He takes his work very seriously.
Archive for the ‘Family’ Category
June 20, 2014 @ 4:26 pm | Filed under: Family
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.
June 19, 2014 @ 5:00 pm | Filed under: Family
Early morning dentist appointment (a long-awaited day for Jane) and then later, midday, Beanie’s Piano Guild audition. She did very well. In between, there was a really delicious snack time accompanied by Beethoven’s 6th (what can I say, I’m a Pastoral kind of girl and always have been). And then a new thing with the younger set—another OLD habit I’m dusting off for the younger set. We read boatloads of poems this year but didn’t do much memorizing, and what’s nicer than a brain crammed with poetry? Huck (with Beanie as coach) worked on Stevenson’s little “Rain” poem; Rilla grabbed “Bed in Summer”; Wonderboy tackled a funny verse about lizards. We’ll keep practicing these next week.
Rose and I made some highly delicious salsa. I found huge bunches of cilantro on sale for twenty cents at the farmer’s market earlier this week—TWENTY CENTS, can you imagine?—so fresh salsa was a must. Very high on my list of things I’m grateful for is that I didn’t get the taste buds that interpret cilantro as soap. I love it so.
Me to Rose: Be careful not to touch your eyes after chopping jalapeno.
Me two minutes later: YEEEEEAAAAAAGGGGHHHH MY EYYYYYYYYE!
Today’s readaloud time began with a Huck request: Mr. Bear’s New Baby by Debi Gliori. All that baby wants is to snuggle; it takes them forever to figure it out. And then another chapter of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. We always have to run to the kitchen for a bite of chocolate afterward. Except today only the kids did the running. We’d been reading in my bedroom and it was mighty cool and comfy there. See also: early morning dentist appointment.
This is what Huck does while I’m working.
I’m working on that Duolingo post I promised. And I got a free session at italki.com, so I’ll be trying out a German lesson via Skype next week. (Eek!) Will report on that afterward.
Next week I’ll probably stop counting off the days of summer in my post titles. Probably.
I’m sitting here wondering if anyone turned off the soaker hose in the tomato garden. I’d like to call it the “vegetable garden” but all I’ve managed this year (so far) is tomatoes. Lots of ‘em, though: orange grape (which sounds oxymoronic but is delicious) and roma.
This morning during my blissful half hour of reading in bed, I decided I wanted to go back to Middlemarch—remember I started it (a beloved reread) months ago? And then got sidetracked? I opened it on my phone and found I had to go back fifty pages or so because I just had to read this one bit, no and that one, oh and that scene where…and eventually decided I wanted to read a hard copy instead; I’m wanting the tactile experience for this one—though you’d think an 800-page behemoth like Middlemarch is the exact kind of tome for which the Kindle was invented. Well, the only resolution I made this year was to indulge my reading whims, so mammoth codex it shall be.
I’d looked for my battered paperback copy back when the urge first struck and came up emptyhanded. We’ve been doing a lot of book purging (sob) to make space, and faded, ancient, cheap paperback copies of classics have been on the kiss-goodbye list (gulp). The reasoning here being that these are books we can read for free on our e-readers. I mean, certain treasured volumes full of margin notes are forever-keepers, but I’m talking some of these ratty, coverless copies that were decades old when we picked them up at used bookstores in the first place. When I couldn’t find Middlemarch I figured ruefully that it must have gone out in the Goodwill box.
So I stopped at the library on the way to piano, the big lovely fairly new main branch in our town. It wasn’t open yet. Later, WB and I walked back over, and I was surprised to discover they didn’t have a copy on the shelf. Must be the surge of renewed popularity thanks to Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch (which I’ve been in the queue for for ages). Amusingly, the only available copy in our system today is on the shelf at my local branch—the tiny little box of a building we swing by on Saturdays. I meant to drop by on the way home from piano, but I gave a ride to a friend’s daughter and wound up chatting in her front yard until lunchtime.
After lunch, I read a chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the trio and then we had our little bit of quiet reading time. Huck wanted Up Cat to go along with Up Dog. It was in his room, on the board-book shelf. Right next to Middlemarch.
Thick as a board, I guess?
June 17, 2014 @ 4:32 pm | Filed under: Family
Okay so today I don’t have any photos AT ALL. Here, have a moonrise from last week. How I wish I’d had a real camera with me that evening, not just the phone. Last Thursday: Scott and I had just finished dinner at Firestone Brewery in Buellton, CA, where we stopped for the night on our way to pick up Jane from school. This silvery disk rising up over the green hills was impossibly, staggeringly enormous. We had to pull over and marvel at it. I think it was a day short of full. Glorious.
Jenn left a sweet comment on yesterday’s post about loving that kind of slice-of-life blogging. Me too, especially from blog-friends I’ve been reading for so many years now. How strange it is, sometimes, to think of all we’ve been through together without ever actually having met in person. We watch each other’s children grow up; we see books dreamed of and toiled over and published. We’ve seen each other’s blogs through many iterations. The ones I love best are what I now think of as old-school. Old, you know, like way back in 2006. I began in ’05: this January will be ten years. No wonder some of you were stunned to realize that’s how old Wonderboy is. He was a baby when I began, just a year older than this blog. It doesn’t seem possible I’ve been at it this long.
Anyhoo. Today. Another errand-y day that chopped up the rhythm I anticipate we’ll fall into next week or sometime soon. Jane started her internship today. We’re still sorting out transportation details but for now I’m going to taxi her, which means I’m suddenly revising my plans to include outings on the west side of town. A friend is planning bimonthly beach days at a time and place that dovetail nicely with Jane’s hours, and then there are our Balboa Park explorer passes whispering our names. I’m kind of psyched to have a logistical reason to have to get out the door.
So this morning Scott went with me to drop Jane off, just for fun, and when we got back it was time for me to take WB to his audiology appointment. Had a crackly hearing aid in need of servicing; he’s now down to just one for a week or two. On the way home we stopped at the farmer’s market and bought an astounding quantity of fruits and vegetables for four dollars. We’ll be making salsa tomorrow.
By the time we returned home, the others had finished lunch. WB and I ate and then I had a little window in which to read a chapter of Charlie to the trio. Roald Dahl, bless you and your short chapters. Back I went to fetch Jane. Rilla watched some My Froggy Stuff videos (a discovery via Karen Edmisten) and there was a Signing Time in there somewhere. Carrots and peanut butter for a morning snack. Oh, and Rose and I managed a Spanish lesson before the whole taxi shift started. We’re using a book called simply Basic Spanish Grammar (2nd edition) which I found on one of our shelves…no idea when or how I acquired it. It’s a nice little book, clear and brisk, a good complement to her Memrise vocabulary studies.
(The Duolingo and iTalki posts I promised before I got sick are still in the works. Later this week, I hope.)
June 16, 2014 @ 7:01 pm | Filed under: Family
I thought I might try a photo-a-day thing this summer but hahahaha, this is the only kind of picture I seem to take nowadays. But this is what my world looks like: blurry, colorful, a little off-center, full of goofy smiles. We kicked off our summer today, the younger three and I, with a celebratory lunch at Subway. (Note: I used to refer to this bunch as “the littles,” but Wonderboy has registered an objection. He’s ten, after all: no longer a little one. At a family conference this morning it was decided that they are henceforth to be described as “the trio.”)
We haven’t quite found our summer rhythm yet—it’s early days, after all, with Jane barely even unpacked and Wonderboy only just out of school—but we’re sorting out our plans. WB had an orthodontist appointment and then I dropped the older girls at the mall to see a movie. That meant the trio had me all to themselves this afternoon, and they were pleased as punch. We enjoyed our lunch (I do a good manners/bad manners game with Huck, and this was a chance to practice restaurant manners) and headed home for read-aloud time. Kind of a big day, actually, because I think Huck is ready for his first novel. We usually start with My Father’s Dragon, but that’s a Daddy book (i.e. a readaloud reserved for Scott), so I made a sudden decision and grabbed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You can’t go wrong with Dahl.
Of course we had to go have some chocolate after our chapter. Jane brought everyone treats from school—they make chocolate in the Food Services program there!—which is all the more reason it’s the perfect time for Charlie.
I get so giddy about these milestones, you know.
Then I put on “Young Americans” and we had a little dance party in the living room, because that’s what you do with your sugar rush. After that, I announced it was time to begin a new summer habit we’d all discussed at our morning confab: Quiet Reading Time. “New” only if you don’t count my first seventeen years of motherhood. Somewhere around the time Huck was three and gave up regular naps, our afternoon quiet time shifted direction and became, er, less quiet. But I really really want some reading time for myself this summer (and I’m big on letting the kids see that’s a priority for me), so I decided that we’ll work our way (back) up to 45 minutes of quiet reading time every day after lunch. (That’s a long time for a Huckleberry. Littles are allowed to play quietly with toys during QRT if they get tired of looking at books.) We started with 15 minutes today, Huck beside me on my bed. I read a chapter and a half of A Passage to India and felt pretty spoiled. Huck read Up Dog and Mommy, Mommy, a pair of board books he loves, and then he surveyed the various other options arrayed at his feet and declared he would look at The Grey Lady at the Strawberry Snatcher “because it doesn’t have any words, so it’s easy for me to read.”
Fifteen minutes goes by really quickly when you’re pretending to read Forster but are really spying on a rapt five-year-old out of the corner of your eye, is all I’m saying.
The trio and I reconvened in the kitchen and set to work tidying up the art-supply shelf next to the table. Long overdue. Months of drawings crammed in among the coloring books and Draw Right Now volumes. We sorted crayons and sharpened pencils and got ourselves set to do some art this summer. Then Huck remembered I’d promised him a “play tubby” today (yesterday’s sluice-the-dirt-off-your-grubby-little-feet tubby was way too short for his liking), so I popped him in with some bubbles and took the opportunity to give the bathroom a good scrubbing. Rilla practiced piano and Wonderboy wrote some emails. And before I knew it, it was time to run back to the mall for the girls. On the way over, I couldn’t help but laugh. Low tide, we call it. It’s always high tide for mom, isn’t it?
June 14, 2014 @ 8:25 am | Filed under: Family
I certainly didn’t mean to check out for a week, but right after my fun afternoon at the fair I got sick, sick, sick. Spent the better part of three days huddled in bed, wretched and useless. Scott, Rose, and Beanie took very good care of me and kept the house chugging along. By the time I recovered, the week was nearly over and it was time to head up the coast to pick up our college girl for the summer. We got back last night, minivan crammed to bursting, happy to all be under the same roof again.
Wonderboy, too, is finished with school for the summer. A long, lovely low tide is beginning. I’m making summery plans. Some garden work, a lot of Balboa Park time, some geocaching excursions. Mornings outdoors when it’s still cool, afternoons full of read-alouds and Minecraft. A day at the beach here and there. Jane has an internship lined up and plans to take a summer class. Rose wants to focus on her Spanish—and learn to drive. Beanie is practicing hard for Piano Guild. I’d like to empty my house of about half its contents. Is that too ambitious a goal?
And suddenly I’m realizing we’re at the point where Comic-Con is next month. Gulp.
I want to do a lot of art with my younger set this summer. We’ve had trouble squeezing that in lately, and that’s all wrong—I’ve never thought of art as something to “squeeze in”; it’s always been a primary focus of the day. But my current teens-and-littles mix means our days have a lot of things that deserve focus. So I’ll be working to correct that upending of the natural order. Gotta clean up the corner of the kitchen where we keep all the supplies. Time for some new watercolors and tissue paper.
I have lots piled up to write about. Like this podcast interview at The Parentalist! It was such a fun discussion, all about parenting and favorite resources. And I told about my Wrapple Summer, a favorite childhood memory.
P.S. If I owe you an email, see paragraph #1! I’m trying to get myself caught up.
May 30, 2014 @ 6:00 pm | Filed under: Family, Fun Learning Stuff, These People Crack Me Up
I mentioned that the kids and I share a Minecraft world. Its name is Calpurnia, after a favorite book. When I got a dog in the game, Rose offered to name it for me. The next time I logged in, “Darwin” was running around my attic—Darwin because of Calpurnia Tate, get it?
Then I wound up with a second dog. It ran around my house nameless for a day or two; then one day I returned home from a grueling shift at the ruined castle we’re building in the mushroom forest, and there, wagging its tail alongside Darwin, was “Newton,” newly monikered by Beanie. It seems I’m raising a bunch of scientist dogs, which is fine by me.
One day I accidentally fed both Darwin and Newton too many pork chops at the same time, and you know what that means: a puppy. I couldn’t wait for this new pooch to grow up, so I could see what name the girls would give it.
When I came home this afternoon, half dead after a skeleton ambush, the pup was waiting beside the front door, all grown up and sporting a new blue collar. Her name was Annie, the hover-text informed me. I was a little surprised that the girls hadn’t continued the scientist theme.
Shows what I know.
Rose, evidently aware of this gap in my education, had helpfully left some signage on the living-room carpet:
The dog’s name is Annie ’cause of Annie Jump Cannon, who
was one of the greatest female scientists; she organized the
stars. We still use her system today. Also, she was deaf.
I learned a lot more about Annie (the human, not the canine) after I logged off. She featured in a recent episode of Cosmos and my girls were quite impressed by her accomplishments. Her lifetime spanned the period between the Civil War and World War II, and as Rose explained, she was instrumental in the creation of the star classification system that is still in use today.
The girls have yet to account for the pig in my living room.
April 16, 2014 @ 5:55 pm | Filed under: Books, Family, Huck, Picture Book Spotlight
Here’s a little moment in time. Right after I read The Little Fur Family to Huck (for the first time!) the other day, he wanted to read it himself. This is one of my favorite picture books to read with very young kids, and I can’t imagine how it slipped past Huck until now—I found this copy of the book at the bottom of a box of toys earlier in the week. Of course the very best edition is the tiny one with the faux-fur cover. It’s around here somewhere, but I don’t recall seeing it in ages. It’s probably under a bed.
Anyway, when I grabbed my boy for the read-aloud, he was reluctant to listen, as he very often is right at the beginning. And then, as nearly always happens, before I finish the first page, he’s hooked. It went double this time around. He fell hard for the little fur child in the wild, wild wood, like so many before him.
I caught a good chunk of his reading on video. There’s background noise from his big sisters and brother, but you can hear him pretty well. I love watching the leaps kids make at this age—the substitutions where they think they see where the word is going and plug in one they know, like his “fun children” for “fur child” and “mom” for “mother.”
I don’t know if I caught this stage on video with any of the other kids. I have a pretty young Rilla reading an Ariel speech from The Tempest—you can’t hear much in the recording but it melts me to see the confidence with which she attacks some quite challenging text—but nothing, as far as I can recall, of the others at Huck’s stage. I’m glad I captured this much. Those sneezes!