Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rick Bragg is My New Favorite Author

I love the "Choice Reads" section of our public library. Two A-frame racks stand about five feet apart, each with approximately twenty books on them that have recently been read and appreciated by library staff. The books themselves range wildly from non-fiction to fiction, recent releases to books that have been on the shelves for decades but were just recently discovered by a new employee. I almost always find a great book there. In fact, I'd love to know which employees are responsible for recommending which books because I suspect that it is the same two or three whose suggestions I continue to follow time and time again.

A few weeks ago, the cover of one of the books struck me as I sauntered past on my way to the children's section. Eve has this insatiable need for stacks of books which Bubba's bill rate cannot possibly keep up with, so we head to the library at least once a week to feed her soul. I wasn't even looking for a book, technically, except that I'm never NOT looking for a book. The book was Rick Bragg's latest, "The Prince of Frogtown."

The sepia tone of the photo grabbed me. The title intrigued me. The description on the back reeled me in. Bragg's writing is so authentically human, as is his approach to finding and feeding the reader a story, that for the first time in a long time, I wasn't racing through the book. I found myself slowly parcing out chapters to myself, much like the pace of his language. I loved the premise that he had lost his father, for whom he hadn't had much use as an adult, and then, at some point, gone searching for his story. I identified with that and respected the thorough way he went about discovering who his daddy was as well as the honest story he told.

By the time I finished the book, I was both sad that I had to take it back to the library and glad that someone else would get to read this, too. Mostly I was pissed that this man has written several books and I haven't heard of him yet. Amazon, watch out for me! I've managed to get the other two in the trilogy of memoirs Rick Bragg has written and spent a gloriously leisurely week reading them in the sun, soaking up the rays and the southern sentiments together.

I love learning about new authors. Especially those with multiple books to feed my soul. Thank you, Rick Bragg, for introducing me to your family and your style of writing. I look forward to more.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Reaping What We've Sown

Dang! I love it when those little seeds we plant come shooting up out of the ground when we least expect it!

This morning Lola and Bubba are out on a coffee date. Lola, whose money seems to grow in her piggy bank at rates three times that of Eve's, can never decide what to spend it on. Eve's piggy bank is nearly always empty because the second she gets her allowance she's plotting what to spend it on. Her money doesn't burn a hole in her pocket, it torpedoes its way out.

Anyway, last week was Lola's birthday and she received a little cash ($5.00 from her grandmother) and a gift card to Amazon.com. It took her six days to remember that she wanted to pick out some things from Amazon, but when she finally did, it was quick and painless. Done. As for the five bucks, she simply added it to her stash. This morning she asked Bubba if she could take him out for coffee. Just the two of them. Seems her cash is starting to bulge out of the piggy bank and she can't think of anything else she wants or needs to spend it on besides a date with her daddy. She dug an old purse of mine out of the closet, put her assorted bills and change into a wallet, got dressed up, arranged for Eve to babysit her American Girl doll for the morning, and the two of them took off. Bubba let Lola pick the coffee shop (she chose the one that has chocolate whipped cream to garnish her hot chocolate with) and they walked out hand in hand.

Apparently, halfway to the coffee shop Lola remembered that tomorrow is Father's Day and since she's flush with cash, she offered to take him out again tomorrow.

My heart is melting.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Things That Make Me Go, "Hunh?"

Why has my cat, Peanut, decided that this is his personal drinking fountain? And why, since he started doing this almost a week ago, have my other cat and the neighbor's cat decided to follow suit? There are times (like just after kitty breakfast at our house) when there is an actual line-up of cats waiting their turn to drink from the fountain.

Why, despite the fact that it HAS NOT RAINED FOR 30 CONSECUTIVE DAYS and my lawn is as brown as dust, are the clover patches thriving? Why are they blooming and, when I get revenge by mowing their cute little puffy white heads off, why are they the only healthy part of my lawn? Honestly, if it weren't for the fact that I love nothing better than to walk barefoot everywhere, all summer long, I swear I would let it take over altogether. But the fuzzy bumblebees it attracts don't appreciate me stepping on them. And, I must admit, it's not terribly pleasant for me, either.

Who does this?! Who gets out the ice cream carton, dishes up a bowl of ice cream, notes that there is but a scant bite and a half remaining, replaces the lid, and puts the damn ice cream back in the freezer? WHO?! The other night I put the kids to bed and decided it would be nice to have a small treat. Lo and behold, there was a carton of my favorite vanilla ice cream in the freezer - I saw it there earlier. Very quietly I got a bowl down from the cupboard (Eve has supersonic hearing when it comes to night-time snacking) and a spoon from the drawer. Cringing at the sucking sound it makes, I pulled open the freezer door and retrieved the carton. Only to open it up and discover this. Honestly? GRRRRRR! So I took a picture for Bubba as a reminder of what NOT to do to your wife. Especially when you're out of town and she now has an unfulfilled ice cream craving but the children are in bed and she can't run to the store for more.
And finally: the other night Eve came screaming down the stairs, hair and eyes wild, knees knocking, goosebumps forming on her limbs at an astonishing rate. Seems she had laid her head down on the pillow and found she was eye-to-eye with a spider. On her pillow. Freaked. Out. I settled her on the couch with a snug blanket, caught the teeny tiny offender in a mason jar and quickly dispatched him to the garden where he would doubtless be happier (at least his sleep wouldn't be disturbed by a screaming girl), and prepared to tuck Miss Eve back in to bed. "Oh, no. I can't sleep in there anymore. No way," she declared. I protested. She had seen the little guy go outside. There was nothing else in there. She refused. "Fine. I'm not arguing. You need to go to bed. I don't care where you sleep as long as it's not in my bed." I sent her back upstairs assuming she was headed for the guest bed. Hours later as I climbed the stairs I nearly tripped over Eve splayed out on the floor on the top landing. Every light within spitting distance was on and she had dragged her quilt out to pull over herself, safe in neutral territory. I shook my head as I passed by her, noting that she was fast asleep, head on the selfsame pillow that had harbored the spider. She was afraid of her room but not the pillow? Hunh?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tell Me When to Let Go

Bubba is the designated bicycle coach at our house. For some reason, when I attempted to help Eve shed her training wheels, the dynamic between the two of us was so nerve-wracking that we both ended up in tears. Bubba is much more optimistic and relaxed and patient than I. (Shh, don't tell him I said that or I'll never hear the end of it). So the job of teaching Eve to master this most zen-like balancing act fell to him. Or it would have if she wasn't so much like me. Turns out she wasn't willing to wait for him to help her, so one afternoon she simply banished me inside and made me promise not to spy on her out the living room windows. I promised, but I had my fingers crossed behind my back. Hey! I had to know when to expect this bloody, screaming mess to come barrelling through the garage door, didn't I?

I could barely see her through the web of shrubs and maple leaves as she worked and worked, struggling to put one foot on the pedal and GO without falling over or wobbling too much to the side. Twenty minutes in, I got tired of standing on one leg, craning my neck around the windowframe to peer out at her and I had to sit down. Thirty minutes in, I actually reached over to the coffee table and picked up a magazine. Not one of my shining mommy-moments, I know.

Forty minutes in, I saw something whiz by the windows. Eve on her bike, doing 70. She had done it. I raced out onto the porch, jaw gaping, and saw her grin from the other end of the cul-de-sac. She rode back and forth, back and forth, faster and faster, grinning so much the corners of her mouth were hidden underneath the straps from her bike helmet. When she finally stopped, she jumped off, flung her arms around me and screamed, "I DID IT!! ALL BY MYSELF!!" I wrapped my arms around her, settling in for a long hug, but she squirmed away, ran to the neighbors' house, knocked on the door and proudly asked them if they wanted to come out and watch her ride her bike without training wheels. I've never seen a prouder person.

Four years later, it's Lola's turn. She's determined that this is going to be the summer she learns to ride without those dang things that just slow her down. Now is Bubba's time to shine. He spent last Saturday slowly helping her build her confidence as I was relegated to the indoors. Notice a pattern here?

This afternoon, Bubba got on a plane and Lola decided she wanted my help. I took a deep breath and dove in. It didn't begin well. She explained that Daddy told her it's easier to start with one pedal up and the other down, so she asked me to put the left pedal up for her to start with. But you're right-handed. It makes more sense to have the right pedal up. That's the way I always did it. Nope, no place for my inner monologue here. Shut up, Mommy - just do what she asked you to. Pedals set, I steadied the bike by the handlebars while she lifted her leg over the seat and stood on her tiptoes. Then I held her up with one hand on the handlebars and the other on the seat behind her. She started to go, seemed to be pushing really hard to get it moving, and pulled hard to the left. C'mon. Let's push to the right. You're turning into the grass, kiddo.

We tried again and again with the same results. We just couldn't get this thing started. Finally, I had her get off so I could try it myself, see why it was pulling to the left or if the brakes were stuck. Why can't we get this thing going? She's a strong kid. Other than the fact that the girls were mortified that someone might see me riding this little bike like a clown in the circus, everything seemed in order. We tried a different tack.

"How about you steady the bike with your bottom foot while you push with the top one?" I hesitated to offer any out-loud advice in case it could be perceived as criticism, but this was nuts. We put the pedals in the right place and tried again. This time, I didn't hold the handlebars. I just steadied her with one hand underneath the seat. "Tell me when to let go."

She did. And she took off like a shot.
One round of the neighborhood and she was back.
We did it again.
The fourth time, she started by herself - no help from me at all.
There's that proud grin again.
Guess Bubba's going to have to wait for Driver's Ed.

Later that day, the girls and I pulled out a brand new puzzle. My method is to turn over all the pieces first, locate the corners and then separate the edges. Eve feels the same way. Lola likes to dive right in, finding the part of the puzzle she thinks looks like the most fun, and tackle it right away. Makes me nuts.

I'm busy separating out edge pieces and Eve's studying the photo of the finished puzzle, committing it to memory.

"I'm doing the monkey eating popcorn, okay? That's my part!" announces Lola. What. Ever. It doesn't touch the edge, so I'm not interested yet.

Seconds later, she has two or three pieces put together and she's searching for more.

"I need some popcorn."

I'm not looking for any da*n popcorn! I'm busy setting this thing up the right way. Doing the edges, girlfriend!

"So if you see any popcorn, pass it to me, okay? Cuz this monkey is cute and I need to get him his snack."

All of a sudden it occurs to me. Lola's not demanding. She's not asking me to drop everything and look for her puzzle pieces. She's simply letting everyone know that she is enjoying her part of the puzzle and if we happen to come across something that might fit in her space, we can pass it to her. If we don't, that's okay too. REVELATION!!!!! Just because someone close to me utters the phrase "I need..." does not mean that I am automatically assigned to meet that need.

Tell me when to let go...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Three of the Best Ways to Start Your Sunday...

even if I really wish it were a rain-day. What has happened to my typical Pacific Northwest June? Where is the rain? My lawn is already browning and I have green tomatoes on the vine (that part is good). But I digress...

1. Bubba called me "brilliant" last night. There's just nothing like having an excellent idea acknowledged by your husband. Lola turned seven last week and her birthday party was last night. She wanted to host a sleepover for four of her best friends. Having not completely recovered from the drama that was Eve's last sleepover two years ago (tears, "she's leaving me out," "Eve likes her better than me," "I can't sleep," "they won't let me sleep," - you get the idea), I was struck dumb. For a minute. Not wanting to deprive Lola of some rollicking good times with her pals simply because Eve's party had disintegrated into estrogen-fueled tears and bickering, I had to think fast. What's the worst part of a sleepover? The time when you, as a parent, want the children to SHUT UP AND GO TO SLEEP and they won't/can't. Okay, let's avoid that part. Enter: the pseudo-sleepover. The girls showed up in their jammies, squealed, pigged out on pasta of their own creation, screamed in delight, decorated their own pillows with which to pummel each other, did each other's hair, squealed some more, made masks to hide their faces during the scary parts of the movie, crafted ginormous gooey ice cream sundaes, screamed a lot, had a massive pillow fight, ran through the sprinklers in their pajamas and melted into a mass of squirming, screaming bodies when their parents came to pick them up at 10:00. No sleepover. All the fun. Well, Bubba was a bit put out by all the squealing and screaming and I'm sure the neighbors were thrilled to see it over by 10, but Eve and Lola collapsed into their beds and were asleep within minutes and Bubba? Well, he sat on the couch, knowing he was going to get a good night's sleep, and called me, "Brilliant!" (Sorry for all the run-on sentences there, but you can't properly describe a 7-year-old girl's birthday party without them.)

2. Haircut appointment. Yup, I've got one. Just me. By myself. Heading into the city to do something very different with my hair for the summer. Today. Did I mention I get to go by myself? Oh yeah!

3. Eight days later, the phlegmy nastiness that is coming out of my eyes (yup, you read that correctly), nose, and mouth is finally not chunky, heading-deep-into-the-Asian-jungle-camoflauge green. It's more smooth and creamy yellow like butter. I know that's disgusting, but give me a break. I am the one that had to suffer on the couch for EIGHT DAYS with a throat so sore I would have paid the first person who devised a way for me to avoid swallowing altogether. I slept no less than 20 hours a day and had to peel my eyelids apart every time I needed to open them. But let's focus on the positive, people! I FEEL BETTER!

Now, for a Monday where I wake up without a sore throat. Let's all envision that, shall we? I'll let you know if it happens.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


That's what I get for letting my true Northwest colors show: wishing for rain after 16 straight days of sunshine and weather too hot for me. It sprinkled one day, gave us a tremendous windstorm another, went back to being hot and sunny and I came down with strep throat.

Been sleeping 20 hours a day for three days and I still feel wiped out with a sore throat and my right eye glued shut with green gunk. I'm hoping this will pass before too long.

But before I went down with the crud, I read two fantastic books and ordered two more, so I thought I'd pass me recommendations along to those of you who are looking for some summer reading:

1. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Fiction, based in post Civil War Mississippi, this book is amazing! Couldn't put it down and I didn't want it to end. Get it today!

2. The Prince of Frogtown, by Rick Bragg. Apparently (where have I been) he's written two other memoirs, but I found this one at the library (boo hoo, I have to take it back!). This book is GORGEOUS! The writing is magnificent and I found myself re-reading passages over and over again just to taste the language he uses.

I have ordered two Buddhist books for the summer and can't wait to get into them, when I can keep my eyes open for more than a half hour. I'll keep you posted on them. Gotta go rest now.

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