Sunday, December 31

New Year, 2007

We did not need strep. Gotta call the doc in the morning and swear on a stack of prescription pads that we are not living in a festering cesspool. Honest. And it's John, too, poor, goopy-eyed, sinus-laden John. It just hasn't been this kid's winter. However, he's handling it quite well...

He's been chillin' on the couch with hot tea, his fuzzy robe, pirate slippers, and a good movie. Other than the fever, painful throat, and chills, not a bad way to pass the evening, really.

It's been a low-key week here. Lots of time spent together, learning new skills...
(Leaning 101 - evidently, it helps.)

(Motor Skills - Love the Tongue Of Concentration, there.)

(Basic Mechanics - better Thomas than my phone!)

The boys got a kick out of telling Smidge at supper that he'd better eat up because Zorak and I weren't going to feed them again until next year. He didn't quite get it, but they cracked each other up. (Sometimes it's good to have someone who always "gets" your sense of humor.) We'd thought about letting them stay up, but they were more than ready for bed by eight, so we tucked them in with the promise of "celebratory ice cream" tomorrow, and fireworks once the rain backs off a bit.

And on that note,

May 2007 bring you food to nourish your body...

Love to nourish your heart...

And the joy of anticipation with each new adventure!

Happy New Year!
Kiss those babies!

Oh, the Humidity!

97% right now. Oy.

I still haven't adjusted to the humidity level here. In New Mexico, if the humidity hits 20%, you wouldn't even think of painting. It'd never dry properly! Here, if we got down to 20% humidity, I'd let the kids starve for 24 hours straight while I painted every flat surface we have. Maybe even trim. I might even paint things that don't need painting, just in case.

So, it's been a quiet weekend here. We're missing church again because the kids haven't quite shaken the snot monster yet. They aren't miserable, but I am every time I hear *that sound* and have to shout, "DON'T SUCK IT IN!" And the little ones? They've burned a month's worth of calories going rounds in the Ultimate Toddler Fighting Championship each time we need to wipe their wee noses or, God forbid, use the snot sucker. That alone is worth not subjecting fellow congregants to. And so, we are cloistered safely at home with a full array of tissue choices and plenty of water. It's good.

And today is the last day of 2006. Man, I remember when I thought 1999 would *never* get here. And now... well, obviously it made it. And thar it went! No desire to get reflective. It's been a good year with plenty of reflection, the occasional bout of wallowing, and a lot of plans brought to fruition. I have no idea what we're doing, but it seems to be working, and honestly, I'm afraid I'll screw it up if I try to pinpoint just what it is. We're going to head into 2007 with the general philosophy,
Don't mess with what works, even if you're not sure why it's working.
Just smile and nod, folks. Smile. And. Nod.

And kiss those babies!

Friday, December 29

Renovation Tidbits

So, it's official. We have begun our One Room Per Weekend plan, in which we finish off the Niggling Bits (the ones that give me hives when I think about not having finished them ten years from now). I guess you could also call it our Mental Health Insurance plan.

This weekend is "The School Room". (If you remember the "before" pictures, it was the one with "Security by Georgia Pacific" in the captions.) Aside from baseboard, which will have to wait for another payday, the School Room will be c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-l-y done by Sunday night. Zorak put up the trim around the door today. I figured out what to do with the window treatment for that door. The window and door trim gets painted tomorrow, curtains hung, shelving installed. We'll bring up the old kitchen table to use as a puzzle table/private workspace, and I'll do a little last minute tidying and sorting of the paperwork. Yay.

I'd still like to put some quotes on the walls, but am not sure what I'd like to use. There are so many good ones. I don't want anything serious, or somber. I really loved one that was shared on the boards this week:
Life is tough. It's tougher if you're stupid.
What a great quote. Zorak thinks that may be a John Wayne quote. Anybody know?

Oh, I'm glad there are others who love pocket doors! We do, too! We put them in the bathrooms, and WOW - nobody gets injured in the constant chaos that is a six-person-one-bath home! The master bath is so small, that the pocket door really saves a significant portion of the space in there, as well. (It'll be nice when we get that one finished.) We also put one in the laundry closet in the hallway - no bruised and battered foreheads for little guys bolting down the hall on laundry day! Yippee! We'd have put them in everywhere, if there'd been enough wall space to do so. And we did contemplate putting one there, at the end of the hall, even. When we bought the place, the hall had doors (standard, not pocket) closing off the sleeping quarters from both the living room and the foyer, but the house was so closed-in and creepy that we threw everything wide open. Now it feels a leetle nekky, so we've re-thought the door at the end of the hall. :-)

And yep, we're vaulting the ceiling in the living and dining areas. (Melora, I may take your suggestion and dub that phase the "Very Interesting Project" - that's code for "Really Bad Idea", isn't it?) The house has 8' ceilings. They feel somewhat cave-like and constricting after living in homes and apartments with 9' ceilings. It's stunning what a difference a foot makes. Because of the actual structure, we can't reasonably raise the entire roof, and it'd be cost prohibitive to add a second floor at this point (thus, raising the ceiling in the process!) So, with a little math, a little trusswork, and a lit-tle. more. patience, we can give the living space a better feel, make a clearer delineation between the living and kitchen spaces, and create some awesome architectural interest to the Basic Box. Plus, when we add the den, it'll tie the spaces together with a smoother transition, so the den won't look like an add-on.

But I try not to think about those things. They make me whiney and despondent. For now, I will think of The School Room - and how there are no more things to be done there this year. Or there will not be after this weekend. (Baseboard doesn't count, because of the bullnosed beading - it's all one continuous room, as far as the baseboard is concerned. Really. Just, go with me on that.)

It's very possible that we may finish this house soon enough that Smidge retains no permanent recollections of The Way It Was!

Kiss those babies!

Post-Holiday Daze

I awoke this morning at some awful hour to the sound of Zorak's phone playing the Radetzsky March. That sounds like something out of a horror film when it wakes you from a dead sleep. I stumbled into the living room, prepared to do battle with an evil clown and its demonic calliope, only to find my beloved preparing to head out to go hunting. Really, a good old alarm wouldn't serve the same purpose? So now, he's out the door, and I'm sitting here, a little dazed, wondering if I should just go back to bed, or do something productive.

We're all a bit dazed, actually, in spite of the fact that we've cut our turkey intake with a good deal of ham. We're full to the top of good things, new things, and things in general. We're floating in an eddy created by the swirling of necessities and luxuries coming together. (Yes, I know, everyone should be so fortunate. That we acknowledge our blessings, though, doesn't make us any better at handling them.) I don't know about the others, but I'm ready to take the tree and all the trimmings down NOW. I'm ready to get back to the business of schooling and building and preparing for Spring (which will come far too soon for me to be ready for it!) I'm done. I've had my fill. And next year, I think we're going to put non-blinking lights on the tree.

I also think that when we vault the living room ceiling, we're going to add a pocket door at the beginning of the hallway. There's a lot of cleaning I could be doing while everyone sleeps, but the light and noise will drift straight down the hall and before I could make any actual progress, all the little ones will be awake. Yes, a door would be handy.

And, as if on cue, John's up. Why is he up? He's never up this early. Well, he looks happy, and says he's hungry. Time for the day to begin!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, December 27

Sometimes You Just Can't... locally.

We try. We really do. But sometimes it's just. not. in the cards.

Seven years ago, Zorak ventured into a Christian bookstore to buy me a nice Bible for Christmas. He explained to the saleslady that he's not a believer, but his wife is, and she's very into study, theology, doctrine and history, and he'd like to find something nice. She knew "just the thing", and he came home with a woman's recovery bible! (Because, obviously, any woman who'd marry a non-believer must have been into drugs and prostitution? What in the world???)

Fast-forward to this year. Zorak would like to give me a copy of the Vulgate. He's heard me mention this, and knows it's one of my goals to master Latin to the point that I can enjoy reading the Scriptures in Latin. So, off he goes to the local Christian bookstore, where the following conversation with Bookstore Lady (BL) ensues:

Z: Hi, do you have any Latin Bibles?

BL: Any what?

Z: Latin Bibles.

BL: LATIN Bibles?

Z: Yes.


Z: Yes. Do you carry Latin Bibles?

BL: *blank stare*

Z: You know, the language? Latin?

BL: OH, LATIN. Um... no.

*insert general awkward pause*

BL: I don't think they've ever translated it into Latin.

He left. He bit his tongue and left. And then he couldn't share this story with me until Christmas. But I don't have to wait to share it. Even though my book hasn't arrived yet. Hmpf.

Although, honestly, I am nowhere near competent enough to read it yet. This was on my "one of these days" lists. Technically, I'd asked for a Kitchen Aid Mixer, because making all this bread with a wooden spoon is KILLING my arm, but he wanted to get me something just-for-fun. So, in keeping an honest girl honest, I broke out my Latin (which has been woefully ignored this month) and got back to writing my declensions. He sat down to watch me for a couple of minutes and then suddenly, this panic-stricken look came over this face.

"Oh, this isn't like if you said you wanted to lose weight this year, and then I went and bought you a treadmill, is it?"

*giggle* No, honey. It's not. But even if you had, I'd love you for it. I may not use it, but I'd love you for it. ;-)

And in other gift news...

The boys LOVE their Gamecube. We're allowing free rein for as much of the school break as possible, just in the hope that the stunningly addictive newness will wear off a bit. Then it will go into a more orderly slot. Today, I noticed the boys were getting a bit twitchy with one another, and so I set the timer and we turned the thing off at the *ding*. The boys dispersed to do other things, occasionally meandering back in to ask if they could play one. small. game. (No.)

James brought me a handful of coins and said, "Um, Mom, if I give you... *counting* um, 60 cents, will you let me play a game?"

I had to chuckle. "No," but then I had to ask if that was a bribe or just good old-fashioned entreprenurial thinking. It was a bribe, but after I described what a bribe is, he quietly returned his coins to his piggy bank and wandered off to do something else.

Really, though, they've all handled it very graciously. They let Smidge play and don't ride him about the fact that he goes the wrong way most of the time. He's moving and he's part of the team - he's happy. They don't throw spiky turtle bits at him or point out that he loses every time. They cheer one another on, and take their own hits with good humor. As long as that continues, I'm okay with this thing.

Miss Emily has a Dino Drop-N-Whatever. It's a ball thing with tunnels and lights. Although she loves it without the lights, so hey, that's fewer batteries I have to keep track of. Yay. She is one very happy little girl!

And, now that it's taken me three days to get around to posting about Christmas (I did post this morning, but we had a one-second power outage just as I hit "publish" and the computer went down), I'm going to go play for a bit. Zorak wants to race at Waluigi Stadium!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, December 25

Merry Christmas!

We had a busy and wonderful Christmas Eve. Miss Terry convinced Zorak to let the children open a few gifts when we visited with them this evening. All the small ones have been snuggled and read to, tucked in (again and again and again). I'd have posted pictures, but I left the camera card home to, um, guard the printer...

It's now five minutes to four. Everything is wrapped. Everything is placed just so. Everything is put away and cleaned and ready for tomorrow. Everything is just perfect, when you are eight and six and four and nearly-one.

I can hardly wait for morning!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, December 23

Curse You, Dough Boy!

Miss Emily was sound asleep in my arms. Her weight had settled fully into the pull of gravity. I probably could have tossed her into the air and she wouldn't have stirred. And just as I began to think it might be safe to move, that awful Pillsbury flaky biscut commercial came on. The one with the poor doughboy trudging through, what is that, the Alps? Just to bring us flaky biscuits in a can? Isn't there an easier way? Ah, but it's not him, per se, it's the music. The Ride of the Valkyries comes through the speakers, straight to her ears. Without moving any other muscles, her eyes pop. wide. open.

Game over.

She loves that piece.

This is probably why I normally read instead of watching TV at night. Where is the clicker, anyway?

So, the TV is off now. She's back to sleep. The boys are down. Zorak is down in the basement, doing something constructive. I'm trying to pep talk myself into doing some sewing before heading to bed. (It may, or may not work. Honestly? It's all dependent upon whether Zorak comes up in time to watch a movie with me. Without commercials.)

We got a lot done today. Just a little baking and cleaning left to do tomorrow. That's a nice feeling. Oh, and groceries. OK, and I guess I should admit now that when I bought stocking stuffers, I didn't get any for Miss Emily. She's not getting an entire sock full of sweets (can you imagine the contact high, alone?). She'd only eat tape and batteries, which is what we're putting in the boys' stockings. So, what do you put in a stocking for an almost-one-year old? She's got to have *something* or the boys will forever hold a grudge against Santa (and, by default, me, once the cat's wholly out of the bag). I'm tellin' ya, this is why we only have them one at a time. The learning curve is STEEP.

Ooo, he's up! And he comes bearing what looks like a toy shelf, ready to be assembled. WooHoo! (He also said he'd turn the plans into a .jpg so I can blog the directions. Yay!) I'm gonna go watch a movie! erm, um, sew... and watch a movie. :-)

Kiss those babies!

The End of the Day

It's almost one o'clock, and do you know why I'm up? I'm afraid to go to bed.

Zorak's got Baby Girl in bed with him, and if I try to slip in, either she's going to sense my presence and be wide-awake and ready to play, or he's going to roll over on her and then she'll be wide-awake and angry.

Smidge is asleep on the couch - t-shirt, skivvies, one sock, drooling all over the place. He's like a miniature frat boy over there.

John's in the guest room. The pink eye has now spread to the other eye, and... well, ew.

That pretty much leaves me with Smidge's bed (a toddler bed with a crib mattress, not such a good idea for anyone over three feet tall), and John's bed (twin size, but a foam mattress, not such a good idea for anyone over, say, 60 pounds). Indecision has imobilized me, and so, I sit and type, sip coffee, and wait for somebody to wake up and free up a spot for me. Maybe I'll grab a throw and crash on the futon? Maybe tomorrow night *I'll* be the first one to bed and won't have to worry about where everyone else lands? (Yeah, I like that idea.)

We got the house ready for company, and then our company never materialized. No phone call, either. Part of me wonders if Zorak wrote that on the calendar in an effort to get me motivated before the Actual Last Minute. Well, if he did, it worked. I even had time to formulate a plan on the couch - fabric paint. Haul it onto the porch, and turn the kids loose with fabric paint! Wouldn't that make an awesome couch? (Oh, stop. Zorak looked at me like that, too.)

Tomorrow we have to wrap Daddy's gifts. (Right, because we couldn't have done it during the week, while he was at work. I know.) Finish tidying the house and start the baking. We love the baking part. I've also got to dig up my favorite Christmas skirt and pray that either it fits, or that I can find my squisher and make it fit. Everybody else has their Christmas outfits ready to go.

Oh, and sewing - TONS of sewing. James and I are making a Thomas pillowcase for Smige. Then I need to sew the barstool covers (in going with the Biggest Visual Impact theme), and the curtains for the guest room. And stockings. We need two more stockings. The boys have made it clear that Balto MUST have one. And while I sew it, I will think of KathyJo, who said, "I don’t particularly enjoy the process, but I enjoy doing special things for you boys that make you happy." I do. And it will. It will make them very happy.

Ah, I think the futon is calling me.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, December 22


So, if you throw the couch cushion covers into the wash, they'll come out a LOT cleaner than you can get the couch iteself with your Little Green Machine.

I wonder if anyone would believe us when we said it's supposed to be a two-tone design?

Yeah, it's time to start saving for a couch. Thankfully, this one is beyond repair, anyway. I just didn't need to go and make it any uglier than it already was.


Home Remodel, Holiday Melee

If you were to give a home renovation a difficulty factor to add into the general level of confusion, living in the home during the process counts for a point, at least. Living there with children would certainly weigh heavily, as well. How about the holidays?

I think at that point, you just call it good and aim for finishing the race. Later. As in, next year.

Zorak and I sat down this morning to go through our To-Do list on the house. We listed all the little things, down to restretching the carpets after we've got baseboards down. We came up with a plan, and it felt good.

OK, so we'll mark the things we'd like to do before Christmas. Let's be realistic and just shoot for Biggest Visual Impact. Then, starting in January, we will take one room per weekend and finish it out completely. All those little, niggling things, like touch-up paint and closet trim. At the end (we're hoping by Easter, perhaps), we will be done. Done, as in, "We could sell this house as it stands and not take a loss" done. Ooohhhh. Cool.

We were feeling SO together, and SO on top of things. Then it hit me - aren't we having company today? You know, as in, it's-11:00-and-we're-still-in-our-jammies-and-some-of-us-are-sick-oh-boy-what-now, company!

The Master List is out the window, folks. We're into High Survival Mode now. Lysol, cleaning, scrubbing, frantic attempt to make the place not look like it's been a convalescent home for the motivationally impaired. Ah. Fun. (And yes, company has been forewarned. Company has no small children and is not afraid of the germs. Yay.)

In the words of one of our favorite singers, "Happy Holidays, Y'all!"

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, December 21

All is Quiet

I love our pediatrician. He's not an in-your-face practitioner. He knows that I'm the one who has the ultimate responsibility for the well-being of these children. He's a partner in the plan, and we appreciate that. He listens. He advises. And then he leaves the ball in our court. He. Is. Wonderful. He was careful to check for any concurrent icks that may be going on, and all looks well. He also wrote a refill on the prescription in case the other three monkeys get the eye crud over the weekend. Zorak has it, too, poor guy.

John is resting now. He's got antibiotic drops for his eyes, and they sting. I'm pretty sure he cried most of the medication out. Quietly. Holding my hand. He didn't fuss, but you could tell he was miserable. I slipped out of the room to douse a cotton pad in "Mother's Secret Antibiotic Solution" *grin*, and brought it back to him. It's soothing and comforting, and he's now sound asleep, and healing. Tomorrow will be much better.

Miss Emily's teething and her cold kept her up until about two-thirty last night. John awoke at three with his eye glued shut and was awake until a little after five. Just as I got him settled in and asleep, Smidge awoke and ran screaming from his room. I found him in the kitchen, crying and calling for me. Turned out he had bad dreams. By the time all was said and done, I slept about 45 minutes last night. So I'm going to bed.

And I'm thankful for the bed.
For the babies.
For the soft, warm covers.
I'm thankful for the warm, nourishing meal Zorak prepared while I was out with John today.
For the hugs all around when we returned.
For the rest that evening brings, and the fresh start that rises with the sun.

I couldn't talk Zorak out of a foot rub, but that's okay. There is still so much to be thankful for.

Kiss those babies!

John's Eyes

I love John's eyes. They are beautiful, and they remind me of Zorak's. Deep, rich worlds echo through time in them.
They make me feel centered. They make me want to take off in flight. They are magical.

And they are the source of a lot of my motherly fears.

When John was about seven months old, he was sitting happily in his bouncy seat while I cleaned our little apartment. James had a rag and was helping me "dust". He was only two at the time. We were singing and having a fine time of it.

The dryer stopped. I took the load of clothes out of the dryer and into our room. No sooner had the clothes hit the bed, then I heard John crying. I ran out (it was a very small apartment - maybe 600'sq. - so none of this took much time at all). He was sitting there, his head was wet, and James was trying to comfort him. I smelled him.

Oh. My. God. Chemicals.

I'm ashamed to admit it now, but I freaked. James showed me what he'd used (Formula 409 - it was on the breakfast bar. I had no idea he could reach things on the breakfast bar.) He thought it would be nice to clean the baby. I snatched up John Baby, grabbed the phone, and ran into the bathroom, where, if he could remember the incident, he'd swear I proceeded to try to drown him under the sink faucet. (I was actually trying to rinse his eyes, but things were a bit hairy.)

Called poison control. They said, "Keep rinsing, but call an ambulance NOW." I kept rinsing. I called 911. They came right away. Looked at him, checked the bottle. They recommended he go to the hospital for a thorough eye wash. They called Poison Control, who also recommended a trip to the ER for a thorough eye wash. The ambulance couldn't take me and James, and I had nobody to watch James. The EMT's said they would call it in, and we could drive him ourselves. They called from the house.

We took off. When we got to the ER, they wouldn't see us. They wouldn't even take him into triage for an hour. He wasn't crying, so the nurses wouldn't listen to me. They called Poison Control, who once again recommended an eye wash. They triaged us, and told me to take him home. Said they wouldn't see him. I refused to leave. I asked for a supervisor or the charge nurse. She came out. She'd been briefed. She told me to go home and let him get some rest.

A waitress came in from work. She had a cold. They took her back. They told me again to go home.

Finally, after three hours of waiting, I started yelling. I threatened to call the police, the DA, the newspaper. They put us in the back. We waited another hour.

When the doctor on the floor finally arrived, he got on me about nursing a seven month old. He refused to do an eye wash. He called Poison Control, who stuck by its recommendation for an eye wash. He offered to write a prescription for something (I don't even remember what now, but it had no bearing on John's eyes), and told me to start feeding that child solids. I refused to leave. I told him I would not leave until he either did an eye wash or proved to me that it wasn't needed.

Fine. He agreed to do a litmus test.

pH in this baby's eyes was 11.5.

The doctor ordered an eye wash - immediately - "The large bag."

He sent me a nursing student who'd never done an eye wash before. She panicked and said she didn't know how to do it.

I hooked it up.

I rinsed his eyes.

I cleaned him up.

If we'd listened to the staff, my son's eyes would have liquefied during the night and he would be blind today. As it is, there's no telling what kind of damage was done in the four hours they made us wait, and refused to listen. We've been told the damage could come over the years. He has until four years after his 18th birthday to attempt any recourse, but of course the hospital has covered their collective butts rather well.

They never apologized.

Their records show that treatment was received. End of story.

Aren't they the heroes?

They turned us over to collections for my refusal to pay for this dog and pony show.

We had to pay them off when we bought our Forever Home.

I hate them to this day. Yavapai Regional Medical Center in Prescott, Arizona has killed - outright, through sheer incompetence and arrogance - more people than I could name in one post, and although the damage they did that day is nominal compared to the end result of many of their actions, it's the one that's lodged in my memory as one of the worst days of my life.

And it's the one that makes John's eyes so very precious to me, and makes me so very scared when something, even something small, happens to them.

Kiss those babies.


So we were invited to supper with friends Saturday night. We were there about half an hour, the kids all playing together, when their precious little 2yo came toddling out, half-awake from a late nap. We had a nice supper, a good visit.

On the way home, Zorak says, "Well, be prepared, I guess."

"For what?"

"The little one has pink eye. Didn't you notice?"

"No. Oh, crap. I thought it was just sleep in her eyes."

"Nope. Pink eye."

Well, we've spent the week holding our collective breath. I really thought if anybody got it, it'd be Emily, since she played with the little one's toys most of the night, and she and the little one played together.

This morning, at a little after three, John comes to me, groggy and panic-stricken, his left eye matted completely shut.


We didn't need this. We really didn't. And after the Big Scary Eye Incident of '01, John's eyesight is the one thing that consistently gives me nightmares that will wake me with a jolt. I worry constantly.

And, if I'd been given a heads up, we'd have taken a raincheck. I don't mess with the eyes. The sniffles? Sure, what kid doesn't get the sniffles? Some of the nastier things? Maybe, depending. But pink eye? No. Would not have chosen to go. And would have been nice to have the choice.


Appointment with the doc at 9:30. Trip to the pharmacy after that, and then, rather than the market and the library, we'll be heading straight home.


Kiss those babies!

Disappear for a few days...

and, wow.

We've been without a phone line (and, therefore, internet access) for two days, with a brief 20-min. reprieve last night. We hit all the highlights: is the bill paid, is the phone plugged in, have mice chewed through the wires in the walls, did a child stick something where it might cause electrical failures? None of those... Called the phone co., and they said it was in their line, they'd have it fixed by Wednesday morning. Wednesday morning came and went... nothing. Called back, and they said it was in the house. (Thanks for the heads up, guys!) And then, ohhhh... I was at the point of thinking I might have to admit that I'd done something horrible to something technological, and had no idea what it was.

Turns out (happy dance) that a wire had broken down in the basement. It wasn't me! It wasn't the kids! I don't know what happened, but it wasn't us! Yippee. Fudge and hot chocolate all around.

And did you know that without internet access, we still don't get much accomplished? I always read these inspirational stories about all the work people get done when they don't have email or boards to read. Pffttt. Not us, man. The boys and I can kick some serious boo-tay at Computer Solitaire and Pinball now, though.

So. Anyway, we're about as ready for Christmas as it's going to get. One last package arrived today, from Dover Publishing. Yes, I order Christmas gifts from Dover. My children may need therapy, but I don't care - at least they'll have something to read in the therapist's waiting room! We'll do a little spiffing and more normalizing of the place over the weekend, and that's about it on our schedule. I forgot to tell Zorak we were taking off from lessons, and when he asked the boys what they did in school one day, they both said, "Nothing. Same as usual." Meaning, one would hope, the same as usual FOR THE WEEK. But eh, nothing like leaving 'em hanging. (Which, naturally, I couldn't. I just had to yell from the other room, "We're on Christmas Break!" Yes, yes, I know. He trusts me. He knows they're learning. He knows they're fine. But, still... "nothing?" C'mon. You can't leave that just dangling out there, looking awkward.)

Kiss those babies!

Monday, December 18

Better Christmas Pictures

Zorak and I aren't in them, but really, we're not who the family wants to see. After a certain point, any changes that happen from year to year aren't the ones you want to point out, anyway. A friend mentioned that she gave up (a long time ago) trying to get all four children looking happily in the same direction. Her Christmas card came in the mail last week. And it's gorgeous. *sigh*

There was no clear consensus on the family photo. Obviously, the options didn't inspire us horribly, either. So today the kids and I took a break from baking and candy making and sprawled out in front of the tree with the camera. Turned out better, I think. This is much more how they look to us every day.

And in the "just for fun" category...

I can't believe I caught him mid-laugh without the camera doing that blurry, flared nostril thing.

I'm so sad that this one is fuzzy. But I love it, anyway.

That smile? He saves the best ones for Baby Girl. Ah. It's love.

Yep, that's Baby Girl: usually dirty and kind of sticky, but very happy. It's all good. (One of the boys had given her a lollipop and I didn't notice the fleece stuck to her fingers until the photos were uploaded.)

Ah. That feels better.

Kiss those babies!

Someone Has Stolen My Husband

The doppleganger they've left in his place is a pretty good double, I admit. He can cook, and he can crack a mean joke alright. And I know he isn't a robot, because he still gets wiped out reading Little Golden Book Land stories to Smidge. (I think only machines are impervious to the mindnumbing drone, erm, lull of those books.)

But last night, this handsome fake blew his cover. Yesiree, I'm onto him! Without any provocation, begging, or, my usual specialty - blatant bribery, he brought the kids' Christmas gifts up from the basement, dug out special wrapping paper, and began gleefully wrapping the presents. I don't think I've ever seen him do anything Christmas related in a gleeful manner. Direct, yes. Gleeful, no.

I wanted a closer look, and so I slipped into the living room under the pretense of "helping" to wrap gifts. I wanted to keep a close eye on this one!

Well, I almost called 911 when I heard snip-snip, snip, and looked up to see him cutting shapes and designs from the wrapping paper to make cute little tags for each gift. And... he was smiling while he did it!

There've been other clues, too. Like the peanutbutter fudge. Oh yes, the Real Zorak doesn't usually eat my candies. But this Zorak bought more powdered sugar just so I could make more fudge. Mmhmm. You can't fool a wife! (Of course, I am going to make more fudge. Never look a gift horse in the mouth, here, folks.)

I don't know. This is really nice, but I do love my husband. I'd like him back.

But, well, maybe it can wait until after the holidays...

Kiss those babies! (And watch out for the Doppleganger Christmas Hubbies!)

(P.S. ~ This isn't meant as a criticizm of my husband. It's meant to bring a smile. I'm actually thrilled to see Zorak enjoying Christmas preparations. He seems to settled, and so very into the magic this year. I love it. It's weird, but it's a good kind of weird. We usually focus on how good "where we are" is for the children, and just in general, but it's good for him, too. Good for us. It shows in a thousand little ways, a thousand unexpected delights. Like looking forward to Christmas.)

Sunday, December 17

Pantry Care & Quick 'n Dirty Meals

So, in clearing our pantry, we've found a few things we'd forgotten about, a few things we're not sure why we purchased in the first place, and it's almost a week 'til payday. Time to use and recalibrate! I hate to admit this, but I really enjoy the occasional shopping moratorium. I learn a lot about our family's eating preferences (vs. the habits, which are mostly under my control).

Some examples:
-our pasta stockpile is inordinately large. Why? It seems that since we've found rice sticks, which Zorak will also eat, we just aren't getting many requests for things like egg noodles or spirals. Well, let's use those up, and when I do the shopping again, I won't be replenishing them (except for the egg noodles - those are for me, and late at night, when all the small ones are asleep, I do love a big, hot bowl of wavy egg noodles slathered in butter and salt.)

-coconut cream and coconut milk - it's reasonably priced at the asian market, but I haven't found a good use for it, other than baking. Perhaps we could delve into more Thai recipes?

-we do fly through the veggies, and we're very low on canned veggies. Lessons learned, there: I need to keep up with those; nobody wants the beets (or the whole cranberry sauce), so I need to find recipes that will incorporate the cans we do have; and I think everyone is thoroughly sick of canned green beans.

So, here's our Quick 'n Dirty menu for the next few days (we have water with meals, unless specified in the menu, and I didn't include snacks, because we just grab whatever sounds good for a nibble):

Breakfast - sopapillas, bananas, and milk
Lunch - baked beans and cheese biscuits
Supper - salmon patties, brussel sprouts, and rice

Breakfast - grits, eggs, bacon and sliced apples
Lunch - quesadillas, peaches, milk
Supper - potato soup and yam rolls

Breakfast - oats, peaches, toast w/ cactus jelly
Lunch - leftover soup, oat bread
Supper - rice and beans w/ burnt onions and bread

Breakfast - crepes, bacon, milk
Lunch - oat bread, fried cheese, bananas & peaches in milk
Supper - pork stew w/ rice sticks

What's on your menu for the week? Or, if you don't do menus ahead of time, what did you serve your family this past week? I'd love to hear about it! And I may be back w/ some pleas for suggestions on the few stray items I've yet to figure out what to do with (beet recipes, anyone? other than borscht?)

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, December 16

Help Pick the Christmas Photo

We're having a heck of a time finding a good photo to use for family Christmas cards this year. We can get everybody facing the same direction, but after that, it's anybody's guess what happens between "cheese" and the click of the shutter. There's just a little something in each photo that prevents us from shouting, "Eureka! We've found it!" But we've run out of the energy to go through the whole family-photo-shoot again.

So, with the understanding that we're not doing the one from last month, no matter how cute the funny faces can be... which of the following pictures do y'all think we should include in our Easter, er, Christmas cards? (Assuming we're going to get them out. This year.)

Picture A:

Picture B: (we don't know the man in the background - we'd crop him out)

Picture C:


Friday, December 15

Welcome to our Holiday Home Tour

This is our second Christmas in our Forever Home, but it's the first Christmas we could decorate the walls. It's the first Christmas we've had walls, actually. (This picture was from last year.)

There's still so much to be done, and I noticed ALL of it as I walked about taking pictures. However, the coffee's hot, the fudge is fresh, and the door is open. Come on in:

This little guy is our Jesse Tree, a part of our advent celebration. (There are more symbols that go with it, but we've had trouble convincing Smidge they don't belong on the Christmas tree.) The boys found the "tree", and designed the pine cone potting soil to keep it upright. It lives in the foyer, along with a small herd of orange spacers from the flooring installation.

If you come through the arch, you'll enter our dining area (there aren't any actual "rooms" in this part of the house - just areas. When you have this many small children, it's best to have as few walls to block your view as possible.) Just as a note, the tree in this photo is in the same place as the one above from last year.

This is a detail of the window dressing. The snowflakes hanging from it were the boys' suggestions, and they're beautiful in the afternoon sun.

If you look up, you can see the detail of the arch garland. This was my first attempt ever at making something like this, and I love it. The gold reindeer are over 50 years old (you may have to click on the image to see them), and came from the Pine Cone Inn in Prescott, Arizona. My Mom worked there for many years, and that's where I spent many afternoons and evenings over the years. The Christmas displays there were always a highlight of the town "back in the day". These ornaments take me back 25 years, to a young girl surrounded by all the glitter and shine of the season, sipping a Shirley Temple, eating maraschino cherries pilfered from the bar, while she listens to "Willy and Blaze, LIVE" crooning all the Christmas carols to life.

To the right of the arch, we have the tea cart. Normally, this would house our Nativity display, but Joseph, a shepherd, and a couple of wise men seem to have absconded with the baby Jesus. Mary is holed up on the ark in the nursery with Noah's family and most of the sheep. This is what happens when you buy the child-friendly Nativity collections. You get trains and carousel horses. Which will probably disappear by New Year's, as well. Oh, and for anyone expecting a card from us this year - that's them, the blue box on the right. Enjoy! (Just on the off chance that I don't get them mailed. But we do love you and are thinking of you and wishing you wonderful blessings this Christmas!)

The stockings were... taped... to the wall... well, yes. We lack not only a chimney, but a general consensus as to where, exactly, the stockings should be hung. So for the sake of the tour, I slapped them up with tape and took the picture. And yes, we're missing one. I really ought to get on that.

To the left of the stocking wall, you have the rest of the area. Let's move on into the kitchen. Please pardon the construction debris, but notice the towering cabinet on the left. That's my early Christmas present - isn't it wonderful? We can now add the toe kicks and valances to the cabinetry. However, I assure you, the kitchen is clean and safe. Let's have some refreshments, shall we?

We have peanut butter fudge, the world's easiest. The recipe can be found here. Love this stuff!

And Christmas cookies - both of which were made, decorated, and thoroughly taste-tested by our young resident artists. (They didn't taste the ones on the plate. Honest. But, um, don't eat the white tree.)

Next year, this wall over the counter will be a window. For now, though, the boys are in the process of bring snow to the South for Christmas. They were still snipping away when I took this picture - the wall will probably be covered by Monday.

The boys have done a little extra special decorating in their room and the main bath this year, so let's take a look at their handiwork and then we'll head back to the dining room to enjoy the goodies and I'll share my fudge recipe.

Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like a Christmas-themed hand towel and some sparkly garland to greet you first thing in the morning!

Or a shimmery toilet...

And finally, the boys' room. This was all James' doing, down to arranging the lights on the ladder in a way that corresponds to the way he climbs it, so that he doesn't step on the lights. They go around the closet, weave around the toy bins, up and over the bookshelf. It's quite a display. He did this as a special surprise for his brother, and the delight both boys took in the end result tops any decoration we could have bought or built at all. Giving from the heart is just the best way to make it special.

We're far from finished, but we're right where we belong: home. Together. What a blessing!

Thanks for coming along on our Christmas Tour. As always, Kiss those babies!

Aunt Pat's Peanut Butter Fudge

I'm far from being an excellent candy maker, but this recipe is so easy, I was not only able to master it, but to teach the boys to make it, as well. All I have to do is turn the fire on the stove.

1 C. butter
1 C. peanut butter
1/2 bag powdered sugar

Melt the butter and peanut butter together, stirring to blend thoroughly. Bring to a gentle, rolling boil.

Remove from heat, stir in powdered sugar.

Pour into pan (or onto waxed paper), smooth, and place in fridge to chill for 10-15 minutes. Slice and enjoy!

(Wasn't that easy?)


For Karen: Wheat-Free Christmas Cookies

(I should be decorating the house, but this is more fun.) For most of my baking and breads, I don't try for the "just like wheat" version. Most of our flour-based recipes were designed specifically for wheat, and as such, make use of wheat's unique properties. Most of the time, we try to learn (and make use of) the unique properties of the other grains we can use. But some things are sacred, and Christmas cookies are among them. So, this recipe endeavor was based entirely on the "make it taste as 'normal' as possible" approach. It worked. So, without further ado, here ya go:

No-Fail Wheat-Free Christmas Cookies (modified from the traditional recipe at

This is a half-batch. I did it this way because the last thing I wanted was five dozen useless sugared blobs laying around the house. However, they're wonderful, and if you need a full dozen, make two batches. The half-batch still makes a bazillion cookies, though, so you won't be deprived.

3 C. flour blend*
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. egg replacer
2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 C. butter
1 C. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. flavoring (vanilla, almond, orange, whatever)
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, mix well. In another bowl, combine dry ingredients (I like to whisk 'em) and then add dry ingredients, a little at a time, to the butter mixture. Combine thoroughly, until flour is thoroughly incorporated and the dough comes together.

Chill for 1-2 hours. (Tip: if you form the dough into a tube and let it chill overnight, it'll be firm enough to slice and bake little round cookies like the Pillsbury dough in the tube... remember, the kind you ate straight from the tube? Oh, yeah, comfort food at its most embarrassing.)

Roll the dough out on wax paper (trust me, this part IS integral to the process) to your desired thickness (about 1/4", any thinner and they seem to break easily). Tape the corners down, if you need to. Use your cookie cutters and go to town. Try to space them as close together as possible.

Pre-heat your oven to 350' at least 30 minutes (the recipe called for this - this is the first time I've done it, and it worked well, so I'm not about to recommend differently.)

Remove the trimmings from around the cut-out shapes, leaving the cookies on the wax paper. Wad up the trimmings and put back into the fridge for making more cookies with in a bit. Move the entire sheet of wax paper, w/ cookies, back into the fridge for about 15 minutes. This will firm them up so that you can transfer them to a cookie sheet w/ a thin metal spatula w/o stretching them out into scary Tim Burton Christmas shapes. (Or, move them w/o chilling again, if you like that kind of shape, I guess.)

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes, or just until the edges begin to brow. Remove from the cookie sheet before they cool, or you will have four-legged stars and headless snowmen. Trust me on this.

They don't spread. They don't crumble. They are stunningly easy.

* Flour Blend* (Dump one bag of Bob's sorghum, one bag of Bob's garfava, one box of tapioca, and whatever cornstarch you have on hand - or not, it's not crucial - into a jar and roll it around. I use this, in various forms, for everything. It's never the same, but we haven't noticed much of a difference. I've actually backed off on the tapioca and cornstarch significantly with excellent results.)

If you do this, please let me know how it turns out!

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, December 14

Deliciously Fun

Those are Smidge's cookies. He went in for the Immersion Approach to cookie decorating. By the time we were done, he looked a lot like the one on the right.

We wanted a really great red, but didn't have cream coloring, so the icing was a little too runny. It took a little while to get used to working with it. The candy cane in the next picture looked fine when John called me to come see, but when he looked down, it had s-p-r-e-a-d. (He said it tasted great, though!)

James went with a more minimalist approach this year. Many of his cookies have a message of some sort, highlighted by edge icing, or underlined. Not so much on the whole slathering all flat surfaces with icing approach.

I thought it was all about the icing (mine look a lot like Smidge's and John's *grin*), but James says it's an artform. You know, Zen and the Art of Cookie Decorating. Big hit among the 8-10 crowd this year.

And the best part? Those are wheat-free Christmas Sugar Cookies! WOOHOO! I took the standard recipe from and modified it. The results were spectacular. (Too good, in fact. We made one batch of regular flour and one batch of wheat-free, and visually there is no difference. Taste? No difference. This is when it would be handy to be better organized.)

Can't wait to hear about your favorite goodies at the Virtual Tour tomorrow! *hint* *hint*

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, December 13

Tour of Homes!

Laura's home was featured in her local Historical Society's Tour of Homes this year. What FUN! I showed Zorak the pictures, and told him that I'd have loved to go see it.

He asks, "Have you heard of this before?"

Tour of Homes? Sure, it happens every year around Christmas. Everyone knows about it.

"What is this phenomenon," he asks. "This... Tour of Homes? What's the goal?" (Spoken like a true engineer.)

Well, it's... it's to highlight the historic homes in the area. Sometimes the Chamber of Commerce will sponsor one, and focus on new development. Or people will go all-out decorating and apply to be included on the Tour. Then they sell tickets, and the hosts put out snacks, and why are you staring at me?

But what's the purpose?

It's, well, it's to highlight the historic... um, What?

So, it's just a chance to see inside other people's homes? (And he laughs at me, because I'm a Peeker, and he knows it. If the shades are even slightly open as I walk or drive past a home, I must peek in. I want to see what furniture people have. What colors are on their walls. What type of dining things they have. And if they've draped it all in sparkly Christmas lights, so much the better! Obviously, I have no desire to catch anybody in a less-than-flattering situation, so I don't peek in bedroom windows. But living room? Kitchen? Foyer? Oh, yes, I'm a bonafide Peeker. I admit it.)

*sheepishly* Yeah. :-) It is.

Soooo, can you charge an extra $2.50 to let them see inside the medicine cabinets?

Non-Peekers just don't get it. (And this is probably not the time to mention that one of my "goals" is to get the Forever Home on a tour someday.)

Then, as if it was just. for. me. (Me!) Donna linked to a Virtual Tour of Homes coming up this Friday!

Get your cameras, have the kids help you shift the clutter just out of the frame (or, at least that's how I'm doing it - some of you may not need to, but I definitely do), and snap pictures of your Holiday decorations. Share your favorite things, and be sure to bring snacks (snacks are an integral part of the Tour of Homes) by posting your favorite holiday recipe to share! You can get all the details (and the cool button) over at BooMama's. Hope to see you on the tour!

Kiss those babies!


*whew* *whew*

OK, not quite the rally cry of the steam engine. We're pretty bushed, but it feels good, anyway. Zorak got most of the hard parts done on the cabinets yesterday: new outlet wired in, levelling and leaning and shimming and shoring. Yay. Tonight, he worked mainly on the detail work and got the cabinets installed. It took us very little time at all to load them back up, as long as you don't count all the time we spent setting something on a shelf, closing the door - or pushing in the shelf, whispering, "Oh, wow, it'll hold that?" Then calling the other one over to repeat the process. We did a lot of that. If you add that in, it makes sense why I'm blogging at midnight tonight.

The vast majority of the Christmas shopping is done, and now that the kitchen is back to its happy, functional state, we can break out the sugar cookie dough that's been hardening since... well, I don't remember when we made it. Saturday, maybe? Will cookie dough last that long in the fridge? Guess we'll find out tomorrow! I bought new cookie cutters yesterday, so the old ones should turn up shortly. :-)

The brain? It's already gone to bed. I think I shall follow. Can't wait to see the boys' faces tomorrow when the see the kitchen! I've got to finish clearing off the breakfast bar so I can take pictures, but will post them soon. I wish I could bottle up how good this feels and send it to those of you who are mid-remodel and need a dose of the good old, "THIS is why we're doing this" endorphins! Keep at it, guys! You can do it, and it is worth it!

G'night. Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, December 12

I'm not coming out!

And nobody can make me! Not unless they have my creamer.

For the third time this month, I have returned from the market, only to find at least one item from my cart made it over the scanner, and onto the receipt, yet is not among my belongings. The other two times, it was frivolous things. This time, though, it's serious: my creamer. And I carelessly used the very last drop of what I had left, thinking I could just open the new container. *phew* Tomorrow's going to be harsh.

Zorak picked up the cabinets on his way home from work. They're in. Kinda sorta. Technically, they aren't going to fall on anybody, but we can't load them up yet. There's a lot of shimming, and banging, and probably some calling on unseen forces to be done first. Stoopid studs. Everything we put in is straight. Unfortunately, our Forever Home wasn't framed out by us, or by anyone with access to a plumb line or a level, and we had to work with the pigeon-toed studs as we went. That means our walls have a delightfully contemporary (if it's the 1960's) wave theme to them. None of those rigid right-angles and flat planes for this house. I suppose if we ever have to market it, we can simply refer to the "soothing undulations of nature which resonate throughout the home". Right? The difference, though, is already stunning. It'll be even more impressive when we can once again see the countertops!

For anyone who was wondering, a grahpite high seems to last a mere 48 hours. Not bad for .10 a pack, eh? We're all doing much better today.

The boys helped me empty the bookshelf, and then I moved it to the school room. We loaded the school books onto it (thus freeing the living room for a more aesthetically pleasing collection than overstuffed binders and random scraps of paper), and unloaded six boxes of books (small boxes, but exciting anyway). We love new books, even when they're actually just old favorites unearthed (or maybe it's because they're old favorites?) The boys spent the evening wallowing in books. I just wandered back and forth in the living room, looking into the kitchen, into the school room, back to the kitchen, back to the school room. Ahhhh. It's getting better. Definitely better.

We actually did a bit of school today. The boys wanted to do history - they are excited about Rome. Then they asked for a little science over lunch. What am I going to say? "No, you've learned enough this year." Pfft. So, science it was. When they moved their school books, you'd have thought their math books were the Holy Grail, and they were the knights who say, "ni!" Two hours later, it just felt like time to read a bit. I truly have no desire to unschool, but I can see how it could work beautifully for some families. I share this, not to bring on a case of the comparisons, but because it encouraged me today, more than anything, to realize that we have done it. We've created a rich, interactive, healthy learning environment. *ding* *ding* *ding* We have a winner, folks! (Yes, it's like winning the goldfish at the fair. One of those, "Wow, how'd this happen" moments that, in all its rarity, isn't of the paralyzing fear kind. This one is good!) This whole thing has been SO worth it, and this is just the week that I needed a reminder of that.

And now, it's after two. Between Smidge and Miss Emily, this is the first time the house has all four children asleep so far tonight. Oy. I'm gonna follow them before one of them decides it's time to be up again! :-D

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, December 9

Not Quite As I Planned It: Weekend Edition

I was going to count it up and give it a number, but I don't know how to write the code for scientific notation, so let's just say, "again". For one with minor control issues, this life is lending hard credence to the Hindu concept of reincarnation for learning from the last life's lessons. (Joking. Mostly joking. Don't worry. I know this is just God, toying with me, er, teaching me important, life-long lessons. I do. And He does. And we're good like that. But I can't help being thankful I'm not a quadruplegic lizard this go-round. That would be a rough one.)

Zorak and I are dragging lately. Probably due to lack of sleep and improper nutrition. Whatever. Like that's gonna change. And so, we drag, and we abide by our tacit agreement not to actually mention the problem, but to stare at one another with our best "I just don't know why we're so tired lately" expressions, and go about our business at the crack of noon. It works. Not well, but that wasn't on the table when the rules were written up.

Evidently, neither was the process for Christmas shopping. We're both bad at it, and this year, we're just not quite on the same page, I don't think. It's not anybody's fault, and there isn't a "bad guy" in this scenario. This is simply one of the pitfalls of being human and marrying a human. (?) He doesn't have the time to listen to me take eight full hours to explain my "process" (and I wonder where James gets it), and I don't have the mental clarity to keep his rampant pronoun use straight. So, we haven't yet actually purchased any Christmas gifts. (Experience says we'll keep this up right until the cut-off for overnight shipping. Like I said, we're bad about this.)

So, back to the whole Not Quite As I Planned It thing. This life is fleeting, and amidst all that fleet there are things that must be done. Some of them I can do on my own, but it's not always about me. Or what I can do on my own. Or what I want done. The trade-off is worth it, having a wonderful home and family, a team, someone to watch your back, but the adjustment isn't always such a smooth process. Someday I will learn. This weekend, I made plans to take care of several things that needed takin' care of. Seemed simple enough to me. You know, other than the fact that there are s-i-x of us in this house, and I have nominal control over the direction things go (at best - we're talkin' absolute best, here). Most of the time, it's far, far less. And, ta-da! Here we are, midnight, 2/3 of the way through the weekend and about .000312 of my list has been accomplished. (I'm estimating, could be plus or minus one hundred-thousandths.)

Totally Cool HVAC Guy had two industrial accounts go down Thursday night, so he had to cancel Friday's appt. I was too cold to blog last night. Yuck.

Did call Sears, though, and explain that the washer/dryer buzzer just happens to be of a frequency and volume that will wake. the. dead. They'll have someone out there on Thursday to see about disconnecting that. And this way our warranty won't be affected. I like the people at the Sears telephone place. They aren't as chipper as the lady at the vacuum department, but they're much more on-the-ball. I thought of Erma Bombeck's book, "The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank", and smiled, as I jotted down "sometime between 8 and 4:30, Thursday" on the calendar.

Somebody showed the two older boys how to smoke pencil shavings. Or sniff old socks. I don't know what was up with them today, but *wow*. I hope they're done now. How long does a graphite high last, anyway? Anyone know?

Sadly, this is more typical than I care to admit. I often make all these plans, and they seldom pan out the way I made them. And then I'm standing here holding the bag yet again, feelin' a little grumpy about it, and Those I Love Most are skirting their way around the room, trying not to make eye contact. I'm torn as to whether I'm micromanaging and making things more difficult than they need to be, or if they really won't get done if I let everybody else just do it the way they want to. There are examples enough of both in my life to leave the answer firmly ensconsed in fog. Thick, confusing fog.

I'm betting I had a lot to do with it this weekend. And that's not so good. But then, there's tomorrow. Er, today. 23 hours and 53 minutes of it left. I hope I can do better. Get more done. Be more gracious. Take a breather, or a muscle relaxant. Help a paraplegic lizard make it safely across the road. Today's gonna be good. Or what little of it I can control will be: my own heart, mind, and actions. And that's about all I can do. But sometimes, sometimes that's enough.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, December 8

Mama 'Fore She Was Mama

I heard a song on the radio today that had me laughing from my toes. I think it's by Clay Walker. Two young boys, playing hide 'n seek, find a box of photographs and other momentos from their mother's days, BC. It's quite a shock for two curious little boys, but one of the sweetest lines in the song says,
We laugh and hang it over her head,
Right above her halo

I love that. How sweet that it doesn't matter what we were, 'fore we were mamas. We're mamas now, and we're loved. No?

Oh, and if anybody wants to "Holiday Up" your muffin recipes - try substituting the milk with egg nog, and add 1/4tsp pumpkin pie spice. Oh. Yeah. Good stuff.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, December 7

Blogger's Cramp

Not quite writer's cramp, as I could sit and write for days. But between the interruptions for food and clean clothing and all those other pesky details that keep things running smooth...





When did *I* become the one that keeps things running smoothly?

Whoa. That's a whole 'nuther issue there, isn't it? Anybody else torn between fits of riotous giggles at the mere thought of slipping into the Grown-Ups Club without ID, and the paralyzing fear that you're going to cut the red wire. Or the green wire. Whichever one ought not be cut. Yeah. Me, too. Gets me so worked up I can't keep my metaphors straight. ;-)

So yesterday I spent another three hours at the dentist. I actually kinda like our dentist now. I'm not afraid of dentists anymore. Not sure if that's because things can't get any worse, or because he's just very good, or because I've finally ditched one of those irrational fear things and decided to be a grown up about it. Whatever it is, this is nice. Not something I'd like to do on a regular basis. Um, anymore.

Tomorrow Santa pays us an early visit. Well, not Santa, actually. It's Very Cool HVAC Guy. You know, the one with the mojo. I love him. He brought us cool, refreshing air in the summer, and now he comes bearing the warm, soothing balm of fire. Mmmm. We'll have to cough up the rest of the money for the unit upon completion, but that's okay. Maybe we can pay him in dog.

The tree is up - it's a "'Picy Christmas Tree", according to Smidge. The boys found the red chili pepper lights and those just had to go on the tree. It's actually very pretty. Then James discovered his true calling, if the whole chemical engineering thing doesn't pan out - he spent all Tuesday evening and all Wednesday morning testing every. single. light. on two big strands of lights to find the bad ones. And he fixed them. So now, our tree is about 50# heavier than when we brought it home, and it's a good thing we went with new wiring in the house. You know, just in case. Merry Christmas, indeed.

We've Officially ditched lessons for the week. There's no sense in pretending and making everyone miserable. No kid learns when he's miserable. Well, not the things you're hoping he'll learn, anyway. So it's a week of preparation - focus on Advent, nature studies, reading old favorites and finding new ones. Baking. Lots and lots of baking. We'll continue with Latin studies, because those just slip right off stage left if you don't keep an eye on them. But the rest of it can sit on the back burner for a bit.

And, well, there ya go. Laundry's going. Kids are playing. Salsa music is blaring into the living room. Life is good, and it's time to put Baby Girl down for her nap. But I just wanted to touch base (I hate showing up at my favorite blogs *ahem* to find that there's no new conversation going on... *ahem*).

Kiss those babies! (And for those of you who needed the *ahem*, BLOG, would you? Thanks.) :-)


Wednesday, December 6

The Capacity of Children to be Happy

A couple of years ago, we went to NM for Christmas. Granny and the guys bought a tree Christmas Eve, everyone wearing shorts and t-shirts. Beautiful day. The boys were happy: happy to be with Granny, happy to have Christmas coming, happy to be together. Nobody bemoaned the lack of snow, or said it didn't "feel" like Christmas. It felt very much like Christmas. We should all be that happy with what we have.

We awoke Christmas morning to three feet of snow. Obviously, we had no snow boots, now snow bibs. The kids went out to play in their hoodies and jeans. All was well and good until Smidge sat on the concrete patio (he'd taken the caramel stirring spoon from Granny and bolted out the door) - he sat there, happily licking the spoon, long enough for his pants to melt the snow and refreeze to the patio. We had a heckuva time getting him up. I want to be that happy with a caramel spoon again. So happy that I don't even notice my butt has frozen to the ground.

Obviously, some instinct (call it "a desire to live through winter") protects us from actually not caring if we freeze to the ground once we're on our own. But the idea of that kind of all-encompassing happiness. Good stuff. We need more of it.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, December 5

So I can close that window

I didn't know where to store this link, so I've had that window up for a week now. So, here it is. The Gov't of Japan, as part of its effort to cut down on refuse and waste, has set recommendations for using fabric to wrap gifts, rather than wrapping paper. The directions for various wraps are contained in this link.



The blessings we didn't anticipate...

And to think I would have been happy to stop at two children. I'd have missed this! What was I thinking?

Kiss those babies!

Monday, December 4

Wacky Santa

So, back to the Santa Train Adventure...

The alcove of the car was filled with a rather uncomfortable silence after Santa bolted. The boys were a little hurt, totally confused, and not sure at all why anybody thought that would be fun. Well, the children cheering and talking with Santa through the doorway certainly did.

Zorak and I stood there, giving each other twitchy eye signals, trying to get a grip on our natural instincts to go find out what the hell kind of Santa would do that to little kids, and trying to think of a way not to make the trip any more unpleasant than it already had been up to that point.

Ten or fifteen minutes later, Santa sauntered back into our alcove, sat down, grabbed James by the arm and said, "Here." There wasn't a "Ho-ho-ho", or a "Merry Christmas" in sight. I was leaning forward to start my protective-mommy tirade, but the smile on James' face stopped me (he later confided in me that he felt so special that Santa chose to sit by him when he came back). OK, that smile is the reason we did this. Zorak focused the camera to get a shot, when suddenly, without even looking at James to see what he was doing (mugging gleefully for the camera), Santa reached up...

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...and ran his hand all over James' face, saying, "Let's rub some of this ugly off, here."

OK, even without the residual sting of thinking Santa doesn't like you, what kind of Santa would say that to a child? But on top of the recent awkwardness, that was just weird, and, truthfully, it came across as kind of mean. This isn't your drinking buddy, here, or your little sister's new fiance. It's a little kid who has never seen the BillyBob Thornton version of Santa before. James stumbled his way through explaining to Santa what he wanted for Christmas. He was hopeful, but the Santa kept interrupting him to say, "So it's a puzzle?" No, not a puzzle, it's a game... Yeah, Santa didn't care. As far as he's concerned, it's a puzzle, and James is pretty certain he won't be getting it for Christmas.

Zorak managed to snap one more shot, but James wasn't ready. I don't think any of us was ready for anything at that point.

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Santa swung James back around to his seat, and Smidge leapt over to see Santa. That went well for Smidge - no facial attacks, at least.

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But when Santa looked at Zorak and said, "GO." (meaning, snap this picture and get this over with) Well, it didn't do much to endear Zorak to this particular brand of Santa. Smidge wants (20 guesses and the first 19 don't count)... a train.

John's turn. John wanted to go, but if he'd known about David Lynch films, he would have been certain he was in one. Or worse yet, terrified he was stuck in a Quentin Tarantino film. (I guess it's good the boys lack a basic knowledge of some pop culture.) He slipped over, spit out his need for "accessories" for his pirate costume, and bolted back to the relative safety of Dad.

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The boys wanted Miss Emily to see Santa. Miss Emily was quite happy on my lap. However, Santa didn't seem to be inebriated, and we had both exits covered. Evidently, Baby Girl had heard rumors of Santa's affinity for Elf Bowling, and she was a little nervous...

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She handled it a bit better when he sat down and she no longer felt an impending strike coming on...

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And in the end, Zorak and I were more than thrilled to get off that train. The boys' spirits were byuoyed by the candy canes and gift bags the volunteers handed out upon disembarkation. As we drove away, and the smell of feet dissipated from our nostrils, the boys' memory functions kicked in to reconstruct the afternoon into a delightful, fantasy-filled adventure with Santa. That phenomena, in itself is a little disturbing, but when it works in our favor, it can be good. And I'm sure in thirty years, we'll be taking our grandchildren aboard the Santa Train, expecting a fun-filled delight for the children. Hopefully, we'll remember the lessons we learned this time around. ;-)

Kiss those babies!

Blogger Photo and Help Are Down

Well, I spent three hours at the dentist this morning. And now an hour trying to get the Santa pictures uploaded. So far, this has not been a stellar day. My eye is still numb, and it won't blink properly, so I'm going to just go lay down with the kids and stare at the ceiling fan while they watch a movie. I'll try to post again later this afternoon.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, December 3

The Festivities Have Begun

Have you ever noticed that many of the things designated as "for kids" are done so only because adults would take one look at them and say, "You charged me for this?" Adults with children (universally known for a lack of discretion - the children, that is... *ahem*), however, are capable of keeping focused on the happy, undiscerning children for prolonged periods of time. That's pretty much what we did today.

We took the boys on the "Santa Train" at the North Alabama Railroad Museum. Friends had taken a similar excursion in Arizona. Another friend has taken one in Georgia. All reports were glowing. This is a pretty pricy adventure, but we figured it's something special, not something you do everyday... why not? The boys were absolutely thrilled. Something about little boys and trains that spans the ages...

The setting is beautiful, and the old trains are fascinating. The wait was a little chilly, but there's plenty to see while you wait.

By the time we could line up to board the train, anticipation was at a painful high.

The first car on the Santa Train: a 1939 coach, styled in a mid-50's Amtrak decor. Pretty neat. Has a slightly funky, "I'm an old train" smell to it. Bright. Airy. This is neat.

Second car on the Santa Train: a baggage car, converted to an "observation car" (aka - the gift shop, but they have a bench in there, too). This car has mojo. It's fascinating and is the nicest car in the line-up. (Which you cannot tell from this picture... sorry.)

And then, the car we rode in:

It smells like feet. The windows are so scratched up you cannot see clearly out of them. And, although it's the "dining car" (was a hospital car, but they've worked hard to give it a good "Old Hospital Cafeteria" feel), we were bunched into an alcove just outside the rest of the car. And the seats with tables. We spent half an hour feeling like we'd been made to go sit in the hall for disrupting the class.

The conductors do this for the love of it. And it shows. I wish they'd give them a more active role - tell us about the cars. Tell us about the Santa Train, how long it's been active, what kinds of restorations are going on. Maybe tell a narrative, or lead the group in singing or playing some fun games. Something. Something other than sitting in a car we can't see out of, trying not to breathe through our noses, and wondering if these chairs are going to kill us in a wreck. We did get one guy with a trick Santa hat who came through and played with the kids for a couple of minutes, but that was it.

What we could see of the "landscape" as we bumped along the track was mostly what you would see walking down any alley in town. And at that, we couldn't see details; we weren't sure if those were bodies of hobos keeping warm in Christmas wrapping,

or the "concrete menagerie" the conductor mentioned five minutes later.

So, we set about to amuse ourselves, and gave the camera to the boys...

One, two, three, lunge!

"Baby Girl, look this way! No, over here! Baby GIRL...?"

"OK, John, take a picture of me making this face!" (And only a brother would understand why this was cool.)

"No, us not ready..."

THREE, man! Car three has all the cool people! (And bad lighting...)

That's a guaranteed fun time, there, no matter where you're stuck.

Santa did arrive in the last ten minutes of the trip. He walked into our alcove, shook hands with the boys, did not say a word, and walked right past us into the rest of the car, to greet the other children, get pictures, and hear what they wanted for Christmas. If you could bottle the dissapointment on the boys' faces at that moment, it would be the most heartbreaking thing you've held. Zorak and I understand that he didn't want to keep the other children on pins and needles where they could see him and had to wait for him, but I cannot abide by making three little children think Santa doesn't want to hear what they'd like for Christmas because he just walked out on them, no explanation, no nothing. We weren't even sure if he was coming back, as the engine was now on that end of the train.

As it turns out, he did come back... but that'll have to be another post in the morning.

What. A. Trip.

Kiss those babies!