Last Thursday Caroline greeted my enthusiasm for the toilet with a near-bovine lack of comprehension. I despaired and wondered how bad pool furniture and roofing plastic would look in the living room, really. Friday morning she put up a struggle against being dressed that would have made Henryk Dobrzanski proud so I said fine, no diaper but you have to wear underwear if you want to eat.
[Pink Underpants Required - a nod to formality that falls below Black Tie but still higher than the afternoon wedding]
She agreed and after a leisurely forty-five minute meal (Caroline gets almost all of her calories at breakfast and Edward will only stop eating when you stop putting food in front of him so mornings take forever) she surreptitiously checked her panties and announced, "I am very dry."
Great, I said, now go pee on the potty. So she walked over, took off her underwear, sat down and peed a little. Then a few minutes later she said that she needed to pee some more and I said terrific and she did and that was it for Caroline and potty training. She's pretty much done. I mean, she's not so reliable that I'd ask you to hold her while you were engaged in restoration work on the Declaration of Independence and I still duct tape her into her diaper for naps and nighttime (Little Keeper Sleepers en route - shall advise as to their efficacy and thanks for the tip) but... she's good. Yesterday she decided she prefers the big toilet and although she needs help climbing up even with a stool she's, what, 87% percent human now? The couch and I couldn't be happier and I would be delighted to describe my easy seven step process for taking your toddler from blank incomprehension to housebroken in less than a day (perhaps in ebook form, for a modest fee) but I am as mystified as I ever was. One night Caroline had no idea what I was talking about or where or why and the next she was using the bathroom like a college sophomore.
Edward, meanwhile, is so disinterested in the whole thing that I found him sitting on the couch behind Caroline while she used the little potty and he was resting his feet on her head. True story.
And although he politely clapped with the rest of us as we celebrated Caroline's early successes he turned to me at the same time and said, firmly, "No go potty."
I said, "No one is asking you use the potty, Edward."
He repeated, "No. No go the potty."
Twins are (or should be) the most humbling of experiences because any time you feel like attributing your child's exemplary behavior to excellent parenting Exhibit B comes along (similar nature, identical nurture) and pees, both literally and figuratively, on your foot.
I get your problem with AR tests now, I get it I get it!
I sat next to Patrick in the school library on Monday (I was there to resolve a missing book issue - don't get me started or I'll get annoyed all over again*) while he took a test on The Westing Game and I watched as he struggled to multiply choose an answer so specific that the correct one hinged upon a single sentence in the book; a fact I know because I have personally read The Westing Game about a million times.
And I was like ohhhhhh this SUCKS because you can read the book and enjoy the book and understand the textured nuances of the book and mix up amber grains with purple waves and not get enough points and then they don't let you ever take a test again which sucks even harder.
For the record Patrick did get the question right (thus meeting his AR goals and securing his attendance at the last party) but if you were to ask me why I was coughing and grimacing as he hesitated between C and B I will only say that I must've swallowed a gnat or something.
B for Boom!
So cross me off the list of people who indulgently said, oh well, don't all mandatory reading programs leave something to be desired and add me to the list of people who think AR test should have a brick tied to them before they are dropped down a well. Besides, Patrick's school doesn't own any of the Septimus Heap tests and they have tests for books one two and five of the Prydain Chronicles but not two and three, which... what? What price Llyr?
* Well, ok, I guess you went and got me started just by sitting there.
Back in March Patrick was not allowed to check books out of the school library because the librarian said that he had two books out already and they were both overdue. The books? Rescuers Down Under and a Hannah Montana something or other.
Patrick said that he hadn't checked them out and she showed him the computer screen which indicated that he had and told him to go check his backpack and locker and desk et cetera. He said ok and never mentioned it to anyone because he is a bit of a dummy dope.
Weeks went by and every Monday his class went to the library and Patrick did not check anything out because he was worried about the books. Finally he decided to try his luck with a Calvin & Hobbes and again she told him those other books were out and now they were really late and he needed to find them. So again he told her that he didn't check the books out and again she told him that he did. Then she mentioned it to his teacher. His teacher asked him about it and Patrick said he hadn't taken the books and when I went to pick him up that day the teacher asked me about it and I said I hadn't seen any library books at home or in his backpack for a while and when he told me what the missing books were I said "Patrick didn't check those out" and Patrick said, "That's what I keep telling them."
For reference, my certainty that this was a mistake stemmed not from my belief that my little genius is above a Hannah Montana novella; it came from my certainty that he is below one. Patrick views the library (school and public) as a vast resource for pleasure and therefore he sticks to what he knows and likes. In the six months Patrick has been at this school he has only taken out comic books: Garfield or Calvin & Hobbes. There was just no way he would have deliberately checked out anything else, especially not Hannah Montana who does not exist at all on his radar screen because he... doesn't watch TV (Caroline does. in fact Caroline will sometimes throw her arms wide and press her face against the dark screen and say, "Awwww, I love you, TV" and do you know what Edward says more than anything apart from "more please?" he says the Little Einsteins line, "Oh no! Baby piccolodactyl is trapped at the volcano!" and he says it REALLY well. it's not that we are anti-television. just Patrick. non-animated, non-science TV kinda baffles him. but anyway)
I don't even remember what the subject was but I have never forgotten the teacherly wisdom left in the comments here which was along the lines of "I promise to believe only half of what they say happens at home if you promise to believe only half of what they say happens at school."
So I wasn't, like, pissed or anything by Patrick's account of the book incident; I assumed it was a mistake and one we could easily clear up. I figured a five second conversation with Patrick and me and the librarian would clarify the whole thing.
I kept poking my head into the library with Patrick before and after school and finally got a time when the librarian was there and we stood behind a couple of kindergartners who were checking books out. I noted that one of them instantly said, "I returned that!" the second the librarian mentioned that he already had a book out and I sympathized with the fact that she must hear that ALL THE TIME. I also noted that their system involves pulling up an entire class list and then clicking on the individual student's name before scanning the barcode on the book. Certainly not a human-error-proof system.
I smiled when she asked what I wanted and dragged Patrick out from behind my back and said that we were hoping she could help us clear up a book mystery. I explained that there were two books checked out to him and missing but he had not taken them out and thus we really could not do anything about returning them.
And then she pulled up his name and pointed to the books on the screen and said, "There they are. Those are the books he's lost."
And Patrick said, "I've never heard of those books and I really did not take them out."
And she said, "See the screen? Whose name is that?"
And my smile sort of flickered and I said, "He's quite sure he didn't check out Hannah Montana or the Rescuers - in fact he has never checked out anything but Garfield here - so there must be some mistake."
And then she said... OOOH... she said, all nasty, "Well that's his story now."
So I punched her in the nose.
Actually I did my favorite difficult customer service thing where I just repeated "He did not check those books out. There must be some mistake. Could you remove them from his record please?" while she accused poor Patrick of theft and lying and he writhed with embarrassment. Finally she said, "FINE! I'll just mark the books as Lost Forever!" and I said, "Great. Thank you."
It is not that Patrick isn't as capable as the next kid of lying; he's just not very good at it and it just didn't make any sense and even if it did - which it didn't - she didn't have to be such a tool about it.
So the librarian hates me but I'm not a big fan of her either. To be fair I am not sure how a woman who hears some iteration of "I don't have that book" five hundred million times a day is supposed to sort out the kid who really actually does not have that book but it completely flattened Patrick to be so repeatedly and patently disbelieved and I got frustrated within a minute of it myself.
Books - lawfully acquired and properly acknowledged, books.
Patrick and I are listening to The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke because the library had a copy, I wanted to save a major series for the trip and I had a vague recollection that someone had said something about a Cornelia Funke book and I thought it might have been The Thief Lord (it wasn't - it was Ink Heart.) We are about four-fifths of the way through and I am still not sure I like it. Talk about a plot that takes forever to come to a boil, my lord. Also, I always wonder about translations. Back when I took French literature I occasionally found it expeditious to read whatever it was in English and then work back from there. This was about as effective and sly as you might expect, like when I was trying to make a brilliant observation about the first of Flaubert's Trois Contes but I floundered around for the French word for parrot (it's perroquet - my professor failed to believe that it had simply slipped my mind and urged me to consider reading en francais unless I wanted to have my ass echoue'd back to the misery of straight grammar classes.)
Have you really read War and Peace if you don't read it in Russian (don't look at me - I made it through most of the great Russian novels by skipping the less interesting plot threads, like the entire War.) Don't the words matter as much as the story? On a similar note I have always wanted to get a copy of the British edition of Harry Potter because I suspect that a few of the awkward parts might be Americanizations. Are translations ever any good? Discuss.
So The Thief Lord was written in German - a language whose breadth I was just admiring in the last post - and somehow in English the text feels a little squashed and more than a little antiquated. I was surprised when someone mentions cell phones after a few chapters because based on the language alone I had been thinking the story was set in a pre-modern time. So a little slow and a little repetitive and a little clunky but it's possible that it will all come together in the end and I'll say ohhhhhh I get it now. That happens.
I have narrowed our recorded books down to either Percy Jackson or Artemis Fowl but having read neither I cannot decide which is more likely to keep us (specifically Patrick who as recently as last night was pleading with me to end this lunacy of a planned cross-country car trip and buy some damned airline tickets - he even offered to pay for his own fare; then reconsidered and offered to reimburse me for one way. I declined) riveted. We will eventually listen to them both but if you could only be trapped in a car with the people you love and one series which would it be: Percy or Artemis?
And as long as we are feeling all bookish, any thoughts I what I should read next? I did read (and like) the Flavia de Luce mysteries you recommended. I wasn't sure I was going to because I did not find Flavia particularly likable but she grew on me in time. Once we get to Vermont we have a week's worth of hot and cold running babysitter and my plan is to sit and read while the finks do *hand wave* whatever. I am toying with the idea of trying Dorothy Dunnett's House of Niccolo again but I am not entirely enthusiastic about it. I loved (loved) her Lymond Series but I fully acknowledge that it was a slog to get into and by a slog I don't mean you had to grit your teeth through a couple of chapters. It was more like the first two entire books.
So summer reading? Nothing too depressing. I am sitting here looking at my bookshelves for recommendations for you and I guess if I had two series I wish I could read all over again for the first time it would be the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian and the Lucia and Mapp books by E F Benson.
Six seconds of Caroline
Sixty minutes of Edward
PS An ad! There is an ad on the sidebar (among all the Dominos - good ol' Dominos) for a company called Golden Branch. The woman who did the site is a reader and this is her job and I was so touched that she bought an ad that I wanted to point it out to you. It is a very pretty site and they sell lovely things and isn't it always nicer to buy flowers from actual people, even online?