Monday, October 19

I wasn't gonna, but now I gotta

After many days and some weeks of being stuck in a house with three small sick children, my mother whirled into town (because whirling is just about the only way she does anything), and my husband took me out on a real kid-less date.

I had been looking forward to seeing Where the Wild Things Are for over a year. At first, I forbade my husband from going to see the Wild Things with me.

My husband is a smart, strong, solid man. He was built on strong, solid foundations. I was built on shaky ground at best. "Solid" is not written anywhere in my history. I've always been a dreamer, while my husband has always been a profound realist. Plainly, he has about 1/8 the imagination I do. But it's a good thing. It's how we work.

I knew immediately he would not like or appreciate or have anything good to say about a movie based on a book that centers around a little kid's imagination. (Turns out I was right, but that came later)

When I was a kid, a forest very well could have grown in my room, and I could easily have sailed in and out of weeks and almost over a year. My copy of Where the Wild Things Are was worn and bent and loved only slightly less than Quick as a Cricket, and slightly more than Goodnight Moon. I related to Max. He got fed up with his old-lady mother one night, and imagined himself right onto an island filled with larger-than-life creatures, of whom he made himself king.

GQ had an interview with Spike Jonze that made me even more anxious to see the film version. I had heard that the book's author Maurice Sendak had turned down several attempts to adapt the book into a movie. Then he met Jonze.

As Sendak would later describe: “He was the strangest little bird I’d ever seen.
He had fluttered into the world of the studios, and could he not be swatted dead, I knew he would manage. I had total faith in him.”

Then I read a line that made such sense, like it was an idea that had been just waiting around, circling overhead until someone finally verbalized it:

“It just hit me that wild things could be wild emotions,” says Jonze. “It was that simple of an idea. And all of a sudden, it seemed infinite where I could go from there.”

Of course the wild things are wild emotions! Are there any emotions of a 9 year old child that aren't wild? So, Jonze hooked up with Dave Eggers and they set out to write the story of young Max and his wild things.

I'll try not to write any spoilers from the movie here. I read a blog post from a friend who spoiled the movie, and summarized it well. Don't read it if you don't want to know specifics about the movie! But, do read it if you've seen it, because she's mostly right on.

There were, for me, a few let-downs in the film. A few unexplainable, what the? moments. There was plenty of heartbreak. In fact, the entire movie left me feeling heavy. But there was beauty and laughter. The wild things represented wild incomprehensible emotions, and they were pretty much perfect. I connected even more with the on-screen, fleshed-out Max than I did with the two-dimensional book Max. The movie was dark and heart wrenching. But I loved it in spite of, or, possibly, because of the dark and twistyness of it all.

As expected, my husband hated it. More accurately, he whispered "this sucks" at least 3 times in the first 20 minutes, then proceeded to take a nap. I will say that he couldn't even remember reading the book as a child, much less cherishing it the way I did. And I will say that as a child of divorce, I could clearly see why Max resonated with me, and not with my husband. And, I will also say that I was a very dramatic child to begin with, and distinctly remember times of utter joy that immediately gave way to inconsolable despair. (One might say I'm still a wee bit dramatic. But, you know, whatever.) And, I will say that not every grown-up-child-of-divorce -has had a hard road; and not every grown-up-from-a-shiny-happy-family is always shiny and happy; and someone doesn't have to have had concurrent wild emotions as a child to identify with a fictional child. Anyway.
I loved it. I "got" it, for the most part anyway. I could see parallels in Max's real life and in the monsters on the island. I got that Jonze and Eggers were leading us into this huge allegorical theme. While I loved it and my husband hated it, the couple that went with us ended up feeling merely, "meh" about the movie.

So all the anticipation, all the waiting, all the teeny tingles of excitement were pretty much worth it. And that was that. I didn't need to read any more reviews or making-of's. I hadn't planned on exploring the movie any further; I was (for the most part) satisfied.

And then my friend posted a link on her Twitter about critic-haters. (Because really, it's all about my Twitter these days, isn't it?) And then I read a short (hater) review. And then I had to write this (dang long) post. Because, OK, it's within your rights to NOT want to see a movie, and then go about not seeing it. But you can't really review and/or critique a movie YOU HAVEN'T EVEN SEEN!

So here, blow-by-blow (because I hear some short people waking up from naps) are my answers to this ridiculous article:

"the movie Where The Wild Things Are isn't for the kids the book was written for."

Isn't it though? Isn't it for me? For my mother? For the grown-up kids that have been reading and rereading the book since its publication in 1963? From every promo or trailer I've seen, the film isn't exactly being marketed as a "kid-friendly romp" or "the best semi-animated kid's movie all year" and it's certainly not being lauded as "best comedy of 2009."

And I certainly don't want the monsters Max meets on his imagined voyage to have
back stories

I can't help but wonder if Mr. Sendak envisioned back stories for his monsters. I've yet to hear any author (kid-lit or otherwise) say "I intentionally wrote flat, lifeless, one-dimensional characters. Boring is better!" At the risk of sounding like a whiny teenager, um, HELLO? These monsters live on an island? They make a little boy their king? You don't think they have ISSUES? They don't deserve a little HISTORY?

The monsters are wild sketches of imagination. That is all he and they should be. When movies fill in the outlines of stories like these with details, they push out our own individually imagined renderings

Here is where I'd say, "Hey friend, tell me what YOU thought about this book. What did you get out of it? What if these monsters are metaphors for all the big scary things a kid has to face these days?" And here is where you'd answer me, with your own individually imagined renderings. And I'd either think, hey that sounds good, or, hey, you sound like a buffoon. Your "version" of Max's psyche and the meaning of the monsters would not have to alter my own version.

Maybe the trailer... "was all we ever needed of a real Max on screen. It intrigues without overanswering. Unlike the movie."

And this is the loudest point I'd like to make: the mover certainly doesn't overanswer. In fact, in ways, it absolutely underanswers. There is no finality, no real closure, and the end of Max's island time is abrupt... just. like. in. the. book. He decides to go home, and then he does.

Yes, the monsters in the movie have names. They have reactions to situations. They have history, they have more than just terrible eyes and terrible teeth. But nothing in the movie takes away anything from the book. I feel like they are stand-alone depictions of the same story.

And now, they both land in the "This is really good" column of my life.

That's all. No really, that's all.

Wednesday, October 14

Wordless Wednesday: The whole of my heart

The four chambers of my heart; without one, I couldn't make it on my own.

Tuesday, October 13

It started with a tweet.

From @SavannahB "Stay-at-home-moms are young, dumb, poor and foreign. Good to know the company I keep." 2:28 PM Oct 2nd

A Twitter friend and real-life sweet hearted bad-a (I'm looking at you, Ernie) posted a link that lit a fire under my little tweetin' behind. (And spurred an incredibly cathartic blog post some weeks later.)

The WaPo posted an article on October 1st debunking the "opt-out revolution."
Haven't heard of the "opt-out" controversy? Yes you have. It is part of the ongoing, forever-and-ever-amen "debate" among women, childless or child full, about whether tis nobler to stay home and raise your own children (possibly derailing your own career and/or sense of self), or forge ahead through the glass ceiling (possibly missing out on the best years of life- both yours and your child's).
"The notion of an opt-out revolution took shape in 2003, when New York Times
writer Lisa Belkin coined the term to describe the choices made by a group of
high-achieving Princeton women who left the fast track after they had children."

The article also says that new statistics "show that stay-at-home mothers tend to be younger and less educated, with lower family incomes. They are more likely than other mothers to be Hispanic or foreign-born."

I bristled immediately. Young. Dumb. Poor. Foreign. Technically, I'm three-quarters of that statistical pie.
I'm 26. I have three kids. I had them in rapid succession. I had the first when I was 20. I'm young.
I graduated high school. I went to college for a year. I took a year off. I got pregnant. I have yet to return. I'm dumb.
My husband's job is about six notches above factory work. He earns (much)less than 50K a year. He is our sole source of income. I'm poor.
Foreign; not so much. I've got the WASP thing going for me. Except, I'm more of a WIP (white Irish Protestant)

I got all kinds of irritated.

I love being a young mother! I'm putting in my time, and when my last baby leaves the house (Lord willin'), I'll be 43! When my dad was 43, I (his firstborn) was 12. By the time I'm over the hill, I'll have already done the bulk of my child rearing. I'll be packing their bags, giving them the Roots and Wings and Call Your Mother and Wear Condoms speech.

I admit to falling squarely in the center of the "uneducated" quadrant. I excelled in elem/jr high, and coasted through high school. I never studied; I never had to. I would have done the same my freshman year of college, if I hadn't been drunk or napping most of the time. I screwed up royally. I worked my butt off the next year in order to pay for what was supposed to have been the next year of school, only to get myself knocked up. But to me, "uneducated" pretty much equals PWT.
I know, uneducated does not mean stooopid. Uneducated means I'm without a diploma. But, what I lack in formal education, sister I make up for in Life Experience. There are few baby-related subjects on which I'm not an expert. I know my way around a power tool. I can whip up a mean cheese dip. Uh-huh. That's right.
I love to read. I love to think. I love to debate, to listen, to learn. I am not uneducated; I just don't have my degree in anything but Wife Being and Diaper Changing. And that's fine. For now.

And the poor thing? Well. I'll just let that be. Because we aren't poor. We live in a cozy, comfortable, filled-with-love cookie cutter house in a cookie cutter neighborhood. We drive two (fairly)new cars; both paid off. Our children are never without food. Or books. Or toilet paper. I might have to wait a few paychecks before buying a much needed new bra, but... it's part of the price my husband and I have chosen to pay in order for me to be the one who raises our kids.

So yeah, I bristled. I got irritated. Because, I want to be above the statistics. I want them not apply. I want to be home; teaching and preaching to my kids. I want to be the one who kisses boo-boos and wipes booties. I want to know exactly what they put in their mouths, and how long they (pretend to) take naps. I want to know what is being said to them, and what they say in response. I don't want a piece of paper at the end of every day saying, "The Bunny had a great day!" I want to rest in the knowledge that her day was great. (Or that it was crappy, she cried all day, she threw peas everywhere and she smeared diaper doo on her crib sheets.)

But, I'm not above the statistics. For me, there is truth in saying,
"For many women who stay home, low earnings and high child-care costs are
part of the decision, she said. "Women with less education and fewer job
opportunities were always more likely to withdraw or not be in the labor

...because, yes; what I could make (remember, I'm uneducated) against what I'd pay in child-care would not make one working day worth it. Not to me. Not to my husband, and not to our kids.

So I'm home. Young. Dumb. And Poor. And loving every exhausting, exhilarating, pee-stained, kiss-filled day.

Because it is so easy to fall into the "who's the better mom?" trap; I'll say it now.... I have huge respect and am in big-time awe of working mothers. I can barely keep my ship upright, I can't imagine how I'd navigate the treacherous waters (pitiful metaphor alert) of working full time out of the house, and coming home to continue full time work. Mothers, working or at home, don't get time off. We don't get paid nurses' wages, or chauffeur's tips. We don't receive praise for number of cupcakes baked. We don't do it to make ourselves look better (OK, maybe some women do). We do it out of sheer, stifling, break-your-heart-it's-so-breathtakingly-beautiful love.

Winds of Change

I've taken on what I can only assume will be a very laborous task of moving all of my old posts (from Feb 2006-Jan 2009!) over to When I have that done, I'll use and (hopefully) make one real live book per year of blogging.


I was a blogger before I knew it was cool to blog. I've been going through that old xanga blog. I started when I was 2 months pregnant with my Ladybug. Three years and two kids later; oh how my life has changed.

I stopped blogging after The Bunny was born, not because I had nothing left to say, but because I had no time in which to say it. Even writing that, I feel like a whiner. "Oh, I'm so busy. Oh, these three kids take up all of my time." I have a mom-friend who is 44 and has ten kids. TEN. KIDS. Her oldest is a few months younger than me. Her youngest is a few months younger than my Bunny. SHE is the busy one, not me.

Recently I've gotten an itch again. The only way to scratch it is to write. My husband oh so lovingly reminded me last night that I've picked up and put down more "hobbies" in our 4 years of marriage than most people do in one adult lifetime.

"Remember that knittting you did for a minute?"
"Yes, I made a darling worm scarf."

"Well, what about the sewing?"
"I made Ladybug a super cute pillowcase dress. And a year before that, I made her a dress out of one of your old shirts."

"And what about your photography business?"
"Well, YOU were the one who wanted it to become a business. I just like taking pictures. And, technically, I've never stopped taking pictures."

And then he hit me (very softly) where it hurt: "What about your book? You started it TWO SUMMERS AGO."

To which I had no answer. Because he was right. The book that lives in my head is fantastic. It may not be Jennifer Weiner, and it is certainly not John Irving, but it is pretty dang good. And I have been writing it for two or three years now- in my head. The trick is finding time (are you whining again!?) to sit down and map it out, give it life, and do it justice.

Honestly, between taking/picking up Pooter from school, playing with Ladybug, cleaning the house, and dealing with a baby Bunny, I don't have that much time to sit down and meditate on the story my heart needs to tell.

But! I want to fix all of the above. I want to be like my friend Anna, and get my bootay in gear. I want a clean, decluttered house. I want clean, decluttered children. I want a clean, decluttered mind. I want to write a clean decluttered book.

And I want to reconnect with my bloggy roots. I am no Dooce, but I'm tippy-toeing back to knock on blog's door.
Here I am!