Saturday, April 26, 2008


The brilliant idea dawned on me as I thumbed through Senator Obama's autobiography that had been lying on someone else's coffee table. In order to educate myself about the sparring Democratic presidential candidates who dominate the news these days, I would read about their respective lives, in their own words.

Our local library's online catalog revealed that all nine copies of Hillary Clinton's autobiographies were available for loan.

Of Barak Obama's 12 autobiographies in the system, only three were currently available. Two of those were in Spanish.

Guess which candidate came out on top in our state primary.

I went to the library, checked out a book by each author, and put an English copy of the latter on hold (seriously doubting that I'll make it through the Spanish version). I have now joined the long line of brilliant, self-educating readers marching through the library doors.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Suburbanites Visit Country Cousins

NS and I spent a day and night with Tía J and four cousins at their countryside home while the man of the house was away on a work trip. It was an overcast day, but the air was pleasant. We took a walk down a gravel road flanked by fields ablaze with wild mustard and sprinkled with black cattle. We discovered a rather large, lifeless turtle in a ditch. (Tía J: "Maybe it's an old grandpa turtle." C, age 4: "It's a grandma turtle.")

N, age 2, grinned ear-to-ear as he handed me three brilliant dandelions, one by one. A county school bus slowed carefully as the two older (home schooled) children ran ahead. With a wave to the farmer, we turned around at the farm where they get eggs to supplement their own chicken coop's production.

NS napped the whole time while the cousins (aged 8, 6, 4, and 2) bickered over whose turn it was to push her stroller. They were tuckered out by the end of the adventure, but they held up amazingly well, given the ratio of their little legs to the more than two miles we covered.

Back at the ranch, fresh lemonade and cookies hit the spot.

At the table, C was full of chatter with me and the baby sitting next to her. "When she was in your belly, was she naked? Did she have those clothes on?" "When she was born, you got skinnier and she got fatter." Pointing to a wedding picture of me and CP: "You're his friend."

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Post-feeding snooze

After-bath karate moves

The Social Life of NS

Here's my latest self-portrait with NS, who recently marked her 16-week (4-month) birthday.

Reading (oops, make that napping) with her cousins.

Visiting with friends at a baby shower. The friend on the right is 6 weeks her senior and the friend in the middle will be about 6 months her junior.

More Blooms

This is my favorite time of year to drive down the highway to the neighboring 'Burg. I love the corridors of red bud trees, colorful clouds on a backdrop of dark evergreens and silvery-green new leaves. I managed to catch a stand of trees in this photo. Just imagine a dozen or more of them clustered together.
Saturday the lilacs started bursting open in the sunshine. Sunday morning ushered in a day of soaking rain, which didn't deter the pink dogwood next to our backyard shed from blooming. And, as if the natural word were not already saturated with pink and purple (is that possible?), the bleeding hearts are hanging their rosy shingles shamelessly above the now sopping daffodils.

Spring beauties:

Clivia's annual bloom in the dining room:
The basil seedlings are off to a strong start on my window sill: green ruffles, purple ruffles, cinnamon, sweet, lime, summerlong, green bouquet, red rubin.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Books I've Enjoyed Recently

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Lewis Carrol): The former was a re-read, the latter a first-time read. They both recount the bizarre, pun-filled dreams of a feisty 7½-year-old girl. I was surprised to learn that "Jabberwocky" is a backward poem that Alice finds in the Looking Glass House and holds up to a mirror to read, and that some of the obscure vocabulary is explained later in the book by Humpty-Dumpty. Another new concept was the second book's plot as a fantastic chess game with live players.

La Primera Detective de Botsuana (Alexander McCall Smith): This could also be considered a re-read, although the first time was in English (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency). It's been fun to revisit the adventures of this smart, perceptive and thoroughly likable heroine, Precious, while gleaning new second-language vocabulary. Example: hazmereir (literally, "make-me-laugh") = laughingstock.

The Midwife's Assistant (Karen Cushman): This Newberry Medal book portrays the harsh life of a medieval girl whose life is transformed as she learns self-respect.

Bud, Not Buddy (Christopher Paul Curtis): Another Newberry Medal winner (and Coretta Scott King honor book, I think), this one also follows the adventures of an unfortunate orphan (perhaps a popular theme in children's lit) in the U.S. during the Depression. He sets out to find his father and eventually learns about belonging. The cool thing is that the characters are loosely based on the author's grandparents' lives.

My Favorite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Love (edited by Jamaica Kincaid): This collection of essays enticed me as a way to speed up the arrival of the growing season, if only in my imagination. I confess I didn't read the whole thing. The extreme variety of styles and tones lends itself to picking and choosing.

The Sound of Music Companion (Laurence Maslon): Anyone who's a sucker for this famous story can enjoy the abundant photos in this over-sized book, if not the trivia surrounding the evolution of a young woman's life story into a wildly popular stage musical and movie. For example, who would've known that during the filming of the opening scene of the 1965 movie, Julie Andrews kept getting knocked flat by the wind from the filming helicopter's propeller?

When In Doubt, Sing: Prayer in Daily Life (Jane Redmont): Soon I will have maxed out the local library's lending period, so I'm going to buy a second-hand copy. Using interviews with people of many different faith traditions, as well as her own experiences, the author (a Unitarian-raised Catholic) discusses many ways of praying, in many different life circumstances, and many issues surrounding why, when and how we pray, or don't.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Musical Pathos

One afternoon when I was probably of grade school age, someone put on Peter, Paul and Mary's 10-year anniversary compilation record. As the melancholy notes of "Puff, the Magic Dragon" filled the house, suddenly a lump rose in my throat and I found myself unable to check the tears. Maybe I was young enough that I sat in my mom's lap to cry myself dry--I don't recall. I do remember feeling embarrassed by this inexplicable outburst of emotion.

Oddly enough, CP has a similar story of childhood tears triggered by Peter, Paul and Mary. He was no more than eight years old and had been fighting over a chair with his younger brother. His mom declared an end to their blubbering to her. Minutes later, when CP came to her in tears, he had to explain that they were not due not to the squabble, but to the song they were listening to, called "Blue," on P, P & M's 1964 "In Concert" album. (The song is part of a comedy routine that lists "pathos" as one of the essential elements of children's songs.)

Recently CP and I were pleased with ourselves for co-writing a song in a single evening. It's a lullaby, rather clever, and lovely, if I do say so myself. To our dismay, we've noticed that whenever we perform it for the target audience, her lower lip protrudes and trembles and she starts sobbing in heart-breaking four-month-old style. Could it be that the sweetness of the music evokes a wordless melancholy, even in such a young heart?

What's in Season in Our Neighborhood

Spring beauties: I picked a bouquet of these tiny pink-white wild flowers just across the driveway.

Grape hyacinths (a.k.a. blue bottles): The house down the street has a dense purple patch in the front yard that makes me gape and smile every time I walk by.

Flowering cherries: Perhaps they're my favorite. What's more breathtaking than a whole tree of flowers?

Tulips: I think there are a few buried somewhere under our fading daffodils. Anyway, I've already spotted their luminous crimson cups nodding around the neighborhood.

Dandelions: I recently learned that the name comes from "dent de leon"--lion's tooth. "Dandelion" sounds much more complimentary. I would have named them something related to stars or suns, reflecting their everyday brilliance.

Another sure-fire sign of spring is the teenage neighbor girl, neon-pink-bikini-clad, lounging in a backyard lawn chair and chatting on the cell phone while absorbing late afternoon UV rays.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Country Mice Visit City Mouse

Last weekend we took NS on her first trip to the City to visit her uncle. On Saturday evening we joined throngs of photo-snapping tourists strolling among the world-famous cherry blossoms. In spite of--or perhaps as a result of--the excitement of the whizzing metro ride, the constant, colorful motion of walkers, bikers and buggy-riding park rangers, and the din of traffic and sirens, not to mention unfamiliar smells, NS dozed off just as we arrived at the Festival. (Fortunately, the Festival consisted of walking around and taking pictures of the trees with rivers and monuments in the background and staring at all the other weird people, so she didn't miss a lot.) Much to her parents' relief, she didn't wake up again until we reached the porch of the house.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A New Outlook

Imagine having to lie flat on your back most of the time so that your silky hair starts balding in the back. Then, imagine that one day you sit up in a chair so that you can see the world at a new level. Maybe you would look like this, too: