Monday, November 23

And now, for something completely different...

I know, just when I think I've got time to write, we slip off for a trip to the beach! Sheesh, why don't I own a laptop? Someone needs to talk to Santa about this. I've been shockingly good this year. (Actually, I've been pretty pampered, too. I've got warm slippers and a flattering swimsuit. Not that I wear at the same time, of course, but still... I have them.)

Anyway, we took a gazillion pictures, but it's a little after midnight, and I've just now gotten the last of the sand out of the camera (and then I wonder why it doesn't work properly?) and don't have time to edit them before my eyes start to cross. So, I'll share a few SOOC shots and call it good.

Jason, of course, hit the sand running. And kept running. Straight into the water. And kept running. Didn't even slow down until the water came up over his head. I spent the next three days repeatedly hauling him up out of the water. Me-Wa and Me-Tae will be glad to know, however, we didn't lose him once to gravity, momentum, or dolphins. In all, that's a successful trip!

The water was cold (for those of us who don't live in the Midwest or the Northeast, that is), but did the kids mind? Not one bit. The key, it seems, is to keep moving. Lots of -ing going on: running, jumping, squealing. Plenty of -ing, just none of it tacked on to words like "relax" or "calm". We had a fantastic time. A busy time. (It's so good to be home!)

And that's the end for the night!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, November 14

Kefir, The Learning Curve

I'm filing this under "Not Quite Gardening". I mean, okay, it's nowhere near gardening. But the Kefir is, technically alive, so it's kind of like having livestock. But I don't have a livestock category. Actually, it feels more like we're raising Sea Monkeys. But since we've never had much luck with those, we're calling them livestock. And we're filing it under gardening. (Yeah, you should see our filing system for bills!)

So, we got some milk kefir grains, and some water kefir grains. And we got them set up and doing their thing in the sunny spot on the counter. (I feel compelled to point out that this is *not* what ours look like. This is a generic kefir-picture. You don't want to see what ours looks like right now.) And then we forgot about them for a few days. Or, I should say, a few days longer than we're supposed to forget about them. Not that they just sat there. The boys picked them up and swirled them about every time they entered or left the kitchen. (I found myself wondering if this may be what went wrong with the Sea Monkeys.) But we didn't strain it when we should have strained it.

And so, yesterday, I strained. And strained. And tried not to breathe through my mouth. (Because honestly, I don't really enjoy the way things smell in their natural state. I like the way fish doesn't smell at the store. I like the way processed vitamins don't smell like a cow puked in the bottle. And, I like things that do not smell... fermented. Even if they are... fermented. Which is why I prefer wine to beer.) And strained some more.

At this point, it would be SO handy if I had any clue what I'm doing. But I don't. If you use kefir, please comment. Please fill me in. You can laugh, I don't care (we did!) But HELP!

We have "kefir", in the milk-form, that one would traditionally *cringe* drink straight up. But this is strong, so I'm hoping this next batch will mellow it out a bit. (Can I cook with this? Put it in bread? Or would that be mass kefircide?) The grains are back in fresh milk, and there's some thick stuff that we are bound and determined to turn into a dip of some sort. (Garlic makes everything better.)

And then, we have the kefir water. To which, we added grape juice to make kefir soda. My gag reflex is still going strong. The kids, however, *loved* it! Drank almost all of it over lunch. It's good for them. They like it. Life is good. Even when the learning curve is really, really steep.

Kiss those babies!

I love this time of year.

Fall keeps me sane. There's just no other way to put it. The nights are cool enough to need comforting blankets. The days are nice enough to wallow in the out-of-doors. It's like emerging from a horrible, damp, hot blanket after Summer. Like storing up on sunshine for the grey, wet, cold winter months. (And yes, it does seem to be a water-related issue. I grew up where water, if there was any, was 500 feet under ground, and you had to really want it to find it. Here, it's everywhere. It's wonderful, in the ground. In the air, eh, we're still adjusting.)

Zorak and James are camping tonight. James' first campout with his new Troop. He's elated. Zorak seems to be hanging in there fairly well. It's hard to put your child out there, in a group with such a huge age gap (he's 11, and the other boys are ALL 15-17). Even when they're great kids (and these boys are - they're awesome), it's stil... there's a lot of room for... yeah. It's just a little on the tingly-knee side for Zorak, I think. They'll both be fine. Probably be pretty cold by about 2AM. But in general? In the grand scheme of things? I think they're going to have a blast and do just fine. Both of them. (Still, watching your children venture out on new highwires, over faster rivers, deeper ravines, bigger life... I'm glad we have each other to hold onto.)

John, who wanted with every fiber of his being to GO, to Be There, to CampOut, was so good about it. He didn't whine or mope. He was great about helping James get his stuff rounded up. Enthusiastic about the dry run on the tent (on the balcony - I love that - no leaves or dirt to contend with when you're done). And they had a very heartwarming-moment-turned-squirrelly-grab-ass bit of sibling familiarity as James headed out the door. (Boys are so weird about that, sometimes.)

But you could tell he really wanted to be going, too. So, we decided to have a fun Alternate Weekend, here:

~ Movies John wants to see that James would rather not. (And, of course, a Princess movie for EmBaby, and a not-a-princess-movie for Jake. It was an all-inclusive movie rental trip.)

~ Dinner at the coffee table.

~ Bedtime Story, all of us piled on the couch, instead of everybody in their beds.

~ Fresh cinnamon rolls tomorrow, watching the sun rise and the thermometer creep up. We may toast the warmth with hot chocolate. ;-)

~ Time together, just the five of us, hanging out and doing things a little differently.

I kind of like the change in routine, and the break. (And I'm really thankful I didn't have to go.) But I do remember wanting so badly to go somewhere that I couldn't. Sure, learning to be OK with that comes with maturity, and with time. But sometimes, it's nice to know somebody understands and remembers what it was like to go back inside after the truck pulled away. And sometimes, it's nice to have someone help you learn that it's not so bad to be left out of one thing, when there are other things awaiting you just around the corner. Plus, it may be the start of a nice new tradition. After all, in nine years, it'll be Jason looking longingly as his siblings file out the door, one after another, and the house he goes back into will be quieter, lonelier, and a bit different than it is now. It'll be good to know that some good things stay the same.

Like Autumn leaves. And great weather. And people who love you.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, November 12

A Digital Peek

The weather's been so absolutely magnificent here, and the children are starting to remember that this weather precedes the oh-help-me-why-isn't-the-compost-bin-right-outside-the-kitchen-door weather, so we've all been out there, wallowing in it. Good stuff.

There was a time we all stayed pretty much together, inside or out. Now, however, Jase just doesn't want to be where anybody else is. (Perhaps it's part of being 5/5? I don't know. Maybe he's just the next Lewis. Or Clark. Or that guy who runs across North America for no apparent reason.) So, we go outside, and disperse. I follow Jason like a ravenous hawk follows a bunny. The rest of them... do whatever it is they do.

They're usually pretty predictable. James gets on his pogo stick and tries to break his latest record. John sets up the archery bales and tries to improve his aim. Em and Jake take off for the back yard to conquer the high seas, or stave off dragons, or something interesting. Sometimes they all have a few rounds on the Vomitor 2000. Sometimes, they just find a comfy place to watch bugs and have snacks. (I do sincerely hope the two are not even remotely related.) But they all gravitate back together, in the end. They like to be together. Often, one of them will snag the camera. I never know what I'll find when I upload pictures.

But it's usually pretty interesting.

And it's almost always fun. I love seeing what was important enough to them to capture an image of -- what the distilled version of their day looked like.

(Those are John's jalapenos, in Earth Boxes from Aunt B. They're last things still producing from this year's garden. We're trying to recruit him to full-time Resident Farmer status for next year. He's good!)

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, November 10

Tree, again...

Well, none of the berry shots turned out. That's not terribly helpful. Here's a long shot of the tree, with the boys standing beside it, for scale.

Kiss those babies!

Mobile Blogging

Nevermind. Shortly after I wrote this, they showed up! Please look below to see if you have any idea what these berries are! I'm off to send more pictures (probably sideways) of the berries themselves.

I never feel as old as when I'm trying to do something new with technology. *sigh*

Trying to upload some pictures for the Lazy Man's Plant Identification. The boys came running up a few weeks ago with berries. Bless them, the first thing out of their mouths was, "Look what we found! We didn't eat any!" They just might survive growing up out here.

We got pictures, but they're on my phone. I have a pretty cool phone that could blow up small parts of Russia with the proper combinations. Sadly, I'm feeling pretty good when I can answer an incoming call with the thing.

Been trying to set up the mobile blog and claim it and so forth. Blogger Help looked clear cut. I thought I'd done everything I needed to do... and yet, there are no pictures of mystery trees on here, now. Anywhere.

Somehwere, someone has just received anonymous texts with images of leaves and tree bark, instructions to "kiss those babies". And quite possibly there's been an explosion just outside a small town in Siberia. I'll keep working on it.

Kiss those babies!

The Bark from the Berries Below.

And, still sideways (I wish I could remember which direction to hold the phone to make them upright!)

This shows the bark...

Kiss those babies!

Look! Berries!

Well, it worked. It's also on its side, and I have no idea how to change that...

This tree grows in the lower meadow. It's tall and thin, and is covered in berries. There's not a stitch of red on it, so we ruled out chokeberries.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, November 9

Happy Halloween, 2009!

We had a wild crew this year!

The kids took a huge role in creating their costumes this year. It was so much fun to see their own characters and strengths come through in their designs. We had...

The Butterfly Princess, who put together her entire ensemble, herself. Yes, even the boots.

The Headless Horseman, who came up with some fantastic ways to make it happen.

El Conquistador, who took over, well, not quite Florida, but most of Morgan County.

Our latest Harry Potter... oh, he's breaking my heart! When did he get so tall and slender?

And, the Running Man.

OK, also a turtle, but although the outfit was cute as can be, it took an act of God to get him into that thing, even for a little bit.

It was good. Costume bits are still part of the daily attire. Somehow, in spite of being given free rein with the candy, they've still got scads of it left. And, they had FUN. It was, indeed, a Happy Halloween.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, November 8

And then, all at once...

Wednesday was my surgery. This was the dental surgery that we've been putting off, saving for, then putting off some more, for a year and a half. Yeah, nothing like letting your dual natures duke it out while you stand back to see what happens, right?

For me, it was less harrowing than I'd feared. Significantly so. Kudos to general anesthesia and Percocet! For Zorak, it was... probably about as bad as he feared. I'm not sure. I still catch him looking at me occasionally like I'm a half-starved, Parvo-stricken puppy he found in a back alley (which, to be completely honest, freaks me out, because I *feel* fine... until I see him looking at me like that).

I stayed contentedly drugged up for the first two days, then eased up so I could function and remember when to take what. (MUCH easier to do if you're not leaning too heavily on the pain killers, and I have enough respect for chemical reactions not to taunt the Clotting Gods by drinking alcohol.) Even so, the rest of that week is a bit of a blur.

The doctors were wonderful about filling me in on what to expect, from the swelling, to the fact that the surgery was extensive enough to alter the shape of my face. The swelling was quite impressive, and somewhere around day five, I began to worry that perhaps the Manimal snout was the new shape of my face. (Thankful for health, and bone grafting and technology, but there were a few Panicky Vanity moments. I'm not going to lie!) The doctor was able to do all that he'd hoped to do, so that was good, and the follow-up visits I've had indicate things are healing well. I am also happy to say that I'm free of cheezy, early-80's special effects.

In the meantime, Halloween and all its attendant activities were in full swing. The boys got to give their outfits another round at the Reformation Party at church. This was the first year for it, and it was, from all accounts and pictures, a fantastic success. Pastor's wife put it together as a spur of the moment thing, and she did an amazing job. I'd give body parts to have her organizational skills and talent for party hosting! Next year, we'll plan ahead more and she'll have more help.

Then, Halloween. Good stuff. Busy stuff. I slept. Also good stuff.

The kids shared all their softer candies with me - peanut butter cups, mostly. So sweet, and so thoughtful. (Also, so tasty!)

And, that pretty much brings us up to the present! I'll post pictures separately, because they don't want to be in with the surgery re-cap.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, November 1

More Mackerel...

Right, so, as you can see, things were not moving along swimmingly. Thank God, Me-Wa had come down to stay with the children so we could go to the hospital. And now, here we were, sun-up, day's a'starting, and... oh, wow... *yawn* So tired. Me-Wa headed home. Zorak and I looked at each other and tried to focus long enough to figure out what to do.

John needed to see the dentist that morning to have a recalcitrant baby tooth forcibly removed. (He'd been waiting for this appointment for ages, and rescheduling with his dentist is hard, because his dentist is possibly the most coveted pediatric dentist in North America. So, when you can get it, you get in.) I needed to see the urologist. Both Zorak and I needed some rest. Neither of us had slept since Monday.

Zorak took John to the dentist and the kids to music.

I went to the urologist. He gave me a couple of prescriptions for oral antibiotics, and then a shot of Rosephin. Oh, holy mother of holy things! Even loaded with lidocaine, and administered by an amazingly skilled nurse, that is one Painful Everlovin' Shot! A week and a half later, I will still whimper and cry if you so much as look at my right hip. Is there no room for technology to perhaps take a look at this particular drug? I mean, I am thankful for it, but wowsa- it should come with a recommendation for a 3-week supply of cheap vodka and a leather thong to bite down on at random intervals. Ow.

Thursday (the 22nd), we recovered a bit. I think the kids played video games and ate leftovers. Not sure, and they haven't mentioned anything. So, *shrug* there's that.

Friday (the 23rd) - LB arrived!! The house was not ready, groceries not done, guest room only moderately put together (thankfully, Zorak pulled it off while I drove to the airport). But, you know, we'd lost Wednesday, which is when we were going to put it all together. She understood. And let me stop at WalMart for potatoes and a vacuum on the way home.

Saturday (the 24th) - mostly just picking up pre-surgery supplies and preparing for Jason's baptism.

Sunday (the 25th) - Baptised Jason. Camera still was not working, so we're waiting for pictures from others. I'll post them when I get them.

Monday/Tuesday (the 26-27), more preparation for the surgery, grocery shopping, going over the school schedule with LB, and finishing up the kids' Halloween costumes. James was the headless horseman; John, a Conquistador; Jake our latest Harry Potter; EmBaby put together a darling "butterfly princess" costume, all on her own; Jase was a soft-shelled turtle. (He had a darling turtle outfit, but would only wear it rarely.)

James' Webelos II Den finally had its Arrow of Light Ceremony. He's been attending the Boy Scout Troop, but is now officially recognized to call himself "A Boy Scout". Proud night for the kiddo. They also had the boys wear their costumes. All had a great time. Too much adorableness in one room, man. Just. Too. Cute.

And that night, we went to bed, ready as we were going to be for the big dental surgery. But that's another post.

Kiss those babies!

Holy Mackerel!

Just when we thought we had it all under control, we got hit with the gentle (*snort*) reminder that we're not really at the helm. Sometimes I feel that if life came with an instruction manual, the "Quick Start User's Guide" would look something like this:

1. Kiss those babies
2. Say your prayers
3. Hold on tight

Obviously, there's more to it than that, but that's what it takes to get started, isn't it? And sometimes, to keep going.

We've got to back up a bit. Let's see, I got sick Sunday (the 18th). Thought it was nothing big. Nothing a little rest and some cranberry and water couldn't fix. Stayed home from church to pound the liquids. (Didn't help.)

Monday (the 19th), I thought I had cramps (sorry - no cute or euphemistic way to put it), and we learned we have what Melissa calls, "A Runner". Yep, we now have one that, given the chance, will bolt swiftly and silently, leaving the whole ball of wax for one glorious shot at freedom. Thankfully, he is safe and came to no harm. My knees still hurt just thinking of it. However, he is now on a lock-down the likes of which no child in this house has ever seen. He will probably never be allowed to watch Blade Runner, or Logan's Run until he moves out, or can explain where he's going. And we spent a harrowing week, holding our breath, keeping the house Company Clean, in fear of a visit from The Authorities. Adrenaline does wonders for pain relief, by the way.

Tuesday (the 20th), I realized I wasn't fighting a mild UTI and cramps, and started to worry that this was, perhaps, appendicitis. That's a scary thought. (It was a scary pain.) Nothing touched it - not asprin, not hot baths, not the gazillion gallons of water and cranberry I imbibed, not the hot pad, not massage; not walking, not laying, nor rocking nor crying. At that point, with the severity of the pain and the lack of relief, we called the nurse line and she recommended I be seen "within six hours". Blink Off to the ER, where I was diagnosed with, but not treated for, a rather severe kidney infection, and blood, most likely caused by a blockage. We're voting for "stone sludge", as whatever it was, it passed during the five-hour wait in the ER. Yes, FIVE HOURS. And yes, they had a sample. Oh. My. Word.

It seems that the confirmed presence of a raging infection (the lab was quick), a "9" on the pain scale (figure there's always room for it to hurt worse, right?), chills and swelling just don't cut the triage scale if you have somehow managed not to spike a fever. The poor Triage Nurse took my temperature every way she could think of, but there was no fever. No fever, no check mark. No check mark, no spot at the front of the line. She was very apologetic about it, and begged me to stay, because, obviously, there was something Very Wrong. But still, back to the lobby.

What's with that, anyway? Nevermind. I am currently trying not to think of the myriad reasons I had no fever. Just. Not. ThinkingAboutIt. If I'd known, however, that they would not give me antibiotics at the end of that wait, to be honest, I'd have gone home to writhe in the comfort of my own floor while waiting for the urologist's office to open. Away from the lady who likes to hang out in the ER, being obnoxious to other patients; away from the guy who came in for a cough; away from the three other guys who came in to hang out, catch a nap, and then move on. As it was, we got home a little after 7AM Wednesday morning, mildly re-hydrated and just a little bit stoned on pain killers.

Wednesday was supposed to be our Preparation Day. The day we washed the car, did the groceries, made up the guest room, finished the basement work, took the kids to music and did all the things one normally does on a Wednesday. Or something like that. Obviously, that's not how it went down. I'll fill you in on that, tomorrow. It just hasn't slowed down in the least.

Kiss those babies!