Monday, June 29, 2009

Birthday Trip

Let's face it, the last thing we need at this house is an influx of more kids making even bigger messes than usual. Hence, instead of a birthday party, we opted for a special just-parents-and-birthday-kid trip. For D1, we went window shopping in a historic area of town, followed by lunch at a fancy tea shop.

The best part of this is instead of being a major ordeal for the parents, it was a fun break for us, too. Only having one kid along is practically a date! And I got inspired by the wide world outside the four corners of our property. We stopped in at a kids' art studio where I got reinspired to help the ducklings use our pretty extensive stock of art supplies. The French import shop--which was in a tavern where Charles Dickens had slept--had some lovely, durable oilcloth that would be a perfect solution for recovering our kitchen and dining room chairs (if one could stomach the import fees). Then there was lunch, too, with scrumptious ham and cheese crepes and scones for dessert.

Then we came home, which was not quite so inspiring. But it was still a fun day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Five Whole Years

The trouble with being the oldest is that your birthdays are always less about you and more about your parents having been parents that long. It is hard to believe we have graduated to having a five-year-old. Except for when it's hard to believe she's not a lot older.

D1 likes dressing up--especially in ladies' shoes; drawing--especially designing patterns and grids or tracing other pictures; and reading books to D2. She can really read the first four Bob books on her own and she writes little notes to her friends. She is learning to sweep the floor.

We made a fluffy lemon cake in the shape of a crown and in honor of her birthday we're going to a tea room and window shopping. She likes that girly stuff, but she also likes Legos and mowing the lawn. She was definitely born to be the big sister.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One of the Great Discoveries in Life

. . . is spaghetti.

One of the not-so-great discoveries in life is how much your face has to be wiped afterward.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Grassroots Rebellion

She digs in her garden
With a shovel and a spoon,
She weeds her lazy lettuce
By the light of the moon,

She walks up the walk
Like a woman in a dream,
She forgets she borrowed butter
Any pays you back in cream!

Her lawn looks like a meadow,
And if she mows the place
She leaves the clover standing
And the Queen Anne's lace!

~from "Portrait by a Neighbor" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

We were not made for suburban living. DOB thinks we would do better in a townhouse with a bit of a balcony; I think we would do better in a remote cabin in the mountains or by the sea. I guess an unkempt suburban lawn is by way of a compromise (and cheaper and closer to work). Our neighborhood is not at all pretentious, but I fear even so we are an embarrassment to the neighbors, and we got tangible evidence of that earlier this spring when a notice arrived that our weeds were too tall and the city would soon be coming by to provide its mowing service for the low price of $75. Which was even more than the neighborhood boys who had been beating a path to our door for the past month.

The stars aligned and the mower was working and somebody was available to push the mower and not occupied on the even more critical task of keeping four small children alive and we actually got the front lawn mowed before the mower gave up the ghost altogether when faced with the back. This, however, was not enough, and a few days later I had to turn the city maintenance crew away at the door with pleas for mercy. (I thought later that I should have told them it was a cultivated meadow of native wildflowers, but I don't know if that would have helped.)

I ripped out the bed in the back most visible from the road and replanted it with real wildflowers--you know, the kind that come in a packet that says "wildflowers" on it instead of the kind that actually grow wild. I hope that satisfies everyone. Also we have ordered a reel mower, which I hope will be quiet enough that I can run it while monitoring the children. (And won't always be broken when someone finally has the chance to mow.)

Today I borrowed the neighbor's mower for a last powered whack at the tall stuff. I found myself feeling like a monster as the spiders and bees scurried out of my way. Where will the bees go for nectar now that I've mown the clover down?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

All Settled

D1 (sitting on a stepladder like Lucy in her psychiatrist's booth): OK, sir, what problem can I help you with?

D2 (sitting on a bucket facing her, I swear just like Charlie Brown and they have never read Peanuts): Well, my sisters are out of dresses.

D1: Hmm . . . I am not out of dresses, so can I be your sister?

D1: Yes.

D2: OK, I will pack up my dresses and come with you.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Poetic License Revoked

Poetic license properly should be the ability to get at the real truth of the matter without being overly troubled with factual precision. Facts are such slippery little things; there are so many of them that some must always be left out, and by leaving out different ones you can arrive at entirely different "truths." If we must chose (and with our imperfect knowledge I'm afraid we often must) between facts without truth and truth without facts, I would definitely vote for the latter.

But poetic license too often is taken the right to stick in any word so long as it rhymes, even if it makes no sense grammatically or logically. I was reminded by this when I was trying to pick up some Fourth of July books for the ducklings and came across an illustrated version of "You're a Grand Old Flag." This set me to thinking about the lyrics. OK, "Every heart beats true under red, white and blue"--that's poetic extravagance, but it's a nice sentiment. But "where there's never a boast or a brag?" Bragging is practically an American virtue. It's like putting in a line about how gleefully Americans submit to orders. Just not the right touch at all. The whole problem was putting the word "flag" at the end of the line; there's just not many promising rhymes: Nag? Swag? Rag? Bag? Gag? Francis Scott Key had more sense ending with "wave": we may or may not be brave, but at least we'd like to be brave.

(Oh, wait! I have it! "Every heart beats true under red, white and blue/and our spirits never will sag." Hmmm.)

Do I over think this? Why yes, I do. It's murder to be in my mind during the song service at church. Once I'm done picking apart the lyrics and proofreading the Powerpoint, I can always critique the music, which on modern songs often seems to have been written up to a certain point, whereupon the writer got hopelessly stuck and just launched into a new tune.

Sometimes I wish I could turn off the internal critic and just feel things, but feeling things is so uncomfortable, so perhaps it's just as well.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Random Kidbits

The twins had their nine-month checkup this week. (A bit late, as they'll be eleven months on Tuesday.) They are both now 30 inches tall, but D3 retains the advantage in weight by half a pound. The shots didn't go over so well, and they both ran significant fevers the next day. I tried to remind them that they weren't identical and didn't need to have the same reaction at the same time, but it didn't help. Then I tried to remind myself that a day of fever was better than a week of whooping cough, and that did help. They're much better now, but D3 seemed rather too delighted in the infant Tylenol. Better keep that on a high shelf.

D1 has invented her first card game; no surprise there that she should partake in the family obsession. However, the content is uniquely her own. Everybody takes turns drawing a card from the pile, and each card has an action attached: For aces, you hug someone and say, "I love you," for face cards you go kiss someone, for tens you squeeze their hands, etc. Definitely NOT the kind of game her parents would come up with.

D1 and D2 have discovered the mulberry tree this year--not that it hasn't been there all along, but somehow they've never noticed the mulberries before. This year they are Laura and Mary gathering and storing candy for the winter. There are stacks of plastic dishes filled with mulberries all over the house and yard. They don't taste too bad although not quite to my taste, but I'm still not sure what, if anything, I should do with them.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Or, What Would Baby Carrie Eat?

It seems that these days we have two options for feeding babies--either we can spend a fortune on matching little jars (admittedly useful for all those VBS projects) or we can spend a fortune in time laboriously creating gourmet meals at home. Some sites dedicated to making baby food make it sound like a meal I wouldn't expect to get unless someone gave me a very large gift certificate.

Neither of these options appeal to me. I have always made my own baby food, in a fairly simple manner (cook up extra of whatever plain meat/vegetable is around, puree in blender, freeze in ice cube trays). Nonetheless, with twins life becomes even more complicated and I don't always have the perfect balance of meat, starch, green vegetable, yellow vegetable, and fruit that I carefully fed to the older two.

Then one day the older children were playing Laura and Mary as usual and I asked myself: "What did Ma feed Baby Carrie?" She didn't have little jars and she didn't have a blender or freezer or even a baby food grinder. I bet she didn't even follow the four-days-before-introducing-a-new-food rule. Yet somehow Baby Carrie survived.

The obvious answer finally dawned on me: breastmilk (or good-quality formula) is complete nutrition for babies. It's not enough to keep older babies happy, especially when they see everybody else eating that interesting food, but as long as they're continuing to nurse, they're getting a well-rounded supply of nutrients, and pretty much any food will work to give them practice swallowing and digesting. No doubt Ma simply fed Baby Carrie the mushier parts of whatever meal she was already cooking: hasty pudding; boiled squash, mashed potatoes, pease porridge cooled off.

Eventually babies have more complicated nutritional needs, but by that time they also have more complicated mouths that can chew softish food and have practiced enough on the really mushy stuff to swallow more complicated textures without gagging.

And the four-day rule? For common allergens or if you have serious reasons for concern, this makes sense. (I found out that D3 had an egg sensitivity that way, although I'm still keeping my fingers crossed that she'll outgrow it.) But it occurred to me one day when I was cooking pea soup for everyone else and worrying over the fact that I had yet to introduce the babies to onions, celery, parsley or marjoram, that I had never heard of anyone of normal health and constitution being allergic to any of the above. Babies don't need to eat all their food in bland, limited-ingredient mixes.

I haven't entirely given up on my blender and freezer, because I don't always cook that much mushy food (especially in the summer) and because the babies go to bed before the rest of us eat supper, but I have stopped worrying if I run out of this or that.

(Now there's one difficult question: What about meat? I happen to think meat is a pretty important part of the diet even early on, because of the need for iron--I don't do special baby cereals--and we all seem to have high protein requirements. I slow-cook and then use the blender. I have heard, however, of mothers who simply pre-chew the baby's meat. It's not really that gross--I mean, consider how else you feed them. It just seems like an awful lot of chewing for twins. So I've never actually tried it.)