Thursday, May 31, 2012

Snake Bites and Snow White

I don't know how many of you happened across this article about the West Virginia pastor who died after handling snakes as a way to prove his faith in God, citing Mark 16:17-18 to support his somewhat unusual theology. I was immediately interested since I had just read Jane Yolen's Snow in Summer, which happens to include a snake-handling congregation from West Virginia (no lie).

Yolen's book is a retelling of the Show White story, that incorporated just the right balance of magic and reality, blending mountain superstition into a child's telling so you're not quite sure at the end what exactly happened (and incredibly, Yolen doesn't bother to tell you so you get to draw your own conclusions). And the dwarfs were German miners. Enough said? I have to say, though, that my favourite part of Yolen's version was that there was no pathetic Prince Charming. The dwarves and the Snow White character put in the hard work and get the results without any sissy kiss from Prince Charming. Well, mostly. But I don't want to give anything away. Except that evidently West Virginia snake handlers are real and creepy and build their entire theology on two verses from the Bible that are taken entirely out of context, and we should be careful to never build entire theologies on such a small portion of Scripture. And I'm done now. For real.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Finally, Bill Bryson (Again)

A few months ago--scratch that--almost a year ago, I started reading Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island at the suggestion of my sister who, in another lifetime, bopped around England with me for a bit. My junior year in college, I spent one semester doing study abroad outside Manchester in a town called Preston. During the week, I studied English literature (this is where I dabbled in Shakesepeare and experimented in Gothic Lit and read the entire way through James Joyce's Ulysses--I'm still proud) and on the weekends, I hopped on trains and explored the country (and a bit of Europe). And on the whole, I had a really wonderful five months. I loved the almost daily rainy grey chill accompanied by yellow daffodils, the hum of the radiator in my flat, and occasional stops for tea and scones with jam and real clotted cream. I loved the dusty old bookstores, the rail system, and the wonderful Anglican church I got to be a part of. I loved having curry for lunch whenever I wanted, not having a car (and that not being weird), and the wonderful Chinese restaurant a friend and I found that had just incredible pineapple fried rice. Mostly I really loved the people I met, although I found it funny that they thought I had an American accent.

All that said, I finally finished Notes from a Small Island (these things take time, evidently) and thoroughly enjoyed Bryson's book, because even though he occasionally got a little too snarky for my taste, and I wanted to rise to the defense of my much loved England, I knew that, at the end of the day, he loved England just as much as I do, and there are some things you just have to make fun of.  But my favourite part about Notes from a Small Island was a section right at the beginning of chapter 27 that helped me understand myself (and why I should probably move back to Britain immediately). He writes:
...[If] there is one golden quality that characterizes the British it in an innate sense of good manners, and you defy it at your peril. Deference and a quiet consideration for others are such a fundamental part of British life that few conversations could even start without them. Almost any encounter with a stranger begins with the words "I'm terribly sorry but," followed by a request of some sort--"could you tell me the way to Brighton?" "help me find a shirt my size," "get your steamer trunk off my foot?" And when you've fulfilled their request, they invariably offer a hesitant, apologetic smile and say sorry again, begging forgiveness for taking up your time or carelessly leaving their foot where your steamer trunk clearly needed to go.
I'm saying nothing about my manners or noise level here, because while my mother did her best, I am just not there, but the constant apologizing is a problem for me--especially in America. In fact, my husband has already noticed Little Man picking up on it. The other day, he found LM apologizing to the coffee table on which he had stubbed his toe. I've tried to stop saying sorry for things that are not my fault, but maybe I should just talk the Air Force into moving us to a British base next... With that said, my British flat mate was one of the loudest people I've ever known, so decorum and quiet speech might just be fading out of modern British life.

Anyway, now I want scones. And pineapple fried rice. Not together. And at the very least, a cup of P.G. Tips. But thanks, Bill Bryson: even if hopping on a plane and flying myself, the Man, and the two boys to England isn't a possibility right now, it's nice to read about it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Lost Opportunity

Today while I was sending a fax from an office supply store in town, another woman came by to place an order for...something that I don't remember. It's unimportant. When asked for her name so that it could be written down on the order form, she said, "Ishmael. I-S-H-M-A-E-L."

First off: coolest. name. ever.

Second: what a waste! It's only the coolest name ever because you can always respond with, "Call me Ishamel."

She'd obviously never read Moby Dick.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What Don't I Love

I have a friend who has a habit, whenever I say I love something, of tilting her head to the side and asking, "What don't you love?" And today, though I normally strive for positivity, I thought I'd share. I don't love:
  • Moths. I hates them; I hates them; I hates them. I hate the way I open a door and they fly up in a black cloud of awfulness. I hate that I'm putting away dishes from the dish drainer and they're hiding in my clean pots. I hate that they're squirreling themselves away in my bookshelves and laundry basket and blankets. I hate how they make me squeal like a little girl. I love my husband who goes on rampageous killing sprees and knocks out 75 of them at a time. J. the Giant Killer, I call him. The handle on our fly swatter is bent out of shape from the strength of his grip.
  • Having my once monthly trip to the hour-away Starbucks wasted by a barista who absolutely couldn't get my order right. I said "iced" not "frappuccino". It's not that hard. On that note, sometimes when one's order gets messed up, it can be an exciting time to try something new. Not in this case. Frappuccinos are so over for me.
  • Lying in bed at night because I just can't turn my brain off. It's annoying, uncomfortable, and a shockingly bad waste of time.
  • Dog hair. Everywhere. I understand that he's losing his winter coat, but does he have to lose it all over my love seat and the guest room bedding? Be like a snake: shed once and leave it outside.
  • That I've been thinking about writing this post since Tuesday, and I can still only come up with four things I don't love. I really need to work on being more negative...
And that about concludes things. I think I'll go get ready for a fun filled afternoon with my four month old who required all the 12 month clothes to be pulled out today and my still slightly doped up two year old who is spending his post-surgery recovery time watching Thomas 24/7. Yay...? Oh wait, no, it's: YAY!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In Need of a Little Cozy

Back in the golden days when Big Man and I were engaged, he took me to this lovely little bookstore in downtown DC where I found a batteredly beautiful copy of Helene Hanff's 84, Charing Cross Road. I'd never read it before, but bought it on a whim, and thoroughly enjoyed it shortly thereafter. It's a collection of post WWII letters between a London bookseller and a New York bibliophile, and they are funny and poignant and just absolutely lovely. It's a slim little book with a wonderfully awful 70's style paperback cover (I couldn't find the exact one to put in here), so when Little Man got scheduled for surgery, I tucked it into the diaper bag to keep me company while he was "going under the knife". And it paid off, especially since what was supposed to be outpatient surgery turned into an overnight stay.

I was able to go back with Little Man when he was being anesthetized--he was a little champ--and when I came back and retrieved Tiny from the friends who'd kindly stayed with him and then sent them off to get lunch and visit another friend who happened to be at the hospital, I curled up with a slightly soggy PB&J, Helene Hanff (the bibliophile), and Frank Doel (the British bookseller). Tiny had fallen asleep in the stroller, and I needed something to distract me from the Very Bad soap opera that was playing on the waiting room TV. And 84, Charing Cross Road was the perfect bit of comfort and home. It spoke to me of warm cups of tea and the smell of old books and the crinkle of letters, and that was the perfect balance to the reality which was all sterility and attempts to not worry. Then later that night, after the excitement of finding out a routine hernia surgery had become slightly more complex and then having Alex's oxygen levels drop dramatically as he came out of the anesthesia, after the boys had been kissed goodnight and tucked into temporary beds, I curled up in the hospital's recliner and found myself in need of a little cozy. And that's what 84, Charing Cross is good for. A little cozy. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Super Mie and Out-of-Season Dads

When I was growing up, my dad liked to cook something he called "super Super-mie"; yes, he thought he was clever. He would use the--far-superior--Indonesian version of Ramen, add a lot of vegetables, and some sweet soy sauce and serve up some MSGed goodness for the whole family. It was the perfect complement to the heavy rainstorms that came during the monsoons. So tonight, feeling a bit nostalgic and missing my dad and the rainy season, I tossed some carrots, cabbage, onion, and peas into a pot with a couple packets of carefully hoarded Super-Mie and indulged myself. Being a good mother, I shared with Littles, so that he can start his bad eating habits at a young age. He was more interested in the chopsticks than the noodles.

During dinner I began thinking about my dad, which led me to thinking about dads in general, which led me to think about Little's dad specifically. Yes, I realize that Sunday is Mother's Day, not Father's Day. I don't blog on a Hallmark schedule.

Tonight, Little and I were sitting at his little table together since the Man had a late night meeting with the major. Tomorrow is the base open house, and duty calls. As Little Man and I slurped up noodles, I was subconsciously ticking down the number of days we have left with the Man before he leaves for training. Subconsciously, because each one is precious and I know it wasn't the Man's fault he missed dinner tonight. And I thought about the fact that someone had said to me recently that the deployment wouldn't be as bad for Little as it might be for another kid since he isn't used to his dad being home all the time anyway, what with the Man's busy work schedule. It isn't like he's used to seeing his dad at dinner every night or getting uninterrupted weekends and long holidays.

As I was sitting there thinking about this (and I'm only writing about this because today happens to be Military Spouse Appreciation Day, and I feel like being honest), I was just angry. Because even if my husband doesn't make it home for dinner every night, my child still asks every day, all day, if daddy will eat supper with him before bed. And the fact that someone thinks my child will get used to his daddy being gone, that he will forget or think it's normal... Well, I don't think I even need to say how I feel about that.

Let me just close with this. I love being a military wife because I am so immensely proud of my husband. He is an incredible officer who works hard to do right by his men and his country. Not only that, but he is a wonderful husband and father even on the days when he is exhausted from twelve hour days and constant work phone calls interrupting his sleep. I grew up with an amazing dad, the best dad three girls could have asked for, and so I have a high standard to hold the Man to, and most days, he exceeds it. On the many nights ahead of us when Little asks if daddy will be home for dinner and I have to tell him no, I'm still just grateful that he has a dad who is worth missing.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Because today... a good day. a jeans and t-shirt day (or in Little Man's case a Thomas pajama day). an early morning run in the blue dawn. a friend bringing new life into the world. a cup of tea and a giggly baby. a bit of Joshua Radin and The Swell Season. old pictures while cuddled back in bed with my snuffly eldest son. a clean house and no house-keeping agenda. not me, it's you (haha, little joke). a gazillion times of reading the "train book". an unloaded dishwasher and a batch of fresh-baked chocolate-almond biscotti. a stuffed animal puppy diligently strapped into the bouncy chair. And yes, it's vibrating. a nap and a grocery list--not at the same time. remembering joy. not mine, but rather His.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Blurbs: I feel that I have used this title before

  • Last week I swept up a broken jam jar. This week I discovered how much more dog hair I can get up with a still slightly sticky broom.
  • Little Man asked for milk for breakfast when he doesn't like milk. I spent the rest of the morning bribing him to drink it by singing the B-I-B-L-E just so it wouldn't go to waste. No lie. And it worked.
  • Tonight I am having a girls night that has been seven months in the planning. Seven months. You would think it would be something epic, like taking over the world or at the very least achieving a Guinness World Record. No. My friend and I are just watching a movie we'd sworn not to watch without each other--it took us that long to find a date that worked for both of us, our two husbands, and our four children. This is motherhood.
  • Yesterday morning I went running for the first time without the stroller. I'd forgotten how much easier it is to run when you're not pushing a stroller that contains 50 pounds worth of children. I also never realized how much simpler it is to discipline a rabbit-chasing-inclined dog when you're not also trying to hold onto aforementioned stroller. On that note, I had a moment while running with Trig-dog when I actually more than tolerated him for the sake of the boys (all 3 of them--that includes the Man).
  • I bought Little two books today and told them he can't have them til Monday when he has surgery. He's now gleefully asking when we go to the doctor. Similarly, I saved one of his Christmas presents (a super-sweet Little People's airport from his grandparents) to give him when the Man leaves. He asks me about it every time he gets in his closet: daddy leave, open? I can't decide if I'm the smartest parent ever or extremely sadistic.
  • My four month old is rocking a twelve month shirt today. This needs no further commentary.
  • Little Man is in a nose-picking phase. It's already getting old; I say, "A., take your finger out of your nose" at least twenty times a day. Today he decided to pick the dog's nose too. I'm not sure whether or not this is an improvement.
And on that note, I'm going to go vacuum. Or go for a walk. One of those options. Probably the walk. Vacuuming never sounds very appealing to me. Then again, sitting on furniture that's not encrusted in dog-hair would be an improvement. I can't really sweep the couches with my specially enhanced broom, now can I?

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Those of you who know me, know that I love The Phantom Toll-Booth. It is without a doubt one of my favourite works of children's fiction, ranking up there with A. A. Milne's Once On a Time and Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game. In fact, I love The Phantom Toll-Booth so much that it was one of the first books I ever gave my husband back in the dark ages when we were just best friends (on a note of honesty, I'm pretty sure he never read it, but luckily, it won't go to waste since I married him and bore his children--no comment on whether or not I married him just to redeem that wonderful book from a lifetime of readerlessness). With that said, it was my delight to realize that I had serendipitously come home from the library this week with my randomly selected assortment of books containing one book by the author of The Phantom Toll-Booth and one book by the illustrator. Little Man and I had a great time reading Norton Juster's The Hello, Goodbye Window, a lovely story about a little girl's experiences through the window of her grandparent's kitchen (significantly less nonsensical than Toll-Booth but still containing some perfectly quirky moments), but the real winner was No Go Sleep written by Kate Feiffer and illustrated with her dad, Jules Feiffer's, iconic style. The story is about a baby who refuses to go to sleep and all of the people and things that try to convince him sleep is really a good option. Here: Little Man will tell you all about it.

Even Tiny Man was a fan. I was reading No Go Sleep to L.M. while nursing and Tiny couldn't drink for giggling. No lie.