Wednesday, June 29

Don't Blog With Your Mouth Full

Sometimes when I sit down to blog, it flows - it moves like cream swirls in coffee. (Which, to me, is a beautiful, beautiful thing.) It's good. Sometimes, however, it's like trying to communicate with an angry toddler. The words are there, but the meaning comes across only after great analysis. There's no flow, but more of a sobbing, hiccough-y blech.

I think I have figured out the problem, at least the problem for me. I've been trying to blog too early in the evening. The boys are in their room, listening to Zorak spin gypsy tales, and I've just switched out laundry, tidied the kitchen, read up on tractors and am sucking down coffee, still chewing on my day. You can't talk with your mouth full. You can't really share the highlights of the meal while you're still gnawing on the bone.

But lately, that's exactly what I've been doing. In an effort to get to the computer before Zorak gets sucked into the abyss that is steel buildings online, I hop on and start talking with my mouth full, spewing chunks of day all over the monitor.

But now, it's quiet. Zorak is in the garage, not looming over my shoulder asking me to look up concrete specs. The boys have been blissfully quiet for a couple of hours, and I have had a chance to digest a little of our day. It was far better than it sounded right after supper. Come with me, if you will, for an after dinner highlight:

Smidge's deep and abiding belief that the library book must go outside with him came from his newfound love of books. He hasn't been without one since we returned home. It's not just to eat the pages, or throw, or thwap people on the head, but to touch, talk to, and turn the pages one at a time, pointing out the interesting things that we who can read no longer notice. Couple that with his need to be in close proximity to his brothers - who were both outside - and that was one heckuva frustrating situation for the little guy. I'm still not letting the book outside, but a little perspective does help.

Today I pulled off one of my wifely fantasies: I had supper ready to serve within five minutes after Zorak came home. This isn't one of his fantasies. He's just happy to know I actually hit the planning stage before he got home. But today, I needed to do my job right. He called a little after one to say he finally had a break and was coming home for lunch. He called again, three hours later, to let me know his boss had asked him to go to a meeting and he'd been in that all afternoon. He said he was going to work for another half hour and then head home. He came home two hours later. I figured he would be ravenous, so I had goulash and tortillas ready to go, a beer chilled in ice, fresh coffee, and the a/c cranked. Today couldn't have been easy on him, but I figured coming home should be. That felt good all the way around. Someday I'll get the hang of this job. I'm thankful he puts up with my steep learning curve and splotchy performance in the meantime! :-)

Those pastel minty sugar things that make your mouth hurt if you eat too many:
The intuitive reader award goes to Hornblower and Jo, as a tie, for spotting the age-old symptom of which I've been suffering. We wanted to wait until after the wedding, and the trip, but yes, we're expecting WeeOne#4! And I can't tell you how difficult it was to blog about the past few weeks without blurting that out to everyone! "I'm not lazy, I'm pregnant! I'm not anemic - I'm making blood!" So there you have it, the reason I've been sleeping in the laundry piles lately.

Anyhow, I'm off to try that Yahoo album invite thing again and edit more pictures. Y'all have a GREAT Thursday (I cannot believe it's Thursday already! This is just wrong, wrong, wrong, but boy am I glad we homeschool year round!)

Kiss those babies!

So this is summer?

Wow. It's quite hot. And a little sticky. So it is officially hot 'n sticky. That's "summer", in the language of my people. Thankfully though, I was wide awake as we drove through Arkansas, where it was so muggy there was condensation on the inside and the outside of the windshield. It was unbearable even at midnight, and I can say that Alabama has nothing on Arkansas for humidity! Talk about small blessings.

I talked with my friend, Michelle, today and she filled me in on all the fires in Arizona. I hope and pray y'all get some rain (without lightning!) soon! If you're the praying type, please keep those smoke jumpers in your prayers. They work so hard, in such adverse conditions. It's really scary.

And, as if I needed further proof that summer is certainly here, my children checked out today. Mentally, that is. They were nowhere to be found. We tried to muddle through lessons, but in the end we settled on reading aloud and building things.

James spaced the difference between area and perimeter, and even the "P =" part on the answer line didn't ring any bells for him.

John could not identify a single letter of the alphabet. Not one. Or at least he wouldn't admit it.

And Smidge decided that, yes, actually, he DID have to take a library book outside today. I'm not one to deny a child a book, but library books at our house don't get outside unless under controlled circumstances. Smidge begged (well, screamed) to differ.

I am hoping today was some sort of child-oriented joke, because if we have to go back to square one right now, I might cry. Fortunately, the older two didn't seem to be bothered by this mild setback and had a splendid day together. I dropped a dollar into Smidge's therapy/college jar and called it a day. It may honestly have been nothing more than a day for re-calibration after all the travels and adventures of the past week. That's why I didn't push it, or send them in for shock therapy. When in doubt about what's causing a mental vacancy, Zorak and I opt to err on the side of snuggly. So far, that seems to work out well.

I will post more pictures. Right now I'm having trouble getting the Yahoo "share your album" feature to work. It'll let me get to the last page and then it gives me an error message that I just can't get around. So, if you're waiting for a link, don't give up - it'll be there soon!

Oh, and I have a Smidge climbing on my lap. Better go.
Kiss those babies!

Big John

Anybody remember that song? "Big John. Big Johhhhhn. Big Bad John." We used to sing that to John when he was a baby and James, who was about two at the time, would get so mad and cry, "He's not bad! He's my brother!" So we changed it to "great big John". That made James happier, and John still laughed every time we sang to him. He's sure grown and changed a lot since then. Since we've done the Smidge-A-Palooza, we thought a montage for John's birthday would be fun (sing Big John while you scroll for the true montage feel) Our digital capabilities only began in '02, so here is one of him from shortly after his birthday that year.

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And here, three years later, is our Big John, enjoying his bowling prowess...

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... who'd have thought a bowling pin would elicit such a response?

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Here's a picture from our stop over with Amy (I haven't had a chance to email her pics yet and ask about posting pictures of her children, so out of deference I edited this shot- it was a very sweet scene, though).

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And a couple of cute pictures from the wedding dance. This boy is going to fit right in at Corona Days! The mother of the little girl in the first picture asked not to have her daughter's picture on the net, so I cropped this one. She's a little cousin, and these two danced for most of the evening. They had a great time.

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This one is John dancing with T, another cousin. Who knew he could cut a rug like that? She is so good to him, and such fun to be around.

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And just for fun, I saw this profile and thought, "Oh, this needs to be in black and white!" Wouldn't this shot make a great Wrangler ad?

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Notice the boots. He picked them out himself, and if they're any indication of this boy's approach to life, we are in trouble! If you're familiar with the mojo of boots, you'll understand when I point out that the child picked out greentops with tan toes and an easy working heel. *sigh* Zorak couldn't stop grinning as we left the Justin outlet. Them're some good-lookin' boots, there, boy!

So there we are, almost up to date! But it's late, and so more will have to wait for tomorrow.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, June 28

Home Again, Home Again

Wow, well I know I was going to blog again on Saturday, but the internet access subscription ended at noon (it's $10 to have in-room access) and we didn't get back from our in-town excursion until the afternoon. I'd planned to go ahead and subscribe for another day's worth, but then we had lunch... HOLY COW! Here's what we had:

John: a bare hamburger patty
James: 4 oz of trout on a bed of rice
Smidge: side order of french fries
Me: a CUP (not a bowl, a CUP) of tortilla soup
Zorak: Indian Fry Bread topped with beans, rice and avocado
Drinks all 'round: WATER

Grand Total: $60!!

Yikes! We'd have gone into town to eat, but the boys needed a nap before the wedding and they needed to eat, although not in that order, and we were short on time. SO, we *cough, cough* sucked it up and ate at the hotel. Oy vey. For the record, the soup was good, but you can get the same stuff at Chef Lupe's in town for about a buck fifty for a full bowl!

So the blogging had to wait until we returned home to our sweet highstream connection. I will upload photos from the wedding this afternoon, while Zorak takes the larvae to the lake for a little fishing, and will fill y'all in on the wonderful adventure.

We're on a high. It was nice all the way around. And while it was still difficult to leave the beautiful New Mexico terrain, it was more just a little bittersweet and not actually depressing this time. After all, we have our beautiful forever home to come back to. The boys even felt it, and Zorak is one Happy Daddy!

I'm going to go snuggle these little guys. They did so very well on this trip, and I want to tell them again. :-)

Kiss those babies, and we'll see you this afternoon!

Saturday, June 25

Look: Spaces! :-)

Wow, well, I was going to critique some of the amenities here at the Inn of the Mountain Gods, but what can I can? How many hotels will send an IT guy to your room at one in the morning to fix your keyboard? Now, that's service!

We made it to New Mexico, a wee bit exhausted, but safe and sound. The trip over went surprisingly well, considering we drove during the day and stayed at hotels both nights (we normally drive through the night, thus eliminating the issue of fidgety boys). They had a pretty good time tormenting one another from Alabama to Texas. Then we stopped at a Cracker Barrel and bought some nifty gadgets to occupy busy little minds (and fingers). The last thousand miles were relatively fuss-free.

We got to meet Amy (of Good Soil fame) and her two awesome children! They were kind enough to meet us at a park in the middle of Texas somewhere. Zorak did the Uber-Dad thing, running herd on Smidge while the children ran from turret to Amy and I could visit (he is so sweet about things like that!) The boys have asked repeatedly if we're going to meet them on the way home.

From there, it was a hot and dusty day's travel to Las Cruces, where we stopped in to visit the family. I can't tell you how refreshing it was, or how much fun the boys had running amok with their cousins. They treated us to the traditional Nopalito's family meal (if we have many more additions to the family, it's going to take the entire restaurant to hold all of us!) I finally finished the lap blanket for Gram, and I think she liked it. It's nothing like the beautiful things she creates, but I do hope she enjoys it.

Although we weren't ready to leave, we had a room ready and waiting for us here, so we headed up the mountain. Tomorrow we'll enjoy the pool, do a little last minute shopping and then round everyone up for the wedding come evening.The weather shoul be beautiful, and the boys can't wait to wear their new boots and cowboy hats!

On that note, I'm typing this from a little remote thing in my lap and I can't see a thing on the screen. Please excuse any typos or sentences that don't make sense. The format/display is a bit different, so this is like typing with only half a screen. However, I did want to pop in and let y'all know we didn't slip into the Rio Grande. Will blog more tomorrow, when I'm rested and fed!

Kiss those babies!



Monday, June 20

Um... something is wrong!

John wanted to talk to his Granny today (since we so callously refused to drive him to New Mexico last night), so on the way home from our outing, I gave her a ring.

She sounded AWFUL when she answered the phone. I was stunned. Her speech was slurred, and she didn't seem to recognize me. Was she drinking? No. She doesn't drink like that. She sounded like my mom when the hospital upped her morphine doses, but I know she doesn't take medication like that...

"Hi, ______?" I asked.

"Ooo, Boff."

(Boff? What?)

"This is Dy. Is this _____?"

"Boff. Bum nod elink oo well ooday." She mumbled.

What?! Then my translator miraculously kicked in. She'd said, "Yes. I'm not feeling too well today,"

Huh. This is awkward. I'm thinking maybe in the future I'll just let Zorak call her. But, hey, I was already on the phone and she has call waiting, so it's not like I can just hang up and pretend that wasn't me.

"Hi _____, this is Dy! John wanted to talk to his Granny, so I thought we'd give you a call."
"Oh, I'm not feeling well today. I had another one of those attacks yesterday."

Alright, this is going from weird to worrisome.

"Attacks? What attacks?"

"Heart attacks."

"HEART attacks?! What? When did you start having heart attacks!?"

She's starting to get impatient with me, so she yells, "YES, heart attacks. Just like I've been having the past few months!"

What in the world?!?!?! I'm thinkin' Zorak's brother is SOOOOO in deep trouble for not mentioning that anything at all is wrong. And I'm really worried. When did she start having heart problems at all, let alone full-out heart attacks?

"And then I had another one of them things yesterday."

OK, whoa. There has to be something I'm not catching. Granny doesn't use dialect like that.

"This is _____ _____, isn't it?"

Suddenly, she can't understand a word I say. "What? I'm not feeling well."

"I am trying to reach ______'s home, and I have a suspicion I have the wrong number..."

"Well, I talked to my doctor, but I'm not going to the hospital. I won't do it."

"Yes. Well. Of course." (Awkward pause.) "Ma'am, I am very sorry to have disturbed you, but I'm trying to reach my mother-in-law, and I have the wrong number. I apologize."

Suddenly, her speech cleared up and she sounded just fine.

BUT, it wasn't my mother-in-law. And yes, it was a wrong number. I said my good-byes and hung up, breathing a huge sigh of relief.

And that's when I noticed Zorak, eyeballing me furiously while trying to navigate the Interstate, veins popping from his neck, eyebrows not only touching but actually overlapping. His head seemed to be leaning much farther from his body than physically possible.

And I looked back at him with that, "What? What are you doing?" expression... then it hit me - he'd only heard half that conversation. If I thought it was weird on my end, I can only imagine what ran through his mind! He didn't hear the last few bits about being a wrong number. Oops.

In the end, we did get through to Granny. She is fine. She got a chuckle out of the story, talked with John, and can't wait to see the boys soon.

*whew* And then I put her number in my speed dial, just to be on the safe side.

Will fill you in on John's adventures tomorrow. For now, however, I am one tired Mama.

Kiss those babies!

Happy Mantis Day, Zorak!

I hope today was a beautiful day for all of you. It was, here. Zorak, Wonder Dad to three little mini-mantii (mantisses? mantae?) had an adventurous day with his little ones.

It started slow. He got up, then meandered back to bed. He's fighting off whatever we had, so we skipped church and let him sleep in. The boys made cards, played frisbee, snacked and hung out.

Around lunch time, they couldn't wait any longer. In they crept, to serenade him with coffee and song. When that didn't quite wake him up, they pounced (what kind of a holiday would it be without the pouncing?)

We made brunch, planned the day, and everyone was off. The boys helped Zorak work on the motorcycle. The neat part is that they actually helped. Not "helped", as in the way Smidge "helps" unload the dishwasher (bowls, cups, plates, and silverware all go into the silverware drawer), but they made good hands today. That feels good for a daddy, and for his boys. Zorak guided and they did most of the actual work of taking things on and off, comparing parts against the photos in the manual and had a blast figuring out what was wrong. They all worked together to change the oil, clean the plugs... beyond that my knowledge is fuzzy, but everyone agreed it was a great time. Once in a while, one of them would come running back to the house on an urgent errand, looking so very responsible and so very "big". The mama would help as needed, but she mostly just stood by and smiled from her heart to her eyebrows.

The evening called for a fishing trip. I went to the market, then came back to the house to prepare supper for the Expedition Crew. I guess it was quite the adventure. John caught a turtle. James caught the only fish big enough to keep. Smidge did not fall in the lake. That's a successful outing! Zorak usually props his pole while he helps the boys release a small fish or untangle the line from the tree tops. In ten years, he's never lost his pole, but today he lost it, and how! A catfish snagged that thing and *bloop*, in it went. I wish I'd taped John retelling the story, as he saw it wriggle loose and go in. The wonder in his voice was incredible. He tried to save the pole, but to no avail, and I guess he was pretty heartbroken for Zorak. (It's sad to lose your pole when you're four.) But Zorak has such a wonderful way of conveying his "it's all going to be okay" philosophy; John's sadness was soon replaced with the rather exciting knowledge that he has a really good "Daddy Story" to tell his children someday. As a matter of fact, when he came flying in the door, that was the main headline, rather than the turtle catching adventure.

Time and again, I am overcome with this pervasive sense of comfort when I stop and look around me. I know today was Zorak's special day, but it was beautiful for me and for the boys, each in different ways, but every way just as meaningful for all of us. Granted, every day should be a day we lift our families up and praise them, savor them, and cherish them; it's nice, though, to take advantage of these little mini-holidays amidst the daily things to stop and remember how much we cherish, savor, and adore them.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, June 18

Getting Out Again

After having been pretty much homebound and sick as a dog for the past two weeks, today was refreshing for all of us. The boys scampered and skittered. They felt good and had a great time. Zorak seems to exude a very "happy place" sentiment lately, too, which only helped to brighten today's outing. I was just very, very happy. And it's not hot down in the caverns, which was lovely.

Cathedral Caverns is amazing! If anyone comes to visit us, they must be wholly prepared to be dragged down there. Period. It's exquisite, in so many ways. Visitors only go about 3500+ feet into the caverns, although it's an amazing trek that takes about an hour and a half. You must have a guide in order to enter, but after taking you through the high points, he leaves you on your own to meander back through the maze of limestone and absorb some of what you've witnessed. The path is wide enough for wheelchairs, strollers, and those who just don't want to get too close to the edge. The best part: we're only half an hour away!

I would show you pictures, but we discovered a different feature on our camera: it has no internal memory. I'd popped out the XD card to download pictures to the computer so we could have a clean card on our trip, then either got busy tying shoes or loading stuff in the car. Whatever happened, I spaced the card and left it in the printer. :-( But I can say with all certainty that we'll go back many times. Like a great museum or a truly good book, I think you almost have to go back time and again to soak it all in.

We drove past a few more parcels of land, one of which needs further investigation, then stopped at the Western Sizzlin for supper before heading home. Good call! Two out of three were out cold before we hit the Madison county line. James swiftly readied himself for bed and the three of us spent half an hour snuggled up, chatting. He is such a neat child, wow. Now Zorak and James are off to dreamland and I am contemplating whether I would rather sleep or read a bit more... and wondering if there's any way to do both. (Decisions, decisions!)

Oh! I read two great books this past week: The Parsifal Mosaic by Robert Ludlum (author of The Bourne Identity), and The Devil in the White City (a true telling of the man behind the 1893 World's Fair, Daniel Burnham, and the parallel life of a psychopathic killer on the loose in Chicago during that time, H.H. Holmes). Both were good reads, although each for very different reasons.

Tomorrow is Father's Day (like y'all didn't realize that, I know, but it crept up on me this year). I'm at a bit of a loss. I'd planned to treat Zorak to an afternoon of fishing with the boys, but tonight he said he needs to spend time with the mistress after church. I guess she got a little difficult last week. So now I'm not sure what we'll do tomorrow. If I can get up and get the boys up in time, perhaps we can make cards in the morning. I hate that we didn't get this taken care of before. It's been such an overwhelming week, and I haven't even made plans for John's birthday on Monday, either. Thankfully, Zorak knows that our lack of organization in no way reflects the depth of our love and appreciation for him. I'm glad for that. (And I've got 48 hours to get prepped for John!)

Anyhow, I think I've decided that if I fall asleep reading in bed, that counts for both. The strongest need will win, and that can't be bad, right? And so, to bed. G'nite!

Kiss those babies!

Friday, June 17

Wowsa! It's the weekend! I'm legal, we're healthy, what are you doing?

For many people, this means two days of playing and relaxing, mowing the lawn and catching up on laundry.

For the boys, this means bed sores from sitting in their carseats for 48 hours straight, and some kind of fungal issue from wearing spilled Bug Juice for most of those hours.

And yet, Zorak is home, so they don't really mind. *he he* Childhood truly is a magical age...

I feel terrible for them, though, with every weekend offering such a wide variety of nothingness. So we decided that tomorrow we'd explore Cathedral Caverns - er, *ahem*, after we look at one more property. It's just down the road from the Caverns... Think they'll mutiny?


I officially have an Alabama driver's license! I'm official. I'm sittin' pretty. I'm also... somewhat stunned, and y'all are gonna get a kick out of this! The name on my Social Security card does not, oh, how to put this delicately? It does not match my driver's license name. Or the name by which the US Postal Service finds me. Or even Costco. I do have a letter from the SS Office - dated March of 2001 - stating that I should have a matching card in two or three weeks and have a nice day! BUT, no card. And they accepted that letter as back-up to my mismatching identification, never questioning why I don't have the promised matching card to go with the letter.

And do ya seriously think I'm going to complain or point out this little incongruity on DMV premises? *snort* I have a license. They can't stop me, now. But seriously, who would you think more likely to engage in civil disobedience (I mean, terrorism is out, but a little civil disobedience isn't always a bad thing): me, or the Smidge? Hee hee. Yeah, me, too.

Sadly, I lied about rounded-off my weight. It's a seasonal thing, so let's just go with the yearly mean, right? And I was seriously tempted to cross just one eye for the actual photo. But I didn't. And I even told the truth about my hair color, although I think she corrected that, thinking I wasn't clear on the abbreviations. Heck, I ought to go check - she might have corrected the weight, too!

I could not, however, get Alabama tags. Evidenly, Maryland registered the 'Burban to Zorak AND I - while the absence of any symbol, direct or derivative of, indicating "and" (as well as the affirmation of the clerk who did the registering) led us to believe it was registered to Zorak OR I (OR, which is what we requested, specifically because nobody with three children intentionally takes all available adults into the DMV, don't ya know!) So no go. Four plus hours of waiting in line, hungry enough to hit up the four year old next to me for just one bite of her shiny strawberry-scented lip gloss (which she refused to share!), plus a frenzied Herbie The Love Bug-type driving course around town to find an ATM, get cash, and return before they closed the window booth... and I was dead in the water at 4:35. Ah, well, there's always tomorrow, if the satellite thing is open. And if not, there's always Monday. Or Tuesday. Can't go beyond that, though. Nope. I want my partial refund from the thorough fiscal pillaging the State of Maryland committed on us with their vehicle registration fees.

Yeah *he he* But do ya wanna see my new license? ;-)


Thanks for the prayers. This nasty ick just won't let go. Smidge is a thousand times better today. John crashed around eleven and slept until three. Hmm, I think he was just a wee bit beat? He seems better, too. And even I, the queen of wussdom, am feeling significantly more human today. It helped to get out. It helped to be productive. It helped to know people were praying. Thanks. :-)

And now, I need to get off the computer so Zorak can do more Zoraky things that I'm way too tired to understand. I'm going to go read The Golden Ocean (this is O'Brian's first sea-based novel! I'm psyched!) and see if can barter for a foot rub (is that better, Patty? *big grin*)

Y'all have a great weekend - what are you up to this weekend?
And kiss those babies!

Thursday, June 16

AllllllllRIGHTY, then

OK. We're up. We're about. We're up 'n about. We probably shoulda bought stock in Puffs Plus. That is some magic stuff - just don't grab one to wipe the lens of your glasses. The magic doesn't come off so easily.

I have to give a big, hearty, healthy {{THANK YOU}} to Melissa for letting me talk her ear off this morning. She also shared all her wonderful children and hubby stories and helped raise me from this tremendously overwhelming funk. For that, I am indebited. Deeply. Humorously. Truly. Thank you!

Aside from the heat and the exhaustion (I've said it before, it's not going away, I am a weather wimp!), things are cruising along. In circles. We are in the general vicinity of the goal, but the goal itself it's clearly defined yet, so picture the Suburban whizzing around and around on one of those horrible round-about intersections, unable to take an exit and start getting somewhere because we don't know which exit to take. While we aren't getting anywhere, we are singin' plenty of obscure songs along the way and stopping for coffee when necessary. At this point, I figure we'll gather so much force that the centrifugal force is going to fling us off an exit pretty soon, and the path will be chosen for us, compliments of the Laws of Physics. So, that overwhelming fear has been settled. *whew*

Zorak and I aren't what you'd call "long distance runners". We're more, let's say, sprinters... OK, Zorak, he can sprint. I've gotta be honest with ya, folks, I'm the guy that stands under the awning and shoots the starting gun. By the time I've chambered a round and done all that counting and yelling and firing, I'm ready to hit the beer tent.

But Zorak, the Sprinter, is our motive power. He has great vision and the mind of an engineer (aka - a long distance runner). His plans spread out along the horizon and encompass the resources at our disposal. He's a cross between Frank Lloyd Wright and Jeremiah Johnson. It's amazing stuff. But it's all marathon stuff. If we could go out there and round up a crew of 12 highly-motivated (don't even have to be highly skilled, just enthusiastic will do nicely) workers, we'd have THE PAD in no time. And it would rock. It would blow your ever lovin' minds. Sadly, there are issues with funding for wages, lodging for the crew, and probably some immigration laws in there, to boot. That puts a bit of a kabosh on the marathon we need to run.

So, barring unexpected endowments from NAFTA, we have our team in place - a team of one highly emotive toddler; two highly enthusiastic, yet easily diverted small folk; the sprinter; and the bloated guy in the striped shirt. And with this team, we have to run a marathon... in 50 yard sprints.

I'm not complaining. It can be done. It won't be pretty. It should be fairly humorous, and once we get started, there will be blog grist galore. Look forward to some deeply self-depricating belly laughs from this blog in the months (or years) to come.

What's had me by the throat is knowing our genetic propensities, our heritage, our legacy with regard to momentum and project completion... this knowledge scares the living snot out of me. Do you remember the sheer elation (no exaggeration) I felt when we actually repaired the Suburban door handle the correct way - with the correct handle and all! Do you remember that? It was astounding. Not because we could not do it, but because it's reeeeely difficult to stay on track and get stuff done when bailing wire and duct tape will suffice.

It's not from a lack of know-how, technology, desire, or competence. We have all of those in abundance. It's just this... momentum issue. Stamina, if you will. I'm sure attention span comes into play somewhere.

In the end, we'll get there. The Suburban gets great gas mileage, we're all in it together, and I think Zorak can rig up some kind of thingy to carry the smaller ones when we really have to hoof it. I'll bring food and water. We'll blog.

Kiss those little team members!

Wednesday, June 15

No Blog For You!

I am still sick.

I am not having a good week.

I am reeeeeeeelly grouchy at this point.

Many additional factors aren't helping, but my own rules prevent me from articulating them.



That's about it.

The boys are fine. Smidge is improving.

I have nothing else to say, but didn't want y'all to think I'd been abducted by the Randy Weaver Fan Club (although our application is in... I don't know what's taking so long), or that I'd just suddenly dropped dead from lack of oxygen. O2 sat is still relatively high.


Sunday, June 12

We're dot feelig tho well. I thidk we're thick.

I've been exhausted as of late anyway, but today I was downright narcoleptic. One minute I'm folding the wash and the next - *poof* - I'm face down in the sock pile. The last thing I remember before lunch, I was reading a book - the next thing I knew, I'd drooled all over the bit about anaphylaxis. Great. That was on the front porch. I really hope nobody walked by during that time.

At some point, I sat on the couch and that was a bad, bad idea. John curled up on the couch with me and we slipped into a blissful incoherent doze.

I slept so much today that Zorak took photos of the cute things the boys were doing so I could see them tonight. What a guy!

The boys are faring better. I don't think they've eaten a full meal all day, but they don't seem to care. They are drinking plenty of water and aren't lethargic, though, so it's not time to worry.

Zorak made little glider planes from egg cartons and the boys spent a couple of hours outside today, lost in boyish glee.

We *ahem* compared tractors and attachments. Ha. I laugh only because this, from a woman who ten years ago didn't understand why on earth anyone would want to own their own welding machine, really shows how much things can change.

I didn't put together lessons for this coming week. I didn't make it to Costco or to the library, and we definitely didn't go to church. All things we needed to get done, but not at the expense of making anyone else sick. Especially not with whatever this is.

I did try to do the Mommy Story thing tonight, but all I managed to do was make John cry - violently. I didn't expect James to ask if the dog was dead now... *sigh* SO I followed it up with a comic "The Most Horrible Dog in the World" story - a little redemption from that, but the sniffles that continued for a while anyway really made me feel bad. Stories from the imagination probably need to stay in Daddy's realm from now on.

Enjoy a beautiful week with your family and loved ones! Kiss those babies, and don't catch what we've got!


Decisions, Decisions...

We looked at a property today that captured my imagination. It's a close run against the previously mentioned property (if we could get that one without the house) - similar in size, similar in features, similar in price. There are a few things that tip the scales heavily in its favor: it has creeks on two borders, a spring, and a non-nasty pond; James didn't explode - and we walked the entire thing; it's prettier. OK, so that last one is relatively subjective and not necessarily true for Zorak. But, oh, that was fun!

I think a big part of our utter indecision is that we aren't used to having options. Seriously. We used to dream of buying a badly damaged repo in a mildly dangerous neighborhood. That was dreaming BIG, baby! Well, if not "big", at least "realistic". And we did try to ebb away from the danger-factor. Now, here we are, wondering where we want to live until we die, to leave for generations, and how we can make it produce benefits for society and for ourselves. Ooooooo. That's a titilating sensation. Evidently, titilation also takes the edge off. Hence, we sit here and oooh and ahhh and can't commit.

And at that point, my parallels begin to go awry and converge in potentially embarrassing ways...

So on to the boys!

The boys found a turtle, many tree frogs, a toad, and myriad other critters while we walked the property today. James and John concurred that this is one neat property! It's a universal fact: critters capture little boys' imaginations.

John took his homemade whip on the property walk with us, to protect me from wild animals. Unfortunately, this consisted mainly of walking directly in front of me. It was like trying to hike with a 50-pound housecat, and I nearly took a header down the mountain several times for all the weaving and sudden stops he performed. True to his word, however, we did make it back to the Suburban safe from wild animals. He's a good cat-like bodyguard.

The tick head is still stuck in James' neck, but there's no swelling or rash. He says his neck feels "completely normal". Dr. Deb said his body will either force it out or absorb it. (Ew.) So far, so good.

Amy (rightly) laughs at me for my tick-related issues and their eminence in the lifestyle we're pursuing. I know. It's goofy. But ya know, when we dreamed of having a ranch, well, first off it was always located where people had ranches, not farms. The high desert plains, where you can live for a week out there and nary a tick will you see. We've stayed in the woods, slept in the grasses, went so long without showering that the goats avoided us... and still never had so much as the threat of a tick infestation. The West is a magical place.

Actually, though, if you saw me when we pulled the first tick off Jacob back in '03 (there was a lot of shrieking and limp-wristed hand flailing on my part), and could see my tick-deadly proficiency in performing a tick check today (it makes the lice check from the school nurse seem slow and awkward), you'd be proud. I only cringe on the inside now. And when the boys do have a tick, I don't squeak aloud anymore. Daily tick checks are normal when we've been out in the boonies, as they will be when we have our farm. But... on a HOUSE DOG? Oh, for Pete's sake, get a tick collar and call it good! That thing sits on your LAP! It climbs on your BED! Ewwww. A thousand times, EW.

Zorak is sitting here, drawing plans for the live-in barn, and all I can think is, "Wow, this is my favorite grown up in the world!" I'll scan the sketches when he's done. They're neat, and he's fun to watch. He's amazing. I hope the boys inherited his ability to see and make it so. He's also funny. So not only does he inspire me, but he makes me laugh, too. Our adventures seldom go as planned, but we have such fun planning them, and then adjusting to their realities. It's been a wild ride so far, but I can't think of a better way to live this life. Yes, I think I'm going to like building a house with this man and our boys.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, June 10

Blech * Shiver * Cringe * Ack

Yesterday, Zorak, the three Terroristitos and I drove to Elkmont to see the inside of the Mystery House. Third time's a charm! I suppose, technically, the old realtor was right: no, we really don't want the house. Where she was wildly, painfully wrong was in her insistence that we'd pay for it without seeing it.

Yeah - we didn't want to buy it without knowing exactly how bad it is. It's nice to know, first hand, that the place is structurally unsound - as in, Zorak won't let us live there while we build - as in, we couldn't in good conscience allow the current tenants to live there if we owned it. It's bad. There are termite mounds IN the house. The trusses are loosely scabbed together pieces of wood just waiting for another Isabel type storm to come inland. There's no foundation under half of it. There is ONE flat-floored room; every other room veers downward from there. Most of the rooms reek of urine and mold. Both are visible in most rooms. Actually, the structure is a liability and the property would be better off without it. We might see if we can offer to buy just the land, minus the house and one acre surrounding it.

That, however, isn't the cause of the total ickiness that pervades me even today.

The tenant just got dogs. Cute little friendly puppies. Precious little things - they even convinced James that he'd sure like to have a dog. The boys sat in the kitchen (the flat room in the house) and played with the dogs while Zorak and I did recon on the rest of the place. (Hallelujah! The great cat debate has ended!) As we left, one of the precious little puppies got out. I tried to lead her back by her collar, but no luck, so I had to pick her up and carry her back into the house. I rubbed her head, then put my hands gently around her middle...


*gag* BLAAACCHHHKKKKK! I haven't a strong enough command of the english phonetic system to reproduce the noises that came from my body. Many of them may have been Yiddish in nature, though - there was a lot of phlegmy gagging type sounds.

The drive home was the longest it's ever been. We did a quick tick check before getting in, but, well, we didn't figure stripping everyone down right there in Tick Country would be very wise. For an hour, I pictured ticks leaving the boys' bodies in droves to make nests (or whatever they do - burrows, hollows, covens) in our seats. Ugh.

We did another tick check last night before bed, and all was clear. ...Or so I thought. This morning I found a teeny-tiny tick on James' neck. It looked like lint, it was so tiny and all those legs sticking out looked like fuzz. I tried to get it off, and I beheaded it. DRAT! EW! *This would be a good place to picture a Steve Martin-type physical response.* Now, every stray hair, every string from clothing, feels like a menacing tick - the one I just know I missed, creeping up my body toward my hair. *shudder*

Oh yuck. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck.


Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, June 8

Keeping the world safer, one stoopid directive at a time

The Social Security office informed us today that "due to his age" (19 mos) they cannot issue Smidge a social security card until they've verified our information. There is no mention of a policy like this on the SS card application. I did find one tucked under a Q&A page online tonight, though. On the actual application instructions, the only mention of anything similar is that if a minor over the age of 12 (or somewhere in there) applies for a first-time card, the SSA requires an interview with the child.

They cannot say how long this process will take, and they will not tell us exactly what the process entails. They did, however, print me out a nifty little ACLU-approved letter, the jist of which goes something like this:
"We aren't profiling you, but because of reasons of great national security we cannot issue you a card until we know you aren't a threat. Um, although we definitely aren't accusing you of being a threat at all. You know. We just need to, um, check and stuff. Thank you for your cooperation."

(Ok, side note- like I have other options than cooperation? Seriously, you now have my family flagged as a potential terrorist threat. I'm leery of undertipping, at this point. Like I'm going to nab the next social security number that pops up on the screen and run giggling down to the tax office brandishing our "new number"? *sigh* So weird.)

Evidently there is a rash of terrorists bringing their toddler-aged children into the country to be raised as tax write-offs and, in their off-time, indoctrinated to be threats to National Security. So scroll down to the Smidge-a-palooza pictures to get a good hard look at Our Nation's latest terrorist threat. Watch out, Secret Service, he may be well-documented, but toddlers are crafty that way...

This did not come about because I was unprepared. I had every document to trace our lineage all the way back to my great-grandfather, ready for inspection. Every name change verified. Every document an original with the little official seals on them. And every example came straight from "the list". The lady behind the desk was quiet. She checked his documents. She checked my documents. She frowned. She disappeared. She returned. I started to get a bit antsy. Finally, we dialogue.

SS lady: Why has it taken you until now to come in for this?
Me: (looking up from talking with the boys) What?
SS lady: Why have you not gotten him a social security number yet?
Me: Oh. Well, it wasn't a priority, to be truthful. He didn't need one.
SS lady: And why are you getting it now?
Me: Because we need it for taxes.
SS lady: And you didn't need it before then? You didn't need to claim him before?
Me: Um, ok, not sure you need this information, but no, we were a student family until '04. We had no money. We needed no deductions. As you can see, he was born in '03, still in what we call "The Broke Years". But we needed it for our '04 taxes, and since we didn't want a Maryland number, we waited until my husband's job moved us here.

She re-read all our documents. I'm starting to wonder if things are better in East Germany now... or what used to be East Germany, as it seems to have migrated West a wee bit. (For the record, yes, there was a really funny internal side-monologue going on, but none of it made it onto tape - and our whole conversation was taped.) She tittered (I kid you not, tittered nervously) and disappeared again. When she reappeared, she had the Monty Python version of National Security spiel and the printed letter.

So. Three hours in the Ministry of Silly Walks, er, Social Security Administration office and all I got was a lousy flag with Dept. of Homeland Security. I could've at least had a t-shirt.

I'm going to go beg Zorak for a foot rub, man. I'm tired.

Kiss those babies! ~Dy

Tuesday, June 7

Generations of Comfort

When your Perpetually Ravenous Son crawls into bed in the morning and rather than asking for food, he falls back to sleep, you sense that something's amiss. When the other two climb in with him, and they all stay there long after you're up and cooking in the kitchen, you know you're in for a day. Something's descended upon the house, and it isn't friendly.

After a day nursing three sick children, fending off the evil critter that's causing this illness (it attacked me at lunch), and trying to keep an even keel, I'm feeling particulary wistful tonight.

The boys are tucked safely, if sniffily, in bed, given "The Granny Treatment", 'nuggled and kissed. They're happy. They're not particularly healthy right now, but they are happy.

Zorak and I are sitting here, listening to Glen Campbell sing The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, which is such a beautiful song.

And in spite of a bone-weary exhaustion, I'm content and happy, myself.

Something I've pondered today, while rocking one child after another, all of various sizes and lengths, is the comfort of generations. The things that brought us comfort when we were children are often the first things we offer to comfort our own children. The things that make us smile are often the first we'll point out to make others smile. They usually came from somewhere before our parents and their parents, but have filtered down to us in soothing memories and reassurring images.

Through thousands of years, mothers have caressed fevered brows on small children, rocked them gently and spoken in soft tones as wee bodies succumbed to restful sleep. Good medicine? Not really. The wise among us, without medical degrees, have always recognized the healing power of touch, but it fades in and out of fashion among the medical world.

Intuition? Perhaps, although anecdotally I've known so many people who weren't offered those comforts, and don't have any intuitive sense to offer them to passing generations, that I doubt the intuitive nature of it.

Generations, though, may be the key. Scientists claim that having a healthy, strong, well-developed network of family helps fend off illnesses and brings about faster recovery from injuries. Elderly people tend to experience failing health more rapidly when they live separated from their families. There was a source posted on the WTM boards not too long ago citing a possible correlation between this inter-generational support system and lower rates of degenerative diseases. For all today's fast-paced, mostly-transient, uprooted lifestyles, there is comfort in generations. Comfort that goes where we go, and is at our disposal if we will open the stores and pull it out.

For us, it's Gram, Granny, Grandma, the Great-Aunts and Great-Uncles, cousins, neices and nephews. There are so many sources of comfort that we have inherited, and we are eternally indebited to the generations before us who taught and passed along the things that bring us comfort, strength and joy today.

The rocking chair we have was Gram's. She's Zorak's gram, the boys' great-grandma. Her husband bought it for her for their 25th anniversary. The boys never tire of hearing how he ordered it through the catalog and when Gram came back to the house from working, there was a rocking chair perched atop the mail boxes alongside the road. They're awed to think of that excitement, cheered to know their favorite chair was such a cherished gift when it began life in the family, and really think it's just the bestest thing in the world.

We rocked today, one after the other, and although we're thousands of miles from any family, blood or adopted, it was comforting to rock the babies in the same chair Gram rocked her babies in. It was a comfort to bring smiles with stories (even the unemployed gypsie stories come in handy in a pinch! *wink*), tender touches, and reassurring smiles. Yes, from my Mom to Zorak's Mom, and going back and back... those women were with me today, lifting my spirits, lending me words, showing me tricks and tips to soothe and heal.

Generational comfort, indeed.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, June 6

Activity Books for Summer & The Land Squall

In an attempt to free up my attention during services so that I can keep Zorak awake, I've made activity books for the boys to use during church. They aren't anything fancy, just two 8.5x11 sheets of paper, laid out in landscape orientation and folded in half to make an 8-page booklet. Each page has a different activity centered around their Sunday School themes, memory verses, and learning to follow the service. They seem to have worked, allowing the boys to be still and me to keep Zorak awake, and as a bonus, they've also been a big hit with the boys. I noticed that the boys retain the material quite well.... *click, whirrrrrr, ping!*

So, feeling a bit encouraged - as well as highly caffeinated - I kicked my mental hamster gear into overdrive (that was the ping) and started thinking about making daily activity booklets for summertime lessons. Hmmmm. Might work out nicely. Last summer, during the weeks of swim lessons, I did make a notebook for James to do his math and reading in while I was in the pool with John - it went over fairly well, but I think something a bit more pocket-sized might answer well. Last year's notebook was your standard 3-ring binder, and it was a little bulky for poolside use for the little guy.

My premise at this point is that it would be wonderfully convenient and conducive to an active summer routine, as well as maintaining a year-round schedule (and possibly building a house), without sacrificing too much in the way of progress in the core areas. (I don't ask for much, do I?)

So here's my academic concept car:

Pg 1 (Front page):
The day's memory work and writing practice.

Pg 2 (Inside cover):
Math - reviews, questions, games

Pg 3:
History stuff, tailored to fit each boy. Matching games, coloring pages, craft (would include a ziplock baggie w/ the necessary items for the craft in that day's booklet)

Pg 4:
Latin for James, since he can read it - Probably reading practice for John on this page (?)

Pg 5:
Poetry for the day, with a space to draw.

Pg 6:
Science - classifications, observations, etc. (I'm bone dry on this page, truthfully- groping for ideas.)

Pg 7:
Some random fun activity, probably tied in with what we're doing or what seems to have caught the boys' attention that that point.

Pg 8:
Word games - word search, cryptograms, whatever comes up and looks like fun.

In looking back over that, I think John could do fine with just a four-page booklet, but I'd hate to cut a history craft or a poem from it. Math and writing aren't negotiable. And, as you can see, creativity isn't my strong suit. Not to mention, this does veer terrifyingly close to the void I call Unit Studies (it's a void because of the black, formless depth that is my creativity - it's all connected here.)

Granted, this in no way replaces the time we spend reading, walking, talking, observing, and setting things on fire. Some things just can't be replaced. ;-) I'm thinking (and yes, it's purely theoretical) that the boys would get a kick out of having their own "special" activity books. I think it also will allow us to keep things fresh while we're on the go. Plus, in the 8.5x5.5 format, the booklets will fit easily into the boys backpacks with a small pack of crayons, pencils, water bottles and snacks. So, hey: less for me to carry! WOOHOO! (OK, that last bit was an unexpected bonus that hit me as I typed, but I'll take it.)

Other than that, today was just a neat little ol' day. We drove north a bit to swim with friends... but we drove through a series of what I can only describe as land-based SQUALLS. When I wasn't wishing for a rudder to steer the suburban through the waves, or waiting for dead squid to be slapped against the windshield, I was thinking, "Oh, please, PLEASE let this last long enough to bring the temperature down!" I've been hot 'n sticky for 72 hours, and was getting desperate. Desperate enough that I didn't run through the squall when I stopped to confirm our position with the local corner store - nope, I hunkered down to keep everything from blowin' away, but that cool, fast rain felt so. good. Ahhhh. I ambled. And the clerks inside probably wondered if I'd been drinkin' - but they gave me directions, anyway. Bless them.

We made it to the friends' house - the boys had disappeared upstairs before I had Smidge unbuckled - the Mom and I had a nice chat, in complete sentences, for quite a while. Then it was time to come home. A wonderful day. A wonderful start to the week. And hey, it's only Monday! That means there's more to come!

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, June 5


It seems our youngest child hasn't had equal time in front of the camera. That isn't quite true - we just haven't posted photos in a long, long time. So here, for familial and friend-like amusement (Hi Aunt B and Aunt Bonnie!), the One, the Only, SMIDGE!

We have to back up a bit at first... to, well, to the middle of April, when we decided we'd rather get weepy over his transition to a Big Boy Bed than actually have to pack both the crib and the bed...

He helped put it together...

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And boy was he surprised to see how it turned out!

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And he couldn't wait for the linens... or a pillow...

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Shortly after we arrived here, we hit the Rocket City BBQ and WhistleStop Festival. They had corn. Smidge was happy (he ate three of these):

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Then he braved the inflatable, scary, fast-paced bigger kid rides. Repeatedly. Even bigger kids shoving their way past him did not deter him in the least -

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He just got right back up and kept going, going, going...

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Evidently the view from up there was phenomenal. And the ride down, spectacular!

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He was part of the Fishing Troop on Mother's Day (seen here, riding in style down to the lake) -

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And this had me howling. The three boys sat on the wall, talking, watching, fishing. I tried to get a good picture of the three of them, but James and John were engaged in something and didn't hear me. I jokingly said, "OK, now pretend I said something funny," and Smidge busted out laughing, pointing at absolutely nothing, and slapping his leg with enthusiasm.

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He's been promoted to a supervisory capacity for holidays now. Here he is, overseeing Zorak's Birthday Bash.

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And there you have it - you're now mostly updated on Smidge's goings on and big events. He's really grown so much. He's such fun, and so filled with enjoyment for everything he can find to explore. What fun!

Kiss those babies!

Generosity of Spirit

Thank you, each of you, for sharing your experiences, thoughts, and suggestions with regard to allergies and treatment. Every little perspective check, bit of light in a cobwebby corner, is such a help. And the humor helps, too.

The boys are both currently on naturopathic drops to begin treating their allergies. The best way I could describe it today was simply, "The stuff looked and smelled like something Debra would prescribe. And it had lymph in it. So it has to be good." I know, way to be scientific and thorough, but in this arena I'm comfortable. I know the language and the terrain. The boys were thrilled to have "chicken feet" again (it's been a while since we ran out of Thymactive *shrugs sheepishly*), and are more than happy to be working on it. We dose James several times daily with locally harvested honey, and thus far he hasn't exploded again. We're proceeding cautiously, ever so cautiously.

We've spent the last two days continuing the house hunt, sans realtor. Hadn't seen hide nor hair from the ex-realtor until Friday, when she emailed us two listings that are so truly beyond our parameters that I thought they were supposed to have gone to someone else. But nope, Zorak got a copy, too. He he. What a bizarre situation. However, we've been looking and looking and looking on our own - a few listed properties and a few FSBO places. We've had the best luck and come the closest to finding "the place" with the FSBO's, but still haven't found ourselves with just the right mixture. We looked at one Friday that was truly scrumptious. Fruit and nut trees abound, shaded hollows and big ponds spread out behind a small farm house, way up atop a mountain. James had no reaction on that side of the county, either! If the structure on the property had been just a tad bit more structurally sound, or if the price had been just a little lower (so we could afford to level the existing structure and rebuild), we'd have snatched it up in a heartbeat. As it is, it's a great price and a phenomenal property. The owner is completely upfront and reasonable; it just isn't *quite* the right match for our needs and available resources. But I cannot tell you how exciting it is to have o-p-t-i-o-n-s!!! *happy dance* And, we have met some of the neatest folks on our latest excursions. Can't beat that.

Zorak and I spent the evening with the boys, watching a new Lone Ranger DVD, snuggling on the couch, and telling silly stories. Couldn't ask for a better way to spend the weekend, I suppose. Oh. No. Wait. Yes, it would have been quite handy if I'd remembered to do the laundry this morning instead of sometime around midnight, part of the way through a date-night movie with Zorak. Dinner and a movie? Nah, denims and a movie!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, June 4

Pre-reading Books

We're back into the groove of reading more regularly, both together and individually. The familiar routine is nice, although I've noticed there are changes afoot in our wee lads. It seems they've been busy maturing and growing around all this upheaval. Imagine that! *grin*

John has commandeered the dry erase board and is writing words "just for fun" now. He is looking for his own books at the library, and is fiercely proud of having his very own library card. It's such fun to watch those same milestones again, through another child's eyes. We keep thinking, "but he's just a little guy!" And he is, in many ways, but he's working his way out of it, as he should, and that's exciting.

James, too, has grown and begun to branch out more this Spring. He hit the library this week with a great deal of gusto, first picking out several books to check out and then several more - to read while we were there. (Why didn't I think of that?) I was with him when he picked two mysteries, and I *thought* I'd checked both books myself. One was a Boxcar Children book, and the other looked like a Halloween-type mystery, which seemed fun and whimsical.

... Until we got home and I saw the author's name scrawled (in huge letters - how did I miss that?) across the cover: Ray Bradbury. Uh. Hmmm. I do love Ray Bradbury's writing, and several of his books are on our "must read" list - for the Logic Stage. I flipped through my mental rolodex, trying to think if I'd heard of anything he'd written for little guys. No, came up blank. So I decided to read this one myself before handing it over to James.

Pre-reading is a practice I've followed all along, although after a few books from individual authors that show consistent content, decent grammar, and other high marks on the "is this one worth reading" checklist, I admit I've grown slack. I don't pre-read the Boxcar books anymore, or anything by Thornton Burgess or Arthur Scott Bailey. I don't pre-read most Roald Dahl, either. Not sure if that's complacency or trust, but it's been okay, and when he comes across something he isn't clear on, he has no problem asking us about it, anyway.

I'm glad I read this one first! The book is The Halloween Tree, and the story is fast-paced, filled with fantastical creatures and time travel, and an incredibly creepy man who abducts the boys to teach them about death. So, high adventure, for sure! It's also filled with content that's best discussed together, as a family, and would probably be a good read for the 10-and-up age group. It's pretty intense, touching on the larger-than-life things Bradbury loves to touch and turn over and examine with his readers. While it's not something Zorak and I are comfortable with the boys reading or hearing read now, we think they'll both enjoy it and get more out of it later - when they are better matched to the themes and context of the story.

I sometimes hear disparaging remarks about "censoring" a child's reading, and they make me smile. First, I'm the parent, it's my job to "censor" some things. Our home isn't a democracy, and thank heaven for that or we'd all be malnourished, sleep deprived, TV-junkies, since Zorak and I are outnumbered in the one man, one vote arena. But more than just that, pre-reading isn't always about what not to allow your children to read, (although as young as the boys are, that generally is a big reason for doing it now). It can be a wonderful tool to stock up future "must read" lists for when they're more mature or prepared, as well as for developing a storehouse of ideas, and keeping in touch with what's catching your child's attention. It's a good way to check the pulse of your child's literary life, not to mention the fun of being able to engage in great discussions with your children about things you've both read.

Tomorrow, though, this particular book goes on our future-reading list and then back to the library, and I begin double-checking not only titles, but authors, as well, before any book gets to follow us home from the library! I am glad it was just Ray Bradbury, though, and not the Brain Surgery for Beginners that found its way to Melissa's house! (Melissa, that still cracks me up - thank you for sharing that!)

Kiss those babies!

Friday, June 3

A quick allergy-related thinking aloud session...

Melissa asked how the allergy testing went, and I discovered there's a lot going on. In responding to her, I was able to clear some cobwebs. So I thought I would blog it here, in case it may help someone else in a similar situation. We are looking at a method of treatment called NAET (Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Treatment). It does rely heavily on Eastern traditional medical techniques, which we aren't averse to, but are also not entirely familiar with. So here are the thoughts that have coursed through my head in the last 24 hours. If anyone has any experience with NAET, I would love to hear from you!

This is one of those comfort zone things. Both boys came back allergic to almost everything they tested for. The list is HUGE. I don't know how to process it, let alone whether to believe it. Zorak looked at the results and said, "Are you sure this isn't just a random number generator?" The doc wants to do an additional battery on John to give him more options for what to eat. And, of course, she wants to do "the basic fifteen" therapies on both boys -to the tune of about $825 each.

Now, I know that sounds really, truly horrible to think that I'm going to list the price, right up there at the top of the list. It's not that I put a price tag on my children's health. It's that I don't buy brand name things just for the tag - and right now I'm not 100% certain this therapy is anything more than that. SO. I'm reading the book she recommended, and starting the legwork and research I need to do before I can comfortably say whether I think this is "great science" or "snake oil". For "great science", this is a wonderful thing and the possibilities are endless. For snake oil, I don't think Zorak would ever let me live it down. (This would be one of those stories told at Christmas parties twenty years from now... can you see it? Yup.)

One of the conflicts I need to address is the need to remember that this is just a new landscape, with new customes, and basically, a foreign language. That doesn't make it wrong, just weird. (How's that for PC? hee hee) For those whose panties bunched immediately on reading this, relax, depucker. It's weird/foreign to me. I am remembering that, rather than discounting it because of that. Big difference. They way I look at it is similar to if someone had spoken to me fifteen years ago about education and used the terms we now hold as our daily philosophy; I'd have probably given them the same, "You've been drinking again, haven't you?" look that I'm tempted to give the doctor now. Same thing with homebirth and vaccinations, yet here we are. So I'm keeping that in mind.

Also, one of the methods they use to test whether the allergen has cleared is a method I, personally, have always thought was so much smoke and mirrors. It's the kind of thing you expect from a flaky pharmacy-school drop out who works at the herb counter in the Whole Foods Market. You don't want her to touch you, let alone make a diagnosis. But here, I must admit a bit of hypocrisy, as it's been used on me... and it worked. It still creeped me out - it did at the time, and it does now. And I don't generally admit in mixed company that (a) I paid someone to it or (b) that it actually worked - because I know that for a person to do so in certain arenas is instantaneous credibility suicide. Suddenly, you're a freak, a flake, and what are ya gonna do next - hang crystals from your eyebrows to balance your chakra? Chanel the spiritworld? *pfftt* So how do you clear your prejudices, particularly when they persist in spite of your own personal proof that they're misguided? (And on another note, I'm rereading this and thinking - "Wow, forget about reputability, what about integrity?" Hmmmm. That alone is worth rethinking. Not that the family doesn't think I'm wacky enough already, but still, that envelope probably doesn't need to be pushed...)

And finally, I want to make sure that I'm not so busy bending over backwards to be understanding and willing to explore this brave new world that I check my brain at the door and end up willing to believe anything anyone will tell me as long as they promise to make my children healthy and happy and virile. (OK, just healthy and happy, but you get the point.) ACK!!! I told Zorak last night, "I didn't know I was going to have to get a degree in microbiology." He laughed and said, "To be a parent? Oh yeah, but you've passed the psychology courses and the team management reviews quite well. You'll do fine." Hmmm. Well, that's encouraging. At least he's confident I'll make the right choice.

There you have it. The disjointed thoughts of a woman with just one more thing on her plate. It's a good thing I believe in large plates and good-sized portions, eh?

Anyhow, we're off to look at more properties in the morning. I hope you all have a beautiful Friday!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, June 1

I didn't know we'd have to study for this...

So, there's a lot of legwork to do before we take the next step. I've put everything together: library books in hand, paperwork in order, snacks ready to go - check, check, check. We're set.

The boys' appointments today went fairly well. The gap between John's appointment and James' appointment wasn't long enough to go anywhere, so we played in the yard and in the lobby. The boys were wonderfully behaved through the entire ordeal. We arrived at two and left at five. I cannot complain. Even Smidge kept his Screaming Yeti act to a minimum, and when he did erupt, it was a happy, excited Yeti Scream. Still somewhat grating, but bearable with a certain benign awareness that it could be much worse.

The doctor is wonderful (it doesn't hurt that our all-time favorite family doctor taught a few of this new doc's classes in med school, I'm sure). She answered the boys' questions (the incessant, unceasing, rampant and voracious questions) with what can only be defined as a calm joy, or quiet enthusiasm. Then she glanced at me out of the corner of her eye and said, "You homeschool, don't you?" The boys answered in unison: "We sure do!" May I point out here that while we neither need nor seek out the approval of professionals toward our lifestyle choices, it is a warm fuzzy when your new doctor smiles and says, "I have quite a few patients who homeschool, and I just love that! I think it's the best way to do it." Ahhhhh, sweet comfort!

Ok, so back to the allergy testing. I am going to have to read and research and read some more. I need to take a step back and calm down. There will be extensive note-taking, and I'm afraid there will be a test at the end. However, I think we're up for it. (We'd best be up for it - it's not like there's another option!) This will take some synthesis. *whew*

Kiss those babies!

Back to Education

KathyJo had a wonderful post about Pride, Math, and the things we overlook in homeschooling. I can't recreate her wonderful thoughts as well, so go read that, and then you can finish reading here, while I go *rah-rah-rah* and cheer her on.

What I loved about KathyJo's post is that it touches on the most important (in my not so humble opinion), and most often glossed-over, aspect of teaching at a child's pace:
your child's pace isn't always going to graph on an upward curve; teaching to a child's pace includes taking the time to "hover" or "meander" to give him time to absorb and reach new levels in other developmental areas.
Plateaus are normal, and healthy, and we should take the time to hang out on them when they come - there's a lot to explore on each plateau.

A prime example from our home was the MUS "+9's". James had flown through the first few chapters of Foundations. He had the concepts. He had the facts. He could do the word problems. He made up his own word problems. We were cruisin' right along... until we hit the addition facts, +9.

He hit a *WALL*

Or rather, he hit a hurdle he wasn't ready to scale or leap yet. It wasn't a learning wall; it was a cognitive developmental leap he needed to make. At first, I panicked. "OH! I'm PUSHING HIM and this is what happens!" Then I moved on to, "He will NEVER get this!" Finally, the small bulb clicked on and I realized he wasn't cognitively ready to understand the associations MUS makes when teaching +9.

So we hovered. For four. long. months. We played with math and fiddled around with things he was ready to grasp, but our actual math curriculum sat on the shelf gathering dust and spider bits. We sang math songs, reviewed what we knew, and made more silly word problems. But we did not push that particular content. One day, in the car, a wee voice piped up and said, "Hey Mom, did you know that nine plus three is the same as ten plus two?" Eureka! The quiet synapse had fired and he was ready to pick up and move on again.

We're firm believers in hovering, and when the opportunity arises, we try not to think about what we might fall behind in, or what that would do to a beautifully filled-in lessonplan book. That isn't what homeschooling is about, is it? In the end, our children are often better served by the process of learning than they are by learning a process. Again, truly individualized education, achieving truly individualized goals, in a splendidly individualized manner lie as the foundation of home education. It's something we tout, something we love, and ironically, also something we forget from time to time.

Kiss those babies!