Tuesday, October 31

And a gooooood morning!

Well, my monthly goals are shot. Today is the last day, and if it weren't for that pesky holiday thing, I could possibly pull it off. But as it stands, I have small children who awoke this morning, asking if they could don their costumes right away. Er, no. You have two full meals to get through first. I'm pretty sure Bob the Builder isn't coated in oat crust by noon. Let's hold off a bit.

We did get many boxes of clothes sorted, washed and packed up for shipping. Now to get them out before postal rates go up again! (Which is, honestly, a whole new goal of itself.) The boys were a great help, sacrificing their room for the staging area, and playing with Miss Emily the Destructor while Smidge and I moved loads. It's so funny to see them excited about doing wash. Sort of like there's something wrong with their wiring. But you know, I'll take that. Help and happiness are just that, and not to be turned away, no matter how weird their forms.

Wish I had a clue what today's plan is, but I don't. Zorak is helping his brother with some science project, and so he's had the computer at night. The organizational portion of my brain can only be accessed when the full moon reaches it's zenith and the wolves howl on the... no, wait. Well, whatever it is, that part cannot be accessed in the light of day. So here I sit, with paint cans around me, kids eating oatmeal, cursing this early morning sunlight and wondering why we can't remember to get curtain rods while we're out. (For clarity's sake: I'm the one cursing the sunlight. The oatmeal eating children are stunningly chipper at the moment.) I know I ought to have a plan, but for the life of me, I can't get one to come together.

Well, it's probably not going to come to me, sitting here writing. Guess I'll go do the next thing and perhaps it'll all come together, no?

Have a wonderful day, and Happy Halloween!

Kiss those ghouls!

Monday, October 30

Home Remodel, Stardate -317828.44

(Yeah, that really is the stardate - cool, huh?)

Well, we have a floor. It's currently five feet high, piled in the foyer and the guest room. But it's ours, baby! And having it here, taking up space, is much like getting a Vitamin B12 shot - we're ready to roll! The energy and motivation those boxes have spread throughout the house is nothing short of amazing. Even my beloved caffeine can no longer give me this boost.

And so, today we'll finish lessons early, head to Lowe's for more primer (because, evidently you kind of need that to paint a door -pfft- details, details), some screen and spline (because there's that whole pesky issue of storm windows and the desire to see through them, open them. whatever.) then home again to finish our work.

The flooring we purchased from iFloor.com - wonderful people to work with. We arrived right at closing time, thanks to our unfamiliarity with time zones and the fact that we'd be crossing one. But if Darlene and Jonathan from the Dalton store were quietly wishing us a slow and painful death from veering off the Interstate on the way home, they never let on. We appreciate that. They were most helpful, interactive, and thoughtful. I know that, for them, flooring is a daily thing. They probably have nightmares about wood floors battling it out with laminates. Everybody they meet is putting in a new floor, and soooo excited about it, and thinks they're the only people in the world who have ever done so. We get that. But they also treated us as if they cared that we're putting in a new floor, they were enthused by our excitement of it, and they never once felt the need to inform us that - hello! - it's an entire industry and no, we're not the only people in the world who have ever done this. That's salesmanship. Plus, they complimented the boys and thought Miss Emily was too cute. ;-)

We left with something completely different than what we'd intended to pick up. We got there, and it didn't say "buy me" the way it did on the computer. After an hour, Zorak clicked on what wasn't quite right about the kind we'd originally chosen. It looked great online, but in person, it was... mmm... well, he leaned over and whispered, "Doesn't that look just like the paneling we pulled out?" I snatched Baby Girl up off that sample and tried very hard not to let my flashbacks show. We went with something else. (Consider this a warning - shopping online can be a lot like internet dating. The hunk in the dark oak you met online could turn out to be nothing but a drunk in a dark paneling wife beater!)

We went with this. It's a little bold, but so was the Adobe Ghetto in the kitchen, and we love that. This goes with the cream, the green, and the adobe colors. I think we're going to love it. And if we don't, that's okay, too, because with four children, I doubt it'll be visible most of the time, anyway.

Sooo, between now and Wednesday, with lessons and Halloween thrown in there for good measure, I've got to get this house Floor Ready (you didn't actually think our plan worked last weekend, did you?) The goal today is to ship out boxes: boxes of clothes, boxes of borrowed things, boxes of gifts. There will not be anything left in our house that is not ours, or should not be ours. This is my dream, er, goal.

And now I've got to go actually be productive, rather than just writing about it.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, October 29

Party like a pirate!

Well, you'd think I'd have taken more photos, what with all the effort that went into this little project. But once he was in the suit, he was in character. Who knew pirates moved so quickly?

We made it to the party, had a fantastic time, ate tons of food (we brought beans and cornbread, homemade chips and green chile con queso - my mouth is still on fire). Most all of the photos have other people's children in them, and I am too tired to crop or blur all the faces, so I've only got a couple of pics. The Dads were great sports, and I think this was the all-around favorite game of the night:

Smidge went as Bob the Builder, but he wouldn't wear the hardhat. He kept it in sight the entire time, but just wouldn't put it on. He did, however, have a fantastic time!

I couldn't get James to hold still for any other pictures, and I was holding Miss Emily most of the time, so didn't get any shots of her but one (and I haven't edited out the background noise in that one yet). But for now, as you can see, we made it. We had a great time. And the costume has held up to a full 24 hours of wear so far! Yay, Tony!!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, October 28

A joke from James

Q: Who do you need to find when your serger's broken?

A: A sergeron.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, October 27

TLM - Reprise

Ahhh, the Phoenix rises from the ashes, thanks to the kindness of Tony, the owner and Super Duper Repair guy of S&R Sewing and Vacuum Center in Decatur. I'd called the Huntsville store (along with every store in a three county radius) this morning, and they'd said he was swamped, but if I dropped it off, he'd try to take a look at it. I said thanks, but explained that there was a little boy who kept poking his head in, asking if he was a pirate yet, and that I'd try another store. I understand that lack of preparation on my part does not constitute an emergency on anyone else's part. Besides, they're having a big Grand Opening sale and they really are swamped.

The phone rang about five minutes later. It was the lady from S&R. Could I get to Decatur by nine? Tony would be there, and he would see what he could do.

Glorioski! Christmas come early! I made everybody throw on clothes and shoes and off we went, in the rain, singing made-up songs about mom's incompetence and Nice Mr. Tony. He looked at it and said he'd have it fixed in an hour. AN HOUR? Oh. How. Cool. So we scouted out a little diner to have breakfast and hide from the rain while we waited. We ate til we thought we'd pop, then slogged back through the rain to pick up our little serger. All fixed and shiny and happy. And even better, a little square of Ghirardelli Dark chocolate tucked under the presser foot. (I think I'm in love!)

The sparkly woman-bling shirt is now a fairly piratey looking vest. The white shirt has been laced. The boots have their wee pirate spats (for lack of a better term). Just have to alter the britches a bit and do a little detail work. And best of all?

It's only 1:30!!

This means we are not going to have to arrive at the party with John dressed as a leaf bag! He's so excited.



Thursday, October 26

TLM - 11:35PM


Man, betrayed by the technology my grandmother adored. It's a decaying process. Her daughter could not use the things, and I, evidently emit some sort of magnetic pulse that causes metal to lock up. (And yes, it's been oiled. Honest.) So, the serger is dead. The sewing machine has no cord. Not sure which of us thought it would be wise to pack a sewing machine separately from its cord, but there ya have it.

Jess thinks I'm insane. She's nice about it, but I know she does. ;-) It's not so much the thrill of it that I love. Not a big thrill-seeker. It's the idea of doing things (making costumes, decorating BEFORE Christmas Eve, buying Easter baskets and actually having time enough left that they need to be stashed away) that I love. The thought that sustains me all year long is that "next year I'll do better". But while I'm wistfully dreaming of "next year" and how wonderful it'll be and how together I'll be, "next year" sneaks up behind me and plants its foot in my, um, plans. Every time.

That's it. I'm buying Christmas presents online on Monday.

And now, I'm going to scroll through the yellow pages and line up possibilities. Perhaps somebody will take my serger in tomorrow morning and I can still make the 5PM party? Then I'm making a fresh pot of coffee and staring into space, darnit.

Ah, well, there's always tomorrow!

TLM - 9:59PM

Now I remember why I hate my serger.

TLM - 8:38PM

Since last I posted...

I couldn't find my pins, so I stapled the soon-to-be-vest in order to size it. I'm sure it will turn out okay, but I can't say I'd recommend this as a "crafty alternative in a pinch". Just don't do it. The older kids think it's weird, and the younger ones get ideas. Bad, bad ideas.

The vest is ready for sewing.

The stapler is way up high.

Looked for the machines again. Got creeped out after ten minutes and came back upstairs.

Zorak got home. We all pounced on him with our glee and delight. He gave me one of those, "Have you been drinking?" looks. Hmpf. Back down to the basement.


Why is my sewing machine missing the foot pedal?

Oh well. So, um, that all took place about an hour ago. Since then I've been battling the serger. I'm losing.

John's walking around in a pair of jeans and a dangly clip-on earring... I think he's a bit anxious.


TLM - 6:39PM

OK, so maybe I just haven't had enough coffee today, but just WHAT is so interesting about picking a seam? I swear, they couldn't have stuck to me any tighter if I'd been hiding chocolate in my pocket, hoping they'd leave so I could eat it. Not that, you know, I've... oh, who am I kidding. I've done that, and worse. And if I had it now, I'd be hiding, eating it.

Anyway, that's it. It's been over an hour and I've picked the seams out of two sleeves to remove them from the top. That. Is. It. Smidge is wearing one sleeve on his head. Kinda looks like a pharoah's head gear. James is picking the length of the seam on the other sleeve for me. I fantasize that the sleeves will become (magically, while I sleep) pockets for the vest.

I can't find my serger or sewing machine. Now that I think about it, I've asked Zorak several times over the past week to bring them up and always he says he will, but then forgets. I suspect he can't find them, either. They're really quite well-hidden. Did find the snap press. Perhaps Zorak can whip up a Boogie Nights outfit for himself this evening? But the kid's gonna go as a homeless petty officer in peacetime if I don't pick up the pace.


The Last Minute...

*said in my best voice over*

Welcome to The Last Minute! This is it, folks. This is when the magic happens. Right here, at The Last Minute.

This is when you realize you can staple together the front of a costume rather than add velcro. This is when a specific cowboy becomes Any Old Cowboy, and you can use the threat of candy for acceptance of the changes. This is when sweats become bats, and if you say it IS a monkey head often enough, it will magically become a monkey head.

This is when the rubber hits the couch and things go all awry out there on the road. This is... My Finest Hour.

It is 5:24PM (according to the clock on the computer. I have no idea what time it is out there in the real world, but let's just assume that a minute is sixty seconds anywhere and follow along on the whole lapsed time thing and we'll all be good to go.)

I have, sitting in bags before me: a sparkly blue and gold shirt for a well-endowed woman, a fuzzy scarf, a pair of jeans that must have been part of some grown man's Hulk costume a few years back, a belt, half a yard of black vinyl, an old lady's neckerchief, a couple of "decorator rings" (whatever those are), and a spool of thread.

Can this become a pirate?

Can this become a pirate before tomorrow?

Will he live this down?

Or will this imbue me with inspiration for blackmail in twelve short years?

Only time will tell, but anything can happen at The Last Minute... it's the most wonderful tiiiiiiiime, of the yeeeeeeear!


Wednesday, October 25


Some days have the potential to be inspiring days, filled with exploration and joy; days bursting with goodness and gentleness, much like a 1970's fabric softener commercial. Today may have had that potential, but we didn't pull it off. It started off on a weird note when Zorak woke me by handing me a crying, stinky baby at 7:30, with the admonition, "Here ya go. I've gotta run." What? Where's the alarm clock? Or, barring the alarm, where's the coffee?

I should have cancelled the dentist appointment, stayed home, cooked, and read. Next time my day starts like that, I think I will.

It was a rough one, just weird from start to finish. There were even a few things that were simply too odd to sort out. My personal favorite came tonight, from James. I cannot share the context, (because I was hiding and refused to go see what was going on - Zorak had the helm, and I left him to it). All I know is that the child was in tears when he uttered this phrase. I may never know the rest of the story.:

Well, would you want to lick my tongue?

Come to think of it, we may not want to know...

Miss Emily is firmly entrenched in her 9 month growth spurt. Hiking across the desert in August with nothing but a bag of pork rinds wouldn't leave a person so parched.

Costumes: mostly figured out. I think. The only one that's going to require actual effort on my part tomorrow is John's pirate costume. Gotta dig up the sewing machine (and then find a place to use it... and then figure out what I'm doing.) James plans to re-tread his Superman costume, and our Wonderful Friends have come to the rescue with an outgrown Bob the Builder costume Smidge can wear. I bought a hardhat and yellow spraypaint today to round out the look. Miss Emily is set to be a ladybug.

All's well that ends well, though. We began Farmer Boy tonight, and had lights off around eight-thirty. Everyone was out by nine. James got back up around ten and said he was hungry. I gave him a banana and some warm milk, and we read a bit of Tucket's Travels together while he snacked and we snuggled. Then he brushed his teeth and headed to bed. I don't think he was hungry, really. I think he just didn't like ending the day on a sour note and needed a little more comfort. That's good, I think. I'm glad that comfort is the norm for him.

I'm glad that's the norm for all of us. It ensures that we'll work harder together, as a team, to make tomorrow a better day.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, October 24

A meme?

I always think about doing these, but never get around to doing them. But then Becca tagged me, officially, so I thought I'd give it a try. This is a "Ten Random Facts About Me" meme. Are these supposed to be little known things? Or do we shoot for weird things? Or is it just truly random? Ok, ok, I've got the first one:

1. I draw a total blank when asked a relatively vague question.

So here goes. 10 9 Random thoughts about me...

2. Zorak kicks my butt at "Name that Band" - every time. I have some kind of musical turret's that causes me to shout "Bob Seger" at the most inappropriate moments.

3. I didn't learn to dance until I was 22.

4. I studied Italian for two years, in the hope I would one day be called to serve as a missionary in Italy. (Yeah, I know, that's an odd way to go about it. I was twelve. That's about all I can say on that one.)

5. Up until about six months after I'd met Zorak, neither marriage nor motherhood was on my radar. At all. Ever.

6. I can wrestle a stud wall into place, rebuild an engine, and sew a straight line, but I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what to fix for lunch!

7. Although I'm not a fan of some of the technology available, I must admit that I got a little thrill in my knees when I saw the new commercial for a vehicle that will parallel park for you.

8. I used to train to be a powerlifter. (Laney, shush!)

9. I've never smoked pot or taken any illegal narcotic substance.

10. Coffee. Good thing it's legal, right?

Ok, that fruffnsnuffn dagburned dryer buzzer just woke the baby. I tag anyone who hasn't done this yet, but thinks it look like fun! I'll catch y'all later.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, October 23

Dentists and Cabinets and Bugs, Oh my!

Blogging and heading for bed tonight! The low is supposed to be around 28. We haven't hooked up the propane to the HVAC yet, and the behemoth stove is still in exile in the basement, so it's gonna be a cold one tonight! (We're loving the beautiful days, but this cold snap at night caught us off guard. Thank heaven for space heaters!)

The checkups for the boys went fairly well. No plaque, no tartar, happy gums, clean tongues. Everything that is supposed to be receiving excellent attention and maintenance, is receiving excellent attention and maintenance (yay!) But they STILL all have new cavities! Every. Single. Child. (argh!) WHY is this happening? The dentist is very nice about it, but somehow he comes across as if he's saying, "You really suck at this, ya know." I *know* that's not what he means, but... *sigh* He's convinced it's a diet thing, now.

So we did the routine Q&A:
Do they drink a lot of juice?
Mmm, no. In the past six months, they've had juice maybe, MAYBE twice a week. If that.
No, we don't even buy that. Or sodas. They have soda perhaps twice a month. When we eat out, we all drink water. When they're "thirsty", I give them water. We really drink a lot of water.
Sugar before bed, or drinks at bedtime?
Nope. Nothing passes those lips but water after their teeth are brushed.
Unh-uh. I tried the chocolate chips with lessons thing, but that was more work than it was worth and lasted a whopping two days out of the past three years. So, um, no. We never eat taffy, and they don't eat caramels or nougats... (of course, I'll have to fess up on Wednesday that *I* eat all the caramels at night, while the children are sleeping. My diet is deplorable, but theirs is great!)
Processed foods like snack cakes and cookies?
Uh, wheat allergy means any cakes and cookies we do eat are homemade and generally free of a lot of the gunk. No high-fructose corn syrup. WAY less sugar than store-bought things.

Really, we're a LOT better than my mother was with me! *grin*

They're already little flossing maniacs. The teeth are clean, just... weak? We're going to add a third brushing to our daily routine: a light brushing with baking soda after lunch. And the boys readily agreed to a total moratorium on any and all junk food from now until their next checkups (although Zorak kindly mentioned certain upcoming holidays, so that will need to be renegotiated a bit). Perhaps that will work.

In the meantime, poor Smidge has a referral to a pediatric specialist. His front teeth overlap slightly on the edges, and the dentist said there is decay at each spot where the teeth rest against each other. He'd like to put crowns on all four front teeth. (I don't know that we're going to follow that recommendation. Figure we'll talk with the specialist first and go from there.) It breaks my heart, and we feel like absolute loser parents for this, but when we stand back and look objectively... we can't really find anything obvious that's causing it. Maybe we need to take them in for a blood workup? Would a blood serum calcium deficiency cause this kind of problem? Anybody else with good diet and hygiene still run into dental problems in their little ones?

After the lengthy visit, we hit the library, where we returned our books for the THIRD TIME IN A ROW without late fines! WOOHOO, we're on a roll! Maybe someday soon John will stop referring to our visits as "renting" books from the library. ;-) All stocked up for the week with some wonderful reads!

Then, as a treat for a day well-executed, we headed to Cook's Natural Science Museum. It's a little place, but just the right size when you're eight and six and three. Very friendly staff. Incredibly diverse collection. They have an historic mousetrap collection, insects from around the world, aquatic and regional critters... the ladies there were very knowledgable and shared tons of interesting information with the boys. The boys had a delightful time exploring the many hands-on exhibits and discussing the interesting, detailed displays. I think this will be one of our regular hot spots for a while. Good way to enjoy the afternoon.

We did meet with Patient Mr. Cabinet Guy. He's so... patient. He couldn't really answer our concern about putting the Swiss Army Cabinet against a wall. Said he's done it before, and hasn't heard any complaints, but acknowledged that people don't always complain to the salesman or managers when they're unhappy. He'd put in a few calls, but didn't get any satisfactory information. So, we'll have to swing by Lowe's (because Home Depot does not have any of the tall cabinets on display other than one lone, empty pantry) to see what's up with the angles and whether it's worth trying to make it fit. In case it's a no-go, though, Patient Mr. Cabinet Guy did help us design two other very feasible options, both of which would move the microwave from atop the fridge. Zorak's eyes twinkled, and he obviously preferred both of those options to the Swiss Army Cabinet. (Something about balancing scalding leftovers above your head with small children darting between your feet as if on a dare... makes him nervous.) So, we'll see. Like I told the boys, now Mommy and Daddy have to go sit and stare at one another until one of us comes up with an answer.

And Miss Emily? She was a TROOPER today. Granted, she passed out every time we got back in the car, so she was a little dazed for the first half hour at each stop. But she was just her normal, happy, clapping, giggling little self. She's like carrying around a ball of sunshine wherever we go. Gotta love that!

Well, I can't feel my fingers now, so I'm going to go before the typos get too bad to correct.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, October 22

General Stuff

OH yeah, after the grandfather comment from earlier in the week, Zorak got carded for beer at the market yesterday! I'd forgotten about that. (Although I did laugh. Quite heartily.) So, go figure. Is he eighteen... or eighty? Dun-da-daaa! He's Chameleon Man!

Today, we worked. We primed and cleaned and moved. We chopped and sorted and stacked. We changed our minds a hundredtybillion times (maybe more) about the Swiss Army Cabinet. We hunted down Patient Mr. Cabinet Man, who has moved to another store and still can't get away from us. (OK, it was a promotion and he gets to work M-F now, rather than "retail hours". I'm pretty sure it wasn't us. Not entirely.) We'll meet with him tomorrow and order us a cabinet of some kind! Wahoo!

Today I burned, er, baked not one loaf of bread, but three, and three batches of cinnamon rolls. Sunday, it turns out, is not a good baking day for me. Most of it was edible. The upside to today's baking fiasco is that we will have bread pudding for breakfast tomorrow, because that's what we do with the failed wheat-free loaves.

The wheat-free loaf would have turned out perfectly, had any one of the six of us in this house had heard the timer beep. Of course, that would have saved the bread that was already in the oven, as well. But, ah, no. And so, two loaves burnt and one loaf overproofed to the point of reaching critical mass and imploding. Zorak has already eaten most of one of the whole wheat loaves I made. Maybe it's a sympathy play. Or one of KathyJo's euphemisms. The cinnamon rolls, actually, weren't "burnt", but they didn't get removed from the muffin tins in time and what was supposed to be the caramel glaze cooled into... a praline-style Gorilla Glue. Ick.

Tomorrow we have three, possibly four, dental appointments. At nine in the morning. I tried to schedule for a Friday so Zorak could go with us, but the office is no longer open on Fridays. Don't know what's up with that, but considering the amount of business they get from our family, I'm thinkin' they could open on Friday, see us all, close up shop as we leave, and make out like bandits. Maybe I'll talk to them about that tomorrow. ;-)

And so, to bed. Tomorrow's going to come way too early!

Kiss those babies!

Kind of different...

This has been the week for unexpected comments from strangers! None of them have been bad, per se, just... odd.

Comment #1:
While we were eating out last week, Zorak noticed that a couple of older, grandmotherly types were eyeballing the baby. Miss Emily was in good form, and so he took her over to say hello (much to the delight of said eyeballers). It seemed like such a routine exchange of pleasantries and reminiscences, until one of the ladies asked Zorak, "Are these all your grandchildren?"

*blink* *blink*


"Your grandchildren, are they all yours?"

BWAAHAAHAAAA!!! (I can laugh. It wasn't me. This time.)

Maybe it's the beard.

Comment #2:
Then today, we were at the mall, trying to track down comforters for the boys. We paused at a stall which displayed blinking things. No, we didn't expect to find blankets there, but those lights -- they drew James like a staticky television will draw an unsuspecting little blonde girl. So, as he's staring into the light, the gentleman manning the booth and I struck up a conversation. All seems normal, when out of nowhere, he says, "Where are you from?"

(Side note: I hate this question. Around here, people mean, "Did you travel all the way from Priceville, or are you from here in town?" But this guy wasn't from here, his accent was faintly Mediterranean, with a bit of an Indian lilt to it. So I wasn't sure if he meant here-here, or around-here, here...)

In going with our Forever Home theme (This Is Home), I said we were from our little town. He cocked his head and asked, very slowly, the way some people will do when they think you're not quite proficient with the language, "But where are you from?"

Oh, well, we're from New Mexico. *smile* (OK, answered that one without looking like too much of an idiot. Meanwhile, James is still staring intently at the lights.)

But no, again with the question. This time, a bit more slowly. I just stared at him, because, frankly, I was no longer certain I understood his question properly. Finally, he says, "You're not European?"

When my laughter died down a bit, he explained that he thought for sure we were from the Netherlands, or perhaps Germany. Nothing he could pin down. We just "had that feel" about us.

Of course, he could have been from Texas, I guess. In the end, it doesn't really matter where we're from, as long as we can talk and visit and enjoy the interactions we have from day to day. And both conversations turned into delightful ones, in spite of their odd beginnings. I hope you have some delightful surprises in store for you this week!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, October 21

Industrious Days

(A grouchy post)

This weekend is The Weekend of Preparation. We're not actually preparing for anything, but it makes us more productive if we have a goal. We've gone over all the little things that need doing - some obvious, like finishing the trim painting, others not so obvious until, say, it rains... that's like a big, soggy highlighter from God, there. Or the dental work I thought I could put off a while, until tonight. Anyway, I doubt we'll end up with a floor before Christmas; there are simply too many other pressing obligations. But that's okay. I'm glad we can take care of these things, and that's forward motion. I just asked that we take this weekend to get (and, by affiliation of said request, keep) the house "floor ready". You know, like normal people live.

I'm tired of the state of disarray, to be honest. Yes, this is a construction zone, but it's also our home. I'm tired of tripping over a shop-vac in my kitchen (I do move it, but it makes it way "home" while I'm not looking). I'm tired of the baby teething on the reversible screwdriver bits (just how many of those do we have, anyway?) I'm tired of not being able to scrub what floor we do have because it takes a full day to clear the junk up off of it before we can even get to the sweeping and vacuuming. And I won't even go into the shoes... those shoes that turn up everywhere... they're like the voices in the head of an Alfred Hitchcock antagonist.

I do what I can, but it's not enough. And I refuse to be a nag about this stuff - nagging won't help anymore than setting it on fire does. (Trust me.) But, as Zorak is fond of pointing out (sometimes at the most inopportune moments), I do have "control issues". So, going against my own grain in this endeavor is making me subtly and unpredictably grouchy. Well, perhaps not so subtly.

So today we buckled down and got to work. It was productive:

* School Room - sanded, textured, caulked and vacuumed check
* Boys Room - scoured and prepped for curtains and hanging IKEA thingies check
* Nursery - ... um, didn't get around to the nursery
* Basement - I don't even ask anymore, but I heard noises that sounded too big to be mice, and there are more boxes in the foyer, so I'm guessing something was done on that front check
* Clutter -
- library books rounded up check
- paper from the Alter of Incoming Bills cleared out check
- baby clothes sorted for washing (this time it's the baby boy clothes) check
* Pantry - actually rethinking the pantry option, but we will order something this week. Oh, yes, we will. check (In the meantime, I resorted and organized the kitchen bookshelf/pantry again, so small check on that one.)
* Clean off that hillbilly front porch! check

Now that the boys' windows are clean on the inside, it's obvious that tomorrow, I need to tackle the storm windows. They need to be removed, cleaned, repaired and put back up. New screens. Clean and lubricate the tracks. General happy homeowner stuff. Should be good. Should feel productive. There's just nothing like a frenzied cleaning binge to cure what ails ya.

Which brings me to the things that make me smile:
We need to buy James new winter jammies, as he insists on growing out of last year's clothes every. single. year. :-)
The boys are very excited about the school room.
Zorak is very excited about building bookshelves for the school room.
Emily is very excited about everything. She does "yay", and "wolf puppy" and many other things that take me back to the other children's infant years.

And that makes me very thankful - for the helpful, generous-hearted 8 year old; for the loving, doting 6 year old; for the delightful, happy 3 year old; for the sweet and exuberant 9 month old. And perhaps most especially, even when I don't feel like it, thankful for the dedicated, somewhat surly but always loving... erm, older one.

Thursday, October 19

Autumn Recipe Tag

Mere, who regularly makes me smile, makes me think, keeps me alternately laughing so hard I cry, and standing in awe of her creativity (and motivation - definitely the motivation part), and is generally just thoroughly enjoyable to read, posted one of her favorite fall recipes when she heard rumors of autumnal weather reaching her neck of the woods. They are now well-fed, and shedding sweaters by ten AM. (Never listen to rumors spread by weathermen!)

Hmmm, let's tag everybody and put together the most delicious Autumn Recipe Collection!

Andie has inadvertently started the ball rolling with her Royal Thanksgiving Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Fit For a Queen.

It doesn't take much - just one recipe. One thin index card. Go on, try it. Post your favorite autumn recipe here, or post it on your blog and let us know here so we can all feast in the fall!

Kiss those babies!

(I'll figure out what to add later today. Right now I've got to go look productive.)

Wednesday, October 18

GAH!! I'm a heel.

Little did I know how prophetic my words were when I said the bug day would probably be better than the farm field trip. Today was the deadline to pay to reserve our spot (yes, I know, nothing like the last minute for getting things done). I'd made arrangements to just swing payment by while we were in town, since this is our "goin' to town day". Everything was going along smoothly.

Well, we got out the door with everyone and everything - loaves of bread for Mr. Ward and Miss Terry, Pioneer Club handbooks, library books, grocery list... everything except the directions, and phone number of the lady I was supposed to deliver the payment to. And I didn't know her last name. If we hadn't been TO town by the time I realized my mistake, I'd have gone back. But that's, what, $50 in gas? *sigh* I feel like a real heel, and am not sure how I'm going to explain it to the boys. Well, I'll just be honest, yes, but I'm going to feel even worse before it's all over. And the boys are going to be so disappointed.

OK, it's after eleven. We got home twenty minutes ago, and the kids are now down, except for Miss Emily. It's been a very long day, and tomorrow probably won't be terribly perky. So I'm going to get her down and see about making plans to do something solo on the farm field trip end. I know I can't make it right, but maybe I'll be able to make it at least a little better.

Kiss those babies!

The Great Acorn Hunt

This was, hands down, a great day. I don't know why we don't do things like this more often. (Well, I do - it's been too hot until just recently, and we're just now limbering up from our summer sloth.) Anyway, this was probably better than the upcoming farm pumpkin thing we're doing next week. I'm telling ya, a cheap hammer and a little direction will keep them occupied, learning, and working together for h-o-u-r-s.

The boys were first struck by the colors we found:




(Short attention span. But, really, they were lovely flowers.)

I started us off with a known healthy nut. As a... um, control sample. Yeah.

The boys, however, went straight for the good stuff. And I use that term loosely...

(Not a clue why 2 out of 3 are not wearing shirts... come to think of it, they had shirts on when they went out. Huh. Weird.)

And their efforts were rewarded...

That photo is blurry b/c it's difficult to hold still with the stoopid dog pulling on my leg. There were many, many more like this big guy, but this one was, by far, the biggest. It was gross.

Meanwhile, Miss Emily and I hung out on our bamboo mat at the top of the hill and enjoyed the beautiful leaves. The dog, not so much. But the leaves were nice.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, October 17

The Ew, er, Wow Factor

When you are eight or six or three, this is just a great way to spend an overcast autumn day...

It all started, as many things do when you have small children, with a discussion of maggots. What are they? Where'd they come from? How'd they get in the house? (Not my house, but that's only due to the butt-puckering fits I throw when I find smuggled "goodies" stashed in the recesses of closets.) Hmmm... a mystery!

Then someone shared a link... Acorn Larvae.

Well, you can guess what we've been doing since breakfast! The boys sought out nuts while the bread pudding baked. We ate, did math, history and Latin, and then, like three small shots, they were outta here. (I am stunned they did as much work as they did, truthfully.)

The stunning success factor rendered by dumping the nuts in water first (floaters are, or have been, inhabited) makes for a sensational day of learning. Yes, indeed.

I've got photos. I'll upload them when I'm not feeling quite so queasy... They're still at it. I can hear them, now. "This one's even BIGGER!" "Wow, there are two in this one." "Ewww, what's it doing?"

I'll haul them in for a snack here in a bit, and as always, kiss those babies (after they've washed up, right?)


Monday, October 16

Lesson Recap

We've begun week 5 of Latin for Children, which is a review week. Therefore, you get a wrap up of our lessons over the past month. We are making steady, forward motion in most areas, and for that, I'm thankful. Besides, what better time to review than during a period of absolutely no progress at all?

LfC: so far, so good. The boys have learned the first declension, two maxims, a ton of vocabulary, how to identify which nouns belong to the first declension, and several grammar chants. They "get" inflection. They're now able to spot the different cases, and decline nouns on demand. The vocabulary moves more quickly than we've been accustomed to before, but they don't seem to mind (or notice - but I'm not going to be the one to point it out). They look forward to doing Latin, which is good, considering it's a daily part of our lessons.

On the daily front, we'll segue into Math. James has moved his work from paper to the white board for now, and we've delayed the move into Delta for a bit. His housekeeping skills aren't what they need to be for him to be quick and comfortable with the multiple digit multiplication, so we decided to linger and loiter a bit until we can iron those kinks out. Graph paper helps quite a bit, but right now it's a focus thing, and the white board seems to be big enough to block out any distractions. *grin* He's got the technical aspects of it, so now we're working on, like I said, the housekeeping. We'll work on the board a bit longer, then move back to graph paper, and then into the next book. He still does his peripheral math for fun, and continues to learn, even as we hover a bit. Yet another reason we love homeschooling: what they need, how they need it.

John is in Alpha now, moving quickly through the review portion of the first few chapters. We review telling time daily with a manipulative clock (it's one we picked up at the Dollar Store, not related to the MUS materials), with his goal being his very own wristwatch for Christmas. He's pretty psyched over the "serious study" aspect of Alpha, compared with the "experiment and explore" tone of Primer. Primer was absolutely worth the initial investments for him (both in time and money), but I think he feels like he's a *real student* now, and he loves that.

History... mmm, honestly, I need to sit down, print out all the student pages, buy the audio tapes, stock up on craft crap, and throw a Story of the World, Vol. I Weekend Bash with the kids. I had hoped to be finished with that book by now and deeply enmeshed in Famous Men of Rome. We're so not there. Our tried-and-true method of reading History during lunch has fizzled with the repeated addition of children to the mix. Smidge is far too busy cracking jokes, or making bodily function noises for my voice to be heard over the ensuing din. Miss Emily is far too much fun to watch and interact with, as well. So when the boys are not laughing at Smidge's antics, they're staging their own open mike night in the hope of making Miss Emily laugh. I'm going to have to regroup and try something else. History should be something engaging, not something your mother shouts at you over her Fritos and coffee. This is where my end of the deal kicks into high gear, and I'll figure out something. Or die trying. What we do get through, they "get", and it's sticking. That's a good place to start. Now I just have to find a way to quiet the roar enough to get through more of it, more efficiently.

Science is going quite well. We're actually doing the notebook pages and narrations regularly, although we could stand to do more experiments. With a house full of boys, though, I suspect we could do experiments daily and they'd still think we should be doing more (more, MORE!!!) We spend computer time each week on astronomy sites, which has added not only a little more interest to the lessons, but the opportunity for the boys to learn some new skills on the computer, as well. In the spirit of using the resources available, I'm hoping to cap our study of astronomy with a full-scale trip to the Marshall Space Flight Center up in Huntsville. In the meantime, though, we have plans to blow up a planet between Mars and Jupiter to see if we can create an asteroid belt.

We've enjoyed studying a bit of Baroque in our music studies this month, and the boys seem to have found the joy of Domenico Scarlatti. (And here, my inner self does a little happy dance. I've always loved this stuff, and it is fun to watch their faces as they listen. Sometimes they'll make up stories to go along with the music. Other times, they'll "hush" one another and just listen...) I'd like to supplement our studies with more hands-on material. If anyone has any recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

The rest of our studies we slip in through our reading. Tons of reading, but I'll have to to a Reading Roundup in a separate post. It's time to finish the evening chores and rest up for tomorrow.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, October 15

"You Owe Me"

This news echoes across the kitchen, from my beloved's mouth, as I'm standing by the kitchen, peering at him over the mounds of dirty dishes. I shout back (because we can't get within five feet of one another due to the entire contents of the cabinet under the sink being strewn about the floor), "Shyah. For what?" He smirks. (This usually indicates that he totally has me, and he knows it.) "For not having company."

OK, you know how sometimes your liver rebels against your body and tries to escape through your mouth? Yeah, that happened. I didn't even bother to scan the terrain: archaeological dig in the kitchen, yard sale-style clothing piles in the hallway (14 loads - it adds up when you're wringing it out by hand, okay?), the mess-hall-mid-air-raid decor in the dining room, and the children strung over random pieces of furniture.

"Dear. God. No. WHO would want to come over? NOW? No. Tell me they're not coming." (I don't even know who "they" are, but I don't want "them" here right now. And yes, he totally has me on this one.)

"I explained that we'd have to switch from renovation mode to cleaning mode, and that I really don't want to. Actually, I explained that you'd feel compelled to and would make me do it."

OK. I'm good with that. I'll take the heat. So, who was it?

My friend with the uber tidy wife and no kids whose home is always immaculate. (That's not actually how he put it - he just told me their names, but that's what the translation reads in my head.)

I owe him more than he knows...

The dishwasher finally went into place, and doesn't leak. We're working it hard now. Andie, thanks for removing the curses. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that. I kept offering to wash the dishes after each meal, and he kept saying, "No, no, it's just about in... damn... ok, I've got to run to town one more time. THEN it'll be ready. Just hang on." And so, the dishes piled up, and up, and up. But now, they are gone. And we have a new soldering iron. Yay!

And, thanks to the motivating power of gut-wrenching fear, the kitchen is now just about spotless. Feels so good. I can almost feel the new floor beneath my feet (almost, mostly what I feel is splinters, so I just stand very still and imagine). We made some serious headway, and that feels really quite good.

Kiss those babies!


Had to mark the time, as this was a long one. I'm now officially no longer "at work", per se, just on-call. There's still the wash to finish up, the kitchen to tidy, and some planning to do, but the children are, finally, all down.

(And then, at 11:54, I was called back on duty and didn't get to finish the post - it's now Sunday and here we are...)

Today Yesterday, we didn't do much of anything, really. It was one of those deeply normal days that might cause me some blogging angst, but in reality, soothe the soul and uplift the spirit. I actually uttered a sigh of exhaustion, er, relief at the end of it all. It was nice. We hung out, watching cartoons, eating cold cereal, playing with the dog. We made Smidge put on a shirt because just looking at him made the rest of us cold. We ran errands: Home Depot, Lowe's, Wal-Mart. We looked at flooring. We got updated quotes on the Swiss Army Cabinet. We stopped at our favorite buffet and ate until we couldn't move.

The big news: we picked up a dishwasher. In-stock. On sale. Happy day. Zorak is installing it as I type, but has not-so-subtly requested that I not take photos and blog it.

The bad news: I've got to call Sears on Monday because our washing machine seems to have work ethic issues. I'm not expecting it to do 16 pairs of jeans, or a king size comforter. I'd be happy if it would spin out one queen sheet (not the set, just one. sheet. which it won't do, as I learned during last week's bedding exchange marathon), or even two pairs of jeans. But no. Not gonna spin the water out, not for a million bucks. Well, no, I'm sure if I stuck a million bucks in there, it'd work just fine and probably catch all of it in the handy-dandy filter which I cannot access. But since it's still under warranty, I refuse to knock off a bank to get my washer to spin. So, we'll call in Mr. Repair Man and see if he can convince it to pull its fair share around here. I'm tired of hand-wringing the wash before putting it in the dryer. I'm going to ask him to neuter the buzzer while he's in there, too.

This morning, I saw that Miss Andie has pulled it off - a Thomas cake for the little guy's birthday!! It's gorgeous! WOOHOO! Way to go! Head on over, check it out, and give wee Leo some big birthday greetings.

And now, I've got a kitchen to put back together, and all that laundry and planning I was going to do last night. My mother would not believe I'm doing this and loving it.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, October 13

Just in case...

Just in case I was going a little too easy on myself over this whole Halloween preparation (or lack of) thing...

And just in case I was living (rather blissfully) in denial about Thanksgiving...

Somebody just had to go and mention Christmas (only 73 days left!).

Then someone else came to the rescue with a planner. A free planner. Oh, that's a good idea! YES. I like lists. I like planning things. I like free. So I opened the site to see...

Week #1 - List Week Oct 3- 8

...that I'm already behind.

Oh, well.

For those who might enjoy some festive lists to lose for the holidays, there's Organized Christmas. (How wrong is that?)

I'll print them out. And I'll lose them. And I'll feel quite in the holiday spirit about the whole thing. We go with the flow around here. And did you know Advent calendars are a LOT of fun when you just eat the whole thing on Christmas Eve while you read the story in one shot? Yeah, it's not all bad.

The one thing we definitely would like to do this year is get Christmas cards out. Before New Year's. Preferably before Christmas, but we're starting slowly. Last year, we had such lovely cards adorning the bare studs in the living room - they made the Forever Home feel very much like Home, even when it was still, technically, an uninhabitable shack. And something that can brighten a room that much, well, it's something we'd like to share.

Besides, we're always up for an attempt to get all four children pointing the same direction at once, and smiling. Or at least not crying. One at a time, it's easy...

Even two at a time can be done...

But we've yet to accomplish anything with the whole gang...

I wonder how much work it would take to make a composite...

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, October 12


Because I am tired.

Because it's late.

And because this was too good not to share.

Kiss those babies!

Wild Wednesday!

This has SO not been my week for Domestic Achievement. It has, however, been a wonderful hands-on lesson in paying attention to details.

Let's ignore the dishes (no, really, please ignore them...), and even the weird piles of paper that would indicate there are two elderly, blind, compulsive packrats residing somewhere in the front of the house. It goes far deeper than that.

I made rice pancakes today. That was my first time actually making the recipe. I've tried several times, but always forget, when I'm making rice for supper, than I plan to use the leftovers for pancakes and, well, I'm not certain the boys would go for garlic or cumin pancakes. So, I whipped up a batch today and it was a little... thin. Disturbingly thin, to be honest. I rechecked the recipe. It did say, "Whisk until you have a light and creamy batter." Hmm, ok, well, it was creamy and, yes, certainly "light". I scooped some out and slapped it onto the griddle. And it ran EVERYWHERE. Suddenly, rather than pancakes, I was whipping up fried milk and eggs with rice bits. Interesting, but not what I was hoping for. (Upon closer scrutiny of the recipe, I realized I'd left out a cup and a half of flour. Ohhhh! Okay. Makes much more sense now.)

Made Magic Milk Shakes yesterday. Aside from the fact that our blender just isn't big enough (the note in the recipe said the blender "should be about 3/4 full now", at which point, I was stuffing things in through the hole in the lid b/c there was no more room), the milkshakes didn't look a bit like anything Frosty-like. I mean, they were good, but not... right. It wasn't until later than night, while sharing the recipe with LB that I realized I'd completely spaced the powdered milk component of the recipe.

The clean, shiny change, Snickers wrappers, and compass I washed, along with the jeans...

The windows (that's all I can bring myself to say on that point)...

Where has the routine gone? The focus? The order? (Quit sniggling, there was some, at some point. I know there was.) The joy of the routine, focus and order?

OK, maybe there wasn't joy in it. But there's certainly no joy in the runny pancakes and ruined laundry, either. (The milkshakes, nobody complained about, so they don't count, not entirely.)

And then, when the pupil is ready and all that jazz... on the radio, I heard a bit about children and obedience. The phrase was "comply quickly, sweetly, completely". The station blitzed out right after that, but that's okay. I heard what I needed to. I seldom obey quickly, sweetly, completely. Good place to start.

That whole "task at hand" thing? Yeah, a little attention to detail would have left last week - blood, puke, and all - running much more smoothly.

Someone sent me an encouraging email about things I needed encouraging about.

Bloggers blogged about things that encouraged me, and strengthened my resolve to step out of the mental cellar, where, as I said to a friend earlier today, I'd fallen into the vats of whine I keep down there, to come on up and Get Doin'. Do it quickly, sweetly, completely. Stick to the task at hand. Find the joy in the mundane, the joy in the incredibly small setbacks. Wiggle those toes and watch the baby giggle. Read one more book. Sing while we wash the dishes. Suck it up while I pay the bills. Be a better steward of the money I've been entrusted with to manage our home. Fix lunch for Zorak more consistently. (Did I used to put notes in his lunches? Why did I stop? I still feel the same way, but it doesn't do him any good if I don't let him know.)



Things like that.

And I'm gonna kiss my babies just a little bit more, too.

Tuesday, October 10

It wasn't Bob

Wow, you guys are creative! I love the suggestions and ideas. Maybe we could make a SpongeBob cake for Zorak's birthday next year. He likes Spongebob.

The uncanny resemblance to Bob the Tomato is probably residual from that being our first themed cake. We've done Bob and Larry twice. This picture isn't so great, but it's definitely the eyes. LOL. (The only good, head-on shot we have wasn't digital, and it's in a box somewhere. Pardon the flaming teeth.)

Have any of you ever read Matt Groening's books? Or have I completely underestimated the literary breadth of my audience? If so, I apologize. Truly. (If so, I am also quite thoroughly outed now, and probably shunned from making any book reviews ever.) However that may play out, though, we just can't look at the smokestack (seen here in a behind-the-scenes shot) ~

...and not see the one-eared rabbit, Bongo, from Groening's Life in Hell series of comics. (They're irreverent, somewhat baudy, and... shamelessly funny. But may not be suitable for some viewers reading over shoulders, if you know what I mean.) So, there you have it - not Bob. Definitely not Bob. And as far as Smidge knows that was all Thomas.

The things we keep to ourselves for the sake of our children, huh? ;-)


Monday, October 9

Belated Birthday Photos

Now that our printer issues have been mostly resolved (currently, everything is sitting smack in the middle of the room, and the cords make a lovely clothesline booby-trap for unsuspecting children... so, not *all* issues, obviously), I could upload photos from, oh, the beginning of September.

So, without further ado, here's Smidge's birthday. Three! He's three! (And still hooked on Thomas, the crack-dealing toddler toy...)

"Daddy made this cake just for me!" He was so happy, he really needed no other gift. This cake was everything he could have hoped for.

And here's Smidge, at the tail end of the day, reading a book with his "Me-wah", who has been a wonderful addition to the family.

(The cake was made from a 9X13 rectangle and a 4" circle cake. The smokestack is taken from the bottom of the rectangle. To Smidge, this will always be a "Thomas cake", but we just can't look at it without seeing another cartoon character. Can you see him?)

And, just for fun, a gratuitous babies shot:

Kiss those babies!

Boats and Boys

The boys made miniature catamarans today...

...and sailed them across the makeshift "sea" in the front yard.

What a great way to blow five hours on a Sunday afternoon!

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, October 8

a rather theatrical death

Our dishwasher died last night. It created a pond in the kitchen so it could pull an Ophelia. *sigh* It's not worth repairing, as we'd been limping it along for a while (we didn't buy this one, we inherited it).

On the up side, though, when we installed the cabinets, we put them on rails so that -a- the floor would be level and -b- we could install the wood floor under the front edge of the cabinets and not have to use quarter round trim. Bonus: when the dishwasher floods the kitchen, the cabinets don't get wet! YAY!

We're out of cash for a dishwasher just now, so it looks like we'll be handwashing for a while. In the meantime, anybody have a recommendation for relatively low-end dishwasher they love? (We're not in the market for a Miele or Bosch - this is going to be a Lowe's, Home Depot or Sears type purchase.)


Saturday, October 7

Recovery Day

Today was supposed to be the day we recovered from the trip. It turned into the day we recovered from the day itself.

Naturally, we all slept in far later than is healthy, and so our day began part way through from the start. The temperature was perfect for playing, pretending, and running... ah, running. Which leads to tumbling, it would seem.

James was playing on the swingset. John was on the front porch, working on a boat. Zorak busily foraging for something in the basement that might like to be a mast. I'd stretched out on the couch after lunch to see how long it would take the boys to find me and decide I looked way too lonely. The plan was that we'd snuggle up and watch a movie or read a story. Plans don't always pan out, though...

John came running around the corner into the basement, followed by a wail from Smidge that sent Zorak running. He cleared the corner, saw one shoe at the top of the hill and scanned the hill quickly for the child that should have been in it. There was Smidge, sprawled catawampus on the concrete at the bottom of the slope. He scooped him up and brought him inside. We both figured a few minutes with the boo-boo bunny and some snuggles would do the trick. Then we saw the blood. It was cascading down his back, his neck, his shoulders. Oy. Off to the tub to see if we could find the source, when...

James begins screaming and comes flying into the foyer, bleeding ferociously from the mouth. Zorak couldn't get him to calm down enough to find out if there was something IN his mouth, missing FROM his mouth, or even if it had anything to do with his mouth.

Meanwhile, back in the bathroom, the source of the blood turned out to be a one-inch gash on the top of Smidge's head. Too big for me to feel comfortable gluing. I know head wounds (much like mouth wounds) bleed rapidly and tend to look far, far worse than they are, but I could see bone and the kid has a lot of hair. I redressed him and handed him to Zorak to load into the car while I tried to get James calmed down.

James had gouged his cheek and lip in the corner. OK, crushed ice in a washcloth, leave it on until you can let Dad look at it, I love you, rinse with warm salt water if you can. *smooch* *hug* Off to the hospital with Smidge. Somehow, I didn't get the details, but Zorak briefed me, James flew from the swing, coming down on his knee. So the cheek seems to have been caught between teeth and bone. (OW.)

John went with us for moral support, since he'd had stitches in the very same hospital. Miss Em stayed with Zorak and James. The whole tag team thing is a real blessing at times like this!

Smidge was sweet, gentle, and patient. He told the ER staff his story with a quiet shyness (I rolled down the hill... My hill... At my house.) followed by a small, quirky little smiled that seemed to say, "Yes, yes, I know." The doctor felt that stitches were probably better, but that he could get the glue to do the trick. I overheard him telling the nurse (who had questioned his decision not to use stitches) that it would be a lot less traumatic and, in this case, that was worth it. They got him glued up without any trauma for any of us. What worried the doctor more than the gash was the 3" black and raspberry colored knob protruding from Smidge's forehead. He ordered x-rays to check for fractures. In came the nice x-ray tech, who led us to the room. Smidge smiled for the "pictures". The techs let John press the buttons. They showed the boys the x-rays. I'm not saying this is the best way to get behind-the-scenes a tour at the hospital, but it sure was nice of them to be so involved.

We made it home to find we had *cringe* company... and the house hadn't been cleaned or tidied since Wednesday. Zorak didn't have a heads up that they were coming (how embarrassing). They fixed our printer, and then stayed to make sure Smidgelet was okay. He was sleeping soundly, though, when we arrived, but awoke a bit later. James' mouth looks fine, except for a little purple, lumpy bit in the corner. He said he diluted his mouth wash "to a 50% solution" so it wouldn't hurt, but it did still hurt a little. He took it all in stride. Our company was gracious, and concerned about the little guys. We have just exhaled very slowly after the dust settled.

Smidge is sleeping peacefully now, and he's going to be sore tomorrow. But fine. These are the bumps and bruises life brings sometimes. In all, not too bad. But I think we'll stay home and make good on that snuggle and story time.

(*edited for clarity*)

Kiss those babies!

Quest for Immortality - Our Egypt Tour

There is a certain amount of trepidation that accompanies taking small children to a marble structure in the downtown district of a large metropolitan area. Will we be able to find parking? Will we be able to afford parking? Will the museum be child-friendly? Will the children be museum-friendly? Will the trek to the bathroom from mid-tour be a sprint or more of a marathon?

Well, the parking situation in downtown Nashville is dismal. We arrived at the museum a full half-hour before our entry time, and yet were still fifteen minutes late walking into the exhibit. After waiting in the Frist parking queue for over half an hour, we slipped from the line and found parking down a dark alley. The walk was worth it, as I fear we'd have been a full hour late if we waited for parking at the center.

From the moment you arrive at the Center, it's obvious that it was built to engage the senses: smooth, cool, swirled marble steps that glide beneath your feet; high ceilings with detailed forms rising above the mundane that draw your eyes and your imagination to the things that have come before you; soothing colors and exciting echoes that force you, unconsciously, to slow down and absorb the atmosphere. The venue, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, was designed beautifully to showcase the visual and enhance the other senses, as well.

The ladies at the ticket counter are the most gracious of hosts. They immediately take the children into their confidence, put them in charge of the ticketing process, give them the directions for the tour, and a sense of welcome that cannot be expressed too well, all the while slipping the occasional, gleeful, conspiratorial smile to the parents that says, "We've got you covered." I know these folks must have been exhausted and worn thin from dealing with the public by the end of the day, but you would not have known it from their demeanor. We appreciated their efforts tremendously.

James pocketed the receipts and directed the rest of us in applying our security stickers, then we hit the restrooms before proceeding into the exhibit. (It would be not only a marathon, but quite the obstacle course to attempt a retreat from within the exhibit - go first!) While we waited for the guys, Miss Emily and I perused the timeline spread down the hallway - it's beautifully done with wonderful photographs, delightful drawings and plenty of dates. We could have spent an hour in that portion of the building, alone.

The exhibit begins with some of the more famous artifacts: Colossal head of Ramses II; Amenhotep, son of Hapu, as a scribe; Senenmut and Nefrure. Each, powerful in its own right, comes together with the rest of the exhibit to give the visitor an immediate sense of the skill, the humanity, and the beauty of Ancient Egyptian work. The masons who reworked the stone for Ramses' likeness left so little trace of the original image that an untrained eye would have no clue as to it's origin or history. The detail and elaborate work in the stone of the young scribe give the sculpture a deep and compelling nature not seen in photographs. The inscriptions are worn shallow in many sections of the piece, and it's understandable - we had a difficult time not touching the writing, ourselves. (All artifacts that do not need to be in a climate controlled environment for preservation purposes are displayed in the open, giving the visitor an intimate and very real opportunity to experience each piece. We were impressed with how respectfully those in attendance approached the displays and maintained their composure.) Senemut and Nefrure is a piece much better explored in person than via photographs - the details are tremendous.

This was our first tour via pre-recorded audio presentation rather than a live docent. We weren't certain how well we would like it. Aside from the obvious drawbacks, such as not having a docent available for questions, however, we thoroughly enjoyed it. The Frist uses a radio transmitted system, rather than tapes, which makes it very easy to keep the little ones on the same page. Each display has a number posted near the display, and when you are ready to hear the speech on that particular item, you simply enter the number and listen in. Do it immediately, or after a slow perusal, the choice is yours. Many displays included both an adult reading (done by the incomparable Mr. Jeremy Irons - what a perfect choice!) and a child-friendly reading (which, to be honest, gave me the inescapable sensation of being approached in a dark alley by someone propositioning my children to buy "ancient artifacts" from inside a coat lining, but I suppose the tone was more lively for younger listeners, which was the intended purpose). The boys quickly figured out that by listening to both versions, they got more details, and so, what the docents had suggested to be a two-hour tour took us a full four hours. But it was four hours in which the children were completely entranced.

Smidge enjoyed the first four or five rooms, but soon became somewhat unsettled by the whole thing. He didn't have a meltdown, but rather developed a bit of a reticence to viewing the objects. "No, I don't want to see the big head, thanks." Zorak had no desire to listen to both versions of every single exhibit, so he went through the tour more quickly. He took Smidge and Miss Emily with him, and they finished up well ahead of us. We found them at the end, enjoying refreshments (Miss Emily savoring her first biscotti, Smidge discovering the taste explosion of Fuze, and Zorak relaxing with a nice, cold beer). For a group with such varying ages, this was the perfect way to view the exhibit. I'm glad I didn't have to go it alone.

It's difficult to write now about the experience. Sensory overload does not begin to explain the sensation. We're still trying to wrap our minds around the sheer concept of the time involved. Three Thousand Years... the cobras on the headgear didn't fare well on anything, but the rest of these pieces are simply stunning. That any of them should have the detail, composition, and condition that they do, Three Thousand Years later... That we should be able to see them, and learn about them... here, Three Thousand Years later... My.

Although none of us could cite one specific item which rose above the others, head and shoulders, we simply cannot recount every single thing which captured our minds while we were there. So, in the spirit of sharing, I thought I'd just post a few favorites from each of us, and call it good.

James' favorite exhibit was the reconstruction of the burial chamber of Thutmose III, but his favorite artifact was the chair found in the tomb of Yuya and Tuya.

John's favorite artifact pick was the boat from the tomb of Amenhotep II. (Don't let the pictures fool you - this boat is quite large - 8 feet long - and the vivid detail and colors are astounding.) The boys listened to the presentation on this item three times, and we spent quite a long time walking around, noticing something new at each turn.

Zorak's top pick is Amenhotep, son of Hapu, as a scribe. He commented that the sculpture conveys the essence of the Pharoah as more than a god, more than a leader. It's compelling how much can be conveyed through a static object, but he's right. The image is amazing.

The little girl in me thrilled at seeing the Sphinx. Even the small size of the one displayed did not effect the satisfaction gained in seeing the beautifully carved detail and graceful lines. That was amazing for the young, wistful imagination of a six-year old girl of years gone by.

There were over 100 items on display, and to recount our experience with each of them would not to justice to them, or to us. It was amazing. The best collection of photographs from this specific exhibit, which focuses on Thutmose III and Amenhotep II, can be found at the Rand African Art pages.

I truly appreciate the Egyptian government, for allowing these items to travel to the States so that we could share in the wonder. The people who worked so dilligently at the Frist Center did much to make the experience as enjoyable and educational as possible.

And particularly, I appreciate Susan Wise Bauer for writing The Story of the World, which introduced us to the Ancients early on in our studies. Because of that, the boys came to this experience with a sense of familiarity. This wasn't foreign to them - they knew these Pharoahs. They've played a version of Senet. They identified several pieces from across a room, and immediately began to vibrate and bubble over with the excitement of "knowing" this piece, or that image.

The experience is one we're glad we took the opportunity to enjoy. Of course, I got no photos of the entire trip. I was too busy watching the boys explore.


I spent two hours typing up an entry on the trip to the museum, complete with links. I highlighted and copied it, just in case Blogger didn't want to cooperate when I posted. Got up to check the rice...

and we had a THREE SECOND POWER OUTAGE. Three stoopid seconds and it didn't save on the clipboard.



Thursday, October 5

Good Thursday Morning!

I'd like to say we're all rested and recovered. But I don't want to lie to you. You don't even get a snappy title today. Miss Emily, for some reason unknown to us, and the Oracle of the Barn, decided last night would be a lovely night for a slumber party.
Oh, let's stay up until two, snacking and playing and chatting, shall we?
I finally just stuck her in her crib with a handful of honeycomb cereal, a soft toy and a bullhorn. Figured she could wake up Smidge and he could play with her, but I was done. Yes, we'll look back one day and miss having little ones in the house, but I do think I'll be rather content to miss them on a full night's sleep, anyway.

Smidge did survive. He fell asleep around five, and I just couldn't bring myself to wake him when we left for Pioneer Club. Zorak said he slept until about eight, and when the rest of us arrived back home, he was our normal, snuggly, happy little Smidge once again. He didn't even seem to begrudge us having gone without him.

And we survived Smidge. The day, in general, was pretty shot. We watched Dr. Doolittle, then watched Mary Poppins (twice), and finally the last half of The Sound of Music. The boys are convinced Dick Van Dyke is the coolest actor in the world - they already loved him from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but now, a singing chimney sweep? Oh, how cool is that!?

And today? Do you know what today looks like? Today will have a high of 89, which, while not what I'd call "sweater weather" (although, out of sheer denial, I have been known to don one anyway), is to be the last day near ninety for the next ten days. We have a gorgeous weekend ahead of temps in the mid-low 70's. I could do a jig! (Not literally, as I don't know how to jig, but technically I could give it a shot, since I wouldn't pass out from heat stroke. My cup is half full, and it has ice in it.)

We go to the Egypt exhibit tomorrow!! We're all looking forward to the outing. Zorak has, in true engineer fashion, printed off maps, located parking, and planned the technical details of the trip. (As opposed to my method of travel, which begins as we pull from the drive, with, "OK, so Nashville is North of us, right?" God loves me and gave me Zorak to keep me from spending eternity on some Interstate loop, looking for an unidentified exit.) The boys have spent hours considering whether there will be intestines in any of the canopic jars. And I'm still trying to tell the difference between XII Dynasty and XVIII Dynasty work. Aye, we be tourists! (Need batteries for the camera, now that I think of it.)

And now, we must be responsible people. Do our work, complete our chores (I doubt they'll sing A Spoonful of Sugar as we go, what do you thinK?), and run our errands. Yay! Bridget mentioned that they do have Easy buttons, so maybe we'll swing by Staples...

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, October 4


3:00AM -
Smidge climbs in bed with us. I scoot over, thinking he wants to snuggle (awwww). Turns out he needs somewhere else to puke, as he'd already defiled his bed. (Ohhhhh.)

At least by now we're efficient, if nothing else. I take shower/jammy duty while Zorak strips the bed, time and again, (and again, and yet again) until, after the fourth round, I realize we are out of sheets, blankets, and old lady mattress protectors. Daylight approaches. Efficiency only goes so far once you've run out of both time and materials.

I take Smidge to the living room, so he can puke on the couch (we don't really like the couch all that much, anyway). He's settling in, and Emily awakes. I hunker down, thinking if we lay very still she won't know we're awake. Perhaps she's just checking.

No, she means it. I tell Smidge that I've got to get Miss Emily and I'll be right back. He whimpers a bit, but scootches over enough for me to extricate myself from beneath the cushions. I take her to our room, change her and put her back down.

5:00AM -
I think I must have fallen asleep, as the next thing I know, Smidge has found us and pukes again. On my head. We are completely out of any and all fabric-related barrier products. I briefly contemplate velcroing diapers together to form an absorbent mattress topper, but that requires too much coordination to get all the ends lined up properly. Where's Escher when you need him? Miss Emily is asleep, and fortunately, my head blocked the trajectory so she's also still clean. Smidge and I head back to the couch.

Imagine my joy to find he hadn't puked on the couch! Imagine the total "ew" factor when I realize he'd puked on the floor. And while I'm here, why are socks so absorbent? Nobody sweats THAT much.

5:15AM -
Thankfully, the training potty puts a child at just the right height to sit on one while leaning over the standard toilet. It's the small things that mean so much.

6:30AM -
Smidge is out. Miss Emily is awake again. The washer won't spin the clothes.

7:00AM -
I don't know who's still up, but I'm not.

Zorak stayed home with us until it began to look as though Smidge won't have to be taken in, and probably isn't going to dehydrate by noon. By ten this morning, whatever it is that wants out has moved far enough down the digestive tract to head out the other end. At least we have enough underwear to tide us over while I wash the sheets. And I can start trying to feed him crackers and sprite without fear of too much organic retribution.

He has no fever, no pain (other than what can be expected from gestating a graboid in your gut, I suppose), isn't chipper or talkative...

Hmmm, I didn't think he could reach the rum...

Kiss those babies!

The Easy Life, or The Good Life?

People want life to be easy. I want life to be easy. I'd willingly tackle a Staples employee for one of those stupid buttons. Due to certain legal restraints, however (and the fact that some of those guys can really run), I still have no button and it's still not easy. Thankfully, this life we've chosen, and the lifestyle we pursue have taught me much. I've learned, for example, the value of repetition in memorization. In the two days that have passed the week thus far, I have repeated certain phrases to the point that I can recite them in my sleep (and possibly do, but since he hasn't mentioned it, I'm certainly not going to). Some favorites:

The task at hand, sweetheart, the task at hand... (68 times - it's the best I can do to try to keep the children focused on, surprisingly enough, the task at hand, when they'd much rather ping off one another like large, obnoxious pin balls)

Is it your problem? No? OK, then... (12 times - This is my attempt to curtail the amount of tattling the elder children feel required to engage in. Smidge gets away with a lot that I would normally not allow, simply because they just HAD to tattle. I'm not entirely convinced of the wisdom in this approach, but it is kinda fun to see the looks of incredulity on the older two when it happens.)

Inside voice (I lost count on this one, but we went to the library, which is very exciting, and the small one squeaks when he gets excited.)

Well, if you won't listen to me, then you'll just have to deal with the consequences. (4 times - this one actually is decreasing in frequency, as they slowly catch on to the whole, "If you get hurt doing something I've told you not to do, you get no sympathy" concept. WooHoo!)

I think it helps to have a partner with a wonderful sense of humor. To have a partner who will let you know when you need to tag him in and let him handle the wee ones. To have a partner who won't roll his eyes if you mention that a certain someone sure missed Daddy today, but rather seeks out said someone and makes a point of filling that little emotional tank... well, that's just worth more than anything I could name. It also contributes to the less sanity-draining favorites:

Who wants dessert? (Something I rarely get to utter, and it's SO MUCH FUN when I do!)

You boys were wonderfully helpful - thank you. (55 times - They are helpful, and we do let them know.)

WOW, who emptied the dishwasher? (4 times - They're either going to think we are completely enamoured with their skills, or that we need medication since we just can't figure out who would empty the dishwasher every. single. day. Either way, it makes them giggle.)

OK, one more story. Maybe two. Or three. (2 times, a wonderful bedtime diversion.)

I love you. (Too many times to count.)

I love you, too. (Also too many times to count.)

Zorak has spoken wisely about parenting, in that "it's not a case where you simply tell the child once and the topic is done. You must show them, and tell them, over and over and over again. Eventually, they will get it, as long as you don't expect to say it once and then drop it." It includes modeling, as well as telling. That's hard, sometimes. Doing it with marathon-like commitment is even harder.

But until the guy at Staples sprains an ankle, it looks like this is how it's going to have to be. And I'm really glad, when all is said and done.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, October 2

Coming Up For Air - Oates and Costumes

OK, I am never doing that again. I read Bellefleur. To the end. All the way through. I actually enjoy JCO's writing structure, as it forces (literally grabs the eyeballs and the brain and forces) me to slow down, to read and digest each sentence separately, to keep in mind quirks and characteristics mentioned 300 pages previously (because they will be important later, trust me, quiz at the end of book Four!) The woman has a way with words, that's certain.

What I cannot stomach, however, is the sensation of being caught in a traffic jam at a roundabout upon which there was a violent and deadly automobile accident. I'm not a goose-necker at accidents. If there is no help yet, we pull over and offer aid (blankets, water, call 911). If help has arrived, we pray for those involved and those aiding the victims and move on. They don't need us in the way. They don't need us craning our necks to see what happened, or how badly it happened. But reading Bellefleur gives one the sensation of being stuck in traffic, and after a while, for lack of anything else, you view the scene. You recoil is alarm and look away. Eventually, your gaze drifts back to the carnage, and you notice something, perhaps a shoe or a cap thrown aside. How heartbreakingly jarring. Then you see an arm, and wonder whose it was. So you find yourself looking for a one-armed individual somewhere amidst the clutter, and that's when you notice the maggots. The mangy dog. The hysterical child. It's disturbing. What's worse, is that, while I didn't particularly care for any of the characters other than little Germaine, (I didn't get the feeling she wants the reader to identify with them, as most of them are so completely uni-laterally undeveloped, and what development there is, goes well over the realm of empathetic identification into what can only be described as a profile of a sociopath. Many of them. In one book.) I felt compelled to read on. I said I would finish the book, and I did. And I will never, never do that to myself again. It is safe to say that I have given her more than one glance, and I'm none the better for having done so.

I'm recovering now with Pride & Prejudice, which I've never read, and am absolutely kicking myself for not having done so many times before! It's just the balm my mind needed after the threshing it got with Oates. It's so delightful (or perhaps part of it the drastic contrast to the previous material?) that I've taken to following Zorak about the house, reading excerpts. Austen, however, isn't Stephenson, and I don't think he'll be picking it up just to make me stop. But that's okay, I can read and walk at the same time! *grin*

OCTOBER! It's October, and we are sooooo excited. Except, that, well, the temperatures are flaring back into the 90's this week, and that is so very, very wrong. Zorak said he smelled fall at 5:12 Friday afternoon. (I think that was the time. He did say he noted it when it happened, but I don't remember, precisely.) I missed it, and now it'll probably be another three weeks before it happens again. And I received a wonderful sweater in the mail from a friend, but it has to sit there on my dresser, taunting me, for a while longer. (Maybe I can wear it to bed? It's a really comfy sweater!)

The boys have their costumes lined up, which is good. Gives me plenty of time to procrastinate on getting them made. (It's good to know exactly what you're putting off, isn't it?) James wants to be Superman again, "since the costume still fits". (Love that kid! So practical!) John wants to be Jack Sparrow (something definite to pretend I'm already working on! WOOHOO!) and Smidge wants to be a ghost, or a pirate, or perhaps a pirate ghost, or *gasp*giggle*gasp* THOMAS! Yup, that one's mine, too.

My basic plan is to put off making anything until he decides (you know, so that I can purchase all the materials at once...) Then we will run around town like lost puppies ALL DAY LONG on October 31st, and it will be long, long past supper that I finally give up, staple strings of yarn to a black paper pirate hat, and shove them out the door. It's simple, no more than a variation on a theme, really. We've got it down, pat. What are your plans?

Kiss those babies! (Thankfully, they'll remember the kisses more than the botched costumes!)