Friday, February 29, 2008

Earring Freedom Day

Getting my ears pierced was one of those things I never got around to doing. I think my mother may have been against it, but I never was interested enough to ask her why. Too girly-girl for me, anyway.

But then I got married, and a few girl things didn't seem so bad. And then DOB got me earrings for Christmas. (That would be Christmas 2006.) My natural inertia still slowed things down, but last August I finally got myself to the mall and submitted to the procedure.

The saleslady seemed quite surprised at having a 28-year-old woman presenting herself for her first piercings--her last client had been a three-month-old. She went through her spiel reassuring me about the pain. I've birthed two kids, I assured her. A little poke in the earlobe does not scare me.

Somehow I didn't realize until I was midway through that not only was pain involved--there was hassle. Specifically, keeping the earrings in at all times and washing the holes out three times a day for six weeks. It felt like a jail sentence, but having put my hand to the plow I resolved not to turn back. Even when I found out I would have to wear earrings at all times for six months.

There was also the trouble, once the six-week sentence was over and I was on probation, of getting the earrings out of the ear. This is a trickier business than you would think when you've never done it before. I finally gave up and asked a friend to take them out for me. Of course, since I had to put them right back in that didn't accomplish much, but at least I knew it was possible.

As of today the probation is over and I can actually take the earrings out and leave them out. I'm free! I'm free!

I don't regret getting it done, but you can be very, very sure I will never sport any more piercings. Anywhere. Nor will I be taking my small daughters in for ear piercings. Surely diapers and feedings are enough trouble without adding ear-washing.

The Ducklings Respond

Maybe they do have some stereotypical gender differences after all:

DOB: And so we found out that there are TWO babies in Mama's tummy. And we will have to get a new car to fit all of us.
D1: Then one of the babies can be mine!
D2: We're getting a new car!

I don't think I like this:

D1 has been paying close attention to some books I've been reading lately on neonatal development. Or at least to the pictures. So this morning I went in to tell them breakfast was ready and found they had emptied out the block bin and filled it with blankets. That was not surprising; it's what they always do with their toy bins. Toys are merely awkward fillers for those cool bins. But I was put off by the explanation.

D1: I had a baby in my tummy and D2 had a baby in his tummy and the babies came out too soon and so we had to put them in the bin and cover them up with blankets.

Do I really want my preschoolers to be running a NICU?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

And All That

Were you expecting this? Sort of. The extreme morning sickness did make it seem like something was weird. But I really haven't had a lot of appetite or grown that much yet. (Maybe I'm just subconsciously comparing myself to my last pregnancy, when I was eating for three and one of them was almost a year old.) DOB had a vivid dream last weekend in which I called him and told him we were having twins. On the whole, though, twins are like the Spanish Inquisition.

Anyway, despite my so far non-hugeness, the babies are both a good, healthy size (a pound each at 21 weeks). No doubt hugeness is shortly to ensue.

Do twins run in your family? Not as fast as insanity does.

How did you tell DOB? He can tell that for himself on his own blog. (Where he promises to rant about traffic on a regular basis. Really. He does.)

Were you taking fertility drugs?
HAHAHAHAHAHA. We're also starting a company marketing blond hair dye in Sweden.

Are you excited? Indeed yes. I think DOB is looking at it as a strong return on investment. Me, I like to do things that cause other people to shake their heads. Four kids four and under ought to do it.

How are you going to survive? OK, maybe you all aren't asking that question, but I am asking that question. Suddenly all the things that were very simple with one baby are immensely more complicated, from car arrangements (you just can't fit four car seats in a sedan) to sleeping arrangements (where can we put two bassinets in our bedroom?). Then again, this assumes that we will actually be sleeping or going anywhere.

The number one key to surviving with twins, or so I read, is to be ORGANIZED. If moving twice in the same year with two children under two was not enough to get me organized, I doubt twins are going to do it. Organization and my brain are like oil and vinegar: with a lot of effort you can make a tasty complement to life, but let them alone for any length of time and they will separate again. Fortunately the other keys are keeping a sense of humor, accepting help, and lowering expectations. Those I'm better at.

And one other note: Baby B is definitely a boy, but they're only about 80% sure Baby A is a girl. So we shall have to wait to be sure. One of each would be my preference, since I have more experience with boy/girl pairs and since that would make the clothes situation simple, at least. However two little boys would be fine, too.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Duckling Predictions

Every time over the past few months we have asked D1 what she thinks the little baby will be, she has said, "I think it will be a little girl."

Every time we have asked D2, he has said, "I think it will be a little boy."

Today I went to the doctor. It looks like they are both right.

Someone pinch me. Or just send money.

Important question for blog readers: D3 and D4? Or D3a and D3b?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Ducklings' First Bulk Mailing

video This is how one prepares for world conquest. We haven't done much political activity since D1 fit in one of those carseats with the handle, so this was fun to do. And the ducklings were quite intrigued and stuck with it for more than an hour. Next week (weather permitting) they'll be walking down to the city building with me to claim their "I Voted" stickers.

Friday, February 22, 2008

It's Not Working

Here's an article on the value of free, imaginative play. All very well. The ducklings are, of course, experts at free, imaginative play. They can come up with their own games that last for hours involving whatever props come to hand. (Right now they are probably destroying my bed, but they're occupied.) So, it's good for creativity, developing initiative, self-regulation, blah, blah, blah.

Except what intrigued me was to read how they measured the results of imaginative play. One way to measure how self-regulation had developed was to evaluate how well the children picked up after themselves. Apparently children who are good at complex, imaginative play are more willing to clean up their toys.

I wonder at just what age this effect strikes. It certainly hasn't happened here yet.

What's Wrong With the World

Or at least with the weather around here . . .

I've been feeling guilty that I have yet to take the ducklings out to play in the snow this winter. (Not that I am without excuse.) DOB did once--before the foot injury--but other than that they've been stuck inside until the mud reappears.

But the problem is, about 75% of the time when we have snow around here, it's immediately followed by sleet. I thought I would take the ducklings out this morning, but when I opened the door to check on conditions, I noticed the several inches of snow were topped by an inch or so of lumpy ice. Not good for much except a game of fall-down-and-bonk-your-head.

Where I grew up, it didn't snow very often, but when it did it was soft and fluffy and it stayed snow until it melted. None of this ice nonsense. You actually could play in it.

Guess we'll pull out that book of rainy-day activities instead.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It's Been Awhile


In fact, there's a big hole in our files where pictures from the last few months should be. Some things are better not documented. But I finally took some pictures today.

D2 is holding his new best friend, Puppy. (Puppy has been on the blog before during an identity crisis.) DOB decided to permanently bequeath Puppy to D2, and great has been his happiness since then. But Puppy has, alas, gotten a bit dingier. D2 is also wearing that 3T shirt (with fire engines!) I found in the attic yesterday. It's time to move him up. Fortunately he has enough 3T shirts to last out the winter.

D1 is holding her doll. The dress I made this morning (you would not be impressed if you could inspect the stitching) in an effort to give her something D1 could put on by herself. In this picture you probably can't see how well it coordinates with the ink scribbled on her chin.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Snow Day

It's snowing today. Big, fluffy, piling-up kind of snow. School-closure kind of snow. Snowman and snowball kind of snow.

Unfortunately, the ducklings are not here. They are still at Grandma's house (where they go every week for two nights and a day to give us a chance to rest) and will not return until the roads are clearer.

It's very quiet. And lonely. I should do some noble (but non-strenuous!) project while they are gone.

Like filing. Wondergirl has introduced me to the idea of Freedom Filing, which supposedly makes it effortless to keep files up-to-date and purged. I don't think effortless and filing are concepts that can co-exist in the world, but it does look easier to maintain than our current system. Which I almost had updated. Or almost ready to update. Or something. Bother.

Maybe I should go do the dishes instead. Yes. Surely dishes are more urgent.

Nothing like filing to make any other job seem more fun.

8:50 Update: Well, that didn't take very long. Surely I should do exercises before anything else, though.

9:20 Update: Time for a rest now. Mustn't overexert.

9:55 Update: These thank-you notes have been overdue for a long time . . .

10:10 Update: Have you ever seen JigZone?

10:18 Update: Where did the #$*&% file tabs go? Should I get out this 3T fire engine shirt for D2? Why can I never get this attic organized?

10:20 Update: Oh. Here they are. In plain sight.

10:50 Update: Pretty folders! Now to put something in them. Definitely need a jazzier music selection for this part.

12:25 Update: Wow, that was almost easy. Roads are clear and kids are on their way; I still have to come up with lunch and it would be SO fun to get these receipts done, too. Check out my own snazzy invention for keeping the files easily at hand while sorting through the pile:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Grammar Commando Rides Again (with friend)

Peek is a silly-sounding word. So are peak and pique. The fact that they sound equally silly does not make them interchangeable.

Peeking is something you do around corners to see if the children are ransacking the medicine cabinet or merely rereading Curious George for new ideas.

A peak is a mountain. (Picture that A as a capital. peAk.) It can symbolically mean the high point of anything.

To pique (a word no one on the internet seems to know) is to arouse, annoy, or intrigue.

So if you succeed in interesting your children in 13th-century illuminated manuscripts, you have piqued their curiosity. Don't say you've peaked it unless you mean to imply that you've taken them to the highest point of interest and they are bored with the subject now. And don't ever say you've peeked it at all, although if they get very interested and start creating their own illuminated manuscripts you might peek at their activities.

Thank you. I am done with my fit of pique.

And now, a note from a distant acquaintance, the fashion police:

What possesses people to wear pajama pants in public?

Pajama pants are useful and appropriate in many situations. They are great to wear while making pancakes on a lazy Saturday morning, when curling up with a cup of tea and a long movie, or while blogging. It is fine to wear them to dash out and pick up the paper or take out the dog. They are always appropriate in case of fire. Some people even wear them to bed.

But if you're going to the playground or school or Barnes and Noble, put those fuzzy ducky pants back in the drawer and get some actual clothes on!

It's not about decency (no garment could be less revealing or enticing than the standard pair of pajama pants). It's about not looking like a slob. Besides, it's cold outside. Put on something warm. Your mother should have told you this, but she is probably still in her pajama pants.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Parenting Help

We experienced (ha, ha!) parents don't need such help, but you new parents out there might appreciate these handy tips on how to interact with your baby.

And in the interest of honest confession, I have done that diaper-checking mistake. More than once. Ewww.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Closest Book Meme

From Uncle Steve.

1. Pick up the nearest book ( of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people & post a comment here once you post it to your blog, so I can come see.

Here goes:

"Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel. The Lord said to Moses, 'How long will this people spurn Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?'"

We don't keep a lot of books close to the computer. But, since the computer desk is opposite the dinner table, we do keep a Bible there in hopes that occasionally we will remember to have family Bible reading during dinner. (We have discovered this is the easy way to keep the kids quiet during the reading, and at this stage of life, we're all about easy.) It was buried by a stack of tax forms and the box for Mille Bornes, so that's probably not a good sign.

I'm feeling too fuzzy to come up with names, so if you haven't done this recently, consider yourself tagged.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Morbid Taste for Poison

DOB was a little concerned when he brought home the library stack last week and discovered a book about poison among them. (By the way, online catalogs and reserve systems at the library have to be one of the Greatest Inventions Ever.) I tried to reassure him that my interest was purely academic.

If you also have an academic interest in poison, say because you read a lot of classic mysteries, you probably would also enjoy The Elements of Murder, by John Emsley. I don't think it would be that helpful if you had a more . . . practical . . . interest in poison, and as the name implies it only deals with poisonous elements (e.g. lead, mercury, arsenic) as opposed to organic poisons.

But there's still lots of fascinating stuff in there, old murder trials, centuries-old mysteries, shocking past practices. (Did you know the ancient Romans actually used a lead compound as a sweetener? Makes white sugar look like a health food.)

And you never know, it might come in handy. One difficult poison case was diagnosed by a nurse who commented to the baffled doctors that the patient's symptoms were very like those in an Agatha Christie novel she was reading. So, more power to the academically morbid!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Hmmmm

Ducklings, carrying blankets: Can you put these on us so we can be boasts?
QOC, arranging blankets over heads: Do you mean ghosts?
Ducklings, under blankets: Ha, ha! Now we are roasts!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Luxuries

I've seen it a place or two that the years of lowest marital satisfaction are while raising small children. Aha! I thought. Here is the secret of the unparalleled levels of Duchy bliss. We've never had it any better. Except for a few jet-lagged weeks after the wedding, producing and raising small children is all we've known. And since we lived several thousand miles apart before the wedding, any day on which we end in the same room counts as good. Just think, it might even get better someday.

The first part of the week was the pinched-nerve-in-the-back fiasco that left me whining all day and whimpering all night. Pre-labor was less painful. And quieter. But a trip to the chiropractor and some hot baths seem to have fixed it. Underneath it all I had the feeling that morning sickness had finally begun to drift away, but I was in too much pain to tell, and DOB was back to taking his turn hobbling back and forth doing all the carrying.

So the last part of this week has given me the chance to enjoy a lot of new luxuries. Cooking and eating an entire meal and liking it. Taking the kids outside. Walking a couple of blocks without collapsing. I'm still not able to do all the necessities (our dishes and clean laundry wait for kindly passersby) but at this stage a few luxuries are more important than some necessities. A little bit of new decor. An extra story and game with the kids. Stuff that makes us stop and think, Hey, we're alive! It's good!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Incredibly Boring Post No One Will Read

That's a pretty literal translation of what would be the logical title of this post, something along the lines of "The Mommy Wars Revisited: Women's Work in a Historical and Economic Context." That would make a good dissertation or something, if I wanted to write something that long. But I don't. That's why I blog.

It strikes me that the ammunition on both sides of the Mommy Wars tends to ignore most of history and the world at large. Zooming out a bit gives some thoughts for some more to be said on both sides.

So let's start with the Other Side (from me, that is)--the working mom. Mothers laboring to support their families was not something invented by Second Wave Feminism, as is sometimes insinuated. Actually most people capable of walking have, throughout human history, faced a basic choice of Work or Starve.

It is very traditional for Mom to be out working in the fields while Grandma, too old for field work, watches the kids. If Grandma isn't handy, the kids will probably be helping out themselves. It is also very traditional in many cultures for women to do practically all the hard physical labor. (Though this itself may suggest that the much-maligned distinctions between men's work and women's work may be less a legacy of male repression and more a secret and successful plot by our foremothers to get the men out of the forum/lodge/village square/pub and have them Do Something Useful. In which case it should not be lightly discarded.)

The difference in modern times is that work has, for the most part, been severed from the home and community. Before rapid forms of transportation, pretty much everyone (men and women) except for sailors worked in or very close to their homes. This meant children even of working mothers were unlikely to spend most of their waking hours in idleness supervised by strangers; they were integrated into their parents' world at the first opportunity.

The other difference is that the modern standard of living has risen drastically, making it much more open to debate whether a mother's work is necessary for survival. Few of us are living at subsistence agriculture levels, but then few of us could get away with it without CPS investigating. A job requires a car and houses have to have electricity and plumbing and so forth and so on. But just how much of these things is needed is open to debate, leaving lots of room for guilt-tripping and hand-wringing on either side.

Another thing that is not a feminist innovation is mothers preferring to hand over much of the child-rearing duties to others. Those model homemakers, the middle-class Victorians in their elegant tea gowns, were not raising their own children. They had nursemaids and nannies and governesses. (And in an era before the invention of waterproof diaper covers, one can sympathize.) Throughout history, most people rich enough to hire or buy someone else to change the diapers and wipe the runny noses have done so. Small children are hard, unglamorous work. It's much more fun to show up in the nursery for a couple of hours and tell stories.

Now for some things to be said on the side of the stay-at-home mother. Many of the charges laid against her seem to boil down to her role being unproductive (or underproductive). Even the psychological charges that her work is boring and unrewarding reflect this.

A book on the Middle Ages pointed out that the lady of the manor and the peasant woman both filled their days with activities as challenging and productive as those of their husbands: the lady running a nearly self-sufficient micro-economy occasionally enlivened by defending against a siege; the peasant woman doing essentially the same work as her husband. However, the wife of the emerging merchant class had little to do with her life except spend the money her husband made. How dull.

The life of a consumer only is, ultimately, a boring and unfulfilling life. People were made to be productive. The caricature of a stay-at-home mom is that she is only a consumer, a leach on her husband's productivity. In reality, few of us are rich enough for this to be so. Clean clothes in the drawers and hot meals on the table are, in fact, goods, even if they don't get calculated in the GDP. So, of course, is child care. Their status as goods is not so obvious as when mother spun the thread and milked the cow herself, but the modern mother is in fact providing a luxury level of goods compared to her industrious eighteenth-century predecessor, with multiple changes of clothing and meals that actually vary.

Whether the mother is being as productive as she could be is a rather personal question. Nobody criticizes a man who decides to give up the corporate fast-track to hand-carve trivets, if he values such a life over the more productive (in dollars) corporate job. Surely it is just as legitimate for a woman to decide she would rather produce the goods of her home life herself rather than outsourcing them, that she places a value on time with her children over potential economic advantages, or simply that she and her family prefer a slower-paced life. We are born to be producers, but not to be slaves to the economy.

And of course there are women (whom I applaud from a respectful distance) who also produce things for the GDP--and family cash flow--while at home. This is valuable, not because women should never set foot outside their doors, but because the real problem is the fragmentation of modern life. Children are not just separated from their mothers, they are separated from the adult world entirely. We work with one set of people and live with and among others and often enjoy our leisure with a third set, few of whom have more than the most casual contacts with each other.

This fragmentation, in turn, makes being at home with children isolating to a degree that would be unheard-of in past eras. A lot of the work is really gross, too, and not every mother naturally has her greatest gifts in standard domestic realms. That doesn't mean raising her own children is not essential work, but it can be nice to do something else once in a while. The challenge is finding ways for the mother to remain connected to the world and to work she personally enjoys without simultaneously disconnecting the children from her life.

It is a reconnection of life--of family life with leisure life and work life (not the annexation of all of life by work), of children with the adult world, of mothers of small children with the community--that ought to be the goal. Finding ways to reconnect life will require thoughtful choices on everybody's part, not just on mothers.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Clearly written for students


The sensations described are correct, but around here 3:15 is the end of naptime, and free time is so over.

My equivalent times would be 1:15 and 8:50 (or just long enough after naptime and bedtime to be sure everything has settled down.)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Miscellaneous

It turns out to be a fracture, as well as general smushedness. Quite exciting to get from walking down the hallway. Anyway, now DOB has a new doctor and a cast and a brace and can hobble around brief distances without crutches, which is handy for carrying things.

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A song from D2 (after seeing a newborn at church)

There's a blue baby at church.
There's not a pink baby at church.
There's a blue baby at church.
(repeat indefinitely)

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Really yummy easy curry sauce: 1 cup of yogurt, 1 t. dijon mustard, 1 t. curry powder, 1 t. salt. Serve as a dip or on vegetables or on fried rice.

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There's a long post brewing. I hope I get it out soon, because it's starting to keep me awake at night. Some famous author (I forget who, but definitely male) said that he wrote to experience the same sort of relief that a cow felt when milked. I know that feeling much better than he did, and there is a similarity. Too many words crammed in my head!!!

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I'm reading a fascinating book on the use (not just creation) of technology, but some previous reader apparently spilled soup every few pages. Ewwww. I can't quite be as outraged as I would like, though, because . . . I spilled a little soup on it myself.