Sunday, February 26, 2017

Groundhog Month

Every February 2, somebody posts something about how little a groundhog could possibly know about the coming of spring.

This year the groundhog fought back. February 2 was bright and clear, a rare occurrence around here.

That night, it snowed.

That was a brief snow. The next weekend, it really snowed. Six inches of wet, sticky, heavy snow that took down whole stands of trees and knocked us out of power for three days. And unlike our usual heavy snows that turn quickly to rain, it stayed snowy for most of the week.

Then we got the stomach flu. Fortunately, I suppose, not until the power was back on. (Being on a well, we have no water when we have no power.) Still, it was a pretty ghastly bug and left us with one or more not-quite-well-enough-for-school child for the next week.

On one particularly memorable day, Dot informed me first thing in the morning that she needed to stay home. Since it was DOB's day to sleep in, I said this wouldn't be a problem and took the other three kids to school and headed to the office. An hour later, I got a call from the school that Deux was no longer in school-compatible health. I drove to the school and while I was there, walked into Dash's classroom, looked him in the eye, and asked him if he was sure he felt well enough for school. He was fine. I took Deux home and returned to the office. Two hours later, I got a call from the school that Dash was down for the count, too.

It's been trying to snow again this weekend, but so far it's mostly stuck to the cold, driving rain at 36 degrees that is even more miserable than snow.

Usually by this point in the year we are hearing a noisy nightly chorus of frogs. I heard a few feeble peeps on Tuesday but I think they gave up.

I think the groundhog has proved his point.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Out of the Valley

The winter is a valley, with the solstice resting in darkness at the bottom. I always count backwards and forwards as we pull away from it. Now we have gotten as far from the solstice as early November. Soon we will have passed the three darkest months and climbed back out into the daylight.

Already it stays light until almost time to fix supper. I don't have to rush to walk the puppy the instant I get home from work. I am terrible at naming birds by their songs, but something is singing that wasn't a few weeks ago, that on a level below knowledge tells me that spring is coming.

After some more or less easy terrain, we will come to the mountain peak of the summer solstice when the days are so long that sleep is difficult and we seldom see the stars. And then down again.

Without homeschooling I feel a little adrift. DOB and I visited a used bookstore and I didn't know what to do with myself. For the past decade I've always been on the lookout for books for school. And homeschooling moms read the most interesting books and have the most interesting conversations. I hang out on the fringes of the conversation but it's not *my* conversation anymore. I'm not making plans for next term or next year. I'm not pondering how to ease a child through a rough spot. There's homework to help with, some (usually only Dot has any), but it's not at all the kind of work I would choose for them. 

I'm not even reading very discussable books at the moment. I'm tired and my brain is fried and Duchess and Deux always want me to try out their latest middle-grade fantasy series. 

I even tried doing a google search for people who weren't homeschooling but wished they were, but all I could find was advocacy articles on either side. And I am tired of people dividing themselves up into camps and shouting at each other. (Law is like that a bit, I guess, but on most cases and with most fellow practitioners we know there's weaknesses and strengths on both sides and our ultimate goal is to find resolution, not prove our moral superiority by the loudness and frequency of our speech.)

Truth be told, I do like practicing law. Even litigation. This past month I've had my first trial (a very small one) and first deposition. It's fun. And exhausting. It's hard to balance with coming home to a family but we are working to figure it out and hopefully DOB and I will be able to take turns being the exhausted one.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter Air

It's too late to start the new year with a grand new blogging resolution, so I can just make a post.

This has been a very wintry winter. Snow and ice and dry, harsh air. Colds and flus and ear infections. DOB regains strength, slowly. I do my first major motion and my first summary judgment motion and my first trial (rather anticlimactic that, the opposing party was in jail and didn't show up). Since the first of the year DOB has been slowly returning to his place in the office and it is a great relief to have him back. We've hired another attorney in the meantime to help with the workload and she may stay on, as we are supportive of a kids-in-school schedule.

The kids go to school and come home and play Legos and video games. I feel guilty about not making them go outside more, but at least their school is strong on recess. For Christmas DOB granted them moderated access to nearly all of his best Lego sets--Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean and the like. We've rearranged the house to put our bedroom in the old schoolroom, and turn the master suite into a game room.

The kids are learning to take turns cooking supper, each according to their inclination, which means Dash and Duchess experiment with stir-fries and udon, Deux opens cans of beans, and Dot bakes potatoes and puts out the shredded cheese. Either way, we eat.

I miss homeschooling. I don't know what to do with myself in a used bookstore anymore. I've been on the hunt for school books for the past decade. Helping with homework is most definitely not the same thing.

Things are still tough, but happy. After the past year every day alive and together is its own little miracle.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Is there life after school?

I have from time to time seen people with grand "afterschooling" plans of all the great activities they do to enrich their children's lives after regular school is over.

After the first week and a half of school, I would laugh uproariously at such a concept, but I lack the energy. My afterschooling activities consist of trying to come up with enough calories to sustain everyone and trying to convince the relevant descendant either that doing homework will not kill them or that failing to get straight A+s will not kill them. That some people manage to do school and other things like sports and music fills me with awe. They do stuff at school, right? That's enough, right?

I'm sure it will all get easier once we are used to it, and once the aftermath of the car accident has sorted itself out, and once I've figured out the Holy Grail of easy breakfast and lunch that everyone will eat and survive to the next meal on. (I have my doubts that easy even exists after a certain critical mass-- basic sandwiches for four kids who eat two or three sandwiches each is a whole lot of sandwiches. And having them make their own means somehow coordinating the movements of four people through a confined space while all of them have very strong opinions on how everyone else should be moving.)

Right at this particular moment, though, Dot is listening to a book on CD, Duchess is reading a book for fun, and the boys are coloring pictures about life in medieval Europe. So maybe we're not doing so bad at enriching life after all.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Time Change

It's been a long summer.

I haven't posted.

Big changes happening.

Let's stick to two of the obvious ones:

1. The descendants (they really are too big to be called ducklings any more) will be going to school in the fall. Which, as you may have noticed, is practically upon us. Although schools around here seem to be the last ones in the country to still hold out for after Labor Day. It's a big change and we will miss homeschooling, some more than others. But running the business and homeschooling both was just too much for the grownups, and bills have this pesky way of needing paid.

Their Majesties have very kindly made it possible for the children to attend the church school where Her Majesty teaches math. Deux is finding the prospect of being able to do whatever math he is up to about the only consolation for facing the prospect of doing school with other human beings in the room. Duchess is finding astonishingly trendy ways to style the uniforms. Dot and Dash are just waiting to see how it all shakes out.

I am sorting through mountains of school supplies.

2. We have increased the number of dependents by 50%, albeit strictly in the non-tax deductible, furry category. In other words, we got a kitten. And a puppy. They are cute. They are furry. They are prone to chewing on things and digging up the flower bed. The kitten (white with black spots, name: Smudge) started out small and fragile and we couldn't bear to leave him outside, so we started keeping him inside and penning him in the bathroom at night, but he grew quite a lot and is showing a temperament more in keeping with an outdoor cat, so we are transitioning him out to the garage. The puppy (black lab, name: Panther) we have managed to stay strong and keep her outside, as she is going to get much bigger and even chewier.

We tried to make the change of a new (to us) car for DOB, whose new wheelchair assembled better sitting in the back of a small hatchback, but it got taken out by an inattentive driver and even once DOB's back allows him to drive again, he is thinking that driving in big trucks has its merits.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Dog Days (and Panda Days)

Duchess has a small stuffed panda with obnoxiously large and sparkly eyes. He is cute. This is a highly valued commodity among today's youth--I blame manga art--I would have been embarrassed by such considerations when I was a child. But anyway, Poncho is a small panda who rides everywhere with one or the other of the children.

Having something that small and helpless and beloved is always a risk. During the chickenpox Poncho went missing for two miserable days, only to be discovered sitting in plain view on the side table.

Far more perilous was two weeks ago, when Deux had happily had him riding along in his shirt while he built forts in the woods only to realize he had vanished. Finding a small stuffie in a hundred yards of knee-deep brush proved to be a hopeless project and we bid Poncho a sad farewell. Until the next evening, when it turned out he had been sitting on the staircase under somebody's abandoned laundry the whole time.

Last weekend Poncho vanished again, and after a brief spat of searching it turned out that I was sitting on him. Well, if he *will* sit in the crack in the couch, he will get sat upon.

It does seem to be about time we got an animal that at least has some homing instinct, and we are planning to get a dog in the near future. Most of them are thrilled with this prospect, but there was a bit of skepticism. Until the day when they picked up a stray lab, fed it and took it for walks, and it spent the night. That was enough to win over all the skeptics. Unfortunately, at that point they found the owners. But we now have a stash of dog food and a leash and find the prospect just a little less intimidating.

Another milestone which has passed is equipping everybody with knives. I have been thinking about this for a long time, but confess I had anticipated nothing more exciting than standard pocket knives all round. DOB, who collects blades himself, had much grander notions, and gave everyone the chance to choose their own style from his extensive catalogs. Duchess chose a Bowie knife with an intricate handle, Deux a machete nearly as long as himself, which has the blackberries on the property trembling; Dot preferred a small green-handled blade that DOB already had in stock, while Dash practically chose a multi-tool which has 12, no 13, no 15 different uses, not counting clonking someone on the head with it. Actually so far everyone has been very responsible with them.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Books Read in March

Blackout and All Clear by Connie Willis: I don't have words for how much I love these books. Together (they can only go together, they are two parts of the same story, not a series) they are 1000 pages of pure bliss. Yes, it's convoluted and confusing and time travel probably doesn't make sense. I don't care. The second time around I was actually able to follow the characters in their different personas and make sense of what was going on. The first time through, a few years ago, I couldn't and I didn't care. They're about World War II, of course, but mostly they're about heroism and patience and love and whether goodness really matters in a world that usually doesn't make sense.

It was really silly of me to check out the first one on a whim and then start it before I had the second one in from the library. Actually, it's really silly of me not to own these.

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. It's kind of disappointing in a series that began with epic planet-destroying threats in every book to have petered out to a plot line built on petty contractor disputes and exploding insects. Also the morals were way too, well, "Betan" for me. There were some nice musings on aging and parenting, though.

Paradise Lost, books VII-X. Mankind finally falls. Is it the woman's fault? Or is it built into the system? Regardless, the demons all turning to snakes was a great moment.

Father Brown, by G. K. Chesterton. I can't remember which books I've read, because I'm going through the Omnibus but haven't finished it yet. Anyway, this was necessitated because we tried watching the newer Father Brown BBC series that stars the actor who plays Mr. Weasley. Well, the casting was perfect--few actors could capture that blend of unassuming exterior with deep insight so well. But the writing was frankly terrible. It moved the whole setting forward to the 1950s and converted it into one of those standard village homicide series with a nosy amateur that have presumably decimated the British countryside. None of the exotic locations or fantastical atmospheres dispelled by Father Brown's flash of insight and ability to distinguish between the truly and falsely spiritual. We made it through about three episodes and gave up in disgust. After a few books the taste is mostly out of my head.

Oliver Twist. We must have finished this early in the month. It was a tough read for Duchess and Deux, but I think they grew through it and Duchess at least was enjoying it by the end. (Deux doesn't admit to enjoying much that isn't an equation or a game with an inordinate amount of rules.) Now we're reading Kim which I am determined they shall enjoy, so I'm reading it out loud.

We finished The Phoenix and the Carpet. I still think the chapter when the Phoenix demands the worship of his "priests" at the Phoenix Fire Insurance Agency is one of the funniest ever. I tried reading this to the ducklings years and years ago and it went completely over their heads. This time they were rolling on the floor. DOB was rolling his eyes. We are now reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. 

I'm pretty sure I must have read some other books, but I can't for the life of me remember what they were. They must pass into oblivion.

The Pox Departeth

We have survived.

We are never, ever, ever going to do that again.

I hope.

Duchess came down on Tuesday night and the twins followed on Thursday and Friday. By Saturday everyone was pretty much down to sucking on Pedialyte popsicles and watching endless episodes of Get Smart while lying limply on the couch.

Well, except for Deux who was feeling very left out, since he had never gotten that sick. So he had to get his being sick time in with everyone else even though technically he was much better. He didn't rank a seat on the couch, though.

Fortunately the grownups' immunity held strong, although I did get a nasty cold that was much exacerbated by sleepless nights with itchy kids. So I think this weekend I get to lie around and be sick, although I don't care for Pedialyte popsicles or Get Smart that much.