Wednesday, October 26, 2011


This is the time of year when the ducklings start thinking I am mean.

"Go outside and play," I say.

"It's too cold," they whine.

"Put on your coat and boots," I say.

"It's too hard/I can't find them/they hurt my feet/Noooooo!" they whine.

In vain do I point out that the sun is actually shining briefly or at least that it's not pouring down rain. In vain do I warn that stormy days are coming and we will all be crawling the walls with cabin fever. Summer is fresh in their minds and winter is far away. And compared to summer, the weather is lousy.

Dash finally got his boots on and went out one day only to come back in and ask me to fill the wading pool.

"I wanna fish!" he said.

"You can't play in water, it's too cold," I said. "Just pretend and fish in the grass."

"Fish don't live in the grass. Fish live in the water."

"You can't play in water. It's too cold. Pretend you're hunting deer. Deer live in the grass."

"No, I want to fish."

"You can't play in water, it's too cold."

(drastic condensation of conversation to conserve bandwidth)

Finally he wailed, "Why is it so cold every day now?"

I guess it is too much to remember that fall follows summer and winter follows fall when you've only seen it happen three times. And therefore equally hard to remember that spring follows winter. Sometimes it's hard to remember when you've seen it thirty-three times.

But mostly I remember, and I go and put my boots and jacket on and walk in the drizzle, because I know winter is coming.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

In Which I Make Things Unnecessarily Complicated

I was reading a short while ago a discussion in which a lady was quoting priorities from some How To Manage Everything Book and stated that one's priority list should look like this:

1. God
2. Husband
3. Children
4. House
5. Self
6. Outside (work, volunteer, etc.)
(I may have those last two backwards, I'm not sure.)

I've seen a lot of priority lists run pretty much that way. It makes no sense to me. For one thing, if I were to prioritize by people like that, I'd have to put Me at the head of the list. What good am I to my husband or children (or house) if I don't have enough rest, exercise, proper food, and quiet to be a reasonably sane and functional human? None whatever. (Believe me, I have tried.)

It still sounds dreadfully heathen not to put God at the head, but let's be honest: Does God need anything from me? The Maker of the Universe, the Triune Mystery, is he sitting around lonely if I neglect him? No, spiritual activity is for my benefit, not God's. And honestly, most of what God actually asks from us has to do with loving other people, so see everything else on the list.

I can only assume that the people who write priority lists probably don't really mean it about putting yourself last, or they've never been in a position where you needed to write yourself memoranda to take your shoes off and use the bathroom personally. They probably just mean getting a pedicure or something (ewww).

Everything on the list is subject to that economic law of diminishing returns. Some things for your husband may be more important than some things for your children, but if he can't wait for help finding the remote until the baby has eaten, then he's the one with the mixed up priorities.

Furthermore, everything on the list is mixed up. Do I wash the dishes for the sake of the House, for the sake of the Children and Husband who will need another meal soon, or for the sake of Me, who will start flinging them in the backyard if they sit there any longer? And then there is urgency--my children's math lesson probably shouldn't take precedence over someone starving at the door. But then there is frequency--if that happens every day, the math is going to be sorely neglected and I should find some other way to feed the hungry.

If I really, really had to make up a priority list, it would be something more like this:

1. Make sure everyone I'm responsible for has what they need to survive.
2. Tend to everything else in rotating order, or in whatever way seems to make most sense at the moment.

If I were a nicer person, I would put something like, "nurture emotional and spiritual relationships" in the middle. But I'm not.

Friday, October 07, 2011

How not to have a relaxing day

Thursday is usually a quiet day around here. Monday is recover from the weekend and get back into gear day. Tuesday is shopping and library (which has gotten completely out of hand since the kids got their own library card and now we have a collective 200 book limit). Wednesday is nature hike. By Thursday we are ready to just hang around the house.

So when the Duchess wanted to have her girl cousin stop in and play tea party and I was setting things up with her mother a few weeks ago, naturally I said that Thursday would be perfect.

And when a lady at church went on bedrest and I was signing up for meals, I said Thursday would work well for me to bring something over.

And when Wondergirl wanted to bring dessert over and invite Toolboy and his family along, I agreed that Thursday would be fine for me, too.

Then I realized that all these things were on the same Thursday. And also that it was going to be a dry, borderline sunny day, making it the only day I was likely to get the plants and bulbs in the flowerbed that I have been working on preparing for the past three weeks. (I started with a hacksaw.)

Well, I scratched "catch up on school" off the list and we did the minimum. I went out with the Duchess (who doesn't care much for gardening, but is really excited about tulips) and we planted the flowerbed. We finished and I started heating lunch just as their cousin showed up. Fortunately that kept the big kids busy for the rest of the afternoon, and the twins went down for their quietly-listening-to-CDs time. (Naps are rapidly becoming a distant memory, although Dash will still doze off and then wake up cranky.)

So I started in on a work project, which I had promised by the end of the week. (It didn't really need to be done by the end of the week, but I just lost my other contract and was feeling a need to overdeliver.) I finally hit the motherload of information on it and was getting it all put together when I noticed the scorching smell and realized I had burnt the beans for supper.(Fortunately not what I was taking out.) And yes, I work in the kitchen. Smoked beans are kind of my signature recipe.

Anyway, I rushed about, salvaging supper and doing only the bare essential pre-company cleaning. The ducklings said farewell to their cousin and I calculated that if we left everything ready for supper we had just enough time to run the meal over and get back and eat by the time Wondergirl showed up. So we headed out.

I noticed the van was making a new whumbedy whumbedy sound. Interesting, but the van is always making new strange sounds. I would have to mention it to Toolboy tonight and see what he thought. I could call DOB to come take the meal, but he had already emailed that he would be working to eight, and I didn't want to increase that.

So we whumbedy whubedied along, found the house, delivered the meal (whose recipient had just gotten home from all day at the doctor's and looked about ready for it), and headed back, WHUMBEDY WHUMBEDY RATTLE RATTLE SHAKE SHAKE.

"Hey kids," I said, "Remember how I told you the van was about to fall apart? I think this may be it."

"REALLY?" they said, "COOL!"

I decided to pull across the intersection to a better parking spot. When I did, someone pulled up behind me. He came to the window.

"Do you need help with that flat?" he said.

"Flat?" I thought. Rats. I don't know much about cars, but I do know that driving on the flat is a bad thing. And I was supposed to keep an eye on the right rear tire, because it had been running kind of low. And unlike strange engine noises, noticing flat tires is something even people who are not very good with cars are supposed to be able to do.

"No thanks," I said, "I'm calling someone." I called DOB, who said, "I'm on the phone, I'll call you back."

Then I realized that I was right across the street from our church, so I pulled into that parking lot and let the kids run around. And I looked at the tire, which had progressed to the shedding chunks stage. At least it was the left rear tire, so it wasn't the one I was supposed to keep an eye on.

Then I called Wondergirl, who had just passed us and was wondering, "Could that be them? Surely not, the car is too clean! And QOC must be at home, fixing supper!" So she came and gave the kids paper dolls to play with and berry baskets to pick blackberries and DOB called me back and said that his graphic designer friend, who he had been on the phone with, needed an excuse to get out of the house and would be there in a minute.

So he showed up, in a red truck, and Dash watched with fascination and announced, "When I am seven, and you have a flat tire, I will fix the flat tire, and I will have a red truck."

Whereupon Dot said, "And I will have a PINK truck with PINK tools and a PINK hat with a PINK ribbon and I will fix ALL the cars."

They put the spare on and we drove home and we had supper (and I was very thankful I had not followed through on my earlier idea of leaving it simmering while we ran out) and finished just in time for Toolboy and his family to show up for dessert. Which was very good.