Friday, September 28, 2007

D2 at Two

The Day is not until tomorrow, but as far as he's concerned, he's already Two. And being Two is good. It's a number, and he likes numbers, though he generally starts counting at three. Freeforfisix.

The thing everybody says about him is, "Wow, he really can talk, can't he?" Why yes, he can. Looking back at posts from a year ago, I realized he's talking even better than D1 was at this age, and she was no laggard. No doubt it's from always having someone to talk to.

For all that talking, though, he's also quite a loner. I don't panic when I realize he's been quiet for fifteen minutes, because nine times out of ten it just means he's busy reading a book or building with Duplos or lining up his cars. Sometimes I say it's a pity he wasn't younger in the family, because it's so easy to keep him busy, but then perhaps he would have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Like all parents do and like I vowed we wouldn't, we draw and redraw the outlines of the ducklings' personalities. D1 tends to get categorized as the one like DOB: the Grand Marshall, analyzing events, keeping track of contingencies, ordering everyone else around. D2 is, admittedly, more like me. He can recite any piece of information that has passed by him, but he'll wander around the house in despair because he can't find the toy he's holding in his hand. He's smart and analytical and spacey and a little too charming for his own good.

He likes to sing songs and read about Mike Mulligan and Christopher Robin and drive Matchbox cars. He was kind of a tough baby, but he's an easy toddler. (The key is, now he can put most of the food in by himself.) I don't think there will be anything terrible about having him be two.

The birthday plan is to visit the fire engine museum and make him a cake shaped like a train. And hold him a little bit extra, because he won't be small and cuddly much longer.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I'm very sore today, because yesterday's Grand Project was digging up and mulching the back flowerbed so we can plant vegetables there next year. What really needs done is the front flower bed, but I'm not sure how to do it, since I do want to save a few of the plants there. I'm not very good at selective work; I'm more of a slash-and-burn gardener.

While digging, I found a full-grown turnip. I have no idea how that got there. We do not eat turnips, and I don't remember planting any. Perhaps a stray turnip seed in the lettuce packet?

Somewhat connected, the following breakfast table conversation:

QOC: I'm very glad we're going to the chiropractor this morning, because it means I won't start any big projects today.

DOB: You could just exercise some willpower.

QOC: I cannot. I am helpless against the lure of big, overwhelming projects.

On the way to the chiropractor, DOB was pulling up to a stoplight with a green light and noticed a car idling still at the green light. He gave a bit of a toot on his horn, nothing rude, just a "Go, dogs, go, the light is green now!"

This highly perturbed the youthful inhabitants of the car, the one in the back turning around so we could see how vigorously he was cussing at us. They did move forward, however, so DOB just grinned broadly.

Our paths continued to coincide, down the on-ramp onto the freeway, and then we realized that the inhabitants had moved on from cussing and were trying more direct methods to avenge themselves. As near as we could tell, they had ripped open a pillow and were holding it out the window, trying to get the fill to blow in our direction. Wind currents were not in their favor, and in the meantime they were so absorbed in their vengeance that the driver apparently failed to notice she was about to run down a semi until the last minute.

Alas, I fear we remain unrepentant. We laughed for several miles.

Today the ducklings and I were singing "Amazing Grace" and we got to the part that is supposed to go, ". . . that saved a wretch like me."

Only D2 was singing it " . . . that saved a wretch like Mama."

I don't know whether to be pleased about his ability to transfer pronoun meanings, or distressed at his lack of personal responsibility, or just worried about what he thinks of me.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Five Friends Every Young Mother Needs

Actually it's more like five categories: fill to as many friends as you have capacity for.

A Friend without Children: To talk to about things besides kids. To tell stories to without being immediately one-upped.

A Friend with Kids the Same Genders and Approximate Ages: To have playdates and commiserate with.

A Friend with Kids the Same Gender, but Two Sizes Bigger: To provide hand-me-downs. Preferably this friend should have generous grandparents and good taste. This is actually a category that almost certainly needs more than one friend, especially if you have boys.

A Friend with Preteens or Teenagers: To hire for yard work and babysitting, and to remind you that it's really not that long before your children will be wiping their own noses.

A Friend with Grown Children: For advice, and to reassure you that your children may still grow up into sane, emotionally-stable adults even though you lock them in their rooms for two hours while you take a nap.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sometimes it's better not to ask

I was trying to admire D1's coloring page in the Approved, Nonjudgmental Manner.

"Oh, what a lovely cat! I like how you colored the front green and the back black. And the colors underneath him--it looks like he's sitting on a nice warm rug."

I noticed a look of disapproval on her face.

"Oh . . . what is that he's sitting on?"

"A potty."

In Which I Do Windows

It came upon me that today was the day to wash windows.

I have not washed windows since the autumn D1 was a baby. We moved twice in there, though, so I've been able to take advantage of windows freshly washed by other people. The downside to not having moving boxes to pack and unpack is that I must now wash my own windows.

The sirens were not singing in my head--I don't care how often other people wash their windows--windows are not important in the Grand Scheme of Things. But when you cannot open the windows without immediately thereafter washing your hands, the time has come even in my book.

My enthusiasm for the task doubled when DOB introduced me to this modern innovation of tilt-in windows. Ignorant, yes, but I grew up in an old farmhouse with old windows, and when we wanted to wash windows on the upper stories (which was almost never), His Majesty had to hang halfway out of them over a twenty-foot drop. How he could stand it, I'll never know, except that he fell on his head when he was a baby and has repeated it regularly since. Equally exciting was when I tried to clean my own skylight in the attic, clinging to the side of a steeply-pitched roof, hoping the window frame wouldn't break off in pieces under my grasp.

I'm not sure how the windows at the former Duchy residence were designed to work, but how they actually worked was to fall out of their frames entirely at the least provocation. That was easier than ladders, but still very inconvenient.

The windows were not too dirty when we moved in, but they've served for more than a year as the Family Resort Destination for flies. I'm sure if I could shrink down small enough, I'd find some of those black smears were little brochures saying, "Visit the Scenic Duchy Windows this summer!" The summer crowd has backed off, though, and it was cool enough to have the windows open in the morning, so today was the day.

Since D1 wanted to help this time, I gave her her own personal spray bottle (which contains a non-toxic but potent-smelling blend of vinegar, lavender oil, and water) and tried to point her towards things that wouldn't suffer permanent water damage. Finally I directed her out to the front steps, which would have worked great except that D2 joined her--with a non kid-safe spray bottle because his hands aren't big enough to spray yet--and they both figured out how to get the lids off and poured the contents of D1's all over D2's shorts.

Even with tilt-in windows, it turns out cleaning windows is a pretty arduous undertaking, and the windows shouldn't be tilted too far, and when they are it can be kind of tricky to fix. There's only one I couldn't get to go back right, and since it will shut OK, it just won't stay open, I'll try not to be too concerned.

After a few windows I realized doing all the windows in the house was not going to happen today, so I conducted triage. The dining room windows are mostly obscured by sheer curtains, anyway, and the bathroom window is always hidden by the shower curtain. Those can wait. Indefinitely. Meanwhile, I can look out of some clear windows at the bright September sky.

Except there's a straggler fly on them. Be gone! We're closed for the season!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

With or without a moral

Yesterday I should have felt pretty smug about all the wonderful outdoor playtime the ducklings had been having, after a weekend of picnics and reunions. It certainly compared well with my mental personification of the Modern Mothers whose children spend endless hours watching television or running from one class to another. It even compared well to our own July and August of hiding out in the basement.

Alas, yesterday was also the day I read a whole blog carnival inspired by Charlotte Mason's teaching on young children, and suddenly found myself face to face with a new mental personification of Nature Mothers who rearranged their whole lives to give their small children four to six hours outside in exotic settings (not mere playgrounds and backyards!) every fine day. I have tried, I really have, but somehow I can't figure out how to make that happen and still get supper on the table. And it's a long walk to any exotic settings from here.

There we all were, sitting inside on a beautiful sunny afternoon. We had gone to the park in the morning, but that was not even two hours. D2 was sitting on a pile of things on the loveseat, singing his way through The Wheels on the Bus. D1 was sitting on a pile of things on the piano bench, playing and singing a song of her own composition. I was sitting at the computer, contemplating my inadequacy. Supper was at a place where I could turn it off for awhile.

"Let's go outside," I said.

They were not overeager, but neither were they distressed. They do like to go outside. We coated ourself with the plate mail necessary to visit our yard without getting mosquito bites.

I stepped outside and realized I had made a mistake. It was past my temperature limit. All life drained out of me. I sat down on the front steps--the hottest place around, but also the only seat--and told them they would have to amuse themselves.

The proper activity for late afternoon excursions is riding bikes. D2 rode his little four-wheeler blissfully, swooping down the driveway and then planting both feet down for brakes just as he reached the sidewalk so that he wouldn't shoot out into the road. D1 wanted to ride her bike, but the trouble is she can't ride her bike, at least not pushing the pedals properly, and if I refused to help her life would be an unbearable wasteland of misery, which it continued to be for some time.

Then they both got distracted from bikes and tried to pull the wagon. This required more cooperation than they were capable of at the time. Soon they were howling for the benefit of all the neighbors.

It was time to finish supper anyway, so I took them back inside. Their former occupations attracted them not at all. Their howls continued for various reasons at increasing decibels until they were smothered in spaghetti sauce.

So pick a moral:
1. Do not pursue activities based on guilt and comparisons.
2. Do not go outside when it's too hot for you to stand it.
3. The last hour before dinner is bound to be miserable no matter what you do.

Today we went to the park in the morning when it was cool and had a lovely time. This afternoon they are happily piling things inside.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


I'm sure you will not be quite as relieved as we were to hear that the library of origin *did* take the book back. The librarian thought it still looked quite a bit better than many books they still had. Now maybe I will have the nerve to ask them to check their shelves for the missing book.

Since returning it took us most of the way across town, we made an outing of it and had lunch at a nearby farm that is part of the park system. The farm itself is free, but you have to pay for things like pony rides and the indoor play barn. So of course the lines for the pony rides and play barn are long, but hardly anybody is looking at the animals. Another benefit of being cheap.

D1 reminds me a lot of Frances the badger, though she's shown no interest in the books yet. A recent conversation:

DOB: Are you a princess?
D1: No. I don't want to be a princess.
DOB: Why not?
D1: I want to be the king!

And a Song Against Cannibalism, heard from the back seat:

Mama is a girl
But she doesn't like to be eaten
So please don't eat her.
And now I'm almost to the end of the song.
It's not nice to eat people.

D2 has developed a fascination with delivering a maniacal laugh at random points. We wonder what he's plotting.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mea Culpa

I am having relationship troubles with the library. What was once a source of unmitigated joy has become a source of guilt, resentment and dread. I think we need to go in for counseling.

The central issue is a book that got a little wet at the edge on its way to being returned, due to a leaking water jug in the car. Unfortunately I didn't notice it until it was on the return stack, when I exclaimed in astonishment, "Oh dear, it got wet!" A librarian in the vicinity must have taken note of it, because she tracked me down later and explained the book was irreparably damaged and I would have to pay for it--$22--but it was good of me to be so honest about it. We didn't have cash on us that night, so she checked it back out to us. And DOB pointed out that if I had thought not to say anything, we could have taken it back home and seen how well we could dry it out before we talked to them. But I don't have quite the radar for Not Getting In Trouble that he has.

It seemed worthwhile to take it back and see how it dried out anyway. So we carefully dried it, pages fanned, and then I carefully ironed each page with a dry iron. The end result was pretty good--it looked about as good as any book from the library that's been read a half-dozen times.
If you carefully examined the back pages, you could see a little wrinkling, but that was all.

Unfortunately, the same librarian was in the next week. And she was certain--even before she looked at the book--that it would not do. No, the whole book would have to be thrown out, and we would have to pay for it. Understand, there's no mold or stuck pages or blurred words involved. The back pages are very slightly wrinkled. That's all. If this is the standard for replacing books, it must have been implemented very recently, because I have often checked out books with crumpled pages, scribbles, and even ripped-out parts. Or they just penalize honest people.

Maybe not so honest~I'm going to iron those pages one more time and we're going to take it to the branch it originally came from and hope for a more merciful, or less picky, librarian. A fine for damaging the book would be one thing, but we didn't destroy it!

Meanwhile, there's a book the library shows me as having checked out that I am all but absolutely certain that I returned. I keep renewing it, hoping it will turn up on their shelf or mine. I keep checking places to see if the ducklings pulled it out of the return bag and lost it somewhere, but I'm about out of places to look. It's not a small book that can easily slide into obscure places. I know there's something you can do to claim you returned the book, but I'm not very optimistic about a positive outcome after the other experience.

And on top of all this, I just realized I forgot to renew books on Monday, which is the day I always renew everything for the upcoming week. So there's five days of fines on a dozen books that are absolutely, unquestionably, irrevocably, completely my fault.

Now I dread even going to the library and I hardly dare reserve any new books. That one librarian is going to start haunting my dreams soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Some Further Rambling

That link from yesterday about people's beliefs about soul mates gave me a few more thoughts. (Don't worry, I'll be done soon!) The beliefs in the core idea of soul mates--that it is the most important factor in marriage, that there is only one who truly fits the bill, and that this person will appear when the time is right--are so widespread, that it is obvious many Christians must believe them, too. Not only does my experience verify this, but it seems to me often the Christians who are the most adamant at rejecting any whiff of worldliness in their mate-finding habits are most likely to endorse a Christianized version of this idea.

"God will bring the right person in His time." and "Wait for God's best."
Now, we could get into some detailed debates on the revealed and sovereign will of God here, but although we are given many general statements that God will be guiding the steps of those who follow Him, I have yet to find the verse that says God has a One Right Person picked out for us--much less the undoubtedly implied belief if we just wait for this "right person" we will have a better marriage than any alternative.

Actually about the only case I can think of in the Bible where God flat-out told someone to marry a particular person (once there was an open field, of course) it turned out quite badly (see Hosea). And although we can see God directing many marriages in the Bible, He usually works through the perfectly humdrum means used by people who have decided they need or want to find a spouse. (Isaac, Jacob, Ruth.)

In other words, it's not so much that this statement is wrong on its face, it's that it usually seems to be applied in a way that trusts God to work like the mystical fate that leads us to our appointed Mr. Wonderful. Which God never promises to do. He's busy working on our immortal happiness and his immortal glory, which may or may not involve a deep and lasting connection with another mortal.

"It's better to be single than to be married to the wrong one."
Now, if by this it's meant that it's better to be single than to be married to someone who is abusive, unfaithful, or chronically irresponsible, then of course it is true. And if it's meant as consolation for a relationship that didn't work out, it's unarguable.

But if it, as seems more likely, means "it's better to be single than to be married to anyone less than your soul mate," I'm not so sure. Both the Bible and statistics suggest that the bulk of marriage's advantages come simply from having a reliable warm body at your side, to sleep and work with. Unless you're called to singleness, it's probably better to be married to someone reasonably nice than to hold out hope for perfection; who knows--you might wake up some day and realize you married your soul mate after all.


After a few days of tumultuous but still hot and muggy weather, we finally awoke to a cool, gray morning. The ducklings begged for their jackets (which still fit, hooray!) before we left for the park. They were, of course, wearing shorts and sandals--it wasn't that cold.

A few rain storms haven't entirely cleaned the air, but I do feel as if I could breathe again. And the forecast doesn't show any temperatures above 81.

I can live with this.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Cynic Gets Married

Although I was not included in the sample when this survey was taken, I was a never-married single between 20 and 29 at the time. Had I been asked, I would have been in a miniscule minority (6%) that did not endorse the statement: "When you marry, you want your spouse to be your soul mate, first and foremost."

What exactly they meant by "soul mate" is unclear, since it apparently has nothing to do with the person's religious beliefs (only 42% thought those matter) and sexual activity is by no means reserved for such persons. Apparently it's just one of those things you know when you see it, an emotional connection divorced from the spirit or body.

Meanwhile, my young, cynical self was keeping an eye out for someone with similar religious beliefs and lifestyle preferences, someone capable of intelligent conversation and laughing at a good joke. Someone who could be a good friend and a good father. That narrowed the field down amply; insisting on a deep, mystical connection just seemed like it lowered the odds too far. Alas, I did not share the unshakable faith of over 80% that there must be One Right Person out there and that I would find him when I was ready.

What I did find was DOB, a good friend with a similar background, who was willing to marry me. So we proceeded forward, with little concern over whether we were truly "soul mates" or not. As it turned out, when you spend a lot of time around a good friend who gets your jokes and shares your deepest beliefs, who also happens to be a reasonably attractive member of the opposite sex, feeling a deep connection often just happens anyway.

And it takes time to find out things. Many areas of deep connection we didn't even realize until we'd been married a while. Other things we thought we had in common have been dropped on one or both sides. Some areas we'll never fully connect on: I'm never going to love baseball that much, and he's never going to be that thrilled about Shakespeare. But we'll still watch ball games and Shakespeare together. We read different books, but we talk about them together.

A feeling of deep, mystical connection can happen. But it's an awfully flimsy thing. A few sleepless nights, a misunderstanding in a stressful situation, or just the difficulties of profound conversation in a house with children can leave a couple feeling, well, not so soul-matey. But we'll still be living in the same house, paying the same bills, raising the same children, and sitting in the same pew (until the next potty run or tantrum, at least)--sooner or later, we'll make time to connect again. Being soul mates is wonderful, but being able to count on each other is so much better.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Someday We'll Have Flowers

And then how will we make these sumptuous weed banquets? (Note for the squeamish and vegans: It's all from plants.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mindless Eating

This is an intriguing book whether you have the slightest interest in losing weight or not. It's about the psychology of eating, how much stale popcorn people will eat, how to make bottomless bowls of soup, and what people taste when you dye lemon Jello red.

DOB wished he could have learned more about the tricks to get people to eat more without thinking about it, since he has the metabolism of a humming bird and hates eating. Majority interests being what they are, though, the book does focus more on how to eat less, not more. (Though some people are interested in tricking people into eating more: not fast food joints--who only care what you buy, not what you eat--but the military.)

I am finally interested in slowing down my eating a bit (which is hard when you eat with someone who eats a lot--see chapter 5). While pregnant and/or nursing, I had to force myself to eat a lot more than I wanted to, or I'd be passing out before I got the next meal made. Now I need to unlearn some of the habits I learned to trick myself into eating more. Especially reading while I eat. But it's so hard not to.

We've decided playing card games while we eat is a good compromise for both of us, though. It gives DOB an excuse to linger at the table and eat a little more, but it gives me something to do with my hands so I don't eat more just from watching him. So even though it seems quite barbaric and is hard on the cards, we carry on.

Speaking of weight, we were both astonished to find this Stupid Internet Quiz on How Much Do You Weigh? was in fact dead-on right for both of us. Especially since it never asks about your height. But we're not posting the results.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


The first two rules of having happy toddlers are:

1. Don't change anything.
2. If you do change anything, talk about it for days or weeks in advance with great enthusiasm.

I'm not very good at following these rules, but I do know them and I try. Nonetheless, we decided rather on the spur of the moment to move D2 out of his crib this past weekend. It was getting to be a hassle to lift him in and out, he sleeps soundly enough that we weren't worried about nighttime wandering, and we just thought it might be time.

So, trying to follow Rule #2, we asked him if he would like to have his mattress on the floor like D1's. Indeed he would. They have a great time jumping and playing on D1's mattress, which is why we've never bothered to set up actual beds for them.

We pulled the mattress out shortly before naptime on Sunday, and they played happily on both mattresses for awhile. Then it was naptime. He asked to go back into his crib. Apparently he had not realized that moving the mattress out meant no more place to sleep in the crib. So DOB dealt with this oversight by gently setting him down on the springs left in the bottom of the crib. Sure enough, he decided that sleeping in the crib was no longer a good idea.

He slept well that naptime and bedtime, so when DOB's family showed up for Labor Day, we asked the boys to take apart the crib and put it in the attic without a second thought. In the busyness of the day, I didn't notice an immediate reaction. A few hours later, though, I was discussing the change with someone else in his hearing, and he suddenly said, "They bwoke my cwib!" and began to cry. I tried to reassure him that it was only taken apart, like his Duplos, and could be put back together again.

He settled down then, but at lunch he started to cry again over his broken crib. Fortunately by that time the boys had taken the crib upstairs, so at least the carcase wasn't lying around to distress him. I took him in on his new bed and told him a long story about a little boy named D2 who started out as a little tiny baby and slept in a crib and then he got bigger and bigger until he was too big to sleep in the crib anymore so they took the crib apart like Duplos and put it up in the attic until some new little tiny baby might need it.

So far we've heard no more about the broken crib, although he did take an awfully long time to fall asleep yesterday. Now we must deal with the new realization of the ease with which he can get more toys in bed with him. Just because you can take your bike to bed with you doesn't mean you should.