Thursday, May 31

A Busy Year

We love that book. Have you read it?

This is shaping up to be a crazy-busy weekend. How does that happen? If I knew, well, I doubt I could do anything about it. But perhaps I wouldn't feel so dazed all the time. Ah, it's all good stuff, though, so it's okay. I'll just smile, nod, offer people food, and hide the melatonin in my room.

The water park is open! We laid low opening weekend, because I'm really not a Large Crowds For The Fun Of It kind of mom. But we did get in one good day before the Bigs head to camp. We went with friends, which is always nice (sweet-faced toddlers and wee babies are such a different experience, all the way around, from headstrong contrarian preschoolers - I think that was my favorite part). We didn't get eaten by mosquitoes, AND we didn't burn! Thank you, Mosquito Coast bug repellent and sunscreen! Please, Lord, don't let that stuff turn out to be carcinogenic. (:weak smile:)

Today, though, no water park. No library run. No fun for today. Today is a work day - basement, chickens, trash and culling, wood putty and paint, mowing and weeding. For this weekend - it's approaching at breakneck speed!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, May 28


The HOT has started. Yesterday was 95 (officially - our thermometers registered higher, but if I'm going to complain, and I am, then I'll at least try to keep it to the official numbers). It wasn't the heat so much as the air - the air was thick, tangible, suffocatingly present. It never moved, other than to wrap itself around us. An in-your-face air, from which there was nowhere to turn for a break. Wow! And it's only May! Thankfully, the water park opened this weekend.

The last two weeks have been great. We got to meet a long-time invisible friend and two of her awesome kids. The visit wasn't nearly long enough (but the beach beckoned, and we can't beat the beach - if we could have pulled it off, we'd have stowed away and gone with them). At the end of the visit, though, we all felt as though we'd gained new Friends. Real ones - the kind you can feed, and who will feed you - the kind you're comfortable stopping in to visit, the kind who will be in your life for years to come. I'm so glad she came!

We've been busy with projects and repairs - coops, trailers, windows, and culling. We got some semblance of a garden in. It's late, as usual. Last year, we let it go and didn't have one. By September, we sure missed the okra and cucumbers. (That's all we seem able to grow successfully.) So this year, we figured it's better to be late than to blow it off entirely. We'll see if we still agree, come August.

The boys are prepped, stoked, and ready for Scout Camp. They had their physicals last week, coming away with admonitions to wear the ankle brace at camp (or it's useless), keep your epi pen ON you (or it's useless), and many other things it's nice to have reinforced from someone who isn't just saying that because she's your Mom.

Jacob bridged up into Webelos. He's looking forward eagerly to Day Camp and Webelos Resident Camp. Today he finishes his course of antibiotics. Three weeks, and he never missed a dose. I'm proud of him. (And us. This was a definite team effort, and even if he or I had forgotten ever, the day was filled with, "Did you take your medicine" reminders from all angles. He felt loved. Probably a little annoyed after three weeks of it, but still, loved.) He took cookies to the doc when the boys went in for their physicals.

We've only lost two chickens from this last batch. One was operator error. There were many tears and reminders that these are unpredictable little critters and that's why we have to be super cautious in how we handle them. One was random - who knows what happened. The difference in a healthy brood is fantastic - they're so flappy and active! It even catches Zorak and I off guard to see them alighting atop the boxes, or doing the Benny Hill races when a fly or a moth gets into the box. (This one, below, Jacob told me, "I call him Jasper Fforde. I don't know why.")
The first batch of chickens (all four of them) are now feathered out and living in the barn coop. They're a bit runty, so James built them a little shetland-sized roost. So far, though, they seem content. It's nice to hear quiet burbling noises coming from the coop while we tend the garden. We've returned the silky chickens we were sitting - the chicken tractor Zorak built works like a charm, and the chickens settled right in for the two weeks that we had them. The kids already miss the daily egg finds!

Mokka is still here - Buddy's buddy - she's a sweet, dainty little thing, and Buddy loves having someone to wrestle with. (Especially since the kids don't seem to appreciate the fine art of dog wrestling with a 70# dog.) I'd have taken a picture from inside the yard, but neither of them cares to pose when they could PLAY (think of the Rottweiler from Over the Hedge), and there's no taking pictures when you're in the yard to PLAY!

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, May 17

The Manic End of the Mundane

Day-to-day life isn't all that thrilling. It is adorned with beautiful moments and endearing touchstones, certainly. The tapestry as a whole is gorgeous. But each individual stitch, or load of wash, can cause even the most avid spectator to wonder what the fuss is about.
Then come the times where every stitch must be made double-time. For the organizationally impaired among us, those are the crazy times. That's when it seems as if the children must be fed every hour on the hour, even though they somehow take two hours to eat a meal. And although everyone is wearing the same clothing this afternoon as they had on this morning, the laundry pile might lead a conspiracy theorist to posit that everyone has changed undergarments at least a dozen times since breakfast.

And the birds with their nest in the diatomaceous earth bag on the porch laid *more* eggs before we could get rid of it. Heck, before we even realized the first batch had fledged. BUSY!

All the weather-contingent projects come due. All the spring activities need planning. Trips, tours, projects, people. Allergies and colds. Dumb choices. Sad consequences. Moving on, and up. When it hits, it hits hard and fast.

Those group leaders? They have a running bet to see who can drive you to cry, drink, or slip away to Fuji first. That's got to be it.

Bills? Again? Already? Are you *sure* we didn't just pay those...

And those chickens?! Well, none of the second batch have died. But now there are 31 chickens in a space designed for 18-20. It's going to get ugly, folks. It's already smelly. I can't lie to you.

Schedule, plan, teach, cajole (that's mostly me that needs cajoling). Clean, time, test, train, withdraw, deposit, pray, pray, pray.

But it's good. The stitches are a little ugly, but the picture that's emerging is nice.






I need an organizer, a wife, and a shock collar. Don't ask - plausible deniability is best. Just slip me a box. I'll be on the porch, with the mojitos.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, May 13

It's Mother's Day

Happy Day to you, if you are a Mother, or have a Mother, or if someone loves you like a Mother.

I got up early to enjoy a cup of coffee in peace and listen to the gentle rain and the chipper morning birds. It's 63* right now, and so pretty! Sometimes it's nice to wake up at my own pace, instead of by hitting the floor running. That I managed to extricate myself from the bed with a pile of children woven around my limbs (there must have been a storm last night - there aren't usually so many of them) without waking anybody up is my Mother's Day Surprise.

We beat back the foliage, tilled the garden (again), and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned on Friday. I was firing on about 3 cylinders yesterday (using a V-8 as a baseline), so I spent a lot of time trying to sleep. The rest of them helped Zorak finish the chicken tractor and headed out to a friend's birthday party. When they got home, they gave the house some sprucing up, since I was out of commission. o_O Now we have that lovely lived-in bachelor pad look going. Again. My Mother's Day wish for the coming year is that EmBaby has some latent tidiness gene, and that I'll have an ally one day when it kicks in. Until then, though, know that the kitchen is safe, the coffee is hot, the kids are friendly, and those aren't my socks under the dining room table.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, May 11

Oh, wow.

There were farmers at the market! We scored collards and onions, berries and jam. The kids were oh, so happy. One of the farmers asked John if he's still cooking, and John told him he's planning on making a French Onion Soup with these onions. The farmer threw in extras. *love* He made it last night - we made ten cups of French Onion Soup, and there wasn't anything left! Em ate three servings. It was so good.

Jacob's new hair is much easier to pick through. He likes it, and said his head feels pounds lighter. He's been very good about remembering his probiotics, which is nice. Unfortunately, he's also having weird reactions to other things. He had a rash the size of a silver dollar pop up on his neck Wednesday, at the site of a sting or bite or something he'd gotten Sunday. I freaked out a little, but a friend reminded me that strong or unusual reactions to things are typical, and to mark the boundaries and watch it. It's shrinking. Just a rash. Kids get rashes. They're fine. Mommies get Irish cream in their coffee at the end of the day. They're fine. It's all good.

The Pack had its planning meeting Tuesday night, and it looks like we'll have a great year ahead. The Troop needs to have a planning meeting sometime soon. The boys went over to help their SPL clean out and organize the trailer yesterday. All the boys worked hard and brought some great ideas to the table. It was an encouraging day.

Today, however, we're being kicked outside to work. It's a day without rain in the forecast, and that means we have to beat back the foliage while we can.

So, to work!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, May 9

You May Be Right

I've got Billy Joel songs stuck in my head. It's been a crazy day. But Good Crazy - anything that conjures up songs from the 80's can't be all bad.

Kids got a lot of school work done. If they did this every day, we could have school three days a week and still be ahead. Then James got to enjoy some Skype time with his buddies. John and Jacob took to the woods (while I stayed inside and tried not to twitch).

We started the Atelier Art program today. It seems good, but I think I may have underestimated the kids' knowledge and abilities. So we modified. This lesson was on lines - specifically, they were asked to draw a turtle and decorate its shell with various line patterns. (This is Level 2, the 5-8yo level - I'd grabbed it for Em, who loves to draw, and Jase, who needs an outlet - but all the kids joined in, because they're cool like that.) So we covered lines, then I turned the kids loose with the guideline that they aren't tied to the turtle, but to draw something and be aware of how they use lines for various features of the art (shading, contour, texture, flow, etc.). When they finished, we put their pieces in the 8x10 frames we'd hung in the hallway last week. The finished product is quite fun, and it's nice to have art in the hall. Plus, they enjoy being able to display their work in a meaningful way. The goal is to have them complete one piece a week for display in the rotating hall gallery.

We slipped out this afternoon to see about getting some nicely fitting t-shirts for Scouts. The 50/50 blend, unisex, chokingly-high crew neck style is not only uncomfortable, but unattractive. As much time as I spend at Scout functions, I'd love to have a shirt I don't hate wearing. Hopefully, we can score some from our regular guy. He's a good printer, and does a beautiful job - plus he's all set up with the approved Troop/Pack graphics. He just needs to narrow down an available style for us. Yay!

Jacob goes to be shorn in the morning. He's bummed about losing his hair after he's upheld his end of the bargain (gotta keep it clean and well-kept if you want it long), but he's on board with his usual sunny attitude. I appreciate that kid more than words can say.

And so, to bed!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, May 7

T is for TICK!

This is when I really, really want to move.

We all take garlic every day. We do regular tick checks in the evening, and impromptu checks throughout the day. We use diatomaceous earth in the immediate vicinity of the house (but not all over the property, so it's probably moot, but even the psychological barrier helps). We Frontline the dog more religiously than we make it to communion. And still, we find ticks. It's just part of living in the South if you ever leave your home. Ever. Especially if your home is in the country.

And this week has been a bugger of a week for ticks. *shudder*

Yesterday, Jacob found one embedded on him. Deer tick. Engorged. His thick, curly, dark gorgeous hair is just the perfect hiding spot, and somehow I'd missed it during Saturday's checks. There's no way that thing hadn't been in there for a while. Gah!

I ran through the factors (length of time, engorgement, that he'd manhandled it out instead of waiting for one of us to use the tweezers, plus his fever, aches, stomach pain, swelling at the site, and a redness forming on his scalp), talked to friends who have experience with Lyme, girded myself with the information we needed (just in case) and called the doc.

I love our physician. I love his staff. I love them all. We are making them cookies. They didn't poo-poo us with the "We don't have Lyme here" routine (We do. It's not epidemic, but we do have confirmed cases in Northern Alabama. But there are still people who will swear we don't have it "here".) They didn't roll their eyes at the crazy lady with the theories. They got him in, checked him out, ran the factors, did the math, and then talked with us. I. Love. Them.

So now Jacob has a 21 day program of antibiotics, and a program of probiotics. And I have a physical weight released from my gut. Not to mention a bazillion dozen cookies to bake for the doctor and his staff. It means the world that they are thoughtful and proactive, that they have taken the time to stay on top of the latest protocols for diseases, that they are so thorough and focused, that get to know us and to listen to us. There's just so much I appreciate about them, from top to bottom.

Unfortunately, if we moved, we'd lose them! Talk about a catch-22!

Kiss those babies!

FUN! (Then, not so much.) Then FUN!

So it turns out boys love airsoft. (Yeah, total newsflash, there.) They had a magnificent time, their only complaint being that it was too short. We hope to reciprocate sometime soon, and host an event, here.

That was Friday... Saturday, we, um... I think I cleaned the house. Watched the chicks. Fed all the people, over and over again. Zorak started teaching the bigs how to weld. Good stuff.

Saturday night, we hit the Von Braun Astronomical Society's open lecture night with the families from our Den. That was a blast. The kids found constellations, identified planets, and got to see Saturn through the 16" telescope at the observatory. We adults visited and tried to keep small ones from tipping over the ledge at the top.

The big kids were... so fantastic. I overheard several of them (mine, and others') being so polite and thoughtful. Had to fight the urge to wrap them in bear hugs and swing them around. I refrained. Not only would that have been potentially awkward, but there was the risk of then actively knocking a small one over the ledge, thus undoing all our efforts of the previous hour. Still, fist bumps and atta-boys flowed heavily.

Sunday brought fevers. And rain. But it was the fevers that kept us home. Low grade, just enough to make folks irritable, but not enough to make them glad for the bedrest. By about noon, I was ready to shout, "Get BETTER, or get WORSE, for the love of sanity, People!" But then I got sick and went to bed. So. Glad I didn't yell. *aherm*

Excited to see what this week holds! We may have three new Scouts join our Troop - all of them neat boys, and we'd love to have them. I'm keeping my fingers crossed on that one. And the never-ending Chicken Tractor should be done this week. Soon. I hope. (Zorak is building it for a friend, as a thank you gift. It's pretty awesome, but it's all new territory, so it's taken a while. And there was a week on the road in the middle of it. Anyway, he's got the cool features working, and I think he's down to the mundane bits, now - roofing and wire. I'll see if I can steal some photos when it's finished.)

Gotta go see if the fevers from yesterday have lifted. We have work to do!

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, May 3

How is it Thursday?

I'm exhausted! We awoke this morning to the dim light and soft murmurings that mean rain. I was ridiculously refreshed by six, so I jumped out of bed, made coffee, and sat on the porch swing, reading and sipping until I got damp and felt chilly. Those days are numbered. I plan to wallow in every delicious one of them.

The wide-awake-rush wore off by ten, though, and I found myself fighting off a coma on the couch. Not sure if it was the adrenaline wearing off, or the general pace of Things, or if I didn't eat enough breakfast. (We had chorizo and eggs with green chiles, colored sweet peppers, and provolone cheese. It was so good. I made a ton. John sliced apples, and we had fresh milk to go with. Still, there was absolutely nothing left. The pantry locusts are getting larger.) Nobody seemed terribly motivated today, though, so we read and talked, read some more, napped. Jase is coming off a short virus. Em's fighting it off. It seemed like a good day to rest.

I went down before the children got up this morning and dealt with the chicks that didn't make it through the night. Five chicks survived the ordeal. They are tough, perky, and on the ball. We're pretty sure we have The Avengers of chickens assembled down there, now. One is obviously a runt (compared to the total badasses that are left), but she's a trooper and has already stolen James' heart, so I'm sure she'll be looked after well. Now we get to enjoy the fun part. They've already begun chasing stray bugs that veer into the box, and two of them have a weird love/poke-in-the-eye relationship going that's a total riot to watch. They're pretty evenly matched, and it's definitely a two-way street between them as they figure out the pecking order. Chickens are like Benny Hill sketches, without the innuendo.

Zorak's been on the road all week. He left Sunday and is due in tonight -- hopefully within the hour. I miss him any time he's gone, but tonight I'm particularly anxious to curl up with him and let him keep the Bogeyman at bay.

Tomorrow, we get to go play airsoft with some boys from our homeschool group! John and Jacob are stoked. Absolutely, thoroughly amped up and ready to GO! James isn't so much interested, but tomorrow is also skate day, and he loves that, so he'll get to have some fun and he's got a stack of projects to take with him to the airsoft gathering. (When did he get that organized? I love it!) I have no clue what this event is going to look like, or whether I got the right gear, or how this works, or... but I am excited for the boys to have a day of fun, and it will be nice to get to know another Mom from the group. (We have a very welcoming group, but everyone is So Very Busy at the functions that if you don't already know people, you aren't likely to get to know them there. It's odd, but that's how it pans out. So, from an Isolated Mom perspective, this is kind of exciting, too.) And I imagine Zorak will appreciate having us out of the house during the day, so he can recover from the 11.5 hour drive in peace.

After the kids wake him up and beg for waffles, that is.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, May 2

Chickens, Redux

After our first experiment with chickens (the trauma of the raccoon massacre, and then Romeo Rooster from next door who wooed the few remaining lovely - yet decidedly PTSD affected - girls away), we took a couple of years to regroup, learn more, prep better, and see if we can make a go of it this time around. We ordered 26 chickens from the hatchery, waited anxiously for the shipping notification, then stalked the post office regularly enough to make local law enforcement a titch nervous.

It took too long. And it's not just that it *felt* like it took too long - it really did. They should have arrived Sunday or Monday. Tuesday was the "at the very latest" date. Come late delivery on Tuesday, there were still no chicks. The hatchery had been wonderful, but what could they do? The chicks left the hatchery on Sunday morning, early. The USPS doesn't always know what's going on within its own system, so there wasn't anything they could do, either. So we waited. And fretted. And called. And waited some more.

This morning, they arrived. The lady who works the lobby at our branch is a dear. The Post Mistress at our branch is also great. They met us at the door, asked the children to wait just inside, and ushered me off to "have a word". (Remember the stalking bit? Yeah, I contemplated running for a split second, there. Kind of tense. And awkward.)

But it wasn't us. It was our poor chicks. They hadn't fared well in transit. At all. The ladies wanted to warn me so I didn't toss the box to the boys and let them open it up like an Easter box from Tim Burton.

We've spent the day nursing traumatized chicks. I was going to say "back to health", but I don't think we've been wildly successful. Four days without food or water is hard on anyone - on a newborn? *pfft* It's amazing that any of them have survived, at all. At the most optimistic point today, I thought we would have eleven left. Tonight, I think we'll be lucky to have saved four, come morning.

It's been a long, hard, draining day. The kids are amazing. James is like having James Herriot in the house. John's a wee Dr. Dolittle. All day long, stopping only for meals, they've been at it. I'm proud of them. I'm sad for them. Sad for the chicks, too. (And yes, the hatchery will square everything on their end. But it's not about renumeration. It's about how darn hard it is to explain to your 8yo that while his songs and gentle caresses won't make it all go away, they are Good, and they are Worth Doing. Because comfort and compassion are arrows that never miss their marks. Keep them in your quiver. Use them generously and well. You'll never regret it, even when it's hard.)

And now, I do believe it's time to slip a little Irish Cream into my coffee.

Kiss those babies!