Wednesday, June 14, 2017

7 quick takes

1

I know I haven't been posting a lot lately.  I'm worried people will think I'm sick, or dead, or depressed, or pregnant, but that's not the case at all.  I'm actually doing pretty well, but the keyboard on my tablet is broken.  The h key doesn't work, but sometimes h's appear when I hit other keys.  Probably got spilled on one too many times.  I use the onscreen keyboard for my facebook posts, but it's maddeningly slow so I've had to be a lot quieter on the internet.  Which is very frustrating to me because typing is one of the main ways I get my thoughts out!  I could switch to vlogs, I guess, but I find my own face and voice embarrassing.

I'm on John's computer at the moment, but that's not a very good solution because it's a desktop and I can't stay in one corner of the house for very long.  Especially not when it's the non-air-conditioned corner!

2

I really want to fix or replace that keyboard, though, because I am starting to get ideas for stories again!  That's always a good sign about how my life is going, when I stop worrying about practical problems and start wondering about different methods of faster-than-light travel and their effects on plot development.

I don't know if I would have time to write any of this stuff out, but I still enjoy planning it out.  The stuff I'm working out right now is easier than my previous writing, because it isn't historical fantasy.  Working with history demands research.  I enjoy the research, but it takes a lot of time and the trouble is, if you don't write anything right away, you start to forget key details.  The two stories at the top of my mind right now are one about an alien coming to earth for the first time, and one about a girl raised in a post-apocalyptic survivalist cult.  They're both very exciting and I hope I sometime get a chance to write them all out.

3

Maybe after the boys start school.  I am still a little mixed about it, but mostly looking forward to the first day of school in the middle of August.  I'm hoping it gives me time to pay attention to Miriam and Jackie, as well as giving Marko and Michael some extra attention and interest.  They have been both acting very bored lately, which results in them either being at each other's throats or all over me.  I know they need more stimulation in their life -- more play dates, more outings, whatever -- but that just isn't in me right now.  As it is I'm taking them places at least twice a week!  It's fun but Jackie misses naps and I can't get the housework done if we're always running around.

Marko has agreed to give school a try in return for a reward.  After the first month of school, Marko will get a video camera and Michael will get a remote control car -- that is, they will each get the thing they've been wishing and dreaming for for years.  Michael didn't really need any motivation, but you can't reward one kid and not the other.  Marko has decided one month of school is worth it, but once he gets the camera, he says he's not going to school anymore.  I'm hoping by then he's found out it's not so scary after all.

I still have to get them physicals, take them school shopping for backpacks and lunchboxes, and find out what supplies they will need for school.  What do you have to do to get ready for a year of school?  When do I find out who their teachers will be?  I feel really intimidated by the public-school scene -- I feel, just like when I was in school, like everyone else knows all the rules and I don't.

4

Jackie continues to get easier.  She sometimes takes a good long nap, and when she's awake she often is okay lying on a blanket.  She can roll over both ways and sometimes even gets on hands and knees.  She grabs toys and can sometimes put her pacifier back in if she drops it.  I'm so on top of life right now that I'm actually using cloth diapers for part of the day.  Which goes to show how my standards have shifted and how many things I used to think were important I have had to jettison.  But, so long as I eventually get back to those things, it's not so bad.



She took TWO hour-plus naps today. Pretty sure this is the first time that's ever happened!

5

Miriam is mostly a delight and sometimes terrible.  John calls her Destroyer of Souls because of how exhausting she is, especially at night.  She's almost three and still wakes most nights, sometimes several times.  And her bedtime can be really long.  However, last night I convinced her to let me sit with her for fifteen minutes and then leave, and she fell asleep on her own!  Fluke or the beginning of a wonderful trend?  I hope the latter.

In the daytime she is mostly very good for a kid her age.  She is a good talker and negotiates for what she wants.  Occasionally she has a total meltdown where she rejects all comfort and screams loudly over whatever you try to say to her.  She'll be screaming that she wants a cookie, and you can be trying to explain that she totally can have a cookie, and she won't listen to you.  This can go on for nearly an hour -- or, you can hand her the baby and she'll instantly calm down.  Nothing else in the whole world works, but her sister calms her right down to where she snuggles the baby and says in a sad voice, "I love my sister so much, I was so sad, I was crying, I had a sad face, Jackie makes me feel better."  It's super adorable.



6

As I write this, Michael is trying to look at a magazine by himself and Marko is trying to get up in his face for no apparent reason.  I have exiled Marko to one side of the couch and let Michael be on the other, but Marko is whining that he wants to get closer to Michael, and Michael is screeching at me that Marko is still too close.  Ugh.  These two.  Marko can be downright compulsive in his need to say over and over some ridiculous thing that upsets his brother, while Michael is amazingly oversensitive and goes bananas about the repetition of some innocuous thing.  So they had a fight a few minutes ago where Marko kept repeating "knights didn't have newspapers" and Michael was screaming and sobbing about it.  Sometimes it's just a noise Marko makes.  I hardly know who to blame for these fights because both are being so unreasonable!



The real solution is for them not to be with each other, but both are completely unwilling to be alone.  What they want is for me to lock up the other one so that they can stay with me.  But that's hardly fair, is it?  Especially when I too am getting annoyed by them.

And Michael is just really, really unhappy a lot of the time.  I don't understand it.  Some days he says his head hurts, which is something I'm definitely going to consult the doctor about.  But other times he's crabby for no reason and insists he's not feeling bad, it's just that everyone is being mean to him ... even when they're not.  I just don't get why he's always so unhappy!  But if I look back on his life, he's usually been like this.  He was a fussy baby unless he was nursing all the time, whined most of Miriam's first year of life because he wasn't getting to nurse and be held all the time, and while I thought he was cured of all that, I have to admit that he's getting awfully whiny again.  When he's happy he's just a delight -- he loves to help out, is super affectionate, and is always looking for new experiences and challenges.  But he often isn't, and I don't know why.  Not enough sleep maybe?  He gets the most sleep of anybody in the family, but that doesn't mean he doesn't need more.

Of course while I've been writing this they stopped fighting and collaborated for a bit -- to throw water on the dog.  I put a stop to that (no water play indoors, that's a hard and fast rule obviously) and now they are fighting because they both want to watch TV but can't agree on what they'd like to watch.  Marko wants a documentary about chromosomes and Michael wants a cartoon.  If I put on something Marko wants, Michael and Miriam try to watch it but get bored and start fighting (why don't they just go play???), but if I put on something Marko doesn't like (which is most things) he claps his arms over his ears and shrieks lest he accidentally hear a bit of a show he doesn't like.  These kids, I tell ya.

7

I forgot to mention that my family came to visit recently.  We had a really wonderful time.  It was just my mom and sister this time, but Juliana got along swimmingly with the kids.  Marko says she is his best friend now.  I really wish we could see them more often.



How have y'all been?

Monday, June 5, 2017

Review: Anne With an E

I finished watching Anne With an E last night.  I have to admit, I've never been an Anne of Green Gables fan.  Probably I just read the books too late in life; I read the first one as a teenager and three more as an adult.  It's hard at that age not to be put off by children's literature, because it doesn't have the subtlety you're used to.  The other reason I didn't like them is because I've had people telling me I'm "exactly like Anne of Green Gables" since I was about eight.  I read the books and was like -- that's how you see me?  As a girl who constantly says ridiculous things?

The books just seem to idealize what it's like to be an imaginative, talkative, impulsive girl growing up.  How come when Anne calls something "The Lake of Shining Waters" everyone just magically likes her, whereas when I said something fanciful as a kid, people laughed at me and said I was silly?  Why do bosom friends and helpful mentors spring out of the woodwork for her, while when I was her age I was getting bullied and adults mostly felt I was bringing it on myself by being so weird?

I guess I have learned in life to have a very negative feeling toward her type of romanticism, because I learned so thoroughly the lesson that it isn't appropriate and nobody likes it.  But maybe it's my bias that's wrong: maybe I shouldn't feel obligated to write in plain or ironic language for fear of embarrassing myself.  Other people manage to be a little florid or poetic without getting mocked.  I just worry because I've miscalculated in the past and it didn't win me any friends.

But when I heard Anne With an E was supposedly "grim and gritty" I figured I'd want to watch it.  The books are definitely written through rose-colored glasses; the tragedies are described with a bit of distance and euphemism, while the funny bits are played up.  I didn't like the romanticism, but I thought I might like the gritty version.

And I did!  However, it honestly was not that gritty.  It's gritty compared to Lucy Maud Montgomery, but not to anything else on television today.  There was no sex.  The scenes of Anne being beaten by Mr. Hammond or bullied by the orphanage girls weren't graphic or intense.  I wouldn't mind my kids watching it (though I might not actually let them, because Marko takes things to heart that I wouldn't always expect).  Yes, some tense scenes are added that aren't in the original; yes, at least one character dies who doesn't in the book.  Anne's friendly schoolteacher and the kindly preacher's wife don't make an entrance, at least in the first season.  Marilla and Matthew are given tragical pasts, just as Anne would have wanted.  But it's not bleak.  It's not, you know, Call the Midwife.

What the show mostly does is allow you to hear some of the tougher stuff from the book that maybe you didn't notice when you read it.  We all know Anne is an orphan, that she was raised by uncaring people who saw her as a source of free labor and then abandoned her when she was no longer convenient, that she is constantly told she is ugly ... but somehow it's easy for a modern reader to miss or undervalue that stuff.  I actually went back to the book after watching the show, wanting to see just how much the show was inventing, and was surprised to find most of the "dark stuff" was in there after all.  For instance, the following lines show the dark side pretty well:

"For pity's sake hold your tongue, you talk entirely too much for a little girl." -- Marilla
"I'll come back in a few minutes for the candle.  I daren't trust you to put it out yourself.   You'd likely set the place on fire."  -- Marilla
"What a starved, unloved life she had had -- a life of drudgery and neglect."
"Marilla looked at Anne and softened at the sight of the child's pale face with its look of mute misery--the misery of a helpless little creature who finds itself once more caught in the trap from which it had escaped.  Marilla felt an uncomfortable conviction that, if she denied the appeal of that look, it would haunt her to her dying day."
"If you'll take my advice... you'll do that 'talking to' you mention with a fair-sized birch switch."  -- Mrs. Rachel Lynde

The show doesn't always quote lines like this, but it does get across the impression of just how rough it is to be an orphan.  Somehow I never thought of Anne as particularly disadvantaged, but when I realize that she would have been, I feel a lot more friendly to her.  All the "stuff working out perfectly" is meant to be a little surprising, not just Mary Sue-ing.

But the different focus of the show definitely gives a different impression of Anne.  Sometimes, true, she chatters because she is happy.  Other times, like on the ride back to see Miss Spencer, when she thinks the Cuthberts are going to give her up, she says she's "made her mind up firmly" to enjoy herself, and you get the impression that she's being as bright and winsome as she knows how, in the hopes of getting the Cuthberts to keep her.  It seems like maybe some of the relentless chipperness is put on, because she knows that as an orphan she owes it to people to charm them.  I find that a lot more sympathetic, myself.

Anne's first day at school hit me right in the feels, even though (or because) it's nothing like the book.  In the book, Anne gets along well with her peers (except of course for Gilbert), and though she's a little behind in some subjects, it doesn't appear to be a huge deal.  In the show, Anne tries hard to make a good impression but the other girls (apart from Diana) just think she's weird.  And it gets worse, because there are all kinds of unspoken rules (all lunches have to be shared!  don't steal someone else's spot for storing their milk!  don't talk to Gilbert Blythe because Ruby Gillis has a crush on him already!) that she keeps accidentally breaking.  It's equally embarrassing that she's so behind in math and that she's so ahead in literature.  She finally manages to impress them a bit with her superior (but completely inaccurate) knowledge of where babies come from, but she goes on a bit too much, egged on by their interest, and ends up causing a huge scandal.  It's an entirely fabricated episode, but felt very true to life for me.  This was exactly my experience, starting school so much later than everyone else and not knowing the rules.  And maybe I've got Asperger's too much on the brain, but Anne comes across in this part like a textbook case of it.  Talks to herself?  Check.  Sounds like a little professor?  Check.  Unusual intonation when she speaks?  Check.  Has exactly one friend, who tries and fails to shepherd her through her social life? Check.  I wonder if the show's writers were consciously trying to convey that -- it's certainly not something I think is in the book at all.

Anyway, it gives a lot more pathos to Anne's story.  When she hits Gilbert with her slate, gets in trouble with the teacher, and quits school, it no longer looks like she's being overdramatic.  It looks like she has been pushed past her ability to cope and is giving up.  And then when she starts winning people over after all, it's much more of a triumph.  Instead of thinking "Why is everyone falling all over Anne?" I thought, "At last people are giving her a chance."

Overall, I thought it was an improvement on the book.  It took out all the preachiness (except perhaps a bit on women's education, Montgomery was into that and so are the show's writers, apparently) and pumped up the drama, but I wouldn't say it's entirely alien to the book.  Like all good adaptations, it tried to keep the subtext intact (orphan makes good, kindness can win hearts, quirkiness should be celebrated rather than condemned) without being too slavish about the actual plot, because not all events work equally well in print and film.

I won't spoil it any further, but will just say, I recommend the show for both Anne fans and Anne critics like myself.  It's just a good show, whether you've read the books or not, full of historical detail, gorgeous scenery, and interesting characters. And the one season is not long, so it won't be too much to watch if you're busy like I am.
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