Thursday, November 26, 2009


[OK, it is obvious that I have completely blown NaBloPoMo, so I will now commence posting on my usual irregular schedule without further apologies. Onward!]

I was a big fan of E. Nesbit as a kid, but there were aspects of her turn-of-the-last-century British kids' lives that utterly mystified me. One of them was pantomime. At one point in The Treasure Seekers, the kids all get an offer from Albert-Next-Door's-Uncle to go to the pantomime. It seemed to have something to do with Christmas, and I knew what a mime was--those weird, black-clad clowns who could be seen blowing up invisible balloons outside the Metropolitan Museum--so I always envisioned this pantomime as some bizarre no-words performance of the Nativity story. I also thought of it as something that happened, a) only a long time ago, and b) only in England.

Well. Apparently, I was quite wrong on all these counts. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about pantomime. Basically, aside from being performed around Christmas, it has nothing to do with the holiday; it's a sort of broad farcical version of any one of a number of stock fairy-tale-based stories (Peter Pan started as British pantomime), though there are also original modern pantos--last year, I saw ads for "Panto of the Rings" on the community bulletin board at one library where I work. Which brings me to the other thing I was wrong about: Canada is one of several non-England-based panto strongholds. You hardly ever see it in the U.S., but apparently the area work, being a traditional dwelling for immigrants from the British Isles, is one of the best places in North America to see pantomime-- or, as it is charmingly nicknamed, panto. Just one of those things, like different-colored money and square-cut screwdrivers, that lets you know Canada actually is a different country from the U.S.

So last night, the Renaissance Woman and I pulled our our google-fu to find out how many pantos there are around here, and where they're playing. Turns out we have many choices: aside from old-school panto offerings like Snow White and Aladdin, there are newer adaptations, including The Wizard of Oz and (yes) Panto Wars. We opted for a traditional panto, Babes in the Wood, which promises drama, audience participation, drag (an essential panto element), plus Robin Hood and Maid Marian. As my non-panto-going grandparents might say, what's not to like?

I can't wait.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where are the talking blankets of yesteryear?

Here's another story from the vault of memory. I actually meant to blog this at the time, but never got around to it, and now, what do you know, it's two or three years later. (Actually, it must be more than two years, because this was in our old house in Seattle. How can that be? Three years? But I guess it must be so)

So, about three years ago, so that would've been when the Mermaid Girl was about six, we had this game we used to play. She'd lie on the couch, completely covered in a blanket, and talk. If I'd blogged this back then like I meant to, I'd remember what she used to say. But I think it was something like, "Hi, I'm a talking blanket. See? I'm talking! And I'm a blanket!"

Then I'd get all excited and go, "Wow, a talking blanket! Oh my gosh!"

And she'd say, "Yes! I'm the only one in the world!"

I'd say, "I can't believe it! I've never seen a talking blanket before. It's too bad my daughter isn't here-- she'd love this!"

And she'd go, "Yes, go get your daughter! I think she's in her room!"

So off I'd rush to MG's room, calling "MG! MG, come quick! You've gotta see this!" And then, since of course she wasn't there, I'd return to the living room, still calling, "MG! MG! MG, where are you?"

And then there she'd be in the living room, prim as you please, and she'd say, "Mommy? Mommy, I'm right here. What is it?"

"Oh!" I'd say. "Oh, you have to see this! MG, there's a talking blanket, right on our couch! See? See? There it is! Talk, blanket, talk!"

And she'd pick up the blanket and say kindly, "Mommy, there's no such thing as a talking blanket. See? It's just a blanket. It doesn't talk at all."

Then I'd get all red-faced and insistent and she'd shake her head pityingly at the depths of my delusion. Sometimes she'd say, "Mommy, I think you've been reading too many children's books."

We'd continue like this until I walked away, scratching my head and muttering, ""I'm SURE it talked! Maybe I was imagining things? ["You were imagining things, Mommy."] But it seemed so real!" etc. etc.

There is no real point to this story. Except that it was a really excellent game, and we haven't played it for a while. We still play the peas game sometime--and, astonishingly, she still delights in cheating me out of the peas--but we haven't played the Talking Blanket game for, oh, years and years. I wonder if she'd still want to play it, at the advanced age of nine?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Ukulele: A Love Story

I've mentioned the ukulele here and there in posts over the past year, but I don't think I've ever actually devoted a post to the topic. So here it is:

My family is full of musicians: both my parents play the piano, my dad professionally since his retirement, and my mom has sung in high-level choirs; my brother plays a bunch of instruments and sang professionally as a kid; my spouse was a music major in college and has a closet full of various instruments from recorder to viola da gamba. I'm the non-musician in both my adult family and my family of origin: I love to sing, and sing a lot, but I don't read music and I've never really mastered an instrument.

That's not to say that I've never tried, albeit halfheartedly. As a kid I played piano for a few years, but dropped it when the theory got too hard (which was very early). I played viola for a year or two in elementary school (we got to pick our instruments, and I picked viola because the name of the instrument sounded pretty and romantic) but never practiced. As a teenager, I tried to learn guitar, briefly, but the metal strings hurt my fingers and my hands were too small. When I first got together with the Renaissance Woman, back in the mid 1990's, I was inspired to teach myself recorder with her help and encouragement; I learned some notes and some tunes and then plateaued because there wasn't much I could do with it, and stopped playing. What I really wanted to do, after all, was sing and play, and you can't sing and play the recorder at the same time.

So, for a long time, that was that. I sang songs at library story times, and I sang to the Mermaid Girl at bedtime, and I sang for fun by myself and with friends, and I just figured I was the sort of person who was not going to play an instrument, either because I was too lazy to learn or because there was no instrument that was quite right for me.

Then, a little over a year ago, I went to a library storytime workshop. The format was very simple: each of us was to bring two songs or rhymes. We sat in a circle, and went around the room, each in turn teaching our songs and rhymes to all the other participants. About halfway through the workshop, a librarian stood up with a tiny little guitar-like instrument which was, she explained briefly, her ukulele. She taught us her two songs, accompanying herself on the ukulele, and sat down, and we moved on to the next presenter.

So, that was it. But it was...I don't know how to put this without being cliched and corny. It was like a lightning bolt had hit right in front of me! It was like a spiritual experience! It was like the proverbial light bulb went off! I stared and stared at that little ukulele and knew I had finally, after 42 years, found my instrument.

Well, not that particular one; that one was the other librarian's, and I resisted the urge to run across the room and wrest it out of her hands. But, you know.

So I went home and told RW that I had found my instrument and that it was the ukulele and that if, you know, anyone was trying to figure out what to give me for Chanukah, a ukulele would not go amiss. And, lo and behold, a ukulele was what I got. (Oh-- I did write about this part, I guess.)

So off I set to learn how to play it. I found a ukulele book in the library, and renewed it several times and then just let it go overdue because I needed the chord chart so that I could play songs I liked in Rise Up Singing with ukulele chords. I learned three chords, then four and five and six. I learned how to play "Clementine" and "When the Saints Go Marching In" which are very easy and have very few chords, and then "Angel from Montgomery" and "Desperado," which are more fun and sound more impressive and have more than three chords but are miraculously not actually that hard.

Then I really needed to return the ukulele book, so I turned to the Internet to print out a chord chart. And that was when I discovered that, once again, I had been an unwitting pawn of the zeitgeist. Because! Ukuleles are everywhere! Especially on the Internets! While I'd been blissfully bonding at home with my new little orange ukulele, believing that it was pure providential luck that I'd finally found my instrument, thousands and thousands of other people were simultaneously-- or actually a little ahead of me-- discovering that the ukulele was also THEIR instrument, and were busily posting Youtube videos of themselves in their room playing ukulele. There are online ukulele stores, and online video ukulele reviews (so you can see and hear what various models are like before ordering them online), and online video ukulele tutorials, and magazine articles heralding all the above and talking like the ukulele was the biggest thing to hit since grunge.

Just like when I'd suddenly inexplicably gotten the urge to buy a brown zip-up hoodie, I had once again stumbled blindly into trendiness. Dammit.

But by then, it was too late. I was bonded to my ukulele, and I was practicing, and I was getting better. I was even learning a little music theory-- first, I just played the chords the way the chord chart said. Then, RW taught me about the 1-4-5 chord progression and how you could apply it all up and down the scale. Then, this summer, I wanted to learn "Uncle John's Band" but the version I found was full of hard B chords (I hate B chords; they are devilish hard) and also the wrong key for me to sing, and I realized that I could transpose it-- if I changed the B's to G's, I could change the A's to F's, and etc. etc. And it worked!

I spent a lot of the summer playing, on our porch when we were home and at various campgrounds and in the passenger seat of the van when we were not. I learned more chords, and chord changes that seemed way too hard at the beginning of the summer were somehow not so hard by the end. When we met up with our friends on the Washington coast I got to play with other people, and that was fun and I didn't totally suck and drag them down.

By the time summer ended, I figured I was finally good enough to go out and play among strangers. So I started going to the monthly ukulele circle in the city. At first it was overwhelming: there were 40 or 50 people there, most of them better than me and with better, more expensive, better tuned ukuleles. For the first half of the meeting everyone played together out of a songbook, and even though I knew way more than three chords, I didn't know nearly enough to play along with most of the songs.

But everyone there was friendly and warm and encouraging, and told me to just play and not worry about getting it right, so I've kept going. Playing with the group has gotten me to finally tackle the B chord family, plus it is good for my soul. One thing about not reading music and not playing an instrument is that music for me has been mostly a solitary, or at most fleetingly social, experience. This is about the least original observation in the universe (aside from the one about time flying and babies getting older) but there really is something powerful about singing and playing music together with a group of people. The group meets on a weekday evening and every time I have to drag myself out the door rather than staying home and hanging out with MG and RW. And every time I am glad I went and feel lifted up and happy.

So, that is the story of a girl and her uke. I'm still not very good. But I can accompany myself on a bunch of my favorite songs, and I keep learning more. Even though I love my little orange ukulele, I can hear now that it's sort of a beginner one and I'm thinking about buying myself another one that has a richer tone and stays in tune better. When I start my new schedule in January, I might take some group lessons that someone from the ukulele circle runs. And these days, when I am feeling sad or low or frustrated or like the rain it raineth every day and it is dark all the time, I try to remember that the ukulele works better than Tetris or even the Internet for reminding me that there are good things and maybe even joy in the universe.

And if it's all trendy and whatnot, too-- oh, well; nothing's perfect.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hear Me Complaining, Fates!

Hello hello hello! It is the next day and I am blogging again!

Well. I will not make the mistake again of blogging about how non-depressed I am. Right after I wrote this fate-tempting post, things went all what the Brits call pear-shaped, and there was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. I will draw a veil over it.

Instead I will say: Today I got home from work at 2:30 (I work 9-2 on Mondays) and I was telling myself how I should be feeling lucky and grateful because back in my old life in Seattle I used to work 8-5 on Mondays, and then drive through horrendous traffic for another hour or two (Monday was our staff meeting day). But instead of feeling lucky I was feeling exhausted, due to a combination of hormonal cycle and the Beastly Rainy Weather and RW and me staying up too late talking the night before. So I went home and said hi to everyone--RW didn't have work today, and seems to be having a semi-relapse of exhaustion, and MG had concocted just enough sneeziness and stomachache-complaints that she got to stay home. Probably if we'd both been working we would've just made her go to school. But, you know.

So there they were, all cuddled up on the couch in their pajamas, and I went and collapsed on the bed and fell asleep. And next thing I knew, it was 5:00, it was dark, it was still raining, and MG and RW had made strawberry muffins while I'd been asleep and were about to start making pizza for dinner. So, that was really nice.

Of course, now it is past 10:30, they are both sound asleep, and I am bright-eyed and wakey with no one to talk to or watch DVDs with. And I know there is a big meteor shower tonight, but trust me, it is way too rainy to see anything in the sky.

So here I am! Complaining! About the rain! And the wakeful aloneness!

Not because I am ungrateful for loving family or strawberry muffins or pizza or 5-hour workdays. No. But because it will KEEP AWAY THE EVIL EYE.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Canada: A Few Tips

oh, man, I can't even keep track on how behind I am on NaBlowhatever. But! Onward!

Someone emailed me a little bit ago to say they might be moving to Canada and did I have any advice? I started to compile a list and made myself stop after just a few items because I was having too much fun. So here is the rest of it:

1. Don't lose the piece of paper that comes with your stamped visa. They don't like that.
2. Spell everything with a "u".
3. Canadian drivers are not as polite as you might think.
4. Don't bother looking for a post office as such. Just go to the Shoppers Drug Mart. You will be amazed to find a complete post office in there.
4a. But don't buy anything else at Shoppers. They suck.
4b. Oh, and there is no Saturday postal delivery. The mail carrier didn't just skip you last weekend; s/he didn't come at all.
5. If you are a U.S. Citizen, and you have a child, don't open an RESP for them no matter how much your regular bank tells you it's a great deal. There are terrible tax implications that will hit either you or your child later. Plus you could be arrested or something for having a foreign trust. Rachel said something about this and I didn't quite believe it, but then the guy who did our taxes last year confirmed it.
5a. However, someone else who is not a U.S. citizen can open an RESP for your child, even if they're not related. Just saying. And if you were to quietly funnel them the money to do so, I wouldn't tell anyone.
6. And speaking of taxes: even if you have always prided yourself on doing them yourself, the first year you live in Canada might be a good time to pack it in and go to an accountant. After that, you can consider returning to your old self-sufficient ways.
7. Cream cheese costs $4.00 a package. You aren't reading the label wrong; it really does.
8. Be prepared for lots of Christmas. There is separation of Church and State in Canada, but it doesn't mean exactly the same thing that it does in the U.S.
9. Bring your own screws, or else just buy a new screwdriver. Seriously. The screw-heads are all different here and you won't be able to buy any new screws to fit your Phillips or flathead screwdriver.
10. If you are planning to apply for citizenship later, keep a record of all the time you spend outside Canada, including weekend trips down to the States; you'll need it for calculating your total residency. If you are like me, you will not think to do this for the first couple of years, and then you will wish that you had.
11. There are no public holidays (in BC, anyway) between New Year's and Easter. This makes for a long, dark, work-filled first few months of the year. It's a good time to plan for a short vacation. Or perhaps a short drunken spree.
12. When people ask you why you moved to Canada, don't say "For the health care" (even if it's true, or partly true).
12a. However, "It's just better here" is a perfectly acceptable response.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Murray, Who Invented Thumb-Twiddling

Yeah, hmm, I really shouldn't have written that post yesterday. It was just tempting fate.

But this afternoon I was pulled out of my doldrums by this interview. I grew up listening to the 2,000 Year Old Man, so reading this was like old home week for me. Plus, I just get a kick out of how much Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner obviously enjoy each other's company after 60 years of friendship. I hope I have such good friends when I'm in my 80's.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nothing to see here, Universe; just move along.

You know, I don't want to jinx I won't say it. I'll just say that we had an incredible summer, hot and sunny and full of leisure and song and water. And then we had a gorgeous, gorgeous October, without too much rain and with really truly glorious leaves all over the place.

And now it is true, the leaves are all falling, and the sun sets nearly at 4:00 exactly what I'm dreading, etc.

And RW was sick for a week, and that did kind of suck. (Though more for her than for me.)

But, well, if I said I was less knocked over than usual this year by Teh November Gloom, that would be just a great big engraved invitation to the universe to send me something truly rotten, wouldn't it? So I won't say that.

Instead, I will note that last week had several extremely crummy days in it. Remember that, Universe? Remember when I burned the corn muffins and messed something up at work? Huh?

Yep. Just keep that in mind, and we'll say no more.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Amazing Drawing

Right! So, then I folded some laundry, and then I went to work, and then I came back, and RW took MG to her piano lesson instead of me doing it so I could get something done from my list, and then I made dinner (roast vegetables, mmmm), and then things were better although really should I be this sleepy when I just slept 10 hours last night?

Well, tomorrow is a Day Off so we can Remember, and maybe in addition to remembering I will take a nap.

In the meantime, here is an amazing drawing from K. Beaton, who is the author/cartoonist behind Hark! A Vagrant. She was commissioned to create this huge picture of famous people in Canadian history. And I even know who a bunch--maybe a quarterof them--are! (There's a list underneath the picture if you want to match likenesses to names.) I am becoming more Canadian by the minute.

Okay, I only know about Louis Riel because kids keep coming to the library to ask for information on him for reports. Apparently he is a popular report topic. I'm not sure if he would've approved.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Towing, Bailing.

I blew it! I blew NaBloPoMo! Rats. I fell into (well, onto) bed right after MG's bedtime last night and that was that. I was exhausted from picking the car up at the towing place and from bailing the water out of the trampoline, which we had covered with a tarp against winter and which then proceeded to fill up with water until there was a big heavy pool in the middle and we were worried it would stretch the trampoline out of shape.

So. Tired. Blew it. Will try to post twice today.

P.S. it rained last night and there is again water in the trampoline.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Love and Work. And food.

Today someone called in sick at at Big City Library, Big Downtown Branch, so I went in and worked.

I helped kids find adventure books, mystery books, and books about Zimbabwe. I helped parents find counting books and books they could read aloud to their 5-year-olds that would not make them want to gouge their eyes out like the Rainbow Fairies (Here are a couple: Catwings; Pippi Longstocking). I more or less taught one mom all about early literacy and how to help her kindergartener get ready to read in a way that would be fun for both of them (Yes: reading together, rhyming, singing, finding books they both like, looking at signs and labels. No: memorizing vocabulary lists, formalized teaching of phonics) and she seemed to really get it and to be happy for the information. I showed a kid how to find information about prehistoric people on an online database, and how to e-mail the articles to himself to print out later, and his whole family gathered around the computer terminal to watch and encourage him.

I helped an older woman wearing a poppy find "The Story of Ferdinand" for her grandchildren. I tracked down a book about Remembrance Day at another branch for someone who wanted to read it in her class. I helped a parent find a DVD about how to talk to your kids about sex. I found a CD-ROM about dinosaurs that a kid remembered playing two or three years ago. I did not find the French Christmas books because they'd been moved, and the other librarian on duty didn't know where they were either, but the patron who was asking me eventually found them herself, and she showed me where they were. I retrieved many video game disks for kids who wanted to borrow video games. I told many, many people that the bathroom keys were right on the desk and they were welcome to use them. And right before we closed, as everyone was hurrying for the exits, I helped a woman find some books about origami and haiku.

I logged 86 questions in five hours. By the end of the afternoon I was a little twitchy. If someone-- like, say, one of my fellow librarians-- came into the corner of my field of vision, I would jump a little bit and reflexively say, "How can I help--" then laugh a little and say, "oh, hi." But it was fun. Well, mostly fun. I was doing the kind of reference I like most. It was fun to feel needed and knowledgeable and helpful.

Then I went out for an excellent dinner with friends and laughed and laughed. I'd started the day with good food and laughter too-- the Mermaid Girl woke up in fine form, wanting to cook popovers and fruit soup out of the book Pretend Soup, by Mollie Katzen, and it turned out to be a really scrumptious breakfast. The Renaissance Woman is still sick, but was well enough to sit up and eat and chat with us before I had to go to work.

I've had some tough days this week, but today was a really good day.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Surreality, 6 AM Edition

Hellooo! I am awake, o yes I am! I would be awake by now, anyway, but I was first wakened in darkness by the Mermaid Girl who came in and lay down and said, "I think my head hurts, and my stomach hurts."

"Um," I said. "Maybe that's because it's, uh, 3:30 in the morning, bunny."

"Oh!" she said. "Never mind! Okay! Go back to sleep!" And she went away and I did.

I next awoke in darkness to the sound of someone talking in the other room, and a strange vibrant clinking ringing sound, like a glass harmonica. Or maybe two glass harmonicas bumping into each other.

MG was sitting bolt upright in the middle of her room with the light blazing bright, listening to Shannon Hale's Princess Academy on CD. The weird glass harmonica sound was coming from her ceramic tea set, which she had laid out on the floor. It was 6:00 in the morning.

"Look!" she said, climbing into the laundry hamper. "Turn off the light!" I obeyed. Blurry stars shone down on me from the ceiling. (I wasn't wearing my glasses.)

"Oh, honey, that's gorgeous," I said.

"Mama gave them to me," she said. "It was from a really old sheet. She said they probably wouldn't even work any more, but they DO. And some silly putty."

"Uh...sweetie? Do you think maybe you should lie down and try to rest for a while?"

"I can't, I have to CLEAN MY ROOM," she said. "I TRIED to sleep. But I can't. So now I'm cleaning my room."

"Oh." I said. Who am I to tell a kid to stop cleaning her room? Though frankly, it looked if anything more cluttered than last time I'd been in there. "Um. Okay." Still kind of dazed, I slumped down to the floor and picked up one of the many Dear America books that her grandmother gave her a couple of years ago. "Um, maybe you could read for a little? Here, you could read this book about a factory worker."

"No, Mommy," she said kindly. "Um, Mommy? You don't have to stay." Which is what she says when she is feeling diplomatic and wants us to GET OUT.

"Oh. Uh, okay."


"Uh huh?"

"Could you turn the light out on your way out? I'll turn it back on when I need it."

"Um, okay." And I turned out the light and stumbled back to bed, leaving her in the laundry hamper looking up at the stars on her ceiling.

So I listened to a podcast and tried to tune out the Princess Academy filtering through the heating vent, but no go. And now it is light and time for us to get up for real and go to synagogue, where we will, respectively, attend and teach religious school. Then she will go straight from there to a gymnastics birthday party all the way across town.

Anyone want to take bets on the likelihood of:

a) us making it to shul on time,
b) MG's room being cleaned for real by her deadline tonight, and/or
c) One or both of us having a total and utter meltdown by sunset ?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Let's just pretend I wrote a real post today.

Well. I must admit to feeling completely uninspired today. It is the third of three pretty crappy days, and also the day on which we ascertained that the Renaissance Woman has H1N1, which is completely upending our plans for the next week. My cold appears to be better but now I have a cough. I wish I could think of something clever or funny to write--I had lots of ideas yesterday, but they seem to have fled right out of my head, which is why one should always keep a list of blog post ideas handy.

Anyway, maybe I can interest you in this post instead? It is pretty dang funny. And also its companion following post, this one.

Okay! Enjoy! See you tomorrow!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bah Humbug, Yet Again: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love "The Holly and the Ivy"

The annual "Bah, Humbug" post has become a holiday tradition here at the Booland, and far be it from me to mess with tradition. Tevye and I, we are ALL ABOUT teh tradition. (Here are all the old ones, if you'd like to bask in the past.)

What-- you say it's not even December yet? Tell that to all the local merchants. Because things are gearing up already.

Hence, forthwith, the FIFTH installment of our esteemed annual "Bah, Humbug" series. Said series aligning more or less-- no, wait, exactly!--with the number of years that the Mermaid Girl has been in public school in the Pacific Northwest/Western Canada/A Place Far From the Greater New York Metropolitan Area Where I Grew Up and Where School Staff Would Be Less Shocked At A Suggestion That They Teach The Flat-Earth Doctrine Than One That They Drag a Tree and Wreaths and Santa and Reindeer, Never Mind The Little Baby Jesus, Into the Public Schools In December. (At Least That's How I Remember It.)

Our story (this year) begins back in early October, when the Mermaid Girl's Special School Choir started its rehearsals. The official name of the Special School Choir is actually-- I finally learned last week when I saw the permission slip, which never made it home last year due to the mysterious paper-eating qualities of MG's backpack--"The Christmas Concert Choir."

I mean, I knew from MG's experience last year that that's what it actually is, but in my home country we don't say that. Even in Seattle they'd call it the "holiday choir" or some such.

MG was hot to be in the choir, and no way was I going to be the bad guy here. I asked her if she minded singing songs about baby Jesus, like she did last year. "No," she said, "As long as there aren't too many. And as long as I don't have to believe in him."

I asked her if she wanted me to talk to the choir teacher, as we'd talked about a little last year after the concert, and she did. What did she want me to say? She wasn't sure. Did she want me to ask if the choir could sing a couple of songs about Chanukah, or at least not about Jesus or Santa? Yes, that was what she wanted. And should I say that if they do a Chanukah song, she would rather it not be the Dreidel song? YES YES I HATE THE DREIDEL SONG MOM.

Okay! So, I went in to talk with the choir teacher. I'm always anxious about being an obnoxious demanding parent (having dealt with a few from the other side of the desk) so I practiced in the shower before I went, and even typed up talking points so that I could keep them in my pocket and refer to them if need be.

And it went...okay. I've learned from some of my previous experiences and finally understand that much as I am stunned at the Christmasmania in the public schools out here, the people running said public schools honestly don't see anything wrong with what they're doing and really aren't going to transform their December celebrations into a replica of those in public schools on the Upper West Side or Northern New Jersey just because I told them they should. "Park Slope wasn't built in a day" is my new mantra.

So I started by telling the choir teacher how much MG loves choir, which is true, and how excited she is to get to be in Special Choir, which is also true. Then I said, "Um...did you know that MG is Jewish?"

And, no, actually, the choir teacher hadn't known that!

So I talked a little about my surprise about the repertoire last year, and recounted much of my conversation with MG about it, and added my own observation that she actually seemed to be more affected by the Santa stuff than by little baby Jesus references, and the poignant (and true) detail that every year around Christmas she gets very upset and goes on and on to me about how she wishes she wasn't Jewish. And I do understand that Christmas is important to a lot of people at the school, but we are also a school and a community with a fair bit of cultural and religious diversity, did the choir teacher think she could maybe tone down the Santa and Jesus a bit? And maybe include a Chanukah song, or at least one that's not specifically about Christmas per se?

And the choir teacher was very nice and listened very well and wasn't defensive and then said, well, of course we have to do Christmas (which, why??? Everyone seems to think so, and I've finally learned not to argue, but I still don't truly understand why), and the choir does sing "Silent Night" and "Away in a Manger" every year because they perform at Downtown Hotel and the old people there really like to hear it, and the choir is optional and is called the Christmas Concert Choir just so there won't be any confusion, and she's had concerns before from Jehovah's Witness families.

BUT she could certainly look into including a Chanukah song, especially as she'd also had a question from another parent (the other Jewish family!) about the repertoire.

And lo and behold, afer several weeks of rehearsal MG is going around warbling about "LIGHT the candles, SPIN the dreidel," and complaining genially that most of the kids don't know how to pronounce "Nes Gadol Haya Sham." Warms the cockles of my heart, it does.

And even the Christmassy songs seem less... Christmassy this year. She's been singing Jingle Bell Rock, which isn't actually about Christmas at all if you think about it, and The Holly and the Ivy, which is so old that it's practically pagan and which actually, according to RW, references paganism.

AND the for the Big Annual Christmas Show this year, they are doing NOT some made-up Santa-extravaganza, but an adaptation of "A Christmas Carol," which at least is, hey, Dickens! And as far as I can remember has no Santa in it! (Though Scrooge does I think dress up as Father Christmas at the end.)

So: I am happy.

On the one hand: It seems like such a pathetic incremental amount of change to be happy about.

On the other: I am happy. Pretty much. And Park Slope was not, after all, built in a day.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Grumpy little post

Okay, first the bad news:
  • The slight sniffle and cough I had has metamporphosed overnight into a full-fledged and nasty cold.
  • Likewise, the slight lead for Yes on 1 in Maine last night has solidified into a loss for our side.
  • As one Facebook friend said this morning: "[My] humanity is not up for a vote, but thanks for your opinion, Maine."
  • I am running Book Club at work tonight, and so cannot call in sick.
  • The book we're discussing has lots of food in it, most of it totally impractical to serve at a book club meeting, so I will be making corn muffins this morning. Between coughing bouts. And trying not to infect the sweet old ladies who will be eating them.
  • There are Renovations happening at work, so the Book Club will be meeting not in our very own program room, but at the Community Centre across the way. On the second floor. Which means getting Circ to let me have a book cart (mostly requisitioned as part of the renovations) so I can cart all the Book Club stuff over.
  • RW and MG also have nasty coughs. We're just generally wrecks over here.
Now the good news:
  • Um...well, there's Washington State. I guess I should be happier about I-71 passing. Baby steps, right?
  • I guess I could skip making corn muffins and just buy them.
  • RW ordered me a new iPod last night.

Right! And you?

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Requiem for Something the Size of a Quarter

I regret to announce that after first going through the washer and dryer, and then cruelly raising my hopes two or three times in the past week by acting like it was working, my iPod Shuffle is now definitively dead.

I would just order another one exactly like it, except that I can't: it's a 2nd Generation one and they don't make them any more. I don't want a Nano because it's too big and doesn't have a clip, and I don't want a new Shuffle because all the controls are on the headphones, to which I object both philosophically and logistically. I can buy a refurbished one (for almost as much as the new one cost me a year and a half ago) but not in purple.

So farewell, little purple Shuffle: You held all my podcasts, and you never complained about being hooked up to a sub-standard 1.0 USB post to be recharged and reloaded. You fit snugly in my pocket (which turned out to be a liability, come to think of it). Thanks to you, I was able to stay connected with my old radio friends Ira Glass and Peter Sagal, and to make new ones, like Eleanor Wachtel and Terry O'Reilly. You helped me get to sleep on many a night, and you kept me company while doing household chores and on otherwise-boring bus trips. There may be other iPods in my life, but you were my first, and I will always remember you fondly.

(And not to be disrespectful to the dead or anything, but the big question now is: Pink or green? (Green, I think; less chance of the Mermaid Girl coveting it.)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Like rain on your wedding day. Halloween edition.

Guess what came in the mail today?

The Mermaid Girl's Halloween costume!

The one I ordered from eBay because unlike our local stores , but they had a flapper dress in the right size *and* the right color (this one, but not at the site I just linked to, which why didn't I buy it from them? Because I am apparently dreanged, that's why) but then couldn't pay for because my old PayPal account wouldn't work because now I have a Canadian mailing address, and the eBay vendor kept not answering my frantic e-mails in which I tried to pay with a credit card, and the eBay help chat people were incredibly unhelpful (they were nice! but not helpful), so after a week of this I created an entirely new PayPal account, which somehow required me to create an entirely new e-mail address, and then I ordered the exact same costume again from a different vendor supposedly in plenty of time for MG's Costume Day at school last Friday,

[pause for breath]

and it didn't come and it didn't come and finally on Thursday night the Renaissance Woman took her to the Halloween store in Metrotown which by then was, as you can imagine, a complete zoo and also didn't have any flapper dresses except slutty ones for grownups so they picked out an awesome (and expensive) pirate costume and RW loaned MG her pirate hat and also the plastic sword (which she didn't take to school) and MG declared that pirates must wear black lipstick and black eyeliner and was perfectly happy and actually very sweet about it. ("Don't worry, Mommy. You tried," she said.)

So when I told her what the package was today after school, she opened it up and put it right on and it fits perfectly and just looks overall fabulous. She did a few Charleston moves in it and all the fringes flew around just like they should.

"Maybe I should go around trick-or-treating again today and tell everyone my costume didn't come in time," she said. (She was kidding. Fortunately.)

We agreed that we'll feel much better about it if we think of it as a Purim costume that we ordered EXTRA EARLY. Because we are meticulously organized like that.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

NaBloWriMo #1: In Which I Bow to Peer Pressure

The three or four of you still reading may have noticed that I have not been much for the blog writing lately. This is not deliberate, and not a sign of crisis-- just, you know, life. My apologies.

In any case, I said I wasn't going to do (Inter)National Blog Writing Month this year. But now a bunch of people whose blogs I read are doing it, and...well, maybe I will too. It worked out pretty well last year. So I'll try it.

So, herewith a short anecdote saved up from this summer. As we've done for the past five years now, we got together with three other families and camped in yurts and the camper van on the Washington Coast. There were seven kids all together: the Mermaid Girl and three other 9-year-old girls, and the 6-year-old little siblings of the other three older girls. These kids have known each other all their lives, and even though we live (2 girls and 1 boy) in another city now, and the other three families all go to different public schools, they still have a special feeling for each other.

One day I was sitting around the firepit with the two 6-year-old girls, Jemma and Triss, and Jemma asked me "Why do you have a moustache?" (Actually, she asked, "Why do you have a...beard?" but I knew what she meant.)

I said that lots of women have hair that grows above their lip, not as much as men but enough to show, but that in our culture most people are uncomfortable about that so most women get the hair removed or bleached. And that I usually bleach it, but I just haven't for a while, so it's showing.

"Ohhhh," said Jemma.

Then I thought to add, "But even though it's really normal for women to have this hair, lots of women are embarrassed about it. So it's probably not a good idea to ask them about it. I don't mind, but you might not want to ask people about it who you don't know."

Jemma thought about this for a moment. Then she broke into a grin, turned to Triss, and said, "When we're grown up, we can talk about our moustaches with each other, okay?"

"Yeah!" Triss nodded, beaming. "But we'll keep it quiet!"