Saturday, January 31, 2015

Eion's Birthday: The Final Chapter

Not having discovered any additional invitees, it was the birthday party day. E's plan went off without a hitch. We picked up the boys and started with present opening, because they felt they might need to use them during the party. And clearly, they were right. What party is complete without a Minecraft torch?

Then they were off to play xbox, make youtube videos of themselves playing xbox, and, eventually, head out into the street for an epic sword battle. Then pizza and cake.

Which didn't turn out so badly after all. That stirring the frosting worked. I will never hear the end of this from the oldest child. Ihatewhentheyareright.

It was getting dark so the outdoor beatings had to come to a stop but the boys found plenty to do indoors. When I called for the boys to head home, there was much gnashing of teeth so I ended up taking everyone home later than planned. As we drove, Uptown Funk came on and the car broke out into a sing along/dance party. It was one of those rare afternoons for a Mom when it all goes just right. (And I got the taxes done and made Indian food.) One last happy birthday to you E.

Because I Know You Really Care, I've Left Turbotax After 19 Years

That's kind of a lie - it might be less than 19 years but I have been using them pretty much since we got married. I had my tax return all set to go in Turbotax this year and I was balking a bit at the cost. $36.99 just seemed high, I am cheap after all. So a quick google search found that H&R Block, provided your return is not too complicated and you know what you are doing, was only $9.99 including state and e-filing! Not to mention, they are an Ebates partner and you get 10% cash back, which is all of $0.99 but every penny counts people.

I had to enter all the information again but it wasn't too terrible. We have a remarkably simple tax return - pay a bunch of cash to the IRS.

Just thought I'd share for all you other frugal, self filers out there!

I'm No Baker

After the disaster that was Eion's first birthday cake this week, and seriously, will this birthday ever end?, I had a number of Monday morning quarterbacks, ahem, Morrigan and Tim, letting me know all I had done wrong in frosting the cake. Betty Crocker, they assured me, said I just needed to whip the frosting first and all would be well.

Seeing the cake currently cooling on my counter, I HAVE MY DOUBTS. 

How the f dash dash dash am I going to hold this together? It is all coming back to me now, the wisdom of the store bought cake. I'm not even sure this was cheaper. Check back in a few hours and you can witness the full glory of the completed masterpiece. Hopefully 9 and 10 year olds are not harsh critics.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Eion's Birthday, Part II

It was a bit concerning when we picked Eion up and told him about the travel clinic. He teared up and said he had already cried three times that day and we were making him cry a fourth. Turns out he cried about assignment A, then assignment B. The third time was just a rehash of the first two indignities.

B good news for the birthday boy - no shots needed. He had all the immunizations needed for Central America and only needed oral typhoid. He, and Morrigan, also lucky, were thrilled. On the not so lucky front were the rest of us but it wasn't too bad.

E was pleased with his gifts, including the book, which I thought was iffy. He opened it and said he was going to read it right away. Wonders never cease.

After dinner, we enjoyed the unattractive, yet tasty cake. Eion was not bothered by the unsightly portion, he just wanted to eat it.

It was a pretty good day.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Happy Birthday Eion, Part I

More than once there were doubts about my sanity making it to this point, but we have reached Eion's 10th birthday! Notes on the festivities thus far:

I told E he could have any kind of party, within reason, he wanted. We planned a glorified playdate with two close friends for Saturday. Pizza, cake, and video games - just want he wanted. Perfect. 

Well until...

He arrived home yesterday and informed me Friend X had bought him a birthday gift. That's funny, I remarked, as Friend X was not one of the invitees on the very short list. "Hmmm, " Eion replied, "I must have invited him at school." Not quite as perfect. So only days before the party, I fire off an apologetic, last minute invite to Mom of Friend X, fessing up to the whole situation. Eion is "pretty sure" he didn't invite anyone else. Good grief.

And then there is the cake. He wanted chocolate with chocolate icing. No problem! Morrigan and I whipped one up last night. All was well until the assembly. The frosting started ripping apart the cake and entire sections had to be held together with icing. Temporarily held together anyway. Several portions had vacated the main cake by this morning, sliding off like a mudslide. It will be a challenge to find an appropriate angle for photos.

He's happily at school, sharing cupcakes with the class. We didn't have the heart to tell him that after school, we are all getting vaccinations for our trip to Costa Rica. Some really short sighted Mom made the appointment on his birthday. Hopefully the unattractive, yet tasty, cake will smooth the whole thing over!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Surprise Weather

Friday, all the weather predictors claimed we were right in the path of a front, bringing us freezing rain and all sorts of nastiness. And right on time, the snow started late morning and the schools announced they would be letting out early. We lit a big fire and prepared to hunker down for the day.

But miracle of miracles, it stayed just warm enough that we only had rain, which was good news for Maggie, who did not have to miss a fun birthday party!

The rest of the weekend was nicer than anticipated as well, leaving humans and poultry quite pleased.  As for the chickens, because it is always about the chickens, all the girls are laying now (yeah!) and we are averaging five eggs a day. In even better news, they have decided to lay these eggs in the coop, rather than in the bushes like they had been the past few days, leading me on a daily, real live Easter egg hunt.

This week looks to be full of cake, as it is Eion's 10th birthday! Unfortunately for him, his birthday is also the only day I could get an appointment at the travel vaccination clinic. We won't tell him about that until later...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Updates and Changes

As one of the editors for the yearbook at E's school, I became somewhat panicked this week upon discovering there were large sections of the pages due February 9th that were not even close to being completed. So it was off to school, camera in hand, to take the needed pictures to fill out the book. While there, I spoke with the principal, who told me how Eion had not been sent to her office for all of 2015. Really friends, that is almost three weeks. In a row. Hallelujah.

Then that night, I went to an orientation meeting for high school. HIGH SCHOOL. I went to a school where my graduating class was 100 people. This school has close to 2,000 students. Not that Morrigan is nervous. She declined to attend the meeting, stating, "I already know everything I need to know." Glad she is so confident. I am a wreck.

As it turns out, she was somewhat correct. All the graduation requirements and suggested courses she needs have been covered by her middle school guidance counsellor, who was there and reassured me, and several other parents, that it was all going to be OK! Miss M is on track for AP Calculus, AP History, AP English, and AP Biology.

Beyond that, I found out they could do Health online and opt out of gym by doing something called YFit, which seems to be logging your hours working out. Where the hell was this option when I was in school? Nothing irritated me more than wasting a period in which I could have been doing something interesting toiling away in gym class. So she had three electives to fill. One is, much to her dismay, Spanish IV. I promised her that after that, she could quit foreign language. If she were smart, she'd tough it out through AP and pass out of college credits. But no one said middle schoolers are smart.

For the last two, she chose Theater Arts and Business and Marketing. A nice mix of fine arts and some practical learning, I thought. When I was pursuing the course catalogue later, I noticed that if one wanted to be on the yearbook staff as a sophomore, and who wouldn't, you needed to take Journalism freshman year. When I pointed this out to Morrigan, I was told that she didn't need to be like me and not everyone wants to edit the yearbook. Sheesh, I was just trying to help.

But we have the first step in High School under our belts.

Then there is poor Maggie, who had to have two teeth yanked today. Eion wanted to come, until he found out he would not be allowed to watch the actual extraction. Then he was good to stay home. Maggie was brave and did great. I tried to pay several times while she was in the back, in an effort to secure a speedy exit. Naturally, they didn't even start the checkout process until Mags, mouth full of cotton, was sitting waiting for us. My heart just broke when I looked over and she had a single tear running down her cheek.

But don't despair, a few hours later and she has rallied completely.

After a week of downright gorgeous days, reaching 60 degrees!, we are expecting some freezing rain,  the worst of all worlds. It will trap you at home but it is no good for sledding and playing. Hopefully all the forecasters are wrong and this system will just pass us by. Until next time, from the world of very exciting events, I bid you farewell.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Flame On

Morrigan has a science fair coming up and she decided that her experiment would have to do with the impact of various accelerants on fire, a topic which just screamed out for adult supervision, preferably her father's. She and Tim set out to gather all the needed ingredients and start lighting things aflame.

She had a control group which was untouched, gasoline, a commercial accelerant, and vegetable oil. The plan was to run five fires with each group for ten minutes each, measuring the temperature of the fire. 

Sadly for all of us, her topic was much more interesting than the result. All the action from the various fire aides seemed to take place in the opening 30-45 seconds, leaving an additional 9 minutes to measure the fire temps, which were all about the same, every 30 seconds. But we all enjoyed the monotony of it together and managed to watch a little football as well. Maybe next year science will be more exciting!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

And That Could Not Have Gone Worse

Just when you thought there couldn't be more chicken drama, here it is! After striking out on craigslist repeatedly, I tried a new avenue for secondhand birds via the Roanoke Chicken Swap Facebook page. My request for peepers was immediately met with fowl available for purchase. After some brief negotiations, a fellow agreed to meet us near our house with seven birds: 2 buff orpington, 2 black sex link, and 3 brown leghorns.

We showed up in the parking lot for the exchange, armed with large plastic boxes and chicken wire. The farmer looked concerned about the birds getting loose and offered to drive them to our house, which was only 10 minutes away. We released them all into the run and he went on his way. Excited about the new acquisitions, I called Maggie, who was home sick with a sore throat, down to see them. She went into the run and left the door open, which did not strike me as a terrible idea, that is until one of the black birds left and promptly flew over the fence and into a tree in the woods, some 20 feet up.


From there we focused on clipping the other birds' wings who were still in the fenced area. Not that they were staying. One of the leghorns lit off to the Tallmadge's next door, but was relatively easily apprehended. Maggie and I hunted them down one by one and clipped their wings until one of the other leghorns took off over the fence as well.

It was off to the thorny ridge for Maggie and myself to hunt down the two out of bounds birds.

This was pointy and not much fun. We eventually wore them down, clipped their wings, and deposited them into the run. We just had one more bird in the yard to catch and snip. This one was wily. Poor Maggie, sick, covered in prickers and tired, just burst into tears but refused to leave before the job was done because, as she so eloquently put it, "Dad kind of sucks at chicken wrangling." 

Eventually we got the job done and quarantined the new girls in the coop while the three originals are outside. The plan is to merge them at bedtime. Really, what could go wrong? It has gone swimmingly so far.

Black Sex Link

Buff Orpingtons

Brown Leghorn

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

It Was Almost Like Hers

One of my Facebook friends, who has a child in Eion's grade, just posted a picture of her daughter meeting the School Board and receiving a framed picture of her art project, which won the honor of being the cover art for the district holiday card. It was a sweet picture of four snowmen. And it looked vaguely familiar.

The winning drawing.

But of course it did. This was something all the 3rd graders drew. Now, normally, I would not know about any art project as Eion conveniently dispatches them before they ever come close to home. But this one I saw since it was sent home in a special envelope with a note from the teacher, expressing concern about the boy's state of mind. Seeing as Eion had chosen to arm his snowmen with various weapons, some dripping blood, the special interest may have been warranted. We've chosen to write it off as youthful exuberance rather than behavioral leanings of a sociopath.

And we can't believe he lost the contest.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Round One of Braces is Done

Not the world's best picture, but it contains the happiest boy. The first round of braces is off and E is free, for now. In a few years, we get to go through it again, $$$ and all!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Who Knew There Was a Secondary Chicken Market?

Poor Putin's death went unremarked. After losing Attila and Tank, I had just tired of writing about it. So when a hawk took her out, as Eion watched, hello scarring childhood memories, we just mourned in silence. The three remaining girls were traumatized and rarely left the coop for about a month. We built them a deluxe, if ramshackle, run but unfortunately, they did not recognize it as safe and refused to go in it. These were some sad chicken times.

The good and bad news is chickens are also not especially smart and, a month later, they seem to have forgotten the dangers of life on the free range and they are back in action!

But we missed the bigger flock, and their eggs. So we had started planning for new chicks when Amy told me about the Coop farm divesting itself of their hens. Perfect, I thought, we can just integrate some new birds now and not have to wait for them to start laying! I called immediately but their hens were spoken for almost as soon as they publicized their sale. Drat.

But that got me thinking, there have to be other people who are getting out of the chicken game. I went to craigslist, home of all the weird things for sale, and found a fellow looking to get rid of 20 layers. I texted immediately and let him know we'd love to purchase seven, as we have decided ten is out optimal number. In spite of the fact that his ad was only three hours old, they were already gone. Any ads older than that were a waste, as those birds were long ago spoken for.

Now it has become a mission, complete with multiple checks on craigslist a day. Seriously, I had no idea finding used chickens was so tough.

Friday, January 9, 2015

I Survived My MRI Without Having a Panic Attack

Having duly learned the lessons of last time's MRI, I made sure I entered the very loud tube with my eyes completely shut. With Fitz and the Tantrums on Pandora, I only had to endure 8 songs before being set free. And it made me feel better to know Tim was in the waiting room too.

I haven't seen the Orthopedic Surgeon yet, but some informal analysis indicates that I might be getting some spinal fusion in the near future. Granted, this will have to be after our spring break trip to Costa Rica, but there tends to be a long waiting list for my doctor so it is unlikely they would get me in before anyway.

There is a long recovery and it ranks among the last things I want to do, but we are fast approaching the what do we have to lose phase. used to be there was hope for a return to tennis. These days, I just want to sneeze without wincing.

My appointment is in a month and I'll know more then. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Officially Back to Normal

As Tim left for work today, I promised that today would be the day that the house would get back to normal, as in no large blue eels in the family room, sheets clean, and things generally back where they belong. It was a slog, including several hours of hand stitching eels, but we are there! I love having company and the chaos of the holidays, but I am persnickety enough to really like getting back to routine too.

I felt kind of rushed on my last posts, surely only by myself, but wanted to go back and fill in some unrelated details of the past week or so.

It was COLD in Virginia today. So much so that school was on a 2 hour delay. With windchill, it was zero. When I texted that to Dominick, in Minnesota, he let me know they were delayed as well, it was -40. Brrr. This was the first real cold snap for the Peepers. While trying desperately to be flippant about it, assuring people that Keller from the country store told me it would all be ok, there was much worry about their safety. Should have trusted the professionals. They were all fine and looking to get out in the world. Water management is going to be a bit of an issue since their water and the hose outside both froze. But we have a couple of waterers that can be rotated. But since I know you were worried too, they are a-ok!

In the home stretch with the eels today, I couldn't help but thinking of what Dominick would say when I asked if my stitching was ok - forty feet and dancing. They say it in the costume shop all the time. Your work needs to be good, but remember people will be forty feet away and the characters will be dancing. Made me laugh everytime.

In a few minutes, I'm going in for a MRI. In spite of continuing to be an excellent physical therapy patient, the situation has continued to deteriorate with my back. Not sure what they will find or what I want. The good news would be surgery could fix me and I'm not sure invasive back surgery is ever truly "good" news. But life of unending pain is equally unappealing so we'll see what the surgeon has to say.

Guess there wasn't too much to say but I appreciate you letting me bend your ear!

Hey There!

I don't know about you, but I am still trying to get everything back in order after a crazy busy holiday two weeks. Still not there, but figured I should check in now while I have the house to myself.

A few days after we got home from Florida, my parents and brother Dominick arrived. 

First order of business was Christmas, Round Deux. 

Dominick and Eion share a love of Legos.

There was a flurry of gift opening, including the traditional Dutch chocolate letters (as seen on the table below.) Naturally, the kids welcomed the opportunity to extend what would normally be a one day holiday. It was casual, relaxed, and fun.

Morrigan in her much beloved Captain America hoodie.

But soon it was time to get to work. With gifts out of the way, Dominick, Mom, and I set out to go supply shopping. Now, we all remember that in addition to visiting, we had Dominick, the professional costumer, on board to help out with the eel costumes for The Little Mermaid, right? Hence mere hours after exiting the plane, we were visiting fabric stores, hardware stores, and Kmart for the needed implements. Not long into the process, I was beginning to see he had something much more than I planned on in mind, in a good way. 

Dominick had carved the heads for the eels out of foam and brought them with him. For the first few days, he was largely working on covering them with two layers of material, which was a much more arduous process than one would imagine. As days of work were going into the heads alone, my guilt began to mount at the enormity of the project.

While work had begun, we had some fun too. Dominick brought the helmet of his homemade Ironman costume with him, a huge hit with the kids.

Eion with Opa and Oma.

Days were busy sewing but we made it out to a few parties and open houses and, of course, there was general merriment at home. I wonder why the kids love it so much when Uncle Dominick visits?

Not long after New Years, the project started to spiral out of control and it was time for the basement sweatshop! We moved everything costume related to the basement and really dug in.

Dominick and one of the eel heads early on.

Mom, Dominick, and I were putting in about 8 hour days Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in order to get the eels done. (With a little help from everyone else too.) It was a TON of work but so much fun. We listened to music, Dominick helped Morrigan progress in Skyrim, and we chatted as we worked. Ok and sometimes swore a little too, but generally only when there was injury.

All hands on deck!

After Mom and Dad left Monday, Dominick and I still worked about another 12 hours. We watched an entire season of White Collar to help pass the time. Sadly, Dominick flew home Tuesday and was able to escape being chained to a sewing machine in my basement. He swears it was fun and I shouldn't feel guilty for working him so hard. Hopefully, he's telling the truth. I'll have to make sure his next visit is ultra relaxing.

Whew! Now on my own, I'm finishing the last of the hand sewing, which awaits me when finished here. Such a tease, but I am going to tell you they look awesome, and make you come back in April to see the end result. Sorry, sorry! Just don't want such a fabulous surprise to be ruined by having pictures all over town before the play. 

Just trust me, they were worth it. For me at least. I am quite sure Dominick went home and needed a vacation. He could have totally half assed this and we still would have been better off than if I were in charge, but I don't think it is in his nature. 

Slowly, we are getting back to normal, very slowly. But it was a lovely chaos while it lasted.

Happy New Year!