Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Day

Today was a snow day. My son missed a big math test and movie afternoon at school, and my daughter missed pajama-pizza-and holiday party day (but the first grade teachers sent a note home Thursday night reassuring their students that it would be rescheduled after school resumes in January).

Check out the drift on our garage roof. I'm glad we got that new roof in October (and if anyone's looking for a really reasonable recommendation for a roofer, I heartily recommend Tony's Roof Repair in Ann Arbor).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Currently Reading

I should blog about something besides books. Like "actual life" even, imponderable or not.

But not today! There's a snow storm coming tonight and tomorrow morning (the media are beside themselves with excitement. Will it be a snow day? Do you have enough ice melt, bread, milk, beer, and egg nog?) and I have stuff to do before it hits.

I did want to mention one of the books I'm reading now, though.

I'm really enjoying The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West, by Sid Fleischman. It's on the short list of books that the "Mock Newbery Committee" is considering for the 2009 Newbery Awards (if you want to know more about that, check out this blurb I wrote on The Newbery Project). It's written for older kids, so its short chapters are the perfect length for reading in bits and pieces, but the vocabulary and syntax are not child-like in the least. I was thrilled to run across "farm sass" again (see the lengthy post I did on "garden sass" a few years ago), as in:

Meanwhile, the tightfisted wife of the publisher provided meals notable for their trifling portions. News of the great potato famine then raging in Ireland could not have escaped backwater Hannibal, and Sam must have felt himself to be a cosufferer. To sustain himself, Sam felt obliged to raid the cellar at night for potatoes and other farm sass taken in barter for subscriptions (p. 28).

I also learned that when he was in his 20's, the young Samuel Clemens planned to travel "to the headwaters of the Amazon and collect coca and trade in it and make a fortune" (p. 34), which is fun to know.

I don't think that Fleischman's biography is going to win the Newbery (only a couple of other biographies have won - one on Abraham Lincoln in 1988, and one of Louisa May Alcott in 1934) - but I'm happy to recommend it for older kids and adults alike. If you want a more critical review of the book, I recommend Wendy B.'s review on, because she said everything I was vaguely thinking but couldn't articulate.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

If You Really Want a Snow Day... should wear your pajamas inside out and flush an ice cube down the toilet. This is what one of the neighborhood kids told my son last Sunday afternoon, anyway, when they were predicting 3-7 inches overnight, and everyone (except for a stay-at-home parent or two :-/) was really wishing for another day tacked on to the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.

I had never heard about this bit of childhood magic, so I went Googling and found an interesting link to an NPR story. An inquiry on the parenting board I frequent also turned up several instances of related rituals for getting a snow day, including licking a spoon and sleeping with it under your pillow, and putting a white crayon under your pillow (along with wearing your pajamas inside out or backwards). I wonder how far back these stories date? It's an interesting anthropological question, and if I had time I would check out something like this book on Rituals and Patterns in Children's Lives and see if it's in there, and what other childhood rituals (May baskets? dandelions under the chin? jump rope songs?) are in there.

My son who struggles with OCD expressed his disbelief in this particular ritual, and laughed about how funny it was, this "normative manifestation of compulsive behaviors found in typical development". Which is interesting - when it comes to real OCD, everyone else's rituals (including many group beliefs) are utterly bizarre. But your own idiosyncratic rituals, avoidances, etc. - no matter how illogical, those are different. You just never can tell with OCD, can you?*

Anyway, we got rain and then maybe an inch of snow, which quickly melted. The photo above is actually from last January.

*pun intended. I know very well it's the "doubting disease".