Wednesday, January 31

Cinderella, Brother-Style

Gosh, what a few days it's been. We've been busy. Some of it good-busy. Some of it, not so much. But in general, not bad. The kids have been a riot.

The boys decided to put on a puppet show for BabyGirl the other day. They wanted to do Cinderella, but thought we'd have to make puppets for it first. "Nah," I said (trying to convey more "creative, fun mom" than "really lazy, don't wanna do it mom," which was closer to the truth).

Look, we've got a lion. That could be the wicked stepmother. And an elephant, which sister could the elephant be?

Pretty soon, we had the full ensemble:
Wicked Steplioness
Fairy Frog Who Makes Milk Shakes (Smidge's theatrical interpretation of the role)

Two sea serpents served for glass slippers.

Most of the action was ad-libbed, and I had to bow out about half way through the production because the boys had me in stitches too badly to perform my part as narrator.

I wish I'd filmed it. I really do need to find the camcorder, because these are the things that simply do not transfer well to words. I'd like to watch it again, too, as I'm sure I missed a good part of the action in the background. The frog stayed pretty busy. And one day, I think it will be sweet for Miss Emily to hear stories of how utterly devoted to her happiness her brothers have always been. But you know, a little visual aid wouldn't hurt.

Yep, gotta find that thing.

Kiss those babies!


Yesterday, as a treat for surviving my LAST trip to (this) dentist, I stopped at the local bookstore to browse a bit. I've only been there three times, and every time, it's after a trip to the dentist. I'm pretty sure the owner is beginning to suspect I'm a stroke victim in utter denial, as it's always the left side of my face that doesn't work when I go in.

I picked up The Chamber of Secrets for James, and a Nate the Great book for John. Grabbed a couple of biographies. Passed on a few books that looked interesting, but upon further inspection seemed a little graphic for our guys. Chose The Indian in the Cupboard for our next read aloud.

Someone had recommend the Dragonriders of Pern series for James, so I did grab the first in that series (Lessa of Pern). Read it last night. Um... Not a good recommendation for an eight-year old. Perhaps I'm more conservative on the sex issues than I thought, but I don't think I'd recommend the Pern books for anybody under the age of, say 13. The writing is easy to follow. The vocabulary isn't terribly difficult. The plot seems to be your typical action-adventure-fantasy plot, along the lines of Terry Brooks (who is the only author I can remember off the top of my head). It would be great stuff, if it weren't for little bits here and there that leave images a bit too graphic for such an age, at least for my children. (It's not the mating, or the multiple women in a Hold, or even that the Weyrwoman sleeps with the rider of whichever dragon her queen dragon has mated with this time. Those, we could handle comfortably. Some, we already have.)

At first, I thought I wouldn't be able to keep up with pre-reading books for James. The child is voracious in his reading. However, it seems that, at least for a while, I'll have to. Not such a bad arrangement, really, as I get to enjoy a wider variety of books than I would probably choose for myself. I'd kind of like to see if they've got the next book in the series. ;-)

Another great option this bookstore offers is that they'll order new books. WOOHOO! I hate going to the big chain stores, as they never have what I need, and then I get distracted by the eye-candy and walk out w/o the things I needed. So, this will be handy. I can take my order list down, pay with a check, and then browse with a few bucks cash while they process my order. Doesn't that sound heavenly?

Haven't taken the boys in yet, as it doesn't seem too child-friendly (the signs are EVERYWHERE!) but as much as the boys love a good bookstore, we'll all be making a trek down soon. I think they'll do fine once the owners have a chance to observe them in action a few times. It's definitely no Bay Books, but I think we may have found our local vendor!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, January 29

Homeschool Meme

Well, I never did this one. But I've enjoyed reading the tips and mini-reviews other homeschoolers have shared. And since I'm really stalling on doing any actual work to the blog itself, here you go!

Hmmm. Really, I think The Well-Trained Mind is my favorite. It's the one I can go back to when I need to re-calibrate. It's the one that first made Zorak and I look at one another and whisper, "THIS is what we were looking for!" Of course, that little eureka moment was followed by, "... and if we don't get to go to Idaho, this means we're going to have to do this ourselves!" (We'd found the book as required reading for parents at a Classical school in Idaho.) Obviously, we're not in Idaho, and we're doing it ourselves, and boy-howdy, am I glad I've still got my much-loved copy.

Going to have to echo Amy on this one: "Well, duh, the internet."

But offline resources? I'd have to say the library is our favorite. It ought to be, for as much money as we, erm, donate.

You know, I'm almost afraid to answer this one. So far, nothing. But then, fortunately, we were lucky with what we started off using. Since then, we've been very fortunate with our picks. So far, no stinkers!

Museum memberships. I wish we could afford to maintain memberships to all of them locally - the Gardens, the Space and Rocket Center, Early Works, Burritt, Sci-Quest, Huntsville Museum of Art. We're really in a fantastic spot for excellent places that are just full of resources, and the boys are so easy to do these things with (huge bonus, there!) My mid-range goal is to maintain memberships to at least two each year, rotating out as we go. Someday, I'd like to maintain them all, year-round!

Oops. I was going to say "everything in my sidebar", but I haven't replenished that portion of it yet.
Math-U-See, for both boys
Story of the World Vol II (yes, FINALLY!) and the Activity Guide for History,
Latin for Children, Primer B,
Writing Road to Reading, for spelling, phonics, general language arts
I think we'll start a more aggressive nature study of the Wildlife Refuge and make better use of the microscope for science. Would love to have us all keeping nature journals eventually.
And, with that goal in mind, I hope to start Drawing With Children. (not an affiliate link) We've had the book for a while, but things have just recently slowed down to the point that Zorak has agreed to take the two small ones for me once or twice a week, so we can maintain some semblance of quiet for the lessons.
I'm sorry, did you say "one"? I like to think of it as "one plan", or, say "one overall approach"... (not buyin' it, huh?)

ONE? Just... one? Would somebody kindly round up all the recommended books in SOTW Vol. II for me, please? Can we call that One?

That book collection I mentioned above? Yeah. That'd be it.

Oh, that's a hard one. I intentionally didn't tell Rainbow Resources our new address this year, just because I knew I wouldn't be buying anything, and I waste SO many hours thumbing through all the materials. That catalog is to me like a margarita to an alcoholic. And then, as I've mentioned here, American Science & Surplus. Now that one is fun - fun to read, and fun to buy from!

Old-Fashioned Education is one I go back to regularly, in large part because I'm too lazy to download and save all the great ideas, but also because she includes links to the gutenberg and mainlesson books.

Who hasn't done this yet? If you want to, you're it!

Saturday, January 27

Get Sidetracked!

Or rather, "get back on track" would be a better way to put it. It's all about the focus.

Generally, by about eight PM, I'm focused on having a quiet home, a clean kitchen, and an entire cup of coffee downed without interruption. Eight is my arsenic hour. I know for most families it's that hour just before supper's ready - when you're trying to prepare supper, and the kids' sugar levels have plummeted, and the dog decides to mark the &%%#@ couch (or worse, the baby). I've been able to avoid that by slipping the kids protein snacks at regular intervals starting right around two in the afternoon, not letting the dog anywhere near the baby, and for supper - I either have it together early enough in the day that getting it done can masquerade as a fun family project, or I can just not make eye contact with Zorak until he gives up and fixes it. So, in all, that time frame works out okay for us.

But it's that bewitching second where 7:59 flips over to 8:00. I can't get it out of my head that the kids should be in bed by then. Zorak can't quite get on board with the idea that they should be in bed by then. And so, when that part of the day nears, he's busy not making eye contact with me (yes, revenge, a dish best served right after the supper she made you fix... I know), and I'm trying to get everybody to brush their teeth between bites so we can get to bed NOW. Obviously, it's easy to lose the focus in this poorly orchestrated bit of family life.

Tonight, after getting the small one down, I realized it was Awfully Quiet. I peeked into the boys' room - their lights were off, and all was quiet. I peeked into our room - Smidge and Zorak were out cold, cattywampus across the bed. Huh. Weird. No stories. No singing. No bad jokes. Just... Quiet. Balto and I hung out and watched Waiting for God on PBS. He didn't laugh so much, but I thought it was a great way to spend some of the Quiet. Then I came in, fresh cuppa joe in hand, remnants of a pecan pie in the other hand, ready to do a little blog work. I had just settled in when I heard the telltale swoosh of the toilet that tells me someone is up.

I listened (the speed and tone of the footfall that follows lets me know who is up, and why). Ah. It was James. Moving more slowly than when he's just hotfootin' it to bed. Coming up the hall.

And you know, I'm glad. I mean, I'm not glad the poor kid was up at ten-thirty at night because he couldn't sleep. But I'm glad he knew he could come to me and sit and talk, hang out, read a few stories together. We talked about a few things, about nothing. Just being together was nice.

After about an hour, his head grew heavy on my shoulder, and his eyes didn't quite recover from each blink. That was good timing on his part, because I'd suddenly started winging most of the story I was reading to him. Suddenly, there was a monster and a witch and a toad riding a horse. We got a good chuckle out of that. (I hope he will be that understanding when I do that from sheer dementia rather than sleepiness.) And then, off to bed.

And now... it is Quiet again. But this quiet feels better. My focus is back on track, where it should be. Those little ones in the back rooms, all now sleeping peacefully. Yeah, that's what it's about. And I'm thankful that I don't get so hung up in what I *think* things should be that I miss what they really are, because it's a whole lot better this way.

Kiss those babies!

A Few Quick Requests

Hey, guys, thanks for the feedback on the new layout. It is a bit less disconcerting now, isn't it? I'll tweak and fine tune a bit more later. Today, I worked on it until both my eyes and the children began to complain. And hey, if you ever wondered what a sepia text would look like, it seems we've found it! Just blends right in, doesn't it?

In the meantime, that little sidebar needs some lovin'. I got started, but obviously didn't get far before I gave up. Then PupDad informed me his blog has moved, which, honestly, I wouldn't know because I get to his blog from Alaska's blog, so I don't ever look at the URL. Actually, most of my blogrun is like that. You're in my speed dial, and I can get to you, I just can't tell anybody else how to find you. Please, if you know you really oughta be in there, leave a comment so I have all my info in one place. Think of it as your contribution to the Organizationally Impaired.

Oh, and for the record, that's not the Forever Home in the image. That's the barn. Just thought I'd mention that in case anybody was worried. ;-)

Kiss those babies!

Friday, January 26

Who Made This Big Mess?

Egads, yes, I know. I know. Hideous, isn't it? Please excuse the absolute car wreck that is my color scheme and template layout at the moment. If I had little orange barrel images, I'd stick them randomly about the page as a warning for navigators that this area is currently under construction.

Code has been printed out.

I've sent out the Bat Signal for help.

It won't be long now, folks.

Thanks for yer patience.


NewBlogger Question

If you've migrated your blog to NewBlogger (formerly Blogger Beta), and you upgraded your template to the new layout, did you lose your old comments? And how'd your customization hold up? Lost? Shoot me straight! ;-)


Thursday, January 25


Just thought of some other points I wanted to add with regard to the discussion about Murray, but we got sucked into one of those movies that just sucks you right in, and... well, there ya go.

Let me throw this out there, while Zorak's making more coffee.

I would never, ever, under any circumstances, support any legislation that attempted to guide, restrict, edit, or oversee the education of any child based on IQ, potential, or any limiting device others may view as a means to streamline our educational system.

We offer the opportunity for education to all. That is a beautiful and unique thing. It is what allows us to remain free, to remain dynamic, and to remain hopeful for the future. We cannot force children to learn, regardless of a number on a piece of paper. Nor should we limit what they may learn.

It just hit me while discussing this with Zorak today that some of the concern over acknowledging or accepting an inequality of educability is that it may well lead to governmental oversight. You know, "for the children".

That's a long, nasty slide we don't want to take.

OK, back to the movie (he did it!! I didn't think he'd done it! Ugh... )


Birds (again)

Not legitimate bird-watching, of course, but the picto-birds. OK, here are the answers. You guys ROCKED! You got 'em!! So, here's the picture, and bonus nothingpoints to the following folks who guessed correctly (posted in order of posting in the comments section, below, just adding ones that haven't been already mentioned):

GrammaMack got Blue Jay and Kildeer!

Cheryl got those two and added pigeon (pig N).

Daniel (Hi, Daniel!) got quite a lot of them.
Left edge, second from top: Swallow.
Top center, near the glare: are those cylindrical objects 2 cans? Toucans?
(the other can was completely obscured by the flash, so bonus points for deciphering that one!)
Third row, second from left: a pair of "keets" parakeets.
...Blue Jay, and squeezed between it and the right-hand edge is a turn. Tern.
Bottom Center: what else but a Chicken would be crossing the road?
Left edge above the Mario Kart thing, several M-shaped gull symbols are soaring over the water. I assume the capital E is an E-gull (eagle)?

WOW. Great job, Daniel!

Meredith, and her Herd-O-Witty-Boys, got the tricky one. She wrote:
TURKEY! (ha, ha, ha, ha, we got it!) Loggerhead Shrike (?) (Actually, no, but I'm impressed that you could see the wood through the flash! Extra points for that bit of detective work!), Owl (no, but you're on the right track)...a Loon or a Cuckoo? Mocking Bird... I know there are more...

She comes back to say:
That redhead is a Heron...Hair on! LOL! WOW! You got it!

OK, so what does that leave? That only leaves three, plus the obscured one in the flash! NOT BAD, guys! (If I'd been left to my own devices, I wouldn't have figured out all of them.)

AEIOUO is a spare-o (sparrow)
it it - pair of its, (parrots)
the card inside the "all" frame - card-in-all (cardinal)
And that one in the upper right is a woodpecker.

Man, y'all are good at these! I'd honestly thought there just wasn't any interest in knowing the answers, but I'm glad you had fun with it. We did, too. ('Course, we're a little weird that way...) So, there you have it.

If y'all decide to do one at home, take a pic and post it! We'd come play. :-)

Kiss those creative, wonderful babies!

Intelligence, Potential and School, Oh, My!

I am feeling better tonight for the first time in about a month, so let's play!

Murray's articles (linked in the comments section here, if you haven't read them and would like to) have brought up discussions of all kinds, ranging from "ditto" to "NOOOO", and, fortunately, delving into deeper waters on both fronts: agree, disagree... OK, three fronts if you count the, "well, partially agree/disagree" front. What's got me giddy is that there is discussion. People are thinking, articulating, questioning and answering. We're INGing, folks, and not just the ugly ones, like gesturing and skulking. These are good INGs. Anyhow, for fun, I'd like to invite anyone who has written on this subject to please leave a comment and link to it. All sides welcome. I think there's plenty of interest, and it would be fun. So link away, cyberfriends!!

Two to start you off:
Kids Out and About's Deb Ross has written her thoughts on why she disagrees with Murray's basic premise.
Steph also wrote on this topic, from the perspective of agreement with Murray's thoughts.

In general, I do agree with Murray. I'll say upfront that I think we're asking the wrong questions, and so the answers aren't going to mean much. I'll also put it out there that I don't have all the answers, to any of these questions, right or wrong. My sphere of influence begins with the children I am responsible for, and rapidly decreases in strength as it spreads beyond that arena. Those whose lives I impact, I try to impact in a positive way, in an encouraging way, not because I think we are all equally educable (I don't) but because I believe we are all equally valuable, and thus, worthy of encouragement. As one of my mother's doctors told her, "Ideally, you'd eat better, exercise more, quit drinking and smoking, and stop being so grouchy. But my job is to work with you where you are, and that's what I'm going to do." These sorts of dialogues often beg a utopia that does not now exist, has never in the past existed, and most certainly will not in the future exist, neither through legislation or funding. Ever. That much I do know.

So. Not everyone is equally educable. Yes, it's difficult to say that without offending someone, somewhere. Although I hold this belief, I found myself a little stunned when my sister-in-law (whom I love but generally disagree with on everything political, social and spiritual), said that not every child can be taught to read well. What?! You're a reading advocacy, pro-federal funding, NEA-backing, reading teacher! How can you say that? Turns out, she's run into many children who simply haven't got it in them to learn to read with fluency, let alone an any given grade level. Wow. That certainly sounds like a harsh condemnation of a child's future. Immediately, the mind begins reeling, sifting through files, ideas, programs, medical data... there must be some way, we tell ourselves... It's not a good feeling, in our guts, to think that, in a society which has put such an elevated status for "higher education" onto the field, some people cannot attain proficiency to a degree that will allow (advancement? access? _______? - this portion often remains empty in these discussions.) And yet, I had to agree with her. We know people who are like that. The matter (grey matter, IQ, potential, whatever you want to call it) simply is not there to work with. So, no, I don't believe everyone is equally educable. I've seen enough examples of that than to be able to claim otherwise. But I'm going to ask whether that ought to be the focus? Should we spend our resources trying to make everyone equally capable in all areas? Should we find fault with anyone who asserts that not everybody is smart enough to be a rocket scientist? Or, take that a bit further, is there any shame in not being the smartest, in knowing there are those who are smarter?

I would say that much of the negative reaction to the premise of educable inequality is grounded in a suspicion that anyone who believes there are levels of educability must consequently believe there's a direct correlation to value as a human. (Period. I'm not talking about contributions to humankind, but simply as. a. human.) I'd say it's wrong to make that assumption. The very few people I've encountered who believe that intelligence equates to superiority as a person, believed both that they were inordinately intelligent and superior to others, and were, in fact, neither. However, it might be somewhat naive to say that those of lesser ability can be anticipated to make greater achievements. More on that, later.

I like what Aunt B has said, "We're all just one accident away from not having a good brain." She's right. All of us. Nobody's exempt from that, and the fact that you've avoided The Big Konk on the Head does not imbue you with superpowers, or First Citizen status. It simply means you haven't been dealt that hand. Yet. That's all.

But unless, or (God forbid) until, you get the Konk, you've got some matter to work with. How much? And that's where the breakdown occurs. The measurable IQ, as defined by science (Murray uses the term, g, in speaking about this amount of matter), hasn't been shown to be dynamic over the long run. It simply hasn't. People ask, to what extent are external forces, such as diet, exercize and environment, or the internal point of attention you choose to give to any given thing, able to affect your matter? A slacker, with any amount of matter, is not going to achieve much. However, a brilliant and highly-mattered slacker is likely to achieve more, with less effort, than a mildly-mattered individual with a relatively good work ethic.

Does this variance come into play? What about long-term results? Would the stamina required for high level educability weed out even the most talented slacker? Does it matter, or is that factor zeroed-out in this discussion? I don't know. I'm not certain what the definitions are, to be honest. When dealing with education, we're usually talking about return on investment. Where will each individual, and society, be best served by the use of the resources available for education? Is that why people get antsy, feeling that somebody won't feel empowered to hear he's not the academic equivalent of star quarterback material? I'm not sure.

So we speak of inclination, of "natural abilities". "Natural ability" could well be the layman's method of gauging intelligence. We don't have ready access to psychometric methodology or laboratories, so we go with what we can see, what we can tangibly use for our models. Again, I don't know. But, in looking at natural ability, you may be more inclined in one direction than another. Most of us are. You may be able to look at an abstract of a rocket engine and put together a prototype with a dremel tool and a safety pin, while the rest of us stand around, scratching our behinds and trying not to look lost. If that's the case, couldn't an argument be made that more of your matter is dedicated to that direction? Or even, that you've got more matter to allocate? People do have different abilities, differing skills, and widely varying levels of each, a fact which, in our society, it's near-heresy to say.

To take a physical, rather than mental, example, let's look at me. I'm not what you'd call a weakling. But I'm nowhere near as strong as Zorak. Nor as coordinated. If you need something extremely heavy moved via an indirect route that will involve an elevation change, I'm pretty useless as anything other than a witness for the EMTs. I could focus, train, work hard, and dedicate everything I am and everything I have to becoming the absolute strongest I can be... and Arnold Schwarzenegger could still knock me out in three seconds flat. I couldn't even pretend I could outrun the man. It would be over before it began.

I have no doubt there are people who could do the same thing with me cognitively. I'm no idiot, but I am not a genius. No amount of study could make me such. I could, with an exorbitant amount of effort and focus, become an engineer. My home would suffer, my children would be without on many fronts, my husband would wonder if I'd left him completely. I would have no time, effort, or energy left to engage in any other activities that make me a productive, contributing member of this society. And in the end, I would have a degree, and be an engineer. No guarantees, even at that point, that I would be a good one. Would it be worth it? What would be the benefit, both to myself (would I be a better, more fulfilled person? a better woman?) and to my society (would I be a better citizen? voter? wife? volunteer?) Perhaps those are the questions we should be asking.

Perhaps, rather than asking whether it's wrong to try to level the playing field, or whether it's right to put inordinate amounts of energy into making us all college scholars, we ought to look at what we can invest in each child to help him become the most productive, responsible, contributing, and yes, fulfilled citizen he can be.

And within my sphere of influence, I have set the bar high. Not so high that they can't clear it, but high enough that they'll have the satisfaction of a Job Well Done when they have cleared it. One of the benefits of individualized education, and personalized goals for education, I suppose.

Wednesday, January 24


You people didn't even TRY! Nobody guessed! *pout*

We're not telling, now.



Monday, January 22


Well, you know, the problem with making the blogrun, answering the phone, and chatting before actually blogging is that I get all my chatting done, and then, well, I'm done.

Tonight I've read about and discussed (both online and in person) Clinton's announcement, "universal healthcare", the rising price of corn and it's impact in Mexico, Roe V. Wade, knitting, the joys of little boys and winter snowstorms, precious babies, weird years, The Weather Channel's Heidi Cullen, the absolute heart-pounding glee of discovering a reluctant reader curled up quietly enjoying a book sans prompting (!!!), how completely and utterly children nestle themselves into our hearts, a friend's return "home" after a prolonged time away, how to help more and be better at the things we do, whether we have an obligation to do so, Murray's article on education and intelligence (Steph, I started to comment, got carried away and shelved it - will probably blog on that this week, though).

~~~ Insert Time Warp ~~~

OK, I'd planned to link to a selection of news stories on each of these topics, from a few perspectives, but I got lost here, and now it's after midnight. But that's a truly fascinating site!

And so, now I'm *really* done and ready to collapse. So, rather than links or kibbitzing, I'll just show you what we did for fun after lunch today. The boys love word games. The other day, Zorak drew a rocket and a baby head, and asked the boys what it was. (Anybody know? I'll answer in the comments.) Today, they wanted to do more. So we did "Birds". How many "birds" can you find in this photo? (Some of them are horribly obscure, but we were in the Zone already, and there was no going back. And I apologize now for one of them. I think you must be a little boy, or have been a little boy, to get it.)

Oh, and the thing in the bottom left - not a bird. It's a Mario Kart thing. And the road w/ the box? It's a question: what's in the box? (look carefully)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, January 21

Post-Birthday Day

We had a lovely time Sunday, Officially Observing EmBaby's Birthday. There's just something special about your first introduction to Flaming Food! She warmed up to it after the boys blew out the candle for her.

In keeping with The Nature of Things, Zorak and I aren't strong on the "planning" aspect of things, or rather, the "coordinating" part, but we have friends who are gracious about it. I had to use my "Get Out of Hostess Jail Free" card, because Zorak told our guests to arrive a full hour and a half earlier than I'd said I could have everything ready. (Honest misunderstanding. I think.) But then, they called two hours before *that* time to say they were on their way. Oy! Well, folks, at that point, you're just not going to get the full presentation. I need a shower, so make yourself comfortable. Drinks are in the fridge. Probably some snacks in there, too. We visited, we cooked, we ate.

I experimented a bit in the kitchen, which I probably should not ever do in front of others. I hope they forgive me. The lasagna (not an experiment) turned out great. The breadsticks (not normally an experiment, but we'd thrown together a new batch of French Bread mix and it turned out, well, not so much). They were kinda gummy. Well, that's embarrassing. Salad - yeah, I'd have to work pretty hard to botch a salad. It was good.

The Namaste cake turned out lovely, as usual (I love Namaste!) I tried my hand at making my first-ever poured icing. Um... huh. Well, at least I know what to do differently next time! I let it get too warm, so it didn't adhere well to the sides, as you can see. And, as you can see, the boys didn't care one whit what it looked like. I love these ages.

And now, the kitchen is clean, the children are detoxed (detoxing... it's a process), and it's back to our regularly scheduled programming. I will leave you with gratuitous first birthday cake photos.

"Are you seriously putting that on my tray?"

"MMM! Have you tried the stuff on top of this thing? MMM!"

"OH! You mean like this!"

Kiss those sweet, sticky babies!

Wednesday, January 17

What A Year!

A year ago, our family grew by one. A girl. Our sweet BabyGirl. Oh. My. Word. She was so tiny. So precious. So new. And she has been busy!

In the last year, Miss Emily has done quite a lot. For starters, she's tripled her birth weight. That's quite a feat! (The boys are envious.)

She's dropped the "Miss" portion of her name. And the "Emily" part. She answers mostly to "BabyGirl", now. Much as we've done with Smidge, I imagine we'll have to start calling her by her proper name at some point. But right now, "BabyGirl" just fits so beautifully.

She developed a healthy sense of humor straight off. It's served her well so far. (She may actually think this is a joke, and is waiting for her real family to come get her... any day now... waiting...)

She's wrapped more than one person around her wee, pudgy fingers with those eyes, and that giggle, and those cheeks...

She's known love, and warmth, and comfort. No matter where we've gone.

She entered the covenant family of believers, and inherited more family than she knows.

She spent the summer being quite the little hostess, gettin' tips from Granny on all the good things in life.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Once she outgrew the bouncy seat, she discovered the joys of alternative transportation! *beep* *beep*
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Before long, BabyGirl was ready to see the world. Well, Florida, anyway. What fun! (And that hat? That is inter-generational payback. She will hate this photo one day, and I will think it's the sweetest thing ever. And I have three Grandmas from the boat trip who'll back me up.)

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

She's become a daring eater. This will not be her only taste of sushi, I'm sure.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

She figured out what's behind those pesky zippers on the diaper bag. (And how cupboards work, where the pots are hid, the best place in the boys' closet to hide, and all the good spots for snuggling!)
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And a lot of the time, she just sat in awe of her beautiful world.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

And we sat in awe, seeing the world through her beautiful eyes.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Happy First Birthday, Sweet BabyGirl! You've changed our home in so many ways, all of them good. You've brought us joy, and delight, and wonder. Just when we thought our lives couldn't be any more full, you came along. We love you, BabyGirl!

*(That lovely white dress up at the top? It's a gift from her birthday buddy, sweet S. J.. Thank you, Mere! She loves her special dress! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SARAH JANE!!)

Happy Baby Kisses All Around!

Tuesday, January 16

In twenty years,

I hope to be sitting at the banquet table for the wedding of one of my children. I can see it now... Everyone gathered together, all decked out in their wedding garments, surrounded by the people and things that make them happy, the band playing uplifting music... ah, it will be lovely.

And Zorak and I are going to sit there, beaming on the inside, and...


That's right. We're going to touch each other's plates, and whine about it. He's going to swing his leg and kick *my* chair. Repeatedly. Ignoring all warnings. One of us will keep moving, and the other one will get up and FOLLOW, plate and all. And right in the middle of each toast, one of us will shout, "Would you stop TOUCHING ME!"

And that will be just the beginning, because by that time, I'm sure there will be payback galore built up from these four, and it's going to take some ingenuity on our part, but I'm pretty sure we will be able to cram all of it into the wedding festivities. Oh, yes. We're gonna party like somebody else is footin' the bill, folks!


Probably not. Truthfully, I am deeply grateful that neither of our parents did that at our wedding. Whooeee, that would've been one humdinger of a spectacle (we had a lot of payback coming from our raisings). And I guess that's the thing about parenting. You remind your children of a thousand rules of behavior a thousand times over: do not kick your brother's chair; do not put your fingers in someone else's food; do not get up and follow someone who has just stood, demanded in no uncertain terms that you leave him alone, and stormed off (actually, you may want to cover that one a few extra times - could save a life some day). And still, five years down the road, you find yourself tensing up, bracing yourself for combat because you *know* you're going to have to say it 1,001 times. Or more. And you dream of the day you can start a food fight at your son's promotion party. Or play frisbee with lunchmeats at your daughter's college graduation. Or pick a brawl at the wedding...

But when the time comes, those thousand and one (or million and one) reminders have kicked in and done their job. You've done your job. And suddenly, you realize you don't want to ruin it. You've spent all these years helping them learn not to ruin it for themselves... you want to sit back, wallow it in, think up new things to worry about, and love them. Just like you've loved them through everything.

I will probably look at Zorak, though, and smile mischeviously when he whispers, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" (Because I never am, and we both know that, but at that point, we may just be...)

But just to be on the safe side, don't sit near us at the wedding, ok?

Kiss those babies!

Monday, January 15

Bird Lists (and stuff)

Because there's always "stuff".

Actually, I'll start with birding sites. I knew, growing up, that people bird watch simply because my Dad was a bird watcher. (Of course he was - his heyday was the well-off late 1940's to the 1960's - Weatherby shotguns, hard liquor at ten in the morning, horse races, social causes, mint juleps, oil paintings of hunting dogs, and, naturally, birding.) OK, truth be told, I have no clue how bird watching made it in there with the rest of it, but he had volumes of bird watching books. Stacked neatly beside his thirty year collection of vintage Playboy joke books. When he and my mother married and we moved into his house, the bird books were allowed to stay... and so, I knew people watched birds.

Sadly, I had no real interest in being still and quiet for any period of time, and he, in his late 60's by that point, had no desire to try to make me still and quiet. So the bird books gathered dust, and we both quietly wished Mom had chucked those instead of the joke books.

Fast forward twenty some-odd years, we sit at the breakfast table, and the boys. go. nuts. watching birds out the window. They used to ask me what each bird was, but outside of upland water fowl, your basic crow, jay, cardinal, and sparrow, I'd pretty much have to make things up. "Oh, that looks like the two-footed catfood warbler," or "I do believe that is a tasty-breasted southern wood quail". Eventually, they quit asking for my input, which was for the best. But now, they're making it up themselves. "That's a nuthatch!" "Yeah, right, it's too big. It's obviously the two-footed catfood warbler Mom told us about last Spring!" Oy. OK, time to get serious. So, we sat down and spent a delightful morning looking at bird identification sites, listening to bird songs, and playing reindeer games... er, bird games. I don't know, but it was fun, and we've all learned something, and they're hooked.

Our favorite site today was, hands down, Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds. For reader-friendly, get-you-started websites, this one is great. I think it'll become a daily reference point for us as we start into the realm of bird watching and getting to know the neighbors in the area. Navigation through the site is easy and intuitive. It's hard to get lost. You don't have to dig too hard to find pictures (always a plus for the attentionally challenged among us).

Our next favorite today would have to be the pages of photos and songs collected at I don't know how fast the downloads are if you're on dialup, but they're worth listening to. And of course, if you start the children being still and quiet *now*, then, in theory, it won't be such a struggle later. I appreciate the tremendous effort that enthusiasts have put into some of these pages. Doug, over at Nature's Songs, in particular, has set up his site in a way that makes you feel you're having lunch with him right after he's just found each song. His enthusiasm is catching (and we loved the way he detailed the conditions and circumstances under which he recorded each song). Wow. Suddenly, this whole process doesn't feel so intimidating! This, we can do!

Finally, if you're feeling pretty warmed up and ready to go, The Nutty Birdwatcher has some detailed information, and an interesting site.

Obviously, this is just a smattering, but this is where we spent our morning. Grab a snack, a warm cup o' your favorite winter beverage, and gather the kids for a little bird watching warmups. Then trek outside to see what's going on in the neighborhood!

Kiss those babies!

Adventures Gone Awry

So we're out of creamer and two days from payday. Oh, what bad, bad timing. I thought I'd improvise. "Hey!" I thought, "The Hillbilly Housewife uses vanilla pudding mix in her instant coffee mixes. I'll bet that would be good!" So I drizzled a little pudding mix into my cup, stirred, checked the spoon, stirred again, and it looked good. *sip* Mmm, well, not stellar. But not bad. Eh. It'll do.

Yeah, til I drink it down to where the bottom begins to show when I tip the cup for a drink. And there's a longish blob of... what is that? chewing gum? phlegm? fix-a-dent? No, wait, nobody in the house wears dentures. Dear heaven, what IS that?

Yep, undissolved, yet congealed, vanilla pudding, stuck in the bottom and coated in a layer of black coffee.

Oh. I think I'll just take it sweet and dark this week. Blech.


Let's Play Ball???

OK, this is the year. We're doing it. *breathe in*

The problem is - I have no idea what we're doing. *breathe out*

John wants to play baseball. OK. Sounds simple enough. You may remember we played heck trying to find a fall ball league last year. Turns out, there aren't any. Oh. OK. Well, we'll try again in the spring.

Yeah. Spring's a'comin!

I will call the Parks & Rec offices for our near communities on Tuesday. Haven't been able to find anything about them online.

I did find the Dixie Youth League. Spent three hours looking for information, and so far, not finding what I need, other than that there's a meeting on Feb. 3rd. (Since when is that "spring"? ACK! I thought I had more time! *breatheinbreatheoutbreatheinbreatheout)

How do they pick the teams?
Does everyone who wants to play get to play?
What do you have to have for tryouts?
What about homeschooled kids?
How does this all work?
What's the competition level?
Where do you start when you're, you know, just starting?
What can we do to help?
What am I doing, again?
Why am I doing it? Oh. Yes. That smile. That's right.

OK, I've answered one question. That's enough to keep me going. If you've done the baseball route before, would you mind chiming in with information? I'll be making phone calls this week, but would love a friendly voice to walk me through this.

Zorak and I are way out of our comfort zone at the moment. It's a twitchy, awkward place to be, and we're trying to maintain our cool-and-on-the-job personas. Not working so well.

And me, with the sports, not so much. I was on the track team in high school only because my ride didn't come until after track practice and they wouldn't let me sit and read. And even then, I went for field events just so I didn't have to run. This drive to engage in competitive sports is right up there in "things I don't get", with choosing a career in nostril hair tweezing, or making clothing from lint. It's foreign to me.

But have you seen that smile? Ah. I've got to figure this out.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, January 14

Homeschool Review

I think a weekly review is in order. Or, in this case, a bi-weekly review. Because you just never know when one of those little suckers might get away from you. (I'm beginning to believe that homeschoolers are time-challenged. It's not just time, as in "be there at eight in the morning" *gag, cough, gasp*, but rather the general ebb and flow of the Monday-Friday workweek, that we don't grasp. Or that could be just us. I'm okay with that.)

Here's the general scoop on life at the academy...

Latin For Children, Primer A. Coming along swimmingly. The boys still enjoy it, and I enjoy teaching with it. We ventured off into deeper work for James this past week, doing more independent translation and writing work, while taking a different turn with John, doing more in-depth vocabulary study. This little twist to the learning curve is what makes homeschooling work so well for us. The children get what they need, without sacrificing any one child to the angry volcano of educational oversight. We'll finish Unit II this coming week, and will begin Unit III before the end of the month.

MUS, Delta: division is easy when you know your multiplication facts and the Reasons Why. Alpha: the work John put into Primer is paying off in Alpha. I'm glad we did Primer, and still recommend it highly. The gentle introduction, ease of memorization, and the taste of success (particularly for this little guy) is worth every penny spent on Primer.
As we'd planned, we're just letting them take the ball and run with it on math this term. They're both enjoying the work they do (aside from the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Morning last week), and they still get enough bizarre applications and theory from our normal day-to-day discussion that I just can't see slowing them down or adding anything else to the pot. This is good brew.

Famous Men of Rome: My plan was to read/study one famous man per week. Well, there's not much else available to us for supplementation here in the boonies. So, we've broadened our studies a bit, and read two chapters each week. I add in a little mapwork, some fictional reading, maybe dabble in a little Viking lore. Then I re-read the story of The Horatii and The Curatii, over again, each week. Because when you're six, that is just a horribly cool story.

I would like to add in more of the activities from SOTW, but at this point, I'm ready to forge ahead into the Middle Ages. It took us so long to get to Rome. Oy. Still, we're on track, and enjoying it, and at the end of this term, they'll have some good pegs about the Roman civilization on which to hang next term's studies. It's good. I'm just being impatient. And I need a live-in crafter. Desperately. These children need a few good projects. (I don't need ideas - there are plenty out there. What I need is the motivation!)

Our reading schedule has been fairly laid back, although the two older boys are getting in half an hour of assigned reading each day, as well as half an hour to an hour of free reading time during the day (on top of our normal reading together time, bedtime reading, and the random books that simply must be read whenever).

They're working their way through the Copybooks from Memoria Press. We aren't using them as prescribed, but we are using them as I'd planned, and as such, we're getting just what we need. (Copybook gives the eldest child a chance to write something I didn't outline for him, or expect him to narrate on his own. Just good, quality handwriting practice. Isn't that handy? And for the next child, it's just good practice in general: paying attention, developing good form, finishing a project with minimal fuss. Good stuff.)

Science - isn't every day a science day? No? Oh. Well, we're enjoying the tidbit pages from the list of things to do outside in the winter, and the tangents we go off on from those, alone, are great fun. We're slowly slogging our way through Exploring Creation Through Astronomy. I love the reading part. It's the activities that are just killing me right now. January, it seems, is NOT the time to ask me to do anything other than eat and read.

Bible - Pioneer Club has begun again, so we have memory work and projects for that. Our daily devotionals come from the Keys 4 Kids series, which I found at An Old-Fashioned Education. We do them over breakfast, and they're quite good. If I run into one that I don't think is applicable, or appropriate for my crowd, it's nice to be able to go back through the archives and pick a different day.

And that's the bulk of our lessons, there. We do music, although not officially. We do it by making music and sharing music. By listening to more music and partaking in the process itself. I'm trying not to focus on this, for fear I will scare myself out of it, but for now, I think that creating a lifestyle that includes music will do wonders for the boys. For all of us, really. I'll blog more later about the effects I've seen just since we've begun implementing this approach. It's been good. And by no means am I advocating NO formal music lessons, but for us, that was a cart-before-the-horse scenario. We needed to get the horse first.

How's your school term going?

Kiss those babies!

Wintering in the South

There are benefits to winter in the South. There are. Really. Sometimes they're a little harder for those of us who dream of spending October through March snowed in, hiding from polar bears, to see. But they are there.
For one, you can play outside without fear of frostbite. Or polar bears. Always handy. Tree climbing in winter is much easier if your hands aren't too cold to gauge whether you've got a good hold on the tree.
For another, the mild winters make up for August... and the first two weeks of September. Just look at that baby - no glistening! Just pure, happy Southern Winter Skin. It is beautiful! (Someday, when she has hair, she'll appreciate the added moisture in the winter air, as well.)

Summer in the South is just as challenging to weather as summer in the Southwest. You must get up and out before the sun rises to do any gardening or outdoor labor. Then, with the fear vampires feel, you scuttle back indoors as the sun rises, plant yourself under a ceiling fan, and spend your day trying not to sweat. But then comes fall, and it's back out-of-doors with you, living among the undead no longer! It's beautiful. By winter, the ticks have gone away. (Perhaps they winter over in the tropics? I don't know where they are, but they aren't here, waiting in ambush.)

And when your friends tell you they're serving marshmallows for dessert, it makes sense. Nothing like a little winter marshmallow roast in the South! You can feel your toes. You don't have to wear gloves. And you don't have to wait until ten for it to get dark and make the whole adventure feel more like, well, an adventure!

Finally, although winter in the South doesn't always call for hot chocolate, tea is always in season. So you can use your favorite coffee carafe for tea!

Yes, there's a lot to love about living in the South.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, January 13

Birthdays and Friends

I don't know what it is, but I can't blog with someone else in the room. What's up with that? Anybody else ever develop strange, blog-related behaviors?

So, anyway, it's been a busy week, here. The boys' lessons are coming along nicely. We've read a lot more this week. Not necessarily anything big, but little snippets here and there. The boys are more engaged in discussing what we've read, expounding on it, chewing on it. I play it cool on the outside, but internally I grin like a maniac, because I know where these habits lead, and it's a beautiful place. We dragged the board book basket into the living room and spent several afternoons taking turns reading to Smidge and EmBaby. (Can't do it for both at the same time. No, no. That devolves into a death match between a wolverine and rabid mongoose. Bad, bad idea.) John loves being able to read to the little ones. I love that he's not intimidated by the size of books or the size of font any longer. (I love having enough backup that everybody gets a little downtime, too!)

John and James had a birthday party to attend today. We had a heck of a time trying to figure out what to get for the birthday boy! Finally settled on a set of snap circuits, which the boys absolutely love, and wouldn't ya know it, Toys-R-Us doesn't carry them. At least not locally (the website showed them as an in-stock item, but I guess that meant on the web only). Well, pooh. I don't know what the guys ended up buying, but we were off and running again, arriving a mere five minutes late for the party. (We are SO getting there! With our current rate of improvement on arrival times, we will arrive on time for the birth of our first, possibly second, grandchild.)

Since we're not getting the winter storms everyone else is getting, we figured it'd be better to play in the 70' afternoon sunshine than lament the lack of snow in January, and that was great. Wonderful Friends invited us to stay for supper, and treated us to grilled salmon, sauteed veggies, and a great raspberry chipotle sauce they'd picked up at Costco. (Costco carries the best stuff sometimes!) We stayed far too late, and everyone was ready to collapse upon arriving home. Times like this, I do sort of wish we lived closer to town. Or kept a condo in town. Something other than arriving home so late when we've gone visiting. However, it was nice to get out.

Tomorrow I've got to get stuff done around the house. I can't tell if we're making headway or not. My fingers are crossed that the rain forecast will hold off and give me at least til lunch with the kids outside. (I want to use the pages linked the other day to try to identify a few cool things growing on the property.) Then it wouldn't kill us to get rained in, for we have a lot still to accomplish. At this point, I am giving serious consideration to moving everybody into tents in the upper meadow for a month or so come spring just so we can finish the house w/o actually living in it. (But, you know, without giving up such luxuries as the plumbing, and the stove.) Wonder if Zorak would go for that?

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, January 11

Oops, little time warp, there

I started to write up all the book lists I've collected and seem to hoard with a stunningly dragon-like enthusiasm, so we'd have them in one place (as opposed to my current system, which, it would seem, isn't working out so well). That was around one this afternoon... aaaaand, now it's after eleven.

Did you know there's a lot of neat stuff I've got bookmarked that I never, ever go look at? What do I bookmark it for? And why don't I *use* the bookmarks? We should have an official "List Your Bookmarks Day" sometime next week. I'll bet there are some real gems hidden away that we've clicked on, saved for later, and promptly forgot about.

In the meantime, somebody at the WTM boards posted a link today for "68 Nature-Oriented Things To Do During Winter". What fun! I'm printing this out tonight, and go through it this weekend. I'll bet there's a delightful few ideas the boys will love.

I'll also get around to putting a good list together sometime this weekend. But in the meantime, if you're looking for some new reading ideas, check out the Baldwin Project's Children's Literature Project. (It's less overwhelming than trying to find something in the entire Baldwin Project, and you have the option to print your selection, or purchase a it through Yesterday's Classics.) Good stuff. James is reading Ways of Wood Folk right now, and we're enjoying it so much. I would love, love, love to buy these books, but for now, I'm putting the printer to good use.

Also, Mere mentioned World Wide School. I blew several hours there today. Really neat stuff, and I love the way it's organized. (And that was another site that turned out to be in my favorites already, but it's been so long since I looked in there that I didn't even recognize the url!) And Mere, it's funny you should mention Long. He also wrote the one we've been reading this week! We're enjoying it tremendously, and I can't wait to read more!

Funny that so many of us are in between read alouds right now. It's a like a collective pause in the universal reading rhythm.

Well, I hung in there quite well until Smidge's last request for a little Squirrel Nutkin. That did me in. Hillary thinks there is some kind of sedative in Potter's works. I'm inclined to agree. I'll bet if you dug through Old English spell books, you'd find the sleeping spells were all written down as children's bedtime stories. Yep, pretty sure of it.

And so, good night.

Kiss those babies!

Books and Sleep

I think Santa needs to bring one of us a computer this coming Christmas. Zorak doesn't get much computer time, really, so when he does beat me to it, erm, hop on, I can't begrudge him that. But I can't stay up long enough to get on after him, either. Last night I conked out on the futon. No sense in trying to reply to email and blog through the haze of sleep, so when he woke me up, I just stumbled to bed and figured I could get caught up this morning. Now Yahoo is having problems. *sigh* So if I owe you an email, I apologize. I can't get in right now.

It's 8:30, and the kids are still asleep. Wednesday nights are hard on them. We don't get home from church until nine, and even though I've fed them before we left, once we got there, and had a snack in the car, they're still hungry when we get home. You've seen how thin they are. That's pure metabolism at work, there. Metabolism with a skin and hair covering. So Zorak has supper (second supper? tensies?) ready when we pull in and it's after ten by the time they get tucked into bed. The funny thing is that even when they can't keep their eyes open, they're shocked if we try to skip bedtime reading. "Wha--? We can't have a story? We can't have our reading minutes? What?!? WHYYYYYYYYY???" Zorak and I stand there quietly, praying they'll just. go. to. sleep. But no, they need their books. This would be my genetic contribution to the next generation: willingness to forego sleep, nutrition, and sunlight in order to be able to read a good book. Not high on the Survival Qualities Scale, but thankfully Zorak had enough input on that end, so I think they'll be okay.

I'm trying to find a good read aloud right now. John wants me to start over with The Chronicles of Narnia. Smidge wants me to read Farmer Boy again. James doesn't care what I read, as long as I'll quit losing his bookmark in whatever he's reading. I've got to be honest, I'm not up for starting either of the ones mentioned over again just yet. I'd like to leave at least a year between Narnia readings, so the children can hear them with a fresh perspective each time. Back-to-back seems a little much. And I have no idea why Smidge fell in love with Farmer Boy, but he did. He really loves that book. He even took it from the boys' room and put it on his bookshelf. I'm slogging my way through The Hobbit with them again, to stall for time, but I think this weekend I'm going to peruse my favorite lists and see if I can find something. Plus, the latest Dover catalog came in. There's always something good in there!

And on that note, I'm going to see if I can slip in some of my study time before they wake up (famished, no doubt) and start the day.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, January 9

The Substitute

Ah, I'd forgotten just how unruly children can be for the substitute teacher. Even when it's Dad. He so doesn't get paid enough for this subbing gig, but thankfully, he does it for the love of the job. And the bene's.

So, Zorak subbed for me today while I went to the dentist (yes, again), then he ran interference and let me heal during the afternoon. He cooked a scrumptious baked chicken supper with steamed yellow squash. Smidge made mashed potatoes - and he was so proud of them that he ate three servings! Of course, John barely touched them. I don't know if the tater ban on his part was related to concerns over Smidge's hygienic levels in the kitchen, or if he just wasn't up for potatoes. He did praise Smidge's efforts, though, and so, I really don't mind. Be kind. Be helpful. You're good-to-go.

We had a really nice day, all things considered. John got over whatever demonic possession had caused him to spend three hours this morning swearing he couldn't write numerals 1-100 (WTH??? Thankfully, Zorak did not buy that load, not even for a buck.) James let us help him with his latest jigsaw puzzle. Baby Girl practiced standing without holding on to things. And has perfected landing without hurting herself. Smidge worked on attaining his goals. (Today's goal: to perch atop my head while I laid on the couch and whimpered.)

And suddenly, it's eleven o'clock. Wow. That was fast.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, January 8

A Look at our... well, our bread

I'd hoped to do a day-in-pictures, but we hit the ground running. And it's hard to find the camera when you're runing.

We've had a lovely morning. We enjoyed our Bible studies and Latin before breakfast, which was nice (and thus, buys me and the boys a little break just before lunch!) We did a lot of work on the Latin today, and they're doing so well. James is thrilled to be translating "real sentences" (simple subject-verb sentences), but he gets it and is flying through. John gets the concept, but hasn't really put as much into memorizing his vocabulary work as he ought. Well, no beating ourselves with the Oughts, we'll just remedy that, starting now.

Then it was on to breakfast, which this morning was a bit light on the protein (and we'll pay for it this afternoon, if I don't fix the deficiency at lunch!) But, oh, was it good. I took horrible liberties last night with KathyJo's quinoa bread recipe, and it survived surprisingly well. So this morning, I mangled it a bit further to make a breakfast bread, and it turned out *spectacularly*, if I do say so myself. (But I didn't have to - the boys and EmBaby said it after the first taste!)

The loaf itself does form up nicely, and it looks like any regular banana bread you might be given by a loved one, or a zucchini bread in August, by someone who secretely loathes you. I suspect the difference in the texture is the teff flour. I used it in both batches, and both batches came out with a wonderful texture and good heft. (Yes, that is the ever-so-faint outline of a hand print on the top. I have helpers. It's like living with enthusiastic gnomes.)

It was difficult to cut. Not because of the bread, but because I didn't want to see what was inside. (Sometimes the scars are on the inside, you know.) But we cut it...

Look at that - no goop!

And the best part? It looks like that all the way to the middle! This is a completely goop-free loaf of bread.

Another first for my normal sized loaves. (9x5 pan!) WAHOO! I've never had success like this outside of BRM GF Bread Mix. Ever. (If I were a crier, this would be where I cried. As it stands, I did get a little sniffly.)

So, I washed my hands and we ate up! DELICIOUS! The boys all ate four slices a piece. EmBaby ate two full slices. Served slathered with butter, sides of fresh fruit, cheese (next time, we'll serve cheese), and glasses of cold milk, it's a delightful breakfast.

And then, it was back to the grindstone!

Here's the recipe, in case anyone needs a good gluten-free breakfast loaf. (It would toast up nicely, as well!)

1 c. fruit yogurt (any flavor - we used blueberry)
1/2 c. water
1 Tbsp. mayo
2 Tbsp. honey
2 eggs (room temp!)

2 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
scant 1/4 c. sugar (optional - play with it to taste)
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 Tbsp. powdered milk
1 tsp. yeast (for flavor)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. teff flour
2 c. bean flour blend

Pre-heat oven to 375'

Use mixer to beat together liquid ingredients in large bowl. Beat 'em til they're creamy and frothy. In another bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add combined dry ingredients to liquids, a little at a time, incorporating well as you go. Beat thoroughly.

Pour into a greased loaf pan, use the back of a spatula to smooth the top. Bake for 10 min. Cover with foil, and bake for another 55-60 min.

(Loaf is done when bottom sounds hollow when tapped. If it's not done, just throw it back in for another 15 or so.)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, January 7

All Smiles

It's like they *know*.

Just when I am at my wit's end, ready to go SuperCynical on everyone within a thirty-mile radius, something wonderful happens to snap me out of it. The other night, as I sat, twitching and folding laundry on the living room floor, wondering if the children would survive if I took just one. small. nap. I heard a little scritch-scritch and saw movement out of the corner of my eye.

Two thoughts ran simultaneously through my head, jockeying for position. They were, "If that's a two-foot tall mouse, I'm out of here!" and "One of them is escaping!" (Being, presumably, the children, not the mice.) Well, either of those thoughts will fling the hope of a nap from any mother's brain, so I whipped around, only to find...

EmBaby's not such a baby anymore. And pediatric recommendations be darned, if we won't BUY her a walker, she'll improvise! We have vast stretches of empty space that don't lend themselves to cruising along with the aid of furniture, but it seems a stepstool works rather well on the laminate floor. She loves this thing, and it's stable enough that she can't push it over if it does get stuck on something.

And really, with smiles like these to greet me, I can forget about whatever it was the boys got into while I cleaned the bathroom...

Even wearing the evidence, he's so cute! How can I be mad? (Of course, ask me again when I try to make something and find they've eaten a key ingredient, right?)

This is why it's the good stuff. Someday, those two smiling faces will be the faces of adults. Hopefully, they will still smile all the way to their eyebrows like that, and hopefully, their lives will be filled with people who love those smiles just as much as (well, ok, realistically, "almost as much as") I do.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, January 6

Blogging Around

Amy blogged a "Year of Blogging" the other day, posting the first line from the first entry of each month of the year. I thought that was fun, so figured I'd do it here. But first, a few things -

KathyJo has mastered the wheat-free loaf. Holy Cow, it's exquisite. And if she doesn't cough up a recipe soon, I may have to offer to birth her next child for her in exchange. Because I think even Zorak might eat that one!

Also, we watched Talladega Nights last night, and I've got to ask if anybody else who has seen the movie noticed a striking resemblance between Carley, and another Hooters Girl, erm, blogger we know and love (even if she doesn't blog regularly)...

And no, it's not a personality thing at all - just the physical appearance. Our M. is actually one of the sweetest, funniest ladies I've ever had the honor of knowing. We can't hate her because she's beautiful. (But seriously, she does look like Carley Bobby. It's eerie.) ;-)

OK, and now, A Year of Blogging, 2006:
We're moving too quickly to stop and reflect.

There's such a fine, fine line between a groove and a rut, isn't there?

I think it's gone.

There's no sensation quite like sauntering up to a service counter and saying, "We are doing this mongo project that's way over our heads, and in the process we've taken something apart that we aren't certain how to put back together."

Laney and I have talked about it.

Not actually fasting from the internet.

Hello, hello!

Well, first things first, we managed to get to the ENT's office on time, which is, in and of itself, a miracle.

"Look, Mom," James calls to me from beside Emily, who was perched on a pillow, "A plate of laughter with a side of smiles!"

OK, I am never doing that again.

I had no idea trick-or-treating began around four!

Andrew Lang's Fairy Tales - in their favorite colors!

I know, technically, December's is a sentence fragment. I was going to fudge that one, but the next three are also fragments. It seems 2006 was an interesting year. However it came out in words, it was good. Definitely good.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, January 4

The Makings of A Stellar Day

"Mom, do you hear that?" We listen for a second, and hear music coming from the nursery. EmBaby has turned on her seahorse light and is singing along with it.

"Can I read a little more?" The child who, until just before Christmas, had no desire to read. Ever. Not if he could help it.

"My wart's dead!" OK, that one's just good stuff. Two kids have been slathered in castor oil, and now both are wart-free. (Though John's looks like there's another wave of the stuff coming up to die. Still, this is good news.)

"Can I teach it to you now?" *goofy grin* I. Love. That.

"Mmmm, this bread is good." Suckup. But I'll take it.

"What can we do to help you, Mom?" Bury me now. I can die happy.

"You want song? Me make soooong!" Smidge, who has graduated from Elfish and is now in his broken-english phase. So happy. And a great song, too!

Granted, today's not over, but it's a start. A beautiful, much-appreciated start. (I told ya yesterday was a preparation day!)

What makes a stellar day for you?

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, January 3

What A Day

Two recipe disasters in a row! I'm on a roll.

Thought it'd be nice to have fresh potato bread to go with supper tonight, so I whipped up a full-size batch of the stuff, then split the liquid in half and made one loaf w/ wheat flour and one loaf wf. Really, it looks beautiful. It has that delightful potato bread texture, and it smells delicious. Unfortunately, my bright idea to leave the skins on, well, wasn't quite so bright. Just for future reference, the skins don't bake up so nicely in bread. They don't affect the taste adversely, but they produce these awful, shiny dark spots in the bread. It's not a healthy sheen, at all, and it took me a bit to figure out what those nasty spots were. *shudder* Oh, well, perhaps they'll toast up okay. A little peanut butter and honey can cover a multitude of baking sins.

Most of us still feel like hammered dog poop, so we aren't setting the world on fire at the moment. The house gets tidied, the linens get washed, and that fairly wears me out. In spite of that, though, we're managing to do school pretty well. We're hitting about 95% each day, and are rotating the 5% we don't manage to get. So far, we're ahead of my beloved schedule by a full two days, though, even factoring in the stray 5%.

Zorak called this morning to ask if I'd been out to the road yet. (I hadn't.) He informed me we need a new mailbox. *sigh* I had forgotten about the joys of drunk teenagers on a dull winter evening, particularly out in the boonies. I guess there's just not much to do but vandalize mailboxes while you're waiting for your buddy with the ID to get more beer. Well, I hope they enjoy the concrete reinforced one we'll be putting up. There were Christmas cards strewn on the roadside, crumpled, wet, and dirty. That torqued me off pretty badly. Not to mention, mailboxes have gone up in price quite a bit! Oy!

Tomorrow we've got to get to the library. We won't be heading in to share the crud, but we do need to slip some books into the box and then run before they catch us. It's been a while since we've all been healthy enough to leave, and Zorak doesn't go into the town with the library, so the books are very, very delinquent. The library will be glad to have their books back, and I will be glad to be back on non-compounding terms with my late fees.

And really, that's about all I've got the stamina to put together. Some days are stellar, and some days... well, the prepare you to fully enjoy the stellar days. Today was a prep day. But that's okay, maybe tomorrow will be stellar!

Kiss those babies!

Recipe No-Go

Well, I had to try. The Hillbilly Housewife has a recipe for egg and cheese pudding. I thought that sounded like a wonderful, hearty, warm lunch!

Evidently, I thought wrong.

Smidge did try one honest bite, but then pronounced, "No me like dis! No good." (Ah, well, break it to me gently, there, kiddo.)

James said the flavor is, "OKAY, but, mentally, it's the texture of bread pudding, which just doesn't go with these flavors. It's not you. It's not... bad, really. It's just me, mentally, I can't do it." (Oh, he is SO my kid.)

John ate all of it without complaining, but quietly disappeared when I offered him seconds. (Of course, when you grab someone by the shoulders and act like someone from a Dickens novel, "YOU liked it, though, didn't you? YOU thought it was good? Would you like MORE?" Yeah, that'll make even the most stalwart among us bolt for the nearest exit.)

Alright, mark this one off the list for inclusions. FWIW, I do agree about the texture and consistency. I'm an American, and as such, my puddings should be sweet. I get nauseaus just reading about the puddings in the Master & Commander books. The flavor was great, and as a quiche, or just a basic caserole (perhaps with pasta instead of bread?) it'd probably be good. But as it stands, it should have tasted like cinnamon and nutmeg, or maybe apples. I kept that thought to myself, though, so as not to skew their views of it.

On the plus side, Zorak's lunch for tomorrow is ready to go! (Maybe he'll like it? Don't worry, I'll pack extra other items, just in case.)

Kiss those babies!

First Day Back to School

No pictures. Mid-year pictures don't count. (Heck, I haven't even managed to mail out the Christmas pictures yet - school photos? Probably not 'til college, folks.)

However, it was a pretty good day. The boys were surprisingly easy to guide and teach. Zorak spent his day of mourning off hunting for deer, so the kids and I dove into our studies. By the time he returned home for lunch, we were done with most of the stuff and taking a well-enjoyed game break.

School Day Highlights:

James - loving Delta. Yay. Thrilled to have "designated free reading time" included in the homeschool schedule. (He loves to read - reads in the morning, before he gets up, and reads at bedtime, as well. But he just doesn't quite understand that if you want to go read a book during the day, go read a book. If I'm reading a book, he'll come sit with me and read one of his own, and if I suggest it, he's all over it. But for some reason, he needed a slot set aside just for "free reading". Somehow, seeing "30 minutes free reading" on his schedule of things to do was like getting a "Pass Go, Collect $200" card. Huge highlight of the day.)

John - really able to read his Latin book independently now, and he is so thrilled. So he read the Latin lessons today. So proud! Also, I gave him a Reader to work through, along with his very own checklist to record his progress. This step meant a lot to him (more than I'd figured when I put it together), and he cannot wait to fill in the "I read all ten stories myself!" certificate. This is such good stuff.

James lost another tooth today. John is still in awe of the process, convinced he'll never lose a tooth of his own. He didn't ask for this one, though, so that's good.

Miss Emily awoke this morning with a raging case of pink eye. So, back to Mom's pharmacy. Three treatments with that stuff and she looked a WHOLE lot better, although she's still fairly miserable. Even with the goop, she spent most of her day standing and dancing. She's begun cruising comfortably the past week, and will walk all over the place if you give her a finger to hold on to. It won't be long before she's walking all over the place (and bruised just as thoroughly).

Smidge, so far, has avoided the strep, the pink eye, and the ick. I don't know how much longer his luck will hold, but hopefully Long Enough.

And on that note, I'm not going to push my luck any more than I already have. So, I am off. A good night's rest, and an early start in the morning, and we'll keep moving in this general direction.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, January 1

1st Quarter of '07, 3rd Quarter of 06-07...

Whatever you'd call it. Let's just go with January, '07. There, that sounds right. I haven't quite figured out where our school years end and pick back up again. We don't break the boys' studies into yearly chunks for progression. They work until they're done, then we move on to the next book.

This method works great on paper, but it does make things a bit wonky with scheduling (which I do in abundance, and then promptly set aside once our normal routine emerges, rendering all the scheduling irrelevent). I don't do the scheduling for them, though. I do it for me. For several reasons: even if I do ditch it, the planning gives me a general idea which direction we need to be heading; it helps clarify which books are gathering dust and which need to be beefed up a bit; I enjoy it. It's fun. Even more fun now that we've found the electric pencil sharpener. Mmmm. I do love a freshly sharpened pencil and a blank sheet of paper. WOOHOO!

For daily scheduling, I use the auto-fill daily homework sheet from Chart Jungle. Ten minutes in the evening before bed gives me a leg up on the next day's plan. Think of it this way, if you need to be somewhere in the morning, and you *know* your car battery is going to be dead in the morning, wouldn't you plug in the charger before you went to bed? (Assuming, of course, that you all have chargers, and not just jumper cables, like normal people, right?) So. My battery isn't good with quick starts. We like the daily forms.

The rest of my planning, I do with Donna Young's Quarterly Planners. Just a general outline, in 9 week increments. As I pointed out to the boys, it's paper, not stone. But those wonderful grids make me happy! The boys don't ever have to see them - the pages go into a binder.

A happy, gridded, filled-in, organized binder of glee.

My glee is bound. My pages are printed. My schedule is in place.

The kids are asleep. The menu is written up.

And... we just found out Zorak's off work tomorrow. :-D (The humor being that we usually take off school when Daddy's home. It's easier on everyone. All that work, when I could have gone to bed early!)

Kiss those babies!