Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The cast and crew of "The Centurion's Defense." Ignore the missions poster, that's for next week.

The prosecutor tries to intimidate a witness.

The centurion and defense attorney

Lessons Learned Over the Weekend

  • If a full beard is an essential part of a costume, it's best to have an understudy beard available, even if your actor possesses a magnificent beard of his own.
  • People who have their heart set on wearing a particular outfit on a particular day should not get pregnant two months beforehand.
  • Before making suggestive comments backstage about a fellow cast member, make sure your lapel mike is turned off.
  • When asked, "Do you prefer crunchy or soft chocolate chip cookies?" clarify in your answer that chocolate chip cookies in any form will be gratefully received.
  • Children who get inadequate water during the day may not sleep very well at night owing to severe digestive distress.
  • It's a good thing children have two parents, because my brain can't get past crying=hunger at 1 a.m.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Book Learning

D1 enjoys a twaddle-free board book.

Over the past week I've been reading and re-reading A Charlotte Mason Companion. I am really, really excited about this approach to education, despite the Victorian woodcut illustrations and frequent use of words like "gentle," neither of which is really my cup of tea. I confess I have yet to get my hands on a copy of Charlotte Mason's original works, but maybe I can get my sisters to make me a long-term loan from their resource library.

Educating my children has to reflect what I believe to be true about them as people. And they are people, just like me, only quite a bit shorter still. They are made in God's image, made to be curious, inventive, creative, analytical. But they are also fallen, born sinners. Thus, I want an educational approach that treats them as image-bearers of God, empowering them to be the primary actors in their education; and yet that acknowledges their fallen nature, realizing they still need guidance and training.

I used to say (I've been analyzing homeschooling theories since I was ten) my two favorite homeschooling methods were Classical and Unschooling, and I didn't see how I could reconcile the two. But the Charlotte Mason method seems to offer what I see as the best of both: the child is deliberately introduced to the greatest ideas of all time, and trained in good habits of application; yet at the same time, the child is teaching himself, lessons don't dominate the day, and success is measured by the child's enjoyment and personal relationship with the subjects, not 85% correct on a test.

Best of all, the core concepts of the Charlotte Mason approach are simply the things we would do every day anyway. Yes, even at nine months:

Living books: Children should be given only excellent books in every subject and at every age. There's no "twaddle" allowed at this house—talking down to children, or dumbing things down for them. My test is simple: if I won't enjoy reading a book over and over, we don't get it. D1 has just started to enjoy turning the pages of books even more than chewing on them, and shows a special fondness for listening to poetry. At least Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss. She wasn't that interested in Chesterton, but I'll have to try again.

Narration: This takes the place of nearly all worksheets and tests—the child simply tells back what they have learned. The point is for them to interact personally with the book or experience. D1 is not, of course, able to narrate yet, but we model it for her: "Shall we tell Papa what we did today? Aunt Kristen came and we helped fold the laundry."

Nature study: The child develops good habits as well as good health by spending ample time outside, and sometimes recording what he observes. D1 and I have taken a walk every decent day since she was a couple of weeks old. When we see a bird or a squirrel or new flowers in someone's yard, we stop to take a look at them and talk about them. Later this summer I will probably get myself a notebook to record things that catch her eye.

Building habits: I want my children to learn for the joy of learning, but I also know they need to develop good habits to get them over the rough parts, especially once they begin training for a career. More on this in a later post.

Everybody has different needs, of course, and I'm sure we will change things over time as we start turning theory into practice. But this seems like a perfect fit for us. DOB and I, over the weekend, even drew up a basic outline of how we want to arrange our studies, using a four-year study of history (DOB's favorite subject) as the basic structure, and organizing our other studies around that. It's going to be hard to wait the next four and a half years until we can get started.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Speaking up

DOB brought home a pile of very nice maternity clothes from the wife of one of the other agents, who has decided she is done with maternity clothes. I am quite pleased with them, but was distressed to learn that she had already taken the vast majority of them to Goodwill two weeks before.

"See, that's what you get for not announcing sooner," she told DOB.

Actually, I would have offered them around to anybody I thought might expect to have more children at any point in the future, but then most people don't expect others to be ready to jump at deals so proactively. I was buying maternity clothes at garage sales last summer, including a very warm-looking green corduroy jacket I suspect I'll be living in come October. It never hurts to be prepared.

Except in lost closet space.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Second Time Around

Everything is for first-time moms. The pregnancy magazines, the pamphlets, even the nurse's lectures. When I met with the nurse yesterday, she just shrugged, handed over the same packet I got last year and said, "I guess you still remember all this."

Apparently there is not an adequate market for such issues as: How do you change stinky diapers when you are already queasy? How do you rearrange the nursery to fit two babies? (And how do you keep them from waking each other up?) What do you do if all the maternity clothes you bought last time won't work because they're not suitable for nursing? And why are you outgrowing everything twice as soon?

The morning sickness (which usually strikes me worst in the evenings) is much, much better this time. Which leaves lots of room for improvement. There are still days in which I would cheerfully exchange going through unmedicated childbirth twice per child--complete with three days of pre-labor and two and a half hours of pushing--for going through the first trimester once. (DOB has suggested I could accomplish the same effect by having twins, but I'm not sure.) At least when giving birth I can stop worrying about other things and concentrate on the task at hand. I think the first trimester has a similar hormonal effect to labor, in that one wants to withdraw from the world, but unfortunately withdrawing from the world for two and a half months isn't really an option. Especially when one is a stay-at-home mom and can't call in sick.

On the flip side, I think D1 is actually helping me feel better. Having a pattern of things that have to be done every day keeps me from getting too stuck in a rut of inactivity. Having definite limited naptimes helps me focus on stopping everything else and getting a nap. And having someone cooing and laughing (for whatever mysterious reasons of her own) keeps things from getting too dreary around here.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Staff Changes

Guest Post by D1

Everybody has a job to do around here. Mama does the Mama jobs: singing songs, reading books, and feeding us. Papa does the Papa jobs: inventing new games, helping Mama, and hiding in the garage all day to make money. I do the baby jobs: picking up lint off the floor, ripping off tags, and decorating with toys.

I thought I was doing a pretty good job, too. So I was a little confused when Mama and Papa told me they were going to get a new baby this fall. I know there's a lot of floor to keep clean, but I still thought I could handle it. Why did they need someone else?

Then they explained that in a few more months I wouldn't be a baby anymore. Once I figure out how to stand up and walk on my own, I'll be a toddler and have new toddler jobs to do. So they'll need a new baby to do the baby stuff. They also say that when the new baby is a little bit older, it will be lots of fun to play with, even when Mama and Papa are tired.

It sounds like it should be OK. I'll let you know how I like it. Anyway, it's still a very long time until the new baby comes--not until November, probably, Mama says, and that's farther away than I can think. Meanwhile Mama's been kind of tired lately, so Aunt Kristen comes to help a lot, and I always like to see Aunt Kristen.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Joys of Spam

That would be the internet variety, not the canned meat, which I don't think I've ever tasted, although I did once work with a Hawaiian fellow who was always threatening to bring some in and microwave it, which would have spawned odor-wars with my lutefisk-eating Swedish-speaking Finn co-worker. (Despite my Norwegian heritage, I never ate lutefisk either. Grandma had me cook it for her, but she wouldn't share.) Fortunately for all of us, we were able to defuse the situation before it got too intense.

Email spam, on the other hand, I'm quite familiar with. And it's been getting more entertaining lately. For awhile we were getting a phishing scam that would send out a notice of need for our information from a different bank each week. Presumably when it finally got all the way down the list to our local bank, we would forget that we'd already been requested information from dozens of other banks we'd never been affiliated with and rush in to hand over all our private data. But they never did get that far down the list.

Even more interesting is the "from" addresses on a recent round of spam. Usually these are random strings of letters, or names. But apparently they have run out of names to use. So they've started stringing together arbitrary words as if they were names. Like this:
Pivoting J. Megaton
Travailed P. Chaperoning
Elocution V. Rodolfo
Hillier O. Incompatibles

There's a certain charm to the names. It makes one think of a sci-fi novel where a group has adopted English wholesale, without a clue what any of the words mean.

I'm almost tempted to save the spam just for the fun of collecting the names.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


Name: D1
Grade: 9 months

Pre-Reading: B Comments: Recognizes books have uses other than eating, but still prefers eating them.
Language: B Comments: Babbles well, seems to ascribe meaning to some babbles. Recognizes simple words.
Gross Motor: D Comments: Sits unsupported, rolls around well and tries to lift onto all fours, but still very much in the pre-crawling stage. May need remediation.
Fine Motor: B+ Comments: Can grab any piece of lint off the floor, no matter how small. Plays the piano with individual fingers.
Social: A+ Comments: Waves when prompted and sometimes spontaneously; recognizes people after a week's absence.

Oh wait, I guess it's kind of silly, not to say heartless, to ascribe value to a child's development based on arbitrary averages. Wonder why that changes suddenly when they turn six?

For true political junkies

March Madness for GOP presidential candidates. Help top-seeded John McCain go down in smoke! (Bob Taft could use a few more votes against him, too.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Eating, again

After a week and a half of D1 waking up once or twice in the middle of the night and nursing for dear life, concurrent with me getting increasingly psychotic from sleep-deprivation, we have finally solved the mystery: she needed more solids.

You wouldn't think this would be that hard to figure out. But D1's eating habits are strange. For the first twenty bites or so, she is quite eager to take the food. Once the edge is off her appetite, she is more interested in looking around the room, trying to manipulate her sippy cup, or laying in wait for the spoon. (I won't put the spoon up to her mouth while her hands are up, so she has to be quick about it to grab it.) She'll still take bites if offered, but she seems to be doing it more for the sake of getting along than because she's actually hungry.

On the other hand, I understand many babies are in the habit of expressing themselves vehemently when they don't want any more food. I've never seen her do this. She's always happy to have more food around, whether she's that interested in eating it or not. So to guess when she is done, you try to gauge the speed at which she opens her mouth for another bite when one is waved in the vicinity.

The other problem is, she eats so much you feel sure that she must have had enough by now (Not to mention that you've already devoted 45 minutes to feeding here and would rather like to get on with something else in life.) Last night for supper she ate (mashed up) a baked potato, 1/4 cup of chicken, 1/3 cup of green beans, and a few spoonfuls each of sweet potato and applesauce. I haven' t fed preschoolers in awhile, but it seems like most people would be glad to get that much food in a three-year-old.

And yet she's still quite skinny. She may have topped 17 pounds in the past week, but I'm sure she's no heavier. I don't know where it all goes.

But I have come to the conclusion that it is better to spend all her waking hours feeding her, if necessary, than to spend all my sleeping hours doing so.

Update, post 9-month checkup: actually, she still doesn't even weigh 16 pounds. I am very, very thankful for a sensible doctor who thinks it's fine for a healthy, active baby with a good appetite to be on the skinny side. And yes, I should have foreseen all this when I first made up my mind to marry a guy who doesn't cast a shadow when he turns sideways.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

DOB did go to the library

So I have been enjoying:

The Power of Babel, by John McWhorter. Great fun to see how languages have sprung up, melded, changed, and vanished over time. After tackling several different languages and never getting very far, I've finally discovered I'm much more interested in linquistics as a whole than in any languages in particular. The German dialect Asterix cartoons were cool, but I'm afraid the 70's sitcom analogies were lost on me.

Intellectuals, by Paul Johnson. A book calculated to make one very glad not to be an intellectual and ten times more glad not to be married to one of them. The basic premise is examining the lives of those who claimed the inherent goodness and wisdom to take the world apart and start it over from scratch (Rousseau, Shelley, Tolstoy, etc.)--did they, in fact, display such goodness and wisdom in their private lives? The answer, unsurprisingly, is no--given in sometimes rather too salacious detail.

One can't help but pity the fellows, too. It must be dreadfully stuffy to live in a universe so small it can all fit inside your own head--a universe too small to have room for God.

I feel a need for some Chesterton and the beauty of small things after reading about all their muddled thinking and world-conquering. Probably The Ballad of the White Horse:

When all philosophies shall fail
This word alone shall fit;
That a sage feels too small for life,
And a fool too large for it.

Lest you think me utterly given up to overly profound thoughts, I have also thorougly enjoyed The Princess Tales, Ella Enchanted, and A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

I've been looking for a quiz like this for a long time...

Abraham Lincoln You have a Bible and a library
card what more could you possibly need? You
prefer the Charlotte Mason Method of reading
living books for everything: historical
fiction, biographies, real histories, nature
guides, etc. No soon-to-be-outdated textbooks
for you.

What Type of Homeschooler Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Now, if DOB will just remember to stop at the library on his way home. ;-) Thanks to Amey.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Problem of Tags

Guest Blog by D1

Lately I've noticed that lots of things come with these little white pieces of paper attached, called "tags." They're on everything: washcloths, blankets, playpens, toys. They're ugly.

So I've decided to work on removing them. I think Mama agrees with me, because usually when she notices I've found another tag, she goes ahead and takes it off for me. She can do it faster because she uses scissors. I have to chew on them.

Other times, Mama doesn't notice until I've already pulled the tag off by myself. Then she thanks me and throws it in the trash. I did that to my playpen mat tag. It was a big one, a lot of fun to remove.

A really hard one to remove is the one on the back of my exersaucer. I have to twist way around in my seat to reach it. Plus, Mama doesn't let me play in the exersaucer for very long. But when I get a chance, I like to chew on it. I have it about halfway chewed off now.

Last night I noticed Mama has a tag on the blanket on her bed. So I started to work on it. Mama didn't like this. She seems to think I should concentrate on eating when I'm in her bed. But I don't know how I'm supposed to do that when she keeps so many interesting things--like tags and Papa--in there. Too distracting.

Anyway, I hope if you have any tags at your house, you are working to get rid of them.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Babies and Politics

We took D1 to a political meeting on Saturday. It was supposed to be about 90 minutes--instead, it stretched to four hours. D1 was, fortunately, quite calm about the whole thing, sitting and listening with big eyes as she gnawed on her toys, happy to find there were several people handy who were more willing to play catch-the-falling-toy than Mama and Papa usually are.

Nonetheless, the experience reinforced our decision to back off from politics for awhile, so that we are not quite so obligated to make it to meetings, or quite so obligated to be present and attentive for the entire meeting. At one critical moment of heated debate, I as secretary was taking notes, DOB was chairing the meeting because the two chief officers both wanted to participate in the debate, and I noticed D1 getting the look of concentration in her eyes that every mother sees with dread. There was nothing for it but to let her wait.

We were visited by people running for national club office, seeking our endorsement. One of the ladies had a nine-year-old daughter; the other one had a six-month-old son. They both assured us they had been able to find a good work-life balance. I voted to endorse the lady with the six-month-old; she seemed well-qualified to do the work. And I'm sure if she doesn't get it, she'll have plenty of other political activity to keep her up into the small hours of the morning, after she gets home late from her demanding administration job. But I couldn't help feeling a little sad for a very small boy whose mommy tries to get home in time to tuck him into bed.

We also chatted with a friend who got married recently. Since he asked us the "When are you going to have another one?" question, he was fair game for DOB to ask, "Do you guys have plans for any time soon?" He didn't. There were too many other things he wanted to do right now, and he didn't want to give up all that yet. Maybe someday, but not yet.

It seems like a wise approach. Although if we looked at readiness, we're still not ready to have kids. We probably never will be.

But we took home with us a little person who thinks we're the two greatest people in the whole world.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Catching what's going around

Ten things I've done that you probably haven't:
  1. Had a tour guide yell at me for playing with the revolving doors at St. Paul's Cathedral (and I didn't even do it!).
  2. Babysat triplets (except I bet Juliana has).
  3. Clung to the top of a mountain, terrified of falling off. (I'm just guessing that usually people who are afraid of heights are smart enough not to climb the mountain in the first place.)
  4. Spoken to groups of wealthy, well-educated adults assisted by a rubber chicken.
  5. Worn as a wedding dress a dress I had previously worn in another wedding.
  6. Convinced my siblings to put pencils in their hair, stand together in the bathroom, and shout "Wallaby, wallaby, wallaby."
  7. Composed sonnets about business law.
  8. Replaced salt for sugar in a sweet bread recipe.
  9. Searched through the woods in the dark for the front end of a cow whose back end was sticking out into the pasture. (Toolboy doesn't count, since he did it with me.)
  10. Decorated a bedroom in orange and green.

Let me know if you've done any of these things, and post your own list!

Hilarious article

On the bogeyman of "socialization."

My cup runneth over

DOB had a friend who came over at some unearthly hour of the night Wednesday (I was falling asleep by then) to look at the furnace. He determined it had Congressional disease: Lots of hot air, but not doing anything. He managed to do a quick fix that got the house warm again, but said it really needs the whole system checked out and tuned up, a process that will no doubt be tiresome and expensive.

Anyway, sometime after this, the system had a minor explosion of some sort while DOB was watching, and the little overflow that used to drip a drop of water every few minutes has started to do a steady drain. The very nasty cup from someone's freshman orientation, which has served to catch the water from time immemorial, is now utterly inadequate to the task. Instead, we have propped a five-gallon bucket on top of the mop bucket with some cardboard holding it to the right angle. It filled most of the way up overnight.

In other news, the distiller is throwing fits again and refuses to run without dumping water all over the floor. This has made the water situation rather difficult, but DOB's family is bringing water when they can.

So between all that and the usual diaper duty, I guess I'll devote my day to trying to keep dry.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

If you want to waste way too much time

Go visit the NameVoyager, an interactive graph of the top 1000 baby names in America for the past century. A fascinatinating place to look at social trends and gauge your family's relative trendiness in choosing names. (My parents tended to be just a bit behind the curve; DOB's were all over the chart). And if you really like names, be sure to check out the blog, too (link at the bottom of the page), with trend forecasts and tales of weird names. The author's book also looks worthy of checking out, as she categorizes names by what connotation they have and what circles they are trendy in, not just origin and history.

An interesting experiment: type in the first names of twentieth-century presidents. Up until the seventies, there's a spike in that name during that president's term. (Except John, which really couldn't get more popular.) But since the seventies, people don't seem to name their children for politicians anymore.

And on the unusual name combinations (what were their parents thinking?), some real people I have met or read about:

Roxanne Trees
Candy Bouquet
Harry Carey

Legalists and Anti-legalists

There are people who have broken free from bondage to rules and regulations into a genuine walk with God. This is cause for great rejoicing. And the cautions they have about legalism are usually worth listening to, tied in as they are to the reality of Christ living in us.

There are other people, though, who proclaim their freedom from legalism, yet something still seems amiss. They drone on and on about the evils of this rule and that rule. They are full of critiques (and no charity) for this group and that other group. They're happy--zealous--to exhibit their freedom to do X, Y, and Z. And if you (for whatever reason) happen not to do X, Y, and Z, well, you must be one of those judgmental legalists, too.

I've always had trouble putting my finger on exactly what was wrong. What they said about legalism might be true, and no one could doubt their antipathy for it, but why did their words and actions still seem so . . . legalistic?

I think I finally hit on it. The error of legalism is thinking that by our own actions and observance of rules we can gain justification, sanctification, or the fruit of the Spirit. Observing rules does not make us any closer to God. But neither does breaking rules make us any closer to God. The error of what I might call "anti-legalism" is thinking (subconsciously, I think) that freedom in Christ is found by going out and breaking whatever particular set of rules you were brought up to observe. But the focus is still on the rules, not on Christ.

Isn't that what Paul kept trying to warn us about? "Neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision availeth anything, but a new creature." If you're still obsessing about the rules, whether you're for or agin them, you're still missing the boat.

Lark News has a report that shows where this type of thinking leads. ;-)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The heat is not working right this morning. Though you can't tell, that's snow out the window. Actually it still feels pretty comfortable in here to me, but D1's hands are so cold. And I can't find that other slipper.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A Telling Conversation

QOC: I thought we were getting busy.
DOB: (Standing still, gazing off into space) I am busy. Don't you ever need to think about what you are about to do?
QOC: (Looking puzzled, shakes head)
DOB: Never mind, that was a stupid question.

Dean Socrates

As he's developing his theories of how to educate his ideal philosopher-kings, Socrates has realized he has a problem. If you take people who have been taught certain things are just and right all their lives, and then lead them to question those things (as part of the process of leading them to a truer understanding of ultimate truth and justice), they are liable to give up attempts at finding truth altogether and just go out and party.

Hence, the college/university and all the problems that have been associated with it for, oh, the last several hundred years. Take people at the stage of life when their passions run the highest and their judgment runs the lowest, remove them from the influence of their family and community, and cause them to question everything they have been taught. What would you expect to happen?

Most institutions of higher learning have taken one of two approaches: crack down with strict rules and Gestapo-like enforcement; or ignore it and hope nobody dies. Actually, there's generally at least some of both, and neither of them really works.

Socrates decides to do something else altogether. He just won't let anyone study philosophy until they are thirty, have worked for awhile, and are a bit more sane.

The idea certainly has its merits, but, alas, we don't live in a communal paradise and there is no one to watch the kids and pay the bills while more mature people ponder the Great Ideas. There is some hope, though, that with improvements in communication and distance learning, we can integrate higher education with real life in a more productive way.

In the meantime, should I put Plato aside for the next four years?

I killed off all the Romans

What obsolete skill are you?

You are 'Latin'. Even among obsolete skills, the
tongue of the ancient Romans is a real
anachronism. With its profusion of different
cases and conjugations, Latin is more than a
language; it is a whole different way of
thinking about things.

You are very classy, meaning that you value the
classics. You value old things, good things
which have stood the test of time. You value
things which have been proven worthy and
valuable, even if no one else these days sees
them that way. Your life is touched by a
certain 'pietas', or piety; perhaps you are
even a Stoic. Nonetheless, you have a certain
fascination with the grotesque and the profane.
Also, the modern world rejects you like a bad
transplant. Your problem is that Latin has
been obsolete for a long time.

Res ipsa loquitur, and all that. De gustibus non disputandum. Thanks to Devona.