Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Week

I have made it past my low number of posts from last year, and then I seem to have stopped.  I feel like my mind is too full. Two major things, one of which I would rather not talk much about, and the other of which I can't talk about just yet. (The first one is remodeling my grandparents' house in hopes of making it more marketable. Spending evenings and weekends steaming wallpaper in order to desecrate a childhood shrine is not a pleasant task.) The other thing is good but a little scary and should be ripe for revelation before the end of the year.

One other major accomplishment of this month was hosting my first large-scale Thanksgiving. It started smallish and grew to 16, but we managed tables for everyone and I only slightly overcooked the turkey. In anticipation of the meal, I had made up a bunch of post-it notes stuck all over the windows of things that needed done.

I figured I should get my grocery shopping out of the way early, as grocery stores would be crowded on Wednesday. (They were pretty crowded on Monday, actually.) But I figured we could easily get it done in the morning and be done by lunch. We stopped at Store A first and on our way out some people in the checkout line bought the kids a box of sandwich cookies. I wasn't too thrilled, but the kids were and I figured I would give them some in case we were a little late for lunch.

Then we finished up at the second store and were heading out to the car when Dash, running full-tilt through the damp parking lot, slipped and landed on his forehead. I rushed him back in to the bathroom where a very kind lady volunteered to bandage him, even though there was blood everywhere and the store people took awhile to find gloves. Dash tends to be very vocal about pain, let's put it that way. Or possible pain. Anyway, when I finally got him back out to the parking lot I discovered the other kids had unloaded all the groceries and were waiting for us in the car.

It was definitely into stitch-worthy territory, so we headed straight to Urgent Care. It turned out to be kind of crowded, and there were no interesting magazines and I hadn't brought anything along, but we survived on sandwich cookies and memory games. Later people asked me why I hadn't called to have someone else get the rest of the kids, but I kept thinking that it would only be a few more minutes, and continued to think so for all of four hours. It was only three stitches, but it was plenty of drama for all that. Dash is hoping for a Harry Potter-style scar, but I doubt it was quite enough to be lightning-shaped.

That would have put a crimp in Thanksgiving preparations, but I ditched wallpaper steaming instead.

Also I had a birthday on Wednesday and DOB got me a haircut and a new outfit (including a pair of jeans that I think qualifies as non-mom jeans, not that I approve of that terminology because why should it be a fashion offense to have children?) and we hung out at the mall on the day before Thanksgiving, which was curiously quiet and pleasant. My birthday is a boring square number this year, but next year it's my all-time favorite prime number. (BTW, given that I am an adult human under 100, that's enough information to figure out my actual age.)

Thursday, November 13, 2014


We've had another power outage already. I'm getting closer to prepared. His Majesty brought by an emergency stash of firewood, which the ducklings had put away in about five minutes flat. (Let's just say an emergency supply is a lot more fun to stack than an entire winter's.) I bought some lovely glass gallon dispensers for water storage, although we haven't gotten the taps tightened enough to actually put water in them. Still, closer.


I have totally messed up with Harry Potter. I let Duchess read the first four books and told her she could read the last three when she was thirteen. Only as soon as she had read them, Deux had to, also. (And since they are by far the thickest books he has ever attempted and finished, I wasn't going to stop him.) Then they wanted to get them on CD to share with the twins.

But . . . Duchess will be 13 before everyone else. And they'll all be clamoring for it. Oh dear. I should have doled them out one a year for everybody or something. DOB has insisted that it's what we'll do with the movies.

Meanwhile, our house has been turned into Hogwarts and sorted into houses (stuffed animals included).


We are almost finished with our first term of school. I am always astounded that we actually do this: we set out a plan and we stick to it, come hell or high water. I'm not sure where this is coming from, honestly, because I never really thought I could be that consistent. The big kids and I have finished reading A Midsummer Night's Dream together, Duchess with the graphic novel version. We're almost to the end of Robinson Crusoe, which started slow but has definitely picked up the pace with the arrival of cannibals. (In our curriculum discussion boards, people are always expressing concerns about the maturity of content as the years progress--in my experience, there is nothing to excite an interest in history and literature like mature content.) We also had due encounters with witch-burning, pirates, and battles of all sorts.

Teaching the twins is very different from the big kids--they take to listening and telling back the stories much more readily and pick up on the ideas very easily, but their progress in basic skills is more slow and steady. I'm not used to having to actually teach basic reading and math, so it's a change. Kind of fun, though.

Teaching everybody at once is usually totally insane.

Maybe if I think of four more items by tomorrow I can turn this into a quick takes Friday. But I probably won't.

Saturday, November 01, 2014


I may muddle up the order of the other novels, but Persuasion always comes last and best, as it should. Most of the other novels were written or at least started when Austen herself was very young, and although their heroines may seem quite grown-up when one first encounters them at fourteen, later in life they start resembling the Lord High Chancellor's wards: "All very agreeable girls and none/are over the age of twenty-one."

Undoubtedly Marianne Dashwood's assertion that "a woman of seven and twenty . . . can never hope to feel or inspire affection again" is meant to be a bit over the top, but the portrayal of twenty-seven-year-old Charlotte Lucas, with the choice of celibacy or Mr. Collins, leaves us in some doubt as to whether it was meant to be very far over the top after all.

Regardless, Anne Elliot (who is, in fact, seven and twenty) seems Austen's own answer to her youthful lack of perspective. She does fear that she cannot inspire affection again, but she has no loss of affection herself. Indeed, Persuasion is by far the most passionate of the novels. The undercurrent between Anne and Captain Wentworth, unspoken, unacknowledged, runs through every encounter. They speak to others, they look everywhere but at each other, but they are always so acutely aware of each other that everything and everyone else is only so much background noise.

The short version of the plot is that, eight years before, Anne had become engaged to Wentworth, then a lowly underofficer with no money or immediate prospects for marriage. Her family and friend opposed the match, and given the long and uncertain nature of the engagement, she is persuaded to end it. (I had not really noticed it before, but at Austen's time there appears to have been a clear double standard with regard to engagements--a lady could end an engagement without shame, but a gentleman could not, as witness Edward Farrars.)

As things turned out, however, Wentworth advanced rapidly in the navy and made his fortune in the Napoleonic wars. He returns to the neighborhood eight years later an excellent match, ready to settle down with any reasonably suitable young lady except, of course, Anne, whom he is certain he can never forgive.

Unfortunately, of course, he also realizes that he can never quite find anybody to match up to Anne. He tries to flirt with her teenaged relations, but his heart is never in it. They are younger and prettier and more lively, but they don't measure up. Meanwhile Anne--whom everyone has been thinking is quite on the shelf--goes through a bit of a renaissance herself, and acquires an even more eligible suitor.

The ending of course, is just as it should be and an eminently satisfactory response to the early novels' implication that love and life pretty much end at twenty-two. And in addition, there's the marvelous middle-aged Mrs. Croft, whose intelligence, energy and spirits make her the sort of person anyone would want to grow up to be, and whose marriage to the Admiral is perfectly delightful to see.

An interesting character contrast within the novel comes between Anne's sister Mary Musgrove, and Anne's school friend Mrs. Smith. Mary is not really a bad character, but she is a perennial whiner. She has everything anyone could ask for: plenty of money, a nice house, a kind and well-behaved husband, children arriving in due course (I suspect she's pregnant with number 3 during the novel, though it doesn't go on long enough to verify), decent health, pleasant in-laws. Yet she is constantly aggrieved at someone or something: someone is always slighting her, something is always going wrong and making her miserable. I do hope she grows up a bit (she is only 25, I think) or some of her blessings are going to go sour. Mrs. Smith, on the other hand, has next to nothing: alone in the world, money gone, health gone, living in a tiny room and supplementing her meager income with knitting. Yet she is constantly cheerful, interested in everything, entirely lacking in envy. I'm not sure one could want to be Mrs. Smith, yet one can still admire her from a safe distance.

Alas, though, now I have come to the end and must put something else in my novel slot. I've never given Sir Walter Scott much of a chance, so I'm trying Rob Roy.