Tuesday, April 29


(Heh. Had to type that title three times. I kept typing "poutings".)

So, Zorak and I have initiated Project Forward Motion. There's too much that needs to be done aside from the balcony. The balcony is not being as cooperative as it ought to have been, and so, not much else has been done. That needs to stop. The lower meadow and barn areas look like staging for Jurassic Park. The garden beds are more like low-budget miniatures for the aerial scenes. Ew.

The kids and I put the bumper buddy on the Suburban and headed down to the local feed shop. I love this place. Their prices are reasonable. Their staff is helpful. They have fantastic wooden chairs and benches out front. And they have moonpies, which, rumor has it, if the kids ingest enough of those before they turn 18, will bestow upon the children magic "from here" status. Yesiree, gotta love the local feed shop.

We bought five fly strips (I know, ew, but the flies have been horrible this week, and if we've got to look at them, we'd rather they be imobile), some grass seed (in bulk, how cool do I feel now? To keep the clover at bay near the house so James doesn't puff up like a bloodshot Michelin Man), three bales of wheat straw (for mulch), a gazillion packets of seeds for the salad bed (plus sunflowers for the sunflower house, and a stray packet of random flowers because Smidge said he wanted to grow them for me, and that just totally melted my little stressed-out, grinch-like heart). Oh, and I reserved a watering trough. Heh. Now I feel very cool, indeed. Of course, it's mostly just for washing the dog, right now. But someday we'll have something that will want to drink out of it, and then we'll have it.

We came home, mowed the upper meadow, weeded the salad bed, and then headed out to the fields. James had practice. Smidge had a game. I skipped James' practice in order to watch Smidge's game. Oh, how *cute* are 20 four-year-olds scampering around after the World's Slowest Moving Ball? Throw in the little matching outfits, and it's like watching dress rehearsals for a Dick Van Dyke musical. Simply fantastic. Another win. More nax. Then we hung out at the park for half an hour and let them run in circles and use their outside voices.

John, who is tumbling headlong into Young Man-Hood, leapt from the car before I had the keys out, and worked on the upper meadow some more. Wow. That lawnmower is still almost as big as he is, and yet he gets on it and gets the job done. Zorak made awesome salmon patties, and then we all crashed. Hard. As a matter of fact, the typos are only getting worse and more difficult to spot, so I'm going to stop now. But thank you for your encouraging words this morning. I can't tell you how glad I am to know that 1) the kids won't remember, 2) I'm not the only one, 3) this, too, shall pass. You're the best, you know that?

Kiss those babies!

*whine* I am SO bad at this.

I need a personal assistant.

I managed to remember that James had an impromptu batting practice last night. Yay.

Unfortunately, it looks like I *forgot* that John and Smidge both had games... last night.

*sigh* I am such a loser. Who thought I could do this job, anyway? Seriously. I'm pretty sure anybody who knows me well knows I'm not capable of doing this thing well...

My poor kids.

Trash Day & Life

The back of the Suburban is full-to-the-roof with cardboard for recycling. We've stopped by twice in the last week, only to find that the bin is completely jam-packed. I don't think you could fit a flattened shirt box in there. The boys and I talked about how this could be encouraging (SO many people are recycling their cardboard) or discouraging (the folks who look after the bins are not keeping up very well), and that often we can choose how we'll look at things. My knee-jerk reaction is the latter (the' slackin' dogs), but I make a conscientious decision to pick the former (how wonderful that it's not just us!) in order that the boys will learn to be more positive. It's either going to work like a charm, or they're going to decide their mother is a bi-polar hypocrite. Not sure which, but one can hope. Anyway, today was trash day, and I've *got* to get the Suburban cleaned out. So I really hope the recycle bins are empty today. :-S

The Big Boys returned from their Cub Adventure Weekend with Scouts. They had a good time, although all three of them (Zorak included) said it was a little over-regulated. Saturday's activities started at 6:30AM, and ran in one-hour blocks, back-to-back, until after 8PM, with the only free time being a small slot after lunch. If you had to pee, or wanted ice cream, you had to miss the opening portion of your next activity. From what they heard, last year's camp was badly under-planned, so this seems to have been a pendulum year, as the council tries to find the right blend. Next year's camp-out should be a happy medium. And, in the end, it was time well-spent for the guys. They had a good time, stuffed themselves silly at Huddle House (which Zorak describes as a "clean Waffle House," if you can imagine such a thing) on the way out, and were home before noon Sunday morning.

I forgot to remind James not to argue about government guidelines. Oops. So during the nutrition & cooking segment, he decided to die on the whole-milk vs. skim-milk hill. *sigh* It's hard to live in a grey world when you see things so very black-and-white. I forget how hard it is to grow up, to learn that keeping your philosophies to yourself doesn't mean you're compromising your principles, to realize that it's okay to quietly live your life while you smile and nod... and yet, in the process, still learn that it's important to stand up for what you know is right, that you have to speak up against abuse and manipulation, that you can't go with the flow (if everybody else jumped off a bridge... yeah, yeah, we know). Pick your battles. Stand firm. Be flexible. Gah! I forget what a tricky landmine maze Life is to maneuver! He's learning, though, and I really believe he'll be just fine in the end.

It was good to have them back. I'm not sure who was more excited: Smidge, who just about burst blood vessels in his head from squealing when they arrived (he did ten laps up and down the hallway, doing his Paul Revere impression, before the guys got to the front door); EmBaby, who had been looking for them all weekend; Me, who really missed them in so many ways I didn't expect to. Absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. Last night we had hot dogs and kielbasa on the grill, made s'mores, and told jokes all evening. It was wonderful to hear jokes that make sense again! I could even hang with the off-color bodily fluid humor... for a little while. ;-)

And today, we have much preparation to do! We have big plans for this weekend! But BabyJ is up, so that'll have to wait for a later post.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, April 28

So, um, on the 2006 models...

Where's the volume control button?

...just wondering.

Kiss those (very loud) babies!

Saturday, April 26

Smidge's First T-Ball Game

Well, according to him, the highlights were as follows:
We got NAX!
Ours team did WON!
Did you see my NAX?!
He made several good hits, and stayed on top of things... for the most part...

There was a small wardrobe malfunction at one point...
But in the end, it was all good. HOME! SCORE!
And did I mention they had snacks after the game? Yup. This is the big times, and he is on top of the world.

Sadly, I ended up missing the whole game. EmBaby was napping, so Zorak took the boys. She had just awoken and we were going to head out, when Zorak called to say John's practice wasn't a practice, it was a game. He needed his uniform! (That meant I needed to find all the parts to his uniform. Next year, I want the uniforms to be glow-in-the-dark shirts and pants, with blinking belts.) We got John his uniform and just as we pulled out to head to Smidge's game, Zorak called to say it was over. *sigh* This is when I think there could be advantages to time travel, astral projection, or good, old-fashioned cloning. (joking! I'm joking!) However, Smidge was so excited to have the snacks, the win, and the promise of future games, that he forgave me for missing his Very First Game. Ah, we're so blessed! I get to make it up to him on Tuesday.

Good stuff, this.
Kiss those babies!

Thursday, April 24

Busy Day!

Em wasn't so sure the day would go well. She did her hair and wanted to show James. I had to tell her James was in town. She grunted her disappointment. Then I gave her a bagel and she asked for one for Smidge. Had to admit that he, too, was not home. More grunting, accompanied by the furrowing of brows. When we finally got to the fact that John was also MIA, she lost it and stood in the living room crying, "Em a want her boys!" She finally accepted that it was just us three this morning, and curled up to eat her bagel all alone on the couch. I couldn't resist snapping a picture. This is Em, of the Wild Hair Clan.

Her prospects improved considerably when I told her we could go into town "to find the boys" and have a picnic. That was a great pick-me-up! And so, we cleaned up a bit and headed into town. The picnic was a blast. Me-Wa and Me-Tae were there. The weather was perfect. The other kids there were delightful. Just couldn't ask for a nicer day for an outing.

Smidge was walking ten feet tall, since he got to spend the day hanging with the guys. I think this helped him not feel quite so small today, and that was really good stuff!

And the wee bairn even emerged from his cocoon for a bit, to enjoy the sunshine and the lovin's.

Smidge's game was tonight. He had a wonderful time, and his team won. I'll blog about that in a separate post, since there are pictures to go with it, and Blogger limits the number of images per post.

For now, though, it's time for bed. I've got three guys to pack off to camp for the weekend, and a whole lot of cleaning to do in the meantime!

Kiss those babies!

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Wednesday, April 23

What a Wild Ride!

A day begun with a SNAFU can end with... a very tired woman and five exhausted-but-happy children. Not a bad trade off, really.

In obvservance of "Take Your Child to Work Day", James and John got up early and went to work with Zorak. Turns out it's actually tomorrow. So, they got in a little practice run. And I got a call to come into town and get them at lunch. Oops.

Since we were going to be in town, anyway, I hated to just come right back home. I thought about all the field trips we don't take because it's such a trek into town. Then I remembered we have a membership to the Space and Rocket Center. It took me most of the drive up, but I finally put two and two together and came up with an idea. We had luch at the Miso House (the boys' second-favorite eatery in Huntsville), where we ate dongatsu and gyoza and sushi rolls until we thought we would explode, and then we headed off to play.

You can't tell it from John's expression, but we spent enough time walking through the museum so that nobody would be likely to explode on this ride. I did, however, stand far, far away while the ride ran. They are half mine, after all, and I never did fare well on rides like this. They, however, had a blast.

We stayed for about four hours, saw the Saturn V on display, enjoyed a presentation on propulsion systems and fuels, toured the moon, and ate sno-cones. (It said Shave Ice, but I know if I just said we ate Shave Ice, somebody who has been to Hawaii would pop up to say it's *nothing* like what you get in Hawaii. It was, however, far better than the sno-cones at the ball park, and hit the spot perfectly in the afternoon heat. The boys deemed them good enough, in fact, that Smidge suggested we swing by the Center for these before baseball games instead of getting the sno-cones at the snack shack. What's an extra 70 miles here and there, right?) Then we high-tailed it out of there just in time to beat the rush-hour traffic. What a fantastic day!

And James wanted me to post this picture. He put JT to sleep all on his own, and was so proud. He said, "I think I just have a way with babies, Mom."

Kiss those babies!
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Tuesday, April 22

From the Bleachers

I do love my second born. Honestly, I do. So why are there so seldom pictures of him here lately? Well, you see, he's seven, and a natural-born comic (or, he fancies that he is). Loosely translated, this means he is incapable of allowing the click of the shutter to pass without widening his eyes, flaring his nostrils, sticking his head waaaaay out in front of his body, and baring his teeth in a Dracula-like stance. He's a handsome young man, but Adonis, himself, wouldn't pass for photogenic with such a pose. And so, I am left to take pictures of him when he isn't looking... those turn out nicely.

... if a bit solemn. Which is ironic, considering my reason for sneaking up behind him to snap photographs in the first place.

And then there is Smidge, who is now Quite Serious, since he is now a Ball Player. So, we must pose. We must contemplate. We must get right up there in Mom's face to make sure she can see just how Very Serious we are...

(Ah, those eyes. I get absolutely lost in those magical, twinkling eyes.)

But don't let his solemnity fool you. It's not all tough practice and serious hardball around here...

The games are fun to watch, and we're proud of the great kids on all the teams, but the action in the bleachers is where the real fun begins most of the time. I think there's more activity there than on the field. So, while one child and his teammates are out there learning to pay attention, work together, and hone new skills on the field, the siblings are busy doing new things in their own realm, too. Sometimes they're learning to be encouraging, or to learn by watching. But there's more to it than that...

Whether it's the pack of two-year-olds who are content to do laps around the trash cans (do you remember the caucus race from Alice in Wonderland -- Backward, forward, outward, inward/ Bottom to the top/ Never a beginning,/ There can never be a stop -- I sing that in my head everytime they get started)...

or the herd of four-year-olds running back and forth, looking for a little more independence, more room to roam, more autonomy without sacrificing the security of being able to pop back in for a hug and a snuggle every now and then...

or the older kids comparing anecdotes and jokes, critiquing the game, heading off to the water fountain or the snack shack on their own...

it's fun to watch them stretch their little metaphorical wings just a little bit more each year, and to see them get aloft and enjoy the flight.

They'll stretch their wings fully one day, and soar off, and not return to stay... that day will come all too soon for us, although just at the right time for them. I hope I don't miss any opportunity to watch these little practice flights, though, in the meantime.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, April 21

I need a massage therapist.

Wonder if there are any studying at the University who need to rent a room in exchange for taking on a family clientele?

Three piers, poured and curing. Plus one of the gaping holes up where the ledger board fits against the house. We're making progress. WooHoo!

The boys did Latin, reading, piano and math... we're back in the saddle, again! Technically, we're covering history and reading together as we study legends from the Middle Ages, so that's sort of a double-bonus.

Another day of practices and games. Long day, but thankfully, all at the same park. Yay.

Ran over a screw at some point today. I'm not sure when or where, but the leaking air made a spectacular noise that the boys noticed when we piled out of the car after the game tonight. Thankfully, they thought to say something about it!

Zorak to the rescue - he not only ran to the store to buy a tire plug, but he helped get the littles down before he left. The tire is now healed. Mmm, my hero!

And today's thought:
I am really thankful some things aren't any bigger than they are...

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, April 19


Or, more accurately, "paparazzo", since it's just me, stalking the poor little guy. Considering he's immobile, I think he's tolerating the whole thing quite well. He goes from unsuspecting, to irritated (the pre-flash green light on the camera seems to get to him), to resigned and then... hey, what's that over there? (aka - ignoring me) in no time at all! What a pro!

And yes, I do snug up the straps on the seat. With the weather as wonky as it is lately, however, I never know how many layers he'll have on when we leave the house, so I loosen the straps and then adjust them after he's in. Much easier than trying to loosen straps around an irate newborn who has been stuffed into too-tight straps, believe me. This way, it's only the green light from the camera flash that makes him furrow his little, invisible brows.
Kiss those babies!

Friday, April 18

Good news and Bad news

The good news is that, after two and a half years, we finally figured out where the leach lines are for the septic system!

More good news is that we've got three holes dug for the footers and piers, and are ready to pour concrete.

The bad news is...

that the leach lines are...

right where the piers go.


I'll go kiss my babies as soon as I've washed my hands. *shudder*

Thursday, April 17

Not so Smooth, but Not too Bad.

While Smidge lamented my executive decision that he shall wear sweats to practice, I sat down and wrote this:

It is 3:56. Smidge has practice at four. His uniform isn't dry yet. It's not even passably damp, you know, where you *could* make him wear it and just tell him not to complain or pick at the damp crotch. Nope. It's. Wet. Because I, in all my excitement over not having to be in Falkville tonight, forgot to actually turn ON the dryer on our way out the door.

And here, I thought we were doing so well. Hmpf.
Smidge's practice was fun to watch (it's like a miniature version of some zany, madcap film or newsreel from the 1930's, where all the action is choppy and the people seem to be hurrying everywhere).

James' team got absolutely spanked by the other team. Wow, they're good. Their pitcher is amazing. I found myself cringing everytime he pitched - if you ever duck involuntarily when you drive through a parking garage, you know the sensation. Next time we play them, I think I'll sit farther back. Our guys just couldn't seem to get their hands on the ball. We love the coaches on James' team. No matter how poorly the kids performed, the coaches were encouraging. No matter how many times the kids missed a hit or a catch, the coaches had something positive to say to help the boys. But, let one of our kids throw a fit (the catcher last night was so frustrated with himself, and he did lose it at one point), and the coaches come down hard and fast to shut it down. "You can't play with an attitude like that. Get it together." We thought he'd pull the kid from the game, but no. Even then, the coaches understood the child's frustration and after they set him straight, they showed him a lot of grace. Every parent in the bleachers just beamed.

James blew me away last night. The ball headed straight for him, right behind third base, and James not only saw it, but ran up under it. For a child who is terrified of getting hit with the ball, that was *huge*. The sun was in his eyes, and he didn't catch it - it went right between his glove and his head - but he got up there, glove extended, and gave it a go. Two months ago, there's no way he'd have attempted that. I was so proud of him.

AND, (trumpets sound!) Zorak came home early! He showed up at the game, to the total and utter delight of Smidge and EmBaby. And myself. :-) He took the big boys to Scouts and I brought the three littles home, where there was much crying and peeing on things and talking incessantly. It was good. Chaotic, but good.

Kiss those babies!


James' game is a home game. Smidge's practice is at the same field. It's supposed to be 75 today, and already it's beautiful out.

I am so thankful. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, April 16

Work-In-Progress Wednesday

We did not work on the basement today. No, today, I took a deep breath, exhaled, repeated those two steps until I nearly hyperventilated and then, in my best non-squeaky, didn't-need-this-before-coffee voice, reminded the children that *knowing* the right thing to do, and *doing* it are not the same thing. However, they do need to go hand-in-hand at some point before we unleash you (the children) on an unsuspecting world. *sigh* So, we worked in the house, where I could keep them close and help them work on little things. You know, the usual - Impulse control. Paying attention to where you're walking. Impulse control. Ability to focus on the task at hand. And, a little more impulse control, just to liven things up a bit.

We accomplished so much! They always amaze me with their *ability* to work. They're always willing to work, but without that constant adult presence, they, um... forget. It's not intentional, and it's not malicious. They just forget. Which, to be truthful, doesn't feel horribly encouraging at eight in the morning. However, it is. Their hearts are good. It's just their brains that need a little fine tuning. And when I think ahead to the teen years, I'd rather have to deal with a good-hearted space-cadet than a machinating evil genius.

Today, we cleared off the two bookshelves (cleared, sorted, sifted, and purged!), the tea cart (find a home for this stuff or throw it out), and the corner hutch (where all the dishes, glasses and china live) in the living and dining areas. We cleaned them all, and then swapped the two rooms into mirror images. The green dining room is now, experimentally, the living room, and the itty-bitty living corner (not quite a room, really) is now the dining area. Corner. Whatever. I'll shoot for pictures in the morning, when the light is better. It was dark before we thought to take pictures today. It needs more tidy work but, so far, we love it.

We did laundry. We rode bikes. We played jump rope. The boys read their current selections. I started Moby Dick. Again. I enjoy it every time I start it, but I don't know what happens. Oh, yes, I do. I forget where I put the book and can't ever find it until we clean off bookshelves again. I need a Clapper to attach to whichever book I'm currently reading. Wouldn't that be handy?

The boys did such a fantastic job all day that I got a wild hair and introduced them to the Netflix Watch Now thing this afternoon. Heh. That was cool. We fixed snacks and watched The Prince and The Pauper. While we watched, I decided to be truly productive and FINALLY sewed up two of the couch cushion covers. Mostly sewed up. I can't get the recycled zippers to cooperate, so the closures are going to have to be Velcro. However, that is 2/3 of the cushion job, done! And now that the couch is against a wall, that buys me a little more time to do the body. (Planned procrastination... is that horribly wrong, or does it have a certain ring to it?)

Tomorrow is Gauntlet Day. I think James has a game way south of here and Smidge has his first game. In town. At the same time. ARGH. No clue how I'm going to pull that one off. Obviously, Smidge can't be left. However, if you read the opening few paragraphs to this post, I'm not exactly chomping at the bit right now to turn James loose with an unsuspecting adult. *sigh* I miss Zorak. (Though not just for the tag-team taxi work. Honest.)

Kiss those babies!

What Do You Get...

When you combine...

a Netflix subscription,

the watch-now feature (woohoo!),

repeated recommendations for North and South?

and a loving husband who still thanks me for not making him watch Pride and Prejudice?

A woman up way past her bedtime, riveted to the computer, wondering just how many episodes are on Disk 1!

This is worse than the time Zorak and I watched Band of Brothers... three disks at a time! But I can't. turn. it. off.

Fortunately, we don't have to be anywhere tomorrow, uh, today, so the kids can hang out and eat yogurt, bagels, and the remaining turnovers (which turned out splendidly, by the way) for breakfast while I sleep it off a bit. Or while I hook up the BUNN IV drip to kick start myself in a few hours. Whatever we need to do.

Ok, back to Episode 4...

This is FUN!

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, April 15

Encounters with the Outside World.

Found another great online book site via the WTM boards yesterday. Printed off a short story by P.G. Wodehouse, and enjoyed a lovely evening curled up in bed to read. After the day I had yesterday, this was just what the doctor ordered. Enjoy!
Classic Reader

Yesterday at the ball field was miserable. It was only 43 degrees when we got there, with winds 12-16mph. Zorak is TDY this week, so it's just me and the little guys. Otherwise, I'd have stayed home with the three smallest! I tried to stay in the snack shack with the littles, but got tired of being the only adult in a room full of unwatched children. You know, parents might want to touch base with their little girls, and keep an idea of what's going on. Too much unsupervised down-time with other kids is one time-honored way for good kids to find the wrong path, and boy are those paths abundant and appealing when you're 12 years old, no matter how bright, sweet, and smart you are. They're still just kids, and they're pretty susceptible to visits from the Bad Idea Fairy. *sigh*

One little boy in particular, though, just about found himself yanked up by the nape of his neck and hung from the coat rack. He walked in and immediately began interrupting our conversations to interject ugly things about random children, kicked his sister repeatedly (and I mean *kicked* - he wasn't playing, he was out to hurt her, and when she tried to walk away, he'd follow her and trip her), and rounded the whole performance off by swearing at anyone who would listen, complaining about his horrible mother and how, "The woman won't give me another freakin' dollar!" He started there, and ramped up to the Big Words in no time. James' game had already begun, but John and Smidge were with me, and they were just floored by the way this kid behaved.

I'll admit it, I stepped in. The interrupting, I could handle. He's five. Kids interrupt and need gentle reminders that it's not okay. So, I gently reminded. It didn't do much good, but I kept reminding and he did eventually wait for me to stop talking before he mouthed off. It was the kicking that put me over the edge, though, and I told him in no uncertain terms that it was not okay, that I have a serious problem with it, and that he had to stop. right. now. or get out. He left for a little, then came back in and began the swearing session. At least he kept his feet to himself. After only two minutes of the swearing, though, I had to say something, again. And again, when he sassed back. "The swearing isn't going to help you get what you want, you're smart enough to think of other ways to express your displeasure, and the rest of us do not need to be held captive by this venom. Period. Come on, kiddo, you can do better. I believe in you. Give it a try." He did finally realize a few things: I'm serious, I'm not backing down, I won't be cowed by a five-year-old child, and I'm right. He stopped! Glory, hallelujah! His sister's eyes were enormous, and her mouth hung open as she stood there, watching the exchange. Gah, does nobody tell this child "no"? He's still little. He doesn't have to be a bully or a demon-kid. There's a sweet little boy under all that ugly crust. But you know, by that point I was just raw around the edges and it was clear that I wouldn't be able to keep an eye on Smidge and Em and keep Jason comforted, while trying to prevent the inmates from setting the asylum on fire. So we went out into the cold. Yuck. When James' game ended, I told John's coach that I couldn't hang with the big dogs anymore and had to leave early. He was good about it.

We came home, had banana bread and hot chocolate, and the kids were very helpful in getting everybody rounded up and into bed. John helped Smidge with his toothbrushing. Smidge let him. WOOHOO! James read bedtime stories to Emily. He fell for the "one more story" fillibuster several times, then bolted down the hallway, panting, "I had to run before she could ask for one more!" They make me laugh. Jason, bless him, went to sleep at ten and stayed asleep until four, and I took full advantage of that little reprieve to get some rest, myself!

We have to be there again today. This time, I'm taking the sleeping bag, a thermos of hot chocolate, a big batch of these awesome turnovers from Chris' blog, and plenty of things for the kids to do. We'll take Set and Quiddler, some crayons and activity books, some stories, and some drawing pads. It'll be okay. And it'll be available to anyone who wants to join us. It's all good. I was just caught off-guard yesterday. But that's okay. We all learn as we go, right?

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, April 13

Mexican Food and Pictures

Thursday, we tried a new Mexican restaurant in town. I'm always hesitant to do this, as it's a sure bet the food we find will not be "New Mexican" food. That, we can handle, being 1200 miles from New Mexico and all. Unfortunately, it's often not even actually "Mexican", but rather more El Salvadorian or Guatemalan influenced.

(Not that those are bad, but they aren't Mexican, either, and yet they bill themselves as Mexican. I don't get it. Of course, if I were opening a restaurant, I wouldn't immediately decide that a Mexican-Chinese Buffet is the thing to do, either. Yet there are quite a few of those around the area. They all seem to be doing well, too. So, I'm guessing there are forces at work that are beyond my understanding.)
However, we were hungry and didn't want to eat in the car (the *best* Mexican food in Decatur has only drive-thru service, but it's worth eating in the car if you don't have a herd of tired children with you!) The food at this new place was different. Mostly good. The boys *loved* their enchiladas and tamales. We've never seen tamales served like this before...

The enchiladas looked identical. We could only tell the difference by eating a bite of each first.

Smidge chickened out at the last minute and ordered chicken nuggets. Normally, we don't go that route, but as you can see, he was feelin' the love...

EmBaby missed all the excitement. She woke up in time to get a Peppermint Patty at the register, though, so she wasn't too bummed about the whole thing. (And the nap did wonders for her general outlook!)

But this... this took us off guard... do you know what this is?

This is, at the new restaurant, a "chile relleno". It's in a BOWL, people! It's soupy! It has that white, floaty thing on top of it! This is so. incredibly. wrong. If you aren't familiar with chile rellenos, allow me to walk you through it. "chile", according to Dictionary.com, is -noun 2. very hot and finely tapering pepper of special pungency [syn: chili] and "relleno", –adjective 1. stuffed, esp. filled with cheese: chilis rellenos.

Or, better yet - –noun 2. a chili relleno. (Which, following this thought logically, would be "a tapering pepper stuffed with cheese". Or, something loosely resembling such.) Does anything in that bowl look like what I've just described? Other than that there is, clearly, cheese? No.

I kept waiting for Zorak to try some, and when I finally couldn't take it any longer and asked him when he was going to eat it, he laughed and said he was waiting for me to try it first. We ended up bringing it home. It didn't look any more appealing after the ride. I think he ate it last night, but he hasn't said anything, so I have no idea how it tasted.

And this last one wasn't taken at the restaurant (obviously). But this is how little JT spends most of his late afternoon naps - sprawled across my thighs, out cold, while EmBaby hovers over him, sticking things to his head and my pantlegs. Good stuff, that. Bonding time and all, you know. (Have I mentioned how incredibly patient this child is? One day, he will grow up, move out, and realize that nobody else has people hovering over them, in their faces, all. the. time. I hope he doesn't hold that against us...)

We didn't get any of the piers poured on the balcony, but we've got some snazzy batter boards up, the forms made, and the concrete ready for... next weekend. Zorak's going to be too busy with work this week to get anything done on it, and I'm just not up for trying to pour concrete with the littles tweaking the difficulty factor. I've neither the skill nor the patience for that one. But that's okay. It'll be there when we get to it.
Kiss those babies!

Sugar Daddy!

Well, that was awkward. I didn't mean to publish this post without any words!

What I *meant* to add to the title and the picture is this:

Give me a Sugar Daddy (the candy - the tooth-removing, plaque-causing, hard-caramel-on-a-stick, not some wealthy guy with a penchant for spoiled females), a sleeping bag, and a sibling to share the body heat, and we can handle any chilly, early-morning game the league wants to throw at us! Batter up!

Actually watching the game, however... Well, that's best left to the grown-ups. There's too much else to see.

"OK, you watch that side. I'll watch this side. Let me know if anything interesting happens!"
Kiss those babies!

Thursday, April 10

We Made It!

Another Thursday and no blood, no lost children, no foul. WOOHOO! But first, gratuitous JT photo:
Piano went well. I did notice today that John doesn't play as fluidly for his teacher as he does at home. He seems much more timid and cautious. The entire time we're there, he is quiet and reserved. I spoke with his teacher about this, and we are hoping that as he gets more comfortable with her, he'll find that groove. I hope that's all it is. James, who is completely in his element with music and with this teacher, had a fabulous time, got extra work, and would. not. stop. talking. He was begging for new chords and more music even as I shoved him out the door. (I wasn't being curt, it's just that Zorak was already at the car with Em and Smidge.) Once we leave the studio, however, both boys instantly revert to their feral, squirrel-like state and start goofing with each other all the way back to the car. They are such a funny pair, those two.

Then it was on to the baseball games. It seems James has a "fail-proof" batting strategy he's decided to employ. I was unaware of it, but Zorak filled me in during the game. The discussion went something like this:
Me: (watching James at bat) His elbows aren't up.
Zorak: He's not going to swing.
Me: Well, *snort* yeah, he can't from that position.
Zorak: (totally deadpanning it, for my benefit) That is his position.
Me: What? Why isn't he-- (ball whizzes by, James leans waaayyyy back, doesn't swing) What was that?
Zorak: Told you he wouldn't swing.
Me: How'd you know? (ball whizzes by, James leans waaayyy back, doesn't swing) Well, if he'd put his ELBOWS up...
Zorak: Statistically speaking, the odds of a 10-year-old, first-time pitcher getting the ball within the strike zone are much lower than James' odds of making a hit when he swings. So.
Me: Are you making this up?
Zorak: (shooting me a look that says, "you know the stuff he makes up is far stranger than anything *I* make up") No. But he did. If he just doesn't swing, he won't strike out because there'll be enough balls that they'll walk him. (ball whizzes past... again)
Me: Really? And his coach is okay with this?
Zorak: No. But (ball whizzes past, James gets to walk to first base)... evidently, James doesn't realize that yet.
Me: I can't believe it worked.
Zorak: Creepy, huh?
Me: Yeah...

James' team won. That makes it a little more challenging to point out that perhaps James might want to change his strategy... but we'll work on it.

John's team took quite a spanking tonight, but it was a fantastic game. John's team gave it a good shot, and they've improved quite a bit this season. However, the team they played truly had their act together. I can't believe the difference in the level of play, the competence of the players, (the attention spans of the players!) between last year's 5-6 year-olds and this year's teams of 7-8 year-olds. Wow! John's getting the feel of strategy, making a play, and working together. It. Is. So. Fun.

Really, it's all good stuff. This is why we just puckered up a bit, but went through with this Spring's schedule. Both of the older boys are learning new skills, both within their comfort zones and without those zones. They're really able to work and grow on their own merits, in different ways. Good stuff, this. This is why I whine *here* about Thursdays, instead of to the kids.

They both missed Scouts, since James' game didn't end until 7:30, and John's didn't start until 7:00. But I think it was a fine day, in general, and we'll be able to catch up on Scout stuff this week, in time for the Pack meeting next week. So, all-in-all, WOOHOO!

Ok, I've pushed my envelope, and JT has realized I'm not back there. Time to go!
Kiss those babies!

Thursday, again?

Wasn't it just Thursday, only a few days ago? Well, *sigh* that's okay. It's 8:30. I've got laundry going, dishwasher running, kids have hot chocolate, and banana bread is queued up to be made. (I'm not being Donna Reed. It's just that with J's evening exile and that whole nursing-coma thing, all my evening chores are now morning chores. I awake to a trashed kitchen, dirty dishes, scrubby dining table, no clean socks, and no coffee. Gah. It's a good thing I'm a morning person. Or that I can fake it.)

Smidge is working in his new activity book (thanks, Jess! The kids loved the box, and it was a Life Saver Extraordinaire at practice yesterday!) John is, ostensibly, looking for his Scout handbook, although he's been back there for a while, and I suspect he got distracted by the gears the kids left out last night. Em, James and BabyJ are all still sound asleep.

We've got a busy day (yes, I know, morning blogging = to-do lists. Y'all must be thrilled with the immense joy of reading this blog at times like this!) We've got to refill the bird feeder, because we have ravenous birds who evidently refuse to forage on their own and are now perching ON the porch, yelling at me through the open door. Considering I'm just a wee bit terrified of birds, I'm not sure why I thought it would be neat to encourage them to hang around. (Oh, yes, I do. The boys love watching them, and I would raise cockroaches for domestication if one of my children really wanted to do it. I'm a sucker, and I know it.) But now, I'd really like for the wee pterodactyls to back off my porch. I've watched Alfred Hitchcock movies. I know this won't go well for us when they turn...

We've got piano. James is taking off with his lessons, flying through books and impressing the snot out of his teacher. John, well, not so much. He's enjoying it, but not really excelling at it the way James is. He learns differently, he processes differently. He also clutches up when his brother gets near him while he's practicing. So when his teacher asked me what's up with him, I could only smile sheepishly and explain that my genetic input surfaces in strange ways... poor kid. I've been trying to give John more time without James hovering and making him twitchy. It would be easier if Thursdays didn't come every three or four days, though, don't you think? ;-) (Lie to me, if you must, but tell me the days will slow back down again at some point.)

Two games. I have no idea where one of them is going to be played. Guess I ought to find that out, huh?

Den meeting. Sweet reprieve, I can be home with the small ones for that. Ahhhh.

Oh, and then, because sometimes I'm really quite bad at being the Grown Up, I have to go to the DMV and get our tags. Yeah, since I didn't realize they expired the end of March. (And to be honest, I wasn't paying attention to much of anything the last couple weeks of March.) So, as I pointed out to the boys, this is what happens when you don't pay attention! Lesson learned the hard way. I'm a dork.
OK, they've all awoken now and seem to be hungry or something... better get going on that Grown Up Thing. :-)
Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, April 9

Balcony O' Death Pictures

OK, so the Forever Home has what may have been, at one point, a lovely balcony. It is not now, as you can see. But the issues weren't simply aesthetic. Not something you could slap a little Cabot stain on and call it good. Let me show you a few highlights...

Well, first, we have the security features... compliments of Georgia Pacific. This came with the house when we bought it. The basic dimensions of the balcony are 12'x27'. It's large and spacious. It also swayed a good 8" at the top level if you walked on it. When you're ten feet up, with no net to catch you, that's a bad thing. Note the spacing between pickets. Smidge and Em could both fit through there, side-by-side. Great, tandem toddler tossing. Not such a selling point, we know.

The columns holding up the deck are 4x4's. 15' tall 4x4 beams, set way too far apart to support the structure. *sigh* They are set in concrete piers, which is good. But the concrete is below grade (aka - buried in moist dirt) on every one of them, which is, well, useless. So, naturally, every column is rotted to the core and ready to shear off in a high wind, or if someone actually leans on one of them at just the right angle. Weee!

Here, you can see a better view of the toddler take-off points. Yes, paneling. Lovely, no? (NO. But, better than losing a child or two. We only joke about some of them being spares.) The deck boards are 1/2" boards. This is not so great. It transitions to Very Bad after 30-some-odd years with no protective measures to compensate. Some of the boards don't even make it all the way onto the joists. Nothing says "Better videotape this for Jackass" quite like watching the decking bow beneath your feet. Don't do this if you build a deck, okay? Thicker boards don't cost that much more, and they are well worth the investment. Thanks.
Ooooo, this is one of my favorites shots! Not only were my knees tingly the whole time (which made it hard to focus on composition, okay?), but it shows a little more detail of the craftsmanship in our balcony. What you see here is a 12' span supported by 2"x8" joists! Does the fun never stop? Did these people just hate their friends and hope for a spectacular flaming death at a Fourth of July BBQ? Why? Why did they do this? (General rule of thumb: 2x8 - 8' span, 2x10 - 10' span, 2x12 - 12' span... we're runnin' a wee bit shy on the spinal supports, here. The rotted, puny support columns were also spaced way too far apart, so it's not like there was any help on that side, either.)
And here, it's down. Love the ghetto action look, don't you? (I keep reminding myself that things often look worse before they look better.) Note the lovely ginormous holes in the brick. They're huge - three bricks high by 3/4 of a brick wide. They knocked those out to put in the bolts to support the ledger board. And while I do appreciate that the ledger board was actually bolted TO the house, I just don't understand the need to leave such enormous holes. It's a theme with these people. We've spent more on mortar patch and expanding foam than we have on flooring. We suspect this may be one area where the various snakes, lizards, squirrels, and other critters-that-ought-not-be-indoors entered the house.
Let's not even discuss the discoloration... you know what that is. We don't need to say it. *shudder*
Now, the overall plan is to put up a new deck using 6x6 colums set in piers that will remain above grade, with wet-set anchor bolts and galvanized fasteners and all that good stuff. (Because we like our children and our friends, and have no desire to recreate the Titanic on land, thanks.) We're moving the columns in two feet, with a two-foot cantilever (which is totally not scary or dangerous) so we can retain the 12' depth of the deck and not have to use 2x12 joists (because, let's face it, we only have so much money, and most of it goes to food and library late fees). We're extending the steps out another couple of feet so that each step isn't a full 11" high. (If I need a cardio-step workout, I can just walk from the barn to the house, anyway.) You won't even be able to stuff a newborn between the pickets on the new railings.
AND, we're wrapping the deck around the back so that the kitchen-door-that-we-cannot-use can finally be unwired and used without fear of bodily injury. We've always wanted a wrap-around deck. *smile* And since we've got the back yard fenced in, now, we've also wanted a way to get into the back yard that doesn't involve traipsing through our bedroom. This will meet both needs beautifully. And, that's what we've been up to!
Kiss those babies!

Monday, April 7

That went quickly.

I'm in bed with the baby by nine each night, and that pretty much kills my normal computer time. So the next time I sit down to write, *poof*, it's three days later!

The balcony o' death is down. The pictures are amazing. I'll post them later on today. For now, however, I promised LB I'd post more BabyJ photos. (Twist my arm, right?) But seriously, I'm all about being a good friend, and a good friend doesn't leave her friend jonesing for baby shots. So, BabyJ's big event this weekend was His First Bath! He tolerated it far better than any of the others ever did. What a patient little guy.

Not to mention, he had to endure his bath with EmBaby hovering over the edge of the tub, making waves and "splooshes", squeaking with delight, and trying to "help". Yep, he's a lot more calm than I would've been in the same situation.

However, either the activity wore him out completely, or he's a wily one and figured out how to play 'possum so we'll leave him alone...

The rest of the weekend was rain, baseball games, more rain, more practice, and a sick Smidge. He's got a ten o'clock appointment with the pediatrician today. Weee! Zorak was going back to work today, but the ped's office is a den of festering contagion and if we can avoid taking everybody down there (because you know they'd all contract something different to bring home and share), well, that'd be grand. So he's home this morning. Yay!

Kiss those babies!

Friday, April 4

So Vulnerable

No, not the baby. Me. One of the drawbacks to being up at three in the morning and not having cable is that you're limited to infomercials for entertainment.

Normally, I'm able to think about these things rationally. I wouldn't ever actually use the Total Gym, and they have yet to convince me that having one lying on my bedroom floor would help me look more like Christie Brinkley (or, heaven help me, Chuck Norris).

I do start to break down a bit when Ron comes on (dear, familiar Ron, a true infomercial pioneer) to tell me all about his latest do-dad for the kitchen. "Set It and Forget It" sounds so... handy, so nice, doesn't it? But, isn't that what crockpots are for? And doesn't that require remembering the "set it" portion at some point *before* you've got to be out the door? Yeah... meh. I'll just keep my crockpot and the guilt that accompanies never using it. At least that's paid for.

But at three in the morning, my defenses break down. I'm not thinking rationally. After half an hour, I. Want. One. Of. These. Never mind that I've never paid $80 for anything to clean my floors (not even my beloved RIDGID Shop Vac - which we got on sale, and was not a paid advertisement purchase, anyway). Never mind that I might mop, oh, um, whenever someone who cleans more than I do is going to come over (and we pick our friends wisely - the few we have who do clean more than I do, are worth mopping for!) Forget, for the moment, that we have water hard enough to cut diamonds, and the thing would probably die a painful, calcified death in less than a year (a month, if you use the thing like normal people - but we pro-rate our cleaning deaths, here). None of that matters. I want one. It even does grout. And I've been avoiding the grout issue for a while...

Fortunately, I don't have my debit card number memorized, and I'm too lazy to go find it, or we'd have a slew of strange purchases I'd have to explain to Zorak in the light of day, winging their way to us right now. Thank heaven for small mercies, huh?

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, April 2

So, what else are you not telling me?

I have just begun to realize that you (and you know who you are... those of you with more than four...) have not been completely forthcoming with some pretty darned pertinent information! *ahem* And so I'm just going to come right out and say it, WHY DIDN'T ANYBODY WARN ME?!?!?

"But Dy," you ask, all wide-eyed and innocent, "Warn you about what?"

Oh, about a few things:

...warn me that five children gathered around a grocery cart looks like a WHOLE lot more children than just one less than that did.

...warn me that it takes the flexibility of a 21-year-old contortionist to nurse an infant, wipe a potty-training toddler, and turn off the bathroom faucet with your big toe all at the same time.

...or that I'd even have to DO something like that!

Andie, when questioned about this little oversight, mentioned something vague about a code. Well, I did it. I'm in. I'm in the club. Give. me. the. manual. And I hope it has pictures, because I think I did something wrong on the toe-faucet maneuver, and we're out of Ben-Gay.

Jess, when also questioned, decided to share a lovely anecdote about the lady who told her, "Oh, yes, five is when you lose your mobility." GAH! Like I'm not already crippled enough by my navigational impairment and general inability to get anywhere on time?

Now, mind you, I am *not* complaining. And there's no way I'm parting with this precious little bundle that's landed me in this situation. No-way, no-how. :-D I'm just, well, I like to be prepared. I like to have some idea what's coming, and how much it's going to eat, you know? So spill it, ladies. What other quirky new things do we have in store with five children? I know you've got anecdotes galore, and you've been holding out! But it's time to break the silence. It's okay, you can tell me... I won't tell anyone.

Kiss those babies!