Friday, July 22, 2011

Morning Is Broken

I didn't used to hate mornings.

I mean, I'm not a leap out of bed and greet the dawn with a blithe morning song sort of person, but I don't *mind* mornings. Morning is a good time to slog around, eat something, read something, ponder the possibilities of the day. It's not really a good time to interact with other human beings.

Somebody recently was conversing with DOB and made the comment, "You know how kids get up in the morning and they're just so *happy* with everything?"

To which he replied, "No."

Our kids do not wake up happy. On any given day, two or three of them will wake up like me, ready to slowly meander through life but not really wanting to interact with anyone--a difficult task when you have six people in a five-room house. The remaining ones will wake up as hungry, and grouchy, as bears in the spring, ready to scream at the slightest provocation, up to, and including, being served their favorite breakfast. I guess this is the flip side of that metabolism that makes them eager eaters of everything on their plates.

And, let's face it, the grownups are not much better until they have had their morning dose of protein.

I fantasize about having a smooth morning routine where everyone appears at their places with bright shining faces and fully dressed before breakfast. I haven't figured out how to be in the bedroom helping a child who has forgotten how to get dressed and serving as traffic cop in the bathroom and cooking the large and protein-laden breakfast we all find necessary for survival at the same time, though.

And usually, just when I'm trying to do all three, I forget the toast and set all the smoke detectors off as a finishing touch. Except I think I've put the batteries back in wrong now.

At some point after DOB has been delivered to his car with his breakfast and lunch for the day and the children have eaten enough to be able to distinguish between mortal insults and offers of help and I have eaten enough to identify the children individually, I finally can stop to contemplate the day. By that point, it usually doesn't look so good.

I have figured out the solution, though. All we need is to move to a large English country estate with numerous extremely patient servants where we can all wake up in separate wings and have breakfast in bed before we have to get up and face each other.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Berry Picking

Their Majesties kindly invited us over to descend upon their berry patches. Somehow a home was found for all the berries (three flats of strawberries and four or five yogurt containers of raspberries). Of course, you can see where most of them went.

Two Recipes I Want to Save

I'm not going vegan, but I am interested in a cake recipe that doesn't waste eggs and butter on what is basically just a vehicle for berries: Vanilla Eggless and Dairy Free Cake. I used cow milk.

And, still not going vegetarian, why have I never discovered pasta e fagioli before? (Or let's go by the Dean Martin name, Pasta Fazool). It's cheap, it's nutritious, it's really, really easy. The kids called it "spaghetti soup" and devoured it with enthusiasm. (Unfortunately, not with parmesan, because we were out. It's better with, as we discovered on the leftovers.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

QOC and Dot Bake a Cake

QOC: Oh, I forgot to grease the pan. Details, details. I don't like details.

Dot: I don't like details, either.

QOC: Actually, I think you like details. I think when you are big, you will take care of the details for me.

Dot: Yes, I love details. And I always put them in the cake.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Our house lies in a part of town that isn't quite ready to commit to being town yet. Yes, it's within two minutes of two Large Evil Chain Stores, one in the process of becoming Even More Supremely Evil. But it wasn't that long ago that it was out in the country. We have city water, but our own septic tank. (Or at least a septic-handling device of uncertain vintage.)

The town grows, though, and our little pocket is getting smaller. Over the back fence is a brand-new development with moderately-sized houses on tiny lots, with immaculate yards and tidy driveways. It's actually a low-income development built under a sweat equity program, but it's clear that the people who live there have every intention of being just as nice of a suburban development as anywhere else. Sometimes we sneak through a hole in our back fence and go play on their playground, but we almost never see or hear children, though the few we have met assure us there are many more. Even the dirt seems particularly clean.

On our side of the fence, the houses are smaller, sometimes trailers, and the lots are much bigger and often overgrown, except for the occasional yard whose overflowing abundance of flowers proclaims its owner to be retired. Chickens wander in people's yards and wake us up in the morning. Children ride their bikes next to the road, even though the observed speed limit is closer to fifty than thirty. They say hello to strangers and invite them back to admire the poultry. Probably no one thought twice about seeing the Duchess and Deux standing by the side of the road, holding up signs to invite all and sundry for a visit. It would have been unthinkable on the other side of the fence.

We want to put a gate in the back fence, to make it easier to get between the two.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


So from the time the Ducklings first began making their appearances, we have operated on a simple numbering system: D1, D2, D3, D4. (This confuses people sometimes--no, no of their real life names start with D.)

This worked for a collection of very small people with as-yet unexpressed personalities, saying assorted random cute things. However, those days are fading, personalities are very much expressed, and it seems like it's time to have real Names. Besides, sooner or later they'll be beyond being called "Ducklings."

But to make it simpler, we'll stick with the letter D. So, presenting the Ducklings:

D1 will now be known as the Duchess, for her commanding presence and royal bearing. And because "Princess" doesn't start with a D.

D2 will be known as Deux, because he is the second born and DOB Jr. (in name and personality)

D3 will be known as Dot, for her reflective and observational qualities.

D4 will be known as Dash, for his speed and energy.

I am, as always the Queen of Carrots, and DOB remains the Duke of Burgundy.

Left to right: Dash, Deux, Dot, Duchess.

Got it?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Unexpected Blessings

A friend sent me this link about Five Things that are Worse than Being in Debt.

I read it. And I don't exactly disagree. It's just that I think so much more could be said.

See, I cut my eyeteeth on the joys of frugality and the virtue of staying out of debt. I squirreled money away like the Long Winter was coming. I knew how to do it, and I was going to do it, too.

We started out married life debt-free, frugal in habits, and determined to work hard.

Then we got hit by a whole bunch of Life. Medical bills upon medical bills. Business failure upon business failure. Unexpected moves. Kids and then more kids. The Long Winter turned out to be a lot longer than anything we could have prepared for.

We missed that whole part where you get into debt having fun and spending frivolously. We got in debt while we were living in small houses, cutting our own hair, hanging cloth diapers up to dry, and eating beans and rice.

And I felt burdened and condemned, because I thought debt was always a punishment or a consequence of foolishness. Every time somebody talked about the virtues of good stewardship or how God had blessed their commitment to staying out of debt, I felt a knife to my heart. I must not have been careful enough, I must not have been good enough, or God must not really care about us.

But I'm starting to realize that I had it all wrong. Debt is no more automatically a sign of God's disfavor or even our mistakes any more than wealth is automatically a sign of God's favor. Debt is like sickness, sometimes the consequence of bad choices, but sometimes just the way things are. And like sickness, it can be a gift from God.

Because, ultimately, God doesn't give a rat's left whisker whether our net worth is $5,000,000 or -$5,000,000. God is after our hearts. And my heart loves money. It loves its own wisdom and self-discipline. It is sick, and it needs to be healed.

So here's a few more things that are worse than being in debt:

It's worse to love money than to be in debt
If you're just substituting getting your satisfaction and security from the size of your bank account instead of from the size of your house, then your commitment to better stewardship hasn't gotten you anywhere spiritually at all. Love of money has many subtle forms, and it's one of the biggest things that gets between us and God. Yes, the Bible talks about debt as servitude. It also says we can serve God even as servants to someone else. God is not limited by our circumstances.

We cannot measure our spiritual status by our net worth. And if voices are telling you that you can, then it's time to turn those voices off. Because they're lying to you.

It's worse to fight over money than to be in debt
I have a contract with a divorce attorney whose clientele consists mostly of well-off professionals. I go through their finances with a fine-toothed comb to make sure everything is listed for the division of property. Some of them have managed their money well, some of them haven't. They're in his office just the same.

Yes, debt can be a stress and stress can lead to fighting. But it doesn't have to. And if different perspectives on money are causing stress, if you think less of your spouse because they're not as committed to living within your means as you are, then it's time to drop it. Because nobody gets richer from divorce except lawyers.

It's worse to be proud than to be in debt
I've always been pretty impressed over my own ability to save money. I looked down on those who spent money unnecessarily and lived outside their means. I was surely thankful that I was not such as one of them.

I'm not even going to carry this further, lest I find a new grounds for being proud of myself.

It's worse to say no to the adventure than to be in debt
There were a few choices we could have made differently. We could have waited to have kids until our income was greater and more stable. We could have stayed put two years ago instead of moving and changing careers. We would be in a much better financial position from either of those. But I'm not sorry we did those. I don't think those were foolish choices. Money can be earned later, but time never comes back.

I'm not advocating reckless spending or irresponsibility. I hope to work hard and keep living frugally and maybe this time at last we'll be able to pay things off. But I'm beginning to learn that that's just a personal goal, not a spiritual goal. God is with us and blessing us just as much in debt and loss as in financial stability.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

The Birthday Boy

He's a big boy now, and don't you forget it. He can carry the compost bucket all by himself, and fights for the privilege. He likes things with wheels, and things with dirt (but not in his eyes).
He likes to listen to Uncle Wiggly and Winnie-the-Pooh. His character from The Incredibles is Dash. He likes to help with almost anything. He likes to eat almost anything. He likes to stand on his head.
In fact, about the only thing he doesn't like is sitting still. Unless he's driving a car.

The Birthday Girl

She's got a lot of opinions. She likes girls, of course. And Papa. And D2 and D4. But not monsters. Except for girl monsters. (She's currently very fond of Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct. Because she's a girl dinosaur.)

She loves listening to Little House on the Prairie and quotes it at length randomly throughout the day. ("It's a long, long way to Indian territory.") She likes to play Baby Carrie while D2 plays Jack, or perhaps Jack-Jack (of The Incredibles--an interesting combination). She liked The Incredibles, too.

Her favorite things are playing dress-up and reading books and helping D1 or Mama (preferably D1). She wanted a princess birthday cake but was perfectly satisfied with a crown. She knows how much three is and she's happy to be there. But she might turn six or seven next.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Every Day

It is the appropriate thing to whine about the everydayishness of housekeeping tasks, of how you wash the dishes only to have them dirty again a few moments later, of how there's no point making a bed that is only going to be slept in again.

The process of moving has reminded me that there is a great comfort in things that have to be done over and over. There are an infinite number of opportunities to get it right. If dinner was a flop yesterday, I have a chance to do it better today. If the laundry overflowed its boundaries today, I can keep trying to catch up tomorrow.

Rarer tasks lack that opportunity. I will be staring at the drippy paint over the shower for the next ten years. And by the time I get around to painting again, I will have forgotten everything I figured out about it this time and will probably drip away.

After change and turmoil and transition, there's a great comfort in a day of just doing ordinary things. Of seeing the pile of dishes rise and fall like the tide. Of raising the shades (which still won't roll correctly) and letting the morning sunshine in, and lowering them at night.