Monday, July 28, 2014

Spots, Come Home

Like one of my babies, my cat Spots is rarely photographed because she's so often in my arms. Her habit when she needs some purrs is to find me wherever I am, whether it's writing or sewing or molding sticky wax into candles, and weave her body back and forth against my face until I stop what I'm doing, pick her up, hold her against my shoulder, and love on her while she purrs loudly. When she's done, she jumps down and wanders off, and I fruitlessly brush at the fur all over everything before picking my work back up where I left off.

Here's one recent photo that I managed to snap of her, however, giving me her patented "I see that you're not petting me. Care to explain?" look that I love so well:

For our recent vacation we planned to leave the cats alone in the house, as we usually do, with a friend to stop by a couple of times a week and play with them. I did so many things wrong this time, though, and made so many bad decisions, and was given absolutely no forgiveness by a series of just awful coincidences.

Our old house had interior doors that were stiff and wonky, and when you put them somewhere, by gawd, they stayed there. This new house, however, has a newer section to it with lovely new doors that easily swing closed and actually latch, of all things. It never even occurred to me to brace them open so that a cat wouldn't accidentally get trapped in a room. Sometime just hours after we left for our vacation, based on the state of the litter box in that room, Spots must have gotten trapped in our master bathroom.

Our old house didn't have any high windows, over my sight line, but this new house does have one, in the master bathroom. I closed all of our other windows, but I didn't notice this one. Our cat sitter came to the house two days later, so if this window had been shut, she would have discovered Spots, very hungry and suffering from dehydration, but certainly still alive. Spots is the brightest of cats, however, so it doesn't seem to have been long until she discovered this high window, and with determination must have finally managed to jump up to it, pull the screen down on top of her, jump to it again, and make her escape out of it.

I did call my cat sitting friend a week later because, of all things, our chickens had escaped from THEIR sitter and I was frantic and upset (they were found the next day--our friend had left them alone in the yard for a few minutes, they'd heard a rooster crowing from across the street, and immediately made a beeline over to join that flock. That flock owner gamely kept them until she saw my friend's flyers), and the cat sitter mentioned to me that she hadn't seen Spots all week, but distracted and completely unconcerned about the cats' safety in their secure house, I brushed her concern off with the idea that "Oh, she must be hiding." I don't know why I would say that, because Spots isn't a hider in particular, but I was so worried about the chickens that I didn't even let it cross my mind that something could be wrong at home, nor did I think to mention it to Matt. So it naturally didn't bother our cat sitter, who's dealt with hiding cats before, when she never saw Spots, and with two other cats in the house, there was no way to tell that one of them wasn't eating, drinking, or pooping there.

And that's how nobody knew that Spots was missing for possibly two entire weeks, not until we got home from our trip at 3 am on Sunday (we'd driven from the Nebraska/Wyoming border that day) and Spots wasn't there to greet us. Since then, I've called and listened and called again. Matt's visited all the neighbors for a great distance. He's driven me back and forth to call and listen and call again from farther away. We've made flyers and posted them. I bought an ad in the newspaper, dialing myself back from a $59 four-paragraph ad with a photo to a $9 four-line ad with a description and two phone numbers. Thanks to a friend's recommendation, I connected with a lost-and-found Facebook group for my town, and have kind strangers sharing my post and being on the look-out; I have more kind Facebook friends doing the same. Matt's left food out at our old house in case Spots makes her way there, and he'll be posting flyers there and talking to neighbors tonight. We'll hopefully be posting more flyers just everywhere; with the drive-in traffic, it's possible that a kind person found a hungry Spots and took her home with them to any place. The humane society has our info and so does Spots' microchip.

Here's my Craigslist posting for Spots; if you're somewhat local, I wish you'd share it as you can. It's my hope now, I suppose, that someone rescued Spots, saw that nobody was looking for her, and took her into their family because she's just that wonderful. But if they see that Spots is deeply wanted and desperately missed, they can give her back to me, because I am just so heartbroken without her.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Out West

We're off to dig for dinosaur bones. We'll see you when we get home!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Graffiti on our Lockers

I've had these old lockers from the IU Wrestling Team's locker room for a LONG time, and that whole time they've always been the same chipped black and red paint with IU Wrestling stickers on, because they were so freakin' heavy that there was just absolutely no way that I was going to be able to move them across the house, down the stairs, into the yard, and back again.

Our new house, however, has a wheelchair ramp! Matt is god-like in his strength, and the man can move anything if he's got a ramp. He moved those lockers out of our old house (and I don't know how the hell he managed that, but he did), onto a trailer borrowed from a friend, off that trailer at our new house, and set them in the driveway for me, with the agreement that he'd move them inside and put them where I wanted them whenever I wanted him to.

Because I'm a pretty tacky person at heart, I didn't want to refinish the lockers to look cute or anything like that, mind you. Instead, I wanted to camp them up with graffiti!

I primed only the front of the lockers, because priming them was an insanely, stupidly difficult job (that steel mesh made brush-on primer a Sisyphean ordeal of constantly mopping up drips, and it also absolutely soaked up spray-on primer to very little effect, since 98% of it simply went through the mesh):
No matter where we live, you'll always be able to tell which driveway is ours!
On Independence Day, after the parade and the park, we went to the hardware store and bought spray paint in every rainbow color, plus black. I couldn't find a silver that I liked, and we already had gold at home, because Syd had wanted to make a PVC pipe "light saber" for a friend's birthday the previous week.

Off and on for the rest of the long weekend, whenever the kids had a mind to, they took spray paint to lockers, and oh, my goodness, they had a fabulous time with it:

I really just needed them to get down a random base layer that looked like decades of old graffiti that had been painted over tons of times, and they did a masterful job.

We also spent a lot of time talking about graffiti as an art form, which explains Will's little lecture on graffiti art in this video:

That kid is going to be a superb politician/professor one day: she can parrot back parts of her reading or one of my lectures or something heard on NPR, mix in stuff she knows on her own, and add in whatever VERY firm stance that she has immediately taken on the issue, presented as fact, and will defend unto death. Currently, you should hear her talk about the drug industry--a Michael Jackson song came on the radio yesterday, which got us talking about him, which got us talking about drug overdoses, which got us talking about drug abuse, which got us talking about pain management, which got Will ranting about how someone needs to finally map the human brain, dang it, so that people can alter their brains to do what they want without drugs (I don't know how that became the takeaway, but there you go--add mad scientist to her future career possibilities).

When the kids had happily covered every square inch of the lockers with color, I added some text. I had wanted Matt to do something really stylized, but he was spending the day at our old house and I was impatient, so I just did it myself with my junior high bubble letters:

It's part of Matt's last name, plus if you're going to do graffiti you have to have a Doctor Who reference, plus the year that we moved into our new house. 

With all of these house projects that must be done before we can stop living in chaos, preparations for our impending road trip have taken a serious hit. If you know me, you will be shocked to hear that the children and I have not intensively studied for this trip yet! We plan to listen to the Little House books during our trip, not before, and the entire Little House and paleontology unit studies are now going to have to be completed AFTER our trip, not before as they clearly should be. 

I must take deep, calming breaths as I think of that, and remind myself that a vacation can still be fun even if you haven't spent two months studying for it...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Independence Day 2014

You've got to be at the parade bright and early to score the best spot!

But no matter where you sit, every kid gets a free flag to wave:

I've been told that our parade here is a little strange (I just think it's weird that it doesn't have many horses, and it doesn't begin with a mock gunfight as the parades in my Southern hometown do), but we love it!

I'm pretty sure I take a photo of this guy every year.

This kid LOVES herself a parade.

The biggest difference with the parade this year is that it's no longer in walking distance, but all that means is that we got to park next to a near-ish playground and then walk over. And if we've parked next to a playground, then we might as well spend an extra hour after the parade playing!

I LOVE when the Fourth of July falls on a Friday or Monday; I cherish that long weekend spent at home, particularly this year, when I refinished my lockers with the kids' help (more on that later); refinished my former overhead projector cart and now brand-new school supply cart (more on that later, too!); packed the kids for camp (required much shopping for mess kits, white T-shirts, socks that go OVER the ankle, non-aerosol bug repellant, etc.); hung out with the kids elsewhere while Matt ran a garage sale at our old house, mowed the lawn there, packed up the rest of our stuff, cleaned up, and signed the paperwork for our first official offer(!!!); mostly refinished a dresser; sanded down a bookshelf to varnish; and did many, many, MANY other we-will-never-finish-moving-in-to-this-dang-house projects and endless chores. 

And of COURSE we also went to the drive-in--Transformers is really good, y'all, especially when seen under the stars from deck chairs right in front of the projector, ice cream from our favorite local ice cream shop in our hands, amateur fireworks sounding every now and then from off in the distance.

It's kind of the perfect life, you know?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

My Latest: Vacant Lots and Kids Working with Tools

a round-up of some of my favorite DIYs suitable for kids

As the kids have rediscovered the books and kits and toys they'd forgotten about until everything got boxed up and moved and unboxed (like Christmas! Every day!), they've also remembered how much they like these big projects that involve lots of tools and noise and paint and mess. Now that we have a driveway big enough to support multiple simultaneous projects (at one point on Saturday, there were sidewalk chalk, three different furniture painting projects, scooter play, and two chickens all on the driveway at once, with room to spare!), and a garage big enough to easily put away and store tools and half-finished projects (my days of lugging that work bench across the house and up a flight of stairs every time I want to use it are OVER!!!), woodwork becomes a lot more fun. The kids discovered that their fingers are now strong enough to press down the nozzle on a can of spray paint, Will has been happy to help me sand endlessly, Syd is nimble with the removal of furniture hardware, and both can be pointed at the primer and a piece of furniture and simply left to it.

And when they're home with me tomorrow, I plan to introduce them to varnish!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Magnetism and Electricity Self-Directed School

There are some shelves, formerly of the general store, that I'm in the process of varnishing (right now I think I'm wearing as much varnish as the shelves are!) for the children's rooms. I intend these shelves to neatly store (how I'm going to go about that "neatly" part, I don't yet know...) all of the children's kits and projects and playthings; one of the things that I've noticed about my kids is that only when their things are neatly stored and regularly rearranged do they interest themselves in them.

Syd, for instance, has played with her wooden dollhouse (given to her at the age of two) more since we moved it to our new house and set it up in the living room than she has in her entire ownership of it prior to this. Will set up and completed a world map with stickers of the prehistoric animals that lived there. They've both asked me to play board games that they've rarely touched before. Syd got out this magnetism and electricity set that once fascinated Will, and was herself fascinated by it:

Gracie really likes where I put the table in this room.

Be warned: this kit is LOUD!

Here's the outfit that she's wearing here, by the way:
Momma-dyed playsilk tied into a tunic, with leggings as a belt
I'm glad to know that even this unexpected, lengthy holiday from my formal schooling is rather schooly when done by these intellectually curious, active, engaged kiddos. We may not have completed the paleontology or Laura Ingalls Wilder unit studies that I'd hoped we would, nor has Will made her comparative study of American and British government, but still there has been science, and engineering, and woodworking, and hiking, and lots and lots of reading, of course. 

Definitely not enough math, but I suppose the kids need me to be in charge of SOMETHING to earn my keep...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Latest: Poop and Libraries (and the Antique Furniture Hiding in My Outbuildings)

for Insteading, a discussion of humanure composting and wastewater gardening

and for Crafting a Green World, an article about a little kid forced to shut down his Little Free Library

Here on the home front, there's not as much unpacking going on as you'd think--can't really put things away when there's nothing to put stuff ON, or IN, you know--but I've got a dresser half-painted in the garage and my lockers half-painted on the driveway, and the card catalogue also out there waiting its turn, and tomorrow evening, perhaps, before we walk across our yard to go watch the new Transformers movie at the drive-in (I'm torn about letting the kids watch this one--on the one hand, I think it'll will be too scary and too long for them, but on the other hand, I didn't let them watch X-Men with us last weekend, and you can't let kids live next door to a drive-in and not let them go to ANY of the movies!!!), I'm going to take Matt on a tour of the old garage and the even older general store, and point out to him all of the antique, unfinished wooden storage units that I want him to move inside for me. 

Namely these--
behind the egregious photo of my stove--toy shelves for the living room and children's bedroom?
MASSIVE dresser with tons of these little drawers that just sit on the shelves--wants to live in my bedroom and hold my pretty things?
feed bin? Super gross right now, but could hold a hell of a lot of fabric all nicely folded and out of sight
display shelves from the general store--maybe these would be better toy/treasure shelves, given the kids' insistence on displaying ALL THE THINGS
And I haven't even been into the attic yet! It requires bringing a ladder in from the garage, which I'm not up for, but the kids and Matt did it once. The kids tell me that there's a fire truck up there, and Matt says that there are Christmas decorations from who knows when. 

I'll check it out when I've got the downstairs sorted...


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