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Archive for July, 2010

Expecting revelation

“Creative scientists and saints expect revelation and do not fear it.

Neither do children.

But as we grow up and we are hurt, we learned not to trust.”

–Madeleine L’Engle

Prayer: May I always be willing to trust, to expect revelation in every day and relationship, and to not cringe away from the possible in fear.

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How I Nanny

(Photo taken by me, of a little boy I took care of two years ago. He’s let go of a balloon, and is just realizing it’s now unreachable.)

I am nannying for two of my Sunday school charges, every day, for a major portion of the summer, from 9:30 AM to around 5 PM or later, with an odd overnight or extra evening babysit thrown in.

Here are the activities we do: Greek, Mathematics, Spelling, the Big Visit, Scouting the Neighborhood, Music, and “working on the atlas.”  I’m taking fiddling lessons this summer, and the kids study piano, viola, and trombone, so we often work on music lessons together.  “The Big Visit” means a trip somewhere, mostly to museums or places I already know and love.  “Scouting the Neighborhood” is because we’re going to make a to-scale model of the city block they live on, a al a huge model of all five boroughs at the Queens Museum. We have a lot of sketching, photo-taking, and scale work to do.  The Atlas is a giant (biggest artist’s pad of paper we could find) collage/history/atlas of everything we’re doing this summer.  Plus.  The little girl is also adding castles for all of her favorite Greek gods, and the boy is making actual maps of Europe, and then re-envisioning them for the future.  We also watch movies, mostly of film adaptations I will teach next year.  The poor little 8-year-old girl spent the entire last scenes of Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet murmuring, nearly inaudibly, “Wake up, Juliet, wake up Juliet!”  Poor thing.

And, we go to the library frequently. The ride to their house is a little more than an hour on the subway; if I finish my book either on the commute or during the day, and I need a new books, they’re happy to accompany me.  Here is the list of checked-out books from our last visit.  Mine, the girl’s, and the boy’s (ten years old) all together:

Nerve Damage, Peter Abrahams

The Household Guide to Dying, Debra Adelaide

The Privileges, Jonathan Dee

Return of the Crimson Guard: a Novel of the Malazan Empire, Ian C. Esslemont

Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger

Mia the Bridesmaid Fairy, Daisy Meadows (can this be her real name??)

Bone in the Throat, Anthony Bourdain

All Saints, Liam Callanan

Candlelight for Rebecca, Jacqueline Dembar Greene

Rebecca and Ana, Jacqueline Dembar Greene

Danger! Wizard at Work, Kate McMullan

97 Ways to Train a Dragon, Kate McMullan

Help! It’s Parents Day at DSA, Kate McMullan

Countdown to the Year 1000, Kate McMullan

Ali Baba Bernstein, Lost and Found, Johanna Hurwitz

Kristy’s Great Idea, Ann M. Martin

The Hot and Cold Summer, Johanna Hurwitz

Worlds of Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, v. 4 Warpath

Mere Mortals, David Mack

Gods of Night, David Mack

Over a Torrent Sea, Christopher L. Bennett

Star Trek: The Last Roundup, Christie Golden

The Summer We Read Gatsby, Danielle Ganek

Think of a Number, John Verdon

Model Home, Eric Puchner

The November Criminals, Sam Munson
I think it’s pretty evident which ones are mine. Of this latest batch, I’ve finished The November Criminals, The Household Guide to Dying, The Privileges, Bone in the Throat, and Her Fearful Symmetry.

I started The Summer We Read Gatsby, but didn’t finish it because it wasn’t good at all.  Obviously I got sucked in by the title, and could have survived on the glib Fitzgerald references alone, but that’s how bad the plot and characters were– I had to stop anyway.

I love watching Anthony Bourdain on television, and liked his other book about the restaurant business very much, so got Bone in the Throat— it’s kind of a regular kind of NYC murder, with the mob, and restaurants. It was okay–the highlights are when the sous chef character is cooking or prepping meals, and we get to see that from his perspective. There was enough descriptions of food, cooking, and the restaurant world to keep it good.

I loved Her Fearful Symmetry. It’s apparently the same writer who did that Time Traveler’s Wife book, which I never picked up because I find the idea creepy, and because I would never wait around for some man popping in and out of my world through time.  But Symmetry was a ghost story, and about twins, and Victorian graveyards, and had lots of descriptions of wonderful books and clothes and furniture. It was also genuinely scary.

The November Criminals I think I saw recommended in the special Books section that comes with the Saturday NYTimes. It had great parts– enough to keep me reading, and re-reading the best parts, but the young (trying to channel Holden Caulfield) narrator said “like” and the f-word way too much. I get it, kids say “like” a lot. It’s tiresome to read that much, though.  If you like coming of age stories, but ones that definitely aren’t sweet, this is pretty good.

I read The Privileges very quickly. Young, charmed couple marries, has family, grows old and rich, complications ensue. I liked it. I was surprised by the characters, and the things they did wrong, and the things they did right. I expected it to be one kind of book, but it was nicer and more human than I expected.

The Household Guide to Dying was very sad. I was quite tear-y and a bit melancholy at the end of it. Of course, because the narrator is dying throughout the book. It’s charming, though, and has a bit of a mystery, and the relationship between the narrator and her husband, and her daughters, and her friends is very good, and realistic, and inspiring. I don’t know who I’d recommend the book to, because it is sad, and is about dying, but it’s good.

I just started The Saints this afternoon.

Looking at the checked-out list, I note that I recommended the first in the Babysitter’s Club series to my young charge.  That makes me smile. My best friend Janet had all of them (Janet, did you have all of them?) when we were young, and I used to borrow them. For example, over Christmas break, I would borrow several at once, because I went through them so quickly. Our library, where I went every Saturday, didn’t have those kind of books yet, so most of the books I read were old-fashioned, like The Secret Garden, and Nancy Drew, and lots of biographies and anthologies of “American” short stories and poetry. The Brontes, The Red Badge of Courage, heavy gilt-edged books of Dickens.

Finally, in other reading news, I took one of my teaching certification tests today, for English Language Arts. You know, you read selected passages, and answer questions. Happily, my selected passages included “Song of Myself,” a poem by Anna Akhmatova, a selection from Maud Martha, and a long selection from An Accidental Tourist, which I had recently re-read.  It’s so much fun to see things you love, even in a standardized test, in a room of five hundred test takers.

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