Happy Birthday, Dear Athena! ...and other news

April 4, 2011

Dear Family,

Not that I give barely one whit about alphabet soup after anyone's name, or what people think about the famous institutions that award said letters, but: My Very Intelligent And Coincidentally Always-Unschooled Youngest Brother, Loren, Recently Got Accepted Into Cornell. Not that I have an Inferiority Complex. And Not that I'm bitter, All-Of-You-Who-Said-That-Unschooling-Would-Waste-Our-Youth-And-Turn-Us-Into-Burger-Flippers. Really, I'm not bitter at all--I'm just having a good, immature time noticing, over and over again, how WRONG WRONG WRONG you were


As you may already know, my darling sister is today a quarter-century old!

The most astounding part is that I remember seeing her get born, right upstairs in the middle bedroom. As I always like to say, she was (and remains) the sister of my dreams, despite how I was really disappointed that she didn't have long, brown hair (suitable for French braiding) directly at birth. I had to wait two long years for it to grow, but it was worth the wait, as was she.

Not only did I get to give Athena a birthday kiss in person, but I also got to spend the past two days at Mom and Dad's house (sans kids!! thanks to Jeff holding down our fort), celebrating Athena's upcoming wedding with a blessingway last night, and having the unusual chance to sit around the dinner table, for the first time in over a decade, exclusively with every single member of my family-of-origin. Dinnertime, just like it always used to be...except for how enormous everyone is now, all these 6'+ brothers of mine, and how everyone's not all living at home, and how some of us have jobs and kids and upcoming weddings and college exams... But for one evening, one Saturday night, it was just us, and all those extraneous life details weren't really looming large. And we got photos to prove it. :)

It was a little bit crazy to be home, a lot a bit nice, and really very overwhelming and luxurious and fun and strange, all at the same time (the strange part having more to do with GAPS PTSD than anything else). It's something, to be a part of a bunch of individuals who are so strongly connected, and to have such very different people coming together simply because of this amorphous reason: We Are A Family. I have mostly been grateful for my membership in this “club” for a very long time, and especially since I recently exited my rebellious twenties. :) I am proud of each and every one of us; together we comprise this crazy bunch of personalities known as The Matilskys, and looking outside-in, I really can see why my friends used to wish they could join our family. It is never, ever boring at the Matilskys', there are always good things to read and good things to eat and interesting people stopping in, and spontaneous good music being made or played, and there's friendly competition both to better yourself intellectually and physically, and also to Do What You're Supposed To Do (like your share of the dishes).

And so, I was glad and proud to be home, and am getting a chance to contemplate it all on this bus ride home to my boys.



Additional thoughts on his favorite, sporty, nylon pants: “I like these pants because they're red and black, and I like red and black, and also 'cause they're _noisy_.”

Jem was intrigued last week, when I entreated either him or Ben to _Please_ talk more quietly, and just say [whatever he was yelling] to yourself, quietly!! “How can you hear you talk in your own head?” Jem asked me later. Well, it's called thinking, I told him, and you're the only one who can hear it. About ten seconds later I looked over, and he was staring at me with his eyes so blue and open wide, and his mouth shut so tight that I could barely see his lips for all his concentration, and he appeared to be holding his breath. Finally he exhaled and said, “I did it! Could you hear me?”



“I was so happy, I fell down!” (This is actually a big-deal Bennerism, denoting that some new level of gut-healing is being achieved, because he never ever used to _say_ the word “happy”, let alone use it in context and referring to his own feelings.)

Showing me a picture he drew: “This is a Traowl: partly an owl and partly a train.”


This past week, both Ben and Jem learned to pump on swings at the playground! This is an exciting new development for many reasons, and they look really cute when they pump.

Ben also discovered a way to balance, while standing, on a partially deflated pilates ball.


This past few weeks' booklist included:

“Circus Girl”, by Tomek Bogacki. An interesting tale of friendship and the wisdom of strangers, set during one week when the circus comes to a small town.

“Train Song”, by Diane Siebert. Jem thinks this books is _REALLY_ good, especially the poetic rhyming verses, and the picture of the train at sunset when it's all yellow.

“Fox Song”, by Joseph Bruchac. This is wordy, but the boys liked it more than I thought they would; concerns the happy memories of the young narrator's grandmother, who has recently died.

“There's Nothing to Do On Mars”, by Chris Gall. A tongue-in-cheek, science-fiction fantasy adventure for three-year-olds.

The “Olivia” books, by Ian Falconer. I am pretty sure that my boys do not understand the subtle smart-ass humor in these books, but I kind of like it, and anyway they like that Olivia is a pig.

The “Mirette” books, by Emily Arnold McCully. Ben and Jem are enthralled by the concept of tightrope walking; these books are interestingly non-pandering and sophisticated, but not too full of adjectives.

“The Man Who Walked Between The Towers”, by Mordicai Gerstein. The real-life, illustrated story of Philippe Petit, who danced on a tightrope between the twin towers...need I say more??

“She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain”, “Ruby In Her Own Time”, an “Dinosaurs After Dark”, by Jonathan Emmet. We like this author, who has a very gentle, almost-graphic-novel style that creates appealing books.

...And here are the books that I personally found forgettable (i.e. not worth a second read, or worse) but which Ben and Jem insisted “had” to be included in this update:

“The Little Yellow Leaf”, by Carin Berger

“Jack Quack”, by Lucy Nolan

“Sammy Wakes His Dad”, by Chip Emmons

“The Very Kind Rich Lady and Her One Hundred Dogs”, by Chinlun Lee

“Dandilions”, by Eve Bunting

“Henry Bear's Park”, by David Mcphail

“Sail Away Little Boat”, by Janet Buell


And this is all the news of the week that I know of, as of right now, sitting on a bus somewhere near Binghamton, NY.