Wednesday, October 31

It's a happy halloween

Smidge came running into the kitchen yesterday morning, announcing, "It's Halloween!" When I told him it wouldn't be until today, he burst into tears and went back to bed. I want to remember to live with that much passion. Can you imagine looking forward to something so much that you were that crestfallen to realize it's not here yet? The key, I suppose, is in learning to control how we respond to disappointments, without losing that fervor. Passion and love with control and respect. It's a lifelong process, no?

But now, it's here. When SleepyHeadedJames gets up, we'll have pumpkin pancakes, and then the hoardes can suit up. (I try to be fun about all this, but I refuse to haul little sticky creatures around with me all day, like giant lint rollers for all the debris on the streets. Blech. Eat first, then get costumed.)

I know Thanksgiving doesn't come, officially, for another month. But this morning, walking around in the chilled, dewy morning, I couldn't help but make a mental note of all we have to be thankful for: bills are mostly paid; inside the house feels significantly warmer than the outside does; there are all the ingredients in the kitchen we need to make a healthful, delicious breakfast; we have friendship, joy, and love in our lives. My list went on, getting down to the mundane, and probably the ridiculous, but I couldn't help it. Socks. I am so thankful for warm socks. Baby giggles, and big brothers, and stoopid dogs. Just so much that I'm thankful for, and that I've got a passion for.

If I woke up tomorrow to find I'd lost these babies, and our warm bed, or my wonderful husband, I'd cry and go back to bed (or some fascimile of), too. I'm not sure what "appropriate" would mean in a situation like that (yet, here I am, in charge of teaching it to these little ones). I know, in my mind, that there is always something to be thankful for. My heart doesn't always see that. I also know, in my mind, that sometimes we forget to appreciate and cherish the things that mean the most to us. Until we lose them. I don't want to force that hand, really. I want to love, and cherish, and honor all my blessings right now, while I can, while it will matter, while they are mine. Messy, noisy, sticky, wonderful blessings of this life. They're my gifts, and I am thankful. In my heart and my mind.

Kiss those babies! And Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29

For Those Who Worry (Baby Update)

All's well. Baby5 is measuring just fine @ 18 - 1/2 weeks. I've gained seven pounds so far. Heartbeat is strong and regular. And if you're the technical type, the UA came back clean. ;-)

We have a number to call for an OB who will do an ultrasound. She'd like us to go in sometime this month. I can't believe it's *that* far along, already. Wow. Time really does fly when... well, when you have a lot of kids and don't keep your wall calendar up to date.

Kiss those babies!

The Appointment That Just Won't Be

I swear we aren't doing this on purpose. The phone just rang. It's the midwife, asking if we're still on for this morning.

This morning?

Yeah, you have an appointment this morning.

(She woke me up when she called... through the fog, I could tell the coffee pot wasn't on, but that's about all that clicked.) Um, what... what time this morning?

You're appointment is at nine.

A glance at the clock tells me it's 8:30. Wow. Yeah, we are so not going to make that one. Nobody's up. Charles is gone, so I'm guessing the alarm went off at *some* point, but the rest of us? Out cold.

This wouldn't be a problem, except she and I have been playing musical appointments for the last two months. I'm sure she's starting to think I am a complete flake. We had one appointment scheduled, pending a quarry day. Come the day of the appointment, there was a quarry day. So, I didn't go. Neither did she, so that was all okay.

Em kept us up all night the night before the next appointment. Then the midwife had a birth and missed the following appointment. I don't know why we missed the one after that, but we rescheduled and then were in New Mexico for that one. (I made Charles call and cancel that appointment. Yes, I am a coward. He said she sounded skeptical, too.) Later on, I rescheduled for the Monday after we returned from New Mexico, only to remember a few hours later that I had no transportation. So. We rescheduled for... this morning.

She can see me at noon today. Think I can make it? Everybody's up now. And talking. Nonstop. (As if I'm capable of caring about the price of crabby patties before I've had a cup of coffee... it's amazing.)

John's fever broke around one this morning. That's when I went to bed. I'd like to be there, now, to be honest, all tucked in and sleeping. But did I mention they're all up? And talking? Ugh. It's going to be a long, long day. However, at least they all sound healthy and happy. That's good. I hope they'll take care of me when I'm sick, one day. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, October 28


Let's file this under the "Thank heaven these things aren't really this size" category, shall we? (The big bush in front of it is probably three, or three-and-a-half feet tall. Yikes.)

I had a bunch to say. Then John came down sick. At first, it was "cranky, headachy" sick. (Which can often be confused with "don't wanna unload the dishwasher" sick, so I didn't worry too much.) But come bedtime, he had that Kill Me Now look on his face, and he didn't laugh at any of the funny parts of the story. (Which could also be my reading skills, so again, not much worry.) Till I reached over to kiss him goodnight, and he was hot to the touch. Gah.

For future reference, the thermometers are in the shallow drawer beneath the bathroom sink. I say this now, because I will not remember the next time we need to find them. (There are several in there - you'd think I'd strew them about the place, to increase the odds that we'll find one when we need it, huh? Nope. Everybody needs a good panicky sensation once in a while.)

He's tucked in and sound asleep, with a cup of ginger ale and a box of tissues by his bedside. I hated to dose him up, but his fever was high enough that we felt it'd be best to let him get some rest, so he's been dosed and snuggled, and instructed to beat on something if he has trouble breathing. (I'm sure that was a comforting thing to hear, huh? Oh, well, he's asleep now.)

And with that, I'm just going to go sit watch. Because sometimes, that's what you do.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, October 26


Some people will be posting Fine Art Friday. Not me. I don't think we even have a working Etch-A-Sketch anymore. But that's okay. It's still Friday. WOOHOO!

The boys last night wanted to know when we were going to decorate for Halloween. Huh? Decorate for Halloween? What do you mean? Didn't ya see the cobwebs over the porch door frame? The spiders in the windows? If that isn't Authentic Halloween Decor, I don't know what is! John got all misty-eyed, and said, "I miss Maryland." (OH! Yeah. Miss Erin, our wonderful neighbor there, has this hideous ability to do crafty things for holidays. And I could take advantage of going down there to drink her coffee and let my kids do crafty things on her back porch rather than on our white carpet. It seemed so easy at the time. I forgot. I'll have to have a talk with her about setting the bar way too high on this issue.)

Honestly, I can't believe they don't know by now that I'm Really Bad At That Stuff. I don't decorate for anything but Christmas, and that has to be done surrepetitiously because Zorak doesn't decorate for Christmas without wifely bribes and a blood oath that I'll keep the radio off the Christmas Music Station. So, truthfully, I think they knew what they were doing in suggesting this activity. Great, holiday mafia. Perhaps they'll work for Hallmark one day.

So. Because I am a softie, I'm hoping I can just break out the window markers and craft paper and let them design their own window decorations. We don't have white carpet in this house, so I don't care what they do on the floors! (Yes, decorator choices via lifestyle weaknesses. It's all the rage among, well, parents.)

At least they'll have costumes. Mostly. Maybe. EmBaby will be a lion. (The same lion Smidge was our first Halloween here in AL. I cannot believe she's that big, already.) Smidge, who, for the past *year*, has wanted to be a pirate, saw the snake costume last night and decided on the spot that there's nothing more he'd like to be than a 'nake. *sniff* That was John's costume. Er, when he was two... I'm not sure it'll fit, but we'll give it a shot. John's costume seemed so easy, particularly since we have Zorak's graduation robe to alter into a Hogwart's robe. But I'm having trouble locating it, now. And the glasses? The wand? A tie? How can something so popular be so difficult to shop for? I don't get it. And then there is James. Superman "for the third year running" - it's more of an internal competition for him, I think. Seemed easy enough. However, there is not, it seems, a Superman costume in size 10, anywhere in Madison county. We'll try Morgan county today. I asked James what his backup plan was, and he said, "Oh. Well, my backup plan is to ask you to make one." Heh. Yeah. Not when we've been gone this much, and we're 24 hours out from the party. No. Keep brainstorming, kiddo. Perhaps you can go as The Neglected Child.

I don't really need a housekeeper, or a laundress. Not even a cook. What I really, desperately need is a Holiday Nanny. Somebody to come swooping in about three weeks before each major holiday and whip us into shape. Then go. Leave. I'm not equipped to handle that much extra laundry and clean-up duty year-round.

But since we don't have that, we'll make do. And it'll be okay. (But Erin, if you get a box with air holes in it, open immediately. It'll have holiday-deprived children in it!)

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, October 25

Dental Update

Zorak just called. He didn't give details, but a basic report:

No New Cavities on any of the boys!


OK, no matter what else might be a mess right now, all is right with my world, for a few, brief moments.

James does have some "deep fissures" on his back molars that they'd like to seal in the next few months, and that's a-okay with me. It's worth the money for the added protection. (You know, when we talked about the characteristics and traits we hoped each child would inherit, my teeth were nowhere on the list. *sigh* Poor kids.)

I'm off to make biscuits, gravy, and eggs for a late brunch. Happy Day.

Kiss those babies!

Late Night Recap

Zorak brought me a small creamer to tide me over until tomorrow's grocery run. Is that love, or what?

The boys get to go to the dentist tomorrow. Seriously, they're psyched about it. Smidge and John both want to make sure they get up early enough to spike their hair (it finally came out that this desire to have 'pikey hair, as Smidge calls it, comes from Dr. B, who does, in fact, have very 'pikey hair). Smidge also informed me while we flossed that he's considering dentistry, rather than engineering. What the older two will do with their plans for a wholly sibling-run engineering firm, I don't know. Perhaps they can contract with him for employee dental care?

Truthfully, I don't get it, but I am not. saying. a word. Know what I mean? If a dentist can inspire this kind of confidence and admiration in children who've been under his drill, then there's got to be something to it, I think. Plus, all the work he's done has actually stayed done. I have no problem coughing up the money for the cool surf-board-style chairs when the work is done well. AND (as if we need more reasons?), his office staff is stellar about scheduling as many children as possible all in one block. That can't be easy for them, to have us loitering there for hours on end, but it's a significant help to me not to make the 45 min. drive more often than absolutely necessary, or have to stay in town for several hours between appointments. So, off we go in the morning, and hopefully their teeth haven't gotten worse since the last check up. *fingers crossed*

In honor of the chilly weather, and the fact that the children spent the day wearing their blankets like sarapes, we brought up the winter clothes tonight. Looks like Smidge and Em are set. Still not sure on John. He's at such a strange point with his growth. Anything from a 6 to a 10 might fit, but you'll just have to try it to know for sure. And James is going to have to come shopping with me tomorrow afternoon. There's just no two ways about it. Thankfully, he has shoes, so I won't be faced with the same emotional trauma Mere experienced the other day. I can happily plug my ears and sing to myself and not look at the size tags. (I'm thinking a similar approach may come in handy when he shows an interest in girls, too. Sort of a self-preservation Tourette's. Every time he mentions a girl-who-is-just-a-friend, I can shriek loudly and start humming to myself. I'll let ya'll know how that pans out.)

The Week of the One Vehicle Family may soon be at an end. Let us all pause while I sigh in relief. It's not that we go anywhere, really, or that we've gone without at all (Zorak calls on his way home everyday to see if we need something). It's just that I've spent the week with one heck of an eye twitch, regularly threatening the children with bodily harm if they so much as come close to needing a trip to the ER while Zorak's at work. Yes, I see the irony in that. Thankfully, only the older two get it. The smaller ones, who are most likely to need a trip to the ER (also ironic), are completely convinced that it's a legitimate argument. The two who get it know I'm joking. Mostly. But they've been Very Careful this week, and I appreciate it.

And that's about it. I'd better get some sleep, or I fear I'll curl up on a dentist's chair and crash while the boys are getting their checkups!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, October 24

Still No Card

Well, the SSA office called back. Actually, it seems I'd spoken with the supervisor, who tracked it down and made the pleasant lady I'd originally dealt with call me back. (He had asked if we'd provided a vaccination card as proof of ID, and when I mentioned how extremely unprofessional the woman at the desk had been, he said, "Oh, okay, based just on that, I know who you dealt with. OK, I can find it now." Lovely. I got his problem child. We're paying this woman to drop the ball and foist her attitude and personal philosophies on citizens. Makes ya feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn't it? Your tax dollars at work.

When she called back, she began the conversation with, "I have all the original paperwork here, and I've *just* re-faxed the copy of your birth certificate to Montgomery."


"Well, sometimes faxes don't go through, and we have no way of knowing."

What?!? (I'm sorry, but the last time I worked in the corporate world, it was for Xerox, and I am very well aware that fax confirmation is a standard feature on business machines. And that was ten years ago. You know when it went through.) So what she meant to say was, "Maybe it did, maybe it didn't. I never checked."

I asked if she has, oh, a phone number in Montgomery, so that she could call down there to confirm whether they received it. She said it's their policy to wait. Then she started in on how difficult it is to get a number for a child if you don't do it immediately upon birth, and that's why hospitals handle it, and really, if we hadn't waited so long...

(Sooooo, if we hadn't waited so long, you'd have checked to see if the fax went through? Or if we hadn't had a homebirth, you wouldn't have your hackles up? What, exactly, is the problem, here? Because from where I'm standing, it looks like Federal Gov't inefficiency, to me.)

I cut her off and let her know that I expect to hear from her regularly on this, and I will be calling weekly until I have a number. (What other options do I have? If there's a way to be more proactive on this, or circumvent the woman, please fill me in.)

And yes, yes I do look at situations like this and absolutely wonder at how anybody thinks nationalizing any industry is a good idea. It's a terrifying concept.


Tuesday, October 23

Oh, yeah, let's make it BIGGER

So, remember my little visit to the Social Security Administration, back at the beginning of September? Here's a recap, taken from an update in the comments section:

Well, the doctor's office put together a "packet", which they hoped would suffice. It included a vaccination card (which is empty, but it's filled in w/ the required information, and a note on the bottom that we have opted to delay vaccines). The SS lady held it up, *scoffed at me* and said, "And just where, exactly, did you get THIS from?" I got it, exactly, from the child's pediatric office, and it was one item which *your* office expressly cited as "acceptable". She furrowed her brows at me, "It's empty."

Well, hey, she doesn't have to be vaccinated in order to get a ss#. (That'll come later, under Universal Health Care.) I'm providing this as one of YOUR acceptable forms of ID. *big smile*

She wouldn't accept it. I guess it looked fake.

Fortunately, the rest of the packet, although each individual piece of evidence was dismissed, did, when taken as a whole, provide enough information that they couldn't show us the door without more effort than it was worth.

Now she'll send the copy of the original birth certificate (the copy she made, herself, from the original, there in the office) to Montgomery, where they will verify that it is "an exact copy of the original", and then they will mail us the card.

Honestly, if the use and abuse of a social security number were better monitored (and abuses prosecuted) -- if there was any validation for all of this "security", I wouldn't mind so much. But as it stands, they are holding our money (tax refund) hostage until we jump through the mystery hoops. It's ridiculous.

So, we're well past the three week mark. Or the six week mark. We're sneaking up on the eight week mark, and we thought FOR CERTAIN there'd be a social security number waiting for us at the post office. Nope. Not even a hint of a number, or a note, or a Dear John letter. Nothing.

I'd called in the past to check on the status, and every time, I have to hang up after five or six minutes on hold because, well, children get hungry. Or poop. Or mutiny. Today, I hung in there. Thirty three minutes on hold, but I got a human.

A human who has no record of our application, my existence, or EmBaby's birth. Mmmmm, yeah. OK, so this is working well, no? Sure! What else can we put the Federal Gov't in charge of, while we're at it? Gah.

Kiss those babies ~ legal, or not. ;-)

Well, this is just weird

Zorak came into the room this morning to kiss me good-bye and exclaimed, "Why, you're holding a coffee cup!" I looked over, and yes, yes I was holding a coffee cup. In bed. While I slept. I didn't know what was going on, but it was clear that either my addiction has now gone way beyond humorous anecdotal self-degradation, or something else happened...

It took me a minute to clear the fog, but a foot to the kidney quickly brought it all into focus: Embaby was in our bed. Ahhh, okay. I think I remember something. It was dark, she was crying, I brought her to bed with us. After that, it all goes black. I went back to sleep. Zorak slept. However, from piecing together the evidence, it seems she didn't go back to sleep (like ALL the other children did in similar situations - I thought it was safe!) I've been up a little over an hour, now, and I'm finding evidence at every turn that she went foraging, exploring, one might say rampaging, finally collapsing back in our bed after a night of toddler partying that would have made John Belushi cringe.

Pistachio shells, sucked clean, lay along the couch. Garlic, lemon-lime, green chile, and red chile. It's all there.

An old-fashioned candy stick (the kind you get at Cracker Barrel) was stuck to the floor in the hallway, half-gnawed and still in the wrapper. We haven't been to Cracker Barrel in a while...

There were several naked dolls and various hard, poky things piled atop my pillow. Gifts, or threats? It's hard to tell, really.

There's a damp washrag on the floor behind my chair. I'm not even going to ask.

She keeps this up, though, and I'm getting ear plugs for me and a lid for her crib. I just hope this isn't indicative of how the rest of the day will go.

Kiss those strange little babies!

Monday, October 22

Don't tell the kids, but we're such softies...

"Don't get too near it, kids! It's wild!"

You've *named* it?

*sigh* OK.

So if I say it's a barn cat, will that make it a barn cat?

Kiss those babies!

Sweet Relief

I awoke this morning to find it felt about twenty degrees warmer than when I went to bed last night. And, no sun. Ohhh, I know what this means:

Compliments of The Weather Channel. See that patch of dark green? We're in that! WOOHOO! A reprieve from the drought!

Well, that's certainly a good reason to procrastinate erm, wait on the painting.

We'll probably go play in it for a bit, too, if it's one of those warm, fall rains. (If it's not, then the kids will probably go play in it while I sit on the porch and wonder "what's wrong with kids these days". Heh. Yep.)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, October 21

What's Wrong With This Picture?

Lovely fall morning, bright meadow... what could possibly be wrong with this picture?

Um, we don't have chickens.

They can't hold our dog responsible if he snaps under this kind of temptation, can they?

Anyhow, we're home. Safe and sound. It's a beautiful Autumn Day here in the South, and we're enjoying it to the fullest!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, October 17

An Outing

What an amazing few days we've had, here. I took the kids to the NM Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum on Tuesday, thinking it might help Aunt B to have a day of peace and solitude. The day was so chaotic for us that I realized I'd have liked to stay for the peace and solitude, too.

The two older ones seemed to have been infected by some kind of brain-eating worm that heads straight for the I Know Better Cortex. The two small ones, I sincerely suspected, had been slipped a small dose of crack. As it turns out, however, the dust and pollen counts were horribly high, the winds were horrific, and I think they all had a terrific case of allergies. Benadryl to the rescue! (trumpet sounds the charge in the distance) Since then, everyone seems to be drug and brain-eating-worm free. Yay!

The milking demonstration was interesting, from beginning to end. Poor Bessie, however, is currently suffering from mastitis. She was very patient right up until the hands put the iodine on her teats. Then her head shot straight up, and her poor eyes bulged right to the verge of falling out of her head. I was right there with her, man. I don't care if you're human or bovine - mastitis is miserable, period. The boys were disappointed to learn they couldn't try, or purchase, the raw milk from the milking. One of them mused that mastitis milk probably isn't very good. (I kept my mouth shut today, but that's certainly some leverage, or therapy, in a few years, don't you think?)

We stopped by Sissa's place to see how her son's project is coming along (Homecoming float for his fraternity- she's the ultimate College Mom, and has allowed the kids to completely take over the back yard), let the kids play with her dogs (while she and I both giggled over the fact that she, who has always had Irish Wolf Hounds, is now running a home for wayward small dogs), and enjoyed some coffee and a chat. EmBaby got my coffee and wouldn't give it back until she'd drained most of it. The cup was bigger than her head, and she was so funny as she'd sidle away from me, saying, "mmmm! Coppee! Num! Coppee." You'd think by child number four, I wouldn't be incapacitated by the utter cuteness of such antics. But I am.

Wednesday and Thursday, we spent a lot of time with Gram. The kids watched more Cartoon Network than I should've allowed, but it was a nice treat for them. We'll be back to rabbit ears in a while, and they're in heaven right now. Gram's been feeling fairly well, and so she's been up for story telling, filling me in on the stories of her childhood and her time raising the children. She's such a gentle, funny lady. I want to age gracefully and mellow like that.

Yesterday was a raw day for a couple of us. I cried a lot. I'm very tired, and a little out of sorts. As nice as this visit has been, and as much as we've all learned, it'll be nice to be home again. Be nice to get back to our routine (and address that gnawing sensation in the back of my head that the children are going to forget everything they've ever learned about math before we can get to it again - y'all know that feeling).

Zorak's mother came down last night, and we had a good visit. She stayed here, so we'll get to see her this morning before we board the plane and head back to the South. Our Wonderful Neighbor Claudia said a few dirty words when she filled me in on the humidity we've got there right now, so I'm going to go wallow in the arid, crisp air this morning and gulp down a few deep, dry breaths to brace me against the change.

Learning From the Masters

We came out to be of help. We weren't sure what would be needed, but came prepared to offer anything; time, manual labor, office duties, maid services. So far, we've been... well, pretty useless. The Aunts (Aunt JoAnn, Aunt Sally, Aunt Linda, and even Aunt B, in the midst of all of this) have got it covered. These women are masters of the craft, and I'm... well, I'm following them around trying to learn.

They anticipate every need with mind boggling speed. Before you know you're thirsty, there's a glass of water set before you. And, oh, it's very good. Before you can get to the washing machine to help with the laundry, two loads are hung, one's drying, and another is going in. Where'd they find all this stuff to wash? Just when you're thinking perhaps you might be able to make a grocery run, one of them slides into the living room to see if anybody else needs anything because she's heading out to Sam's. Um...

Even guests receive the red carpet treatment without so much as a hiccough in the running and maintenance of the household. I can't do that under the best of circumstances, but these ladies are masters. True masters. They carry in them the wisdom and habituation of those who've never disdained the call to serve. They have internalized every nuance of every aspect of life, and now, they wear the mantles of comforter, helper, nurse, cheif cook and bottle washer (and many more, some of which I only see the results of, but have no idea what to call them) with such grace and efficiency that although you're right there, in the middle of it, you still don't see how it all comes together.

So. Yes, I'm pretty useless, in spite of my desire to help. But I'm learning, watching, (probably pestering, as well). I've got to figure this out, because these ladies are just the women you want to arrive on your doorstep when you most need help and cannot articulate exactly what you need. They'll know. They'll get on it. You'll take a deep breath and realize, hey, everything's going to be alright. I want to be these ladies. (If you have a crisis at my house right now, about all you're likely to get is hot coffee and place to collapse. I can't even promise you quiet or comfort.) Here, at Aunt B's, though, there is company and comfort abounding, and everything that can be taken care of, is. Pretty amazing stuff. Pretty amazing women.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, October 13

Hi from NM!

We made it. The celebration of Uncle Fred's life was beautiful, touching, and filled with the laughter and wisdom that Uncle Fred shared with everyone in his life.

The boys are holding up well, considering we've now been on the road for nearly a week and a half with a quick do-the-wash-clean-the-fridge break in there midway through. EmBaby needs to do a little more traveling. Sheesh, all this Need For Routine is going to be the death of her! But, in all, she's handling things like a trooper, eating food from whomever will feed her, and sleeping wherever she passes out. I think in time she'll be quite the well-seasoned traveler.

The weather is fantastic. Mid-80's, which seems awful for October, but really, when the humidity is under 30%, it's absolutely gorgeous. We all sat on the driveway last night, snacking and chatting and thoroughly enjoying the company in the beautiful desert evening air. We couldn't ask for a more comforting environment, from the company to the weather.

Thank you, all, for your kind thoughts, and well wishes. I will pass them on to Aunt B. and the rest of the family. They are much appreciated.

And now, I'm off to round up the babies and head back to the coral (hotel).

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, October 11

Uncle Fred

This is a hard post to write. I'd hoped to have a better grasp of the words to do it with, but here we sit, and the words won't come.

If you've been reading here for long, you know all about Aunt B and Uncle Fred. They are who we want to be when we grow up. They are a huge part of keeping Family real, and making it meaningful. Uncle Fred's part in that process has meant so much to us through the years. He was a big influence on Charles' foray into engineering. He welcomed me into the family in his quiet, steadfast way. He's been a calming influence, a source of wit and dry humor; a delightful devil's advocate in late night discussions, and a person for whom the word "integrity" means the world.

This is one of my favorite photos of him, taken at the City of Rocks this past May. He'd been out and about all day, enjoying the company, the kids, the weather. I just love this picture.

I love that smile. That's the smile of someone who found something to enjoy in life, and enjoyed it.

This Saturday, we lost Uncle Fred. He and Aunt B were with the rest of us in North Carolina for the wedding. We all enjoyed a beautiful day at the lake house on Friday, and that evening, at the hotel, Uncle Fred and Cousin David watched a ball game together and argued about distances between bases. It was a full day, and a lovely day. It was the kind of day you'd want to have if you knew it would be your last. But we didn't know that, then. We just knew it was a wonderful day. Yet by Saturday afternoon, Uncle Fred was gone.

Charles says that without the Uncle Freds of the world, everything would come to a grinding halt, that he was one of the individuals that everyone else seeks out when the path forward is no longer evident. Uncle Fred loved knowledge -- for it's practical applications, for its own sake, for the potential it held. Not many people value knowledge on a level like that. He would teach you if you wanted to learn (and were willing to do your part), and would learn from anyone who had knowledge to share. If you had a plan, and you talked with Uncle Fred about it, if he said it would probably work, well, it would probably work. If he said it wouldn't work, you could pretty well bet it wouldn't work. He might tell you why it wouldn't work, but he probably wouldn't tell you what would work. He wanted you to know the enjoyment of figuring things out for yourself, of finding the answer and knowing it was right. For him, that was the good stuff. There was no obstacle that was impassible, to his mind; only more or less challenging to overcome. His enthusiasm was at once overwhelming and contagious.

Taryn and Patrick wanted to postpone the wedding, but Aunt B quoted Uncle Fred's philosophy as part of her argument that they should proceed as planned:
Can you do anything to fix the situation? Then what are you fussing about?
That's such a familiar phrase, and so very like the way Uncle Fred approached any situation. If you can fix it, fix it and move on. If you can't fix it, don't waste your energy fretting, just move on with it. The invocation of those words last Saturday brought a smile and a nod of understanding to everyone who heard. It brought comfort, as well. Ward said the best way to honor a person you admire is to emulate the philosophy and traits you most admired in that person. And so, we did our best.

What can be said to make it seem less impossible? To make it feel less painful? Nothing, I suppose. We loved Uncle Fred. Aunt B loved Uncle Fred. His family, from his children and his grandchildren, down to his extended and adopted family, in-laws, and even ex-wives, loved Uncle Fred. That says a lot about a man, to have so many people who feel his passing. And although the events of the coming week hold much grief, and much pain for many people, not one of us would trade that sorrow for not having known Uncle Fred.

Instead, we'll gather to honor his place in this world, his place in our lives. We'll acknowledge that there is a vacancy now, supported by memories and love and admiration for the man who once stood there.

Kiss those babies.

Monday, October 8

The Wedding Cake

When several significant events happen in one fell swoop, I have a difficult time deciding how to blog them. Together? Separately? If so, then which one first? This was a busy, chaotic weekend, and there are several things to share. I've wrangled with how best to share them, and finally decided to begin with the frivolous and move on from there. This will, hopefully, allow me the opportunity to find the words to do the more serious subjects justice. I hope you'll understand.

And so, we have to begin the story with The Wedding Gremlin. This little critter is the reason they're so darned cute when they're little...

For two days, we commandeered Taryn's kitchen. We mixed and sloshed. We kneaded and plied. We made a fondant for the cake, and made dozens of rolled fondant flowers. We made gardenias, calla lilies, and stephanotis-ish-thingies. (The technical term, I believe, is "fantasy flowers".) We rolled, pressed, trimmed, shaped, and hogged the window unit to coax them to dry. By Friday night, the fridge was packed with flower bits and random stamen parts. It almost looked like we knew what we were doing. We went to bed that night, content in the knowledge that we had created lovely, edible flowers for the cake without wire, tape, or any pesky toxic inedible bits. Ahhh. Life was good, indeed.

Four o'clock Saturday morning, I awoke to the unsettling sensation that there was *plenty* of room in the bed. Ahhhh... where's EmBaby? I slipped from the bed to look for her. She hadn't fallen off (or at least she wasn't unconscious on the floor.) She wasn't in the bathroom. Oh, no! The bedroom door's open! I bolted into the kitchen and there, on the floor, beneath the table, sat the cutest little thing with her Little Cindy Lou Who Jammies and her big bright eyes, a rolling pin in one hand and the remnants of a lily in the other. She beamed up at me, her fuzzy hair radiating about her head in a very poor imitation of a halo, and said, "Mmm, YUM!"

Oh, it was a massacre. There were dead flowers all over the place. And worst of all, the groom's cake, a crawdad, had been maimed. She ate one of his eyes, twisted his little feelers, and poked holes in his head! Poor, gimpy crawdad.

I cleaned up the mess, salvaged the flowers that hadn't made it onto the floor yet, and brought the little Wedding Gremlin back to bed. I wish I'd taken a picture. If I hadn't been fighting a massive eye twitch, I might have thought to do that. Zorak did get a picture of the little Wedding Gremlin's next escapade, though. So, here you go. If you're having a wedding, and you see one of these things, BEWARE! They will eat everything decorative and/or sugary that they can get their hands on!

Of course, the week of the wedding was warm and humid. While that made for lovely swimming weather, it wasn't so great for the icing plans. The fondant gave me fits. Due to extenuating circumstances, we'd lost about four hours of work time Saturday, which left us having to send John (the ring bearer) ahead with the family, while we stayed behind to finish the cake. Final decision -- buttercream the 12" layer, because this fondant is NOT going to happen on that layer. Oh, folks, I wanted to cry. Wait. I did cry. Not for long, though, since we didn't have time to waste.

We finished the cake. We got it to the reception hall at the Very Last Minute. It wasn't exactly what we were shooting for, but all things considered, everyone was pleased. Er, at least kind. Heh. (Have I mentioned how Very Much I love our family?) And here you have it:

The happy couple did the requisite duties and cut the cake. (He spared her lovely gown, though, which, I think, made every woman in the room breathe a sigh of relief.)

We may never be asked to make another cake for a family event. But we're still up for childwatching duties, so that's good.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, October 7

Home Again, Home Again

Ahhh... If I'd known how much of a motivator it would be to see the house through "new eyes" after not seeing it at all for a while, we'd have been taking week-long trips each month for the past, oh, six months. I am SO glad we cleaned the house before we left. We even took the ladder down from the window we've been working on. *grin* When we pulled up tonight, both of us were taken aback by how pretty the front of the house looks with all the new paint, and the porch.

After talking, singing, screaming, and talking for ten hours straight, all four children were sound asleep just before we pulled into town. (I'll admit I thought about faking it, just to see if perhaps Zorak would carry me in, too. But he busted me before I could play oppossum.) They'll be so glad to find themselves home in the morning.

SO much happened. I'll upload pictures and fill you all in over the weekend. Just wanted to pop in, though, and say howdy. Boy, does it feel good to be home. (And I've got to say, it's always a relief to come home and find the house hasn't been vandalized. I never realize just how puckered up I am about that until the headlights hit the house and there's no broken glass. *whew*)

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, October 3

Going Underground

Nah, not a revolution. Not yet, anyway. We're just getting ready to get started on the wedding cake. So, I'll be out of touch for a couple of days. Will resurface when I can. (But it's okay - Zorak knows where I am. *grin*)

Have an absolutely fantastic week, everybody. Love on those little guys, and enjoy all the lovin's they have to give back!

Kiss those babies,

Tuesday, October 2

Come. Find. Me.

The case of Tom and Tanya Rider has weighed so heavily on my mind this past week. I do understand the situation of the law enforcement, but let's face it, my heart goes out to a man who knew *something was wrong* and couldn't get anybody to help him. He must have felt a lot like Cassandra before things went south in Troy. And my heart also goes out to Tanya. I cannot fathom what she has experienced, and lived through. God willing, I never will.

We can't predict the future, it's true. But we can do our utmost to bolster against the unexpected. So, I wanted to put it in writing right now. Right here. I want to go on record:

If I cannot be contacted, nor my whereabouts verified, even as little as a mere two hours after I am expected to arrive somewhere, something has happened. Come. Find. Me.

I am not running off to live in Upstate New York with some moron off the internet. I am not hightailing it to Fiji with Zorak's VA monies. I have not left my beautiful children, or my fantastic husband. Not of my own volition. Not under my own motive power. This. Will. Not. Happen.

And listen, be quick about it, because I've gotta tell ya, folks, I'm a bleeder. Not to mention, my cell phone isn't going to last longer than eight hours on a good day with no calls. I doubt it would handle a full-out auto wreck very well at all. While I'm thinking of it, I hereby authorize Verizon Wireless to release my phone records on Zorak's request. Give up the goods, guys. I swear I will not hold you liable for that.

Eight days? I get woozy going twelve hours without coffee. Can you imagine the rampaging psychosis that would ensue after a full week with no caffeine? (Let alone water, food, somewhere to relieve myself other than the seat of my pants.) No. No, there is no "right to privacy" that would justify that, for me. I have no shame. Spill the beans - my phone records, tax records, really bad driving record, bra size. Whatever it will take, but Come And Get Me.

Worse (in my mind, but I may be weird like that), what if I'm abducted? Oh, hell, folks, I haven't the fortitude to make a haul like that. Don't bother looking at Zorak. Or, if your cynicism has influenced policy to the point that you must, get it overwith within 24 hours and then Come. Find. Me. Seriously, there is *nowhere* I'd rather be than home, tending to my family, in the arms of my husband. Ever. Believe me. Don't waste time on supposition that I may not want to be found. I'm telling you right here, right now, I do not ever want to be lost.

So, I know it's not notarized. But it's published and available to the public for date verification and all manner of good things. And, on the off chance that something should happen, please remind Zorak he can find this post under "Come Find Me", print it out, and take it to the authorities.

Now, off to brace myself against accidental death and dismemberment... Hmmm...

Kiss those babies!

"Ours Baby"

I found this at Momanna98's site, and thought it was absolutely amazing. So. This is what "ours baby" (as Smidge refers to him/her) is looking like right now.


Just. Wow.

I'll move this to my sidebar when I don't have eighty thousand other things to figure out. But in the meantime, I thought y'all might get a kick out of it, too.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, October 1

Control What You Can, Ignore The Rest

That's our mantra today. Say it with me. It's more fun with a mouth full of cookies. Er, at least the boys think so.

The kids filled in the trench by the front yard portion of the drive this morning. With their feet. I just came inside so I wouldn't have to watch. And cringe. But that worked out well, as it gave me a chance to get the house cleaned and ready for the wedding. The boys did a great job on the trench, and then they came in for lunch. I'm not sweeping up the dirt from that trek until after everyone's in bed.

One of the things I have *got* to find a groove on is the paperwork. Right now, it's all in the school room. Right now, the school room doesn't have a cabinet, free shelf space, or a table. (Can you see where this is heading?) I'd become quite competent at ignoring it, pretending there are doors on the doorways, and that nobody could see the condition of the "school room". However, I realized the gig was up when Zorak commented the other night that we'd best get our filing system under control before James starts to adopt it.

"Uh, yeah, the bills to be paid go there on the floor in front of the computer. The ones that have been paid go under the computer. Just put magazine subscriptions over there by the door, and completed homework, eh, you can set on the chair."

Mmm, good point. So today, after cleaning and decluttering the kitchen, living room, dining room, our room (not as impressive as it sounds - there's not too much left to declutter), and starting the laundry, I tackled the school room. It looks fantastic. Granted, we can't eat at the dining room table right now (picky, picky!) but, at least the stacks are manageable. And the kids agreed to eat at the breakfast bar between now and Wednesday. That buys me some time. I love that they're flexible. :-)

The printer shelf has been holding paper and computer supplies, as well, but I think it's going to be reassigned to "domestic craft duty", or some such moniker. That means I'm moving the computer paper somewhere else (don't ask me where just yet, we're still in the Idea Phase of this plan), and I'm going to hoist the sewing materials up off the floor onto the shelving. One would think this solution obvious, but really, the sewing boxes were holding up paperwork, so I didn't exactly see the problem until today. *shrug*

One of the nice things about ignoring the things we cannot control is that we realize how very much is within our realm of influence. But we let it get lost in the white noise, and after a while we can't tell the difference between the things we can impact, and the things we cannot. No wonder it's so easy to get sidetracked!

So here's to another round of cookies for everyone! Taking charge, and letting go! (Gah, that looks far more chipper than it sounded in my head, but hopefully y'all know what I mean.)

Kiss those babies!

This Isn't Working

So, the backhoe fairy didn't come through. Something about leaky wings. I suspect some yahoo said they don't *believe* in fairies. Well, I clapped, darnit! It should've worked.


We rented a trencher. We didn't have the cash to rent a trencher, not with the wedding next weekend, but perhaps the children can forage for acorns and I can make pancakes from those. Think the neighbors would lend me a cup of water? Gah.

BUT. That was okay, because we had a trencher, and that would do the trick. Except, we got the weenie trencher. (The Big, Tough Trencher was out of commission - probably ought to have been a sign, huh?) We killed the weenie trencher. And we didn't get to the lateral line before it died. I suggested we plant explosives along the fenceline, thinking we'd be sure of hitting it that way. (Small ones, don't worry.) Zorak is ignoring me, now.

The brakes on the Suburban, after three years of being "bad", finally went to well, I guess "dangerous" would be a good description. So, Zorak fixed those. We were like a couple of cave men, looking at the rotors...

They don't look warped.
No. Hey, is that a warp, there?
No, I don't think so. This is steel. It's not going to look like a wet book.
Well, if feels like it when we stop.
*both pause*
Yeah, I don't see any warping.
Well, take it all in, and see what we need.

He came back with new rotors. And an explanation as to how you can tell brake rotors are warped. (You know, just in case you ever decide to do major vehicle repairs you aren't familiar with, right? That can't be just us...) It's the streaks. Oh. *pause* OH! (The things were covered in black streaks. Hah. I get it...) And brake pads. My goodness, but they're thick when they're new! Then he and the boys changed the oil in the Suburban. That was really neat. Until John leapt from the grill onto Smidge's head. Backward.

"I didn't see him!"

Well, no, that's true. Although, I'm not certain it's an acceptable explanation, considering.

I sent Smidge inside to lay down. But first, he had to puke in the hallway. Because he's a puker. *sigh* I hope he doesn't do that at job interviews. Or when he's dating. Could make his life rough.

This morning, Zorak loaded up the trencher to return to the rental yard. I crept quietly into the bathroom to take a long-awaited pampering bath with salt scrub and yummy-smelling things from The Foil Hat (I love Amy's things!) I've just begun to scrape and slather, when I hear "clunk, clunk, clunk" coming down the hall.

While I wondered if the intruder had killed Balto, and whether I could at least reach my sweats first (because nobody wants to be found naked, dead in the tub), I heard Zorak:

"Bad news, Sports Fans. The clutch went out on the truck. I'm going to have to take the Suburban."



Well, sometimes you just can't really do anything about... anything. And that's okay. But this wasn't what I'd planned to write when Friday rolled around, lemme tell ya!

Ah, Kiss those babies! (It keeps me sane at times like this.)