June, 2004

23 Jun 2004, by

Yesterday, moments before Sergei started standing way too close to me and breathing on my knee, I saw four or five of a new bird at the bird feeder. I had barely enough time to identify them as carolina chickadees before the sky turned black and the first wonderful thunderstorm of the summer rolled in. It was a mean one too and I was glad to be at home with tea and candles and Tuzanor while it shook the trees and poured down the rain. The chickadee, according to my bird book, is a common visitor to bird feeders. Apparently, they also move about in groups. I hope they got plenty of sustenance before the storm and that I will see them again.

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I don’t know if it surprised anyone that I didn’t say anything about Reagan’s death, considering how often I babble on about political things. I heard and read plenty of vitriol and plenty of homage in the days following and found myself to be fairly detached from it all. He was neither hero nor scoundrel to me. He wasn’t much of anything to me, though I grew up in the right timeframe to have been profoundly affected by him. Still, he’s no kind of icon for me and his death was just one of those inevitable things that happens and moved me not much at all. I guess that’s part of the legacy of growing up overseas. However, a death that struck a chord and moved me very deeply was that of Ray Charles. It was strange to me that one death could be so meaningless and the other so meaningful, especially given the far reaching consequences of Reagan’s actions as president. Hearing about Ray Charles’ passing affected me the same way hearing about George Harrison’s and Jorge Luis Borges’ did. All the good ones are leaving us. Where are they going? Will there be more ones as gifted as these in the next generation? Their departure makes us all a bit smaller, shallower, emptier, and more alone. Reagan may have changed the world, but it’s Ray Charles I’m going to miss.

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16 Jun 2004, by

Had a couple of dreams last night which are pretty vague at this point but I thought I’d get down what little I remember. Each dream features a different one of my children.

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I have several things to tell you, all of which are likely to be far more interesting to me than to you. The first of these things is : I love my Waterman. I had stopped using it for several years and I couldn’t get the ink to flow in it properly and I thought it was done in, but then I gave it a bath as some pen care websites suggested and when it dried it worked wonderfully again. What a pleasure to write with! The only shame is that the clip snapped off so it has a tendency to roll around on any flat surface. I wonder where/if I can get that repaired. Still, it has my name on it, and it has history with me and it writes beautifully. I am a very happy girl indeed.

The next thing I want to tell you about is the weather. It has been gorgeous. When I run the world every place I go will be 80 degrees all the time. Eighty is the perfect temperature. I know it’s going to get hotter during the summer and not be so perfect anymore, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay for 80 degree days at the end of May and through the month of June. Not only is the temperature deliciously warm, but it’s also been raining on and off. Wonderful spring thunderstorms with plenty of lightning and rumbling faraway thunder. In fact, I can hear some thunder in the distance even as I type this. I love that kind of rain. The days are seventy hours long each and I can sit in bed and watch lightning bugs through my window. This is the best possible time of year to live in the South. Not only that, May and June are usually high allergy months for me, but this year I’ve not had a single Claritin and little more than some eye itchiness in March. No sneezing, no swelling of the eyes and no runny nose at all. I’ll credit my faithful, once-a-week intake of locally grown honey since about February.

Speaking of nature and the great outdoors, I should confess about my latest form of entertainment. It’s kind of a long story, but I shall try not to miss any of the pertinent details as I tell it. As most of you know, Sophia will be attending a Montessori school this Fall. We are very pleased and excited about this and we think that the Montessori methodology is perfectly suited to Sophia’s temperament and learning style. So, in addition to all the other child development stuff I have been reading to try and raise my eldest daughter in the best possible way, I was also researching the Montessori method and reading up on how to apply some of the principles at home. One of the things Montessori is really big on is letting children discover and do for themselves. For example, they recommend putting dishes a child might use at their level, so that they can get them for themselves. Then you encourage the child to set her own place and pick up after herself. Sophia loves doing this, by the way. I think that as a result of trying so hard to give Sophia opportunities to do things on her own that we mitigated a lot of the battles about doing things “all by myself”. I’m getting side tracked here. What I’m trying to say is that I came across a webpage about 101 ways to help your child at home tune in with the Montessori method and I was reading it. A lot of the things are sort of “DUH” items, such as number 5 “Make sure your child gets sufficient sleep” and number 82 “Read the notes that are sent home from school”. Many of the things we were already doing, so they are the sorts of common sense things most parents would do, given the opportunity. However, there are a few that I had not considered. One item in particular that grabbed my attention was number 40 “Put up a bird feeder. Let your child have responsibility for filling it. Together learn to be good watchers and learn about the birds you see.” Sophia has lots of interactions with animals in her life, because of our three pets and because of our frequent visits to the natural history museum. However, she doesn’t often get to observe wild animals, and I thought putting up a bird feeder might give her more opportunities to witness animals in a habitat, instead of as captives or pets. So, one day in Home Depot, she started looking at bird feeders and talking about bird houses. I asked her if she’d like to buy a bird feeder and put it up in our house. She seemed enthusiastic, so we bought the thing and my husband put it up. She kept calling it a bird house, so we told her it was a bird restaurant, which she understood right off, due to how often we eat out (at least once a week, often twice or three times). For the first few days we kept looking and looking but no birds appeared. I told her that we had to be patient, that it would take a while for the birds to find it (an excellent lesson in patience, I thought). Then the birds started arriving. She was very interested in them, and we talked about how birds are wild and we can’t pet them and how they fly away when we move inside the window because they are scared of us. I was surprised by the variety of birds we saw, as I really only expected to see a couple of cardinals and a robin and the ever present sparrows. It’s been fun for her but my confession is this : it’s been much more fun for me. She’s pretty casual about the “bird feeter” these days, but I still get excited when I see birds there. It was driving me crazy that I didn’t know what I was looking at. On a visit to Barnes and Noble I purchased an Audobon field guide with gorgeous full color pictures and long explanations about habitats and songs. My husband wanted to know what that was for. I told him it was so Sophia and I could identify birds at the bird feeder. He pointed out that it was far too complicated for Sophia to use. I brushed his logic aside, but he had found me out. I wanted to know about the birds. I’m sure part of this interest is due to my following of Poppy Z. Brite’s livejournal where she talks often about her birding experiences. However, and this is the really startling twilight zoney thing about this whole thing, I actually had a bird feeder hanging right outside my kitchen window when I was a kid, just like Sophia does now. Only I’d completely forgotten that this was the case. My mother, on seeing it, remarked that I had recreated my own three-year-old setup : bird feeder right outside a large window in our home where we have most our meals, bird book to look up birds, the whole nine yards. And now I have to wonder, was I drawn to this idea on the Montessori list not because I’ve been reading about bird watching and because it seemed like a practical and positive life lesson, but because it was an echo of my own childhood? And how smart does that make my parents, who without the web, without Montessori, with nothing but their own instinct, came up with the same sort of exposure for me as a child over three decades ago? My mother further went on to comment that the cardinal story I recounted had occurred during this period, and that our bird feeder had been the object through which I had learned the names of all the different birds. Kind of eerie, isn’t it? It might also explain why I’m more excited about the whole thing than she is, though don’t get me wrong, she does truly like the bird feeder. However, she’s just as happy observing the squirrels being thwarted by it or the lizard that lives outside our window as the birds who come to eat there. It’s just that for her there’s no thrill whenever a new different bird comes to the feeder like there is for me.

So all that involved bird feeder story was a necessary prelude to what I really wanted to tell you here, which is that I saw (and identified) a new bird today! Outside my window at lunch today there were a pair of Brown Thrashers.


These are lovely birds, and according to my field guide “In recent years they have become scarce in much of their range; no one knows why”. So not only did I see a new bird, it’s a rare bird! Very cool.

Well, I told you the whole thing would be more interesting to me than to you.

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11 Jun 2004, by

First things first : expose rules. Truly, it does. It’s something I’ve always needed in order to use my desktop sanely, and never had. I love it with all my heart.

Simone is sitting next to me, gurgling, cooing, kicking her legs and waving her arms around. Her movements are still fairly random but she enjoys the exercise of moving and seems quite satisfied to be left alone while she tries out her limbs. It’s easier to let her flail now that she’s outgrown the trembly shaking stage that newborns have when they move. Her actions seem vaguely purposeful. She’ll move one arm, then another, then both together. Then she’ll try the same thing with her feet. If I touch a limb lightly, she moves it in response. It’s kind of cool. She is picking up her head pretty consistently as well, and yesterday she started holding it up for between 10 and 20 seconds. She’s a very physical infant. I joke with Kurt that he needs to look to Simone if he wants a hockey player. So far, she’s the athletic one. Of course, she’s a student of Sophia Fu. She’s wearing the official uniform right now:
<%image(20040611-B00005RCSI.01.MZZZZZZZ.jpg|150|144|)%>. It seems that the student is likely to surpass the master. Isn’t that always the way these things work?

Simone is also response smiling pretty consistently now and it’s utterly contagious. She’ll smile when she hears my voice, or sometimes just when I come into her line of sight. It’s such a goofy lopsided grin and it reminds me so much of Kurt. There’s nothing in the world like a baby smiling at you.

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11 Jun 2004, by

Had a couple of odd and vivid dreams last night, though only remember one well enough to write about.

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A fraud exposed, and a true thing…

I linked this when it first appeared, as a true thing, of course, which it isn’t. I stand corrected.

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I can safely say, that even though I haven’t blogged in over a month, it’s not because I’m a slacker. Just this once I have a reliable excuse: I have this newborn child to take care of. For those of you with children, I needn’t explain, but for those of you without, let me just say that I’m living on a spectrum of exhaustion that slides from “very tired” to “not as tired” and I don’t remember what “not tired” was like anymore. My husband says that the person who can invent a sleep battery would be a millionaire. That way you could store up sleep from less hectic times to counteract the deficits that occur at other times in life. I am in favor of this idea. Someone get to working on it.

I actually have been working on a blog entry with details about Simone’s birth, but progress on it is intermittent and I don’t know when it will get finished. However, people have started asking me when if ever I’m going to post again, so I figured it was time for a small peep of some type. So, very briefly :

  • Pictues of lovely Simone can be seen here (thanks Chris Goodwin for taking them less than 12 hours after birth, and for Lego to posting them within 24 hours of birth), here in the SlithyToves official birth announcement and last, but not least, here in a heroic attempt by Kurt to stave off the constant pressure for more pictures from various and sundry interested parties.
  • The weather is atrocious. It has been rumbling thunder and crackling lightning and pouring rain all day. My dog, Sergei, is terrified. I am sitting in bed drinking tea with the candles in the fireplace lit, which is exactly what one should do in this type of weather.
  • Sophia’s birthday was this past weekend. She turned three. It’s incredible to think she was once a seven pound little baby, much like Simone is now. She is a complex and wonderful child who is handling big sisterhood with adroitness and aplomb.
  • The search is on for an appropriate nickname for Simone. Her surprising and tremendous head of dark hair at birth had me calling her “Little Raven” for about a week, but it didn’t really have the sonorous ring I was looking for. I wasn’t keen on the whole psychopomp thing that implied either. Then, around the third week of life she porked out and her prodigious fat rolls, double chin, pudgy Buddha-like cheeks, and slanty eyes made me think she needed an Asian name. Tried “Lotus Blossom” and it didn’t fit. Was told that calling her “Piglet” could scar her for life. Currently, I’m calling her the “Little Bunny”. I have no idea why, and every time Sophia hears me she says “Don’t call her little bunny!” and when I ask what I should call her she replies,”SIMONE.” Suggestions for an appropriate nickname should be included in the comments.
  • I am typing this on my brand new laptop. Meet Tuzanor, my new iBook. Tuzanor replaces the much mourned White Star, who passed earlier in the year with a hard drive failure that completely broke my heart and wrecked my life. I’m being a little tentative with Tuzanor as a result of my experiences with White Star. I’ve yet to sync my iPod, for example, or save any files to the hard drive. My Clie also remains unsynced. I’m just browsing the web right now, and I refuse to put any files on here until I’ve implemented a good backup strategy. Still, Tuzanor is a G4 and has a bigger hard drive and bigger screen than White Star had, and I can tell I’m going to love this laptop very, very much.

I have many, many more things to tell you, but they will have to wait, or remain untold. I hope to post again soon.

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