Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Grammar Commando Lives

I got 100%.


Last night we went to church, the first Wednesday Night service of our marriage. DOB was excited because the pastor was doing an open-question night, which apparently he does once a quarter, but then disappointed to find out that you have to get the questions in a day in advance so he has time to study on them. And no one else had sent any questions in. DOB intends to see that there is never a shortage of questions again.

Anyway, we were pulling into our driveway and I saw three children's bicycles in the trash pile across the street. I promptly jumped out and ran across the street, rang the doorbell and asked if those were really trash or if the children had just parked them in the wrong spot. Sure enough, they were throwing them out. The grandkids had outgrown them.

"They need new tires," he said, "Or, maybe they just need air."

Well, maybe indeed. Anyway, there we are, all set with bicycles until the children are seven. They're girl bikes, though. I hope D2 doesn't mind. Or maybe a neighbor with grandsons will throw something out.

DOB muttered something about people not knowing about Goodwill and putting perfectly good stuff in a landfill. Which is true, but then, if they'd taken them to Goodwill, we'd have had to pay for them instead of getting them for free.

And maybe now that they know I'm not above rummaging through the garbage, they'll think of me when they have other things to throw away.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Not Even My Dryer has a Normal Setting

I once read someone remark that it takes about a year to get back to normal after the birth of a new baby. I don't know what the figure is for a move, but I would estimate it's about the same. So, in the unlikely event that we have no more babies between now and then, we should be due for a refreshing burst of normalcy sometime in 2009. But then, normalcy is probably boring.

D1 had her first exposure to clothes shopping last week. It was actually a shopping expedition for me, thanks to DOB being given an award at work that consisted of a gift certificate to the mall in the same development. But while I was trying things on, she went through the toddler section, examining various skirts and handing a few to Aunt Kristen for taking home. I had to dissuade her from the skirts, since they happened to all be for infants half her size, but I made her blissfully happy by locating a suitable shirt for her to purchase, and then the clerk made it even better by giving her her Very Own Shopping Bag to take it home in.

Perhaps she felt the need to reassert her girliness after wanting to spend the week riding around the neighborhood to watch large machinery in action.

I've decided to concentrate on getting a good night's sleep. I'm not really sure how little sleep I was getting, but I know that I'm feeling amazingly better with six and a half hours of sleep, so I think things were pretty bad.

The first few weeks in the house were difficult because the kids didn't sleep well in a new place, and after that I just gave up on the idea of sleeping, I guess. But we seem to have resolved D2's various issues and he is sleeping much better (though I could handle him going an hour or two longer). I am no longer going to be a martyr about the air conditioning, and we are leaving it down at 77 during the night. I am catching up on little details like regularly washing the sheets so everything is nice and comfy.

It didn't help last night, though, that DOB had had lunch at a Thai place. He claims he had basil chicken, but it seemed to me he must have partaken of some mystic dish known from ancient times for its power to repel vampires, bacteria, and women. Next time he goes out for Thai food, he needs to take me along so I won't notice.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Second-Chance Movies

Or rather, movies I'm glad I gave a second chance.

One was Chariots of Fire. My first memory of it predates my tenth birthday, and recalled it as endless footage of indistinguishable characters running along the beach. Borrrrring. (A cursory survey of others raised similarly suggests this is a common memory. Just because a movie is virtuous and lacking in objectionable material does not mean it will be of interest to young children.)

When I watched it again in my late teens, I was astounded. It had characters! Plot! It had Gilbert and Sullivan! Quite enjoyable.

Sometime in those years, though, I watched The Philadelphia Story and was not at all impressed. It was far too full of "innundo" (as Dinah would say) for my tender ears. I couldn't make out what the point was at all, at all. It wasn't even that funny and it seemed to be justifying quite inappropriate behavior.

Recently, however, DOB saw a clip of it and was dying to find out what was going on. So I agreed to give it a second chance. And behold it was funny, after all. And there was a point, and an excellent one, not about justifying inappropriate behavior, but about extending grace and unconditional love to each other. So, I'm glad I gave it a second chance, too.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Church hunting

Moving this past time has put us far enough away from our old church to require church hunting again. We dreaded it. Our last church hunting experience was grueling--it was several weeks before we even found churches we could possibly tolerate, we were strangers in a strange town and felt, on the whole, like severed limbs in search of a body. (The fact that I was newly pregnant and wanted to puke if I disagreed with anything in the service didn't help.)

One day we were on a country drive and saw an adorable little white church in the woods with a red door.

"What a cute church!" we said, "We should go there. Except that's a stupid reason to choose a church."

A few weeks later we decided we needed to buy a house and called a mortgage broker who happened to have been at one of the churches we had checked out recently.

"If you're looking for a church," he said, "You should try my dad's church." Well, it was the cute little church with the red door, and it was just right. Indeed, it wasn't long before DOB's entire family had joined, as it was much closer to home than their former church.

Anyway, joining there was as great or greater a relief as finally getting into a home of our own with clean air. (I did throw up there once, but it wasn't the doctrine or practice that disagreed with me, just the potluck food.)

But we were dreading another months-long ordeal this time. We drew up a lengthy list of all the churches we knew of or had heard of that were likely prospects or even just mildly curious.

One of the ones on the list was one that an old friend of DOB's attended. Since this old friend was now in our new neighborhood, and since the church also was pretty close by, it was a good candidate for a first try.

The first try was nice, but the pastor was out of town, and really, you can't make a decision on one visit. We were still attending our old church most of the time. But we stopped in again to hear the pastor.

Then we moved. A crew of total strangers from the church showed up at nine at night--after VBS got out--to move in most of our furniture.

So it seemed only natural to go again that Sunday. We kept meaning to go attend other churches, but we kept not getting around to it. Churches we were thinking about visiting kept dropping off the list.

This week we really, really were meaning to attend another church; it was close by, after all, and maybe we should give it a chance. We looked it up on the internet: not only did it have a "fully graded" Sunday School, but an entire separate Sunday morning youth worship service. (DOB: "Oh, you're seventeen-and-a-half now? Then you can attend the special 'Why Seventeen-and-a-Half-Year-Olds Are Better!' class.")

So we gave it up. There were little kids and teenagers and the lame and the blind in the service at the other church. In the pew next of us one of the regular members of the church was sitting with a lady who apparently had some serious mental or emotional troubles and couldn't make it through the service, so the other lady patiently stepped out and back in with her. Nobody looked askance (well, except DOB) when D2 uttered exclamations.

We like it there. Maybe we'll get around to visiting somewhere else. Or maybe not.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Promising Beginning

"My criterion for selection of material has been very simple; I have included anything I found interesting."

From Temples, Tombs and Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt, by Barbara Mertz.

Clutter Explained

Yesterday I bought some plastic dishes. They were marked as being reusable AND disposable.

So, when you're done using them, you may throw them away! As opposed to all those other plastic dishes, which you must store forever in your attic.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pictures are back!

A little earlier this morning I was remarking that surely by the time D1 was four she would be capable of feeding a baby. Apparently she decided not to wait that long.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Speech, speech!

We decided that D2's official first word will be "Uh-oh." It's a little hard to determine among the many purposeful babblings which sounds are truly words, but we're all pretty sure on that one, and he says it quite often. Also, it suits his personality just fine.

The first time he said it distinctly, we were all sitting at the table coloring. D1 dropped one of her crayons on the floor, and said, "Uh-oh." D2 promptly tossed one of his crayons on the floor, too, and said, "Uh-uh."

Almost equal in use, however, is the phrase "up-down" (or "Uh-dah" but the inflection mimics mine). Since he uses the two together, I think they may only be one word in his mind, perhaps meaning vertical movement. He uses it for doors on the puzzle board, for clothes he's tossing out of a basket, and even as he stands and squats in turn, for all the world like a miniature aerobics instructor.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Five Things

From Cappucinno's Mom

5 things in my freezer
Way too many plastic bags
Split pea soup that I can never get my nerve up to serve
Two months' supply of pita pockets
Breyer's Ice Cream
Little cubes of pureed vegetables

5 things in my closet
First-aid kit
Sewing basket
Wastepaper basket, out of D2's reach but unfortunately also out of mine
Straw hat
D2 (I feel like one of those evil schoolmasters, but he sleeps so much better in the dark.)

5 things in our car
DOB's new home gym that he got for half off
The plastic floor cover that was necessary at our last place and we can't even find a place to store here
Spare water
A box of clothes that's waiting for me to find a thrift store nearby
Two car seats

5 things in the diaper bag
Extra plastic bags
Nursing drape
Chocolate that went to powder a long time ago and is too gross to clean out, but it's in a pocket I never use anyway
Diapers, I hope

5 things in wallet
library card
driver's license
SS card which I really should take out and put back in the file. (Nobody reading this blog swipe my identity, ok?)
Coupon for Pampers pull-ups, in case I ever decide to get them again.
Kroger's card

5 people I tag
Rats, this one has been around for awhile and I can't remember who's done it. Well, if you haven't done it yet, consider yourself tagged.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Choosing Books

I have seen it recommended (don't remember where exactly) that parents require children at the library to select at least one book from three different categories: fiction, a science/math, and a history/biography.

It seems like a sensible plan. So sensible, that I'm thinking about applying it myself. I used to be almost exclusively a fiction reader, then I went on a binge of political philosophy for years, then more recently I've been more into books on education and brain development. Keeping a balance on hand will be much better.

Plus, my brain feels like it's about to rot because we still don't have the bookcases shimmed and thus are books are still all in inaccessible boxes. One can only read What Will You Wear, Jesse Bear? so many times before one begins to long for something more substantial. (Unless, of course, one is two.)

I think I'll add a maternal category, though, of a book on education or home management. And of course there's no rule that you have to stop at one.

So, my new hold list will have:

Piccadilly Jim, by P. G. Wodehouse (I'm guest suggesting for September over at Bookfest 2006.)

The Creators, by Daniel Boorstin
Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphics, by Barbara Metz.

The Number Devil, by Hans Magnus Enzensberger (I keep seeing people refer to this one.)

Maternal Stuff:
Feeding the Whole Family, Cynthia Lair
First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos, Mary Ann Kohl

Oh, yes, and we have some more Jesse Bear books on hold, too.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


D1 was quite sick yesterday, wanting only to take a few bites of vitamin-enhanced applesauce and go straight back to bed. Heartrendingly pathetic. Today her temperature was down somewhat, and I was trying to get more fluids down her. So I gave her a small glass of water and told her when she finished that one she could have an equivalent glass of juice. I knew she was on the mend when I saw she'd poured it into her bowl while my back was turned.

There are, of course, some adorable things she says right now that we must preserve because they are vanishing by the day:

Alligator: elevator. She actually outgrew this one within a day or two of staying in a hotel, but it was cute while it lasted.

Bici-bikle. Bicycle. It does make more sense as a word from which "bike" would be abbreviated.

American Idol. OK, this is what I thought she was saying. Turns out it was "a motorcycle." I'm much relieved. (And yes, she's totally into Things That Go. Trains are the best, though.)

Yucky-yuk. Although this has no unusual meaning for her, it particularly applies to Things One Hands Mama when One Forgot To Get a Kleenex, and also to the Ten Plagues of Egypt, about which we are reading now.

D2 is making rapid progress towards walking. He's at the point now where he probably could, but hasn't quite realized it yet. Instead he works out elaborate schemes for finding something to hold on to while he walks around the house. He's also very fond of climbing, for which cause we have had to banish D1's stool.

Book Meme: The All-Chesterton Edition

Because the answers to this would be too hard to narrow down if I did all the books I've ever read.

1. One book that changed your life?
The Napoelon of Notting Hill. I doubt it would have that effect on anyone else, but it settled a troubling question in my mind and convinced me I could be a part of life and still write about it.

2. One book you have read more than once?
The Man Who Was Thursday. Also I have seen it performed.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
The Father Brown Omnibus. Enough philosophy and good stories to keep one occupied for a good long while.

4. One book that made you laugh?
Tales of the Long Bow. Pigs really do fly.

5. One book that made you cry?
Cry might be a little strong, but I find "The Ballad of the White Horse" to be particularly moving.

"But you and all the kind of Christ
Are ignorant and brave,
And you have wars you hardly win
And souls you hardly save.

"I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

"Night shall be thrice night over you,
And heaven an iron cope.
Do you have joy without a cause,
Yea, faith without a hope?"

6. One book you wish had been written?
The one he never wrote about the man who sailed far away and discovered his own home.

7. One book you wish had never been written?
How could I wish that? There is an occasional remark that is slightly bigoted that I could wish were gone.

8. One book you are currently reading?
None, alas. My books are all packed far away. But I think if I had access to them, I would dip into What's Wrong with the World from time to time.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
Four Faultless Felons

Monday, August 14, 2006

Halfway Up

I'm a firm believer in the virtues of children being Outside. Good for their health, good for their brains, good for my sanity.

There's no denying that they love it. However, the part about it they love is not quite what I would envision. I have vague ideas of time spent watching beetles crawl by, weaving daisy chains, or even running around and yelling. They're not interested in any of the above.

What they want to do, especially D1 last year and D2 this year, is climb the stairs. Up the stairs, and down again, and teetering backwards in the middle. Now, unlike my ideal outdoor activities, climbing the stairs doesn't remotely resemble that Holy Grail of toddler activities, the one that will keep them happily occupied for half an hour without noise, mess, or danger so that I can weed the flowerbed. Stairclimbing for the young is an advanced gymnastic activity requiring a constant spotter, nerves ever on edge.

D2 mastered climbing up the stairs the instant he tried it. Down is a little trickier. He's experimenting with several different techniques: crawling, head first; crawling, feet first; standing up; diving headlong and grabbing my hair midway down. His preference is to do it standing up clinging to the railing, no mean feat when you consider that the stair rise is approximately equal to his inseam. (Or what his inseam would be if he ever wore pants.)

So there I sit, watching and waiting. D1 still seems pretty happy to climb up and down the stairs with him, or walk partway down the sidewalk and come back.

Maybe next year we'll be into that running around and yelling thing.

(BTW, I was going to do something about the absence of pictures of late, but I still can't figure out where the battery charger is.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Song of Sniffles

"Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Roumania."
Dorothy Parker

Sometimes, though, love does go gloriously right. In which case, one's cycle of song is occasionally interrupted to wonder if one's clothing will ever recover from being used as a body-sized handkerchief.

We are in the middle of a round of colds. D2 started it, but we have all joined in on the chorus. I thought perhaps we might escape the cold we seemed doomed to have with every move, but apparently we just managed to push it off a few extra weeks.

It is probably made worse by the fact that I have read just enough on medicine and health to be skeptical of any product that claims to be of assistance. OTC drugs suppress symptoms and are worse than useless! Herbs are untested, unproven and if taken in quantites sufficient to help, also potentially dangerous! And they all cost money. The end result is, if I'm feeling very daring I give everyone a little extra vitamin C and in general ask that they suffer in silence. Or loudness, if that's the best they can manage.

It was the best the ducklings could manage the first night they were both sick, and they took turns waking up and wailing every hour, bringing me staggering down the hallway to try to squelch whichever one it was before that one woke the other one up. Sometimes they didn't take turns. (For the record, DOB did help at first, but once the situation gave evidence of being an all-nighter we decided it would be better for our continued existence if he was able to go to work in the morning.)

They are sleeping better now, but we still have a ways to go. In the meantime, D2 pointed at his water cup and said, "A-teh" this morning, which is most exciting. He even managed to swallow some of what was inside.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The D2 File

To continue on the themes of Keeping Children Busy During Supper Preparation, and Not Quite Martha ways to do things, we present the D2 file.

This is a small woven wastepaper basket that sits by the kitchen door, close to the desk where we process junk mail and such. Into it goes only such items as are safe for D2's consumption: junk mail, primarily, plus a few clean styrofoam vegetable trays. No plastic wrap, no used kleenexes. It gets emptied with the rest of the trash and refilled as new things come to hand, so the contents are always varied.

D2 is then permitted to dig through this at will, ripping things up, chewing them, and generally having a fabulous time. It might keep him busy and out of the kitchen for all of three minutes.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Good Things

Small children love opening and shutting closet doors. This, of course, can lead to pinched fingers, especially if you have two of them trying to do it simultaneously.

If you are Martha Stewart, you address this problem by sewing cute little pillows that coordinate with your decor and slipping them over the doorknob to keep the door from shutting fully.

If you're me, you leave some wadded-up clothes hanging halfway out of the closet. It accomplishes the same thing.

Food on the table (and the floor, and the cabinet)

The ducklings and I have a slight difference of opinion as to the best way to handle the situation when they are hungry and I don't have the meal ready yet. I think the logical response would to be to say, "Mom, I'm hungry," (or whatever version of that they can linguistically manage), followed by leaving the room to go play with blocks for the next half hour.

They think the best thing to do is reiterate the importance of the situation by clinging to my knees and wailing, a position in which I find it difficult to wield a hot skillet. D1 varies this response somewhat by eating the ingredients.

Sometimes I do just put them in their room, drag out the blocks, and put the gate up. They don't usually mind. But most of the time I miss them when I do that, plus I like to indoctrinate them in the virtues of helping with supper as soon as possible.

Of course this could all be resolved if meals were always ready half an hour sooner than whenever it was I had planned to have them. Soon we'd be eating supper at ten in the morning.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Can't Think of a Name

I finally got access to a library that had The Baby Name Wizard, and so I've been browsing through it with great enjoyment this week. (This is purely a relocation result. No announcement or prospective announcement is hinted at, implied, or otherwise insinuated.)

Naming is an amazing thing. Here you have a defenseless, undefined soul that you will brand with a name that will follow it all of its life. You pick a name because you like it, motivated by all those unseen factors that wind up with you picking the same name that all the other parents of your age and socioeconomic status are, quite independently, picking. (Yep, we're into "Antique Charm," "Timeless," "Ladies and Gentleman," just like the vast majority of our friends, although some go for the more Exotic Traditionals.)

You had a whole list of other options, but you settle on one, cross your fingers, and write it on the birth certificate. And somehow the name and the child grow together until you can't imagine them being anything else.

Naturally this led to our sprucing up our hypothetical naming list. We love selecting names--if only the rest of parenting were so easy! We'd probably have twenty kids, though, and that might be a bit much Duchy for the world to bear.

But we keep coming up against a snag. There are several combinations that I just love, both for boys and girls, that have the initials E. R. I don't think the emergency room connotation is that bad (Ha! We should have named D2 one of those!), but I'm worried that the initials E. R. R. are just too much to impose upon a child, especially a boy who has no hope of changing it. Reversing the names just doesn't have the right sound. Would it be awful to have your initials spell ERR? Would everyone think your parents didn't want you?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Progress report

When I consider how much work there still is to do on places that don't need any work, I'm very, very grateful we've never tried to buy a fixer-uppper.

Yesterday the plumber came and replaced the leaking garbage disposal with an honest and simple pipe. We thought he messed up the dishwasher in the process, but after much examing, testing, and a few calls to the home warranty people, DOB noticed that the GFI needed to be reset. He pushed a button and our dishes went merrily washing along.

DOB's dad then put in the water purifier, to our great delight. Hauling enough water home from the store is a daunting task. D2 has shown some signs of being a little dehydrated lately, so we are stepping up efforts to persuade him to drink from a cup. Meanwhile D1 is using her mattress as a flotation device, but it would violate our principles to encourage drinking less water.

Someone is supposed to come tomorrow to take out the old dryer. However, as long as the weather is so hot, I might limit using the dryer to keep saving on electricity. It will be nice, though, not to have to wait a full day to have dry training pants. And towels that have dried on the line just are not nice to use.

We're still showering downstairs until we get the shower rod upstairs. Since the basement floor still needs to be sealed, this means putting on shoes, which feels rather like camping. Nice, wimpy, air-conditioned, limited-bug camping. Suits me just fine.

In the interest of Conserving Energy (and saving ourselves money) we're gradually bumping up the air conditioning as I increase my tolerance level. I've made it from 74 to 77 over the course of the summer, and I can even do 79 at night. For me, that's impressive.