3/25/11

A Harry Situation

I was in the Girl Scout store today picking up some badges and I happened across a book which purportedly teaches Brownies all about "Storytelling." It was cool -- there were activities on writing and putting on plays and recording tales from the past and so forth. But then I flipped to a section about "Girls' Favorite Books," in which a girl named Madison enthused about the Harry Potter books. To paraphrase loosely, Madison says that she likes to imagine ways to help out her favorite characters or to advise them so that some of their situations come out differently. For example, in Book Six, the home of Madison's favorite character, Ginny Weasley, is destroyed by the evil Death Eaters. Madison thinks that if Ginny had asked for help from her friends, this tragedy wouldn't have happened.

Wait, what? That didn't happen in Book Six. It happened -- nonsensically -- in the sixth movie, and even then I'm not sure how Madison's advice -- if there even is a Madison -- would have applied. But the movie is not the book, and I'm really appalled that a book which is supposed to, in part, teach girls to read critically made this mistake.

I'm trying to decide if I should complain to someone about this. In the grand scheme of things it's no big deal -- and believe me, I'm not just upset because they've messed with Harry. (Even though I adore Harry.) If Madison had instead come up with advice on how Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird could have avoided breaking her arm, I'd be equally annoyed. It's the principle of the thing, really.

And, you know, you really shouldn't mess with Harry.

3/21/11

Best/Worst

Saturday afternoon one of my facebook friends posted something about a super giant full moon. I immediately, and without reading more about it -- a point which will become important later on -- seized upon this astronomical happening as a chance to make a memory for my children, perhaps one on par with the night in 1986 when my mom woke us all up and let us look for Halley's Comet. (We might have actually seen it, a speck on the far horizon.)

"There's going to be a really big full moon tonight," I announced at around 5:30. "So I was thinking --"

"I know! I know! Oh my gosh!" Mallory shouted, already filled with glee. "I know, Mommy, we should take a blanket outside and lay down on the grass and look up at the stars! That's even called something, what's it called?"

"Stargazing?" I suggested.

"Yeeeah! Oh wow, oh my gosh! Phoebe did you hear? Where's Daddy? No, wait!" Mallory grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil and wrote:

You are invited to the stargazing excitement. When: 8:00 - 10:00. We are going to spread out a blanket and see the huge moon and stars! See you there! -- Mallory

Next Phoebe suggested eating ice cream while looking at the moon, which seemed reasonable enough. Mallory decided to invite Auntie Mimi over, who said she would come and bring her new puppy. "This is the best night of my life!" Mallory kept declaring.

We all went outside around sundown; the girls raced around the yard with Indi, the puppy, while I wondered vaguely where the moon was. If it was so huge, why couldn't we see it? Finally I suggested moving to the front yard, where there are fewer trees. "Isn't this fun?" Mallory said, laying on the blanket with an ice cream sandwich in her hand. There was still, disturbingly, no moon. I went and checked my friend's facebook link, this time reading more than just the headline, and discovered that the moon would appear huge whilst on the horizon. Well. Not only can you not really see the horizon from my house -- hills, trees -- it was already totally dark, so I guessed that we had missed the moonrise. "Maybe we should drive around and see?" Amy suggested.

"A drive? A moonlight drive?" Phoebe said, hopping up and down. "With Indi and Mimi in the car? Can you believe it, Mallory?"

So in the car we went, and after passing the slight curve in our road we saw it -- the moon, already risen and not looking all that much bigger than any other night. Look, here it is:


Still, I pulled over and parked and let the girls look. "Can we stay here all night?" Phoebe asked. "Can we sleep here?" Mallory asked.

Sometimes you don't have to do everything right to make a good memory.

On the other hand...

The next morning I announced it was clean-up-their-bedroom day. "I need you to help me pick up all the Barbie dolls on the floor," I said, "because I'm going to move the bed a little bit so I can vacuum underneath."

"Mommy's moving the bed!" Phoebe exclaimed.

Mallory flapped her arms, a gesture of excitement. "First stargazing and now you're moving the bed! This is the best day ever!"

The excitement continued as we uncovered doll clothes and books and dusty stuffed animals and all manner of forgotten treasures. I'd shoved the bed into the middle of the room and the girls were fascinated by the unaccustomed space on the left side. "Let's leave it like this!" Mallory said. "It's so much nicer this way!"

"Yeah, I love the bed in the middle!" Phoebe said. "Because look, now it's only two steps to the bookcase instead of, like, six or something. And you know Mommy, sometimes I get so tired at night and I want a book but it's too far, but if we leave the bed like this I can just hop right over!"

"We can't leave the bed like this," I said. "Look, the ceiling fan is directly over the top bunk. Every time Mallory sat up she'd bonk her head on the fan."

"But our room has been the same way forever and it's so boring," Mallory moaned.

"Well let's try to figure something else out," I said, because I like rearranging too. Unfortunately I didn't really think the whole thing through. I shoved the bed around a different way, and the girls loved it, even though it kind of blocked the window, but I could live with that, and the girls were exclaiming about how much more room they had to play and how awesome it was when I realized --

"This isn't going to work either," I said. "Look, the ceiling fan is right above the ladder to the bed. It's not safe."

"But Mommy!" the girls cried, and Mallory said, "Just leave the fan off! Or write me a note on my pillow every night to remind me about the fan! I'll be careful, I won't bump my head!"

"This just won't work," I said, "I'm sorry," and then Chris came to see what all the commotion was about, and confirmed that the combination of small room + bunk bed + ceiling fan = only one workable configuration of furniture.

"But we're the boss of our room!" Mallory said. "We don't tell you how to arrange your furniture!"

"This is about safety," I said.

"I don't care! What about moving the bed there," Mallory said, pointing to the opposite wall.

"If you move the bed there, you wouldn't be able to get into the closet," Chris pointed out.

"I don't care! We never go in the closet anyway!" Phoebe said.

Oh, the lamentations. We were the meanest parents ever, for not allowing them to rearrange their room. We were cruel and heartless, for putting the bed back where it was before. "You are being horrible to your youngest child," Mallory informed us, when we giggled a bit at the expression of woe on Phoebe's face.

So that was our weekend -- the dizzying highs of moongazing, the terrible lows of thwarted redecorating. After a few hours went by, both experiences seem to have been forgotten, by the children, at least.

3/14/11

Whoooo likes cupcakes?

Alternate title: Who needs a haircut?



I promise I'm not going to turn this into a Crochet Critter blog (although, why not?) but I'm new at this and I still want to share.



That's supposed to be a cupcake. It looks more like a mushroom person.

The owl is my best one yet, I think.

3/10/11

Progress on other fronts

It's Girl Scout week -- the organization's 99th birthday is Saturday -- so I've been gathering up bits and pieces of Girl Scout history to share with my Brownies at our meeting tonight. I've come across great stuff like these old catalog and calendar images:


What did the poor Brownie do to make the girl in the background so angry?


Because Girl Scouts and lambs go hand in hand.


Do I even have to say that this one is from the 70s? Who is the guy in the background? And yet, I had that exact same felt beanie and goofy orange snap tie when I was a Brownie, and did I ever think I was hot stuff.

I also found this poem from the 1920s, summing up what a Girl Scout should learn and be:

Monday's Scout is at the tub,
Her Sunday clothes to rinse and rub.

Tuesday's Scout will roast and stew
And fry fresh pancakes just for you!

Wednesday's Scout is bent on thrift
To patch a hole and darn a rift.

Thursday is Scout Service Day
For helping your neighbor in many a way.

Friday's Scout is rosy and strong.
She camps and hikes the whole day long.

Saturday's Scout is happy and gay,
For this is Baby Caring Day.

While Sunday's Scout presents to you
Her uniformed back in the family pew!

Gag. I'm going to read this to the Brownies tonight and see what they think. I'm not even sure they will get what's so...awful about it. They're post-post-liberation, after all. They may not even realize how lucky they are.

3/8/11

A flashback that proves that we've made no progress at all

My oldest child has been very challenging lately. I don't have the energy to get in to it, but my frustration level is very high. (And I keep wondering what I've done wrong, as her mother -- do all mothers wonder this? I think it's probably just her, but that doesn't stop me from feeling guilty.)

Anyway, today I re-discovered a kind of journal I'd kept before I started this blog, about Mallory's younger years. And I found this conversation we had, when she was about two and a half, which made me laugh. And it could be that laughter is all that's going to get us through adolescence. Anyway, here it is:

Yesterday evening I was very tired; I lay down on my bed and was watching TV while Mallory read books in her room. She came in after a while and asked for pudding. I said no, it was almost dinner time. She asked for a cookie. No. Candy. No. A popsicle. No. A banana? I said, "Okay, in five minutes we'll go downstairs and you can have a banana." She agreed. But then she kept saying, over and over, "I want a banana. I want a banana. I want a banana. Mommy, can I have a banana?" Finally, grumpily, I yelled, "Mallory, if you say banana one more time you're not getting one!"

Then I realized how dumb that sounded--what, I'm going to withhold fruit from the child? So we went downstairs, I gave her the banana, she ate two bites and threw the rest away. I went to her and said, "I'm sorry that I yelled at you earlier. I was frustrated because you were asking the same questions over and over, but I shouldn't have yelled." She said, "You yelled at me?" Yes. "What day was it?" Today. "But what TIME was it?" Around 7. "But what DAY did you yell at me?" Today. Thursday. "Not Tuesday?" No, today. "But what time did you yell at me?" Just a few minutes ago. "Was I sad?" At which point I wanted to yell, again: "Just forget it! I'm not sorry! You're driving me mad!"

The more things change, indeed.

3/7/11

Look what I made!



I crocheted this all by my own self, and I can’t wait to do some more. I can only see imperfections in this penguin – its eyes are crooked, its flippers are not symmetrically placed, its feet are different sizes. Using black yarn for my very first project wasn’t such a good idea, since it was at times impossible to figure out where my hook was going, and I have a lot to learn about tension and finishing – you can see some stray yarn here and there, and for attaching the appendages I used the same technique I use for sewing on buttons – basically, use a ton of thread and hope for the best.

Still, it was fun to do, and I like to think that I’ll get better with more practice. I think next I’ll make an owl. Then Mallory wants a panda, and Phoebe wants an elephant. What’s your favorite animal – I’ll stitch one up for you too!

3/1/11

The Best Pest

I have been reading the Ramona books to Phoebe at night. We finished Beezus and Ramona last week and have moved on to Ramona the Pest. A friend of mine told me that Beverly Cleary got the idea for Ramona’s character when she saw a little girl walking along the sidewalk eating a stick of butter. I think few authors have done such a good job writing real children, and parents too.

I was surprised by one passage of Beezus and Ramona – when the girls, walking by themselves to the library (!) – met some elderly neighbors, and one of the neighbors told Ramona she had beautiful eyes. Beezus was used to hearing this, the narration ran, but it didn’t bother her – Mother had told her that blue eyes were just as pretty as brown. I had to read that twice to make sure I had it right – that it was brown-eyed Ramona who usually got compliments, rather than blue-eyed Beezus. In my family it’s the opposite – in fact, it kind of bothers me that not a week goes by without some stranger telling Phoebe how beautiful her blue eyes are, and then turning to Mallory and saying, “Oh, and your eyes are brown.” Thud. (Actually, they’re hazel, but whatever.)

I’ve realized how much the Ramona books contributed to my vocabulary. Scowl is a word I most definitely learned from Ramona, along with davenport and disdain and retorted and pieface. I learned about tin-can stilts and hair bluing; I can still remember Mr Quimby’s grandmother’s words of wisdom, such as “One time is funny, two times is silly, three times is a spanking” (and I sympathize with Ramona’s irritation with said grandmother).

Phoebe can read a bunch of sight words now, but when she picks up a book and reads aloud to herself, she still prefers to make up the story. She says things like “she replied” and “she said angrily” and “she nottered to herself” (which doesn’t make sense, but it has the right cadence, if you know what I mean). I hope that she still loves to read when she actually learns to read. And I hope she doesn’t get tired of Ramona before we get to the best one (Ramona and Her Mother). That last scene, with the suitcase – that’s my favorite scene of all, and I can’t wait to read it to her.