Monday, December 29, 2008

Memorable Gifts

So what's your most memorable gift? Probably something tacky or horrifying, human nature being what it is.

But the gift I remember best I was neither a giver or a receiver. Just an innocent bystander.

It was the year my parents gave Toolboy his first Real Hammer. We were farm kids, and Toolboy has always been Toolboy, so I'm guessing this would have been the year he was six and a half and I had just turned eight.

Being a normal six-year-old boy, he left his gifts lying on the stairs.

Being a slightly more astute eight-year-old girl, I was dashing up and down the stairs squirreling away my loot.

And on one of the trips, came down like a ton of bricks (I always moved like a ton of bricks, even when I weighed 75 pounds) on the claw of the hammer.

I distinctly remember spending that Christmas evening on the couch, watching a festive holiday video, my foot bandaged and throbbing.

Yup, that was a memorable gift.

It's about three years until D2 is old enough for his own first Real Hammer. And it had better never get left on the stairs.

Cheap Food for Parties

Fondue reputedly started out as a winter survival food of Swiss peasants, who discovered stale bread and cheese tasted better if you melted the cheese and dipped the bread in while all huddled around the pot for warmth.

It seems to be a common trend, that the cheap food of former centuries becomes a luxury or celebratory item in later years. Like the lutefisk my grandmother hoarded at Christmas (she said it didn't stink if you learned how to cook it properly), which must have begun as a way to try to consume dry fish over a long, cold, Norwegian winter.

The main reason the price goes up so much is that we are no longer in the same area or willing to do the work ourselves. If we milked our own goats and grew our own rye, no doubt it would be just as cheap to use up the leftovers huddled around the fire.

This does not describe the food that is currently cheap, which is instead mass-produced and shipped everywhere.

So it probably isn't true that future generations will have pricey but treasured bowls of steaming Top Ramen as a special feast day tradition.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Seven Quick Takes Friday

You'll notice that I always spell out the first number, even though nobody else does. This is because the Grammar Commando won't let me use a numeral to begin a sentence, or even a phrase. The Grammar Commando is strict that way.

I'm not one to bash on insurance companies too much, but last week I got an envelope from them with a special message on living with Type 2 diabetes. Interesting, because I don't have Type 2 diabetes, or Type 1 diabetes, or Gestational Diabetes, or Leprosy. I think this, along with the Creepy Nurse who called up every month while I was pregnant, is part of their general wellness programs, and I really think they could spend less money on that and more money paying off claims.

Wondergirl arrives this afternoon. It should have been this morning, but the flight from Cleveland was canceled.

That means I have more time to clean the bathrooms and sweep the floor. Which I clearly am not doing right now. I'm waiting for the babies to go down for their nap. Yes.

They got six inches of snow in Washington last night, and ours all melted this morning. Quite unfair.

Have you tried Pandora? You really must. Forget that favorite Christmas CD business, you can just sign up to listen to all of your favorite style of Christmas music all day long. (HT to the Deputy Headmistress, I think.) I wonder what it would give me if I told it to design a radio station based on Pigorian Chant?

The older ducklings have wormed the full tale of Santa Claus out of us now and spent all morning yesterday playing elves, packing up gifts to distribute. Except they pronounce it "Elles." Why is it that every creative thing they think of to play involves dragging out all the toys they can find and mixing them together? Why do they never decide to play Impoverished Children With No Toys?

More quick takes at Conversion Diary.

Third Time Around

This blog is the closest thing I have to a baby book. With a little math, I can go back and compare the current round of babies with previous models. Thus I discover that although I thought my decision to start sweet potatoes this week came far too early, a careful reading of the archives discloses that it is only a week earlier than D1 started and three weeks earlier than D2 started, and since the twins were born a week later than D1 and three weeks later than D2, it all comes out even, right? Regardless, we seem to have hit the Growth Spurt That Never Ends, which means it's time, alas. Also they react to it much the same way: Choke, gag, splutter. But having two babies gagging at once is a new experience.

Also although I thought D4 was being terribly precocious in rolling all the way across the living room this morning, it turns out he was only a month ahead of D1, which is not that impressive for someone who's been trying to crawl since he was five minutes old. He did roll both ways a lot sooner, though--perhaps the use of the skill for locomotion requires a certain amount of mental as well as physical development.

I thought they were far too young for all this, but apparently I'm suffering nothing more than an acute case of My Babies Are Growing Up Too Fast.

D3 has gotten quite a bit more wiggly the past few weeks, although she's still not rolling even one way if she can help it. (Her charm-the-socks-off radius is about ten feet, though.) I have read people boasting about how their food and environmental choices result in faster child development. Well, I'm sure it helps to feed yourself and the babies properly and let them play where they can move. But having very UNidentical twins makes it clear to me that babies do their own thing at their own speed and there's not all that much to be done about it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Because I Haven't Done This In A While

D1 and D2 in a moment of patriotic myopia. D3 and D4 getting alarmingly big. Beware, Random Objects on Floor! Babies are on patrol!


I was wrong about the absence of giant inflated figures this year. Apparently everyone just waited a couple of weeks to put them up. (Well, two weeks is better than all month.)

And the people across the street have put up two hideous giant figures. Their lights shine in my bedroom window at night.

I'd like to sneak over there and stab them repeatedly. But it's the home of the chief of police.

Probably not a good idea.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1. It would, of course, be the night we were finally making progress at Teaching the Babies About Bedtime and Getting to Bed on Time that we would be awakened every hour by a malfunctioning CO detector (which we THOUGHT was a malfunctioning smoke detector), resulting finally in dragging everyone out of the house at 3 a.m. while the fire department visited (too late to go back to bed, too early to get up). The kids, of course, had a great time, and it provided a nice rehearsal for our safety plans we've been discussing lately; the babies were thrilled that we all recognized the need for some activity at 3 a.m. But the parents, they were not pleased.

2. The older ducklings also had a wonderful time last night at a Christmas party complete with magician and balloon-tier. And I declared today a Pajama Pancake Party. And there's another party tonight. It's a good time of year to be 3 and 4.

3. Making pancakes reminds me why I declared I would not make pancakes again until the babies were much older. This takes forever. It also reminds me of my sole pregnancy craving: the day I made and ate an entire batch of pancakes. Why do I never get to eat like that any more when the babies are about eight times as big? Probably because I actually get to keep down my normal meals.

4. I wonder if there's a Guinness Book of World Records entry for Most Pounds of Baby Exclusively Breastfed. I bet we're getting close. Well past 35 pounds already, although I haven't measured in a month.

5. I'm in no hurry about that solid food business, either. Having had babies before gives better perspective. Yes, it's nice to fantasize about sleeping through the night, getting away for more than ninety minutes, and seeing those fat little legs develop self-propulsion. But it's also easier to remember that it will never be this easy to feed them again (until they learn to cook) or this easy to find them.

6. D2 is already stressing out over the babies touching his toys. It was my experience with D1 and D2, and I think it's going to be true again, that the older child doesn't have any trouble with the newborn but starts feeling threatened when the baby gets mobile.

7. D1 has started experimenting with different ways to spell and write her name. I thought we had another decade for that.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Songs of Praises

My wife found Jesus tonight.

Well, actually it was just the representation of Him for the mantle nativity...

School of Hard Knocks

An article in a parenting magazine I got yesterday included tips on winter sports: little kids should, of course, always wear helmets and only use sleds with approved steering devices.

Cue the curmudgeonly muttering: when-I-was-a-kid-clonking-your-head-while-spinning-in-a-garbage-lid-was-considered-part-of-the fun. (I'm pretty sure that sledding in the dark in a field with barbed wire fences would not meet modern safety rules either, but I at least was never stupid enough to try that.)

But that's trite. No, what I'm thinking is that the ducklings are far, far more likely to conk their heads badly walking in stocking feet on wood floors around solid furniture than they are to injure themselves spilling out in a snowdrift. In fact, at least one of them slips and hurts their head at least once a day.

If we're really concerned about safety, shouldn't kids be wearing these helmets every time they're out of bed?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas Without Jesus

No, this isn't going to be a devotional or anything like that. It's just that we need to find Jesus.

It started last Friday evening, when I had two hungry and wet babies and company coming any minute. I caught the older kids on top of the loveseat, giggling in that silly way that you know means children are allied against grownups everywhere.

"D2 hid baby Jesus!" D1 exclaimed. Sure enough, the nativity set on the mantle was missing the central character.

At a moment like this, I realized I had two choices: an interminable discipline/interrogation/hunting session, or walking away in disgust. I chose option B, went and changed and fed the babies and was ready for company.

Unfortunately, I forgot all about it for two days. By that time, the ducklings had apparently forgotten where they had hid the figurine. We hunted all the likely places in the vicinity and turned up nothing.

So we issued an ultimatum: No candy until they find Jesus. Or the New Year, whichever comes first.

Edited to add: I found baby Jesus in the library book basket, along with half of a plastic red pepper, a small hot rod, and a toy credit card. And a lot of books, of course. I have not yet heard whether I get the prize, but the ducklings insist I do not get their candy.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Christmas CD Meme

From Wendy at Zoom Times:

If you were trapped on a desert island and it was Christmas and all you had was a small generator, Christmas lights for your coconut tree, an endless supply of Christmas cookies and eggnog, your CD player and 6 Christmas CDs , which 6 albums would you want them to be?

Ah, difficulty. Let us begin with saying that Christmas music is all about nostalgia, and therefore selections are not to be critiqued based on any particular aesthetic or associational standards. It is what it is.


1. Come On Ring Those Bells (Yes, I know it's an LP, but Santa made me a CD version.) This went on the record player--when we still had a record player and actually used it, back in the dark ages--the day after Thanksgiving while I deep-cleaned the living room in preparation for Christmas decorating.

2. I don't even know the name of this one, but it would be the CD version of the record from my mother's and aunt's childhood of Christmas selections, including such rarities as "I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mamba" (What's a Mamba?). We always played it during Christmas cookie bake, and when the LP itself became too scratched my aunt found the various recordings on other CDs to roughly recreate it.

3. The first volume of the Messiah (which I have lost this year! Alas! Alack!) Also: Important exception to the No Christmas Music Until After Thanksgiving Rule: The Messiah is OK any time of year, especially appropriate at Easter and during November while waiting for the rest of Christmas music to be available.

4. Good Christian Men Rejoice. I'm a sucker for men's chorales. (I confessed this after compelling DOB to confess he preferred women's groups.) Plus, my brother used to sing with this group, although he's not on this CD.

5. White Christmas. It's not Christmas for DOB and me without White Christmas, and it's not White Christmas without Bing. Although if we had a Dean Martin Christmas CD Bing might be out of luck.

6. OK, so far this post is practically an autobiography. And I'm not ready to fill slot number six yet. I still have room for another Christmas CD in my life.

Now I tag . . . anyone brave enough to list their favorite Christmas CDs.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Contemplating Vandalism

Fewer giant inflated structures seem to be around this year, for which we can all rejoice, whether it's because the fad is passing or because times are too tight to pay for the blowers. Passing a giant inflated Homer Simpson dressed as Santa really strained my belief in the Common Man.

However, this neighborhood sight has been distressing me for two years now. It's actually rather quaint and folksy and would be charming (and much better than inflated Homers) if it weren't for the eyes. Apparently it was designed by some basement recluse who had never looked a human being in the eyes and therefore envisioned pupils as tiny pinpricks. The result: Mary and Joseph the zombies.

A quick moment with a Sharpie marker ought to solve the problem, converting it into a charming bit of folk art. Would I be justified? Should I wait until the snow melts?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1. I now have two mei tais, so I can go outside with both babies. The sequence of getting coats on, babies tied on, mittens and zippers on big kids (at some point when still able to bend over), and all fast enough so no one overheats in their coats (me particularly) is mind-boggling. I should have it figured out by spring.

I need a picture of it, but it's a little much to add to pull out a camera on top of everything.

2. DOB is afraid this will be misconstrued, so don't misconstrue it. We have not been sleeping well because of babies having colds. So one night this week we fell asleep with D3 still in bed with us. At about 3 in the morning we heard the familiar noise of someone wanting help on the potty. And experienced the unfamiliar sensation of being on the Wrong Sides of the bed, D3 still peacefully slumbering between us. Apparently we had decided to play Musical Chairs in our sleep because just lying still and resting was too dull.

3. Do you listen to Christmas music in foreign languages of unfamiliar tunes? I do (medieval Hungarian right now), but then I wonder why, because it doesn't sound very Christmasy. It does explain why I can continue to count Grunt as a Christmas CD. At least I can be assured the CD will not contain "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" or "The Little Drummer Boy."

4. We taught the kids to play Yahtzee last week and D2 got three yahtzees. He now has a warped view of the game.

5. The babies napped for an hour and a half yesterday morning. Today they napped for forty-five minutes. They are very cranky. They are also dancing around the edge of being able to make it to 8:00 without needing an evening nap, but they are not quite there so yesterday evening they were very, very, very cranky, too. Infancy is just one new problem after another, best enjoyed in retrospect or in other people's children.

That sounded terrible. Really, they're very sweet babies and I love having babies. Or at least that's what I remember when I don't have babies.

6. After a month or more of using the baking soda and vinegar regime instead of shampoo, it's 18 degrees outside and dry and my hair is not frizzing. This has never happened before. I'm impressed. How many things save you time, money, weird chemical exposure, and make your hair look better at the same time?

7. I'm trying to make my own sauerkraut. So far it doesn't smell, but it still has quite awhile to go. Supposedly the enzymes or what-not in the homemade, non-processed kind are very good for you and I actually like sauerkraut, so I figured it was worth a try.

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Photos Finished

I ordered prints of pictures this week. I do this once a year, so by the time it rolls around again I can't remember how I did it last year.

As far as I can figure out, to get prints from Target you have to sign up for Photobucket, and to get them from Meijer you have to sign up for Snapfish. Photobucket has better photoediting tools, but Meijer has cheaper prints. So I wound up uploading everything to Photobucket, editing it, copying it to the hard drive, uploading it to Snapfish, and ordering prints from Meijer. And being convinced there had to be an easier way to do it.

Any words of wisdom?

Meanwhile, while we're on the picture topic, here are some from the trip to the conservatory. We also have a membership at Imageshack now. Things are getting out of hand.
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Monday, December 01, 2008

Some Links

Don't follow this one while hungry.

What personality type is your blog? This one came up as ESTP "the doers" and my other two as ESFP, "The Entertainers." (In real life, I'm an ENTP, whose nickname is more along the lines of, "The Endless Theorizers." "S" is the real world option, "N" is the abstract one. I have no "S.")

Comings and Goings

We didn't go to Tennessee after all (and no burglars stopped by, either). We had a Thanksgiving Chicken with DOB's mother and the few siblings who didn't go elsewhere. Very strange, but a nice, quiet day.

Since we didn't do a five hour drive on Wednesday, we decided to go to the local Conservatory instead. It had two key attractions: it was indoors, and it was free. When we arrived, we discovered a third attraction, a room dedicated to a large Christmas display, including a couple of trains. The indoor jungle was also quite intriguing to the ducklings.

The wedding all came off well, with the bonus for us of two extra lasagnas to take home. D1 and D2 like playing wedding, but they both want to be the bride. I can't blame them, as I think Army dress greens are one of the more boring uniforms in the history of warfare. (Don't shoot me, I have a brother AND a brother-in-law in the army. I just have my uniform aesthetics informed by comic opera.)