This Bird Does It

Librarian ramblings


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#DearGirlieBird #BirthdayGirl #TweenYears

Dear Girlie Bird,

Sweet girl, you are turning eleven. ELEVEN! It’s not typically thought of as a milestone year, but in these years, they all feel like milestones. Maybe even more so than in the 4-9 years. I look back on each birthday and the first few are so distinct, and though I can remember each one individually when I try, they run together for a few years, but the last couple are as distinct as the first few.

fall 19When you were born I remember praying every single minute that I could be an adequate mother for you. I prayed I could just be enough. Not because “just enough” was all I wanted to be. Like most new moms, I wanted to be Super Mom. I wanted to be perfect. But from the first second, I knew I wouldn’t be perfect. No parent is perfect, and I never harbored any illusion that I would be the exception. That’s not to say that I wasn’t certain I could do better than some other moms out there, but I knew I would screw up some things. But I kept praying, “Dear Lord, please let me get this right, or at least mostly right. Let me be the best mom I’m capable of being. Let me protect her safety, her spirit, her heart, and her intellect. Let me teach her about You, about herself, about the world. Let me be a little bit of the mother she deserves.”

It was nearly a panicked feeling. I was confident I could get through those newborn days. I knew I could clean up any blow out, power through breastfeeding or be okay with switching to bottles, tolerate the sleep deprivation. I was totally confident in my ability to get through those first few days, months, even years. I remember your grandmother and my aunts praising me for being “such a good mother” in those early days and I laughed. I had no trouble remembering to keep you in a t-shirt, make sure there was always extra socks in the bag, or researching car seats. That was the easy part! Diapers are nothing, but the hard part was out there. The hard part was a decade or so away. I would go to bed and say my prayers and break into cold sweats thinking about what was ahead. Babyhood was easy, but what about when she can talk, and think, and get into real trouble? What about when she starts asking questions, making her own friends, having opinions? What about when she isn’t pacified by a kiss and a popsicle?

And here we are. You are your own person. You are an amazing, beautiful, caring, sweet, brilliant, kind, courageous, awesome person! You blow me away with who you are. I can’t believe I know you, much less get to be your mother. I still feel so inadequate for the task, but I know that loving you, praying for both of us, and following my heart will get us through the next few years. I don’t know what those years will hold, but I know I’m just as committed to getting through them as the day your were born. And just as scared. I’m going to screw some of it up. You’re going to screw up. I will always forgive you, and I hope you can forgive me.

You have made me so much prouder than I ever imagined. I am proud of how you think, who you are, and the even the people you choose to spend your time with. I pray that you will always make such wonderful choices in friends. The group you have surrounded yourself with at school is as smart and funny as you are, and they appreciate your most wonderful qualities. I trust them to be loyal and solid friends to you for a long time. I’m proud of them, too.

These next few years are going to be so full of changes and challenges. So many things will change and develop. I am thrilled to be able to witness this transformation that has already begun. You are not a little girl anymore. You’re well on your way to becoming a wonderful young woman. Every day brings a little more maturity and a little less of that little girl. It is not going to be a smooth ride all the way. There are going to be times when you feel like the world is ending. You will hate me a little, probably more than a few times. I can take it. I promise that nothing I ever do will be motivated by anything but love for you and your brothers. I promise that every decision your dad and I make through the rest of your lives will be based on what’s best for you three, for our family. It’s an easy promise for me to make because we don’t know how to do anything else. Even when we get it wrong, and we will get it wrong sometimes, you can know that we will do what we really believe is best for our children.

I guess I’ve rambled on enough for now. You’re ELEVEN! Happy Birthday, sweet Girlie Bird. I love you so much. You are the baby that made me a mommy, you made us more than a couple but a family. You are my only daughter and I can’t imagine a more amazing one. You are the fourth generation of a first born daughter, and I have no idea what that means, but it’s pretty cool, right?

I love you, baby.

Your Mommy, Bird

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Christmas Pageant rehearsal

I love kids. I love my kids, and other people’s kids most of the time. I love kids shows, and I love directing amateur productions. But I think I would rather die than direct a children’s production. It’s chaos. It’s insane. It’s WORSE than herding cats.

Thankfully it’s not my job.

But Girlie got a big speaking part in this year’s Sunday School production. So, each Sunday evening until the production, I’ll drive her over to the church for practice and watch her flounder with her lines and experience the frustration of not being able to will her to speak louder and clearer and with better diction. Gah, I have issues!

Still, she’s worked hard already to memorize her lines. And watching kids try to do this is sweet and makes me teary-eyed. And that’s my girl! She’s trying so hard and she’s going to be great.

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Such a lovely evening, #FridayNight #MovieNight

I totally blew off all reasonable responsibilities tonight and hung out with the two big kids. The little one is at Grandma’s and Daddy is out of town, so the three of us had a lovely veg out evening.

Seriously, this boy LOVES some orange soda.

Seriously, this boy LOVES some orange soda.

I took them to the grocery right after school for their very favorite treat in the world. No, it isn’t ice cream. No, not candy. For heaven’s sake we’ve got enough of that around here. Not even baked goods, cookies, cakes, pies, muffins. None of that is as wonderful as a highly sweetened, carbonated beverage. The girl chose root beer, the boy chose orange Sunkist. I’m all about healthy eating and improving our diets, but sometimes you just have to splurge. I also picked up the stuff to make pizza at home.

We got home and changed into jammies. We brought our pillows down from bed and cuddled on recliners with the fire lit. We enjoyed cocoa, soda, home baked pizza, popcorn, and more soda. We watched several hours of Phineas and Ferb, including the Star Wars parody that was just fabulous fun. Then we watched the Nut Job. We giggled a lot.

It was perfectly lovely just being together. I don’t know if they’ll remember tonight when they look back on their childhood, but I will.


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Perfection. It doesn’t exist, but the story DOES!

364_29718079747_5941_nIn 1978 I started second grade at William H. Blount Elementary School on Princess Place Drive in Wilmington, N.C. I liked school. I liked books. I liked the library. I remember being in the space with lots of short stacks and paint-stirrer sticks used to mark the spot on the shelf where you removed a book. I remember going into the library for storytime. I don’t know how often we students were herded into the library and seated on the pea soup colored carpet to listen to a teacher or librarian read a story, but I remember one particular story so clearly.

Do you remember any of the stories you were read in the second grade? How about any of the stories that you never heard again? I mean, sure I remember the Dr. Suess stories. I remember the Madeline stories. I remember Eloise and Curious George. I’ve been reading those, or hearing about them, or watching them be turned into children’s programs, since I was a child. We read those at home and read them over and over. But this one time, this one story, that I would not hear again for 36 years, I remembered. And I spoke of it sometimes to friends. We would laugh about how ridiculous it was. Who tells kids a story like that? I often wondered over the years if I had made it up in my own memory. Or perhaps I just remembered it differently.364_29718084747_6150_n

The story, as I remembered it, was about a perfect little girl and the devil. The devil was, of course, unhappy that a little girl could be so perfect and began trying to get her to be angry. If she were to get angry, he reasoned, she wouldn’t be perfect. So he gave her the chicken pox, but she didn’t scratch or complain. He had a cow step on her favorite doll, but (and I always used this exact phrase in retelling the story) she forgave the cow. He tried all sorts of other tricks that didn’t work, but in the end he did win. He let her have her perfect life, a perfect husband, and a perfect house. And a less than perfect child.

When I started thinking again about becoming a librarian, this story kept coming back to my mind. I knew that I had to find it. I had to find out if it was even real. It seemed like an excellent wannabe librarian challenge. I Googled and Googled, and eventually, I figured out that it was a real story and it appeared in The Devil’s Storybook, by Natalie Babbitt, first published in 1974. At the time, that was fine, I only needed to know that some story about a perfect little girl and the devil was real. I probably twisted it around in my head anyway. I probably didn’t remember the story just right. I’d only been seven, after all, and I have never heard the story since.

364_29718094747_6354_nThis week I happened across an article about my old elementary school. It doesn’t matter much what it was about, so I’ll spare you, but it made me remember those storytimes when I was little. I decided I needed to get hold of a copy of The Devil’s Storybook. It was time that I actually READ the story and compared it to my memory. It only took a couple days for my library’s consortium to get it delivered to my local branch. It’s a really short story, so bare with me while I share the whole thing.

“Perfection,” by Natalie Babbitt

There was a little girl once called Angela who always did everything right. In fact, she was perfect. She had better manners than anyone, and not only that, but she hung up her clothes and never forgot to feed the chickens. And not only that, but her hair was always combed and she never bit her fingernails. A lot of people, all of them fair-to-middling, disliked her very much because of this, but Angela didn’t care. She just went right on being perfect and let things go as they would. 

Now, when the Devil heard about Angela, he was revolted. “Not,” he explained to himself, “that I give a hang about children as a rule, but this one! Imagine what shell be like when she grows up–a woman whose only fault is that she has no faults!” And the very thought of it made him cross as crabs. So he wrote up a list of things to do that he hoped would make Angela edgy and, if all went well, even make her lose her temper. “Once she loses her temper a few times,” said the Devil, “she’ll never be perfect again.”20140307_073628

However, this proved harder to do than the Devil had expected. He sent her chicken pox, then poison ivy, and then a lot of mosquito bites, but she never scratched and didn’t even seem to itch. He arranged for a cow to step on her favorite doll, but she never shed a tear. Instead, she forgave the cow at once, in public, and said it didn’t matter. Next the Devil fixed is that for weeks on end her cocoa was always too hot and her oatmeal too cold, but this, too, failed to make her angry. In fact, it seemed that the worse things were, the better Angela liked it, since it gave her a chance to show just how perfect she was.

Years went by. The Devil used up every idea on his list but one, and Angela still had her temper, and her manners were still better than anyone’s. “Well, anyway,” said the evil to himself, “my last idea can’t miss. That much is certain.” And he waited patiently for the proper moment.

When that moment came, the Devil’s last idea worked like anything. In fact, it was perfect. As soon as he made it happen, Angela lost her temper once a day at least, and sometimes oftener, and after a while she had lost it so often that she was never quite so perfect again.

And how did he do it? Simple. He merely saw that she got a perfect husband and a perfect house, and then–he sent her a fair-to-middling child.

I was stunned at how perfectly I’d remembered the details of the story, but at the same time, how different the story really was. It was essentially the same story I’d remembered, but in Ms. Babbitt’s words, now it was about the concept of “perfection”  and the idea of perceptions, and parenthood, and life. Now, with my 42 year old, mother’s sensibilities, I read this story and cried. Not because I’d ever, EVER been perfect, or even aspired to perfection. Not because my husband, or my house, or any other aspect of my life, is perfect. Not because I have any fair-to-middling children. 364_29718099747_6555_n

My mind is still wrapping itself around this little story. I don’t suppose there are a lot of K-12 librarians reading it to school children these days. Why did I remember it so well? I wonder why it made such an impact on my seven-year-old mind. Regardless, I feel so satisfied in having tracked it down and found out that I DID remember it correctly. I feel so vindicated.