A Day in the Life

The true tale of Sunday, April 26, 2009.

8 am: Awakened by 4-year-old wondering if we can make “Pinkalicious Cupcakes” based on the delightful book by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann. I reply that we can. Can we make them now? Tempting as pink cupcakes sound for breakfast I reply in the negative. 4-year-old’s face falls heartbreakingly. Implies that a reading of the book might make up for lack of breakfast cupcakes. I comply.

8:20 am: 4-year-old runs off to change into something blindingly pink. I lie in bed willing coffee to miraculously make itself. Unsuccessful.

8:30 am: While making coffee and breakfast I realize that a rare alignment of the stars has occurred, and that we have absolutely no plans, appointments, or necessary errands to run. The entire day is free! This is an unexpected boon, as I just yesterday found out that my favorite used book store is going out of business, and now have an urgent need to visit and ensure that no overlooked treasures will be lost in the tragic dismantling. But first… Although it is not Mother’s Day, I inform my offspring that mommy is taking her toast and coffee into bed, and should be interrupted only in an emergency.

9-11 am: Oh the decadence! Sunday morning in bed with books!

Arrange necessary reading-in-bed items on the counterpane: coffee, journal, laptop, iPod, and books in various stages of completion (Michael Dirda’s Readings, one of the essays from which came the idea for this post; Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, which I am reading reluctantly, not being a fan of what I perceive is Rand’s heavy-handed writing style; Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park which I recently finished (and loved! how can one not love Austen?) but must now review notes and plan for my Rediscovering the Classics class; and Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto which I hope to review for the blog, and which has hijacked my imagination with its surprising beauty and even now won’t let me go).

In the midst of my printed words I somehow find the LibriVox website, and from there discover their weekly short story podcast archives. Joy! LibriVox also offers a books podcast, poetry podcast, community podcast, and new releases podcast. I download dozens of short stories with the idea that surely the children will fall in love with the stories of Poe, Twain, and Hans Christian Anderson, and from there become young literature enthusiasts and co-conspirators.

11 am: Finally drag myself away from books and podcasts when I realize that while I have had visions of bookworms dancing in my head, my sweet cherubs have actually been improving their minds with Barbie movies for the past two hours. Pack lunches, children and bikes into the van for bike-ride/beach trip (should get Nobel Prize in Physics for accomplishing this Herculean task), but first…

12-1 pm: Quick stop at The Book Bag, the aforementioned favorite used book store, to “just look”. Although I have absolutely no intention of buying anything (that stop at the ATM for $60 cash was not in the least premeditated), a pristine hardbound copy of Dickens’ Bleak House (with the original illustrations) literally jumps off the shelf and into my hands. With the “All hardcover books $2, limited time only” sale, how can I refuse?? Also find lovely hardcover copy of Updike’s S. and A Month of Sundays, which I have been longing to read. If only they also had a copy of Roger’s Version that particular series would be complete, but alas, Roger’s Version is not to be found today. Paperback acquisitions include Small Ceremonies and Happenstance, both by Carol Shields (author of The Stone Diaries); a previously undiscovered Dancing Girls and Other Short Stories by Margaret Atwood; and Thornton Wilder’s Our Town to replace the copy I lent out and never got back.

Saved at this time from further spending by my darling daughters, who politely suggest that perhaps they’ve spent enough time in the quiet little bookshop, and request to finally be taken on the promised bike ride.

1 pm: Books purchased and safely stowed, we begin the drive to the beach. The downloaded short stories from LibriVox are delightful, engaging and educational, and instill an immediate passion for literature in my awestruck children… or so I assume would have happened had we actually listened to the stories. Instead, at children’s request, we listened to Taylor Swift sing about high school parties, longed-for weddings, and broken hearts.

1:30-4:30 pm: Glorious bike ride along beach path. Air is crisp but not cold, sun is shining, passers-by are friendly. We take a short break at a beach side playground where the kids can climb. I only regret that I neglected to put a book in my bike basket before setting out, but console myself by taking pictures of happy girls and lying in the warm sand. I don’t even think reading in bed could be better than this. Probably.

4:30 pm: After packing up the bikes and driving home we stop at the grocery store to pick up chicken for dinner and ingredients for the promised cupcakes. Shopping is brief–checkout lines are ridiculously long!! Note to self: Stay away from grocery stores on Sunday afternoons.

5:15 pm: With help of kids, make “Pinkalicious cupcakes”, using white cupcake batter and frosting, and an overabundance of pink food coloring. 4-year-old hopes to wake up completely pink inside and out tomorrow morning. While cupcakes are baking I set the table, heat chicken and green-beans, and even have a few minutes left over to read another of Michael Dirda’s essays!

6:30 pm: After dinner, and while the cupcakes cool mouthwateringly on the counter, I help the girls disassemble the forts made out of dining room chairs and blankets that have stood in the living room all weekend. This is an excellent opportunity for me to rediscover (and re-shelve) the heavier books in my library, and which are apparently excellent fort-building material. I’m gratified to know the books are appreciated by others in the family. Sample titles: Oxford American Dictionary, World Atlas, Norton Anthology of American Literature, Complete Works of Shakespeare, Harry Potter numbers 5 and 7, a biography of Walt Disney, and a collection of stories about horses. My children have eclectic (but admirable) taste in building materials.

7 pm: Finally time to decorate the sweets. While the girls properly pink-ify the cupcakes, the kitchen and themselves, I sneak a few minutes to sniff my new-used copy of Bleak House and drool over the original drawings. After cupcakes are finished we take photos and sample the finished product. We expect to all have rare and acute cases of pinkitis in the morning.

7:45 pm: Bedtime routine. After teeth are brushed and faces washed I read each daughter their own story. I begin C.S. Lewis’s A Horse and His Boy (one of my favorite childhood reads) for my 4-year-old in the hopes that the brilliant tale of danger, adventure, mistaken identity and talking horses will get her interested in the rest of the series. My 4-year-old is sadly uninterested in this heretofore unsuspected resistible tale and asks for Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy instead. HOWEVER…. 9-year-old is completely drawn in by The Horse and His Boy and asks for more. Success!!

10 pm: Kids are in bed. After being waylaid by phone calls from various family members I snuggle into bed with a glass of red wine to read Atlas Shrugged. Half an hour later the book lies face-down on my chest, my glasses have slid down my nose, and I am dreaming of fifth symphonies and train-rides across America…

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