Friday, December 18, 2015

7qt - been awhile

It's been awhile since I've done one of these.  Let's see....


I got a tablet as an early Christmas present and to replace my old phone.  Since I've been using an old flip phone for the past three years, this tablet seems like magic.  It can sync ALL THE THINGS!  And it's so useful!

For instance, recently I had the idea of taking the kids to a music store to look at all the instruments.  But when we got there, it was closed because I stupidly didn't check its hours.  It was pouring rain and the kids were wailing that I had PROMISED they could see the instruments.  So we got back in the car, I whipped out the tablet, and got directions to a different music store!  Man, I feel like I'm living in the future.

Why a tablet instead of a phone?  I wanted a bigger screen to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer on.  No other reason.  Either one would have been free with our new phone contract so I picked the biggest thing available.  Perhaps this was a bad choice, because it's kind of a pain to haul around and I feel like a doofus taking pictures with this giant thing.  But .... Buffy.  So.


The other thing I like to use it for is reading ebooks.  Everything out of copyright is free, so there's never been a better time to be a fan of classic literature.  This week I finished Charlotte Bronte's Villette, which I picked up after reading about it on Enbrethiliel's blog. 

I learned three things:

First, Bronte apparently was crazy anti-Catholic.  I mean, read this:
"A strange, frolicsome, noisy little world was this school: great pains were taken to hide chains with flowers: a subtle essence of Romanism pervaded every arrangement: large sensual indulgence (so to speak) was permitted by way of counterpoise to jealous spiritual restraint. Each mind was being reared in slavery; but, to prevent reflection from dwelling on this fact, every pretext for physical recreation was seized and made the most of. There, as elsewhere, the CHURCH strove to bring up her children robust in body, feeble in soul, fat, ruddy, hale, joyous, ignorant, unthinking, unquestioning. "Eat, drink, and live!" she says. "Look after your bodies; leave your souls to me. I hold their cure—guide their course: I guarantee their final fate." A bargain, in which every true Catholic deems himself a gainer. Lucifer just offers the same terms: "All this power will I give thee, and the glory of it; for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou, therefore, wilt worship me, all shall be thine!"

Gee, Charlotte, don't hold back -- tell us what you really think of those awful papists!  Certain individual Catholics are pronounced okay people, but the Church itself is just the worst thing EVAR, according to her.

Second, the book has about ten characters, and it seems they make up the entire population of the town of Villette.  If a priest is mentioned in chapter 5, and another priest comes up in chapter ten, it is guaranteed to be the same priest.  If we meet some random person on a boat, there is absolutely no chance that this person won't show up again chapters later.  Coincidence is pushed to its utter limit.

And three, it ends really badly.  I don't want to spoil it for you -- wait, never mind.  Actually I do want to spoil it, because the author's intent is to lead you along with promises of happiness and then dash all your hopes.  I don't want that to happen to you.  Be prepared for sadness.  Or, you know, just stop reading before the last two pages, that's fine too!

But it was an interesting read.  I did find myself feeling that our heroine created a lot of her own misery.  See, she's poor and without connections, but too "elevated" in temperament to find any solace in companionship with the people of her own class.  The friends she does have are richer than her, so they feel sorry for her and don't consider her an equal because she has to work.  But why in the world does she assume that there's no one in the world like her?  Or, if she can't succeed in finding a true soul mate, she could at least trouble herself to befriend those around her anyway.  Maybe she should focus less on herself and her loneliness and more of what she has to offer to others.  Her obsession with keeping herself down seems a little odd and I felt it was never adequately explained.  Sure, she's poor, but it seems there are still dreams and ambitions she could strive for.  It seems odd to complain about being sad but refuse to even consider making happiness a goal.

(However, this article says I'm missing the entire point and the real reason that she's unhappy is unrequited love.  Eh, I suck as an English major; I'm always taken in by unreliable narrators.)


The kids are very, very excited about the idea of snow, which in their minds has to happen in time for Christmas, but I just don't see it happening.  We've had some very unseasonably warm weather -- which was GREAT because we got to get outside.  And one day the kids played happily in the back yard, all three of them, while I sprawled on my bed trying to get over a cold, watching them from the window. 

That's far and away the worst thing about winter -- that "can't go anywhere because we all have colds we don't want to share" has to coincide with "can't play outside either because it's too dang cold."  A break from it is lovely.  It's getting colder now, but not snow cold, I don't think.


The kids are obsessed with Star Wars lately.  Marko has wisely opted not to go see it in theaters, as he doesn't like scary movies and he expects it will have "some scary parts."  He says John and I should go see it without him and find out how scary it is, and then when it comes out on DVD, we can get it and skip the scary parts.

Anyway, they're playing light saber fights all day.  And I'm reminded of why I prefer Doctor Who .... less violence.


But the cool thing about the Star Wars mania is that Marko's interest in the show led to interest in the soundtrack, and that has led to interest in music notes and musical instruments.  He'll listen to a theme over and over, hum it, demand I write it down, ask me show him how to read the notes, mime it on an imaginary trumpet or French horn, watch a video of John Williams conducting it, ask me to try to play it on my tin whistle, demand to go to a friend's house so we can pick it out on the piano, and so on forever.

No one does an obsession like Marko (unless it's me.  LOL) but I'm all in favor of this one.  He's very tuneful -- I don't know enough five-year-olds to say if that's precocious or not, but I am proud.  I really wish we had a piano for him to exercise his interest with, but unfortunately it's not really possible to get one into our house, even if we had the room for it.  But we've been experimenting with all kinds of homemade instruments, and learning how sound works -- how the long lengths of string make low notes and the short ones make high notes; how a wine bottle makes a higher note when you fill it up; how to cover the stops on my tin whistle.

I've taken him to a couple of concerts.  The first was a bit of a disappointment for him and very enjoyable for me -- it was mostly choral music, and no songs he recognized, though there was a brass quintet at the end which got him excited, and he also saw his first pipe organ.  The second was exactly what he was looking for -- our local middle school's band playing Christmas carols.  He could not take his eyes off the trumpet soloist.  The other kids, admittedly, were bored.  They are not nearly so entranced with music as he is, but I figure a bit of culture won't hurt them.

Now Marko is begging and begging for a trumpet.  I don't think he's big enough to blow on one and I don't know if they have lessons for children as young as him either, but on the other hand I don't want to miss out on a window of opportunity, either.  Then again, considering what trumpets cost, maybe I should wait and see if some other instrument is his favorite in a few months anyway.

But they are all getting tiny plastic recorders for Christmas -- which I shall almost certainly regret, but what can I say.  I can't resist encouraging budding musical interest.


Extra perk to having a musical child: he and I have been singing Christmas carols together, especially in the car.  I've been waiting for years to have a kid who would sing with me in the car.  (Though John will, sometimes.  He is a catch and you can't have him.)


This past week has seen a lot of sickness.  Both boys had the pukes, all three had hideously snotty noses, and Marko also had a fever.  I was kind of unwell for a day, and then I was fine so I went out and did a bunch of stuff ... and then the next day I was sick again, which ought to show me.  Today I am torn between taking it easy so I don't relapse again, and doing all the things that have gotten backed up in the time I was lying around letting the kids watch cartoons.  It doesn't seem like I do a lot in a day, but let it go for two days and it's a nightmare.  I did so many dishes today, and so much laundry ... and wore out with the living room still mysteriously covered in blankets.  Then I got a second wind, but I spent it all baking Christmas cookies, because .... well ... CHRISTMAS SPIRIT!

So I guess I'd better pick up all these blankets.  Boo.

How is your Gaudete Week going?


Enbrethiliel said...


#1 -- Yay for the tablet! Which season of Buffy are you on?

#2 -- You know what's funny? I actually thought of you several times while reading Lucy Snowe's criticisms of the Church. It's not that yours and hers overlap much; I was just wondering how you would read the same passages.

I actually put off reading Villette for many years because I thought the anti-Catholicism would just make me blow my top. And perhaps it would have, given what my personality was like when I first heard of it, but this year, I mostly raised my eyebrows and snorted.

I absolutely agree with you (Hey, when was the last time I said that here? ;-)) that Lucy Snowe creates most of her own problems. It's almost as if she wants to be miserable. But she really doesn't have to be! Even as an unreliable narrator, she can't hide that other people find her quite likeable. It's she who doesn't like them! Sigh. I remember feeling especially frustrated during the parts when she said she never acted again (despite her electrifying dramatic debut and although she wanted to) and when she kept herself from writing warm, intimate letters to Graham. And when he stopped writing to her (either because she was really boring or because he took her tepid style as a lack of enthusiasm on her part) and she turned into a walking ball of internal agony, I wanted to dump some cold water over her. What did she expect???

Incidentally, that first time I heard of Villette, I was an English major myself. That day, the topic was endings, so we all had to read the last page or so as our example of an unsatisfying ending. To that, I'd add Mrs. Darwin's insight that Lucy keeps things from us the readers because she judges us as harshly as she does the other characters, and she can't imagine how we could possibly sympathise with her enough to deserve to hear of her last great suffering. Ginevra isn't good enough, her own godmother isn't good enough, even sweet Polly isn't good enough--and guess what, reader? You're not good enough, either. =P

#3 -- We're having an unusually wet December here. Then again, we had an unusually dry June to October. The monsoon is six months late!

#4 -- I'll probably see the new Star Wars movie with a friend next year, when the crowds at the cinemas thin out.

#5 -- Oh, it's just wonderful when children are drawn to an instrument! Is there a music store nearby that will let you rent a trumpet? Or maybe a high school with an orchestra or marching band whose members might want to sell their old instruments before going off to uni? (But perhaps those would be too big. =/ Do trumpets get scaled down for children the way guitars and violins do?)

#6 -- =)

#7 -- What do you think of onions? My favourite natural treatment for colds involves slicing an onion into discs (I can't recall the proper culinary term!) and stacking these in a small container with sugar between the layers. After a few hours, the sugar turns into syrup that I take a spoonful of in the morning before leaving for work and another spoonful of at night before going to bed. It seems to work for me, but I could never explain the science behind it.

I also did a lot of baking last night, to get my signature snickerdoodles done in time for my TLM group's end-of-year party. Christmas tastes like cinnamon-sugar to me. =) What is your favourite Christmas cookie?

SeekingOmniscience said...

Maybe get a keyboard? A used keyboard can be < $100, I think.

Sugar Coater said...

If you have a tablet... you can search and get a free app (there are a few different ones) which will put a keyboard on it - a couple of octaves worth, anyway. We use one now at the Monastery to start us off on the right note now that we have no choir director. We may start plinking the organ but for now... it's a "kindle" type tablet with an octave and a half of keys. It works. Marko might like that, but then you have the possibility of never ever getting your tablet back!

It's great that he's musical though. :)

Sheila said...

1 - almost finished with season 3!
2 - Yes, I think you've hit the nail on the head. Lucy complains that people don't know what she's really like (since they all have different ideas) but she doesn't just never tell anyone what she's like -- she never tells US! When does she ever admit of something she wants, or take a single step to achieve something she wants? Why does she leave England, basically on a whim? What disaster led her to this? (I think Jane Eyre works much better in that Jane's character is built from the ground up -- we understand who she is AND WHY.) And I guess I feel like -- hey, Lucy, you're not the only woman ever in history to have a crush on a guy who doesn't like you back. Pull yourself together!

But, if the article I read was correct, it's too autobiographical to be a good novel. Bronte refuses to reveal who Lucy is because she doesn't want to reveal who she herself is. And yeah, it really feels like we're not good enough. Perhaps her readers of the time really weren't -- suspicious of a female author -- but maybe she misjudges them, just like Lucy misjudges everybody.

And yeah, the anti-Catholic stuff struck me as downright absurd. I think you'd have to be a Puritan to understand it.

5 - I don't know if they have mini trumpets; I've never seen such a thing, but then I've never met a five-year-old who wanted to play trumpet either.

7 - Onions are high in sulfur, which has anti-microbial properties. Not surprising that onion syrup would cure things! I can't make dinner without both onions and garlic ... when I run out, my cooking is insipid and I can't stand it.

SO, Marko used to have a keyboard, which he loved, and Michael broke it. He also had a toy guitar and Michael broke that. I think Michael's past the wanton-smashing stage (gosh, I HOPE) but Miriam is now the resident smasher. In a year, I can see getting the kids a keyboard, or a trumpet, or whatever, but not right now. My tin whistle is pretty sturdy, but if you've ever heard a toddler play a tin whistle .... it's one of the most piercing, painful sounds in the world.

SC, I had thought of that but not done it yet. I really should find one!

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