Saturday, October 17, 2015

no naps, send help

This week, one of Perdita's daycare teachers said to me, "I was so happy when [her daughter] stopped taking naps, because it gave me so much more flexibility!"

So... that's bizarre, right? It's not just me? When Perdita goes down for naps on the weekends - if she goes down for naps, these days - I think, Okay, likely between one and two (if I'm very lucky) hours to clean, eat, exercise, and blog, and of course those things cannot all be done even if I'm not so unfortunate as to have her wake after thirty-five minutes. Which she did today. It's even worse during the week, when I have to get up at four and be up until ten if I'm to get all of those things plus showering and lunch-packing done. Guess why there hasn't been a blog in a while? 

Geez, whine whine whine. I'm just saying that any scenario in which having a toddler around gives you more flexibility (unless we're measuring in "substances likely to end up on your walls") is not one I comprehend. Anyway!

In exciting domestic news, we now have a dishwasher, but I am really ambivalent about it because a) I genuinely believe that labor-saving devices endanger my immortal soul and b) only when you do not have to essentially wash the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher will I be sold on this as a labor-saving device in the first place. I mean, it's just a second wash, right? Or a way to have a larger draining rack than your sink allows? If I'm going to risk hellfire, I want to be able to plop a food-encrusted bowl directly from the table into this machine, damn it. I am sure Cotton Mather would feel the same way.

We managed to get up to the Vermont farmhouse for the holiday weekend, and it was glorious - warmer than last year, so that we were able to spend more time outside and less in the stove-heated kitchen. Perdita did wake up in the middle of the night and was brought into our bed for cuddles, which is how I found out that you really do see stars when someone punches you in the eye. Especially if that person has perfectly eye-socket-sized fists.

But we had a lovely time and life at home is nice too. And I have been managing to read - if I'm honest, "read" should replace "clean" in the second paragraph, because while I think about cleaning during her naps, let's face it, I have my priorities.


Behind a Mask, by Louisa May Alcott. Alcott wrote sentimental stuff like Little Women for commercial profit; apparently what she really wanted to write were thrillers. I, um, can see why the sentimental stuff sold better. Wilkie Collins she was not.

And Only to Deceive, by Tasha Alexander. Sort-of-mystery, sort-of-society-novel about a rich beautiful young widow in the 1890s. Our heroine is appallingly perfect and desired, and while her friends are interesting as characters, I was Mary Sued out a third of the way through. Finished it through stubbornness, and then made the mistake of reading the afterword where Alexander pulls the "book that had to be written" deal and says that she had a toddler who had just stopped napping but she wrote the first draft of this book in two months, grabbing fifteen minutes here and there, because she knew her whole life that she would be a writer and that's what writers do. "Yeah, writers who don't have a toddler and a full-time job, SO SHUT UP YOU POOPHEAD," I responded maturely.

Sidebar: like I would get a word written if I were a stay-at-home mother. The one piece of slack I cut myself when I was pregnant was to not decide that I needed to write a novel during my maternity leave. I considered that expectation, because of course if I'm getting eleven weeks away from my job ("getting" in the sense of "using painstakingly-accrued-over-the-course-of-eight-years earned time"), then I should totally be able to write a novel. Pregnant, I believe I considered this idea for about twenty seconds, before realizing that if I managed to keep the newborn safe and myself relatively clean for eleven weeks, I would be a warrior fucking princess, and I stand by that statement. Being a stay-at-home parent does not result in copious free time. (Alexander, of course, wasn't saying that it does, but that she is so awesome that she found the time to write anyway.)

Second sidebar / discussion question: what would happen if I spent two months using any of my usual snatched reading time to write instead? I mean, other than my soul shriveling and dying, of course. Sigh. That's the problem - I want the time to do both. The thought of two months without books is horrifying.  

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League, by Jeff Hobbs. Peace was an African-American whose father went to prison for murder and whose mother worked unbelievable hours and jobs to get him into private schools. His brilliance was such that an alumnus of his high school paid for him to go to Yale, where the author was his roommate. After graduation, Peace was directionless and eventually ended up going back to selling drugs, and was killed in a turf dispute. This book is very intense and well done, if a little too long. It's a fantastic indictment of race/class privilege in America as well: I was directionless after college, as some of my classmates were, but the chances that any of us - white and with parental safety nets - would end up in Peace's situation were roughly zero. The irony is that he was much more self-reliant and grown-up than we were, but the odds were stacked so high against him from the beginning that his death seems like the only way the story could have gone.

Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance, by Carla Kaplan. Very well-written and interesting book about six white women who bankrolled, supported, and otherwise involved themselves in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. I knew virtually nothing about any of them, and really enjoyed Kaplan's clear and informative voice.

Pilgrim's Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier, by Tom Kizzia. Yikes. In the early 2000s, a guy calling himself Papa Pilgrim and his sixteen-strong family arrived in remote Alaska (having fled remote New Mexico) and started basically squatting on National Park Service land. The resulting legal war divided the nearest town and eventually ended when the oldest daughter accused her father of decades of physical and sexual abuse. Kizzia is a good and clear writer, though he jumps around chronologically a bit and doesn't even pretend to be unbiased (that's not entirely a criticism - Papa Pilgrim [Bob Hale] was a monster, and the descriptions of child physical abuse and rape are incredibly detailed and sickening). It's a good book, but troubling as hell, and I would definitely stay away if the aforementioned descriptions might be too much.

The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny. Mmm, back-to-back Inspector Gamache books. Cozy for autumn!

Drinker of Blood, by Lynda S. Robinson. Mystery set in ancient Egypt. I couldn't get invested in the characters and am not going to continue with the series.

May you all have bright cold autumn nights and comfortable weekend-afternoon priorities.


  1. Thank you; you just advised me on some Christmas shopping! It's so handy to read a review and know instantly who would love that book (Miss Anne).

  2. ARE writing. You are writing this blog. Okay, so it's not a novel, but still, you are my favorite warrior fucking princess.