Our first day at the beach, finally! We went for a quick evening dip at the town pond. First I had the camera:
and then, seconds later, my husband had it:
Our first day at the beach, finally! We went for a quick evening dip at the town pond. First I had the camera:
and then, seconds later, my husband had it:
The other day, my son said the most wonderful thing for me: “Can you recommend a book?” I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut while I’ve watched him plow through mountains of garbage. My general principle is that, if you expose your kids to enough really good stuff, they will soon get tired of the crap on their own–which is much more effective than hearing an adult say, “That book you’re enjoying is crap, so put it down!” So he read a lot of Goosebumps (ptui), for instance, but also Tolkein and C.S. Lewis; and eventually, he started throwing out the Goosebumps of his own accord, just so no one else would read it. (NB: I don’t, of course, let the kids read just anything. But there are good books and bad books, and then there’s a vast middleground of useless books. The Goosebumps series falls into this category.)
Anyway, our local library is pretty small, but when my son asked for a recommendation, I happened on a couple of books by William Steig. I thought Steig only did picture books — some of which are among our favorites. But we found two which are designed for slightly older kids — say, grade 3 and up. I read Dominic, and was completely delighted.
Dominic was a lively one, always up to something. One day, more restless than usual, he decided there wasn’t enough going on in his own neighborhood to satisfy his need for adventure. He just had to get away.
My ten-year-old son read this and realized that this book would speak directly to his adventure-dog heart. Dominic finds some excitement immediately, and continues on his way, meeting a dying pig named Bartholomew Badger, an overwhelmed goose named Matilda Fox (the mismatched last names are a running joke, just for the heck of it) and repeatedly falling afoul of the evil Doomsday Gang.
Steig’s language is sort of artificially elevated (and so younger readers or listeners might have to able to figure some words out by context:
Dominic was inside the rib cage, in a sort of succulent prison, and they might have trapped him there; but when they saw him chewing on the big bones with such furious dedication, they were paralyzed with terror.
Steig relishes fancy words, and he really pulls it off in Dominic — to much better effect, I think, than he does in some of his other books. In The Toy Brother, for instance, the ornate language just draws attention to itself, and comes off as precious rather than playful.
Dominic is also nicely illustrated by Steig in black-and-white.
Good stuff! Perfect for the parent who wishes the boys in the family had some heroes who are easy to like, but who are not Captain Underpants.
EM: I’ve targeted the intermediate children’s fiction market, which encompasses readers ages 8-12, approximately. I think this market is under-served, especially when readers that age are looking for imaginative fiction like sci-fi.
Unfortunately, a lot of the attention is paid to the YA market of slightly older readers–but many kids in the 8-12 age range just aren’t ready for the sheer amount of graphic sex and violence on the YA shelf. I want to reach kids who’ve already read the Narnia series, perhaps, and want exciting stories, but who aren’t interested in the love life of sparkly vampires or teen zombies.
LarryD: Yes, I noticed the lack of vampires, werewolves and pouty teen angst.
Later in the interview, Erin says:
I initially thought about getting The Telmaj published by a Catholic fiction publisher because even though the book is not overtly Catholic I wanted to tell a story full of good and evil, right and wrong, and the kinds of virtues and values that seem to be sadly lacking in many children’s books these days. But the publisher I sent it to, while thinking it was very publishable, explained that she couldn’t publish anything but overtly Catholic fiction–that is, fiction that would show Catholic characters going to Catholic schools and Mass on Sunday, that sort of thing.
While I understood that, I think we’re reaching a point where even trying to tell a story in which characters struggle to do the right thing and have no trouble identifying certain evils really is writing Catholic fiction of a type. So many books, even for children, rely on a kind of “situational ethics” where whatever the characters we like do is good, and whatever the characters we don’t like are doing must be bad (unless they, too, are just the victims in all this). Sort of like how we view political parties these days.
I’m old-fashioned enough to think that for children, the reinforcement of the ideas of good and evil is a good thing to do–not in a cartoonishly simple way, but in a way that helps them ponder these kinds of questions.
The Telmaj is, quite bluntly and frankly, a really good book. It was a little hard to get into, but once it got going I was captivated. It’s about a person named Smijj. (Another thing I really like about the book, is that I can actually pronounce the names of the people in the story. That does not happen a lot when I read Sci-Fi.) Anyway, Smijj is living on a planet no one really seems to care about. He is alone, jobless, and struggling to make an honest living, when opportunity arises. A space ship crew hires him to unload their cargo, and he is soon a part of their crew, and on his way to finding out who he is and why he has the ability to wish himself away to anywhere he wants. I recommend it to anyone who likes Science Fiction and Fantasy, or has an interest in space ships.
My kids are pretty, pretty smart. But not quite as smart as I think they are.
One time, for instance, we were listening to a Danny Kaye song about “they’ll never outfox the fox!” It goes on to marvel over the exploits of a dashing young scoundrel:
Whenever they try to find me
They find me where I am not
I’m hither and yon, I’m there and gone, I’m Johnny-not-on-the spot!
(He whistles as he jump to a low tree branch)
I’m out on a limb they think!
(He whistles again, jumping down)
I’m down on the ground in a wink
My enemies say “Gadzooks! It’s spooks!”
Shivering in their socks
They know that they’ll never, I’m far to clever
They’ll never outfox the Fox!
The toddler at the time said something like, “He singin’ ’bout Wobbin Hood.” OH MY STARS! I thought. What an intelligent child! She extrapolated from the mention of all this clever, limb-jumping derring-do, and made the assumption that this song was about Robin Hood — when it’s actually about a very Robin Hood-like character, The Fox.
Then I suddenly recalled that we had just watched Disney’s Robin Hood, in which the main character is . . . a fox. All that was going on was that when the kid heard Danny Kaye sing, “The Fox! The Fox!” she figured he was talking about “the fox, the fox.” Not a bad assumption, but not especially brilliant, either.
I never learn. Today, my dear baby, who is the smartiest-whartiest baby in the whole wide world, oh yes she is, came up to me and said, “Doggie have nursies!”
What an intelligent child! I marvelled all over again. We don’t even have a dog, but somehow she divined that they are mammals! I wonder what slight clue was enough for her agile little mind, so that she understood that female dogs nourish their young with, as she so preciously calls them, “nursies.”
Then I saw the picture of the doggie she had in mind:
Yep. To those with nursies on the brain, it sure do have nursies.
Bet you never look at Clifford the same way again.
I have taken up being sick and angry as a full-time job this week. So this is what you get.
We got about as much snow as anyone did the other day, and now we can’t find our garbage cans. Usually my husband shovels, but when his back is out and the rest of us are half dead with our post-strep throat cold which we picked up in the hospital when my son got his tonsils out – - well, then we call the plow guy.
Being a hard-working New England girl, I always feel guilty about hiring a plow until I see the work that he does, and how it takes approximately four-and-a-half minutes. Then I think about how it would take us approximately four-and-a-half hours to do a much crappier job with a shovel, and I think, “That is what money is for.” He’s cheap, too! And nice.
In fact, after he plowed, he told me that if we ever wanted work done on the house (last summer he converted our old shower into a laundry area), he would be happy to do it at cost.
Why would someone do that? I’m seriously wondering. Does he just like being with us? Or has he secretly spotted gold ore in the walls and wants a piece of it? Or what?
was a huge part of my childhood, along with these things:
(On the flip side of the record was “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.” In this recording, they seem to have taken out the “Let me abos go loose, Bruce.” I didn’t find out until much later that “abo” was offensive slang for “aboriginal.” I always thought he was saying “elbow,” and thought it was an odd desire for a dying man.)
It’s funny enough when kids pronounce things oddly, but it’s even funnier when they used to say it right, but suddenly, for reasons of their own, start saying it in some new, strange, wrong way. Every morning, the three-year-old asks for oatmeal. About a week ago, though, she expressed a strong desire for “oitmeal,” and that’s what she’s been saying ever since. And the baby, who is 21 months old, started saying “hyelp” instead of “help,” for some reason. So we hear, in a suffering little voice, “Mama, mama, hyelp me! You come hyelp my sock!”
She has gone back to asking to “nurse,” however, which is sad. Originally, she said “nurse,” which transformed into “nurd,” which morphed, to my delight, into “nurdle.” “Mama, I want to nurdle!” And nurdle we would.
Relatedly, I’m still getting a huge kick out of having a baby who is still nursing, but can talk. She is something of a comedian, and likes to think of punchlines while she is nursing. Then she unplugs for a minute, makes sure I’m looking at her, and says, “Aaaa-OOOOO-gah!” and then latches back on, grinning. Or a couple of times, she was apparently thinking about Godzilla, because she took a break just long enough to say, “Grrrr. Aaaahhh!”
I think this machine has been around for years, but I guess it’s now smaller and available to the public? It’s the Thing-o-matic, “a ‘factory in a box’ that claims to create any three-dimensional object out of plastic in a matter of minutes.” You have to start with a 3-D schematic image, I guess, which apparently you can get with Google in some way. This video seems to show an earlier version of the machine, making a model of the Statue of Liberty.
Astonishing machine, but the name needs some hyelp.
I was behind a car with so many enlightened bumper stickers, I expected the whole thing to start levitating on a cloud of self-righteousness. The most egregious one said, “I’m already against the next war.” Excellent! I’ll be sure to notify the alien overlords, when they come to attack, that the occupants of that car are such fine, gentle, wise people that they do not wish to be defended. I also wonder if they are against all past wars, as well as potential future ones? Big fans of George III, slavery, and the Third Reich? And whatever that French and Indian thing was about? Bah.
I also saw another car that had the following decals lined up across the rear window: Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Knights of Columbus, Rotary, and KISS. I think I’d rather be friends with them.
Saw another bumper sticker yesterday: “My other vehicle is my imagination.” My kids asked me why I was throwing up all over the dashboard. I guess I’m just sensitive to these things. Anyway, my 8-year-old son offered that, when he grew up, he was going to have a bumper sticker that says, “VENGEANCE IS SWEET.” His younger brother wholeheartedly agreed, and it turns out that the two of them were under the impression that personal and bloody vengeance is a thoroughly brilliant and moral career path.
It’s possible that our Bible readings have been a tad heavy on the Old Testament lately.
Silly me, I thought we would never get around to taking a group photo this year, but there we all are! I guess this is God’s way of telling us to slow down and have ourselves a streppy little New Year. Also, He hates us.
Oh, just kidding! If He hated us, the pharmacy would have run out of penicillin before our order was complete. Oh, wait, it did.
Meh, it could be worse. My husband isn’t working this weekend, so we can all have one last chance to enjoy a good old-fashioned family vacation together, sitting around the fire and sipping our disgusting pink medicine, trading good old stories about what we imagined we saw on the ceiling when the fever was at its peak, and tapping out the rhythm of our favorite old songs. Can’t sing. Throat hurts.
Really, really, it’s not that bad! The worst part is the crushing guilt I feel when I think about all those friends and family eating all that fudge and peanut brittle and buckeyes I made with my own, two, plague-ridden hands. . .
It’s posts like the following, written a few years ago, that make me realize that I really have mellowed out quite a bit in the last few years. Enjoy it if you can! Sheesh.
I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee
People who let their children believe in Santa are setting them up for a jaded, psychoanalyst-ridden adulthood of mistrust and paranoia.
People who don’t let their kids believe in Santa are depriving the little ones of their God-given right to the wonder of an innocent childhood.
People who get their kids tons of presents are materialistic swine who are hoping to disguise their guilt over neglecting their children the other 364 days of the year.
People who get their kids only a few presents are disguising the scars of their own deprived childhoods with a holier-than-thou wrapping more falsely tinselly than any Walmart holiday display.
Why aren’t you doing an advent wreath, an advent chain, an advent calendar, a chocolate advent calendar, St. Nicholas shoes, a Mary candle with removable baby Jesus hidden behind a satin veil which covers an alcove you dug into the candle (blue, of course), which you will remove on Christmas morning, not that anyone will notice?, and a Jesse tree? And a Christmas tree?
You should get this together on Christmas eve. Any sooner, and you will be of the world, not in the world, because it’s only still Advent, you premature-holly-hanging pushover! Go ahead, listen to secularist sirens, do what they do, and see what happens to your children, your marriage, and your eternal soul!
There. I just saved you a lot of time, and you can now skip everyone else’s blog until Epiphany or so, and concentrate on mine. And while I’m stinging you along, here’s one more pearl of wisdom:
is an abomination. And not the fun kind, either.
If you grew up with Rudolph and his moth-eaten, hot glue friends, it’s okay: you’re all grown up now, and you can put it behind you. You don’t have to watch it, you don’t have to think about it or acknowledge that it was ever part of your life, and you don’t have to –you must not– introduce your children to it.
What, just because you have fond memories, that means it’s worth something? Wrongo! It’s the lousiest thing ever made. It’s the most destructive, corrosive cultural product of the the 60′s. It’s the most shameful thing about America ever. It’s worse than slavery and war. It’s worse than Scooby Doo. It frightens Satan. Do you hear me?
And no, Burl Ives is not a mitigating factor.
My daughter, exterior view:
and interior view:
That explains a thing or two.
(Thanks to my wonderful sister Abby Tardiff who, for some reason, agreed to spend some of her precious time drawing out the true nature of my little monkey child. And don’t you wish it were still summer?)