Gorgeous rocker cradle by fine woodworker Scott Morrison.
The copy I borrowed of Babies: An Unsentimental Anthology, edited by Iona and Peter Opie, is long overdue at the library. A computer somewhere is totting up my fine as I type. And that is a shame, as I've been meaning to post number of excerpts from this delicious collection of amusing, unflattering, and often realistic snippets from literature about babies. Here is one of my favourites:
If you rock an empty cradle, you will rock a new baby into it. This is a superstition in viridi observantia, and it is quite curious to see the face of alarm with which a poor woman, with her tenth baby in her arms, will dash across the room to prevent the 'baby-but-one' from engaging in such a dangerous amusement as rocking the empty cradle.
The Book of Days, Robert Chambers, 1864, II, 9 July
I've been collecting lots of photos of beautiful rocker cradles and rocking chairs on pinterest.
Vivi doesn't need her nap every day any more -- and then, sometimes, she does. This happened at 4pm yesterday. (Far too late in the day for a real nap.) Thanks to Holly for videotaping it. Don't worry, she took pity on poor Sylvie after this and moved her into a reclining position on the couch. But when I came home twenty minutes later, I woke her up.
A new picture book to read at bedtime: Go the Fuck to Sleep. But perhaps you should read it at your bedtime, not your children's. A sample verse:
The cats nestle close to their kittens now.
The lambs have laid down with the sheep.
You're cozy and warm in your bed, my dear
Please go the fuck to sleep.
Luke had a terrible dream the other night. He dreamt that I pushing Sylvie in a shopping cart across a parking lot and that he and David were also in the parking lot, but some distance away. Suddenly, the shopping cart exploded and Sylvie and I were flung into the air. He came running to where we landed on the ground, still alive but somehow... different.
He asked me, "Are you going to be the same, Mommy?"
Apparently I replied ominously, "I'm afraid not."
The next thing he knew, his 19-month-old sister Sylvie stood up, now clad in a sort of black metal "fighting suit" and began to attack him. He was unable to fend her off, as her suit made her practically invincible. One of her eyes was her normal blue but the other was... red.
When Luke recounted this dream to me, I was so amused by the image of Sylvie as a lethal fighting toddler machine that I suggested we should remember it and make it Sylvie's Halloween costume next year. Unfortunately, Luke was freaked out by the idea, and is very much against our implementing it.
Edmund Dulac's The Real Princess (or the Princes and the Pea).
Sylvie's nickname is "Button." I think I should change it to "Pea."
I would like a copy of this illustration, I think, to hang on my bedroom wall. Artsy Craftsy has one for sale.
This particular illustration is mentioned in Patricia Morrisroe's Wide Awake, which I prattled on about in the previous post. Morrisroe and her husband spent a Christmas at the Ice Hotel in Swedish Lapland, where he presented her with a copy of Stories from Hans Christian Andersen. (I'm not sure if he presented her with the reproduction I linked to -- what a beautiful book at a good price -- or a first edition.)
I realize I've been relying heavily on photos instead of words here on the blog lately -- that's because I've been having a lot of trouble stringing them together when speaking, let alone writing. I am just. so. tired. At about four or five months of age Sylvie started to pretty much sleep through the night. Regular readers of this blog could probably go back and check for the exact date -- I'm too tired to bother. Because ever since Sylvie started to crawl, about two months or so ago, she's been waking up pretty much every two or three hours at night. At first I thought she was excited by her new ability and simply wanted to get moving; then I chalked it up to teething. She had an ear infection in B.C., which certainly didn't help, and now, as a result of the antibiotics, she has thrush. So it's probably been all of those things, in sequence or in combination. I don't consider it sleep deprivation on par with that caused by a newborn -- those wakenings, at least for me and my babies, always lasted an hour or more at a time. These wakenings are usually mercifully brief, except for an early morning one that generally lasts forty-five minutes to an hour, around four a.m.
I'm a big sleeper -- love to sleep! Loved it before I had children. Love it even more now. And I need a lot of it. I've always needed more than the average eight hours a night. I need about nine to feel normal. And I'll happily steal ten if I can. I also like to read in bed, so those ten hours are, ideally, book-ended by a couple of hours lying there reading. Of course, this does not happen nearly often enough for my liking, not with two small children, and probably too often for David's. (The man is a saint. And he doesn't need very much sleep. And I haven't said a word about all the hockey lately. Isn't there some kind of playoff thingy going on?)
One of the subjects I like to read about in bed is, drum roll please: sleep. So this week, I absolutely devoured Patricia Morrisroe's new memoir of insomnia, Wide Awake. A magazine writer, Morrisroe, who is best known for her biography of Robert Mapplethorpe, has been an insomniac since childhood. She has no trouble falling asleep -- it takes her an enviable five minutes. It's staying asleep that's the problem. She generally wakes up for at least a couple of hours in the dead middle of the night. At least, she used to. Because during the writing of this book, which she decided to write in order to find a cure, she did indeed solve the problem of her insomnia. This is actually quite surprising, given how unyielding the problem tends to be. The book belongs as much in the popular science genre as it does in the memoir category-- it is science made light, personal and, whenever possible, amusing. In fact, even though I'm utterly sleep-deprived at the moment, it actually kept me up, reading into the night for way too long.
For a little taste of Morrisroe on sleep, check out this article about how her mother-in-law, who is 87, takes advantage of her insomnia to work her way through the classics.
I like sleep so much, I've often thought of writing a novel about it. (I wrote "dreamed" instead of "thought" first and then changed it. That was too much of a groaner, even for me.) A novel about sleep would be exciting, huh? Here's a tiny flash I once wrote on the subject.
Also, if you like the subject of sleep and you haven't read Steven Millhauser's novella Enchanted Night, you really should. There's a lot more activity in it than just sleeping but it's very ... sleepy. And it beautifully evokes a small-town summer night.
If you know of any more really good books on the subject of sleep -- or somehow related to it -- please do drop me a line or leave a comment.
Laurie Colwin is as hilarious as Lorrie Moore (or as nerdy about word-play, depending on your point of view) but she's fundamentally more cheerful. Colwin's stuff reads mainly as the work of a mostly optimistic person with a few dark patches, say, like freckles. Moore's stuff is like the darkest dark chocolate, if dark chocolate were depressed and angry in addition to being bitter. Laurie Colwin is dead, however, and Lorrie Moore is not. For what that's worth.
I am tired. Am I making any sense at all?
Anyway. Here's a good bit about motherhood and the accompanying exhaustion from Laurie Colwin's lovely book A Big Storm Knocked It Over:
That afternoon the babies were napping in Miranda's crib, an accomplishment their mothers felt was a kind of miracle. It was the first time they had managed to get both asleep at the same time. They sat on Jane Louise's couch, on opposite ends, drinking decaffeinated coffee. Edie yawned.
"I'd love a cup of real coffee," she said. "But why should I feed him caffeine? He never sleeps as it is."
"He sleeps a little," Jane Louise said.
"I ought to hate you," Edie said. "Because Miranda sleeps through the night."
"Yes, darling," said Jane Louise, "if you consider eleven o'clock at night till four in the morning sleeping through the night. Oh, sleep! Don't you remember how wonderful it used to feel?"
"No," said Edie. "I'm too tired."
"Someday," Jane Louise said, "they'll be fifteen years old. Just think of it."
"You think of it," Edie said. "We'll be up all night wondering where they are. Then they'll be sixteen, and we'll lie in bed all night wondering if they cracked up the car. Then they'll be twenty, and we'll lie in bed terrified that they're taking drugs."
"Well, most of the people we knew did, and look at them now," said Jane Louise. [...]
"You look at them," Edie said glumly. "Oh, Christ. I'll never have a decent night's sleep for the rest of my life."
"Oh well," Jane Louise said. "Anyone can sleep."
"Perhaps we're so old that our cells are way past the regeneration point, so maybe it doesn't matter if we never sleep again, since we probably don't have any cells left to repair."
"Hey," said Jane Louise, "why don't we just pass out quietly on the sofa while our little babies sleep?"
"Because they'll only wake up," Edie said. "Besides, I'm too tired."