Tuesday, January 28, 2014

DIY Salvaged Frame

Quick post here to show you that I can browse Pinterest just like the best of them.

No, I didn't slather mason jars in chalkboard paint and then turn them into light fixtures. I'm not that far gone.

Actually, my friend Annie, who is a true artist and a whiz at decorating her house with found objects, inspired me to complete this project. A few months ago our neighbors threw out a HUGE frame in the alley, and I salvaged it because I saw potential and also I love free things. And then it sat in my basement and I forgot about it, until Annie showed me an old frame she had transformed into an easily-changed picture display frame. She had used already-in-place nails to mount lines of sturdy wire across the width of the frame and then mounted photos using clips. I liked the idea and knew my massive frame would work beautifully, so I got to work.

(It helps that I saw the same thing at Marshall's for around $60 and immediately recoiled at the cost-to-effort ratio.)

First I found a can of yellow spray paint and painted the nasty faux-oak. The paint couldn't reach into the huge cracks and creases of the frame, but I actually like the effect of the black cracks on yellow surface a lot more than just plain yellow. Then I measured gaps at 3-4" intervals on each side and marked where I wanted lines of wire to hang. I then painstakingly screwed eyelet hooks into each marked spot; next, I twisted sturdy wire through each hook. Finally I gathered printed photos of our family and hung them to the wire with fancy paperclips and mini clothespins. My husband hung it for me in our tiny hallway between our bedroom and bathroom, where it is the first thing you see when you walk through our front door.

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Previously I had a large canvas hanging there, but it hung horizontally and didn't mimic the shape of the arched doorway very well. I like this a lot better, and I love the pop of color it lends to the hallway. Plus I love seeing all those people we love and cherish.

Baby H is here to be your faithful guide. He and I have had some very serious discussions about not petting the pictures too much. Honestly, he wants to kiss all the faces, which is what happens when you raise your baby to be Orthodox.

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I know this project isn't earth-shattering or original or maybe your cup of tea. That's totally okay. But I really like it, and I'm proud of myself for accomplishing something outside of the normal laundry/housework/diaper duty/teaching/trooping through snow routine. Also, this is my blog, so I can show any and all overdone projects that I want. #winning

And it's worth mentioning that at the very center of our photo web is a picture of the couple that started it all. This picture is from our college Christmas banquet from Christmas 2004.

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Now go and make something of your own! Extra points if you can also use something discarded by your neighbors.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Hot Husbands Building Tables

So we wrapped up all of our Christmas break craziness of building and painting and getting high (on paint fumes, duh) and ended up with a beautiful girl's room, a beautiful new dining room table, and four sick kids, three of whom needed antibiotics and multiple trips to the pediatrician's office. I'm not saying all of these events are related, but I am saying that crazy people who do insane projects are less likely to stress out their children and make them susceptible to bronchitis and ear infections. Maybe. I don't know, because I am not a chill person.

Anyway, that's what I get for bragging about dodging the stomach virus. We also got the Polar Vortex and Chiberia and whatever else you want to call wind chills of 50 degrees below zero, and now everyone is officially sick of winter in mid-January. You know what we really need? Hot husbands who build us hot tables.

Lucky for me!!

I, of course, forgot to take a "before" picture, so I quickly shuffled through my camera roll and found this photo from this past summer. We were hosting King Peter's birthday party, so please don't think balloons, streamers, and seven children are part of our normal days. Focus instead on the black table:

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And those messy bookshelves! It was a busy time, people.

As you might remember, if you've been around here long enough (this blog is over 5 years old! WHAT), I got this table and its four chairs way back in college and painted it black in 2009. I was really happy with the painted table for quite awhile, until our kids multiplied and then got huge and then our extended family multiplied and suddenly we were eating in shifts or off of our laps in the living room. Despite the black table's 11- or 12-year run (including its original country look), it was time for a change.

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So The Professor decided to tackle the making of a farmhouse table for my Christmas present this year, and I settled on this design. It's actually an Ana White plan, and according to my husband it was pretty straightforward, aside from one or two minor editing mistakes that required an extra trip to Lowe's for lumber. He used untreated pine (sure, it's soft--but this is a rustic table being used by kids; divots are expected and perhaps even encouraged), a couple of coats of dark walnut stain, and three coats of polyurethane, and after a couple of days of hard work he had nearly miraculous results.

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It's, um, rather large. Actually huge. He made it something like 16" shorter than the original plans, and we probably could have shaved off 6" more (if you sit on the end near the window, it's a tight fit), but man, it fits everyone. It's solid. Here's as close a shot of the pedestal legs as I could get from the side:

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The similar table from Pottery Barn that Ana White was trying to copy costs around $1,500. We paid around $200 for supplies, including some replacement blades for borrowed saws.

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And the view from the kitchen:

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I hope you noticed that I got my bookshelves in order. They need sprucing up every 4 months or so. I think the books breed at night.

My next request of my husband is that he build one matching bench for one side of the table (also found at the Shanty 2 Chic link.) I'd like to retire the Windsor chairs, as their legs are technically too wide, as well as the cheapo ladder-back chairs, and find a crazy assortment of vintage chairs I can paint in various colors. (The two green chairs actually belong in our office/sewing room. We're forever carrying chairs around the main level.)

I do wish I had a good shot of what our table NORMALLY looks like, which is covered in paper, markers, and various art supplies until not even an inch of tabletop is visible, but you'll just have to imagine four happy children enjoying enough room to get creative and not having to jostle one another for elbow space.

In conclusion, I have the hottest husband ever who has done a very dangerous thing in building me a table...

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...because, of course, now I think he can build anything.


UPDATE: He scooped me! My own husband scooped me. He's started a blog, and here's his own take on building the table. He gives some good specs on the measurements and materials, in case that interests you, plus a couple better angles of the table itself.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Deck the Halls with Sawdust and Paint Fumes

I hope your holidays have been merry and free of pukes. I am proud to report that we only had one puker this Christmas break, and that puker was King Peter the Boy, who is the best sick person in the entire world. Case in point: She threw up once in the middle of the night, came down to matter-of-factly report this to her parents, then bossed the virus out of her system. I am always in awe of her force of personality, and it is never more evident than when she is sick. Everyone else around here gets violent man-colds, so her short-lived illnesses are almost a relief.

Anyway, we stayed home for Christmas, as we always do, and celebrated as quietly and easily as we could. May I say here that I follow a LOT of home DIY bloggers on Pinterest, and the holidays are when their projects reach a fever-pitch and all I can do is watch my feed in amazement and say, "Ain't nobody got time for that." Seriously. These women must be exhausted, and their poor families must be neglected. We put up the tiniest tree known to man, limited our kids' gifts to three each (and those three were all really basic and subdued and--guess what--THEY WERE HAPPY), went to a couple of events around town, and spent the rest of our evenings reading or occasionally watching movies. It was bliss. There was nary an elaborate garland or mason-jar-chalkboard gift label (seriously) to be seen, and somehow we made it through happy and joyous. Amazing.

As is tradition in our household, we embarked on elaborate home projects after Christmas was done and have thus subjected ourselves to all the exhaustion and frustration we were trying so desperately to avoid leading up to Christmas itself. It's how we roll!

This year my big (very big) gift from my husband is a handmade farmhouse table for our dining room. No joke, guys. He is making me a table. It's amazing, and I have been in awe of his focused progress and hitherto latent carpentry skills. At this point we're at the polyurethane, then wait forever, stage, but all of the pieces are together and just waiting to dry and get put together.

At the same time he is building this in our now sawdust-encrusted basement, I am painting King Peter the Boy's room as she has been visiting her grandparents in Michigan for the past few days. The Professor just shook his head and sighed loudly when I proclaimed my intention to paint her room, but honestly, despite the weariness and dizzying paint fumes, mixed with the stain fumes wafting from the basement, I'm glad I tackled it. I love my daughter, but she is a handful, and painting her room with her in the house would have been an impossibility. The three boys have been happily independent and very patient with their distracted parents, but adding her to the mix would have basically blow all of my plans out of the water. (Not to mention her bossiness; I can only imagine the directions for elaborate unicorn murals I would have received had she been hanging around.)

So basically our house has gone to pot and we have been throwing whatever food we can find at our children as we each work tirelessly at completely separate huge home projects. Feel free to also shake your head and sigh loudly. The worst is behind me, so I can take it.

For now, this is what our dining room looks like:

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Note the lack of an actual table and the unsettling presence of virulently pink dresser drawers. When I say we have been throwing food at our sons, I mean it: We have been setting them on the floor and throwing food at them.

Our basement now houses BOTH of our tables! The Professor moved our old own down there to use as a workbench, and the new tabletop, which is drying from its first coat of polyurethane, sits on top of it. You can sort of see how it will look with its arched trestle underneath.

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Our basement is already a pit of despair, but we like to heighten that impression by building stuff in it, strewing sawdust everywhere, and using three different types of paints and stains in order to build up an intolerable level of fumes. We can't run our clothes dryer because the fumes are getting lit by the flame that burns the natural gas (I think I have that right), thus making our clothing reek of gas. Seriously, this has happened. Welcome to our lives.

If you look to the other side of the basement, you can see the other two trestles and a headboard.

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Those trestles are boss, man. My husband rocks.

I don't think I'm adequately conveying how busy we've been since the day after Christmas, but things are finally settling down. C's room is painted at least, and while there are still lots of finishing touches to be made, at least I don't have to deal with her trying to interfere with the trickiest and most time-consuming part of transforming a room. I'll of course show you the final products of our labors, but bear with me, as the fumes have made me slow and stupid.

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal. And a happy new year, too.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Life is...

…realizing that you haven't posted to your once-regularly-updated blog in nearly three months and feeling guilt and overwhelming shame.

…having the existence of your blog brought to your attention again by a college student, because guess what: the internet works. (Note: If you are one of my students, you should be working on your paper and group project. Now. Because remember: What if you are hit by a truck tomorrow?)

…teaching, yes. And sort of surprisingly enjoying it. Surprisingly because teaching high school was something I would never go back to, and high school and college students are really not far removed from one another at all. But the issue with teaching high school was bureaucracy and lack of freedom and pressure to get my students to pass a freakishly backward standardized test when they had bigger issues, like abusive homes. And third grade reading levels. And poverty. And unwanted pregnancies. And apathy. College students might have crazy big issues, too, but they are not in college against their will, and teaching them affords more freedom than teaching high schoolers, and you can always use "You are paying $40,000 a year to skip class, you moron" as leverage. Plus college students have a lot of energy, and as an extrovert, I just hoover that up, y'all.

I'm liking it a lot, and I'm signed up for next semester, too. But that's enough about teaching, since my students can Google.

…looking over at The Baby, who is of course still The Baby (that is how I see H's name in my head: The Baby), but somehow doing things like talking and dancing and giggling and arguing and reasoning and copying and learning, and realizing how short, how heart-meltingly short, this Baby time really is. Everyone says it. Every random grandma walking down the street stops me by placing a hand on my arm and another hand on her heart and then by very dramatically intoning, "Savor this. Remember it. Cherish it. It goes so quickly." And I just roll my eyes and say, "Okay, thanks, that's helpful, could you please take this bag of groceries? Because, you see, my toddler just sat down in the parking lot to prove a point and the other three are in a wrestling match in the cart corral and fuzzy, dramatic predictions about THE FUTURE are not helpful, but grocery-grabbing would be."

But you guys. That random nana is right. So right.

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First he's a squalling, life-disrupting, scrunchy newborn who makes everything so doggone difficult. And then you blink (yes, blink, it's truly very dramatic) and he's a two-year-old in a pumpkin costume standing up at the dinner table shouting "SHAKE YOUR BOOTY" and then falling (due to the booty-shaking) and sobbing and running to Mama and saying, "Kiss da boo-boo, Mama" and then, upon receiving the kiss, sobbing some more and saying, "Not DERE, HAAARRRRRR" because Mom. Seriously. That's not the boo-boo spot. It's haaaarrrrrr.

That's it. That's what it is.

I have never kissed anyone as much as I kiss H's chubby face. True fact. He cannot grow up.

…cheering on The Professor as he takes this entire academic year to write his dissertation. And man, you guys, he is kicking that dissertation's bottom. I really didn't expect any less, since he is the Most Driven Person in the Universe, but seriously, his progress is amazing. He has half of his dissertation written, about 1/3 of it reviewed and revised, and all of it mapped out. He's cleared for crucial research in Texas in the spring. He has grand plans on defending in the summer, and he'll definitely be back to full-time teaching at Olivet in the fall, just four years after starting graduate school from scratch. He does all of this while running the planetarium, continuing his research assistantship at the Adler, working on publications (both academic and fiction), and being an awesome husband and dad. If you see him, give him many high-fives. He deserves them. And probably also a nap.

…watching my three big kids flourish and thrive in school. We are so happy with our district's magnet programs, and we are extra super happy with the magnets our kids are in and with their teachers and aides and principles and support staff. Seriously, so many awesome, dedicated people work their hardest to make sure my children are engaged and learning and safe and healthy, and you know what? When I watch King Peter the Boy lean in reeaaaallll close to her adored kindergarten teacher and whisper "I love you" and stroke her teacher's hair, I can't help but think we're in a good place. Many high fives to my awesome community. Also, her teacher has pretty awesome hair, so this is all very understandable behavior on KPtB's part. Also, her teacher loves horses, so they're pretty much BFF.

…being really positive. How do dramatic, pessimistic people make it through life?

…admitting that it's not all roses. Fine. I'm really positive, but geez, you guys, my kids DRIVE ME CRAZY sometimes. Today was one of those days. Mr. Case and I yelled a lot at the big ones, because they fight and tease and punch each other and lie (yep) and throw fits and cry and generally do a great job of getting on our nerves a lot of the time. We essentially have three kids who are all the same age. And it is an immature and ouchy age, filled with a lot of arguing and disagreeing and exasperating. The winter weather makes it all the harder, as our house is small and there isn't a lot of room for thundering elephant children who really need to run around the block five times backwards to get out all of their energy. Some days, like today, are really hard and discouraging. And yes, random nana. This too shall pass. But don't tell me to cherish this, because I won't. I'll cherish the hugs, the cuddles, the quiet talks, the "I love Mom" cards, and family jokes, but I refuse to cherish B punching his sister in the face because she called him a "Brainiac." I will not.

(Don't you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby.)

So that's life. Some of it. A general picture of it. We're busy, but not too busy. The kids fight, but not all the time. Sometimes it snows in early November; sometimes we get tornadoes in late November (that was today.) It's changing all the time, but for the most part I can fake like I know what I'm doing and convince those around me I have everything under control. If I'm smart I'm actually cowering in the corner shouting "JESUS, TAKE THE WHEEL!" but no one here ever hears me, and my husband thinks I'm a hero.

Basically, life and I are on good terms.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

O Alma Mater

Well, summer is over (at least break is), and for the first time in several years I have to keep a set schedule and prepare lesson plans.

Because, you see, I am teaching as an adjunct at my alma mater.

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And yes, I'm teaching College Writing II, and yes, I'm using a lot of run-on sentences and incomplete sentences and what-have-you, and you know what?, stop judging, this is a blog.

My three sweet big kids started school last week, just in time for the hottest days of the entire year, and are settling into the routines of first grade (J & B) and kindergarten (KPtB.) The transition has been a little tough on the boys, who are learning that, while first grade can be fun, it certainly isn't kindergarten. Also, did I mention that it's hot? Our schools are numerous and old and not really designed for school in August, which means no air conditioning. So the kids and teachers go stark raving mad for the first couple of weeks, and I have nothing but respect for the teachers who are attempting to get in any amount of learning that they can while perched in a close classroom with 25 melting six-year-olds on the third floor of an ancient building.

I have respect, y'all.

(Oh, and King Peter? At the end of her first day of school, which ended up being 8.5 hours long when you include bus rides, she bounded off of her bus, sweaty to her marrow, and shouted, "I LOVE IT!!" with more enthusiasm than I will ever be able to muster for anything in my entire life. Her transition has been seamless and enviably perfect.)

Since three of my children are in school all day and The Professor is using this academic year to write his dissertation (which means a normal schedule without daily trips to Notre Dame, which means between him and a sweet friend, H is taken care of while I teach), it seemed like a suitable time for me to jump into teaching again. So I am officially an adjunct professor with the English Department, my old stomping grounds, teaching two sections of College Writing II. I teach one class each day, so yes, now I have a schedule that revolves around more than laundry and dusting. It feels weird.

I have no doubt that I can DO that work required, nor do I doubt that I will be good, because you guys. I am a good teacher. I am a great communicator. I am a pretty dang good writer, and I know my MLA. (As long as I have the book.) I am not bragging; I am just acknowledging the gifts I have been given, and I hope all this translates into a positive first semester teaching at the college level.

For full disclosure: I am the least athletic person in the world. No matter how hard I try, I cannot master Rachmaninoff. Math beyond fractions makes me cry, and as much as I can admire and believe in science, most of it is beyond me. I cannot reliably spell "accommodate." I am selfish. I have a hard time reading books that are new to me. I am not very brave.

But I can teach, and so we'll see if I remember anything after being a full-time mom for six years. Really, all those lessons I've learned as a mom should definitely come in handy, and as sweet as these college students are, they are 19 and 20 and 21. They are babies. We will be okay.

School. Hold your breath. Close your eyes. Jump in. It's going to be fine.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chicken Butt

So. Chickens. They are happening.

Mr. Case has long yearned for chickens. He has had a thriving garden for several years, and this year he expanded it. The next logical step was livestock, and since we live in the city, we are pretty much limited to chickens. He checked with the city authorities last summer and was told that as far as chickens are concerned, the line between "pet" and "livestock" is pretty hazy, and that it really comes down to your neighbors.

So we asked our neighbors for the materials to build the chicken run.

No, really, we did. Our neighbors to the north had an old dog kennel that was attached to their detached garage. When they had a dog, it could go into the garage by way of a staircase that hooked up to a garage window. Their dog died a few years ago and the kennel just sat, rotting away, so The Professor approached them and asked if he could dismantle it and use it himself. They were more than happy for someone else to take care of it, so he and his dad tackled it one morning a couple of weeks ago. A few days later they rebuilt it next to our detached garage, where it essentially serves the same purpose as it did as a dog run, except now it's for chickens.

It runs a little beyond the width of our garage, underneath some great shade trees, which have since been trimmed a little.

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The Professor and his dad made a ladder (walkway?) out of an old closet door that runs from their coop in the inside of the garage to the outside run.

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Here's the walkway and little platform leading to the window from another angle:

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On the side nearest the side door to the garage they built a gate. Apparently they only needed something like $10 in materials to build this whole thing because it just fit together so perfectly for our purposes.

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(Note: If you have strong opinions on a roof, just keep them bottled up inside. He knows a roof, which would be really difficult for this particular run, might be a necessity later on, if predators start carrying off the birds in broad daylight. He considers this a test run. Just so you know, the birds only stay outside during the day. They are ushered into the coop at night and are separated from the outside world by a heavy door.)

On the inside is their coop, where they have a roost and a nesting box, for when they are laying eggs. Mr. Case built it entirely out of scrap materials, which is really pretty amazing, I think. Here is a straight-on view of the nesting box. To its left you see the door that covers the window. This opens and closes by means of a heavy pulley system. To the left of all that is the roosting area, where he has a couple of heavy limbs positioned for optimal roosting.

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Last Thursday The Professor and the three big kids went to a local poultry farm and bought three Rhode Island Reds, one for each kid. These girls aren't laying yet, but should start producing this fall.

Oh, and their names? Amy, Feathery, and Robochicken. You're welcome.

Chicken butt.

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So that's our next endeavor in suburban farming. I personally have no desire to do anything with these guys. I'll take their eggs, but my husband knows he is on his own for anything beyond that. I have willingly spent over $4 a dozen for cage free, vegetarian-fed eggs for several years, so I could take or leave chickens. But he was SO EXCITED for them and SO EXCITED that he finally got to realize his dream. Even when he built the dang run SO LARGE that it completely encased my entire stock of lily-of-the-valley, thus ensuring their future demise, I couldn't get mad. Even when he built the dang coop SO LARGE that there is no way we could ever fit our van in our already teeny garage, I couldn't deny him this.

Perhaps a good closing story to this post would be our daughter's attitudes toward the chickens. The day they were scheduled to pick them out, she was asking lots of questions, the last of which was this: "So when the chickens can't lay eggs anymore, can we kill them and eat their chicken meat?" When we answered in the affirmative, she yelled, "YAY!"

Amy, Feathery, and Robochicken, meet reality. Enjoy your stay. FOR NOW.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My Kids: An Urgent Update!

So should I even acknowledge how long I've stepped away from the ole blog? No? Good. Because I have a big, messy, loud, tiring life outside of the Internet, and mainly I use the Google machine for Pinterest, anyway. I'm Casemama, I think, if you feel like following all the geek pins ever created ever, amen.

But Raechel said I needed to post some photos of my big huge human children who are actually, you know, looking and talking and thinking like REAL PEOPLE, and she's right, we're overdue. So that's this post. Pictures I found that I my father-in-law took at our home a couple weeks ago. Of my kids. Plus braggy snippet updates on their doings. Welcome to my blog, I can do whatever I want!

First, Mr. Raisin, who is a raisin no more but something more along the lines of a puffy marshmallow man. (That's how his brother described his arms recently: "puffy.") He looks uncannily like his older brothers did at this age. He is 20 months old, nearly 21, talking and climbing and developing a vibrant and awesome personality every second of every day. He is also incredibly spoiled by all of us. He is never out of our arms if he can help it. His hair and his eyes slay everyone he meets, and he earns double slaying points on a humid day when his curls really stand at attention.

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Crusty nose happens. No biggie.

He's just so great. I am stunting his growth all the time so he never gets big and stops saying "wa-wa" when he wants a drink.

Queen Anne/King Peter the Boy easily possesses the most personality I have ever witnessed in a person. She stumps me like 32,059 times a day, either with her behavior, her questions, or her imagination. She has a really great natural talent for drawing (unicorns, natch), and she sees everything through a filter of rainbows. She is feminine without needing lots of pink, princesses, or frills--just horses and unicorns, which suits me just fine. She has her own army of admirers, fondly referred to as The Unicorn Brigade, and she scares me daily because she just does not know the meaning of "stranger." All strangers are simply friends she hasn't met. My favorite example is when we walked into the YMCA lobby and she hollered at the random lady walking past, "I really like the lipgloss you have on your lips!" Potentially creepy, but mainly hilarious. You should have seen the lady's expression.

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She has these smokey green eyes that change to gray or blue depending on the light. I can't even with her.

The twins are so alike in personality it's scary, but I realize it would be unfair to simply lump them into the same category, as they are of course different people. (You'd be surprised how often others forget this.) I'll start with J, my warrior. He is, in a lot of ways, very quintessentially boy. He is still maturing and learning how to NOT burst into tears when things don't go his way, but the tears dry quickly and then he's off fighting with Transformers and rolling in the mud and creating elaborate imaginative lands filled with talking dolphins (his favorite animal) and black knights. He is my wiggly, jiggly boy who needs lots of physical activity to get through a day. He also needs lots and lots of books, all nonfiction books on dinosaurs and robots from the big kid section of the library. I am amazed at his reading skills and the information he can hold in his awesome, busy mind. Yet with all this loud gogogo wigglewigglemove on and about his person, he can display such tenderness and thoughtfulness toward his siblings. I am so honored to have a part in his growing up. He is so fun to watch.

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These are the best photos of him ever. This is pretty much J all the time.

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He and his twin brother are more than just best friends and even more than just brothers. It's almost as if they are each other's shadows or something poetic like that. Like limbs that work together and can't function alone. Does that even begin to convey the depth of their relationship? Sure, they fight and gripe and groan like all brothers, but 95% of the time they are working in harmonious synchronization, whether they are reading quietly, playing, or tormenting their poor sister, who understandably feels a little left out. On their kindergarten teacher's suggestion, they are going to be in the same class again next year, because they just can't function apart for that long. Who knows, they may end up together all through school. We lucked out with those kind of twins. I, as a loud and proud extrovert, lucked out with these two people- and activity-wary introverts; they are teaching me so much about how people of all types process the world. I am learning not to drag my kids so many places, no matter how much KPtB and I crave the activity.

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And my sweet, sensitive, bat-obsessed B. This kid has such a heart for other people and animals, and I am so proud every time he questions injustice. Even in the comfort of our jumbly home, he is easily the quietest kid, and I can almost HEAR him processing everything, absolutely everything, that he encounters each day. He has done a lot of growing up this past year, and I knew we were going places when he easily began playing with a little boy on the playground last week and asked, "So what's your name?" That's a kid right there. A big kid who makes friends and just likes to play. He can make the most elaborate Lego creations, ships and guns that just absolutely floor me, and he is just crazy for facts about animals and the natural world. A few days he and I had a very serious talk about dreaming after he lamented not having good dreams even though he "thinks about great things all day" just for the express purpose of experiencing them in dream form at night. I suggested he start a dream journal, and he immediately procured a notebook and logged his first dream. It's sitting next to his sleeping form right this minute. What an awesome kid.

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WAIT WAIT, you thought I was done? Honey. If having a fourth child a few years after the first three arrived back-to-back-to-back has taught me anything, it has taught me this: Giving the baby a wee bit more of the spotlight is okay and right and just.

Plus that hair flip just adds more and more to the slaying points.

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I know you were about to ask, and the answer is yes, he does get kissed a lot. By everyone, including his big brothers, whom he adores.

So that's my brood. They're loud and messy, and they fight and drive me up a wall many times a day, but I've put too much work into them to give up on them. Also I love them with the white hot passion of a thousand dying suns, which helps considerably.

(In case you were wondering about H's teething necklace, I still think it's hoodoo voodoo. But we keep it on because teething for him means ALL THE DRAMA, and I will do anything to avoid drama, including voodoo.)