Monday, January 28, 2008

Now is the time. And then bed.

Live the Gospel! Now is the time. That's the theme of my son's school year and the upcoming mission for Lent. I've been thinking about it a lot and it suits since I'm a born procrastinator. OK, so I should probably be concentrating on the first portion, but the second portion has my attention. So I'm making a list and going through all the minutae that I've been putting off - after reading some blogs, of course. And then Katie tagged me for a meme, and well, now is the time! Right? And then bed because I'm tired. But tomorrow, tomorrow I will work on the list and the minutae and perhaps even a few thoughts about Lent.

1) Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

 Almost any book that has been featured on Oprah Winfrey's show. I read a few, then was scarred forever by White Oleander. Now, her approval is like a death knell for a book regardless of how many other people recommend it. 

2) If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?
Dinner, of course. And let's see...Anne of Green Gables, Lord Peter Wimsey, and someone fun and a little crazy. Someone out of a T.R. Pearson novel.

3) (Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

4) Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

Who? Me? I'm scrupulously honest. 

5) You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalise the VIP). The 58 Pound Marriage by John Irving. It's a tremendously underappreciated book.

6) A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

 Chinese. I suspect that a lot gets lost in translation.

7) A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

I very, very rarely re-read books and then only the very best books after years have passed. So I choose Where the Wild Things Are so I can get it over with and move on with my life.

8) I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)? 

 I have no idea. I might come back to this in a few days. I might not.

9) That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leather bound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free. My dream library isn't a personal one. It's a public library where the book I want is always on the shelf, where kids can be noisy, and where the lights are very bright.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mundane Poetry

Claire is becoming much more expressive lately. I'm constantly entranced by her turns of phrase. "The water is cold! Turn the hot on louder!" she told me the other day while washing her hands. The day before that, my hungry girl informed me, "I need a snack really hard." The word choice is enough to make me swoon, but the delivery! Oh the delivery! She shrieks and whispers, dips and dives, pauses for 3 beats and then raises her eyebrows and purses her lips to emphasize just how hard she needs that snack. And I, in gratitude and awe, can do nothing more than smile and produce a granola bar.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

A faint whiff of victory!

One of the greatest joys of parenting is that every once in a blue moon you can see into the future. It's a hazy, surreal experience that lasts but a moment. I had one of those moments on Friday afternoon. That moment smelled like victory.

I remember the day my mom went back to work. My youngest sister was in Kindergarten, and zeitgeist gave my mother the push she needed to put herself back into the larger world. It was a fruitful decision that led to a thirty year fulfilling career. She is retiring this year and frankly, she's scared to death.

We girls of the 70s watched all this carefully. We saw our mothers fearlessly pitting themselves against men and sometimes winning. We saw them learn how to demand more of our fathers, and saw our fathers grow into homemakers - or something resembling homemakers anyway. We heard people tell us "You can be anyone! Do anything!" out of one side of their mouths. Then we heard "You run like a girl" out of the other side. We heard that men and women were equal, then we saw our mothers going on strike in the home to get some help with the housework. And most importantly, as expectations for women broadened and grew, expectations for boys remained the same.

Right now, I'm seeing that boys are being given more options. As the boys of the 70s are growing up, they're making their own demands. Dads are choosing to stay home, work part time, or stay with a more traditional role. The important thing is that they are actually making a choice. I've never doubted that my daughter could do anything, but I'm glad to see that my son can as well.

On Friday afternoon, Jake was breathless with excitement. His class is studying biographies. They are reading books, writing reports, and presenting their report to the class - in costume. Jake chosen subject is a woman. And my little boy doesn't see anything wrong or demeaning or even worthy of comment about dressing up as an heroic woman in front of his class. To him, she's not a woman but a hero. My mother is frantic that he'll be humiliated. I'm not. I've got my crystal ball and I know that the future is full of choices for all of our children.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Blue Lipped Terror

Claire has always been a little leery of dogs. We live in a neighborhood with many dogs so it's been fairly easy to keep her leeriness under control. The barkers have always been the hardest to deal with. The walkers are generally easy. We see them coming at us and Claire balks. So I pick her up or let her hide behind my legs while I talk to the dog and owner and Claire gets comfortable. Some walk on by, others dally to let their dog get a little attention. Claire had managed to get comfortable enough to actually touch a dog a handful of times.

Last night, Claire and I were walking home from the mechanic. An older man was walking his small dog behind us on a long leash. The dog, excited by the prospect of a child, snuffled up between us. Claire hadn't realized he was back there, so she was startled. She screamed and flat out ran. I tried to get to her but the dog was between us still trying to catch Claire. The owner did absolutely nothing beyond saying, "It's alright. He's a nice dog." After what seemed like forever, I finally managed to snatch Claire up. She was so scared that she wasn't breathing. Her lips were blue and her eyes were wild.

I carried Claire for a block while I tried to settle her down. Eventually, she did calm down enough to walk on her own while holding my hand. Then a Weimerauner came around the corner. Claire screamed and took off again although the dog was half a block away. This time, thank goodness, the owner had a shred of sense and he kept his distance while trying to reassure Claire. But still, we have started a little phobia here and that we have to deal with. There's no way that we can live here and not run into a dog on every block.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Well, obviously.

It is cold outside. It is very, very cold outside. It is so cold outside that I ran from my car to the children's museum yesterday while holding onto Claire's wrist and sort of flying her behind me like a kite. Jake was lucky enough to escape my grip, but I still urged him on with rather specific threats of becoming a freezicle. He had the nerve to stop in the middle of the sidewalk and argue that freezicles do not actually exist. I kept moving.

Later, in the car again, we were discussing the cold weather. I remarked to Jacob that St. Patrick's Center was probably very busy trying to keep people warm. His school has adopted the center as their service project for the year and all the kids are trying to raise money to help serve the homeless. Then my own thoughts boomeranged around and smacked me in between the eyes. There are people outside in this weather. There are PEOPLE outside in this weather. The intellectual truth of a moment before had become a visceral truth. I felt like I'd been gutted with an icicle.

What do I do in a situation like that? Empty the linen closet of extra blankets and the pantry of tomato soup and go looking for cold people? Fall to my knees and pray? Stuff my innards back inside my gut and then carry on? And what causes that icicle to the gut anyway? Could that possibly be grace? Could that be the Holy Spirit? It's not like I'm a cold or uncompassionate person - far from it. But sometimes compassion is distant and other times it becomes more personal. I want to know what makes knowledge become understanding.

Anyway, I'm making some hats out of scrap fleece I have left over from Christmas gifts and clearing extra gloves and scarves from my coat closet. It's something I can do. It's not enough.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

With apologies to Clement C. Moore

Twas a week after Christmas, all the work of the elves
Had been sorted and boxed up and put up on shelves.
The children were cranky from a sudden cold snap
Trapped indoors and restless, unable to nap
When what to my wandering eyes did appear
But an unopened box of Play-Doh and gear.
I sang out "Come here kids!" with glorious tones
Til I opened the package and let out three moans.
Too late! The kids pranced in the kitchen with me,
"What is it? Can I play? Hey, I want to see!"
I showed them the box, the most wonderful prize
Of Play-Doh and accessories tied down with twist ties.
I turned and I twisted. I twisted and turned.
My fingers did bleed and my tongue all but burned
From curses held back for the sake of young ears
While I worked midst the whining, the yelling, the tears.
I unwrapped thirty twist ties that cold New Year's noon,
A feat that I hope comes once a blue moon.
If pressed, I'll admit that the hour of quiet play
Was worth all the work on a frigid winter's day.