Saturday, November 6

On The Mend

How does time speed up as you get older, without affecting your ability to interact with people for whom time is still just crawling along? How do we not just implode upon impact, like grains in a mill?

Our pretty days feel like they flew by us. Granted, if you factor Minnesota into the weather scale, we're still in swimmin' weather, here; if you factor in Florida's weather, somebody's on the verge of calling child protective services because the kids are outside today in hoodies. It's all relative. Still, we made the most of the lovely days, chasing squirrels, watching birds, stacking wood. We got the land cleared a bit, and spent a lot of time spent on the tire swing in the meadow, and walking curbs in town. It wasn't wasted. Still, I'm a little shocked to find it's time for a fire (yeah, I know, it's November - I'm just as shocked to find it's November, believe me!)

On the health front, The Nothing seems to be passing us over. James and John are fine, now. They're off at a Scout campout, as a matter of fact. (Shyeah, it'll be below freezing tonight. What can I say - they are young, resilient, and don't have a lot of foresight.) Jake, Em, and Jase? Only mildly gritchy and just a little slower than usual. Even Zorak, who was out of commission for the bulk of this week, is up and functional and doing things. Me? I look like I've hired out as a testing module for new strains of biological warfare. I don't know what it is, but I give it two thumbs up. This stuff could take out the Ostragoths* in three months, flat. But since everyone who is well either got sick before I did, or got to sleep it off and thus healed more quickly, I have reason to hope the swelling and sore throat will go away, eventually.

In the meantime, I'm off to bleach all the things. Again.

Kiss those babies!

*or whoever those crazy kids are fighting, these days

Saturday, October 30

Should Have Gone Longer

Wednesday came and went, with nary another episode. "Yay," I thought. "We beat the beast!" So, when Thursday dawned and all were well, we did all the things we had not done Tuesday (due to the storms) or Wednesday (due to the quarantine) - we did swimming lessons and music lessons, we did groceries and costume tidbit roundups. We hung out the laundry, and we worked on the trail. It was quite the busy Thursday.

Friday, Zorak and the boys cut more of the trail. This is the last leg, and it runs alongside the creek. It'll flood when we have the heavy rains, but we have another path we can take to see the tiny creek burst its bonds and overtake the meadow. This part, by the creek, has a slightly Watcher in the Woods feel, only without Bette Davis skulking about, thankfully. Then there's a stretch that is more like a bower in a Victorian garden. It's stunning. We crashed in the living room and made fun of Avatar over a supper of vegetable barley soup with garlic cheese biscuits, then ambled to bed for a much-needed rest.

This morning, however, Em says her throat is "prickly". James and Jacob both voluntarily opted out of activities this afternoon if they still feel as poorly as they do right now. John feels fine, and is getting a bit panicky at the thought that he might go down, too. I think we've gone through a week's worth of Emergen-C just this morning. May have to hide that box.

And there's the tea kettle. Better go get to steeping!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, October 27

Quarantined Wednesday

We are home and quiet. Kids are napping and quiet. I am 2/3 of the way through spritzing ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING down with Tea Tree Oil. No, it's not exactly the scent I'd like wafting through the house, but you know, it beats the smell of vomit. Or fear.

James came out to the living room last night, around eleven, to tell us Jake Rabbit was sick. Actually, what he said was, "I think Jacob is sick. I heard him cough, fall off the bed, throw up, and run out of the room."

So, uh, yeah. We ran the numbers in our heads really quickly and figured he's probably not field testing impact gear, or trying old MREs. Poor kid was not only sick, but utterly disoriented. Not a clue what happened, or why he was out of bed. What a lousy way to wake up, huh?

Zorak did the dirty work of cleaning up the room and setting up the cot for him. I got to draw a bath with lavender and eucalyptus, run a washcloth gently across his forehead and mutter "poor dear". Really, I felt bad. I got the sleepy smile and the whispered "thanks, Mom", but Zorak's the one who did all the hard work. (It's okay, I thanked him later. That's how teamwork goes, right?)

This morning? John's green around the gills, and James slept until well past ten. (We are, actually, slow morning starters around here, but that was late-late, even for him.) Jacob's still a little wobbly. If I thought they'd let me, I'd wrap Jase and Em in saran wrap and air filters for the next 48 hours. That being somewhat out of the question, however, we're settling for the usual routine:

Wipe everything down.
Don't touch anything.
Drink your emergen-C.
Stop touching things.

If I have to, I'll strap a tissue box and a trash bag to every person, give them each their own Camelbak, and feed them all in separate rooms. A general cold, I can handle. Even the stuff that leaves everybody feeling wrung out and sluggish? Well, those have their up sides, really. But things that make them puke? And they're still mobile? Seriously? No. Cross contamination is not an option. Quarantine! Isolate! Nobody else must get sick!

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, October 23

Autumn Trails

With the boys away at Cub Haunted, the Littles and I are enjoying a slower pace than usual. We watched Thumbelina and Barney with no mocking commentary from the Peanut Gallery. We even ate in the living room, and napped on the bean bags. Yeah, we're acting like we're two years old. At least one of us is, right? Well, they've got some very good points, those two year olds...

Then, we opted for an afternoon hike on the trail. The camera, as you can see, is still in full-on Nessie/Bigfoot mode. I took 75 pictures, and these were the best of the best.
The trail forks and meanders. There are straight paths and curvy loops. It's nice. This shot is looking down at the kids as they double back past a fork in the trail.

We took the Logging Road, this afternoon. Those stumps are the remains of fallen trees that Zorak and the boys made useful before they rotted. The stumps will be placed at various spots along the way. We'll enjoy them until they woods reclaim them. The rest is stacked on the woodpile, ready to enjoy this winter!
And we found more hickory trees! Actually, we found the nuts, and figured if there's not an old adage that says, "Where there are nuts, there's a nut tree," well, then there ought to be. The nuts that weren't already chewed on or burrowed through, we brought home. And somehow, there always seem to be some extra hulls in the pockets...

Always good for boats! This was the last shot I got before we had to go search for flowers to float in the boats. I'd forgotten how nice the pace of the littles can be. This was a truly delightful afternoon. And now, a bath, and supper, and then, an early bedtime (because I can get away with it tonight!)

Kiss those babies!

Thursday, October 21

First Family Canoe Trip

James' Scout Troop took a canoe & camp trip earlier in the fall, and they had so much fun Zorak called from the tent that first night to give me a heads up that "we've gotta do this, together, sometime!"

Granted, "sometime" can have vastly different meanings. I was thinking, "after everyone learns to swim, gets Lifeguard Certified, holds security clearances, and we own our own equipment". Thankfully, Zorak doesn't spend all day in damage control mode, so he's got a better grip on things. He meant, "before the canoe rental shops close up for the season". I suppose one of the perks of having kids who aren't likely to do dumb things, like shove someone out of a boat, is that you can do fun things, like get on a boat. (But don't think I wasn't a little bit nervous. We have a couple of wild cards, still...)
So, ok, here's the van. It's a sweet setup. You park at the base, they haul you and the canoes to the drop point, give you a landmark to look for at your out, and send you on your way. I think the van ride is my favorite part. These folks are serious about the term Utilitarian. Check out the duct tape, the improv seating, and the foam wallboard insulation sheets on the sides. The roof liner is shower wallboard. The kids were bummed we hadn't thought to bring dry erase markers. I was bummed we hadn't thought of buying something like thing a dozen lost sippy cups ago.
Here are Em and Jacob, picking out the Best Paddles. Yeah, they're the same size. But there's a difference, I'm sure of it.
Jacob ran point for us. He got the hang of navigating. Jase just sang to himself the whole time. Very happy and content, that one. He got his water legs quicker than anyone, too. Thankfully, he didn't use them for evil.
Much like getting the first scratch on a new car, Em and I very generously got stuck first. You know, so nobody else had to worry about being the first to get beached. (Yeah, you know, in this picture, one has to wonder just how we didn't see that coming... but trust me, there were four year old, erm, I mean forces at work that don't appear in the photo. That, and my reflexes are slow, like an old lady. An old, blind lady who doesn't get out much.)
We ate lunch in a neat little cove. The river was pretty low, which made for a nice stretch on this point. You can see the boys, off in the distance, checking to see if a channel they found is canoe-safe. They really got into the spirit of the thing. That was fun to watch.
Jase got a little restless after lunch. Thankfully, everything he dropped overboard floated, but eventually, we gave him a paddle and turned him loose. He's still singing to himself, even as he works, "paaa-ddle, paaa-ddle, fwim, fwim, fwim" (can't quite say "sw" yet).

AND, we finally got an updated family photo, with all of us. Sadly, the camera is in the throes of death. Sometimes it won't turn on. Sometimes, it just won't focus at all. Sometimes, like here, it'll focus on what-the-hell-ever-it-wants, thank you. So, the picture is a little blurry, like a Yeti family gathering. But those leaves in the background? Lovely.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, October 18

Oh, Dear. Fall, already?

Well, when the spammers begin posting at will in your comments section, it's a sure sign you've let too much dust collect on ye olde (How would you spell that, anyway?) If you need jeans, jewelry, or... pharmaceuticals, let me know. I'm sure I can hook you up.

So, it's October. Yeah. We survived Summer. (pause for a little celebratory shin dig and some cider) As per the arrangement, my reward for not voluntarily slipping into a coma in August is the truly Awesome Display of Fall Foliage. While I'm relatively certain God would get on with the Awesome Display whether I was aware of it, or not, I made an agreement with a smaller, more shallow entity that lives in my head, and haggles with me to get me to stay upright and functional when I really don'wanna... we'll call it... Jimminy. So, "Jimminy" told me if I'd just keep plugging along, there would be Autumn as a reward. And, not saying I wasn't tempted, and definitely not saying we were "productive", by ANY stretch of the imagination. Just saying... "Yay." And, regardless of the set up, I am deeply appreciative.

The garden was awesome, this year. Actually, no, it wasn't. But it felt like it was, until we tallied it all up. We got okra. A few cucumbers, until the barn developed its laser vision and *fried* the plants to paper. As Superheroes go, the barn pretty much stinks. And, um, okra. But, in the end, Summer ended and we were too thrilled to remember to put in a fall garden, and so, it shall lie fallow and recuperate. It shall breathe. (Hence, the Apathetically Organic moniker - just proves itself again and again as THE name for us, should we ever start smoking peyote and thinking we're farmers.) Regardless, we had a lot of fun with it, which makes it awesome, in a way.

Our latest project is a bike trail through the woods. It. is. *GAH* I can't think of an adjective that isn't some variation on "awesome". (Oh, but it IS. It really IS.) And it's late, and it's a miracle I'm blogging at all. Forgive me. Anyway, I can't even explain how much fun this is. The blisters, eh, not so much. And we're pretty sure that several areas in Dante's Inferno are landscaped with the briars native to the South. However, all that aside, all we need now are awesome little plaques "
Poison Ivy, Rhus Radicans,
native to North America, non-edible
Saw greenbriar, Smilax bona-nox,
native to the U.S., freaking impossible to eradicate without napalm
then it'll be just like a trail at the Wildlife Refuge. Without the Rangers. Or the tax exempt status. But those are peripheral. It's nearly complete. Ish. OK, functional. And very exciting. The kids love it. The dogs love it. We love it!

That's it for now. If I write everything allatonce, it'll be another six months before I blog again.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, September 24

Friday evening, and all is well.

We scuttled about all week, with music lessons and swim sign-ups and other sundry activities. By today, we were all fried and ready to stay home. But we had a Sam's run looming. We were dead out of sugar and frozen veggies and avocados. Thankfully, Zorak offered to make the Sam's run on his way home from work, which meant I really didn't even have to put on shoes today. Score.

Got recruited to set up for a friend's baby shower. I'm glad her mother was willing to ask for (accept?) help when it was offered. That was cool. It doesn't happen often, around here. Most people already have their go-to list of People To Ask For Help, and it's hard to get into that loop. So. Very excited about that. The boys have also been volunteered, but they won't mind. They adore her and will be tickled to be able to be involved.

Got October's schedule lined up and filled in on the calendar. Just gotta get the Scouts to put their stuff on there. (Yeah, I know. Good luck w/ that. I'll give them a week, and then perhaps I'll hide their Class A's.)

Tried all day to contact a canoe rental company, but they evidently don't answer their phone on... um, Fridays. :-| Weird.

And now, the house has been picked up, swept up, and muttered over (the closest thing to an actual blessing. Actually, I have sage. If I throw it in with the spaghetti sauce, can I call it good?) Sauce is simmering on the stove. I'll brown up the sausage to add to it, here in a bit, and Zorak's bringing home tortellini from Sam's. Woohoo! Love it when a plan comes together.

I think James is itching to have some games tonight, so it's probably time to head down to the game closet and see what sounds like fun.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, September 21

I think I broke something

Sunday, we had friends over after church. I wasn't expecting that they'd come. We'd missed phone calls, and hadn't touched base, so I was in no way prepared. However, when we got to church and they asked what they could bring... I didn't panic.

It's not that the house was clean (it wasn't).

It's not that we had something ready to serve (we didn't).

It's not anything I can really figure out, other than that I must've broken a switch somewhere. The one that flips on (it's not a dimmer switch - it's completely binary) when company is coming and endows me with the power to push through and figure out a way to make it at least look like we could possibly maybe sort of (with a little effort, you know, because this is supposed to be "how we always live") have a Really Magazine Quality Home.

But it broke, and I was able to tell my friend honestly and upfront, "Well, you might as well know now, you will never see my home truly clean. I love you, and you're welcome any time, but this is as good as it gets."

She laughed and promised to return the favor one day. Bless her. I knew she was a good 'un.

And then, when scheduling James' chiropractic consultation, the office offers only two times: 9AM, and 1PM. I always want to take the nine o'clock appointment. That's so easy, in theory. We'd be up and at it early, out the door, and home again before Second Breakfast, and oh what a fine day would still stretch before us. But. That's not how it plays out. (Ever.) And so, I laughed and told her that while nine sounds delightful, one would be far more realistic.

And she laughed. It was a good-natured laugh, but still... I suspect she laughs quite a bit as we trundle in and out, sometimes with shoes (sometimes not - the littles still shed clothing in the car - if it weren't for car seat straps, we might arrive mostly naked from time to time), sometimes all brushed and coifed (again, sometimes not - I'm not sure what's in carseat fabric, but it can turn the cutest little hairdo into a Kramer-esque conflagration in the 40-mile drive). It used to be that queries of "how are you today *smile*" were met with an exhausted chuckle and a weakly muttered, "we're here". Now, meh, we're here and it's great and, um, yeah, I'm not even going to pretend that little one had shoes, anymore.

That switch seems to have controlled a number of exhausting functions in my brain: company clean panic switch; we're-really-more-organized-than-it-looks justification loop; oh-my-but-HOW-did-we-leave-the-piano-book-here-and-not-realize-it-all-week-*glares at guilty suspect* query. What's worse, it also seems to have triggered the Stressful Exoneration Speeches. I hate those. The kids hate those. All they do is make us all feel haggard and worn out. Why do we even come equipped with that feature?

But now, it just doesn't work. And you know what? I'm glad it doesn't.

My home will not be clean enough for the Queen, but that doesn't matter because I don't have a Queen and if a foreign Queen does come to visit, her security staff can either pass or fail the house on inspection. I don't care. The cookies will be good, at least. But the rest of you are more than welcome, any time, any day.

My children will not ever look upon exiting the vehicle the way the did upon exiting the house. I know this. If you've had children, you know this. If you don't get it, well, that's okay, they aren't your children, and I don't have to explain it anymore.

No, we are not more organized than we appear. It's actually probably worse than it seems. Just go with it. We do. And we're happier for it. (In a "Death By Irony" moment, we're also on time significantly more often now that the switch has broken! Love it!)

And yes, I feel like a complete dork for taking over a decade to find that switch and snap it off, entirely. But now it's done, and it feels great!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, September 15

Getting Ready

I'd told the kids we would do a few things "once the temperatures got below 90": build the tree house, start work on the bike trail around the property, go hiking.

Well, here we are. It's not below 90 consistently enough that I'm ready to take on anything that involves hoisting lumber over my head, and I'd really rather wait for the brambles to die back a bit before we go in and start clearing a path (it just seems to make so much more sense to let Mother Nature get a head start).

So that leaves us with... hiking. (I know. I really should have thought that list through before I said anything. But it was 113 degrees out, and I honestly thought it would never end, okay?)

I figure if I set the bar realistically (ie - "low"), and set us up to succeed (see the bar setting...), and remember to take plenty of water (and my sense of humor), it should be OK. So, for this, our first big hike of the school year, I have three goals:

1. Be respectful (this one's a constant, but I figure if I don't throw anything new at them, it'll build confidence).

2. Have fun (we're hiking with seven kids... it could go either way, really)

3. Learn one new thing (ah-ha! educational goals - see how we'll slip that in quietly at the bottom?)

If I can manage to do this and not actually lose Jase at any point, I'm going to declare it a Smashing Success and we'll all come home to collapse and eat ice cream. If he gets away from us, then I'm going to claim sanctuary and we'll all come home to collapse and start working on that tree house. I'll let you know how it goes.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, September 14

Busy, Busy Autumn!

Ish. Busy Autumnish. But close. We've had two days in a row with temps below 90. I'm wallowing in it. Of course, I'm also sweating my arse off because I keep insisting on wearing a hooded sweatshirt in honor of Fall! Yeah, I know. If I'd had this little self-restraint in the 1800's, they'd have shot me on the starting line for the homesteading race.

The home computer got kneecapped by a cranky motherboard. Uncle Wil said he will help us fix it. In the meantime, we're on a replacement placeholder thing that has no pictures, and I haven't figured out how to get the software we might need switched over. It's bare bones, this. But we have email, we can pay bills, and I figured out how to lock down the connection, so it's all good.

School is going well, aside from the tarbaby routine the kids seem to have going. than. molasses. (Then Zorak went and told them the joke about how to make molasses, and now I cannot say that they are slow as molasses, because they all start laughing and Jake Rabbit laughs so hard he cries, and then for the rest of the day he starts chortling and choking at random intervals, eventually emitting the punchline to the joke. I never know when it will strike. So, I've got to come up with another colloquialism to use to describe how freakishly slowly they accomplish their morning routines.)

And then there is the tendency to get sidetracked, which they come by honestly. *aherm* (looks around, whistles a tune, wanders off...)

Kiss those babies!

Monday, September 6

Autumn, the Legend

It's coming. We can't smell it, yet, but there's a change. The heat is not as oppressive, and it doesn't spring up with the sun, having waited just outside the window all night. Now, the mornings are lovely, and the evenings (mosquitoes and sweat bees, aside) are also enjoyable. This time of year is like the herald who forges ahead of the convoy, to announce its coming. We like this messenger!

The chickens have a cool set of nesting boxes, made from reclaimed deck boards. There's a great cabinet at the top, and a simple ledge in front of each row of boxes. The hens loved it. Until they defected. *sigh* The free-range thing didn't work out so well, and now the remainder of our hens are living at the neighbors' place. Ah, well, we'll build a large fenced yard, and try again. At least now, we have nesting boxes!

The Farmer's Market is still going strong. We've been enjoying these bad boys this summer. These aren't your grocery store style peach. They're... oh, my gosh, they're the kind of peaches you hear old-timers talking about picking after a day of walking fence lines and skipping rocks and catching tadpoles. So plump and ready that you have to eat them right then and there, the juice running down your arms, exploding in your mouth and quenching both your thirst and your tummy. Yep, that's what we found, the stories are true -- They are *that* sweet, and juicy, and delicious.
And now, with the start of September, we have birthdays and school days and dove hunting. Me-Wa and Me-Tae made sure the kids were ready to go, this weekend. James and John had a great time with Zorak and Me-Wa Saturday. Today, John and Jacob are out, doing the bird dog thing with Zorak. (I loved doing that with my nieces when we were little. Can't wait to hear how their day goes.)

Kiss those babies!

Friday, August 27


The boys found a little nest a while back. It had two little babies in it - we honestly had no idea what they were. But they were so ugly they were cute. We checked on them every day or so, until...
They got hair! And suddenly, they were Significantly more recognizable!

The ultimate pet - Free-Range Bunnies. Cute, fun, cheap (although we've got to fence in the garden...), and educational!
They've left the burrow, now, but have stayed in the area, enjoying the remains of the garden, and the goodies in the yard. It'll be nice to be able to mow, again (we put a moratorium on mowing near the burrow - it's a jungle at this point!), and now we know what to look for, next year!

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, August 25

Fit and Funny

We try to be supportive of the kids' interests. This was really easy when they were two, and their interests included snacks, The Wiggles, and nap time. Who couldn't get behind that, right? Now, they're branching out a bit, which is good - a fixation on The Wiggles at the age of 12 would be downright disturbing. It helps, too, that they're interesting and funny kids, and even though each child is so wildly different from the others, they're all pursuing things we can get behind and encourage wholeheartedly. So far, nobody has declared a burning desire to take up nose hair collections, or to become famous for taking compromising pictures of celebrities. So far, it's all good.

James left this for me one morning. I love finding these little comics here and there - I love that he makes me laugh. He's learning how to work CADD (one D? Two? I don't know. I obviously can't run it, if I can't even spell it. But he can. He'll fill me in tomorrow, if I got it wrong.) And he's learning how to make and edit movies. I don't get the fascination, there, but I'm sure he feels the same way about my love of organizing the bookshelves or moving furniture around the room.

And that's one great thing - the kids are really supportive of our various endeavors, too. They've taken beautifully to the chicken tending, and don't mock me for refusing to touch the chickens (I'll help you corner it, but *you* have to pull it out of the tree!) They don't complain much when Zorak calls them out to stand around the car on a sweltering August afternoon, to show them how an a/c clutch works. Nor do they dawdle nearly as much as I would when they make a beverage run.

So last fall, when I realized my bone density wasn't going to magically improve itself via caffeine intake and wishful thinking, and I started working out and reducing my coffee consumption, the kids got behind me. For a while, they stayed well behind me - just out of arm's reach and earshot. But we found a plateau on the caffeine withdrawals and things improved mightily. I'll be honest, the workout program has waxed and waned. But no matter where we were in the cycle, the kids have been right there, along with me. I mentioned once that I thought it was great how enthusiastic they are about working out. James said, "Oh, we don't really like doing it. We just like to encourage you." Heh. Fair enough. And for a while, that was fine.

But now, I'm looking to find ways to make it less something they do for Mom, or less something I have to set aside a time/place/bribe money for (the bribes are for me - I still don't like it, either) -- and more of a thing we just *do*. Together. And hopefully because we want to, and not because we all feel compelled to. To that end, for the next month, we'll be working together through mastering the five essential movements, as outlined in The Primal Blueprint Fitness. Today, we watched the videos, did our initial assessments, and logged our first entries in our logbooks. We'll see how it goes.

Tomorrow (thank God) is a day to "rest, move slowly, or play". I am ALL about that! We have some ideas to flesh out for making our movements more intentional (waiting for the temps to drop back under 100 or so was one of them...) and more enjoyable (that temperature thing came up under this category, too!). Thankfully, it's supposed to dip down to 89 sometime this week! I'll put ideas and plans up here, as we go. Maybe the kids will make some videos, or cartoons, to help with the presentation!

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, August 24

Squealing Like A Little Girl

We just checked the weather, and it's supposed to be 89 degrees on Thursday! I know this doesn't sound exciting, but it is. It's exciting is so very many ways. Summer's on the downhill slope!

The sunflowers are hanging in the basement to dry. The okra's floating in jars. The beans are done, and we've learned a lot about those. The pears are thinking about ripening, and we found another pear tree we never knew we had!

The chickens are a little fickle, and we still have no idea what we're doing, there, but we're learning. Slowly but surely.

But Autumn is coming! Soon we'll spend time outside without our hair sticking to our necks, without the mosquitoes sticking to our arms. Soon we'll need jackets in the evening, and can enjoy bonfires in the twilight.

OH, yes, Summer's days are numbered, and as they drop, so do the temps! WOOHOO!

Kiss those sweaty little babies!

Monday, August 23

Snug as Sardines in a Can

Also known at the "Captain's Bunk Bed with Trundle", according to the packing slip. The boys *love* it. I like the added floor space, and that we can fit three children in the footprint of one twin bed without violating any maritime bunking regulations or anything.

I'm not so keen on how wobbly it feels. However, nobody who has seen them shimmy in and out of it seems to think it's any more wobbly than any other bunk bed, and the projections I've done indicate that should we have a structural failure, nobody is likely to die. So, for now, it stays.

They've worked out a four-month rotation so that everybody gets a chance to enjoy the top bunk, and nobody feels like the Spare Child by being relegated to the trundle. Although, with the trundle being high, it feels like a normal bed and they've all said it doesn't feel like an afterthought, at all.

See how there are six drawer fronts? The top three are false - they're part of the trundle bed frame. The bottom three, however, are actual drawers. The additional space is really lovely! They hold a tremendous amount of clothing, and so far haven't come apart. I haven't looked in them since the boys got them built, but based on what they've put their previous drawers through, I'm guessing they're getting a workout.

The kids helped with every stage, and the boys did the finish work (assembling the ladder, building the drawers, and putting on the hardware) entirely on their own. I couldn't make heads or tails of the instructions, but the kids did a great job and just ran with it! WooHoo!

And, for Julie, who wanted to see the beat up old pirate blanket...
He really loves that thing.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, July 20

It's Gone! (It's Back. It's all about the Beds.)

I can't find my upload cord for the camera. Again. This is what I get for cleaning the house. (Update: found it!)

We were busy this weekend. We tagged and sorted things for the church yard sale (on the 24th!) on Friday morning. Then Em and Jase's bed arrived that afternoon. It took five hours, as there was a lot of "help", but we had fun with it, and in the end, we did get the new bed together. They love it! It looks and functions beautifully! Huge hit.
The bedding? Not such a hit. We bought Jase an adorable bugs quilt set. We thought surely he'd love it, with the great colors, and the lovely, whimsical stitching. There are lightning bugs and bugs in jars, and even quilted magnifying glasses with goofy-eyed bugs beneath them. It's just a fun, fun quilt.

No. Not even close. Not only does he not think it's a fun little quilt, he thinks we need to get him a real blanket.

He went so far as to drag John's beat up old pirate comforter down the hall into his room. He dropped it at my feet and muttered, "There. There's a blanket."

I hope he gets over that, because it's quite well-made, and looks like it will last him a long, long time.

EmBaby's lovely quilt arrived yesterday. She likes it just fine, but its arrival was a bit anti-climactic after she'd been sleeping in the new bed for two nights. Still, at least she doesn't hate it. And, it makes us smile to see her wee head poking out from all that quilty flowered cottony goodness at night.
We put Gram's rocking chair in there, too, so there's a place for stories. (The new bunk bed styles seem to be significantly shorter than the old ones - Big People cannot sit upright on the lower bunk. Even the larger of the Littles can't do it. I don't care for that much, at all. But we're loving the rocking chair in there!)

And the steps! Oh, how they *all* love the steps! It's easy to get up and down, we don't have to worry about somebody falling in the middle of the night (disoriented babies trying to get down to go pee don't need to navigate a ladder). We'll have to move the ceiling fan (ugh!) but otherwise, everything's set for a while, in the nursery.
Kiss those babies!

Thursday, July 15

Laughter is love

The kids were squirrelling around the other day, laughing and playing and generally doing their thing, when suddenly I heard, "MOM! You've gotta come SEE this!" So I peeked around the corner, and this is what I saw...

"Aww, that's sweet," I told them. "He's playing peek-a-boo!" The looked at each other, clearly thinking, "What?" No, no. Turns out, Jason was laughing so hard, he drooled. And this is what he drooled. All over my pillow. It must be love, right? The boys thought it was hilarious, and just had to be caught on film.

We should all laugh that hard, eh? (Well, maybe not in public. But he's little. He can get away with it.) And wouldn't it be great if everybody had at least one person in his life to make him laugh that hard? What a lucky life, to have such a happy home! I'm thankful, soggy pillows and all.

Kiss those babies!

Wednesday, July 14

Spirit of America

John and Jacob worked the Raingutter Regatta for their Cub Scout Pack at the Point Mallard Spirit of America celebration on July 4th. So we packed up the crew and headed out, together. Em wore her obligatory wings. And Jase did perk up considerably, once we let him out of the stroller so he could keep up with the rest of the crew.

It was hot-hot-hot, but it was a wonderful time. The Scouts of the Greater Alabama Council had so many different booths set up, from derby cars and pedal cars to water bottle rockets and a rope bridge. We weren't expecting such a great turnout -- it was a very pleasant surprise.

All of the boys who worked in that heat really did their Troops proud, and they made the festival a huge success.

Of course, there was funnel cake, and BBQ. Live music (a particularly spectacular treat, here in the South - we still, five years after arriving here, have not ever heard a poor performance), and hands-on booths.

There were flags and copies of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution available. And we truly did celebrate the Spirit of America. As always, a humbling and recalibrating day.

Kiss those babies!

Sunday, July 11

Ur doing it wrong

As much as we love LOLCats, it's not always fun to feel like we'd be in a picture with that title. When it comes to gardening, we feel like we are quite often. And, looking on the bright side, sometimes, we're not. We canned pickled okra last night (learned a lot), had a good time, and in the end, we've got pickled okra. Yay. We also canned pickled cucumbers. Kind of blew through the learning curve on the okra, so the cucumbers went much more smoothly. I've learned a couple of things about canning this week:

* Only can with someone you love.
* You can pack more in that jar. Really.
* Okra floats. (Well, duh. We knew that. We just didn't put that together with the packing and the liquid until it was too late. And I mean that literally -- it was nearly midnight.)
* Don't make it harder than it has to be. (Applies to a number of things, actually.)
* All Other Kitchen Rules Apply (don't touch the pot without a pot holder, clean as you go to keep your blood pressure down, you get to eat the mistakes, and lick the spoon... whether you want to or not, is another story)

It's been a good gardening season, this year. We have also discovered a new superpower for JackJack , um, I mean Jase. Or, rather, we've found a way to direct his powers for Good. He's very good at pulling things apart, at tearing things open, at throwing things. He's quite detail oriented, and can mangle things for hours on end. So, he's the new bean sheller!

Next year, we'll wait until the beans are dry in the pods before we harvest them, like the professionals suggest. This year, however, we're eating the daylights out of fresh black beans. Soft, sprouted, semi-dried, and partially neglected. I figure by August, we will have figured out at least three completely new ways of eating these things! And, it'll keep Jase busy for the rest of the summer.
EmBaby gets in on the action, too. She prefers the washing and the picking, for actual work, but who doesn't love joining in on the kitchen activity?

This is our third year gardening, here. We've killed a lot of plants. We've grown a lot of weeds. We've tilled significantly more linear feet of soil than we've actually gardened. But, we've also expanded the garden significantly, widened our range of produce, and actually managed to harvest enough food to make a dent! We've figured out where to put what , developed some new trellis schemes, and nailed down the price on Japanese Beetle bounties. Now, to figure out a rotation plan that will work - one entire corner of the garden seems willing to grow only okra, and 18" tall corn stalks.

Sometime this week, I hope to put up pictures of projects the kids have been working on: new compost bin, chicken infirmary, shooting gallery, and American Revolution re-enactment field.

Kiss those babies!

Saturday, July 10

Gardening, Homesteading, Frugality

No, not really. But doesn't that sound like I've been thinking hard, and have come up with something exciting to share? Or maybe more of the same, but couched in new terms!

Nope, sorry. It's about all I can do to keep the kids sorted out with school, plan the next term's work, and start shifting the boxes in the foyer out to the car to be shipped. The fact that the Growing Season is pretty time-sensitive doesn't help much. Not really.

We have no clue what we're doing, as evidenced by our lack of fertilization every. single. year. Or by my recent attempts at growing beans, without figuring out how best to, oh, I don't know, *harvest them*, before we put them in the ground. (Or, hey, even before they ripened! Or maybe just before I pulled them off the plants and *then* tried to figure out how to store them.) On the plus side, our overall disorganization and lack of ability means that most of this year's crop is still, technically, organic. Not Gov't Certified Organic, but Organic in the Way That Most People Really Care That It's Organic. But we don't have a label for that. As a matter of fact, we don't even have labels for the stuff we're putting up for our own pantry.

Which brings me around to the title, and my immense joy that there are Other People who have A Clue, and share their knowledge with us. What a blessing!

I've blown quite a few hours tonight (this morning? The sun should be coming up soon...) reading new blogs that I've thoroughly enjoyed. They seem to offer a blend of humor, honesty, and information that works for me. Perhaps you'll enjoy them, too.

Kathie, at Two Frog Home, has a baking fetish that makes me envy, and a craft fetish that makes me wish I had that genetic pre-disposition (but I don't. So I will continue to hope somebody will pass the quilts along when they are done with them.) Not to mention, she lives in Montana, and I'm pretty sure that's where God retired when He finished creating the world. *sigh* So beautiful!

From Kathie's wonderful Friday Favorites posts, I found this recipe for Tibetan Butter Tea, which I'm going to have to show James in the morning. And then, of course, had to poke around at Gracious Hospitality. But they don't mind me poking around at four in the morning. They're hospitable like that. ;-) (And yes, I am winding down, and it's about time to stop. talking.)

Also, Kathie had linked to the Urban Homestead (now called The Path to Freedom). I'd heard about this family's project, but had not seen the site. Wow! What a source of encouragement! It's amazing what they have done with 1/5 of an acre, and makes me ever more excited about progress on the Forever Home's land. (Caution: it's a little overwhelming, and can be depressing, or at least it was for me, until I realized *they've been at this since 1985!* This doesn't happen overnight! Just keep going, one plant, one corner, one lesson at a time.)

I've added a new category to entries: good neighbors. This will be the posts with links to other blogs or websites that I don't want to lose. It's good to keep up with good neighbors once you've found them.

Kiss those babies!
And, that said, I'm going to save this post.

Good-bye June!

So, after John turned ten, there were ten more days left in June. What'd we do with them? The usual... James worked on perfecting his "dead" look. (I'm not sure why, but there you have it. At least it's a family endeavor - you can see he has enlisted his siblings' assistance. In this case, John acted as cameraman, and EmBaby seems to be, uh, Props Management? Please ignore the background. I'm rethinking our decision not to put doors on their closet...)

Jase has continued his quest for world domination through... practical jokes? (Ha, ha! You thought it was a real frog in your tea! Ha, ha! Hand over the keys to the city!) Or perhaps it's a plan to hatch an army of rubber frogs to do his bidding? Mutant, tea-bathing frogs! Muahahaaa!

EmBaby is doing all she can to stay fresh in the heat. It's hard to be a Southern Lady.

And, we tried out a new bug bite trick, which seems to work beautifully! Take a pen, and draw a circle around the bites. Looks absolutely ridiculous, if you've been hiding in the blackberry patch, but it does seem to offer relief. Some claim panacea. I'm good with that. It still works. I wonder if invisible ink would offer the same benefit without the urge to make constellation patterns and smiley faces?

And that was pretty much it, for June. The garden's coming along. The kids are busy with Scouts. Zorak and I are working the Dave Ramsey as hard as we can. The dogs are eating everything in sight and plotting a way to get to the barn to play with the chicks. Pretty mild summer, so far.

On the blogging front, I fell asleep at 9:30 last night, and awoke, refreshed and somewhat disoriented, at 2:45. I took this opportunity of being alone and awake all at once to upload pictures in batches, and try to plan out a few posts. I feel so... caught up!

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, June 22

Our John-John is ten!

In the blink of an eye, the turn of a phrase, that split second between a joke and the punchline, he's gone and turned ten. And what a fun, loving, witty ten he is. He's getting more adventurous, too.

We spent the day with Me-Wa and Me-Tae, having lunch (yeah, on Father's Day - I know, but sometimes the schedule doesn't really give us much wiggle room - our waiter really jumped through hoops to help get us in and out quickly), then going to the movies (Toy Story 3, John's pick, and it was great that the whole family could go and enjoy it - there was an absolutely adorable little fuzzy-headed toddler behind us, and all the children in the theater were wonderful - that, alone, was fantastic and amazing!) The 2:15 show was sold out, so we hit the mall to blow a few hours, then headed back to enjoy the 5PM showing.

We didn't break out his Big Gift until we got home that night, just because we didn't want to have to pry it out of his hands every time we had to get out of the car.

(This thing puts the Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle to shame. To shame, I tell you! muuaaahahhaahaaa!)

I'm always touched by John's easy-going nature. He handles disappointments and glitches with a gentle, easy grace that just blows me away. And he bounces right back without blinking, ready to enjoy the next adventure. Onward and Upward! He's silly and affectionate with his siblings. He's a hard worker, and a big dreamer. He does the right thing, even when it's not the fun thing, or the easy thing. He's so much like his Dad, and I could not be more proud.

And, at least when he does go wild and take chances, he's learned to do it with a helmet and padded gear...

So, really, he's set! (Yeah, that's a 15' drop. On a Big Wheel. Sometimes, I just don't ask, anymore.)

Happy Birthday, Sweet John! We love you!

Kiss those babies (they really don't stay babies for long!)

Wednesday, June 16

New Uses

Jase likes to get his own cup. Lately, he wants to use cups the older kids use. In our case, jelly jars - they're more resilient than regular juice glasses, look fine if they're mis-matched, and, hey what do you know...

They'll take the lid to a sippy cup! (He brought us the cup and the lid. We tried it, not expecting it to work, but to show him it wouldn't work. Boy, were we surprised!)

Kiss those babies!

Monday, June 14

Wow, You Worked A Lot!

James came home from Scout camp on Saturday. It was hard to have him gone, and wonderful to have him back. (Yes, we're working toward them being okay leaving home, and us being okay with it, too. Still, that first time is a kicker!) I was anxious to hear about his week. For him, it was good, but the stories need to percolate a bit before they come to the surface. What he did say, however, was, "Wow, you worked a lot! It's like the house went on a changing binge as soon as I left!"

*blink* What?!? It was a quiet week. John and Jacob went to Day Camp. Jason napped in the car. Emily and I had tea parties. Not a particularly productive week, I thought.

Not really, Mom. The chickens got big enough to move. And now they're at the barn.

The garden grew enough that you're harvesting stuff out of it.

The blackberries have all turned red!

Jason's talking more. Emily's making her own bed.

*sigh* Everything's changed in just a week.

Yeah, yeah it has, kiddo.

Kiss those babies!