Monday, March 30, 2009

Out and About

I went out to the thrift store on Saturday, a big trip in my little world. As it happened I arrived three minutes before opening and was astonished to find a crowd of twenty--mostly elderly ladies--standing outside the door, swapping addresses of their favorite thrift stores. Quite the happening place.

I found some new shirts for DOB, and confirmed my suspicion that there is no such thing as a decent second-hand white dress shirt. White dress shirts lurk in men's closets until they disintegrate entirely, apparently. Blue is readily available, though. I even scored two hand-tailored ones which I hope fit well.

Then pulling out I saw rows of tagged trees across the road and realized I was right across the street from a nursery. So I stopped in there to pick up some lime for the garden. The only two places I really like shopping are book stores and nurseries: they smell good, they sound good, they're quiet and peaceful.

Unlike here, where someone has awakened too early from nap. We have been working since mid-February to get all the kids sleeping in the same room at night and at the same times during the day. We're progressing, but it's slow and at times painful. DOB's mother will sometimes tell a story with feeling as fresh as yesterday of incidents two decades ago when someone Woke The Baby Up Too Soon Thus Ruining My Nap. Yes, I know how that feels. Fortunately after the first incident when D2 started screaming in the night because he had "heard a small noise" we have not, at least, repeated that one.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Post for D3

Amongst all the outgoing or just plain loud personalities around here, D3 can sometimes get overlooked a bit, as she quietly examines flecks of dirt on the floor. She's developed her own coping skills. If any desirable person--particularly DOB--comes within her radar she knows how to turn on the cute, with flicking fingers and a smile that goes down to her toes. What's funny is that as soon as she's picked up she generally goes right back to her usual mode of looking at everything else minutely. She doesn't care for too much eye contact, but she does want to know that you're there.

She is starting to scoot forward, both arms at once as if she's doing the breaststroke. Usually she prefers to roll, often pausing to relax on one side like a miniature chubby Queen of Sheba. Sometimes she intersperses this with leg lifts, as if she needed to work that chub off, which you can see from the picture is not at all a good idea.

She can say "Mama" and I think she knows what she's saying, but it could be open to dispute. She certainly knows who she means.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hooray! I think . . . .

I can still hear an annoying noise that usually cannot be heard by people over 25. Is this a good or a bad sign?

Train Horns

Created by Train Horns

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Fairy Tale Life

We are turning into peasants. I think it hit me when I first mastered wearing a baby on my back. With a baby in a cute little front pack you can be a hip urban mom out for a stroll and shopping. With a baby on your back, doing household chores, you're a peasant.

Then there's our diet: bread or porridge and eggs for breakfast (OK, rich peasants); potatoes for lunch; soup and bread for supper. Easy, cheap, filling, and nutritious. I haven't quite resorted to packing raw turnips in DOB's lunch, but it's only a small step.

The ducklings run about outside barefoot in all kinds of weather, usually with a fair spattering of mud. Our back yard is in transit between a patch of mown grass and a wild jumble of garden and mud. Those scenes in the movies where the lady from the Estate visits her humble tenants--the ones with the baby screaming in the background--are starting to look familiar.

We're not about to add animals to the mix. I refuse to wear peasant blouses. And I'm not giving up electricity voluntarily. But I think we should keep a sharp lookout for visits from witches and the Big Bad Wolf.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Duckling Moments

QOC: And so God is going to make a new earth with everything good in it and nothing bad.

D2: Let's still live in our same house!

D1: Except on the new earth it will be cleaner.

D2: Yes, because all the toys will be picked up.

It used to be that the babies when nursing would reach out and hold each others' hand as they nursed. Then their arms grew longer. Now they either try to scratch each others' eyes out or arm wrestle as they nurse. Somehow it's just not as heartwarming.

D2 has been in search of a generalized complaint. He tried, "I'm so tired," for awhile, until he discovered that tired people got to spend ten minutes resting in bed. Then it was, "I'm so hungry," which produced whatever food he had turned up his nose at during the previous meal; then, "I'm so lonely," which we pointed out was a bit ridiculous in a room with four other people.

So for a while he was reduced to standing in the middle of the house, saying, "I'm so . . . so . . . so . . . so . . . so . . . so . . ."

The other night he finally found a way to end the sentence. "I'm so . . . goopy."

Goopy he may be.

Friday, March 13, 2009


My sister-in-law once made fun of me on a visit because I was rummaging in the pantry for candy. "QOC has become a normal person at last," she said, "She needs chocolate."

Maybe I held myself to too tight of a standard when I was younger. Maybe I still do. Self-control was always my point of pride. I could, and did, make a microscopic bag of M&Ms last a month. If I decided that rising at 4:30 in the morning every day was what needed to be done, then up at 4:30 I would be. I didn't need to indulge myself. Don't get me wrong--I could always enjoy life, including M&Ms and sleeping in--but not in a needy way. I always had to feel that I could do without it. I never wanted to need a crutch.

Now--well, I understand a little more. Food still doesn't affect me that way and probably never will, but I understand the desire to binge. The need to do something, anything, that will quiet the noises in your head and maybe even hurt a little because the real pain is too much to deal with. Food is a handy thing for some people. Sleep for others. I can't eat when I'm upset and suffer from insomnia, so those don't work for me.

The irony is, there's nothing wrong in my life. Nothing bad. Just too much of good things. But that can hurt, too. If I were to make a list of the type of activities that I find difficult, and a list of the activities that I absolutely must do in the course of a day, the overlap would be almost total: following routines; emotional interactions; monitoring my surroundings; crisis management. There is simply no time or energy or need for the things I am good at: spontaneity; abstract interactions; detailed analysis.

What I do to cope is read. It sounds harmless enough. And it's not that there's anything wrong with reading. Nor am I distressed at the books I read, mostly light fantasy, as being evil. I just don't like to need them. I don't like that I'm always, always, looking for an escape from my real life and my real duties. But I am.

And it seems wrong. Shouldn't it be enough to be assured I'm doing the right thing? Am I saying that God and the Bible aren't enough to pull me through my daily tasks? I've tried to find ways to rearrange my life to work from my strengths and--they're not there. There's only so much improvement a housekeeping plan can take. Do something fun and spontaneous and I wind up regretting it amid piles of laundry and dishes for the next three days. I can sit down and pretend I'm planning for future years of school, but I know perfectly well I'll scrap it all and start over when the time comes, so what is the point?

There is no room for anything but diapers meals laundry diapers laundry meals diapers meals laundry (none of those done well), and if there's a momentary pause I'm too exhausted to tackle the sort of housekeeping projects I might actually enjoy, too mentally frazzled to even communicate with another human being (some evenings DOB comes home and I literally cannot speak to him)---so, I read. Serious books require too much mental effort and housekeeping and mothering books just depress me. I don't need more ideas about how to do things better; I have read all that before. So I read fantasy. As if I were drowning, grabbing at twigs and hoping they will hold. Or, if my hands are full (as they often are), I click refresh a hundred time, looking for messages.

I turn to words like some people turn to drink. And if I can't make my own words I have to go hunting for someone else's.

I think I should interact with the children more, but the more I interact early in the day the less likely I am to still be able to speak to them by dinnertime. I think I should do something that had some value for someone else or even for myself, but I can't come up with anything that wouldn't push me over the edge. Taking a walk used to be my favorite way to relieve stress, but I can't do that now.

So I just . . . read. But I don't like it because I'm not reading for fun so much as I am reading to cope, and I don't like that I need to cope. I ought to be stronger than this. I shouldn't need something. Or maybe I should. Maybe I am not supposed to be as tough as I would like to be.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Epic Battle

I'm going to try a trick I learned from the Zoomlians.

This afternoon I will attack . . .

the dreaded laundry monster of DOOOOOMMMMM!!!!

Yes, that feels better already. I wonder if D2 will loan me his sword?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Doing Things

Sometimes I wonder if I want the wrong things for my children. Being me, I more often wonder why everybody else does. One time I came across a blog where a mother recounted how she would train her children when the ship was getting a bit too loosely run, and one of the things on her list to retrain them in was to ask permission before doing anything.

Maybe that was just a temporary measure in response to running too wild. But I was still struck dumb at the thought. I'd probably survive about five minutes of that much decision-making. More than that, though, I don't want my children to have every choice they make subject to my scrutiny. I try to set things up so they have a wide range of things they can do without even consulting me (although if it involves poison, fire, or considerable heights I hope they'll check in first). Maybe it's just for my own sanity. But maybe there's something more to it.

Another thing that would bother me, that doesn't seem to bother (in the sense of thinking it ought to be otherwise) many mothers, is children who have trouble finding things to do. Most parents of schooled children complain about the difficulties of summer and the need to plan for it, and many parents of homeschooled children complain (or boast?) that their children soon find life dull without lessons and are eager to start up again. I do plan to start lessons one of these days, but if it comes at the cost of my children losing their astounding ability to teach themselves, I doubt they would be worth the trade-off.

Sometimes people talk about the virtues of developing initiative in children, but it usually seems to be defined as "doing what I think they need to do before I get around to telling them to do it." It seems to me that children are born with a huge stock of initiative. Maybe too much initiative. And perhaps that's the trouble. Perhaps parents wind up training or entertaining that drive right out of children, replacing the desire to do things, explore things, try it out with the willingness to sit still and wait for something to happen to them.

I do want my children to obey me; I do sometimes resort to "Everybody sit down with a book and DON'T MOVE." But I hope in the long run that my instructions are always an interruption or at best guidance for a full life, not a relief from the tedium of existence.

Then again, while I was pondering and writing this post, the older ducklings arranged a considerable quantity of toys, blankets, and small items of furniture in my closet, and when I pointed out that it would need to be removed protested that it was their house and they finally had it exactly how they wanted it. So perhaps there's something to say for passivity.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Moving Colors

Posts have been infrequent owing to the frequent lack of one or both hands and the challenge of coming up with something that doesn't relate to bodily fluids, screaming, or cabin fever.

We're all doing amazingly well, considering. This is the worst time of year for me. I need out. Need out need out need out. And it's still terribly cold, although warmer weather is promised soon. (Sixties this weekend! I will be dancing in the street!) But I haven't completely lost my head yet, nor have I taken off anyone else's.

Last week we decided it was time to move the babies out of our bed, owing to D4's new-found fascination with climbing on our pillows at 3 a.m. in order to peer out the window. Co-sleeping is lovely and cozy while it lasts, but when all the grownups must leave for the couch it is time to call an end to it. The transition has been a bit rocky, but we're down to one meal for D4 in the early morning and I am starting to learn to sleep again. D3 seems relieved to no longer be kicked in the head and sleeps like a log. The big kids are sleeping in the living room until the babies have settled down.

In the shifting kaleidoscope of family life, this change means the big kids must be ready for bed before the babies go down, and the babies are taking fewer daytime naps and ready to go to bed sooner, and DOB gets home later, so it makes sense to put the babies to bed first, then have supper. This, in turn, has made supper a far more relaxing meal, makes it much easier for me to do the dishes since I can start immediately after supper instead of an hour later, and gives some time with already-jammied kids to play or read stories before bed. It works for this week, anyway.

We bravely ventured out to the downtown library on Saturday afternoon, viewing a visiting Lincoln exhibit and a marionette display but mostly visiting the elevators, staircases, and pedestrian bridge.