Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Birthday Boy

Amidst all the excitement, D2 has turned four this week. Fortunately he was happy with a low-key celebration, requesting a plain cake. (Unheard of in our family, but apparently he got overwhelmed with the options.) He went with Papa to the fire station and he got his first set of real Legos.

He's still a quiet, thinking chap. I laughed to read back over past birthdays and realized we pegged him as being more like me. The reality is, he's exactly like the real DOB; imaginative, insightful, but with eyes gazing so far off into the distance that it's easy for him to trip over his own feet.

He says he has a hundred and sixty things in his head, but he won't tell us all of them. He likes to think about numbers and how five and five and five and five make twenty and how ten and ten also make twenty. He likes to think about sounds and what words start and end with the same ones. He likes to draw cranes and watch worker-construction people. He likes to think about how the color of your food changes while it's inside you and, being a little boy, he might bring it up at the dinner table. But he doesn't believe me when I promise him that his shirt will dry out again someday after he spills water on it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Not About Packing

So I should be packing up everything, but I can't seem to muster up the energy. At this rate we're going to have to abandon half of our stuff to the buyer. (There always is something, though, isn't there? Weird curtains and odd pieces of lumber stuffed in corners of the attic and basement.)

The older ducklings are at Grandma's today, but I have temporarily picked up three extra who are not allowed to go visit their new baby sister in the hospital owing to flu season having officially started yesterday. I am glad I do not have triplets. Actually everyone is occupying themselves pretty well, but I certainly do not have enough lap space for three toddlers.

Yesterday I picked up a bag full of library books to tide me over until we leave. It left me wondering why murder mysteries are such good comfort reads. Actual murders would, presumably, not be comforting. I suppose it is the moral resolution; it is Judgment Day for other people, which is always far more comfortable than it should be. A really good novel is about Judgment Day for yourself, which is always uncomfortable. That is why I have not read any really good novels lately; that and I accidentally packed Anna Karenina after reading the first twelve chapters.

Nonetheless, I was really distressed to start Alexandar McCall Smith's Scottish series and discover he had gone for a second forty-something lady with a troubled past marriage but a kind and philosophical outlook. He surely could have managed something with a little more variety if he had tried. Or maybe he thought it would have been trying too hard to be distinctly different? Or did he think switching from Botswana to Scotland was change enough and he'd better stick to what he knew for the rest?

I shall read it anyway.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Passing of an Era

The older ducklings have always referred to the previous evening as "yesternight," a charming and elegant word which I would never have dreamed of correcting, as I think it should be more widely applied.

This morning D2 used it and D1 corrected, "We ooozually say last night."

At least they haven't given up "ooozually."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Embracing the Pain

Today D1 and D2 wanted me to write them books they could read. I was obliging and wrote "D2's Book" on the cover of his, with what I thought was a quite well-done caricature of D2 on the front.

He picked up the book and burst out laughing. "Why is there a monkey on my book?" he said.

OK, maybe not so good.

People often assume that if you believe in children learning naturally and through self-directed means that you want learning to be easy and fun for them and they will never have to work hard.

One glance at the mass of bruises on the twins' heads should be enough to remove that notion. Natural, self-directed learning is often painful, hard work. Nothing worth having comes easy. Every baby who has learned to roll over knows this.

Children don't suddenly stop becoming capable of self-directed hard work to learn what they need to know just because they turn five. If they see the importance of something and they are developmentally ready to attempt it, they will work hard at it (though perhaps on their own terms rather than a preprogrammed schedule). And unless they are exceptionally easy-going, they will sometimes get frustrated, cranky, have off days when they seem to have forgotten everything and sudden bursts where they zoom ahead.

I remember when D1 was learning to draw. I certainly didn't tell her she had to; it was something she wanted to do. She'd sit in front of a piece of paper because she wanted to draw, then would start wailing, "But I don't know HOW to draw! YOU draw it for me." But after many months, she started to figure out ways to draw the things she wanted to in ways that were satisfying to her, and now she can happily draw for hours.

Now the same thing is happening with reading. "I want to read this!" "But I don't know how!" And my helpful comments are not always appreciated. "Hmm . . . try actually *looking* at the word."

Growing and learning is a joyful journey, no doubt, but like most journeys there will be blisters and bug bites along the way. And with four children always learning something new, that makes for a lot of wails of despair around here.

I guess it's a good thing my drawings amuse them.

Friday, September 18, 2009


We have a contract. We have a departure date barely three weeks out. We're also still doing showings, just in case. But let's hope the original contract works out, because I'm losing my touch with showings. Wednesday I dutifully cleaned the house and took the kids to the park for an hour and a half, only to discover I'd left the screen door locked, rendering the little realtor access box inaccessible. And that was only a day after the showing where they all arrived twenty minutes early, while I was still dashing about with bags of garbage and piles of dirty towels.

Plus, at some point here soon I must do the dreaded Inventory of Winter Clothes, and if there is a way to do that without turning the attic into a cesspool of toddler jeans, I don't know what it is. Not to mention finishing packing. I've never done a cross-country move of an entire house, and I'm not sure how you manage without being able to just toss the last few things in a laundry basket and put them in the back of the car.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

We Finally Got THAT Question

Monday night we were eating dinner at the park and a very friendly and over-solicitous ten-year-old struck up a friendship with the twins, exclaiming over them, asking about their number of teeth and other essential details.

Finally she asked, "How do you tell them apart with their clothes off?"

"Well . . . um . . ." I said, "One's a boy and one's a girl."

"I can hardly tell them apart with their clothes on," she said.

"One has a wider face, too," I said. "But I did mix them up when they were first born."

She seemed satisfied with that.

Monday, September 14, 2009

And the Other Help

This afternoon D1 decided to reorganize the tote in which I dump hers and D2's clothes, folding and sorting with geometric precision and persuading D2 that there really was no better way to spend the afternoon. Watching this, I said, "D1, I think when you are ten I am going to hire you to run the house for me."

"How about when I am seven?" she asked.

"Well, you have to be old enough to use the stove by yourself."

"Maybe when I am nine?"

The New Help

You can see in the pictures below D3's beloved "Doll-doll," who accompanies her most places. (Not, at my insistence, to the dinner table, which sometimes distresses her.)

D4 is ornery enough to occasionally swipe Doll-doll and run away with her, but he never has developed the same affection for the teddy bear he got in the same package. This does not mean he has no affection for an inanimate object. His favorite thing just happens to be a broom. He toddles around with it everywhere and quivers with excitement when I get my broom out of the pantry and we can both sweep. Down he plunks in the middle of the dirt pile and vigorously sweeps everything back out. With fifteen minutes to go to a showing, this can be rather distressing.

But he's so eager to help you can't turn him down. This weekend we graduated the twins to unloading the plastic dishes from the dishwasher. They seem to be getting the general idea that we are trying to transport them to the cupboard, whereas up until now they have thought the objective was just to throw them on the floor. After breakfast this morning, however, I realized that I now must teach him that only clean dishes go in the cupboard.

On Saturday DOB needed to fix the bathroom doorknob. The twins instantly took advantage of the open bathroom door and were pulling towels out of the cupboard. DOB pointed them out of the room, "Can you guys go out please? Out? Out?" Unfortunately, he forgot what "out" means in their vocabulary. Towels abandoned, they galloped to the front door, squealing "Out! Out!" I went ahead and took them outside, as it seemed the only way to ensure a few moments' peace for doorknob repair.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Labor Day

Conversation last night:

QOC: This is like the last month of pregnancy, where something might happen any minute but it hasn't happened yet, and you're exhausted and frustrated and sick of the whole thing. Except at least with pregnancy you know it's going to end soon.

DOB: That's not what you said July 6 last year. Hey, it must mean we're almost there!

QOC: I don't think there are house-selling hormones.

Then today, after scheduling three showings inside of two hours:

DOB: This is like labor: "How far apart are your showings?"

QOC: I can't do it anymore!

DOB: You can! You can! I see the head!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


We are now officially Tired of Showing This House.

We shrugged off sympathy initially, carried on as we were by the tidal force of enthusiasm for the new and exciting. Enthusiasm, however, either needs new fodder or adequate rest to continue it, and we have had neither. After one or two showings a day for the past two weeks, we're up to three showings today. Reputedly this flurry of activity is due to deadlines impending on the first-time home buyers' tax credit, which everyone hopes will be extended, but only after a lot of people have already signed contracts.

It's impossible to keep things looking in top condition forever. The fresh wax is scratching up and the paint on the doorways is awfully easy to chip. Its charms are fading, although I vow I really will mop it again today. Or maybe tomorrow.

So, first time home buyers, gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

And let us get out of here. We've had enough of this stifling neatness.

Edited to add: Make that FOUR showings today, and I really did mop.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Duchy, LLC

The move has been the largest and most evident change, but it is really only one ripple in the waves of changes sloshing around the pools of our lives.

Ahem. Back to less soppy writing.

Reevaluating where we are has also caused us to reevaluate what we do--and thus, led us full circle. We want to return to law. DOB is applying to take the Washington Bar in February and hoping to begin transitioning into the legal field as soon as possible. I'm crossing my fingers that I won't have to retake the bar, but we shall see. (Washington has rather strict rules on returning from inactive status, and I've been out for quite awhile). Someday, we'd like to work together. Why it's taken us so long to figure out that we really should do what we initially set out and wanted to do is a bit of a mystery to us, too, but sometimes these things happen.

Don't worry, I'm not pitching my children into daycare so I can work twelve-hour days. I don't know how or when the details will work out, but I want to find a balance that will work for everyone. I still hope to continue homeschooling. I don't see my path clearly yet, but I know what path I need to look for.

One thing the past few years have made abundantly clear is that my brain is not wired to inhabit the real world for hours and days on end. I need abstraction or I come unglued. I've tried to fill that gap with novels and computer games, but these are an ultimately unsatisfying means of balance, like trying to subsist on a diet of cod liver oil and candy. I've tried some solitary intellectual pursuits, but I'm not a solitary person and they soon drop to the wayside.

What I want is real work to do, work that matters to someone else, work that involves interacting with other people about ideas. It's not that caring for children isn't work and valuable work--it's just that it doesn't have the level of abstraction that I desperately need to continue functioning.

The physical presence of a mother is not much help if she's so strung-out on sensory overload that she can no longer comprehend or respond appropriately to what's going on. I'm often in that state by the time breakfast is over, and almost always long before suppertime. If I can have some regular opportunities to do the type of thing I am good at, then I think I'll have more energy and focus for the children and we'll all be better off.

It's a little scary, though, first--to admit this; second--to try to pick up threads dropped years ago; third--to put myself out for work and believe I really have something to offer anymore. On the other hand, it's exciting, too. It's like getting to be twenty all over again, only without feeling like one is faking adulthood. (And with that extra little challenge of having a lot of extra hungry mouths to somehow feed.)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Note of Thanks

Thanks to Uncle Steve (granted Most Favored Uncle status), we now have a working computer and wireless internet. Which means I can even surf while watching the kids outside. (The kids, note, not the babies. There is nothing I can do while watching the babies outside except watch the babies.)

Thanks to our attorney, we now have the title situation on the house cleared up and the rest is just a matter of filing.

Thanks to a very long day yesterday (doctor, chiropractor, two dinner-time showings) the house is very, very quiet right now.