Tuesday, February 27

That Went Well...

No, that's not an enormous bird feeder. Yes, it is a telescoping tree pruner dangling from a tree. Would you all believe me if I told you the tree grabbed the trimmer and tore it from my hands, then told me to get back or the dog would get it? No? That's too bad. Would've made a great story.

And to think, this was the high spot of the day. The rest of our projects today for the Forever Home phase something-or-other did include what I thought would be an exciting and enticing foray into the world of *Secret Forts*.

Me: *whispering* Boys, check this out. Won't this make a great secret fort?

*crickets* Yes, in broad daylight. Stone. Cold. Silence as they surveyed the scene before them:

Me: See the magic castle back there?
John: You mean the dead tree?
James: Yeah, I think she's talking about the dead tree. Mom, are we going to build the secret fort behind the dead tree?

(OK, at least he saw it.)

I laid out the plan to prune and clear out that clump of foliage in front of the "dead tree" (or, as some of us more imaginative types prefer to call it, The Magic Castle) so that they'll have a cool cave-like spot there when the leaves have filled in. For the record, when I was six, I'd have killed for something like that.

The boys worked hard, and they were diligent. But I don't know if "enthused" would be a good way to describe their view of the process. We hauled out a lot of dead limbs from the once-lively tree, and James wondered whether it'd be this gross when we were done. We made it into the inner sanctum of the someday-fort, and John began pondering just how many types of poisonous spiders dwell in there. They both ran for it the second I told them they could go. Ah, well, Balto and I thought it was pretty cool.

EmBaby fell asleep in the swing, so she missed a lot of the excitement. And Smidge? Well, he's still young enough that if we say it'll be magical, then it'll be magical. He worked the hardest of all of us.

Kiss those babies!

Play Ball!

Or, more appropriately, "Run in circles and laugh until you trip and fall over!"

Baseball Season has begun. Yesterday was the first practice (moved from Saturday for some unknown reason). John is one of the older children on the team, which is good. It'll help balance out the fact that he hasn't been raised in a culture of sports and knows next to nothing about... any of it.

The coach is a doll, and his wife has more enthusiasm than any one person should be permitted. She's really great. And so organized. (I'll admit it, I sat and just stared at her - how can she DO so much with a manilla folder? How does she make that work? Don't things fall out and get coffee spilled on them, and don't her children *rearrange* them for her all the time? Ohhhhh, could she possibly have a Special Place for her paperwork? Mmmmmm. I must get to know this woman!)

But back to the children... They are so stinkin' cute! It's like being at the zoo, watching the Cute and Fuzzy Display. (The chain link fence may have added to that sensation a bit.) One little boy just danced and danced while he was in line. There was no music, but that didn't stop him. He was so much fun to watch. There's a little guy who reminds me of Ron Weasley, with his red hair and sweet nature. He was so enthusiastic, but couldn't run ten feet without flipping over. He'll be a tad bruised by the first game, but with his go-get-em attitude, he'll probably be running marathons in five years.

The kids were a bit shy with one another. Most of them look to the stands for their support and encouragement. As they get to know each other, they'll be more willing to shout encouragement to one another. But in the meantime, John and a couple of others flashed the "I love you," sign to their parents in the stands. And after each catch or toss or running stint, the little face attached to the action would turn our way, seek out his people and absolutely BEAM. That was good to see.

Actually, the whole afternoon was encouraging. There were three dads out on the field, helping the coach. The benches were filled with moms and siblings. No swearing. No fighting. No nastiness. We were in heaven. If you're ever feeling a little down on how our society is going, let me know and I'll bring you by the ballfield. Like a little shot of hope, really. But without the puckering fear of the needle, or the little cotton ball/bandaid thing.

We're sized for his uniform (oh. my. word. - those are just the cutest little things!!) and Zorak and I have the requisite parental support garments ordered (cap for him and t-shirt for me). I've got to find a small duffle bag for John to keep his things in. Practice comes three times a week, plus games on weekends, so it looks like I'm going to have to master the art of the stock pot, and make-ahead meals. But did I mention how absolutely adorable the little ones out on the field are? Oh.

And the coffee is good. Zorak put it well. It's not gourmet coffee good. It's not Circle K coffee good. It's, "We're sitting here, on a bench, watching our child play ball" good. Very good, indeed.

There were going to be pictures, but the upload cord has completely disappeared. Without a trace. Weird.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, February 26


Sometimes you want to ask...

Sometimes you're not sure if you want to...

And sometimes you're pretty sure you wouldn't be able to make sense, even if you did...

That turtle has been up that tree for a month, now.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, February 25

Garden Blogs?

This morning, while researching raised beds, I found this place, Compost Bin. The guy is in New Jersey, so I'm sure there will be things that wouldn't ever apply to our little piece of land, but he's enjoyable to read, and let his children plant a stick garden. How can you not love that?

Anybody read gardening blogs? I'd love to find some Southern gardening blogs (since we live in the South, and all). Would love to hear your suggestions!

Zorak and I have moved on to the portion of the Forever Home Remodel which shall hereafter be called The Garden. The technical term for its place in the whole renovation process is Phase I, part 3, subsection A. Or, possibly, we'll call it, "&#!@**$". We'll see how it goes. So far, though, so good.

We've dealt with location, layout, and general gameplan. For the most part. We have vague ideas where to go from here, and I imagine there will be a great deal of milling about, looking lost - both literally and figuratively - as we get our bearings.

Zorak and John took the tall pruning shears and the machete out back to tackle the massive growth back there, rid the trees of dead limbs, and get a jump start on the poison ivy. I went after the once-decorative shrubbery in the front. It's all lookin' mighty spindly right now. John asked why we were doing it that way. I'm sure it seems strange to a child's mind to go in and remove so much foliage. We talked about getting the land healthy first, pretty later. It's just like our bodies, or our homes, or our relationships: they need to be healthy and strong, to have all they need in order to thrive. And then, it's pretty delightful to see they don't need to be "managed" for beauty, really. They're beautiful in their own right. Plants, people, and lives. We may not get much to actually grow in the "garden" out back, but this may be a wonderful year for the children.

Kiss (and nurture) those babies!

Thursday, February 22

Something Beautiful

A while back, Jean asked her readers to post a picture of "something beautiful". I think she meant scenery, but, well, the South in the winter isn't the most picturesque place on earth. It can be, if you have Thom's wicked photography skills, but if your picture-taking abilities pretty much peaked with Polaroid instant film, this place is harsh. Of the umpteen bathousand "nature pictures" I've taken this winter, this is the sole survivor:

So, I thought I'd compensate by sharing a few shots taken lately that just make me smile.

It is very difficult to just let BabyGirl *sleep*. She's snuggly enough when she's awake, but when she's asleep and, I admit, I have a fondness for those tiny, curled, soft baby feet. Makes me want to swoop her up and snuggle her in, deep and close. That's a bit startling for her, though, so we tend to just take pictures...

John loves to take pictures. And he's good. He's got a natural eye for things, and I have no idea how he does it, but he can fiddle with the camera until he gets just what he saw in his mind. We just let him run wild with the camera, and it's always a treat (sorry Amy) to see what turns up. This is one of my recent favorites. Doesn't it make our plain ol' ceiling fan look much more romantic than you'd expect?

And this little beauty, is our Lean-O-Meter. Zorak and the boys made it for the tree in our front yard.
The tree has a disturbing lean to it, although it seems solidly rooted and healthy. It will, eventually come down, but in the meantime, the guys use this gauge to check the tree's behavior. If it starts moving noticeably, or hits a certain point on the scale, the tree's demise gets bumped to the top of the priority list. It hasn't moved since they hung it. It's beautiful to me because when I see it through the window, I know that Zorak finds ways to look after us, even when he's not here.

Kiss those beautiful babies!

Well, kids...

The nice policeman is flashing his lights and parking right behind Mommy because... Uh, I don't know, but I'll bet we'll find out in a minute!

License and proof of insurance, please.

AH-HA! I cleaned out the car today! *in my best sing-song voice in my head* I know where my paperwork is! I know where my paperwork is!

Whipped out proof of insurance (AND registration, just to show how organized I am), reached over for my bag and... looked in the back and... dropped my head onto my arm. "Boys, please tell Mommy her backpack is back there." The boys look around. Nope. *sigh*

And no longer doing the sing-song thing in my head - Of course it's not. I cleaned out the car today. My backpack is sitting on the porch at the house. I'm pretty sure the dog is tearing it apart as we speak. ("You see, officer, my dog ate my license." *snort* The stories they could probably tell!)

Evidently, I pulled a California-stop at the 4-way stop on the corner.

So, he took down all my information and went back to see if I was on the up and up. It took him a long time. I was so anxious (just because I hate being pulled over) that I took to sorting the trash in the little dangly bag on the cup holder. James and John did me the honor of reporting back every. movement. the man made.
"Mom! Mom! He looks mad!"
"Mom, he's talking on the radio!"
"Mom, he has a funny look on his face!"
"Mom, he's looking up at us!"
(Well, wave and smile and sit. back. down!)

I figured this was going to cost us heavily, so focused instead on talking with the boys. What better opportunity to let them know that I made a mistake, and although it wasn't intentional, it's still my responsibility. See, consequences for our behavior: it happens to all of us. We all make mistakes, but how do we handle it when we do? Want some milk to go with that Humble Pie?

The boys waved furiously as the officer made his way back up to the car. I got a verbal warning for being an idiot who leaves her bag on the porch. Got a ticket for not stopping at a stop sign. Alabama's pretty proud of their stop signs! Ugh. I feel like a real boob.

But, on the upside, the officer was very nice and didn't have a Robocop complex, which I appreciated tremendously. We picked out movies from the store and made it home without further incident. AND, there are two tidy, clean vehicles in the front yard. We did more, but the pork chops are about done, so I'll blog later, when the kidlets are asleep.


Take *that*, you evil pipe-freezing demons!

Zorak's not due home until tomorrow. And yet, the house is mid-way clean right now. Ah-ha - you shall not foil me again!

Of course, it helps that it's 70-something degrees and beautiful...

Probably not a high risk of freezing tonight.

But still, it's nice to know an old dog can learn new tricks, no?

Kiss those babies!

Computers, Wildlife, and Stuff

Right now, the computer works okay, as long as you don't get uppity and think you can just "point and click". Oh, no. This is a bit more like a hijacking, or blackmail. You must move slowly, with your hands up, make eye contact, get to your position and await further instructions. If you don't wait for the hand, well, all heck's gonna break loose and you'll only have to wait longer because of it. And if "they" (the ones that live inside the computer) don't want you to do something, you'd better not try. They can make bad things happen.


The computer guy with the whimsical messaging system will be out Saturday. This is great, in that I don't have to unplug or transport anything. And it will force me to declutter the school room.

We did get out yesterday, but who knew the wildlife refuge closes at five? The man at the information desk obviously does not get paid overtime and does not do his job for the love of it. (It wasn't five yet, but he wasn't taking any chances.)

The Refuge Ranger (yeah, I had a hard time not giggling at that title, too), however, is delightful and enthusiastic, and she knows that it takes less time to whip out some interesting tips and leads than it does to stare blankly at people and hope they will think you're a wood carving. We left with some great ideas, and are heading back out for an excursion today. Yay!

What do you like to do to get out of the house?

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, February 21

Not The Best Marketing Plans...

The computer needs some lovin', and I've been putting it off for a while. But now, we're down to the gnat's end. So, I looked up a few computer repair places this morning. It wasn't productive, but it was interesting...

Place #1:
I dialed 123-4567.
The answering machine message says, "You have reached 890-1234. Please leave your message at the tone." *

I hung up, checked the number, and redialed very. carefully. (Stuck my tongue out and everything, just to make sure.)

Got the same message. I left my message, along with a disclaimer that I'd dialed a different number completely and so if this isn't the right place, please accept my apologies.

Hmmm... so I tried another place.

Hey, they have a website. www.valleycomputers.com Cool.

But, um, if you go there, you'll see this message:
If you are the owner of this web site you have not uploaded (or incorrectly uploaded) your web site.

I think I'll keep looking...


*Editoral note: I called the number again so I could get the exact number on the message, and I got busted. Steve actually answered this time! He forwards all his calls to one cell phone, so that does explain the mis-matched number.


Well, I didn't mean to go to bed at ten last night, but somebody needed some snuggles. Actually, several somebodies needed some snuggles. I awoke again this morning under the pile 'o bodies. (Honey, if you're reading this, we're moving to the guest room. Meet me there Friday at ten, but don't mention this to the kids, okay?)

Today is Ash Wednesday. We don't attend a church that observes Ash Wednesday, and I miss that. The preparation, the reflection... all a part of preparing for Lent. I'm not sure why a church would observe Lent and not observe Ash Wednesday. Probably ought to talk to Pastor about that. (Cuz' if you don't ask, you won't know!)

If everything stays put today, we'll get outside for sure. We simply must. But I'm not telling you what we're doing, because everytime I write out a plan, we don't do it. Not that I blame you. No. It's me. Or maybe it's the small ones. Whatever it is, today is a "surprise day". Heh. How's that?

We're reading Captains Courageous now. It's written by Rudyard Kipling, and the story is delightful. Absolutely fantastic. As a read-aloud, though, it requires a certain verbal flexibility which, it seems, I simply don't have. The gymnastics required to keep one eye reading ahead in order to pace the phrases and speech of the day will wear. you. out. Goodness. This goes well beyond the banks of the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees. That, I can finagle. It's the myriad contractions (Vowel! I need a vowel, here, folks!) and the colloquialisms of the Boston fishermen from the 1800's (much longer, and more complex than our speech and pace of today). But even with that challenge, which is just a challenge and not really a hinderance, it's a delightful read. Perhaps one to read twice: once, to yourself, and then again, aloud. But don't miss it.

And now, two of four are up. Time to begin the day!

kiss those babies!

Tuesday, February 20

Frau Hillary's Pancake

We tried it. Oh, my, we may live off this stuff. Give it a shot.

This is the basic wheat-free version. I'll note alternative substitutions for other ingredients below the recipe.

In an oven-proof skillet (as always, I recommend cast iron), melt 1/2 stick of butter. (This is easiest to do by sticking it in the oven while the oven preheats.)

In a bowl, sift together 1/2 c. of flour blend, 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum, 1 tsp. baking powder, 2 Tbsp. sugar.

Add to the bowl, 2 eggs, 1/2 c. milk, 1 tsp. vanilla.

Mix well.

Pour the batter over the butter and bake at 400' for 20-25 min.


********Substitutions And Notes*********

The original recipe does not call for sugar or vanilla. I added those because I really wanted to. (It was for dessert, okay?) :-D

Butter in this could be replaced with any oil (coconut, maybe? Canola, plain vegetable, whatever you want - you just need the fats to make this thing really sing. Well, and to get it out of the skillet when it's done, I would imagine.)

Xanthan gum and guar gum are interchangeable. Use whatever you have, but if you're using non-wheat flours, don't leave it out!

Baking powder substitute: 2 parts baking soda and 1 part cream of tartar.

Milk - I used fat free powdered milk, and so I would imagine you could use any other milk - rice, soy, or almond - without problems.

I'm going to go eat what's left. We'll just have to make more in the morning. Thanks, Hillary!

Shoes, steps, and stomach aches.

Zorak came home, we all rejoiced, hit the buffet yesterday, and then put him back on a plane. We have it easy, compared to our military families, I know. It's still not fun.

John is decked out in gear for baseball. This child is stoked. There's no other term for it. He is wildly, thoroughly stoked. His coach called this morning to introduce himself and give me a heads up that the meet 'n greet will be sometime in the next week. I volunteered to handle any allergy-related snacks for the team. His wife said there are three children in the school with celiac, so she would be sure to bring it up at the meeting and let folks know to get with me on their needs, if they have any. I guess they've decided to go with ball pants for the kids this year because their little legs get too torn up wearing shorts, so that was the Big News. (It was a little lost on me, I admit, because I had no idea they would wear anything other than ball pants.)

Smidge has taken off on the independence track lately. It's not the two-year-old "I can do it myself" anymore. He just goes... and does it. And then beams from ear-to-ear when he's done. Everything is a reason for celebration for him. Everything is a joy. He knows he's earned the praise he receives, because he can feel the accomplishment in his bones. We should all work so hard to do so well, I think.

Miss Emily has taken a few steps by herself. She's still not thrilled with the huge spaces of nothingness between furniture, but she sure was proud of herself with those steps. And they were to Daddy, which made him smile. Watching them made me smile. It's good stuff, isn't it?

James came ambling out last night around ten-thirty, complaining of a stomach upset. He had some warm milk and then headed back to bed. About half an hour later, I heard what sounded like a body falling from the top bunk, and dashed down the hall to see what happened. He was leaning in the hall, looking shaken. "I puked, Mom, *bwomp*" - the sound turned out to be vomit hitting the wall at 90MPH. That had to have hurt. He was sick all night, eventually running out of energy to do anything more than lie there and moan. Sometime after four this morning, he drifted into a peaceful sleep. (Well, he probably just passed out, but he looks so peaceful now that he's not convulsing in dry heaves, so we're going with that.) I imagine he won't be right for a day or two. Best we can figure is that the culprit must be the salad from the buffet. That's the only thing he ate that the rest of us didn't.

The weather's beautiful today. Grey, breezy, threatening rain, but it's already in the mid-50's. I'd hate to waste a day like this inside, so after a leisurely morning, perhaps we'll take an outing - the baseball player, the enthusiastic small one, the crawling rock-eater, and the invalid from the infirmary. Won't we be a colorful troupe? The fresh air will do us all some good.

In the meantime, I think I'm going to work on the school room a bit. Maybe write a note to the principal to let him know James won't be doing lessons today. ;-)

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, February 17

Sweet Comfort

We all slept late, woke leisurely and snuggled. Then we scuttled into town for hardware (for the doors) and a memory card (for the gamecube). We were so tempted to stop at the buffet before we came home, but when we eat there, we accomplish nothing for the rest of the day. We come home, sprawl out like crime scene mock-ups, and digest. Instead, I threw granola bars at the kids and we kept truckin'. Came home to fix supper. And, oh, what a supper it was!

Steaks, sausages, smoked pork loins, pintos, steamed okra, corn on the cob, salad. It was like eating a Texas Pit BBQ in 18th Century size. Holy cow. But it's okay if we sprawl out like crime scene mock-ups now, because we got our work done before we ate. I love food.

Zorak and the boys are playing video games. I got the small ones bathed and jammied. (What is it about little ones that's just so heart melting when they're freshly bathed and all pink and fluffy?) And in a bit, I think we'll curl up and enjoy some stories. It feels like it's nearly ten o'clock, but according to the computer (which is, suspiciously, fast), it's only 7:10.

It's been a good day, and I'm thankful for it. Gonna go kiss my hubby.

Friday, February 16


We took this week to get things together. It was a great week. In the back of my mind, the romantic part that's hidden way, way down there in the shadows, I'd hoped to be spiffed up a bit, with the house all prettied up for Zorak when he got home.

We awoke this morning to frozen water pipes. It wasn't in the house (for which I'm thankful), but it's the main service line just on our side of the meter. We had no water until after one-thirty today.

That meant no shower.

No cleaning.

No spiffing.

And I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed. Way down in the romantic recesses of my heart.

But still, he's coming home! He's just ten miles down the road, picking up *steaks* from Foodland! (Maybe there's something going on his his wee romantic recesses, as well? Maybe whatever's going on will buy me time for a shower? Hope abounds!)

Kiss those babies!

All Better

Gosh, remember when a can of 7-Up with a straw, a warm blanket, and a kiss from Mom would make everything "all better"? Well, who'd have guessed that *mumble-mumble* years later, a cup of coffee, a bag of chocolates, and a Jane Austen flick would have the same effect?

The boys flew through their lessons today. I don't know if I'm not pushing them enough, or if they're just really enjoying it. (Kind of afraid to test the theory, really.) We hit the market for a thrilling two and a half hours of grocery shopping. The manager approached to ask if we'd like help getting our groceries out to the car. Um, it's 26' out, I have two carts, and... YEAH, BABY!! Bring it on! The poor kid who came to help us seemed a bit at a loss for words. He kept looking from one cart to the next, not actually making eye contact with any of us. Awkward, but I'm still grateful for the escort.

We came home and I turned the boys loose outside. Emily slept. Smidge slept. The big boys romped in the frigid sunshine with the dog (who was deleriously glad to have somebody to play with outside) while I unloaded the groceries, put them away, and made supper.

Since we finished The Indian in the Cupboard, we stopped at the video store and rented the movie version. James is so deeply, genetically linked to me. He could hardly watch the movie for all the running commentary about how it differed from the book. John, of course, thought the movie was much better than the book. He doesn't "see" the story as it's read to him, so he is more readily gratified with the visuals of a movie, whereas James gets his enjoyment out of the development of the story (the book has to make the characters "real" for him). It's fun to see such different learning styles in action, and to know that we can accomodate both. In all, it was a fun evening.

Storytime took us well past ten o'clock tonight. Oy. But each child got some personalized, one-on-one time alone, which I think they all needed. It was good, and that's a worthwhile reason to stay up late, anyway.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, February 15

Almost Cried Uncle

Yesterday. Was. Hard.

If I was going to cry, "Uncle!" Yesterday would have been the day. But I didn't. (Neither did they.) And we made it. Everybody went to bed knowing they are loved. Always. The sun came up today, and what do you know, it's a better day already. I guess that's what days like that are good for. If you're always on your best behavior and everyone adores you, then you can start to wonder if they really love you, warts and all. But, when you've really pushed the limits, and you've really tested the boundaries, and somebody can be purple-faced with frustration and tongue-biting and still look you in the eye and say, "I love you with all my heart. What you're doing is not okay, and you need to stop, but I still love you right now." Wow.

It's hard to do that sometimes. I never saw that, growing up. I didn't know if I'd be able to do it as a parent. But yeah, it's good. It's worth doing. It's worth doing, even when, or especially when, it's the hardest thing in the world to do.

I'm sorry we didn't get to make a video for Dad. I'm sorry we didn't get to call Gram. I'm sorry we weren't up for taking on the icy bridge into town. But amidst all the things I'm sorry for, I don't have to add any of the guilty-parenting thing. I'm glad I didn't lose my temper. I'm glad that when we sat down to write out the rules of the house, the boys were the first ones to explain why each rule is so important. I'm glad that when I reminded them that we're ALL subject to the rules of the house, including me, they didn't roll their eyes. *grin*

So, yeah, while the day had me in a pretty rugged half-nelson, it was okay. I didn't get pinned, and for that I'm thankful.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, February 13

Wild Winter Day

Winter in the South is so weird. Jeans and a t-shirt? Christmas weather. (Although I wore a sweater on principle.) Roasting marshmallows on the deck in January. (Sans jackets, even!) Valentine's Day in fleece, and it looks like snow is on the way. (We're praying for the snow, at least. If it's gotta be this cold...)

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain falling on the hillbilly porch roof outside our room. I breathed in the feeling of a rainy winter morning -- the muted light through the windows, the magic of the rain's rhythm, the absolute stillness of the morning. There's something magical about it. I stretched, and knocked a child off the bed. Made a mental note that when we redo the roofing on this place, we've got to have metal roofing somewhere in the equation. And a bigger bed.

I extricated myself from the mass of bodies somebody had dumped on my bed in the middle of the night (figuring the live ones would emerge eventually and if there were any left after that, we'd sort it out then), and wandered to the kitchen. What was I forgetting? Coffee? Check. Slippers? Check. Trash? ACK. It's TUESDAY!

Quickly, I threw on my boots and hoodie and headed out to haul the trash can to the road. Because one of the last things I said to Zorak as he was reminding me of all the things to be done this week was, "YES HONEY, I know Tuesday is trash day," and if you're going to mouth off like a petulant teenager, then you'd better be prepared to make good on your supposed knowledge, or eat a lot of crow when the dust settles. (Hi, honey! I got the trash out! I love you!)

The magical quality of rain... does not extend to the driveway, at six in the morning. And, to further highlight the utterly non-magical nature of the process, Balto skittered along directly in front, erm, beside me for the walk. I made it back, wet, muddy, and pretty darned sure it wasn't worth it. But thankfully, I'd made the coffee before I left. We have a BUNN. Life is good.

So then I had an hour and a half of quiet. To read, study, stare into space and make spit bubbles.

The boys awoke one at a time. I love it when that happens. Everybody gets individual morning snuggles. The pace is slow and gentle. James asked, "Did you see Smidge and me snuggled in this morning?" I kissed his forehead and smiled in return. No sense in telling him I'm pretty sure it was him I knocked off the bed when I got up. Why ruin his idyllic reverie?

Due to my semi-irrational fear of having one or more children sucked into the river, we opted not to go to the Wildlife Refuge, but rather to stay home and watch it rain from the safety of the house. We read, and read, and read. The Indian in the Cupboard, The Yellow Fairy Book, The Chamber of Secrets. James read his chapter from The Aneid for Boys and Girls to John. John read The Ugly Duckling to Smidge. Emily ate three crayons. The boys finished their lessons before eleven o'clock, and then we played and read some more. Then I chased them all away to play while I tidied and cleaned a bit.

Sometime this evening, I clued in that tomorrow, being Wednesday, and also being Valentine's Day, they might need Valentines to take to their classes tomorrow. So I asked, and my bright, detail-oriented offspring both grinned and shrugged. "Probably, it is Valentine's Day, you know." Yeah. Well, glad to see logic is taking its place in your realm... I can't wait for the rhetoric to kick it! We'll have to put something together tomorrow. I don't have it in me tonight.

The rain is falling. The magic is back. So are the bodies in my bed, I suspect. I think I'll go see if I can find a spot near a pillow.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, February 12

Home Landscape

(Eventually, I'll probably just shorten it to "hl"... the evolution of laziness, folks.)

We spent three hours at the County Extension Office today. The boys now know everybody from the 4-H director to the soils testing people. They were delightfully behaved the entire time we were there, and were thrilled to leave laden with all kinds of goodies from everyone in the building.

We got more information than my mortal mind will be able to process in a decade. And we really only scratched the surface. But it was good, and we know who to contact when we get ready to have the spring water tested, when we're ready to put in a pond, and when we're ready to start our own 4-H club. Wee!

We got home, had a delicious early supper, then played games until bedtime.

Smidge learned (the hard way) why we have table manners rule #8: Do Not Blow Into Your Straw. We'd made milkshakes. We aren't sure what happened, as nobody was looking at him prior to the point of impact, but evidently his straw got plugged. So he blew. And he blew. And then IT blew. We heard him make a panicky, whining noise and looked up to see... that he'd been hit with a cream pie? What is that? His entire face, from the upper lip to the hairline, was covered in whipped cream. Couldn't tell where his eyes or nose might be. The front of his shirt? All chocolate milkshake and sprinkles. The large plastic Steak 'N Shake cup? Almost completely empty. Got him cleaned off and into the tub, made sure all was okay, and then allowed myself to giggle. I've never seen something explode like that before. (The house rule is just b/c it's annoying and makes a splattery mess on the table. Don't tell them, but I had NO idea milkshakes held that kind of explosive power!) Once he realized he hadn't blinded himself for life, all that was hurt were his feelings over losing most of his milkshake. The boys, however, think that was the coolest trick they've ever seen!

Just as I'd tucked the last child in, and turned off the last light, Bobby, er, Melissa called. Since she's been calling, returning calls, and emailing more often than just twice a year, we were able to get all caught up before my phone died! I love visiting with her, and she always manages to make me laugh, and to feel like we can do this. We really can. THANK YOU!

We're supposed to go talk to the Wheeler Wildlife folks tomorrow to round up information on doing nature studies in the area (again, steeeeeeeeep learning curve for me, so we've got to start early). The morning routine works nicely, and leaves afternoons open for things like this, so that's nice. But I think we'll wait and see how everyone is feeling. We might just bury ourselves in pruning information and call it a day! (LB, I know I didn't get a chance to call, please let F. know that we got sidetracked with the great exploding milkshake.)

Phew. I'm pooped.

Kiss those babies,

Renovation Tidbits: Landscape

So I told Zorak the other day that Spring's A-Comin'. We need to prune the fruit trees, and find out what type of fertilizer the nut trees will need this year. We need to clear some land for the garden and plan that. We need to arrange the best watershed scenario so as to make the best use of water and not cause any undue damage. I had a whole list of things for him to add to his Honey-Do list.

He said, "OK, that sounds good. You get spooled up on all that and let me know what we need to do."

*blink* *blink*

Wha-what?!? What?! NO! How'd he do that? That was most certainly NOT my plan! Nowhere near my plan. My plan involved me, staying inside (in the a/c) this summer, watching my beloved and our darling offspring do the natural-man thing. My plan was to greet them at the door with iced tea, fresh biscuits and gazpacho! My plan kept me far, far from the poison ivy, and the ticks, and the sweat, and the ticks.

And the ticks.

Gah. He's crafty, that one. It's a good thing he's cute, that's all I have to say.

So we're off to the County Extension Office today to find out what to do with a dying persimmon tree, how to cultivate muscodynes (and spell, evidently) muscadines, why on earth someone would eat poke leaves, and how to tell the difference between the berries of the latter two.

Give me a bed of cactus, or anything that grows in the Rocky Mountains, and I'm good to go. But all the Southern bit of Nature's Bounty leaves me realizing I would die in less than two weeks in the wilderness out here. Not from exposure. Not from dehydration. But from all those juicy, sweet, deadly berries!


Kiss those babies, and tell them not to eat these:


Sunday, February 11

Who I Am

MFS saw a picture of herself recently that she felt really showed her as she *feels*. She then asked on a board we frequent if we'd be willing to share something similar of ourselves. It's been a fun thread, and the window-peeking nosey Nellie in me has enjoyed putting faces with names. But, finding a picture of myself to share was a bit... difficult.

I wanted to email Crissy covertly and ask her to airbrush out a couple of things for me. Maybe airbrush in a few things, too, if possible. You know, just amongst us girls.

I wanted to spend the next two days primping and polishing and hot rolling and sloughing and... where are those Crest whitestrips? Or maybe Crissy could do that, too? Jess? No, Jess knows me too well. I still haven't lived down the last little bit o' fixin' I asked her to do. Drat.

But, that wasn't what Melissa had asked. She asked what we look like. Now. Today (or recently). Particularly, in this season of our lives. Who we are, and where we are. All settled in, and comfy with ourselves.

Comfy. Yeah.

Well, ok.

No excuses. No apologies. No primping, posing, or airbrushing.

These two pictures sum it up pretty well.

This is how I look a lot of the time. Kissing my babies.

And this is it. This is me. Sling. Sweater. Jeans. Runaway hair. Nose. Smile. There's usually a backpack slung over my shoulder, stuffed with all the things of life, but Zorak had it at the time, to get the camera out.

What do *you* look like?

Kiss those babies!

He's gone...

Sorry for the silence here the last few days. Zorak is off doing engineering things for a bit, and so, we stocked up. We soaked him in. We basically pestered the snot out of the man for the last few days. He's probably looking forward to some peace and quiet on the plane ride.

But now, we're back! Regularly scheduled communication (phone calls, emails, and blogging) will now commence.

Kiss those babies, and the daddies, too!

Thursday, February 8

Categories and Labels?

What categories have you found to be the most useful, if you use them? What a silly thing to give so much attention to, but, well, we all do silly things from time to time. I could be mopping the floor, but truthfully, I'd prefer to do it at night so that it will stay pretty for a few hours before the children emerge.

I like categories that are actually helpful for people who are looking for something specific. For instance, wheat-free, or food. Books are a helpful category. What else have you found helpful? Or do you ignore them? Or do you also obsess over them and find yourself either giving every single entry a category of its very own, or trying to much things into pathetically vague categories, like lumping your homeschooling, political activism, latest reading lists, cute kid stories, and latest kitchen fiasco all into "education"? C'mon, fill me in, here.

Kiss those babies (and which category do you put them in?)

Tuesday, February 6

Schooling Update

Lessons are coming along surprisingly well for *whisper* this time of year.

James is reading The Aeneid for Boys and Girls, compliments of KathyJo for posting her reading list, and The Baldwin Project for offering it online. This is the first time he has enjoyed reading the Ancient stories on his own. Until now, he'd sit patiently through a history reading, enjoy doing a project, even get into telling Dad about all he'd learned. But to sit down and read the stories... not so much. That's why I never bought D'Aulaire's books. We checked them out, and they went unread if I didn't read them aloud. But this, he gets up each morning and asks right off if I've printed his reading for the day. (woohoo) This may be a result of some inner process to which I am not privy. It may be a response to Church's writing. Don't know. Don't care. Gonna run with it.

John is reading Fun With Dick and Jane for his reading assignments. Don't laugh. I know. Zorak is just as surprised as I am that John, Mr. Merlin and The Dragons, Mr. Rough-n-Tumble, is enchanted by Dick, Jane, and Baby Sally. People can scoff, but I figure he picked it out, he loves it, he is making advances. He's reading. He's reading aloud to me, to Smidge, to anyone who will listen.
Look, Mom! Look!
John is reading!
John is reading comfortably!
Happy, happy Mother.

We've made it to the Punic wars in History. I don't know if it's a sibling thing, but the boys really can play off one another so easily. It makes me smile.

Me: And so began the First Punic War. Do you boys know what 'Punic' means?
James: They were small wars? *grin*
Me: Um, no...
John: It was a small country?
Me: (Really trying not to giggle, but they're eyeing me. They know they're being silly, and I'm on the verge of laughing.) Not quite... Punic refers to Phoenician, so -
James: *pfft* Well, that's silly. Phoenicia wasn't puny at all.
John: Yeah, but Sicily was kinda small...

Moooooving on, we got through math and Latin with a speed which floored me. A little birdwatching, a little reading, take some time out for an I SPY book... We piled onto the couch with blankets and our recent read aloud, until I started interjecting random things ("the Indian was now right at dwarvish eyeball height...") and then it was over. Time to get up and get the blood flowing.

When we finish with our lessons and lunch, I usually put EmBaby down for a nap while the boys have free reading time. Then I turn them loose to play. It's a little cold and windy today for making them go outside, so they're enjoying some gametime, while I get a cup of coffee and plan the rest of the week. And so, I'm off! (I'm going to find a book to use for the free trial of ClickBook - will let y'all know how it turns out.)

Kiss those babies!

Monday, February 5

Print Books?

I FOUND IT!! I have discovered the motherlode for printing books at home!

For anyone who uses The Baldwin Project, Gutenberg Project, Robinson Curriculum, or other books-to-print, well, you will understand my joy.

We print out the pages in portrait orientation, double-sided, and stick them into a binder. It works. Technically. Hard for me to keep track of (we have too many binders laying about), and it's difficult to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book when the book is the size of a fully grown binder. So, while we thoroughly enjoy the stories, we don't get to enjoy the books as well as if they were smaller, or actually bound. Binders don't travel well in the car. They don't fit in the little daypacks. pages tear out frightfully easily. Not a big issue when compared to, say, whether to use Golden Rice to ship to developing nations, I know. But something to deal with nonetheless.

So, I've been trying to find something that will allow me to print these books in a portrait layout, two-up on a page, and then fold or bind the books so that we'll have smaller finished product with which to work (8 1/2 by 5 1/2).

I suppose, if you're married to a mathematician, or have the whatsit to run a desktop publishing software, you might have the resources at your disposal to figure out the page layout for 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 book printing... I, uh, don't. I can finagle my way through maybe an eight-page print up, but even that's pushing it. Zorak could figure it out, but I can think of eight thousand and three things, straight off the top of my head, that he'd rather do than help me figure out what page order to put Five Little Peppers for printing.

This brings me to the psychotically exciting stuff I found last night!

Gigabooks sells a hand binding press. You can make your own books, complete with covers. The press is pricey for your average homeschool endeavor, but I'm pretty sure Zorak could only think of fifty or sixty things he'd rather do than try to make me something that would do the job. That still leaves enough room for negotiation into buying one!

They carry covers, lamination sheets (actual sheets for this purpose, not the contact paper I normally use), and two different size presses. Oodles of possibilities began dancing in my mind, blurring my budgetary process.

While perusing that site, I found (angels sing in the background) ClickBook. This nifty bit o' software will rotate, shrink-to-fit, sort and send your newly organized project to your regular, everyday printer for you! I think I swooned. I may have even done the excited-toddler-full-body-vibration. They have over 170 layouts you can use, but I mention this solely for the booklet printing. Oh, and the Day Planner layout. (Who hasn't had to customize their Day Planner into a completely unrecognizable form in order to get it to work well? Now, it's fully customizable!) WOOHOO!

Now to find my RC disks...

Kiss those babies!

But we felt so busy!


OK. Got that out of my system. We worked more on the nursery today. I painted the ceiling. Then, because the kids hadn't figured out yet that I was doing something productive, I was able to go ahead and work on the edge of the ceiling in the living/kitchen/dining space. Yes, I know. We painted that months ago. Actually, I got one coat on, and then Zorak realized he ceiling needs some work. So he asked me to hold off on the second coat until he could get to that... well, it's not caving in on us, so it hasn't migrated to the top of the Priority List yet. And... months later, there you have it. A manic woman with a plastic tub of paint in one hand, a paint brush clutched between her teeth, hauling a step stool around the room with a toddler in hot pursuit. The ugly side of home repair. I got all but the spot above the TV. Didn't have the courage to attempt the lateral air maneuvers required for that one.

Then... I just wandered around for a bit. Felt like I should be doing something, but wasn't sure what. (This happens far more often than I'd like to admit.) Zorak build the jamb for the closet door, got it all squared and shimmed and solid (the studs have an amazing twist to them!) He got the door hung. He unplugged the buzzer on the washing machine. (Remember, when the Sears guy came out, he only unplugged the dryer buzzer, but I didn't know that til I put EmBaby down for a nap and threw in a load of wash. Short nap, that day.)

We took a break to watch Over the Hedge with the kidlets, who needed some 'nuggling. Enjoyed a delicious supper. Fretted over the temperatures and the heater. Zorak fiddled with his latest creation, a gift for Ward. I stained a coat rack for the nursery. We got all the children cleaned and loved on and put to bed. I straightened the kitchen, then cleaned the stove (unless you have the housekeeping skills of a German housemaid, do NOT buy an unsealed burner stove - just a tip from Auntie Dy)... and, and... gosh, I feel like we simply did not stop today, other than the movie break with the kids. Even that involved a lot of up-down-wrestle-move-up-down-chase-the-dog-off-the-futon (when did he get in??) Not much quiet time today. At all.

And we didn't call Gram. :-( We need to call her in the morning.

But now, I've got to go over lesson plans for the week. And sweep the floor. And try to figure out where the day went... hmpf.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, February 3

The Remodel, Day 506

Sheesh, talk about a drawn out process! (I still wonder what on earth made me start out doing days, oh, so long ago, but it's fun, in a self-deprecating way, to figure up the days every once in a while.)

Pulled the ceiling fan in the nursery today. Ew. Zorak took the boys to get supplies and I put EmBaby down, then went to work. Got the windows scraped of paint smears, cleaned out one of the closets and prepped it for putting in a closet door. I think just getting doors in there will make such a difference. Right now, it looks like two gaping holes where an explosion in a children's clothing factory took place.

EmBaby was still asleep, so I put chicken leftovers into a pot for soup and started in with the paint. Sixty hours later... (ok, ok, one hour, but it felt like sixty), I found all the stuff and got started. Cleaned the ceiling, then cut in the ceiling paint around the walls and over where the ceiling fan will go. By then, Baby Girl was up and ready to try that whole toddler headfirst into a 5-gal bucket thing. Somehow, I didn't think we were quite ready for that, so I packed up the paint supplies and poured a bit of paint into a Glad Ware tub to work with. She was compliant enough that I could put the second coat on the school room windows, but decided I was taking advantage of her patience when I moved on to the apron.

Ah, well.

Zorak called from one of his stops to tell me he didn't want to do this anymore. (His exact words were, "If I could have left an hour ago, I would have. They're coming unwound. ALL of them!") I suggested food. He called back an hour later, from Chic-Fil-A, to let me know they're all doing much better ("The boys and the Daddy"), and, if I wasn't stalled and waiting for them to return, he had a few more things to do before coming home.

So now, it's almost seven, and I'm going to go watch The Lawrence Welk Show with Baby Girl. Down below freezing again tonight, and I am ever so thankful for our heater. And our floors. It's all been worth it so far.

Kiss those babies!

I needed that.

You know how sometimes you don't mind a gritty ending to a book or a novel? Some stories simply must end that way. (OK, I still rail against the way King's Tower series ended, but like he said, he warned us not to read that last bit. Serves me right, but I won't ever learn. This much, I know.)

However, sometimes you watch a movie and you just need a Very Good Ending?

We watched one like that tonight. It was awesome. Even if it had ended badly for the characters, it was still a great flick. But I really didn't *want* it to end badly for them. I liked them. I reacted somewhat rabidly to the villian. I cheered for the redemption factor (always cheer for the redemption factor - I couldn't have been the only one to come literally out of my seat when Alfred returned to the family in Legends of the Fall, right?). So yes, I, the semi-invested viewer (one without a backup comedy, to boot!) desperately needed the movie to end just the way it did.


I do so appreciate that every once in a while.

Friday, February 2


I'm trying to keep our budget for groceries down to a reasonable level, but even with the discovery of the Far East Asian Market on Memorial Parkway, it's still pretty pricy. The trouble with a wheat-free menu is that many of the traditionally low-cost meals, such as pasta, breads, casseroles, all contain wheat. WF alternatives are available, and we've actually mastered the use of many of them, but they can be budget busters. Which brings us to soups.

Well, we've gone a little nutty on the soups lately. Soup is so filling, so comforting on a chilly fall or winter evening. Yup, we love soup. What we really love is soup that's thick and chunky and filled with huge chunks of meat and thick, solid vegetables. However, the bigger and more plentiful the chunks, the bigger and more painful the overall price of the meal. Huh. We've been playing around with homemade versions of ramen and chicken noodle soup, though, with delightful success. (And approximately 1/60th the sodium content!) Mostly, it's Zorak. I need a base food to start with, and build from there. I'll stare at an empty pot for hours and still draw a blank. Zorak works a little differently. He wanders into the kitchen, grabs the seasoning he wants to use and creates a dish around it. (It's really a rather attractive feature. One of the things I love about him.)

Anyway, I gave into it last night and gave it a shot, as well. It turned out okay. We'll call it... mmm... soup. (Can't think of a catchy name, sorry.) I've heard that some of the rice sticks have wheat flour sprinkled on them. I've contacted two companies, with less-than-wonderful results in trying ascertain whether it's true. From what I can gather, no. Still, be careful if you are very sensitive, or have celiac. We haven't had a reaction from John using them. So, we've been using them, and plan to continue to do so, but if you're highly sensitive, you may want to double check before hand.

Start with rice sticks. There are a bazillion kinds. We like the Zhongshan Laifen rice stick for soups. It's a thick and round noodle that holds up well to simmering. (From what I can gather "Laifen" is either an Asian rice vermicelli, or an undergarment factory. "Zhongshan" is a district, a town, an historical figure, and... I have no idea why it's on the package label. We don't claim to be experts, here, we just work with what we've got.) No clue what "Bun Gao Kho" (with an accent mark over the U, and a caret over the last O) means... Anyone? Anyone? However, the pho or pad thai noodles will also work well. The round ones are simply a little meatier, I think.

Ok, so moving on, prepare the rice sticks - boil water, add noodles, bring back to a boil. Cover, remove from heat, and let sit ten minutes. (Package says 15, but if you only do ten, they'll hold up better in the end.)

Meanwhile, clear out your veggie stash: carrots, celery, whatever. Even leafy things would work - cabbage would be delicious. Slice everything very thinly. This will serve several purposes: reduce cooking time (thus, fuel use and also, nutrient retention), and make it pretty (because we shouldn't ditch aesthetics if we don't have to). Set it all aside in whatever you use to set things aside (I just push 'em over to the edge of the cutting board.)

One onion - dice it up nice and small, set aside. (Again with the shoving.)

Meat. I used one pork rib last night. Could've used two, but we weren't awfully hungry. Plus, it's mostly for flavor, I think. Of course, I'm still mentally comparing it to a nice, thick beef stew, which, this isn't. So. Yeah. Slice the meat very thinly - think thin, like, um, philly cheesesteak sandwiches. Then cut the thin slices crosswise, into small, thin... mmm, "bits". Bits of meat is what you should have. Season and brown in a hot cast iron skillet. Add the onions and brown to caramelize a bit.

OK, your rice should be done now. Rinse the everlovin' snot out of it. This is the starchiest stuff you've ever seen. You could, theoretically, reserve the water to make wallpaper glue, but I don't. Or, if you're hideously frugal, you could save it for making something that would normally require potato water. I guess. Anyway, rinse, rinse, rinse. Throw it back into a pot with hot water, a little bullion (or seasoning of your choice), add the hot meat and onions, the thin and uniformly cut veggies (I just like saying that - I've never actually pulled off uniform cuts in my life. If yours are not uniform, just throw 'em in anyway and don't sweat it. If there are any gargantuan chunks that look obviously wrong, pull them out and trim them up a bit. You're good to go.)

Cover the whole thing and let it simmer stil it smells good. You could eat it right away, but try to give it at least five minutes while you clean the kitchen. That whole mingled flavors thing, you know. And it's nice to have a clean kitchen while you eat your warm soup.

Thursday, February 1

Kids & Weather

Every time we have a nice day, I usher the children outside. Then we spend the next two hours or more playing King of the Hill in the doorway. You'd think I'd sent them to their death on Mars. But today? Today is one of the coldest days we've had so far. And the kids are playing outside, soaked to the skin, covered in mud, happy... happy... weird kids.

We awoke to "snow", or what passes for it in Alabama, anyway. Quarter inch of fairly small ice balls scattered about the property.

You'd think the boys awoke in the North Pole. Did I mention they're muddy? It's been drizzling a slushy, sleety rainy substance since about seven this morning. I'm cold just watching them out the window. But bless their little hearts, they just don't know any better.
There's a slush man on top of the Suburban.

Balto seems to have decided it's time to panic and eat the children. (I listened in, he was laughing. It just looks a bit heinous, though, doesn't it?)

And, while I was snapping pictures of the boy-eating dog, I realized, yes, that's Smidge without his coat! He has gloves, but where'd the coat go? Argh.

I tell ya, the next time they come to me, whining over being out in the cold, cold 60' weather, I'm going to pull up these pictures and tell them,
"I WIN! I'm king of the hill! Out!"

I'm glad to see that EmBaby at least has inherited some sense... she's the most comfortable one in the house!
Kiss those babies!