Sometimes

There’s a sense of being tired all the time during the winter. I think the folks who live in the Arctic region must have come up with ways to cope…or maybe all the fish consumption has something to do with it. If you ever watched Northern Exposure, though, you might recall the episode with Ruth Ann and Walt using the SAD light therapy visors – and Walt gets completely addicted.

It’s human nature to look for the simplest solution – with sometimes unintended results.

Personally, I woke up a few years ago and realized that winter was not my friend as far as mood is concerned. Maybe you feel the same way. Childhood memories were colored somewhat, and it never made a lot of sense, but fall was just brown, for instance. Not crisp, or leafy, but muddy and redolent of the unpleasant sensation that everything was dying.

Winter was grey, bleak…there are no specific memories that I can recall to even distinguish one year from the next. Most of my memories reside in summer. Perhaps it’s that way for everyone. I’m a little terrified that my kids will end up feeling the same way. This time of year finds them crying about Monday mornings. Even the adults are having trouble getting out of bed without a lot of drama…I won’t mention any names.

The trouble is, you can only try to keep a firm grip on your own sanity. No matter how hard you try to get everyone else into a better mood, it never works. And then your mood takes a hit.

I’m thinking about smile therapy…? Laughter yoga? What else is out there?

For me, a big part of the battle was adding omega 3 and vitamin D into my life. (Fish is just not a part of my diet, no matter how much I wish I liked it.) Forcing myself to exercise is another piece of the strategy. I say “force”, because this time of year means that I’m still outside running, and it’s a HUGE mindgame to get out there and deal with cold.

What do we do about our loved ones, though? How do we help them get through the darker (seriously!) times of the year? Aside from visiting our relatives in Mexico or California, that is….

On reading topics (writing as well), I’ve been reading Johnny B. Truant & Sean Platt’s Write, Publish, Repeat, and feeling the sense of new ideas leading to better *strategy* – plans and writing all making a little more spark. Older son and I are into Laurie Halse Anderson’s Forge (the sequel to Chains), and it’s just into the denouement of the Battle of Saratoga. She’s an excellent writer, and you ought to check her out.

I don’t know what to hope for from the groundhog, but that’s months away anyhow. Just a glimmer of hope, the light in the darkness, anything that might help. It just seems a little weird that I’m the only girl round these parts, and am the most even keel….

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New year, new things

The mercury has been zipping up and down in our part of the country. A few days ago, it was -13, and here we are today with the high at 55. It feels mildly schizo. And it’s rough on the motivational side of staying sane. I had to beg for new, warmer running gear for the rest of the winter, for instance. One recent run ended with purple toes. Not like, lavender, or bluish, no. Deep dark purple. Hadn’t even noticed they were completely numb until I jumped in the shower (because it was right before Christmas and there was NO TIME for cooling down), and then an ear-piercing yell later, realized what was up. I’d post a picture, but that kind of thing is icky, let’s be honest.

Big kid and I finished Breaking Stalin’s Nose, which is a pretty swift and completely unsettling story. It’s like reading 50’s sci-fi, until you realize, no, this sort of thing actually went on. In the 50’s. On and on. Then my husband and I started watching the Aldritch Ames mini-series, as well as the remake of House of Cards, which is really excellent, by the way. The original, with Ian Richardson playing the role Kevin Spacey now so ably occupies, was just as unsettling.

I wonder what it is about those sorts of stories that draw us in so well? Is it the act of drawing back the curtain to view the inner workings? Perhaps. All at once, we know it is true, and yet it isn’t. By that, I mean there are small pockets of people who function in such bubbles of reality, but that they cannot exist outside their small realms. That’s why I tend to read dystopian or utopian setups with a certain amount of salt dashed across. There is push and pull from extreme to extreme, but we (perhaps being 70% water?) tend to follow gravity and established routes.

I think that’s why dictatorships are successful mostly in small pockets as well. Without going into some dissertation-style talk, I’ll just theorize that the sheer volume of the USSR was what “doomed” their particular experiment. People will be oppressed and led by the nose, sure, but not everyone – so with the inertia in the middle, the oppressors on one side, and the resistance on the other, eventually the push and pull will set everything back into the middle territory, even with a lot of war, strife, and instability in the meantime.

So yes, I discount the notion of a global dictatorship. One such as in, V for Vendetta, now that might work for a bit longer, except you can’t count on previously stalwart, fiercely independent, somewhat volatile people to suddenly settle down and be docile because they’re scared. Here in the US, there’s a lot of factionalizing and partisanship over who’s really a “patriot”, what constitutes being a True American (say that in your head however you like, it still doesn’t carry gravitas)…well the list of who’s better than whom could go on a long time.

Realistically, we’re a nation founded on restlessness, low attention span, impulsivity, and willingness to chuck aside our Sunday papers in outrage when Something Bad Happens…by golly, we’ll go make it right. As long as it’s in a place where there’s a good reason to be. But that’s another discussion. The official line when we go overseas to bring truth, justice, and democracy to those who need it (whether they want it or not) – is that we are winning hearts and minds. Depressing, but true.

But here, in the homeland, in spite of our pioneering ways, our desire to pull up stakes and move around every five years, and our insatiable desire to read headlines instead of knowledge…people are pretty much ok. Not great, not terrible, but ok. I have a feeling I’m pretty much ok, because frankly, I don’t have a ton of energy left over from trying to turn my kids into something better. On one hand, there is a long list of what I’d like to eventually do, if I ever have any time or mind for it…on the other is the desire to lie around and eat chocolate. Admit it, we’re all pretty much the same. And it’s ok, because once in a while, we manage to actually cross something off the list…and then we go and have a piece of chocolate for a reward.

The difference lies in what you do when the pressure is on. The distillation process, if you will. We all know, deep down, what we would do if push came to shove – some of us would do as the neighbors in Eugene Yelchin’s tale do, rat out the guy next door, because then we can have his apartment. Even though I am a bit of a cynic, and I know that those people are out there, and I watch for them as I would an approaching hyena…I believe that they are the minority, and that we’d get the pull back to moderation from the opposing force on the other side. It just depends on how big the inertia mass is, I guess. How many of us would do absolutely nothing?

I’m one of those impatient, distractable, passionate American types…I know what I believe I’d do, where I’d be, and it wouldn’t be sitting around, but it’s a large unknown, isn’t it? The US is a varied, enormous patchwork quilt of people who often forget about the rest of the country (I live in a state that some parts of the country believe is a myth) – much less the rest of the world – but we aren’t (all) bad people, any more than anyone else is (I’m pinching my fingers to keep from listing any dissenting examples). The Soviet people weren’t all bad. North Koreans certainly aren’t…just their strange dictator is.

Obviously this is just my meandering brain going down the route illuminated by the books and tv we’ve had around here (my husband binge-watched the Tudors over the holidays, while I gnashed teeth over the state of womanhood in those days) – life is so uncertain and weird at times…we can’t help but sit and have little philosophical discussions to try and sort it out. That said, opinions welcome….

Santa’s watching….

I bet he trained the NSA on techniques….

We did the Santa video with our kids last week, and I put in parameters for our younger kid to be “on the fence” of naughty/nice. Our older one as well, since I knew doing otherwise would blow up in my face like an overfertilized watermelon. But child the younger was so distraught and worked up over it. Panic ensued, and we had to talk him down off the ledge, because I could see the temptation to just say, “Screw it, I’m goin’ down in flames!!!” written all over his tongue. Actually, he may have truly said something to that effect.

Instead, we promised to check back in, and went over a list of stuff he could work on. His teacher last year did that on a monthly basis – let each kid pick something to work on, like handwriting, patience, raising hand before talking – and they’d get a reward if they managed to do it the whole month. Think about it – that’s about 20 days – the period experts claim it takes for new habits to get established. Pretty smart, that teacher.

I’m not that smart. I keep forgetting that there is a way to establish new routes and to extract the bad. Otherwise, I would have “called” on Santa a month ago. But maybe we’ll try that heading into the new year. Younger the kid is a very persistent and passionate child – note that I’m trying to use the positive outlook on those traits (we all know what their negatives look like). But I keep at him, trying to shape and polish him, as I tell him in the words of Louis CK, “I’m not raising you to be a kid the rest of your life.” It’s true.

We don’t want to have them grow up to behave as they do when they are 2, 6, or 13. We pound them into molds of our shaping to form them into adults. We screw up along the way, as do they, but the determination is to see them be happy, successful in whatever shape that takes, and to have a sense of doing right, as opposed to wrong. One need only watch a handful of episodes of Intervention to see what can go so horribly wrong. It isn’t a mistake that half the families involved end up doing some kind of therapy/rehab so that they can STOP the destructive patterns.

But let’s face it. Parenting is terrifying. You can do all the best things for your kid, and he’ll still grow up into whatever kind of person he is determined to be. You can be neglectful and hateful and produce a caring prodigy (though it’s obviously not the majority of the outcome for those cases). You can lavish attention and find your child moving across the planet to get away from you. It’s hard. Really hard.

But I’ll tell you what not to do, because I’ve seen it, and it’s ugly

– humiliate your kid in front of others, even family

– fail to respect that there is a sentient human brain in that small head that is fully capable of judging you and your actions

– fail to respect your child, period

– be completely erratic in behavior and discipline

– not tell your child that you love him/her

Just plain ugly. Had a massive example of that whole thing play out in front of us this weekend, and I’m still having trouble with it.

On the other end of parenting, I’m reading Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan – and I really admire her parents who, divorced and not precisely on speaking terms, managed to cobble together a truce in order to fight for their daughter’s life. In addition to that, there’s a textbook-style volume waiting for me to pierce the mysteries of Rapid Prompting Method , in order to see whether I can make sense of it and start to help my son get another handle on a way to communicate to us. It feels like I’m waiting for a semester to start with that one, but there’s no prof, just online forums. We can’t swing the course yet, so I’m hoping that the book will click and make sense….

Anyone have any big reading plans or projects for the holiday break?

The caprice of December

You think to yourself, “I’ll just get some stuff done,” and then find yourself alphabetizing the dvd collection. You need to wrap presents or mail stuff from the post office (which is a mile away, but really hard to get in and out of), but end up scouring the internet for the best prices on anything from Hiwa Kai Hawaiian black salt to books or chia pets, I don’t even know anymore. You might even be 12 windows deep into looking at all the videos on Upworthy.com

The weather is fickle, 50 degrees one day, 13 the next. Germs are running rampant because we’ve all finally had to close up, crank the heat, and sit stewing together in our crockpot living spaces. My friends talk on facebook about the latest plague to descend on their families, and I find myself wanting to wear a germ mask, gloves, and wipe down the computer. I think one might actually be able to trendspot and track illnesses just by paying attention to those things…not that I have…yet.

My kids and I have started Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin. The 8 year-old wants to read out loud too, so I have to keep reminding him to speak clearly, or his brother won’t understand what he’s saying. And they only seem to want to be indoors right now (can’t blame them too much), unless snow is falling…and then they want to be out there long enough to get completely soaked, possibly filthy, and come storming back inside, while I’m yelling, “Stop!!! Stay right there, stay in the kitchen and take everything off!”

Then they want hot chocolate or cider that usually ends up not getting drunk. Then movies. Or video games. Can friends come over? Not unless the house gets tidied, which is boooooring. But I can’t deal with someone else’s kids coming in, only to go home and casually inform on us that the sink is full, or there’s evidence that none of the males in our house have very good aim (AHEM), or possibly that the sheets don’t seem to be different from the last visit. I know, I know, I’m being paranoid and (probably) giving 8 year-old boys too much credit.

Above all else, the capacity to write is just not there, when there’s far too much else to be done this time of year. Lacking focus for that, I’ll just satisfy myself with reading and keeping up with this, I suppose. Shopping is pretty well done, we’re skipping some of the previous years’ falderal to keep things calmer and simpler – I just need to get soy-free things for my sister’s stocking, gluten free for me, and salmon jerky for my husband 🙂 Except….

I’ve got to print a load of scanned letters to make my mother’s gift – going to put them into portfolio books, rather than get a book printed – they’re her dad’s letters to his parents during WWII, and her mom’s letters to her dad…mysteriously, all his to her didn’t survive the passing of the years…though one of the ones she wrote perhaps illuminated why…I rather think he was very bold in the things he said to her. Ahem. The wording was different, and it’s one of the few letters I will omit, as I’m sure nobody wants to think of their parents that way, but as they were my grandparents, and they’ve both passed…I found it both shocking and amusing.

We need to think of some family traditions to have every year. More and more, holidays and occasions sneak up, and I feel no inspiration or creativity to do fun, or figure out how to make memories. It’s the only frustration hanging around this year. We let Halloween slip by with no pumpkin carving…hopefully we’ll do better this year.

My husband’s company party is this weekend, and while I have a dress, there’s nothing else…nothing but a snowstorm headed our way. No, really. It’s supposed to start around the same time as the party…at least the thing will be at a hotel this year. And, in that light, maybe I don’t need shoes? Hmmm?

This weekend will also mark the year anniversary of a pretty dark day in our state. Sandy Hook. The families just did a memorial project – and they’re asking everyone to stay away (that they had to ask is indicative of our far too intrusive and judgey society). I think it won’t be a problem for most of us not to have a ton of rehash over it. I’m glad there will be a storm and a party to distract, because the whole thing was just…awful.

My dad is an Episcopal priest – his assistant is a state police chaplain, who went down to do family notifications, and then found himself counseling first responders. Things like Sandy Hook send out ripples and keep extending far beyond those who survived, witnessed, responded, counseled…I saw him right after he got back from Newtown. He looked like he’d been through a storm, and had no words to express what he’d just experienced. My dad and he sat and talked through it, though. They do that; counsel one another, through loss and grief and…I know it’s a little strange, but that’s what they do.

And I remember, how a week after, the following Friday, it was raining. I’d just read that one of the children was a little girl named Joey, and she’d been autistic, like my son. I was overwhelmed with emotion, thinking about how a child like that would have felt with the screaming and chaos, praying that she hadn’t been frightened or suffered (that none of them had) – and went out to run five miles in the rain, yelling and crying the whole way.

And when my then 7 year-old told me that he’d heard the gunman was still alive and might come get them – a normal kid fear – I had to be honest and tell him that the shooter was dead. He wanted to know more, like whether this person, still practically a child himself, was in heaven or not (because everyone we know who has died is In Heaven) – I decided to say something different than Hell, which is where many people have probably put that troubled youth – I told him that God had put this boy in a quiet place, to be there for a long time where God would talk to him about the Really Bad Thing he’d done.

You may disagree with that notion, but it had a desired effect – my worry-wart of a kid stopped worrying about a boy with a gun, didn’t worry about where he was, and merely moved on to say that he thought his great-grandfather (soon to be joined by the other one two weeks later) had become a boy again in heaven and was playing with all the children who had died, to make them happy again, and keep them company until their families joined them someday.

And that’s what I still know about things, a year later. As I read the posts from the few families who have chosen to consistently share their children with us – like Daniel Barden’s family – I’m still sure that I made the right call for talking to my kid, that grief may ease…but it still feels strange to know that my grandparents all lived (only one left now) into their late 80’s or early 90’s, lost their memories and enjoyment of life (which is to say, modern medicine keeps them alive), and were ready to welcome death as a friend. Not everybody gets that. So, yes, I do hope that my grandfathers and grandma are keeping kids like those company. Any kids who have been lost in violence, really.

Light up your hopes and prayers along with your trees, people, it’s a crazy, dark world out there.

 

The days gather speed

This is what we all probably wake up to once we hit a certain point of adulthood – that we can no longer remember our childhood days, except as a snowball of moments – that if we make the mistake of putting our heads down to “just get by”…all of a sudden you make wake up to a long period of time gone by, like Rip Van Winkle.

It’s a means of getting through the tough times, of course. Ignore the bad, cling to the good. Or bury oneself in distraction. That last one, I’ve been particularly guilty of. A distinct memory does hang with me, of telling my AP English teacher that I just couldn’t deal with Richard Wright’s Native Son and WHY was she making us read it? It was so awful, so painful…yeah, duh. She told me that it was the precise reason for reading it, because it was an example of abject awfulness.

Well, without going into a dissertation on Wright’s work, and why I still wouldn’t revisit it…I’ll just say this: I’ve read a lot of difficult stuff, and have come to be okay with it – but that particular work…I cannot deal with the idea of someone accidentally murdering another human being and then concealing it as Bigger Thomas did. He chose poorly….

On the other side of the coin, I’m now reading 12 Years A Slave and reflecting on a few hundred years of ignominy. It too is a difficult thing to read and at the same time really commit to the notion that you’re seeing accounts of real events. I notice that there is a tendency in the narrative to employ genteel language of the day, which does detract from really being able to let the book gut punch you like it should. I can only imagine that the film by the same name must make up for that small thing.

But take for a moment the idea that this man, Solomon Northup, a “free man of color” was kidnapped, enslaved, sent to Louisiana, and then determined on his own that he couldn’t reveal his status. He lived for twelve years trying to puzzle out either how to escape, or how to find someone who could communicate his predicament to those who could assert that he was a free man. So, he put his head down and plunged into the life of slavery in order to get by and survive long enough to finally see an end to it.

As far as I can see, however, the worst part of any of it is not only that he was compelled to become a slave, but that when he was set free, and able to return to his home…he went knowing that he was powerless to help any of the enslaved men and women he had come to know and care for. That there were hundreds upon hundreds upon thousands in the same condition, and he was going home, while they were doomed to stay.

I’m pretty sure that, were Mr. Northup able to look around our modern age, he’d be gratified to know that we’ve come so far as we have…though I’m equally certain that he would be baffled by the push to forget…the urging that we must snowball the past and leave it behind. I have to say I disagree with that idea. To me, it’s promoted by those who would rather not be reminded of the things we’ve done so very, horribly wrong.

The scourging of the African continent is pretty well one of the worst of these, though not unequalled.

I’ve not worked on sites that included Native American burials, and the oldest of those would be unmarked by now anyway – but I did work down in northern Virginia on a few 19th century cemetery sites that included African American servants or slaves, and I’ll never forget, no matter how hard anyone might wish me to, the poignancy of seeing those graves, set apart from those with stone markers, and turned perpendicular or askew from those “Christian” burials that oriented east-west. They are nameless, forgotten to the modern memory…only once did they walk the earth, were kept suborned, serving those who rarely even thought of them as fellow human beings.

Once, I was privileged enough to have gone through a training class in the military with some extraordinary women, one of whom was the first African American female fighter pilot (think of that – in the year 2000, she was breaking new ground), another of whom is well on her way to a Lieutenant Colonel’s rank, having come up from the enlisted side. I’m in awe of both of them on a daily basis (not to mention some of the other kickass women who came through at that time with us).

But it was ONLY some 150 years ago that saw the Gettysburg Address, and the approach of the end of a war that was partly predicated on the grounds of slavery being an unjust institution. How many times did this nation have a chance to put an end to it?

And now that we are in a different time, how well will we continue to curate and handle the legacy of those days? Better than up until now, I hope.

The grudge

You’ve seen that movie, right? Either the original Japanese version, or the remake? Personally, I really dislike horror movies, but this one plays right into human psychodrama. The wronged person, who comes back from the Great Beyond, to wreak vengeance. Who hasn’t thought such things at one time or another? “I’d like to haunt them,” or “I’d love for that person to know MY suffering!”

It applies everywhere, and I’d even venture to say that it has to do with jealousy more than anything. Someone hurts you, and they keep on living their life, never seeming to have “karma” visit their doorstep. We’ve had that in our lives, we all have. Just yesterday, someone I know “outed” her bullies from years ago, when we were in high school. She said that they had “no souls”, that she “wouldn’t accept” apologies from them now….

I immediately contacted her privately to express my concern over naming people on social media like that, especially in light of the face that it’s been over 20 years since we were in school. We were ALL self-centered jerks back in our teens, don’t try to tell me we weren’t. And one of the people she’d named was someone who, in my opinion, was just an ordinary mean girl who had outgrown it.

“How do you know,” you ask? Well…she was one of the first people I came across when I delved into Facebook, and discovered to my horror that she had just lost her child to cancer. A child who was only a few months older than my own child. In spite of the pain, somehow she and her husband had managed to shake off the haze and start a foundation to help other families coping with the same thing.

So no, I do not believe she is the same person, any more than I am who I was. But what of that moment of public naming, and claiming that this woman has “no soul”?

Look, I was bullied too, I told my friend, though I didn’t share the extent of it – who wants to have their pain compared to someone else’s? By the time I graduated, nobody intimidated me anymore (helped that I was taller, and that the football team knew I could bench and lat pull better than half of them, lol) – and made sure to stick up for kids who needed it (not that I was perfect, either) – I wish she’d told me that this was happening, I said to her, because I didn’t actually see anything.

We were lucky, by the way. Twenty years ago, we didn’t have to worry about our bullies following us into our homes, via the internet. But I don’t see the point in staying angry…just in talking about what happened, so that it has less power over us.

Let’s face it…we’re forever works in progress. Pointing a finger straight at myself, here. Work in progress! Screws up a lot! Heart on my sleeve! BUT – has compassion for those who have lashed out. Truth. Won’t stop – and teach my kids that as often as possible – as well as to look for the kids who need some kind words, and give it to them. We can only try. We won’t be perfect at it, but at least the effort will be felt.

 

Lighting the fire

I’ve made mention in the past about having to adjust expectations – mine for what I hope and do – but also as regards my kids.

There are two of them, both boys, both smart, wild, mercurial…nothing like the fantasy children I might have envisioned at one point in my stupid youth. I know you did it too – even if you didn’t daydream about changing diapers, sleep deprivation, or maddening conversations with a legalist of an adolescent – you had in your head what you figured having a kid would be about.

Right, like sleepy Saturday mornings, lazing about with brioche french toast and edu-tainment: gentle cartoons with a message. Reality, more like…being woken at 5am by the television that you forgot to adjust before going to bed the night before…hearing cupboards creak open stealthily while your progeny hunt(s) for gummies…the inevitable whining, disagreements over what to watch, someone is hogging something….

No, back to fantasy land, you say to yourself as you unsuccessfully try to doze off, back to the twins Maria and Marcus, who prefer to study Mensa flash cards, walk the dog unasked, and bring you breakfast in bed.

Reality is that I grudgingly admit that I prefer the madness to Maria and Marcus, who are probably Children of the Corn anyway.

When our older son was diagnosed with autism back in 2004, we already knew that something was up. Nonetheless, I had been living in this fantasy of turning my brilliant child into a lover of books. I would read to him, I could see it so clearly, for hours we would read until he was spouting Newtonian theory and Yeatsian prose. Wrong!

That doesn’t happen under typical circumstances, much less his – I was a rookie parent in uncharted territory. But I’ll say t his until the day I die – the ONLY thing I was bummed about was that he wasn’t interested in books, aside from eating them. I did not grieve, or freak out about the diagnosis – and now I really try not to use the “D” where most people might in “ASD” – to me, it isn’t a “disorder” – it’s only a difference – and as a parent, I’m only trying to help build the bridge between us.

It’s been a while since that visit to UConn, with its assessment – it’s also been a while since I stopped buying books like a crazed seagull eyeing a beach full of coolers. We’re moving more thoughtfully, he and I. True, I have to keep reminding myself not to talk to him in certain ways…there are moments of frustration for all of us. We don’t have his assistive communication set up yet (his school is working on getting a device traveling back and forth), and so it’s a lot of guesswork about what is meaningful.

When it boiled down, though, and I really look at what he can do with schoolwork, he’s no different than his peers. There are subjects that bore the crap out of him. And he would rather throw a fit than have to deal with some of it. Hell, I was a kid who couldn’t stay focused long enough to ever do my homework, not until I started running. He has math down, loves the periodic table, outer space, cars, music…could not care less about English or Art, really.

But I started hearing that he would likely be able to take in anything I read to him, even if he couldn’t spit out answers to questions about it. And so I’ve changed expectations again. It didn’t take long to realize that he really, really, really dislikes fantasy and science fiction – in short, stuff that cannot be defined by the laws of the apparent – the realities and truths of the world we live in. Me, I love that stuff, and it’s hard, oh so hard that I can’t get him into Neil Gaiman, Madeleine L’Engle, Lloyd Alexander, Roald Dahl, to name but a few.

Maybe someday he’ll give all that a try, though.

I had read A Wrinkle In Time to him, and noted his impatience during the sojourn with the Mrs. W’s, other worlds, but it was inescapable when I tried the Lightning Thief. The rationale was that Charles Wallace and Percy Jackson were both boys who did not “fit” – and that he might find it cool to see them turn into heroes. He put his foot down about a chapter or two into Percy Jackson, though. “NO!”

Well, we’d read Blood on the River for school, about the Jamestown settlement. He’d gotten off on that. So I hunted for more like that. I found The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick, about a boy who tried to save his brother from fighting in the Civil War. Perhaps a little more wacky than he wanted, but it was piercing into the correct vein.

After that, it was Dangerous Waters – Gregory Mone’s Titanic adventure, and then Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains. Chains, by the way, is really affecting – my kiddo got really upset when Isabel found herself being punished in a public square. I knew what he was thinking; so totally not fair. But here’s the thing – I think kids have to hear the unpleasantness of history, see the damage, the wages of war, the body counts – if we ever want better for the human race, we can’t whitewash the past.

We’re almost done with Number the Stars now, Lois Lowry’s masterpiece of Danish Resistance during WWII. Normally, we can get through about half an hour at a go, but last night, with Annemarie’s mother leading the Rosens to the boat, and then Annemarie needing to spirit the handkerchief to her uncle…we were going right along, and I could see him hanging onto every word, especially as the Nazi soldiers are rifling through her basket.

The sequel to Chains is waiting for the Christmas stocking, so after Number the Stars…I don’t know what we’ll read next yet. We have The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Elizabeth George Speare), Sing Down the Moon (Scott O’Dell), and Attack of the Turtle (Drew Carlson), but I’ve noted a bunch in the bookstores that looked interesting as well….

See how easily it can happen? Idealism creeps back in…it’s exciting to figure out what he might find compelling and interesting. And I realize that it’s only my own limitations that held us back – I’m not going to cry over wasted time – but I’m not going to let more of it slip through our fingers.