I’m up early, hanging with the three youngest. Huck’s tummy is a bit off today. He climbed into bed with us before dawn and slept snuggled against me in a way that hardly ever happens anymore; he’s getting so big and busy. He was restless, and after a while I reached for my phone and read mail with his arm flung half across my face. It’s not that I ever want my kids to be sick—honestly, I’ve dealt with enough childhood illness for three lifetimes—but there’s something very sweet in the moment, when you’re cuddled up with a heavy-limbed child who just wants to curl into you as close as possible. My baby will be six in a few months (the mind boggles) and these moments don’t happen very often anymore. I enjoyed this one, while it lasted. Then suddenly he clapped a hand over his mouth, ran to the bathroom, and threw up into the tub.
I’m just impressed that he made it that far.
He’s getting the Gatorade treatment now, watching cartoons. (A few sips of Gatorade every ten minutes for an hour, a trick gleaned from the Dr. Sears Baby Book* a million years ago.) I brought my laptop out to the couch to be near him and am trying not to listen to the squeakings of Curious George. At least it’s not Caillou.
*ETA: Scott has chimed in to say he thinks it was The Portable Pediatrician, not Dr. Sears. We gave ‘em both away ages ago, so I can’t check. I’m sure he’s right—he’s been the one handling the timing of this absolutely tried-and-true method for, yikes, almost 20 years now.
I’m still getting requests for those notes I promised to share from my habits talk way back in August (gulp). I’ve realized I’ll have to post them in notes fashion, for sure, because writing up the talk essay-style makes it all seem too formal, too authoritative. The idea of coming across as authoritative about parenting gives me the willies—it’s far too subjective and individual an endeavor for me to ever feel comfortable making pronouncements about the ‘right’ or ‘best’ way to do things. All I can do is say ‘here’s what’s worked great for us’—after the fact, you know, speaking from personal experience, same as I do with homeschooling. There’s a reason my whole Tidal Homeschooling thing is a description, not a method.
So maybe I can just take my habits-and-behavior talk notes and spit them out just like that, as notes, not, you know, entire sentences. Sentences are hard. They need verbs. I’m okay with past-tense verbs (did, tried, practiced, worked, laughed)—it’s the imperative ones that spook me, the kind with the implied “you.”
For my memories file: Several times over the past couple of weeks, after the boys were in bed, while Scott watched S.H.I.E.L.D. or a movie with Bean and Rose, Rilla and I sat on my bed with our art journals and listened to The BFG on audiobook. Colored pencils and markers all over the quilt. (Imprudent but comfy.) Natasha Richardson doing a bang-up job with the voices.
There you go, a bit of parenting advice I can pronounce in the imperative: Do that. It was delightful and you should totally try it.
Rilla, as you know, is eight years old, which means it’s her turn for the family tradition called Daddy Reads Mommy’s Martha Books to You. Which for all four of my daughters now has meant, as sure as the sun will rise, a sudden burning need to learn how to spin. I understand; the passion gripped me, too, when I was writing those books. I never did score myself a spinning wheel (it’s on the Someday list) but I had to have a drop spindle so I could know what it felt like to fumble along like beginner Martha. She got good at it way faster than I did, though. In my defense, she had Auld Mary for a teacher, whereas I? Didn’t even have YouTube yet. It was 1997, which means the internet helpfully told me what books to read.
Huck and Rilla and I have just finished reading three chapters of The Boxcar Children—they wouldn’t let me stop—and now I give Huck a big squeeze and say, “Okay, baby, time to go play.” He’s surprised I’ve called him “baby”—I usually say “monkey” or “my love” (same difference)—and shoots a reproachful gaze my way.
“I’m not a baby.”
“I know. But you used to be, so it still pops out sometimes.”
He considers. “But I am still little.” Burrows a little closer into my side.
“Mm-hmm.” His hair has that magical small-child scent, half fruity shampoo and half little-boy-sweat.
He takes a deep breath, as if about to unburden himself of a trouble. “That’s why I’ve been wondering…”
“Yes?” The moment has become suddenly fraught; whatever is coming, it’s clearly a serious matter.
“I’ve been wondering why nobody cuts the crusts off my sandwiches.”
So today I wrote this thing and then I wrote that thing, and then I spent a long time on that other thing, the result of which is that I didn’t finish writing this thing here. So all I have to report today is a long, amusing moment waiting outside Trader Joe’s while Huck painstakingly read the entire cautionary messaging on the seat of the shopping cart.
My favorite bit: “ALWAYS buckle up child in cart and fasten seriously.”
You probably can’t make it out in the photo, but what it really says is “fasten securely.” But Huck’s version certainly made sense to him. He took these instructions very seriously indeed and stoutly refused to stand on the end of the cart as is our usual arrangement. No, Mommy, look at the picture. (Pointing to another placard on the end of the cart.) The circle with the line through it means NO STANDING.
He’s getting too big to ride up front, but today he insisted, and he buckled the seatbelt both securely and seriously.
Contrary to appearances, we are not giving away our youngest son (and all his toys, to boot). The neighbors put out this shelving unit and we thought it might be just the thing to replace our sagging makeshift TV stand. We stand corrected. What it is JUST THE THING for is setting up a shop, of course. What were we thinking? The Legos and Wedgits are being offered in lots ranging from “small pile” to “big pile” to “treasure.” When business is slow, you can fold yourself into your house and take a nap.
TV stand. ::snort:: What nonsense adults come up with sometimes.
Found on my old private family blog, dated August 27, 2006. Scott was out here in San Diego, a month into the new job. I was back home with the (then) five kids, trying to get the house sold. Rilla was only a few months old. Rose would have been eight, Beanie five. Scott and I did not bear the separation easily. I created a little daily-snippets blog just for him so he wouldn’t feel like he was missing everything. At night, after the kids were in bed, I had a gig writing parenting articles for a medical website. Scott and I would keep a chat window open and ping each other back and forth as we worked away on opposite coasts. Sometimes we’d go to audio and listen to the sound of each other typing. Four months, and it felt like forever.
August 27, 2006
The Conversation Went Like This
Bean: Why did SHE get to sleep in your bed last night?
Me: Just because. You may tonight, if you wish.
Rose: But won’t she be lonely, waiting for you to come to bed?
Rose, breaking it to her gently: If you sleep with Mommy, you have to wait a long time in the dark before she gets there.
Bean, brow furrowed: Oh…
Rose, kindly: Do you want to sleep in Mommy’s room, or do you want to snuggle up with me?
Bean’s reply? She threw her arms around her sister. The hug went on long enough for me to snap it.
Our 20-year-old niece flew out for Comic-Con and stayed a few extra days for some San Diego fun with her cousins. This turned into a delightful little staycation for us: Balboa Park, Seaport Village, Coronado Beach. She left last night, but our fun continues: another contingent of family just landed and will arrive at the house shortly. In between excursions, I’m trying to catch up on work that got shoved aside during SDCC. So not much blogging time this week, but I’ve been tossing lots of things up on Instagram. Poor old neglected Bonny Glen, I’ll dust you off soon, I promise.
And here we are at Friday in this unusually busy week. Soon most of us will head out to a party to celebrate the finalization of a friend’s adoption—a most joyful occasion indeed. Things we did today: the trio recited their poems (“I didn’t like this yesterday but now I do,” said Huck during the brief pause for air between his, oh, I’d say fourth and fifth voluntary recitations of “The Rain”); they learned a smidge of Latin; we had our read-aloud and quiet reading times. I actually read during QRT today instead of dozing off.
It’s going to be fun, this summertime focus on the younger set, after the rich and productive (and long) high tide I had with my teens. And of course the teens themselves are enjoying the more ambling pace of their low tide. Jane’s internship is going to keep me on the road more than we’d anticipated, but it’s turning out to be a nice time for quiet conversation for the two of us and whichever of her siblings has come along for the ride. (One sibling at a time is the key.)
I’ve enjoyed keeping this log this week. As our summer days find their rhythm, I won’t have as much detail to chronicle—different books, different pieces of music, some outings. But as is our way, the overall shape of the days will be much the same. The sturdiness of our daily rhythm, enlivened by the endless variety of the books and songs and games that fill up the hours, is what makes that very liveliness possible. It’s like a tried and true recipe that you change up with different seasonings and spontaneous substitutions. A good salad, maybe, or a sandwich.
I’ve been bouncing back and forth between Forster and Eliot this week, which is silly, but sometimes I had one book handy and sometimes the other. Forster’s prose makes me ache in the best possible way. I find I’m returning to him more and more often lately, sometimes just opening to the middle of Room or Howards End and reading wherever I happen to land. And yet this is my first time reading Passage! I’m transfixed, as usual.
“She was looking through a nick in the cactus edge at the distant Marabar Hills, which had crept near, as was their custom at sunset; if the sunset had lasted long enough, they would have reached the town, but it was swift, being tropical.”
I find I’m wanting to creep verrrry slowly through Middlemarch this time, taking time to sit with an episode or even just a paragraph and breathe it in, savor its subtleties. For all Eliot is sweeping in scope (800 pages, a whole village-worth of fully realized characters), her magic is in the microcosm. This bit about Sir James, just after he finds out Dorothea is engaged to Casaubon and, after riding hard for a bit, decides to swing by her uncle’s house as previously planned—
“He really did not like it: giving up Dorothea was very painful to him; but there was something in the resolve to make this visit forthwith and conquer all show of feeling, which was a sort of file-biting and counter-irritant.”
That there’s a whole lot of character to reveal in a single sentence.