Monday, December 31

Another Productive Day

We got so much done today! Well, not a lot, domestically speaking. The kids mostly ran amok in and out of the sawdust, played billiards, and ate Chrismtas candy remnants. But on the project front, we did accomplish a bit. It's going to be horribly dull when Zorak goes back to work Wednesday. The kids and I just do normal "stuff" during the day - but when Zorak is home, it's all an adventure! I have thoroughly enjoyed this time with him.

Today he put two coats of stain on my new coat rack. I want to fondle it and touch it and whisper things to it, but it's a bad idea to manhandle the wet stain. Not to mention the whole fumes-while-pregnant issue. We won't even discuss the concerns surrounding Mommy talking to the furniture. So. I stand back and oooohhh and ahhhh, and inwardly stomp my feet like the impatient six-year-old I am. You know, deep down inside. :-) He got the stain on the rails of Claudia's toy bin, too. Different stain. Just as pretty. I didn't touch or talk to those, either. (I've been so good!)

I did, however, while feeling a bit guilty for sitting on the futon chair (again), reading (again), and doing absolutley nothing (erm, still...) decide I needed to clean up our old coffee table. This is the table James and John helped me make the top for, way back when I was pregnant with Smidge. We didn't want to strip it, but after two and a half years in storage, it needed something more than Murphy's. Zorak found a product today at Home Depot called "Restor-A-Finish" - wow! You can't use it with polyurethane, but since we don't polyurethane *anything*, we figured it would work well for us. It did! The table looks as good tonight as it did when we first refinished it. Ahhh, what a great feeling. (And how little work! LOVE that stuff!) Anyway, that little project turned out so beautifully that I've decided to tackle the big office desk chair and an old end table tomorrow. If we somehow manage to get enough sunlight into the basement, I'll get pictures of the progress.

We have only two days of vacation left. In that time, we've got to finish the small desk and haul it upstairs, pick up mattress bags and haul the guest room bed downstairs, hang the coat rack, finish Claudia's toy bin rack, make a new step stool for the bathroom (one that will fit beneath the sink and remove the toe-eating feature of the bath - not a big selling point, really) and... and I'm forgetting something. There's more on the list, but this is the stuff I need Zorak's help with (well, I *could*, technically, just let the boys maul the mattress down the basement stairs, but I have nightmares that they'll one day try to *ride* something down those stairs... those stairs that end at a cinder-block wall... it's worth it to ask for help from a grownup). We also want to get into town and visit Me-Wa and Me-Tae - we haven't seen them in almost a month, and we're all Jonesing for a visit.

Sometime between now and Wednesday, I want to review our lessons and goals for the Winter Term. We've only got January, February, and March before the baby arrives, and I'd like to be all caught up on our more structured academic work, poised with plenty of good literature on hand, and be able to spend our Spring on the back porch, enjoying the new dynamics and the daffodils. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, December 29

Christmas Gatherings. Literally.

This sounds so trite, but we had the nicest Christmas. The children had a wonderful time. We had a wonderful time. The food was to-die-for and since we ditched the traditional menu, the time savings left us with oodles of time to just enjoy the days leading up to, and following, Christmas Day. Other than missing so many of our loved ones, and wishing we could have been together, this was, perhaps, the Best Christmas Ever, for us.

We took over 300 pictures that day. 98% of them are of the backs and sides of peoples' heads. This is not what I was shooting for. This would normally bother me (or cause me to lobby for a better camera... which isn't out of the question just yet), except that the reason for the poor pictorial performance is wonderful: everybody was wholeheartedly engaged with everyone else.


How can I knock that, even in the name of needing to get some good pictures?

Isn't that fun? They were like this all day. The kids were all excited about their own gifts, but they were equally excited to share in their siblings' joy, too. That... that stuff doesn't just... well, that was the best thing I could have found beneath the tree this year, that's for sure.

And my gift? The final gluing and clamping is done. It dries tonight, and in the morning, we stain. I can hardly wait to show y'all!!

Did you have a good Christmas? Did you get a Favorite Shot sometime during the day? Want to post it? I'd love to see it!

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, December 27

A New Project

You can see, if you look closely at the picture below, there is a futon frame, belly-up in the basement. (OK, I tried to make it easy - the hot pink writing? Doesn't actually appear in the basement.)
That's the one we salvaged when we needed a couch for this place during its "construction phase", two years ago. We lived in/on/around it for about a year, thoroughly beat the tar out of it, and then, when it had finally given up all pretense of function, we laid it down in the basement. Presumably to die.

But that's the thing about metal. It just won't always up and decompose like you'd hope it would. And so, as you can see, the frame stayed. It gathered dust. It held my old lariat. It created a jarring visual. Particularly after the Great Basement Clean of '08 (which continued this last week, once I could again breathe and stand upright - but more on that later). I wanted to toss it. Zorak wanted to keep it. (Did you see all that metal? Metal is always useful. Honestly.) We went back and forth. Considering this photo was taken less than two weeks ago, I think it's obvious how I fared on those discussions. Fast forward to December 23rd. Decision-making time. There was only one way to handle this:
This basement's just not big enough... well, it's big enough, but I just don't want to look at this thing, anymore. Are you going to do something with it, or is this part of your overall plan to make me criminally insane?
Well, I guess I'd just never taken the blunt approach before. And the basement is all purtied up and ready to use. And, well, what the heck. Let's do it.

And so, what began as a Crusade to rid the basement of More Crap turned into the Plan to Make It All Come Together. Here's what we came up with:

You know, that was actually kind of fun! It fits two adults and one toddler quite comfortably. Or one adult, one bag of peanut butter cups, a coffee cup, and a good book. (Ask me where I spent the day after Christmas!) Plus, since we saved the hardware from the edges, it folds flat to make a splendid cushiony seating thing for, well, I can't think of a reason. But it'd be a great place to nap if you're small enough! It won't be pretty for a while, but now it's functional. And the view across the basement is improved already! And did ya see the joy on that little guy's face? Oh, he had so much fun helping to build it with us! That, alone, was worth all the waiting in the world.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, December 22

Christmas Tree Cakes

The boys got their trees decorated. The trees actually turned out much better than I anticipated. James asked if I was going to blog them, so, here they are! The boys worked diligently at their task. (Ignore the boxes in the foyer - that's what passes for Christmas storage in our house.)
Why, yes, yes, they are wearing their pajamas. Sometimes we don't get around to something until it's, well, past bedtime, if I must be honest. :-) Don't they look traumatized?
And then, ta-da! Decorated, happy, semi-delicious trees. I think these silly little trees turned out to be one of the best projects we've done this season. The kids really enjoyed them. (So much so that there are actually a few missing. It seems there is no flat surface in this house that can keep EmBaby from her sugar fix.)
(The boys graciously agreed to let her keep the ones she'd already sucked on. How thoughtful, no?)

Kiss those babies!

Friday, December 21

One More Gift To Buy

Oh, this was just too sweet, and I can't resist. Tonight, we were doing groceries, when James saw that the store had The Order of the Phoenix. That's the next book on his list. He's been told he must wait until his birthday (next September) to get it. Still, he was so excited to point it out to me.

I gave the non-committal "mmmm, that's interesting" response and kept walking, because, let's be truthful, I'm about done shopping. I bought food tonight solely because I really like to eat.

He paused, and suddenly, his little face just. lit. up. He let out a little, "Oh!", slipped up to me, put his arm in mine, and whispered, "Thank you."

And the child simply glowed through the rest of the shopping excursion.

At the thought of receiving this book.

Not even a hint of disappointment at thinking he knew what he'd be getting Christmas morning. It didn't ruin anything for him. Just total, utter contentment.

Well. Yeah. How can I not pick up a copy now, right?

So, one more stop this weekend, and then I'm really, truly finished. But oh, what a worthwhile stop to make!


Thursday, December 20


Well, we got pictures to Target to print out as cards. Thank you for your input! (And Amy, thank you for reminding me of Shutterfly - and then, for walking me through it in my caffeine-deprived haze this morning!) Hopefully, Zorak will pick them up on his way home. If I have your address, you can expect a card from us by, um, Easter. And if you read the blog, you may not actually get the Christmas letter in with your card, because, well, because you know everything we've been doing this year!

And just when I was feeling quite together and such, Smidge brought me this lovely package of little gift bags and asked what they were for. "OH, those are for Daddy to take candies to his co-workers." Pause. Insert internal dialogue:

Uh... tomorrow's Friday. And then, it's Christmas. He won't see these people after tomorrow. I haven't made candy! When was I going to make candy? Why didn't I? Oh, yeah, I was sick. Nuts. Well, they'll probably appreciate that I didn't make candy *while* I was sick. Or, they would if they knew why there's no candy. Oh. Well.

There goes the General Sensation of Togetherness, as you can see. And so, that brings us up to date. :-) Yay. Putting Em down right now, and then I'm going to turn the boys loose to decorate the cupcake Christmas trees we attempted to make the other day.

What? I didn't mention those? Yeah. Probably because they didn't work so well. The cones we used collapsed. It'll take a month to burn off all the overspill in the oven. Then we tried making foil cones to hold the batter. Those weren't horribly stiff, and didn't want to hold your basic cone-shape. It was difficult to get the trees out from all the folds and creases. But they did come out. Mostly. We have a theme, at least: A Chernobyl Christmas.

Thankfully, the kids are all about the icing, which I'm not going to tell you about, either. So, thankfully-thankfully, the kids don't have terribly high standards and are just happy to be decorating what I claim are trees with what they know is a sugar-based substance. See? It's all good. No need for holiday stress, at all, if you're simply willing to lower your standards, mmm, "be flexible".

Yeah. Good stuff, really. Even when our tea cart is decorated with what looks suspiciously like an acid-rain forest, and Zorak has to hand out empty gift bags tomorrow. How did I get so lucky to have such an awesome family? Really. Good, good stuff.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, December 19

Group Photos from Round 1

OK, just presume that I can edit out the marker (which I didn't see when I took the picture to begin with - you'd think I'd have fixed that by now, I know). And if there's anything else truly glaring, I probably can't fix it, but I have People Who Can. And they love me. Thankfully!

I really like this next one... except, is Smidge chewing or talking? I'm not sure.

This one makes me smile the most...

Kiss those babies!

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Photos, Take 1

This is gonna take another round, I think. Whooo boy. We made a point of keeping it fun......and while that did reduce the stress level, it didn't do much for the quality of the photos. When I got a good shot, it was blurry (my camera doesn't like indoor photography, at all, and I haven't figured out the magic trick for making it behave). I mean, seriously, look at that - I'm not using a 1976 Polaroid, I swear. Huh. And, um, the star wasn't straightened. But I'd happily crop the star for in-focus children at this point!

And then, they figured out that I had muffins, and it was all over...

Emily's watching Elf (we think she has a crush on Buddy *sigh*) and when she gets up from her nap, if it's still light out, we'll try again. I hate to do this, as the children have been so gracious and sweet about it. But you know what, this is one of the perks of having children. They're lucky I don't take them to the Big, Scary Photographer my mother took me to as a child... oh, wait, that was my Uncle. Well, still, it's not fun to have Herr Scary directing the Christmas shots, okay? Someday (not today, or probably even next year, but someday), they'll appreciate this.

Kiss those babies!

They've Been Warned

Last night, I told each child that this morning is The Day. The Day we take pictures. The Day we pretend we're organized. Since I'm still without transportation, and it's kind of cold outside, we'll do it indoors. They have from the time we put the muffins IN the oven, until the time we take them OUT of the oven, to give me a good shot with most apendages intact, and eyeballs not doing things eyeballs ought not do. Period. It's happening, folks, and it's happening T-O-D-A-Y.

But... but what brought this on, you may ask? Traitors. That's what brought this on.

We got cards this year from not one, but TWO -- TWO -- friends I've always been able to count on for also Not Sending Cards. But noooooo, they had to go get on the ball this year. Then another friend called yesterday, "I got cards! I need your address!" Granted, after I gave it to her, she laughed and said, "OK, now I've got *one* address. This is such a good start." So, there may still be hope for her, but I doubt it. She sounded like she'd been stoking up on caffeine, and she just might pull this off. Well, I may be the last among my friends to be able to keep a plant alive. Or to stop giggling and hearing Beavis' voice in my head when I'm taking tours led by Park Rangers. Or to relegate an actual day to switching out the sheets. I'm okay with bringing up the rear on those things. But I cannot be the Very Last One to get around to the last of the Domestic Tasks That Makes People Smile.

How could I not want to make people smile? What kind of selfish, horrible, scatterbrained person wouldn't leap at the chance to spread a little happiness and help fund the USPS? What am I, a commie?

NO! No, I say! I am a red-blooded American Housewife, and by-golly, I have a heritage to uphold! *play inspiring music of your choice in your head, here - personally, I'm going with Eye of the Tiger this morning*

So, who wants to come back around lunch and help me pick photos? :-D And recover.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, December 18

Company, or More Forever Home Updates

I know, I promised to relegate those to Sunday's posts only. I lied. It seems that's been our focus this week, and I can't just sit here and hear the voices on my own, okay? So, I've got to share the joy with you.

We're having company next week, and I've noticed that seems to be our biggest motivator. (Ack! Someone might see how we *gasp* LIVE!) I mean, it's one thing to read about it, but it's another thing, entirely, to walk into it. What I really need is a year's supply of guests, each willing to come for one weekend a month, one group per month. That gives me three weekends to get things done before each group arrives, and then a weekend of force feeding people just because it's fun. Really, that seems like the best schedule for us to use. Any takers? Anyone? Please? The last weekend in January looks open, and at this rate, I think we could roll out the red carpet for you by then!

We finally caved and bought medicine cabinets at Lowe's this weekend. We've been holding off for an IKEA trip. There is so much we'd planned to get from IKEA: medicine cabinets, comforters for the boys, new twin mattresses, that hanging chair thing (for the kids, honest), kitchen lighting, perhaps a new sofa. See? That's worth the drive to Atlanta. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to scrape together the time to make the trip *and* the money to blow once we got there, all at the same time. But the kids really need blankets that actually fit their beds, and we really need some storage solutions. So, we gave in and went with this. It turned out great. We put up two cabinets, so there are enough mirrors that everyone can see from the vantage point of his respective sink. Plus, the mirrors are far enough apart that nobody's toothpaste gets in anybody else's hair. (If your toothpaste gets in your own hair, well, there's not much I can do for ya, there.) The gap between the two is large enough that when somebody starts touching someone else, it'll be fairly obvious who violated the airspace. The peace this will bring to my home is indescribable. There is also now enough room to stash a step stool beneath the sinks, and my stubbed toes will be forever grateful to get that bit taken care of.

Then, like the distractable puppies we are, we realized you can now actually access the wee gap between the backsplash and the wall (bad framing, not something we did wrong). It needs caulking before the boys decide it would make a great used floss receptacle. And we thought we found weird things behind the cabinets we pulled out, right? Ew. But, before we can caulk, we really need to paint the cabinet base, and before we can paint the cabinet base, we really need to dismantle the doors and drawers. Oh! Hey! We can paint in the basement! So it doesn't matter that it'll get down to the 20's at night! WOOHOO! Let's go! Now, the storm windows still aren't finished, but the cabinet base is lookin' good.

I worked a bit more in the basement yesterday, too. Cleared off the Big Wonderful Desk (I love that desk), and also cleared off the Small, Semi-Creepy-Yet-Fully-Functional desk from beneath the piles of boxes. Zorak pulled the small desk out and we made the command decision to give it a hearty sanding and restain it, and we'll put it back into the guest room, where it has lived for most of its life. That buys us more floor space in the basement, and gives James a place to work in peace (because right now, he's nine, and he must have peace to tap into his genius. Or something. I don't know. He's nine. We just try to go with it.)

All in all, things are moving along nicely. Zorak asked me to be a little less productive day, and (once I ascertained that he was actually wanting me to relax and rest, and he wasn't being snarky), I agreed. So we're going to be slugs today. Perhaps bake. Definitely read. Maybe even craft something. (Don't quote me on that, though, he said I could relax - so we'll play the crafting bit by ear.)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, December 16

On Organizing

It's important to be organized, but it's equally important not to allow the process of organization to overtake the goal in sight. I know, I can see you nodding and hear you ask, "But how? How do you do that?" Well, don't ask me. I don't know. I just know it's important.

Anyway, Zorak and I put the kids to bed and headed down to proceed on the Great Basement Overhaul. My plan tonight was to put labels on *everything* -- every shelf, every coffee can, every box. If it's going to live down there, it must have a label. We must know why it's there or, so help me, the next time I do this, I'm just setting things on fire if they don't have labels.

We made progress. Zorak got the peg board hooks up and began hanging things from them. I suspect he's writing a secret code that'll only be visible from 20' away, but for now, I'm going to let that slide. (I want to see what it says.) We created a work space for the boys, complete with work bench, seating, and storage compartments. We got the bulk of the Scary Chemicals up, hopefully out of the reach of the Bad Idea Fairy, as well as small children and dogs.

In the process, we had to fight our inner pack rats, our inner raised-by-Depression-Era-wolves children, and our inner desire not to have to do this at all. There was a lot of internal struggling going on, but mostly, I think, we won. The sweetest victory of all, however, was not the three bags of trash, or the two large plastic tubs now empty, or the spare shelf we ended up with. No, those might sound good, but they're nothing compared to the victory we scored over the Categorizing Demons.

That's our Achilles Heel, right there. We over-analyze every. little. thing. We want a name, a place, a compartment, a label, a coffee can, for every individual item you could ever hope to find in our basement. But I only bought two rolls of masking tape. So, we had to be firm with ourselves. And so, we have labels, and we have simplicity. I thought I would share, in case anyone else has trouble deciding just where to draw the line in their categorizing, between "too vague" and "far too detailed". I think we've found a good balance.

Leatherworking; Bowmaking; Concrete tools; Scary, Dangerous Stuff (this would be the shelf with pesticides, herbicides, and other neurological agents, but "neurological agents" didn't seem like the best thing to have listed on a shelf, in a basement, with other... accoutrements... that might, you know, "concern" the nice folks at the FBI. Not that that's a concern. I'm just saying...); Happy Homeowner Stuff (small nails, furniture feet pads, stuff normal people keep in their basements); Sealants & Adhesives; Sanding materials; Power Tools; Power Tool Accessories; Construction Fasteners; Normal Fasteners; Plumbing; Electrical - Construction; Electrical - happy homeowner; Reloading Equipment; Weird Stuff You Only Look For Once A Year (very important category - you can easily fill a small bin with this one - be flexible, but don't overdo it, or it'll take you a year to find anything in that bin, and by then you won't need it).

Zorak got away from me, for a bit, with a few bins: All Things Blades; Tape (I don't mind a "tape" bin, but... there were three...); Metalworking (I take exception to this. I don't know metalworking, this is true. But I know for a fact there is an 18" piece of angle iron, cut from a metal bedframe that he took from the dumpster behind the storage facility... this is scraps, I know it's scraps, I just can't quite make a convincing case for tossing it when he quotes the price of angle iron at Lowe's. So, that box stays. For now.) I did, however, keep the masking tape on my wrist, and am going to push for a more efficient grouping of a few things down there before wielding the Sharpie Of Organization on them.

We're back on the same page again, though. No blood was shed. Nothing broken, or hidden (I think). Hey, that's what a good marriage does. It allows you to figure out how to keep it together, and enjoy the process, right? Yeah. It does. Onward and upward! And then, to bed.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, December 15

Where've I Been?

Down here. Doing this.

And to think, we're really not even packrats. Scary.

That was Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I was sicker than a dog and borderline non-functional. I'm still a little whiney today, truth be told. But I'm up, and my voice has this funky Eartha Kitt kick to it. That's kind of cool, if you can get past the sinus issues. And, I'm functional (relatively).

But the super exciting news is that now I have masking tape, so I can have Zorak tell me what's supposed to go on each shelf. (My plan is to write said instructions on tape, stick the label to the shelf, and then be miraculously capable of sorting through all the remaining dodads and general crap, myself. Hah. We shall see how that works out. But don't mock me. We bought two rolls of this tape, and I'm feeling a little taut at the moment, okay? Okay. Thanks.)

Kids are psyched about Christmas. I refuse to even think about how close it's actually come while I was laid out. Just not going to think about it.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, December 9

A Quickie

What a weekend...

The Nutcracker was splendid. Both James and John thoroughly enjoyed the entire performance. I don't know which I enjoyed more -- watching the performance, or watching them watching the performance. The intermission was a tad too short for the three of us to suck down a small (small-small) soda - could've used another five minutes in the lobby. But really, that's the only complaint. The baby mice - oh. my. word. How cute could they be?!? The Cavalier was absolutely, perfectly, spectacular. He took my breath away with his performance. It was just... wow. Wow. Of course, we couldn't find the camera, so there are no photos. But trust me, we had a lovely time, and the boys were so handsome decked out in their holiday attire.

Since we're having some freakishly warm winter weather, we worked on the windows some more, worked on the property, and then headed out to pick up a tree. We went with our first artificial tree.
(OK, yes, John looks like he's ready to fall over. He was. And no, that's not blood on the wall. It's art. Just ask EmBaby. It's also a very good argument not to buy cheap paint.) Anyway, I never thought I'd want an artificial tree, but truth be told, I'm good with it. No water to worry about spilling on the floor. No water to worry about refilling. It's pre-lit, so that eliminated a tremendous potential for conflict between *ahem* certain parties of our household. The kids liked it okay when we got it up. They liked it a little better when we plugged it in. When we got each limb "fluffed", though, it hit them: this is a beautiful tree! So, four happy children. Can't get better than that. Oh, wait, yes it can. This tree? It. Can't. Die. No matter what we do to it. No matter how many times we tip it over (not saying we will, just saying it could happen). No matter how long we procrastinate in taking it down (ok, I am saying we will do this one). It'll be just as green, and just as non-needle-dropping in March as it is tonight. One happy mama, that's for sure.

Here, we see The Fluffing of the Tree. A new tradition. Perhaps next year, there won't be cans of paint stripper peering in the window.

Oh, and those 3M adhesive hook things? Yeah, they don't last a full year. And the sound of a six-foot bough leaping from the wall in the dead of night? Not the best thing for one's blood pressure. However, it missed the anole set-up, missed the heat lamp, and missed the tree. Since nothing caught on fire, I think it can wait until tomorrow to be dealt with.

Unfortunately, one by one, separated by only a few hours each, the children came down with The Snots today. All four of them. So what began as a routine holiday excursion ended in a menthol-scented, Puffs Plus-filled evening of short stories and an early bedtime. Hopefully, this round will be short-lived. Hopefully, this round won't hit anybody in the house over 5' tall... *cringe*

And in that hope, I'm hitting the hay!

Kiss those babies!

Friday, December 7

The Periodontist...

Or... Why I'm So Confused.

I met with the Periodontist yesterday. The one recommended by our current dentist's office. (Until further notice, I shall refer to the two dentists in that office as Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. I'm fairly certain neither one knows the other one exists.) I went braced for the Apocalyptic news I'd been prepared to hear. I struggled with presenting myself in a confident, capable manner without having to resort to Ernie's suggestion (which was, by the way, infinitely comforting, and made me smile a lot during the morning).

He made a chart, updated the information from the x-rays I had with me, and then probed my gums with the little measure-o-meter stick. The numbers sounded different than the numbers I'd been quoted at the awful visit I referenced in my last post. They sounded significantly different. There was one bad-bad number (a pocket of 7mm between the two front teeth - but back at the last visit, the hygienist had said she'd bottomed out her poker thing and never hit solid ground, so she marked it as an 11 on my chart), but everything else was mostly 2's, with a few 3's. Only two fours, and one five. Nothing like the 8's and up I'd been told before.

We talked about pregnancy hormones, and how these numbers will likely actually improve after the baby is born. He said even if they didn't, he doesn't see anything that warrants a surgical solution. He is a little worried about that spot between the two front teeth, and would like to wrap his mind around it. The teeth are healthy, and there's no gum recession. So why the deep pockets there? What caused this? (That is, also, incidentally, where there is identifiable bone loss on the x-rays.) He asked if I'd experienced any trauma to that region - car wreck, head bonk by a child, kick in the head, bar fight... anything? There hasn't been anything, so I don't know what could have caused it. I can only guess, but we know what that's worth. Miss Cleo, I'm not.

His recommendation: wait until April, then come in for a regular old cleaning and another probe. Let's see, then, but also take into account that nursing keeps your body in a pregnancy-like state, as far as hormones go, and a good portion of gum condition is directly tied to hormones. (OK, can I just interject here that it is SO refreshing to find a health care professional who has a clue how pregnancy affects the body? Truly, deeply refreshing.) If I experience any obvious changes, call him immediately and he'll see me to make sure nothing bad is going on in there. In the meantime, though, keep doing whatever I'm doing at home, and have a good pregnancy.

I'm... relieved. I'm... cautiously optimistic. Obviously, I'd like to believe what this man is saying. Nobody would opt for a full frontal flaying if it's not actually necessary. However, I just don't know who to trust or what to do, and a part of me (the pessimistic, Eyore-like part) is terrified to go with the best-case-scenario, for fear that I'll wake up one morning to find my mouth has exploded, I'm choking to death on abcesses, and my teeth are embedded in the ceiling and headboard. Lovely image, no? No. Yeah, I know.

*phew* I don't know. What would you do? I'm at an absolute loss, but at least for now, I think we're going to wait until April to make any further decisions. That will allow us to enjoy the holidays, get more done on the Forever Home, and enjoy welcoming BabyFive to the family. Tomorrow's worries can wait. (Or, they will explode while I sleep. Either way, I'm not going to sweat it for now. *grin*)

Thanks for listening!
Kiss those babies!

Thursday, December 6

Hey there!

We would not make a good on-the-go family. At least, not yet. Left the house this morning with everybody intact, nearly on time, and mostly fed. We hit the periodontist, Zorak's workplace, and then Sam's and Wal-mart. Picked up Zorak and came home... and wow, oh wow, are we one tired clan. I remember keeping busier schedules. I do. But... I've no idea *how* I kept them. So. Anyway, there ya go.

OK, I don't know how much of our dental saga y'all are familiar with. We've had a rough time finding competent dentists, and keeping our teeth healthy. The combination is enough to make Pol Pot cry, really. Today's visit was to a periodontist, presumably, based on my last visit with my dentist's office, to discuss bone grafts. And which five teeth I'll be able to keep. Obviously, this visit is not something I've been eagerly awaiting.

The visit was interesting and different. I'll fill y'all in on that tomorrow, when I've had some rest and put my hackles back down a bit. Nothing like trying to blog while you're still a bit prickly.

We blew a whole lot of cash at Sam's. I thought I'd been so good, too. But no. I bought a lot of crap. Not crap-crap, and nothing that made Zorak ban me from shopping there without a chaperone. (Although, truthfully, I probably need one.) Still, I could have been a bit more frugal. *sheepish grin* Fortunately, we won't need to go back for a while, so that's good.

We didn't blow much at Wal-Mart. That was also good. I'd like to say it was due to my superior culling skills, and excellent self-restraint. But no. It was due to the fact that EmBaby had been up and about since six-thirty, and by four that afternoon, she. was. done. Done being cute. Done being quiet. And done being complaint in any sense of the word. Honestly, if I had any idea when I might have transportation for groceries again, I'd have left. But sometimes you can't go with Option A. So, I encouraged the boys to just remember this and torment her with it when she's 24 and way-too-cool for something, and, for now, laugh their way through it. They obliged, and we survived. Long Live Flexibility!

Tomorrow is the Nutcracker. I forgot to buy shoes for James. Not sure how to work that one around, but we'll see how it goes. Even if he has to go barefooted, or if we have to re-think the outfits they'll wear, we'll go, and it will be a wonderful evening with my Fine Young Men. That's what counts. And truth be told, I am far more excited about it than I thought I'd be! Hopefully, we will have it together enough to get pictures.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, December 5

Breathe in...

I'll breathe out later.

OK, so I'm just in a slightly foul mood, and I've got to work it out before Zorak comes home, because he probably isn't making the trek home, thinking, "Boy, I hope she's *really* irritable tonight. It's been such a nice week, and I'd just hate to keep things so bland."

Yeah. Heh. I know.

The periodontist's office called today. They have a cancellation and can take me tomorrow morning. This is good, as it means they can see me sooner (I'd originally been scheduled for January 8th). This is good, as it means we'll have a clear picture and less ambiguity on how to proceed. This is good...

Well, I can't really think of a reason this is good. But I couldn't think of a reason not to take the appointment, either, other than my disgust with the overal dental community, my frustration with the lack of straight answers, and the fact that I'm. Just. Tired. Of it. Yank 'em all and call it good. I'll share applesauce with EmBaby and double up on my multi-vitamins. I don't smile a big, toothy smile, anyway.

Perhaps, if I felt a bit more confident that anybody in the dental profession was shooting us straight, I'd be more enthusiastic about this visit. Or, if not "enthusiastic", at least not quite so Eyore-like. Yes. That's it. Here's hoping the periodontist is capable of communicating in a straightforward manner, whether the prognosis is heinous or uplifting. I don't care. I just want a health care professional who is going to be honest and upfront, from beginning to end. Capable of doing the work would also be a bonus, but I'm starting to feel that's asking too much.

Gah. Ok, ham and split pea soup is on. We've got bread. Gotta make some tea and mix up some juice, and then I think we're set. Perhaps this would be a good time to sort some laundry? I don't know. They day started out oddly, and just never improved. What are your tips for recalibrating on a day like that?

I know! I'll Kiss Those Babies! That always helps. :-)

Simple. Phone. Etiquette.

I understand that children must practice using the phone in order to hone the skills necessary to use this particular communication device without doing something moronic. I do get that. I love it when friends ask if I mind talking with Little A or Tiny B, because it gives the child a good framework to develop those skills. It's good stuff. I have two who would give body parts to answer the phone, and are absolutely elated when I say, 'yes'. However, that feature starts out with people who know and may expect it, who will help me help the child, etc. etc. etc. Totally get that. Life takes a little work. Good stuff. No qualms.

What I don't appreciate, however, (in fact, I resent it quite a bit) is having *my* phone ring, answering it, and hearing the person on the other end demand, without introducing herself, "Who is this?"

'Scuze me? You called here. With whom would you like to speak? Or, better yet, how about a simple, "Hello, this is *insert your name here*. Is *individual you're looking for* available?"

Yes, I know. Adults do this, too. I have no idea what's up with it. I hate to think of an entire generation coming up behind them, thinking it's "normal". Seriously. Take a few minutes to teach a child HOW to use the phone before turning him/her lose with it. Gah. It's not the wrong number that galls me. We all dial wrong numbers. It's the fact that more and more frequently, these callers skip straight to interrogation mode on the phone. My phone. When you called me.


Kiss those babies! I'm off to remind mine how to answer a phone...

Tuesday, December 4

Small Town Parades

I grew up in a small town, and, so, I get a special kick out of small town parades. We could have opted for the Huntsville parade, or even the Decatur parade, but those aren't our communities. We wouldn't recognize anybody in the floats. We'd have to wriggle our way through the throngs who've been parked there two hours before the parade began (and who are, as a result, cranky, cold, and unwilling to acknowledge you when you say, "Excuse me, pardon us, just need to get by.") We don't know the route, and would have no idea where to park to avoid a three-mile trek, uphill both ways. There'd still be large crowds, and, my biggest pet peeve with parades: grown people who must be in the Very Front and don't have the decency to let small children sit on the curbside for the candy. We might as well trek into NYC for the Macy's Day parade, for all that.
Nah, that's no fun. What's fun is to stroll to an empty spot along the parade route (because small town parades have empty spots along the parade routes), smile and get to know the folks on either side of you. What's fun is to laugh with them as their children or grandchildren asphalt dive for candy, just as they laugh with you while your children dive, as well. Granted, there's no curb to sit upon, but that doesn't seem to phase the children. Curbs are overrated, anyhow, I'm sure.

Do you see the look of concentration on each little face? They were like that the whole parade. Tensed. Poised. Ready for the pounce. I don't ever remember being ready for anything, and most of the candy I acquired at parades was the stuff that konked me on the head while I sat on the curb. (But then, for me, it was all about the bands. I love marching band music, and where else can you get a total fix of all the bands in the area? I still love that part.) These kids, though... they're ready, man. You can even see EmBaby's taking off to forage for more, just in case they missed some.

Obviously, Smidge wasn't ready for the field. He had a pocketful, and was ready to talk about it. But the other four? No way, man. There's a shiny black car with a red bow, and somebody hanging out of the window, winging candy at bystanders. Get ready... this is going to be good!

Did you SEE that? There must be enough for... for ALL OF US, there! WOW! (And see the nice folks in the background, laughing? Very cool people. We really enjoyed visiting with them.) The lady in the white hoodie offered to keep EmBaby, and I don't think EmBaby would have minded. But the boys were more efficient with the candy gathering than any of us slackin' adults, and so they kept her stocked up enough to prevent a full-on migration.

And even better? The boys shared their candy with the old and infirmed (AKA - those of us who stood, sat, or leaned our way through the parade and didn't get any candy.) How sweet is that?

Yesiree, I do love small town parades.
Kiss those babies!

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Sunday, December 2

Afternoon Fun


You can't *quite* tell by this collage, but we went to the Christmas Parade this Saturday. We met Claudia and her kids there. Everybody had an absolute blast. It was so much fun that I'm thisclose to being forgiven for the library fiasco, which is quite encouraging.

I did take other pictures. I did. I like my other children, too. But the little ones are so much fun to photograph. They don't hold still for squat, but they also don't grimace or growl, don't make Frankenstein poses, and don't try to add sound effects to still photography.

And I swore I'd be in bed, um, an hour ago. So, uh, here ya go. I'll write more in the morning!

Kiss those babies!
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Saturday, December 1

Random Injuries

Ah, the not-quite-coveted "Bad Mother Award". Most of us feel the shameful glory of needing it from time to time. It's part of the learning curve of parenthood, I'm convinced of it. And once in a while, I meet a kindred soul who knows *exactly* what I'm talking about when I have to admit to something like this (taken, in part, from an email I sent recently)... least twice a week at supper, Zorak will look at one of the boys and say, "What happened to you?" And it's not until right. at. that. moment. that we all look at said child and realize he's got some gaping wound, or enormous goose-egg, or some other obvious bodily damage (my favorite was a series of scabs up his arm that looked like something with razored feet scampered up his arm - wth is that???) -- that I *never* noticed at all, all day, not once. Gah. I hate that.

Then Zorak looks at me, and I know his look says, "Wow, weird, huh? What is that?" But, filtered through my writhing guilt, it looks like a look that says, "What kind of mother doesn't notice that?"

Thankfully, I know my translation box is broken, so I'm usually able to refrain from leaping up and shouting, "Well, there are SO MANY of them! And they scatter! And I'm only a MERE MORTAL, Damn You! What do you want from me!"

I think it's good to know your limitations and boundaries...

And to marry a man who remembers what it was like to be a little boy. That is also a significant help. Yep.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, November 30


Well, not slackers. I prefer the term, "Creatures of Inertia".

It may not be a Physics problem, at all, actually. The best way to explain it is that when a day develops the equivalent of that "funky meat smell" (you know the one, where you think the meat is good, but you aren't sure, and you don't trust your nose, so you do what any rational human being would do -- you shove the potential biohazzard under the noses of everyone you care most about in this world and ask them to smell it), it's best to make a quick decision: turn up the heat and cook the snot out of it, or scrap it. Don't leave it on the counter and try again in a couple of hours.

Inertia determined I'd leave it on the counter. Yes, I know, probably not the best call.

However, we got our lessons done. We made it to a Cub Scouts pack meeting to check it out. And... well, that was about all we accomplished. The rest of the day just pretty much sat on the counter.

I realized yesterday that I need to make some changes to what we're doing in school. James needs more one-on-one, *gentle* guidance with his problem solving skills, and with learning to step back from an issue to take in the overall picture. A little work on retention wouldn't hurt, either, but right now shock therapy is the only thing that comes to mind, so I'm shelving that particular point until I have a better view of the big picture, myself. Someday, he will appreciate that. For now, though, it's my job to make sure he doesn't hear that inner dialogue.

John needs to get back to a more Spalding-based structure on his spelling and writing. (I know. I know. I love it. I just haven't been using it as I should.) He's also got to learn that when your brother is making Mommy pull her hair out, your sitting there actively trying to emit, Look at me! I'm being soooo good. I'm your favorite son! vibes... Well, that's probably not going to have a positive impact on the general dynamic of the day. If he was eight years older, I'd have likely thumped him on the back of the head and told him to quit being a suck-up. As it was, though, I just filed this away as a note to self to pull my hair out after they're in bed, thus avoiding the whole issue.

I've got to find Smidge's secret caffeine stash. He's got to have one. Nobody can be that squirrelly unless he's... ohhhh, yeah, four. Well, okay, so he probably just needs more outside time.

So, this weekend's planning will be all about integrating a new structure that will meet all our needs. Or attempt to. Or perhaps, even if I miss the mark, I can muddy the waters enough that they'll be forced into finding a new direction out of sheer self-preservation. (I jest. You know this. Or at least I hope you do. You should, anyway.)

This life, it's an exercise in attention to detail, stamina, and fortitude, isn't it? Oddly enough, I wouldn't have actually applied for a job that required any of these traits, and yet, here I am, absolutely convinced that I wouldn't want to be doing anything else, anywhere else, for any amount of money. I guess that's a good thing, and so, even if the meat is bad, eh, it's just a day here or there. The big picture truly is absolutely beautiful. And so, to kill off the rest of the mixed and mangled metaphors for the day, it's lovely to be able to change the composition of the frame when we find it's simply not working so well. A little higher. Focus a little deeper. Improve the lighting. Ah, yes, that will work for now. Beautiful.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 28

A Day, Part 2

I never did get around to writing up the afternoon portion of my Day in the Life post. That's probably a deep mental block, on my part. Afternoons haven't been my most active portion of the day for, oh, perhaps a decade. Admittedly, it's worse when I'm pregnant. Which, I've also been, off and on, for, oh, nearly a decade. So. There ya go.

School's going well. The boys are doing well. It's difficult, sometimes, to really recap what's taking place, and what's being learned. I forget that what we do seems so foreign to so many people -- for us, it's just homeschooling. It's not a radical shift in any cosmic alignment. Perhaps it was, at first, a radical shift in our internal processing of "how things are done", but that time is long since past. Now, it's our lifestyle, where what we do is just... what we do. The fact that I forget this is actually funny, considering we live in an area where the second question strangers hit your children with (after whether they're rooting for 'Bama or Auburn) is, "What school do you go to?"

But, this is our "school", in the deepest sense of the word. Home is where we learn. It's where we prepare for all the Tomorrows. It's where we teach and share and grow. This is what we do. We get up, we eat, we read, we talk. We think. We play. We read. We work. We haggle. We take a break. Other than the fact that the vast majority of our learning and daily activity takes place here, at home, we're just like most normal people. (Insert all appropriate caveats, here.)

And so, where were we? Oh, yes, the children are outside burning off energy they'll wish they could have back when they're in their 30's. I gather my wits and get the kitchen ready for lunch. Gather some things to read, try for the umpteenth time that day to find EmBaby's sippy cup. Someday I will learn not to put milk in those things. Or I'll get a dishwasher-safe homing device for them. Something's gotta give in that department. When all is set, I sit down to read my own stuff until they begin straggling in, begging for food.

Afternoons are reserved for History, Science, and Random Other Things I Decide They Need To Learn *Right Now*. Occasionally, we have a fantastically productive morning and get History/Science done in the AM. That doesn't happen frequently enough for me to post what it looks like, though, so you'll just have to use your imagination.

We're using Story of the World, Vol. II for History. I read it over lunch. Then we talk about tangential issues until we've finished eating and cleared the table.

I put EmBaby down for a nap if she hasn't given up and passed out at the table. Yes, I know, routine and all that. The boys have an hour to read whatever their wee hearts desire while she settles into a really good sleep, and I get my prized "Quiet Time". I don't remember who first informed me that all mothers need naps, but God bless her, for this has saved my sanity in numerous ways. Even if I don't nap. Even if I lie in bed with a book and a cup of coffee and loosen my bra. It doesn't really matter what you do, as long as it's rejuvenating.

Sometimes, Smidge falls asleep during this time. It's like a special gift, just for me. Sometimes, (ok, most of the time) he doesn't. And that's okay, too, because he's at least had an hour where nobody's touching him and making him irritable. That, too, is a special gift.

Science this term (and probably next) is the Periodic Table of the Elements study from How To Teach Science. We supplement with James' Usborne Illustrated Encyclopedia of Chemistry, and more discussions about things-connected-with-chemicals. The boys really want to set things on fire and do more lab work. My brain translates that to "let's do something crafty and messy and chaotic" and, well, I veto it. When the basement is no longer a hazmat zone, we'll set up the lab down there and spend a glorious summer avoiding the heat by blowing things up in the basement. For now, though, I tow the "theory first" line, and they still seem to buy it.

Have you noticed I don't have time stamps on any of this? That's because time is rather fluid for us. I've tried sticking to specific time slots, and perhaps when the boys are older -- or, more accurately, when the littles are older -- that will work. For now, however, we must work within the whims and fantasies of a preschooler and a toddler, and soon, another infant. That's a lot of fantastical whimming, there, and flexibility is my creed.

We read some more. Some of it aloud. Some of it quietly. We fill in the afternoons with chores, writing, drawing, playing. Most of the time, the kids do go back outside. I go out with them when EmBaby awakes, and we sit and play some more.

If Zorak calls before he leaves work (and he usually does, which I appreciate deeply and tremendously, as it helps us recalibrate that whole fluid-time thing), I know to get supper started. We do a quick tidy, "for Daddy, because we missed him". And by the time he pulls into the driveway, the kids are happily engaged. The sentries announce his arrival (Paul Revere style - Daddy is coming! Daddy is coming! DAD'S HOME!), and I've almost got the kitchen cleaned up.

From here on in, our home looks like any poorly organized home. Zorak gets pounced on and loved on. Sometimes he's brought home a little treat for the kids. Sometimes he plays with them a bit and makes plans for the evening (movie? snap-circuits? pictionary? video games?) We talk and catch up on the day, the plans for the week, the general glue that binds each day to the next.

We eat. We do our thing. We get ready for bed, usually later than I think we should. We tidy the bedrooms, and then finish out the day with more reading. Right now, we have three read-alouds going: Treasure Island (the original - it's a riot!), On The Banks of Plum Creek (one of the Little House books), and a new series - The Young Jack Sparrow (we're near the end of book eight... but wait! there's more! *sigh*).

Zorak reads to EmBaby while I read to the boys. Smidge is torn between the two worlds, so he hangs with Dad until he sees me head into the boys' room and then he follows me in there. When it's quiet, and the last of the bathroom trips, water breaks, and "have you seen my *completely not bedtime related item*" inquiries, we grab some coffee and sit down to talk, play, read, or just watch a movie.

And tomorrow, we get to do it over again! Good stuff, really. I certainly can't complain.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, November 27

Not the Crocs!


I have some ugly shoes. I love my ugly shoes. They're so ugly, they're cute. Sort of like E.T. But, well, uglier. Still, I wear them, and love them. With a few exceptions, where they'd have been wholly and inexcusably inappropriate, they're all I've worn since I bought them. And now, I think they're trying to kill me.

For the last week or so, it's become increasingly painful to walk. Move. Sit. Stand. Lean. Breathe. I'm average-for-gestation in size, but because of the pain in my hip and tailbone, I walk like I'm eleven months along. With triplets. Probably elephants.

Both of my arms have taken to going pins-and-needles numb at random times, from the shoulders to the finger tips. Five or six times a day, this happens. Once I realized I was most likely not suffering from roaming gangs of blood clots, I figured I just needed to find a chiropractor and have a little adjustment.

Not that I've done that, mind you. It's all about identifying the problem. Solving it goes onto another list, entirely.

The boys tried to help yesterday. Their efforts made me smile, but they just don't have the body mass to fight this kind of inertia. Smidge almost fixed it, inadvertently, when he pounced on my back. I thought I would die. If he'd been just two inches farther down, and a little to the right, I think he'd have done it. But I couldn't stay relaxed enough for it to work when he did it again (he caught me off guard the first time - let's face it, if you know you've got a 50# cannonball careening toward your back, you won't be relaxed, either). That hurt. I took a Motrin and called it good. I also begged one of the boys to become a chiropractor, even if just for a hobby. I'll pay for it, and you can pay me back with adjustments. How can you beat a student loan deal like that, eh?

So last night, unable to so much as sit without contorting in pain, I put on my sexiest voice ("sexy", being relative, in this situation. Obviously.) and asked Zorak if he wanted to play Gumby and Pokey.
I'll be Gumby. You just start pulling on things until something pops into place.
He wrestled me into all sorts of hideous positions. Lots of popping. Just a little screaming. It helped. And I'm 5'8", now.

This morning, I awoke almost pain-free. yay! Until I put on my Crocs to go make coffee. I only made it out of the bedroom before the grinding sounds and the clicking pain kicked in. Crap. It's these shoes! I'll bet it's these shoes!

Well, my only defense for wearing them was that they're comfortable, and I think it's safe to say they've betrayed me on that level. So, it's probably time to ship them off to Valhalla of the Shoes, buy me some good orthopedics with arch support, and maybe find a good chiropractor. Yep. But man, I'll miss those shoes!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, November 26

Hey, Look! It's a girl!


Thanks for all the tips on EmBaby's hair. We bought some little bands. We propped her up on the counter. We basked in how incredibly patient she is. In the end, Smidge looked at her and said, "She looks like a little doll." Zorak and I looked at her and laughed when we both said, "Look, we made a girl."

Thanksgiving's 'do didn't hold up too well, but yesterday's (pictured here) fared quite better. And best of all, she loves it!

Kiss those babies!
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Wednesday, November 21

Children's Song

I seldom do this, because it's right up there with forwarding emails, but I laughed - quite literally aloud - until I cried. There is a little language, so just a heads up. This is the same guy who had every WTM reader in stitches over the Pachelbel Rant a few months back. This time, he tackles kids' videos.

What got me about this one is that sometimes there's just nothing that's going to make Embaby happy other than watching the *one* Dora video we own. Again. Even the boys mock Dora, now. But there are times when I hear James whispering to her, "Do you want Dora? Dora, Emily? Want me to put Dora in?" and I know they've had it, too. So we pop in Dora, sit at the breakfast bar, and watch her watch Dora. It's quiet, if only for fifteen minutes. And we can regroup. If only for fifteen minutes. But when it's over, we're all refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of the day. The chorus is my favorite.

I want a brother like Rob Paravonian.

Kiss those babies!
(*Edited to fix the spelling of his last name. I should know better than to botch something like that. Apologies to Rob.)

Tuesday, November 20


Do you know why I don't oil my cabinets regularly?

I do. Now.

I spent a multitude of hours today, cleaning and oiling each and every cabinet door, drawer face, and all the frames. HOURS.

In the end, I do have clean, glowing cabinets. And they are completely overshadowed by the butt-print track on the floor around the perimeter of my kitchen.

That's NOT what I was shooting for with this whole thing.

Thankfully, Orange-Glo wood oil smells fairly nice, because I may never get this stuff out of my hair.

But you should see those cabinets!

I may not get much else done tomorrow, but I'm guessing if I do the floor, it'll be a drastic improvement.

God bless the children. They stayed outside most of the day, playing, reading, biking. They let me clean in peace. I appreciate that more than I can say, but it was nice to repay the effort with extra reading tonight at bedtime.

Yup, it's good to be a family.
Kiss those babies!

Houston, We Have Contact

Almost 22 weeks along, now, and tons of movement. Nobody's been able to catch it other than me, but I have connections. Smidge got to both see and feel the baby move yesterday. He was thrilled. He also wore this accomplishment as a badge of brother-irritating honor for the rest of the day. Heh. Sometimes it's nice to do something "first". I get that.

Wonderful Neighbor from MD called me yesterday (I think it was yesterday...) to say she's having "a baby with two arms, two legs, and one head"! I'm glad she knew I'd get how exciting that is. Sometimes people mistake my lack of organization, or, um, the fact that I forget I'm pregnant until I drag my belly through the bread batter, for a lack of enthusiasm. It's not. It's still very exciting. And it would be fun to be pregnant in a vacuum, where the only thing to focus on is the baby growing inside. The closest you will ever come to that, however, is your first child. After that, life is a whirlwind of activity, needs, love, perpetual motion, and stolen moments of peace and quiet. It's good stuff, but certainly not a baby-centric environment. Hopefully, we'll be able to schedule an ultrasound soon. And if we can find out what we're having, that would be nice, too. I hate referring to the baby as "it". As if we'll be having a non Homo sapien offspring this time? Bah.

We'll finish up school for the week today. I figure I haven't had an Inservice Day in a while, and there's no sense in asking the boys to pay attention to that when there's so much else going on. Actually, we may even cut it short today, since the weather's supposed to be beautiful today and tomorrow, and then cold and wet on Thanksgiving. If I let them out for the next two days, I can get the house set up for playing indoors and then Thanksgiving Day will be a lot more fun for everybody -- big and little, alike.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, November 19

We Made It, But It Hurt

Hey, that's a re-tread title! (And I can't remember what it was about the first time...) We made it to church. On time, even.

Why, though, WHY, does it take children an HOUR to eat a cup of oatmeal and a slice of peanut butter toast? Why? Without that, it would have been a lovely, relaxing morning. Well, that and the whole, "This is not what you laid out to wear last night. Where are your clothes? Why are you wearing that?" routine. *sigh*

We had to leave about 3/4 of the way through the sermon because EmBaby was *done*, but that's okay. Not bad, considering the early morning. We wanted to stop by Me-Wa and Me-Tae's, but Smidge and Em both fell asleep the minute we started the engine. So we came home and stared at the walls for a while.

John needs a new bike, and we're not sure if that's a good Christmas present. Right now, he's not quite Circus Clown status, but he's getting there. He does actually need a new bike. However, isn't it a bit cruel to give a child a Christmas present like that when January brings the cold-cold weather and ice storms? Seems a little mean, to me, to say, "Hey! Here's a present you won't be able to use until Spring!" I don't know.

On the holiday front, I'm starting to get excited about the food. It's all about the food. Zorak and I are looking forward to trying a few new things this year. We do love the food. And we love to feed people. For us, the holidays are just a win-win, all the way around.

Oh! And the Nutcracker is coming! I get to take the boys!! (Or, as Zorak would put it, I'm going to take the older ones and he gets to stay home with the two littles. Another win-win. Heh.) We're going to an evening performance, and then out for ice cream. I cannot tell you how very much I'm looking forward to this outing with the two eldest. Good stuff.

OK, and for some unexplicable reason, two of them are up right now. So I should get off the computer and go be productive. Hope you're having a lovely Monday!

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, November 18

A Quiet Sunday Morning

Well, I had a plan. We'll see if it worked. I went to bed the minute I'd finished reading to the boys last night so that, even if the alarm got turned off, I'd be able to get up in time. I'm up. Clothes are laid out, dishwasher is running (I forgot to do my nighttime chores in my hurry to get to bed - oops). I'm going to wake up a bit, gather our notebooks and Bibles, and then start getting the kids up and ready. Man, I hope this works. We haven't made it to church in ages, and we need to be there.

We weren't horribly motivated on the house yesterday. Well, *I* wasn't. I read (finished Last of the Breed, wandered through Barbarian Europe a bit), cooked (chile, yum!), played with the kids and then hid for a while. Zorak, however, got the rest of the front eaves and soffits painted. The difference is, once again, drastic. I can hardly wait for the windows and storms to be painted!

We did run into a problem with the storm windows, though. The paint on the wood is all "Antique White", just a good, old-fashioned "Antique White". It's not white-white, not yellow-white, not off-white. (There should NOT be this many shades of white.) The "Antique White" spray paint looks fantastic on the storm windows. It's not the same shade of "Antique White", though, and when we put the storms on the painted windows, we ended up with storms that look more "old, yellowed plastic" than "lovely new aluminum". Now, I know we do some things a little differently than others, but let me assure you, that is Not what we were shooting for. They aren't even plastic! We tried Plain White but it's too stark. And this stuff is too yellowy. Hmpf. I'm wondering if we need to see if we can find a green, which would tie the storm windows to the porch, or if we need to cough up the extra money to have a spray paint mixed to match the Antique White paint we've been using. So far, our answer has been to talk more about the den addition and hope an answer to the windows comes to us out of nowhere. :-)

And other than that, it's been a quiet, quiet weekend. Kind of nice.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, November 16

Photography & Holidays

I lied. No pictures. It was too cold to go out and too dark to take indoor pictures. I can't figure out how to take decent indoor photos with our digital camera unless the sun is shining directly in one window and the full moon is showing in the other, and I set up mirrors down the hall to reflect the light from the bathroom. When I try to use the flash, it's like photographing Gollum in the cave: total darkness and big eyes protruding from it. *shudder* I have to sleep with these images in my head, and so, I avoid creating them.

However, it is time once again to start thinking of taking the family Christmas photo (that I will never get around to mailing). Important stuff, that. A friend, who also has four, passed on her tips last year, and I think I'm going to try them. She takes one child at a time to a pre-selected spot, and takes a gazillion pictures of that. one. child. Repeat until all pertinent children have been photographed (this step can be spread out over a period of, say, weeks, for the less stalwart). Then, from the relative peace and quiet of just before midnight, sit down with a cup of coffee, a bag of snacks, and pick the best photograph of each child to use in creating a collage. Ta-Da!

Think about it. Four children, all smiling, all looking at the camera, all clean. Nobody's crying. Nobody's touching anybody else. Mommy hasn't threatened to start drinking again. Daddy hasn't had to use the phrase, "Remember, two of you are spares!" Sounds like a win-win to me.

And we also need to create a good photograph area for Christmas. I've got the corner picked out. It just needs a few finishing touches to be *perfecto*. I'll need:
- about 12' of baseboard (so at least that particular section looks finished)
- another coat rack (so it doesn't look like we've abducted children from the bus route and piled them willy-nilly in the foyer)
- touch up the paint (because the stuff in the dining room hasn't held up well)
- finish the dining room windows (well, at least clean them and prop them back up)

Ta-Da! A Winter Wonderland Home, in a little corner of my unfinished world. Then I'll carve a little nook out from behind the tree, where I can sit and hide and sing Christmas songs to myself when things get a little overwhelming. If there are enough decorations on the tree, I can even hide bags of chocolate in the limbs of the tree. Really, it'll be quite nice. I think I can leave it there til Easter, too. Pretty exciting.

And what are you doing to prepare for the holidays?

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, November 15

Gak! Argh! Narrrrrr.....

Low tonight of 28?!?!? Did God not get the memo that our storm windows are s-c-a-t-t-e-r-e-d a-r-o-u-n-d t-h-e y-a-r-d? Oh, sure He's probably got more important things to worry about. And we should probably be more on the ball than we are. But let's face it, that's not gonna happen.

And so, I plan to spend the morning panicking, the afternoon digging around for plastic sheeting, and the evening baking things to keep the house toasty warm and the kids fed. Then I'll RUSH out to the fabric store when Zorak gets home, and stay up until sunrise (yes, yes, well after the fact, I know this - but I'm the kind of person who gets so anxious to be *doing* something about a situation that I'm likely to walk to the hospital rather than wait for a ride... uh, yeah, at least I *do* now understand that it's a ridiculous urge, but, well, that's the nature of urges. They don't have to be logical.) line the curtains in the kids' rooms so that I don't feel like a horrible mother for letting them freeze.

Two more cups of coffee, and I'll realize I could just put them in the guest room, which has warmer curtains *and* storm windows already up. Uh, yeah. That's a possibility. We'll see how the day pans out. May logic triumph! *make little trumpet sounds with your lips, now, for the full effect*

It's Virtual Friday! WooHoo! This means we get another three-day weekend. More time to procrastinate and plan poorly for the jobs to be done. We're getting Very Good At This, I'll tell ya. We might go ahead and pull down another couple of windows, just to complete the look. Aim small, miss small, and all that. Er, something like that.

Wow, anyway, it's a little after seven right now. I'm up and dressed. I'm fed and caffeinated. I've got a load of wash going, kitchen tidied, and am feelin' good. Hyped. Excited. It's a fresh new day, and I'm already a bit slap-happy. God bless hormones. You just never know what little gift of the psyche you'll awaken to each morning.

OK, time for a to-do list. And today, pictures. I haven't taken pictures in a while. Mostly because the kids have been moving too quickly, and I've been either too sleepy to get to the camera, or laughing too hard to use it. It's all been good, but there's no proof of that, anywhere. Should get on that, no?

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 14

Two Days in a Row!

We have rain again tonight. It's a driving, blustering, torrential rain. It's wonderful. It's the kind of rain that comes in waves, in sheets. First you hear a slight change in the background noise, and then, instinctively, you look up to see what it is that's coming. For something's coming, rushing, charging at you. It's the beautiful rain, bearing down on the grass and the trees, on the barns and the cattle, in ever-increasing rhythms. You can see it running up the hill toward the house, wall after wall of thick, heavy drops, until it hits and you're momentarily blinded by a wall of rushing whiteness, deafened by the pounding sheets against everything around. Oh, it's truly beautiful.

It was beautiful this afternoon, pelting through the Autumn sun. It was lovely at supper, providing background music. This long, deep drink for our parched and tired land... just makes me smile. Oh, we've needed this!

The rain drove us indoors sooner than normal, which left me with just time enough to read with the kids a bit and get supper on at a decent hour. We had time enough for Snap Circuits experiments, a little knitting, and pecan pie before we had to begin the bedtime routine. Norman Rockwell couldn't have provided us with a nicer evening scenario.

Now the children are down, and I have a coffee date with Major Joseph Makatozi, up in Siberia. I hope you each get a beautiful evening with your loved ones, and a date night with a well-written character sometime this week. It's really something we must do more often.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday Catch-Up

Ok, well, you wouldn't know it from my blogging lately, but we've had a very good week or so around here.

Forever Home Update: We spent the weekend winterizing the Forever Home. Well, mostly we spent the weekend mentally heaping hot coals on whomever painted right over the screws on the storm windows. Our goal was to finish all the windows along the North side of the house. (It was a 3-day weekend. That sounded reasonable.) With a bit of fortitude, a few extra screwdriver bits, and a whole lot of stripper, we got a whopping *two* storm windows apart. WOOHOO! Zorak stripped the dining room windows (because those show up in Christmas photos, being right beside the tree - priorities, people!), and I got one storm window stripped and cleaned. Then the humidity shot up and we couldn't prime, but that's okay. Nothing says "Work in Progress" like panes of glass and bars of aluminum lying around the front yard, right?

Pickup: The pickup transmission doesn't need a "full" rebuild, but it does need some lovin' and a little chiropractic care. This is wonderful. It's wonderful because it's not the Suburban transmission, which would have cost six times what this one will. It's wonderful because we'll get another 180K miles before we need to do something else major. It's wonderful because... well, because if I don't focus on the wonderful things, I may go set The Mistress on fire and dance nekkid around it while she burns. Um, yeah. So, heh. This isn't so bad.

Visitors: We had a visitor last week. You know when you meet someone for the first time, and you feel almost instantly that this person (and his family) could be Really Good Friends? Yeah, it was like that.

* The anole leaped from James' back yesterday while they were playing outside. I honestly can't believe the thing stayed on his shirt for so long (several hours). He looked and looked for it, but couldn't find it. However, he did ask that we keep the set-up so that he could get better prepared and try again.
* John's been reading to me in the mornings while I pretend to knit. That's good stuff, right there. I forgot how much it takes to learn to read aloud with inflection and cadence that match the story. He's improving on it, though, and is encouraged. I'm looking forward to more of this.
* Smidge is branching out. He's doing his own thing. He's making games for Emily to play with him. He's cracking more jokes (they still aren't funny, but he's making them up and running with it). We've broached the subject of a bigger bed for him (because he's huge, and he's four, and well, we're going to need that toddler bed soon), and he likes the general concept, but is determined we need a three-high bunk bed for this purpose. Uh, not with 8' ceilings, kiddo. Can you imagine scraping your forehead on the popcorn ceiling every. time. you. wake. Yeouch!
* EmBaby is. a. riot. Oh, my gosh, she's so stinking cute, we can't stand it. We made cookie bars a while back, and for some reason, she latched onto that. "Cookie bar?" She'll ask, in her wee little voice. Zorak would do just about anything for the squeal and the happy dance that accompany the cookie bars. So, he made some the other day, while she was napping. I got her up and we strolled hand-in-hand into the living room, when I asked her if she's like a cookie bar. She said, just as matter-of-factly as possible in a voice that small, "Yes, a cookie bar... and coffee?" Mmm, that's my girl!

OK, I think we're caught up, now. What have you all been up to? I could go get dressed, but I think I'm going to go read and visit, instead. See you on your front porch!

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, November 13

Baby Girl Hair

What do you do with Baby Girl Hair? Zorak and I both keep thinking she really needs a haircut, but... well, the "classic little boy cut" probably isn't the thing to do. Yet, that's all we can think of. I need hair help, here. (Ha. Alliteration in the morning - sorry.)

In the front, it's starting to get into her eyes. She's got that Detroit Rock City thing going.

From the back, she looks like an albino Rastafarian.

She has a moderate amount of hair (well, more than any of the boys at this age, anyway). And it's made of silk, I think. Other than the dreds, it's not going to hold anything like clippies. Not terribly long, yet, although it's hard to tell sometimes.

So... uh, do I just trim the bangs (fringe, whatever - the part above her forehead) and call it good for now? Keep brushing it to the side and hope it'll stay? Ignore it and pretend I don't know what people are talking about when they say we've got to do something with that child's hair? What do you do with Baby Girl Hair?

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, November 11

Long Time, No Blog

Sometimes, it's just not funny. Sometimes I can't find the words to be encouraging.

I look at the beetles coming in under the door, again, and think, "That's it. I'm setting this place on fire and moving into the barn." Not that that would reduce the beetle intrusion, but at least one would expect beetles in the barn.

I listen to someone pass along to me that somebody hurt someone else's feelings -- a situation I wasn't involved in and had no knowledge of beforehand -- and am yet expected to make-it-all-better, and I think, "Come ON, people! I can't even keep my stove clean enough to meet Waffle House standards! What makes you think I'm capable of dealing delicately with other people?!?"

I look at the sad, sad situations of people around us, and want to scream, "Stay away from me, you freaks!" Yet I know, in my heart, that we're all freaks, and we're all deserving of leeway and grace. And I know, above all, that if we want to make things better at all, we have to roll up our sleeves and do something to make it better. (Screaming and running generally doesn't do much to further that goal.)

I see that the dog got out of his pen. Again. I see that he not only chewed apart the slat woven into the wire, but then actually *removed* the pieces, set them aside, bent the wires out of the way, and *then* worked his way out from under the fence. And I start to really fear that he's not just a dog, but perhaps a very angry, very intelligent, very devious being who is planning our destruction for trying to keep him in the pen.

But the thing is, even when it's hard to find the humor, and it's challenging to find the grace, it's worth doing. It just doesn't necessarily come tripping off the tongue in a way that I think anyone would connect with. So I sit, and stare at the blinking curser, and think, "I'm going to bed."

On the upside, I've gotten quite a bit of sleep the past few days. But, sadly, not much else accomplished.

So, today we'll be putting in thresholds and weatherproofing doors and windows. We'll be reminding others that people enjoy participating in wonderful activities with other wonderful people. We'll be making plans to reach out in our community. And we'll be keeping far, far away from that scary dog. Erm, we'll work on the fence a little more and see how he outsmarts us this time. But more than that, hopefully, we'll show the boys that sometimes it's not the length of the stride, but the fact that you keep putting one foot in front of the other, that matters. (Right? I mean, they *will* get that, won't they? I sure hope so!)

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 7

Something New!

Well, it seems we have a new interest in the house...



I don't know. James asks for so very little, and he is so happy with what he has. When he finds something that really makes his beanie twirl, I'm hesitant to say no.

And so, today we've been reading this, and this, and this...


Now to break the news to Zorak, who would have been happier to have an indoor cat.

Who Would DO This?

When we returned from our October travels, we noticed our lower meadow (between the barn and the creek) had been bush-hogged. We assumed it was our Bush Hog guy who had done it, perhaps as a thank-you for fostering his tractor while it was dead.

I talked to him last night, though, and guess what? His tractor is still in the shop. He didn't do it. He asked if whoever it was had perhaps baled it, but no, they didn't. Just mowed it down. (Not that having baled, and taken, our alfalfa would have been better, but considering how dry it's been, it would have made more sense, at least.)

The Ghost-Hogger didn't leave a note, a phone call, a crop circle. Nothing.

I suppose it's certainly better to have kind strangers stopping in to do odd things, than to have some of the other bizarre encounters we've dealt with. There's that. And thankfully, the barn's still standing. But this is still our property, and with everything else we have dealt with, I'm just not too tickled about having strangers on our property doing anything at all. Let alone major maintenance.

And above all, why would someone do that? Would you ever randomly mow other people's meadows? Is there someone with OCD issues about grass height roaming the county with a tractor? Is it one of the men we'd contracted with *back in the Spring* to come bush hog, who finally showed up and... why only do part of the job, then? Why not leave a note? Why not call?

Curiouser and curiouser...

Kiss those babies!

Monday, November 5

A Day...

Today is Monday. This may not be the best day to do "A Day in the Life". It is, after all, a Monday. But that's okay. 1/7th of my life is Mondays. They happen to the best of us. Anyhow, here's now the morning goes...

The alarm goes off. Zorak gets up and ready for work. I notice a draft and look around, wondering where my warmth went. It is still dark. I try to get up. It is very cold. He mumbles something at me. I mumble something back, and try to get up again. He tucks the covers over my shoulders and reminds me that I'm pregnant and it's okay not to get up with him in the mornings.

Yes, awww, that sounds very sweet. And he is very sweet. He's also not a morning person, and I suspect he doesn't want me following him around the house, getting more verbal with every sip of coffee. I smile and pull the covers back over my neck. I can appreciate that desire for quiet and solitude. I'll be begging for it around nine tonight.

I lay in bed, drifting in and out of sleep, appreciating the blankets and the insulation in the walls, until the light begins to filter into the basement, which alerts Houdini, down there, that he ought to be outside, planning his next escape. His baying drags me from my bed. Not so much out of sympathy for him, but out of fear that he'll wake the kids.

Start the coffee. It's a BUNN. I'm spoiled. It'll be ready by the time I find my shoes and pee. I'm still irritated that it can't sense my presence and start on its own. Our next BUNN will, at the very least, have the pour-n-serve option. In the meantime, we've both nearly mastered the tilt-n-switch method of getting coffee from the still-brewing pot. That corner of the kitchen gets cleaned quite often. I notice it still looks like we have a blind kitchen servant. Huh. Weird.

I grab my morning studies: Latin (Henle); math (yep, pre-calc, still, just like college); Bible; whatever I'm reading at the time (right now, I'm on week eighty-thousand of trying to slog through Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness). Head to the porch. The cold wind hits my face and I spill hot coffee on my feet. (There are burn holes on the tops of my feet that match the circles in my crocs - you'd think I'd learn by now -- stay inside, or put on different shoes.) Nevermind, I'll go hide in the school room.

I get about half my studies done before I take my computer break. If I'd risen with Zorak, I could have done it all. As it stands, I'm not giving up my email and brain candy and Very Important Board Time, just because I stayed in bed. We all have ways of rejuvenating and filling our tanks. Some people take long weekends in Vegas, some people sell products so they can go to training seminars, some have "Moms night out". I read email, peruse the news, and check on my homies and their blogs. This may also be why I'm still in pre-calc after two years. I know.

The boys start getting up. John first, always. He comes out dressed, hungry, and unaccountably perky. Have an apple and a glass of milk while we wait for your brothers. He sits at the breakfast bar with his Latin, munching away, waiting for me to emerge for more coffee. We hang out in the kitchen, doing Latin and chit-chatting about the day. I like this time with him. It's good stuff. We have about half an hour together before Smidge gets up.

Smidge comes out acting like he's been kept from us for months. In a dark, slimy dungeon. He's quiet. Almost tearful. Snuggly. Downright clingy. Please let his be a personality quirk and not a wheat allergy, I pray. He perks right up at the offer to grab a banana, and he asks if I've printed up his math page yet. No. I forgot about that. I slip off to print one out. Smidge and John find some way, while I'm doing that, to irritate each other and wake EmBaby.

Thankfully, she likes to stay in bed and talk to herself for about twenty minutes when she wakes up. She turns on her music, wraps her bunny in blankets, throws things out of her crib. If you go in and try to remove her before she has summoned you, it will get ugly. Just enjoy it. Relax. She's not going to be in therapy in 20 years because you left her in her crib in the mornings.

I get Smidge's paper printed and hand it over to him. I get John redirected on his worksheet. I get more coffee. I wander down the hall and do something loud, hoping it'll stir James. He's good about getting up if I ask him to get up, but I don't mind letting him sleep if we don't have anywhere to be. It's a good give-and-take situation. He stays up late, reading, which I can appreciate. He also seems to need more sleep lately. Heaven help me, those pants we just bought him won't fit much longer. Make a mental note to set money aside for pants sometime before Christmas.

John and Smidge pop in a short video. They used to watch PBS, but we can't get it on our rabbit ears anymore. This buys me time to get dressed (obviously, I'm not a FLYlady graduate) and make my bed. By the time I'm dressed, EmBaby's ready to get up and start her day.

I spend way too much time picking out something for her to wear before I remember I've got to find some kind of angle for her to want to wear it. It can be anything -- flowers, hearts, red piping -- but I've got to point it out before she can say "no" or it's all over and she'll end up in sweats and a tie-dyed t-shirt for the rest of the day. Fortunately, she has several tie-dyed t-shirts. One of the perks of being #4. Today I'm quick on the draw, and she's wearing the sweater with the "bearses" on it. We head into the kitchen and start breakfast.

John follows me back into the kitchen and finishes his Latin. Heh. I knew he wasn't done yet. (But I did need to get dressed.) Whoever is up gets to help with breakfast. This morning it's yogurt, toast with peanut butter and honey (pb&j for Em), fresh fruit, and milk. Most mornings it's eggs and sausage, toast with Granny jelly (cactus apple jelly the boys' Granny makes and stocks us up with every year), fruit, and milk. Or oats. Oats are always good if I get on it before they get up.

By the time breakfast is ready, John's done with his Latin and is working on his reading. Smidge has done his math and a few maze pages. He's running laps through the kitchen. James is up and making hot tea to go with his breakfast. We all eat, I read their Bible study, we do a little for-fun reading, and go over the day's plans. This part strikes me as funny, because I feel like Pinky and the Brain, "it's the same thing we do every night, Pinky..." The older boys get it when I laugh to myself over that. The younger children think I'm just happy. That works.

After breakfast, things break down a bit into a semi-controlled chaos. James starts with his reading, then on to math, and finally Latin. He and John are in two different books, so that works out easier than trying to do blocks-by-subject. As long as they get those three subjects done before mid-morning, we're good. John finishes his reading and starts his math. Smidge forgets he already did math, and does another math project. Then he puts on James' Superman costume and makes laps through the kitchen again. This time, pushing a pirate ship. He and EmBaby race ships around the house. Some days, I think we should have stuck with a dead-end galley layout. Most days, though, I don't mind. I like the noise and the chaos. I don't know when I began to like it, but I do. The older boys don't seem to mind much, either. If the noise gets to them, they'll pick up their books and disperse to the bedrooms for a little quiet study time. Mostly, though, this is just "how it is", and they're good about ignoring it.

Lessons do take longer this year than they did last year. Not because I've increased the boys' workload significantly, but because the boys have discovered they're funny. Really funny. Honestly-able-to-crack-Mom-up, funny. And they make use of that. I don't do such a good job of keeping them from making jokes, but it is challenging to be the straight man to these guys.

Of course, it's not all high-quality Night At The Improv. John offers to gargle his math answers for me today. When I decline, he has a stream of other options: snort, belch, say them with a full mouth. Ah, yes. Yes, this is why Other Mothers keep it in check. Much to his disappointment, I decline even the gas-based answer method, and suggest, instead, that perhaps he could write his answers instead of giving them orally. He decides plain old English is just fine, thanks, and we finish in record time.

Smidge slams into the hall door frame. EmBaby, coming in a close second in the Brigand Regatta, ploughs right over the wreckage. While I disentangle small, angry survivors from the disaster, the older boys decide it's time for a break. They head outside to burn leaves, train lizards, and feed the dog. I get the littles sorted and send them back to the docks with their ships for refitting, then sit down for a bit of a coffee break and another chapter in my reading.

I'll post the second half of the day later.
Kiss those babies!

*Edited to add a link to Part 2.*