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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bunnies and Chick(en pox)

This year will undoubtedly go down in family lore as "The Year We Had the Chickenpox on Easter."

Except we didn't *exactly* have it on Easter. Deux had pretty much scabbed over by Easter, and Duchess didn't come down sick until Tuesday.

Still, chickenpox has loomed over all the festivities, keeping us out of general gatherings, and keeping away everyone except those confident in their immunity or desiring to acquire some. (I did let asymptomatic kids go to the sunrise service--I figured outside they could adequately avoid everyone else.)

We did manage to dye eggs with friends (who were hoping to catch it) and have a reduced family gathering on Easter. It hasn't been entirely without festivities.

So far Dot and Dash have not had any definitive symptoms. Duchess is in the throes of misery as the eldest sufferer. Deux endured the whole thing with relentless stoicism and a whole lot of Alphabears on the iPad. (His verdict: having chicken pox was not worth the extra iPad time.) Where Deux acquired them in the first place I cannot imagine, as he does not exactly vigorously seek new acquaintance and I haven't heard of anybody we actually know having them.

I have laid in a stock of movies and now am just hoping for everyone to get it quickly and be done.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Horror!

I promised myself that I would *never* do this, but I did. I couldn't stop myself. The twins were complaining, yet again, about the fact that they were expected to work on the exact same math page at the same time, not to mention having to write down some of the answers instead of doing it all orally.

Finally, I blurted out, "You know, in regular school, the kids all have to do the same math page. Twenty or thirty of them."

Dash: "They do? Not at the same time, though?"

"Yes, at the same time."

Dot: "Well, not the same page."

"OK, technically not, but copies of the same page. And they have to write in all the answers by themselves."

Dash: "I never, ever want to go to regular school."

Sunday, March 06, 2016


The last couple of weeks we had a round of nasty colds go through (I think there were at least two separate viruses swapping back and forth).

So last Sunday I took the time to just sit on the couch and Be Sick all day. Except for about fifteen minutes of standing up and chopping long enough to get this chicken soup cooking. This chicken soup contains pretty much everything I've ever heard of being useful against a cold, and if you're not into healing properties of foods it's just an incredibly easy and delicious soup, with none of that grandiose roast this and blend that nonsense that people keep cluttering up honest, simple soup recipes with. Between the soup and the resting, I was back to functional by Monday. All amounts are wildly approximate.

Chicken Curry Cold Cure Soup
 2 onions, chopped
A big ol' spoonful of minced garlic
A glug of olive oil.

Sautee in the bottom of a large pot.

2 quarts chicken broth (Way better with proper homemade broth from bones, of course)
Two cups or so each of chopped carrots, celery, and potatoes
Two cups chopped, cooked chicken
1 T grated fresh ginger
2 T curry powder
1 t. turmeric
1 t. oregano
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cook until the veggies are soft, about twenty minutes. Add 2 cups frozen broccoli and the juice of one lemon; let it all get hot again and serve.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Books Read in February

The Long Mars, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. Mostly enjoyable as a final (I assume) book in the series. I did find myself a bit annoyed by the depiction of the "Next," though. Why is it that when we imagine the new, improved humans they're always much smarter than us but also arrogant, entitled jerks? Why can't the human of the future be kinder, humbler, more empathetic? Maybe there's something to Original Sin after all.

The Westing Game, by Ellen Raskin. Duchess recommended this after reading it for the library's book club. Surprisingly dark (not in an overwhelming evil way, just in the little pettinesses and life struggles) for a children's book from its era, but not, I suppose, for a mystery. I saw much of the solution in advance, so at least I scored there.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. Beautiful and heartbreaking and sometimes hilarious. I especially admire her ability to convey the feelings and perspective of a child, something hard to reconstruct after the years. And her insight into the ugliness that can build in victims. A very real book.

True Justice by Robert Tanenbaum. His Majesty left this at my house and suggested I might try it. I picked it up skeptically as legal thriller is definitely not a genre I usually enjoy. However, I enjoyed it in spite of myself; the characters were surprisingly relatable despite the vast differences between the fictional life of criminal attorneys in New York City and the real life of estate attorneys in rural Washington. And the legal and ethical issues raised were worth pondering.

A Duty to the Dead, by Charles Todd. This was the current pick for the church book club; someone thought we needed a more cheerful read, so we did a murder mystery. (Well, murder mysteries are rather cheerful books on the whole. At least the ones where we find out whodunnit and they get caught.) It was a good read. Spoiler: a rather disturbing conjunction between this one and the previous was that in both a cold-blooded serial killer turned out to be a ten year old boy. I checked with Deux, but he has no plans to kill anything but zombies.

Paradise Lost, Books IV-VI. Still reading this along with an online group. Much more fun this way, but I'm falling behind and need to catch up.

Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull: In Duchess's estimation, if I cannot still instantly recall all characters and plot points in a series of books for discussion, then I need to read it again. So I read it again. It was a good way to spend a weekend with a cold. I think Mull is going to prove to be one of those prolific authors whose writing improves as he goes along. His inventiveness is amazing. The writing is not eloquent but not awkward; just a lot of fun to read. A little preachy in spots, but not really in a bad way.

In Process:
Hell's Foundations Quiver, by David Weber: Honestly, I'm not sure why I'm still reading this series. The first few were very enjoyable, with their depiction of a world deliberately kept in technological ignorance for its own safety by means of religious control, and the attempt to disentangle truth from mind control. However, at this point the world-building and global war have gotten way too cumbersome for my tastes. When we're learning the fabric content of the polar army's long underwear, it's just too much. However, I haven't quite let go yet.

Longitude, by Dava Sobel: I finally caved in to being middle-aged and got a large purse. This means I can now keep a book with me to read instead of reading three-year-old Good Housekeepings in waiting rooms. This is that book, which I found at the library sale shelf. Navigation, shipwrecks, and politics. Promises to be awesome.

Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens: The big kids are reading this for school and I realized I needed a refresher on this to adequately discuss it with them. Dickens is rather opaque--this book is definitely a stretch for them, but seems to be rewarding the effort.

As a family, we finished up Five Children and It and are reading The Phoenix and the Carpet. I tried reading the latter to the children when they were much younger and thought the scene where the phoenix insists on receiving his due homage at the fire insurance office was the funniest thing ever, but of course they could not fathom it at all at the time. This time they got it and also thought it hilarious, and composed their own ode to the Phoenix.

We're also reading Hiawatha. All of it. I don't think any of them realized a poem could go on that long.