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

Thursday, December 28, 2006

In with the new

Despite the lingering sniffles and coughs (which the boys graciously shared with their cousins) we had another wonderful Christmas. We were up by seven, and the presents were unwrapped in mere minutes. There were a few blips this year.... the remote control garbage truck that Mike had to tinker with for an hour just to get it to work; the new PS2 game that wouldn't play; the hockey game that lost a stick after just two days of use. In the end though, none of that mattered. The garbage truck works fine now, we have a call in to get a new Playstation, and are ordering a replacement player for the hockey game. There are plenty of other things to keep the boys busy in the meantime. And keeping busy they are!! On Christmas Day, Sandi and Mitch came over with the kids, and we spent the day visiting, playing with kids' new toys and games, and laughing. Lots of laughing. Spencer and Paxton occasionally disappeared, and spied on us using their new periscopes. We played outside with the new sand table. Played swingball. Broke in the new sidewalk chalk. Played Spencer's new card game, Qwitch. Watched Elf. Made creations with Playdough. It was a good day, and it was just like I remembered from my own childhood.

Mike had the day after Christmas off, and the play continued. The hockey game got lots of use (until it broke), the boys tried out their new pottery wheel, and we built and created and colored and chatted. We played with the pattern blocks (one of my favorites), and did project after project with the new electronics lab. Yesterday Spencer and I made a shirt with his new tie-dye kit, and today he plans to start building a model house.

The house is a complete mess at the moment, but it's a joyful mess. Joyful messes are good.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Santa Claus

Santa is currently over Kasakhstan. http://www.noradsanta.com/en/map/index.php We'll track him all day, while we play and watch movies and get ready for tomorrow. No one is 100%, but fevers are gone, spirits are high, and everyone is looking forward to tomorrow morning.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!!!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

5 days till Christmas

5 days till Christmas and all through the house
No one is healthy, not even a mouse

Actually that's not true. I'm pretty healthy, and the rats are pretty healthy. But Everett is still congested, Spencer is a sneezy mess, and Paxton is couch bound, feeling lousy with a fever and cough. Ah, cold and flu season. My main goal (my only goal) for the week is to rest, play, and get these kids healthy in time for Christmas.

Last week was another visit that passed all too quickly, and was enjoyed by everyone, even my poor sick kids. I had grand plans to chronicle the week in detail, but alas it's not to be, at least right now. Instead, the pictures! Hopefully they'll speak for themselves. God bless Rockyou.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Winter Wonderland

Mom and Dad have safely returned back to New Hampshire, and the visit was quick and memorable. We had a big holiday feast on the patio, we walked around the zoo in short sleeves, we went hiking in the desert, and the only snow the kids played in was of the imported variety. Still, it feels like winter. It feels like a holiday.

Saturday, they came down to visit and see the house for the first time. The boys were happy to give them a tour, and we spent the afternoon visiting and catching up. Sunday we had a huge Thanksgiving/Christmas feast, complete with turkey, stuffing, potatoes, wine, pies, and all the trimmings. After we ate, we followed our annual post-Thanksgiving tradition of going for a walk, this time in a nearby desert park. The kids unwrapped Christmas presents when we returned, and it was a fun end to a great day.

Monday we went up to Mom and Dad's new house for the afternoon, for lunch, hanging out, and playing pool in the clubhouse. Tuesday was a trip to the zoo. One of my favorite things about the zoo is that no two visits are ever alike. This time our first stop was the new stingray exhibit, where we got to pet, and feed, a huge pool of stingrays. VERY cool!! We stopped at the flamingoes (Isaac's favorite), the zebras (Paxton's favorite) ,rode the carousel, and spent the rest of our stay watching the squirrel monkeys.

Wednesday was the first day of our cabinet re-facing, so we spent the day out, visiting at Sandi's house. The kids all had colds - and still have colds - but still enjoyed the swingset and sandbox as much as always. We went with them to the community center while Anabelle had her gymnastics class, and played foosball, pool, and air hockey while we waited. Spencer and Paxton both made an instant friend, who joined them in their games.

Thursday we stayed home while the cabinets were completed. On Friday, Mom and Dad came down again, and we went shopping, went out for lunch, and spent the afternoon playing water balloons with the kids.

This past Saturday, their last day in AZ, was arguably the best day yet, at least for the kids. We went to a winter carnival, complete with snow for them to play in, bouncy houses and slides, pony rides, and cotton candy. They had a great time, and it was a fun way to cap off the week.

Mom and Dad are already planning their next trip out for March, and we're counting down the days.

Here are some pictures from the week!

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

A night of rest

Tonight is the first night in a LONG time that we haven't had a project going... no painting, no hanging blinds, no unpacking, no setting up tv stands. Mike and the boys are relaxing with PS2, and in a little while we'll all retire to the other room to catch up on Survivor. We have been working like crazy people on the house, but it is finally, blissfully, almost done. Tonight Mom and Dad arrived from NH to visit for a week, and tomorrow we'll all get together for a big fancy Thanksgiving/Christmas feast.

Some worth-mentioning notes about the kids:

The other day Spencer asked me what hip-hop music was, so I found a random hip-hop band on MySpace, and they danced and danced until they collapsed with exhaustion. They've all been learning lots of Spanish, and Spencer surprised me the other day while I was coloring with Everett - he knows almost every color in Espanol. Everett has been showing an interest in shapes lately, and was naming some of them off to me while we looked at a book. He came to a heart, and called it a "kiss", which I thought was one of the sweetest things I've ever heard. Paxton and I have made about a million snowflakes for the Salvation Army at this site http://www.popularfront.com/snowdays and I'm sure will make a million more. Tuesday night we all watched Charlie Brown Christmas. It's been awhile since I've seen it, and I so loved getting to enjoy it with the kids. They loved it, and were especially in awe of the fact that it was made before Mike and I were even born.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Christmas pictures

Every year, we send photo Christmas cards with pictures of the boys. For Spencer's first few Christmases, I made a major production of this, buying him fancy new clothes, staging the perfect background, and generally making everyone miserable in the process.

Things evolve.

This year, the kids wore old shorts and t-shirts (except for Everett, who was wearing a t-shirt and Paxton's Spongebob boxers) Paxton had his rat Miley on his shoulder. They were laughing and being themselves and goofing off in the front of the Christmas tree. It was the easiest, and happiest, photo session yet.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Home, Sweet Home

This weekend we returned home, and we're ready for things to get back to normal. The problem is, we're all still trying to figure out what 'normal' is! We moved in, started to get unpacked, promptly went to California for a week, and are now back in the midst of more unpacking, house renovations, holiday preparations, and company coming in two weeks.

Some highlights from the trip to CA:

Mike had to go to a 4 day training for work, so the boys and I tagged along. We stayed at a hotel right by a friend's house in the Bay area, while Mike went further north to his own hotel for his meetings. It was great to visit with friends, see a new part of the country, and take a little break from the headaches with the house for awhile!

The area was hilly, green, and a beautiful change of pace. The boys collected fall leaves, HUGE ones, from a supermarket parking lot. They were gorgeous leaves, and the biggest ones I've ever seen. A nice treat for Arizonians :)

On Tuesday, we went to visit my friend's husband at work. He works at EA games (and has Paxton's dream job as a video game designer) We got a tour of the facility, had lunch, visited the store... and the kids even got to test out a game that's not ready to hit the shelves for another year. Cool!! It was an impressive place, and we learned a lot about the behind-the-scenes of the gaming industry.

The rest of the week, we visited! Visited, hung out, and played. The big boys played playstation for hours and hours, while Everett enjoyed the company of his fellow two year old buddy.

Mike met us back at their house on Thursday, and we headed home. The ride went very smoothly, both ways, even with staying up all night. The boys slept through most of it (as was the plan) but they cheerfully woke for breaks and snacks and to appreciate the lights of the cities we passed through. They especially loved any bridges we went over. We're planning a vacation out to Disney next spring, and now I am even more excited about it!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Math books? We don't need no stinkin' math books!

We went out to find our new library today. It was closer than our last one, and it took all of 5 minutes to get there. I'd forgotten to look at my watch when we left, so I asked the kids how long we'd been driving. Paxton told me it was about 3 minutes, "or 180 seconds. If it had been 4 minutes, it would have been 240 seconds." Pause. "5 would be be 300 seconds." He stopped at 7.

Their picks from the library? Books on rats, horses, squid, zebras, and constuction vehicles.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fall in AZ

It's fall in Arizona, and I've decided it's arguably the most perfect weather I've ever experienced. It's still usually warm enough to wear shorts if you're so inclined, but not too hot for jeans if they're your preference. It's warm and sunny and breezy and dry.

We went to the Fall Harvest Party with the homeschool group last week, and the kids had a good time painting pumpkins, dipping their apples, eating lots of sugar, and just running themselves ragged at the park. Spencer made another new friend, Paxton spent a long time walking the balance beam on the playground, and Everett didn't want to leave the swings. On Saturday, we officially moved to the new house, and last night was our first ever Halloween - and trick-or-treating - in the new neighborhood. Mike was late getting out of work, so we headed straight out when he got home. Spencer and Paxton had been excited about it for weeks, and even Everett got really into it this year. We didn't know what to expect, but it turned out to be a wonderful area for trick-or-treating. The neighborhood was friendly and festive and filled with kids. We actually hadn't gone for a couple of years, but the boys knew the ropes. They had no problem ringing doorbells, saying "trick or treat" or wishing everyone a Happy Halloween. Everett started to complain that his feet were hurting at one point, and we carried him from house to house. His bucket was getting so heavy that he was literally grunting at its weight, but all offers of helping him carry it were met with a resounding "NO, Ebbet carry it." It was a fun night, and the kids came home with a year's worth of candy. After trick-or-tricking we headed to Panda Express (Mike and the kids' new favorite) for dinner, and to Home Depot for an emergency part to fix a leaky valve in the kitchen. The boys had fun seeing all the people who were out and about with costumes on, and were tired and happy when we finally got home.

Pictures coming soon!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Moving, Monopoly, and scorpion-colored lizards

The day after tomorrow, all this back-and-forthing will finally end, and we will officially move into the new house. The renovations are far from being finished, but given the choice of a house under construction and a house overrun with scorpions, we'll take the construction any day of the week.

The boys are alternating between enthusiastically helping with packing and moving and, well, being boys! They have been on a Monopoly kick lately, especially Paxton, and we've played many hours-long games over the course of the past several days. Tuesday we went to quarry where our countertops are being made, and got a tour of the facility. They really enjoyed seeing behind-the-scenes, and asked a lot of questions. Spencer was particularly in awe of the forklifts moving the giant slabs of granite. Tomorrow we're headed to a homeschool harvest party, and they're looking forward to painting pumpkins, and dipping their own caramel apples. And on Saturday, we MOVE! I think we'll all be relieved to settle in at the house and adjust to a new sense of normal.... hopefully a normal that does NOT include scorpions!!! Saturday night I looked out at the patio of the new house and saw what looked to me like a gigantic bark scorpion scurrying along the wall. I was ready to put the house on the market, and move to.... I don't even know where. Somewhere else. But it turned out to be just a lizard, and was soon joined by two of its lizard friends. The kids thought they were really cool, but I couldn't shake the resemblance - even if just from a quick glance - to the straw colored scorpions that have plagued us for the past several months.

In other news, Paxton is very proud (and excited and freaked out and anxious) about his very first loose tooth.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Miley, meet Lilly

All our research on rats led us to the conclusion that Miley needed a cagemate. Rats are extremely social animals, and do the best in pairs. So Sunday night we were off to PetSmart yet again, this time to pick our second rat... an adorable tan and white one we named Lilly. We all spent close to two hours shut into our spare bedroom so they could play and get re-acquainted. They'd been cagemates at the store though, so they took to each other right away. It was the first time we really let them climb all over us, and it was as important for us as it was for them. The two of them have so far proven to be wonderful pets, and a great distraction from everything else that is going on.

The constant back and forth from this house to the new house has everyone tired, and it's beginning to show. The boys have been incredible troopers though, and they always bounce back after a few hours of R & R. Saturday night we watched a marathon session of Property Ladder together, and it amused me to note that the kids already know more about house flipping than some of the people on the show.

We started choosing paint colors this weekend, and it took a lot of brainstorming for everyone to come to a conclusion on the boys' rooms. There are only 3 bedrooms - one for us, and two to split up among the 3 boys. One is right by the master, and the other is clear on the other side of the house. Spencer and Paxton finally decided that they'd each choose the color for, and decorate, their own rooms.. but that for now they'd sleep together in the room closest to us.

This morning was the first showing of this house to a potential renter. The boys and I (and the rats) took off for an hour, grabbed a couple donuts and drinks, and had ourselves a little tail-gate picnic in the parking lot. It was a fun excursion, and a completely gorgeous fall day.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Congratulations, it's a girl!

Meet the newest member of the McGrail household! This is Miley (named after Miley Cyrus, AKA Hannah Montana), a 5 month old Fancy Rat.

Paxton wanted a hamster for his birthday, but ended up deciding at the last minute that he'd rather have a bike right now, and hamster for Christmas. We got the bike, he rode it a few times.... then decided it was a little too tall for him, and gave it to Spencer. He was completely fine and happy with his decision, but I wanted him to have another present. So we looked into the hamster. We read all the websites, and researched all the small pets.... and found that rats make even better pets. They're highly social, intelligent, and friendly (and as a bonus, live much longer than hamsters too) Paxton was very certain that a rat was his choice, and couldn't wait to get one.

We were going to wait until we were in the new house, but we're not always good with waiting, especially when Mom (aka Me) is excited about something. :-) Everything's been so crazy and busy lately, with packing and cleaning and going back and forth to the new house. I was really wanting a distraction, for the boys and for me. Plus, I just wanted to do something fun with them, completely unrelated to moving or renovations. We had to have the carpets cleaned on Wednesday, which meant spending the afternoon out while they dried. We hit Barnes and Noble first, to browse and play with the trains, and then headed to PetSmart. We found a great, knowledgeable salesclerk who helped us pick out everything we needed to get started, and finally picked the rat herself. Paxton chose a black and white one, and she was hands-down the cutest one there.

We set up her cage together, and have been focusing on her helping her get settled and acclimated to her new home. I never thought I would be a rat owner, but she is a wonderful pet!! She is curious and sweet, and she keeps us all laughing. The boys spent the first day running up and down the stairs every fifteen minutes to check on her, so the second day we brought her down to her new home on my desk. We're still researching like crazy, and both boys are scouring the internet - both with me, and on their own - for info, photos, tips, and ideas for food, toys, and games. They are so excited about her they can barely sleep.

She was exactly what we needed, exactly when we needed it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Work and Play

Everything has shifted into over-drive lately, as we work to get the new house re-modeled, our rental house packed up, and try to keep some semblance of life as we know it. Friday we went up to spend the weekend at the house again. Dinner was fast-food, and the boys toasted marshmellows over a candle for dessert. We worked most of the morning on Saturday, pausing only to play army guys and Fusion Crew with the kids. We shopped all afternoon, and decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner out - nicer than fast food anyway, which has become a little too common-place for our weekend meals lately. We found a nearby Applebees, and had such a good time that we decided we needed to do it more often.

Sunday morning we spent an inordinate amount of time at Home Depot, finalizing and paying for our granite selection. The boys made friends with some other kids in the kitchen section, and kept themselves busy while they waited. Next, it was up to Anthem for Anabelle's birthday party. We enjoyed lunch, cake, and presents, and the boys spent hours outside on the swingset. It felt good to visit, play, and relax for the afternoon.

Monday morning was a meeting with our contractor, and back to Tempe in time to be home for the bug guy. Yesterday was packing, and today was babysitting. In between, the kids have played with their friends, learned about electricity, played at new math and geography websites, and re-discovered old toys and games before they packed up them up for the journey up to Phoenix.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Spencer and tractors

Spencer has always (always always) been fascinated by construction equipment. At 9, the interest is as strong as ever. He enjoys other things, but not with the same intense passion that he has for big machinery. Last week we placed an order with Amazon, and each of the boys picked something new. Paxton chose a playstation game that he'd played and liked at a friend's house, and Spencer picked a 1/16th scale forklift. The forklift arrived just a couple minutes ago, and he was through the roof with excitement. If you've ever seen Spencer get really excited about something, you know what I'm talking about... joyful, estatic, full-body excitement.

I know what we're playing with today.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The ER, sleepovers, and renovations

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And so it goes...

Last Wednesday night, we got a call from Sandi that Isaac was in the hospital, and could we come. Mitch was back east on business, so she was alone with both Isaac and Anabelle in the hospital. He is ok now (and home), after lots and lots of tests, although they're still figuring out what's going on. But that night he had to spend the night, so we all went to the hospital to lend some help and some moral support. Mike and Spencer went to her house to take care of the pets and pick up some necessities, while me and the kids stayed at the hospital and played in the playroom with Isaac and Anabelle. It was a great playroom, and a great pediatric floor for that matter. The kids actually had a blast, and were very patient about the fact that we were there well past 10 PM. We brought Anabelle home with us to spend the night, so she wouldn't have to stay at the hospital, and the boys treated her like a princess... making sure she was happy and comfortable and had everything she needed. It was a very late night and a very early morning. A couple of crazy days. Thankfully everyone is happy and safe and home now.

We were going to go the first homeschool group party of the season on Friday, but decided to rest instead. Rest and pack up for our first official working weekend at the house. We got there Friday night, and started working first thing in the morning. The boys completely rose to the challenge, and worked as hard as I've ever seen them work. They both commented - more than once - how much fun it was, and how glad they were that we were doing it.

I started a whole new blog, just for house updates, and you can view it here

Our Flip Files

Sunday night, after we got home, we went to the grocery store for our poor empty kitchen. I saw someone, an older gentlemen, watching me and Spencer talking as I picked the coffee. I'm not even sure what we were talking about, but I know he said something sweet and then I hugged him. The man came up to me in the next aisle and said "You have a wonderful, well-behaved boy there. What a nice boy."

Random compliments feel good.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Halloween and a problem solved

The kids wanted to learn about why we celebrate Halloween, and where all the traditions came from, so we looked it up. I'd heard some of it before of course, but a lot of it was new to me too. This was a good site:


Paxton just informed me that you can tell a hard boiled egg from an uncooked egg by spinning them on the counter. The hard boiled one spins faster. I am happy to have this information, because I've been keeping lots of both in the fridge lately, and always losing track. Thank you, Food Network.

And the demo begins!

In my state of post-conference euphoria, I neglected to mention some big happenings! We closed on our house last Monday, and it was very different than it was in NH. In NH, it was a big deal.. a table full of buyers and sellers and agents and title people. We signed papers, exchanged keys, shook hands & extended good wishes. Here it was just us, alone in a room with a "Document Signing Specialist" (a position I didn't know existed) All three boys came along. Paxton layed on the floor and read a science experiment book he'd brought with him. Spencer poured through the conference directory, looking up all his new friends; and Everett alternately drew and played with trucks. It was very strange, and kind of anti-climactic.

On Saturday, everything was ready for us to take possession. We met our realtor at the house first thing in the morning. He gave us the keys, examined the property with us, and chatted about our ideas for the place. Spencer was dying to get started on some demolition, and apparently so was Mike. The instant the realtor left they took down some cabinets. Spencer was still raring to go once that was finished, so we got him started ripping up the carpet in two of the bedrooms. He went straight to work, and we barely saw him for most of the day. They completed an outdoor project together too, digging dirt away from the foundation (there was a small termite problem) It made my heart happy to see Spencer working so hard. He truly is in his element when he has a hands-on project to tackle. Flipping houses is right up his ally!

Sandi and the kids joined us at the house in the afternoon, and we had lunch, played, and just enjoyed the gorgeous day. We stopped at Home Dept on the way home to put a deposit on our kitchen countertops, one of the last big projects we'd yet to schedule. It was a feel-good day of the highest order.

Random kid news:

Spencer taught me about the different kinds of symmetry last night while I was getting ready for bed. Paxton continues his immense interest in the computer, and they are both looking forward to a "Not Back To School" Party this week, a field trip to an air museum, and Halloween.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Paxton's Comedic Debut

Live and Learn!!

We just returned from our first-ever Live and Learn Conference in Albuquerque NM, and it was a RAGING success. We went with no expectations other than to soak it all in, and enjoy being around other unschoolers. We got that, and so very much more. The boys truly had the time of their lives.

It was amazing to be around so many other unschoolers (over 500!)... people who truly "get it." I've never been around a collected group of adults who treated my kids with such patience, kindness, and respect. I've never been around a collected group of kids who treated each OTHER with such patience, kindness, and respect. Kids of all ages working and playing together, helping each other, supporting each other. Teenagers stopping what they were doing to sit on the floor and give their attention to littler kids. Kids and adults alike gathered into inprompto cirlces of card games, hacky sacks, or guitar playing. It sounds corny to say it, but I honestly don't think I've ever been amongst a group of such peaceful, joy-filled people.

We headed out bright and early on Wednesday morning. The 8 hour ride went smoothly and relatively quickly, thanks in part to my laptop and a stack of DVDs. We made many bathroom stops, especially towards the end, and Paxton experienced a variety of ailments.... ranging from chapped lips to donut crumbs in his underwear. Still, we were all in good spirits when we got there, and excited to check into the hotel. We decided to skip the opening ice cream social, since it was nearly over once we arrived, and pretty much just crashed in our room after dinner. It rained at some point, and the kids excitedly pointed out a rainbow before we called it a night.

The conference officially started on Thursday, and the kids jumped in with both feet. Mike took all three boys to the Building Toys Funshop, where they played with all kinds of building toys from blocks and legos and tinker toys, to new ones we've never seen before. I was able to catch a couple of discussions while they were playing. The first was Sandra Dodd's Big Noisy Peace, about finding peace and calm in your household (and in your heart) amongst the noise and hustle and bustle that comes with unschooling. I also listened to Diana Jenner, an inspiring mom and unschooler who lost both her husband and beautiful little girl to cancer, and faces the world with grace, gratitude, and humor. After I caught up with Mike and the kids (and hugged all four of them) we broke for lunch and got ready for the Funshop that Spencer was most looking forward to: the r/c cars. Stopping only to watch a huge beetle on the front entrance of the hotel, we headed outside for over two hours of sun and cars and playing in the dirt. The last Funshop we hit that day was for playing dress-up, and neither Paxton or Everett were ready to leave when it was over. We checked out a local Mexican place for dinner (which was very very good) and the kids were excited to see some of their new friends there as well. That night was the first of two talent shows, and we were all exhausted when we headed up to bed at 10.

Friday was a whirlwind. There were more r/c cars and playing outside. Spencer and Everett made kites, Paxton made a homemade rain stick and a wallet out of duct tape. All three boys made collages. Everett and I got our faces painted. Mike, Paxton, and I all played chess in the chess Funshop. We went to an Art Trading Card (ATC) Funshop, which was something I'd never heard before, but was actually pretty cool. People made and traded decorated cards, ranging from simple to very elaborate. Both Spencer and Paxton came home with some really neat cards, and a desire to make more. We had lunch at a recommended local pizza place, and the boys enjoyed watching them toss the crust. Paxton decided at the last minute that he wanted to be in the talent show, and they squeezed him in. He picked 5 jokes, and practiced and practiced. He'd never done anything in front of a large crowd before and we didn't know what to expect. He went on at around 9:00, and spoke clearly and confidently and like he did it all the time. He told me later that he was a little bit nervous, but that it felt pretty cool hearing the people laugh and clap. The talent show in general was a blast. Everett slept through the whole thing, having konked out on Mike's lap 5 minutes after it started.

On Saturday morning, we enjoyed a big breakfast buffet at the hotel. We all went to the Wikki Stix Funshop, where we again met up with new friends. I listened to a discussion on living by principles instead of rules, and it was both interesting and inspiring. Paxton set up camp in the back of the main hall, where a guy was demonstrating his game, the Egg Game - Basically a stone egg, spun and balanced on a round board. Paxton played it for nearly 3 hours straight, while Mike, Spencer and Everett played water games and races outside, and I bounced back and forth. In the afternoon, I listened to a discussion on parenting myths. (Some examples: If you let children have unlimited access to tv or video games that's all they'll do... If you let children eat what they want, all they'll eat is candy....If you don't teach them math/grammar/spelling (fill in the blank) they won't get into college....If you don't punish children, they'll become hellions.) I'd prettied much debunked all the myths in my own heart, but it was re-affirming to hear new takes on the matter. Spencer and Paxton made and shot water rockets, and spent most of the rest of the afternoon running around in the courtyard with their friends, and playing with someone's Styrofoam plane. We bought raffle tickets, a bumper sticker, and our very own Egg Game to take home. That night, there was a Mexican banquet and dance. Thankfully, we arrived just in time to get a table with friends. The food was ok, but the conversation and laughter was better. We ducked out pretty early, and retired to the hall. The boys joined some other kids playing with boxes and cars in the hall until the wee hours of the night. We finally went up to our room around 11.

Sunday morning, we slept late, and resigned ourselves to the fact that it was time to pack up and go home. We're already trying to figure out if it's feasible to make next year's conference in North Carolina. Paxton and I both won something in the raffle... he won a window art kit, and I won a book by Sandra Dodd (which kept me happily occupied for most of the ride home) Spencer was disappointed that he didn't win anything, but felt better after a long nap in the car. The ride home went very quickly. We talked about the conference for awhile, and then moved on to talking about 9/11, the meaning of the word "politics", mud flaps, storm clouds, and hubcaps.

It was an incredible trip.

And now, some more pictures!

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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Home inspections, big backyards, and pen pals

This has been an exciting week! Monday was the home inspection at the new house. We were there for over 2 hours - the inspector was there for over 3 - and the boys were very patient throughout the whole thing. Everett and Paxton goofed around in the backyard, and rolled around on the carpet. Spencer was very interested in what the inspector had to say, and listened intently while he brought us around the house to show us his findings. With Spencer's memory, I'm sure that he knows just as much about the needed repairs as we do.

Along with the inspection, we took notes, made measurements, and starting planning our renovations. The boys decided where the swingset would go. We fantasized about grilling on the huge back patio.

With the inspection, appraisal, and financing all in place, now we wait... Wait, pack, and go back to life as we know it until it's time to close. We had a playdate yesterday at the splash park, and the boys just exhausted themselves playing in the water and the sand. This weekend we're heading to a barbeque at some friends' house. Paxton is good friends (and email penpals) with their son, and it's really sweet to see the relationship growing. Spencer has two penpals now too, through good old-fashioned snail mail, and it makes checking the mail every day even more exciting .

Monday, August 28, 2006

Happy Birthday Paxton

6 years ago today, my Pak-man was born. Every birthday, every year, I go over it all my mind: The birth, the baby, the first year. Paxton's birth was the one where everything went right. It was fast, REALLY fast. It was quiet and peaceful. Because of some complications, both Spencer and Everett's deliveries required about a zillion people in the room. But with Paxton, it was just us, the midwife and a nurse. He was the only one of the three that I got to hold immediately after birth. It was the only time that Mike got to cut the cord. It was like a movie birth.

As a baby, he wore his heart on his sleeve, and he still does. He cried a LOT in that first year, but he laughed a lot too. He was passionate and adventurous and funny and smart. He's still all of those things too, and so much more. A snapshot of Paxton at 6: He loves to tell jokes and plays games. He's a computer whiz. He loves his family and his friends and his fish. He loves math and science and learning new things. He loves to laugh. He likes riding his bike, running around till he's red in the face, and trying any kind of new sport. He has a huge heart, and shows it in a million ways.... from the way he surprises me with a big out-of-the-blue bear hug, to the time he used his own quarter to buy Everett a Barney doll from a yard sale, just because he knew he'd love it.

We love you Paxton!! To the moon and stars and back.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Why I love homeschooling

One of the reasons anyway...

Paxton wanted to write his thank-you notes for his birthday gifts today, so we sat down to do them. He really does them by himself, and my job is to answer questions about spelling and punctuation.

He was on his third card, and suddenly turned to me and said "Look! I think that's the best 'G' I've ever made!"

I get to be there.

Party time

Well thanks to Ally, Paxton's party had a rough start.... Wednesday I made the cake, only to have her snatch and eat it off the counter while it was cooling. Yesterday I made another, in between dealing with the blood and the vet and chaos that ensued when she sliced her tongue by licking a can.

By afternoon though things had settled down. The party went VERY well, and I think all the kids had a great time. Paxton was nervous at first - so nervous he didn't even eat any of his cool cake - but he warmed up in short order. He had a blast playing all the games, and cashing in all his tickets. He loved playing with his friends, and he got some really neat gifts. Spencer used his tokens sparingly, and was the only one who still had some left at the end of the night. He spent most of the party hanging out with his friends, and playing racing games. Everett loved all the little car rides, and fed his tokens to every one he found. We stayed for over 3 hours, and were happily stumbling out to the car when Everett got whacked in the head with the door. I went back in for some ice, and he fell asleep on the way home... holding the ice to his head.

Today we hunted for bugs with Paxton's new bug kit, played with his new army guys, and ate ourselves silly on leftover cake and candy. It's a happy happy Friday.

A few of my favorite pics :)

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A boy and his guitar

My parents were cleaning out their attic, in preparation of selling their home. One of their finds? My old guitar, a prized possession when I was in elementary school.

Spencer has been wanting to learn to play the guitar. My parents have been wanting to get rid of their old stuff. It was a perfect match. I nearly started crying when I saw how excited he was when the UPS driver pulled up.

He has barely set it down, picking out notes, strumming and humming and singing away. It needs a new string, but is in otherwise great condition for its age. Spencer is taking great care of it, carefully putting it in and out of the case every time he wants to use it. I'm so excited for him to learn how to play it, both because I just really enjoy the sound of a guitar, and because I know it'll give him a great sense of accomplishment to master it.

My baby's growing up.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Having a ball

This weekend was filled with neat things, large and small. First, we heard about our house offer... but chances are, if you're reading this you already know all about that! We're all very excited to be buying a house, and I'm particularly excited about picking all the tile, cabinets, appliances, paint, etc. Fun stuff!

We also went to Walmart, where soon-to-be six year old Paxton picked his present: a spiffy new bike. He rode it off and on all afternoon. Last night, we tried out our anniversary present from Sandi and Mich.. an icecream maker ball. The icecream was delicious, but even more importantly, the boys had a blast rolling the ball around to make it.

And today, I made the lipbalm that I've been wanting to make for months. Paxton helped me fill the tins, Spencer helped cap them, and Everett helped by keeping Daddy busy. He reached a finger into the colorant I was using - bright red, no less - and proceeded to spread it all over his body. When they say a little bit goes a long way, they're not kidding.

I've uploaded some new pictures to Photobucket under August http://s16.photobucket.com/albums/b48/thriceblessed/ and just in case you didn't notice, I have a fancy new blog template too, courtesy of Erunginung. :-)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Homemade pizza, and my son, the calculator

Spencer was in the mood to cook yesterday, so we made a trip to the grocery store and got some pizza fixings, some cookie ingredients, and the making of a graham cracker and fruit snack they saw on Zoom. We all made our own individual pizzas for lunch, even Everett. It's always fun to make pizzas, and they were GOOD, really good. We made the graham cracker snacks last night, and the cookies today.

Tonight we were sitting around the table talking about fixing up houses, and going over the potential budget for one particular house. We'd come up with $18,000, and Paxton - who's still not quite six - said, without missing a beat, "If it's $800 to fix the air conditioner that will only leave $17,200." He did not get his head for math from his mother, of this I am sure. But it's a skill he enjoys, and takes great pride in. I thoroughly love hearing what calculation he's going to come up with next.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fall is coming

It has been a quick summer - a good summer - but we're looking forward to cooler days again. The boys' homeschool group is getting geared up, and they'll be having a "Not back to school party" in a few weeks, as well as lots of field trips. There were some field trips throughout the summer too, but we were too busy hibernating, watching tv, and playing to go to most of them. :)

Some of my favorite summer pics (and a few other random ones just because):

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What we're learning from Spongebob

Spencer has been watching tv with the captions on. I'm not really sure why (and have never gotten more of an answer than "because I like to") but if the tv is on, it's a pretty safe bet that the captions are on too. They read along, they laugh when there are mistakes, and they ask me questions about what they're seeing. I realized today that not only do the captions say WHAT people are saying, but also how it is being said. Spongebob said something "fondly", Patrick sounded "trance-like," someone else was "snide." We talked about what all those things meant and how the way you say something can change its meaning.

Learning is everywhere.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


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We went to library yesterday. I love our library, both because it's close and because it's huge yet inviting. The kids played in the play area for a good hour before we ventured out to actually look for some books. Their picks this time? Everett got the book "Bark George" because he liked the dog on the cover, a story about Maisy, and a book about flying on an airplane. Spencer got another stack of books about construction vehicles, and car mechanics; and Paxton loaded up on Judy Blumes, a Spongebob book and a book about Amelia Bedelia. I went looking for him this afternoon, and snapped the above picture when I found him.

Now that it's summer, I'm seeing all these ads for summer reading programs, and getting a jump on reading for school, etc etc etc. I'm glad that none of those things are a concern for us, and that our summer (and our reading habits) will seamlessly blend into the next season.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Weekend Projects

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It never fails that several months after Christmas, one of the boys will find a gift that was put on a shelf and forgotten about. This time it was a book about battery science, complete with battery and wires and motors just waiting to be played with. Paxton and I made a battery operated robot bug on Friday, then Spencer and Mike built a motor and made a doodle pen. Cool! Yesterday, we had a lazy Saturday morning breakfast of pancakes and eggs (made almost exclusively by the kids) and then spent most of the day out and about. First up were trips to Target and Trader Joe's; then to a boat store, an auto-parts store, and Home Depot... all for supplies for Mike's truck-tweaking project. Something to do with the air intake. The boys were very patient throughout all the store hopping, and were particularly in awe of the boat shop, that had everything from boats and trailers to kneeboards and tubes and water-skis. When we got home, Mike brought his project into the kitchen table so he could be social while he worked on it. Everett was more than happy to help, and the older boys got a kick out of the test drive around the block once he was done.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Swimming, playdates, and scorpion parties

July is almost over, and we're getting ready to ease into another month. We seem to go from insanely busy to nearly a stand-still, but the past couple of weeks have been pleasantly in between. We've gone swimming more than once, which is an odd experience in 110+ heat - the water is like bath water. The boys are getting more and more confident in the water, and I'm enjoying watching them learn... Paxton by jumping and kicking and sputtering and trying again and again and again; and Spencer the same way he learned to ride a bike: slow and steady. Everett is loving the water too, and has discovered the fun of jumping off the edge into our waiting arms.

We went on a playdate last week, and had another yesterday. Sandi, Mitch and the kids came down and watched the boys while Mike and I went out on a (exceedingly rare) date to the movies. Spencer apparently suggested a surprise party for our return, and we came home to a house decorated with streamers, paper balloons, and my personal favorite: giant paper cut-outs of scorpions. At least we can laugh about it.

Other random kid-related news:

Everett is talking up a STORM, and there is nothing he won't repeat.
Paxton is about to turn 6, and is trying on a new attitude for size
Spencer is currently fascinated with physics, and spending a lot of time playing with a new protractor.

We're still searching for another flip house, since our last one fell through, and spent yet another afternoon driving around scoping out possibilities. We've had our moments of frustration, but won't let ourselves lose momentum.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


I stayed up way too late last night, going through old pictures of Everett to make a montage. Spencer and I were both crying by the end... him because the old pictures made him miss New Hampshire, and me because, well because it's exhausting to visit all of those feelings of love and wonder and heartbreak and happiness and pride all in one sitting. And set to music, no less. I love my boys so much. Here it is if you want to take a look.

View this video montage created at One True Media
Everett Michael

The lazy, hazy days of summer

The past few days have been some of the laziest days we've spent since we've moved here. And they have been wonderful!! I don't understand what the fuss is about when it comes to the heat. We just stay inside and don't even notice it. :) The boys and I have watched movies; played Playstation; played trains and racetracks and Sorry; challenged each other to online games of pool and chess; looked up hummingbirds and honey bees and spiders; watched Cyberchase, Zoom, and the Suite Life of Zack and Cody; played with pretend food and cooked real food.... And just generally enjoyed each others' company.

Happy, happy summer!!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Family, the Grand Canyon, and tarantulas

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Mom and Dad arrived safely back in New Hampshire this morning, after a wonderful, whirlwind week here in AZ.

Mike ended up getting the entire week off, so it was a happy - and welcome - vacation for all of us. They came late last Saturday night, and Sunday was a day of hanging out, catching up, and taking them on their first-ever trip to IKEA. We browsed for an hour, and I believe it was the first time that none of the boys had a meltdown by the time we headed out to the car.

On Monday, they headed up to Camp Verde to see (and stay at) their new house. We took them out to show them our first fix-up house on the way. The deal has since ended up falling through, but that's another story for another blog.

Tuesday was the 4th, and we headed up north to join Mom & Dad. Their house is completed, but empty, so we sat on camp chairs and stretched out on the new carpet. We played pool in the clubhouse, and board games in their living room. The view from their house is beautiful, and we were able to watch fireworks right from their driveway. We could see them going up and everything. The boys really enjoyed it, and Paxton liked the fact that because they were so far away, they weren't very loud at all.

On Wednesday, we all drove up to the Grand Canyon. It was a first for us McGrails, and we were not disappointed! The view was amazing, and we stopped at several look-out points before hiking a short way down the Bright Angel trail. It was quite a feat with 5 young kids (2 of them under age 3) but they did great!! Everett pointed out the mule poop every few steps, Paxton took pictures of a hawk we saw on one of the cliffs, and Spencer was having so much fun that he wanted to keep going after we decided we'd better head back. I can't wait to go again when the boys are older, and we can hike all the way down and camp out and everything. The ride back to Mom and Dad's took forever since we made about 92 bathroom breaks, but it was well worth it.

On Thursday we enjoyed a lazy morning and an awesome afternoon rain storm before heading home. We took the scenic route home and it was incredible! It was literally like we were driving through different countries... my favorite being the rolling green hills that made feel like we were going throught the Swiss Alps. I took pictures out the window like a tourist. Mike nearly gave me a heart attack when he suddenly gasped and slammed on the brakes. The emergency? He saw a tarantula crossing the road. We turned around and went back, and all piled out of the car, camera in hand. We watched it cross the road and go onto the shoulder. It stopped to let us look for awhile, then went on its way. It was actually quite beautiful up close, and very graceful when it moved. A couple more side-of-the-road potty stops, and dinner at Burger King, and we were home.

Friday morning, our bug guy came bright - VERY bright - and early in the morning. He's going to be coming more frequently since it is summer, and we have now seen three scorpions in the house. We were supposed to be going to our home inspection in the afternoon, but as I said above, it was a no-go. We did meet with a contractor though, so it wasn't a total bust. He was a great guy, very professional, and formerly homeschooled :) I'm sure we'll be using him on future projects.

Mom and Dad came back down here yesterday afternoon, and we were able to spend a few more hours together before we saw them off. It was a GREAT week! Now we just pray that their house in NH sells quickly, and that the next time they come, it's for good. And today we're resting, hanging out together, and still trying to figure out the best way to spend Mike's last day before he has to go back to work.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

New friends and visitors

Last Saturday, we experienced our first real summer day at the zoo. They have a splash area for the kids during the hot months, and they had a good time cooling off. We went with some new friends.. Someone I actually "met" online a year ago, who also has a son Everett's age. We found we had a lot in common, and had a nice day watching and playing with the kids. We met bright and early at 8, so we'd have plenty of time to explore before we were ready to retreat home to the a/c at lunchtime. On Thursday, Sandi and the kids came over for an extended playdate. Spencer was so excited about it, he could barely sit still all week. She was supposed to be an extra in a movie shooting nearby (but her scenes ended up getting cancelled) and planned to spend the couple of nights at our house instead of driving back north. Thursday the kids were off the wall, and settled down just long enough to bake muffins and watch a little TV. Friday was much calmer, and everyone played and colored happily together. They drew picture after picture, and cracked themselves up making flip books of rocks falling on people's head, and in Isaac's case, puppies hatching from eggs. :) I watched all 5 kids without a hitch while Sandi went to an audition, and Mike did the same while she and I went out for a girls' night out to paint pottery. Last night was pizza, and another lazy walk through the commons before bed. It has been a great visit, and has made the wait for our next visitors - Mom & Dad, who are coming TONIGHT! - go even more quickly.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

April Fool's

Last night, Spencer and I had the following conversation:

Spencer - Mommy, what's that holiday in April?
Me - Easter?
Spencer - No, the one where you play pranks on people?
Me - Oh, April Fool's Day
Spencer - Yeah, April's Fools. Can we pretend it's April Fool's Day right now? I want to play a prank.

Through his giggles, he asked me to put a rubber band around the sprayer on the sink, so whoever went to turn on the water would get soaked. This was of course, completely within earshot of everyone in the house. I did what he asked, and two minutes later he and Paxton came to me with a cup, and were just doubled-over with laughter. "Mommy, can you wash this cup for us?" Giggle giggle giggle. So I went to the sink - with great aplomb I might add - and turned on the water. The beauty of it was that it barely hit me, but instead drenched Mike who was trying to load the diswasher. The kids found that absolutely hysterical, and found the fact that Mike then grabbed me and positioned me in front of the spray even more hysterical. It didn't matter that no one wasn't expecting it. The laughter from the kids - real, hard, honest-to-goodness, belly laughter - made it a moment to cherish.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Father's Day

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Summer has been unfolding way too quickly already. I'm going to have to start updating more often! On Wednesday, the boys and I joined another homeschooling family in a field trip to the Ceretta Candy company. We got a little tour of the factory, learned about the process, and bought & brought home several pieces of carefully chosen candy to share with Daddy.

On Thursday, Aunt Didi came over with the kids, and the boys had a blast playing with their cousins (as they always do) The energy was extra high this time though, and things didn't settle down until we all hunkered down in the living room to watch Napoleon Dynamite. They stayed for dinner and everything, and we had my personal favorite, pizza from Garlic Jim's.

Saturday was a little bit crazy. Spencer woke up with a cold (which I'm officially blaming on the play area at McDonald's, which we visited on Wednesday) We spent the morning cleaning and moving furniture to prepare for the carpet cleaners that were coming in the afternoon. Next was a trip to the vet for a check-up for Ally. Besides being 15 pounds overweight, and starting to show some signs of age, she is really quite healthy for a 12 year old. After we got home, we all hung around to watch and chat with the guy cleaning the carpet. We'd chosen a cleaner that used a non-toxic cleaning method, as opposed to the soapy extractors, and it was really pretty cool. After he'd finished, we went to go look at our new house. We'd been looking for almost two months for a fix-up to invest in, and we finally found one. The contract has been accepted and signed, and now we're just waiting to hear on details like closing dates. We walked around, took pictures, and took many notes on where to start. The boys are excited about the prospect, and look forward to starting a business as a family. The house made us hungry, so we had dinner at Denny's, followed by a quick trip to the grocery store for sundae fixings and all the ingredients we needed for Mike's requested Father's Day dinner of burgers.

Father's Day itself was quiet and relaxing. The boys had already given Mike his presents on Saturday night - they couldn't wait - and we enjoyed one of them Sunday afternoon. We got him his favorite movie ever, Duel, on DVD, and we all watched it together. The boys were riveted. We also played with their new playdough, built with blocks, and enjoyed our burgers. Bedtime was early... The boys were worn out from another busy weekend, and I finally admitted to myself that I have caught Spencer's cold.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Paint, slime, and other happy messes

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So the heat has driven us inside, and it's turned out to be a huge blessing for all of us. The boys have rediscovered their big bin of paint (complete with several kinds of paint, about 8976234 different paint tools, and lots of paper) After several days in a row of dragging it in and out of the toy room, it's taken up residence in the floor of the dining room. They've been making masterpiece after masterpiece. Sometimes it's not the masterpiece they're after, but just the experience. And we're enjoying it together... the lovely, squishy, messy, joy of creating. They have some really cool stuff that you can mix with paint to create putty. It's actually more like slime than putty, and is lots of fun. Our carpet - of a rental house, no less - is bearing the evidence of our play. It's now speckled with multi-colored flecks of paint in addition to the ever growing mystery stains. The carpet cleaning guys are going to have to come sooner rather than later, but it's a small price to pay.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Memorial Day

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Another holiday weekend, Arizona style. Mike had Monday off, and the 3 day holiday went by in a blur of kids and sun. Saturday we spent the morning doing what we've been doing every Saturday for the past month: scoping out houses and going out for lunch. On Sunday, our house turned into a revolving door, and no fewer than 8 neighborhood kids were in and out with the boys at different times. Monday we were invited to a pool party. Besides being the only ones under the age of 50, we had a nice time. The boys got to splash around in the pool (and work on their swimming) and we all got way too much sun before we retired in the shade for chips, hot wings, and sandwiches.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Beating the heat

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The heat is upon us. The boys and I have been gradually shifting our days to more time spent indoors, in the shade, and cooling off. Friday we went to a local splash park with the homeschool group. It was geared towards very young kids, with little slides, waterfalls, faucets, squirting things, misters, and sand. It was a great way to spend the afternoon. They all ran around for awhile, and ended up setting up camp in the sand box, where they left only to fetch more water for their sand castles. Everett liked sitting in the trough of running water, and I stood there with him so long that I got a scorching sunburn on the back of my neck.

Saturday was errands, and Sunday was my 10th Mother's Day as a mom. Spencer woke me up bright and early at 6, to tell me Happy Mother's Day, and to double-check his spelling on the card he was making for me :) Then they all surprised me with a trip to the movies to see Ice Age 2, followed by IHOP for lunch.

This week is all about hanging out... Hanging out, playing, and waiting for some news that should be arriving tomorrow.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Busy busy busy

In my experience, there are at least two kinds of busy weeks.... 1. the kind that you spend running around in circles, only to get to the end of the week exhausted, but with no idea what you'd accomplished, and 2. the kind spent doing lots of cool, interesting, satisfying things, and feeling a sense of elation along with the exhaustion. While we've certainly had our share of the first kind, this week was the latter.

Spencer and Paxton logged many hours bike riding and on the computer, respectively.

We bought a coconut because Spencer wanted to try coconut milk. We cracked it open, tasted the milk, and threw most of it away.

We went to dinner at Denny's, spent a long time, savored our desserts.

The boys found a native american book and craft kit. We read the book, and made the craft together: A handmade dream-catcher that they hung in their room.

Mike and I met with a realtor, while the boys enjoyed a water fight with their friends next door.

We made peanut butter cookies, despite the 95 degree heat.

And today, we went to Walmart, both to pick up a few necessities, and so they boys could spend their Playstation profits. They took a long time, and carefully weighed all their options. Spencer ended up choosing a remote control truck, another John Deere tractor, and a Dale Jr lego set. Paxton browsed through the cars with Spencer, but I knew he wouldn't make his selection from those aisles. His came from another part of the store: electronics. After much deliberation he picked two PS2 games... Madagascar - because he loves his computer version so much - and Tokyo Extreme Racing. It was fun for me... both to watch them spend it, and to share in their excitement at their new toys. On the way out, there was a woman with a little table set up, collecting money for the needy. She asked if I could donate a dollar as we zipped passed, and I told her I was sorry but didn't have it (at the time I didn't think I did). That wasn't the example I wanted to set for my kids. I took a breath and stopped. I remembered I had some change, and let the boys help me count it up. We went back to her bucket and put the money in, stopping to chat for a couple of minutes. She told me I'd be blessed for my donation... but I already am.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Our baby boy

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Everett turns two today! And while it seems I say this for every boy and every birthday, it really doesn't seem possible that my 6 pound little munchkin is really two: An official, full-fledged, no-holds-barred toddler.

He was lucky enough to get a 3 day celebration this year. Daddy had Friday off, and after a trip to the party store for Elmo balloons & the grocery store for sandwich fixings, we spent the day playing together. Saturday was his party, and the vast majority of it was spent out in the sunshine... watching the kids ride bikes, swimming in the pool, playing with new toys in the driveway. It was a fun, relaxing, and happy day. Sunday was part two of the party... another long lazy day outside, and when the heat got to be too much, an afternoon at the library.

The past two years have gone quickly to be sure. They've been full of new places, new things, and exciting changes. And the best part of all has been watching this little boy grow. At two, he is sweet and energetic and happy and strong and so very entertaining. He has a big heart in that tiny body.

Happy birthday Everett!!! We love you more than you'll ever know.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Adventures in Ebay

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So the boys' PS2 had been really temperamental lately. The drawer would get stuck both opening and closing, the discs wouldn't read, and the front panel was falling off. It seemed to have just about had it on Friday, so I surprised them by buying the new, slim version when we were at Walmart on Saturday. We were about to toss the old one when I came to my senses just in the nick of a time. A project! Nothing makes Spencer happier than taking apart appliances. And maybe, I told them, if they could get it working again, they could sell it on Ebay and keep the proceeds. TWO pairs of eyes lit up at the prospect. So Sunday night they worked on it, with Dad's help. An hour later - while it was not quite good as new - it was working, and the drawer was sliding in and out with ease. This morning they helped me get it photographed and listed. Their first official auction is on, and they couldn't be more excited. Check it out.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Happy Easter

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We've had our first Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years.... and now Easter, in Arizona. The first time is always strange because while some traditions can stay the same, so very much is different. We had a nice Easter; a quiet Easter. We colored eggs with the boys on Saturday, and they woke us up before the crack of dawn Easter morning. Actually, Spencer woke us up, by bursting into our room and shouting. I don't really remember what he said, but it was happy, and it was loud.

After they hunted for eggs, ate some chocolate, and tried out their new Playstation controllers, we got ready for church. I was in the shower when Mike decided to cut Everett's hair. He claims I asked him to, but I maintain that I just made a general comment that it needed to be done soon. He apparently lost his mind for a moment, because when I came down he was cutting his hair with the clippers, with the SHORTEST attachment. All I could see when I came around the corner was Everett's grinning at me while his pale white scalp peeked through the 1/100000 of an inch of hair left on his head. We had a family picture scheduled for next weekend (which is now rescheduled) but I couldn't stay mad long. Mike felt horrible, and it was too funny to be upset about anyway.

We finally headed to church, and for a church with 6000 members, it's really amazing how homey and welcoming it is. The boys' friend wasn't there, so they decided against going to childrens' services. They sat with us during the adult services, and we watched an Easter presentation about the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus. We squeaked out a little bit early to make it to our brunch at a nearby Mexican restaurant. The food was outstanding, and the kids enjoyed it until Paxton took a bite of something a little too spicy and complained of his lip burning for the rest of our stay :-(

In the afternoon, we had a video chat with Maba and Pop, then snuggled up on the couch to watch movies.

Happy Easter everyone, from hot & sunny Arizona.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Police station, church, and plastic eggs

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Happy Spring! I read the other day that our 100+ degree days are going to be starting in another month, so in the meantime we are very much enjoying the warm, beautiful outdoors. Saturday, we all went to an open house at the local police station. There was a car show, a SWAT team display, a house set up to fill with smoke to teach kids about fire safety, motorcycles, and lots of little freebies. Paxton and I went a tour of the police station and it was fascinating. We saw just about everything there was to see, from where they finger print and do mug shots, to holding cells and shooting ranges and dispatch rooms.

Monday we got an Easter package from Yaya, and the boys spent all afternoon playing with the goodies inside. Their favorite? Plastic eggs. Those things amaze me. Such a simple concept = hours of enjoyment. They filled them and hid them again and again.

This morning we did something I've been wanting to do for weeks now. A new friend, also a homeschooler, invited us to attend her church with her. They have a Wednesday morning ladies' tea. It was WONDERFUL! The lesson was one I was particularly needing to hear, and I had such an overwhelming sense of being exactly where I needed to be, exactly when I needed to be there. Everett sat through the class with me (and enjoyed sampling all the food) while the older boys had a blast playing in the kids' room. It was the first church that just "clicked" with all of us, and we can't wait to go back.

In other good news, Mike was officially offered a permanent, full-time position today! The boys were so excited when I explained what it meant, that they wanted to throw him a party. So we shopped for a party indeed... complete with balloons, Chicken Little plates, and an icecream cake from Cold Stone.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


A couple of months ago, we took the training wheels off the boys' bikes. For one thing, they finally lived somewhere where they had someplace to practice. They also wanted to ride up and down the rounded curb, which they couldn't really do safely with training wheels.

Paxton decided he needed to learn, and learn NOW. He started at the top of the driveway, and coasted down into the street again and again. He fell, he got up, he fell again. He practiced picking up speed until he was ready to start peddling. His face was red and his legs were scraped. He wobbled and shook and by the end of the day he had it: He was riding like he'd been doing it his whole life.

Spencer scooted with his feet that first day, and for a few days afterwards. Then he started coasting, for longer and longer periods of time. He didn't go too fast, and he didn't put his feet on the pedals. Every day his balance got better and better. We asked if he wanted help learning to pedal and his answer was always the same. "No thank you." A month went by and then two. Some days he got discouraged, but most of the time he was self-assured and confident. He knew he'd do it when he was ready. And he did. Yesterday he started pedaling, just a few rotations at first... then more and more. When the cute girl next door also came out on her bike, he was distracted just enough to forget that he was still learning. He pedaled around the street like a pro, and made a new friend in the process.

Different kids, same result: A feeling of pride and accomplishment in learning to do something they wanted to do... in their own time, in their own way. Last night we went to Cold Stone to celebrate both of them.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dandelion Bouquets

I remember two things about dandelions from my childhood: The joy of blowing the dried ones all over the yard; and the spirit-squashing grownups who griped about it. "It's a weed; you'll spread it all over the lawn; we want to get rid of them, not make more of them" Etc. My boys think dandelions are pretty, and I agree. They're bright and yellow and cheery. We went to the greens today - to roll down the hills, run around, and practice riding bikes - and their faces just lit up when they saw all the dandelions. Most of them were still yellow, but they found a few to blow and wish on. They asked me to help them gather some up, and we spent the better part of the afternoon picking dandelions, and talking about bees and pollen and flowers and gardens. We all came home with huge handfuls, and put them in a vase to enjoy in the living room.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Happy days

After spending too many days cooped up at home due to sickness, we woke up yesterday morning feeling better, feeling happy, and feeling ready to get back to life together. The boys started the day by watching Magic School Bus, then we all played Paxton's dinosaur dominoes for awhile. After that, the kids wanted to practice writing in cursive, so they played around with a cursive workbook, which quickly progressed into writing on the patio with chalk. Spencer doesn't always enjoy writing, but he finds cursive - and the fact that you rarely have to lift the pen from the paper - fascinating. They've both been writing a lot of letters lately, to both new and old friends.

Paxton had seen on tv that Chicken Little was just released on DVD, and Spencer wanted to get a brush for the dog, so we decided to spend the afternoon out. It was a welcome reprieve. We rented Paxton's movie, and the boys spent a long time browsing through the Playstation games while we there. From there we picked up a few groceries and snacks, as well as a new waffle maker - something Spencer and I have been wanting since we've moved here. We decided on the way to the pet store that we should get a new frog for the fish tank while we were there. We did get the frog, and a brush.. and another betta fish with his own little bowl. Fish are good pets.

We spent a good hour getting our new pets situated when we got home, then we snuggled up to watch Chicken Little. Mike had to work late, so after the movie we just heated up some microwave dinners, which the boys find very cool and exciting. When he got home at 8, we all all watched American Idol together and called it a day. Bedtime reading right now is a book about dinosaurs and how they tie in with the bible, and a book called The Whipping Boy, a story about two young boys in medieval times.

Good stuff.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Scorpions and Cows and Bug Guys oh MY

When we first starting seriously considering Arizona, one of the things that people kept saying to us was "Sure, there's no mosquitoes, but there's rattlesnakes and scorpions and black widows...." And we always replied "Yeah but you never see them. They're out in the desert, not in residential areas. "

A few nights ago we came home, and lo and behold, there was a scorpion IN OUR KITCHEN. Spencer thought this was very cool, and Paxton (who'd expressed some fear before we moved) was thankfully asleep in the truck. Mike carried him to bed after the scorpion had been scooped up and dealt with. It was a creepy-looking little thing, and I still haven't been able to shake the skin-crawling paranoia.

Tuesday we went on a field trip to see some bigger, and less scary, creatures. The boys and I went to a local dairy farm with the homeschool group, and we all had a great time. We took a tour of the farm, learned all about cows, and enjoyed a sample of their chocolate milk. The boys got to milk a cow, pet all the animals, and explore a maze made out of hay bales.

Yesterday, we were back to dealing with the little critters (I much prefer cows). Our bug guy, Mike came. He sprayed all around the house and yard, gave the boys lollipops, and patiently answered their questions. He found another scorpion in one of the glue traps, and he was kind enough to bring it inside to show me. He said the bug activity would be picking up since it was going to be getting warmer, and that we'd probably want him to come every 8 weeks. I'm thinking we'll have him come in 6.

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Taste of Home

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As of last week, we hadn't seen Maba and Pop, or rain, since we moved here in November. This week we got to see both! :O)

They arrived on Saturday afternoon, while we were all out playing frisbee in the road, and we were so excited to welcome them. We spent most of the day playing outside, chatting, and catching up. On Sunday we all went up to Camp Verde, and then on to Sedona. I've decided that Sedona is one of the most beautiful places in the country, at the very least on the west coast. We drove up a bumpy, winding trail, and did a little bit of hiking. The view was spectacular. From there we went to watch the sunrise at the airport, and enjoyed Barro's pizza at Sandi and Mitch's before heading home.

On Monday, Pop's cousin Clint came to stay with us as well, and the boys instantly fell in love. Spencer especially enjoyed him when it came time to make dinner. He served as Clint's sous chef, as they made a big happy mess and a big happy feast of pasta, homemade sauce, and salad. More reminiscing, stories and lots of laughter followed.

Tuesday was a trip to the zoo, which is always a good time, followed by another Clint-and- Spencer-cooked meal. The boys also shared some of their favorite things (mostly PS2 games and repeats of Dukes and AFV) with Maba and Pop, and we all went to bed tired and happy.

On Thursday we went to the Desert Botanical Gardens, which we'd never been to before but really enjoyed. They gave the kids a sheet and a pencil for a scavenger hunt, and they were very excited about it. Looking for animals tracks, nests, and holes in cactuses made the visit even more interesting than it would have been otherwise. After the gardens, we said goodbye to Clint - who was heading back home - and went to a train park. We weren't too sure if the boys were up for another stop, but they got a second wind in the car and had a great time at the park. We rode the little train, went through the train museum, and spent a long time hanging out on the grass, flying a kite, and enjoying the nice (if a bit chilly) day.

On Friday, Maba and Pop went back up to Camp Verde - where they ended up signing on the dotted line for a new house!! - and the rest of us took advantage of Mike's last day at home before starting his new job. I got up early and finally got my AZ driver's license. After I got home, we all headed out to the park to meet up with the homeschool group, but it was a VERY windy day and no one had shown up. The boys were a little bummed about that, but perked up when we got to our next destination - off-roading in the desert. We spent a few hours driving the trails, eating a picnic lunch, and scratching the heck out of Mike's truck. Paxton was nervous we were going to get lost, so we gave him one of the maps, and showed him where we were on the trail. He forgot all about being nervous once we started going through some of the true off-roading washes, rocks and ditches. Even Everett laughed hysterically as the branches whipped up against the windows. I kept my eye out for rattlesnakes, but the only wildlife we saw were some calves, followed by some some very large and angry looking bulls. We didn't stick around too long to watch them.

Saturday morning we woke up to RAIN, and lots of it. It was the coolest sound to wake up to. Paxton came into our room around 6 in the morning, wondering what the tapping sound on his window was. It's been a long time! We had a nice pancake breakfast, played some games of chess, Payday, and Fusion Crew, and tried to enjoy a final day that went way too quickly. We were all sad to see them off when it was time for them to go back to the airport, and will be counting the days till they come again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


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Nine years ago today, we brought a tiny, hairy, 5 pound little Spencer home from the hospital. We were first time parents, full of awe and wonderment, and really had no idea what kind of joy and heartbreak was ahead of us. He was a quiet baby, what everyone else referred to as a "good" baby (a term I never liked, because there's no such thing as a "bad" baby). He was happy and affectionate and loved to snuggle up with his Mom and Dad. Spencer was the one who prompted my immediate decision not to return to work, followed by the decision to homeschool. He was the one who gave me the biggest "A-ha" moment of my life... the profound and life-changing realization of what was truly important to me. I finally "got it" after I had Spencer. Becoming a parent was everything I never knew I always wanted. There have been hard days to be sure, but the joy - the kind that makes your heart feel like it is too big to stay confined in your chest - has far overshadowed any bad day.

He is nine now. He's still hairy :) sometimes quiet, and always the same sweet soul I fell in love with in the hospital almost a decade ago. He's affectionate and passionate and curious. He loves the Dukes of Hazzard, cars, construction equipment, and learning about how the world works. Spencer is awesome.

Happy Birthday Spencer! We love you a million billion zillion.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

New friends and Valentines

After months of thwarted plans, we finally made it to a park day with one of the local homeschool groups. After spending the first few weeks of February dealing with various sicknesses, it was a welcome outing for us all. We chose a Valentine's party for our first intro to the group, and it was a big success. In typical fashion, Spencer and Paxton both made quick work of making friends, and were soon able to tell me the names and ages of a dozen different kids. They exchanged valentines, enjoyed a nice potluck lunch, and explored the playground equipment. I chatted with the other moms, and while I was the odd one out when it came to my homeschooling style - which I've gotten used to - I met some great women. I exchanged email addresses with quite a few of them, and the boys can hardly wait to set up some playdates.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Our First Visitors

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This past week held a lot of firsts. Barbara and Skip (AKA Yaya and Grandpa Skip) became our very first official visitors from back east. The boys were extremely excited about them coming to stay, and they thoroughly enjoyed the week we all got to spend together. One of the nice things about having visitors so soon after we've moved here, is that it gave us a great excuse to visit some of the local scenery that we otherwise might not have gotten to for awhile.

On Monday, we drove the Apache Trail through the Tonto National Forest. The ride itself was through winding, steep, and at times hair-raising mountainous roads, and had some of the most beautiful views I think I've ever seen. It was awe-inspiring, and I just wanted to share it with all the people who'd said "Why would you want to leave a beautiful state like New Hampshire?" We stopped to enjoy to view (and shake off some of the carsickness) at Canyon Lake, and again at Apache Lake. The road brought us to Roosevelt Dam, and from there we went for a hike and tour of some long-ago inhabited cliff dwellings. It was a long first day, and we capped it off with pizza from our favorite place down the street.

Mike had to work on Tuesday, and the rest of us took a trip to Phoenix. We visited two custom motorcyle shops, one of which gave us a tour of the workshop. We also stopped at a shop that laser-cuts decorative metal and tile. The boys were pretty tired by that point, but Paxton enjoyed the cat that kept wandering in and out, and they were both fascinated by the machine that cut using a high-pressure stream of water. They all got to take home their names cut out of diamond steel as a souvenier.

On Wednesday, we all traveled down to Tuscon, another first for all of us. We stopped at the Casa Grande Ruins, where we explored the ruins and museum, had a picnic lunch, and let the boys stretch their legs. Everett had a good time running around like a little tourist, carrying a brochure the entire time. From there we drove the rest of the way to the Saguaro National Forest. We enjoyed a nice hike through the desert, and though we kept our eyes peeled for rattlesnakes and other native animals, found none. We did see lots of animal droppings though, as well as huge cactuses, and a beautiful mountain view. The big boys had no problem with the rocky trail, and Everett walked for part of it, and rode the backpack for the rest. A woman stopped me to ask if I didn't worry about the baby getting poked by a cactus. I didn't tell her that the only person who'd gotten stuck with a cactus - twice - was the family clutz (me) and that everyone else had managed to avoid them.

Thursday morning was a much needed morning of rest, and the boys enjoyed playing games and doing puzzles with Yaya and Grandpa Skip. The afternoon brought us to lunch and browsing at IKEA. Friday was the boys' choice, and they wanted to go to the zoo. One of the things I love most about the zoo is that you see something different every time. This time we saw rattlesnakes eating their breakfast of mice, and the bobcat being fed. We also threw bread to the ducks while we ate our picnic lunch, and watched while the boys enjoyed playing on the tractors in the children's area. It was a good day.

For Saturday, the last day of their stay, we went to visit with some old friends. For dinner, they took us to Rockin R Ranch where we went on a wagon ride, panned for gold, ate a traditional cowboy supper on tin plates, saw a wonderful country song and dance show, and capped it all off with a staged gun fight. It was a fun way to wrap up the week, and the boys had a blast. Even Everett was clapping and hollering for more during the show.

We all said our goodbyes on Saturday night since the plane was boarding at 6:30 AM on Sunday. We'd all had a great time, and enjoyed the visit. We also all agreed that it had gone by extremely quickly. We packed a lot into one visit! The only downfall? The boys were plum worn out from all the driving, late nights, and activity, so there were many meltdowns. Something Mike and I will definitely learn from for the next time. Still, a couple early nights and lazy mornings later, and they are good to go, and already asking about the next visit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Swing of Things

Mike has been back to work for a week now, and I'm actually surprised at how quickly we've all adjusted. Our days have been busy and happy.

Spencer decided several days ago that he wanted to practice his spelling some more, that maybe writing wouldn't frustrate him so much if he could spell better. Fully expecting a "no thanks," I asked him if he wanted me to print a spelling list for him to work on. He actually said yes, so I hopped online (God bless the person who invented the internet) and found one. I guessed on the grade, since grade level has never been an issue, but 3rd grade fit the bill just fine. It's been hanging around the living room all week, and both boys have been using it to quiz each other.

On Friday, our furniture came as promised, although we waited at home all day only for it to come at 5:30 in the evening. Our house looks more like a real house now, and it doesn't make it look too much smaller like I'd feared. It's been a real treat to watch tv on a couch like a civilized family.

This weekend was spent out and about, spending Christmas gift certificates, and preparing our house for our first overnight visitors. Sunday we spent four hours at the Toyota dealership, where the boys got an up-close and personal look at the car buying process. They were INCREDIBLY patient throughout the whole thing, even though it meant skipping lunch and dining on vending machine candy and chiclets. Mike bought a 2003 Toyota Tacoma, and it was good news for all us. For one thing, now we can go off-roading as a family (and my 4Runner can be spared the scratches), and we also have a vehicle again while Mike is at work. We're all itching to get back to some semblance of having a social life.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Hanging Around

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Happy 2006.

We rang in the New Year just as we planned.. with fun food and movies. The past few days have been quiet and restful, spent almost exclusively at home. The boys were exhausted on New Years day... Spencer made it till midnight, and Everett and Paxton lasted till about 11:30. We've been playing lots of games both old new, including several rounds of Monopoly, Herd Your Horses, Sorry, Chutes and Ladders, and Parcheezi. Paxton has been on another computer
kick, and he and I are both very thankful that I have a laptop on order. Spencer's fixation at the moment is still the Dukes of Hazard, and he is in the middle of watching the second season on DVD, an early birthday present. The boys have also been doing a lot of reading. Spencer has re-discovered his Boxcar Kids books, and both he and Paxton have been working their way through an Earth and Space book. Everett's choice for the past few nights has been Where is Baby's Belly Button, a very cute lift-the-flap book from Yaya and Grandpa Skip.

Yesterday we got a phone call we have been waiting for for weeks, telling us that our furniture is scheduled to be delivered on Friday. We were all very relieved to hear this, as we had had
nothing but the futon that we'd bought for the guest room. Now it can go in the room where it belongs, and we can finally set up our living room.

Our second phone call of interest came this morning. Mike was offered a temporary job at the local University. He starts at 9:00 tomorrow morning. The boys and I have mixed feelings about him going to work, but know of course that it is necessary. Mike is looking forward to it. He's spending today, his last day home for awhile, with the big boys. Right now they are out running errands, including a stop at the DMV to register the car. Not the most exciting of outings, but they never seem to care as long as they're with Dad.


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