Things I Said While Watching TV Tonight

Watching Matthew McConnaughey in a Lincoln ad:
Mr. Sandwich: Let’s see what Matthew McConnaughey is going to tell us about Lincolns today.
Me: There is something really unnerving about his teeth.

Watching Speechless:
Me: I identify with Jimmy and Dylan. Because I feel like it’s my job to stay calm and also I’m fighty. There’s a lot of conflict between these two parts of me.

Watching something that appears to be an action movie due to urgent driving:
Me: What is this? Is it Live Free and Die Harder in a Really Stupid Way?
Mr. Sandwich: It’s Batman v. Superman.
Me: Same thing.

Still watching Batman v. Superman:
Holly Hunter: The world has been so busy thinking about what Superman can do that we haven’t stopped to ask what he should do.
Me: Oh, I get it. Superman is Jurassic Park.

Still watching Batman v. Superman, even though we meant to go to bed 30 minutes ago:
Perry White: Headline: End of Love Affair with Man in Sky?
Me: Perry, that’s a terrible headline.

But, really, the amazing thing is that we got to watch TV. Do you know how rare it is for Baguette to sleep?

Role-Playing

Princess Anna has left the building.

Small girl in purple cloak walking away

She’s got a sister to catch.

Small girl in purple cloak running

Baguette has been watching Frozen again. She’s quoting a lot and singing more of the songs, she’s wearing costumes based on what is happening on screen, and she’s acting out scenes (mostly the sequence where Anna leaves Arendelle to go after Elsa and gets lost in the snow. I play the role of the horse).

Today, she decided that, like Anna and Elsa, she was going to take her cloak out into the world and have an adventure.

You go, Baguette. That cloak is washable.

Occurrences Of Late

Mr. Sandwich: I’m developing legal arguments regarding why Ariel’s contract with Ursula isn’t binding.
Me: Because she’s a minor?
Mr. Sandwich: That, and Ursula keeps employing metaphors that Ariel cannot be expected to understand, like “Rake ’em across the coals.”
Me: When Ariel doesn’t know ‘what’s a fire, and why does it–what’s the word–burn’?
Mr. Sandwich: Yes. And she talks about how “if you want to cross a bridge, my sweet, you’ve got to pay the toll.’ Ariel has no bridges in her life.

[pause]

Me: This is based on our extensive knowledge of Law & Order. But have you considered maritime law?
Mr. Sandwich: Good point. After all, my Opa did sign a contract and go to sea at age 12.

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Baguette has two loose teeth. They’re her top front incisors. This will be interesting.

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In the “nothing’s ever easy” category, we’ve just changed Baguette’s aide at school. We thought that having the aide who was with her at day care would be a good transition, and offer some continuity, but it didn’t play out the way we expected. First, it took a month and a half to resolve all of the communication issues between the district and the private agency, so the need for continuity was pretty much gone by the time we were up and running. And then it turned out that there were persistent punctuality issues, and we stopped getting our daily reports (which are kind of important when you have a child who’s not yet able to tell you about her day). The aide had to be out for a week and a half for a family issue (this was valid–we have no issue with the week and a half, just all the rest of the time around it), and that meant we had a sub.

The sub was amazing. As of tomorrow, the sub is the permanent aide. Fingers crossed, and moving forward.

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Baguette has a new iPad Air. The old iPad ran out of memory, and there was really nothing to do about that–just because she hasn’t played with an app for a year doesn’t mean she won’t start again in 10 minutes. And the apps were starting to hang up due to the lack of available memory, so the solution we came up with was a new device.

New to her, anyhow. We went with refurbished. We’re not insane.

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Los Angeles got rain today! I was really hoping for a solid day of rain, and there were a couple of sunny hours in the afternoon, but I’ll take what I can get.

Book Talk: Things I’ve Read Recently

Your definition of “recently” and mine may not be quite the same. Whatever. It’s my blog, so I get to pick.

Anyhow, here are some books I’ve read, with the occasional thought attached.

The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
This was a hard read, but I’m so glad I read it. Lilith’s story is compelling from the start, and heartbreaking and painful throughout. It’s a powerful illustration of how slavery is brutal and corrupting.

The Martian by Andy Weir
I’m never going to see the movie. I accept that. But I did enjoy the book, even if I wasn’t particularly surprised by how the story developed and played out. But I liked the fact that Mark is a problem-solver. Because he encounters a lot of problems.

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris
As a tween/teen of the 1980s, I have fond memories of Choose Your Own Adventure books. Clearly, so does Neil Patrick Harris. This was a fun read. Maybe he’s a little too diplomatic. But it’s fun.

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
I don’t like horror, and didn’t really realize that’s what this was until I started reading it. It was an interesting story, and it held my attention, but I didn’t buy the ending. Also, in poking around on Amazon, I realized that I had read another one of the author’s books and didn’t care for it, but I had no memory of her name. Hopefully I’ll remember it going forward.

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel
I thought Station Eleven was really good (if something I should not have read), but this book didn’t come together for me.

Valley of Ashes by Cornelia Read

I like the Madeline Dare books, even though they get weaker with each entry. This one had a really cliched villain, but if she writes another, I’ll read it.

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney
“Why are so many recent books set in the 1980s?” asked Mr. Sandwich. “Because it’s recent enough to feel modern, but you don’t have to worry about cell phones,” I answered. I remembered liking The Tenderness of Wolves, and Penney’s next book–which is completely different from its predecessor–is also worth a read.

Tomorrow They Will Kiss by Eduardo Santiago

Santiago has written two books about Cuba and Cubans. I hope he writes more.

Roughing It by Mark Twain
This book is taking me forever to read. I guess maybe that’s fitting.

So that’s about six months worth of books. Clearly I’m off my game. Please leave recommendations in the comments.

Book Talk: The Emerald Key

Sponsored: I received a free Advance Reader’s Copy of The Emerald Key in exchange for writing a review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

So one of my friends has written a book! Co-authored, actually.

The Emerald Key, by Mark Frederickson and Melora Pineda, is the story of a group of friends who discover a journal and accidentally open a portal to another world. The main characters, Penny and Laci, are life-long friends who anticipate a dull vacation and an unwelcome family wedding, but find themselves transported to another reality filled with danger and dragons.

EmeraldKey

I enjoyed the book–it’s fast-paced, with lots of action, and the characters are likeable. And while Penny and Laci and their friends go through a number of trials throughout the story, it seems like an adventure that tweens might actually imagine they want to have.

I was curious to get some of the story behind the story, and Melora granted me an interview.

1) What was your inspiration for The Emerald Key?
Both Mark and I have tweenage daughters. His daughter is extremely athletic, and I have on occasion, had to threaten mine to get her to put her book down and meet basic needs, such as eating and showering. Our goal was to write a story that would entertain their age group, but also have a little bit of each of them in it.

2) What made you decide to write a book as a co-author, and how did you develop a process that made that work?
Mark and I had worked on a treatment for a children’s show a few years prior to starting The Emerald Key, so we knew we worked well together. Originally we decided to write a screenplay aimed at a middle-grade audience, but by writing it as a book, we created the source material first. Our process was countless hours on the phone hashing out ideas. I took notes and wrote the first version of each chapter. One by one I sent them to him and he expanded them. Next, we spent an entire weekend reading the book aloud and laughing at some of our blatant mistakes, such as the repeated use of our characters “starting” to do something instead of just doing it. I edited per our crazy weekend and then submitted to various publishers.

3) Laci and Penny have a close and supportive friendship, in spite of–or perhaps because of–the many ways in which they are different. How did you develop the characters?
We wanted an unlikely pair of friends to create more contrast in their skills and more challenges in getting themselves out of the mess they landed in. We began with qualities from each of our daughters, but these are fictional characters, so added more differences than actually exist between them.

4) I noticed some references to Norse mythology throughout the book. Were there particular legends or features that inspired you as you wrote?
Although Hallvard’s village was not seafaring and the Norse dragons are more serpent-like than the ones found in Botkyrka, we used a lot of Norse mythology to relate to popular culture (thanks, Marvel). We mention Thor and the mythology surrounding him frequently, but Beowulf is an Old English poem and wyverns are considered to be from European mythology, so we clearly played around with various dragon-based myths. By having Hallvard familiar with the same mythology the kids knew, we could bridge the gap between the cultures and create a camaraderie.

5) What would you like readers to take away from The Emerald Key?

I hope this book reminds our readers to search for and have faith in their own strengths instead of comparing themselves to others. As well as believing in themselves, they should never forget the importance of trusting their friends, and that in the end, it’s a combination of strengths working together that can overcome obstacles. And beat the bad guys!

Rediscovering Disney: The Little Mermaid

We’ve started trying to add to Baguette’s movie preferences. We had no luck with Cinderella (she only likes “The Work Song”) or Sleeping Beauty, and Lilo & Stitch got no reaction at all.

We tried non-Disney (or at least previously-not-from Disney) with Star Wars,* which was of momentary interest–right up until the cantina scene, at which point she started shrieking.

What is entering the rotation is The Little Mermaid. Baguette only watches about half of it, but that’s how she started watching Frozen, too. She asks for it by name (although the first time she did, when I asked her if she wanted to see Frozen, she said, “I want to see fish, please”). It’s a problematic movie, what with the stereotyped musical fish and the love-at-first-sight/hearing-without-any-real-knowledge-of-the-person.

BUT.

I’m actually less bothered by the movie than I expected to be. Because Ariel doesn’t know Eric, but he actually does have a lot of good qualities. True, he’s easily distracted and enchanted. He’s also brave, and a quick thinker. Ariel saves him, and he saves her as well. They’re mutually supportive.

What I’m saying is, they could do a lot worse.

That said?

Photo from http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/File:Littlemermaid-disneyscreencaps.com-2976.jpg
Photo from http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/File:Littlemermaid-disneyscreencaps.com-2976.jpg

That is a lot of Merpeople who sold their souls to Ursula. Now that he’s married off that headstrong youngest daughter, I think King Triton needs to take a hard look at reform.

*There was a brief window in which the original trilogy was available on DVD as it aired in the theaters. These are the copies we own, because I want to make sure that Baguette knows not just that Han shot first, but that Han was the only one who fired a shot.

Made-Up Rules for Our Imaginary Children

When Mr. Sandwich and I were married, but before we had Baguette, we made many pronouncements, as you do. Some of them still hold, like leaving the restaurant when we cannot keep her quiet and calm. Some of them remain untested (we are not fans of demanding MORE candy from people when trick-or-treating, and yes, we’ve seen that happen, but she’s not really a fan of trick-or-treating). Others have fallen by the wayside.

“No junk food before age 2! There is plenty of time to eat french fries later, but they don’t need them that young!”

At just under a year, Baguette reached up and pulled a french fry from Mr. Sandwich’s mouth and ate it. She loved it. Now I just wish she’d eat fries, because that would mean one more thing she eats.

“No TV before age 2!”

At about six months, she came home from day care with a fever. She felt awful and was exhausted, but could not quite tip over into sleep. I looked for something age-appropriate and stumbled across Yo Gabba Gabba. I thought, “Wow, this show is awful.” A minute later, she passed out on her own lap, and I thought, “This show is GREAT.” From there we found Pajanimals and Sesame Street (well, I knew about that one) and Wibbly Pig and Stella and Sam. We have never watched Yo Gabba Gabba again. That show is awful.

“We will never get a portable DVD player or own a car in which one is installed, even if we have to take a hammer to it. Our children can look out the window and play the Alphabet Game like we each did.”

We are seriously considering buying a portable DVD player for the car.

Change

Remember when I talked about how routine is important, but disrupting the routine is, too?

No?

That’s okay. Here’s a link. But you don’t necessarily need to read that, because I’ve got more examples from this weekend.

  • Mr. Sandwich read one of her “Touchy Feely” books using the adjective written on the page, but not the one Baguette prefers. She didn’t get upset, and she didn’t repeat the original phrase. Instead she corrected him, saying, “They are prickly.”
  • We were in the car, and she started to get a little fussy. She asked for her book (she has a sequence in which she reads the Touchy-Feely books, which are firmly in rotation. I asked, “Do you want Mommy to read That’s Not My Dragon?” And she answered, “I want Baguette That’s Not My Dragon.”
  • She’s been playing with the apps for The Monster at the End of This Book and Another Monster at the End of this Book. On Saturday she made up her own chant based on phrases from the apps: “Grover is furry, Grover is furry, YOU! Elmo is cute, Elmo is cute, YOU!”
  • As usual, we went to the zoo. Elephants are her favorite animal, and the demonstration enclosure is always one of our first stops at the L.A. Zoo. But the male elephant sometimes trumpets loudly and scares her. Yesterday the females were doing the demonstration, and she sat on my lap. Almost immediately, she said, “Time to say bye-bye elephants.” I said, “Are you sure? Don’t you want to watch them eat carrots?” She looked at me and said, “I want to go see giraffes please.”
  • When we reached the carousel, toward the end of our visit, I asked if she wanted to ride on one of the animals (she never does–we only ride on the bench seat). She answered with “I want to ride peacock, please.”
  • Last night, she handed Mr. Sandwich one of her stuffed animals and unilaterally changed one of her common Baguette-focused phrases (“I want Daddy take elephant”) to a straightforward instruction: “Daddy, take elephant.”
  • “Frozen” is also back in rotation, and she’s memorized even more of the dialogue. She’s also tailoring it to her own preferences, as in last night’s pronouncement: “It was an accident. She was scared. She didn’t mean it. She didn’t mean any of this. Tonight was my fault–I should be the one to go after her. Bring me my elephant.”

She’s been in school for three days. It hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t always felt good. But it is good.

Little girl with a big stack of books

Book Talk: Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven is the book that really, really convinced me to stop reading post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction.

Sure you might think that The Road would have done that. But while I found Cormac McCarthy’s father-and-son novel to be incredibly sad (and some of it to be horrifying), most of it didn’t dismay me in the way that this book did.

Since my second miscarriage, I’ve found that I have to be more careful about what I let into my head. While I once read innumerable true crime books, I find that now I can’t handle the cruelty. (I’ve read Game of Thrones and its sequels, yes, but there are passages that make me take breaks, and there are things I skip entirely in the HBO adaptation.)

Mandel’s book hooked me from the start. It’s really well-written, and the characters are interesting. I’ve had a long-standing interest in pandemics, so her story of the world after a particularly devastating flu seemed right up my alley in many ways.

But it got in my head in ways that were troubling. The idea of being plunged into a world without infrastructure is frankly terrifying. The death toll from Mandel’s “Georgia flu” would mean an end to existing family and friendships for any survivors. And while the idea of losing either Mr. Sandwich or Baguette is heartbreaking, the idea of losing both was almost insurmountable. (As I told Mr. Sandwich, “I’m not saying I’d just sit down on the side of the road and give up, but I really don’t know why I would choose to keep moving.”)

The book is not all bleakness, though, and I’m glad I finished it. It looks like Mandel’s other books are not as dystopian, and I want to read them. And I do recommend this one. Just not to myself.

cover of novel "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel

BookTalk: Petunia, The Girl Who Was NOT A Princess

Disclosure: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for writing a review. All views expressed are my own.

Looking for new books to mix up your child’s library? Baguette really likes to revisit her favorites, but we want to add to the mix without taking away her comfort zone. So let’s kick off a new series with a book about broadening your comfort zone while being true to yourself.

M.R. Nelson is a technology management consultant who has two young daughters, and her daughters love stories. Her second children’s book is Petunia, The Girl Who Was NOT A Princess.

book cover for Petunia, the girl who was NOT a princess

Petunia prefers sweatshirts to frilly dresses and mud pies to tea parties, and she can’t understand the girls around her who love playing princess. Then Penelope moves in next door, and Petunia realizes that she may have been misjudging princesses and the other girls she knows.

The book is about growth, but it’s not didactic; it’s fun and funny, and I enjoyed reading it (and I enjoyed Holly Liminton’s illustrations). I also like that Petunia and Penelope’s world is multicultural, and that the focus is on appreciating both similarities and differences, not on changing who you are. “Princess” and “NOT A Princess” are equally valued and valuable–which is just what I want Baguette to learn.

So if you’re looking for a nice read about nice kids who learn to appreciate one another, this book may be for you and yours. (Available in hardcover and Kindle editions. Also available in Spanish.)

I was not compensated for this post, however I did receive a sample for my review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”