Thursday, May 29, 2014

Movie Night

From September to April, the ducklings attend AWANA at Their Majesties' church. This gives us one night a week during the long winter evenings in which they are bouncing off walls elsewhere.

With the end of AWANA, that evening is free, and we don't miss it because now we can send them outside after supper. However, we decided it was time to remedy a large gap in their life. See, we don't have an easy movie setup. We never had gotten around to purchasing a TV and we don't have the supporting furniture or space in the living room, and crowding six people, four of them small and squirmy, around a laptop has never been a very appealing option. And DOB and I have a low tolerance for child-oriented media.

Thus, through sheer inertia, the ducklings just hadn't seen that many movies. But now they have arrived at an age where there are many movies of general interest. So we decided non-AWANA night should become Movie Night. We make homemade pizza and popcorn, reserve something at the library, hook up the laptop to a borrowed screen, and actually watch a movie with them. Yup, that's high excitement around here. (The really nice thing is, with the new living room layout, the ducklings pile on the couch, DOB sits in his favorite office chair, and I sit in my armchair all by myself. Most of the time.)

So far this year we've seen The Never Ending Story; Star Wars: Episode IV; It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; and Captain Blood. I was rather excited to realize that Captain Blood, an Errol Flynn movie about (fairly restrained) pirates, ties in directly to our current history lessons. I never thought to encounter the Monmouth Rebellion on movie night. The kids were more interested in the obligatory sword fight.

The ducklings have quantified what they want to see in a movie: it should have chasing, sword fights, buildings falling down, or kids. So far they've all been hits. We do plan to do some Pixar at some point, too, but more modern movies tend to have the longer wait times at the library, plus they're more likely to see those while visiting someone else.

What's your favorite family movie?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Closet Philosophy

Most trends operate by reaction, and the common reaction among those who have lived too far down the impossible rabbit hole of "Women must dress in a way that prevents men from lusting," tends to be, "Women should wear whatever they $&*# well please." Which is an understandable feeling, but clearly a reactionary one and therefore limited in scope by its own reaction.

What I would like to do is set that whole sloppy mess aside, and start off in a different direction. I shall not attempt to address any theological questions; I am not a theologian. But anyone with  a place to sit and a space to stare off into can philosophize.

So the question I would like to ask is, "What role does clothing play in the expression of our sexuality?" (There are, of course, plenty of other reasons for clothing, such as sunblock and tick protection and frostbite avoidance, but those are far less philosophically interesting--although the fact that our hides are such tender things that we need clothing for such uses is itself suggestive.) And, more specifically, "What and how should children and young people be taught on such matters?"

First, one can note that in any culture or setting where clothing is worn at all, there is universal agreement on what areas are top priority for coverage. (At least as far as I've heard of, and though not an anthropologist, I was a pretty diligent student of back issues of National Geographic as a child.) There's not a culture where kneecaps or necks are strictly taboo but reproductive organs are appropriate for public display. What extra areas come in for mandatory coverage is, of course, widely variant, but the basics always come down to the same.

Why? I suspect is that this is a way we demonstrate our humanity by distinguishing ourselves from animals. Truth be told, the mechanics of mating and birthing are pretty similar for humans and for other mammals. Which is exactly why we, as humans, must undertake them in distinctly unmechanical ways, surrounding them with ceremony and even secrecy.

It is analogous to the way we handle eating . . . we could simply grab and stuff whatever semi-edible substance was lying around, but doing so is considered an act of desperation, not humanity. We surround our eating with ceremony, we prepare our food. There is a huge variety in what ceremony and in how we prepare, but a great universality in our need to make a simple, animal act into a production.

And it is the same way with our reproductive capacity. Various efforts have been made to approach such matters in a simple, natural manner--and they inevitably fail to gain any sort of traction. Nothing is so unnatural to humans as acting natural. Try as we might, we must have ceremony, and if we do not pursue beautiful ceremonies, we will have ugly ones.

What we want and choose to wear is, in many obvious and not-so-obvious ways, influenced by our culture. At the same time, culture is us. It comes from many things, all interacting and playing off each other: universal elements of human nature, practical matters of our geographic location, history and experience, and individual choices. A huge variety of the panoply of human cultural choices are morally neutral: simply part of the beautiful diversity of human experience.

But the fact that many variations are morally neutral does not mean they all are. (Was foot-binding a practice without moral significance?) And the difficulty in drawing a bright-line test does not mean that there is no better or worse to be found. Beautiful music is hard to define, and impossible to fully quantify, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist or that there is no distinction between fingernails on a chalkboard and the Moonlight Sonata. (Or, for that matter, a simple folk tune sung without accompaniment--I am not arguing for elitism here, in music or clothing.)

To move from this to the practical level, I am willing to bravely stand with most of humanity and endorse the cultural convention of covering reproductive organs in public. It's a good rule. It acknowledges that we are not just animals, that we need ceremony and privacy. It applies with equal force to everyone out of infancy, regardless of age and gender. It is about dignity, not shame.

On a matter more specific to cultural trends, I think it's a reasonable extension, which I will impose upon my children, that one should attempt to prevent one's underwear from being visible in public. (While acknowledging that accidents happen, especially when one lacks hips.) Occasionally it becomes fashionable to ignore this convention, but, honestly, I think it's a bad fashion. Defiance for the sake of defiance, usually, or simple carelessness. The tricky thing is that some clothes may be quite adequate for this task for some movements and not for others. But there's nothing inherently shameful about pointing this out, nor even gender-specific: men in kilts should be careful how they bend over. Anyway, squatting is better for your back.

After that, things get fuzzier. Yet I don't think that means that every ideal must be thrown to the wind. We are getting into areas of art, not science or law. But art can still be informed by what is good. It seems worthwhile to suggest that scraping the bare minimum of propriety is seldom a beautiful act. There is both a beauty in subtlety and a wisdom in realizing that one cannot have the fun of breaking taboos forever. Pleasures are to be savored, and overindulgence in anything leads to boredom even if nothing worse.

Especially for the young, dressing is often part of the worthy and important task of attracting a mate. As a human pursuit, this needs ceremony and discretion, without attempting to entirely deny the bald physical reality.

While the often-repeated claim of modesty culture that "men are more visual" may be groundless, it is a scientific fact that the reproductive capacity of women is advertised in a very visual way: there is, for instance, a high correlation between hip/waist ratio and fertility. For this reason, women's clothing choices inevitably have a more direct sexual connotation than men's clothing. (Women may admire a nice set of pects, but they are not sending us any subtle messages about sperm count. We have other means of detecting a good mate, such as smell.)

Dressing to express one's sexuality while maintaining the decorum and subtlety that acknowledges that human mating is about much more than physical desire is, again, an art, not a science. But it is an important art, and one that should be taught, not simply left to the experiments of fourteen year olds in the first flush of newly discovered hormones. (Like most arts, it is best learned from its practitioners, i.e., more experienced women, not its audience.)

So you will notice I am not going to make any further judgment calls about which specific fashions are appropriate or inappropriate. For one thing, I don't need to make that for the world at large (though I retain the right to make it for children who are clothed with my money). There is a great deal of variation possible and I am not the fashion police. But the lack of hard and fast rules does not have to mean the lack of ideals. Aesthetics may vary in application, but deliberately denying the human need for beauty, for privacy, for ceremony is inhumane and, for that reason, immoral.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Still Not Ending Story

It's been a year now since DOB first started having what we have come to term "episodes": incidents where his body, to some greater or lesser degree, just stops working. Sometimes he can't move, sometimes he jerks uncontrollably, sometimes he cannot speak or his speech is slurred or stuttery.

We spent many months making the rounds of doctors, first the local ones, then the big university clinic. He went through all the tests, MRI, EEG. They eliminated any possible medical cause. His brain proved to be "perfectly healthy and juicy," a description by a neurologist which gave us secret doubts about his predilections.

So the stumped experts sent us to start looking at psychosomatic causes. We got a possible diagnosis, although even the disorder is not that well-established. It's called conversion disorder, and the layman's description is simply that his body is fed up with his propensity for ignoring exhaustion and pushing on through and just stops cooperating. Sometimes good character costs too much.

That's been our treatment focus for the past several months. He's learned to relax into the episodes, take life easier, rest. The episodes diminished--and except under exceptionally stressful circumstance, they only happened at night, causing little disruption unless he got frozen into an uncomfortable position. (I had to learn to wake up from his grunts and give him a karate chop to break him loose.) The doctor had him taking medication to help him relax even better and it seemed to be working. We also moved to another house so that he could get around the house without assistance, diminishing some of the constant stress. He was back to driving and working pretty normal hours.

After all that, this was supposed to be a post of progress. He had gone two weeks without even a nighttime episode. Well, there was one, but it seemed to be tied to an unexpectedly long day at work, and everything was making sense and things were, if not quite better yet, at least on the cusp of getting better.

Until this past weekend. Sunday was the annual church business meeting, and we were all sitting around finishing up the potluck and watching a video on the year's activities. I heard Duchess call out for me and turned around to see DOB falling like a tree. I got him into a more comfortable position and watched, but he was out cold, though his eyes were wide open. Somebody called the paramedics, but by the time they arrived ten minutes later DOB was coming around and all his vitals were normal, although he was still unable to move for another 30 minutes or so. His memory had stopped a few moments before he had tried to get out of his chair. (This put an end to the church business meeting, unfortunately so early in the proceedings that we'll just have to have it over.)

It was kind of like the preexisting episodes, but different. He'd never gone unconscious before. (Sometimes he had been unresponsive, but I could see in his eyes that he was still conscious and he would remember everything afterward.) He'd always had enough warning that he could get himself to a safe place. And there was a pattern--or we thought there was--that this just didn't fit.

We hoped maybe the psychiatrist would have answers at his next appointment, which was Wednesday. Maybe it was just a medication reaction. (In the meantime he had a couple more, though he didn't pass out because he stayed seated. According to his paralegal, who was driving him through one of them, it was like he got suddenly, totally, and very crankily drunk. And then got over it and to the hangover stage, all within twenty minutes.)

Unfortunately, the psychiatrist has no idea. It doesn't sound like anything connected to the medication or within the scope of the current diagnosis. She said it was time to go back to the neurologists and tell them to try harder. Maybe we'll have to do the stay in the hospital hooked up to gizmos until something happens. (Which could be a very long time--nothing exciting has happened since Monday night now.) In the meantime, he's supposed to reduce work hours significantly and refrain from driving entirely.

And in between, everything is fine. He argues cases and negotiates cleverly. He plays pickleball and looks good doing it. He hugs the kids and designs gaming worlds.

And then suddenly it's not OK, and now we don't know why any more and we already exhausted all the questions there were to ask.

I want this story to make sense, but it doesn't.

Monday, May 19, 2014

In Which I Venture Into Matters Of Which I Know Very Little

Diary of an Autodidact is doing a series on Modesty Culture that is well thought-through and quite interesting. I have some thoughts on it and I'm probably going to do two posts, one on some additional factors and one an essay (in the original sense, writing as an adventure to uncover my own thoughts) on a philosophy of dressing to share with my children.

Personally, although I grew up in the veriest hotbed of modesty culture, I never internalized it in the way that seems to have affected many other women who did. I never felt ashamed of my body. Maybe this is because my parents were sane and didn't make a big deal of it. We certainly dressed very conservatively, but it was just what we did. Maybe it was because I just never got that kind of attention, for good or ill, in any setting. I don't know whether it was my complete lack of physical grace or my overpowering nerdiness, but I always felt, with much regret, that the only way I could prove a stumbling block to men was to leave my feet in the aisle.

I knew perfectly well it wasn't my dimensions, which fit nicely into the ideal (back in the days before twins), but still, there it was. I did not think I would ever even get anyone to notice that I was female at all. (True, I did manage to catch a man eventually, but it was by years of political debate online and personal attraction was entirely an afterthought.) So although I probably should feel more incensed and more empathy with those who were shamed for matters beyond their control, my ability to actually feel such empathy is, alas, held back by the envy of one to whom feminine allure has always been a hopelessly closed book.

I have, therefore, instead of personal experience, more abstract thoughts on factors that may have affected the popularity of modesty teachings among people with more noble (or at least, not creepy) intentions.

One is the fashion arc from the 80s through the present day. I'm no fashion expert myself, but Duchess checks out books on historical fashions by the dozens and leaves them lying around, and when books are lying around, I read them. One book had an appendix summarizing the changing predominate silhouette in women's fashions as the defining feature of each decade. Since the beginning of this century, the predominate silhouette has been form-fitting from head to toe. This is a fairly unusual look: usually the silhouette is pinched in somewhere, but loose elsewhere. But in more recent fashions, it's been figure-hugging everywhere. (This is finally starting to let up a bit as maxi dresses come in. The one constant about fashions is that they change.)

Now, this interplays with ideas of modesty in several ways. For one thing, it was a huge shift (taking place gradually through the 90s) from the bouffant 80s look. For fun, check out an 80s movie or TV show. Odds are, the leading lady, no matter how young and alluring she is meant to be, will be wearing a high-necked, baggy top for pretty much the entire time. It's just what people wore. Even if she wears a low-cut evening gown (and even evening gowns might be turtlenecks), it will be cut and worn in such a way that cleavage is minimized. (Quite different both from modern eras and from many earlier ones.)

What this means, is that the middle-aged enforcers of values during the 90s and 00s were naturally going to have their mental fashion senses already set to a very different, less body-conforming style. The shift to a slimmer profile, drawing more attention to the actual shape of the body, was that much greater of a shock--and, if one was dubious about the propriety of drawing too much attention to the body in the first place, all the more likely to lead to the conclusion that modern fashions were downright sinful.

Of course, the corollary is that the fashions of the immediately preceding era are the ultimate in frumpiness in the current era. It's the natural tension between old and new ratcheted up and given a moral dimension because of the direction fashion happened to shift just then.

Further, the streamlined silhouette is extremely hard to wear successfully. There's no hiding the less than perfect figure, and especially the no longer young figure. So that gives an extra oomph to the Snow White syndrome. Not only are young people's clothes scandalous, they very pointedly and painfully showcase the shortcomings of the old.

Finally, although there have been a few prior eras of a trim silhouette, I think this is the first time it's been attempted through completely ready-made clothing. A gentleman of the early 19th century wore a very form-fitting outfit. And he had it specially made by a skillful tailor to actually fit him. (Someone who was not a gentleman and therefore couldn't afford a tailor didn't try to wear fashionably form-fitting clothes.) But very few use tailors any more, or are capable of sewing for themselves at that level.

Instead, women are all trying to wear off-the-rack clothes that fit perfectly all over. This, of course, is nearly impossible. Except for the lucky few who find a brand whose fit model matches them, and celebrities who can devote their lives to perfect clothes, most women wearing current clothes are stuck wearing snug clothes that don't quite fit. (The agonies I undergo in the area of jeans alone are enough to blight my existence. I cannot find a pair that will stay up but not pinch. I think my hip bones are the wrong shape.) The end result is that it is absurdly difficult to find clothes that fulfill their basic functions of coverage consistently, and many people just give up, resulting in more exposure than people really intend or want. 

The other thing I want to address is the broader cultural milieu, which is just as disturbingly obsessive as modesty culture. Like the number of times I have to refrain from showing my children an interesting article about science because the entire sidebar of certain news pages is filled with "news" articles critiquing how women celebrities look in (or out of) their various outfits. (And it can't be avoided at the grocery store.) Or the way, just when their body has achieved the one great thing that in all the universe only the female human body can do, give life to another human, the instinctive reaction of most women is, "My body is totally ruined." Something is seriously, seriously wrong in the way we think and talk about women's bodies, and it is not just modesty culture.

Ironically, the tabloid culture and the modesty culture are basically the same, even though the popularity of the latter is in many ways a reaction to the former. In both, the point about a woman's body is the effect it has on the (male) observer. Or the female observer for purposes of comparison. Either way, it's there to be looked at, not to do things with. Just goes to show how much attempts to be counter-cultural tend to be highly overrated--the act of reacting is itself defined by what it reacts to.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Lack of Milestones

It's been one of my cardinal rules that school is optional until age 6.

It's easy to stick to this rule when you have children who, like Duchess and Deux, teach themselves to read by age five. Or if you have smaller ones who beg to be included in what the big kids are doing.

But Dot and Dash are not interested. Oh, they could read, if they had a mind to. They can tell you the sounds in a word, and if you sit them down to it and ask them to read off the letters in a word they can figure out what it says, and if you show them the word in one spot on the page they can see it in another. But the task interests them not a smidge. They know how to spell their own names, and how to spell Garfield. They check out stacks and stacks of books from the library and sit poring over the pictures for hours. But they do not want lessons.

Reading is such a nice, tangible milestone. It's like sleeping through the night and potty training. It feels good to announce that your child has reached the mark, and of course they should all do it a little ahead of time.

But, they can't *all* do it ahead of time. And it really doesn't matter, nor does it say anything about how smart they are. There are plenty of other interesting things to do with your time when you are five, especially if you have a twin who is ready to put on a cape and go out to adventures in the backyard while the big kids are busy at school.

They memorize poetry and Bible verses by the yard. They listen to Longfellow and Bunyan and Kipling with evident comprehension. They can tell you the plot of any Narnia book at length. They can add and subtract up to seven without even a glance at their fingers. They ask questions and give explanations during science lessons that floor me. But they don't read.

At least not that I've caught them.

I promised no required lessons until the fall after they turn six, and I'm sticking to it. Their desire to mimic the big kids is more than satisfied by doing a maze every morning. On rainy mornings this fall they'll sit down and we will do the work and they will read.

Well, that's my theory. Or, you know, maybe they'll be illiterate all their lives and curse my theories.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Voice of the Unknown

A few days after we moved in, we were awakened one morning at an hour that might not necessarily be that early except that we had just moved and we didn't have to get up yet by an unearthly electronic voice of doom saying something we couldn't quite make out. I thought it said, "It's Wednesday," which was plainly wrong because it was Tuesday. Or maybe it said it was Tuesday and it was Wednesday. Everything was kind of a fog, anyway.

I got up and hunted through the house, but the voice had ceased and we couldn't quite make out where it had come from. Several days passed with only the normal child voices interrupting early morning slumber. But on another day, it happened again, though not quite at the same time. And over the next several weeks, the Voice again spoke at random times, saying something garbled and impossible to make out, especially since it was a total shock each time it began to speak. We did manage to deduce that it was coming from somewhere in the hallway, and that whatever it was saying at the beginning concluded with, "Consult the manual." This was unhelpful as we did not know what manual to consult, nor why.

Finally one day I decided to fry potatoes for breakfast, which, as usual, led to filling the house with smoke. This set off the smoke alarm, and to our astonishment, in addition to the horrible screeching, it spoke to us. "The hallway is full of smoke." Well, we knew that, so it wasn't very helpful, but at least we recognized our spectral Voice at long last. The more immediate problem was that the alarm was sounding, hungry small people were going into hysterics from the noise, and there was no silence button--at least not one that works. I finally managed to pull it down off the ceiling and take it outside. Unfortunately, in the process, I managed to break the fastener that would have allowed me to put it back on the ceiling. Nonetheless, DOB insisted it needed to be *somewhere* high up, so we wound up hanging it on a magnetic hook which we stuck to the corner of the wall near the top, sticking out into the hallway at a weird angle.

Now we know which manual to consult, but we still have made no progress in figuring out what we are to consult the manual for. The shock of the voice speaking is too much to allow for concentration on the synthesized message. I suspect it's batteries; it usually is with smoke alarms. However, I looked at the battery compartment and it looks like in the process of getting the batteries out I'm going to break that just like I already broke the ceiling fastening, only without any way of getting around it.

Thanks to moving the door into our bedroom, there's another smoke alarm in the hallway anyway, so if I do break it permanently, I won't regret it much. And if it wakes us up at 7 a.m. on a morning when we are sleeping in, I may just make an example of it. With the ducklings watching, just in case they wonder what happens to those who dare such deeds.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


Now that the most essential sorting and unpacking is done here, it's time to return to work on the other sorting and packing, at my grandparent's home. My grandmother named it "Alto Vista," and it has borne that name on the welcome mat for 25 years, grating against my admittedly limited, but better than that, knowledge of Spanish the whole time. We always just called it "The Hill." The Hill does indeed have a spectacular view, of The Mountain (Rainier) when it is "out," and of the Sound except in cases of extreme fog.

But we--Wondergirl and I for this task--are not admiring the view, but sitting in the back office sorting through dusty papers and loose screws. Even a fastidious housekeeper like my grandmother had a few odd corners--or perhaps those only accumulated in the last few years when she couldn't get around any more. It's hard to explain to a housekeeper what to do with the papers on the back of the desk and my grandfather, while not a slob, kept everything that might or might not come in handy. In a book this task would be enlivened, depending on the genre, by hunting for the concealed fortune or uncovering a gruesome secret, but in real life it is just long piles of old lists and receipts and loose change.

Every single thing needs a decision made; every single thing we choose to part with or dispose of is a piece of their life and existence forever severed. So many things are mysteries, but mundane mysteries that cannot be solved and do not need to be solved. (Why the shopping list--and definitely a one-time shopping list, not a weekly one--neatly typed on a card and enshrined forever in a plastic sleeve?) So many things are memories, but one cannot hold on to every memory. So many things could be useful, but there is too much usefulness all at once. I have already hauled home three boxes of office supplies and my closet is nearly full. I am starting to just pick up things and say, "The kids would love this--let's get rid of it, quick."

Today is another day of it, and then there will be another, and another. I don't want to do it, and I don't want to be done, and I don't want it to drag on any longer. So I must keep on doing it, because I am one of the grownups now.

Monday, May 05, 2014

A Day in the Life at our New and Improved Home

7 a.m. DOB's alarm has gone off. We procrastinate getting up for a bit. (OK, the house has done nothing to make alarms more pleasant or procrastinating less pleasant.)

7:30 a.m. I go for a brisk walk down quiet country roads while DOB gets ready for the day all by himself. (More or less. It will be even better once we can get the motorized wheelchair running. It's not an electric chair. I keep forgetting that.)

8 a.m. I prepare breakfast. DOB is clear at one end of the house, finishing getting ready to go. The children are all upstairs, nearly out of earshot, happily absorbed in a massive train spread which is now encompassing the entire playroom because they don't have to pick it up every night. They have also gotten dressed, with no fighting over the precise sequence and location, since everyone can just get dressed in their own room whenever they want.

8:30 a.m. The children finish up eating breakfast at the counter while I see DOB off. (Still waiting on a few adaptations to streamline that, especially getting the doorknobs replaced and keyed to a single key, so that it is possible to get into the garage from the ramp without someone opening the door in advance.)

9 a.m. I sit down to eat breakfast and check Facebook in peace in the dining room while the children start in on their schoolwork in the schoolroom. I start the laundry. (OK, this is not improved by the new house. It's a long way from the bedrooms to the laundry room, and today a massive city stands in the way.)

9:30 a.m. We have our group time in the schoolroom (memory work, singing, poetry, Spanish). All our school materials have been left out on the table, so we don't have to get anything out. It's sloppy but it's faster and we can close the door when I don't want to see it.

10 a.m. The twins run off to play while I read history to the big kids and then we do math. I can write it all over the board without messing up my to-do list, because I wrote that one on a different white board, in the kitchen.

10:30 a.m. We stop for snack, Bible story (Moses striking the rock, the Rock played by Dot with rather more lines than Rocks usually get) and laundry. Then we take a walk down some more pleasant country roads during a break in the rain.

11 a.m. The big kids curl up in my chair to do their independent reading, The Landing of the Pilgrims today. (This is a special privilege for cooperative reading.) I go upstairs, out of earshot, with the twins to read them a story about birds. When I come back down, the big kids are drawing comic strips of their story. I help Deux finish up his map study and we pick out a science experiment to do later in the afternoon, as it requires some prep time.

11:30 a.m. The kids return to their massive train city and I putz around the schoolroom getting ready for tomorrow while lunch heats up.

12 p.m. The kids eat lunch at the kitchen counter while I read The Peterkin Papers to them. The mess stays in the kitchen and does not get entangled with dropped school papers.

12:30 p.m. I eat my lunch at the kitchen counter while reading; Duchess and Deux have commandeered my computer to write a play. They are in a different room and don't bump into me once. When everyone is done we do our science experiment, which can be done without clearing away the other schoolwork.

1 p.m. The kids have their computer game time. I tidy the house without tripping over them and then sit down in my nice, comfy, far-away-from-other-bodies chair and read intelligent books.

2 p.m. I send the kids out to play and take the computer back to catch up on billing and correspondence.

3:30p.m. Toolboy and B5 come over to fix the electric chair motorized wheelchair. Everybody gets a snack. I make some experimental breakfast cookies for DOB to take to the gym. I leave them out to cool without getting in the way of fixing supper. Kids do chores. (The new house has not improved doing chores.)

4 p.m. The neighbor boy shows up, and after he admires the massive train city and the catapults in the backyard everyone settles down to reading Garfield in the living room. I start a supper of lentils and rice. (The menu may or may not be inspired by the shiny new mortgage payment.)

5 p.m. I finish folding the children's laundry and they put it away and return to the train city. I sit down to rest while supper simmers. Even though it has been pouring rain nearly all day, I do not feel like I am going to lose my mind.

6:30 p.m. I realize DOB is going to be late and have the children go ahead and eat supper. Afterward, they go back upstairs to play. I do not go crazy.

7 p.m. DOB arrives home and I don't even notice because he comes all the way inside by himself on the shiny newly-running electric chair motorized wheelchair.

7:30p.m. The girls do the dishes while I take DOB his supper and hang out in the alcove. The children are somewhere far away. And quiet. Playing with trains.

8:30 p.m. We have good night hugs and prayers. The kids have been reading and I graciously permit them to keep reading for another half-hour.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Bug juice

We have a sliding door with a sliding screen that gets left open frequently. And we back on to a swamp. The other day Dot screeched at someone who had left the door open, "You are letting six million bugs in!"

This naturally led us to wonder if six million bugs would, in fact, fit in the house. We determined, based on a loose packing of ten mosquitoes per cubic inch, that we could fit 172 million mosquitoes in a modestly-sized home. Thus, letting six million bugs in became a real and disturbing possibility.