Friday, August 21, 2009

the wrong side of the nerve endings

I'm feeling awful and small and skinless today. Things affect me that shouldn't and normally don't, and I have to put in a lot of effort to tell the echo-y script in my head to shut up, shut down, go away. It makes me tired and I'm already unhappy. But...

The Banshees worked on their own set of comic books today. Not reading them -- that's my job -- but drawing them and working out the scripts. This is entirely their idea and while the subject matter isn't exactly what I'd pick out, what the heck. This is their project, not mine, and their enthusiasm is the exact sort of contagious I need to be around. Roughly three weeks ago I sat all of them down at the kitchen table and said, "We're going to start on your writing." Why?! Because your spelling, grammar, and penmanship is atrocious, that's why. And because 24/7 exposure to them has taught me the warning signs, I took off my glasses and gave every child their very own individually-tailored hairy eyeball while I posed this question: "Do you believe that I can make you do this?" There was a flurry of nods and Yes Moms. "Then let's cut out the the 6 hours to 2 weeks of protest, because that's a lot of time and effort to put into a battle that you're destined to lose anyway, and just. get. this. done."

I'd be lying if I said they didn't give me some resistance, but for once they seemed to believe that compliance was the only viable option. So they started writing, and except for a couple of hiccups at the beginning of this exercise, I saw no evidence of their brains being empty of any creative idea whatsoever. I remember being so frustrated as a child when my mother made me write my dutiful little paragraphs. I didn't know what to say and my head, usually full of all sorts of maybes, what-ifs, and what-could-bes, felt like as if it had been filled with sand. Dull, grey/beige/dusty sand. There doesn't seem to be anything like that for the Banshees. In fact, LB didn't have any of the same reservations about the process that her siblings had. She wanted to write, wanted it so badly she started writing what she thought the words should look like. That's what finally propelled me into the penmanship wars. LB reminds me of a coworker I had once, of whom it was said that a foreman needed to get him lined out correctly at the beginning of a job or else there would be a lot of work to be redone. LB and my former coworker are highly intelligent, very motivated, and most of the time their instincts about how to proceed are the right ones -- but all it takes is that one time they get the wrong end of the concept. Spelling is certainly one of those, "Let's get her lined out correctly" sort of jobs.

There was the skirmish of the alternate lines. I wanted them to write one every other line; they considered that a horrendous waste of space. It took the better part of an afternoon to convince them that 1. I had my reasons; 2. they were good reasons; and 3. even if they didn't agree with those reasons they needed to ask themselves whether or not they thought I could make them do it. So far number 3 is my most persuasive number, but they're slowly learning my reasons and to appreciate the logic behind them. The Banshees' penmanship is, quite frankly, just awful, and I need the room of the alternate line to correct spelling and grammar. The penmanship is something I'm still working on finding a solution for. I'm sure that it includes lots and lots of practice; I'm more uncertain where the programming my computer in Linux fits in with things.

(In a nutshell, here's how the Linux tangent works: Banshees need penmanship practice --> need penmanship font with outlines, arrows, whatever it takes to get them to trace the proper shape at the proper size with the proper spacing, etc. --> such fonts are available on the web, even down to the solid upper/dashed middle/solid bottom lines that I remember so fondly from my grade-school days --> but they only appear to work with Mac or PC and usually only PC. There has to be a way of getting these fonts to play nice with Ubuntu-form Linux. Which is how I ended up with an Ubuntu Bible and a friend who is telling me that it's probably just how I've got my X-environment configured. Now I have to translate that from geek to English, because I'm still just a proto-geek and don't speak the langage well at all.)

While the Banshees are still more likely to spend the afternoon drawing endlessly or trying to cadge more television time out of me, or trying yet another variant on the infinitely entertaining game of poke the sibling, more and more often the notebooks come out and words are patiently scribed onto a page. Mom, how do you spell 'there'. "Give me a sentence." There once was a knight.... "Okay, t h e r e." I just wanted to make sure, because I remember you told us there were three words that sounded alike but had different spellings and meanings. Oh kid, I could kiss you. There aren't any more major battles about fixing spelling or grammatical errors since the War of Mid-August, when I explained that I didn't care if they erased and rewrote or transcribed the entire piece with the revisions in place but that the right words and the right grammar were going to happen. I've introduced the concept of spelling lists and we've dug into Kathryn Stout's Natural Speller without too many incidents.

This is my first foray into structured schooling and I'm rather astonished that we all have the patience for it. But if I had to venture a guess, I'd say that at this point we're all ready for the slight formality this venture brings. This is also my first real, concrete evidence that this teaching 'em at home business is going to work out all right after all. Up until now, they've pretty much taught themselves or each other -- that's the only thing that can account for LB being able to read -- but I've never worn my Formal Instruction hat with any comfort. Now I know I can, and that they'll learn, and that Life, The Universe, And Everything won't suddenly end from the shock of it all.




Sunday, July 12, 2009

I Don't Think He Got The Memo

Children need help with all sorts of areas that involve comprehension. Some need work on reading comprehension. Some need help with math comprehension. I'm dealing with a Banshee who desperately needs a crash course in reality comprehension.

To wit: understanding contract law.

Now I know this doesn't sound like standard curriculum for a nearly-nine-year-old but believe me, I have my reasons. They all know, to one degree or another, that there aren't going to be allowances in this family. If they want walking around money, they are going to have to earn it. This has led to a series of very hare-brained schemes that were close-on to 100% wishful thinking -- goodness knows that I love those snippets of crayon-smeared typing paper, but I don't think a passing motorist will stop and cough up $5 for one. Neither do I think that hastily pulled up flowers stuck in a paper towel will net much moolah, I don't care how cute my children are. MB has taken wishful thinking to whole new levels lately, however. I asked him to go get the mail yesterday, he came back and asked for a mail-gathering fee. He got 15 minutes of the basics of contract law: offer, acceptance, consideration -- and learned a new word: Unilaterally. As in: he doesn't get to impose a contract unilaterally. He got another 15 minutes on family law, at least as it runs under my roof: he doesn't get paid for family business. Family business includes but is not limited to: making beds, doing laundry, folding laundry, washing dishes, picking up after themselves, and minding the ducks. Oh yes, and under the picking up after yourselves clause is the clearly delineated subsection of clear your place at the table. Because we're sort of catch-as-catch-can mealwise during the day, the rules have evolved to: If you're hungry, go feed yourself -- but pick up and wash after. Simple, right?

They. Don't. Do. It.

Normally this is a mild frustration, akin to having your fingernails pulled out millimeter by millimeter. The hard part of parenting is not sex ed, it isn't driver training, it isn't dragging them kicking and screaming through algebra or dangling participles, it's the deadly repetitive nature of having to say the same things several hundred times a day. That, along with the Tribble-like nature of dishes, dirty clothes, and toys on the living room floor, accounts for a good 73% of my current state of insanity. (13% finances, 7% spouse, 11% ducks and I already know that's more than 100% but that goes hand in hand with the "it's been that sort of week today" moments I get.)

MB has been very very very consistent today with leaving his dishes on the table, despite being told (mumble mumble darn I've run out of fingers) several times that he needs to take care of it. Now. I've been trying to cut back on the screaming, yelling, ranting, raving, frothing at the mouth, and other habits that the Banshees find highly entertaining but that are otherwise sort of useless as behavior-modifications go. Removing favorite toys and grounding doesn't work, as well as being sort of akin to hitting a fly with a Cadillac anyway. But weeding the front yard works. So far it's had 100% success rate. This will change eventually, but as long as it's effective whoo-hoo! I'm going for it.

So MB and I did the dirty-dish-dance again today and at the end of it, he got sentenced to yardwork. He did the yardwork, came inside and said, "I think that's worth $5." What for? "For the weeding, of course."

Here come our old friends, family law and contract law. I explained to him that weeding the yard was the price he had to pay for ignoring a family rule. And I defined unilateral again and pointed out that if he dredged up the old I'm entitled we were going to go back to ranting and raving and hours-long lectures again AND he'd still have to do the yardwork without pay.

I'm in big trouble if he ever figures out that he could clean the entire yard down to the dirt for pay before he breaks a serious rule.

Sunday, June 7, 2009




Yorick, nearly 2 months old and almost out of his baby fuzz.






Charlene Browne, International Chick of Mystery...

One of two hatchery's choice chicks.





Getting them to hold still for photos can be difficult....






Dear Abby and Ann Landers, the Buckeye chicks. They just seem to have that inquisitive beak and beady eye







I think these are Cuckoo Marans. I only ordered one Cuckoo, but the other could be the other "hatchery's choice" chick.






The Welsummers. Seen from the top they've got chipmunk stripes down their backs.






Also hazarding a guess as to identity; I ordered 5 Wyandottes and there are five of these, so....





Buff Orpingtons. Pretty -- and not going to be mine, but I suspect I can arrange visitation!






The new clothesline, although I didn't actually HAVE clothesline on it at this point.






HouseGoose

While I'm rummaging for the camera...

I'm also reflecting that too much of what I'm exposed to right now is getting me down, and I need to cut back on the doom'n'gloom reading to balance events out. To wit: the relationship with the neighbor kids across the street is turning somewhat toxic, so it looks like there won't be too many playdates between them and the Banshees anymore. Agh. (That whole situation triggers my Almighty Judgment Complex, something that I try very, very hard to stuff in a small hole and fumigate to mitigate -- but it insists on finding escape routes and never really goes away.) I hate conflict. I hate it. It may be a lovely chance to teach the Banshees about which situations they can handle and which ones I have a right to insist on adult intervention on, but I still loathe, despise, and would do almost anything (except neglect the Banshees) to get out of dealing with conflict.

An acquaintance has recently decided to get out of an organization she's been with for just over three ages of a long-lived cat, and she's done it with a dazzling fireworks display. Which is worrisome; temper or not the woman's got the patience of Job and integrity up the wazoo so if she says there's something wrong there is something wrong. It appears she's gone into heavy seclusion. I'm going to miss her. It makes me question my ties with the organization and how deeply I want to be involved with it -- of course, the frustrating part is everybody who knows the true and bloody details is barred by a confidentiality agreement from discussing those details. It might not be a big deal, exposed to the clear light of day, but since it's never going to be out in the open it's going to be twice as big as Godzilla and very much uglier in the back of my admittedly fertile and febrile imagination.

Good friends are getting divorced. That ALWAYS sucks, even if it's the only viable solution.

The economy sucks, the political situation sucks, airline travel sucks -- especially if your plane doesn't stay in one piece -- and lately I've been reminded constantly that there are loud, vociferous, and violent people who believe that they can do my thinking for me much better than I could ever hope to. You see, the laws of the United States of America don't apply to them as long as they have their firm belief that God alone holds them righteous and a good supply of ammunition to back it up.

I need to take pictures of fluffy feathery ping-pong balls. I need to post a photo of the not-quite-two-month-old gosling with the ducks he's very nearly larger than already. I need to admire the annoying wild mustard in the front yard; it has a tap-root that goes down to New Zealand but it surely is pretty when it blooms. The bills are paid and there's money left over and for once I'm not being stupid about spending it. I need to hold the Banshees close and know that right here, right now, they are all safe and sound.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Going Postal

Yesterday I received a call from My Pet Chicken; two of the chicks I'd ordered hadn't hatched out as scheduled so they wanted to know what I wanted as a substitute. "We have Aurucaunas [it might have been Americaunas; she distinctly said 'Easter Eggers' but both have been known by that title], Welsummers..." I said, "Welsummers, I want the Welsummers." She said, "I do also have some Cuckoo Marans..." I replied that I reallllly wanted the Welsummers, that those were the birds I'd wanted when I'd done my order modification but theyhadn't been available. I guess everything works out the way it should on occasion. Yayy! So I settled down and waited. And I knew that there was no way in the world they were going to get here today, but I still got up at 6:30 a.m. to wait for the telephone call from the post office. No call, phooey, but expected.

And then at about ten minutes to 2 p.m., I get a call. From the post office. Chicks are here! Yayyyy! I have to wait for DBS to get home so I can run off, but his running around didn't take very long, so at 2:30 I was at the post office to pick up my peeping, cheeping box.

Except that they didn't have it there. The woman behind the counter said that the back room boys had told her it had gone out for delivery. And I said to myself, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?! (Internet lingo is getting pretty rife AND ripe around here.) She repeated that it had gone out for delivery and would I like to talk to a supervisor? I most certainly would, thankyouverymuch. It's June in the High Desert; it gets hot. The thought of day-old chicks sweltering in the back of a delivery jeep made the hair on the back of my neck raise up and catch fire. The supervisor comes out and I say that someone had called me to tell me that my chicks were here and that I had said that I was coming to get them and yet they had gone out for delivery?? How in the heck had that happened and fergoodness' sake, why? He took my name and address and, once he had determined that I didn't know the name of the gentleman who had called me, got the attitude of "I don't have to help you so I'm not going to be helpful. But I'll go look for the form of the thing." He came back and said that there were no packages waiting for me. I said I wanted to know how the heck this had happened. I told him that I had had live birds shipped to me before through this branch and I had never had them go out to be delivered to my home address, I had always been called to pick them up at the post office. He said, "Live birds? You mean chicks? I thought you said checks," and promptly went back to look again...and he found them this time. ThankyouThankyouThankyou. But the ordeal wasn't quite over, although the rest of it is not quite as dramatic. I told the lady that the supervisor turned me over to that I had to open the package in the office in the presence of a postal employee in case any of the birds were dead. She got it into her head that I would somehow think that dead birds were the post office's fault. No, I said, I need to do it this was so that the breeder has an independent witness to show that I hadn't killed the bird -- that if there's a dead bird on delivery, I needed to fill out a postal form and that way the breeder would know I wasn't trying to pull a fast one. "Well," she said in a fretful, near-snippy tone, "You can't fill out forms here anymore. You have to go home and do that online." Oy. And what if I don't have a computer hooked to the internet? Why in the merry name of the ghost of customer service long-dead do businesses have to make things harder for their customers? I love online service, I really, really do, but some things need to be handled in person -- and not everybody is hooked into the internet.

Still, the chicks are here and they are adorable. I'm still trying to figure out who's who in this melange; the original order was for 1 Chantecler, 1 Cuckoo Maran, 3 Buckeyes, 3 Buff Orpingtons, and 2 random brown egg layers. The modified order was as above, plus 5 Wyandottes, I believe Golden Laced but now I don't have anything saying just which variety. What I got was 1 Buckeye and the Chantecler replaced because they just didn't hatch out to order (but yayy! I got Welsummers for replacments!) and the rest of the order is the same. But the coloration of the five Wyandottes looks to be like Cuckoo Maran, and I have two birds that have the racing stripes of the Wyandottes. I think I've spotted the two Buckeyes and the Buff Orpingtons are unmistakeably blond...does anybody else think I'm going to be up half the night googling chick pics and racing back to the brooding area to see if I can recognize someone? The Welsummers were easy to pick out; they're striped like auburn-headed chipmunks. We'll have a couple of months to get things sorted out; I'm brooding everybody until they're feathered in and can go to their permanent homes. It was always my contention that people could claim they wanted this or that breed, but when the birds got done feathering all bets were off. Except that I know exactly what I want and I've got it: one Welsummer and one Buckeye. This oughta be interesting!

Pics tomorrow, just before I go haring off to build that shelter that was supposed to have been done last week .

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

pssst

I'm going to be very brief. I'm here today because I'm trying to get something out of my system. That something is a desk, a little desk, a desk that I have had my eye on forever and three days but could never bring myself to spend the money on. It's on sale today. It's in the clearance bin, which means that when this sale is over it is gone and it isn't coming back. And we just got paid....

but I can't afford it. I really can't afford it. Even if I have the cash right now and the keys to the piggy bank, I can't afford the slip in sanity that it would take for me to go get that thing right now. The cash is here right now, but it is going to be needed for something important later and I can't keep thinking that just this immediate gratification is going to be okay somehow. That's how the spouse and I got into this mess (yes, we're both afflicted, just with different interests.)

So thank goodness for blogs. Even if no one on the face of the earth ever read this thing, writing it all down helped bring that insanity back under leash. I'm going to go review my credit card statements now just to remind myself of how bad it can get when I'm not using my brains for more than ear spacers.

Friday, April 24, 2009

life bites like a rabid goose

Who knew that having the septic tank pumped out would be the highlight of the day?

Goodness knows it needed it; the house is about 20 years old and there's no record at all of the septic system even being thought at seriously, much less cleared out. We've only been here 12 years (more than enough time for the place to be tapped twice, but we were busy. And broke.) but the previous tenant lost the house to foreclosure, so we never got to meet them to ask. We bought the house at an auction, which meant we got the place as is, no inspection, no nothing, just the fact that an insurance company was willing to give us a policy on the place to reassure us that the place was actually livable. Given what was found today I'm willing to bet we're the first people to unearth the thing since it was put in.

And oh, what an adventure...and not so stinky as I thought it would be, though there would be no mistaking it for roses. EB did everything but dig the hole for the gentleman running the truck and she hung on his every word. I should get so much attention from the kid. She had a blast. I got lectured about how I'm not supposed to let the tank get this overrun but it was a lecture I'd fully earned. I provided iced tea and duck eggs and we talked welding while he raked out the muck. He got done, I paid the bill, and heaved a sigh of relief because even I could tell from the level in the tank that we would have been having big trouble in a month or two if we'd put this off any longer.

After that there was a running battle with MB who has decided that indoors is the perfect place to host the 100-yard dash, even if you do have to run up and down hallways and occasionally crash into people and furniture. I found a handful of pepperoni slices in the trash -- infuriating since we'd already discovered pepperoni slices in the washing machine, a sure sign that someone had stashed them in their pants' pockets and forgot to retrieve them. EB copped to it; much lecturing ensued. Massive frustration on the part of the parent who knows from bitter experience that the lecture went in one ear and out the other without so much as a detour into brain matter.

Then EB got a letter from my dad. This was in response to a letter she'd sent him, asking when and if he'd ever visit us again. He lives three states away so visits have always been rare. His reply was that he was in pretty poor health and getting old so that it was unlikely that he'd ever make it out our way again, but that it was always possible that we would visit him, he just didn't know when. That was extremely depressing; we are on the thin edge of constantly broke because of past stupid spending decisions. We're climbing out, but it's going to take years before we could afford to visit my father. I had to confront the likelihood that I'll never get to see my father again and I have to say that it hurt all the way through.

But -- suck though it may, life must go on and dinner must be thought about. I decided to get in the kitchen and throw together something for the Banshees and DBS when he finally got home from work. I got as far as getting the gravy started when LB starts weeping and wailing and carrying on in her room. This is a common occurrence; she uses this same howl when she doesn't get her way and when she stubs her toe. We've had the talk about screaming only when there's actual hurt, because otherwise the day is going to come when she is desperately going to need someone to show up and nobody will because everybody thinks that she's just cranky again. Leaving the gravy on at a high heat I go storming down the hall, declaiming as I go that if there isn't blood this time there darned well will be by the time I get done with her.

Hey, I have to hand it to her; this time, there was blood. Lots of it. Because head-wounds tend to bleed like the body's giving up its last drop. She had been bouncing on the bed -- just like I'd told her hundreds of times NOT to do because she could fall and HURT herself -- when she fell and hit her head against the footboard and cut it open. Not enough to enjoy a trip to the emergency room, but enough to leave a scar and certainly enough to bleed all over herself, her clothes, and the carpet. All of the supplies that I got the last time she did something like this but that I'd hoped never to use? MIA. The lot of them. I found them after I'd cleaned her up, disinfected her, and slapped a bandaid on. When DBS came home I told him I was setting up an emergency kit just for this kid, that it was going to be the size of a good sized mechanic's toolbox, and that I was keeping it under the bed where I could find it when I needed it. He nodded sapiently and handed me a Dr Pepper. I told him that much more of this and I was going to take up drinking as a serious hobby. He said that I was already doing that. I think that he was implying that any more serious and I'd have to set up a still, but I could never do that. For one thing, they're illegal unless you do some serious licensing. I can't even afford to go visit my dad!

Crystal, if you've made it this far you know why I didn't show up today. Abject apologies.

Oh yes, for the it isn't life or death but it happens often enough to make Mom spit 10-penny nails topper, some thus-far-unidentified Banshee has been taking wet laundry from the washing machine and putting it in the non-operational dryer. They know it's non-operational because it hasn't worked for quite some time and they're the ones who told me it had died to begin with. I can only assume this goes under either the I'll get back to it later or Mom will never find this or otherwise figure it out. When do the logic circuits get installed? I can hardly wait.

In the meantime, I'll have another Dr Pepper. Make it a double.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Does Bloody Exhausted Ring A Bell?

Pictures are coming, Tammy. I promise. I swear I took some, and I even think I know where the camera went to but oh my goodness have I come down with a case of tired.

I would do yard work for three straight days in a row. Without being coerced by a love note from the county, no less. And I'm about as in shape for a homo sa
pien as Jabba the Hut, so yanking fencing around and rearranging protesting quackers is bound to take its toll...and we won't mention (much) about all of the brush and the dead tree limbs that I've been trying to clear, dismember, and toss in the nearest empty trash receptacle. Muscles that I forgot I even had are protesting.

It's just that...I got tired of other things, much more tired of them than I could possibly be of yard work. Or house work. And no, I'm not going to send you my fingerprints to prove I'm not a pod person, you're just going to have to take my word for it. I don't want to be Jabba forever, and while I know I'll never have the bod of an 18-year-old again, I should realllllly like to have the body of a moderately in-shape 42-year-old. I also have a yard and a house that are both suffering from me being very busy with Other Things for the last decade. Couple that with the fact that my treadmill has died an ignominious
death and I have the perfect Homeschooling Workout For The Mad(asincrazy)SAHM. Clear the brush, arrange the quackers, and both dig and plant a Victory Garden. In this case, if I get to eat anything at all from my efforts that will be victory enough.

The ducks had to be rearranged for safety's sake; the drake:duck ratio finally caught up with me and showed its ugly face. If I didn't want to lose any ducks to the drakes' predations, the drakes had to get bachelors' quarters. Well, they're in their new digs and they are NOT happy about it. Neither are several of the ducks, who apparently had favorites in the newly-cordoned off group. It's sort of like Lysistrata for the Anas set.

Now I'm going to clear out the bathtub, which, since it's the only place that's big enough to clean brewing equipment is currently full of carboys. Then I'm going to gently boil myself and go to bed. Tomorrow is going to arrive far too early....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

oh dear...

It really is no wonder that my nearest and dearest snicker slightly hysterically whenever I proffer the notion that I'm "slowing down" or trying to "simplify" my life. I'm trying to whittle the duck flock down to a more manageable number and what do I do.

Yup. I bid on American Buff goose eggs. And won. Mind you, it's a pre-sale and if the ladies don't produce then I have one less thing to explain to the husband...and you are quite right if you think I haven't yet had the courage to tell him.

Oh yes, and there's the matter of the 15 chicks that are going to land, peeping and squeaking, on our doorstep come June 3rd or so -- but he knows about that, and I can correctly lay all of the blame on him for that adventure since it was all his idea. Okay, he wanted two and his eyebrows tried to crawl down the back of his collar when I told him how many were on order, but he did calm down when I explained that I was just central booking for several families who wanted just two or three chickens. He was less mollified when I said I was also central brooding agency until everybody's feathered in. I guess having a heat lamp and successfully raising mumblemumble ducks qualifies me as the resident expert.

The ducks are producing nearly to capacity. I have 24 and get between 19 and 22 eggs a day. A day. No, we can't eat all of them. I've been able to sell a small amount and there are a whole bunch of friends of friends who are happily singing my praises over the eggs I've been giving away just so I don't have to throw them out. It can't last; more than a few of these ladies are going to have to go into the stew pot. This still cracks DBS up -- not the imminent demise, but because their demise is anything BUT imminent. I've lost more to attrition than I have to the axe. It's hard, messy work that I'm lousy and painfully slow at. And I really don't want to do it at all. You'd think that it would curb my enthusiasm somewhat, but you'd be wrong. I'm eyeballing Welsummer chicken hatching eggs and trying to find a good source for Trout Runner duck hatching eggs, since TBA is a Trout drake and I'd like to find him a good match.

I'm still looking for the Halloween peach tree. Anybody out there got some good leads?

The first hoop house went up a couple of days ago. It's got more sway in it than a herd of camels but you can only fault the jig-operator and not the jig itself. The table I'm using to bend the top-rail is not level, not plumb, and I doubt very much if there's a right angle anywhere in its vicinity. I was really hoping to hold out until I could get a better table but the dryer went out and the clothesline became the only viable option. Since I have a lot of laundry to do every single day, the solitary clothesline that I put up 12 years ago is no longer enough. Also, since we're too broke to pay attention, getting any sort of traditionally constructed clothesline is just not an option. But I do have all of this 1 3/8" top rail hanging around the back yard...in utter desperation I quickly bent and put together three hoops and connected them. Oh man. I have got to get pictures up. This is exhibit number one about how not to do just about everything connected with one of these projects. On the other hand, it isn't going to fall over in a wind-storm, so it's perfect for what I need it to do. Friday I have to string the actual line and by then it might have stopped raining. (Yes, the universe does have a sense of humor. I don't know if it's trying to teach me something or just have a good giggle at my expense.)

Tonight I have to boil about 80 eggs and very early tomorrow I have to color said eggs for the egg-hunt that's being hosted at the park by my local homeschooling group. Oh yes, and since it's a pot-luck I also have to cook a whole bunch of food. It's a good thing I brew coffee strong enough to float horseshoes; I really don't think I'm going to have time to sleep tonight.

Slow down. heh. I'm trying.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Just In Case

Just in case you were wondering why y'all weren't invited to the funeral, I'm still alive and kicking. Here's a quick update:

I've pretty much recovered from surgery. Yay!! And I'd almost gotten over that dirty rotten awful virus I picked up at the beginning of the year when the Banshees decided to bring a new one into the house. Ye cats, life with children is not fair. This one is far worse than the last batch; it starts with fevers and aches and evolves into a full-on head cold that evidently makes MB feel like he's drowning. MB and LB have it and I rather suspect EB and I are not far behind. DBS never catches these things...I'd say that's unfair, but that leaves one person who can go get children's Tylenol when we run out. He came back with Dr. Pepper too. Can you blame me for falling in love with this man?

I spent today making three different batches of broth: veggie, beef, and chicken. And since there are a lot of us I dragged out the big pots and made BIG batches. When I looked up at the end of it all I'd spent nearly all of an 8 hour day cutting veggies and adjusting simmers, all while cleaning the kitchen in preparation for the upcoming storm and directing Banshees in various stages of health into chores suitable for those various stages. DBS thought I was pushing myself into a worse illness than I'd have if I just sat down and let it wash over me, but I pointed out that while this is not my first rodeo, it will be the first one I can remember that would be fully stocked so I don't have to cook while dying. I made bread today. I made lots of bread. Between that and the soup stock and the presliced veggies and the pounds of loose tea that I've stockpiled, we are so ready for this. (I did, however, forget to request the pallet of ultra-soft tissue we're going to need. Nobody's perfect.)

The ironic part is that I'm expecting a shipment of essential and fragrance oils tomorrow, part of which is supposed to go into sample batches this weekend. That's a hard task to take up when you don't have an olfactory system that works right! I either dose by recommended weight or I delay until I can actually smell what I'm doing. Gah. On the bright side, the lip balm mix that eases chapped lips also soothes chapped noses. All of the Banshees have their own supply now. They're happy about that but I think they'd trade it all and maybe even me for half a week if they could get a good night's sleep.

All of this drama is jump-starting my dormant soap-interests -- and yes, Marti, I blame you entirely :)) -- so my Etsy shop will probably be up and running again in a couple of weeks. A few lip balms, one or two (dozen) sample-sized soaps, some soap sculptures...I just love this stuff. I just wish I could get more people to buy it so I could keep my saponification habit going.

I need to get into California's guide to what children should know at various ages, just to see where we stack up. I'd say woefully behind, especially LB who at 6 1/2 isn't reading as fluently as her siblings were at that age. I wish I could say I'm not panicking about that, but the world is what it is and my psyche is what IT is and I can't help it. She's bright and curious and she lives in a library, so I doubt very much if she's going to hit the double-digit age bracket still functionally illiterate...but I worry. It's part of the job description. On the bright side, the older Banshees are teaching themselves multiplication and they aren't kvetching about it like they normally would. Yayyyy! They're also learning, sort of without knowing they're learning it, that certain patterns just have to be memorized and sometimes there's no getting around the drudgery of it. In this case the drudgery is the multiplication tables, but they're figuring out for themselves that having that sort of knowledge memorized makes the rest of the work a lot easier. Oh really, yayyyyy! The part I love is that they don't have the beaten down look of quietly suffering incomprehension that I had at that age. I didn't understand a lot of math until I was a lot older and had my own private aha moments; I just knew I had to jump through these hoops to make the adults around me happy. EB is beginning to think of math as fun and she actually understands it. Oh, hip hip hoooooray. I'm so proud of all of them.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Duck, Here Comes Another Year!

With all due reverence to the best of all poets, Ogden Nash.

I spent the last month of 2008 recuperating from surgery. I spent the first week of 2009 recovering from a nasty cold. Alas, there is symmetry (Babylon 5, if you geeks thought that sounded familiar.) Yes, I suppose things could be much worse, but can we pace things a little better from now on?

I've also been playing the current favorite game -- that is, trying to figure out just how far down this financial rabbit hole goes -- and giggling in one of those pitches that usually gets people packed off to padded rooms. For better or worse DBS is used to it by now and doesn't flinch as much. Some of that mad chortling comes from hearing financial gurus declare that we are now in a recession and that we've been in one for a little over a year. File that one under "Slow Learners", if you will. My family wasn't paying close enough attention to declare recession or non-recession over the last 12 months, but I will say this: when gas hit $4.59 per gallon in my neck of the woods, we started buckling down for hard times.

It was a revelation, just how close to the financial edge we were really living. Suddenly, all of those bills that we were just paying couldn't be met anymore because that money needed to go into the gas tank. That was the bad news. The good news is that I finally had that nervous breakdown that I so richly deserved and had put off for so long. And before you start looking in earnest for the guys with the large butterfly nets, it's a good thing because I finally broke down that last wall of communication between DBS and myself about finances. I kept trying to pinch and stretch and make do with that thin little last dime, and he had no idea that things were even remotely that tight. It isn't as if he had been extravagently spending hither and yon -- with three children and one income, extravagent is hard to manage if you're even remotely responsible -- but at last he understood why I was agitated, morose, moody, quick-tempered, and generally not my sweet and near-saintly self.

Habits are hard to change, but easier when a marriage has finally faced and accepted the stark truth of a situation. When our drier died, he understood why I didn't immediately go out and get another one with whatever cash or credit we could scrape together. It was easier to let go of the convenience store habit with its dollar here, five dollars there financial syphon. It became easier to say no and hear no because the truth is that here and now, we can't afford it no matter what it might be. No, I'm not going to get to do that computer build that I've wanted to do for so long. No, we aren't going to be able to keep all of the ducks, cute as they are. No, if we get a tax return it cannot be spent on just any old thing; it has to be used to retire the debt that's slowly strangling us. And no, that debt cannot be allowed to return.

Yes, car maintenance is not an option. These cars have to last us as long as we can stretch them out. Yes, the garden is going to get planted this year. Eventually the drier will be an option because even in a desert there are the occasional rainy days, but yes the clothes-line is about to make a reentrance into our lives. Yes, we're going to get used to extra sweaters in the winter.

He didn't even flinch when I hauled out The Tightwad's Gazette and said that there were a couple of items I'd like to show him. He hasn't agreed to anything yet, but at least he's considering the possibilities.

One of the ideas that the Gazette proposes is that of balance; my idea of tightwaddery is not going to be the same as yours. Different people need different balances to stay sane and healthy. I'm not giving up my internet connection. I gave up cable t.v. but Netflix is still hanging in there. I might not buy another movie dvd for a long time, but The Teaching Company still has delicious sales on educational dvds that I can save up for. I gave up buying yarn only because my stash is large enough to have avalanche zones -- but look at the hours of entertainment I'm getting while knitting gifts out of that! I'm working on a blanket right now (belated Xmas gift) and a Faroe shawl (getting an early start on NEXT Xmas.) We're starting small and working our way into what will make us happy, healthy, functional, and most importantly, not so harried.

Hopefully we'll be able to translate this all into good lessons for the Banshees too. This is the practical world of math and money and time coupled with the ability to delay gratification -- or rather, to understand that gratification comes in many forms, and having money in the bank to cover emergencies can feel much, much better than splurging it all on a new toy. Hopefully they'll listen better than I did.