Saturday, December 20, 2014

What We're Reading: A Little Princess

Whenever I talk to my mom about how I read books to the kids, she is impressed by how much they enjoy being read to, and that they will stay still and listen for so long.  I guess I've taken it for granted that she read to me when I was little, and now I read to my own kids.  It's fun!  When I think about it I do realize that this quiet activity we share together really is a special thing, and it's not always easy to make it a priority.  As they get older and life gets more hectic, this may not happen as much.  But for now we do have the time and my kids still like my company (amazing!), so I'll just be grateful for as long as that lasts.  At bedtime, not every night but as long as we have a book and it's not too late, I sit on one of their beds and Annie plays with my hair while we all get lost in a good story.  Delaney always busies herself with something while she listens, and sometimes that something is another book.  But she always asks questions that reveal she's been hanging on every word.  Timmy plays with toys and sometimes makes a nuisance of himself, but he never wants to miss out on story time.
Right now the book is A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I read this book a long time ago myself.  My 5th grade teacher gave it to me for Christmas.  (I also read A Secret Garden by the same author -- that book was gifted to me by two different relatives in the same year.)  A few weeks ago I happened to see it on a shelf at the library and grab it.  We've been working our way through it off and on, and I've had to renew it once and probably will one more time.  We started off a little slow with it but as we get closer to the end it is harder to stop and I've been reading two or even three of the longwinded chapters at a time until my voice starts to go hoarse.

I had long forgotten how the rest of the story goes beyond the beginning: Little Sara Crewe's father takes her from India to the boarding school in London; she is fabulously wealthy and treated like a princess; then he dies after making a bad investment and leaves her penniless.  Now I get to enjoy the entire rest of the story along them as if it's the first time.  I can't wait to see the ending but I don't want it to be over!

Reading this again as an adult, here are some of my impressions:

The vocabulary is hard.  In the beginning there are several French words and phrases that I felt like an idiot trying to say, that had me wishing I could have spared maybe just one of the five years of Latin I took in junior high and high school, just to learn a little bit of French and how to pronounce things.

As far as the English goes, there are lots of very quaint-sounding descriptions, and words that I don't recognize.  We rely heavily on context to figure out what is what, for example a "brougham."  (It's a carriage.)  Many times Delaney asks me, "What's that?"  and I can only give her my best guess.  When I say "quaint" descriptions, a good example of that is the frequent use of the word "queer" to mean "strange", frequently used to describe Sara who is not like any of the other girls.

One of Sara's friends speaks Cockney English and it's not too hard for me to decipher since I'm reading it and not hearing it, but Delaney usually needs me to say it again in a way she can understand.  I want to see the movie so I can hear Becky talk.

This book might not have made much of an impression on me when I was Sara's age myself, but  I love this strong, courageous little heroine.  When her beloved father loses his fortune and dies, she is left alone and at the mercy of the horrible Miss Minchin.  Angry at being burdened by the child, she takes away every single thing she has and works her to the bone.  Of all the servants, she is the lowest, and endures abuses from all of them who enjoy tormenting the former "prize pupil" of the seminary.  She is sent out into the harsh London winter with holes in her shoes, and she is often made to go hungry.

If any one of these things happened to any ordinary person, it would be enough to drive them to despair and even madness.  But Sara, a keenly intelligent child with a vivid imagination, has always seen herself as a princess -- one who is noble, kind and generous.  And she is determined even more so to be a princess even in the worst of times.  The things that happen to her and the way she reacts to them have me almost in tears as I read.  Would that I could even have an ounce of her fortitude and selflessness in my character!

Right now we're watching Elf until it ends at 8, and we'll read one more chapter afterward -- just one.

Since we're having a quiet Christmas here in SC, and two weeks of no school, I foresee us finishing this book in the next couple of nights and looking for something else to read.  I'm thinking maybe The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe would be a good one for winter.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Grandma and Grandpa visit and first ballet recital

We just had a lovely visit with Tim's parents.  They came down here on Thursday and left the following Monday (yesterday).  Since this was also a big ballet weekend, I fretted that their visit would be dominated by that.  Their dance class is Thursday afternoon, and then they had their big holiday performance on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.  So it was pretty much dominated by that, but it worked out anyway.

Visits from family are the highlights of our year.  We talk about them for weeks and months beforehand, and then it's a tough adjustment when it's time to say goodbye.  This time it was a double whammy with Tim leaving for a few days for work as well, and all of them leaving for the airport together right after I took the girls to school.  The girls did not handle this so well, and it has been challenging times around here to say the least.  But I think we're over the worst of it and tomorrow's going to be a better day.  Timmy is absolutely fine, and he's been unfailingly chipper throughout our tense moments, trying to make funny remarks so we'll all laugh.  I love his sunny personality.

But back to the visit..

Timmy and I picked them up at the Savannah airport Thursday afternoon.  They flew direct from Boston and were looking forward to a break from the cold.  For at least the first couple days SC didn't disappoint.  It was sunny and in the 70s for Thursday, Friday, and maybe Saturday, but it got pretty chilly and windy on Sunday and Monday.  We went home and had a quick cup of coffee before it was time to pick up the girls and take them to ballet.  Carolyn and I went to get the girls and left Sr, Jr and III at home for naptime.  It was such luxury for me not having Timmy with me, and having adult conversation while I went through the whole Thursday routine of picking up, dropping off, all the waiting that happens in between, and then this time a trip to Walmart for a few things.  She is great company.

And the best part was when we got the girls from dance class, brought them home, and dinner was READY.  This is definitely not the norm on Thursdays.  The kids and I usually come home ravenous at about 6:15, Tim may or may not be still at work, and we eat a crockpot dinner that still requires some preparation before it can be eaten.  So to have the table set, dinner ready, and all of us together..  that to me made it a festive occasion.  We feasted on rigatoni with meatballs and sausage, garlic bread, and the most delicious salad with house Italian dressing.  My husband is an awesome cook.

We have some lucky kids because Grandma and Grandpa brought some presents for now and some for Christmas morning.  Everyone got a new outfit and toy, and we discovered the joys of Lego Friends.  Delaney and Annie loved their little sets which they put together, took apart and put together over and over.
The girls went to bed happy because I told them I would not be sending them to school in the morning.  What it was, was I was told I would have to have them at the high school on Friday afternoon, dressed, hair and makeup done, at 5 p.m. (and by the way, their hair was to be "half up/half down and curly" instead of the bun I had been prepared for all these months, good lawd)  I don't even get them home from school until a few minutes before 4.  And the school is 20 minutes away.  So I would need to be a magician in order to get all of that accomplished in 40 minutes.  I thought about having them stay for half the day, but if you remember their school has two campuses several blocks away from each other, so that would be two separate checkout procedures.  Also, it would mean another 25-minute trip to school just three hours after I'd dropped them off in the morning.  Too much hassle.  Besides, having Friday off would mean that much more time to spend with their grandparents.  So it was decided.

Friday morning I slept in until an absurd hour, I think almost 9:00.  So I don't even know what happened until then.  But when I woke up I was upset because I had a couple errands I needed to run, and now I would have no breakfast and I would have to take my coffee to go.  I had to drop off a dessert at the K-1 building for the teachers' appreciation luncheon (thank goodness I'd picked it up at Walmart the night before instead of thinking I'd get up early to bake it!) and go to the house of someone from playgroup to shop her little boy's hand-me-downs for Timmy.  I got some nice stuff!  Here's a picture Tim Sr took of Delaney and Grandma reading while I was gone.
Once I got home I gradually began the process of getting the girls ready for their big night.  First I gave them a bath and after letting their hair dry for a little while, I put in rag curlers.  I'd had a lot of success with this method before but as I would find out later, it works best when the rags can stay in overnight OR when the hair is a lot more dry to begin with. But then that makes it harder to wind up in the rags, so overnight is best, which unfortunately wouldn't work with our schedule.  The rags are actually just the product of one of Tim's old t-shirts and a YouTube video.  I like how Little House on the Prairie it is.  
They hung out for a few hours with the curlers in.  I packed what I called their "backstage lockdown survival kits" full of snacks, paper and pencils, a book, and whatever else they wanted to throw in.  I had been told that once the girls are checked in, they are to stay back in the dressing rooms for the entire duration of the show, and there would be a security guard at the door to make sure only room moms and runners with photo ID badges would be allowed in.  And also, in the event of an emergency, if we needed to get them out we would first have to obtain a letter from the director and show it to the security guard.  

At about an hour before it was time to go, I did their makeup.  I'd been instructed to use pink blush, pink lipstick and a little mascara, "nothing crazy."  To me, putting makeup on little girls is always crazy.  But then I was never a ballet dancer myself, save for a few weeks when I was four that ended badly; and I don't know what kind of ballet mom I'll be.  On this weekend, I was a grumpy one.  This is a lot of work, and the girls were not always happy and willing to let me do it.
When I took the curlers out I was dismayed to see that their hair hadn't dried enough, and it would only be in waves, not curls. Oh no!  I got the bright idea to get out my curling iron, which hadn't seen the light of day in who knows how long, and had a 1.5 inch barrel anyway, because I was in a panic.  Timmy walked in the bathroom and said, "What's this?" grabbing the barrel without hesitation.  Luckily it had not been on for long enough to get too hot, but still it hurt the poor guy and he cried for a while.  So stressful.

Finally, once the girls were dressed and done up as well as I could manage, we took a few pictures before they had to leave.  
After this little photo session was over, Tim and his dad took them to the show, and the rest of us stayed home.  Tim took some good pictures, or as good as it gets with a point-and-shoot and no flash.  They danced to "Silent Night" and it was really sweet.  Out of a two-hour long show, including 20-minute intermission, their part lasted just two-and-a-half minutes.
They got home around 9 and the kids got to have a treat of Dunkin Donuts blueberry muffins before going to bed.

Saturday morning I again slept in until almost as ungodly an hour as the day before.  By now you're thinking 'must be nice,' and I know, I know!  But just a few days before that I had a horrendous night with Timmy who had a fever which gave him bad dreams.  I was up again and again through the wee hours of the morning, and practically delirious by the time I needed to start the day.  And Tim was not home to help me.  I suffer sometimes too, you see!  When I woke up I hurriedly wet the girls' hair and put the rag curlers in again.  Tim and his dad went with the kids to the farmer's market where they got to see Santa.  They came home with kettlecorn and raw honey.  I think the kettlecorn was from Grandpa; we don't get things like that when we go ourselves.
Before long it was time to start the process all over again.  By now Annie was just plain sick of it.  She had already decided weeks before that she didn't want to do ballet anymore, and I told her that she could quit after December because I'd already paid the rental fee for her costume so she was committed to doing this show.  Day 2 of all this did not make her happy.  She said the big room where they all had to stay was "boring".  I believed her and I sympathized, but she still had to go.  You wouldn't know from this picture Grandpa took, but she was mostly in a really bad mood that afternoon.  I really like this picture.  It's a nice keepsake from her short-lived ballet career.  
It was Carolyn's and my turn to see the show so we left around 1:30.  The girls needed to be there at 2 and the show started at 3.  I let them know before we got there that I was hoping to get a couple good pictures of them with their grandma and with me.  Delaney complied but Annie wanted to be a little stinker instead.
After the show, we met the three Tims downtown for dinner at a place I was excited to try because it had gotten great reviews (and because we hardly ever go out to eat).  The food was disappointingly mediocre for everybody.  Tim makes fish tacos that blow theirs out of the water, but I cleaned my plate anyway because I was starving.  When we were done we caught the very end of the Beaufort Boat Parade, and this is something I would love to see all the way through next year.  All the boats done up for Christmas.
Then we went home, got the kids in their pajamas and watched It's a Wonderful Life before falling into bed exhausted.  I love that movie.  I get tears in my eyes every time at the end when I see those people stream in the door with money and tell George Bailey how much he means to them.  

For Sunday we had nothing on the agenda besides Mass at 9:30 and CCD afterwards for Delaney and Annie.  I intentionally left the rest of that day open since it was Tim and Carolyn's last full day here, and I wanted it to be open for whatever anyone felt like doing.
Ready for church and sporting their new vests from Grandma.  Timmy's also wearing his tartan plaid cap (one of the things I got on Friday) because why not?  He's very dapper, isn't he?
We spent the rest of the day after getting back just hanging around the house.  The kids watched Frozen with Grandma and ate lots of kettlecorn.  Tim made hamburgers, hotdogs and drumsticks on the grill for dinner.  Later, we turned on the Patriots game and one by one dropped off to bed as it got later.

And then the next morning it was time for them all to leave.  No visit could ever be long enough but we are so glad when they come and see us.  They'll be back in May for Delaney's 1st Communion and that will be in just a few short months.