Tuesday, July 31

Football Camp for the New Initiates

The boys are all *loving* football camp. They like all the things they're learning. They like the coaches. They like the hard work. I like that I'm not required to stay. I did the first day, just to eyeball the coaches and the set up and make sure nothing set off my spider senses. Nothing did. That means all is well, or my inner spider is dead. The high school coaches have done a truly fantastic job with the whole thing. The boys work hard, and they just soak it up. In all, I cannot complain about it as a way to spend a few days during the summer. Freed from my innate fear that someone is loading the children into trucks and hauling them to work the farms during "camp" (which I wouldn't necessarily mind, if I'd signed them up for "summer farm labor camp"), Smidge and I hit the markets for groceries and some sports-associated clothing for the boys.

That was a riot. I have no idea if I've done well in my selections, or if I've just unknowingly attired my children like b-rate wanna be playas. (And then, as if to prove my point, even though I wrote that, I had to read it twice because the first time I thought "la playa", as in "beach". No. That would make no sense whatsoever, now, would it?) So, slick, shiny, sweat-wicking garments acquired, we headed out and ran back to camp to take a snack to John (because, naturally, I forgot that the snack served at camp would probably be cracker-based. Duh.) That was... wild.

Trying to do the "good mom" thing by not trouncing flagrantly into this male sanctified hall o' testosterone, I slipped quietly into the room, keeping to the periphery, working hard to maintain my cool demeanor while remaining inconspicuous. One of the coaches approached us. He looked friendly. He asked who I was looking for. I told him. He turned to face the room (I thought, to help me find John), and *bellowed*, "John E-----! John E-----! Come to the front door, your mother's here!" Ah, crud. Of course that's how it's done. I felt both awkward and reassurred. And, at least everybody now knows which ones are mine, as all four of the boys came galloping up to say howdy.

This time, I picked up the boys with all the right stuff - drinks in a cooler, crackers and peanut butter, and the a/c on high. They were diggin' life about fifteen minutes after camp ended today.

James had a dentist appointment with the Wonderful Dentist, so after lunch and our quiet reading time, we took off and left the rest of the herd with the Cool Older Cousins. I guess they went "swimming" in the creek, and had a fantastic time. By the time James and I got home, the aftermath had been dealt with. Since James' face was still numb, he didn't go to practice tonight. (But there'll be more, oh yes, there will be more.)

John left (with Zorak and three of the other boys) for his 8:00 game... which, it turned out, was actually at 6:00. Oops. Obviously, in spite of how well I thought this was all going, I cannot hang with multiple schedules for prolonged periods of time. If I can't get a groove on it soon, they're all going to have to pick one activity that meets in the same building on the same days, at the same time. Otherwise, somebody's going to have to learn how to drive soon. In the meantime, though, we're having a good time and enjoying life the way it's meant to be enjoyed. I think. Yeah, pretty sure, anyway. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday Morning, and All's Well

Hi guys. Y'all crack me up. No, we're not planning to call the new baby "Devons". I couldn't think of anything. It was late. Zorak wasn't much help. I asked him for 8 things, and he said he could think of a couple, but I couldn't post them. That got me giggling, and the next thing you know, I'm writing about cattle. It's a weird life here.

When we told Claudia, she said she wasn't coming over again until I wasn't contagious. (She really doesn't want another May baby, and August is a'comin.)

The Cousins have arrived. They are wonderful. They have so much energy, and there's a constant noise level right now that's probably a good 60 decibels higher than normal. I love it! Well, *right now* it's quiet because they are all still passed out after yesterday's marathon of activity. I've got to get them up here in a sec, though.

T and P are really so enjoyable to have here. She asked last night if having them wasn't making things more difficult. I contemplated velcroing her to the bench so she couldn't leave. We love having them here. Zorak and P get along so well. It's interesting to see what happens when two laid-back, easy-to-like guys get started. They make everything sound so do-able. T has found a wonderful man to spend her life with. I've got one like that, and he's a lifesaver when I start doing the hair-chewing, twitchy thing. Anyway, I think they're heading out to check on their soon-to-be home and meet the family, and then they'll be back for the weekend festivities.

Today is Day Two of football camp. I am not sitting out there on the bleachers again. Not. Gonna. Happen. They'll be fine. They have my cell number. It's no reflection on my love and adoration of all four of the big guys, but I'm not sitting out there again. Not sitting through football practice again, tonight, either. (They have no benches on the practice field! WHY didn't we buy the chairs back in the Spring???? Yes, I know, Melissa, you warned me. I ought to have listened.)

OK, off for the day!

Monday, July 30

8 Things

OK, so it's more like 7 things and another thing. Whatever works.

8. I left plans to attend Bastyr Medical School when Zorak and I decided to marry, because I knew I couldn't do motherhood and medical school without seriously botching at least one of them.

7. I have not regretted that decision once. Ever.

6. My blood family is a little strange. The traditional curse they cast on me was, "You're going to have five red-headed boys!" Um... okaaayyyy... (They say that like it's a bad thing. I guess in my family of only-one-child-and-please-let-it-be-a-girl, I guess that was the worst thing imaginable.)

5. Zorak's family is all about, well, family. They rock like that.

4. Smidge thinks the thing that would make our family a little better is a puppy.

3. The boys think another baby would do the trick.

2. I think we're going to go with Devons or Dexters when we put cattle on the place.

and the #1 fact about me that most of you don't know...

The boys got it right.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, July 26

Le Porch!

This picture was taken Oct 2005 - before we could let the kids in the house. See how we had the swings against the wall for seats to keep the small ones away from the edge? (And see how it wasn't working with James, right there by the front?) Scary! The little metal corner dodads weren't attached at the bottom - they could swing freely in any direction. And yes, the kids had secured the slide to the bumper buddy on the Suburban so they had someplace to play.
We've spent the last year and a half shooing children off the porch, mostly. Then, for Mother's Day this year, Zorak framed it in for me.

And the small ones could lean-lean-lean to their wee hearts' content! (I was standing at ground level for this shot - the land slopes steeply down on the right side, so it's quite a fall from up high.)

So, that was May. Um, late July (last week), we had it scraped of brown, green, yellow, and a mystery turquoise color paint (it took a while to get it all), and ready to go!
And now, it's our new Happy Spot!

I keep thinking I need a hanging plant to put out there... to die. And then I think perhaps we'll forego the killing of the plant and just enjoy the view. The parts that are white (the eaves and the ceiling of the enclosed porch area) are still just primer white. They'll be an antique white soon, and that'll help tone it down a bit. We'll buy a ceiling fan next Thursday, and then this just may be the happiest place in the house.
(It may be already - that's Smidge, enjoying "coffee with Mom" on the porch.)

Wednesday, July 25

Mm, sorry about that.

I meant to blog more this week, but I'm a bit out of sorts and the words simply wouldn't come. Since I don't know how to spell various grunting noises (nor do I have any indication that any of you know how to translate them), blogging in that condition seemed a bit pointless. However, the porch is finished. I'll get pictures of that up hopefully tonight.

Zorak caulked the porch window and boys' window. Aesthetically, that's not the best feature of the house, but it's done wonders for me emotionally.

The sports thing is going to be a little nutso for a week or so, while the seasons overlap. Yesterday, James had a football meeting at 5:30 (and they are hitting the ground RUNNING!), then John had a game at 8:00. I don't know how families with overlapping sports do it, but if the seasons overlapped by more than just this coming week, I think I'd sit on a corner of the bleachers, muttering to myself and giving people the hairy eyeball if they got to close.

I think football is going to be very good for James, but truthfully, I think he's going to be hating life for most of the season. This is going to be all about his attitude, and whether he's really internalized our philosophy of being flexible in life. He's not a flexible kind of person. He's also very timid in a lot of ways. And, he has that whole I'm-not-really-listening-because-all-my-attention-is-focused-on-gnawing-on-this-hangnail (or picking something off my arm, or trying to pick things up with my toes - pretty much any distraction will do). The hair has got to go. We've been letting him grow it out, but he plays with it non-stop. To the point that I was ready to cut it myself right there at the meeting yesterday. Zorak, wise man that he is, suggested we head to the barber for this one and tell the guy he needs "a good football cut", thus removing me from the potential Mommy Dearest haircutting memory for James. (Not that I would do that to him, I wouldn't. But he's so attached to his bangs at the moment, he'll find a way to equate the two, should he ever see the movie.)

And now, to get the guest room ready today. I plan to put bug spray along the baseboard-like areas of all the rooms as I clean them. Normally, I wouldn't, but I'm tired of the Midnight Child Buffet the spiders seem to have going in the kids' rooms. Smidge and Emily wake every morning with five to ten huge bites all over them. Nothing I've tried has helped. I've pulled their beds away from the walls. I've not put anything dangling, like a bed ruffle, and all the blankets are short. I even put EmBaby in some winter pj's the other night, so she was covered from her chin to her toes -- the next morning, her head was absolutely covered in bites. Enough is enough. I don't mind if the things want to live outside, but until we can stucco this house and seal it up properly, the way houses are meant to be sealed, we're going to have a bit of a territory war.

AND so, to work.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, July 23

I kin count...

80% Did I really say 80%? Well, it looked like 80%... but the 20%-ish-looking part that wasn't done yet turned out to be 76 pickets, 31" high. All four sides of every one. Plus the little bottom sill. As slow as I am, this may be my Golden Gate Bridge project: by the time I get to the end, it'll be time to start over again redoing the beginning! :-D And, I'm not even going to try to guess a percentage again. Let's just say there's less to be done now than there was this morning. And, hopefully, it'll be picture-worthy tomorrow.

The boys' bedroom window frame is primed.

The rectangular thingy Zorak left out and asked me to prime if I got around to it, is now primed. (Don't know what it is, but it's done.)

My hands are a really cool lizardy texture right now. The boys think it's the ultimate in Mom Cool. I haven't the heart to tell them it's the ultimate in Steep Learning Curve.

The big topic of discussion today (other than "don't touch that, it's wet!") was, "How many days til the cousins get here?" I'm surprised they haven't broken it down into hours yet.

John had a game tonight. I stayed home to keep staining the porch while EmBaby screamed at me for not letting her in the stain, erm, serenaded me. Should'a gone to the game. Another game tomorrow, and I was just getting comfortable with the week's agenda when the phone rang. Football meeting tomorrow. Oh... of course... and we need to find James' birth certificate before then. I'll... get right on that. :-S

Know what? I'm taking my vitamins and going to bed early tonight. That's my gift to the rest of the world, as hopefully it'll make me more able to function tomorrow. Without doing an Ozzy Osbourne impression (early-80's OR late-90's, either one).

Kiss those babies!

Sunday Home Update

Wow. I can't give you pictures, because we were still putting on stain when it got too dark to see, but I can tell you "wow". I think I have a new Happy Spot.

Porch ceiling and trim are primed, so pretty and clean.

80% of the railings are stained, and the impact is dramatic. We're loving it.

Ben & Claudia (and small associates) came for Sunday Supper tonight. We haven't seen them in ages, and it was just wonderful to see what all they've been up to. Their oldest is playing football this year, so Claudia is experiencing that mind-numbing exhaustion of the first-time-sports-mom. When the little guy pipes up cheerfully that he can't wait to play a different sport EVERY SEASON, Claudia blanches and wobbles a little. I can appreciate that! (But he's so cute!!!)

Their wee "baby grill" (what her brothers deemed her), Lucy, is walking now - she and EmBaby disappeared to the sand pit and re-emerged ten minutes later, each missing just one shoe. It appears to have been intentional, but we don't know *why*.

Their Little David and our Little Smidge, both about the same age, spent the evening doing irritating from-left-field toddler things to each other and laughing over it. That's an age I just don't think I'll ever quite understand - but they have fun together, and that's good stuff.

And then they left. And it was so quiet. Fortunately, it was a sleepy, contented, sated quiet. We look forward to next week, when we'll have the family and the friends all together. (And with seven boys all together, that'll be almost enough to form a baseball team!)

What did you do today?

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, July 21

Forever Home Weekend Update

Today was busy. We worked. A lot. Yet, it looks like we accomplished nothing. I hate it when that happens. There were quite a few stops and starts (duh, this *is* us we're talking about) - I started to chip out the glazing, but Zorak suggested we look at getting a heat gun (seeing as there are 11 windows, it'd save somewhere in the range of two months' work to get one), so I set that aside. Then I started to touch up the boys' window frame, but it's still too damp to work with and gummed up my sandpaper. I was going to caulk, but Zorak has that elsewhere in his mental timeline and he gets twitchy if I mess with his internal table of contents. I did watch flies stick to the dangling fly strip for a while. That was fun.

Zorak took out the seven bricks by the boys' window that were just sitting there balanced lightly against the studs -- cleaned them off, and set them back in place, with mortar and everything. I suspect they are the only seven bricks on the house that are plumb. It looks wonderful. He also rewired the porch lights and moved electrical boxes around so that now, instead of one light in the middle of the porch, we have a light above the door, and everything set for a ceiling fan on the other side of the porch.

I... um, I took one of the storm windows apart. I didn't mean to. Just wanted to get the sliding window parts out so I could clean the tracks and put some paraffin on them (so they'll glide easier). But the screws that hold the glass in also, evidently, held the frame together. The whole thing now looks like a giant Erector Set for big people, with screws and chunks of aluminum, and bits of rubber. Oh, I also stripped and cleaned one of the patio chairs. It looked like this before I got to it: OK, so it didn't really need actual "stripping" at this point. And the sad thing is that it almost looks worse now. Those weren't initially the patio chairs. That was from our dining set - wwaaaay back when there were only two of us. Then the table and three chairs made it into the school room, but this little guy has lived on the back porch for a year and a half. Not such a happy place for wood products, it seems. So, since we're likely never to take the time to shop for porch furniture (we could, but we'd rather play leap frog blindfolded on the Interstate, or try to remove excess veins from my leg with a pair of tweezers and a bottle of Jack Daniels - there are so many more enjoyable ways to spend the days), we figure we'll refinish this set and use it on the porch. *snort* I'll let you know how that goes...

We did get into town and finally, finally, finally picked a color for the porch. We went with one that wasn't even on our radar. I'm not telling what it was, because I need something to add to (er, to create) suspense about this project. Right now, I'm hovering at about 30% capacity, though, and this is all ya get. We got a color. I'm terrified to put it on. But tomorrow, on it goes.

Hopefully, tomorrow the storm window will go back together. (And I don't mean, I hope I'll get around to it. I mean I hope it *will* go back together *when* I attempt it tomorrow.) Zorak has big plans to touch-up sand and prime the porch ceiling, and then it's on to the porch itself! WOo--- *yawn*


Kiss those babies!

Friday, July 20

Hey, Honey,

I don't think we'll have to water the garden today.

The kids and I will be back in their room with books, snacks, and my cell phone, if you need us.

Wish you were here!


Birthday Blessings

Yes, today was my birthday. Thank you for the sweet birthday wishes. I'm 34 all over again! (Not because I've decided to hover there, but because I've thought this whole last year that I was already 34. What they say about the memory being the second thing to go? No, it's the first. Everything else seems to function just fine, thank you.)

We had a lovely, quiet day. Saturday we have plans to enjoy live music and dancing. But today was grocery day. Needleroozer called to sing me Happy Birthday. Then she laughed at me when I said my big outing would be the market. I know it sounds silly, but I really love and appreciate grocery shopping. I love taking the children along to help, to visit, to spend that time together. I love that we have so many options available to us. I love that, although we do budget, it's not a hard-core, beans-and-tortillas budget.

I remember one particular evening with Zorak, many years ago, we talked about all the things we would buy when he'd graduated and we weren't living off the Scholarship Fairy anymore. It was all food. Steak. Thick, thick, heavily marbled steak. Artichoke hearts. Sushi. Brown rice. The good ice cream. Yesiree, we were gonna live high. on. the. hog.

Well, now we've got four children and a little place of our own. We don't splurge the way we dreamed we would, but we do eat well, and we enjoy it. Although I'm joking when I tell Zorak we're off to blow his hard-earned cash, I feel like that's exactly what I'm doing as I pile our basket with fresh fruits and brown rice, with the occasional olives or a mango, and the wheat-free grains. I couldn't get a bigger high if I was buying Dooney & Burke Bourke purses wholesale. (Well, something like that. Obviously, if I can't spell it, I don't own it, right? I still can't bring myself to use something other than Zorak's old backpack or my messenger bag. Some things just fit better than others. But you get the general idea.)

Food, along with all the thousand other connotations and cultural messages it carries, sings a song in my head that says, "You are loved, you're taken care of, you're taking good care of those you love. It's the circle of love, and of life, and of...ohhhhhh, turkey sounds good."

The boys were very sweet and affectionate with their Birthday Wishes. We all trekked out to see John's third game of the summer league. Both teams really played well. Our guys lost this game by one point, which puts them at 2-1 now. Not bad. Good game. Nice to see familiar faces. Even better to see that boy out there, looking bigger, bolder, more confident... James even asked, when John stepped up to bat, "Is that JOHN?" We got home, folded laundry, talked about the evening, the weekend, the upcoming visits. There was no time for a story, as four little heads hit the pillows with eyes closed in the time it took to say, "I love you."

This is a good time of life, I think. A good year behind me, and a good year ahead. A girl could get used to this. I've still got many things to work on, to improve, to do. Many books to read and discuss with the children (or at Zorak, through the bathroom door, if it's a really good book - although that may be one of the things he's hoping I'll work on...) What a blessing time and opportunity are, knowing the outcome is mine to decide. What a treasure my family is, and one I will work to be worthy of every day of my life. And that's the best of it there: my birthday gift is life. I get to do this all over again tomorrow. Or, to quote one of my sincere (yet less-than-subtle) relatives: Every day above ground is a good day.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, July 18

So Exciting!

We have family moving closer to our side of the bog! This, in itself, isn't huge news (it's been in the works for a while), but it's getting close now, and we're all getting very excited. The toe-tickling part, for us, is that they, too, have children. Delightful children. Children we have really missed being involved with as they've grown. It's just not as much fun when the child looks like an entirely different person in size, carriage, and personality every. time. you. see. him, and looks at you like you're a complete stranger (and why are you hugging me? Get away, weirdo!). But now, we'll get to see them more often. They may still think we're "the weird ones", but at least they'll know us well and we won't scare them when we run up and give them noogies. More importantly, the boys (both ours, and theirs) will have cousins nearby! (We don't have to be from here. We can just import family. Ha!)

To kick it off, the boys will be coming to stay with us for a few weeks while their parents have to stay behind and deal with all the icky details of packing, moving, leasing, blech. It'll be much more fun here at our place! (Well, actually, we're hoping the Big People will also take a little time to enjoy a bit of a second honeymoon period while they're traveling. You know, stop in Amarillo and try to get the free steak dinner. Spend the night in Memphis in a hotel with a view of the river, just because it's so pretty at sunset. You know, whatever adults do when they're suddenly without children. Then they can tell us what it's like.) And we'll be here, with boys falling out of every door and window. Kids in the meadow. Kids in the hall. Oh, dear me, I just realized we've still only got one bathroom... maybe Zorak would consent to installing just the toilet in the master bath? That may end up being a necessity at some point.

Zorak's been making plans all evening. "OK, we need to do something about the balcony. And the barn. I need to fix the ladder so they can play in the loft. And we need a mower, but if we can't find one this payday, I'll talk to Dude about bush hogging for us before they come. And we need to find a good fishing hole... and I can take S. to work with me one day, he'd like that... and..." I love it when he's as thrilled about something as I am. I also love that he cherishes his family so much.

Meanwhile, I've been going over the grocery plans and menus. I've probably sucked up all of The Hillbilly Housewife's bandwidth for the entire month, looking for good ideas for larger crowds. (Not that just two boys will add *that* much to our table, but I just barely got the hang of making enough to include DangerGirl's voracious appetite. Plus, we'll have the Engaged Cool Older Cousins out for most of the first week. So fun! So much food! I'm in heaven.) Going to have to make the bread ahead of time, because I am a scatterbrained fusspot in the kitchen when I try to make bread. And it's difficult to close off the kitchen/living room racing loop long enough to keep the bread from going Hindenberg on me. And it's been a while since I've made anything with wheat flour. So. Well, you know, we'll just deal with that before there are witnesses.

On to other, more mundane things. The Emperor is dead, and the Western Roman Empire is no more. We did it. We finished, *ahem* Volume One. It was a little sad, really. The boys spent supper "reminiscing" on their favorite highlights of the empire. (Didn't see that one coming. Cracked me up.) We'll hold off on beginning SOTW Vol. 2 until the beginning of September. I still haven't purchased any of the books for next year, and we'll have plenty to do between now and then. I do think the boys will enjoy diving into the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance.

The garden is... a learning experience, so far. The windmill bed is great for greens. The swiss chard is doing pretty well. Next year, that bed will probably be all greens. Oddly enough, the oregano is loving it there. *shrug* But the peppers need more direct light, and the fennel... I don't know what happened to the fennel. In the raised beds by the future-zen-thing, the eggplants are thriving. Kinda. The cucumbers seem to be giving it a good show. The tomatoes gave up the ghost. I think the bunnies may have helped there. (Balto is SO fired.) Down in the melon patch, it looks like somebody knows what he's doing! Wow. I don't know who's sneaking into our meadow to tend to that garden, but when I find him, I'm going to make him stay for supper. And show him the other beds. *grin* WOW. That's exciting. (That's also, incidentally, the only bed I've had nothing to do with... you can pretty much do the math and tell that we're all best off if I stay on the porch.)

The PORCH! The porch which will be stained this weekend. Yippee. (please don't rain. please don't rain.)

And tomorrow's grocery day (because the porch simply wasn't a dull enough topic to end on? sorry.)

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, July 17

Psst, Ernie...

A little bird told me you might like these.
And, actually, if anyone can tell me what these are, or how in the world I'd go about identifying them, I'd be much obliged.

My favorite is the white one in the bottom right corner. It's so very different from any of the other (literally dozens) of kinds of fungi we have on the property.

And, um, while we're discussing fungi... any idea how to keep the numbers to a minimum in the regularly populated areas of the property? At least until the small ones stop wanting to eat everything they find.

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Oh, what a day so far. It's amazing the difference a nice meal and a clean house can make. So much difference, in fact, that I'm re-writing this post.

We lost power this morning around 7:45. That happens pretty often, so aside from cursing the wet clothes in the washer, I didn't think much of it. Got the boys up and we ran a few errands, thinking things would be fine by the time we got back.

We got back around 10:30. Still no power. OK, there's no storm, no hurricane, and I *know* our bills are upt to date. I called to see if they're working on something (and perhaps we just didn't get the notice). Hmmm, nope. Guy says he'll send someone out.

I set the kids up with a picnic breakfast consisting entirely of foods that don't require we open the fridge! Interesting, to say the least. Called the doc, described the bite (which looked more red, just as swollen, and a little pussier today). They said they could see us at one.

The Power Co. guy pulled in around 10:45. I unplugged the cell phone and climbed out of the car to greet him. Shut the car door. With the keys in, auxiliary power on, and doors locked. (Dang.)

That's when the time frame gets a bit Blurry - Power Guy tested the wires, and determined our transformer was hit by "something". He's guessing lightning. Considering something fell off it this weekend, I'm not surprised. Then he commented on the out-of-code meter box. (Yes, it's out of code; no, we didn't do it. That's the one part of the whole set-up we haven't fixed yet.) I mentioned (hopefully in a casual, non-panicky voice) that it's grandfathered in, and since the problem is at the transformer and not the service head, we're still good, right?!?!?. (Because I've spoken to the Head Mucky-Muck about putting in underground power lines, and he said once they cut it at the power head, they cannot put it back together until the box is brought up to code.) He laughs. I wasn't joking. RIGHT????

I scoured a slew of possible hiding spots for the spare key, and came up empty. Couldn't reach Zorak. Power Guy keept eyeballing the meter box. I could hear the battery on the Suburban draining, and could feel the panic beginning to ball up in my stomach.

Children clustered around Power Guy. Dog got into the picnic food.

Suddenly, like something out of Convoy, three more Power Co. trucks pulled up. Did you know it takes four power company trucks and eight workers to replace a transformer? The guys were very cool. They also completely blocked the driveway. (Because our transformer is IN our front yard, and serves both us and the neighbors - one of the joys of buying subdivided family properties.)

The clock was ticking on making the appointment... the dog, freshly sated on dried apricots and rice porridge, got stowed in the basement before he could pee on every truck the power company owns...Smidge and John emerged from the house decked out in construction garb, then proceeded to stand on the porch and hit one another with PVC hammers they'd built...

I wandered around, trying to figure out where we could have another key hidden, wondering if an arc would hit one of the workers before heading for a child, and how close to me do I need to keep the children in order to be able to either throw them out of harm's way or (more likely) get a very good look at their glowing eyes should an arc hit one of them. (I am also guessing a similar thought is the reason behind the number of workers for this procedure.)

Just as the power was restored and I'd given the children more food, I FOUND the key! WOOHOO! 12:45 - we can mostly make it. I ushered the boys and Emily of the Goopy Toe to the Suburban and we high-tailed it to town... in the land squall. Yep, full-on rainstorm that makes the word "rainstorm" sound sissified. (Which is why I call 'em landsqualls - much more fitting.) First one I've had to drive in this year. No squids, but that was a bit of a surprise. I think we saw a dolphin or two thrown across the windshield.

Doc said ant, or spider. Either way, use topical antibiotics. She's fine. I felt like a dork, but I'm not going to apologize. If I don't know what I'm up against, I'd rather feel sheepish for asking than wretched for not.

We got home around 3:30, and haven't stopped moving since. So much to do when the day is topsy-turvy like that! Zorak, the Man of My Dreams, offered to take the big boys to the game so I could stay home and get the littlest ones to bed. (Again, at 8:00 - what do people with small children do with these game times?) Really, if we'd had a normal day, where the boys (and I!) could have napped or rested, or stopped moving and panicking for a bit, perhaps we'd have all gone. But I'm very glad I didn't have to drag them out tonight.

Thank you for your feedback, and particularly for your sweet words. EmBaby is in high spirits this evening, and I'm glad she'll be a-okay. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Monday, July 16

Just One More...

Today, I worked on the exterior of the boys' bedroom window. All. Day. Long. Just when I thought I had mastered the approach for these things, I discovered there are *many* ways of "fixin' up yer windah". Help me. Although I got an earlier start today, I did not get to the point of priming. That felt like such a defeat. I know it wasn't, but it felt that way.

I spent most of the day trying to disentangle the mass of caulk and paint from the mortar without bringing the whole house down on my head. Mostly, this involved using small metal objects (I went through quite a few utility blades) and my thumbs to create enough leverage to remove the caulking. It hurt. A lot. (On this window, they didn't smear the caulk too much, which was thoughtful. They painted over the caulk and all the way onto the brick with many layers of paint... which was, for whatever their intent, probably just the ticket.) Whatever works, I guess. I'll be more gracious when my thumbs stop bleeding.
Zorak, meanwhile, was able to reap the benefits of the weeks and weeks of prep work he's put in by putting the stain on the gable ends of the front of the house. It's dark, very dark. The can says "oak", but it's a burgundy color. Wow. It's pretty dramatic. It also makes the new porch look a little peekidy. (What is the real way to spell that? I went with phonetic. That's all I had.) He tore down a couple of things that didn't look "right", and got them fixed. They do look much better. I'll point them out when I have better closeups.

Anyway, I tried to find a before-before picture, without the porch frame on it, but of the thousands of photos we've taken since we moved here, there are almost none that show the house in the distance, let alone the eaves, awnings, etc. Gotta love that zoom lens! I'll blog about the building of the porch later.

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Everything to the right of the porch (about the middle of that first batch of windows) is too high for us to reach, even with our expando-ladder, so it's not done yet. That's going to have to wait just a little longer. On the bright side, we are pleasantly surprised to note how incredibly difficult it is to access most of the windows on the house. Er, it will be pleasant when it's no longer we who are trying to access them...

And so, this concludes the latest rash of posting on the renovation of the Forever Home (aka - This Old Shack). :-) Thanks for sharing this particularly wild adventure with us. I'm off to switch out the bandages on my thumbs.

Kiss those babies!


Something bit EmBaby. She's actually a walking display of various critter bites, at the moment: a few mosquito, a spider or two, a gnat, a suspected chigger, and some kind of biting fly. Yep, she's pretty sweet. And bumpy.

For the most part, we don't worry too much, but she got these today, and they really bother me. If they aren't better by morning, I'm certainly calling the doctor. In the meantime, though, have any of you ever seen something like this?


They're on her big toe (which really isn't all that big), but as you can see, there are two distinct whitish circles. Those are raised and welty, and the area around the bites is swollen and red. They don't seem to be bothering her terribly, but they're making me slightly crazy, wondering what they could be.

Kiss those babies!
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Funny, We Don't Remember Planting These...

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Sunday, July 15

Sorry, Farmer Brown

I know you needed the rain, but we just couldn't be too depressed about the reprieve!

Since it didn't rain, but did threaten to (and we do work better under pressure), we scuttled about being as productive as possible today. The porch window *frame* is cleaned and primed now. I decided to treat the windows the same on the exterior as I did the trim vs. the sashes inside. (Ignore the bit about how some aren't done inside yet, either. It's the theory I was after.) Tomorrow we'll caulk that up nice and clean. (Getting the old caulk smears off the brick took hours today. You want a finish that will last for an eternity? Smear caulk on your brick surfaces. Wow!)

I'll clean and evaluate the storm windows, and then start scouting for a source for screen frames. We need to replace the ones that are kinked from too many drunk kids climbing in through the windows.

Zorak has worked like a man possessed through all of this. He took the eaves, which were in the same condition as the window frames, only, well, rotted in some spots, to this:

And today, to this:

That's pretty stark white, isn't it? It's so... drastic. This is only primer, and I'm thinking right now I'm glad I lost the Great Color Debate of '07 (I argued for granite grey and pure white). Zorak, of the muted earth tones party, won out, and we'll be putting antique white on this part of the house (both the eaves and windows). That will be good, because right now, when you stand back and look at the whole picture, the lovely white eaves pretty much highlight the poor condition of the roof. *oops!*

And lest you think we're all work and no play, we do play. Sometimes we play with our food, even!

I think from now on, my weekend posts will probably cover the renovations. The theory behind this plan is that I will be more motivated (or under the gun, as it were) to have something I can actually post each weekend.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, July 14

The windows

I started on the porch window. Removed the storm windows, which will be cleaned, repaired, re-screened, and painted before they go back up.

I scraped most of the paint from the frame, and removed what was left of the caulking... Well, it was all still there, it just didn't span the gap in most places. With luck, the implications of that, multiplied by the number of windows in the house, will soon be forced from my memory for good. (Oh, and the surprise yellow - you can see it in that shot above, there.)

Things were moving along quite nicely. Zorak was busy beside me, doing the fine sanding on the overhead areas. The kids were playing, the birds were singing. I was getting pretty excited about this whole thing.
And you know how you start to gain momentum once you've begun a task you've been dreading? You really don't want to haul back on that. So, I figured I'd go ahead and scrape the bars and muntins while I was there, feelin' good, gettin' it done. They needed it -
Yeah! Let's do it! Let's clean these bad boys! Let's -
OH MY WORD, Honey!! Honey, it's rotted! I've broken it! It just... oh, my... popped. right. off. *whimper*

Zorak looked at it and didn't flinch. That's because he recognized it as window glazing, not strangely rotted wood. Whereas I had convinced myself, back when I was painting all 80,000 linear feet of them on the interior, that they were fake muntins!

No, those are individual panes of glass. How quaint! There are no points in there, just the glazing holding them all in. Thankfully, we don't live in a quake-prone area...

So, we didn't get the eaves primed. Then it began to rain, and from the look of the satellite images, it's going to rain most of the week. We need the rain. The eaves probably don't particularly care for it, but the farmers will appreciate it. And we can always prime next week. That'll give me a week to learn how to glaze windows!

Window Pictures

Remember I told you they'd painted the shutters that burned in the fire and rehung them on the house? We have no idea how they did that - it's charred just as evenly on the painted sides,too. Other than actually roasting the shutters, we're not sure how the entire lengths of them charred without the first part to hit the flames burning into nothingness. Every shutter is like this, too.
Of course, the real question isn't, "Wow, how'd you get it so evenly charred?" It's, "Wow, what were you thinking, putting those back up?" This one didn't dissolve, which is why we got pictures. You can see there is relatively good wood in at least some of it, which would make the question, "Dude, ya couldn't have used some of that child labor that keeps popping in around here to scrap that off first?"

These are not going back up. We really hate the fake shutters, not because of the appearance, but because, coupled with brick (I'm just going to have to form an "I hate brick" club. Yes, we may be the only members, I know, but sheesh, the drawbacks to this stuff are astounding!) ANYway, the shutters are not going back up, and yes, we know that'll draw away from the "architectural interest" of the exterior. I'm okay with that, because while your standard fake shutter may look benign on the nicely-painted outside, beneath lurks monsters of all forms...
The red circles indicate the wasp nests on the wall behind just one shutter. Eleven. And that's not a particularly thick infestation of them. It's pretty much like that across the board.

And that is the shutter shudder for the day. :-)

3, 2, 1, PRIME!


Tomorrow, the eaves -- next week, the WORLD!

Or, just the porch. We'll play it by ear.

So excited!


Friday, July 13

End of the Week's Lessons

Fortunately, the sun has a wonderfully glorious habit of rising every morning. When the sky lightened, when the birds awoke, I knew I would never again see anything so splendid as the round red sun coming up over the earth. (From My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George)

James is enjoying the story for the pure, inherent adventure that beckons to every young man. It says, "You could do it."

I'm enjoying the story for quotes like the one above. They say, "I'm looking back now, and am able to convey in words what I felt when I was young."

Another good one today came from Childhood's Happy Hours, (a book we had to supplement with today when we discovered I did something very, VERY bad with the page orders when I printed the second half of the even pages of Jolly Robin *sigh*). Anyway, there is a short story called "The Reading Class", in which a little girl plays school with her doll and her cat. He finished up and then came to talk to with me about it. He thought it was sweet, and funny. Then he quoted me a bit from it:
"Lilian returned to the library, and seating herself in one corner of the large arm-chair, put Isadora in the other. 'Now, Isadora,' said she, 'behave yourself while I look at the pictures, and if I find anything pretty, I'll show it to you.' Isadora, like the well brought-up dolly that she was, obeyed."
He chuckled, and said the story was full of little things that just made him smile because he got them and he appreciated that.

John read "My Lady Wind", and we had an interesting discussion about the wind as voices that spread rumors (the spark) and how such carelessness (fire) can destroy many lives and homes. Didn't see that one coming. I don't know what John learned from it, but my lesson today: don't underestimate children's poetry books.

Smidge, announced while doing "maths" (that's where the 's' from the beginning of his other words goes - mystery solved!) today, "I'm ready to learn to read." Well, alrighty, then. Can't get more upfront an invitation than that, can we? In good Spalding fashion, we began with learning the basic writing strokes, and he's on cloud nine.

Zorak is home. It's virtual Friday. Good, good stuff.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, July 12

Summer Learning Adventures

If you school year-round, you know the Summer Schedule doesn't mirror the winter, fall or spring schedules. It's different, somehow. For some families it's slower, just the basics; for others, it takes on a more literary focus and leaves off a bit of the drills. A summer homeschool environment, just like all homeschool families, can take on any number of forms and faces, styles and themes. The flexibility and variation are among the things we both love and hate about homeschooling, I think. Anyway, over at "the boards", the question of summer schedules has come up. That's one of my favorite seasonal topics, simply because everyone has their own touch, their own texture to add to the discussion. (I know I always learn so much from those threads.) Do you school year-round? If so, what does your Summer HomeSchool look like? (Or Summer Home Education Plan? Family Camp for the Incorrigibly Heat-Weary?)

I think we do read more in the summertime. Not that we don't read the rest of the year, but autumn and spring are so beautiful here. Winter reading probably rivals summer reading, except that winter is so short-lived. February, basically. If you take too long finding your gloves, you're likely to miss it. But summer in the South? We're acclimating, but I'm not holding my breath in the hope that we will one day be able to dance in the "sultry" summer afternoon humidity. So in the meantime, we do shuffle our schedule around a bit.

While it's still lovely in the mornings, we make use of it. There will be entire weeks of time later in the summer when we won't see the light of day other than to retrieve groceries. Until then, though, we get up and out early. Enjoy toast and yogurt on the front porch, maybe a chapter or two in a good book, maybe bird watch a bit. Then off to play with the dog, build forts, weed the garden (um, more on that later). Soon, we aren't feeling so perky anymore. Blech. Time to go in. We slink to the front door, and (this is how you know it's hot out) that chilly 80' a/c air gives us a Good Morning shakedown that perks us right back up. Ready to work!

Lessons. This is just a chunk of time, done in any order we fancy for the day. Latin, math, reading. Just like all. year. long. Finish those and take a break. Read another chapter or two. Share something you found. Play with EmBaby. Hey, how about a snack?

Science, History, Music, Art. Hey, how about an otter pop? Or lunch?

We finish up with the days' studies shortly after lunch. I put EmBaby down for a nap. We pile up/sprawl out/curl up somewhere comfy (usually directly beneath a ceiling fan) and read for an hour or two. Do a few chores. Start supper. Free time. Game of chess or checkers? How about that letter to Maddy? Anybody want to play gin? Mario Kart? Charades? If it's not stiflingly hot, or if we really need it, we'll head outside again.

This year is a bit different with the new activities. On game days, we have to head out right about our normal "suppertime". I've got to find a good groove, as it doesn't look like we'll have much of a break in between seasons this year (b-ball ends 8/2, f-ball begins 8/4). I've been making a light supper around 4:30 (we call it "senior supper"), and then preparing another light supper when we get home ("second supper"). On non-game days, when Zorak comes home, we eat, and the children have more time outside.

The mosquitos are getting bad now, with all the rain. Sometimes they're too tough to handle, so we stay in after supper. Most of the lightning bugs are gone now, too. (Though they were delightful while they lasted, and we look forward to them again next year.) All signs point to the beginning of our self-enforced exile from the out-of-doors. It's just for August. Then we can breathe again. This year's going to be tough, but not for schooling or lessons. Just for... being outside... in August... in the middle of the late afternoons... Come November, it'll be time to spend our afternoons at the duck blinds down at the Wildlife Refuge, and we'll be able to enjoy it because we got our other lessons done while it was hot. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, July 10

Well, that's one way to do it...

Out of the blue today, James hits me with this:

Do you know why I remember things I've read myself so well? Because I know if I don't, you'll make me read it again.

Well, at least he knows what to expect, right?

Gotta love those little guys.

Kiss 'em and love 'em!

More Reading Roundup

The boys and I also finished this week A Wrinkle in Time. That was a bit intense, I think, but we talk a lot about what we read and that helps. We moved the reading to mornings at snack and that worked much better than bedtime reading. There's a family tree in the back, which the boys spent quite a bit of time pouring over, and now they can hardly wait to get the rest of the series.

We spiked our bedtime reading with the second of the Indian in the Cupboard series, The Return of the Indian. This one is a bit darker than the first, and not as many laughs from the boys. They're still enjoying it, and it's good, in a different way.

Our current dish of Mental M&M's is the first book in the Young Jack Sparrow series. Total M&M's, and it's delightful. Well, no, not delightful. Not for me. There are far too many hints at romance between Young Jack and the Young Barmaid Arabella, for my comfort. Yet, James is getting older... oh, this makes my stomach hurt. Can we talk about something else?

Yes, the latest printouts from the Robinson disks are big hits. James is re-reading The Tale of Jolly Robin, and Our Hero, U.S. Grant, and he's thoroughly, deeply, and happily enjoying both of them. Of course, I'm starting him back quite a bit from his reading level, and we've agreed to play catchup over the summer. After reading Famous Men of Rome and Eagle of the Ninth this past year, these selections feel downright frolicsome. But I think it's good to frolic on occasion. It's good to slip back and re-read old favorites, re-explore the things you may not have picked up along the way the first time around. One day he'll be far too old to read Pollard's histories (which are geared for "the little boy, from six to twelve"), and as she says in her introduction,
"The big boy, who does not have to stop to spell out the long words and guess what they mean, will turn up his nose at it. But let him. That will not hurt us. It is the small boy we have set out to please..."
One day, in the not-to-far future, he won't be bothered with anything like this. I'm so glad we didn't miss out completely.

John's reading all the poetry he can get his hands on, and (joy-of-joys!) he's reading the Young Jack Sparrow books on his own, as well. He reads ahead, then sits in for the read-aloud. I offered to change our order or even move to reading something else aloud, but he's enjoying this the way it is, and I'm not about to complain when the children are enjoying books in their own way. How else are we to make them "ours"?

Smidge "does school" every day now. It's cute. He's quite good at it, and knows far more than Zorak or I really understood. You can't learn by osmosis, but you can certainly learn more in a rich and varied environment, where you hear the lessons of your siblings daily and sit in on history lessons and bigger read alouds. Look at any younger homeschooled sibling and you'll see it in action. I forget about that. He wants so badly to have his own binder and "signments". I give him enough to keep him happy and keep him moving in a good direction. But with this one, I remember it wasn't too long ago that James was the one with the round little face and the squat little body and the days that seem filled with all the joys that toddlerhood offers. We won't be rushing that out the door any time soon.

We won't be rushing at all, if we can help it. The journey's just too interesting, and the company is too good.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, July 9

Reading Roundup

I miss my food-based book rating system. But I'm not hungry right now, and it's too hot to think of anything hot, meaty, chewy... belch. So, we'll go with the academic cowboy theme, right? Ah, the imagery.

I finished Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Zorak looked over and saw me reading it. Saw me grimacing.

"Isn't that the guy you didn't enjoy at all, except for the bit where he ripped on Byron?"

Yep. *cringe*

"Why are you reading that? No. Wait. Let me guess. This is part of your cultural education? It's an archetype, a social thread, and you want to understand the source?"

*raising my eyebrows and lowering the book* Wow, you're good.

"Nah, I've just heard it often enough. *pause* So. Is it working?"

Heh. Wait til they install the hypnopaedic rolls in homes. Then we'll see who's laughing. Well, no, I guess we won't, because we won't realize they've come and installed them, and by the time we do, we won't mind.

Yep. This book is going to give me the willies for a month. At least.

Shake it up a little, though. I'm one of the first to throw a rod when someone says, "Oh, that can't happen here!" (When referring to some governmental atrocity being committed elsewhere, generally, not with respect to Huxley's novel, per se.) And yet, it can. It has. It does. It's good to be uncomfortable, particularly if it spurs you into action. ...What is the reality-based equivalent of soma, anyhow?

I need to go read something uplifting and encouraging, like Lord of the Flies. Ugh. But I am glad I read this. Perhaps next time I pick up one of his books, I'll go for Crome Yellow (which Dover has on sale right now... hmmmm.)



Well, it's a beautiful day for a story. Big storm. Lots of rain. Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll cancel the game tonight? (At eight - evidently, no, they don't have anywhere to be the next morning. I am SO glad we don't have to be anywhere other than curled up on the porch with a glass of tea and a good book, regardless. This is a great life!

Ooooohhhh, lots of rain and lots of thunder and lightning. I'm outta here. Maybe we'll play in the rain a bit if it lets up a little...

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, July 7

Our Latin Adventure

Well, the boys' Latin Adventure. I'm wallowing in Dowling and Henle, and while I'm making progress... it's like watching Stephen Wright parasail. (It's funny, but only if you pay very close attention.)

I'm not 100% certain what we'll do for next year. I do know that I've been pleased with the plan so far, if that helps any. If you have a young student - six to eight years old - I'd recommend starting with Prima Latina, for the child. Prima Latina can be done in six months, but with a younger student, why not buy yourself a year to get your toes wet while you figure out where you want to go from there?

John is using Prima Latina. I moved him back into that this spring, and neither of us have looked back. It's the perfect pace and tone for a six- or seven-year-old to get an introduction to Latin. Now, I won't sit here and say it's got any Latin grammar to speak of; it doesn't. (The prayers, obviously, are declined and conjugated properly, but the lessons don't cover the forms. They are for memorization - a teacher who is familiar with the material can certainly expound on it, but for that age, it's not necessarily going to sink in.) Prima Latina is best described as a basic Latin vocabulary & English grammar primer. As such, it does a phenomenal job: introduction, familiarity, use. LOVE it.

From there, I think you have to look closely at your student before making choices on programs. Fortunately, there are many to choose from, and there is likely to be one that will fill the need you have to reach your goals in teaching Latin. If you're looking for a Latin program, there is a nice collection of curriculum reviews at Paula's Archives.

John will most likely move into Latina Christiana I when we're finished with PL. I do like the Memoria Press Latin programs. I like that they are thorough, consistent, and well laid-out. What I don't like is that after Prima Latina, it gets a bit convoluted in the set up. We don't use Shurley Grammar. We won't be studying Rome at that point in our history. We won't be incorporating much of our additional reading in the same vein. There'll be a lot of work (for me!) to make it fit our school in order to get from the program as much as it has to offer. Also, it's dry as a bone. And let's be honest, most of the rest of my academic choices are also dry as a bone. (Perhaps this is my anti-humidity protest?) I know, I know, Latin is not the program you'd look to as your Fun Studies salvation... still.

James is nearly through Latin for Children Primer A. And yes, the rumors are true - there are typos and errors galore in this program. I appreciate that the folks at Classical Academic Press update their books each year, in an attempt to purge all errors from the texts. It'd be nice, however, if they'd just hold off, do a much more thorough job and get it right in one or two shots. James is learning Latin well enough, however, that he can catch and correct any mistakes in the book, on his own. He's got it, and it makes sense, and I credit that in large part to the Latin for Children program. So, for us, the typos and so forth aren't as much of a hinderance as they may be for others.

If you're going to use it, get the whole set. I don't know anybody who bought only the primer and stayed with it. At the moment, I don't know many who have stayed with it through two Primer B, to be honest, kit and all. Of course, many of these are families who were looking for a program that taught Ecclesiastical Latin, which Latin for Children is promoted as being...

And that brings me to what's killing me right now -- the program is touted as being usable for Classical AND Ecclesiastical Latin. But you can't get the DVD in Ecclesiastical, at all. According to their reps, they have no plans to make one for Ecclesiastical. The accompanying CD does offer both pronunciations, but the speaker (Dr. Perrin, I believe) slips up far too often, using Classical pronunciation on the Ecclesiastical tracks, for it to be of long-term benefit. As delightful as the CD's are, we have stopped using ours entirely.

James loves the program itself. And he is learning Latin beautifully - the lessons are thorough, interesting, and practical. He's learning it. He's loving it. He's making progress. Isn't that what we look for? *shrug* I don't know. Perhaps I'm just being whiney. In spite of all of the things we do enjoy about Latin for Children, I'm not sold yet on ordering Primer B for the coming school year.

Yet, he does need something, and he's not ready for Henle. (Heck, I'm not ready for Henle!) I'd feel completely comfortable putting John into Latina Christiana, but James is wired differently and needed a deeper, broader, more immersive approach to learning languages. So, the search continues.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, July 6

Will Undergo Surgery for Books

So, I had pretty much just planned to sell my left kidney and send the whole bag of cash to Yesterday's Classics, along with a note (probably written in my own blood) to please send me every book they've printed and launder the change.

Then I remembered that somewhere, deep in the hidden recesses of cardboard and camel crickets in the basement, I have a set of Robinson Curriculum disks. Hmmm. I wonder if... well, yes; with enough coffee, I can find almost anything! So I spent most of the last two days puttering around there to see if there's anything I can use. (Of course there is. Silly me.)

Tomorrow, I get to call Staples and find out if they'll have their binding services on sale any time soon.

But I'm so glad I printed out the book list and looked around for actual copies of the books, first. As handy as it is to have the books printed and bound (and with a laser printer, it really does come out to about $3 a book), we're not really 8.5" x 11"-size-book people. A book that size won't fit nicely on your lap on the couch, and it's horribly difficult to read in bed with a book that's wide enough to poke your husband in the head every time you turn the page or reach for chocolate. Not that these books are for me. Not all of them, anyway. *ahem*

Turns out there are just shy of a trillion places now re-printing old books! Of course, there are the Usual Suspects, but thanks to a little poking around on Amazon, I also found a few others. For instance, 1st World Publishing seems to have a nice selection of books. (I found them while looking for The Rover Boys series - the precurser to The Hardy Boys, et al.) There's a company called IndyPublishing, which has a big "get your book back in print" promotion going. There are quite a few options now, it seems. How fun!

Tom Swift? Back in print!
Rover Boys? Back in print!
Famous Men of _____ series? Take your pick of publishers!
Pyle? Synge? Pollard's histories? All in print.

*happy sigh*

So now I will have to divvy up the kidney funds among various vendors, but that's okay. We'll get more use out of a good pile of books than I would out of that one organ.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, July 5


I have to get this out of my head, where it's ambling about, making me nauseous. Zorak took the boys to the field tonight. (For a 7 o'clock practice. Do these people not have jobs they have to go to in the morning?) EmBaby and I stayed home, namely because she was up past midnight last night, and had a whopping ten minute nap in the car today between the market and the video store. Wouldn't that be a pleasant scene at the field?
"Who's torturing hogs in the bleachers? What? It's that little Precious Moments child? What are they DOING to her?"
And when the media gets ahold of those people, they'll be the very ones to say,
"They seemed like such a nice, quiet couple."
So. She and I stayed home. (Also, slightly less pressing, but in the spirit of full disclosure, my rear hurts and I'm tired, I don't have the snack-bag packed, I don't have any 3T clothes to take for the Little Red-Haired Girl to change into, and I didn't wanna go! There you have it; I am not up for being SuperMom, or SuperAnythingElse. Sorry.)

Obviously, if Zorak hadn't been home, or had a horrible accident on the way home and was in full body traction, yeah, I'd have gone. And I think that's my problem. Not that I'd have gone, but I feel guilty about not going. I always feel guilty about not going, even when my presence is not required. Even when I leap joyfully through the air as they pull onto the road, leaving me behind. I feel like I'm... well, not doing what I ought to be doing.

They left. EmBaby and I ate strawberries and chatted a while. Then she yawned. I know that yawn. In one fluid movement, I swiped her, changed her, dropped a nightgown over her head, and brushed her teeth. She was too confused to resist. We read a bit, and then I laid her down.

And then...

And then...

And then I wanted to come blog and hang out. I wanted to go read books in bed and eat chocolate. But I didn't. Partly because we don't have any chocolate (hard to buy that under the radar when all of them are with you, and wide awake). Mostly, though, because I FEEL GUILTY if I do nothing while they're gone. I feel as though, when Zorak returns from having taken the children away for a while, I need to have a clean home, fresh tea, a dead mouse to lay at his feet. Something. Something that says, "See? I didn't abandon you. I've been industrious and worthy while you were gone." (Please note: he didn't do this to me. He'd be glad for me if I'd just lay down and sleep. Or read. Really, he understands that sometimes a body just has to stop moving. No, this is aaaalllll me.)

So I cleared the dinner table, cleaned the kitchen, tidied the pantry, put the whites in the wash, cleaned up the bathroom, tidied our room, pulled all the curtains, gathered the bills to be paid, and made Zorak's lunch for tomorrow. The house wasn't dirty to begin with - it's not like I had a lot of work to do. But, I found work until some (previously unknown) internal mechanism kicked in that said, "OK, you've done enough. You can relax now."

Where did that come from? And how do I make it go away? Or should I make it go away? (It's quite possible this sensation is the only thing keeping me from collapsing into a Very Lazy Coma the second I'm left unattended, and I acknowledge that.)

It's disturbing to think that any of my good, productive habits have been formed from guilt. But then, entire nations have been build upon guilt and they lasted a lot longer than I'm likely to... so, there's that. It's just so completely foreign to me, as I know me to be. I don't get it. I just don't. But the house sure feels good now, and I think I'm going to go read for a bit. (I didn't say this quirk is without perks, did I? Just that it's a little jarring at first.)

Kiss those babies (and that one is never done out of guilt!)

Because he loves us,

Today, for no other reason than that he loves us, Zorak...

let the boys "help" make fried okra for supper (when it would have been much easier to do on his own)

packed a cooler and loaded the wagon into the Suburban (when he would have preferred to be sanding and prepping the eaves),

drove in horrible traffic (which he hates)...

to go to a Large Public Gathering (which he also cannot be classified as being "fond" of)...

to watch fireworks (which he doesn't hate, but could live without if he isn't going to be the one lighting them off - the whole display thing, eh, "pass".)...

fireworks that wouldn't begin until ten o'clock (on a weeknight - and although they ended before ten-thirty, it was still nearly midnight before we got home)...

When traffic was backed up for miles, he never complained (he thought it, but he didn't say it)...

When we had to loop into what we thought was paid parking, then loop back out, then realized there was no charge, and looped back in...

and he didn't snap at me.

And even when I snapped at him (because by the third bit of looping, I was pretty done, as well), he didn't snap back (too much).

All because he loves us. He likes to make us smile. And when he can make us smile, make us know we're safe and loved, make special memories that will last for years, all is right with his world.

And suddenly, it was all worth it. Simply because he loves us.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, July 3


Well, EmBaby was really mad. But John had a great practice. Almost three hours long. Thank God for DEET, man, that's all I'm going to say on that subject.

James suffered from some sort of mental palsy at the field that caused him no end of clumsiness - he knocked EmBaby off the bleachers several times, kicked over a box of animal crackers, cracked Smidge in the head with his knee, dropped his book untold times, and then sent my coffee flying when he tried to get out of the way after sending EmBaby down between the steps on the bleachers. Poor kid was so exasperated. He said, "Wow, I guess I'm having a bit of a klutz day, aren't I?" Well, yeah, but like I told him, we all have days like that on occasion. It's okay. Then I directed him to sit, on his butt, yes - both cheeks, over there, a good two body-lengths away from the small ones, while I cleaned up the coffee.

And yet, the kid recovered well. I sent him to the Suburban to look for paper towels, asking him specifically not to lock the keys in the car because Daddy won't be home until after they've rolled up the sidewalks. He returned and I could see he didn't have paper towels. Nor did I see any keys. I froze. I think I whispered, "You don't, by chance, still have the keys, do you?" HE froze. A look of horror-stricken panic spread across his face. I might have thrown up a little bit. Then he burst into laughter and produced the keys from his back pocket, whole and unscathed (but most importantly, NOT still in the car!) "Did you really think I'd locked them in?" Um, yeah. I thought it was a distinct possibility. "*cackle* *chuckle* *guffaw* That's why I thought it would be so funny!" Keep laughing, Kid. I have pictures from the year you thought it was kosher to wear your underwear on the outside of your pants...

And speaking of underwear... I think I got peed on by one of the little siblings. Not one of mine. Mine don't pee on people. But I'm pretty sure the Little Red-Haired Girl who plays with Smidge and EmBaby peed on my lap while we were playing. (If I didn't come with my own children, you'd think I was some kind of Child Catcher - while all the Moms Who Know Each Other hang out and talk salons and bbq plans, their younger children, left to fend for themselves, end up with me and my crew at the other end of the bench. I look like the woman with eighteen kids all disturbingly close in age, and all with different fathers.) Anyway, when she got off my lap, the tops of my pantlegs were soaked. So where her britches. Her mother left shortly thereafter. Ew. So, um, I think Thursday I'll bring extra clothes - some for her, and some for me.

And it's over. And we lived. And I still have four children. And nobody got left at the park. And Zorak is on his way home! YAY!!!!

Kiss those babies!

We Made It, But It Hurt

You know, really, our kids are pretty obedient. If James disobeys, it's usually because he either forgot what he was doing, or forgot that it was/wasn't in the rule book. Very, very seldom is it ever intentional. When John disobeys, it's usually because he didn't understand or got conflicting directions from each parent and he panics. He would gladly oblige, IF he could tell what he was supposed to do. Smidge - eh, he's three. And EmBaby may or may not inadvertently off herself by diving from the rooftop well before she gets the whole obedience thing down.

That said, there is one directive that will inevitably cause all four of my children to turn to plaster. Hollow, unthinking, unmoving plaster. The deadly directions? Seemingly simple:
"Eat up, kids. We have to go soon."
You can hear the brakes screeching all along their central nervous systems, and watch some little man pull down the shutters in their eyes. It doesn't matter HOW early we get them started, that phrase will guarantee that we complete a meal (or at least have to leave it partially-eaten because it's Time. To. Go.) amid a non-stop stream of panic and mayhem, with them moving in bad-dream-slow-motion and me bounding about shedding like I'm three months post-partum and suffering mange. Someday I will learn not to tell them to hurry. I'll just serve smaller portions and remain conspicuously quiet. By the door. With the keys and a stack of wet wipes.


We got there on time. 8:30. We left from Smidge's appointment after 11:00. He did so much work on that child, I could not believe it. I've never, ever seen a more productive dentist. Again, we left with all the promised work completed, and this time a little more, as well. Smidge has deep crevices in his molars (I was so relieved when the assistant heard me sigh as she started scraping and said, "Oh, no, these aren't your fault. There's nothing you can do about this." I could have cried!) So the dentist cleaned them out and sealed them up. Yay! Insurance won't pay for sealants on baby teeth, but if that'll save him from going through what John and James are going through, I'll pay for it in chickens and homemade moccasins, if I have to. WOOHOO! He did the first half of fixing Smidge's poor front teeth (which have the same problem John's did), and applied a gluey substance to them to keep them until his next appointment. He also filled two cavities. That's a lot of work for a little guy, but Smidge was so happy to be there, seeing Dr. Beitel, getting his teeth fixed, that he never uttered a sound.

We left, ate lunch, spent 30 minutes at one of those hideous "community sponsored projects" - you know, the wooden outdoor playgrounds that, judging from the utter lack of visual contact a parent has once her child disappears into the labrynth, were obviously designed by angry pedophiles. I hate those things. But the kids love them, and this one is fenced in with only one option for egress. (God help us if the thing catches fire - we'll all roast at the bottleneck in the gate.) And then, straight back to the dentist's office!

This time for John, who was not so enthusiastic. He's a bit cynical. He's heard all the feel-good rhetoric before. "This will get you all fixed up." (Yeah, any more fixing and he's going to need dentures.) "Just a little longer." (What is this, a road trip?) He was good, and patient, and didn't say any of the things he was thinking. We were there from 1:00 until 3:30. Three teeth. Seven surfaces. On one of the teeth, the dentist muttered that this was "herodontics". I guess my RCA puppy look tipped him off that this would be a somewhat *new* term to me (and not a comforting one). He said in 99 out of 100 cases, he'd have put a crown on that one, but that John's been through so much already that he thinks he can make this work without putting him through more than absolutely necessary.

Of course, he also said since John's four front teeth are next in the queue to come out, our best bet is to leave them be and encourage him to ride his bike a lot this summer. You know, downhill. (I kid you not. He said if ever there's a time to live dangerously, speaking from a dental perspective, John's in the sweet spot.) I thought that was pretty cool. John wasn't as receptive to the idea of living dangerously for the summer.

And we headed home. All I wanted was to brew a pot of coffee, pee in a non-public toilet, and have a quiet evening at home.

But no. Ball practice tonight. I did sort of hope John wouldn't be up for it, but for some reason, God saw fit to give the child a whole lot of fortitude. I know he didn't get it from me. Anyway, Zorak's out of town today, and EmBaby is going to be SO mad when I have to wake her up to get to the field.

At least it's all a Good Productivity. Right?
Kiss those babies!

Six O'Clock and All's Well. I think.

I know beggars can't be choosers, but really, why did I agree to an 8:30 in-town appointment and a 1:00 in-town appointment on the same day, two days before payday? In the middle of the hot'n'sticky summer? Oh. That's right, because the children need to see the dentist, and this was the soonest we could get them in. Right, then.

So, it's six o'clock, and I'm up. Dressed. Slowly feeling the caffeine drip kick in. Staring at the kitchen, thinking I should have made bread last night, and wondering how bad the mid-day meltdown would be if the boys didn't get protein with their breakfast... Stoopid birds have been up and at it for two hours already. This might be why they don't live long.

OK, so I'm no longer a morning person. I might be, if I got to bed earlier last night, but I had paperwork to shred and finances to fuss over. It's probably a good thing we don't have a cow or a goat yet because I'm afraid it'd explode before we got down to the barn to milk in the mornings. It's going to take a lot of work to get into a more agrarian-friendly schedule. A. Lot. Of. Work.

And while I'm sitting here, looking suspiciously around at My Life, I've got to ask, "How can it be July 3 already? Where'd that come from?" It seemed such a long time away when I made the appointments. Really it did. But, here it is again, that time warp thing. OK, we have books, paper, diapers, snacks, water. Packed and good to go.

I guess all that's left to do is rally the troops. That'll be fun. James came out last night around ten with his eyes wide open and a tortured look on his face as he said, "Mom, I get what you mean now about the tooth grinding driving you nuts. It's bad in there!" Heh. I know, kiddo. I know. So I let him lay down in our room to fall asleep. We waited and waited. He popped out at eleven with a bottle of calamine lotion - the Missing Bottle of Calamine Lotion. He found it "behind the nightstand"... (Um, sweetie, I hate to point this out in such a short manner, but why, exactly, were you behind the nightstand at eleven o'clock at night? Do you like being miserable or did you think I was joking about waking you up three hours before you normally arise in the morning?) Judging by the look on his face, that never dawned on him. He went straight to bed, and to sleep. But I still don't relish waking that one up this morning.

Well, perhaps the smell of sausage will lure them out... or I could just set fire to something in the hallway and hope the smoke alarms do the trick? Hmm. This could be fun. Ok, I'm off!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, July 2

Oh fun!

Got this in my email.

We thought you'd like to know that we shipped your items, and that this completes your order.

Yeah, that was nice to know.

This is downright euphoric.

Kiss those babies!

This 'n That

We had such a productive weekend. We hit a fire sale at the nursery and bought three flats of vegetable plants for .25 per plant. WOOHOO. They were a bit root bound, but we figured that's okay. Better to try than to just let them get thrown into a compost heap somewhere. Of course, it would've worked better if we'd researched just *how* to transplant root bound plants properly before we dove right in... still. You know. We never said the learning curve isn't steep, right?

We finally put the watermelons and pumpkins in the melon patch down by the barn! That felt good. It'll probably feel even better if we can get anything to come up, flower, and then actually produce fruit.

We played ball, walked in circles, read great stories, played video games, and ate well. It was a great weekend. I even cleaned, but without having to neglect the children, since they were outside playing ball with Zorak. Talk about guilt-free time alone! Yeah, that's good stuff.

Tonight, Zorak and I went through all the paperwork, sorted, purged, sifted, purged, and then purged a little more. Oh, I can breathe again! (I hate paper clutter, and yet, that's the sort I seem to collect. Terribly self-defeating. Superman didn't mine kryptonite. Pffttt.) And then, just as I sat down to set up my notebook (July through September - I've actually been keeping this thing up-to-date and good to go, with budgeting, scheduling, lesson plans, book lists, and hometending information!)... the printer no printy. What the--


Toner light is on.

And when this thing says it needs toner, it means now.

So, in a fit of desperation, fighting the sense of utter isolation in knowing I don't have toner and I can't print books, and NOTHING IS OPEN AT MIDNIGHT HERE IN THE COUNTRY (yes, at which point, even I whispered, "um, der!" *sigh* I know...) I signed up for the free trial of Amazon Prime. Because they had my toner cartridge. And it made perfect sense to do that for the free two-day shipping. Yes, things will be open in the morning, but by morning, my panic will have subsided. And the children will be up and expecting food and attention. And... I just don't leave the house unless I have to. Now, I don't have to!

So, no lesson plans or Baldwin reading until Wednesday. But that's okay, we have plenty of other things to enjoy in the meantime. (Right, like math and Latin, you say? hee hee)

No, we have a lot to keep us busy. We've got work in the garden, and soil samples to finish gathering and test. We have the hummingbird feeder up (yes, finally - one flew by yesterday, stopped and looked right at us, as if to say, "What? You think we can't see that feeder sitting in there on the counter? Where's our FOOD, people?!?" Guilt can be quite the motivator.) We have another bird feeder to finish cleaning (who knew you could get that much grime on such a small surface area? Ew.) A birdhouse to hang. Birds to watch, and things to draw.

There's so much to be done, no matter how much or how little we have to do it with, we will always have plenty. And plenty to do, as well. So exciting!

Here's to a fantastic week! Kiss those babies!