Eek! Halloween reads 2018!

Here’s what I’m reading for Halloween this year!

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I’ve come to realize that I am really spooked by haunted house stories, for some reason.

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Picked this off a “scary books” list based on the cover.

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I’ve seen this movie, and thought it was great and creepy.

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Picked this off a list too. Wish me luck!

And of course I’ve restarted listening to the podcast Lore, which tells 30-minute creepy stories, perfect for this time of year.

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I. Love. October.

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In the Shoe Tree

A few months ago, I entered a writing contest with this organization that provides an opening and closing sentence, and then you have to write 48 (!) paragraphs in the middle to create a story. Each paragraph has to have at least 40 words (!), and there is no dialogue allowed (!!).

I did not win the competition, but I was a finalist, and so my story is being published in an anthology along with 3 winners and 22 other finalists. I’m told it will be available on Amazon shortly.

I’m going to be honest with you—I don’t love this story. But I’m excited that it’s included in this group. I’m looking forward to reading the other entries. If you want to read my version of what happens between the first and last paragraphs, a story I’m calling “In the Shoe Tree,” just click here

Beaver, AR shoe tree.

Shoe tree in Beaver, Arkansas / Photo roadsideamerica.com

 

 

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Goodbye, changing table

Did you know there’s a reboot of The Magic School Bus? It’s called The Magic School Bus Rides Again, and features the same class, back for a new year with a new Ms. Frizzle. She’s the original Ms. Frizzle’s younger sister, voiced by Kate McKinnon. The original Frizzle (Lily Tomlin) still makes appearances, and also does the end-of-show Q&A sessions—she’s Professor Frizzle now, and travels the world doing science. It’s the same theme song but updated and sung by Lin-Manuel Miranda. It’s actually a really solid reboot. My kids love it, and now they talk about things like metamorphic rock (“metamorphic means change!”), and farming tools like tensiometers (they measure the water in the soil), and how different kinds of birds have different kinds of beaks and feet (for different purposes).

I may not know much about farming implements, but you know what I do know about? Marketing. (Bear with me here.)

So about a month ago, we decided to get rid of the changing table we’ve had since before B was born—we got it almost exactly six years ago, actually. H is out of diapers except at night, and we usually end up chasing her down and putting those on her in whatever room we can catch her, anyway.

So I posted the changing table on Nextdoor, figuring I would see if I could sell it before I just gave it away. At first I just typed, like, “Changing table, $40, in good shape.” And then I was like, I have a few useful skills, let’s see what we can do here. So I started over and wrote something like, “You need this changing table! Our daughter is out of diapers (yay!) and we’re finally ready to part with our changing table. Solid dark wood, beautiful sleigh style, one drawer and two lower shelves, this will look great in your nursery and your baby will love it.” Something like that. Marketing is all about storytelling.

And it worked! I sold it. I got a message from a woman who wanted to buy it to repurpose it into a beverage cart. Which is totally fine by me. I mean, there was a tiny part of me that wanted this to go to someone who was starting out on an exciting journey of parenthood. But whatever. I liked our changing table; it inadvertently matched the crib, which was nice. But I also like that we’re now beyond needing it, and moving forward.

So after some back and forth, we finally made it happen, and her daughter came and picked it up. My daughter was not super excited to find out that “her” changing table was emptied out, cleaned off, and waiting outside to be picked up. Even after it was gone, she asked about it for a day or two.

But my marketing skills came in handy and I sold something on Nextdoor. Which I didn’t really believe would work out. So yay!

When we were trying to explain to B and H how the changing table was gone now, and this is great because now there’s more space in their room for their toys, B said:

“Mommy, you know what? Now you have to metamorphic H on the floor.”

…What?

“Metamorphic means change, mommy.”

So here’s to moving on, moving forward, spending less on diapers, and moving kid stuff out of the living room and into their room. And here’s to a new Frizzle teaching science to a new generation.

 

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Burn of the week: Villette

Burn of the week is a segment in my favorite hit podcast, The Babysitters Club Club, which is totally worth checking out if you’re a fan of The Babysitters Club books, literary theory, or the 1990 fantasy-themed graphic adventure game Loom.

But my burn of the week today comes from Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, a book I’m reading for Book Riot’s Read Harder 2018 Challenge to fulfill the category “A book you hated or never finished.” I felt that hated was a strong word to use for this book, but I remembered only reading about half of it for a class a couple years back.

(I was wrong. I read maybe 20% of it before I stopped…and then wrote a short paper on something that happened in that first, like, 60 pages.)

So I’m getting through it now, thanks in large part to my new commute on Bart, which is letting me get through about 5% on each trip into or out of the city. Honestly this commute will be the only reason I get through any of the ebooks that I buy on sale because who can resist a book that costs only $1.99 and doesn’t take up any physical space in your home?

I’ve lost the thread. So without further ado, here’s my burn of the week, from Villette‘s first-person main character, Lucy Snowe, on the beautiful but selfish Ginevra Fanshawe:

Courtseying with mock respect, Ginevra said: “I would not be you for a kingdom.”

The remark was too naive to rouse anger; I merely said: “Very good.”

“And what would you give to be me?” she inquired.

“Not a bad sixpence—strange as it may sound,” I replied. “You are but a poor creature.”

“You don’t think so in your heart.”

“No; for in my heart you have not the outline of a place: I only occasionally turn you over in my brain.”

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So that’s what I’m up to these days. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Bedtime? More like badtime, am I right?

Parents joke through their teeth about bedtimes, but it’s not really a joke. It’s a well-known fact that for parents, bedtime is the absolute worst time of the day. For our family specifically, it seems like everything can be going great, everyone is enjoying themselves, baths are silly, reading books is cuddly and sweet, they want to give a bunch of hugs and kisses, we leave their room smiling and happy…we sit down on the couch, take a deep breath, and before we can even release it, one kid is wandering out into the living room to ask if he can eat your dinner (food he wouldn’t deign to touch if it was served to him at 6pm), or the other kid is calling lustily from her crib, “I need a stuffed animal from the hammock! I need a new diaper! MOOOOOOMMMMMMYYYYYY! What do deers eat?”

A casualty of having children who get more mobile and aware has been relaxing evenings where Drew and I are able to have long conversations that traverse many topics and end with a satisfying conclusion. Whether kids are awake, asleep, or in that in-between period (which seems to last HOURS), we’re constantly being interrupted in sentence, thought, or bite of dinner we put off until 8pm.

I realized this Sunday that it makes me question everything I say. Because if I’m going to be interrupted, I don’t want to have to come back, going, “What was I saying?” and be reminded that it was something stupid or pointless. Which is unfortunate, because I think a lot of nighttime unwinding conversation is just little stories about your day or something you saw online or something weird someone said, stories that don’t necessarily have a lot of heft.

On Sunday, I was in the middle of trying to tell Drew about the Neil Patrick Harris / Rachel Bloom Tony Awards Twitter drama (I’m on Rachel Bloom’s side all the way here), and halfway through reading NPH’s tweet out loud, my eldest child comes marching out of his room to see…I don’t even know. I have no idea what he wanted. Because I leapt up off the couch and literally chased him back to his room, crying desperately, “I just want to tell a joke! I just want to get through a SINGLE STORY WITHOUT BEING INTERRUPTED!”

After that I couldn’t even finish the story. Like, what was even the point of what I was saying. It’s so embarrassing to be second-guessing what you’re saying – to have to come back and say, “Okay, settle back in while I read you the second half of the tweet – and then what Rachel said!” That’s just stupid.

To Drew’s credit, he waited about two hours, and then said kindly, “Can you please do me a favor? And finish your Neil Patrick Harris / Rachel Bloom story?” And I did. But I’m not gonna lie – it didn’t hold the same pleasure for me that it would have if I’d gotten through it in the moment. But I have faith that one day I’ll be free to read tweets out loud to Drew, and I’m sure he’s as eager as I am for that day to come. Because what could be more fun for him?

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Territorialism

This morning I was at Safeway with H at 8:30am, because that’s when moms and kids go grocery shopping. We were in the checkout, and she was wandering around my feet chatting to me. The woman in line behind us was wearing a baby in a sling, and we smiled at each other, and I asked her how old her baby was, and she asked me how old H is, and it was this nice exchange of cute baby, talkative kid, fun age, etc.

Then H tugged on my arm and I picked her up and she took my face in her hands…and proceeded to make out with me. I actually had to say, “Okay, that’s enough” and put her down.

And that’s how I almost made a new mom friend this morning.

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The selfishness of Misty Morgan

If you were a bookish child born in (I’m going to guess) the 80s, chances are you read the Serendipity books.

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I checked out a lot of these from the library over the years, but I think the only one I actually owned was Misty Morgan. That book has ended up on my kids’ shelf, and while it hasn’t gotten into the regular routine yet, I have read it to them a few times over the last few years. And I’ve got a bone to pick with author Stephen Cosgrove.

To catch you up, the title character Morgan is this majestic stallion:

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He has a friend, “a very pretty princess dressed in pinks and purples” who “lived by time and time alone.” She lives in a “magnificent” castle filled with clocks: “alarm clocks, cuckoo clocks, grandfather clocks, and even a grandmother clock.”

The princess spends all day every day running from clock to clock, making sure they’re all set and keeping the right time. This is literally how she spends all her time. There’s no explanation given for why she has to babysit these clocks, or what will happen if she lets them fall out of time. But it’s clearly important to her – she is always “rushing here and rushing there, crying ‘Can’t be late!’…Time was the master and the princess was the slave.”

Morgan, on the other hand, loves to “play and frolic in the forest and meadows…He would chase after butterflies and kick at the sun, for his life was his own and filled with fun.”

Good for you, Morgan.

Morgan goes to the castle one day to see if the princess can play, but surprise! She’s busy. She tells him she doesn’t have time, but maybe later. He goes outside to wait for her (while doing absolutely nothing) and then heads back inside, “sure that he had waited long enough.” She gets impatient and tells him she doesn’t have time to play right now, and runs off.

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Morgan goes back outside. He waits for her. Let me tell you exactly what he does:

A day, maybe two, passed by while he nibbled on some flowers and chased a bird about the meadow. He idly spent his time scratching his back on the bark of a tree, or taking naps in the bright, golden sunlight. He waited, and wiled away the time. Finally he galloped back to the castle.

Inside, he finds her shoveling coal in the basement. She’s annoyed and says, “Listen, unicorn! I am very, very busy. Time is wasting and I don’t have time to play right now. When I do have time to play I’ll find you! For now, leave me be!”

He is very bummed out, and leaves. He wanders away from the castle, and into the Misty Meadows, “a place so lonely, quiet, and empty, that even the birds wouldn’t sing.” He’s so despondent that he walks straight into the Misty Meadows.

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The princess continues working, until one day she notices that Morgan is missing. She goes to look for him, and when she can’t find him right away, gets scared that something’s happened. She follows his hoofprints and sees they go straight into the Misty Meadows. “‘Oh no!’ she cried. ‘No one or no thing has ever gone into the Misty Meadows and ever come out!'”

She tries to go into the fog to find him, but everything is “shrouded in silence” and she’s out of luck. So she sits down at the edge of the “Stream of Regrets” and “began to cry and cry. She cried for her selfishness. She cried for those times that she didn’t have time to share.”

Magically, Morgan appears out of the fog, and she runs to him. She leaps on his back and “off they ran, the wind whipping at their hair. The last thing the princess did before they ran out of sight was to take off her watch and toss it far into the Misty Meadows, for she would never be a slave to time again.”

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To which I say…wtf? First of all, the princess doesn’t even get a name. And we only see her face one time out of the ten illustrations she’s in.

And who has made her a slave in this castle? She’s the princess but doesn’t seem to rule anything – she just works 24/7. Is this a metaphor? What’s the backstory here?

Also, why can’t Morgan read the room? She needs help. OFFER TO HELP HER. Maybe if you helped her she would have more free time. It’s not like you’re busy. (See above, with the wiling away the time.)

I think the moral of the story is the most annoying part to me. Like, this whole thing was her fault? Because she was feeling overwhelmed and couldn’t stop to run around outside?

It’s also possible that recently I was trying to vacuum, and my five-year-old paused Super Mario Brothers to say, “Hey, you are distracting me with that vacuum sound!”

Okay, new moral:

THERE IS A TIME FOR WORK

AND A TIME FOR PLAY.

MAYBE HELP YOUR MOM WITH ALL THE CHORES

AND ALSO LEARN HER NAME

AND LOOK AT HER FACE.

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