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!