Tuesday, December 29

Buddy: Felted Jackal, Family Dog

This is Buddy. He's new here.

He's a Yellow Lab/Heeler mix. Probably some other things in there, too, like hyena or jackal. Not entirely sure. But he's got a good temperament and seems to be well aware that this is his crew. Mutts are good like that, in our experience.

Santa brought him for all the kids,

But... mainly, for John, who has felt most severely that puppy-shaped hole in this home, and in his heart since we lost Balto. You can see the look on his face, here.

He could not believe his eyes when Buddy came snuffling through the foyer...

He could hardly speak for a few minutes afterword. I think we nailed it.

And so, A Boy and His Dog begin a beautiful friendship.

They picked his name well. Buddy.

Kiss those babies!


Just Tuesday. It's trash day, and I overslept (man, our bed is comfortable, and the blankets over the window for warmth have the added distraction of also making me think it's still 5:30, no matter how late it gets), but it looks like Zorak got up and at 'em and got the trash out. He also left coffee and a fire. It's like Santa's slightly odd cousin came. He doesn't leave wrapped gifts, but it's still a wonderful feeling.

We aren't supposed to get back to schooling until the fourth. But... yeah. We might ditch that plan and start back today. The lack of structure is about to kill all of us. Maybe just math, Latin, reading and music. That would make for an easy week back, and it would also keep us from spending the day wallowing in mindless entertainment while the debris piles up around us. Not that that's a bad thing, per se, it's just that after two weeks of it, we need to dig our way out and find the path again.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, December 27

Too Many Pictures!

I took too many pictures, and cannot seem to distill Christmas into just a few. That leaves me somewhat paralyzed, which is silly, but there you have it: I have pixel-induced paralysis. (Go figure.) So I'll probably drag this out over a few days, as my brain picks out memories here and there.

EmBaby, once she woke up (not a fast waker, that one...) thoroughly enjoyed every sparkly, pretty, girly thing about the entire day. Including the impromptu photo shoot. (I started out to get pictures of her playing with her Playmobil nursery in her favorite doll house, but we got sidetracked and forgot what we were doing.)

The Oball, from Rainbow Resource? HUGE hit. Go Santa! Everybody loves this thing.

Oh, it kills me how big they look, knowing that in five years I'll look back on this very picture and get weepy over how "little" they looked. But they are happy, and they are great friends, and that's what I hope and pray will not change.

Granny's gifts were huge hits across the board. As exemplified by Jake's reaction to Em's gift of Monkeyball 2.

And there was math. Because that is what happens when Engineers hang out...

It was, indeed, a Very Merry Christmas!
Kiss those babies!

Friday, December 25

'Twas The Night Before Christmas

Or, more accurately, 'Twas Ridiculously Early Christmas Morning. Doesn't have the same ring to it, though, does it?

Aside from not having actually mailed anything we needed to mail, we had everything done before midnight tonight. Gifts are wrapped, stockings are stuffed, children are loved on and passed out. (James and John were amazing Santa's Helpers this year, and they set up the gifts so nicely around the tree. They also ate all the snacks, so I had to break into the Emergency Stash after they went to bed.)

So why are we up? We're up because Santa brought one of those live critters this year, and it will not go to sleep. It's noisy, too. I angled for a guinea pig or a chinchilla or a garden gnome - you know, some relatively mute creature, but it looks like the kids were better than I was this year. It's been nearly two years since we lost Baltoid, and the kids are ready to share their adventures again. (They've actually been ready for a while, but Zorak and I have been putting it off. We weren't quite ready until now.)

But regardless of the lack of sleep, we're so excited about morning we can hardly stand to let the kids sleep. Zorak Claus outdid himself this year, and EmBaby's new play kitchen turned out beautifully. I'll get better shots of it with her enjoying it, but I just couldn't resist getting a shot of it sitting in the living room. It's got open pantry shelving, a fridge with two glass shelves (plexiglass, of course), the oven has a self-closing hinge, and the broiler drawer rocks! We cannibalized the range top from her defunct set simply because, although it's ugly, it does make a cool bubbling noise. When it dies, we'll pop it out and replace it with something we've made (We... *snort* OK, Zorak.) It's stained to match our kitchen cabinets and counter, too! So cute!

However, I guess we really should see if the pup will get some shuteye and then follow suit, ourselves.

Merry Christmas!
Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, December 23

Shameless Retread of the Day

It is nearly three o'clock. I'm copying this from a discussion with friends and calling it good (with some modification for clarification and compliance with witness protection agreements, etc.). Here's how the day went...

I had a psychotically non-stop day.

We hit the restaurant supply, hoping to find a slightly shorter chafing tray, but no luck. Narrowly avoided being car #2 in a five-car-pile-up, when some idiot cut across three lanes of traffic and then couldn't get into the turn lane so he came to a complete stop perpendicularly in my lane -- in a 50mph zone -- thank God the motorcycle behind me and the semi-truck beside him both reacted quickly or it would've been ugly.

Hit Ace Hardware for screws, a bar sink for the play kitchen, upholstery cleaner... they don't sell likker, or I'd have grabbed some at that point.

We did make it to Penny's, where I returned my latest Really Bad Purchase. (Jeans. When I bought them, I wasn't sure about them, but I was semi-desperate. So I brought them home and tried them on for Zorak. I didn't even have them zipped before he said, "No. Take them off. No. Bad fit.")... he liked the other pair, though, so I figured I'd just switch out while we were at the mall.

The kids bought our Christmas guest a microwave omelet maker. (They'd wanted the egg poacher, but saw the omelet maker and just *had* to do that, instead. "Because, really, an omelet is a more substantial meal, Mom.") Naturally, right?

Then I tried to run the gauntlet to Belk, at the other end of the mall, for the jeans-that-fit. But they have a Merry-Go-Round, and that aggressive lady hawking some kind of nail product (she's awfully Mediterranean Market Touchy, too. Dang.), and the fountain, and the candy store, and...

I got within 20 yards of Belk and gave up. I kid you not. We turned around, hit the Merry-Go-Round, and left the mall. No screaming, no fits, no problems, but I just didn't have anything left and realized if I pushed, I'd end up taking it out on the kids, who didn't exactly ask to run errands in the first place. I'm still somewhat pantless, but also guiltless for the day, so it's a win. (Score!)

We came home and baked and baked and baked, cleaned and baked and cleaned.

And now... I'm tahred.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, December 22

And then there was baking!

Today, we baked. Fancy Fingers, Bon Bon Slices, Pushbuttons, and some thing that Emily got a hold of before we finished with it, so we baked it like that and called it good. Oh, and James made a Devil's Food cake for Scouts, too.

I took no pictures, because when you are in a kitchen with five children, a hot oven, and myriad open containers of various tempting and/or messy substances (and gravity! there's always gravity!) the last thing you want to do is get out of arm's reach long enough to snap a photograph. However, I also did not drink, and I did not swear, so it's not all bad. I didn't even raise my voice!

And I only made Emily cry once, but that wasn't even on me. I just asked her to get down for a second and she burst into tears. When I asked her why she was crying, she paused, and said, "I'm not sure." *rolling eyes* Oooohhhhkay. Well, then you need to stop, because that's just... weird. She stopped, got down, we got into the drawer we needed to get into, and she was soon happily back in the loop and feeling the love.

Since Zorak and James were at Scouts, and I was still kind of tired from the not doing things today (that... sounded more reasonable in my head), we had a lazy man's evening: leftovers, cookies, and a movie. I started the movie with Jason in my lap, then laid him in his crib and moved Em over onto my lap. She was out in minutes, at which point Smidge climbed over with this Snuggie. I never did get around to starting a fire, and didn't even realize the house was chilly until I sent Smidge to bed! Kids are such fantastic insulators.

And the countdown continues!
Kiss those babies!

Monday, December 21

Oops. Well, the Ten Days of Christmas, then.

I know I missed two full days of blogging, but was too busy and/or tired to fix that.

Saturday, we had company, and it was so nice. Me-Wa and Me-Tae came out to see the kiddos and visit. (We just don't get to see them often enough.) Zorak smoked pork chops and salmon for a delicious lunch. The guys hung out and Me-Tae and I got to visit a bit. The children were in and out, up and down, all over the place. They couldn't have been happier if we'd had Santa himself over for lunch. And then, they got to open their presents from Me-Wa and Me-Tae: Snuggies! Best pick, ever. The kids have lived in them since.

EmBaby even mentioned on the way to church Sunday that she should have brought her Snuggie with her. (Yeah, that'll help you stay awake, huh?)

We had another guest Saturday, as well -- a gentleman Zorak works with. Nice guy. He's been here since August, and his family is still back in Missouri. That's a tough gig, and I know he'll be thrilled when school is out and his family can join him. I'm guessing he was comfortable here, as he stayed until four o'clock. Sunday morning.

Seven-thirty and the Sunday Morning Routine came awfully early, after that. Zorak mumbled something about being tough when I fell out of bed and scrambled for some clothes and a toothbrush. (Or maybe he said, "That's tough." I'm not certain.) I tried to talk the kids out of going, but they were already dressed and ready to go. Not even the allure of baking cookies could talk them out of it. Sometimes, I wonder if maybe we're raising them a little too well. Seriously, what kid wouldn't rather stay home and bake cookies?? Goofballs.

Sunday afternoon, the boys had a friend from Scouts over. Great kid. Not even like having an extra body in the house. His Mom was really worried that he'd do Something Stoopid (I think we all worry about that, when our kids are somewhere without us), but really, even if he had (and they all do, at some point - that's why they can't live on their own yet), it wouldn't have been that bad. He's just a neat, neat boy, and the kids all enjoy one another so much. The big kids were great with the Littles, but sometimes it's nice to play Twister or Chess without random full-body tackles and mid-leg take-downs. So EmBaby, Jase and I made cookies that afternoon.

The little boy stayed for supper, and that night, the kids went to bed exhausted, filled with contentment and joy. So did Zorak and I.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, December 19

Project Blogging: Christmas '09

The kids worked like Roman galley slaves all morning, took a break at lunch to watch a movie and hang out a bit, and then went back to the rowing-rowing-rowing. They laughed and worked, ate like fiends, and crashed like the dead come bedtime. I appreciated their work today, as we got the house ready for Christmas and company.

Sometimes, (like right now), when two-thirds of the house is clean all at one time, I feel like we've accomplished so much here. Other times, (like when someone comes to visit for the first time), I look around and see only *all that remains to be done*.

And then, there are times when we're discussing one project, which is dependent upon another project, and that's tied to a third (or fourth, or fifth) project... and I realize, we will never be done. I guess that's a good thing. It'll feel better in the morning, I'm sure.

Tonight we worked a bit more on the play kitchen. Then we worked a bit on the wall in the basement. Yep, brand new project, six days before Christmas, when there are still myriad other things to be done upstairs, in the climate-controlled portion of the house. On the surface, it seems silly, I know. But in the Grand Scheme of Things, that wall will make a number of other projects (some of which await upstairs, yes) so much easier. And so, we do it.

The plan is to build a wall separating the water heater & HVAC unit from the rest of the basement. This will alleviate some visual clutter. It will also give us a Christmas Closet. It will create an entire 20' wall with electrical outlets, and a guaranteed space for sewing and other projects. AND, it will give us (because we designed it that way) a little half-bath in the basement. But of course, in keeping with tradition, the half-bath will remain an unfinished room which we'll use for storage, for the foreseeable future.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, December 18

... in which we live to cook again.

We survived the delicious, untested turkey! And I picked up meat thermometers at Sam's. We are such a bunch of nerds, though. My first thought was not, "Oh, these are excellent thermometers!" My first thought was, "Ohhh, fun, you can self-calibrate them!" When I got home, the first thing James said was, "Oh, COOL, you can calibrate these, yourself!" Yep, he's ours.

I checked in with the dentist for my every-three-months cleaning. Everything's coming along nicely. Yay. It's hard to be too sure of yourself about cleanings going well, when you know you were just there not even one full oil change ago, you know? But the hygienist dotes on me and raves about what a great job I'm doing, and it seems to make her happy. That's good. (I'm thinking it's probably also good not to get on your hygienist's bad side.)

This evening, we did the Full Family Excursion into town, so the kids could shop for each other.

Mainly the boys. They love to give gifts. They really enjoy the excitement of finding something somebody will Truly Love. That is so much fun to be a part of!

Emily is good with going, but right now, she's all about buying things that she can have and use and love and share (but keep in her room, of course). That does make it easy to shop for her, since you know upfront, and for two more aisles, what she really falls in love with.

And Jase is pretty laid back, if you have him tethered to something. For the most part, he rides along, mumbling to himself (probably contemplating how to undo the buckle on the seat). The only trouble arises we bypass anything with SpongeBob on it. I contemplated letting him hold the SpongeBob Connect Four box so we could shop in peace, but thought the aneurysm that would follow when we put it back would have scarred him for life. If he survived it. Better frayed nerves for the parents than a frayed central nervous system for the rest of his life, right?

They found some gems. We grabbed supper at Five Guys. Then we waddled home and wrapped up the day. Santa worked in his shop. Santa's elves enjoyed some stories and made plans for tomorrow. Mrs. Claus hit the jackpot and got a fire before bed, as well as some extra snuggle time with Little Elves whose brains wouldn't shut off and let them sleep.

Zorak was right, so far, this has been the most enjoyable Holiday Season we've ever had.

Kiss those babies,

Wednesday, December 16

Just a Wednesday

The kids had music today, which meant a trip into Town. Since it's such a haul into Town (no, it's not really, but it feels like it is), we try to hit as much as possible while we're there. That means groceries, car wash, random weird errands.

It worked quite well back when the boys were in piano for an hour, but now that we're on the Quirky Cheap Parent Schedule (hyphenate as you see fit), and they alternate piano/guitar each week, they're only there for half an hour. This only leaves me time to... um, well, grab a McCafe or something and then go back to the music store. Em no longer naps during this time, but Jase is usually out before we cross Flint River, and stays that way until the boys clamber back in the car, so I'm not up for waking him, just to haul him into the building full of breakable expensive things. As you can see, we're still working out the details of the new schedule.

Generally, I have a Master List of things to accomplish, and imaginary highlighter marks on the ones I *hope* to accomplish. We hurry and scurry and go-go-go, only to get home and discover I need a new highlighter or something, because I've completely spaced a good quarter of the things on the hopefuls list. Today it was a meat thermometer. And somehow, although I've gone 37 years without one (generally preferring my meat to be nowhere near well-done, at all), we suddenly NEEDED one. Because Zorak smoked his first turkey, and the whole poultry thing, combined with using what amounts to an inefficient oven perched on your front porch, in the middle of the day... yeah, a thermometer would have been rather comforting today.

However, it was a small turkey. The smoker stays at 200 degrees, and it'd been going all day. Plus, we didn't have any guests. So, we decided to go for it. (If I don't blog for a few days, you'll know how that went.) It did taste delicious, though!

The boys picked pan-fried potatoes and steamed broccoli for the sides. (We've been playing around with Kosher Salt lately, after watching Alton Brown rave about it, and nom! nom! it does wonders for cooking!)

We ate at the coffee table, watched Open Season 2, and enjoyed the somewhat tenuous fruits of our labor. (Royal "our", of course. I pretty much had nothing to do with it, other than bailing on the thermometer.)

We're planning our Christmas meal, and Zorak thinks he'd like to smoke a turkey for one of the main dishes. That sounds good. And I've got a new list going, with one item on it, already.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, December 15

Quick Day.

It's still today - either technically, or practically, I'm not sure which. But, I haven't gone to bed yet, so this totally counts.

We had a freakishly gorgeous day yesterday, so everybody hightailed it outside to enjoy the sun and the warmth. The kids built a "fort" in the back yard. They worked together, and nobody was left out. They hauled the limbs themselves. They made it big enough for everybody to fit. It was Very Cool, on levels that had nothing to do with the fort, itself.

I didn't have the heart to point out that they spent all summer hauling those very limbs *out* of the back yard. Maybe we can just burn them there, when the fort falls down?

Zorak Claus is working on building a play kitchen for the EmBaby. He made the oven door and the broiler drawer tonight, and they are so adorable they make my knees ache. The kids and I will stop by the restaurant supply place tomorrow to see if they have any small rectangular chafing trays that might work for a sink. Really, the kitchen itself will be wonderful, but we're most excited to enjoy *her* reaction to it. Those big beautiful eyes just disappear behind her cheeks when they bunch up in a great big smile. I hope I can capture it on film, but if not, I'm sure I can be excused for just wallowing in it.

The UPS lady came today. John dutifully put the boxes beside my bed without so much as glancing at the sender's address. No worries that the older two will try to peek. But that little stack of boxes is about to drive Smidge out of his happy little mind. Normally, we'd buy presents in person, hide them in the bathroom/storage room, and nobody had to think about them until Christmas Eve, when Zorak and I stayed up late wrapping them and watching bad movies. But now there's a room where the storage used to be, and we've done our shopping online, and so there they are... little Amazon boxes smiling, winking at him, every time he goes into our room (which does seem to be more frequent lately).

And then, because it took me ages and ages to get the pictures off my camera, and then another age and a half to edit them, here's a shot of the Alabama Snow Angels:

Yep, we got snow. And they played and played - snowboy hood ornaments (not quite fully grown snowmen) - teeny tiny snowballs - and then, the snow angels. It was gone by noon, but they were already inside, enjoying graham crackers and hot chocolate by the fire. These kids know how to enjoy a little of a good thing!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, December 14

Twelve Days of Christmas

I know. I'm late already. Or unreasonably early, depending on when you opt to observe them. But my goal is to blog daily for twelve days straight. Not exactly a habit-making goal, but... well, considering Smidge is standing here, talking to me while I type, and that they've been like this (all of them. I do mean ALL of them...) for the last month and a half, it looks like I'm going to have to suck it up and learn to write while people talk to me.

We're in the throes of Christmas preparations. Really, it's going well. I think. Won't really have any idea until Christmas Eve, when I'm wrapping presents and discover I've completely forgotten gifts for one child, or bought R-rated movies for the toddler, or something equally absurd. But for now, I'm feeling good.

I'd hoped to do cards this year. But we all fell ill immediately upon returning from our Thanksgiving trip, and it took us two full weeks to recover from that. So, no-go on the cards. Didn't even do my annual routine of sending the file to Target so they could mess it up for me. This year, it's all on me.

The tree, however, is up, the garland is hung (I have yet to find the extension cords to light up the garland, so it's dark, but still, it's up). We got that done and EmBaby looked around and announced, "OK! We're ready for Christmas now!" The boys pointed out that we have yet to make any of our regular edible goodies. I thought about the gifts I hadn't bought yet. Zorak refused to make eye contact because he knew what I was thinking. We all clapped and cheered, anyway, figuring we could make it up as we go.

And, that's what we've been doing all month! I got most of the gifts bought before inspiration truly struck. Then Zorak said Granny had called to let us know she was sending shopping money for gifts. Total bonus - Granny's going to do REALLY WELL this year, since all the truly inspired gifts are coming from her.

How about you guys? Are you ready for Christmas? (Or Solstice? Or, how was your Hanukkah?)

Kiss those babies!