Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A fresh start, with stale crap

We have normality. Almost.

Houseguests have left the house. Visitors have stopped visiting. J-F is back at work this morning, and Helena, who was beginning to show signs of cabin fever, has returned to daycare.

Yesterday I ate a heck of a lot of cookies.

Today I am left to prioritize and begin to tackle a slew of tasks:

general housecleaning, of the kind the house has not seen for almost 2 weeks;

the purchase of toddler-size running shoes, of the kind that actually fit and do not hurt Helena's feet as she complains her now rather old running shoes do;

the purchase of toddler-size socks and underwear, certain realizations about which will by next Christmas, I expect, have turned me into a practical sort of mom, the sort of mom who gives her daughter socks and underwear for Christmas, because that's what she really needs, she certainly doesn't need more toys, and I figure I may have a couple years yet where she will delight in such gifts, perhaps she will learn to look forward to them in subsequent years, maybe even develop a lingerie fetish, or at least continue to receive them graciously, her groans will be suppressed with a flickering smile of understanding, though she will not truly understand until she herself is a mother watching her own child overwhelmed and potentially spoiled by a vast array of mostly useless, certainly financially reckless, and sadly ignored toys;

shopping in general, to treat myself to something nice, but most particularly for a pair of pants — I could really use some new pants;

the assembling of bedroom furniture;

the completion of The Globe and Mail's annual megacrossword puzzle (1532 clues this year), which I suspect will be set aside in its current state to be rediscovered next December as a useful means of procrastinating tasks regarding next Christmas's readiness, just as when I unearthed last year's half-completed puzzle a few weeks ago and felt pressured to make some headway before the new one was released.

the dismantling (4 tries it took me — I kept writing "dismemberment") of the Christmas tree; and

the active procrastination (already underway) of the big job I'm to deliver next week.

Books received for Christmas:
One. Just one. Do these people I call family even know me? What the fuck?

But the one, at least, is a really good one: Time Bites, a collection of essays, by Doris Lessing, on Sufism, cats, writing, and all manner of books. More on this later.

There's also the cash treat-yourself-to-something-nice envelopes, which I will use to compensate for everybody's oversight.

Books given:
a bistro-cooking cookbook;
a mostly photographic retrospective of Pope JPII;
Harry Potter #5, in French;
The Chronicles of Narnia, for my sister, whose recent admission that she'd never read them shocked me into the purchase, as well as leading me to wonder, "If she didn't introduce them to me, then who?"; and
a crappy sf book.

Books unfinished at year-end:
A Whistling Woman, by A.S. Byatt — deliberately set aside, but still I would've liked to be able to check it off at the end of the year. Really, books ought to be finished by year-end, except for those received at Christmas and periodically dipped into during the post-Christmas lounging period, but then I don't have to worry about that this year, having received only the one book and having had no time for lounging.

Also, Arthur & George, by Julian Barnes — not finished for lack of time, and because I refused to carry the hardcover with me during pre-Christmas public transit commutes, though I did find time to pick up with it again yesterday, and conveniently it is reviewed in Slate today.

Christmas stories, which do not measure against my now-favourite Christmas story, Paul Auster's Auggie Wren's Christmas Story (which I did re-read during the season, though sadly not aloud to a captive audience), but still:
The Horse in the Snow, by Jeanette Winterson
Present, by Ali Smith

Bookish things I mean to get round to writing about:
a phenomenal kid's book of poetry on jazz, or jazz poetry, which came into our house for our birthdays;
a trio of weirdly wonderful Moominland books, which I had been tucking into my bag and reading on the subway;
an exhibit celebrating 400 years of Don Quixote; and
thoughts on some stupid little book I read eons ago (Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook — decidedly neither stupid nor little, in case you don't hear my self-deriding tone for not being able to fully wrap my head around it, at least the part that has the capacity to articulate coherently about it).

Parenting mystery of the week:
How did my little girl learn to cheat at games?


Tim said...

I had the same experience -- I only got one book for Christmas! Though, as you said, it was a book that I really wanted (Confessions of an Economic Hitman). On top of that, Liz and I had a fairly depressing conversation over the holidays, where I realized that I hadn't read many great books this past year. Talk about a downer!

Suzanne said...

I'm glad your holidays have wrapped up nicely. Sounds like you have to drop big hints throughout the year, with frequency increasing in December, about which books you are simply dying to read.

martha said...

I didn't get ANY books for Christmas! What does that say about me and my loved ones? Except maybe that they don't have a clue about what I want to read? And maybe they figure I have enough damn books already. And underwear for Christmas? That made me laugh because a) C got fabulous Dora underwear in her stocking and b) J is still more than a little traumatized by getting underwear from his Mom for Christmas-- she is an imminently practical woman, but J was still creeped out by getting cheap bikini underwear from her only a few years ago, well into his thirties (he's a boxer man, for one). And what are Moominland books??

rachel said...

Moomins! Moomins! They're the reason I learned to read, if you can believe it! My mother HATED those books, and refused to read them to me anymore, and I had no choice! Re-reading them as an adult, I guess I can see why they might have creeped her out a bit, but they are still, to me, the pinnacle of children's literature, never equalled before or since.

Russell said...

Happy New Year! I keep telling everyone that they can check my wishlist on Amazon.com, especially for books. But no, I still get pairs of cheap socks and yet another pair of gloves (actually its not that bad, I did get some good non-book presents). My father-in-law who usually gets me joke gifts actually visted Amazon and got me my one book - a collection of young adult stories written by authors like Nick Hornby and Jonathan Safran Foer - called "Noisey Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Thing..." Cool!

GaelicGrl said...

K got many. Devyn got very many.

I got ONE book, too: a vintage (1947) book on maternal and infant care.

That "collection of young adult stories written by authors like Nick Hornby and Jonathan Safran Foer - called 'Noisey Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Thing...'(") sounds good.

GaelicGrl said...

Happy New Year!

Lizzie said...

I got a cookbook! Rachel Ray's "365 Days, No Repeats," or whatever it's called. Which is fine because I haven't read the 35-odd books that are stacked on my end table anyway.

(I can't even think about what a poor reader I've become, Isabella; it's just too depressing.)

I also got a GPS that Rocco returned the day after Christmas because he bought it on impulse and figured he could probably shop online for a better price. (I won't be getting another anytime soon, of that I am fairly sure). He also offered to buy me a pair of the diamond earrings that I've wanted forever, yet when we actually went out for the shopping trip, I just couldn't do it.

My favorite part of Christmas this year was shopping anonymously for a single mom and her three kids who go to our church. I have never had so much fun buying presents, for myself or anyone else. And I have to believe that they had fun opening them.

All in all, it was a swell Christmas!

callie said...

I, too, am wholly mortified by family and friends who failed to purchase more than a single book for me. It is as if we are strangers. For years, years, years they got it right. Don't know what to get Callie? Books ALWAYS work. Don't want to bother actually buying the books? BOOK gift certficate. Don't want to bother with the bookstore at all? AMAZON. It could not be simpler.

Truly. I am in awe. I'm pleased to know I am not the only one. It seems I have spent the past year slowly becoming less familiar to all those I know and love.

In lieu of books I received strange holiday socks, treats for my dog and gift certificates for home improvement stores. Blech, I say. Blech. Nary a good book can be found in Home Depot or OSH.

So, I find I'm slowly reading, caressing and generally crushing on my only book-gift of the holiday season: COLOR - A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay. I must say, its fascinating and, kudos to the gift-giver, is a book I actually wanted.

Thank you for reminding me to remind them all -- much earlier in the year. Perhaps...February is not to early to begin? :-)

Isabella said...

Tim: Economic hitman?!!?

Suzanne, Callie: I always thought it was to my advantage having a birthday in late November. A few days after the fact I usually start bemoaning, "I can't believe, nobody got me [X] for my birthday; maybe someone will think of it for Christmas..." It's obvious to me now that no one actually listens.

Martha: Dora underwear rocks! Helena already has some, but I'm on a mission to buy more.

As for Moomins, it was Rachel's enthusiasm for them elsewhere that ensured I'd remember their name, so when I came across them I had to see for myself. I'll dig around for some background and share in the near future.

Russell: I've seen that book, but heard next to nothing about it. Sounds great, but you'll have to confirm whether it's worth the price of admission.

Gaelicgrl: I hope you're looking to the book for entertainment and not advice.

Liz: I never buy cookbooks for myself and the quality of my cooking betrays this fact. I shouldn't complain though, cuz I did get a nice cookbook for my birthday.

Callie: I'm so sorry for the coal in your stocking — gift certificates to Home Depot sounds even worse than my vacuuming system. Perhaps they have something on constructing efficient libraries?