Sunday, April 30

The Learning Curve?

Yesterday, on Learning With Zorak, Root Mean Square, also known as "RMS".

He's so funny, because he really enjoys this stuff. I'm just learning it so I don't electrocute myself. The theory is fascinating and such, but I mostly sit through it because (a) it makes him happy to explain it to me, and (b) I hope at the end of the physics or electrical lesson, there will be a "how not to kill yourself" blurb. The boys are so set for science!

We made itty bitty steps yesterday, but there were a lot of them, so that's good. There are three fewer extension cords running down the hall. Big yay! The BBQ grill is hooked up to its very own outdoor outlet, sealed and done to code. YAY! The kitchen... well, it was spotless and ready for photos. But then we ate. And the batteries are dead on the camera. So. Will try again after a quick run to the store for batteries. The foyer is textured! The windows are ready for priming! The utility closet has its own functioning outlet!

It rained and rained yesterday, and it was heavenly. It was chilly and windy, and the only reason I didn't have every window open and every child swathed in wool was the actual pounding rain that might come in. So we bundled up and sat on the porch. The boys played in it and got decadently muddy. The dog didn't think much of the rain until the boys were out there - I think he would play outside in raining sulphur, as long as his boys were there with him. He is such a good dog.

Still not too bright sometimes, though. I stepped out onto the back porch in the afternoon - I had showered and changed clothes. And I had my hair pulled back. The dog FREAKED. Then I spoke to him, and you could see the light go on over his little head. "Oh! It's you! Wow, didn't recognize you for a second. Hey, you did something different with your hair... I'm, uh, not sure I like it." Goofy dog. But a good dog, and it's nice to know he's so protective.

This morning it's off to take advantage of the wonderful rain and spread more weed 'n feed in the rest of the yard. Then we plan to be quite handy the rest of the day - a little schooling, a little working, and some baseball in the mud.

Kiss those babies!

Short Days!

Man, today was short. And I'm talking can't-go-on-fair-rides-short. I have no idea where the day went. Ah, well, it was a good day.

We got a bit more of the "lawn" mowed. Zorak had to raise the mower to its highest setting because the "grass" was so high. (I totally got out of that task because my "sensible" shoes have gone MIA -- very cool, but I swear I didn't do it on purpose).

Zorak finally killed a bird with his slingshot. It was a good 22 paces out, too. I didn't believe him, so we had to go check it out. Yup. As one with a serious cross-eye dominance issue, I will probably never know the satisfaction of hitting anything I can't just reach out and smack. He's good, though.

I painted the hallway (yes, finally, hush - I've been holding off so I could do the foyer at the same time. It's only that today, Zorak explained that he's holding off on the foyer until he's done the master bedroom flooring and he's waiting until I've done the hallway so he can put the door frame on, thus getting it out of the master bedroom closet. Ohhhhh.... well, this explains a lot, actually...)

Then I painted the ceiling in the kitchen/living room/dining room area. (It only took us six months to decide on a ceiling paint color! WOOHOO!)

Zorak put in the new nipple-like fixtures in the hallway. It now looks like we are being hovered over by an enormous Viking Wench. The boys are going to grow up with inexplicably fond memories of, yes, the hallway. Ugh. (I hate modern light fixtures.)

While Zorak did electrical thingies with outdoor electrical parts, I washed the windows (sashes, muntins, dodads) in the kitchen and dining room with TSP. (You know the sensation you get the first time you steam clean your carpet and dump that nasty water? Yeah, it's like that.)

The boys... um, well, they did boy things. John played with the slingshot. James played with the dog. Smidge ran in circles, laughing at thin air. (Yeah, ok, that's a 2-year-old thing.) They raced matchbox cars and asked for Fairy Tales (we checked out the Brothers Grimm collection from the library). They ate. And ate. And ate. They found a wild strawberry patch and picked all of the berries - although the berries were bright red, we don't think they were ripe just yet. But does that stop boys from eating them? Nah. It doesn't have to taste good to be an adventure!

I didn't get around to baking today, but did get a little wash done and spent a lot of time reading with the boys. We're on Chapter 7 of The Last Battle. (I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry... much.)

See? A good day. The kind of day that ends with a little productivity, a little time together, a few good visuals and plenty of warm spots. A good day. The things that didn't get done can get done another day, but today was for this stuff. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, April 29


I'm getting too old for this. I'm going to bed.

The bread turned out light, like wheat bread. Like no kidding, honest-to-goodness, "normal" bread. It tastes delicious, and I cannot wait to make another loaf tomorrow.

Why another loaf tomorrow? Well, because I was pretty darned excited about making bread again and I think I beat it a bit too enthusiastically. It rose and rose... and rose - it was exquisite to behold. Then it collapsed like The Hindenberg when I set it on the range top to cool. *sigh* It's still light, has great texture, and did I mention that it tastes great? That's half the battle, right there.

We had an okay day. Not stellar, but good, in general. James' allergies are acting up, and I am not sure what's triggering it. I've scoured the property, and think we've only found one clover patch - it was quickly eradicated. Don't know if it's all in the air and that's what's getting to him or if there are more allergies that we aren't aware of. I'm getting a bit nervous, though. Tonight he fell asleep during read aloud time - and he never falls asleep while there's a book to be read. He's taking local honey, Aller-Chord (I and II), and Benadryl. Still, he's miserable. Thankfully, he hasn't had The Eye Thing happen yet, and we'd like to keep it that way.

We're in an awkward stage with the renovations. Zorak has certain things he wants to accomplish that will make him feel really good about the property. I have certain things I'd like to accomplish that will make me feel really good about the property. The two lists look nothing alike. Ah-ha, and this is where the trauma, erm, experience of ten years of life together really comes into play! So we'll hash out a compromise tomorrow morning. Over fresh bread. *grin*

Oh, and we perused the gov't auctions tonight - that's always fun. Anybody want to go in with us on an auction lot of 67 bookshelves? You know, you can never have enough bookshelves! (Zorak won't let me buy 67 bookshelves - it's not that we don't have the room for them, but that he's afraid I'd then try to fill them...)

He's probably right. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, April 27

Darling Critters

Yeah, the two-legged ones. Man, are they adorable. This afternoon they put together one of the picnic tables, played furiously with the bubble wrap, and helped with the hand rail on the back steps. Busy little helper monkeys, and so happy. When all was said and done, Smidge sat on the steps, grinning to himself. Zorak asked him if he likes the new steps and Smidge said, "Yes!" He paused, thinking and grinning to himself, then added, "Thank you!" Awwwww. Way to melt Daddy's big ol' heart!

The list thing had another good run today. Oh, and Laney, there's no need to be sheepish in admitting to a list addiction, er, affinity. I'm a list maker extraordinaire. It's so bad, in my case, that I actually make sub-lists that reference the master lists! If ever I had to find a job that would truly suit my skills, it would be as an administrative list-maker. Or steak eater, but that's not the point. Wouldn't that be fun? Er, for me, anyway. I just didn't want to get the boys started because (a) they would expect me to continue making them lists - which I don't mind, but the printer hasn't been replaced yet, and (b) they'd hold me accountable - again, not necessarily bad, but... but... but... I think I'm going to put their lists in page protectors and give them dry erase markers. :-)

We went to the market today, where Smidge was the attraction du jour. Too bad he didn't realize it. He was sitting in the basket, completely upright and sound asleep. I couldn't figure out why he hadn't tipped over, until I saw that he'd grasped the mesh of the basket and had his arms fully extended on either side. I don't know how he figured that out, but he managed to tether himself upright in a dead sleep! It was hilarious, and passers-by got quite a kick out of the sight.

James started Stuart Little last night. We picked it up at the libary, and he pulled it out of the bag at bedtime. This morning, he tumbled out of bed, crawled into our bed and finished it up before breakfast. I guess he really enjoyed it, although he said the ending left him hanging a bit. Yeah, just wait til he starts reading O'Brien's books... he he. He started on Gulliver's Travels tonight.

John's been running hard every day, and passing out during story time at night. He is such a happy little guy. I can't think of a day that's passed recently that hasn't found him telling us how much he loves his home and his family. He just - fits. He's at home here, and in his own skin. I love that. He's applying himself to his studies quite well lately - the promise of taking the bat out and hitting for a while motivates him both joyfully and thoroughly. What fun!

Miss Emily has blended seamlessly into the family. The boys pick out her outfits (because, according to them, I'm not very good at it). I've got to hand it to the boys, though, they do put together some darling ensembles. I don't know how they're going to take it when she wants to pick them out herself. She's grown so much! Others say she's still to tiny and petite, but I think she's a little chunk (and I say that in a good way - like the Mexican nickname "gordita" - she looks like a healthy, happy, well-fed baby should look).

Oh. (gleeful noises!) I am about to go on a bread making rampage, folks! The book I picked up yesterday has recipes you would not believe: bagels(!) pretzels (!) pita bread (!) french bread (!) There isn't enough punctuation to express how exciting these prospects are to me. That we will once again have yummy freshly baked goods strewn about the house is a joy. Before John's diagnosis, I'd begun baking breads - elegant braided loaves, lovely dinner rolls, yummy breakfast loaves. It was a delight and a treat. And we've missed it. It's also time to splurge and get the grain mill, and put in a co-op order. I hope Zorak doesn't mind keeping the tubs upstairs for a while. If I have to go to the basement to get grain before I bake, it's gonna go rancid long before I use it all, and that'll never work.

Ah, and The Chunk sounds hungry, so I'd better go.
Kiss those babies!

Just for Fun

You Are Sunset

Even though you still may be young, you already feel like you've accomplished a lot in life.
And you feel free to pave your own path now, and you're not even sure where it will take you.
Maybe you'll pursue higher education in a subject you enjoy - or travel the world for a few years.
Either way, you approach life with a relaxed, open attitude. And that will take you far!

Wednesday, April 26

Wild Wednesdays!

Can I admit here that I caved? I did. And I'm not ashamed to admit it, either. Today, I gave in to our eldest child's deep-seated reverence for lists and our second-in-line's love of treasure maps, and greeted them this morning with to-do lists, tailored for their individual affinities. This goes against my grain so very much. I love lists, but don't like to be held accountable to someone else's lists. And giving James an official-looking list tends to be akin to giving Churchill a microphone and a captive audience. And while I do enjoy, in theory, all the adventure of a treasure hunt, I much prefer to enjoy watching from a significant distance away - as in, I didn't have to draw or bury anything. My kind of craft is the kind someone else puts together.

But this morning, I thought, "What the he---- well, okay, let's try this." It couldn't have gone downhill from yesterday, right? Right.

John's list had a rebus look to it. The thought being this would be a painless way to integrate reading skills with a little anal retentive domestic conditioning. It's a good thing he can interpret my artwork, or the dog may not have had any food today!

James was a bit perturbed by the inaccuracy of his list -- MOM! You didn't put 'take garlic tablets' on here! -- but after the second cup of coffee my brain caught up with his mouth and I was able to convince him that it was a "skeleton list" - one he was supposed to flesh out on his own, using the information he had.

Both boys were thrilled. They had a game plan. They had check boxes to fill. They had a course set and off they went!

Mom was thrilled. I did not have to remind them to get dressed before they began haggling over trains. I did not have to remind them to get dressed before they ran outside to roll in the mud. I did not even have to remind them to get dressed before we left for the library. Why? Because that was the first thing on the list and my frighteningly visual achievers HAD to get dressed to put the glorious check mark beside that box and move on!

We loaded into the Suburban a little after eleven, with all the library books loaded, all our lessons done except for copywork and math (copywork we skipped and math we did in the car on our way to town). The house was tidy with dishes put away, beds made, bathroom picked up. The dog had gorged himself on ants and dog food and had collapsed in a happy heap under a shade tree. Everyone had on shoes. And John, as he combed the list for the next thing to do, shouted, "WOW, Mom! We've accomplished SO MUCH today! I feel great!" Mission accomplished. (Check that box off! he he)

Miss Joy, our wonderful Wednesday Librarian, was there to greet us with her cheerful hospitality. We need to bake her something. She is such a dear. Of course, we left with a huge stack of books, and the boys all gave her hugs on the way out. How can you not fall in love with the hugging librarian?

We splurged on Mexican buffet with Zorak for lunch, then decided to walk it off at the Botanical Gardens before church. (Didn't help - I still had a heck of a time staying awake tonight. Thankfully, Smidge kept feeding me banana chips when he noticed my head drooping. He definitely earned his keep!)

Grey, rainy, breezy days are great days to spend at the Gardens! The place is EMPTY. The drizzle keeps the clover pollen out of James' eyes. The cool temps keep Miss Emily from overheating in the sling. We took our time, explored the compost bins (the boys now want an earthworm compost box), savored the herb garden (it is fantastic!) Nobody wanted to head back when it was time, but that's a good thing, I think. It leaves them wanting to explore again and learn more.

There is a lot to explore and learn, every day. This is what we want, and I'm learning how to make it happen more regularly. (Not 100% of the time, as evidenced by yesterday, but more often than not, and for that, I'm glad.) What a true joy!

Kiss those babies!

Oh, joy! The day is done.

Tonight I could use a little John Donne, a stout glass of wine, and a good friend. It was one of those days.

The casings I so gleefully yanked off the other day? Yeah, they have to go back on. As it turns out, they have some pretty intricate niches on the back side that attach to the window thingamajiggers and it'll be easier to attach 1/4" lathe strips to the existing casings than it will be to cut the narrow strips of 1x and then route the niches. I suppose that makes it a good thing I didn't get any more pulled off today, then?

We have a new fire ant mound, and in the half a second it took me to realize I'd stepped in a mound, I had five in my slipper. One bit me on the top of my foot, and I think another tried from inside the slipper, but managed to hit a callous. I hope it broke a mandible.

Today, the boys tried what I like to call (in my inner dialogue - the one that would probably scar them for life if I uttered the words aloud) their "English Interpretation" studies. They failed miserably. Tomorrow I will be able to say they didn't fail, they simply learned another way NOT to listen to Mother... but tonight I'm not feeling all that chipper. They are fed. They are bathed. They are tucked into bed, and they are loved. Sometimes, that's just the tip of the iceberg. But other times, that's all I can do. Knowing that this is a normal waxing and waning of Life helps. Tremendously.

I think the breaking point for me today came when John lobbed a whiffle ball to me without making certain I was ready for it. (I wasn't -- I had my back turned to him and was talking with James.) He did shout, "head's up" but not until the ball was on its way down. Emily caught it. With the side of her face. *sigh* Thank God it was just a whiffle ball. But I didn't handle it with much grace, and Zorak didn't extend any to me, either. (What goes around, comes around.) It was just one of those things that comes from Not Thinking. Thankfully, the day is over, Emily is fine, and so is John.

On a better note, the Crunchy Market in town called today - my copy of The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread is in! Yay! The Lady-in-Charge-of-Ordering-Stuff said it might be two months before she could get a copy, but took my name and number, just in case. I'm so glad she did, as evidently she was able to slip it in with the order she'd just placed the day before. Could've bought it at BAM or BN, but we like doing business locally when it's feasible. They are wonderful about special orders and are very nice to the children there - makes a world of difference in my shopping habits! (I figure if we repeat this often enough, businesses will clue in and perhaps try to earn business rather than whine about not getting it - we can hope, anyway.)

In all, I'm grouchy tonight. Looking forward to tomorrow, though. The kitchen is clean, the living/dining area tidied. Clothes for everyone are laid out. That will be nice to wake up to. The wash is caught up and breakfast is made (pancakes - just have to heat them up - yay). After lessons, we're going to the library, the Botanical Gardens, perhaps lunch with Zorak in town, and we'll swing by the Crunchy Market on our way to church. I think an outing day will be just the thing to help us get out of this funk.

For now, though, I'm off to write the boys' notes and lay out lessons for the morning. Have a wonderful Wednesday, and remember - these days will come, whether we are prepared for them or not. It's better to be prepared and be able to swing with them. (I could have used a reminder of that, myself, long about four this afternoon. *grin*)

Kiss those babies!

Monday, April 24

Mundane Monday

Today was the kind of good that I never thought I would appreciate. Quiet, uneventful, almost serene. Hornblower caught herself admiring hedges while they were looking for a house and wondered what had happened to her. If I could have stopped nodding my head and chuckling in recognition, I'd have offered sympathy. Days where lessons are done, the wash gets put away, and the highlight of the day is watching the two older boys cheer on the Smidge when he hits the ball -- man, those are sweet! Those are the days I live for.

I figured out this morning how to get the casings off the windows with a minimum of damage. This was my second attempt, as my first try the other day resulted in a horrible tearing sound and bits of drywall tumbling down upon my head. I quickly walked away, hid the pry bar, and begged Zorak for help. But he forgot, and I really want to paint the windows. So today I spent an hour trying to figure out where I'd hidden the pry bar and then got to it. Yay. One down... many more to go.

With the back yard all shaven and looking mighty non-threatening, the boys played out there most of the day. Miss Emily even hung out there with us. We blew bubbles. Smidge tried to eat them. Not Balto, Smidge. *sigh* We spent H-O-U-R-S playing baseball. I did nearly ALL the wash. We came in to eat and do lessons, but that was about it. We'd have done lessons outside, too, if we had somewhere to sit where the dog couldn't reach us. Fortunately, Aunt B sent us two (TWO!) picnic tables. They are sitting on the front porch, awaiting assembly, and once we have them up, I imagine we'll do at least some of our schooling outside. It's too nice not to!

Tomorrow we have to slip into town to return library books before the Tuesday Lady starts making her calls. It seems nobody else in town is ever aware that they have overdue books without rushing right down to rectify the situation. I don't think the Tuesday Lady likes us. Hopefully we'll get more done on the windows and the yard, and will enjoy one another like we did today. Good, good stuff.

Kiss those babies!

School Yard Fun

I am so thankful that we have our own private school yard.

1) Bullies aren't allowed. Period.
2) The teacher has the freedom to use discretion and independent thinking in resolving issues.
3) There is no schedule that says we MUST go out at eleven, even if it's incredibly hot and miserable.
4) There is no protocol that says we must go to the gym (in our case, would that be the basement?) when it rains.
5) If (or rather, "when") the students find something interesting, playtime integrates seamlessly with science.
5b) - and they both may extend well beyond the State mandated 20 minutes of play time.
6) The little ones don't get trampled by the bigger ones, even with a seven year age spread.
7) Maps are totally useful, and digging is encouraged.
8) Picnics!
9) T-ball is a total blast when the dog plays, too!
10) Back porch steps make wonderful bleachers from which to cheer your "team".

I'd love to hear your own, too!
Kiss those babies!

Sunday, April 23

Workout Videos and Other Housing Stuff

Well, Zorak is out back, working on Vol. II (The Outdoor Sessions) of his "Fit and Fatigued at 40" workout series for men. You, too, can have abs of steel along with an increased need for cholesterol-lowering foods. It will come at a time when you no longer need, nor really desire, anything on your body to resemble metal, but it can be yours. (That's a longwinded way of saying that yes, it's eleven o'clock at night and he's out there building steps off the back balcony.)

I don't know that they were all that necessary, truthfully. It was getting kinda fun to grab the wash and leap from the deck. Yes, I am so lazy that I'd rather risk a broken arm than have to walk ALL THE WAY around the house to get to the clothes line. But it was also partially just fun to see if any garments in particular would give me enough drag to float down.

We have begun tackling the exterior now. Not just for aesthetics, but also to work on the tick reduction process (ie. -- more than just whining about it). The boys have been taking garlic tablets for a week (and it does seem to be working! Huzzah!) Balto got some tick spray. We bought a lawn mower. I got out there and mowed the grass-like stuff in front of the house this evening. Scalped it pretty good, I must say, and it feels SO good to walk around to the side of the house without anything to brush against my legs and make me twitch with each step like Steve Martin.

In a region where having a riding mower is the norm, and having a "zero-turn" mower is a status symbol, we have opted to ignore the Jones' and go with a push mower. For now, at least. It's definitely going to have to earn its keep, but the difference in price came to ten sheets of drywall, a roll of tape and 50' of Romex. If it bothers the Jones' that we're out there push-mowing our acreage, then they can come help. But otherwise, we're going to be in FINE shape (or dead) come fall, and the property will look... less abandoned. Everyone wins.

We also purchased some lawn pesticide stuff. Our dreams of going organic on the Forever Home were dashed by the Freddy Krueger-like influence of the Ticks. If given the choice of dying young or living a long time with the heebie-jeebies, let me die young and peaceful. Tomorrow I also plan to slather down the mowed portion of the yard with weed 'n feed. It's clover season here in the South, and we'd like to be pro-active in keeping the Forever Yard James-friendly.

We believe the foyer is just a day or two from being forced from sick bay and sent back to active duty. Yay. If you stand at just the right angle and peer through the front door, everything in view looks pretty now! 'Course, we look like idiots, leaning awkwardly to one side, staring into our own home, but that's okay because nobody can see us!

Tomorrow it's back to school, work, and routine. It's starting to come together and flow, which feels wonderful. And now, I'm going to treat myself to getting caught up with my favorite blogs!

Kiss those babies!

Kicky Klothing

(Yes, I'm desperate for a title. Shush.)

Well, after the all-encompassing joy that is purchasing certain nursing garments that have not already seen three previous children, I've been on a high for a month. Who'd have thought it? Truthfully, I hate shopping for clothes. This would probably explain why most of my sweaters are the ones my mother bought for me while I was in high school, or the ones she passed down to me when she bought new sweaters for herself. It also explains why I just wear Zorak's shirts most of the time, too. So, if you're getting an image of a woman who dresses mainly in men's shirts and old lady's sweaters, well, you're pretty right-on, then.

Now factor in the fact that I have been pregnant, or recovering from being pregnant for the past eight years and... ahhh, that's lovely, isn't it?

But no more! I'm in my 30's, and those jokes about trading the wife in for two sixteen year-olds just. aren't. funny. anymore. Plus, summer here is simply miserable, and while flannel is a wonderful choice for winter, it doesn't do much for the sweltering heat of a Southern Summer.

So this week, I decided to get wild and try to freshen up the wardrobe a bit. Now that most of the heavy construction work is over with, I can retire my sensible work boots (or at least stop wearing them to church). I can also stop wearing Zorak's jeans (OK, that's probably not going to happen - by the time I inherit them, they're so soft and comfy... but it wouldn't hurt to cut down on their public appearances, either.) If I must be completely honest, I'm probably just a few bad habits away from kaftans and soft rollers. And that's not fair to Zorak, who has held up way better, and looks sexier now than he did that magical night in the bar in Cruces.

Well, I did pick up a few things, and it was rather fun. There are, thankfully, some styles out there this season that aren't painfully offensive and/or involving tassels. Got some pants that actually fit without me having to suck it in. I'm not a svelte size four, but then, I could not eat for five years and my bone mass alone still wouldn't fit into a size four. I'm back to pre-pregnancy size, though, and that feels good. It's in the same basic ballpark, anyway. The pants are cute. They're cool. They are some strange space material that will dry quickly. They have many pockets, and fortunately pockets are semi-cool right now (because I do love pockets). And they look good. In all, this is a huge "score" on my end.

And I don't know who tipped off the tank top makers, but THANK YOU, WHOEVER YOU ARE, for mentioning that a built-in bra might mercifully cut down on the number of exposed undergarments we are subjected to each day. You have also found a new supply of customers - namely, those of us who would rather continue wilting under the summer sun in our husbands' long sleeve flannels than walk about with our bra straps showing. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. This is the first spaghetti strap tank I've owned since I was about five. It feels a little awkward, but it's comfy, and I didn't wilt today. I may yet learn the survival tips of the South...

It was time to cut the adventure short, however, when I found myself inexplicably drawn to what I can only describe as The Ugliest Pants I Have EVER Seen. In my life. They are hideous. Yet they made me smile and I kept going back to them. I'm hesitant to share this, but I suppose after the Vanilla Ice confession, I can't fall any lower on the coolfactor. Have you seen the camo capri pants with the sequin waistbands? Yeah, camo and sequins in a kicky little capri style. Re-read that, and tell, me please, where would one wear these? Why would one wear these? And can you see now why I had to leave the store? It's been two days, and thinking about them still makes me smile. So I haven't been back. I'm staying home until I come to my senses (or can come up with someplace I could actually wear these - and then, once it's been justified, I'm buyin' 'em!) Of course, that's when Zorak will begin tallying up the possible combinations: two 16 year olds now or wait a few months and get a 17yo... hmmm...

Not funny.

I'm not going back. I'll just stay here and see if my new top goes well with Zorak's old jeans.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, April 21

A Few Things for Fun

Hey! Thanks for the help with names. I think John will be Chet, and Miss Emily will be Miss M. Those made me smile. I was leaning toward "Smiley", but then... today happened, and... yeah. She's gonna have to earn that one. ;-)

Janet, I don't think we count as Trekkies at all. We know nothing about Star Trek beyond what one can pick up on random episodes shown on UPN when nothing else is on, and general cultural knowledge. They probably wouldn't let us into a convention. I do, admittedly, have a longstanding crush on Patrick Stewart, but it's tied mostly to my affinity for older men, Earl Grey tea, rich and velvety voices, and Shakespeare... *wistful sigh*

*ahem* So. Where was I? Oh, yes, tidbits.

Our foyer is malingering. Poor thing.

momanna98, the basement and how we sealed it? Well, it's not "done", but it didn't take much to make major strides in it, really. The first thing we did was clear out The Scary Room and lay new temporary drains in the back of the house. Then we yanked out the old A/C unit, which was where The Queen Cricket of one of the several cricket tribes held court, and filled the vent hole where it entered the house. Whomever installed it had just knocked out concrete blocks until the unit could fit, then knocked out a few more for good measure. Plus, the unit itself was badly damaged and had holes and dips that collected water which drained into the basement. So, fixing that helped. French drain and new gutters are coming soon - they will make the bulk of the improvements. The current gutter design is to dump ALL the water off one corner on the uphill end of the house. That's what's causing the Zen Waterfall and overall foundation erosion. Lovely plan, if that's what they were shooting for. If not, then this is yet another "wow, I hope they didn't pay someone to do this" project. And finally, we'll replace the current doors with new headers and french doors leading out to what will one day be a covered patio (you know, when we no longer live in fear that the balcony will collapse on it). We *think* that will do the trick. I don't know. But drainage is a HUGE key to drying out a basement. Unless you want to dig up around the perimeter and lay a sealant on that side, you're probably not going to have any luck putting things inside to seal it up w/o doing some drainage work.

James asked the other day about the Right of Redemption deadline, and when I told him it's about three weeks away, he made the funniest face and literally squeaked, "Ohhhhh, the tension is RISING!" Made me laugh. We were worried about whether we made the right call in telling the boys about it, but I think we did. All options are known, and so if something should happen, they won't be thrown for as big a loop. We've taken it as calmly as possible, and so the boys do, too. (I did talk with Zorak today about what we would do if... We agreed that we'd look for another fixer-upper and start all over again. It's official. We're idiots.)

Smidge had the best day of. his. life. today. We picked strawberries at a little farm just down the road. I don't think I've ever seen him have such a grand time. The older boys enjoyed it, as well, but they remember doing it before. For Smidge, this had that whole inner dialog going: "Huh? You mean I CAN pick them? And I can EAT them? And I can throw them in this great bucket you let me have? Oh, you are THE BEST!" We could all stand to reach down and find that kind of new joy in something every day, because it looked like a whole lot of fun.

And now, I am going to start working on uploading photos, so that's all the blogging for tonight.

Kiss those babies!

My Take on Kong

So. King Kong. Yeah. I really, really wanted to turn it off by the time they got on the boat. I even offered to watch Doom instead (oh, the Harlequin quality romance that abounds in this house! It makes me swoon!) But no. Zorak wanted to watch the rest of the movie. If you haven't seen it, and you don't want me to spoil it for you (and you DO realize it's a remake and a pretty universal archetype at this point, but still somehow feel inclined NOT to actually hear what happened), then just skip this post. I'll blog again before bed. :-)

1) Um. Yeah. I know times were tough, but I'm not gettin' on a boat in the middle of the night with ANY guy who says "trust me". Come to think of it, I'm not getting in a CAR with that guy, either. However, you need to move the plot, ok, I get it. But THEN...

2) Not sure why, but whoever wrote this thing had a total fear of the plot actually taking off and just going. Just as it would begin to flow, the whole stinkin' movie would stall so that some character could (a) throw in a poorly placed monologue for backstory, (b) make some painful Joseph Conrad parallel, or (c) expound on some virtue somebody's mother paid money to have included in the movie. And believe me, there were many such items. It was like listening to Mel Tillis speak.

3) OK, the captain - he was like a narrow Ralph Fiennes and somebody else. Anybody know WHO? Anyhow, he was cool. And he had a Luger. He rocked. Although WHY he took the Luger (which we thought was pretty cool) onto the island the first time, when later we discover he's got a friggin bed full of Tommy Guns... WTH? Why? *sigh*

4) Ann Darrow. Has. Issues. There were a lot of dolphin jokes thrown about.

5) The ape was very amazing. Very. And we're not big FX freaks by any means, but the monkey crew? Talented, brilliant, amazing. Wow.

6) Who was their gun consultant? Did he not explain that even Kong could not withstand THAT many bullets before succumbing? No? Oh. Ok.

7) The leading hero was cool. And he did a great job with what little he had to work with from the script. Who wrote this crap? Obviously it was either (a) someone who is totally hot and has never been in that position before, or (b) someone who has, erm, physical flaws and has repeatedly bombed when in that position. Either way, somebody didn't get it. But the actor did a good job, all things considered.

8) It would have been great - predictable, but still great anyway - if someone, at some point, had simply told Jack Black's character to stuff it. Anybody else wait and wait and wait for that to happen? It was like in The Relic where they kept showing the closeup of the lone museum employee in a dark room with the creepy music playing as he (or she? I can't remember) cleaned the actual relic. Everyone else is the museum is dying and they keep coming back to that scene... and nothing ever came of it. What a waste. Either save the film, or see it out. Let's make a commitment, here.

9) Everyone you think is going to die. Dies. They could have had a lot more fun with that one.

BUT, in all, I'm glad we watched it all the way through. It did improve and quit stuttering after a while. The phallic worms were a bit unnecessary, and I'd have brought back one of the herbivores instead of the large fanged meat-eating creature. But then, that's me. Of course, I wouldn't have been on the boat to begin with, so I suppose that's a moot point. *grin*

Not a bad flick. Glad we borrowed it instead of renting it or, heaven help us, paying to see it in the theaters. It's a little awkward to truly berate a movie we watched for free. Still, I could have watched Enemy At The Gates again. Or The Sure Thing. And been perfectly content.


Thursday, April 20

Date Night!

Hey, I'm just blogging to say I'm not blogging tonight. Yes, I'm that pathetic. Anyhow, Zorak The Wonder Hubby is home, safe and sound. The children are asleep, and we are going to curl up with King Kong. Because nothing says "romantic interlude" like a bloody, cheesy remake.

Kiss those babies!

Calling for Ideas: Need Monikers!!

Ok, so I've set up a home renovation blog over at blogspirit (they have categories, which will make it much easier as we transfer all the convoluted mess from one place to another and upload photos). Jess asked whether I was going to go with pseudonyms on that blog, and I wasn't at first (mostly because I can't think of any good ones). However, then I realized that the nature of the blog there will probably bring a whole different crowd than the one we get here. So. Hmmm.

Pseudonyms... any ideas? Jess and I tried to come up with some, but then we just got silly. Poor Miss Emily really came out on the short end of the stick. And while we thought Mr. Buffett would be a good name for John (as in, Jimmy), we were a little worried people would think it was buffet and assume he's the fat kid.

I'm pretty sure we'll use "Professor" for James. And Smidge will be Smidge (what else could he be?). That leaves John and Miss Emily. So. Ideas would be greatly appreciated, guys!


(I will post the url once it actually has something to read on it.)

Wednesday, April 19

A little schoolin', a little lovin', a lot of livin'...

After this morning's rude awakening, I've decided caffeine is a much preferred method of easing into the day. Today was not your banner day (it was hot and muggy and we were all quite miserable in the house), but it wasn't nearly as roughly paced as yesterday (small yay). We did accomplish quite a bit (bigger yay). Mostly, though, it was a good day with the boys (saved the biggest yay for this part).

Yesterday was a day that found me begging them to please, please, try - just try - to understand their native tongue. Today, they tried. It didn't always work, but bless 'em, they did try. What a joy that is! One day, they will master both speaking and comprehending english. What a day that will be. (Of course, by then, they will be fathers, so I'll have the added delight of watching them beg their children in a similar fashion. Oh, pop the corn and break out the beer, folks - this is gonna be great!) In the meantime, this repetition is this repetition is this repetition is my job.

The boys are doing wonderfully with school. They're enjoying copywork in the mornings. John is so proud of what he can do, and I have discovered that if I ask him to do only a portion of a sentence, he will gladly do the entire sentence. (Conversely, if I ask him to do the whole sentence, he panics and develops hand cramps three letters into the task -- I can be trained, and now only ask for a portion. I'm getting great work out of him!)

James and I spent an hour today, just working numbers. He wanted to work out returns on investment for real estate. We had a great discussion on economics and investment risks while we worked out different scenarios. And the boy has mastered subtraction like nobody's business (which thrills me no end, as we skipped subtraction in MUS when we switched from Classic to New - ahhh, another academic landmine avoided.)

We are back in full-reading-swing, and can I say it's wonderful? I do hope Miss Emily skips that whole screaming and writhing in angst thing regarding read alouds. We are learning so much, and enjoying so much and... we've missed it. Smidge listens in, and engages. He laughs at the jokes (and sometimes just laughs - he is one half of Tuck 'n Roll, if that helps with the imagery any), and brings books for us to share. John plays HARD while I read, but he can tell me anything I've read throughout the day, so I'm good with that. Would that we could all multi-task so well! James gets so sucked into some of the stories that he just tips right over - he leans farther and farther forward until, *plunk*, down he goes. I love this part. This is my own personal crack. Only, you know, not so hard on the ticker. It's lovely.

Oh, speaking of being hard on the ticker, we have a cricket in the basement. I can't find it, but I think it's about two or three feet long. It sounds humongous. It also proved to me today that I know no shame. I started down there for something - a book? No, to empty the dehumidifier, that was it. The dehumidifier isn't even in the basement proper - it's on the stairs, at the bottom landing. Still, it took me three tries to work up the gumption to go get it. But I did - and got it back in and myself back up the stairs in record time. Shortly thereafter, we were recapping some of our history over breakfast, and I remembered having seen the globe in an open box. It was easy to reach - just right there, on top. Down in the basement. So. Yeah, I sent James. Worse yet, when he came FLYING back up the stairs to tell me there's "something large and chirpy" down there, I had the audacity to tell him it's "just a little old cricket, he can't hurt you".

But I will confide to you that I think it's one of those nasty hunchback ones we've seen. Does anyone know what they are? Nevermind, I found them - they are camel crickets, also known as cave crickets. Their bodies are curved, rather like a shrimp, the legs are significantly longer than regular cricket legs, and they are huge, oh, and lightly striped. They're pretty stinkin' nasty! So far, we don't have a cricket wall down there. It was bad when we bought the place. The basement is far better sealed and much drier than it was before, not to mention "the cricket room" - a partial room which had been built on at some point - has been torn down, which I hope will help keep the critter population down. And I did inform Zorak today that when he gets back (he's on the road), we are poisoning everything -- every surface, crevice, and hole in the house. I have my limits, and they have been reached, okay?

However, lest y'all develop an image in your cumulative heads of me living out in the boonies, in a shack, with my hair falling out, obsessing over insectlore... (ok, the hair is coming out, but that's normal post partum stuff - it's not mange or anything. Honest.)

My favorite highlights of today:

* Seeing James check Balto's food and water, then refill them both, AND dump out the water dish before adding fresh - all without being told!

* Making paper airplanes with John and waging a mock air battle with them in the living room.

* Holding a sleepy Smidge on my lap, hearing him giggle and seeing his eyes gleam as I sang, "Jake, Jake, Jake, I'm so glad I've got one..." (a la Neil Diamond tune!)

* Watching John come barrelling out of his class, wearing a paper crown, singing his memory verse. The smile on his sweet face made my heart soar.

* Listening to James read the beginning of the Book of Judges to me on the way home tonight. Talking with him and just enjoying his exuberance.

* Watching Smidge slowly warm up to the teacher in his class, and knowing that he is okay without me, but that I'm right. there. if he should need me.

* As I was laying Emily down on the bed tonight, she opened her eyes, smiled a huge smile, took my finger in her hand and went right back to sleep.

* Hearing Zorak tell me he loves me and cannot wait to come home.


Kiss those babies!

You'd Think I'd Be Elated

I know there are sleep-deprived mothers the world over who would give body parts for this. I thought I was one of them.

Miss Emily went to sleep last night at eleven. I laid her in the swing, thinking she'd be back up in a couple of hours and we'd head to bed. I went to bed at one, thinking I'd just lie down for a bit until she awoke around two to eat.

When I awoke this morning at 7:30, James was up. And I was still alone in bed. "James, is Emily sleeping?" He said she was.

Panic gripped my heart. I had to stiffle my next question ("Is she... blue?") and instead bolted down the hallway to the living room.

There she was, in the swing. She wasn't blue. But she wasn't awake, either. So I did what any mother would do.

I poked her.

She moved. And my body suddenly slumped like bad concrete.

I hate moments of fear like that. But I am so very thankful it was just a moment.

It's now nine o'clock and she just awoke. You wouldn't believe how hungry this child was!

Kiss those babies - cuddle them, listen to them, love on them.

Change of Plans

We had a minor change of plans this week. It wasn't anything earth shattering, but it was pretty disappointing. When things come along that throw our plans out the window and replace them with plans we didn't particularly care for, I'm amazed now at how well Zorak and I handle the whole mess. It wasn't always that way.

I truly wish that my mother had helped me learn to handle changes well. When I was a child, and got hit with the crushing news that a family trip had been cancelled, or that she would not be able to do something she'd promised, or any of a number of typical disappointments that - to a child - feel huge, there wasn't any room for typical grief over it. Certainly no training in how to handle it graciously. The only thing she'd say is, "Circumstances Prevail." That was her mantra. I don't fault her for that - it's probably part and parcel of being a Depression Baby. Her response to disappointment was no more a matter of choice for her than her compulsion to use every usable part of potatoes, or her need to save bacon grease in a coffee tin. (Although I do suspect the grease thing was due to her being a Southerner more than having grown up in the Depression.)

However, I grew to hate these inevitable "circumstances" that were constantly "prevailing" in my life. And I railed against them pretty hard most of the time. Didn't do a whole lot of good, but I didn't know what else to do. That's one area I've struggled with over the years. Today, I can say that while I'm nowhere near perfect in how I handle them, I am (thankfully) significantly better about it.

And the boys? They are troopers! But then, they're allowed to grieve when they are disappointed. They've been given the tools they need to express their frustration with the way things don't always go as planned. They don't have to revert to anger or fear, because they have a safe place to be disappointed and hurt. It doesn't mean they're always chipper and happy to learn they're going to miss an eagerly anticipated event, or that we never got around to purchasing such-and-such for some project. The get bummed. But they don't get bent. And I am glad that they know that I feel for them and don't expect them, at the ripe old ages of 7, 5 and 2, so suck it up because "circumstances prevail". Sometimes, when you're sad, it's nice just to be allowed to be sad without anyone reminding you that it's a cruel, hard world. Obviously, if you've just been thrown for a bit of a loop, or let down in a particularly jolting fashion, you already get that part. What you need then is reminding that the people in it, in your life, and in your home, are not cruel, hard people. And that it's okay.

So, we had another chance to practice that this week. We're bummed, but we're not bent. ;-) Feels good to be the grownup. And it feels very good to see how well the children can cope, as well.

Well, today there is much to be done, so I'm going to sign off for now. Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, April 18

Wow, don't blog for a week...

and it gets harder to blog daily again!

The Forever Home renovation has been at a bit of a standstill. We need to shift gears and revv up the momentum once more. This would be a very awkward time to stall out on the work. Zorak did get the pad poured for the new steps off the hillbilly deck (the one off our room). When he took the railing off, he simply grasped it with one hand and wrenched it to the side - off it came, like honey from an oiled cup. Um... huh. I knew it wasn't terribly strong, but I must admit that I'd had a bit more faith in it than it deserved. Not like experience has given me any reason to, I guess I've just become a backwoods Pollyanna.

I worked my butt off in the back yard yesterday, raking, raking, raking... raking. My thought was to clear the back area around the house, weed whack it (don't ask), water and then weed 'n feed. Well, I spent a couple hours out there and I think I *nearly* cleared a small area - maybe 10x20? Maybe? Where did all these leaves come from? And will I manage to get these gathered before fall comes again and we are buried forever, entombed in mulch? It's not looking good, really. If my blogging comes to a rather abrupt end sometime in November, please contact the Volunteer Fire Department and Marlin Perkins. No, scratch that - tell Marlin to send Jim. Jim could find us.

We're outta here in about half an hour for the dentist's office. All three boys have a checkup today. Yeah, like Smidge is going to be compliant. He'll be cheerful about it as he says, "No, noooo, nooooooo," in his little sing-song voice. I wonder, at what age to they just knock 'em out to get a look? I imagine it's much like doing vet work on a gorilla. A cheerful gorilla. The older two, though, they're going to open up like little unhinged snakes. They are so happy to know this is a "no numb lip" visit. I think they'd put on a song and dance if the dentist asked them to. Should be an interesting visit.

Then it's off to run errands, errands, errands, but at this point I'm teetering on the edge of a to-do-list entry, and I'm trying very hard not to go there.

Oh! Ticks. This is the beginning of tick season. Or it's the apparent time for ticks. Or perhaps it's just that the little buggers love us. Whatever it is, they're everywhere lately. Balto had to get a new tick collar - we put it on yesterday. A few hours later, I noticed a jelly bean sized tick on his neck (and I'm not talking a Starburst jelly bean - I'm talking the mongo cheap ones you can buy year-round). That sucker was vile. Naturally, I called the boys out to take a look (thus, in my mind, reinforcing to them my request that they keep the dog out of the house until the collar has a chance to kick in). Now, I'd like to think I'm relatively brave. I'll hunt bear with a bow. I'll hike the desert without fear of scorpions or rattlers (healthy awareness, yes, but not fear). I'll eat things I can't identify, and I'm raising four children thousands of miles from family. Obviously, I am not of a weak constitution. HOWEVER when that thing happened to let go and come tumbling down toward my foot just as I was trying to clear the hair away from it so the boys could see... well, I freaked. I screamed like a little girl and just about broke my neck trying to back up far enough that it couldn't scamper onto me and suck the life from my body. Not that there was any need to worry - it looked like the Garfield of the tick world. It's body was so big it's little feet could barely touch the concrete. Still, with the screaming and the cringing. The boys were fascinated by the tick, but a bit worried about me. Man, I'm a wuss.

Now that the flowers have begun to fade, we're living under a lovely canopy of green. It's gorgeous. It also cuts down significantly on the heat. Aside from short stints in various other places, I've always lived in the desert southwest, so it's pretty amazing to watch things just grow on their own, without any coaxing on our part. A friend asked the other day what it's like here, and the best I could describe is that it's like the Garden of Eden, but with ticks. (And I'm pretty sure the ticks were an afterthought, or perhaps part of the punishment... I don't think they were actually in the Garden.)

Anyhow, it's time to round up the little ones and head out for our daily adventure!

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, April 16

A Snoop Dog Easter

Yeah, religious holidays always get weird at my house. *sigh* This year it all began as we were driving home from a trip into town. We passed a church and Zorak sniggered, then quit trying to hold it in and he burst out laughing. "What's so funny?" said I... (I should know better.) He said, (or I think he said -- it was hard to tell between snickers), "That's foshizzle!" *blink* *blink* WHAT?!?!

He looked at me like I should get it.

"Didn't you see the sign?" He asked, thinking, perhaps, this would explain why I was so slow on the uptake.

"Um, yes..."

*chuckle, snort* " 'He is risen' That's foshizzle! Get it? 'rizzen' from the 'crizzizzle' "

Ah, yes, it all becomes so clear to me now... My husband's sense of humor is a good reason for me to develop a healthy aversion to lightning.

Did y'all have a good day? We did. We made it to church only three hours late, but since it's a special day, there was plenty left to go when we got there. Gotta love those liturgical churches.

Then we went to the quarry, where the boys had a nice time and Zorak nearly put the smackdown on an old lady. (He is phenomenally mild-mannered, so you can imagine just how far over her bounds she must have stepped.) We left early, as neither of us could relax, but once home, we hid eggs and had a grand time watching the boys find them.

Come nightfall, we broke out the Big Easter Treat: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. HUGE hit. The boys enjoyed watching it again, and somehow managed to stay up nearly to the end. Even Zorak liked it better than he thought he would. It's hotter than many colorful phrases in the house tonight, but we still couldn't resist the urge to broil ourselves under snuggly children. Ahhh. They are asleep, and we are trying to cool back down and keep the meat from falling off our bones. Emily's roasting, though, and she's ticked. So I'll sign off with some of my favorite pictures from today, and remind you as usual to Kiss Those Babies!


Thursday, April 13

A Fabulous Visit!

Hi there! Sorry for the lack of contact the past few days. We've had such a lovely time, and by the end of each day, we were all ready to turn in. Our wonderful guests arrived Saturday afternoon. It was wonderful to see everyone. Gram looks great, and was in such joyful spirits during her visit. The boys were so good to her, and loved having their great-grandmother here to pamper and talk with.

We were thrilled to have Aunt Jo Ann (in the green shirt) and Aunt Linda come, as well. They are both such neat ladies. As you can see, Miss Emily thought the added company was pretty fun, too! (And yes, lest we mar the reputation of the South, I am garbed in my finest Appalachain Gardening Wear and an old undershirt. We wouldn't want folks thinkin' we were getting uppity, now, would we?) We spent most of our time chatting over plates of snacks and hot cups of tea and coffee. In between food breaks, we took walks, enjoyed the foliage, and caught up on life and events.

Everyone came back from the walks with treasures - pretty stones, interesting seeds, and tons of smiles. The boys found a caterpillar (named "S") while out on one of their walks. Great fun!

Aunt Jo Ann allowed us to tap into her horticultural skills, so the boys now have flowers planted and are awaiting germination! (The flowers are in pots for two reasons: the dog eats flowers, and this way the boys can identify what is a flower vs. what is a weed and they won't self-destruct their own garden once we get Balto flower-trained.)

We ate. A LOT. Salmon, shrimp, Honey Baked Ham (thanks, Aunt B! It was delicious!) Fresh fruits and veggies from the farmer's stand down the road... and, of course, pizza! (Thank God for Arrowhead Mills!)

And, of course, there was a lot of baby holding... :-) Miss Emily may never allow us to put her down again!

We took a trek to the Huntsville Botanical Gardens on Tuesday - a perfect day for an outing. We lunched at the little cafe they have there - delicious, and the greatest folks work there. Then we ventured into the garden grounds. We happened almost immediately upon Gigi, the world's sweetest docent, who gave us a wonderful tour of the gardens. She answered the boys' many (many) questions, talked shop with Aunt Linda, and just made us feel welcome, in general. If you hit the garden this summer, see if you can find her for a tour - she's spectacular!

You simply cannot spend four hours there without a picnic, so picnic we did! I can't tell you what a geniunely delightful afternoon it was, but it truly was.

This morning's departure time arrived far too quickly. I couldn't convince the Aunts to leave Gram here, and we have no place to conceal her for a decent Gram-napping, so we had to let them go. We did manage to skip off to Cracker Barrel for breakfast, and Zorak joined us just in time. So, we had one more lovely day together before they headed off on yet another adventure.

We so enjoyed having loved ones come to stay, and for a first-run, these were three of the sweetest, most easy-going, generous guests we could have hoped for. (I'm sure Aunt Jo Ann was thrilled to be the prototype tester for this monstrosity of a project! But she took it well!) Our kitchen was quite well-behaved and worked just as we'd hoped it would: easy to cook for many, plenty of space for helpers, and plenty of room for everyone to just hang out and talk. So, barring any reports to the contrary, I think the house is safe for company now. ;-)

Thank you for coming, guys! We love you and we thoroughly enjoyed having you here! The house seems awfully lonesome right about now, with just the six of us here (ok, so that's not something I ever thought I'd say! But it's true!) Know you're loved and missed!

Kissing our babies for you tonight!
~Dy, Zorak and the Kidlets

Monday, April 10

Quick Howdy!

Hi all!

Thanks for taking a peek at the bathroom. That was the second room we got functional, but the first one to get to a mostly-finished state. It felt SO good! We'll post more after shots later. For now, though, we are having a wonderful time with Gram and the Aunts.

It's been so much fun to visit and eat, take walks and eat. Then we come in and eat a little more. Aunt Billie furnished one of those wonderful Honey Baked Hams - oh dear, that's delicious! Aunt Linda and Aunt Jo Ann won't let me pamper them too much, but we all get to fuss over Gram, and that's so much fun. The Aunts are so helpful with the baby and the house that I feel like I'm the one getting a vacation! Felt kind of lazy the past two days. ;-)

The boys are thoroughly enjoying a whole new audience. They're quite enamored with each of our guests and do their best to share all the special things they love. James fills Aunt Jo Ann in on all his latest inventions, and guides Gram down the hall. John's enjoying the extra snuggles and someone who hasn't heard his latest jokes, as well as keeping the herd dog from herding the Aunts right off the trails. Smidge has found someone in Gram who will be enthusiastic over his beloved Thomas trains, and he's in love! It's just delightful.

I was going to post some pics, but Blogger's upload utility won't work right now, and everyone is back from their walk now, so I'm going to go. I'll try again later!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, April 8

The Story of a Bathroom

Once upon a time, not so very long ago (although it seems that way for those who've been waiting for pictures), there was a bathroom. We use the term loosely, for although it was a "room", one wouldn't bathe in it. Or near it. Or, most likely, anywhere on the premesis. But, I digress...

It wasn't a bad bathroom. Well, no, scratch that. It was. It was bad. But it didn't have to stay that way. Enter our frog-kissing family, looking for their castle (castles, princes, work with me here, okay?)

They took one look:

And said, in a large and do-not-question-me-just-GO voice,
Boys, you need to go play outside while we look at the house...

And so, after a long period of cringing and whining, they set to work. The first thing to do was to get rid of everything. As it turned out, most of it (under the squishy linoleum, anyway) was already gone. Handy, eh?

(Interesting Note: if the floor feels spongy when you walk on it, this is what it probably looks like underneath.)

And now, it's done. We still need to put on the door trim and the baseboard (so please ignore that part, but that's going to be done all at once, when the rest of the rooms are ready. And there's no vanity mirror up, as we are hoping to find some great funky antiques to hang in there - one over each sink.

You can view the photo album of the transition if you'd like to see the bath from start to finish. (I spared y'all the plumbing and wiring shots because not only are they pretty boring if you aren't the one who put them in, but there was a lot of swearing during the wiring portion of this project. So this is a fairly glossed over version of what it took to redo the bath.)

However, it's done. And it feels very, very good!

And our company just rang - they're in town!! I'm going to go meet them at the market and bring 'em on in!

Kiss those babies!

Friday, April 7

10:30 and all's well

Hey there. Well, the entire afternoon was wonderfully windy (got the linens washed!) and clear. We had a great afternoon, for the most part.

The HVAC guy came - he seemed okay, but he stayed too long and then lost us when he insisted that they do ALL the labor because "you don't have the tools to do the things that need to be done". Tools? Yes, tools. You know, to sweat copper pipe together and to make the vent holes. Uh-huh. And the vent you saw... the one we told you we built? The fact that we'd run new pipe - copper, black iron and PEX... and had showed that to you. Totally lost on ya, there, buddy? No, thanks. If he can't listen to something as simple as what we are capable of and what we aren't (for instance, we don't have the means to charge the system, and we are willing to pay for that, but we aren't willing to pay for one of his guys to come cut a hole in our roof when we can do it ourselves for far less), then we really don't want to be doing business with him. Anyway, he realized the sale had gone off the game plan when he asked us to let his crew cut the vent in the bathroom because we don't know what we're doing and will mess up that floor... you know, the one we laid. Yeah, brilliant. Fortunately, that was only our first quote.

We didn't hide eggs, as the boys spent the majority of the afternoon down at the creek. James caught a red wasp. *Sigh* They caught a cricket and a couple of moths. Smidge caught a piece of tree bark and three 16 penny nails. He was quite proud.

We're under a tornado watch right now. The Powers That Be have told us to get to our "safe spot" now, but that would be, theoretically, the basement... and in case I haven't mentioned it, we haven't done anything to the basement yet... I think I'd rather take my chances with the tornado than with a flash flood from the waterfall, or the missing sill plates finally collapsing down there. We'll stay put, though, and keep an ear on the radio. I'll blog later w/ an update. For now, though, the lightning is a little close for my comfort, so I'm getting off the computer!

Kiss those babies!

This'll change your plans in a hurry:





I love the verbiage they use: unstable, explosive, potentially significant. This is not just any ol' storm system, it's a "potent" one! And "supercells" - storms with capes!

The coordinator of our homeschool group called this morning to cancel the party. She said the public schools will be closing at one today so that everybody can get home and get off the road before the bulk of the storm hits. I guess several of us are coming in from outlying towns and they decided it's not worth the risk. I do appreciate that. The party's been moved to Monday, which is supposed to be exquisite. I don't think we'll be able to go, as the family will be here then, but that's okay. There will be other get-togethers.

So, while I'm eyeballing a suspect tree in the yard and hoping it's not all that bad, I'm also ashamedly relieved that we don't have to go anywhere and I can do some prep work on the windows (not going to paint in this weather - it'd never dry). The boys will be bummed, but hey, I've got 48 plastic eggs and nowhere to go. Maybe we'll hide them around the house or make a scavenger hunt out of it.

Kiss those babies!

Must Slow Down!


Today was productive. Of course, it's nearly two o'clock on the next day, and it's just now winding down... at least nobody can say we aren't making the most of our time, right? *wan smile*

We got a lot done today - patched a hole in the hallway ceiling, primed the foyer ceiling, finally textured the closets (yay!) although the kids and I had to make an impromptu run into town for more joint compound. Stopped through Steak 'n Shake for a round of milkshakes (an appreciation gift for my wonderful little helpers) and then back for more work.

The weirdness factor has hit exponential values here with the boys. Smidge is really hitting his stride as a two year old. And I had to sponge the sand out of Emily's neck tonight because of it. James is, from what I've gleaned from other Veteran Mothers, Very Eight. Only, he's not Eight yet. I hope to God this means we will be experiencing an abbreviated version of Eight, because I do not think he and I will both survive the extended version. John is, proportionately, being very middle-of-the-road Five lately: irate that James bosses him around, and yet fully partaking in the bossing of the younger sibling at will. Somehow, those two scenarios are not connected in the least. Not in his mind, anyway. Add in Balto and the occasional mid-afternoon thunderstorm and this place is a regular dark comedy! Those are funnier when I'm not the one caught in them...*

There's only one chunk of sheetrock up in the foyer, but Zorak sent me into town just before supper to make a Lowe's run, so he got to run herd on the boys for supper and bedtime. He was a busy daddy! I got the stuff at Lowe's, and while loading the pickup, I remembered our homeschool support group has its Easter party tomorrow afternoon. Pot luck. ACK! So I had to stop and get eggs and stuff to put in the eggs (non-edible - sheesh, it would've been so much easier to buy candy!! But I was good... did you know books won't fit inside the eggs? *sniff, sniff*) Took three stops before I finally gave up on the local shops (all closed) and hit Wal-Mart. (Hey, I tried, right?) On the upside, however, we're good-to-go for tomorrow's breakneck schedule AND the boys (and Emily) now have baskets for Easter. Yay me!

Friday is going to be a good day. We have an HVAC guy coming in the AM to give us a quote, the party in the afternoon, and a whole lotta cleaning to get done in between. We'll touch base with Zorak at some point and switch vehicles so that we can pick up a bed for the guest room and hopefully hit Sears for a washer/dryer set (they're having a sale, and they have things in stock - although we've still not agreed upon what kind of washer to get, so I'm not sure how that's going to go).

I was *this close* to having actual after photos of the bathroom tonight (you know, the one w/ the Cheech and Chong sanitation in the before pics). Then Zorak and I rethought the towel racks and didn't hang them. We've since decided to go with our original plans, but it's too late to do anything now. But tomorrow, I promise, there will be pictures. I do, however, feel the need to add this caveat: the "after" pictures aren't going to look like normal homes' after pictures. We still don't have trim/baseboards up. We still haven't hit Pier 1 (heck, we haven't even hit the Dollar Store, which is probably closer to the truth). So they won't be all "Oooohhh, ahhhhh, what a lovely display", okay? However, the structural and architectural changes will be apparent. Then I'll need some serious decorating help from y'all!

* Note: they haven't ventured outside the bounds of normal envelope-pushing, and they're very good, very enjoyable children. It's just that at the moment, there are a great many envelopes being pushed all over the place, and that gets a bit chaotic.

And that, my friends, is about all I have the energy to say tonight.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, April 6

Down to the Wire - Highlights

Sheetrock goes up in the foyer tonight! Gram and the Aunts may have to watch us paint the foyer, but it'll at least when they arrive it's going to look nice shortly.

Supper was roast chicken, mixed vegetables, baked potatoes, and wheat-free biscuits (LB - they were pretty good, but DON'T grease the pan! I essentially fried them in the oven - what a mess!) *happy sigh* We love our kitchen.

Miss Emily decided I needed some rest last night, and so... I accomplished diddly squat. But it was nice to sleep all night long.

The dog needs either another puppy (kill me now), one of those cone shaped collars (the humor factor alone might be worth it), or perhaps a partial lobotomy (better than killing him). He simply will NOT listen to the boys, and there are too many boys for me to be close enough to keep him from biting their feet when we're outside. It's constant. He's like a neurotic heeler. Yesterday was a banner day for him -- he managed to knock all three flat on their faces at least once. *sigh*

No clue where to start today. I stand in the hall and spin slowly in circles, trying to figure it out. So I'm going to finish this cup, stretch my legs and just start somewhere. We'll see where I end up! But, barring computer glitches, etc., there will be some after photos in the next 24 hours!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, April 5

Oh! I forgot to tell you!

Sunday afternoon, as the boys and I were heading out, that guy came back! And he brought the blueprints to the house. Zorak spoke with him for a while, and told him to come back in about a month, that we'd have the money to buy them then. In fact, we do have the money now, but we'd like to keep a safe distance until all is said and done.

Zorak got the impression that yes, this kid really wants this house and property in a bad way, but that it's like we'd feel if someone outside the family bought Granny's ranch. The kid does know the people who lost it. Whether he's in with them on anything or not, we don't know. But we do believe that he's related to the man who built the house. That was a relief. When this is all over, we'd like to invite him in to see what we've done.

One thing that we both thought was very neat is the original kitchen. When we were trying to figure out what to do with the kitchen, we tried everything we could think of. Something definitely had to be done -- it was a narrow galley kitchen, and that layout is diametrically opposed to the way we live. We live in the kitchen, and we wouldn't all fit in the old kitchen! Anyhow, nothing we tried seemed to work: breakfast bar, peninsula design, partial wall... finally, I told Zorak, "This house wants that wall OUT." He put down his clipboard, turned to me (I braced for him to recommend medication) and said, "I thought the same thing." So. Nobody got medicated, and the wall came down. That one little change completely altered the feel and flow of the kitchen and living spaces. It was amazing.

Well, the original plans didn't have a wall there! It was an open kitchen, not a galley! How cool is that? Our house talks!

And on that note, it's telling me to get off my duff and cover it's receptacles. Show some modesty, for goodness sake, woman!

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, April 4

HOW? How can this happen?

Would someone please explain to me how a ONE hour time change can throw me off by SEVERAL hours?!? That's each day! I wished Jess a good afternoon as we hung up the phone and she laughed at me. It was six-thirty. By Thursday, I'll be getting up in time for supper. ARGH! I miss Arizona in the springtime. *sigh*

The boys saw Chuck E. Cheese while we were running errands. James went "Price is Right" nuts over it. I reciprocated with the identical reaction when I saw the Dillard's Home Store. The boys didn't think that was an appropriate reaction. That is, until we went inside. They thought it was "so beautiful" and John loved the way it smelled. Yeah, I guess sawdust and electrical fire isn't the potpourri of choice...

Anyhow, we got new sheets. I went with burgundy. Not because I particularly care for burgundy, or because it sets off the rest of the room. I bought burgundy because white is not a good summer sheet color (remember, I married the Human Torch), battleship grey doesn't seem to be "in" this year, and I don't have the pizzazz (or whatever word you want to use) to pull off the Egyptian/Nefertiti Gold that is so popular this spring. Some women can do that. I am not one of them. I'm lucky if I can get the right size, let alone take a bold color and make it blend. What I really need is the McDonald's of Interior Decorating. I want nine basic choices and when I finally pick one, I want someone to ask me, "You want tassles with that?" Done. Wouldn't that be great?

Since I have misplaced several hours today, I didn't get to the texturing of the closets. (Jess' time reminder sent me into a supper fixing frenzy from which I have just now recovered.) So I'm going to sign off and go do something. The boys are passed out with their reading lights on. Zorak is in the attic, doing his Large Rodent Impression. And Miss Emily chatted happily with Pooh Bear for a bit as he dangled above her swing. When she quit talking to him, I peeked over to find she had passed out. WOOHOO! Time to roll up some sleeves and enjoy the nightly lack of sleep that marks Daylight Savings Time.

Kiss those babies!

So Productive...

...When the boards are down.


This morning I painted the ceiling and trim in the bathroom, then put the second coat on the bathroom walls. It looks so much nicer now! It feels almost arid today (don't laugh, it's relative) so perhaps the tidbits can go up tomorrow sometime (towel rack, tp holder... would be nice not to have to strrreeeeeeeetch to the counter to grab the tp). I got the final outlets wired in, so Zorak can hook up power to the bathroom outlets (we've had lights, but we put lights and outlets on different circuits - very handy feature!)

Got the outlet covers on in the master bedroom. We're all moved into that room now, and it's so pretty. It's on the southeast corner of the house and, even with the small light-sucking holes, mornings are so refreshing and inviting in that room. It was heaven to wake up in Our Own Room this morning!

Then I folded the seven loads of wash I'd done yesterday and put them all away. As good as it felt to sleep in Our Own Room, it felt even better not to have to venture into the "closet room" (the fourth bedroom, which we use for storage as well as a makeshift closet) for clothes. The dresser is right. there. It's funny what I've always taken for granted. Done two more loads today, and will hang them in a minute.

We're going to feast (ok, we'll have lunch, but I'm really hungry) and then head off to Wal-Mart to return the sheets (yes, finally) and get some dog food.

This afternoon, I hope to texture the three remaining closets and line up the wires for Zorak to put in the foyer. That's a good day. If I'm feeling productive, I might take the casings off the windows and scrub everything down for painting. (That makes my knees go first-kiss weak! What joy!)

Anybody else find themselves overly productive when their favorite time-wasters aren't up and running?

Kiss those babies!

Monday, April 3

Good Monday Morning!

It's a glorious day. We're gonna be busy. Not terribly interesting, that's for sure. And while I'd love to start posting the after pictures, we're wiring the foyer today and hanging sheetrock when Zorak gets home. So, nothing today. Our wonderful Gram and lovely Aunts will be here on Saturday, and we have a ton to do between now and then.

But yes, as y'all can see, it was gross. One of those things, though, where all the frustration and angst over the house taking two and a half months to close turned out to be a blessing. When we first looked at it and put in our offer, there was no visible mold. It was a little dank and stinky, but we attributed that to it having been empty and closed up all summer. If we'd have closed on it in August, like we wanted to, we may not have known what was lurking beneath. Thankfully, by October, it had sprouted and so we knew what it would need done. I'm glad we had our eyes wide open, that's for sure! And, knowing what we were getting in to, we've been able to take it in stride.

Yes, Hypatia, the carpet's not taupe. Even our wonderful realtor, who had it professionally cleaned twice for us, thought it was taupe. It wasn't until we pulled up the threshold to take out the carpet (this was maybe two weeks into the tear-out) that we discovered this:

That white stripe down the middle there is where the threshold had covered the carpet. Anywhere it was exposed, it was that brown color. We had the willies for a week. And ALL of the carpet came out that afternoon!

But, I don't want to leave you hanging like that. This is why we bought the property:

The structure we live in is just a shell of the one we bought, but we couldn't have designed a better spot for it. The sun comes up over the meadow behind us and bathes the entire place in a gentle, glittery gold. There are flowers everywhere you look - purples and pinks, whites and yellows. The creek is a constant source of adventure for the boys. The barn awaits, silent and large, for some attention, but it's sturdy and strong and will be beautiful when we get to it. The swingset in the yard and the soccer ball up in the upper meadow make me smile. The boys' laughter and the time we spent together, even just sitting on the porch watching the birds and squirrells... it's all worth it.

And now, as if conjured up by thoughts, all four of them are up. It's time to get to work!

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, April 2

Before Photos, Forever Home

Let me begin by saying a few things:

Hillary, don't look. Just trust me.

We bought the place for the property and the potential, not the house.

Yes, we must have x-ray vision, or ESP or something, because the "potential" isn't as visible in the pictures as it seemed to be when we first looked at the place. (There are other viable explanations, but let's not go into those, shall we?)

There are captions to each picture. We tried to set it up as a virtual tour.

As we post "after" photos, we'll try to get a finished shot from the matching angle as the corresponding "before" shot. (I always hate those weight loss pictures that go from scowling, slumping, pasty and badly lit befores to fully posed, highly manicured, deeply tanned, smiling professional shots after. Let the results speak for themselves, right? Yeah, or something like that.)

It was actually much darker inside the house, but even w/ the flash on you couldn't see the living/dining room pictures, so I lightened them up enough that you could see.

Remember: that carpet isn't actually taupe. It was platinum white! (I'll post the comparison shot later on in the week - we're down to the gnat's netherregions on projects today, though.)

Oh, and finally, it did not look anything like this by the time we moved in. It was skeletal, as many of you may remember, but it was better than this...

Forever Home Before Photos

Kiss those babies!

We Have A Master Bedroom!

And it's purrrrrty! Or it will be when the trim goes up on the window and the door leading to the back deck gets painted. But even lacking the finishing touches, aside from the actual dimensions, it is not the same room. At all. Doesn't even remotely resemble the one we bought.

And on the whole resemblance thing - I uploaded "before" pictures to my yahoo album. And while I can share them via email using the nifty utility on the page, I can't get the whole url to copy so that I can post a link. Anybody have any experience with this? If you think you can help me get that little glitch figured out, please let me know. It's time to share pictures!

Tomorrow (er, today... later...) I'm going to start clearing stuff out of the foyer while Zorak works on the concrete pours. We'll see some great changes with those two projects!

The boys, Em and I went to Wal-Mart to pick up some fun things, including new linens, which I'll return tomorrow. I don't know why I bought them. I'm not crazy over the color, but they are fairly nice. I just can't see putting 400 thread-count sheets on with my $19.99 IKEA comforter cover (which I love and refuse to part with) - but the sheet selection was really limited. To be honest, I think I panicked. I realized today that while I can accomplish many things (buy groceries, buy books, and heck, even buy clothes) with four children in tow... I cannot pick linens with ANY children. Maybe it wouldn't kill me to look elsewhere for linens? We've been here nearly a year and I haven't set foot in any of the malls other than once, back in December, to see Santa. Eh, we'll see.

When my part of the day's work is done, the kids and I will head off to spend some time with some new homeschool friends in the afternoon. We're all looking forward to that.

And so, with that, I'm off to stand at one end of the hallway and smile at the new door that's now hanging at the other end.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, April 1

What a busy day!

There's no sensation quite like sauntering up to a service counter and saying, "We are doing this mongo project that's way over our heads, and in the process we've taken something apart that we aren't certain how to put back together." You know they just loooooove hearing that, right? Especially coming from a woman hauling four children behind her: one in a sling, one asleep in a cart, and the older two covered in white paint and red dirt... wearing overalls. Then, just in case we might be mistaken for normal people, and to make certain we are the butt of all break room jokes for the rest of the weekend, I broke out the digital camera to show them what I was talking about (because when it comes to windows, I know three words and not one of them had anything to do with what I was asking about). Learning a new skill is always a humbling experience. And I learned a new word today: stoop. No, I mean I learned a new application for that word... (Don't want some random soul to stumble on that sentence and think, "And she's educating her own children!?!")

We then headed to Wal-Mart for some primer, more paint brushes (because no, we don't ever remember to wash them out, why do you ask?) and other paints. It took the poor man in the paint department three hours to mix five one gallon cans for us. He was not having a good day, I think, as he yelled at some customers and was quite short with us, as well. I wanted to, as we put it, go all Way Of The Gun on him (not literally, folks - it's a movie, with the best one-line threat we've ever heard). But on occasion we have the chance to set the example we keep trying to convince our children to follow. This was one of them. It worked beautifully, and not only did I set a good example for the boys, but the boys followed my lead, and by the time our transaction with this gentleman was done, he was smiling and being downright nice. He even tried joking with the boys (but by then they were too freaked out by him to be able to shift gears so quickly, so they stuck with being standoffishly formal, yet polite). My brain was fried. There is simply nothing to do to entertain four children in Wal-Mart for three hours. It felt good to head home.

We pulled in to the drive to find Zorak flinging gravel into the chasms we jokingly refer to as ruts. Today was the first time I've ever entered the property without bottoming out! What a treat! Now we can have that construction dumpster hauled away!

I set the boys up with playdoh at the breakfast bar, reveled in the sight of three happy children creating and playing (and not getting anything stuck in carpet), then headed back to paint the master bedroom. I painted the ceiling (one of the many random shades of white with special names) and part of the trim. Then I moved on to the walls. They are grey, rather than orange. I started singing Johnny Cash songs as the paint went on, but when it dried it lost its "prison wall" look. Quite swanky, if I do say so myself. Zorak threw down the tack strips and hauled out the carpet padding... only to discover they'd given us the wrong padding. Dead in the water, and we were on such a roll! ARGH.

Oh, well. Worse things have happened. We'll switch out the carpet padding in the morning and pick up where we left off. The boys got to bed early and are eagerly awaiting a day at the quarry with friends this weekend. Miss Emily fell asleep at a semi-decent hour. That left Zorak and I alone to plot and plan. He worked on the concrete forms a bit. I sorted clothes. Domesticity at it's most blissfully dull. It was a wonderful evening! And a hectic, busy day.

Kiss those babies!