Monday, May 31

This Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day. Do you have someone you'll remember this day? Someone you'll be missing this day, who is serving our country and cannot be with you? Thank you. And thank them. And for those who have passed on, there is no way we can thank them other than by living up to the legacy they've left us.

So today, we'll read this again.

We'll talk about those who have served before to ensure the freedoms we have today.

We'll honor them by doing our best, in every way.

And I'll probably get choked up and cry a little, but the kids expect that by now.

And I wanted to share this song. I love it. It's terribly underrated, and it's beautiful.

Kiss those babies,

Saturday, May 29

Don't Wait for Perfect

We have a tendency to put off doing something until we can do it "just so". That may work for some, but for us, it only means we'll keep putting it off indefinitely. Whether it's a lack of money, or of time, or even knowledge that gets in the way, it's always something. So, put it off until... blah, blah, blah.

Last year, we decided we'd put an intentional end to that, in our gardening areas. And wow, what a difference! Not that we have *any* idea what we're doing. But it's starting to look like we do!

Today, the kids and I harvested lemon thyme, lemon balm, pineapple sage and Greek oregano. It's all cleaned off, drying in little bundles in the kitchen window, now. Some of it will be used for tea, and some for cooking. Some of it, we want to experiment with.

The garlic and horseradish the boys put in earlier this spring are both doing well, and the kids can hardly wait for those plants to mature for harvest.

That whole end of the yard is starting to look (and smell) unbelievably good. And while I'm tempted to lament just how awesome it would have been if we'd done it the first spring we were here, (but then, we'd have a bountiful harvest, and still no place to put it - which is why the house came first. Still, one wonders...) In the end, we're getting to it, and it's really happening.

It felt so good, kneeling in the dirt with the kids, as they clipped and gathered the herbs. Walking slowly around the tea garden, with shears and bundles in my hands, listening to each of the children identify their plants.

Granted, we're on our third planting of tomatoes this spring (we cannot get them to germinate!), but as soon as we figure that out, we'll have the herbs to season them with!

Don't pass it all up waiting for "just so". Because "wonderful" and "your best" is absolutely delicious, in so many way! But "never got around to it" just doesn't season memories so well.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, May 27

Myths and Ire

M'kay... So, I saw this online the other day...

I am fed up with teachers and their hefty salary guides. What we need here is a little perspective. If I had my way, I'd pay these teachers myself.... I'd pay them babysitting wages. That's right... instead of paying these outrageous taxes, I'd give them $3.00 an hour out of my own pocket. And I'm only going to pay them for five hours, not coffee breaks. That would be $15.00 a day - each parent should pay $15.00 a day for these teachers to babysit their child. Even if they have more than one child, it's still a lot cheaper than private day care.

Now, how many children do they teach a day - maybe twenty? That's $15.00 x 20 = $300 a day. But, remember they only work 180 days a year!! I'm not going to pay them for all those vacations. $300 x 180 = $54,000. (Just a minute, I think my calculator needs batteries.)

I know now you teachers will say what about those who have ten years' experience and a Master's degree? Well, maybe (to be fair) they could get the minimum wage, and instead of just babysitting, they could read the kids a story. We can round that off to about $5.00 an hour, times five hours, times 20 children. That's $500 a day times 180 days. That's $90,000....HUH???? Wait a minute, let's get a little perspective here. Babysitting wages are too good for these teachers. Did anyone see a salary guide around here??

Author Unknown - it could have been any one of America's 2.5 million "overpaid" public school teachers

As you know, if you've read here for any length of time, I believe that teaching children is one of the most noble, powerful, worthwhile endeavors any human can engage in. While we choose not to contract with the government for the education of our children, we've also long felt that teachers should have more control over their classrooms, better pay (particularly when viewed through the School District spending, in general), and backup from the parents. Granted, as long as the Department of Education continues to expand its grip on American Education, that first bit isn't going to happen, not by a long shot.

And as long as the educational unions remain as prolific as they are, the deadlock of corruption and waste endemic in the public school systems will not be resolved to anybody's satisfaction in the foreseeable future. (And really, who can blame voters for voting down bond measures when Admin salaries or peripheral expenses go up and up and teacher's salaries stagnate, every time? We could mortgage our futures, and yet it seems the teachers won't ever see the money.)

And, really, while I'm generally pretty empathetic about teachers' salaries, the amount of sheer smarminess in this little tirade rubbed me the wrong way. First of all, who gets a baby sitter for $3/hr? Oh, I know, that's supposed to be "the point". Well, let's look at a few other points:

~ A babysitter will come to my home.
~ A babysitter will do so on my schedule.
~ A babysitter will give my child individualized care and attention.
~ A babysitter will use the materials I feel are superior, and not just what the Head Sitter has told her to use.
~ A babysitter will happily use materials I provide, if hers are not up to par.
~ A babysitter is accountable to me.
~ If the babysitter sucks at her job, I can fire her and find a competent one.
~ If the babysitter simply is not capable of interacting or connecting with my child, I can fire her and find one who is.
~If the babysitter abuses/hits on/offers drugs to my child, the sitter is out. of. here. - no "administrative leave", and certainly not a paid one! Gone. If I don't trust you, you have no business being in charge of my child. That's my call.
~ If I find out the babysitter is trying to teach my children that they, minors who can't live on their own yet, are intuitively more worldly and knowledgeable than we, their parents, are, I can fire her and find one with a functional moral compass.
~ If I have any questions or concerns about how the babysitter is doing her job, I don't have to worry about getting the run around about "standard procedures", "school policy", "protocols", or "letting the *experts* handle this".
~ A babysitter isn't obligated to some union that has my children at the bottom of the priority list.
~ A babysitter is someone I have personally chosen, based on the criteria I value and desire in the interaction and care of my children, not based on someone else's ideas of "competent", "certified", or even "professional".
~ A babysitter will pick up a bit, too, if she's really good.
~ A babysitter doesn't forget that I, the parent, AM the Ultimate Advocate for my child. Ever. (Refer to the sixth one, above.)

I'd say that's worth something.

And when you add in actually teaching, educating, my child? AND doing it well? There simply is no way to fully compensate someone monetarily for that, no matter how much blood you tax from property owners. And so, I do it, myself. And still pay the taxes so that other people have access to teachers for their children.

As with any social government program, though, public education is rife with bureaucracy, red tape, conundrums wrapped in enigmas, waste, corruption, pissing contests among all participants, political malarkey, and, of course, inefficiency. I'm really sorry the system is in such bad shape, but don't get snarky with me, expecting me to believe that more money will magically fix the problems. Clean house and sort it out, then talk. Or not. Whatever.

Just makes me that much happier that my children aren't in the hands of people with this much ire toward the rest of the world.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, May 21

Getting Stuff Done

This year, we've all got allergies. Not quite what I was shooting for, as a family gift, but it has brought us all closer together. We congregate near the antihistamines and tissues. We take advantage of that quality time by coordinating appointments and practice/game schedules. As a result, we're getting caught up on a number of overlooked topics.

James and John saw an optometrist today. Or an ophthalmologist. Or, something. He had a lot of equipment. He spoke very slowly and clearly. He seemed to shoot me straight. It's all good.

John got a prescription for reading glasses. He said it's mild enough that he wouldn't normally even recommend glasses, but based on John's migraine problems, and our description of how we've tracked that down, he said he's confident this will eliminate them. Wee! John will be excited when he sees it play out. I am excited right the heck now! Also, the doc said he has no scarring visible, which was one of those *exhale your relief inappropriately loudly in the office* moments.

James' vision is fine, and we ascertained that he's certainly not shy. But the Doc was concerned about the beating James' eyes are taking from the allergies. We left with some otc suggestions for eye drops, and an open invite to call in for more options if that doesn't do the trick. James was hesitant (the last time we tried eye drops, they burned horribly), but he said this stuff (Alaway. Catchy, huh? That link has a $4 off coupon, too, I just noticed. Huh. Should've looked earlier.) doesn't burn. And the difference was 100% worth it. Again with the excitement, but this time, it's both of us.

Now to finagle a physical for Scout camp, and an office visit for what's beginning to sound like a lower respiratory infection... and I wonder if someone would come to our home to potty train Jason? (No, really. I am so tired. And not really looking forward to carrying three spare sets of clothes at all times, or to strategically purchasing my groceries based on distance from the bathroom. We just got EmBaby out of the habit of having to use every toilet in every location. Market Day just recently became quick and efficient!)

But, other than that, and general follow-ups for the rest of us, it's looking like things are about to slow down, a bit. Oh yeah, that'll be nice.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, May 19

The Smelly Days of Summer

I'm up late, doing laundry. (Thrilling, no?) Usually, I am on top of the laundry. I have to be. If it piles up, it piles up quickly. In the blink of an eye, there are missing persons reports to file, stray animals to round up, napalm drops to call in... Yeah, it generally takes two loads a day, to stay on top of things. But the nice thing is that, when baseball season starts, and things get hectic (and the wash frequency goes up, so they have clean uniforms all. the. damned. time.), I can throw in a load before breakfast, switch it to the dryer and start a second load that I don't have to worry about until we get back from that day's practice/game/random event.

Until about... now. If a load stays in the washer more than, say, ten or fifteen minutes after the final spin, it's gotta go through again, with vinegar. And prayers. If my church had cool, helpful statues, I'd stick one in the vent hose. (Is there a saint of washer women?) And that's when I know Spring is gone. The humidity goes up just enough to tweak the air a titch. The temps go up just enough to do the trick, but not quite enough to turn on the a/c, yet. So, I don't notice until it's too late. That, and it always happens in the midst of baseball season, so I'm not usually paying any attention, anyway.

Zorak had surgery last week (outpatient, to correct the inevitable payback of a misspent youth, or so he jokes - it was to correct some sinus problems, actually), so he's been flying the Percocet Carpet for the last five days. And in that five days, wee doggies, have I dropped the ball! Not entirely. We haven't lost any more chickens. We're all spooled up on local news. School's still getting done (amazingly enough). The dogs still recognize us. Everybody's been fed, everyone's made it to lessons/practices/games/doctor appointments. We've worked out a good schedule for peeking in on him to make sure he's okay. But not quite everyone has clean socks. Or towels. The towels are always the first to freak out on me and not make it to the dryer on the first run. And once they've backlogged, it throws my whole delicate (read: unstable) system into slow motion.

Thankfully, it's a good Hulu night - Castle, Modern Family, Glee. Hulu, making laundry nights fun again!

And, only one more week of baseball, I think. John's tournaments begin tomorrow, and then he's done. Then Smidge (Tuesday!) goes until the 29th. Yes, I know that's technically more than a week, but in Baseball Time, it's close enough to call it a week. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Monday, May 10

Post-Mother's Day Recap

Did you have a nice Mother's Day (if you observe it, that is)? We do, sort of. As much as we tend to observe any holiday we might be able to get out of. It's hit or miss, with us. Really, I think there's a sick humor in Mother's Day being observed on a Sunday. What mother's ideal Mother's Day really includes the Sunday Morning Chaos that accompanies, well, Sunday Mornings? Not mine! And I know, it's not like we have an excuse -- church starts at 11:00, we're only half an hour away, and we have everybody showered and clothes lined up the night before. Yet, there you have it. We've become almost entirely nocturnal, and mostly sloth-like before, say ten AM. But, I have yet to convince anybody else we should observe it on Saturdays.

Oh, wait, it's baseball season. I guess Sunday looks pretty good, now, doesn't it? Yeah, love those perspective checks, now and then.

So this year's Mother's Day was nice. Zorak taught the boys how to make French toast, then turned them loose to show off their mad skills. I'm really glad we went with the wider stove. It'll come in handy when they tackle omelets and decide they want to flip them using the pan! Breakfast was delicious, there were no serious injuries, and we didn't even miss the opening prayer!

Then we came home and worked on the property, hauling downed limbs, trimming limbs that refused to down on their own (?), and mowing, mowing, mowing. We got a lot done, until the boys remembered we'd picked up steaks on sale. That's when they began to mutiny. It was a small, absolutely adorable mutiny, as those things go, though. We scuttled back inside to suck down lemonade by the gallon and cook up a nice supper. (Jacob helped with the supper, since he didn't get to help with breakfast. That boy can season a steak just perfectly!)

And so, we ate and laughed, and relaxed for the evening. The boys considered ways to build a "Mom Chair" for the dining table - one that's wider than usual to accommodate an extra child in Mom's lap while she eats. I think they finally decided maybe just putting a back on the bench would be the way to go. Jason encouraged their efforts with his primate-like agility and determination. It was nice. You know, like Life.

And I realized, while going through photos for this post, that this is the closest thing I've got to a recent picture of the whole family... So, at least we have a good idea what to shoot for, for Father's Day, right?

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, May 5

More Bird Pictures

(Shhhh. I'm posting these while I know Amy's on the road and not likely to see them. She'd thank me for it, if she knew.) :-)

Here are a few closer shots of the individual breeds. Because... Um, I can't think of anything else to blog right now. So, there you have it.

The Spartanly attired little white one, there, with the yellow head, is the other quail. They call her Smart Balance. I thought for sure she was a goner, after the drive home. She's doubled in size, and finally sprouted feathers. (She was almost completely nekkid for about a week. It was both fascinating and horrifying. I have a feeling that will sum up the overall experience, to be honest.)

This is a Welsummer. It's a Dutch breed, and such a strong, gorgeous bird. I love their plumage. The eggs are a terra cotta color, too, which is cool. These are James' picks.
Here's Navajo, one of the Ameracaunas. Isn't he gorgeous? I think this was the only male Ameracauna we had. Sadly, we've now lost all but two of them to some mystery depredation. This one and another, and, I'm sorry to say they went into sick bay this afternoon.
This one is Pingu. Have you seen the cartoon? Yeah, same basic personality. Cute as a button, but without the random yelling, "Pingu!" every once in a while.
John and Jacob had to be dragged away to baseball games tonight. They wanted to take rounds trying to find a way to help the little birds. James, who has utterly redeemed himself for not being able to narrate from the last chapter he read for Literature by filling me in on all kinds of little details about the sickly birds, is down there, now, coaxing some electrolyte fluids into the wee ones, and trying to get them to eat. It is amazing what he's learned so far!

Kiss those babies!

Project Blogging: Chickens and such

Well, the promised chick pictures. This is the only shot we have of all of them (yep, tucked into the wheelbarrow while we finished up the details on the brooder box), as once they got into the brooder box, they scattered. Can't blame them.

So far, it's been bittersweet. The chicks are adorable and funny and mildly insane (I would give money to know what goes through their heads). The children are learning an extraordinary amount, and they're completely enamored with the chicks.

This one's a quail - the boys named him Java. We're 90% sure it's a male, anyway.
They love the roost Zorak put in, as an after thought. Well, some of them love it. The others stand beneath it and peck at the roosting one's toes. (Again... what goes through their minds?)
The bitter part is that we've lost three, today. That's a total of four, out of 30, and I'm trying hard not to freak out. We've touched base with Chicken People, who've helped us brainstorm ideas, and it seems this may just be part of the Bad Stuff Happens category. One got trampled the first day, when a bug got into the coop and they staged a food riot trying to catch it. But the other three have gone from fine, to "not quite right", to "stone cold dead" in a matter of hours.

There's no sign of mites or lice (hold on while I shudder, ew) or injuries. We keep checking and re-checking the temperature, food, water, space, litter, look for pasty butt... temperature, food, water... bet they're wondering what goes through our minds, too.

See the shavings in the food trough? They *just* put those there. I swear, they watch, snickering under their breath, as we clean out the food and water, wait for us to go wash our hands, and then one of them (I suspect the little black/cream mottled one, pictured below - she's ornery) chirps,
OK, everybody! Start kicking! Get it in there! WooHoo! Wait til you see their faces when they turn around!
They do this. I'm convinced of it.
The upshot is that none of the losses seem to be due to Toddler Depredation, or visits from the Bad Idea Fairy. That's a plus. (Ohhhh, I can't describe what a plus that is!) And, of those that remain, all look healthy, strong, and full of spunk. The boys and I, however, will breathe a sigh of relief when the chicks are a little bigger, a little stronger, and a little less fragile. Is there an animal version of poison ivy? Because, that, we have no problem keeping alive.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, May 4

Terrifyingly Awesome

We took the kids to the Botanical Gardens a week or so back, and I saw this thing. It's a beast of a tree. The thing is, it look gorgeous, delicate, and inviting (from a distance). But then I saw the title plate at the base of the tree.

Dragon? What dragon? Why's it a dragon? Zorak pointed out why it's a dragon. Ohhh....

Did you see it? Yes, lovely little orange erm, shaped, fruits. But beside those, look closely.

Crikey! Now *that's* a protective hedge. I'm thinking we'll plant them below the bedroom windows. Kind of makes the traditional holly bush look a little puny, doesn't it? Yep, then we'd have dragons, in addition to our half-a-moat! It's shaping up to be a regular little castle, around here!

Kiss those babies! (and, uh, keep them out of the dragon beds!)

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Keeping Up

I need a supercomputer video and snapshot system installed in my temples. That way, I might get better pictures than this. But the pictures in my head are lovely, and this was a fun time, up there. What with the feet in my face, and all. Really, it was.

We're waiting for the custard to finish. SO excited. I mean, unbelievably, thoroughly, and wholly excited about having custard in the middle of the day. *happy sigh* The kids are worried that I'm going to call it "lunch", though, and not feed them properly. It's almost as though they think that by acting like they'd hate it, I'll do it, because I never do that, and yet, they always go straight to that conclusion. Bunchaweirdos.

The chickens are doing fantastic! We've only lost one! I have pictures, but they were all taken when the chicks were in a wheelbarrow, and... well, I'd like to get some shots of the actual brooder box, just so nobody freaks out and thinks we're raising that many chicks in, you know, a wheelbarrow. I'll get some shots today. Promise.

Oh! The custard is ready.

Kiss those babies!

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Saturday, May 1

It's Springtime, Y'all!

Why didn't anybody tell my 17-yo self that THERE IS STILL SO MUCH TO LEARN!?! Well, someone probably did. So why didn't I listen? Nevermind. There's still a lot I don't know, but I think I've figure that one out, at least.

So, we're gardening the garden of the Ambitious, this year. Cucumbers, eggplants, tomatoes, okra, okra, and okra. Kentucky pole beans and black turtle beans and sunflowers. Yellow squash, zucchini, watermelons, pumpkins, canteloupes and okra. Cayenne peppers, bell peppers, Blue lake green beans, tomatoes, and some okra. Honestly, we're just hoping to get some okra out of the deal.

And there's baseball. And school. And Scouts. And baseball. (EmBaby *hated* t-ball, so we are down to only two players, now. It feels so manageable!) And more gardening.

We're expanding the tea garden into medicinal plants.

The boys keep asking if I've blogged an update on each of them, yet, "with my pictures in it, Mom". But then they won't hold still long enough for me to get pictures to post. (I'm guessing they may not listen when we tell them how much there is still to learn, either.)

Did you know you have to have register with the State of Alabama to grow ginseng here? Not only to sell it (that's a more expensive license), or to harvest it (though they charge you less if you're collecting someone else's ginseng), but just to GROW it. Something that grows wild, without your help, anyway. Unbelievable.

We've got chicks. Yes, little birds. They're in the basement, with the Basement Frog, for now. This was our impetus to get the coop done. (Ya think?) The kids are ecstatic. I'm trying to find a way to develop a full-body second skin dip that will provide prophylactic support against salmonella, mites, and the willies.

EmBaby had her first major tricycle wreck, which also earned her her first shiner. It looked absolutely horrific for the first four days (she was fine, but we all went around cringing and moaning in empathy), and then this morning, *poof* it's nearly gone. And she's still on the tricycle every chance she gets. May she always be blessed with that kind of healing ability and fortitude. If I were more Irish, maybe I could come up with a catchy way to phrase that.

The figs are growing! Or, rather, one of the figs is growing. The other one seems to be holding very, very still, in the hope that neither Jason nor Sally will ever make contact with it again. We've built cages for all of the balcony plants (the two figs, and the three earth boxes), but I think we may have been too slow on the draw to do that one any good. The other one, though (the one that hasn't been uprooted and thrown off the balcony more than twice), is thriving and putting out vibrant, beautiful green shoots! So exciting!

And, there is baseball.

And gardening.

And the smell of sunshine and dirt on little heads.

It's Springtime in the South, y'all!

Kiss those babies!