Saturday, August 30, 2008

Crabby Road

I get overwhelmed occasionally by how isolated it is here in Smallville. It's a six hour round trip to a decent playground, the science museum or the zoo. Yesterday was one of those days. I clicked my heels together and wished us anywhere but here.

Apparently my sneakers are not magical.

So I did the next best thing because sanity was hanging by a very thin thread. We shoed up and went for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood to look for things to view under our new microscope.
Crabby Road
Faith is singing. Faith is always singing.


Claire holding Charlie's hand and a specimen bag.
She's collected a little more specimen than her bag will accomodate.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

No! No! Not Biology!

Seventeen questions. Seventeen physical science review questions are the only thing preventing us from cracking open the box that holds John and Lauren's biology supplies. They aren’t happy about the transition. To be honest, they’re a bit green around the gills because the box contains creatures to be dissected. Four creatures to be exact. Four hundred and fifty smackers got us our very own nausea inducing creatures, a biology textbook and a microscope that thinks it’s a Cadillac.

The incentive of playing with the Cadillac is not the motivator that I expected it would be. Instead, John and Lauren dawdle their way through the last seventeen questions with much hemming and hawing. They keep referring back to the parallax theory and the apparent magnitude theory, just to be sure.

Faith wants them to hurry up and get on with it because she is not squeamish. “What does dissect mean, Mom?”

“The kids are going to get to cut open a frog and some other stuff to see how they are made.”

“Coooool! Can I help?” Her big, brown eyes lit up. She has a collection of dead bugs and a little dried up frog lining the windowsill out back. The frog is squished flat. This allows for a great view of his perfectly formed miniature spine. Faith is quite enamored with that spine.

So, the big box of biology is not actually here yet. It’s still on it’s way via the Fedex truck and we are expecting it any minute. I’m a bit suspicious though. Yesterday, I took the three little ones with me so I could get my haircut. I think that maybe the box might have arrived during my half hour foray into Smallville and I think that John and Lauren might have hidden it. I should have left Faith home.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saturday Morning Countdown

The kids wait all week for Saturday mornings to trade their school books for the Game Cube controllers. For Charlie, the anticipation is akin to Christmas. He blasts into our bedroom at Oh-Dark-Thirty and invites Stuart to join him for a game of Metroid or Zelda. Stuart always declines politely, sends him back to his room with instructions not to come out until the sun comes up, and ducks his head under the covers for a little more shut eye.

We tried something new this week. I don't know what possessed us, maybe we were delirious. We told Charlie, "No media until eight o'clock." We couldn't have been too hopeful about the success of this plan because we didn't even bother to show him what the hour of eight looked like on the clock. We just sent him off to bed and expected to see him as usual before the sun came up.

But he didn't show up. 6:30 came and went. Not that we noticed because we were still sleeping but we figured out that he handn't been there at 6:30 when we heard him out in the kitchen with Faith and Claire at 7:51. Stuart and I had our heads close together on one pillow listening to this conversation:

"Seven...five...one. Seven fifty-one. It's seven fifty-one, Claire. Is it almost time?"

"We have to subtract the one from ten, Charlie. Nine more minutes until eight o'clock."

"It's almost to my media time! Media time is at eight o'clock! Seven...five...six. Seven fifty-six. How much time now, Faith?

"Subtract six from ten. Four more minutes."

"Four more minutes! Four more minutes! Duh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh!" (Insert happy little tune here and repeat for the next four minutes.)

"Eight...zero...zero. It's eight o'clock! Let's go!"

And they were off down the hall. Who says you need school books to do school? And sometimes kids will surprise you and do what they are told.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Iron

Two years ago we were pushed from the nest.  A church nest. Never one we liked better. It was soft, a place that drew us in and gave us comfort. It was strong too, woven with the iron of men and women of depth and character and faith. A busy place. We were a whirlwind of activity, flitting from event to event. We learned a bit about teaching and leading there. We really did love it and never would have left but life pushed us out and we landed mewling and more than a litte quizzical a few states away.

And for the past several years, we've been looking for a new nest. One that is strong and comfortable and challenging. We've tried to make ourselves at home in two since we arrived. They were of the traditional variety as the majority here are, constructed with pews and suits and hymns. One was weak and sagging; pride and indifference threatened to tear it to shreds. The other didn't need us. Oh, they were happy to see us each Sunday but all the jobs were taken (kitchen helper, craft leader, seniors event coordinator) and there were no jobs for the things we were good at, things like prayer and Bible study and thinking outside the box.

As time went on, I mewled louder. When you first put us here, I was sure you had work for us to do. It's been ten months, fifteen months... and nothing. Nothing. Why did you bother to put us through the long fall if you had nothing for us. We were busy and happy... Did you hear me?...happy!

There was no answer to all my racket.

The birds in both nests chirped Amazing Grace and Just As I Am each and every Sunday at the appointed hour. My birds began to rewrite these songs into cat poems and to sing them in chipmunk. The beginnings of a mutiny. I know one when I see it. Clearly it was time to find another nest or lose our birds.

We have recently settled into a third nest. The one were looking for from the beginning. Only it wasn't here then. It's in the early stages of becoming with lots of work to do and brimming with ideas and creativity and talent. It's short on tradition and long on truth. It is being woven together with the iron of men and women full of faith and mettle. The birds sing here. The baby birds stand down in the front and sing at the top of their lungs and clap and dance. The mamas and the papas and the grandmamas and papas sing and clap and a few lift their wings to the heavens and one or two shout. I dance a little dance because I can't help it. The worship leader belts out the songs but when he prays he usually whispers and he always chokes back tears, overwhelmed by the greatness of his God.

God's Spirit rests mightily on this place. A place full of life giving water in this dry and weary land. And once again I can say it is good to be in the house of the Lord.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Sink is Now Back Online

I realize that this post is not going to be of interest to most people. Who really cares about the detail of a kitchen facelift. Well, my family apparently. And now that they are joining the blog world in droves, they are full of requests. "We want to see pictures. Post them on the blog." So this post is mainly for Sarah and Jen. (And Mom, don't waste your printer ink on a dozen silly pictures!)

Here goes.

Stuart moved to Smallville and went house shopping while I stayed in Chattanooga. He did not pick out the house that we live in for the kitchen. As a matter a fact, this blurry shot that Stuart took with his cell phone...

...was the only picture that he e-mailed to me of the kitchen, "because it's really horrible, Kate. You'll hate it." Now this kitchen did have some features that were not too impressive, mainly the cabinet that hung over the counter. I kind of had to do a little backbend when I worked in this space. But I was surprised by how efficient the setup was (Our last kitchen had three doorways in the workspace!) and it turned out that we did not need to rip everything out and start from the ground up.
It did (and still does) need a little work though to make it more functional. If you look past Faith and her math and the bread mixer and the chicken broth, you can see that the eating area is very narrow and there's a gaping hole between the fridge and the cupboard. Not to mention the lovely '80s decorating. And if you look under the math book, you can see the wood laminate countertops. They are pretty in some applications but they did nothing for the oak cupboards.

Here I am making spaghetti on the drafty Jenn Air cooktop. Every crumb and spill either fell into the burners or the vent. I stopped caring after a while. Notice that the cupboard over the counter is down here and the end cupboard needed a bit of finishing after that deconstruction.

Here the wall between the kitchen and the living room has been removed. Now there is breathing room around the table. Before we took the wall out, we used to sit around the table Last Supper style. The chain that is hanging next to the fridge held up a corner of a shelf for the microwave. A Rube Goldberg creation by Stuart. Cabinet makers will be installing a new cabinet in that gap shortly with a built in shelf for the microwave and the chain will go away.

Stuart wrestled the countertops out to the garbage late one evening just a few hours before he had to catch a plane for a business trip. I am slowly rubbing down the cupboards with steel wool, putting oil on them and replacing the hardware. Five doors down. Twenty-five to go.

We kept our old sink. It's huge! Stuart took a wire brush to it and restored it to brand new. The faucet retails for well over two hundred dollars and we got it for forty at a sidewalk clearance sale. Thank you, Jack at Homeware Acre for knowing that this little gem was stashed in the bargain bin and for digging it out for us. We never would have found it on our own.


Our kitchen has very little ventilation so Stuart was looking for maximum efficiency when it came to a the cooktop. This induction cooktop has all the temperature control that a gas cooktop has but none of the wasted heat. All of the heat is directed into the cookware. I love this thing! It's fun to cook on and easy to clean.

Here is where we stand at the moment. The countertop is a vast improvement over its predecessor. It's a foot wider at the bar area than the old one. Now the kids fight over who gets to eat there at each meal. The next things we need to work on are paint (Goodbye flowerpot border!), a backsplash, under cabinet lighting, and a floor. I'll post again for you, Jen in a few months with updates.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Camping Out

I wore the covers off the Little House on the Prairie books when I was a kid. Much of my pretend was informed by the trek that Ma and Pa made across the prairie with Laura and Mary and Carrie in tow. My sister and I turned the picnic table into a makeshift covered wagon complete with Pet and Patty, our trusty saw horses. I loved the way Ma could turn a grassy campsite into a home complete with a vase of flowers and freshly ironed linens.

The reason for this trip down memory lane?


Our kitchen sink has been removed to make room for...

...this new and improved model.
I'm thankful for the years spent at Grandpa's summer bootcamp where I learned that dishwashers are for sissies. Grandpa's dishwashing rules: Fill the tub with scalding water. Hotter! Hotter! Glassware first, silverware next, plates and finally the pots and pans.

Lauren and John dry. They've never been to Grandpa's Bootcamp. Grandpa would roll over in his grave if he knew that these two whippersnappers are playing Jenga with the clean dishes.

Definitions

Drat-tic-us-interj [LL drat Used primarily by Charlie. Invented by Claire as she reminds us every time Charlie says it.] (2008) 1: darn 2: shoot 3: Curses, foiled again! Example:
“No, Charlie, you don’t have enough money to buy a robot.”
“Oh, dratticus.”
“No, Charlie, you can’t have a cheesestick. It’s almost dinner time.
“Oh, dratticus.”
Sounds best delivered with a pouty lip and a little stamp of the foot. Used for expressing minor disappointment. For major setbacks see: FLING, ROLL as in fling yourself to the floor and roll about vigorously. Planting a kick on your mother is a bonus. As in you get bonus time out minutes. DRATTICUS is never used in these instances.

ito-suffix [SJJ discovered by Charlie in Skippy John Jones: A lengthy picture book. It’s funny but only once if you’re over ten. There’s no limit to funny if you are younger.] (2008) 1: Add to any English word to create an authentic Spanish word 2: Used most frequently when Charlie is in a cheerful or hopeful mood. Example: “Faith, Let’s play Polly Pockitos.” Or “Can I have a cheese stickito?” Can be followed quickly with DRATTICUS.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Serenity

There is one window in my dark kitchen. It is a zealous sentry, granting sunlight permission to track golden footprints across the floor only in winter. It looks out over a few bird feeders, the garbage can, and a propane tank. Not much of a view.

The view inside the kitchen is exceptionally dismal at the moment. Stuart is underneath the sink disconnecting the plumbing and ripping out the countertops. The cooktop is in the walk-in closet and we have a big green bucket set up in the backyard as a makeshift sink. I feel at loose ends with my "office" torn to shreds. The kids are eating cereal for dinner in order to be dirty dish conservative. They are quite happy. Stuart is not. They ate a whole box of Raisin Bran Crunch in one sitting. He really likes Raisin Bran Crunch.

There is one tiny oasis here in the kitchen. The sill to my light-stingy window is rather deep with room enough for a few pitchers of Angelonia above the place where the sink used to be. They are my favorite flower and at the moment, my sanity.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mechanical Mourning

The fridge went. The freezer side kept its stuff cold and frosty but the fridge side refused to cooperate. Sometimes it was content to keep produce at the proper temperature but occasionally it would get cranky and when it was cranky it preferred to soften the butter and spoil the milk. Stuart tried several times to coax it into submission with a hair dryer. This worked but the hair dryer had to be pressed into service with alarming frequency. And one day, after I hastily rescued five packages of meat from the summery bowels of this appliance, the fridge went. Out to the garage because the freezer still works and a new fridge took its place. Black with French doors; the fridge on the top and the freezer on the bottom. It has an icemaker in the freezer but no water on the door. The kids were baffled by water on the door.

When we brought this black beauty in and set it in the place of old fridge, John said, "The other appliances will go into mourning. I bet they'll miss their old friend." John has the gift of personification but we didn't know he was a prophet. One by one, the appliances laid eyes on the chilly usurper and grieved for their warm friend. The waffle maker snapped its wires, the blender stopped blending, the faucet started to leak, the hand mixer developed a short, and the microwave hummed but didn't heat. Stuart thinks we have a kitchen virus. In the midst of our appliance replenishment frenzy we swapped out the smoking cook top for good measure with a smooth glass induction powerhouse that heats and cools on a dime.

So now I would like to ask the remaining appliances: the dishwasher, the bread maker and most especially the wheat grinder (who is very lackadaisical of late) to stop it. Just stop it! Show some backbone. Cheer up, buckle down, and get to work! That's all I have to say. Thank you.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sorting

The little girls and I spent a few hours bringing order to their jumbly bedroom. I patiently helped them sort because all the while this post was taking shape.

TO KEEP...
...a hollow, bottomless, ten inch bamboo stalk known affectionately as The Bottomless Cup of Yang Tsu Tse. A frequently used prop for pretending.

...a rock from Lily.

...a frog bobblehead "for playing with my Barbies or my Littlest Pet Shop or for just making his head bobble all around."
...a vanilla extract bottle, "just because."
...a wire heart-shaped basket "for picking blackberries"
...a pencil wound with a yard of thread with a paper clip attached to the end because, "we use it to pick stuff up with."

TO GIVE
AWAY...
...a tangle of bead necklaces
...two Christmas lanterns
...one sparkly purple spandex dress

TO EXCLAIM OVER...
..."It's my bear! My little purple bear that goes with this little shirt! I thought I lost him!"

TO RESCUE AND DISPLAY...
...this pipe cleaner fairy

TO TREASURE...
...a note written on a tiny yellow Post-It. Claire printed,"can we play mrmadse (mermaids) at reses (recess) YES NO." Faith circled YES and underneath she wrote, "if we can sord fight frst."

TO SNEAK INTO THE TRASH...
...these VBS suncatchers

TO RECLAIM...
... the aforementioned flip-flops. Faith caught my surreptitious photo shoot. Rats!