Friday, December 29, 2006

Things Happening Around Here

Posting has been light (OK, absent) because my sister is here, and that means we have been very, very busy. She is not called Wondergirl for nothing. She just wanders about the house, doing the regular things, and then suddenly says, "If we moved this over there, we could put this back here, and then this would be over there. Would that be better?" And behold, it would be better, and she moves it all around and suddenly the house is neater and more efficient and prettier. All sorts of little projects that I've been wanting to get to are suddenly done.

Also we went shopping at the clearance sales at the outlet mall the day after Christmas, and then scouted out thrift stores the next day. Now I know where one is three minutes from DOB's work, and I finally found a brown suede purse that will work for me, as well as the cords I couldn't find at the clearance sales.

D2 is starting to repeat all sorts of words: "Cracker," "Jesus" (On Christmas morning, no less), "Walking." He wasn't too thrilled with all the running around, though, and in general has been rather cranky. Hopefully it's mostly teeth and will go away when these molars come through. We're making slow but steady progress on weaning~last night he made it through the whole night on just water and seems quite happy this morning.

I hesitate to rejoice too soon, but we may be seeing some progress on the potty-training front, too. Of course I read the books and they all said to use positive reinforcements to teach potty training, that wet pants alone were enough negative reinforcement, that punishment just led to power struggles, etc. Well, D1 liked the stickers and candy just fine. But when you're getting stickers and such all day, what's an occasional miss? So, on Christmas Eve, after she'd ruined the second kitchen chair in an hour, I decided I'd had enough and resorted to a more punitive form of reinforcement. She hasn't had a waking accident since, even with hours in the car and in strange places. Maybe she just needed that to be convinced that wet pants were no longer an acceptable lifestyle option.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

First Christmases are overrated. Second and Third Christmases are so much more fun.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas, Christmas

Various snippets of excitement from around here:Making the Swedish Tea Ring for Christmas breakfast (or, as D1 dubbed it, the tea ring ring.)
D1 enjoyed making thumbprint stationery to give as gifts.
D2 did not. He just wanted to hold the ink pad.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Time Has Come

Sometimes it's time. Sometimes you're not sure it's time, but you plow ahead anyway. That's where I am with D2 and a certain form of sustenance.

I'm very big on Avoiding Bottles, although this has as much to do with cheapness and laziness as anything else. But D2 has long since grown past any need for that sort of supplementation; he can sit at the table and hold his own glass and wield his own fork (even if he has to poke the food on with his other hand.) Nursing him has gotten to be a dreary chore, as he hates to sit still with his back to the world for that long and usually spends the entire time with arms and legs flailing. Yet he keeps asking for it.

So, I decided it was time to nudge him a little. He spent the day at Grandma's on Friday and survived fine as long as he didn't see me. (Probably didn't help, though, that I arrived *before* the potluck started.) Gingerbread covers a multitude of maternal neglect. Having meals ready a little early helps. And I haven't even begun to cut out nights yet.

But he's still not entirely pleased with me. Yesterday at lunch screamed with protest through most of the meal, even as he managed to eat it with relish. (When he settled down a little I let him sit on my lap and fed him myself. This seemed to console him somewhat.) The rest of the day, he didn't seem to mind.

What he really wants is Mama and Food. It's not that important to him that the two come combined any more, but it's hard to take time to give him a little extra of both while he gets used to the change.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas Quiz

Which I took from Devona.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?

I've never tried eggnog. Hot chocolate sounds good in theory but never quite lives up to its promise. I like milk.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree?

EVERYTHING must be wrapped. If Santa won't wrap the gifts, then he can't come. I even wrap gifts for myself.

3. Colored or white lights on the tree and/or house?

White. Colored are (usually) tacky.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?

We have a cardboard cutout of a foot with weaponish toes, but we don't actually hang it up.

5. When do you put your decorations up?

When I get the chance. I prefer right after Thanksgiving, but that hasn't happened lately.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

Crabs in cocktail sauce on Christmas Eve. Not that we do that out here. But it was yummy when we did.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child.

Sitting alone in the dark in the living room with the Christmas tree lights on and soft music playing.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

No one really believed in Santa at our house. After awhile we stopped leaving out milk and cookies for him and started leaving out veggies and dip for the Grinch.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?

I prefer not to. But sometimes it's hard to avoid.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

By hanging ornaments on it, of course.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it?

I love it if I don't have to drive in it.

12. Can you ice skate?

Yes, even backwards! No fancy spins, though.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?

A certain telephone call from the Duke a few days after Christmas four years ago was pretty memorable, although not technically a present. Other than that, though, things tend to be more of a happy blur, and it hardly seems fair to pick out one present over the others.

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you?

(Humming) TRADITION! (Oh wait, wrong religion.)

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?

Cookies. Krumkaka are required to be the favorite cookie, but after that, perhaps peppermint spritz.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Anything that involves little kids.

17. What tops your tree?

Nothing, this year. The ribbon ran out before we got to the top and I haven't decided what kind of star I want on it. It looks just fine without anything.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving?

Both. Either one by itself is not nearly as much fun.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?

Secular, "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

Sacred, "O Little Town of Bethlehem"

20. Candy Canes! Yuck or yum?

Yum for the first three licks. After that, yuck.

And now I really must stop procrastinating and go clean the bathrooms.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Deck the Halls

If you need help decorating your tree, I know two people who would be delighted to help.

Thanks to Uncle Steve & Aunt Bettie for pictures.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Women, Children and Chores

I'm a terrible internet writer, because I like to think about things for awhile before I write them. So I find by the time that I'm ready to sit down and compose my thoughts, the world at large has moved on to other topics, it's too much trouble to dig up the original link, and my thoughts probably are no longer very connected to the original idea. It's all right though, I'm not entirely ready to abandon the advantages of thought.

Anyway, a week or two ago I read the blog of a mother who was upset that her children, whom she had hoped would just be willing to cheerfully help with whatever needed to be done, actually hated to work and complained about whatever she asked them to do; she was considering whether perhaps the idea of regular, defined chores had some merit, after all.

I don't think she's alone in her ideals; in fact, I suspect most mothers secretly think that's the way things ought to be; I know mine certainly did. And to give you a rare glimpse into a nearly-as-rare Source of Tension in the Duchy, I tend to think DOB should just see when I need help and come to my side, whereas he thinks I should come and ask him so he knows what to do.

Women have a good reason for thinking this way; it's the way they operate toward their home. They don't wait to be told what to do, they figure out what to do and then do it. And if they can't figure it out, they go read all the books and websites they can to tell them what to do; and if they still can't figure out what to do, they weep and despair and raid the freezer. One seldom finds children or even grown men feeling this way about their house; they may be neat or sloppy but they are generally not troubled with the constant sense that Things Could Be Better.

What women need to realize is this sense they have is a combination of many factors--long training, social pressures, the predominately female desire to nurture, a sense of ownership and control in the house--and that few, if any of those factors are present in children. They really wouldn't want them to be. A kingdom doesn't do well with two kings, and a house doesn't do well with two keepers. Mother wanting to do things this way and Daughter wanting to do things that way is the source of countless conflicts when they're grown up; you really don't want to push it along before they've learned some better people skills.

Since the children can't run the house, there are only a few options left. They could do nothing and live a life of idleness, which is good for no one. They could do regular chores, which we will address in a minute. Or they could simply "help out where needed," which often sounds to mothers like the best of the options.

But think about what it means from the other end. It means you have no advance warning of how long you'll have to work or what you'll have to do. It means you get none of the advantages of a habit, of doing something customary. It means you have no ownership over your time. In short, it means you are a slave. And no one likes being treated like a slave, not even a six-year-old.

Which leaves us with regular, defined chores. A child with regular chores is not a slave, he's an employee. It's not the highest place on the scale of work, but it's a place that's reachable for children. They can learn the skills and practices that will help them to actually see what is needed. They'll get accustomed to work so that they know it's not really such a terrible thing. And they'll still have some control over their own time.

There's still a lot of room left for teach a servant's heart, for helping them see needs, for being willing to pitch in during an emergency, for praising unsolicited assistance. But regular chores teach the basics that make those advanced concepts more achievable.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Physics of Superheroes

I haven't finished this book yet, but I'm enjoying it immensely and can't resist the urge to tell about it. It is by far the most enjoyable thing I've ever read on physics OR superheroes. Not that I've read much on either, but that just goes to prove its power. If you've ever wondered what we can deduce about the planet Krypton from Superman's powers, whether Spiderman really could swing from a web, or how many cheeseburgers the Flash would need to eat, this is the place to find out. You'll also get a history of Silver Age comics, fashion critiques, and the essential connection between Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity and your shopping list.

And while I'm at it, it turns out that:
I am Spider-Man

Wonder Woman
Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

Various Festive Activities

Friday was our Annual Insane Cookie Bake. We are still not nearly so elaborate as the Original Insane Cookie Bake, but we managed a fair degree of insanity nonetheless. I would have taken a picture, but I was too busy trying to limit the sprinkle-shaking to within two feet of the table.

We made had three grownups, four children (all under four) and made five kinds of cookies: shortbread, glazed rum cookies, sugar cookies, peanut butter blossoms, and candy canes.

Saturday we put up our tree, risking life and limb (or at least a ticket) in driving the wagon with expired tags; sure enough, the new tags were waiting in the mailbox when we got home. As is traditional, Uncle Steve and Aunt Bettie came to help us, and as is also becoming traditional, we stuck them with a large unrelated task while we had them handy. (Last year it was melting ice off the roof in preparation for the Roto Rooter man. This year we only had them watch the kids for a couple of hours. I'm not sure which was worse.)

So, now we have cookies; we have a tree. We are just about all set.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Advent Calendar

This is our advent calendar. Baby Jesus is under 25, of course, and Mary and Joseph on either side. I can't show what's under all the panels, because you're not allowed to turn them over early. But you get the idea.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Happy Anniversary, ACS Blog

The American Chesterton Society Blog celebrated its anniversary yesterday, and are playing a game in response:

1. When did you first read a Chesterton book, story, or poem, and which was it?
The first Chesterton story I read was "The Invisible Man," probably when I was about fourteen. It was in a high school literature book.

2. What was the most recent of GKC's writings you read?
Dear me, I'm not sure. I'm afraid it was a rereading, and so I can't remember which thing I reread most recently. I really need to get some new Chesterton books.

3. Which is your favorite book, poem - or quote?
The Napoleon of Notting Hill
"A Marriage Song"
"Now most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities."

Oh wait, that was an "or," not an "and" . . . oh well.

4. Which would you recommend to a beginner?
Anything with Father Brown.

5. What is the most unusual fact or quirky detail you know about G.K.Chesterton?
Well, it's not that obscure, but I've always liked the one where he telegraphed his wife from the railway station asking why he was there and where he was supposed to be. I can identify with that.

I didn't eat any meals off the floor yesterday, although the children probably did (we were baking cookies). But I will try to remember to ring the front doorbell when I come home today with our Christmas tree.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Winter Wonderland

Rose asked for a cheerier post about the joys of having two small children, and today looks like the day.

It snowed! (OK, that may not help you down south, but it will get me started.)

Having little kids means there's someone to dance around shrieking "No! No! No!" and meaning something good by it today. It means spending more time putting on and off jackets and mittens and boots than actually being in the snow, but having it all be worthwhile for the look of astonishment on their faces when they see what's happened to the world.

It's coming back inside to make snow pictures with cotton balls on blue paper, and amazingly enough, not getting glue everywhere. This was an idea from the toddler art book I checked out a few months ago, and it even worked for D2, which is quite an accomplishment.

Also, having small children means I get to revive all the preschool-oriented Christmas traditions that rather lapsed from my family after we all outgrew being preschoolers, but which still have a hallowed place in my memory. Chief among them is the flannel advent calendar where each new day turns over a new character from the Nativity. Even in years when I have been far away from this calendar, I have measured the month of December by it and none other. (It's time to panic when you hit the bottom row of wise men and camels on December 19.)

Another one is our Advent devotional box. When I was small, we had a large box to open December 1, and inside were 24 packages, each with some small item and a devotion to accompany them. For small children, I like this idea better even than Jesse Trees and other popular Advent activities--something tangible, a new box to open, is very exciting to them. I decided to design my own, though, because I didn't see anything out there for free that was quite what I wanted.

So I wrote up a sequence of very short Scripture readings and devotionals that would take us briefly through the key stories of the Old Testament that pave the way for Christ and also forshadow his coming (Creation, fall, flood, Abraham, etc.), then through the significant prophecies about Christ, and finally through the Christmas story itself. For each one I'm trying to come up with some appropriate symbol in a box for them to open. This has involved saving boxes all year, and I never did get them wrapped. Maybe next year.

For instance, Tuesday we read about God's promise to bless the world through Abraham, and the symbol was a tent (contrived during nap time out of sticks and fabric scraps) to represent how Abraham followed God through faith. Yesterday we did Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac and talked about how Jesus would come as the substitute for us; they opened a small altar (made of rocks and salt dough).

Actually I got tired of trying to come up with more things and made a whole bunch of symbols out of salt dough yesterday. Now I should try to find some paint so they are more recognizeable.
It probably still is mostly over their head just yet, but they are enjoying it very much and will understand more next year. And next year, the packages will be all ready and I can actually think about their real Christmas presents.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Venture into Marketing

The Bethlehem Candle
Looking for a unique item to enhance your festivities, that will turn the focus back to the True Meaning of Christmas? Fill your home with the rich, unforgettable aroma of the first nativity with The Bethlehem Candle. This elegant, hand-crafted candle will waft your family back in time as they inhale its special blend of fragrances designed to recreate the odors of the manger.*

*Yes, it would smell like sheep dung. And hay dust. Lovely, no? I bet people would buy it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Chutes & Ladders

That's what our version was called, but there's also "Snakes and Ladders," which amounts to the same thing: You roll the dice, move that many spaces, and if you land on a ladder you jump ahead; if you land on a snake (or chute) you slide backwards. First one to the end wins. It's a great game for small children.

It's also what parenting them feels like. You plod along for awhile, and then suddenly--whoom!--they figure something new out and are suddenly more grown up. But then--whoosh!--they suddenly slide backward into something you thought they'd outgrown. Overall the game is meant to result in progress, and you will eventually reach the 100 square, but the human mind being what it is, sometimes it seems like the chutes are dominating.

With D1, it's potty training that keeps sending us down the chutes. Every time we have a day where she's dry all day, and even takes herself when my back is turned, it's balanced out by a day where we go through every pair of pants in her drawer. Over the last year there has certainly been progress, yes, but honestly--a year? a YEAR? And we're still nowhere close to done as far as I can tell. Yet who knows when we might step on a ladder and shoot up to the top?

With D2, it's sleeping through the night. Every once in awhile he'll start going at least six or seven hours for a few nights and I think, "Ah, at last!" But then, whether from sickness or teething or just orneriness, he'll be waking up two or three times in the night again. Why he's so thirsty at night, I don't know. I'm not about to let him sleep with us, as this would not involve any actual sleep; he thinks our bed is The Place to Party. (Cosleeping with infants I can do. Cosleeping with toddlers mystifies me.) Letting him cry it out just makes him thirstier. So I just keep going up and down the same little round of chute and ladder, waiting for him to grow out of it and getting more perturbed with each round.

Really, the speed at which they learn is amazing. It's just that they have so much to learn before they can do even the most basic things.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Happy Things

DOB finagled us symphony tickets for my birthday, and his parents, after intially planning to go along with us, instead agreed to babysit when we couldn't get another babysitter. (Fortunately, being grandparents, they rather preferred the babysitting, so we could still have a good time without feeling guilty.) The seats were box seats, so we had a prime view of the percussion piece, which was a lot more fun to watch than to listen to.

We found the Bing Crosby CD! The loss of it was sorely dampening our Christmassy feelings. It was in the wrong box, and though I had looked through many of the wrong boxes, I hadn't found the wrong box it was in. But we looked again, and there it was.

We got some Christmas CDs from the library, but it seems that an essential feature to a good Christmas CD is having played it last year.

On that same note, I have discovered that I cannot listen to the Messiah without having an urge to clean house. This is no doubt because it was my custom throughout my adolescent years to spend the Friday after Thanksgiving deep-cleaning the living room and putting up Christmas decorations, and I would always put the Messiah on first.

After a week cooped up with small sniffly children, anything that makes me want to clean house is a Very Good Thing, indeed.

We went to a fabric store on Saturday. As far as I can remember, I hadn't been in one since I was shopping for wedding materials. I had forgotten how much fun they are. Unfortunately, DOB had forgotten his Standing and Waiting shoes, so he put his back out.

I have finally become a Potentate of the Rose.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Getting Well Food

I was born to be a skeptic. But it's hard to be naturally skeptical about everything; one must do *something* after all. So in medicine, I'm skeptical about the overuse of drugs and surgery in modern medicine; I don't care to use over-the-counter drugs; but then, I'm every bit as skeptical about the untested claims of herbs and the like. Yet I'm not quite willing to lay down and die just yet.

So I try to stick to things that, at the least, I'm sure won't hurt. Chief among these is food; eating is necessary, after all, and there's a fair body of foods that are reasonably healthy by almost any standard. But it must also taste good, because one must see to mental health as well as physical. So when we come down with ailments, I get out my soup pot and make

Chicken Soup

of course. With lots of onions and garlic and, of course, carrots. On the side, whole wheat bread with more garlic on it. In fact, I'll put extra garlic on lots of things and raw in proportion to the amount our illness prevents us from socializing anyway.

Then one should eat some fresh food with lots of vitamins in it, one of my favorites is

Spinach-Orange Salad

which must have a good dose of vitamins in a quite palatable form. Or a fruit salad with a yogurt dressing, because yogurt (with live cultures) is supposed to be helpful in keeping those friendly little microbes inside you happy, and even if it isn't, it makes a good dressing.

I also try to avoid sugar, which probably isn't all that health-inspiring, and milk if there's congestion (which there generally is). Instead something like


with extra cayenne pepper clears out the sinuses and provides yet another tasty way to consume more garlic.

Finally, some hot tea in the morning and before bed helps one feel a whole lot better whether it happens to be some super cold-fighting herb or not. And a little bit of dark chocolate is good for the soul and doesn't have too awful much sugar.

After all this, we were doing a lot better towards the end of this week, until I woke up this morning with . . . ewwww . . . pinkeye. I think it's just the cold taking a strange form and not some new bug. But I'm ready to be done with this mess, and I think it most unfair that it came on the day I had to get my driver's license picture taken.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Childhood Reading Meme

From Semicolon

1. How old were you when you learned to read and who taught you?
I was four; I was looking at the pages of Go, Dogs, Go and suddenly saw the connection between the letters and the sounds. I recall it as a solitary moment, but I suspect my mother had already given me some basic sound/letter lessons from a comic strip phonics course she had cut out and pasted in a notebook.

2. Did you own any books as a child? If so, what’s the first one that you remember owning? If not, do you recall any of the first titles that you borrowed from the library?

As far back as I can remember, I had a few shelves of books. I don't know what came first, maybe the Bible I got when I was about four. (One of those little ones with Jesus Feeding the Five Thousand on the cover--I think they still make them.)

3. What’s the first book that you bought with your own money?

Me? Spend money? It probably was some battered paperback copies of the Federalist Papers and the Wealth of Nations, but that wouldn't have been until I was a teenager. Long before then I had earned books through our Bible memory program and through my mother's scheme to get us to finish our schoolbooks by the end of the year by giving us a book apiece.

4. Were you a re-reader as a child? If so, which book did you re-read most often?

Of course. When you've read everything interesting in the house, there's nothing to do but go read it again. (Not that our holdings were small, mind you.) I have no idea what I re-read the most, but Alice in Wonderland was probably way up there, along with The Phantom Tollbooth, Anne of Green Gables, and, well, pretty much everything else.

5. What’s the first adult book that captured your interest and how old were you when you read it?

If Lord of the Rings counts as an adult book, then I was about ten when I read it.

6. Are there children’s books that you passed by as a child that you have learned to love as an adult? Which ones?

Not on purpose. There are some I wasn't allowed to read as a child that I've since come to like, but that's a separate topic.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mattress Testing and Other Adventures

We spent the two days after Thanksgiving making a pilgrimage to Nashville for a family gathering. That’s ten hours total in the car, which is a lot easier to do with two small children if you only take one of them. We actually took both, but D1 rode in the other car, with Grandma and Grandpa, and D2 rode with us along with a couple of extra uncles. This worked out to the satisfaction of all. D1 had fun talking with Grandma, D2 got plenty of sleep, and we got halfway through the BBC dramatization of Lord of the Rings without having to filter out “Pop Goes the Weasel.”

I will skip over the standard family-gatheringish events of the afternoon and evening ("What was your name again?" "Wow, you sure have grown!" "You are so going to lose this game.") and proceed to the moment when I was trying to settle down to sleep. In a negotiation which we turned out to have taken the wrong side of, DOB and I had bartered with his parents that we would sleep on the floor if they would tend to D2 in the night. As it turned out, D2, in spite of a dreadfully snuffly cold, slept like a log.

It didn't take me more than a few minutes on the first air mattress to discern that the air was leaking out at an alarming rate. By spreading my body out completely flat, I could manage to float a few millimeters above the carpeted cement basement floor. However, since I only had one quilt, this was a chilly option. If I curled up, I went straight through to the bottom and got cold that way. Before too long, even spreading out flat made no difference.

So when DOB at last tore away from his late-night revelry of Uno games, he went back upstairs for a different mattress. Two of his brothers had already claimed the queen-sized mattress, so he returned with two mattresses of sub-twin dimensions. This naturally made huddling together, for warmth or other purposes, impossible, as we would then fall through the crack onto the iceberg below. So we waved goodnight, each grabbed one side of the quilt and tried to make the best of it on our separate mattresses.

Soon my mattress followed the first mattress's example. I tried alternating positions, but could find none that would simultaneously conserve body heat and maintain an air cushion. I then suggested to DOB that we see if we could both fit on his mattress. Now, neither of us is particularly rotund, but the mattress had apparently shrunk to about six inches across by this time. No possible contortion could keep us both on the mattress and still breathing, although we were a lot warmer from the exertion.

Finally we gave it up and took the twin mattresses upstairs, bent on conquest. In our state of chill and sleeplessness, the sight of B3 and B5, sleeping soundly on a plump mattress a few feet from a roaring fire, would have incited war in even the most docile heart. We are not very docile. We immediately persuaded them to take the twin mattresses and scooted back downstairs with our plunder.

This mattress held. We could stay close enough together to stay warm. At last we slept. Of course, by this time it was three in the morning and the children awoke only a couple of hours later, but we were by now grateful for our exchange and dozed on while Grandma found them dry clothes and took them upstairs.

On our way back we wanted to stop at Mammoth Cave, and indeed we did stop, but we didn't have time to take a tour. Instead we went to a little trail off at the edge of the park and managed to fulfill D1's expectation of seeing a cave (she's a devoted fan of Henry the Explorer). We didn't go inside the cave--even if it had not been expressly forbidden, the little tale told on placards of the explorer who had been trapped inside to his death would have been sufficiently deterring--but we did have a lovely walk through the woods, as still as winter and as warm as summer. D2, of course, thinks himself now equal, unassisted, to any task of rock-climbing or spelunking, so he was a bit of a handful. They had the most fun picking up leaves on the boardwalk and throwing them over the edge.

Just before we entered Cincinnati, weary, late for supper, and entirely out of clean clothes, we stopped at a rest stop and discovered that D2 had had one of those diapers, which naturally I had to change single-handed (curse those single-sex restrooms!) and then put him in D1's pink jeans, as it was the only garment left that was even remotely clean.

D2 had his promised night of being unable to sleep horizontally that night. They still both have terrible colds, but I am mixing raw garlic in their scrambled eggs and hoping for progress soon. In spite of it all, it was a good trip and it is better to be home.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Further cuteness


D1=Fashion plate

But they're still so cute

We plow the fields and scatter

Preparing for a holiday, of course, means work. There is still the ordinary work of life to do, so that makes for double work. There is the ordinary work that would have been done on the holiday to do, so that makes triple work. With small children on hand, however, the work starts muliplying geometrically or even exponentially, while available resources do not multiply at all.

A mother with much work to do, you see, is a distracted mother. Small children have three ways in which they can respond to a distracted mother. They can use the opportunity to go engage in various forbidden activities while her back is turned (such as the incident with the water bottle, the stacking cups, and the master bed). They can cling to her skirts and describe the years of psychiatric care it will require for them to recover from her emotional neglect. Or they can be bribed into happily playing and working alongside her.

The only trouble is, option three is the messiest and most distracting of them all. Under these circumstances, only the most chaotic of activities will hold their attention for even a moment. So, while I was trying to do my week's baking, D1 was busy helping me by pouring flour all over the cupboards and D2 was kept happy only by a pan of soapy water, of which I'm pretty sure he drank a fair portion, but dish soap is non-toxic, right?

As I let the mixer finish kneading the bread, started mixing muffins while preventing D1 from scooping all the dry ingredients straight into the cups, answered the phone and tried to minimize D2's soap ingestion, it seemed to me that there was something not quite right about the bread. Bread is as much of an art as a science, and it seemed like this bread didn't have quite the right feel to it. Not soft and spongy enough. It stretched and smoothed as it kneaded, but there just wasn't that springiness one would expect.

I had switched to a new bag of wheat, so I double-checked: yes, it was the right wheat for bread. Perhaps I'd simply added too much flour; I added a little water. Still something seemed wrong. Finally I gave up and set it to rise while I finished the muffins, made gingerbread, and started cleaning up, a clean-up which now involved a large pool of mixed water and flour on the floor and a two year old who mistakenly thought that now would be a good time to plead emotional distress and leave without cleaning up.

They are, after all, both tired from colds, though for some reason they haven't thought that sleeping in would help. It's the first thing that would occur to me. Anyway, in an attempt to lighten the mood, I proposed a brief trip outside and even turned the oven off and let the gingerbread cook as best it could. Going outside posed a new challenge, as D2 now believes that since he can walk unassisted, all points of the compass should be open to him.

Finally we came back in for lunch. I went to check the bread. It hadn't risen at all. I felt it again. I was suspicious. I smelled it. I was sure. I had left out the yeast.

We really need bread. (We try not to buy bread because DOB is allergic to soy, and the only bread without soy is that peasant bread that only nobles of richer kingdoms than ours can afford. The modern American diet has avenged Marie Antoinette.) I considered the possibility of declaring this week's festivities the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I did not consider throwing it out and starting over. Finally I did my usual half-baked Scheme for Remedying Matters and dumped the dry yeast in and kneaded it a little more. In retrospect, it probably would have been a better idea to dissolve the yeast first. Anyway, all the right stuff is there, so perhaps if it sits there long enough it will work.

I haven't even started on my Thanksgiving Dinner contribution yet. I think I'll put it in the crockpot overnight and hope for the best. This afternoon, we're going to the park.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A few steps forward

Thanks to a tutorial at Mommylife, D1 can now put on her jacket with little to no help. After the first few demonstrations, the amount of help required is, as usual, inversely proportional to her eagerness to accomplish the goal. But, since she's almost always eager to go outside, she usually has ample motivation to do it All By Herself. This is an exciting moment for her, and for me. Only two jackets to take on and off every time we go in and out!

Last night DOB decided that D2, who has been taking very short walking trips unassisted and very long ones with the minimum of assistance (such as the hem of my skirt or D1's eager but unsteady hand), was ready for a little coaching. So we sat on opposite sides of our narrow living room and coaxed him into walking back and forth, about ten steps. Half the time he stumbled midway, but he was crowing with delight whatever the outcome. This morning we did something similar a few more times.

Then suddenly this afternoon, it clicked. He let go of the front door and staggered over to the top of the stairs, with no one coaxing him on and nothing to catch him. (Fortunately he didn't go headfirst down the steps, as he tends to do.) And now, he walks. Set him down and off he goes, pivoting from side to side still, but on his own two feet.

The fascinating thing about teaching, or raising children, is finding just that moment when a little--a very little--bit of encouragement or a pointer in a particular way opens up a new world. Too soon, and it wouldn't have effect. Too late, and we'd miss out on being a part of it--and with skills less basic than walking, they might miss out on it altogether. Too much, and it would grow tedious. But just right, well, that's what makes this job all worthwhile.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset

This is not a happily-ever-after book. It is not a book where love conquers all. It is a book where people make choices, some of them dreadful, and deal with the consequences, not always graciously.

I usually find such books depressing. But this book is not depressing, because through all the sin and sadness there is always the light of God's grace and goodness that reaches us even as we are busy messing things up again. And though all human loves are touched with sin and selfishness, yet through them we catch a glimpse of that divine love.

The book, which I got as one massive tome, is really a trilogy that follows the life of a woman in medieval Norway from birth through death. The medieval setting is vividly real, not a fantasy land but a place where one can imagine human beings enjoying living. The title character is in no danger of achieving sainthood, yet she never loses sight of God entirely, either.

"It seemed to her a mystery that she could not fathom, but which she knew most surely none the less, that God had held her fast in a covenant made for her without her knowledge by a love poured out upon her richly--and in despite of her self-will, in despite of her heavy, earthbound spirit, somewhat of this love had become part of her, had wrought in her like sunlight in the earth, had brought forth increase which not even the hottest flames of fleshly love nor its wildest bursts of wrath could lay waste wholly. A handmaiden of God had she been--a wayward, unruly servant, oftenest an eye-servant in her prayers and faithless in her heart, slothful and neglectful, impatient under correction, but little constant in her deeds--yet had he held her fast in his service, and under the glittering golden ring a mark had been set secretly upon her, showing that she was His handmaid, owned by the Lord and King who was now coming, borne by the priest's anointed hands, to give her freedom and salvation--"

The other characters--her devout father, her dashing but weak-willed husband, her steadfast brother-in-law, her rowdy bunch of sons--are all well-drawn, full, real people. And there is plenty of action--indeed, my only regret over the book is I was often in too great of a haste to find out what happened to stop and savor and understand it. I shall have to read it again sometime. Probably many times.

Many thanks to Semicolon for recommending it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lord, Help Our Crazy Mother

D2 doesn't sleep particularly soundly at the best of times, and this week apparently is not the best of times. He scheduled a dirty diaper for right as I was going to sleep Tuesday evening, and that just got him warmed up for the rest of the night.

So yesterday I was feeling sorely sleep-deprived. It's probably more psychological than physical, the fear of facing the day on little sleep is worse than simply facing the day would be if I had no idea how much I'd slept. But since I cannot erase the memory of how little I slept the night before, there I was, struggling through the day.

At last I collapsed in exhaustion on the children's floor, whimpering slightly. I was next to D1's mattress, which we never get around to putting in a frame because they're having so much fun with it on the floor. D2 came and stood next to me and practiced standing up and sitting down. Then D1 came and sat next to him, and she folded her hands and said, "Let's pray!" So D2 folded his hands, too, and they both muttered some suitable words which I couldn't quite make out.

I'm not sure what they prayed for, but it wasn't that they would sleep better, because last night not only was D2 up just as much (if he had to wake up for something last night, surely he needs to wake up for it at the same time tonight), but D1, who usually sleeps like a log, kept waking up and wanting to go potty, something she never cares about in the night. (And also with little evidence of proper timing.)

Maybe they just prayed I'd have more strength to endure, because I do feel a little better about things this morning.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Making a List

It is the time of year to make a Christmas plan. So I did yesterday, although I used my pretty green weekly calendar book instead of the Sacred Yellow Notepad. (My mother always used a yellow notepad.)

The final plan astonished me with its blankness. We're not doing a Christmas play this year. Not organizing a Christmas party for any group (well, DOB is at work, but that involves me little). No plane tickets (alas) to visit elsewhere, requiring all other activities to be scooched up. So far in our married lives, we've had the Christmas of the Morning Sickness. (Actually I was feeling much better at that point. I only threw up every other day.) Then there was the Christmas of the Sick Baby, when D1 awoke us at 3 a.m. Christmas morning vomiting across the playpen. (That was also the year we drove for hours in a blizzard to make it to the airport.) It was followed last year by the Christmas We Moved, which did have the advantage of the house being clean, but had the disadvantage of being immediately after starting potty training, an activity on which excitement of any sort has a very bad effect.

Of course, we're not guaranteed health or the avoidance of bad weather, but still, what's left seems quite manageable. The ducklings as yet have no Christmas expectations, so they are easy to satisfy. My sister, known online, for good reason, as Wondergirl, is coming out, which means days of dreaming up Grand New Ideas, and with her around, actually getting them done. And maybe, just maybe, this Christmas we can finish potty training. At least, that's my Christmas wish.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Great Yawn

That strange gurgling noise you hear is the Duchy's collective yawn of indifference over the election and its aftermath.

This is not a normal state of things. We have both been running ourselves ragged on the campaign circuit since long before we had drivers' licenses. In fact, I did my practice driving going door-to-door. Even the year my mother died of cancer the day before the election, I spent October evenings at the phone bank. (This was as she wished it. She personally made sure to send in her absentee ballot in plenty of time, just in case.)

After our marriage, although our efforts in total quantity diminished, proportional to time available they continued unabated. I made phone calls when laid low with morning sickness and staffed party headquarters while rocking a baby with one foot. Last year, admittedly, we didn't do much, but then we lived in a one-party county and there wasn't anything to do come November.

This year, there might have been something to do, had we cared. But we could not bring ourselves to vote for any of the national candidates, not even with the House and Senate at stake. We rather hoped the Republicans would lose them, as they do a better job when they've been out of power for awhile.

We did vote, of course. Just because a duty is unpleasant doesn't make it any less a duty. Unpleasant it was, because by the time we made it to the polls the wait was an hour. A good part of the problem must have been the ballots, which have gone from punch card to fill-in-the-blank, and a very large blank it is, too. I haven't scribbled so much since the bar exam. No wonder people took so long.

So it is over. Now we can watch the Democrats to see if they can figure out anything to do for the next two years. It should be entertaining, but it's unlikely to cause much harm. Checks and balances are a beautiful thing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Jiggity Jog

For a November trip, we had astonishingly balmy weather, and although the Prime Leaf-Viewing time was past in the hills of Kentucky and the mountains of West Virginia, there were still plenty of leaves to view, and plenty more to walk through.

Our departure was somewhat delayed by the usual combination of things taking longer than planned and the occasional non-functioning ATM machine. By some, shall we say, enthusiastic driving on DOB's part, and by giving the ducklings most of their lunch in the car (fortunately it was rolls and cheese and cucumbers, and nothing with mustard) we still managed to make it to the Blenko Glass Factory while they were blowing glass.

It was worth the extra drive. The true measure of a successful excursion for small children is whether they are more interested in the object of the expedition than they are in climbing the stairs and flushing the toilets. The ducklings were. They were engrossed in watching the molten blobs of glass be blown, molded, cut and smoothed. We finally had to drag them away because it was closing time and we were getting tired of holding them on the railing without letting them fall in. Taking them through the gift shop, however, was a nerve-racking experience.

We spent the weekend with friends who had a large family of older children (who delighted the ducklings immensely) and a large and friendly dog (who was not quite so well received). We did nothing in particular, and did it very well. We played at the park and had hot dogs and ice cream and I introduced DOB to The Absent-Minded Professor (the old one). On Sunday, we attended a Russian Orthodox service--or at least part of it, because we thought we were lost when we weren't and wound up arriving rather late.

On our way home yesterday, we stopped at the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park. It seemed like it was a quiet little place and we only stopped to eat lunch and poke around a bit, but we wound up spending three hours there. We're fascinated by ancient civilizations, and this one operated in our own back yard. I doubt the ducklings had the faintest idea what it was all about, but we had a hard time persuading them not to climb the mounds.

There are pictures somewhere, and if I ever get through with the mountain of laundry and luggage remaining, I might post some.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Why the Ducklings Get Hungry and Bored

We really don't set out to be weird. We do things the way we like to do them and are happy to let everyone else do things the way they like. Every once in awhile, though, we bump up against more normal people and realize we are aliens.

This weekend I realized that normal people keep their kids well supplied with snacks and drinks. I never remember this. If I'm heading out on a very long expedition, or if DOB is along, I will remember to supply them with water. We have a snack at the kitchen table in the mid-afternoon, to help us survive until supper time. Other than that, I prefer not to think about or mess with food and dishes more than the, oh, five hours a day I must anyway.

As far as I can tell, this regime does not bother the ducklings. But many small children seem to need a constant supply of goldfish crackers and juice to survive. I wonder when they ever have a chance to make the delightful transition from being genuinely hungry to being comfortably full. Of more concern, I wonder how they can learn to distinguish between being hungry and being bored.

Then again, being bored is also a pleasure many small children seem to be denied these days, as they have something to watch at all hours of the day, and in every room or car they might enter. Now, I'm hugely fond--probably too fond--of video-based entertainment forms. But anything that runs all day every day is hardly going to be much fun any more. I would hate for the ducklings, when their brains are old enough to handle videos, to have the fun drained out of movies by never having the chance to anticipate watching them.

So, I'm a mean mommy. At five-fifteen in the afternoon, I am often an overrun-with-hungry-and-bored children mommy. But I stick to my guns, because I like space and time and rhythm in my day: a time to be hungry and a time to be full, a time to work and a time to play, a time to think and a time to be entertained.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Daniel Boone I Am Not

We are planning a little weekend getaway to visit some friends in West Virginia, with a scenic drive along the Kentucky side of the Ohio River. I'm supposed to find a park to stop at for lunch.

I am totally clueless. I keep finding suitable parks and then discovering they would take us in the opposite direction. The humps of the different states don't seem to fit together quite the way I thought they would. Then when I do find a park in the right spot, it looks boring.

The West Coast is so nice. All those lovely big states that fit together at right angles.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The First Joke

It is DOB's custom to read D1 one story before bedtime. This was supposed to be exclusively for her after D2 goes to bed, but sometimes we are running slow on getting D2 to bed. But regardless, the story is definitely for her. She gets to pick it, although sometimes DOB tries to persuade her that something other than Stop That Ball! for the sixth night running might be desirable.

Anyway, the other night she was looking at the bookshelf (and the pile of things in front of the bookshelf that hadn't quite got put away). She reached down amid the rubble and picked up a tube of A&D ointment that had fallen out of the diaper-changing supplies. Grinning mischievously, she said, "You want to read this book?"

Finally she had settled on Stop That Ball! yet again. Seeking for variety, DOB asked, "Shall I read it backwards?"

"You want to read it frontwards."

Friday, October 27, 2006


This is one of their favorite things to do. I don't know why. The toys are, as you can see, a random assortment of old vitamin bottles, film canisters, and useless CDs. You would be surprised how much fun they can be. They serve equally well as dishes for a tea party and soldiers in a war.

I was just enjoying a few quiet moments in which to cook supper while I heard peals of happy laughter from what I thought was their bedroom. After this continued for awhile, I decided I really should see what they were up to. Cautiously creeping to the back of the house, I soon realized they were not in their bedroom. They were in the bath tub, dancing about with the shampoo and soaking their socks.

Grownups live here, too

This is from a night out early this month. In my estimation, it was our first real date, as we'd only gone out to eat dinner alone twice since we met, and both of those were at truck stops, which hardly counts. We had a wonderful evening. Who knows? Maybe we'll start going steady.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

On the Street Where You Used to Live

Last Saturday we traveled back to our old town to help B2 out with his "new" house, which of course is in fact very old and smelly with loathsome carpet, having been formerly occupied by college students, and is going to need oodles and oodles of work. But he's a bachelor and he likes sheetrocking, so more power to him. I cannot fathom how my parents managed an equivalent task with two toddlers. I would not even begin to think of trying.

There really was not anywhere to let the children play, except on the couch, which could only keep them busy for so long. It was the sort of day on which a Hallmark movie script would dictate a visit to the Old Hometown: blue skies, golden leaves, brisk but not chilly breeze. So the ducklings and I left DOB helping with the gutters and went out to our old park, with the duck pond and the castle. A goose tried to attack me while I was putting the children in the car, but I gave it a stout kick across the parking lot and subdued it.

After we tired of the park, we went to our old library, which is a huge and elegant Carnegie building. Since we moved they had added some toys and a rug to play on, and that kept the ducklings quite occupied with something besides pulling books off the shelves. I found all kinds of books I wanted to check out, but couldn't because who knows when I would get around to returning them? So we just went back and had lunch, which involved persuading the guys to actually set up a table, and then hauling everything outside where the ambience was considerably better than in the living room.

As we were driving in to town, DOB said, "Wouldn't it be funny if our old house was for sale again?" We drove by, and sure enough, "For Sale By Owner." Our buyer had also apparently decided to compensate for my perhaps-rash removal of the bushes from the front flower bed by putting in a monstrous urn, which I did not think helped much. But the sweet gum tree was as lovely as it always is in October. I miss that tree and all those prickle-balls it dropped.

After lunch I drove the children down to Grandma's house for naps, past the lake framed with maples and the little farm stands overflowing with pumpkins. I miss those, too. I even miss the everlasting corn fields.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Suffering Little Children

No, the ducklings aren't particularly suffering, except for another round of colds, which, while somewhat nasty in the nose department, seems to be affecting their spirits not a whit.

One would think that having done five children for a day last week, I would find caring for two a walk in the park. One would be wrong. Actually it left me feeling rather tired of the presence of small children for several days.

Sometimes I wonder if something is wrong with me. After all, I used to like being around small children. I even sought out opportunities to be with them. Now, I find myself rather unenchanted by small children in general (excepting the ducklings) and certainly not eager to multiply my opportunities to interact with them.

Well, really, it's just a matter of saturation. When my days consisted of staring at a computer or a book and trying to have Profound Thoughts, naturally a round of "Duck, Duck, Goose" was a nice relief. On the other hand, when my day consists of endless rounds of diapers and Very Hungry Caterpillars, it's the Thinking Profound Thoughts that is a welcome relief. It's not as if I would choose being a preschool teacher out of other career choices; I spend time with my children because they are mine, not because they are children.

Of course, when all the children in the world were equally unrelated, they were roughly equally charming. Now my own so vastly surpass all the rest in my esteem that my feelings toward the rest seem rather indifferent.

That said, why is it that churches so easily fall into assigning the mothers of small children to work in the nursery and preschool Sunday School classes? Yes, they're handy and well-qualified; yes, they're bringing half the class. And yes, they probably volunteered. (I just did. Stupid of me. It should be short-term, though, while the existing teacher is out having a baby.) But wouldn't they perhaps enjoy doing something different for a change? And perhaps some teenagers or empty-nesting mothers would really enjoy spending two hours with babies.

I think I'll ask about working in the library.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Shoe Sales

Before I begin, I should note that we are really quite grateful for the shoe company in question, which does sell excellent shoes. Thanks to them DOB has been able to find dress shoes he can wear without agony, which means his footgear options are not limited to a choice between black and gray tennis shoes.

Still, having to come up with enticing descriptions for dozens of only very slightly different shoes must be a taxing job. Hence, let the mocking commence.

Perfect for moving from bustling downtown venues to side streets and out-of-the-way bistros. However, if you want to move from "elegant seaside villas to countryside hamlets," you'll need the shoes on the opposite page.

As you observe this handsewn calfskin slip-on, you're quick to realize that Spain's reputation for brilliance, theatrics and intensity of life seems well deserved. Once you put them on, though, you will be disillusioned.

It's not unusual to come across a Spanish fiesta and get swept up in the exuberant celebration. Well then, why has it never happened to me?

Italian craftsmen have created a handsewn dress loafer that is truly inspired. So if you catch your shoes writing sonnets, you'll know why.

Wear the premium leather casual that begs you to test the elements, rain or shine. Like dogs, only they don't bark or mess up the carpet.

Europeans would say this woven calfskin slip-on bespeaks an elevated level of sophisticated nonchalance. We would refer to it as "confidence." Because, um, we don't know what all those long words mean?

There's a quiet magnificence in our soft, supple deerskin slip-on that you'd be hard-pressed to find in a shoe of lesser caliber. Our shoes are better than shoes that are worse! Who would have thought?

There's something of the traditional country gentleman in this soft leather scuff slipper. Poor fellow.

Nobody in the Duchy seems to have much of a gift for marketing. I fear we will never strike it rich in business.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Yes. We survived. Three potty accidents resulting in two extra loads of laundry (after I had carefully arranged it so I would NOT have to do laundry). Four dirty diapers. One falling off a chair. Assorted emotional trauma. Unwittingly swapped sippy cups. Parents two hours later than initially forecast. But no one got sick or suffered any permanent emotional or physical scars, so it was a success. And none of the accidents were on the couch.

Most of the activities on the list below were well-received. The craft was fun; not only are open-ended art projects more nurturing of creativity, they're a whole lot less work than the kind that have an actual goal. The Bible story was heard by at least some, and everyone loved making their slings go 'round and 'round. (Indeed, one little girl wanted to do nothing but listen to me sing for most of the time. I got rather hoarse.) Jumping on the carpet squares was also very popular, even though only one of the children could technically jump.

The most popular activity, of course, was one of which I never would have thought and probably would have rendered impossible had I had the foresight to predict it. It was climbing in and out of D2's play yard (dubbed the "OK Corrall"), and driving it all around the living room. So much for the instructions that say it is suitable for children from 6 to 42 months. (Or perhaps they just leave open the question, "Suitable for what?" It certainly kept them entertained, even if not contained.

In conclusion, I would like to remark that I have now put "opening a home daycare" somewhere on my list of desired professions below "providing janitorial service for junior high bathrooms." And I fully intend to take advantage of the two evenings' worth of free babysitting I've been promised in return.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Tomorrow morning, I am taking care of five children for at least four hours. The oldest is three. There was going to be someone to help me out, but I think I'm on my own now. Two of them, of course, are the ducklings. Two others are the pastor's children, with whom we play quite often. The fifth is the child of visiting missionaries, who when I saw her in the nursery on Sunday looked like she had had about enough of strange places and people. Rain is in the forecast. We do not own a video player. Three girls in the 2-3 range and two boys in the 10-13 month range, neither of whom is walking so even going to the basement or attic would be unreasonably difficult.

Now, I'm generally all for children learning to find their own activities. But experience has taught that having a plan--a long, long plan--is essential when dealing with a crowd. So here is my list of Things To Do:

Bible Story (David and Goliath is where we are, that should work)
Collage for the girls (old wrapping paper and glue to do with as they wish); ripping paper for the boys or putting things in and out of containers, which children of that age find incredibly absorbing
Snack: apples and cheese
Playing swamp with carpet squares (as much running and jumping around as possible)
Reading books
Stringing beads for the girls; matchbox cars for the boys
Lunch (should be sent with them)
And then . . . . I hope their parents will return. And we can all take naps.

Fortunately tonight's menu is pizza. If all goes well, I'll make it myself. If not . . . we have some welcome-to-the-neighborhood coupons to use up.

I suppose this would all be old hat for someone who did daycare or something, but it seems mind-boggling to me. Wish me well.

This and That

Posting was rather light last week because I was working very hard to get the house cleaned and organized (well, more or less) before the long-anticipated arrival of friends to spend the night with us. Much got done. It's been three months now since we moved in and things really feel like home. I don't think I'll fully relax until we pass the six-month mark without any impetus to move.

The weather is bouncing around from warm to cold to warm again, so we seize whatever chances we can to enjoy the last fragments of Indian summer. I don't regret all the days we ignored the dishes to go spend time at the park; we've had many good days together, the ducklings have grown amazingly in coordination and observation, and the dishes did get done eventually. (Well, except for the skillet full of eggs I burned this morning.)

I'm not too inspired to do more household organizing for awhile now, though. What I want to do is work on Library Thing. The books already listed are ones I could see from the computer. Someday I shall get around to the ones that involve actual work to enter. Besides being enormously fun, it has two practical applications that I immediately see: (1) Making it easier for my book-buying sisters to determine whether we already have something; (2) Doing a topic search of our own shelves when we want to study something in particular. Sometimes it's too easy to go get books from the library when actually we have perfectly good books here; it's just that the library is more searchable.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On the move

After a few tentative steps last month, D2 seems to have given up on the idea of walking. Walking, in his view, is an activity of limited usefulness. As far as you go, and as steady as you walk, you still remain on the same level. If we could teach him flying, he would be all for it.

In the absence of flight lessons, he'll settle for learning to climb. In this he needs no encouragement. One carelessly abandoned toolbox and he is on his way up. Monday he was climbing on and off the piano bench, although he tended to get stuck and howl in protest on his way down. Yesterday he figured out the dining room chairs, without even needing a prop to get started. He's not awake yet today, but I shudder to see what it is today. The table top remains unconquered, but not, we are sure, for long.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Twenty-five Ways I Save Money

This idea is borrowed from Meredith. However, I have to come up with all the ideas myself. I'm not sure I can make it to twenty-five, but I'll try.

1. Mothers of Twins Sales. It's like hitting twenty kid stuff garage sales on the same day. The prices might be a weensy bit higher than you'd get on the street, but still better than a thrift store or resale shop. And the time saved hunting around is definitely worth it for me. I can go to the spring sale and the fall sale and get everything I need for the kids at once. Today's find was a large play yard for $15.

2. Procrastination. If one puts off until tomorrow what one could have bought today, one may discover that one can keep muddling along without it a bit longer. Or perhaps even ever.

3. Library movies. The selection in our library system is awesome. DOB just checks at work as to which of the branches on his route home might have something we want to see, and we can watch anything for free. Just have to watch those late fees.

4. Cooking everything from scratch. I would do this anyway, for health and allergy reasons, but I presume it saves money. I don't know for sure because I've never tried doing anything else and I'm too lazy to calculate the difference just for the sake of knowing.

5. Cloth diapers (and training pants) at home. I'm still using the same diapers and covers on D2 that I bought for D1; I only have to buy a package of the store-brand diapers for outings every few months.

6. Hanging laundry up to dry. Actually I hadn't done this much until last week, because I needed the full allotment of training pants to get through the next day. But some long-awaited progress by D1 at a certain necessary life skill has made it possible for me to hang up the diapers and let them dry twenty-four hours.

7. Making baby food. I'm too paranoid about allergies to serve table food to babies under one. So my blender and I are very good friends; I usually puree a big batch and freeze it in ice cube trays. And that celebratory whoop you heard last week was D2 progressing to table food.

8. Aldi's. It was a great day when DOB discovered there was one near his work and offered to go there every other week. We're still working out the bugs in our system, but each of us now only has to go shopping every other week; I get the stuff not available at Aldi's on the opposite weeks.

9. Reserve meals. Canned beans, cheese, salsa and tortilla chips is not the healthiest or cheapest meal. But it's a lot cheaper and healthier than ordering pizza on a day of desperation. So I try to keep it in stock.

10. Laziness. I hate shopping. I don't do it unless I absolutely have to.

11. Being nice to DOB's family. We save incalculable amounts in handyman work and babysitting thanks to their help.

12. Being low maintenance. I still haven't needed to replenish my makeup supply since we got married.

13. Trash for toys. You know how people complain their children ignore the expensive toys and play with the boxes? We just give our kids the boxes. You wouldn't believe how much fun a Kleenex box (or rather the Aldi's brand of tissues) can provide.

14. Moving closer to work. This saves an amazing amount on gas, insurance, and DOB's psychiatric bills.

15. Sunrocket. This is DOB's department, but he researched it incessantly so it must save us money over the other phone/internet options.

16. Waiting to call the doctor. Unless a child is behaving seriously ill (which hasn't happened so far), I wait at least three days to call the doctor. By that time, they're well.

17. Family discount at the chiropractor. We go every week; we pay a flat fee for the month. We think this is why the kids are always better in three days.

18. Beans. They're cheap. They're healthy. They're a lot more filling if you combine them with a little meat.

19. No tv or cable. We do have cable internet service, though.

20. Drinking water. It's cheap; it's healthy. It tastes good. If you never give your children juice, they'll never ask for it.

21. Library book sales. These don't really save money. But they're certainly cheaper than buying the books new.

22. Buy packs of blank cards and make up my own appropriate for the occasion. This is fun and more special than something off the rack. D1 likes to help.

23. Packing meals. DOB carries his lunch and breakfast every day. When we go out to some (free) event, I fix a meal we can take along. On vacation in a hotel for two days, I cooked in a crockpot.

24. Pain Free. DOB is skeptical that this saves us money. But it saves us a lot in pain and suffering, and I think that makes us more efficient. If we would take pain killers, it would save us on pain killers, but we prefer suffering.

25. Have cheap friends. That way you can do cheap things together.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Do not bother to ask,
“Is it naptime?”
“Did I wake you up?”
Because if it was (and it was),
And you did (and you did),
Then it is too late.
I am awake;
They are awake;
You might as well get it over with.
What did you want to say?

Do not ring the bell.
Leave the box on the porch.
I will see it, someday.
If I am not too tired to walk so far.
But whatever you do,
Do not ring the bell.

There is no rest, they say,
to the wicked.
The Beloved of God receive sleep.
I am, no doubt, of a deceitful
And wicked heart.
But is it really that bad?
Couldn’t I merit a thirty-minute nap, at least?

Are there not sixteen hours in the day
In which you could get drinks of water
And fill your diaper
And claim parental reassurance?
Must you need it now?
At three in the morning?

Do not drive your car by my house
With its subwoofers and bass boost
I am sure it is impressive
I wish you all the best.
May you impress that girl.
May you have a large and noisy family,
Who keep you up all night.

Excess of sleep, the wise man says,
Leads to poverty.
If that is true, I ought to be rich.
Very rich.
Rich enough to afford voice mail
And a butler
And a nanny
And a sound-proof room.

Rich enough to sleep.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My life clearly has been dull

Or maybe I just have a different definition of adventures. Stolen from C.
Bold is what I've done.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath
08. Said “I love you’ and meant it
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game (and survived the crush afterwards)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby’s diaper (Yeah. Duh.)
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Gotten tipsy on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment (I don't remember exactly when, but I'm sure it's happened.)
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can

32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run (Probably doesn't count if it was a two-person Calvin game.)
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was drunk
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign (I did have one of questionable origins in my closet for awhile, but it wasn't mine.)
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland
52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your CDs (I cannot even IMAGINE.)
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day (not voluntarily, to be sure)
60. *edited* (Sure, I edit things all the time. Oh wait, that's not what was originally there?)
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain

65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites (If Roman ruins in London count.)
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an “expert” (I have been on radio, though.)
83. Got flowers for no reason (You mean from someone else? Or bought them for myself? Or bought them for someone else? Too many possibilities.)
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. *edited*
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror
96. Raised children (Just not very far. See above on diapers.)
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived
105. Wrote articles for a large publication (if a newspaper in a good-sized city counts)
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone’s heart (Not that I know of, but I left a few bloody noses behind me.)
111. Helped an animal give birth (after the fact, anyway.)
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced (not for cosmetic reasons, anyway)
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse

119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
26. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school

131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad (I'm only halfway through.)
135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (if a fish counts)
137. Skipped all your school reunions
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office (unless you count being a delegate at a county or state convention.)
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146. Dyed your hair
147. Been a DJ

148. Shaved your head
149. Caused a car accident (Fortunately it doesn't ask how many you've almost caused.)
150. Saved someone’s life (Well, as a mother of toddlers, that's sort of my everyday job. But I don't know if that counts either.)

Sick in style

While you're busy discovering your children's love language, and learning style, and personality type, don't forget to categorize your child's sickness style.

DOB is a Sleeper. Give him a good strong sampling of virus (he doesn't get sick over little things), and he will go to bed for twenty-four hours. Ask him how he is and he will moan faintly. This scared me for the first few times it happened after we were married, but now I know to just keep his water bottle filled and the children at bay and he will be perfectly fine tomorrow.

I'm a Martyr. I can pick up little bugs, too, but no matter how small or large the illness I insist on dragging myself through the daily routine, sniveling all the way. I am never completely out of commission, but the sickness drags on and on.

After observing the rounds of sickness since we moved in (moving always seems to mess up our immune systems), I have concluded that D1 is another Sleeper. When she had roseola, she barely dragged herself out of bed for a drink of water and a couple of bites of vitamins. Two days of that, and she was fine again.

D2, alas, is a Martyr. His fevers come and go, and he wants to do everything just like normal, except with considerable beefing up of the Attention and Nursing portions of the day. Also like me, he doesn't sleep well when he's sick.

The really unfair part is that in general illnesses we Martyrs will always be stuck taking care of things while the Sleepers sleep. No wonder we're so cranky.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Some Vignettes

QOC (watching in anguish as DOB's queen collides with her rook): I never see the most obvious things!

(DOB snatches the last tender fragment of peanut butter-oatmeal-chocolate chip cookie out of her hand.)

QOC: Hey, that's my cookie!

DOB: See, you don't always miss the most obvious things!

If only I cared about my chess game the way I care about my cookies.

Yesterday morning I was bristling with efficiency. I started rice for supper and cookie dough. I had breakfast all fixed. I actually went and woke the ducklings up, instead of waiting until they wailed in protest. This, I thought smugly, is the result of finally being caught up and having things ready the night before.

And then DOB, rushing to get out the door, asked, "Aren't you going to iron my clothes this morning?"

I should know by now: For me, being ahead is always the result of completely forgetting something essential.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Birthday Boy

I'd like to say something profound about D2's birthday, but I'll stop with saying that I'm very thankful for the year we might not have had. He enjoyed himself thoroughly on his birthday, showed due appreciation for each of his gifts, and considerable relish for the apple crisp we offered in lieu of birthday cake, as I'm cruelly strict about sweets for children not yet potty training.

In preparation for the great event, we actually put most of our pictures up on the wall. Here is D1, enjoying their wrappings.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Even more miscellaneous than usual

We finally got the books on the shelves! They're not on the right shelves, and this is somewhat distressing, but they are there. They are, moreover, no longer in the middle of the living room, for D2 to climb up and fall off of and bonk his head. He has a lovely shiner left from the last stack, though.

After watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers this past week, I would like to express my fervent gratitude for my in-laws, and my hopes for their long and healthy lives. I am grateful that I don't have to superintend marrying off all of DOB's brothers in order to get out of doing their laundry. (Actually, they're pretty good at doing laundry themselves. They even fold mine sometimes.)

After watching various other movies, most recently Batman Begins (which was really quite fascinating, much to my surprise), I'm musing over how the ideal of the knight, the Western gunslinger, and the superhero are all at heart essentially the same: a man (usually) who carries the law within him in a world where the structure of law is absent or inadequate. Apparently it's an image with staying power. What I wonder is, is it an essentially Western ideal? Or are there parallels in other countries?

One thing I don't get about Cincinnati is the weird stuff in the chili--cinnamon? Noodles? Another thing I don't get is corn hole. Corn hole is a game without which no church potluck, family reunion, county fair, or beer garden is complete. For those of you outside of Cincinnati, it involves throwing small stuffed bags at a hole in a wooden target some distance away. That's right, it's a game of beanbag toss. Now, I have no objections to beanbag toss as a game, and the ducklings adore playing with the equipment (although they don't stand at the proper regulation distance from the hole). But I don't understand the obsession. It's a kid's game, people!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Food for thought

A visiting friend from Taiwan was, I heard, astonished to watch D1 coolly feeding herself with a decent mastery of table utensils. Apparently, chopsticks being a complex skill at the developmental level of good handwriting, Asian mothers customarily administer each bite for their children until they are nearly school age. No wonder they have such small families.

Not that D1 uses table utensils all that much anymore. You see, long ago, when she was one and D2 was as yet not in need of table food, she was eager to learn to wield a spoon just like the big people. Now D2 is eager to feed himself, too. But he does not look at a bowl and a spoon and think, "Aha! A way to be like grownups!" No, he looks at them and thinks, "Food! And then, things to throw on the floor!"

So now with D2 happily eating with his fingers, she has another option of someone to imitate. And she finds his method quite efficient, except for, say, tomato soup (this week we caught her spooning that onto her sandwich, announcing that she was making pizza).

Well, anyway they do it, it's going to be messy. But I cannot bring myself to sit still long enough to fill one bottomless pit, let alone two. They have the interest and motivation to feed themselves; I say, let them do it. It's still faster to wipe up later.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

So many things

There was once an old sailor my grandfather knew
Who had so many things which he wanted to do
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
He couldn't because of the state he was in.

~A. A. Milne

I have all kinds of blog posts I want to write. I have a pile of half-read, fascinating library books and I find more books I want to read every time I open another box. I really want to finish putting things away and get the house decorated for fall (if we can ever get around to getting our fall decorations out of DOB's parents' attic) and ready for company. I have all kinds of new ideas for Cool Things to do with the Ducklings (on top of our mandatory two hours at the park). I have a cold and should probably take a nap.

What I will probably do with the rest of the day is go grocery shopping, cook supper, and do dishes. I will end late at night without having the dishes entirely done. I will neglect something normally essential to do something else I'm just dying to do, but will not get very far on that, either.

Those people who say you have time to do the things that are really important to you? They must not have much imagination.

So he thought of his hut ... and he thought of his boat,
And his hat and his breeks, and his chickens and goat,
And the hooks (for his food) and the spring (for his thirst) ...
But he never could think which he ought to do first.

And so in the end he did nothing at all,
But basked on the shingle wrapped up in a shawl.
And I think it was dreadful the way he behaved -
He did nothing but bask until he was saved!

The rest here.