Sunday, January 25

Quick Church Update

We went today, all of us. It was really nice. The potluck after the service was small, as one of the families in the church had a birthday party to attend - their Grandma's 97th! What a joyful occasion! Those of us who stayed, however, also had a lovely time.

I found out the pastor's wife is a confirmed curriculum junkie. OK, so that's just a personal bonus. I didn't know they homeschool, too. But to find out that they do, and that she, also has a hard time picking curricula because there are sooooo many good ones. Oh, like a kindred soul.

The boys seemed to get along quite nicely. They told jokes back and forth over lunch, and as soon as they'd finished they all cleared their spots and disappeared out the back door. Of course, you never know if your kids are going to go and do something Truly Weird when they get out of earshot... I try not to think about that. And we did let the pastor know that we are the kind of parents who actually do want to know if our children are making poor choices. Because that's a big part of what parenting is - helping your children learn how to make good choices on a consistent basis. (Fairly consistent, anyway. Sometimes we have more hope than others, to be honest.) So we did that, and then just sat... and enjoyed the company and fellowship... and it was nice.

Even Zorak had a good time. That's a huge relief for me, anyway. That's one thing we've enjoyed at most of the PCA churches we've attended: the men aren't sitting in the background, seemingly there only because their women wanted them to be. They are active, engaged, and present in more than just body. It's so different than the churches I grew up in, and I hope that's a swing in all the churches, cross-culturally, cross-denominationally. Men have a rich and wonderful place in the church, and a church that has men who fill that place is a beautiful place to gather.

I hate to sound too optimistic so soon in the game, but it feels like this church could be a place we would comfortably call "home".

*contented sigh*

And now, I must clean. (I didn't clean before we left this morning! Oops!) The kids are playing outside. Zorak's off hunting. Jase and I are going to... well, I'm not sure how we'll go about it, but we'll find something to do. Just wanted to touch base.

Kiss those babies!


EmBaby and I went to a new church last Sunday. I thought I told you. But no, I told somebody else. (So I will now be the weird old lady who never tells anybody anything and then shrieks, "But I TOLD you all about that!" You've been warned.)

I liked it. It's small. It's not five-people-and-no-room-for-strangers small, just small. Maybe 15 families. The service wasn't a surprise, doctrinally, but the lack of sparkly accompaniment to the service was a Very Pleasant Surprise.

There is one other homeschooling family. They also have five kids. But they have sheep, which we don't have. Very nice people, all the way around. The Mother does weaving. She wove the scarf she was wearing - silk - gorgeous - dyed it herself w/ bugs. Very funny person (like ha-ha-funny, not oh-that's-odd-funny). Didn't look at me like I have three heads for homeschooling five children. *ahhhhh*

They know, and admire, some of our favorite people and leaders from our Home Church (way up North), so that was a nice immediate middle ground. And when I said I was tempted to go back to high school just so I could take one of Dave Hammond's history classes, at least three other people nodded their heads and laughed. He is awesome. I have missed his lectures. Anyway, I'm getting off course, here...

They have a rocking chair in the sanctuary for rocking babies! IN the sanctuary! OK, that goes above, beyond, and well into the realm of My Wildest Dreams. IN the sanctuary, people? Of course, Zorak can't use it b/c he'll fall asleep. But still. Wow.

The pastor's wife approached me after the service and while we talked, she mentioned that they don't have age-segregated activities, but that they do a lot of family-oriented activity, instead. She also said she didn't want us to feel that they had nothing to offer because of the lack of programs, and if we have any ideas for anything that we think "would fit the community" please say something. (I told her that I'd be a bit of a hypocrite to suggest new programs, knowing full well that my littles are still so little and they need me more than anybody else needs a class. She laughed, and said she gets it.)

Did ya hear that? They get it.

Emily met everyone. in. the. room. Even people I didn't get to meet. When we left, three or four people yelled good-bye to her from across the room. I do not know when she met them. She's hilarious. And obviously, I'm getting a little slack in the parenting arena.

I did have one panicky moment when a gentleman came up and introduced himself. I introduced myself, then Emily. I said she's three, and he said, "...and four." And I froze. Ummm, this man reads my blog? Um... What have I written lately?

Turns out that no, he doesn't read my blog. But he'd already met EmBaby, who was busy telling everyone she is "three and four".

Like I said, it's a good thing I took the shy one. Break 'em in slowly... So we'll all go today. And they're having a potluck community outreach supper. *contented sigh* We're taking a dump cake, because the kids can make that, themselves, and have something to offer that they've made. A little personal contribution when you're building community. Hopefully, this will be the place we'll call Home. I'll let you know how it goes today. (And if I don't mention it, remind me. I may have thought I'd already told you.)

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, January 22

Misc. Things - Stove Questions

Hey, all. I thought I'd blogged the details of the stove. But I think I only emailed KathyJo about it, and I have such a fear of turning into that woman who tells the Same. Three. Stories over and over that if I can actually recall having given info once, I tend to shy away from doing so again. Even if it means I forget to tell people important things, like we're pregnant (we aren't, but I did neglect to tell a few people this last time around), or we've moved (again, not a recent occasion), or, more recently, details about our stove.


Sorry 'bout that.

The stove is the Magnolia 2015 from US Stove Co. But it's only available through dealers, which turns out to be a good thing, in this case, as the listed MSRP on their page would make a grown woman cry. (Ask me how I know.) We bought ours at Tractor Supply, which is like our own personal playground. *happy sigh* Love that store.

So, here's what brought us to this stove (copied and pasted from my emails - and people laugh at me for not clearing out my inbox! Oh, and with grammatical corrections to reflect that this was in the past, 'cuz it wasn't when I wrote the email. That's it. I think):

It was down to that one and two others, that are at Lowe's, (b/c we were really feeling the crunch betwen dental work, home repairs, and the damned food costs) - the ones at Lowe's pretty much heebed us out. This one was worth the additional $50.

Pros, in no particular order - (ok, I went back and made the primary concerns bold)
* Top is 3/8" (Charles says it looks like 5/16" - we're both too lazy/tired to go measure - still too lazy, three months later, in fact) steel plate, as opposed to 1/4" on others. Regardless of the actual measurement, it was obviously thicker.
* Vents out the top, as opposed to out the back, which saves us floor space.
* The vent pipe is toward the back of the stove top, and since this stove is a bit deeper and narrower than other designs, it leaves a nice flat surface for a kettle or a stew pot.
* Rear clearance is 7" - if you put the "fire board" thingies against the wall, you could pretty much just snug it up to the wall.
* It has a cool swoosh thing on the top, which seems to us like it would help trap smoke up top there and allow less to escape into the house when you open the door. (That one is total out-of-our-butts speculation on our part.)
* Log length is 19-1/2" - if you end up buying pre-cut wood, the standard is 18" - nothing sucks more than having to shave half an inch off every single log before you can use it. If, like us, you will end up using salvage woods and scrap, it's nice to know that longer pieces can be put in to bank the fire for the night.
* You can put the logs in lengthwise (perpendicular to the door), reducing the likelihood that one will roll out onto your poor son's foot the first time you finally agree to let him add another log to the fire.
* The legs are cast, Queen Anne style legs, not bent, flat sheet metal. They had another one (the Frontiersman, or something like that) that looked okay - for a DIY project. We could have cut the parts for that, ourselves, with a torch. I like these legs better.
* It doesn't have that chintzy fake silver trim crap that you just know is going to look like shit by the end of the first winter.
* (And this one probably only applies to me, but I'm really slow about this.) The flue control is easy to remember - pull it out to open, push it in to close. Yay.
* The door is cast iron, with an arched top profile - which gives it a bit more architectural interest, compared to the pre-fab rectangle style door. Purely visual thing, but it made a difference to us.
* It comes standard with a blower - that's about $135 extra at Lowe's, so that, alone puts this one way ahead of the pack on overall price-per-feature. (We haven't tried it, but will let you know how it works, and whether it sounds like an El Camino barreling down the hall.)
* And hey, it's Trailer House Approved! (And not just because it can take the random "someone was running around the trailer with a loaded shotgun" shot. We suspect it's also a ventilation issue.)

Cons -
* Not tickled w/ the ash pan, but I wasn't tickled w/ any of the ash pans. (We have yet to actually use the ash pan - just scoop it out and into a bucket.)
* Firebricks are thinner than on the behemoth we had before - this may actually be due to an improved design, I don't know. But none of the literature we found indicated some huge industry-wide breakthrough in firebricks... so *shrug* Dunno. Going to buy a box of spares, though, and just stick it in the yucky room w/ a note.
* We reserve the right to add more as we use it, though.

Honestly, if space constraints were not an issue, we'd probably go w/ a more efficient (and less previously abused) version of the behemoth one we used our first winter here. They are space-eaters, to put it mildly, but it's really nice not to have to worry about one of the kids getting burned b/c they have a heat shield all the way around. As it is, though, space is a serious issue here, so that nixed it for us. (Edited to add: we have no buyer's remorse on this one. Quite happy with it. It does get hot to the touch, which the other one mentioned in this paragraph doesn't, but that's not as big an issue as we feared.)

Don't be sucked in by the absolutely ADORABLE "boxwood" stoves, which sell for anywhere from $125-$300. Gah, they are cute, but they are inefficient as all hell, and you'll spend the vast majority of your day feeding the little turd. Not worth it, imho

Wednesday, January 21


It is 17 degrees outside right now.

It is 74 degrees in the house.

We still have not turned on the HVAC this winter.

Just in case you were wondering how the stove is working out.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, January 20

And We Wonder Why They Get Confused

I'll set the stage:

James and John are at the table, completing their writing work for the day.

I'm working in the kitchen.

Smidge and Emily are riding a tricycle/chasing one another around the house.

Jase is eating something nobody can remember giving him, and providing general background noise.

Em asks Smidge to wait. He ignores her. She tells him to wait. He goes a few more feet before stopping, but still doesn't acknowledge her with his words. She shrieks. He hollers.

I take a deep breath and remind everybody that this nonsense of ignoring one another simply has. to. stop. Like yesterday. Thank you.

Smidge, Em and Jase return to their regularly scheduled noise making.

James asks if he can write now.

What? Of course you can.

Well, it's just hard to concentrate with you talking to the littles every few minutes.

(And you see this coming, don't you?)

Well, honey, you're just going to have to learn to ignore me.

Thankfully, he cracked up and got back to writing. It could have gone horribly awry.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, January 19

Sandwiched Between the Days

Well, folks, as we are motivated by urgency, I can finally say we have re-insulated the water line where it crosses the creek. This sounds great, doesn't it? Except for that bit about urgency. Yeah.

Thursday night, the low was 8 degrees. The first thing I heard that morning (around six) was Zorak announcing from the bathroom, "Bad news, sports fans." Ugh. I guessed (correctly) that didn't mean we were out of coffee. Turns out, eight degrees is cold enough that even leaving two faucets going doesn't help. Gah.

Since the weather wasn't looking to go above freezing anytime in the next two days (it had warmed up to a sultry nine degrees by seven-thirty), he stayed home that morning, we relegated the children to the wolves that raise all children-who-live-in-renovations, and we went about fixing the pipe.

We couldn't use flame to thaw the pipe because it's PVC. So we took the stockpot down to the creek and filled it with water. (Yay for the creek!) Then we boiled the water (yay for the camp stove!), cut an old towel into strips (yay for the rag bin!), and proceeded to strip the old insulation away from the pipe (boo-hiss for whoever insulated it that way to begin with).

Then it was just a matter of dipping and wrapping the towels around the pipe, refreshing each towel as it cooled. That took quite a while, but it worked beautifully as we went up and then over the creek. It was at that joint leading downward that we ran into a little glitch.

The pipe popped right out of the joint! It fell into the creek, and immediately cleared itself of residual ice, along with a few gallons of water, until we could find the key and turn off the water at the meter. Ah. Lovely. Turns out, it was never glued in. Well, not only was the pipe not cut at right angles, nor did it run at right angles, but it was jammed into 90-degree fittings and just sort of held there by a mixture of God and gravity.

It's not like whoever did this didn't know you should glue the pipe joints in a pressurized line together, as the various bits of wildly different lengths that were all stubbed together at random points were glued (though not w/ PVC glue - not sure what that was all about). It reminded both of us of Cinderhenge, in the Scary Room (the cinderblock pillars stretching up to nothingness, spread out through that room).

By then, it had warmed up to a balmy 19 degrees, and we figured we might as well put it back together properly. OK, Zorak figured we should put it back properly. I was all for just slapping it back in for now and thawing ourselves a bit before the frostbite set in. But for all my bellyaching, he was the one standing in the creek (the makeshift bridge kept giving way, and he finally just quit trying), and he wasn't wearing gloves (once they got wet, they were useless, anyway)... and HE wasn't complaining. So. Fine. We fixed it.

One trip to the basement for pipe and a hacksaw; one trip to the feed store for fittings and fresh glue; a whole lot of self-deprecation on my part for being such a total weenie when he's so stinkin' tough... and it's back together, with everything that goes into a 90-degree fitting actually running at a 90-degree angle, better insulated, and - most importantly - no longer frozen. Yay.

That set us back considerably on our weekend plans, but it was worth it. We have water. Yay.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, January 18

Now She is Three

"...and Four". And still convinced that she will "soon be Jacob". (Which explains her insistance that she just get two years over with in 2009.) I love the hope that will not give up; someday, she will catch up.

Such a sweet girl. We are in no hurry to divest her of her hopes and dreams. They'll grow and change, as she does, and my biggest hopes for her are that her hopes are always bright, and her dreams are always wonderful...

That her brothers can always make her smile by knowing exactly what she needs (or wants)...

That she always believes she can do it, she can help, she can figure it out...

That she doesn't develop an unhealthy shoe attachment... although those are some pretty darned sparkly, happy-making shoes, there.

I hope she always has kisses in the morning, laughter in the day, and roses in winter.

Happy 3rd (and 4th) Birthday, EmBaby!

Kiss those babies!
(And I have to admit that while we were arranging the cupcakes on the platter, I kept saying to myself, "These are cupcakes on a plate. They are not a cupcake cake. They are not a cupcake cake. She wanted cupcakes, and these are individual, separate cupcakes, not cupcake cakes...")

Thursday, January 15


No, we didn't find a tick. We got The Tick vs. Season 1 in, through Netflix. *happy sigh* I love The Tick. And I do love Netflix. The boys are about to love Netflix even more, if that's possible. *grin*

So, before I go hog up one of the beanbags and watch with the boys, I thought I'd leave you with this little tidbit...

James has been making up Books Never Written - he came up with this one today:

How to Make a Pencil, by B. Sharpe (Author of How to Succeed in School)

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, January 14

Um, yeah.

I've got to quit falling asleep on the couch. But we have this awesome throw pillow, and when I grab it and lie down, somebody comes and snuggles with me. Then I get warm and drowsy and the next thing I know, Zorak's hauling me off the couch at two in the morning because that's not where I oughta be sleeping. Maybe I'll move the throw pillow to our room?

Smidge and I were at the dentist this morning at 7:30, where they did some absolutely horrific procedure that I don't want to relate. Without novacaine. And he didn't flinch. I'm starting to suspect that the kids' dentist is a hypnotist. They're all so... so... I don't know, but as they go about their business, it's all so smooth and cheerful and painless. Which I appreciate, but there I am, at the end of the table, just watching in morbid fascination as the process unfolds, asking inappropriate questions like, "So, that goes all the way to the root?" (I can't help myself - it's like watching an autopsy, only the bodies are alive - I'd be a total pain in the butt observing an actual surgery.) When we left, Smidge was ready for a creamslush from Sonic, but I needed some Tums or something. *shudder*

Anyway, we're all hunkered down for the cold. The Relative Cold. (Guys, I cannot actually complain! -9!?! -2?!? Who even cares about the windchill anymore when your eyeballs will freeze solid upon leaving the house? They'll shatter if you slip and fall. YIKES! Y'all are tough.) But we are hitting the library. Good call, that. Thanks!

The boys have piano this afternoon, and then it's all quiet, smooth sailing. I've got almost two weeks of suppers planned out for grocery day tomorrow. Not thrilling news, I know, but Zorak will appreciate hearing something other than "nope" when he asks if I have a plan for supper. And the boys will be glad not to have to help haul me back up out of the chest freezer when I've been digging around in there so long my back sticks and my arms are too cold to lift myself up. So really, in perspective, that is fairly exciting news. At least, for our neck of the woods.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, January 13


So busy today! Smidge has an appointment with the dentist. Poor little guy developed an abcess. It's not a surprise. He's got a tooth that he killed or scared or something (he's got my graceful genes - always tripping into something - I'm sure he'll thank me later, right?) and it changed color. At his last checkup, the dentist said we'd just keep an eye on it. So, into town today.
And then, to the pharmacy for antibiotics, I'm sure.

It's amazing to me that our children willingly tell us when they are having a problem. Particularly one that will involve a trip to a medical professional to have rectified. Man, I could have had flesh eating aliens hatching in my mouth, and I wouldn't have said a word to my mother! Consequently, she didn't know anything was wrong until mere breathing just about killed me. But these kids are great. At the first sign of trouble, be it a sore spot, or trouble flossing, they come to us and say, "We need to call Dr. B. I'm having trouble with this spot." Huh. I don't tell them I think that's wild. But it's wild.

We'll drop off donations after we hit the pharmacy, and then come home to finish school. (In theory, we take our books with us so they can work in the waiting room. In practice, all they learn is how to carry their book bags with them, but not so much work actually takes place. So, we'll "finish", erm, doitall, when we get home.)

It's supposed to get colder than various metaphorical body parts here in the next few days. High of 29 one day, according to! I know those of you in the Northern Parts are scoffing as us right now, but seriously, you've seen the pictures. Hillbillies do not handle sub-freezing temperatures well. We can never find our shoes! Hopefully, we can get enough wood up on the porch that we won't need to find the shoes, and then we can stay happily inside and not care that the water pipes may freeze, and be quite thankful we don't have chickens to let out, and... maybe I need to place a book order?

Ok, I'm off!
Kiss those babies!

Monday, January 12

Clear and Cold, School is in Session

Weather reports from some obscure portion of North America. Just what people come to read, no? No. Yeah. Well, I'm trying desperately not to write a "to-do" list, which is what AM blogging usually turns into, for me.

Tried to teach Smidge his reading this morning. I should never have deviated from my belovedly mangled method of teaching via of WRTR. He *hates* (loathes? thinks dark thoughts toward?) Spelling Workout. I thought he'd like it. Turns out he's not a workbook kid. And that's okay. That's why we don't have to do it, and he doesn't have to hash out whether that's supposed to be a "car" an "automobile" or a "Jeep" in the picture before he decides what the beginning sound is supposed to be. So. Yay.

But then, trying to spice things up a bit, I tried to be funny. Or fun. Or something. So I'm telling him about the "magic letters, e, i, and y" and how they can magically change c or g to say different sounds. He didn't buy it. "There's no such thing as a magic letter, Mom."

So I called in the big boys for backup. (I should know better.) They were with me on all of it, up to the point that I said, "So, see? They're magic letters!" They bailed on me! There's no magic letter! No magic at all! It's all *gasp* LOGIC.

And humor. Oh, everybody's a comedian. They took that ball and ran with it, juggled it, and then somebody fell off the chair and everything was all pandemonium.

Fine. We'll do it your way, then.

But Smidge won't soon forget that C, followed by e, i, or y, says it's second sound. ;-) And, he much prefers the dry erase board and a slightly botched Spalding method to learning this stuff than the workbooks and pencils.

More fun with words: John is doing battle with the dictionary. He's pretty sure we know the definitions and could save him a lot of time, but -- for whatever reason *cough*cough*, we aren't sharing the information. And hostel is just a wee bit different than hostile, just in case you were wondering!

Not bad for a Monday morning, with nothing yet to reflect on, I think. But it is quite clear and cold this morning, and Zorak didn't leave me enough kindling to re-start the fire. (He has too much faith in my abilities, that man. Far too much faith.) So, I'm going to redirect the children in a few minutes and go hack up some splinters for the fire.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, January 11

I love this life.

John got his first squirrel today. He's been out target shooting every opportunity possible, so he'd be ready for just this occasion. And he is probably the happiest boy in the world. He'd actually be happier if he'd gotten another one, but I'm okay with just one because it's going to take me a while to work up the gumption to actually cook it. And that's the rule: you kill it, you eat it. Of course, in his enthusiasm, he loosely translated that to "we'll eat it", and he's been aching "to get you a squirrel, Mom" since roughly 9:37 Christmas morning, when he opened his .410/.22 combo. He was bursting with pride today as he called me out onto the porch to see what he'd brought me.

Funny, all along, I thought I was raising children and come to find out, I've raised a cat. Anyway, we're thinking pot pie... I'll let you know how that goes.

And, ironically, I spent the day disinfecting the house. The two are not related, however. (Though perhaps they should be.) We've been passing some kind of sinusy gunk back and forth since September. Considering that evens out to be only about 6-8 days per person, it's not bad. But the cumulative effect from seven people in one home is a bit wearing on the tribal leaders. So. Yay. All cleaned and sanitized. Except for the porch, obviously.

Wood stove update: still loving it! The low tonight is near freezing, and the porch is stacked with wood for the fire. The house is staying around 70 degrees, which makes this, hands down, the warmest, coziest winter we've had. We checked the propane tank yesterday, and it's still over 60% full. It was last filled sometime in late October, early November (only fills to 80% max). We have a little 250gal. tank. Last winter, we had to have a delivery every month (min. 100 gal. delivery - ouch!), and the house never got above 60 degrees. What a sanity saver this thing has been! Both James and John have become quite proficient at starting and tending the fire, which is great, because when it comes to building fires I could smoke a moose before I got a good flame going (although I've had better luck w/ this stove, which I appreciate). Fortunately, they enjoy doing it, too.

And, in discussing plans for EmBaby's birthday, she informed us she has decided to be four this year. Her brothers protested, so her final compromise is that she'll be "three and four". It seems the plan is to hurry up and turn five. "Then I'll be Jacob!" We're glad she's enthusiastic, but we may have to work a bit on her grasp of the process. The boys want to make the decorations for her birthday, so while she naps, they plan to take advantage of the time and get things lined up. Smidge wondered where we'd hide them, and James helpfully suggested, "We can hide them in the master bathroom, where Mom hides the Christmas presents. That's an excellent hiding place!"

Yep, I do love this life.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, January 10

Project Overview and Fun Winter Days

Zorak took pity on the children after watching them play with the wagon remnants for a few months. They just couldn't accept that it had died. (Is there anything more pathetic than seeing a child stand in the bed of a wagon with no wheels, waiting for a sibling to come pull the wagon?) A few metal straps, some new bolts, and a can of Rust-Oleum later...

...and another generation of children will know the joy of riding Calvinesquely down the hill.

We've also finished the linen cabinet door, Smidge's bed, another coat rack/bookshelf, and some other project I know I'm forgetting. But my camera has cried Uncle! and needs some TLC. Unfortunately, TLC for a digital camera runs almost enough-to-make-you-want-a-new-camera-instead. But not quite, as it turns out, once you start pricing replacement cameras. So. Pictures lately haven't turned out well enough for Project Blogging.

Outdoor shots seem to be least affected. Which is why I bring you Charge of the Light Brigade, recast starring Smidge... (I missed the charge up the hill with his sword drawn - too funny, that one is.)

And, true to our Apathetically Organic label (or, it would be a label, if KathyJo would quit gasping in horror at the thought of being Organic out of sheer laziness and make me one)... *edited to add - we're lazy. She's not. She works hard. We just don't, really.*

ANYway, we've been working on the land a bit, too.

What? That doesn't look like farming to you? It's, um, it's a tension resistance test. Very important for those... I don't know what that is. Maybe it's a Dogwood? I'll tell you in May, when it blooms. OK, actually, we were flying gliders and one got caught in the tree. So James retrieved it. And what's more fun than shaking the tree your brother is in? I don't know. Looks mighty fun from John's perspective, though. (And yes, I know he's barefooted. I figured if he fell from the scrawniest tree on the entire property and actually broke something, shoes would be the least of our concerns.)

Oh! Oh, now I remember the other project. But we didn't finish it. We began it today. We're clearing rubbish from the Scary Room so that we can build a storage pantry back there. That'll free up the actual basement-y area to be completed. Then we'll have a family room. Or a room I can escape to, where I can hide snacks. And books. And perhaps a coffee pot and a mini-fridge...

Busy season!
Kiss those babies!

Thursday, January 8

Back to School, Part II

The Christmas break is over. We're halfway through our first week back, and all is well. Mostly. The boys aren't "thrilled" over being back to their studies, but they are tickled to see they haven't forgotten everything (yay!), and they've had good luck so far with getting their things done so that they can still enjoy the afternoons. By Jove, I think they've got it! (They may lose it again in a few weeks, but for now, we'll just go with it.)

In looking back through this year's curriculum choices, I have to say there have been a few stand out winners.

Italic handwriting rendered James' work legible at first glance. In just four months! *sniff* That's like a little gift from Father Christmas, just for me.

Artistic Pursuits, and Meet The Great Composers were two other winners. A great program is only a great program if you'll use it, and these two made it easy to include art and music history in our regular schedule. So happy, we are. So enlightened. *giggle*

Of course, I may request my official MUS-Cultist card with my next math order. But then, y'all already knew that about us.

That's about it, on the round-up.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, January 6


I've written about Gram before. You can get a glimpse of her here, or here. Her birthday is in February, and this was to be her 100th birthday. Can you imagine? I can't. I've known many people in my life, but none who had the vigor and wit and inner strength of Gram. But in spite of the strength of her spirit, her body was just worn out. Gram passed away during the night, on December 30th.

I've sat here for several days, trying to find the words. But they aren't coming. Gram was nearly 100 years old. I have only known her for 13 years. Everything I know and love about her is only a very, very small portion of who she is, and what others love so very much about her. How can I sum up something as large as that?

Gram raised six children. She always said four girls and two boys was the perfect family for her. Her daughters are all amazing women, and the kind of living legacy that makes you teary-eyed just thinking of the amount of love, fortitude, humor, wit, generosity and kindness that had to have been embodied in one woman for her to raise such incredible women. And share them with the world. How humbling.

Gram was always busy, always productive. Nothing would make her cranky quicker than not being able to *do* something. She loved to visit with people, tell stories, listen to stories, share jokes. She loved poetry and literature. She loved nature, and animals. She loved her family. She loved to be doing, going, sharing. Even when macular degenration took her eyesight, she still crocheted up until very near the end. She made blankets for each of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Even down to Jase, who is the youngest. He has a Gram blanket. I'm not sure I can part with it, though, so maybe we won't tell him, just yet, that it's his?

Years ago, she took it upon herself to teach me how to knit, tat, and crochet. She's never had a poorer pupil. Willing, but somewhat dexterously daft, to be honest. Part of it was that I spent so much time wrapped up in just watching her, listening to the stories she told while she worked, that I forgot I was supposed to be doing something, myself. Stories of her childhood, traveling across the country. She loved living in Vermont. I think those memories were her happiest of her own childhood. Stories of her time at school, her time teaching, her time spent raising the children in a boxcar... I will cherish the time I spent sitting on the couch with Gram, my fingers cramped up and yarn knotted around my ankles, listening to Gram's stories. I still can't knit. Or tat. But I know my family, and the boys' histories, a little better because of her.

Life can wear a soul down. Or it can lift a soul up. Gram had a dogged, fierce determination that Life is Good. There is, quite simply, no two ways about it. Like the complex blending of flavors in an excellent meal, Life needs all of it; it needs the bitter and the sweet, the tough and the tender, in order to be truly spectacular. You cannot embrace the one and resent the other. Not if you want to be truly happy.

That was, from my shortened perspective, one of the greatest things about Gram: Life is Good. All of it.

We're all better off for her time on this earth, and the lives she's touched will go on to touch other lives, and so on, in a ripple that will continue to make the world more beautiful with every ring that extends outward into the world.

Goodbye, Gram. You are loved.

Kiss those babies, grams, families, friends... because they are beautiful, and life is beautiful.

Monday, January 5

We're Home.

Home, safe and sound. Drove in torrential rain for most of the way. Haven't had a land-squall like that in a couple of years. It was wild! We were worried the drive would be flooded and we'd have to spend another night in a hotel, but somehow we managed to get ahead of the rain and it didn't hit our house until five minutes after we got everybody in the door. Sounded like someone had turned on an enormous box fan when it hit - WOW. We love our home. *happy sigh*

But. We're exhausted. And so, to bed.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, January 3

Made it. Sort of.

Well, we are here. We got to the Cousins' home around three-thirty-ish yesterday. We did not stop in Little Rock to pick up the parts. I think it had something to do with distance from the interstate, but I'm not entirely clear on the thing, there. It still took some finagling to find and round up all the parts once we got here. At one point, we were looking at "Tuesday for the seal and Wednesday for the bolt". Gah. NO! Right now, we're looking at... well, you know what, I'm not entirely sure what we're looking at. Zorak appreciated the reprieve for the afternoon, though and enjoyed being able to just sit for a bit. Upright and not covered in grease. Quite lovely, actually.

Confession time: Zorak and I do not travel well together. Yeah, not at all. And we have the added frustration this trip of having wanted to be in Cruces *today*. But that deserves a separate blog entry. So, anyway, this has been quite a test of our ability to smile benignly and move forward. Together. In one piece. We're doing surprisingly well, but those weird guttural noises my Mom used to make when she was frustrated but afraid she'd be struck down by lightning for saying what she really thought? I think we've both found the part of the body those noises come from. But we're doing okay. I'm proud of us. And we even manage to crack jokes now and then.

Like this morning, I told Zorak he needed to make me a list. He pulled me over by the shoulders to lean on him, and said, "There, now you've got a list." Heh. Yeah. Old sailor jokes. Funnier if you aren't a landlubber, I suppose. (I'm a landlubber, he had to take it one step further for me and add, "Now you're listing." *sigh* Someday I'll catch on.)

So, I'm listing. He's working (the Suburban is up on a tree stump - I've got to take a picture and find a way to upload it - it's hilarious). The kids are finishing up breakfast and getting ready to head down to the creek. Yeah, the creek. It's going to be 70 degrees here today! Wild, huh?

AAaaaand, I think Jase just broke an ornament. So I am going to go before we end up exiled to the front porch.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, January 2


Well, we were here all day. The Suburban "isn't fixed, but it's functional". (I cannot convey to you how little I liked hearing that particular explanation... not this far from home.) Anyway, we'll go on to Little Rock to find the missing part there, and then on to Veronica's to finish working on it.

When Zorak still wasn't back by about two, Aunt B had a great suggestion to call the cab company and see what the charge would be to deliver some diapers. You know, when you have a baby with an active digestive system, it is amazing what you'd be willing to pay for diapers! Sadly, the cab company only takes cash, and I only had a handful of actual change on me. But when I called the front desk to see if there was an ATM nearby, the lady offered to run to the store for me when she got off at three. Next thing I know, the front desk calls again and says the lady coming on at three will bring diapers! WOW. It turned out to be the lady who had checked us in the night before. Her little guy is in pull-ups, now, and she brought all her extra size 4's. So sweet. Jase was happy to be let back out of the tub, too.

I sent the boys down to the vending machine to get snacks. They came back and it seemed nothing much had happened. Then the front desk called, "Those were your two boys down here by the vending machine?" (Uh... yes...) "Well, I just wanted you to know that they are so honest, and so well-mannered. We really enjoyed them, and wanted you to know how polite and sweet they are." (*deep exhalation* I mean, you read about my wow-if-that'd-been-me-at-that-age bit from the last post, right? I was a titch worried, there.) I guess the machine had given them too much change, so they turned it in at the desk. And I'm sure they stayed to talk, because that's what we do. We talk to strangers. They come by it honestly.

Smidge asked if we could "not have any TV tomorrow" - I didn't think it could happen, but the kid reached saturation point! Funny. We turned off the TV, read books, worked on a sweater for EmBaby, told jokes, and then they dropped off, one-by-one. When Zorak got back with supper, only two of the five were still up.

So, on we go, to another leg of the Adventure. Time to get everyone else up and fed and loaded back up. And as the new year gets underway, I'm thankful for so many things - cell phones and hotel business centers, friendly people and helpful hearts, loving children and families, smart hubbies and friends who'll make you laugh until you've got it all back in perspective.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, January 1

Oh, Ack! Happy New Year!

Greetings from a Comfort Inn somewhere in Arkansas...

No, this isn't where we meant to spend the New Year. We meant to spend it with family. But the Suburban got a little cranky last night - the brakes went wonky and a wheel bearing went bad. So, thank Heaven for small favors, we realized there was a problem pretty early on, and stopped before there was actual fire, or no brakes, or stripping of the transmission. That was our biggest thing, "PLEASE don't let it be the transmission. Please don't let it affect the transmission. Please just don't even mention the transmission." (The transmission in this particular model is a nightmare. The *one* different tranny Chevy makes, and it also happens to be both the worst, and the most expensive. So. Not the tranny. YAY!)

The kids didn't mind. They're a little sad about not being at Veronica's, but we have cable. Cartoon Network and Mythbusters. Plus, they had waffles for breakfast. Not a bad New Year's Eve, really, when you're somewhere between 2 and 10, right?

Zorak and I crashed well before midnight, shortly after getting the smaller three down. I think James and John stayed up to watch something or other. They turned off the TV, though, and got some rest. Good kids. Man, if I'd had that much leeway when I was 8 or 10, it wouldn't have gone so well, what with the hotel manager calling the room to inquire why, exactly, there were children playing tag and dodgeball in the hallway. *sheepish grin* And I won't even go into Zorak dangling from a sheet over a balcony, in a sombrero and a poncho at two in the morning. Yeah, they're good kids. I don't know how we ended up with these children, but when their real parents come for them, they can't have 'em. We're keeping them.

Anyway, we meant to be up and at 'em this morning, but it took several hours to track down an auto parts store that was both *open* today, AND had the necessary assembly in stock. *sigh* Zorak, the Freezing Knight, is at the parts store, replacing the part, while we are ensconsed rather cushily in a warm hotel room, awaiting pizza delivery. We're out of diapers (um, thinking we'd have stopped last night to pick up last-minute things, heh. Oops.) but in all, sitting rather prettily. Thankful. Safe. Yeah.

OK, the children are going to realize I've slipped down to the business center. Em and Jase are sleeping (how do you wear yourself out in a hotel room? I don't quite get that, but they both went down for naps early) and the boys are doing a verbal countdown on the pizza. So I had to step out and say howdy. However, break over. Time to get back!

Happy, Happy New Year!!
May 2009 be a year of Joy, a year of Love, and a year of Growth for all of you!

Kiss those babies!