It’s everywhere!

I now know how to get diaper rash cream out of hair and bath towels.   Carpet pending.  Apparently dish detergent is the way to go.  It makes sense, really.  Needs to remove a *lot* of grease and all that.  Of course, it’s also hard to get dish detergent out of towels.  You have to then wash them about, oh, 3 times to get it all out.  <sigh>   And you have to wash the hair several times with the dish detergent to get it all out, which is a pain in the neck when you have a ton of it in the hair of a toddler who doesn’t like water poured over her head.  Maybe it’ll be a lesson for next time.  We can hope, at least.

Brought the girls in to help wake Seth up this morning, as he had the day off and we had plans to check out a local park.  Beth was very persistent.  “Wake up, Papa!  Wake up!”  Seth, without opening his eyes: “Why?”  Beth: “It’s morning!”  Seth: “Why?”  Beth: “It’s sunny!”  Seth: “Why?”  Beth, at this, looks at me for help.  So… Me: “Beth, who made the sun?”  Beth, to Seth: “God made it sunny!”  Seth: “Why?”  Beth, frustrated: “Stop saying ‘why,’ Papa!”  Ha!  Let’s see if *that* one sinks in.

Just read two Christian romances in a row.  I’ve been mostly on a fantasy kick lately, but I ran into these and thought I’d give them a try.  First one was by Deeanne Gist and was quite good.  She writes well, her dialogue is good, people act true to character, and the story was interesting and had just the right number of twists, even though I was able to see the final twist/solution coming.  Second one I actually initially thought was by the same author, as the books have a similarity in look to them.  I only had to read a few pages before I flipped back to the front to see who wrote it, though.  The dialogue is absolutely awful.  People talk so stiffly and unnaturally.  And they also *act* completely irrationally.  I’m not certain whether it counts as poor character development, because the people consistently make stupid choices.  It might just be that they’re meant to be foolish people.  But that certainly doesn’t make me care about their lives and what they do.  The villain is *so* unbelievably unrealistic.  I think in some ways this book seems so bad because it’s in comparison to some much better ones that I was reading recently.

I did quite enjoy the book “The Mysterious Benedict Society.”  It has a sequel, but it was due before I got to it, so I’ll have to get it out again.  There’s also a third book in the series due out soon, I think in October?  “The Thirteenth Child” was also a fascinating book, although the final climax was rather… anti-climactic?  <grin>  The ending was just a bit dull and not nearly as exciting as one would have expected based on the earlier book.  But it’s still worth a read just because the story and the world are so intriguing.  I wasn’t huge on “The Princess and the Hound” so I didn’t read the sequel, “The Princess and the Bear,” although my husband did.  He said it was awful, though.  In general, I find that Mette Ivie Harrison, who wrote both, has books that have a lot of cold, calculating, seemingly emotionless characters, and the dialogue is stilted–not because she writes poorly, but because the characters are uncomfortable in their conversations with each other.  While her fantasy books aren’t darker than other writers, this makes them seem darker because they’re more draining and depressing, in a way.  I find myself wishing she (and her characters) would lighten up a bit.  Patricia Wrede is more my style.  I also love Shannon Hale, whose language is just beautiful along with her very clever stories.

If you can’t tell, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.  It’s been helpful for my writing, I think.  Not to mention being enjoyable.  The problem is that I just have a hard time putting a book aside, especially when I’m halfway through or more, which means I’m spending too much time reading and not enough getting things done.  There’s a ton of work to do to get the house ready for my parents’ visit, after all!  Today was sort of a day off because Seth was off work, but tomorrow I need to get cracking, especially because it’s hard to get things done on the weekend.  I’ve been doing a thousand loads of laundry but the amount of laundry left to be done never ever seems to be any less!  Ack.

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Asking why?

I read Beth the book “Why” today (the one by Lindsay Camp and Tony Ross), about a little girl who asks “why?” after every statement.  It reminded me of when I was a kid, and my brother and I had this theory that if a little kid asked “why” after every question and you tried to honestly answer them, you could generally get back to God in about six steps (usually the fifth being “because God made you/it that way”).  A sample conversation in our house:

Me: “It’s time for lunch!”

Beth: “Why?”

Me: “Because your body needs food now.”

Beth: “Why?”

Me: “Because we usually eat lunch at this time, so your body is accustomed to eating now and is expecting food.”

Beth: “Why?”  (See, here, if she were really listening, it would be much more interesting and discussion-provoking for her to ask “what’s accustomed?”  But little kids don’t play the why game for answers.  They usually don’t even listen to your answers.  They just think it’s fun to make adults question the meaning of the universe.  “Why?”  “Because 42.”  And ha, they won’t figure that one out ’til they’re old enough to read Douglas Adams.)

Me: “Our bodies use the food we eat to give us energy to breathe, think, talk, run, and jump.  All the wonderful things our bodies do come from energy we get from food.”

Beth: “Why?”

Me: “Because that’s how God made us.  He made us dependent on food for life, and then he planted food for us and showed us how to find and harvest it.”

Beth: “Why?”

Me: (Here, I could go into why our dependent relationship with food mirrors our dependency on God, but since she really isn’t listening…) “Because God made it that way.  Now come eat your peanut butter and jelly.”

At least bringing God into the discussion makes it slightly more interesting than the traditional “because it just is,” and gives me a chance to practice how to tell Beth about God.

In separate news, I bought some homeschooling items the other day that should arrive soon, and some French DVDs.  I decided to try the Sonlight curriculum, as mentioned in one of my favorite blogs, Blue Yonder (http://blueyonder.typepad.com/ ).  I like the idea of doing a curriculum that is somewhat defined, as I’m not really good at making things up as I go along.  I’ll, of course, supplement with specific interests and such along the way. But it should be a fun new adventure, homeschooling.  She’s on the young side, of course, so I don’t plan to have her sit for hours working, but I do want to gradually start reading some new books and having some time we spend together reading new books, watching French DVDs and practicing words, drawing and writing, etc.

Last time we were at the library, I got out a bunch of books about shapes, and we’ve been gradually picking those up.  A few of them are ripped very badly, though, especially one that seems like it was meant to have all sorts of flaps and that sort of thing (I say “seems like it was meant to” because they’re all, every single one, missing).  Frustrating, because it looks like it would have been a neat book, but it’s missing half the stuff.  It had occurred to me about a week or so ago that we really hadn’t talked about shapes much.  We’ve done letters (she knows a good number of those) and counting (she can count to ten solidly and a good ways past that if you don’t mind her skipping some numbers), and we’re starting on seasons, and she knows all the major colors and is starting to learn the contrast between “dark” and “light” as modifiers for color names, but shapes we’d never really spent much time with.  My preference in general is to introduce concepts early and go about them slowly so there isn’t a lot of pressure.

As I write I can hear gentle thumpings upstairs.  Which are actually not a bad sign, since they’re gentle.  Beth has given up napping entirely, to my endless frustration, but we’ve instituted “quiet time” as an adequate substitute.  So that’s where she is now.  Gives me time to blog, waste time online, but more importantly, get stuff done around the house.  So, speaking of getting things done… I’ll write more later!

Standards

Earlier today I thought about writing about the fact that our dining room carpet was covered with little bits of discarded baby food, and that it was really sad that I just didn’t care all that much.  But I think the fact that I noticed indicated that I *do* care, because the chairs were duly removed from the room, plastic baby floor mats taken up, and the carpet vacuumed.  Okay, so, at least one baby mat is still pretty gross and needs to be properly washed, but that will have to be another day.  It’s too much work to try to scrub in the kitchen sink because I can only do a tiny section at a time, and then where to set it to dry?  Not my favorite task.  But unfortunately, one that could usefully be done about, oh, every 3 hours.  At least if I cared enough.  Which I don’t.

My parents are coming to visit in a few weeks.  Which means that my two halves are warring.  One half wants the house beautiful, organized, and sparklingly clean.  The other half just doesn’t feel like doing the work and would rather research curriculum books and DVDs to work on homeschooling with my toddler.  The two halves take turns running my day.  Today the lazy half took the kids to the shoestore to buy Josie new shoes (up to toddler size 4 already!) and to the park.  The industrious half handled aforementioned carpet vacuuming, laundry, and dishes.  And that’s about all I got done today.  The problem is that industrious half needs more than a few hours to get ahead of the chores that *have* to be done in order to actually get the house looking better.  It’s a bit like swimming upstream.  It doesn’t help, though, that any cleaning I do now will be undone before the parents come anyway.  I tell myself that the best thing to do is organizing-type activities, because those, once done, might actually stay done, and will make the cleaning stuff that I need to do in that last week easier.  We’ll see.  Too bad the kids aren’t old enough to really get them to productively help!

I made a friend today, at least, which was great.  I’ll call her Kristen, and her daughter Eve.  Her daughter is 21 months, so right smack in the middle of my girls (32 months and 10 months), which is sort of funny.  Very cute little pigtailed toddler who reminds me a great deal of my cousin Jen when she was small.  They’re away this weekend, but Kristen is going to call me next week and maybe we’ll get the girls together.  I’m so excited… a potential friend!  She’s a Christian and everything (we were discussing looking at churches–she’s new to the area as well–and baby names from the Bible).  I really hope we manage to get together next week.  Maybe Eve would like to come play in Beth’s kitchen.  At the park, Beth hit it off really well with Eve, taking her hand and leading her around the park, showing her her favorite things, etc.  So I hope that continues.  Josie also enjoys Eve because Eve is smaller and a bit gentler than Beth, and Josie sort of sees her as a fellow baby.  Fun.

Going to try to get some writing done tonight.  Still have a lot of work left, even though brainstorming is going well.

Housewife (or Housepenguin?)

I think the hardest part of staying at home, even more than staying motivated, is being “on” all the time.  At work, lunchtime was my sacred quiet time.  I didn’t like to socialize during lunch.  I took myself off somewhere quiet to read in peace.  When I was on the desk I loved chatting with the other librarians, but I needed quiet downtime to myself.  Now, as a stay-at-home mom, I find the downtime sorely lacking.  Oh, sure, I can read during breakfast and even lunch.  But that’s reading that is punctuated with, “Hey, Mom, I have a question!” (Beth’s favorite way of trying to grab my attention) or “I have a present for you, Mommy!” or even “May I be excused, please?”  I would say that I don’t go for more than about five minutes at a time, all day, without dialogue with little Beth.  The exception is her “quiet time,” which has replaced naptime in the afternoons.  But even that requires me traipsing up the stairs every half hour or so to tell her to lower the noise level before she wakes her sister up, or to help with “wipies” (she’s gotten surprisingly good at going to the potty, but still needs help at the cleanup level occasionally).   All day, every day, having the most inane conversations imaginable.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I *love* how much and how well she’s talking.  I marvel sometimes at the contrast between now and last year, when she was saying only two-word sentences and maybe thirty words total, and now.  She can have complex conversations, and I can truly explain things to her (although sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what she understands).  She’s definitely still at that stage where other people don’t understand all of what she says (at a guess I’d say they understand about 50%), but I understand pretty much everything just because I spend so much time with her.  There are many times when she says something and I just can’t help but marvel at how well she speaks, and I can see the little kid emerging from her.

But!  Toddlers are definitely a lot of work to parent.  And it’s so much harder being in a new place without family or friends.  I’m trying to reach out socially and find some friends, both for myself and for her (preferably mothers who have kids her age, two birds with one stone!), but it’s hard work.  I joined a playgroup association online and have been in touch with two mothers with kids Josie’s age, which is great and gives me the chance to meet other mothers, but, seriously, 10-month-olds?  Do not need really interesting social lives.  Parents, siblings, toys, an occasional glimpse of another baby at the mall, that pretty much fulfills them.  But my two-year-old craves friendship and latches on to every little girl at the park or the McDonald’s play area, *she’s* the one I’m trying to find friends for.  So the playgroup association is failing me in that regard.  I’m hoping for good things now that it’s September and they’re starting their “school year” schedule.  Now maybe once moms have their old kids in school, they’ll want to do playgroups for their little ones.  I can hope.

I’ve also joined the moms group at the church.  It doesn’t start until the 16th, so after it starts I’ll post about how that went.  But it should give me the chance to meet other moms and Beth the chance to play with other little kids, who should be largely around her age, since older siblings will be in school.   With luck, I’ll hit it off with a few who have like-aged kids and we can arrange playdates.  Oh, I hope!  I’m definitely lonely at the moment, only having made one local friend (from the playgroup, a woman with a son Josie’s age).

I don’t mean this post to sound depressing, or to sound like I am, because I’m really not.  I’m not a huge extrovert, so while I can describe myself as “lonely,” that doesn’t mean that I’m dwelling on it or anything.  I have a whole house to organize–which has got me rather overwhelmed, but I’m working on that–and kids to care for, great new books to read, a computer game to play, a blog to update, and a novel to write.  So there’s a lot to do and I’m generally feeling pretty good about the move.  I’m just hoping to get moving on the social scene and *not* isolate myself, and I know that getting busy on that front right away while I have the “hi, I’m new” thing going for me is the best way to go.  So, wish me luck!