Friday, July 30, 2010


I find another week has nearly gone by and I have not posted on the blog. Maybe someday I'll make a bloggish resolution. Or maybe not.

Summer keeps thinking about showing up, but it usually takes it until afternoon to commit. So our mornings are cloudy and gray and I have a hard time shooing everyone outside. Then, in the afternoon, they're asleep. (Well, the twins, anyway.) However, I'll take it any day over a midwestern summer.

Toolboy and his wife just welcomed their first, a little girl, reputedly of a weight truly worthy of our family. Having had children makes me far more appreciative of the advantages of being an aunt. Specifically, that giving birth is not involved and diaper duty is relatively rare.

We went to the dentist this week. The hygienist who worked on D1 was the one who has been there as long as I can remember. Her mere presence makes me feel uncomfortable about my flossing habits, but other than that she's a very nice lady. Anyway, she pulled out my file and showed D1 the picture of me taken when I was six. The hygienist who worked on D2 was also great, and after a thorough introduction to the equipment he was the most cooperative little boy in the history of modern dentistry.

I didn't do so well--I have two and a half cavities. There are so many more interesting things in the world to spend money on than fillings.

I made the mistake of having the dental appointment the day after our usual library and park day outing. I'm still recovering. The decision not to try to do Vacation Bible School anywhere this year was the right one. Someday I hope we have enough energy to have a life again.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Not so simple

Ah, the simple life. Whatever *that* is. Everybody wants it; nobody can define it. Magazines like Real Simple make too easy of a target, providing a better-than-satire example of how our society can even turn anti-commercialism into a commercial goldmine.

The trouble is, simplicity is so hard to define. I once heard a friend (who can be excused from full rationality by being in love) extol the "simple pleasure" of riding ATVs. It always seems to me that the simplest possible human existence would be sitting at a desk all day filling out forms, then coming home to eat frozen pizza and watch sitcoms. Somehow, it never seems that this is what is meant.

It has a bit of an alliance with frugality, in not buying unnecessary stuff, but it would turn up its nose at frugality's hoard of stashed half-worn-out children's clothes. It seems to have a romantic attachment to getting back-to-nature, though anybody who thinks killing chickens and using an outhouse is simple has gotten no closer to nature than Little House on the Prairie reruns.

Simplicity is a luxury item, available primarily to the well-to-do and/or relationally unencumbered. The poor cannot afford the simple life, because they really might need that stuff some day and not have the resources to obtain it again. They could try to reject the various complicated requirements of modern society like safe transportation and clean clothing, but if they have kids, somebody's going to call the cops on them.

Simplicity is an admirable aesthetic ideal. Unfortunately, it often gets pressed into service as a moral code of right living, a task to which it is unequal. Morals all come in balance, but nobody raises a counter-ethic of useful complexity. The decor would be simpler without that tacky Star Wars diorama, but would it be kind? Thanksgiving dinner would be simpler without Crazy Uncle Larry, but would it be just? It makes pretty magazine pictures, but for real life, we need something a bit more well-rounded and accountable to something outside our own prejudices.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

You probably don't want to read this post

It's about potty training.

Well, sort of.

After a traumatic experience early on in motherhood with the intense, boot-camp style of potty training, I decided to go with the more child-led method with subsequent children. I make the potty available, show them what it's for, let them try it at their own pace. I am too cheap to do treats this time around, but the awe and approbation of older siblings seems to be making up for it.

The twins have had a keen and increasing interest in it over the past few days, and I try to be supportive and remind myself that we only have to go through this once, so it's worth disrupting all of life at random moments.

So that is all very well until this afternoon I poked my head outside after cleaning up the kitchen after lunch, leaving some lentils for supper cooking, and noticed D4's pants and diaper on the ground. Not too concerning so far, he can take off his pants and seems to relish it . . . I asked the older siblings and they said, "Oh, he wanted to take off his pants and go in the sand." Not so cool, but perhaps I had arrived in time.

I then spotted D4, who was wearing a longish t-shirt and reiterated going in the sand as a personal goal.

"No," I said, "Let's go to the potty." I lead him inside, only to look behind us and realized he had left a trail of sand. I was too late. I popped him in the bathtub and poked my head outside, only to realize that he had not only gone in the sand, he had then made good use of this new material with his construction toys.

So I got him washed up and set him out while I ran off up the hill to retrieve his pants and spotless diaper. Meanwhile, he went all over the floor. I got him covered and sent him out to play, instructing the older kids to keep him away from the sandpile, and if he ever did anything of the sort again, to summon help immediately.

At this point I remembered that I had left dinner cooking and D3 seated at the counter, ran upstairs and discovered it had stuck to the bottom of the pot. I poured it in a new pot. Fortunately at this juncture Their Majesties returned home, so I shouted hasty instructions about the remainder of dinner, then ran back outside to clean out the sand pile and wash all the trucks and shovels.

As I was getting near the end of this project, I came back inside to see Her Majesty dealing with D3. "She said she needed to go stinky in the potty." Unfortunately, as usual, she had announced this seconds too late, which is, if anything, more messy than not trying at all.

So one has timing issues, and the other has location issues, but they ARE getting the idea. Really. I hope.

Monday, July 19, 2010


It sounds like a horrid insult, but it's quite an innocent word that applies to the habits of rabbits, of bobcats and deer, of cats and dogs, of mosquitoes and moths, and to me.

The world, you see, is not limited to morning larks and night owls. There are also many creatures who prefer dawn and dusk, who like to be active first thing in the morning and then again in the early evening. That suits me perfectly. I don't mind getting up early--well, but not TOO early--preferably not before six-thirty (which, I admit, is long after dawn this time of year, but we'll go on averages). But then by mid-day I'm running out of steam and feel it's time to settle down with a book or computer. Then again in the evening I feel inspired to be up and doing, but by nine-thirty all circuits are shutting down again.

Which corresponds to life pretty well, since there's always the huge get-everyone-up-and-dressed-and-fed-and-laundry-started-and-dishes-washed first thing in the morning, and then the huge put-laundry-away-so-you-can-find-the beds-feed-everyone-wash-dishes-change-and-put-to-bed in the evening. It takes the better part of the day to recover from the first, and a solid night's sleep to be ready to tackle it again. And when I miss my midday down time, ugly things happen.

Which is why I'm sitting here watching dragonflies and experimenting to see how long I can tolerate a porch swing instead of doing anything useful during the twins' nap. Conserving energy is useful.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1. The other grandparents are visiting, which means we've been running around a little bit more and I've been hiding out in my room a little bit more because other people are interacting with the children.

All the grandparents and the older two took a trip to Mt. Rainier one day, while I stayed home and had a relaxing day with only two two-year-olds to contend with. I always wonder if having only two children would really be that much easier, or if it only seems easier because they are better behaved in novel situations.

2. We also went to the zoo. Wondergirl has gotten a zoo pass for trips for everyone's birthdays, so we only took in a few exhibits and then watched the animal show at lunchtime. The polar bears and walruses were quite popular, as usual, and we all got a kick out of the musk ox who was charging a plastic barrel repeatedly while his compatriots mildly chewed the grass and looked at him as if to say, "Why *are* you rushing about in all this heat?" D3, who loves to stand and watch the rabbits and chipmunks at home, was entranced with all the different animals.

3. Conversation with D3, retrieving a dropped grape: "Watch out for the table!" D3: "Watch out for me coming out from the table with a grape!"

4. Speaking of the twins and eating and rabbits and chipmunks, it is strawberry and raspberry season, which means the rabbits and chipmunks are hard at work finding ways to break into the berry gardens, and so are the twins.

5. Rabbit and chipmunk mothers are lucky they never have to try to get strawberry juice and ground-in sand out of their babies' fur.

6. Another thing D1 is taking advantage of with Grandma R. here is learning to sew--she is nearly finished with her first project, a sleeping bag for one of her stuffed animals.

7. D2, however, is obsessed with being a large predator. Except the small, cuddly version of the large predator. So our conversations go like this:

D2: "Hey, Mama, I'm a little bobcat. What's for lunch, Mama Bobcat?"

QOC (if necessary, dashing off to Wikipedia): "Hmm, how about some nice young rabbits, little bobcat?"

D2: "Oooh, yes, I love rabbits."

D2: "Actually, I think I want to eat giraffes. Is that a tiger?"

QOC: "No, tigers don't live where giraffes do. Lions might eat giraffes."

D2: "OK, then I'm a lion."

And thus we discovered that cold mac and cheese with bread crumbs does look kind of like giraffe hide.

More quick takes at Conversion Diary.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Two by Two

Believe it or not, I mixed up the twins while we were still in the hospital, before they put the color-coded hats on them for easy distinguishment. There's no confusing them now, though, even when they are covered with identical layers of impenetrable dirt. D3 is the one whose hair persists in fluffing despite the weight of sand on it, who sits and pours sand with endless fascination, who sucks on her fingers and watches everything around her with rapt attention. D4 is the one racing down the hill on his bike while wielding a sword and laughing maniacally. They both are fully equipped to speak for themselves, if only they can get a quiet moment so that someone will listen. They love to listen to stories, though D4 thinks cars should always be involved. They love playing with the big kids and playing with each other. We've all survived two years together and we should be able to keep it going.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


The Fourth of July is not a time, nor an event, it is a place.

Specifically, it is on Whidbey Island, between a low green house and a shallow green lagoon. It consists of a mammoth sand pile, a collection of more-or-less leaky rowboats, an assortment of chairs and picnic tables, a fire pit (essential this year), and a whole lot of salmon dip.

And, of course, a crowd of dimly-remembered relatives.

Most family reunions fall down on the problem of being either expensive or terminally boring for everyone under sixty. This reunion has been going strong since the current over-sixty generation were toddlers (although it was held on a beach back then), and despite cold and clammy weather, scored one of its highest attendances.

I have only been once since I was married, and I haven't seen many of the cousins my age since well before that. But I noticed them trickling back in. They have toddlers, too, now, and they remember playing on that sand pile and splashing in the lagoon (though only the Polar Bear Club was in for it this year) and exploring uncharted waters in the rowboats and the year Craig lit the grass on fire with the bottle rockets. And they remember me and I remember them . . . a little . . . and in a world where everything else comes and goes and people have died that we didn't think would die so soon it matters more to be here, every year, just like it always was and has been.

The older ducklings have been before, when they were too young to remember much, but they remembered this year, all right. The ride on the ferry. The rowboats. The sand pile. The unlimited food. The pool table. They both agreed that the Fourth of July was the best possible day of the year, with Christmas earning an honorable mention.

I suppose change must come some day, but if the reunion can continue long enough, someday they'll be bringing their kids, too.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

License to Grill

Last November we thought we should be good citizens and go get our licenses changed to Washington. The first time we tried, the computers were down. We later managed to find an operating office to get it done at, and we managed to scrounge up the half-dozen pieces of identification required, only to discover we couldn't get licenses because we couldn't prove we lived within the state, having no mortgage or rental agreement. The only way to do it would be to have one of Their Majesties come and swear to our existence. We finally decided if they made it that difficult we would just wait until we really had come to reside here.

So this week DOB decided that, since he had a real job and all, we were really residents and should make the effort. His Majesty and I drove up to meet him at the nearest Department of Licensing. Well, we were supposed to, but first of all I had to find all the necessary pieces of identification, several of which had been placed into a now-unknown safe place since the last attempt. Eventually the right combination of documents appeared and we set off. DOB beat us there, only to discover the power was out at that Department and seventy or so people were ahead of us once the power came back on. Having gotten so far, it seemed a pity to waste it, so we decided to head on to the next town.

That office was by no means overcrowded, and the lights were on, but a sign was posted that the computers were down state-wide and so no services could be provided. He also supplied the cheery news that the last time this had happened they stayed down for two days. However, he did note that when the computers were now back up, they had a new system that enabled them to check out claimed addresses, and thus His Majesty's presence was no longer required. Having come even farther than ever, however, we determined that waiting was the best course.

So we went to the library down the road and came back with a stack of books to fortify us for yet another hour or two of waiting on plastic chairs. As we came in, they were still turning everyone away, but they did manage to help one fellow finish up a license process started before the computers went down. This seemed a promising sign, so we waited. After a while, they announced that the other office (the one with the power outage and seventy people) had managed to get two computers online. And then, at last, they said they could take us.

We came to the counter with our stack of papers, but the attendant never asked for them. He took our old licenses, asked for our social security numbers, and moved on. Apparently the stringent requirements we encountered last fall were the result of a federal audit into the state's free hand with federal dollars towards illegal immigrants. A couple of weeks ago the state decided the feds were no longer watching and relaxed all the requirements again, although the website still lists them just in case someone is looking, I suppose.

Anyway, now that we have proper local licenses I suppose our gypsy stage is over.

Friday, July 02, 2010


Last Sunday we were visiting a new church. DOB had already taken the ducklings out to the playground (it won all of their votes on the basis of its superior playground, which included an obstacle course in the woods). I was making my exit from the ladies' room when I miscalculated the intersection between my path and the path of the door and rammed it straight into my right eyebrow.

Fortunately a lady was standing in the foyer watching and asked if I needed ice, or I probably would have just wandered off in dazed oblivion with my hand plastered to my forehead for reasons I only vaguely recalled. With the injury drawn to my attention, I agreed that ice would probably be a good idea. We headed to the kitchen where I pulled my hand down for the application of ice and realized that I was also dripping blood.

At this point the lady thought it would be best to summon the pastor, who it turned out had a prior career as an ER nurse. Unfortunately, he was only the interim pastor, and didn't know where the first aid kit was. Fortunately, it was right there in the kitchen and labeled in large red letters, and deep in the depths he fished out a butterfly bandage and taped me up, so that was alright except for hurting most of the rest of the week.

Anyway, yesterday DOB got a restaurant gift card from grateful clients and his parents arrived the day before to expand the babysitting pool, so we went out to supper. I entered the ladies' room and tried to shut the stall door only to discover it was sagging on its hinges such that the latch didn't meet. Perhaps a yank on the bottom of the door would readjust it. I yanked. The entire door came off in my hands.

"Uh-oh," I said.

An employee had been in tidying up. "Did you break it?" she asked.

"Um, yes, I think so," I said.

She came and looked. "Oh, you did!"

With her balancing the top, I managed to slide the door back on to its hinges, whereupon I checked the latch, and sure enough, it now lined up properly. That will teach it.

So I guess the score between me and bathroom doors is even for now.