‘mrs death’

I don’t remember thinking about death one way or another when I was a child, so I have been surprised and curious about my sons’ attitudes toward death. When my older son was about seven, he developed a complete obsession with death and was forever making me take him to cemeteries all over the place. He eventually grew out of it. My younger son, now 12, seems by contrast to have a nonchalant, matter of fact and almost buddy-ish approach to the idea of death. Still working this one out, but this little piece recently showed up in the process:

important and fun

my mom is important and fun because she lets me fry meat and boil pasta when we cook dinner on the weekends

my mom is important and fun because she plays x-box 360 and asks me to help her she plays lara croft and monsters vs aliens

– Whale Child for school Poetry Week.

Important and fun – that’s me!

dust jacket phobia

Whale Child is eight and refuses to read, or contemplate reading, any dust-jacketed book with its jacket on.

We are about to move house. Preparing for the packers, I find I am finding a steady stream of bookless jackets all over the place.

There is nothing so forlorn as as a bookless dust jacket, I am also finding.

I ask myself: Have I failed as a mother or this a Sign of the Times?


As a mom who has had enduring mom issues of her own, I’m very conscious of the constant potential for creating such issues with my sons. “You’ll probably sit in a support group in twenty years and tell everybody how I did X or Y when you were small, and that’s ok,” I say. “I’ve been an insane and crappy mom lots of times. I admit it freely, right now, on the record, ok? It’s not a big dark personality-eating secret. It’s a fact you can get mad about right now, if you want.”

“Sure, whatever, mom, but you’re standing on my computer cord. Do you mind?”

Love you anyway, my favorite boys.  Thanks for the bright bright red Mother’s Day fan and the Rooster Teeth shout-out with the super cool icons!


Whale Child: Mom, tell me again the story about (traumatic childhood incident involving his brother).

Me: I’ve already told it to you a bunch of times, sweetie. I don’t like telling it. It upsets me.

Whale Child: Well, why don’t you wear ear-plugs so you don’t have hear it?

Being Eight

Songs on Whale Child’s ‘Faves’ list on the 1gb hand-me-down i-Pod Nano he inherited from his big brother:

    Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting, Carl Douglas
    The Click Song, Miriam Makeba
    The Lion Sleeps Tonight, The Tokens
    Lady of the Sea, Seth Lakeman
    We Are The Champions, Queen
    Another One Bites the Dust, Queen
    Iko Iko, Aaron Carter
    Build Me Up Buttercup, The Foundations
    Runaround Sue, Dion
    Panis Angelicus, Sting & Pavarotti
    Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, Nickelback
    Waterloo, Abba
    Thriller, Michael Jackson
    500 Miles, The Proclaimers

Is this a representative 8-year-old i-Pod faves list in 2009? I fear we are either in the process of seriously warping him or have already successfully done so, without even trying.

aaaall riiiighty then

This cracked me up when Whale Child (who is eight and, what can I say, a devoted fan of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (whom his father and I loathe with the deadliest of loathings, much good that has done us)) brought it to our attention.

So now, whenever anything threatens to explode — within or without, on whatever plane — what else can we do but look at each other and do that circled-thumb-and-index-finger Zen thing and intone aall riighty then….?

boy think

(After a good on and off hour of whining for activity X, which I said we would get to if, and only if, everything else got done.)

Me: OK, that’s enough! If you whine at me one more time we’re not doing X today. Or ever. OK?

Whale Child (considers): OK. How about if I just grunt at you?

Separate occurrence:

Whale Boy (wanders into the kitchen and pulls out one iPod earbud temporarily): Hey. Could anyone think themselves to death, do you think? 

Whales? Us?!

Whale Boy’s and Whale Child’s monikers on this blog have come to their attention and they have protested. People will think we’re huge (WB). People will think we’re full of blubber (WC).

While agreeing that on a literal level Matchstick Family would on the whole be a better description of us than Whale Family, I tried to explain that this blog’s title comes off the metaphorical, not the literal, shelf. Via Hamlet and Ogden Nash.

I’m not sure I made a great impact.

snoring bear

Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman.

No complaints here – lyrical rhymed iambic dimeter with lots of anapestic substitutions, occasionally running into trimeter. A cute cozy story with charming illustrations, enhanced by a short moment of growling tension that is amicably resolved. For ages 3-7, so Whale Child is on the older end for it, but he loves it and can listen to it endlessly.


Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks. This is a re-issue of a collection of poem about kids in Chicago’s Bronzeville area that was originally published in 1956. The illustrations are by Faith Ringgold and the poems are about different kids living different everyday moments in the neighborhood.

As a whole, the collection was not a hit with Whale Child or with me. Although Ringgold in general does very very attractive work (check out her website at the link), these illustrations did not grab us. There was none of the wackiness that would appeal to a six-year-old (the book does say ages 7-10, so that may be part of it) and to me they were frankly somber, if not downright depressing, with a lack of movement and brightness — all the faces so impassive, if not actually sorrowful-looking — that is very interesting from an adult perpective but just did the book in as a children’s book, in my view.

The pieces themselves are in rhyming di- or tri- or tetrameter, many of them in ballad style, with some old-fashionedness both of diction and of activity described, which is to be expected, given that they were written in 1956. There was a little too much about fairly prim little girls in frocks and ribbons and white ankle-socks for Whale Child’s taste. We’ll revisit this one in a year or two and see.

This is just to say


This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness, by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. One of several kid poetry books I ordered for Whale Child in a fit of guilt a while ago.

Okay, this one is very cute. As usual, super-fab illustrations – wacky kid-friendly sketches with all kinds of oddball details that fascinated Whale Child. The collection is supposedly written by a group of sixth-graders in response to a class assignment. They all end up saying sorry to someone, whether in class or out of it, whether human or not; and get responses too. Mostly pretty light free verse and easy to read like dramatic mini-stories, which Whale Child enjoyed. A whole book of sorry poems sounded a bit morbid to me at first, but each poem strikes a different note and there’s lots of humor involved. Some were more serious than others (one about having to put a sick dog to sleep), but all a nice read. Each piece stands on its own, but they all refer to someone else in the class or in the family groups of the class, so in the end you get a nice sense of community.

a hundred horrible heads


Mother Earth now brought forth two terrible monsters, Typhon and his mate Echidna, and sent them against Zeus. They were so fearful that when the gods saw them they changed themselves into animals and fled in terror. Typhon’s hundred horrible heads touched the stars, venom dripped from his evil eyes, and lava and red-hot stones poured from his gaping mouths. Hissing like a hundred snakes and roaring like a hundred lions, he tore up whole mountains and threw them them at the gods.
…………………………………………………..- D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths

Not really kid poetry, but oh well. Poetry food. That bit’s a favorite of Whale Child and his brother before him and I must say the idea of tearing up whole mountains and throwing them at the gods is taking. Not to be read extensively in long sittings, but judiciously, here and there, with most emphasis on the gory and the wacky. The boys have both have liked the minor odd-ball characters best – Typhon, the Centaurs, Argus, Cerberus, the Hydra, etc. If you have a baby, just buy this book and stash it on the bookshelf now. A good background book that keeps giving over years and years.


The capital of the Netherlands, according to Whale Child. I wish I could get into his head and see how he imagines it. Like something out of Richard Scarry, with hordes of hamsters driving the trams and skating on the canals and eating poffertjes?

Unrelated Whale Childism: Mom, if you fell off a cliff I would be sad as big as a dinosaur. No, as big as God.

Where did this come from?

Do I look like I’m about to fall off a cliff?