Friday, July 31

On Making Improvements

I've been pretty quiet about our Cub Scouting experience thus far. I blogged about it once, but since have tried to focus on the positive. Instead, we've made a few adjustments to How We Do Things.

For instance, we have a standing agreement that when Zorak's out of town, I don't have to take the kids, mostly because it's just too much wrangling in that particular environment, but also because Zorak knows I'd end up with a police record after going berserk on the parents and leaders for the ridiculous behavior they allow. When he takes the boys to an outing, the entire drive there is spent prepping the boys to be aware of danger, look out for one another, and think-think-think before deciding somebody's suggestion is, in any way, a Good Idea. The list is a long one, but that pretty well sums up the overall gist of it.

This last campout was... horrific? Appalling? Still looking for words. Some of you have been gracious enough to listen to my tirade over the phone. From the poor communication, the coma-inducing menu, and the flipped tents, to the vandalized cabins and data test sites, bad attitudes (don't glare at me like I'm stupid when I tell you to do something your Den Leader has just asked you three or four times to do), rock fights, sugar napalm traps, and beyond, you've listened to me rail against the Stupidity. I thank you. My children thank you. And, since you've been kind enough to listen and empathize, you've been my pressure release valve, permitting me to think up *constructive* suggestions to pass on to the Leadership.

As fortune would have it, the new Pack Leader (who is also John's Den leader) emailed after the campout and asked for honest input. He's seeing too many families leave and not come back. He knows there's a problem, but he's new in this position and doesn't quite know how to pinpoint it. Or fix it. I was going to fill him in, anyway, on why it would be a Cold Day In Hell before we camped with them again, so I'm glad he asked! (Unfortunately, James' Den leader emailed that same day to say it was "the best campout yet", so I'm thinking he does not use the same dictionary we do.)

We've been busy this week. We've tried to identify where we can pitch in effectively. (All of us parents - or, at least the ones who recognize there's a problem - have been trying to pitch in from the beginning, since we "get" that these kinds of organizations are dependent upon parent volunteers, but it's tricky to get certain leaders to relinquish any role whatsoever. Even if it's one they never get around to doing. When you offer to take on that part, they tell you it's covered. This is an endemic problem, and not the biggest one.)

We've tried to encourage the new Pack Leader this week (you could. not. pay. me. to try to do what he's doing). And we've tried not to let our cynicism overtake our desire to do what we believe is right. It is SO easy to want to decide to just leave the little Fly Lords to their island and find ourselves another, less aggravating island. Maybe one with cannibals, or vampires, or perhaps necrotizing fasciitis.

Gah. The things we do for our children, huh?

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, July 30

Summertime Summaries

It's summertime, and the frogs are out. The weather is hot 'n sticky. The kids are growing like weeds, and if the fertilizer I bought in the Spring (and then promptly neglected to put on the trees in time) wasn't still sitting in sealed bags, I'd swear they were eating the stuff.

We're back to school this week, and so far, that's going well. John still stresses over math, and loves history. James still cannot, for the life of himself, pay attention to case endings, but can re-write songs in different keys while he eats breakfast. Smidge is gung-ho to get into the groove, and I'm a bit excited to see what he loves and what he must wrestle with. Also thinkin' I should probably put in the rest of my orders at some point... Anyway, I'll post our plans and winners/losers sometime in the next few days. (I hope y'all are sharing yours! I'll have a spare minute sometime around Midnight, Friday, and plan to go frolick in other people's lesson plans for a bit.)

The dishwasher died, and although I've always appreciated it, I didn't realize how much it HELD. Er, holds. I could still, technically, fill it. But it takes three loads by hand to empty the thing. We must get it fixed, if only for the water conservation. As of right now, the boys still find the novelty of washing dishes by hand quite fascinating. All I've really had to do is stand there and chat with each boy, show him how it's done, and then chit-chat some more while he does it. Sometimes they let me rinse. Not like this is killing us -- one-on-one time, fun, learning, etc. -- but I'd like to get it fixed before the novelty does wear off and I'm left alone in the kitchen as soon as the tub fills with dirty dishes. Which is often. I swear, I suspect the boys are harboring orphans in their room somewhere.

And so, it's one thirty. I'm tahrd. Had more to say, but Zorak was shopping online and I started working on the socks I'm trying to crochet. (I may just run a string through the open end and tell the boys they are juju bags. We'll see.) The next thing I know, my eyes are watery and my head weighs a ton. I believe that's a sign that it's time for bed? Or that my brain is swelling and I need to see an optometrist. But we'll go with exhaustion for a thousand, Alex.


Kiss those babies!

Monday, July 27

Campout, Complete

Shiloh Battlegrounds, the site of one of the turning point battles, a scene of horrific bloodshed, and an amazing story in the Civil War. This is where we hiked this weekend. We were fortunate to be able to listen in on a presentation about medicine at the last half of the 19th Century, although I wish we'd had the opportunity to attend more presentations. The Rangers who work there are a wealth of information and history, and do a beautiful job of maintaining that for posterity. I'm still processing much of the visit it in my head, so I won't go on about that. If, however, you ever have a chance to visit, please do so. Just, um, not in the summer. Gah. Hot.
Due to some pretty amazing miscalculations and lack of planning (thankfully, not on my part, this time! Woohoo!) we were only able to complete one hike. The terrain is easily accessible, but you must bring your own broad-shouldered man to carry you, if you so choose.

Or, you can arrange a convenient carriage to tote you about, as modeled by The World's Most Patient Baby.

The boys use the Buddy System pretty extensively in Scouts, so it's hard to get shots that don't have at least one other child (that I don't have permission to blog), and my scenic photography this trip was lacking a bit due to the carriage arrangement referenced above. However, it is beautiful, and powerful.

Still, we were all pretty glad to trudge back into camp at the end of the day. (Edited to add: Zorak was tired, not smug, in this photo. I didn't realize until I uploaded it that it might look a bit odd. So, you know, just touching base on that one.)

Just thinking about what it must have been like to march all the way from Indiana or Ohio, only to engage in battle upon arrival, absolutely boggles our pampered minds.

Humbled, thankful, and as always,
Kissing my babies!

Wednesday, July 22

Who needs a bed?

We have got to get us one (three?) of these! Wow, what a fantastic addition to any outdoor space.

Of course, we wondered if we could make a hammock fairly easily.

Then we tried to figure out what kind of hammock would be best.

And THEN, I was talking with Melissa, who mentioned they have camping versions!

Well, let's just say that was several.



Zorak (not a camper) may not be as enthused as I am at this point.

But he hasn't seen this!

Still, maybe we should keep it simple, at first. I mean, who could resist this?

Kiss those babies!

Home Again

We hung out the "gone fishing" sign, and then we went. Literally.

It's been a week of good food...

Beautiful scenery...

And relaxing time on the front porch...

Now, we're home. But I'll spare you any images of the laundry.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, July 19

Mobile Blogging

Hi! Do I look all small & shiny? I`m blogging from the front porch at the Swamp! (`cuz we have cool friends who name their homes, too.)

But it`s not the Swamp that makes me look different. My guys gots me a preshuss for my birthday. (This is where I`d normally insert a picture or a link, but I haven`t figured out how to use this thing yet & I`m afraid I`d never get back to this page. So go look at the Verizon LG nv3. I`ll wait...)

Pretty cool, huh? Fortunately, it does not allow you to see me while I`m typing this. If you`ve seen Zoolander, though, picture the guys trying to get the files out of the computer. (pause) Yep, that`s it. It`s OK. I`m sure James will show me how it works soon.

I`m going to try to figure out the picture taking bit here next. Will update (or have James do it) later today.

Kiss those babies! (ksthzbbz?)

Wednesday, July 15

Found it!

We found the upload cord! (Zorak found it. Right where we'd looked several times. Death by irony, I'm tellin' ya.) Anyway, there's no particular story to go with most of this. I've forgotten anything funny by now, too.

Here's Jase, looking incredibly tiny compared to the burn barrel. You can't see it in this shot, but to the left is the shooting bench, to the right is the burn pile (b/c some things just don't fit in the barrel), and to the far left is the carport-that-won't-die. The older boys saw the pictures from this series, and burst out laughing. *Now* they get why I make hillbilly jokes about ourselves, and not other people.
EmBaby planted something (we don't know what) as her tea garden (we can't find it), and she was very excited to drag each of us down to show us (it didn't do any good). However, I took the camera, and had fun watching her walk so daintily among the plants (this is James' corner of the herb/tea garden) in her wee bare feet and her ratty-headed hair. Which, for the record, we do brush daily. But sweat, and rambling, seem to do quite a number on baby fine hair. She looks feral ten minutes after she leaves the front porch. The bare feet probably don't help much, either, but she's made it a verb -- "Can I barefoot?" -- and I can't say no.

Me-Tae gave the Littles their very own pots to grow things in. They had a blast putting them together. And no, we weren't gardening in the dead of night. The camera's still wonky and wouldn't take non-blurry pictures without the flash. So, for your enjoyment, Zombie Gardening:

The Zombie Slayer, with his wooden stake? And, our dying tomato plants in the background. But don't look at those. Look at the beautiful green railings, and the non-child-killing, up-to-code pickets! Swanky, huh?

The infamous Vomitor 2000!

Really, this is a good summary. There are the normal things, the daily things. Kids forget that you really shouldn't wear the same shirt into town that you wore down to the creek. The laundry will. not. stop. I usually don't have any clue what we'll have for supper when Zorak calls to say he's on his way home (hence, the call/warning that I'm rapidly running out of time to figure it out!) And there just aren't enough hours in the day.

I suppose we could get more done. But then we wouldn't have pictures like these, and the memories that go with them. So, tonight it's leftovers and clean undies. Tomorrow, will bring chores and joys of its own. And I wouldn't trade this for anything.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, July 13


Gates are good. We have them on the balcony, now. Now, it does not matter so much that we do not have stairs. At least our beloved friends will not think we are trying to Off their small children. That's always a good thing, not just for the friendship, but for the small children, as well.

And the gates? They ROCK. Someday, I'll find the upload cord. (Shortly after I give up and buy a new one, so I should just do that Thursday, huh?) Then there will be photos. The gates are hung at the stairwell openings on the balcony. They provide a comfortable landing zone for those coming up the (eventual) stairs, and swing completely back to lie flush with the railing when open. They have awesome stops, so they don't go all wonky and lop-eared in five years, from being slammed shut by running children, and a support to prevent them from dangling awkwardly if the children get the wild idea to hang on them. (We give a whole new meaning to "child proofing the home", don't we?)

They're designed to blend perfectly with the picketed railings, and, since it was Zorak who did it, it worked, of course. Just fantastic. Now, if it'll not rain for a few days, we can get them stained!

We had company today, a lovely time. The kids and I worked our tails off this morning, getting the house out of the Condemnable Zone, and then kicked back and enjoyed the visit.

We did a little lesson planning. That's exciting stuff!

We watched The Princess Bride together, piled on the beanbags.

We had bean soup for supper, because nothing says, "I love you" quite like beans.

That didn't sound right.

But Zorak knows what I mean.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, July 11


And they're stuck on the camera!

Got the software, and now we've lost the upload cord. Again. That settles it. I'm asking for an Executive Assistant for my birthday. Other than that I can't keep track of my own eyeballs, it's been SUCH a great week!

The mower, which I will refer to from now on as The Sea Bear (from Spongebob - "maybe he just doesn't like you"), is running. It will even start for me, as long as Zorak is on the premises. We mowed and mowed and mowed. I even mowed things that haven't been mowed before, just because I was afraid if I stopped, I'd never mow again.

We sucked it up and cleared the upstream side of the culvert. If it should now rain on a Sunday morning, we won't have to miss church out of fear that we'll be flooded off the property. Go us. (It only took two years! We're getting better!) It was pretty gross, and I loathe people who fling their trash out their car windows as they whiz along the street. Where do they think the trash ends up? Is there some roadside vortex that they think will suck it up and transport it to the dump? No. No, there's not. There's a little wind, maybe, and some momentum to overcome. But eventually it just lands, right there, on the side of the road, on somebody's property. Gah.

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but I can't get over how much the kids are loving the tire swing. Unfortunately, they're also sick to their stomachs at least three times a day. Zorak and I can hardly stand to watch them spinning, spinning, spinning. Knowing that two of the four on the swing have a propensity for volatile reactions, there's no way we'd get on there with them. But siblings are trusting. Or forgetful. Either way, they all have fun together, then stumble back to the house to lie down for a bit before nabbing a bite to eat and heading right back out to do it again. (Yeah, I know. It's like they're *trying* to make it happen.)

We finally put new seed down in the front yard. Me-Wa had mentioned that lime will do magical things to clay soil. So, when we tilled in the leaves, we sprinkled a thin layer of lime, and whaddya know, Magical Things Happened! We have *dirt* in the front yard now! It stays soft, and dirt-like. There is hope that this year, we may grow something other than child-killing clover and dandelions around the perimeter of the clay moat. (Though the dandelions are welcome, the clover is not. And I'd love a break from the trekking in of the clay on the feet.)

Winter garden stuff is going in. Company is coming next week. (Wonderful Neighbors from Maryland are bringing our Wonderful Future Daughters-in-Law for a visit!) And...

WE GOT A NEW CAR!!! Well, new-to-us, new. It's an '03 Suburban, and it's wonderful. It starts on the first try, every time. And the a/c is cold all the way to the back. And the road noise is so significantly reduced that Zorak has started speaking to us on drives, again, now that he can hear. There's not a can of starter fluid anywhere near that thing. Ah, it feels So. Incredibly. Good. to know that the next time somebody hacks off something, or inflames something, or just rips something wide open, we can get to the ER before they loose all their blood. Yes, indeedy. I am blessed beyond measure.

Like I said, it's been a great week.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, July 7

Firefly and Foliage

First, Firefly. That's pretty much how I've spent my free time in the wee hours of the night this week. How did I ignore that gem up to this point? How fun!

And then, Foliage. After a few weeks of relatively blissful, personally comfortable (yet botanically terrifying) dry weather, the rain finally came, rejuvenating both the Cambodian-style jungle, as well as the humidity. Well, *and* the meadows. Pretty much everything. We can't breathe in the humidity, and I swear you can actually *see* things growing, which is a little creepy for born and raised Desert dwellers. But then again, the oak trees above the balcony don't look like they're about to burst into flame, taking the house down in the conflagration. Eh. It's sort of a toss-up. In all, we're thankful for the rain, even with the accompanying humidity. Four years ago, I'm not sure we'd have said that!

Zorak's still battling the mower. He took it in to the mower shop last week. This was big, as he's not one for taking things in when he could do it, himself. However, he was stumped. The thing's getting spark, fuel, and air. It's got power. But it just. won't. start. He explained it to them. They looked at him with that semi-patronizing look professionals reserve for non-professionals, but he understood. It doesn't make any sense, at all. A week and $65 later, they called. They're stumped, too.

He kept at it, though, and has come further down the road of diagnosis. Today, he picked up another part for the mower. (At some point, we'll have a new mower, altogether! Kind of exciting.) Right now, though, we're just hoping for one that works, before the rest of the land gets reclaimed by the lush jungle foliage and we start losing children in there. The new part looks promising! Let it rain!

Kiss those babies,

Saturday, July 4

Happy 4th of July!

I would post pictures, but I haven't taken any all month. (How awful is that? I'll just leave three blank pages in the photo album and tell the kids to imagine what that month was like.)

James looks SO much better! He's very thankful, and we're looking forward to getting our ducks in a row for future incidents.

The Littles are all well, really. They don't seem to realize that Summer isn't the bestest season in the South. Silly children. They go out to catch frogs and swing on the tire swing and look for snacks in the garden. They play in the little wading pool in the front yard (classy, I know, but nobody can see us, and the back yard drops too many things to keep it clean). They eat otter pops and ice cream and take afternoon naps. Actually, I like Summer the way the kids do it!

We had a Great Adventure yesterday that I hoped would end in me going on and on about a new transportation tool. But, the word "adventure" is so stinkin' ambiguous, isn't it? So, I won't go on and on about it. Let's just say, it was another indicator of just how very differently Engineers and Non-Engineers go about doing things. Thankfully, the world needs both kinds. And nobody was harmed in the making of this Adventure. So. There's that. Maybe next week, we'll have news to report on that front?

Today we're going to a Tea Party. Or not. We haven't quite found the time to sit down and hammer out the plan. I've been going on and on about the Huntsville Tea Party. Zorak chimes in occasionally about the Decatur Tea Party. And the kids just want fireworks, regardless of where we go. My plan today is to get it figured out before noon, so we don't end up with option D, none of the above! :-P How will you be celebrating our Nation's Birthday? What are you most thankful for in this celebration?

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, July 1

Rest is Overrated, Anyway

I should have cleaned last night.

James exploded. Head-to-toe, he is covered in hives. Or hive-like things. Nobody's sure. At first, we thought it was just mosquito bites. He had a handful of welts on his waistline. They looked pretty much just like the bites we all get from being in the garden or the yard. So, we put a little After Bite on them, he got dressed, and went to Scouts.

When Zorak picked up the boys from Scouts, he said the welts had absolutely blossomed in the hour or so they were there. Now, I don't know if he exploded after the meeting -- between dismissal and when he hit the parking lot? -- or if it happened during the meeting and nobody noticed (or felt the need to call a parent with a friendly, "Hey, your child is blistering up like he's gone ten rounds with stinging nettle and blister beetles. You might want to come get him.") I have no idea what took place. This is the first time we've dropped them off without one of us staying, and this happens. Argh. His face was swollen and covered in what looked like dry blisters or just big welts, and not an inch on his neck was visible beneath the welts. His arms looked positively scarred. I cannot fathom how nobody noticed.

We figured, OK, this is an allergic reaction to... Something. Gave him Benadryl, put him in the shower, then tanked him up on water. No improvement. More Benadryl. More water. Didn't get better, but he didn't get worse. He had no fever, no swelling other than his cheeks, no fatigue, no cramps, no trouble breathing or swallowing. At that point, just a nasty, welty-looking rash. Get a good night's rest, and certainly you'll feel better in the morning.

Well, just pass that Lousy Parenting Trophy this way, please. He awoke this morning looking worse than before. And by then, he was fatigued and tired and starting to look a little puffy. I threw him in a cool baking soda bath and called the doc, who made a spot for us on the instant. Juggle-call-finagle, and we were out the door, (thinking, as we toodled down our little farm roads that this is one of those time it'd be great to live in town. With neighbors right-there. Ah, well.)

The doc said, "Looks like he is allergic to... something." (Good to know we were on the right track, at least.) Got scripts for anti-histamines and steroids, cracked 'roid jokes in the waiting room, came home and collapsed. That did the trick. Two hours later, he looked markedly better.

Two hours ago, he relapsed. Blew right the hell up. Started a low-grade fever. And started wheezing, because evidently the whole thing lacked that little something extra that really makes for a fun adventure.

The doc said he'd meet us at the ER tonight if James' breathing gets worse (or the other list of symptoms that make the ER The Place To Be). Otherwise, he'll see us first thing in the morning.

Cool compresses helped a bit. So did a massive water push. There's nothing left we can give him, though, and that's pretty darned frustrating. He's not wheezing now, and when we put him to bed, his breathing was back to normal, but you can tell he's wiped out.

Zorak went to the market to get snacks. We'll tag-team tonight to keep an eye on him. But we're hoping that tomorrow, it will all be a weird fluke. And then, we're going to nap like narcoleptics at a relaxation seminar.

Kiss those babies!