Thursday, November 30

The Crisis Clean

I took one look around the house this morning and realized there is no way I could do a thorough Crisis Clean (a la Flylady) without pawning the boys out to a gypsy farm. And Zorak was already at work. (Drat him and his work ethic!) So, what's a Mom to do?

Why, convince the kids it's a good idea to do it as a group, of course.

Now, this isn't your normal, Mom-runs-herd-on-the-distracted-children-and-everybody-wants-rum-by-noon cleaning. This is a Crisis Clean. There was prep. There was pomp. There may even have been a hint of circumstance.

First, we did our lessons. Then, I got them psyched for a Christmas tree.

I printed out the directions for a Crisis Clean and they read the page.

They disappeared.

I found them in the bathroom, moisturizing their faces and combing their hair.

Um... well, okay. They didn't break into my makeup. What's a little St. Yves in the hair for all the enthusiasm, right?

Back to the kitchen. John wanted to light the candle. OK, but why is the kitchen hot? I turned around to find a pot with weeds floating in water sitting atop a lit burner. OK, I thought, I really need to pick up the pace on the coffee infusion, because I have no recollection of doing this. Where'd the weeds come from? James informs me he's put on "a little something to simmer". Rosemary and cloves. A lot of cloves. *shrug* OK. I'm good with that.

Duke Ellington kicks up on the stereo - they picked Big Band for our cleaning music. Sweet! These are SO my kids.

So we split the sink into turns - John gets the right side, James gets the left. Smidge has a plate and the soap-filled scrubber thing. He has no access to water, so it should be relatively easy to clean up.

John's scrubbing. James and I are clearing. Smidge is adding soap, one drop at a time. I hope he doesn't get any in his eyes.

The weeds are starting to heat up. Did I mention there are a lot of cloves in there?

Time to switch. John takes the pantry corner. James starts scrubbing. Smidge has a thick, slimy layer of blue on everything, up to his elbows. I'm getting nauseaus from the combination of rosemary, cloves, and that pumpkin pie candle.

Eventually, the timer beeps. Ta-da! Dear God, has it only been fifteen minutes? I think I'm going to puke. Re-set and move on to the living room.

The idea of not putting things where they belong as we go is tough to get across to the boys. They want to put them away *now*. But, as much as I appreciate the heart behind it, I know better. It's like sending the Pokey Little Puppy on an errand. He's got a heart as big as they sky, but - hey, didja see those strawberries? And that butterfly? And, and, is that rice pudding?! No. Flylady is right in this aspect - just put the things that don't belong into a basket and we'll deal with them later. Not later, like next month later, but later, as in before supper. We finished the living room with six minutes to spare. The boys voted for a quick break. Since there are no official rules to this game, I pretend that's just what we're supposed to do.

Back to the kitchen.

Now the dining room.

The bath and hallway. What's that smell? I don't care, anymore. (I also blew out the candle and turned off the stove halfway through the living room. I couldn't hang with the odors anymore.)

We broke for hot chocolate, cookies, and a story. Ahhh, this is nice. Even the boys were shocked to look up and see how drastic the change was. And with so little effort. So little confusion! Whew.

Back to the kitchen - um, not much left to do. Unload the dishwasher, load it with the snack dishes. What am I forgetting? Oh. Crap, we didn't eat lunch. Oh well. They'll eat a good supper, right?

Finally, they opted to tackle both kids' rooms in 15 minutes in order to play outside for the rest of the day. I think I'll join them. It's just too nice not to enjoy. Might take a picnic out, too.

I wonder if I can get Zorak to do something like this with me on our room over the weekend? ;-)

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 29

Ancient Vacuums and Other Ramblings

Well, one more strike against carpet - our vacuum filters seem to be nonexistent - so I can't vacuum. Yuck. It started out simply enough. After lessons, and some kick-butt crepes the boys and I made, I called Sears, gave them the model number, and asked about filters. The lady said, "Oh, the round ones for the bagless? Yeah, we've got them." I just had to push it and ask if they also have the flat disk-like filter that goes with it. Dead silence.

"There's more than one filter on that machine?"


"Oh, honey, you're gonna have to order that somewhere."

Um, somewhere like... oh, I don't know, Sears, perhaps? Since it is a Sears brand vacuum? Evidently, not.

Zorak called the Sears in Huntsville, thinking that it's a bigger store, maybe a better chance. They have them. Woohoo. We met up with him there en route to Pioneer Club, with plenty of time to pick up the filters, get Smidge some boots, grab a bite at the Food Court and head out. Or so one would think.

The young gal in the vacuum department is very kind, and very enthusiastic. Beyond that, though, I really hope she's putting herself through college. We gave her the model number, she fiddled on the computer for a bit, and brought us a flat filter, similar to the kind you'd put in your HVAC. Um, no, ours is a round filter.

"Oh, your machine is bagless?"

Uh, yeah.

"*giggle* I guess this is the model number, then?" (waving the piece of paper upon which she'd written the model number).

Um, yeah.

"Oh. OK, hang on."

Zorak and I exchanged bewildered glances. Should we run now? Should we wait and see if it gets any weirder? Eh, the kids are having fun with the booty-shaking snowman in the next aisle. We'll wait it out.

We can hear her on the phone. "Well, they SAY it's a bagless... they CLAIM it's not the flat square one... yeah, I know... what do I do with them?" Um, ok, first of all, we're, like, *squeak, squeal* five feet away - we can hear you! Second, you got us. Instead of date nights at romantic restaurants, we like to drag our herd of small, hungry children to department stores and lure employees on snipe hunts for imaginary products. No. Really. It's a bagless Kenmore vacuum. And would you like to go cow tipping when your shift ends?

The enthusiastic young girl goes to "the back". The boys have discovered the mixer displays.

Since we don't leave, she eventually returns with a teeny, tiny filter for what can only be described as a Lilliputian cleaning system. Possibly for personal grooming, or touch-up jobs on doll house mats. Not sure where that came from. She says the computer system says it's for our model. No, trust me, it's not. So she asks me if I want her to call Susan. Well, I don't know. Is Susan the resident vacuum expert?

"Oh, well, she's worked here a lot longer than I have. How old is your vacuum?"

Five, maybe six years old.

"*pause* Ohhhh, yeah, she may not know, then."

I looked at Zorak. Did I mistakenly say it was my Grandmother's vacuum, given as a gift when Arizona attained statehood? Is six years old the vacuum equivalent? I mean, I know Balto will be nearing middle age when he's six. Perhaps I'm missing something.

The boys have moved on to the talking sales pitch cards on the artificial trees. We're running out of time. The next row over is the knives.

So she writes down all the information on the printout and tells me we can order the filters online. But, wait. The two filters you have in hand are from that printout, and I can guarantee you that outside of just scotch taping them to the side of the vacuum, there's nowhere for them to go. These filters don't go with our vacuum. And she says, very enthusiastically, in response to this observation, "But they'll deliver them right to your house."

Oh, dear. I think we've overshot our goal, here. Not sure what to make of that. We look at the clock - it's 6:30. We're ten minutes late already, and still a 20 minute drive from church. We decide to grab a bite to eat. I can hand pick the visible bits off the carpet for a little while longer.

Now, it's been a while since we've eaten at a mall food court. I don't think we've ever eaten at this one. It was hot. Stiflingly hot. And there were sample people out in force. By the time we got to the end of the court and were trying to decide what to eat, I wasn't really hungry anymore. Zorak said I couldn't make two more laps and call it good, though. So we sat and ate. Food Court food gets a bad rap. It's really not bad, since you're not paying for ambiance.

The kids played in the kiddie corral. The adult:child ration was suspiciously skewed, and there were a number of children who we suspect were dropped off there during the Easter festivities. But the kids had fun, and it gave Zorak and I a chance to visit with a charming little girl who filled us in on why "Auburn is yucky". She was very sweet, and very devoted to 'Bama. We didn't have the heart to tell her we still have no idea which is which.

And that was pretty much it. That was the day. We came home and everybody except Miss Emily crashed hard. She's sitting at my feet now, trying valiantly to get to the power strip. I'm not sure which of the noises she evokes by pressing the button gets her so excited: the *muooohmp* of the system shutting down, the *poink* of the monitor testing its reaction time to boot back up, or me trying to stifle a scream because I can't remember if I backed up November's photos yet and I don't know if the thing will come back on. Whichever it is, she really digs it. And she's so cute when she succeeds! (Four children of this. Perhaps I've stumbled on a clue to all of our computers' demises? Ya think? *grin*)

Looks like tomorrow's the last day of our heat wave, so we're going to go do the Happy Homeowner and Unpaid Child Labor routine tomorrow. Maybe bake bread in the afternoon and get the house ready to accept a tree this weekend. (A tree! Before winter officially begins! This is momentous for us. We've been known to keep them in the yard until July 4th, but never have we brought one onto the property so soon before Christmas Day. Wow.)

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, November 28

Black Wednesday & Other Adventures

While we have yet to set foot in a retail shop for the purpose of procuring Christmas goodies for the children, I will be at Kroger first thing in the morning to purchase every bag of Archway Wedding Cookies available in a three-city radius.

Why? Because Archway, evil, crack-distributing corporation that it is, happens to sell my particular form of crack only this time of year. Fine. Fine, the Girl Scouts have been causing people to go into Thin Mint withdrawls seven months before the next cookie drive every year for a thousand years. It's nothing new. But you see, at least the Girl Scouts know they make a killing off pathetic addicts who buy eight dozen boxes and claim they'll freeze them to last all year. (They don't last. They do, however, taste quite nice straight out of the freezer. *ahem*) But Archyway? Evidently, the idiots manning the helm of that company have completely discounted the addictive nature and potential economic impact of this product (or, to put it bluntly, what the hell is wrong with these people that they don't send more to the stores?!?!?) There are other "wedding cookies" out there, but don't be deceived. They're all made with plain sugar and nuts. Archway, though, they've put Soilent Green or Kentucky Fried Chicken seasoning or something into theirs. There is no substitute.

So, anyway, unlike the Girl Scouts, you can't pre-order. You don't know how many you'll find on the shelves. You don't even know who will have them from year-to-year. It's like watching network television move your favorite show around until they finally kill it. It's painful. Once I'd found this year's store, I had to track down the manager, explain my twitchy plight, and beg for inside information. He then checked the delivery schedule and did a little math in order to slip me the hot tip of the week - the cookies were delivered tonight, but won't be available for purchase until tomorrow. Thank God the FDA doesn't know about these, or there'd be a limit, a three-day wait, and I'd have to get a seasonal job bagging groceries at Kroger just to maintain connections.

In other news:

A blind hem! I did it! I friggin did it! And they're gorgeous - well, for being invisible. But I DID it! Unfortunately, I did it an inch too long on one panel, and so will be reliving the joy again tomorrow. Ah, well, it was worth it. The boys helped with the measuring, marking, cutting, and layout. Somewhere in there, among four people (one of whom kept draping himself in fabric and running around, yelling "Nekkid Thomas! Nekkid Thomas!") working on one project, there was bound to be a miscalculation in there somewhere. Otherwise, the curtains look great. Woohoo!

Smidge let John read to him tonight at bedtime. I was going to slip off and put the dishes away, but how could I resist listening in on that? Looking in to see the boys huddled over a book together, enjoying one another? C'mon, sometimes a Mom just has to store that stuff up while she can. Winter's comin' - and with it, Cabin Fever. This could be the dose that gets me through to March, right?

Miss Emily pulled herself up beside the tub tonight and stood there, playing and talking with Smidge while he bathed. She stayed up the whole time, just laughing and throwing things into the tub. (We moved anything potentially dangerous, such as the clippers and the toilet brush. Right now, he thinks it's cute, but with her arm, all it's going to take is one good smack with a blunt object and all that cute-baby-girl stuff will come to a screeching halt.) Her balance is really good (she doesn't get that from me), and when she crawls now, she's fast. Alarmingly fast. Can't bake, take things down to the basement, or get something from the car without a backup watch to keep her within the safety perimeter. This little girl's going to have absolutely no trouble at all keeping up with her big brothers.

James found a copy of Frankenstein, and he's thoroughly enjoying that. His reading has brought up more questions about things like cloning, creation, ethics, and power. We've discussed some of them before, after hearing bits on the news, or reading an article in the paper, often simply after he's mulled something about a bit and needs to synthesize it. Somehow, though, fiction, far beyond news sources or everyday events, has a way of capturing all the "what ifs" that we just don't have the patience to field all the time, condensing them into terriffic plays of the imagination. He sometimes answers his own questions, sometimes makes me ask questions, and once in a while we just nod in understanding. It's a little daunting, when I think about all that the kids need to learn in the next few years. But it's good. And it's interesting. He keeps me on my toes. Maybe by the time Miss Emily is reading on her own, I'll be ready to tackle whatever she throws at me.

Man, today was GOOD. They just don't come like this all the time. But when they do? Mm, it is indeed a sweet, sweet life.

Kiss those babies!

A Crisp Morning, Hot Coffee, and a Good Book

It's five AM. Why am I up? I don't want to be up. But here I am. Laundry switched out. Dog fed and loved on. The cream ceramic coffee mug is warm on my fingers, and the hot drink feels good going down. Miss Emily woke at 4:42 this morning. There were too many people laying at too many odd angles to add a baby to the bed, so she and I moved to the futon. We snagged one of Smidge's blankets en route, since he was wrapped up in ours. I need to bring up more blankets.

She's out cold. Zorak's gone to work. The boys are sound asleep. Even the birds are quiet this morning.

I read a bit more of A Higher Kind of Loyalty, the memoirs of Liu Binyan. He was a journalist in China, chronicling the effects of two revolutions and the growing pains of the Communist Party over the years. His story is compelling. I have to take it in small chunks. It's difficult to wrap my mind around his ideologies, but the struggles he wrote of are universal, and worth remembering. So I sat with him a bit this morning, awed by the corruption power will nurture, saddened by the games played with other peoples' lives, awed by my gratitude for living here, now, and confirmed in my conviction against ever having to face those things in our home country.

Now I need to take a deep breath. Step back.

Drink more coffee, and look at sleeping children, and wonder what we will do today that will make a difference. Some differences are small. Some are large. The key is making them good, regardless of size.

John and I will read together. James and I will work on math. We'll talk more about legends and history, about heroes and truth. We'll try to wrangle out the precepts of a free society in terms you can understand when you're eight and six.

And there are curtains to make. Believe me, that luxury is not lost on me this morning.

We'll study, and work, and hope. Today is good. Tomorrow has the potential to be good.

I wish someone else was up right now. I'd love to have coffee. Talk. Brainstorm. Discuss something a little meatier than curtains and blankets. This is probably why I'm not usually up this early - all my great-conversation buddies only went to bed a few hours ago!

Fine. I'll go be productive. ;-)

Have a fantastic Tuesday!
Kiss those babies!

Sunday, November 26

Too busy to blog?

I guess so. We've spent the weekend working on the house, repairing exterior doors and trying to get them painted.

I convinced Zorak to let me paint the exterior of the balcony door slate grey - just so we could see if it worked. With the somewhat blah, 1970's brick exterior, we need a nice trim that makes the house *pop*. I thought perhaps slate grey, or a dark charcoal, would do the trick. There are some bricks of that color, and it's the color of the trim in the master bedroom. (Trying desperately to tie the colors together at this point, so the house doesn't look like Rainbow Brite's been massacared in here.)

Actually, I should say it WAS going to be the color of the trim in the master bedroom. Thankfully, I still have yet to get around to prepping and trimming that room. So, back to the story (for the record, the weekend, as a whole, has been as disjointed and erratic as my writing is tonight - for that, I apologize) I put it on the door, and... It's a Hershey Bar! Our balcony door now looks like an enormous Hershey Bar. Not, um, quite what we were shooting for. As a matter of fact, we'd nix'd the color chip that came with the grey we put on the walls because it was more brown than grey. This one, though, it looked grey. I could have sworn it was grey. The ladies in the paint department said it looked grey. So, it's official. We are all color-blind in fluorescent lighting. The balcony door has one half-hearted coat on it, just so we could put it up.

We did finally purchase curtains for most of the rooms. Ivory Battenburg lace for the kitchen. It might be a bit much, but it's only two small windows. Hopefully nobody will notice. We needed something with a little body to it, to help keep the cold out. It needed to be free of fruit, barnyard animals, and creepy faceless dutch children. That left us with the Battenburg.

I bought some linen-colored cord to use as tie-backs for the blue canvas duck curtains in the boys' room, and some curtain rods with a little bling in 'em. Then I bought plain vanilla rods, plain vanilla white lace, and a little plain vanilla ice cream for our room. No, wait, we already had ice cream. Anyway, maybe nobody will notice the unpainted trim for all the blindingly white lace stuck to the windows?

Then I picked up these great denim curtains for the nursery. They have tab-tops done up as overall hooks. I'd found a pattern for that very thing over the summer, but hadn't mustered the hutzpah to sit down and stitch it up yet. (Seriously we have how many pairs of overalls that need to have the latchy things repaired? And I haven't made it so far as to find out what those things are called, let alone have gone out to buy them and do the repairs. Make curtains to match? Hee hee. That's so funneeee!) But now, thanks to mass marketing, I don't have to! Hot dog! I'm washing them up tonight, and will hopefully apply the Thomas edging to them tomorrow. (Cut, pin, straight stitch. THAT much, I can do.)

We tried once again to take a family Christmas photo. How'd it go, you ask? Well, we got some beautiful shots of the kids. A great photo of Zorak and the kids. A nice one of me and the kids. And John even took a relatively decent one of me and Zorak. But one with all six of us? Yeah, we'll try again Friday. I may try over the week to get individual shots and see if we can make a montage instead. I think that might be easier in the end.

OH! And we think we've nailed down the Christmas buying process. Someone had posted a little poem a while back:
Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.
What a great way to figure out what to get! (I botched it, though, and thought it was something to "play with" rather than "wear", but hey, I'm always up for buying a new sweater!) So, the Big Gift - to be shared by all the kids, is a GameCube. We bought Miss Emily some additional Duplo blocks, not because we need more Duplo blocks (not by a long shot), but because these had flowers and pink blocks, and Daddy's heart just got all soft and squishy when he saw that. (How can you resist a soft-hearted Daddy?) We're going to have to do some hardcore looking for books. Thought I'd found just the right thing for James, but the release date isn't until March of '07. I'd feel like a bit of a heel giving an IOU for Christmas if it can be avoided...

Then we sat down to take a breath, and whaddya know, it's Sunday evening. Wow. But it's been good. The boys love their sparkly new curtain rods. Smidge had three of four vibrating fits over the mere thought of finally getting his Thomas curtains. The house is looking more and more Christmas Ready with every passing day. Oh, yes, it's good.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, November 24


Beaten by an 8-year old! Repeatedly.

I can't beat him at chess. His gleeful giggles during the game probably don't count as sabotage, do they? Eh, that's okay. His gracious manner of winning - happy, but not ugly about it - make it easy to enjoy losing.

I've gotta get on the ball, here, or they're all going to by-pass me quickly and refer to me in the future as their "poor, strange mother".

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, November 23

This Says it All

If I were asked to make a list of all the things I'm thankful for this year, I'd have to point to this picture. It's got it all:

The big one, there, buried under the children - where do I start? My marriage, my support system, my partner, my heart's desire. He won't always laugh at my jokes, but he'll always love me; and I, him.

Those four wonderful, affectionate, healthy, sweet children. They're full. They're warm. They're loved. I couldn't stay up late enough to count the blessings just from the five people in this photo.

The futon that got us through last winter.

The walls that will get us through this winter.

The warm clothes on our backs, and the fact that we are blessed with living where we are, and are able to live our lives the way we choose.

I don't know what's up with that towel on the couch, but even that is a reminder of the many things, both financial and emotional, that we've been able to share with the children (it's one we bought for our Florida trip this summer).

The boxes in the background are filled with things to donate - good things that still have "plenty of life" left in them, and I'm thankful that we can be on the giving end for a change.

The globe we use for lessons - our lifestyle, our goals, our life.

The home Miss Emily was born in, and her brothers have helped to make. (I watched her truck down the hall, singing to herself as she looked for Smidge after supper, and I got teary-eyed to know that, God willing, she won't ever have to learn a new home, a new hallway, a strange place to call home while she's little. She won't stand in a dark hall at midnight, crying because she doesn't know which room is ours. I. Am. So. Thankful.)

There are only about eleven years of my life represented directly in that photograph, but they've been an amazing eleven, and have filled my heart and my cup to overflowing, with gratitude and joy.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 22

My eyes hurt!

They're watery and twitchy. No, I'm not sick. I've just been putting together a Christmas wishlist for the boys today. They've spent the last week pouring over catalogs, although oddly enough, only at my insistance. I don't know if they're just used to never getting what they'd really like (anybody remember the breeding elves?), or what it is, but it took some serious tooth-pulling to get either of them to sit down with a marker and circle things they'd like. Normally, it's not much of a problem. They've always been so easy to shop for. But this year... this is the first year I've noticed that I'm *officially* clueless. The things I ooohhh and aahhhhh over, thinking they'd just go nuts about, they give me the same look I gave my mother the year she bought me a complete bedding ensemble that every six-year old girl dreams of... and I was 14. I try to keep in mind my own mortification at that time, and encourage them to guide me and keep me from going down that ugly, confusing road.

James did circle two items from the Mindware catalog. That gave me a place to start, at least. Then, when I logged into the Mindware website, he knew all about so many of the items and said, "OH, that looked really neat!" or "I would LOVE this one!" Well why didn't you mark it in the catalog, you goofball? Maybe he was just trying not to be greedy. *sigh*

So, I've got a wishlist started at Amazon. I noticed that I'd also started one, um, back in 2004, but I didn't start it until something like the 20th of December, and by then nobody needed ideas for the boys, so we never had a chance to play with it. (Beethoven's Wig is still on there, though - *I* really want that one! *grin*) Right now, it's just things we think the boys would like. Tomorrow, we'll get online with each one and let them each browse and pick. It's going to have to be them. There's so much junk available out there that I felt dizzy after sorting through it today. Hopefully, they'll have some ideas to start us off and we can get it figured out (and then, ordered and shipped without having to pay overnight shipping! WOOHOO!)

We're just getting too old for The Last Minute. Halloween about did me in. *wink*

And I know I've posted this place before, but if you haven't checked it out, you really need to. Even if you're done shopping. Just the catalog blurbs alone are worth perusing (although, seriously, they do get some mighty nifty stuff, particularly if you like things a bit quirky): American Science and Surplus. I have literally laughed aloud while reading through their Christmas catalog this week.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, November 20

Home Remodel - Kids' Rooms

OK, I'm no longer on the lam... Yay! For anyone interested in the play-by-play slideshow, complete with excuses, I mean, comments, you can view the pictures here.

For the less motivated (or those on dialup), here's a quick shot of direct before and afters. I tried to get shots from the same angles. Interestingly, there is only one existing photo of the nursery from its days as a blacklight bong water dormitory. Huh. Imagine that. So, in brief, here's the nursery:

As you can see, we still have "storage issues" to address. That will come. (Hopefully, so will closet doors!) There aren't many photos of this transformation, because this room was the first bedroom we did - it had to be ready by the time Miss Emily made her grand debut. So, we were a bit under the gun, as the kitchen and bath also had to be done fairly soon after we moved in. So. Well, there ya go.

The next set of pictures is from the boys' room. We took a little more time with this one. (As in, we still aren't completely done. We get to the trimming of the closets and sort of wander off to work on something else. It's a theme - you'll notice it with the other two bedrooms, as well. In ten years, when I get around to posting those pictures.) Again, more detail, and more photos are in the slideshow. This is just a brief before and after, side-by-side comparison. I give you, The Boys' Room:

I included that bottom picture for two reasons: it's really cute, and it shows the toy shelves we built. This was a quick and easy project, the fruit of my warped desire to make stuff and Zorak's equally warped need to make certain it's solid. We'll be building another one to put in the nursery, which will hopefully address some of the storage issues mentioned above. It's designed to hold three of the larger Sterlite bins, or four of the smaller ones, on each shelf.

Well, time to go play!

Kiss those babies!

Oh, for Pete's sake!

I just spent three hours uploading the before and after pictures of the renovation on the kids' rooms to a Yahoo! folder. They've "upgraded" the system, which meant that a great deal of that time wasted er, spent went toward figuring out the new system. OK, fine. But the pictures are up.

When I went to change the setting on that album to public, however, I received a nifty little notice that my account has been flagged as "age-restricted" due to violations of Yahoo's police regarding inapprorpriate images.




Is up with that?

If I'd know that (oh, I don't know, perhaps a little notice via email would be a good way to let someone know they've set off a flag? a little heads up that there is, obviously, a problem! because I can guarantee you I'm not uploading or sharing ANYTHING inappropriate or damaging - argh!!) and I could have saved myself the time, effort and frustration of doing this tonight, just gone to bed at ten, and dealt with this during business hours.

I do hope tomorrow goes more smoothly than this did. Ugh. And really, I think it's neat that Yahoo has taken the extra step of looking out for folks who might be violating privacy or ethics concerns. I do. I just think that, considering the potential for the occasional blip in the screening process, better communication with its users would be nice, as well.

Oh, well, it's time for bed, anyway.


Saturday, November 18

The week in pictures

Here's the proud boy with his first loaf of bread.

Miss Emily loves rice sticks and stiry fry!

Balto, head of QA for flooring installation...

And here, the boys are enjoying the spacious new layout. We threw the futon down on the floor for TV watching, and can stash it in the guest room when we're done. (Yeah, only one of them is actually watching TV. Seems the pad also makes a great wrestling mat and GP play area.)

Oh, and we don't usually live with newspapers and boxes piled around the living area. The overall clutter in the background is from the Blue Willow, which I was unpacking from storage when I snapped the picture! WOOHOO!

And Balto, ever so patiently letting Miss Emily play with his tail. I've got to try to get actual video of this, it's hilarious.

And that's pretty much been our week - laughing, learning, enjoying.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, November 16

Virtual Friday

I really like Zorak's work schedule. Every other Friday, he's off, so we have an extra day to work on the house, or play with the kids. We usually blow the evenings by staying up way too late to watch Scrubbs and then a movie or two, but the time spent together is really nice. Sort of makes up for those last two years of school, where we never saw one another, even on weekends.

Today was cold-cold. Not like Michigan cold, but colder-than-Yuma cold. I'd venture to say it was close to Denver-cold (Zorak says no, but he was inside... and I'm feelin' like a weenie.) And it was beautiful. The boys were content to stay inside and play, work on their lessons, eat. Smidge really wanted to go outside to play, but not alone. So he stood in the foyer with his shoes on, hoodie in hand. He just stood there, staring at us, just waiting for someone to cave. (Nobody did - did I mention that it was kinda chilly out there?)

The kids and I found a recipe for making mulled cider out of regular apple juice, so we just had to try it. Some may poo-poo the idea that the two are even remotely similar, outside the basic apple DNA, but I've gotta say a few things in favor of this little plan: economy, year-round availability, and sheer freakin' fun. C'mon, how often do you let your kids heat a dry skillet and throw whole peppercorns in there? Or stir a handful of cloves and broken cinnamon sticks into a whirlpool in a pot? If you're eight, or six, or three, (or, um thirty-three...) that's fun! The flavor turned out pretty good, so we served it up with supper, and Zorak eyed us suspiciously. The knowledge that we'd gleaned the recipe from a website called Cooking For Engineers didn't seem to help any. (Of course, the fact that we were having a mongolian-like noodle dish for supper probably didn't help any, either.)

And now, it's quiet. We read "The Strange Dog" chapter in Farmer Boy tonight, so the boys are feeling particularly appreciative of Balto Dog. I am, too, really. For all the deer he chases away, he's really a loyal and affectionate dog, and it is nice to know his early alert systems are functional. Wish we could turn it off til the end of hunting season, but eh, can't have everything.

Zorak picked up a movie this evening, and he's ready to get started on our long weekend lounging. Time for a little touchin' base, and general appreciative sharing all around. Good stuff, this marriage thing. ;-)

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 15

What's For Supper?

Here, we're having potato soup, fresh salad (boiled eggs, cheddar cheese, Dubliner cheese, red bell peppers, green peppers, onions, celery, all decorated with greens), and fresh breads.

For those who are WF/GF, if you haven't tried the French Bread rolls recipe in GFG Bakes Bread, OMG - they're to die for! And even better, if you just make one large lump on a baking sheet instead of little dinner rolls, it comes out flat enough to be used for foccacia, but just thick enough to be sliced horizontally and toasted for breakfast bread or used as sandwich bread. I think I'm in heaven, and I know John is!

We had a tornado watch today. James stayed in the hallway, with full canteens and his shoes on, reprimanding me on each trip I made up and down the hall for not keeping the baby by the basement door "just in case". We stayed home, cleaning, making sure we have enough clean clothes and pre-cooked food to get us through a power outage. (I live in fear of losing power with a washer full of wet clothes. Focus on the small things and the big ones will just whiz right by ya!)

All is well, and the ground is beautiful, buried among all the leaves!

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, November 14

Missed it by "that much".

Drat. The new positions of the printer cabinet and the computer desk have left me without photo upload abilities. The cord is about two feet too short.

James made his first loaf of bread today. All on his own - prep, mixing, proofing, shaping and baking. I was there mainly to remind him not to measure right on the edge of the counter, to keep stirring, and not to measure right there, on the edge, of the counter.

He used the "Learning Loaf" from Marilyn M. Moore's The Wooden Spoon Bread Book, which is a wonderful one-loaf recipe that's easy for small hands to manipulate. The loaf turned out beautifully, not even "for a first loaf", but really nicely done. He was so proud. He ran about giving everyone a piece of bread, and while he'd originally thought he'd just eat the whole thing in one sitting (probably all alone, in the closet), the delight everybody else took in his creation called for cinnamon sugar toast all around! John is now anxious to make his first loaf of bread, and Smidge is really happy to have fresh bread any time he wants.

The others are still sick. Miss Emily has figured out what those white floaty things in the boxes are for, and she's not impressed. Thankfully, she hasn't begun Smidge's tactical maneuver of wiping the snot on a sleeve just seconds before the tissue comes within range. It won't take long, I'm sure. Right now, she's under the illusion that she can simply outpace us. It's cute, but kind of sad, because she's honestly baffled that we catch her every. single. time.

Going barefoot seems to be Miss Emily's answer to the traction issue. (Tried the shoes - she was having none of that, thank you for trying.) So, she stands at the diswasher and talks with me while I tidy the kitchen. I don't get much done, for all the staring down toward my knees and cooing to the baby, but it does make the chores a lot of fun.

You know, Zorak rebounds from these renovation pushes much more quickly than I do. Just thought I'd put that out there. We haven't even purchased baseboards yet, and he's already dreaming of vaulting the living room ceiling, adding the den, and turning the master bath into a closet. The most encouragement I can offer him, as I rub my toes back and forth on the floor, is a weak, "Yeah... that'll be... *gulp* great." Poor guy. He needed a wife with stamina. What he got is a wife with a sense of humor. Ah, well, whatever works, right?

I got a delightful surprise yesterday morning! Just the day prior, I was thinking that we hadn't had one of those beautiful, sparkling, fog-drenched mornings yet - the ones where the barn is just a shadowy sillhouette in a shimmering pool off in the distance. I loved those last year, and isn't it about time for more of those? Well, yesterday I walked into the living room to find everything illuminated by a diffused, glowing light. Looked out the window, and there it was - a Faerie Morning! Ohhhh, coffe just tastes better in that kind of weather.

And now, as part of my plan not to drive myself into an early grave, I'm going to head to bed before midnight! Woohoo!

Kiss those babies!


Well, the computer has been acting up. The average page load takes anywhere from 15-30 minutes. So, no blogging, no returned emails, and no checking in on anyone. I *think* the problem is at bay for the moment, so figured I'd do something productive, like, um, well, blog. Wouldn't want to do something like pay bills until we know it's completely fixed, right? ;-)

Thought maybe I'd switch to beta, and ring in the new week with a fresh look for the blog, but Blogger won't let me switch. The help page listed several factors for not being able to switch over, the only one of which this blog might qualify for is the size. "Very large blog", which, honestly, I didn't think it was all that big. But then, I suppose if I saved all my dustballs every day for five years, that'd be a pretty big dustball. Put in perspective like that, yeah, I can see it.

Miss Emily has traction shoes now. We'll see how that works out tomorrow.

Smidge hasn't played in his room all weekend. He plays on "us new floor". He talks to the floor, too.

Zorak and I went back a few nights ago to read the posts from this time last year. We laughed, we exhaled a huge composite sigh of relief and gratitude. We got up and slid around the living room in our socks. The boys are no longer sleeping in a tent in the kitchen for warmth. The boys won't remember most of the hard stuff. Heck, they don't even remember last Thanksgiving. They thought we spent it with Melissa and her family, but that was two years ago - so, fortunately, they seem to have blocked most of last fall from their memories completely! WOOHOO!

Everybody here, from Zorak down to Miss Emily, with the exception of myself, has succombed to The Ick. They're not feeling so hot, so they've just watched movies and hung out near the Kleenex box. I spent two hours at the dentist this morning, having my jaw removed, beaten into a different shape, and then reattached with bailing wire (or so it seems, based on the residual pain), so everybody was kind enough to let me lie on the futon and whimper quietly for most of the afternoon.

I really hope the rest of this week goes well. I'm too tired to take on anything else. And on that note, it's time to check on the wee ones and head for bed, myself.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, November 11


YESSSS! The feeling we have right now is tantamount to the sensation that causes people to yank up goal posts and run laps around the field. Zorak's "Plan A" worked well. Astoundingly well. I've got to say, this is why I'm not an engineer. Had it been up to me to formulate a plan in the first half of the alphabet, I'd be either buried underneath hundreds of pounds of splintered wood and hinges, or I'd be still (two days later) taking the thing apart, one screw at a time. Thankfully, he "gets" how this stuff works, and we managed to lift, load, move, and replace a 6' x 4' cabinet grouping in one evening. No swearing. No running or screaming. And, best of all, no splinters!

We're still three rows shy of completing the kitchen, but today was productive. We got the ceiling fan in the living room switched out, the bookshelves oiled and restocked, the corner hutch oiled and loaded. We've thrown out a ton of paperwork (yay!) and can once again see the dining table. Oh, and we finally, honestly, seriously, have-the-confirmation-in-hand, ordered a cabinet. The bookshelf will soon be liberated from kitchen captivity and left free to roam the... um, other rooms... ok, the metaphor breaks down pretty darned rapidly. It's late. I'm tired. Happy, but not terribly articulate.

James really doesn't like the new furniture arrangement, and he's hoping we are simply subjecting him to one of our less-than-humorous jokes.

Miss Emily is in dire need of little shoes with traction. She keeps trying to stand, but about 3/4 of the way up, her feet splay out and down she goes. I wish she had some hair to cover the little round impact marks on her forehead. :-S

Smidge has decided he is "fast, fast, fast!" Fortunately, the hall ends at a doorway and not a wall, as he can't quite stop, stop, stop just yet.

And John, wow, what a little worker bee he's been! He regularly requests projects to do, although today's came with the request that he have "something constructive, not destructive". I guess breaking down box after box of flooring stuff loses its appeal after a while. So, he was put in charge of sorting and arranging the videos and music, and he did a great job.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, November 9

Quick Checklist

Luncheon: check.
Cute kids at luncheon who did not snort food out their noses or make bodily function jokes: check.
Lovely day with friends: check.
Empty kitchen: oh, I've run out of checks!

We left here yesterday way too early to be leaving the house, and although we headed out from the arsenal almost an hour after everyone else (because, yes, we are always late - it's in our genetic code), we still arrived in time for the mass seating at the luncheon. *whew* We may not be faster than a speeding bullet, but we've learned how to dodge them quite well. Yay us! The spread was lovely, the staff at the restaurant was delightful. The kids were in good form, and we enjoyed visiting, eating, and visiting a bit more.

Me-Wa and Me-Tae invited us to stop by their place on the way home. They're always enjoyable to visit with, and it's so neat to see how their place is coming along. And the kids really love them. We're so blessed to have them living here now. Terry (Smidge's "Me-Tae") is so kind and so gracious. I'm hoping some of that gentleness she has will wear off on me. And as for the guys, well, it's seldom men really form those lifelong bonds of friendship, but Ward (Smidge's "Me-Wa") and Zorak really have. They laugh without restraint, talk politics and religion without anybody's nose getting bent. They enjoy one another on a level I rarely see men enjoying their associations. So, while Me-Wa and Me-Tae probably collapse on the couch in utter exhaustion when we pull out of the drive, we sure do enjoy the time we spend with them.

Today came way too early. Oy. But in a bit, I'll start the Unloading of the Kitchen. It'll be a good time to purge and sort, too. The new pantry order has been held off until this weekend, as Zorak remembered that Home Depot offers 10% off for Veterans. *grin* That's worth the wait. (I just hope I can remember where we hid his DD214!) 911 has been programmed into my cell phone, and James has instructions to follow in case "Plan A" falls through. Er, wait, I shouldn't use the term "falls through". Um, "doesn't go quite as planned". Yes, that's better. More comforting than the thought of our island lying on the floor of the basement with us under it.

Oh, and Susie! I can't find another way to contact you, so I hope you see this. I would love any recipes you'd be willing to share. Our only restriction is wheat free, but we work with a lot of the other allergen-free recipes, too, so that we're ready to bring food to gatherings for just about anyone. For the house, though, we can use yeast and dairy and whatever else. Thank you so much for your offer.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 8

More Work, and a Little Play

The living room and dining room are now completely floored. We've put little fuzzy coaster things on everything that touches the floor. The kids are lucky they were in bed before we really got on a roll.

Tomorrow, I have to dump the cabinets in the island and clean off the corner hutch so we can move them and lay the floor in the kitchen. Zorak revealed his Plan tonight. We'll call it "Plan A". It's a very thorough plan. "Plan B" involves pre-programming 911 into my cell phone and teaching the boys how to use it. I'm really hoping Plan A works.

We also have a luncheon tomorrow. I think it's Zorak's company holiday thing. Not sure. I begged for attire guidelines and they were pretty vague. This serves me right for not knowing any of the women he works with. The boys are easy - navy turtlenecks and nice jeans. Miss Emily is a little harder, but that's just because there are soooo many cute outfits! (No, I did not just say that...) And me? Well, I have nothing that says, "Oh, sure, I may have four children and not get out much, but really, I'm holding up quite well, don't you think?" My best bet would have been to get my hair done three weeks ago, but that would've required advance planning. If I had a kaftan right now, I'd be tempted to wear it. Maybe with a belt.


Jeans and a snappy little holiday sweater ought to work. *snort* I don't own anything snappy. I don't know. We'll see what doesn't look bulgy when I try it on.

And on that note, I've got to go to bed.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, November 6

Before & After Pictures: The Hallway

In going through our photos, I realized there aren't many of the hallway itself. That's probably because it was creepy. Then it spent the winter covered in plastic and we only went back there when we really, really had to pee. And honestly, who takes a camera for that? (No. I don't want to know. Suffice to say that we aren't among those who do.) However, I pieced together what I could, so here goes.

This is the hall, as seen from the living room, when we bought the place. The hallway was, as everything else in the house, carpeted.

You can see the orange carpet in one of the bedrooms, and just in front of that, what we've been calling "the icon closet" (it finally decided to become a linen closet). The door to the basement is open. I don't know why. You can't see the old coat closet (now the washer/dryer cubby), but it's just past that door. The hall looks really long, to me, in this picture. I'm not sure why.

Nothing new to report on the whole process; out came the paneling, the carpet, the subfloor, and the doors. (The basement door we just cleaned and left on because, really, that was better than leaving the basement exposed. Ew.) So, here it is, a bit barren, but no longer inciting the willies in passersby. (This was taken from the other end of the hall, looking back toward the living room.)

And here, as it has spent the majority of our time thus far, with walls, paint, subfloor. And, it has two lights, one at each end, rather than one in the middle. The exciting stuff is in all the wiring, but you can't see that. It's a little plain vanilla, but how much time does one spend in the hallway? It's clean and not health-threatening. We'll hang stuff later, when decorations rise to the surface of the priority heap, um, list.

And then, only a year later (*snort*), here we are!

Miss Emily is thrilled with the new floor!

There's a lot of trim and detail work still to be done. But it's the fine carpentry stuff (such as borders near a few edges for the paint changes, since we used bullnose beading on the corners and that doesn't give a good, clean edge for a color change, baseboards - you can see that in detail.) But don't they look happy? And mostly clean?

And, if you'll pardon the mess (it's only about 50 feet from the front door to the kitchen, as the crow flies, but with everything upended while we work on the floor, it's a good two-mile hike over everything), here's a look at the foyer, from the living area. That arch is my happy spot. When I get overwhelmed by it all and think we'll never be finished, I sit in the kitchen and look over at my arch. *happy sigh*

Tomorrow, more flooring to put down. We're a little over halfway done with all of it, so that feels good. There's just a lot of shuffling, feeding, and tending to be done amidst all of it, so it's a slow process. But thanks for being patient and encouraging. It's really coming along. We forget just how much, until we look at the "before" pictures. That drives the changes home pretty quickly. It's amazing how quickly something can become "how it's always been" - it's an encouraging sensation.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, November 4

It's Down!

The floor, that is. Well, and Blogger's photo upload utility, it seems. But initially, I meant the floor. It's okay, though. I will try again tomorrow for a better picture. The ones from tonight are not only a bit dark, but they're kind of wobbly and off kilter. I'm hoping that's me, and not the floor.

However, there is now a floor, a Real Floor, in the hallway. It's so pretty! It feels SO good. Thankfully, it's a high-traffic residential/low-traffic commercial grade surface, because otherwise we'd wear the finish off from all our touching it and shuffling our stocking feet up and down the hall.

Miss Emily seemed to understand that this is just for her. She rolled around on it, played on it, crawled to and fro (giggling the entire time) on it, and dragged toys out of the nursery to play with in the hall. (She has never brought a toy out of the nursery.)

We couldn't keep the boys off of it. We asked them to wait until it was completely installed before they played on it: you'd have thought we told them we'd be serving only gruel from now until Christmas. When exiled to their room, they sat, wedged three abreast, in the doorway, peering out into the hall with the most pathetic big-eyed expressions I've ever seen. By the time we finished, they'd just about worn themselves out fidgeting and asking if it was done yet.

In all, we're happy with the way it goes in. We like the way it looks (and feels! Oh, my!) Our goal now is to go to bed before midnight (it's 11:44 now) and try to get up early enough that perhaps we can complete the project tomorrow. Baseboards will have to wait until the next payday, so the pictures won't show the completely finished project, but it's a far sight better than it was a year ago. Or last week, even.

And now I'm going to slide down the hall and off to bed!

Kiss those babies!

Friday, November 3

Home Renovation & Educational Maintenance

The hallway is almost ready to receive flooring. I've spent the last few days putzing about in there, getting all my stuff out of the way. Zorak spent tonight trimming door moulding. How exciting! We're still lacking three doors for the various openings in the hallway, but those are easy enough to put in after the floor is laid.

Since the kids survived running the gauntlet with me yesterday, I determined today would be A Good Day, with plenty of time to play, plenty of stories to read, plenty of time to just be. It worked. They played outside quite a bit, both the older ones spent over an hour this afternoon reading. Smidge and Miss Emily got extra snuggles and wrestling time and Stories For Little Guys. I set up James with his Latin, put Miss Emily down for a nap, and spent time doing a little one-on-one Latin work with John. (James graciously allowed Smidge to drive his little cars all over his head, back, and book while he worked. That child is so wonderful to his brothers!) Then John took Smidge outside and James and I worked one-on-one with his math while I prepared lunch. Today had a great rhythm.

We made a yeast-free breakfast bread, which turned out both delicious and beautiful. Then, while we were on a roll, we attempted Ms. Hagman's yeast-free bean bread again. Twice. I don't think we can eat that much bread pudding. And I still can't figure out what I'm doing wrong that's causing every loaf to implode like this. I cut the liquid by almost a full cup in this last batch, and while it was decidedly better, it still wasn't something I'd feed anyone not obligated to eat my cooking.

The boys are really taken in by both our current read-alouds: Farmer Boy and The Battle of Troy. Of course, the stories appeal to each boy in a different way, and James always wants to hear more Farmer Boy, whereas John's dying for me to read more Troy.

We wrapped up the majority of our prolonged Greece study tonight with a vase project. I don't think they're going to use the black figure or red figure painting (namely because I found our stash of paint, and we have no red). The vases really turned out great, though. James sculpted Balto, complete with three dimensional features, "almond eyes", and a bone tag on the collar, then wrapped the sculpture around the body of his vase. Very cool design. John built miniature ships which he attached to the rim of his vase. The rim has waves on it, to emulate a sea, and there's even a gargantuan cannon ball mid-way between the ships. I don't know how well the overall design will survive, but the concept is awesome. We'll bake them tomorrow and paint them in the afternoon, when the boys are tired of playing outside and we're knee-deep in flooring and underlayment.

Any suggestions for keeping a baby occupied and out of the way while laying floors?

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, November 2

Friday already?

Tomorrow can't be Friday! It's just... just, well, there was Wednesday, I think. But where'd the REST of the week go? In hindsight, we've accomplished quite a bit, but it just doesn't feel like an entire week has passed.

We are not leaving the house next week at all, if I can help it. Ugh. Oh, poop. Nevermind. I think we have a luncheon to go to next week in Lynchburg. How much Rescue Remedy does it take to build up a good, calm level in the bloodstream? Is it too late to start putting in in our breakfast drinks?

Today was The Errand-Filled Day From Hell. *insert spooky noises, screams of tortured children, er, souls, and flames - lots of flames* Whew, we're bushed! We hit Aldi's, Wal-Mart, Lowe's, and Costco. I haven't done groceries for two weeks, and after today, I may not do them again for another two weeks. Fortunately, the Costco runs are only once a month. We are thoroughly prepared for several potential situations, however: unexpected company, growth spurts, overnight famine. Then we stopped at Me-Wa's and Me-Tae's for a visit. (We were sure Smidge was going to just walk the 50 miles to their house if we didn't go visit soon.) Had a lovely visit. Life is good. And the kidlets? Sleeping like couch potatoes after a triathalon. It's beautiful.

Productivity seems to be the theme for this fall. I have no idea how that happened, but there you have it. The boys love getting checklists each morning (I use the ones from Chart Jungle), and in the process of putting something together for them, it's inevitable that I also must have some idea what's happening. Next thing you know, Zorak's coming home and we've been busy all day long. Constructively, productively busy. With free time, even, to play in the leaves and run from the dog.

Meals seem to be coming easier, also (both ideas and timing). I've really got to thank Miss Maggie for that end of it. There's only so much you can do with hamburger, but it's evidently quite a lot more than I knew before. I need to spend a little more time stewing over lunch ideas (I really hate fixing lunch), but in general, it's getting easier to meet the needs of the crew with a good attitude and good food, you know, before nine PM - a winning combination in any book!

So in the vein of productivity, Friday will bring us more sorting, more cleaning, more decluttering. More second declension nouns, more math and more reading. We'll be spending time in the woods of New York, and on the shores of Troy. We'll probably bake some bread and paint some, erm, trim (it's okay, I laugh when I say that, too). But you never know. This is a magical season. It could happen. We'll move from Venus to Mars, and make some pottery. It will be a busy, productive day. And at the end, when it's quiet once again, I'm still going to be truly puzzled how this happened. Some mysteries are sweeter left unsolved, though, I think. (It's that, or admit that I'm getting old and uncomfortable with spontaneity. So let's stick with "mysteries", okay? Thanks.)

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 1

The Whole Crew

I had no idea trick-or-treating began around four! When I was a wee lass, we didn't start until after supper and after it was dark. Period. Ever. Zorak pointed out the safety aspect of going while it's still light out, though, and reminded me that we also took myriad trips cross country as youngsters, splayed out in the back of a station wagon, sans any safety restraint whatsoever. Um, okay, so the times they are a'changin'. But it still feels weird to go trick-or-treating while it's still light out. However, since I'm not on the ball with this sort of stuff (except the restraints, yes, the children are all properly strapped in like little astronauts on liftoff), we didn't make it out during daylight hours today, either. But we had fun.

And, since I'm not organized, either, I can't show you the fun we had or the amazingly decorated houses we saw, because we left the camera to guard the house. (??) I had the kids spread out on the rock in the front yard when we arrived home, though, and got a few shots. You can't see the angels singing, because they were behind me, but if you've got more than two children, you can spot the cause of my joy immediately:

Yep, all looking the same direction. Just couldn't top that, so I quit right then and there.

Life is good, indeed.

Kiss those babies!