Saturday, September 14, 2013

Back on it

Well, the new school year is fully underway, and all the things that resume in September have resumed. Soccer, band, homework; packing lunches, packing backpacks, packing it in too late and getting up too early. I'm piecing a schedule together though and even regular sleep should resume before long. Unconstrained over the summer, I got into a 1:00 AM - 9:00 AM pattern that Has. To. Stop.

And it shall. Just as soon as I finish this blog post.

One of the activities I've resumed this year, though I arguably have less time for it than ever, is volunteering in the school library. We volunteers check books in and out, reshelve the ones that come back, and help the kiddos find what they're looking for.

This week I was there for a class of kindergarteners. It was their first week in their new school, and their first day in the library. They were awesome. They chose books and lined up. I readied the bar code scanner to check out their books, and we got going. "Hello, it's nice to see you!" I'd say. "Can you tell me your last name please?"

Well, no, actually, several couldn't. But they all told me their middle names in case that would help.

The kids with older siblings at school already are much more confident, as you'd expect. They march right up to the desk. "I'm Emily. You probably know my brother, Scott?" Hee! No, I don't. But I'm glad to know you, Emily.

One boy told me his name was Isaac, and I checked his books out. Then he showed up again with different books and said he was named Caleb. I was so confused, and a bit frustrated, because he insisted his name was Caleb even though he had moments ago told me it was Isaac. You see where this is going, even though I didn't: Identical twins, with identical haircuts, dressed identically. I had to apologize to Caleb when I figured out there really was an Isaac. Neither of them had mentioned a brother! And I thought, um, parents? Identical twins in the same class and you give them identical haircuts and dress them identically in the first week of school? That is some sense of humor at work there. But it worked out. I will figure out a clue, or their teacher will give me a hint, how to distinguish them. Or I'll guess, and be right half the time.

My favorite kid so far is the little girl who strode up to the desk with a pile of dinosaur books in her arms. She plopped them down. "Phew! Hi! I'm Shannon! I'm going to be a paleontologist when I grow up!" A little voice chimed in from the back of the line: "She knows all about dinosaurs already. She's going to be a great paleontologist." Excellent. Some of my favorite people are paleontologists, and it makes me happy to see newly self-declared ones.

So I am reminded that I love volunteering in the library, even though I don't have time for it.

Now if I could only fix my bedtime problem...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What a difference a year+ makes, right?

Actually not so much. Life continues to be really good, thankfully.

The Bean just turned 11. She got a new bicycle, and pre-ordered the next Rick Riordan book. It comes out on October 8; she'll have read it a half dozen times by Halloween.

The Peanut, earlier this month, realized that 1) it is, in fact, August, and 2) September is next. She did a little fist pump/victory dance thing in the kitchen. That is how psyched she is to start fourth grade.

This morning, I asked them to finish up their "Dig Into Reading" logs for the public library so that I could turn them in for them when I went down there later. (The logs are due today, if you want to participate in the ice cream social/puppet show event that marks the end of the summer reading program). The Bean handed me a log with attachments, saying that she only wrote down books that she actually liked or would recommend. She is a reading machine.

The Peanut has been reading a lot, as well. They are both enthusiastic readers. It's the accounting for it that trips the Peanut up, a bit. She doesn't like to have to keep track of these things. Tell her to read a book, and she's happily absorbed for hours. Tell her to write down what she read and for how long, and she can't find a piece of paper, or didn't look at the clock, or doesn't remember the author. You see how it goes. Anyway she sat at the kitchen table, pencil in hand, trying to come up with a list of things read that's respectable enough to turn in to the library.

She wanted to know if the subtitles from the part of that X-Men movie* where the evil guy is in Russia might count as summer reading? "Probably not, but I did read them, Mommy."

Can't argue that.

Evidently our vacation has been more cinematic than literary. We watched all the X-Men movies. And for the record, there are also subtitles in part of Star Wars.**

She also wrote down that every week she reads all the police reports in the local newspaper. Our recent favorite is one in which a man walked into the police station early on a Saturday morning to report that someone had stolen his pants the night before. Said pants were later discovered in the bathroom of the man's house.

It's cool, living in a town where so much of the crime is imaginary. It's also frequently the best part of the newspaper.

So that's been our summer. We've swum at the lake, played with friends, done Camp Invention and archery camp and summer basketball and generally whatever else we felt like doing.

Mr. Sandy has been working flat-out on a very exciting scientific proposal. He surfaces for meals, and to oversee plumbers and such. Someday, our addition will be done. Someday.

Me? I tried stand-up paddle-boarding for the first time, which was really fun. I sprained my ankle playing backyard badminton, which was really not. I've been writing professionally a wee bit, which is excellent. I need a new computer, which is not. All is well, on balance.

Still a few weeks' worth of fun to fit in before school starts. I wonder if there are any subtitles in the Batman movies?


*X-Men: First Class
** It's the part where Greedo the bounty hunter finds Solo in the cantina in Mos Eisley. But you knew that, right?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The words that don't fail say this:

A friend's husband died unexpectedly this week. Dave was 46, very fit, ate a vegan diet. He was a beloved father, husband, and friend. He coached Little League baseball and little girls' basketball. He was a handsome man of energy and good humor.

He and my friend were supposed to be celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary today. Instead, she's planning his funeral. There is no rhyme or reason to the world sometimes. 

Their children are the same ages as mine. I imagine each of our friends is taking a private mental stroll down "If That Were Me" Lane. It is unfathomable. I can't help but think I couldn't be half the things to our girls that Mr. Sandyshoes is to them. I can't teach them what he'll teach them, can't be the role model he is, can't, can't, can't. So much he does, I can't.

But that wouldn't be the point. Our partners are irreplaceable, period, as are we. It would be an unfixable break, an unfillable hole. A little girl is going to grow up saying "my Dad died when I was 8," and it's just dumb luck that it isn't my own little girl. We are, all of us, any given heartbeat away from our lives turned upside down.

Love like there's no tomorrow, people.  Yes, it's impossible to sustain that energy, that urgency, through every interaction with our dearest ones, let alone with every other human we encounter. But do keep perspective. Do remember what matters and doesn't. Be good to each other. Plan a long life, sure! - and fill each day of it with words and acts of love, because plans go awry, and all you really have is now.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hands up all who'd rather save sleep than daylight.

I do not appreciate Daylight Saving Time, and not only because of everyone calling it Daylight "Savings" time all over the place, as if I need another thing to correct.  The semi-annual sleep adjustment is a little burr under the saddle I'd rather have removed, is all.  I just want to leave time the hell alone. 

Even the Bean needed waking up this morning. She's usually up before anyone, and on her most helpful days, she makes breakfast, puts the water on for my tea, and lays out all the ingredients for me to make lunch for her and her sister. That Bean is awesome. You tell her she's awesome, and she says, "I know," but you can tell she's trying not to grin.

I think maybe this will be my new candidate litmus test. Promise me you'll do away with time changes... I don't care whether we stick with daylight saving or standard time, just pick one and don't change it... and you have my vote.

That, and don't appoint any more wacky originalists to the Supreme Court, ok?  OK.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

I don't think they're sugarplums.

Cripes, I hate it when the Peanut wigs out in her sleep.

We still keep a baby monitor in the basement for when we're watching a movie and wouldn't be able to hear the girls if they called us from two floors up. One night we were watching something... a thriller, I wish I could remember which... and I heard the Peanut call "Mommy! MOMMY!" So up I dashed, and when I reached her, she was standing in the middle of the room, completely still, eyes wide open but unfocused. She turned her head to me, unblinking, and whispered, "something's coming... closer... closer..." 

Yikes. I have read enough Stephen King and watched enough creepy psychodrama to be thoroughly freaked out by this. "What's coming, Peanut? What is it?" No response, just those huge open eyes. I put her back to bed. She had no memory of it the next morning, but of course I will never be able to forget it. She's talked in her sleep since she could talk at all, and her sudden utterances can be jarring, but that's one for the record books.

As a toddler she used to wake up in the middle of the night in tears, unable to explain why she was awake or upset. Other times she'd wake furious and insist something was wrong with her toe, or her foot. Probably it had pins and needles from how she'd been lying on it. This kept happening from time to time, always her foot hurt, and there was no making it better. You just had to wait till she drifted off again.

A few weeks after "something's coming..." we heard "Mommy! MOMMY!" then silence. Again, "MOMMY!" and I went upstairs, sort of dreading it. This time she was still in bed, but propped up on her elbows, eyes open. I checked for all the obvious things... fever, wet bed... nothing. Phew. But she wouldn't respond to me. She'd recoil when I touched her, thrash around like crazy, and yell "MOMMY!" really loudly even right after I said "What?! I'M RIGHT HERE!" After several minutes of this she sat up and said "Mommy! Some people just STAND THERE, when you need them to MOVE!" then lay back down and fell quietly asleep.

It's true you know. Some people just stand there, when you need them to move. 

Last night, I heard her yelling the Bean's name. "Bean! BEAN! BEAN!!!" I got upstairs to find her jerking around in bed, completely agitated, not responding to my voice, though she stopped yelling for her sister and started yelling for me. She'd be still for two seconds and then jerk around and yell again.

I never know whether to wake her up, or wait it out. But the more this happens, the more inclined I am to wake her up as much as I can. She can't seem to shake herself out of whatever has her upset, and it's clearly not fun.

This time I sat her up and talked to her gently but firmly, in a serious voice, saying her name, and to wake up enough to answer. "Mommy! I don't know why I can't keep still!" she said. "I keep having... visions?" (Oh lord.) "It's hard to explain... everything is going really slowly, and I don't know why!" "Are you awake, or asleep, Peanut?" "Mostly asleep..." and she lay back down and was out cold.

Visions.  Something coming closer... closer. I think I liked it better when it was just her foot.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

I am the Lorax. I speak for... well, Universal Studios, I guess.

I'm going to be a wet blanket on this one. I don't think a movie should have been made of Dr. Seuss's book, The Lorax. Remember the Lorax? Who "speaks for the trees, which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please"?  The folks responsible for Despicable Me made a movie of it.

That is, they churned out an uninspired, bland, predictable story to justify charging people to see a movie-length CGI production featuring some elements of the original. They call it "Dr. Seuss's" The Lorax, but it isn't really. It's hard to imagine that Dr. Seuss would've been down with the idea of Lorax-based merchandising. 

the original
I was planning to refuse to see it out of principle; then the Peanut was invited to a Lorax birthday party, so as long as she was going to see it, the Bean wanted to, and I was kind of stuck. 

So here's what it is. Thneedville is a walled community without trees, where fresh air is supplied by a corporation run by an evil little man and his thugs. Nobody minds. Our hero is a kid who loves a girl who paints pictures of trees on her house and dreams of seeing a real one. To win her affection, he goes off to find her a tree, and locates the Once-ler, who in intermittent flashbacks tells the story of what happened to them.

It's boring. They made The Lorax boring. There's very little of the original text in the script, and a lot of nothing added to fill time. Betty White (voicing the hero kid's Grandma) and Danny DeVito (voicing the title role), Zac Efron and Taylor Swift, cool as they are, didn't wow me. 

Adding to the wretchedness:  it has songs. The young Once-ler carries around an electric guitar, and now this is a musical.

They took The Lorax, stripped it of its simplicity, wisdom, and wit, added flat, stock characters and music not worthy of a good advertisement, threw in some obligatory cute animal bits, and spat it back out at a public ready to open their wallets. Universal Studios hasn't missed a trick - the movie contains several sequences that will make great rides in their theme parks.

Remember the villain played by Ken Jeong in Furry Vengeance? Basically the same villain here. Remember Alvin and the Chipmunks? Add fins, and you got yourself some Humming-Fish. Thneedville with its bottled air is not unlike the spaceship carrying everyone around in Wall-E. I don't think there's an original angle in this whole film.

If you see it, you won't have a horrible time. It's not actively unpleasant (except for the singing, gah!). You might even like it. My problem comes from setting the bar too high -- from believing that anyone who really read and understood this story, with its message about conservation and corporate greed, would never turn it into something as vapid and forgettable as this, let alone stamp Loraxes on stuff and go "biggering and biggering and biggering and biggering." In an arrangement that busts the irony meter into tiny outraged splinters, this Lorax is now being used to sell cars. I am the Lorax! I speak for the Mazdas!

It's the height of cynicism to have done this, and I hope it's a colossal failure.