The Different One

February 22, 2015

Tomorrow, James is going to turn three, but we had his party today. I haven’t written about James nearly as much as I’ve written about Simone. Some of that is because he came second so I didn’t have any “whoa check out this parenting thing” experiences with him, but I think some of it is also because it’s been hard for me to wrap my head around him.

Cate and Simone and I are all pretty obvious introverts. Nothing makes us want to spend a quiet night in like a fun night out. We like people, but we all have to recover from them. James is different. If there’s an extrovert in our house, he’s it. He makes friends with everyone. Right away. There’s not a quiet or shy bone in his body.

Unlike his sister, he experienced the terrible twos (she waited until she was three) and is just coming out of them. But like her, I find that as he reaches the end of his third year, he’s starting to be a person. There is something about kids before three that is more baby than anything else. They are all wants and no thoughts, if that makes sense.

So James is three now and he is fun. He laughs with his whole body and he makes us laugh with him. He likes trains and cars and baby dolls and dragons. He loves his sister more than anyone else in the world. He follows her and bothers her and it’s great because she needs to be bothered.

I don’t love it when he climbs on the counters or when he gets into things in a way his sister never dreamed, but I like that he’s adventurous. That he’ll take chances. He’s different from the rest of us, but that’s good. We all need someone to stir the pot, even if a little spills out sometimes.

January Book Log

February 2, 2015

It doesn’t seem right that it’s already February, but so it is. January was a fast month, but a great start to the reading year. I find myself very free in my reading since I have no Shakespeare to think about. Seven books this month…

1. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (5/5) – File this under books I’d somehow never read before (though I’d read and loved other Faulkner). It is as fantastically great as I expected it to be. The first book I read this year, and I will be surprised if it isn’t near the top of my list at the end of the year. Apparently, the initial print run on this was 2,000 copies and they lasted for a long, long time. There is no sense in the world.

2. The Snow Queen by Michael Cunningham (5/5) – After lots of classics last year, I have a serious itch for contemporary stuff. This was great. Lots of different characters who are both irritating and redeeming. Cunningham does a splendid job of measuring the passage of time by event rather than year, which feels more natural. Cate also devoured this one.

3. Longitude by Dava Sobel (4.5/5) – This was a cool book about, basically, an inspired clock maker who made a mechanical clock that kept perfect time (thus making it possible for ships to track their longitude) and the people who were grumpy about him existing. Sobel did a great job constructing the narrative. So many nonfiction books like this have no sense of narrative arc, but this was an engaging read.

4. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (5/5) – This book has been on my to-read shelf for ages. I’m not sure exactly what I expected it to be, but it was better than that. The murder mystery aspect was most welcome and provided a lovely compelling plot – which Guterson kept expertly going right up to the end – to go with his brilliant language and exploration of themes centered around otherness.

5. Jazz by Toni Morrison (5/5) – First AP book of the new year. I hadn’t read it in a while and it was nice to return to. Our final class discussion was really interesting. My students were bothered by how Morrison frames the morality of what happened. Good. They were supposed to be bothered.

6. Sweet Jaguar of Laughter by Diane Ackerman (4/5) – There was an epigraph in Longitude that excerpted and Ackerman poem. It was great, and I’d never heard of her before, so to the library I went. There is a lot of wonderful lyric poetry in this collection and, as is almost inevitable in poetry collections, some serious duds here and there. All in all, I’ll be reading more Ackerman and getting some of her books to keep for myself. Her skillful blending of poetry and science is as appealing to me as can be.

7. A Year in Lapland by Hugh Beach (3.5/5) – I read this book as research for a novel I’m working on. On that level, it was fairly useful. The problem is that Beach is a bit too idealistic and he often completely forgets about the women and children around him. Still, he’s an able writer and I have a pretty solid grasp of what reindeer herding looks like, which is at least part of what I needed.