Whoa Mama

Monday, October 22, 2012

Reading is one form of escape. Running for your life is another.

About a year ago we picked up the first in the Series of Unfortunate Events on audiobook. The first book begins with Violet, Klaus and Sunny Beaudelaire playing on a beach when they are approached by someone they do not know who tells them that their parents were killed in a fire that burned down their house. They children are ushered away by Mr. Poe and set on this awful course shuttled from one substandard caregiver to another, beginning with Count Olaf.

After hearing the first chapter, I ran to the library website and amazon to read as many reviews as possible to make certain that I didn't accidentally introduce my children to Steven King, Jr. It really was purported to be series for children. So we continued. 

The book is loaded with little zingers like "the phrase 'greatest myths' is just a fancy way of saying 'big fat lies'" and  "Children are strange and foreign to me. I never really was one. I do know that they are an important part of the ecosystem."

We finished the first book and moved on with our normal music in the car, until Sammy announced that he had been reading the next books in the series from his classroom library. "Sammy, does this get any better for them?" "Mommy, it is called the Series of Unfortunate Events. Don't be sad but stuff keeps happening."

We then had to seek out the next in the series, The Reptile Room, where the children where sent to live with vague relative, Dr. Monty Montgomery.  He welcomed the children and assured them of their safety and well-being saying, "Count Olaf sounds like an awful person. I hope he is torn apart by wild animals someday. Wouldn't that be satisfying?” 

That sent me! I snapped off the radio and said, "do you you really like this?!?!"  Unanimously, they howled, "YEEEESSSSS! WILL YOU PLEASE TURN IT BACK ON?!?!" So I did and we have continued to  marched through this series, treated to dark and funny passages that include, "If an optimist had his left arm chewed off by an alligator, he might say in a pleasant and hopeful voice, "Well this isn't to bad, I don't have a left arm anymore but at least nobody will ever ask me if I'm left-handed or right-handed" but most of us would say something more along the lines of "Aaaaaa! My arm! My arm,!"

One of my recent favorites was, "a good conversation starter might be ‘Madame diLustro, I believe I’ve discovered your true identity!'" I am now campaigning for the boys to call me Madame diLustro, so that someday someone can say to me, ‘Madame diLustro, I believe I’ve discovered your true identity!'

Gradually, our dialogue has changed over the course of these books so that we now have words that are loaded and a funny, private dialogue born of this extended shared experience. For example, the storyline develops to include a mystery surrounding a secret sugar bowl. While getting a cup of coffee at the drive-thru, I was asked if I wanted cream or sugar. From back in the cheap seats, a little voice hissed, "Mommy, shhhh-uuu-gar! Maybe it's the bowl". Their common vernacular now includes references to items with ersatz qualities and Hobson's choices. We now joke the ridiculous spin the hopeless optimistic might put on different situations.

As we wind through the 12th book and have only one left in the series, I am tempted to restart them as I will really miss these little characters when they are gone. Short of that, I hope that we can agree on another series that is age appropriate and we can all enjoy. While I will miss the little Beaudelaires and I hope that this ends ok so I don't have to worry about them, I treasure what their dreadful, over-the-top struggles have given to us. I like to think that sharing audio books will continue to be a habit as long as they will tolerate it. 

“ [our parents] didn't want to shelter us from the world's treacheries. They wanted us to survive them.” 
-Lemony Snicket

Thursday, October 18, 2012

You win some.

Back at school, homework, activities; bought a house, need to scrape 80 year old wallpaper, paint, pack, move, changing jobs and still entrusted with making these little follows turn into good men  and responsible citizens of this planet. I'm not sure I'm getting it all on the mark.

Sam: Mrs. MacDonald told us today before “reading buddies” to make sure we were nice to the 2nd graders. She said,  “you are huge to them. Think about how you would feel if your little brother or sister or cousin told you that one of your friends was mean to them”. I would say, ‘listen, that is my cousin, guys. What are you doing? That’s not ok and she is smaller than you and you can’t treat them like that. And if they continued I would just say, listen, Ellie, we’re just going to walk away.’ Because I would be so really mad if someone treated Ellie or Miles or Julia or even Aidan or Noah badly. And if Bailey goes to our school, nobody can be mean to her either.”

Incidentally, Eloise (Ellie) is 18 months old and Bailey is 6 months old. He's given this some thought.

Meanwhile in the second grade, they’ve been preparing “All About Me Biographies”. Obviously meant to work with all types of learners, we have seen at least four different drafts from fill-in-the-blank to free response. There was a final version but before that came home, we got a stack of these little introspectives in their shiny new take-home, puppy folders. Here are some things I’ve learned:

Aidan wants to be a scientist, feels special because he has a lot of friends, wants to have a lot of field trips, would like to improve his handwriting, is worried about learning cursive, thinks of himself as athletic and adventurous, dislikes poachers, Camp Ripen with Me (the group they shared a camp with this summer) and military time. He is excited about the new school building, was bored on the first days of school and wants to read more “big, long chapter books.”

These little eHarmony ads are cracking me up. So I move along to Noah’s collection of personals.

Noah feels special because he is a twin, is a little worried about new kids, excited about multipicion (though clearly has some ground to cover in spelling), wants to go to the Museum of Play and dislikes Camp Ripen with Me and being slapped in the face.


Yes. This is clearly what it says in the line following “I don’t like_________”. On the top of his list was being slapped in the face.  I also dislike dirty diapers, haunted houses, watching people embarrass themselves and leaky plumbing, but would never choose them to rise to the top of things folks need to know about me.

I start compiling the list of people who will testify on my behalf when I try to get my children back from CPS.

No that is too drastic. I’m going to gather evidence.

“Aidan”, I call. “I love these pages all about you. Will you tell me about them?” Of course Noah is at his heels, dying to tell me about his too. I keep him waiting, knowing he’ll sing like a canary when it is his turn.

When Noah gets his shot, we talk about his stuff, just like I did with Aidan. They both really H-A-T-E Camp Ripen with Me (Mommy, I mean that really strong word). He lands on disliking being slapped in the face, laughing.  

Joan Crawford is leaving the building.

Me: You don’t like being slapped in the face?? Who could blame you?” Still he’s giggling. “When have you ever been slapped in the face?!
N:  Me and my brothers play that game sometimes.

“Your Honor, I am a good mother.  Please allow me to submit into evidence, the following story Mrs. MacDonald told us today before “reading buddies”...

Sunday, October 07, 2012

numbers, shmumbers

Another one that has been on the back burner for a while: 

Noah: Mommy, Daddy was your first boyfriend, right?

{insert gobsmacked, snarky internal dialogue here, including "define boyfriend"}

“No”. It would have been too easy to have just said, “yes” and let it lie. Plus in truth, we were buzzing off to golf lessons and I was not wholly focused. I said “no”

Aidan: Who was your first boyfriend?

Me: His name is Torry.

Sam: Did you dump him?

{the first time, yes. Hold please. Dump him?! You are 10 y.o.}

Sam: Why did you dump him?


Me: I didn’t want to date him anymore

Aidan: Then Daddy, right?

{Again, “yes” is a prudent course.}

Me: No

Sam: Who was it?

Noah: How many boyfriends have you had?”

{electing to answer question #1}

Me: um

{nevermind. electing not to succumb to this byzantine chastisment!!!}

Sam: why did you dump THEM?

Me: I wanted to date other people.

Aidan: Why?
Noah: Who?
Sam: What do you do on a date?

{crap. have good conversation. say nice things about her. be kind. have wholesome fun.}

Me: Go to the movies.

Mercifully, Caz Park is 3 miles away and the conversation ended here. Buh bye boys!!