Friday, March 31, 2006

Parental Posting

There's been a discussion over here on whether one is a "Yes" parent or a "No" parent. I'm afraid I'm a "stare off into space contemplating the long-term ramifications of that while you continue asking until you're blue in the face because you can't even tell I've heard you" parent. But I am trying to do better, and at least give notice that they're on hold.

You know how the Sandman comes in the evenings and sprinkles sand in the eyes of the children? In the morning his brother the Glueman comes and sticks glue on the eyelids of the grownups.

D1 has learned to say "Jesus" in the past couple of weeks. She pulls out her Bible and asks for "Bible koree Dee-sus?" She claps her hands and asks to sing, "Dee-SUS?" (loves the little children). This is all almost too precious to bear.

On the topic of "Jesus Loves the Little Children," I am not much of a fan of Sunday School songs. When I taught 4 &5s and 1&2nd graders, I tried various experiments with metrical psalms and other weightier matters. But there's no mistaking the way her eyes light up when we sing something simple and clappable. So we do it when we're having a special Bible story time for her, and I sing the other songs at other times. I try to do Scripture songs when I can, and at least make sure the song, however simple, is doctrinally correct. ("Jesus Loves the Little Children" seems OK unless you believe in limited atonement--which I don't think I do.)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Performance Review

Mama and Papa,

You've been working as my parents for six months now, and I think it's time we sat down and looked at how things are going. On the whole, I think you're doing a good job, and I'll be pleased to keep you on in the current position for the indefinite future.

Some areas in which you are doing well:

The food. I really appreciate this new "food in a bowl" concept. The milk is great, but creativity is much appreciated. Keep it coming.

The entertainment. Giving me an older sister was a stroke of genius. She's always doing something worth watching, and bringing me fun things to play with. I love these headbands she keeps leaving on the floor! Great for chewing. Plus, you guys can be pretty hilarious, too.

Here are some areas I'd like to see some improvement:

Response time. I know you're busy, but when I'm having problems, I need help now! You need to remember what your top priority is.

Diaper changes. We really need to see some more consistency and frequency here.

Naps. You need to remember that just because you need a nap, doesn't mean I need a nap.

Once again, I really appreciate all you're doing here. Keep up the good work!


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Many, many questions

I stole this from The Common Room. As for tagging, go ahead and do it. You know you want to.

1. How many hours a day do you spend reading?
Books, as opposed to internet--probably not more than half an hour, if I'm lucky. And that's in very small snatches. (The internet requires much less concentration and stays open while I try to persuade D2 that he really does want to finish eating. So I'm afraid it gets too much of an edge these days.)
2. How fast do you read?
Very fast, but more slowly than my younger sister. Right now I spend most of my time finding my place, since I can never seem to keep track of a bookmark.
3. What is your favorite book?
Ha, ha, what a silly question.
4. Who is your favorite author?
G. K. Chesterton
5. What is your favorite action/adventure novel?
The Scarlet Pimpernel slightly edges out The Prisoner of Zenda because I adore it when a married couple gets more happily married, and abhor the chaste-adulterous-love sort of plot. But for action and adventure, they are about equal.
6. What is your favorite mystery novel?
For a novel length mystery, I'm sure it's one of the Lord Peters, but I have no idea which one. For short stories, of course it would be Father Brown.
7. What is your favorite romance novel?
Pride and Prejudice
8. What is your favorite character novel?
I think this means a novel centered on character development rather than plot. But I'm still not sure which qualify, as I generally avoid books without character development, and have certianly never read one without a plot.
9. What is your favorite fantasy/sci-fi novel?
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien.
10. What is your favorite history book?
The Everlasting Man, by Chesterton, to the extent anything Chesterton writes can count as history. He's not much on dates and things.
11. What is your favorite biography?
Witness by Whittaker Chambers.
12. What is your favorite other non-fiction book?
Another silly question.
13. What is your favorite play?
In the Shakespeare category, Much Ado About Nothing. In the Non-Shakespeare category, Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand.
14. What is your favorite of the genres mentioned in questions 5-12?
I like a book that has some of everything, with lots of philosophizing mixed in.
15. What is your favorite type of character?
Witty, cool-headed, principled.
16. If you could host a party with 7 literary characters, who would they be and why?
Father Brown and George MacDonald's Wise Woman to say profound things. Lord Peter Wimsey and Elizabeth Bennet to say witty things. Mr. Pickwick and Laura Ingalls' Grandmother to be jolly and lively and admire the brilliance of everyone else. I presume this is envisioning an eight-person dinner party, but since I would never give the party without DOB, my seventh person would be Jeeves, to serve the dinner and salvage my kitchen catastrophes.
17. Do you like film adaptations of books? If so, which is your favorite? Which is your least?
They're an irresistible source of pain. My favorite is the A&E Pride and Prejudice. As for least--perhaps those old Shirley Temple vehicles? Except I'm not sure they count as adaptations since they don't borrow anything but the book name.
18. Who is your literary role model?
Sam Gamgee. I admire loyalty and cheerfulness under difficult circumstances.
19. Which literary house would you like most to live in?
Pemberley, of course. If it came with the servants to clean it.
20. Which literary couple would you like most for parents?
Actually my real, live parents strongly resembled the Bennets in personality, though not in principles or intellect.
21. Pick 3 literary characters you would like to have as siblings.
Tom Sawyer to play with; Judah Ben-Hur to do in anyone who withstood us; and Anne Elliott from Persuasion to nobly labor away, carrying out all our grand plans.
22. Who is your favorite literary villain?
Madame Defarge. Click, click, click.
23. Name a character that most people dislike, but that you do not. Why do you like them?
I rather fancy Aunt March, probably because I got cast as her once.
24. Which minor character deserves a book all to themselves, in your opinion?
I wish Tolkien had turned Beren and Luthien into a novel, though perhaps that is not an appropriate answer for this question.
25. Which character do you identify most with in literature?
Anne Shirley and I seem to have grown up together.
26. If you could go into a novel, which one would it be and why?
I should like to go past The Phantom Tollbooth into the Lands Beyond.
27. Do you prefer hardback or paperback?
I don't really care.
28. Do you like dustcovers?
Bother, no. They always get messed up. Especially if a Certain Child has not been sufficiently informed that pouring water on the coffee table is an unacceptable form of experimentation.
29. Do you like introductions, forwards, afterwards, and appendices?
Not really. I tend to dodge them.
30. Do you like reading literary criticism?
Not really. I want to savor a book, not dissect it. Though I certainly try to spit out the bones.
31. Do you like new or used books? What about ex-library?
All of the above.
32. Are you likely to buy new books without having read them, or would you buy a used copy (or check it out from the library) to see if it is good or not?
Unprompted, I never buy a book new. Unprompted, I hardly ever buy anything new but groceries, and even that pains me. Not that used groceries are an option.
33. Name 3 - 7 books that you rarely see on people's favorite book lists, that are high on your own.
The Napoleon of Notting Hill, by G. K. Chesterton
The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster
The Taming of the Shrew, by William Shakespeare
The Lost Princess, by George MacDonald
34. Which is your least favorite book of those that are considered "classics"?
Moby Dick, although I keep thinking I should give it another try.
35. Do you like books read aloud, or do you prefer silent reading?
36. When you read, do you see things in your mind like a movie, or just in vague pictures?
Like a movie, to the extent that I had lengthy arguments with DOB between his seeing The Two Towers and The Return of the King because the division is different in the books and I was sure we had watched certain scenes.
37. Do you like to read in silence, or with backround noise/music?
It really doesn't matter. I don't hear it. If it's an interesting book, not even if it's "Maamaa!" which is why I don't read much these days.
38. Can you read in the car without getting carsick?
Hardly ever. As I have to relearn every six months or so.
39. Do you go to booksales?
How could I stay away?
40. Name one literary quirk of yours.
I cannot, cannot, cannot write in books. Unless I really hate the book, and own it, which is an odd combination limited to textbooks. I don't care if Mortimer Adler says you must, I can't!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Sweet Potatoes, Round 2

The day has come. When I can't go two hours without eating, it is time to acknowledge that baby cannot live by milk alone.

So today I cooked up a big pot of sweet potatoes. (And did NOT burn it, so my skills have improved somewhat in the past fifteen months. Or maybe I just got lucky.)

I fed D2. I gave myself and D1 a snack. I set D2 up in the high chair, dudded him up with a bib, and commenced.

Immediately D1, ignoring the crumbs of biscuit and jam on her table, requested some for herself, "Pay-toh, Pay-toh?" I had not foreseen this, although I should have. So I dished her up a bowl.

Meanwhile I was poking one tiny morsel at a time in the direction of D2's mouth. He choked and gagged, but with an air of intense interest. So I soldiered on, even though occasionally he threw up even his earlier meal.

In the middle of all this, D1 decided she needed to go potty. This means taking the bib off, helping her down with her pants, and if her pants are dry we customarily celebrate by reading a book. Then of course the process must be reversed, hands washed, etc., when she is done. In the interests of not allowing D2 to choke and vomit unsupervised, I told her we would be skipping the book for the time being and dashed back and forth between dining room and bathroom.

Notwithstanding, she decided, after she was all done and back at the table, that she needed to go again. And again. And again.

Meanwhile D2 stuck out his tongue and gagged and spit up sweet potato.

Two of these runs were successful, one so highly successful that it warranted a cookie. Somewhere in this she had abandoned the bowl of sweet potato and carried off the stool she sits on to eat. So I instructed her to bring it back so she could sit down and eat the cookie.

She set the stool down in her bowl of sweet potatoes.

Then she needed to go again. And again. And again.

I finally decided D2 had had enough of trying sweet potato, so I got him down.

By that time we were all hungrier than we were when we started. I thought this was hard last time.

Someday, we will all sit down to dinner and everyone will serve themselves portions that they actually eat. None of it will wind up on the floor. The children will wield their utensils expertly, converse on enlightening topics, and deal with extraneous bodily needs discretely. At the end, they will utter those words a mother so longs to hear, "Oh, don't worry about the dishes; we'll take care of them."

That will be in 2025. Until then, I've got some sweet potato to scrape off the stove.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Grocery gripe

I'm not a total health food snob. We do eat lots of whole grains and fresh vegetables, but I do not blanch at the thought of sugar in my ice cream. I can handle the news that chocolate candy generally contains sugar.

But why on earth does anyone put sugar in tomato sauce? Or stranger still, refried beans? What sort of thought process is going on here? It's like deciding to jazz up ice cream with a little cayenne pepper. (And tastes about as good.)

I try to read labels but conditions for it are rarely ideal. And I still haven't found good substitutes for my pre-moving favorite brands.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The state of things today

One thing I really didn't realize about babies and toddlers is how constant the state of change is. If they're not teething, trying out a new skill, or discovering a new activity that you hadn't yet thought of forbidding, then . . . they're asleep. For a few minutes.

D1 is speaking in nearly-complete sentences now, and she loves to rehearse them over and over. "Mama under cave . . . baby under cave . . . bear under cave . . . D1 under cave . . . D2 under cave." She tries to recite things, like "Pattycake," and to change her baby's diaper. (I'm slowly overcoming my dislike of dolls.) She has a firmer grasp on household routines than I do.

No sooner had D2 figured out rolling in both directions than he started being frustrated by his inability to crawl. I try to reassure him that he will get it eventually and that some things he has to work out for himself, but it still bothers him. He's starting to make little speeches of his own, "Awwattapootta," in addition to the ever-popular raspberries.

I'm just trying to get the piles of boxes cleaned out of the way before he gets to them.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Words of Wisdom

One reason a future career as an expert on child-rearing is extremely unlikely for me is that any advice I can come up with is such that even I would not need in a moment of sanity:

Never give a toddler your car keys to put away.

I was tired and distracted when we got home on Wednesday, and in a weak moment, I handed the keys to D1 and said, "Put them away."

Now, she does know where keys go. She is often permitted to put them in and take them out of the appropriate drawer, and it is the highlight of her day to get out the mail keys and go get the mail with Papa. (DOB is not greeted with cries of "Papa!" but cries of "Mail!")

Anyway, I was sitting on the couch and could not see the path she would take to put the keys away. I promptly forgot about it until the next morning, when we all had our jackets on and I was filled with plans for a trip that would involve not just the grocery store but a long-awaited excursion to the children's resale shop to get rid of things that had been knocking about in the back of the wagon for two months.

When I first realized their absence, I couldn't for the life of me remember what I had done. Then, with a sinking feeling, I did. We (DOB's two youngest brothers are spending a few days with us) scoured the vicinity, searching in all the other desk drawers. No keys.

We asked D1, "Where are Mama's keys?"

To which she gave the unenlightening, if impressively verbal, response, "Mama's keys all gone!"

The wastebasket sits in a dangerously close proximity to the desk, and D1 is fond of taking things in and out. Unfortunately, we had just emptied the garbages and taken the bag out to the car to drop off at the dumpster on our way out. One of the boys brought the bag back in and I searched through it. No keys.

I called DOB. He had no other ideas as to favorite hiding places. I pointed out that someone would have to stay behind if we didn't find the keys, in order to let us back into the building. Whether it was this or merely the thrill of the chase, the boys redoubled their efforts and at last turned up the missing keys: in the bookcase drawer with the movies.

Well, it was a drawer.

Now I just hope I can remember this hard-won lesson.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Grand Day Out

Today I tried taking D1 to a story time for one year olds at the library. This was more for my social benefit than for hers. She naturally was more interested in the giant balls than in the other kids, except when she or the ball collided with one. This is the age for Parallel Play, or so the books say.

It's easy to differentiate the only children from the children with older siblings, even before the mothers mention the one they have to pick up at preschool. The only children are the ones in adorable, perfectly-coordinated ensembles. The younger children are wearing slightly rumpled knit play clothes. (D1 was not quite coordinated, because she keeps outgrowing all her shoes.)

I'm not sure I'm cut out for this Toddler business. I can manage "This Little Piggy" and even "The Wheels on the Bus" in the privacy of my own home, but I feel like a fool marching around and singing in mixed company. On the plus side, I learned some family-friendly lyrics to "What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor?"

On the whole, it was a fun outing. We shall have to try it again. And maybe I will get so far as exchanging names, and not just ages of children, with some of the other moms.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Signed, Sealed & Delivered

D2 is napping. D1 went with DOB to the credit union. Even the Guys Upstairs apparently have no housekeeping to do and no games to watch. (Well, of course not, they are napping after staying up all night, practicing the guitar.) The house is silent.

I don't know what to do with myself. So I shall blog.

DOB is going to the credit union to deposit a check received yesterday after signing several hundred pieces of paper. ("And this one is the certification that you've read and understood the Foreclosure Disclosure Enclosure, which is this 35-page stack of paper I have under the desk here.")

We were running late yesterday, as usual, and when we stopped by the house to check things one last time we discovered that the refrigerator had not been cleaned. The refrigerator is my housekeeping Nemesis. Goopy things go in there. Lids come loose mysteriously. Vegetables bought with noble plans get lost behind the peanut butter jar. One has to bend over, fight off D1, and waste large quantities of energy to clean it. Right after D2's birth, cleaning it wasn't even on my least favorite things to do list.

So we took out 15 minutes and the roll of paper towels thoughtfully left for us and tried to scrape off the unidentified goo. We didn't actually get it clean, but we got it to the point where it looked like we had just forgotten to clean it.

And now the buyer (our realtor's ex, which strikes us as unspeakably odd) has signed the papers and she's stuck with it. If the furnace breaks again, it's her worry. If the tub starts backing up, not our problem. All the headaches are hers now.

I miss our house.

Friday, March 10, 2006

This must be my lucky day!

This morning D2 was being suspiciously quiet. I checked on him. He was rolled on his side, contentedly examining chair legs, with a large, spreading stain on his backside.

I whisked him up to take him to the changing pad and discovered a very good reason for the blowout--his diaper was not attached. I don't know how that happened.

So I took the stained pajamas into the laundry and added them to the next load. I grabbed my trusty bottle of stain remover and started spraying them. It didn't seem to be doing much good, and it smelled kind of funny, but I figured I'd give them time to work and started switching the loads around.

My eye happened to fall on the bottle I'd placed on the freezer. It was a bottle of windshield rain repellent. Risking death from chemical mixtures, I promptly sprayed them with the right bottle. (They came through fairly clean and not particularly waterproof.)

DOB called a little earlier to say the reason his lunch bag was so light this morning was that I had forgotten to put lunch in it.

I'm glad I don't have to drive anywhere today.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Just another pretty face

I have often noted that one can easily identify the decade in which a fantasy or historical movie was made simply by looking at the heroine. Fashions in beauty change over time; while none of the heroines look downright ugly, the girls from an 80s or 60s movie would definitely not be cast as the most beautiful woman in the world today. (The 20s are perhaps the worst of all; whereas the stars from the 40s movies still look incredible.)

Sometimes it seems to be a bit more consciously done: I have always thought that in the Pride & Prejudice miniseries, while Elizabeth is far more appealing to modern eyes, one can see that Jane might well better fit the image of beauty of the neoclassical era.

Anyway, I have always reflected with some comfort that the only thing that keeps me (or any other reasonably decent-looking young woman) from being dazzlingly beautiful is being born in the wrong era. And perhaps a good makeup artist.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Not according to Hoyle

We've invented a new card game, for those who love mental math. Or who have calculators handy.

We call it Pemberley, because it's our card game and we can call it what we want to. It's for two or more players--we're not sure how many more, because we haven't tried it with more than three.

The objective is to win.

One wins by scoring the most points.

One scores points by getting the cumulative total of cards played so far to land on certain selected numbers.

If you're still reading, here are the rules:

Dealer deals seven cards to each player. Player to right of dealer cuts the deck, and dealer turns over the exposed card. This card is the starter.

Cards are treated as numbers 1-13, Kings being 13, naturally. Each suit is assigned an operation, as follows:


The players set down cards alternately (keeping their piles separate), calculating the new total based on applying the operation and number indicated by the card last played. That sounds confusing, but it's quite simple, as you'll see when I get to a sample round.

All totals must be whole numbers, and they cannot be greater than 500 or less than -500.

Points are granted as follows:

  • Landing on 1 is worth 1 point the first time, then 1 more point every time it is reached in the game.
  • Landing on 12 or a multiple of 12 is worth 1 point.
  • Landing on a prime number is worth 1 point. (List of primes.)
  • Landing on 0 is worth 2 points
  • Landing on 7 or a multiple of 7 is worth 2 points.
  • Landing on 13 or a multiple of 13 is worth 3 points.

Because points are acquired as play proceeds, it's easiest to use a cribbage board to keep score. If you don't have one, perhaps hash marks would work.

Any cards that cannot be played will deduct one point from the player's final score.

Once all cards have been played, the players gather up their own cards and arrange them in sets which, again working off the starter card, make numbers that score points. Any card that cannot be used in one of these sets is another card to deduct from the final score. These points are to be added to the ones scored in the first part of the game, extra cards are then subtracted, and the winner is the one with the most points.

OK, here's a sample game to make it clearer: ♥=Add ♠=Subtract ♦=Multiply ♣=Divide

Starter card is 3♣ (Disregard the suit on the starter card), so starting value is 3.

P1: Q♦, 3*12 is 36. Divisible by 12, 1 point.
P2: Q♥ 36+12 is 48. Divisible by 12, 1 point.
P1: 8♣ 48 / 8 is 6.
P2: 2♣ 6/ 2 is 3. Prime, 1 point.
P1: 8♠ 3-8 is -5. Prime, 1 point.
P2: 5♣ -5 / 5 is -1.
P1: 8♥ -1 +8 is 7. Divisible by 7, 2 points.
P2: 4♦ 7*4 is 28. Divisible by 7, 2 points.
P1: 7♣ 28 / 7 is 4.
P2: 3♠ 4-3 is 1. First hit of 1, 1 point.
P1: K♦ 1*13 is 13. Divisible by 13, 3 points.
P2: A♥ 13+1 is 14. Divisible by 7, 2 points.
P1: 7♠ 14-7 is 7. Divisible by 7, 2 points.
P2: Has a 10♣ unused, which is set aside.

At this point, P1 has 9 points and P2 has 7 points. Now they take up their hands and lay them out to make the maximum points they can find:

P1: (8♥, 7♠, Q♦, 8♣, 8♠), i.e. ((3 (starter) +8-7)*12)/8)-8=-2, prime, for 1 point.
(K♦) 3*13=69, divisible by 13, for 3 points.

P1's score is now 13, but he was unable to use his 7♣ this time, so one point is deducted, and his final score is 12.

P2: (Q♥, 5♣) i.e., (3+12)/5=3, prime, for 1 point.
(3♠) 3-3 =0, for 2 points.
(4♦, 2♣, A♥) 3*4/2+1=7, for 2 points.

P2's score is now 12, but the 10♣ must now be deducted, so his final score is 11, and P1 wins. If you want to do multiple rounds, you can set a winning point value and keep a running tally.

We welcome thoughts and suggestions (except for "You guys are hopeless nerds.")

Monday, March 06, 2006

Something Old, Something New

This refers to activities, not people, so it has nothing to do with your birthday, Juliana. ;-)

In the old activities, my former roommate, with whom I have lived for a significantly larger portion of my life than I have with DOB, was out in the vicinity for business and was able to stop in for the weekend. She is fortunately used to my cooking and therefore remained undaunted when D1 dropped the ant trap in the potatoes and when the chicken refused to cook even though it had been in the oven much longer than the recipe said. (I should just not try to follow recipes, as it only confuses me.)

She is also good with a hammer, and thus with her help we were able to put up pictures in much of the house, which makes it look like we are living here, not just camping.

In the new activities, D1 finally found something at the park sufficiently dangerous to give her serious injury: sitting on the bench. She fell off face-first onto the concrete and had a swollen lip for the duration of the weekend. We carried her screaming home, washed her up, and as soon as she was released, she ran to the door saying, "More park?"

D1 has also been promoted to attending children's church, which is taught by Grandma and one of her uncles, so she seems fairly tolerant of the idea.

D2, meanwhile, has been promoted to sitting in a booster seat at the table while we eat. I am still trying to hold off on him actually eating food, however eagerly he may try to grab our plates, but he found it interesting to sit up, look around and gnaw on a spoon. After awhile he got tired of tipping over, though, and was happy to return to his customary place on the floor.

And I seem to be suffering from a case of baby carrier elbow, which has decided me that D2 shall no longer be carried in and out in the car seat.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Somewhat disturbing

I decided to try the favorite Google search game with my alter ego and typed in "Queen of Carrots is."

One reference was to me. The rest were to . . . tarot cards. Apparently the Queen of Carrots is a very auspicious card. Much better than say, a beet. Or potato.

Well, I would hope so.

Anyway, on a brighter note, I tried "Duke of Burgundy is" and discovered that the Duke of Burgundy is a quite lovely European butterfly.

And here are some apt quotes on ducklings:

All Ducklings are Beautiful
Those ducklings are way too cute!!
The ducklings are master mess-makers.
Ducklings are also extremely fragile, easily chilled and can be injured .
Ducklings are amazing. I could sit and watch them putter and dabble for hours.
When my ducklings are 3 days old, they can find their own food. (Well, sort of.)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

DOB Opines

QOC: You know that song that goes "Duh, duh, da-duh, da-duh-duh?" I found it online yesterday. It's called "Scotland the Brave."

DOB: That's a stupid name. Scotland isn't brave.

QOC: It's not?

DOB: No, Scotland is just a piece of dirt. Its only use is keeping Scotsmen out of the ocean.

QOC: I think it's poetic use of the language to indicate that Scotsmen are brave.

DOB: Then they should call it "Scotsmen the Brave." Now with "America the Beautiful," it's accurate, because America really is beautiful.

QOC: Even though many Americans are in fact homely?

Side note: Do you see our burgundy carrots? Do they look burgundy enough? I'm afraid I may need a different backdrop.