Wednesday, January 30

Belated Bobcat Shots

I finally had a chance to upload and edit. (Or, if I must be completely upfront, I finally found the camera.) These were taken at the boys' pack meeting last week, when they both received their Bobcat Badges. (Which are still dangling precariously upside down, awaiting that Good Turn so they can be flipped and "official". I am so loathe to give up that leverage. Truly, I am.)
However, here they are, trying not to erupt in a fit of excitement and whooping, while they go through the ceremony.

But when it came time to do Dad, they were all business. (Actually, I got a stripe, too. The Scoutmaster was going to do two stripes on Zorak, but James asked if they could do one on him and one on me. I was holding the camera, so there is no photo of James doing my stripe. But I still smile a big, goofy smile when I think of it. They're such thoughtful boys.)

And then, they beamed...

Well, John beamed. James... James is just feelin' pretty cool, right about there. It's funny how they processed their new status differently. (Not that the difference stopped them from springing to the Suburban like leopards on crack when we left, but they do look so different, here.)
It was a good evening. A good experience. A rite of passage for them, but as Zorak said, also a big step for parents to see their children out there, doing things, achieving things on their own... suddenly seeming so capable and so... BIG. It's good, isn't it? Yep. Sure is.
Kiss those babies!

What is THIS???

James this morning has mentioned that he's excessively tired. He doesn't have a fever, and he isn't coughing. Throat isn't sore, no swelling, and his eyes dilate just fine. But he's *incredibly* tired. Honestly, I figured he'd been up too late last night reading and was suffering the consequences of his choices, and so, being the alma mater I am *snort*, I figured I'd proceed with business as usual and let him hang tough today (and hopefully, get some rest tonight, right? Um, yeah, right. Something like that.)
Anyhow, we sat down to breakfast, and I looked up and... YIKES! What HAPPENED TO YOUR FACE?!?!?

You can see it across his nose, cheeks, and chin, here.

The left side is worse than the right.

He's never ruddy. I mean, he's pale, but he's not normally splotchy. Or red. He's not cold. He doesn't have this anywhere else on his body. He says it doesn't itch, it just feels "radiant, like when you get sunburned".
We've changed nothing recently - detergent, foods, vitamins. I wouldn't be concerned about this if he wasn't so doggedly exhausted this morning, as well. Any ideas?
Thanks, Dy

Tuesday, January 29

...And the wind howled...

We've read so many books with excellent descriptions of severe wind and storms. For the boys, however, it's usually just words when it comes to weather. They've always lived in moderately mild weather. They've never heard the wind howl, or scream, or whistle. I'm pretty sure they thought it was just rampant anthropomorphism.

Tonight, however, they've heard it whistle, and they've heard it howl. They've heard it beat against the windows, and they've heard the trees groan under the strain. The looks on the boys' faces, alone, as they realized what they were hearing, was worth every minute I've ever spent trying to explain it to them. Sometimes you've just got to experience something to make it real. The truly exciting thing, though, is that every story, every incident, came rushing back to them: Al and Harry and Shanks in the cave in the Arctic; Ma and the girls on the banks of Plum Creek; young Harvey on the Outer Banks, aboard the We're Here... all those pictures sprang to life tonight. Very cool, indeed.


Oh, and now I'm laughing at myself! Smidge just came out to let me know he had really wanted to hear "one of the long chapters" (meaning, he'd sat in Em's room for story time with Dad tonight and missed story time with Mom in the process, and what's-up-with-that-anyway-mom!) I let him know we'd just read a short chapter tonight and would read more in the morning. Then, just as I reached to put my hand on his back to guide him back to bed, a gust of wind kicked up and actually moved the window frame that's right behind me!

I didn't jump, exactly, but I know I twitched a bit, and that motion sank in with him just as the sound of the wood creaking also reached him. He came straight up into the air, spun around and came back down in a spectacular fight-or-flight crouch. I didn't know those brown eyes could open so wide!

It was all I could do not to laugh, because it was funny. But still, that had to have been unnerving for the little guy. So I didn't laugh on the outside, and he's now tucked safely back in bed, reassured and snuggled. And now, I get to laugh, right?

Come to think of it, I think I'll go crawl under the covers, myself, and enjoy the sound of the storm from the comfort of thick, fluffy blankets!

Kiss those babies!

I blew it.

Yesterday, we decided to hit the library before lunch. We did so well! Until we pulled up to the library and realized (again) that it's closed on Mondays. *sigh* Ok, so off to Foodland for some, well, food. *snort* We're so original. And then to the feed store (we have a ROCKING feed store in town!) for more bird seed, a chicken book (let's call this, "Facing Your Fears Through Immersion", shall we?), and to look at seeds for planting some early crops - namely, the salad garden in the windmill box.

We ended up buying a candy bar in lieu of seeds, since the guy at the feed store said we're still likely to have some nasty freezes between now and Spring and recommended waiting until late Feb. to put in the cool weather crops. (He couldn't bring himself to use my cute little term, "Salad Garden", though. No, he's a man's man and he plants "Crops", not "leafy things", not "stuff in the windmill box", and most certainly not "salad gardens".) That's cool. Someday I won't have to ask whether they have "chicken stuff", either. I'll know what I'm looking for. Plus, he carried the bag of bird seed to the car for me. *swoon* I end up hauling the 50# bag of dog food myself at the grocery story, but at the feed store, the nice man will carry the wee 25# bag for the pregnant lady with the small children. He also made a point of telling the kids that they were very well behaved and welcome in his store anytime, and then he thanked me for that! Ha! Wow, if they carried groceries or bras, I'd do ALL my shopping there!

We got home and dove back into the books we were going to have to renew, anyway. Spent the afternoon reading and playing. I was just thinking I'd snuggle in for a nice nap when the phone rang. It was Zorak calling on his way home. from. work. ACK! Where did the day GO?!?! We did nothing - no Latin, no Math, no Science. We did History at breakfast, but that was it. Perhaps we'll call it a Literature Appreciation Day?

James made a loaf of the Soda-Bread-in-an-hour recipe we got from the homies. I threw together some turkey vegetable barley soup and it was just about done when Zorak got in. (And to think I'd cursed the store for carrying only quick-cooking barley! I really should apologize, even if it was only a good internal cursing. Like I'll ever have it together enough to cook regular barley? No. No, I won't. But thanks to quick-cooking barley, we had a delicious, non-crunchy soup.) We ate before midnight, and had time to play a few rounds of Boggle before bed. Yeah, I may not have it together for the marathon bits, but boy, can I sprint!

So today, in spite of the fact that it's nine and we're all just now getting warmed up and mobile, we'll need to double-tap a few subjects and get some work done. But that's okay. We have leftovers for lunch, and I think the library is open this afternoon! WOOHOO! OK, ok, I'm off to feed the masses. Kiss those babies, and have a lovely day, even if it doesn't go as planned.


Monday, January 28

Has it been that long?

Four days?!? Whoops.

It's the new format on the WTM forums. It's killing me. The time I spend online is short enough as it is, but I've got to remember to change my order of operations now: email, blog, then boards. Otherwise, I'll disappear into cyberspace and never be heard from again. I'll get the hang of it. Eventually.

Anyway, this was a great weekend, in general. On Thursday night, the boys earned their first Cub Scout badges. The ceremony for that is very sweet, and the boys didn't wash their faces for two days afterword. (The ceremony involves face paint. I can't find the camera, or I'd post pictures.)

Their first cars (practice blocks from scraps here at the house) are done now, and they're ready to make their official cars for the Derby. Melissa's right, that is some Pretty Serious Stuff. Heh. Zorak's been fantastic about letting it be all about the boys. From design to construction to the little details like determining where to place weight and how it ought to be finished, he's let them lead the way and do it all. It shows in their cars. James' has a distinctive Batmobile/Jetsons look to it, and John's is reminiscent of the early-20th Century open road racers. They've had an absolute blast doing all the work, learning more about woodworking and physics, and spending time with Dad. They made the practice cars so they'll have something to play with and won't be tempted to take their derby cars outside for a demolition course before the race.

Because it's just Very Hard To Be Too Little sometimes, and not be in on the projects, (and also, I suspect, because it's fun to make stuff) Zorak made a Camaro for Smidge (who opted for the metallic gold paint - he has no idea how appropriate that is) and a '71 Chevy shortbed pickup for Em (a miniature of my first car, which we hope to haul out here from NM sometime soon!) The boys thought it should be pink, but we're going with the original blue and white. I may keep it for myself. It's really cute. Smidge has already "lowered" his car significantly with all the playtime it's received. And he decorated the hood with the requisite "hot chick and pit bull" paint job. (Actually, I think it's a googly-eyed boy and an army tank, but it's hard to tell. Could be anything, really. He's four, ya know. *grin*)

Zorak and I stayed up for a little date night Thursday. We just talked, hung out, ate a little late-night snack and watched a movie. Man, it's nice to have the coffee table back in the living room! We watched Mr. Woodcock. It's crude, so if you don't enjoy that kind of humor, skip it. But we laughed ourselves silly. It was much better than we'd anticipated. BillyBob Thornton has got astounding comedic timing and great delivery.

Saturday and Sunday were cold. That's about all I remember from those two days. I tried to get some sewing done, but that didn't pan out well. How do you sew with small children and no cupboard to lock yourself in while you work? (Ha - you thought I was going to say "lock them in", didn't you? No. There are four of them and only one of me. It'd be easier to fit just me in there. They're mostly free-range children, anyway.)

And now, it's Monday. January's nearly over. The high today should be just above 60, and soon it'll be Spring. I'm still grappling with how that all comes so quickly. (But I did find my calendar pen, so I think it'll be okay.) On that note, however, I'd best go update everything and get ready to feed the kids.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, January 24

"33', feels like 25'," & School Math Challenges

And no, that's not just me being peevish, folks. That's what the weather channel actually says! Wowsa! The kids are outside doing a nature scavenger hunt. I've got water boiling for hot chocolate (THANK YOU, AUNT B - the box arrived yesterday afternoon!!), and the oven is heating up for chocolate chip cookies. I think we need a little refresher before we head to the library. (It helps if your hands aren't frozen stiff when you're trying to pick up your books.)

The new math routine is working really well with the whole Major Tom thing James has been experiencing. After breakfast, he drills just one or two review facts at the Math-U-See site. When he gets one under 40 seconds, he moves on to the next. If he doesn't get under 40 seconds, that's okay, too. He just starts with that one the next day. No more than five minutes per day. Short. And. Simple. Some are so simple, he flies through them. Some take a little warming up, but that's the point. This is our warm up exercise.

Then, he moves on to another lesson - usually reading or Latin - something to take his mind off the math. (I know it seems counter-intuitive to get warmed up and then move on to something else, but I'll get to that in a minute.) When he's done with that, we take two problems (only two - we're going with the *one arrow*, Zen-type approach to this - focus, make it count, make it work) of the sort that keep tripping him up. In his case, it's multiple digit multiplication, but this might work with any sticking point. We work them together on the white board. Actually, he works them. I stand there and try to spot errors in his vulnerable spots (for him, it's the housekeeping). Two problems. Quick and simple.

He then moves on to whichever lesson is next (Reading or Latin - whichever he didn't do before), and winds up before lunch with the day's actual math lesson. It's like a whole new brain! Well, not really. That last portion still takes an inordinately long amount of time. But (a) it's long division, which takes a while, anyway, and (b) he's still nine and still easily distractable. But, I'm okay with this, as he has no problem with division. That comes flowing from his mind as easily as questions I can't answer, and funny jokes.

The trouble comes from a combination of housekeeping and distractability. Plus, once he's gotten bogged down, he panics and just. can't. think. The whole system shuts down at that point. That's why I split the math lesson into three distinct segments, separated by Something Completely Different. He gets a taste of success, then moves on while he's feeling capable. He comes to the next segment still feeling pretty good, and ready to take on the next thing. He doesn't get overwhelmed. He doesn't have to sit and wait and stare at something that's troubling him while I have to stop and work with another child (as he sits there, staring at it, the tension builds, the panic rises, and by the time I come back, he's in full-on shut-down mode). As he internalizes the ability to take each step as it comes, he'll be able to wait without hovering over an Insurmountable Problem. For now, though, the first step isn't internalized, so this works quite well.

I'm so thankful we can individualize the approaches we take to tackle the hurdles. This one-two-punch of short-short lessons and an eagle eye on housekeeping seems to be workin' the magic. Our school days are a little longer this way, but they don't feel nearly as long - for him, or for me. That's worth it. There is nothing better I could be doing with my time than helping him learn how to learn!

What helps you help your little ones over the hurdles?

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, January 23

Pardon the glazed expression...

I'm digging out from beneath the stacks of Vicks-imbued Puffs tissues. That's some stout aromatherapy, there, folks! Sam's had them mixed in with their regular Puff's Plus, and I didn't realize it until we were loading things onto the conveyor at checkout. (If you haven't ever shopped in a warehouse with four children, it may not seem obvious that that's not the time to say, "Oh! I grabbed the wrong thing! I'll just go switch this out!" No, that's the time to say, "Uh... yeah, I, uh, thought we'd give that a try. Just stick it on the conveyor and let's go. *smile*" We do end up with some odd purchases, but I'm also not yet criminally insane, and that is a definite win-win, in my book.)

Zorak has been unconscious for the most part since Monday evening. He woke up and ate last night, then collapsed again. I don't know what he had, but if I get a choice, I'll take what the kids have, thanks. Eesh. He's tough! He is also feeling much better, now, and even braved into the Outside World today to do work and such. Good man, that Zorak.

I feel like 2008 is careening out of control right now. Not in a bad way, really. Just in a I-can't-quite-keep-up way. It's a wild kind of excitement, but... where'd January go? And where'd my matching ink pen for my planner go? The Christmas cards, I can find (they're still on the breakfast bar). But then, that's probably not a good sign, either, is it? When I start feeling a little panicky, I get to step back and think of Zorak, this March - two boys in a very active Cub Scout pack, three boys in some form of ball-playing activity (in three different leagues and schedules, no less), and a convalescing wife with the newborn and toddler at home. And I realize... I get to be the one at home! I am sympathetic to his pending plight. Really, I am. But that doesn't quell the little chirp of relief that escapes my lips every time I think about it. For now, we've got it easy. And quiet. And if I can just find that pen, I'll be all set.

And if we make it to the library tomorrow, that will be THREE - count 'em, 1, 2, 3 - trips without late fees! How cool is that? Very cool, indeed.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, January 21


The official high yesterday was 29'. Suddenly, I don't feel like such a wimp! Nor do I feel bad about not making the kids go outside to play. We aren't geared up for that kind of weather, at all!

It's been a lazy long weekend here at the Forever Home. EmBaby still has her birthday cold. But now, so does Smidge... and Zorak. They're all miserable. Fortunately, only EmBaby is whiny. The boys are starting to sound a bit snuffly tonight, too. I hate to sound un-nurturing, but if I had a firepit and a hammock, I'd be camped out on the front porch until this passed!

Zorak did get one more completed storm window put up today. I can't believe the difference they make! Nor can I wait until they're all completed and back up! I got another one stripped and steel-wooled, so it's ready for priming and painting (which we can't do until it warms up just a wee bit). Between laundry, sanitizing, and holding the angry, fussy baby, that's about all we accomplished this weekend.

The boys have been industrious. They have the Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby coming up, so they've been planning their car designs, and putting their wicked power tool skills to use. We've been taking pictures along the way, and I hope to tie this in with school by printing out the photos and having them make their own documentation for the work they've done. (They will write! Oh, yes, they will write! Muaa haaahaaaaa! Or, this will backfire horribly, and they'll glue the pictures into their notebooks and draw funny faces around the margins. Truly, only time will tell.)

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, January 19

Calling All Organizational Gurus!

I seek your guidance, oh wise ones!

It's too cold to work in the basement (22' as of right now), but it's perfect weather for redoing binders and lesson plans for school! (Right? RIGHT!)

With the baby coming, and the overall plan to switch to a predominately literature-based course of study for a couple of months after little Heinie's arrival, I'm contemplating using a worksheet-based approach to the new binders, which will be designed to carry us through the next ten weeks. Something supplemental to add a little... a little... I have no idea what (paper trail? clutter? life is just getting too tidy? What, exactly, am I thinking, here?)

Anyway, I've seen some gorgeous binders. Spinneretta puts together a simply stunning homekeeping book, for example. But something for the kids - anybody do that? Anybody who does that want to share? If you'll share what you do, I will take pictures and 'fess up to what we've been doing (it'll be sort of a What Not To Do expose' on binder systems, if you will).

Yep, that'd be awesome. Right now, I've wasted four hours digging up clipart and making cover pages for various sections. All printed out on brightly colored paper for each child. And somewhere around the third printing of some stoopid calendar page, I realized several things:

I have no idea what I'm doing.

I should probably ask the pros on this one.

And I'm rapidly slipping into an unhealthy condition over the clipart, alone.

(Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? *ahem* Right...)

I'm shooting for something simple, yet engaging for the boys. Somehow, their current binder system (lovingly slaved over and "perfected", with their input) has developed some kind of kryptonite-like residue on it. They can't use it. They can't put paper in it. They find a pencil in the pouch (or add the one they've been using all day). They can't even find the hole punch, if it's for the binder. (Though they can find it, use it, and then open the bottom of it, when it's for some project of theirs!)

Ok, I'm going to decompress a bit and find something to snack on. Talk amongst yourselves. And please, for the love of educational portfolios everywhere, throw me a line, here! Please?

Kiss those babies!

And while I'm soliciting help - how can I get text to wrap around an object? You know, so the words can co-exist beside the photo. :-) Thanks.

Well, Thhbbtthhh

My favorite homeschool forum has changed formats. The change was coming, and that's okay. But, there are glitches (I know, glitches are normal, too. I just don't like change. There. I've said it. Hi, I'm Dy, and I don't like change.)

They've disabled the old board, and you can't post on the new board until you receive the registration confirmation email... it's Saturday... think TPTB are doing that this morning? It sounded like the email was generated automatically, but it's been over an hour, now, and no email.

You can read the threads. You just can't post to them.

I feel like the kid who isn't allowed on the playground, so he just stands at the chainlink fence and watches all the other kids play.

Zorak is sick and sleeping in a bit. Emily's sitting on his legs, watching Barney, and the boys are watching some kids-cards-monsters cartoon. I guess I could go clean the bathroom, but really, that doesn't sound like much fun. Hmpf.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, January 18


She's two, now. I... can't believe it. She's brought such joy, such laughter, to our home (not to mention she's revealed a completely squishy soft side to Zorak).
She hangs with the boys, talks better than any of them did at this age, excpet perhaps James. She laughs and shrieks and talks. And has absolutely no volume control. Or shame. She'll bat those great big eyes at anyone for a little cookie dough.
I went through photos to capture the past year, but one thing struck me the most as I wandered down digital memory lane...

This child has grown some serious HAIR this year! Look at it. Then...





Once I hit on that, I wasted an hour and a half just perusing pictures, oohing and ahhing, completely forgetting I was supposed to be finding shots to blog. She does that to me. :-) I'll have to try later to find some that really sum up her year. For now, though, they're all up and hungry again. We've got memories to make rather than memories to remember, at the moment.

But still, she's two! Wow. Happy Birthday, Sweet Emily!

And Happy Birthday to her Birthday Buddy, SJ!!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, January 16

Quick Schooling Update

Howdy, all! It's not all construction and renovation around here, so today I thought I'd touch base on the schooling we've been doing. We're really finding a good groove for the winter term. Now if the children would just believe me when I tell them a schedule is a useful thing... *sigh* Maybe one day. Then again, maybe not. My poor mother tried for years to get me used to scheduling things, and to this day I still make dr's appointments for the morning, even though I *know better*. Perhaps I'll learn to think of it as a legacy instead of a struggle? It could happen.

So, there's this fun site: Robert Krampf's Science Videos. Oh, that's a lot of fun. I love that he explains why reactions happen, and that he uses things we might, possibly, if we think hard enough, find on hand. No depleted uranium, no corks (who keeps corks around the house???), no random weird things, really. We just pop in there for fun. For the rest, we've been following along with How To Teach Science's Periodic Table of the Elements newsletter. I'd signed up before Christmas, but that was only because I knew I'd forget about it by January. We just began this week, and are enjoying it. I'm enjoying the new perspective, and the boys are enjoying the supplemental work we do with it. You know, I didn't "get" isotopes until college. The boys are "getting" it now. That's good stuff. Good, good stuff.

Math is going well, in general. James is nearly finished with MUS Delta. Wow. Delta seemed so far away when we started. (Heh, when we started, they didn't have Delta, actually. But once they made it, it did seem so far away.) His housekeeping is a little shoddy, and that's been kicking him in the teeth - but that's the beauty of grid paper, dry erase boards, and unlimited time to stand there making throat clearing noises to redirect his attention. This morning, I think he grasped the importance of good housekeeping, and I also think it was one of those simple things that I never thought to point out. "It's okay to do it that way, just leave yourself enough room to do it that way." *POOF* Sudden improvement. I *heart* homeschooling. (I am also tremendously thankful that that was the problem! Because you know how one's mind wanders after a while...) John's nearly done with Alpha, too, and aside from an innate desire on his part to hold off on using the blocks until the end of the chapter (rather than initially, to cement the concepts), he's just soaking it all up.

Hopefully, the new math order won't hurt too badly, since Epsilon is the only full set we'll have to buy. John will just need the Beta student text, and Smidge is dying to start Primer, which we have and will just need a new student text for him, as well. (Talk about things that seemed so far away! Smidge, Primer. *sob*) For Smidge, for now, to keep him happy, though, I've been printing out worksheets from this site: Softschools They have oodles of fully customizable options, and once you figure out which end is up, it's fantastically useful.

Latin is... *happy sigh* My Favorite Subject. I love having something other than Zorak and I that asks the boys to t-h-i-n-k. It bleeds over into math, too, which is a beautiful thing (and gives me hope that one day it will bleed over into other aspects of their non-academic lives!) From what I've seen, Classical Academic Press has made more changes to their Latin program (such as now *actually* including Ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation, as they'd been advertising they did - always appreciated - as well as weeding out more of the myriad typos in the texts). If that is the case with Primer B, then we'll continue on with Latin for Children. If that's not the case, then, well, I'm not sure how long I'll spend in the closet, crying, before I try to figure out what to do next.

Reading is always fun around here. We have just a few more Celtic Fairy Tales (Jacobs) and then we'll have completed that book. We're working through the rest of the Yellow Fairy Book (Long), and then I'm not sure where I'd like to pick up in our reading and literature for school. I do like the idea of tying it to our history (Middle Ages/Early Renaissance), but haven't taken the time to compile a good list yet. On the boys' reading independently, John's enjoying his brain candy: Animorphs, Magic Tree House, and Henry and Ribsy. He's also still reading dutifully any of the other materials we put before him. Between the two, he's growing in his reading and also developing the habit of reading. I do love a good one-two punch! James will master reading comprehension. He will get it. He will not leave the house with this amazing ability to recall every detail of an appliance user's manual and yet not be able to recall a single thing about the biography he just read. I know this. I trust this. I will repeat this until I am vindicated in my faith. Until then, we will continue to read, talk, think, question, read, talk, question, think, read...

History is, as always, Story of the World. LOVE it. We've just wrapped up the introduction to the history of Islam, as a nation and an empire. Good stuff. We start the Chang Dynasty today, and then in no time at all we'll be up to the necks of our hauberks in knights and samurai! I plan to hit up the Baldwin Project and Project Gutenberg for some good reading to add to that. ClickBooks will make our springtime reading so much easier!

I think that's it. It doesn't look like much when it's all written out. Why does it feel like we're always so busy? Well, we do slip a lot in here and there. Sometimes we skip something, sometimes we add something, but there's always something to learn.

Oh, and we did decide to do Cub Scouts. The boys are enthusiastic and interested, the leaders are, at the very least, enthusiastic, and Zorak swears it'll be *his* thing to do with the boys (which gives me one evening a week with just the Littlest Littles, and that's quite enjoyable - enjoyable and guilt-free!) So, there's that, as well.

And now, I've spent most of my lunch preparation time writing this up. I'd best go find something to put together and call the boys in from their romping.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, January 14

Project Blogging: Toy Bin

This is the last of the Christmas Vacation projects. It's also the last of the completed projects. (No, this isn't how we rest, Mere - the lack of productivity I blogged about the other day is how we recover from the work we did between Christmas and New Year's! That's all I've been up to since then, and that's why this is the last of the photos. Um, nevermind. You asked if this is how I Nest, not Rest... obviously, they eyesight in the third or fourth thing to go.)
Now, If you all aren't inspired to finish something by now, well, there's nothing more I can do for you. I'm fully back in Total Enabler Mode, and if you ask for ideas, my input is likely to be along the lines of chocolate, coffee, and good books.
The toy bins are a favorite creation around here. They began like so many other projects around here:

One of us will need a solution for some functional issue. We'll look around a bit. We'll complain about the shoddy workmanship and the lack of true functionality. One of us will mutter, 'We could make something better.' And then, we do.
Or, to be more specific. I say, "Oh! Oh! I know! It's easy! We could *insert creative, yet not terribly well-thought out idea here*!" Zorak looks at me, and wanders off to the computer to draw up something that won't implode. And then, we do it.
The open, ladder style sides are new. They reduce the weight tremendously, are more economical to make than the solid-side design in the kids' rooms, and we really like the look. As you can see in the photo, the rails are offset, front to back. This allows the bins to rest forward just a bit. It makes it easier for little hands to reach in, and for little eyes to spot "where things go".
This design accomodates four of the small bins (like the one in the photo above - there's only one because we gave the actual bins to Claudia on Christmas - "Hey! Merry Christmas! Here's half a gift for ya!" Good thing she loves us.) across each of the top two, smaller shelves, and three each of a larger size bin across each of the two lower shelves. We love the waffle-hole Sterlite bins for this. They are sturdy, don't get mucked up easily, and we can find them anywhere!
Oh - and the bathroom picture? The medicine cabinets and painted vanity - those count, too. But I didn't bother to get good pictures of them, so you'll just have to believe me on that. :-)
Kiss those babies!

Sunday, January 13

Project Blogging: Built-In Desk

So, back when the Forever Home was still a crack house, it had this little built-in desk in one of the bedrooms. Just perfect for studying, erm... chemistry, or, based on the burn marks, for heating heroin. It's not high-end construction, but it is sturdy, and it does fit just perfectly in the little niche in this particular room. We hit it with mildewcide (because that's not dust in the picture below), and banished it to the carport for a while.

Over Christmas, it became another project on the completion list:

It's not entirely completed. The top and left side are a thick veneer, and we've never worked with veneers before. There was no way we could get some of the burn marks completely out without decimating the rest of the piece, so we did what we could -

Stripped and, sanded. We cleaned up some of the edges a bit, and stained it.

The veneer on the left side has some damage down low, so we are thinking we'll put corkboard on that side. The kids could use it for a number of things, it'll look nice, and it'll cover the damaged veneer and protect the integrity of the piece.

We plan to put plexiglass over the top, so the kids can use it for a work surface and display their work and drawings beneath it (that will do double duty in making the desk fully functional *and* hiding the burn marks!) The floor isn't in that room, yet (ignore that part, please), so we won't reattach it until we get that done. We'll put the trim up around the base at that point, too.

And again, before:


But for now, as you can see, the desk has been taken over by Playmobil and the exorcist baby (I have no clue what's up with that doll - perhaps she was injured in a siege?)

And finally, because the shot of the bathroom in that first picture heebes me out so completely, here's a little something to wash it out:
Another Project done! (Hey, maybe someday we'll do baseboards!)

Kiss those babies!

No Productivity Whatsoever

Yeah, yeah, I know. Well, you see, we've been... napping. And then there was that time we spent eating. That was good. Not productive, per se, and didn't get us anywhere on the projects or the project blogging (sorry!) but well *stretch* it was *yawn* really, really good.

And then, there was more napping.

The funny thing about napping. I hate it. I love my afternoon quiet time. But I don't so much love the whole-family-nap-a-thon thing. During the week, we have lunch, we put EmBaby down for a nap. Everybody goes away and spends an hour not touching each other, not asking for candy, not. making. noise. That's what I'm after. I don't care if they sleep or not. And since I'm usually too stoked to be not being touched, or whined at, or called in to intervene (and since I know it's only going to last an hour before the bell dings and we're all back in the padded ring together), I don't usually sleep. I may rest, but I don't sleep. And since I'm awake, I can get things done before the hour is up. It's a beautiful thing, that afternoon quiet time.

But when Zorak is home, it's a different story. He's so warm and torch-like. (This is far more appealing mid-January than, say, late-August!) He's wonderfully affectionate. And he does love a good nap. Somehow, that combination creates this hideous vortex that sucks me in like a ship to a whirlpool. I snuggle in, "just for a minute".

Then everything goes black.

I wake up two hours later to the sound of Snow White torturing birds on the TV, the children climbing over my head like they're foraging for mites, and the unmistakable realization that I've lost valuable laundry time. Project time. Food preparation time! And they're UP! They're moving about. EmBaby's done napping! Noooo...

So I drag myself from the vortex, find a sweater, and wipe the tears from my eyes as I stumble toward the bathroom (because yeah, I'm that pregnant now). At least the children know not to try to beat me to the bathroom door anymore. You get stepped on enough times by a sleepy pregnant woman with an angry bladder and you learn to steer clear of that situation.

But I never can seem to get back on top of things after that. So the rest of the day is usually pretty tough. I mentioned this yesterday, and how I felt so robbed of the productivity I'd planned in my head, and how pouty I was feeling that I'd been gypped of that precious work-time.

Zorak looked at me like I'd grown three heads. All in rather awkward places. "Wow. I was just going to say that this was the most relaxing, enjoyable day I've had in my entire life."


Now I have guilt.

How can the same, exact day look and feel so completely different to two people? Two people who were both *there* for the entire day? I know the answer: I am notoriously bad at letting go of the "To Do List" in my head. Even when the "Got It" list is nicer, better, snugglier, and probably a whole lot healthier, it's hard to let go of the internal That Which Must Be Done.

I've gotta work on that, and then work on not kicking myself afterword. Or, you know, unintentionally kicking someone I love. *cringe*

So, we all had a wonderful day spent doing a few things that needed doing, eating food that needed eating, and getting rest and time together that we all needed to get. It was good. It just took me a while to realize that. I'm glad I've got Zorak to recalibrate me on what's important to put at the top of the list.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, January 10

Project Blogging?

Well, it's a project of sorts. :-) Meet Heinrich*:

We ran the gauntlet (literally - I will never set foot in an OB's office again after that nightmare) in order to see his little spine (perfect!), the four chambers of his heart (beautiful!), his full little bladder (lookin' good!), and... F. Murray Abraham!Do you see him in there, lurking behind my child, in the upper left corner? Why is he in there? How did he get in there? Huh. You'd think I'd be bigger.

And this is about the only recognizable shot we got of wee little Heinrich. The OB did the ultrasound. After waiting two hours past our appointment time, and being treated like pariahs, the u/s tech walked out on us without a word before even starting the u/s. (And we hadn't even complained or whined! We were stoked to be there, in the actual room, to see the baby, and focused on being positive!) The OB didn't know what he was doing, and had a very difficult time of it. And he made it clear, too.

Like I said, not a pleasant experience. That wasn't the worst of it, by a long shot, though, and at least in the end, we saw the important things and feel comfortable that there'll be no need for a specialist on hand at the birth. So, all systems are a "Go" and we'll get better pictures when he arrives in March! What an amazing experience, no matter how many times you do it.
Kiss those babies!

*No, we're not really calling him Heinrich. But until we land on a name, this will have to do.

Tuesday, January 8

Project Blogging: Coffee Table

Wow. This one took me back a few years. I bought this thing before I met Zorak. Picked it up for $30 at a junk shop. It was stained with a dark, dark stain that was probably meant to have a "luxurious, rich wood" look. It made the table look black. The top was smokey glass. (Hey, I was childless, okay? Glass-topped furniture didn't seem like too bad an idea, as long as you kept the drunks away from it.) Granted, it wasn't "just the thing" to set off my wicker living room furniture (also bought dirt cheap at a junk shop - this is a theme, with me), but it worked.
Zorak and I stripped it and refinished it in '98. We fell in love with the wood grains, although the top never made us say "wow". Still, you go with what you've got. It lived happily with our small family until we began to worry that James would fall through the smokey glass and bleed uncontrollably, at which point, the table went into the garage.
Fast forward three years. Two children, and another on the way. We really needed a living room table, so the boys and I decided we'd tile the table top. Zorak didn't think we'd do it, but once it became evident we would, in fact, go through with it, he got involved with the structural engineering aspect of the design and the coffee table became a Whole Family Project. (He loves me, and part of that love includes knowing my limitations. I will come up with ideas galore, and they'll be beautiful! But I'm not likely to do the math with regard to weight limits, structural integrity, or water drainage. It'll be lovely, but someone *could* die if Zorak doesn't step in and help.) So, he helped, and we got a great table!
Our little Family Table lived a fairly normal life, until we bought this place. (Also a theme for us, and most of our belongings!) And so, it has languished in the basement, unseen and uncared for, for a little over two years. Construction debris, dust, spiders, paint thinner, primer, stripper, sawdust... you name it, this table's been hit with it in the past two years. It was lookin' a little poor last week...

Fortunately, however, it cleaned up beautifully, and is now back among the living! Another project completed.

Kiss those babies!
p.s. - the lines on this piece are the ones we replicated in some of our other projects. :-)

Monday, January 7

Project Blogging: Coat Rack

And *this* is my new coat rack:

It's got 12 hooks, and all that wonderful shelf space. I love it. The old one (which is identical, except it it's 1/3 the length, and has only four hooks) now resides quite happily in our bedroom. Both make me so happy. They help tremendously with our lack of closet space, and every time I look at them, I hear a little voice whispering, "We're loved."

The boys did a significant amount of the work on this project: measuring, cutting, joining, and routing. Although I knew about it, they still wanted to do the work "in secret", so I wasn't there to take pictures of any of the totally cool work, like the biscuit joining or the routing. Zorak did get to take some shots of them staining the pegs, since that didn't require his highest concentration and cat-herding skills quite like overseeing small children and power tools - I can appreciate the dearth of photographs, considering the options available to him!
Smidge was so proud of his work.
John, fastidious, as always.
Em got a dry brush and a stack of pegs, because she simply would not let John stain in peace, "I a turn! I A TURN!" This made her very happy. (Me, too.)
And, Voila! Lovely pegs!
Zorak did the gluing in the wee hours of the night. I think he was ready for it to be Up And Functional.

A few hours later, it was, in fact, Up And Functional (we didn't waste any time filling that thing up, did we?)
Take a gander at the edging on this. Zorak *hearts* CAD. It allows him to do oodles of nifty things, but in this case, he could replicate the profile on our favorite piece of furniture. Now, in spite of the fact that nothing was made at the same time, or of the same materials (or usually even with the same stain), the profiles tie it all together. It all says, "This is ours." I love the way they look, and they're fun to fondle, too.

And so, that's another project completed. Feels good. Looks good. Works beautifully. Forever Home Projects really do help make a house, a Home. :-)
Kiss those babies!

Sunday, January 6

Project Blogging: Chair

I've finally got photographs of the projects we've done this past week. They are uploaded and mostly edited. My goal this week (on top of schooling, bills, and other miscellaneous whatever-it-is-I've-forgotten by now) is to get pictures of each project posted. I'm hoping for one a day. We'll see how it goes.

Starting with today's projects, and working backward, this is my Dad's old office chair. I don't know where it came from, as he had it for years before he ever met Mom. There's a tag underneath that says, "Sikes Company, Inc. Buffalo, NY". It had markings on it in pencil, but they've been illegible for thirty years or more. The style, from what I've found of Sikes Chairs, indicates late '40's. However, there's a black and cream plastic tag on the back, in lieu of the metal tags used in the '30's. So, going with the heyday of my Dad's time, I'm going to guess this is a late 50's, early-60's model. Total conjecture on my part, however, and I've no way of ever knowing for sure.

Still, I love this chair. Not that you can tell it in the "before" pictures at the top, but I do. And so, this weekend, we cleaned it up and got it ready to resume Life With A Family (which could quite possibly reduce it to its former condition in no time at all, I know).
Obviously, we didn't do a full restoration on this piece. I've got a pecan wood tea cart that's been waiting a lot longer, and is in more dire need of some hard-core TLC. However, this little bit of work is enough to keep the wood from deteriorating, and make the piece not only appealing, but useful once more.

*happy sigh*

I love quality, old-school woodwork!

The kids are thrilled, and hope to use it with the desk, which is now back in the guest room (pictures will follow, honest!) I don't know, though... this chair is horribly comfy... much moreso than the stool I've got here at the computer desk... hmmm. We may have to negotiate.

Friday, January 4

My computer has dementia! And, uh, some other ramblings.

Somehow (we'll pretend we don't know the usual suspects) the clock on the computer got reset, and it insisted that today is January 3. I could have sworn we were at the library on Jan 3. I wrote two checks yesterday, and dated them both the 3rd. Am I losing my mind? Ahhh, no. It's the House Gremlins. (I wanted house elves, I got house gremlins. How is that right, I ask you?)

In general news:
Last night, Zorak brought home three wonderful, thick, new twin-sized mattresses. I was more excited than the boys! They've been sleeping on the 3" thick foam pads that came with their bunks beds, oh, four years ago (and Smidge has been in the toddler bed - thankfully, he got my father's stumpy legs, so he still fits lengthwise!) It was time. It was most likely past time, to be honest, but you work with what you've got and when you can do it, then that's the time to do it. And so. Oh, what fun. Fresh, flannel sheets, twin size blankets. The boys thought it was pretty cool, but for me, it was more than that. It was that warm and fuzzy feeling only a parent knows, the one that says,
"All is right with your child's world, if only for right now. And please, God, don't let anybody pee on this new mattress or I will cry. You know I will."

Smidge's bed is a trundle. Well, right now, it's on the floor, and we'll just push it under the bunk beds each morning. But shortly, we'll build a trundle frame for it, with wheels, so he can break his own neck without having to rely on his brothers' assistance. The joy for me came in not having him come galumpfing into our room around four-thirty, complaining that he was cold, or that he'd had a nightmare. Usually it's just that he's fallen out of bed. Last night, all slept deeply and awoke this morning refreshed and ready for the day! Good, good stuff. (I don't mind the littles in our bed, but this one puts off an awful lot of heat and sleeps atop the covers. Within half an hour, I'm being roasted alive between the Flaming Torch and his son, Smouldering Stick, and I can't get out on either side without a struggle. It makes for rough mornings. He is what we semi-affectionately call a 'nad killer', though, and can't sleep in the middle or Zorak suffers terribly while I escape off the side.)

EmBaby graduated from the crib to the toddler bed. She got a new satin pillowcase (in the hope that will cut down on her morning dreds). I thought for sure there'd be a bit of negotiation with the whole I-can-get-out-without-your-assistance-now realization. But no, she was thrilled. She climbed in, pulled the covers over her head and went right to bed, happy as a head-covered clam.
(This picture if from Christmas morning - she actully sleeps like that - makes me batty.)

Now, if we can just get back to a routine, I think we'll see spectacular things in 2008!

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, January 1

A delicious first day of the year.

Bring it on! I am ready for 2008! My calendars are synchronized. All in the same ink, even. (Which is the non-tech equivalent of having your various software all clean and ready for work.) I feel downright invincible! Muaahaahaaa!!!

We were about four hours later than we'd hoped to be, getting into town, but I had three days' worth of sawdust to get out of my hair (and my pores), so it took some scrubbing. Granted, not four hours' worth, but still, that didn't help.

However, we made it into town, made one stop for jeans for Zorak (which they didn't have - curses! - we miss living in the Southwest, where his jeans are readily available in any clothing outlet *sigh*). The boys, however, when we pulled into Gander Mtn's parking lot, erupted with pleas that surprised us:
Oh! Oh, can we get more Smart Wools?
What? Yes, it seems our offspring have developed a penchant for a specific type of sock. Me-Wa and Me-Tae bought them each a pair last Christmas, and I'm surprised there aren't holes in every pair, for all the wear they've had this year. So why I was surprised to find my non-shoppers so eager to run in and grab... socks... I don't know. I'm not even sure how they knew Gander Mtn. sells Smart Wools, to be honest. However, they got their socks, and then we journeyed onward.

We enjoyed a few hours of really nice conversation and general hanging out with friends, ditched the rest of the errands we'd hoped to run and made it home before bedtime. We'll have to run errands tomorrow, instead, but having the kids in bed before the adults needed to be turning in was, to my semi-introverted inner self, worth every minute it'll cost tomorrow. The partial paralysis to my emotional well-being from having Very Little Down Time this past week should begin to subside with a few nights' restorative work on the routine.

We saw snow flurries! They didn't last, and they didn't stick, but they felt downright magical floating down on us as we walked up the street. If they hadn't been accompanied by some kind of evil, transient Arctic wind, I'd have hijacked Zorak for a romantic walk in the moonlight. It's the thought that counts, though, right? Even if you're thinking it while you high-tail it for the nearest door? Very good.

I just checked the weather. No wonder the heater hasn't shut off yet! According to The Weather Channel, it's "27', feels like 17'." Um, yeah. That's pretty stinking cold. The low tonight is supposed to get down to 19'. I don't want to be up at that point to see what it feels like. So I'm going to crawl into bed and give thanks for the insulation in our walls, the blankets on our windows, and the propane in the tank. There's no way I can take those things for granted.

Kiss those babies!

Our wish for you this year... that you'll always feel welcome,

You'll always find beauty in simple things,

You'll remember to seek wonder all around,

And when you find it, you'll share it.

From our home, to yours, may 2008 bring you Joyful Adventures filled with wonder, awe, love, and warmth.

Kiss those babies!


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