Monday, October 26, 2009

The Wild Things

I haven't seen the movie. And I'm not sure I want to. Here's why:

"Where the Wild Things Are" is one of those special, sentimental books tied closely to my childhood. It was one of the picture books my Dad read to me regularly - along with "Goodnight Moon" and "The Winter Bear." I have such fond, delicious memories of snuggling under the covers and hearing my Dad's voice resonate in my lamp-lit room.

The reason I might choose to not see the movie is because I'm not sure I want my memory, or my concept of the book, to change. I don't want the images of the movie to eclipse the image of my Dad in a rocking chair at my bedside. I don't want the illustrations - stark in color, but so alive - to be replaced by the movie's images.

I guess it's like any book-turned-movie. I can no longer remember how I originally pictured Harry Potter when I read the first two books. I can't remember how my imagined Legolas spoke or how my imagined Frodo walked. And it is impossible for me to picture anyone but Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. My original "book" images have been erased and replaced completely by the movie depictions. And the truth is, I traded those images without a struggle and really without a second thought.

So what's so different about "Where the Wild Things Are"?

A good friend emailed me a link to this article this morning which got me thinking. The article touches on some amazing themes of the book/movie. Some of the themes I had recognized (especially as I read the book to my own children) like loneliness and unconditional love. Others I had missed. Does the exploration and development of these themes make me want to watch the movie? Not really.

What worries me is that somehow the movie will taint my pure reading of the book. I don't want images of the boy screaming at his mom and the mom screaming back to confuse and complicate a message that, at its heart, is simple and powerfully moving on its own.

Perhaps it simply comes down to that I'm not ready to trade in my personal "Where the Wild Things Are" childhood experience just yet. Perhaps I want to hold on to those wild rumpus pictures and let my imagination fill in the blanks. Perhaps the illustration of the still-hot bowl of soup, and all it stands for, is enough for me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Truth About Marriage

Or maybe it should be titled The Truth About MY Marriage...because I can really only speak for myself based on my own experiences. However, from many conversations with many female friends, I suspect that my experience is not isolated.

This weekend we celebrated our 15th Wedding Anniversary. Over a decadent dinner at The Bavarian Inn we reminisced about the past--our first rocky year (when I threw gigantic tantrums over doing laundry), our graduate school years of poverty and great friends (free dates to Borders Book Store and walking half a mile to meet for lunch in DC), our highs and lows of learning to be parents (still learning!), the joy of children, and tumultuous moves (driving across the country with a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and twin infants), and the last few years where we struggle to find the balance between work/commute & homelife. By the time the waitress brought the rich German chocolate cake dessert, we found ourselves congratulating each other for having made it this far.

Marriage is hard. Marriage takes work. We've experienced many phases of love: can't-be-apart/can't-do-wrong love; sacrificing-for-the-other-person love; should-we-stay-married? love; you-aren't-the-person-I-married love; marriage-counseling love; communication-is-the-key love; and glad-we're-still-together love.

In spite of all the ups and downs, marriage is worth it. The security, the friendship, the memories, the fun, the affection, and the opportunity to be with someone who knows you better than anyone else.

In a world where marriage is disrespected and disposable, where the happiness of "Self" comes before the happiness of "Us" or "The Other Person", where 45% of marriages end in divorce, I'm so grateful to be married to a good man who is patient and kind, and is willing to work with me on this journey.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mmmm Autumn

Just two blocks from my house is this fantastic mini-nursery/fruit stand. And in October it is transformed into a colorful spectacle of all things Autumn. It makes me smile just to drive or walk by and see the mounds of corn stalks, the rows of mums, and the piles of pumpkins. And so begins my favorite month of the year...


leaves, pumpkins, costumes, candy,
pumpkin muffins and cookies,
apple-picking, applesauce making, caramel apples,
crunching leaves under foot on long runs,
sweaters, jackets, boots
wearing socks to bed,
oatmeal/hot chocolate mornings,
anniversary celebration,
fireplace fires crackling,
ghosts swaying from our front tree,
the world alive with color

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My boy and Eeyore

T-man's Kindergarten teacher has nicknamed him "Eeyore." And I guess I'm not surprised and I'm certainly not worried or offended. So far, T-man and Kindergarten have not gotten along too well. During the summer, we'd talked up Kindergarten so much that his expectations were sky-high. I think he expected to do math, learn to read, study space, do science experiments all in the first week of school. And alas, he has yet to do much more than learn the rules, sit crisscross applesauce for story time, sing "Tootie Tah," and do art projects. He mopes through these Kindergarten rituals half-heartedly and comes home very disappointed.

Everyday he trudges off the school bus with the same sentence: "I hate school!" And when I probe he adds, "Too many rules! We never learn anything!"

At home, we've created an Agreeable Chart that hangs on the fridge. Everyday that he tells me something positive about school, he gets a star. So far, he has 17. When he gets to 20, he gets a small treat. In the meantime, we are trying to make-up for the lack of hard-core academics at home. T-man writes his numbers to 100, reads from the Dick and Jane series, and watches movies about the solar system.

I would never consider pulling him out of Kindergarten - I think he's gaining valuable skills like social interaction, self-control, and respect of authority figures. But I'm extremely grateful it is only half-day and I can fill the rest of his day with worthwhile activities (even if some days they are tree climbing and bike riding).

Eeyore is one of my favorite characters in children's literature. He is honest and doesn't mince words. He is also loyal and forgiving. Besides, we can't all be happy all the time. Eeyore said it best himself...

"Good morning, Eeyore," said Pooh.
"Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning, which I doubt," said he.
"Why, what's the matter?"
"Nothing, Pooh Bear, nothing. We can't all, and some of us don't. That's all there is to it."
"Can't all what?" said Pooh, rubbing his nose.
"Gaiety. Song-and-dance. Here we go round the mulberry bush."

So T-man as "Eeyore" is okay with me.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I'm back in the classroom and loving it. I teach English 112 on Tuesday evenings. I think I was pretty burned out the last semester I taught - grading 60 essays a week was nearly impossible and I think my take-home pay turned out to be something ridiculous like $3/hour. But it's a new semester, and I'm fresh from my maternity leave.

Here's what I love about teaching college:
1. Basically, I'm my own boss. I have a list of text books and a class curriculum outline. But I write my own syllabus and can use supplementary readings. There is no one looking over my shoulder telling me exactly what to do. And because of this, I can really create a dynamic, engaging classroom atmosphere.

2. The students (for the most part) want to be there. They are, after all, paying to take my class. This cuts down classroom management issues. And the issues that I still face (like cell phones going off during class), I try to handle with positive peer pressure (the student whose cell phone goes off gets to bring cookies for the whole class the next time).

3. I really love literature and writing. And I think the subject matter lends itself well to teach life-lessons and universal truths which college-age students are hungry for. It is such a soul-searching, life-sculpting time, so it is amazing to ask and discuss questions like "Why are you here?" "What is the meaning of happiness?" "How do decisions shape your life?"

4. Field Trips! I always schedule at least one field trip per semester. My purpose is to introduce the students to something in the humanities they might not do on their own. In the past, we've gone downtown to see a Shakespeare play, we've gone to see an "artsy" movie, and we've attended book-signings/lectures by authors.

So next week we're tackling "Shiloh" a short story about a crumbling marriage. But it's about so much more than that. We get to discuss why love can seem like a battlefield (yes, I think I'll have to play the song in class)...why it's important to set life goals...and how past mistakes shouldn't determine future decisions. GREAT fun!