Friday, November 30

:whispers: I'm not here...

I should be in bed, but I'm not sleepy yet.

So, things are shaping up nicely. I showed the kids the Big Epiphany. The relief that emanated from James' very pores was impressive. John gets it, too, and both of them look forward to the changes we'll be making. Jacob seemed un-phased, but he spends most of his time thinking of ways to get more Lego time in, anyway, so there's not going to be a huge Delta for him in this regard.

James had a fantastic suggestion -- that we get back to using more literature-based materials. I don't know how or when we got away from that, but we did. We spent a good portion of today pouring over book lists, digging up copies we own, and making a list of the books we know we want to add. It's been a while since the kids have been that engaged, but that's what we're after!

Then I started looking for ways to pare down the overall obligations without sacrificing the things that really are beneficial. I gave notice that I won't be doing the Awards Coordinator position for the Pack for 2013. I've served two years in that position, and it's pretty much turnkey at this point. I'll still be on the committee, will continue to lead Jacob's Den, and will help out with things as needed, but the cuts have to come from somewhere, and I'm comfortable with that one. I've also approached someone about stepping in as the Troop Committee Chair for the coming year. I'd still stay on the committee, but perhaps as Secretary. (I'm already doing the monthly parent newsletter and round-ups, and I do enjoy those.) And a friend offered last month to take over the Fundraising Coordinator job for me, too. (Bless her!) So that's a good start.

If we can free up one more day, and make some alterations to our errand running plans, I think we'll be in good shape. Or at least we'll have bought ourselves a little breathing room, which I desperately need at the moment.

On the project front, Zorak got the second coat of mud on the drywall tonight. We'll sand it and check it tomorrow - maybe texture, maybe do one more thin coat. Either way, we'll be painting the wall and putting the rest of the cabinets and the refrigerator back this weekend. He hooked up the sink for me last night. I haven't been that glad to do dishes by hand in a long, long time, but after washing them in the tiny bathroom sinks for a week, this was luxurious. Tomorrow, we'll eat normally again!

We bought a camera at Target on Wednesday. I thought it would be similar to the old silver one that died, and I was so excited. But it's not. It's chintzy and flimsy and doesn't take very good pictures. Also, we got 12 shots, no video, and it drained the batteries to the point that it couldn't use the flash. It could be the batteries, but there are enough drawbacks without that concern that I'm thinking it needs to go back to the store, anyway, and we'll try another one. Anyone have a decent, everyday camera you like? (Don't need love - it's too close to Christmas to think about love - I just need something other than my gimpy phone for taking Christmas and activity pictures.)

And now, to bed, for tomorrow, we smile!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, November 28

Encroaching Obligations

For years, I've guarded our time at home. It's our downtime, our quiet time, our sanctuary from the ever-pressing Busy Life. This is where we delve into the ideas we have, share our questions, and explore new things. When the boys had baseball practice on Thursdays, we had piano lessons, bought groceries, and ran errands on Thursdays. Granted, it made Thursdays a little hellish, but it kept the rest of the week free and flexible. When we dropped baseball, I moved things around a bit to free up the ends of the week, but kept that same mindset: one day a week is all I'm willing to give to outside activities and demands. That felt so good. It felt so good that I clung to the idea long after I'd allowed it to die.

Recently, I've felt as if we're just bowled over by a lack of time. But we only leave the house two days a week! (Errand day and church.) How can that be? How can we not have enough time? And I pressed to make us more efficient, more focused, more diligent. Let's get to bed earlier, get up earlier. More focus, less distraction. Let's go, move, DO! Hop on one foot with our tongues on our noses while we feed the animals.

OK, that last one, not so much. But for all the good it would have done, we might as well have tried it. I sat down tonight to make our menu for the next two weeks, and thought about how I often get caught without a *good* plan on the rare occasion we have somewhere to be. So, I thought to myself, let's jot down in the menu where we have to go on those days and see if that helps remind me to plan quick meals, or crockpot meals, or whatever creative endeavor needs to happen on those days.

What the what, Batman!?

We have piano/guitar/groceries/errands one day, Scouts another day, Cub Scouts another day, community activities another day, church on Sundays. Roundtables and committee meetings. Add in the monthly Scout outing (which takes a full weekend), the regular Pack events (an additional night a month, plus prep time), Forge meetings, homeschool social activities, work, and the time required for the Projects That Must Be Done and...

We're never home. We're never still. Not for any appreciable length of time. There is no downtime. There is no quiet time. We've allowed the demands of time to be made on our every little corner of the day. And I never saw it. I never realized that this obligation, or that activity, or those events had effectively robbed us entirely of the buffer I'd thought we guarded so carefully. And the funny thing is that if you'd asked me about each thing, individually, I'd have defended each item as being Beneficial and Worthwhile. Taken as a whole, though, I'm not convinced. Our lives have not been significantly richer the past six months. They've not been more enjoyable (although we are not miserable by any means). They've just been... Busy.

And I've continued to try to pack our home life, our studies, our projects, and our downtime into what little space is left. No wonder it's felt like we're swimming with only one arm against an undertow.

So, something's got to give. I'm not sure what, or how. That's going to take some family time and discussion. It may be that we decide to keep it all and pare down the home goals, but I doubt it. I think we need to rebuild the buffer and rethink our priorities. Or, at least, I do. This one's all on me.

It's good to know, though. Meal planning for this week was a snap, at least! And hopefully by next week, we'll have a clearer idea of the path forward.

And I'm reminded of the phrase, "Live Intentionally". I know better than to let life happen to us, than to relinquish my post at the lookout, or neglect my duties at the helm. (Reminds me of another adage: "Be vigilant, for nothing one achieves lasts forever". *aherm* Yes. Well.) We must be diligent in our choices, and make each decision as if it is taken at the expense of all the other choices, because it is. Let it be worth the trade, so that we do not look back over our lives with more "If only..." than there has to be. (The natural learning curve of Life somewhat necessarily mandating that there will always be some, at least.) And so, we will live intentionally,

and kiss those babies.


Tuesday, November 27

Define "resilient"...

So, turns out all of the kids are fermenting Something. Not all the Same Thing, of course. That would be Parenting For Noobs. (The kids are not only keeping me spooled up on infectious diseases, they keep my vocabulary fresh and kicky. Except they've asked me not to say 'kicky'. But they're asleep.) No, we seem to have a variety of things going about. Some intestinal fun, a little sinus, and two variations of generalized throat pain. Wee! We did "Hospital Prep School" today - vacuumed and disinfected everything, force fed all the people Greek yogurt, ginger root tea, and Vitamin D capsules, then read and watched documentaries the rest of the day. It's not thrilling, but it gets the job done sometimes. Everyone turned in early (except Zorak and I, obviously) and the house smells very... not germy. Let's hope the rest of the week shows marked improvement!

Zorak hung the drywall tonight. It looks a little patch-worky at the moment, with the original Adobe Ghetto Pink in the corners behind the cabinets, and swaths of Heavy Cream flanking freshly-screwed-in-gray. But this is the easy part. Now we just have to mud, wait, mud, wait, texture, wait, paint, wait, then *BAM* everything goes back in place, all pretty and clean. It's exciting, in an anti-climactic way. I do feel a good run of Netflix streaming in our near future, though!

Me-Wa returned from his most recent hunting trip this week, and they came out to the house to bring some venison, and an anvil for John. John's so excited. He doesn't look it right now, because of the groaning and clutching his side, but he is. He marked a couple of projects from one of his blacksmithing books today, and I saw the glimmer of an idea forming just before he headed to bed.

Still haven't found the math disc, but we have made headway on some projects.

EmBaby is getting antsy to decorate for Christmas, though, and she announced the other day that there is a place that SELLS Christmas Trees! "Mom, you can just go up and pick one you want, already cut! Did you KNOW that?" So I'm guessing last year's foray into the woods to cut their own tree didn't leave the same impression on her as it did on the boys.

Jase is ready to go shopping, but he's four - he still thinks that means he's going to go shopping for things he wants. It's rough to be four. The world makes no sense, at all.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, November 24

Project Blogging - Kitchen Window

It's amazing how far into a project you can get before realizing the Rubicon is three steps behind you. *whew* But that's okay. Here we are...

And we're well into new territory by now, but it's coming along beautifully. The old studs are gone, the new studs are in, the shiny, lovely new header is in (and doing its job remarkably well, I must say). Zorak's made some improvements over our initial installation that we've had on the docket for the past couple of years.

You can see it beginning to take shape in this photo, above. It's going to be wonderful! We kept as much of the old studs as we could - they're Loblolly pine, which is awesome-and-awful all at the same time. Awesome because that stuff is so strong, and is probably what kept the house from falling apart during the neglected years. Awful because that stuff is so strong that bits and blade quail in its presence. So we compromised.

On the "Will It Work" front, I am happy to report that there were NO bugs, NO snake bodies, and NO evidence of mice behind the cabinets or in the walls. We were more than a little tense and puckery as we pulled the cabinets away from the wall, fully expecting to see any number of horrors back there, so it was a complete delight to find the things we'd thought would work did work! Seven years is a good trial run, too. Foam and diatomaceous earth for. the. win!

The kids have been so helpful/accommodating/resilient. I have no idea how this is all getting filed in their heads (that's what the Therapy Jar is for), but their attitudes and responses have been better than I could ask. Or hope for. This is so much fun!

So, we've got it blocked up for the night (lows in the 20's). Tonight, it's sirloin roast, steamed broccoli, and apple cider for supper. Because when your kitchen is torn apart, it helps to eat like nothing's wrong, at all.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, November 20

A Week Without Normal

We're mostly off school this week. The boys are finishing up a few things and I'm staring at the booklist, wishing I had a significantly larger budget. I doubt any of us is making much headway. The weather has been in the low-to-mid-60's and, once again, it's a good thing we don't own a hammock or we'd be getting nothing done, at all.

Our plan to do the kitchen window (replacing the light sucking hole above the dishwasher with a larger, properly centered window, allowing people to stand at the sink at stare at something other than my steep learning curve on texture techniques) is moving forward, though not the way we'd hoped. We're going to have to order a window, and that's fine. There is a ten-day lead time on it (again, not bad, considering - think for a moment how magnificent it is that we can order a framed glass window to our own specifications, and have it delivered in under two weeks - that's mind-boggling, and wonderful). But that means we'll have to juggle the steps a little to make them fit the time we have available and the weather conditions. Much like trying to get a large pillow into a pillowcase. It can be done, but you're probably not going to want anyone watch you do it.

Also, if you come by the house and see a blue tarp hanging above the sink for more than a month, don't ask questions. Don't even make eye contact if you can help it. Just bring a chocolate orange and a Black Cherry Mike's, please.

The pickup rehabilitation project is... well, Z put in a transmission gasket this week. It's dark and cold when he gets home. He doesn't particularly *enjoy* automotive work, and we all miss him and are somewhat demanding of his time when he walks in the door. It's hard to work with children stuck to your ankles, talking non-stop. It's better this way - the truck doesn't really care when you get around to it, but the kids do.

This week, we hope to find James' math disc, make headway on some projects, get squared away and organized. I'm also eyeballing the school room. It desperately needs to be Something Else. What, though, I've no idea. What do you do with a 10x10 room that has no uninterrupted walls? (Or, more accurately, what can you do with two two-foot corners, a two-by-four corner, and a sliver of space behind a door? I'm just not that creative! And if I find money, I'm spending it on books. So.)

Hope your week is shaping up beautifully, too.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, November 18

How Many Days Until...

Halloween? Christmas? My Birthday? Thanksgiving? My eleventy-first birthday? Sunday? Christmas?

It's so much fun when they start to realize time has some kind of continuity. It's even more fun when they learn to take it for granted. Right now, however, I can safely say there are four days until Thanksgiving, and 37 days until Christmas. You'll have to figure out your own birthday if you want to know that one badly enough, and you can ask James to figure out how long until your eleventy-first birthday because, frankly, he enjoys things like that and I don't.

37 days until Christmas? That doesn't seem right. But I've been using weeks, because weeks leaves them just confused enough that I can slip off to refill my coffee before they think up another question.

Em's already making Christmas presents. Paper owls and paper dolls seem to be this week's themes. I'm pretty sure the EMT will find our bodies beneath the composting piles of cardstock one day, but as long as we can breathe, we will enjoy the pretty little creations she brings us. (There are. so. many. Thank goodness nobody here suffers from Pulpuslaceratapohobia*.)

Deer season has begun. The guys were out cutting wood when one trotted right past them. Fortune, however, favors the prepared, and it didn't seem wise to lob a maul at it, so we had ham tonight, instead. Perhaps this week, at some point, we'll have time to go hunting. After the kitchen window is in. We're working on that this week!

The boys hosted an airsoft gathering at the house on Friday. Good turnout. Lovely women. Naturally, EmBaby got wide-eyed and whispered, "Upstairs?!" when I told her she and Jase could watch a movie while the boys played. What was I just saying about how we don't just shove them into the cellar? In front of new company, too. Kids are good for that - keeping you humble and on your toes. At any rate, the boys all had a really good time, and I hope I didn't do anything too weird.

Kiss those babies!

*Fear of paper cuts. Learned something new today!

Saturday, November 10

Weird Family Traditions

Not much going on today. I culled and cleaned. The guys split wood. (This will be a recurring theme.) Zorak and I did enjoy dinner so very much. Not only was the food good (pulled pork, homemade slaw, leftover pintos - always better the second day), but the kids were on a roll. They are ridiculously funny, and their inside jokes keep one another in stitches. It's like having front row seats to a well-oiled comedy team. We laughed and listened, and generally enjoyed the entire evening.

And then, the guys settled in for what I jokingly refer to as their "stories". (Did your mother watch soap operas?) They are watching The Walking Dead. It's become A Thing they do. After supper a couple of nights a week, we let the Littles play video games or watch a movie in the basement (it's like a game room - not like we just shove them into a cellar for an hour), while Z and the Bigs spool up their show. They call me in to come watch with them, because they're cool like that. It *is* a good show. But, I get... tense. So I have to get up and walk around, switch out some laundry, get a cup of coffee at... crucial moments. Drives them nuts. "Mom! MOM! You're missing it!" Either one day they will understand, or they'll go to their graves thinking their mother just didn't know how to have a good time. Regardless, they're building memories. I hope they're good ones.

Deer season starts next week, the stores have the holiday displays in full swing, and the electric bill has mellowed out for the winter. That's all such comforting stuff. The kids are talking about making Christmas presents, and they're ready to get moving. After seeing what they did for birthdays this year, I'm looking forward to it!

We'll probably have to split more wood, first, though.

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, November 8

A New Plan, A Better Plan

If I only post every four weeks, I can re-tread that Hair Day post and get a lot of miles out of it, can't I? But that defeats the point of blogging, and I doubt very much the children would appreciate the digital version of their family album being a list of Mom's weird appointments.

OK. Fine.

I was busy wallowing in October. Every blessed under-80-degree-but-not-below-40 moment of it. It was spectacular. Coffee on the balcony in the mornings (until the acorns began falling - then I had to bring it back in because the welts were unseemly, and so was the swearing), windows wide open and that delicious combination of sweatshirts, shorts, and flip flops that I just can't convince myself to try any other time of year.

The boys Scout Troop finally went backpacking in October. I got to go, since Zorak isn't much on the backpacking thing. It's hard to feel like you're taking one for the team when you're as giddy over going as your spouse is over not having to go. We spent two nights in the Sipsey Wilderness, camped creekside, slept under the magnificent pine and hardwood canopy... didn't loose anybody or have to build a travois! You just can't ask for a better backpacking trip than that.

We built the stairs to the balcony in October. They are exquisite. And now, they're partially stained, to match the partially stained balcony. As soon as the treads weather up a bit, it will look like it was all intentional. (One might suggest we just stain the decking and treads, but we missed the window and there are leaves... so many leaves. We'll have three days in March where the leaves aren't falling and the pollen hasn't descended on everything yet. Maybe then.)

The Volvo died in October, and we spent most of the month with only one car. That part? Not such a great time. But it could have been worse. There was never any need to call in reinforcements for a trip to the ER. Zorak took it to the auto hobby shop, where George The Car Magician pulled a rabbit out from under the hood and *poof*, it started again. (Not an actual rabbit, but it might as well have been. We still have no idea how he fixed it.)

We felled a gigantic tree that died this year. Nature makes some impressive noises. We gave thanks, split the wood, saved a stump to use for knife throwing, and gave a target stump to Pastor's boys. I'm sure Pastor's wife was thrilled. (She's so patient with us.) The boys dug it, though.

We took the steel wool and stove black to the wood stove. If you've never cleaned up a cast iron stove using that stuff, you've got to try it. I felt like a cross between Ma Ingalls and Ron Popeil.

Then we careened wildly into November, voted, prepped for the kitchen window project, started rehabbing my old pickup, and tonight enjoyed the first fire of the year.

Not bad. Not bad, at all.

Kiss those babies!