Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Year in Review

Borrowed from The Common Room

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?

Drove across the northern Plain states.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't think so. I have a deep aversion to the whole New Improved Shiny Me thing, as it rarely involves permanent character development and generally instead involves looking better to everyone else.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth or get pregnant?

Quite a few of them. But not me, hurrah!

4. Did anyone close to you get married?

Not that they told me about.

5. Did anyone close to you die?

My uncle, which may or may not count as close enough.

6. Travel?

Oh my yes. West Virginia in February, and then the Great Trip.

7. Did you move anywhere?

From Ohio to Washington.

8. What was the best month?

The first six months of the year where rather steadily dull; the last six months were all highs and lows. I don't think I could pick one as being a real best, although the trip itself makes October stand out.

9. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

Patience. (Spare me the jokes, please.)

10. What date(s) from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

June 29, the day we decided to move. October 10, the day we left, and October 22, the day we arrived.

11. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Keeping myself and those dependent on me alive.

12. What was your biggest failure?

Losing my cool and perspective and being unwilling to live in acceptance of the moment instead of impatiently insisting that everything be sorted out right now. (Um, this is more of an ongoing one.)

13. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Just general exhaustion.

14. What was the best thing you bought?

Most of my achievements of the year would be the things I cleverly managed to avoid buying, such as by resurrecting old computers.

15. Whose behavior merited celebration?

The kids', for taking their parents' insanity in stride and handling massive upheaval without complaint; DOB's, for being brave enough to try new things; and the family and friends who made it all possible, most especially Their Majesties.

16. Whose behavior made you appalled and/or depressed?

Pretty much anything that was in the news all year, which is why I tried to ignore it.

17. Where did most of your money go?

If one only knew . . .

18. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Moving back home, reexamining life.

19. What song will always remind you of 2009?

Long, Long Journey

20. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
ii. richer or poorer?

i. Happier, I think, but things are still settling themselves out.

ii. Poorer for the present.

21. What do you wish you'd done more of?

I think I've done enough, thanks.

22. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Changing dirty diapers. I really think one per child per day ought to be enough.

23. How will you be spending New Year's Eve/Day?

We will probably have a small celebration with the older ducklings that ends by 9 p.m. and go to bed early. New Year's Day we have a wedding to attend.

24. What was an unexpected surprise?

Everything. I am easily surprised.

25. Did you fall in love in 2009?

Surely I've done enough in that department, too.

26. What was the best concert you've been to this year?

The cousins singing "Let All Things Now Living" on Thanksgiving.

27. What was your favorite TV program?

Jeeves and Wooster. It's my favorite TV program every year!

28. Do you dislike anyone now that you didn't dislike this time last year?

It takes a lot for me to dislike someone. No one has worked hard enough at it lately.

29. What was the best book you read?

I wish I kept better track of them. (Perhaps that is what I should have done more of.)

30. What was your greatest musical discovery?

The effect a quiet CD has on getting four children to sleep in the same room.

31. What did you want and get?

The chance to be with my family-of-origin. Adventure and excitement. Children who all sleep through the night.

32. What did you want and not get?

Finding a way to bridge the gap between what I like to do and what I have to do.

33. What was your favorite film of this year?

I'm tempted to say Hogfather. So I think I will.

34. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 31, and since it was Thanksgiving, I spent most of the day chopping vegetables.

35. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

DOB already having new work.

36. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

Can I still button it?

37. What kept you sane?

Reading and taking walks for as long as I could.

38. What political issue stirred you the most?

The incredible undying stupidity of Congress on every issue has stirred me so much already that nothing is left in the pot.

39. Who did you miss?

Friends and family from Cincinnati.

40. Random Memories from 2009?

An overambitious but fun garden; the pristine if almost unfriendly beauty of a house ready for the market; babies turning into toddlers like an invasion of the infantry; D1 learning to read and D2 following close behind; plains, rivers, forests, mountains, snow, rain, sun.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas in the Sheep Fields

A few days ago I posted a Facebook status that asked, "Does it count as being in the Christmas spirit if you don't feel like doing any of the work?"

I meant it to be a bit flippant, but the more I think about it, the more it sums up my feelings about Christmas this year. Generally one is expected to either be exuberantly dashing about to stores and parties or bah-humbugging along (usually while still dashing about to stores and parties).

There is no Dasher in me this year. Yet I bear no ill-will toward Christmas. It's still delightful. The lights twinkle just as well, the songs play just as merrily, the occasional social event is just as much fun.

But when it comes to my personal contribution to the festivities, well, I hope to show up. In something that bears no stains or rips more than an hour old. I have baked a couple batches of cookies, and that was plenty, and I have wrapped two or three gifts for each duckling (and only the ducklings) from the remnants of last summer's yard sales, and that was plenty. The tree was decorated once, but ducklings somehow quite innocently keep getting entangled in the lower reaches, so it now looks like the result of an ornament fight in the woods.

In a brief, quickly-abandoned attempt to write a Christmas letter I dug through this year's blog archives and remembered last year's Christmas. (And marveled again at the phenomenon that the stuff I wrote a year or more ago is always so much more profound and witty than the present drivel.) The twins were in the six-month growth spurt, nursing night and day and just learning how to gag down a few bites of applesauce.

Nights have certainly improved since then: how quickly one learns to take eleven hours of quiet for granted. But days have become much, much more complicated. The babies who napped twice a day, rolled about in a blanket in the corner, or rode along in mei tais have turned into The Energizer Bunnies of Chaos. Just opening the refrigerator door is an exercise in strategic withdrawal, as by the time the necessary object is removed, one or more inquisitive heads will be blocking its closure.

No wonder by the time nap time or bedtime hits, I can't come up with the energy to tackle a beautiful and creative Christmas project--or even the energy to care that I don't. I could berate myself over my laxness or express bitterness over various cultural expectations, but I don't really want to. I think all that stuff is very fun, I just don't want to this year. Some years one can be a Magi, bearing gifts from afar, and some years one is a shepherd, showing up impromptu and unequipped with a crowd of stinky sheep. The manger is open to all.

I wonder if God sent the angels to the shepherds and the star for the wise men because he knew the shepherds wouldn't have a clue what the star was about and the wise men wouldn't believe the angel--or, at least, would not enjoy it as much as working out all their star position charts. There's a messenger that's right for each of us, and I think mine will show up while I'm sitting in the rocking chair by the Christmas tree, singing carols to two howling toddlers who just fell and bonked their heads again.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Crismis is Cumyn . . .

and D1 is happily decorating every house she is given access to with seasonal signs, on which she sometimes consults over spelling and sometimes not. She even got D2 into the game, laboriously copying out The Twelve Days of Christmas, although she only got as far as "Six geese a-laying" and D2 gave up the attempt midway through the fourth word.

This morning they asked me if I wanted to hear the song they had composed. They stood next to their advent calendar and sang for each day's creature: "Oh, the cow is white and the camel is peach and the bird is white and the sheep is gray and the angel is red . . . " all the way through to "and Mary is blue and Joseph is green and baby Jesus is white" "no, brown" "no, white" "no, brown."

At lunchtime they were rehearsing the angel chorus for the Christmas program and after reciting "Good will toward men," D1 asked, "But what about the ladies?"

So, a merry and inclusive Christmas to all of you!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Spam, Spam, Spam

I've been getting a lot of comment spam lately, so I've turned off anonymous comments. If you have a problem with this, I'm not sure what you should do about it. Cry, perhaps.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Settling In

People keep asking us if we are settled in yet. It is hard to say, as I am not sure what being settled in would look like. If measured by intentions to unpack more boxes, then we're pretty settled. Indeed, I'm wondering why we packed all that other stuff.

On the other hand, I'm not sure settling in is on the agenda list. When we first arrived, we dashed around doing lots of networking and job hunting. Then we spent a couple of weeks just sleeping as much as possible. Now DOB has begun his bar preparation (interspersed with a lot of sleeping) and I am mostly trying to keep everyone else from interrupting. And, when I can, sleep.

The extra time with the kids means we have been doing a bit more school . . . but only if they are very good and help with the housework first. D1 is really taking off with reading, and also likes writing her own stories. Her spelling still being loosely phonetic, reading them is an invigorating challenge, rather like puzzling out Beowulf. "WOCT . . . hmm . . . oh, walked!"

We have also been studying the planets and anything else related to outer space that catches our fancy. They made some marbled paper with food coloring and oil and a lot of mess on the counter, and then they cut it out into suitably-colored and proportioned planets to post on our windows.

It's been clear and cold lately, but everyone was happy to see St. Nicholas had put mittens in their shoes on Sunday morning, so we bundle up at least once a day and go out to soak in a few minutes of sunshine. The challenge is finding it--I had forgotten just how low the sun is in the sky this far north. Even at noon the sun has to find a gap in the trees. When we are feeling very inspired, we bundle up at bedtime and go out to look at the stars. (If you want to get up at 2 a.m. on the 14th, there's supposed to be a great meteor shower, but I, for one, will not.)

Yesterday I managed to make three varieties of Christmas cookies with the older ducklings' assistance and didn't lose my mind once. The babies were not allowed to participate. However, they do get to sing with us, and D3 has taken to patting our mouths with her slobbery hand and insisting, "Song! Song!"

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

D1 Explains Life

D1, at breakfast one day: "Hey, I figured it out: people get married and have kids, and then thur kids get married and have kids, and then thur kids get married and have kids. And people are born every day, and people die every day."

Today she asked me, "How do I know, when I'm listening, what is what I am thinking and what is what I am listening to?"

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Suitable for All Ages

We could put on serious faces and explain that the reason our children don't watch television is out of concern for their morals or mental development or the health of their eyes.

The real truth, though, is that we just hate children's television. If Dante had known about it, he probably would have peopled one of the less-serious levels of hell with images of singing, dancing, oversincere hosts spouting babble about Being Nice.

Unfortunately, from what I've read, it is exactly the programming that is most tedious for adults that actually has marginal benefit for children. The slow, boring, repetitive kind, not the kind with amusing in-jokes.

So we've simply operated on the assumption that we will let the children watch television when they are old enough to enjoy the kind of things we want to watch. This is tricky, since preschoolers don't process things as adults do. This was driven home to me when we got to the climactic scenes in Little House on the Prairie and D2 didn't want to read anymore. The realistic emotional strain of the tension between the settlers and the natives was too much for him, even though no actual harm ensued or was even directly threatened.

On the other hand, give him a story with tigers threatening to eat people up, poisoned apples, or sword-wielding knights, and he'll listen with glowing eyes. It's not about the degree of violence, it's about the safety of the delivery package.

We've discussed letting them watch a Christmas movie with us, but it was obvious that some "family favorites" would just not be suitable: It's a Wonderful Life, for instance, would be terrifying to small children. (We might settle on White Christmas; bombs falling is not such a big deal.)

But the other night we had promised D1 that she could sleep in the living room, and we also wanted to watch a dvd ourselves. And then we realized we had struck upon the perfect balance of suitability. The series we wanted to watch contained nothing frightening, no disturbing images or bad language or examples of children misbehaving.

Which is why D1 is now watching Jeeves and Wooster with us. Well, sure, technically there is all the lying, stealing, drinking, gambling, and skirt-chasing, but Wodehouse's ability to turn all that into eminently wholesome entertainment is one of the wonders of English literature. Mostly D1 appreciates the people falling into ponds and hiding under the furniture.