Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One Year Ago Today

Things were finally settling down a bit. We'd nearly survived the first year with twins. (And, as I kept telling them, they should have already been one! Someday I will forgive them for making their due date.) They were starting to utter their first words and thinking about taking their first steps.

I was making plans to start some simple schoolwork with D1 and enjoying living in a house that was finally painted and arranged the way I wanted it. Well, mostly. DOB was grateful to have a steady job with people he liked being around. We'd just taken D1 out on a birthday trip and she'd vowed she wanted to do the exact same thing next year. We spent a lot of time at our neighborhood park. We'd finally gotten the lawn mowed and ordered a reel mower so I could keep up with it myself.

And then the next evening, DOB came home and asked if I'd like to go out to dinner. Cicero was there to watch the kids, supper was long since fixed (I'd learned very early on that we wouldn't eat unless I did all the cooking as early in the day as possible). After a day like every day, who would say no?

We went to our favorite sandwich shop and he asked, "What do you think of moving to Washington?"

What did I think? I couldn't think of that--I'd never allowed myself to think of it.

By the end of the evening we'd decided to move sometime in the next year; by the end of the week we'd decided to leave that fall. It was impossible and absurd and imprudent, but having thought of it we had to try.

We fixed up our house, and sold it. DOB gave notice at his work, and found a replacement. We got rained on, learned to do things we couldn't do, and accomplished the impossible task of showing a house in immaculate condition while living in it with four preschoolers.

One day, the time had come, and we packed up the last of what was left and headed west. Our trip out felt like an epic adventure. We were free of everything, committed to nothing yet, following the pioneers only with better plumbing. We drove as far as we wanted to, stopped when we felt like it, and saw the country one mile at a time.

Then, we got here. After a few weeks of settling in and networking, all that energy we'd had for moving and adventuring came to a crashing end. We slept for ten or more hours every night and barely dragged ourselves through the day. We came down with one sickness after another. Our idea that we might find work while waiting for the bar exam turned out to be wrong; not that either of us had energy to work anyway.

There was nothing to do but wait. Wait and try not to think about the fact that we were unemployed and living in our parents' basement, which is not where anyone wants to be at thirty.* Especially not with four kids.

Then came a rush of studying for the bar exam, the thrill of DOB actually *taking* the bar exam and then . . . more waiting. Winter ended and spring began and it rained a lot and we stepped on each other's toes and the children screamed pretty often and there was nothing to do and nowhere to go and the bills kept adding up and we had probably done something incredibly stupid, but it didn't bear thinking about now.

And then . . . things began to pick up, a little. In one networking meeting in November we'd met with a Seattle attorney who knew a half-dozen lawyers in our area. We'd met with several of them before we collapsed in December. One of them, in the nicest possible way, ripped our presentation to shreds and made us rethink everything we were looking for and everything about how we were presenting ourselves. One of them was congenial but didn't know of anything.

In March, the latter one called me up and asked if I'd like to do a free-lance research project. In April, the former one looked at DOB's many-times-revised resume and said he'd finally got it and he should talk to X firm as they always had more work than they could handle. When DOB finally managed to speak to someone there, they gave him a contract project--and then another, and another. And finally the results from the bar came in, and DOB could be a real lawyer in the state he lived in for the first time.

Through all this, DOB's knee had been acting up due to the driving position of a minivan, but he'd tried to tough it out before spending money on a second car. The day after he got sworn in, a week after he'd started working on a contract basis, the strain in his knee became too much and he broke his foot. His good foot, which meant a wheelchair and therapy and no driving at all.

Somehow he kept working and we kept going even though it all felt like a cruel joke at times. Earlier this month, after sufficiently demonstrating his skill at negotiating for other people, he negotiated himself a full-time position. I got a second research project, and it may work into something intermittent but regular that I can do from home.

In short, we did it. We moved, we changed careers, we're going to settle where we've always wanted to live. DOB loves negotiating and advocating and I love researching and am starting to get back in touch with the self I left behind in Washington without losing the people I love. Our children are best friends with their cousins and have the run of the farm where I grew up. We are back on track towards being able to pay our own way.

There's still a long way to go. It still looks like it will be awhile before we have a home of our own again. DOB is starting over from the beginning in a difficult career, and the learning curve is steep. Health issues still crop up periodically and caring for four only-slightly-older children is still exhausting. In some ways it seems like we traded a lot of work for an overwhelming amount of work. We've asked a lot from those around us and we wish we had more to give back.

But we're very thankful for where we have been, for what we have been able to do, for where we are now, and for where we can go next.

*Not that the basement isn't a very nice place, in fact larger and airier than either of our apartments. And with much better grounds. The difficulties were psychological rather than physical.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Now We Are Six

And now birthday season is upon us, and (discounting grownups who of course don't count) D1 kicks it off by turning 6!

D1 is growing fast and eats plenty to keep up with it. She loves princesses, mostly for the fancy dresses. She was really interested in getting married because of the fancy dress, but after DOB pointed out the importance of all the rest of your life after the wedding, she's a little more cautious. When she grows up she wants to be a cook--actually, she already is one.

She loves to read and write stories and lists. She always has a game of pretending going. She likes to be the one in charge. DOB occasionally calls her the "cult leader" as the other children follow eagerly behind with whatever new idea she has. Fortunately most of them are good ones. We count on her a lot, and she bears it graciously.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Life, Death, and Chipmunks

I have an unsympathetic little lot of children. Over the past two days we have repeatedly seen an injured chipmunk wandering heedlessly around the driveway and flowerbeds, collapsing in exhaustion in unsafe places. I asked B6 to put it in the bushes once, but it crawled back out again. It had a large gash in it side.

This afternoon it finally died and I buried it.

Now, my understanding is that at this point one's tender-hearted small children are supposed to be tearing up, mourning the chipmunk, demanding full application of last rites and a proper burial.

Not mine. They weren't gleeful, just curious. "How can you tell whether it's breathing?" "Where are you going to bury it?" "Why not bury it in the flower bed?" "You shouldn't bury people in the woods, right?" (Not under most circumstances . . . ) "Do people live longer than animals?" "Can I ride the shovel back?"

I could hold out hope that the twins will prove more sympathetic in their day, but since I caught D3 wandering around the yard, wielding a sword and muttering, "Where da slugs? I dunna till dem!" the other day, it would be faint hope indeed.

The good side of this is that it leaves our entertainment options a bit broader. Neither death nor danger are off-limits, within reason. So we let the older ducklings watch The Princess Bride as their first full-length movie. D1 took it all in stride; D2 got big-eyed at the scarier parts, but was eager to go on once we had paused the movie and reassured him that we had seen the end and it all came out all right. He also seemed to derive great comfort from passing moral judgments on the movie characters: if someone did something bad, then to label it as bad made it significantly less threatening.

I've never subscribed to the theory that we should shield children altogether from the existence of evil and sorrow, but sometimes I have a twinge that such neat, fairytale plotlines are far too simplistic: the "bad guys" get punished, the "good guys" live happily ever after, and it all comes out OK in the end. Is it fair to tell that to children when such things often don't happen in this world?

Then again, I also believe that this world is not the end of the story, and that the reason we thirst so much for the happy ending is because we are creatures made to see it. That Judgment Day is not just a threat, but a promise of all wrongs righted and all evils undone. That Someone has seen the whole thing and is whispering to us that it all comes out right in the end. The fairy tale is not wrong; we're just still waiting to storm the castle.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I performed an act of great bravery this week: I took the kids out in the car *all by myself*. I know, that doesn't sound too exciting, but it's the first time I have ever done it, except to places where I would have help on the receiving end. But we went to the library and the grocery store and the park and had no trouble at any of them, except that D3 was not too eager to have an older sibling hold her hand.

I don't know how I'm ever going to buy a full load of groceries with all the kids along, though, being as the cheaper stores don't have those extra-big carts. The twins find grocery shopping a novel and exciting experience. D4 was upset when we put the eggs on the belt the first time. But I can only fit a couple of gallons of milk in amongst them when they're sitting in the body of the cart, and I really don't think I want two two-year-olds walking about the store on their own.


The local library has crayons and coloring papers in the children's section. I think this exceptionally brave, if not foolhardy, of them.

Thoughts by D2, on eating the world:

  • You could not eat the world, because you could not be outside the world to eat the world.
  • Besides, you could not find a big enough plate to fit the whole world on.
  • Even if you could find a big enough plate, you definitely could not eat the whole world in one bite.
  • Maybe you could go around the world eating it.
  • Maybe you could go in a rocket to Mars and stay there for a day and come back and eat more.
(Note: He always gets on topics like this on days when he only touches two bites of his supper.)

Friday, June 04, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1. I'm not sure I have seven quick takes, but I can feel through the interwebs the longing and pleading to please get that slug picture off the top of the page. The older ducklings and I are reading with considerable interest a book about slugs, although I was grateful that they were somewhat distracted by how long their nap time would be when we got to the bit about reproduction. (Slugs are hermaphrodites--try explaining that to a 4-year-old. I did have an explanation worked out, in case they asked, but they admired the eggs and moved on.)

2. We got hand controls installed in the van last Thursday. And then panicked briefly when the combination of driving by hand and pushing himself in a wheelchair put DOB's shoulders out. However, he's decided to upgrade himself to a walker to give the shoulders a break and is now getting around pretty much on his own, much to everyone's relief. What the doctor would think about the risk to his knee and foot we don't know, as we haven't yet found a doctor whose opinion seems worth consulting.

3. This makes no sense with my life right now, but it is so geekishly cool I wish it did: Chore Buster. You put in all your people (with how much they get to do), chores (with how hard they are and how often they are) and it randomly and equitably assigns the chores. DOB thinks it would take all the fun out of it. I guess what would really be cool would be writing the system myself. Still, it's a fun thought.

4. Today we had a minor crisis at naptime when Doll-Doll could not be found. I scoured the house, inside and out, upstairs and down. I was finally trying to sing to D3 and persuade her that we would find Doll-Doll after naps, when Her Majesty came into the room carrying a Honeycomb box. She had been about to take out the recycling and discovered Doll-Doll stashed inside. It's a good thing she has a rattle.

5. D1 and D2 are greatly anticipating the Borders summer reading program. You have to read ten books. In case you need help planning this feat, they have calculated that you can do that by reading two books for five days, or five books on two days, or four books for two days and then two books on the third day. I'm guessing whichever approach they take, they will be done before the library program starts in the middle of June.

6. D2 was drawing a picture for a birthday card. He told me it was a slide with a ladder. He came back a few minutes later, having drawn in the rungs on the ladder, but given his limited understanding of perspective, the rungs went straight down and looked more like legs. "See what it looks like now?" he said. "Oh yes," I said encouragingly, "You drew all the rungs in so it really looks like a ladder." "No it doesn't," he laughed, "It looks more like a pig!" I guess kind lies aren't going to work with this kid.

7. See, I told you I didn't really have seven things.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Sluggish Investigations

I may have mentioned before that the twins' favorite animals are slugs. They are slow and watchable. Today D4 took me on a walk, saying, "Find flocks!"

"Flocks?" I asked.

"No, Flogs!" he said.

"Oh, slugs," I said.

"Slogs! Find slogs!"

So we looked for slogs all over the garden, and we found them in plenty. Each time we saw one, D4 called out, "Slog! Nother slog! Don step onnit! It's gucky!"

Fast forward a few hours. I had taken DOB to the gym, so Their Majesties were putting the kids to bed after another outside play time. As she picked up D4 to change him, D4 exclaimed, "I tep onna slog! I tep onna lello slog!"

Hearing this later, I interjected, "Well, he doesn't really know his colors yet, he just assigns them at random . . . "

"Oh, it was a yellow one alright," Her Majesty said.

Further examination of D3's feet revealed that she, too, had participated in the test to determine just how gucky stepping on slogs really was.

What is not known is their conclusions from this experiment.

However, I did notice that Their Majesties were exceptionally helpful in helping DOB rig up his gym bag to his walker so that he can go to the pool on his own in the future.