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World on the scales

January 31, 2010

This weekend has been full of Non! Stop! Action! Although largely the kind of action that makes you stay in the house. So maybe less like a marathon and more like running on a treadmill to nowhere.

Yesterday morning, AJ and I put the finishing touches on his Pinewood Derby car and then ran some errands before the race. The errands involved depositing a few checks at the bank and getting AJ a long overdue haircut. The first errand started off okay, but the ATM ate my checks, which was aggravating in the extreme. We spent the next half an hour sitting inside the bank waiting for some nice man to try and iron out the mess. I seem to be under a bad star for money this week. One check that was supposedly “in the mail” has been delayed. School of Rock couldn’t pay me on Friday because they’d run out of checks. And then the ATM. All money should be where it needs to go by Wednesday. But unfortunately, bills are due tomorrow. I hate that. On the plus side, AJ was very patient sitting in the barren cubicle at the bank. And the banker could not have been more sympathetic and helpful. The bank had images of three of the checks the machine ate and I know what the fourth one is and can probably get another copy if needed. But still, I’m feeling like I’ve got some bad karma that I need to address.

We got AJ his haircut, but the delay meant we had to race through lunch to arrive in time for racing. We narrowly made it. AJ was looking forward to the Pinewood Derby, but if truth be told, I wasn’t so much. Last year, he came in dead last. Each car races 6 times against two other cars and they average the times. AJ came in last in every race but one, when he came in second. But yesterday, he had a much better run. He came in last in only one of his races. He came in second in 4 and first in 1. So he ended up just above the middle of the pack. He was thrilled. He was, I think, the only one who made his car without the aid of any power tools (or any competent parent assistance). His good friend C, the other kid in the gifted program with him, won first place and AJ was able to celebrate with him.

C and his mom came over afterwards. AJ and C are doing their science fair project together this year. We had planned on running some experiments using the solar house model that AJ got for Christmas. But when looking through the experiment book, AJ and C decided that they wanted to build a solar oven. And by they, I mean mostly me and C’s mother, because the process involved cutting up a lot of pieces of corrugated cardboard with sharp knives. The process too hours, but the corner of my office is now housing what looks like an enormous satellite dish covered in tinfoil. It dwarfs the battered rocking chair, which is Mrs. Stein’s preferred bed. It will be amazing if it doesn’t fall apart before the science fair.

Today would have been a great day for running the first experiment. We’re having the first truly sunny day we’ve had in months. But unfortunately, that’s not an option. Last night, shortly after C went home, AJ started complaining of a stomach ache. He nibbled up the vegetables I gave him to eat while his pizza, a Saturday night treat, was in the oven. But when the pizza came out, he said he couldn’t eat it. A couple of hours later, while I was reading him the first chapter of the first Percy Jackson book, The Lightning Thief (which AJ has read several times before, but I have not), he threw up nonstop for about ten minutes. And then it was every 20-30 minutes for the next five hours at least. Neither of us got much sleep last night. Today he’s been able to keep down a piece of toast and little banana, but he’s been listless and pale, not even up for video games, which I’m pretty sure has never happened before. He’s finally dozed off a few minutes ago. I hope he sleeps through his basketball game this afternoon. He will miss it in any case, and maybe school tomorrow.

AJ gets sick so seldom, that I’m always a little horrified when it happens. He looks so unhappy. I feel so helpless. The one good thing about sickness, though, is time. We’ve gotten halfway through the Percy Jackson book already. We’ve been working our way through D’Aulaire’s Greek myths since Christmas, and all the way through the Jackson references are dawning on him, he’s been pointing out the connections — Chiron, Perseus, Poseidon. This time through I think the book is probably making more sense, although now he’s questioning why a Perseus is the son of Poseidon when the original Perseus was the son of Zeus. We are both looking forward to the movie coming out in a couple of weeks. And now that I’m reading the story, my interest in the film is no longer based solely on the presence in the cast of Pierce Brosnan, who even in a shaggy beard is easy on the eyes.

The Lightning Thief is very much in the Harry Potter mold, almost formulaicly so. Jackson is orphaned early in the book. He has strange powers he doesn’t understand and can’t control. He goes to a camp for other kids like him — who knew there were other kids like him? — where he finds that he’s more of a celebrity than he had any reason to believe previously. He experiences his first true friendships but learns that he’s ultimately alone. He learns that some adults can be trusted and others can’t. He learns he has more strength than he knows. He’s in a life and death battle that is both personal and affects the entire world he is just beginning to know. The mythology adds another level, though, that Harry doesn’t have. But with the cleverness of the mythology and some of the wordplay, which I thoroughly enjoy, I think some of the characterization suffers. So I’d say I like it at least as well as the Harry Books, but maybe for different reasons.

AJ has always liked both Percy and Harry, but he’s had a clear preference for Percy, and that was before he had read the mythology that it’s based on. I think it’s because Percy narrates his own story and he’s a bit of a smart ass sometimes. The first person narrative also makes it a fun story to read out loud. And while Andy doesn’t get all the jokes — I had to explain to him why I found so funny the passage where the Naiads at the same summer camp are taking underwater basket weaving and Percy remarks a little jealously that it must be nice to have a useful skill — he gets that it’s funny, even if he doesn’t quite know why.

I am definitely warming up to Percy myself and am impatiently waiting for AJ to wake up so we can read the next chapter.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. freshhell permalink
    January 31, 2010 5:52 pm

    Hope AJ’s better tomorrow. School here is closed due to a foot of snow. The children are out playing in it right now as the sun goes down before they get baths. I’ll have to find the Percy Jackson books. Something tells me Dusty will like them. Right now, we’re both really enjoying The Calder Game. Tell AJ to give it try.

  2. January 31, 2010 8:38 pm

    Walker has always been wildly enthusiastic about the Percy Jackson books; I think part of it is just that there are so few boys in modern fiction who are both heroic and funny.

  3. January 31, 2010 8:50 pm

    I will definitely get him to try the Calder game one of these days. And I think Dusty might very well likc Percy. Most of the principal characters are boys, but there’s a good one who’s a girl (a daughter of Athena). And two of Percy’s nemeses are girls (one’s a human; the other’s a daughter of Ares). Jeanne, I think that’s exactly what AJ likes about Percy. The funny ones tend to be dumb (e.g. Diary of a Wimpy Kid), while the heroic tend to be most earnest (Harry Potter).

  4. February 1, 2010 11:36 pm

    Jeanne, I talked asked AJ about the idea that Percy was heroic and funny and asked if he could think of any other books where the boy protagonist was heroic and funny. He said the only one he could think of was Douglas Evans’ MVP, which is his other favorite book. So I definitely think you’re onto something.

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