Friday, October 28, 2011

When Myths Evidently Aren't Myths

I picked up The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse at the library this week. The cover had a girl swimming with dolphins, and I'm a sucker for girl and dolphin stories, L'Engle's A Ring of Endless Light being a perfect example and Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins being the major exception to the rule. Anyway, I tried to skim through the synopsis, but it was hard to concentrate because I had Little Man with me and he was trying to do sprints between the stacks, so I just grabbed the book and checked it out.

It turns out that the book is about a girl who has been raised by dolphins from the age of four (she's in her teens when she's found and "rescued"). It's written in first person as she, Mila, tries to adapt to human life under the guidance of a group of scientists. Hesse does a fascinating job tracking Mila's discovery of language and emotional arc as she tries to understand what it means to be human. It's a quick, unchallenging read. What fascinated me was the idea of feral children, and that sent me into a flurry of internet research.

Most of us have grown up hearing the myth of Romulus and Remus, the twins who were raised by wolves and later grow up to found Rome. And of course, we've all watched (and hopefully all read) Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book where Mowgli is raised by a whole host of jungle animals. What I didn't realize is that there are actual documented cases of feral children being raised by animals and then attempting (and rarely succeeding) to acclimate into human community. Sure, some of them were hoaxes, but I was surprised by how many cases were genuine. Anyway, it peaked my interest. Hence, the blog. But now I'm going to go to sleep and have nightmares about what would happen if L.M. got raised by Trigger and Oswald. Great...

Weather Words

Tonight was perfect running weather...not that I was doing any running in my "delicate and extremely enlarged condition". No, I was just shooting jealous glances at all the in-shape militarians (wish I could take credit for this word, but I can't) who were jogging by without a care or distended belly in sight. Trigger, however, also got the "running weather" memo and spent our entire evening walk trying desperately to escape the leash so he could chase the ginormous jackrabbits that had come out to taunt him with their juicy haunches. I let him pull on the leash until he gagged himself and may or may not have told him that I was okay with him choking to death. But I refuse to turn this into another Trigger rant. He's already taken over the house; I will not allow him to dominate my blogging life as well.

Tonight was also the perfect weather for coffee and pumpkin bread. So I curled up on the couch with both pets and watched a quirky British TV show while enjoying a late night snack. The best part of it was that I didn't even have to make the pumpkin bread. My awesome across the way neighbor did and then gifted it to me because, luckily, her husband isn't a fan of pumpkin baked goods. I'm now questioning his sanity, which is funny because he's a psychologist.

This morning was the perfect weather for house cleaning and guests, and this afternoon the perfect weather for a long nap and legos in the living room and curry for dinner, and this evening was the perfect weather for reading a novel about feral children. Don't ask. Just go check the book section. Anyway, I guess in general it was just a perfect weather day. Although I should've realized that house cleaning weather is not the same as morning walking weather and put on an extra layer this morning instead of coming home with frozen fingers and a frost bitten belly (I had pulled on a pre-maternity jacket which doesn't button in the front any made sense at the time).

My main question is, though, when did a day that included temperatures between 34 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit become a perfect weather day? Do I credit three years of rooming with a Minnesotan who kept the windows open all the way through to Christmas break or merely the fact that I'm pregnant with a ten pound heating unit?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reading Obsessions of the Little Man

I felt like Maurice Sendak deserved a follow up post, mostly because Little Man is now fairly attached to Where the Wild Things Are. He pulls it off the shelf at least once a day and loves to flip through the pictures, especially the ones of the Wild Things on the wild rumpus. And it's thanks to WTWTA that L.M. learned to wave and say "bye", can accurately identify a boat, and officially tried stabbing the dog with a fork. Kidding on the last one. That was me. Still kidding! But I think in L.M.'s case it definitely isn't a case of familiarity breeding contempt. Instead, the more I forced him to read WTWTA the more he loved it. He's definitely the type to enjoy something more the better he knows it.

In the same way, L.M. has developed quite an obsession (there is really no other word for it) with the book Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Sadly, I didn't have to work quite as hard to brainwash him when it came to Mike Mulligan, which just goes to show that, in a pinch, most boys will pick mechanical things with wheels over wild things, no matter how awesome they are. For those of you unenlightened (I was before becoming the mother of a little boy and being gifted this book by my in-laws, who have four boys), Mike Mulligan is the story of an out of work steam shovel who agrees to dig the cellar of a town hall in just one day (it would've taken one hundred men at least a week--whoohoo?). He is cheered on by the inhabitants of Popperville, who obviously have nothing better to do with their day, and in consequence, Mike and his shovel, lovingly named Mary Ann, dig a little faster and a little better. It's an absolutely fascinating commentary on the industrial revolution and small town life. I have to say that after this last move, I have now officially found myself in a town where watching a steam shovel dig a cellar would count as adequate amusement. It is rather entertaining, though, how entranced L.M. is by this book. Our morning walk is now filled with shovel searching (there's always construction on an Air Force base), and his fascination with buses and trucks is unparalleled. He's also pretty much memorized the book. How do I know? The Big Man tried to skip several pages once in an effort to speed up bed time, and L.M. absolutely would not have it. He knows that book backward and forward, especially when it comes to horses, "pop" (Popperville), bikes, and the key phrase of "dig a little faster and a little better" (he only says the last word). Incredible what a little repetition can do. Next, I plan to use this most excellent of books to teach L.M. how to do happy and sad faces. At present, all he's capable of when reading Mike Mulligan is a (very) happy face. And all I am capable of is being forced to read it almost every night at bed time. And by the end of the book, which is fairly long for a children's story, my now sizable belly has been rather rudely squashed by 28 pounds of Little Man.

Speaking of which, I'm soon going to need a new name for L.M. since we have another little man on the way. I would do Little Man and Littlest Man, but those are going to both end up as L.M. which always ends up reminding me of Lucy Maud Montgomery. And while I love Lucy Maud, she has very few similarities to my Little Man. Anyway, thoughts?

Lastly, and completely unrelated, I'm currently watching The Secret of Moonacre on Netflix, and it's making me really want to read Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse. Hmm... I may have to put that on my Mersmas list.

Oh, Bloggish Day! (Not to be confused with "Frabjous")

It's one of those.

You know, the rainy days that start with a cup of tea and a quiet moment and inevitably end with some form of the written word. Unfortunately, in the middle of that, Doggy Dearest ate my favourite pair of boots, but that's merely a side note. Because as mad, sad, and melodramatic as I was about the boots, there were still parts of the day that were so incredibly beautiful that I'm not crossing it off as a complete loss.

For instance, Little Man is giving butterfly kisses now. It's my new favourite. Infinitely more favourite than a pair of boots, regardless of how awesome they were with their uniquely hand sewn buttons. And I've learned important lessons today: like never (ever, ever) go to Story Time at the library the week before Halloween. Because I would just rather skip stories about ghosts and skeletons and witches, and I will continue being the stodgy mom who makes my son skip them too. Other important things learned: Littles will eat his food five times faster if you ask him to share it with you. "No!" he says with a cheeky grin and shoves whatever foodage it is into his mouth. It's really pretty effective. Reverse psychology, perhaps, but in the long run he ate all his carrots and bell peppers. And there were some lovely snuggles and the chance to wear a sweater (after the Oklahoma summer, this has been extremely welcome) and fun pictures to look at and the realization that I email my husband too much (which made me perversely happy) and a yellow Gerber daisy in the front yard just basking in all the rain. And there was lots of Mindy Smith and the Weepies and Glen Hansard, accompanied by the perfect percussion of rain drops outside.

I love days like this. Because (and I feel like I say this all the time), it's a chance to focus on the lovely and excellent and true instead of the single piece of reality (admittedly, it is reality) that didn't turn out the way I necessarily wanted it to. It's good to keep myself from letting the beautiful be tainted by the occasionally inevitable. Although putting my boots back in the closet after I wore them yesterday would've made today's unfortunate reality slightly less inevitable... C'est la vie?

On that note, I'm going to take my cold, bootless toes to bed for a rainy day afternoon nap, perhaps stopping by the mailbox to check for mail. And yes, hand written mail deserves its own blog and that will come another day.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Delicious Is...

My book blog has been sadly neglected of late. I'd like to say that's all going to change, but I don't want to set myself up for failure. That being said, I read a new and delightful book this week thanks to the loving provision of Half-Price Books in San Antonio. Oh how I miss them--but I digress.

Pick of the week: The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt, a charming and relatively short fairly tale that centers around a kingdom's war over the proper definition of the word "delicious". Seriously. Being somewhat food obsessed myself, I thoroughly enjoyed thinking about what I would put down for "delicious": would it be a cup of hot coffee on a windy autumn night or La Madeleine's croissant french toast with strawberries and syrup or an ice cold Dr Pepper accompanied by a handful of chocolate chips or fresh grilled fish and the sea scent of the Sunda Straights? There are so many great options!

At any rate, Babbitt's book is full of mermaids and dwarfs and good food options, and since the quest motif never gets old, pick it up and give it a look. If you manage to match my Half-Price Book price of $2.98 though, I'll be extremely surprised (Half-Price Books, I love you so much that if I'd met you before I got married things might've turned out differently...). Special shout out to Natalie Babbitt for doing her own illustrations--and doing them well. And no, I'm not going to tell you what the final consensus was on the definition of "delicious". Though I did find myself in agreement.

So, what do you think is the most delicious of all foods?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Today I Didn't Have My Coffee So...

...the dog took a dump in the house, and the cat barfed all over everything in two separate rooms, and Littles threw multiple tantrums, and we got muddy during our morning walk, and Littles got my church clothes wet during his bath, and the dog tried to chase rabbits during our afternoon walk, and I accidentally kicked the dishwasher and got a huge bruise on my shin, and the dog got scared by the Swiffer when I was trying to clean up his annoying fur and mud tracks and then he peed (ironic, isn't it?), and Littles took his brace off instead of falling asleep, and I had to share my pizza with him during dinner, and I think I'm going to move to Australia.

On the flip side, today I didn't have my coffee so...

...I was up and showered before Littles was out of bed, and we made it to church with 2 minutes to spare (and didn't run over anyone on the way), and we had skype time with the Man, and I got an hour long nap, and I dusted, swept, and mopped, and I took care of three loads of laundry, and Littles and I got to watch home videos of him as an adorable and slightly less rambunctious baby, and I cleaned the kitchen, and I baked two loaves of zucchini bread, and I invested in a friendship, and Littles helped me make smoothies for dinner (this is before he started stealing my pizza), and we had a musical extravaganza of flute, piano, and metronome, and we admired the post-rain Oklahoma, and I spent time in prayer and Bible study, and I sang my heart out, and, no, I did NOT dance like nobody was watching me, and I changed Little's explosive diaper (he ate an entire carton of blueberries yesterday) and didn't complain once, and I beautifully put the dog in his place several times, and I very nicely fed the cat, and I took time to write a blog about how inspirational I am and...

...on the whole I felt like I was rather productive and it was a pretty good day with or without coffee and with or without the events included in the first paragraph of this blog. Is that selective listening for daily life? Or just choosing to rejoice in the good things instead of be grumpified over the bad?

With that said, I don't plan to not drink coffee tomorrow. I don't think my other shin would be happy to join the first one in all its bruised and battered glory. Plus, my cleaning supplies are running out, and coffee and cleaning supplies are obviously directly related.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

October Perspective

October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations about them once again.
Hal Borland

October and I have a love-hate relationship.

On the one hand, October issues in autumn, one of my favourite seasons of all.  It is crunchy, vibrant leaves and cool air. It's sweaters and skinny jeans and the return of really comfortable boots. It's apple bread and spice cake and pumpkin muffins. It's rainy days curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee and a journal. I like to watch the year run out of time, to look back and see where we've been without yet having to think about where we're going next.

On the other hand, October means Halloween. All month. It manifests itself in ugly decorations of plastic bag ghosts, decapitated hands hanging out of car doors, and fake blood smears in the windows. Even on an Air Force base. Unfortunately. I admit that I have no appreciation for Halloween at all. Sure, it can be cute to dress your kids up, and trick-or-treating is a wonderful way to meet neighbors, but I can do without the grisly and gruesome. I've never been drawn to the macabre (even though I had a certain odd fascination with my Gothic Lit class in college), and so most of the time I ring in November with a deep breath of fresh air and thank God that All Saint's Day finally arrived. Does this make me stodgy?

This year, it seems that I'm getting the aesthetic horrors of Halloween without the balancing effect of fall. Oklahoma has been so dry that there aren't enough leaves to change colour and fall off the trees, and the temperatures are still hovering in the 80s and 90s. It's a welcome break from the 100s, so you're not hearing me complain, but it Admittedly, I've baked enough autumnal fare to make up for the lack of cooperation with the weather, and we did finally get in some good rain (which I am thoroughly enjoying), but I've been a bit sad to miss out on the lovely fire imbued trees this year. I think Virginia spoiled me.

Would it be innovative or pathetic if I went to the store and bought yellow, orange, and red streamers and used them to haphazardly festoon the two trees in our back yard? Because I am considering it at this point.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Dear Lord,

Please help Little Man to remember the times I was a good parent more clearly than the times I should've been arrested by child services.
   Help him to remember the hugs and the kisses and the tickling (and the "elbow bonks") more than the "LIIIIITTLLLLLEEEEE!!!!"s and the "What Were You Thinking?!"s.
   Help him to remember the times we actually cooked something healthy or fun more than the times it was peanut butter crackers in the car or week old delivery pizza.
   Help him to remember that I allowed him to get a dog because I loved him and wanted him to learn compassion and responsibility more than the fact that most days I am driven completely crazy by said dog and have no compassion for any canines and want someone else to take on the responsibility of picking up dog poop out of the yard.
   Help him to remember the times that I let him pretend drive more than the times I dragged him kicking and screaming from the car.
   Help him to remember the times we played with legos and blocks and balls more than the times I was trying desperately to get housework done and kept saying, "If you step in that dust pile one more time, young man..."
   Help him to remember the times we went to the playground more than the times we didn't. Especially please help him to remember the times I actually played with him on the playground instead of sitting my pregnant self on a park bench and watching from the sidelines.
   Help him to remember the times I've let him watch Veggie Tales during dinner and please don't let him remember that one time that I conned him into watching Psych with me instead.
   Help him to remember the bubbles and the sidewalk chalk and the piano and the flute that he always wants more of and the books and the "airplane" rides and the favourite picture bulletin board and the new and evidently super cool potty more clearly than the times when I've put my head down on the table and just desperately wanted a break, a cup of coffee that's still hot, and a conversation that doesn't include the words "dog," "'ground," or "smoo-ie".

But most of all, Lord, please help me to be the kind of mom that I actually want him to remember clearly. Please.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In Which I Play the Little Woman Card

Shall I set the stage for you? It's Tuesday night, nine o'clock, and the Oklahoma night is silent except for the persistent wind and occasional bark of a dog. The Little Man is fast asleep in his room, and the husband is back on that dead cacti infested Army base where we began our blogging journey almost three years ago, yes, the inimitable Camp Bullis with its awful cell phone reception and equally spotty internet. The pregnant belly and I are sprawled out on the couch with a cup of coffee (decaf!) recuperating after a long day of playgrounds, pumpkin bread, and preschool children. Then suddenly I hear a sound.

The sound of rustling. And thumping. And crunching.

The cat is still on the couch with me. The dog is still taking his last potty break in the yard. And Alex only thumps. He doesn't rustle or crunch. Then I realize that the sound (oh, inadequate word!) is emanating from the garage. My first thought, I admit, was "What idiot is dumb enough to break into the house of a Security Force's wife?" I could have a dozen cops at my doorstep with drawn weapons in the space of 5 minutes. And we live in such a sleepy little town that said cops would be more than happy to have a little bit of such excitement. But then I realized that I'd heard that crunching sound before. It sounded awfully food being eaten?

It was at that point that I remembered our only partially closed garage door. It sticks a bit at the bottom, and since today was trash day, I hadn't gotten it completely shut when I'd pulled the trash bin back in. Something had crept under the garage door and gotten into the dog food. And while I hoped that something was a stray dog or cat, the chances seemed fairly slim.

Screwing my courage to the sticking point but forgetting that I had a broom in the kitchen, I grabbed the Man's old racquetball racket, and tentatively opened the door into the garage. And peaking out of the bag of dog food was a long, thick, rat-like tail! Closing the door as quickly as possible, I realized that even I know they don't make rats that big in Oklahoma. Conclusion: there is a opossum in my garage. Further conclusion: I am too chicken to take it on.

It could be rabid!

Enter across the way neighbor and now absolute most appreciated friend I will ever make in my entire life who, on receiving an incoherent text message including the word "possum" (yes, misspelled in the heat of the moment) and more than enough exclamation points, sends her husband and nephew (and their broom) to save the day. Without me even having to ask. Seriously. She's that awesome. Her husband and nephew are also that awesome. I am still not awesome. Just chicken. I did, however, man up enough to video tape the ensuing excitement:

Apologies for the shaky camera work and all the squealing. And, as an apologetic note to poor Josh and his slandered good name, in retrospect, I realize that the couch that we have not yet gotten rid of was NOT what lured the opossum in. Mea culpa. [Edit: reloaded the video as it wasn't playing and for some reason it uploaded twice. Hopefully one of them will work this time!]