Archive for February, 2010

A Short History of the Piñata

February 24, 2010 @ 7:34 am | Filed under: ,

Every now and then I like to collect the kid-quips I’ve tweeted and deposit them here, just to keep the family archive in one place. Apologies to Twitter-friends for whom these may be repeats.


Actual last line of chat with friend last night: “TTYL—must go get hulk out of dishwasher.” 


Rilla just asked me to pour her a “nice juicy cup of milk.” 


Rilla staggers into the sunny morning, squinting. She rages, rages, against the coming of the light. 


Baby boy just figured out how to activate big bro’s toy computer, uttered his first triumphant “YES!” All it was missing was a fist pump.


How very cool. Scott & girls are at small-venue Suzanne Vega concert (hasn’t started yet) & have a table directly in front of the stage.

Suzanne Vega wished Beanie a happy bday after the concert last night. (Bday was last month; the concert was her present.) Beanie is beaming. 


Prepared for anything: Wonderboy just came to me with his hearing aids to put in, his glasses to clean, and his pirate scarf to tie on. 


Beanie: “Whenever I put honey on our sandwiches, I always make sure there are smiley faces.” Love that kid.


This moment caught: 9yo sketching amaryllis, the 2 boys playing w/ trains. 11yo reading about B. Franklin. Teen reading Gulliver. 3yo sings. 1:28 PM Feb 3rd


Big Bad Bunny has become Rilla’s Mike Mulligan & the Steam Shovel, and I’m Beezus.


She comes to me with socks on her hands & gives a fearsome roar. Then, as she clambers onto the bed: “Did you know monsters love to cuddle?”


Yesterday: I’m in the rocking chair. Rilla climbs in my lap, arranges herself comfortably, says: “OK, Mommy. Let’s do this!”


3yo: “When I grow up I’m going to teach my little boys and little girls how to squish gummy bears.” (Pauses. Thinks.) “And math.”


For dinner Jane made a SCRUMPTIOUS cheese & onion “hogbake” from the Redwall cookbook in honor of the arrival of Doomwyte in paperback.


Rilla & I just spent 20 minutes watching elephants on Youtube. She very badly wants them to be able to see her back.


Overheard: “Wouldn’t it be funny if his name were Chris, and our last name was Muss? Get it? Chris Muss?” Ah, 8-yr-olds.


Playing hangman with the 8yo. Very tricky, actually, because she keeps picking very short words. _o__. No E, T, N, S, or A. My guy’s toast.

Ha! Saved by the L! (It was doll.)


Was just requested (by 8yo) to draw a picture of a “Norwegian forest cat.” Um.


The 3yo is demonstrating proper lollipop-licking technique for me. She takes this extremely seriously.


Rilla asks me to draw a horse. Surveys my handiwork, laughs indulgently. “Mommy! It didn’t need a mouth.”


ME: I’m worried that (minor detail of story) isn’t right.

SCOTT: Sweetheart. At this stage, that’s like worrying that your font isn’t right.


The 8yo just asked, “Mom, would you like to hear a short history of the piñata?”


Rilla, upon seeing the blue button-down shirt the baby was given for his birthday: “We’re going to dress him in MAN clothes!”


Listening to Scott and four or five children wail to “Like a Rolling Stone.” There is some delicious irony there (“How does it be on your own”—ha!), and also just deliciousness.


The 8yo: “Mommy, I am haunted by the temptation to stick a lettuce leaf in the candle flame and see what happens.” (So yes, I let her try.)


This day so far: donut holes at the park with the younger 5 while the 14yo did mix-y things with chemicals in her science lab.


Rilla asks me to draw a picture of grandma. I comply. She looks, quivers, says sadly: “I guess it’s okay if she don’t be a ballerina…”


Today: took a mountain drive, clambered over rocks, gobbled Pfeffernusse, assembled the Galileoscope. Now trying to get the moon in focus. (Dec. 31st, 2009)


Overheard: the 3yo: “How old was I when I was a baby?” The daddy: “Perfect. You were perfect.”


Beanie upon trying (and loving) her first green smoothie: “This has liquified my distaste for spinach!”

Back from Butternut Center

February 22, 2010 @ 8:35 am | Filed under: ,

“…What are you looking for?”

“Presents. Five of them.” She explained, talking very fast, that no Ray ever came home from a visit without bringing presents. “It’s an old family custom,” she said.

“Hallelujah!” he exclaimed, shutting the book. “That’ll be fun, picking out five presents. I hope you have a brother. There’s a corking jack-knife here.”

—from Heaven to Betsy by Maud Hart Lovelace

Our “Betsy” came home from her trip yesterday with presents for everyone, in the grand Ray tradition. We tried to keep up our end of the tradition with a massive housecleaning, but I’m afraid I did not go so far as to scour the metaphorical coal scuttle. Jane’s equivalent of Willard’s Emporium was L.A.’s Little Tokyo: sky-blue chopsticks for Rose, stuffed Mario Kart mushrooms for Bean and the boys, and a pink piggy bank for Rilla. For her daddy, a Totoro keychain and a pack of Black Jack gum. And a bag of dark chocolates for me! That’s my girl.

Plus homemade cookies all around. Customized chocolate-chip cookies—extra dark chocolate in mine. I may have to send all my kids up to Kristen for cookery lessons. I hear Jane got a tutorial in baked tomato sauce. I look forward to sampling her homework.

And yes, I am giggling over equating L.A. with sleepy, one-horse Butternut Center. Then again, San Diego ain’t Deep Valley!

(Just ask Larry Humphreys.)

All Aboard

February 19, 2010 @ 8:43 pm | Filed under: ,

Yesterday the five younger kids and I stood on an Amtrak platform in downtown San Diego, waving wild goodbyes as Jane’s train pulled away, headed for L.A. Big moment for us: the first venturing-forth-alone of one of my chicks. Jane is spending a few days with my friend Kristen and my soon-to-be-goddaughter, who is seriously the most beautiful baby you ever saw. (And I don’t say this lightly. I’ve had some mighty pretty babies myself.)

I thought I would be more freaked out about putting Jane on a train alone, going to Los Angeles for pity’s sake, but to my surprise I was more excited and happy for her than anything else. Maybe it’s all the time I’ve been spending in the high-school Betsy-Tacy books lately: I feel positively Mrs. Ray-ish about this trip: just tickled pink that Jane gets to have such a fun adventure. (Though of course we are missing her like crazy.)

Betsy was just Jane’s age, fourteen, when she went off to Butternut Center for a week on the farm with friends of her father’s. I was exactly Jane’s age when my parents sent me to Germany for seven weeks with a few other kids from school, to stay with some families who had known my English teacher when her husband was stationed in Kaiserslautern. Germany! With no cell phones, no internet! Mom and Dad, now that I know what it’s like, you amaze me.

It was an incredibly fun trip and I am so glad they let me go.

Jane seems to be having an incredibly fun trip, and I am so glad we let her go. 🙂

But I had to laugh at myself just now, when I checked her Facebook page for about the tenth time today and saw no new update. Yes, I am actually complaining that my teenager doesn’t spend enough time on Facebook.

Lark Rise to Candleford

February 16, 2010 @ 8:55 pm | Filed under:

Are any of you watching Lark Rise to Candleford? It’s a BBC period drama that airs here on our PBS station. We’re about halfway through Season 2; I believe the third season started last month in the UK. It’s set in a somewhat vague 1880s-ish time frame, the story of a small farming hamlet (Lark Rise) and the neighboring market town (Candleford). Season One begins with 16-year-old Laura leaving Lark Rise—somewhat reluctantly—to take a job in the Candleford post office, which is owned and run by Laura’s mother’s cousin, the amiable and efficient Dorcas Lane.

I think it was the glimpse of Dorcas on PBS one night that made us add Season 1 to our Netflix queue; she is played—wonderfully, I have to say, with great nuance—by Julia Sawalha, whom you may remember as the maddeningly flighty Lydia Bennet in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice.  We watched the first season on DVD and then tuned into Season 2 already in progress; I think we came in around episode 5. Annoying, our DVR fizzled out during the recording of episode 7, so we didn’t get to see how things played out with Fisher Bloom—not to mention Laura’s father’s stolen tools, a plot development which made me feel sick to my stomach. Robert Timmins is a stonemason. His tools are his livelihood. I think he’s my favorite character—except maybe for Minnie, Dorcas’s young, semi-competent, chatterbox maid—so I really hate to see him suffer a blow like that. He’s an artist, Robert is.

I never see anyone talking about this show online, and every week I’m all sputtery over various developments and yearning to gab. Are none of you watching?

Queenie! I forgot. Queenie is my favorite character. Absolutely. And not just because she’s a beekeeper, though that of course is part of it. But also for her warmth and twinkle, her generosity of spirit, her calm good sense. The way she talks to her bees reminds me so much of Linnets and Valerians.

It was awful to see her so distraught last night over the disappearance of her bees, and (now we enter spoiler territory, so be warned) the memory of her saintly grandmother’s dark secret. I thought the bit about the Lark Rise children destroying the Fordlow gardens was a bit of a stretch—even with Twister riling them up, I can’t imagine those kids laying waste to food like that. Not when we’ve seen how lean the pickings can be in Lark Rise at times.

I have no patience for Mr. Dowland’s self-indulgent moping. Enough already. I did love his reaction when Minnie dropped in with the flimsy, ad-libbed story that Dorcas wanted to borrow, um, a cigar case. For her cigars! That glimmer of amusement in his face was the first really likable thing about him.

I miss Caroline Arliss. What happened to her and the rest of Alf’s family? That must be part of what we missed in the beginning of this season.

Honestly, I could watch this show for the scenery alone. Those lush grain fields, the green hills. Oh my heart.

Attention Boston-Area Betsy-Tacy Fans

February 15, 2010 @ 1:15 pm | Filed under: ,

You won’t want to miss this event tomorrow TODAY, Tuesday the 16th:

Get out your party dresses! Wellesley Booksmith and the Betsy-Tacy Society are brightening up February break with An Edwardian Tea Party in celebration of HarperCollins’ reissue of the classic Betsy-Tacy series of children’s books by Maud Hart Lovelace. Set at the turn of the 20th century, these beloved books chronicle the adventures of Betsy Ray and her best friend Tacy Kelly as they grow from little girls to young women.

Teatime starts at 2pm. More details at the link above. Wish I could join you!

And did you see that Betsy Ray and Joe Willard were included this list of Best Literary Couples? You know, I just finished rereading Betsy and Joe (yes, again) and I have to say that is one of the most satisfying resolutions to a stumbling-blocked romance ever.  “After Commencement, the World—with Betsy!” :::sigh:::

Delicious Links for February 13, 2010

February 13, 2010 @ 9:22 am | Filed under:

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A Word of Caution about Google Buzz

February 11, 2010 @ 8:39 am | Filed under:

Like everyone else, I’m still trying to figure out the ins and outs of Buzz, but I made one discovery I wanted to tell other parents about ASAP—if your kid comments on one of your buzz posts, all your followers (as far as I can tell) can see that comment, even if they aren’t following your kid themselves. And it looks like you can only comment on buzz if you have made your Google profile public, so that means any other followers can click through to your child’s profile.

(Obviously this applies to any Buzz user, but I thought parents might be particularly concerned about their kids’ email privacy.)

If I’m understanding things correctly, you can follow people on Buzz (in Buzz? do we have grammar for this yet?) without making your Google Profile public. But in order to comment on (public) Buzz or write public Buzz yourself, you must make your Google Profile public. You may have done this automatically when you first clicked the Buzz link yesterday.

If I’ve got this wrong, please let me know and I’ll correct it. I tested it with Scott’s account—his Google Profile is private, and when I tried to comment on my account’s buzz from his account (you following this, LOL?), I got a pop-up saying he had to make his profile public in order to comment.

(Now, that was a PUBLIC buzz. Do you have to have a public profile to comment on a PRIVATE buzz?)

So okay, you know I love me my social media, but I love my kids’ email privacy even more. If your kids want to be able to Buzz, it might be a good idea to encourage minimalist profiles for them. Especially since, as I understand it, Buzz is going to be searchable via Google.

Oh, and in case you don’t know, you can turn Buzz off (and back on) by clicking a tiny link at the bottom of your gmail screen.

More to come as we continue to figure Buzz out. I do like the threaded conversations, but my first response to Buzz is that it’s too pushy. I love Twitter and Facebook, as you know, but I like having to make the extra effort to click there. My gmail inbox is already an overwhelming presence—I don’t know that I want MORE stuff in it. However, buzz can be filtered into folders like other gmail, so that can help cut down on inbox clutter at least.

UPDATED: In addition to having your kids keep their profiles either private (but then they can’t post or comment on public buzz) or very bare bones, with no personal info, you might also want to take a look at your own Google profile. The default setting publicly displays lists of everyone you follow, and everyone who follows you. And when you first activate buzz, these follower/followee lists are made up of 1) the people you follow/are followed by in Google Reader and 2) the email contacts you write most often. (!) So if you don’t want your Aunt Effie to know you’re g-chatting daily with her arch-enemy, your Aunt Prunella, you might want to uncheck those boxes.

(Or you could just ditch Buzz altogether. There is that.)