Sunday, January 30

We Need A (New) Plan

This last week, I was feeling a titch overwhelmed with the idea of having to be on time - anywhere - more than twice a week. We haven't really even mastered that, yet, if truth be told. In a decadent moment (and after a week of alternately pining over the Levenger site, then digging through the DIY Planner pages like a crazed ferret), I slipped quietly into some box office store during our foray into "town". I don't know which one it was. It doesn't matter, though, because I didn't find The Thing, there. (Either the totally awesome movie, or the actual thing I needed.)

Oh, they had some beautiful things. And for only the cost of, say, a NutriMill, I could have been set for the year. However, "something to keep me from forgetting my own name" doesn't rank as high as a NutriMill, even on the most decadent of days. Plus, if I were to spend that much, I'd rather just skimp on meals for a couple weeks longer and go with the Levenger products.

So. I figured I'd make my own. And that's what I've been doing All. Week. Long. Wee! It's not leather. It's not even terribly pretty. BUT, it makes me smile. It's infinitely flexible. And I didn't have to steal from the grocery budget to make it happen.

I went with the ring binder set up for a few reasons:
1 - flexibility (I have no idea what I need this thing to do, but I'm pretty sure I will need/want/just decide randomly to change the layout, inclusions, pages, dodads, and miscellany many times over - I can, with three little clicks. Yay.)
2 - cost (a box of some 20 or so of these rings cost me $2 - I got three for my binder, and the boys have turned the rest into grappling hooks for Lego people - it's a win-win, as they've been too busy to even notice that we have spray adhesive) -
3 - I don't remember the third, but the flexibility of the ring system counts as two points, so we'll call it good.

Initially, the project was deliciously ambitious. Fabric cover, full spine, lovely detail. Reality, while equally delicious, is not nearly so ambitious. This has no spine (which, actually, is not nearly the issue I thought it would be. But I'll update that after this thing lives with us for a month). The front and back covers are cardboard (thank you, Amazon box!) I made a picture collage in Picasa, printed it out, and stuck it to the front with spray adhesive (best. thing. ever. I wish it worked on upholstery this well!), then used the same process to make end papers of sorts on the insides of the covers. (You can see, it is green.) The blue pocket was an afterthought, but I like to think the overall theme of jarringly discordant colors creates its own harmony. We'll see. There's another, larger pouch in the back. That one has a flap that closes, to keep receipts and such in.

The tabs! Aren't those great? There is a PDF for them at the DIY Planner site. It was ridiculously fun, and again with the colors! COLORS! I have tabs for "Calendar", "Church", "Scouting", "School", "Finances", and "Contacts". I also went a little overboard, so I have two blank ones in the back, just in case.

I haven't quite mastered the printing of the calendar pages, yet. As you can see, next Month's page has no Thursdays. They turned up on April's pages, which have two Thursdays and no Tuesdays. February has no Wednesdays. I'm pretty sure that was operator error, but I've shuffled and shuffled and have yet to solve the mystery.

The DIY Planner has templates and pages set in PDF on a 2-Up format that requires no tweaking. But I also used pages from Donna Young's (the month-on-a-page calendar pages, the reading log, and the curriculum planner). For those, I used ClickBook to format everything to print in booklet form. Quick and easy.

(EDITED to add: this is a Classic size planner - if you turn an 8.5x11 piece of paper on it's side and fold it in half, that's the size. I picked it so it will fit in a bag, can be carried easily, isn't bulky, and I didn't have to buy special paper. Just set the printer to landscape layout and go.)
Hindsight perspectives:
* I'd have waited on the hole punching until I could get into town and have it done somewhere in one fell swoop. My three-hole punch is great for the individual pages, but I couldn't get the covers into it. So I borrowed a hand-held punch - jumped the gun, put the holes in the wrong places, and then had to go mangle all the other pages to make them line up.
* I'd still like to add a business card sleeve page, and a clear zippered pouch.
* It also needs a pen loop somewhere, but I'm giving it a few days of use to see where it would fit best.
* A waterproof cover would also be nice - although without any other protection, any serious water contact may hose the whole thing.

At any rate, it's fun. And, if this works well, and I can find a system that does what I need it to do, then one day I may treat myself to a truly luxurious planner. OR, maybe just a laminator and I can update the photos once in a while. The kids liked the photos on the cover. I do, too.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, January 22

Something New

One of the things the kids wanted to do this year is take more family outings. They like the intentional living concept, and they love time together, so a combination of the two makes sense. Zorak heard about a little place not far from here, where we could go skiing and be home for dinner. He loves to ski, but we haven't gone since about a week before we learned of James' pending arrival. In the 13 years since, we've had neither the time nor the energy to pull it off. I'm not saying we have more energy, now, but we've realized this is probably as good as it's likely to ever be again and we'd better run/amble/hobble with it. So, that's what we did!

We took burritos and warmed them on a camp stove - that was awesome. We didn't take hot chocolate - that was not so awesome. The staff at this place is amazing, and the slope is a lot of fun. The weather was gorgeous - calm all day, then turned to snow as we pulled in the driveway at home.

James, once he figured out the math behind it, was fearless and amazing. He did all the jumps and wiped out much. Twice, I fully expected to see blood and have to call the dentist for an emergency surgery. Nope. Turns out the kid's not much of a bleeder.

John muscled his way to competence by sheer will power. He was in heaven, and had a fantastic, wonderful, laid-back time of it. At one point, he just ran out of steam, but he was still 2/3 of the way up the hill. So he laid back on his skis, spread his arms out and rode the hill down that way. Got a burrito and a coke, and hit the slopes again. I may be able to stop worrying about him. (No, I won't. But it's fun to say.)

Jacob fell and fell and fell and fell, and got up smiling every time. (He's either incredibly optimistic, or batsnot crazy. Still unclear. I suspect this kid's glass is not only half-full, but that he's brought other glasses in a variety of sizes so he'll have his bases covered.) He finally mastered the skiing part, and got the hang of the rope tow. Happy, happy, happy child. He was one of the last off the slope at the end of the day.

Emily could not get the hang of the rope tow, but she so enjoyed the skiing that she side-stepped up that hill all. day. long. just so she could ski back down. All. Day. Long. She just took the run of the place. There are pictures where you can see her in the background, skiing back toward the office to get a drink or another burrito, all by her big old self. When did she get so big and self-confident?

Jase was an angry, angry elf. Poor kid. Didn't like his snow boots b/c they were "too slippery". He finally came to terms w/ them, and then we got there and he had to put on ski boots. He stood up and slipped on the concrete floor. "Too slippery!" So what did we do? We put him on skis and set him on an icy surface. Yeah. I can totally see how, from his perspective, the day just went from bad to worse. Thankfully, he'll not have any concrete images upon which to hang his vague, nebulous fears in the future. So we can blame some total stranger, right? (We took his skis off, and he had a wonderful time climbing the snow residue at the edge, and eating Cheetos by the fire inside the office. He's fine. Really.)

Zorak had a blast. He loves to ski. Today, he got to ski with his children. He was so happy.

I... hurt like you would not believe. Dear heaven above, it's like someone woke me from a coma and made me run a marathon. But, it was a magnificent day! I'm so glad we went. :-)
Kiss those babies!

Thursday, January 20

Dhoom, Machale!

Yeah, so. On a Bollywood binge lately. My poor family. It wouldn't be so bad, if I could sing. Or dance. Or speak any of the languages of India. But no. They get me, in all my genetic and cultural limitations. And I subject them to this. There's an entire movie, but this is my favorite part. And no, it has absolutely *nothing* to do with the rest of the movie, as far as I can tell. Didn't matter. After watching Hrithik Roshan dance, I happily watched the entire movie, and enjoyed it.

Seriously. This guy makes the entire cast of Fame look like bumbling oafs from Dr. Frankenstein's School for Dance. If I could get my body to listen to my brain even half as well as Hrithik Roshan does? (A quarter of that dexterity, even. Forget about the actual movements - just to be that limber without owing my chiropractor another chunk of change.)

Oh, the things I could do! And eat. Because that kind of muscle control takes a lot of energy.

More to write, but I have to go help make burritos. I'll explain later.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, January 16

Study Buddy!

I realized a while back that, with as many boys as we have, we were going to have to ante up with Scouts and do more than just arrive and offer to do grunt work. One (or both) of us was going to have to get certified and cleared to serve in some kind of Official Capacity.

I didn't particularly relish the idea. Not that we weren't already active and busy with the organization, but let's face it -- Those pants would be unflattering on Lauren Bacall. And I'm not Lauren Bacall. Plus, there was the training. The study. The seemingly endless mouse-clicking exercises.

And I was right. There are hours upon hours of training to wade through. And that's just the online stuff.

Thankfully, I don't have to do it alone. The kids hear voices coming from the computer and they come running to make sure A) I haven't been sucked into a program, like TRON, and B) they don't miss anything (like getting sucked into a program, like TRON). So, aside from the Youth Protection Guideline Training - which I managed to do before they figured out I was doing Something Interesting, the kids have done the training alongside me. They rock. They know just what to take seriously, and what to mock. They get that a training program for adults doesn't really need cartoon guides from a children's magazine. I quietly had to wonder whether that's really the best way to weed out predators and/or the mentally unstable. But, meh, there ya go.

They (the Scouts) are stuck with us for the next 15 years, no matter how well or poorly I do on these tests. We're a package deal. Love my kids, tolerate me. That's just how it's always gone, and probably always will.

And no matter what challenges or hurdles we'll surmount in the future, I know we'll rock it, becuase we've got Studdy Buddies. And they bring snacks.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, January 13

Keeping Warm

Winter Wonderland, Day 4. I think the kids are just about done "enjoying" the cold, snow, and ice. Well, it's mostly ice, now. And very, very cold. (For here.) As of one in the afternoon, two had *just* gone out to play. One went back to bed (he's not been feeling 100%), one hunkered in with the Gears, and one begged for a long, hot bath. I could do with a little of that, myself. All of it.

It's been fantastic, though! EmBaby, who has been heartily resistant to ski lessons, slid down one of the sledding hills on her feet, declared it a "total blast", and then embraced the whole ski-thing when we explained that that's pretty much what skiing is, but with longer shoes and no tread to get in the way. If only all obstacles were so easily overcome, eh?

We have a hint of a fort in the upper meadow. James and a friend started it, and spent hours building bricks, stacking them, and chinking the cracks. Wow. I don't think the fort is going to get much beyond the foundation levels, though. It's too icy now to pack well, and they get frustrated. But it was fun. I think we need to go spend Christmas at Yellowstone some year. The kids can stay in the igloo they build, and Zorak and I could pretend it was a "romantic getaway", there in the lodge. (Yeah, I know. But it's fun to pretend.)

We're down to the newest wood we gathered this year. It's too wet to burn well. Or something. Could be me. Probably is me. I'm not good with fire, really. But until Zorak gets home and proves me wrong by getting the fire stoked and hot, I am going to insist the dropping inside temp and the copious smoke are all due to damp wood.

Well, that, and I keep getting distracted, playing with my new "toy". See that vintage, enamel-y joy? Mmm, yes. Pictures soon.
Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, January 11

Oh, did we get a treat!

We got snow. And not just our regular 1/4" at a time...
We had enough to sled...
To build snow forts...
To sled some more...
To have snowball fights...
And to stump a toddler!

It was beautiful! We had about 8", here at the house. Beautiful, fluffy, cold, thick snow. We've been at it for two days. Tomorrow, it'll be mostly ice. We'll probably play in that, too.

Happy New Year!
Kiss those babies!

Saturday, January 8

Yeah, it's that cold.

We don't have any cool striped ones with matching jammies, but folks, it's getting down to *5* degrees tonight, so the boys decided maybe sleeping in a stocking cap isn't such a bad idea.

(If they knew who Patrick Dempsey is, I might have mentioned that he did it on screen, but I haven't seen this movie, so I don't know if that would have helped.) Instead I had to make up numbers about heat loss through the head. I know it gets out, and I know it's a significant percentage, but I couldn't remember the exact rate. So I did what any good mother does when she's right, but just doesn't have the documentation on her - I punted. Now they can live long enough, and comfortably enough, to forgive me later.

This will be the first hard freeze since we re-wrapped the water line, last year. It's already been colder than the freeze that broke the line. (Yay us!) Fingers crossed and body parts puckered that it holds tonight. Fixing a busted pipe across a stream in sub-freezing weather is the kind of project one can do *once*, check it off the Bucket List (if one were to gundeck the Bucket List with things she's already done - granted, it makes for a weird list, but it can be quite impressive, since everything on there is checked off! See?) and be quite content to NEVER DO AGAIN.

We've actually managed to replace most of the weatherstripping around the doors, and rehabbed the two storm doors that are on the place, so that's handy. Never did finish rehabbing the storm windows. So, for the rest of it, it's all blankets, all the way. Someday, I'll put insulated window coverings on the Bucket List. Right now, though, there are other things to aim for. Besides, we have blankets aplenty! And wood. And stocking caps. So yeah, we're set.

Kiss those babies!

We Do Love Our Food

If I could say one really terrific thing about 2010, it's that we made some great food. (Evidenced by the fact that not a one of the children will remain in the same size clothing for more than a week or two, and it's all up-up-up!) We've made some changes in the kitchen for 2011 that will make it infinitely easier to work together on our kitchen fun. I'm looking forward to it.

Tamales - this is Zorak's Christmastime tradition. He loves doing it, and the water bath canner works perfectly for larger batches (plus, this saves it from the shame of being a unitasker, per Alton Brown).

We left some for Santa. He was very good to us, in exchange. I erm, I mean "he" was especially tickled over the fresh pico de gallo.

We found a new pecan pie recipe! I know, I know, this comes very close to announcing, "We have reinvented the WHEEL!" But it's true. This recipe is very different from traditional pecan pie, but it's oh, so very good. OH so good. It's the recipe on the back of the 40 oz. ALAGA Original Corn Syrup. I can't explain it. You'll just have to come over and we'll make you one.

And, of course, there was the annual decorating of the cookies. There were an awful lot of zombies, skeletons, and ghosts. I suppose the Halloween folk like to get their Christmas colors on, too. Amy has assured me this is normal in a house full of boys. And none of her boys have been banned from the bakery, or singled out for profiling. So I just decided a few years ago not to worry about it. And EmBaby? Well, her brothers were so proud - all of her monsters had bows and pretty dresses.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, January 6

Game Changer!

I'd promised the boys we would go see Harry Potter 7 (um, 7a, I guess) at the IMAX theater. We'd planned to go opening night, but we had the plague. Then we continued to play some hideous version of hot virus potato well into December. So. Fine. We hunkered down to wait for the opportune moment.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows wallpaper

I penciled in The Opportune Moment for tomorrow (Friday). However, today (NOT Friday), at four o'clock, was the last showing at IMAX. ARGH. Thursdays are notoriously busy in the afternoon. There was no way I could pull this off with zero notice.

The boys, while disappointed, were shockingly cool about that. So that made it that much sweeter when all the stars fell into alignment, creating that cool rainbow-like effect from the "The More You Know" PSA's. But with some other background music. I'm a little fuzzy on the details.

We printed off our tickets, finished up our school work, picked up the living area, and did a quick de-hillbillifying of the front porch (I do not know how it gets that bad, I swear). I left a list with Zorak of Stuff We Tend To On Thursdays, and presto-changeO, (How do you write that, anyway?) we were on our way!

Now, we don't go to the movies much. It would cost about the same to take the whole family to one movie as it would if Zorak and I were to take a romantic weekend getaway. Which, incidentally, we also don't do, so why would we go to the movies often, right? Right. So, much like I imagine a weekend getaway would be (and yet, in a completely different way), we find "going to a movie" pretty darned exciting. And this wasn't just any theater, this was an IMAX. We hadn't been to one before.

OK, first thing, if you have ANY balance issues, AT ALL, get there early, go way to the top, and then bribe people to go get your refills for you. The curvy stairwells will eat you alive, otherwise. You'll also look like a total dork if you try to duck when Voldemort flies at you from somewhere in your peripheral vision. Don't worry about him, just look out for those stairs!

I don't know what the boys' favorite parts were. They said, vaguely, that the whole thing was pretty great. And, as we may not have been the last three people in North America to see this thing, or read the book, I don't want to give anything away. So I'll just say this: I loved watching it with James and John. They are a *blast* to watch movies with, and I hope they'll still take me with them when they are older and don't need me for transportation or snack money.

Also, we should just buy two tubs of popcorn at the outset and not worry about the snack bar closing down before we go back for the second tub.

And, I have the coolest husband on the face of the planet, who really pulled it out of thin air to make this happen for the boys, in spite of his deep desire to not hear a thing about the movie (that was actually a condition for facilitating our escape to the theater). He gets a cape and a sparkly crown, and we won't even make him actually put them on. We'll just frame them and put them on the wall, so that all who enter here may know that we love him enough not to make him wear the cape.

Kiss those babies and superheroes!

Wednesday, January 5

Looking Ahead

Man, oh man, what a year behind us, and what a year ahead of us! Jase has grown so very much. He's bigger now than Smidge was when we first moved here. That just doesn't seem possible, but considering EmBaby's coming up on five, and she wasn't even a dirty thought yet when we got here, I guess that makes sense.

He's really changed so much this year - got in his two-year molars (that was fun - you'd think, by the fifth child, we would automatically suspect that, but no, I spent a week wondering if he'd been bitten by something that was making him miserable and weepy), he ditched the diapers and the toddler bed. All that was left was a haircut, and we'd be waving goodbye to the last of the Truly Baby Years.
We hated to do it. He's got curls in the back, and he can pull off a carefree surfer dude thing without any real effort. Unfortunately, his hair is baby fine and he has enough for four toddlers. Add in how much time we spend outside, either on the trail or wrestling the dog, and you have the perfect recipe for having that one child who looks homeless more often than he looks cherubic and clean, and... well, we had to do it.
He did beautifully - had a blast, no trauma, and he got a great cut. It helped that Michelle, the lady who cut his hair, was a sweet, patient, funny lady who didn't mind that he has his own entourage/vaudeville act that follows him around. Honestly, sometimes I wish we'd had a pack of children living with us already when we had James. Siblings just make every outing an adventure, and every new milestone something fun and interesting. Jase has it good.

I have no clue what this year has in store for him, but I know it'll include adventure. Probably scraped knees and a few tears, but hopefully they will pale in comparison to the wonder of new things and places, the joy of people and laughter. I'm glad we get to enjoy it, and him. We are so very, very blessed.
Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, January 4

A New Year, A New Focus

WHOA! It's a new year, already?!?

2010 simply got away from me. It wasn't a bad year, but it wasn't a stellar year, either. Zorak noticed it, too. We couldn't figure out why, though, until a friend posted her reading list for the year. Then it hit me, like all obvious things do when you've been narrowly missing the point for quite some time: we lost our focus.

We did very few projects. We made little headway on the Forever Home improvements. We still made forward progress in school, but our actual engaged enthusiasm was... lackluster, at best. We didn't travel much, or explore, even around town. We didn't have Sunday Suppers, and had company over very seldom.

Well, no WONDER the year got away from us. We didn't grab it with both hands, but instead wandered about. Like Mr. Magoo.

Don't misunderstand me. It was a good year in that we are together, and are relatively healthy. We learned and laughed and loved and lived. So, in that respect, it was a Fantastic year, and not wasted, at all. It just made for white space when I'd sit down to blog. We also had to find a new stride in a few areas, and much like making sausage, that's not always something you want to have to relive. (Editor's note: everyone survived, knows they're loved, and found their respective strides - it's all good.)

But this is a new year. I don't have a problem with New Year's Resolutions, and don't have any problem saying "I've gotta do some things differently!"

The first thing? Blogging. And this week, we'll start by planning out the year and finding our focus for 2011.

Kiss those babies!