Thursday, April 27, 2006

Catching my breath

I was reminiscing about some old posts this week. (Yes, it's old posts I reminisce about. The reason I write so much is because to me nothing is real until it's been turned into words.) Especially this one, written shortly after D2 was born, and this one, written shortly after we moved.

And you know what? Things are better, even after just a few months.

Not a great deal better, I grant you. I'm sure if you dropped QOC from 2001 into this life, she would, after asking, "I'm married to WHO?" find it completely exhausting and overwhelming. But I've adapted somewhat. My brain has grown. Or perhaps I've lost it altogether. Either way, things don't seem to move so fast anymore.

There's a little bit of rhythm to the day. Eat, chores, park, eat, nap, chores, eat. The stuff we actually use is unpacked and put away. The children can't eat off the floor, because the food gets swept up reasonably soon.

The kids have grown--just a little bit, but they've grown. D1 doesn't trip and fall down so often. With a little boost, she can get into the car and car seat on her own, so I don't have to leave one of them outside while I put the other one in the car. D2 can sit up in the shopping cart for most of the trip. He still eats frequently, but occasionally comes up for air these days.

We still have our moments when everyone is wailing at once. (I think D1 has settled on "whining" as her Interesting Toddler Behavior.) But not so many of them. D1 and D2 can even play together happily in her room for fifteen minutes while I vaccuum. It's a beautiful thing.

Not, of course, that we're immune from everything going haywire again. I may as well enjoy this while it lasts.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

In which I become the model of a Submissive Wife

Yesterday I read the first half of Beau Geste. While DOB ate his late supper, after an evening meeting, I regaled him with the tale of what had happened thus far.

So today, my primary task, after, I presume, ensuring the continued well-being of our children, is to FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENS!!!!

I hear and I obey.

(Thanks, Rose, for insisting I should read it. You were quite right.)

Monday, April 24, 2006

Singing them awake

I started out motherhood with romantic notions of a quiet bedtime ritual--singing a beloved lullaby to my drowsy infants, and continuing on night after night until they were, oh, quite old.

So I borrowed some lullaby books from the library and memorized my favorites. As soon as D1 was old enough that bedtime could be distinguished from naptime, I began singing them to her, at the end of which time DOB would come in and pray and tuck her into bed. I obtained a rocking chair especially to complement this activity.

D1 wasn't many months old, though, before I noticed she began to be restless and downright antsy during this ritual. I'm not sure why. She likes sitting in my lap any other time. She likes singing with me any other time. Maybe it was the anticipation of DOB's imminent arrival, comparable in soothing effect to the circus coming to town. Anyway, we persevered for quite some time.

When we moved in here, the furniture situation was in flux for awhile, and the rocking chair wasn't always available. Plus as D2 grew old enough to have a bedtime, he was often included. So I stopped holding D1. At first, she would sit and hold her baby, or otherwise show some interest in the proceedings. Later, she got more interested in one last rummage through the toy chest.

Last week, I realized we had reached the end. On two successive evenings, she dug through the toy chest and pulled out the maracas, shaking them vigorously through the whole song.

I suppose instead of abandoning the singing, we could switch the song to, say, "When the Saints Go Marching In" and have an evening marching band. But it doesn't have quite the same ambience.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

An opportunity

Vision Forum is having an essay contest, with the topic "Why is Elsie Dinsmore relevant to today's Christian girl?"

Doesn't someone out there want to enter with the thesis statement: "As a self-righteous, rebellious prig, Elsie Dinsmore is relevant to today's Christian girl as a bad example?"

Unfortunately it's only open to girls under 18.

Babies and bees

"Oh look! Two babies!"

An innocuous comment, and one I hear pretty much every time I go out in public. And one that irritates me; quite irrationally, I suppose.

They're not babies.

As DOB could confirm, with rolling eyes, I start mourning the end of babyhood when I pack up the 0-3 month clothes (with the ducklings, at about 2 months.) By six months--when they have some mobility, an attention span, and the ability to grab things--I subconsciously consider them to be well into childhood, and as far as I'm concerned, D1 is practically an equal--not in authority, but in status.

Maybe it's because I still remember the sting of always being too young. Maybe it's because I'm so incompetent they catch up with me pretty quickly. (I'm amazed by people who continue feeding their kids for a couple of years because it's neater that way. When I feed them, it's not. At all.) Maybe it's because I'm so far off in la-la land I don't care about their very different approaches to the world; indeed, I think them quite fascinating.

Typical scene in the duchy: DOB comes home.

DOB: Why is D1 wearing D2's jacket and standing at the kitchen sink, splashing water all over herself?

QOC: Ummm . . . she wanted to. And, ummmm, it's warm, so I don't think she'll get pneumonia. And I've figured out that the amount of water she wastes running down the sink is less than the amount of water she would use if I bathed her more often.

DOB: So two wrongs make a right? (teasingly, folks, teasingly)

QOC: Well, they cancel each other out in water usage!

On a possibly related note, there was a mom and grandma at the park yesterday with what looked like twin five-year-old boys. One of the boys went over to the grassy area and started pulling up dandelion puffballs and blowing on them.

"Get off the grass and go play on the playground!" his mother yelled.

My puzzlement was somewhat enlightened when his brother tried to run off the opposite direction, toward the trees.

"Don't go back there, you'll run into a bee!" she yelled.

Ah, so a paranoia of bees was the problem. It did make a little more sense, although not much, because D1 and I had been watching a bee over by the swings. Plus, it didn't explain why it was an offense against humanity to climb up the slides or to rest one's feet on them when one was sliding down.

Perhaps I am evil, but I silently cheered the boy when, while his mother was distracted with talking, he went back to the dandelions.

What's the fun of going to a playground if you don't get to play? Why go to all the trouble of having kids if you don't like playing with them?

So, to sum up: Don't call the ducklings babies. Have some fun when you go to the playground. But watch out for bees.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fractals in the Frying Pan

I've been reading a few mathematical books lately: The Magical Maze and Mathematickles! (The latter might appeal even to the non-math-interested.) It has had me pondering ways in which a little mathematical analysis might be applied to motherhood.

For instance, there's the age old problem of Toddler, T, who takes one long nap (N1) and Baby, B, who takes four short naps (N2, N3, N4, N5). What are the odds of N1 coinciding with N2 . . . N5 such that Mother, M, can take N6?

The right formula might enable one to pin down precisely the least stressful phase of parenthood; probably that age at which "Chance of Toilet Accident" and "Interest in the Opposite Sex" are both closest to zero.

Then there are fractals--shapes in which the small parts look just like the big parts, if you zoom in closer. Like broccoli heads. Or frying hamburger. Only it's best not to zoom in too close to frying hamburger.

Meanwhile DOB is probably wondering why, if I like math so much, I can never remember to write checks down so he can keep the account balanced.

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Few Minor Occurrences

Yesterday I was heading through the grocery store and spotted a box of Crayola crayons.

"Ah-ha!" I thought, "The perfect thing for the Easter Bunny to put in the carrots he hides." (Of course the Easter Bunny hides carrots. What would you expect him to hide?)

But, of course, I did not want D1 to see the crayons, as she has passed the age where you can just buy her gifts right in front of her. She would have known what they were and wanted them right away. So I slipped them into my pocket, vowing to remember to sneak them out and pay for them while her attention was distracted.

You can guess the denouement. I arrived home, unloaded the groceries, and encountered a forgotten lump in my pocket. I had shoplifted.

I will pay for them next time I go, I promise.

Anyway, I was still processing this discovery and putting away the groceries and getting out our lunch when I came across the dish in which I had carefully packed DOB's lunch the evening before. I sent him a text message to find out what dish, exactly, I had sent in his lunch.

It was the two-pound block of cheese.

No one has ever made the notorious comment to me that housekeeping is lacking in mental challenges. But if they ever do, I can respond with certainty that it has mental challenges far beyond my ability to cope.

My Inner Grammar Commando is happy today

After browing this series of links. The Gallery of "Misused" Quotation Marks is particularly priceless.

Edited to add: Particularly priceless? I'm going to be in the running for a bad example myself. Perhaps what I meant was "particularly difficult to value."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Few Small Tweaks to the Cosmos

I'm sure it wouldn't mess anything up if I just changed a few things:
  • The time at which babies need pureed food and are fascinated with trying to eat things off the floor would not coincide with the age at which they are terrified by loud noises such as blenders and vaccuum cleaners.
  • People who design toddler clothes would, at some point in their life, have beheld an actual toddler, and realized that (a) they lack waists and shoulders, and thus garments heavily dependent on such bodily features will not work; and (b) they fall down frequently, with deleterious consequences to the knees of their trousers. I can't figure out why it's so difficult to find elastic-waist jeans, when it seems like those are the only logical garment.
  • The Law of Toddler Feeding would be repealed. This law states that if you serve a toddler a tiny portion of food, she will keep asking for more servings for the next forty-five minutes. However, if at any point you serve her a large portion, she will immediately decide that she is done. If you are lucky, she will inform you of this before she converts the remaining food into an art medium.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Feeding baby

Whatever I do with D2, D1 wants to do with her "baby." She changes its diaper; she sings it songs and puts it to bed on the back of the rocking horse (don't ask me, it was Papa's idea); she has been known to pull up her shirt and give it a snack. Today she gave it a bath in the kitchen sink.

This evening, when I was giving D2 his sweet potatoes and applesauce, she climbed up on a chair and wanted to help. Already having enough to deal with, what with D2 wanting to put the spoon in for himself and hitting his nose as often as not, I suggested that instead she take another spoon and go feed her baby.

She happily climbed down and sat on the floor with her baby and the spoon. Then she pulled up her jumper and shirt and proceeded to spoon-feed it from under there.

I'm not sure what La Leche League would think of that method.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Taken to the Cleaners

One of the lowest spots of the move from our old house was pulling my wedding dress out of the closet and discovering that it was covered with mold spots. (Don't store your wedding dress close to an outside wall, girls.) We should have taken it to the cleaners right away, of course, but the present is more important than the past and what with one thing and another it was still sitting in the closet last week when we got a coupon in the mail.

The cleaners had several locations, so I looked them up on Mapquest, and found one located in a familiar area, although it was a 10 minute drive away or so. I told DOB what I was going to do, and he looked at the list of locations.

"What about this one that's down the road?" he asked.

Sure enough, they had an address that was obviously within a couple blocks of us. Very well, I would go to that one. He thought it was in the shopping center right next to the apartment complex.

So on my way out Wednesday morning, I set out in search. I didn't see it in the first shopping center, but thought I should circle around and go back through. Left, left, right, left again. No cleaners, and I was back on the main road. I looked carefully all along the left side of the road (the number was even, like ours), and finally made it to a spot where I could see that the numbers were getting too small. I turned around in the shopping center next to Walmart. Left, left, right again. No cleaners.

I drove back to the only area between them, hoping that somehow the insurance agency there might be concealing a dry cleaners somewhere on the premises. It was not. Finally in desparation I got out my phone and dialed the number.

I must have dialed something wrong, because I was getting an error signal when I lifted up my eyes and behold, a sign was given to me. Specifically, the sign of "Concord Custom Cleaners," directly across the road.

They didn't have an entrance opposite where I was, but I recklessly crossed diagonally through five lanes of traffic.

The lady who looked at the dress was sympathetic but not very optimistic. Still, she said she'd do what she could. I should be able to pick it up tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's Friendlier with Two (or More)

Stepping into a new place alone has always given me a moment or two of dread. Worse yet is the loose-endish feeling of being in a large gathering but not knowing anyone particularly well and not having anyone in particular to hang out with. I have always had to suppress the urge to latch on to some kind-hearted looking soul and claim them for my own for the rest of the event.

Give me one other person I know I can fall back on, though, one person who will be quite happy to include me in whatever they are doing, and I am perfectly at ease. One person skulking in a corner looks like a loser. Two people are no doubt having an engrossing tete-a-tete. Standing at the edge of a circle of conversing strangers looks impertinent; stand at the edge of a circle where you are accompanying one of the conversants and you can be attractively attentive.

Getting married, of course, supplied me with a perpetual friendly person for most events. (Even ladies' events, since I got a mother-in-law with the deal.) But it still left me rather bereft for the ordinary day things: trying out a new store or visiting the library or park.

But now, I have children! Friends who are not only willing, but positively required to stick close by my side as I go in and out and do this and that. Someone to look at things with me; someone to discuss things afterwards. Someone to make me always look like I'm profitably occupied even in a crowd of strangers. (It's amazing how much easier a family reunion of the other side of the family is when you have children.)

Admittedly, their language skills are yet quite limited, and their lack of finesse at using their legs and the toilet makes them more of a burden than a help at this stage. They will improve with time, though, and before too long they will be able to carry things instead of always needing to be carried, and let me know when I'm about to take the wrong exit, and converse in complete sentences. But even now they are Somebodies, and Somebodies are better than Nobody.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Art in Balance

Last night was sweet potato and sausage casserole night. I decided to make an herb and cheese biscuit to go along with it, and I had some lemon and parmesan to go on some mixed greens. It turned out just right--the savory biscuit against the sweet main dish and the tartness and crunchiness of the salad. Not five-star fare, but really good.

The real triumph, though, was not getting a good supper on the table. It was getting a good supper on the table while catching up on the laundry, keeping the kids happy and busy and not being an exhausted wreck at the end of the day.

Every other art form reaches its highest expression in those who can clear away all distractions and work only on their art form, whether it be food or paint or words. But homemaking is the art of keeping all the other arts in balance and not letting anything slide too much. It's the art of working within limits; it's the art of embracing your distractions.

This is why Martha Stewart, love her or hate her, is not really a representative of the art of homemaking. She doesn't have the limits. Sure she can make a fabulous fancy cake and a hand-stenciled border, but can she do it without a staff and with a teething six-month-old on hand? I think not. She might be good at some of the subsidiary arts of homemaking, but she's not pulling off the real thing.

And of course, like any artist, I'm not at the top of my game every day. Also, I hear one of my (very adorable) distractions waking up.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Clothes Horse

Yesterday I went through the next size up of clothes to see what ones fit D1 now. As I tossed the suitable ones onto the floor (I seem to subscribe to the throw-it-on-the-floor school of organization too much), D1 picked them up and endeavored to put them on. She looks rather like an elf, but although she insisted that was a hat, it was in fact a pair of shorts.

Later with my assistance she got on three dresses or jumpers, and a shirt over the top of all.