Fact-Checking Fairytales

 

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“One book”

BRK recently created a new, nested, hybrid book — Sleeping Beauty stuffed inside Pete’s Dragon stuffed inside Cinderella.  This gives new meaning to reading “one book”, as one book now contains three.

She takes great care to stuff them inside each other at exactly the same spot, so that we read up to the mean step-sisters tearing apart Cinderella’s version 1.0 ball gown, then on to Nora buying Pete a new set of clothes while Elliot the Dragon looks on approvingly, and then the entirety of Sleeping Beauty before continuing back to Pete and Elliot, and concluding with Cinderella.

Throughout this adventure in reading, BRK has lots of questions.  I oscillate from delighting in her curiosity to cringing at yet another pause on our march through 68 pages before The Battle of Tooth Brushing.

Here’s a sample, with my reactions underneath:

(Sleeping Beauty): How did the three fairies rush to rescue Prince Phillip?

Great question.  Did they run? Fly? But since they are fairies can’t they just dissolve and then reappear anyplace they want? 

(Cinderella): Where’s the hush? (in reference to “Suddenly, a hush fell over the garden, and a cloud of lights began to twinkle and glow around Cinderella’s head.”)

How do you explain “a hush fell” to a 3 year-old? 

(Pete’s Dragon): Is the teacher nice?

Hmm, I want her to think of teachers as nice.  But this illustrator seems to have not.  

(Pete’s Dragon): How is the Gogan family mean to Pete?

Because they make him do all the work and yell at him.  Oh no, sometimes I yell.  

And then the questions take a turn toward fact-checking, toward identifying inconsistencies.

(Cinderella): Why did she have the glass slipper?

GREAT QUESTION.  YES.  Why, when the spell broke at midnight,  did everything turn back to its sorry state except for the glass slippers? I have no good answer, but something smells fishy.

(Cinderella, again):  Why did the spell break at midnight?

YES.  WHY?  If you are a fairy godmother, and you can turn a pumpkin into a coach, mice into horses, and a dog into a footman, why on earth does your spell expire at midnight?  

If you have the power to perform magical spells, why do you have random limitations like the spell breaks at midnight?  Or in the case of Sleeping Beauty, a deep sleep instead of a nonfatal spindle prick?   It would make of an incredibly boring story, but still . . . BRK is onto something here. 

Author Bingo!

I would rank tonight 2nd or 3rd in “All-Time Worst Bedtime Experience with Kids” so tonight’s post will be short as my wine IV is waiting so I can numb my feelings of despair and failure.

One of the speakers at the Writers Digest Conference shared this Author Bingo card with us.  It’s perfect!  She told us when we get five in a row, to go out and splurge.

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My favorite is “Social Sitch: ‘I Have a Great Idea for a Book'”.  Probably because that was so me, like 4 years ago.

I feel like I would have won Parent Bingo tonight if the squares included, “End the night with everyone crying”, “3-year-old throws self on floor multiple times”, “Discover maintenance broke your bath tub at 7 PM”, “Feel like the tantrum is your fault because you went to work this morning”, and “Rip a Duplo out of a small child’s hand”.  Definitely not any of our finest moments.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

“Someone is Eating the Sun”, and other Eclipse things . . .

The Great American Solar Eclipse is nearly upon us.  On Monday, August 21, a swath of “totality” (complete coverage of sun by moon) will stretch from South Carolina in the South up to Oregon in the West, with all of North America, and some parts of South America, Europe, and Africa in partial eclipse viewing range.  

Total solar eclipses occur about every 18 months, when the Earth, moon, and sun align perfectly and the moon blocks out the sun’s rays.  Most of these eclipses are visible from only some place out in the ocean, making Monday’s land-based viewing opportunity all the more special.

We’ve been reading a few books on the eclipse at home, even though I’m not sure we trust BRK with eclipse glasses and may just wait until the 2024 eclipse, with a path of totality stretching from Texas to Maine, to make this a full family experience.

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BRK has fallen in love with “Someone is Eating the Sun”, a lovely picture book published in 1974 by Ruth Sonneborn and illustrated by Eric Gurney.  Several farm animals conclude someone is taking bites of the sun, as it takes on its crescent shape during an eclipse.  A wise turtle explains it is merely an eclipse, and after totality, the animals are relieved the sun has returned.  We also read Eddie’s Eclipse, published this year, by Becky Newsom and Pam Tucker and illustrated by Pam Tucker.  BRK is a bit young for this book and I had to severely live edit as we moved through the pages.  The book had a clear, bright diagram of an eclipse that was helpful in explaining to BRK what an eclipse is.

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A page from Eddie’s Eclipse

Meanwhile, Eric and I attended a Solar Eclipse class at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, taught by Joe Patterson, a professor of Physics at Columbia University.

On the first night, he shared a compelling story he wrote about his experience of totality in 1970, during an eclipse in Virginia Beach.  He shared his skepticism that totality would be “worth it”, as he had already experienced a 90% solar eclipse.  He writes:

“As late as 1:30 PM, at about 96%, there was just no hint of the drama yet to come.  I started looking through my binoculars with about 1.5 minutes to go, when Cal warned, “It’s coming fast now.”  At about 15 seconds before totality, he yelled, “Joe — the fringes!”, and I turned to see light and dark bans moving across the sand at 5 mph.  The bands were 2 – 4 inches wide.  I don’t recall if the light bands were any lighter than the sand before the fringes appeared — it would have been very difficult to to tell anyway since the light intensity was changing very rapidly now.  I watched the fringes for a few seconds, yelling, “The fringes! There they are! The fringes!” or something like that.  Then I ripped off one filter and looked back at the Sun.  In a few seconds the diamond ring effect appeared, the last burst of light from the photosphere.  Then Bailey’s Beads flashed into view, and I lowered the binoculars to rip the last filter off.  I had been lying down to view it comfortably, but by this time I was standing up, though I don’t remember getting up.  In my haste to remove the filter I lost my balance and fell, and in a kneeling position I glanced up to see the corona.  All this took at most three seconds, so the corona must have appeared very suddenly.  I looked around me and saw — if that’s the word — the darkness that had enveloped everything.  I heard myself yelling incoherently, “My God! It’s incredible! Fantastic!” and so on.  I heard Bill yelling similar things and I think I heard Cal, but I had no awareness that anyone else was present — except that I clearly recall wondering why nobody else was reacting to the spectacle, so I must have been aware of their presence.  Later Bill and Cal told me that everyone had reacted with the the same hysteria . . . “

Joe also shared with us Annie Dillard’s account of her experience with the 1979 total solar eclipse.  She wrote:

“I had seen a partial eclipse in 1970.  A partial eclipse is very interesting.  It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse.  Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying an airplane does to falling out an airplane.”

(How badly do you wish you were going to totality? If you aren’t going to make it for this one, make your 2024 plans now!)

 

Beyond the awe and spectacle, eclipses also generate discoveries.  Science magazine did a great piece on what past eclipses have helped us learn.  For example, around 150 BC, a Greek astronomer named Hipparchus of Nicaea used a solar eclipse to calculate the distance from the Earth to the moon.

Finally, there have been some reports of faulty viewing glasses.  If you are in doubt about yours, you can check your brand here.  If you find yourself without protective glasses, here’s a cool workaround from Neil deGrasse Tyson involving a colander.

Happy Eclipse Viewing!

What Were You Doing A Year Ago?

Or two? Or four? Or ten?

I love this kind of reflection.  In the past, I’ve relied on memory alone to answer this question.

But since I bought a five-year journal last year, now I can read exactly what I was doing last year, on the same page I enter what I did today.  Genius.

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A five-year journal — you write in the year.

I always fantasized about keeping journals, but felt intimidated by the large blank page awaiting my entry at 11 PM when I’m about to go to sleep.  This journal gives you six lines to enter something for the day — just enough to capture what you did, or felt, but not enough to take longer than a few minutes.

I tested the waters last summer and then began to fill it out religiously after Owl was born.  I love looking back through the pages and looking at what was happening 3 months ago on this day, 6 months ago, 9 month ago . . .

I was doing the same thing with pictures the other day — on July 9.  And then I found this gem.

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This was the second-to-last night of our honeymoon.  It was only four years ago but it feels like a hundred.  We basically look the same, but there are more gray hairs (me), more lines on our faces, and some sagging skin here and there (me also).  Those physical relics are our evidence of all the has happened — new life, loss, needing to be stronger, more energetic, more patient, more creative, more forgiving, and more loving than we sometimes think we can be.  I look into these faces and see children, even though I was 35, and Eric was 39.  Though we did not know it, nine months later we would be parents.

On July 9 of this year, BRK and Eric’s mom and I returned home from a trip to Florida to see my mom.  This was BRK’s first flight as a toddler.

“Look, look out the window!” I urged,  “We’re inside a cloud!”

“Can I watch Shrek now?” BRK was laser-focused on the TV screen embedded in the seat in front of her.

“BRK, we are LITERALLY IN A CLOUD.”

“I want to watch Shrek.”

Sigh.

Seamless logistics, and Shrek on demand, returned us home without a scratch or a tantrum.

That night I wrote the following in the five-year diary: “Flew back home.  Was so good to see Mom, to see BRK to with Mom.”  I was tired and even those 6 little lines seemed to vast to fill.

I looked up, to last year’s entry, and then across the page, to the next entry, July 10, 2016:

“ . . . took Dad downtown . . . we went to Starbucks.  Told him I hate that he has to go through this, and that I have so many good memories and that I love him . . .”

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The sensations of that day washed over me.  The smell of Starbucks coffee permeating the car, the gray dress I wore, my belly grazing the steering wheel because it was full of 20-week-old Owl, that conversation.

Would I remember this if I hadn’t written it down?  Of course.  But there is something magical about getting to experience it again, on that day, one year later.  And on the future July 10ths when I write in these journals.

Don’t Ask For Too Many Things

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A page from A Fish Out of Water, by Helen Palmer and illustrated by P.D. Eastman

“Mommy, I want to ask for The Door, The Cymbal, and  The Train.”

BRK named the activities she would ask the teacher to do that day in our weekly music class.

“Well, maybe just ask for one thing.” I replied.

Then, I wondered about those words, hanging in the air.

BRK asked, “Why?”

Good question.

Why?  Why not ask for as many things as she wants?  I had discouraged her because when she rattled off all the things she wanted, my mind raced ahead to a place called Must Prevent Disappointment, and then shot to another place, called My Child Must Not Come Across As Demanding.

And I realized how problematic both of these ideas are.

I understand, intellectually, that my children must encounter and experience disappointment.  Yet, despite firmly embracing Cry It Out when she was a baby, and Time Outs when she was 2, now that she is 3, my emotional white knuckles feel arthritically stuck, unable to to let go, to let her be disappointed.  I think of a recent disappointment, when she asked another little girl to play and the little girl said no, and BRK kept bringing different toys over to the little girl, simply not understanding that no matter what she did, that little girl wasn’t going to play with her.  I watched the confusion on her face give way to her first inklings of rejection.  I needed a mop for the pieces of my heart.

My second line of reasoning, about coming across as demanding, bothered me even more.  I asked myself, would I worry about this if BRK were a boy?  Would I worry about this with Owl, who is a boy?  And I think my answer is, “I would worry about it less”.  I might see it more as “knowing what he wants” and “just being a boy”.  I would worry less about him seeming selfish or demanding.

I was reading a childhood classic to both kids last night, A Fish Out of Water.  There is the part when the boy breaks the news to the man at the fish store, Mr. Carp, that he didn’t follow the directions to “feed the fish just this much and no more”, and instead, fed him way too much.

And Mr. Carp replies, “Oh, dear! So you fed him too much! I knew you would.  I always say ‘don’t’ but you boys always do. Yes, I will come.”

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And I wondered about the girls.  Did THEY ever go against what Mr Carp said?  And if they did, what happened? Was it just no big deal, like in this case?  No scolding, just a gentle lesson learned?

Later I said, “You know, BRK, go ahead and ask for all the things you want to do in music class.”  My mind did race ahead to the possible tantrum that could occur, because it was unlikely the teacher would grant all the requests.  But it also reached ahead to BRK being just fine with it, which is what happened, and it was a gentle and real way to learn the lesson of Most Disappointments Are Not That Big Of A Deal.  And, I thought to my own life.  How many times have I amended my requests, making them smaller, in efforts to minimize future disappointment?  I noticed that when I invited people to things, I would say something like, “If you can’t make it I TOTALLY understand.”  I decided to stop saying that.  Why anticipate the No before it happens?  Why not wholeheartedly bound into the invitation, letting the person know how much their presence is desired?  A rejection might sting, but it won’t irreversibly harm.

I thought about all of these things, and especially thought about the messages I want and don’t want to send to BRK and Owl, about what is OK to ask for, and how it is OK to be.

**** I cannot believe it has been nearly 3 weeks since I last posted!  Tear.  It’s been an irregular 3 weeks of new summer schedules, lots of trips, etc.  We have one more week of schedule irregularity but then hoping to get my back to my standard Tuesday and Friday posts.  Thank you, readers, for staying with this blog! ****

A Sense of Place

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Note the timestamp — 5:05 AM. The kids are sleeping “late enough” so that I can resume Early Morning Writing!

 

I’m back, after a bit of a break.  The seasonal transitions require stepping away, reflection.  Another school year closes for me and this year, for 3-year-old BRK as well.

The kids are finally sleeping “late enough” for me to resume 5 AM writing.  I’m grateful for this — it’s a meditation for me.

I’ve been taking a writing class and for a recent assignment, was tasked with describing a place.  I chose to describe the place of being with a 3-year-old before her bedtime, a place I typically encounter with impatience, but that on this day, I wanted to relish.

Here it is:

My body sinks into the couch, deeper than her 3-year-old body sinks into me.  But she exerts a weight on me, for sure.  A weight just heavy enough for my quadricep muscles to call out, “She’s not a baby anymore.”

The gray velvet of the three-piece sectional couch is soft and comforting.  I ignore the stray blue and purple marker streaks, the ones that sweat-inducing scrubbing couldn’t touch.  A dark triangle of space connects the piece of couch I lay on and the adjacent piece.  Every single day, multiple times a day, I align the couches.  And every day, multiple times a day, couch chaos elves undo my work.

Her head feels musty against my lips.  Her strands of curly hair damp from the bath, murmuring orange and rosemary into my nose, from the adult shampoo and conditioner I use on her.  Her head is still so warm, like, a baby’s.  I’m inhaling vapors from a greenhouse of toiletry scents.

Her hands feel warm and dirty against my face.  One holds fingers that inevitably just crawled into a nostril then climbed into a mouth, and now it rests on my cheek.  I miss her pale soft baby hands that even when encrusted in baby poop, somehow never felt dirty to me.

Her mouth opens and paradise spills out.  “I am a BIG. OAK. TREE.  Stuck in the GROUND. IS. ME.  If I had JUST. ONE. WISH.  I’d like to DANCE. LIKE. THIS.”  She strikes each note like a mallet to a tone bar.  Will she be a singer one day?  Will her brother?  Will we have a family band? 

I sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to her and she sings along.  Her voice matches mine, at times in a perfect overlap.  She clutches the tail of her lovey, the stuffed dog named Big Oof.  Big Oof’s wet tail brushes my neck.  I wince.  The tail smells like a garbage truck on a stifling summer day.  To my daughter, that tail plus her thumb in her mouth defines comfort.

She asks me if we can just rest here.  I say yes.  I never say yes.  I always say, “No, let’s go brush teeth and then you can rest in bed.”  But tonight is different.  Two nights ago the news shook me.  Yesterday I googled “middle school bullying”.  Today I was at the doctor for a lump on my neck, which turned out to be nothing more than muscle strain from dental work gone bad.  My tooth throbs, and it will until I go to the dentist tomorrow.

So now, in this moment, on this couch with my 3-year-old, I want to rest.  I want to bottle this moment.  The label would read, “Putting June to Bed, June 5, 2017”.

Those musty curls are dry now, soft silky threads scattered against my chin.  Her body rises up and down, faster than mine.  We are drifting, drifting . . . BOOM she jerks awake.

“Let’s go brush teeth now, bugaboo.”

And we do.

 

Writing Goals

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I am writing a book.  And realizing that while writing is an art, it’s also got to have some hard features as a practice in order for it to GET DONE.  And I feel if I blurt out those hard features here, my likelihood of getting it done skyrockets.

The Plan:

3,000 words/week PLUS 30 weeks EQUALS a draft by Christmas.  I will use the Ink On app to track my progress!

Words Away!

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I didn’t write 4,138 words today.  I set up the app today.  I wrote 4,138 words over the past 5 weeks!