.com people about a mysterious thing I’ll announce soon, and Don Katz from Audible had shown me the Audible app and mentioned that I could now use my Amazon account to log in and buy books on Audible. So I downloaded the Audible app to my phone and to my iPod touch. I listened to samples of a dozen Bleak Houses, then plumped for the top-rated, which sounded excellent. And from that point on, most days, I did 40 minutes a day of Bleak House. And if I couldn’t do 40 minutes I’d do half an hour, or 20 minutes. I’d exercise, and I’d lose myself in Dickens, and the time would fly by.
It’s a glorious book, and perfect for an audio book…

Brilliant, I thought: I’ll do Bleak House on audio!

I’m not sure I made it through chapter two. I must not have had the same charming narrator Gaiman describes. Mine was so dull I almost dozed off on the treadmill.

Image taken from page 97 of 'Pictures from Dickens with readings. With illustrations by H. M. Paget, Fred Barnard, etc.'

Image source: The British Library’s public domain collection. Image taken from page 97 of ‘Pictures from Dickens with readings. With illustrations by H. M. Paget, Fred Barnard, etc.’

I’ll be teaching Great Expectations to one of my English lit classes this spring, so I’ll need to reread it soon. Dickens has, therefore, been on my mind. This morning I experienced an amusing bit of synchronicity: Jamie’s post coming lightning-quick on the heels of my own Dickens train of thought. Jamie is proposing a read-along of Martin Chuzzlewit in May:

Today I was thinking about which fat Dickens novel I’d like to re-read next, after the spring semester ends. “Martin Chuzzlewit!” I said to myself. It’s the only novel that’s partially set in the US, and its biting observations about American culture still resonate. I read it for the first time in 2001, not long after our return from two years in the UK, and I am curious to see how my memories hold up. Plus it’s an interesting time in which to reflect on outsiders’ perceptions of the wacky ways we do things here in the US…

See the rest of her post for details (and a hashtag, even). I replied with a comment so long I decided to turn it into this (even longer post).

Jamie, I’m chuckling over the timing of my seeing this post in my Feedly. It’s early morning here and I just spent an hour not reading, but rather tapping through the bazillion galleys on my Kindle, trying to decide what to read. I have the worst option paralysis when it comes to books.

Then Scott (that angel) brought me a mug of caffeinated hot cocoa and I sat up, sighing, feeling I’d wasted a precious reading hour. The thought in my head was: I’m 48. I can’t afford to waste ANY reading hours. I mean, I still haven’t gotten through all of Dickens!

Which made me remember that last year I set up DailyLit to send emails three days a week containing installments of classics I hadn’t gotten around to yet. I’ve tried DailyLit before, and what always happens is: either I get about a week into a book and then start saving the emails for later, which means never; or I get sucked into the novel and wind up abandoning the installment plan and just plain reading the book. 🙂 I read a lot of Twain that way in 2015. So this morning, about thirty seconds before I opened Feedly, I thought: maybe I should do a Dickens DailyLit project?

And then boom, your post. 🙂

I’ve never read Chuzzlewit. For that matter, I’ve never made it through Bleak House, either. I’m going to go see what Dickens is available via DailyLit because those email chunks really are a good way to get me rolling on a big reading project. (Except when they aren’t.) 😉

Your remarks on Dickens’s biting observations of American culture reminded me of the story about a very young Kate Douglas Wiggins’s biting observations of Dickens’s work–to his face. Do you remember that? Here’s an excerpt from an old post on Bonny Glen:

“Well, upon my word!” he said. “You do not mean to say that you have read them!”

“Of course I have,” I replied. “Every one of them but the two that we are going to buy in Boston, and some of them six times.”

“Bless my soul!” he ejaculated again. “Those long, thick books, and you such a slip of a thing!”

“Of course,” I explained, conscientiously, “I do skip some of the very dull parts once in a while; not the short dull parts, but the long ones.”

He laughed heartily. “Now, that is something that I hear very little about,” he said. “I distinctly want to learn more about those very dull parts…”

The full story is hilarious.

Well, it seems Martin Chuzzlewit is not available via DailyLit installments. It’s free on Kindle, though, if you’d like to join Jamie’s read-along in May. #FAMDRAL

Great Expectations isn’t a DailyLit selection, either, so I’ll have to prep for my class the old-fashioned way. But there are a number of other Dickens novels at DailyLit (see image below)—and if anyone was made for reading via daily installments, it’s Charles Dickens, prize of the periodicals.

Dickens novels available in email installments via DailyLit

 

Related post: “Snuggling Up to Genius

day nineteen: heartbreak

January 19, 2017 @ 5:33 pm | Filed under: Books, Charlotte Research, Current Affairs

Yankeecopies

Feb. 17, 1818 Yankee article with my researcher’s sticky note still in place

I woke up to the news that the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities are among the programs slated for elimination in the new administration’s budget proposals. Not exactly a surprise, but still it smacked me in the gut, and I’ve walked around feeling ill all day.

Anyone who knows me knows why I’m sick about the scrapping of the NEA. But losing the National Endowment for the Humanities as well? Takes my breath away. If you’ve read my Charlotte books, you’ve seen one NEH project in action. The NEH funded the US Newspaper Program, which gave grants to all 50 states to preserve old, crumbling newspapers on microfilm.

Massachusetts, for example, received $770,942 in NEH support to catalog over 8000 titles, including the 1680 Publick Occurrences, America’s first newspaper. There are treasures in those archives that would have been lost to time, but for this federal funding program.

On Tide Mill LaneYou know that hurricane I wrote about in Tide Mill Lane? I learned of it in The Yankee—including whose roof was torn off and what other damages Roxbury folks suffered. The Brighton Cattle Show, right down to all the winners? The Yankee. The vandalism of the Bible in a Roxbury church. The first gaslights in Boston. The parade, the details of the wagons and the whole celebration. The first elephant brought to North America. All that priceless historical information came right out of newspaper articles that are available on microfilm at the Boston Public Library.

Jane was still going through treatment for leukemia in NY when I was researching and writing the first two Charlotte books. I couldn’t travel. My editors at HarperCollins arranged a stipend for on-site researchers who made copies for me. “ANYTHING AT ALL you can get me from the years 1800-1820,” I asked. “The whole paper, not just the news articles. I want advertisements, editorials, everything.” Amy Sklansky and Theresa Peterson put in dozens of hours printing off copies. I pored over those riches for months. I still have them—boxes of Yankee articles on that slippery microfilm paper. I use the story about the orchard thieves (“a man named Peter Twist and two well-dressed women”) in writing workshops to this day.

That’s what the NEH did for me, and for you, if you enjoyed my books. And that’s one tiny fraction of what those tax dollars funded.

 

day seventeen: tired

January 17, 2017 @ 8:42 pm | Filed under: Books, Family

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I couldn’t get to sleep last night. This hardly ever happens. I usually nod off while reading, but I just kept turning pages and suddenly it was 1:30a.m. And then I lay there trying with all my might to achieve sleep, an endeavor not famous for its success rate. Finally, around 2, I gave up and got out of bed. I had a grant draft to finish, so I hunkered down on the living room sofa with my laptop and hammered out another chunk. Crawled back to bed at 3:30 and wished it were Saturday instead of Tuesday. But Tuesday morning rollerskated right on in mere seconds later, or so it seemed.

Huck eats salami for breakfast. I admit I’m not keen on handling cold cuts first thing in the morning, but boy do I love that kid. His full-throttle hugs and the full-throttle monologues he’s clearly been saving for me since the moment he sprang out of bed. And his big brother, spiky-haired and grinning, another morning person, reveling in the crisp, linear order of business that school mornings bring. The bus picks him up at the corner. Huck and Rilla wait with him and tear back to the house the moment they sight it, so that by the time it rounds the bend and rolls past our house, they’ve fetched me and we’re all in the doorway waving as it goes by. These little family rituals are what bind you.

I had to keep plugging away at the grant, so Huck and Rilla listened to some Earworms German and then Rose shepherded them through some math. I took a break to read them our history chapter and some Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen poems from Poetry for Young People. Then everybody else went to the park and I returned to the grant.

The draft is finished and I know I’ll sleep well tonight. Scott just brought me milk and a few of the last Candy Cane Joe-Joe’s. Beanie told me she’s working on characters for a new story and spent part of her day watching early cartoons for style reference. Tomorrow is Lit Class day, which means another dose of King Lear. I love the weeks when my primary task is to drop a few questions into the soup pot like stones, and then sit back and let the girls build their savory stew, carrot by onion by bay leaf.

Hmm, maybe that’s what I should hunt up for tomorrow’s picture book: Marcia Brown’s Stone Soup. We read Barbara Cooney’s version of Snow White and Rose Red last night and Huck was rapt. He was disappointed, this evening, to learn we had finished the whole story last night—he was hoping there was more. Fortunately, when it’s fairy tales, there always are more. Although our pick tonight was more in the fable family: Eric Carle’s The Grouchy Ladybug. I decided about halfway through that the book is even funnier if you read it in the voices of characters from My Cousin Vinny.

Why is he sideways? I have no idea.
Too tired to figure it out. 

day sixteen: more Hornby

January 16, 2017 @ 9:19 pm | Filed under: Books

Just a little FYI—I was poking around Amazon trying to figure out if there were any of Hornby’s “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” collections I’d missed, and I discovered there’s now (as of 2014, so I’m way behind the times here) one big collection that includes all four of the books I’ve read—The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping vs. the Dirt (see this post), Shakespeare Wrote for Money, and More Baths Less Talking—as well as the 2012-2013 columns that came after those four. The Amazon reviews consist largely of grumping from people who ordered this master collection, Ten Years in the Tub, without realizing most of the content is recycled from the earlier collections. But I’m delighted, since this means I can stop hunting for my copy of Polysyllabic Spree, which Scott must have given me because it doesn’t show up in my shopping history.* And even better, I know I haven’t read all the 2013 columns. So: new Stuff Nick Hornby Has Been Reading! New to me, at least. Should hit my library branch this week.

In other news: I finished L’Engle’s Ilsa and have MANY THOUGHTS to share. Later. Soon.

*Ha! Per this post, Spree was a library book.

More Hornby enthusiasm in my archives:

How does he love me? Let me count the books.
Housekeeping vs. sludge.
I hope he likes pepperoni.
The trouble is, I fancy too much.

day fourteen: all about weeds

January 13, 2017 @ 3:41 pm | Filed under: Books, Family, Fun Learning Stuff, These People Crack Me Up

naturejournalpages

1.

A bonus post for today! But this one’s mostly for me: another little addition to our family collection of All About Weeds stories.

Strangely, I can’t find the first All About Weeds story in my archives. I’m sure I must have written about it here! But maybe not. Maybe it was pre-Bonny Glen, a tale posted to a homeschooling message board instead. I suppose it must have been, now I think about it: my Amazon history tells me I purchased the book on July 13, 2002. And it entered our lives as a library book some time before that. Which fact (its being a library book) provides the drama of the first anecdote, actually.

2.

We’d moved to Virginia only a few months earlier (on New Year’s Day, 2002, as a matter of fact). When spring arrived, O glorious mid-Atlantic spring with its abundance of dogwood and redbud blossoms, I was in a mania to know every single plant growing in our yard. Among the books I checked out from the adorable train-depot-turned-library in our little town was a rather dusty tome about weeds. I did say every plant.

I flipped through the weed book but I found it rather dry, and besides, I was sidetracked by what would become a years-long obsession with Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards. (Chip, meet block.) All About Weeds sat neglected (so I thought) on a table for a day or two, and then I returned it to the library.

Soon after, Jane (age sevenish, I think? heavens, that was a long time ago) came to me, came to me all in a dither. Where, she begged most earnestly to know, WHERE was that fascinating weeds book?

When I told her I’d returned it to the library, she was crushed. It was the BEST BOOK EVER, I was informed (in tones conveying, yes, both capitals and italics). Full of the MOST INTERESTING information. 

And as my shopping history testifies, so persuaded was I of the merits of this superior tome that I purchased a copy for keeps.

3.

The best and perfect weed book makes a number of appearances on this blog, even if its origin story has been lost to the archives of some distant Yahoogroup. “Bonny Glen Firsts” (published in 2011) tells me it was in fact the second book I ever mentioned here:

Second book mentioned (though not by name): All About Weeds, a Jane favorite for years. Seriously.

(Ah, there you go. Not mentioned by name. I’ll have to dig up that post.)

I find it mentioned in a March, 2006 post called “The Tide Is Going Out“—an early exploration of my tidal homeschooling concept.

The other day a neighbor asked me if we take a spring break. I laughed and said, “Yes—the whole spring!”

We’ve had such a pleasant time the last couple of months, immersing ourselves in some good books and other forms of study. Now the outdoors is beckoning, and our daily rhythms are shifting. Spring is calling us, urging us out of the house. We are a bunch of Mary Lennoxes, unable to resist the rustlings and chirpings, the spikes of green, the gypsy winds.

I keep finding cups of water on the counter with tiny blossoms floating like fairy lily pads: the first bluets and starry white chickweed flowers. Chickweed, so Jane tells me, is an edible plant and quite tasty. (“Like sugar snap pea pods, Mom.”) She has begged me not to uproot the vast patch of it that has taken over a stretch of our backyard mulch bed, just uphill from the strawberries. Another weed, a purple-flowered plant the children call “cow parsley,” is popping up all over the lawn, much to their delight: they suck the nectar from the itty bitty orchid-like blossoms and proclaim it better than the honeysuckle they’ll seek out later in the summer.

Jane, who had been binging on math during the past three weeks, seems to have shifted her attentions to botany. I find myself tripping over her tattered copy of All About Weeds everywhere I go, and upstairs, the microscope is much in demand for the viewing of leaf cross sections. An experiment involving scarlet runner beans has become the centerpiece on the kitchen table.

So there we are, four years later, and Weeds is still in constant use. It seems wee 2002 Jane hadn’t been overstating her affections.

A month after that, April 2006: “Things to Do While Your Mother Is in the Hospital” (delivering your baby sister). This one—which is the post that sparked today’s story and this entire trip down memory lane—made me laugh pretty hard. (Not at poor Rose’s plight. At The Book’s role in her recovery.)

If you are seven…

…get stung under the chin by a wasp.

If you are ten…

…recall a passage from that scintillating classic, All About Weeds, describing the sting-soothing properties of yarrow, and concoct a poultice of newly emerging yarrow leaves with which to soothe your little sister’s wasp sting.

Well done, young Jane!

4.

Which brings me to today. Huck’s birthday post keeps turning up melt-my-heart tidbits in the “related posts” widget at the bottom of the page. I was clicking along a little baby-picture rabbit trail when I happened upon the “things to do” post above. Rilla, who was aww-ing over my shoulder at her adorable baby brother’s toddler antics, was transfixed by this glimpse at what her big sisters were up to on the day she was born. She read the post breathlessly, pausing only to interject “Oh, I love that book!” at the bit about “that scintillating classic.”

The chip doesn’t fall far from, er, the older chip.

5.

We found the book, you know, during last week’s grand shelf-cleaning. It has been returned to its permanent spot on Jane’s bookcase.