Things that go CRASH in the night

This week’s parenting tip: Keep large wooden puzzles safely secured, especially at night.

You might be thinking, “That’s a strangely specific parenting tip. I wonder what made her think of that?”

Well. Let me tell you.

If your large (noisy) wooden puzzles are not secured, say in a cabinet, or in a crate, or with the pieces in plastic bags, it means they can be knocked over.

Perhaps by a five-year-old on a trip to your bedroom to inform you that he is cold.

And it is possible that, on the way back from this trip, intending to get under the blankets as you have wisely (if grumpily) recommended, this five-year-old will bump the puzzles, which are not safely secured. No, sadly, they are precariously balanced near his door.

And when the puzzles are bumped, well, they can’t help it, but they fall. And it sounds like a whole shelf in the pantry has come down, or the raccoons and opossums have finally defeated the cats and taken the screen porch for their own…and are tearing it apart to celebrate.

So the next sound you hear, after the almighty crash, will be some blood-curdling screaming. “SOMETHING IS TRYING TO EAT ME!” screaming.

So of course, you pop out of bed (fortunately you were still awake from employing your sagacity against the cold) and head towards the noises.

You’ll only get a few steps before you catch a five-year-old, coming at you full speed, and haul him back down the hall with his legs still churning, AWAY from the sleeping baby.

Somehow, you establish that the noise came from inside (so it’s not the raccoons…yet) and that what actually happened was that the cold, insomniac five-year-old bumped the puzzle stack.

By some miracle, the baby has not been awakened.

Everyone will be tucked back into bed. An hour or so later, your heart will have slowed down enough for you to go back to sleep.

At which point, the baby is sure to wake up.

Thus, my friends, heed my advice: Lock up the puzzles.

Mount Majestic

“There is a very good possibility that you will not believe a word I say. Alas, it is the risk all historians take. The truest things are often the most unbelievable.”

Thus begins one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton, and illustrated by Brett Helquist (whose work you’ll recognize if you are familiar with A Series of Unfortunate Events), is a romp. The language alone is magical, not to mention the flute, the pots, the Leaf-eaters’ tears…

Why, for example, has no one before thought of a “Lyre-That-Never-Lies”? Brilliant. And the whole book is full to the brim and overflowing with this kind of word play.

“And so I invite you to take off your cloak of doubt, empty your pockets of all suspicions and jests, sit down before the roaring fire of my tale, and believe.”

Trafton weaves a tale of mythic proportions. Giants? Check. Rumblebumps? Check. Poison-tongued jumping tortoises? Check.

Tell me you’re not intrigued.

Mount Majestic is one of the few novels I can remember my kids asking to read again…the morning after we finished it. That probably has something to do with all the laughing out loud we did while reading it. (Full disclosure: it is best if someone reads it aloud, especially if the someone uses different voices for the characters, and if several of the voices sound suspiciously like disgruntled Irish washer women.)

Mount Majestic gets 5+ stars from our family. That includes the parents, the 12-year-old, the 10-year-old, the 8-year-old, and the 5-year-old. They are all now in full quoting-during-mundane-conversations mode.

And besides being hilarious and wickedly clever, Persimmony Smudge, our heroine, realizes in the end that as wonderful as adventures may be, there is something wonderful about plain-old, everyday existence, too.

After all,

“Life is a mess and a miracle. So pick up a broom and dance.”