Thursday, September 30, 2004

Random Thoughts

"Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn't the work he's supposed to be doing at the moment." -Robert Benchley

Wouldn't it be cool if we had triplet boys next and named them Ronald, Roland, and Arnold? (OK, maybe not.)

Why does the guy across the street spend a large part of every day sitting in his open garage, staring off into space? Is this what we have to look forward to in retirement?


Ht: 2 feet, or thereabouts
Wt: 13.5 lbs
Eyes: holding steady to blue so far
Hair: sparse, but tending to strawberry blond
Favorite Activities: watching stuff, making noises, kicking, trying to grab things, sleeping, eating (in that order). I find rolling over to be a fascinating, if sometimes frustrating, challenge.
Looking for: Anyone who's good at making silly faces.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Carrot Quandry

Taste of Home is holding a contest for carrot recipes.

Surely an obvious opportunity for me to enter and win. After all, I probably have the world's largest collection of carrot recipes--I have several carrot recipe books, including a beautiful one on my coffee table, and many carrot recipes that people have given me over the years, a large number at one of my wedding showers.

But I've never tried any of them.

Part of the reason is that I think carrots are best eaten raw straight from the garden, with most of the dirt wiped off. Part of it is that I'm just not a recipe person. (The one exception is carrot cake recipes--I do feel a need for at least having a recipe within sight when I make cakes.) But mostly it's just because I have never gotten around to it. I fix carrots raw and grated with apples, or cooked with honey and basil, just like my mother did, because that's what I'm used to doing.

Maybe now I will feel inspired and actually try something adventuresome. Carrot-Ginger Soup? Spaghetti Carrotese? Curried Carrot Deviled Eggs?

Have a Nice Day, pt. 2

Thanks to everyone for the useful suggestions on how to have a good day.

Tuesday morning had "Not A Good Day" written all over it. We were running late and short on sleep. My cold lingered on. The baby was still sick (better, but still sick). The sky was gray and dreary. I found out it was my fault that DOB's cell phone had broken three months before the contract would have replaced it for free. (Those little charger plugs don't like to be upside down.) The kitchen was a mess and the task for the day (cleaning out the freezer) particularly loathsome.

So I decided it was time to put all this into practice. I was going to have a good day, regardless.

I tackled the nasty things in the kitchen first, and they didn't take as long as I thought. I put my hair in pigtails (nothing like weird hair to perk up a day). D1 and I went for a walk, after the gray skies blew away and left a bright blue September day. When the rack of diapers blew over for the fifth time in a row, I found a bunch of leaves had blown into them, so I turned the leaves into a bouquet for the kitchen table. (And gave up on drying the diapers outside.)

I did a job that I had been putting off for too long (thank-you notes) and one I had been wanting to get to (fancy bibs for D1). I took a nap. I made mashed potatoes for supper and turned the butternut squash (ugh) into butternut squash bread (yum).

It was a good day.

Today it was easier to get up and decide to have a good day again.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Adventures at the cutting edge of thrift

Dryer sheets: These are unnecessary. Most clothes don't get staticky if you don't let them tumble around in the dryer for too long. If you do get a few staticky items, you can discharge the electricity by snapping them vigorously in the air. This is particularly exciting on dry days in the winter.

Baking powder: Some of us are uncomfortable consuming aluminum. Aluminum-free baking powder is expensive. Baking soda and cream of tartar are often touted as a less-expensive substitute, but cream of tartar is hard to find in bulk and still fairly pricey.

The purpose of baking powder is to create an acid and base reaction in the middle of your food so that it will bubble up and then be trapped by cooking. Well, what's the classic kitchen acid-and-base combination? Baking soda and vinegar, of course! And vinegar is very cheap and very easy to find in bulk.

The trick is figuring out the right proportions. Right now I'm using about 1/2 tsp. soda to 2 Tbs. vinegar as a substitute for 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder. If the substance contains some acidic ingredients (like fruits or veggies) or very strongly flavored ingredients (like chocolate) not quite so much vinegar might be needed. But knowing the dire consequences of unreacted soda, I generally err on the side of caution.

Monday, September 27, 2004

To look down on Camelot

We finished the last King Arthur book last night, bringing Camelot to a sad but satisfying conclusion. As is inevitable with tragedies, I am always left looking for the way out . . . "Why didn't Sir Bors or someone find an excuse to fight Mordred before he could cause any problems?" ("Why doesn't Cyrano just wait a decent period of time and speak for himself?" "Why didn't Romeo soliloquize a few more minutes so Juliet can wake up?")

The obvious answer is, "Because if they did, there wouldn't be any story." The less obvious reason is that's the way life is; the obvious little thing that ought to be done isn't, and everything else falls apart.

Now we've started The Everlasting Man by G. K. Chesterton. I hope DOB likes it as much as I have represented it to him. Is it possible to oversell Chesterton? I doubt it.

One problem I've had since getting to know DOB well is it rather stymies my ability to read because if it's anything he would be interested in I feel like it's a waste of time to read it by myself; I want to wait until he can read it, too, and we can discuss it. Which is a problem since I have much more reading time (six feedings a day!) than he does. I have to start reading homeschooling books during that time or something of the sort.

Have a nice day

What makes a day good? I've been pondering this not only because I like to have good days, but also because I want my children to have good days--and I think what I do will be the primary factor in determining that for quite awhile. (Maybe permanently. Happiness is in large part a habit.)

There is an irreducible number of bad days in life, I suppose; yet on reflection, some of the days in my life that ought to have been bad were not. Like the day that the car broke down on the way home from the dentist, my grandmother had to go to the emergency room, and my dad got laid off--all within about two hours. At that point the woe had piled up so far it was almost funny. (Grandma turned out to be fine and Dad eventually got a new job.) Or the day last December when DOB was so sick with the flu and I was so sick with the baby that neither of us could get up. In retrospect, it turns up on our "best days of last year" list.

A big factor in whether a day is good or unpleasant is whether what you do in it corresponds with your expectations. (One reason why catastrophic days are often not "bad days" is one automatically adjusts expectations--"Well, we've all got the Martian Death Flu, so we'll just have to survive without cleaning the bathrooms today.") Going on, day after day, without being able to do the things you want to (or think you need to) do is what drags a day down. Feeling like you got it all (mostly) done makes for a satisfactory day.

Making a day's activities match expectations is a challenge; it involves both planning and organization to maximize what you can do in a day, and mental and personal adjustments so that your expectations fit with reality.

Another important part of an everydayish good day is balance: some work, some play, some learning, some physical activity, some mental activity, enough rest, some time just to contemplate. And cushioning between different things so you have time to stop and catch your breath and notice that you are alive. Personally, I'm happiest if the day is front-loaded so I get stuff done early on and can then savor the last few moments of the day doing only things I want to do. I also find it an important part of a good day that the food tastes good and my clothes look good.

Is it feasible to try to make most of the days around here like that? Is it a worthy goal? And am I missing something?

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Ti, a drink with jam and bread

I am an infrequent drinker of hot beverages. I can't stand even the smell of coffee. Hot cocoa I have maybe once a year. Tea I have a bit more often, but not much. But even on the rare occasions I do drink something hot, my reticence over it is immediately reinforced because I burn my tongue. I marvel at people who drink coffee all day. Do they have constantly burned tongues? Or do they know some secret to sipping hot beverages that I have not yet learned?

Now DOB is theorizing that tea right before bed (as we had last night, in an effort to combat my cold) leaves him feeling better in the morning. Clears out the passages for a better night's sleep or something. Anyway, how do we make this a regular habit without also adjusting to constantly burnt tongues?

Milestones the Baby Books Miss: First Illness

Yes, D1 is sick. Not hand-foot-and-mouth disease or (as far as I can tell) pertussis. Just an ordinary, snuffly, miserable cold. She's a game little character who smiles in spite of it, but we are suffering a due amount of new parent anxiety.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Songs my mother taught me

Overlooking the cheesy graphics, the obvious improper use of government, and the irritating "health messages," this website Juliana found is really cool. Not only does it have the words and tune to "Do Your Ears Hang Low?", it has quite a selection of other classics.

My mother had an enormous repertoire of songs--or song fragments--on every topic under the sun. We used to make a game of it, trying to come up with a topic and see if she could sing a song about it. She always could. Thus it has always been one of my maternal ambitions to know a large array of songs. But, alas, I actually learned very few of my mother's songs--or if I did, only a small portion of the song.

Now I can begin to remedy that problem. I can toss in songs my grandparents sang to me as well. So from now on D1 can expect to be regaled with "Be Kind to Your Webfooted Friends," "Deep in the Heart of Texas," "Frog Went A-Courtin'," "Shortnin' Bread," "Six Little Ducks," and much more. And I'm sure my whole family will be thrilled to see the complete lyrics to "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas."

More home adventures

I've figured out the solution to my refrigerator-cleaning problem. I've divided up the kitchen chores that need to be done about once a month into four parts (under sink, fridge, cabinets, and surfaces). Then I'll spend half an hour each Wednesday doing one of the four. If a month has five Wednesdays, I'll do more cabinets. You can all cancel your calls to the health department now.

I think I've killed all my plants again. Well, the peace lily was probably dead anyway. But the lucky bamboo may have finally gone this time, and the philodendron looks frighteningly pale. I'm not good with plants. I can tend to things that need it at frequent intervals (husbands, babies) or make noise when neglected (babies, husbands). Plants don't make noise and don't need to be remembered very often. So in my house they don't get remembered at all--especially since these were out in the garage until I found a place to put them in the house, which I never did. I'm going to try to revive the remaining plants (especially Philo, with whom I have a long history) and put them back on the refrigerator if they pull through. Maybe I will remember them there.

Taking the blame

I get annoyed at Dear Abby (not D1, the one in the newspaper) fairly often. (Why do I continue to read it? There's not much in our local newspaper. It's that and how Dorothy decorated the table when the Modern Homemakers met last Tuesday.) She generally serves as the prophet of Conventional Wisdom, mingled with a touch of Political Correctness.

This week a girl wrote in confessing that she had been sexually assaulted by her high-school boyfriend of 18 months but had never told anyone; now that she was in college, she found herself unwilling to date for fear of what might happen. DA advised her to go get counselling, and reassured her, "It's not your fault. The victim is NEVER to blame."

I don't want to take one iota of blame off the boyfriend. Indeed, I'd hold him primarily responsible even if she was a willing participant; it is a gentleman's duty to protect the honor even of ladies who do not wish to be so protected. And there are certainly victims (e.g. young children) who should be told they couldn't possibly be blamed.

But isn't there a pretty high likelihood that somewhere in the course of the 18-month relationship this girl did something that contributed to the situation and for which she quite properly feels guilty? Maybe she sneaked out behind her parents' backs to see him; or said "Yes" once and found he wouldn't take "No" thereafter; or tried to draw a line in a place where a line won't hold. It's not doing her any favors to gloss over that possibility and just insist, "It's all the guy's fault." In order for her to resolve this situation and have healthy relationships in the future, she's going to have to deal with her own guilt (if she does in fact have any) as well as her anger at him. She'll need to figure out what she could do differently in the future as well as identify the characteristics of men who might mistreat her.

Obviously DA couldn't have helped her through all that in a newspaper column. But she shouldn't have closed off one of the essential parts of the healing process with a blanket statement.


I have a cold. Rose had a cold. DJ had a cold. Amy has a cold. Can colds spread through the blogosphere? Maybe I should disinfect my keyboard.

Marching On

I had a thawing-hamburger related problem this morning that required me to clean out the entire refrigerator. Which on the whole was a good thing, considering how long it has been. (If I keep blogging about my housecleaning problems, I wonder if people will no longer dare to come over.) I had it 2/3 done in the time it took DOB to shower and dress, making me wonder why I had waited so long. Actually, I know why I waited so long. I didn't have a plan where it came up as The Next Thing To Do, and so it waited for an emergency.

But I have developed a new plan that, while not addressing the refrigerator problem, should help me in organizing the rest of the house. That is to take one room per month and have that room be my focus: deep cleaning, organizing, decorating, whatever. Then when the month ends, I give up on that room and move on. This prevents me from either getting bogged down for too long or getting sidetracked too soon. So my plan is now: September, nursery; October, office (dread, dread); November, master bedroom; December, take a break; January, kitchen; February, bathrooms; March, living and dining rooms; April, garage. In May I'll either work outside or start over again.

I have also figured out a simple scheme that will allow me to fit three and maybe four children in the house without giving up the home office or feeling too crammed. That should do us for six years or so, which is enough for me to feel reasonably prepared. (So I like to plan ahead. Way ahead. It's next week I have trouble thinking about.)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Whine, Worry and Song

Whine: I have a cold. I've been debating for a couple of days whether it is a cold, paint fumes, or newly-developed seasonal allergies, but I've come down in favor of a cold. It's not right to have a cold at the time of year when it's too hot for chicken soup. I should fix some seasonal cold-defying menu, like spicy enchiladas, but tonight is YR board meeting night so we're having pizza, the second-worst cold menu.

Worry: Rumor has it that pertussis is going around, and possibly even in the family DOB's sister babysits. That puts a hard new edge on vaccination decisions. (Although I've read even in pro-vaccination accounts that the pertussis immunity doesn't kick in until 5 months, so it wouldn't matter yet.)

Even more immediate, DOB was exposed to hand-foot-and-mouth disease yesterday. (Tip for job applicants: Exposing your interviewer to painful, highly contagious diseases may indeed cause them to remember you, but will not impress them with your professionalism.) He took all reasonable precautions of washing or throwing away everything he might have touched, but we will wait anxiously for the next week to see if that was enough.

Song: D1 is very fond of singing "Do Your Ears Hang Low?", which I looked up all the words to before she was born just for that purpose. DOB has never heard anyone but me sing the song, and somehow he always twists the tune a little bit when he sings it. Once I've heard his twisted version, I can't remember how to sing it correctly for quite some time. So I have been unable to correct him and his version drives me crazy.

We decided we would settle this question once and for all by checking the book out of the library again. So I reserved the book, DOB brought it home, and I sat down at the piano to demonstrate to DOB once and for all what the right tune is. And then I realized in horror that the book had the wrong tune. It was not the one I grew up singing. (Taught to me, no doubt, by my elder siblings, but they usually deny having anything to do with it.)

So we're still stuck. I'm going to have to see if I can pick it out on the piano. Unfortunately tunes of which I only have ancient childhood recollections tend to elude precise rendering.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

No whited sepulchres here

Last night DOB recoiled in horror when he noticed that the outside of the salad bowl was distinctly greasy feeling. (I'm definitely not the world's most skilled dishwasher, and plastic bowls tell all.) I apologized and tried to reassure him.

"I know the inside is clean, I just sometimes forget to get the outside clean, too."

"If you don't clean the outside, it's going to get the inside of another bowl dirty."

"I know. I guess it just goes to show that I'm not a Pharisee." (Referencing Matthew 23:25.)

On further examination of the passage, it even could be construed to offer divine endorsement of the idea that cleaning the inside is sufficient. But DOB assures me that it is not.

Galahad and the grace of God

I have been pondering DJ's comments on Galahad. Come to think of it, Galahad's situation does result from a lot of unmerited divine favor. My difficulty in accepting him parallels my difficulty in swallowing the inequalities that come from God's grace in real life. That's why I tend to feel envious when it seems like God has given someone else a free ride, and guilty when others don't seem to have it as well as I do. (Not just monetarily, but in all sorts of areas.)

As DOB points out, deep down, I'm a liberal. I want things to be fair. Shouldn't we all get the same? Or, at least, shouldn't we all get only exactly what we deserve? (Don't answer that.) Or if God is handing out undeserved things, shouldn't we all get the same size of ice cream cone?

But we don't. What keeps me from going around redistributing the ice cream is two realizations: one, that human efforts cannot even things out, and will create even greater inequalities from trying; two, that even if I don't understand God's purposes in his unequal distribution of his blessings, He does have them.

Though God's purposes are higher than my comprehension, perhaps I can guess at some of them. If we all received equal blessings at the hand of God, there would be no occasion for compassion or generosity. No one would get the character that comes when you start out behind and have to catch up. There would be no stories worth telling.

So the next time Sir Galahad rides through town with his shield blazing in the sunlight, I promise to swallow my pride and cheer with the best of them.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

If you want something done right

DOB's next younger brother has vehicles that are, if possible, even more troublesome than ours. (Of course, he takes cars for free, so it is to be expected.) Right now he has his truck parked in our garage and comes over in the wee hours of the morning (he works graveyard) to tinker with it until DOB leaves for work. He also is thus available for various tasks like taking doors off their hinges to be painted.

This morning he and DOB were conferring in the garage. DOB came back in and said, "You got paint all over the doorknob."

"Yeah, I know. It's really hard to get around it. I'm going to clean it off."

"Why didn't you just take the doorknob off?"

I don't know, I guess I always thought paint on doorknobs was an inevitable part of life. Removing the doorknob had not occurred to me.

DOB pointed out that one of the key distinctions between us, when we are faced with a task, is that if he sees a problem with accomplishing the task the way he desires, he will stop and analyze it until he figures out how to fix it. Whereas I will just soldier on in spite of everything. The end result is, if I do it, it may not be done right, but it will be done. If he does it, it may not be done, but if it is, it will be done right.

Anyway, his brother took the doorknob and hinges off, so I will be cleaning those today in addition to painting the inside of the door.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Wardrobe Malfunctions

The door-painting project got postponed until this week, due to a combination of scheduling and weather factors. (Apparently hurricanes affect weather even this far inland. I don't think hurricanes should be allowed to impact weather anywhere you can't get good fish for a decent price.)

With painting on the agenda for today, I dug in my closet and located my painting skirt, a garment that was once an acid-washed denim, late bleached, painted, and adorned with dark blue patches where the bleaching got carried away. I put it on and realized in the couple of years since I last had occasion to paint the elastic had disintegrated and it no longer had any power to hold itself up. I am contemplating whether it is worth saving for the second trimester of future pregnancies, but I'm not sure I would be engaging in any projects sufficiently toxic to justify it. I don't think anyone else would want it, and it is rather past the point of being used for rags, so I may have to just plain throw it away.

Regardless, it was not suitable for wear today. So I pulled out another skirt, nearly as old but not yet so colorfully adorned, and tried it on. The elastic had likewise disintegrated, but it had a smaller circumference to begin with, so it seemed to be staying up. Over the course of the day, however, especially when I put my cell phone in my pocket, it began to sag threateningly. Before heading out with D1 for a walk, I decided it needed the added precaution of a safety pin reducing the waist band. So far, so good.

I'm not sure how well the door painting is going. I've had little experience with home improvement projects, as up until now I have lived with people who were much more competent in the area and were content to do it and leave me to fix dinner. But since the front door was never even painted by our predecessors, and was industrial gray accessorized by tape fragments and rust spots, I don't think I can make it look worse than it was.

Time for another coat.

Getting Away With It

Eats, Shoots and Leaves was, as expected, a delicious read. (It was the sort of book I can always imagine myself slowly savoring homemade chocolates while I'm reading it. Not that I have any homemade chocolates; I just have to imagine them.) Plenty of ghastly examples and very witty renderings of grammatical rules and history. If I get very inspired, I may post some favorite quotes.

It did recognize that famous writers can get away with flouting the rules of punctuation, rather as people who could draw at some point can pile up garbage and get museums to buy it; thin, beautiful people can wear ugly clothes and call them fashionable; rich people can decorate their homes with trash pickings and call it chic; and, as Rose pointed out, Ogden Nash can utterly disregard the meter when he wants. Contrary to the apparent beliefs of some, however, the corollary is not true and disregarding punctuation is not the path to literary fame and fortune any more than wearing ugly clothes turns you beautiful.

The Wild West, or something like it

This week was "Roundup Sunday" at our church, where we were to dress up in western attire. (You don't have costume days at your church? Actually at a lot of churches it would seem rather cheesy, but at a small, close-knit country church it doesn't seem out of place.)

Anyway, DOB and I had been plotting our attire for several weeks. With his mid-1800s suitcoat and vest from our wedding, gray dress pants, a black grosgrain bow tie and a top hat, he was a very dignified figure. My outfit consisted of a long brown wool skirt, embroidered white blouse, brown scarf, brown hat, and boots. Although this was no doubt not what anyone else thought of when they dressed western, we determined that we were George and Eliza Richmond, George being a railway official sent out West to supervise railway expansion, circa the 1870s. (I'm sure we were the only people there who felt compelled to create a backstory.)

I dressed D1 in a long, smocked gown that had been made for one of her uncles (one of those generic garments that babies of both genders used to wear) and a frilly white bonnet.

We won the prize for best-dressed cowboy and cowgirl--I'm guessing they put the emphasis on best-dressed, not on cow handling, because we didn't remotely resemble cowpokes.

I hope to get pictures back from someone soon. The deacon has a digital camera.
Milestones the Baby Books Miss: Imaginary Words
That is, the first sounds the doting parents can pretend sound like real words. Yesterday morning, while D1 was supposed to be having breakfast, DOB came in. D1 looked him straight in the eye, grinned, and said, "Hi."

She's convinced she can talk as it is. (And Grandpa is convinced he can understand her.) She likes it best when she is supposed to be eating. I foresee a childhood of plates growing cold.

This does sort of remind me of the dueling baby boasting in the movie Bachelor Mother:
"Can he talk?"
"Well, this one can, can't he dear?"
"Indeed. Why last night, he said the first two lines from 'Gunga Din' quite distinctly."

Friday, September 17, 2004

How NOT to write a love letter
Reader's Digest has a short feature this time on "How to Write a Love Letter." Here is one of the examples, verbatim:

Use Simple Prose Leave flowery talk like "How do I love thee, let me count the ways" to the Brownings. Write in a natural voice, such as, "I've never been as happy since the day I met you."

Yeah, a heartfelt message like that should really endear your sweetie to you. I may not be sappy, but even I wouldn't claim DOB has made my life less happy.
Narrow Passages
Tomorrow we are planning on picking up some free furniture from DOB's partner. We don't have room for it in this house, so DOB's parents are going to store it for us. DOB's mother wants to put the china hutch in their living room, but she first wants to repaint the living room. So until that happens, we will keep it in the hallway here. Thus we are storing the furniture for ourselves, which reminds me of that quintessentially Wodehousian situation in Picadilly Jim where Jimmy Crocker, due to a sequence of events I could not possibly explain here, winds up deceitfully posing as himself. (I really must read that book with DOB. Maybe we can get it next--it will be quite a relief after we mourn the end of Camelot.)

The only place we have to put it is in the front hallway, which it will probably mostly fill. Meanwhile as fall comes on I've discovered that I can put up my drying rack in the back hallway/laundry room and still have room to (just barely) get by. It's fortunate we are all skinny these days. Of course, when one of us (naming no names) was not, there was as yet no cause to dry diapers.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Quest for the Holy Grail
Earlier this week we finished the second King Arthur book, on the quest for the Holy Grail. I discovered I was much mistaken in my understanding of it. (No doubt betraying despicable ignorance here.) I thought they were off trying to find the Holy Grail and then perhaps restore it to its rightful place or something. Instead, it turns out they all knew exactly where the Holy Grail was. The quest was rather to have the Holy Grail reveal itself to you and enter into the mysteries thereof. This involved proving one's self worthy of receiving those mysteries, by defending some fair maidens and resisting the temptations of others, for the most part. There are a lot of very weird episodes that are evidently demonic ruses to tempt the pure in heart.

I didn't care much for Galahad. He just has it all too easy. He's the best knight in all the world (so dubbed before he even goes out and does anything). So of course he gets the magic swords and the powerful shield that's been waiting around for hundreds of years and he just rides around, not even tempted by evil, and carries all before him until he alone is permitted to enter fully into the mysteries of the Holy Grail. Of course, then he dies, but he doesn't seem to mind.

I guess he's supposed to be more a symbol than a character. He's not a christ figure, because the innocent sacrificing is done by someone else (Percival's sister). Probably he's supposed to be the embodiment of chivalric ideals. Hence he becomes yet another example of why an ideal would be very unpleasant to live with.

I like Percival and Bors better. They have to struggle to get where they are.
More Firsts
D1 got to attend her first official government proceeding last night, as DOB took us down to introduce us to the Marion Township Trustees. (Townships are an aspect of government I had never encountered in pre-Ohio days. Why people need yet another governing body I'm still not quite clear on, but I think the theory is it keeps power from accumulating so much in the counties.) She made no disturbances--although since the meeting was conducted with rather less formality than a Rotary meeting, and most of the members were proud grandparents, I don't think it would have mattered if she did. She was duly entered into the minutes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

"Our Story" (No Sap Added)
The Unrepentant Bachelor Blogger has been complaining about the inevitable sappiness that ensues when couples share "our story." Now I have some sympathy with him, because I abhor sappiness, too. But I don't think it's an inevitable part of getting married. I think DOB and I survived the premarital process without inflicting any sappiness on our friends and relations. (Not to say that we didn't inflict other things, like permanently tied-up phone lines, on them.)

I can even tell "our story" without a drip of sappiness:

Once upon a time, DOB was looking for people to argue with. Since QOC was also looking for people to argue with, they encountered each other and argued. DOB, by foul treachery (or so QOC alleged) won that debate. So QOC was very annoyed, and kept arguing with him.

After a couple of years of arguing, they spent so much time at it that His Majesty became concerned that all this arguing might jeopardize QOC's job. So he told DOB he should either begin subsidizing QOC's existence himself or stop taking up so much of her time. DOB duly considered the matter and decided that the former course would be more expedient, as it is very difficult to find people who like to argue that much, and QOC was also a good cook.

So DOB and QOC got married and lived together ever after, but they were too busy paying the mortgage and populating the world to argue any more.

See? That's not so bad, is it?
The Grammar Commando rides again
I finally got Eats, Shoots & Leaves from the library. Now I can nourish my inner grammarian.
Working Out for Bush
D1 received a Bush/Cheney onesie as a gift from some YR friends. Clearly, the perfect attire for her to wear when we staff the county GOP headquarters on Friday nights. But I am concerned about her legs getting cold, especially as fall comes on. Her wardrobe is very predominately pink. The only thing that even remotely coordinates is a pair of red tights (which as it happens don't go with anything else). I hope that works, although I fear she'll look like she escaped from an aerobics class.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Thomas Sowell and Diaper Changing
Now that D1 sleeps all night long, I always double-diaper her before bed. The two diapers are quite adequate to the task--indeed, they're not even that wet in the morning. I generally feed her around 6:30, put a fresh diaper on, and put her back to bed as she's generally quite sleepy until after 9.

The problem was, after that diaper changing, she would always soak through everything before she woke up from her nap. (She never does this later in the day.) I was complaining of this to my sister yesterday and she said, "Well, why don't you double-diaper her first thing in the morning?"


But I realized I wasn't doing this because it seemed more logical to me that she would wet more overnight than she would in three hours. She ought to wet more at night. It wasn't my fault if she didn't!

This reminded me of Thomas Sowell's distinction between the constrained (conservative, roughly) and unconstrained (liberal, roughly) vision. The unconstrained believe more in what Sowell called "articulated rationality"--i.e., if an intellectual can explain it and it sounds logical, then it must be true. The constrained believe more in experience; who cares what reality ought to be, it's what reality is that we must deal with. I was allowing my articulated rationality of diapering theory to trump what I had observed to be true.

So to avoid becoming a liberal intellectual, I double-diapered her this morning.
Rain and what follows
Yesterday afternoon, after a highly productive morning (14 qts. of applesauce and all the bulk goods rearranged), D1 and I were taking a well-earned nap. Through the fog of sleepiness and the usual household appliance sounds, I slowly became aware of yet another noise. It finally convinced my sleep-impaired reasoning that it might be rain. I dashed to the window to check and discovered we were having an unforecasted torrential downpour. (Rain in Ohio is a whole different animal from rain in Washington.)

My immediate thought was for the clothes I had out on the drying rack. I dashed to the patio door and realized that, alas, it was too late. The clothes were already far wetter than when I removed them from the washing machine. Since DOB had to have dry socks by this morning, I had to take the load in and dry it in the dryer anyway.

The rain and extra work also distracted me from taking out the garbage. I awoke this morning and realized that it was garbage morning, but thought I still had time. But, alas, we were running late and before I could take the garbage out I had to get dressed and before I could get dressed I had to take a shower and before I could take a shower I had to get DOB's clothes ironed and by the time I had done all that and went out front, I realized the garbage truck had already come.

Now I was in despair because I had been cleaning out the garage and finally decided that I really was not going to use the giant bag of wadded up paper that was left from moving, and so the garbage can was overflowing already even without the most recent garbage added. Having it sit around for another week was not a cheering prospect. And I was sure that the garbage truck came first to the street behind us (we front on two streets) and to the street out front (where we set out our garbage). But just as I was about to give up, DOB called out, "Quick, take it out back!" I dashed out and sure enough, there was the truck almost to our house. I handed the can to the garbage men personally. They insisted I was wrong about their street order, and they were just running early today. I did not really care anymore.

Monday, September 13, 2004

In the Mood
I'm enjoying the thrill of a highly-successful weekend. For the first time since well before D1's birth, the only mess left from the weekend was the Sunday night dishes. It's nine o'clock on Monday morning and the house is tidy (mostly), the laundry is running, and D1 is still napping. Ah, the possibilities.

Also this weekend, I scored a touchdown in the Sunday-afternoon scrimmage. DOB and I went to a (free) swing concert at the local high school in the evening. We had to leave early on account of it being D1's bedtime and also needing to get up for work in the morning (clearly no longer a concern of most of the other attendees). But it was great fun and we got a cd to continue the concert. Query: How big does a band have to be to be a big band? This one only had about 16 members, but they did a great job.

So, with all that, I should be primed for this week's activities: freezing applesauce and painting the front door. DOB's sister is coming over today and we are going to attempt a bushel of apples. I'm not sure how much that is, as my family had an orchard and picked the apples into whatever old boxes we could find. My mother and siblings and I made applesauce until the freezer was full, our arms were falling off, and the floor was so sticky small children got entrapped trying to walk across it. Then we quit and all went swimming. So I'm not sure how much is reasonable for two people to attempt, but we shall see.

The front door is another project that cannot be put off. Apparently the previous owner never even got around to painting it, and it shows. And it had best be done before the weather changes and the storm door is an inadequate barrier. I will see if I can paint more neatly than my last major attempt, when my repainting of my bedroom resulted in me also needing new carpet.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Le Restaurant Richmonde
Anniversary Weekend Specials

Chicken Tetrazinni (cooks in the crockpot, so chef is free for pre-dinner activities)
Toasted Baguette with Garlic Butter, Homegrown Tomatoes and Fresh Basil (Worth all the work of growing tomatoes and basil. So far D1 is showing no reaction to the garlic butter, hurrah!)
Peas (What are french peas, anyway?)
Stale Cake (At least a designated couple of bites of the one saved from the Ohio reception. Who invented the saving the cake for a year tradition, anyway?)
Strawberry Crême Glacée (Much better than the cake.)

Fresh Currant Scones (Actually raisins--I can't find currants at any of the stores around here. And I left out the sugar. Fortunately that was easy to remedy by serving them with honey. The time I made three orange cheesecakes for a four-course meal for thirty people and left the sugar out was a little harder to fix.)
Scrambled Eggs with Tomatoes and Cheese (An omelette would be better, but my pans are incorrigible.)
Sliced Peaches (that should have ripened longer)

I think I'll stop there as the menus have now descended to leftovers, beans and rice.
To be (or not to be) a snob
I have been troubled lately by the suspicion that I may be a snob towards a certain class of people. DOB and I were discussing this at 4:30 this morning. (Why were we awake at 4:30 on Saturday when we can scarcely hear the alarm on weekdays? We wish we knew.) Anyway, this is the distillation of the discussion.

It is not lack of money that we are tempted to look down upon. For one thing, there are few people who have less than we do at the moment. (Although there are certainly those with much more debt.) Nor is it a particular kind of employment--we have many good friends and relations who work with their hands, whom we respect and admire.

Rather it is a particular outlook on life: an attitude of entitlement and resentment, one that puts in only the required amount of time and effort and then complains about the pay. A perspective that only sees and spends for the present, indulging in pleasures that are gone in a moment while long-term needs go unprovided for. I also think it tends to accompany poor taste in clothes and decor--but that makes sense, because it is a mindset that does not strive to learn or grow.

These people do tend to work blue-collar jobs and be poor. But that is a consequence, not a cause, of their mindset. People who work blue-collar jobs who take pride in their work, poor people who spend what they have wisely, people of any class who are always trying to learn and grow, who appreciate beautiful things and try to further them--they are all worthy of respect and a pleasure to be around.

It's not necessarily snobbish to note characteristics that are undesirable and criticize them--or even to minimize contact with people whose bad attitude is catching. It could be snobbish, though, to assume a person has certain characteristics before getting to know him, or to condemn the person rather than his behavior. Since that's always easy to slide into, I shall have to be careful.
Interview Answers
In addition to DOB's answers below, you can read answers from Rose and Marsha on their blogs. Juliana, Jeremy, and Jaclyn all answered in the comments. (There wasn't a rule about people whose names start with J, it just happened that way.) All quite intriguing, though I found DOB's most fascinating--of course, I find DOB most fascinating, anyway.
I have now completed answering my interview.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Doesn't D(uckling)1 need her very own set of royal rubber ducks?
The Downward Slope
I was just reading back through a month of the archive. My writing six months ago seems so much more witty and profound than the current batch. I always feel this way when I read my old writing. I hope it's just that I can better appreciate my own writing once I've achieved some distance from it, and not because my writing has been in a constant state of decline since I was seventeen.
Milestones the Baby Books Miss: Bibbing
Bibs serve multiple functions throughout infancy. At first, they help catch spit-up. They are quite inadequate to this task, since spit-up goes all sorts of places besides immediately below the chin. But one puts them on in a show of good faith. (I still recall with some bitterness when my eldest nephew, now five, celebrated his first Christmas by nailing my brand-new Pendleton wool skirt--even though someone else was holding him! Fortunately the skirt seems to have survived.)

Later on, bibs will become necessary for catching stray food particles when the solid food process begins. (My nephew got his due back and more when I tried to feed him later in life.)

In between these two times, one reaches the Unending Drool point. At this point, bibs are a sort of diaper on the top end to absorb an unending stream of dampness before it soaks through everything in sight.

Last night DOB inspected D1 and decreed we had reached this point.

While on the topic of my niephlings, that reminds me that my sister-in-law would always laugh at my inadequate diapering skills. She would have had convulsions had she seen that, despite two months of practise, I somehow diapered D1 without even bothering to attach the tab on one side. Fortunately no calamities ensued. I really do much better with cloth diapers.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Retirement Planning
Both of our fathers believe that having several children should be one's primary form of retirement planning. We're rather inclined to the same view, although people shouldn't get too carried away with the idea, or DOB will be out of a job. But consider the differences:
  • A brand-new IRA isn't at all cuddly.
  • You can only put $3,000 a year into an IRA--you can put way more than that into your kids (especially when they turn 16).
  • Sure, some kids are undutiful, but an IRA never calls.
  • No matter what Congress does, mooching off your kids will remain tax-free.
  • Mooching off your children makes a more interesting literary topic:

A man was meant to help support his children,
Which is the right and proper thing t' do.
A man was meant to help support his children, BUT
Wiv a little bit o' luck, wiv a little bit o' luck,
Wiv a little bit o' luck, they'll work for you!

Cheap is Good, Free is Better
Despite still feeling a bit draggy (still no definitive flu symptoms, but napping like Garfield), I decided I couldn't bear to miss the Labor Day Weekend sales. So I went to a couple mid-day on Saturday, though I feared all the good stuff would be gone.

I don't know what was gone at the first one, but what was remaining the proprietress was so sick of that she was giving it away for free. So we got some baby toys, a game of Pictionary, Valentine's day decorations (kids love that kind of stuff), lace curtains (if they don't work in the living room D1 can have them in her dress-up box), a couple of shirts, and a whole bunch of interesting-looking books, which I am checking out during feeding times. Right now I'm reading one on Eli Whitney, both his mechanical ingenuity and his less brilliant attempt to engage in monopoly and price-gouging. (Which the cotton farmers of the South found ways to combat without bringing anti-trust suits--amazing, isn't it!)

The second sale wasn't quite so desparate, but I got quite a few baby clothes for half-garage-sale price, which is decent.

Then Monday DOB, rather than expending not-yet-existent money taking me out, called a farmer friend of his and arranged for us to go boating on his pond. The farmer then loaned us his Gator and we went riding through the woods together--a rare treat since DOB's feet limit his ability to walk in the woods. Finally, the farmer took us down to his garden. It was one of those gardens that gets planted with great ambition every spring, and by September has gone entirely to weeds and more produce than anyone can keep up with. He helped us pick as much as we could carry.

Now I just have to get up the energy to deal with all this stuff.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Do Re Mi
We spent part of Labor Day at a singing school, learning to sing from shape notes. Actually it was only the last day of the school, so we missed all the learning and practice and just got in on the singing, but even so it was fun and educational. DOB's family went to the other four days and took notes, so we will no doubt have the chance to learn what we missed.

I love that style of singing. We have the hymnal they use now (though there are definitely some songs we'll skip due to doctrinal differences). But we'll be working on four-part a capella harmony much more now. And Abbey's going to know her do re mi before she knows her A B C.

In other exciting events of Labor Day, a man hunt went through DOB's family's neighborhood. The helicopter spotted one of his brothers out tending to the chickens and sent a patrol car down to tell him to get inside. This delayed any outdoor sports but the excitement and speculation seemed to make it a worthwhile tradeoff.

Monday, September 06, 2004

One year ago today . . .
I was in the Pacific Time Zone, so I was just waking up. I called DOB to wake him up, so he could pass the morning playing foos ball.

Let's see, since then we've had one car wreck and endless car repairs, one major injury and countless minor ones, months of illness, a job change, rapid bank account-emptying, two moves and a baby.

It's been the best year of my life.

Happy anniversary, DOB. Here's to many more.

Friday, September 03, 2004

The Flu Descends . . . perhaps
DOB and I think--think--we may have come down at last with the dread disease that plagued his family for most of last month. It is difficult to tell, though, because our only symptoms is a general feeling of fatigue and achiness that descends after any minor exertion. According to report, the disease can take that minor form and never worsen if one takes it easy. If one does not take it easy, various extreme forms of congestion and even rashes may ensue. Therefore, it behooves everyone suspecting the disease to let the chores pile up, go into work late and come home early, and generally kick back.

Can you imagine a better illness?

The only downside is that we had to miss the YR party to watch the President's acceptance speech last night, on the grounds that we couldn't have stayed awake that long even if we had tried. This is the problem with living in the eastern time zone. On the west coast, all events of national significance happen before bedtime.

But we finished the first book of King Arthur. My favorite knight is Gawain; DOB's is Percival. Now I must reserve the remaining two in the series from the library.

We can't tell if D1 is sick or not. Since she's likely to sleep as much as she feels like, she will probably stay with the more mild form of the illness, too.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

In which my weird aunt interviews me
1. What is the fiction book that you have read that you were most surprised to have liked? Why?
It would probably be War and Peace. Prior to reading it, my only strong association with it was Charlie Brown struggling through it in "Happy New Year, Charlie Brown." I was expecting something I would have to slog through for the sake of having read it, as I did with Moby Dick. Instead I found Tolstoy's insights into the human psyche to be fascinating. Of course, it may have made a difference that I was 20 when I first read War and Peace and twelve when I tackled Moby Dick. I should probably try Moby Dick again.

2. Where would you most like to visit that you have not been?

3. What talent that you don't have would you most like to have? Why?
I'd like to be able to sing well. I love singing but I know full well I'm much better in the chorus with someone strong to follow than I am trying to sing on my own. Most other things that I would like to be better at I think I could improve to where I would like to be if I just had the patience to work at it, but I don't think I could with singing.

4. Assume that you are going to spend 300 years as a tree. Describe your ideal tree-life.
I first read this as spending 300 years in a tree and spent a couple hours designing a fancy tree house. . . . OK, as a tree. I'd be a California Redwood in a remote valley within sight of the ocean on one hand and the mountains on the other. The redwoods forest is the treeiest place I've ever been, and if I were a tree I wouldn't mind living in California.

5. What are your three favorite fairy tales (folk tales, fables, myths)?
King Thrushbeard, Sir Gawain and the Loathely Lady, and the homecoming of Ulysses. I realized once I compiled this list that all three hinge on disguise, and disguise of a particular type: the friend disguised as a foe, the beautiful disguised as the ugly, the master disguised as a stranger.

All right, now according to these chain-letter like rules, I must offer others the option of requesting interviews from me. I wonder if I broke the chain I would have seven years of bad luck?

1 -- Leave a comment, saying you want to be interviewed.
2 -- I will respond; I'll ask you five questions.
3 -- You'll update your blog with my five questions, and your five answers.
4 -- You'll include this explanation.
5 -- You'll ask other people five questions when they want to be interviewed.
Things People Say

"She's so tiny!"

She seems pretty big to me. You try carrying a thirteen-pound weight everywhere you go. More than that, though, I think the difference of perspective arises from our standard of comparison. Other people are subconsciously comparing her to the individual who will be guiding thousands of pounds of metal at high rates of speed in just sixteen years. I am subconsciously comparing her to the individual who three months ago fit in my abdomen.

"Having kids sure changes your life, doesn't it?"

DOB does identify with this one, because we don't get to spend time alone together like we used to. (Though not even ten months passed between when we stopped having a younger sibling in the back seat and started having a baby there. But then babies don't make deliberate rude noises or snicker.) Maybe it's just that my life has had a few more changes than his in the past few years, but as far as I'm concerned the changes from a baby have been no more of a fluctuation than all the other changes that have rolled on through.

"What a precious little girl."

OK, I can't really argue with that one.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Making Money
You may have noticed that ads no longer appear at the top of the blog. But we bloggers do have the option of getting those ads back. The incentive is that we could get a share of the revenue from visitors who click on the ads. Blogger has a whole instruction sheet on how to do it, including tips on how to have strategic product placement to make the ads more effective.

It all reminds me of that episode in Anne of Avonlea where Diana takes a story of Anne's, puts in some strategic references to a particular baking powder, and wins a story contest for Anne. Anne is horrified, feeling that she has been sold out to commercialism when she should write for fame alone.

Personally, although I'd prefer fame (or at least wide readership) to fortune, I wouldn't turn down a fortune if it showed up on my doorstep. (After reasonable efforts to ascertain if it was anyone else's.) Nonetheless, I'm squeamish about putting ads back on, for some reason. They're ugly, I guess. Besides, I'm not sure people would want products placed the way I would place them:

"Our Ford Taurus just broke down again."
"I cannot get the stains out of D1's Carter outfit with my Arm & Hammer Detergent."
"The E-Machine computer had its hard disk freeze."
The Great Imposition
Imagine that you take a total stranger and, without so much as a by-your-leave, set him down in a strange place, attach him for life to a host of people he knows nothing about, and proceed to control every aspect of his life. For a month or more thereafter he spends his time (when not sleeping) either staring glumly at you or weeping in despair.

With that picture in mind, you can understand why a baby's beginning to smile is greeted with such eagerness. At last his parents have some hope that they are not creating unabated misery in the child's life.
Chesterton Quote Time
Somehow I've missed reading this one in context (which is apparently about attempts to replace the family):

“You are like a lunatic who should carefully water his garden with a watering-can, while holding up an umbrella to keep off the rain.”