Thursday, July 31, 2008
Last night as I got into the car, the guy on KBYU was saying, "That was the ecstatic, yet ironic, finale from Thaïs." Ecstatic, yet ironic? How is that possible? Perhaps if I'd heard it I would know?
When we were shopping for bikes we went to a store called "Rapid Cycles," but when we pulled up and looked in the window, we saw they sold motorcycles, not bikes. I was kind of embarrassed, and glad I hadn't gone in and asked if they had bikes, because I would have felt stupid. But now I'm thinking, why? Why am I the one who has to feel stupid? Shouldn't they feel stupid for naming it Rapid Cycles and making people think they meant bikes?
I am making a batch of cookies from a New York Times article---allegedly the "Best Chocolate Chip Cookies ever." Supposedly the secret is letting the dough "ripen" for 36 hours before baking. So I'll bake them up Saturday. I'll let you know how it goes.
Everyone should get your tetanus booster so you don't get whooping cough (the tetanus booster has a whooping cough--pertussis--vaccination with it). Whooping cough isn't nearly as fun as it sounds. Just ask Sam.
I am aware that the correct way to state that previous sentence is, "Everyone should get his or her tetanus booster."
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Am I missing something? Don't we already have a word for that: give? What's wrong with "give"?? "Gift", to my ear anyway, sounds pretentious and silly.
I will gift you a dollar if you can explain this to me.
Flora shows Isabel's sensory interaction with the outside world through the flowers and flora of the English countryside. Through her stance, expression and sensory concentration, we see her immersion in and with familiar British flora (and the ideals they represent) - an immersion that reveals as much about the internal life of the adult world as it does of Isabel and childhood."
Have you ever read something like this? Something that is, quite obviously, a bunch of garbage, made up to sound good without meaning anything? (I mean, really. "Immersion in and with familiar British flora?" You can't be "immersed with" and "immersed in" something at the same time; it's a contradiction in terms. And "the internal life of the adult world"? That doesn't even mean anything. Certainly it isn't "revealed" by a bunch of photos of a kid in the woods. Who does this guy think he's fooling? Well, some people, obviously.)
I remember the first time I noticed it. I was in high school, doing an editing internship for one of my teachers, and read some article of literary criticism in an academic journal. I thought to myself, "Wait a minute. This sounds exactly like the kind of thing I write when I don't really know what I'm talking about, but am writing something I know will sound good enough to be accepted as valid." And then suddenly, I just knew. This author was doing the same thing. Amazing! I was quite shaken by the experience. Suddenly a little of the "luster" of someone with a PhD, wore off. (Not that I don't respect those with advanced degrees. I totally do. I think I'd like to go back to school someday myself; I love school. But I just realized, that just because someone had academic credentials, it didn't automatically mean they always knew what they were doing. Especially in the humanities/"soft sciences." English, while really my favorite subject, is the probably the worst offender in these cases.)
The best (or worst?) thing about making up a bunch of stuff and calling it "social commentary" or whatever, is that it is very hard to expose. The very fact that you can be so good at saying all the right words, gives those words some validity. I myself am VERY good at this sort of thing (not to brag or anything). In fact, Sam and I sometimes like to amuse ourselves by giving each other essays to write on unexpected subjects, and seeing how academically convincing we can be. Here is the text of the commentary I wrote on the following assigned topic:
Compare the Ptolemaic model of the solar system with Marxist Philosophy. Explain the benefits and downfalls of each if they were combined with a goblin horde or a McDonald's ball pit. Use illustrations if necessary. (Some would be daunted by this subject. Not me.)
(I will transcribe my essay so you don't have to read my handwriting)
The Ptolomaic and Marxist ideals both centered around one fixed body: to wit, the earth and the proletariat, respectively. Because of their fixed position, neither of these entities could move from their ordained sphere. Marx believed that only by varying the means of production---that is, by bringing more power into the sphere of the working classes, as in Ptolomy's epicycles---could the proletariat improve their own position. Any move of political power towards the worker, necessarily brought power away from the bourgeousie: thus the unending struggle between classes.
In the Marxist model, more industrial activity---represented by more "balls" in the "ball pit"---was simply a cover-up for more exploitation of the worker. However, industry could be beneficial to the worker if it was in the hands of the worker---that is, if each worker had his own ball from the pit---and then each threw his ball (in unison) at the "goblin horde" of the privileged class. Only a revolution of this magnitude would be able to overcome the entrenched power of the upper class: thus the well-known slogan, "Workers of the world, unite!"
For Ptolomy, adding to the number of cycling planets--in metaphorical terms, simply adding more "balls" to the "ball pit" of the universe---provided no net benefit, but merely increased the net disorder and unpredictablity of the system. On the other hand, adding a goblin horde to patrol the edges of the system would be beneficial, in that it would keep the epicycles from exceeding their ordained bounds.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Yes, it is St. Paul's Cathedral of Jello. It is described as follows:
Bompas & Parr are jellymongers, creating fine jellies that were traditional staples at good tables. They design bespoke moulds and curate culinary events such as the Architectural Jelly Banquet that was part of the London Festival of Architecture. Jelly, thanks to its consistency and capacity to hold a variety of forms, lends itself very well to architectural sculpture, as demonstrated by the model of the St. Paul Cathedral shown above. Landscapes can also be rendered in jelly, as can a range of more abstract concepts and shapes, all in many different colours, from pastels to brights. Their "jelly airport" serves 250.
Ah, the English. Things I like about the preceding paragraph:
- they call it "jelly" rather than "jello"
- "The Architectural Jelly Banquet"!! Why don't we have one of these?
- Would you have thought to praise jello for its "consistency and capacity to hold a variety of forms"?
- The offhanded comment, "Landscapes can also be rendered in jelly." Wonderful.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Okay, I'm thinking that maybe just one example is not convincing enough. Here are a few other "little things in life" that my boys love (but will not be the subject of any precious scrapbook sayings such as "snakes and snails are what little boys are made of"--or whatever it is):
1. Saying, "Oh, mercy! What . . . on . . . earth?" (that's from A Woggle of Witches)
2. Carwashes, specifically:
- "flap brushes"
- "air dryers"
- "paying thing" (credit card machine)
- "tendants" (they got a lot of this stuff from a book where the carwashes had attendants)
- "soap sprayers"
- "the track"
- "red light-green light" (the lights that tell you to pull forward)
4. Picking their noses (sorry, I don't like to admit it, but. There it is.)
5. Oxygen concentrators (thanks, Grandpa)
6. Biting their food into the shape of a crescent moon
8. Making up little songs (one that comes to mind goes like this: "Factory, Factory, Boom! Boom! Boom!")
9. Water sprinklers
10. Tapping people on the shoulder from afar with anything that is long (examples: a stick, a drinking straw, a water noodle, a broken piece of hose, a drumstick, a recorder, a pair of tongs, a watering can spout)
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
People always talk about how little kids have so much wonder for the world. And it's true. But it seems like that observation is usually followed up with some sort of sappy advice like "Enjoy the simple things! A butterfly landing on a flower. The gentle gurgle of a river. A delicious popsicle on a lovely summer day." etc. (Speaking of which, this is such a good idea. Maybe I'd actually buy popsicles if I had one of these. I HATE sticky boy hands.)
Anyway, I don't know what kids those people are watching, but with my boys, the things they enjoy are not the "wow-look-at-how-adorable-this-little-boy-and-girl-dressed-in-grownup-clothes-and-kissing-in-a-country-lane-with-only-their-cheeks-tinted-pink-are;hoo-boy-if-only-life-were-that-simple-for-us-adults" kind, but rather these weird, obsessive little things you'd never even think to enjoy as an adult. Like at our house, the best part of laundry day is when I turn on the dryer. It emits these little chimes as you choose the settings (really, it's so cheerful, it reminds me of those doors in "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy"---the ones that sigh with pleasure every time they get opened) and as soon as Abe and Seb hear that, they go running for the back door. The dryer vent goes out onto the back porch, and it has these little white slats on it that open up when the dryer goes on. Somehow the boys discovered that, and they love to sit outside and watch them open and close.
Sometimes Seb has sat there for a whole load, waiting so he can see the slats close again. He calls them "white things," and every time we're giving someone the tour of our house he says to them, "We have a dryer vent at our new house! And white things! I yuv the white things! Do you want to see them?" (I don't think most people ever figure out what he's talking about.) When we drive around the neighborhood, Sebby will ask about all the houses, "Does that house have a dryer vent and white things?" Abe and Seb play "Washer and Dryer and Dryer Vent" (their name for it), which is a game where they make washers and dryers out of boxes and spin their hands around and make "Vvvvvv"-ing noises, and then hum the little tune the dryer makes when it's done (yes, it has a little tune for that, too), and say, "The white things are closing!"
When they're waiting for the dryer to go on, I can see them out the window, and as soon as the slats start to open, they turn and give each other these excited, happy grins. Yes, I admit I'll sit there turning the dryer on and off and on and off, just to watch them smile about it (speaking of being too focused on your kids!). Today I took these pictures.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I haven't ridden a bike for years and years, and I was a little bit afraid I'd forgotten how. (I know, I know---one doesn't forget---but I could conceiveably have been the exception to the rule.) Then I had to ride Sam's old mountain bike the other day on an errand, and it was so hard: first of all it was too tall for me, so I kept almost falling over, and then I couldn't get my feet to stay in the toe clips, and then the handlebars were so far away that I was bent right over double, and my neck was killing me from having to crane up and look at the road. And then my bottom hurt like crazy afterwards, from the hard seat. So that wasn't fun, but then for the past several weeks we've been shopping for bikes, and I tried this kind of bike, and it's totally different. SO comfortable, and you get to sit upright, and you can just relax and ride. It's so fun! (Oh, and Sam's cough was better while we were riding, too! Hooray!)
After the boys went to bed Sam and I went out and rode again (coming back every 15 min. or so to make sure the boys were still in their beds, which they were, but playing carwash in them) until it got too dark to see. We could just ride along next to each other and talk. I loved it. I didn't ever want to come home.
Friday, July 18, 2008
"Why shouldn't parents do all in their power to make their children's lives less bumpy, more concentrated and carefully planned, thereby increasing their prospects for a happier, more satisfying life? No reason at all, really, except that trying to do so often comes to seem so joyless and the children who emerge from such ultra-careful upbringing so often turn out far from the perfect specimens their parents had imagined."
The guy talks about how, in his generation, parents simply got less involved in kids' lives, and he thinks in a lot of ways, that was a good thing. He said there is a phenomenon these days "of simply paying more attention to the upbringing of children than can possibly be good for them."
So, I wonder. I think maybe there's some truth to it. I'm not really thinking of this so much as selfishness vs. unselfishness, as just sort of chilling out a little. In other words, you can debate about how much "me time" a parent needs---how much is necessary and good and helps you be a better parent, and how much is just an excuse to be selfish and put yourself first (rather than sacrificing and giving things up because you know you are a parent now and it's your job to think of your kids first). But what I'm talking about here is not that, but a different issue: the issue of to what degree you let your kids absorb and consume your attention.
I don't think you shouldn't pay attention to them, obviously. But maybe, in my own case, a little more perspective would be in order? A realization that my kids will live most of their lives as beings independent from me, and I shouldn't get so caught up in every aspect of them that I have a hard time disentangling myself when they grow up and leave? And I especially like this point from the article:
"So often in my literature classes students told me what they "felt" about a novel, or a particular character in a novel. I tried, ever so gently, to tell them that no one cared what they felt; the trick was to discover not one's feelings but what the author had put into the book, its moral weight and its resultant power. In essay courses, many of these same students turned in papers upon which I wished to (but did not) write: "D-, Too much love in the home." I knew where they came by their sense of their own deep significance, and that this sense was utterly false to any conceivable reality.
"Despite what their parents had been telling them from the very outset of their lives, they were not significant. Significance has to be earned, and it is earned only through achievement. Besides, one of the first things that people who really are significant seem to know is that, in the grander scheme, they are themselves really quite insignificant."
I like that. It seems like a good balance to go along with the self-worth and confidence that everyone naturally wants to instill in their children: a sense of (healthy) insignificance. I believe that wouldn't be a bad thing to pass along to my kids.
Here is one more related note: I also read about a school that worked on teaching their students "resilience": that is, the ability to cope with difficult situations themselves; to just deal with whatever came up rather than needing help with every little thing. This is what one of the teachers said:
"There have been real changes here . . . we used to have young children who would burst into tears if they forgot their togs but now they just front up to the office and ask to ring their mum. We still have incidents from time to time but instead of saying to the child, 'How do you feel about that?', we say, 'What are you going to do about it?'."
I love that! It seems like good advice for adults, too, in fact.
So---here is my new pep talk to myself: Buck up! Quit complaining! You are not so significant after all! No one really cares what you 'feel'---what are you going to DO about it?
Monday, July 14, 2008
3/4 to 1 c. orange juice
Many of the blogs I read seem to drop into this kind of design-specific vernacular whenever they describe something. It's like their own special language, some of which I do not like. Particularly bothersome phrases include:
- "eye candy"
- "I'm swooning over ____"
- "I'm drooling over ____"
- "I'm coveting ______"
- referring to something as "this year's must-have"
- using a descriptive word from the sense of taste, for something you don't actually taste; e.g., "A yummy set of chairs" or "What a delicious color of pink!"
For some reason all those phrases just sound kind of dirty to me. (Along with the dreaded duo, "nuance" and "tweak") Maybe it's the old Puritan values manifesting themselves in my DNA, but isn't there something kind of, I don't know . . . indecent about swooning, drooling, devouring eye-candy, etc.--in public?Anyway, for the following, I will contain myself to an austere "This is nice":
Wall aquariums! They're so futuristic-looking! I never knew a fishtank could be so stylish and modern. (From here)
Saturday, July 12, 2008
- What if he's sick one day? Am I supposed to go in and get the work he missed? Or if I do that will the teacher (who will be some cute young thing, probably younger than me) think I'm stupid, because he's only in kindergarten, for crying out loud?
- If he doesn't understand something, how will I know about it so I can help him?
- What about piano lessons? Should he be starting piano lessons? What about swimming lessons? Has every other kid already had swimming lessons?
- What if nobody likes him?
- Do I go pick him up from school? Do they just send him home? How am I supposed to know things like that?
- Am I supposed to give money to the PTA? How much? I suppose I should be IN the PTA. How do you do that?
- How does all this year-round stuff work? What if I send him to school when he's supposed to be off-track, and then they try to send him home, and I'm not home because I went to the store because I thought he'd be at school?
- He should know how to read. Beth's kids know how to read. How do I teach him how to read?
- If he forgets something, do I bring it to him? Or do I just let him suffer the consequences? What if I go to school to bring something to him, and my baby is screaming, and the teacher asks me to leave because I'm disturbing the whole class, and I can't leave because I can't find Sebastian, who has run off down the hall while I was trying to find Abe's classroom?
Well, okay. It was kind of late at night, maybe I wasn't at my very most rational. And I know, I know; it will all turn out okay; all these are stupid little worries and fears. But still. Everyone seems to know these things. Except me. It's okay if Dads don't know them, but Moms are supposed to know them, and so I feel like I should too---but then, how am I supposed to find them out? And I don't just want Abe to just turn out okay; I want him to be a good kid, even an extraordinary kid, who is confident, and people like him, and he knows how to stand up for himself without being obnoxious. And suddenly I'm having this panic attack; like, I'm so woefully unprepared, and now how do I teach him all that???!
Then I have to tell myself: for goodness sake, I was certainly not confident all the time, and I didn't have that many friends, but I was mostly happy, and I got through the times when I felt sad and shy and lonely. I guess you always just want better for your kids. It's something you always hear people say, and I thought I would be wise enough to just shake my head and say, "Well, they have to make their own mistakes and learn from them"---but I'm not; I just feel so bad for him! I hate to think of all the years and years of painful mistakes, and loneliness, and awkwardness he has ahead of him. Even though I know there are lots of good things about being a kid, too.
Friday, July 11, 2008
The other day Sam and I were wondering if there have been so many people on the earth that everything you could ever think of to say, has already been said by somebody at some time or other. (In some language.) Would it be possible to combine several words into a sentence that had never been said? (This train of thought began because Sam said something about "gabbling goldfish" and I said, "I bet no one in history has ever put those two words together before." Then we were trying to decide if the fact that the words were alliterative made them more likely to have been said at some point, or if it didn't matter.)
Anyway, I frequently find myself saying things that I know are being said, probably at the same instant, by mothers the world over ("Wait until your mouth is empty before you talk," or "Be nice to your baby brother.") But occasionally something will come out of my own mouth, or one of my boys', that might conceiveably have never been said in the history of the world. Something that if you had told me, ten years ago, that someday I would be saying/hearing those exact words in that exact order, I would have laughed in disbelief.
Here are some recent occurrences:
- "Mommy, Sebby's biting the weight machine!"
- "They're just imaginary mints! You can't fight over them!"
- "Forks aren't for poking into the cracks of the table."
- "Sebby, if it's in your underpants, get it out. Rocks aren't supposed to go in our underpants."
- "Don't cry about it! It's just a pretend wrecking ball! It's not actually going to wreck our house, unless it asks us first."
- "Spaghetti doesn't go in your pocket!"
- "Nobody's popping anybody. People can't be popped."
- "Just let him have his fluffball! There are enough fluffballs for everyone!"
- "Your pajamas are not windmills!"
- "Please don't flap your carwash brushes at the table."
- "Yes, I know those are my arms, but not all arms go 'ding ding ding' or have flashing lights on them."
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
They are putting in a fence next to our house. The boys have been glued to the scene. I had planned to go get the car's oil changed, but we can't go anywhere--we might miss something. I even went out and sat with Ky for awhile on a blanket, and he was fascinated too. There are men digging, and also this hole-digging machine. Very cool.
As you can see, we haven't done much yet with the boys' room (other than the matching quilts in the colors they chose, which my mom sewed up and we tied together). You can't see it in this picture, but Malachi's crib is on the other wall, next to the door, so all three boys are sleeping in the same room, leaving not much extra space. This spurred our decision to find a neat way to store the toys, so they could go out in the adjacent loft.
At some point we (well, I) would like Sam to paint that room, with some kind of mural that would be suitable for both babies and bigger kids. Here is what we did in our old house (which I was sad to leave; too bad you can't take walls with you when you move):
This was the nursery---Sam did the clouds using stylized, iconic (is that the word I want?) shapes, rather than making them super-realistic. There are animal shapes (of course) in the clouds and I love the sunset-type lighting in the room. There are mountains and a few flowers around the bottom border.
This is the Jungle Room--Sam painted it when Abe was about 2, and later Sebby slept in there too. We kept the original wall grey-ish color, and just painted sky on top, and jungle below. We wanted it to look kind of realistic and cool, not too cutesy or cartoon-y. We worked on it together---Sam would sketch out big shapes and I'd fill them in with paint, and then he'd go along and put in the details on top. It was fun--we like doing projects together. :) We also put hooks up to hang monkeys from. I LOVE this room, but the trouble was, lots of the cool little intricate details got covered up (like the tiger in the corner, and other little insects and animals and flowers) when we put furniture in. So next time, maybe we'll try to do something with the details up higher.
Not much decorating in here either, but by Beth's special request, here is the laundry room--including our lovely turquoise washer and dryer. I am such an idiot about things like this. We'd been shopping for a washer and dryer before we moved, and of course all I cared about was that it was a cute color. I knew that was unreasonable and I should be looking at function, not appearance, but I just couldn't help it. (I would like to think I am too smart for that sort of thing. But no.) But all the colored ones were way more expensive, and I had very reluctantly resigned myself to getting perfectly good ones in white, when . . .
This is the living room area. (In the top picture, I am standing in the part that was supposed to be the dining room) Here we have the problem (which we are still working on) of how to make it seem open and spacious without being too big. We want to have separate areas without closing off either side. Also, we have the problem of blending two styles: when we got married, I inherited a bunch of furniture from my Grandma, and it obviously doesn't fit with our more modern aethestic elsewhere. So we were trying to make it all work together the best we could.
Then the back part has more of Nana's tables and lamps, her round mirror, and her two off-white-ish couches. I put new pillows and an orange blanket over those, to cover up some of the stains and the places where my kids have pulled the buttons out.
Here's a view looking the other direction, towards the front door. At some point maybe we'll get a coffee table or something, but I like it even without.
Here's something kind of funny, though. I liked Nana's furniture when it was in her house, but I never loved it for us (the style just wasn't really my type of thing), but we kept it because it had sentimental value and it saved us from having to buy new stuff. However, I always kind of liked this interesting little tiled table. Then just the other day, we noticed how it just happens to incorporate our exact colors. Turquoise, yellow, and orange. Interesting how styles and colors come back in fashion after a while! (Nana was born in 1905 and died in 2001--I wonder if she would have liked our new house with her cute little table in it?)
Here are Sam's drawings. We knew the cabinet hardware we wanted (IKEA, naturally) so he drew that in, and then here is a good example of how drawing helped us visualize something: I wanted those orange stools (above) that I'd seen on eBay, and Sam thought the black stools (below, just cut-and-pasted from the ebay site's picture) would be better. When I said I really liked the orange, especially to go with my lovely yellow blender and mixer, he suggested painting the wall below the counter orange instead, so we tried that, and indeed, it did look better.