Friday, August 28, 2009

Last Weekend: Des Moines edition

A week ago, I was in the Cactus Pearl Corolla, headed north.

I drove the unbelievably charming drive up through Grinnell and over to Des Moines (Iowa farms are the most beautiful you will see, for reals), to visit Lindsay, who was in town with her husband and twin baby girls. Holy COW, we had fun. She summed it up on FB perfectly: Lindsay F. loved reconnecting with Genny today. It's been ten years, but in a lot of ways it feels like we were only out of touch for ten minutes. From the second her sweeter-than-sweet Dad said "Hi, kiddo!" in their driveway as I pulled up (just as he always did when I'd visit their house in high school) to the moment we all hugged goodbye in the parking lot outside the cafe where we had Sunday brunch/lunch, the trip was absolutely fabulous. It wasn't a huge effort on my part to be there, and since Linds lives in Florida, this would be one of the few chances when the babies are this tiny (OMG you should see their toes EEEEEE!) for me to spend some good quality time with everyone.

I stopped by on Friday night, to catch up with Lindsay, meet her husband, and gab with her parents for a bit--a really great chance to start mellow, without the excitement of new babies (they were in bed by then), and to see if we still had that *spark*...which sounds odd when you're talking about friends, but I can't think of a better word. She and I hadn't seen each other since our senior year in college (1999, eek!), and had drifted apart over the years (pretty danged easy to do when you're a half-country apart). We were joined at the hip in high school, and since she went to college an hour away from where I did, it was convenient to see her often during that phase of our lives. After she moved to Florida, though, it grew harder to keep in touch, until gradually, it faded completely. But we reconnected via Facebook, and corresponding since then had been so natural and just-like-old-times that I didn't really have many doubts that it would be the same in person. Still, it WAS great to know that nothing had grown weird or awkward, and even that, as we get older, our friendship can be even more meaningful and (sorry to be corny, but--) precious.

Saturday morning I showed up early to meet the breathtakingly precious Fontana girls, Olivia and Sophia, each SO different, SO charming, and SO hilarious...the second Livi saw me walk through the door she was *laughing*. At four months old! This girl is WAY happy and energetic and looks like a beautiful little papoose (and, in fact, almost exactly like Lindsay did at that age, as we saw in scrapbooks over the weekend). Sophia, on the other hand, looks like a pretty porcelain doll, and is quieter, mellower, and more introspective than Livi. She noted my presence at first, but wasn't giving in so easily--I needed to work to get her to love me. But once I tried my parents' never-fail 'cheer move' (take baby's arms and move them like you're doing a cheer), she was smiling big-time, all "Oh, yeah, you cool." I am SICK that I forgot my camera, but I'll steal some shots of the weekend from Linds sometime.

We all loaded up the van and went to the HUGE and awesome Farmer's Market in downtown Des Moines, the likes of which I had never seen before. The best I can describe it is a conglomeration of Art in the Park, a typical Farmer's Market, Taste of Chicago, and, like, some festival with street performers. It was CRAZY crowded, but in a delightful way, with dogs and babies and Dutch letters and yummy stuff EVERYWHERE. I wanted to buy everything, but only gave in to a six-pack of fresh-baked cupcakes to bring home to Neil. (OKAY, I might have eaten three.) We had a delightful lunch at a brewery there (shredded pork sandwiches with a BBQ sauce made from stout--HOLY CRAP good--and Bloody Marys all 'round, served with pickles and olives), then went back home so the ladies could nap.

Next, Lindsay and I took off for the second AWESOME part of the day: scrapbook shopping! I have not allowed myself to buy much in the last couple years, so I was super looking forward to it. I loved seeing what my favorite companies had released recently, and since I'd been preparing for this trip for awhile, being actually able to buy what I coveted! We went to two really great shops (and a toy store selling almost exclusively Melissa & Doug stuff--sooooo cute!), then returned to the Kem house to play with the babies again and hang out til dinner. Which was an AMAZING home-cooked Iowa meal, the likes of which I hadn't had in a looooong time. (There is absolutely nothing like fresh, sweet Iowa corn!)

Saturday was fantastic in many ways, but also interesting because I got to see what it's like to be a parent ALL DAY. Not just overnight, not just for a couple hours, not just during naptime (which is what I'd mainly been exposed to)--but from morning to night. And it was a pretty atypical day for everyone, to be sure, but I still got a sense of what it's like to be a mother, and how Linds handles it. I don't know how she wrangles two infants every single day, never getting a nap or much down-time at all (and waking up twice as much during the night as any other new mom, since you can't exactly ask the babies to coordinate their feeding times). I mean, as delightful as Soph and Livi are, BOY OH BOY it's got to be exhausting for her!

We were blessed that we did get the afternoon together (thanks, Ann & Dan!) was a perfect mix of girl-time with Lindsay and, for the rest of the weekend, GIRLS-time with the twins. I know it's cliche, but those babies were freaking ANGELS. I'd been warned about Soph's moodiness, but the Iowa air must have agreed with her, because aside from her initial "I'm-not-sure-about-this-new-person" sussing-me-out period (which really just consisted of her looking at me with exasperation while I tried various baby tricks), we were total BFFs. And Livi...Livi, my god, that girl could make ANYONE smile. I didn't think these young bundles of cuddliness could have such personalities at just a few months old, but WOW. Like--they are already so cute; they don't need to be CHARMING, too, you know? Enough already with the making-me-fall-in-love-with-you business! I won't see you again for a long time!

I left Sunday after a final meal out with the gang, and reluctantly bid my goodbyes so I could make it home at a resonable hour. It was a completely satisfying, exciting, memorable weekend, but it went by in a flash. I hope we all get the opportunity to see each other again soon...and, as Linds texted me afterward, "not wait another ten years!" "HYEALL no," I responded.

HELL no!

Monday, August 3, 2009

48-hour Reading Challenge...TAKE TWO!

Okay, I was all set for this entry, but then I went to Google Reader before I started. Under the "People I Know" tab, I read three beautiful entries that got me all choked up and mellow:

Em's brother Steven's gorgeous, intensely heartfelt tribute to his wife, Tamara, on their two-year anniversary.

Lindsay's account of her announcement, a year ago, to her husband--of the second line on the pregnancy test.

Andi Diggs' 37-week belly little childhood neighbor, who's always been so strongly positive, and whose relationship with her husband is inspirational.

So...I needed a few minutes. I cry at EVERYTHING!


This weekend, I totally did it! I completed the 48-hour Reading Challenge, on better terms than last time, and got a LOT read. No, I didn't make it all the way through Judy Blume's oeuvre, but I did read all weekend, and I plan to finish up before all those books are due back.

I took a few breaks--ran a couple of errands on Saturday, went out to lunch with Neil on Sunday (Bread Basket Cafe FTW!), but my main focus was definitely on reading. When the TV was on, I read in our bedroom--but stayed in the living room, reading, for two Cards games turned down low. I accessed the internet only once, to see if I had any more books to mail on Saturday morning--and, since my default IE8 page is Facebook, couldn't help clicking on that little red number at the bottom to see what notifications I had. I guess it was cheating, a bit, but I wasn't on there for more than a few minutes.

In total, I read over 2059 pages....for 1200 minutes (that doesn't sound as impressive in hours...20 hours out of 48; not even half!) chronological order, except in cases where there was a series and I just read the series straight through. The following are the books I read, with my transcribed notes beneath each (I kept a Mead Five-Star Fat Lil' Notebook with me at all times to take notes as I read)--my current, non-notebook thoughts are in brackets:

Start time: 8:30 PM [7/31/09]

[First note:]

I'm excited:

  • Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret (c1970)

*my favorite! I like the blond cover best.

*Never liked the "Other Yearling Books you will enjoy" statement. "MAY ALSO ENJOY" would be less of a command.

*she's more mature than I remembered.

*purple towel! Nancy Wheeler is awes. [I always wanted a fluffy purple towel like the one Nancy loaned Margaret]

*LOOOOVE the name Gretchen

*Mavis: a "secret sensational name"? Blech. Alexandra or Veronica was best.

*I never saw this book as about religion, but it so is!

*loved that pink [door] color in the bra dressing room

*"One day in class..." vs. "Tuesday morning" or "Rosh Hashanah" etc. [Okay, here are my thoughts that went with this: All my favorite books--Ramona, Laura Ingalls, and this one--had a way of narration that made me feel like I was experiencing every day with these girls. Like I didn't miss a moment. And I think part of it was because the narration never said "One day, Ramona was in class when..." or "Three months later, Laura got a cat." I can't explain it well, but because these books always just addressed their next story as "Friday afternoon, I met Nancy after school" or "On Christmas Eve, Laura's cousins arrived" didn't seem like I was missing anything. Even though I obviously wasn't reading about every day in their lives. I just know that when one of the books--I think Shores of Silver Lake, maybe--began, and the Ingalls suddenly had Baby Grace and Mary was blind from scarlet fever, I felt betrayed. How could Laura have deprived us of such big events??]

*I heart Sylvia Simon! [Margaret's sassy Jewish grandmother]

*[the girls' lecture in class] made me scared of Tampax.

*Margaret's birthday is March 8--SKM's birthday! [Sarah's]

*No belted pads! This is revised--I compared it to my 1982 copy (this one's [published in] 1986). [have to admit, I was disappointed. Some of the charm of the original version was learning how this girly stuff used to be--and feeling lucky we don't have to deal with belts, nowadays!]

*149 pages--ALL were so familiar.

*1st-person [eff]-up that confused me: "Grandma said...all her jewelry was for 'her Margaret'..." [Oh, I agonized over this passage when I was little. When I began to understand different points-of-view in books, I knew it had to be all or nothing; mostly 1st or 3rd omniscient in these types of books...and I just could not wrap my head around Margaret referring to herself, via Grandma, as 'her Margaret' drove me nuts.]

  • Iggie's House (c1970)

[this is where I started wondering how many of Blume's books were NJ-or-NYC-set. I decided to begin keeping track.]

*Not 1st person :( I feel like Margaret taught me to prefer that POV!

*Winnie: 11

*Farbrook, NJ (Margaret--[moved] from NYC); NJ here, too

*Herbie--younger bro; Herb--Margaret's dad [I also started to take notice of other commonalities between her books, like names. This was as far as I got with names, though--they weren't consistently repeated.]

*A move from light fare to pretty serious subject matter

*Man--this girl is mature too.

  • Then Again, Maybe I Won't (c1971)

*1st person--yay!

*NJ-set - Jersey City

*Hero: Tony, age 12/13

*So far--title always in the book, 1st few pages

*move to Rosemont, Long Island

*[I remember this book being a lot more dirty than it was this go round!]

[Day 1] End time: 1:10 AM

Day 2: begin 9:00 AM

  • Freckle Juice (c1971)

[doesn't *really* count, since it's way more easy-read than the others]

  • Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (c1972)

*Peter: 9 y.o.

*Fudge is so funny! [I never saw him as THAT funny when I was a kid reading this.]

*How the hell did he ever get the name 'Fudge'? [And they never explain it--not after FOUR books! Why did this not drive me crazy as a kid??]

*I learned "make" from Blume books. Still have never really heard it from anyone else.

*Ohhhh I just got "chip off the old block." Wood chips!

*I miss the illustrations in this newer version. They were bell-bottomy. I wonder if anything else is different (content)?

*The striped balloon from the shoe salesman Mr. Berman sounded way cool. Peter refused it but I'd totally have taken it. A lolly AND a balloon, just for shoes? [I also hated that Mr. Berman did not appear in Double Fudge during a shoe-shopping scene. Why not, Judy Blume? WHY NOT??]

*Mr. Hatcher's secretary Janet was pretty, and so was [our family friends] Paul-and-Janet Janet, so that was a "pretty" name for me. So were Mark & Chris [for boys]. I had crushes on those names.

*"I'm not sure when I realized Fudge was gone." ?? Yes you are! You're just not sure when he left.

*"I named him remind me."--I choked up!

  • Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great (c1972)

*The cover was always so unattractive to me, I never read it as a young-un, even though I'd read the other Fudge bks over & over. I never realized it was Sheila Tubman, either. [Plus I hate the name 'Sheila.'] She looks like an ugly boy. With ugly, too-short, raggedy-ended bell bottoms.

*I don't like "Oh oh!" for "Uh oh!"

*Sheila Tubman--10 y.o.; Peter's building...NYC-set, summer in Tarrytown

*Ugh, Sheila's so unlikeable. She lies to make friends--I hate that!

*Eek: Mouse would be Sheila's "first real-live girl friend"??

*I kinda want a yo-yo right now. A good one!

*Exact title p. 73!

  • Superfudge (c1980)

*[I found an inconsistency I never noticed!!]: Peter's now in 5th grade ; Fudge is 4. He was 2 1/2 in Fourth Grade Nothing, but turned 3 during that bk, [which] ended May 10th of Peter's 4th grade abt 4 months later, Fudge had another b'day? Really, now?

*Moving to Princeton, NJ from NYC

*I really think this is my 2nd favorite

*I always wondered what a Kreskin's Crystal was.

*...and what "sic" means.

*Tootsie turned 1 in Feb. [now I'm looking for more inconsistencies!]

  • Fudge-A-Mania (c1990)

*Fudge is now 5. Tootsie is 1.5. 6th grade is over.

*These are not "Fudge" books, to me. The 1st person makes them "Peter" books. We hear much more about him than Fudge.

*Title implied in Superfudge but expressed here.

  • Double Fudge (c2002)

*Tootsie--not yet 2. Fudge is still 5 - almost 6. School is abt to start for Peter - 7th grade.

*I am uncomfortable with the modern-ish references--Harry Potter & blading. It lost the vintage feel & it's not timeless.

*This whole Howie-Hatcher plotline is far fetched--I don't like it at all. [Later I realized it reminds me of National Lampoon and their awful relatives, which I also don't like.]

*Really not liking this one. Not helping is the fact that I'm sleepy.

*I miss having loose teeth to wiggle.

*213 pages: DUMBDUMBDUMB

*[and where does that title come from?]

  • It's Not the End of the World (c1972)

*Ah...this is sounding comfortingly familiar. I must have had it...or R'way/DBRL did.

*Karen: 6th grade, 12 y.o.

*Setting: near NY--NJ it is!

*When Karen goes to sleep one Sat., Val suggests they wash their hair. Karen says hers isn't dirty--she washed it just MONDAY NIGHT. Ew!

[Day 2] Stop time: 1:20 AM

verrrrrry tired...

Day 3 begin: 10:30 AM

  • Deenie (c1973)

*Set: Elizabeth, N.J.

*She's 13 y.o., 7th grade

*Calling her mother "Ma" seems ugly. Only Laura Ingalls can get away w/ that. And boys.

*I have Wii-tennis-elbow pains from holding bks all weekend!

*I like that there's an underlying theme to each book, but [yet] it explores a lot of territory. Like, Deenie with scoliosis, but also her period, masturbation, kissing, modesty, & being judgmental.

  • The Pain and the Great One (c1974)

[see note for Freckle Juice]

*love different POV books [i.e., within the same book]--haven't seen it in a kid's book before. Very cute.

  • Blubber (c1974)

*5th grade.

*I kinda can't wait til 8:30

*These kids are mean. It's hard to read when it's the heroine. [Also, I never liked calling the lead boy or girl 'hero/ine.' I feel like a title like that should be deserved. Ramona never did anything particularly heroic. Aside from finding her aunt's wedding ring.]

*Hm...Pennsylvania-set. Different.

*This reminds me of how mean we were to SarahSallyDevonSarah [EveMarieCollaFawnWright] in 6th grade. It's easy & fun in a group.

*& she's a stamp collector!

  • Forever... (c1975)

*setting: Westfield, NJ

*Katherine--HS seniors

*picks raisins out of b'fast buns & piles them on the corner of her plate--just like Fudge!

*I remember flipping thru this book to see if ellipses were on every page. I'll check again when I'm done. [Verdict:] 36 pgs w/o [ellipses] (including ch. separators [normally a blank page])

*Another word I didn't get: "came"

*I remember a comedian or something complaining about this book; the "and then I came"s over & over & over.

*She doesn't like hot dogs! Neither did I! (but I loved Vienna Sausages)

*Reading makes me sleepy...[right before a 24-minute break]

*Yeesh...a suicide attempt...!?

*Why did Kath take a hot dog at Michael's grad party when such a big deal has been made abt her not liking them?

*Ew...Theo has a 'stache.

*Judy uses "Naturally" ALL the time!

*Blegh I do not like deaths in books. G'pa was old, but still.

  • Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself (c1977)

*1945 & 47--Eliz., NJ.

*Sally's fave marble is clear green...& Fudge's favorite is green!

*Older bro is 13. I think Sally is 10 - 5th grade

*dropping an egg in the malted when they weren't G'ma did to Fudge!

*I love how Ma Fanny talks - just like an old Jewish grandmother. I wish I had one of those.

*"...Aunt Bette didn't approve of Nancy Drews. She thought Sally should be reading books about the prairie girl." AWESOME!!

*I like this, abt long stretches of travel: "Breakfast turned into lunch and lunch turned into supper."

*White Shoulders...I think Mom liked that perfume.

*I never did the watch-Mom-get-pretty-to-go-out thing. I wish I had!

Stop time: 8:30 PM [8/2/09]

[only got to pg. 134 (of 298) when the 8:30 end-of-marathon mark hit...and I was READY TO STOP!]

Okay, so...quick, final thoughts before this post spontaneously combusts.

1. It's really fun seeing the patterns in these books, like setting, age, and little details she repeats.

2. I want to continue taking notes as I read the rest. I'll see how much I can do that. It was difficult, reading another book during today's lunch hour, to *not* take notes on it. I think I'm a margin-writer at heart, but my obsessive respect-the-books-please side won't let it out.

3. I got a little--a lot--tired of reading by Sunday, Day 3. I think it's best to keep this as a once-yearly thing...and just to have weekends where I read a lot in between.

4. Judy Blume is a damned genius. Except when she forgets that her heroine doesn't like hot dogs. I wish I could meet that woman!