Thursday, March 30

Paint, Paint, and More Paint

Ugh. Well, not ugh, reallly. It's good to be painting the master bedroom. But you know you're not communicating well when you are picturing deep terra cottas and spicy cinnamon colors draped around your room and your spouse brings you color chips in five shades of grey... Yeah, and we're supposed to paint today! (Actually, the grey wouldn't be bad, it's just such a shift from what I've been picturing and anticipating.) So. There's that. Thankfully, Zorak found the Behr website - you can mix colors there and play with rooms to get a general idea of what it'll look like. That's handy. (And addictive.)

OK, so far Dawn (who is my hero!) is the only one who has posted pictures of her windows! Come on, guys! I need help, here. I can install a toilet, but I cannot decorate a home. I'm calling on my imaginary friends to help with this thing. Pretty please?!? *Update: Laney has also graciously posted window shots! Yay!* If you do post them, let me know in the comments. :-)

Our high today is supposed to be 80! Wow. That's quite warm. If we can get the groceries bought and the bedroom painted, then the boys and I are going to swing by a park for a picnic with some of the nice folks we attended the arts festival with. (Eee- that was a grammatical wreck. Sorry. Still on my first cup of decaf - which, yes, means it's not going to get any better as the day goes on. Decaf just doesn't have the brain boosting power of wheat bran, or, say real coffee.)

We're rapidly approaching the arrival of our company, and we're all so excited. There's still much to be done around here, but they know it's a work in progress. And their rooms will be done and nicely appointed by the time they arrive, so that's good. This week we're pouring concrete to fix the front steps. (We suspect that each step was added individually by different people, and not one of them agreed on the ratio or method for making steps.) Not only will that drastically improve the safety of entering our home, but it'll look a whole heckuva lot nicer, too!

I wanted to clean up all the leaves around the yard so we could try for a healthy lawn by the time our guests arrive. Zorak didn't quite threaten to set things on fire if I did that, but he did argue rather eloquently for not doing anything to encourage grass growth until we have a lawnmower. So we still have last fall's leaves in the yard. Not too Springish, it's true, but then the grass around here really doesn't need much encouragement, either.

Oh, Zorak's mom said she is going to send us her baby gown for Emily! How exciting is that?!? I'm going to hold off on Emily's baptism until it arrives so that she can wear it. We thought that would be neat. I love our heritage, and I love being able to bring the years together like that. That little gown has a lot of history, and now we can add to it and keep it alive.

No major injuries from Pioneer Club last night. I took Smidge to the 2 and 3 year-old's class, thinking that he might be more comfortable there than in the nursery (and there's a situation in the nursery that I'm not sure how to handle just yet, but it's best if I'm not in there until I figure it out). It would have gone better if we'd arrived on time, I think. As it was, he stood about five feet away from the group the entire time. Wouldn't get near the table to color, but the minute nobody was talking to him, he bolted to the table and grabbed his coloring page. Then he showed his paper to everyone he saw in the hallway, cradled it lovingly on the drive home, and it was the first thing he showed Zorak when we returned. Boy, I've never seen a child more proud of a piece of paper in my life! If nothing else came of it, that was worth it. So cute!

Oh, and for the record - I know it's "Sancho". I do know that. It hit me this morning that I'd typed "Pancho" instead. I can't believe nobody called me on that - how embarrassing! I don't know if I was thinking the last name, or what. That must be it, because 's' and 'p' aren't even near enough to consider it a regular typo. *sigh* I miss caffeine...

Alrighty, I'd best go prime and play with colors. Y'all have a great Thursday!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, March 29

Dona Quixote?

Don Quixote: "Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich, for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless."

Sancho: "What giants?"

I'm re-reading Don Quixote, and having a wonderful time of it. This second time through, I've got a better feel for the cadence of the language and the tone of the characters. It's a riot. This morning, though, I realized why I enjoyed this book so much, and it's a scary thought: I am Don Quixote, and am raising three (potentially four, but the little one can't talk yet, so the jury's still out) little Panchos. Would that make Zorak an unsuspecting Dulcinea?

I see giants to be slain (character development issues, academic ignorance, forces to belay mental acuity). The loyal children scan the horizon. They see... windmills. And they're pretty sure I'm insane. But they plug along beside me, nonetheless. It's quite an adventure, this life.

God help us.

This week, we have enjoyed homeschooling in the most integral ways. It's becoming once again a part of our pattern, our flow. This is a good life we're living. But you know, I hesitate to write things like this, although they are true, for there will always be someone who reads it and gasps, "Oh, she's got it all sooooo together." Then promptly starts in on the comparisons and the self-loathing. Please, if that's you, stop now. Take a swig of coffee, hitch up your bra (or pick a garment), and read on.

Homeschooling four children will never be pastoral. We will never have the children donning white breeches with sun hats and skippily merrily to the table singing old English hymns. That's not having it "together". That's a delusion far, far worse than any I harbor (and I do, admittedly, harbor quite a few). Homeschooling four children is, for me, more like hauling cats in a sack that won't close. But I really like the cats, and it's a good sack, so I'm okay with it.

I'm having one heck of a time getting through John's reading lessons with Smidge piling books on my lap and kissing my nose while James shouts from the computer, "Mom! Come LOOK!" (And, of course, I have to go look because I just know the one time I don't, it's going to be the one time our pop-up blocker didn't work and his eyes will start bleeding.)

And it's even more challenging to get through Young Drake with James while John and Smidge duke it out with teriyaki skewers in the living room. Sir Francis Drake did not, as far as we know, ever shout, "You're going to poke an eye out with that thing!"

I have developed the posture of an 80 year old dairy maid from sitting Indian style on the floor, reading aloud while nursing.

The children are convinced there are hidden cameras on the property, filming a warped sequal to "Pioneer House", and they cannot wait to appear on PBS. I have no intention of telling them otherwise, because (a) anything that will keep them on their best behavior is a keeper, and (b) it's kind of fun to watch them make silly faces at the trees, in the hope that they're being filmed. (We have no cable, so I take what I can get for entertainment.)

Our study on blindness turned into quite the adventure the other day, too. I ventured into the realm of the Crafty (I don't live there, and they don't want me there permanently) and made goggles for the boys using wax paper for the lenses so they could get a feel for being blind. The point of our exercise being to foster empathy and understanding toward those who cannot see. The point was made when James slammed into the pre-hung door leaning against the hallway wall. The point was then lost, however, when he backed up and promptly slammed into it again.. and I burst into a fit of giggles.

It's not that we have to "have it all together", ready for a photo shoot from Good Homeschoolers of the Year, in order to enjoy the life that is homeschooling. It's being with our children as they learn. It's hearing one of our children say, "I didn't know I was capable of that!" It's hearing another one say, "Thank you for teaching me this."

It's knowing that those words are sometimes sweeter after a long struggle to master a concept. So during the struggle, it's easier to keep calm and be encouraging. On the days that something (or everything) doesn't click, it's about being able to take a deep breath, share a story, pick another topic, start over tomorrow. There won't be 30 other kids resenting the break you took, and nobody will be behind. Nobody will be "ahead" and get bored, either. We're right where we should be, as homeschoolers. Our goals are on track. Our days are full.

It's enjoying the sense of humor in your children when you begin reading history and lovingly guide them to answer review questions. "The Egyptians live on the ___ ___" Fill in the blank? One of them shouts "golf course" and while that's the end of today's history lesson (you'll never make it to the Indus River Valley through all the golfing jokes now), you've had some good time together, and have seen a side of them you may not see so much of otherwise. (And you pray, when you go to bed that night, that they really did know it was the Nile River...)

I think one of the cats just escaped the sack again, and it's heading for the windmill, so I better go. But I wanted to remind you not to get into the comparison trap. Your homeschooling, your family, your home, it's all good stuff. Just like ours is. Enjoy that for all its worth and don't hesitate to be glad for the life you can live.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, March 27

Boys and Balto

Wow, I had forgotten that I have a better image editor on this computer than the Image Mixer Picture Editor software that came with our camera! Hopefully, much better photos will follow at some point, but tonight I thought I'd share a few quick pics of random things around here.

This first one is James, making a vase for the flowers the boys bought me. This was in January, shortly after Emily was born. Yes, we have flowers so seldom around here that we had no vases! I love my vase! (And I love that sweet boy.)

Smidge and the poky ball! A great find, as long as you don't fall and land on one. He's quite the adventurer. (And look, he's not asleep in this one, either!)

Here's John, getting his Big Brother Chet cut. (It's already in need of a trim. I know many women who would love to have hair that grows as quick as his does.) Doesn't he look so solemn?

And here's the Baltoid (and my high-fashion footwear). This was in mid-January. He's much larger now, but I haven't got a recent photo to show the enormous change. I'll get one this week, though. He's going to be a beautiful dog. Right now he's still a cute, gangly pup.

But now I need to ask a favor of you all. Would you please post photos of your windows?? I need ideas on trimming them out, and then on curtains. Pretty please? Just leave a note in the comments section w/ a link if you post them! Thanks!

Kiss those babies!

Don't Wait

This summer, Aunt Bonnie and Uncle John were going to come for a visit. We dearly love Aunt Bonnie and Uncle John, and have jealously anticipated any time we could spend with them, whether while we're driving through Oklahoma, or in knowing they are coming here. Friday, I received a call from Aunt Bonnie's daughter. At first, I was so pleasantly surprised to hear from her, but then her voice cracked, and she said, "We lost Mama this morning."

I haven't been able to write about this, and I've been trying since that afternoon. My heart broke. For her family, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. For her husband and co-conspirator in life. For her friends at the bakery. For me. Aunt Bonnie was loved by everyone she knew.

Aunt Bonnie spent Thursday baking (she loved to bake, and man, she was good at it - renowned in her community for the best cinnamon rolls on earth!) and then she went to the casino to play with a little of her mad money. She died peacefully, in her sleep, sometime during the night. As last days go, that's not bad. I am thankful she did not suffer, and that Uncle John was not subjected to watching the love of his life wither and suffer, as well.

But I was waiting for the weekend to call her. (Don't wait.)

She was waiting for summer to come visit. (Don't wait.)

The last time we talked was only a week ago. She was up to her armpits in baking flour. She was so proud of her daughter, Linda. She was in love with her wonderful great-grandbabies and shared funny stories about the things kids say. She laughingly and happily relayed stories of Bob, who is living a wonderful, crazy, happy cancer-free life in the Northwest. She was excited about their plans for the trip out.

She didn't wait to enjoy her family. She savored every crazy moment. She shared that love with the rest of us. Don't wait... for things to calm down... for things to improve... for things to be 'just so'. Don't. This is the life we have, and it will be what we make of it. Aunt Bonnie knew that, and she shared it with us. So now, I'll share it with you.

Two of my favorite stories of Aunt Bonnie came from my Mom. At one point, when they were young women, Aunt Bonnie was single and Mom was married. They lived next door to one another, and were the dearest of friends (a friendship that lasted a full lifetime - they could get together after a five or ten year hiatus and within two minutes be laughing and giggling like schoolgirls again). Well, Aunt Bonnie would get home from a date and come over to Mom's house and knock on the window to let Mom know she was home. Mom would take the coffee pot and two cups to the spare bedroom, set it up on the bed and she and Aunt Bonnie would sit back there, drinking coffee, laughing, and gabbing until the sun came up.

Another story, from about the same time period, involved two ladies hopped up on caffeine, trying to paint the ceiling in that spare room. Well, Mom was only 5'3", and they didn't have a long roller. So Aunt Bonnie suggested, after watching Mom jump up and down, trying get paint on the ceiling (getting more on herself than anything else) that they push the bed into the middle of the room and jump on that. They did. I think they still got more paint on themselves than anything else (it's difficult to paint straight lines while you're laughing so hard). But in the end, they got the room painted, brought the coffee pot back there, and enjoyed hot coffee and friendship under their freshly painted ceiling.

I couldn't wait for Zorak to meet Aunt Bonnie and Uncle John. He fell in love with both of them just as much as I had. I'm thankful he got to meet her, and enjoy pot upon pot of coffee at her dining table (which looks ever so much like Mom's always did - it's the command center of the home). The boys fell in love with her, and dubbed her Grandma Bonnie. James said she was a lot like his Grandma (my Mom), and that she gave good hugs.

She had a warm home, where one was always welcome. She always said it was carefully decorated in "Early American Yard Sale" (she did love a good deal). If you stayed for a visit of any length, that front door would open more times than you could count and in would file kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids, just stopping by for a visit. It was wonderful. I want a home like that.

I want another year, another visit, another phone call. But they won't come. I will miss that, miss her. So many of us will. But because she didn't wait for life to come her way, because she went out and rounded it up and fed it and passed the coffee freely, those of us who have been left behind will have one another to continue to love and cherish. We'll have coffee together, and while the table won't be quite as full with that one empty spot, it will be okay. We will have laughter together. We will have silence that descends so fiercely and feels so deep it could rend us in two. We will have memories and stories to help mend our hearts. We will have the pain of her loss, but she made our hearts big enough to handle the scar.

This morning, let's raise our cups and toast life, love, and Not Waiting!

I love you, Aunt Bonnie.


Saturday, March 25

When Ya Gotta Sleep...

... Ya Gotta Sleep! (We have no idea how he managed this, but it's certainly a descriptive shot of the life of a toddler: you're on the go. Or you're not. Yes, he was actually standing in front of the futon when sleep overtook him.)

Today was productive, but there was a significant amount of whining going on. I hope it doesn't bleed over into tomorrow. (For the record, it was the boys. Zorak and I were pretty good today.)

The boys spent most of their day getting on one another's nerves. They were just so contrary. It's funny, if you can step back far enough to view it objectively. Zorak and I got to take turns doing that today. I love the tag-team approach to parenting, because it keeps me from getting too focused on the nit-picky things. I can step back and laugh when the child who cried at the mention of having a chicken leg for lunch receives his PB&J sandwich and promptly says, "I'd like some meat with my lunch, please."
"OK," says the unaware subjective parent (in this case, Zorak, which is why I find the anecdote humorous), "What would you like?"

John thought on it for a bit, then perked right up and said,

(Are you ready for it???)

"Chicken would be nice."

Ah, you just can't make that stuff up! And if you don't get the chance to view it from a distance once in a while, it's easy to start thinking they are trying to make you insane. Or that they already have... But no, that's just the process of learning to navigate the world, learning how to bow out gracefully once you've already said or done something less-than-bright, learning how to communicate all those thoughts and feelings and make sense of the mental mush that IS a five-year old's brain. He's doing just fine, and thankfully, so are we.

The master bedroom looks like an actual room. Tomorrow I'll prime the ceiling and Zorak will put the final skim coat on the tape. It can be textured, painted, carpeted, and moved into this week! Yay!

The kitchen received its final coat of paint today, so now all the outlets can stop dangling like gouged out robot eyes and start looking like proper outlets for a change. The makeshift pantries had to be moved away from the walls, so they all got a thorough cleaning, as well. That felt good.

The green in the dining room has grown on us. Thankful for that.

Balto went to the store with us today. He is such a chicken. He wants to ride in the Suburban, but he's afraid to jump in. Then we get home and he's afraid to jump back out. He weighs too much now for me to lift him in and out, so he's simply going to have to get over these little issues of his. However, he's a good traveler once he's in, and he thoroughly enjoyed making the trek with us. I liked having him with us, too. He's a sweet thing, and loyal. He's a good dog.

And on that note, the kitchen is clean, oats are soaking for pancakes in the morning, church clothes are laid out, and it's about time for me to hit the hay so I'm not the weak link in the chain tomorrow morning! I'll leave you with a picture from one of our walks about the property. Zorak and I call this one "Jay and Silent Bob: The Early Years"

Kiss those babies!

Hooked up the Printer: Pics Before Monday

Everyone who has more than one child knows about the growth vortex that seems to suck in the first child the day after you've had your second child, and spits it back out three years larger than it was just yesterday. Well, the vortex got Smidge. My wee, precious, little Smidge.

The boys call this her "worried look" - she makes this face right after they've done one of their run-by smoochings on her unsuspecting forehead. One minute, nothing, the next minute, *smack*. What in the world was that?!?

If you sing to her, you'll get one of these expressions. It'll make you laugh, and she'll revert back to the worried look, above. (If she had actual eyebrows, you could tell they're raised. As it is, you have to go by the Bunnicula peak on her forehead - the whole forehead raises up. Weird.)

This was one of the first smiles we got - back in February. Love those cheeks!

I have no idea what Zorak did to cause her to make this face, but had to capture it.

And whatever it was, he soon remedied that and got one of these grins - this is when she's trying to decide if it's worth an all-out laugh or not, but wants you to keep it up while she decides.

This is how she looks most of the day, now. (Well, only in color, but I couldn't get the color true in the pictures, so there ya go, black and white.)

And here she is, the Proverbial Baby. (Note the absolutely exquisite blanket - a blogging friend made that for her - it's like a lacy cloud. She's lucky I let her borrow it.)

We have received some of the most thoughtful, sweet, and loving gifts for her. I will post photos of her with them soon. Thank you, all, so much!

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, March 23

Oh, YUM!

For a snack today, we mixed up a batch of the Sweet Vanilla Milk from the Hillbilly Housewife. (The recipes are about 2/3 of the way down the Powdered Milk page.)

Can I just say WOW-YUM-HOLY-BAT-COW-BATMAN! That is one delicious recipe. I imagine it's even better warmed... with a cinnamon stick... and cookies...

Ok, ok, nix the cookies. Now I'm just feeling gluttonous.

How not to suck down the entire 2Qts. while the boys aren't looking... hmmmm. (Gotta do it while they aren't looking, though, because I think they'd fight me for it if they saw me.)

Tonight we'll try the molasses milk! Mmmm.

Kiss those babies!

Ooo, that felt good!

Well, yesterday the boys and I found many wonderful books in the basement. They wanted to bring them ALL upstairs, but not only would I have ended the day with thighs the size of Hulk Hogan's, there simply aren't enough finished walls to house the bookcases. You'd have thought it was Christmas, though, the way the boys oohhh'd and ahhhh'd over each opened box. We didn't find the books we were looking for, but we did bring up a nice selection of titles. ;-) And a small bookcase. And the math blocks. I'd call that a semi-successful trek!

When Zorak arrived home, he helped me wrangle the corner hutch back into the dining room corner and the tea cart over by a wall in the dining room. It's found a home! For ten years, we've been sticking that poor little tea cart wherever there was room. Last night, it nestled in perfectly against a little piece of wall that's just the right size, and I just smiled. The little tea cart has a real home now. My Mom would be so happy!

The boys built an alarm last night with their snap circuit set. Using the photosensor, it was set in the window to go off when the sun hit the window. It went off. It was loud. These are definitely Zorak's children, too. They slept right through it. (Personally, I'd have put it in the other window... the one the sun doesn't enter right as it tops the horizon. But that's just me.) So today got an early start. *grin*

We sure are enjoying our four-day school week! We get quite a bit accomplished Monday through Thursday and have Fridays off. We can either enjoy time with Zorak or run errands and work on the house when he's not off. Tomorrow, he's off, and we've a lot to do! Too bad the weather has been completly schitzo - high today of 55, tonight, snow! Springtime in the South? Or just a weird year all around? I don't know, but I'm glad I didn't put the sweaters away just yet. I hope this doesn't kill our pear tree (it's already blossomed).

And I apologize for the lack of pictures. The severe lack of pictures. Not only of the house, but of Miss Emily. She's gone and plumped right up, grew a few strands of hair at the back of her head (her hair, thus far, is brown, by the way), and her eyes have lightened up to a brilliant blue. She's not quite so splotchy anymore, either. (Yay!) And have I taken pictures? Actually, I have been better about that. Particularly considering this is my fourth child and I'm not the photgraphing wiz that Jess is! What I haven't done is hook up the semi-dead printer (or purchase a new one) so that I can upload them. I will do that this weekend. Someone hold me to that, okay?

And that's about it, here. The stove parts arrived yesterday afternoon, so I'm waiting on 8 o'clock to call the appliance store to see when they can get a tech down here. We have no nostalgia for the days before we had a stove. Made eggs in a basket for supper on the waffle iron last night and it gave Zorak and I flashbacks. We had to run to the bathroom and turn on the hot water just to make sure the progress we've made wasn't a dream. *whew* Still have hot water. That's good...

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, March 22

What a Wonderful Morning!

It's cold this morning, but dry and breezy. Another laundry day! I got to visit with Gram and Aunt Linda a bit before breakfast. We're so looking forward to their trip out in April! Aunt Linda said she'd be happy to help James plant flowers, and that absolutely made his day when I relayed the news. Then Smidge brought me a book and climbed in my lap. That's all it takes to redirect my attention. We sat and snuggled and laughed our way through Old MacDonald Had A Farm. (This should never have been made into a book. It must be sung, and the children don't like to hear me sing. Who made this into a book???)

The boys are enjoying big mugs of yogurt and hot, buttered toast, while I take a break from hanging the wash and reading to Smidge. When they're done, we'll work out in the yard some, then come in for hot chocolate and stories. We enjoy productive days we can spend together. Days in the car aren't so much fun, but days at home, working and tending, have become quite joyful.

Then it's down to the basement to find our math blocks. It's time. (It's past time, but we've made do pretty well without them thus far.) I've found the videos and the workbooks, but have yet to find the blocks. (Where's the adventure of packing them all in the same box? Organization is for wimps.)

The boys' lessons are going well. I haven't blogged much about the homeschooling, as it's just a part of each day. That's how it goes sometimes. Not every schooling day contains an "ah-ha" or a "eureka". Math, reading, history, Bible, nature walks and read-alouds. It's good, but makes for dull blogging (yeah, like our stove issues make for riveting reading...) I'm digging around for some good memory work, and hopefully I'll find our Latin materials today while we're working in the basement.

I've been trying to convince Zorak to bring up one of the big bookcases to hold the schooling materials, but bringing more stuff upstairs before the house is done just isn't high on his list of Things He'd Like To Do. It ranks right up there with starting over on the house, and having to listen to small children chant songs on CD. So I think today I'll just bring up a little one. Library books on top, school books on the shelves. That'll do nicely, and won't require a ton of heavy lifting and hauling when the time comes to finish the school room.

Oh! We've made a change of plans on the order of things, too. When we finish the master bedroom, we're going to do the foyer next, rather than the fourth bedroom. It's the initial visual impact. And it smells like dog. So, Balto gets a dog house outside and we get a nice foyer. This is good for our mental state, as well, because now the finished (and lovely) walls of the dining room frame the nasty foyer and act as a focal point of Ugly. We made the switch in plans as much out of practicality as out of mental health. The more we finish, the worse the old parts look. This will be great, and leaves us with only the fourth bedroom and the school room to do before the WHOLE HOUSE will have been redone. Not bad. Not bad, at all.

Hmm, I hear giggling. There should be no giggling when you have yogurt in front of you. I'd better go round them up and redirect a little bit. Have a lovely Wednesday! And as always, kiss those babies!

Oh, the things that make me smile!

* Hearing James exclaim over snack and a read-aloud, "Wow! This book is far better than I thought it would be!"

* Seeing the smile on Smidge's face when I let him eat some of "my" popcorn.

* Watching John run to the bookshelf to get his writing book down - I don't run that fast unless I'm in imminent danger.

* Reading about other people's tin foil hats.

* Walking through the erstwhile "tool room" and seeing white walls (and not stumbling over tools).

* Smidge hugs, and the impish smile that accompanies them.

* Seeing the light go on in John's eyes when he gets it, really, really gets it.

* Piling on the couch with all four children and knowing that my personal space has been invaded in the most lovely fashion.

* Made-up jokes from children. Sometimes I think it'd be okay to have children just to see the world through their eyes. It's a very funny place.

* Hearing any of my children laugh so hard it causes the others to laugh, too.

* Cooking together. Always a bonus.

* Knowing that although it's cold tonight, we are all safe and warm.

* Knowing that Zorak will scootch aside and let me have the warm spot when I climb in bed.

* Remembering that we aren't the only freedom-loving parents out there who feel so painfully aware of where our accountability lies every time we look into the trusting, loving, eager eyes of our children.

* Looking at our children, and knowing without a shadow of a doubt that raising them is the Best Thing We Could Ever Do.

* Enjoying that whole process, as well.

* Spending two hours at the library and enjoying every minute of it. (Worked hard to get that groove going, but oh, is it worth it!)

* Realizing, at the market, that I've (once again) forgotten to slip out of my slippers and into my shoes.

* Having children who aren't mortified about things like that, yet. (Though the older two will give me a good ribbing and giggle after me for a while over it.)

* Hearing Zorak's voice on the phone, telling us he's headed home after work.

* Hearing the squeals of delight and the tromping of feet as the boys run to meet Zorak at the door.

* Getting a kiss on the cheek, hearing, "How was your day?" - And knowing he really means it.

There's so much that makes me smile! There's a lot to smile about, really.

Kiss those babies (there's another one!)

Tuesday, March 21

Things you don't want to hear...


(From your spouse...)

"Honey, come look at this." (This applies, in particular, to the incident last night, but it's safe to assume this isn't something a woman ever really enjoys hearing.)

"Why is there flame there?"

"I'm going to have to cut off the gas."

(and from the boys...)

"Does this mean no pancakes in the morning?!?!"

(and then from the appliance store we purchased the stove from...)

"Oh no. We don't service that far." (OK, you'll deliver here, but you won't service here? And you couldn't have mentioned that when we bought the stove and made it clear that we were purchasing locally for the s-e-r-v-i-c-e?!?)

(from the two other companies the first company gave you service contacts for...)

"Five Star? Who makes that? I don't think we service those. *pause* Nope. We don't service those."

So much for buying locally. I ended up calling Five Star. For the record, they were truly fantastic! Five Star is sending the parts needed to do the repair and they somehow managed to talk the original shop into sending a technician down to do the repair once we have the parts in hand. Yay, Five Star!!

All this, and we can still make it to the library today! Yippee!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, March 20

It's Dead... (rated R, for language and government rants)

My phone, that is. It's been sickly for a while, and we saw this coming. Still, it's a bit of a shock to find yourself without a cell phone. Just wake up and thhhbbttt. It's dead.

I took it to the Verizon technician to see what it would cost to fix the problem (because, of course it's out of warranty and we're three months away from the standard now-we've-got-you-for-another-two-years upgrade). Answered the gazillion questions they ask - what's the problem, what's it doing, how long has it been doing it, and what have you done to resolve the problem. OK, pick it up at three. Well, we weren't staying in town until three, so I just called.

Had to laugh, because when I called the conversation went like this:

CSR - "Well, it won't take a charge."
Me - Um... yeah, I know. That's why I dropped it off.
CSR - "It says it's charging, but it's not."
(Long, awkward pause, as I wait for them to provide me with information I haven't provided them already.)
Me - Aaaannnnddd?
CSR - "Well, there's a few things you can do. You can see if a friend has a phone they don't want. You can purchase a new phone, retail, of course. Or you can buy one off eBay."
Me - What would it cost to fix it?
CSR - "It won't take a charge."
Me - So it can't be fixed?
CSR - "Well, it won't take a charge."
Me - No SHIT, it won't take a charge!* I am well aware of that. Why can't it be fixed? (*That first part was in my head. I don't swear at the poor sap who got stuck answering the phone.)
CSR - "Um, the software won't let us fix it."

Well, okay, it's THEIR software. Are they telling me they coded it to do this? Or that their technician can't be bothered with "software issues"? Did he work for Microsoft before coming to work for Verizon? Bah. I hate planned obsolescence.

We have two old phones, but I don't think they have GPS capabilities. (Yet another Federal mandate in the name of "the people", designed to complicate our lives, waste our tax money, and control our spending habits. Bastards. And we're the idiots who allow things like this to be passed. As much as I appreciate certain things the FCC does, I think it's outlived its usefulness and is now overstepping its bounds out of sheer boredom.)

And if I had a compliant phone, I'd be on it right now, wasting my minutes to make that clear to someone in DC.

Dy, off to piss and moan to the congressman who will never see my email

Sunday, March 19

Many Shades of Green

Well, the best laid plans...

Miss Emily kept me up until five this morning, when I simply couldn't hang any longer and left her to her own devices in the bouncy seat. Needless to say, that rearranged our entire Sunday morning schedule. Pancakes? Nope, Frosted Flakes. Church? Nuh-uh, slept here instead of in the pews.

While Zorak made astounding headway in the back, I primed the living room. (In my defense, before I go any farther, you all need to know that Zorak approved this color! It's not all on me this time!) The primer went on. Uh-oh. "Honey, does this look a little, um, olive drab, to you?" It was, but what could we do? And it was just primer, anyway. It dried to a beautiful, rich, textury green that we both fell in love with. Oh joy! This is exciting!!

Four hours later, I applied the finish coat. Uh-oh. (Yes, again. This time, for real.) "Honey, this is a little, um, yellow..." Zorak said go ahead and slap it on and see what happens. I couldn't bring myself to put it up on more than one wall, at first. It goes on the color of weak split pea soup. (Yeah, ew.) It dries to a vibrant grass color. Hmmm. It's not... bad... per se. But it's not that lovely, convoluted green that begged for bronze trappings and heavy tapestries, either. This green seems to call for more IKEA and less Antique Shoppe. We'll see how it looks in the morning, I suppose.

Meanwhile, Balto figured out how to open the back door, so he spent much of the day inside with us. He's starting to learn that the boys aren't puppies, but I'm not convinced we're making headway. Now he thinks he's a boy! At one point, the balls came out into the living room. I tried to redirect, remind, and guide. Finally I resorted to the Lois technique; yelling.

"THAT'S IT! If you have THAT much extra energy, take. it. OUT. SIDE. NOW!!!"

Balto turned and headed down the hallway and out the back door like a pro! It was all I could do to keep a straight face until all four of them got out of earshot. Too cute. Well, if he's going to be a boy, at least he listens well. That's something.

That's about all I've accomplished today, as Miss Emily has taken the role of Union Boss and she sees to it that nobody works more than she feels ought to be done. Want to work through lunch? Nope, not in the contract. I don't care if this job needs to get done, you're going on break NOW, woman! Ok, ok, just let me put this one little -- Did you not HEAR me? NOW! Alright, already! Sheesh, it's a good thing we're using latex...

And I hear the world's cutest little union boss calling me now, so I'm off!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, March 18

Captain's Log: Saturday, sometime in March

So who knew yesterday was St. Patrick's Day and didn't tell me? You'd think I'd have been bruised enough in childhood from not wearing green to school that it would be permanently embedded in my psyche, but noooooo. The boys made it until our friends arrived in the afternoon before they figured it out. When they mentioned it, it was all I could do to fight my first reflex of cringing and shouting, "I'm wearing green underwear! Don't touch me!" (And who says public school doesn't teach social skills?) Ah, oh well, one more minor holiday completely spaced by yours truly.

The boys had a wonderful time with their friends. First thing on the agenda: make some horrible concoction out of household goods to see if it will explode. I don't normally encourage James' "recipes", as simply hearing the ingredient list is usually enough to turn my stomach. However, there were eight children and they agreed to take it outside. It didn't explode. Not even when they added dirt. Hmmmm. But they did have fun.

Balto thought we'd had a whole new litter of puppies brought it. They've never been around puppies before (I imagine their dog is as quiet and gentle as this entire family is, from what their mother said), and two of their children were absolutely terrorized if he so much as looked at them. So Balto had to be kept from the festivities. It just about killed him not to be in the middle of the fun, but he's really not very well-behaved (not dangerous, just not bright) and we didn't invite them out to scar their children.

They brought a paving stone kit for a housewarming gift. We let the kids make it at the dining room table - they all stamped their names into it, and it's curing on the table for the next couple of days. When we put in the children's garden, it'll be the first paver we set. So cute!

Their mother was very sweet, and we had a nice visit, but I think the house and the process and the work we've been doing freaked her out a bit. Her exact words were, "Wow. I wouldn't have tackled this." She was nice, and encouraging, but still, I think she'll be much relieved when all is said and done (and the windows have trim). Zorak thinks it may be a cultural thing (both the fact that she was a little weirded out and that she was so polite about it). He may be right.

There are days that I wonder what we were thinking. That this will never be finished. That we're insane. I suppose, though, that seeing it come together day-by-day makes a difference. Whether it bolsters my confidence that we can do it, or just feeds the mental illness is unclear, but that's okay, too. The boys are happy here. They sing while they eat. They run to the creek. They frolick and play like happy pups. Smidge sings "we're home, home, hoooooome" when we turn into the drive. The older two have forts and hideouts and laboratories all over the property. We're giving them the childhood we hoped to give them, and as the work on the forever home itself slows, we're able to give them more of ourselves again, too (which was the biggest part of the childhood we hoped to give them).

We have a bear and a hippopotamus lurking in the back yard for archery time. Granted, they are 55 gal. trash bags filled with insulation, waiting for the trash man on Tuesday. But right now, they're wild beasts the boys hunt on safari. I sit on the back porch (the one that has a serious Appalachain Hillbilly theme going - it's still got a toilet on it, and the roof is downright terrifying) with my cup of decaf, the baby in my lap, watching Zorak with the boys, hearing their cheers and laughter at every shot, seeing them learn new skills and encourage one another. High fives all around for a good shot. Pats on the back and words of encouragement for a wayward arrow. I laugh and smile and give thanks for all this. Insanity or not, it's good, and I wouldn't trade it for something that made my husband sad or feel trapped. I wouldn't trade it for some place that we couldn't do these things together. And it's okay if not everybody gets it. We get it, and that's why we're doing it.

Oh! Another family from church had a play kitchen they were getting rid of and asked if we'd like it. Sure! So it's now sitting in the dining room and hasn't had a moment's rest while the children are up. Smidge has become quite the gourmet chef! Eggs and coffee are his specialities. (Actually, eggs and coffee are about all he will make. Oh, and tea for James.) I don't know why we never bought one before! These things rock!

As I've typed this and tried to enjoy my morning cup, all three of the boys have arisen, one at a time, and come to sit on my lap for a visit and a snuggle. It's now over an hour later than when I began and it's time to get going on the day. So I'll sign off and go round up the wee ones for some more snuggle time (that stuff is addictive, isn't it?) Y'all have a great Saturday!

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, March 16

Living Life in 15 min. Increments

We are Crisis Cleaning today. (Company coming tomorrow, and the lived-in look has been stretched a bit too thin to pass for construction dust at this point.) So, I have 15 minutes to blow - we've cleaned the kitchen and living room and have hung/put away our clothes - but the General board at WTM is down and I'm all caught up on my blogrunning. *sigh* What's a gal to do?

Why, blog, of course!

Amy tagged me, but I'm going hold off on doing it to see if I can find a cool old photo to post with it. It was fun seeing hers. (Come to think of it, I still haven't done the one FarmGirl tagged me with from a month or so ago. I am really bad at team games, aren't I? Sorry.)

Tomorrow is Friday, and it brings with it a flurry of remodel activity. I love payday!

We're going through the pantry today to figure out what we need to buy and what we just aren't eating much of. Then I've got to refigure our meals. This morning I went low-maintenance for breakfast and served hot rice w/ milk, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. The boys ate it like I'd served them ice cream. That makes me leery, but hey, it's enriched rice and there was milk, and cinnamon... um, is tree bark a food group? It should be. When you have three small boys, that's an easy one to get in a full RDA's worth!

Well, there goes the timer. Time to get back to work! Have a wonderfully productive day!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, March 15

Full Disclosure

Ok, Renee brought up a good point. It takes a certain person to handle living in Alabama, and if you're not that certain person and are thinking of moving here and screwing it up like you did your own state that you can't wait to run from, well, don't.

So how do you know if you're "a certain person"? It's easy. If you're thinking of moving to Alabama, here are a few things we'd like you to know before you make your decision:

Only I-65 is paved. Every other road in the entire state is gravel and oppossum.

Shod children are verbotten. They took our shoes when we arrived.

The ground is infested with hook worms, and your now barefooted children will come down with them.

But you won't notice because you'll be too busy picking ticks off their little bodies.

There are gators in the Tennessee River. (Seriously.)

You will not be able to understand a single person at the drive-thru, and it's not the microphones. You can't understand 'em at the counter, either.

Taxes are atrocious. Simply atrocious. (And those of you from New Jersy, don't laugh. We just can't afford for them to get NJ-bad before we complain!)

After six months, you won't be able to understand a thing your youngest child says.

If you weren't born in the South, you will never attain Southern Hair. This will mark you forever as a fer'ner and you will be mocked at all public gatherings, eateries, and even in church.

OK, I lied. We have no eateries. Just lots of fried food places. This is cardiac central, here, folks. Run!

When we say folks are "friendly", it's a euphemism for "nosey". And the towns are small to facilitate the corporate knowledge of your. every. move.

The Air and Space Museum is a front, just like Old Tucson. It's not real.

The IMAX there is a bedsheet and a slide projector. (OK, it's probably time for me to just go to bed, isn't it?)

In all seriousness, it does take a special person to feel at home here. Not everyone would love it. I don't think we would have been so excited about it three years ago. But that's why we didn't come three years ago. We have friends we love dearly who would wither up and die if they tried to live here. Just as we nearly withered up and died living on the east coast.

But I jokingly told someone a while back that we just tell everybody that nobody here can read and they're all married to their cousins and you can't get indoor plumbing. She was aghast. I mean truly and wholly offended. To the core of her being. Once I realized she thought I was serious, I felt bad. Although you couldn't probably spot that right-off, what with my giggling and all... Gotta work on those social skills. Or find friends who get my sense of humor so I can quit subjecting these sweet old Southern Belles to it.

And that's just what we did today. (Sweet segue, huh?) The children and I went to the festival and had a lovely time with several other homeschool families. I was the dowdiest mother there (but I'm getting used to that - see #9 above - there is no hope). The kids had a wonderful time. The boys made friends and now desperately want to take Judo classes. Emily got lightly toasted. (Oops. Bad Mommy forgot the sunblock!) Just on her head, though. I don't know what they all thought of us, but we enjoyed the company and felt very comfortable with them. It's starting to feel like "home", and we're beginning to gather "our people".

Met Zorak for supper at the New Moon (cheap Chinese buffet - with a sushi sidebar that James loves), then he took Smidge home while the others and I headed to church. Pioneer Club went wonderfully well (I'm going to miss it when they break for the summer!) and nobody got injured. We've got some really wonderful people there, and it's always a nice time spent enjoying one another.

And now, to bed. Tomorrow's a busy, busy day, but it should be a good one!

Kiss those babies!

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Tuesday, March 14

Coming Together

I know it all comes together. It does. It has to. And if it doesn't, well, I won't realize that until it's too late and then mere acceptance can replace the misguided hope I've been harboring, right? Right. In the meantime, y'all have shared some great ideas, and made me laugh a lot. Thank you so much.

Today should be sunny and windy. That's a perfect laundry day! Yippee! The boys won't be so thrilled, but that's okay. Slave labor isn't supposed to be fun.

Tomorrow we're going to an Asian arts festival in Decatur. One of the ladies from the WTM boards who'd contacted me about doctors has put together a small group to go and she invited us, also. I'm looking forward to meeting her and her little ones, and the boys are just thrilled. They were beginning to wonder if anybody in Alabama homeschools besides us and the midwives.

We're having a very difficult time showing some restraint in our preparations for the arrival of Gram and The Aunts. The only thing that's slowed us down is that a lot of the goodies we'd like to have on hand are fresh and perishable, and wouldn't be all that impressive if they'd been sitting here for three weeks by the time they arrived. *grin*

The master bedroom is coming along nicely. Not quickly, but nicely. It's going to feel sooooo good to get that room done (and get the queen bed out of the dinky little room it's in now - it's like Romper Room, with wall-to-wall bedding). I think Zorak will bring home a truckload of gravel on Friday, so we can fix the driveway and then we can have the construction dumpster hauled away. That, alone, will do wonders for the outside! (It was supposed to be hauled away a while ago, but they can't get over the driveway with a full load, and that's just been at the bottom of our priorities list until now.) Step-by-step, it's all coming together! And it's fun!

Thursday (yes, this is turning into a "to-do list", hush) we'll clean and get the house ready for company on Friday. Some of our over-an-hour-away friends from church have no school on Friday, so they're coming for a playdate. As long as James doesn't propose marriage, it should be a fun day!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, March 13

On Being Outnumbered - Our First Day Back At Church

Well, I can't say it was from lack of trying. We prepared the oatmeal pancake batter from the Hillbilly Housewife on Saturday night. Laid out clothes for everyone. Got to bed at a decent hour, and set the alarm. We were all up, dressed, fed, and out the door bright and early. So far, so good! Zorak stayed home to battle the wiring he'd had to lay aside on Saturday to do brickwork.

Smidge fell asleep on the drive to church. (It was nine in the morning! Noooo!) And Emily screamed the last half hour of the drive. We got there in time for Sunday School, and the older boys were off and running! Yay. Emily was just coming off the indignation that comes from having to wait to eat. Smidge wanted nothing to do with the nursery, so I sat in the adult class with both of the little ones on my lap. (In hindsight, this should have been my clue to leave as soon as class ended, but I'm not too bright sometimes.)

Class let out and we enjoyed visiting during the break. Emily got passed around. One of our wonderful Titus2 ladies helped me get everybody herded to one table and kept the boys' cups filled. Alrighty, not bad... not bad... we're doing okay. As long as nobody has to pee, I think we'll be okay.

We headed into the sanctuary, me and my little trail of ducklings. The boys shot straight to the front of the church. I did have sense enough to sit on the side by the wall aisle so I could slip out if need be. And boy, did need be! After two hours of being awake and chipper, Emily came slowly, yet vociferously, unhinged. I tried nursing, but that wasn't it - this was gas, baby, and there was no stopping it. She's still at the "yell the gas out" stage (I'm so glad this disappears - could you imagine how awkward life would be if everyone did that?) So I gave the boys instructions to sit. quietly. and for the love of God, do not squirrel around. Took Smidge and Em to the nursery to change diapers and see if I could settle her down a bit.

Well, it's dawned on Smidge lately that he's not getting the Lap Time he's accustomed to having. And while he doesn't blame Em for that, he is certainly determined to get it back. So there was nothing doing on the nursery for him. Emily seemed quieter (and I had visions of the boys swinging from the banners in the sanctuary) so we headed back in. No sooner did I sit down that she starts squawking again! And now Smidge is talking - to the chairs, to his brothers, to Emily, to the pastor. Oy! And I'm smiling as I try to get everyone settled, but it's one of those tense, thin-lipped smiles that just screams, "Kill me now!"

Finally, Emily lets out the gas, along with a Braveheart-type war whoop and Smidge starts yelling, "Fart! Fart! HA HA HA HA!! You fart, Mama!" (This is genetically coded in him, blaming others for passing gas, and laughing heartily about it. It should serve him well in college, but for now, not so funny.)

That was it. The end of my fortitude. I'd like to say we quietly grabbed our things and slipped out, but you know it didn't go like that. Oh no. Poor James picked up my Bible by the case, which was open, and out fell the Bible and three year's worth of notes and bulletins. You could see the, 'oh, man' look on his face. Smidge started yelling, "Mess! Mess! OH NO!" Emily's croaking like a frog by this point because I'm stooped down picking up papers, and she's slipped into a hold that vaguely resembles the way Penny from The Rescuers carried Mr. Rufus, the orphanage cat. And John, who had somehow migrated three seats away from us, was completely absorbed in whatever pastor was saying. We couldn't get his attention to tell him we're leaving. Thankfully James hopped over and tapped him on the shoulder before I had to start throwing small pencils at his head.

We did get out. In one piece. And I hugged each of the boys as I hoisted them into the Suburban. I let them know that they were awesome and sweet and wonderful and that I appreciated them tremendously. (Well, the big ones, anyway - Smidge, I just loved on and snuggled. He needed it.) It wasn't their fault. I'm just horribly outnumbered and not up to speed. But boy, did I feel like a total failure.

So. Next week, we'll try again. With a new plan of attack. We'll sit in the far back, which isn't great for the boys, but then I can get up and walk Emily if she gets fussy. It won't disturb the others, and will also allow me to be near the boys. (She was sound asleep not two miles down the road, by the way.) I've got to get a new printer so I can print out some things to distract Smidge, and do up the little activity booklets I used to do for the boys. Um... can you all think of anything else that might help? The lady who works in the nursery on Sunday mornings is awesome, and I'd feel comfortable leaving Smidge in her care, but right now he doesn't remember her (it's been about six months since we've been to a Sunday service) and he feels pretty abandoned. We'll have to work into that.

This has to be doable. It just has to. But I haven't the foggiest idea how to pull it off. Anybody out there keep several small children in church with them, on their own? Zorak may come with us once in a while, when the house is finished, but right now it's just lil' ol' me and the kids.

And in the meantime, we have a wonderful week spread out ahead of us!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, March 11

Hi! :-)

Just a quick post since I MUST get to bed at a decent hour tonight!

The hallway has been textured. *whew* I'll prime it in the AM, before church, I hope.

The laundry room is both primed and painted. As soon as the paint dries (which may take a while - it's kinda humid today), the outlet covers go up and it is DONE. (It's so purdy!)

Zorak discovered a big, big surprise when he removed the back porch light to do the wiring, and he's now up to his elbows in mortar, new bricks, and miscellaneous other BIG repair jobs. We cannot wait to get rid of this horrible brick exterior - it's a poorly done job that's hung on far longer than the laws of physics would suggest possible.

The bathroom got paint touch-ups yesterday, and it looks much tidier now. All we lack for that room are the towels rods. Oh, and two neato mirrors for above the sinks. We were going to splurge at IKEA for the towel rods, but they're more money than we can honestly justify for something like that (as in, we would not get the enjoyment from them that we do from the curtain rod - now that was a good buy!) The mirrors we hope to find at a junk shop antique store.

We wanted to (finally) do the texture in the dining room today, but I used the rest of the joint compound texturing the hall, so it has to wait until tomorrow's Lowe's trip.

Zorak is so sweet. He's terribly excited about finishing the hallway. Do you know why? So we can hang the big family photo in the hall! Oh, I do love that man.

OK, he's back from the corner hardware store. I better get up and look active again! Thanks for taking a tea break with me (yes, it's hot in the south - time for suntea!)

Kiss those babies!

Friday, March 10

Three Day Weekends

Would you believe it took me three tries to type that title? Kept coming out "Three Dog Night". Weird.

Anyhow, these three-day weekends are nice. We get an extra half-day to work on the house, and an extra half-day to spend with the boys. Couldn't work out any nicer if we bribed someone!

Zorak got things lined up to rewire the master bedroom. I primed the laundry room and plotted the paint purchases for the rest of the things. Cleaned the texture pan (I know, it would be so much easier to just rinse it when I'm done, but I'm usually done when Emily suddenly decides she wanted to eat half an hour ago, so there's no time for tidiness.) Painted and tidied up the tidbits in the bathroom that need attention. Pretty laid-back day.

Oh, I did have to venture into town to get set up with a "Primary Care Physician". That was a nightmare. The doctor is nice enough. I'm sure she's competent. But I could just sense the polarization in the air with every question she asked. She is convinced I'm a lunatic, or severely delusional, at best. There's just no way, in her mind, I can be *this* happy, and *this* okay with my life when I have four children, homeschool, am remodeling a house and don't drink. Well, not heavily, anyway. And everytime she scrunched up her face in response to some answer I gave to her questions, all I could think was, "What?!?! What do you want me to say?"

She asked if I was losing weight since I'm nursing. I told her that I'd lost quite a bit, nearly to pre-pregnancy weight, but that according to her scale, it's levelled off now. She wanted to check my thyroid! What? Why!? I'm not tired. I'm not out of a normal, healthy weight range. I am experiencing absolutely no symptoms of an out-of-whack thyroid. Not one. I tried to explain that I'm a lot less active now that the baby has arrived than I was during my pregnancy. Now I just sit on my butt and cuddle children. We all know that's going to show up on the scale, eventually. She did that face scrunching thing again and said, "Oh, come ON! How could you possibly be LESS active? You have FOUR kids. *face scrunch* You're active." And then she scribbled something in my file. I have no idea what, but I don't think it was good. *sigh* We need a physician for the commune. Any takers?

That's about it. I'm going to see if the texture brush has let go of the dried on compound yet, and if so, I'm going to texture the hall. (It's never been pretty, so this is one part I've been anxious to see the final results on!)

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, March 9

General Blogging Entry

It's a little after ten and I'm going to post and pass out. Today was productive, busy, and active. Personally, I really hate days like this. They set the bar a little too high for my long-term comfort.

The boys awoke to a hot, fresh breakfast, a clean kitchen and Mom, ready to read.

The dog peed in the foyer again. He'd gotten really good about going outside and not having accidents (we've even been allowing him a bit more free roam time in the house) and then suddenly, he's begun this again. Whatever I've said about letting him live is now a bit tentative. He's back on probation and got to spend the day enjoying the out-of-doors, where I don't have to watch him like he's a nekkid two year old and he doesn't have to worry about bringing on the Wrath of Kahn.

The boys and I finally put up the ceiling fan blades, goobers and all, in their room. It does look cute, and the color combination is beginning to grow on me. Smidge and I did puzzles. James and I made robots. John and I made weapons. We had a great snack and more time spent reading together.

Around two, I began to exhibit symptoms of sudden-onset narcolepsy. It kicked in while I was reading aloud, which means I didn't realize I was asleep until the boys' raucous laughter awoke me. I fall asleep while reading quite a lot. LB calls it a "tip over". I don't actually tip over, though. I keep reading, but begin ad-libbing the storyline and making up words. The boys love it when that happens, but I fear being outed publicly, so I did what any nurturing mother would do: I laid on the couch to pass out and told the boys we should snuggle and watch a movie. They piled on with me and I slept through half of Polar Express. *streeeetch* Much better.

We all worked on the house, but didn't get the heavy moving done as I had Emily in the sling and couldn't contrive a way to haul the heavy stuff without mushing her little head. Zorak arrived home to the scent of supper cooking (red chile beef enchilada casserole with refried beans and a salad), and the boys helping out. John, up to his elbows in grated cheese, and smiling from ear to ear. Smidge, eating the cheese as fast as John could grate it, also smiling. James, singing down the hall, over the sound of the vacuum (when you try to vacuum the wall, the motor gets much noisier and you have to sing louder!) Thankfully, no love songs today.

The guys (including Zorak) worked on their snap circuits (semi-conductors, more fun than you thought!) while I finished supper, set the table, and then had the surreal experience of actually calling my crew to supper. It was lovely, but I doubt I can recreate that scene on a regular basis. I should have tried to channel Norman Rockwell to capture it for me. You know, for those days I can't clear the bar and get knocked on my tush.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, March 8

A Day Full of Surprises!

Tonight, as the puppies (aka, children) scampered about the church grounds, John tripped on the ramp out front. The forensics team pieced the accident together using skid marks, blood trails, and visual examination of the involved party. It was gruesome. The full report indicates that the victim was traveling downhill at Mach 3 when a stray molecule of unknown origin bolted into his lane from oncoming traffic. The small (yet rapidly moving) victim was thrown forward, out of his planned trajectory, landing on the palms of his hands. The momentum of his body then thrust him up and over, pole vaulter-style, onto his forehead and nose. The victim traveled in this position for a few feet, as indicated by the abrasions on the entire upper portion of his head, as well as the tissue and blood residue on the ramp. (To put it in laymen's terms, the best I can tell, John took a literal nose dive down the concrete ramp at church and came up with a goose egg that could have only come from one seriously large goose. Or possibly an ostrich. Pretty typical boy-type accident, and no, it won't give him an incentive not to run down the ramp next week. Funny, these kids.)

I couldn't make it better. It hurt, and that's all there was to it. I couldn't get within thirty feet of his forehead to kiss it. Trust me, I tried. The kid can duck and weave like a featherweight champ when he needs to. The days of being able to stem arterial blood flow and repel the fear of pain with the "all better kiss" are gone, now. I got out the ice and... and that was it. That was all I could do. Without the power of The Kiss That Makes It All Better, I might as well have not been there. But even amidst the initial terror and screaming, he remembered to say "thank you" to the child that retrieved and straightened out his party hat. He's so good about taking things in stride. Poor bruised, lumpy, loveable kid.

Other than the pretty graphic face-plant, however, today was a good day. The boys and I took more things down to the Little Basement That Could. We made two batches of Turkish Delight. Or, rather, without the aid of a candy thermometer, we made one batch of nutless praline-like goo and one batch of translucent concrete. It's okay - we had fun, and we needed a new cookie sheet, anyway. James made a play called The Magic Mop starring Balto and the kitchen mop. John narrated the last chapter of Prince Caspian so well that I have to admit that the kid can talk and listen at the same time (if he hadn't been born at home, I'd wonder if he was switched at birth). Smidge enjoyed being Two in all its Two-ness, and it was nice to have his smiley, giggly, contrary little self back to normal.

I took the kids to church so that Zorak could work a bit on the house without feeling torn between the bullnose beading and my semi-desperate need for help with the evening routine. We had fun in town, and he got quite a bit accomplished. Perhaps a bit too much, as he now has a list of "little things" that need doing. There's an awful lot of painting on that list, and that makes me twitchy.

The boys had a delightful time at Pioneer Club - John's teacher sought me out to say what a joy he is to have in class (it's always nice to know that others enjoy your children, too). James enjoyed his lesson on growth and erosion, and drew an awesome picture of his favorite plant (the stevia plant, in case you were wondering - I have no idea when that developed, but there you have it).

He then, on the way home, completely altered the drawing by adding two children eating of the forbidden fruit, erm, stevia leaf, and titled his final piece, "The Root of Romance". (Where does he get this stuff???) ARGH. I thought we'd settled all this during our last painful drive home. As I didn't have the manual transmission to help me this time, and he doesn't believe me when I point out the window and shout, "LOOK! A polar bear!", we talked. Again. And I doubt it took this time, either. But we'll keep talking until he realizes he is this close (picture my fingers very close together) to being sent to a monastary.

We've a lot to do tomorrow, and over the weekend. It looks to be a wonderful, productive few days. There's a storm a'brewin' and headin' our way, so we'll have plenty of time to get things done inside and be ready to frolic when the rain passes on. Rhythm, cadence, pace. Even in the chaos, it's there, and the sound is beautiful, isn't it?

Days Like Yesterday

We all have 'em. None of us wants 'em, but there you have it. They're going to come, anyway.

Let me begin by saying that Smidge is a puker. Not so much when he's sick, but when he's upset, he will cry hard enough that he pukes. Guaranteed. Our family rule has always been,
"You won't get what you want by throwing a fit, but if you feel you must throw a fit, you can do it in your room. When you're done, we'd love to have you join us again."
All of the children, at one time or another, have opted to go throw a good holy fit, and reemerge when it's out of their wee demonic systems. Smidge, however, seems to think it's a prerequisite for getting beyond the situation and moving into the acceptance stage. So he goes to his room and throws a fit. And pukes. Yeah, I'm lovin' carpet. The new family rule is going to be,
"You won't get what you want by throwing a fit, but if you feel you must throw a fit, you can do it in the bathroom. When you're done, we'd love to have you join us again."

The older boys, while wonderful and delightful in many, many ways are still, by a cruel twist of fate, brothers. And brothers will bicker. And the bickering will make mother's head spin. There's just nothing quite as exhilerating as trying to decipher the arguments that take place during the day.

For instance, the joy that is hearing the righteous indignation of a child screeching, "Don't you DARE stick your tongue out at me!" Only to find, moments later, that the offender was responding in kind to the tongue-sticking-out of the righteous one in the first place.

Or that the other brother began name calling (a serious no-no, even to the point that Zorak and I can no longer call one another our pet names for each other because the boys will jump in and remind us that it hurts feelings and causes dissention... admittedly, "buttloser" and "uberdork" may not be your typical pet names...) But I digress (that also happens a lot when you have children). The point being that the name calling began in earnest due to one child's deeply chilvarous desire to protect the feelings of - a door. Yes, a door. And by golly, I'll take my own brother down to defend this door! (Why...???)

By nine thirty yesterday morning, Smidge was out cold, having puked no less than twice in the throes of whatever psychic phenomena had gripped him. The boys had been informed that I will not read to them again until they decide to hold their own dialogue while I'm reading. Period. And I meant it (which, it's funny that they didn't believe me, because I do follow through. There was no story time last night at bedtime. Naturally, that's when they both pledged their fealty to the upright and noble tradition of "not being rude", but the time for blood oaths had passed and the mommy-gods could not be appeased. To bed! Now!)

And I'd planned to be out the door at ten to run errands! I'd planned a picnic! The day, in my head, was a much nicer day that it was turning out to be. The rest of the day, however, pretty much followed the starting pattern.

Lowe's took us almost two hours to pick up paint stirrers and six pieces of bullnose beading. Two hours! Why? Because you can't walk fast when you're crying and trying to puke. And mommy cannot at that point simply walk ahead of you and make you follow because she knows (just knows) that you will vomit and then slip in your own vomit and at least three employess - the ones you haven't been able to locate while you're looking for things - WILL arrive and wonder what horrible mother would leave her sick toddler all alone in a store like this, and call the police. (And if you think I'm going to put Linda Blair in the cart so I can be covered in pea soup while we walk, yeah right!) So mommy has to walk beside you with her hand outstretched while she attempts to thwart your evil plan and convince you that it's in your best interest (and best hope of making it to puberty) to stop. this. fit. now. (Who knew mommy could talk without opening her mouth? Cool. I think I'll puke now.)

My best creative attempt to salvage the day died at Cracker Barrel. Smidge didn't throw up in the restaurant. He sat and ate and chatted. The boys, seated apart from one another, behaved fabulously. There was much laughing and giggling and sharing of ideas. Everyone shared their food, and all of it was eaten. It was beautiful. The crying and fit throwing at Cracker Barrel was actually me. When it was time to go. I didn't want to get back in the car without backup.

But the day did end. I can't spin you a fairytale and say it ended well, but it did end. And nobody was exiled to the back yard. Nobody was disinherited. There was no blood, and consequently, no foul. In the grand scheme of things, that was a success. Not quite a good day, but a day from which we can rally and move on.

This morning has been banana nut granola, served warm. Hot chocolate and playtime. History is the white elephant in the living room, as it's normally a read-aloud. We'll see how this Mexican Standoff turns out. But I have hope, because the sun did come up, and the baby did sleep from nine thirty last night until four this morning, and so did I. There will be days like yesterday, but there's always the hope of today. It's good.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, March 6


Oh, I am SO excited! Just got off the phone with Aunt B and it looks like Gram, Aunt Linda and Aunt JoAnn will be coming to visit in April! This is terribly exciting. They are just a blast to be around - funny, sweet, smart ladies who enjoy life and the people in it. This is going to be such a nice visit. It'll be nice to have company here at the Forever Home, too. They'll "get it", and will be as proud of Zorak as I am. (He's worked hard for this.) We'll enjoy showing them the work and the land. The boys want to show them their fossil and their rock polishing system down at the creek. I'm hoping they'll help me figure out how to set up a garden!

Gram is the boys great-grandmother. She's MY grandma, too, in many ways - I just had to marry Zorak to get her (but that was worth it.) She is sweet and funny and such fun to spend time with.

We haven't seen Aunt Linda or Aunt JoAnn in ages, so it will be wonderful to enjoy coffee in the mornings and get caught up on all they've been doing.

I'd like to show them the Botannical Gardens in Huntsville - things should be blooming and lovely there in April (I think - I don't know anything about plants, really). What else do you think might be fun?

Oh, and the food we'll get to prepare! What fun!

So. Big news. Lit a fire under Zorak, too. *grin* I know Aunt B said they're coming to help, but there are a few little things I know we'd like to get done before they arrive. It's the good stuff, though, not stressful things. This will be a fun month of preparation and anticipation!


Sunday, March 5

Breathe in, breathe out...

Wow. So, closet organizers? Yeah, now I understand why some people pay others to install them. Oy! One down, four to go... *cringe*

BUT the boys' closet now holds all of their things, our beach gear, their shoes, Emily's blankets, and there's plenty of room for stowing other things, as well! Yay. (I'd say it was worth it, but what do I know? Zorak did all the work. hee hee)

Zorak installed another closet floor and tidied up the remaining taped joints in the hallway. He also worked a lot in the basement, trying to make it feel less like a warehouse and more like a workshop. I don't know if he succeeded, but he sounded happy with the results.

We spent three hours today moving things from the Tool Room to the basement. I only remarked maybe twice on Zorak's tidiness in the tool room, then caught myself and resorted to a general murmuring of discontent as I picked up around the room. He took it well, patting me on the head and reminding me that it looked fine until I quit cleaning it. Shyah, well, yeah, but there's a reason I quit clean -- oh, nevermind. I'll be in my corner, murmuring. (These are the things you have to brace yourself for in a home improvement project. You must learn to laugh about them so that you don't end up involved in a messy court case before your home is finished. The do-it-yourself books never mention things like this. They waste their time on budgeting and materials worksheets. What they need are some good humor-enhancing tips and a schedule on "how to fight fair and still laugh about it".) So. Anyway, three days behind schedule on that room, but there was a LOT more stuff in there than we thought!

I forgot to buy a straw broom while we were out Friday, so the dining room stood neglected this weekend.

But surely, I could have run to the market over the weekend and bought a broom? Oh, no. Miss Emily is experiencing her first "growth spurt". This is a medical euphemism for "the child will attempt to kill you by nursing". It's a subtle battle to the finish. An infant's Gladiator, if you will. Armed with the lung capacity of a blue whale and the tenacity of badger-wasps, the wee contender begins the battle. And entering the arena armed with mass quantities of water, and a stack of books, our returning champion ~ Mom! *The bloodthirsty crowd goes wild...*

Not only have I probably doubled our water bill over the weekend, I spent more time feeding her than I did the entire week of her illness (which was about every two hours that week), and I've read three (count 'em - 1, 2, 3) Rosemary Sutcliff books from beginning to end this weekend. Not to mention a few chapters in Story of the World and seven chapters from Prince Caspian aloud to the boys. There was a point on Saturday where I thought I was a goner, but while she may be focused, I'm just too stubborn to die yet. It looks like this battle was a draw. Mom: alive. Baby: fat. All's well. (But that's why I don't have a broom.)

Everyone is perky and healthy and being forced to stand outside in the 65 degree weather. It's wonderful. Or at least Zorak and I think so. The boys, not so much. John kept slipping in through the back door. Smidge hid under the legos, and finally James came in to tell me he got way too hot out today. Zorak stepped in and mentioned that they'd best get used to it because summer's a'comin' and they aren't spending the entire summer inside! Nope. (*I* might, but they don't get to. I'm old and unable to handle humidity over 10%. They're young and have way too much energy to spend all summer sitting and not tearing through the house. OUT they go!)

So, "growth spurt" aside, it was a relatively productive weekend. The boys' room received a bit more tweaking, everyone got fed semi-regularly, and the laundry is done. We aren't being nearly as productive as we'd like to be, but we aren't stagnating, either. The boys got more of our attention, as well. That's progress of a different, and very important kind. It felt good.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, March 3

I love Fridays!

Fridays mean we've made it one more week without misplacing anyone (a personal goal of mine through the years), without givng up on the team plan, without losing sight of whatever it is we're focused on. It's not the ensuing weekend that makes me so happy. It's the knowledge that we're making it - one step, one day, one week at a time. How awfully encouraging! I suppose that, yes, Friday would come even if I did leave poor Smidge at the Family Dollar, or if Zorak went Parrothead without me and lost himself in the Keys. But it wouldn't have the same feeling that it does when the head count and goal focus remain constant over the week. That's nice.

I finished the boys' closet and the texturing of the laundry closet over the week - one teeny tiny step at a time. Had grand plans of installing the organizer yesterday so that I could surprise Zorak with all the efficiency and wonder that is His Wife. Um. Yeah. Have ya seen the instructions to those things? It's designed for "up to" an 8' closet. The boys have Nowhere Near An 8' Closet, and so a hacksaw will have to come into play. We're talking actual linear footage, and yet the instructions say to hack it off "in one inch increments". Oh sure! I'd still be cutting bits apart when James kissed me goodbye on his way to college! And the sheer number of fasteners! Oy! I did surprise Zorak, but it was with a phone call wondering if he knew where the cordless screwdriver was (he didn't) and then begging him to install the stoopid thing when he got home. At least he was exposed to the, erm, Wonder that is... His Wife. (Poor guy.)

Today, our tasks are a bit more within our grasp: to Lowe's for a Mongo Tub O' Joint Compound (yes, the Irish kind) and to Wal-Mart for paint in varying hues with which to brighten our home. That, we can do. The organizer is still splayed about on the boys' bedroom floor, and there it shall remain for the day. I will gladly teach history, math and literature. I will happily pick up supplies. But with four children under foot, I don't use levels unless Zorak makes me.

Kiss those babies (and don't misplace them!)

Thursday, March 2

Ode to Hyland's and General Stuff

(Said in a drunken fratboy voice...)

I love you, Man!

A little simethicone at suppertime, an hour of Hyland's Colic tablets administered at regular intervals thereafter, and Miss Emily sleeps like that imaginary baby in the proverbs.

Of course, she's been out for an hour and a half, and I'm still up. Perhaps I should pop a few of those magic little tablets, myself? I don't know what's up with that. I don't care, either. She is asleep.

The boys enjoyed pioneer club tonight. Our first round of The Inquisition after we leave church always leaves me wondering if they take after their father and sleep through the lesson. However, with a little coaxing they produce these great descriptions about their evening.

John, tonight, after telling us about Elijah and the ravens:
"So that's what that bird thing was all about. You know, the paper with the moving bird on it. Makes more sense now, doesn't it?"

James, explaining to me why he doesn't have his memory verse:
"Well, Mom, it's like this. I left it with my teacher because I always lose it at home. Now, though, it's safe and sound with someone more responsible. That's how I handled that."
(He didn't have an answer for just how he's supposed to memorize said verses since he doesn't have the sheet with him anymore. But that's a trivial point, considering at least it's not LOST somewhere!)

We started reading back at the beginning of Story of the World Vol. 1 today. I'm going to read a chapter a day at lunch until we get to where we'd left off. Then we'll return to our regularly scheduled history lessons. This plan serves two purposes: they could use the review, and I don't have the energy to do anything in the activity guide for at least another three weeks. Sometimes it comes together so beautifully. *sniff*

We finished The Horse and His Boy. One drawback to having all seven books bound in one volume is that there is no sense of accomplishment when you reach the end of one book. There's no back cover to close gently while saying, "The..." and letting the boys say, with great pomp and celebration, "END!" Nope. The story just ends, and right there, facing you as if you should go on reading, is the title page of the next book. They're chomping at the bit to read Prince Caspian now. And I'm guessing this is only a problem for me, who is really ready to take a little break, isn't it?

Hey, while I'm rambling aimlessly, does anybody know what "patent flour" is? Our crunchy market isn't stocking the regular wheat-free brands as much anymore (have to request it and they bring it out of a freezer somewhere in the back), but they are stocking more locally made breads, which is neat. We picked up a loaf of Kamut bread tonight to see if John can handle that. We saw a loaf of oat bread that looked delicious, felt just perfect for sandwich bread, and listed "organic patent flour" as it's first ingredient. OK. So, what's that? Stock boy didn't know. He asked Bread Lady. She didn't know, so they asked Manager Lady. She was nice, but didn't know, either. They asked Owner Lady, who looked as lost as the rest of us. (Or that may have been the look of, "Why are all you people standing here, staring at me?" We were quite a little crowd by that point.) They said they'd track it down and let me know, but now the curiosity is killing me. Anybody out there heard of it? Tried it? Used it? Know what it is, even?

Ok, well, it looks like it's safe for me to go to bed! I'm going to make the rounds and kiss my babies once more before I turn in.


Wednesday, March 1

The Big Colloidial Silver Post

OK, well, I know it's a touchy topic. The more research I did, the more I found that "the facts", as they are, stem from two different camps. They are as follows:

Camp 1: we-are-the-government-and-if-we-don't-approve-it-it's-of-no-use-to-anyone-and-will-kill-you-you-idiot-how-dare-you-question-us

Camp 2: colloidial-silver-will-cure-everything-from-ugliness-to-amputations-and-it-tastes-great-with-cereal

Hmmmm. Neither group really inspired much confidence in my ability to be an informed consumer. So, I kept looking. As you all know, we did decide to give the colloidial silver to the boys. I've received several inquiries as to why and how we came to that conclusion, so I wanted to respond.

I am not trying to convince anyone who is against colloidial silver. As with any treatment, supplement, or hair color, if you're not comfortable with it, don't do it. Don't do it on someone else's recommendation or anecdotal evidence. Don't do it out of laziness or a lack of motivation. Be comfortable. Be informed. Be responsible. I've read Rosemary Jacob's story, and found within her words about as much information as there is general all-purpose angst against all things alternative. I can appreciate the axe she has to grind, certainly. In this instance, I'm simply sharing the information I found that helped tip the scales for us in making the call.

I think no less than eight people sent me the quackwatch link. I read it. It made me uneasy (as it's intended to do.) So I looked around a bit. Some of the "documentation" I read on other topics at that site was downright fallacy, so I did more research on Barrett, and came to the realization that he's in the AMA's back pocket. (And has been for quite a while.) So there's no real credibility on that end, in my not so humble opinion. I kept looking.

The first item I found that was actually somewhat helpful was the Altman Study. (That link is to a .pdf.) I have a lot of respect for anyone who is willing to use himself as a guinea pig. His study focused on the elimination rate of colloidial silver from the body. Interesting study, and worth a read.

Now, my big, gigantic huge fear was causing my children to develop Argyria (Petty? Probably. I'm okay with that.) The amount of silver in a 10ppm solution is something like 3 micrograms, and the EPA suggests that you "may" be "at risk" for developing Argyria if you take 3.8 GRAMS, DAILY, for a prolonged period of time (as in, years). Still, that's an unheard of quantity to ingest daily, anyway. Jacobs and others on the FDA/AMA end of the spectrum claim that it's a residual build-up of silver in the body over a prolonged period of time. Altman's study, however, showed that the colloidial silver doesn't build up in the body the way aluminum or arsenic will. It seems nobody has done further research on the process, but everybody has an opinion.

I did speak with people we know in real life who have taken CS for various maladies, as well as those who are against its use in any form. Thank you, for taking the time and effort to speak with me and answer my questions. All of you. It helped quite a lot.

I can say that my lab rats, er, children are much healthier today than I had any hope of them being three days ago. Smidge's eyes cleared almost immediately, and he has not awoken to gunked eyes since. John's thick, green snot returned to normal colored, runny kid-snot by the following morning. These are not the responses of wishful thinking, nor of mind-over-matter. These are the tangible reactions from taking the CS for some fairly nasty infections that grapefruit seed extract, garlic and breastmilk didn't touch. It was, admittedly, a last resort, but I'm glad we took the leap and gave it to them. We still haven't found a doctor, and I know if we'd gone to urgent care, they'd have given us nebulizers and antibiotics up the wazoo (which I really didn't want). This has worked out well for us.

Here are a few of the links that were more helpful than the others - the first one is the Altman study results, linked above. The second is a rebuttal to an article someone wrote called "The Dark Side of Silver". The original article is somewhere in my archives, but I can't find it right now (I miss caffeine). The bold parts are from the original, the rest is this guy's response. He takes it line by line. And that last link is a GP site of different links on all ends of the spectrum. It includes detractors of CS (as well as a bazillion ads for cs distributors, lol!)

Rebuttal to The Dark Side of Silver

CS Facts, a general purpose informational site (has both pro and con links on it, but is mostly promotional cs links)

Anyhow, that's how we go here from there. Regardless of your choice, I hope you can find information that's useful.

Kiss those babies!

So here it is, Wednesday

I think it's gone. *shhhhh* Don't say that too loudly, though, okay? There might be something lurking under the deck, waiting for me to look just a little too complacent. But still, I think we're going to be okay.

This morning I thought to myself, "Slowly, slowly, I can feel momentum mounting again. The freeing sensation that we're going to accomplish something this week blows through me - like the wind before a storm. This is good." Then I think, "This is Lent. It's March already." We haven't even discussed Lent this year. (I spaced Ash Wednesday last year, and thought James would never forgive me!) And I realize someone's been slipping crack into my decaf: I'm not going to accomplish squat. This feeling is probably the giddiness of having showered yesterday. Ah, well, it feels good, so whatever works.

Zorak has a "meeting" after work today. It's one of those Beer Friday kind of things, but yeah, on a Wednesday. Gub'ment jobs are silly like that. I have a Suspicion he suggested Wednesdays so that he doesn't have to go to Pioneer Club, but considering all he does - both at work and here, for us - the rest of the week, I can't begrudge him that. I'd like to, but I can't. *grin*

The morning sun is shining, right in my eyes, as I type. I had no idea how distracting that would be. Makes it difficult to form coherent thoughts. And correct typos. It doesn't seem to be as bad when I'm driving. Or I ignore it. That's a little scary - the thought that hundreds of us cruise around, driving into the sun, and think it's not distracting us.

Well, here we are. Wednesday. The first day of Lent. The first day of March. Time to pay bills, go over the budget, buy more joint compound. Time to start awaiting the beginning of Spring. Time to buy the new Latin book for James. Time to dig out my clothes and look for sundresses so I don't melt this summer. Time to bathe the boys so they're clean and spiffy for church tonight. Lots of time today, lots to do. I am so rambling, and have to get off this computer before I burn my retinas from staring into the sun. Ugh. Will blog more later.

Kiss those babies!