Sunday, December 31, 2017

Back to the Classics Challenge #1: The Aeneid

Taking a cue from Uglemor, I will be rolling a D12 to determine the sequence of my Back to the Classics Challenge reads.

(Exception will be Swiss Family Robinson, which I will start whenever we finish Watership Down.)

And my first roll is . . . 11. I'll be starting with the Aeneid.

Well, get the tough stuff out of the way first has always been my motto. Starting tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


We had a picture-perfect Christmas, complete with an inch of snow on Christmas Eve *and* the Christmas tree falling over in the middle of the candlight service, and I don't think you can get much better than that.

My main obsession, however, remains keeping the puppy in.

Somebody suggested buried chicken wire. I tried that with what I had on hand, and although it didn't work, it seemed to require him to go around the edges, which suggested that it might work if done sufficiently. So I bought three big rolls and we spent all day one Saturday with me digging and spreading and DOB tying the edges to the fence and the kids chipping in with shovels and stomping things down.

This held for two days. And on the third day, he escaped again.

The weak points this time appeared to be at the points where the fence joins to the house--one one side he had actually chewed an enormous hole in the shed in order to get through and play with the cat, and on the other side he had scraped enough away from the foundation to make the addition on that end look in similar peril. Even with our best efforts, he managed to pull things apart at both ends to get through. So he had a few more days of running free until the following Saturday.

DOB suggested we try cement next, so Deux and I filled in the holes, stretched the wire back out, and poured cement on top. It wasn't pretty, but it might hold. The real challenge was keeping the dogs away until it dried (i.e., inside, and they are not used to being inside and get very restless and certain nameless offspring find it exceedingly stressful). This, on the day that was also supposed to be the one day I had to clean and prep for Christmas. (We had a very big case that hit a critical point the middle of the week before Christmas, and at some point I hope to be able to tell more about it.)

That held on one side, but on the place next to the enticing kitty-filled shed he managed to rip the cemented chickenwire and the fence apart one more time and Christmas Eve he was running loose again. So I went out and wired the chicken wire and the fence together in a bond of peace and goodwill that should last for the ages.

At least, it's lasted so far.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

That Kind of a Day

We have one very complicated case going right now that involves coordinating things with several different groups. I had promised someone a drafted document to see if they could sign off on it by ten in the morning.

Naturally, this was the time my brand-new (refurbished) computer that I had just gotten everything set up and downloaded onto went on strike and started freezing up every few words or clicks or attempts to download. 

I did finally manage to get my document off by eleven, and meanwhile had contacted our tech guy, who decided the best course would be to just send his closest available person to bring a different tower for me to try out. The closest available person happened to be his girlfriend, who has tried to tell him that she should not be given technical tasks. But it was simple, right? Just swapping out the tower and pressing start.

Except the wireless had to be connected, and somehow when she pushed the buttons that were supposed to connect the computer with the router, instead what happened was our entire internet went down. So now I couldn't even work on someone else's computer, and neither could anyone else. For awhile we didn't even have phones.

A more technical tech person was dispatched, our internet was eventually restored, and I had my second new computer allllmost set up just in time to leave to get the kids. 

That let me start in on my second exercise in futility of the day, which was trying to patch the fence so the puppy could not get out. This issue dates back to last spring, when it turned out Panther, the puppy we got last year, went into heat so young we didn't have her fixed yet.

Natural selection favors dogs who can dig under fences. Judging from the variety of color and fur in the litter, maybe a few of them. So in June we had a litter of eight puppies--puppy midwife was not a skill I had planned for, but personal experience with mammalian reproduction let me roll it at a +3, and everything went well. Although in the throes of nursing difficulties, DOB and I vowed to each other that we would not, under any circumstances, keep one of the puppies.

You know what happened then. One of the homes we had lined up fell through and it just happened to be the home for the puppy who most adored Duchess and whose affection was requited. And reflecting that crushes on puppies seemed a safe outlet, we caved.

Unfortunately, Mammoth takes after his father in the fence-evading department. The past several months have been an endless round of filling in holes only to have them dug out again, like a slow-motion game of fetch. Last weekend we dealt with a particularly warped section of wire fence by barricading it with a giant section of wooden fence. We went in, certain he would have trouble getting through that, only to see him out again the next day. A little investigation revealed that he still had enough room to simply slide through his old hole and behind the wooden fence section. 

I tried placing a second section of wire fencing, partly buried, right behind the first one where the big gap was. That seemed to hold well, enough that he had to trouble himself to dig a new hole.

Which leads us to the current project, which is that someone told me that chicken wire lying on the ground next to the fence and covered with an inch or so of dirt would catch in his claws and deter further digging. I happened to have enough lying around left from a previous owner to cover the current favored spots. So we'll see how well it works. 

After that I took a long, hot bath and ate cookies. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


Apparently the children (I can't really call them ducklings anymore, they are not short and fuzzy enough) are supposed to have an excuse slip from me to get out of being marked tardy should they, in fact, be tardy. I don't understand how this works. Surely if I am running so late they are tardy I am also too late to write four notes about it?

Duchess suggests I could create a preprinted sheet and then just check the appropriate box. Something like this, I suppose.

Dear Teacher:
Please excuse [Name] for being late for the following reason:
  • The cat got in.
  • The dog got out. 
  • The cat and dog were locked in mortal combat.
  • One of the wheelchairs broke down and we had to rearrange all the cars and which piece of equipment was in which car in a sequence so complicated I could not possibly reconstruct it. 
  • A child who has survived a decade or more on this earth somehow forgot until we were actually in the car that shoes were an essential part of public attire. And also that the absence of food is a common cause of hunger pain.
  • We passed through a field of time distortion on the way here.
  • Nobody knows the trouble I seen.
  • The next season of Grimm had to go back to the library today and therefore the parents had to stay up late to watch it. 
  • Gremlins, most likely.
  • My own abject failure to be a responsible adult. 
  • Other:___________________________________________________________ 

Somehow I still feel like I'm missing something here.

Oddly, we were almost never tardy last year. We must be getting too slack.

Monday, December 11, 2017

2018 Back to the Classics Challenge

This blog needs a reboot, and I need some inspiration. For the last few years, life has thrown enough challenges at me that I've just tried to keep my head above water. But I'd like to at least try to choose some of my own challenges this year.

So I'm going to try the Back to the Classics Challenge. And just to make it more interesting, I'm going to restrict myself to books I already own--as much as possible, books I own but have not read or at least have not finished. (According to the rules of the challenge, it doesn't count if you start before 2018, but I assume it's OK if I go back to the beginning.)

And, as part of the rules, I have to post reviews of each book, so that will top my posts this year as a start.

Let's see how it goes:

1.  A 19th century classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.

The Master of Ballantrae, Robert Louis Stevenson. Picked up at a library sale sometime. Never read.

2.  A 20th century classic - any book published between 1900 and 1968. 

The Fall of Arthur, J. R.R. Tolkien. Recently published, but definitely written before 1968. Gift from a co-worker last year, haven't really gotten to it yet.

3.  A classic by a woman author. 

Unless I think of something else for this slot, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. I started it last year but didn't finish.  I'll have to start over, which will be annoying. Don't remember where I got it; it's one of those nice Barnes and Noble editions, but I'm sure I didn't buy it new.

4.  A classic in translation.  

Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset. I've read it before, but it's been about a decade. Also I think this translation might be different than the one I read first, from the library. Picked it up at a used bookstore a few years ago.

5. A children's classic.

Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss. This will probably be a family read-aloud. I think I read it once as a child, which was about the least number of times I've read any children's book on the shelf. We have a nice annotated one I found at a library sale.

6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. 

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Can't get much more crime than that. No idea where this one is from; the print is tiny but the book looks new.

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. 

Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Dana. Bears all the hallmarks of a long-ago library sale.

8. A classic with a single-word title.

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, because I don't think I've ever actually finished it.

9. A classic with a color in the title. 
I was going to pick The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane. I think I tried to read this about the age of 10 and didn't really get it. But then I realized that the copy I have is a Watermill, and my experience of those is that not only are they abridged with a machete, they then lie about it. So not that one.

I'll do The Scarlet Letter instead. I've read it before, but not since my early teens.

10. A classic by an author that's new to you.

Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy. I probably won't like Hardy. But I've never given him a try. Probably library sale.

11. A classic that scares you.

The Aeneid by Virgil. Somehow I've never been able to get into it--not even a retold version. I shall try again. Part of my Great Books of the Western World, which was a wedding gift.

12. Re-read a favorite classic.

Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton. I got in the mood for reading Heretics after watching a Murdoch Mystery in which H. G. Wells featured, and once I finish it I'm sure I'll want to do Orthodoxy. Long-ago Christmas present. I have a lot of Chesterton.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Groundhog Month

Every February 2, somebody posts something about how little a groundhog could possibly know about the coming of spring.

This year the groundhog fought back. February 2 was bright and clear, a rare occurrence around here.

That night, it snowed.

That was a brief snow. The next weekend, it really snowed. Six inches of wet, sticky, heavy snow that took down whole stands of trees and knocked us out of power for three days. And unlike our usual heavy snows that turn quickly to rain, it stayed snowy for most of the week.

Then we got the stomach flu. Fortunately, I suppose, not until the power was back on. (Being on a well, we have no water when we have no power.) Still, it was a pretty ghastly bug and left us with one or more not-quite-well-enough-for-school child for the next week.

On one particularly memorable day, Dot informed me first thing in the morning that she needed to stay home. Since it was DOB's day to sleep in, I said this wouldn't be a problem and took the other three kids to school and headed to the office. An hour later, I got a call from the school that Deux was no longer in school-compatible health. I drove to the school and while I was there, walked into Dash's classroom, looked him in the eye, and asked him if he was sure he felt well enough for school. He was fine. I took Deux home and returned to the office. Two hours later, I got a call from the school that Dash was down for the count, too.

It's been trying to snow again this weekend, but so far it's mostly stuck to the cold, driving rain at 36 degrees that is even more miserable than snow.

Usually by this point in the year we are hearing a noisy nightly chorus of frogs. I heard a few feeble peeps on Tuesday but I think they gave up.

I think the groundhog has proved his point.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Out of the Valley

The winter is a valley, with the solstice resting in darkness at the bottom. I always count backwards and forwards as we pull away from it. Now we have gotten as far from the solstice as early November. Soon we will have passed the three darkest months and climbed back out into the daylight.

Already it stays light until almost time to fix supper. I don't have to rush to walk the puppy the instant I get home from work. I am terrible at naming birds by their songs, but something is singing that wasn't a few weeks ago, that on a level below knowledge tells me that spring is coming.

After some more or less easy terrain, we will come to the mountain peak of the summer solstice when the days are so long that sleep is difficult and we seldom see the stars. And then down again.

Without homeschooling I feel a little adrift. DOB and I visited a used bookstore and I didn't know what to do with myself. For the past decade I've always been on the lookout for books for school. And homeschooling moms read the most interesting books and have the most interesting conversations. I hang out on the fringes of the conversation but it's not *my* conversation anymore. I'm not making plans for next term or next year. I'm not pondering how to ease a child through a rough spot. There's homework to help with, some (usually only Dot has any), but it's not at all the kind of work I would choose for them. 

I'm not even reading very discussable books at the moment. I'm tired and my brain is fried and Duchess and Deux always want me to try out their latest middle-grade fantasy series. 

I even tried doing a google search for people who weren't homeschooling but wished they were, but all I could find was advocacy articles on either side. And I am tired of people dividing themselves up into camps and shouting at each other. (Law is like that a bit, I guess, but on most cases and with most fellow practitioners we know there's weaknesses and strengths on both sides and our ultimate goal is to find resolution, not prove our moral superiority by the loudness and frequency of our speech.)

Truth be told, I do like practicing law. Even litigation. This past month I've had my first trial (a very small one) and first deposition. It's fun. And exhausting. It's hard to balance with coming home to a family but we are working to figure it out and hopefully DOB and I will be able to take turns being the exhausted one.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter Air

It's too late to start the new year with a grand new blogging resolution, so I can just make a post.

This has been a very wintry winter. Snow and ice and dry, harsh air. Colds and flus and ear infections. DOB regains strength, slowly. I do my first major motion and my first summary judgment motion and my first trial (rather anticlimactic that, the opposing party was in jail and didn't show up). Since the first of the year DOB has been slowly returning to his place in the office and it is a great relief to have him back. We've hired another attorney in the meantime to help with the workload and she may stay on, as we are supportive of a kids-in-school schedule.

The kids go to school and come home and play Legos and video games. I feel guilty about not making them go outside more, but at least their school is strong on recess. For Christmas DOB granted them moderated access to nearly all of his best Lego sets--Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean and the like. We've rearranged the house to put our bedroom in the old schoolroom, and turn the master suite into a game room.

The kids are learning to take turns cooking supper, each according to their inclination, which means Dash and Duchess experiment with stir-fries and udon, Deux opens cans of beans, and Dot bakes potatoes and puts out the shredded cheese. Either way, we eat.

I miss homeschooling. I don't know what to do with myself in a used bookstore anymore. I've been on the hunt for school books for the past decade. Helping with homework is most definitely not the same thing.

Things are still tough, but happy. After the past year every day alive and together is its own little miracle.