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.