Babies


Okay, folks, this is going to take me literally FOREVER to type up in the stolen moments I have on Hubby’s computer (plus the fact that there are at least sixty books on this list), but here goes.

I intend to read the following books to my Six Year Old (note that I’ve split up certain series based on reading/maturity levels):

  • Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and The BFG by Roald Dahl
  • My Side of the Mountain and The Other Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  • The Secret Garden and A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett   OR   Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the Dawn Treader; The Magician’s Nephew by C.S.  Lewis

Seven Year Old:

  • A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle
  • Little House in the Big Woods, Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau
  • The Island of the Blue Dolphins and Zia by Scott O’Dell

Eight Year Old:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  • Hatchet and The River by Gary Paulsen
  • Anne of the Island and Anne of Windy Poplars by Lucy Maud Montgomery   OR   Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Nine Year Old:

  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  • The Silver Chair, The Horse and His Boy, and The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
  • Eragon, Eldest, and Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
  • Anne’s House of Dreams and Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery   OR   The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Ten Year Old:

  • Many Waters by Madeline L’Engle
  • The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King by J.R.R Tolkien
  • Animal Farm and 1984 by George Orwell

At which point I fear my child will be tired of the nightly ritual and will want to read on his/her own. In this case, I’ve made a list of suggestions (ie, “You should read these before you finish middle school, and whatever else you want to read.”), though I feel like some of the themes in these might be slightly mature for middle school aged kids, I suppose it will all depend on how mature I feel like my kids are. Anyway…

Middle School Reading:

  • Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the PhoenixHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  • “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka {I have a host of other wonderful short stories that I’d like to add, but this is the most important, I think}
  • Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

9th Grade:

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  • As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

10th Grade:

  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

11th Grade:

  • The Shadow of the Wind and Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

12th Grade:

  • The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley   OR  The Death of King Arthur by Thomas Mallory
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  • Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
  • The Portrait of Dorain Gray by Oscar Wilde

This felt like an absurdly long list when I wrote it by hand the other day, but it feels more manageable in this form. I am certain I’ve left off some of my favorite books, or books that I should include but forgot about, or books that I really ought to read and consider putting on the list somewhere. I’m always open to recommendations! I do love to read.

It’s that time of night* when I’ve usually settled in with my book (currently: re-reading Alias Grace – Margaret Atwood) but I’ve been writing for three hours (by hand, still) and though I’ve tired of the story I was telling, I still have some primal need to keep moving pencil across page.

For some reason I feel compelled to discuss the fact that I’ve created an actual, physical reading list for  my unborn children. I first composed this list at fifteen and  have since added even more fantastic  works of fiction. I wonder now if it’s an oversight to include only fictional works? I can think of maybe  two non-fiction books (outside of text books) I read growing up, and another handful of character building books my Dad assigned me. Maybe I’ll just let my Mom and Dad make a list of  such books and they can attempt to enforce the reading of said books. Fiction is generally much more agreeable.

Not to mention that once my kiddos have read a few of my selections, they’ll come to trust my excellent taste. I’ve  even considered the fact that my son(s) will be opposed on principle to reading The Little Princess so I’ve added (where necessary) some “boy” selections. Only where the ones I’d prefer them to read are just unbearably girly. They’ll grow out of this, of course, so by the time Pride and Prejudice shows up on the list, they don’t get to opt out.

Mostly I’ve included books  I managed to avoid in English classes over the years (can you believe I never had to read Pride and Prejudice as an English major??) but books (or rather plays, in these instances) like Hamlet and Oedipus Rex were quite influential in my education as a person and a writer that they found their way onto the list as well.

I have such strong and vivid memories of being read to as a child, I can’t deny my children the same experience. I’ve included most of the  books that were read to me, like The Chronicles of Narnia and A Wrinkle in Time. I can remember being amazed by these books, completely absorbed in the characters and action, never being satisfied when whichever parent happened to be reading to me at the time got tired and quit for the night. I couldn’t wait until I could read and thought it would be beyond awesome if I could create something equally magical.

Not that I want (or expect) my children to be struck by the writer bug (it’s a poor living, so far), but I do know my life would be so much smaller without  books and I want a big, vivid, book-filled life  for my kids. And because I’ve put so much forethought into it, I know they’ll be reading quality literature instead of Tiger Beat and Harry Potter (JUST KIDDING! All seven volumes feature prominently on the list!).

* Note: This was written around 11:30 pm, not at 3:30 in the afternoon as the time stamp might suggest 🙂

There I was, just waking up from a rather long Sunday afternoon nap and thinking to myself, “Ugh. I feel awful,” when it occurred to me that I ought to feel fabulous and relaxed and grateful for the opportunity to take a long Sunday afternoon nap.

Today will be the first day I’ve been totally obligation free in a long time. My house is clean. My husband spends ten hours a day at the school studying. My cats have been bathed and re-acclimated to human presence in the house. All vestiges of responsibility with my former sales job has passed. I live in a town where nothing happens if you’re over 23 and where my friend prospects all have full-time jobs. I have no inclination to become an obsessive exerciser nor any ambitions to become “homemaker of the year.”

As such, my long Sunday afternoon nap was more of an escape from sheer boredom than a luxurious indulgence during a coveted and special day off. And this, friends, was my first real day off. Even while performing my duties for my former job, I was never very good at distinguishing between work-time and home-time as I was working from my home. Being home all day without any structure at all is sure to be a struggle for me.

So while I was lying in bed, questioning my lack of appreciation for my nap, I came to the realization that I really do need some occupation for my time. Naturally, my thoughts turned to babies. Not only is this a natural place for my thoughts to turn in general, but I also happened to watch two Lifetime movies about teenage mothers this weekend. Besides the fact that I would now be dead had I gotten pregnant in high school (what’s the opposite of matricide? maybe infanticide, only when the infant is actually a pregnant teenager and her mom is so pissed she kills her?), I was really quite jealous of these teenage mothers. They don’t have to worry about the new study that says you only have 12 eggs left by the time you’re thirty. Sure, they have far more to worry about than that, but at least they have a baby.

Anyway, being that I am not a teenager and am therefore incapable of making ill-thought-out decisions regarding procreation, my second thought was that I needed a job. Well, that’s obvious. Money generally only comes to those who work (or else already have a ton of money to begin with), and I am sadly in need of money.

The problem with this solution is, of course, that it takes time to find a job, especially in a tiny college town where all the decent jobs are taken by stupid students…Oh sorry, that was a bit of a rant, but I’m getting bitter about the job market here.

SO, in the meantime, I suppose I’ll be doing more writing. When I was last unemployed, I managed to write a novel. Wonder if I can do it again? It’s either that or begin thinking more like a teenager 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It is lovely to bask in the feeling that comes from being the coolest, most awesomest adult out there, even if it is ridiculously untrue.

But I have to say, I don’t really understand it. Is the painfully loud ticking of my biological clock clearly audible to children under 12? It’s like they know that the last thing on this earth that my maternal instincts need would be encouragement, so of course they lay it on so thick. They are angels who can’t be more adorable/agreeable for the time that I spend in their presence. I’m certain children don’t behave this well for their own parents. It’s the one bit of knowledge keeping me from secretly visiting a fertility clinic to increase my odds of “accidental” pregnancy.

Seriously though, I spend a lot of time around the children of family members and friends. “Aunt Liz” just rolls off the tongue of these young ones, even when I’m not even remotely related to them. I’m warm, friendly, soft, and able to lift fifty pounds, though that last part is not without a certain level of discomfort. But I’m willing to suffer the discomfort many times over in order to hold a child for a few minutes. Of course, I get to give these delightful creatures back to their parents and am only required to lift and hold and love on them for certain small time periods. My role is that of temporary play friend/color-er/ring-around-the-rosie player/getter of milk and juice. I am only mildly responsible for disciplining these children, which probably explains my popularity with them.

I was, however, a very unpopular high school teacher, for the very same reason. I was more responsible for disciplining them, but I found that I had no innate skill at laying down the law. When I coached the swim team in my hometown, I had sixty kids who literally would do anything I asked at the drop of a hat. They loved me (or at least, in comparison with my other experiences with students). Because we’d established relationships well before I became an authority figure, they saw me as someone who deserved respect. My high school students saw me as someone who deserved to be tortured and humiliated. I’d like to think my swimmers had it right.

Now what I hear is that your own children are much easier to discipline than someone else’s. It’s your natural role as parent. Their behavior is a reflection of your parenting, so you have external motivators for providing that behavior management.

What I wonder is, will my own kids (imaginary as they may presently be) love me as much as other people’s kids tend to? I don’t expect much from teenagers, who apparently scare the living daylights out of me, but I have plenty of time to prep for that eventuality. I just need to know: is it just the fact that I don’t have to say “no” to other people’s kids or is it just that I’m so warm and fun and loveable?

Who am I kidding! I already know the answer. I’m so gosh darned loveable it’ll be impossible for my own equally loveable (imaginary) children not to love me just as much as those of my friends and family.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a married woman in possession of a functioning uterus and a soul must be always on the verge of pregnancy.

However little known this truth may be to a woman in this particular situation upon walking into a gas station or past a co-worker’s cubicle, this fact is so well fixed in the minds of mothers and fathers everywhere that she is considered to be approaching her second trimester, at the very least.

“My dear girl,” said her former Sunday-School teacher to her one day, “when is your baby due?”

She replied that it was certainly more than nine months from this date, as she wasn’t currently pregnant.

“But how long have you been married,” returned her teacher; “hasn’t it been more than five years?”

She made no answer.

“Do you not want children?” cried her teacher, impatiently.

You certainly must want me to have children, and I have no objection to it.”

I’d better go ahead and cite Pride and Prejudice here, in case it wasn’t clear. (Jane Austen is my writer hero.) Though this exact situation hasn’t actually happened to me, I have, on occasion (more frequently when I worked in an office where gossip was, frankly, out of control), been accused of being pregnant. Fortunately, no complete stranger has of yet asked when my baby was due, but I did have a former church-mom-youth-trip-chaperon-lady suggest, before the wedding, that I got married to my husband because I was pregnant. Why else would we get engaged after knowing one another for two months? Certainly not because we love each other and would stay together for (at this point) six years without the impetus of a child to glue our relationship together. And I definitely resented the assumption that such glue was necessary. The problem is, I am a married woman in possession of a (as far as I know) functioning uterus and a soul, and I fall squarely into this category, desperately wanting a baby. And maybe I’m just being paranoid, assuming that everyone must be wondering why on earth Hubby and I haven’t procreated after six years of blissful happiness, therefore I am giving voice to my own fears with the exercise above. I tend to think I just haven’t yet run into anyone ballsy enough to ask me when I’m going to have a baby already, and that’s why the exchange above hasn’t been part of my experience on the subject. I’m certain that this is it. In the meantime, while I wait for this individual to appear in my life, I will just remain calm and try to find a reasonable answer to that question… Surely there’s a good reason why I haven’t had a baby yet?

(Trust me, it isn’t for lack of want… more likely, from lack of funds… and an already full house. And don’t worry. I’m not on the verge of a breakdown. If you happen to be pregnant and you are my friend, I am quite happy for you, and only a little jealous. I promise.)

Babies, babies everywhere and not an egg to spare… This has become my mid-twenties mantra. Sometime in the past two years there was apparently a massive snow storm, everyone’s power went out, and the entire Southeast woke up pregnant.  Who knew what a firestorm of fertility those high school friends were? Remember that wild woman from college who drank her breakfast and consumed Mentos for lunch? She’s popped one out and cooking another.  Don’t drink the water and watch where you land. It’s a jungle out there and George has lost his loin cloth.

If I sound irreverent, it’s the insane jealousy speaking. While listening to Pandora Radio at work yesterday, the song, “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed came on. I shed a physical tear. I cried to Creed. Yes, Creed…Scott Stapp…the worst thing to come out of an otherwise delightful decade. The only thing that would have induced more self-loathing would have been for me to have warbled along to a Nickelback ditty.  Other things that have sparked the water works in the past week include a two year-old’s birthday party, tiny socks, and a touching father/son moment on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser.” I have lost my mind.

Something else has occurred which pains me greatly. I now have to mentally steel myself upon logging into Facebook. It goes something like this: “Well, today’s a Tuesday, and it’s 11:03 in the morning, so someone is sure to be pregnant. That’s ok, though. That is their prerogative, and does not reflect on me or my failure as a woman. I am awesome and could most definitely be pregnant if that was my intention. That is not my intention, though, because I’m only a quarter of a century old, and there’s plenty of time as long as I live to be 100 and never go through menopause. I’m totally ok with waiting another 12 years while we save more money, pay off the car, plant bushes and learn to play the bagpipes. I’m sure that my eggs are not committing mass suicide every additional day that I’m not pregnant because that would be a scientifically sound assumption, and what has science ever gotten right?!” Once I have gone through this pep talk with myself I usually summon the courage to type in my password and hit enter, to which I’m greeted with the ominous, “Susan has updated her About Me!” Yay, Susan.

The question that we (my husband and I) keep coming back to is “when will we be ready?” I think that the only plausible answer is “never.” There will never be enough money. We will never be free of all bad habits. The back room will always be full of crap, and no one’s ever going to learn to play the bagpipes. As Death Cab for Cutie so eloquently states, “Plans are just tiny prayers.” So where does that leave us? “Where the sidewalk ends and before the street begins?” Yep, I think so.