Sunday, July 31

Deep thoughts out of left field

I started out to answer Jo's bit about what she'd like to see more of on my blog. But it's almost three in the morning, and it morphed. It morphed in a BIG WAY, because who I am now is due to all the things that brought me here, and the mother I am now is nowhere near the mother I hope and pray to be in five or ten years. I could just spit out platitudes and hope I don't sound trite, but well, with the chores done, the coffee hot, and the house quiet, this blog entry just sort of took off.

Jo, I didn't answer your question very well, and I apologize for that. I'll get around to it, but it seems my answer is buried under a lot of junk. This is going to take a couple of entries.

She wrote:
I need you to help me figure out how I can also take so much pleasure in my children. I read your blog and I need your secrets. You seem to have unending amounts of patience and the ability to adore your children at all times. I need that. Share?

I... Uh... Hmmm.

Well, ok, I really do enjoy my children. They're the best and finest surprises I've ever received in my life. Smidge was a bit more of a shocker than the first two, but equally welcome and just as cherished. I'm not the best mother in the world. I blow it. I get overwhelmed. I have had to look my children in the eyes and apologize for making a rash or bad decision more than I care to admit. I look back daily and see things I could have done better or should have done differently. Sometimes I drive myself batty with the Monday Morning Quarterbacking. But in general, there is something to cherish in these kids every day. Life. Now, please know I don't throw that out there lightly. Life isn't something I have always cherished. It's not even something I liked at one point. To go from animosity and contempt to utter gratitude and treasured thankfulness isn't a flippant thing.

So I guess I will start there. My first thought when I read her request was that I really can't answer this. I think she has the wrong person. I do NOT have unending amounts of patience. I don't. I'm not even really a very gracious, forgiving, or lenient person. It's been a long, long road of learning these things, and I'm still painfully new at it. I didn't know them growing up. I most certainly didn't learn them in my first marriage. And I can (use your best Justin Wilson voice here) gaaaaaraauuuunteeee I didn't pick any of those traits up during my newly-divorced-recovery period. That leaves me with only about ten years of experience in learning about the good things in life.

It's funny, because as we anticipate the addition of our fourth child to the family, we are so very excited about it. Yet in response to the news, my sister sent me an email letting me know she thinks it's a huge cosmic joke God is playing on me as "payback". She can't believe the "girl who hated being part of a family would go on to have four kids". What she doesn't understand is that not only am I not the "girl" to whom she refers (I've lived in my own home for 15 years and she has been in my home once - and that was only because Mom refused to take her diamond stash to Denny's to be divided up among us kids - this isn't a woman who knows me from Adam at all), but also that I didn't hate being part of a family. I just knew mine was pretty messed up and I wouldn't have wished it on anyone, let alone brought a life into it.

And I didn't want children then. Not because I didn't want a home and a family. I actually yearned for those things with all my heart, but dared not even hope to have them because I was terrified I would be a really, really bad mother. I didn't believe I could be a nice person. I wasn't a forgiving person. I wasn't the kind of person you would describe as "nurturing" or "gentle" even in your most generous of moments. And I knew it, and that terrified me.

But then, by the grace of God, and I mean that literally, things began to change in big ways that I, a) did not welcome, b) did not know how to handle, c) had to handle anyway. The changes are still coming (at least I hope so - I have a long way to go!), but they were jump started by a series of crisis/lesson combos that crystallized any positive change in me to the mother of today from the black-and-white, bitter, angry woman I was. (I'm not saying you are, just that I was, in a big way.)

When I realized Zorak trusted me to be the mother to his children, it was huge. HUGE. Me. With all my faults and flaws and quirks. My temper. My gypsy instability. My stubbornness. My cynicism.

Trust is an amazing, healing, powerful sensation. It makes the recipient want to be worthy of that trust. It's similar to the urging of the Holy Spirit - once we grasp that He trusts us to follow Him, it's easier to let go and do just that. Because suddenly you know someone actually thinks you can do it, and do it beautifully. So you want to. God used Zorak to help me look beyond the walls I'd erected to protect myself and see the potential God had for me. I still didn't think I could do it, but He did. And I don't have to do it perfectly - none of us can, and He knows that, too. It's pretty amazing. And what's more amazing is that for the first time in my life I began to realize I didn't have to do it "all by myself", which I'd always thought was a given. (Duh!) I have my faith to lean on spiritually, and my husband to lean on physically, and all the wonderful people who have come into my life to guide me, chastise me, help me, trust me, and even, when necessary, mock me. Life is GOOD!

So for me, on a daily basis, I am really aware that I don't deserve this. That sensation most people joke about, "who thought we could be parents?" Well, for me that's still a funny joke, but it's not entirely a joke. It's huge. God has trusted me with a husband, and they have both trusted me to be "the Mommy". I get choked up just thinking about what an honor that is.

When I wake up in the morning to toes poking my abdomen and somebody laying on my hair, and a warm, groggy boy asking for food, I want to wrap my arms around them all and just stay. right. there. Forever. But they just keep getting hungrier if you don't feed them, so we get up and get going on our day.

Not before I've had my reminder, though, that someone trusts me to do right by these amazing little lives. Someone trusts me to keep them safe, to make them know they are precious, and to guide them in their growing. It's like God's little post-it note for me. You know, in case I forget.

Seriously, kiss those babies! They're huge, and they need us.
I'll write more tomorrow. I'm never going to stay away during church as it is, but maybe I can get a little rest so I can make it through Sunday School.

Saturday, July 30

Good Saturday Morning!

Today is a day without endless phone calls or negotiations. I am excited about it. We might take the kids to Southern Adventures (I have to check on today's expected high, first!) Or we might go swimming. Whatever we do, it'll be together, as a family, and I'm excited about that.

We have pulled money from stray body parts. We have stood on our heads to get different angles. We thought, for a second, that we'd found an option that might work, but then it came back with an exorbitant interest rate (there is value in doing "outside-the-box properties", as he said, and ours is outside the box, but we couldn't afford his value-added benefits!) Laney even graciously shared her mortgage guy's name, and we talked with him. He can do mortgages here, but not farm properties. However, if anyone needs a loan up in the NE, check that guy out. He got on the horn and got back to me and was very nice about the whole thing! No wonder she likes him. So today we drop off one last Hail Mary package and then there is nothing to be done until next week. I'm glad. My hair hurts.

Costco has clementines!!! WOOHOO! Those are the only oranges we've ever found that are consistently sweet and juicy. They don't go bad, and since they come in a box, there's no stress for me trying to figure out just by osmosis which ones are going to be good. (I'm really bad at picking out good citrus.) So that's what we're having for breakfast. *contented sigh* I love Costco.

I'm not, however, eager to tackle the laundry. If another loan avenue came about that might pan out, I'd drop the wash in a heartbeat and get back on the phone. So, I guess it certainly could be worse, eh? *grin*

What are you guys doing this weekend? I wanna hear about YOU!

Kiss those babies!

Friday, July 29

Friday's Update

I am not sure what part of "Can you do loans in Alabama?" translates to, "We're in Lincoln County, Tennessee," but evidently I have a scrambler in my larynx that causes this confusion. Probably ought to have a doctor look at that.

So, this leaves us with the best bet so far now unable to help us. He directed us to another guy we talked to previously, who this guy says "can" do the same thing (although it's interesting that he didn't mention that in our conversations... would've been handy).

Zorak has been talking to a lady in Birmingham who he is excited about. I talked to her briefly and realized that while I still talk too fast for the local folks, I have definitely slowed down a bit and three minutes on the phone with this woman were enough for me to happily let Zorak handle that one. Ugh. How strange.

On the plus side, I did find a termite and bug place that I love. These folks were wonderful and didn't insist on wrangling a trip to the site before giving me any information at all about their process or products. What a relief!

OK, I'm off to recalibrate, eat some lunch, and dive back in.

This will be ok. This will be ok. This will be ok. It would also be nice if it didn't kill me in the process, but this will be ok.

I cannot get sick.

I refuse.

Yet, it's one-thirty and I'm up. I can't get comfortable enough to sleep.

I've been laid up on the couch, puking, moaning and shivering since shortly after my last phone call of the day. This feels like the flu, but with some kind of beating on top of it.

Zorak brought me a crackers and water, made me a "sick jug", rubbed my aching legs and feet, and made fun of me.

I've been on the phone so much today, trying to find someone to do this, that I have run down the batteries on both cell phones and our land phone. All three - dead. Both cells phones were charged, run down, fully recharged and run back down to empty. That is, my friends, a long time on the phone.

But was it worth it, you ask? I don't know. I'd like to think so. I'd like to think there is a law of averages for every "no" that brings us just that much closer to the one "yes" we need. And I am going to cling to that thought with the desperate hope Leo didn't show in Titanic. OK, I might take the dive if I was getting paid that much to do it, but still... it was the best I could come up with in my current condition.

I'm working on an upbeat post. Well, two, actually. The first one I'd like to post will probably include graphics of various people in states of ecstasy - leaping, weeping, and kissing strangers. They might be actual pictures of me, accosting total stranger with my joy over getting a loan. BUT, the back up post includes the funny things that have happened along the way. There have been smiles, there has been laughter that isn't creepy. It's all still good, even right now in the dark of the night with what feels like the result of letting an accupuncturist in the lower 2% of his class practice for finals... and I will share them with you when the fog clears.

Oh, guys, it's not the little things. Not the details. Not the laundry or the broken dishes or the planning. Those things do need attention, but not an inordinate amount of attention. Tomorrow morning, we have to hit the mortgage pavement bright 'n early, get just a little farther down the path. Then it will be out of our hands for a while, and we are going to grab those babies and love on them like they're heading off to college tomorrow. We're going to just soak up the giggles and snuggles, and even take the boundary testing with a grain of salt and a teaspoon of sugar (or perhaps an alcoholic-based tincture, but hey, it's a teaspoon). We are going to spend the day reminding ourselves why we're even attempting this project.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, July 28

Coming Clean for Donna's Sake

Ok, so Donna doesn't feel bad, I'll come clean about this, too.

We're not married. Not according to the State of New Mexico, anyway. Not according to the First Church of the Nazarene, either (I called today - the pastor didn't even record it in the church's log - thanks, Buddy!). Also checked with PAX, and they didn't make copies, so although they saw the certificate, they cannot verify that they saw it.

Funny, isn't it. For the record, I will think horrible thoughts on the first person to ask what else can happen! So just - don't say it! I don't want to know what else could happen. Just do not want to know. *shhhhhh*

Um, on the upside, we do have photographs from both the wedding and the reception. Some are a little compromising, but that's fine. Allow me to apologize to all of the groomsmen in advance: sorry, guys. And, if we absolutely have to, we can lock the kids on the patio with water and beef jerkey to keep them out of the way while we open every. single. box. in storage to find our marriage certificate.*

We still feel married. That counts, doesn't it?

On the home front, the sellers have countered, but we can't reply until we hear back. Mtg. Guy 1 said at ten this morning that he'd know for sure "in fifteen minutes". It's 12:40 now... and he's stopped answering his phone. That's probably not a good sign.

I'm now offering a side of beef from our first cow to any mortgage lender who can get this through! Any takers? Any mortgage lenders out there reading inane blogs on their lunch hour? Hey, stranger things have happened!

Kiss those babies!

*of course I'm joking!*

The longest 24 hours so far

Well, as of last night at nine-thirty, the heirs still had not given the realtor an answer. She called us just to let us know she wasn't ignoring us. She'd spoken to a wife at four thirty who said they would call her after six. When she called us that evening, she'd also left two later messages with them, since they had 24 hours to reply.

However, we aren't planning to have a fit because we would sure like to find out what's going on with the financing issues. So, in its weird way, I suppose this is a good thing. This is what we might call, "Mixed blessings..." you know, in a sick, self-defeating sort of way...

But boy, this has been a long 36 24 hours!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, July 27

Why not? (House stuff)

Well, remember that I wrote yesterday that we were approved for a loan on the Forever Home? Yeah. Strike that. I mean, we're still approved. We're good-to-go. But not on that property. Or, rather, not that much property. They won't do a mortgage at X-amount for the full acreage, but might do it for the same money on a third of the acreage... I'm not sure where the hold up is or what is to be done about it. To be honest, I don't see the logic in this process and neither do any of the loan officers I've spoken with today.

My morning began with this phone call:

Mtg. Guy 2: Hi, Mrs. E. I need to get more information from you about this property. I don't know why, but it seems we can't do 84 acres. We can do 30, if the owners will gift you the remaining acreage...

Me: What?

Mtg. Guy 2: Well, it seems we just can't do a mortgage for a house with that much land on it.

Me: Not even for a farm loan?

Mtg. Guy 2: No. It's too much land. I really don't know what the problem is.

Me: Well, that's ok. I appreciate your call, but Mtg. Guy 1 at Company A said we can do it, so we'll go with them.

Mtg. Guy 2: Um, that's who told me we can't.

Me: Guy 1?!?

Mtg. Guy 2: No, some other guy, from the Birmingham office of Company A. He's in charge of what we can do, and he's the one who said that 30 acres is the best we can do on this.

Me: Um... let me call Mtg. Guy 1 and see if he knows anything about this. I'll get back with you.

The next five hours are a series of phone calls to Company A, Companies C through Q, realtor, Jess, the pastor, and Zorak. There was a half hour hyperventilation break in there somewhere.

I finally tracked Mtg. Guy 1 down somewhere in Tennessee, on his cell phone. He's baffled. He has no clue why they wouldn't do it, either. They didn't tell him it can't be done when he submitted it yesterday.

As of four thirty, Mtg. Guy 1 was going to make some phone calls and get back with me. (Still waiting on that, but the business day is over.) Mtg. Guy 2 is waiting to hear back from me what happens with this. Mtg. Guy 3 has three messages on his voice mail. Mtg. Guy 4 has two messages.

Meanwhile, the realtor is supposed to call us tonight with the reply from the heirs about our offer. WEEEEEEEE!!!

As a business decision, this is a no-brainer. Consider the following:
* The property appraises at approximately 12% over the asking loan value. So, there's equity right off the bat, just for carrying the note.
* There's no money in the loan for capital improvements; all improvements are to be paid by the buyer, cash out of our pocket (which has been verified to actually exist). Again, capital improvements with no investment by the bank. Another bonus.
* In three months, that house will appraise at approximately 2/3 more than its current value. (We believe we can double the value, but we can actually guarantee 2/3 increase from the work we will put into it.)
* our credit rating is strong
* Zorak's income more than qualifies to cover the payments. (And on a morbid note, if he dies, he's insured.)
* This is a long-term investment by people who have a 20 year plan; people who have already achieved a seven-year plan in six years. We aren't talking slackers, here.

This is a win-win business deal for the bank. So where is the bank that will take this money-maker and run with it? Anyone? Anyone?

Ugh. So I guess my job now is to find The Guy Who Makes These Decisions and talk with him. In person.

Kiss those babies, and pass the Rescue Remedy.

Tuesday, July 26

Overdue House Hunting Yarn

Have a seat, kids, and let me tell you the tale of the House Hunt of '05. It's a tale of big adjustments, bad timing, and strange characters. I'll leave it up to you to decide what's what...

Oh, nevermind. I'll just cut to the chase. Things have been cruising along and progress has been made, but truthfully, it's been at a painfully uninteresting pace. Nothing like blog entry after blog entry along the lines of,
"Saw eighteen properties tonight. Five with the headlights on high-beam, and the folks at Game and Fish may be getting suspicious. Down payment or bond money? Only time will tell. Boys slept in the car. Smidge goes longer between diaper changes on these excursions than any child we've ever seen, yet his skin is quite healthy. It must be the slime from sweat and oil that coats us daily. Still nothing that screams, 'Buy Me!'. Or at least not to both of us at the same time. Will try again Friday."

Or, increasingly as of late, they'd look like this:
Kill me now. Dear God, please just make it end.

Mostly, other than tripling the mileage on our vehicle while we stalk the county roads, it's been a lot of calling, emailing, and waiting. "Did you find the missing well yet?" That's been a common theme. And then there's the ever popular, "So are you actually going to send us a plat? Would you like us to just come get it? We can come get it. Honest."

Through all of this, though, one property has been "the one". Zorak knew it, and I knew it, but neither of us was willing to admit it just yet. Zorak, because it's a mighty big leap that will leave us with a very small parachute. He wanted to be certain he was thinking properly and not just trying to smush us all into some way for him to live out his post-apocalyptic fantasies. Me, because... because this property scares the living snot out of me. It's the property with the "not just no, but he-- no" house on it. You remember, the one that would be condemned in most third world countries as unfit for habitation? That one.

But, over the weekend, upon viewing the last six properties on the market short of moving into town, we had our epiphany. This is probably the one. It's the best bet for what we want to do. It has no chance of being annexed into any city in the next fifty years. It is less than an hour's drive for Zorak, and it already has fencing. Housing? We don' need no stinkin' housing! We got a reciprocating saw and plumber's tape, man.

We've finagled and figured (and kinda swore a little, here and there) and came to the conclusion that we could live in the apartment for a month while we rehabilitated the house to make it safe enough to put a family in. We aren't shooting for pretty yet, just safe. It's gonna be hot, and it's gonna be scary, but it can be done. And we decided we're the ones just stupid enough er, equipped to do it.

So today we finalized the loan approval and put in an offer. It was a good offer. They'd have jumped on it a month ago. Unfortunately, one of the heirs just had the property reappraised and it came in about 27K over the list price. (The DEA really needs to check up on that appraiser...) One of the heirs has now forgotten that this property has sat, idle, for a year and a half; that the house needs to be set on fire or filmed for a nature documentary on the ecosystem of insects, fungi, and wild dogs; that everyone who is involved with maintaining the property is on disability for "back problems" and nobody's taking care of it... all that heir sees now is dollar signs and he wants to raise the list price. One of the others wants to take the offer and be done with it. The third is willing to take the offer, but is being swayed by the entrepreneur of the bunch to counter. They've got until tomorrow afternoon to decide how they'll respond.

This may be the longest 24 hours of our lives. Hopefully, the real adventure will begin soon! I'll let ya know what happens.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, July 25

Well, hi there!

Zorak gave me the computer last night when he finished his stuff, but the couch had already sucked me into its vortex. There was no moving.

We did a marathon househunting run yesterday, 6 properties, all after four PM. Poor kids. It went fairly well, and we did find two potential "back-up" properties I need to call on today. However, I think we are pretty much decided to put in an offer and see what happens on one of the places we've looked at before.

This week should be interesting. Zorak voluntarily offered to "really try to communicate during this..." Oh? What brought that on, Love? "Well, you know," he said. "This is the kind of thing that really has potential. I mean, bodies disappear during projects like this. So, I want you to know I'll actually really try to communicate with you on this process."

I'm encouraged, and yet...

The boys are doing the basic three with school: math, reading/writing, Latin. (I know, that looks like four, but not the way we do it.) Then it's off to the pool each day. Lessons begin on August 2nd! WooHoo! This is as close to enjoying summer as it's gonna get, folks. Here we go!

Wish us luck, and happy thoughts! We're going to need it this week!

And always kiss those babies!

Sunday, July 24

Tigger is Dangerous, but Life is Good

At least if he's on a Zebco kids' fishing combo. Turns out they used lead paint on the ones sold from some time in 2001 until "March 2005"... um, wasn't lead paint determined to be dangerous... and not a good choice for children's products... oh, a looooong time ago? Huh. I wonder who forgot to tell the guys who got the contract for that job? Anyway, Zebco is voluntarily recalling the poles and we've joined in our first child-related recall. Not bad, considering we're on child number four in seven years, really.

It was 100'F today. I haven't had the fortitude to peek at the humidity. Let's just say, we stayed in. The boys made cards. We played with the pipes and legos. We ate chili dogs and watched a movie together. I napped on the couch with a warm, snuggly Smidge - and then Zorak napped on the floor with a warm, snuggly John (aka - the 50 pound electric blanket). It was just nice.

I have to confess, we feel like we're getting away with something here. We get so much out of watching the boys conspire to save the world, from holding those tiny (and growing) hands to say grace before a meal, from sharing jokes all around between bites, and hearing the boys ask to hear about this-or-that: how does this work, what is that for, is there such a thing as... Sitting cross-legged on the floor, piles of children everywhere, eating popcorn and taking turns telling or reading stories... Zorak and I look at one another and giggle like teenagers with inside jokes. How did we get so lucky? Not all days are full-to-the-brim with things like that, but if we take the time to look, we see that every day has at least one of those things. Most days have more than one. Then days like today are just one after another until we want to go roll in the grass like happy dogs, with that full-body wiggle that denotes utter happiness.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, July 22

The 9 o'clock news, broadcast from our porch.

Rumors are flying right now amidst allegations that the Zorak clan has found a groove. Independent sources are claiming that it's actually more of a rut, but the spokesman for the household went on record as saying, "You say to-may-to... eh, who cares?" We'll update as more information comes available.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to Melissa and Race!! Our staff is anxiously awaiting the anniversary where she posts that they've been together (or even in the same state) for more anniversaries than they have been apart. In the meantime, here's a toast to you and Race for keeping it together for fifteen years, keeping it strong, and loving one another through it! Congratulations, guys!

Somewhere in Northern Alabama, an *ahem* unidentified woman was heard to mutter into her cell phone, "Tell me this 'six' thing does not extend past the seventh birthday." The recipient's reply was drowned by the unidentified woman's wailing and the distinct sound of tearing sackcloth. We repeat, this woman has no identifying marks, is completely indistinguishable from every other mother of six year old children everywhere. Analysts without children tried to comment, but were beaten from their podiums by an angry mob of analysts with children. No charges have been filed.

Zorak has announced, "He just won't shut up!" Yes, folks, he's hit John Galt's 39-page monologue in Atlas Shrugged (page count has been confirmed by independent sources, not affiliated with any political party or persuasion). It seems Mr. Galt had a lot to say to make up for his absence in the first 98% of the story.

Mr. Incredible is quoted as saying, in response to Zorak's outburst, that he, "Could have escaped by now..."

In today's health and family, "Small Children Fry Quickly". This is not a recipe. It is a warning: don't change swim suit styles on your toddler mid-way through swim season. Thank you.

And since I just had to go and have a birthday while Zorak was gone, he bestowed me with a belated birthday gift upon his return. That's all the news worth sharing, folks. I am off to enjoy the calgonesque effects of reading with tonight's selections: Alexander Hamilton: A Biography (Forrestt McDonald) and my new birthday book, It Takes A Family (Rick Santorum).

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, July 21

That went quickly!

Hi. It's Thursday. Zorak arrived safely. The boys and I had a great week. I am officially useless after about seven, though, and it was nice to have him back today.

Yesterday we lost power yesterday and the phone line died, too. There was a cable cut somewhere down the road and I guess they caught e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g with whatever large digging implement they had on hand. We had power back within half an hour, but the phone line just never came back on. When I called, the nice Phone Guy said they should have it back up by Monday. (YIKES!) I guess, contractually, they have five days to make repairs. Weird. I gave him the "small children in the house" bit and he put me on the imaginary list that makes callers feel better. As if they could or would miraculously restore phone service to just my apartment rather than the entire complex, I know - and as if there aren't small children in all four complexes down this road, yes. I know. But you know, it does work, and "the caller" does feel better having been told they're on the "priority list". So I'm mentally frail at this point and a panacea actually works - I'm good with that.

The boys had their swim lesson tonight. I am thankful the instructor is so kind and diligent, and I'm even more thankful it's not on my shoulders anymore. Well, not solely on my shoulders. I've changed the plan for our weeks: we'll do lessons, go swim as a family, come home and hide from the hot 'n sticky afternoons. Then when Zorak comes home, I'll take one boy each evening down to the pool for some one-on-one interaction. I figure I'm not gettin' any smaller this summer, so any extra time in the bliss of less gravitational force is a bonus for me. The individual time with each of the boys will be fun. And... they really, really need it. Other than that, I'm just going to reiterate that I am. so. thankful. to have this man teach them this process. It was painful just to watch from the hallway. Ugh.

That's about all here. I had some thoughts brewing on motherhood and family the other day, but they're going to have to ferment a bit longer. I cheated and read the last chapter of Doctor Zhivago this afternoon, and now I've got to finish reading so I can find out how they got from here to there. Happy reading!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, July 18

The Flight That Wouldn't Leave!

Wow, I should probably check the news to see if Zorak has arrived at his destination. At this point, however, I have no idea what airline he was on or which hubs he went through, let alone an actual flight number! Airline people despise callers like that, so until I know he has his luggage safely in hand, I'm not calling anyone!

It was a rough one for him, and that's bad, considering he hadn't yet been given his routine "random" search the last time we spoke (oh yes, every flight, every time, always). I don't imagine the trip got much better. On the painfully Pollyanna side, though, the repeated equipment malfunctions and stray terriors chewing on landing gear (or whatever the problems were) did allow us to go back to the airport a couple hours after we dropped him off and join him for lunch. That was a nice treat. Then it was back to the relative normalcy of our lives while he continued to try to get out of Huntsville.

Once we figured he was in the clear (or would call if things changed again), we drove around, enjoying the thrill of the open road. I gave the boys squishies and corn chips and they were happy little accomplices. Oh, sure, we did pay for swim lessons, explore the dive shop, pick up a new Bible for the boys, hit the market, check the mail, return some library books, and gas up the Suburban. But those were nothing compared to getting out 'n about! WEEEE!

Evenings without Daddy take on a whole different tone. They're more orderly, more efficient, and not nearly as much fun. My gypsy genes don't get me all the way through the day on "full performance mode". It didn't help that I cried and sniffled my way through tonight's Mowgli reading. I don't know if it's a good sign or not that the boys no longer get worried about me when I burst into tears during a story. *grin*

However, all is quiet, and I'm going to go curl up with Doctor Zhivago and a cup of coffee for a while. Just until Zorak touches base.

Kiss those babies!

New Things, Nice Days

Once again, we were not horribly late to church, AND there was no all-out grouch-fest in the process of getting there. Granted, sometimes John wears whatever pants aren't popping at the button, I throw on sandals whether they match or not, James still lugs my GIGANTIC Concordia Self-Study Bible to Sunday School since we haven't found his Bible yet, Smidge finds stuff to eat in the carseat and arrives sticky, and Zorak... well, actually, Zorak shows up lookin' pretty with-it and composed. I'll have to find out how he does that. Anyway, whatever it is, I think we're getting the hang of it.

James asked if we could sit up front so he could see the pastor better. We tried it, and it worked great. Smidge managed okay until just before the sermon began. That's about an hour into the service, so that isn't bad for a little guy, but it's really great considering church falls smack in the middle of naptime... he starts out "iffy" at best during Bible Study and descends into madness from there. Thankfully, everyone stood up to sing just as he started to gain momentum, so I slipped him out to the nursery without feeling like a moving target in a rice field. Whew. He slept for half an hour in the nursery and enjoyed the rest of the time playing.

John wasn't anywhere near as squirmy as he normally is. He did very well staying in his seat, listening to the pastor, and singing along with the hymns. At one point, he did get a little sleepy-snuggly, and I had to redirect him because he started making gentle semi-snoring noises that were excruciatingly penetrating, in spite of their low volume. Evidently, the drone carried rather clearly because before I could get John upright again, Zorak flicked me in the back really hard, thinking I'd fallen asleep. I guess he read about the Baptist-Grandma-elbow-to-the-ribs method I blogged about a few weeks back...

James paid a lot of attention to the service, and we had a great time talking about it over Sonic slushies after church. He's beginning to understand the flow and pattern of the service, which is opening him up to new questions and explorations. I remember this phase of growing up in the church. This is important stuff. If you don't have the answers to the questions, you've got to be willing to look for the answers. And although the questions are sometimes endless, they are good. Just think if there were no questions, if there was no curiosity, if there was no search... the questions are the meat of it, and the answers you provide - or, rather, how you provide the answers - are the heart of it. This is the good stuff.

Zorak heads out tomorrow for a convention of scientificky stuff. The boys and I will fill our time doing the things Zorak would rather not be made to do, and while we'll have a grand time exploring, we'll be so thrilled when he gets back.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, July 16

A pinch of this, a dash of that

Just highlights today. Enjoy with coffee and your favorite high fat content snack.

Useful tips of the day:
Everyone who has ever ingested pool water is familiar with that unique and powerful belch that only chlorinated water can produce.

1~ If you hear that belch come from a toddler, move to the edge of the pool and get out immediately!

2~ Forget pool ettiquette, turn the toddler away from you. Trust me.

3~ I don't care what time the American Red Cross recommends waiting to enter the water after eating, M&M's do not digest properly in an hour and a half.

The Cryptographers:
We speak in code, as most parents do. Our code, however, has moved beyond spelling things out, speaking in Spanish, or even pig latin. All three codes are useless for our troops. (And while James and John can decipher things spelled out in pig latin, I cannot. So that experiment was short-lived.)

Out of a strong sense of self-preservation, and an inherent shame in being unable to outwit critters who can't tie their own shoes, we've taken to creating extravagant, convoluted descriptions of things. The end result of which often takes some decoding before even the intended recipient can reply. After supper, I suggested to Zorak, "Perhaps we ought to pursue the completion of the South American produce combinations?" Before Zorak could answer, John leapt from the table and said,

"Did you say we're eating chocolate covered bananas?"

How do they do that?

The "Real" Mowgli
We've picked up Rudyard Kipling's "All the Mowgli Stories" again for a family read aloud. I had begun shortly before the move, but nothing really stuck at that point - stories, habits, lessons. Now, we begin as if it's the first time. *weak smile* It is fun to read aloud with all of us together, including Zorak in the peanut gallery, tossing his few cents here and there. Like having my own personal MST3K guy in the kitchen.

James hadn't checked the book out before I hefted it from a box and began to read. I read "The Night Song of the Jungle", a poem at the start of Chapter 1, and James said, "Wow, that sounds just like Rudyard Kipling's poems!"

Here's where I insert my best Spicoli laugh and think, "Dude! That is, like, SO RAD, man! The little guy knows his stuff, man, and he's like, all smart and stuff." (Or perhaps that's my best Beavis impression. Truthfully, I don't do impressions well.) BUT, the point being that for a woman who could not identify many poets, and who has committed few poems to memory beyond the ones about that poor neurotic woman and her freaky dog and all those shopping trips... this is major! This is one of those, "Oh! Exposure! It works! Hallelujah! It's works!"

Pegs. I feel drawn to tell Susan Wise Bauer about this. But I can't get the board to load, so I'm telling you.

Meanwhile, John is starting to question Disney's motives and/or sanity. Why did he change the story from the book so much? Why did he only use the first chapter of the stories? Why is this so different? Why is Shere Khan lame? Why isn't there a snake yet? Why do you keep saying "MOW-glee" instead of "MOH-glee"? (Because it's in the pronunciation guide in the back like that, just so's ya know.) "Why didn't they eat him?" "Will they eat him?" "Would you eat him?" EW! No. Just listen, will ya? "Why did the book come first?" OH, LOOK - it's a poem! (I'm going to incorporate that into my distraction techniques now. If Wonderful Neighbor could yell, "LOOK! A Polar Bear!" then I think I might be able to get a few miles out of the poem. We'll see.)

And that is pretty much our day. We had steak. Zorak made mine "medium rare, closer to rare". That screams "lovin' devotion", in my mind. *happy sigh* We piled on the living room floor to watch Ben Hur and eat the remnants of the popcorn. Now the boys are in bed. Zorak is still (I say "still", but honestly he's flying through it) reading his book. I keep picking mine up to read (The Battle for God), but it's far more boring than what he's reading. So then I put mine back down and go pester him, "Where are they now? Have you seen so and so yet? Did you get to such and such a part yet?"

*awkward pause*

He's so patient.

I'm going to go play.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, July 15

I've been tagged. Cool.

Laney tagged me, and I gave this a shot. She warned that it is harder than it looks. She's right. I, however, didn't rise to the challenge, and you'll find several partial answers. My public school education indicates that I'm going to take the hit and just rely on the bell curve to shoot for an A, or possibly a low B, when the tags are totalled.

10 years ago:
So that was July 1995? I was single, managing a materials testing lab. I lived within walking distance to the bar (a requirement for picking the apartment), and was working my way (ever meanderingly) toward medical school. I was months away from meeting Zorak, but had no idea that I was also months away from absolutely lifechanging decisions. Life was good, but not in a "let's do this permanently" sort of way.

5 years ago:
I had just had John. Zorak was in his second year at Riddle. My mother had just moved from our house to my brother's, and we were mid-move to a smaller place. I was struggling to adjust to being a mother of two and felt like I was failing miserably.

1 year ago:
I was in MD, a mother of three, and we were up late at night, looking at houses in Huntsville, "making escape plans," as Zorak says. I spent hot days hiding inside, cooler days at the beach and the pool with the boys, and enjoyed evenings on the commons with the Wonderful Neighbors.

I braved the pool with the boys and had a blast, worked on barn plans, checked on Wee One4's development, read stories with the boys, and fixed a rockin' stir-fry for supper.

I already blogged about today. :-)

5 snacks I enjoy:
Peanut butter cups, otter pops, vanilla icing (yes, straight from the tub), potato chips with sour cream (sprinkled w/ garlic salt), & nachos w/ a gazillion jalapenos.

5 bands I know most of the lyrics of their songs:
I don't really know the bands themselves. I know the lyrics, but most of the time I have to ask Zorak, "Who sings this? NUH-UH! No way? Really? Hmm. I had no idea." When he does the pop quiz in the car, my default responses are usually, "Um, Thin Lizzy? The Cure? ELO?" or, guaranteed to be wrong, "Bob Seger?" (Guaranteed, because inevitably, when it IS Bob, I pick someone else.)

Things I would Do with 100 million dollars:
Invest the money in several different accounts of one million each (probably overseas accounts, as FDIC only insures up to 100K) - disperse the interest from those accounts accordingly (trusts, estates, perpetual donations, etc), and never touch the seed money. Some of the family would each have dividends off individual accounts. The boys would each have their college educations and first homes paid for. Zorak and I would just do more of what we do already; travel, hunt trips, perpetual student status, totally splurge on the boys' education. Lifetime NRA memberships for anyone who would take one.

5 bad habits I have:
I procrastinate. I lose things - important things, like the checkbook and the tax papers. I have very little fortitude unless there is no other option. I am really bad about laundry. I'm always late, even when I overplan to be early.

5 locations I would run away to:
Missoula, Montana; anywhere in Alaska; the western half of Wyoming; Pocatello, Idaho; Sonora, Mexico.

5 things I would never wear:
Clothing with evocative statements on private parts - ew. Other than that, I've been pretty humbled from time to time in my available attire options. So can I just leave it at that?

5 things I like doing:
reading, eating, hiking, studying, exploring - alone or with the boys and Zorak.

5 biggest joys of the moment:
Smidge's facial expressions, John's laughter, James' smile, Zorak's humor, central a/c

5 famous people I would like to meet:
(This one's not based on set criteria for me, and not all are ones I admire, but just out of a desire to sit down and talk...curiosity, if you will) Tom Selleck, Ari Fleischer, Gerry Adams, Pope Benedict XIV, Kurt Russell

5 movies I like:
Enemy at the Gates, U-571, 50 First Dates, Brigadoon, (why is this so hard? I like a lot of movies! But suddenly I can't think of just five to mention.)

5 TV Shows I like:
Malcolm in the Middle, Austin City Limits, Christopher Lowell (whatever he's calling his show lately, haven't seen it in a while), History of the Gun, South Park

5 favorite toys:
Toys? I miss my recurve. *sniff, sniff* Um, I can't think of any toys I own. Does my Bunn coffeepot count? Or is that more of a survival tool? Maybe Old Blue, my '71 Chevy pickup.

5 people I tag:
I'll tag three, and if anyone else would like to hop on, grab the free-tags! :-)
Melissa, Jill, KathyJo.

Notice there are no references to running, voluntarily, in my lists.

I think I'm going to see if I can tag Zorak, too!

Off to play! Kiss those babies!

Don't Look Ethel!

It's official. Zorak has ruined me and left his indelible mark on my psyche. If something should happen to him, I can never remarry. I realized the transition was complete today, driving home from the consult, alone in the car... and I voluntarily butchered the lyrics to a song I love! On purpose! Just because! It came so naturally, too. That was the scary part. Can you guess which song it was?

Anyhow, on the house front, I bring good tidings, but no details, yet. Let's just say... it might be very good.

Mamabird left words of encouragement under the comments from yesterday's section that y'all must read if you haven't already. Pool Freedom - maybe that's what the bear is looking for over the mountain? The thought that my boys will soon develop aquatic autonomy is both encouraging (as it means they're growing and developing well) and a bit sniffle-inducing (as it means they're growing up!) Bittersweet is a word coined by a mother. I'm certain of it. However, this season is great fun. The next season of the boys' lives will have its comforts and joys to offer in consolation for the loss of this season's joys and comforts. Life is like that. Good replaces good. Joy comes upon joy. Accomplishment and success build upon accomplishment and success.

The rest of y'all just cracked me up with your stories and anecdotes! Thank you so much for sharing your humor and insights. It's nice to know some things are virtually universal. (Or, to put it more bluntly, that I'm not totally bizarre.)

Zorak has every other Friday off. Today is an Other Friday, so we made pancakes, worked on loan info, gathered tax papers, made paper airplanes, built cap bombs (using the cap gun caps and some kind of falling unit - I wasn't privy to that project) and went swimming. The boys had a blast. Zorak and I spent a lot of time making googly-eyes at one another over just how great life is.

I met with the doctor this afternoon for a consult about the NAET therapies for the boys. We're going to do it. Now we just have to wait for the tax money to get here so we can pay her and get it going (had to wait for Smidge to be cleared for citizenship before we could file). I'm actually quite excited about doing this. If it doesn't work, there is no harm done. But if it does work, it will be worth quadruple what we will have invested, and then some. If John can walk into a restaurant and order a pizza without his whole universe coming apart the following two days, it will be worth more than we could ever pay. If James can go the rest of his life without his eyeballs ever expanding exponentially, it will be worth more than anything we could muster. I know a couple of you are watching to see what happens. I will be sure to keep y'all informed.

The school year planning has begun to gel. We are going to continue to focus on the Latin, math and reading skills as we go along. The only materials we'll need to purchase this year are support materials for Latin, and I can wait until we're settled in before we make those purchases. I think for my birthday, though, I'm going to splurge on my very own copies of Climbing Parnassus and Henle. That counts as an educational expenditure, doesn't it?

Well, if I keep blogging, I'm going to spill beans that aren't done simmering yet. So I'm going to sign off and go visiting.

Oh, and Amy, I would do the sprinkler thing. I'd planned to do the sprinkler thing. We've been here nearly three months now and I have never once seen sprinklers going. Coming from the Southwest deserts, it is the strangest phenomena I have ever seen! They don't have to water the grass - and yet it's lush and they have to mow it twice a week! It's weird...
Kiss those babies!

Thursday, July 14

I feel soooo brave!

Today is a day of great import to the Zorak clan. Today falls among other such great days in my mothering career: the first day I ran errands with just me and the baby (and didn't leave him anywhere, which was my biggest fear! He was such a quiet baby); the first time I got out of the house, with two children, *squeaky voice* before nine thirty AM (John was six months old...); the first time I managed to sit in any office with all three children without losing my place in line because somebody had to pee (I still beam with joy at that one).

Today, *drum roll, please* I took all three children to the pool BY MYSELF!

I've been such a coward with this issue. Not one of the three is a proficient swimmer. I have only two arms, and being a land-based predator, my eyes are not designed for 360' vision. I had fears embedded in my head that I just can't articulate. I've tried to wait for Zorak to go with us in the evenings, and he agrees to go, but poor Zorak really isn't up for heading to the pool after a long day's work. He just wants to wrestle with the boys, enjoy a hot meal, and curl up for a quiet evening. I don't blame him. Heck, I don't even want to swim at the end of a long day. The few folks we know who we could invite to swim with us have more children than we do, so that wouldn't improve the adult/child ratio one bit.

I dig around looking for things to read to them while the boys are growing heavier and less inclined to be active with every day. The extent of their outside activity has been to stand inside and try to gauge the humidity by breathing on the glass. Meanwhile, summer's wasting, and these boys need to learn to swim! So I quit whining. I sucked it up. I also made three false starts getting out of the house (making each child try the bathroom again after each, just to be on the safe side), and we *gulp* did it.

It wasn't so bad. James just needs to be submerged daily for a while and he'll be a regular fishboy. He's overcome his fear of the water, and spent the majority of the time today under water. His enthusiasm is wonderful to see, but I need to do some brain/body connection exercizes with him. That boy just did not inherit his father's coordination (I'm not saying where he got what we're loosely referring to as coordination, mind you.) He'll dive under water and convulse there for 30 seconds, then pop up and shout, "How far did I go?" We definitely need the help of a professional, but the situation isn't hopeless.

Jacob actually swam today with the floaties on - kicked his legs, moved his arms and made forward progress! He just blew me away. Last time we went swimming, he was wound tight as a screw and we could not PRY him off my neck. This time he leapt into the water (to me), begged to swim around off the step, and cried when it was time to go.

John, however, needs serious sedation. Or shock therapy. Two out of three - that's not bad! Do y'all think Rescue Remedy might help his anxiety any?And since the other two aren't palpating my neck for good veins, I can give the extra attention to the one partially-paralyzed child with the Vulcan Death Grip. I am. So. Happy.

After much screaming and wailing on John's part, and a short stint sitting poolside, he did manage to float with the noodle for a millionth of a second before lunging at my head like a flaming lemur. Evidently, the feeling of success was intoxicating (or we've caused some kind of mental trauma and he can now block bad memories within seconds of their occurrence...) As we toweled off and loaded the trusty red wagon, he said, "I was so scared, but I did my best and it worked. I will try that again tomorrow." I raised an eyebrow and thought carefully before opening my mouth (I'm so not good at taking a moment and running with it sometimes). "Oh?" (Eloquent, huh?) "Yeah," he said. "We should come every day." I'm so very proud of him and his attitude toward trying again.

I think we can do this. It was so much easier than I had convinced myself it would be.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, July 13

Shirking Responsibility?

No, I'm not really. But I do plan to really drag my feet and whine for a while. In reviewing next year's school goals, I've discovered that... I don' wanna!

We are on track for reading, writing and math. I'm very pleased with the boys' progress in those areas. We could still use some "fun stuff" for James' math and for John's reading, but those are somewhere down the priority list, among new socks and sheets.

Zorak dreads the thought of bringing more stuff into the house - only to have to store it and move it before long. I don't have quite the same aversion, you know, since most of it's books, which don't really count... but yes, I do understand his sentiment. So, we wait. And stare at one another. And time ticks by. The boys get older. We don't make as much progress as I'd like. Yet I'm not willing to forge ahead until we're really there, ready to do it together.

We are supposed to begin our study of The Middle Ages (have the AG, just need to get the hardback SOTW Vol.2), but it looks like we're also going to use Famous Men of Rome with our Latin program. I'm thinking I might like to just drag out Rome for a while. It's a great period to study, particularly in this testosterone-filled, centurion-loving household of youngin's. And we've been poised over Romulus and Remus for two months, anxious to dive into Rome because of all the great projects available... yet holding off for the fact that you can't do great projects when all you have on hand is three partial rolls of narrow masking tape and four crayon remnants. The tin foil comes in handy, but only goes so far without some backup supplies.

Art. Art. Art. False starts. No starts. Talking to myself a lot, here. I would see if I can bribe Thomasina to come stay with us for an art intensive, but if we were successful in our bid, Melissa would stop speaking to me and poor Thom would really miss all those great funky joints she gets to eat at. Ryan's buffet has a model train, but no tiramisu. That's bad.

Music. The boys want to resume their recorder lessons. I would love that, and we would have done just that if it weren't for a few small factors. Namely, the Smidge Factor. This child has a serious aversion to music that is not professionally played. If we sing, he screams. If we play the instruments, he screams. If we break out the recorders, he bops people on the head with the tambourine. I set him on his bed to throw his fit, but as the apartment is a thousand square feet divided by the construction standard equivalent of rice paper, it doesn't help much. The discipline factor helps, but the noise level doesn't actually decrease. We've also tried nap time. He can sleep through rapid gunfire from the Army range across the street, but the sound of recorders tooting out Hot Cross Buns will bring him flying from bed in a Moses-like foul mood. Sorry, kids, but music seems to be another on-hold.

Science? Even our laid-back Charlotte-Masony method seems to have pretty much exhausted itself at this point. (The grounds here are lovely, but manicured beyond belief.) Besides, have you noticed it's summer out there? Ew. I'm not too worried about this, as once the temps drop, we'll be out there like little Livingstons. It'll be good. Right now, though, we're dead in the water and without much inspiration.

I cannot even begin to touch on the transportation issues that currently plague us without betraying some serious "anger issues" on my part. Let it suffice to say that art classes at the museum are not an option. Nor are regular trips to the library. Or even the park. That's not helping my whine-factor at this point, nor is it helping me make the most of our current resources. Whine. Cheese. Whine. Thank you.

It'll be okay. I'm just peeking over the mountain and wondering what in the world that bear found so appealing.

Stoopid bear.

Ah, well, kiss those babies! They like the stoopid bear, so he's good for something.

The Household Quandry: Getting It All Done in the Kitchen

It seems that as spring blossoms fade and the green of summer pervades the air around us, we begin turning to the fall, to the future. The impending transition from one school year to another starts to bud; the "how do you do it" themes begin to bloom. Some people find these cycles tiresome, but I think they're great. They offer all of us a chance to look around and see if we've found anything worth sharing, or if there's anything we might like to keep an eye out for to help us make improvements. It's a mentorship free-for-all - at it's loudest, most chaotic, and finest, in some respects. I grew up with no idea how to do much of what is now part of my daily existence, so I'm thankful for the ladies who've said, in essence, "Spray a little windex on it." More often than not, those little tidbits passed over the back fence, or shared on the front porch (both real and virtual) are priceless and valuable.

There are still many, many (shamefully, m-a-n-y) areas where I can offer only insight into what is guaranteed to blow up in your face. Repeatedly.
Do not attempt these things at home. Consult a physician before beginning this or any household routine. The views expressed by this woman are not necessarily the views held by her husband, children, or household plants. This material is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace the advice of a lawyer, professional maid, or your mother.

But once in a while, when the question has nothing to do with laundry, or mopping, or organizational skills, or debt management, I let out a squeal of delight in feeling like I might have something to offer. It's the feeling of being able to repay that loan your parents never thought they'd see when they lent you the money, of being able to do something for that friend who is always there with a helping hand and a cheerful heart.

*woohoo* I've done this! It's worked! I haven't poisoned/lost/maimed anyone doing this! I might be able to help!

Jules asked about meals, groceries, and menu planning. I was going to just leave her a comment, but instead I'm going to blog about it (because, honestly, it's a lot of fun for me - I love food) and then I'm going to ask y'all to head on over to her spot and do a little brainstorm sharing - since we're kinda weird, and what I'm about to share may be of absolutely no help to her whatsoever. Here's my not-quite-up-to-Proverbs-31-quality-plan-of-meal-preparation...

I've tried to do the menu thing, tried the planned-shopping-excursion thing... they fail miserably b/c I have A) little self-discipline, B) moods for foods (and I get cranky if there's something else planned that I feel compelled to make - ew), C) we like to experiment, but how can you plan experiments (I mean, you can... but where's the fun in that?)

So, this may be absolutely NO HELP at all, and might be a great model of what not to do, but it works for us.

I make a list of the basics that I know we'll enjoy and buy those at the store (chicken, for example). Then I have the rest of the week to dig through the cookbooks for just the right way to fix said items (bbq, fried, baked, stewed, casserole... mmmm). This method basically saves me the dreaded all-in-one chunk o' time trying to figure out on Saturday what we'll be in the mood for on, say, Thursday. I have three small children. There are no large chunks o' time in my week to waste on futility.

My weekly grocery list looks pretty much like this:
Pasta (both wheat-free and regular)
Bread (again, wf and regular)

Yes, it's vague. It's meant to be. This is the beauty of my insanity: I have the flexibility to decide on pork ribs or pork loins, depending on the sales (and mood). Yet the list keeps me out of the aisles of budgetary destruction. They are like little blinders to help guide me to the checkout aisle in one piece.

About once a month I stock up on crackers, rice, potatoes, canned meats, sauces, and the occasional treat. But this is the basics. Each item has its own caveat that I don't write down anymore, but used to. Now that I'm familiar enough with the meal-planning thing, I don't have to leave notes to myself not to buy the salmon unless it's less than xx dollars, or that it's time to stock up on whole chickens and tighten the budget belt for a bit. But those do help - don't be afraid to put notes on your list! If Zorak requests something I don't normally buy (or something I didn't even know markets carry) he'll put parameters in the sidebar ("sardines if < $2.50/can")

Then meal-making is easy. Particularly supper - just pull out the main dish and brainstorm from among the fresh goodies what sounds good. If I can't think of anything, I'll ask the boys. Sometimes they will request a certain side-dish (like yams) that needs a certain main dish (wouldn't go well w/ goulash, for instance) and it's easy to work that direction, too.

We keep the price down by working with the market fluxuations. Before everyone knew how to fix fajitas, the meat used in fajitas was dirt. cheap. Sometimes people confuse that with poor. quality. This isn't always the case. That same meat now costs about four times what it used to, because there's a high demand for it. It's worth it to learn a little bit about judging meat - you can save money by purchasing the less popular cuts and giving them a little TLC to create a splendid product!

When we had to go wheat-free, I had a shocking realization that we blew a lot of money on snack foods without realizing it. Cheez-its, nutri-grain bars, teddy grahams. Things I would have put in the "normal expenditure" category are now in the, "yeah, that's not in the budget" category. I've found the wheat-free counterparts for nearly everything, but they're no longer so easy to slip under the budget radar. (It's easier to justify two dollars for a quick snack; not so much when it's six dollars for the wf equivalent!) I've learned to make our foods work for us, and they have to earn their keep. It's been a good change, not just for the children's health, but ironically, for our budget, as well. If you're looking to cut the grocery bill, look at the little buck-fifty items that sneak in and add up quickly.

We use rice, potatoes and pasta a lot! You can add veggies, spices, sauces, and meats to all three of these things to create attractive, nutritious, inexpensive meals.

When we do snack, it's intentional. Now that we don't have a lot of the grab-n-go snacks in the cupboard, having a snack is a time for the boys and I to sit at the table and spend time together. So we prepare for it. Sometimes we'll chop veggies, make little cups of dip (salad dressings, bbq sauce, etc) and just enjoy that. Some of the boys' favorite snacks: crackers and peanut butter, ants on a log, popcorn, sliced fruit with nut butter, yogurt with granola, toast and jam. We spend less and eat better without the walk-by-snacking we did before.

For the days I don't feel like cooking? Well, I must admit... um, I just tell Zorak that I was thinking we'd have pasta for supper. There's a slight pause while he waits for me to tell him what we'll have with the pasta (for him, it's a side-dish, not a meal) and when I don't say anything, he'll offer to cook. I try not to abuse this little technique, but there are days that noodles are about all I can muster the energy for. And then, there are leftovers. Leftovers are great things.

This is already huge and rambling, so I'm going to stop now and will post some favorite meals later. For now, though, I'd better get to bed or the boys will find themselves scrounging in the fruit crisper for breakfast!

Kiss those babies!

Oops - edited to take you to Jules' page, for real! Sorry!

Tuesday, July 12

Up Too Early to Be Useful, Thoughts on Friends

Ugh. Mrf. *mumble, mumble*

I fell asleep at a reasonable time last night (weird, isn't it?) and was wide awake this morning at five thirty. So far, it's been a perfectly lost morning. I was going to clean a bit, but was terrified I'd wake someone up and lose my quiet time. Thought about showering early, but inevitably the baby would get up and be standing bedside, screaming, wondering why I won't pick him up. Thought about doing some prepwork on breakfast, but again - both bedrooms basically lead straight off the kitchen and it's all "right there", for everyone to hear. So I made coffee, read a bit, wandered around scratching myself and wondering if I should wake up Zorak so we could spend some time together before he leaves for work...

In the end, I decided to blog. That's when Smidge came stumbling quietly out of his room, with his arms held high and his precious sleepy-baby expression on his face. He was after food and snuggles. Oh. That's good stuff. Who needs time alone when life offers you that? He's eating yogurt now, so this will be a quick blogging and then - on with the day!

Just quickly, though, I'd like to really glow and beam a bit about the wonderful women friends in my life both invisible and real. They make me laugh, even at myself. They make me think. They encourage the best from themselves, their children, and their days. I appreciate them. It's only been in the last six years or so that I've developed healthy friendships with women, and it's also correspondingly brought a healthier perspective on who I want to be as a woman. After years of sloughing through the negativity that can be female companionship and avowing that only men made good friends, I've learned that this isn't so. It's not the gender of the person, but the quality of the person that makes all the difference. That point applies to both sides of a friendship. It's been a good learning process.

I had two great phone chats yesterday with two ladies who are among my most favorite invisible friends. Both conversations left me feeling uplifted, encouraged, and thoughtful. What I found so great is that both ladies are so different in some ways, but in the ways that have drawn us together in cyberspace, they're both very similar. They are devoted to their families, to their homes, and they have a great sense of humor about it all. They sense the absurd and realize it's not avoidable, and so they both roll up their sleeves and tackle it all head on.

I love hearing how husbands and wives have helped one another grow over the years - not out of a sense of "I can change him," (which I think is the most detrimental philosophy known to marriage), but just out of the natural progression of having someone in your life who encourages you and sparks that inner drive for you to be the best wife/mother you can be. I feel that way about Zorak, and it makes me grin from ear-to-ear to hear similar things from other women. Good stuff. Funny stories. Good examples for children to follow. We need more of that. We need to get out there and tell our encouraging stories to other women. They need to hear that more than they need to hear what a jackass your spouse can be. We can all be jackasses from time to time, but that's not what life is about (well, unless that is your life, I suppose.) It's about the good things, the balancing things, the walls you climb together and the things that make your home unique.

I'm feeling quite encouraged today, and hope that you find encouragement in your day, too. It's a good day for it.

Ah, and on that note, I'd best go wrangle the baby and let Zorak know it's safe to get up (aka - coffee's ready).

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, July 10

Sunday, Muddy Sunday

(Apologies to any Irish readers.)

Today we awoke to what I am guessing is the extent of Dennis' effect on our little community. It was humid (shocker) and grey (ok, that was weird) - from the word go. The sun never came up today. The sky just went from black to light grey. Very pretty. Then it rained. Or it got so humid the air just... fell. Not sure which, but everything is covered in mud right now.

And since we're in a part of the world that is geographically foreign to our friends and families (seriously, like any of us pays attention to the rest of the map on the Weather Channel until we personally know somebody in those parts), I've been fielding questions today as to whether or not we'll be washed into the Gulf. Nope. We're good. We might as well be in Tennessee; we're that far out of the way. And I am thankful. If anyone we know does get washed into the Gulf, please know our door is open. We have little square footage, but we do have air mattresses, hot water, a dutch oven, and a Costco. The Mantis Hurricane Refugee Camp is open.

Zorak is reading the copy of Atlas Shrugged he got for his birthday. The first thing he did was remove the jacket cover. Yet another reason I love this man. I've never understood the attraction, the need, to converse with someone who is reading, but it's killing me not to talk to him while he's reading. This is new to me. Normally it's me reading, and him talking. Granted, I read a lot - just the other day he was mocking my burial plans and I threatened to come back and haunt him. He said, "No you won't. I'll just leave a book out and you'll forget why you came back." Oh. Well, yeah... good point. Well, NOW, I understand. I don't get it, but I know he isn't just trying to make me forget what page I'm on when I'm reading. What is it about someone's bowed head and utter absorption in a book that just begs to be interrupted? *sigh* I'm trying very hard to be good.

*he's laughing at me now*

Not sure what this next week will bring, and I have a horrible suspicion I have four or five specific things scheduled for this coming Friday - possibly all at the same time. So I need to put up a calendar and start using it or the rest of July is going to be a mess.

And that's about it. No big changes, here. Just enjoying the daily grind and whispering to one another in passing, "Man, this place is gonna to be gorgeous come fall." It keeps us sane. It's good.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, July 9

Kim at Upward Call was asking about boys and long hair. This was such a timely discussion for me. James, being our oldest, gets to test the waters and wade through the swamps while Zorak and I decide which battles are worth picking, which hills worth dying on. It's not a picnic for us, so I know that can't be fun for him, either. We try to make the transition process as smooth as possible.

At James' last hair cut, it happened. He wanted it left longer in the back. Don't take so much off the top. Take a little more off the sides. Suddenly, he's a pro at hair design! I cringed. I'm not READY for that!!! I love his little Norman Rockwell haircut and appearance. (By the way, that site,, is not an affiliate link, but they do have a great collection of prints, good prices and no s&h on unframed prints.) Anyway, he wants it longer, now. He wants to have a say in it. I told him that he needed to respect my wishes at that moment (in the barber chair, the day before a wedding is just not the time to negotiate new waters), but promised him Zorak and I would discuss it and that we would deal with subsequent haircuts together. He was good with that.

So Zorak and I talked it over and have decided that it's one of those "give a little" issues. We'll set parameters, because he's six and that's our job, but we figure if he's old enough and mature enough to dialogue his preferences, then we want to encourage that approach with him. We took into consideration what it is he's wanting to do, and took stock of what's important to us, then we made the call as best we can:

1) He must keep himself well-groomed and clean. Obviously, at his age, we're still involved in that process, anyway.
2) No buzz cuts - he just can't pull that one off
3) No "dorothy hamill" cut - it gives us the willies to see that haircut on a boy.

Other than that, though, we're going to take a deep breath and give him some room.

On a reminiscent note, my junior year in high school I was invited to the movies with a young man I both worked with and went to school with. He was a wonderful, delightful, gentlmanly boy. He also had hair nearly to his beltline - think, bushy, curly, black hair. He came to the door to pick me up (nothing less would have been acceptable), made conversation with my parents, reaffirmed the time to bring me back, and off we went with friends to a movie.

All went well, other than my mother hiding in the kitchen (she wasn't ready for the "car date" concept). My Dad was awesome, which, since he had raised his first batch of children in the 40's, I wasn't so certain he would take a liking to this boy's appearance. When this boy dropped me off, he visited with Dad again and left.

The door shut. Dad flipped off the porch light, turned to me and said, "I like her. Think she'll join Rainbow?" Just as I opened my mouth to protest, my father smiled and winked at me. That was his way of letting me know that he liked the boy, but not the hair. That was his only point, and he didn't hound it. They got along famously, always. Even long after the boy and I lost touch, Dad would ask about him from time to time.

Not every parent is going to give our children that benefit of the doubt. Some claim that it's unfair or unjust, but truthfully a child's appearance (with regard to cleanliness, grooming and carriage) is indicative of his attitude toward authority, others, and life in general. It's not a bad indicator, as long as it's not the only indicator. So, while we hope James doesn't go for a full-blown Hendrix look, we also feel it's far more important to focus on his attitude toward others, toward his tasks and activities.

Our job is to guide him and help him learn to be more independent, to make good choices, and to accept the consequences of those decisions. Hopefully, the other indicators will shine through clearly enough that his hair won't be the most determinant thing to register with people. And if it is, well, that's also a consequence of dealing with society. Ideally, we will have equipped him well enough over the years so that he can decide to respond rather than react, to gauge how deeply his choices affect his opportunities and whether it's a worthwhile trade-off for him. He'll have to learn how to navigate the waters and pick his battles, too.

Oh, if only there was a manual for the details, eh? :-)

Kiss those babies!

Television Parts (no relation to the movie!)

I have been hit three times recently with pleas to sign a petition, raise my voice in outrage, and join the chorus in begging our government to pay for entertainment with our tax dollars. Can you guess whether I’ve signed or called or written to do so? No. I haven’t. I’m not going to.

Nearly a month ago, I noticed that several of the PBS cartoons are “sponsored in part by The U.S. Department of Education and the No Child Left Behind Act”. I stopped in my tracks and stared hard at the logo to make sure I’d hear that right. Sure enough. I cannot believe, with all the hullabaloo over funding that has been raised over NCLB, that one single DIME was diverted to producing cartoons! But what is even more amazing to me is that since these programs have been given the fluffy and subjective title of “educational programming”, the very same folks who have complained so bitterly over the NCLB funding issues in the classrooms never raised an eyebrow about that allocation. Until now, when the funding for cartoons comes under threat. It’s mind boggling. Couldn’t our educational system (regardless of my personal feelings on the system itself) use an extra $100 MILLION dollars, you know, “in the classroom”, where that money is so needed?

Admittedly, I have a very different (although increasingly widespread) perspective of our government’s role. It’s not here to provide for our every whim, or procure our leisure time activity. The government, particularly on a Federal level, was instituted in order to provide for the People what they are not capable of doing on their own: national defense, international trade, foreign affairs, interstate commerce and communication.

Since this debate has resurfaced (it seems to come every few years, along with the accompanying fears and rhetoric), I’ve seen several arguments against cutting funding for these programs, but none yet that have made much sense. They all seem to be based on the assumption that our government - in addition to providing jobs, housing, education, and health care - is now also responsible for entertaining us. What is left for us to do for ourselves?

While I have not seen any reports citing direct sources to show this funding decision is a GOP retribution against “left-leaning news” on Public Broadcasting, the media continues to quote others (on the “left”) who allege just that. I’ve seen liberal cartoons jabbing the GOP for this assumption, quite clearly stating that there is no “leftist view” to the government-funded Public Broadcasting (to include NPR, NEA, PBS). Yet I’ve seen just that very argument made by liberals who have said that Public Broadcasting is a liberal view to balance Fox News. Which is it? Cake? Eat it? Imagining the whole thing?

Whether State funded news is liberal, conservative, communist or facist, I’m against it. There are countries around the world (most notably the former USSR & Iraq off the top of my head) who have fought long and hard to have a Free Press; one free of State authorization and scrutiny. Yet here some people are crying that we need more of that? If public television is such a great idea, why don’t we lobby to make all television public television? Why shouldn’t every station be held to the same high standards and goals of public broadcasting? If it is so very important to the quality of life and the essence of our integrity as a community, then why not?

Namely, history does not bear State-controlled mass media as a viable means to remaining a free and well-informed society. The State should not mandate our goals, our values, nor our ideals – and as the State maintains a larger hold on the dispensation of that information, it will continue to reflect less of the actual community and more of the agenda at the top – no matter which group is at the top.

John Lawson, the president of the Association of Public Television Stations says this funding cut (which accounts for less than 25% of the PBS budget) would “deprive tens of millions of American children of commercial-free educational programming." I guess he isn’t watching during the General Mills commercials?

According to the numbers provided by The Washington Post, the PBS series, “Ready to Learn”, which hosts such shows at Postcards from Buster, Arthur, and Dragon Tales, will lose 24.9 million dollars, from a budget of 333 million (as of FY ’04).

When we simple plebes, who seldom file gross income taxes of six digits, grapple with the concept of dealing in Federal Budget terms of millions and billions of dollars, it may feel like speaking to a five year-old about how many stars are in the sky. It can be easy to lose perspective. But the fact is, this is a good-sized chunk of change, even if it does break down to “only $1.12/year on your taxes”, as asserted by one letter I received. That money, collective has more power to be better applied elsewhere. Our government has overstepped its bounds in many ways, among which is its fiscal obligations. Stepping back from providing luxuries and entertainment is not a bad thing. Our money can be better spent by government, or given back to the people who earned it to be spent as seen fit by them.

This may come as unwelcome news to the folks who hold to the philosophy that if the government doesn’t do it, it can’t get done by the rest of us, but it really can. PBS, NPR, and the NEA can survive without feeding at the Federal trough. It might mean that if we value these programs, we might have to donate our own time, money and talents to them in order to see them succeed. But yes, it can be done. Let’s give it a try and spend our money on things we truly cannot do for ourselves, rather than will not.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, July 7

A Little Local Roundup

What a great week here in Huntsville, which I am learning to pronounce properly – HUNts-vul. We have a new Fire Chief who is causing quite a wave in our little pool. I’m not clear on the details, but it’ll be fun to figure them out. The big issue I was so concerned over (we missed the Council meeting for it while we were in NM) was actually tabled at that meeting, so we’ve got a little time on that front.

We did find a place for swim lessons! WOOHOO! They’ll give each boy a private lesson before the classes to place them in the appropriate class. It is taking every ounce of strength I’ve got not to “prep them for the test”. Admittedly, part of this is that everyone I spoke with last month, including this place, offers two beginner levels – those who are terrified of the water/have never had lessons, and those who can swim 20 feet by themselves. Uh... we’re somewhere just about smack in the middle of those two options. It would seem the best bet is to go with the easier class, but if they’re the only ones in the class who aren’t afraid to get in and go under, what use is that? Yet to put them in the more advanced class may well defeat the whole purpose and cause undue frustration and/or fear. Wow, I’d forgotten that individualized education is so hard to find sometimes! *wink* I’m counting on small class size in this case, and will leave it to the instructor’s discretion.

It’s been pretty hot ‘n sticky outside, but we’re having a great time indoors. Now that I’m not passing out every time I try to read aloud, books are re-emerging in our daily fare. We’ve even eased up on the rule about books at the table over breakfast. This morning we read some old favorites. James read some Richard Armour poems on insects. Jacob babbled incoherently and pointed at every letter in his ABC book. John read the back of the Parmesan cheese label. Eclectic, but good.

Oh! Smidge knows his colors! I had no idea! I don’t know when he picked them up or why he still won’t say them, but he knows them. He’s been lugging the Big-Book-of-Farm-and-Trucking-Equipment-For-Sale book around and can point to a vehicle of just about any color you ask. I think I had more fun with that today than he did.

James made a little green paper caterpillar for Smidge to play with while he reads The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It’s one of the most used toys in the house this week. The boys have run about in Aztec warrior garb (aka – tin foil, paper feathers, and cheap costume jewelry) the past few days. It is amazing what you can do with tin foil. They’ve also been big into making pretend movies lately, and will pretend to film one another cooking, me cleaning, Smidge running from them screaming, “NO!” You name it; it’s on imaginary film. They do this great running commentary, complete with close up shots of whatever project we’re working on. Since they only have one official pretend camera, they take turns, although it’s difficult to let go of directorial power and let someone else work on “your project”. But they are having a blast. I’m thinking of getting blank VCR tapes and turning them loose with the camcorder.

John is writing letters “for fun” this week! He’s been doing rhymes for a while, and has ending sounds down pat, but this week was something new – beginning sounds. It’s all clicking, and it’s beautiful. He’s also thoroughly enjoying math work. He finishes in a flash and can’t wait to show Zorak his work each day. Today he was strutting about the house, singing to himself, “Oh, yessssss. I’m learnin’! LEARNIN’! I’m learning in the summertiiiiiiiime!” I wish I could bottle that feeling and hoard it for the future.

James is zooming along with his Spalding work, and showing a much better grasp of the fundamentals of the program than I will ever hope to have. He’s in a bit of a rut with math, namely just that he gets distracted when it’s time to answer the bland drill-like questions. He’d rather draw contraptions, make up other word problems, write up a list of things for me to answer (or to ask Zorak), decorate all the numbers that have enclosed parts... From all the symptoms, it seems he’s a little bored. I know this, but I blew my creativity wad on the Aztec armbands and cloaks, so I’m dead in the water for a while.

Zorak gets to enjoy a day of learning about, then riding in, a really nifty helicopter tomorrow. The Mistress had better be cooperative in the morning, though, because the boys and I have GOT to get to Costco. We’re meatless, the fridge is barren of major protein groups, and in another 24 hours it won’t be a pretty sight. (Chris, Zorak asked for your email addy this week. I think he’s ready to talk. Thanks so much! I can listen, but that’s about all the help I can offer on this thing. At least until he’s ready to claim the insurance...)

I have been on hold with Bank of America for more hours today than I care to admit. And I still haven’t spoken with a single live being. They’ve botched something and I cannot for the life of me figure out where or what... or, obviously, how! We’d like to switch to a bank with a local branch, but are waiting until after we buy, just to prevent the untold number of crossed wires that process usually entails. It’ll be nice to put all our ducks in the same pen once more.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, July 5

Happy Independence Day

See, Thom? I'm late again! *grin* I sat down last night to blog a bit about all that's going on, but you see, you should Never Give a Writer a Topic...

If you give a writer a topic, she'll develop an idea...
and then she'll want references to fill out her idea...
and when she has references, she'll just want more background...
and once she has additional background, she'll look for related themes...
and as those themes come together,
she'll get an idea...

It's a vicious cycle. I gave up around three this morning. Still never found the one quote I was looking for (blast this limbo-life, so bereft of books, and that creepy, spider-infested garage that holds them!)

Mainly, in thinking about the role of our government, the role of us citizens, the line between the two, and the flow of power, I found myself thinking hard about what the people on Edisto Island wanted - and fought for - after the Civil War. These men and women are my heroes. They knew their rights, and they stood their ground. They did not ask the government to give them everything to get started, or to carry them on. They looked to the Constitution and to citizenship, what it meant and what it could mean. Those were their goals. What these people wanted, worked for, and demanded from our government shines in my heart and mind as the ultimate in Citizenship today. We hold these men up to the boys as examples of true Citizenry and integrity. I would butcher the quote I wanted to share if I tried to reproduce it from memory, and no Google search has turned it up. When I find it, though, it's going on my banner at the top so I never lose it again.

Private Ownership of Property: the delineation between feudal serf and freeman. The ability to own property is one of the cornerstones of a free society. Bit by bit, this right, protected by our Constitution, and the power of the government to infringe on that right, limited by the same Constitution, are being mutilated and manipulated in an insidious manner. I am as amazed at this eminent domain proclamation as most people seem to be, and on so little sleep and a rapidly depleting iron level, there's not much I can say on the matter that hasn't been said more eloquently by others at this point. I am glad to see fervor on both sides of the fence, though. That gives me hope. When an issue, such as this one, or the McCain/Feingold gag order on the first amendment, actually comes to pass, it ignites bonfires of indignation in those who truly love the Constitution and we tend to see some strange bedfellows, indeed. Personally, I love it. Not the acts that bring it on, but that it can still happen.

Decisions like this draw the line between those who ultimately believe in self-government and those who actually do think we're all too stoopid to tend our own gardens (or, in this case, own our own gardens). The results generally surprise the few morons who honestly didn't see that coming (the five people in the United States who actually thought this one was a good idea). This is where I get so riled up I start stuttering and wondering just how the next few decades are going to play out for America. More foaming at the mouth. Total loss of eloquence. I do hope to actually have something new or unique to add to the discussion once I calm down. Right now, though...

Well, did anyone see Team America? The theme song (rated R - don't let your children Google this song!) keeps running through my mind. It's very, very sad when I fantasize about puppets saving the United States.

On a more positive note, however, I've just finished re-reading God, Guns & Rock 'n Roll, by Ted Nugent. While Ted and I differ (wildly) on a few particulars, there were many things in his book that struck home for me. One, in particular, I'm sharing here tonight. I think it bears repeating.

I cannot believe that any American citizen does not have a face-to-face, hands-on relationship with law enforcement leaders in his or her community and home regions. I cannot believe that any American citizen could accept having zero input into policymaking by not having a consistent ongoing communication with his or her elected representatives. In the absence of such communication, you in fact have no representation.

-Ted Nugent
God, Guns & Rock 'n Roll

Sing it, Brothah! We liberty-minded individuals often spend our time and energy talking amongst ourselves. Preachin' to the choir. Or arguing online - with people we aren't paying to represent us - attempting to convince them of our perspective. But how often do we sit down over coffee with local candidates for office? How often are we there, in person, at city council meetings or state level hearings? How many letters do we compose in our heads, and does that number match the number of letters we write up and mail to our representatives, newspapers and law enforcement agencies? Sadly, the results of such a quick, impersonal poll are dim. I'm guessing the margin of error is relatively small, since nobody has to 'fess up, but just be honest with yourself. It's okay. I don't have the technology to see you (yet).

We can't change it with our anger. But we have the law of the land on our side. We do have a voice in our Constitution, and raised high, that voice can be heard over the cacophony of crap the media and other outlets have plugged into the amp. It is never a lost cause. Freedom, and this beautiful land of opportunity, where the outcome is based on individual input and motivation, but the true playing field - the opportunity to use your input and motivation - are still alive and well; they are still ours. We are still free, and we cannot let things like this slide. America has made some great strides, perhaps greater than anyone imagined, but sometimes a big leap backward happens, as well. We cannot allow this to continue.

So, in honor of Independence Day, I'd like to issue a challenge. I don't care who you are or what it says on your voter registration card (but you must have one, otherwise we need to talk about much larger issues!) In the next month, write one letter, meet with one representative (of any kind, I don't care, just go), write a LTTE for your local/state paper, and take your family out together, to do something. Do something that means Citizenship. Do something that means something. I'll just ask for a show of hands on August 5th. But if you'd like to share what you've done, come brag away. Share your ideas. Don't be snarky, and don't be a jackass about it, ok? Just come and say, "I did xyz this week!" and we'll go "YAY YOU, Fellow Citizen!" OK?

Start by kissing those babies!

Sunday, July 3

The Power of Procrastination

Zorak and I were, quite literally, late for our own wedding. Two years late at first. Then, for the final attempt, only a few minutes. Still, late is late, and we are among the top performers in the Procrastination Hall of Fame (which will be built eventually).

So imagine our surprise today when we arrived to church not only on time, but early! As a matter of fact, we were so early, we were the first ones there! I managed to get my wires crossed and we showed up at 8:40 for the 9:30 service. (No, you don't really have to point out that we'd have been ten minutes late otherwsie, I noticed.) What to do for the next 45 minutes? Well, it's already hot 'n sticky out, so I'm not sitting on the steps or playing beside the pond. Besides, have you seen the size of those geese? No. So we took the boys to McDonald's to play while we had coffee and visited. McDonald's is beautifully bereft of other people at 8:45 on a Sunday morning. And... then we were only two minutes late getting back to the church.

I didn't realize just how late we normally are, until I saw several of James' classmates in John's classroom and asked if they had combined classes today. The adult in charge looked blankly at me for a second and then said, "Oh! No. *snicker* They start in here with songs and prayer and then go into their classrooms." Ohhhhhhhh. Never knew that. Sorry. Well, now that I know for a fact that we can get there before class starts, I plan to use that power for good.

We told the boys tonight about their up and coming new sibling. The naming games have begun already. If I thought Zorak's suggestions were bad the first three rounds, I evidently hadn't been through a "sibling naming brainstorm session" before. (Which, no, I hadn't... makes sense.) I'm glad we have six months left to convince the boys that they probably aren't going to have final veto power on that birth certificate. They are, however, absolutely thrilled! It was cute to watch them click on the clues we gave them over supper. Very cool.

Smidge didn't nap today, so he slipped into a Sleeping Beauty type trance during supper. Afterword, I put him down for the night and Zorak took the boys fishing. He called a bit later and said it was packed with people. The apartment complex sponsored a huge fireworks display, complete with bagpipes! They stayed for several hours and came home exhausted, but floating on air. I wish Smidge and I could have gone, but he needed his rest and it was nice to do a little laundry, watch a little Jurassic Park, and do my nails.

Oh, and on the house hunting expeditions. I apologize if I'm coming across whiney. I didn't mean to - I was shooting for humorous, but I don't always hit the mark. Since we got rid of the sociopath realtor, it's been a downright pleasant experience. It's not quite the same as strolling through a slew of model homes and picking colors, but by the same token, looking for just land means we aren't stepping over anyone's filthy laundry or embarrassing literature collections. So it's definitely going to have a whole different flavor to it than the majority of house hunting adventures. Like yesterday's adventure, for example: it really was great. I mean, it wasn't a stroll, and we didn't find "the pad", but we laughed and sweated like hogs, and spent time together as a family. The ice cream and milkshakes together were phenomenal. And in the end, we'll have stalked every acre in Northern Alabama to find just the right few for our little herd. And our little herd will have wonderful (or at least bonding) memories of how they helped to make "our home". I do, however, reserve the right to whine a bit when I'm out-to-here pregnant and spent the day laying concrete blocks in this ungodly heat, or when I have to beg Zorak to help me look for ticks because I can't see my legs anymore and I've spent the weekend knee-deep in brush clearing rocks to make a path... I may whine at some point. *grin*

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, July 2

Extreme Sports: Househunting

We hiked 40 acres, straight up and down, today. It was lovely terrain. It was relatively dry (and I use that term excruciatingly loosely), but hot. There was no breath, no hint, no memory of a breeze today. It almost killed us.

John is, perhaps, the toughest child I've ever seen in my life. He was the only one of the five of us keeping up with the realtor. And that man was flying through the bushes and over ledges at a speed that made the Ewok chase scene look like a slow-motion play-by-play! Twice I saw John's little head dip into oblivion, only to pop back up again a split second later as he muttered, "I'm OOOkkkay!" Not a whine out of that kid, and when we hit the roadside again, he was bounding about, waving to tractors, happy as can be! Zorak says John reminds him a lot of his cousin, Todd - which is neat, because Todd is a neat guy. Todd used to ride his horse across the mountains to get to a rodeo, ride in the rodeo, and then ride home with his trophies. Come to think of it, Todd's horse was pretty tough, too. Anyway, he's an ag teacher in New Mexico now, and one heck of a neat guy. And John looks like he's shaping up much the same way.

Poor James - I felt like Capt. Aubrey, shouting, "Light along, there! There isn't a minute to lose!" While he played Maturin, stopping every three steps, sometimes two, regardless of whether we were all perched in line behind him, balanced precariously on a ledge. He was clueless about what was happening behind, or ahead of him; not oblivious out of indifference, but out of utter fascination and absorption in the phenomenal things you find under a canopy of trees. His one thought was to observe some kind of moss, or watch a spider, or identify some kind of creature. He was hooked. I thought, at first, that I might just leave him there if he didn't stopit, but when the parallel hit me, I just laughed to myself (between those sucking, rasping sounds I assume were breaths) and tried to be more patient.

By the time we returned to the Suburban, Zorak was 100% certain he wanted nothing to do with this property. At any point. Ever. Again. Meanwhile, I kept looking back wistfully, wondering just what size bulldozer we'd need to clear a pad and how difficult it would be to drop a well. Obviously, this wasn't "the" property. But it was good to see, and if nothing else it will bring us one step closer to finding the one.

The boys were exhausted when we got home. They had been so patient, and showed such fortitude on the whole excursion, that we just felt the occasion called for ice cream sundaes and milkshakes! Then we hosed them off and re-heated lunch leftovers, which they devoured while we watched a movie.

It was a great day. No ticks. (Still have the willies.) Met a really nice realtor, and one rather creepy one.

Oh, and I think I've found a place for the boys to take swim lessons. I will have to ring them on Tuesday and get the details, but it's at a Dive Shop, so I'm pretty enthusiastic about it. And if there is still room available, they'll both take a basic drawing session class at the Art Museum later in the month. Finally, it's starting to feel like summer, eh? *grin*

I'm off to de-crud from today's Extreme House Hunting (next week we're just going to parasail over the properties with the camera and make our own topo maps!) and visit with my Zorak.

Kiss those babies!