Tuesday, April 23

In which I nearly set fire to my new mattress...

We got up and at it early this morning. Got the trash out, all the Bigs dressed and moving on the day's work immediately after. We cranked the radio and let the Littles sleep in while we worked. It was awesome. Even the Bigs were impressed once they were fully awake. We were about two hours into lessons when Jase came staggering into the living room...

"Morning, love. Did you pee in my bed?" (It's a ritual. I've learned that sometimes you just have to ask.)

"No. But I killed a tick. It was on my head. Can I have candy?"

All movement in the room came to a halt. We stared at him. Hard. I'm pretty sure each of us was willing him to be joking.

"You... what? Where?"

"It's in the Hoosier."

"What!? No, the tick. Let's talk about the tick."

"Then can I have candy?" (For the record, this child never has candy first thing in the morning. He doesn't even have candy every day. This doesn't stop him from asking, first thing, every blessed morning of his life. He's a born optimist, I guess.)

"Um, yeah, fine (yeah, I know, but there was a TICK in my BED - it caught me off guard) but first can you show Mommy where the tick is?"

"It's dead. I squished it."

At this point, James can't quite make eye contact with anyone. John and I are fighting the full-body willies and shaking off visions of last Fall's adventure. Jacob is on the floor, howling at the awfulness. The funny, uncomfortable awfulness.

Finally, we convince him to take us to the scene of the critter's so-called demise. Yep, in my bed. Except, there was no body. There was no living tick. Gah, I wish this kid were prone to over-exaggeration or hallucinations. Stripped the bed. Checked the seams. Vacuumed everything. Never found it. I told myself it could have been a fly, or an ant. And we put garlic on the shopping list.

Fire still isn't entirely out of the question...

Kiss those babies!

Friday, April 19

Over the River and Through the Woods

... to the doctor's place we go!

I'm thankful that we can have these visits when we need them. I'd much prefer more time with family and friends and a little less face time time with the doctors, but once again, our Amazing doctor rose to the occasion.

Buddy stepped on John's toe shortly after we got home. It blew up - just ruptured. I put on my business face to deal with it, but on the inside I freaked out a little. It was beyond an order of magnitude for just a cut from a doggie nail. We cleaned it and treated it at home, but that just made it angry. Of course, this happened on a Friday. If you want, think of it as the opportunity to try a home remedy first without guilt, right? So, come Monday, we took him in. The doc looked at it and figured out that he'd had an ingrown toenail, and Buddy cutting it had just released the pressure. Oh.

:awkward pause:


We left with a prescription for antibiotics (booyah for modern medicine!) and instruction in a fascinating technique for treating an ingrown toenail. If that doesn't fix it, he said to come back and he'll take it off. Just like that. As if he were saying he'd remove a splinter or a stray eyelash.

John and I shared a full-body shudder over that one.

Then we asked about biking, since running is off the table until this is dealt with, but we've got three big rides coming up in the next six weeks. Doc said, "Eh, get out there and bike 25 miles and see how you feel." His reasoning is sound - you pedal with the ball of your foot, not your toes. If they're taped properly, it shouldn't be a problem. If you're in actual pain at the end of one ride, don't do the other. So reasonable. Like I would be if it weren't my baaaabbbyyyyyy! This is why we picked him. He keeps me sane.

And yesterday, James got braces. Just across the top and part of the bottom right now. They need to get those out of the way so that they can put brackets all the way across the bottom without them bumping and coming back off. He is handling it like a champ, like he handles so many things that are unpleasant: acknowledge that it's a good thing, embrace the benefit, muster just enough belief in that so there's no whining or drama. I didn't expect that he would become such a rational young man, and I'm proud of him. He is light years ahead of where I was at his age. Or within a decade of his age. Gosh.

Still, it's a pretty big job and it's going to take a while to get him squared away. So Z ordered a Raspberry Pi for him. Because Z's a softie, and he knew that would take the focus away from pretty much anything else going on.

Probably also school, but we'll deal with that as it comes. ;-)

John had his records done this week, also. We'll figure out Tuesday what the plan is for him.

I think our next family project will be selling plasma to help pay for all these plans.* Maybe we could bike down to the blood bank?

Kiss those babies!


Tuesday, April 16

What Do We Do All Day?

There is no way our daily activities are what trash this house every. single. day. OK, the socks are ours. I'll own that. But the amount of dirt that finds its way onto the living room floor would normally require a contractor and a liability waiver. Maybe for my birthday I'll ask for a fleet of Roombas.

Z's replacing the soffits and fascia this week. That's a somewhat thankless job, from what I can tell. While it is good, and it needs doing, what will be most obvious when it's complete will be the old roof and the nasty hillbilly porch off the back. He gets serious bonus points for doing things just because they need to be done.

The kids did the first mowing of the season this week. Now that? That's a high-reward job. Fewer ticks, gorgeous view, low resistance job, and instant gratification. Love a freshly mown meadow.

I did... laundry. And swept. Mostly. There was other stuff, but it was about as exciting as that, really.

We did drive up to Tennessee to buy Z another Volvo. This last one had... fatal flaws. After several trips to George, the car whisperer, and three weeks in the shop, it was up and running, and then, in the middle of a normal morning commute, there was metal on metal noise. Even our laid back mechanically-inclined buddy shuddered when thinking about the noise. But the Volvos are a fave, and so off we went. Z seems happy. He can't wait to retrieve his beaded seat cover, and the a/c needs to be charged, but everything else is good. Plus, it doesn't leak in the rain. (He's a trooper, but it gets tiring driving to work with your feet in a puddle of water after every rainstorm. Maybe not such a deal breaker in the desert, but it'll wear on you, here.)

Oh! And our anniversary was last week. We thought about going to the drive-in theater, but decided it would be hard to hear the movie over the tornado sirens (not a euphemism for children - actual tornado sirens). So we opted for a night in with the family. Romantic, flashlights-at-the-ready dinner, nervous dog, anxious weather-following child. (Jacob. He discovered the weather news. And now he joins James in the general uproar over how seldom we go to the basement when the weather guy clearly states that's where we should be rightnow. I'm not sure how best to handle that. I don't want him to think we hold no regard for the weather warnings, because we do - that's why we have the radio on. But if there are no tornadoes on the radar and the winds aren't that strong, I'm just not convinced we need to hunker down with the damp and the basement critters until there are... uh, no tornadoes on the radar. I could be missing something. It happens. Sometimes more often than I'd like.) But all in all, it was actually pretty great. Z and I looked at each other, looked around at the kids, the house, the dog, then back to each other, and felt giddy.

"We're doing it! We're probably even getting good at this!"


Thank God for grace and mercy. I've received it in spades.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, April 9

Scholaric and Such

We had a great weekend, filled with a little productivity and some really good family and friend time. MeWa and MeTae came down to celebrate Jase's belated birthday. She made him a cooking apron and brought him goodies to make (or, put together). There were all kinds of things in his little bag. The one thing he loves, though? The red rubber spatula that is All His Own. Pure joy. He used it to make the spinach yesterday morning and just chattered away about how great his spatula is. It's crazy what they zero in on.

And, now that he's five, he's decided it's time to learn to read. I don't know. I still need to get him in to see the ophthalmologist. And convince him to hold his pencil properly. But Em gave him the Classical Phonics books she's already done with, and he's happy drawing in them, tracing over her work while we do her lessons. He's got to be picking up some of that, and he's happy and engaged. I look around and realize that's a good half the battle, right there. (Also, we're loving Classical Phonics! If you aren't going to use Writing Road to Reading, and you have a child who loves to draw, but you worry that you'll pull your hair out with some other phonics programs, give this one a look. It's a delight to use.)

I got a wild hair last week and signed up for Scholaric, for our lesson planning and tracking. (Wild Hair Academy -- would that be too hard to explain on transcripts?) It's a very plain and simple program, and I wasn't feeling the love at first, but then we used it last week, and we like it! It's straight forward and easy to use. Set up didn't require that I haul out every title we plan to use for the term and enter all the details for that title before I could get started. (Something that drove me to some serious hard drive cleansing in the past.) The printouts seem to be a good fit for both my list maker and my schedule hater. (He doesn't hate schedules so much as he's just easily overwhelmed by myriad things to check off in the course of a day. The simpler, the better, for that one.) It's just customizable enough that I can make it comfortable for each of them. And if they :aherm: lose their pages, I have a digital copy on hand. So, theoretically, this will also be good for my blood pressure. After the trial period, the cost is $1 per month, per child. This maybe just what we were looking for.

In the rest of the news around here, no chicks have died, no children have wandered off, and I'm sleeping like a proverbial baby (not like any I ever had, but, you know). We've been going 90mph since we got home, though, and we're all in desperate need of a full week to just be *home*. I don't know what I was thinking when I scheduled ALL the things for right after we got back. Braces for James, braces for John, extractions for Jacob (the new teeth came in way behind the baby teeth and never triggered the roots to dissolve - he wanted to keep them and pretend he's a shark - we nixed that for what I hope would be obvious reasons, although he's still not convinced), groomer's for Buddy, clothes shopping for all the people who keep growing. I want to stay home and have tea, dangit! Maybe next week...

Z suggested we skip the garden this year. His reasoning make sense, but it feels like defeat. *Everything* grows here, often without any provocation at all. It shouldn't be that challenging for me to grow a garden. :sigh: But it is. And we do have other things to tend to this summer. So, we'll see. John suggested square foot gardening in the upper meadow. We'll have to do something about the moles, first, but that may be the way we go. The boys have already said they plan to plant their earth boxes. That's a ritual that doesn't get messed with. I do love that.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, April 5

What passes for exciting around here...

After years of making do, and more than a few months of threatening to just buy a hammock and sleep in the yard, we've finally bought a new mattress. Our old mattress is probably 25 years old. It's served us well, but it's been a long 25 years, and the other furniture never said, "Oh, you look so good for your age" or any other thing furniture would say if it were animated. I'm pretty sure even the leaning, saggy, 18-year-old chipboard bookcases just politely refused to make eye contact with the bed. And we slept about as well as one might expect on bedding in this condition. When Zorak would travel for work, he'd call at night and I'd ask him to tell me about the mattress. And he would, because even though he probably thought that was odd, he loves me. (By the way, Marriot does sell their mattresses to the public, just in case you're in the market - best night's sleep I've had in decades on one of those.)

So. This is huge. So huge that I must admit I'm probably just old, because a new mattress shouldn't be this exciting.

Yet it is.

And the only reason I'm not wallowing on that thing right now is because the sheets are still in the wash. Even that took some mustering to force me back up.

In other news, we finished the week strong for school, in spite of three dental visits, two hair cuts, music, and the constant need to buy more food.

We bought five new chicks, all "guaranteed to be pullets". (I am not strong on my farm knowledge, but the lady seemed to feel that answered my question, so I had to smile and nod and just trust that "pullet" does in fact mean "you'll get eggs from these if you can keep them alive long enough". Looked it up. It does. Yay!) The kids got the brooder box set up with a divider (we still have one of our older hens convalescing in there after a horrible near-death pecking by the roosters shortly before we left), and they're all enjoying the fun of raising baby chicks again.

And now that the last freeze of the year looks like it's past, it's time to start gardening! That's pretty exciting, too.

Kiss those babies, and sleep well!

Thursday, April 4

Moving Right Along

I stayed up way too late the other night re-reading Charlotte Mason. The irony (of going headlong into sleep deprivation to read up on the importance of balance and healthy habits) wasn't lost on me. So I chuckled at myself and poured another cup of coffee (because when it's already too late to go to bed at a reasonable hour, you might as well really go for broke, right?) It was a good refresher, and a great reminder about the purposes and goals of education. With our extra-curricular schedule reined in, and a decent head of steam going on our routine academics, I thought this would be a good time to formulate some simple steps we could take to get back to the things we enjoyed when the Bigs were smaller -- things like afternoon teas, regular nature study, oral narration (well, nobody enjoyed oral narration, which is a big part of why we don't do it anymore, but that doesn't mean it lacks value. It just means it's really hard to get water to run uphill without a good pump.)

The next morning, I pitched some of my ideas to the kids. The littles are gung-ho. Art study! Afternoon tea! More stories! More time outside! (The narration bit didn't really ping the wee radar, which is probably a good thing.) The bigs... well, they're polite. They smile, nod, offer input and suggestions, and ultimately agree to give pretty much anything a try. I have no idea if they think this is brilliant or if this will be one of those memories that causes them to smile gently when they're grown, and think, "Mom was so quaint with her quirky educational theories..."

What caught my attention the most, though, was the input.

J: Wow, why didn't we do these things when I was little?

Me: Um. Yeah, wow. :pause to see if he's joking: You really don't pay attention, do you?

J: What? We DID?

Me: Regularly.

J: When? Was I four?

Me: Noooo... we still did them when we moved here. You were probably eight before I gave up and started drinking.

J: Oh? Huh. Did I start drinking, too? Maybe that would explain it.

He makes me laugh. That helps. (And for the record, no, my son has not taken up drinking. He's just naturally not aware of his surroundings. But he knows this, and I'm not telling tales out of turn, here. He also fixes all my electronic problems and makes a magnificent omelet. We all have our strengths.)

So, anyway, I blew all our grocery money on books. Had to pick up the usual suspects - biographies and Omnibus titles, some more history and a little literature. Plus a few goodies "just because" -- another Andrew Lang Fairy Book (red, this time), an interesting Shakespeare book (the two we've had haven't been big hits, and the older kids dig Shakespeare, but the littles shuffle off to watch My Little Pony in James' room whenever we start discussing it). I'd like to bring Em and Jake into the book-fold a bit more. Jase still gets to run his barefooted little backwoods heart out. And if we do this right, we'll all get a little more barefooted outdoors time, too.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, April 1

Upending All The Things

So. Here we are, huh?

A while back, Zorak and I talked about whether this is where we want to stay. He's aching to go back out West. I'm pretty good with whatever we do. The biggest thing for me is that we're together, and we're in it together. Because things can get weird if everyone isn't on the same page.

So we began the search, keeping it fairly quiet for the most part. He had an interview back in January, and although it fell through, it cemented our General Plans. If you read back very far on this blog, you'll see we're well-versed in how quickly Plans can change, but as general sort of positioning thing, "We're trying to move back out West" is a pretty good overview. He also outed the plan online, so then the cat was out of the bag. And, now that I can talk about it, blogging should come significantly easier!

We just returned from a trip to New Mexico. This was a nice visit, but the occasion was somewhat dampened by the purpose. Z's Granny passed away earlier this year. This March would have been her 99th birthday. In keeping with her wishes and the way she lived her life, there was no traditional funeral. Instead, the family gathered for a celebration of her life as they laid her to rest in the New Mexico Springtime Wind. Everyone shared stories of playing Scrabble with her (even when she was mostly blind, she could beat the pants off anyone who sat down to play), Granny's open door policy (door's always open, there's a pot of something on the stove), and memories of growing up on a sheep ranch (nobody knew what lamb tasted like, but they sure knew how to make the most of the old ewes). They had a pot luck with people from all over the place, and an Easter egg hunt for the next generation of children to start building their memories of the old homestead. And then, there was a dance. Granny made it clear she wanted a good band to play at the dance, and her heirs did just that. It was a lovely way to remember a lovely woman, and although she is certainly missed by those whose lives she touched, there's a lot of her still milling about in the 70+ grandchildren and great-grandchildren she left behind.

On our trip, we also got to visit the Bob Wills Museum with the kids' Granny (Z's Mom), play in the Brazos river with friends, and stay up way too late visiting and laughing. All things we love, and they remind us that we're just too far away right now.

But we came home to tulips and redbuds in bloom! And rain! So pretty. It was the morning after we returned before I stopped saying, "Oh, look! We got rain!" and realized... we always get rain here. It's still beautiful, though. Everything's coming in green and vibrant.

In the meantime, we're finishing up a few little projects here and there so the house will be ready to list when Z finds the right job. We're plugging along with Scouting and music and trips to museums as we try to keep everything as normal as possible. The kids are good sports about it. James and John remember living elsewhere, and they trust that we aren't going to drag them off to a miserable existence. Different, maybe, but still good. Jacob knows vaguely that he's lived elsewhere, but pretty much relies on his brothers to assure him that it'll be okay. EmBaby and Jase are fairly overwhelmed with the whole idea and keep asking questions to help them make sense of how moving works. "Will we take the dog?" (Yes.) "Will we take our stove?" (Uh, no.) "Will we get to take our clothes?" (Yes. I never thought about that, but yes, you get to take your clothes.) "Will we take the chickens?" (I'm... *phew* I honestly don't know. I've never moved with chickens, and to be honest I'm kind of hoping we can pitch them as part of the pastoral appeal of the property...) "But what about Tame*?" (:squirms uncomfortably: I, uh, gah. I have no idea! Maybe he'll want to go live with Peter and Elizabeth? Or Me-Wa and Me-Tae? We'll, uh, see... :cringe:)

Kiss those babies!

*(Tame is our "special" chicken. He survived an early dog encounter, and has since become somewhat human-endeared. He would be a house chicken in a heartbeat if I'd let him. He's very content to spend time with people, and has become a bit of a party prop when we have cookouts. It's like having a weird dog.)