Wednesday, June 27

The Push Continues

We're still pushing hard to get our affairs in order. The house-cleaning project will probably continue for another couple of months, as we freshen paint and finish the details on projects that stagnated once they hit "functional". (Our Family Motto seems to be: It Doesn't Have to Be Pretty to Be Functional ~or, more accurately, If It's Functional, That's As Good As It's Gonna Get. I need to see about getting that changed before we get to the point of ordering engraved items.)

After James' last physical, his doctor had suggested some strength training to help combat the growing pains he's experiencing. So he and I have been working out regularly, using You Are Your Own Gym. He is an absolutely hilarious workout partner, with a very positive attitude and a willingness to slog through new things with flair. Although I can't say this is "fun", it's getting done. And we laugh. A lot. Mostly at me. But it's good stuff.

This is our last week of break before heading into the next term of the year. We didn't intend to take off all of June (instead of just the first two weeks, for camps), but the weather was too beautiful to spend indoors. It's... not, now. And I have a suspicion that we'll more than make up for it when the heat that's now moved in stays through September, so it's all good. We need something to do in the afternoons other than watching Eureka, right?

The kids were invited to VBS with some friends this week. Jacob was reluctant to go, but agreed to an extension of our "One Honest Bite" approach to life (that started with food, but anything that applies to food can be applied to any element of life, so it gets wide use around here). EmBaby got wind that there would be crafts, and she was IN. Oh, yeah! Jase wanted to want to go, but he wasn't so sure. It was loud. And... well, loud. (We don't go to a loud church, and this was all very new to him.) He said it was scary, so I told him he didn't have to stay and we headed out. The ladies at registration were gracious and kind, and utterly accomodating, but you know, he's four. There's not a single thing he would get from a few hours at VBS that he won't pick up elsewhere in his life over the next umpteen years. (And if there is, then we're doing something wrong. Which we may be, but not with this.) We got back to pick up Jacob and Em a bit early, so we sat in the back to listen to the closing announcements and songs. That's when I realized he was not convinced this was a Good Place To Be, and that he viewed the whole retrieval less as a routine pick up, and more as a SpecOps extraction. We navigated the fine line of Awkward Situations for a bit (thankfully, it was loud, so I don't think anybody overheard our exchange), and escaped without causing a scene.

(Jacob and Em both had a blast, and were thrilled to learn they could go back each evening this week. After hearing that, Jase decided he'd give it One Honest Bite, too, and he stayed tonight, tentative and anxious, holding Em's hand. He says he loved it. Zorak said he was dancing and singing when Z arrived to pick them up. I'm proud of him for giving it a shot, but was also proud of him for knowing it's safe to say, "no, thank you", as well.)

Now, to reconfigure the menu for being in and out all week! :-s

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, June 24

Whoa! Where'd the week go?

John turned twelve this week. (He lobbied to be promoted to 15, as he swears he's been 11 for three years and we need to set the balance right.)

Thanks to the envelope system, there was enough cash in the gift envelope to take him to the drive-in to see The Avengers. Do you remember going to the drive-in when you were a child? Yeah, it's still awesome. Of course, as an adult with children in town, it is also a little aggravating. (The Bigs totally "got" it, and they were fantastic. My plan to set the littles up with their own cushy paradise inside the Suburban, where they could play quietly? That didn't pan out. So, even having braced myself to be okay with a certain level of aggravation, the littles far surpassed that. Crazy little overachievers. :eyeroll:) Friends came with us, which was doubly cool. (And you know they're loved, because the children spent half the time in their car, as well!)

We'll pop it in the queue with Netflix and watch it again when it comes out. I don't think Zorak or I have laughed so hard, or enjoyed a movie quite so much in a long time. (Even when you factor in the littles.) I do think we'll try the drive-in again, though, after making some adjustments (or finding a sitter) for the littles. The Bigs really got into it, and they were a riot.

The last of the chicks are now in the barn! Hallelujah! They all seem happy there, and I know I'm downright giddy with reclaiming the space.

After an embarrassingly long time, I've finally painted the two bedroom doors that never got painted. Most of the delay has been that the basement is always in use as something far too messy for painting to occur concurrently. So this week, while it was empty and relatively clean, I went to work. It's impressive how nice a freshly painted door looks (especially when one's standards have been lowered, by notches, to a shocking degree).

We are down to one toy shelf, *and* there's an empty bookshelf on the front porch, slated for life with someone else. It's a pretty crappy bookshelf, and we've used it well beyond its appointed time. But it still stays upright, the shelves aren't too saggy, and so it's functional. I can't bring myself to toss something functional. Not sure how to get it to the donation site, though. (DAV will come pick up, but we'd need to have a pile to justify asking them to bring the truck out and use more in gas than they'd have spent just buying a new shelf.)

The okra is doing beautifully with our system of gardening by benign neglect.

We did get James' desk and computer into his room, and he's standing ten feet tall right now. Possibly even bulletproof.

So. That's where the week went. Makes perfect sense.
Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, June 20

The Cleaning End of Limbo

Monday and Tuesday, we got ruthless with the Stuff around here. I feel like a Big Ol' Meanie even saying that, because we don't have a lot of Stuff, relatively speaking. (OK, the Legos are getting out of hand. But four of the kids use them, often playing together, and it was my own fault for letting them into the house in the first place. They start out so innocuously, with those little $4.99 packets that come with one or two figurines and a couple of extra parts. There's no warning label on the packet that tells you you've just released the plastic equivalent of the Plague on your home.) But for the most part, it's not been bad. We have two toy shelves, which hold a total of nine medium Sterlite tubs, and 12 small ones. Each bin holds a specific item (hand puppets, magnetics, tanagrams, plastic cowboys/indians/army men, wooden blocks, etc.), and each child has one of the small ones for his/her own special things (sketches, pen innards, rocks - you know, Precious Things that I might mistakenly toss because I don't know better). Still, the Stuff had grown unwieldy.

So Monday, thinking to start easy, I began with the master bedroom. *snort* We did clear out a lot - mostly from under the bed, which held enough random stuff to make me wonder if everyone I live with is using it as a Room of Requirement. Then the drawers. Then the nooks and crannies, where things fall, gather dust, and become terrain for spiders. I thought I'd get rid of most of my yarn, as it's mostly cheap yarn and doesn't crochet up into anything comfortable, but Jacob gasped and said, "Mom! That's an almost endless supply of STRING!" He may have inherited The Gene... Anyway, I'm not done in there, but I gave up. The yarn is in the craft closet.

Tuesday, we tackled the toy shelves and a bookcase. All the VHS tapes? Gone. That freed up three shelves' of space. (I have no idea where we'll sit today, though, as they're all in the car to be dropped in town.) Then, on to the toys - things we've been promising we'll use "now that we know where they are" -- for the past three cullings -- are off to find a new home. Even now, nearly 14 years into this gig, there's a deviation between how I envision our family and our days should look, and how they really look. I needed to let go of the dream and embrace the weird. It's all good. Plus, we culled and cleaned the things that there is no one left to play with, now. No babies, no toddlers. Even Jase prefers the smaller Legos to the 1" Duplos.

So, in the end, we culled quite a bit. Enough that if we find a new place for the boys to keep their Special Buckets, we can now remove one of the toy shelves from a bedroom! That'll be a whole extra six square feet of living space we'll gain! (Which is roughly equivalent to enough space for all of us to stand side-by-side and stare at the wall. I know this. Still, it makes me giddy.)  Next, I hope to square things away well enough to remove the large book case from James' room and replace it with his desk. That's all kinds of exciting, when you don't get out much.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, June 18

Hot 'n Sticky Holiday

Zorak worked on the project with his co-worker most of the day, Saturday. I don't think they got it finished, as he needs a torch. I wish I'd known that before Father's Day. Someday, we will manage to figure out what he needs and get it for him before he runs down to Home Depot or the Welding Shop and buys it for himself. Not that he minds. Gifts don't say I love you to him - time, thoughtfulness, naps, kind words, affection - those things wrap him in a big hug and whisper, "You mean so much to us." And humor - a family that laughs together is happy and solid. We're fortunate, and we've got it good.

Father's Day was spent working in the garden. Sort of. I like to think we'd be better at it if our lives depended on it. I may be wrong, though. It's pretty miserable down there in the afternoons, and we haven't disciplined ourselves enough to get down there and get it over with in the cool of the mornings. (Of course, there will be no cool, ever, in another two weeks, so maybe it's just a pre-emptive adjustment on our part?) Thankfully, okra will grow with pretty much no input from anyone.

We graduated a couple more chicks from the basement to the barn. I cannot tell you how glad I will be when I no longer have livestock living in my home.

The kids and I made lunch for Zorak (shredded BBQ brisket sandwiches, tomato/cuke/sweet pepper salad, green salad, pintos, and cheesecake). We enjoyed lunch and then laid down -- and stopped moving. Z got a Father's Day nap. (Best Gift, Ever!) The rest of us watched MacGuyver and lolled about, with our limbs dangling off the ends of the furniture.

If I haven't done so already, I need to go on record now as saying I am SO wholly on board with the implementation of siestas in the South. Nobody wants to work during the hottest part of the day, and in the summer it's light late enough that you can get more done after a refreshing nap, anyway. When you add in the humidity and the lunch... Oy! Siesta is the only thing that makes any sense. But it's never caught on here in the South, for whatever reason. A shame, really - it's a lovely way to get through the hot'n'sticky part of the day.

This week? This week we don't have to be up at 5:45, so we're not going to be. That's about as far as we've made it on the planning end. And we're okay with that. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, June 16

Things Are Changing!

Mostly, my email spam. I used to get offers for Sexy Asian Singles and lots of Viagra. Today, I got my first "hip implant recall" solicitation. *sniff* I feel so grown up.

A co-worker of Zorak's is coming down today so Z can do some welding for him. He'll probably bring his wife, and that's always a treat. She's one of those beautiful, deeply rooted ladies who are kind and gracious. She doesn't mind the chaos of the house, as it reminds her of her years raising their children. (I'm still going to clean up, here in a bit, though. No sense in triggering any Maternal PTSD that may be lurking. We all have it. We should try to be aware.)

The kids are sleeping in this morning, except for John, who bounded out of bed at seven, made his bed, let out the chickens, fed and watered everything that needs us to feed or water it... without me having to ask. That makes me so ridiculously happy! So I let him play some video games while his siblings sleep. (I like to think of it as positive reinforcement.) Of course, Em awoke not long after he started and stumbled sleepily over to me to inquire why, exactly, John gets video games. I could see in her eyes there was a "not fair" skulking about back there. When I explained what he'd done, and how it was on his own motivation, and I felt that merited game time, she was pensive for a moment. Then she perked up, said, "Oh. OK!" She grabbed an apple and plunked down on the couch to watch him. I guess she weighed the options and decided a little game time wasn't worth getting dressed and started on chores just yet. Fair enough.

In other news, a cousin and his family were able to return to their home in New Mexico today. So many homes have been destroyed in the Little Bear fire. Theirs survived, and so they are home. Now the community begins the process of mourning, healing, and rebuilding. As far as I know, all of the family is safe. Over in Ruidoso, the folks at Ski Apache used some ingenuity and turned the snow makers on to help keep the fire at bay by spraying the area with Hail Mary shots. Meanwhile, there are floods in the southern part of our state. I find myself nudging the boys to consider some kind of engineering study that would allow them to devise a feasible means of diverting water from one place to another, cross country - eliminate damaging floods, and quell the raging fires, all in one awesome project.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, June 14

Project Gear-Up

I have to confess, that title sounds more enthusiastic than I feel about it.

Tomorrow, we'll have the Volvo (for emergencies only - it doesn't have air, and tomorrow's going to be Southern Summer Hot). Zorak will take the Suburban and the trailer. He'll return with a load of sand, dump it in the lower drive, and then I'll try to keep smaller children from infesting the pile while he sets up the batting boards and directs the larger children on prepping for a cement pour. I really don't like doing the batting boards, but I'm not terribly vested in keeping the children out of the sand pile, either. (It's all going to end up in the house, anyway, why not have fun with it?) So this may not be our most stellar plan. But it's what we've got, and we'll run with it. At some unspecified point in the fairly near-ish future, we will have stairs for the balcony. The fun part is seeing how, and when, we get there.

Also, he texted me yesterday to say that Lowe's has all the window sizes we need *in stock*. I kind of thought he was flirting with me and would come home with more windows. But no. He came home with the sand plan. We need to flirt more, because we've obviously gotten bad at it.

The kids and I were late to camp this morning. I felt awful. We've done so well recently. (I've been working on timeliness for 20 years, with various setbacks every time we added a child to the entourage, so a full week on time is pretty big news around here.) But James - who'd sprouted a bloody nose out of *nowhere* two blocks from home - said, "It'th okay, Bob. Wud dime out of de week ithnt bath." Sweet boy. Currently my favorite, if he'd just clot up, already. (When I pulled away from the drop-off lane, he was on his way to the medic station for ice and some kind of whatever helpful something or other we didn't have in the car. Had that been me, I'd have been all about copping out and staying home for the day. But he was determined it would stop any minute now and he'd be fine.. I'm glad he didn't get my work ethic. Good kid.)

And now, I suppose I should get cracking on the various glamorous aspects of the day before it does get hot and we punt for a few episodes of My Little Pony in the afternoon heat. (Because we all know I'm going to say yes. The kids know it, and I know it. What little work gets done before then is probably all that gets done today. I've got to save up my strategic moves for the sand pile!)

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, June 12

Almost Halfway Done

Wow, June is shaping up to be the longest month of the year so far. It's crazy, but I think I've been awake and productive more hours so far this month than I was all of January.

I kind of miss January...

Today, we were productive and engaged. (Also, it wasn't terribly hot. That helps.) EmBaby and Jase helped me clean out the craft closet. They were amazed and awed by all the wonderful things we have! I was floored at how junked up one closet can get in a year's time. It's safe to say that, overall, it was a morning of wonder. We got it squared away and took our happy selves out to the balcony with some materials to enjoy the weather, and the goodies, and the knowledge that -- at least in one tiny corner of the house -- all was in order.

Then, it was so nice out that we stayed there for lunch, and for a story after lunch, and before we knew it, it was time to pick up the boys! Ha! That was a fun and easy day.

Em's enjoying The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I get such a kick out of her expressions (she wears her heart right there on her sleeve, so everything is up front and obvious), her giggles and gasps. She is at such a magical age for a romping good story.

Jase is... well, he's four. I have no idea if he's enjoying it or just toying with me in the way four-year-olds have an instinctive genius for doing. He enjoys the heck out of the *idea* of it. He brings me the book several times a day and requests a chapter. He's processing all the things (mainly the Herdmans - I don't think he can quite wrap his mind around anyone like them, and it's a troubling idea to him, to think there are people that ornery in the world.) But when it comes time to read, he can think of a million things to say, a thousand things to do (half of them are very loud), and a hundred different positions to try (most of which involve feet in, on, or near someone's face). So... I'm glad he's... listening? It's very tempting to wait until he falls asleep before I try to read, but then he asks a question or makes a comment, or kisses my cheek and whispers, "I'm glad you're not mean like the Herdmans." And all I can do is kiss him back and be thankful I didn't wait for him to fall asleep.

Kiss those babies!

Day Camp, Day Two

Day One went fairly well. Had the usual struggles that I run into when dealing with the Type A Scout Lady (and she had the usual struggles that she runs into when dealing with me - we complete each other. *snort*) But we were not Late, which is virtually ground-shifting.

James and John both said they were pleasantly surprised. I guess they thought it would be a little rough (or weird), but they had a good time working with the younger kids. Jacob, of course, thought it was TheBestCampEver. (Every camp should be, right?) That almost makes having to shift gears and pack lunches worth while.

(On a side note - packing lunches? Whole different ball game. I thought I'd be creative and fun, so I started out looking for lunchbox ideas, but the sites I found all seem to have been written by well-rested parents with one tiny child who doesn't eat much. That's not the lunch I was looking for. The pictures were adorable, though! I guess there's a reason nobody blogs pictures of the lunches you have to pack for adolescent pantry locusts.)

We're picking up a friend's son this afternoon, so they offered to pick up ours on the way in this morning. We have truly fantastic friends. :-) And it would have been perfect, had this not been Trash Day, and had we not snuggled in a little deeper and slept until 6:20. Ugh. Just as I started to call, "Come and eat," I had to change that to, "Oh, look, he's here. Um... :tosses bacon into a bowl: Here, this is for you three to share. Pretend this is normal, okay?"

So they are at camp. The Littlest Littles are still blissfully asleep. There are so many chores left to do this morning. We just can't get moving that quickly, that early. (But first, coffee!)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, June 10

It's Not The Rubicon

But we're headed in a good direction, overall. We have the Bigs home. The house is once again noisy and messy. It's wonderful.

They are both smack in the middle of a transitional phase, though, and I've got to say, it's a weird one. They're big, funny mancubs right now. Sometimes more man, sometimes more cub. For example, they came home, brought in their trunks, got a load of camp clothes going (even managed to get the washing machine to start on the first try!), showered and got in a round of music practice -- all without nudging from the Parental end.

And yet, they both lost their water bottles, forgot to get a few merit badge accomplishments signed off, and one lost his wallet and his pouch with his epi pen in it. Neither of them has any clue how any of that happened. Yep. Same kids who hit the ground running. It's weird, but I get it. It's a challenge to grow up. Just when you get the hang of one thing, Life throws a new package of things to master your way. There's really very little time to sit back and just wallow in your achievements (at least, until you get old enough to insist on sitting back now and then).

So we sat back and enjoyed their accomplishments. One boy has rappelled, and taken part in a rescue search. How cool. One boy has used a forge, and made tools. How fantastic. Then they wrestled with their siblings, and helped in the kitchen. They told stories on each other, and on themselves. They switched out their wash and watched Doctor Who for a bit.

They didn't want to get up this morning, but they did it on their own. They don't particularly want to be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow, either, but they're going to. And then they'll spend the bulk of the day (actually, all week) volunteering at the District Cub Scout Day Camp. That was their own call - they got the training and paperwork squared away. I paid for the shirts, and offered up transportation - that's it. The rest is on them, and they're doing it.

So, yeah. Sit back, wallow in it for a while. There is time to learn to keep track of things and to remember to get paperwork signed off. But there's a lot to be said about tapping your internal motivation and doing Good Things on your own. Even if it means getting up way too early to do them. And there is more wonder and joy in seeing them master the every day things - tending to their relationships, managing their time, working together, encouraging one another - than I could ever put in words. That's where they are right now, these mancubs. There will be another packet of things to master winging their way in no time at all. Today, we sat back and took in the breadth of the things they have learned so well. This is the stuff that will help them make the right choices when they do come to the big crossings, and I'm okay with that.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, June 8

Technology and Labor

Our little Shack in the Woods was built in 1971. It still has the original windows, and a conglomeration of storm windows have been added at various points over the years. We started rehabbing the storm windows a few years ago, reglazing and repairing the main windows as we went. I think we got four windows done before a general malaise took over and all progress ground to a blistered, defeated halt. Since then, we've priced windows every Spring and Fall, constantly hoping that we'll be able to have someone else install new windows. But, no. Not gonna happen. If we have a spare 5 Grand lying about all-at-once, well, James needs braces, we need a new mattress, and the washing machine works about 60% of the time, with about half of the loads that do, actually, get run needing to be re-washed anyway because of some random issue that we can't agree on in order to fix. So, we wistfully price out the windows and then talk ourselves out of it for now.

A month ago, Zorak made a test run with windows by installing a new window in the master bath. Wow. OK, that was easy. It was so much easier than re-glazing and refurbishing storm windows -- and the end result is significantly better, as well. WOO-HOO!

Today, we pulled the old window and storm window from our bedroom and installed a new, beautiful, efficient window in its place. It took all of a couple of hours, which included a phone call with a friend, and lunch. We took before and after pictures, and are so excited about getting this done.

Tonight, Jase proudly showed me that he knows how to work the camera. "I took all the pictures off, Mommy! Now we can make videos and take new pictures!" So proud of himself. I couldn't be mad (five children ago, I'd have probably over-reacted terribly - they've been so good for me).

But you'll have to take my word that the window looks great. :-)

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, June 7


Last night, we trekked up to the Scout Camp for Family Night. Basically, it's just a chance to take forgotten items up to the Troop, make sure the Bad Idea Fairy didn't stow away in the footlockers, and see for your own self that your child hasn't spontaneously ignited or started dropping appendages in the woods. But it's fun. And it keeps the Littles from imploding by dividing the week into manageable segments. (It dawned on me last night - er, more accurately, Jacob pointed out - that in two years, all three of the bigger boys will be going to the same camp. I might have hyperventilated a little on the inside, at that.)

John showed us his metal working projects - wrought iron dutch oven lid lifters, and a lantern hanger (which, he pointed out, can double as a back scratcher!) There is some serious joy for that child in working with his hands. He *gets* that materials have ways, and he loves ferreting those ways out, finding the right path to follow to coax a piece of iron, or wood, into the shape he needs to emerge from it.  He was a bit disappointed that they won't let the boys make swords (thank you, BSA guidelines! Good call), but perked right up at the thought that we could build a forge on the property. Turned out that he didn't get into the woodworking course, but he's enjoying Space Exploration and they're launching rockets today that they've been working on this week.

James - He Who Prefers To Stay Indoors If At All Possible - has a full week of Camping, Wilderness Survival, Emergency Preparedness, and Climbing. And he's having a ball. His favorite program this week is the climbing course. He said both the hardest part, and his favorite part (Wha--???) is leaning out over the edge for rappelling. Even with a broken thumb. (More internal hyperventilation. If they ever discover that Mom's "wow, that's fascinating!" face is actually her, "oh, dear heaven, please stop telling me this!" face, it's all over. I'll have to find a new way to cope.) To finish his Camping Merit Badge, we'll have to get out and go camping several times. I'm ridiculously excited about that, as I love camping, but it's easy to punt it to the back of the queue with everything else that needs doing. Now, we'll have an excuse!

EmBaby ran in the woods (oh, the poison oak!) with the boys playing capture the flag, then sat by the campfire soaking up all the Happy. She wants to camp with the boys. And stay there. She offered to sleep between the cots and pointed out hopefully that they could each share a little mosquito netting... come to think of it, she may be more excited about the upcoming camping trips than I am!

The Littles fell prey to the Sandman one at a time as we made our way back down the mountain. Zorak looked over at me and said, "I'm not going to handle the empty nest well, at all. Just a heads up." I nodded, understanding. And yet, they're all such neat people. It's hard to be sad about seeing wee babes grow into amazing youth when I think about the panoramic view that lies ahead for them. I will probably be a teary, snotty mess as they leave, but right now, I'm just so proud of them, and enjoy the people they are. I'm glad to have them in my life, and excited to see where life will take them. There will be great joy in being along for that journey, too, however it may look. But I'm keeping tissues in the pantry, just the same.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, June 6

Scheduling Mishap

I'd hoped to send a care package yesterday to the boys at camp. (I'm not GOOD at it, like a friend of mine is - hers are themed and full of awesomeness. Mine are invariably thrown together at the last minute, and vaguely reflective of the fact that their mother can't quite get it together. Still, I like to think they don't mind so much... I do pull up shy of sending socks and underwear, at least. Although I did include waterproof bandages for James' broken thumb.)

However, with the whomping total six hours of sleep the Littles obtained from Thursday through Sunday, we were bound to have a halt on the assembly line at some point. Jase went down Sunday around five, slept til ten, got up for a bite and went back down until eleven Monday morning. Jacob and Em seemed fine. Weird, but I'd thought that was it, and began congratulating myself on producing superhuman robot children. Ah, no. (Which is good, because that whole concept is a little scary. But I was looking for a silver lining and, well, that's all I had.) EmBaby hung in there long enough to get in a day at the water park before coming unraveled on a cellular level. And when she went, she went quietly and deeply. Snuggled in Monday night at 8, and slept straight through until well after noon yesterday.

So we stayed home and did laundry. And checked on her occasionally. But even for us, there's only so much laundry to be done. By about eleven, we were just having fun with it. Here's how you can use a mirror to see if someone is breathing. Listen to her back. You can hear her heartbeat. Cool, huh? Want another cupcake? If we gave her weird dreams, she never mentioned it. She did pop out of bed a little before one, fully rejuvenated and ready to take on the world again!

We got the box put together, then missed the post office by about four minutes. But it's ready! It's together! (I'll take it up there and leave it in the office so they'll get it with regular mail call. It's just not the same if your Mother hands it to you at camp.)

Do you send care packages? What do you like to put in them? I'm always looking for ideas! Not that I'll get on them ahead of time, but every little bit helps. I've got three more coming up the line!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, June 4

What Shall We Read, Now?

With the bigs at camp, I thought we'd branch out with the bedtime reading this week. I had a slew of ideas on deck. I did not realize, however, that Jacob has spent the last few months staring wistfully at his brothers' reading lists, wishing we could read those. Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, All Creatures Great and Small... he's happy as happy can be!

Jase, who generally dissolves into fits of frustration and ire when it comes time to read (although I suspect that's more about the bedtime that follows) spent this evening kneeling in front of his bookcase, picking out stories to read together. It's crazy stuff, but so very good.

EmBaby and I just finished Little House in the Big Woods. I didn't choose it as a family read-aloud, because I've read those books to the boys at least twice, and they've read them, themselves. Yet every time I began reading with her, bodies drifted toward the couch, leaned against the stove, or draped across the arm of a chair, all else forgotten for a few minutes while they re-visited the pig on the sled, or the bear Ma slapped, or the sugar snow. Those stories weave a wicked magical spell on the house. And then, as soon as the chapter is over, the spell is broken and each one goes back to his tasks, happy and content.

When we did the latest (though not the last - but one could wish) threshing of the basement, James found our copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Oh! The celebratory reaction from all (we'd missed reading it this past Christmas, because, evidently, it was in the basement). It's in the queue, now. For June. Of course. I told them we can start it as soon as we finish Brisingr.

And that, that book, that long, long book, has been our bedtime read-aloud for so long now that it's beginning to feel as if it's been our only read-aloud since time began. Part of the problem is the reader (me). Getting glasses recently has helped, but it's not a complete remedy. I can't wrap my tongue around the Scandinavian-influenced words. Nothing flows gently off my tongue in this book. For the love of Vrenshrrgn, I need more vowels! Still, the first two books fairly flew by, and we began this one with so much enthusiasm. The writing is different, though. There is a lot of drawn out introspection provided for the reader, and a general wordiness that makes an already challenging task more thwarting than it ought to be. I've been tempted to ask the bigs to read it to themselves, with the offer to start Inheritance as a read-aloud if they'll just get through this one on their own. (One would - he loves fantasy, no matter how it's written. The other is putting up with it simply because he enjoys the time to sit together and unwind at the end of the day. He'd slip off and read another Thursday Next novel, if left to his own devices. And then Jacob would bring me the book, break out his Puss In Boots eyes, and I'd be stuck reading it aloud in the end, regardless.) So, we read. But I've already decided that if I run into the same trouble with the next book, I'm giving everyone and everything nicknames.

Kiss those babies!

It was!

It was absolutely crazy. And magnificent.

Friday's airsoft gathering went well. We had about nine boys, all properly attired with safety gear and low-end guns. (Minor Injuries Only, for the win!) We moms stayed on the balcony, figuring the 16' height would keep us out of firing range. It did. That's where we kept the food, too. It was a blessedly normal, witty, engaged group of women. I'm fairly sure I was the loose peg in the wall, and that's okay. Gives me an opportunity to work on my Don't Be Weird Around The Nice People routine. We'll see if it worked. The boys, at least, I know had fun, because they only came inside when thirst drove them in, and there were small, polite, but clear protestations when it was time to go. They all agreed they'd like to do more things together. Mission accomplished. (I told Zorak that night that I really loved all the boys - they were just the right kind of weird - sweet, quirky, fun kids.)

That evening, our friend, Daniel, arrived with his wife and son. He's been stateside, studying Chemistry, for several years. His wife and son joined him in the fall, so this was the first time we were fortunate enough to meet them. And she's pregnant with Baby #2!! I didn't know (Zorak may have known, and thought he told me, but there's a lot he thinks he's told me and didn't) -- so there was a lot of happy squealing. And I cannot tell you how hard it was for me not to just fondle her and swaddle her up and wallow in her adorable, beautiful pregnantness. But *aherm* I restrained. Also, watching her stand up from the table, I realized she may look "just adorable" to me, but she's probably larger than she's ever been, hot, off-balance, uncomfortable, and none of the joints are connected properly at this point. It really does look better than it feels. James made her sage water, and we kept her fed, and tried to pamper her as much as possible (she's quick, though - like lighting - up and helping any chance she gets!) Their son disappeared with the littles, the tiny herd making random appearances to dance, sing, or just make a lap around the living area.

We had a little cookout for them Saturday. It started out as a little cookout. We ended up with 30-some-odd people, and I'm not particularly clear where the line goes from a small gathering to a large crowd. It was a delightful outcome, regardless! The weather cooperated nicely, and we were able to spread out onto the balcony, the upper meadow, and the front yard. Naturally, we didn't get a single photo.  However, I didn't fret about the cleanliness of the house, or about putting people to work when they arrived. So this was probably the most enjoyable gathering we've had - internally, at any rate. No stress, no worries, just a really great time with some really fantastic people. More than once, I found myself standing at the edge of a cluster of people, just smiling and giving quiet thanks for having these folks in our lives. We are so rich.

The Bigs left for Scout Camp early Sunday morning. They'd packed at some point over the weekend. (Mostly at The Last Minute, and I've already got a list of things to bring to them on Family Day.) We got them headed off and then the rest of us went to church. From church, we hit Sam's for dry goods and travel food (because it's one glamorous outing after another when you have pantry locusts!), then took a lovely stroll along the river before heading home. Daniel and his family pulled out around five, and that felt too soon for them to leave. We hope they'll return again and again. Our door is always open.

And then, it was quiet. SO quiet. Jase promptly passed out. Zorak played video games with Jacob. EmBaby worked in her little MineCraft world James had set up for her before he left. I sat down with a few books and drifted in and out of sleep.

Kiss those babies!