BookTalk: Pity Poor Mrs. Popper

We’ve started reading chapter books to Baguette at bedtime. Our first was The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. Neither Mr. Sandwich nor I had read that as children, and we’re continuing that with our next selection: Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.

On its surface, the story is cute enough. A seasonally unemployed house painter unexpectedly takes delivery of a penguin, and hijinks ensue. There is a second penguin, and then little penguins, and more hijinks. Baguette is enjoying the story, and that’s really the point.

But as an adult, I can’t help but be struck by something. Mr. Popper does not think things through at all. He only has an income for half of the year, which means that his family has to eat beans all winter. Nevertheless, he goes into debt to buy a “chilling machine” for the penguins in the basement.

Mrs. Popper, meanwhile, doesn’t even get a personality. All she does is clean the house and talk about whether the house is clean. And they have two children, but darned if I can figure out why. Janie and Bill are barely present and don’t add to the plot or the humor.

So on a level that the writers don’t seem to acknowledge, this is the story of a woman who puts a lot of effort into making a home for her family, but has the misfortune to be married to a man who spent the entire winter’s bean money on extreme air conditioning.

Fine. It’s fine. But it’s the kind of book that’s probably charming to a child, and a source of some eye-rolling for an adult.

cover of Mr. Popper's Penguins

For more reviews by more readers, and to support the American Cancer Society, visit Cannonball Read 10.

Why My House is Messy

I know my house is messy. I’m not a good housekeeper. I never have been, and neither was my mother. I know she would have recognized herself in Claire McCarthy’s Huffington Post piece.* Also, there’s this.

I do want my house to be clean. It’s so much more peaceful and comfortable when it is. Mr. Sandwich and I agree on this (For the record, if you come over to our house? He’s the one who cleaned it for you.) And we really want to have people over, but we’d feel so much better about it if we were more orderly.

messy kitchen table
This is our kitchen table after Mr. Sandwich has taken some stuff off of it.

And, honestly, “orderly” is key here. We have too much stuff, and we have no organization system. But there aren’t dirty dishes lying around (seriously, I feel like I am always washing dishes), and the laundry is either clean or in the hamper (Mr. Sandwich is always doing laundry). We’re neither hoarders nor a hotbed of disease.

So is your house clean? I’d probably love being there. But if it’s a mess, I’m probably cool with that, too. Because I’m not visiting you for your house, I’m visiting you because it’s fun. So if I’m not judging you, why am I judging myself?

*That Dutch saying quoted in the comments? Yeah, the Dutch are a nation of people who leave their curtains open so you can peer in their windows and see how clean their houses are. My mother-in-law is Dutch. She’s the loveliest person, and yet she still can’t hide that my housekeeping pains her.

We’re Movin’ On Up

Not to a deluxe apartment in the sky, but to a three-bedroom, 1-1/2 bath house with an actual garage. Assuming everything goes well, that is.

The home inspection went reasonably smoothly–a few things to address, but nothing insurmountable. Now there are more papers to sign, and a loan to finalize, and a tenant to . . . well, let’s say encourage to move out. So it’s not really a done deal, is it?

Why We Want Our Own Place, Part II

My last post on this subject focused on the negatives of our current domicile. That shows what we want to move away from–but what do we want to move to?

We want to live in a place that:

  • we can paint.
  • is more private.
  • has a garage, the better to store our sporting equipment.
  • has a space where we can install a clothesline.
  • doesn’t require us to share the laundry room.
  • has a yard in which we can start a vegetable garden.
  • we can make more environmentally friendly.

That last item is a big one. We have lots of plans, depending on the house we find. But it will be wonderful to have a place that we can make our own, that will allow us to live the way we want to.