Friday, November 30


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 28

A Day, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, November 27

Not the Crocs!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kiss those babies!

Monday, November 26

Hey, Look! It's a girl!


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

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

Kiss those babies!
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Wednesday, November 21

Children's Song

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

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

I want a brother like Rob Paravonian.

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

Tuesday, November 20


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

I do. Now.

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

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

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

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

But you should see those cabinets!

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

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

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

Houston, We Have Contact

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

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

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

Kiss those babies!

Monday, November 19

We Made It, But It Hurt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, November 18

A Quiet Sunday Morning

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

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

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

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

Kiss those babies!

Friday, November 16

Photography & Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

And what are you doing to prepare for the holidays?

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, November 15

Gak! Argh! Narrrrrr.....

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 14

Two Days in a Row!

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

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

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

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

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday Catch-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, November 13

Baby Girl Hair

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

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

From the back, she looks like an albino Rastafarian.

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

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

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, November 11

Long Time, No Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 7

Something New!

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



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

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


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

Who Would DO This?

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

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

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

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

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

Curiouser and curiouser...

Kiss those babies!

Monday, November 5

A Day...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Edited to add a link to Part 2.*

Sunday, November 4

You've Got To Make Time

There will always be things to do: bills to pay, repairs to make, chores to do, errands to run. You could live the life of The Highlander, and never, ever run out of things to do. (Not even when there was Only One...)

But some things, you (I, we) don't have all the time in the world for...

So when you have a sunny afternoon, and the boy needs his bike fixed, it's good to fix it, together,

And to set lunch at the picnic table, instead of inside, just because,

And enjoy hearing the oldest child read to the baby,

while the baby swings on the bench.

When the sun set on that day, we hadn't performed any great renovation-oriented feats, nor had we produced a spotless, showroom-quality living space.

But it was time well spent. Time we cannot have to do again. And that's okay, because we won't need to.

Now, if only we can remember that more often, right? ;-)

Make time, and enjoy it!
And kiss those babies!

Friday, November 2

Customer Service

You know, sometimes you just feel like you have to brace yourself for dealing with Customer Service Reps...

Today, I called AT&T to make some changes to our account. I was ready for a hassle just getting to a human, let alone getting the changes made. They have a handy call-back service now. If you don't want to wait for a human, you can have them call you when a human is available. Hey, cool. So I put my name down and went about my business, waiting for my human.
Then, I got a nice human when the call came in. I really appreciate that. She logged in all my changes, and we were just about ready to go, when she said, "WAIT a minute... hang on..." I waited and hung while she tippity-tapped, and then she said, "What about doing d,f,q instead of just a,b,c? You could still cut your base rate by $20 a month, get unlimited long distance, and keep your whosits and dodads." Did ya see that big ol' bomb, there? She just breezed through it like it wasn't a big deal. Whoa-whoa-whoa, did you say 'Unlimited Long Distance'? "Yes, as you can keep..." Yeah, yeah, okay. Whatever. Hang on.
HONEY!?!?! Do you want to lower our monthly rate by twenty bucks and have unlimited long distance included in our bill? (He looked at me like I was either making this up, or toying with him by asking stupid questions, which I took for an affirmative, and signed us up with that plan.) And you know, I knew this. I knew that it's a good idea to call on occasion and make sure you've got the best deal available. But, well, I dropped the ball and haven't called them in eons.
Well, that got me all pumped up and ready to redo the Federal budget. However, seeing as I am fresh out of Security Clearances, I figured I'd go after our cell phone problem. (The problem being we're two years past the expiration on our two-year contract, and we're getting jaked royally on minutes -- but I'm not "authorized" to make changes to the account.) So we loaded everybody up and drove into town to deal with this issue.
Not only did the Very Helpful Man at Verizon get us squared away with a new deal, and a better discount, he back-dated our new plan to the beginning of this billing cycle. (Because, as he put it, "If we change it now, your next bill will be a bit schitzo.")
On the drive home, I was so incredibly pumped up by the two experiences that I was absolutely dying to find somebody else to do business with. Sadly, by then, the Social Security office was closed. Bummer. Wouldn't it have been wonderful to catch them on this, the Unofficial Very Good Customer Service Day? Yeah, I thought so, too.
But it's okay. We've still got the teeth all ready for Monday when the Social Security office is open again! :-)
Kiss those babies!

Thursday, November 1

What Characters

The kids had such a nice time last night. Claudia and her herd came with us. The kids haven't seen each other most of the summer, between her travel schedule and ours, and you'd have thought they'd found long-lost relatives. It was very sweet.

We started out at the library, which was... weird. Just. Weird. I'll fill y'all in on that, later, because I don't want to sully the cute kid pictures with the weirdness. Thankfully, we were able to get out unscathed, and head to the sweet neighborhood over by the ball park.

I had one panic attack when, in the dark, I could only find seven children. Then everyone panicked over the missing child. Eventually, well, we remembered Claudia's a slacker and only has three. So there were only supposed to be seven children. We stopped trying to find someone else's child and continued on.

Zorak brought the wagon for the small ones, EmBaby and Luci (the "baby grill", as her brothers call her). That worked out beautifully. The babies only hit one side of the street, too, while the boys all zig-zagged back and forth. Worked like a charm: Smidge was out cold before we got home, and the older two happily ate, brushed, jammied, and climbed into bed to read Treasure Island with me. Unfortunately, as I had zig-zag duty with the boys, I didn't make it through the chapter, and John had to do the reading for us. (That was kind of nice, though, having someone read to me before bed.) And he was glad to be reading it. James said he was "too tired even to listen" and passed out two sentences into it.

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Kiss those babies!