Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Someday, when these places have grown too narrow,
I hope you remember when they held heaven and earth.
I hope you remember days as long as epochs
And always too short.
Bushes that towered like redwoods, puddles like the seven seas,
Weeds that were the fairest of all flowers.
Someday, in some dark moment,
I hope you remember the afternoon sun throwing rainbows on the floor.
I hope you remember the front porch that looked out on the universe
And was covered with popsicle drips.
Someday, when you walk past the bushes
And keep going to the ends of the earth,
I hope you remember that here was the beginning.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It's Chesterton's Birthday

And I'm going to celebrate it by reading a Chesterton book I have never read. (DOB: You mean there is one?) The Poet and the Lunatics; I found an old copy in the library system.

I like the idea as a birthday tradition. There are, in fact, a great many Chesterton books I've never read. He was a journalist, after all, so he wrote an awful lot.

Semicolon has some lovely quotes.

Of Course He Is

You scored as Darcy,Your husband/boyfriend is most like Mr. Darcy of Pride & Prejudice. A beloved hero, he may be quieter and sometimes mistaken as proud, but in reality he has the most thoughtful generous nature. He appreciates good character and is extremely devoted to those he cares for. As a couple, you enjoy the company of those closest to you and may engage in thought-provoking conversations.

Who is Your Jane Austen Boyfriend/Husband?
created with

Friday, May 25, 2007

Potentially Useful Information

  • The distinction between writing with chalk on a cement basement floor and writing with crayons on a wood living room floor is not immediately apparent to toddlers.
  • Magic Erasers will get crayon marks off of wood floors.
  • No one around this house will be using crayons for a long, long time.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Break Out the Popcorn

One of the most-anticipated joys of parenthood is sharing some long-treasured activity with the child and seeing them enjoy it, too. Unless you count "sleeping" as such a shared activity (joyous though it is) this joy is delayed (and with some babies, even sleeping is delayed far too long).

All that is a rather pompous introduction to say, we showed the ducklings a movie this weekend. Understand, we don't have anywhere to put a TV and have thus never obtained any movies for children. (Let's not go into any children's movies we may have obtained for ourselves.) If there's something we really want to see, we sit at the computer and watch it on DVD while they are in bed.

This weekend, though, they woke up from naps, still sleepy and cuddly, while we were watching something we thought they would enjoy, so we hoped their brains had developed enough not to be damaged and let them watch with us. No, it was not a heartwarming family film. There were no animals, talking or otherwise. Nor any talking vegetables.

It was The Great Escape. Fortunately they woke up right as the prisoners were trying to escape across Germany. Mokorcycle falling down! Train! More mokorcycles! Boat! Train again! Bicycle! Mokorcycle! This is the kind of movie toddlers would make if they could direct movies.
D2 is already a Steve McQueen fan.

Of course, we had to stop before anyone got shot. That would be a little too much falling down to explain. Still, it gave us a taste of family movie nights to come. How old do they have to be to watch The Princess Bride?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Materialism and Science

A man can be a Christian to the end of the world, for the simple reason that a man could have been an Atheist from the beginning of it. The materialism of things is on the face of things; it does not require any science to find it out. A man who has lived and loved falls down and dies and the worms eat him. That is Materialism if you like. That is Atheism if you like. If mankind has believed in spite of that, it can believe in spite of anything. But why our human lot is made any more hopeless because we know the names of all the worms who eat him, or the names of all the parts of him that they eat, is to a thoughtful mind somewhat difficult to discover.

G. K. Chesterton, All Things Considered

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Shrinking Violets

The towering stranger, her voice dripping with sweetness, pokes them under the chin. "Well, aren't you adorable? What's your name?"

The duckling, thus accosted, looks about with a dazed expression.

Then, turning to me, she says, "Are they shy?"

And now what do I say? To me toddler behavior doesn't rate as shy unless they spend all their times with their heads buried in my skirts. Which the ducklings are far too filled with curiosity to do.

Naturally it's a big, strange world out there, and they have not yet mastered all the niceties of social conventions. But then, seldom does the person accosting them follow social conventions very well. If a stranger accosted me like that, I would probably feel a bit dazed, too.

Even if they were problematically shy, it seems like announcing it to the populace every time they met someone new would hardly be a helpful way to deal with the problem. Announcing children's flaws in front of them seems like the best possible way to simultaneously encourage the bad behavior and engender serious resentment.

So I'm not quite sure what to say. I don't want to pretend that a blank stare is the social equivalent of a firm handshake, yet expecting a two-year-old to have completely mastered a complex speech and perform it on the spot in front of a stranger seems a bit unreasonable. I have to say something. I usually settle on a vague, "Oh, he's just thinking," which I figure must certainly be true.

Correcting the children right then and there seems ill-advised, and correcting the manners of the stranger would, of course, be rude. But I would suggest this to adults meeting adorable toddlers: Greet them like an adult. Offer a hand for a handshake. Say, "Hello, how are you today?" in a normal tone of voice.

They might surprise you by actually knowing what to do under such a circumstance. If not, you will have shown them how to act, and you can try again next time. And don't comment on their personality unless you want them critiquing yours.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Yet Another Quiz

I'm sure the degree of self-focus and analaysis in this age will be beyond the credibility of later ages. But I might as well get in on it. After all, this quiz has more of a veneer of science than most.

Auditory : 43%
Visual : 56%
Left : 55%
Right : 44%

Actually, my original results were more skewed to the left hemisphere and to the visual, but I lost them and had to retake. Retaking the test seems to lead me to overthink the questions, and get a less accurate response.

QOC, you are somewhat left-hemisphere dominant and show a preference for visual learning, although not extreme in either characteristic. You probably tend to do most things in moderation, but not always.

Your left-hemisphere dominance implies that your learning style is organized and structured, detail oriented and logical. Your visual preference, though, has you seeking stimulation and multiple data. Such an outlook can overwhelm structure and logic and create an almost continuous state of uncertainty and agitation. You may well suffer a feeling of continually trying to "catch up" with yourself.

Why yes, I may well suffer such a feeling. This may explain why I can create the most lovely organizational plans, and immediately blow them all to pieces by stuffing too much into them.

Your tendency to be organized and logical and attend to details is reasonably well-established which should afford you success regardless of your chosen field of endeavor. You can "size up" situations and take in information rapidly. However, you must then subject that data to being classified and organized which causes you to "lose touch" with the immediacy of the problem.

This is the moment at which I shout, "Everybody be quiet! I need to think!" Unfortunately everybody has not yet figured out how to do this.

Your logical and methodical nature hamper you in this regard though in the long run it may work to your advantage since you "learn from experience" and can go through the process more rapidly on subsequent occasions.

True, if the exact same situation ever repeats. But it so rarely does.

You remain predominantly functional in your orientation and practical. Abstraction and theory are secondary to application. In keeping with this, you focus on details until they manifest themselves in a unique pattern and only then work with the "larger whole."

I'm not so sure about the first part of the paragraph, but that last paragraph does describe exactly how I learn subjects or tackle a problem. I love that moment when everything comes into focus--it's like seeing one of those 3-D pictures, or so I presume, since I've never been able to get them to work.

With regards to your career choices, you have a mentality that would be good as a scientist, coach, athlete, design consultant, or an engineering technician. You can "see where you want to go" and even be able to "tell yourself," but find that you are "fighting yourself" at the darndest times.

Can't say I ever considered any of the above. But I do find myself fighting myself a lot. I rather like that the results of this quiz aren't universally flattering. (DOB's sounded much saner.) Now instead of having my ego stroked over having such a lovely personality, I can have it stroked by having such a difficult brain to work with.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

An Anagram

It turns out my name is an anagram for "Crazed Thinker in Home Lab."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tonight's Menu . . .

. . . is Humvee with a side of pine needles. I had a fleeting moment of concern that letting D1 have an official toy kitchen set might stifle her creativity, but I doubt there's much need to worry.

And that animal D2 is holding? That thing with long, pointy appendages on its head? And a fat nose? And (though you can't see it) "Texas" emblazoned on its belly? It's a bunny. Or maybe that's it's name. "Bunny." No effort can convince him that it's a longhorn. Not even a longhorn bunny. A boy knows his bunny when he sees it.

Some other things they say~
D1: "I'm taking a trip to California." I think she got that from the second verse of "How Much is that Doggie in the Window?" California has been much visited of late.
"We start off with high hopes." I still haven't tracked this one down--perhaps it's from Henry the Explorer.

D2: "Eggies! Mo peez! Mo peez! MO PEEEEEZZ!!!!" He would have scrambled eggs three meals a day if he set the menus.
"Potty!" Of course he knows what it means. It means instead of having to be still and quiet in church you get to run all the way down the hallway and go in the bathroom and wash your hands and bang on the mirror and giggle and get a drink of water. It means--if you do something, he's not sure what--you get a cookie.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Week in Review

Having a cold.
D2 having a cold.
DOB having a cold and thinking it was allergies and taking the wrong stuff and making it worse.
Wearing myself out planting tomatoes and peppers.
Coming to the conclusion that none of my flower seeds are going to sprout.
One of my two casserole dishes shattering for no clear reason and distributing glass shards and greasy detergent water all over the kitchen.
D2 falling and scraping his chin on our way inside to clean up the shattered dish.
The other 56 times D2 fell and hurt himself.
Deciding that it wouldn't work to get a tree planted this spring.
Wearing myself out planting a tree.
Having twenty minutes after hand-mixing clay and peat moss to put around the oak tree to get the dirt out from under my fingernails and ready to go out to dinner.
The grain grinder malfunctioning right at the beginning of fixing breakfast and making it worse by trying to fix it.

The neighbor across the street offering me a free toy kitchen set, good condition once washed, that his grandchildren have outgrown.
The beautiful new bed of tomatoes and peppers, with the charming little deep-watering system devised out of old water bottles.
Uproarious giggling at my rendition of "Goldilocks."
Going out to dinner with DOB, getting a table in the courtyard by a bubbling fountain, and having a waiter who even looked Italian.
Seeing A Midsummer Night's Dream set in 1950s Hollywood. (Oberon in a smoking jacket and--when invisible to mortals--shades. Puck in a orange corduroy/leopardskin blazer. Theseus as a studio exec, with a bald head and fat cigar. And all that music of love found and lost and maybe found again just fits perfectly.)
Having an oak tree growing in the back yard.
The granola parfaits that were actually much better than what I was going to fix and didn't require the grain grinder.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Why I Love Naptime

"I am troubled by no hopes or fears, I am disquieted by no gossip; I converse only with myself and my books."

--Pliny the Younger, Epistles 1.9

Only I left Lost Horizon in the bedroom where D1 is napping. Bother.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Four-Star Menu Planning

There seem to be four factors that matter to me in selecting a meal: cost, ease of preparation, appeal to the ducklings, and messiness. (All of our meals, after various adjustments and justifications are pretty healthy, and I don't cook foods the grownups don't like.) The ideal menu, then, would get four stars, one for each category.

I tried seriously applying this to my menu plans, and discovered that I only have about one four-star menu a week. Those are the days when I look at the menu and think, "Hooray!" Most of the menus are three-star, which usually means either the ducklings don't care much for it or it's messy. (Spaghetti, for instance, is cheap and easy to fix and beloved by the ducklings, but is oh so very messy. Same goes for black beans. Pasta salad, on the other hand, is cheap and easy to fix and not messy, but for some reason the ducklings don't usually get too excited about it.)

I only have one two-star menu: cottage cheese enchiladas. It's expensive (because I refuse to buy cottage cheese with fillers) and messes up the whole kitchen. But everyone loves it so much that I can't quite bring myself to drop it from the plan.

It seems to me that the way to upgrade a menu from three-star to four-star would be for the ducklings to learn to like it. This doesn't work very quickly, but I persist, especially if it's something I know they already like all the ingredients of and therefore ought to like together. (Hey, it took me twelve years, but I eventually did learn to like lasagna.) That, or they could learn to eat more neatly.

But perhaps I should look into some modifications to bring more menus into the four-star category. Anyway, now I know where the problems are.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Is it still OK to be happy?

Rose posted a reminder of this long-ago post I made on the potential happiness or misery of mothering small children. It had to do with a particular short story on a mother's disillusionment with her life and recovery through finding friends to complain with. Rose, who now has two, finds things are still going quite well, and she is happy but a little worried about what may be lurking around the corner.

I felt like I had to answer not just Rose, but also my new-mother self. I remembered the old post, of course, and was immediately quite sure that I would find the date stamp on it to be before D2 was conceived. Rereading the old story, I could only say to myself: "Oh, no. Life hasn't been that bad. It's been much, much worse."

At least the protagonist of the story has the energy to clean her house once a week and is still able to talk in complete sentences. At least she has the energy to put food on the table and watch the kids throw it, instead of listening to the children cry because she's just too tired to feed them.

But for all that, and for all the black, black days when just speaking the next word required all the strength I could summon, I can also say: "Life has been so much better than that."

I still think I have the most wonderful husband in the world, and I'm thankful that he knows how hard it can be, that he knows when to dial 1-800-Grandma, when to apply information from the CCLI, and when to provide a shoulder to cry on, even when I want to insist on soldiering on if it kills me. (Happy birthday to him! He's now the perfect age!)

I still have the most adorable, brilliant, hilarious kids in the world and I wouldn't miss being with them during this part of their life no matter how hard it is.

I don't think everybody's life at this stage will be or should be as hard as mine has been. Most young parents don't have chronic health problems to start with, and most of them don't have two children within fifteen months and then move twice in the next nine months. What's done is done and I am very thankful for now, despite the trouble it took to get here. The average day is getting better, and in the meantime I have learned a lot about being content with my own limits.

And on the other hand there are mothers parenting more or less alone and children with life-threatening diseases and lots of other situations that leave me realizing I have no cause to complain.

So I can now honestly say to Rose: Hurray for you! I'm glad you're having a good time! If everyone were this messed-up, whom would we call for help? And who would organize the playdates?

It also helps that I never really looked forward to this stage of life or expected it to be particularly pleasant. Truthfully, even if I had all the energy in the world, my brain is not well-adapted to making it through the day with small children. My brain type could best be labeled "absent-minded professor." I'm not good at foreseeing problems and heading them off, or rembering what it was I was doing before the last six interruptions, or even hearing someone calling my name. Some people are good at those things, and that's great.

But I believe that parenting is not something that should be left to the people who are naturally good at it. My kids need me, not the most excellent preschool teacher. If that means I have to learn to do things I don't like to do and am not good at, so be it. (On the other hand, there are reasonable limits to doing things one doesn't like. You will not find me providing in-home daycare.)

That's something important, I think. If only mothers who were really wonderful, natural, energetic mothers were at home, that wouldn't say anything about how important this job is. But if I can say: "This is really, really hard. It's the hardest thing I've ever done,"--and still say that it is worth it--well, that means something.

And this is not forever, even though some days feel like forever. Someday D1 will be old enough to really run the house, as she so eagerly tries to do now. Someday D2 and I will be able to have conversations that involve more than three words. This is not the end goal and never was.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Profit is (not necessarily) Theft

Meredith has drawn my attention to an interesting discussion on frugality, and Mama Squirrel did me the favor of posting on the personal side of it. Which leaves me more opportunity to lecture on the appalling lack of economic understanding shown by a frightening number of commenters.

Wealth, contrary to the apparent assumptions of many, is not some magical thing that comes down from the sky. Profit is not simply the result of taking things away from other people.

Profit is the wages of a varying combination of labor, insight, hassle, and risk. To take the subject at hand, let us suppose Frugal Shopper goes out and amid the piles of tacky Christmas decorations and battered candle holders at a yard sale finds a Treasure. FS, who pays attention to these things (and that, friends, is work) knows that many people want Treasure and are willing to pay, say $25 for it when it is marked for $5 here at the yard sale. Gasp! A 400% profit! Even an oil company exec might envy that!

Anyway, most of those people who want Treasure do not want to hunt all the yard sales in Ohio for Treasure. That is also work, and it is work most people are unwilling to do. So FS pays $5 for it, takes it home, and posts it on EBay, where people who want Treasure can just type in "Treasure" and see FS's listing. FS, however, is not home free. There are fees and such to be paid. Treasure must be kept around the house until it sells, and then she must bother with going to the post office and shipping it.

And there's always a chance that everybody has all the Treasures they want and the going rate for a Treasure is no longer $25, but $4. In which case FS would be stuck. Also, we have not seen (but FS's sore feet have) all the yard sales she went to at which she found nothing. It may be that FS has made almost nothing, considering all the time and trouble she puts into it, but we'll assume FS is not an idiot and would either stop working if that was the case or enjoys it so much she doesn't care.

In any case, this ghastly 400% profit turns out likely to be a small hourly wage. Middlemen have been beat up on from time immemorial, but they provide a very important service, or they wouldn't exist. They take stuff from the people who have it to the people who want it, when those people don't want to hassle with hunting up the people who have it for themselves.

I, personally, hope I never ever ever have to try to make money from such activity, because I have no talent or interest in it. I have no qualms about paying those who do. They are providing me with something useful.

And they are not taking something away from Poor Person who might have been able to buy Treasure for $5 had they not taken it. That is part of the risks of life. Things are not distributed evenly and they never can be. Nobody is stopping Poor Person from getting up an hour earlier. (And given the glut of material goods our society has, which for some reason the same people who bash profit want to bash, I doubt that Poor Person is without an opportunity to find many other Treasures if she wants to go look from them.)

Now profit can of course be theft, just like wages could be. If you don't do your job, taking your paycheck is theft. And if you lie or cheat or steal to make a profit, your profit is theft. But (given how other people feel about being cheated) profits are much more likely to be an expression of how valuable the activity you do is to other people. And what's wrong with that?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Cleaning House

I've been mulling ways to pare down the ducklings' room for some time, in an effort to make keeping it tidy a task within their compass--or even one within mine. It seems their favorite game to play, the one that never fails to interest them, is to take everything within reach out and drag it around the house. Now they have figured out how to take the lids off the toy bins (which were supposed to be opened only one at a time), so they can do it with everything at once.

So I finally had built up my courage and was going to sneakily, while they were gone, move the toy bins downstairs. Only then it turned out that they couldn't go to visit Grandma today, as is usual, and there I was with all that cleaning momentum built up and nothing to do with it.

When I went into their room this evening to try to distract them until DOB got home for supper, I found myself starting the job. At least I could have them help me sort the toys out, and perhaps it would be best to be honest about what was happening. Then I started paring down one of the toy bins by pulling out toys that they had outgrown, mentioning that we needed to save these for babies since they were too small for D1 and D2 any more.

I forgot that D1 apparently inherited the genes that Wondergirl got but that skipped me. Clearly I could not have proposed a more delightful early-evening-delayed-dinner activity than getting rid of stuff. She gleefully picked out toys and blankets that were "too 'mall," piled winter and outgrown clothes into bags, and generally egged me on until we had cleaned out nearly the entire room. She got rid of things I never would have dared, like most of the pile of blankets and stuffed animals that were edging her out of bed at night.

In the end, the only things left in their room were the dollhouse, matchbox cars, most favored stuffed animals, and dress-up scarves. I also put in a reshelving box to hold books they take out to read, as I should dearly like for us to all learn not to leave books on the floor. We did have to reclaim one blanket from the attic, but that was the only hitch at bedtime.

We haven't really tested how this will help yet, but it stands to reason they can't make as much of a mess if they don't have as much stuff to drag out. After supper they seemed just as happy to drag out the reduced pile of blankets and stuffed animals as ever.