Saturday, June 30

New Reading

Arousing from the most profound of slumbers, we break the gossamer web of some dream. Yet in a second afterward (so frail may that web have been) we remember not that we have dreamed.

(Poe. How delightful. Who knew?)

I think I have discovered a new (to me) delight in this season of my life: the short story. OK, OK, I'll admit it: I've been a bit of a snob about the short story. It is useful for guiding writing classes, for draining the life from high school English Lit classes, perhaps for filling the gaps in an anthology. Too short to be a novel, too long to be an essay, the short story seemed to lack purpose. It never fed a portion of my reading heart in a way that merited remark, either good or bad.

Now, before you *tut-tut* and begin making disdainful clucking noises, hear me out. (I still remember the collective gasp when I admitted I was never a big fan of fiction. We all learn. I'm learning. Growing. Bear with me.) It's not that I hadn't read Poe, Conrad, or Chesterton (although, ok, Chesterton is new to me -- within the last few years -- and it is to him I owe my latest foray into short stories). I think it's that I hadn't quite understood how best to approach a short story. By it's very name, I suppose, I always expected it to be, well, shorter. And so, I hadn't the attention to last much beyond the first page or two. Yet, to gear up for the seminar-length of a novel seemed a bit of overkill, really. So I developed my pace for reading through a short story - I'd sprint. Sprint through it, suck it up, get it over, and try very hard not peek at the last paragraph becuse honestly, is is THAT difficult to show some self-composure? Truly, when you must grasp your reading moments in the quiet lulls between needs and demands, who wants to sprint? Not I!

Children get it. Children get the thrill of a short story. They understand, almost intuitively, that the master of a short story can make his readers wonder, follow, care... all of the things a well-written novel will do, but with far fewer words and far less time to accomplish those things. How did I forget that part? It's a pretty big part. However, due to my love affair with GK Chesterton (it's okay, Zorak knows - I'm only after his words), I picked up a book of *sigh* short stories. Because one of his stories was in there. And it's one I love. Enough to read it over and over again. Enough to buy a book I'm not otherwise interested in owning.

And I began to read the other stories. I read, for the first time in my life, The Pit and the Pendulum. With a bit of context thrown in. And... and... I may not stop making adolescent "quoth the raven" jokes because of it. But I did enjoy it. Not in an uplifting-let's-read-Poe-daily sort of way. But moreso than ever before.

Did you know he wrote of hope?

In so many ways, I am thankful that I can continue my own education. I cannot imagine being in ten years the same as I am today. I am not now what, ten years ago, I thought I'd be. Yet this isn't (really, it isn't) about the journey of self-discovery so much as it is about my utter joy that I've found something I can read, and savor, and enjoy. Before they find me. (I'm running out of hiding spots.)

So, aside from Joyce Carol Oates (who I refuse to subject my soul or mind to ever again, as long as I live - I simply cannot. take. her), who are some of your favorite short stories written by? What are some of your favorite short stories?

And which do you look forward most to sharing with your children?

Kiss those babies!

More Surprises

Me-Tae says these are Tiger Lilies. I'm glad she knew, because I had no idea. Just looked out the back window one day to find a huge orange pouf on the end of a tall, tall stalk. There are a dozen or so in the front yard, too. They're wider than my hand. And they're much more vibrant than the picture lets on.
I wish they had a scent. Don't they look like they ought to smell delicious? Yeah. But there's nothing.

Am I supposed to deadhead these things to keep them flowering? (And yeah, she suggested watering them. Said hers just glowed after she gave them a little water.)

You know, I am *never* going to be able to find all these bulbs to pull up this fall. The house, the meadows, the woods, even the rock hole that's filled with trash - none of it overwhelms me quite so much as this little patch of earth between the upper and lower drives.

Kiss those babies! And take time to smell the... well, not the lilies. But we give everything a quick sniff. You never know when you'll be pleasantly surprised, right?

Friday, June 29

Rain! Rain!

YIPPEE, rain! It's still a bit odd to look out at acre upon acre of lush, green land and think, "THIS is a drought?" We don't water anything. We haven't watered anything since we moved here. Gah! That'll make it grow! And then we'd have to mow it, or risk losing the smaller children in the underbrush. But still, it grows. Residentially, the drought hasn't affected the way we run our home or tend to our land. (Mentally, we still live like we are in the desert with a nearly dry well.) But it's been hard, very hard, on the farmers in the area. And just today we noticed (well, Danger Girl noticed) that the grass is awfully crunchy and pokey in the upper meadow. (The rest of us mere mortal were wearing shoes and didn't notice so much.)

But yesterday, it rained. Oh, how it rained. And today, again, it rained. And we all sat out on the porch, reading books, eating otter pops, enjoying the smell of rain. (Not so much the smell of wet dog, but sometimes it's a package deal.) It's beautiful, and although it delayed the painting of the eaves for us, I hope it keeps up for a while. The area really needs the rain.

All is well here. It's simply been too hot 'n sticky to do anything worth blogging about. Somehow, "Got up too late to catch the cool morning. Dang. Moved slowly. Ate otter pops. Did lessons. Laid in bed, reading quietly. Ate Supper..." that's, well, that's difficult to dress up, then, isn't it?

John's summerball league is going well. A little sticky on the town politics, but we're trying fervently not to make eye contact and if anyone approaches us directly about it, we both plan to spout off entirely in Spanish. LOUD Spanish. With lots of hand movement and facial action. Hopefully, if nothing else, they will leave us be. (We would go for a less well-known language, but Spanish is the only other thing we're fluent enough in to be able to respond without accidentally saying something embarrassing.)

We're reading some good stuff right now. That deserves its own post. Right now, though, Zorak is insisting he hasn't seen Radio yet. (But we have. Or, at least, I have. I don't know where he was, though, if he didn't see it, too. Weird.) So I'm going to go kiss those babies one more time, grab my book and my cup, and score some snuggle time while he watches a movie.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, June 27

Mid-Week Hump

Not much scares me, really. I may get creeped out by quite a few things, but they haven't been enough to make me move yet, so I think we're okay there. But there is one thing, one phrase, which I live in total fear of every waking moment:
This is Zorak's Spicoli-like response to most of the less-than-solid decisions he made in the mid-to-late 80's, and I have to admit I'm terrified it's a genetic pre-disposition the boys may have inherited.

The boys finished all their work today with very little oversight on my part. John had a mild panic-attack when he didn't recognize his review from last week, but once he recognized it, he sucked it up and was good to go. James, slow and steady, is getting the hang of "housekeeping" in math. WOOHOO! Aside from a quick re-introduction, and the occasional reminder to stay on task, though, they worked independently today. And that worked out well, as Smidge for some reason decided today would be a Very Good Day to dump every bin from the toy shelf (six large bins and eight little ones, to be precise - plus two dorm boxes from beneath the beds, and the play clothes chest) into one large pile in the bedroom. MegaBlocks Fire & Ice Dragon set, and all. Oh. My. Word.

Me: Uh.. what happened here?
Smidge: *smiling charmingly* I did it!
Me: Yes, *breathe* *breathe* I figured this was your work. *breathe*...*breathe* *breathe* This... this... *breathe* this was your idea?
Smidge: *smile kinda starting to droop a bit* It's not a good idea?
Me: *exhale* *breathe* No, this was not a good idea.
Smidge: Huh. *looking around a bit* It seemed like a good idea--

And this is proof that I'm getting better at this parenting gig - I did not yell. I wanted to. Oh, yes, I wanted to kick toys and throw bins and use up all the bad words I hear on the playground. But by the grace of God, I didn't. And I'm so glad. Partly because Nocturnal Parenting Regret really stinks, to be honest. You already feel bad, so you slink into their room only to find that the demons who'd inhabited your children that afternoon have left and those wee beds now cradle angelic beings. Sometimes they even seem to have a faint glow. (Though that could just be the nightlight beside the bed, so don't quote me. But still, the overall effect is pretty powerful.) And the guilt, the often well-deserved guilt, over what a total jackass you were earlier that day, just gnaws its way right through your liver. Yeah, that stinks. And tonight, I don't have any. Yay!

But I did breathe deeply enough to come close to passing out. And when I muttered quietly, in a Tired and Resigned Voice, "Oh, Honey, you even pulled all the labels off the bins," Smidge helpfully picked up one bin that still had a label, and said, "Not all, Mommy." And he smiled a hopeful smile. And even then, ankle deep in sharp plastic rectangles and small model cars, I was glad I hadn't yelled. You don't ever regret the times you didn't lose it, you know that?

So we started with that bin. And we managed to put the whole room back together. And we ended up having, if not a good time, at least a not-bad time. Smidge got to help sort. Always a plus for the OCD-stage. I got to declutter without detection. Always a plus for, well, for me. At any stage.

The boys popped in when they'd finished with one task, took a quick look at the work going on, and disappeared with lightning speed to start on the next task. I think they were terrified I'd beg for help. Come to think of it, I may owe Smidge a Thank You tomorrow, if that was the cause of their self-directed learning for the day! (Well, probably not. He doesn't ever need to know. Not until he has children of his own, and he's tempted to yell. Yeah, I'll tuck this one away for later.)

And partly because Zorak, in spite of his years of adventures that seemed like a good idea at the time, turned out okay. More than okay. His good ideas now, really are good ideas. Maybe that'll be a genetic pre-disposition, as well? Wouldn't that be nice!

Kiss those babies!


Did y'all know MUS has a worksheet generator, keyed specifically to the chapters of the books?

Sure comes in handy when *somebody* cannot find his workbook.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, June 26

Freakily Accurate

Got this from Hillary. Kinda creepy how right-on it is. It was a toss-up between Edward and Knightley, it seems, as the quiz gave me a two-question tie-breaker.

You scored as Edward Ferrars, Your husband/boyfriend is like
Edward Ferrars of Sense & Sensibility. He is quietly impulsive, with
an understated hint of romance. But once you get to know him, he's
very affectionate, caring, and faithful. The two of you enjoy a calm,
joyful life.



Edward Ferrars




Captain Wentworth


Edmund Bertram


Col. Brandon




Who is Your Jane Austen Boyfriend/Husband?
created with

Now, if he only read Jane Austen, he'd know what this meant, right? *grin*

What can I say, I think Zorak is far finer-looking a man than Hugh Grant. Hmpf. Pfftt. Yes. When I read Austen, I do envision my beloved (although he doesn't make a very good Darcy). I'm rather thankful we aren't Victorians, though, because I don't think I could do the garb. On me, nor on him. ;-)

Kiss those babies! (This would probably be why we have several babies to kiss. *grin*)

Edited (repeatedly, because I'm not good at this) so that it quit bleeding into the sidebar.

Monday, June 25

Back to Business

Well, today we hit the books again. Of course, it helps to have leftover birthday cake for breakfast. (Then watch Mom frantically cram fruit and grains down your gullet for the next four hours, as if to purge the evidence from your crusty little faces... it was a weird day.)

The big boys did pretty well with their lessons. Math, reading, Latin, and science all got done with a minimal amount of confusion or delay. Smidge is kicking their butts in history, though. Today we read the chapter on Marcus Aurelius, from Famous Men of Rome. As we go along, we talk about how certain men compare with previous ones we've read about, or how policies change with the new leadership. It's good stuff. It also assures me they're paying attention, even if they are having foot wars beneath the table. Well, today, Smidge was just on. the. ball. He remembered things I didn't even remember, and he was so proud of himself to be "getting an A+ in history".

(Which is doubly humorous, because I didn't start assigning grades. That all started with Mr. WhatIsTheExactPercentageOfTheQuestionsIGotCorrect, also known as Mr. SoWhyIsThisJustAn"A"AndNotAn"A+"? The worst correction he could ever receive would be a "C" on a paper. And, as all Good Big Brothers are wont to do, he shared the horrors of the numbers with his brothers... *sigh* So, we are now a family of timed tests and percentage points, and letter grades. And they're happy as clams about it. Freaks.)

They did earn back bonus points, though, when we all sprawled out in the living room after lunch for some reading time. I'm still working my way through The Prince, and both James and John at the same time saw the cover and blurted out, "Hey! Divide et regna, right? Cool!" I beamed. (Because I am a freak, as well. We're a happy family with strange tastes.)

Lest anyone read this and think, "Oh, my. We can't homeschool. We're not *like that*." Relax. They also absolutely fell over themselves to finish their lessons by lunch today so that, while Danger Girl was napping and I was cleaning, they could have video game time. Nothing like a little Super Smash Brothers to really make them kick it into high gear. (Oh, and Melora, John has discovered Link. He wants to know more! MORE! MORE!!!! I knew I couldn't avoid it for long, and figured you would understand my, erm, joy? Acceptance? Something, right? *grin*)

We needed some fun and active downtime this afternoon, so I sucked it up and brought out the balloons that I hadn't the heart to let the children have yesterday. (I really hate balloons. If Stephen King were to write a story about balloons, he would probably manage to distill my feelings about them into a truly chilling book.) But we did it. And there was much laughter and spinning and sword play. And then I couldn't hang any longer and bolted, er, slipped off for some quiet time. Aside from the giggling over my somewhat rapid exit, the children hardly noticed my absence.

Everything else is coming along swimmingly. I'm just beginning to look at plans for the coming year. Since we don't break, or have an obvserved passing from one grade to the next, we simply complete one thing and do the next thing. But we do tend to keep a basic clip that finds us about ready for the next thing sometime mid-fall. And my Rainbow Resources catalog arrived (finally! I'd thought they'd forgotten about me!) So far, I've got a wish list from Yesterday's Classics. And there's one more, but I cannot for the life of me remember it off the top of my head. I really like to buy from the publishers, such as Peace Hill Press (but I've already bought all next year's stuff from them! Maybe they'll come out with something new before September? One can hope.) Where are your favorite places to buy books? (Besides Amazon and The Others, that is - have any great secret hidey holes you'd like to share?)

And so another day comes to an end. It comes too quickly, sometimes.

Kiss those babies!

A Little Fear

Just a little, that's all I'm asking for, here. I mean, I'm glad she knows she's safe and loved and all that good stuff, but really. Come on. In the last week, this child has...

* Mastered the ladder and the slide in the yard. (Perhaps "mastered" isn't the right word - she hauls herself up the ladder, flings herself down the slide. Down she goes, on her back, limbs akimbo, rotating as she descends. She FLIES off the end, lands a foot or two past the end of the slide, flat on her back. Gets up, shakes it off, and goes back for more.)

* Fallen into water over her head - not once, not twice, but three times - without so much as complaining, or deciding perhaps it would be better to stay, oh, ON the LAND. Nope, just kept scootching out until she was in up to her neck and then *ploop* stepped right into the deep water. (Yes, I was *right there* to grab her. No, she was not in danger of drowning, but she doesn't need to realize that, does she? Sheesh, the other three refused to take baths for a week after they got water up their noses.)

* Climbed to the top bunk, and fallen off the ladder. (Again, not an isolated incident.)

* Shimmied up the outside of the step railing on the front porch (you know, the railing we put up so she wouldn't plummet to her death...)

And then, the Grand Performance, Zorak went in to retrieve her from her nap, opened the door and found this:


OK, aside from the fact that we obviously need to be a little more proactive about keeping an eye on this child (but this is so new - the other three were afraid of their own shadows - even John The Bold knew he couldn't fight gravity!), I would really like just a little fear. A little respect for velocity. Matter. Gravity. Basic. Laws. Of. Physics, folks. And does she mind the occasional bruised forehead, or bashed lip? Nope, not one little bit.

I swear I will starch the underpants of the first person who uses the term "extreme sports", (or any variation of) in front of this child when she's old enough to understand.

(Yeah, the mattress is as low as it can go - that'll buy us, oh, another two days while we reconfigure the nursery.)

She's the joy of my heart, but she is a bit hard on the ol' ticker.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, June 24

That was fun!

Ok, that was actually fun. We didn't get some of the food prepared in time (although the scurvy prevention table was out and heavily stocked - and that's what really matters on any sea venture, right?) We really do need to work on our overall timing, but we are getting better, and the rest of the day turned out okay in spite of ourselves.

As the guests arrived, each received a pirate sword to decorate (for ID purposes, since all the swords are identical otherwise), and picked a bandana (this was easier than making hats, and the kids seemed to like them, but in looking through the pictures, it does look like the theme was more "Urban Gang Boy Band" than "18th Century Pirates". Eh.) We brought out the eyeliner and gave the kids their choice of facial hair. Too bad John got started before he knew he didn't have to use the permanent marker...

To join the crew, each recruit took a Pirate Test (ran an obstacle course). This was so easy, and so fun. The trash bags hanging on the swing set in the above picture aren't some neglected hillbilly part of the yard - they're swinging pendulums to duck. There's a moat to swing over, a balance beam, and a little knife throwing practice.
The crew found buried treasure (coins in the sand pit - who knew they'd spend half an hour there? Even the big kids got into the act.) Then, according to pirate law, they divvied up the loot evenly among the crew.
I have no idea why Danger Girl (aka EmBaby) does that. None of the boys did that. I don't do that. Or at least, well, I don't do that, okay? But she does. Weird.

The pinata was a big hit, and it turned out beautifully. Zorak made it, and he did such a great job of it. (Particularly considering his purchasing agent couldn't procure the appropriate pinata tissue paper. She should probably be fired. But he rocks! It even had skulls.)

And now, the dishes have been done, the presents set gently upon the shelves. The children are bathed and loved on and sound asleep, and I'm thinking that sounds like a pretty good idea. This is one pooped pirate-mom. But it was worth it, every blasted second of preparation was worth it. What made it better, though, was having good friends to come and share it with us. Yep. It's good, good stuff.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, June 23


Just one more swig of coffee and I've got to get back to work. But I needed to take a little break and relax. It's been a busy few days, folks!

Thursday, Zorak had to go out of town, I had to go to the dentist, and John had to sign up for summer ball. All at the same time. And yet, we pulled it off. (And we owe Ben & Claudia big time for coming to watch Danger Girl and her minions of impending death while I was at the dentist's.)

Friday, we drove up to Nashville to visit with Jill (Crib Chick) and her clan en route back to the Land of the Free. Harried day. Awesome visit. Way too short, but we're so, so glad they took the time to stop and see us. They are truly awesome people. Oklahoma's lucky to be getting them back.

We raided the Russell Stover outlet. Yes, we're going to put the sugar-induced-coma theory to the test! WAHOO!

And for the past two days, we have worked like men possessed on the Forever Home. The house and yard have been de-hillbillified. For the most part. (We're having people over who are not in our Inner Circle. Yes, if you're in our Inner Circle, you get to wallow in our hillbilly shack love. But for foreigners, we clean. It's a complex ritual.) Aside from the flaking paint on the eaves, and the sidewalk/gauntlet combo we haven't torn up yet, this place could be in AnyNeighborhood, USA. Pretty cool. Even the saw horses have been put away!

The menu is planned. (Although we stopped at three different grocery stores today and not one of them had root beer in bottles. Every store is sold. out. Is there a pending FDA ban on I.B.C. we haven't heard about?) The swingset has been cannibalized for an obstacle course. The back porch is clean and ready for stain. (Which we won't probably ever get around to putting on it, but hey, it's ready just in case someone takes pity on us and comes to paint it one day. It could happen.)

Zorak is in the basement, painting the pirate ship. (Would you believe we have looked at FIVE different stores, and not a one of them had black or brown tissue paper? We can't have a pink pirate ship!) I'm trying not to make eye contact with the kitchen. It scares me, and the intimidation factor is pretty high right now. But soon, I will go clean. And I will win. Or Zorak will drag my dead body out of the kitchen before the guests arrive. I just hope he runs the dishwasher first.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, June 20

Happy Birthday, John!

I haven't the words to do justice to him this year. He's just such a great kid. He's grown this year in confidence and stride. (Not to mention size - he is officially bigger than his big brother.)

He has developed a comfortable sense of where he is in this world, and where he's going. He seems to understand that it's a process, and the goal is to remain in upward motion - growing, learning, exploring, laughing, loving. Rinse. Repeat. It just doesn't get old. Not for him.

"What can I do to help?"

"You did a great job!"

"I'll take care of that."

"Let's do something together."

"I've got BabyGirl."

"Can I read it for you?"

If you take statements like those, douse them in a constant stream of humorous anecdotes and wise-cracks (this was his year for figuring out the parameters for humor vs. line-crossing, but I think he's got it now), and sprinkle the day thoroughly with a lot of affection and laughter, you'd just begin to have a peek at living with John.

He's the first one to offer to help. He's the first one by your side on the couch. He's the first one to suggest a game of ball in the meadow.

He gets the jokes that go over the rest of our heads. He makes up some pretty great stories, and tells them over and over again to entertain his little brother and sister. (The Orange Monster stories are still alive and well because of this.)

He wears his great big ol' heart on his sleeve. It gets bumped from time to time, but he's not about to put it away. That just wouldn't be The Way To Live.

And laugh. Oh, you've got to laugh. Sometimes I probably shouldn't, but, well, he's funny. He's literary funny. He's abstract funny. He's frat house funny. He's an all-around humorist. God help us once he masters satire. But, oh, he's hilarious.

He dreams big, and yet he's pleased and thankful for the littlest things, as well. He *gets* the pleasure of delayed gratification in a way I've never seen in someone so young. He's not only willing to stick it out for the long haul, but he really wants you to make it, too.

His father is his gold standard, and every step he takes, every task he takes on, he measures it by "Like Dad". If it'll get him one more step closer to being "Like Dad", he's good with it. If it's not "Like Dad", then his internal filter kicks in. So each step he takes, he takes with care and adoration, his eyes set high.

I just don't know how to express the way this child makes my heart soar. Every. Single. Day. Whether it's his laughter, his empathy, his wit, his noble heart, or his gentleness... it's all a part of Being John. And we get to live that each and every day. I'm so thankful. So humbled. So in love.

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This morning he summed up how he feels about turning seven:
Well, it's pretty exciting to be in my Late S's.
(He had to explain that one to me, but it's funny.) And he's right. It is exciting.

Happy 7th Birthday, John! We love you, and are so proud of you! Always.

Mom & Dad

Fruit Pizza


As you can see, it ends up looking better than it starts out. We were too impatient to wait for the crust to cool completely before adding the toppings. This was so easy to make, and the boys enjoyed both the making and the eating.

The crust recipes I found in my searches were, of course, all useless for a wheat-free crust (pre-made pie crust, cookie dough, etc.), so we used the Breakfast Foccacia recipe in The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread. This recipe also makes a delightful danish!

The "sauce" is actually the cheese - equal parts cream cheese and whipped cream, beaten until smooth.

Top with your favorite fruits. In this case, I went with canned fruit - pineapples, mandarin oranges, and triple cherry fruit cocktail. This is the one and only time my children have willingly eaten fruit cocktail. (Our Wonderful Neighbors in MD would be so proud! *sniff* *sniff*) The oranges didn't make it onto the pizza. We fell to temptation. So good!

And in going with the whole cheese-as-sauce, sauce-as-cheese theme, the final product got drizzled with your basic, cooked, sugar-water-oj-vanilla sauce. There's some left over. We may have to make doughnuts tomorrow.
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Birthday Countdown Time


Hi. It's me. It's almost three, and I've got to get some sleep, but I wanted to blog anyway. I'm so excited! My JohnBaby turns seven today. Seven! This is the child who keeps getting caught in age-warps. I swear he was two for almost three years. Five for only a month or two, and now *poof*, he's seven. I'll wax philosophic after I've had a little sleep.

In the meantime, we've got all the ingredients for John's birthday breakfast (he requested pizza - insert nauseated, confused Mom look here). I didn't think the rest of us could stomach pepperoni before noon, so I tweaked the plan to make a fruit pizza, instead. I think they'll all get a kick out of that. Zorak had a Very Cool Idea to pick up a Pirates t-shirt for him while I was at the store, so it's now wrapped and laid at the foot of his bed. It'll be his birthday suit. *grin* We may start a new tradition. It's not like any of them are going to stop growing anytime soon, so a new t-shirt is pretty much a necessity at any time. But this can be something we wouldn't normally buy, something a little different, something they've expressed an interest in. Just a little something. Sometimes that can bring the biggest smiles.

Today, we go bowling with two of our favorite Big People in the world, Me-Wa and Me-Tae. It should be a lot of fun, and a nice, low-key way to enjoy the day. James and Smidge and EmBaby bought him the Pirates of the Caribbean chest with three action-figures set, and he'll have that to open at the bowling alley.

The party itself is scheduled for Saturday. I have no clue how that's going to go. I have no clue if any of the children will be able to make it -- this is the week when everybody always seems to be going out of town for their Big Summer Trip. Well, whoever can come will have fun. Zorak's been making a Pirate Ship Pinata this week, and it's looking really good. I'll post pictures of the process once it's done.

We didn't make the mark of having it all done and ready well ahead of time, but at least this year it didn't sneak up on us. That's some improvement.

Ok, too tired to think. Talk to you later!
Kiss those great, big, growing babies!

Monday, June 18

From Our Visit With Verena

As promised, here are a couple of pictures from our visit with Verena and her crew when they came through. Her husband kindly took the photos with both their camera and ours, so we could get the moms and all the kids in, but then we didn't get any with him in there!

I don't think any of our children are this red, naturally, but by the time we both said, "Oh! Wait! The camera's in the car!" Well, they'd been playing hard for quite a while.

Isn't she just lovely? She exudes grace and gentle strength, folks. She's just very neat. And so pretty!

And since the boys were all so good about posing nicely for the group shot, we just had to take a silly one, too. That's a fun bunch of kids, there!

And now, I must go. I've been so good about getting to bed before midnight, and it's starting to help!

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, June 17

Happy Father's Day!

The cake tasted delicious. Fortunately, you cannot taste "concave".

The carrots, while wholly experimental, were a big hit, too.

Mostly with the boys. But that's good. Happy is the Daddy who knows his children are loved as well as he is.

Kiss those babies, and Daddies, and anybody else who needs a little extra love today!

Man, I am on a roll!

First, the Nightmare on Elm Street Team Cake.

New, for Father's Day: Give the man in your life something that says You Must Really Love Me!

Erm, no. How about, Look, Ma! No Skills!


The sales blurb for this particular gem (you know, in my imaginary baked goods store) would be something along the lines of, "two hollowed-out cake layers, filled to the brim with delicious cream cheese icing, held together with three or four tons of additional cream cheese icing, and topped with rolled buttercream carrots."

Ah. Well, the icing tastes good. The cake does, too. (What's left of it.) It just... exploded... in the oven. I'm not... entirely sure... what happened.

We'll see what miracles can be performed with the adhesive properties of grease and sugar!

Happy Father's Day!
Kiss those Daddies!

Saturday, June 16

Who's On First?

Communication has been called an art. Words, the most common form of communication in society, have been called "the most powerful drug used by mankind." (Kipling)

So why do we speak? Write? Read? What is the goal of our communication? If we are not understood, is it we who have not done our job properly? Or is it our audience who must hash it out until understanding is reached?

In our home, we take a clear and simple stance: your goal, when you speak or write, is to convey your thoughts, ideas, and questions in such a way that others are capable of comprehending you.

It's why we tell Smidge, "Use your words."

It's why we told the older two the same thing.

It's why Emily will hear the same. exact. phrase.

It's why we read, read, read. Talk, think, discuss. We want them to have the vocabulary and thought processes to communicate well, and not have to rely on the flippant, rude, and useless, "whatever."

Let's illustrate.

If you feel I've called you a toad, (perhaps, because I've said, "Your amphibian roots are showing,") you would most likely question me about it. And if I said I was only thinking aloud, or that I was only attempting to have an honest dialogue, but meant absolutely no harm at all... we could probably move on with the discussion. But, if my references continually pointed toward an implication that I believed you to be a toad (caught any flies today? is that a wart? don't lick her, kids, you know how she is!) It's probably a fair assumption that I'm not being entirely honest with you when you call me on the carpet for being a bit of an ass, and I deny it. It would behoove me to

a) admit that I think you're actually a toad, and be willing to discuss my reasons for coming to this position,
b) admit that I'm busted, I'm being a jerk, and knock it off,
c) just shut up, already.

There is no real option d) continue to berate you for jumping to wild conclusions, as I simply happen to *adore* toads.

At least, not with any intellectual honesty, there isn't.

On the flip side, if you speak to me in German, beyond words such as "strudel" or "schnitzel" or possibly "guten tag" (but with all the proper decorative punctuation that I don't know how to type in Blogger), I will have no idea what you are saying. You can say it more slowly. You can say it more loudly. You can even s-p-e-l-l it out for me. It won't help, because I do not speak German. Yes, I could learn it. (If I ever go to Germany, I'll give it my best shot.) However, if you'd like to communicate a thought, an idea, an opinion, (not just to me, but to anyone) you are the one responsible for putting it in such a way that I am (we are) capable of gleaning your meaning. Don't move closer and cover us in angry spittle in the hope that we will somehow "get" what you mean. Oddly enough, that does not work.

We tell the children that if they would like to be understood, it is their job to make themselves understood. We hold ourselves to the same standard. That does not mean we do not occasionally say something confusing. (For instance, if I were to say, "This is stupid," Zorak might want clarification. Is this whole plan stupid? Is this part of the plan stupid? Is this specific detail stupid? Or am I just being a jerk about it and can't think of anything articulate to say? If I get angry with him for asking for clarification, it's pretty obvious at that point that I was just being a jerk.)

That, right there, is a matter of personal responsibility. It means that when we do convey something that makes our audience look askance at us, we take it as our responsibility to re-phrase what we've tried to convey. We wouldn't allow our children to shout at their friends, "Oh! You plebes! Whatever!" We wouldn't allow ourselves to do that to one another in a dialogue, a discourse, a discussion. We. Simply. Wouldn't.

No more would we accept an out-of-left-field, unrelated comment from one of our children as a legitimate portion of our discussion. (At least not without pointing it out.) For example,
This is a difficult task. I could use help,
would not be answered appropriately with,

The human head weighs eight pounds and emits carbon dioxide from the nostrils.

In fact, the next thing you would most likely hear is something along the lines of,

What? That was just weird. Please don't do that. If you're going to join the discussion, then your contribution needs to have something to do with the discussion.

We do guide our children away from behaving like that. Why? So they learn how to communicate appropriately. They learn that it's their job to communicate appropriately.

When people behave inappropriately in their communications, discussions devolve quickly into one-sided conversations that leave the rest of the group fairly uncertain. Those who don't know the meter of that verse are accused of choosing not to hear it. Or of being too stoopid to understand it, too thin-skinned to be worthy of responding with any rationale, too antagonistic to be reasonable.

Or maybe, just maybe, they aren't *not getting it*. They've seen enough, and are smart enough to know that, sometimes, it is what it is. That does happen, from time to time. If they're wrong, they might ask the speaker, "Please, clarify."

It is, after all, the speaker's responsibility to make themselves understood. Isn't it?

So please, if I'm unclear, help me uphold my end of the communication deal and let me know I've been unclear. I'll do the same for you.

People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them. Even the choicest words lose their power when they are used to overpower. Attitudes are the real figures of speech.
~Edwin Friedman

A Quiet Saturday Afternoon

Too beautiful this morning to stay in. So we went outside. And worked. And read. And talked. We laughed. Commiserated. Thought. It was good.

Too warm this afternoon to stay out for long. For us. So we came inside. And played. And read. And ate. I hung some wash. He played with the boys. The baby napped. Again, we laughed, we thought, we did. It was also good.

Makes me wonder what delights this evening will hold. Whatever it is, it will be good. That much I know.

And I'm thankful.

Kiss those babies.

The Twelve Tasks of Hercules

It's a good thing neither of the boys has ever been called upon to perform such duties. This afternoon, I kicked them outside to go play, dig in the dirt, do something different. They went outside happily.

And in five minutes, they were back inside.

"*phew* Man, is it HOT out there! Can we come in?"

*raised eyebrow* "And you want to play football? Football, which begins in August. August, which makes mid-June look like February. Really?"

John considered and said, "You know, I don't think I would."

James said, "I think I can do it."

Zorak chimed in, "I know you *can* do it. The question is, do you *want* to?"

*long, drawn out pause*

James, "Yes. Yes, I want to do it. And I will do it with a good attitude."

WHY??? What has this child decided football is going to be? It's going to be hot, sticky, mosquito-infested hell! That's what it's going to be! *whiiiine*

OK, it's probably a good thing I've never been called upon to perform the tasks of Hercules. James might pull it off. But personally, I suspect John's the smart one of the bunch.

Oh, and summer ball begins in July. So we have some recovery time. Yay.

Kiss those babies!

US Stuff

If you've ever wondered, "Is anything still made in the USA?" Evidently, yes. Check this out.

US Stuff

Kiss those babies!

The views of the above linked website do not necessarily reflect those of the moderators of this blog, or our subsidiaries. This link is provided for the sole purpose of saying, "Hey, look, I found a place that has a conglomeration of businesses that manufacture things in the United States of America!" Any attempt to find proselytization and or pandering will be mocked on sight. I am not a doctor, I just play one at home. As with any diet or exercise program, please consult a physician before you begin. Not eligible in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, or small towns in Ohio. Please try this at home, but know that you do so at your own risk. Oh, and don't run with scissors.

Friday, June 15

So Where Was I Last Night?

I went to the Carnival! The Carnival of Principled Government, which I found at Consent of the Governed.

There are some interesting and thought-provoking articles from the left, the right, the middle, and the lone anarchist.

Zorak let me read articles aloud to him for a while, then he gave up and went to bed. I couldn't get my IM to work, and that's probably a good thing or I'd have stayed up until four o'clock reading and talking and sharing links.

One blog that kept me going for quite a while is Tales of Modernity. Saul presents a thought-provoking dialogue of philosophy, mathematics, science, and politics. I'll blog more about some of the thoughts that gained a little momentum last night, but that'll have to be done at another time.

For now, the Small Ones need direction and affection, and we need to prepare to spend the afternoon on the water with friends. Yeah, this is the good stuff.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, June 14

Forever Home Update. Sorta.

The front of the house is now fully cleaned.

And it's still ugly.

But now it's clean and ugly, and has a lot less green on it.

Thank you, and good night.


Wednesday, June 13

We Got to Meet Verena!

*Said in my best sing-song voice*

Verena is one of the sweetest ladies who posts at one of the forums I, erm, frequent. (It's not an addiction. Shush. Now blogging, that's an addiction.) Anyway today, she and her Totally Good Sport of a Husband, and their Three Precious Boys stopped in our little town to visit with us while they were on the road.

And she's just as interesting, if not moreso, in person.

And none of my children did anything horribly mortifying in her presence (for which I thanked them profusely when we got back in the car). They're good kids, but I'm always worried they're going to do something strange at the most inopportune moment, like peeing on the bushes right there in front of God and everybody, or declaring their knowledge of homebirth procedures for the uninitiated, or farting the alphabet. I don't know. You just never know what a child will come up with, but you can bet it will not have been included in the Quick 'n Easy List of 1,001 Things You Went Over With Them Before You Let Them Out of The Car. Guaranteed. They're sneaky like that. So, perhaps I should amend my statement. OK, officially, they did not do anything horribly mortifying that I am aware of.

The boys had a lovely time. Smidge cried when he realized they weren't coming to our house and we weren't going with them. Verena and her husband and I had a nice visit, and I do hope they will take us up on the Open Door Invitation. We'd love to have them anytime.

Anyhow, we did get pictures, but I've got to email her and ask permission to post 'em first. (I forgot to ask before we left the park.)

Ah. What a fun day. Tomorrow, it's back to the grindstone!

Kiss those babies!

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Answer The Phone

'Hi, Dy! This is J---. I was just callin' to let you know they've put together a Summer Ball League."



Thanks. :-)

Tuesday, June 12

A Few Things

This has been quite a week, and it's only Tuesday. First, there was the team party cake. I offered, I know. What was I thinking? It baked up beautifully, and even came out of the pan in one piece. I was SO jazzed.

I made a "rolled buttercream fondant" for the main icing. Tinted it deep yellow/gold and rolled it on. Oh, beautiful! Then, I needed to make a dark navy blue. Hmm, there's no blue-blue in this box of many colors. Only Sky Blue. Well, what do I mix to make it work (there's always a way to make it work!) After several panic-stricken hours online, and one rather cryptic phone call to Wilton:

W: Oh, honey, you can't make Navy Blue with sky blue. You need Royal Blue to make Navy Blue.
ME: Ok, but I don't *have* Royal Blue. I *have* Sky Blue, because that's what you put in your eight-pack.
W: Well, you'll need to get some Royal Blue.
ME: I'm an *hour* from the only store that both carries your stuff AND is open for the next 48 hours.
W: You need Royal Blue and Black.
ME: So, um, do you have anybody there who'd be willing to get a little crazy and wing it with me?

That's when she threw the rule book out the window and helped me figure it out. In case you ever run into this problem, it takes the ENTIRE tub of Sky Blue and a few dabs of Violet, and you will get Navy Blue. Oh, sure, I may be a bad influence on CSR's, but hey, we both learned something, and that's good.

Now, for the record, if you try to decorate a cake at home, make sure you turn the AC down. 80 degrees might feel nice and comfy *for you*, but your buttercream may beg to differ. It doesn't seem to matter how stiff you make it, it's gonna wilt, and sag, and probably streak. So, John's team got a lovely blue and gold Nightmare on Elm Street cake. *sigh*

EmBaby's rear seems to be on fire from the inside, and she's been rather miserable and clingy in a hold-me-only-by-the-armpits sort of way. She awoke this morning in such pain that she couldn't get up. Turns out she'd had a blowout sometime during the night, and that didn't help. She just lay there, trembling and crying, but unwilling to go through the torture of sitting on anything in order to stand. We spent a lot of time the last few days airing out, bathing in cool water, and eating bland, bland toast. I thought it had to be teething, and sure enough, there are two more on their way in. So, she should be better soon. I hope so!

Then, the Very Nice Lady from the dentist's office called yesterday. The conversation went like this:

VNL: Hi Mrs. Dy. I'm just calling to let you know that we have an opening for Tuesday at 5:30, and see if you'd like to take it.


VNL: ...Or would you rather keep your Thursday appointment?


VNL: ...Or did you completely forget you had an appointment this week?


VNL: (who by now knows me well) So Zorak can take the kids and we'll see you tomorrow at 5:30?

ME: *whimper* OK. *sniff* Thanks. *sob*

So Zorak came home and I grabbed my current read (The Prince) and headed off for the root scaling.

I've gotta say, it's worth it. I'm actually (and no, not just blowing smoke, here) looking forward to next week. And it's not just so that the other side of my mouth will match, either. (Although that will be rather nice.) It. Is. Worth. It. If you've been putting off going to the dentist because you just *know* he'll tell you something horrible, well, here you go - short of doing meth, my teeth seem to have been about as bad as they can be, and the worst they can tell you is that they can help you. Go. And I'm going to go to bed. :-)

Oh, if I owe you an email, give me until tomorrow night to respond. I haven't checked email in a while, and now that the novacaine is wearing off, I'm not checking it tonight, either. Please know I'm not ignoring you. I'm simply overwhelmed with wilty icing, dental visits, some computer trouble, and erupting toddler. Things should be back down to a dull roar by tomorrow.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, June 11

The Garden Boxes

Well, y'all have been tremendously patient about all the Forever Home renovation pictures. Tonight, I'm too tired to face the deck/eaves/rotted wood/paint sample horror that is the current project, so I thought I'd finally post about the garden boxes. Yes, I know, we built them back in March. If it's any consolation, they still pretty much look like just the same as in the last photo of this entry. Zorak and I are writing this together, so to differentiate our voices, we'll bold his technical notes and zippy commentary.

First, these are built almost exclusively from salvaged wood on the property. The plywood, the pressure treated posts -- all stuff laying around from the renovation or from the previous owners. That did wonders not only for the landscape, but for our pocketbook, as well.

The boxes are a combination of rectangles, squares, and angled pieces. We did this because we have grand plans to build up a maze garden with sitting spots, inviting play areas, and a gazebo, all incorporating these shapes. Hillbilly Zen, if you will. We are of a philosophy which observes strict conservation of energy (ie. kinda lazy), and so they're fairly modular, easy to build, and ought to last a long, long time.

The sides are all constructed thusly:

(Technical specs: 3/8ths plywood sides, 9-1/4" high - which we did just so we could get five strips per sheet; pressure treated 2x4 bottom; regular 2x4 top board. The rabbet joints were cut with a circular saw with a strip of wood clamped to the base of the guide to set the 3/4" depth and 1/2" width of the joint. The half-inch width allows the 2x4 top [and bottom] to overhang the sides by about an eighth of an inch, and leaves a 2-1/2" wide hollow core.)

*psst* You can see it in action *here*.)

Assemble with child labor, using galvanized nails...

The sides attach to the corners with a nifty little insert, jointy thing. (Zorak will fill us in on the details in the next technical note.) The boards are cut to fit just inside the cross section of the side pieces, and then you can secure them. Again, with the children. (Conservation of energy rule #326 - your children have far more energy than you do. Use it well.)

This one is for an angled piece -->

And this one is for a straight 90' corner. Handy for all those squares and rectangles, no?

(The posts extend beyond the height of the sides so that they can be set into the ground. They do that on the top for purely aesthetic purposes. The bevels, for example, help hide some of the hazards of using salvaged material. The cleats, what Dy refers to as "boards," are 2x3's, which allows them to fit inside the 2-1/2" hollow-core sides.)

Once the individual bits and pieces are assembled (and inspected by the dog and the baby), you're ready to let the kids finish building the box. (Again with the child labor!) Simply slip the pieces into place and nail or screw the sides to the cleats (see, I got it right this time!)

Then it's time for the really fun part! We used deck stain, namely because we had some on hand, and wanted to see how it would look. But also because we would rather not be replacing these things before we're done with the rest of the renovations. Conserve, conserve, conserve.

By this time, the boxes are too big for the kids to drag out to the garden, so you'll probably have to do that part yourself. OR, you could load the box on a red wagon and have the children haul it to the top of the hill. Not that we actually did that... we're just sayin'.

(Once the deck stain dried, the boxes were lined with polyethylene landscaping liner to keep the interior of the boxes from rotting.) Obviously, if you're going totally organic, you'd skip this part. And the one just before it. Well, and the pressure-treated... come to think of it, if you're going totally organic, this is going to be no help at all.

Now it's just a matter of placing your boxes, making sure they're level,

And filling them in with nutrient-rich goodness! (A little sand, kitchen compost and manure from the barn, in our case, to supplement the heavy clay soil we have. Yum! Yum!) The sticks are just for decorative purposes. Plus, they give the children something to do when the children decide to try the "I'm bored" line on us. So far, the sticks are still there. Smart kids.

And there ya have it - Forever Home Garden Boxes. Yet another family project we've started but not finished, erm, survived.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, June 10

Oh, my.

The Very Cool Older Cousin mentioned in the previous post (we'll call her T) brought her boyfriend (we'll call him P) up to the City of Rocks with us. The kids loved him. The adults loved him. In fact, we jokingly told T that even if she didn't keep him, we would. She (jokingly, we hope) said that now that he'd been introduced to the Libertarian Hillbilly contingent of the family, we'll just have to see if he takes off running.

She mentioned that he's said that he'd like ten (I think it was ten) children, but would be happy with six, so, of course, never one to let a potentially awkward moment go by, we lined them up with five of the six cousins in attendance (we thought there were all six, but I can't find that last one in the photograph) and got a group photo. Sort of a time-lapse "this could be your life".

Two children...

five children...

He didn't flinch.

As a matter of fact, take a look at how he's looking at her there in the photo on the bottom left -- the one with all the children.


So really, is it any surprise that this weekend, when he brought her supper from Nopalito's (a sign of true affection and care in our clan), he also brought her a ring?

And that she accepted?

And we are so very glad at this news.

It's a big world out there, and they're about to embark on an incredible journey together. Is there anything you'd love to have known when you started out? Would you all help us celebrate by sharing the wisdom about marriage and life together that you've garnered over the years? Either leave your thoughts in the comments section, or blog about it and leave us a link. If you'll be so kind to do this, I'd love to print it out and share it with them: a guidebook for the scenic route, if you will.

Personally, I hope they have many babies for us to be kissing for years to come! ;-)

But tonight, let's kiss those spouses, and the babies, and take a moment to savor this wonderful life we have, and all it's taken to get here.
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Saturday, June 9

Group Photos, The Hard Way

On the last day of our trip, we all went out with the kids to help them hunt for the elusive Kokopelli paintings. While we were there, we figured we'd give the ol' Group Photo thing a try. So we tried...

And we tried...

Almost made it!

NINE shots later, we got a great picture!
One to make copies of and frame.
Oh, that's just exciting.

But wait...
What's that?
What is he DOING?!

And how, I ask you, HOW, did we not see this branch the first eight times?

BAH. This is why people pay professionals to take these pictures.

The trip in review.

Well, we made our first flight.Aaaaand, I discovered that I'm not quite *there* yet in my photography skills that I should bother trying to take pictures from inside the aircraft. The kids had a great time flying. The folks around us were all headed home to Texas and had no problem sharing their "first flight" stories with the boys, pointing out interesting things, laughing, sharing. The flight attendants were just sweet as can be to the boys, and made a point to let each of the children know how much they appreciated their polite manners and thoughtful traveling ways. I let the attendants know how much *I* appreciated the positive feedback. (A little reinforcement never hurts, does it? I *do* appreciate that.)

I was so pleased not to have ended up in a confrontation with anybody from TSA that I thought about buying myself a drink! But, then I realized... we still had two airports to go through. So I stuck with Dr. Pepper. Which was probably a good call, since we missed our connecting flight in Dallas. As you can see, either James sprouted ale from his head (a new mythology for the traveling family?) or Zorak didn't have the same concerns surrounding alcohol and confrontation that I did. (Which would make sense. He's a friendly, amorous drinker. I turn into Sleepy Dwarf or a banty rooster - neither of which is recommended when traveling with children.) Emily, in the back there, is trying to crawl over Zorak so that she can "cheese" for the camera. I'm so glad she's reserved and cautious.

Obviously, the layover didn't bother them one bit.

We made it into New Mexico in the wee hours of Friday morning, slept a bit, then headed to the City of Rocks for three days of camping, hiking, hanging out and laughing. The kids thought it was the best. thing. ever. Seriously? How often do you get to climb thirty feet up a rock wall and pretend you're being crushed by a boulder? Of course, this is best done with cousins who share your penchant for the weird and wonderful (One of them, Cousin M, is there on the far left). And note the Totally Cool Older Cousin who willingly posed for the shot by pushing the boulder off the little guys. *happy sigh* How cool is she? I love her.

(Side note: my zoom lens was fully engaged. They are way. the. hell. up there. Totally Cool Older Cousin kindly stayed close enough to snatch Smidge by the britches should he have toppled over the edge. Because I would have been useless, what with the paralysis and incontinence and all. Sometimes it's really hard to let go. I'm glad we have family that makes it easier to do.)

My favorite part of the outing, aside from getting all my children back in relatively good form, was having everybody converge on Saturday for a good, old-fashioned Hangin' Out & Eatin' Session. Sissa and T (the Totally Cool Older Cousin) had come up with us, as well as Cousin S and Cousin M. Then Aunt Sally came down from Silver City, Aunt B, Uncle Fred and Gram came up for the day from Cruces. Cousins Kris and David came up to stay the rest of the trip. There were a lot of us, and it was wonderful. Can you believe Gram stayed most of the day? Here she is, at 98 years old, having a wonderful time in the desert...

Next up, petroglyph hunting and group photos for the uninitiated.

Kiss those babies!

What kind of spider is this?

Or, more accurately, "was"...

(Click on the image for a -- heh, heh, I was going to say "better" view. How about, "for a closer look".)

And please, nobody tell me it's the state spider and protected by law. I just don't think I have it in me tonight to handle that.


Friday, June 8

Warning: Dirty-Faced Child Photos

Ten days, four children, 1000 miles.

High desert, low desert, windy plains.

Gorgeous blooms, and equally stunning sinus reactions.

Water at a premium.

Just so ya know. My children were not clean when most of these photos were taken.

Yeah, I could've taken wipes and given each one a quick swipe before clicking away. But short of hooking up some kind of vacuum system to Emily's face, there was no helping that. Besides, I've only got two arms, and they were busy holding the camera and the coffee. Gotta have priorities.

I know dirty-child photos make some people cringe. My children were dirty during the filming of these shots. So, you've been warned. :-)



I couldn't let it rest.

I got into it.

Startin' to feel like a regular hacker. Which seems to be the only way to get into these things.

Oh, just how dangerous I could be if I knew what I was doing with this computer!!!

But now, I'm just too tired to do anything.

And so, to bed.


N'er Mind

I've been trying to extract the photos from the disk for the past three hours. So far, all I've seen are 209 .gif graphics from FujiFilm, a slower working speed on this computer than I had on my Commodore 64, and now, several messages informing me that I'm missing MSVCR80.dll. (I can even type that in without looking at the letters, because I've searched all over kingdom come for it.)

According to my computer, I have three copies of it, and then three other files with the name in there somewhere.

Somehow, that's not reassurring.

And so, I'm going to bed. Perhaps tomorrow the Computer Fairy will grant me three wishes. Or will tell me to simply click my heels together three times, and say...

Yeah. I know.

Ah, well. At least it was a good day in other respects. But it's almost two in the morning now, and I was going to go to bed by eleven. I'll fill ya in tomorrow.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, June 7

North American Rock Babies

Many people are familiar with the Prairie Dogs found in the high desert and plains regions of the Southwest. A lesser known critter is the North American Rock Baby.

These little cuties are often mistaken for badgers, mountain goats, or, quite frequently, prairie dogs.

They are relatively slow, but have excellent balancing skills.

Larger, more aggressive, and less likely to carry rabies or eat the roots from foliage than the prairie dog (though more likely to consume rocks, twigs, and gum stuck to the undersides of tables), the Rock Baby is a true delight to observe and photograph.

If you venture out early in the mornings, you may be fortunate enough to find a Rock Baby poking its head out of its den.

(I found the missing photographs!)

Kiss those Rock Babies!

Wednesday, June 6

Pictures Tomorrow!

No, I didn't get the upload issue fixed. I haven't heard back from Fuji *at all*. And unless I can bring in an exorcist, ALL of the pictures from the one card are gone forever. *sniff* But Kate suggested it might be the card reader. And I think that was it. Took the remaining card to a different store (one that doesn't hold people hostage at Kodak Cell Block 011010100), and the photos uploaded just fine. Unfortunately, without thinking, I hit "print 4x6", and so... now I get to cough up $48 for almost 300 photos... that I didn't want printed. I just wanted the $3 disk. But that's what I get for doing these things with four children in tow. The Monday after graduation. The Monday after Seniors return from their "Senior Trip". Monday, period. (WHAT was I thinking?)

So, anybody want a hard copy print of the Smidge Cam shots? I'm pretty sure there are some stunning nostril shots, and I vaguely remember a few knee-view ones, as well. C'mon, someone has to have a 3yo who would take one look at it and say, "MAN, that kid takes a great picture!"

Well, that's okay. I've been remiss in sending actual pictures to Loved Ones, anyway. So, this is sort of like God, kicking my behind into gear, right? After all, if He can use anything to bring about good, He can certainly take my AirHead Moments and make someone else smile. And then, charge me for it.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, June 5


Well, no. There were no fists involved. However, you can take your pick from any of the following:


Our team just didn't show up tonight. I mean, the little bodies were out there, but they weren't *there* there. It was like watching the inmates from the asylum enjoy an evening at the park. Weird.

I got a cute picture of one of the kids smearing the white chalk onto his face, like warpaint. Once he saw me with the camera, though, he launched into a Charlie Chaplain dance that I didn't have the heart to encourage. (Although I may talk to his mother about encouraging him in the arts. He's pretty good.)

John got his first taste of utter, total, bitter disappointment. That's a nasty pill to swallow, but for being six, he handled it well. He'll probably read this one day and think I'm not quite right in the head, but it really was harder on us to see it happen, to know it was coming, and not be able to do anything about it - than it was for him to be standing there, making circles in the dirt and have it hit him out of nowhere that "it's not happening, kids". I think this is the first time this season, aside from that one pre-season-tournamenty-thing that our little guys took a thorough beating. Every other game has been at least close. Or at least not... this bad.

I'd like to wax philosophical. Probably to make myself feel better. But every time I try, Zorak shoots me a look. Then he starts thinking about a beer commercial he saw today, and he laughs. He laughs the kind of laugh I'd probably trade a kidney to get out of him. And, well, it's hard to be philosophical and deep when I can't help but think, "ok, beer surgeon"...

So that's it. That's all I've got tonight. Tomorrow, we'll bake bread. We'll power wash more dirty stuff. (Ack, another random thought. They're pinging around in my head with abandon.) Love on my kiddos.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, June 4


"Hey, honey, does John have practice tonight?"

"No, why?"

"Well, I wasn't going to take him to the batting cages if he also had practice."

"Oh. No, I don't think he has anything now until Thursday. They might play their first tournament game on Friday."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, of course I'm sure... I think."

So, Zorak took John to the batting cages for a bit of one-on-one time, some practice, and a little fun.

Aaaaaand, I just got off the phone w/ the coach's wife. "We missed y'all at practice tonight. Is everything okay?"

*wham* *wham* *wham* (beating my head on the desk) I. Am. Not. Fit. For. This. Job! "Yes, everything's fine. It's just that John's mother is a hard-core blonde sometimes."

Thankfully, all they did tonight was batting practice. *whew* Oh, and the first tournament game is tomorrow, not Friday.

Isn't that uber-organized woman with the dauntingly flawless scheduling skills who was supposed to have this job here yet? No? OK, then, I'll keep winging it, but I tell ya, they're starting to get Suspicious.

Kiss those babies!

I have the best readers in the world.

That's it. Some of you other bloggers may think you have better readers, but no. You don't. I do. They're mine, all mine!!!! Not only are the funny and insightful, but they're observant. And thoughtful.

The kids and I stopped at the post office to pick up our mail today and ask them to resume delivery. (Yeah, I know, we've been back, what a week? Well, it's not like we trek all the way to the end of the driveway every day, anyway. At least at the Post Office, it all stayed dry.) And what was in the pile of mail?

Well, yes, we've won some kind of a grand prize that we can claim when we test drive a new Super Cargo Van. But that has nothing to do with my really awesome readers.

There were three, count 'em, 1, 2, 3 - Barry Manilow Christmas CD's!

Zorak is going to be hating life for a while until I get it out of my system. And the boys are wondering why I laughed so hard at the mail.

But this is really cool.

And to honor the joy, we're going to have a Christmas in June celebration!

I really have the absolute best readers in the world.

Kiss those babies, and a cyber-hug of thanks, guys!! (Two of them came w/o a name attached, just direct mailed from a company, so I'm not sure exactly who to thank. Tara, yours came straight through. Thanks!)


Sunday, June 3

It doesn't take much.

The contrast between the amount of work it takes to make a home look nice, and the relatively little effort it takes to crap it up again, is shocking.

Zorak borrowed Me-Wa's pressure washer, to cleanse the debris off That 70's Brick, and de-slime the Balcony O'Death. Come to find out, the balcony is much closer to death than we anticipated. I nearly fell through. Zorak nearly fell through. The children pressed their wee faces between the wrought iron bars on the storm door and wished they could try to fall through, also. I guess it looked like fun. So, okay, it isn't any more safe now, but it looks better, smells better, and is less terrifying on a microbial level. It's the small things, sometimes.

We washed the front of the house, hoping to find the magical color that'll tie it all together, hidden somewhere in the brick's many sparkly bits facets. I don't think we found it, although we did mellow the patchwork-coat feel of the brick colors somewhat. What we did find, however, was the magical color hidden beneath the painted trim. It's yellow. That was a surprise.

Oh, and the shutters? We cleaned those. The paint flaked off, revealing another bit of history for the Forever Home. Turns out the shudders (oops, Freudian slip - of course, I meant "shutters") were salvaged from the fire back in 1972. Well, not "salvaged", in the sense that they were saved. But they were kept and reused when the house was re-built. Did you know you could paint over charcoal? And did you know that when you blast the paint off the charcoal, the whole thing disintegrates into a black, oozing mess all over your hedges?

If you'd have pulled up to our place this afternoon, you'd have seen what it probably looks like when sub-contractors riot. But there we stood, ankle deep in green mud, both of us covered in mildew and wood rot, charcoal and paint chips, drinking our coffee and surveying the damage...

"I like the yellow."

"Yeah. That is nice."

I guess it's all about perspective. But the yellow was definitely a surprise.

Kiss those babies!


Ha-HA! I love it when my plans come together.

We've been reading Eagle of the Ninth. Not a favorite for many, I know. And I know why. But the story itself (convoluted, dreadfully-Dickensian-attention-to-detail-we-don't-care-about, pain-in-the-butt-to-read-aloud prose aside), is really great. On many levels. I love the *story*. And since I love it, and I am willing to read it aloud, I decided that by-golly, my children will just have to live through it, too.

And they have.

But tonight, when Marcus and Esca spoke with Guern the Hunter for the second time, those little eyes were WIDE OPEN, mouths shut, attention all focused on the story. (And they think I was snuffling over the storyline!)

They asked for a second chapter. (And I'm pretty sure it isn't just to get it over with. I don't think that's dawned on them yet.)

But even if you ignore the adrenaline rush of seeing your children captured by a character, the discussions you can have with them after reading together are equally addicting. "Why did he __________?"

What was the custom? How was it different from the other countries?

What do you think?

What would you do?

Would you have taken on something like this?

No, we aren't going to burn peat in the wood stove this winter.

It's good, good stuff. It's worth slogging through the challenging things, worth pre-reading to get a feel for the flow of the writing, worth having to break it down to just a chapter a day. (Well, that may just be hard on me - I much prefer to let everyone fend for themselves and retread underwear while I finish a book in one sitting than to have to break it into chunks).

It's all worth it to see them make connections, develop empathy, experience the world through a different lense, compare it with what they know to be right or good or true... and then to be there when they share their ideas, develop their thoughts, and come to conclusions.

Man, I love this life!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, June 2

Baseball Round-Up

Today was the last game of the season, which would lead one (ok, me) to believe that's the end. You know. Of the... season. Ah, to be the uninitiated first-year mom. No, no, silly woman. Now it's time for tournaments.

Tournaments? Didn't we play tournaments back in March?

No, no, those were pre-season tournaments.

As opposed to post-season tournaments?

No, as opposed to tournaments.

Oh. I think I need a sno-cone.

John's team lost today. I don't know the score, but it was by one point. And you know, it was the absolute best game all season. The very best. Both teams played their wee little hearts out. Both sets of coaches were encouraging and nurturing and positive toward their players. The refs were good. The stands were packed. Both teams could field the ball fairly well (for this age bracket), and the spectators on both sides were generous with their applause and shouts of "good play," "way to hustle," and "good swing," no matter which team the children were on. If only there'd been a bit of a breeze, and the Snack Shack hadn't broken the sno-cone machine, it would have been a perfect day.

We have one little roly-poly guy on the team who is just so sweet and has worked so hard this season. All of the kids have improved in some aspect, all of them. But he has really gone above and beyond in several areas. Today he came up to bat in the kind of set-up they put in full Cheez-Whiz sentimental movies: two on base, two outs, bottom of the inning, he had two strikes, and we were down by one. (No pressure!) He smacked that ball like nobody's business and made it to second base, bringing in two runs in the process. The crowd, on both sides of the stands, went absolutely wild. I'm not the only one that got teary-eyed. Granted, the other lady is pregnant and she cried at the last practice, too, but still. It wasn't just me. You could see the smile on his face from clear across the field. We thought for sure he'd get the game ball for that.

But, no. The game ball went to a kid who ran from first to second, freaked out at the dogpile on the baseline in front of second, and bolted back to first. When the kid from the other team started getting close enough to tag him out, he actually tried shoving the girl on first base off the base so he could be safe and she'd... go back to batting? I don't know, but he was pretty certain she didn't need to be there if it would save him. None of us is sure what he did later in the game to earn the gameball. Maybe it was just his willingness to get back out there after being run down and tagged out like that. *shrug*

John came up to bat in the last inning with two outs, and we were down by one again. He hit it and the other team fielded the ball really well. He was out, and my heart sank for him. But he was okay with it. No fits, no ugly conduct. He just gave us his little cockeyed grin that said, "Well, I tried," and we (not just Zorak and James and I, but everybody in the stands) gave him encouragement. I noticed his coach gave him an encouraging pat as he ran back to the dugout, as well. The kid was well over it, and looking forward to a sno-cone by then, but it did a lot for this Mama's heart to see someone else encourage these kids the way I would. It's nice to gather around you that team that's coming from the same place you are, and looking to help encourage your children in the same direction you are encouraging them. That's enough to have made the season worth it, in my opinion.

All the kids did well, and when our guys gave the other team random kudos ("Hey, great game, guys!" and "Congrats. You all played a fantastic game!"), that other team just bubbled with pride. It was the pride of a job well done, too, not a haughty, nasty pride. It was a good thing. Their coaches, their parents, have instilled the kind of sportsmanship in them that more communities need. Good kids, all around. Good game, all around. And I'd say good season, all around... but I'm starting to think it never ends. :-S

We'll have two in football this fall, and it looks like we may have three in baseball next spring. It's catching!

Kiss those babies!

Our Night

"You know what might be kind of fun this year? Let's not wait until the 19th to plan John's birthday party." (It's the 20th.)

"Yeah. We could try that."


"Hey, can we paint a skull and crossbones on the dog for the party?"

"Sure. We'll cut off a leg, too. And give him a peg leg. No, a hook!"

"We could poke his eye out, too, while we're at it."


"...not a grammatition. Or is it a grammarian?"

"I dunno. Grammatard?"


"Do you think the smell is God's way of punishing you for farting in the first place?"


"Wanna help me blog tonight?"

"Sure. I've thought up some new ethnic jokes you could try out."

*blink* *blink* "What?"

"No. Not really."


"Man, Balto really smells funny."

*sniff* "OH, GOD, he got skunked! Get him out of here!"

"Huh. I knew something wasn't right."


The boys and I made a "Top 10 Things We Love About Dad" list for his birthday. I mentioned his sense of humor. John and Smidge gave that an enthusiastic thumbs up. James replied, "Yeah, he's usually pretty funny."

2.5 out of 3 isn't bad.


"Wow. That sounds like the Marshall Tucker Band."

"This is the Marshall Tucker Band doing Cheap Trick?"

"No. It's Dwight Yoakam doing the Marshall Tucker Band doing Cheap Trick."

"What'd we pay for this?"


And this was a quiet night.

Kiss those babies! (And no, the dog wasn't harmed in the making of the party plans. But he IS sleeping outside tonight.)