March 30, 2006

Don't Glue Things to the Walls, and Other Simple Household Tips

Our house had been fully renovated when we moved in. In the early '90s, two brothers bought it for a song, gutted it and slowly brought it back from its earlier leaky, rotting, crack house shabbiness to a nice place to live. Considering where they started, it sure looks good now. However, they did a lot of things on the cheap, because they had so much to do.

We've changed every light fixture in the place. We had to put a new metal roof on our front porch, because the one they put on fifteen years ago had been poorly done and had aged and leaked like it was fifty years old. We're working on replacing the cheap, knotty pine they used for casings around the doors and windows. Some day I hope to put in nicer bathrooms, because our current ones look exactly like the cheapest possible bathrooms you can find in brand new starter home subdivisions. They put on vinyl siding -- really cheap vinyl siding. The list goes on. Things that I can live with until we can change them, but I do hope to change them eventually.

I don't particularly like the necessity of redoing their work, but most of it does not cause me to wish to call down curses on their heads. However -- they glued mirrors to the walls in each of our bathrooms. As we paint these rooms, we've had to pry them off, clean up the shattered glass when they don't come off intact, and patch large amounts of drywall that got shredded by the glue pulling off with the chunks of mirror.

We pulled down two mirrors several years ago and have been dreading the last one. Finally, it came down the day before yesterday and last night we got the wall prepped for patching. It's all doable, but not fun and wouldn't have been necessary if they hadn't used glue to hold the mirror up. It's a bad, bad thing. But at least my joint compound technique is getting perfected.

I Spoke Too Soon

Two chilldren are now down with the malaise -- both girls. Lots of laundry to do around here. Fun, fun, fun.

March 29, 2006

And Well Again...

With a bouncing yell of, "Good Morning, Daddy!" The Middle Girl entered the room at 6:45. Bright, perky and not the least bit sick. Let's keep it that way for a while.

March 28, 2006

Now That's Helpful

I just caught the sick girl "sharing" her sister's cup of water. Oh goodie!

She's Not Saying What You Think

When my younger brother was a baby, he had the same problem many other children do when learning to speak. He couldn't say the "tr" sound. Sometimes it came out "fr" and sometimes just "f". Of course, when he saw a truck driving along the road, this became something of an embarrassment to my mother. He outgrew it finally.

My older two children have spared me this. The Boy refered to trucks as "beeeg cars" until he was able to say the word truck. The Middle Girl had no interest in vehicles and I have no idea if she even had a word for trucks or cars very early on. The Toddler Girl calls all vehicles "Brrm-brrms". Lucky me.

Well, except that The Toddler Girl has developed a passion for frogs, which seem to be as popular an Easter animal these days as the bunny or chick. She gets very excited when she sees a frog, or as she calls them "Fok". Yesterday, we were in a store for 30 minutes and she spent almost the whole time yelling, "Fok! Fok! Fok!" I just hope she doesn't keep showing off her new word.

It Was Good While It Lasted

I think we had slightly over a week where no one in the family was sick. Then The Middle Girl decided to pick up yet another mysterious stomach bug and threw up all over her dad and her brother's bed last night. We moved her downstairs to our room and she threw up about every hour for most of the night. She's holding down some fluids now, finally. Thank goodness.

Unlike her big brother who never seems to throw up into anything, but rather always hits bedding, parents, etc. The Middle Girl, after the initial eruption, threw up nicely into her "puke bowl" for the rest of the night. She also probably enjoyed the chance to boss us around, waking up every hour, yelling "Turn on the light!" and then reminding us to get her a wash cloth and rinse her bowl out after she was done.

I would really like to see the end of vomit around here for a while. Please.

March 27, 2006

Scraping the Bottom of the Paint Can

If you haven't painted recently, Sherwin-Williams' Duration paint is really excellent stuff. If you haven't painted recently, you may not know that it costs a fortune and they don't sell it in sizes smaller than a gallon.

For our recent spate of painting, I picked up all the paint I thought I would need while it was on sale during the month of February. Unfortunately, we failed to take two things into account. The color we have been using needed either a tinted primer or three coats of paint (which took us a while to figure out) and we have 11 1/2 foot ceilings. On Saturday I had to go back for a third gallon of paint. Saturday as I was putting a second coat of paint on the three walls of the dining room we were painting before moving all the furniture and painting the fourth wall, I began to worry. I could tell we had almost enough paint, but it was going to be close.

On Sunday afternoon, Justin put primer and a first coat of paint on the final wall. We still had a little bit of paint left, but it looked to be definitely not enough. After church on Sunday evening, we put the kids to bed, hauled out the painting paraphenalia again and while Justin painted, I scraped out every last bit of paint from all three gallons with a spatula. We "found" just barely enough paint, but it is done. I may still go buy more so that we can have paint for touch up spots, as the need arises, but the primary painting in our downstairs is done. I cannot begin to say how great that feels.

March 24, 2006

Dumbing Down Cooking

I've been messing around in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. My mother didn't cook much, but my dad did. When I was very little, I remember sitting on the counter next to him, watching him cook meals. I still have a scar on my thumb from a brief encounter with a hot cast iron skillet.

When I was older, I started trying to bake cookies, which were usually terrible. I even remember getting my first cookbook, while we were on a family vacation in Flagstaff and The Grand Canyon. I couldn't wait to get home and try out the recipes. I read through it avidly.

At all my wedding showers, little old ladies from church offered advice on cooking and hoped I would be able to handle it. They all assumed I'd never cooked a thing, which made me a bit resentful. I was a pretty decent cook when I got married, but I've gotten much better over time, with practice and good recipes.

Apparently most people these days aren't lucky enough to get as good a start on working in the kitchen as I was. According to this article in the Washington Post, recipes are being simplified and rewritten because people don't understand words like dredge, cream and simmer. I have no problem with a nice, simple recipe, but what's not to understand in a recipe that says, "Cream together butter and sugar"? Maybe you shouldn't answer that, but honestly, I was surprised at some of the terms people had difficulty understanding.

The article was a good reminder to me. I tend to be a bit protective of my cooking space, although The Middle Girl (a regular mini-me) does like to sit on the counter and watch my every move and The Boy loves helping me make cookies. I need to make sure I'm telling them what I'm doing, teaching them the vocabulary and making sure that when they go out into the world some day, they can hold a knife, bake a cake and cook a couple of dinners.

March 23, 2006


The dining room looks terrible. That's actually a good thing. The Toddler Girl decided to take an actual nap on an actual bed and not in my arms (this is a source of difficulty around here). Although I would have much rather crawled in bed with her, I quickly put on my painting clothes, hauled out the eight foot ladder, cleaned the top of the wall (I can't move all the furniture at once or by myself, so I think we'll be painting a wall or two at a time). With the wall all clean, I got out the primer and started cutting in along the ceiling. The Toddler Girl slept long enough for me to cut in that whole wall and I managed to clean and cut in a few other accessible areas.

If we can just get the dining room and hallway painted this weekend, then the downstairs will be more or less finished and we can move on to the upstairs.

For those of you playing along at home, here's my list from February and what we've done so far.

Read More "Progress" »

March 22, 2006


I was doing so well for a while, but pregnancy exhaustion is hitting hard. I'm falling asleep hours earlier than usual and have done nothing on the house for the last several nights. At one month until our home tour, this isn't good. I need to find some energy, and quickly.

March 21, 2006

The Rest of the Story

Sorry to leave everyone hanging out waiting for information. The kids and I went out this morning to eat pancakes and then on to play at a friend's house.

We're back and now for more information. The youngest Adams is expected to arrive around the middle of October or a bit later. I already have September, November and December babies, so I suppose, although not generally so orderly or tidy, this does fill in the set quite nicely.

Was I surprised? Not entirely. I have some vague notion of how these things happen and therefore it wasn't a shock, but I can't say we were planning on it at this point either. We take kids when they decide to show up, ready or not.

We told the children last night. Both the bigger ones are excited. The Boy is hoping for a brother. The Middle Girl wants another sister. One will be disappointed and the other will be very happy. The Boy has already started dropping the news into conversation. We couldn't tell them until we were ready for the world at large to know.

And as for me? I feel fine. I'm one of the fortunate women, hate me if you must, who doesn't get sick at all. I do tend to swell up like a balloon at the end though, which isn't as bad, but isn't so great either.

March 20, 2006

Somebody Didn't Get The Memo

I thought I was busy enough already. Apparently, I was wrong.

Read More "Somebody Didn't Get The Memo" »

March 17, 2006

And Speaking of Where the Brain Cells Went...

He's just a six year old and when he's teasing his sisters, emotional over something going wrong, or fighting dragons in the backyard, The Boy acts like a six year old. Every now and then, his ability to comprehend, deduce and reason astound me though.

The seventh graders at The Boy's school are putting on The Tempest tonight. Having seen a marionette version at our public library, The Boy has had "a thing" for The Tempest for over two years now. He really wanted to see the play, but it would keep him out past bedtime -- and being rather sleepy -- his parents would have rather not taken him out to a long play in the evening. But we gave him a choice.

He could go to the play, stay up late, but wouldn't be able to read in bed to himself tonight (which he only gets to do on the weekends). Or we could all go out for Thai food (which he's been begging to do for a while) and we would get home in time for bedtime and he could read in bed. He agonized over the decision for a while. Both were things he really, really wanted to do.

In the end, he made his decision -- "Even if we don't go out for Thai food tonight or for a long time, eventually we will get it. This is the only night I can see The Tempest. Besides, I'm on Spring Break, so if I can't read in bed tonight, I can every other night for the next week." He really reasoned through the problem. His parents were most impressed.

So we fed the children dinner, and Justin and the older kidlets went off to the play. I stayed home and put the littlest to bed.

I Used to Think I Was Smart...

In the olden days, back when I was in school, I was considered some what intelligent -- maybe almost intellectual. I've even got a Phi Beta Kappa certificate in a box somewhere to prove that fact to the most skeptical.

A few nights ago, I got a rare girl's night out with my two best buddies from college -- the two women who were in my wedding. Neither of them has married yet and therefore (and in our circles this therefore does generally apply) neither of them has any children. We went out for dinner and then coffee. The conversation wasn't terribly highbrow, but at the same time, there are definitely differences in where our lives have headed.

One of my friends, a history major in college, and now a magazine editor, routinely reads medieval history texts and 19th century novels. The other friend, an English major turned lawyer, is currently making her way through every 18th century novel written by a woman that she can find. And me -- well, I wowed them with my ability to recite most of the minute details of Back to the Future. In fact, I found myself almost covering up just how well I remember the movie.

They are both far more intellectual than I, and probably always were. They don't seem to hold against me the fact that I have devolved, and I can't envy them their brain power, weekend mornings of sleeping in and trips to Europe too much. I have three short people around the house and a husband and that makes up for a lot of lost brain cells.

Read More "I Used to Think I Was Smart..." »

March 15, 2006

In Other News

Now that health concerns have ceased to be, well, concerning, I can get back to doing the things I want to do and need to do. In the want to do category, I've been pulling out dandelions and wild onions. I made a huge amount of progress last year and really don't see that many of either one out there any more. Violets are another story and a cause for another year. In other gardening matters, my daffodils, hyacinths, vinca, pansies and a few other things I wish I'd labelled are blooming. The tulips are coming soon, as is the creeping phlox.

The yard would look nicer though, if my husband had mowed the winter rye back in January when it first started needing it. Now it looks like we're trying to raise a crop of rye. I hear from my sources that it will get mowed this weekend. Otherwise, I think I'll have to report us as a codes violation to get things moving along.

Inside the house, we're doing okay with projects although with only slightly over a month to go until the home tour, I think we may be doomed. The morning room is finished and returned to order -- or at least it's normal chaos. Photos will follow eventually. We've also painted the wall between the kitchen and the morning room and the wall going up the stairs. We have one more kitchen wall to paint, which I think I may start this evening. That still leaves the dining room, hallway, upstairs bath and one bedroom to paint. Not to mention cleaning inside and out, and general maintanence and upkeep. Are we crazy? You bet.

All Better

The littlest one seems to be all better and a happy camper this morning. What a relief!

March 14, 2006

Health Update

When we woke up this morning, The Toddler Girl was drenched. Her body had processed the almost two bags of fluid and one diaper couldn't hold it all. We got her cleaned up, but she still seemed tired, which had me worried. While she wanted to nurse, almost non-stop, she had no interest in drinking anything else. When offered a drink of anything, in any form, she would express her disinterest by grabbing it out of my hands and flinging as far as it would go across the room. She also didn't want to eat anything -- until I offered her some pieces of the waffles we were eating for breakfast. Those hit the spot and though she still didn't want to drink anything other than nur-nur. I talked to the doctor, and she wanted us to keep her eye on how things went.

Fortunately, The Toddler Girl just kept getting better. Although, even at bedtime she still wasn't wanting to drink much water/Gatorade/juice/etc. she'd been eating plenty and I'd been giving her lots of wet foods, so with nursing, I think she's fine.

Dehydration certianly isn't something to be messed around with, nor is it always obvious. The Toddler Girl had a wet mouth and was able to still cry tears, yet she only had about half the fluid a normal person should have in their blood stream. I'm glad we're past the worst of it and glad that we chose to do the IV and blood test even when we thought she was only slightly dehydrated.

Better Than All Night In The ER

Only by a thin margin, but spending the hours between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the doctor's office holding a baby hooked up to an IV is slightly better than being in the hospital. I suppose. I'm telling myself that today as I recover from a very sore tushie and keep an eye on the littlest one to make sure she's recovering. She seemed miserable when she woke up this morning, but when we finallu found something she wanted to eat, she perked up some.

Having been so close to moving into the hospital with a dehydrated child myself, please be sure to keep Francesca and her daughter in your prayers as they deal with exactly that.

March 13, 2006

Sometimes It is Hard to Believe We're Related

My big brother and I are many years apart in age. In fact, we were born in different decades. We are extremely different. While I like the settled life of housewife and mother and have always sought after things like jobs that pay the bills and insurance, my brother prefers to live an exotic, artistic life of travel, writing and photography. We tend not to get along all that well, though there are certain topics that can get us talking and pontificating on friendly terms late into the night.

Anyway, all that to introduce any of you interested parties to my brother's blog while he's away travelling in Honduras. We may not always get along, but he's a very good writer and his work is interesting to read. You can also visit his other website and see his photography.

March 12, 2006

The Return of the Missing Blogger

Anybody miss me? In the past week, I've been out-of-state, returned home to greet houseguest #1 a few hours later. Then when he departed Thursday morning, I intended to clean house for houseguest #2 due to arrive that night. During the short period I'd allocated for house cleaning, my best friend from college who happened to be in town for a few days came by to chat and The Toddler Girl threw up all over me.

I didn't get much cleaning done, other than the necessary things related to vomit removal before houseguest #2 arrived. By which point, The Toddler Girl had doused me two more times and was running a 102 degree fever. Needless to say, I missed the special event we'd all been planning to go to that evening.

Friday seemed much better, but the Toddler Girl was still too cuddly and sleepy, and right before lunch she managed to hit me with another layer of vomit. Then after a long nap she seemed fine and ate a regular meal.

Saturday had to be better. We had a very important wedding to go to. The Toddler Girl was active and not feverish. Naturally, the stomach bug moved on to the lower half of her system when we got to the wedding. With extra diapers on hand, we were fine. Until halfway through the reception when the diaper leaked -- all over her and me, of course. Pause here for a moment and reflect that she managed never to get any nasty substance on anyone other than her mother. Standing downwind of everyone, we stayed just long enough for the other children to eat their cake before we fled. My husband wondered on the car ride home if there was anyway for me to hang out the window. Fortunately, we live close to downtown.

Sunday was obviously going to be a better day, until The Toddler Girl threw up breakfast all over the floor (finally not on me!). I stayed home from church and she napped on me. The Boy went to birthday party for one of his classmates that afternoon, which I had to miss (I do look forward to seeing the other parents) and got nailed by more vomit for my troubles.

Fortunately throughout it all, The Toddler Girl has held down enough fluids that she does not seem to be dehydrated. However this has gone on long enough and we'll be going to the pediatrician in the morning. I think before I leave the house, I'll pack a change of clothing for both of us.

March 07, 2006

Children are Authoritarians

My son, while reading about presidents and worrying about assassinations, declared one day at lunch that guns should be outlawed so no one would get shot ever again.

Children are totalitarians. They see a problem and want to find a law that will make sure it never happens again.

My son's proposition presented me with an interesting dilemna. I'm not a lover of guns. I've never shot one. I'd rather not have one in my house. However, I do not oppose their possession by citizens and banning them is a foolish and misguided action.

Thus, when my son suggested that all guns should be outlawed, I asked him what it meant to be a criminal. A criminal, we concluded was some one who did not obey the laws. Would someone, I asked, who already did not obey the laws, listen to a law that banned guns. We agreed that that would be unlikely. So, who, we discussed would lose the ability to have guns? People who obey the laws and aren't hurting people with guns. We talked about how some times law abiding people with guns have been able to prevent crimes or stop criminals from hurting more people.

My son was certainly interested in the conversation and began to see that banning guns wasn't as easy as he had thought. "But," he said, "guns are dangerous." I told him that wasn't as easy as he thought to answer either. When his uncle brings his gun to our house and sticks it, locked on top of the refrigerator where no one can reach it, it isn't much more dangerous than the box of cereal we have up there. But, we also discussed how a gun, as with any other tool, like his dad's tablesaw, could be dangerous if you played around with it, didn't treat it as a serious instrument and got too comfortable and casual around it. We discussed how kids sometimes found guns, assumed they were empty and got hurt playing with them. We also talked about how, when he's older, if he has any interest in learning more about guns, he can got out with his uncle to a shooting range and learn to use one safely.

We then came back to the idea of people protecting themselves and their property from criminals by owning guns. Instead of wanting to ban guns anymore, The Boy was now concerned because we didn't own one.

I'm still not ready to go gun shopping. I'm not even ready to go to a shooting range, but I was glad I could put one authoritarian impulse from the short set to rest.

March 02, 2006

Are We Done Yet?

Every night, we put the kids to bed, I throw on painting clothes and paint something. Not art work. Casing. Or walls. Or plinth blocks. Or something else of that sort. Our project list seems neverending and I already am longing for the day when I no longer have half a shelf in my refrigerator devoted to well wrapped paintbrushes.

Not that that day is coming any time soon. In the faint hope of moving things along a bit, I did send the girls outside to play in the lovely spring weather and instead of doing what I wanted to do and sit in the sunshine and weed my flower beds, I painted baseboards and put another coat of paint on one wall. At least with that behind me, I think we can put a few rooms back together tonight.

Then, although we're far from done, we will get a bit of a break, because we'll be having a house guest for a week or so who is allergic to paint fumes.

The Iliad

Besides the current fascination with presidents, The Boy has also come back around to an interest in all things Greek. This is due in large part to the fifth grade play we attended at his school a few weeks ago based on the Iliad and complete with a working Trojan Horse (and yes, I've told him that the horse does not appear in the actual Iliad, but rather the Aeneid).

He immediately wanted to read the Iliad, despite our only having a translation of the whole thing. I think he got about 5 pages in, before giving up, which is pretty good for a six year old.

After that, and before we could get to the library to check out something more age appropriate, he decided to write his own version.

What follows is a transcription of The Boy's version of the Iliad.

The Ilied

Once upon a time there lived a king and qween

They had a baby

Odysseus was the kings' name.

He had to fight a war so he sailed many many miles

Achilles did not want to be killed so he dressed up as a girl

Well Odysseus dressed up as a merchant brhot girls things and a sword

Because the greeks needed him weel Achilles grabbd the sword put on his armor and sailed to troy

Well he killd Hector the Trojens greatesd man after that the best archer in Troy shot him in the back of the heel the only place he could be killed

so he died

Well Odysseus and his men made a wooden horse and got inside

The Trojand thought they had won

It was a present for one of the Goddeses

Well that night they juped out all and killed the Trojens

The End

Ignoring Briseis and Chryseis (which I hope he will continue not to notice in the story so I don't have to explain them) I think he hit the high points rather well.

March 01, 2006


Congratulations are in order for a new addition to the Baxter household (check the comments).

Sixteen Months

Sixteen months ago, the day before the last presidential election, The Baby Girl (now Toddler Girl) was born.

The Toddler Girl looks younger than most kids her age, since she has very little hair, only six teeth and is in the 20th percentiles for height and weight. She makes up for her lack of stature, hair and teeth in other ways though. She says a lot of words, including "NO!" and important words for a girl like "shoes" and "nummy" (whenever she sees me trying to sneak a piece of chocolate behind her back.

We've started keeping all the chairs on top of the tables in both the dining room and kitchen, because although not the classiest of looks, it keeps her from climbing and falling off the tables. Which is not to say that we can keep her from injuring herself as she runs, jumps, climbs and explores. In one recent twenty-four hour period, she bit her tongue, bruised her chin, bumped her head, pinched her finger and bloodied her nose.

The Toddler Girl is a jokester. Her most recent game is biting her toes when she's getting her diaper changed. She waits for me to express mock horror and prompts me with a grunt and a kick, if the "Hey!" doesn't come soon enough. Then she laughs maniacally and does it again.

She holds her own against her siblings now, and they are starting to therefore be less tolerant. Now that she comes up and grabs toys away from them and screams "No!" when she thinks her "property" is being threatened, they are less willing to share and more likely to play hunter and trap her in a box. If I could be a neutral third party scientific observer, I think this three-way sibling rivalry could be fascinating. Instead I wish I had a cone of silence to hide in.

It is interesting to watch them grow up though and the Toddler Girl -- or Evil Genius Baby as she is sometimes known around here -- is no exception. She's beautiful, sweet, and sometimes slightly evil.

Dead Presidents

Last week we spent a lot of time talking about presidents, about the fact that almost all of our country's former presidents are dead, and how a few have been assassinated. Besides a fascination with Franklin Pierce, the Boy has asked for biographies on John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.

He prefers biographies that don't mention the Ford Theater when he reads about Lincoln and told me that he did not want to read any books about John Kennedy, because they might mention his death. That's fine. I'm not particularly hoping for him to start worrying about death at the tender age of six. I had to explain there was a problem though, when he asked next if I could check out a biography of Martin Luther King Jr.

Time to go back to looking for information on Franklin Pierce.