Domestic Bliss Report

Motherhood is hard work. If we don't stick together, we'll all fall apart.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Kids and sports

This is inspired by the heartbreaking post over at SFO Mom.

I taught for a year at a small Catholic school (200 students or so). It was the 98-99 school year and it was Cardinal Mooney Catholic in Marine City, to help you look up the details.
Our baseball team made the playoffs that year. The game was held at Tiger Stadium and we bussed the whole school to it. Honest.
On the team were two quite disparate young men, neither of whose names I remember. I didn't have either in class. One was being scouted by the pros, or at least so the rumor went. It was believable to me. I'll call him Joe.
The other was nowhere near Joe's ability. He had, however, survived a gruesome car crash somewhere in his junior year. It was bad enough, I was told by the athletic director, that at the scene "they had a sheet over him." I'll call him Ernie.
At the game, we were winning by a single run. I think. There was a one-run difference, anyway. It was the ninth inning (the last, anyway--do they play seven in high school?) and Joe's at bat. Ernie hadn't been in but...

The coach pulled Joe for Ernie to pinch-hit for him.

Where he got a single. Then Joe came in as a pinch runner for Ernie; the latter wasn't much of a runner. But Ernie got his at-bat, he got a hit, he played in the game.
To me, that epitomizes what amateur sports is all about.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Happy Birthday to me!

Yeah, today's the day.
We went to 10AM Mass, per usual on Sunday. My mom was there--always a good thing. Not a whole lot of other usuals; Rachel's godparents were about it. But a new family was there. I'd seen Mom and Daughter in the neighborhood and commented on the stroller; she'd wheeled on over and we hit it off and talked for a while. Her husband had been raised Catholic and they wanted to get their little girl baptized, but his parents' parish had hoops to jump through.
Now, God love the guy, our pastor would tool around neighborhoods with a fire truck if enough people asked him to. He's got no problem baptizing. I think his idea is, at least I'll get 'em in the door. Who knows? Maybe they'll stay.
Anyway, Saturday night the whole family came by and were asking about the parish, mass times, et cetera. Mom had no religious background but wants to attend classes if they're going to have their daughter baptized and raise her Catholic. So it was really nice to see them there.
I count that as a birthday gift.

I also got The Visible Woman, still in shrinkwrap, via eBay. I've wanted one since about the time I got the microscope (seventh grade). The optional pregnancy parts has always stuck with me and now I have it to build. Yeah, he's pretty good.
He also found The Little House on the Prairie, Season 1. I was told more than once in elementary school that I looked like Laura; since I liked both the character and the show, I took it as a compliment. Now that Madeleine is familiar with the premise, it went over big. We just watched the first episode but I think they'll want more. They weren't ready for The Greatest American Hero at Christmas despite their interest in space and planets. The idea of other planets and life on them is still beyond their ken.
The last thing I really chose, which was a set of eyelet-trimmed sheets from Martha Stewart. Since it's just trimmed on the pillow cases and top sheet, he won't feel out of place in his own bedroom. I've always liked eyelet, too.
We saw a skid-steer knocking down a garage, and stopped to visit Shelly the Neighbor on the way back for a while. We haven't had the chance to do that for weeks.

We had chocolate fudge cake and Breyer's "fried" ice cream for dessert after he grilled kielbasa. I've missed that stuff since the demise of Chichi's, and somehow he knew that too.

Now, I have the chance to blog and relax before starting on the dishes, or the folding of the laundry.... Well, even with those to do, it was still a good birthday.

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Identity crises at the Price home

Heard in a ten-minute ride home, multiple times each:

"I am the walrus."
"I am the Lizard King."
"I am Spartacus!"
"Call me Ishmael."

I just put my head in my hands and laughed. Otherwise, I'd weep.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Who is this Harry Potter person?

I know, I'm just playing with you.
I haven't read any of the books, let alone seen the movies. I prefer them in that order if possible--book first. But I haven't started Harry. (Yet.)
When they first came out, I didn't hear about it. I saw some kids carrying them around, but I just thought of them as middle-schooler's books. Popular now, out of print and forgotten two years later. It did look like a pretty impressively-sized book, though. Hm.
Then I realized Harry was trendy. Bad move, in my book. For those who don't know me well, I tend to avoid trends like vampires avoid garlic. If everyone is turning left, I'll turn right just for spite. I refuse to be like everyone else and have done so for decades. So when Harry was trendy, I was determined to avoid it like a scorching case of the clap solely for that.
Then they became a phenomenon. I thought they'd be like Beanie Babies and die down someday. Whole sets would be available on eBay for less than the shipping costs. But it didn't happen.

[It's astonishing how much I can milk something I haven't even read, isn't it?]

Then the debate began about whether it's pagan or Christian, teaching witchcraft or stealth Christianity, neither of them. Having not read them, I can't answer that. There are tomes written both ways, though.
My friend Shelly (who has way too much common sense to be dictated to by Greater Intellects), who has read the books, has put it this way. "When you show me a religion where you point a stick at something, and it changes into something else, then I'll worry. Or some language where you say any words and then a broom can fly, then you might make some sense to me."

All this talk about magic and its supposed corrupting, anti-Christian power over our children has me wondering. It struck me last night as I was reading Sleeping Beauty for the zillionth time to the kids. If you won't let Harry into your house because of the magic, where does it end? Tolkien? C.S. Lewis? King Arthur's Merlin? Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid? Cinderella's fairy godmother, for Heaven's sake?
More likely, it seems Harry will join their ranks instead.

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"I've never heard of such a thing!"

Yeah, that's almost never good from an expert. Like when your hairstylist says, "Oops."

Rachel had a loose tooth. Yes, Rachel. The one who won't be three until September. Now, The Boy had one after smacking his mouth on something; I opted for the leave-it-alone approach and it re-seated itself. Fine.
Not so with this one. It kept getting looser, and looser... I thought it coincidental that it was the same one Madeleine lost a little while back. Last Thursday we managed to get her into the dentist, whom she wouldn't let touch her. She let me wiggle the tooth for him, though, while his receptionist pretended to hold his hands behind his back. No, it wasn't discolored; no, we didn't remember any injury.
Being the humble kind of guy he is, knowing well what he doesn't know, he referred us to a pediadontist, with whom we made an appointment for Monday morning. I wisely asked what to do should the tooth come out in the interim. We were advised to keep it just in case.

Thursday afternoon shortly before supper she handed me her tooth. Calmly, no blood or crying. "Woot, Mama. My toof."

We still went in on Monday, where the nurse was fascinated. "The good news is, this looks like a perfectly normal exfoliated tooth. The really odd thing is, she's only two. Are you sure she's two?" The question was in jest. Yes, I'm sure; I was there.
They couldn't get an X-ray Monday because I'm pregnant. Daddy went back this morning to be the one to hold her while they solved the mystery.

Yep. It's an adult tooth pushing its way up. The other is there too, but way far down. All we can do at this point is monitor it.

Two things to bear in mind: Now you can't say you've never heard of such a thing.
And have pity for my husband and son a decade hence. I'll be in my mid-forties, Madeleine will be 15, and Rachel will be 12. Can you say menstrual synchrony, boys and girls? Who'd a thunk it could start just after potty training?

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Monday, July 23, 2007

My thoughts on computer games

A few weeks back, Shelly had a rather opinionated post in defense of computer and video games. It was a rant, and she called it such. It was directed at those who may look down their noses at her for permitting her sons to play such games, or question her Christian devotion or mothering skills.
Now, before I go any further, I need to make sure you're aware of some things. I look over at Shelly's house so often it probably could be stalking if I didn't live here. [note to Shelly--you used to watch me hang my laundry, remember? And discuss it with your husband? :)] I see her boys pretty regularly and have talked religion with her. Those are my disclaimers on Shelly.
My disclaimers on video games are these: we were gifted with a system for our wedding. We bought the computer a month later (one of those Day After Thanksgiving madnesses at Wal-mart) and the only time the game has been touched since was to move it from our apartment to our house. I don't even know if they still have games for it, even at used stores.

Anyway. I think games are like any other kind of media in today's world: TV, books, magazines, movies. I think most of them, frankly, are crap. Harmless, meaningless, non-educating drivel. Most, not all.
I think there are some out there that are truly destructive. Over-the-top, unnecessarily violent, explicitly sexual with nothing more to them than pandering to the lowest common denominator. Those are the ones that get all the press.
And I do believe there are some--a few--that are worthwhile. Like one that teaches you guitar. Or explorer games where you can learn about metallurgy (for the difference in swords). Or those that teach typing or reading. They do exist, you know. To dismiss all of them because you consider yourself a Conscientious Parent is short-sighted.

I see Shelly's boys outside, spending time with friends. Her oldest was willing--with no parental prodding by anyone--to try to help Madeleine do a backflip. He and his friends were trying gymnastics; the little ones wanted to try. You don't have boy that age willing to help someone else's five-year-old girl unless Mom is doing something right. There goes her "bad" mothering skills. Are her boys developing their albino complexion and thumb reflexes to Grand Theft Auto or Doom? Um... no. [Do those references show my age or what?]
On Christian discipleship--she can quote the Bible better than I can. Not really that remarkable, considering, but it still bears mention. I think she's more charitable a lot of the time than I am. I've had some really really snarky fallen-away times. [Yeah, we've dished, but my years started younger and lasted longer.]

Enough about Shelly and games. To lump Mavis Beacon and the writers of Doom all together in one uniform mass really is a sin of ignorance. You can take just about anything and, if you misuse it, abuse it, twist it, or beat someone about the head and shoulders with it, IT'S WRONG. But if used properly, with appropriate supervision and guidance, it can be a useful tool to make a productive citizen. That goes for computer games, too.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

'Tis a silly place.

1. We're at a seafood restaurant. Madeleine takes two straws, puts them on her upper canines, and says, "I am the walrus!"
Daddy replies, "Maddie, you're out of your element."

2. We return home from a Saturday morning walk with some garage sale purchases: some Fisher-Price Little People. "And they have a castle!"
Daddy says, "Do they dance? For fear the dawn would come too soon?"

3. Daddy has the hose to water the flowerbeds, and deftly gets the kids a little wet. They turn and flee with cries of "Run away! Run away!"

4. Rachel brandishes her fork at her father with a grin. "Say heyo to my yiddle fend!"

Yeah, our kids would fit in perfectly in school.
Kudos to anyone who can place all of the movie quotes. And before you freak out too much, no, the kids haven't seen any of them.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Dumas versus Hugo

As you may remember, I'm reading my second real book by Alexandre Dumas. I'm having as much fun, enjoying it as much, as I did the first time which was considerable.
If memory serves, Dumas and Hugo were relative contemporaries. I haven't read a biography of either; I have one on Hugo but if anyone can recommend a biography of Dumas I'd really appreciate it.
The two men have quite different writing styles. Hugo was writing about Grand Issues, Injustice to the Poor, the Evil of the Powerful (be they political or clerical), the necessity of compassion. He wrote well-crafted thoroughly researched books and he knew they were whole books. I mean, in Les Mis, we don't meet Jean Valjean until we're 100 pages in. Seriously. For the folks who have only seen the musical or movie, to think the first 100 pages is all about the bishop is kind of stunning. Wha--? And he was buried, according to one biography, "with every honor the French government could bestow." I remember he's buried not in Les Invalides with Napoléon, or in Père-Lachaise with Ingrès, Molière, and Jim Morrison, but in the Panthéon.
Dumas, on the other hand, not so much. He made and lost several fortunes and got published serially--daily columns in newspapers. It makes me think of Scheherezade, storytelling for his supper. It sure explains why he doesn't spend a whole chapter discussing the sewers of Paris (à la Hugo) but moves the story along quite a bit faster! I actually find myself laughing at some of his situations. You'll have to read to find out.

I'll tell you, I was looking at Amazon for a biography on Dumas and I found this instead. Now, I know it seems like a lot, but if you average it out, 25 volumes for $200 is less than $10 a book. For books like this, it's a total bargain. And my birthday is coming up next week, so your timing could not be better.
Note to my husband: I think we already have The Count of Monte Cristo from this set or possibly a later edition, from the conference last month. Eep. Now I feel like I stole something...


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Prayer request

Our neighbor up the street, Greg, has always been a good guy. He's praised my clothesline, pets our dog, and jokes with the kids. On our walk around the block today, the kids were jumping on the discarded wheelchair ramp in front of his house. He got it from his next-door neighbor and is trying to use it to repair his driveway. He happened to come home while we were there.

He asked how old the kids are, specifically The Boy. "My grandson is four, too," he said. "He was having a rough time of it, bruising really easily and generally not feeling well. They took him in to the doctor's who directed them right to the hospital. They think he has leukemia." It might be anemia, he said, but his white count was extremely low.

Mom works as a radiologist at one of the bigger hospitals in the area (Beaumont, if that means anything to you), so his health care is covered. They tried to catheterize him so he wouldn't bruise his feet walking to the bathroom, but his dad is staying to carry him each time he needs to go.

I didn't catch the little guy's name, but will update with it when I get it. Thanks.


Remember my concerns about Madeleine's reading?

Well, they're dust.
She's pulling Magic Tree House books off the shelf with abandon. We got a set, 28 of them, back from a bookorder in preschool. I'm not having her read them for the science or history factors but if she gets something out of them in those areas, it's gravy. And yes, I've asked her what she's read. Afternoon in the Amazon included adventures with pirhana.
And hey, I'll admit I learned what a "bodkin" was from a romance novel. When we read Hamlet later in high school, I knew he was talking about stabbing himself to death and not something involving Ophelia and a state of undress.

The question is, when do we bump her up to second-grade reading? Most of those Magic Tree House books are labeled second-grade. I've looked at the back and those that say have RL 2.6, RL 2.3, RL 2.7. Some even have RL 3.

What we're doing over the summer is the reviews in the Catholic National Reader, book 1. Those sections don't have questions but incorporate most of the new words from the previous six selections. If we have trouble, we'll be able to go back. Plus we'll get more out of the book, which we'll have around for the others as well.
And we're going to get the second grade course plans for reading and spelling when we send in our quarterly report at the end of the month.

After all, did anyone worry about skipping reading books back in my day? I know I was in the fourth grade reading group when I was in third; did any expert think I'd missed something?

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Friday, July 13, 2007

I understood my son last night.

I've been told before I spill my guts on this blog; this is going to be another occasion.

You know, Gentle Reader, of my son's speech problems. You may have a child like him, you may think you know. Perhaps you do. But it was bad. So bad that I was in tears this past December because I couldn't understand him and he was almost four.
What kind of mother am I, that I can't understand my preschool-age son? Where have I screwed up raising him not to speak clearly? These were the thoughts I had.
When he was not-quite-two, I think, he dropped a can on his foot. He's crying, in pain, near hysterical and I can't understand which foot or toe is hurting. I had to wait to see the ugly bruise appear the next day under his toenail, and then be reminded each time I saw his bare foot until it grew out.
He potty-trained remarkably easily, but he did have a (very) few nighttime accidents. Once he came in to us trying to tell us he'd wet his bed; we didn't understand and sent him back. He cried and protested all the way; I couldn't bear to wake up enough to find out what it was. I figured it out the next morning getting him dressed.

He didn't say hard-G or K; they were more N or D (when not the first sound). He omitted initial S, P, T, F and K entirely, along with L or R anywhere in a word. Forget blends (speedboat) or digraphs (shoe); when they had anything, it was a substitution. Usually D; sometimes N. I still don't quite know his code.
Some examples to clarify: As recently as a year ago, "milk" was niwt. Even this spring "Molly the cat" was Mahee da at.

So, since his surgery, we've been watching and waiting for changes. His speech therapist said as bright as he is that it's time to put more responsibility on him, so we have. Each day has brought progress; he now says P, F and T with regularity and S and K with reminders ("What, Dale? Who just jumped on the couch?") We've narrowed it to L, R, J, SH and CH. Blends are sporadic but he liked s'mores last week on vacation.

Last night, though, it hit me as he said his prayer. "Yord Desus Christ, Son of God, have mewsy on me, a sinneh."
Son of God. Really. Every single sound. And I cried. I reached over, pulled him into my lap, and I cried.
Like I said, it's been tough. But I understood my son last night.

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My clothesline

We have a clothesline.
Part of the reason is practical--why pay a utility company to dry clothes when the sun and wind can do it just as well? It saves money.
Another practical reason is wiring. Our dryer is electric. The way the joker wired our house, unless we haul out a couple industrial extension cords we can run one of our window units or the dryer. Not even two out of three. Which means on hot days if I want to dry clothes, they're hanging outside.
I'll admit as well there's a touch of environmentalist left in me. I joined the group back in college for a guy; I don't suppose this is a destructive lingering influence.

There are days, I'll admit, where hanging the clothes outside just seems like more than I can bear. Usually, though, I sigh and do it anyway.
It's a gentle reminder to slow down. Tossing everything into the dryer, turning the knob, and pushing a button does take much less time, but line-drying means I have time to contemplate. I listen to the sounds of our neighborhood--the birds, dogs, random lawnmowers, traffic from the mile road not so far away. I feel the sun on my limbs and usually the grass under my feet. I watch the children play in the yard, mentally prioritize the rest of my day, and generally stop to contemplate my world.
I used to do these things while walking my dog. When you're walking a dog, there are lots of other things you can't do--balance your checkbook, vacuum, even read a book. It's just you and the dog.
The same goes with hanging laundry. You can't make supper, or write out bills, or any other of the myriad obligations of motherhood. It's just you and the basket, damp clothes and your thoughts.

A little time to slow down in today's rushed world is generally a good thing.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Book reviews

And who among you is surprised?

While on vacation, I finished two: Jomier's The Bible and the Qur'an and another I picked up at the used book store in Vacationtown our second day there. Here are my thoughts.

Jomier's Bible and Qur'an: Not really an introduction as he presumes a certain amount of background knowledge, like what "jinns" are (that's genies to you and me--the wish-granting spirits from Arabian Nights. You know, Robin Williams' blue guy from Aladdin). That might be in a footnote in the original French, but it's not there in the English. He also presumes a Catholic, or at least Christian, background. Some of the references he makes, like (I'm paraphrasing) "We have God the Father, they have Allah the slavemaster" tip his hand as to his background. Another sign of his assumption on the part of his readership is the way he cites. If he refers to a particular passage in the Qur'an, he provides it. If he refers to something from the Bible, he doesn't. He just seems to presume that you would have a Bible nearby to look up the particular quote he's referring to.
He compares the notion that both the Bible and Qur'an are looked upon as the Word of God by their respective adherents, but adds that Christians have that tricky little bit at the beginning of John's Gospel to throw a spanner in the works.
Not a bad pick-up if you're into that sort of thing.

The other one I finished (and started) on vacation was the fourth edition of Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook. I liked most of it because it was a big pat on the back to us, who have been reading to our kids since their ears developed in utero (seriously--he read The Hobbit to my expanding belly the first time around and we've never quit). Some of it seems like preaching to the choir, though; how many non-readers are going to pick up a book with that title?
The advice goes like this:
1. Read to your child.
2. Read to your child some more.
3. If you're going blind, learn Braille and read to your child. Or get books on tape.
4. Read age-appropriate books to your child.
5. Oprah can't be completely evil as she has gotten adults reading and buying usually more than one book at a time.
6. Harry Potter can't be completely evil either as he has gotten children reading more, longer, and more challenging books than they were reading before J. K. Rowling came along.
7. Television and computers are NOT the same as dead-tree. Turn off the electronics and sit down with some paper. And your child.
8. A good library, be it home, school or public, is vital to provide opportunities for kids to read.
9. Don't bother with the "classics," because even adults don't bother reading them.
10. Read to your child.

Now, I agree with just about all of that except #9. I've read a few of Oprah's selections and yes, I know she's chosen Anna Karenina among other classics. Her choices are better than so much of the drivel put out today, as well. But the classics--Huckleberry Finn, 1984, Tale of Two Cities, Red Badge of Courage, Shakespeare's stuff, et cetera--are still around for a reason. Why should they be read? By anyone?
Because they speak to the human condition, the universal human experience. Growing up, right and wrong, sins committed in the name of "love," abuse of power, surviving the death of loved ones.
Anyway, I could go on for a whole other post on defending the classics. I'll just say the book is worthwhile if only from the library because it includes a whole list of good read-aloud books for all ages.

There. Now I can go back to reading.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Farm

Dale said he thinks I like the farm better than the kids, and he may be right. Since it's my blog, I'll share the whole story.

A couple years back, we had stopped for gas on the way home and I saw the ad on a bench for Aunt Tude's Farm. It looked like something the kids would like and I made a mental note to try again the next time we were up.

We did. We stumbled on to what is going to be an annual tradition if I have my way. For my city kids, this is something completely different. All of them have a wonderful time; even Rachel got the idea of opening her hand to feed the animals.

This farm provides an opportunity to:
1. Bottle-feed baby animals (goat, lamb, or last year a piglet)
2. Hold a chick or duckling
3. Milk a cow. Really.
4. Throw a cob of corn to a pig
5. Horse-drawn hay ride around the farm
6. Hand-feed goats, sheep, and llamas
7. Tube-feed a donkey (drop food down a pipe. Donkeys bite.)
8. Throw corn to chickens, ducks, geese, and peacocks
9. See an ostrich; compare her egg to a chicken's
10. Collect said chicken's egg for a prize
11. Have a pony ride
12. Hold a kitten, or last year really little puppies
13. Ride kid-sized pedal tractors
14. Swing from a rope inside the barn (like Fern and Avery)
15. Crawl through a hay-bale maze

All for $5 a child, $4 adults as much as you can stand. They have a picnic area and encourage you to move the tables into or out of the sun as you wish. The only things they sell are cans of pop, so you'll want to bring your own meal. But there are no souvenirs to deny begging children and that's on purpose.
For the fastidious (or maybe just sane), they have the Purell hand sanitizer dispensers about every 30-40 feet and they provide wipes in your bucket. And you may wish to bring quarters for the additional food dispensers by the sheep, llamas, and goats.

Where is this Eden? On Chappel Dam Road, north of M-61 west of Gladwin. If you're within an hour's drive or so, or really interested, it's well worth the trip. Watch your timing, though, as it's open Fri/Sat/Sun and not 7 days. Aunt Tude's listed under "zoos" in the local phone book, but don't let it fool you. It's a real farm--right down to the smell.

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We're both fine, no surprises.

My OB/GYN loves me. I'm an easy patient both health-wise and personally.

I've gained seven pounds since my last visit; it's unusual for me to gain anything in the first trimester, but I'm starting from a lower weight anyway. Blood pressure is fine and no swelling despite the warm weather. All of the blood work from my last visit came back normal. She asks if I have any questions, but is not surprised that I don't.

The baby's heartbeat was 156. We can't say out loud "Usually boys have lower heartbeats" around the kids as I really don't want to cope with a four-year-old's disappointment for the next six months or more, but Madeleine and Dale bore that out. Rachel was weird all over, kicking hard enough at 17 weeks that Daddy could feel it. No joke.
Yeah, we probably should have taken that as a sign as to her personality, but who knew?

So my level-2 ultrasound is scheduled for the afternoon of August 6. I'll let you know whether we've evened the ratio in the house or not.
And no, I haven't done the laundry yet. It was one of those days.


Monday, July 09, 2007

And where have you been, young lady?

We were on vacation.

Nine days of swimming in the lake, pontoon rides, speedboat rides, tubing, fishing with nets off the dock, fishing with poles from the pontoon, very little TV, even less "school," more swimming in the lake, and a trip to the farm.

Now we're home. That means unpacking, laundry, finding our toothbrushes, putting all we took with us away, getting the suitcases back into storage, and readjusting to being home.

Tuesday morning means my regularly scheduled trip to the OB. I expect no surprises, but will confirm after the laundry gets done.