Sunday, December 30

Kitchen Adventures

We had such a lovely Christmas with friends and loved ones. I didn't bother trying to take many pictures on Christmas Day - that was my "gift" to my family. I'm not a fun photographer, and it's just no fun to have Beulah Balbricker yelling at you on Christmas. So. That was fun.

But I *did* get some pictures of Em (aka: The Compliant One) as she put her Christmas gift from MeWa and MeTae to good use.

They brought her a little bag of kitchen goodies - some mixes, a pretty little apron, her own whisk and spatula - Oh, she was elated!

And keeping the camera in my hands forced, erm, helped, me to let her do it all on her own. That was important, in keeping with the spirit of the gift.

We had a really good time.

Thanks, MeWa and MeTae!

I hope your Christmas brought you together with people you love, to do good things and make lovely memories!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, December 24

An Early Christmas

It's 11:07, and we're done! Stockings stuffed, Santa gifts laid out, cookies eaten. Normally, it's a little after one in the morning before we get this far.

The difference this year? Jacob is in on the project instead of us having to wait for He Of The Iron Will to fall asleep. Now we have three Christmas Eve helpers. In just a few more years, it'll be a full-blown party when Santa stops by! They grow up quickly, but it doesn't have to be sad. There are so many neat ways to enjoy them, no matter their ages.

However, now that nobody's looking, I do believe Z and I are going to call it a Date Night and watch a movie. Alone. (It's a Christmas Miracle!)

Kiss those babies, and have a Blessed Christmas,

Sunday, December 23

A Hobbity Holiday Outing

We saw The Avengers earlier this year, and we try to keep treks to the theater to a minimum (it's SO expensive!), but we really wanted to see The Hobbit in theaters, too. So we splurged and called it a Christmas present. The three older boys - who have all read the book many times and know and love the story, and I - who would watch Martin Freeman read electric bills - hit the theater on Friday afternoon.

They are so fun to be out and about with, but I think on this outing, Jacob was the most fun. You could see the frustration on his face at every change and deviation. He'd whisper the original to me, then glance my way, as if to say, "You see that, right?" I started to worry that this had been a bad idea (while also quietly celebrating how dearly he loves the written word. I admit it.) The screen went black, the lights came up, and then you could hear a lone little voice gasp (had he not been breathing this whole time?) and whisper-shout, "That. Was. Awesome!"

Yeah. It was. It so was.

We thought it would be fun to make it a Full Adventure for the Whole Family, so I got tickets for Zorak to take the Littles to Santa's Village at the Early Works Museum while we were at the show. The program material said there would be crafts, programs, Santa's reindeer, an elf workshop. It sounded neat. Guess it turned out to be a bit of a dud (no real crafts, or interactive or hands-on activities, but plenty of stations with different winter scenes to take pictures in various settings. At $5 a head, they at least paid for the cut-out snowman, right? Weird.) The reindeer were cold and sleepy. But the letters to Santa were hilarious (Jase marked that he had been both Naughty and Nice), and Z did enjoy the time with them. They consoled themselves with sushi and miso soup while they waited for our show to let out.

We ate sushi, too, because really, who turns down the chance to eat? Then we drove through the Galaxy of Lights at the Botanical Gardens. The wait in line was about 45 minutes. The drive through, itself, was nearly an hour. It was beautiful, but I'll tell you, if you want to enjoy the full experience, let me know and you can borrow Jase. He was like this at the sight of every. single. display.


We didn't think he could keep up that level of intensity for long, but we were wrong. He did start to short out a bit at the end, but he was still at full-throttle. It was magnificent. I'd happily pay $20 for anything that elicits that response.

Then we hit Krispy Kreme. The light was on. We were distracted by the pretty doughnuts. It was worth it.

We didn't manage to get a picture of the family, but everyone wore their non-holey, non-camo clothes just in case there was a random photo shoot. Three of the kids were sound asleep before we hit the edge of town. We pulled into the drive around midnight, feeling our ages, but really glad we ran with it. The movie was fun, the food was good, the lights were pretty. Most of all, though, the kids are neat, and they are so much fun to be around. The whole outing turned out to be more of a gift to myself than to them. It was a good gift.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, December 19

Learning in the New Year

I've been quiet about our plan since the Big Epiphany. Sorry about that. We were thinking, and working, and wondering how to pull this off. I still don't have a taker for the Committee Chair position, but I'm hopeful. Beyond that, though, I think we have eliminated much of the extraneous mess and have a good, solid plan in place.

Starting in January, we have three strong, traditional, academic days a week carved out. These days will carry the brunt of the hard labor - the math, languages (both foreign and domestic), and the science and history. We still have to go through the lesson plans and make sure this will work, but it looks good.

Wednesdays will be our heavy literature day. I'm considering making some Ozzy or Metallica book covers to go with it, and of course I've got a soundtrack in my head. This will be a day of reading, music, reading, and literature discussion. We will probably re-institute afternoon tea for wrapping things up. History is still tied to literature, so there's a thread of continuity, there. And we already have memory cards in a travel case that we've been using for foreign language and poetry, which we'll use on Wednesdays, as well.

Fridays - and this is where we went off the rails a bit, but I think it could work - Fridays will be our Independent Learning Days. This is the day the boys take charge and lead us on adventures they want to explore. We have Cubs in the mornings, and one Friday a month we have Skate Day, which is only slightly less inviolable than, say, Easter. So we needed to find a way to work with Fridays that wouldn't make the entire day a wash. The boys are old enough, and engaged enough, that I decided to give this day to them. This is the day we'll hit museums, do volunteer work, visit artisans and shops. This will be the day for projects - to make movies or write games, to build models or develop interpretive dance routines based on the Abyssinian military model. Whatever. And I've given the boys a heads up that there are plenty of things *I* want to learn about, so if they don't step up and make suggestions, well, then we're going to have an entire semester of architectural history and more literature!

We've discussed how often people complain that learning this or that is dumb, yet when you give them leave to study things that aren't "dumb", they don't know what they want to learn. They cannot fathom that learning is fun, or that you can sometimes wield your own carrot and stick. There's a disconnect between the mere idea of learning and the joy that it brings. Mine don't, and I appreciate that -- although they've been known to express skepticism about the validity of a lesson or two, they acknowledge that there's probably shizzle they aren't privy to, and they trust me -- that good faith goes a long way. Still, I want to make certain we keep those two ideas connected, without sacrificing the rigor of a quality education, or sucking the joy of a delightful journey from them. We lost some of that this past year, and we aim to get it back. (Way to set the bar at just the right height for a good clotheslining, huh? I hope it doesn't take us down. We'll see.)

And there we are. Now to get to the lesson plans and shuffling of the shelves. Zorak has agreed to build a coat rack for the new dining room similar to the one in the foyer, but with a shelf below it where we can stage our things for each day's adventures. (Now that we use the balcony to come and go, the foyer is less relevant and ends up being more of an open-sided storage cubby than a functional staging platform, so this will be great!) Theoretically, we are set for a fantastic year ahead!

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, December 18

90% Done!

Which, for us, is like 110% done. We seldom get this far. I still have the kick plate to put back on, and the wood putty in the nail holes is drying. We may, or may not, get those dealt with in 2013. For now, though, here it is -- The Window!

It's like having a whole new kitchen! We'll add upper cabinets, now, and put up the beadboard ceiling and trim, and then... I think that's it. The inside will be, dare I say it? :whispers: Complete. That's hard to comprehend. Oh, no. No, I take that back. The boys' bedroom windows still need to be replaced, Em's room needs new carpet, and we need screen doors. OK, that feels more like it. (I'm not sure I'd know how to behave in a finished home!)

So, I tried to find the original before photos of the kitchen, but it looks like I'd uploaded them to a Flickr account, which has since been... emptied? sucked into the ether? eaten by Yahoo? :shrug: I don't know. I could log in with my normal account, but they had an old address for main contact info, so I'm sure they warned me that they were deleting pictures, but I don't use the ISP email, so I never saw it coming. Hopefully, there are some tucked away on the hard drive James salvaged from the basement.

And then, because it's more fun to play in a well-lit kitchen, we've been busy in there...

The spiced nuts would make a wonderful gift. I think. We can't keep them around long enough to package and give away, so it's only a guess. The saltine toffee, of course, is a natural favorite. James has reached a Zen-like mastery of the Russian tea cakes (aka, Snowballs, or Mexican Wedding Cookies). And a dear friend brought the mock Turtles to the Troop meeting last week (pretzels, rolos, and she topped hers with M&Ms, although pecans are traditional, and almonds are not bad at all!) So Jase and Em have been making those. Rice krispy treat wreaths, and old fashioned chocolate chip cookies round out this week's adventures. I might make some of my Mother-in-Law's amazing candies the week after Christmas. (The kids need to be busy doing something else for that. I don't have it down well enough to supervise helpers, and there would be scalding. She would probably rescind my rights to the recipes, and rightfully so, if I scalded the grandbabies.) We're on the lookout for more ideas to make together, though. Do you have a favorite recipe you'd be willing to let me know about?

Kiss those babies!

Monday, December 17

A Busy Day in December

Z and I did quite a bit of shopping today, finishing up the majority of our gift purchases. Coffee, quiet time in the car, no bickering over what to buy or where to go. It. Was. Wonderful. Long-term monogamy is handy for us slow learners. Give us another 15 years, and we are absolutely going to *rock* this living together thing!

I'm finally entering the... whatever century this is... and actually used my Amazon app to buy books. In the car. On our way home. I don't know why that felt like such a milestone, but it did. :tinylittlefistbump: Had this phone for two years, and it's only been in the past few months that I've figured out how to use it. This is why I'm not an early adopter, right? But, yay, Amazon loves me and there will be books beneath the tree!

James watched the siblings for us, which was huge. He wants to babysit, and so the experience is good for him. Plus, it's not a bad gig - they played Apples to Apples and Battleship. He made lunch. Jacob made smoothies. Then James and John read to the little ones, and spearheaded the video game rotations, all without wielding the Staff Of Power, or any other nonsense. Just a good, warm, gentle time of watching the Littles. They were all quite content and safe. Plus, he called to check in while we were out. :happy melting heart: He's such a great big brother. And a neat kid, overall.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center is here in Alabama. I'd feel silly if we lived here a decade and never made it over there. (Kind of like not making it to the Walls of Jericho, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Buck's Pocket, Rock City, and a few other places on our To Do list...) So that's where we went today. Wow. Oh, wow. That is a cool little place. They have a museum, with displays and information on the more interesting things that have come their way. They have a central pillar display done up like ancient Venetian plaster, with money and pictures from around the world worked into the columns. I'm pretty sure I couldn't go on a highly hormonal day, as there were a few things that you just *know* someone really, really missed, and I couldn't imagine not trying to find out who and where, to reunite them with the lost item. So. There is that warning. But if you're of a less sentimental nature, it's a neat little place to find interesting things. No pictures from there, though. They do have a hashtag and posters for Instagram users who want to tag them. I nearly took a picture of that, but couldn't decide if it was weird or ironic. If you can't tell, it's best to pass, I think.

And the window trim is up! (As of two minutes ago.) I have to clean, and we need sunlight, but then I'll share a picture of the end result. This project is as big an improvement as pulling the carpet was! (Z says not quite, from a health standpoint, the carpet wins. That's a fair assessment.)

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, December 16

Late to the Festivities, but Getting There

It's taken us a while to push through this project (the paint on the trim is drying, but as soon as it's up, I'll post photos - it turned out really well, and I'm so happy with it), but we're finally kicking into the Holiday Spirit. Our Advent readings started out well, then we got into discussions of prophets, Israel, Jacob wrestling with the angel... now we're reading through parts of Genesis, and I'm not entirely sure how we got there. But it's good, you know? We're thinking, and talking, and sharing. So, yeah. Yeah, that works.

Zorak brought home a tree a couple days ago. It was pretty scrunched up, so we left it to unfold overnight. It, um, never really unfolded. It just is the size it is. Z likes it, though, and the kids think it's beautiful. I like them, and think they're beautiful, so it's a win-win if you look at it like that.

The boys tested all the lights today, fixed the broken ones, and decorated the bathroom. (Priorities are important, and a festive bath is a happy bath.) Then we got to the tree. They handled everything; I mostly wandered about taking pictures of the backs of people's heads. It's like trying to make two magnets align when they're not facing the right way. You can get close, but one's going to shoot off at the last minute. 

Every once in a while I can use the zoom to capture a moment that's honest and wonderful. That makes me smile.

They make me smile.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, December 12


There is a window in the wall, folks! It's IN. It's not foamed or trimmed, but I don't particularly mind. It's IN! It's so pretty, too. We may get up early tomorrow, just to enjoy the light as the sun comes up.

Also, that was just in time. We have a Scout meeting here tomorrow. The boys will be down in the meadow (additional serendipity: meteor shower tomorrow night! WOOHOO!), but the committee members will probably appreciate meeting indoors before that. It will be nice for there to be a marked difference, yes? Yes, we thought so, too.

Standing back, taking in the progress, I'd wondered aloud if we could find before-before pictures of the house, and Zorak mentioned that he's pretty sure there are some on the blog. I'll bet he's right! That will make before/after shots significantly easier, but it also got us thinking about how much we've done, and how much we've learned. We're really quite fortunate to have one another -- it's a good combination. Although I am excited about living in a normal, finished house for a time. At least until we have the opportunity to take on another Big Project.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, December 11


It's crazy how quickly technology has advanced. I remember buying a new computer with a 111 processor and the salesman assuring us we wouldn't need anything faster than that, ever. For years later, the slowest thing we could find was a 4... Something, something... Now, we're into bigger memory and faster speeds than the craziest of dreamers would have speculated just 15 years ago.

I'm sitting at a table at Rosie's, blogging while I wait for Z. And that's not even new technology!

And although I do not have Instagram, I'd post a picture in a heartbeat...

Except I've blogged a full GB worth of images in seven years. (!!)

So, until the technology catches up and we can blog smells, you'll just have to trust me when I say this place is great!

Monday, December 10

So much paper!

Right now, I'm glad I don't have any girlfriends who come over to help me with the redecorating. It would be awful for them to have to stage an intervention in the middle of the Christmas season.

I'd put all the stray papers from the school room, including those in, around, on, near, behind, and underneath my desk, into a box. That box has sat atop the rocking chair, blocking the kids' shelves and mocking me, for a week. Tonight, as we watched a movie, I rolled up my sleeves and tackled the box.

It took two movies for me to get through that box. And just as I'd emptied the last piece of paper, James looked up, gasped, and said, "Oh, man! Someone trashed the living room!" He was right. It was bad. It took another half hour for us to put away the little, sorted piles. The kitchen trash is full, and all the things have been dealt with, thrown away, or set for burning.

I also found a dozen clean, brand new spiral notebooks, four composition books, pictures spanning three decades (just random photos -- not an actual cache of cool, lost photos, which would have been neat, and not terribly surprising), a ream of lined loose-leaf paper, and two dozen empty file folders.

Oh, and a rocking chair! :weak smile:

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, December 8

Spoke too soon.

No pictures. I can't find the camera!

It's just been that sort of week, really. Thankfully, it's over. And while I'm bummed about the camera going missing (although it's *got* to be here, somewhere -- it's just got to be -- we had it at the Troop Christmas Party, then came home... didn't go anywhere else or do anything else. It's crazy.) -- really, it's not going to upend our world. We have a lot to be glad for, and we are. (Although I did push pretty hard on the Clean As You Look For It rule, and the house is quite tidy, now.)

Zorak and the boys got all the brick off the wall, got the sheathing prepped, the bricks cleaned, and started re-bricking where it needs to have a wall. That's crazy-scary, watching that. Brick dust is tremendous, and duct tape is a total godsend for sealing off leaks and keeping the dust out of the house. Bless the engineers at Johnson & Johnson. (As a side note, I read several articles that stated the Germans called it Panzertape. Now that's an endorsement, isn't it? Good stuff, by any name.) We ran out of mortar today, but will get some tomorrow, and hope to have it done by the end of this weekend.

EmBaby has begun to suspect that we're trying to get out of Christmas decorating. (She asked the other day, "Are we having a tree this year? Should we just decorate the bookshelves?") I guess we do need to put that on the to-do list for this week. The kids haven't exactly nixed the idea of cutting their own tree again this year, but they haven't made eye contact when we've brought it up, either. Z and I figure this may be the year to buy a replacement tree. I geeked out over one last week that has little, fake pine cones on it. James and the littles were with me, and it's not clear whether they thought I was joking or not. (I wasn't. It's truly just ugly enough to be wonderful! Whimsical! Perfect!)

Meanwhile, we're still loving the new arrangement. EmBaby did her schoolwork in the Dining Room. We aren't even doing school this week! We need some actual furniture for the living room, now that it's the size of a living room, but that will come. Eventually, we get things done.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, December 7

Why? Why, Spambots?!

The comments on this blog are moderated. It's not like I'm going to assume you're legit just because you write something sweet before your spammy links!

This is not a clothing blog. It is not an accessories blog. It is not a knock-off shoe blog. To be honest, it's supposed to be a homeschooling blog, but it's more of a family scrapbook. (I apologize for that, but it's all the kids are likely to have - I have PTSD from my mother's post-depression keep-all-things reaction.) But whatever this place is, we are not your target audience!

Now, if Indiana University Press or the nice folks at Yesterday's Classics wanted to leave a link or two, that would be one thing. Or Amazon. (Amazon is always welcome, here. I think that's a given.)

But the rest need to give. it. up. I'm not falling for it, folks. Not falling for it one little bit.

That said, I love the new camera! And there may be pictures tonight! (If I don't fall asleep watching a movie. That's kind of my new hobby. Not terribly satisfying, but very easy to keep up with.)

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, December 6

It's like having an illness!

We got the kitchen painted and the cabinets reinstalled. They look lovely. Also, the kids are stoked to eat like normal again. Meanwhile, the voices (I don't know if it's the house, the caffeine, or what) started up again. That dining table... needs to be shorter, and wider, doesn't it?


And then it would fit in the school room, wouldn't it?

Mmmm, yes...

I wonder if we could put the computer over in that corner?

Oh, yes, my lovely...

Ohhh! And then (THEN!) we could put furniture equidistant from the wood stove on the right, doubling our living space!

Yessss, you're mine, now. You won't be able to think about anything else until you try it...

SURE! All we have to do is move those two bookshelves, dismantle the computer desk and the shelf over that... empty the corner hutch, and... why, we can do this before dinner! It's brilliant!

It's a good thing I've never done drugs. I can't imagine how much worse this could be. The kids didn't even flinch, and when Zorak got home, there we were, wading mid-calf deep through books stacked in the living room, vacuuming up dead bugs, maneuvering around empty bookcases parked caddywompus in the dining room. He's such a sport. Mere mortals would, at the least, use a tense, hissing voice as they inquired what in the name of all that's holy is going on here. Lesser men might even have asked about the voices. He just threw some pork steaks in the oven and helped schlep books back and forth.

For hours.

But we ate in the new Dining Room! It's echo-y and bare, but pleasant and intimate. (Definitely need a different table, though.) And after the kids went to bed, we sorted and shelved books. I have about 90# of books that don't have a home now that we've taken down the computer shelf, and the corner between the hutch and the tea cart accumulated a shocking amount of crap in the last five years. (None of which I have any idea where to put.) And then there's that paper addiction we haven't addressed yet. So really, it looks worse. Much, much worse. And the voices would be laughing, but they gave up and went to bed two hours ago.

The window will be here next weekend (not the one coming, but the one after), and I hope to have everything looking like it's meant to be this way by the time the window arrives. We'll see how that goes.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, December 2

Watching Paint Dry

Turns out, it won't dry any faster if you watch it. (And yet, I stare. Go figure.)

As of this writing, the kitchen has been textured and primed. I wanted to paint tonight, but that's not going to happen. Of course, I wanted to put the kitchen back together tonight, too, so admittedly, I had ulterior motives at work, there. Still, we are moving forward, keeping our spirits up, and our debris to a minimum. If I can get two coats on tomorrow, then Zorak can do a few things under the cabinets when he gets home and then we'll be in business. I can't describe how giddy I am over this project.

We bought enough paint to do all the living area spaces that are currently Heavy Cream. (Fresh paint does wonders, even if it's the same color you had before.) I thought I'd run into a bit of a snag, though, when I pulled the paint chip for it. It's... tan. According to the paint chip, Olympic's "Heavy Cream" is a tan color. I stuck it under the wonder lights, to see if our lighting must be making it look different. Nope. It looks tan under all the different lighting options. So I called James and asked him to read the label to me. It matched. No extra letters, numbers, or runes anywhere on the can? Nope. :shrug: OK, then. Since we're redoing everything, I guess it wouldn't matter if it were way off. It's just unsettling to think you've been living in a creamy yellow house for seven years, only to find out it's tan and everybody you know just smiled and nodded when you described it as yellow.

The guys began the brick work today, removing the bricks from within the space for the new window. The boys helped get them off, and took turns cleaning bricks (some of the old window space will now be wall, so we want to re-tread bricks to match where we'll have to build new wall.). If there is a patron saint of lungs or respiratory systems, I need to know. The dust is astounding! Even with filters and tarps and a good breeze to keep it moving away from the house, everything is covered in abrasive dust. Blech. By the time we're done with this project, it's going to take another six months to get it all out of the house.

Anyway, the boys worked their fingers to the bone this weekend. Zorak declared they did a steak-worthy job, so we splurged on steaks and turnip greens tonight. So good. I wish we could afford for them to work this hard all the time!

The window will be here in 13 days. That's plenty of time to finish what we can of the brickwork, have the rest of the kitchen back together, and start another project. I love this time of year!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, December 1


The hens aren't using the nesting boxes for anything other than naps, so these were a pleasant surprise.

James came back from putting up the chickens and announced, "We have 18 chickens, and FIVE EGGS!" It took us all a second for it to sink in, but then we were excited.

Unfortunately, the roosters are all pretty into doing their jobs, and we have no clue how long those eggs have been there... so we'll have to crack them outside, in case they're bad. Still, it's exciting to have some progress.

(This was last night. Jacob found another one today. We don't know who is laying, but they're all in the same place so far, so that makes it easier. How exciting!)

Kiss those babies!