Monday, September 29

Can't Win Them All

Well, it looks like these babies are good for animal feed, and not much else. *sigh* Thanks to this site, we've figured out that this is C. cordiformis, which has a bitter kernel. The boys were looking forward to gathering and drying them. (I was kind of hoping to be able to bake with them.)
Maybe planting a couple of pecan trees would be a good consolation? Is it weird to console our kids with new trees? Well, they'll like it, regardless. They're cool that way.
Kiss those babies!

OK, folks, what is this?

This is a clipping of the fruit we found yesterday. For a size perspective - click on it (I hope it's clickable) and note the average 10yo standing beside the apple tree. The tops of the apple tree and the mystery tree. (Edited to add: the fruits are each about the size of a small marble. Definitely unripe, and seem to have seeds inside, not a stone. Maybe that'll help.)

The top of that tree is absolutely laden with berries/fruit...
And here's the trunk, to show you the bark of the tree...
Do we have something edible? (Please say yes.)
Kiss those babies!

Sunday, September 28

This is wild.

I dragged the family around the property today to help assess the things we have growing. They went somewhat grudgingly, but soon got into the spirit of it. Me? I'm like the guy who thought he was going to starve on the island and suddenly found an orchard. This is really exciting stuff!

We found another new, seemingly edible thing growing. No clue what it is (as usual) - look for a photo and a plea for help identifying it tomorrow! It kind of grows like cherries, but the tree shoots straight up and it's a good 50' high. It's also shading the smaller apple tree, so if it doesn't pony up with something edible, then it's going to get some serious pruning this winter.

The soil in the salad bed desperately needs more compost for next year. Even after two years of amending it, it's hard as a rock. Poor John's carrots never have grown longer than 1cm, tops. We've increased our composting contributions, now that we have the tractor mower. Hopefully, we'll have plenty of compost for next season.

We got three gypsy peppers from the armadillo-torn upper meadow beds. (The one w/ the snake.) Weird. We gave up on those beds back in July.

The apples are ripe, and they're *fantastic*. They have a complex flavor, starting out slightly tart, but turning sweet pretty quickly. They're psychotically juicy, and have a delicate crisp flesh. Ohhh, they're really good. It's exciting to be receiving from all these plants, now.

The Black Walnut trees are laden with big green balls right now. We gathered some and tossed them into the driveway to help crack the outer hulls. I'll go down in the morning to rake away the debris from around the tree so we can collect the nuts as they fall. Zorak's not sure there's enough meat in any of them to make it worth the work. I just want to try. It's part of the adventure. And, if it doesn't work, well, we've learned something along the way, right?

The persimmons are ripening unevenly, and between the height of the fruit and the birds, I don't think we'll get anything salvageable from them this year. Never did hear back from the County Extension Office, so I'll give them a call or swing by this week, sometime. I hate to give up on the persimmons, since there are three of them - if they can be saved and restored, I want to do it.

We enjoyed okra and cukes from the barn garden with supper tonight, and a late season watermelon this afternoon. That's always kinda fun. Perhaps the novelty wears off when you're an accomplished gardener. If so, we have decades of enjoyable side dishes ahead of us. ;-)

The kids finally decided pear jelly would be preferable to pearsauce for this year. If the trees stay healthy, though, we can do more next year. Tomorrow is canning day. (Someone hold me to that!)

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, September 27

Cute goes a long way!

I will probably get lousy customer service when the kids are grown and I have to shop on my own. Thankfully, the entire staff of the fabric store was completely enamoured by the children. Jase was oh-so-darling with his finger hooked over his nose, leaning into people as they talked to him, his smile arching up to his eyes. It's nice that he doesn't mind having strangers in his face. EmBaby melted every ovary in the store as she cuddled with the bolt of fabric and chit-chatted with Smidge about all the pretty fabric. Smidge was Quite Helpful, incredibly polite, and surprisingly non-jittery. *yay*

Hey, did you know it's less expensive to buy an IKEA armchair than it is to buy foam to make a cushion for the futon-chair? Wow. So, I figured I'd sew horizontal channels with the muslin, stuff them with the innerds of the existing cushion, and then cover the new design with the corduroy. In theory, the channels will help prevent the stuffing from shifting and bunching. But theory and practice don't always mesh, do they? I'll keep you posted.

The boys had a good time at the Beltloop Jamboree. I offered up the camera, but Zorak declined. I think it was all he could do just to get up and going so early, and I think I really should have offered him coffee, instead. Ah, well, I didn't think of it until I was halfway through the pot and he was halfway to the Jamboree.

Kiss those babies!

Of the five, why these three?

I thought I was in for an easy day. Then I had coffee. Now, I realize that if I have to go to the fabric store and take three of the five with me... these are not the three I would have picked...

One more cup, and then we'll give it a go.

Kiss those babies!

Success, family, and miscellany...

They did it! The little critters pulled it off. They completed two days' worth of work before noon today. On their own initiative. With no grousing. AND they had time to crack jokes.

*sniff* I'm so proud of them.

Of course, that also leaves me wondering what in the world is going on most days...

And whether they're really being challenged at all during our normal routine...

But for now, we're not going to worry about that. I'm just going to join them in wallowing in the happiness that they did it. They pulled it off. And they did well, all around. Yay, Boys!!!

Sadly, the link cable didn't work. At all. And I was no help. At all.

SO. Zorak's going to see if he can figure out what's wrong, and if he can't, we'll send it back and let James buy a new game or something. Or we'll track down another cable. I don't know, but we'll make it right for him.


The older boys watched the debate with us tonight. Their enthusiasm wasn't way up there, but they followed the discussion and asked a number of good questions.

It was also nice just to curl up together as a family and enjoy partaking in our heritage, passing it down to our children, and showing them that an involved, interested, well-informed constituency is absolutely vital to the survival of a free society.


Tomorrow is the Beltloop Jamboree. Zorak's taking the two Scouts. He promised to hit the Russell-Stover Outlet, since they'll be right by it.

I'll take the three Littles with me to Hancock Fabrics for foam, muslin, and corduroy. (I'm thinking this cinnamon red looks just right!) And then, zippity-zip, in just two or three months, we should have a nice new cushion for the futon-chair! (Why is it that every project we complete only seems to further hi-light the projects we have yet to complete? I'm almost afraid to finish this, because I know once it's done, it'll make something else that needs doing painfully clear.)

Kiss those babies!

Friday, September 26

A Sense of Humor

I love it when the kids get a sense of humor. Not that all the kids haven't been funny. They have. We've had years of humor from them. But mostly, when they're little, they're funny in the way that they're also cute when they wear their underwear on their heads, they tell jokes with no punchline, and a variety of other humorous, weird, quirky things that you enjoy because you know (hope) they won't be doing them when they're 30. Then, just as Grouch Marx's version of a knock-knock joke begins to wear on your cheeks, they get other humor.

Last night at supper, we were talking about weird dreams, lucid dreaming, and a slew of other random topics. We asked James if he remembered when he was afraid of the computer in his room. (He was three at the time, and no, he didn't remember it.) He asked us how we handled it. Zorak told him that when he and John were asleep, we went down to the thrift store and bought fifty computers, then set them up all around his bed while he slept.

He cracked up at the sheer absurdity.

Then the boys got another twenty minutes' worth of material thinking of other cool ways to "handle" the situation. They had us in stitches.

And... I really hope they were joking...

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, September 25

Can I buy a weekday for a hundred, please?

I lost the standard-issue, five-day week. Kept the boys in utter chaos today by continually suggesting that tomorrow is, in fact, Saturday. Ha. Just one of the many joys of having me for your Mother, I suppose.

And it doesn't look like their week is going to be much better tomorrow. Poor kids - I actually feel for them. (Though not enough to cave.) You see, James' birthday gift arrived this afternoon. He is STOKED. His brothers are stoked. (It's a link cable for the video game thingies.)

Really, I'm okay with it. And I even allotted that they would probably blow an entire afternoon trying it out. Pretty much free range. The one-and-only stipulation I put on this whole stoopid thing was that their school work be done before they could use it.

Well, they picked it up tonight after Scouts. And tomorrow they will learn an important lesson: when it comes to scheduling, listen to your Mother.

Since I had to be at the dentist at 10:30 this morning, we left at 9:30. That gave us just enough time to eat a bowl of oats (in a glass, so you can pretty much just drink it down), dress (kind of - I didn't really enforce the "going to town" guidelines), grab our books and leave. We're slow starters.

I had them take their math, Latin, and reading. I didn't even ask James to take his math, as he needs to start a new chapter. They had two hours in the lobby to get it done - more than ample time. Everything was lined up, explained, and ready to be done. When Zorak arrived, I told him, "They have their math, Latin and reading, and they know what needs to be done." They knew we had to hit Sam's after the dentist, and then they had Scouts tonight. That was the only time available to them to get their work done today. I was pretty upfront about the importance of this.

I hadn't been in the chair 30 minutes, when I popped out between sessions to see how things were going, and the lobby was *empty*.

Husband. Children. Diaper bag. Gone. All gone.

The receptionist told me they'd "gone for donuts".

"Wow, they must have worked really hard to get done that quickly." I thought.

But, no. No, as a matter of fact, James got *nothing* done. John got "a little" done. I think Zorak got bored. He's awesome with the kids, on all levels. He's just a stellar dad, and a fantastic guy. But he doesn't really get stuck in businesses with them for prolonged periods of time, and I think that's one of those things you only get the hang of through painful repetition.

And so, off they went.

They did bring me a Krispy Kreme hat. That was nice of them.

But I'd have preferred page or two of work, at least.

However, I didn't throw a rod, because they're little - and it's somewhat unfair to expect them, at ten and eight, to say, "Can we finish our work first?" when offered a free ride to the donut shop. I do get that. (And I wore the hat to Sam's, to show my filial affection and solidarity, even.) But... the work still needs to be done.

So tomorrow morning, while the link cable is calling to them from the shelf way up high, they're going to have to finish today's work on top of Friday's work, before they can veg-out on the video games. I hope to make it as easy on them as possible, and we do have some fun lessons planned. So. It will be either the world's fastest day, or the world's longest. We'll see.

Kiss those babies!

Happy Half-A-Year to You!

The Wee One hit six months. We haven't lost him, dropped him (that was actually a concern, considering Em's need to haul him around), or scarred him (years to go on that one, though...) He gets more interaction than any child I know. Some of it unwanted, but he doesn't really seem to care. It's as though he's resigned to not being mobile. Who knows how this will go when he can do more than roll? He's a happy little guy. And, I think it's safe to say, now that we've hit the six month mark: My first child without colick! (Thank you, baby! You'll always be in the running for Mama's Favorite, just for that! *smooch*)

Thumb sucking is Serious Business? Did you know that? Just look at the concentration. He chased that thumb around for quite a while before he caught it. I'd have had more pictures, but I was laughing too hard.
Smidge digs being a big brother. Jase digs that his arms are still in his sockets. Life is good.
And Dad, who doesn't do the laundry, thought he should celebrate being Half-A-Year with... A Cookie! I was going to be upset, but when Zorak looked at Jase and said, "You like a cookie," (a'la Over the Hedge) and Jase laughed and laughed and yanked the cookie out of Zorak's hand, I had to decide between fit or photo. Photo won. He'll be fine. He really loved the cookie.And he really loves the Zorak.
And in no time at all, he's going to turn ten, and I'm probably going to cry. So, for now, I'll have a cookie, too. And smile. And kiss my babies. And pray he's not still sucking his thumb when he turns ten...

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, September 23

What in the world?

This makes me smile...

Other things, that don't necessarily make me smile (although they might, but not the same way):

Facebook. What is that? I signed up so I could see Cousin T's page. And there are a bazillion relatives already on there. So, now it looks like I have friends and such, but I can't for the life of me figure out what to do with the page. I can't make it pretty, and give it a font I like. Or make it look even remotely... familiar. *sigh* It reminds me of the pageflake nightmare, from which I've just now begun to recover. Wee-ha, technological genius at work, huh? Ah, well, I'll have James explain it to me.

James' Webelos pack (troup? herd?) is selling popcorn now. They sent us a package in the mail, and it looks like it's all done online. Still not completely clear on that. In one way, I like not having my child out there, going door-to-door, hoping not to be torn to shreds by some angry dog-farm escapees. Or approached by a pedophile. So, there's that. By the same token, I do feel like the boys ought to put a little wear and tear on their soles. You know, pony up and put some effort into it. Isn't there a compromise? A gauntlet they can run that actually requires them to run, but without the looming threat of death or dismemberment at every turn? I don't know. It can't be easy to meet all the requirements everyone has. I suppose this is a good compromise. Maybe I'll have him at least write up a blog entry on it, or something along those lines.

Fall is coming! I can't smell it, and I can't see it, but I know it's coming! The electric bill should be dropping shortly. And that means we need to get out and mark the deadwood NOW, before all the leaves fall and we can't tell any longer what needs cutting and what needs fertilizing. It would be a sad spring, indeed, to get that wrong.

Zorak baked us a pecan pie tonight. Well, I say "us", but I mean "me". (He did bake it all for me, right? Because I'm his favorite wife. I hope.)

We're reading Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. I like it. The boys like it. I hate reading it aloud. This isn't a read-aloud-to-this-many-kids book. This is a read-it-together-but-independently-then-chat-about-it book. That will make sense only to about half of you. That's okay. I love you all for different reasons. :-)

Anything making you smile this week?
Kiss those babies!~


Sorry to have been so quiet. We've been sorting the recycling. (It's very important, you know.)

However, we had a lovely weekend. Picked more pears. Apples still aren't ripe. Had a birthday (it'll get it's own post, though - that's a special part of it). Weather's been gorgeous. Life is good.

That's about all I've got at the moment. I find that I can't really write when I'm not a-l-o-n-e, and we're now going on nearly two weeks that I have not been a-l-o-n-e. Ever. It's shocking, really. But even now, I stayed up so late, and although they're all sleeping, and I am, technically alone, I'm also exhausted. Somehow, the internal ability to focus somewhat disrupts the benefits of not having external interruptions. Go figure.

So, night! I'll be back this week, though. Honest. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Friday, September 19

Oh, good grief.

In looking back over this week’s posts, I can’t believe the typos! This has been a doozy of a week, all the way around, and I guess it shows in the synapses, huh? Anyway, it’d take longer to go back and fix them than it will to move on. (Though I may go and fix the ones in the education post – that’s always awkward.)

Zorak will be home tomorrow. He’s been at a class this week, and having a delightful time of it – lunch out with one of his brothers and a cousin, all-you-can-eat sushi with his brother, dinner at a brewery with other cousins, and a night in, making chimichangas with cousins. Oh, yeah, and in between all that, he’s learned an awful lot about whatever it was he went to learn about. But I haven’t heard about that part. Just all the other stuff. I wouldn’t be surprised if he calls in the morning to tell me about having cable and watching movies without interruptions.

And so, our task tomorrow is to make sure his homecoming is everything he’s been missing this week. Because, in spite of evidence to the contrary, he has missed us. I hope.

We’ll make a pork roast and pear pie, mashed potatoes and iced tea. The kids are going to put on a little show for him, showing off all they’ve worked on this week – piano, poetry, math facts and songs. That’ll be nice. But mostly, it’s just the quiet of an evening with all of us back under one roof that I’m looking forward to.

Wednesday, September 17

Getting Comfy

They never had dentists like this when I was a kid... The dentist is so good that I would take the kids to him even if his office was in an abandoned basement from the Inquisition, to be honest. But the added perks, and the psychological benefit they provide, are definitely worth whatever this man wants to charge.
There are TVs mounted on the ceiling, and the kids can watch anything they want. There's always a movie playing. James got to watch The Price is Right while they worked on him. Plus, it's so cheerful and friendly. The whole tone of the office is that this is a great place to be. They even allow siblings (or maybe it's just our kids who do this - but the staff allows it) to come hang out with the one being treated...

They refer to the nose piece as "Mr. Nose". Em didn't have a visit today, so she stole John's and headed back to hang with Smidge. As an aside, does he look like a child who is about to have two huge cavities filled? No. Or, at least that's not what I looked like in that position. Not thirty years ago. Not last month.

Anyway, she tried something different...

...but that didn't work, either. And then, she found The Sweet Spot.
This is where she remained until someone brought her a blown up glove...
Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, September 16

And So They Learn

I forget to do educational roundups on the blog. Mostly, we go. We learn. We study. Sometimes we (they) (ok, I) filibuster a bit here and there. But here's where they are, as of this morning:

Latin - LP Ch.3 - finishing this up this week. I'd hoped to finish Ch. 5 by Christmas break, and I'm sure we will, so that's good. We really enjoy this program. Sometimes the sentences for translation are so wacky that even though we have it correct, we aren't sure we do, because well, it's wacky. His gut is good on translation, though, and his confidence has increased. Unfortunately, he rattles things off now, then asks me if that was right, and I'm torn between 'fessing up that I didn't follow, or just smiling and nodding. Time for Mama to pick up that dropped ball and get back in the game.
Math - Epsilon Ch. 11 test today. Weeee! How is it that the child who had such a rough time with housekeeping on multiple digit multiplication can handle working so easily with fractions?
Logic - This is so informal, I'm hesitant to include it. (Yet I'm going to, anyway.) He plays Set, he works Sudoku, and he does logic puzzles. They make my eyes bleed, but he love them.
Writing - Imitations in Writing. I'm tempted to say this is so easy, it can't be working. But it is working. And his writing has improved already. I *heart* Imitations in Writing!
Handwriting - Italic Handwriting has pushed my need for bifocals back another five years! His legibility has increased beyond my wildest, weirdest dreams.
Spelling - I'm still not thinking this is a stellar program, but it's not doing any harm, and he likes workbooks. Jury will reonvene at the end of the term.
Reading - The list is not coming toether as easily as I'd hoped. Right now, he is reading Robinson Crusoe with me (and he's hating it - I'm not sure if it's the book, the child, or the mother), reading Parables of Nature (this was supposed to be a summertime read, but we all got distracted), and reading random stories from Howard Pyle's Tales of Robin Hood. I'm working on something with a bit more direction.

Latin - Ch. 4 - *argh* I don't know if this child needs more fish oil, more sleep, more exercize, or electric shock therapy. Whatever it is, he's evidently not getting it because his memorization and retention have been deplorable this month. He's also having trouble remaining upright while he works, which may have something to do with it.
Math - Ch. 5 - he's plugging along and doing well. It took us a week to really convince him that estimation is not just some weird, random thing to learn. Now that he's got that under his belt, he's gung-ho and doing beautifully. Yay for real life!
Writing/Handwriting - The one-two punch of doing the handwriting improvement alongside the writing assignments seems to have freed up his creativity. Again, with the love of Imitations in Writing. We did switch the boys around, so he's doing Aesop, which is a great fit for 3rd grade writing. I'm enjoying his stories, and he's enjoying writing them. John's handwriting has also improved already. Slope is troubling him, but size and shape are now almost always uniform. We're focusing this month on using capitalization appropriately. (Tied in with writing - for him, it's even more of an integrated system than for James, who has two years' more experience on that front.)
Spelling Workout - Jury's still out. He likes the editing marks.
Reading - He's currently reading Owls in the Family; One Horse, One Day, One Hundred Miles (on recommendation of his brother, who just finished and said it's fantastic); Tales of Deltora (he'd started it and then lost it); Howard Pyle's Tales of Robin Hood.

History - we are nearly through the Middle Ages, and it's going well. We keep getting distracted with how things tie together. The People's Crusade led to a lengthy discussion about mob mentality, and the power of charismatic people to sway crowds. We talked about the importance of being not only capable, but willing to maintain your power of reason when in such a situation, of being willing and able to speak up and stand firm in what you know is right. That is why I am thankful we are not tied to fifty minute blocks of time to cover what's on the test. This stuff may not be on the blackline master test, but it's going to be on the Big Test, and that's the one we want them to pass with flying colors.

Art - I need to take photos of the work they've done. So far, so good, with the Artistic Pursuits. I'm still mildly craft-phobic, but the trauma is less with this program, and the results are better, all around, than the willy-nilly craft-n-cry method we were using. Another thumb's up from us!

Music - coming along, doing our thing. I have no idea how to critique this. Meet the Great Composers is interesting, and we're willing to do it - those two things, alone, are of value to us. The boys are still doing piano, and progressing nicely on that front.

Science - I'll have to post separately on that because JT is up and it's time to go!

Have a lovely day, learn something new, and Kiss those babies!

Monday, September 15

Hearing Voices

Part of the Big Plan includes keeping the Suburban clean. Did you know you can actually fit eight people in there? huh. Who knew?

Anyway, the battery's a bit low, so I went ahead and started it up to charge the battery while I had the doors open to clean and vacuum. I turned on the stereo, and sang along to the CD of the children's Christmas play.

All was going well, and I was beboppin' along, doing my thing. But then, when the songs would end, I thought I heard voices. Children's voices.

I'd look up. No children on the porch. Hmmm.

Go back to vacuuming. Sing a bit.

Then I'd hear those voices again. I could *swear* I heard children talking, but I couldn't see any children anywhere. And between the vacuum and the engine, I couldn't make out what they were saying, either.

So I turned off the vacuum.

And heard, quite clearly, the *rest* of the Christmas play. Performed by children.

It's a good thing I can laugh at myself.

It's also a good thing we're not driving anywhere today!

Kiss those babies!

Every Good Plan

Starts with a bad night's rest. Implementation comes later, after the fun part is done. Or, if you're like me, you'll just order another toner cartridge and get right back to the sleep deprived planning stage. Because, really, that is the fun part. (And it is NOT an illness. Nuh-uh. Shut up. I checked. Or, at least, I put it on my list of things to check.)

The boys and I tried to work in the basement today. Yeah, the basement I spent two weeks fixing up last December. That work was shot by the time the Pinewood Derby was over, and it's simply deteriorated from there. However, we've got things that need doing that can't be done without the basement. Well, they could, technically, but I've paid my dues with sawdust in the kitchen and projects dangling from the shower rod while the glue dries, thank you. It's not that those weren't wonderful days, but... yeah. We're not going back there.

We weren't down there ten minutes before John walked right into two lengths of all-thread which just happened to be jutting out from the wall, at eye level, eye-width apart. I cannot tell you the thoughts that zipped through my mind in rapid succession. And it's probably best that way. I can tell you that he escaped with only two cuts on one eyelid. No damage to his eyeballs. No other ruptures, swelling, internal bleeding, or any of the many other horrid possibilities that came to mind. He doesn't even have black eyes. And he still lets me snuggle him when he's not feeling well. *sniff-sniff*

So, realizing that our home is filled with punji sticks and Burmese tiger traps, I figured it's time for a Real Plan. One that involves printing things, and... and... hole punching them. Checkboxes, and perhaps even a grease pencil. Something. We need a written plan of action! Mainly, it's because I forget. But also because, um, I forgot. Regardless, if it's right there, in black and white, none of us has an excuse. It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye, right?

This week we'll be sorting, cleaning, trashing, bribing, burning, donating, mending. Whatever it takes to get this place bomb-proofed, we're going to do it. I'm sure the boys are thrilled. Fortunately, we have Netflix and popcorn and M&M's, and nothing says, "C'mon, you know you want to," better than bribery. And Neosporin. I'm keeping that on the counter.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, September 13

Conservation and Common Sense

The guys were up bright 'n early. They got packed. They got dressed. Then they settled in with breakfast to Google the map to the fishing rodeo. It's at Joe Wheeler State Park, but everything around here is named after Joe Wheeler, so we weren't sure, exactly where that is.

They found it.

It's 50 miles away.

For an organized, half-day event.

When we live just two miles south of the TN river.

Um, hey guys, do you want to drive 50 miles, one-way, for that, or do you want to go two miles up the road to the boat dock and fish there?

The boys voted unanimously to hit the dock on our road.

Zorak and I were pleased that they opted to conserve their resources - time, fuel, energy. Not to mention, the thought of spending two hours in the car on a beautiful day like this wasn't horribly appealing to Zorak.

And so, they're out now, fishing and playing and having a grand old time. JT's asleep, and Em and I are going to check on Ike again (y'all are in our thoughts and prayers!), then see if we can make a pie!

What are you up to this beautiful Saturday?
Kiss those babies!

Friday, September 12


Good day. We did watercolor paintings. I like the watercolor pencils. More to the point, I like the distinct lack of mess, fuss, and clean-up with watercolor pencils. Smidge was less than impressed - not nearly enough mess, or fuss, although he was good with the clean-up. The two big boys liked the concept, but were somewhat frustrated with the results. They have never been colorers, and this may have something to do with it. They both prefer the sketching lessons, so we'll play with it and see how that goes. Emily, however, wow, that girl knows how to lay down the water. We may have to keep an eye on our normal books and binders in the future.

The kids and I picked up a scenty air thingy a while back, to put in the HVAC filter, so it was with a great deal of fanfare that we included it in the switcharoo process today. The aroma of this particular one is hauntingly familiar, and (after several hours of taking random whiffs) it just hit me... So, here's a tip:
Never let a child whose favorite smell in the world is "really clean public bathroom" pick out your deodorizer scent. Trust me on this one.

The three bigs and Zorak are going to the Fishing Rodeo tomorrow with Scouts. I have absolutely no idea what this entails, other than... fishing. Not sure what makes it a rodeo. There's lunch, but that doesn't seem likely to be it. *shrug* It doesn't really matter. They're getting out, going fishing, and spending time with Dad. That's bound to be a great time, even if you wanted to call it a Fishing Museum.

We hope to make it to Charles E. Fromage's place in the afternoon. Or maybe Smidge and Zorak will go dove hunting. Smidge thinks he can hang for both, but we don't really see that happening without a great deal of melting down on the Littles' parts, and muscle spasms on ours. So we'll let him pick after the rodeo.

And, I am going to stay home with the Littles andwe'll attempt to preserve some pears, bake a pie, read some stories, play some games, and clean the house. (We will probably accomplish only three of the five.) We may even slip out for a new smelly thing for the HVAC. Who knows, they might have some other exciting scents, like "fish shack kitchen", "medicinal facility", or "late summer locker room"!

Should be a really great day, all around!
Kiss those babies!

Thursday, September 11

What Works For Some...

It's probably just us. I get that. But tonight, when Zorak returned with the Big Boys from Scouts, he told me just not to bother trying to take them next week. (He's got work stuff to do, and so I'd planned to take them, instead.)

You see, our Pack seems to have a few... oh, "behavioral issues". Some of it's not dangerous, just rude. Things like making loud fake snoring noises while the den leader is trying to discuss the calendar; making rude and inappropriate jokes about the adults, in front of everyone; squirrelling around at inappropriate times; getting into scraps when physical horseplay gets out of hand. The bigger kids show absolutely no cognizance that there are smaller ones in the Pack, and the tone is definitely one of every-man-for-himself.

But some of it is also pretty dangerous. There's a marked lack of respect for private property, personal space, and basic safety guidelines. More than once, Zorak has overheard and thwarted schemes that, if enacted, would have had disastrous results for everyone involved.

And the thing is, while it's not the entire group, it's not just one or two troublemakers, either. It's your traditional bell curve, only the bulk of it in the middle is poorly behaved kids, with a few truly stellar little snarkbats at one end and a few truly delightful kids on the other end. The meetings are a constant series of interruptions, to the point that very little gets done.

The leadership seems to be at a loss as to how to deal with it. And since it all takes place in front of the very parents, themselves, who also do nothing to rectify the situation (they are busily chatting away, ignoring the meeting and the business at hand, themselves - too occupied to listen to what's taking place, let alone address their children's behaviors), that leaves us lacking warm fuzzies. We aren't certain if they just don't know how to deal with it, or if this is their "normal". Once we figure that out, we'll know better how to proceed. Now, how to figure that part out?

In the meantime, though, the boys enjoy the work, the projects, and the activities. So, it's worth slogging through the weirdness and finding a happy middle ground. Thankfully, the boys also tend to gravitate on their own toward the better-behaved kids, which keeps our stress levels from skyrocketing.

Zorak plans to continue on, trying to help redirect the kids who need redirecting, and in the meantime, he hopes to figure out if this is an area where he can help make a difference. If it turns out that the kids and the adults are all quite happy with the status quo, and have no desire to make changes, then we definitely are not going to try to strongarm them into doing it "our way". I mean, if you're happy, you're happy, and we can certainly respect that. We, however, can't be happy with this situation for a long-term choice, for our family. We really do think children can do better, when they have the guidance and modeling to figure it out.

So next week, we'll have a Scout Night at home and work on something the boys have been wanting to tackle. It should be fun.

Kiss those babies!

"Organized Mom" Survived Auditions

Well, toss me a cold one, we survived. I learned a few things last night:

~ It's fairly safe to say that my "spiritual gifts" do not include theatrical productions, large group child ministry, or dealing with people who are trying to live the Big City Life in a Small Town. Yup. We can just cross all three of those right off my list.

~ James seems to have no clue how to listen in large groups, and yet he also seems to have a bent for performing. (There's a niggling bit in the back of my head that says this is going to be an interesting combination.)

~ I never noticed that the baby probably could have used a bath and a change of clothes until we were already out in public, standing beneath fluorescent lighting. Spit-up glows in that lighting, did you know that? Oops.

~ If you're hungry enough, McDonald's isn't that bad.

~ Now I understand why they started this all last week. This is a Big Production. I'm not sure how they'll pull it together by Christmas. However, I'm sure if they fail it won't be from lack of effort or vision.

~ And, finally, I think I'm going to have the children start journaling. This way, I can remind them to write in their journals, "another example of how much Mom loves me and does things Just For Me". They can write that part in red, so that, in the adolescent years to come, if they're ever feeling neglected or unpampered, I can easily direct them to their journals for hard evidence to the contrary.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, September 10

Five Years, Already...

You're five. How can that be? Weren't you just a little peanut of a guy? Yet here you are, so big, so full of humor and curiosity and affection. You're not a baby, anymore, that's for sure, but you're still my Sweet Smidge.
Five years ago, you were our "Baby", the youngest of three, our last child. In five years, you've learned so much (aside from the fact that your parents cannot count). Now, you're a Big Brother, yourself. You're smack dab in the middle of this crazy family, and you have us all wrapped up in those big, brown eyes, that contagious cackle, that dimple that has a stronger draw than a rare earth magnet. Gah, I can get absolutely lost in you, you know that?

Now, you can actually hang with the big boys all day long. Yet you can tumble with the little ones and enjoy a good picture book like nobody's business. You're so very good at being You.

You love to hold JT and make him laugh. You love to be the one to help EmBaby reach the things she cannot. You love to go to Scouts with your brothers, "just to watch," and you could probably tell me at any given moment how many days are left until you turn seven and can join on your own. You make us laugh. Sometimes without even trying.

You're so sweet. Such a sensitive soul. Sometimes you are so empathetic, and your kindhearted nature makes me want to burst with affection. And sometimes, like when you cry until you puke, it makes me want to burst a blood vessel.

And you are so completely genuine and easy-going. I don't know what we've done to deserve a child who is so willing to say, "I forgive you," or, "that's okay". (We don't deserve you, if we're being honest, but we're not giving you back.) You're usually the first to apologize, the first to suggest solutions to challenges. You're the first to find the silver lining while the rest of us are still complaining about the clouds or the rain. You always make us shake our heads and muse, "Man, he's a great kid."

When your brother wanted to help decorate your cake today, you didn't get clutched up over it (like some mother might...), you said, "Sure, you can help!" Wow. You're really cool. The cake looked great, too. But even better was the sight of the two of you, shoulder-to-shoulder, sharing exciting things and encouraging one another. I didn't get a photograph of it, but I'll have the picture in my head for a very long time. Your brothers had a really great time picking out your gifts this year. They knew just what you wanted, and just what colors you'd like the best. I think they kind of like you, you know.

And now, you have arrows, an armguard, a quiver... and you get to help make your very first bow. When did you get so big? You plan this year to learn to ride a two-wheel bike, and learn to read. You still want to go to the beach, "when the hurricanes are done". (Good call, by the way.) I think this will be a wonderful year for you. And I know, as long as you're with us, it'll be a wonderful year for us.
Happy Fifth Birthay, Smidge!!! We love you so much!
Mom, Dad, James, John, Emily, and Jason
*P.S. No, they aren't partaking of herbal medicinals in that picture. It's the opiate of cake icing that they're enjoying - it is evidently much more potent when sucked off the end of a candle than it is when eaten straight off the cake. I don't get it, but don't they all look completely taken up with - and wholeheartedly savoring - what they're doing?

Monday, September 8

Just For Fun

Because sometimes, we need that.

When the older boys were wee ones, there were certain things we could not mention in their hearing. This went beyond Christmas gifts and various hallucinogenic holiday characters. A mere mention of the name,"Bob the Builder" would send the boys into fits of excitement, insisting that they must return home right that instant to watch Bob. That was exhausting. So, we took to calling him "Robert the Construction Worker".

This little slight-of-tongue worked so well that we expanded our code to include other things.

"Playgroup" became "frolick collective", "ice cream" might be "frozen bovine excretion" (hah - like they'd ever have figured that one out!) For years, Zorak and I have been able to create our own cryptic dialogue for just about anything, without fear of discovery. Now that the older two are, well, older, they're catching on. And they're pretty good at it.

For instance, Smidge wants to go to Chuck E. Cheese for his birthday. (Granted, I'd much rather let a street vendor in Juarez perform liposuction on my butt than spend the day there, but you know I'll go.) The real question was when we'd go, my main criteria being that Zorak has to go with us, since he's the one who introduced the vile place to the children, to begin with. At supper tonight, I asked Zorak if we should hit the "Italian Rodent's Lair" on Saturday. He processed the request, and replied in the affirmative. That was about the time James burst out laughing. He then said, "Oh, do you mean...

...and he made a wretching motion, a surprized motion, and shouted

I just about died laughing. It wasn't subtle, but it was good. Our code has been broken, and none of our secrets are safe. But it's worth it to have let him in on the game. This is what allows me to enjoy them well beyond the fuzzy infant, the insane toddler, the funny preschooler ages. We're raising adults, and from the looks of it, we're raising pretty good-natured ones, to boot.


This is Smidge's Pear. He smelled the blossom. He watched it die back. He squealed and giggled and leapt up and down as the fruit began to form beneath the remains of the flower. This one was his. And he managed to not pick it, not pester it to death, not lose it to deer or siblings or foul winds. All. Season. Long. Sweet, sweet reward. **************************************************************

And this is John's latest find. Looks an awful lot like a chicken head, doesn't it? Complete with one buggy eye, and everything. He was quite proud, and wanted a picture before he ate it. (I have never been so tempted to call the National Enquirer, in my life, but John really didn't want to wait to hear back from them.) He found another one in the same batch that looked, as he put it, "More like a goose than a chicken. A really small goose."

Yes, this is how we spend our days sometimes. Laughing at inside jokes, taking pictures of weird foodstuffs, and enjoying everything we've put into all of it. Good stuff, indeed.
Kiss those babies!

Sunday, September 7

More From the Non-Agrarians

OK, so I, the Non-Farmer, came to terms with the sooty blotch and the flyspeck. But this... I'm not handling this well, at all. I don't know what it is, for certain. For now, I'm just calling it the Plague of Apple Death. Is it Cedar Apple Rust? Gah. It's hideous, whatever it is. (Please don't ask me if it's soft. I can tell you now I did not touch it. I'm not going to touch it. I didn't even want to stand under it to take the picture.)

Look at that a little more closely. Ew. That's all one can really say. Ew.

I fear my hopes of hot apple pies, baked apples, and fresh applesauce have been dashed for the year. If that IS Cedar Apple Rust, then those dreams are dashed for the future, as well, because I asked Zorak today if we can cut down the cedar tree, and as it turns out, he loves that cedar tree. He loves it so much, his voice rose an octave as he told me he loves it. That's a lotta love. You know, for a tree.

So, in an effort to comfort myself, I rounded up any children who weren't sleeping, and made them help me pick the pears. Before some kind of mildewy-gut-rot gets to them, too.

For one neglected, 45ft. tall tree, I can't complain about this year's harvest. Heck, two years ago, we didn't even know what kind of a tree this is! So, we've been pruning and hacking and praying. This is the first year we've had fruit from it.

This shot was taken about halfway through the picking. We got about that much, again, and then Zorak made us stop. It probably had something to do with the fact that I have no idea what we're going to do with all these pears. Or perhaps it was when I mentioned that after you pick them, you have to let them ripen for a week or two. There are another couple dozen pears still on the tree, but I suspect they'll remain there until the boys and I figure out what to do with them and where to put them.

Oh, well, it was fun. And it took my mind off all those apple pies I'm not going to be able to make this year. *sigh* For a while it did, anyway. By the way, I'm really enjoying Picasa's new functions and upgrades. Hopefully, this collage will be a clickable link, because it's really neat-o full-size! (Whoa, and was it HUGE! Edited to tame the beast a bit... edited again to apologize - now it's a manageable size, but it's no longer clickable. No clue what the problem is. Probably operator error of some kind... *sheepish grin*)
Kiss those babies!

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Emily's Choices

One of the topics on the table this week is what everybody wants to be for Halloween. This year, Em's chiming in with some suggestions of her own:

* RD22 (I botched this originally, and what I meant didn't translate into writing - we envision this more like "Arty Tutu" - perhaps it's Desmond's less politically oriented brother, or weird uncle. She may mean the robot, but we think "Arty" would be more fun.)

* Tinker Pan

Should be an interesting Halloween...

(Zorak is ALL about going with the Tinker Pan outfit - green tights, wings, feathered cap and sparkly glitter... how much easier could it be, right?)

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, September 6

How Do You Like Your Beans?

Jenni asked for bean ideas. I will share my *one* method of cooking beans, and then I'm going to have to beg the rest of you to chime in with your faves because otherwise, she's going to be on her own, here.

We eat pintos. That's pretty much it. And we eat the pintos cooked pretty much one way. It's delicious, and, obviously, we're okay with it, but since the question was about variety, this doesn't exactly answer the question. (I love other beans, and other methods of preparing them. But I'm the only one, really. Hillbilly Housewife's Baked Beans give me happy little daydreams. Nothing makes me smile quite like a navy bean and ham soup. Lentils, yum! However, for the day-to-day bean eatin', this is how it gets done around here.)

Sort your beans. Be sure to set aside the magic beans. (These are any that are significantly different from all the other beans in the bag. Might be a piece of corn or barley, a black bean, or just one of a different color or size than all the others. I like the mostly-white ones. James likes the darker ones. The boys all like the really large ones. Zorak and I get a kick out of the itty bitty ones. Make your own magic, it's all good.) Rinse. Cover with cold water.

Theoretically, you allow them to sit all night. (We never remember in time. So, we boil them for a while.) Then drain and rinse. Rinse well, as this helps counter the, erm, side effects of eating beans. Refill the pot, add chile powder, paprika (this adds an absolutely gorgeous color to it!), and a titch of garlic and salt. *Side Note: some people have severely erm, adverse reactions to garlic salt or onion salt. Use fresh to avoid that.*

I used to add bacon to the beans. However, I have a bad habit of not putting the pot into the fridge before I go to bed, and I got tired of having to throw out most of a pot of beans because of that. When cooked without meat, they can survive the occasional absentmindedness. ;-) I haven't really noticed much difference in the flavor, either, except that they're a little more flexible in adding to other foods, now.

Cook until done.

This recipe pretty well lends itself to whatever you want to add to it at the table. They're easily convertible to make an excellent side dish, or a main dish. Depends how you dress 'em up. Chopped onion, grated cheese, salsa, sour cream... tabasco, cajun seasoning, Greek seasoning... Eat it with cornbread, or tortillas... Add ground beef and call it chili. Add green chiles and tomatoes and call it... um, beans with green chiles and tomatoes. Mash them with a little lard or oil in a skillet and you have unbeatable refried beans.

What do you like to do with your beans?

Kiss those babies!

Friday, September 5

A Roundup

My morning consisted of feeding the baby, changing the baby, blowing noses, admiring Lego contraptions, trying to convince EmBaby to let Daddy put her hair up, watching a play called "The mouse and the mom" (starring a mouse from Mousetrap and a Queen from one of the chess sets), hearing a few great riddles, and sampling a pear from the tree. Not a bad morning, considering I was supposed to be sleeping in. You know, rest up, heal, that kind of stuff.

But that just doesn't happen unless you have a doctor telling the father of your children that you will die if you don't get rest. (Fear of doing it on your own is quite the motivator - for Moms and Dads, alike!) And so, since I don't have an official death diagnosis, I was already up when one of my favorite people called to chat. Her call gave me an excuse at least to hide on the balcony and talk shop with a hot cup of coffee, relatively unmolested. Probably did more for my recovery than anything else has, to tell you the truth.

It's about 8:30 now. We had 15-bean soup and drop biscuits for supper. The boys made it, and it was fantastic.

There's venison jerkey in the oven, jerking... (that doesn't sound right).

The kids are about ready for a story, and the linens are in the dryer (The Urinator struck again - it's like living with an angry, incontinent cat).

I have a bow quiver and a finger tab to sew up this weekend, and a few more projects along those lines. Zorak is hoping to do a little dove hunting, as well. John's stoked. James is compliant. Smidge just wants to come along.

He's funny. We could be heading out to embalm month-old cadavers, and he'd want to come along.

He didn't get to help make the soup or biscuits tonight, but he's okay with that because he and I will make banana bread in the morning. I'm not sure he realizes that means he's not going hunting. Hopefully, he'll clue in to that just about the time we're drizzling icing on a loaf of fresh bread and I can distract him further with a few gooey smiley faces and a beso.

Tonight James mentioned how easy it must be to keep a clean home if you aren't married and don't have children. That's true, definitely. But it's not a worthwhile trade-off at all. Fortunately, he's the one who pointed that out, as well. I'm glad they know that. I hope they always know that.

Kiss those babies!

My Head Is Like This Right Now

There's some really good stuff in there, but I have no clue how to get at it.

Day six of this plague. The children are fine. Zorak is much improved. I. Am. Dying. I talked to the children's director at church today. She said everyone at church has had it, too. She also said when it hits your chest, you're almost through. If that's true, then we should all be well, or dead, by Sunday. Either way, we all look forward to some resolution, here.

She'd called because she wanted to let me know the church's Christmas play preparations began last night. So... this is what life is like for non-procrastinators? While I'm at the market, mocking the stores for putting out Halloween candy, other (more organized) people are planning for Christmas. Wow. I... I don't think I'll ever be one of those people. However, the three boys have indicated that they'd like to be involved in the production. John wants more information before making a decision one way or the other. (His main concern was that this will not extend into baseball practice, "right?" Right.) James heard there is a Narrator part, and he's set his sights on that. Smidge just overheard his brothers and wants to be One of Them. So. There ya go. Come Sunday, I will be playing the part of an Organized Mom, gathering information and penciling into my calendar the schedule for the auditions on Wednesday. Then I plan to go to the store and spend half an hour wandering around wondering why none of the summer stuff is on sale yet. (Ha. Yet. They got rid of all of it last weekend, I know. *sigh* I know.)

Smidge turns five this month. He has given me a beautiful lesson on Perspective this year. He has instituted a new ritual, in honor of this merry event. Each morning, he slips into my room while I sleep, gets right. in. my. face. and then says, in a restrained whisper (which is pretty creepy when that's the sound that wakes you from a deep slumber), "Six more days." OK, something that cryptic, said in a snakey-sounding whisper at six in the morning... that'll really mess up your early AM groove, you know that? I'm sure he's convinced that I am not looking forward to his birthday. He's wrong. I am. For, after his birthday, we can go back to our regularly scheduled six AM wake-up calls, which consist of three or more children standing at the foot of my bed, yelling, "Mom! Can we have some food?" It's all about perspective. That which was once irritating will now be appreciated for its non-shudder-inducing qualities. Good Morning!!

Been following the news, but evidently not the calendar (in spite of my daily warnings), as tonight I asked Zorak what time MadTV would be on. He looked at me with such gentle pity before he answered. I don't know if the pity was because I had no idea what day it was, or because he just didn't want to have to tell me that MadTV wouldn't be on for another 48 hours yet. Either way, I realized I'm still not functioning on all eight cylinders. So I leave you with the promise of what is to come (rather than the haze of what is at the moment...)
Kiss those babies!

Monday, September 1

Our Long Weekend.

We were all looking forward to a long weekend, co-oping home repairs with Ben and Claudia, and rounding it up with a BBQ and ice cream. We sure needed all three days, but not for the reasons we planned -- we all got sick. Saturday, none of us could muster any getupngo at all. The whole day felt like we were running in place. Saturday night, Zorak announced, "I'm sick." He meant it! He went to bed and we didn't see him again until this morning.

By then, it had hit Jase and Em, and me, and although I'd missed Zorak, I just felt too miserable to really be expressive about his return from the cave. Em felt so bad that she crawled in our bed around ten this morning and didn't get out until time for supper, a little after six tonight. Hallelujah, she was still dry! I wanted to climb in with her and sleep, but truthfully, I was afraid of what I'd find, so I toughed it out.

In other news...

The guys got down to the garden today to pick. So far, the only things they've brought up from the garden are cucumbers, zucchini, and okra. (Yep, them're some big cukes and zucchini. We aren't just that good, we're just that slow. They should've been picked last week sometime.) I asked Zorak if the snow peas didn't make it. He said they did, but Smidge eats them all while they're working in the garden, so there aren't any to bring up. I guess that's a sign that we need to plant more of those next year.

We still can't figure out if the pears are ready to pick yet. We figure the apples won't be ready until... early October, perhaps? (Any north/central Alabama gardeners out there who would like to chime in on estimated harvest times?)

It's okay. The pies can wait. Right now, I'm off to enjoy some Advil Cold & Sinus and a eucalyptus steambath. Because no matter how bad you feel, those kids still need to eat sometime, right? I hope it works!

Kiss those babies!