Friday, April 29, 2016

Beverly Cleary

About two weeks ago Beverly Cleary turned 100 years old. This little nugget may have escaped you. Unless, of course, you are routinely part of activities in an early elementary school sort of setting. Or maybe if you're slightly obsessed with children's literature.

I wanted to write a post about Beverly Cleary on her actual birthday, but it wasn't meant to be. Mostly because I was truly unable to think about her celebrating 100 years without getting a lump in my throat and having the letters on the screen go blurry. You see, I adore Beverly Cleary.

I can understand that maybe, just maybe, her books are right for everyone. But I think it is a rare soul who isn't at least a little charmed by Ramona Quimby and her family; or a child who hasn't smiled at a toy motorcycle, thinking of Mr. Ralph S. Mouse. It's hard to not be impressed with someone who could write stories that still resonate as she turns 100, many of which were published more than 50 years ago.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that Beverly Cleary's books have touched all parts of my life.

Ramona came into my life in first grade, when our librarian read us Ramona the Pest. Over the years I heard other Beverly Cleary books read aloud, either by our librarian or by my classroom teachers. By second grade I was reading and rereading every Beverly Cleary book available in our teeny-tiny library. They were the old fashioned library versions, bound in pebbly orange or pea green covers. When book orders came into my life I ordered as many Beverly Cleary books as possible, wanting my very own copies to read and read again. As I child I identified with rule-follower Beezus, but got such a thrill reading about the scrapes Ramona got into. Thanks to Beverly Cleary I was able to vicariously experience the rush of pulling another child's hair, refusing to do school work, or - gasp - coloring in a library book!

Time passed and I became a student teacher and shared the Beverly Cleary's Muggie Maggie with a group of second graders as they began the daunting task of learning to write in cursive.

Eventually I had my own classes full of fresh-faced first graders and together we read many Beverly Cleary titles. Often the Ralph stories and always Ramona the Brave. While the emotional core of the stories hold up very well, there are a few references that need some explaining, which always ended in interesting conversations with my students. In one of the books there is an incident in which Henry Huggins' dog, Ribsy, gets locked in the Quimby's bathroom. One year I was teaching at a fairly affluent school and none of the children could figure out why it mattered that the dog was in stuck in there and no one else could enter. It never occurred to them that a house might have only one bathroom! When I told them that Matt and I lived in a house with one bathroom (true at the time), one of the students gasped and said, "Mrs. M, are you poor?!" I will never forget the horrified look on her face. I hope she remembers some of the conversation that followed.

The greatest joy, however, has probably been introducing Beverly Cleary's books to my own children. The relatively obscure Ellen Tebbits is the title that has taken up a special place in Harper's heart. Michael, being of prime Beverly Cleary enjoying age, is still figuring out which one will be his favorite.

It's a safe bet that I'll be sending some titles along to my nephew in a few years. And sooner or later, some other lucky child is going to rediscover the stash of Beverly Cleary books on my shelves and they will delight another generation.

I've pulled some of my favorite videos and articles from the days leading up to, and including, Mrs. Cleary's birthday and I'm going to link to them here. If you are even half as fond of her as I am, do your self a favor and enjoy them:

The Today Show interview:

7 Things You Didn't Know from

11 Things You Didn't Know from Woman's Day:

100 Years Surrounded by Books form The Washington Post:

To Beverly Cleary with love, from other children's authors:
(I lost it when Judy Blume spoke...)

Beverly Cleary turning 100 from npr:

And then this 1/2 hour jewel from Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Thank you, Beverly Cleary, for your wonderful contributions to the world of children's literature. My life, and that of so many others, is richer for it.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

A Word of Advice

It is the way of life that we are like our parents in some ways and unlike them in others. When I was growing up, it was very important to my mother that our house be clean. Now I'm not saying I love living in filth, but sparkling floors and mirrors have taken a back seat to many other priorities in my life. However, I am a lot like my mother in that I prefer to be things to be organized and picked up/put away. I won't lose sleep over a few dust bunnies, but having stuff everywhere drives me crazy.

As I mentioned in my previous post, we have an ongoing battle over the state of Harper's bedroom. If there is one thing I wish she would learn over any other, it's this:

Start by making your bed.

I think a made bed is to a bedroom as clear counters are to a kitchen. It gives the illusions of cleanliness and tidiness. I know that I feel better about life when my bed is made (which is 95% of days) and when the kitchen counters are clear (sadly, more like 40% of the time).

Dear children - even if there are piles of books and dirty socks beneath your bed, even if there are more items of clothing beneath your hangers than on them, for the love of all that is good and holy, please make your beds!

Mom, out.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

On the Verge

Dear Harper,

I never managed a birthday letter the year you turned 10. Lest you be too upset, you should remember that Michael turned 7 and didn't get a letter either. I'm not sure why I didn't get around to it last year. A combination, perhaps, of us being wrapped up in our busy days and the fact that it is getting more difficult to write about the two of you in a way that feels respectful. With each passing year I'm more acutely aware that you made read these words someday, and that it will matter what I've said.

In November you turned 11. 11. I still can't quite get my head around it; how much more grown up you seem suddenly. You in a kind of stuck-in-the-middle age. Too old for many things that appeal to little kids, but not quite old enough for all the adult (or even young adult) movies, television shows, and books. You desperately want to be big. In so many ways I see you maturing and feel some of the, "I'm the adult, you are the child," lines starting to soften and blur.

The other day I accidentally used a word I wouldn't normally use around you and when I apologized you gave me a look and said, "It's not anything I haven't heard before Mom, I'm in fifth grade." And I know that's true. I have distinct memories of experimenting with creative vocabulary with my friends when I was even younger than you are now.

There have been several big changes in your life this year and for the most part you seem to have handled them with grace. Your commitment to dance increased dramatically. Most weeks you are at the studio for about eleven hours and you are probably getting a little less sleep than is optimal. The main side effect of this seems to be that you have absolutely no time whatsoever for cleaning up and your room is in a state of nearly perpetual chaos. While this drives me crazy, it doesn't seem to bother you in the least. I'm hopeful that you won't actually grow up to be a hoarder.

You've got attitude for miles, which is no surprise, as you've been finely honing the skills of eye-rolling and stomping for a couple of years. Your attitude has grown as you've aged and I know I'd be foolish to expect that to plateau soon.

Fortunately your attitude isn't the only quality that has been magnified as you've gotten older. You have also grown in empathy, responsibility, and determination. In most endeavors you continue to be fiercely independent, wanting as little help from us as possible. You are starting to feel a little nervous about heading to middle school next year, but I have a feeling the qualities you've been cultivating are going to serve you well.

I would be remiss not to mention the two activities you have grown to feel passionately about, aside from dance. You are learning to play volleyball, which I'll admit is exciting to me. There is something special about watching your child pick up a sport or activity that you once loved. The other activity that has newly been a big part of your life is playing in the Orff Ensemble at your elementary school. You've enjoyed learning the different instruments involved and are definitely developing a passion for playing music. It will be very interesting to see what kinds of choices you make in the next couple of years.

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you always realize that we love you and we're proud of you. I never could have imagined, when you were just a tiny baby, how much joy and passion you would bring to all of our lives. So many things are going to change in the next year or two - we will do our very best to be there for you and love you through all of it.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

Indulge Me

Since I haven't posted regularly in a while, I thought it would be good to do a little update from the home front. While I wasn't posting here, the children, as children are wont to do, continued to grow and age. 

Michael is now 7 1/2 and in second grade. On the list of new things he is trying this fall - bowling in a league and playing tennis. According to him he is pretty fantastic at both. His feet are still larger than Harper's and I think by this time next year he has a decent chance of being taller than her as well.

Harper is now almost 11, gulp, and in fifth grade; which makes this her last year of elementary school. She is enjoying queen of the campus status - it's fun to be a fifth grader. One of this year's fifth grade perks was a spirit week just for fifth graders. Below was Harper's self-assembled outfit for Wacky Wednesday:

The picture was actually taken after she wore that outfit to school all day. I don't know if the confidence I see is evident to everyone, but it is such a part of who Harper is. I am fairly certain I wouldn't have felt comfortable sporting that get-up to school in fifth grade, or maybe ever. Harper's still dancing up a storm and excited to be part of the school Orff Ensemble, another privilege reserved for fifth graders only.

In case anyone is wondering, I still haven't found Michael's DS.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Roller Coaster

This past year and some change has been a whirlwind. The current school year is shaping up to be more of the same. Matt and I are both working full-time and the children are both involved in lots of activities. Just like so many other families. We have times where we're all happy and enjoying each other's company and then we have days where we're all yelling and 3/4 of us are in tears. I keep feeling like someday I'll catch up, while at the same time I don't even know what that really means.

Once again, there's no breaking news here. I think we are in a particularly difficult stage of life right now. One of these days it might stop feeling so difficult and we'll coast for a while and then one day later things will feel just this side of impossible again. Sometimes I think that means we're doing something wrong. Other times I think it is just the way things are - that the truth is that life is difficult. And usually the trick to feeling some happiness is recognizing the moments of peace and contentment when they come, not hoping for it to be like that all of the time. I know that Glennon has already covered the whole, "Life is brutiful," statement, but I am really feeling it right now.

My life is good. So, so good. And it's hard, too.

I think what I'm really looking for is to know that this isn't just hard for us. Anyone?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

It's Not Exactly Breaking News

After a six-month blog hiatus, I'm sure no one is suffering the delusion that we've got it all together over here. However, just in case you need some convincing, it's confession time...

Several months ago I confiscated Michael's Nintendo DS, most likely because he refused to put it away (for the thousandth time). I put it somewhere he would not find it. I've now been actively looking for it for at least two weeks and have no earthly idea where it could be.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

In The Closet

When my children were born my grandmother sent them lovely Vermont Teddy Bears. At some point Harper's bear lost its stuffing, but I believe it is possible to send them to the Teddy Bear Hospital, or some such place, for repair. It's a mystery to this day, how that bear lost his stuffing; however, he is no longer the only bear with a story.

Tonight, as I was putting Michael's clean clothes in his closet I found his bear... wearing a pull up. Upon closer inspection, I realized the pull up was wet. What? I totally thought that bear was house trained!

A quick sniff-test revealed that the pull up was wet with relatively harmless water. I also discovered a bean bag stuffed in the back of the pull up... teddy bear poo?

Said bear is now airing out (along with the wet bean bag). I'm going to try to get some answers from him tomorrow. I have a sneaking suspicion that if the bear can't tell his story, Michael may be able to clear things up for me.