Several years ago, The KingofHearts created a Kendo/Writers Group with some folks from church and the neighborhood. I mockingly lovingly refer to this as his "Little Circle of Friends." They meet once a week for a Japanese sword fighting lesson (there is actually a rationale for why these two things must be done together which I won't bother to poke holes in at this time) and then to gather around the proverbial hearth and talk about writing, read each other's writing, make suggestions and comments for improving their writing and just generally yank everyone's chains.

You might think that this would be something that I'd dig because, despite my often inept (sometimes purposeful, sometimes not) use of the English language here on this weblog, I am a not-so-closeted competent writing/grammar geek. However, there are four things keeping me from horning in on their fun 1) he deserves to have something that I don't meddle in and 2) I think I've explained before why I don't read much these days 3) I'm not much of a fiction reader anyway; I gravitate to non-fiction when I do have time to read and 4) they are are primarily interested in the fantasy and science-fiction genres and oh-my-heavenly-stars-above-in-the-sky, when I do read fiction, fantasy couldn't interest me less. Especially badly written fantasy and sci-fi, which I maintain, is about seventy-five percent of the work that goes published in the English language. (But not Plan 9 From Outer Space; that's just awesome.)

In general, I like to read my husband's work. He's a good writer; he has an interesting voice. I, personally, don't respond to the subject matter he digs reading and chooses to write. But because he mostly writes well, I can handle reading his stuff. But ask me to read other people's fantasy stories and, well I'm sorry, that's just more than in sickness and in health, for better or worse.

Once, many years ago, I tried to read Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series to placate The KoH because he loved it. I had to stop because the urge to walk into the kitchen, take a pair of chopsticks out of the drawer and firmly insert one into each eyeball socket in my skull just so I would have an excuse to discontinue reading nine more books was JUST TOO STRONG. Seriously, what is with that series? That dude is dead, and HE'S STILL WRITING BOOKS. He even beats Tupac Shakur for posthumous publications.

And now that I've offended possibly every person reading.

*grand curtsy*

The weekly meeting was originally held at our house, which Dormouse loved because, a room full of captive adult attention? HEL-LO! How could it get any better than this? I mostly didn't mind them using the house and occasionally joined in or just found something to do elsewhere in the house while they met. The problem with this was that The Caterpillar has a bedroom about ten feet away from the only room in our house big enough to hold a group of people and a bedtime which precedes the end of the meeting. So it often got loud - not drunken brawl in the hotel room hallway loud, but just too loud for her to go to sleep. So when another member of the group bought a house, the meeting moved there.

By this time, The Dormouse was reading and writing herself asked to go to the meetings with Daddy. And as she gets older, her natural precocious self wants to contribute more and more. So she sometimes writes some of her own stories and poems and brings them along to the meetings with The KoH. I don't really discourage this because a) I think it's good for her to be motivated to read and write more and b) it's her time with Daddy. She now refers to it as "My Writers' Group."

Last week, a colleague called me at night for a work related issue and, as she knows The Dormouse and is always very sweet and kind with her, asked to talk to her for a minute.

"Oh, she's not home," I said absentmindedly, "She's at her weekly Writers' Group."

And then I stopped cold because I just then heard the words coming out of my mouth and realized what a pretentious, aureate remark it possibly sounded that I'd told another adult that my six-year-old was at her "weekly writers' group" meeting.

Said kind colleague, "She's at her what?!?"

And then I had a conversation that sounded very much like previous several paragraphs I've written here, wherein I try to apologetically sound like I wasn't the pushy, overbearing stage-mother I'm sure I'm coming of as here.

To her credit, my kind colleague understood perfectly and thinks it's adorable.

"OK then," she said, "Tell her this is what I want. I want her to write me a story. But I want her to include one thing: there must be a flute in the story."

Always happy for a new challenge, this is what The Dormouse came up with:

Once upon a time there was a girl named Wendy. She wanted to play the flute. She ran over to the musical instrument store. She bought a big flute. It was a sliver glowing flute. It looked like the sun was always shining on it. It cost a fortune for the flute! It cost 300 cents! Then, she went home and played the flute for an hour on the piece of music called Chicophsciy*. She played it perfectly well even though it was her first time doing it. Dooo strumm laaa dummm... and so on. The next morning she woke up and went in to the kitchen. To her surprise, she saw a cake on the kitchen table in the dining room on a big, shiny table... instead of a little wood-disgusting table. The cake had a little glass plate that seemed to blend in with the table. There was a little card snapped to the plate. It said:

Dear Wendy, this cake and this plate are for you. Happy birthday! Love, Mom.

So, to her surprise, all her friends, family and neighbors all jumped out and said SURPRISE! Then they all ate the cake. And they all lived happily ever after.

The end.

I'm never quite sure where the line between encouraging my children to achieve their full potential and try new things ends and once you cross over, you land smack dab in the middle of pompous snobbery. In our society, we constantly send out double messages. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem. Believe in your abilities. But don't get too haughty about it. We tell our kids they should be proud of who they are and their accomplishments, but when they talk about it, we tell them to be humble. I think maybe this is just my childhood emotional baggage. As I kid, I was always keenly aware of whether anything I was saying to someone else came off as bragging or, even if it wasn't, if someone else would interpret it that way. I was a smart kid in school, I excelled at music, but I always felt like I needed to hide those things from the other kids and I certainly couldn't talk anything like that because it might be perceived as showing off. They, however, could sure as heck ask me for help with homework and it was pretty much expected that I would, not because I had any affinity toward teaching or was good at tutoring, but because they felt I should. Society constantly tells children they aren't good enough, too ugly, too fat, too whatever, so we fight against that. But when they do excel at whatever it is they do, we tell them not to let it go to their heads. It's a delicate dance.

The Dormouse was recently identified at school to be included in an advanced learning track to serve her specific needs better. And look at me, still not even being able to say the words; out with it: she's been identified as "gifted." Whatever that means. We have the option of keeping her in her current school with specialized education or sending her to a different school entirely where there'll be a more comprehensive curriculum. But somewhere, in the back of my mind, there's this persistent, constant voice saying, "Well, just don't let her get all uppity about it." Which is probably not the first thing I need to consistently think about when considering my daughter's education. Even at work, where my colleagues are a bunch of therapists and totally get special educational needs of all kinds, I find myself not comfortable talking about this issue. Two of my colleagues have children with special needs on the other end of the educational spectrum and it just feels erudite - even though I know they wouldn't see it that way. So I sit mute when they ask me how school's going for her and mutter "fine" into my burrito from Chipotle.

I don't want her to go to this school just because it's prestigious. I want her to go because it's the right place for her. And it may not be. It may turn out that we don't even have the option of attending due to the limited enrollment which requires everyone to apply to a lottery for a spot. (Which -- don't even get me started on the whole having to be lucky enough to win a lottery to get the right educational placement for my child factor.) I'm secretly hoping that we don't win that lottery so it's not my decision anymore and I can blame someone else if I'm not happy with the results.

Until then, I'm just going to let her go to her Writers' Group.

*Chicophsciy = Tchaikovsky. It's nice to see that despite the mouthful that are most classical music composers' names, she still attempted this one.