I Try Not to Resent the Fact that He’s Funnier Than I Am

I’m hijacking another post from my husband’s blog. It’s too good not to share.

Expertise, by Scott

So it’s a gorgeous day today, sunny, few clouds, tiny breeze now and then. I’m hanging out with Top Management and The Boy as she does a little bit of gardening out front and he practices going in a semi-circle, holding onto my knee as I sit on the front steps. He’s occasionally tempted to let go and see how far he can get but prudence is currently the better part of his valor. Considering the fact that just six months ago they weren’t sure he’d ever walk, I cut him a bit o’ slack.

We’re chatting and it’s extremely pleasant and then I look down and notice something odd I didn’t THINK I’d noticed before but with me who knows? And as is my oh so formal wont, I blurt, “What the hell?”

Top Management turns around and we both look at this puddle on the sidewalk which didn’t seem to have been there before. And it’s bright and sunny and there are no other puddles around. And obviously you’re all picking up on this much faster than we did. But we’re good in an emergency. Trust me, we are. Well, she is. I’m useless. What a shock.

So we notice that The Boy has a matching wet spot on his pants. I say, “Jeez, lady, when’s the last time you changed his diaper?” Which, yes, conveniently ignored for the moment the fact that nothing had stopped ME from personally changing his diaper.

I lift him up and his pants immediately fall and get stuck on his shoes. Turns out the diaper dropped down with the pants. Which means that, when his shirt rides up a little bit, his winky gets its first look at the world.

Top Management and I both burst out laughing, because she believes in solidarity and at a time like that it’s rude to let your husband be the only one with a thirteen-year-old’s mentality. Besides, it’s really funny when a baby’s winky suddenly pokes out in public. That’s not opinion. That’s simple fact.

The Boy’s amused, of course, because he’s being held up in the air and both Mom and Dad are making a big fuss about…well, SOMEthing, how’s he supposed to know what? So as usual, he assumes it’s about him. Which I guess it was, sort of. Or at least parts of him. Part of him. A little part.

Just then a breeze whips up. And the expression on The Boy’s face changes. Instantly. What had been mild amusement turns into a look of “What the heck is THAT?” as the wind tickles parts previously unused to any kind of weather conditions whatsoever. He turns to look at each of us, eyes wide, clearly thinking, “Seriously, what IS that? Do you know? Do you? Do you? You do? You DO? How long have you known about this? And what can I possibly do to get that going again?”

Howling with laughter, and much to The Boy’s disgruntlement, we head into the house to get him a new diaper and a change of clothes. And Top Management realizes that the neurosurgeon The Boy had seen earlier had taken off the kid’s diaper in order to look at his Unusually Protruding Tailbone (which, yes, needs to be snipped off) and had apparently not done a terrific job of redoing the diaper’s tape.

Which kind of gives you pause. This is one of the top pediatric brain surgeons in the world. Yet he seems unable to master the intricacies of Huggies. Are you sure this is the guy you want poking around your kid’s horned ventricles?

Turns out he indeed is. And I guess it just goes to show that we’ve all got our little areas of special expertise. For some of us it’s fixing toddler brains. For others it’s…well, for my part, I haven’t quite gotten that one sorted out just yet. But I’ve a feeling it’s going to be more along the lines of knowing how to secure a diaper properly rather than slicing and dicing someone’s innards with precision. Hey, it takes all kinds.

The Rabbit-Trailer’s Soundtrack

B000000pg301_scmzzzzzzz_Yesterday my kids pulled out a CD we used to listen to all the time: the soundtrack to Snoopy: The Musical. This was a play I loved as a teenager, when it was performed by some friends at a different high school. I had a crackly tape recording of a dress rehearsal which my sisters and I listened to ad nauseum. We had, after all, outgrown the soundtrack to Annie by then, and I had yet to discover the melodramatic satisfaction that is Les Miz.

So when Jane was five or six and I, for no particular reason, found myself humming one of the dear old Snoopy songs, I hunted around online and found a recording. Ah, the bliss of Google! My tiny girls loved the album, as I knew they would. A singing dog! A boy named Linus! A squeaky-voiced Sally belting out tongue-twisters!

Later, as the girls grew, they connected to Snoopy on different terms. One of our favorite songs on the album, “Clouds,” is like a theme song for homeschoolers. Charlie Brown and the gang are lying around looking at the sky, and someone asks Charlie Brown what he sees in the clouds.

“I see a—” he begins, but Sally cuts him off to sing that she sees: “A mermaid riding on a unicorn.” Peppermint Patty sees “an angel blowing on a big long horn.” Linus, ever my favorite, is a visionary. “I see Goliath, half a mile tall, waving at me….what do you see?”

Poor Charlie Brown. How can he get an answer in edgewise? Lucy sees a team of fifty milk-white horses; Patty sees a dinosaur; Linus sees Prometheus, waving; Snoopy, grandiose as always, sees the Civil War. The entire Civil War.

You could spend a year rabbit-trailing your way through this song. The Peanuts gang know their history, I’ll give ’em that. (Although they seem to hit a bit of a roadblock when it comes to a certain American poet/storyteller, as evinced by their poor classroom performance in the hilarous song “Edgar Allen Poe,” elsewhere on the album.) When these kids gaze at the clouds, they see Caesar crossing the Rubicon, the Fall of Rome, and even all twelve apostles, waving at Linus.

Linus: “The Pyramid of Khufu!”

Sally: “You too?”

All but Charlie Brown: “Seven Wonders of the World…”

For our family, this is a song of reciprocal delights. Some of these cloud-tableaux are historical events the girls already knew about, and the idea of Snoopy beholding an entire war sculpted in cumulus is irresistibly funny. Some events are things my kids first encountered in the song. When, years later, we read about the Rubicon in A Child’s History of the World, there were gasps of delighted recognition from everyone including the then-two-year-old. Click, another connection is made.

So I was happy to hear the Peanuts gang belting away once more yesterday afternoon. It has been a couple of years since last they regaled us with their splendid visions. The girls have encountered more of the world, more of the past, and so they have more to connect with in the lyrics of Charlie Brown’s imaginative friends.

As for Charles, alas. The gang, having at long last exhausted the gamut of grand happenings to see in the heavens, demand of Charlie, “Well, what do you see?”

Says Charlie, glumly (and you probably remember the punchline from the Sunday funnies when you were a kid): “I was going to say a horsie and a ducky, but I changed my mind.”

(Cue hysterical laughter from little girls. Every. Single. Time.)

Fair-Weather Mom

NaturejournalI’m a wimp in the cold. Much as I respect the Charlotte Mason “get out for a walk every day, no matter what the weather” principle, I don’t live by it. No well-bundled foul-weather treks for me, invigorating though they might be. The children are encouraged to get outside for fresh air every day, but if they want my company, they have to settle for the sofa, the fireside, and a good book. Preferably one full of heroic wilderness adventures in the elements.

But as soon as the weather begins to turn, oh, I’m there. Just try and keep me inside. Housework? Pah! The floors can take care of themselves. The kids and I have paths to tread, shoes to muddy, trees to meet.

In addition to field guides and the indispensible Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock, there are a few other books that leap off the shelves at me this time every year:

Wild Days by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe

Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth

Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots and Sunflower Houses by Sharon Lovejoy

Mrs. Greenthumbs by Cassandra Danz (for adults only)

Noah’s Garden and Planting Noah’s Garden by Sara Stein

Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katharine White (A collection of gardening essays by the wife of E.B. White).

These old friends keep us busy during the wet and chilly days of March. Come April, we’re outside living the adventure instead of reading about it. I am intrepid! I am daring! No breeze is too balmy, no creek too melodic, no backpack too full of snacks for this nature-loving mother.

That is, until the weather turns hot.


Good Friday, 1613: Riding Westward
by John Donne

Let mans Soule be a Spheare, and then, in this,
The intelligence that moves, devotion is,
And as the other Spheares, by being growne
Subject to forraigne motions, lose their owne,
And being, by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a yeare their naturall forme obey:
Pleasure or businesses so, our Soules admit
For their first mover, and are whirld by it.
Hence is’t, that I am carryed towards the West
This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.
There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,
And by that setting endlesse day beget;
But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,
Sinne had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I’almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for mee.
Who sees Gods face, that is selfe life, must dye;
What a death were it then to see God dye?
It made his owne Lieutenant Nature shrinke,
It made his footstools crack, and the Sunne winke.
Could I behold those hands which span the Poles,
And tune all spheares at once, pierc’d with those holes?
Could I behold that endlesse height which is
Zenith to us, and our Antipodes,
Humbled below us? or that blood which is
The seat of all our Soules, if not of his,
Made durt of dust, or that flesh which was worne
By God, for his appare’l, rag’d, and torne?
If on these things I durst not looke, durst I
Upon his miserable mother cast mine eye,
Who was Gods partner here, and furnish’d thus
Halfe of that Sacrifice, which ransom’d us?
Though these things, as I ride, be from mine eye,
They’are present yet unto my memory,
For that looks towards them; and thou look’st towards mee,
O Saviour, as thou hang’st upon the tree;
I turne my backe to thee, but to receive
Corrections, till thy mercies bid thee leave.
O thinke mee worth thine anger, punish mee,
Burne off my rusts, and my deformity,
Restore thine Image, so much, by thy grace,
That thou may’st know mee, and I’ll turne my face.

The Earth, Galloping

Early this morning, too early, while The Baby Who Scoffed at Sleep played on the bed beside me, I finished reading Willa Cather’s splendid novel My Antonia. The book was due back at the library yesterday, but I want to copy a few passages into my commonplace book first. This is one of them.

I can remember exactly how the country looked to me as I walked beside my grandmother along the faint wagon-tracks on that early September morning. Perhaps the glide of long railway travel was still with me, for more than anything else I felt motion in the landscape; in the fresh, easy-blowing morning wind, and in the earth itself, as if the shaggy grass were a sort of loose hide, and underneath it herds of wild buffalo were galloping, galloping…

Picture Book Spotlight: The Floating House

The Floating House by Scott Russell Sanders

FloatinghouseOur fabulous local librarians came up with a fun program for the kids: the library is sponsoring a “Read Across America” program. They have hung a huge map from the checkout desk, and every kid who reads a book from a cartful of selections gets his or her name written on the map. The map is filling up fast!

Rose’s selection was The Floating House by Indiana University writing professor Scott Russell Sanders. Fascinating book. It’s 1815, and the McClure family is one of many families journeying by flatboat down the Ohio River in search of a new home. As soon as the winter ice clears, they depart from the Pittsburgh area with everything they own aboard their small houseboat—including the horse and cow. They are headed for the tiny new community of Jeffersonville, Indiana, where land is only a dollar an acre.

It’s a good old American pioneer story—one of my favorite genres, which is probably no surprise to those who’ve heard me enthuse about Laura Ingalls Wilder. But this story is told from an angle I’ve never seen before—the view from the river. My girls were entranced by the details of flatboat life: getting stuck on sandbars, passing young towns, hunting wild turkeys on shore at night. At one point a “churning carpet of squirrels” blocks the river in front of the McClures. What an image! (We were all disappointed that the art, which is lovely, didn’t show this scene.)

Tomorrow Rose gets to go write her name on Indiana. I, meanwhile, am haunted by the metaphorical possibilities of the book’s ending: when the McClures finally reach Jeffersonville, their new neighbors help them dismantle the boat and use the lumber to build a house. There’s a poem there, if I ever get a minute to write it!