Thursday, September 29, 2005

And So We Were All Wrong . . .

It's a boy!

Ronald Carlton (we'll call him Carl)
Born September 29th at 11:29 a.m.
Weight: 6 lbs., 11 oz.
Length: 19.5 inches.

His early arrival was due to a placental abduction (or something like that) and an emergency c-section. But QOC and D2 are doing quite well, and we're just thankful.

QOC will fill in all the details on the exciting time, and God's miraculous working later. All went well except for an encounter between yours truly and a rather unsympathetic sheriff on the way to the hospital.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Enter now for your chance to win!

That's right, folks. For a limited time only, you too can compete with a chance to win a prestigious title from the one and only Duchy of Burgundy Carrots.

Here's the deal: Guess the gender, birth date, weight, and length of D2. The person whose collective guess is the closest (based on a complicated but fair mathematical formula I fully intend to figure out one of these days) will be awarded the title of Earl of Estimation, or, in the event of the correct guesser being female, the Countess of Calculation.

Data for reference: D2 is, according to doctor's measurements, due October 15; according to QOC's I-know-when-I-started-feeling-sick calculations, closer to the end of the month. D1 was born three days before her official due date, weighed 7 lbs. 11 oz., and was 20 inches long. (And I am a bad mother. I had to look that up.)

No allegations of gender bias, by the way. Estimation and Calculation are both equally large and prosperous regions of the Duchy. It's not my fault that the titles for that rank of nobility are not alliterative.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Some recent reading

Soldiers and Ghosts, by J.E. Lendon--The ethics and ideals of ancient Greek and Roman warfare, as exemplified in the epics and in the real-life battles. This is DOB's pick, but I'm finding it quite fascinating. Did you know those famous Spartans generally refused to fight on holidays? And they had lots of holidays. Plus, now I finally have the Persian, Peloponnesian, and Punic wars straight in my head. (Why do all these ancient wars have to start with "P"?)

The Disciplined Mind: What Every Student Should Know, by Howard Gardner. He's the guy best known for the "multiple intelligences" theory (no doubt you've taken the online quiz). This book looks at education more generally, however, arguing for a deep focus on a single topic in order to learn the tools for a specific discipline (history, science, the arts) rather than trying to cover a little bit of facts from everywhere. The goal should not be so much to cover all the dates and facts of history, or all the vocabulary and lists of the sciences, but to learn how historians or scientists approach problems.

The Creators, Daniel J. Boorstin. This is a history of human arts, with an emphasis on how people's beliefs are reflected in what they create. The Christian belief in a single creation, by an all-powerful transcendent God, for instance, encouraged a much greater emphasis on man's power to create, and human beings as supreme over creation, than did the emphasis of eastern religions on endless cycles and escaping material reality. So for instance permanent works of architecture are much more common in Europe, whereas in Asia landscape painting dates back much further (because humans are more or less just part of the landscape).

The Secret of Father Brown, by G. K. Chesterton. Some of my favorites of all the Father Brown mysteries. We're discussing it over at the Parliament of Fools.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle. Will the caterpillar recover from his stomachache? What will happen when he emerges from his cocoon? A classic of suspense.

I Am a Bunny, by Richard Scarry. The timeless story of the change of the seasons, viewed through the eyes of an overall-clad bunny.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Out to the Ball Game

DOB got four free tickets to a Reds game, which we redeemed on Saturday, taking along the two of his brothers who are most devoted Reds fans.

It was just as well the tickets were free, as it took all of our capital to get a parking spot and a small bottle of water.

I am not a devoted Reds fan, or a devoted baseball fan in general, but I am a devoted DOB fan, and I like going to ball games. There is so much other stuff going on that actually watching the game is completely superfluous. And baseball moves slowly enough that I generally can follow it.

Our tickets, being free, were for seats somewhere in the upper reaches of the Himalayas. By the time we reached them, I was ready to lie down and take a nap. After a few innings, DOB scouted out an empty section lower down and sneaked us in while The Enforcer of the section was distracted. She later came by and asked us about our tickets, but allowed us to remain as long as no one came to claim the seats. She was far too busy harrassing a group of six teenage boys, ticket status dubious, whose goal in life was apparently to get on the camera wearing a series of t-shirts they had painted to spell "GO REDS" (or, when the "S" guy didn't feel like going along with it, "GORED.") They were in the wrong part of the stadium, however, and eventually gave up and left for a party.

I couldn't help but be reminded of the time I had to write a sports story for a journalism course and wound up writing the article about a group of little-leaguers watching the game. When I sent it to DOB for his comments, his response was something to the effect that I wrote sports stories like a girl.

D1 meanwhile got to try spending the night at Grandma and Grandpa's for the first time. She was completely unfazed by the experience and was far from excessively thrilled to see us. On the whole a good thing, I suppose, but a little enthusiasm for parental return is in order, I think. (Grandma thought she was just disappointed to find out that she had been standing by the door to wait for us rather than standing by the door to go outside.)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I want a refund

I'm sending this day back in to the weather bureau. Ninety degree weather on the first day of fall is just wrong.

They'll probably get to it after they refund me that week in April when it snowed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Yard sale retrospective

Judging from the paucity of ads, the yard sale season has about come to a close.

I now know a whole lot about how to run a yard sale, should I ever get energetic enough to host one. Such as:
  • Advertise in the paper, on the main road, and in front of your house. You don't want people passing you by because they're not sure if you're having a sale or just a messy garage.
  • And make your signs big enough to read.
  • Advertise specific items. Ninety percent of yard sale ads center on the phrase, "lots of misc.," which any seasoned yard sale shopper knows means tacky Christmas decorations and old shoes.
  • Put prices on things. Nobody wants to stand in line in the sun waiting for you to remember what you wanted to charge for that thingymabob.

I try to keep my yard sale shopping in check by mostly limiting myself to sales within walking distance of our house, which I can hit while out walking with D1 on Friday mornings. Only two times this season did I decide to drive to exceptionally juicy-sounding yard sales. Both were worth it.

Best finds of the year:

  • Four-foot high clear plastic drawers. ($5) I thought this would be a great place to keep D1's toys. It was, for awhile. Now it is itself her favorite toy. She loves pushing the drawers out and back in, taking things out of one drawer and putting them into another, and hiding behind it.
  • Nursery-school chair. ($.50) D1 loves sitting (and standing) on this. It's the only chair I've ever seen that is really short enough for a one-year-old. It fits perfectly in a little cubbyhole between the office bookshelf and filing cabinets.
  • Plastic picnic table. ($15) Yes, I broke down and now have Little Tykes plastic in my house. It was cheap. And now D1 has her own table in her room, of suitable height to climb on without catastrophic injury should she fall off. I'm still looking for something more charming someday, but in the meantime D1 isn't getting any younger.
  • Silver nativity set. ($10) I have really wanted a nativity set for some time, but had found none that I cared for at all. I thought about this one at $20, and decided against it. Then I told DOB about it and he decided to go see if it was still there the next morning. Not only was it, it was marked way down.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Pardon the dust

Owing to blogback shutting down next month, I'm trying to fix up a few things on the blog. I exported the old blogback comments but have NO CLUE how to import them, so for now they'll just be in hiding.

Those of you who don't have blogger should still be able to sign in as "other" and just type any name and (if you want) webpage. Please don't be anonymous!

The font size problem seems to have fixed itself, which means the small font is now really, really small. Oh well.

Old links are gone. There's only about fifty gazillion links I should have added there, anyway. Maybe someday I'll get to it.

Today, someone is not happy. I must go.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Talking it over (by D1)

I'm having to say different words a lot more these days. Mama (I usually call her "Baba" cause "b" is a really fun sound to say--also she likes to pat her tummy and say that so maybe it's another name for her) usually knows what I'm trying to say. Other people need clarification, though. Like Mama knows that when I hold my glass or my plate up I want more food. But Papa doesn't get it. He wants me to say "More" and put my hands together. Well, fine, I can do that, although I think waving dishes around makes the point more clearly.

Then Mama knows if I make any sound and point I want to go somewhere. But Grandma doesn't understand until I say, "Go." That's ok, because "g" is another interesting sound.

I really do like words with "b"--bib, block, blow, banana, baby, ball, book, Bible, and most important, blankie. Some of the other sounds in the words are hard to tell apart, so if I point at the same time, it helps.

My favorite thing to say is still "Quack, quack." Sometimes I say that and then everyone else says "Baaaa." Then I say "Baaaa" and everyone else says "Quack, quack." I can keep them going for several minutes like this; it's hilarious. Sometimes I do it by myself with Duck and Sheep, or with my magnets on the refrigerator.

I like to read books the best. I think the most interesting ones must be the ones on the shelves in the living room and the pile by the couch, but I get in trouble if I read those by myself. So I usually go read the ones in my room. My favorite is the one about the hungry caterpillar. It has these nifty little pages with holes in them.
In fact, I like to read so much that lots of times I just go off and read when Mama is distracted with someone else. Then she comes wondering what happened to me. Of course, sometimes I like to go and check out the soap dish, too. It tasted really bad the one time I tried, but maybe they have a new flavor out.

Walking without holding on to someone is still pretty tricky, but I discovered this morning that when I do, I can carry something around with me. Very handy. I think I may have to work harder on this.

Friday, September 16, 2005

One Month to Go

So we are now just a month away from D2's official due date, though I still consider it possible that that date is about two weeks early.

The doctor seemed a little apologetic yesterday that there were no signs of moving towards labor. I was relieved. Let's not rush things. This week I only got as far as making the list of things I need to do before D2's arrival.

I think part of the reason the last month of pregnancy is so uncomfortable is to make you willing to do ANYTHING to get that baby out. I haven't gotten that uncomfortable yet. Maybe my exercise regimen is working too well. But I still really don't feel like giving birth yet. It isn't the pain that bothers me. It's just so much work. And I've got so much other stuff to do.

An Object Lesson

So with FEMA and the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans all competing for "Most Incompetent Response" award, guess who was ready with a stellar example of an emergency plan, getting essential goods back into town days before the government could?

None other than that bastion of corporate evil, Wal-Mart.*

No doubt they were motivated by a sinister desire to profit off the unfortunate. But in that circumstance, I'd certainly rather get food and water from a greedy corporate profiteer who was there, than from a generous government that wasn't.

For all the allegations that profit is theft, profit makes things happen. People who have a profit to make will be there sooner, more efficiently, and with more appropriate items than people who don't.

Further, what are the two great reaons Wal-Mart is considered evil? One is pushing neighborhood stores out of business. Now I like neighborhood stores better, too. Big ugly warehouses offend my aesthetic sensibilities, and I like knowing the people I do business with. But I'm betting not many neighborhood corner groceries had the resources to re-open as quickly as Wal-Mart could.

The other, deeper, reason people hate Wal-Mart is that it is not unionized. Even if unionization would allow Wal-Mart to consider existing (which is doubtful)--does anyone really think that the extra costs and regulations associated with union work would help it respond more quickly to a disaster?

Unfortunately most likely the focus will remain entirely on how to get government agencies better equipped to do something they simply cannot do well, instead of on how to get government further out of the way of the private sector doing something it does better than anyone else.

* Wall Street Journal, Sept. 12, B1, Col. 5.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Fantasy Jobs

A dream job is the job you might hope to have someday. A fantasy job is a job you have no expectation of achieving, and indeed might not actually posess any talent for, or even want--given the tradeoffs--to have it. But in the abstract, it sounds like fun. Some of my fantasy jobs:
  • Waiter or, better yet, maitre'd at a five-star restaurant. (Elegant surroundings, great food, and you get paid for it! Plus, you can get away with acting snooty.)
  • Bit part movie actor or chorus member in light opera/musicals. (Being a star would be too much trouble. But acting is fun.)
  • Display designer at an upscale department store. (I love changing decor.)
  • Designer of ad campaigns. (Really weird ones. Actually, this may not count because at my old job I occasionally helped design ads, including one starring DOB as a nerd.)
  • Bed and breakfast owner. (In real life I would hate all the work. But the abstract concept is charming.)
  • Teacher at an avant-garde school with complete freedom to choose my curriculum and methods. (Oh wait, that doesn't go on this list.)

So, what are your fantasy jobs?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Entrepreneurs and Bureaucrats

One of our major goals in raising children is to raise entrepreneurs, not bureaucrats. We do not attempt to dictate their future careers--we will not disown them just because they work for the government. It's the attitude that matters. People can have an entrepreneurial mindset even though they work for someone else; if they do, they will either be very successful employees of a very happy employer, or they will drive everyone crazy, including themselves, and go find something better. People with bureaucratic mindsets can also own their own businesses, they just won't do very well.

This is bigger than just instilling a good work ethic, and irrelevant to how much income they make. A stay-at-home-mom can choose to be an entrepreneur or a bureaucrat. It's about how they look at work.

The bureaucrat looks at his job as a series of tasks to be fulfilled; when they're done, his job is done, regardless of the outcome. The bureaucrat works to make enough money to fund his leisure. When obstacles arise, the bureaucrat waits for someone else to solve them. The bureaucrat may work diligently enough, but he doesn't own his work.

The entrepreneur looks at his work as a goal to be reached. When he finds an obstacle, he does whatever it takes to get around it. He sees his work as valuable in and of itself; he thinks he's doing something to benefit the world. He can enjoy the money he makes, but he also looks at it as a tool to use for further influence.

Now, chores are the classic way to teach children to work, and I don't dispute their significance. But, I've seen a lot of kids doing a lot of chores, and they were almost all bureaucrats. Some of that is no doubt the natural problem that the chores were working on eliminating. But I'm not so sure it's an inevitable trait. Whoever heard of a lazy toddler?

Part of it starts with not discouraging them from work at the age when they are most eager for it--which is why I spend five minutes letting D1 push the laundry basket down the hallway instead of carrying it myself. Part of it has to do with how the chores are structured, whether they are allowed to own a task and deal with the consequences, or micro-managed in procedures and time. Part of it has to do with giving them the exhilerating feeling of being in charge, of knowing that their work is essential. I'm sure that's not all the pieces, but we'll start there.

Monday, September 12, 2005

I'd just like to announce

That I beat DOB in mini-golf this weekend!

DOB would probably like to add that he beat me by much more on the first round. Maybe it was the salmon I had for lunch between the two rounds.

We would also jointly like to brag that we both played two courses for only $4.75, thanks to a two-for-one coupon and the after-Labor-Day special.

However, a two-for-one discount on ice cream is not such a good deal if you have to drive over three counties looking for a UDF. (There is one several blocks from our house, but we can't get ice cream with D1 watching.)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Grand entrances

Last night our chiropractor was kind enough to stop by to give DOB an adjustment, since he has been working too late to go to the office. He brought his family with him, which was all to the good since we had been wanting to make their acquaintance.

Our house is set up so that the front door is visible through a window from the kitchen sink. It being a fine evening, the front door was open but the storm door was latched to prevent a sudden escape by D1. ("Hat? Out?!") So when they rang the bell I could see them (and vice versa) from where I was washing dishes, and came around through the dining room to unlock the door.

As I passed by the table, three of my toes caught on a chair leg. Suddenly I found myself airborne, landing sprawled full-length in the living room, putting a rug-burn on my face and jamming my right hand. All this was, of course, fully visible through the storm door.

At least it was easy to get my hand adjusted.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Insights from magazines

In one new baby magazine, one poor soul confessed that she and her husband thought that right after the baby was born, while she was on maternity leave, would be the perfect time to go to Europe. After all, the baby wouldn't be on a regular schedule yet anyway, so it wouldn't be bothered by the time difference! They didn't actually go. But I can't believe anybody was that naive. Have they never encountered a newborn? Did they never read their own magazines? On the other hand, there were a few times immediately after D1's birth when I pondered whether a quick move to China would be the easiest way to solve the day/night issue.

Also saw an ad for a new TV program that, in response to research showing that people who face their problems with humor and a positive attitude do better in life, is going to try to teach preschoolers this skill. It reminds me of how people, hearing that babies had the ability to distinguish all speech sounds in all languages, would start playing them tapes of foreign languages to give them an edge. Then it turned out babies only paid attention to talking when it was a real person talking to them.

So before you all bother with the research, let me tell you right now: Preschoolers will not learn good attitudes from TV programs. They will learn them, or not learn them, from other people.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Letting Go

For weeks now, we've been trying to communicate to D1 that she doesn't need her props anymore. The one finger she clings to is not providing her with balance or stability. It's just there for reassurance. She could let go.

Yesterday, she finally did. I was sitting on the floor of her room, reading, and she was standing at her table when she suddenly walked three steady steps across to me. None of that coaxing business that is supposed to accompany it. She just realized she could walk, so she did.

Unlike her past milestones, she didn't do it once and then refuse to repeat it for a week. She took several more steps under various circumstances during the course of the day. On the whole, she seems quite pleased with herself.

So are we.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

After all that rock-throwing, one works up quite an appetite.


Some things are so primordial, so instinctive, so deeply-rooted, that they compel everyone, from the youngest baby to the oldest geezer. Food is one, of course, and sleep. Music. Then there are rocks. Most specifically, rocks thrown in water.

While visiting her great-grandpa's farm, DOB and brothers introduced D1 to the essential activity of Throwing Rocks in the Creek. One splash, and she was hooked. She spent the next half-hour crawling back and forth, hauling rocks to the water's edge and tossing--or, if they proved too large, shoving--them in. She learned a new word: "Rock!" (Actually, it's said, "Ahhck," which sounds just like "sock," but they rarely arise in the same context.)

I am happy to report that I managed to throw a rock all the way over the bridge and land it clear in the sandbar on the other side. Also I found a very nice fossil shell half.

D1 was so dirty by the time we got home I had to give her two baths in a row.

The famous duck. Yes, the anatomy is dreadful. I think it must have been made on a teddy bear machine, they just sewed a bill on. But it can quack just fine.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

An Anniversary Tale

From time to time, I have received requests to tell how the Duchy came about.

There isn't much to tell from the external perspective--our courtship would make an exceedingly boring movie. And I'm not given much to blabbing my emotional vagaries all over the internet (or anywhere else, for that matter). So what is left to tell?

Somehow DOB and I never managed to meet in person early on, even though we went to the same law school and can even document having been in the same room at the same conference at the same time. After our first debate, in the fall of 2000, we chatted occasionally, DOB still under the impression he had gained during his "opposition research" that I was a middle-aged married woman. Mostly we talked about politics and public policy. Sometime in late 2001 my real age happened to come up, much to DOB's astonishment and my amusement, since I had no idea he had been so misinformed.

I had meanwhile decided that there were no guys out there who would meet my specifications (I only had a few, but they were mutually incompatible). Also I had never been overtroubled with suitors--or even troubled at all. Not being short on self-esteem, I attributed this to my excess of intelligence, or perhaps an unconscious skill at sending off stay-away vibes, rather than to any personal deficiencies. But the result was the same. As I had my dream job and a comfy living situation, it didn't trouble me for too long.

Then DOB challenged me to coach a debate opposite him again. DOB's side won again. But this time I could blame our failure on the debater, who didn't listen to me much anyway. I spent a lot more time chatting with DOB. Somehow, by around the end of the debate or shortly thereafter, I had come to realize that (a) he actually met my incompatible requirements and (b) I wanted to devote the rest of my life to making him successful. Executive assistant or perhaps Vice President would do if nothing else offered itself, but as his wife I could also see that he was properly fed and went to bed on time. However, he gave no signs that he had considered the latter possibility.

So I spent the next several months offering such help as was suitable for an upperclassman to offer, such as proofing his senior paper and offering bar preparation advice. He was absorbed in a political campaign and the final months of law school, but we still had time to become very good friends in a political and philosophical kind of a way. Such good friends that my parents, who were getting a pretty good idea of the extent of my interest, at least, thought it was high time things either progressed or we stopped wasting time.

In May of 2002, His Majesty introduced himself to DOB by sending out an email with an ultimatum: come meet in person, or stop talking to her. I was not pleased, not being at all sure how DOB would receive this. Fortunately he decided our friendship was worth the cost of a plane ticket. At least of a cheap one. Also, to his surprise, his parents thought he should come meet me. At this point we had never given any indication of personal interest, had only spoken once on the phone, and had only seen very grainy snapshots of each other. (The one DOB had seen of me, I was wearing my 250-lb brother's full winter gear. Not a flattering pose.)

So after he finished the bar exam that summer, DOB flew up to visit my family for the weekend. (Internet Safety Tip for Young Ladies: When first meeting in person a guy you've met online, take along your father and a few brothers who spend the summers bucking hay and the winters chopping wood.) It was a short weekend and there was always a younger sibling or two around. It was enough. DOB apparently didn't pick up any of those stay-away vibes, and he had never found me too smart. Just smart enough.

But we still didn't say anything to each other. DOB flew home and discovered things were in order for him to pursue matrimony much sooner than he had thought. He gave His Majesty the chance to check him out for a few months. His Majesty finally ran out of ideas and suggested we start actually talking to each other. We did so. His Majesty later had cause to regret this suggestion, as the phone line was unavailable for the next several months.

There wasn't much suspense after this point, which is what makes for romantic tales. We both knew we would marry each other, and it was simply a matter of working out the logistical details, specifically finding a job and a place to live. Also it was nice to see each other a few more times. All that kept us busy up until a surpassingly beautiful summer morning two years ago today, when we got married in a wedding that was far more romantic than one would expect.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Saving the planet

Our city has finally started a curbside recycling program. I found a packet announcing it on my doorstep this week, complete with my first specially-marked recycling bag. I can mix all my recyclables, but they all have to be in these special blue bags.

The brochure enclosed lists three places I can buy these bags for future pickups, for $1.50 apiece.

So, let's see. I can think of two reasons why I might recycle. One is thriftiness. Apparently in addition to my regular garbage fee, I could pay $1.50 for a single, special plastic bag--when I can spend little more for a whole box of bags that size. And all this while my life is clogged with more free plastic bags than I have room to handle. No, don't think so.

Or I could do it out of concern for the planet. Except I'm not sure the damage to the planet inflicted by me making a special trip to buy plastic bags, plus the waste created in making all these plastic bags, would really be outweighed by the things I might have to recycle. (Recycling stuff costs energy too, remember.)

I understand that they need to be readily able to identify the recyclables. I wouldn't mind spending $5 or $10 on some reusable, specially-marked bin to identify them for the garbage men. (The very weak garbage men who couldn't lift my can this week, so I have two weeks' worth of garbage piling up and stinking, about which I'm still rather annoyed, in case you can't tell.)

But until the recycling program actually starts with conserving things, I don't think I'll participate.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Choosing Hell?

Yesterday I passed a church sign that said, "No one in their right mind would choose hell over heaven." Passing over the grammatical problems for the sake of pondering the theological ones, I asked myself whether this was true.

I think all of us know people who are, day by day, choosing a living hell over a better life that is within their grasp. People who cling to self-destructive habits, to deep bitterness, to their personal idols, even though it is obvious to everyone else that these things are destroying them and ruining the lives of those they love. Even a tiny toddler, screaming in defiance instead of relaxing into the sleep she desparately needs, shows this desire to choose misery over happiness.

Indeed, when I've had painful moments of self-revelation, I have seen that deep down inside, I would rather have hell than heaven. I would rather live in torment at the center of my own universe than live in joy and peace in a universe where all glory went to God. I don't doubt that this desire would hold true even in the face of ultimate realities.

Apart from the grace of God, none of us would even want to go to heaven. Not if we really understood what it entailed--not just a place of pleasantness or endless life, but a place where God is everything and there is no more room for our self-will and self-centeredness. I think we would, quite rationally and calmly, prefer to go to hell. There will be many very small universes in hell.

I suppose, stated like this, the position does seem insane. You could say the whole human race is not in its right mind. Perhaps that's what the board was supposed to mean.

But I hope not. Because deep in my heart of hearts, I enjoy looking down on people who post bad theology on church signs.