Thursday, July 4, 2013

Being Productive

Looking at my day today, I was feeling a bit down that I hadn't gotten more accomplished. I managed one small work meeting and an errand to the bank. OK, I also battened down the hatches at the dock as the lake began to flood- this time, *before* the boats floated away. ;) . . . but that's pretty much it. I didn't even make the kids do all their chores. My miles-long to-do list looks pretty much untouched since yesterday.

But wait, I realized: today was extremely productive on the homeschooling/kids front. I started my day with an extended wrestling/tickling/cuddling match with my oldest, who seldom wants to do that anymore. Then he asked to make us waffles from scratch for breakfast, and I said "yes". I walked him through the recipe. . . which meant a lot of concentrated instruction on fractions. (I even used the math manipulatives!) Julian worked on an alphabet puzzle and asked me to help him with flash cards, which we used to work on number recognition, counting and beginning phonics. This video (shared by a friend) then led to a discussion about genealogy:

(I wonder if she's right?!?)

Both boys had some outside time to run in the rain and gawk at the flooding.

While we were out running errands (including a stop at the post office so Simon could mail his first letter to his new pen pal in Japan) I stopped at the bookstore, where they browsed. Simon chatted with the saleslady, she helped him find what he was looking for, and he made his own purchase. On the way home, I spotted something interesting and turned around to check it out- it turned out to be a whole parking lot full of restored antique working steam engines! Apparently there is an annual 4th of July steam engine parade here. Who knew? We walked around and looked at them all, and smelled the wood fires burning, and listened to the (VERY LOUD) train whistles blow.
(photo credit Nicole Gustin)

Back at home, Simon volunteered to make dinner (frozen pizza and fresh fruit), and spent some time reading his book. Then we had an impromptu detailed exploration (sparked by a small query) of astronomy topics, in which I answered questions, explained, and we looked up answers together on the internet. Some topics covered include:
- What is a light year?
- How do you say 6,000,000,000,000?
- What does the sun sound like? (This was the golden question of the night, which led us to this very cool 10-minute documentary about a project to sonify solar data, which sparked many more interesting questions)
- What is a sunspot?
- Can solar flares and coronal mass ejections harm the Earth?

- What is Earth's "magnetic field", and why does it protect us from solar wind?
(Did you know other planets don't have a magnetic field? I feel like I should have known that, but I don't think I did.)

- If we could be right next to the sun without burning up, what would the sun *really* sound like?
(The answer, of course, is that we wouldn't hear a single thing. Which of course leads to the question,
- "Why?" Which leads to a discussion of sound waves and how they are transmitted.)
We both loved all these explorations and questions, and dug into our ice cream tonight feeling energized and inspired by our learning.

I read Jules his new Scooby Doo book for a bedtime story, and after tucking the boys in I thought about my day and what got done. I've realized I feel pretty darn good about it, actually. :)

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Good News

Well, well, well. Almost one year exactly since my last post. It truly is amazing what all can happen in just 12 months.

I am indescribably happy to report that I am sitting on our porch, listening to the birds and the water, the wind and the windchimes, feeling the breeze and the warm sunlight. OUR porch. On the family property. Yes, we finally pulled it off. :) This wonderful place is home.

It took a few more weeks after I wrote my last post, but we did find some renters for our house. We had to accept a reduced rent but at least they have been good tenants so far. Once that was settled, it took a good 3 months to jump through all the mortgage hoops in order to secure financing to pay off Billy's siblings. We moved in the beginning of October 2012. I still have trouble believing we managed it- it definitely would not have been possible without help from all quarters, including our real estate agent, our mortgage broker who was nothing short of amazing, and of course our incredible friends who supported our quest through to completion. We are forever grateful.

Of course moving in, as difficult as it was to achieve, is still only the beginning! A property like this requires a lot of maintenance, and on top of that we have wonderful plans for improving it and truly making it our home.

We've begun remodeling to the interior of the house, and I am hard at work building and maintaining a large vegetable garden in the field.

There are all the usual adjustments to moving a family, plus we are sort of rebuilding our lives after having everything on hold for 2 years. On top of all that we are still piloting our business through some of the toughest financial times we've sailed it through, and while the sky there is clearing we still have a way to go. Sometimes it seems a bit overwhelming, but then I take my coffee out onto the porch in the morning and I remember all over again what a gift and a blessing it is to be here and to be caretaker of this incredible legacy.

(All photos were taken by me with a Motorola Atrix 2 cellphone 8MP camera, except: the family portrait- for that I used the camera phone to snap a picture of the professional print, which is from a chain portrait studio- and the picture of me mixing grout, which was taken by my friend Jeff.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Well, I suppose it's high time that I poke my head in over here and explain myself.

Yes, my blog has fallen off my radar pretty completely. There's been a lot I have had to let go of, in the past year and more, and while it's all for a greater vision and a dream we hold, I admit it's wearing thin.

Am I being cryptic? I'm sorry. . . let me back up a bit.

You may recall that we lost both of Billy's parents in 2010. His Father's passing was sad but expected, but his Mother's death was a tragic shock that we still haven't fully come to terms with. They left to their children the beautiful family property here in Georgia, which Billy's siblings do not wish to purchase or live at. Billy and I desperately want this place to remain in the family, and if at all possible we would like to purchase it and raise our boys there. Unfortunately with lending regulations being very strict right now, we cannot possibly pull that off unless we sell (or, less desirably, rent) our current house. To help our house compete in this real estate market, we moved out of it, so it would remain show-ready at all times. Billy's siblings were not willing to let us live in the family property unless we bought it, so instead our fantastic and very dear friends opened their home to us, and we moved in there. We hoped this would be a brief and delightful experiment in communal living, just until we found buyers for our home and could then move on. That was in April 2011.

Fast forward more than one year. We tried everything we could think of to sell our house without ruining our credit, and though we are only borderline underwater, we simply could not compete with the cheap foreclosures flooding the market. We gave up on selling our house and are now marketing it as a rental. There's been a lot of traffic, but no takers. The rental market is strong but is flooded with inventory right now. And while our communal living situation remains improbably amicable and our friends embrace us still, Billy and I are beginning to break under the endless weight of an uncertain future and the helpless drift of just. . . waiting. . .

We want to move ahead. Billy absolutely must feel again like he is at the helm, able to steer his own ship and move his life forward with purpose. He and I both are in need of our own home again, a personal cocoon, our own little kingdom. I realize that much of our strife stems directly from feeling a complete loss of control over everything. . . but I do think that our need for some control here is healthy and necessary. We have our own grown-up lives to live, and we'd like to get ON with it, thankyouverymuch. We are tired of being held back and tripped up at every attempt to make our dream a reality. We need to move on.

We are feeling very discouraged, right now. There seems to be no way forward.

I have to remind myself that it is our stamina that wanes, not our chances. But how long can we keep this up? It's a battle every day.

So, there's my downer of an update. Yes, the pictures are from the family property. Isn't it beautiful? Billy and his Father built most of the buildings with their own hands. Billy and I were married there. The cabin on the property is a work of Art, designed and crafted by hand. A portion of Billy's Father's ashes are buried there. My children are in love with the place, and ask me why we aren't living there- why no one is living there at all. They ask when we will be able to buy it. All I can say is, "I don't know".

Monday, January 23, 2012

Music Monday: 2011 in Review

One thing I have really enjoyed over the past year has been 'discovering' new music. The internet is overflowing with fresh sound and talent, and it's exciting to come across something wonderful that you've never heard before. Almost as fun is sharing my discoveries with others. I've usually done this through word-of-mouth, Facebook and (less effectively) Twitter. I've blogged a few of them, but it occurred to me recently that it would be fun to blog my favorite music discoveries (new to me, anyway) of 2011 all in one post. So, here we go. . .

** Poison and Wine by The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars top my list of favorites that I first heard in 2011. I bought the whole album, and have been listening to it all year. Not tired of it yet. Second favorite track is Falling.

** Heart's A Mess by Gotye

This is definitely at the top of my list- Gotye's most recent album "Making Mirrors" is one of only four full albums I purchased in 2011. Again, I've been listening to it incessantly and I'm not tired of it yet! I'm excited to hear the single Somebody That I Used to Know is now getting some airplay on a local radio station.

** White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes. . . I just love this song, and the video. It's another one that has stuck with me reliably. Interestingly, nothing else by Fleet Foxes has grabbed my imagination quite like this one has.

** You Will Love This Song by Amber Rubarth

This is fabulous and charming. Check out her other project, too- the band Paper Raincoat- here's Sympathetic Vibrations

** Black Rock by The Infamous Stringdusters

This is an older video, and the band continues to evolve in new and exciting directions. It remains one of my favorite videos of theirs however, and it was key to me becoming enamored of their music last year. I have seen them play live several times now, and it is RIDICULOUS. Ridiculously, astonishingly good. Full disclosure: Billy is producing their next album. . . but I can honestly tell you my appreciation for this band stands entirely on its own. They definitely belong here in my top list.

** Mango Tree by Angus and Julia Stone

I simply adore this song, and a few others of theirs, as well. Check out Hold On, too- just stunning.

** I Don't Know by Lisa Hannigan

This is delightful, and I also love the live version performed at Dick Mac's Pub. Check out her other videos, too- she makes me happy.

** Bouncing Stones by Spoonbill

Very, very cool. I love the groove and the video, too. Also check out Feather Leather:

** Closer To Love by Mat Kearney

This is another full album that I bought, and have thoroughly enjoyed.

For the 10th, here's just a random selection of some other favs:

* I Am Not a Robot by Marina and the Diamonds
* Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People
* Gravity by Sara Bareilles
* Loving Strangers by Russian Red
* A Little Bit of Everything by Dawes

What did I forget? What great music did you discover last year?

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Foggy, misty, mysterious when
Shimmering halos adorn every light
The very air, soft, kisses your skin
Gentle caresses of water take flight

Unseen things seem to lurk
Just past my eye's periphery
Dancing magic in the murk,
Or just mine eyes' trickery?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"Press Pause Play": A Brief Review

I just finished watching "Press Pause Play", a documentary on the current revolution in the music and film industries (with a little bit about print publishing and art thrown in). I can't say I think it's a particularly good documentary. It looks and sounds good, but it's terrible at communicating any cohesive *point*. . . other than that the industry is changing and nobody has any clue where the hell it will end up.

Still it's interesting and I already want to watch it again to revisit some of the viewpoints and quotes expressed here and there in the film. I am left with the impression that there are some very valuable things said, if I can just weed them out of the rest of the movie. I want to think further on some of the ideas. I'm glad I watched it, and I recommend it to anyone invested in the music or film industry right now. Maybe you'll be inspired to do this better. :)

PressPausePlay from House of Radon on Vimeo.

Monday, January 16, 2012

New Year's Letter- 2011 Recap

January 2012

Dearest Family and Friends,
2011. . . it was certainly an unusual year for us, full of new discoveries and deepening friendships, disappointments, struggles and many blessings. As you no doubt remember, Billy lost his beloved parents in 2010. This loss still aches, as it will for many, many years to come.

We hope to move our little family to Billy's parents’ previous home in GA. We must pay Billy’s siblings before we may move into the family property. To that end, we are trying to sell (or possibly lease) our house in Suwanee. The real estate market is so difficult right now, that we are doing anything in our power to help make this happen. To keep the house in Suwanee clean and show-ready, we moved out last April. Since then, we have been the grateful guests of very dear friends, and our combined families (four adults, six boys ages 4 to 12, four dogs and two cats) have been humming along surprisingly well!

Our experiment in communal living has been helpful to me on so many levels- it’s been wonderful to have the added support (both practical and emotional) of other adults, and the kids have enjoyed having more playmates every day. I could go on and on about the experience, but suffice it to say it has been unimaginably valuable, and I am in awe of the friendships we have developed. Though I am very eager to move forward into our home, the parting will be bittersweet.

Even with the added excitement of trying to sell a house, managing Billy’s parents’ estate, new communal living arrangements, and the continuing changes in the music business, our year was also full of fun activities and learning. We’ve had some hiking and camping trips, LOTS of field trips and activities with our fabulous homeschool group, and a road trip to Virginia for Festy, a wonderful camping/music festival.

The boys are thriving. Littleman (8 yrs) displays an unending curiosity of the world around him, seeking always to understand. His latest major interest is skateboarding- he received a skateboard for Christmas, and is determined to ride it well! The Pirate (6) has had a particularly good year it seems- he’s made leaps and bounds in his self-esteem and social skills. He self-identifies as an artist, and continues to practice art often. Babyman (4) is growing fast, of course. He’s talkative and frighteningly adventurous. He loves to hike, climb and zoom around on his scooter. He can turn on the cute charm whenever he wants to, and he knows how to use it!

Billy is still busy at work, which considering the current state of the music business is a testament to his skill and dedication. While the shifts in the music industry have been difficult, they are also exciting and I have high hopes that the end results will be positive, both for us and for new music in the future.

Of course I’ve been busy, what with everyday life and the added variables I’ve already mentioned. I’ve let many things slide, such as my blog, the boys’ blog, pleasure reading, photography, and my Etsy shop. At least I’ve found some creative outlet by practicing my knitting! Also, I’ve put a lot of energy into meal planning and cooking. . . it’s been necessary to help feed so many people, and the experience has been invaluable! I like to cook.

So as you can see, 2011 was an interesting year! We are all doing well, and are looking forward to even better things to come in 2012. I hope this finds you healthy and happy. I miss blogging, and hope to get back to it more this year. Please comment, email, or hit me up on Twitter (@kit_mama) anytime! I love to hear from you!

Kiss your loved ones, and go thank those special people who help you get through your days. They are a priceless treasure in our lives. :)
Brightest blessings on you and yours. . . Love Always,

Kit & Billy, Littleman, The Pirate & Babyman

The whole combined family (minus a couple dogs and cats), pictured Spring 2010