Tuesday, August 30

House Update!

Well, there's good news and there's.. not-so-good news.

The good news is that late this morning the Sellers faxed "closing instructions" to Amazing Realtor. She said that's the same thing as a signed contract - they just send the signed contract to the title company (or someone in Birmingham with some authority to receive such precious documents, I assume) and from there, it's a go.

A go. That's -- that's good. Right? So... why doesn't she sound happy? (I ask through gritted teeth, using my best Special Ed Teacher Voice.)

WELL, yeah. Let's back up, first. Yesterday, Amazing Realtor and Nice Mortgage Man had to draw lots to see who would call with news from the underwriters (hereafter known as The Hounds.) The Hounds have decided, after reviewing the paperwork, that while the contract states that we'll buy the house "as-is", and the property appraisal was for the property "as-is", and it appraises above the loan value "as-is", they... how you say? Well, they have just a few things to request before they will accept said "as-is" property as security for the loan.

Namely, that it's not "as-is". Isn't that handy? They want the HVAC system repaired before closing (the one that needs to be redone entirely and was going to wait until Spring, you know, when we had extra cash to do it right), they want gravel put on the driveway (the one they don't think exists) before closing, and they want a fresh, spiffy new survey just to prove that the driveway they're making us put gravel on actually does, in fact exist (surveys, I discovered after speaking with 17 different County offices today, aren't part of the recorded material in Alabama, so while there may be a Santa Claus, there is no recorded proof of it - you have to get new proof each time).

We can't get in there to make the repairs on a property we don't own, and the Sellers won't give us access to the property before closing. We're not particularly keen on putting money into making such large-scale repairs to a property we don't have a guarantee that we'll own when all is said and done. But our agreement with The Sellers was that we would buy the house "as-is", and we let the Mortgage Company know that upfront. Now we have your quintissential Catch-22: we can't close on the house without the loan; we can't get the loan without making the repairs; we can't make the repairs without closing on the house.

Sooooo, taking yesterday's news into consideration, I could not for the life of me figure out this morning, when Amazing Realtor sounded so down, what could have gone wrong in addition to yesterday's news? Well, as it turns out, when Amazing Realtor called Nice Mortgage Man this morning to figure out the next step, she was informed that he no longer works there. Yep, just like that. As of yesterday at five-thirty, he hadn't mentioned anything about this. This morning, aliens might as well have taken him, for all the good it'll do us. (I tracked him down - he got a job as branch manager of another mortgage company in Fayetteville, TN! Isn't that great? I'll have to remember to be happy for him someday.) The Mortgage Man we inherited, while I am assuming is competent and capable, is also just abrupt and abrasive and mean enough to push this pregnant lady





I have to say I'm proud of myself. This is the first time I've cried in the process of buying this particular home. Considering the pregnancy hormones and the exhaustion and being trapped like a little rat in a cage with small rat-babies gnawing at my ankles, I've held up ok. But this afternoon, the floodgates opened and I just sobbed.

Poor Zorak called while I was mid-sob. Men don't like that sound - it makes them uneasy, as if they should do something about it. Thankfully, at that point, both cell phone and land line died. That was my cue to just go sit with the boys for a while and remember how good we truly have it. It helped that later on, Aunt B also called and talked me down a bit.

Tomorrow I will try to track down a surveyor who can do it immediately, for only the cost of one or two of our children. Then I meet with the HVAC Guy at the property to see if he can just slap a band-aid onto the HVAC system that'll last long enough to get the appraisal through, and not kill us financially, since the Surveyor deal will leave us with only one starter child and that's cutting it a mite-bit-short. Then I am off to the Realtor's office to arrange the rest of the whatever-it-is-that-needs-arranging. The boys will be thrilled, I'm sure. The upside? I get to drive around in the car like one of the Big People. That part will be fun, at least.

So there ya have it - the latest on our Forever Home. It should be very, very worth it in the end. Because if I have anything to say about it, I will never buy another home as long as I live. This is plenty, thanks.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, August 29

Science for Boys

Fire is a huge attraction for young men. The idea of having their own fire circle around which to gather and, well, make fire, appeals to them on a deep and intrinsically male level.

When Zorak was a young man, he and his cousins were permitted to have such a circle at Granny's. It was composed of carefully chosen rocks (it's all sandstone all the time - take your pick), laid out in a special place (far enough from the house not to arouse concern)... and they tended to this fire in the evenings, summer and winter. They watched it, sometimes for no other reason than just because they could. Eventually, the immediate area failed to profer more fuel and with the extra work of gathering wood came the extra ambition to do stuff with the fire. You know, science. Sort of.

So they started by finding an old tin can to hold... things. Then they went in search of things to burn, erm, test. Yes, test. The, um, experiments, went something like this:

*put turkey droppings in can, and place on the fire*
"Ew. That smells bad!"
*put pine sap in can, place on fire*
"Whoa! Did you see that? Wow, when it gets hot enough, it just bursts into flames!"
*repeat pine sap experiment for a while with similar results*
"Hey, how about pine sap and turkey poop?"
*in go the droppings and more sap*
"Wow! That burns fast AND it smells bad!"
*someone throws plastic into the mix*
"Oooooo, look at the smoke!"
*yes, now it's turkey droppings, pine sap and plastic - the ultimate concoction of smoke, smell and violent flames*
"Oooooooo! Ahhhhhhh! Ewwwwwww!"
*what about (pause for drama) urine? With that many boys in a field at night, there were no lack of volunteers...*
"Oh, GROSS! That just smells bad! EW!"
(I have to interject here, I have no idea what they were expecting at that point.)

Eventually, the contents of the tin can evaporated, the smells subsided, and the evening wore into a quiet companionable silence. Of sorts. This was a group of young men, after all...

And people say there are no rites of passage any longer? P'shaw! There's always the fire circle on a quiet summer night...

Kiss those babies!

Killing Sacred Cows

Warning: This post covers mature material. It's not vulgar, but topics are mentioned which you may or may not want to have up when your little ones can view the screen.






OK, so if you're here now, read on. I'm going to kill a few sacred cows, and if anyone from the Women's Missionary Society reads this, I'll be on the hell-bound list and/or the lost-souls-to-pray-for list, depending on denomination. But this has been on my heart all day, so I'm going to just say it.

We walked into church this morning and saw flags of various countries displayed, world globes on all the tables in the fellowship hall, and guest speakers roaming the halls. Oh. This is World Mission Conference week. The boys went to Sunday School and we settled in for the guest speaker.

The speaker today is going to Romania to hold a three-day seminar for 25 hand-picked women from a Gypsy tribe. She spoke eloquently about the plight of these people, particularly these woman, and the lifestyle they are condemned to live. While they are known as Gypsies by the general populace, they call themselves Romans. They are considered by the ruling majority to be on par with the untouchables of the old caste system of India - uneducable, unemployable, and unworthy of basic human rights. She profiled several specific cases which their mission house has reported, and it was heartbreaking. This isn't a case of indigenous peoples pursuing their heritage and traditions: this is a group of people forced into abject poverty and isolated from the rest of society as a whole.

The speaker went on to cite statistics which are mindblowing, to say the least. According to the speaker, these women have no rights. None at all. Their husbands can beat them, rape them, prostitute them out. They have no recourse. To resist or stand against it most likely means death. The speaker's own husband is worried that she may not return because of speaking out. Most of the women are employed in prostitution, and end up with multiple pregnancies. Since a woman cannot afford to feed too many children, and cannot work (or isn't going to earn much) while she's pregnant, most women have abortions. The average Gypsy woman has 20-30 abortions in her lifetime. TWENTY to THIRTY! The Romanian government pays for all abortions after the first two.

They have no sanitation, no schools available to them, no means of their own, and no visible way out. They are no longer nomadic, but have settled in a valley region near the base of the Carpathian Mountains. They have built mud huts and are flooded out of their homes regularly. It is a constant cycle of poverty and obstacles.

The speaker did not touch on the diseases affecting these people, other than to mention an astronomically high proportion of AIDS cases in Romania compared with all of Europe.

These are horrible circumstances for anyone to live in, for any child to be raised in. It breaks my heart, and I do believe it is the responsibility of the church to step in and help people learn to better their situation. I believe mission work has a deeply needed place in this world, and that missionaries can be a vital part of the work of a church body.

So what is this group doing while they are there?
* Are they teaching these women basic skills with which to improve their lot? No.
* Are they providing the tools these women will need in order to start schools in their communities? No.
* Are they teaching them how to dig a well, build a septic system, reinforce the mud homes that are washed away year after year in the rains? No.

They will, however, teach the women how to make crafts (some items mentioned are the "flipper flapper" and the "god's eye") so that they can "sell those items rather than continuing a life in prostitution".

Oh. Yeah.

* Are they teaching these women about barrier-method birth control to help slow the spread of AIDS? No.
* Are they teaching these women about other methods of birth control to help prevent unwanted pregnancies? (Yes, I know that many religions do not condone birth control - this is a non-denominational protestant organization, however, which does not have a strong stance on birth control use and options - and let's face it, Depo Provera has far fewer health risks and emotional turmoil than repeated abortions.) But, no, they aren't covering that, either.
* Are they lobbying the Romanian government to cover birth control for these woman rather than paying for unlimited abortions? No.
* Are they sending medication or training these women in basic nursing care? No.
* Are they going to do anything that will actually help these women in the long run? The short run? At a mild jog? No.

But they will, as the speaker put it, "sit on the floor together and share the gospel of Christ".

Uh-huh. Well, there are other ways to help turn the situation around...

* Are there any men going on this mission? No.
* Is there a mission program that is helping the men in these tribes to learn new ways of viewing their womenfolk? No.
* Have you given any thought to what is going to happen to these "chosen 25" when they return to their tribe with a whole new vocabulary, like, "No," and "respect" and "rights"... which are still wholly foreign to the culture in which they live? Well, no.

So. Basically, these missionary women are leaving their husbands and children at home to fly across the world and preach the gospel of Christ in the same manner they do down at the local Pregnancy Crisis Shelter - here, in America, where the young girls who walk in do have choices; places to go; long-term help, support, education, and a future. Here, in a free and equitable society, in a culture which doesn't look askance when we say, "no means no". And these women are heading over there to give these oppressed, beaten women this vocabulary to use in a void - in a violent, tumultuous society where "no" means these women will be beaten into submission. Where life - theirs or their children's - holds no value. Where the only place they will have to proffer their new trinket making skills is to the men who patronize their beds.

And I am angry at this. I am angry knowing that there will be many additional beatings and probably several deaths that come from the newfound "liberation" of these gypsy women, when they try to claim the rights we take for granted. And we will never hear of it. How many of these women are beaten and die every day, and how often does it make the news?

If a woman or a man is going to be martyred, it had better well be with full informed consent, and not because one innocently traipsed back to her village, high on the spiritual rush of a religious encounter. It's warm and fuzzy while you're at the retreat and everyone is crying and hugging, but unless someone has clued-in the men in the village on this New Way Of Doing Things, as well, it's not going to end well.

Does this mean I believe there should not be a mission program? Of course not. I would love to see one that is going to make things better.

I would love to see a mission program that sends men into the field, particularly into the societies where the men of the cultures hold the keys to transformation. I would love to see one that offers not only the spiritual understanding of the value and worth of human life, but that we, as humans, hold the tools to improve it. I would wholly support a mission program that teaches skills, trades, and dignity to the culture as a whole, and not to an isolated few who have no voice to raise without facing certain retribution.

Rather than simply standing in awe of how these women "just rebuild their huts year after year" (as the speaker did), show them how to reinforce their homes, to make them more resilient using the materials available.

Rather than teaching them to make crafts they cannot sell because the market will not allow them a stall, teach them to read and write and basic math, and teach them how to teach their children. Or teach them to make things that have export value - cloths, clothing, weaving, pottery... things of their heritage that can be exported and can bring in wealth and commodities.

I just cannot help but see that this is the feel-good, warm-n-fuzzy mentality of those who like to think they're doing good, who get to enjoy the sense of Good Works from the warmth of their own homes while the aftermath of their actions plays itself out far, far from view. There are so many better ways to serve than the feel-good trip this woman is going on. I cannot support this. I will not support an endeavor that will end in death, will not improve anyone's lot, and will most likely bring about unknowing martyrs for a cause they may or may not have understood they were taking on. There is too much fluff, not enough meat, not nearly enough research and legwork, for this to be a good thing. The ramifications will be beautiful for the first 24 hours, until the aftermath kicks in. Then it's going to be a tragedy of greater magnitude than the tragedy of the current situation - because this one could have been - and should have been - avoided.

God be with the women in Romania.


Saturday, August 27

On Letting Go

Letting go of your children isn't so tough if you let it happen incrementally, as it's meant to happen. It isn't so tough if you don't shove them out of the nest before they're ready to handle the wide, wide world. It isn't so tough when you say kind things to and about them, in front of them, and they know that they're welcome to put their hand in yours any time they need it; they will do it longer, and the instances will taper off gradually rather than awkwardly, but they won't ever stop. Completely.

It's still tough, and there are still the spontaneous knee-jerk desires to reach out and hold the back of the bike "just in case", or to call ahead and see if they've made it yet, or to send care packages filled with things you know they're perfectly capable of purchasing themselves, "but..." Yeah. It's still tough, but not in the same way as realizing, a few years too late, that letting go was not the same as shoving away. If you can keep that clarity, if you can nestle them in and let them grow, then you can smile when you catch yourself as they ride away. You can trust that they will call when they get there - you'll still worry, but not for the same reasons. You can go ahead and send the care packages, knowing they'll be received with a smile and the warmth with which they were sent.

It's tough to let go, but it's not so tough.

Zorak and I watched James and John take off down a brand new trail today. They stayed together. They blazed their own trail. They never looked back. We both stalled the desire to call them back. Then we both looked at each other and laughed. The boys are expanding their perimeters. They are exploring more of their world. They know they are safe, and that we're here if and when they need us. They know we'll come running if they call. We know they aren't going to ram anyone off the trail. Or chase stray dogs. Or eat unidentified plants. So yeah... It's okay to let go. Little by little.

We linked arms, we talked with Smidge, who, not entirely thrilled with letting his brothers go, sat hunched over in the wagon, looking every bit like my Grandmother when she was in a truly foul mood. We enjoyed being deeply in love with one another in this new stage of independence and growth. And we realized it's good like this. In their time. On our (cumulatively - all of ours, as a family) own terms. This is how it's meant to be.

For some uplifting, wonderful peeks onto the front porches of families who are farther along this path, check out some of these blogs. They have older children whom they enjoy and like. Their children are growing and spreading their wings, but they don't feel the need to take out everyone within their wingspan. It's encouraging to me, and I hope it will be encouraging to you, as well.

Schola - "We Have A Teenager In The House"
Quiet Life - "We Let Go Pretty Well"
Shades of White - "She Will Be Ready"
Mental Multivitamin - "What I Live For"
Complete Chaos 4 Us - I couldn't think of a snifty title- just read it. She enjoys her children and she's hilarious.

Kiss those babies, and young men and women.

Friday, August 26

The Habits of Limbo

We did nothing today. Absolutely nothing. It was kind of nice, but it was also gorgeous outside and I feel awful that we are so accustomed to staying indoors now that we just don't want to go outside when it's lovely. Fortunately, that habit will be broken (even if by force) when we move into our Forever Home. We're hauling appliances outside, boys, head on out! Let's see if there are any more fruit trees buried under this grass, boys, c'mon! It's time for lunch and the only eating surface on the property is the picnic table out front, so let's go! My hope is that by the time we are moved in and finished with the First Big Push in the remodeling, we'll be firmly broken of the Indoor Habit. It's a nasty habit, really.

Zorak and I spent a good few hours tonight revisiting our goals and plans. They're still about on track, although he's not thrilled with the lack of music, art, history and science in lessons. I'm not either, but, well, this is Limbo Hell, and that is part and parcel of it. The boys aren't losing ground, and I haven't given up, so I'm okay with the fact that we're in a holding pattern Until Further Notice. I think, however, that it's easier for me to be in that spot because I'm naturally immersed in the process on a daily basis. I have that constant recalibration going on. I wake in the middle of the night, thinking, "I really need to order Famous Men of Rome soon!" Then I realize if I order it now, it's only going to go into a box and not get used until after Christmas, anyway. Why not wait and have it shipped to the place it will be used? Let someone else haul it over there for me. He doesn't have that constant conflict in his face, and so when he's home and he sees the effect of Limbo Hell, it hits him as a little disturbing to think, "THIS is the boys' life?" I am glad he cares, glad he sees, and glad he is willing to come to me with his concerns. I know I'd go nuts if I didn't have friends with whom to stress out over the fact that we haven't even started ROME yet - who can let me get it all out, and then talk me back off the ceiling. That way, when he looks around and thinks, "You haven't even TOUCHED the recorders in months!" I already know the path down from the ceiling and can guide him off it, too. Then we're both on firm ground, able to look around, kick a path. It's good. And we are actually heading in the right direction, overall. Together, no less! WOOHOO!

Then there is the limbo-lack-o-bookshelves. If I'd known we'd be in this apartment four or more months, I'd have brought in more bookshelves. We normally have eleven. We have subsisted off one and a half since we've been here. I cannot convey in mere words the impact this has had on the flow of our home. It hasn't been good. So, it will be wonderful to have our beloved bookshelves out, unpacked, and filled with daily fare once again! No more limbo.

Honestly, in looking around, this has all been good, and there is very little permanent damage done. Some of it has been inconvenient, but none of that has come near outweighing the positives or the progress we've made. Music, art and science await, and when we have the space and the time and the flexibility, it will be oh-so-sweet. Yes, it will.

Roots go down. Limbo goes away. There will still be days with grouchy children, grumpy mommy, out-of-sorts Daddy. There will still be mornings when the laundry must take precedence over a trip to the library. There will still be afternoons that will fade with unfinished worksheets and abandoned lesson plans. But they will be fewer and far less dominant than the limbo of now. And in the meantime, we've enjoyed William Joyce and Mozart. We've gathered and sketched and read about all manner of bugs. We've learned to swim and we've settled into our church home. So it's not all bad. Just little habits have sprung up here and there, and those can be broken.

Kiss those babies!

Three Little Fishes

...and they swam, and they swam, all over the dam!

Another great day today, playing, swimming, crafting. John made me a nursing bead necklace for the baby to play with, and every morning he makes sure I've got it on. Nice summer accessorizing!

We think Smidge has officially been promoted to Boy. His vocabulary has begun to... well, it's begun, which is huge. He's more aware of and involved in the daily process of being boys and all that goes with it. But also, the boys have completely taken him into the Big Boy circle. This means he's a part of the gang now, gets a say in what they do; there's an equality in it all. It's neat to see. Of course, while they're still beautifully protective of him, they don't cut him nearly as much slack as they did before, either. That part, he's not so thrilled about, but the rest drips with the sweet nectar of success. It's cute.

Zorak watched the boys for a bit today while I slipped down to the thrift store. For a half hour out of my day and thirty bucks, I am now decked out in clothes that fit my morphing body! After plying myself into Zorak's jeans the past month (there is something so wrong about wearing jeans that are "going out dancing" tight when you're four months pregnant!) it was time. I actually look forward to getting dressed tomorrow. Getting up, that's a different story. But once I'm up, it'll be nice to get dressed.

No clue what we're doing this weekend, but Zorak did just mention that there's a gun show. That narrowed our options considerably. *grin* Maybe another trip to the gardens, or a trek up to Monte Sano for a little hiking. Whatever it is, I'm glad we have another weekend together. Zorak is home. The boys are healthy. Life is good.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, August 25

Gardens and Sushi and Dad, Oh Boy!

Wow, what a fun day! The boys and I enjoyed a leisurely morning together, then they played for a bit while I made a bazillion phone calls and tried to coordinate the Signing of the Contract, Part Deux. (Three? How many is this, now?)

The weather was not beautiful yesterday, but it was do-able, so we packed up a nominal bag and headed to the Huntsville Botanical Gardens for a day of exploration. I was prepared to be relatively bored out of my skull, but figured the boys would enjoy the time outside. They have a butterfly house and water play areas, so why not? I have not been so wrong about a place in a long, long time! This place is amazing! The work the staff and volunteers have put into the 30+ gardens on the property is astounding. The quality and care that's gone into everything from design to presentation hits you the minute you enter the Gardens, and never stops. From the Bonzai Garden and Model Railroad Village on through to the Aquatic Garden, the entire experience is one to be savored. We must go back. The boys hope to catch one of the daylily volunteers and become little apprentice daylily growers, and I want to lose myself for a bit in their herb garden. (The herb garden is larger than our apartment. I'm still shivering with anticipation over that place!)

I haven't hiked with the boys since, well, since there were only two of them and Smidge wasn't even a twinkle in Zorak's eye. They drink a lot more water now, and I hadn't expected the day to involve so much hiking! Yup, we ran out of water. At the far end of the Gardens. I'd been trying to navigate toward the spot marked on the map as having a water fountain, but that was like herding cantakerous cats toward a bath. Finally, we stopped and asked one of the volunteers if he could point the way. He not only pointed the way, he led us to it and when he discovered the water fountain had been turned off, he settled us under the pagoda at the Aquatic Garden and headed off to find some for us. A few moments later, a nice lady on a maintenance truck pulled up with three bottles of water for the little guys. Talk about a mission of mercy!

The cafe at the Gardens was closed when we headed back, so I proposed sushi for supper. Yay! We had just enough time for the boys to change into dry clothes before the restaurant opened. It was a great meal. Smidge took in two bowls of miso soup, and ate all the tofu. John thoroughly enjoyed the teriyaki, and they served the "invisible noodles", which are rice, so how cool was that? James endeared himself to the staff by ordering straight from the sushi bar - he ordered a few favorites and then got a little experimental by ordering a few new (and partially unidentifiable) items. Our waitress was a gem, an absolute gem. She brought the "trainer" chopsticks, kept the tea fresh and hot, doted on the boys, and kept us supplied with plenty of napkins. I love her! We were late for Pioneer Club, but it was a meal that couldn't be rushed if it was to be enjoyed properly.

The only meltdown we had happened about mid-meal, when Smidge, using his cat-like reflexes, snagged the mound of wasabi from James' plate with this chopsticks. The whole mound! James and I both responded rapidly and rather vociferously, which resulted in Smidge dropping the wasabi, then crying like we'd just told him we don't love him. The manager peeked in to see what was wrong. She got a good chuckle out of his curtailed adventure and brought him a piece of tempura. That cheered him considerably, and the rest of our meal was event-free.

Pioneer Club was fantastic, and then we had a couple hours to burn before Zorak's flight landed. Or so we thought. On our way to pick him up at ten, he called... from Atlanta. Flight delayed, put on another flight. Then it was delayed. Twice. Not going to leave Atlanta for another hour. Oops, ok, turned around and came home. It was another two hours before he left Atlanta, but he did finally make it into town in the wee early hours of this morning.

Amazing Realtor will be here in an hour and a half to do the paperwork over again, and then I have no idea what our game plan for today will be (I'd thought Zorak would be gone until this afternoon, so I'd planed one last library trip for today), but it should be good. I, however, had probably best get myself tidied up and start the day (everyone but John is still asleep, and even he doesn't look like he wants to be up).

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, August 23

I had forgotten I could be so tired.

Wow. Everything aches. I've fallen asleep twice today while reading to the boys. I don't realize I've fallen asleep, of course, until I say something truly goofy that has nothing to do with the story at all, and the boys giggle riotously, exclaiming, "What?!?" Huh? Uh. Oh. *yawn* Let's slice some apples and dance in the living room for a bit, shall we?

We swam today and had a generally nice time. I have no patience for hysterics, and so, God's giving me plenty of opportunity to develop that skill. Gee, thanks. Really, the boys do well, but there are just some lines they have decided they cannot cross. Their reasons have no grounding in reason at all, and no amount of logic will penetrate the Veil Of Hysteria. I do not do well with the Veil of Hysteria. *harumpf* This is one of those times I realize why God made children so cute - you can't really be angry with them for being children and doing or feeling the things children do or feel. At least, you can't when you hold them in your arms, look them in the eyes and say, "OK, I'm not pleased with your decision, but you, I love. Always. No matter what. I think you're a neat kid." And that gleam, that glimmer - now, that can penetrate the Veil of Hysteria. It can't get them to cross The Line, but it can penetrate the Veil and bring your children back to your arms. From there, it's a clean slate and a fresh approach!

Zorak is having a wonderful time visiting with the great people we knew in Maryland. The single guys invited him to join them at bowling league, but I think he ended up having a home cooked meal with another friend and his wife and children. While the single guys are truly fantastic people, I think the home life is just what Zorak needed. That's nice.

On the home front, our Amazing Realtor called today. She sounded... anxious. And for good reason. The sellers don't like the "quality of the signed fax" they received Friday. Ok, I don't mean to be snarky, but couldn't someone have mentioned that, oh, Friday? Or even perhaps Monday? It took them until this afternoon to decide it's not up to par? Come ON, people! So anyway, Amazing Realtor is on the ball and offers to swing by the house when Zorak gets off work so we can re-sign (evidently the problem occurred on the one they'd faxed here that was actually signed, so just resending that one wasn't an option). Oh. Of course. He's not here. *sigh* "Hey," I have a great idea! "If you want to drop it off, I'll sign it and when we pick him up, he can sign it and we'll drop it off in person!" Oh no, says Amazing Realtor - the place the paperwork goes to isn't in state. She's not sure where it is, but it has a 301 area code. That's when I started in with the 1980's-style mallrat, "NO WAAAY! It is NOT!" Why is that so painfully ironic? Ironic in the truest sense of the word? Because 301 is a Maryland area code. Zorak is less than an hour's drive from these people Right. Now. OH, THE HUMANITY! We might be able to sign it, and fax it to Zorak so he could sign and then drop it off before he leaves. Maybe not. I don't know. I don't know when we'll know. Our poor Amazing Realtor - she's also frustrated with all of this convolution. I told her that we really didn't mean to have "the difficult package". We thought it was so straight forward when we made our offer. She laughed and said it'll be ok. (I don't know which of us needed to hear that more, but I need to bake her something heavy and satisfying. She's been so incredible through all this.)

If the relatively lovely weather we're having holds out tomorrow, the boys and I are off on an excursion. We haven't had nearly as many of those this summer as little boys need. It should be good. And if it gets hot 'n sticky again, well, the Activity Bucket is still going strong!

Kiss those babies! I'm turning in "early" tonight.

Family Fun, Overheard This Morning

The boys begged from six o'clock this morning to play with their craft things. I relented after breakfast, and they are all now happily ensconced in their room, boating, flying, and dancing with their creations.

I heard the usual unintelligible noises, then, "Hey, Uncle James..."

"Huh?" I wondered. What could that be?

They'd made pom-pom babies yesterday, and today each boy took his "nephew" (the other boys' pom-pom baby) to spend some time together.

Well, if that's not a heart-warmer, I don't know what is! Smidge doesn't have any children yet, but they call him "Uncle Smidge". (I'm sure he'd love to be called that when he's 40!)

Kiss those babies!

Monday, August 22

What Mama's Readin'

Ah, I am alternately enjoying and slogging my way through The OXFORD BOOK OF ENGLISH SHORT STORIES (yes, they made it all caps in the title, I'm not being pretentious). This is a fun little sampler platter. It's an easy introduction to new authors, for those of us who wouldn't know where to start otherwise. It's also nice in the short story aspect, as I don't feel compelled to sit down for the entire sixteen course meal. I can snack. Sample. Wander off and digest a bit. Come back for a little o' this, a tad more o' that.

I must find more G.K. Chesterton! Evelyn Waugh seems eminently enjoyable, as well. Still can't stand Huxley, though. Just as I began thinking, "Hey! This really is a handy way to find new authors to read!" I was thwarted by a Kipling story that just had that strange spice you can't quite put your finger on. It felt as if someone had slipped a Thai food into the Chinese buffet... And it's not anything against Thai food (I love Kipling), but when you're expecting a sweet orange sauce and you get a snout full of curry and that painful red pimento-looking thing...

You go running for a big glass of O'Brian to wash it down! Book Twenty. WHAT?!?!? (Mild vexation with the layout of the universe, here, I cannot believe he passed on and left us with only three chapters of Book 21. *painful, closureless sigh*) However, Blue At The Mizzen is simply another in a long list of Favorite Drinks for me. Whether we're heading out to sea, or trekking across India, O'Brian is the guy to take along. Eminently palatable, always refreshing.

Forrest McDonald offers up a little meat 'n potatoes, stewed up with rich gravy in the form of a biography on Alexander Hamilton. I'm not done with this one yet, but I have to say that if anyone could make Hamilton appetizing to a States' Rights oriented, decentralized gov't loving, Libertarian coffee swigger like myself, it's McDonald. The man just oozes the talent of confident, delightful conversation. Reading his writing is like having Sunday supper with your favorite uncle.

Ever try the jerky your strange cousin made that turns out to be pretty good, afterall? That would be this week's HOME Improvement 1-2-3, published by and for Home Depot. It looks cheesy as all get out (and you find yourself thinking, what meat is this?) but it's very good. Thorough, humorous, great pictures, no Engrish, and it's well laid out. For a step-by-step guide that actually offers good steps, try the jerky.

That's about it. I need a good dessert book, folks. Not enough sweets lately. Any suggestions for a good dessert book? This would be one that tops off a nice day, won't give me weird dreams, or make me get out of bed to reference other materials. Preferably one that won't make me cry, either. ;-)

Since Zorak is gone *evil, world-conquering laugh*, we have transportation, so we're going to the library again tomorrow. I feel SO decadent!

Kiss those babies!

Quiet Afternoons

Zorak left today under a cloud of secrecy (or miscommunication - not sure which). He just called from his first stop, and he's fine. The boys and I let him off at the airport and headed out to find the local pharmacy - we drove the town from end to end and top to bottom without ever seeing a one of them, so we headed home, where, whaddya know, there's one right at the nearest intersection to the house!

I bought my once-every-six-years stash of new makeup while the boys perused the discount bins. Then we picked up the Holy Grail of the hot 'n sticky summer afternoon quest: an Activity Bucket. This Bucket is an entire afternoon's joy in one small, three dollar package. Craft sticks, chenille stems, pom pons, buggy eyes, keychain plastic straps and beads, along with - the highlight for this creativity-impaired mother of aspiring artists - an ideas book! SOLD! To the sucker with the three cute children an no creative flow!!

We came home and set up shop. While I sat, trying to adapt to the fact that popsicle sticks are now called "craft sticks" and colored pipe cleaners are now "chenille stems", the boys began gluing, beading, decorating. It was an explosion of joy and peaceful creativity! I would buy one of these bins a day for this result. I suppose I could just keep the empty bucket and refill it as it empties. That's probably the more responsible choice, although I really like the effortless step of opening a fresh bucket 'o fun without doing prep work!

It is about time for a fresh serving of our reading menu and my food-related book review system (yeah, which I'm sure y'all relate to and enjoy oh-so-thoroughly! It's ok, humor me.) We've been busy, busy reading since we've had a trip to the library, and it's felt good! I'll do that this evening, in the quiet that follows the bedtime melee*. Yep, with paper plumes and helmets. You'll never look at bedtime the same again!

It's time to make some pizza and enjoy a little relaxing lunch and a story. Then while Smidge naps, I think the boys and I will try to master making God's Eyes. (I remember making them as a child, but for the life of me cannot reproduce them! So, it's anybody's guess how well that's going to go.)

And tonight, a quiet night. A routine-filled night. But a night with no Daddy stories for sleepy boys, and then I'll have gather every pillow in the house to figure out how to prop up my big ol' belly on my own without Zorak (he's a husband, a father, a belly prop: he's Super Dad!) And we'll miss him this week.

Kiss those babies!

Mel'ee \M[^e]`l['e]e"\, n. A cavalry exercise in which two groups of riders try to cut paper plumes off the helmets of their opponents, the contest continuing until no member of one group retains his plume; -- sometimes called Balaklava m[^e]l['e]e.

On the road again

Zorak goes TDY this week, so we're spending a nice romantic evening over a plumbing book and tankless water heater selections. I'll talk to y'all tomorrow.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, August 19

Well, wow, now what?

Hmmm. Not sure what to post tonight. Anything that comes to mind seems a bit anti-climactic. Come to think of it, that's rather nice! Doesn't make for a stunning blog entry, but it's a very good feeling.

The boys did not go to swim class on Thursday. Zorak was sick. I was still sick. The boys are not enjoying this class at all. While their skills at the pool during the day are improving, their anxiety at class has continued to increase. There have been a few incidents with the instructor thus far that have raised our Spider Sense - nothing we can specifically put our fingers on, so we have noted it, but have not pursued it. However, when Zorak got home Thursday afternoon and the boys danced around him in the living room singing, "We're not going to swiiiiim class! We're not going to swiiiiiim class!" Um, I didn't feel too bad about skipping it. Honestly, they're doing fine without it. The daily swim has done more than the lessons have, and in some ways has undone some of the damage we've seen from the lessons. Tonight, we took them to the pool and they had a wonderful time. James swam in the five foot end of the pool. He was so proud of himself, and the first thing he said when his head popped above the water? "Wow! That's really fun!" John is swimming under water now for 10-15 feet at a time, and he's so proud of himself. He is still terrified to jump into the water, and the mere mention of "the four foot part" makes him tremble, but that's not bad. I'm glad we'll have another month here to take advantage of the pool access before we head "Home".

Zorak's health has improved drastically since his Tuesday coma. He still has a bit of crud, but he's up and mobile; quite functional in all. I am still a basket case, and am hoping to garner a few hours' extra rest this weekend. If I can keep down three consecutive meals, I'm going to consider it a great weekend.

Tonight I felt the first quickening of the baby. What a grounding, focusing sensation amidst all the chaos! I'm so thankful.

Most of all, I am anxious to get our groove. We want to have lessons daily and attend services regularly. We look forward to focusing on the real details of the day (the boys) rather than the peripheral details of the incidental projects (home). Until the last two months, we had done so well at keeping the focus. Four years at the University, doing the Student Family Thing; three months in utter limbo after graduation; four months in our little cinder block shack on campus while Zorak started grad school that fall; a year and a half in limbo in Maryland; through it all we managed to make the time and memories permanent for the boys, to keep them in focus. The past two months, however, I've lost my grip on that. The boys have felt it, and they don't like the Alice-falling-down-the-rabbit-hole sensation it's produced in our home. Zorak hasn't said anything, but I'm sure the added instability brought on by my lack of coping skills hasn't helped him make the adjustments he's had to make since we've been here. It's time to stop making excuses, take a deep breath, and get a better grip. Things probably will never be "calm". They will hopefully never be terribly predictable, and our "normal" may never be what others consider "normal". But they will be good. They are good. And that is the place to grab on and hold on tight. Time to re-grip and get back in the groove.

Kiss those babies!

Oh yeah, About The House

Anniesue asked if I'll tell y'all about the house, now that we've got it. Oh. Yeah. That would probably be handy, wouldn't it? I'm sorry. I forgot that I'm such a cynic and wouldn't say anything before.

Well, it's just south of here, near the Tennessee River. It's only a half-hour drive to Huntsville, and is near a cute little town with a population of 347. That was in the year 2000. It may be up by a coupl'a births by now, but by the looks of it, it's not up by many.

The house is a four bedroom ranch-style home built on a walk-out basement. That sounds so... bland, doesn't it? Really, it isn't. It's nestled back into the property, so you cannot see it from the road. It's got a balcony off the kitchen that overlooks a meadow and stream. You can't see that in the picture I posted below - the balcony is off to the right. The photo is taken from the top of the driveway, and isn't great, but it's the MLS photo. I'll post others when we get them. It's got a nice open floor plan that's about to become a bit more open, and a great division between living space and sleeping space.

And this is where it gets good: it has paneling! In every room. On every wall. From floor to ceiling, and tucked into every closet. Dark, thin, 1974 paneling! The closets all have lovely 15-color indoor-outdoor carpeting, circa 1974! The rooms are all carpeted in that incredible NASA-developed shag carpeting that can withstand anything and will probably outlast the roaches when the world comes to an end. (Yes, the world, at the dusk of man's reign, will be coated in roll upon roll of acrylic shag carpeting... Orwell has nothing on that image.)

WHY is that good, you ask? It's good because the structure is sound, so we won't have to build new trusses or backfill the foundation, or give the boys pre-emptive rabies shots in the process of remodeling. It's good because I will not feel one iota of guilt in ripping out this carpet and paneling to replace them with designs of our own choosing. It's good because I also won't have to pay extra on the selling price for someone else to slap down crappy white carpet with a thin pad and no Stainmaster coating, then live with that because I'd feel guilty tearing up "perfectly good" carpet. No, my friends, the interior of this home has served its masters well for 31 years. It's time to go to a better place (ie. not my place).

It hasn't been updated since it was built, and since it's a foreclosure, it's expected that it'll need some work. Mostly, it needs some TLC, and it needs the attention to detail that the previous owner just couldn't maintain after so many years. The porches need tidying and updating (as it stands now, Smidge could, of his own volition, or with the assistance of certain relatives, go soaring off the way-up-high balcony without even touching the rails, so obviously that's among the first to fix!) The path to the front needs to be relaid and planted with perennials. (It looks better in the picture than it does now. I'm guessing the photo is older, b/c that concrete path is really torn up.) You know, little details. Fruit trees (it already has a pear tree and an apple tree, and some wild blackberries on it), pecan trees, and some berry bushes will need to be planted this spring. The barn needs mucking, and when it's done, we'll have a strong, well-built 8-stall barn with a tack room. The basement has a huge colony of polygamist crickets that need to be evicted. It'll need the basics - new plumbing, new water heaters, basic renovations. It'll be fun. We have designs on that kitchen that make us quivver with anticipation!

As for the property itself, it's much smaller than we thought we would be willing to buy. But it captured our imaginations. It captured the boys' imaginations. From the moment we set foot over the creek, the boys took off and had a fantastic time among the rocks and trees. It was the only property we looked at that the boys specifically remembered, and cited things they loved about. Even Zorak's eyes sparkled when he saw the creek, and the trees, and the fruit trees, and the tree fort, and, and, AND!!! WOW. So, it's our own little six acres in the boonies. It has the stream, some texture and slope to the land, some open and some wooded. It has everything you'd need to really make an adventurous childhood come to life. We're five miles from good hunting, two and a half miles from a boat launch. It's a two mile trek to a little cafe and a small market, but we aren't en route to anywhere at all, so the traffic is nominal down our little country road.
But best of all, it's ours. And if we're here for 30 years, we will have no regrets. We won't spend the rest of James' childhood constantly fixing things "for someday". This is Someday. We can enjoy it, and work on it. We can spread our little wings on it, and put down deep, deep roots on it. It's our Forever Home. (Oh, and in a couple of years, we are going to put in windows galore! I don't know what the builder had against windows, but we're going to fix that, too. Windows. Windows. Windows.)

Roots. We did it. We're doing it. I can't believe it! Wow.

Thanks for letting me share.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, August 18

~*~*~*~*~*PART III*~*~*~*~*~

Well, folks, our poor realtor was out all day showing houses (job hazard, ya know), but when she returned to the office today, there was a message from the bank/seller:

They've accepted our counter offer!!!

Yes, we have a home. Of course, all of this happened after hours, so we won't be able to touch base with Mortgage Guy until tomorrow, but he'll be able to give us a closing date and get it all arranged.

Zorak asked her what, if anything, we needed to do on our end of the line at this point, to keep things moving forward. Her response? "Just sit back and let us do what we do best." Ahhhh. Ok. I can do that.





I am so thrilled. And our sweet realtor said, "Was there ever any doubt?" Well, considering our bizarre experiences in the real estate market to date... Yeah. Lots of doubt. We'd hit the point where nothing was expected to make sense or be reasonable any longer. So yes, this came as an exciting, thrilling bit of news. We've got a home and we can keep all the kids, too!


Kiss those babies!

The Week, Mid-Stride

On The Mommy Front:
When I was a kid, things, life just sort of... materialized out of nowhere. Suddenly, I was thrust into a new group, or activity, and although it felt a little awkward, that just seemed to be "how it was". Well, you know, I really didn't like that a whole lot. Granted, I do have "control issues", as Zorak lovingly refers to them, but still, I remember that disjointed sensation, thinking, "Why am I here? Whose idea was this?" So, upon reflection, I determined to give the boys a bit more of a head's up in Life, starting immediately.

This week we talked a lot about Pioneer Club beforehand. I let them know that this is something we thought they might enjoy, and that we'd like them to go to the first meeting and see how they felt. James took it in stride, but it really seemed to affect John. I think he has been feeling a little small lately, and knowing he had that input and some say in the process boosted his little spirits like you wouldn't believe.

They went prepared. They had a fantastic time! They talked endlessly on the way home about the things they did, the things planned for next time, the badges they will earn, and the great leaders in their classes. Wow. Cub Scouts can wait another few years. I'm good with this.

I guess they put them into classes by asking each child his age and grade in school. Um, oops. Not used to that yet. James said he's six and in the first grade. (We haven't done the big "new school year" thing yet, and he's not anxious to push his birthday - so the whole "going into second", which would be just plain "second grade" for other kids since school's already begun, didn't quite come across.) My first instinct was to encourage him to go ask to be put in another class, but I gave him the choice. He thought on it a bit and said he's really happy in his class and he would like to stay. Well, I'm all over that! So it looks like we're set, then. Wednesdays will be Pioneer Club Nights for the boys for the next 38 weeks.

On the House Front:
24 hours is not, contrary to popular belief, a measurable period. It's totally subjective. Who knew? Amazing Realtor said if there's nothing on their desk tomorrow, they'll call and find out what the hold up is. Meanwhile, Amazing Mortgage guy is ON THE BALL and ready to go! I love feeling like we have a team on our side. Even if we don't get this place, I know that everyone on our end has done their utmost. That's a peaceful feeling.

On the Home Front:
I think I tried to kill Zorak. The ick that descended upon me late Friday and kept me pinned to the bathroom all weekend slipped into his body late Sunday. His boss tried to send him home Monday, but he took a few something-or-others and toughed it out. Today, it was a different story. He got up at six, called in sick, and went back to bed. I woke him around three to force some hot tea and a sandwich down him. Then he fell back to sleep. I managed to get a half a cup of juice in him before we left for church. Those two times have been the only times we've seen him today. He is one sick Daddy. I feel for him. This is the tail end of it for me, and it's one whoppin' tail! He's not going to be right til the weekend. Poor Daddy. I really didn't try to kill him, though. Honest.

And in general, that's about it. Mid-week! WOOHOO!

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, August 16

House Hunt... Part II.IV? (update, anyway)

Well, today the seller replied to our counter offer (remember, from last THURSDAY!) They requested a copy of the extra earnest money and forwarded it to "the investor" (I have no idea what that means, sorry). They said we will have a reply "in 24 hours".

My best guess is that the Investor won't see the packet until in the morning, so just to keep my hair from falling out, let's plan on hearing back 24 hours from then.

Yup. Not quite the long-awaited "Part III", but it's better than a poke in the eye. (And have ya seen my new car? We can live in that, if we have to!)

The boys are at swim. I hurt my throat this afternoon, so I'm hiding and sipping hot tea. Gotta get supper ready for the hungry, sleepy bunch that'll come tumbling through the door in a little bit.

Kiss those babies!

I maxed out my cards... ALL of them.

I couldn't help it. I needed to do something. We're stuck here, and there's still no definitive decision on the house, and the boys need new pants!!!

So last night Zorak and I took the boys to the library and we maxed out every card in this family! That didn't get James new pants, but we've got a lovely stack of fresh books - some new, some old favorites - and who cares if your pants fit when you can stay home in sweats and read, right?

The rest of this week is going to crawl and fly, alternately - the boys have swim on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, Pioneer Club begins this Wednesday at church, and Zorak bought The Postman for us to watch on Friday night (after the family movie, which will feature Roy Rogers this week). So the evenings are going to be filled with activity and bustle. But the days... OY! The days! My friend, James, called yesterday to let me know he's still waiting for "Part III"... so are we. *sigh* So are we.

In the meantime, I've come to the conclusion that there is a huge, yet subtle, difference between being thankful for what you have, and being able to see the silver lining on that stinkin' rain cloud that won't just RAIN, for goodness' sake! RAIN, darnit! Quit making things muggy and sticky and bring us some relief!

See? Huge difference. I'm thankful for the moisture and the greenery and the cloud itself... but that silver lining evades me. I'll expound more on that tonight. Right now, though, I can feel the coffee slowly working its way into my bloodstream and it's time to go dive into those books!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, August 15

I laughed so hard I think I pulled something.

Jess, who I must remember has dangerous powers she is willing to abuse, has uncovered the skeleton in my closet... or she planted it there. Either way, check it out - me in my NEEWWWW CAR!!!!

C'mon, get HAPPY!!!

We could build a whole story around a picture like this... you know, the winter Zorak and I stayed in a camp in Magnitogorsk... That's a good way to while the time away until we hear more on the house!

Kiss those babies!

Why we will never own a 15 passenger van...

Just talking about vehicles with Jess, and buying bigger vehicles. Claudia said if they move out here, "one of us" will have to buy a 15 passenger van, and I laughingly told her to enjoy her new vehicle! It's not that I have anything against the big vans, but it's sort of like wearing your fat jeans when you don't have to - eventually, you'll find that's all you can wear. We naturally expand to fill the available space. Jeans. Tables (or other flat surfaces) work on the same principle. When we bought the Suburban, we moved from owning two single-cab pickups, and we seriously debated whether that was overkill.


We are now just one child away from having to get something larger than the Suburban! Or leaving Zorak home when we go out. But something different will need to be done. We bought the Suburban thinking we could haul the boys and their friends! Now, um, no.

If we were to break down and buy a 15 passenger van, it would only be a matter of multiple pregnancies before we'd need to move into a used school bus! And I don't think I have enough calcium stores left to fill that thing!!

So that's our rationale (partially tongue in cheek) for not buying a 15 passenger van.

Kiss those babies - all of 'em!

Sunday, August 14

ACK! I am so sick!

Not deranged-sick, just plain ol' sick-sick. I think I pushed myself too hard last week. (But, oh, what fun it was!)

Tomorrow begins another day. I've been meaning to blog about Prima Latina for CS, but have discovered that I really need to rethink what I have to say about it. Unfortunately, with school on "bare minimum mode" at the moment, that hasn't happened recently. I promise I will do that this week, though. I need to nail it down, anyway, so I can gear up for the fall.

I'm fighting my natural inborn pessimism at the moment. Just spent the evening panicking and crying to Zorak, who has now run off to hide in the newspaper and hope that I can find a girlfriend who is awake at this time of night. He did hold my hair back for me while I paid homage to the... oh, who am I kidding? While I puked my guts out. There was no homage. A little swearing, but nothing remotely resembling homage.

We should hear back tomorrow on the house offer. I really hope they take it and that we can close pronto. There have been more glitches popping up over the weekend (hence, the hyperventilating and screeching and flapping of the arms tonight), and while none of them pertain directly to the house, they will indirectly affect the house. And. And. And. *WHHINE* I am just not endowed with a great deal of fortitude and optimism simultaneously.

So. The boys have had a great weekend. We all hung out on the couch today to watch a movie and snuggle. That was nice. We really need a deeper couch so we don't have to stack up three-high on it, but you know what - I am just really glad that my almost-seven-year-old-son still comes and piles on with the little guys. I'm thankful that the wee little one "gets it" and joins in. And I am ever-so-glad that my big, snuggly five-year-old-son craves physical contact in positive ways. He responds to hugs and loves to hold hands. He seeks out stray run-by snuggles. He sets the tone that the other two follow, and he makes me remember to be still long enough to enjoy it. We're really blessed with these guys!

On that note, however, these little guys are going to need some full-time attention and interaction tomorrow. (It feels awfully quiet now, with all the company gone, and that always seems to leave a weird vacuum for a few days after...) SO I'd better run to Wally World for some creamer (it would not bode well to run out in the morning!) and then get to bed.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, August 13

The Boat Trip V.3.4

This is my third attempt at blogging this trip. If I thought I was tired last night, you should see my energy wane in trying this one - more - time. Long story short, we had an absolute blast. The boys enjoyed the entire excursion, from start to finish (except for Smidge there at the start, as you'll see in a second). Our Wonderful Guests had an equally fantastic time, and their boys had just as much fun as everyone else. Zorak and I think we may have found our Official Visitor's Outing for when we have company. This was just a whole lotta fun, and we can't even begin to imagine how much better it'll be when we figure out what we're doing!

We got the boat off the trailer with nominal assistance from kind strangers, and only lost two straps somewhere in the water. (For the record, Wal-Mart carries these straps! Good to know.) We managed to get everyone into life jackets and onto the boat without any major mishaps. The older boys thought the life vests were pretty great. The little guys, well, not so much...

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However, aside from not being able to bend down to pick up anything, or the ability to actually sit, the little guys adjusted pretty quickly, and from the looks of things, I don't even think therapy will be necessary. There was just too much to see...

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And point out...

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...to bother being upset. Good stuff. The terrain along the river is exquisite. We saw cliffs and glades that captured our imaginations and brought childhood books and legends to life. We eventually stopped photographing the herons, as they are so numerous it began to feel like photographing pigeons in DC.

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Zorak let each of the boys take a turn learning to drive. James immediately grasped the connection between driving the boat and driving a car, and determined right from the start that this was a pretty big responsibility. Don't let the stern expression fool ya, he had a blast, and did a fine job!

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John, on the other hand, felt it was perfectly natural, and OF COURSE he can drive a boat! (Hey, Ma! See those barges? Watch this!) I think we may have to keep an eye on this one...

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We felt like we'd sailed to the ends of the earth! In reality, we made it five miles (maybe) upriver. If that. We explored a small tributary to the Tennessee River, where the boys waved enthusiastically at a tug boat crew, and at a surprised man from Florida who had dropped anchor up the stream, where he probably never expected he'd be hailed by a herd of small children in a pontoon boat.

A little further upriver, we stopped at a sandy spot along the bank and moored for lunch. The boys immediately dispersed to gather "treasures" (which reminds me, I need to get those out of my bag before they are ground to treasure-sand), dig on the shore, and in general have the kind of fun only children think is part-n-parcel of any day. Zorak and Ben grilled chicken teriyaki and polish sausages, while Claudia and I tidied the boat and kept an eye on the roaming natives. If dirt and laughter are any indication of a good time (and we think they are), then the lunch break was a success!

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Lunch, for the most part, could not compete with the lure of the river. It was right there. It was calm, and evidently, inviting. The boys splashed head-first into the water - had we thought they'd muster that kind of gumption, we'd have stapled their life vests to their torsos - and had the time of their lives. Thankfully, they are good boys who had no trouble staying close, listening to us, and being safe while they played. That's worth the effort.

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Zorak has unearthed a new persona to add to his cache: Captain Ron of the Desert Gypsy Tribe. He not only piloted us safely through the channels and corridors, but he could identify the native critters pretty well, he found the ideal place to camp for lunch, and he didn't panic when we had engine problems (you know, unlike some women he may be married to - not naming any names, here). He figured out the problem, identified the solution and we were on the road again in no time at all. And when he wasn't busy showing the boys how boats work, or troubleshooting the engine trouble, he carried us along with him on this Grand Adventure with humor, wit, and the natural, comfortable rhythm that is Zorak.

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We thought we'd head back downriver after our break so we could load the boat before dark and thereby decrease (or at least not increase) our chances of losing, pinching or breaking anything. The trek back downriver was fun, and fast -- On the way up, we went slow, then we sped up and felt like we were flying. Then someone would speed past us and we'd just have to laugh at ourselves and all this newness. On the way back down, though, we kicked up a fun little wake that the boys thought was The Coolest!

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We saw more new things on the way back down - there was an awful lot of pointing and squealing and laughing on this trip. And, of course, every time the boys recognized something we'd passed on the way upriver, they were feelin' pretty capable as Explorers and Navigational Experts! Lewis & Clark, watch out!

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It was just plain fun, really. That sums it up well. (And I'm out of the energy to rewrite everything I'd written the first two times.)

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We made it back quicker than we'd anticipated and had just enough time left to go downstream a little farther so we could pass under the big bridge that spans the Tennessee River by the docks for one last Hurrah before heading back to land. The sun leaned closer and closer to the treeline, casting amazing lines of shimmering golden red across the waves. The tired, happy, squirrelly children all seemed mezmerized by the scene, and then the bridge loomed into view. It was breathtaking.

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As we passed under the gigantic steel structure, every head in the boat tilted up to take in the sheer magnitude of everything around us: nature, technology, friendship, and wonder. It's all there, and at that moment, it was all so very beautifully clear.

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There are a lot more pictures to post, but getting these resized and uploaded has been quite the adventure in itself (one which isn't even close to blogworthy!) I also forgot in all the excitement to ask Claudia if I could include pics that had her boys in them, too. So these got uploaded last night, and here ya go. Today she said I can, so I'll post more in a few days.

FYI: If anyone plans to visit, bring your swim suits and your appetites, 'cuz this is our new mojo! And with all the things we learned on this trip, future excursions will be even more enjoyable! Y'all can thank Ben & Claudia for having the fortitude and good humor to go with us on our maiden voyage. It's not always such a good thing to go first, ya know!

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, August 11

Our Visit With Our Wonderful Neighbors from AZ

I say they're from AZ - that's when they became our Wonderful Neighbors. They're in CA now, but we try to drive really close in behind them so nobody sees the plates. *wink* And we have had a spectacular two days so far. We haven't shown them nearly as much of our new beautiful native land as we would like, but it's been good. A few of the highlights:

Their two little boys are absolutely darling, wonderful, precious, and did I mention darling? The five boys blend together so well and have such fun. The older three ramble about exploring, pretending, playing, singing, and plotting. The Diaper Brigade (Smidge and their Little D) sort of flit from place to place like smiling bumble bees - bumping into things, laughing hysterically about it, and then floating off in another direction. If bumble bees weighed 30 pounds, I'm pretty sure you could hear them laugh, and it would sound like these boys' laughter.

Ben & Claudia love the area and have found a place they could easily call home. Now we just need to help Ben find a job here (which, honestly, is a matter of time, just time) and get them moved. It's exciting to see their dreams for their family reflected in everything they see here.

We took them to church with us on Wednesday for supper and Bible study. We sat at a table by ourselves to eat, not because the folks at church are unfriendly, but because there are nine of us and the round tables in our fellowship hall only seat eight, comfortably. Many folks stopped over to welcome them and make them feel comfortable. Zorak and I appreciated that. It can be difficult to manage the social graces of introductions when you have three hungry children and a gazillion distractions.

During Bible study, Pastor H introduced them to the class and let the word out that they are looking at coming to live here. I was so absolutely humbled and thankful for our church in the moments that followed. Two gentlemen asked Ben for his resume and a third heard that Ben's degree is in Computer Engineering (or something like that, I was herding Smidge by that point) and pointed out that he is hiring. Nobody made grandiose promises or stepped outside good business sense, but they really walked the walk, so to speak, and let it be known that if they could help, they would. Resumes for everyone, and prayers all 'round. What a great church home we have!

Today we had the whole clan over for breakfast. That would be six adults (Ben's parents accompanied them on the voyage) and five children to feed. I felt like I cooked for hours! And it was only eggs, sausage, hashed browns and fresh fruit! It wasn't a fancy meal, but there was a lot of it. If we were to have more than six children, oatmeal would be the most elaborate food I prepared! Since we're still making do with our little four-chair kitchen table set, everyone ate in shifts. It worked out well. Then Claudia & Ben headed off to explore with a realtor while Zorak and I enjoyed sweating on the porch with Ben's Mom & Dad, catching up, sharing jokes, and encouraging one another.

Tomorrow is going to be neat. It's Zorak's day to do one of those things I think he's always thought would be cool to do for guests - you know, if we weren't poor and landlocked... and poor. Well, now we're not, so we're doing it. He's rented a pontoon boat for the whole herd and we're going cruising on the lake and up one of the rivers tomorrow! He's so excited, he's downright giddy. It has the feel of a rite of passage. We may ground ourselves on a sandbar or two, but that's okay. It's not like either of us has a yachting trophy stashed amidst the archery trophies. And fortunately, if we do manage to get ourselves into a pickle (or three), we know we're among friends who will cover for us and mock us mercilessly for decades about "that time you tried to kill us!" I've emptied the camera card and will post pictures!

We did take them out to see the house we're negotiating on. I think it scared Ben (to be honest, it can go either way - charming country home with potential, or creepy out-of-the-way place to bury bodies at night). The kids had a blast, though, and it was nice to walk Claudia through the house, explaining what we planned to do with it - made it a little more clear. The place needs a bit more upfront effort on the structural end than we'd wanted to get into (at least right away), but nothing major. It was good to see it again, from a fresh perspective.

And I'll tell ya, I am one tired Mama! The boys have run nonstop, sleeping only when we can get them to be still for two or three seconds - and yet, they're still up at six thirty each morning! Wow. To be one or five or six and actually realize the sheer power of inertia you've got on your side! Wouldn't that be an amazing thing to experience for a day? (Wouldn't want to trade, though. I don't think my old frame could keep up with their high-speed motors and trannies for longer than, say, lunch time...)

Kiss those babies - even the ones that aren't yours!

See? It works. (Part II...)

Alright, already! In all fairness, we didn't hear anything back until after five today. Well, Wednesday, but Ben & Claudia just left, so I'm still running on Wed. hours.

So here's Part II:

Once we withdrew our offer on the first property, Zorak and I sifted through all the other places we've looked at over the past three and a half months. We found one that had inspired our imaginations and which we truly liked. We called Nice Mortgage Man to find out if he could do that property, what the payments would look like, and what he'd need to do it as a ten-day closing. (Can you tell we're tired of living in an apartment?) He said he will make it happen, so we called the realtor who'd shown us the property and asked to make an offer. She agreed to meet us after lunch to do all the paperwork. Yippee!

We sat down at the table and the first thing she said was, "I have to let you know there is someone at the office putting in an offer on this property as we speak." Hear that? That is the sound of my intestines knotting around my heart and squeezing the valves out of it. For the record, that sound echoes in a library. You know, in case you ever find yourself wondering, "Is that just gas or am I dying?"

The realtor had let all appropriate agencies know that she, too, was getting an offer and so it was that both offers were to go in on a "multiple offer form". Yeah, that sounds like fun. We scrapped the original plan and put in a much better offer than we'd intended. Still within our comfort range, just not as, mmmmm, spectacular a deal, let's say. For us. For the seller, it was great. There's a dispute over the easement of the property. They were going to take care of it; we said, "don't bother, we'll do that." They were going to fix the broken air conditioner; we said, "that's okay, we can take care of that." We even had a ten-day closing date with an approval letter from Nice Mortgage Man. How sweet can that be, right?

Evidently, sweeter than Equal, but not quite up to Pure Cane Sugar standards. We heard nothing at all yesterday due to a bizarre twist of events in which our mortgage file took a joy ride to Tennessee and arrived late at the bank's office. (The bank is the seller in this particular transaction.) They had both offers all day, and could peruse them. From what I understand, though, they could not actually make a decision until all pertinent documents (including the prodigal approval letter) were safely in hand. So we heard diddly yesterday aside from the painful grinding and squealing of brakes as the process came to a stunning halt. We would definitely hear something by Wednesday.

Wednesday was really long. When your adrenaline is pumping hard enough to infuse the hairs of your eyebrows, you know you're wired. And time. stands. still. So you eat. And you wait. Then you clean. And you wait. You feed the small ones. And you eat some more, then wait a bit. It feels like more waiting than it really is, but eventually you call the realtor with the same song and dance she probably hears at this point in every single transaction she's ever facilitated:

Hi... This is your neurotic client. I know you're going to call when you hear something, but I, uh, well, um... Actually, I thought I'd call to make sure there was nothing else they needed from us. You know, blood samples, access to our life's savings, more lead-based paint forms in triplicate? And, well, after not much thought at all, that sounded like a good enough excuse to call you instead of waiting by this phone, peeling my nails off my fingers one layer at a time.

And your realtor, if she is kind and for whatever reason, likes you, will be genial and sweet, and not mock you for it. She still won't have any news for you. But at least she'll be gentle in letting you down and recommending that perhaps you put on gloves and find something productive to do. And yes, she really will call you as soon as she hears something. Yes, anything. Yes, she promises.

So you take your company swimming, and you feed the small ones again. You let them watch a movie while you fill your guests in on all there is to love about the area. And you discover that you can, in fact, completely drain the battery on your cell phone by constantly pressing the buttons to see if you somehow missed a call - even though you have the thing on HIGH ring and vibrate, and have worn it all day tucked into your undergarments. When your husband calls, you try to sound calm and collected as you explain that no, you haven't heard anything yet, and yes, you really will call him as soon as you hear something. Yes, anything. Yes, you promise.

(You also note that he called you more today than you called the realtor, which has a redeeming sensation to it, although you wouldn't ever hold that against your husband because you wanted to call the realtor every half hour until she had news or filed a restraining order against you.)

Finally, as the business day has ended and you are wondering how much chocolate one fetus can withstand, the phone rings. It is your realtor. With news. Bizarre news.

The bank has a counter offer. Just for you (don't you feel special?!), which means that the negotiations have begun in earnest. But their counter is very strange. They want:

Full list and they aren't going to fix anything - but, wasn't the whole point of volunteering to fix those two biggies ourselves so we don't have to pay you to do it, and you'd priced it out including your execution of those two features... but, *sigh* ok, that's fine. The difference isn't much at all, and we're okay with it, so we'll take that.

They'll pay $xxxx in closing costs - um, as opposed to us paying $yyyy in closing costs? And this is going to cost you more. Yeah. That's weird, but we'll take it. Gift. Horse. Mouth. Got it.

They want double the earnest money. Huh? Um, okay... I don't know why. You've got one check and now you want another one just like it. If you could see my nails right now, you'd know we're serious.

And then the really weird one. They countered our ten-day closing with not a 30-day closing, but a 45-day closing!! WHAT?! No! Why? Now, this is a bit of a deal breaker. There is no way we can get the house clean enough to move into by the end of September if we can't take possession for another 45 days... and our locked rate on the mortgage expires way before then. No. Why?

The house is vacant - nobody has to move out.
The property is abandoned - there is nothing to remove.
The house is closed up and busily molding at this point - and that's okay.
You have nothing to fix, repair, clean, mow, or even titter over. This is a completely "as-is" sale - so it's not like you need time to get things done there.
We want to give you your money SOONER rather than later...

That last one, we don't get. At all. If, however, we can come to a compromise on that point, then, my friends, we will have a home. Then, and only then, will I get all excited and girl-like over it and tell y'all about it. Until then, I'm doing all I can not to let my nerves make contact with my hormones. Baking soda and vinegar have nuthin' on this combination, trust me.

The realtor has sent the bank an email inquiring to the import the bank lays on this 45-day closing date and it's negotiability. I have eaten three rolls of Tums and washed it all down with a dose of Rescue Remedy. (Followed by more Tums - I always forget how nasty that stress-relief tincture tastes.) And we still don't really know much more.

Zorak says it's all going to be okay, they just want to make sure they leave as nasty a taste as possible in my mouth first. If that's the case, I'll buy a case of Mentos and I can outlast them. Oh yes, this is where my gypsy blood comes into play. It's stubborn, and since I've been ousted from the camp, I need a camp of my own. So bring it on, folks! You cannot out-weird me. Oh no.

Part III... I have no idea when part three will come. Hopefully soon, though, because I only have three fingernails left.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, August 9

Old Joke, New Twist

How do you make a housewife neurotic?




I'll tell you later.

*ha ha ha*


Yep. Today's "Part Two" must be postponed until tomorrow because the bulk of the post has not been revealed to me yet, either!

That joke is a lot funnier in its original context...

Kiss those babies!

Monday, August 8

It's almost over (yay!)

Thanks for the prayers today. Please keep praying. Here's the skinny (aka - boring house hunting details follow...)

So the land bank has had our application for a week now. We were to have an answer, one way or the other, by Thursday. Last Thursday. No word. Nothing Friday, either. We called the realtor and left messages. No word back. Not Friday. Not Saturday. Not Sunday.

In the meantime, we were told that the interest rate for a land loan is about two WHOLE points higher than on a conventional loan, and even one point higher even than we'd been told before. That was information we didn't have before. Ouch.

Our lease expired the end of July and our rent went up another hundred and fifty dollars. OK... This isn't getting any better.

SO, we decided over the weekend that if there were any more hurdles to this loan, it was time to pull the plug. It's grown too big. It's taking too long, and it is not going to be feasible. It's a real mess. But, we wanted to touch base today, hoping we'd have a final answer, one way or the other.

When I called this morning, we got our answer. They hadn't received a signed contract from the realtor last week. They still did not have the letter from the appraiser (another part the realtor was to have taken to them). The bank had not done their new appraisal. They had not even pulled Zorak's credit yet. Nothing. They had not done one single thing last week. At all. And the interest rate went up again.

Well, those are hurdles. At this point, we'd have to wait another two weeks to hear back as to whether or not they are even willing to do the loan with no money down. That puts us an extra two months here in the apartment, IF the loan can be done, trying to swing both an increased rental payment and a much higher mortgage payment than anticipated. And that pretty much takes out any leeway we had. Timer dings. Time's up.

We called the realtor back to withdraw the offer. Suddenly, she's available. And now, she's gung-ho on keeping this deal alive. Which, yes, I can appreciate her perspective. But when she calls us now and says she is meeting with the president of the bank to get this deal pushed through... we can't help but wonder where she was a month ago when we were trying to get the ball rolling? She knew this was a matter of getting things done and closing by the end of the month. We've been very upfront about the situation. But the bare facts are that we cannot get the financing we need, and we can't seem to be able to get anything pushed through in a timely manner and the eleventh hour is not the time to bring out your connections and "make it happen". The window has closed.

It was a difficult decision to make, and although we're not happy to have had to make it, we know it was right. If we kept pushing and pulling, we'd have ended up with no capital to make repairs and payments far above what we could budget. That's the best case scenario. The most likely result is that we'd have stayed in limbo another two weeks, only to get the final "no" and then be left to start again from square one.

So. There we are. And it's actually good. Not spectacular, but definitely the right decision. For a number of reasons.

Part two tomorrow...

Kiss those babies!

The Big Week

Today I need to make a Phone Call. Yes, with capital letters. It's a big one. Zorak and I had a great heart-to-heart last night, inspired by a comment Melissa made during our chat yesterday, and bolstered by our mutual goal of enjoying our family to the best of our ability - not to mention that right now it's all about the boys. Yup, the boys. (Not that we forgot that, we didn't, but we needed a recalibration.) So. Phone Call. Then I'll blog more later. Please pray for a clear path and a clear understanding of what step to take next. We truly appreciate it.

And did I mention Ben & Claudia will be here in just two more days?!?!? WOOHOO!!! She called yesterday and they're on their way!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, August 6

What Joy!

Once we became comfortable with the idea that if this isn't our Forever Home that we're waiting on, we also embraced the idea that our Forever Home is still out there, waiting just as patiently (?) for us. With that in mind, we've switched to Plan Q and set out to line up backup properties. Today we found a good one. Now it's a waiting game. Either way, we are hopeful that we will have a home by week's end. How exciting is that?

Another day spent just astounded that the boys are so good-natured and sweet about this whole house hunting thing. They're good to their baby brother, and they are respectful toward the adults we encounter. They find joy in kittens and birds and stray bugs. They jump to share their finds with one another, and giggle in conspiratorial tones. I "get" siblings now, and Zorak was right. It is a wonderful, wonderful thing to have siblings.

Right now, though, I am an emotional wreck. A happy, less-tense wreck, but there's still a lot of bent metal and taut wire laying about. I need to go 'nuggle and iron the guys' clothes for church tomorrow, then try to hit the hay before midnight.

Thank you all for sharing your humor, your wisdom, your anecdotes, and your faith in this adventure. It's been great on this end, and your comments at the end of each day are always a way to make me smile and encourage me to remember just how good it really is.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, August 5

OMGoodness!!! I'm so excited!

I just got the second best call I could have received!! (The first being a decision - one way or the other - on our home. Sorry, Claudia.) BUT, that aside, Claudia just called me to say that she and her wonderful family are on their way out this week!!

Ben & Claudia were our Wonderful Neighbors when we lived in Arizona. More than that, they were also our best friends, and have remained among our dearest and most cherished over the years. I don't know how many months of sleep we lost from late nights in the kitchen talking religion, politics, and other taboo subjects. And yes, all four of us packed into a one-butt apartment kitchen - that'll tell you how close we are, eh? We had the same midwife, the same naturopath. We shopped at the same gun shop, and they were among the few people we are comfortable shooting with. Claudia and I stayed home with the little ones, and the guys were in school together. They are Our Kind of Weird.

Ben is the guy who made the comment that has endeared me to him permanently: "If I thought you were really screwing up raising the boys, Charles and I would have it out in the parking lot before we'd ever call CPS." Now, that, my friends, is a good friend: one who loves you no matter what, will tell you when you're wrong, puts your children's good ahead of his own, and knows that it's all about the people not the government.

Claudia didn't think I was weird when I made a BUNDUHT, Bundit, Bunth... a cake for a celebration. She even put flowers in the middle, and we laughed ourselves silly while the guys looked askance and silently vowed never to let us go to the movies by ourselves again. She and I have prayed together, grown together, tried to work out together (we end up laughing too hard and it hurts to move, so that hasn't ever really worked out well), and have encouraged one another over the years.

We've missed their little Samster (the one John stalked with the paper towel tube/pirate's telescope) and have never held their little David. John wasn't speaking English the last time they saw him, and James was still a fat little toddler. There is going to be a whole lot of goofy oogling of the babies all around! The boys will be thrilled. They miss Mr. Ben and Miss Claudia. They love talking to Sam on the phone, and are still somewhat convinced Baby David is a mythological creature.

I'm just so excited. We'll have three days to show them around and hope that they fall as deeply in love with Huntsville as we have... because this is a recon trip for a possible move out here! WOOHOO!! They've promised to ignore the "hot 'n sticky", so I think there's a chance.

Anyhow, this is also going to help take my mind of the absolutely brain-disolving tension of waiting, waiting, waiting for a decision on the Forever Home. *whew* Thankful for that, too! So, if you had three days to extol the virtues of Huntsville, what would you do?

Kiss those babies!

Happy Retirement!

It's my retirement party? I'll do the BBQ, if someone else will make the cake!

The boys had their second swim class yesterday. We have spent every day at the pool, and they've done wonderfully. John spends most of his time underwater playing games (rock, paper, scissors; ring around the rosie; watch me sink). James still can't get his skinny little frame to float on his back, but he can lay back, sink about a foot and a half underwater and swim 20 feet like a crawdad. They love it. We are there over an hour each day. They motor all over the pool without floaties or assistance.

So why, WHY, I ask, does John go into psycho panic mode when he's in class? *sigh* I stayed home with Smidge last night while Zorak took the boys. He called to let me know they were heading home and mentioned that John started a mutiny. Evidently hysterical crying is somewhat contagious (who knew?) and he managed to undermine the confidence of darn near the entire class. By the end of the hour, most of them were crying. Including James, who was still teary-eyed when they got back about having to jump into the four foot end. Ahhh, that's my boy. Poor kid. Poor other kids. Poor instructor. I don't get it, and I don't know how to help him get over this, considering he doesn't do it at the pool with me. I do know that next time, we'll hit the pool earlier in the day (*whine*) and then I'll see if I can get John to be still long enough to nap. Lessons do come so late in the day, and I'm sure he's pretty pooped, which isn't helping.

Oooh! Ooh! I'm not sure how correct this is, but I've heard tell that there are only a few more weeks left of this heat! Part of me is afraid to call the lady back and confirm that I heard her right. :-) I'll just live with the dream, thank you.

After talking with LB, who gave herself a funky short haircut and loves it (and who mentioned that in addition to helping to deal with the heat and humidity, it also makes tick checks infinitely easier!), I've been so tempted to follow her lead. I broached the subject with Zorak last night, who looked at me with the saddest expression on his face and said, "I will let it be cold again someday." *snort* OK, thanks, honey, I'll keep that in mind. I don't think I'll be able to pull it off this summer, but next spring, the Easter Barber is going to make a visit to my house!

And really, that's about all there is here. I can't share the conversations that have taken place in our home surrounding the search for a backup property if our Forever Home can't get financing. They are either way too weird for public consideration or... well, let's just stick with that, shall we? Zorak is realizing he married a g-i-r-l, and I am learning to embrace the unique qualities of having married an e-n-g-i-n-e-e-r. It's a learning process for everybody involved. But even at it's most bizarre, it's good.

I'm off to enjoy some blogrunning (the only kind of running endorsed by some joint association, I'm sure!) and coffee before the boys are up.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, August 3

There is NO WAY it's only Wednesday

I'm Friday-tired! By Friday, I'll be ready for retirement. Wow. That went fast. And yet I still don't feel a day over 32...

The boys swam and swam and swam today. For two hours, they swam. They played underwater games. They burned up energy they'd been saving for Christmas. They had a great time.

Today was evidently Negligent Parent Day at the pool. All around the pool and on floating islands in the deep end were oiled women basking with their eyes closed, while over in the shallow end, there was me and seven children, only three of which were mine. The only ones over the ripe old age of four were my oldest two. My arms hurt. My back hurts. But mostly, my heart hurts. It shouldn't be some strange lady whose name you don't know who cheers you on when you get the diving stick. It shouldn't be a total stranger who catches your trusting little body as you jump into the big pool. And if you can't swim, your parents should, at the very least, have their eyes open while you're in the water. (I would say they should be IN the water, but at this point, I'd be happy with a little recognition that these little people are somehow your responsibility!! Come on, people!)

One little guy, in particular, just really tugged at my heartstrings. He was so enthusiastic and ready to do anything Smidge was doing. He jumped over and over and over again, and we motored all around the shallow end. He retrieved the ball for Smidge when it got too far away. He is three. He was very tired (too tired to be in the water anymore), and would try with all his might to swim over to his mother's floating island to get her attention. His head would dip under and water filled his mouth. You could see him focusing on her, trying not to panic, but unable to get anything out, to call for help. More than once I lifted him up so he could catch his breath and then he asked to come back with us to the edge of the pool rather than going back to the middle to his mother. I set him on the edge and helped him relax a bit. I love children, and as long as they aren't endangering my children, I'm willing to welcome any child to join us in play. But that's not what this is about - this woman is going to spend this child's 15th year wondering what happened to "the sweet little boy" she didn't have time for, and it's going to be ugly. The only contact she responded to was once, when Smidge threw a fit (it was naptime, and we were almost ready to go), she screamed at her boy, demanding to know what he was doing over there and to leave us alone. *groan*

As much as I wanted to say something, that really would not have made things better for those kids, or probably - considering the language that was flying when these women weren't angry - for mine, either. While a poolside catfight might inspire some folks, it's not going to encourage anyone to make positive parenting changes. So what do you do? You let the kids laugh with you and you share with them the words of encouragement you share with your children. You catch them when they jump, and pick them up when they sink. And when you're home again, with just your children, you pull your own children closer and hug them just a little tighter, and hope...

Kiss those babies!