May 28, 2013


I love classic literature. It's my favorite thing to read and usually the most fulfilling type of reading that I do. I always have a list of "need to reads" to draw from.

My latest read was Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

We've had it on our bookshelf for a few years now, but I just got around to reading it. The decision was spurred by a classic literary criticism book (from the 70's) called The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar that I recently read. As an English major, I also love literary criticism. My brain actually naturally critiques the things I read and makes connections. English teachers and classes just helped me do it better. This book was a fascinating read and made we want to read or re-read all the books they wrote about and referenced.

I started re-reading Paradise Lost by John Milton, since it is one of the main reference materials that the criticism uses, but that's pretty dense reading so it's slow going. Then I picked up Frankenstein.

And, as usually happens when I read literature, I was surprised by the reality of a story I've "heard" and seen depicted before. Movies and retellings can never capture all the minutia and layers in the original. And sometimes they completely change the whole point of the plot!

Frankenstein begins with a series of letters written by a young adventurer named Robert Walton on his way to the Arctic to explore and hopefully discover things no other man has ever found. He writes to his sister about his plans and thoughts. A few letters in, he relates a fantastic tale of seeing a giant man on a dog sled in the middle of no where, and shortly after that, picking up a man named Victor Frankenstein who was pursuing the giant man and is near death. Frankenstein tells his tale to Walton and Walton relates it to his sister.

The basic plot, if you don't know, is that a young science student figures out the secret to creating human life and makes a man from elements of corpses. He brings the "man" to life, then immediately realizes that everything he has done is a bad idea and he never thought about any consequences, so he leaves. The "monster" then is left to fend for himself, having no knowledge of the world or himself. He struggles with what it means to be moral when he is met with violence from every person who has ever seen him, then struggles with hatred for the man who created him. The "monster" decides to get revenge on Frankenstein and most of the book is a sort of cat and mouse game between the two.

I'm always intrigued by the layers of separation that 19th century writers (particularly female writers) employ to tell their stories. There was a desire to give credibility to their work so they used male narrators, letter writing or third parties to tell tales that wouldn't be considered appropriate for a "proper" woman to write. The desperate acts of Frankenstein and his monster were quite shocking to readers at the time. Even now, without the explicit "horror" descriptions that a modern book might have, the tale is hideous to contemplate.

That fact that it was written by a young woman who had recently gotten married (without parental approval) and had a young child is even more interesting. I think the movies usually give off a very male vibe. They showcase man's hubris and god complex, make you think about the nature of morality and what it means to be a monster, or a monster's creator. But to think of it in terms of women, of mothers, can make it pretty mind blowing.

There are questions of hubris and god complexes in the text, but those subjects take on a different feel when you think about it from a woman's point of view. We do create human beings. We are responsible for life and (in a way) for how our "creations" turn out. Mothers are often blamed for the deeds of their children, or for not being a good mother and therefore ruining a child's life and/or future. And at the same time, a woman who becomes pregnant goes through her own metamorphosis. Bodies change shape, act differently, are beyond our control, scare us because we don't know what to expect from ourselves, or the little being inside of us.

At the same time, women have historically been seen AS monsters. Men consider them temptresses, devils, immoral, an "other" who is unpredictable and foreign. So you can see a lot in the characters of the "monster" and Frankenstein.

Frankenstein is not a difficult read, nor is it very long. But the text gives a lot for the reader to think about. I highly recommend it and thoroughly enjoyed it myself!

May 18, 2013

They gone!

For a couple of months now, K's teeth have been loose. All four of the front teeth have been a little loose, with the top left and bottom left the most wiggly. K's been waiting for a long time to lose teeth. He knows a couple of other kids who already have lost some, including his cousin, so he's been anxious to join in.

Almost daily I've been checking on the progress with him. Wiggling the teeth and discussing how they feel and how much longer it might take, etc. On Tuesday I did the same and I made my prediction that the top left tooth would come out first. It was the loosest. So much so that it sort of falls to the side and now he has a little gap on one side that wasn't there before.

But, you never can tell how these things will go!

I was baby-sitting my nephew and all three boys and I were in the van (still getting used to the fact that we HAVE a van!) on the way to pick up Jim from work. K and my nephew were sitting in the back seat together, laughing and playing. Then K made a little exclamation and told me his tooth was out. Since's he's a six-year-old boy, I had to ask a few times to make sure he wasn't joking!

To condense the story, K was pulling on a tag on one of his toys, trying to pull it out with his teeth. In the process, BOTH of his bottom teeth popped out! One landed in his lap and the other we still haven't been able to find. We were in the car so it should be there, but we can't find it because it's so little.

K was elated the rest of the day, and is still enjoying the feel.

He put the one tooth under his pillow and got his first tooth money! We actually don't do the tooth fairy thing (or santa, the Easter bunny, etc.). I don't think I've ever mentioned that before so I might do a post just on that aspect of our lives soon. So, K knew he'd be getting money from us. But we still had him put the tooth in a little tooth fairy pillow that I had as a kid and that my mom gave to him, and he got to be surprised by how much he got. Jim made two dollar bills into origami shapes and then we gave him two quarters also, since he loves quarters.

It's hard to know how much to give in this day and age! I've heard that most parents give a lot more now than our parents gave. Since he lost two teeth, and they were his first, a dollar per tooth plus a bonus quarter, seemed good. I would be interested to hear how other parents are handling this though, money-wise.

So now our boy looks like this:

May 9, 2013

Turning 3, Buggie Style

I'm getting quite behind, obviously, but S turned three on the 21st of April. It was fun to see him finally enjoy a party and opening gifts. He sang happy birthday to himself all day and was very excited to have people coming over. He ran around, playing and talking with everyone. When it was gift opening time he didn't cry or get overly distracted by all the attention and gifts. He actually had fun! Yay for growing up!

We decided on a bug theme. In part because I found caterpillar invitations on sale in the fall and in part because S does love anything bug/animal related. I don't do it up super big for two and three birthdays because I know the kids don't get much out of it yet. So I mostly worked with what I have and went simple and cheap.

Table decor was a butterfly net and butterfly balloon (from the Dollar Store) in a vase. I got polka dot napkins and mixed them with plain white napkins. Cups and plates were red, green and white, also from the Dollar Store. I thought ants on a log would be a fun appetizer. Easy, well-loved and yummy.

We made a caterpillar out of green balloons taped to the wall. Have I mentioned how much I love having an artist husband to draw things like caterpillar faces?

And decorate our baby's gift! (The gift was The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle)

Opening presents.

Uncle Steve blowing bubbles for the kids (the neighbors were all outside and happy to join in).

S stole the bubbles for himself. He was the birthday boy!

Jim is the photographer at most of our events, since he's better at it and actually likes to do it. I don't think he's uploaded his picture yet, though, so these are all I have. I'll add photos of the cupcakes adorned with plastic bugs another time.