Monday, July 21

Post Circe (but mid-processing)

This post won't be about anything profound and life altering, but that's not because Circe isn't profound and life altering. It's because I'm still processing, and there's a lot to process. Plus, I have stories from the children of their week, which also requires a little bit of processing. (They made a game called Call of Calvin Ball - it's a Call of Duty/Calvin Ball mashup, and it's hilarious, as far as I can tell through the doubling over laughter while they tried to explain it.)


They ate a lot of cereal and doughnuts while I was gone. And Z said they picked up a bit when I let them know we were on I-65. He laughed at the awkward silence that followed that statement and asked, "You couldn't tell, could you?" (No. Not really. But I'd kind of prepared for that, so it didn't bother me. Everyone was safe and happy and all together. I had hugs and stories and love. It's all good.) They also mulched the fruit trees, moved the compost, and cleared a workout space in the basement! What a wonderful surprise!

I convinced a local friend to go with me. So fun! I do hope she'll do it again some time. We had such a lovely time on the road, and at the conference. I'm also fairly certain both her husband and Z will appreciate us having someone else to listen to all the verbal processing that ensues post-conference.

This conference was perhaps the best I've ever been to. The venue was magnificent. The speakers were all thoughtful and engaged. The session topics were spot on and beautifully presented. (The theme this year was Forging a Likeness. Fantastic.) Blessedly, the air in the hotel worked, so we weren't sweltering all week.


At the beginning of the conference, we each set goals that we wanted to achieve for the purpose of the conference, then selected the sessions that would best support those goals. That's a fantastic tip for attending any conference, I think. It helps me, at least, to go into it with purpose rather than careening about from room to room like a biblioholic on a binge. At the end of the week, I did feel that I'd achieved the goals I'd set for myself. We have a fantastic plan for the boys' high school years, and I have a guideline for continuing my own education.

As a funny aside, one of my goals was to speak in a coherent manner to one of the presenters - to utter some kind of thoughtful thing that did not involve breaking out in a Beavis chuckle at any point. Don't laugh. This was harder than it sounds. I get a little star struck around the rock stars of Classical Education. These are the people whose work and words of insight and encouragement have been my constant companions for the last ten years. When I'm on a roll, it's their example I hold before me. When I'm exhausted and the chaos seems to have seeped into my very bones, it's their stories that remind me this is worth doing well and encourage me to take a deep breath and get back into the game. I appreciate their work and efforts, but at the same time, I get a little giddy and develop stress paralysis when I'm required to interact with them in any manner more intimate than asking questions during a session. To keep myself from chickening out, I shared this goal with my companions. (Who, it turns out, are incredibly hilarious and encouraging, but not much actual help. I love having friends who make me laugh!)


But I did it. I thanked Martin Cothran for his session on Aristotle's Seven Motivations of Man (which was truly fantastic), and we talked about young men and motivation. I didn't giggle once, but at the same time, I didn't feel giggly. I felt comfortable and confident. This man has raised children. He has looked at a 16yo son and had similar thoughts bolt through his mind that bolt through the mind of pretty much any parent of a 16yo son. And he emerged on the other side (several times over), with a good relationship with his children, and without throwing the whole project out the window or running away to Tijuana. (That last bit may only be a temptation for me. That's very probable.) But it was a delightful interaction, and I appreciated that he took the time to visit with me so affably and sweetly.


Then I just had to ask Wes Callihan for some suggestions for modern theologians for James to read. Because Mr. Callihan is brilliant, and James has exhausted all the names I already know. (At 15, I think I knew the names of maybe two, and I hadn't read either of them. That I'm having to troll professionals for suggestions to keep my child in titles cracks me up and makes me very happy.) Again, it was a truly helpful and interesting interaction. He is delightful and generous, and I'm so glad he took the time to be there, to answer questions, and to engage each of us who approached him. I should send him cookies. (I would send a book, but he's probably already read anything I could come up with to send. Goal #4 should be to remedy that.)

After that (and there was a little giggling after the fact, along with tiny low fives among friends, because this was huge, as anyone who has heard my celebrity triggered verbal diarrhea can attest - like I said, I love and appreciate my friends so much), things came together. I was Home. I was exactly where I belonged, and able to shed the feeling that someone was going to figure out I wasn't qualified to be there and have me escorted off the property. (Our fears are not always rooted in reality. That doesn't stop them from being ours.)


In the hotel room (or the lobby, or poolside), among friends, we engaged in fantastic, thoughtful conversation. We perused books. We shared excerpts with each other. We ate and laughed and told silly stories. Deb the Magnificent drove us all over Houston and acted as our official tour guide (she was the only one who knew where things were, but I think also the only one brave enough to drive in that traffic). We laughed some more. Some of us laughed until we cried. We sat at the table in the back at the banquet because we were pretty sure we'd be a little loud. It was a good call.


I wasn't ready to leave when the conference was over. But my brain was saturated, and I missed my family so very much, so the timing was perfect. It was time to come home, to kiss my babies (even the ones who have to bend down now for me to reach their heads), to thank Z for his unyielding support in this life we've built, and to contemplate the themes of the conference and prepare to continue engaging in the conversation.

It's good to be home. It was good to be there.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Saturday, July 12

Plan A, B, or C

Pick one, it's all good.

We had planned to go on a river float today but the river is too low, so that trip was canceled. While we all appreciate the safety aspect (and, truth be told, none of us was up for a 1.5 mile hike in the river...) we were a little disappointed. Not quite ice cream falling on the sidewalk disappointed, but close.


So we did something else!


Just because the water's too low to float down river doesn't mean it's too low to get wet and play and splash around, right? (Right!) It's about 8" deep in this pic below.


This was Jase's first river trip, so of course, it was awful. Until suddenly, it wasn't. I think he's starting to trust the process. (And just a heads up - he was not in danger, nor was he hurt or injured. He just doesn't like New Things. Ever. Once they're not New, they're fantastic, and he's quite the adventurer after he knows what to expect.)


He did go down the rapids (not Real Rapids, just shoals, really - and remember, the water was low). About halfway down, he panicked. He screamed like a yeti had hold of him and was chewing on this calf. Holy heck, that kid's got a set of lungs on him! He wasn't hurt. He wasn't stuck. He wasn't in danger. He was just afraid - and that warrants a rescue, because being afraid is Real. I floated over to him and scooped him up (where he proceeded to scream inmyface until we got to the calm water). I beached us and asked him if he'd like to climb into my float so we could have some snuggles (because those make everything better).

That's when we discovered I'd beached us in muck. Knee-deep muck. When it's disturbed, it smells like rotting trash. And when it swallows you to your thigh and starts stinking, well, that's when it's clearly time to start screaming bloody hell all over again. At least, that's how it goes if you're six.

I got us dislodged and back out into the current, got him calm and loved on, then we made a plan. And we did it. He walked back up the shoals, slowly, processing the whole thing aloud with every step. I held his hand, carried both tubes, and kept up a running stream of cheerleading and encouragement while trying not to slip since I didn't have a free hand and it's generally bad form to break your fall with the child. By the time we got to the top of the shoals, he was ready to try it again, this time on my lap.

Well, that was *great*, until my butt snagged on a rock and we flipped out of the tube. I don't know if ear drums can pucker, but if they can, mine did. I was braced for the panicked screaming and general freak out common to the timid child. But, no. I mean, he did yell, but he yelled,

"Don't panic! Nobody panic! We've got this."

And we did. We let the tube go (the teens were down at the next bit of shoals and we figured they'd grab it as it went by), got out of the water, and worked our way back to the beach head.


By the time we got back to the beach, he pronounced this day, "The best day, ever!" Which,when you're six, totally counts. He was ready "to go for a little swim", but to be honest, I needed a nap at that point.


Plans don't always go according to, you know, plan. But the day doesn't have to be a waste. We don't have to stay home because a trip is canceled. We don't have to get out of the water because something didn't pan out the way we expected it to. He's learning a lot. So am I.

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Friday, July 11

We're Almost Done... Peeling

Dang. We went on a float trip on Saturday. It was supposed to be a four hour float trip that included a stop mid-way for lunch and time to play in the water. How cool is that?


But the river was low.


It was so low that the trip took seven hours. Yikes!


Now, I'm not known for being the most prepared mom in the world on the best of days. Most of the time, we're just kind of winging it, glancing at one another to make sure we're all still upright. I figure if I account for food and hydration, and return with approximately the same number of children I left with, it was a good day. (We didn't even lose anyone to that man eating tree on the right!)


But that day, we had a friend's child with us. So I was on super good behavior. I made everyone spritz up with sunblock, reminded everyone to drink, reapplied sunblock just before we got in the river... man, I was rocking this responsibility thing!  We even remembered to wear sneakers to protect our feet (and, evidently, to host mayflies, which was a little weird, as they were rather distracted with mating and didn't seem to care what they landed on to do it).


Except... we were good for four hours of sun. Not seven.

And my friend had told me that she'd sprayed her son down very well. Since she's Super Responsible, I didn't make him re-do his before we got in the water. But she didn't expect that he'd take his swim shirt off, so she didn't do his back. And I didn't know that.

:hangs head in shame:

I BURNT SOMEONE ELSE'S CHILD!

Of course, the rest of us got fairly well toasted, too. So, you know, at least I'm liberally negligent.

Anyway, we have another float trip tomorrow. I bought more sunblock (higher SPF, too). And I bought two containers of it - one of them is going to live in my bag. It may take me until the last of my children is out of the house, but I WILL get the hang of this gig. I swear I will.

(And we did have a blast on this outing. Even with the burns and the occasional need to lift our floats and duck walk across the shoals. For which there are no pictures. Because I was waddling along with everyone else.)

Kiss those babies!
~Dy

Monday, July 7

Fourth, early

Our little town had its annual Independence Day celebration last night, so that's when we had friends over and cooked out. The Charter service man came to switch out our modem in the morning. Hopefully, that will reduce the amount of downtime our internet suffers. He was fantastic, Charter, we're not so thrilled with so far. Then we commenced the preparations for the party.


We could not have begged for better weather - sunny and bright, but breezy and comfortable. Wow. Just wow. Z rocked the asado action on the smoker, and I think if we hadn't had guests I'd have eaten the whole thing myself, keeping the kids at bay with a poky stick - so, unbelievably good! Thankfully, part of my filter is still in place and I didn't assault the guests. Or run cackling into the woods with the pan of asado.


The teens got restless about an hour before the fireworks began. They wanted to get down to the square while it was still light and see the sights. Since none of the adults were quite ready to roll yet, the boys asked if they could take their bikes. We have a million bikes, so there were plenty for everyone who wanted to ride, and off they went. I'm guessing they had fun. We put eyes on them when we arrived at the square an hour later, and everyone had shave ice and was laughing. No blood, no limping. We called it good. It was nice, though, to run into friends who volunteered that they'd seen the boys and spoken with them and were so glad to see them. I love it when people volunteer good things about teens. They get it, and they get the kids. That's good stuff, right there. The rest of us, big and little, were happy to take our time moseying about in the meantime.


The fireworks were, once again, absolutely spectacular. It's one of my favorite parts of living here. Well, the whole thing, really - the show is amazing, the people are sweet, the food is fantastic. It's a good combination.


After the show, everyone (plus a few we picked up at the square) came back to the house for a bonfire and to finish off the desserts. That was, quite possibly, the perfect ending to a lovely day.

Today, we laid around doing nothing. It was delicious. Jacob told me he really needed a full week of that, and then interrupted himself to add, "Oh, wait! You have Circe coming up, which means Dad will be watching us, and we'll have a week of doing nothing. Oh, that's perfect!" And off he ran to share his revelation with his siblings. Z grinned when I shared that story with him, but he didn't deny it. I guess Kinderspringa shall become a tradition. They could do worse, really.


Have a safe and thankful weekend!

Kiss those babies,
Dy

Thursday, July 3

Seasons in the Sun

We're learning to love Summer. Just a little bit.

There's always something historic to see, like the Observation Tower at Mt. Cheaha, built by the CCC in 1934, and painstakingly maintained by a team so that it can remain open and accessible to the public today:


Or to find, like the wildlife hiding in plain sight...


Or do... like playing in the water. This is probably the thing I appreciate the very most about living in Alabama - the water. Every place has history. Not every place has water.


The kids don't really take this for granted - they pick up trash along the way, leave the area cleaner than we found it, and they're respectful of the terrain and the things that live here. But they have no idea how good they've got it - this is normal for them. How cool is that? I was 20 before I got to swim to the base of a waterfall.


Still can't identify most of the plants that catch my eye, but that won't stop me from trying. It's all about getting experience by continuing to try until you get it right.


And then we headed out, and up. Funny, it didn't seem very far on the way in...


(I wrote this several days ago, but didn't post it. No idea why, but I'm going to blame the heat. Or maybe old age - I think I went off on rabbit trails to identify that flower and then suddenly, they wanted food again. That happens more than I'd like to admit.)

Kiss those babies!
~Dy