Friday, June 25, 2010


Despite the ongoing video gaming in our house (Mr. b and his son purchased Crystal Skull yesterday; then again I may or may not have downloaded the free Batman demo the night before), Ronnie is more and more interested in books. And not just to destroy them. I’ve already removed all the books with actual paper pages from their bedroom because I was sick of the carnage. I need to go through the drawers of board books and see what’s salvageable and come up with some kind of a creative art project to use the rest. At any rate, she’ll toddle up to me with a book in her hand and demand that it be read to her. She’s getting better about actually listening, too, and not just trying to turn pages at her own incredibly fast and completely random pace. She seems to have a few favorites picked out, though that might be just because they’re the least damaged…

One of Kirk’s favorite activities (besides playing Lego video games, yes) is to listen to stories of his parents’ childhoods. He truly revels in the tales of us getting hurt, getting into trouble, or just having something interesting happen. Obviously Mr. b is a better storyteller than I am and he also has a way better and more clear memory than I do. So the bulk of the narration ends up being about growing up in SoDak. Kirk will appropriate anything from any of our stories into his own stories about himself. My dad was telling him about a taco eating contest with my uncles before I was born and soon Kirk had a story about a taco eating contest with his best friend E. The trouble with all the story telling is that now nothing can be just a short little anecdote anymore. If I have a quick snippet about something I wanted to share at the dinner table Kirk’s response is, “Tell the rest.” If Mr. b is filling me in on something I missed Kirk’s response is, “Tell the rest.” No matter how mundane and pointless: “Tell the rest.” “There is no rest.” “Tell the rest.” “The end.” “Tell the rest.”

I’ve been reading a lot of short story collections again the past two years (seriously, it’s not all video games, that’s a new development). It’s because I was being a completist about both the Sookie Stackhouse and the Dresden Files series. I had forgotten just how much I enjoy a well crafted short story. But it can be incredibly tricky to achieve the right balance when you’re writing for a series of novels. You have to give just enough background knowledge so that a reader understands the world you’ve already built but not so much that it overwhelms the story you’re trying to write and yet not so little that you’re making assumptions the reader is coming in already knowing everything. Because of that I found that I generally preferred the stories written by authors that were either telling a one-off tale or using tertiary or unique characters set in the world of their main series characters. The absolute best were the straight mystery authors cajoled into contributing to a supernatural collection; they always ended up with a delicious Twilight Zone vibe. I’ve dipped my toe into a lot of supernatural, fantasy, and mystery series now by sampling so many different authors in so many different anthologies. I actually have a couple of full blown series that I think I’d like to check out. But for now, my self-imposed vampire hiatus continues. Nothing new until I take a nice long cleansing break, even if that means I’m missing out on something.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Addendum 2b

When I was a kid and I played dress up it was only for that particular session of playtime. The outfits or costume pieces would go on for the game or the play we were putting on or whatever and that was it. I was never the little girl wearing a tutu out to the store or a tiara to piano lessons. And maybe being in dance and having actual sequined costumes that were more dazzling than anything out of a dress up box helped me to avoid doing that.

Kirk, however, likes to dress like a favorite character All. The. Time. To the point where he actually gets mad if his ability to dress that way is somehow impeded by little things like being in the laundry. Obviously the current favorite character is Indiana Jones. He’s got two main outfits that he switches between: short sleeves and short pants for Young Indy
Young Indy

And long sleeves and long pants for Teacher Indy.

But thankfully he doesn’t have to wear the entire get-up every moment of every day. He mixes up the elements and includes other favorite pieces like his vest
brown shirt

Or one of his ties.
silly outfits

I was thinking about this and realized it’s hardly a phase. Oh, the choice of Henry Jones Jr. might be a phase but not dressing up like a particular character. He was David Tennant’s Doctor from Doctor Who and ran around in a suit jacket and button down shirt, carrying a sonic screw driver everywhere he went. He was Ringo Starr and wore garish rings and carried drum sticks. He was Dave Gahan and wore a black cowboy hat like in Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” video. It does seem that as he gets older he demands more completion to his outfits as each one is more involved and has more required pieces than the previous one.

But I’ve also noticed that Kirk doesn’t try to wear actual literal costumes. Even when he was into Superman he wouldn’t try to wear either his be-caped pajamas or his Halloween costume outside the house. He would put on a sport coat and tie and be Clark Kent instead. When he was into Buzz Lightyear he would ask to wear the Halloween costume as pajamas but again, wasn’t trying to wear it outside of the house. I’m not sure what that means but I think it’s a good thing. Even though Kirk has a very healthy imagination and is constantly exercising his creativity, he’s got a handle on reality and knows what will fly in public. Right?

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Addendum 2a

We are collectively obsessed with these Lego video games. Memorial Day weekend we finished the Indiana Jones one. And by “finished” I don’t just mean 100% completion. No. Apparently the game stops calculating your points at the four billion mark. Good to know. So while we’re waiting for the Crystal Skull game to come down in price, we bought the discounted complete Star Wars. All six movies, together at last. And it’s awesome. Favorite level so far: Mos Espa Pod Race. Kicked Sebulba’s ass.

Kirk is starting to think of other things in terms of video games. It’s not just typical little kid playing outside stuff. Like when we’re on a walk and he’s pretending to be Indy and he jumps across a sidewalk crack and talks about the level that he’s playing. No. He’s been telling me about other video games that he’s going to play. Like the Annie video game where you get to play Sandy the dog to stop the naughty kids or the boss battle where Punjab fights Rooster. Or like the Great Mouse Detective video game where you get to pick up the gun that the bad guys drop and then you can carry it until you run out of bullets.

It’s fascinating watching both kids become so used to video games so quickly. I guess it’s like how easily we all played Atari games (or Commodore 64 or Texas Instruments or Apple II) and transitioned into Nintendo (or Sega or…) without batting an eye. Mr. b cut the cord off a useless old PS1 controller and now Bundle can “play”. She totally holds it facing the TV and tries to push buttons and make it do stuff. But she did that with remote controls, too, and I can remember Kirk doing the same thing with remotes. We have a baby LeapFrog that Kirk never played with that I want to hook up and see if Ronnie likes. She’s got more experience with this type of thing so I think it will make sense to her in a way her brother just never grasped at that age.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Addendum 1

Since Ronnie has been fully weaned we’ve also been trying to slowly switch her over to sippy cups. We’re not going particularly fast on that front. She is drinking juice out of a sippy cup and that’s progress. But we haven’t regularly changed any of her milk bottles to sippies. She typically has three regular bottles of milk – in the morning, before nap, before bed – and then however many others throughout the day. We need to start giving her those irregularly scheduled ones in cups. I’ve tried giving her milk with a straw in a restaurant but she just makes a mess. She enjoys drinking water with a straw though.

The only thing about the sippy cups is that she’s rather violent with them. I don’t let her wander the house with her bottle, though she can hold it herself in her carseat or in my lap, but I’ll let her walk around with her juice cup. And she swings it viciously. She’s really strong. Three Saturdays ago, Ronnie was sitting on my lap, drinking from her sippy cup. She then, with no warning, backhanded it into my face. Into my eye socket. This picture does no justice to how bad it looked or how much it hurt.

black eye

I still have a very faint spot of red where the blood pooled under my eye but it’s only visible if you’re looking for it.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Bums & Whores

Like most kids in the US, I read Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men in high school. They were fine. I mean yeah, they were obviously Good Books, deserving of the awards and lauds, but they didn’t really grab me. I remember learning in college about how the Beat Poets collectively adored John Steinbeck and I just didn’t get it. I couldn’t see an obvious disconnect so I chalked it up to a generational thing, a different era.

This weekend I finished reading Cannery Row. I loved it. When I saw we had a Steinbeck on deck for book club this year I wasn’t particularly enthused. But this book was amazing. I finally understand the Beat love. This book made me want to go back and reread Big Sur. It made me want to go and pull the more obscure authors that I never got around to reading in college. I have a Brautigan title on extended loan from a friend I plan to dig up presently. And more than that, I intend to read everything else by Steinbeck set in Monterey.

This book was hyper real. The imagery was such a beautiful ode to the mundane, like calling mess left in a frying pan “fried egg lace”. The characters were fleshed out in a way you just don’t get anymore, and yet it felt brilliantly modern while obviously set in the past. I got a better feel for life in the 30s than anything I’ve ever seen or read previously. There was a simple plot about throwing a party for a central character and yet there would be frequent interludes focusing on a different person never heard from again. And instead of being jarring and taking me out of the moment, it only made the story richer, building the world and turning the inhabitants from sketches to living, breathing, heavily drinking kooks, lay-abouts, madams, shop owners, and friends that genuinely cared for each other.

I had no idea this book was part of a loose series. A collection of titles with cross over characters, all in the same universe. It’s what Christopher Moore does and I love that. So much of my experience reading Cannery Row was a sequence of revelations. Doc invented beer milkshakes! I guess that means the creators of “Red Dwarf” must be fans. Hazel intentionally lost a fight just to see how it felt. I guess Chuck Palahniuk must be a fan. And then I found out that my father-in-law is a huge fan and that Mr. b himself loves the 1982 movie version. Yep, it’s been added to my Netflix queue.