Saturday, November 28, 2009

Deck the Halls

In a fit of temporary insanity, we promised the kids we would decorate the house the day after Thanksgiving. My mind filled with hazy memories of a peaceful, solitary day deep-cleaning and artistically arranging treasured ornaments, interspersed with raids on the fridge for Thanksgiving leftovers, all to the soundtrack of favorite Christmas CDs.

We forgot that we would arise exhausted, that the children would be exhausted and cranky (and yet insistent on continuing as promised) and that their ideas of decorating would be very different from mine. Specifically, the older two's idea was to set things out equally spaced in straight lines or simply in a stack. The babies' idea was to throw everything on the floor and step on it, which I allowed them to do with the nativity blocks and the Melmac plates.

Having begun, though, we had to continue, and the future looked brighter after a nap. Thanks to a kind extended family member, we had a coupon for a free tree at a local farm. Their Majesties accompanied us in the truck, and we tromped through the woods in a brief and not-too-picky quest for the perfect tree. (Still a definite step up from tromping through the aisles of the hardware store.)

Once we returned home and had done sufficient battle to erect and put lights on the tree, we could move forward with the real decorations.
As always, the beads were immensely popular. We stuck to the non-breakable decorations this year. The kids insisted on having the overhead lights out most of the time, and D3 especially enjoyed basking in the glow from the tree, exclaiming, "Light!" (Today D4 picked up the nativity block with the star on it and exclaimed, "Light!")

We wound up with some not-too-hot apple cider. And then we shoved everyone in bed very quickly and collapsed. Not quite Hallmark, but the kids seemed to enjoy it.

However, the idea of taking Advent slowly and adding the decorations gradually is looking better all the time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

We gather together

Wondergirl and the others on the farm have been working towards developing a massive, organic, sustainable garden, although one sometimes wonders if mortal flesh can sustain all that work. Naturally for Thanksgiving dinner we had to use as much homegrown produce as possible.

I volunteered for my share of the chopping and was directed out to the garden to dig the requisite vegetables. This didn't quite seem to fit with "all is safely gathered in," but that's what happens with a four-season garden. (Besides, why should New England define the appropriate seasonal weather?) Since it was a balmy day and not raining at the moment, it was a pleasant task.

We did not have turkey, since no one had raised one, but we had beef brisket, mashed potatoes, roasted all-kinds-of-vegetables (I meant to try the Brussels sprouts, but forgot), Waldorf salad, raw all-kinds-of-vegetables with dip, deviled eggs, green beans, pumpkin pie and pumpkin cake. Thanks to interstate commerce, we also had cranberry chutney (we drove the cranberries out from Wisconsin personally, though), ham, cheese biscuits, peanut butter cheesecake, pecan pie, and probably some more things I'm forgetting or failed to make room for. Oh, and three cans of olives, which were all devoured by small children.

DOB found his calling in drawing up an elaborate menu for the event. I was pleased in that I did not sever any fingers or even fingernails. The ducklings, after the long, long wait, had a fabulous if somewhat hyper evening, and the older ones favored us with a brief Thanksgiving concert in cooperation with the cousins. As he headed for bed, D2 murmured, "I think I had too much wild today." But he seemed to enjoy it while it lasted.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

House of Pancakes

The Saturday morning pancake breakfast is a family tradition that dates back to when it hardly counted as a tradition and was more just something we did because, well, there we all were and we had to eat something for breakfast.

The pancakes in question are sourdough, but before you Nourishing Tradition people get all excited, let me assure you that they must be made with white flour (a brief flirtation with whole wheat was quickly abandoned) and drowned in peanut butter and cheap bulk syrup. Large quantities of scrambled eggs and link sausages--not to mention a few types of homemade jam for when peanut butter and syrup begins to pall--round out the menu. The basic goal is to sustain everyone through a day of hard labor on the farm so that it is not necessary to stop for lunch.

Now that we have returned to the Family Compound, the number of people has reached the point that a Grownup Table and Children's Table are necessary. This is nice, because the older cousins will help the older ducklings with cutting up their pancakes. It also provides fodder for competition.

The oldest cousin (C1) is a ten-year-old farm boy, with the appetite that implies, and hence the ability to regard eating as a competitive sport and still crawl through fences. After our first Saturday breakfast, he went around tallying the totals consumed by the Grownups and by the Children, and announced the Children as the winners, having consumed the most pancakes. There was some dispute over the legitimacy of this title, as he had counted the twins as Children even though they sat near the Grownup table, but the main trouble DOB saw was that he had not been warned about the competition until it was over.

The next time we gathered, DOB was prepared to show how old age and treachery could overcome youth and a high metabolism. (Not that DOB's metabolism has slowed down much yet.) Carefully DOB selected the smallest pancakes from the platter, thus consuming more numerically, certain he would push the Grownup total over what the Children could consume, especially when you factored in that after tummyaches on the previous occasion we had forbidden D1 and D2 from eating more than three or four each.

But this week, C1 never went around to get the tally from each table. Instead, he merely proudly announced his *personal* total of fifteen, which DOB had not been able to manage even in small pancakes.

We await further devious maneuvers as DOB tries to get ahead of the rule-changing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Where We Are and What We Are Doing

So now, I propose to give you all some idea of what we are actually doing now that we have arrived.

First, a rundown of the Family Compound is in order.

There is The House, wherein reside His and Her Majesty (i.e., my dad and his wife). We are living in their basement. His Majesty just got himself retired last week, but we are all skeptical as to how long that will last. Her Majesty teaches part-time.

There is The Farm (about ten minutes from The House), wherein resides Wondergirl and Bookworm (my sisters) in the house we all grew up in. Also my brother's (Techboy's) in-laws, in a trailer. Also all of our stuff, in a shed. Also a lot of cows, chickens, and organic produce.

In the back pasture of The Farm, there is a big hole in the ground that will someday be a house for my brother and family (the Cousins). Meanwhile they live at another house not quite as far down the road.

A mile or so further on, up the side of a precipitous hill, there is The Hill, wherein reside my grandparents and my Weird Aunt.

Another brother, Toolboy, and his wife live not terribly far away, but their house hasn't made it to compound status. My other brothers live far, far away now.

As for what we are doing, DOB is registered to take the Washington Bar in February. We would like for one of us to pick up part-time work until that is over, preferably something legal-ish. In the meantime, we are busy networking, which means we spend a couple of days a week talking to people and asking them about other people they know and What They Would Do If They Were Us. The other days of the week we spend setting things up and taking them down and dealing with paperwork related to moving and trying to get both computers working and hunting for things that got lost in the move and wondering why the kids can't just play quietly by themselves for five minutes. Sometimes we just give up and play with Legos.

As a result of talking to various people our current plans are that after DOB passes the bar (foregone conclusion, but of course other people don't know that) we will try to find an arrangement to work as an associate or just office-sharing with a solo practitioner or small firm, hopefully in a small town near here, to gain experience and clients as we work towards having our own firm. If all goes well I'll apply to take the July bar to get my license reactivated. We're still planning to homeschool, hopefully with both of us involved as well as finding some person highly competent in the things I am not (like, say, awareness of surroundings and organizational skills) to help out with the day-to-day things.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Great American Hike

I wanted to wait to post this until we had pictures from the camera, but we seem to have lost the camera cord, along with half of the monitor and the entire contents of the medicine cabinet.

In fact, we harbor a deep suspicion that none of our stuff arrived here, and that our moving van was surreptitiously switched with someone else who had the organizational skills of a magpie. Except they had remarkably similar taste in furniture.

Anyway, on Wednesday we decided to take a break from all this and take the kids to a park. It was a glorious autumn day such as does actually occur in the Pacific Northwest, except that we prefer you continue to believe they do not. (It rained today.)

I, having grown up here, have never been to any of the local parks. So we selected one at random and drove there. The place was quite deserted, but we identified a trail which an inconveniently posted map indicated should lead to the beach. We headed off with all four children and a bag of lunch, down moderate grades on a broad, well-maintained trail.

The twins are just at that awkward age that has legs too short to walk and general mass too large to be carried, especially when they both wanted to be carried at once, which, being twins, was always. (I should note for our less-frequent readers that DOB has a foot condition which renders it unsafe for him to traverse unstable ground carrying a small child, which is why I will repeatedly figure as doing the heavy lifting.)

Nonetheless, we arrived at the beach in good time where we could all engage in the ever-popular activities of throwing rocks in the water, dropping bits of lunch for the seagulls, and being unable to function without flush toilets. We had a marvelous time, and then it was time to head back.

Naturally we did not wish to simply retrace our steps, when we clearly recalled the map had showed multiple routes to the water. Unfortunately, there were no maps near the water. There was a small trail--certainly smaller than the one we had come on, but quite clearly marked, and labeled with a "No Bikes" sign. No problem, we didn't have a bike.

We threaded our way through the underbrush for some distance until we encountered a rather muddy patch, which had to be crossed by the means of a few random sticks scattered across it. On the other side was a very steep staircase. The older ducklings made their way across, slowly and with some trepidation, then I took turns carrying the twins across, then DOB made his way across and noted with some displeasure the absence of underbrush to grab onto at his height.

Up the staircase we proceeded, until we encountered a fallen tree. Fortunately there was a large gap under the tree, tall enough for all of us to crawl under. Indeed, the twins could have walked under it, but preferred to simply stand under it as if they were inspecting it for a new home. We finally had to lift them over and pressed on through the thickening underbrush.

A bit further on we encountered an even larger fallen tree, this one smack on the ground. However, beyond it was a clear flat space, and then a flight of steps going up to the fence that marked the edge of the picnic area adjacent to the parking lot. Our goal was nearly in sight. We scaled the log, or went around it, as our leg lengths dictated.

It was a dead end. The flat clear space was a quagmire. A sinkhole cut off the approach to the steps. There was no opening in the fence from above; clearly from this end it was not considered a trail at all.

However, nearby there was a steep mudslide area down the side of the hill. We considered the prospect of retracing our steps and then having to go all the way back on the original trail, and decided to give the mudslide a try. As the most surefooted, I went first, a contented D4 tucked under one arm. I made it about two-thirds of the way up and determined that I could go no further. The mud on one side was nearly vertical; the other side was covered with blackberry brambles.

Then I looked back all the way down the hill, and then across the trees to the water, thought of all that long, long trail we had come down, and decided there had to be a way up. Still with D4 tucked under one arm, I carefully arranged the brambles in such a way that I could angle myself to where a few toeholds crossed the mud horizontally, to a grassy outcropping that came down lower on the other side.

Once I had made it to the top, there was still the challenge of everyone else and the lunch bag. D1, ever calm and resourceful, set off next, getting stuck midway, but by taking off her boots she was able to make it to the top. She then kept D4 on the far side of the fence while I returned down for D3, who was contentedly sitting in DOB's lap after they had slid a third of the way back down, an experience she thought quite amusing. Once I had D3 in hand, DOB and D2 decided to hazard the stairs, and somehow found their way around the sinkhole and up the stairs--many of them missing--tossing the lunch bag on ahead and catching any spare Tupperware that came tumbling back down the cliff.

And so we all made it to the top, safe and sound if rather muddy and very tired.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Theories of Job Searching

The Goldilocks Theory of Job Searching states that for any given job searcher, two kinds of job postings are listed:

Too Big: "Candidates must have three advanced degrees from extremely expensive colleges, thirty-five years' experience in espionage cases involving rare Peruvian wildlife, and fluency in Basque, Parsi, and !Kung. X-ray vision a plus. Salary starts at $1.5M"

Too Small: "Candidates must be a vertebrate form of life with at least five words in vocabulary. Absence of criminal record a plus. You pay us."

There will, of course, be an occasional listing that slips through that an ordinarily competent mortal might apply for, but never fear, those positions will have been filled before the posting was listed, and the post is merely kept up as a sadistic trick.

This is why you are not supposed to look for a job by answering job listings anymore, although everybody keeps doing it anyway. No, you are supposed to get a job by networking, which is exactly how people have always gotten jobs but now there is a fancy name for it. It is, of course, simply the process of finding out whose sister's neighbor's cousin has a job open. You just have to talk to an awful lot of people until you find out which one it is.

Another downside is you must (if you are male) wear a tie. Now, this is the West Coast. Senior partners in downtown firms do not wear ties to work. But struggling, starving (not us, you know, but someone) lawyers-to-be must come up with a tie, and a good one, too, and demonstrate their ability to tie it. The ability to comply with meaningless formalities is, after all, an essential legal skill.

Actually the real trouble we have encountered is that just taking care of the ducklings is in fact more than a full-time job for two people. This leaves little time left over for minor things like earning a living. And upon arrival in a new state there are thirty-nine essential things to do in the first thirty days, all involving paperwork that could not possibly be obtained within thirty days.

But at least I got the lost broccoli and smashed crackers cleaned out of the van.