Tuesday, December 30

Life With Kids

I kept finding the magnetic letters all over the floor in the kitchen. There were bits of ripped up foam packing there, too. So I'd put all the letters back on the fridge and the packing in the recycle bin. Next time I went it, it had happened again. What in the world is this?

Then I saw it, and realized what was going on.

EmBaby was putting her babies to bed. Albeit in the kitchen, yes. But she'd lovingly lay each letter down, and tuck it in beneath a bit of foam packing, tucked just under what would probably be their little chins.

Now that I know what it is, it's cute. Before it was just annoying. Funny how perspective changes things, no?

Kiss those babies!

Monday, December 29


It's nearly next year! My Event Smidge broke. It's buried somewhere beneath the Playmobil and the bean bag, neither of which I've been able to extricate him from for the last few days. So that means that at the end of the day, when I look quite bleary-eyed at the computer and think, "Ah, I can blog tomorrow," it means I have no. clue. how long it's been since I blogged. (Ya think?)

Oh, I do hope you all had a lovely Christmas. Or Solstice. Or Hannukah. I think we've even blown off Learn a Foreign Language Month since the last time y'all heard from me. Yeesh. But ya know what I've been doing?

Eating leftovers. (Leftover sirloin and roast asparagus beats the snot out of leftover turkey, I don't care who you are!)

Stealing bean bags from small children. (When Granny ok'd the buying of the bean bags as her gift, I SO should've angled to get me one, too. Do you remember how much fun they were when you were a kid? They're just as good when you're a grown-up, too! Zorak and I dragged them into the playroom to watch a movie, just the two of us, the other night. Totally fantastic gift, if you're looking for something to give.) Me-Tae figured out that if you stack two of them, you have a decent fascimile of a reclining lounger. Emily has napped in her bean bag every day since Christmas. It's the cutest stinkin' thing I've seen since... well, there's just an enormous amount of cute to trip on, around here.

Eyeballing the tree. And, for the first time in over a decade of Holiday Festivity Negotiations, I do believe I beat Zorak to the "let's take the tree down now" speech. Yeah, he couldn't believe it, either. But then, it went up before Christmas Eve. There was no harrowing search for a tree, no coughing up money better spent on chocolate, no delightful Festivus-style Airing of Grievances over decorating, and so... I'm sated. Content. Got my fill, and am ready to put my bookshelf back by the couch, where it belongs, thanks.

Then there's the cleaning. But that's not pleasant to discuss. And it never lasts long enough for me to provide tangible proof. But we had company on Christmas, and then again the day after, and then we're going away for a bit. So. You know, that's more cleaning than any one person should reasonably do. Ever. And that's all I'm going to say on that topic.

And right now, that's all I'm going to say, in general. Not because I don't care, but because it's cold, and Zorak just got the fire going, and it's warmer over there. So. See you tomorrow!

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, December 21

How Many Days?

This is the year Smidge has discovered the concept of time, in a linear manner. He counts down to one event, then immediately calculates the number of days until the next event. You'd think this would be helpful, somehow, right? I mean, he's been counting down Halloween, Thanksgiving, AND Christmas since his birthday in September. At least he's got place value down pat, now. But no. I'm still waiting, puckered up by the front door, for three more boxes to be delivered tomorrow. Next year, forget using Outlook or a Dayplanner, I'm going to make better use of my Event Smidge.

I've been busy dating this week, so I haven't had time to write. Just night out on the town after night out on the town. But let me tell you, ladies, there are some good men out there.

Thursday night, we spent fifteen minutes or so gleefully sniffing candle scents at Hobby Lobby, after oogling bead displays and sparkly paints and picking out the Perfect Wrapping Paper. Then we kicked back at Starbuck's for iced coffees and cheese danishes while we laughed and joked and had a fantastic time. Didn't find a thing we were looking for, but that didn't dampen the evening at all.

Friday night, I had a date with another admirer. We went a bit more casual, going the gaming route, and buying bedding and Santa gifts. We supped at Taco Bell, which doesn't sound like much, until I mention that when I said it was a bit chilly in the restaurant, my date immediately whipped his coat around and offered it to me. *swoon*

Both men held the door open for me (and the next twenty ladies behind us), both held my hand and made me laugh, and were just such perfect gentlemen. Ah. Yes. Good stuff, that.

Of course, it'll be another six years before either of them can drive... there's that. ;-) And although there's nothing wrong with shorter men, I do think they'll benefit from a few more years' growth.

Yep, I got to spend some one-on-one with the two eldest children, and it was really fantastic. We've all decided to make this part of our traditions - and, since it gets Zorak off the hook of having to do the Christmas Thing, in public market places, listening to Christmas Muzak, he thinks it's an incredibly wonderful idea, too.

Tomorrow, I get to spend the evening with Smidge. We have just a few goodies to pick up, but he's waited so patiently that we could be buying toilet paper and he wouldn't mind. He's also hinted that he'd like to hit McDonald's for a shake. Should be a fun evening, indeed!

Traditions have to start somewhere, right? What traditions do you enjoy with your family?

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, December 16

Pack Christmas Party

Oh, we had SUCH a great time. I think we're finding our spot. I also think the leadership is finding a good vision for the pack. It's all gelling into a pretty good experience. The majority of the party looked like this:

A little blurry. Very loud (can you hear it?) This is an animated, balloon-popping, carol-singing bunch we have, here.

They did awards. The little Tiger Cubs just made me want to scoop them all up and bring them home. But I'm not sure where we'd put five more children all in one fell swoop. And there's that pesky "parent" issue. Yeah, their parents might mind. So I just oooh'd and ahhh'd over the Totally Adorable little Tiger Cubs.

The boys worked their tushes off the past couple of months, and tonight their efforts were recognized. John's Cubmaster just gave him a bag to hold and dropped each item into the bag as he called it off. John was a bit dazed. I don't think he realized how many beltloops and beads and pins he'd earned. He's still in the hey-this-is-fun stage, not so much on the record keeping or goal setting part, yet. But he's been busy!

And I really wish I'd taken more pictures of John, because he was just *beaming* by the time he was done. But the batteries on the camera died about the third shot. So you get Bewildered John, the Bear.

James had a similar experience, and he was absolutely vibrating with excitement. But he *knew* how much he'd done, and he had painstakingly recorded every detail, every project, every experiment. He's written more reports, fixed up more displays, and made more contacts than I think he knew he was capable of. So this was pretty exciting for him.

Topping it all off, James earned his Webelos Badge. We didn't realize it was such a big ceremony thing. OR that we'd have to go up there. But one of the other moms kindly took the camera and snapped a few shots for us. As you can see, they ALL came up. John, Smidge and Em were pretty proud of James. That was just as good as the badges, themselves. Moreso, actually, for this Mama. And James was glad to have them up there, with him, whispering, "Ohhhh, COOL!" and "WOW!" - all of which must be sibling-speak for, "Way to go, brother. You've done a fine job."

Kiss those babies!


Why are there more pictures of the babies than of anybody else?

Because you can stick the babies in a box under the tree and snap 200 pictures in less time and with less effort than it takes to find the right settings and capture one shot of the mobile ones as they dash from here to there.

And if you whistle and sing and make faces at the older ones, you don't get quite the same expression you do with the babies.

I'm convinced that's the reason. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, December 14

The Play

It was a long, long, LONG day. We arrived at 9:30 for rehearsals (which they didn't have - they just put all the kids in Sunday School), stayed through most of the service (lovely musical service), and then slipped out early to feed the kids (they gave everyone an hour to eat, but we ate at the buffet and that takes us two hours to really do it right, and the only other food the children would be offered between noon and eight PM was going to be hot dogs, so we intended to do it right).

In retrospect, this may have really angered The Powers That Be, as not one person was so much as *civil* to me when I came to help serve supper - a task I'd been asked to do earlier in the month. Whatever. It was worth it. The boys made it through pretty well, and Smidge really enjoyed his lunch...

The boys all did a fantastic job. We can't believe Smidge hung in there. I fully expected him to burst into tears and just sit down at some point. (They'd scheduled in a "nap time" - I think, actually, it may have been an awkward attempt to placate me after I'd expressed dissatisfaction with the schedule of keeping the kids at the church for the entire day, without the option for the little ones to rest before the busy evening. Anyway, then they were surprised that nobody napped. Der. Talk about a monumentally bad idea!) But, he didn't fall over. He didn't cry. He really hung in there, and he is so proud of himself, too.

James and John nailed their parts. They were clear, strong, and obviously enjoyed the whole thing.

EmBaby danced, made up her own hand movements, and kept Me-Tae apprised of every step. "We are going to sing another song! We are going to see a movie!" (One of the songs had a video accompaniment.)

Jason didn't fuss a bit. He was his typical happy, complacent little self. Can't ask for a better evening than that!

And just for fun, to round out the photos, Smidge and Em were so happy to see each other again at the end of the day!

Oh, I love those babies! And we're so glad we stuck it out for them. They will enjoy these memories for a long time. Good stuff.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, December 13

They're Going Out!

OK, no pictures. No cute, funny year-end letter. Just a card. And a personalized note. And the knowledge that I love you enough to just get it in the mail, already.

Aunt Jo Ann sent me an address book. What a cool idea, and yes, I needed one! Just one of those things I kept putting off - I have no idea why. So, I broke out my little box of envelope corners and bits of paper, and transferred everything into the book. I feel so grown up. *snort*

However, my stellar bits-and-corners method of keeping track of mailing addresses has proven to be somewhat lacking (to say the least), and so, if I *should* have your address (meaning, if I've ever had it before, but you haven't heard from me... or if you've moved since last I feasibly had it) it's safe to assume I haven't still got it, and would really like to include you in my New, Grown Up Method of Keeping Track of People I Care About. So, um drop me an email.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, December 12

Hey, where'd the picture go?

I haven't messed with the template at all, but just noticed now that the barn picture in the header is gone. Poof. I hate to ask this, but has it been gone long?


I wonder where it went...

Nevermind. It's back now.
Kiss those babies~

Thursday, December 11

Flooded In.

Normally, our little "creek" looks something like this:

It's deepest pool is just the right size for Em to wade in, up to her hips, and that's after a nice rain. Really, it's idyllic.

This morning, however, that spot where John and Em are, in the above picture, looked like this:

The water was a good six feet higher than usual. I couldn't get over to the other side to take a picture from the same angle, but the big tree behind John, in the first shot, can be seen just to the right of center in this picture - taken as if you stood behind him to get the shot. That water spans 50 feet between the bank of the creek and where I stood to take this shot:

(It's blurry because it was cold and rainy. It's safe to say I'd never make it as a National Geographic photographer...)

And the drive, itself, was amazing...

You know, from inside the cab of the truck. But the deepest point in that overflow atop the drive was probably almost two feet deep - a pool filled with slick clay, and water rushing headlong over the top. Nah. That stuff was really moving fast, too.

Needless to say, we found plenty to occupy our time inside today.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, December 10


We've all been sick. Yes, in the last 48 hours, we've fallen like clumsy gator wrestlers, into the muck.

Zorak went down sometime during the night on Sunday. He could not move come Monday morning. Slept it off and was functional by Monday night.

Which is good, because the kids dropped, one-by-one, all day long. And that evening, I fell prey.

Yesterday, I was done for. Useless. We ate cookies for breakfast, and watched cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix. The big boys picked up the slack so nicely, refreshing the cookie stash and changing diapers while I laid on the futon chair, rocking back and forth and begging for mentholatum and tissues. Chills, aches, drainage, stuffiness - like being beaten with the soap-filled sock of the Common Cold.

It was all I could do to get some laundry done and tidy the house by afternoon, but supper wasn't happening. So Zorak brought home a delicious roasted chicken from Sam's Club. And clementines. And a pineapple. He *hearts* us.

Everybody out cold by ten. Even our late reader didn't last beyond that.

And yet, the boys managed to get the tree up and lights on it. It's lovely. The boys strung the lights (yes, it's pre-lit, but you can just never have enough lights) and they did a spectacular job.

Em hung a couple of sparkly ornaments before moving on to stashing sparkly ornaments around the house. The bell wreath for the front door is stacked atop the advent wreath on the dining table. Best of all, all the loud, annoying Christmas decorations (singing Pinocchio, for example) live in the playroom this year. How cool is that?

Time to dope up on Vitamin C and guaifenesin and brace myself to face the day!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, December 8

Where have we been?

We've been enjoying the Advent season! The boys rode in the Awesome Local Parade on Saturday. They had a blast. Smidge got to ride in the float with the bigs, and they even had an extra marshmallow-on-a-stick for him to hold, too.

Sixteen boys on a trailer with pointy sticks and nowhere to run. If I were a betting woman, I'd have laid heavy odds that someone would have lost a marshmallow. Or a stick. Or an eye. Fantastically, if I were a betting woman, I'd be broke, now. The kids were great.

Zorak, the littles and I scored a ride in the back of the truck pulling the float, and I only got beaned in the head by one piece of candy, followed by a quick, John Candy-esque, "D'oh! Sorry!" hollered from somewhere on the float.

I made chocolate chocolate chip mini muffins and mixed up a big jug of hot chocolate for all the boys. Wasn't sure if that would peg me as a total dork, or a cool mom, but the kids and adults all seemed to enjoy it, so that was nice. The weather was much better than we'd anticipated, although Jase and Em were not as impressed as Zorak and I...

The playroom is nearly complete. Zorak laid the carpet Thursday night, and we've put it all together over the weekend. It lacks baseboard (naturally), but it's functional and the kids love it. I was so proud of us, until...

I realized we'd neglected (OK, *I* had neglected) to account for the two large bookshelves (and all their books) that would now be homeless. ACK! So we spent all evening Saturday and all day Sunday sorting, culling, shifting, and reorganizing the bookshelves all over the house. Some of you will get this -- you cannot simply take those two shelves and move them, with the same contents, to another place in the house. That messes with the flow. Those books went there for a Very Specific Reason, and they cannot live elsewhere for No Specific Reason.


We ended up moving and sorting five bookcases (six? I can't remember) to accomodate the shift of two bookcases. And I carved out a spot for the tree, while we were at it (gotta harness that manic energy and use it for good, once in a while!) The house still looks vaguely like someone ransacked a used book store, but it's significantly better than before. The boys helped. They slept like the dead as soon as their heads hit the pillows, too. Not sure who will be more thrilled to have this project end, Zorak or the boys. It's safe to say this will be a jolly household, indeed, by the end of the week. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Friday, December 5

...As opposed to "our" town.

We suspected we'd moved into a not-so-great town when we started hearing it linked with high meth rates fairly regularly. Since then, our suspicions have been confirmed more than once - from the cut-down 2 liter soda bottle of gasoline left down by the barn by a string of vehicles that tore out of here when Baltoid heard them (???) to the threatening, name-calling letters sent by the mayor trying to intimidate (or shame) people into agreeing to his town expansion plan. Mailbox baseball isn't indicative of a "bad area", nor were we surprised when most of our campaign signs were stolen during the election. But the most recent display seems a bit off, unless it was done by a 30-year-old lefty on a bicycle.

Somebody had to have come down *into* our drive to bash it in the way they did. It's on the side of the mailbox opposite oncoming traffic, so it wasn't just some kids driving down the road, smacking boxes. And the dent indicates the blow came from behind the box, further up the driveway. Gah. Lovely, people. Absolutely lovely. I am ready to install a camera and surveillance.

Thursday, December 4

Well, that didn't work.

I'd written two separate posts, intending to use the auto-post feature for one to show up later. Since it's sitting there, you can tell I botched it. However, the first post is this one.

We had the most AMAZING experience today, in a neat little town.

Arab, AL (It's pronounced /AY-rab/, too - not /air-ub/. I thought, when we first got here, that it was an accent thing, but it's not.)

We wanted to check out Warehouse Discount Groceries to see if we could garner savings there worth adding the drive to our regular monthly trip. The prices weren't that great - higher, actually, than a few of our regulars (The Pig, Foodland, Aldi) - however, the service was TO DIE FOR. Everybody there was helpful, friendly, gracious. EVERYBODY. Even the customers were nice. The building is older, but the store is delightfully clean. The produce is good. They have large canned foods! We plan to go back.

Since they didn't have a few things we needed, we stopped at the Supercenter Wal-Mart there in Arab. Ooh, my. It was like shopping at Wal-Mart back when Sam Walton was still alive! I was stunned when we asked one employee if they had any little girl gloves in stock and she helped us find them! And when another employee overheard me telling the boys that I'd like to see if they had turtlenecks in the boys' section, and she volunteered that she didn't get any in this season... wow. Most of the time, they'll just let you hunt until your shoulders hunch over and one eye swells up.

You could have absolutely knocked me over with a whisper, though, when that same lady tracked us down in the diapers section, holding several turtleneck sweaters in different colors, to tell me that she did have some in the girls' section, but, as I could see, they weren't feminine-looking, and would that possibly work for me? I hope I didn't seem rude, as it took me a while to answer her while my brain ran through the possibilities -- 1) maybe she doesn't actually work here, she's just bored, or lonely, 2) she's a stalker, 3) it's part of a huge plan to coax me into feeling comfortable so someone else can hoark my wallet -- But NO, no. It was all legit.

We were asked more times than I can count if we were finding everything okay, if we needed any help, and if there was anything they could do for us.

The people shopping there were so nice and gentle. It was fantastic. I felt like those kids in Disney commercials look. Just all wide-eyed and grinning.

And when it was time to go, there was NO waiting in the checkout aisles.

The lady who worked at the register we ended up in was nice. And she smiled at us. Do you know how long it's been since anyone employed by Wal-Mart has voluntarily smiled at us? I had to tell her what a truly delightful experience shopping there had been that day. And I told the lady at the door, and the manager. And I'm about to write to corporate and tell them that whatever the folks in Arab have going on, everybody should get them some!

As much as we love our little piece of earth, I found myself today wondering what houses in Arab are going for...

Mid-Week *whew*

Went to the dentist. But we don't want to talk about that.
Went to play rehearsal. But I'd rather talk about the dentist visit than that.
On the Kid Front, which is way more fun to talk about (for me, at least), we've had a good week.

James cracks me up. We stopped at Home Depot tonight to price carpet for the playroom. He pointed at the (evidently broken) inflatable santa snowglobe display, with it's three pieces of "snow" floating around in the window, and said, "Look! It's regionally accurate! It gets as much snow as we do!"

John has kept us in wood all week. He's been splitting, hauling, and stacking like a pro. I forget that this isn't a standard chore for an 8-year-old, until Erin says, "He what? That's a fully grown man's job!" Yeah, it is, but he's really good at it. I'm thinkin' he needs some marshmallows in his hot chocolate tomorrow.

Smidge has taken to wearing overalls. He's feeling mighty big, that one is. But then, he got teary-eyed after he showed me that he didn't need my help with the clasps. Turned out, he's not quite ready to not need Mom's help just yet. So we hit a compromise -- he can keep learning to do new things, and I'll still be right here to help anytime, "just because". That seemed to do the trick.

EmBaby is 3 for 3 now, on relocating to our bed sometime in the middle of the night. I'm not sure if Jase wakes her, or if she just decided she likes our flannel sheets better than hers. Or perhaps she just isn't up for the long trek back down the hall after she hits the bathroom? Either way, we're good with it. It won't be long before she stops coming in except to tell us she's hungry, or there's a snake in the fridge, or something far less pleasant than the warm, sleepy presence of a Little One snuggling in with us in the wee hours of the morning.

Jase found a forward gear. He also found the cake pans. And the trash can. And the broiler drawer. YIKES! Nothing. Is. Safe. But oh, he is so excited to be able to go where he wants. He'll start to fuss, and then you can see it dawn on him, "Hey, I don't need you coolies! I can get there, myself!" And he's off.

Our low tonight isn't much lower than our high for tomorrow. And then it's going down, down, down from there! Tomorrow is grocery day. I do believe we'll set out early for groceries, and do lessons in the afternoon. Yep. With marshmallows. Good stuff.

Heh. I love this time of year.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, December 2

Thanksgiving Pictures

John learned how to make carved flowers. I didn't get a picture of the end result because, well, because I have five children and some of them were puking and somehow, "grab the camera!" just doesn't spring to mind in that situation. However, the lure of carving was enough to drag him off the couch. You can tell he doesn't feel well, but he's also content.

Jase learned to crawl. Whether it was an attempt to keep up or get away, we aren't sure. He had a really great time, though. (That's a cousin Em's age who's "helping" him along. Or thwarting his escape...)

James is still working on perfecting The Ultimate Camera Smile...

Cousin Veronica VERY graciously allowed her stash of non-shattering ornaments to be used by all. I'm thinking we'll need to get a box of these this year, because I just don't think it'll go so well with Grandma's glass ornaments...

We pulled up to find the porch lit with luminarias. It was a warm fuzzy. It's nice to have family out here that loves the traditions from back there like we do. (I also love that these are electric. Adobe isn't such a fire hazard, but out here, where everything's made of wood, it's nice to avoid open flames whenever possible.)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, November 30

Oh, my.

Well, we are home. Three of the five were sick, starting Thursday morning and continuing into Saturday evening. We had a lovely time, illnesses aside. Still, it felt good to pull into the drive. No matter how much you love someone, it's just never comfortable to throw up at their house, is it?

Today, Zorak got hit with something nasty. We'll call it the Productivity Bug. Urngh. He'd been coming down with it earlier, but I didn't realize just how bad it would be. When we hinted to the boys that we had some work to do when we got home, I jokingly told them we were switching to a 12-hour school day. Ha. That would've been a breeze, in retrospect. But really, I've nothing to complain about. We accomplished quite a bit, and are back on high-octane fuel around the Forever Home.

The boys helped Zorak work in the basement. That seemed to movitate everybody on some level. (James said he's just so thankful we aren't doing the 12-hour school day, he'll work as much as we need him to!) The basement is once again functional. The Mistress has been evicted. (She's living in the carport now. Yay!) Tools are back in their proper homes. Trash is in the trash bin. Recycling is... well, it only made it to the carport. But that's out of the basement, so I am a happy camper. The boys split and stacked wood, ran errands, and in general really pitched in beautifully. I cleaned, culled, and sorted. Swept, swept, and culled some more.

Zorak helped me get the door to the linen closet built. This is one of those projects where he isn't convinced it's going to work, but he goes along with it because he loves me. (That, and because he knows that without his input, I'll do it anyway, and someone may end up impaled by the fallout of a failed joint.) He made do with my not-so-precise directions, though, and went along with the crazy scheme. I guess I could have done it, but he doesn't take pictures and I wanted to document the process, in case it worked. I'll get it painted tomorrow and he'll pick up some dodads and then I'll post the pics when we've got it hung. Or when we decide to scrap it and start over.

I culled and re-organized Em's room. Then Zorak moved the crib in there. It is, once again, "The Nursery" - and now EmBaby gets to learn how to s-h-a-r-e a room with somebody. She's lucky it's just Jase. He's the most easygoing of her brothers. But we do think the new arrangements will work well for a while.

And THAT (*trumpets blare from offscreen*) frees up the guest room/nursery/library for the pending transformation into a playroom, complete with toy bins, books, puzzles and a puzzle table, comfy chairs, music, and whatever else they decide to put into the room. We'll work this week to clean it out, empty the closet, and get things lined up so that this weekend we can lay carpet and baseboard and then furnish it with the kids' things.

Hopefully at some point, we'll break out the Christmas decorations. Maybe we'll even get around to hanging pictures on the wall this month!! (What? It's only been three years. Like y'all haven't ever taken that long to get around to unpacking... *grin*)

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, November 25

More Holiday Fun

Well, since the fruit of our labor didn't pan out for gift giving this year, we decided to go back to square one. All the good ideas come from there, don't they? And so, here's a peek at the gifts we've been working on this year. We refer to it as The Ultimate Regifting Project:

Hey, now, lest you think we're just being cheap, we're not. These aren't gifts we're trying to get rid of. To be honest, each pan went through a long and emotional decision-making process. We're certified cast iron hoarders. And if you have a good pan, it's hard to part with it. (I knew Zorak was in it for the long haul when he finally allowed his cast iron and mine to comingle in the cupboards! It was true love.) These are special, and they're given with a lot of love.

There's nothing quite like an old, awesome, well-seasoned cast iron skillet. And, of course, you have to know your audience. So not everybody will be getting one of these. However, take a look at what one can do with a cast iron Christmas gift:

(Doesn't that look scrumptious? Photo credit to Me-Tae.)

We're spending Thanksgiving with family, and are really looking forward to it. Hopefully I'll put down the food and wine long enough to get more pictures (because that's going to be another batch of Christmas gifts, don't ya know!) In the meantime, I'll leave you with a Gratuitous Happy Baby shot:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, November 24

Good Monday Morning!

The cold snap is over. Everyone survived. However, I'm a little dingbat and didn't leave a faucet dripping enough Friday night (I thought I had, but I guess I didn't - or I shut it off at some point without thinking), so we awoke Saturday morning to a frozen pipe. Therefore, no water for us. Yeesh.

No worries, though. The kettle on the stove provided water for hot chocolate, and Zorak zipped down to the corner market, where the nice lady let us fill our 3gal. jug with water. Yay!

Zorak and the Big Boys went on the hike, and I took the littles up to Me-Wa and Me-Tae's place. Why? Because I am so, so, SOOO blessed to have wonderful friends who will let me shower at their place when I do something stoopid and leave us waterless. And they kept the littles fed and entertained, so not only could I shower, but I could shower In Peace. I'm going to count that as an early Christmas present. I just wish I'd known I'd have a draft-free shower, and I'd have taken my razor. It's been a while since I've been able to shave without goose bumps. Whole different outcome.

By the time everybody found everybody else (we don't have the most organized, communication-oriented Pack), the weather had warmed up beautifully and the picnic was quite delightful. We were only a block from one of Zorak's friends, at that point, so we stopped in to visit with him and his family. She showed me her rockin' food storage, and we discussed canning successes and failures from this year. (OK, she showed me her successes, and I shared my failures. But it sounds so much better the other way around, doesn't it?) Came home, tidied up, and collapsed in a big ol' puppy pile to watch a movie.

Iron Man. Have y'all seen that? WOW. Way better than I'd expected. Could'a done without the pole dancing in the airplane, but other than that, wow - great flick. James would really like to figure out how to make an arc reactor, and John's willing to wear the suit if James can make it work. (Help!)

And today, it's time to crack that whip. Back to work, everybody! (I'm kidding - it's the week of Thanksgiving - we are so just baking and eating and rolling in the leaves!)

Kiss those babies!

Friday, November 21


Scout hike. In the morning. On the mountain. It's down to 16 degrees tonight. And tomorrow's the start of deer season. And... sixteen degrees, people! This couldn't have been arranged sometime in September?!?

Melissa reminded me that there's no such thing as inclement weather, just inadequate clothing. *snort* Unfortunately, the clothing we have IS inadequate. When we pulled the winter coats out today, we discovered James has no coat. I would blame myself, but honestly, I bought his coat over-sized last year! What business that child had, growing two full sizes over the summer, is beyond me. Guess we'll discover the Power of Layers tomorrow, huh? He's going to look like Ralphie's little brother.

And yes, I'm taking the camera. Because we just haven't scarred the child enough lately.

The Littles and I are going to tag along, visit friends, and hopefully do a little shopping while Zorak and the boys do the three-mile hike. In the cold. We'll think of them while we're waiting in line at the coffee shop.

Kiss those babies!

It's the holidays!

Zorak came home yesterday with Advent calendars for the kids. We have friends who a) spoil them so sweetly, and b) are FAR more organized and holiday-aware than we are. The kids are excited. Em has no clue there's chocolate under there. I want to hang the calendars on the wall - out of her reach - before she clues in.

We've been making the loop through the Christmas sections of the stores - Lowe's, Kroger, Home Depot, even The Pig has Christmas stuff out. Normally, I'd complain that it's not even Thanksgiving yet! But I'm just glad they didn't put it out in August. And really, I need the constant reminder that it's COMING. It's almost CHRISTMAS. Plus, I'm a fiend for Christmas music. Even if it's formatted as Muzak. Really not picky when it comes to that.

We have to retool our gift-giving plans. Not because of any financial crunch, but because I remade the jelly and NONE of it set this time, either. The pear stuff we could probably get away with renaming "syrup". I don't think I can bring myself to give "persimmon syrup" to people I actually like. *shudder* Ew. Ew. Just thinking about it makes me cringe. It's the color of Pepto Bismol that's somehow, some way, gone horribly wrong. Like the bottle wasn't closed the last time it was used. Ten years ago. The kind of thing you find in the back of your great-great-Aunt's medicine cabinet. That color. That should never be poured on pancakes.

And I refuse to knowingly contribute a gift that WILL be regifted at white elephant exchanges for the next few years, either. So, back to square one.

The kids have some fun ideas for what they'd like to give each other. I have no idea how we'll separate everyone long enough for them to pick up something for the others. It's going to take a math major, a graphing calculator, some matrices, and possibly blindfolds to work that one out!

The stove is my gift. It's a wonderful gift, and I'm not at all disappointed that it won't be under the tree on Christmas morning. I'd much rather have it fired up, and a safe distance from the tree. Like I told Zorak the other night, this beats a diamond ring, hands down, every time. And, to show my appreciation to Zorak, I promise not to decorate the house until after Thanksgiving.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, November 20


Sunny is dead. She's slipped her gears, or something. But she won't even do a wheelie for me right now. She just makes a whirring noise and then smells bad.

And it was a wimpy little two-loaf batch of regular old bleached white flour bread! No rye! No whole wheat! No sorghum. There wasn't even flax seed or xanthan gum in there! Wahhhhhh. I guess it really is the little things that'll get ya.

And, I would say "may she rest in peace"... but I've got dough to pick out from under my fingernails right now. And I should probably go explain to Smidge why that was not the absolute *best* time to come ask if he can have some candy... since, "Um, Mommy is having some trouble right now. I need you to leave the kitchen. Now. Please." didn't seem to register with him, and he kept asking.


We may not leave the house today.

Kiss those babies!

Wacky Wednesday Weirdness

I haven't posted an update on TCTSNBN. Tonight was rather bland. That was nice. The previous two weeks, though, have been a RIOT!

Last week, I got mad-dogged by the Boundary-Challenged Nursery Worker on our way out the door. The best way I can describe this is when your brain is receiving two completely disparate signals, and in the confusion that follows, you don't realize what happened until it's over and you're halfway to your car.

Practice was over, and we were leaving. Part of my brain was telling me, "We're at church, and the kids are happy, and all is as well as it can be, considering." Another part of my brain was telling me, "There are strangers boring holes into the back of your head! They're blocking the door and glaring at you! Why aren't all of your children within arm's reach, woman?!? What is WRONG with you?"

But I couldn't quite make out what my brain was telling me, other than that there was something about the door and danger (Will Robinson!), because Smidge was walking with a bag of chips in one hand, a paper under his chin, trying to zip his hoodie while he walked. The older two boys were doing high-radiation proton movement displays, or something. They move so quickly. I had Jase in the carrier, plus my crochet bag and my diaper bag. Anyway, I was uber-focused on Smidge, and on getting him caught up with us, and didn't pay any attention to the various signals. (I figured the pertinent one would surface as the victor, at some point, to relay whichever message I needed to hear. Right?)

Then I heard a voice Right. Behind. Me. "Hi." Not a chipper "hi". Not a friendly "hi". It was very much a, "You're in my space"... "hi". But I wasn't in facing thugs mode, because we were still inside the church. So my reaction (which any survivalist would mock beyond reason, and I would deserve it) was a full-spine shudder, followed by turning to the voice and responding with a perky, smiley, "Hi! How are ya?" But the hands-on-hips, pursed-lipped posture and the cobra-necking that met my gaze left me standing there with that stoopid smile on my face, trying desperately to process the conflicting information. (I know this face... who is this... why are these people puffing up like this... we're in the lobby... friendly? not really... I'm confused!)

Since nobody responded with anything more than an "mmmhmmm", I scuttled the kids out the front door, and about 10 feet out, it hit me. That was the Nursery Lady! What? What was that? Nooo, it couldn't have been. I turned around to see, and there were her two companions, watching out the window at us while she gestured pretty pointedly. I couldn't hear a thing, so for all I know, they may have been discussing the poor parking design, or the cloud cover, or something. I don't know. There was no one else in the parking lot. It was just weird.

And the week before that, oh, OH! The day of the production, the children are supposed to be at the church to perform in the AM service, then let out for lunch. But they have to be back at the church by one... and kept there, for dress rehearsals, until the performance that night. Wowsa. I asked the Children's Minister about it, since that's a long day for the littler ones in the group, and that we generally nap in the afternoons. (Well, I do. But we do have the kids get a little downtime in the afternoon when they're going to have a late night.) And she explained that they don't usually have dress rehearsals the same day as the performance, but they've only got the lighting crew for that one day. Soooo...

Lighting crew?

YES! They got "a screaming deal" of only $600, but that's why they're limited to only having the crew for one day.

Six hundred dollars?

YES! Can you believe it?

No... I really can't. (Although probably for completely different reasons...)

Have I been living in a cave for that long? Is it normal for a church other than a megachurch to hire a lighting crew? For a children's play? For six hundred dollars?

Just wild. Absolutely wild. We're looking forward to this ending, and if the BCNW has her way, I don't think anybody will be sad to see us go, either.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 19

Monday was many things.

It was long. And I do mean l-o-n-g.

It was productive. Really productive!

It was interesting. Though not in a "wow, I love learning" way.

We learned a few things, too.

I don't think I can physically blow that much time every day. I don't have 30 kids I have to check for retention. I don't have kids getting up to get a pencil (they just reach across the table and grab a new one from the pencil cup.) I don't have to play to the middle, or drag it out and find busy work. Busy work is harder on the preparer, I think. Although there are probably scads of 10yo's who would disagree with me.

The kids are learning more than I give them credit for in my more worrisome moments. Even if they are a titch lazy, they are still learning and moving forward. That's encouraging to know for certain.

We do well with a schedule, because honestly, we're ALL a bit like a litter of puppies. Yours Truly, included.

Take Andie's advice whenever you can. Movies are educational! (Actually, the timing was perfect, as our documentary on Art in the Late Middle Ages arrived from Netflix on Tuesday.)

John figured it out. Clever boy. Unfortunately, I let that give a reprieve to both boys, and James... well, James needs a bit more of the structure to understand that yes, Virginia, there is more to learn. *groan*

Zorak rocks. I mean seriously, deeply, honestly rocks. He knows just when to rub my back and tell me I'm not The Crazy Lady, and just when to share a story of Life, Through the Eyes of a Ten-Year-Old Boy. Those stories make me laugh until I cry. But it's more of a happy, relieved cry than a maniacal "abandon hope, all ye who enter" cry. He makes me laugh. He reminds me that our kids are really, REALLY great kids.

He also gives me hope that one day I will not have to explain that, yes, you really should rinse soap off your face. You know... like you do off your body. (And that you can't use shampoo in your example, because that's "shampoo" and not "soap".) He remembers when those arguments made sense in his head, and he assures me that one day, the boys will outgrow it, too.

And so, it's been a good week, in many ways. Probably not the ways we anticipated. But then, it hasn't been bad in the ways we anticipated, either. Today, we hit the dentist for the kids, and then piano, and then TCTSNBN. We'll be doing some car schooling and a little waiting-room-schooling, as well. But it'll be another good day. It will.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, November 17

Trying a New Approach

It's been coming. I've seen it coming, but kept hoping the "reminders" (or the "thinly veiled threats") would do the trick. But no, eventually, they will stop believing you when you say they have it easy. Eventually, my friends, they will call your bluff.

Our regular course of academics includes math, Latin, reading, science, history, art, music, and general language arts (literature, spelling, grammar, etc.). But the Bare Bones are math, Latin and reading. If we have a particularly busy day, or are experiencing a plague, those must get done. You can curl up and die under the coffee table after, and only after, your math-Latin-and-reading are done.

Somehow, at some unknown point, that devolved to doing only math, Latin and reading every day. That should take an hour, tops, right? Yet, how did I not really catch on that this was *all* we were accomplishing? Well, they were taking four or five hours to accomplish those three. That's how. Still, I could have spotted it earlier.

I mean, they were more than happy to complain that we didn't do art. But they didn't hear me when I explained that we weren't doing art because art comes after history and spelling in the Grand Scheme of Things, and we weren't getting to those, either. (Of course, obviously, I didn't hear me, either. I'm pretty sure once my throat tightens past a certain point, only dogs and the occasional armadillo can hear me).

And so, last Thursday, at approximately a quarter past three, when there came upon us a Whining of Immeasurable Proportions that I would dare to ask them to unload the dishwasher while they were slaving away at math. Or reading. Or whatever it was at that point. And they were starving, to boot! ...well, I snapped.

They were starving because I had yet to prepare a mid-day meal, hence the request that the dishwasher be unloaded, which is normally done when the Big 3 are completed, but they weren't done yet, but we were hungry, so could you pleeeeeaassseee... ah, but you get the point. Things were, quite simply, out of hand.

This week, we're on an 8-3 schedule. Fifteen minute recess. Outside. (Because it's important for them to be out. side.) Thirty minute lunch. Timers and schedules and... my favorite part... homework. Heh. Yes, I'm spending this week lecturing for a full 35 minutes per subject, doling out the busy work, and then assigning as "homework" the very pages they'd have done during the day if they hadn't pushed that envelope. Although I haven't let them know, yet, that that's exactly what's happening. We'll see if they catch on. I figure if they do catch on on their own, hold a pow-wow, and articulate their understanding of the situation, then, sure, we'll stop this little experiment. That will be worth the effort going into it.

If they do not figure it out by Friday, I will fill them in on the fact that their evenings, which have been so full of work thus far, could easily be free from strife and worry if only they would stick to the Task At Hand during the day. AND we could be done before three. AND they'd still get a fantastic education in the end. It'll probably also make them more observant creatures in the future, I'm sure.

The scary part, though, is that although the actual time-frame is pretty rotten, the timer thing, and the uber-scheduling, and so on... it's been a pretty nice day. It's 1:30, and all we have left to do is art. Fortunately, I began homeroom (ha - I'm such a dork, I know) this morning by explaining that this "isn't a punishment, but rather an opportunity to see things through a different lens" - they didn't buy it, but I did let them know that if they find things they do enjoy this week, things they'd like to incorporate into our regular schedule, by all means -- glean away, wee ones! This is your life, your education. Whatever it takes to keep you actively involved, I'm good with it. (Although I do hope they don't opt to keep the 7:30 start time... that was a bit rough.)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, November 16

75 Degrees - Houston, we have Heat

Seventy-Five Degrees Farenheit!

That's the temperature in the house today, most of the day. For "all-around fantastic experiences", this rates up there with the day we got running water, the day we got the dryer, and the day we started up the HVAC. Excluding our wedding day, and the birth days of each of our children, this day rates WAY up there on the awesome-days list. (It's been a good life, really - the list is pretty long.)

Do you know how long it's been since the temperature inside our home has been above 60 in the winter time? Not since we last had a wood stove (and walls, simultaneously). About ten years ago. Makes me feel like this:

Zorak cut the trim today. I was too busy finishing up the remaining fruit and re-canning the unset jelly (yes, finally, I know, I know) to paint the trim, but we'll get around to that. Right now, I'm so happy, I'm even willing to post an unfinished project picture, if you promise to ignore the lack of trim, and the rub marks where the tea cart knocked against the wall, and anything else I may not have noticed amidst my euphoria.

We *love* the stove! The fan is so quiet on low that you can't tell it's on. (Keep in mind, our home is N-O-I-S-Y. If it's just you and your mute cat, you may notice it more than we do. But even when the kids went to bed, the fan didn't make enough noise to notice.)

We've only burned small fires in it, to cure it, yet the bedrooms were comfortable last night - and stayed that way ALL NIGHT. Zorak got up this morning around eight, and the stove was still hot to the touch, still emanating luxurious warmth, and still had enough embers to fire right back up with very little prodding and no actual prayers. We're almost afraid to try a bigger fire.

But we did bake cookies on it. :-) And put the kettle on for cocoa.

I think this is going to be a mighty fine winter holed up in the Forever House. How the toys will fare, though, is still questionable...

Kiss those babies!

Friday, November 14

A Romantic Evening for Seven

Ew. OK, that sounded cute and funny in my head. Then I wrote it out, and it sounds creepy and possibly illegal. So, nevermind.

We split the herd into more manageable groups today. Can I just say, here, how incredibly wonderful it is to be able to take one of the older kids and just *go* somewhere? I wouldn't trade Jase and his scrunchy-nose happy face for anything in the world, but man-oh-man, is it fun to run errands with someone who can be his own pack mule!

John, Jase and I toodled on down to the midwife's office for a checkup. S'posed to have been a *check*up*, but she didn't have her stuff, and we ran out of time. That's fine. I forgot, anyway, and didn't switch to water the past few days to rehydrate all the pertinent cells. (Why, yes, I do take my medical tests the same way I used to take algebra tests -- cram the week before, pass by the skin of my teeth, and then move along without retaining anything vital from the experience. THIS, is yet another reason we homeschool.)

Wow, this is just the night for poor visuals. Sorry 'bout that.

And if you look toward the foyer, you'll see the stove is nearly complete. Zorak decided mid-sentence that he'd rather use double wall pipe from the stove to the ceiling and skip the stove board on the wall... and so, we'll be enjoying this lovely rainstorm sans fire, tonight. Perhaps we'll get another one tomorrow we can enjoy. It's all good.

The boys helped with the stove and chimney installation. I cleaned the kitchen twice today, and peering around the corner right now, it looks like I'm lying. But I swear I'm not. Who you gonna believe, me, or my lying eyes? Something like that. I think I need to tackle the kitchen and then see if Zorak's up for a movie night. 'Cuz I'm sweet like that. :-) (And he's really tired. So I wasn't planning to push my luck and ask for a foot rub.)

*Whew* This is why I seldom do the stream-of-consciousness blogging. I had an idea, and then... *poof*, it was gone. So, you get "disjointed". Think of it as a humorous puzzle at the Thrift Store. Some of the pieces are missing, some probably went to another puzzle, entirely... but it was free, so what the heck, right?

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, November 13

On Working Together

Zorak helped me write last night's post. I needed him to make sure I didn't inadertently gloss over anything important, like dimensions or the fact that your semi-decorative stuff needs to be fireproof. Let's be honest: my goal isn't so much to instruct as it is to try to make you smile, or show you that normal people are capable of things they wouldn't ever dream possible.

You see, we share the same basic philosophy: people are capable of doing much more than they generally do. The difference is how we think that happens. I tend to be a "if you convince yourself you can do it, you can find a way to make it work" person. Zorak tends to be a "if you have enough information at your disposal, you can figure it out" person.

It's not that he think people don't need motivation and encouragement -- he works on the assumption that they've already got it. And it's not that I think the details and knowledge are unimportant -- I work from the assumption that if people are focused and ready to try, they'll find the information. And this, my friends, would be why it took both of us, working together, to rehab the Forever Home.

Here's where I could veer off into philosophical diatribes on the character of human nature. But I won't. I'll just share with you a snippet of how it plays out, here, when we're working together.

At one point, he got a little zealous with the wordsmithing on a technical point, thus frustrating my efforts to say something witty (it takes effort, at least for me). We had the following exchange:

Me: Dude. You're not helping with the humor.

Z: Well, that's your job, not mine. I'm the tech guy.

Me: Yeah, but you're... you're blocking my flow. You're not doing a very good job of supporting me.

*awkward pause*

Me: Or, enabling me, whichever.

Z: *raises eyebrow at me* Well, you're not exactly feeding my darker side, you know.

And that's how it goes around here. I'm pretty much comic relief and parts hag. I do get to pinch hit for the Idea Guy. Zorak's the brains behind the operation. And if I ever write and sound a little... too detailed... for your taste, please keep in mind that it doesn't *have* to be that technical. But that it was probably worse than what I wrote, because sometimes I do have to feed his darker side.

And sometimes, he even laughs at my jokes.

It's all about working together.

Kiss those babies!

"Fix it! Fix it, in my head!"

This is the request I received today. I will now attempt to undo the damage I did in my earlier post.

Let me be perfectly clear, I am not over-estimating anyone's abilities but ours. But look, by overestimating our own abilities, and then refusing to let go of those illusions, just look at all we have accomplished! So, if you find yourself thinking to yourself, or to whomever is nearest you, "I swear, if she says 'This is so simple' one. more. time.. so help me..." I want you to take a deep breath, and give me enough warning to duck.

This is so simple.

Figure out where you want to put your stove. Use whatever criteria is important to you. We wanted it fairly centrally located, but not actually IN a hallway, or doorway, or right by the leaky window. (Yeah, I know it won't always be leaky, but that's not the point.) And, be aware of where your joists/studs/other structural obstacles may be located. That needs to factor in to your placement plans, unless you're wanting to get really wild with the framing work... in which case, you don't need this post.

Here's the quick 'n easy way to determine if your desired happy spot is going to be happy: find your spot, check the back clearance and use that to measure how far the center of the vent pipe will be from the wall. Now, use a square and mark on the ceiling that exact spot out from the wall. Stick a bamboo skewer/wire/something pokey through that spot. Send someone brave into the attic area to look for the thing poking out through the insulation. If you'll clear the joists with the pipe, you're golden. If you won't, then you want to either re-orient your stove, pick another spot, or get creative with the pipe. The manual has specifications and details for just that situation.

You're going to need about a 3'x4' base. Pick a non-flammable material. Brick, pavers, tile... asbestos. Whatever works for you. If you knit, sew, or crochet, I can only explain it like this: find a variation in pattern using your material that will fit somewhere close to those dimensions. Ta-da! You're almost there! (OK, not really, but that felt good, didn't it? I use that on myself a lot.)

Now, you need something to put that non-flammable material on. Go ahead and buy a full sheet of 3/4" plywood, because you are going to feel SO empowered after you finish this project, that you'll practically dream up a project just to use the rest of that plywood. (And also because you may not be able to buy a half sheet. But just trust me. Run with it.) Pick up a 3'x5' sheet of 1/4" hardibacker ("TM"), screws, and a bag of "thinset" mortar. (Get a notched trowel while you're there, if you don't already have one.)

OK, now this part is right up there w/ layering a lasagna, piecing a quilt, or mating socks: a little mundane, not difficult, but oh-so-necessary. Cut the plywood to match the size/shape of your pattern. (Might wanna use a masonry blade in your skilsaw so you can cut the ankle-biting corners off the front two corner bricks. I'm just sayin'...) Do a dry run, stack it all up nice and neat. It's like Legos for Big People. Stand back, and feel productive.

Now (working on site - right where you want it) slap a little mortar on your plywood, lay the hardibacker on it, and screw it in. More mortar on top of that, and then the Fireproof Material of Your Choosing atop that. C'mon, you've made sandwiches before. It's easy.

Let that cure while you install the chimney kit that you picked up at Lowe's (HD doesn't carry them, here, get it at Lowe's). It has directions. Good directions. Right now, we're focusing on the pad. Stay with me. Breathe. We're almost done. (I mean it this time.)

Get someone to help you lift the stove and set it right where you want it on your nifty, new, fireproof pad!

Look at you GO!

And then kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 12

Feels like Monday - Project Blogging

Zorak had yesterday off, in honor of Veteran's Day. We celebrated by working on the stove installation. (Sweetheart, thank you for your service to your country. Can you fix this, too, please?) No rest for the capable!

Oh, and for those who asked, this is the stove we purchased. If you want, I can list the pros/cons that led us to this one. It was a ball park homerun over anything carried at Lowe's or Home Depot, for overall utility (construction, design, and features), as well as overall value.

We have nothing to show for it yet, really, unless you count CAD drafts, which just don't make for interesting blogging. First, we had to figure out where to put it. (Check.) Then, we had to come up with a good, fireproof platform to put it on. (Not-so-check.) Or, sorta-check. It's hard to say, with us.

The floor is laminate, which is fantastic for living with five children! Not so fantastic for coping with hot cast iron. According to the spec sheet, just a layer of stove board would suffice, but we're all about over-engineering, if nothing else. So, here's the plan:

* 3/4" plywood base, extending to the specified dimensions around the stove. (Ideally, we'd screw that base to the floor, but just on the off chance that anyone would ever want to move the stove, screw holes would entail removing the floor from all the way at the other end of the kitchen, including moving the mongo-stove, just to replace the planks with holes - that would probably cause a lot of angry language and possibly some domestic abuse, which we wouldn't want to wish on anyone. So, we're going to put the spongy shelf liners - you know, the ones your Grandma has on her shelves. You can't slide anything across those. Ever.)

* Thinset/mortar atop the plywood base, to which we'll apply brick pavers in a lovely, semi-decorative design, thus providing the first layer of fireproof barrier beneath the stove.

(Editor's note: we wanted to put a layer of hardibacker between the plywood and the bricks, and would recommend anyone who has floor joists with the integrity to handle the weight do so. The stove isn't terribly dynamic - I mean, if it MOVES, you've probably got bigger issues than just the plywood base. But, it wouldn't hurt to have that additional support. We, however, haven't got such noble joists, and the more we thought about it, the more terrified we became of putting THAT much weight on that spot of floor. So. Just in the spirit of full disclosure.)

* The bricks are not a solid layer, but rather a full perimeter, with interior bricks placed to support the legs of the stove. Atop this, we'll put a stove board, thus providing another fireproof layer, as well as creating dead air space within the structure.

(Again with the editor's notes... man, this editor is busy today! If your joists can handle it, go with the full-brick option. But if you've seen the posts supporting the spine of this house, you understand why we chose to get creative with the goal of weight-reduction. Those posts will be replaced one day, and we'll probably re-do the brick layout then, but we have full confidence that this current design will provide more than ample protection for the floor.)

We'll trim it out nicely, for aesthetics. Finally, the stove goes atop all of that (which probably sounds monstrously tall, but it's not), and then we will have heat.

Wait. No, we won't have heat. THEN, we've got to transfer the attic assembly to the new location, repair the hole in the roof from the removal, put a new hole in the roof (with all the joyful flashing and caulking that entails), hook it up, double-check to make sure EmBaby hasn't put another baby doll in the firebox (that's a disturbing thing to see, first thing in the morning!), run a few initial light-n-pray leak tests. And THEN we'll have heat!

See? Nothin' to it!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, November 8

Stoopid Virus, Energy Plans, and Such

(With totally random pictures, for Julie.)

ARGH. Em's come down with something (probably Fifth Disease). She's rashy. splotchy. cranky. Her skin, where the rash is, feels hot to the touch, but she says it doesn't itch or hurt or, well, actually, she just gets very angry when we discuss it at all. She stomps her little foot and says, "I am NOT sick! I am jus' a sweet little Em'lee!"

This generally cracks up the boys, which causes Sweet Little Em'lee to fly into a stellar performance of Lady MacBeth. Health concerns aside, I'll be glad when this rash is gone, if only to cut down on the psych-damage that's happening to all of us. Anyway, as long as we don't mention her face, she's in good spirits and a good humor. If she must get an illness, this seems like a good one to have.

We plunked down way too much money today for a wood stove. Actually, it'll pay for itself by Februrary, and we'll be more comfortable in the meantime than we've been in four winters. So, there's that. It's just more painful to cough it up in one lump than to spread it out over four months. We found *the stove* to buy last year, but it was $1300 (which would *not* have paid for itself in four months), so we planned to save for it and purchase it this year. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Who knew things would tank (don't answer that), and the same stove this year would run $2300? Damn. Back to the drawing board. We found a decent deal on another stove and picked it up today. Yay for Tractor Supply Co.!

Honestly, we are excited about this one. It's functional, SMALL, well-built, SMALL, and also fairly attractive. And did I mention it's not going to hog out 2/3 of the living space? Gotta love that. The top is large enough to hold a teapot, a stew pot, and perhaps to finagle a way to make bread. Hmmm, perhaps I should redefine "small". The old wood stove (anybody remember that one?) was a little over 3'x4', and vented out the back - so it had to stand, oh, in the middle of the room. This one is only 33"x28", and vents out the top, with a rear wall clearance of 7". We could probably mount it behind the original one. Very good. Zorak and I are excited about this in a way that totally bypasses the kids. They just don't get it. But they were very supportive (read: well-behaved) while we touched, fondled, fiddled, and kicked every wood stove in two counties today. We'll keep that in mind while we're Christmas shopping, ya know. Good stuff.

The boys have been putting in extra time working on their Scout badges. That is so much fun to watch. It's surprising how many of the requirements they find they've already accomplished, just due to the lifestyle we live. They find that somewhat exciting. (It's... almost as if they're learning skills or something, just being home!)

Tomorrow, we re-arrange! Weee!
Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 5

What a day!

The boys did so well with piano today. John finished two books this week, and played out of every song his teacher gave him today. So, he gets a new theory book and moves onward. The glow on his face, and the sweet, sheepish grin he bore, as his teacher gushed to him about how incredibly well he's doing... oh, why don't I have a camera implanted in my temple yet? I need one. I need one that will snap photos whenever I think or say, "Awwww". James, too, moved through his lessons beautifully. I so enjoy listening to his lessons. The songs he's playing now are really beautiful. I wish she'd start teaching them some Christmas songs, though. (But perhaps that's just me - love me some Christmas music!)

Autumn has come, in all the splendor it has to offer! Oh, it's gorgeous. I think the wetter year, combined with the colder weather conspired to create a magnificent display this fall. Sitting on the balcony, where I'm about mid-way into the bulk of the canopy, absolutely surrounded by the colors and shadows, the squirrels, the peace... I find myself reaching for poetry to fit the moment. Sadly, nothing comes readily to mind. I don't want the kids to lack that, in their later years. Hence, the plethora of poetry books we reach for almost every day. From Belloc to Frost - from giggles to glory - humans have always sought to find the words to express the sensations of the soul. Some have come close, and I want the kids to know them and be able to draw upon them, even if its some day too far away for me to see. They'll have it when they need it.

There's no Scouts this week! Yay! (I need to get more posterboard, and was a wee bit panicky when I realized tonight that tomorrow is traditionally Scout night. *whew*)

The play at TCTSHBN (The Church That Shall Not Be Named, as we'll be calling it from now on) is coming along. John was pretty stoked about two things tonight: he got to use the cordless mike at rehearsals, and they "finally have a song with no movements in it!" Seriously, it's an hour-long musical performance, and every song is choreographed heavily. The one with no movements in it does, actually, have movement, it's just that John doesn't have to do any of it. They are enjoying the work, though, which is part of the reason we stay (the other being that there are people counting on them for their parts, and they have a responsibility to see that through). However, I don't think they'll have any qualms with leaving when the time comes.

And, did I mention it's FALL? Bread baking weather. Sweater weather. Time to find a good book and a cup of hot tea weather. Yes, this is my happy time of year. And we have a lot to do this fall, too, so that'll be nice. (Does anybody else think a pecan tree would be a romantic gift? You know, for a guy who wants a pecan tree, anyway?)

What's your favorite part of Autumn?

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, November 4

I have an idea...

I just read that an estimated $2.4 BILLION has been spent on campaigning for this election. How about some real campaign finance reform for a change?

Next election, stick to one flier or program per candidate, mass-mailed to every home in the country... and put the rest of that money into something else. I don't know, reducing our national debt, perhaps?

Put it in Directly. No special interest groups. No lobbyists. No campaign managers. No paid staff. Surely, candidates with people who believe in them could rally the manpower to get ONE flier sent to each and every home without having to pay even half that much, right?

Make it tight. Make it good. Make it honest, 'cuz God help you if something you wrote isn't true - that's your only shot.

Maybe splurge in the last month and make one trip around the country. OK, that'll cost a bit more. Still nowhere near $2.4 BILLION. Because, seriously, anybody who can spend that kind of money without blinking is probably not really in touch with a single thing that takes place on Main Street, Burbon Street, or the back alleys in towns along Route 66.

We've been among the demographics pandered to this election, and it's been disgusting. It's been like sitting in on an Andy Kauffman sketch, only there is no joke in there. I don't know how groups who generally get pandered to can put up with it. This entire election, we've heard nothing but how stoopid, how incapable, how incredibly lost we all are without the Federal Government taking care of us. And worse yet, how they're going to take care of us. It's insulting. The fact that these people think we want this kind of condescension blows my mind. The fact that there are people clamoring along with the "oh, me, too! me, too!" tirades I've also seen is mind-boggling.

We need some kind of opt-out feature. Give me an affidavit that says I didn't ask for you to look out for me, I didn't accept your "help", and I don't acknowledge your premise that I'm stoopid, incapable, or lost. I'll sign it and be on my way. I don't think I'd be alone, either. I think the candidates may actually be quite shocked to find how many signed, notarized forms they'd get back.

Gah, I'll be glad when this is over. Probably not happy with the results, but at least, for a little while, we'll have a reprieve from the onslaught of just how ridiculously incompetent We The People are.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, November 3

Meet Viggie. He's French.

So the boys are working on their Latin. James is... I don't know what James is doing. He's moved so far past me and my SLACKER STUDY BUDDY (erin...) that he could be writing dirty jokes in Latin and I'd have very little clue.

John is at the dry erase board, conjugating verbs. (It's more fun when you can smear the words with your fingers.) Suddenly, he turns to me and says, "It's 'viggie la MOOSE', Mom."

Uh, no. It's /vig-i-LA-moose/, honey.

He looked at me a bit funny, and repeated his "Viggie la MOOSE" schtick.

Just as I started to worry that perhaps Latin is not going to be his thing, James pointed out, oh so helpfully, "Mom, I think he's trying to emphasize the verb ending, 'mus'. That that's the right one for 'we watch'."

Ahhhh... clever child.

I may be outmanned, and outgunned around here, but I'm going to go down chuckling. And I plan to get the boys plush Viggie 'la moose' toys for their stockings, too. Who wouldn't love a Latin-speaking French Moose?

Kiss those babies!

Monday Morning

It's always nice, the first Monday after the time change. Probably the only Monday I don't oversleep. It doesn't make up for the chaos that ensues come Spring's time change (which takes weeks to work out), but for now, it's nice

We had a fun Halloween, completely avoiding anything weird or awkward this year (woohoo!) The kids had a great time, the grown-ups had a great time. It was cooler than I'd anticipated, and although nobody froze, I did lament that I'd missed a prime opportunity to wear a sweater. (Yes, I'm a sweater freak. I'm a Maine fisherman, Arctic explorer, Canadian lumberjack -style sweater freak. And I live in the moderate South, where there's no call for those sweaters, and there's no such thing as a "summer weight" sweater. It's the small things that get ya, sometimes.) We learn a little something every year, and this year was no exception. For example, next year we'll be heading out earlier, coming home earlier, and putting the apple cider in the crockpot before we leave so it's already warm when we get home. Ohhh, next year Claudia and I can spike the apple cider! YAY!

We worked our tails off on the windows this weekend. They're coming along nicely. Zorak's developing some wicked-cool glazing skills, we're flying through the "0000" ("four ought") steel wool, and soon there will be no more drafty spots by the sparkly clean windows. Wish we'd bought stock in the company that makes those foam adhesive gaskets, though. Wow. Who uses just one little package of that stuff? And why can't you buy it in 50' rolls? That's what we need.

We go to vote tomorrow. I'll be glad when the election is over. Somebody stole our campaign signs from the lower meadow. That's lovely. And oh, so likely to convince people to change their votes, too. Zorak mentioned that it might be a prank, but when it was just a prank, ALL the signs would eventually re-appear, crammed, upright and unharmed, in one little front yard somewhere. It would make the front of the little local paper, thus ensuring that next year's crop of children would feel the need to go one better. But at least you could go get your sign out of Mrs. Murchison's yard after you finished your paper over coffee. Signs here just disappear. They'll probably end up in the landfill. And the only message they're sending is that our neighborhood has a problem infestation of delinquents.

But today, we must work, and on that note, I'd better get the small ones rounded up and fed. (We did find the missing school books this weekend. One on the dry erase easel, under the... phonebook. Why was the phonebook in their room??? The other mysteriously re-appeared in the library basket. Hmmm... funny kids. It's like living with poltergeists. Or brownies. Depends on the antics.)

Kiss those babies!

Friday, October 31

Typical Virtual Friday

A kind-of, sort-of Day in the Life. Thursday is the new Friday!

No, not really, but it's late, and that's the best I could offer. Although, it *is* our friday...

*aherm* Anyway...

8:00 - We stage our own little revolt this morning and refuse to get dressed. You can carry compost to the heap in your jammies, right? It's not like the neighbor's chickens care if you match. The kids grab fruit and start their lessons while I read the news and warm up with a cup of coffee.

8:20 - They're all in here, reading the news over my shoulder. From the comments they're making, I'm guessing they'd like a little breakfast. (Namely EmBaby: "That boy looks hungry, mama. Hungry like your Em-lee. I'm jus' a hungry girl." Someone tell me she will somehow master "subtle" without going into "codespeak", right?)

8:45 - I start the pancakes and ask them to get back to their lessons. James starts with reading. John starts with math.

8:50 - We're fixing pancakes while we discuss random thoughts that pop into their heads. Not a lot of reading or math getting done. Redirect the Bigs. Throw pancake scraps to Em. Flip pancakes. Redirect again.

9:15 - Pancakes are ready, John's math is done, but James' reading book is now lost. We don't know how it happens. He never once moved from the breakfast bar. The breakfast bar has a finite flat surface and no shrubbery surrounding it. Where'd the book go? *shrug* Oh well, let's eat.

11:00 - I've been done for an hour and a half. The boys are still eating. After I finished, I took advantage of having a semi-captive audience to read two chapters of Five Little Peppers, do a little geography, and cover Music History. But still... I've been dancing with Embaby to Handel's Hallelujah Chorus for forty minutes, and my knees ache.

11:30 - I finally declare that if they keep this up, I am going to put us all on a public school schedule, complete with "bus ride" at six in the morning, pee breaks only between "classes", twenty minute OUTSIDE recess (no matter how cold it is), and the one that always gets them, HALF HOUR LUNCH PERIOD.

11:32 - Their spots are cleaned, books gathered, and all the happy, well-fed children are looking at me expectantly for the next lesson. (Um, it's art. But I didn't expect my public school schedule speech to be quite *this* effective, and I must go dig up the art book.) Oh, hey, this one is on observation and detail! We're supposed to go outside and "observe the marvels of the world"! James looks outside, at the 40-degree day and says, "How 'bout we observe the marvels of the MODERN world?" Yeah. We'll stay inside. I don't know where your coats are, yet.

1:27 - Art is done. Chores are done. Math, latin, reading - all done. James has my Henle because he cannot find his LP text. The four principle parts are laid out differently, and it makes us batty. I really hope his book turns up. (Perhaps it's hiding with his reading book? I'm sensing a pattern, here. Remember to check the pantry and cupboards tonight, when he's in bed.) James makes lunch for everybody. John sets the table. Jase serenades us with jokes in his native tongue, and laughs maniacally at each and every one. I wish at least one of us could speak Infantese. Smidge and Embaby do not fight. This is a beautiful moment in my day.

1:45 - They're done eating. (I'm having that "schedule speech" printed out, dipped in gold, and hung on the wall behind the dining table!)

2:00 - Break time. Video games, stories, games, reading, playing, napping. Kind of a free-for-all, but in a good way that doesn't result in any broken bones or bleeding noses. Smidge helps me make banana bread. I send him on his way with a kiss and a snuggle after he blows flour from the bowl all over my head. Love that help, though. It changes so quickly into "can I do it all by myself".

At some point, Zorak gets home. Since it's Virtual Friday, we have a special movie to watch. Zorak suggests a finger food supper (he brought shrimp! *swoon*), and so that's what we do. Shrimp, green olives, tortilla-cheese-ham-wrap-things, pickles, okra, and banana bread. Journey to the Center of the Earth (the new one, with Brendan Fraser).

And then, bedtime. Quiet time. I'll do the dishes tomorrow, unless the Project Fairy* comes and does them for me. Not holding out much hope on that one. It's okay.

But first, I'll kiss those babies!

* The Project Fairy, from the tv show, The PJs - who the super told his wife he thought magically came in and cleaned the apartment each night.

Thursday, October 30

Wow, talk about lazy... and weird.

Not us. We've actually been quite productive. (But there's some swearing in this post, so, you know, brace yourself.) I'm talking about the Sparkle Hands church. I've probably hinted before that it's not going well. Did I write about the seriously boundary-challenged nursery worker (BCNW) physically barring me from EmBaby and telling me to "step out into the hall"? No? That's because I still foam at the mouth just thinking about it.

Basically, Zorak was gone, it had been a rough week, and EmBaby didn't want to go into the nursery. She and I did go into it to use the bathroom there, as that commode is little, and I had Jase, and so, well, that seemed reasonable. On the way out, though, I asked Em if she was sure she didn't want to stay. She said, "No, I just want to stay with you." I told her that was okay, put out my hand for her and we headed for the door.

That's when BCNW physically picked the child up (yes, taking her out of my hand) and told me to step out into the hall. Um... pardon me? Yeah. I reiterated that I was leaving, and taking Em. Badda-boom, badda-bing, I ended up exerting every. ounce. of grace God was willing to spare me not to go all Wild Wild West on this woman and ask her to step outside at High Noon. Give me my child and get out. of. my. way. She did finally put Em down, but she mad-dogged me the entire time.

I wasn't going to say anything, just figured I'd keep Em and Jase with me from now on. Thinking perhaps this is not a good place for us to be, but whatever. UNTIL I found out she'd been talkin' 'bout it around the church. And, of course, her story involved what a helicopter parent I am, and how I'm really-really wrong, and what are they gonna do about me? Ohhhhkay... yeah, not okay with that.

Long story shorter than it could be: the Children's Minister and I have talked, and she's "pretty sure" they could "make an exception to church policy" in allowing a parent to come and get her child "without the church staff insisting otherwise". You know, "just for you". Oh. Policy? You have a policy that mandates church workers interfere with parents like that? Wow. Don't I feel special? But we're going to have to sit down with BCNW to have a mediation, first. (Can you sense the tension? Good.)

So, on to other things, they've been riding these kids hard for two months, now. ("Sharp hands! SHARP HANDS!") Last week, two kids were visiting from out of town and their grandmas brought them to the church on Wednesday night. The kids were told they can't come. (Because they'd be too far behind the rest of the group, and you know it's far more important to have a perfect show than it is to welcome visitors! And since nobody ever shows up anywhere in the Autumn, we wouldn't want to keep a bag of Cheetos and some Bible games on hand. Just in case. Pffttt.)

Zorak mentioned a couple weeks back that he can hear me seething at night, and to be truthful, it's kind of starting to freak him out. What with having to sleep near me, and all. The truth of the matter is, this place has very different goals and priorities than what we are comfortable supporting in a church.

Last night was the last straw.

I sit at the sign-in table, with the Big People. I suspect it's so that they can keep on eye on me and my subversive tendencies, but whatever. The Powers that Be started going through the roster, figuring out who is keeping up the pace and who isn't. There's one little boy who hasn't been there in a month. The Children's Minister says, "Oh, yeah *sad face* I talked to his Mom, and they can't afford the shirt. That's why he hasn't been coming."

*blink* *blink* (I'm waiting for her to say something like, "I told her that's SO not a problem and to bring him back," but that didn't happen.)

Another lady says, "Oh, yeah, they're really struggling. Like, they're living from paycheck to paycheck, and having trouble keeping it together." Minister says, "Awww. That's so rough."

*blink* What the--?? I'm sitting here, watching this bizarre scene from a how-not-to-run-a-church video, waiting for the rest of it... still nothing. I hadn't moved or spoken up because I just couldn't believe that this was happening.

The woman picks up her pen, folks, and starts to CROSS THIS CHILD OFF THE ROSTER! Suddenly, I realize they're going to do it. They're cutting dead weight. They're... what the fuck is WRONG with you people?!?!? You can carry the interest on a million dollar mortgage without batting an eye, but you can't fork up TEN DOLLARS for a child?

I didn't smack the pen out of her hand, but I got very, very close before I could just force my hand down on the paper, instead. (I'm thinkin' an assault charge wouldn't bode well for me at this point in my life.) I'll buy the kid the damned shirt. Put the pen down. NOW.

What do they say? "Oh, but you have five kids!" Um... what, exactly, does that have to do with it? You know what, just... don't talk to me. Don't look at me. Do. Not. Engage. Me.

I can't begin to tell you how absolutely disgusted I am with this place. So, yay for them, they have wireless mikes (what is the abbreviation for microphones? mics?) for all the chosen children, but if you can't hang with the Ralph Lauren crowd, Jesus doesn't love you? I know this isn't in the New Testament anywhere, but I'm pretty sure Jesus has a big ol' bitch-slap waiting for people who behave like this in His name. (He may have one for me, too, for plenty of things I've done in my life. I get that, too.)

"Let the little children come to Me," He said. I know that part's in there.

December 14 is the date of the play. December 15, I'm going to have a Captain Morgan's and Coke to celebrate never having to wade through that place's BS again.

Kiss those babies! Oh, kiss them and love on them with all your heart.

Monday, October 27

Funday Sunday

Heh, you can mock. I couldn't think up a decent title. I'm beat. Happy, but beat. We had such a great time today. Ben and Claudia, et al., came over to carve pumpkins and have supper! I had helpers in the kitchen while we got ready for company...

Once they got here, the kids got to get messy and gross, and they worked quite diligently on their pumpkins...

And in the end, we had a lovely evening by the fire(s)...

Food, friendship, life... it's good.

Kiss those babies!
(P.S. I figured out the watermark feature, but it seems to be a bit of a PITB to use. Bummer.)

Sunday, October 26

Busy, Busy

Has it been four days? Sorry 'bout that. With Zorak out of town, and new schedules all-around, I lost track of time. However, he's back, we're all rested up, and we just had the best Saturday!
James and I headed into town early for his Citizenship badge service project. He picked the project, and put it together on his own - making contacts, getting all the legwork done. It was hideously difficult for me to let go and let him handle it all (and I didn't hit it spot on, at first, but eventually I did my part and got out of his way). He did his part and pulled it off splendidly.
We arrived in time to help unload the truck and set up (this was for Angel Food Ministries). Then we spent the next three hours putting together food boxes and assisting customers with hauling things to their cars. I didn't take any pictures because we were too busy learning the ropes and trying to stay helpful. Well, James stayed helpful. I hung out in my corner, drinking coffee and hauling heavy things when needed. He was the brains of this organization. He just took me along for the muscle and the driver's license.
From there, we headed to the downtown Fall Festival in Decatur. Nothing like sugar, costumes, sugar, music,

and a little more sugar, to make a day fun!

Yes, those are basically Pixie-Sticks, but the tube is the diameter of a Sharpie, and as long as a twirling baton. WEEEE! Interestingly, it was the church we've been attending that had this set-up. I think we may let the kids have their sticks for breakfast before church tomorrow... just as a thank-you to the Children's Minister. ;-) (I jest - she planned for the kids to eat them on the spot and then just ping up and down the street until the effects wore off, I'm sure.)

The weather was gorgeous, just cool enough to necessitate a hat for Jase. You know, those just don't work so well once they've been chewed on for an hour or two. Ew.

Ben and Claudia brought their kids. The sheer mass of children vibrating around created some serious momentum, so we adults just wandered along behind - it was like a cattle drive, but without horses, and it smelled better. Just as noisy. But, oh-so-cute!
Kiss those babies!
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