Friday, April 29, 2005


The furnace is finally fixed. We had a false alarm on Wednesday evening--they got it to run for a few hours but were still short the last essential part (which also was necessary to keep rivers of dirty water from running across the garage) and it soon quit again. But yesterday it was all done. Amazingly enough, the weather has not suddenly shot up to the 70's. So we may get to enjoy having it working for a few days yet. Now, on to the air conditioning repair. . . .

I really shouldn't be blogging. In a week and a half I am flying back out to Washington with D1 and my rubber chicken to record a class on government I used to teach two years ago. (D1 won't help with the class, but the rubber chicken will.) So I desperately need to be rehearsing. Then after a few days of that, DOB is flying out to join us. So I desperately need to be planning food for him to survive three days on his own. Then we will be attending two weddings, His Majesty's, and Carrie's. So I desperately need to be finding us some decent clothes to wear and figure out how to pack them (while leaving enough room for the dishes my sister wants to send back with us). Then we will be flying home, recuperating for a few days, and then heading off to the state YR convention. So I desperately need to be getting our club's chartering info together, or I won't even be able to vote at it.

This overuse of the word "desperately" does not reflect my lack of creativity. Rather it is a protest against the almost constant misspelling of the word I see all over the internet. I've seen it wrong so many times I had to look it up myself, and the Grammar Commando should not have to do that. Please, folks: "despErately." (Next week on the Commando Blogwatch: the essential and rather obvious difference between site, sight, and cite.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Price is Wrong

I like to take comfort in the thought of how much what I do is worth. For instance, washing, starching and ironing DOB's shirt, at say, $4 a shirt and about 5 minutes of labor: $80/hour. Not bad.

So I couldn't believe when I read in this story that apparently the going rate for a surrogate pregnancy is only $15,000. That's all? I don't think I'd even give birth for that amount. All moral considerations aside, if I were charging for just being pregnant--with no fun on either end--I would charge at least three or four times that amount.

Mothers out there, what would you charge? (And hey, I bet the dads would have some ground to talk here, too.)

Just a Few Days

The furnace man is supposed to come with a new pump today. After a few days of warmer weather, we're up to the high fifties in here. We've been mooching supper and evening warmth off DOB's family this week. But mornings are cold.

This weekend, in a braver mood than usual, I assured DOB that I would be fine--"It's just for a few days," I said.

"That's right," he said, and then, "And I mean that about everything."

Everything: exhaustion, unpaid bills, sickness, broken relationships, persecution, even death itself. They're all just for a few days.

And when they're over and we see what they were building, we'll feel mighty silly for having complained.

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." II Corinthians 4:17-18

Monday, April 25, 2005

Snow on Lilacs

I didn't get a picture, but that's what we had yesterday morning. Which wouldn't be so bad (notwithstanding my continuing concern over my poor little seedlings), except that after six hours of labor on Saturday, the furnace repair guys announced that the problem was with the pump, which won't come in until Tuesday.

So it's been hovering in the low fifties around here. We are all going around dressed like ragamuffins, and D1 is learning that people who won't grow full heads of hair must learn to leave their hats on. The temperature doesn't bother me that much, being as I have more, uh, insulation than anyone else around here, plus all that handy increased blood flow of pregnancy, but it freezes up DOB's joints and makes it hard for him even to move. D1 doesn't seem disturbed by it, but we are disturbed when her hands are cold, and I'm afraid she's going to forget everything she knew about crawling by the time we let her back on the floor.

Last night we determined the only way to keep her warm was to keep her in bed with us. Now, I have read much on the joys of co-sleeping, and I always thought it sounded nice. I like my baby close by, and I was sad when we had to move her out of the basket by our bed. But I have come to the conclusion that people who enjoy it must (a) have a bigger bed than we do; (b) be sounder sleepers than I am--and have sounder-sleeping babies. Because with D1 in the bed, I spend most of the night noticing new aches and pains developing because I can't roll over because it would wake up D1. Not to mention that she woke up and fussed--for no reason we could discern, she certainly didn't want to eat--every half-hour or so during the night. Maybe she thought it was too crowded in there, too.

Today it's supposed to be sixty degrees. Hopefully at least some of that will make it inside here.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

A Word of Thanks

For the invention of indoor plumbing, toilets, bathtubs, washing machines, and dryers.

D1 had two of those kind of diapers last night.

How did the human race survive for so many years before all that was invented?

The Person She's Becoming

It's fascinating to watch the first glimmers of D1's unique personality and talents show themselves. Maybe 10 months is a bit premature to be guessing at her future life course, but I think there are a few things I can guess at. She is most definitely a people person, to a degree neither DOB or I will ever fully understand. She loves people. If she can't be with someone she knows, a stranger will do just fine. Even pictures of people are great.

She'll probably be easy to discipline most of the time, but she will have her feelings hurt very easily, especially by my tendency to get absorbed in something and ignore those around me. She'll want to follow me around and chatter about everything. She'll have dozens of friends, of all ages and conditions.

Sports will probably not interest her, at least not for the sake of motion or competition; as a social activity, sure. She will love stories. She also loves sounds, and will probably always enjoy music.

Anyway, that's all speculation. I'll come back in six or seven years and tell you if I was right.

On a completely unrelated note, it's SNOWING today. ARRGGGHHH! I hope it doesn't hurt my little seeds.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What is Education?

In the interests of balance, I’ve been reading John Holt and John Dewey lately. (Why so many guys named John in education theory?) John Holt is not as radical as I had been led to believe, and I actually am getting quite a few ideas about how to place concepts before children so that they can figure them out, as well as grateful for the reminder that no lesson is learned until it becomes the child’s own.

John Dewey is, in brief, a bore. He could really benefit from the exercise of writing out his ideas in words of one syllable. His theories in education smell remarkably of abstract theorizing taking over any real-world experience.

It is interesting to consider what each thinks education is, or ought to be. To John Holt, it’s the child making sense of the world for himself. To John Dewey, it’s the adult community socializing the child to fit into itself.

Which made me think of what the Biblical concept of education is. In brief, I suppose it is the introduction of the child to God and His works. And I thought of the passage in Deuteronomy (6:6-7), so often quoted by homeschoolers, about teaching your children as you walk by the way, etc. But what struck me was the part that comes first: These words shall be in your heart. Then you teach them to your children.

It doesn’t matter how great the curriculum or how proper the methods. On anything that really matters, I can’t pass on anything that’s not first in my heart.


According to the ultrasound last Friday, I'm due October 15. I still have my doubts, though, based on when I started and stopped feeling awful. Maybe D2 just has a big head, like DOB. I didn't find the ultrasound experience that thrilling. I already knew the baby had a head and a spine and a bottom, and that was about all one could make out. I'm happy to stick to my general no-ultrasound-unless-necessary policy and wait to see what they look like when they're ready to be visible.

Our phone line is working again--because we finally had time to call and ask them to fix it. The air conditioning and heat are still waiting on a similar occurence. We are very grateful the appliances and cars have been working just fine recently, as they're much more inconvenient to have broken.

D1 has finally started to develop some interest in getting to somewhere where she is not. The allure of far lands has always been to her significantly less than the allure of waving her arms in the air, trying out new noises, and watching the world go by. But now that she thinks there might be something interesting in the next room, I expect actual crawling to ensue shortly.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Some tulips from the flower bed.

D1 and the dipper.

The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, Tra La

Yesterday DOB's sister and I planted many seeds. I hope I have better luck this year than last year, when everything either died before it came up or immediately after I transplanted it. (Except the basil, which was good.) This year I decided to skip the transplanting stage and throw it directly into the dirt. We planted several herbs, a packet of mixed lettuce, and a bunch of mixed wildflowers which I suspect will look completely out of place in our neighborhood (if they survive).

This was about D1's third encounter with playing on the lawn, and she finally decided that she really liked it. We are still working on not eating leaves and dirt clods.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Another complaint

Why are maternity clothes--especially conservative business attire--inevitably white, black, blue and maybe pink? I hate white, black, blue and pink. I also look terrible in them. Where's a nice moss green or even a subdued chocolate brown?

Possibly somewhat rude

* There's a church in our town that has mastered PR. They always have the biggest ad in every special edition of the paper. They're always one of the biggest sponsors at every community event. The senior pastor prays at every public political meeting. (At least the Republican ones. I haven't been to the Democrat ones.) And if there's not as much time to talk about the gospel once you've told everyone how wonderful they are--well, it doesn't seem to bother quite a lot of people.

This Sunday we drove by their spacious and well-filled parking lot and noticed they had hung up banners from all of the light poles, advertising their tenth anniversary. "It looks like a department store," I remarked to DOB, "I wonder if they're offering salvation half-off this month."

* Babies are considered the common property of mankind. Therefore, by some, stomachs containing babies are considered common property. I do not hold to this view. Yesterday in church a woman asked me out of the blue, "Do you have a sensitive stomach? Does it hurt you to have it patted?"

"No," I said, "But I have a strong sense of personal space and I don't like having it patted."

I'm not sure I've convinced her, though. Good grief, I'm not even really showing yet. (Though I have started wearing maternity clothes because I have them around this time and they are more comfortable.)

* Why does prayer bring out verbal tics more than any other form of speech? Even I must confess I sometimes fall prey to the "just" syndrome: you know, where you ask God to "just" do that, and then "just" do the other thing, as if to convince him that the tasks requested were not really that big of a deal. A very illogical thing, since one can only "just" do one thing at a time, so if you pray for God to "just" do something, all other petitions should cease until that one was finished.

But in other people, it's far more annoying, of course. There are the "Lord" punctuaters, who insert "Lord" every four words, as if God's attention were wandering and we needed to keep reminding Him that, hey, we're talking to Him here. And there are the duplicators, who repeat every phrase they utter at least twice, whether to make the prayers last twice as long or because they're afraid God will forget what was asked if it's not well hammered in, I'm not sure.

It's a good thing God is more gracious in hearing prayers than I would be.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Understanding Children

All this reading on education is putting me in mind of the book that has probably driven my philosophy on education more than any other. (Except, I hope, the Bible, but that's too hard to fully trace.) It is often not the depth or length of a book, but when and how it strikes you that makes a difference. And when I first read this great treatise on education, I was probably not more than eight years old.

The book was called Understood Betsy, and it was a very old paperback children's story (even older than I realized then). It told of a little girl who was raised by a very sympathetic aunt who was determined that Betsy feel understood, and so used every psychological trick she could learn of to sympathize with her and help her at every difficult turn. Betsy also went to a very modern school with all the latest in educational theories, and between the two, being rather sensitive by nature, she was of course the most timid, self-absorbed child on the planet and has never thought a thought of her own in her life.

Then the aunt must nurse a sick relation and Betsy, to her horror, is shipped off to the wilds of Vermont. There she lives with some distant farming cousins, who make children do chores, of all things, and she must go to a one-room school, and otherwise suffers various privations. And suddenly she begins to wake up and discover that she is a person. She helps in the dairy and discovers that pounds and ounces exist outside of textbooks. At school, she finds herself studying each subject according to her skill in that subject, not her age, and even tutoring the younger children. Sent off to encounter new experiences on her own, she puzzles through things and finds that she can think of things for herself.

I'm not sure what effect all that is meant to have on the child reading the story, since few modern children need to be prepared for the consequences of being shipped off to rural relatives, but it had as much insight into what children really need to learn or to have good self-esteem--not empty praise or psychoanalyzing, but genuinely important things to do--as some of the best books I've read since on education. And it's a good story; all around, a great book to give to a little girl who will someday be choosing how her children are educated.

Friday, April 15, 2005


D1 has taught herself how to clap. She likes to do it whenever she finds herself on her back, especially during diaper changes. I must admit, it's nice to have an appreciative audience for a usually thankless task. She also applauded when I put on my Gilbert & Sullivan CD. Clearly, a child of discriminating tastes.

My tulips are up and blooming and individually beautiful, though collectively more sparse than I would like. If I get very inspired, I may take a picture. I had B5 take out some of the ugly evergreens in front of the flowerbed last weekend and hope eventually to convert it from the three-identical-pruned-shrub look to more of a cottage garden. But it will take quite some time.

Tuesday night I became convinced I would live out the rest of my days nauseous and exhausted, in a disastrously messy house, cold, broke, and starving. As I should have realized, this meant the first trimester (at least symptom-wise) was about to end. I'm feeling much better now. I even did the dinner dishes two nights in a row, which I'm sure hasn't happened since February.

I have been looking at some cool homeschooling websites: The Well-Trained Mind, and Guilt-Free Homeschooling. Also one that apparently looks at homeschooling from an Objectivist (i.e. Ayn Rand) perspective.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Community and Networks

This weekend I've been reading and pondering John Taylor Gatto's Dumbing us Down (which, in short, is a public school teacher explaining why the public school system is inherently evil and anti-human, no matter what reforms may go through it).

One concept of his that fascinated me is the difference between a network and a community. In a community, all different ages and stages of people interact as whole human beings. In a network, people band together for a specific purpose and you are valuable in the network only to the extent that you comply with the purpose. Communities value people as individuals; networks value them as contributors. Workplaces, clubs, schools, and sadly, most churches, are networks. Indeed, most people nowadays have little or nothing in their lives but networks. Not that networks are intrinsically bad, but they leave people empty and without genuinely meaningful human interactions.

Now that I think about it, I think the primary reason we chose the church we did was its sense of being at least closer to the idea of a community. It was probably what was behind DOB's secret final test for a church: if they would offer to help us move. Not from a goal of getting moving help (though that was very handy), but to see if the church actually cared about its people as people, not just as names to fill in those empty slots on the Sunday School teachers' roster.

I think a big part of the lonely, helpless feeling I had when we first got married was tied to this lack of community. I was blessed to grow up somewhere where there still were elements of community, where people actually found out and did something if someone was sick or needed help. It wasn't that we knew no one or had no friends here, but we knew no one who was genuinely part of our lives.

I also spent the weekend re-reading some of L. M. Montgomery's books. And it strikes me that a big part of her enduring popularity is her skill at portraying not just people and place, but the presence of a community. You don't just know a few people of Avonlea; you know the character and flavor of Avonlea as a town. And it is a real community; people will gossip about each other, people will have feuds with each other. But people matter to each other as whole people. You may not like Mrs. Lynde, but she is still part of your life.

Creepy Crawlies

This was DOB's weekend to encounter nasty bugs. First he was wrapping up his work at the office on Saturday afternoon--where he was valiantly laboring even though the air conditioning doesn't operate on the weekends--when he suddenly saw termites galore crawling all over the floor and furniture. He promptly decided that he could finish everything else later, and put the extra shirt he had shed in the heat and left lying in the path of the termites into a plastic bag for me to deal with later. It stayed in his trunk until Sunday night, when . . .

He was sitting at the computer working and felt something crawling on his chest. He looked down and it was a tick. From Abbey's room I heard his very urgent whispers and came running. Now, I'd never seen a tick before in my life (I don't think they have them where I grew up) and was at a loss what to do. Fortunately it was still crawling around, so we were able to remove it and flush it without any trouble. All the rest of his clothes promptly went into the washing machine with the termite shirt and they have all been washed now, so we can hope that all such loathsome devices are vanished.

DOB was surprised that I was panicked by the tick, when I always retain my cool in the face of household spiders. But as I pointed out, spiders are relatively indifferent to human beings, while ticks regard them as their natural prey. If I must freak out, I prefer to freak out for rational reasons.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Inevitable baby postings

D1 has, at long last, a tooth! A real, live, fully-exposed tooth, as verified by Grandma's test of clicking a metal spoon on it. (Note: if said spoon formerly was used to dish applesauce, getting it back out of D1's mouth is a real challenge.) This is a great relief to me, as I was beginning to envision myself straining her food until she reached the age of six.

D1 has also made great strides in crawling, and although she is more into army-crawling on her belly, finally prefers it to rolling as a means of transportation. I think she finds it easier to get where she originally intended to go. Her primary goal in life now is to dive off the edge of the bed or couch. Actually, the couch she can get off fairly safely if she just remembers to go feet first.

Last night we took her to the park for the first time. She found the people entertaining to watch, the slide was tolerable, and the swing was the greatest of all delights--the faster and higher, the better. Now we must figure out how to set up a swing for her at home. Unfortunately either our tree limbs are too high or our swing ropes are too short, but we have not been able to find a satisfactory place to hang it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Service Distractions

I saw a discussion yesterday on the merits of including vs. excluding children from services. One commenter defended his church's practice of excluding children under six from the services by saying, "It can be disruptive to the study, in the same way cell phones can be disruptive. "

Doesn't that sum up much of the modern Christian attitude towards children? Noisy, expensive luxury items that will distract you from the really important things in life unless you can shuttle them off somewhere for awhile. Instead of fellow human beings who need to hear God's Word (God's Word, not just the latest drivel in Christian education) and members of the body of Christ who need to fellowship with us.

Not that I think children attending the service should be mandatory, if there are resources to provide an alternative for parents who need it--but I can't imagine attending a church that absolutely forbade children from being in the service.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Transportation Methods

Feeding D1 is an activity that, though I hate to admit it, is becoming tedious. Spending nearly two hours of my day aiming a spoon at a moving target gets old. Besides, don't I want her to grow in independence?

So when I spotted a gizmo called a "dipper," I decided to give it a try. It consists of a fat, squeezeable handle and a little flat paddle with grooves in it. The idea is that the grooves will hold the food on no matter which way the baby turns the dipper. You are supposed to demonstrate it a few times for the baby and then let them try it out for themselves.

Dipper procedure, according to QOC:

1. Dip dipper in food.
2. Put dipper in D1's mouth.
3. Repeat.

D1 was quite eager to take her turn. Anything new to grab and chew on is always welcome. However, despite repeated demonstrations, she clings to her own notion that a more complicated ritual is demanded.

Dipper procedure, according to D1:

1. Dip dipper in food.
2. Bang dipper on side of bowl.
3. Bang dipper on tray. Rub around a bit.
4. Hang dipper over side of high chair and shake vigorously.
5. Run dipper through hair.
6. Put dipper in mouth.

Needless to say, by this time the grooves have given up on holding the food altogether and are doing their best merely to cling to the dipper.

It is fun, for sure. But dipper use remains reserved to times when I am feeling even more patient than usual. So progress is slow.

D1 enjoying her favorite toys at Grandma's house--a set of stacking (or, in her case, unstacking) buckets. This is the ideal Easter dress, by the way. The pink roses look nice and spring-like, but the dress itself is a warm green velvet, suitable for the weather that invariably descends on Easter.

Easter Sunday. A typical D1 pose, especially when she sees anyone she recognizes.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Heroes of Life

I have nothing to say on Terri Schiavo specifically that hasn’t already been said dozens of other places. (Even DOB has broken his silence for the subject.)

But this one death is only a symptom. The much bigger problem that faces us today and every day after is how to change our culture so that human beings are valued merely for being human, and not for their level of rational consciousness. The question that faces me is, “What can I do to promote a culture of life?”

The simplest answer is I can keep doing what I am doing. My everyday tasks of changing diapers, fixing meals, and singing lullabies proclaim minute by minute (if I so choose, by my attitude towards them) that caring for another human being is a worthwhile purpose. Not just something one does because one hasn’t the education or smarts to get a better job.

For all the hysteria over the trauma of stay-at-home motherhood, though, my job is relatively easy. It’s a job that looks up. I am taking people from a state of dependence to a state of independence. I have hope that someday my tasks will be lighter, my work rewarded by seeing strong, intelligent young people march out to face the world on their own. The growth in my children’s independence may be bittersweet, but it is still something I can anticipate unashamedly.

A far more difficult task is the one my sister has undertaken twice in the past three years: caring for someone terminally ill. To watch someone move from strength and independence to weakness and helplessness; to know one’s tasks will steadily increase and the rewards steadily decline; to anticipate that the only release is the very thing one is dreading; and yet to undertake it all willingly—that is truly heroic. That also is a far stronger proclamation of the value of life—of every moment of life—as incredibly valuable.

Then there is parenting that does not look up. Ever since I worked as a teenager for NATHHAN, an organization for parents homeschooling special-needs children, I’ve had a special admiration for parents who care for children who won’t ever grow up. Once the severely disabled were institutionalized; now, they are more often simply killed. Parents who lovingly accept and rejoice in every day with every one of their children—regardless of how they measure up on the scale of “normal”—give hope that the attitude against life is not wholly irreversible.

NATHHAN has a new affiliate, CHASK, for parents who specifically want to care for special-needs children whose own parents cannot raise them. I am in awe of the love and faith of these parents; and yet I know they are real, ordinary people. (I worked in the home of Tom and Sherry Bushnell, the founders, who now have four adopted special needs kids as well as so many of their own that I’ve since lost count.) They just take seriously what they believe about the value of life. These are people who are not just anti-abortion, or anti-euthanasia. They truly deserve the title, “pro-life.”