Wednesday, May 29

That 11th Hour...

Our deadline for submitting the Troop's cancellation for Camp came at noon on Monday. We had no one to fill in. We needed to cancel. Of course, nobody wrote the letter, and normally, I'd be torqued, except that that evening we had friends over. I heard one of the kids (:snort: Kid - he's 18, an Eagle Scout, works his tail off, and is very responsible - but in my head, he's a "kid", I know, I'm getting old and weird) -- anyway, heard him say that he had to leave on X date to get some time in visiting family and friends before Staff had to report at Camp SomethingOrOther. Hmmm...

So... when is Camp SomethingOrOther?

It's the week after yours. (I'm paraphrasing, but that's basically how it played out.)

Would you like an all expenses paid trip to the lovely mountains of Camp TheOneWeGoTo, *and* get to be A Hero for saving Camp? :eyebrow waggle: (Not paraphrasing. I was desperate and gave him the full pitch.)

He laughed at me and said yes. (He really did laugh. I've mentioned he's a great ki-- erm, guy. But also, he said YES!)

So, WOOHOO! Once again, that Blessed 11th Hour came through. We now have two adults for camp and meet all the requirements of the BSA.

That means we should probably consider packing sometime this week...

And, I think I overbought on groceries. The Littles could live for a month on what it takes to feed the Bigs for a couple of days. The last time the Bigs were gone, I cooked one meal and the three of us ate off it for the whole weekend.

But, CAMP! Yay!

Kiss those babies!

Monday, May 27

Gathering for a Pounce

Many (most? all? I should look that up) animals gather themselves together before they pounce. I'm pretty sure this is a mental phenomenon, also. (Though I haven't researched it, because honestly, it's just a picture in my head of how I feel before we have to tackle something big. So it could just be us.)

Anyway, we've had a busy week or so, and neither of us gathered for it, so it's been more of a swatting than a pouncing. Z ran out of steam on the soffits as he got farther around the back of the house and started running into rotted wood on the frame. And more brick work (not our favorite thing to do, regardless). It's been a week of sawzall work and framing, mortar and priming. It'll be good, in the end, and solid. But... nasty things fall out of the eaves when you start sawing on them. *gag*

Our Scout Troop had a weird confluence of TDY assignments for all our adults, and we found ourselves two weeks out from camp with only one Adult leader able to go. It's been a week with a flurry of emails, brainstorming, and stress. We were hoping to get information on a provisional troop arrangement at the camp, or perhaps to have the boys and our one adult appended to another troop for the week, but the camp office isn't open yet, the lady we generally deal with is on vacation, and we're having a devil of a time making headway. I could to go, if we could come up with a way to hide three bouncy Littles in camp for a week. So far, no brilliant ideas on that front. So it looks like the boys may miss scout camp this year.

Our Webelos built bat boxes. That was a "Z to the rescue" kind of thing. He's incredible with the kids - they learn so much from him, and they have fun doing it. Once the cedar dries out a bit, and they don't weigh so much, the boys will finish them out and get them hung. Based on the volume of mosquitoes we have this year, I'm betting we'll have the fattest bats in the state, and plenty of them.

I lost my glasses at some point last week. The Suburban was spotless. The house was immaculate. Still no glasses. Then I realized we hadn't tackled the Baby Dragon Lair. We waded through the paper treasure and bead bullion and other valuables in the hoard. I almost didn't do it. It's daunting for a non-crafty person to delve into an artist's space. Especially when she's small and has a minion. And, dragons. But I'm glad I did. The glasses were there, on a pony. Under some homemade pillows (paper, cotton balls, and staples). I also found my stapler.

On a related note, as much as I want to do the ceiling next, that child needs a non-carpeted room to work in. I'm thinking gunite. If you have ideas, toss them up on Pinterest. I'll be researching next week.

And graduations! We've had three beautiful, amazing young people in our lives who graduated from high school this week. Every one of them is the kind of person you can't wait to turn loose on the world: kind, hard working, generous, thoughtful, upright young people. I know their paths won't always be easy, but we are so very proud of them and excited for them to get out there and share themselves with the world. When people complain about "kids these days", I want to share these kids with them, so they'll know what to look for. They're there. And they're fantastic!

Kiss those babies, no matter how big!

Wednesday, May 22

They did it.

The Bigs: 25 mile route on the Tour d'Arsenal. They were the youngest riders on that loop, and they didn't come in last. (That doesn't really matter, as this wasn't a race, and there were people of all fitness levels and cycling experience on the ride. But it did feel kind of good for young men testing their mettle.) They were all a bit shocked and awed (in a good way) when they got buzzed by a group of septuagenarians about the mid-way point in the ride, though. I guess it was pretty impressive and left quite an impressions on four young men, sucking wind up a hill, when the whirr-whirr-whirr of fast bikes comes up from behind and whoosh~~~ there they go. Good stuff.

Jacob: 18 miles. The youngest rider in the Tour. (The next two youngest being the Bigs.) It didn't even dawn on me that kids wouldn't do it. Didn't dawn on Jacob, either, until he ran out of steam at about the 15 mile mark. He'd done everything right, really - he was well-rested going into it, ate well before hand, and was staying hydrated. But it was hot-hot-hot and sticky beyond belief, and I think that got inside his head and made him question everything from the origin of the universe to why we didn't hire a rickshaw and take a scenic drive. We slowed our pace, I asked a few questions and then just listened as he talked his way out of his own head. He took a few deep breaths, and you could just see this kid center himself and refocus on his goal. It was amazing, and humbling, and uplifting all at once. The other riders were fantastic and so very encouraging with a kind word and a cheer of encouragement as they passed.

One lady, in particular, offered to share an energy drink packet she'd brought. I checked the label and it didn't have anything we'd find objectionable in it, so I said yes. By that time, Jacob had decided he could see this through and enjoy it, but the psychological boost that gave him -- both the generous gesture and the idea that he was getting a beneficial drink -- he flew the last few miles and could have happily gone another round if only it had been under 90 degrees. And burritos. We had burritos in the car for the riders. He said he felt great when it was over. "Probably the hardest thing I've ever done, but it felt good." I... have no idea where he gets it, but am so glad he's got it!

James wrecked near the start of the ride. Poor kid - he went over the handlebar over the weekend, too. Anyway, best I can make out from their stories, he and John needed to veer around an obstacle, but someone came up on James' right so he had to veer back left and they (James and John) collided. They must be pretty proficient at bike repair and first aid, though, because they got it fixed, treated their wounds, and were back on the trail before Jacob and I could catch up. We only heard about it later. There were a couple of more gnarly wrecks later in the ride, but thankfully nobody was seriously injured (and we weren't a part of those).

For Z and I, it was a great experience. Of course, you can tell we're not hard-core cyclists. When they start down a slope, they lean on the handlebars and streamline their forms. It's serious business. When we hit the crest of a hill and start back down, we put our heads up and our elbows out to catch some air. If you listen really closely, you might be able to make out a faint, "Weee!" I hope we're still doing that together 40 years from now, wherever we are. And that the kids will still want to come with us.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, May 21

While I wait for the phone to finish backing up,

I watched YouTube videos on how to fix a laggy phone.

I read a couple of articles on the dangers of sleep deprivation.

I stared into space for a little bit. (Kind of confirmed some of what I'd just read. Weird.)

Then it hit me, "Hey! Nobody's up! I could blog!"

Which is not to say that I'm blogging anything I don't want them to read. It's just that I'm not good at holding multiple thoughts coherently in my head. Funny, you'd think I'd be better at that by now. That, and getting to bed at a decent time. But, no. And no. Ah, well.

Tomorrow (today) we ride the Tour d'Arsenal. (There will be napping before hand, seeing as it's already after two in the morning.) It's a neat cycling tour of the Arsenal that goes through some of the older, more historic parts of the area. We've pretty much milked the liability waiver for all it's worth. (The boys, in particular, thinks it's hilarious that I won't let them sky dive, but have no problem sending them into something that requires I acknowledge in writing that they could DIE in the process. Of course, they could die doing anything; I'm just acknowledging that if they die doing this, it's their own fault and my responsibility. Plus, if your bike malfunctions, you get road rash. Order of magnitude in the different probable outcomes.) But we're stoked. It'll be fun.

We rode the Alabama section of the Natchez Trace this past weekend. We didn't have logistical support for the Littles, so Z and I split up the trek. I rode the first portion with the boys, with Jase in the child seat on my bike. He's a fun cycling buddy. I'm going to be a little sad when he's too big to ride along like that. We stopped at a ferry and fished for a bit, then Z took Em on the trail-a-bike and rode with the boys for what turned out to be the entirely uphill portion of the trail. Didn't see that coming. He's so good-natured, though. Jacob and I drove past them on our way out of the park - going up this steep, steep incline - Em was standing on the pedals of the trail-a-bike, just pumping her legs as hard as she could to help get them up the hill. Of course, she was whipping that thing side to side and you could see the back end of Z's bike flailing left and right. It probably felt like trying to climb a mountain with monsters shaking him by the ankles. Yet as we drove past, Jacob and Jase waved and cheered them on, and Z had a smile and a wave for the boys.

Jacob rode 17.1 miles of the trail on a 20" bike. Holy cow, that kid is good-natured... and wiry! He didn't complain at all! Even when he collapsed in the grass and announced that he felt like that was a pretty good ride and he was done, thanks - still, no whining. Z and I were exhausted just watching him. (Well, and because we're old and out of shape.) But he loves to ride with his brothers, and they love to have him along, so we bought him a bigger bike this weekend. They've already taken him on an inaugural ride to the square and to Gina's for a soda. He was all smiles as he explained that he's just as tired, but he goes a LOT faster.  He can hardly wait to do this next ride with the new wheels!

It has rained and rained and rained. When it's not raining, we're outside working on the house or the meadows. Then it rains and we come back in and watch it rain. As quickly as the grass and poison ivy are growing, I'm rather thankful we don't have kudzu. We'd have to hack a path to the car and defoliate the drive just to get to town. It's crazy. We've lived here eight years, and still I'm awed every Spring by how quickly things grow here. It's so green and lush and just beautiful.

We're about three days away from kicking into full-on Summer Schedule. Math, Foreign Language, Reading. Call it a day. It's just too beautiful to stay inside. We'll get down to business in August, when it's not so beautiful anymore. Right now, though, it's time to be outside, digging in the garden, building things in the meadow, and playing in the creek.

Kiss those babies!

Friday, May 10

And the rain came down...

And down, and down, and down.

The boys had traded their planned backpacking trip earlier this month for a make-up trip to Tannehill Iron Works. It's a favorite, and we missed our normal Fall trip because nearly everyone had conflicting obligations that week, so we were all looking forward to this. There was rain in the forecast, but all the Scout leaders heard that and thought, "Oh yeah, camping in the rain with a good book..." Even the boys weren't daunted. Then the thunderstorms decided to show up, so we had to punt to the following weekend.

Normally, in Alabama, if you can't go this weekend, you can go the next weekend. Not this time. The storms were bigger the following weekend. And the next! Not wanting to end up on national news with the lead-in, "A Scout from Alabama was struck by lightning/washed away in a flash flood/lost in a mud bog..." we ended up scrapping the trip. Now everbody's antsy to get out and get some woods time. It's like cabin fever, in that it makes everyone irritable and sensitive. It was the right call, but dang...

So, we've been piddling around here between downpours. The mower slipped a belt, and we fixed it. We've lost the Kindle, so the house is absolutely spectacular from the thorough clean-as-you-look approach. The creek flooded and we checked out all the neat animals that seek the high ground - it's amazing how many things live in the beautiful meadow!

The deck may never get stained. If we build another balcony while we still live in the South, I'm going to stain all the wood before we put it up. When it warms up enough to stain, the pollen comes. When the pollen stops, the oak fuzzies come. When the oak fuzzies stop, the rain comes. When the rain stops, the temps drop too low to stain. With this cycle, we might have a week sometime in November when there's nothing falling from the sky and the wood dries out enough to stain it.

Jacob's Den slipped out for a City Walk earlier this week. It was a gorgeous day for it (probably should have stayed home and stained the deck...) We started our walking tour of the historic downtown area with the last stop on the tour -- in part because it's such an important structure in the town's history, and in part because we hoped to end up at the Farmers' Market instead of back on the same end of town. Well, as we walked around the building, looking at bullets still lodged in the walls, and the mortar holes in the columns, the bank door opened and Judge Breeland (who leads the Citizenship course the boys took last Spring) stepped out to invite us in for an official tour of the Old State Bank building! What a treat! Our one-hour city walk turned into a fantastic, two-hour, hands-on tour of one of the most amazing buildings I've been privileged to explore. Everyone who takes a tour appreciates having a guide who loves his subject and knows it well enough to make it come alive. Judge Breeland is just that kind of guide.

The deck can wait. I'm glad we didn't miss out on that!

Monday, May 6

Through Fresh Eyes

It's easy to look at our own lives and see all the things that need doing, all the things that need repair, all the things that are lacking. It's easy to take for granted the things that work just the way they're supposed to, to forget the hard work that's gone into setting up our lives, and the beauty in the natural function of life.

So when our company arrived yesterday morning for a day of shooting and eating and visiting, and I was only barely dressed, the house wasn't company ready, and we hadn't prepared food, I kind of wanted to curl up and die in the corner behind the Hoosier. (They were invited. Z just has a Jimmy Buffet Gene that makes communicating actual time values to me a bit tricky.)

All I saw was a group of strangers standing in the foyer, trapped by the My Little Pony Picnic Barricade. My instinct was to invite them in, but how do you make it sound inviting as you request someone navigate past the leaning tower of books, around the marker mine field, toward the kitchen... the one I don't really clean unless company *is* coming, because it's always in use? Well, no, I take that back. My instinct was to hide, but that proved logistically impossible, so I went with Plan B.

Plan B: punt. Maybe you laugh a little nervously. You announce there is coffee, and wonder if it's too early for beer. You do a quick mental check to see if you've at least got on a bra, then take a deep breath and acknowledge that if they can walk in on this and still have a good day, they're probably Really Good People.

And they were. We had a wonderful time. They didn't freak out over the child-debris. They visited and chatted and laughed and shared stories. They are absolutely delightful. We did what we do -- we fed them, and then fed them again, and then made kettle corn and sent them home with a big bag of it. We made a lot of coffee and tea and wandered here and there. MeWa came out after a few hours and added to the fun. Jacob took them about to show them his favorite things and places. We just had a good, old-fashioned day with friends. (I did send James back to run a brush in the toilet bowl... some things, you just don't want to punt.)

And when they left, we were sad to see them go. Their daughters made plans to come back over Thanksgiving break to learn to make tamales. The parents will be back for cookouts and bon fires over the Summer. The best compliment we received that day? "We just feel so welcome."

*whew* Nailed it. The key? Pick Really Great People to invite over! They'll help you see your world and your home through fresh eyes, and will remind you about the things that truly matter. And relax. You've got a neat life, and you don't want to miss out on fantastic people because you can't see through the mess to enjoy them. At least, I don't. I'm thankful for the reminder.

Kiss those babies!

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.)

Sunday, January 20

Project Round-Up

Wow, all that light coming in through the window highlights every little thing that needs finishing around here. I have a list, however, and we have A Plan. So, on we go!

There's a cabinet/bookshelf that's been languishing in the dining room for years. It held the printer and ALL the paper I didn't know what to do with, but couldn't part with, either. As of today, it's out of there, and we have room to put a coat rack by that door. It's going to be swanky and practical. I'm so excited. Overall, this is a win. However, turns out we never put baseboard behind it. I think Zorak built the cabinet shortly after we put the flooring in, and the baseboards came a year or so after that, so... we blew it off. Well, no longer! The house now has a contiguous line of baseboard around all the walls in all the rooms. It's almost like living with grown ups.

And, the cabinet is empty. That, in itself, was a project. All the paper hoarding tendencies got dealt with head-on this week. Ouch. There's a therapeutic glass of wine waiting at the end of one of these projects, I hope. I'm going to savor the living daylights out of it, if there is.

We started the late-winter limb debridement, as well. Mother Nature tends to the most urgent limbs for us, but she's pretty bad about just dropping them anywhere. I like to think they're good to have around - they're natural, and composty, and provide a sense of wild adornment. Zorak insists they give the place a neglected, mildly haunted look that's unappealing to all except the least desirable visitors (namely field mice and squatters). OK, that's a fairly compelling argument. He wins. We'll pick up. I'm hoping to visit the landscape guy this week. We have friends who visited him and followed his advice, and their front yard went from Random Woodsy Front Yard to Lovely Rural Garden Vista in a weekend. I want that. Of course, we're slower than they are, and not nearly as motivated, so I'll be happy if we do in a year what they did in a weekend. As long as it gets done, there will be fistbumps. Maybe even high fives, if I'm feeling particularly geeky.

The basement, ever a source of manual labor requirements and probably the biggest reason Z and I avoid making eye contact from time to time, is also in our sights. Cull, clear, clean, burn, donate, give away, sell, burn a little more (the burn barrel is *right there*. No excuse, really.) You'd think that we would eventually have an empty, open space we could let out for dances and weddings, but so far, it's not looking like that's going to happen. Someone is sneaking stuff in there. I don't know who, or what, exactly, but... it's uncanny how much stuff is still there after several years of culling, burning, and giving away. We're blessed, that's for sure, but we need to be blessing others a little more fervently, I think.

That, school, and playing in the freak snow we got this week have pretty much been all we're up to. Hard to make that interesting, so it's easier to skip. There's a lot going on, but I'm not ready to spill it here yet. And of course, the minute someone says, "Don't think about the Stay-puff Marshmallow Man," that's all you can think of. It's funny to be human. We're so weird.

Tomorrow, it's back to the basement. I think we've got some bathroom vents to do maintenance on, as well. But I promise that if I do blog, it won't be the equivalent of a checked off to-do list, like this one was. If you're here, and you're reading, you deserve better than that. Or at least more effort. No guarantees that the quality will be much better, regardless.

Kiss those babies, always,


Wednesday, January 9

Week 1, We Owned It. Or rented it...

The feedback from the kids has been good. Both the older boys enjoy knowing their work is getting done, and they appreciate having free time to apply as they choose. Actually, they like the free time, and they appreciate that I'm not stressed out over unfinished work. But at these ages, I'll take it. John's been hunting daily, and he's in heaven. James has started learning Python - also in heaven. Different ends of heaven, I guess.

Jacob, for whom I blocked in huge swaths of intentional free time throughout the day, seems happier and more able to focus than I can remember him being since... ah, since he mastered speaking English, really. This is kind of exciting. Since he's not spending all his energy trying to slip past before I can give him something to do, he's got a lot of time and energy to build/find/exhume things. And, again, since he's not trying to slip past me, he's eager and excited to share them with me.

That's what I was after. That's good stuff.

The staggered reading times are working out, and since each boy has at least something on the Kindle, they can pass it around without a backlog.

The early morning quiet time for work and preparation is paying off in the quality of my own function. The house is tidy. We've had dinner regularly and fairly well-planned. Bills paid, grocery made, laundry caught up... it nearly looks like one of us knows what we're doing.

The weak link in the plan is me. I'm flipping exhausted. If I can't force myself to bed earlier, there is no way in the world I'll be able to pull this off past Easter. *yawn*

But it's good. We're all learning something new this Winter.

Kiss those babies!

Monday, January 7

Back to School Day

The pencils are sharpened, the planners are filled in, the kids are asleep. For now, that'll do. I got up early this morning so I could have a little peace and maybe tackle the day head-on instead of letting it clothesline me.

So what are we doing this next block? It looks like we're reading. A lot. James is reading the Orestia and the Theogony, as well as The Last Days of Socrates. He'll read some histories (Early History of Rome, History of the Peloponnesian War). And then some fun reading. Right now, he's enjoying Piers Anthony's books, and some of the Jasper Fforde titles.

Before he dives into Physics (doing a non-Calc based Physics this time around), he'll read a translation of Euclid's Elements of Geometry and Archimedes' On the Sphere and the Cylinder.

He's going to finish up Memoria Press' Traditional Logic (yes, it's taken us way too long to do that, but we will finish), wrap up pre-Calc with MUS, bebop through some Henle, and get some good, solid writing under his belt with MCT's writing course. He asked for some of the Art of Problem Solving books before we move into Calculus. I can't say that sounds 'fun' to me, but he thinks it sounds a lot more interesting than the next level of Logic. Perspective matters.

John's set to wrap up Zeta, finish First Form, push his way through the end of Essay Voyage, and follow us through the rest of the Ancients. History isn't as hands-on-fun in the Logic stage, but it is more interesting once you have those pegs tacked into the wall. There aren't a lot of fascinating titles for that stage, though, so we're cobbling, mostly. He's reading through the Yesterday's Classics collections, and some of the Memoria Press titles. He's got the outlining down, which is far ahead of where I was at his age. I'd forgotten how much of a skill it is to be able to pull the main idea out of a collection of thoughts. Good skill to have, though. He may not appreciate it much, now, but he will when he's trying to make sense of the world.

He's nearly done with the Thinking Toolbox and we'll play with The Fallacy Detective for the rest of the year. I think that's one of his favorites. He's been reading poetry and short stories this year, in his free time. Haven't had to add much assigned reading to it. He's found a few new-to-us authors, and we hope to hit the Booklegger sometime this week to pick up some more titles. He's also hoping to get the forge fired up a bit this block, and get some projects done with it.

JakeRabbit is flying through anything I give him, which I don't understand because every time I turn around, he's outside doing his Peter the Goatherd impression. Kid's happiest when he's out there with his satchel, walking stick, and hat. The chickens and dogs follow him everywhere. He's always out there, and he'll come in when I call, but the second he can feasibly excuse himself, *poof*, he's gone again, collecting insects, finding birds, identifying plants, tending the critters. But... his work is done, he knows more now than he did in the Fall... :shrug: I guess that works. When I put together his schedule for this block, I tacked in large chunks of blank time. Why fight it? If he starts to slip, we'll reconsider, but the out-of-doors seems an appropriate place for a 9yo boy to spend his time.

EmBaby is reading, writing, doing sums. She's loving Granny Fox tales and stories from The Blue Fairy Book. So much drawing. Drawing, sketching, painting. More drawing. Such a content little learner. Then she goes out to follow Jake around the property. This level feels downright magical.

Jase is feeling the pressure of not being able to read. So he's asking, now, "What does this say?" and "What's that?" It won't be long before they'll all be readers. Wow.

Kiss those babies!

Tuesday, January 1

So, it's a new year...

That would explain the look of bewilderment Z gave me when he asked what our plans were last night, and I said, "I don't care what we do, but we better get on it, because they are not staying up until ten-thirty again!"

It was a long day, okay? In the post-Christmas lag, with the ongoing parenting, feeding, cleaning, general wrestling of the feral cats (and rounding up the slippery one), my brain shuttled any knowledge of a pending celebration and instead focused (somewhat intently) on curling up with a roaring fire, some Bailey's in the coffee, and a Jasper Fforde book. I love my kids, but none of that scenario included having the children up until all hours of the night.

But, it's New Year's Eve!

Aaanddd, they're old enough to know what's going on. I kind of miss the days that I could point to the sunset and say, "Alrighty, kids! It's almost time for bed!" Not so bad in the summer, because they're outside, and in the winter, hey, half the population of Florida eats dinner at 4:30 and hits the hay by five. Nothing wrong with that. But they grow up, learn to tell time, read a calendar, and eventually look at you expectantly because they *know* there's a holiday on. And, as I explained to EmBaby when she asked what the big deal was about marking a full rotation around the Sun, humans are celebratory creatures. We like to come together, we like to mark the special amidst the mundane. We look for any opportunity for a feast or a gathering, and we set those opportunities aside. They become special because we make them so. It's good stuff, this being Human. The reminder didn't hurt me one bit, either.
Luckily, it only took a little recalibration on my part (made easier by Z taking everyone with him to the grocery and the video store, so I had a few minutes to think in full sentences and not have to mediate the cabin-fevered children - bless him!), and we were off for an evening of fun.

We had jalapeno and green chile cheese dip. We had fish tacos. We had root beer floats and Christmas candy. (Evidently, our theme for the New Year is, "Eh, why not?") Then we put the two littles to bed, and we had zombie movies and sparkling cider. We chased down some good ideas for 2013, and sketched out a plan. I thought back to when I was 12 and 14, already ready to be gone from the house for NYE, instead of stuck at home, not talking, just sitting there, staring at each other. And I thought how thankful I am that we have a different dynamic in our home. That the boys are forgiving of their aging mother and her desire for quiet in the wee hours of the night, but that they're not surprised that she can get in there and laugh and fisk a good zombie movie, too. We laughed. A lot. We ate a lot. They shared some of their ideas, and they have good ideas. We shared our ideas. (Have I mentioned that the boys are patient? They are.)

We don't know what this coming year will bring, but we know we'll give it our all, and we'll do it together. That's enough. That's actually more than enough. It's going to be an amazing year!

Kiss those babies!