Tuesday, January 26, 2010


If I could just get clothes straight from my mind into reality, I might enjoy acquiring them. This Friday we are attending the annual dinner of the local bar association; I guess I could wear a suit, but it seemed like something a little dressier would be nice. But what? In my mind I picture something that Audrey Hepburn, or at least Katherine Hepburn would wear. Apparently we don't shop at the same stores, though, and I'm left wondering if there is anything decent and dressy in the world that doesn't scream Mother of the Bride, a position I refuse to assume for at least another fifteen years. And in a color other than black. I hate black. (Although, admittedly, it is a color seldom worn by MOTB.)

I finally had to give in to some black, though. Black velvet skirt, black top, gold silk jacket. Black mary-jane ballet shoes because I refuse to sprain my ankles for the sake of looking elegant. I hope it doesn't look too ancient.

There is also the challenge of clothing DOB, which wouldn't be hard except that all his pants have shrunk in the three months since we arrived. This may be due to his ability to walk regularly without injury on the soft ground resulting in increased lower body strength, or it might just be to getting fed three meals a day instead of having two of them left to his own discretion. Anyway, he's assumed nearly normal dimensions and all of his very skinny clothes are suddenly too skinny. I tried letting out a disfavored pair of slacks and tomorrow I shall boldly undertake the suit itself. Fortunately men's dress slacks are designed to be let out and the operation is considerably simpler than I had imagined. If only I could sew a straight seam.

I have also started trying to play the piano for the church we have been attending. I use "trying" advisedly, as the piano in question (the sort sent to old community halls to die) is not one from which a tune can be coaxed. It only produces tunes in response to imperious commands, and even then only about half the time. Some have suggested I try playing the organ instead--well, the organ currently there is equally distressing, but there are a lot of good organs looking for somewhere to be donated to. Naturally me playing anything is an interesting operation, as D4 especially objects to me doing anything at all with my life besides following him around while he explores the world at large.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Letter of the Law

One of my strict rules about breakfast is that Protein Must Be Eaten, because I want us all to stay alive until lunchtime. So there will be eggs (except when we have cheese toast) and you will eat your eggs before you get your fruit.

Today the twins were questioning this rule.

D4: Nana!
QOC: Your eggs have to be all gone.
D4: (Places egg on table instead of high chair tray.) Nana!
DOB: You have to put your eggs in your mouth.
D3: (Stuffs eggs in mouth) NmphNmph!
DOB: (starts to fix banana for D3, looks back and sees that she is spitting the eggs back out into her bib) And you have to KEEP them in your mouth.

When D1 was on the way, some teenagers speculated that it would be a terrible fate for her having two lawyers for parents--she'd never get away with anything. What they didn't realize was how quickly the relevant skills materialize.

Friday, January 15, 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday

Because this blog feels sorely neglected . . .

1. DOB has entered the essay-writing stage of bar preparations and is trying to get his wrists in shape for twenty-four essays in three days. I watch over his shoulder and hope and pray the state bar changes the rules on inactive status so I don't have to take it this summer. It's not all gone, though. I don't remember a blessed thing about Commercial Paper (I don't even remember what it is!) but I knew about the Dormant Commerce Clause without skipping a beat.

2. DOB invented a great game with giant balls--the downhill people try to throw them onto the driveway, and the driveway people try to get them all down the hill at once. This was followed by Giant Ball Golf, which is much the same as Frisbee Golf. Yes, it rains every day here, but not all day. And when it doesn't, out we go.

3. Two great card games: Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot (a game I have yet to win, but it's great fun anyway) and Illuminati. Both require a slightly twisted sense of humor to enjoy. In Killer Bunnies, you try to keep your bunnies alive, slay everyone else's, and collect enough carrots to have the Magic Carrot at the end. In Illuminati, you are a secret power group trying to gain control over various subsidiary groups and their money and power.

4. D2 has started teaching himself to read, which is most unfair. Perhaps the twins will wait long enough for me to teach them. He goes about it the opposite way from D1, though. She memorizes the book first, then figures out the words, then works out how they are put together. He spends his days analyzing sounds and rules and blurts out things in the middle of church: "Hey! Is that a silent 'E'?"

5. Have I ever mentioned the virtue of bread pudding as a breakfast food? I butter a 9x13 pan and fill it with crumbled up bread of any variety: plain, sweet, biscuits, cornbread. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and raisins. Mix up four or five eggs in a quart measuring cup and add milk until full; pour over the top. Bake it at 350 for forty-five minutes. Mix it up the night before, slip it in the oven before the kids get up, breakfast is ready to go.

6. The older two have started going to AWANA with Their Majesties (who run the show). They came home Tuesday night and D1 was bouncing around the room chattering about everything while D2 sat on the couch with a dazed expression on his face. You could take a picture and caption it: "Which child is the introvert?"

7. I'm finally starting to see some improvement from exercise in being able to walk a mile without getting winded and not being completely wiped out by ten in the morning. Hurrah!

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Some Exciting Things We've Been Doing Lately

Probably the most exciting was deciding to have a hot-dog roast last Thursday night.

Now, keep a few essential facts in mind:

1) It's January.
2) It's dark long before supper time.
3) The twins are eighteen months old.
4) The relevant bonfire was selected for proximity to brush-generating locations, not proximity or ease of access from house.

Nonetheless, when DOB discovered His Majesty taking advantage of a lull in the rain to burn a couple piles of brush, he proposed the adventure. After all, I was making beans for supper already--just add hot dogs to that, transport it all up the side of a hill laced with flower stakes, slippery steps, and tomato cages, serve it in the dark out of a wheelbarrow, and there you are. Well, why not?

After a few trips to carry the non-fragile items, like mustard and plastic bowls, I felt I had the route down enough to transport the more perilous items, like toddlers and boiling pots of beans. Not simultaneously. The only error we made were forgetting a flashlight and napkins, and leaving the outside house lights on, thus resulting in several minutes of readjusting to the darkness every time we actually stepped into the area that was hard for walking.

It took a while to convince the babies that we were actually eating in this strange setting, but after a few episodes of poking hot dog fragments in their mouth they finally figured out what was going on and responded accordingly. D2, as he always does, felt the call of nature five minutes into the meal, but fortunately nature was close at hand, though the encounter with brambles was perhaps a bit too close to nature.

The fire had been burning for awhile and close to it the air was positively cozy--though it wasn't really that cold anywhere.

My admiration for Ma Ingalls grew by another leap, although as I washed up afterwards and noted the advantage of not needing to wipe up a table or floor, I saw that the rustic life was not all negatives. But then, we had it easy. It didn't start to pour rain until five minutes after we had hauled everything back inside.

D3 still has mustard on her jacket. Her Majesty prudently was spending the evening in jail (leading Bible studies, for the record), so she missed the excitement.

Come to think of it, that's enough excitement for one blog post.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Duckling Moments

D2: I can make biscuits all by myself! I just need biscuit dough and someone to do the oven 'cause I can't do the oven.


D3 was very unhappily refusing to go play after supper, yet not sitting contentedly in any laps, either. DOB led her away from the table and insisted she go play. She refused again. Then, suddenly, she saw D2 zoom by on her four-wheeler. "MY BIKE!" she screamed and ran off.


I was looking at a list of the Top 100 Picture Books and realized, with slight sadness, that D1 and D2 are starting to outgrow picture books. There are still many on the list they enjoy, but although their own selections are technically from the picture book section, they're usually long illustrated fairy tales or non-fiction. The ones where the story moves on every other sentence, that used to be necessary to keep their attention, now are too fast.

Surely one of these days the twins will figure out that you have to turn the pages in order to read a book, and then we can begin again.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Exploit the Day

I have often bemoaned my inability to play strategic games. I can't see all those moves ahead to see how everything will work out. I lack the ability to forecast what moves my opponents will make. So I always feel trapped, and therefore play halfheartedly.

A couple of weeks ago we were discussing this in anticipation of a game night and DOB said, "Don't try to do something you can't do. Just do what you're good at. Play to your own strengths." Well, what can I do in a strategic game? I can't assess the far future, but I am pretty good at taking in the current turn. I'm good at noticing where other people need to be blocked, and how to get the most power (money, land, whatever the goal is) available on this turn.

So I played that way, exploiting the opportunities I could find and thwarting others when I could. And I won. Turns out that playing the best for the moment works pretty good in the long haul--certainly much better than panicking or giving up.

Now to apply that lesson to real life. It's easy for me to feel panicky or lost right now. Everything is hanging on the bar exam, and towards that I can do nothing except keep the children quiet (and on that score my success is limited). After that, who knows? I don't know whether I'll have to take the bar next; I don't know when or how DOB will get a job; I'm not sure whether I will find work or how much; I don't know when we'll have our "own" place again or for how long; and even small goals are closed down by the twins, who have a radar for determining when parents are doing something interesting and productive so they can promptly interrupt.

The long range is beyond my knowledge. I have to exploit this turn. Today. It will probably come in handy to have educated, well-trained children, so I should take advantage of them wanting to do school and help with the dishes. I could certainly use extra energy and strength whatever comes, so doing another day's exercise is a good idea. Everyone needs fed, everyone needs a conversation, everyone needs sleep. DOB needs quiet to study and it's not raining at the moment, so why not go outside?

Someday, maybe the board will open up and I'll see where this is going. The twins have hit that eighteen-month point where their ability to play and talk takes off, and I begin to see light at the end of the toddler tunnel. The bar exam will be over in seven weeks and one day, and then it will be time to assess what to do next. Right now, I've got this turn to play.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

The cousins have had a tradition for the past few years of staging their own Christmas pageant involving a lot of costume changes. With the addition of D1 and D2 we were able to cut the costume changes down to one each.

We tried to persuade the twins to participate as sheep, but although they once offstage put the sheep hats on and said, "Baa," when it came right to it they refused. D4 did manage to scream on cue at the line, "and she brought forth her firstborn son." The dog was also supposed to be a sheep, but refused to come with the shepherds. However, both she and D4 decided to go on with the wisemen.

There's something iconic about children in a Christmas pageant. They forget their lines, they stare the wrong direction, they're wearing bedsheets and old towels. And they are the conduits of deep mysteries.