"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Movies, hotwings, and giant playgrounds

The final day of 2005. It was a big year, a stressful year, and a fun year.. and we're all looking forward to a new start in 2006. Since we have the rest of our lives to go out on New Years, we'll be ringing in the New Year at home with the boys. We all went out this morning to rent a couple movies - Robots to watch with the kids, I Heart Huckabees to watch after they're asleep - and loaded up on snacks for our little party. We'll spread a big blanket on the living room floor so we can eat picnic-style, and will be dining on hotwings, pizza, corndogs, popcorn chicken, and shrimp. On the way home from the store, we stopped at a local park that we had yet to visit. We relaxed and played for an hour, and made a mental note that we needed to buy a good basketball and volleyball for the next time. The playground was HUGE, and we counted over 10 different slides. Everett spent a long time playing in the sand. Paxton liked the tire-swing. Spencer kept gravitating to the race cars, where he played Dukes and jumped and slid over the hood. When we got home, our neighbor rang our doorbell with a Christmas gift of homemade cookies, chocolates, and coated nuts. We used them to get our stomachs primed for all our late-night eating tonight.

Happy New Year, and wishes for a safe and blessed 2006.




Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Aftermath

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Santa was very good to the boys this year. Three days after Christmas, we are still finding homes for all the new toys, games, books, and craft supplies. Our first Christmas in Arizona went well... we listened to Christmas music, read our Christmas books, ate too many cookies, and played played played. Like most everything else we've encountered so far, it was different, and will take some getting used to. I tried my best to keep some traditions intact though. We stayed home on Christmas Eve, we read The Night Before Christmas, and we put out our cookies for Santa. The boys were beside themselves with excitement (Spencer so much so that he was awake half the night) and they weren't disappointed in the morning. We enjoyed a quiet
morning with the 5 of us, and were very happy to Sandi, Mitch and the kids for dinner. Maba and Pop called to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and we tried to do a video chat. Computers and firewalls being what they are, we couldn't get it to work until the day after Christmas, but it was worth it. They sent a Christmas video of themselves singing to the boys as well, and they watched it at least 5 times.

Now that Christmas is over, we're back about the business of getting settled in, and returning to our new normal. Daddy's interviews have picked up again. The boys are looking forward to going to some homeschool activities. We're waiting - mostly patiently - for our new furniture to be delivered. And today, December 28th, is our second trip to the zoo.






Friday, December 23, 2005

'Twas Four Days Before Christmas

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Four days before Christmas, and we went to the zoo! It was a strange and wonderful feeling to be walking around a zoo, enjoying the sunshine, less than a week before Christmas. It seemed a fitting thing to do for our first holiday season in Arizona. Still
looking like tourists, we all went in short sleeves, while most of the "locals" were in jackets and sweatshirts despite the 70+ degrees. Funny.


It took less than 20 minutes to get there, even with a little bit of traffic. It was a great zoo, nice and big, and the boys had a
blast. We could have sat and watched the monkeys all day. We stayed nearly 5 hours, almost till closing, and still had so much left to see. We took our time, walked around, and read all about
the animals. Paxton rode the carousel, they all had icecream, and
Spencer got some popcorn on the way out. If I wasn't positive I
wanted a membership before we went, I was after we left. It was
the first thing I did when I got home, and we are all excited to get our memberships cards in the mail. I see a lot more zoo visits in our future. Next trip we'll start off with the areas we didn't
make it to this time - the snake house, the reptiles, and the petting area.


This morning we had a visit from an exterminator - something we've never done before, but need to get used to. He sprayed all around the perimeter of the house, both inside and out. The boys liked him because he was nice and patient and answered their questions.. and because he gave them lolipops. I liked him because he's going to keep the cockroaches away.




Tuesday, December 20, 2005

It's beginning to look a lot

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...like Christmas.

The tree is trimmed, the presents are wrapped, we've all had colds, and
we've watched The Grinch. Our projects for today were to clean
the house, and get started on our cookies. In the interest of
simplifying, I was only going to make one kind this year, but majority
ruled. Oreo balls were first, followed by a new recipe for butter
cookies (the best I've ever tried.) Peanut butter with Hershey's
kisses will round out the list. It's fun baking with the older
boys... they're great at following directions, have no problem with the
measuring and the math, and don't make TOO big of a mess. Everett
hasn't quite gotten to the point where his help is actually helpful,
but he sure has a good time. :O)

I also ventured out by myself to find the local Blockbuster - 3 minutes
away - and rented Herbie for the boys. They loved the movie, and
asked that it be put on their "to buy someday" list. Children
after my own heart, their list is getting as long as mine.






Saturday, December 17, 2005

Desert Run

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Mike and Mich took off for the day for a run through the desert today. It was something he'd been dying to do since we got here, and he wasn't disappointed. In fact, I think the comment he made was "It's worth living in Arizona just to be able to do that." They were gone for several hours, traveling over dirt roads and old washes. They had a really good time, so much so that I was willing to forgive the new scratches on my 4Runner.

I talked to the leader of a local homeschool group while he was gone, and the boys and I are looking forward to joining. I have to fill out and sign a waiver to be "official", something that wasn't necessary for our little meet-in-the-gym-once-a-week group in NH. One of the big upsides to joining a larger group? Diversity; in homeschooling styles, culture, and religion, to name just a few. Diversity is good. Getting involved in the group will be good for them too, although they've been more than happy at home. Today they made Christmas cards, played with their legos, read some more of their castle book, and played several rounds of GT4. This was all in between their usual venture outside, for bike riding, bug hunting, and mail gathering.

Tonight we decided it was time to try out the local pizza places, and got take-out from a place just around the corner. The pizza was good, and the proximity couldn't be beat.

I still feel like a tourist, walking around with my mouth hanging open.




Monday, December 12, 2005

A new kind of church

We tried a new church yesterday, and it was unlike any church we'd ever been to. As we walked from the car(once we'd finally found a place to park) to the information center, I was trying very hard not to point or comment to loud; already feeling like we had a glaring sign on our foreheads that we were not only visitors, but from another part of the country as well.

The church was not just a little church building, but in fact several buildings, spread out over an entire campus. I never did find out the membership number, but I'm pretty sure it was larger than the town of Andover. They don't have churches that size in New Hampshire. A very friendly woman gave us a map, and a tour, and walked us to where we needed to go. Both Spencer and Paxton tried the kids' classes, and - aside from a scared and confused moment when Paxton's class switched buildings and he was afraid we wouldn't find him - had a good time. He said he was ready to stay by himself, so we'd dropped him off, but he didn't understand how it would work or where we would meet him. A bad parenting moment. We joined them for the kids' services, which was a great presentation of songs, puppets, and lessons. After the service they went back to their classes, and this time Mike went with Paxton, and Everett and I went with Spencer, to make sure everyone was ok. They enjoyed the rest of the morning, and both want to go back next week. Next week we'll see if Everett is interested in the toddler class, and when everyone is happy and comfortable and ready, we'll check out the adult services.

We visited Sandi, Mitch, and the kids yesterday too, and spent the afternoon playing at the playground. We picked up the Usborne books we'd ordered from her too, and the boys went to bed happily reading about tractors, castles, and dinosaurs.




Saturday, December 10, 2005

Fractions and creature games

Yesterday was the first really "normal"-feeling, comfortable, happy day since we've moved in. The boys are adjusting, and we're getting into a rhythm again. We've been unpacking box after box, and I've given a preference to the kids' stuff, so that they'd feel at home as soon as possible. They found a fraction pizza game that they'd forgotten about, and we all played several rounds first thing in the morning. Paxton has also been really into these Weird N Wild Creature cards that he got in the mail, and we played with those too.. learning about creatures like anacondas, sharks, velociraptors, and the loch ness monster.

It's been in the mid-sixties, and all of our neighbors are complaining about how "cold" it is. We've met quite a few of them now, and they've been friendly. The most eventful meeting by far was a few nights ago:

It was a nice quiet afternoon. Mike and the boys were playing outside and had just come in. I was inside with Everett because he wasn't feeling well, and we were sitting and chatting on the computer. The doorbell rang, and it was two boys, one of them hysterical and bleeding, and he was so upset that it was hard to get a story out of him as to what happened. He just kept asking for help over and over. After what felt like forever (but was probably less than a minute) he told us that a dog had gotten into the yard and attacked his dog, and he'd gotten bit trying to separate them. We called 911, had him sit down - right on the cement of our entranceway because he was starting to seem like he was going to hyperventilate - and I ran and got him a towel for his hand. One of his fingers was very badly bitten. They said something about their cousin and their dog still being in the house, so I went across the street to find three very freaked out, but unhurt, other kids coming out of the front door. They were all crying, and I tried to calm them down and find out if there were parents or friends or anyone I could call. One of the girls was holding her dog, who'd also gotten badly bitten. By this time, Mike and the first two boys were coming across the street. The one who was bitten had calmed down by then, and we just stayed with them while we waited for the paramedics and everyone to get there. The paramedics came first, and were getting the one who was hurt ready to go to the hospital. The girl's father came home, then the mother. They thanked us profusely and said they were sorry to be meeting under those circumstances. The police came, and animal control. They captured the dog who'd caused the whole thing - a PITBULL - and took it away. The dog wasn't leashed, and had somehow climbed onto something to get over the wall into their backyard.

Once everything was under control, we came home. It was very scary. On a side note, they seem like very nice neighbors.




Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Making a house a home

Our main objective for the week - aside from continuing Mike's job search - was to just keep on working on settling in. This has meant unpacking... lots and lots of unpacking... which is exciting for the kids. They've been rediscovering long-lost books, toys and games. Spencer spent the morning playing around with a How To Draw Animals book, and Paxton played Uno. We're slowly filling up bookcases, shelves and closets. We've started hanging things on the walls. No longer just some random house we are renting, it is becoming home. Home extends out the doors too... after lunch the older boys and I took a long, slow walk around the block, chatting and checking out the neighbors' cars and houses.

We got a catalog for local classes in the mail yesterday, and we're looking forward to jumping in in January. Paxton is planning on taking a karate class; Spencer and I are going to take a parent/child yoga class; and I'm signing Everett up for toddler tumbling. I'm hoping to try a new church this weekend, and the boys are excited about its childrens' programs. We're all still in awe at everything the area has to offer.




Sunday, December 04, 2005

Adjusting

We've discovered that the transition to a new home (in a new city, in a new state, in a new part of the country no less) is very much a process. We were thinking that the boys were handling it very well, given the circumstances, and that it would just get better and better. In fact the opposite seems to be happening. As they get more and more comfortable, more and more layers come off, and we're seeing stronger reactions to the change. Yesterday was a hard day, with too many tears and yelling and frustrations. We cannot blame them... exciting as it is for all of us, it is HARD. It is tiring. It is overwhelming. It is new. It is scary. They really ARE handling it well, and as we cycle through this adjustment, we know we'll hit an upswing soon. Last night and today were huge steps to returning to normalcy, or at least to a new normalcy. Last night we met Sandi, Mitch and the kids at a big indoor play area down the street. For two hours we forgot about everything else and just played together... in tubes, slides, ziplines, trees, mazes, and forts. It was a great time, and it was needed by all. Today was needed just as well - a true day of a rest. A lazy morning, a late lunch, and a walk down the street to the park. The boys went on the swings and slides, and Mike and I laughed about all the people wearing sweatshirts and hoods and gloves in the 65 degree weather.




Saturday, December 03, 2005

Just two good old boys

The other day, Mike and the boys were playing Grand Turismo, a racing game on Playstation,and one of them was racing a car like the General Lee on Dukes of Hazzard. Mike introduced them to the show, and they are hooked. The three of them have been watching it together twice a day for the past two days. Mike is reliving a good memory from childhood, and the boys are enjoying a fun new show with adventure and car chases. When they're not watching it, they're playing it, with four little lego people standing in for Bo, Luke, and Daisy.

We have been spending a little more time at home, started to find some rhythm to our days again. Yesterday our one outing was a fun one, a trip to get a new Christmas tree. We got a nice artificial one - already pre-strung with white lights - and let the boys each choose one new decoration apiece. Some new red and gold balls and candy canes and we were good to go. After dinner and baths and haircuts, we were too tired to do it last night... so it's our first project on tap for this weekend.






Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A place to sit

We picked up our new dining room chairs yesterday, and Mike and Spencer had them assembled quickly. They are nice chairs, but after a week of eating either off the floor or standing at the table, it wouldn't take much to impress me. We found a final home for our table, and lazily sat, drinking coffee, and eating Krispy Kreme donuts this morning. It was a little bit like heaven.

The beds have been set up. Spencer and Paxton had their rooms all picked out, and decided on the second night here that they'd rather share. So they're happily sleeping in the same room, and sleeping well. Dressers are in, boxes are in the process of being unpacked. Satellite is installed, cable internet is installed, and our furnace problem is fixed. We found the local post office, the library, and the church I want to try on Sunday. I ordered a magazine subscription from a college kid raising money for a trip to the Bahamas. I started my online shopping. Mike updated his posted resume with our local information, and promptly got 3 phone calls from recruiters. It is 66 degrees out, and the boys are playing in the backyard. It's 66 degrees out, and it's almost Christmas.




Monday, November 28, 2005

IKEA, icecream, and new fish

I love our new house; it is quickly feeling like a home, even though we seem to be never here. Yesterday it was back to Walmart for towels and trashcans and accessories. Spencer and I went alone together, and it was my first foray driving by myself. I am a wimp when it comes to city driving, but it really couldn't have been easier. All the streets are all gridded out and organized - not like NH cities at all. We had a good time together, and decided we'd make a Spencer & Mommy outing a regular occurence. When we got home, we got all three bathrooms set up, and the boys were very excited about their Finding Nemo/fish/dolphin decor.

We finally got our furniture paid for today, and took our first trip to IKEA. The woman greeting us noted our looks of confusion, and gave us a road map. Neat place! The boys, first excited just by the sight of an escalator, had a blast looking through the showroom with us. We picked several things, and decided to come back another day to get them. Tonight was a long awaited visit to Cold Stone, the best icecream place ever. Mike and I made a mental note that the next time the small size would be more than sufficient.

The day Paxton's fish died, we told him that whenever he was ready, we'd get him a new one. This morning he announced that he was ready, so that was our last stop of the day. Spencer wanted to get a fish too, but because two bettas can't live in the same tank, they had to pick two different kinds. They browsed through all the fish, we talked to sales lady at length.... but they both wanted bettas. So we went in for one new fish, and came out with two new fish, another little betta tank, and a tiny frog that can live with bettas. Paxton named his fish Nick, Spencer's is Morgan, and I named the frog Jerry, after the greatest tv show of all time.




Saturday, November 26, 2005

Furniture, IHOP & our first visitors

We did something crazy, something that we never ever do. We went shopping the day after Thanksgiving. We didn't go Christmas shopping, but because it was the day for it, we we were faced with the typical throngs of people. We went to the mall (our new, big, super close mall) of all places, to price washers and dryers. It was an adventure, to say the least, and we didn't even buy anything. I promised the kids we'd come back sometime after the holidays though, because they saw a spectacular game room that they couldn't wait to check out.

After the mall we headed to a discount furniture store, and after a looooong time browsing, chose two new couches, love seat, 3 chairs, coffee table and end tables. We started the ordering process but couldn't complete it because our checking account has a limit on the amount of money put on the debit card each day. We've paid off and cut up our credit cards, so we couldn't use those; and they wouldn't accept an out of state check. Because it was after 3 AZ time, the bank was closed and we couldn't even call to get it raised for the day. Bummer.

Today Mike called the bank bright and early to get our limit lifted so we could buy our big items. The catch was that we only had till 10 AM, because our bank closed at noon eastern time. Fun fun fun. It felt like we were on a reality show, rushing to get through a shopping spree. First up was Best Buy for washer, dryer, and TV. Then hurry to the furniture store only to find it didn't open till 10. We tried, but got declined again, and decided to console ourself with a nice breakfast at IHOP (another something I'd been greatly looking forward to having close by) We made the mistake of adding Walmart to our trip, and were rewarded with another meltdown and hasty exit.

Sandi, Mike and the kids came by in the afternoon, both to visit and to loan their muscles for moving in some of the big stuff. The kids had a good time playing, and we all ate Thanksgiving leftovers - while standing, since we still haven't gotten kitchen chairs.




Friday, November 25, 2005

A (mostly) Happy Thanksgiving

In the past, Thanksgiving has always meant baking a brocolli casserole, wearing a new cozy sweater, and spending the day feasting and visiting with family.

I didn't make a casserole, and it was way too warm to wear a sweater... but we did spend the day feasting and visiting with family. Our second full day as Arizona residents was spent traveling up to Anthem to share Thanksgiving with Sandi, Mike and the kids. They invited some friends as well, who had three kids of their own, so it was a full and busy house. It was a wonderful meal, and the kids had a blast playing together. Instead of bundling up and taking a walk after dinner - our usual after-turkey activity - we stood outside in our short sleeves while the kids rode bikes and played in the street. We were about to round everyone up and walk to the park when two of the boys came running outside to tell us that Paxton (who had been happily playing with them on the computer) had just gotten sick. Sad for him, and disappointed about calling it a day, we packed up and said our goodbyes and thank yous and nice-to-meet-yous before heading back home. It was a rough ride home, but we made it with just one stop. The poor kid fell asleep at 6, and slept the entire night. Today he is his normal Paxton self, no worse for the wear.




Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Setting up & Settling In - Our first full day

Still on NH time, we woke early to the sound of birds singing. We'd all slept on our mattresses on the floor, about as far as we got unpacking. Our goal for the first day was to find and unpack our coffee maker. It took a few hours to do so, and when we did we realized we had no filters. Our first cups of coffee in our new house were brew with paper towels for filters, and stirred with steak knives. The kids were feeling lousy with colds, so we spent most of the morning hanging around the house. We walked to the mailbox and checked out the pool and park. Lunch was at Quiznos, which was a nice change from Subway, and we ate outside, commenting how strange it felt to be so warm the day before Thanksgiving.

We poured through the local phonebooks, wildly excited about how very close we are to, well, EVERYTHING. It's a far cry from Andover, where even a simple trip to the grocery store required an hour's round trip driving. We all took a trip to Linens N Things to get started on our massive list of things we needed for the house. It was a bit too ambitious for our first day, as there was a meltdown by the time we were done. The rest of the day was at home... the boys played, Mike made all the phone calls for getting phone and satellite and internet hooked up, and I worked on getting the kitchen in order.

We wanted to pick up some groceries, but didn't think being in a grocery store the evening before Thanksgiving would be too fun, so we hit the town again for some dinner. 5 minutes down the street we found a drive-through Wendy's, and ate sitting on the floor, our food on the coffee table.




The Trip - From NH to AZ

Day 1 - Departure

We planned to leave NH at 8:00 AM, and ended up leaving at 8:45. Not bad considering that it was a cold, rainy, dreary day. The first leg of the trip went incredibly smoothly. The boys slept off and on, and we rarely heard a peep from the animals. We had lunch in New York, and it was also somewhere in New York that I first noticed that our trailer swayed like crazy everytime a tractor trailer passed us. I vowed I wouldn't look back anymore, because it freaked me out, but of course it just made me look EVERY time. The drizzly sky finally completely opened up and poured on us as we entered Pennsylvania, and we all laughed as we ran through the rain into to PA Welcome Center. First overnight stop: Mifflinville, Pennsylvania. We got some sandwiches from Arby's, then spent the evening playing the bingo game that Paxton got in his kid's meal at lunch.

Day 2

We woke to freezing temperatures and snow. It snowed on and off all day, but thankfully never enough to delay our trip. We entered Ohio, and had lunch in Akron. There were tears in Akron too - lots of them - over where we were going to eat. A scene was made, and I think there's a distinct possibility that we won't be welcome at that Subway ever again. Ah, traveling with kids. Everyone felt a lot better after we ate, and we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset coming through Columbus. The boys broke out their gameboys after lunch, and I ate my way through a box of Junior Caramels while I read two more magazines and caught up on all my pop-culture news. We noticed a strange thump in the trailer, and couldn't figure out what it was. We were excited to see gas prices drop below $2.00, a very good thing since our 4Runner was barely making 11 MPG with the weight of the trailer. Second overnight stop: Dayton, Ohio. There was a Perkins right next to our hotel, so that fit the bill for dinner. We'd never eaten there before, but the boys and I were able to get pancakes, and Mike got some sort of meat, so we were happy. The hotel was NOT a four-star establishment, and I had to laugh each time I found something wrong.... a lamp that didn't work, a missing clock, a shower drain that didn't drain, and not even a single spare roll of toilet paper.

Day 3

This time we woke to the first casualty of the trip. My Christmas cactus, lovingly grown from a shoot from a plant that was originally my Grandmothers, was frozen dead in the truck. Our luck continued through the morning into Missouri. It was a boring stretch of highway, and a rough stretch of highway, so much so that I was starting to feel carsick. Everett was starting to get grumpy and bored, so I picked up a little chalkboard for him to play with. It kept him happily drawing for 20 minutes or so, until he found more creative uses for it, like bopping his big brothers in the head. It revived me a little bit to come into St Louis, and I took several pictures of the arch. It finally started to warm up a bit too, something that made us all happy. We played the alphabet game in the afternoon, and we got to "Z" just as we passed a Lake of the Ozarks sign. Third overnight stop: Lebanon, Missouri (at a much nicer hotel than the night before.) We rolled into the parking lot with less than a half a gallon of gas, checked in, and ordered a pizza. While we waited for dinner to arrive, the boys ran around the courtyard for a good half hour, waving their arms over their heads, shouting "We're freeeeeeeee!!"

Day 4

We had a rough, windy ride first thing in the morning, but it cleared up as the morning wore on. The boys played their gameboys, and I finished the second of the 4 books I brought with me. We crossed into Oklahoma, and had lunch in Tulsa. We saw our first official cowboy in Wendy's, complete with Wrangler jeans, cowboy boots, hat and silver belt buckle. The boys were excited at lunch because they got new prizes in their kids' meals (we'd already eaten fast food enough times that they'd gotten some repeats) The day was going smoothly, if long, and we booked our hotel for the night. We were about 60 miles away from our destination, and I turned to Mike to tell him what good time we were making, how happy I was that we were ahead of schedule. BOOM. Or bang or pop or whatever words conjure up a dreadfully loud and sudden explosion sound. In the ten seconds it took me to realize we weren't in fact being shot at, but had blown a tire out on our trailer, Mike already had the truck under control and was maneuvering it onto the shoulder. Unfortunately it happened on the one of the worst possible places on the highway... a barely-there shoulder, a tight curve, and a 75 mph speed limit. We just sat in the truck for a minute, looking at each other, while tractor trailers zoomed by fast enough to make our teeth rattle. We did have a spare, but neither of us were comfortable with Mike changing a tire by himself on that section of road. We wanted a professional, preferably with flashing lights. We called AAA, who sent someone out, and it took about 20 minutes for him to arrive. It was dark by this time, and 2 of the 3 boys were crying, exhausted and freaked out. It was a quick fix once he got there; and ten minutes (and $120) later, we were on our again, stopping at a closer hotel than planned. Fourth overnight stop: Elk City, Oklahoma. We were exceedingly thankful to get there safe and sound, and the hotel room - complete with its hot pink sheets - was very inviting. I stayed with the baby, while Mike and the older boys ran out to pick something up for dinner. I found Racing Stripes on HBO, and thought they'd be excited about that when they got back. They were.

Day 5

Everett woke up hot with a fever, but with no other symptoms. I felt bad making him get in the car for another day of driving, but knew that he'd get the sleep he needed to fight whatever it was off. And sleep he did. We drove around most of the morning looking for someplace to buy another spare tire for the trailer, but it was a difficult feat being a Sunday when everything was closed. Walmart's tire center was open but did not have the right size. We took the chance while we were there to grab a few things we needed... snacks, baby tylenol, another magazine, new magnadoodles for the kids. The guy at Walmart sent us to a truck stop, also open, also wrong size. We finally found a service station that appeared to be open. The guy who worked there, called in on an emergency repair for somebody else, was gracious enough to help us. We were back on the road by 10:30 AM, and finally crossed into Texas. Lunch was at McDonalds in Amarillo. The boys wanted an icecream after lunch, and were bummed to find out that their icecream machine was broken. After lunch we crossed the border into New Mexico, and it was just as beautiful as I remembered it from the first trip. There's just something about the miles and miles of wide open spaces, mountains, and red rock buttes that's good for the soul. I love the southwest; I always have. The difference between this time and our trip in June is that in June it felt like a vacation, and this time it feels like going home. Fifth overnight stop: Albuquerque, New Mexico. The kids made me smile when they walked into our rather typical $60 a night hotel room and said, with all sincerity "Wow, what a great room!" We had dinner at an interesting cafeteria-style family restaurant in a not-very-nice part of town. We'd promised the boys icecream.... and the icecream machine was broken there too. We headed back to our hotel, and to the McDonald's sharing its parking lot, for icecream and another night of much needed rest. We pulled out the US map as we had every night so far, and marveled at how far we'd come.

Day 6

Everett's fever was thankfully of the 36 hour variety, and he woke up cool and happy and his usual stinker self. The older boys however woke up with their own unique versions of impending colds... Paxton a hacking cough, and Spencer a flurry of sneezes. We'd set the alarm for 7, but not being used to the time change we woke up at 5:45, ready to get going. We had our first really good cup of coffee of the trip when I spotted a nearby Starbucks. Mike ran in for them, and came back swearing that he was never going to Starbucks again.... too many complicated choices for a simple cup of coffee. We enjoyed a relaxing drive through the rest of New Mexico, and I finished my 3rd book of the trip in between drinking in all the scenery. We crossed into Arizona before noon, and began the long stretch of desert highway. Exits were few and far between, so when we stopped for a bathroom break, Mike decided to fill up the gas tank just in case. He was already up to $40 before he realized that the gas was almost FOUR DOLLARS a gallon. We shed our jackets sometime around lunchtime, and enjoyed the warm air. Lunch was at Denny's in Holbrook, and we decided to call it a nice early day. Last overnight stop: Flagstaff, AZ. We stayed at a nicer hotel than the previous ones, in a two-room suite, which was fitting for our last night of the trip. We got their at 4:00, enjoyed a complimentary cocktail social hour, gave the kids baths, ordered room service, and vegged out in front of the TV.

Day 7: Arrival day

We woke up early again, and were lounging around in bed watching the local news. Mike got a weird look on his face when he heard that it had dipped below 20 degrees overnight. I just stared at him until he said "Paxton's fish." It had been so warm in the evening, we hadn't thought about the fact that we were in the mountains and that it might get cold at night. Paxton's fish - who'd made it completely across the country just fine - had been left in the truck in the cold, and didn't make it. We'd brought him into the hotel with us the nights we knew it was going to get cold, but were fooled by the warm Arizona evening. We felt HORRIBLE. Paxton was of course sad, but handled it better than either one of us would have expected. He seemed as excited as the rest of us that it was our last day of driving, and that we were only 3 hours away from our new home. We fueled up at a nice breakfast buffet, complete with belgian waffles, and let Everett run up and down the corridors while Mike loaded up the truck. We took it easy on the 2 hour drive down to Anthem, both because we didn't want to blow another tire and plummet off the side of the mountain, and because our overloaded trailer didn't let us do otherwise. The views coming down into Phoenix were, as we remembered, spectacular.

We got to my sister's house at noon, and it was like no time had passed between us.. certainly not 4 months. We chatted and visited, and the kids wasted no time getting down to the business of playing with their cousins. It was warm and sunny and happy, and it felt good just to be there. We called our realtor and set up a time to meet her at our house. As we drove down to Tempe, I was literally so excited that I thought I was going to hyperventilate. I had to keep telling myself, and the kids (who were nearly bouncing off the ceiling) to calm down. We underestimated how much time it would take to get there, and we were 15 minutes late meeting the realtor. The house was very easy to find off the highway, and the area was just as she'd promised - a nice, clean, beautiful family neighborhood. She promised we wouldn't be disappointed, and we were not. One misconception I think people have about Arizona in general is that everything is drab and brown, and it's just not. As we drove into the development there was green grass and palm trees, petunias and marigolds, and a whole bunch of gorgeous blooming bushes that I've yet to learn the name of. It was everything we'd hoped for... and if it hadn't been for the occasional crying, the fever, the blown-out tire, and the dead fish, the trip would've been too perfect. We made it safely across the country together, and it's all good.




Monday, November 14, 2005

The Closing

It was a test of patience to be sure, but after weeks of waiting and wondering and postponing and praying, we closed on the sale of our house. The boys kept asking us what "a closing" was, and we told them it was basically us signing a whole bunch of papers, handing over our keys, and officially selling the house to the buyers. It was that... and it was so much more. Practically, it went very very smoothly. It was quick and simple, and there was a lot of chatting and joking as we signed. For a transaction that had so many snags along the way, it wound up very neat and tidy in the end. To Mike and I (and by extension, the kids) this house sale was the key to a new life, a new adventure, new possibilities, something we've been waiting a long time for. We were ready. Whoever said timing is everything wasn't kidding. Had we done it a year earlier, I would have been sad to leave the house that we'd put so much blood, sweat and tears into.. but today I wasn't. That house had been a stepping stone, and a blessing to be sure, but it was just a stopping off place for us. Today we were ready to leave it, to let someone else enjoy it. And everything from our buyers to the job market to the homeschool groups to the rental house that just happened to become available when we needed it, fell into place to tell us that the time was now. We're ready. And we're excited. And we're so very very thankful.




Sunday, October 23, 2005

Ch-Ch-Ch Changes

The last several days have been a whirlwind of a activity, a final sprint in this leg of the journey. Thursday the boys and I went to Concord for errands, and it was with a very strange sense of finality that we went to Walmart, the grocery store, and to Friendly's. It's starting to sink in to all of us that this is the last time we'll eat at a Friendly's; the last time we'll go to this Walmart; the last time we'll shop at this grocery store. God-willing, in just a couple of weeks, our whole sense of "normal" will be completely different. Friday someone came from Mike's work to pick up some furniture. She bought our remaining couch, two chairs, and three dressers. Our house feels big and strange and empty... and it echoes. Yesterday was packing, packing, and more packing. The boys are saying temporary goodbyes to many of their toys now. Mike took the bed frames apart - because they'll go in the trailer next - so we all camped out on the living room floor. We'll stay there for the next 8 nights (possibly up to 26 nights if the closing date gets extended again) but it is part of the adventure. Last night we all snuggled up, found The Parent Trap on tv, and stayed up way too late. This morning is pancakes - which is very normal for a Sunday morning - but this morning, my 8 year old is making them. He's helped before, but never done it on his own. At my last glance, they were round, fluffy, and perfectly golden.

Changes.




Monday, October 10, 2005

Rain

All this house-showing and rushing around is starting to take its toll on the kids. Yesterday, Paxton burst into tears when it was time to put the Playstation away to get ready to get out of the house. It didn't help that the realtor and prospective buyers were over 20 minutes early, and we had to rush even more than usual to get the last final things picked up. The mood was already somber for most of the weekend, because of the relentless rain. The rain is doing its fair share of damage too, with streets and roads and dams flooded and breached. Alstead got hit even harder... businesses and homes have been completely washed away. We watched the destruction on the news yesterday afternoon, and the boys found it awe-inspiring, after being reassured that everyone they loved was safe. Saturday was Mike's 31st birthday, so we all went out for breakfast (and then drove around in the rain during another showing) The rest of the weekend, and storm, was waited out at home, playing Playstation, computer games, and packing. The boys were asking about fractions when they went to bed last night, and made me promise we'd talk about them this morning.. And we will, as soon as they wake up.




Thursday, October 06, 2005

The best laid plans...

We were supposed to be closing - and moving - 8 days from today. We will possibly be closing in a month, maybe with these buyers, perhaps with new buyers.

Possibly... maybe... perhaps.

We are in limbo more than ever right now, and our main concern at the moment is keeping things as normal as possible for the kids. This is difficult, as we only have one car, and have to shuffle our lives around the continually showings on the house. Still, even with the occasional tantrum (the kids also have tantrums sometimes), we are managing to keep our heads above water. The older boys had their physicals this week, and they are both healthy, strong, and good to go. On Tuesday, we all had to get up early to drive Mike to work so we could have the truck. We had two showings scheduled, and we spent the first one wandering around Walmart for nearly 2 hours. We came home and worked on the latest workbook from the kids' Top Secret Adventures, this time about Kenya. Luckily, the second showing was at 5, and we were already going to be out picking Mike up, so we didn't have to do anything differently. Yesterday the excavator came to do the digging for the neighbor's addition. This meant that Spencer spent most of the day camped at window, keeping me updated on the progress. We capped off the day by playing ball in the driveway. And "ball" by the way, means three different things to the three boys..... for Everett it means walking around carrying, and occasionally throwing, his big playground ball, all the while yelling "Ba! Ba!" with a big grin on his face.... for Paxton, it's a jumping, sliding, rolling, kicking, throwing combination of soccer, baseball and volleyball... and for Spencer, it's occasional pausing from his excited bouncing to either catch or throw the ball. We did a lot of packing yesterday too, which was put on hold for the moment, at least until we get a better idea of what's happening with our house and move. Today was cookie-making. And tomorrow? I couldn't even hazard a guess about what tomorrow will bring. I know it'll be interesting.




Sunday, October 02, 2005

Doggie tea and other toddler adventures

Last night we got back from spending a few days at Maba and Pop's. We went up on Thursday night, both for the visit & the getaway, and also because we had yet another showing of the house on Friday.

Friday proved to be rewarding, yet incredibly exhausting. We started the day by watching The Sound of Music. The boys had never seen it, and it had been several years for me, so we all enjoyed it. We also played MadGab and got out some cards and poker chips, though we never got around to playing poker. Everett found the chips to be great fun, and spread them all over the living room. He also discovered Mom's shelf of teas, and before I could stop him he'd brewed himself a nice batch of tea in the dog's water bowl. While I was cleaning that up he returned to the living room to add the deck of cards and the MadGab game to the poker chips that were all over the floor. Deciding that the house would be safer if we weren't actually in it, we started picking up the messes and getting ready to head outside. Paxton wanted a snack, so they he went to look in the pantry for something to eat. Everett followed, and came out with a can of soup and some salad dressing. That wasn't working. I took him in the bathroom with me to get ready, where he flung open doors and drawers and at some point, relocated the bottle of salad dressing to a drawer in the vanity. We fared better outside, and had a nice day picking blueberries, swinging, and sliding. That night we played a two hour long game of Monopoly Jr while Everett napped in Pop's lap. Mike and I went to a late movie, which was a nice (and incredibly rare) treat, but it left us tired for yesterday - another day of hard playing outside.

Today is haircuts and packing and resting, and praying that this week we'll finally get an answer about when we'll actually be moving.




Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Goodbyes

Sunday was the last time we'll be seeing the McGrail side of the family for a long time. There were goodbyes and hugs and tears from almost everyone, but the boys took it remarkably in stride. They gave their hugs and kisses, happily waved at the door, and went back to the business of playing. Mike thinks that maybe they don't really understand that this was a real goodbye, for several months, but I tend to think the opposite is true. I think they understand better than we give them credit for, better than we as adults can understand.

A friend and I recently had a discussion about children and how they dealt with death. She recently lost a cousin to a car accident, and was telling me how her children were handling it. Her 8 year old (who is a lot like Spencer in many ways) accepted it in a way that many adults just can't. She told me that she just KNEW her cousin was in a better place, and that she WOULD see her again. There was no question in her mind.

Moving away from family is obviously different than death, but it is still a life-changing transition. And Spencer and Paxton seem to understand better than anybody that while, yes, it's a big deal, it's not something to be sad about. That relationships that are worth having are not going to dissipate just because of a few (or a few thousand) miles. That they will continue to see and share and talk with the people that love them. That this is a good, and positive, and exciting move for our family, and that it's where we need to be right now. Their hearts are pure and open and trusting, and not all clogged up with the negative garbage that us adults have accumulated.

They understand.




Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sonic Heroes, math and the USA

Yesterday Paxton asked me what 3 x 5 was. I answered his question, and he asked another. I showed him what a multiplication table was, and his excitement drew Spencer over to see what we were doing. They both found it very very cool. Spencer wanted to check my answers, so I got him a calculator, and he spent most of the afternoon plugging in problems, amazed that I had them all right (or possibly amazed that the calculator got them all right) It was the last thing he did before he went to bed, and the first thing he did when he woke up.

Paxton spent a long portion of the past two days playing Sonic Heroes, both with and without me. It is one of five new PS2 games he got for his birthday, and it is pretty fun. He learns how to play new games almost instantly and I do not, so it took me awhile before I could even give him some honest competition.

This afternoon, I looked up a United States map on the internet. The one we had hanging on our wall is packed someplace, and I wanted to know what surrounded Utah. I stumbled across a really neat geography site, with games for learning and quizzing yourself on the states, capitals, rivers and lakes. We all played with it for quite awhile - and I do know where Utah is now - and the boys had me bookmark it for later.

Right now they are watching Cyberchase on TV, the baby is sleeping, and I can almost hear the house sighing as the day starts to wind down.






Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Moving

On August 10th, our house officially hit the market. 13 days later we received (and accepted) an offer. Barring any problems, we will close on October 14th, hitch up our trailer and start our new adventure in AZ. As the buyers have a home sale contingency on the contract, we are continuing to do showings, and our life very much feels like it is revolving around cleaning and getting out of the house for walk-throughs. Surprisingly, though it's not entirely pleasant scrubbing the house for strangers to critique it - whether we're in the mood for cleaning or not - everyone has been adjusting rather well. The boys have been very helpful in packing and keeping the house picked up; and have only complained minimally about leaving at a moments' notice when they'd much rather be home playing Playstation.

There are actually many upsides to having to be out of the house all the time. We've been going out to eat a lot, which while certainly pricey, has been really nice. We've also been spending a lot of time in the car together, which we always enjoy. If it weren't for the price of gas, we would likely be driving around even more. We explored miles of back roads the other day, when we came home after an hour and the people still hadn't left, and it was a lovely little detour.

We're all excited about moving, and are starting to shift our focus to Arizona. I've signed up with homeschool groups, researched churches, and searched for a gym. It's a strange state of limbo we're in right now, but in a way it's forcing us to live in the moment even more fully. The boys and I are appreciative of days like today, when we're home, together, and don't have any showings or plans.

Paxton started his day with Playstation today, and Spencer started by writing words on the chalkboard and quizzing me. He asked why his friend Becca (one year older than him) knew how to spell longer words than he did. I told him that it was probably because she went to school, and had to learn words for spelling tests... and that he could practice longer words any time he wanted to. He then got out a map of the world, taped it next to the chalkboard, and started copying the names of countries.

The mail distracted us, as it always does, and now the boys are pouring through a toy catalog, adding to their growing Christmas wish list. Very strange to think about our first Christmas without any snow.




Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Yard Sales, Roofers, and $80 Icecream

Saturday was our first foray into yard saling. We've been to yard sales before, but until this weekend had never held our own. Despite some pretty ominous looking clouds, the weather held out, and it was by and large a success. The boys were very excited about it, Spencer so much so that he had Mike wake him up at 6:30 in the morning to help set up. He was a great help, greeting everyone as they walked up, and trying his hardest to promote one of the old lawnmowers we were getting rid of. We'd promised the boys that they could keep all the money from their own items that sold, and they both happily deposited 5.50 into their banks at the end of the day. They helped us load all the leftovers into the garage, poised to be taken out again for try #2 next weekend.

Sunday I wanted to take the family out for icecream. We had to go grocery shopping, but didn't feel like driving all the way to Concord - ha - so we went to New London and planned on stopping at the TCBY on the way out. We'd forgotten that everything in New London closes insanely early on Sundays. We got there at 2:15, and they'd closed at 2:00. I had promised my boys icecream, so we weren't going home without icecream. We headed out to Newport, since we were out that way and it was only another 15 minutes. No icecream places. We couldn't turn around at that point, so we drove the next 10 miles to Claremont. Surely they would have a Friendly's. Couldn't find one. Hopped on the highway, and ended up driving into Vermont. We were on a mission. I thought of Lebanon, and was positive that they'd have icecream. The exit we wanted was several miles away, but we were having a grand time. I was slightly worried about the fact that the truck's gas gauge had said empty for awhile - we hadn't been planning a big outing - but we made it to the exit and the gas station on fumes. We were so empty, it cost over $40 to fill it, something that I think has happened only one other time since we've had it. And right down the street from the station was.....a Friendly's! By that time, it was after 5:00, so we were all hungry for dinner too. We had a nice dinner, followed by our long awaited icecream sundaes. They were worth it. The boys were happy and sticky when we headed home an hour later.

Yesterday, the men arrived to start working on our new roof. Days like that I am especially glad that we homeschool. The boys spent nearly all day outside... watching, asking questions, listening patiently and maturely to where they could and could not stand, taking pictures of the progress. Something you just can't get in public school.






Monday, May 02, 2005

Therapy

I have some pretty terrific kids.

There have been stresses lately - big ones - too big for even chocolate to fix. I was sitting and sipping my 3rd cup of coffee at the computer, trying to focus long enough to get something done. I turned on the computer's dvd player, loaded up with one of my mixes, and "Drift Away" started playing. I only halfway heard it, and it did nothing to raise my spirits.

Paxton, sweet sweet Paxton, came into the room without saying a word, took the mouse and selected track 16 - the theme song to Friends. Within minutes, all four of us were laughing and dancing around the living room. He played it again and again, and we danced and we danced. As far as I'm concerned, no matter what else we do today or this week, it'll all be secondary to that moment we spent together, just forgetting about everything and having fun together.

I love these kids so much. I'll never know what I ever did to deserve them.

Happy first birthday Everett!!!! We can't believe you are one already!!!




Saturday, April 23, 2005

Road Trips

Yesterday the mailman brought our AAA triptik for our vacation to Phoenix. He also brought 2 money orders for some DVD's I sold, and a rebate check for our Tivo. Cool mail day! The boys ripped open the package for me, and weren't too excited about it until I explained what it was. The word "map" got them hooked! We looked through the triptik, then pulled down their dry-erase map of the United States. We just love that thing. We put it on the floor, carefully plotted out our route to Arizona, then drove it over and over again with Matchbox cars. Paxton decided it would be fun to take detours, so our little imaginery trip to the Southwest also took us to places like Canada, Alaska, and Africa (but we had to flip the map over for that.) We noticed that a lot of the state names and capitals were wearing off, so we fixed those, and added little notes along the way.... who lives where, we've been been, and where we want to go. We also had to freshen up our picture of the armadillo on Texas. We'd read that they live there awhile back, and for some reason the boys really enjoy that fact. I'm not 100% certain, but I'm really pretty sure that I didn't know that at their age.




Monday, April 18, 2005

Derbies and Birthday Parties

It's funny to me how our weekends seem to be one extreme or the other lately... either very lazy without any plans at all, or insanely busy. This past weekend was of the insanely busy variety, but I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it was a great one. Saturday was Spencer's pinewood derby finals. We had a good time, and were unbelievably proud of our little scout. He had a great attitude, and wonderful sportsmanship, and wasn't upset in the least that his car ended up 34th out of 34! All the boys took home special badges, medals, and t-shirts. It was neat to just be there, especially knowing that so many of the boys in his troop did not qualify. After the race we went out to lunch with Maba and Pop (who were kind enough to come up for the day to support Spencer in his race), then came back home for root beer floats. Sunday was lunch at Aunt Didi and Uncle Mich's, then play time for the boys while the girls all went out to enjoy a live showing of "The Full Monty" - just about the funniest thing I've ever seen. After the show I met the guys at Spencer's friend's birthday party. It was a space theme, and they happily played with frisbees, threw a hover craft around, and shot marshmellow "asteroids" out of homemade shooters. I love watching the boys run around with other kids.... it always makes me laugh inside, as I hear other people's inane concerns about "socialization" running around in my head. There were actually a lot of other homeschooled kids there, and amazingly enough, they too knew how to socialize appropriately. Even Everett joined in the fun, crawling around on the grass, waving at everyone, and pulling himself up on everything he could find. The only thing marring the otherwise perfect day was the ignorant, and somewhat insulting, comments I received from another mother about homeschooling. I just nodded and smiled a lot, and went home secure in the knowledge that I am doing what is absolutely and 100% right for us and our kids.




Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Happy days are here again

This has been a very long winter. We've been sick more often than not, and after this last bout of sicknesses, we were all left in a funk of epic proportions. This week, the cloud finally lifted. Our days have some rhythym to them again, we're all feeling connected, and the boys are happy and active. Today we spent most of the morning playing card games, and then headed out to the grocery store to get the ingredients for a frozen dessert they wanted to make. Everyone's been sick so often that even getting out to the grocery store was a big deal! We got our strawberries, watermelon, and yogurt, and Spencer chatted up one of the employees about the number codes that she was putting on the apples. We were in such a great mood that no one even stressed about the half a bottle of orange soda that spilled all over the back of the 4Runner. After we got home and had lunch, it was a time for a whirlwind cleaning of the house, because we had someone coming to give us an estimate on replacement windows. After he left, we all went outside to fetch the dog from the neighbor's house (we think something happened to her fence when part of the driveway washed away) and found CROCUSES BLOOMING!!! My favorite, no-question-about-it, official sign of spring. We decided we had to celebrate, so the whole family walked to the corner store - going by way of the old covered bridge where we stopped and threw rocks in the river - and got icecream sandwiches for after dinner. Paxton got tired on the way home, so I gave him a piggy-back ride while he caught his breath, and he hopped down in time to collect pine cones before we made it back to the house. Happy, happy Spring!!!




Thursday, March 24, 2005

It's Spring!! (So why is it snowing?)

Last night Spencer's cub scout den was invited to a Spring carnival put on by the Awanas group at a local church here. It was such a great time. The church was PACKED - I don't think any of us was expecting that many kids and that much activity! Once they got acclimated though, there was no stopping them. They were all given a stack of play money when they went in, that they could use to buy turns on different games ... obstacle course, throwing darts at balloons, beanbag toss, ring toss, basketball, and Paxton's favorite - a variation on the dunking booth, where the kids could throw water soaked sponges at the teenaged volunteers. It was a fun night, and I loved watching the boys having such a good time. They tried almost all of the games, and ended up picking a couple favorites. They both did the darts several times, and got better with each shot. I was really proud that they both did the obstacle course too. While they love to do obstacle courses in the driveway at home, up until last night, neither one of them ever really wanted to do something like that in front of a roomful of people. But they did great! They both spent all their "money" and earned a fistful of tickets that they traded in at the end of the night for prizes like bouncy balls, little plastic games, and cardboard airplanes. It was really neat. We all went home tired and happy, and both boys requested - several times - that we do it again sometime. Today we are home, and it's just as well because it is snowing like crazy. Still, we've had a little taste of spring this week, with several days of warmer weather. The taste was nice, but we're ready for the real thing.




Friday, March 18, 2005

Original poetry

Spencer and Paxton wrote poems today:

Once there was a chicken
His name was Icken
He cut down a tree
He cut down a branch
He didn't know what he was thinkin.

by Spencer

Once there was a cow
His name was Wow
I'm still a cow
And my name is still Wow

by Paxton




An extra dose of Dad

At my request, Mike took a sick day on Monday. We'd spent the weekend whining our way through colds and fevers and misery, and I really needed that extra day to gather my bearings. It helped. The boys got to play Monopoly and Connect 4 and Whack-a-Mole with Daddy, while I both rested and cleaned up to get ready for the week. For some reason, the week still seemed extra slow, so yesterday we took a field trip out to his office to meet him for lunch. We went to a great little local diner that serves breakfast all day. I love taking the boys out to eat. For one thing, I just really enjoy their company & conversation, as I always do. But I also like the chance to watch them shine in public, to see how confidently they handle themselves. Spencer and Paxton place their own orders, and have since they were able to talk. They know they can order anything they want, and they do. Paxton has gotten some strange looks when he orders Diet Coke (actually, I think the strange looks are more for us, his parents, for letting him) but yesterday he chose a root beer, which the waitress found totally normal. Yesterday was also the first time we ordered an actual kids meal for Everett. We got him a grilled cheese and he ate half of it! We didn't get dessert, and instead headed back to Mike's office to raid the candy basket. On the way out, someone commented on how cute and well-behaved the boys were, which made me smile half the way home. Spencer slept for most of the 45 minute ride, so Paxton and I sang along to the radio, talked about what a soundtrack was, and theorized about the strange-looking construction vehicle we passed, that neither of us had seen before. Life is good.




Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This has not been a very good week. Everyone has colds, everyone's on edge, the kids have been bickering more than usual, and I'm pretty sure I can speak for everyone when I say that we are more than ready for winter to be over. We are really feeling the claustrophobia that sets in this time of year (if not sooner) The boys were supposed to have an art show on Tuesday, but it was cancelled because of an ice storm. There was a scouts meeting last night, but Spencer was too sick to even feel like getting dressed. We've been in the house since Saturday. Yuck. I'm trying to focus on those little moments, those good little moments, because we did have them. Isaac and Anabelle visited on Monday, and everyone had a good time.... The boys got their Ladybug and Spider magazines, and we looked through those together. We did what we always do first, and pulled out the little games. We cut out and played a color bingo game yesterday.... We've had the Brio train track out most of the week, and have played with that nearly every day.... Paxton found a race-car math game that they got for Christmas a couple years ago. We lost the directions, so we had to make them up, but we had fun playing that too.... We read about Ramona's latest antics in Ramona and her Mother.... We pulled out maps of the United States, trying to find one that had the time zones listed on it. We finally found what we were looking for in the phone book, and talked about what time it was from California to New Hampshire. The boys thought there should be a different time zone for Maba and Pop and Aunt Didi since they live so far away. (an hour :).... We drank a lot of orange juice. And if my sore throat and sniffling boy are any indication, we're going to be drinking a lot more.




Thursday, March 03, 2005

"A boy can never have too many projects"

That's what Spencer said to me this morning, as we were untangling a ball of yarn so that he could work on his knitting. I showed him how yesterday, and it was the last thing on his mind when he went to bed, and the first thing on his lips when he woke up. It's a good thing he feels that way too, because our house is fast turning into a haven for partially finished projects. As I type, I can see more than a few, and being the giver that I am, I thought that I would share....

On the chair to my left is a woodworking kit, basically a wooden box filled with pine pieces, nails, and a kid-size hammer (which is sometimes used, and sometimes set aside in order to use the real thing). There's something that looks like an airplane hanging out of it. On the couch is Spencer's bridge-building kit. It included everything to make three bridges, and he's finished 2 and a half of them. He got it out yesterday, but I don't think he did anything with it yet. Between the couch and the piano is MY running project, my dvds and boxes and bubble wrap and envelopes. There's a card table that I just set up in front of the door to the basement, since we were running out of usable flat surfaces. (I get a little nutty when the kitchen table is covered for too long, so the card table - which is easy to move around even when it's overflowing - is perfect) The paint-by-number of a horse, which Spencer started on Sunday, is drying there, as is a ceramic Eeyore. Actually, Eeyore dried quickly, but he's sitting there waiting for his final touches. Also on the table is an archeology kit that is so much fun we've all given it a try. It came as a brick with 3 artifacts buried inside, and you have to dig excavate them. When you're done you can mix it with water, re-bury them, let it dry, and start all over again. It's drying now, and I'm excited for them to do it again, because Mike hid some quarters in there too when the kids weren't looking. Mike's model car kit is on that table too, along with a hammer, some safety glasses, and the zipper pull that fell off my purse. On the end of the kitchen counter is Spencer's derby car kit. It's been sitting there for weeks, waiting for us to get the rest of what we need to make it. Mike picked up a tool kit, templates, decals, etc today, so they can work on it this weekend. The derby is in two weeks, so they're going to have to be pretty intense about it if he wants to race it.

There's more in the other room, but that's what I can see at the moment. In a few more days, it could all have changed.




Sunday, February 27, 2005

Tractors and Birthday Parties

It's a season of milestones....
Paxton is reading, Everett is crawling, and Spencer can make scrambled eggs, from start to finish, by himself. They're doing lots of other things too, but those are a few I've become aware of this past week.

Yesterday was Spencer's 8th birthday party, and it was such a fun time. We had it at a children's science museum (that we've never been to before, but that came highly recommended) It was fantastic. The kids - and the grownups - had a great time exploring and playing with all the exhibits, from legos and mini golf, to lights, electricity, momentum, and gravity. We had lunch on Spencer's carefully selected John Deere plates, as well as dyed-to-match green cupcakes. Maba and Pop, in keeping with the theme, got him a very cool John Deere tractor & baseball cap. He got a lot of other really neat gifts too... everything from hover crafts to paint-by-number kits to tinker toys to bug books. We got home, exhausted, around 5. We munched on all the leftover party food while Spencer went through all his new things, taking them out of the packages and planning what he'd play with when. The tractor was the first thing unwrapped, and we all had a little family gripe about those twist tie things that they tie toys to their packages with. Very hard to stay patient while they're all twisted off! He played with the tractor nearly non-stop, and was very excited when he realized that he could fit his other little tractor into the trailer of his new big one. We also blew up his hover disc, tested out his other hover craft (both very cool, both of which freaked the baby out a little bit) and played with a balloon helicopter he picked up at the gift shop. It was getting late when he remembered that he had archaeology and painting sets that he wanted to look at, so he left them on the table for first thing this morning. He was so excited and happy, which of course makes me excited and happy too. I can't believe he is EIGHT!! He went to bed around 9:00, his new tractor beside him on the floor, and his John Deere hat hanging on his bed post.




Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Playing hooky

Mike took the afternoon off from work today so that we could take the boys to see Racing Stripes. We were planning on going this weekend, but the theatre we wanted to see it in is ending its run tomorrow. What a cute movie! We had a great time, and ate way more than our fill of chicken sandwiches, burgers, nachos and coke. It felt rather decadent seeing a movie at 3:30 in the middle of the week, and we shared the theatre with just one other family. Other happenings this week.... the boys have been in a contruction-oriented mood, and took apart and rebuilt a wobbly end table, nailed and glued and created about four different things out of pinewood, and helped me hang two new curtain rods. They learned to safely iron this week too. My poor curtains that I sewed about 2 years ago have been sitting folded in the closet just waiting for me to get around to buying the rods. We went to church on Sunday, to a church we haven't been to in a couple of years. I always remember it as a very relaxed and comfortable place, and this time was no exception. Spencer and Paxton went to the children's services, and LOVED it. They loved it so much that they nearly begged us to go back again, which I believe is a first for them. So we talked it over - more than once - and decided that it definitely wouldn't hurt to go again. And maybe again after that. It is an hour away, which is admittedly a bit of a drive, but we know that churches shouldn't be chosen based on their proximity.




Friday, February 11, 2005

"And since there's no place to go..."

Well the snow has stopped falling, but the ground and the trees are completely blanketed with the same kind of bright, clingy snow that always reminded me of the frosting on Frosted Flakes when I was little. It is so beautiful. With the exception of Cub Scouts, we have been home all week, and really enjoying it. We have spent an unusual amount of time in the kitchen, making everything from homemade bread to deviled eggs. Our reading marathon also continues, as does Paxton's computer playing. Spencer spent his fair share of time on the computer too, as he searched for the perfect thing to spend his last $20 on. We finally found a great online store that sold nothing but die-cast tractors and farm equipment, and he ultimately chose a little John Deere tractor with a plow and manure spreader. Now he just has to wait for the Big Brown Truck to bring it to him. Everett has been very busy this week, and keeping me on my toes even more than usual. For someone who is not yet crawling, he sure can travel. He loves to watch the big boys, and really got a kick out of the game they made up this morning, involving walking like a bear, kangaroo, robot, etc. I don't think it will be long before he is joining them.




Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Books, birthday money & computer games

It was a tiring weekend, so this week has been all about re-charging so far. For Paxton it has meant marathon sessions on the computer; and for Spencer, some computer time, some reading, and some helping around the house. His Beverly Cleary books came yesterday, and we started both Ramona the Pest and Ramona Quimby Age 8. We all took some time out yesterday to make collages too. I had an old pill bottle filled with small bits of cut-up credit cards, and the boys were entranced by all the shiny colors. We sat on the carpet and cut and glued and colored for half the afternoon. Spencer got $50 from his grandparents for his birthday, so he's been working on spending it. He spent his first $6 at the grocery store, on a little matchbox McDonalds set, and then ordered a new playstation game (Harvest Moon - Save the the Homeland) when we got home. It is an adventure/role playing game like their amusement park and zoo games, and sounds really neat. He has $20 left and is carefully choosing how to spend it. Tonight is cub scouts, and we're kind of bummed because Mike has a dinner meeting and won't be able to go with us. Spencer told me a few days ago that he doesn't want to do cub scouts next year. He has enjoyed it, and wants to finish out the year, but thinks he wants to try something else in the fall. He was happy to hear that he could try anything he wants, and that no one will pressure him to do something he no longer wants to do. I'm grateful that I grew up in that kind of environment as well. I was free to try, and then discontinue if I needed to, all kinds of things growing up. My never used, brand new, basketball shoes in my parents' attic prove it - a testament to my happy childhood.




Thursday, February 03, 2005

Glue

All three boys are sick with colds right now, which always changes the dynamic in the house. I have to say though, that despite the obvious discomforts of the colds - and the messier house - the past couple of days have been nice. Spencer always gets very snuggly when he's sick, so we've had lots of time to read together. We read several more chapters of Pigs Might Fly, and finished Henry and the Clubhouse. He's been so into his books lately that we decided to get him some more for his birthday. He now has 16 used Beverly Cleary books coming from someone on Ebay, and he is tickled pink. Unlike Spencer, unless he is feeling really really lousy, Paxton just keeps plodding along with his normal day when he's sick. They were watching Zoom this afternoon, and it gave them lots of ideas for projects when it was over. They made their own chocolate popsicles in ice-cube trays, which always makes me smile, and then we all made homemade glue with skim milk, vinegar, and baking soda. I was pretty proud of the fact that between the three of us we remembered the recipe, since we hadn't saved it on tivo. It was fun, and the glue really works. There is a cubscout meeting tonight, but Spencer and Paxton both want to stay home and rest, which is always fine by us. We never turn down a chance to rest.




Tuesday, February 01, 2005

On the go

Saturday we went to my parents house for the weekend. We visited for most of the day, and the boys played with Maba and Pop while Mike and I went out to a movie. On Sunday, we all went to a snowmobile radar run that was done as a fundraiser for a friend and co-worker. It was a good time. Spencer went with Maba and Pop first thing in the morning, while we stayed back at the house to wait for the younger ones to wake up. It's neat seeing him grow into this older, independent boy. We got there a few hours later with Paxton and Everett, to find Spencer on the back of a snowmobile! Pop was taking him on his first-ever ride. Paxton rode next, and it ended up being the highlight of the weekend for both of them. Spencer was so excited by it all that he didn't know where to look, and while Paxton was a little less enthusiastic about the snow and cold, he was fascinated by the snowmobiles, and especially by the dirtbikes also racing on the lake. Even Everett got caught up in the excitement, looking all around, and making car noises. Yesterday was a trip to Aunt Didi's house for a playdate, and we all agreed it had been too long since the last time we'd done it. As is usually the case with our conversations in the car, we came home with a list of things we needed to look up... this time including when they first starting building roads, how long ago the great flood was, and what year the first car was invented.




Friday, January 28, 2005

Badges, baking, and BVD's

This was a busy week, considering we spent the whole week at home! We had a playdate scheduled, but it was cancelled, and the day of their homeschool playgroup was a freezing, just-want-to-hibernate kind of day, so we skipped that too. Spencer is getting his wolf badge, along with his first gold and silver arrows, at his pack meeting tonight, so we spent a good part of the week finishing up some of his requirements. We talked about fire safety, religion, camping.... it ran the whole gamut. We both look forward to sitting down with that book and seeing what else there is to do. He's finished all his achievements now (and is among the first 3 boys to do so!) and is now working on electives. Among those he tried this week - sign language, writing in a secret code, and measurement. He also had to bake a cake last night with Mike. They are having a cake auction tonight to raise money for the tsunami victims, and the scouts needed to bake their cakes themselves with a male partner. He picked a strawberry cake, and decorated it with Dale Earnhardt Jr (of course :o) It's really cool to see him having so much fun being involved in Scouts. Last night I finally got around to sewing on his Bobcat badge, his numbers, and his council patch, so he's all good to go. We also worked on the house this week, STILL trying to get it back into shape after the holidays! The boys have been great helping out with putting things away, cleaning, de-cluttering, etc. I have 65 DVD's currently strewn all over the couch in the living room (ok, it's DVD's, not BVD's, but I was going with the B theme) so they're not helping with the clutter, but I'm still having a blast buying and selling. I'm beginning to think we need another computer. Between ebay and email and the internet and games, this one is almost constantly in use. I'm on an email list that sends me the link to a new educational website every day. Sometimes I just delete them, as they're often way too schooly for us, but once a week or so we get a really cool one. Yesterday's was awesome - full of word games - and both older boys, myself, and even Mike, have spent a great deal of time playing there. I like internet games too, because they never wear out, get lost, broken or scratched. I have four tabs open on my browser right now, because Paxton likes to leave his games up so they'll be ready and waiting for him in the morning!




Monday, January 24, 2005

New games and thank-you notes

The kids' Zoo Tycoon game came this Saturday, and they pretty much played it without pause all weekend. It's really cool. After they learned the basics of the game, they quickly started experimenting to see what would happy if they let the lion out of it's fence, or put a zebra in with a tiger. Fun stuff! They have some very elaborate games saved, zoos with typical zoo animals, as well as marine life and dinosaurs. Neat. I also found a lego set of Spencer's that has been missing for months, and he was very excited to get it back and put it back together. It is a futuristic looking loader with a million tiny pieces, and it took him and Mike the better part of an hour to put it together. The only problem with legos, and a lot of their toys lately, is that now that the Everett is getting more mobile, they can't dump them all over the floor with the same abandon when he's in the room. We're having to be extra vigilant. Everett is fast and he is clever, and he will reach for those teeny tiny parts in the blink of an eye... all with that sweet little grin on his face. We finally did our Christmas thank you notes this weekend too, and it was a big group project. Mike printed pictures from the digital camera on the computer, I wrote up the notes, and the kids helped decorate them and sign them. I learned something about Paxton - he needs to have white-out very handy when he's writing, in case he's unhappy with one of his letters. It's always so interesting to see those different personality traits emerging. Finally, we had another beautiful snowstorm this weekend, and the boys happily bundled up to go out and play, only to come in a few minutes later when they were getting cold. There are snowpants and hats and mittens and coats and scarves strewn all over the place. This is truly a house of happy and free children.




Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The writing on the table

...and the mirrors and the windows. The boys got some window markers in their Christmas stockings, and we are just now getting around to really using them. These are the neatest things!! We started out with windows, then moved onto the glass coffee table, and then leaving each notes on the mirrors. They write so nice, and clean off so easy. Our coffee table, at any given time, is now covered in an eclectic assortment of doodles, drawings, words, and numbers. I think every home should have a set of window markers! Paxton's sickness was thankfully in and out even faster than we'd hoped. By the end of the day on Saturday, he was up and eating and playing, and solved his Veggie Tales computer game for the third time. Mike went through their stack of computer programs, carefully sorting out the ones that don't work on this computer, replacing broken or missing cases, and just generally re-organizing them. They were really excited about that, and it inspired me to order them another game, Zoo Tycoon, which from what I hear they'll really like. Last night, we all piled in one bed to watch the first American Idol for the season. The boys just love that (except for Everett, who was trying to nurse himself to sleep and looked annoyed everytime someone would sing too loud or screechy) Today is a quiet morning, followed by an afternoon playdate at a friend's house. It occurs to me that we haven't been out of the house since last Thursday, so this'll likely be rejuvinating for all of us!




Saturday, January 15, 2005

New Year bugs

It was a good week, but our weekend, so looked forward to as a nice weekend of rest, has started out with a stomach bug! Paxton is the only one who has it so far, and is handling it well, all things considered. He is snuggled up on the couch watching his second Blue's Clues tape. Every time one of the kids gets sick, I always seem to mentally try to count back the days to see where they could have gotten it. It likely came from Cub Scouts on Thursday night, which was actually a great meeting. Spencer was very, very excited to get presented with another award, a Progress Toward Rank badge, which will hold one bead for every three achievements he finishes. We've never placed much emphasis on external rewards, but it warmed my heart to see how very proud he was to receive that little plastic triangle, and his first two beads. We also talked about the tsunami at the meeting, and how the den will be raising money to help the victims. Yesterday, the big boys got to play with Uncle Joe while Allison and Everett and I went to lunch at a great little diner that serves breakfast all day. It was a fun day for everyone, and we all turned in early. Now, we're just praying that this stomach bug makes a quick exit and doesn't come back.




Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Big Three-One

Happy Birthday to me. Sunday I had a wonderful day spending a girls' day out with my sister and mother (who also just had a birthday), and capped it off by meeting all the boys in our lives for a nice italian dinner out. Yesterday, the day of my birthday, was special in no small part because we finally sold the station wagon! The couple who bought it was a very nice, conservative older couple, and I had to laugh (on the inside) at the picture they got of homeschooling. Paxton was in nothing but underwear the first time they came, and the second he was playing playstation in mismatched pajamas at two in the afternoon. When the wife asked Spencer what he'd done that day he answered the way he usually does, "played," as if it was a silly question. She was happy to hear that he had read a book though. He actually has four books going right now, not counting all the books we pull out to look things up. He's reading 2 of the Boxcar Children books, Pigs Might Fly, and Henry's Clubhouse - a book I was excited to find for him at the used bookstore, since he'd enjoyed Henry Huggins so much. Today we spent a long time making little people out of pipe cleaners, and Paxton got the idea to give them parachutes, which started a rather lengthy trial and error process to find what worked the best. Paxton was playing Thinking Things Science on the computer today when there was suddenly a big popping noise, a blank monitor, and the smell of burning plastic. We were without a computer the rest of the day, and I feared the worst, but it was something Mike easily replaced when he got home from work. I'm thankful I'm not single.




Sunday, January 09, 2005

Friends and Neighbors

The snow (several inches now) is giving the boys lots of opportunity to play with the girl across the street. They seem to follow the same pattern every time... some serious sledding, then back inside for a top-secret game they made up, involving strategy rooms, walkie-talkies, and lots of whispering. It is kind of funny how they cycle on and off with her. Sometimes they don't play together for weeks or months at a time, then will suddenly be together every day for days on end. Also of note: Mike did his brakes yesterday on the Saturn, which meant Spencer was right there by his side to assist, ask questions, keep him company, and come running in to give me frequent updates. Last night we all went to dinner at our new friends' house. I'd gone over with the boys for playdates before, but it was the first time that we'd all gotten together with husbands and everything. We had such a fantastic time! It was Spencer who really got us all together, when he bonded instantly with their son of the same age at homeschool group a couple months ago. Now that we're pretty much resigned to the fact that we're going to be making friends through our kids, we've experienced a few different scenarios... including when the kids get along famously, and the grown-ups not so much, and vice versa. So it was very nice indeed when we realized that not only were the kids (6 altogether) playing beautifully together, but the parents were also having a great time, comfortably chatting and laughing the evening away around the kitchen table. After dinner the kids dissappeared to the playroom in the basement, surfacing only to show us their latest creations - including a cereal crusher made out of tinker toys - as well as to get sympathy for their various tumbles. You know it's been a fun playdate when 2 out of six kids go to bed with a new, joyously aquired bruise.




Friday, January 07, 2005

Snowstorms and station wagons

Yesterday was our first good snowstorm of the season. It was beautiful. I was really surprised that the boys didn't go out to play in it till much later in the day, instead staying inside to continue with their Christmas toy marathon. They also helped me with my whirlwhind house cleaning because we had someone come over to look at our Buick Century, which we've been trying to sell unsuccessfully since July. This was very exciting for all of us, and sparked a flurry of questions about buying and selling and cars in general. Cubscouts was cancelled, but they weren't too disappointed because their friend from across the street came over to play. They started out outside, but soon came in to show off their new racetrack. The day ended with another dvd sorting party, filling one whole wall of our living room with more than 10 stacks of movies ready to be listed. Cool. We're all looking forward to the weekend, with a dinner with friends and a day with the grandparents in the works.




Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Carschooling

Yesterday, we finally got back out and about, after staying close to home first with sicknesses, then the holidays. It was great to catch up with our homeschool friends, but one of the best parts of going anywhere always seems to be the car ride! The boys and I have such great, spontaneous discussions... the kind that I sort of wish the doubters could witness - the people who don't think unschooling could possibly work. Every day is different, but yesterday we talked about the purpose of the sun and what would happen if it were closer or further from the earth; we talked about the Titanic (this was fascinating to them and took up most of the half hour ride); we talked about Tyrannasaurus Rex and what he ate; we talked about money, and why it still costs me real, actual cash even when I pay with a credit card or debit card. Good stuff. All this while singing along to the soundtrack to 13 Going on 30. The boys also helped me get my dvd's ready for ebay yesterday, carefully sorting and stacking them into little groups. When the time comes, they're also going to help with the packaging, printing out invoices, etc. They're going to earn a little paycheck for this, but they're just as excited by the project as they are by the paycheck. I hope they never lose that.




Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy New Year

Spencer and Paxton tried really hard to stay up for New Years, but they both only made it till around 10:30. We decided to just stay home for the holiday, and it was really nice. Mike and I rented a few movies, stayed up till 2:00 AM, and for the first time I can remember, didn't even watch the ball drop on tv. On New Year's Day we went to a party at my Aunt and Uncle's house, and we all had a great time. The boys all had belated Christmas presents to open, they played Foosball, played on the computer, and otherwise just mingled happily. We got home at 9:00, and while they didn't stay up till midnight on New Year's Eve, they did stay up till midnight on New Years Day! Still on an emotional high from the party, they played a few rounds of Paxton's new game, Mr Mouth, watched some tv shows they had on tivo, and kept us company while we did some more bidding on dvd's on ebay. It was after 12 when we all finally went up to bed. The boys are still raring to go, but I am feeling rather droopy! Mike is getting our new (used) computer ready to go today, and we promised Spencer that we'd all play his new game, Cranium Cadoo. We have a busy week coming up, with Cub Scouts and homeschool group both starting back up after the holiday vacation, but it'll be nice to get back into a somewhat normal rhythym again. I always get very excited in January.... I love the idea of a new year, fresh starts, and new possibilities. The New Year always makes me try just a little bit harder, whether it's learning a new skill, or having more patience in a difficult situation. That's one thing I'd like to pass on to my boys.




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