• Landmark History of the American People. I love this book. The chapters on the rise of the American political parties, which we read a couple of weeks ago—fascinating, engaging, even funny in parts, and of course highly relevant to current events, ahem. We’ve read big chunks of Landmark in years past, but never the whole book in one go; it’s a lot to take in. Finished up the Civil War section last week and are just about ready to head into the Antebellum era. Going to hold off a bit, though, until we catch up to 1865 in our American lit readings. Which brings us to…
• Anne Bradstreet. Read about her, read a couple of poems.
• The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan. Just came out. We procured a copy yesterday and it was immediately devoured by the first two sisters in line. Today was Beanie’s turn. All other events come to an immediate halt when a new Heroes of Olympus book crosses the threshold.
• Also I’m seeing The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict (Mysterious Benedict Society prequel)The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma [edited because I should learn to read book titles] in a different set of hands every time I turn around. Scott picked up a copy after my booksigning on Saturday. (This is the peril of bookstore appearances. Any royalty income you might eventually see from the books sold at the event is spent before you leave the shop. Basically, I write books to feed my bookbuying habit.)
• Wonderboy is hooked on Calvin & Hobbes. His favorite bedtime reading. He falls asleep under a collection every night.
Other today things:
• This morning was finally cool enough (which is not to say cool, just notbroiling) for me to plant the treasures we picked up at last week’s City Farmers outing. I even did a little weeding. In a San Diego October (our crispy season), that feels like a Herculean feat. (Speaking of the Heroes of Olympus.)
Thankfully, I was alone when I read the denouement of this lovely little middle grade tale; anyone who watched while I was reading would surely have wondered how I could derive so much enjoyment (as evidenced by the broad grin on my face) out of what is obviously a children’s story. This one is pure enjoyment.
Here are some of the things I’ve shared via social media recently. (I do most of my FB posting on my author page now—a switch I made because I don’t like the visual layout of Timeline. Right after I made the switch, Facebook announced they’re rolling out Timeline to fan pages at the end of the month. Ah well.)
A whole new world of magic animals, brave young princes and evil witches has come to light with the discovery of 500 new fairytales, which were locked away in an archive in Regensburg, Germany for over 150 years. The tales are part of a collection of myths, legends and fairytales, gathered by the local historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (1810–1886) in the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz at about the same time as the Grimm brothers were collecting the fairytales that have since charmed adults and children around the world.
You can read one of the tales (in English) here: The Turnip Princess. (The very name gave me goosebumps. And the tale: quirky, intense, full of the familiar and yet quite fresh. “The nail burnt up like fire.” There’s an image for you.)
I always find something to love and something to learn at Tanita Davis’s blog, and this post is a case in point: Potpourri.
One of the nicest things about Scott’s return to the freelance life (over a year ago now, wow!) is that he’s beginning, occasionally, to blog again, so I get stories like this one capturing moments I wouldn’t have otherwise known. Love.
My poet friend Susan Taylor Brown has started a perfectly lovely new blog called Poppiness: Making a Home for Wildlife in the Suburbs. As a person who has read Noah’s Garden seven times, I am immediately and utterly beguiled by the title alone, and so look forward to enjoying all the posts to come.
Speaking of beguiling, this tidbit from my own Twitter feed: just a fragment of conversation I overheard this afternoon, Rilla to Scott.
I have no idea what the context was, but there is something enchanting about hearing the 5yo say to her daddy: “Yes. In the wilderness.”
(Some of these things, I’m sticking here because I want to hold on to them, and social media whisks them away into the void. I need to be better about storing up our own memories here, where I’ll always have them.)
In that vein, I loved this Rose utterance last week: “Yesterday, the world was cruel and life was dull because I wasn’t writing. Today, I’m writing, and the world is cruel—and life is colorful.” Yes. Yes, that about sums it up, my dear.
Overheard (Beanie this time): “You know what really pushes my buttons? Killer whales.”
Me: “I love my dinner! I love my family!”
Rose: “I notice the dinner came first.”
This one goes all the way back to January. Me, to the birthday boy: “How old are you?”
Birthday Boy: “Short.”
I posted a video to Facebook yesterday. It’s Rilla, caught reading to herself. (When she notices me there with the camera, she barely bats an eye—just asks for help with words she doesn’t know.) The book: Sara Varon’s graphic novel, Bake Sale. Toward the end of the clip, I realized Scott was playing Randy Newman’s “Short People” on iTunes just down the hall. You can hear it on the video. Coincidence. Funny! But mainly, the video was to capture this perfect moment in the life of a new reader. She has just made a massive leap from Elephant and Piggie to, well, things like this beyond-her-years graphic novel. I marveled to hear her read things like “You could use a vacation. Your frosting is looking a little pale” (the passage just before I started filming) and yet stumble deliciously over words like “said” and “extra.” This process, the way it unfolds organically, astonishes me every time. I didn’t teach this child to read. I read to her, and read with her, and slowly the pieces of the puzzle fitted themselves together inside her mind, and it is simply fantastic to behold, every time. Huck is on his way; the early signs are there. How carefully he touches each word on the cover of his current favorite book: The. Little. House. Opens it, turns to the title page, repeats. The. Little. House.
Ha—I see now this should have been a post of its own. Well, I’m not going to bother with cut and paste. This giant post is a pretty apt representation of the things catching my notice and occupying my thoughts, here in these early days of March, 2012.
Oh, and our radishes are up! And lettuce seedlings! A week later. Magical.
Updated to add: Boo! Looks like the Facebook video won’t show up in Google Reader. Here’s a direct link, or else you can click through to the post. It’s showing up there. For me, least. Anyone else?
Busy days here! I spring-cleaned my bedroom today, under the bed and all. (Yes, in July. Let’s just say I’m nine months early instead of three months late, shall we?) I did this not because I’m virtuous but because the dust bunnies were beginning to develop nasty big pointy teeth. Also, the middle girls were all deeply absorbed in Sculpey fashion design again, and Huck had a dump truck AND a toy bus, rendering me utterly superfluous. Wonderboy kept me company while I cleaned, keeping a running tally of the number of lost socks I fished out from behind the dresser and under the bed.
Later, we read a chapter of Calpurnia Tate and (to Rilla, for the very first time, with others listening in because it was a Momentous Occasion), Little House in the Big Woods.
My early reader came back from copyediting with just a few notes, hurrah for that, and now it’s off to the art director. This is the really exciting bit, when I’ll find out (soonish) who the illustrator will be.
And Scott is amusing me with his studious investigations of what route [unnamed superhero] would be most likely to take when flying from Point A to Point B. It seems [redacted] has options that aren’t available to the rest of us.
* the backyard sunflowers bloomed (front yard getting close)
* cleaned up the front flowerbed, moved a few ailing moss roses out there
* tackled the girls’ closet (oh the horror)
* read aloud: Harold and the Purple Crayon, Hush Little Dragon, Stellaluna (found it!), two chapters of Bake Sale, a new graphic novel from First Second (Rilla wanted to hear it because the main character is a cupcake, and before long we’d drawn a crowd. I saw Beanie finishing it on her own later.)
Maybe it’s because I’m in the preoccupied, immersive stage of writing a novel, or maybe it’s because our Shakespeare Club performance is less than a week away, but I seem to be in work-in-progress mode with everything, including writing blog posts and reading books. I have more than half a dozen newish posts sitting in drafts awaiting a bit more brain. They’ll come along eventually. As for reading, I’m still doing that thing where I read bits of many books and have trouble committing to one book in particular. I like all the books I’m reading right now. I like them all too much and can’t seem to settle down and choose between them.
Sooner or later, one of them will grab me by the throat and insist on being finished—probably while the pasta water boils over, or the bread burns.
This happens to me sometimes, this inability to settle down with just one book. I understand the pattern by now and know it has more to do with my mind churning with words and ideas than being a reflection on the books I’m reading—it isn’t that they aren’t gripping, it’s just that my mind is working overtime.
Mental restlessness has its perks; I’ve made a serious dent in the pile of boxes in our garage. Today I found some dishes we’ve been missing since we moved into this place 4 1/2 years ago, and a bunch of pictures I used as reference and inspiration for the Charlotte books, and some rare and highly awesome cassette recordings of my favorite college band. (I married the drummer.)
And my garden is virtually weed-free. I haven’t weeded on purpose; it just keeps happening while I’m lost in my head.
This afternoon Scott and I sat in the sunshine with Rilla curled between us like a cat, and I wrote—out loud—another episode in a little series of early readers I’ve been working on. Rilla helped. There was a delicious moment when I was trying out a line, rethinking, tinkering aloud, and Rilla said, “Yes. Let’s go with that.”
This blog is likely to be photo-heavy in the weeks (months?) to come, and light on words, because I’m immersed in the book.
I love other people’s photo-blogs anyway.
Gratuitous nasturtiums photo.
I really don’t have it in me to craft elegant prose tonight, having spent the afternoon digging through land records and censuses. There is nothing quite like the feeling, I must say, of scanning a census for one particular name and finding another family you recognize, all their names and ages looking right up at you, this young woman you spent last week tracking listed there, twelve years old, living five households away from the boy she will grow up to marry. Five households away!
Other tidbits from today:
More yard work in the morning before it got too hot. The oven winds are blowing; the grass is suddenly crunchy underfoot.
I found a plastic fish in the weeds and Rose cleaned it off and filled a pot with water for Huck and Rilla, and they spent an hour floating their fish in the pond. Bare feet, water splotches on patio, chubby legs crouching. Love.
Rilla wrote a letter today “To the Fairys. A Ladybug or a Fawn.” She was rummaging through the kitchen drawer looking for a stamp when I happened upon her. “Oh good, Mommy. I need you to write the address to mail it. With my pink pen that also writes in pink.”
I’ve been reading mostly nonfiction lately, much of it research-related, but today I wanted a respite from facts and I picked up that delicious morsel of a book, The Uncommon Reader, which I first read a couple of years ago. It’s a quick read and was even more delightful this time around.
I did not plant these. They just grow. Rilla says they’re hers.
I have had this post sitting open on my screen all week. What kind of week is it when you can’t even get a snippets post written?
And yet it’s not that we’ve been so terribly busy. Just regular busy.
It’s rainy here and that throws me off in every way. I’m not complaining, mind you—we need the rain. It’s San Diego; we always need the rain.
Out there in the wet backyard, the salvia has erupted into bloom. And suddenly the sunflowers are fencetop-high and fat-budded. The cilantro went and flowered on me again. I can’t be annoyed—I love those flat, cascading planes of white blossom. Little gleaming golden flies love them too, tiny lace-winged things so shiny they could be crafted of metal. Pollinating nanobots? Suppose it comes to that someday!
I got to slip out on Tuesday night and meet Scott and everyone he works with for a screening of The Losers, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The film is based on comics by our pals Andy Diggle and Jock, whom we met in Barcelona two years ago this week. Jock’s got art all through the film: very cool.
It rained most of that week in Barcelona, too. Good art museum weather. But I think today we’ll not venture forth—anywhere. Feels like more of a popcorn-and-movies day. Jane and I are halfway through The Importance of Being Earnest (thank you, Wii-streaming Netflix). The littles are on a My Neighbor Totoro kick—have I mentioned before that I think that is the most perfect children’s movie ever made? Because that’s what I think. We were given a copy on video when Jane was stuck in the hospital for months, around age two. I bet I’ve watched it over a hundred times. (Stuck in the hospital for months.) It’s a perfect movie.
I am looking forward to reading The Day I Became an Autodidact—Jane chuckled all the way through it. But I’ve promised her to read The Perilous Gard first—another Elizabeth Marie Pope novel. An easy promise to keep; you know how much I loved The Sherwood Ring.
I’m also deep into, and enjoying tremendously, Crow Planet, which arrived in a happy bundle with Caw of the Wild and In the Company of Crows and Ravens, thanks to the generosity of a very kind friend and crow lover. Thank you so much, You-Know-Who-You-Are. I couldn’t be more delighted.
1 Mar—Between rains, a sky gray and bright. Things I missed yesterday: African daisies and ice plant, quite thick with flowers. Blue plumbago and salvia just beginning. Two stars of jasmine among the pink buds. Bees busy at the tree mallow and the lavender.
28 Feb—Second day of steady rain, the first good soaking we've had in months. Already things are greening up. In bloom: nasturtiums, sweet alyssum, freesia (yellow and red), cape honeysuckle, the citrus trees, pink geraniums, lavender. Tulips and hyacinths just coming up. Daffodils and paperwhites fading. Winter lettuce has bolted.