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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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.


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.