Monday, December 29, 2008

Memorable Gifts

So what's your most memorable gift? Probably something tacky or horrifying, human nature being what it is.

But the gift I remember best I was neither a giver or a receiver. Just an innocent bystander.

It was the year my parents gave Toolboy his first Real Hammer. We were farm kids, and Toolboy has always been Toolboy, so I'm guessing this would have been the year he was six and a half and I had just turned eight.

Being a normal six-year-old boy, he left his gifts lying on the stairs.

Being a slightly more astute eight-year-old girl, I was dashing up and down the stairs squirreling away my loot.

And on one of the trips, came down like a ton of bricks (I always moved like a ton of bricks, even when I weighed 75 pounds) on the claw of the hammer.

I distinctly remember spending that Christmas evening on the couch, watching a festive holiday video, my foot bandaged and throbbing.

Yup, that was a memorable gift.

It's about three years until D2 is old enough for his own first Real Hammer. And it had better never get left on the stairs.

Cheap Food for Parties

Fondue reputedly started out as a winter survival food of Swiss peasants, who discovered stale bread and cheese tasted better if you melted the cheese and dipped the bread in while all huddled around the pot for warmth.

It seems to be a common trend, that the cheap food of former centuries becomes a luxury or celebratory item in later years. Like the lutefisk my grandmother hoarded at Christmas (she said it didn't stink if you learned how to cook it properly), which must have begun as a way to try to consume dry fish over a long, cold, Norwegian winter.

The main reason the price goes up so much is that we are no longer in the same area or willing to do the work ourselves. If we milked our own goats and grew our own rye, no doubt it would be just as cheap to use up the leftovers huddled around the fire.

This does not describe the food that is currently cheap, which is instead mass-produced and shipped everywhere.

So it probably isn't true that future generations will have pricey but treasured bowls of steaming Top Ramen as a special feast day tradition.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Seven Quick Takes Friday

You'll notice that I always spell out the first number, even though nobody else does. This is because the Grammar Commando won't let me use a numeral to begin a sentence, or even a phrase. The Grammar Commando is strict that way.

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I'm not one to bash on insurance companies too much, but last week I got an envelope from them with a special message on living with Type 2 diabetes. Interesting, because I don't have Type 2 diabetes, or Type 1 diabetes, or Gestational Diabetes, or Leprosy. I think this, along with the Creepy Nurse who called up every month while I was pregnant, is part of their general wellness programs, and I really think they could spend less money on that and more money paying off claims.

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Wondergirl arrives this afternoon. It should have been this morning, but the flight from Cleveland was canceled.

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That means I have more time to clean the bathrooms and sweep the floor. Which I clearly am not doing right now. I'm waiting for the babies to go down for their nap. Yes.

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They got six inches of snow in Washington last night, and ours all melted this morning. Quite unfair.

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Have you tried Pandora? You really must. Forget that favorite Christmas CD business, you can just sign up to listen to all of your favorite style of Christmas music all day long. (HT to the Deputy Headmistress, I think.) I wonder what it would give me if I told it to design a radio station based on Pigorian Chant?

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The older ducklings have wormed the full tale of Santa Claus out of us now and spent all morning yesterday playing elves, packing up gifts to distribute. Except they pronounce it "Elles." Why is it that every creative thing they think of to play involves dragging out all the toys they can find and mixing them together? Why do they never decide to play Impoverished Children With No Toys?

More quick takes at Conversion Diary.

Third Time Around


This blog is the closest thing I have to a baby book. With a little math, I can go back and compare the current round of babies with previous models. Thus I discover that although I thought my decision to start sweet potatoes this week came far too early, a careful reading of the archives discloses that it is only a week earlier than D1 started and three weeks earlier than D2 started, and since the twins were born a week later than D1 and three weeks later than D2, it all comes out even, right? Regardless, we seem to have hit the Growth Spurt That Never Ends, which means it's time, alas. Also they react to it much the same way: Choke, gag, splutter. But having two babies gagging at once is a new experience.

Also although I thought D4 was being terribly precocious in rolling all the way across the living room this morning, it turns out he was only a month ahead of D1, which is not that impressive for someone who's been trying to crawl since he was five minutes old. He did roll both ways a lot sooner, though--perhaps the use of the skill for locomotion requires a certain amount of mental as well as physical development.

I thought they were far too young for all this, but apparently I'm suffering nothing more than an acute case of My Babies Are Growing Up Too Fast.

D3 has gotten quite a bit more wiggly the past few weeks, although she's still not rolling even one way if she can help it. (Her charm-the-socks-off radius is about ten feet, though.) I have read people boasting about how their food and environmental choices result in faster child development. Well, I'm sure it helps to feed yourself and the babies properly and let them play where they can move. But having very UNidentical twins makes it clear to me that babies do their own thing at their own speed and there's not all that much to be done about it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Because I Haven't Done This In A While



D1 and D2 in a moment of patriotic myopia. D3 and D4 getting alarmingly big. Beware, Random Objects on Floor! Babies are on patrol!

Alas

I was wrong about the absence of giant inflated figures this year. Apparently everyone just waited a couple of weeks to put them up. (Well, two weeks is better than all month.)

And the people across the street have put up two hideous giant figures. Their lights shine in my bedroom window at night.

I'd like to sneak over there and stab them repeatedly. But it's the home of the chief of police.

Probably not a good idea.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1. It would, of course, be the night we were finally making progress at Teaching the Babies About Bedtime and Getting to Bed on Time that we would be awakened every hour by a malfunctioning CO detector (which we THOUGHT was a malfunctioning smoke detector), resulting finally in dragging everyone out of the house at 3 a.m. while the fire department visited (too late to go back to bed, too early to get up). The kids, of course, had a great time, and it provided a nice rehearsal for our safety plans we've been discussing lately; the babies were thrilled that we all recognized the need for some activity at 3 a.m. But the parents, they were not pleased.

2. The older ducklings also had a wonderful time last night at a Christmas party complete with magician and balloon-tier. And I declared today a Pajama Pancake Party. And there's another party tonight. It's a good time of year to be 3 and 4.

3. Making pancakes reminds me why I declared I would not make pancakes again until the babies were much older. This takes forever. It also reminds me of my sole pregnancy craving: the day I made and ate an entire batch of pancakes. Why do I never get to eat like that any more when the babies are about eight times as big? Probably because I actually get to keep down my normal meals.

4. I wonder if there's a Guinness Book of World Records entry for Most Pounds of Baby Exclusively Breastfed. I bet we're getting close. Well past 35 pounds already, although I haven't measured in a month.

5. I'm in no hurry about that solid food business, either. Having had babies before gives better perspective. Yes, it's nice to fantasize about sleeping through the night, getting away for more than ninety minutes, and seeing those fat little legs develop self-propulsion. But it's also easier to remember that it will never be this easy to feed them again (until they learn to cook) or this easy to find them.

6. D2 is already stressing out over the babies touching his toys. It was my experience with D1 and D2, and I think it's going to be true again, that the older child doesn't have any trouble with the newborn but starts feeling threatened when the baby gets mobile.

7. D1 has started experimenting with different ways to spell and write her name. I thought we had another decade for that.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Songs of Praises

My wife found Jesus tonight.

Well, actually it was just the representation of Him for the mantle nativity...

School of Hard Knocks

An article in a parenting magazine I got yesterday included tips on winter sports: little kids should, of course, always wear helmets and only use sleds with approved steering devices.

Cue the curmudgeonly muttering: when-I-was-a-kid-clonking-your-head-while-spinning-in-a-garbage-lid-was-considered-part-of-the fun. (I'm pretty sure that sledding in the dark in a field with barbed wire fences would not meet modern safety rules either, but I at least was never stupid enough to try that.)

But that's trite. No, what I'm thinking is that the ducklings are far, far more likely to conk their heads badly walking in stocking feet on wood floors around solid furniture than they are to injure themselves spilling out in a snowdrift. In fact, at least one of them slips and hurts their head at least once a day.

If we're really concerned about safety, shouldn't kids be wearing these helmets every time they're out of bed?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas Without Jesus

No, this isn't going to be a devotional or anything like that. It's just that we need to find Jesus.

It started last Friday evening, when I had two hungry and wet babies and company coming any minute. I caught the older kids on top of the loveseat, giggling in that silly way that you know means children are allied against grownups everywhere.

"D2 hid baby Jesus!" D1 exclaimed. Sure enough, the nativity set on the mantle was missing the central character.

At a moment like this, I realized I had two choices: an interminable discipline/interrogation/hunting session, or walking away in disgust. I chose option B, went and changed and fed the babies and was ready for company.

Unfortunately, I forgot all about it for two days. By that time, the ducklings had apparently forgotten where they had hid the figurine. We hunted all the likely places in the vicinity and turned up nothing.

So we issued an ultimatum: No candy until they find Jesus. Or the New Year, whichever comes first.

Edited to add: I found baby Jesus in the library book basket, along with half of a plastic red pepper, a small hot rod, and a toy credit card. And a lot of books, of course. I have not yet heard whether I get the prize, but the ducklings insist I do not get their candy.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Christmas CD Meme

From Wendy at Zoom Times:

If you were trapped on a desert island and it was Christmas and all you had was a small generator, Christmas lights for your coconut tree, an endless supply of Christmas cookies and eggnog, your CD player and 6 Christmas CDs , which 6 albums would you want them to be?

Ah, difficulty. Let us begin with saying that Christmas music is all about nostalgia, and therefore selections are not to be critiqued based on any particular aesthetic or associational standards. It is what it is.

Therefore:

1. Come On Ring Those Bells (Yes, I know it's an LP, but Santa made me a CD version.) This went on the record player--when we still had a record player and actually used it, back in the dark ages--the day after Thanksgiving while I deep-cleaned the living room in preparation for Christmas decorating.

2. I don't even know the name of this one, but it would be the CD version of the record from my mother's and aunt's childhood of Christmas selections, including such rarities as "I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mamba" (What's a Mamba?). We always played it during Christmas cookie bake, and when the LP itself became too scratched my aunt found the various recordings on other CDs to roughly recreate it.

3. The first volume of the Messiah (which I have lost this year! Alas! Alack!) Also: Important exception to the No Christmas Music Until After Thanksgiving Rule: The Messiah is OK any time of year, especially appropriate at Easter and during November while waiting for the rest of Christmas music to be available.

4. Good Christian Men Rejoice. I'm a sucker for men's chorales. (I confessed this after compelling DOB to confess he preferred women's groups.) Plus, my brother used to sing with this group, although he's not on this CD.

5. White Christmas. It's not Christmas for DOB and me without White Christmas, and it's not White Christmas without Bing. Although if we had a Dean Martin Christmas CD Bing might be out of luck.

6. OK, so far this post is practically an autobiography. And I'm not ready to fill slot number six yet. I still have room for another Christmas CD in my life.

Now I tag . . . anyone brave enough to list their favorite Christmas CDs.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Contemplating Vandalism

Fewer giant inflated structures seem to be around this year, for which we can all rejoice, whether it's because the fad is passing or because times are too tight to pay for the blowers. Passing a giant inflated Homer Simpson dressed as Santa really strained my belief in the Common Man.

However, this neighborhood sight has been distressing me for two years now. It's actually rather quaint and folksy and would be charming (and much better than inflated Homers) if it weren't for the eyes. Apparently it was designed by some basement recluse who had never looked a human being in the eyes and therefore envisioned pupils as tiny pinpricks. The result: Mary and Joseph the zombies.

A quick moment with a Sharpie marker ought to solve the problem, converting it into a charming bit of folk art. Would I be justified? Should I wait until the snow melts?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1. I now have two mei tais, so I can go outside with both babies. The sequence of getting coats on, babies tied on, mittens and zippers on big kids (at some point when still able to bend over), and all fast enough so no one overheats in their coats (me particularly) is mind-boggling. I should have it figured out by spring.

I need a picture of it, but it's a little much to add to pull out a camera on top of everything.

2. DOB is afraid this will be misconstrued, so don't misconstrue it. We have not been sleeping well because of babies having colds. So one night this week we fell asleep with D3 still in bed with us. At about 3 in the morning we heard the familiar noise of someone wanting help on the potty. And experienced the unfamiliar sensation of being on the Wrong Sides of the bed, D3 still peacefully slumbering between us. Apparently we had decided to play Musical Chairs in our sleep because just lying still and resting was too dull.

3. Do you listen to Christmas music in foreign languages of unfamiliar tunes? I do (medieval Hungarian right now), but then I wonder why, because it doesn't sound very Christmasy. It does explain why I can continue to count Grunt as a Christmas CD. At least I can be assured the CD will not contain "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" or "The Little Drummer Boy."

4. We taught the kids to play Yahtzee last week and D2 got three yahtzees. He now has a warped view of the game.

5. The babies napped for an hour and a half yesterday morning. Today they napped for forty-five minutes. They are very cranky. They are also dancing around the edge of being able to make it to 8:00 without needing an evening nap, but they are not quite there so yesterday evening they were very, very, very cranky, too. Infancy is just one new problem after another, best enjoyed in retrospect or in other people's children.

That sounded terrible. Really, they're very sweet babies and I love having babies. Or at least that's what I remember when I don't have babies.

6. After a month or more of using the baking soda and vinegar regime instead of shampoo, it's 18 degrees outside and dry and my hair is not frizzing. This has never happened before. I'm impressed. How many things save you time, money, weird chemical exposure, and make your hair look better at the same time?

7. I'm trying to make my own sauerkraut. So far it doesn't smell, but it still has quite awhile to go. Supposedly the enzymes or what-not in the homemade, non-processed kind are very good for you and I actually like sauerkraut, so I figured it was worth a try.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Photos Finished

I ordered prints of pictures this week. I do this once a year, so by the time it rolls around again I can't remember how I did it last year.

As far as I can figure out, to get prints from Target you have to sign up for Photobucket, and to get them from Meijer you have to sign up for Snapfish. Photobucket has better photoediting tools, but Meijer has cheaper prints. So I wound up uploading everything to Photobucket, editing it, copying it to the hard drive, uploading it to Snapfish, and ordering prints from Meijer. And being convinced there had to be an easier way to do it.

Any words of wisdom?

Meanwhile, while we're on the picture topic, here are some from the trip to the conservatory. We also have a membership at Imageshack now. Things are getting out of hand.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Monday, December 01, 2008

Some Links

Don't follow this one while hungry.

What personality type is your blog? This one came up as ESTP "the doers" and my other two as ESFP, "The Entertainers." (In real life, I'm an ENTP, whose nickname is more along the lines of, "The Endless Theorizers." "S" is the real world option, "N" is the abstract one. I have no "S.")

Comings and Goings

We didn't go to Tennessee after all (and no burglars stopped by, either). We had a Thanksgiving Chicken with DOB's mother and the few siblings who didn't go elsewhere. Very strange, but a nice, quiet day.

Since we didn't do a five hour drive on Wednesday, we decided to go to the local Conservatory instead. It had two key attractions: it was indoors, and it was free. When we arrived, we discovered a third attraction, a room dedicated to a large Christmas display, including a couple of trains. The indoor jungle was also quite intriguing to the ducklings.

The wedding all came off well, with the bonus for us of two extra lasagnas to take home. D1 and D2 like playing wedding, but they both want to be the bride. I can't blame them, as I think Army dress greens are one of the more boring uniforms in the history of warfare. (Don't shoot me, I have a brother AND a brother-in-law in the army. I just have my uniform aesthetics informed by comic opera.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Numbers Large and Round

Earlier this year I commented to DOB: "It seems like an awful lot of people are turning thirty this year."

"Well," he said, "Remember all those people who were twenty back when you were twenty? Guess what! Now they're turning thirty!"

Aging is the opposite of accidents. It never happens to other people. They remain pristinely the age they were when you first met them, which is why mothers are such an annoying species. You may be working on your second PhD, but to your mother you're still the child who refused to have anything to do with the potty until the age of five, and if you were so foolhardy as to introduce her to your faculty adviser she would undoubtedly repeat the tale to him.

But somehow ten years have passed and all those college students I used to know and used to be are real grown-ups now, not just pretending as we all were a decade ago. Jobs happened. Marriages. Children. Mortgages. Above all, Time. I find myself saying things like, "I haven't done that in twenty years" and stopping with horror to realize my memory goes back twenty years.

Articles promise me "Age-defying secrets for your skin at 30!" and "What not to wear after 30." (I checked my closet and I never had any of that stuff in the first place. I seem to have missed my frivolous youth and it's too late now.) On top of that still inescapable feeling that I brought the wrong body home from the hospital, this is not what I want to hear. La la la la la. La la. I don't need age-defying skin secrets, thankyouverymuch.

There's really nothing to complain about in being thirty. I don't feel old and creaky yet and I haven't found any gray hairs or wrinkles (though I haven't looked very closely, la la la). It's just so final. This is my last day to ever be in my twenties. Even thinking optimistically, a third of my life has passed.

To the people I see regularly, I'm the quintessential stay-at-home mom, unshakably responsible and with little time for anything but dishes and child care--but this is still such a small part of my own life, only one-sixth. In my head I'm just as irresponsible as ever, propelled by a kaleidoscope of ever changing new ideas and completely indifferent to when the dishes get done.

I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I still don't really know what I'm doing, but I've faked it for so long I'm beginning to fool myself. I still have a lot of dishes to wash today.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Morbid Math with D1

D1: I have twelve children now and I had two that died, so how many children did I have?

(I read on someone's blog the note that telling the Thanksgiving story in any form involves talking about a lot of death what with all those pilgrims dying the first winter. So, yes, we're discussing people getting sick and dying around here, too.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Seven Quick Takes Friday

If you're writing a children's book, do NOT write it in rhyming couplets, unless your name is Dr. Seuss. Insipid prose is not improved by rhyming it. Children's minds are not improved by hearing doggerel. I should not be trying to read poems about disinfectant* with a straight face.

(A limerick about disinfectant, now . . . disinfectant, expectant, protectant . . . )

*It was an alphabet book about zoos, if you must know.

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I figured out what would make my days much easier. Just borrow someone else's 2-year-old for a few days. It would work on the same principle as bringing the cow inside for awhile, but I doubt anyone has a cow I could borrow.

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Also we don't have a video player and our tape player developed a taste for crinkled tape (and once they do that, you never can trust them again). But! I found this website, which has some excellent stories read aloud (and, very nicely, the text of each so I can preview to see if the kids would enjoy it). Google "free audio books kids" and there is a lot out there.

Except I billed it to D1 as a surprise and I think she was disappointed, hoping for something to eat or fight over. But when the first story ended she asked why we weren't listening to another one, so I expect she will develop a taste for them in time.

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We're having an early Thanksgiving for part of the family here tomorrow, driving five hours for another Thanksgiving next week (yes that's right! Five hours in the car with two children just barely potty-trained, and two who need to nurse every two hours),* and just found out that B5 is getting married next Saturday (date moved up for military paperwork reasons). After the next two weeks, just being stuck inside with the kids should seem like a piece of cake.

*Note to Thieves' Guild: We still don't have anything worth stealing (see above), so don't bother. There is this computer, but it's really old and doesn't have much resale value. We put all our money into children, and we're taking them with us.

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This is my first time to host Thanksgiving, or any Holiday Involving Turkey, and I should be past the new-bride stuff, but I did do a creditable job of boiling over the broth for the dressing all over my nice clean stove. I did not burn the carmelizing onions, though. The turkey is not thawed, despite being in the fridge since Tuesday. The pumpkin cheesecakes are done, but I'm very uneasy about the crust consistency.

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The advantage small children have in learning is not some more accelerated brain function, it's simply that they are not embarrassed by doing things badly for awhile. My Hebrew teacher used to say you have to become as a little child to learn a new language, but really you must become as a little child to learn anything new.

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Six again. The babies are fussing. I should be folding laundry and cleaning up that mess in the kitchen.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

D1 Discovers Philosophy

D1: Is the neighbor's house still there?

QOC: Um, yes, were you expecting it not to be?

D1 (covering her eyes with her fingers): No, I mean, is the neighbor's house still there when I'm not looking at it?

QOC: Well, I'm still looking at it.

Where Do You Get More Rope?

Rope, End of: Where I realized I was yesterday when the older ducklings were asking to use the markers and it was all I could do not to pick up the cup of markers and fling it out the window, followed by the ducklings. (The falling snow had not managed to construct drifts, so this would not have been good.)

It feels like lack of sleep, but it's not; at least, I'm sleeping better than I have in a year. (Which is still only about six hours, so perhaps it's just catching up with me.) Probably it's nothing more than cabin fever. I don't do well if I can't get fresh air every day, and bundling up all the kids to go outside has been too intimidating thus far. It's going to be a long, long winter.

Whatever the cause, the question at a moment like that is always what to do next before one winds up on the front page. People tell you to call them if they need help, but you know what this means: Oh dear, I'm terribly sorry, I'm busy today, but I could come by next Thursday. When what you need is some other person Right Now. By next Thursday--or even in the best case, by the time another person could drive over to your house--the crisis will be past.

What I did yesterday was shut the older ducklings in their room, leave the babies on the floor, and went outside to walk around the house several times. This helped enough that I was able to consider the possibility of tea as being a helpful beverage, so I came in and made some and we had a tea party with graham crackers even though it was almost lunch time.

I wish there was a truly happy ending with a nice moral to this story, but there isn't except that we all made it through the day intact. By naptime I was over the edge again. It was only green tea; perhaps more caffeine would help? I hate coffee and carbonated beverages, but I think I could learn to drink black tea. I'm a little concerned about its effect on the babies, though. DOB is also going to try to see that I can get a long walk at least three times a week.

Still, these moments happen. At least to me. Where do you go for more rope? Or am I the only one who suddenly finds themselves this far out of it?

Friday, November 14, 2008

7 Quick Takes

I have now had a poison ivy rash somewhere on me for a full month. I'm trying to figure out where the new breakouts are coming from. Shoelaces seemed a possibility, but do I ever touch the inside of my elbow with my shoelaces? (Maybe fingers to elbow, then washing hands?) Perhaps DOB is right and I just have a new horrible skin disease.

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If you're not already addicted to the Year of Crockpotting blog, you really should check it out. Especially the yogurt recipe. I have always wanted to make my own yogurt and it is so. easy. I tried adding a cup of powdered milk this time, and it came out nice and thick.

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D2 on the swing: Push me higher! So I can be God!

QOC: What did you say?

D2: Um . . . push me higher so I can pretend to be God!

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I avoid controversial topics on my blog these days, not because I don't love an argument, but because I love them all too well and the last thing I need is a reason to lie awake at night thinking of brilliant rebuttals. Now I need to learn to avoid those discussions in forums, too. Because when you spend all day explaining basic safety and hygiene to preschoolers, it's just too much extra stress to try to explain basic human rights to someone who thinks the government should license parents. I suspect to some people "reproductive freedom" means only the freedom not to reproduce.

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Check out our cool puppets we made in our new basement project space!

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D4 can roll onto his stomach pretty easily now. He still has trouble remembering how to roll back, though, and then he gets annoyed. D3 puts her fingers in her mouth and looks at him as if to say: "Why not stay on your back if you like it better? Then you're better situated to attract the attention of all passers-by." Despite the extra movement and never seeming to stop long enough to eat, D4 has almost made up the weight gap.

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It's hard to come up with seven things. Actually it's hard to come up with any specified number. If it had been three, I would have been stuck at two.

But I was trying, because of this 7 Quick Takes linky at Conversion Diary. We'll call this number seven.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Advent Activities

One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories is the Advent box. Inside there was a box to open each day before Christmas; each box contained a small toy or object and a slip of paper with a related devotional. This is perfect for the preschool age, for whom the primary excitement about Christmas is the opening, regardless of what is inside. Around here, the grownups are very, very tired by bedtime and for anything beyond teeth-brushing and pajamas to happen, the energy has to come from the kids.

I don't know where my mother got the original idea--out of some Christian magazine, I presume. Over time I decided I disliked the specific devotionals we used, as they had no coherent organizing principle. I hate random sequences of Nice Thoughts, which is why I never read devotional books. But I loved the excitement of the new box to open every night.

So I wrote my own, naturally. Mine is organized by first going through key Old Testament stories chronologically, bringing out the portion that foreshadows Christ. Then it looks at specific prophecies, and in the final week before Christmas reads through the Christmas story in short sections. To make it even easier to get through on the spot, I even copied in most of the scriptures. (Although they're in KJV because we like the way it sounds read aloud, but others might prefer a more modern translation.)

We did this first two years ago, but I didn't have it all prepared in advance and didn't have enough small boxes, so I sort of recycled the boxes through and they never got the excitement of seeing the Whole Thing together at once. It wasn't prepared enough to use at all last year. This year I'm down to locating two more objects into boxes and we're done, and then it should be easy to use for all subsequent years. Little jewelry and chocolate boxes are the best, as they look decorative without needing to be wrapped. If you wrap the whole big box in pretty paper, it can sit under the tree and look festive and stay handy all month long.

For those with older children, Mama Squirrel has put up a very intriguing looking Advent Calendar using Advent as a time of spiritual preparation.

A Thanksgiving Moment

D2: I am glad for everything God gives us, except potatoes.

Cheap Thrills

I'm trying out this using baking soda to wash your hair idea that's going around. Supposedly it takes your hair awhile to get used to not using shampoo, but mine looks normal so far (i.e. sticking out every which way, but that's my hair). It certainly feels clean.

I'm a little disconcerted by all these possible uses for baking soda, though. Is it really appropriate to use the same substance to wash your hair, brush your teeth, scrub the sink, deodorize your fridge, and bake your biscuits? What if it turns on us? Will we fall under the control of Big Soda?

The babies have also been wearing cloth diapers for a few weeks now, at least during the day. Fortunately, the existing stock of diapers is quite adequate to last them both two days, which is about time to run a load anyway. I calculate on the most expensive possible wash and dry, it could cost $1 to run a load of diapers, whereas it would cost $4 to keep both babies in the cheapest disposables for that amount of time. Since I didn't have to buy any new diapers, that's $1.50 a day I make by running one extra load of laundry every other day instead of taking out the trash. And no more blowouts! I'd much rather wash a load of diapers than agonize over another ruined t-shirt. (So we can add savings on stain remover, too.)

A friend from church volunteered to come over and help, specifying that she didn't like to cook, but did like to clean and organize. No problem there, cooking happens anyway and cleaning doesn't. So with her help we tackled the basement to make a play/project area for the kids. I really have a ton of activities for them to do, but they're usually stored somewhere inaccessible and stymied by the need to clear the dining room table first, and then clear it again before lunch.

Hopefully now that the paint is set up right next to the basement sink it can become a more regular event.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Over the Line

One of the things all the How To Raise Twins books agree on is that you must never, never, never call your children "the twins." No. That's bad. Use their names. They're individuals.

The How To Raise Twins books writers obviously only had twins. Everyone with more than three children has collective names for groups of children. This is partly because it's quicker and partly because they can no longer remember all the names. Nonetheless, few children from large families suffer from having their individuality stifled. Parents of large families don't have the time.

Right now we can use "the babies" and then in a year or two the "little kids" versus the "big kids," but sooner or later they will refuse to be the little kids anymore and then where will we be when deciding which parent goes through the museum with the fifth grade or the second grade class? Maybe we should allow them to choose team names instead.

I don't think we're quite in big family territory yet--I think the cutoff is five--but as I was sorting laundry today I realized I'd passed another marker: having to pay attention when sorting laundry. Now that the weather has cooled down and the babies are dressed in more garments than a t-shirt that snaps underneath, I actually have to give a glance to the size of the blue jeans and pink leggings to be sure which pile they go in. In a few months, I'll have to check the tag.

It's really alarming how fast babies grow. They are now collectively as heavy as D2. Which means I've been lying to him when I said I wasn't strong enough to carry him any more. I hope he doesn't realize this. Or ask me again.

Friday, October 31, 2008

These Things are Good Things


They have come here to play.

They will give you some fun on this wet, wet, wet, day.

Or whatever kind of weather you're having . . . actually it's dry and warm here.

D1 and D2's costumes are confusing to illiterate people, but true Cat in the Hat afficionados will recognize them.

I am the mother, of course.

By the way, D3 and D4 do look awfully alike in these shirts. We had to switch D4 to a two-pom-pom hat so we could tell which baby we were holding at a glance.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Things You Can Learn from YouTube

A couple of months ago DOB determined that his ankles had reached the point that riding an exercise bike was no longer possible. This meant it was time to bite the bullet and get a gym membership so he could swim. (Without some form of aerobic exercise his general health deteriorates very quickly.)

There was one problem with this: He didn't know how to swim. In fact, up until a few years ago, he didn't even have enough non-bone-mass in his body to float. Several years of diligent feeding on my part have helped him somewhat, but it's still not easy. And the gym doesn't offer lessons.

This, of course, is no barrier to DOB if he has it in mind to do something. We hunted up some YouTube videos and a Dorling Kindersley book. (You can find those on any topic.) The YouTube videos were not entirely clear, though--one had good photo quality but all the instructions were in Japanese, another one was evidently done in someone's backyard by a bunch of junior highers. And books don't make motion clear.

The library has some videos of a college swim coach giving instructions; the video quality is terrible but the swimming instruction is pretty clear. So with these and a lot of experimentation, he is finally able to move forward. Literally.

I've been trying to figure out something from online videos, too: how to wear a baby on my back. There's usually a couple of fifteen-minute segments in a day where one baby is happy sleeping, playing on the floor, or being held by someone else, but the other baby is antsy though not currently in need of food. If I can get them up on my back quickly, I can use those fifteen minutes to make some serious progress in the dishes/meals/laundry departments.

After not making progress for some time, I asked for a demonstration from the Nigerian lady at church. She grabbed the handiest baby and a blanket off the nursery floor and had him on her back in no time, the blanket tucked in casually in front. "Now you're ready to go search for water!" she said. (Actually she now works to dig wells so that Nigerian women don't have to walk miles to search for water.) I could see that my problem was not so much a lack of theoretical knowledge or proper materials as a lack of having done this regularly since the age of ten.

But with a little practice and finally finding a video of a method that seems to be within my mechanical abilities, I'm finally making it work.

And the ducklings should not have any difficulty when they have kids. They already have it down with any handy blanket:

Updated to add: I hope an old post is OK to enter the Adventures in Babywearing drawing for the Noony & Boo sling. This picture is just too perfect!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Wearable Blankets

When our thermometer suddenly jumped into the fall zone, I realized the babies did not have warm enough sleeping arrangements. Tucking in a blanket was not going to work with two in the bed. They make these, of course, but I wasn't about to spend $40 on those when I can hardly take a step without tripping on a pile of blankets. (We used to go to a church where all the old ladies crocheted. D1 received a lot of blankets. And then D2 got some more. Mostly they have been used for dress-up.)

Instead, I figured out how to convert two of their existing blankets and some fleece scraps into homemade sleep sacks. Deducting the time for figuring out what I was doing, hunting up thread, oiling the sewing machine (which hadn't been done in years and I hope machine oil is all the same because all I could find was the oil for the hair clippers), and making mistakes, it's probably about a ten minute project.

Materials:
One 36" square double-thickness cotton knit blanket
Two lengths of fleece, about 3" by 7". Make sure these are cut along the length of the fleece, so that the stretch is sideways--otherwise they'll stretch out of shape before you've got them on the baby. You might want to experiment to see how snug you want them to be.

Instructions:

Fold the blanket in half, right side out. Pin the right side of the fleece scraps to the wrong side of the blanket to form shoulder straps. Sew.

Turn the blanket inside out, and sew just up the side. The blanket is long enough and snug enough that they aren't able to kick out of it. (And D4 tries, oh, he tries.) But with the bottom open, you can slide it up to change the diaper if needed in the night.

To put it on the baby, just slide the baby in the top and slip the shoulder straps over their arms.

I put a zipper in the first model, and quickly realized it was completely unnecessary. If you do want a zipper, put the shoulder straps on either side of it so that it's down the middle where it might actually help.

We've been using these the rest of the week, and the babies have stayed nice and warm and sleepy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Random Pictures and Quotes

This is D2's first piano recital. I didn't know he knew how to play, but at a Suzuki recital I'm not sure you need to know anything more than how to bow. D1 has been going to them for a couple of years and you can see she has the bounce down. I'm still meaning to get to one someday . . . right now they go with Grandma and sometimes Papa.


D1 said on the way to church the other morning, "Today we are going to be very have in church."

We started Little House in the Big Woods last week and D1 and D2 were inspired to go chop down all the trees in our neighborhood.

D3 would like people to note that she can roll over, too, she just doesn't like to do it very often.

We are getting to wear those long-sleeved outfits after all. It was a high of 80 a week ago, a high of 57 today.

Planning

Ever had the sort of a day where you have fifteen things to do involving five different people and/or locations and some things have to happen before other things and some things take a long time to do and some are more important and you can't figure out which to start first? (For me, that's a trip to the back yard. Or fixing supper.)

Mathematicians have devoted some thought to this kind of a problem, asking, Is there a quick way to figure out the best way to arrange the tasks? For example, what if you always did the most important job first, or the one that took the longest, or the one with the most other things dependent on it?

So far, the answer has been there is no easy way to find the plan that will get you through all the tasks in the most efficient way. (And that's without adding the random-stinky-diaper variable.) You could, of course, write down all the different ways to do the jobs and then pick out which one worked the best, but that's not very fast.

Until the mathematicians figure it out, the moral is that it's probably faster to just start working on things in an inefficient order and get it done rather than sitting around pondering what order to do it in. Otherwise you'll end up like this.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Just what I need

Another blog! And a big new project! I can't help myself. I like big new projects. And new blogs.

Anyway, the time seems to have come to start taking seriously the prospect of growing food in our backyard. It saves money. It's educational. It gives us all something to do outside. It's fun. My Garden Grows will document our garden plans, problems, and produce, along with efforts to identify the plants in our backyard, book reviews of garden-related books, and whatever else seems to fit.

By the way, I'm getting addicted to Wordpress as a blog host. Who knew you could do all that stuff so easily? I hate changing addresses, though. Sigh.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Sleepless

D3 has, quite on her own, started sleeping 10 hours at night. D4 wakes up once in that time for a quick snack. Last night I set them both down in their bed at 9:30, and they smiled, looked around at the world, kicked each other happily for awhile, and fell asleep without a whimper. And they're still asleep.

(I have had enough children to know that this is no guarantee of all future nights being uninterrupted, but it is a pretty good start.)

So why do I sit here, bleary-eyed?

Because I don't know how to sleep through the night anymore. I still wake up at 2 a.m., and without nursing enough babies, I can't seem to get back to sleep. Ever.

This happened with D2, too, although he was 15 months before he started sleeping through the night. DOB suggests I could keep waking them up, but I have to go through this sooner or later and I might as well do it sooner if they want to sleep now.

I hope I don't have to cry it out. That always wakes up DOB . . .

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Don't Quote Me

The mental equivalent of an itch you can't scratch is a quote you can't place.

Worse yet, a quote you can't remember.

I had one of those running through my head on Sunday. Something about "though much is . . . something . . . much remains."

This is why Google was invented, of course. Only Google is not very helpful when you can't remember the quote. I turned up a handful of vague references of other people who couldn't quite remember the quote either. Just enough to learn that the quote was from a poem by Tennyson and the missing word was "taken."

Well, that ought to have helped, except that Tennyson wrote an awful lot of poems and I had to get lunch on and didn't have time to go through the Complete Works. A search of those complete works turned up nothing.

This suggested that I had the wrong words, but if I didn't have the right words, I couldn't well search for it, could I? The only word I was quite sure of was "much" and that doesn't narrow things down very far.

I kept muddling down for awhile until I discovered the poem was about Ulysses, and finally I found the poem itself. It wasn't remains, it was abides, and "though" isn't spelled out. And Ulysses is exhorting his comrades to achieve even in old age.

Come, my friends,
Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

These musings on age have, of course, absolutely nothing to do with turning thirty in six weeks. It was just a random quote.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Miscellaneous

I think I finally have gotten into poison ivy. (Poison ivy doesn't grow in the Puget Sound region, so I had no chance to be exposed in childhood.) The older ducklings and I walked right into it in our bare feet Saturday night. (And I had been watching, too! I just looked up for a second!) I wiped all our feet down as soon as I could with baby wipes, but I still have a spot on my big toe that I think I missed. At least, it itches differently than mosquito bites, and I have good standard of comparison, because I got four mosquito bites on the other foot.

I can't wait for first frost. The mosquitoes are plotting to take over.

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You say "market volatility" I say, "DOB's going to be home late again." He's busy explaining to people that it's buy low, sell high, not the other way around, and if you're in for the long haul this doesn't matter unless you really think the entire US economic system is going to unravel, in which case you have much, much bigger worries than your 401(k), so stop calling him already. He probably doesn't say it quite like that, though.

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We weighed the babies yesterday, so the official tally for 3 months is: D3, 15 lbs., D4 13.5 lbs. They're hardly even going to get to wear their long-sleeved 3-6 month outfits, which now barely snap. We shall have to lower the floor in the co-sleeper soon, as it has a weight limit of 30 lbs. on the bed-height level. And am I ever going to miss that. Unless D4 decides to start sleeping through the night . . . or at least until four in the morning when D3 wakes up . . . (hint, hint).

I guess he needs to keep well-stocked to maintain his level of activity. Yesterday he almost managed to squeeze through the bars on the patio and fall into the flowerbed. Thanks to D2's exclamation I fished him back out in the nick of time.

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It ought to be a 50% chance. So why does it seem little kids always get their clothes on backwards?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Two Duckling Moments

I was in the middle of a writing lesson with the uncles this week, working on choosing thesis statements for a research paper.

Suddenly D2 marched into the living room carrying a plastic stool.

"I need to look at the sky," he said. He set the stool down, climbed on top, and stared upwards for a moment.

Then he climbed down. "I'm done now."

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The older ducklings like to play Sunday School when we're outside. D1 was running through a list of simplified catechism questions: Who made you? Why did God make all things? etc. and supplying the answers.

Then she got to, "Who wrote the Bible?"

The answer: "Moses and History."

You know, because we have the books of Moses and then the books of History. Prolific writer, that History. Almost as busy as Anonymous.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Weekly Dose of Cute

We have all (except me, as far as I can tell) had bad colds this past week. If there's one thing more sleep-depriving than one sick baby, it's two sick babies. Fortunately they are past the stage of being unable to breathe at night and are just a little snuffly now. And just as wiggly as ever.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Things I Don't Get

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Video clip help files. When I want help, I want to know the single answer to a single question. Words. Give me words. I don't want to watch a video of a cursor moseying around the screen.

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The reverse-shotgun-wedding. I overheard a mother (very loudly) commenting that she and her husband were going to be incidentally announcing their marriage at their twins' first birthday party. Apparently they had been planning on getting married when she discovered she was pregnant, so they immediately scrapped all wedding plans (with their pastor's endorsement) and just went on living together until the babies had been around for awhile. Because somehow having a baby (or two) makes it NOT ok to get married anymore. At least not until you have proved you can do without it.

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Naps. OK, sometimes I do. And that's where I should go now . . .

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Miscellaneous

You may or may not have noticed that I generally post on Tuesday. That is because the older ducklings are generally at Grandma's house on Tuesday. The past two weeks that did not take place. Hence even less opportunity to sit down and post than usual. I find that posts benefit from a certain amount of percolation, but after awhile they just dissolve. So most of the brilliant things I have thought about in the last few weeks have simply vanished, never to return. Or perhaps they have dissipated into the brain but will slosh about and crystallize at another time.

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There are some economies of scale in a larger family (I speak here in the Time and Effort department. Money is DOB's concern.) It takes just as long to make a pot of oatmeal for two people as it does for six people. It takes just as much time to sweep up a dirty floor tracked upon by four little feet as by two.

Seasonal clothing changes are not subject to economies of scale. I only just realized this. It takes twice as long to trade out clothes for four children as it does for two, and is rather more than twice the effort in the box-moving department. And when the two smaller ones are likely to go through two whole sizes before the arrival of spring, that does complicate things. Also it turns out the hand-me-down wardrobes have glaring inadequacies, such as a complete lack of sleepers in one size. (In D4's case, I think this is due to being in a different season than D2; in D3's case I can only conclude I borrowed most of D1's clothes and had to return them.)

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D4 continues to wow people with his knack for rolling over--he had everyone in the nursery (and our church nursery is quite the crowd these days) watching him show off on Sunday. But D3 has moved up to "Real Person" status in DOB's eyes by carrying on a conversation with him. Her part consisted of repeating the word, "uhhh-oooh" with deep sincerity.

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The other day the mail consisted of nothing but two glossy advertisements--one for a children's clothing company, one looking like a black leather wallet for a mortgage company. I gave the clothes one to D1 and the wallet to D2. He smiled and said, "I love black mail!"

Three

D2 has now officially turned three, after being "almost three" in my mind for some time. Not in his. On Sunday he was Two. On Monday he was Three. Now he is big, unless, of course, he wants to be picked up, in which case he discovers that he is conveniently still little. (My arms tell me otherwise.)

We celebrated by taking lunch (an imaginative combination of cheese sticks, carrot sticks, bread, and grapes--but there were cupcakes. Callipiddar cupcakes.) to the park overlooking the river that has the duck pond. He got to climb the hill in the woods, feed the ducks, and watch barges on the river.

His head is so full of words now that they get into traffic jams on the way out. He can dress himself, but he still likes help. He loves hearing and acting out stories, especially the Three Billy Goats Gruff: "Who's that crossing over my bridge?"

Monday, September 22, 2008

Housework Forecast: Light and Spotty

There is a time for everything. I have wasted some time and aggravation learning this, trying to interest children in some activity only to have them design their own version six months later, bemoaning our lack of outside time in February and our lack of crafty projects in May.

But I'm starting to learn to take things when they come. And when the mornings are cool and the afternoons warm and the sun shines day after day and the yard is dry and the bugs not too aggressive--it's time to play outside.

Someone should tell the house that, so it would not do things like spilling honey all through the cupboard necessitating a deep clean.

But take fair warning: anything that doesn't have to be done right away, won't be done until the fall rains come.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Arrrhh!

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day! D3 is awaiting rescue, having been kidnapped by a villainous crew.
So far today we've read pirate poetry, gone to the park in costume, gathered treasure for our ship, been marooned on a desert island and built a hut from driftwood.

Still on the day's agenda: pizza from ye Sandwiche Islands, YouTube video clips from Pirates of Penzance, and a treasure hunt.

Well, why not?

The Mind Boggles

Not up to date on baby gear? Neither am I. I had no idea you could get a special timer just for remembering when you last fed, changed, napped, or otherwise interacted with the baby.

I'm not much on keeping track of things. By three days I haven't entirely given up on the chart from the hospital, but everything I write on it is entirely fabricated. I know I fed them sometime. They'll remind me if I forget to do it again. I probably forgot to change them, but I'll remember when they start dripping.

Of course there are people out there who keep those charts for months. They probably wouldn't use the timer that much either, as it doesn't have archives for the truly obsessive record keeper.

I'm still not sure why you would need a timer for something that comes with its own built-in alarm . . .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Clouds and Wind Without Rain

On Sunday it seemed rather breezy out. I tucked the tarp under the stroller extra-carefully, and an hour later it blew past the window. (Fortunately only to the back yard.) DOB looked on the internet and discovered a few people in our local area were without power.

Poor souls, we thought, and went on our merry way.

Then our power went out. Apparently we got struck, rather unexpectedly, by the tail end of Ike. By Sunday evening, ninety percent of the people in our county were without power.

Clearly I have lived in the city too long. When I was a child, I was conditioned to start running gallons of water the instant the wind picked up. This time, it didn't even occur to me to get some easily-consumed food out of the refrigerator.

Of course water is not as much of a concern when you're on city water instead of a well with electric pump. And with a gas water heater, we even had hot water. So no getting out of doing the dishes (alas!) but we still had showers (hooray!). On the other hand, the prolonged power outages of my childhood were associated with winter storms, usually ice storms, and keeping food cool was of little concern, whereas it was our primary problem this time. (And since we had a wood stove, cooking it was no problem either, but that also is a difficulty now).

It's a good thing I hadn't yet made up my mind to get rid of the fondue pot. It makes a decent bean soup, and we had an awesome sausage-cheese dip for supper. Some friends came by with a portable generator to run our refrigerator and freezer for half an hour, so I was able to pull a little food out of the fridge to cook for supper.

Temperatures were down in the low seventies, so there really weren't any other difficulties. Children can roll in the mud just as happily with the power out. I did miss watching a movie or reading through the babies' late evening non-stop feeding time. My admiration increases for mothers of twins who lived before electricity.

At four-thirty this morning I heard the house fan begin to purr again and peeked out the window to see that the street light was back on.

Now today's job is deciding which of the contents of the refrigerator and freezer are beyond repair and which need to be eaten promptly. I think the chest freezer survived fairly well--the meat was all down at the bottom and it was quite full--but I have an uneasy feeling about the ice cream in the freezer upstairs. Considering the damage on all sides, and worse things further south, I should not feel too bad about losing a couple half-gallons of ice cream.

But when one of them was Breyers' Triple Chocolate, it's still hard.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I am not ready for this

When I left the room to grab the camera, they were in the same position. Every time I set him tummy-down on the Boppy, he climbs over it. Sometimes he flips while he's at it.
I think I must have taken too many vitamins when I was pregnant.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

25 Home Decorating Mistakes

According to HGTV. I've never had a toilet rug. Or a plastic couch cover. And I'm not afraid of color (although I might be guilty of too much).

But I freely confess to having too many bookcases for the walls. So much the worse for the walls. And all the furniture is up against the walls, because otherwise there would be nowhere to walk. Which is somewhat important.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A Threat

I understand that modern readers are jaded by television's pacing and need some action up front. I get that you can't ramble around for three chapters before getting to the actual story like a nineteenth-century novelist. Even I get impatient with some of those nineteenth-century novelists.

But is it really necessary to put the murder in the first line and then dump in backstory with a backhoe? Couldn't we stroll around Lord Frogmorton's ball for a few minutes and mingle before the body is discovered? Instead we wind up racing to the phone, while somehow managing to reminisce on the way about the personal history of everyone we pass. Absurd.

So, to modern novelists, I offer three options: 1) Spend a wee bit of time on setup. Write it well and people will hang around until someone dies. 2) Write your backstory sensibly. Let it unfold within the story instead of dumping it all off at the first opportunity. If you can't do either then, 3) Know that I will toss your book across the room and refuse to read past the first three pages.

Of course, since I'm not buying the books anyway, the modern novelist probably doesn't give a hoot what I think.

Changing Out


Today I swapped the 0-3 month clothes for the 3-6 month size. It is the first nostalgically sad (as opposed to I-haven't-slept-in-three-days sad) moment of parenting for me, since I never can get worked up over not being pregnant anymore. But tucking away all those cute little sleepers which will never fit again, that's a little sad. Yes, it's like a soppy Carter's ad.

Fortunately it's immediately followed by getting out cute new clothes and, in the case of many of them, reminiscing about when D1 or D2 wore this. I have an absurd amount of clothing in this size, since it's the size most people give gifts in. I could clothe triplets (two girls, one boy: Girl clothes are cuter and D1 got to the presents first). The new size is still a little baggy, which is good when worn by someone whose diaper regularly expands significantly.

But here's an important question: Is D4's shirt too girly? It makes such a nice (if somewhat Freudian) coordinating set, but it is light purple polkadots.

Like-Minded People

I have never walked out of a church service, but I did come close to throwing up in one for similar reasons. (Later that week I discovered D1 was on the way, which probably affected why my distaste took that particular form.)

What's sad and funny is the number of people who replied to that post saying in effect, "We're people like you, come see us!" or, "We want to reach out to people like you, what can we do?"

Which is exactly not the point.

It's an icky feeling to walk into a church and find yourself pegged as a target demographic. Young professionals, married with children. Check. Let's plug you in! Like a toaster. I am not a toaster.

I suspect a lot of people grew up despising their parents' strict and legalistic churches and so determined to be different anyway they could figure out. But cooler-than-thou is no closer to the gospel than holier-than-thou.

When we were first hunting for churches we also despaired that we would ever find a church that was just about being a church. Where the sermons would be about the Bible, not about either How Everyone Else Is Evil or Self-Help With Jesus. Where we would not settle into a comfy little spot with people just like us.

The thing that attracted us to our church was that it was full of people who were not like us. And not because they are busy trying to be cool and relevant. Nor because the church is trying to "reach out" to a particular demographic, but because they treat anyone who walks in the door as a person, not a statistic.

That's not always comfortable. Sometimes I wish for a larger buffer of People Like Me between me and the old ladies with (untested!) strong child-rearing opinions, or the random character who seems to be missing a few hymnals from his pew. Sometimes I am not charitable at all.

But I wouldn't even have a chance to learn in a church--or a ministry group--full of people like me. I still gravitate towards people of similar age, education level, and outlook, but fortunately there are few enough that I don't really have the option of staying there. I have to learn to connect with people with whom I have nothing in common except living in the same town and knowing Jesus.

Whether the church at large can be more like that, I don't know. I doubt you can do it in a big church. Anytime you get a large enough group of people freely associating, they start forming cliques. They may be diverse in their outward appearance, but they are always very much alike in outlook. (On the internet this can be even worse. People start identifying themselves based on things like their diapering style.)

It's only in accidents like families and neighborhoods that you can be forced into relationships with people you wouldn't naturally like very much. And so I suspect it's only in rather random small neighborhood churches that you can really see the kind of love that Jesus said would characterize his disciples.

Whatever it is, it can't be done by trying too hard. There's no book to be read or program to follow. Like homemade soup, as soon as you start packaging and selling it, it stops being homemade.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Dreams Come True

I used to say, when I was twenty-one or so, that I would rather just skip over the whole ooky falling-in-love business, the awkward newlywed stage, and just wake up one day to find I'd been married five years.

Saturday it happened.

And I do like it.

Falling in love was not as bad as I feared, but it was still rather unpleasant in spots. Being a newlywed had its good points, but isn't something I would want to repeat.

Now is better. We are starting to feel like a real family, with traditions and favorite dinners and inside jokes.
"Babies are very nice. Goodness knows I like babies. But a baby is not a family."
"Isn't that a fact!" said Father. "A family is everybody all together." (A Baby Sister for Frances)
I am glad, though, that I didn't skip over the last five years. Life moves fast enough without missing parts of it.

We popped popcorn and showed the ducklings our wedding video. D1 was quite excited to finally get a chance to learn how to watch movies. She has been practicing with an empty picture frame so that she would be ready whenever the opportunity arose.

The day was spent (like all the other days right now) taking care of the four extra people whom we have accumulated along the way. It was a good day. But I don't think it diminishes the enjoyment of now to say that I look for even better things in the next five years. Maybe one day we'll be able to get out of the house . . .

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I didn't mean to fish for sympathy

It was more meant as a documentary. Let me hasten to add a few things:

1. D3 and D4 are really very, very easy, healthy babies. One baby with colic or reflux would be far more challenging. And they do both sleep fairly well. It's just that there are two of them and they aren't quite synchronized in when their longest stretch of sleep is. Now that the six-week growth spurt seems to be over, that is getting better, too.

2. Grandma takes D1 and D2 for two nights and a day every week. I realize it sounds ridiculous to think of only having two month old twins as being a break, but at least I can read what I want to read and rest when the babies do. And no one asks me a surreal question even once, let alone fifteen times. DOB also takes one or both of the older two out with him at various points during the week.

3. Nursing hormones are amazing things, as I discovered when I weaned D2 and had to face motherhood without them for the first time. A few minutes of nursing can transform me from "Who are these kids and why are they calling me Mom?" to "Awww, aren't you the cutest widdle fings." I may be delusional and goofy, but I'm happy. (And I'm very grateful to be able to exclusively breastfeed the babies without any complications. I just have to eat a lot. Not a great hardship.)

4. That great big twin nursing pillow allows me to feed the babies hands-free. This means books! Books! And lots of them. (Not very profound books, I'll admit, as those hormones don't do that much for sleep deprivation.) Still, I can be quite happy as long as I have plenty of books. Of course, D1 and D2 have discovered this, too. So the books are not always those of my choice.

5. Although Wondergirl is gone, Cicero is still here a few nights a week, which means help with dinner and dishes and an extra pair of hands to hold babies, much to the relief of our shoulders.

6. Why are we having an easier time with four kids than with one or two? The answer is, we have given up doing everything else. The world at large will have to wait to benefit from our presence for a few years.

7. D2 has potty-trained with amazing ease, and that means only two in diapers. And breastfed babies' diapers are really not so bad, as long as everything stays inside.

Not that a little sympathy--especially if accompanied by chocolate--is unappreciated. But I just wanted to give both sides.

Besides, if there is anything cuter than two sleeping babies, I certainly haven't seen it:

And D1 and D2 are quite a bit of fun to be around, too.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

How Do I . . .

Cook Supper?

1. Put happier baby in a car seat.
2. Put crankier baby in a pouch.
3. Assign tasks to the older ducklings.
4. Pray for patience.
4b. If patience insufficient, send older ducklings to play in room.
5. Assemble supper with one baby in pouch while rocking car seat with foot.

Go Outside?

1. Send older ducklings to go potty and drink water.
2. Check and restock diaper bag.
3. Apply sunscreen and bug spray to all applicable bodies.
4. Set babies in car seats by the front door. (Note: They are probably screaming through this process.)
5. Take tarp off stroller, unlock from porch railing, haul down the front steps, set up and brake.
7. Carry out diaper bag and wrap. Drape wrap fabric over the top of the stroller to provide more complete shade.
8. Apply hats to all applicable bodies.
9. Let older ducklings go out and stand on the porch.
10. Carry babies out one at a time and strap into stroller.

Coming back inside involves the same steps (except 3), only backwards.

Sleep?
Option A:
1. Lie down, start a baby eating, and doze off into a fitful slumber.
2. Wake up a little while later, swap babies and sides, and doze off again.
3. Repeat all night.

Option B:
1. Wake up the non-hungry baby.
2. Put on the monster-big twin nursing pillow.
3. Feed babies.
4. Put both babies back in bed.
5. Now fully awake, go to the bathroom and then get a snack.
6. Get back in bed and lie awake, falling asleep briefly before someone is hungry again.

I haven't figured out which option actually results in the greatest overall sleep, so I keep swapping back and forth.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Turning Point

There are many moments worthy of celebration in potty training. The first successful go. The first time they take themselves. The first dry day. The first dry night.

But the really critical moment--the one where you know it's going to take this time--is when they realize that they have latched on to the universal excuse.

Chores too tedious? I gotta go potty!
Bedtime too early? I gotta go potty!
Church service too long? Older siblings too pesky? Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go.

Smart children learn to ration this precious commodity so that the grownups cannot thwart this new scheme.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Climbing the hill

The sledding part of sledding is always over far too quickly, and then you have the long trudge back up the hill. If you keep watching the top of the hill, it never seems to get any closer. If you keep watching the bottom of the hill, it never seems to get any farther away. If you watch your feet and get mesmerized in the present motion, in the crunch of the snow and smell of the clear air, and then--a little bit after the third time you think you simply must look up--you finally do look around, you find you've come quite a ways.

I think that is why things do seem easier, emotionally if not physically, than they did a few years ago. I've stopped counting. I have no idea how many diapers I've changed or feedings I've done or piles of dishes I've washed since the beginning of the week, or how many are left to be done. I'm learning to just wash this dish, just change this baby.

And I can look around and see things have come a long way. D1 and D2 are suddenly almost big kids, able to dress and feed themselves, run little errands, pick up all that stuff on the floor. Not every task in the house now depends on my personal labor. It's a double deposit of energy. All the thousand little things have begun to pile up into something big.

The other day I commented to DOB, "If I were God, I would have given all these little kids to someone more organized."

He replied, "If I were God, I would have made you more organized since I was going to give you all these little kids."

But perhaps instead God determined that the only way to make me more organized--or even aware of my surroundings--was to give me all these little kids. It turns out I can do a lot of things I didn't think I ever could. I can clean up while I cook. I can make sure we keep the floors picked up. I can follow the same two weeks' worth of menus to spend the minimum time on meal planning and preparation. I can sing another song and read another story instead of retreating into my own head. I can get us to church on time on Sunday morning.

I can even do all this and still enjoy life.

I don't know for how long. I have never lived at anything like this level of physical and emotional intensity for any significant length of time. I'm very tired and the babies' biological clocks seem to be carefully tuned four hours apart despite my best efforts to synchronize them.

But I give myself a personal version of Aragorn's speech before the Black Gate:
The day may come when my parenting strategy degenerates to that of the Old Woman in the Shoe, when I stuff cotton in my ear and hide all afternoon in the closet.
But it is not this day.
The day may come when I duct tape all the children to the wall, when I pack my bags and move to a remote island off the coast of Maine.
But it is not this day.
Today I will get up and smile and find that I can do what I must do, by the grace of God.

More Quirkiness

I have put off this tag from Uncle Steve for some time now, but I'm sure he understands busyness. (My job is cuter, though.)

So, six unspectacular quirks:

1. I'll do almost anything to avoid making phone calls. The internet is a beautiful thing. Now I can email all my friends and do searches to find business information. D1 has more confidence on the phone than I do. (Though she is still harder to understand.)

2. I have an irrational antipathy to pacifiers. I concede that they are easier to get rid of than thumbs; I suffer guilt from the new evidence that suggests they may help reduce the risk of SIDS. But they're just too ugly. I can't bring myself to cover up my babies' beautiful mouths with those things.

3. I always surf away, cursing (uh, metaphorically), when some fascinating link turns out to be a podcast. I hate listening to things. I don't care much for watching things. I never want to wait for something to load. Give me text!

4. I'm shy about tagging people. What if the people I tag don't want to be bothered? What if the people I don't tag feel left out? Too much angst.

5. I tend to get distracted before I finish things.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mars and Venus Watch a Movie

DOB and I have been watching The Lord of the Rings for the fourth (or more) time, in slow, brief stages, stopping it to analyze differences between the books and movies, debate motivations and plausibility, note subtle allusions.

DOB: Maybe tonight we can get most of the way through the boring part, with all that time in Lothlorien and floating down the river.

QOC: What do you mean, get through it? What's left after that part?

DOB: The battle.

QOC: That is the boring part!

The Mommy 'Do

You have seen this phenomenon. You may have succumb to this phenomenon. A woman with long hair gives birth to a child. She wears her hair in a pony tail for a few weeks, keeping things out of the reach of entangling baby fingers.

Then, one day, a month or so in, the hair is gone.

I've resisted it twice. But I understand. At that stage, your life stinks, in the literal rather than figurative sense: of sour milk and worse things. The contrast of being skinnier than nine months pregnant has worn off and been replaced with being fatter than ever before that. None of your clothes fit, the ones that do need washed, you feel frumpy and sleep-deprived and your hair keeps getting in your face or the baby's fingers.

And it occurs to you: there's only one of those things I can do anything about. So you do it.

This time the lure was too strong.

The extra danger for me is that I can cut my own hair. This has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with hair texture. A beautician told me twelve years ago that my hair would look the same no matter who cut it, and I've never been back to one since. But I usually just keep it in the same safe shoulder-length range.

This time I decided to go farther.

I cut bangs first. I haven't worn bangs since I was twenty. It was rather nice to look in the mirror and see a reprise of myself at twenty. Of course I hated the bangs when I was twenty, but that seemed irrelevant: the point was a reminder of myself when my skinny clothes fit and I had time to think about topics besides meal planning.

Emboldened, I began whacking further. Then I realized my mistake. I hadn't worn my hair short-short since eleven. No one wants to be reminded of themselves at eleven. When I was eleven and had the short hair, I always wore it underneath a shocking pink hat with "Camp Wakoma" emblazoned on it. My primary form of interaction with the opposite sex was arm-wrestling, at which I generally won.

But I'm getting used to it. It is easy. It never hangs down in my face. DOB likes it, and shows no inclination to arm wrestle with me (he says my shorter arms give me an unfair advantage).

D1 commented initially, "When you cut your hair you don't look like Mommy anymore," an ambiguous statement--perhaps, deep down, that was my goal. Except, of course, that I do look more like a Mommy than ever, because most mommies hit this exact same point.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Amazing Feats

People keep asking us, "How are things going?"

And we have been answering, "Fine so far, but Wondergirl leaves on Tuesday."

Now she has left. We have survived the past 24 hours. Actually we have done pretty well, thanks in no small part to all the planning and organizing she did while she was here. For one thing, she made our walls much more fun to look at.

She cut carpet from scraps in the attic to make baby-rocking and baby-playing zones in the living room.

She organized our bedroom to hold babies and baby gear. (Baby clothes are under the bed. Aren't the little bows on the baskets cute? )

She made more room to play in the kids' room, and made sure there was a place within reach for everything so they can keep it picked up by themselves. The "bunk crib" was originally built by DOB's father years ago; they only used the lower area for toy storage, but it has been working great as an extra bed spot for us.


She went shopping for all sorts of little odds and ends we never have the energy to search for, like the tension rod to put into practice DOB's brilliant idea of storing the omnipresent exercise balls in the attic and basement stairwells.

And she did all this while holding babies, potty-training D2, reading countless stories to the big kids, and serving three delicious home-cooked meals a day.

If home management were an Olympic sport, my sister would be the gold medalist.