Sunday, September 23

Seriously? Again?

We were busy today! Zorak welded a traveling stand for the plow disc cooker. It has clips to hold the disc vertical, and the propane tank fits inside, so it's now ready for next weeks' Big Inaugural Outing with the boys. (Not only will it travel more easily, but it's significantly more stable than the fish fryer we jury rigged in the first place. Go, Z!)

John cleared the sloped portion of the front yard, and we brainstormed a mulching/garden plan for it that should be more aesthetically pleasing as well as making the space more productive. Zorak hammered out a plan to refurbish an old stone bench to a useful state (we lived here five years thinking it was a creepy grave stone before a neighbor told us it's a toppled bench - so really, it's rather flexible, but should be put to good use in some form or other).

James and I began work rehabbing the tiered... plant... um, spaces...(?) at the front of the house. What it really needs is a bull dozer, a load of brick, some perf pipe, and a little zen garden master. Or maybe a 1950's horticulturist with a penchant for color. It gets... us. But we have some semblance of a vision, gorgeous weather in which to work, and a willingness to wing it until it looks about right. It's amazing what you can do with that much on your side!

We got most of the wall rebuilt and reinforced before James accidentally cracked his finger between two rocks. It looks broken. Ice, anti-inflammatories, rest, water. Wee. (Although I'm a little unsettled about having to take the child in *again* for a broken bone, I am once again unbelievably glad we went with the guy who handles these things instead of trying to find a pediatrician. Childhood illnesses are not so much our bane. Gravity and friction, however, seem to be kicking our butts.)

Shortly after we got him squared away on the couch, I noticed the yellowjackets swarming the area we'd just been working. Never found the nest, but it's good to know they're out there. Even better to have been inside when we found out!

We finally listed the old washer/dryer unit on Craigslist, and it looks like it'll have a new home in a day or two. And, we'll get the front porch back.

Wow. If we keep this up, the place may just look like somebody actually lives here!

Kiss those babies!

A Busy Day, and a Night with the Moon

We had a crazy, lazy, busy day. Yes, really -- all of it at once. The kids were up and at it early this morning, in anticipation of playing video games with friends for the morning. Zorak and I slept in, in anticipation of... not moving much until we had to.

Friends came - we talked, worked, played, and generally had a lovely morning.

Then more friends came - we talked, watched the children play, relaxed, and generally had a lovely afternoon. Our friend, Larry, helped James with his computer project, which absolutely made James' day. (Although right now there's a second computer piggybacked onto my monitor, hogging up the leg room under the computer desk. James and I don't seem to use the same ranking process to determine what makes for a great set up. He says it's temporary. I'm hoping our definitions of "temporary" are not equally askew.)

Before we knew it, it was time to eat and head out for International Observe the Moon Night up at the NASA Educational Building in Huntsville. That's one of the things we love about living here: this place is a full-up cornucopia of fantastic opportunities. Science, art, history, music - you name it, Huntsville has it, and usually it's hosted by a group of civic organizations so odds are the event will be full of knowledgeable people with a passion for the topic at hand and an interest in sharing with those who are interested.

Tonight's event was no exception. We were treated to face time with some fascinating people who shared with us about robotic design, imagery technology, colonization research and programs, geology, astronomy, and more. We wished we'd had time to go earlier the event. An hour and a half just wasn't time enough to see and hear all there was available. But we're all really glad we went and enjoyed the time we had.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, September 21

Too Pretty To Stay Inside!

This is it. This is the good stuff. This is windows-wide-open, feet-up-on-the-porch-rail, run-until-you-drop-just-because-you-can weather. This is the weather where you can drink coffee and not feel the need to justify it, or face the wiggly eyebrows of others as they glance between your steaming mug and the thermometer outside. This is the weather that makes me want to read interesting books, write thoughtful letters, and spend idle days in the woods with good company.  This. is. good.

The boys went hiking last weekend with their Troop. Awesome boys. Awesome Scout leaders. Everything you could want in Scouting. They had a great time. We saw some of the most beautiful flora, and... interesting fauna.

Could have done with a little less of the latter, to be honest. But you take Nature as she is, and, well, sometimes she's a little creepy. We've all been there. I don't judge.

I won't regale you with the tick story. Just trust me when I say I was thisclose to agreeing to up and move in the middle of the night. I hear the Arctic is nice this time of year... Also, two thousand mg of garlic daily is *not* enough to keep seed ticks off of you. Nor is DEET. Nor is any possible combination of the two. And those bastards can *bite*. Wow. (I'm sorry. That sounded judgey. OK, maybe I will judge. You bite my kids, you get no love. That's just how it goes.)

We haven't ridden or hiked much this week, what with the open wounds on our feet and ankles. (The toes! Every toe is covered! Ew!) Mostly we've just hobbled about in flip-flops with our pants rolled up, a cotton ball in one hand and a bottle of Calahist in the other. Got a lot of reading done, though, which was great. Again with the balcony love. (Seriously, if you have the opportunity to have a balcony, grab it, folks. If I'd known how much we would use ours, we might have put it in before we did the kitchen cabinets. Love!)

But today, the call of "highs in the 70's" lured us back out onto the trail...
It really is just too pretty to stay inside.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, September 10

This Is Not A Productive Week

Yeah, I know, it's only Monday. But we're not exactly shooting right out of the gate this week.

Everyone was up early this morning because there were presents to open! (We didn't get home from our ride until around ten last night, and there was no way I was going to give the kid a remote control helicopter, a Trilobite kit, and a video game, then tell him to get some shut eye. Even for me, that would have been pretty clueless.) So up, up, UP they were, bright and stinking early.

He opened his presents, and was so genuinely delighted with each one. MeWa and MeTae gave him the coolest Smithsonian set - Trilobites, a Volcano kit, and an archeological dig set. Wee! (And we're doing Ancients this year! Double Win!)

But the gift that took the spotlight was the one from EmBaby and Jase: they wrote him a letter...

... and made him a paper doll set, complete with a crocodile, a lion, a bridge, a shrub, a guy, a gun, and a zombie!

Look at the detail on that - the little gun, for fighting zombies, is detachable! Oh, my gosh, Zorak and I were speechless - it was the sweetest, most delightful, thoughtful present we've ever seen. I wish we had a camera other than on the phone, because the details are fantastic - the lion's mane, and the crocodile's jaws - all of it, just neat. They made this a week ago, and have kept it a secret the whole time. None of us, not even the big boys, knew what they'd made.

And Jacob's reaction? Total icing on the cake - he took out each figure, commented on some aspect of it, set them up, let the littles explain all the details. I think he got how special that gift was. Z and I will never forget it.

After that, it was pretty much all fun and games. The Trilobites are incubating in their environment on the dresser, the helicopter logged many flight hours, and it has been decided that the dolls need to be laminated so that they won't ever get torn or destroyed. Sure, we got a little school done, but really, nobody was paying attention. That's okay. You only turn nine once.

Kiss those babies!

And You Shall Ride the Gauntlet

Well, no, it wasn't that bad. He thought it might, be, though. Jacob turned nine yesterday, and the timing of it landed so that we rode the first half of the Chief Ladiga Trail *on* his birthday. He wasn't convinced this was a great plan, but he went along with it.

He doesn't look traumatized, does he?

OK, maybe a little surprised, but certainly not traumatized, right? 

At the end, the exhilaration of knowing he'd ridden 16 miles under his own power was pretty heady stuff. And it was fun! EmBaby rode the trail-a-bike behind Zorak. Jase rode in the child seat behind me. The boys gave their bikes a good workout. Everyone enjoyed the day, which is pretty impressive, all things considered.

We stopped at Logan's on the way home to refuel with steak and veggies. Then we stopped at the halfway point for a milkshake from Jack's. As he sipped his milkshake, he let out a contented little sigh and said, "This was a pretty fantastic birthday."

And we never got to the presents or the cake!

Happy Birthday Smidge, er, Jacob! You are going to have an Amazing year being 9!

(I'm trying out Dropbox for photos right now. If any of these don't appear properly, and I don't catch it, please let me know. Google/Blogger and I aren't able to communicate very well at the moment when it comes to photo and file uploading.)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, September 9

Boarding School & Birthdays

JakeRabbit is nine today. He's so very excited. His presents are wrapped, taunting him from a corner of the dining room. We'll have steak and creamed kale for dinner (his pick). I'll pester him with his birth story a bit. My favorite part of that story is that the first sounds he heard were his big brothers shouting, "Welcome to the world, Baby Jacob!" That, and the green chile burritos Aunt B brought us. Those were pretty fantastic, too.

The bigs and I rode yesterday. We got in ten miles, and they felt more grueling than I'd expected. Part of that was that we followed the river upstream, which meant we gradually, but consistently rode uphill. (Note: get a topo map soon!) To highlight the fact, I'd messed up the front deraileur on my bike when I fell last week but we only checked the rear gears before heading out yesterday. Turns out, if you're heading uphill, you'll miss having those bottom seven gears! We ride again today, but I'm ready with ALL the gears!

The boys' Troop had an Eagle Court of Honor last night. The previous Courts of Honor this Troop has had have been very laid back, informal, almost second-thought affairs. This was our first Eagle Court, and it was impressive. The boys all did very well with their speaking parts. The newly minted Eagle just beamed.

And in a completely unrelated vein, do you know why Boarding Schools always look lovely, even with all those children? Staff. They have full staff for every department, including landscaping and kitchen. I'm tempted to see if we can take in some boarders and get on that. Until I can sell Zorak on that plan, though, we tag each other in for different aspects of it and hope for the best. I stayed home yesterday morning to work on the house, while Zorak manned the popcorn booth with Jacob for Cub Scouts. Funny how moving all the airsoft gear to a shelf in the boys' closet gave us back our foyer. (How is it that stuff will fit on a 2'x4' shelf, but it took up an entire 4'x15' room?)

Anyway, we're off to celebrate and enjoy the day!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, September 5

Autumn is coming!

We need a seasonal Paul Revere - someone to ride through the streets and alert us when the next season is really, truly coming. (Not the calendar date, but the real weather change!) That would be fun. I'm sure there are plenty of people who'd be willing to do that, right?


Fair enough.

We've transferred all the things onto the calendar for September. It's gonna be Crazy Busy. Good, but still... dang. What were we thinking?

Jacob asked yesterday, after flipping through his planner, "So, after week nine, we're done?" Such hope in his voice. *snort* Nope, sorry, kiddo. After week nine, I'll have to print up more pages. "Oh. That would make more sense, I suppose. But it's not nearly as exciting."

I hear ya. I do.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, September 2


Doing things.

The boys' Troop rode last Monday. The plan was 3.5 miles, but they were nowhere ready to stop at that point, so what do you do? You point down the trail and say, "Go for it." And they did. They'd have happily ridden farther and longer, but this was a test run, to see how their bikes were after their repair/maintenance meeting. One boy's bike still necessitated getting off to change gears manually. (Um, obviously, we'll work on that.) John's bike dorked up right after the start and he rode the whole thing in seventh gear. He wasn't thrilled about that, but he muscled through and got it done. All things considered, it went amazingly well, and the boys were fantastic! We'd hoped to ride again tomorrow, but the general consensus is that "severe thunderstorms" aren't conducive to safe riding. So. I don't know. We'll see when they can go again. They're building up to a big ride later in the year, and if this crew can keep their great attitudes, keep improving the condition of their bikes, and keep learning as they go, I think it's going to be One Fantastic Adventure.

We hit the annual Civil War re-enactment on Saturday. Two years running. I'd like to say we're getting the hang of staying abreast of things, but it was actually a lady from the homeschool support group who posted the dates. Bless her, and the many other people who take the time to say, "Hey! There's something going on this weekend!" If it weren't for them, we'd be hermits. Not intentionally, but that's how it would pan out. Anyway, we went with friends, the weather was significantly better than last year, and EmBaby got her pickled eggs. (She was hoping for pickled quail eggs, but settled happily for regular old eggs when no quail eggs were to be found.)

Meanwhile, Zorak and I rode this morning. We figured we'd get out and put four or five miles behind us. We ended up going 13 miles, roughly broken down to three small hills, two huge hills, six tiny dogs, four big dogs, almost an hour of gorgeous scenery and hard work, and one wipeout there at the end (that would be me, Grace - I'm keeping the title, thank you - and the Dermaplast). It was great! Except for the dogs. I could do without being faced down by brazen growlers who take their stand in the middle of the trail when there is no other avenue available to me. :-\ On the upside, I'm pretty sure my cardio levels ramped up a time or two!

Today we also worked on the Shack a bit -- window trim and cleaning. Not so much for the exciting words, there. Wood putty, delightful as it may be, doesn't lend itself to poetic interpretation without a good deal of hyperbole.

And now, we have rain. What a beautiful way to end the day!

Kiss those babies!