Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Journey Continues

We got all over the stomach ailment. A few family members seemed to catch it, but they got over it quickly. We spent one day recuperating and one day visiting Marsha (who is supposed to blog again once she gets internet hooked up at home), sampling her bookshelves and eating more pull-apart bread than was good for me.

And then D1 developed a funny cough which turned into a full-blown fever and congested lungs that has left her miserable and kept us more or less up all night. (DOB more--now he's gone to sleep and I'm taking over.) She seems to be doing a little better this morning. So far neither of us has gotten definitively sick with anything related.

This is starting to sound really whiny. I'm sure in another five years this trip will become an amusing legend, like the year my sister-in-law's family came for two weeks over Christmas and brought a flu that kept them and us all flat on our backs for the entire visit. That was the second Christmas after they got married, too--maybe there's something that condemns those Christmases to misery and woe.

Sunday, December 26, 2004


As I discovered shortly after posting, I was infected with the same ailment as D1, although with a different manifestation. We spent Christmas at the trailer formerly occupied by my late grandmother, trying to avoid contaminating various relatives and trying to get D1 to keep something down, the latter of which did not occur with any degree of success until late afternoon.

In the evening, DOB determined he would sit up with D1 as long as possible and let me get some sleep. About 3 a.m. he awakened me and traded places; within an hour or two it was evident that it was not just his turn to sleep, but his turn to be sick.

Fortunately D1 and I seem to be doing much better, so it appears to be relatively short-lived. It is frustrating to be infected with a most unfestive disease on Christmas, and a most anti-social disease on the one week out of the year one has to visit half one's friends and relations.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Christmas Morning

Every set of new parents has to have their first experience with the stomach flu sometime. This morning is ours. I awoke at about 3 to hear gagging noises; upon inspection I discovered D1 had thrown up all over herself and her playpen. We cleaned her up and I fed her, whereupon she promptly threw up again. She still seems fairly happy and is sleeping peacefully now. I am watching for awhile and then DOB will take his turn.

An odd way to celebrate Christmas, and yet appropriate. After all, Christmas is about how the Lord of all time and space chose to become a baby too helpless to roll out of his own vomit.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Incredible Journey

We are now in Washington. My brother now has a wireless network, so I can blog while sitting by the fire, which is good because it's the only warm place in the house. Sometime they should stop upgrading the electronics around here and install some old-fashioned central heating.

Our initial journey plan was relatively simple. However, when complicated by the Great Storm of the Year, it eventually assumed epic proportions, like Kon-tiki, or Shackleton's Antarctic expedition. Maybe ours didn't last as long, but they didn't have a baby along.

It really started the afternoon before, with Ronald trying to come home early, but with his windshield freezing over so that he couldn't see except hunched at odd angles, with the heater up full blast in an attempt to help the windshield thaw. By the time he made it home, he just oozed out of the car on the garage floor and I had to sweep him up and feed him cheese sandwiches until he was able to face the world again. Then we went out to the chiropractor, probably useless considering the driving conditions, and picked up two siblings to take over the housecleaning for me.

Once we got home we ran around frantically finishing packing and eating, because we had decided to drive up to Columbus that night. The roads were exceedingly bad with several inches of snow, it was sleeting, and once again the windshield was freezing over. When we first got on the freeway, we could not see more than vague shapes out of the window, so we both made our best guess as to where the ruts were. After about ten minutes of driving blind with truckers trying to squash us, the ice finally cleared enough for small patches of visibility. The trip took about twice as long as usual and about ten times as much energy. We finally arrived in Columbus about eleven and spent the night at a friend's condo. Abbey, meanwhile, was having a great time. A car ride and getting to sleep in Mama and Papa's bed!

We left for the airport with ample time, contrary to our reputation, and arrived just after they had restored power, but before the computers were quite functional. After we finally got our boarding passes, we made our way to the Northwest gates, where we discovered there was one agent to do everything--rebook passengers, unload planes, and load them up again. And all the flights were delayed or canceled.

DOB called around and found us an alternate set of flights, through Detroit instead of Memphis, that should get us in only a few hours late--while people around us were calling and finding nothing until the following evening. So we set up camp near a plug for the laptop and awaited the later flight. Around us the airport began to assume the semi-settled look of a refugee camp, albeit an exceptionally well accesorized one.

Finally the long line had shortened at the counter while the agent got a flight boarded, so I went to stand in line so that we could get our new boarding passes. Just before I made it to the head of the line, the agent had to go to the bathroom. Then when she got back, the Detroit flight had arrived and she had to go greet the plane. Finally a second agent came and I told her what I needed.

"That flight has canceled," she said. "But I'll try to get you standby on this one. Just hang around and if I have room I'll call your name. I should know in five minutes."

I called DOB and told him to pack up and get ready in case we were called. He started doing so, then called me back, "I think D1 needs changed," he said.

We decided to hold off as long as it didn't seem to be leaking. Sure enough, our name was called and we whisked aboard. I thought about changing her in the air, but on the Columbus/Detroit flight there is a grand total of five minutes when one is neither in ascent nor descent. So I gave up the attempt and waited until we landed. There was nothing leak-prone, so our worry was in vain.

Once we got our Detroit tickets, we discovered to our great delight that we had first class tickets. We forgot that they actually feed people in first class, though, so we went ahead and ate several tacos and a burrito. Then we got on board and cheerfully tackled the meal they gave us.

Up until this point, D1 had been having a pretty good day. Lots of being held by Mama and Papa, and her favorite toys. By this time she was getting pretty tired, so whenever she couldn't sleep she was a bit fussy, but fortunately she was too young to have the loud, agonizing cries that can be heard over airplane engines.

So we arrived in Seattle and went to check on the status of our bags, which we had been told would most likely head through Memphis and arrive the next day. While DOB was giving descriptions to the agent, he said, "Go check and at least see if they came through."

And just as I set off, he called after me, "There one is!"

I raced for the machine and grabbed it off. Sure enough, it was ours. I checked which one it was, and called back to DOB, "We got the diapers!"

Within a few minutes, all the other bags had appeared and we were only five hours late, quite an achievement, considering.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

One day left

One day left to:

* Wash all laundry
* Pack
* Take down Christmas tree
* Pay all bills, make deposit, and buy things needed for trip
* Finish wrapping
* Clean house
* Go to chiropractor

Oh, and we're having an ice storm, so I'm not yet positive DOB's sister will be able to make it up to help me. Here goes!

D1: An Interview

In honor of D1's six-month birthday, the Duchy conducts an interview:

Duchy: In your long life, you must have seen many changes. What stands out to you?

D1: The thing that concerns me most is the massive global cooling trend I've seen. When I was little, Mama and I could go outside in t-shirts. Now she has to put me in this giant fuzzy suit that makes it really hard to move, and we hardly ever go outside any more. If it gets much colder, I don't know what I'm going to do. We definitely need to find out what's wrong with our weather.

Duchy: What do you look back upon as your greatest accomplishment?

D1: I have to say that being able to sit up on my own has been a great thrill. I still fall over sometimes, but it's much easier to play with stuff this way. Learning how to grab stuff has been good, too.

Duchy: With a new year ahead of you, what do you look forward to doing in it?

D1: My main goal for the new year is to figure out this standing and walking thing. It looks really fun. I'd also like to teach Mama and Papa to understand what I'm saying. They can be pretty dense sometimes, but I think they'll learn.

Duchy: Let's shift gears and talk about entertainment. What do you find most amusing?

D1: Mama and Papa keeps these carrot toys on their bed. When Mama makes them dance and talk, that really cracks me up. I mean, a dancing carrot! Can you imagine? Pretty much anything Papa does is hilarious, too.

When I'm by myself, I think it's really funny to make gagging noises. It keeps Mama paying attention to me.

Duchy: And in conclusion, what words of wisdom do you have for us?

D1: It's ok to bite spoons, but not the other things that feed you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

In front of the "window" in the Christmas play. Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture after DOB was in costume. D1 is so happy because she has found her shoe. The color is nasty because it was too dark in the church and there was nowhere to stand where the flash was close enough.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Weekend Recap

  • Office party was dull. They don't believe in entertainment, just standing around and talking. The food was decent but one can only eat so many appetizers.
  • Church party was fun. The herb shredder proved surprisingly popular among the men, who were mostly trying to figure out what it was. The final owner dubbed it a manure spreader--for houseplants, I guess. The books were not at all appreciated by their initial owner, but one of DOB's brothers stole them. The pastor's 3-year-old granddaughter took a strong liking to The Communist Manifesto. I need to keep an eye on her. The Sesame Street characters were rejected outright (only the older children participated in it and they didn't want them), so we had to shamefacedly take them back home.
  • As for what we got, DOB discovered that his mother had number 39, one brother had 40, and he had 41. This enabled him to orchestrate a sequential steal so that he could secure a set of eight water guns. (Third stealer keeps.) He worries that this ploy may have been too obvious, but I assure him that no one would ever guess that his mother didn't earnestly desire the water guns for herself. I wound up with a scented Christmas pillow which will decorate our garage for the next year until the scent dissipates; then it will go quite well in our house. D1 got a small bear and cocoa cup.
  • Saturday morning DOB and one of his brothers tested how many squirts each water gun had so that they could distribute them equitably between two teams next summer. He once asked me, "Do normal people spend this much effort having fun?" I didn't think so, but my experience with normal people is fairly limited.
  • Saturday afternoon we went over to DOB's parents' house and played various games, including Mafia, Charades, and one that involved hitting people with a rolled-up newspaper. D1 found this all highly entertaining. I am dangerous with a rolled-up newspaper.
  • Sunday was a long, but good day. I missed DOB's Christmas story telling because I thought D1 should not be permitted to talk all the way through it like she did at Thanksgiving. We sang a Christmas medley. The play and cantata were good, and we cleaned up all our mess.
  • It would be the day it got down to zero that I forgot to even get a blanket for D1. Fortunately I had an extra skirt with me for the cantata. Few babies get a black velvet blanket, so I hope she appreciates how privileged she is.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Begone, profound thoughts

No more thinking deeply permitted between now and Christmas, because if I do I will not get Christmas presents ready or remember to pack half the things we should take.

We have two Christmas parties this afternoon, office and church, both of which I must take something to. This is where all those cookies made earlier come in very handy.

One of them is also a white elephant gift exchange. (DOB's dad, if you read this, at least don't tell the rest of the family until the party is over.) We made up a "set" of books from our duplicate book collection: Democracy in America, The Communist Manifesto, and The Day Lincoln was Shot, for a complete overview of political history. I'm taking an herb shredder that has never worked for me, and D1 (if she is allowed to participate) will contribute a box of Sesame Street-themed Duplos that came with a large garage sale haul. (Mama and Papa don't care for Sesame Street.)

I spilled water on the laptop and it's striking keys randomly without my permission. Once we get back from our trip, I am supposed to locate a new hard drive for the other computer so we can use it, but in the meantime I must hobble along fighting the current one in order to check email (can't set up personal email on the office computer I use most of the time). Our computer situation is starting to bear an eerie resemblance to our normal car situation.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

A disturbing subject

Yesterday's diaper was nothing--nothing--compared to today's. I know I've been spoiled. From about two months until last week, D1 had one dirty diaper a week. Maybe two right in a row. A "blowout," I thought, was when a small stain leaked through onto her clothes (although occasionally we had a worse issue when she was in disposables).

Now I know what a blowout really is. It's the kind of diaper that creates the need for a laundry load of its own. One that takes three cycles. It's a diaper that demands nuclear containment technology.

The way I see it, I have three options:

1) Modify diapering techniques
2) Quit feeding D1 solid foods
3) Potty train her

I'll probably start with 1, but I'm not ruling anything out.

My niephlings always saved their most explosive diaper episodes for cross-country plane trips. I'm growing more and more apprehensive about our flight next week. Does impeccable timing run in the family?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Messy Family

This has nothing to do with more sweet potato stories, nor with the colossal diaper I just changed (the kind that requires a bath, change of clothes for Mom, and redecorating the nursery).

Rather it pertains to this excellent interview (thanks to the Joneses for the link) on what the Biblical concept of family should be. Too often in defending the family against the encroachments of a culture that is defining it into irrelevance, Christians have acted as if the mom, dad, brother, sister, all beautiful and smiling model is the biblical standard of a family.

To see where this concept leads, here's a Washington Post article linked to by the Worldmagblog yesterday on fertility clinics offering gender selection. One of the proponents asks, "Why shouldn't patients have the right to choose this? It's one of the most basic rights in our society that we can build our families the way we wish."

Well, no, actually one of the most basic things you do not have a right to is compelling other people to fit your model of who they should be. Killing (or perpetually freezing) half your children so that you can have the kind of baby you want is not a fundamental right. (And I think this pertains to infertility as well. I cannot understand how Christians can think killing some of their children so that they can have their "own" baby--when there are so many babies out there who need them--is justified.)

One of the things I found truly chilling about the article, though, was the realization that the only current ethical debate is over whether it's alright for parents to pick a child's gender just because they want to. As an example of established ethical practices, the article said, "So far, most of the couples doing this either suffer from infertility or want to avoid passing on devastating genetic diseases, primarily ailments such as muscular dystrophy that afflict boys more often than girls."

I was breezing along through when I stopped and realized, "Wait a minute---that's us." DOB's disease, although less severe than muscular dystrophy, is genetic, and does indeed affect boys more often than girls. Apparently it would be ethical (and to many people's minds, no doubt preferable), for us to make all of our babies in petri dishes, and then kill the boys so we'd have less likelihood of passing on the disease.

This view of the family as designer perfection and the "anybody who wants to love each other and live together are a family" both have the same flaw: they say that we humans can define what is and should be a family. But God says the family is something He joins together. And the family God joins together is a good thing, and a thing with boundaries, but it's rarely a neat thing: it's caring for the old and the sick as well as the young and the healthy; it's welcoming the child who came at an inconvenient time or with inconvenient features; it may mean seeking out and taking in those who have nothing to recommend them but the fact that God loves them. That's a family.

And still more random observations

Our house is done the wrong way around. They should have put the kitchen in the east, so that I would have the shining morning sun motivate me to clean it. Then we wouldn't have the computer room on this side, where the morning glare is highly annoying.

DOB is directing the church Christmas play and also playing the role of a character whose tin is missing a few cookies. He's good at it. During the last scene of the play, when he's been caught just short of a DUI conviction, he looks so guilty and forlorn I have a hard time suppressing the urge to march on stage, drag him home, and make him feel better.

I, meanwhile, am set designer and prop manager. Since the play is set in a Goodwill store, there are a whole lotta props to manage. And my "Goodwill" posterboard letters on the "window" keep falling down, no matter what I tape them with. Tape doesn't stick well to cloth, but I'm not sure what else to use.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Random Observations

It's snowing. Although I hate snow in March, I love snow in December. As long as it doesn't interfere with travel. Yesterday it just blew around, but this morning it's starting to build up deep and thick and even, in good King Wenceslas-y tradition. (One of these days I'm going to look up when the feast of Stephen is, too.)

D1 is starting to get the concept of swallowing food. The novelty of fixing it for her has worn off and I am looking forward to her being able to eat what we are eating.

I don't like reading instruction manuals (recipe books, how-to-books, child-rearing guides, etc.) for instructions. However, I find them quite entertaining as fiction.

Monday, December 13, 2004

What I don't like about Santa Claus

There is one thing that really does bug me about Santa Claus. It's not all the fanciful stuff; it's the very hard-nosed practical part of Santa. It's his list.

As we all know, Santa is making his list, checking it twice, going to find out who's naughty or nice. If you're bad, you'll get nuttin' for Christmas. Or maybe a lump of coal or a switch.

A man popping down the chimney and bringing gifts can easily be a fun supplement to the true meaning of Christmas. But a man who brings gifts only to the good girls and boys is directly contrary to the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas is about God sending the gift of his Son, and the promise of eternal life and joy, to all the bad boys and girls. Christmas is about how we were all on the naughty list, and so Jesus came to give us everything beyond our wildest dreams. Santa Claus blesses us for our works; Jesus blesses us through his free grace.

Funny how every religion and system of life that rejects Christ, and even those that turn their eyes aside from him for a moment, wind up right there. The good people get good stuff, the bad people get bad stuff. We can save ourselves if we just behave.

I've been a bad girl this year, like last year and the years before. But Jesus came for me, anyway.

Confession is good for the soul

(And entertaining for one's friends)

Last Saturday we were going to take cookie plates to the neighbors on our way out to the Christmas program rehearsal. It was time to go, DOB was loading up the car, and I took D1 back to change her one last time. She was already all dressed in her snowflake overalls, suitable for Christmas-cookie delivery.

When I took her diaper off, I decided to let it air a little to combat the diaper rash she'd broken out with that day. (I still labor under the delusion that every time she has a diaper rash I have failed in my duties.) After a few minutes I started slathering on Desitin and was about to put the fresh diaper on when she wet. All over. She soaked her outfit, my outfit, the changing pad, and the carpet.

I mopped up what I could, took her outfit off, and then decided now that she'd already wet everywhere, she might as well air a little bit longer while I went and changed. My skirt was wet, so I changed it. But my blouse didn't go with my new skirt, so I had to change that. Then my socks didn't go, so I had to change them. I was just about done (one boot left to put on) when DOB went into the nursery and exclaimed in horror: "Where did you get this?"

D1 had grabbed the package of Desitin, which I had left on the floor, and was happily chewing on it. DOB took it away and I checked her mouth for remnants. Judging from her usual difficulty in getting normal food down, and the emptiness of the package to begin with, I decided that we probably did not need to call poison control, although I remained concerned for the rest of the day. DOB brought a washcloth and we wiped her hands off so she wouldn't get any more in her mouth.

Since it was high time to get going, I got out a less-well-suited outfit and started to put D1's diaper on, but just before I did so, she wet again. Fortunately this time I stayed out of reach.

Later on that evening, while I was changing her at church, she did it a third time.

I've read that you can condition even a very small baby to associate relieving themselves with a particular phrase or sound of your choosing, and then potty-train them. I have never tried it out, but if D1 associates anything, it's probably, "AAHHHHKKK!"

Friday, December 10, 2004

YR Party

Last night we had the Young Republicans Christmas party. It came off surprisingly well, considering I sent out the wrong address. (Turns out the host's address was listed wrong in our contact list, and since his email was down he never got the invitation to know it was wrong.) We hope we didn't permanently lose any members who were unable to find it, but we had a good turnout of people who wandered up and down until they found the right house number.

The keynote event of the night was a donkey pinata, which we were going to beat with a flip-flop. (You figure it out.) Fortunately the night was warm and dry enough to take it outside, as our host's mother did not want a pinata in her living room. Unfortunately the best place to hang it was a tree whose branch was a little too high for anyone to toss the rope over, finally necessitating the use of a stepladder to hang it. Also no one involved in hanging the donkey (my hands were full with D1) noticed the nifty little plastic loop to hang it with, and instead hung it around the neck. The general visual effect of the guys stringing the pinata up in the tree was that of a nighttime lynching.

The guys quickly rejected the flip-flop as being too wimpy an implement for pinata-beating. Instead they requisitioned DOB's cane. By the second or third whack, a beheaded, three-legged donkey went soaring across the street. They took the carcase inside and left it on the living room floor without bothering to actually whack a hole in the side big enough for the candy to come out. The entertainment factor was plenty high enough without the candy. It's surprising that such a violent custom is still considered socially acceptable.

Eating with baby

At some point in my prenatal visits, one of the nurses took me aside and encouraged me, even if nursing proved to be difficult, to persevere because it really was worthwhile for the baby. This puzzled me, because I never thought it was that big of a deal, and sure enough, (for me at least) it always seemed like by far the easiest available option. Babies are born instinctively sucking, and who wants to get up and fix a bottle at 2 a.m.?

What the nurse should have warned me about was the perseverance needed to introduce a baby to solid foods. Let us consider a sample encounter:

1:45 p.m. Mom decides to start Baby on sweet potatoes. She peels and chops a sweet potato and puts it on the stove to cook. (Yes, jars would be easier but I can't bring myself to spend the money and distrust the nutritional content. I was going to save the sweet potatoes until I was cooking them for dinner anyway, but she was so hungry I thought I should speed things up.)

1:55 p.m. Mom gets Baby up and starts nursing her. They sing Christmas carols together. All is well.

2:20 p.m. Mom smells smoke.

2:25 p.m. Mom decides that the tops of the sweet potato chunks are still OK; scrapes them off and mashes them. Baby eats toys.

2:30 p.m. Mom puts Baby in high chair, rolls up sleeve, and puts on the largest and most stained bib.

2:31:00 p.m. Mom puts spoonful of sweet potatoes in Baby's mouth.

2:31:15 p.m. Baby makes strange face and gagging sounds.

2:31:30 p.m. Mom wonders if Baby is really ready for solid food.

2:32:00 p.m. Mom decides to try another spoonful and loads it up.

2:32:15 p.m. Large chunk of slobbery sweet potato emerges from Baby's mouth. Mom tries, vainly, to catch it with the already-full spoon before it splatters on the bib.

2:32:30 p.m. Baby makes cooing sounds and opens mouth for more food.

2:32:45 p.m. Mom scrapes what she can off the bib and mouth and resubmits it.

2:33-2:36 p.m. Repeat.

2:37 p.m. Baby decides to chew on thumb. Gets sweet potato all over hand, whence it rapidly spreads to sleeve and tray.

2:38-2:40 p.m. More of the same. Baby chews some on the other thumb, too.

2:41 p.m. Mom looks at fragments remaining in bowl, on bib, face and hands, and concludes that a small portion of sweet potato may have been swallowed. She waits for baby to finish processing last bite and ponders whether it makes more sense to take the bib off first, allowing the face to contaminate the clothes, or to wipe the face off first, allowing the bib to recontaminate the face.

2:43 p.m. Confident the last bite has been swallowed, Mom manages to get the bib off and face washed without too much cross-contamination. Mom gives baby toys and sets about straightening the kitchen.

2:45 p.m. Baby spits last bite of sweet potato all over toys and clothes.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Amazing facts about DOB

Actually, only one fact. Two humorous stories. (At least I find them humorous.)

Fact: DOB is not one of those ordinary mortals who puts his pants on one leg at a time, like everyone else. He lies on his back and puts both legs in at the same time.

Story #1: A few weeks ago, DOB came home reporting that he had had some incredibly tasty pumpkin cookies at the office. They were flat and crispy, he said, which puzzled me, as my experience with pumpkin cookies was that they were puffy and cakey. So I told him to get me the recipe and I would try it some time. Earlier this week, he forwarded an email with a cookie recipe. I IM'd him back: "I thought you said they were pumpkin cookies. This is a sugar cookie recipe!"

His response: "Well, they looked like pumpkins."

Last year my aunt made hippopotamus-shaped cookies for Christmas. Wonder what he thought was in those. The recipe was good, though.

Story #2: The scene is the Duchy master bedroom, at a time way past anyone's bedtime. QOC is already in bed, half-asleep, while DOB wanders around contemplating the meaning of life and getting ready for bed.

DOB: Hey, what are these white globs of powder on the bed?

QOC: I don't know, probably powdered sugar that stuck to my skirt when I was making the icing.

DOB: Hmm. They look kind of like soap flakes. Hope they're not soap flakes, that would be gross. (He puts one in his mouth.)

(DOB dances around the room, making horrible faces and finally dashing for the sink to wash his mouth out. QOC is helpless with laughter.)

QOC: You know, that would be a really interesting way to poison someone--just leave globs of arsenic lying about waiting for them to taste them.

DOB: You made me eat soap! You deceived me into thinking it was powdered sugar!

QOC: I did not. I said it was probably powdered sugar. If there was a seventy-five percent chance of it being powdered sugar, then there's still a twenty-five percent chance of it being soap flakes without me lying.

DOB: Hmmm, there are eight globs left. I wonder which two are powdered sugar.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Cookies for all

We had our mothers with small children cookie bake, with a total of six children and four adults. (I borrowed DOB's sister to increase the adult tally.) It went well. No one broke anything but cookies, and nothing got iced but cookies. And we didn't burn any pans. Or any fingers.

Clockwise, starting with the green ones: Rumprints, Moon Rocks, Candy Canes, Gingerbread Spritz, sugar cookies, and Krumkake.

We only made the Moon Rocks and sugar cookies today. Some notes for future years:

Never make candy cane cookies alone. Way too tedious.
Next time you see Christmas cookie tins for $.10 at a garage sale, buy them. Duh.
Malinda's frosting for the rumprints is much tastier. And the green really isn't all that appetizing.
Small children have no concept of spreading the sprinkles out over the entire cookie. Until they do have the concept, and then they have no concept that one ever has enough sprinkles.

D1 enjoys her exersaucer in front of the Christmas tree. The tree is a bit sparse this year, owing to being bigger than ever before, but it looks better when I remember to turn off the flash.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A productive day

Yesterday I had a lot to do. Christmas with all its accompanying labor is looming close. I had cookies to bake, parties to plan, Christmas letters to write and presents to make, the house to clean, and all the props and stage design for the Christmas play to worry about.

Yesterday D1 also continued her six-month growth spurt in earnest. She's been eating extra for about a week, and yesterday she seemed to want to do nothing else. I was tired because of the activities of the weekend and from trying to keep up with her eating. Seems like I just recovered from the four-month growth spurt. So I finally gave up, left the house a mess and the cookie dough in the fridge, and went and laid down with her for the afternoon. She ate for well over an hour without interruption, then played and dozed awhile, then ate again. I napped.

It was a productive day. I spent it providing my baby with the best nourishment she could get, and ensuring we can keep that up for several more months. Fifty years from now, D1 will still be enjoying better health because I decided to let the cookie dough fossilize. And by then I should have plenty of time to bake cookies to sabotage it.

There was a "Baby Blues" cartoon a year or so back in which Darryl comes home and finds Wanda with her feet propped up. "So, what'd you do today?" he asks. "Oh, nothing much," she says, "Just made a few billion cells in the tiny human being I'm growing inside my uterus--what did you do today?" "Hey!" he says, "Just because I'm not creating life doesn't mean my work isn't valuable!" Well as I know it, it's hard to remember sometimes which of the things I do are really the important ones.

I did decide to bow to the inevitable and break out the applesauce. This morning we added a little oatmeal gruel to the mix. She makes horrible faces and most of it comes back out on her bib, but I think there's a little less on the bib than was in the bowl, so perhaps some goes down. She keeps opening her mouth for more, though, so I don't think she hates it.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

That song was stuck in our heads all day yesterday, for some reason. It didn't help that the pastor happened to mention it in his sermon, while criticizing the practice of letting Santa eclipse the celebration of Christ.

The line, "He sees you when you're sleeping/He knows when you're awake/He knows if you've been bad or good/So be good for goodness' sake!" tends to come under especially heavy criticism, since it appears to ascribe divine powers to Santa Claus. DOB pointed out, however, that it could just as well work on the Santa Claus is Daddy theory, since Daddy does come in and check on you when you're sleeping, he does know when you're awake, and he does know if you've been bad or good, all without the help of any supernatural powers (unless you count Mommy as having supernatural powers, which many children suspect).

Personally I never had a problem with Santa Claus one way or the other. He was always a very tertiary person in our Christmas celebrations; someone to joke and tease about, and someone whose name was on certain packages so that we wouldn't have to write thank you notes for them, even though their true origin was obvious from the wrapping paper. It probably helped that I had much older siblings and that I understood imaginary things. Santa Claus was like Alice in Wonderland; you knew, of course, that Alice didn't really fall down the rabbit hole. But you didn't have to go around proclaiming loudly that Alice was just pretend; that would spoil the fun. Whether literally-minded children would distinguish so easily I don't know. I hope none of my children are too literally minded, or we are going to have some real conflicts.

Anyway, we were discussing what kind of tree topper we want some day, since we have yet to find the perfect one.

QOC: "I want to find a star for it someday, of course."

DOB: "Naturally."

QOC: "I don't like angel tree toppers, and of course we don't want a Santa Claus."

DOB: "There's nothing wrong with Santa Claus."

QOC: "No, but he doesn't belong at the pinnacle of the tree."

DOB: "True. Perhaps we could get a little plastic Santa to float in the tree stand to indicate his proper place."

Saturday, December 04, 2004

In the air there's a feeling of Christmas

As I finally got out the Christmas CDs last week, I was pondering the enduring popularity of the mid-twentieth century in the realm of secular Christmas music. I admit that I like that era of music all year round, but it seems that at Christmas it appeals to a lot of other people, too, and the radio and stores inevitably resound with Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, and Dean Martin. Even more modern stuff is often simply remakes of the songs from that era.

It's all about nostalgia of course, but I think that says something bigger about Christmas as a cultural phenomenon. Christmas has become primarily a holiday about nostalgia. The only trouble is, we can't remember exactly what it is we are being nostalgic about. The mid-twentieth century Christmas music doesn't exactly depict a culture who actually was celebrating the birth of Christ, either, but it gives the feel of a culture where people could still remember when they did. They might not really believe God invaded earth, but they could remember when they did and after they'd sung "White Christmas," sing "Silent Night" with a straight face based on the memories of the past.

In today's culture it's hard to remember that far back, even. So we can only be nostalgic about being nostalgic for it. A pretty thin sort of celebration. No wonder most modern stuff about Christmas is cynicism about the stress and the misery of having to put up with your relatives for a day.

This article by Gene Edward Veith makes much the same point, only about movies. And it's a good reminder that those of us who do know what we're celebrating shouldn't let ourselves get sucked into the spirit of being stressed-out and complaining about the season.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Looking on the Bright Side

It turns out that Target (for which we still have oodles of gift cards) has a very nice spritz gun, made out of metal so it will not disintegrate upon use. It is not in stock right now and couldn't possibly arrive in time for me to make Christmas cookies this year, but I can have it for years to come.

I do still have to figure out what to do for cookies, though. (I had already planned to distribute a dozen plates' worth on neighbors, parties, and the like.) I was going to make red rum-flavored wreaths and green peppermint-flavored trees.

If I'd had a working spritz gun, I probably wouldn't have gotten the shower scrubbed out yesterday. And wouldn't that have been terrible.

We also got a Christmas tree yesterday. By the time we got to Lowe's the trimmer people had gone home, so instead of getting one small enough to fit on top of the table ("fit" meaning "not fall off if you were careful not to collide with it") as we did last year, we got the biggest seven-foot tree on the lot. (Only $13!) We will take down the playpen to put it up in front of the patio door. The brothers-in-law will be here today, so we will get them to endure the prickles of putting it up, and we will decorate it tomorrow evening.

The sun is shining. It will be a nice day to go grocery shopping.

I think I can see the looming shape of a tooth about to emerge on D1's upper right gum. Maybe it's just my imagination. But that's what it looks like to me.

Only three weeks until Christmas!

Thursday, December 02, 2004


After my successful krumkake experience yesterday, I was all gung-ho to make spritz today, using my great garage sale find. But halfway through my first batch (gingerbread hearts), the plastic disk that pushes the cookies out broke in half.

It's a Martha Stewart Living product. I don't care what she did on the stock market, she deserves to go to jail for making such defective merchandise. (OK, so I did get it at a garage sale, but that shouldn't make the plastic insufficiently tough to push out cookie dough.)

And now what am I going to do for Christmas cookies? I want spritz!


In a daring leap over childhood division of labor principles, this is the year I made krumkake on my own. Krumkake, for the unenlightened, is a traditional Scandinavian cookie: light, crispy and cardamon-flavored, made one at a time on a flat griddle with fancy designs. Unlike other Scandinavian traditions, such as lutefisk and cosmologies in which everything freezes, it is generally well received among those from more southerly climates. Being Scandinavian, however, the making of it must involve some suffering.

When I was growing up, we made krumkake on the traditional cast-iron forms, which must be heated to the precise temperature over the stove and flipped midway through the baking process. Then you burn your fingers while rolling them up. (Some people shape them into cones, but we would rather store more.) Several of them would stick, requiring a session with a wire brush to clean out all the grooves. This painstaking process was reserved for my much more patient and attentive sister, who despite this still usually ruined most of the first batch trying to get the griddle to the right temperature. The evidence usually disappeared by the end of the day. In later years we would join a great Norwegian Baking Day at Camp Woodworth, but even so I was usually relegated to mixing batter or the toilsome task of rolling out lefse.

As a wedding present I received one of the modern krumkake irons, which cooks them two at a time on a non-stick surface at the precise right temperature. Last year I didn't feel up to making the attempt, but this year I decided the time was right. Sure enough, the new machine does make the process if not effortless, at least not a major ordeal. You still burn your fingers rolling them up, though, so it still counts as Norwegian cooking.

I note with displeasure, however, that the manufacturer is "Villaware," an Italian company. How can an Italian company possibly understand the nuances of Scandinavian cooking? (They should at least form a subsidiary to concentrate on Scandinavian cooking implements--they could call it "Pillageware.") That probably explains why the iron doesn't press the krumkake quite as thin as the old cast-iron ones do, resulting in a slightly less crispy and delicate cookie. So maybe some day I'll have to try for the whole cast-iron experience.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

We Return

Some of you may not have noticed we were gone. Others of you, however (I refer specifically to our progenitors who use this means to keep tabs on us) apparently have. We are back.

We were gone because we were a) celebrating my birthday and b) upgrading our DSL service. The price one must pay for halving the cost and increasing the service is two days of hassling with tech support guys and pondering imponderable strings of numbers and acronyms. Things seem to be working better now, although I think email is still having trouble.

My golden birthday (26 on the 26th) was excellent. DOB cooked me dinner and I made a skirt, which I am still trying to make up my mind whether it is really cool or just weird. Also we put up Christmas decorations. I now have my 45th birthday all planned, too. DOB and I will take off for a romantic weekend getaway while D1 and D2-Dn will clean the house, decorate for Christmas, and cook a fabulous dinner to await us when we return. Now that that's settled, back to 2004.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Thanksgiving pictures

D1 getting an early piano lesson from Grandma. Or maybe they're just banging. Either way, lots of fun. D1 concentrates on her fingering to an unusual degree for a baby, which bodes well for her future musical abilities.

DOB and brothers playing football. The teams are short three convalescing players, including me. DOB's team won, as they always do, and DOB sustained no injuries. All in all, a great success.

We were trying to get a picture for DOB's wallet, but the background is too dark. Also D1 is having collar issues, a problem not unknown to her mother.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Photos of a 5-month-old

For those interested in more, and in the high-res versions, they are in the usual place.

As is evident, she is getting quite comfortable with the whole sitting-up concept, and should soon be able to sit unsupported. We are lurking closer and closer to readiness for eating, which according to current theory is indicated by a) wanting to grab parental food (got that); b) being able to sit up (pretty much there); c) growing teeth (working hard at it); d) having the high chair ready to use (that's my department). Still, I'm hoping to put her off until after New Year's. It will not again be this easy to feed her until she learns how to cook.

The Tenth Commandment

That's the one that's been most on my mind lately because . . . well, because it's the one I've been most frequently violating. I never used to have a significant problem with this, which I've realized has been because for most of my life, my needs and wants have fallen significantly below my income. With marriage and a baby, needs and wants have increased astronomically while income has yet to accompany them. (Sigh. How many other temptations that I think I don't have to worry about are simply lurking out there waiting for a change of circumstance?)

In my inbox are pictures from a missionary friend of people living in smoky huts, subsisting on sweet potatoes. On the floor are copies of the Wall Street Journal (which I need to sort through and throw out) full of ads for those who can afford multi-million dollar homes, luxury resorts, and gourmet restaurants. Neither of these particularly affects my perception of my own life of small ranch houses and the finest Wal-mart can offer. They're too far out of my experience.

What gets me and sinks its claws in is seeing those who seem to have it just a little bit better than me. Someone whose house is a little bit bigger and better fixed up; someone whose clothes are a little spiffier; someone who doesn't seem to scramble quite so much when the bills come in. Aren't we just as smart? Don't we work just as hard? (I'll overlook the question of whether we are equally in debt.) And isn't God obligated to give us a lifestyle roughly equal to that of our friends?

Guess not. And I guess that's why the tenth commandment prohibits coveting your neighbor's stuff--because that's where the temptation lies.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Ultimate

In our History Book Club mailing today is an ad for The God Gene, the new book purporting to identify genetic reasons for spiritual belief. (I say purportedly not because I find the premise troubling--why wouldn't God design to believe in him?--but because I doubt it is yet entirely proved.)

What I did find troubling, however, was the quote from Publishers Weekly in the ad: "This gracefully written book may intrigue people of all faiths--or no faith--who wonder about the ultimate connection between science and religion." This quote implies that the ultimate connection between science and religion exists in our heads. No doubt science and religion connect and intertwine at many points in the universe of reality, but the ultimate connection between the two is most definitely not in our heads.

The ultimate connection between science and religion is in the place of ultimate reality. And if that place is in my head, then neither science nor religion are more important than my preference for Peanut Butter M&M's. But if the place of ultimate reality is in the mind of God, then we have hope that both science and religion--and our lives--have meaning.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Movies and Immortality (with the "t")

We spent the weekend in a more-or-less vegetative state, due to feeling sick, the kind of feeling sick that never quite rises to the level of positive illness but if not cooperated with probably will. So we laid around and, since DOB had brought his work laptop home, watched more movies than we realized we were physically capable of watching. The anchor movie for the weekend was The Two Towers, in preparation for the release of the extended-version Return of the King on Friday.

When given the chance, we always watch "The Making of . . . " whatever it is we just watched, and I never cease to be amazed at just how much energy, materials, and time go into the creation of a movie, especially a big-budget epic. The energy that in former ages went into pyramids or cathedrals as people expressed their hopes and fears of the afterlife in our age goes into something to keep people amused on a boring Saturday. (A not-entirely apropos quote comes to mind here, whose author I have forgotten, "Many people long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.")

Today we are feeling somewhat better. The house also is looking somewhat better.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Pilgrim Observations

Whether or not the story ever comes off, reading up on the Pilgrims has been fun. I already knew that the Pilgrims didn't limit themselves to wearing black and white out of some stern abhorrence of worldly pleasure; what I didn't know is their association with black was for the precise opposite reason. They wear black in their portraits because black was in style! (Wonder what interesting conclusions future generations will draw about our religious convictions from our clothes--no doubt they'll notice our stern avoidance of frills and fanciness and conclude we believed elaborate clothing was a sin.)

Puritan literature for children, such as it was, had an interesting angle. One of the most popular books had tales of various pious children, whose good life was sealed by the fact that they died young with religious admonitions on their lips. Had I been a Puritan child, such a tale would have motivated me to promptly go out and pull the cat's tail, in hopes of not being so good as to demand an early death.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Can this story be saved?

I'm working on a story, because DOB promised to give a children's sermon at church next Sunday and he wants to do one about the Pilgrims, naturally. It's got to be interesting for ages 4 to 84 and have a clear but not obnoxious moral. Reading various Pilgrim documents, I found the account of young John Billington (son of Plymouth's first murderer!) getting lost in the forest, the adventures of the men searching for him, and the eventual peace treaty made with the formerly hostile tribe who took him in. It seems like good material to work with.

But I'm running into the same problems I always run into when I write stories. I think the problem is the way I read--all the dialogue, skim the action, skip descriptions altogether. So when I write a story, it tends to have plenty of dialogue, briefly-described action, and no descriptions. Trimming extravagant overwriting has rarely been needed on anything I wrote; the challenge is keeping it from sounding like a police log. Maybe I should just abandon story-writing and stick to drama, where I can write dialogue to my heart's content.

In other news, D1 has moved into 6-9 month outfits, without even giving me the courtesy of looking a little swamped in them for the first few weeks. They fit perfectly (well, as perfectly as anything can fit someone who lies on the floor and wads herself up all day). She better stay in this size until Christmas is over, though, because all her Christmas outfits (due to a garage sale by a conveniently-sized baby) are in this size range.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Doughnuts, carrots, and a short guide to interpretation

QOC: "Eating a dozen doughnuts a day will make people fat. Carrots, on the other hand, are a God-given food, delicious and nutritious. People should eat more of them."

C #1: "That's not true. Why, my cousin Phil eats nothing but celery and water. By what you say, he should be thin and yet he weighs 500 pounds. Don't judge people just because they are fat and think they're all doughnut gluttons!"

C #2: "Doughnuts have nothing to do with fat. My little brother can eat a dozen doughnuts every day and he's skinny as a rail."

C #3: "Some people are allergic to carrots. Don't force them to eat carrots, it will make them sick."

C #4: "Are you saying it's a sin not to eat carrots? That's ridiculous! Don't be so legalistic."

QOC's revised post: "In many cases, excessive consumption of doughnuts can, for some people, cause them to gain unwanted weight, although of course there are many causes of weight gain and some of them are no one's fault at all. I personally prefer to eat carrots, which are quite tasty and healthful, and although of course I would never suggest that it was divinely mandated to eat carrots, still, I think if more people ate more carrots, they might possibly find it beneficial."

This is not meant to pick on any of my commenters; the level of discussion on this blog has (almost always) been courteous, intelligent, and beneficial. This is more a compilation of common logical fallacies I see on various blogs and discussions. To deconstruct them:

C#1: This a formal logical fallacy whose technical name is "denying the antecedent." In other words, if I say "If X, then Y," it is quite irrelevant to prove that Y can occur without X. I never said that X was the only possible cause of Y, and logically, I don't need to.

C#2: This is not a structural fallacy, but simply an attempt to negate a rule by proving an exception. Just because you have proven that one person can eat huge quantities of doughnuts without gaining weight does not mean you have disproven the main point, which is that excessive doughnut consumption generally results in weight gain.

C#3 and #4 are both getting a little carried away. Just because someone says something is a good idea does not mean they are going to force it on anyone, insist that everyone ought to do it, or claim that it's a sin for people not to do it.

Being a lawyer, I like to make sure I have enough qualifying statements so that people don't misinterpret what I have to say. Being a writer, I often find excessive qualifying statements suck the meat out of what I was trying to say. It annoys me if even after loading something up with qualifying statement upon qualifying statement, people still insist on interpreting a generalization as a universal, exception-free rule, or a suggestion as a command.

So here's a general guide to interpreting this blog: If I say X is a good thing, but don't say X is what God commands everybody to do, it's because I don't think X is what God commands everybody to do. If I criticize action Y but don't say people who do it are sinning, it's because I don't think they are. If I say A usually results in B, I'm not denying that sometimes B comes from other causes and sometimes A results in something else.

I like offering opinions, and it's only fair that I should expect disagreement. I like to talk about broad swaths of culture and ideas, and I know perfectly well there are almost always exceptions. But if we spend all our time focusing on the exceptions, we miss out on having a discussion over the broad swath.

This post does not specifically address any other post, nor do the hypothetical comments herein listed specifically criticize any other comments. The opinions contained herein are strictly those of the author, and may or may not reflect those of the organization. Let the buyer beware. Don't drink and drive. Patent pending. No animals were harmed in testing this post. Wear sunscreen. Price may not include product. Do not take with milk. May cause side effects which include, but are not limited to, crossed eyes, headaches, and spinning craniums. Dolphin safe. FDA approved. Beware of dog. No trespassing. The end.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Quick Reference Guide for Reformers

Are you an idealistic reformer out to change the world to a new and better place? To save you time, the Duchy is posting a list of already-tried ideas. Clip this list and keep it in your billfold; when you have an idea to save the world, check and see if it appears on this list before you sell all your worldly goods to get it started:

* Abolishing private property
* Free love
* Widespread celibacy
* Peace through weakness
* Peace through conquest (works for longer, but eventually people get mad)
* Central planning
* Committee meetings
* Eliminating human inhibitions
* Prohibition
* Diets with complex, day-by-day instructions
* Pretty much anything with "modern" attached to it

Feel free to support human progress by proposing your own additions.

This seems like a good place to quote G.K.Chesterton: "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."

Then comes baby in a baby carriage

Conventional wisdom says that it's better for a marriage if the couple puts off babies for a few years. Statistics say otherwise; one of the strong predictors of a marriage staying together is if the couple has one child within the first two years and another within the next two. (Shotgun weddings excepted.)

I always doubted the conventional wisdom, considering that if God really thought a couple needed a few years of time alone he could have made women have a 22-month gestation time, like elephants. Without putting any "oughts" on it, or denying that there may be cases where it's better to put off children, I'd like to speculate on some ways in which babies do help a marriage, even a brand-new one.

Babies provide a greater incentive to work things out. Everybody has times when they don't quite get along in perfect harmony. Having a third person in the house who is totally dependent on your ability to work together is a tremendous incentive to keep going regardless of your momentary feelings toward your spouse.

Being a parent makes you a better person than you were. As a parent you have two choices: become more patient, unselfish, and flexible; or go crazy. Most of us alternate. These qualities help a marriage (especially the insanity).

Babies make your commitment tangible and permanent: Sure, you believe in the permanence of marriage. But the reality is, as long as it's just the two of you, you really could walk away. Once you have a baby, your very DNA has melded together, and you will go the rest of your life having a part of you being also a part of your spouse.

It's the ultimate vote of confidence in your spouse: There really isn't any greater way you can show you trust and respect a person than by making them the other parent of your child. I once had a young woman volunteer to me the information (I never ask such things) that she and her husband had no children because he wasn't really mature enough to be a father yet. I had to wonder what had made her think he was mature enough to be a husband.

Babies help you get to know each other better. I know, everybody says this is why you shouldn't have babies. We can't figure out why. Presumably by the time you marry you have gotten past sitting around and sharing your favorite colors. If you really want to know a person--their deepest fears and hopes; their childhood memories and plans for old age; how they react to two a.m. crises when they got to bed at midnight--there is no better way than to raise a child with them.

If people mean "know" in the more, ah, Biblical sense, then it seems the presence of a baby at least indicates you're on the right track.

Babies re-orient you from present to future. People without kids are much more likely to live life focused on the present: spending their time, energy, and money on things that have immediate payback. Once you have a baby, you face the reality that a part of you will live on after you die. You have something in the future to live for. You start visualizing yourself as a grandparent and great-grandparent and building your life and marriage with that future in mind.

Babies create interdependence: Independence does not contribute to union; that's why God made both believers to need each other in the Body of Christ and spouses to need each other within marriage. But young, healthy people without children remain as independent, as a practical matter, as they were before marriage. With children, they become interdependent: neither of them could effectively raise the child alone. When you really need each other, not just in an emotional but in a very tangible sense, your sense of togetherness grows.

Babies make life's trials less significant. Not less numerous, by any means. But babies have a great capacity for acting delighted to see you without noticing that anything is wrong. And they still need just as much care whether you feel good or want to crawl under a rock and hide. It's a great distraction.

On the flip side, there are statistics indicating that a lot of people's marital satisfaction goes down after having kids. It'd be interesting to integrate the two studies and find out what the correlation is between those who wait to have kids and those whose marriages diminish in satisfaction afterward.

But even if people who launch right into child-rearing have as much of a let-down after kids as those who wait--or more--I suspect what may be going on is this: Yes, kids hamper the candlelit dinners, spontaneous trips, and long soul-searching conversations that people associate with romance. But they build the qualities that make for genuine love and commitment and a happy life-long union. Sooner or later the rush of first falling in love is going to diminish. Having kids right away means that when it does, you have a deeper and truer bond already in place.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Repeat Experiment

Being sluggish yesterday, I spent much of the afternoon reading Invincible Louisa, a children's biography of Louisa May Alcott. (D1 was more interested in trying to read it, too, than she was in eating. She is definitely our child.) The whole family was good friends with Emerson, Thoreau, et al., and very influenced by Transcendentalism. At one point Louisa's father, Bronson Alcott, seriously considered leaving his beloved family in order to pursue experiments in communal living more effectively. The author summed up the whole episode by saying:

"Something was very wrong with the world, every one said. Here and there a few were trying to organize totally new schemes of living. So many were tried that we do not have to try them over again today."

Of course, this book was written in 1933. By the time another thirty years had passed, apparently a lot of people had forgotten the experiments of the 1840s and did need to try them over again.

Monday, November 15, 2004

D1 draws admirers, stops traffic

Well, duh, you say.

Last Saturday we finally had the time and energy to spend some of the gift cards we had received for our wedding. I'd had a $400 shopping spree in my purse for 14 months and had never bothered to go on it. I don't know whether that's a better indicator of how hectic the last year has been or an indicator just how deep our loathing for buying stuff goes.

We started out at Penney's to get a replacement for the lost pair of pants. His Majesty suggested that if we went to Goodwill we could probably find the actual pair of pants, but we never made it that far. We wound up buying another pair exactly like the last pair--saves on decision making. Besides, it was on sale.

Afterward I waited for DOB in the hallway of the bathrooms with D1 (looking very fetching in her duckling dress) in her stroller. Two grandparents came with a couple of granddaughters; the grandma and granddaughters went into the ladies' room (whose door was missing, but it was a long hallway and turned a curve, so it was OK). The grandpa noticed D1 and bent over and started cooing at her. With the way I happened to have the stroller, this meant his rear was backed into the ladies' restroom.

A few minutes later we heard an "Excuse me, can we get by?" The grandpa stood up and scooted aside, and ten or more slightly impatient women came marching out of the ladies' room.

We only managed to spend about half the gift cards, so we will have to go back sometime. But we got many Useful Things (most notably clocks for every room) and a few Fun Things (giant book on castles for 50% off!). I still can't shut my purse, thanks to the remaining gift cards.

Odd baby fact learned yesterday: The most effective and safest laxative for infants is to put baby in a fancy dress, forget to put an adequate backup outfit in the diaper bag, and go to church.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Positive spin

Commenting on an incident where three Democrat youths beat up a Republican, the DA says, "It's a good thing to see young people interested and excited about politics."

Then again, maybe not.

We can't even get the Young D's around here to debate us, much less beat us up.

Milestones the Baby Books Miss: Miscellany

D1 has been growing too fast in too many ways to note them all, but here are a few:

Self-endangerment: She has now gained the strength and mobility to entrap herself in things, without having the strength and mobility to escape. We are going to have to put the baby seat away, after I discovered her hanging herself over the toy bar. She can also tug on her arch of toys that hangs over her playmat until it falls over on top of her; fortunately it doesn't hurt.

Sock removal: She has recently discovered that she has toes. She has not succeeded in removing her socks by this means yet, but she practices diligently.

Social coughing: For a while we thought she had an allergy, but we have finally come to the conclusion that she has figured out how to cough on purpose and is trying it out, as she tries out every sound, to find out its significance in the English language. She also makes interesting clicking noises which, alas, will not help her since we're not !Kung tribesmen.

Sitting up: She can sit on my lap without falling over for . . . well, five seconds at least. Maybe ten. It's a start.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Rose was mentioning the fun of random lists last month: here are two hilarious ones.

I notice my sidebar is working again after a week of malfunction. Does HTML just go on strike from time to time? What's up with that?

So far I'm not doing very good at resting today, as I am supposed to be doing to recuperate from a week of a baby having a growth spurt and tackling too many big projects. But it's so hard to stop when one is going, and especially so when one realizes how hard it will be to get going again.

In defense of stupid rules

For some reason, as a child I was most fascinated with books in which the children went to boarding school (A Little Princess, What Katy Did At School, etc.). Part of it was the thought of going far away to some strange place; part of it was the fairy-tale like preponderance of rules at such institutions; instead of your coach turning into a pumpkin you got a scolding by the headmistress and detention, but the general idea was the same. It all sounded like a challenging and amusing game, whether you went along with the rules or tried to break them.

As it happened, I never got the chance to spend any length of time in any sort of institution. However, most of my compatriots did, whether it was a Christian college, IBLP, mission organization, or whatever. They all came back with the same complaint: The Rules. As a teacher in a Christian high school (whose rules seemed quite lax to me) I got the exact same complaints. It didn't really matter what the specific rules were, or what the institution was, the complaints were the same: meaningless rules, mindless conformity, legalism, self-righteousness, hypocrisy.

For the most part they also seemed to think these problems were unique to their institution, or to their specific time and culture, and that there was some better paradise out there where all the rules made sense and were sensibly enforced.

There isn't. Stupid rules are intrinsically bound up in the nature of institutions. An institution is up against one of the most powerful forces known to man: the madness of crowds. Get a crowd of people together, and they're liable to do something crazy. Get a crowd of young, inexperienced people under the influence of powerful hormones together, and the chance rises to a virtual certainty. Even if a majority of them have the maturity to handle greater freedom, an institution can't deal with people as individuals--it has to deal with them as groups, and thus must write its rules for the lowest common denominator.

There are several reasons that the ensuing rules wind up being arbitrary. One is the need for an appearance of order. It's a basic fact of human psychology that people act more orderly when things look orderly. Crack down on graffitti and you have less theft. So if one has times and seasons, strict dress codes or uniforms, rules about how to move, talk, etc., one constantly reinforces the idea that this is an orderly place. That's why Catholic schools have uniforms: not because there's some Vatican document that says plaid skirts are more acceptable in the sight of God, but because children dressed in uniforms behave better.

Another is the role of practicing obedience. You want people learning how to obey on the stupid rules--the ones where breaking them has no real consequences. Most of the rules we will have for D1 in the next few months will have no particular moral or safety value: Don't bang on the keyboard. Don't crawl on the hard-surfaced floors. But they will teach her to obey us so that when she's big enough to encounter real dangers (don't run in the street), she'll already have learned how to obey. We don't wait until she's big enough to run out in the street and then teach her to obey--if she decides to try disobeying then, it's liable to be too late to correct the problem.

Yet another is the factor that the few stupid people in the crowd tend to ruin things for everyone. I once went on a sledding trip to Mount Rainier, only to discover that the Park Service had banned sledding except in one level, overcrowded run. Why? Two drunk guys had gotten hurt sledding. Snowboarding was still OK, though, as no one had yet sued over it. We were highly annoyed, but you couldn't blame the Park Service for wanting to protect themselves. If you're standing in loco parentis for hundreds of young people, an irreducible minimum of whom are bound and determined to go do something that will hurt themselves, you're going to err on the side of caution.

Then, of course, one comes to the problem of how people apply the rules. There are various types: the ones who treat The Rules as if they came down from Mount Sinai. (Often the ones who wind up breaking even the Mount Sinai rules as soon as they get out.) The ones who give lip service to The Rules and them break them when anyone's back is turned. The administrators who enforce The Rules with a rod of iron yet don't follow them themselves. I'm sure they were there in your institution, because they are present in every institution. Every institution is made up entirely of sinners, and if hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and legalism aren't the three most common human sins, they come awfully close.

Now, as it happens, institutions with their arbitrary rules are particularly prone to fostering that kind of problem. That's because God didn't create people to live in institutions; he created them to live in families. As a family, we can deal with people as individuals. We can gradually give more freedom to one who has earned it while continuing to train another under restraints until he is ready. Love, close quarters, and the rough-and-tumble of everyday living make it more natural--and more important--for us to be real with each other.

I don't think it's particularly good for someone's moral and social development to spend much time in any institutiton. But sometimes one is there for awhile; in that case, stay calm and head home by the stroke of midnight instead of kicking the pumpkin. The Rules won't hurt you if you don't let them. And if you want to improve whatever institution it is you came out of, spend your time and energy critiquing the things that can be changed and that are worth changing.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The requested picture of D1 in the leaves.

Behold the office!

To trip the light fantastic

Which I now have room to do in here because the office is clean!

Actually what has really happened is the mess has all been sized down and sorted enough to be stashed somewhere without creating even more loathsome messes. But this is the first time the office has ever even looked clean since we got married. Now that there is a clear space, I can work with a much clearer mind on one little project at a time until order at last prevails in reality as well as in appearance.

That is my theory of cleaning: start with making things look clean, then you'll feel energized to clean the stuff that doesn't show in manageable stages. My mother's theory was the opposite: empty out all the hiding places, then you can be sure you'll deal with everything at once. Sometimes this provided balance, sometimes it worked at cross purposes, with me coming along and hiding everything she had just laboriously drug out.

About a year ago I felt like I was at the bottom of an insurmountable pile and wondered if I had turned into a total slob. Then I found a very comforting chart in an organizational book. It illustrated how life went along roughly parallel to one's ability to keep things organized until some crisis event caused life and organization to diverge, resulting in a giant mess. It listed several examples of events that might trigger this problem: moving, marriage, new job, home business, new baby, sickness, injury, etc. I hadn't just had one of them--I'd had them all! No wonder I was having problems. With a little breather space (I think we've made it four months without a new crisis) things are going much better and I am gradually digging my way out.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Big scary projects

This week is the week of tackling big scary projects:
  • The bathroom drain. Our bathroom drain is specially designed to trap the maximum amount of hair in a position where it can neither continue down the drain nor be reached by ordinary means. Up until now, I had not dared to try to get the drain apart myself, but with postpartum hair loss, the problem was reaching critical proportions. With only a little damage to the tub finish (matches the scratches from the blinds at the other end of the tub), I managed to get it apart and back together all by myself. And now there is a drain setting that actually drains.
  • The pumpkin. I figured it would be a waste to let fall pass without trying to process at least one pumpkin. I escaped with minor injuries, and the pumpkin is good and pureed. For full details and to offer your own helpful squash insights, go to the Martha blog.
  • The leaves. I have little previous experience with leaf-raking, since a) I lived on a farm; b) most trees there were evergreen; c) I had lots of brothers; d) they had lots of powered equipment. But I've decided to put in a little leaf-raking exercise every good day this week, after bundling D1 up so she can sit in the sunshine and watch me. Now I have a large mountain range of leaves along the property line, which the beagle from two doors down likes to burrow through. I'm hoping they won't blow away before I can bring myself to shove them down the hill (over the next-door condo's spanking-neat lawn) to the street, where DOB tells me some beneficient creature will come and pick them up.
  • The office. This really is the project which the others are more-or-less excuses to avoid. Particularly dreaded is the pile in the corner, the pile of papers and miscellany that has been sorted out all the previous times and left to sit because we didn't know what to do with it then either. Paper sorting is only fun if you have a relatively low stumper-per-inch ratio. The ratio here is very high. But I hold fast to my vision of a tidy office and slog on.

Monday, November 08, 2004

A Very Sad Baby

D1 is starting to develop her skills at parental manipulation. She has a special cry reserved for occasions when she is neither cold nor hungry nor tired, but simply wants to wrench her parents' hearts for the unpardonable crime of not letting her do what she wants. It is accompanied by a face that manages to communicate abject misery without losing any of its promise of adorability should its wish be granted. How a four-month-old baby, happy the moment before and the moment after, can muster up such a display of sadness is beyond us; if she continues with this skill, she has a great future in opera. But we are doing our best to ensure she does not have a great future in parent control, even if we have to take heart-hardening pills to do it.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

I love those wide open spaces

DOB's siblings came yesterday and took the furniture that's been clogging up our hallway down to fill up their living room for a few years. Now we can walk down the hallway without impaling ourselves on the buffet or endangering D1's head with the handles on the china cabinet.

I don't think it will help solve the dishwasher shin-whacking problem, or prevent doorframe collisions. But every injury we don't get is much appreciated.

Friday, November 05, 2004

God, Muslims and Thomas Sowell

(Am I too much of a Thomas Sowell fan? He keeps popping up in the oddest places.)

Anyway, there's frequently controversy in certain Christian circles over whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. The Southern Baptists have criticized President Bush (though not very hard) over saying that they do.

After starting in on a book on Muslims yesterday, though, I'm quite convinced that Muslims and Christians do worship the same God, and that denying they do is really indicative of a poor understanding of who God is on the part of Christians. (Hold your horses--this is not because Muslims have a better understanding.)

Let me illustrate with an incident that happened while I was studying at the World Journalism Institute a couple of years ago. I was riding with two other students to a party and the topic of our assigned readings came up. Student A and I were both fans of Thomas Sowell before we were assigned to read A Conflict of Visions. Student A asked Student B what he thought of the book.

"I hated it," Student B said, "You could just tell here was this white guy who didn't have a clue what he was talking about . . ."

"What?" Student A and I responded, "Thomas Sowell is black."

"No way!" Student B said.

The argument continued in this vein for some time, and I'm not sure by the time we arrived we had him fully convinced, although we were both privately quite amused at his ignorance.

Now, would it have been accurate or helpful for us to say, "You aren't talking about Thomas Sowell. You have been reading a false Thomas Sowell?" Of course not. It was definitely Thomas Sowell we were all talking about; one of us just had a radically erroneous understanding of who Thomas Sowell was, one that colored his understanding of everything he said.

But here's the thing: Thomas Sowell was a real person. We all knew we were talking about a specific real person, the one who writes all those books. From there we could argue about the specific traits that this real person had--quite independent of our opinions of him. The only way Student B could have had one Thomas Sowell while Student A and I had another Thomas Sowell was if Thomas Sowell himself was simply a figment of our imaginations.

Now, when a Muslim talks about God, he is talking about the transcendant, personal, uncreated Creator and Lord of all things. That is quite definitely who Christians are talking about when they are talking about God. We do have radically different understandings of the character, nature, and demands of God--but it is the real God who is out there we are talking about. Only if God was simply a construct of our own imagination could we declare that only those who precisely comply with our understanding of God are talking about "our God." God is Himself, not the creature of our dogmas.

That doesn't mean our dogmas are unimportant. They are even more important if you look at it this way. Because if God is real and distinct from our ideas about Him, it matters hugely whether those ideas are right or wrong. Christians and Muslims do worship the same God; at least one of us is very, very mistaken about how He wants to be worshipped. And it is the real God whose real actions will punish those who misconstrue his nature.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Surprising New Poll

So, Tuesday G.W. Bush won re-election with 51% of the popular vote. Today CNN is out with a poll reporting that the percentage of people pleased with the outcome of the election is . . . 51%!

Guess those voting machines work after all.

On the other hand, a comforting thought

No man ever became great or good except through many and great mistakes. -Gladstone

Then again, maybe my mistakes aren't significant enough to improve me.

Boast not thyself

As part of our electioneering activities, the RNC paid for us to stay in a hotel close to the county headquarters where we were working. Since DOB was leading the data entry effort, he had to leave the hotel early in the morning. The plan was then for his siblings to come by and pick me and D1 up a bit later.

When he left, DOB cautioned me, "Now make sure you get everything out of the hotel room."

"Don't worry," I told him, "I've never left anything behind in a hotel room." I didn't mention it, but I could not help mentally noting this was due to my habit of cleaning up behind myself, so that I could easily see anything that had been left--contrary to his own habits.

When the siblings-in-law arrived, the room was straightened up and all the luggage piled neatly in one spot. We picked it up and headed out (with one minor catastrophe when an overloaded brother trying to shut the door dropped one of the jugs of water and had it split open).

Yesterday I was also quite pleased with myself because I had put everything away from the trip by noon the next day, quite the fastest I've managed in a long time.

Yesterday evening I was mentally planning the activities of the next day, and suddenly I realized: I never unpacked DOB's gray slacks. Or his shirts. Or my green skirt. And then the mental image came into my head of all our hanging clothes neatly lined up in the hotel closet. I had not thought about them since I hung them up Tuesday morning.

I put in a call to the hotel lost-and-found, but so far have not received a call back. We are hoping they come through for us, as DOB's work wardrobe is still quite limited and we really can't afford to lose one of his pairs of pants.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Ohio Politics

  • Rumor has it that DOB's parents and some siblings were assigned to work in a palatial estate when the local headquarters ran out of room. Alas, the headquarters where we were working did not run out of room, so we were stuck in a very battered back room of a very ugly suite of offices in a very dull strip mall. But we worked hard anyway.
  • D1 did her part to re-elect the president by being unusually good, which was impressive considering that she's very good even on ordinary days. She lay on her playmat and cooed or napped while chaos reigned around her, occasionally pausing to give encouragement to some frazzled campaigner.
  • Florida would be a lot more fun for outdoor protesting in November than Ohio will be. Nonetheless, watch for us out holding signs that say "Don't Count Dead People" and chanting "Two, Four, Six, Eight, If you can't win, litigate!"
  • On the other hand, Ohio's Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell will look a lot better on TV than Katherine Harris did. And he would sound more credible saying that we haven't disenfranchised any minority voters, except that race doesn't mean race any more, it means ideology.

Washington Politics

I wish I could like the Libertarian Party. I like their platform. I agree with it more than any other platform I've seen. I've spoken to their state convention, and they liked the rubber chicken as much as anybody. And in Washington state, which has a strong live-and-let-live instinct, they could make a real positive difference.

Instead they insist on being political idiots.

What they could be is the party of principled freedom. They could emphasize things like the tax benefits of limiting government to its proper size and the economic growth that would result. They could work to explain the difference between things one has a right to do and things it is right to do and advocate personal self-control instead of government intrusion. They could run candidates in races where both candidates are in the mushy middle, to give people a clear alternative to vote for, or in lopsided races, to stimulate political debate.

What they are is the party of potheads. They talk about drug legalization until they are blue in the face, even though nobody cares. They run spoiler candidates against free-market diehards. They alienate their sympathizers (like me) without gaining anything by it.

I am particularly annoyed because they ran one against Lois McMahan, a close family friend, and the candidate that--before now--I devoted every alternate year to since I was 15. The Libertarians don't have a better friend in the state house, as far as reducing the role of government goes. It's a district exactly evenly split; party control flips back and forth almost every time. And the Democrats poured money into the race as one of their best chances of securing control of the state house. So why did the Libertarians decide to help them out?

Right now the race is just a couple of hundred votes apart, so I'm sure everyone is still waiting for the absentees. But if it weren't for the Libertarian, Lois would be a couple of hundred votes ahead instead of behind. (And it looks like they may have also cost the Republicans their first decent shot at the governor's mansion in a couple of decades.)

On the bright side in Washington, some of my personal legal heroes look like they'll be on the Supreme Court: Richard Sanders was re-elected handily, and Jim Johnson looks like he's got a strong lead.

Monday, November 01, 2004


There seems to be some hullabaloo about excavating Martin Luther's facilities.

Now I have new motivation to keep the bathroom clean . . . if I became famous later in life, some folks might dig up my toilet 500 years down the road and I wouldn't want them to find it a mess.

I must force myself to stop blogging now and get busy. Will most likely be incommunicado until after the election, as we work to get everybody else to vote. We even passed up the chance to see the president in our very own town this morning--we're the hub of electoral attention--so that we would have time and energy for our efforts. We'd rather see him re-elected than in person.

Please do vote, unless you already have, or are going to vote for Kerry.

D1 demonstrates simultaneously her affection for blowing raspberries and how charming she looks in a stocking cap.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

What Jackson Missed in Tolkien

The imminent release of the final extended DVD in the trilogy has put me thinking about the themes I most wish had made it into the movies (or had been better portrayed). Of course, there is always more in a movie than there is in a book, and no doubt if I had made the movie I would have left out themes that resonated deeply with someone else. I won't pick on any of the little details, just the big ideas that I think the movies missed.

The Sorrow of the Elves
The elves were tinged with sadness and a sense of loss in the movie. But the movies didn't really capture how central the elven sorrow was to Tolkien's mythology; I have always felt it was as great in importance as the whole good versus evil conflict. It colors the whole struggle with Sauron, because the elves know that in destroying the ring they will themselves lose their ability to preserve the beauties of their own land. It is the same reality that Frodo eventually must accept: that one often cannot destroy evil without losing all else that one values as well.

But I think Tolkien portrays something even bigger with the elves. For the elves, immortality is as great a sorrow as mortality is for humans. It is indeed sad to leave all one's works and joys and go we know not where; it is just as sad to see all the things one loves decay while you live on. We desire immortality, but the immortality we desire is not just an endless lengthening of our mortal lives. It is something altogether different; it is not something that could be enjoyed or even imagined in a dying land. Both elves and men must, sooner or later, give up the limits of Middle Earth in order to enjoy the immortality for which they long.

The Maturing of Eowyn
The initial Eowyn is portrayed quite well. The only trouble is that the movie never lets her grow up. Watching the actors being interviewed, it seemed to me that nobody had a clue that she even needed to grow up. (I still have a faint hope that we'll see a little more of that in the extended version.)

Everyone sees Eowyn as a heroine, a great woman. She is a heroine and she has the makings of a great woman. But she's not one yet. She's not comfortable with herself as a woman. She chafes at her assigned responsibilities, no matter how important and honorable, because they lack the glamour and excitement she wants. She gets a schoolgirl crush on Aragorn. She is an adolescent, and I mean that in the nicest possible sense.

Eowyn doesn't yet know that the greatness of a woman comes not from what she does, but from who she is. She doesn't see, for instance, that being her uncle's one link to sanity until he could be freed from his oppression was as valiant and vital a task as all the orcs her brother could kill.

In the book, we get the chance to see that Eowyn after doing the second-greatest feat in the entire war--which ought to fulfill all her dreams of greatness--is still not happy. It's not just disappointment over Aragorn; as Aragorn points out, she didn't know him well enough to love him as a person, just as an ideal. Only after Faramir declares his love does Eowyn realize who she is meant to be and accept it:

Then the heart of Eowyn changed, or else at last she understood it. And suddenly her winter passed, and the sun shone on her.

"I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun," she said; "and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren." And again she looked at Faramir. "No longer do I desire to be a queen," she said.

Eowyn grows up at last and finds joy in being a woman. In the movie she stays a feminist heroine. Indeed, much of what is human and even good in feminism is simply an adolescent desire to prove one's self. But women are never going to find peace in copying the male path to maturity, achievement.

Eowyn has always resonated deeply with me because I was her. I always wanted to prove myself better than the boys. When they got too big for me to beat at arm wrestling, I took to besting them at slaying law exams. I tried to minimize my enjoyment of "girl stuff." But I think Eowyn helped me with the process of realizing I didn't need that; that being a woman was as worthy a calling as being a hero. (And I have to admit that, like Eowyn, it was a certain young man who triggered the change.)

I'm sorry they left out the grown-up Eowyn.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Food stuffs

Check out the new cooking blog, Cooking With Martha Stalwart. (That would be the Martha of Bethany in the Bible. Nothing to do with that other Martha.) It was started by SaraJ but has multiple contributors. The high-tech version of a back fence.

And my sister brought the online Carrot Museum to my attention. It includes people who make me look quite normal, by comparison. At least I don't have a carrot tattoo on my belly. (And if I did, it wouldn't get photographed.) But still, perhaps I should submit my carrot collection--once the kitchen is sufficiently finished that I have most of it displayed. In the meantime, here is a small sampling (photo courtesy DOB):

Heading off the cliff

OK, one more opinionated post and then I'll go back to baby pictures and household misadventures.

Another argument I've often heard used by third-party advocates is, "The Democrat wants to go off the cliff at 85 mph while the Republican wants to go off the cliff at 55 mph. We shouldn't be going off the cliff at all." This is true, but they fail to complete the analogy, which is that the third-party candidate generally wants to suddenly erect a concrete barrier between the car and the cliff. On the whole, I think I'd rather go off the cliff. But I still think the best plan is to slow the car down gradually.

In other words, if the third party really could implement their plans with the speed they claim, the country would be instantly plunged into chaos and civil war. That's not good government.

Biblical guidelines for voting

Those arguing that Christians should choose a third-party candidate are wont to rely on the Scriptural standards for choosing leaders in arguing that their guy is superior. Do those standards really warrant decrying George Bush as evil and voting for whoever the Constitution Party is running? (This year it's a Maryland lawyer named Michael Peroutka.)

Now, although I believe the Mosaic governing structure is in many ways limited to that specific time and place as God prepared the world for the coming of the Messiah, I do think the standards set down for their rulers are persuasive if not binding for Christians today. So let's look at them:

Ex. 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place [such] over them, [to be] rulers of thousands, [and] rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:

Deut 1:9 Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.

The first qualification we see here is "able." Able to do what? Able to rule well. How do we know ability? By testing it. Even rulership of a family or church well is not a good measuring stick for this qualification, because the pressures are totally different. Anyone who's been around politics for long has seen perfectly good, well-meaning people get into office and cave in once they get there.

Proponents of the third-party candidate are wont to imply, "Well, Candidate X has compromised on issues A, B, and C, but our candidate will never compromise." How do they know? Has this man been tested in the incredible pressures of national politics? Does he even know what he is doing? It's easy to say our government should be thus and so--does he have a viable plan for getting it there without destroying it in the process? Does he have the people on hand to put in place to carry his ideas into reality? If he doesn't, then I seriously doubt whether he fulfills this primary characteristic of ability. Indeed, I would doubt the political ability of anyone who seriously expects to bring political change about by running as a no-name for president.

Men of truth, hating covetousness, fearing God
These are all important matters of character and I even will concede for the sake of argument that Mr. Peroutka probably scores better on some points here than President Bush. But I would ask his supporters: Do you think you are voting for Jesus Christ? Of course not (heresy, heresy). Then guess what? You're voting for a sinner. That means you're voting for someone who sometimes stretches the truth, sometimes covets, and who doesn't fear God as he should. The lesser of two evils is indeed still evil--and it's a pretty basic Christian doctrine that we're all evil. That means it's a matter of weighing the degrees: trying to choose someone who does indeed have some fear of God, who tries to be truthful and who avoids corruption, but realizing that just because a person is a better person doesn't mean they're a better leader.

Yes, I disagree with President Bush on some points of theology. But then, I disagree with practically everybody on some points of theology. That doesn't mean they don't fear God. It's OK to support someone who disagrees with you on some points and pray for God to guide him.

Would Mr. Peroutka's supporters have voted for King David?

Wise and understanding
Wise: skillful, shrewd, insightful. We're not just talking about people who know the Bible here. We're also talking about people who have practical insight into reality. A person may have a great knowledge of God and how to apply His Word and still be a lousy plumber if he doesn't have wisdom at plumbing. A person may have a great knowledge of God and still be a lousy leader if he doesn't have wisdom at politics. As noted below, I'm not at all concerned about the theology of my plumber. I'm a little more concerned about the theology of my President, but not that much. I'd rather elect a President I disagreed with on theology but trusted to make good decisions when it counted than one I agreed with on theology who didn't have the experience and advisers to guide the largest country in the world.

Known among your tribes
That's right, name ID is important to God. Why? My guess is it's to ensure those chosen as leaders have some history behind them--that they've done something to prove their worth. Usually, this is because they've worked their way up in the ranks of leadership, or served bravely in war. They need to be well-known and have a good reputation.

In response to critiques that they are throwing their vote away on a third party candidate, supporters are prone to argue that God is able to accomplish things despite their apparent impossibility. Quite true. But just where do they get this promise from God telling them that they can win with this particular person by this particular method? It seems an act of gross presumption to me. Yes, God works miracles, but He doesn't command us to jump off cliffs so we can see more of them. Our duty is to work faithfully in the best way that we can.

In short, I did not vote for President Bush because I figured he was the lesser of two evils, while secretly thinking some third-party candidate would be better. Does he fall short in a lot of areas? Of course. I pray God keeps working on his heart, as He already has. But I voted for President Bush because I thought he would make the best president among all the choices on the ballot. I voted for him because I thought he was the most qualified by the Biblical standards.

(Note: I was going to console myself with the thought that a lot of these Constitution Party supporters seem to be tending to the idea that only heads of households should vote, but I think when I do the math it seems that voting for a third-party candidate and not voting would have the same effect. Oh well.)