Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fiction at Ten

One has been reading a lot - as usual - this spring. Now that he has an allowance, he's enjoying the purchase of a book on a whim, as in "Mom, I brought some money with me. Can we stop at the bookstore on the way home so I can pick something out?" He's still content to read what I buy him as well. I do wonder when that will stop, but I plan on taking full advantage of it while I still can. Some of his favorite fiction reads this spring have been:

The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan. He went through this one twice already, and he purchased it on Monday. That says everything, does it not?

Goodbye, Mr. Chips. A quick read. "Pretty good" says One.

Two more Ralph Moody's: Man of the Family and The Home Ranch. One doesn't know if he'll continue the series or not, but he liked the first three.

The Switherby Pilgrims, by Eleanor Spence - an adventure set in 1800's Australia.

Linda Buckley-Archer's Gideon Trilogy. "Excellent" says our reviewer.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin. He hasn't asked for any more of the Earthsea books yet. I read the first three in middle school; maybe they're more appealing then.

Holes by Louis Sachar.

Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor. A little hard to read (subject-matter wise, anyway), but One enjoyed it all the same.

The House of 60 Fathers and The Wheel on the School, by Meindert Dejong. Great classics.

All Sail Set, by Armstrong Sperry.

The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright. "Okay."

Red Planet for the first time on his own - this was a favorite read-aloud about 18 months ago, and he loved it on his own as well. Who can dislike Heinlein?

Eragon and Eldest, by Christopher Paolini. He's looking forward to reading the final one, Brisingr.

Tales of the Greek Heroes, by Roger Lancelyn Green. A good follow-on to the D'Aulaires' book of Greek Myths.

The London Eye Mystery, by Siobhan Dowd. I read this one as well and really liked it. The narrator is a young boy with high functioning autism, and he gives the book a great voice.

One and Husband still read aloud every evening before bed. Right now they are buried in The Count of Monte Cristo. Earlier in the spring they adored To Kill a Mockingbird (prompting me to read it again and fall in love with again, too) and also read and enjoyed All Quiet on the Western Front and Fahrenheit 451.

I think we'd all recommend all of these books - some with more enthusiasm than others, but recommend them all the same. Happy reading!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Star Wars

Two is utterly and completely obsessed with Star Wars. He talks about it every minute he can, he begs to watch one of the movies every day, and he plays only Star Wars games on the playground at school. And so Husband sings, quite frequently, a la Bill Murray:

"Staaaaaar Wars! Those crazy creatures from Star Waaaaaars!"

And Two crossly sings back "those crazy creatures in Daaaaaaad's head."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Meet Hiccup

Two's class had a book character day on Friday, and he decided to be Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, from Clarissa Cowell's fantastic book (and series) How to Train Your Dragon. Here is the little Viking in his mommy-made costume:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Talking to the Mirror

My mother is in town, and listening to her is like listening to someone talking to the mirror. You know what I mean? Almost every sentence begins with "And then I said" or "So I told them", or some such variation. It's like she's being interviewed by Fox News in her head - a one-on-one hagiography about the life of an influential person. She is full of stories about her own importance in the world, and loves to recount how others come to her for wisdom - mostly of the Biblical and political variety - or how someone was so wrongheaded and she said just the right thing to put them in their place. The latter she calls "speaking the truth in love", but it more or less amounts to her spouting her opinion whether or not it makes sense or has any effect on the person she's speaking to, who might or might not be listening.

This trip she's mostly focused on the wisdom she brings to children - how my cousin and her husband are so grateful for all the wonderful things she teaches their younger son, how overwhelmingly happy her Sunday school students' parents are that she is "teaching their children to really be in the Word, and not just about religion", and so on and so forth. Most of this is a jab at me, as I am, of course, teaching my children "religion" by taking them to Orthodox church. Her dissertation this morning at the table (as I tried to work on the computer and drown out the sound of her voice with my typing) focused on all the Bible verses she's taught her students, and included a long speech on how they have all learned through her that the only wisdom that matters is is the Bible, and not in all those other books - I can only assume she means the books on the 9 large bookshelves in this house, since she owns none herself.

You would think that in some way, someone so completely focused on themself wouldn't be so tiring to be around. After all, all her energy is taken up in thinking about herself, and how can that be so demanding to listen to? But it is, oh, how it is! Holding the mirror in which she preens and talks to herself is a very exhausting job; if it fell to me to do it more than twice a year I don't think I could take it.

It will be over on Monday, and I will be fortified for the finish line on Sunday by the Liturgy at church. And then we'll move back to normal life, and she won't trouble us again until November. Thank God for small mercies, and 1500 miles of blessed distance.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mise en Place

Two really, really wanted warm milk tonight for bedtime, so he transformed into a sous chef and set everything up for me:

He's not allowed to turn the burner on, or he would have done that as well.

Who can say no to a seven year old who knows the importance of mise en place? I know I can't.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Two invited me under the covers tonight after I finished reading to him: "Come on Mom, we need to have a secret conversation."

What about? Well, once we were tucked firmly under the blankets, Two revealed all:

"We need to have a serious talk about Dad's craziness. What do you think is causing it?"

We worked out that Dad is the only person who is crazy in the house, and Dad is the only person who eats jalapenos. Ergo, jalapenos cause craziness. I suggested that his Dad was born "crazy", or that he inherited it from his own father, but Two thought the jalapeno explanation made much more sense. Maybe that's because it was his idea.

We came out from under the covers, caught our breath, and then dived back in.

Two: "And now, Mom, I need to know. What causes mustaches?"

Oy vey. Can your father answer this question?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

How Two Sees the World: the Camera

Two has been in love with his digital camera since he received it on Christmas Day. I finally sat down today and downloaded all the pictures he's taken and movies he's made with it. Here are two of my favorites:

Self-portrait of a young artist:

Capturing One's existential angst:

I know, blurry, I know. But even Two's blurry images look like he meant them to be that way. I think he sees something through the digital camera screen that most of us don't. That's likely an exaggeration, but looking at his pictures tonight I felt like I did when One started bringing home his first really good chalk sketches. There's a sense of recognition: neither of them may be actual artists, but this is how they see things best - this is their particular language.

Right now, he's filming himself sleeping. Oh Mr. Warhol, what will you think of next?!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'll be there when the Bluebonnets Bloom

Or at least, right afterwards. HT to Robert Earl Keen, of course.

We made a Spring pilgrimage to Hill Country last weekend, stopping at the Wizard Academy and the Salt Lick in Driftwood, and then winding our way down to Wimberley. The day was perfect in the extreme; the weather was glorious and everyone just about behaved himself (or herself - yes, I was mostly good). We ended up in Luling, stopping at Bucee's before driving down I10 towards home. You can't go home without fudge.

Here are a few pictures of the wonderful day. More are at my Flickr page. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Demon-Possessed Dog

Lambchop thinks she can sing. Or maybe she thinks she's a lecturer in dog history. Whatever it is, she can stand at the fence and bark like nobody's business. It is - and always has been - her least-endearing trait. Unfortunately, it's common in Boxer girls, so I'm afraid we'll be afflicted with it in one four-legged form or another until the end of time.

When she gets going, we - or mostly I - tend to refer to her as the "minion of Satan" or just "that demon-possessed dog". Tonight, as she was warbling away and I was heading to the back door to put a stop to it, I mentioned to Husband that I'd been thinking that, when we finally convert to Orthodoxy, it would be nice to have the priest over to have a house blessing, exorcism, etcetera ... and then, I said, he can get to work on that dog.

"You ask too much," said Husband in reply. And you know, he's probably right.

Quoting Children

Husband: "What did you have for lunch today, Two?"

Two: "Fish sticks ... or maybe they were chicken nuggets. I couldn't tell."

Kindergartner walking ahead of me today: "Boy it is hot!"

Teacher holding her hand: "It sure is!"

Kindergartner: "So maybe this is global warming!"

Just a Question or Two

If you decide to start a Christian camp for families in the Ozarks, why do you name it K-Kaua'i - Kanakuk Family Kamp? Do you call it the KKKFK for short, the KKFK, or just the KK ... oh, never mind. And then do you call your guests "Kampers"? Really, you do? Wow.

Call me crazy, but I'm just guessing that they don't get a lot of black families lining up to spend $4000+ per week at their "Kamp". Just a hunch ...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dear Bob

This is an open letter to Bob Sirott, a Chicago-area radio broadcaster, who is unfortunate enough to be married to perhaps the most abusive wife in all of IL. She writes an "advice" blog called How to Train Your Man, and her entries are full of "cute" anecdotes on how she has verbally abused Bob into doing all kinds of things her way.

Dear Bob:

I know it may not have dawned on you yet, but when your wife graduated high school her classmates voted her "Most Likely to End up in a Psych Ward". She's insane, and she's abusing you - in public, nonetheless. Print off every, single, solitary page of her hideous website, and FILE. Come on - you know you can do it. Even though the majority of divorces in the US are filed by women and not men, buck the tide - be a trendsetter. But one way or the other get a lawyer and maybe a restraining order, pronto. After you've taken her to the cleaners for emotional abuse, get some therapy. And then: never. get. married. again.

Your friend,

The Grass Widow

HT: Dr. Helen

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Scare Tactics

Now as all of you know, I am the last person to point a finger at someone for their use of hyperbole. When I'm upset about a subject, I am more than happy to say the most outlandish things. Nevertheless, it does bother me when I see bloggers helping people push the panic button on an issue that is very controversial. This one in particular: children and vaccinations. Full disclosure: I've blogged several times about this, but suffice it to say I am very much in favor of vaccinating children, both for their own health and that of the community at large. Which is why I am upset at the always-over-the-top Barbara Curtis (to whom I will not be linking in this post), whose headline on Friday at her Mommy Life blog screams "EPA: autism boom correlates w/aborted fetal DNA in vaccines". The blog post below goes on to quote a number of spurious sources on the link between autism and aborted fetal DNA in vaccines. Yes, you read that correctly: aborted fetal DNA. After reading that, I was suspicious. Needless to say.

I immediately went online and did some research. As it turns out, the human cell cultures in which a number of vaccines are grown do sadly have their origins in aborted fetal tissue - from the 1960's. The cell cultures have grown on their own since then and no additional fetal tissue has been needed or used. The National Catholic Bioethics Center has an excellent set of FAQs on the issue, which includes a statement by the Pontifical Academy for Life that says that Catholics should have no reservations about vaccinating their children because of this link to 1960's abortions.

Now, I am not Catholic, but if the Pope makes a statement on the issue of abortion, I'm very, very likely agree with it. Additionally, since our pediatrician is a numerary in Opus Dei and yet has never mentioned this as an issue, I am additionally glad we went ahead and vaccinated the boys, even in light of this discovery.

I made a comment like this on Barbara's post, very civil in tone (yes, it really was) and she, naturally, refused to approve it. This has happened several times before, on everything from the history of pretzels to the child abuse perpetrated by followers of Michael Pearl. I have no idea why she doesn't like my comments, but I can only assume if you disagree with her even slightly, you get the boot.

Why would you go out of your way to create hysteria among people? For some people this issue of whether or not to vaccinate their children is very important and charged with emotion; why feed that emotion with half-baked assertions and links to websites that don't tell anything close to the entire story? Barbara herself is Catholic, which is why I thought she would appreciate the authorities from the Catholic church that I linked to. But they were obviously less interesting than the sensationalism of the sites she found, and so weren't worthy of notice.

There is a lesson in this for me more than anything else, since I really can't bring myself to be actually angry that someone 1000 miles away hit "delete" on something I wrote. If I was angry over that, I'd be a little too thin-skinned to stick my nose out any write anything. But what needs remembering is this: facts are always more important that the emotional impact you hope to make when you write something. If you want emotional impact and the facts fail to provide, take up fiction writing. And don't forget to tell everyone it's fiction before you hit the "publish" button.