Saturday, May 29, 2004

Murdered by Pirates is Good

We spent part of the weekend remedying DOB's ignorance of The Princess Bride, which he had never watched. (Inconceivable, I know.) So now he knows the virtues of the MLT, the key distinction between "mostly dead" and "all dead," and why you should never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

We are hoping, before the DVD returns to the library, to watch enough of it in Spanish to get down the Spanish words for, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Friday, May 28, 2004

Christmas Cookies

While out for my morning constitutional, I spied a garage sale and naturally was loathe to pass it up. Sure enough, not only did it have a charming assortment of baby clothes (ah, if only I knew Baby was a boy, they had the greatest little tool outfits), it had a practically-new spritz gun for $2! So I bought it.

Spritzes are those little fancy-shaped pressed cookies that turn up at Christmas. Most people, unfortunately, are only familiar with the generic white kind (perhaps with colored sprinkles for the truly venturesome) and have no idea of the varieties possible. Over many years, my family, in their relentless pursuit of Christmas cookie perfection, has developed countless striking varieties: green peppermint trees with chocolate drizzle; lemon stars with poppy seeds; cherry hearts; poinsettias, complete with leaves and yellow centers; coconut snowmen; gingerbread; orange dipped in chocolate. And then there were the stranger varieties, like the Little Green Men we made the year I accidentally put too much blue icing in the too-yellow coconut dough, and wound up with green rather than white. The next year we refined this concept and made Grinches, with little peanut butter Max the Dogs.

I love spritz. They are easier than rolled cookies and fancier than bar or drop cookies. They are vaguely Scandinavian, although they're more widely appropriated now than, say, krumkaka (which I still haven't attempted on my own, not even with my snazzy electric griddle).

And no doubt my weird aunt and older sister are recoiling with shock to imagine me thinking about Christmas cookies in May, when I ordinarily scream with horror if the topic comes up before November. (Well, I scream then, too, but I don't think it premature.)
I have installed a new template. I like it. Except it doesn't have an obvious spot for links to other blogs. I'll have to make one. But first, dishes call.
Cool Developments

Marsha has succumbed and joined the ranks of bloggers. She hasn't had a chance to post something of substance yet, but brilliant thoughts are no doubt coming soon. Also her template is very elegant. I might have to change mine.

DOB and I have been invited to go (free) to the Buckeye Institute's Evening with John Stossell next week. Way cool. (Even cooler will be if I can get some research work from them.)

The granola Kristen made on Wednesday is delicious. Can't believe this is the same rolled cereal we gagged down hot all winter.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Testing again to see if comments are working.
Pirates Who Don't Do Anything

I spent yesterday reading Treasure Island from cover to cover while watching my sister-in-law make granola and cookies and tortillas for when Baby arrives. The Treasure Island frenzy was on DOB's insistence, when he discovered I had never read it. (After reading it, I think perhaps I might have once, but if so it was when I was so young that I didn't remember what happened, anyway.) Great fun.

The degree of laziness was due to a slight cold. Not a very impressive excuse, but when you add slight-cold-tiredness to eight-months-pregnant tiredness to long-trip-over-the-weekend tiredness, you achieve a fairly high degree of tiredness.

I'm feeling a little better today. It's my day to do office work, although at some point I must go face the pile of dishes.

Also, my order of diapers just arrived.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Vermont: An Endangered Species

So it seems that the National Trust for Historic Preservation has listed Vermont as "endangered," due to a sinister threat from Walmart.

One could mock the arrogant elitists who think that other people should be forced to pay more at quaint stores. More power to those who are happy paying more for their bread and butter, but some of us are working hard to stay alive out here.

But I have a sneaking sympathy for the elitists, just the same. I mourn the passage of the oddities of the world. Certainly a life raising sheep in the Scottish Highlands, or busting sod on the vast prairie, or fishing in small, leaky boats is not one I'd choose over a life of relative comfort in suburbia, but I still can be sorry that those times have passed and want to preserve the beautiful things that ordinary people were able to make out of adversity.

I do shop at Walmart, every week as a general rule. But until last month I religiously bought my meat at Wilson's Meat Locker down the street from DOB's family, where the owner knew my name and inquired about how the baby was doing. The meat wasn't as cheap as I could have scrounged by scouring sales, but it was reasonably priced, from local sources, and I don't think any chain store would have offered me bottom round roast for the same price as chuck just because they were out of chuck. (Indeed, they wouldn't even offer me Orville Redenbacher popcorn for less when they were out of store brand, leading to a tragic Sunday night without popcorn.) But last month the shop went out of business after several decades. As I went in to pick up my last meat order, I heard the owner on the phone, griping, "I could never charge enough to make up for all the hassle of running this business these days."

The real threat to small businesses does not come directly from big businesses underselling them. Walmart undersold Wilson's, but Wilson's had its own niche that offset Walmart's price advantage. The threat comes from government regulations that make it too difficult to operate a business. A huge chain can spread out the costs of complying with the government over a much greater area, lowering its costs (and thus allowing it to lower its prices while still making a profit). Further, a big business has the clout to lobby for exemptions.

It doesn't take too much imagination or research to come up with more advantages big businesses have that are due to government interference rather than some supposed excess of the free market. "Eminent domain" takings of private land to then be resold to private developers. Restrictive zoning laws that melt away in the face of a large potential tax base. Special grants to assist businesses and special tax breaks to help only the favored few.

The trouble is, it's those people who are now clamoring against Walmart who created the regulatory system that favors the large and the powerful businesses over the small, local ones. Government interference, no matter how well-intentioned, will always serve the interests of the large, the wealthy, and the well-organized, because they are the ones who have the resources to figure out how to get on the state's good side. Whereas the free market just might favor the guy down the street who cuts you a special deal on roast.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Another Birth Story

I wonder what the childbirth instructors who are busy training husbands to help would think of this one. (From Mrs. Mike, an Indian midwife is talking to the wife of a Mountie.)

"Yes, you think of your next baby. I have ready for you." She reached over the table and fumbled in an open cupboard. "Many hundred babies I am the first to see. And only one die. Every one I save with squaw root." She chuckled. "You take every day, and I tell you, when baby come you not even know it, no! Once I play good joke on Louis, my husband, I am near my time, big like vinegar barrel. I am cooking dinner. I say, 'Louis, we need wood!' He say, 'We have plenty.' I say, 'Louis, chop wood!' He look at me and shrug his shoulders. I turn my back, take big chew of squaw root. He pick up ax, walk out. Let me tell you, when he come back with split wood, there is twins in the bed, and I am back cooking dinner. But he is a man, he is blind, he sit down and eat. 'Coffee strong enough?' I say. He say, 'Yes.' Then both babies cry. He look around! 'Sacre bleu!' he say French. He run to bed. Where they come from? He hit his head with both hands. It was good joke, Mrs. Mike, best joke I ever make."

Monday, May 24, 2004

Things Brewing at Home

A warm weekend in an unsupervised house is likely to result in some surprises for the homeowners when they return. One of which was that I forgot to take out the garbage before I left. Bleck.

On a more interesting note, my Viking former co-worker will be gratified to learn that I think I made mead over the weekend. At least, I had a watered-down jar of honey used for pancake syrup that has gotten foamy and developed an odd, unhoneylike smell. It doesn't smell like Drano, though, so I don't think it's gotten all the way there yet.

No, I'm not going to taste it.
I Left My Car in Hicksville

The weekend meeting of the Ohio Young Republicans in Toledo went well. DOB presided over a smooth debate of rules and platform, including a lively but cordial discussion on our position over gay marriage. I was duly elected secretary and took a lot of notes on the back of programs, because I had forgotten to bring any notepads. However, I understand the expectations for secretary in the League are relatively low, showing up being sufficient for me to rank among the most dedicated. We ate well and had a room with a great view of the fireworks shot off at the ballpark each evening.

On our way home on Sunday, we had made plans to visit a friend in Hicksville (it's really on the map) and attend her church. On the way down, the a/c quit, then funny noises and smells began to arise, and at last we pulled over just outside of town and the car died altogether. I threatened to go into labor on the side of the road just to round out the experience, but Baby seemed content to stay put.

Over the course of the afternoon we found a mechanic who diagnosed a blown head gasket. We were still over two hours from home. But to make it there we wound up going the other direction, into Indiana (througha terrific thunderstorm), to rent a car at the nearest airport. So we arrived home very late, very tired, and considerably poorer than we had budgeted for. (We will probably have the mechanic up there fix the car and have someone bring it down next time DOB's family goes to Michigan.)

But, we were home in one piece! And now I must go deal with the aftermath of the trip. I might go make the bed. Then again, I might just crawl back in it.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Brief Update

A gazillion things to do today, and limited energy to do them with, as we are leaving for a Young Republican convention in Toledo this afternoon. Some random updates:

We finished birthing class! Now we know everything we need to know. Ha! Anyway, we now know what the Fetal Heimlich Maneuver is, and I bet you don't.

To keep you occupied while enhancing your economic knowledge, play "The Tragedy of the Bunnies." I wish I had designed something like this, but I never could come up with enough justification for buying Flash software.

Ten thousand blessings to the person who invented air conditioning. We have finally had ours serviced and turned on. Life is beautiful. I can actually eat supper again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Government is Evil, er, Stupid

DOB and I have different generic words of disgust. I usually describe things I despise as "evil" or possibly "gross," depending on their nature. DOB, on the other hand, uses "stupid" across the board. I have to admit, though, the anti-government thoughts running through my head today fit "stupid" better than "evil."

1) My good friend Marsha, whose only threat to civil society is her borderline anarcho-libertarian views, is being forced to pay a significant fine for the "offense" of owning up to a forgotten handgun in her purse after the airport security failed to catch it. She is the most conscientious person I know, and so of course she must be fined for her honesty. What, exactly, does this accomplish for national security? Obviously the logical thing for her to do next time she forgets her gun is to keep her mouth shut and hope all the remaining security screeners are equally inattentive.

2) My father has owned a small farm for over 30 years, kept more for the purpose of relieving stress and occupying children than out of any attempt at monetary gain. Now he wishes to divide the farm so that my brother can build on a portion of it. As expected, this involves incomprehensible complexity and expense in surveying, satisfying wetlands concerns, zoning issues, etc. The icing on the cake, though, is that he has now discovered he is supposed to have a "farm plan." Not only that, but the "farm plan" is being developed by some bureaucrats who came out and briefly surveyed the farm. (Fortunately Dad got the manure shed cleaned out before they came.) How soviet can you get? A brief survey of the county website indicates that this plan is tied in to getting the tax break for having agricultural land, but why is it not sufficient to prove that you have, in fact, used the land as a farm? Do the bureaucrats really think we can't farm without their all-wise guidance?

Then again, maybe "evil" is the better term.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Extreme Ironing
New sport of the day: Extreme Ironing. The idea is to take an iron and ironing board to some remote location and iron there.

My thought? Ironing on Mount Everest is nothing compared to trying to get a shirt ironed while getting dressed, cooking breakfast, packing lunch, and making the bed, all with a 20-minute deadline. And in this sport, the quality of the ironing matters. (I have my doubts that garments ironed underwater come out very crisp.)

For experienced athletes, add toddlers underfoot.

The Monday Morning Housewife Pentathlon: coming soon to an extreme sporting venue near you.

Monday, May 17, 2004

We invited another couple from church over Saturday night and got to try out having small children in the house for the first time. (They have a 3-year-old, a 1-year-old, and one due later this summer.)

1. I might wash the sliding glass door once this summer, but next year it will be pointless.

2. A house that one can traverse in a full circle is an incredible asset that, by itself, can keep small children amused for hours. When you add a dad to chase, no other toys are needed.

3. Small children suffer minor injuries once every 20 minutes and major ones once every other day. Eventually you cease to be traumatized by it.

4. Throwing an afghan over one's head creates a surprisingly effective hide-and-seek location.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Household Mysteries

I was moving the load of towels from the washing machine to the dryer, when I found a paintbrush. A regular old scummy paint-the-wall paintbrush.

How did it get there? Where did it come from? What was it used for?

Fortunately I didn't see signs of paint all over my laundry, but it is still disturbing.

Another mystery, although perhaps not so deep of a one, is the bathtub drain. It seems to have been designed to catch the maximum amount of hair and then entangle it in such a way that it cannot be removed. Perhaps the purpose is to prevent the pipes from being clogged. But why should I applaud this endeavor when the effect on drainage is exactly the same?

Maybe it has a way to easily come apart and take the hair out, but the only sign I see is a big rusty screw in the middle that I don't have the nerve to touch.
In Which I Visit the Library
I stopped at the library on my way home from DOB's office yesterday. At last I could resist the allure of the children's section no longer. I wound up with seven books from there, which isn't too excessive, I suppose, if you ignore the little detail that my oldest child can't even look at the pictures yet. (Most of them were song books, though, and he can hear music. And no doubt he will benefit greatly in later life from the fact that I now can learn all the words to "Do Your Ears Hang Low?")

I love libraries. I wish they weren't an evil government socialist program. I would pay for them if anyone would offer a paid one. (Actually my sisters are working on just that. But it will be on the other side of the country, so it won't help me assuage my conscience.)

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Architectural Evolution

One of my favorite morning walks is down a nearby street that has a uniquely charming assortment of houses. If you look at it, you realize that the houses were once all roughly alike, a row of little white squares, probably built in the early fifties and probably still lived in by many of their original owners.

But the passage of fifty years has changed much. Different folks have added on to their houses in different ways. A porch here; gabled attic windows next door; a pop-out window on the house next to that. Some brave souls painted theirs a soft yellow with blue trim. One yard has a spectacular flower garden; another has a great climbing tree. The overall effect is lovely and not at all monotonous.

This gives me two thoughts. One, although I thought I liked variety in a neighborhood, I have realized that a truly charming neighborhood needs a certain amount of commonality, too. Adobe next to tudor next to ranch next to victorian is too much. It's good that there tends to be common elements in homes built close together (dictated by the history and geography of the location), but each interpreted by someone different.

Second, perhaps there is, after all, hope for the modern monstrosities of planned communities. Perhaps someday, after the restrictive covenants expire and the aesthetic committees die off, things will begin to change. Time and human ingenuity (not wholly supressed by mass-production) will soften the edges. Someone will dare to use a paint color that is not a shade of beige. Someone will abandon their structured flowerbeds and put in an overflowing cottage garden with a white picket fence. Someone will discover that big front porches are still an essential part of a home. Little changes, here and there, will turn the monotony into a canvas on which variety can be displayed.
Minorly irritated

Our birthing story went over well, despite being six times as long as anyone else's. (Apparently I took "story" too literally; no one else included dialogue or even stream-of-consciousness reflections.) So that was good. We have all been such good students we will get done a week early, so next week is our last.

However, I seem to have lost my mind entirely today. I forgot to pack DOB's lunch, so he is having to subsist (as far as I know) on a biscuit with jam left from breakfast. And today is the day he works late. Also today I was taking him in all his pens and his special flag mug to keep them in, and I foolishly thought I could carry that and two large, heavy upright file sorters. And navigate three doors unassisted. So I broke the mug.

I promise, DOB, I am not still upset at myself. Just very slightly perturbed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Norwegian Birth Story

Today's assignment for birthing class is to write our anticipated story of birth. I'm not sure what the purpose of this is, since the one thing I'm fairly certain is true about birth is that it doesn't go according to predictions.

Still, the assignment is putting me in mind of some of my favorite literary birth stories. Particularly this one, from Mama's Bank Account. The setting is a Norwegian immigrant family living in San Francisco in the early twentieth century; this scene closes the book with the birth of Mama's first grandchild.

I was at school teaching the day they took Christine to the hospital, and when the telephone call came, I got another teacher to take my class and hurried over there.

Mama was waiting for me in the hall.

"They will not let me see her," she said simply.

And her eyes were as stark as they had been on the long-ago day when Dagmar had been wheeled down a hospital corridor away from her--as the time Papa had been so ill.

We waited together outside Christine's door until Nels and Frank came out.

"How is she?" Mama asked anxiously.

Nels shook his head and Frank took hold of both of Mama's hands, as if for comfort.

"But what is wrong?"

"Christine believes," Nels said hopelessly, "that she is going to die."

"But--is she?"

Frank looked down at Mama's hands for a long time.

When he looked up, his young face was gaunt. "She is. Unless she gives us some help. Nothing we say--She's not having an easy time. Now she's given up completely."

Mama took her hands out of Frank's and straightened her hat.

"I go in," she said.

"I'm afraid it wouldn't do any good, Mama," Nels said. "It might even be bad for her. One look at your face--"

"Then I will change my face. Like this. See?" Mama smiled valiantly.

Nels put his arm around Mama's shoulder. "No."

"But I'm her Mama."

"And I'm her brother and Frank is her husband. We love Christine, too. Believe me, we're doing everything we can. We're doctors."

"Yes," Mama said mildly, "But have you ever had a baby?"

And with that, she marched directly into Christine's room, beckoning me to follow.

Christine's face was white and still against the pillow.


"Yes, Christine."

"Oh, Mama, will you take my baby--afterwards?" Christine's voice seemed caught in her throat. "We children were so happy, so safe. Mama, will you?"

Mama walked over to the window and raised the shade.

"And what," she wanted to know, "will you be doing while I'm raising your baby?"

"Tears coursed down Christine's cheeks. "Didn't they tell you? Don't you know? I-I won't be here."

"And I always thought," Mama said quietly, "that Katrin was the dramatic one."

"Mama! What do you mean?"

"I remember now, Christine, that you are the stubborn one."

Christine buried her face in the pillow. "Oh, you still don't understand. I'm going to die!"

Mama's voice was even. "I had five children. And with every one, I too was certain I was going to die."

"But I know. I'm a nurse."

Mama walked over to the bed and looked down at Christine.

"Perhaps," she suggested, "It will be better if you stop being a nurse and start becoming a mother."

Christine closed her eyes and sighed wearily.

A student nurse tiptoed in with a tray. "Though I don't suppose," she whispered compassionately, "that she'll be able to eat a thing."

Christine moaned softly and Mama said, "Please leave the tray, anyhow."

After the nurse had gone, Mama took the silver covers off the dishes and poured tea from the pitcher. I saw how her hands trembled, and I stepped back against the wall so that Christine could not see the tears in my eyes.

"Will you eat, my Christine? There is chicken here. And mashed potatoes."

Christine moaned again.

"I will feed you if you like. Perhaps you will try to drink a little of the hot tea?"

Christine shook her head, but did not open her eyes.

Mama said, "Is a shame to waste good food."

And Mama sat down by the tray and slowly, methodically, she began to eat Christine's lunch.

Christine's eyes flew open. "Mama! What are you doing?"

"Eating your lunch."

"But--but--" Christine sat up in bed. "How can you sit there and eat when I'm-- Mama, aren't you worried about me at all?"

Mama shook her head stoically. "You are doing fine. You are just like me. I never could eat, either."

Then Christine began to laugh to herself. She laughed between the spasms of pain, while Mama helped her walk back and forth across the room, and she was still smiling when they wheeled her into the operating room, where she was safely delivered of a seven-pound baby boy.

When Nels came out and said that Christine was fine and that there was nothing more to worry about, Mama's hands stopped trembling.

She leaned on my arm, though, as we walked down the hall to the glass-paned nursery.

A nurse held up a tiny blanketed figure and Mama peered at the wrinkled, yawning little face.

"I think," she said, "he has Papa's nose. And--yes, he has Christine's mouth."

"Oh, Mama! As if you could tell! He looks like a little boiled lobster."

"Why Katrin--he is a beautiful baby. As you were. All my children were beautiful babies."

My thoughts were back in Christine's hospital room.

"Five times," I said wonderingly. "Five times. And all you went through raising us--"

"It was good," Mama said.

"How can you say that? Why, I can remember times, Mama--"

"It was good," Mama repeated firmly. "All of it."

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

We always have tossed around the idea of doing this for our opponent's campaign, but never actually have.

No time to ramble today--brothers-in-law coming over to mud the kitchen walls so they can be painted. (At last!)

Monday, May 10, 2004

Random Observations

1. Relaxation is where you find it. Rational people might not think that a man on crutches and a woman seven and a half months pregnant would find hiking at the lake the best form of relaxation. But it was fun. And yes, we were both too tired to see straight afterwards.

2. I have now learned how to open the gas cap on the station wagon. This has been a long source of frustration for me, culminating two weeks ago when I spent ten minutes at the attempt and finally gave up. DOB gave me lessons on Saturday and had me practice until he was sure I had grasped the principle.

3. Distressing news: Abigail is one of the top ten girl's names. How could we have sunk so low as to choose a popular name?

4. Yard sales are cool. This weekend I found assorted pristine cotton baby outfits and blankets, three fabric sunflowers that match the bedroom, and a very sturdy little wooden rocking horse. Total expenditure: $5.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Happy Birthday, DOB

Today is the Duke's 25th birthday. We are celebrating by relaxing. It's probably our last chance until his 50th.
Thoughts on a More Somber Note

I thought what Linda Chavez said about the Iraqi prisoner issue struck most true. My gut reaction on hearing that many of the accused guards were women was, "Wait a minute, women don't do that kind of thing." They don't . . . unless they're trying hard to prove that they can be "one of the guys." Women are wired to want male approval. If their situation and the character of the men around them makes it impossible for them to attain it in traditional ways, they will use whatever means they have.

Hey, I remember being a junior high tomboy, first becoming dimly aware that male attention was desirable, and proceeding to beat as many boys as possible in arm-wrestling contests. Eventually the boys got bigger and I had the sense and training to realize that this was not the most effective approach. (I debated them instead. But I wound up marrying the guy who could out-debate me. ;-) )

Systemized killing of human beings is a disgusting, but sometimes necessary, job. It is a distinctly masculine job: physically, hormonally, emotionally. It is the antithesis of giving life, which is the exclusive province of women. The more women are assigned to perform that job, the more they have to deny who they are. Yet they are still young, surrounded by attractive young men, and earnestly desiring male attention. So some of them try to get it by out-guying the guys.

Women could tame the Wild West because they could go to the West and still be women. They could even take up arms on occasion, when they were defending their own homes and families, without denying that role. But women can't civilize the military, which by nature is anti-civil and anti-life. What they can do is abdicate their role as an outside check on what the men do.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

And now, for a complete change of pace . . .

Everybody should get dressed up in Elizabethan garb and do the Hokey Pokey:

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke.
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from heaven's yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Unplanned Parenthood

In our first getting-to-know-you interview with our doctor, several months ago, things went amazingly smoothly. We were prepared for a clash of philosophy on how best to conduct childbirth, but none arose. But I wasn't prepared for how jarring I would find one of her questions for us:

"Was it planned?"

We looked at each other sheepishly. Sure, we had hoped to have children someday. And we were well aware that they were liable to occur. But planning was something done with spreadsheets and calculators; it seemed too formal of a word to apply to our laissez-faire approach. And, truth to tell, we had been a little surprised at our rapid success. Yet without the imprimatur of the word "planned" it sounded as if we were being irresponsible.

But something else bothered me, which I am just now putting my finger on. The question and distinction by themselves unconsciously reflect the disregard our culture has for childbearing and even for children.

The former distinguishing mark of a problematic pregnancy was an "unwed" pregnancy. This drew a clear-cut moral line based on an outside standard: if you were married, getting pregnant was acceptable; if you weren't, it wasn't. Sure, married women often found their pregnancies inconvenient, but then, most of life is inconvenient. You deal with it.

An "unplanned" pregnancy, in contrast, draws no moral distinctions except one of self-actualization. Does this baby fit into your goals? Did he make a previous appointment on your schedule? Is he meeting your current perceived needs? If not, then clearly you have a problem. If he is, then there is no question of the morality of your actions. With "planning" the primary concern, babies cease to be ends and become means.

The other evening, DOB and I were discussing one of those no-brainer studies that stated that, although babies could hear in utero and talking to them is fun, no evidence showed that prenatal education programs would make them smarter. What seemed strange to us was that people would go to such lengths--but then, DOB pointed out, it's a symptom of this attitude towards children. How many people nowadays have children to reach some other goal of the parents, whether it's to keep up with their friends, gratify their own egotism, attempt to patch the void left by an unsatisfactory marriage, or simply because children, like SUV's, are a proper accessory to middle-class life? So naturally people whose childbearing purpose is intellectual exhibitionism are willing to try anything to give their child an edge--whether it helps, hurts, or is indifferent.

The "planned" distinction also drives a further wedge between sex and childbearing. Chances are very, very slim that the people involved didn't know where babies come from; yet we expect that we should be able to indulge in any pleasure we want without accepting the natural consequences. We call people who try to indulge in food this way bulimic. And it's a mindset with severe consequences, both physical and psychological.

But food was meant to be digested, and sex was meant to make babies. And sometimes it happens despite all our "plans."

I've seen what happens afterwards; the mothers sitting together, one whispering with the tiniest edge of resentment in her voice, "Of course, this one was a big surprise." The child seems to be ignoring the dull adult conversation, but can the attitude not affect them?

Planning, is, of course, a good thing. We're all for it. We like our spreadsheets. But the planning should be for the babies, not of them. When you got married, you issued an open invitation. Make plans for your guests, but don't greet them with the announcement that you would have preferred it if they hadn't come.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

This Week's Project . . .

. . . is to lay out a four-page newsletter, for which I have, in the way of material, one rambling essay on the many delightful activities of one out of 20 clubs, which must be condensed down to bullets; one bullet-point list on the features of the state convention, which must be expanded into a feature story; one very brief feature on Ohio's tax climate, which I wrote myself; and an oddly-designed picture of an elephant that I hope will pass muster as a logo.

No responses yet to emails requesting info/articles from people who are supposed to be supplying them. Can't get the printer to work.

I forget just how hard this is. Not the editing and design hassles so much as just plain writing. How hard can it be to come up with three paragraphs paraphrasing a tax study? To write a brief update on what a club is doing? Maybe I'm just frustrated with the mundaneness of the material. It's not the Great American Novel, it's just a club newsletter.

On the other hand, material shouldn't dictate all the limits. Maybe Julia Childs couldn't come up with the greatest of gourmet dinners with ingredients in my kitchen (sorry, no wine for the sauce), but what she cooked would still be well done. It might be macaroni and cheese, but the noodles would be cooked to the perfect tenderness and the cheese sauce would have no lumps.

If I'm writing macaroni and cheese, I want it to be good macaroni and cheese. I suppose that means I just need to go stir the sauce harder, instead of bemoaning the lack of gruyere.

Monday, May 03, 2004


There was frost on the house roofs this morning. This would not be so bad except that, in the interests of saving money, we are attempting to turn the gas furnace off for the year. (So far DOB has managed to turn the gas off, but the instructions are inadequate as to how to get the pilot light to stop burning. It's better than the other way around.)

Also in the interests of saving money on the more common warm days (not to mention the freshening of the air in the back bathroom, which the former owners very imprudently carpeted), we generally have some windows open. Sometimes they don't get shut soon enough.

We did manage to get out of the warm bed soon enough not to have to test whether the savings in energy were offset by the costs of being late to work.

Alas, I don't even have a big pile of dishes to wash while soaking my hands in warm water.