Friday, December 30, 2005

Showing Off

The little sign has gone up in front of our house. We have found the place to which we want to move, and what seems like the ideal apartment (ground floor, no fireplace, and the larger size for the smaller price) is available until January 10. We have been ridding ourselves of boxes and bags of stuffs. We have started showing.

The phone call for the first appointment came about 5 p.m. yesterday--asking for a showing at 9:30 this morning. At the time, we were an hour away, finishing up a day-long round of preliminary errands pertaining to the new home and job. The house looked like you would expect a house to look after several days of sorting through junk and a hurried morning preparing three meals at once before walking out the door--in other words, absolutely the messiest it's been since we finished moving in. (As a free bonus fun thing, the dishwasher has been on the fritz, too.)

This was a real showing--for real, live, potential buyers. With a realtor you can hope for some leeway, since they have the professional eye to realize there is a lot of space where that overcrowded desk is stuffed. But with buyers, the general idea is to make it look like no one has ever lived there.

DOB's family was kind enough to trade us two teenagers and a large, empty van for a toddler. D2 was kind enough to go to bed early and sleep late. The rest of us went to bed late, rose up early (hopefully not in vain) and proceeded to do in a twelve-hour stretch the organizing and cleaning that had been put off for two years. We removed large pieces of furniture and large bags of garbage. We vacuumed the places that never get vacuumed.

In the end, we were scooting the last dust bunnies out the back door as the prospects walked in the front. But the house looked fabulous. I was tempted to look around and think, "Hey, why don't we keep the house this neat all the time?" And then I recalled that I was desparately short on food, water, and sleep, I could only dimly recall what my children looked like, and there were six loads of laundry concealed around the house.

Somebody else is coming at five. Somehow we must conceal that we have been living, eating, drinking, washing laundry, changing diapers, potty-training, sanding drywall, and painting in the interim.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Save Time AND Money

I generally avoid reading articles or postings about frugality. This is not because I lack interest in saving money, but because they don't offer much advice that His Majesty didn't teach me twenty years ago. I saw an article today headlined "Save $150 a week on groceries." If I were to find a way to do that, I'd be walking out of Wal-mart with a large gift card every week. Learning that it's cheaper not to buy frozen entrees isn't very helpful when you reflexively regard canned beans as a luxury item.

Keeping house is a little like trying to pack too much stuff in a suitcase. Poke the shoes in one side, and the shirts comes bulging out the other side. You finally stuff it all in, sit on the top, and fasten it, and then you realize you forgot to include the present for Aunt Margaret and must start over.

Every household has a finite amount of time, money, and space. Some of us have limits a lot tighter than others do, but they all are less than we could use. But you can't save on all of them at once. Find a way to cut costs, and it's likely to cost you more in time and energy. Find a gadget that saves time and money, and it takes up too much space. If on top of this you add a few other concerns, like health or education, the challenge gets that much harder.

I do know an easy way we could save money. I could stop doing things like dropping my cell phone in the parking lot on a dark night and running over it. But after 27 years of diligent effort by all in the vicinity, I think that may be a hopeless endeavor.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Duchy Seeks New Territory

In very rapid succession in the last couple of weeks, DOB has decided to take a new job in Cincinnati, we have decided the commute would be too long and we would have to move soon, and then decided that even soon would be too long and we would have to move now. DOB called a realtor on Thursday and he came to view the house Friday. Cleaning a house to sell is a little like cleaning it for a Presidential visit, except the President probably wouldn't be looking in the closets and under the sinks. On short notice, it's impossible. But we did what we could.

So instead of enjoying the post-Christmas season (all of the fun and none of the stress of Pre-Christmas), we have already put Christmas away and are trying to begin packing everything else up, figuring out what we can sell or give away and generally how to fit ourselves into a smaller space for the time being.

It's a little sad. And a little exciting. And a lot of work.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

D2 being held by "Joseph." That's a tax collecter in the foreground.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lofty and Low: Christmas*

1. Cookie plates
2. Icicle lights
3. Used gift bags
4. "White Christmas"
5. Tree Scent
6. Cleverly disguised gifts
7. Spiced cider
8. Frosty noses
9. The first quarter of a candy cane
10. New snow

1. Fruitcake
2. Giant inflated snowmen
3. Used wrapping paper
4. "The Little Drummer Boy"
5. Tacky nativities.**
6. Cash in envelopes
7. Smashed bows
8. Colds
9. The last three-quarters of a candy cane
10. Old snow

*Note: Concept shamelessly stolen from The White Shoe Irregular, which has been idle for several years now, so hopefully the Redactor won't mind.
**Link rated PG for language. Probably worse if you read the comments.

Monday, December 19, 2005

My First Christmas Pageant

By D2

My regular schedule keeps me pretty busy--eating, sleeping, hitting toys. Still, I've always wanted to pursue acting. The opportunity I was waiting for finally came this past week when I was cast as Baby Jesus in the church Christmas pageant.

The part itself was relatively undemanding. All I had to do was lie around and wave at the audience occasionally. Uncle Paul was Joseph, and we get along great, so that played well, I think. Isaiah's mom played Mary, which was my Mama for the play. She didn't feed me, though, so I didn't think much of her as a Mama.

Fortunately my real Mama stayed handy to provide the food. She was also making sure everyone was in the right costume and helping D1 go to the potty every fifteen minutes. Right before the performance I realized I was in the wrong outfit, so I messed it up so she would get the right one out of the diaper bag.

Papa was busy, too, telling everyone what to do and reading the story. It's quite a story--pretty weird to think God would ever want to be my size. If I were as big as God and could do everything, I don't think I'd want to turn myself this little.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Helping Mama

(By D1)

As you can probably guess, my mama needs a lot of help. She has Papa and D2 and the house to look after, and she's not really good at some of this stuff.

Often she remembers to ask me to help--with the dishes, fixing food, and folding laundry. But there are lots of things where she just doesn't realize how much help she needs, so I volunteer.

Like keeping things picked up. She likes the house neat, but she often forget she's left something out. So I make sure to point to it and shout, "AWAY!" until she puts it where it belongs. If I can reach it, I'll put it away myself, but for some reason most stuff isn't down where I can reach it. I'm getting taller, though, so it gets easier.

Last night she was late clearing the dishes off the table and too busy feeding D2 to notice, so I took the water pitcher off. That got Papa in to help clear the table right away.

Mama also could use a little advice on the interior decoration and organization. Sometimes I find new places for things where they will work much better. She usually doesn't want to leave them there, though, for some reason.

I've also heard her complain that she can't quite button her favorite skirts yet. I talked to D2 and he said no way would he stand for her eating less. So instead we work together to get her to exercise more. D2 will fuss until Mama picks him up and starts bouncing around singing to him. When she does something sufficiently aerobic, I will grin and clap my hands and say, "Again!" repeatedly until she has put in a good workout. I've found that parents will do almost anything for the right smile.

It's important for her not to sit too long in one place, too, especially on the computer. When I think she's getting too sedentary, I say "Potty!" This gets her to run with me to the other end of the house. It's a nuisance for me, but I do what I can to help Mama.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

D2 does batting practice. I think he rolled himself over today--at least I could have sworn I left him lying on his tummy, and he was in a different spot on his back. But my brain is a bit fuzzy and I'm not 100% sure.

Ah, the weekend

On Saturday we had DOB's aunt and uncle over to help us decorate our Christmas tree. Our evening was progressing in a relaxed and festive manner, when we received notice that the toilet was overflowing. A few minutes and the usual procedures revealed that this was no ordinary backup. To wit, all the rest of the plumbing in the house was backing up as well.

DOB called our regular plumber, who informed us that he could only help us if we had a certain vent in the ground next to our house. This sent DOB and his uncle out on a treasure hunt through the dark and five inches of snow to see if our shrubbery concealed such a vent. They concluded, after some time, that it did not.

So DOB went searching through the phone book to find a plumber who could address the problem through the roof. He finally found one, but they told him it would be after midnight before they could come out--and that we would have to clear the snow off the roof. So DOB set boldly forth once again in search of a neighbor who owned a ladder.

In the midst of all this we muddled through dinner and the like without making use of the drains. After everyone had more or less eaten, the gentlemen (augmented by B3, who had stopped by to use the exercise bike and was impressed into service) set forth to clear the roof. They finally did this by establishing a bucket brigade of hot water, while I at last was able to be of some help by filling the buckets. Then they salted it down so the plumbers would not be greeted by a slanted ice rink in place of the snow.

After everyone left, DOB and I prepared to retire for a short winter's nap until the plumber arrived. At this juncture, DOB noticed that our air vents were dripping again. His goal was to catch the leaks without making too much noise, and he decided glass was the ideal substance for this. Unfortunately, the glass that came closest to hand was my best crystal serving dish, which was still sitting unwashed on the table because I couldn't use the sink. When I protested this, he obligingly went and got my second-best crystal serving dish. I finally persuaded him to settle for a small corningware dish. And we went to bed.

At 3 a.m. I awoke for the usual reason and realized the plumbers had not arrived. DOB went to call and found that they were still on their way, hoping to arrive sometime before 5. They in fact made it by 4:30 and went to work deconstructing our plumbing and diagnosing the problem.

The diagnosis was tree roots. This was gratifying in that it was a genuine problem and not something that was our own fault, like stray toys. (It occurred to me later, though--was it just coincidence that tree roots overtook our plumbing on the very day we erected a Christmas tree? Or was something more sinister afoot?)

It was disturbing however, in that having a giant tree-eating machine enter one's house through the roof and work in the basement is just as loud as you would think. Naturally everybody in the house awoke. It was my job to keep them happy while DOB supervised the plumbers. Fortunately the little ones are still easily pacified.

The plumbers left, I took a short nap, and then I had to get up and clean up the aftermath in time for us to get ready for church and arrive there early to prepare for the Christmas pageant practice.

We arrived at church later than planned, but still in time; we got the costumes ready and otherwise prepared; we made it through practice, which is far more interesting with two small children, one of whom keeps busy moving a chair around to random parts of the stage and then protesting because she is too short to sit on it, interspersed with calling out "Potty potty potty."

We had lunch. The place was deserted--even the bulk of DOB's family had left us for the community band concert up in our town. We loaded up the car and fastened the children in their seats. The car would not start.

The pastor was kind enough to come back and loan us his car, so we were able to make it home and collapse in a heap. We're still recuperating from that and trying to get ready for next Sunday, when the pageant actually occurs.

And we're making plans to have DOB's aunt and uncle over again. Maybe in the spring, when it's time to clean out the gutters . . .

Friday, December 09, 2005

More on Movies

Is it just us, or is the ending of The Bridge on the River Kwai incredibly, incredibly frustrating? Two and half hours spent building up personalities, character issues and moral conflicts until both kings are close to check and then at the end they just tip over the table and knock the chess pieces on the ground.

I'm sure it was deliberate. I just disagree strenuously with the worldview reflected. Sometimes two goods may come into conflict, but they still are good. It is worthwhile to use building a bridge to maintain your sanity and show up the enemy; it is worthwhile to blow up a bridge and destroy the enemy. With only very minor changes, the movie could have ended several ways that would have created moral resolution. Instead it ended in moral anarchy.

Watching movies in snatches may sound like it detracts from the movie watching experience, but we are getting to rather like it. It's more like reading a book. One has time to ponder, speculate, and analyze. And watching movies sitting bolt upright in office chairs insures that I never fall asleep during them anymore.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

D1 got her Bible and took it with her horse riding. Perhaps she aspires to be a circuit riding preacher? If so, she better overcome her current fascination with the word "money." We think she actually means "bunny," but we can't be sure.

In which I start a new blog

Blogs are like potato chips, you can't stop at just one.

I want to journal the learning of the ducklings from long before we do anything that could resemble school: what they learn and how they learn it, how we do things, what I think about education and how that changes with experience.

I'm terrible at keeping journals. Blogging, however, is quite addictive. On the other hand, I didn't want to weigh down my general blog with such detail. Plus, I really wanted to join the Homeschool Blogger community.

Hence, "Introducing the World."

The Duchy of Burgundy Carrots will still host thoughts on everything besides education, cute stories that have no profound application, pictures, random quizzes, my personal misadventures, etc. Introducing the World will be the detailed observations of learning, more for my own recollection and reflection than anything else. But you're welcome to read, yeah, and even comment. I write much better when I have an audience.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wide World of Symbols

Last week I was pondering the aisles full of toys you couldn't pay me to take home, and noticed that they still sell the little red-handset Fisher-Price telephones I had when I was a toddler.

"Does this make sense?" I thought to myself. "Phones look nothing like that anymore. Do kids even know what they are supposed to be?"

Then I recalled D1's phone fascination. Not only does she talk into my old cell phone, she can turn pretty much anything else that can be held in one hand into a phone. Suction cups. Film canister lids. Surely a red handset would be as much fair game as anything else. Except that she's used to cordless and probably wouldn't want to be tied down.

Despite having received a doll from a neighbor, she doesn't show much interest in it. (I don't blame her, it's ugly.) But she does love to burp things. She helps burp D2, of course. "Pat-pah?" Then she burps her blocks, her glass at dinner, and the other half of the film canister. Versatile things, film canisters. Except it drives her crazy to have the lids stuck on. "UCK! UCK!"

All this book reading during potty training seems to have finally sparked an understanding of what pictures in books mean. A few weeks ago, I would try without success to get her to point to the most obvious things in the books we'd read dozens times. Now she looks at new pictures on her own and points things out. When you think about it, this is quite an amazing mental feat. Somehow she knows that a couple of colored smears on a piece of paper are meant to reflect a reality.

D2, meanwhile, is fascinated by the discovery that his flailing arms sometimes come into contact with solid objects. He's at the ideal holding stage--he can smile and coo at you, but doesn't try to leap out of your arms. If only he weren't so heavy.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Advice from the cereal box

My treasured boxes of on-sale Wheat Chex have an ad on the back for a book called Women are Not Small Men, providing specially tailored advice on what women should do to avoid heart disease. The feminine advice? Eat healthy, exercise, and avoid stress. As opposed to what men should do to avoid heart disease, which I suppose is to sit around eating doughnuts while their boss yells at them. I would try to come up with some profoud musings on how our culture muddies all the important differences between men and women while highlighting nonexistant ones, but in fact I think it's just a lame market segmenting ploy to sell twice as many books.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

But aren't we all . . .

You are Edmund!
You are Edmund! Boy, you really screwed up in the
beginning, falling into the trap of the White
Witch and betraying your friends and Aslan! But
Aslan took your place for you, defeating the
White Witch, and you turned out to be one of
the greatest kings in the end!

Which Chronicles of Narnia Character Are You?
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